1. Fran Stekoll says

    Coming full circle is age related. The circle of our family starts out small, then as it expands, we enlarge maybe our family circle, then circles of friends in our neighborhood, at the work place, school mates, and extended family members.
    As the world changes, our family circle dissipates, everyone seems to go in their own directions. We engage ourselves in other activities just to validate who and what we are. Everything in our world seems to take over our time and energy and the family as it leaves the nest to find their own meaning, leaves a void that is hard to understand.
    Yet with time, the circles that have flown away like bubbles, seem to come back and form deeper, and larger capacity as we bond together in a firmer
    pattern. What almost became instinct, now has become permanent and the
    feeling of importance and togetherness has never been so understood.
    Now, even though this circle had shrunk to almost extinction, it is stronger and more durable than ever. Full of love, acceptance and knowledge found no where else in the universe. When this takes place, usually after several years, if it does, the circle is permanent and no one or nothing can burst it.

    • Hazel says

      What wonderful circles and you continued that thought with the bubbles. I liked you analogy.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Debbie says

      Fran – thanks for starting off the week with your strong imagery of circles and bubbles. I really liked this ending:
      “When this takes place, usually after several years, if it does, the circle is permanent and no one or nothing can burst it.”

    • Patti Hall says

      Yes, Fran, a fine analogy. It is interesting to pay attention to the way our circles move. Thank you.

    • Ilana says

      Fran- I agree with the others about the analogy, beautiful. But I also really liked the fluidity of the family. It can be an ever changing thing. Nice job. Ilana

  2. Missy says

    I have come to learn over the past couple of years that my blood family is not necessarily my FAMILY. As least the ones that remain. Over the years, I have not developed friendships to be as my family, someone or people that I can call during any time of the night or day for help or someone who would spend my birthday or Christmas with me and with everything in life and vice versa. When my parents passed away, it became clear that, though we get along, my siblings are not there on Christmas or willing to help as much as I would like to be and as hard as I have to tried to develop a closer relationship with. They simply don’t want to play, so to speak.

    So I am now on a new path to find a new sister, a new brother, a new family.

    • Hazel says

      Well said. I like your last sentence: “So I am now on a new path to find a new sister, a new brother, a new family.” But, I am not so sure that is the path I would want to take. As I see it, it is hard work.

      Thank you for sharing.

      • Missy says

        Thank you for your reply, Hazel. Not sure it is a path I want to take, it is hard work. On the other hand, what is the alternative? there always is one, an alternative, and that one in this case is to be isolated and alone with no meaningful relationships. I choose the work in the hopes of attaining that.

    • Debbie says

      Missy – I liked your honest post about the challenges of “blood” family that all of the Hallmark commercials somehow portray as our “true” family. For many of us, those we meet and invite into our worlds over the years become our true families of choice with bonds stronger and more supportive than “blood”.

    • Fran Stekoll says

      I think Missy, you are on this new path, we are your sisters, brothers,
      and family of writers. Welcome!!!!

    • Patti Hall says

      I second what Debbie and Fran said…you ARE making new circles right here. Those bonds can become just as strong. I am active online, then took it a step further and joined a local writer’s group and a writing class. Good luck. Thank you.

    • Ilana says

      Wow Missy- You voice, so courageously, things I struggle with intensely. It is so empowering to read you saying that you (too) are on a path to find a new brother, a new sister. Thank you for sharing this. Ilana

  3. Hazel says

    First of all I wanted to find out what exactly what the definition of family was. My tiny Oxford dictionary says: brood, children, flesh and blood, kindred, issue and so on.

    I have very little flesh and blood family anymore and that which remains is several states away from me. They could care less about me or what I am doing. I try to keep up a one-way contact but it is not very satisfying. Over the years I have had many wonderful “kindred” spirited persons in my life who became much more family than my flesh and blood family but even they have disappeared.

    As I write this today I am feeling like this exercise has only made me focus on how alone I am.

