Saga of the Scarves – then what happened?

by Decemberbaby

If you haven’t read my first post about my headscarf-wearing days, you might want to go back and read it now.

My miscarriage changed a lot of things for me. Let me first explain that the pregnancy was hard-won (we were already dealing with fertility issues, although no specialists had been consulted yet) and that we saw a heartbeat and a perfectly-sized baby on an ultrasound at 7 weeks. Then at 9 weeks I began spotting, and at 10 weeks it was over. Just like that.

I was heartbroken, then angry. Was I angry at God? Yes, but that was just the beginning. My anger at God developed pretty quickly into anger at myself. After all, I was behaving like a spoilt child: “Okay, God, you took away something I really wanted. But I WANT IT! NOW! Fine, I’m just gonna ignore the world and sulk until you GIVE ME A BABY!”

This attitude made me take a long, hard look at my understanding of God. Did I really believe that good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people? Did I believe that by loving God and doing the right thing I would ensure that no tragedy would ever befall me? Well, I kind of did, before the miscarriage shattered my illusion of a just world. And that new awareness, the knowledge of how childish my relationship with God was, was just another hole in my little canoe of self-assuredness.

I didn’t stop covering my head right away. But one day I didn’t put anything on my head, and once the pattern was broken it became easy to discard. And I gradually fell into major depression, which made it hard enough to care about anything. Sure, I put on clothes, but only because I had to wear something. I put no thought into it. In fact, having to decide what to wear every morning was enough to stop me in my tracks and make my cry for an hour or two. I just couldn’t handle anything.

I’m not going to chronicle my depression here, or talk too much about my changing understanding of God. Maybe one day I’ll re-post some of those entries from my infertility blog, if there’s interest. But this post is about the headcovering, so moving on…

Once I had stopped covering my head, I noticed that people were treating me differently. Nobody made assumptions about me. Frum women in the grocery store didn’t automatically smile and say “good shabbos” anymore. Our friends once again became comfortable telling “dirty” jokes around me, and people on the street would make pop culture references without immediately apologizing and trying to explain.

Part of me missed, and still misses, wearing long skirts and scarves. But another part just isn’t willing to do it again. The baggage is heavy – I’m not willing to be anyone’s example of what a frum woman is (mostly because I’m not frum). I’m not willing to be treated like I have half a brain, which is pretty much what I got from anyone outside the religious world. And I’m not sure how I feel about on-again-off-again headcovering and modest dress, and yet it would be a necessity for me. No, I’m not going to do my woodworking and work with power tools in a flowing skirt and headscarf. When I go to the beach, I will wear a bathing suit that allows me to actually swim. You can see where I’m going with this.

The other issue, and it’s a serious one that I feel I may never resolve, is about choice in religious observance. I’m well aware of the problem with observing only those mitzvot that make you “feel good” – when they stop feeling good, you stop observing them. It’s kind of hypocritical, isn’t it? On one hand – God commanded us to do certain things. On the other – “this one doesn’t make any sense. What’s the point in doing it?”  I don’t have an answer, but the problem is frequently a nagging voice in the back of my mind.

So for now, I only enjoy my skirts and scarves on shabbat, and they give me the feeling of holiness I remember. I still have a drawer overflowing with beautiful scarves, hats, and even snoods. Sometimes I look at them and realize that I really should give them to women who will use them. But somehow, I can’t part with the scarves. I don’t know if I’ll ever wear them again the way I once did, but I just can’t let go.

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3 Comments to “Saga of the Scarves – then what happened?”

  1. Hi Sara,
    I don’t know you well so forgive me if this is no the right note to strike- but I’d be happy to talk to you about views of God and of mitzvot that are more compatible with your worldview. You certainly don’t have to believe in a God who rewards us or punishes us to find meaning in mitzvot. I don’t believe in a God who directly intervenes in human life- but still finding great meaning in mitzvot and in a covenantal relationship. If you have not already, you might enjoy reading Harold Kushner’s books . He has several besides the famous When Bad things Happen to Good People.

    Aurora

  2. The scarf posts resonate with me deeply. Sara, such powerful writing. I think I need to gather up the courage to put down my own thoughts in writing – the lack of clarity is starting to get to me. I’m going through some similar experiences with infertility and miscarriage (hence my blogging break – I do want to be your WIP Wednesday buddy again soon) and even though I didn’t think I was living in a world with direct justice before, I still feel deeply shaken. I’m also slowly coming to accept that for reasons beyond my control, the circumstances of my life make it very difficult for me to be as consistent as I’d like. I spend a lot of time feeling like what I’m doing is futile, lonely, and hypocritical. Then I resolve to keep doing it, keep doing what I can, keep moving forward, because I have to. I mean, if secular life was enough for me, I’d certainly have left well enough alone. And if I didn’t mind alienating the people I love, maybe even various versions of my self, then I could certainly be consistent. So, like Woody Allen’s shark, I keep going, because the other option is for the relationship to die.

    Popular culture, though, that I may never get. Too bookish. Woody Allen movies from the seventies totally don’t count.

  3. I remember when you were trying for K. I think you lost the baby just before I became a Peach. As your friend, I think you have already found a good balance between respecting your faith (indulging, if you will) and still being able to be a hip, crunchy, “with it” mommy.

    As you know, I am not Jewish, but come from a very strong German Catholic family. In dealing with my own PPD, my sister’s illness and other struggles, I’ve also found myself asking “why me, God?” or “why us, God?”. It is fairly narrow-minded of me to think that God is up “there” thinking, “Today, I will screw over Hollyn…” I try to live by two mantras in my life. The first is catty (you know you’re just shocked at the idea of me being catty- lol)… I don’t care what you do, the decisions you make, as long as it doesn’t directly involve me. I will help you, but you’re still on your own to better yourself. The second one is a little more philosophical… Everything happens for a reason. It’s simple and almost hokey, but it’s what helps me. It lessens my anger and the “why me.”

    I’m not back, but God and I are back on speaking terms. He doesn’t take it personally when I moan and complain and I try to moan and complain to Him a little less and thank Him a little more…

    Love you, D-baby!

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