    I have always trusted people until they prove to me by action or word that they should not be trusted. This has made it possible to widen my “family” circle of persons invited into my confidence and love. But I seem to be such a transient being. Usually it is I who must end these warm encounters by moving. Most of the people I know stay in one place most of their lives, or if they do move, it is only once or twice. I moved 13 times in one year once. I feel that my love of travel and discovery has very much limited my family of whatever kind. I am however absolutely sure that if I were able to contact any of those kindred persons I would be greeted warmly and we would take up right where we left off. But now, I have an anchor, a house and garden that keep me here and who wants to come to New Mexico? If only for a visit? No one!

    My family now consists of great memories in vivid living color. Yes, I am old and live in the past much of the time. I renew our kinship in my soul as I write my books.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Hazel, I understand so well what you are saying. I have no family; there are relatives but the potential of them reciprocating a respectful relationship dissipates into nothingness as quickly as I acknowledge them. New Mexico? I am like Dianne. When? 🙂 Not trying to overwhelm you … just make that point. I have never been there and would in a blink of my eyes.

    • Debbie says

      Hazel – Oh my gosh – I loved these lines!
      “My family now consists of great memories in vivid living color. Yes, I am old and live in the past much of the time. I renew our kinship in my soul as I write my books.”
      I can so relate! I have known those who have never left the towns and counties of their birth. Good people all, but left behind as I moved on to other adventures, hopes and challenges. Thanks so much for sharing your feelings with us.

    • Fran Stekoll says

      I would love to come to new Mexico!
      I loved what you wrote as i hear this constantly in my support groups
      how we live with our memories when we grow old.
      Even those in congregate living facilities are lonely as most of them have moved from their life long homes in areas they lived most of their lives to be closer to their children who are too busy with their lives .
      They don’t have much time left to make best friends as they’re in the twilight of life.

    • Patti Hall says

      Wow, Hazel, you’ve started something here:>)
      I hope you have lots of room. Loved your honesty and believe you are not as alone as you first supposed…
      Take care & thank you.

    • Hazel says

      Oh, My God! I had better clean out the motorhome so some of you all can bed down out there, huh? I would be honored to have anyone who would like to experience a bit of “strangeness” come visit me. I am in the Four Corners area near Shiprock so there are many ruins and lots of places to shop for genuine Native American made goods. Many galleries also. The most comfortable times to visit here is late September and October as it starts to cool off then, personally I like the heat, that’s why I am here; also early spring April & May. In between October and April it can get very cold -5 at night sometimes and near 0 a lot of the time, not too much snow here. We have to heat our chicken house.

      You can visit my website at:
      I am in the process of updating it right now to include some pictures from around here.

    • Judy says

      Hazel, Just might take you up on this visit thing next time I’m staying with my New Mexico kids! Off to check your website.

    • Ilana says

      Hazel- I love the honesty and passion in this piece. When you said of your flesh and blood family “They could care less about me or what I am doing.” It made me feel a little less crazy, less alone, for my own rocky relationships with my blood family. Thank you for that. I also connected with your idea of trusting people until they prove by their actions that they should not be trusted. Sometimes it means getting hurt but sometimes it’s worth it. This is a wonderful piece. Ilana

  4. Dianne Brown says

    I wish I were kin…..I’d love to go to New Mexico and visit YOU!!!! Your stories are like pajamas right out of the dryer–warm and comfy. Thanks for sharing with us. We’re some sort of family aren’t we? Please say yes, because all my kit and kin are east of the Mississippi.

    • Debbie says

      Hazel – sounds like a road trip!! Be careful or you could end up with a car full of notebooks and pens pulling up in your driveway! Count me in, too!

    • Hazel says

      Thank you Diane for cuddling me with “your pajamas right out of the dryer.” It felt good. See above post.

      I was saying to a friend of mine that we should have Laura do a retreat in this area. There is a possibility to do that through Ghost Ranch, which used to belong to Georgia O’Keeffe, they do things like that all the time. Ghost Ranch is further east than where I am but very beautiful and Santa Fe is not too far away from there.

      • Judy says

        Hazel, brilliant idea having having Laura do a retreat at Ghost Ranch. Would love to see that happen. Thanks for throwing that out to the Universe.

  5. Patti Hall says

    Circle of family and friends? I drag my circle kicking and screaming along with me. I’m a traveler also, nothing grand, mind you, but I just like to keep moving and seeing new places, meeting new people. The circle is dragged along in my computer. I have been doing an email “blog” to my circle since 2007. I am pretty much the glue that ties us all together. They do the holidays and such together and I share my life with them through email. Then there is my online circle, to which you are all part of. My web/blog site connects both my circles.
    I am alone, but never lonely. I wish this kind of connection for anyone out there who feels lonely. I know that my needs are not the same for most people, but my circle is perfect for me, for this moment in my life.

    • Hazel says

      I think it is true that you can have online friends. My first experience with that was with a poetry group that I belonged to, There was a core group of five of us that met regularly online to critique each other’s poetry. One by one I met them in person and despite pictures of them I was always surprised when I met them in person and it was always such a joy. One of the women was from Australia that was a real surprise.

      No one in my family understands my need to roam. I have been called “completely nuts” to other more unmentionable terms, but it works for me and is what I enjoy the most.

      Do people actually leave messages back for you on your blog? I tried to start a couple but got discouraged because no one ever wrote back. It’s probably because I didn’t know how to do it.

      • Patti Hall says

        Yes, they do, Hazel. Not all of them, all of the time, but a handful of them always replies.
        I just write chatty notes about my day, week or a weird thing that happened…and pictures, when I can. I’m going to head to your website now.
        Take care.

    • Judy says

      Patti–What an upbeat piece–welcome after these past few weeks. It pulled me in immediately. Love these lines, ‘…..the glue that ties it all together and ‘I am alone, but never lonely.’ Will look for your blog. Thanks.

    • Ilana says

      Patti- So well put. I love that you value connections of all different kinds. I think that accepting and valuing the connections we have helps us to feel less alone even when no one is readily accessible. The part about traveling and meeting new made me think of the attitude I tried to hard to bring with me when I moved to a new state 16 years ago. “Strangers are just friends I have not met yet.” Thank you for the truth you share here. Ilana

    • Debbie says

      Patti – a few weeks back I posted late on being alone versus lonely. First cousin emotions but decidedly different. Thanks for sharing the rewards that can be experienced through “virtual” connections.

      • Patti Hall says

        Judy, Ilana & Debbie,
        Thank you! I’m am meeting some incredible people online. Hopefully, we’ll meet someday, but it is also ok if we don’t. I love this place. You all keeping up on Laura’s journey? And see hazel’s place too…she is an artist!
        Hugs to all,

    • Terry Gibson says

      Patti, I love the joy you share here! It’s uplifting. I share your feelings about online communities. They–in particular, this one–have kept me kicking through some agonizing pain and depression (when I wanted to harm myself in more ways than in my thoughts). We’ve shared so much, including hefty doses of humour that are always a pleasure to me. And in November last year, at Laura’s ‘Memory to Memoir’ retreat, I got to meet a new friend from here, our incomparable Ilana; that was a special delight for both of us. So, I am with you. I am happy you are here. You are a nice addition to this generous, encouraging and strong community. 🙂

  6. Deb Mansell says

    Hi folks,

    I’m still here, still feeling angry and sad and shocked.

    Family is the last thing I want to write about at the moment. Still trying to process “stuff” 🙁

    • Hazel says

      Hold on to what is good for you. We are your “kindred spirits.” You can write about the butterfly in your garden, or the fly in your ointment, and we will love you for having joined us with your writing. No judgement.

      Thank you for being here and sharing with us.

    • Judy says

      Hi Deb, Hope the ‘stuff’ passes soon. Been stuck myself with lots of crap lately so your post resonates. Let’s do the ‘kick it in the ass cyber dance’ and hope the ‘stuff’ finds a place it can be useful. Blessed be, J

    • Ilana says

      Deb- Thank you for your honesty and for remaining present with us even if you don’t feel up to the official post. I am thinking of you and wishing you strength. Ilana

    • Debbie says

      Hi Deb – When I read your post I felt Laura channeling through me saying “Then write about why you don’t want to write to this prompt”. So many times the therapy and discipline of putting pen to paper – even when I start off with “I have nothing to say about this….” somehow frees the strong emotions trapped and circling in my head. Per Laura – we are free to write the worst “crap” in the world. Join in when you can even if it to explain to us why you “can’t”.

      • Patti Hall says

        Yes, glad you came by anyway, Deb. We understand.
        Now was that kick right then left or…?
        I have zero rhythm, I’ll need some help here.

      • Ilana says

        I heard it too. I remember when she assured me I was welcome to post “the worst writing in the world” if I wanted to and once, recently, I posted on something completely unrelated to the prompt. This is indeed a special community. Ilana

      • Deb Mansell says

        Ok Debbie here it is….


        Ok so this may all come out as a garbled mess but I will try to explain.

        When I hit my mid 20’s I began to recognize things inside of me, I was bought a copy of the book , “I never told anyone” I wanted to talk about things but I didn’t know how I didn’t know that I could say I’d been abused because my uncle groomed me so well I believed that we were having an affair from the age of 9 to 19. I thought I was responsible for what went on, that I should’ve said no.

        So I didn’t recognize abuse but I wasn’t happy, I was so low I was suicidal. That’s when I met Christine who took me under her wing and listened to me, I got hold of a copy of the courage to heal and that began to speak to me, I joined a survivors group and although I wasn’t sure I should be there. I don’t know the real date order of all this but there were some really low moments when I tried to overdose but couldn’t tell anyone. I had men hitting on me for sex and I didn’t know how to say no, I drank too much and put myself in venerable situations but Christine stood by me and gently mothered me, hugging me feeding me making me endless cups of tea, taking me on long dog walks that always resulted in long conversations, she listened without judgement and encouraged me just to say thing out loud which helped although I still wasn’t talking about the abuse.

        A youth worker friend recognized from my behaviour that I was going through trauma and found a contact no for the Bristol rape crisis centre, and after about 20 attempts I managed to phone them and ask for help, I was offered 12 sessions of counselling which at the time was really find so I said yes I’d go. I travelled the 35miles alone there and back by train, I managed to say that I’d been abused but I couldn’t say what had happened, I sat in silence and then cried on the train on the way home because I hadn’t managed to say anything.

        I actually started counselling whilst I was still being abused I went to a drop in counselling place and saw lots of different people one American bloke, Al said to me once “Are you scared to talk to me because I have a penis?” that just freaked me into further silence!

        Still not saying what the stuff is about. Big deep breaths, I saw my medical records last week. I went searching because I remembered and episode of being in hospital. I also remembered going to see a child psychologist, that and remembering the burning wee I wanted to know what was there.
        There was a letter, a report, from when I was 8, in 1972, about a visit to this psychologist, saying that I had been sent there because of extreme temper tantrums, school refusal and bedwetting. In short it said that my sister who was 15 month older than me was very jealous of me and demanding of my mother’s attention and that my mother had post natal depression for a year after my birth and that I was deprived. It said I wanted to stay at home and protect my mother from death and this was worse when her mood was low.

        What stands out a mile to me is my father wasn’t mentioned in this report at all. No one said anything about his temper or his drinking no one spoke about him. I think that the silence speaks volumes, I think that, I feel that he was /had abused me and I couldn’t say anything because I was too scared. I think that he abused me when my mother was too sick to look after me and when she had my younger brother and that I wet the bed and screamed and shouted and all that bloody doctor did was put me on valium.

        • Debbie says

          Deb – bravo for you! I am impressed by your courage in sharing this post with us. Deep breath, indeed!

          • Deb Mansell says

            Thank you I really used the courage from the bottom of my boots for this one. Rambled a bit and I thought it was important to post it as it came out, so to speak.

            It does feel a bit like a boil has burst and now I can start cleaning and caring for the wound.

            Thank you all again for your support.

        • Hazel says

          That was a good beginning, wow! Don’t be surprised if more comes bubbling up and out the ends of your fingers onto the page. I find that sometimes I can write things that I never would be able to say (and that’s a good thing.).

          You are loved, hugged and held safe here. Be who you are.

          • Deb Mansell says

            Thank you Hazel I do hear what you are saying but it makes me feel so sad and tearful, because I’m not really worthy of your care and attention, I really do feel crap about me right now. ;-(

        • Ilana says

          Awesome job, Deb. I could see you in my mind’s eye cleansing yourself of all this “stuff” by putting it on the page. I hope you got as much out of writing it as I imagined you would, as I did when I first started, and still continue to do, writing like that. Always in your corner, Ilana

        • Polly says

          Thank you for trusting in your own process, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable and safe here. You’re doing a great job, and you are brave. Thank you.

          • Deb Mansell says

            “More Stuff”

            I have just seen on the ‘wonderful’ medium of face book that my sister has “spent a lovely evening with my aunt and cousin before they return to Australia.” I have not seen them at all. They have been here for 6 weeks sometime touring England and Scotland and sometime spent in my home town staying with my aunt and the uncle who abused me. They have not contacted me and I am not about to ring them, so that’s all of my family out of contact with me.

            My brother lives away and avoids any form of contact, rings me very rarely but I have nothing to say to him. I last spoke to my mother at the end of May when she came for a birthday meal. And I frankly think she couldn’t give a dam. They don’t like me ‘cos I won’t shut up, I refuse to keep quiet, I went to the police and reported my uncle, I told people in our family church that he shouldn’t be allowed to wait for his daughter after guides and brownies, that he couldn’t and shouldn’t be trusted. I told all the family that lived out of town what he had done; I made sure that everyone knew.

            This enraged my family, why couldn’t I keep quiet? If only I hadn’t opened my big mouth then the family would be ok , according to my sister I had torn the family apart and it was all my fault, when she told me this the whole neighbourhood heard what I had to say. My poor partner Andy thought I was going to either bust a blood vessel or go into premature labour, I did neither but boy did I shout. How dare she tell me whose fault this was, how she dare be just like everyone else and put all the blame on me! I told her that if he’d kept his filthy hands to himself I wouldn’t have to tell anyone! There would be nothing to tell. But he didn’t and I refuse to keep the silence for him and his wife who decided to stay with him.

            My mother was the same really, the first time I told her about my uncle, she shouted at me why did you let him, why didn’t you tell anyone, why didn’t you stop him! She layered a whole lot more guilt on me that made it so much more difficult to talk about.

            I feel so angry at the way they treat me, I feel so mad at the things they have said to me, how they have trashed my feelings, how my mother has trashed my feelings over and over again. I rang her once when I deep in therapy trying to sort out how I felt about everything bouncing from suicidal thoughts to drunken episodes, in a sober moment I rang her and said ‘I love you mum’, and I was met by silence, she clearly didn’t have a clue how to respond. That confirmed to me that she didn’t love me at all, that she didn’t want me. When my father died I needed her so badly and she just went to stay with friends indefinitely I followed and slept on their sofa but felt in the way. All my life she has pushed me away and rubbished my feelings yet tells me off for not sharing things with her. The pain feels so big all I ever wanted was to be loved and all I got was abuse and pain.

        • Terry Gibson says

          Deb, like others already said, I am also cheering you on as you search for the words to fit all truths colliding in your head triggering memories cropping up before you are ready for them. I understand this; that part of healing always occurs at lightning speed for me. You’re doing great. Please just ease up on yourself! You are worth everything. Again, you gave me feedback and kindness on FB today on a post I wanted to delete. Three times, Iogged in to delete this post, thinking I just sounded like a stupid fool. When I saw your comment, I committed to allowing my heartfelt comments–even while I was itching to remove it. So thanks Deb. You are sharing and commenting and that’s what it’s all about. I am here and on FB and always listening. Take care, Deb. Thanks for your posts here.

          • Hazel says

            You are not alone! There are many of us out here. Some have raged and angered through the process and some have suffered in silence. It all bubbles over at some point and the point always is “Just LOVE ME!” Catharsis is good, but the letting go is even better.

          • Deb Mansell says

            I am trying ti hard to hang in there. I know I can do it, the support that all of you are giving me is helping as my family of origin is not there at all.Please keep cheering me on even when I hit a negative point. It really does help.

  7. Ilana says

    My Larger Family… Or Not

    About three months before the 5th anniversary of my emergency brain surgery I had just joined a new temple and had asked to read Torah to celebrate the occasion. The rabbi had told me about the lay lead service that took place every Saturday morning. I joined the minyan, as we call it, and attended services regularly. I was immediately welcomed with open arms and became a part of the community. At that point in time I had a two year old daughter and was eight months pregnant with my second child. My husband stayed home with the two year old and I came to services alone.

    I started studying right away and by the anniversary I was ready. I sang the parasha, section of the Torah, from the scrolls using the ancient musical notes we call troups. I also got to do a drash, a little speech teaching about the piece that I was going to read. In that drash I talked about my larger family. I identified all of the people who had prayed for my recovery while I had been so desperately ill. I was newly married when I got sick and my father-in-law was a rabbi. He e-mailed rabbis all over the United States, England and Israel. They all put my name on a special list that was read before the prayer for healing of the sick was said. It really was an amazing feeling to know that people from all over the world had prayed for me. They were my larger family.

    It was eight years ago when I wrote that drash and felt so connected to my Jewish family. There have been other times I have felt connected to strangers who were Jews. Someone in mourning must have at least nine other Jewish adults present in order to say the prayers, that first week of mourning. It is a very specific and important tradition. Many people are on lists as volunteers who can be called to pray with a stranger who, for whatever reason, does not have enough people to make up that group of ten. I have helped people in this way. In college I had a Jewish friend who referred to people as “MOT”. That meant they were “Members Of the Tribe”. College was a time when I was very lonely for people who truly understood how difficult it was to try to keep kosher on cafeteria food, or make my deadlines after high holidays when I had spent the entire day praying. It made me feel better to hear my friend say, “Oh she gets it. She’s MOT.” Being around other Jews, connecting with other Jews as my extended family, has always been very important to me.

    It’s a nice feeling except when it isn’t. Over the years I have also run into people who I call “frumies”. It’s my own word and I’ll admit right now it’s a derogatory term as I use it. The actual word, “frum”, means very religious. That word alone is objective, not derogatory. A person can absolutely be frum without being a frumie. The difference between the two is attitude. A woman who is frum may cover her hair, wear only long skirts, refrain from using electricity on Saturday, eat a very strict kosher diet and never have physical contact with a man besides her husband, father or brothers. A man who is frum may wear a black hat, payot- the side curls you see on orthodox Jewish men, eat a strict kosher diet, refrain from using electricity on Saturday and never have physical contact with a woman besides his mother or sisters. These people only turn into frumies when they show judgment against Jews who don’t do things the way they do.

    My instinct still tells me to feel connected when I meet someone who is Jewish. We share a common history, theological belief system, these are my people. When I see a man with payot, side curls, I automatically think, “He’s Jewish.” and feel a connection. That is what makes it so painful when I interact with a frummie. I’ve met many people whose style of dress or actions make it clear that they are Jewish. I have reached out to them saying that I am Jewish too or even speaking to them in Hebrew. Most often they look me up and down and then sneer. They make it clear that they do not consider me Jewish. My hair is showing, though I am married. My elbows and knees are showing if it is summer. Their disapproval is obvious and it hurts. I wish I could fight my instincts and not reach out to these people but the alternative is to distrust my own people. That is an even lonelier place to be especially considering the anti-Semitism I have endured. So I keep trying and I keep getting hurt.

    There are people who don’t consider me Jewish enough. There are people who consider my marriage invalid because the rabbi who officiated at my wedding was ordained reform. I could go on to describe all of the deficiencies others have pointed out in my Jewish life but I think you get the point. When I am shut out by Jews for not being Jewish enough I feel alone and judged. The worst part is the feeling of disconnection. With all the hatred and violence the world has put us through why must we turn on each other? I don’t know.
    So this is how I have felt both connected to and rejected by my larger family. I could end here, feeling I have made my point but I have not been entirely honest. As much as I complain about the frumies who reject me, there is one group I am very guilty of rejecting. It may be wrong of me but I just can’t accept them as Jews. What they believe runs counter to everything I learned about being Jewish. Aside from their belief system, which I find extremely disconcerting, these people believe in proselytizing. They do it as actively and voraciously as the Jehovah’s Witnesses who go door to door. From the time I was seven years old it was pounded into me that one thing Jews never NEVER do is proselytize. Yet these people do it and claim to be Jewish. They do it to other Jews; something I find even more offensive than being rejected by the frummies.
    This group of people call themselves “Messianic Jews” or “Jews for Jesus.” So here is where I see myself as a bit of a hypocrite. I hate when the frumies tell me I am not Jewish but I do not think that Messianic Jews are Jewish. Jews simply don’t believe in Jesus. We just don’t. But how can I say that? How can I be so offended when a woman in a long skirt with a scarf over her hair looks me over and makes it clear I am not Jewish, when I look at someone else and think, “You are not Jewish. Jews do not proselytize. Jews do not believe in Jesus, period. It doesn’t work. I can’t have it both ways. But I do. It’s what I believe, even if my heart says it’s not fair. I am Jewish, even though the frumies reject me. A person who believes in Jesus is not Jewish, even though someone came up with an entire religious sect based around that exact idea. Call it a flaw in my logic. Call it a double standard. I can’t escape it. That’s how I feel. The best I can say is, at least I am being honest about it. Thank you for listening.

    • Polly says

      Ilana, thanks for breaking this down for us. I am a gentile – actually, agnostic at this point. I certainly question the beliefs I was raised with, having been raised in the Catholic church which has done so much to subjugate so many groups of people. I have always been somewhat fascinated by Judaism.

      My amazing Jewish friends have let me take part in traditions that I really enjoy like Seder and Hanukkah – I think you and I discussed that a long time ago. I love hearing their kids sing in Hebrew. I love experiencing that joy with them.

      It is so good that you feel connected with a “larger family” in this way. We all need that – we need to be able to find it somewhere. So much of life is about being able to connect.

      I liked this part: “My instinct still tells me to feel connected when I meet someone who is Jewish. We share a common history, theological belief system, these are my people.”

      Anyway, it’s ridiculous that certain others have judged you for not being “Jewish enough,” whatever that even means. I don’t think you need to be fundamentalist about anything in order to qualify. You have your beliefs, you observe the traditions, you attend services, and culturally you are Jewish. So don’t listen to people who presume to know what’s in your heart. The “Jews for Jesus” thing sounds funny to me and I think you’re entitled to note the obvious irony. You’re not saying that they’re horrible people or anything really about their character, etc. From my perspective, you are calling a spade a spade.

      I tend to trust people who are straight shooters, and I respect it that you call things exactly the way you see them.

    • Debbie says

      llana – I agree with the comment that you explained some unfamiliar concepts very well – and educated some of us at the same time. The need for a sense of community, along with an inherent tendency to judge seem to be deeply ingrained aspects of our human natures. I applaud the honest self exploration you share in the piece.

    • Ilana says

      Thank you all, This really was a risk, posting these conflicting feelings about being rejected but then rejecting someone else at the same time. I really appreciate your support of my honesty. I don’t know how to understand it yet but at least it’s no longer trapped inside of me. Ilana

    • Hazel says

      Thank you for sharing this honest look at your feelings about your larger family. “At least I am being honest about it,” is better than some of could do about their faith. I think “being Jewish” encompasses so much more than just religion as you have said. I don’t get how there can be degrees of being in an ethnic group, or a religion. That’s like being a little bit pregnant.

  8. Patti Hall says

    First of all, your writing is so good that I easily followed your tale, even though it was filled with things I know very little about. You explained each term so well.
    And then, more honesty than most people seem capable of. No one would know that you felt that way had you not told us. Yet, you did. It was something weighing on you, and you released it in this safe place. I believe, as humans, we all have our little (and big) hypocrisies.
    Thank you,

    • Ilana says

      Patti, my comments above are directed at you as well. In addition, I really appreciate you and Debbie letting me know that I explained things well enough for you to follow the story. Thanks again! Ilana

      • Judy says

        Ilana, I’ve always felt you are a gifted educator who shows great understanding of the human condition. I’ll post a longer response soon but just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed reading this.

        • Ilana says

          Thank you Judy- That is a high compliment you give me. I never considered myself much of an educator but I suppose given a safe place to do it in I enjoy sharing the things I am passionate about. I am equally touched by your saying that I understand the human condition. Thank you for helping me see beauty in myself, something I’ve always struggled with. Ilana

  9. Terry Gibson says

    Ilana, I am glad I caught your post today. It’s strange that our words or topics are so similar–yet still so different. I studied world religions in University and took a keen interest in this. I wanted to study philosophy but only because it brought to life much of what I believe. More tomorrow; it must be time for my rest now. Take care, for now.

  10. Terry Gibson says

    Ilana, I should’ve stopped last night and slept for all I gave you above. I admire you for how you write and the content as well. The in-between truths you share. Belonging to the Jewish faith and yet not being ‘enough’ for some. Me being immersed into Catholicism for my most vulnerable years and not being a ‘bad’ or ‘good’ enough Christian. Our own groups judge us as well, as all the cross judgments from neighbouring groups for any reason at all. Everyone does it. Don’t they? It’s hard to share these kinds of things but fsome must do it, like you and I for two. I love how you break down some of your traditions for us; I learn from you every time and thank you for that.

    • Ilana says

      Thank you Terry, I love the way you refer to the “in between truths.” It gives me permission to say how I feel regardless of contradictions in the thinking. I think it is the most honest way to communicate and the safety in this community is what allows for it. I have learned and developed so much in this safe place. Your support and feedback have been a big part of that. So blessed to have you enter my life. Ilana

  11. Deb Mansell says

    Oh Boy, I can’t wait to see what tomorrows prompt will be, this one has been prodding me black and blue. There have been so many memories of family there, right on the tip of my pen, so many that I wanted to say out loud, so many that I wanted to push away back inside, away to the darkness.

    One thing that opening up the family can of worms has done is started a communication between myself and my brother, I told him how angry and alone I felt, and he told me how he’s spent the last 30 years trying to get over his childhood. That is the first time that any one else has admitted that our family had any problems. I also manage to admit to my cousin in Australia (I’m in the U.K.) how isolated and unsupported by the family I felt. And he told me although he was all those miles away he would do anything to help.

    • Ilana says

      Thank you for sharing, Deb. I am sending you caring and warm wishes. I went through hell when my journey to healing began. Lucky for me I became a part of this community very shortly thereafter. So much pain I have splashed up on this page. So much strength, support and love I drew from others here. I wish you well, my friend. Keep posting, Ilana

  12. Terry Gibson says

    I was born a bald first girl
    With lots of kin around
    And trusted all until they saw
    I would never make a sound.
    ‘You are such a pretty girl
    Do you know I like you more?
    Let’s go off and grownup play
    While the only baby here, she snores.
    I’m so happy now because
    I see you love your Uncle Ron
    Come tickle, laugh, and learn the
    Stuff you’ll soon consider fun.’ 

    Time it changes everything
    Maltreatment dubbed the very worst
    But when I got free, tried out my life
    It seemed plastic, all rehearsed.
    I lived with at least a dozen rapes
    GHB, trust, Gillette blades, and beer
    Legal scripts from doctors all,

    Sex, love, death, and Terry-hate
    Therapy time, how to purge my food, and sweat
    Through a full panic attack and short psych ward stays
    To me night terrors that choke me cold, clamp off my throat and nose in fear.


    Decades later, my family’s gone
    Some I refuse but most have died
    Yet there are kids, innocents still
    For whom I cry and never get to see.

    It seems while young, taught all they were 

    • Deb Mansell says

      Terry I have come back to read this three times. What hits me first and foremost is that your writing makes me feel, all the feelings I have locked away are stirred by reading this.

      Thank you for sharing, you write with such a power and strength. The strength that has given you survival, decades later your family may have gone but you have stayed with us and shared, thank you.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Thanks Polly and Deb. I think this became too much for me to handle as I wrote it. Thanks Deb for asking; I was so lost in getting those words right, I couldn’t feel it tearing at my body or recognize the feeding frenzy going on. Also, although playing with words is almost my favourite thing in life, it is damned hard work! Especially on such painful content.

  13. Bobbie Anne says

    Yes, I agree that we draw our circle of family too small. Other cultures have respect for the elders in the family and they have an honored place. It seems that here in America, that’s not the case.

    My 84 year old mother-in-law has been in the hospital and nursing home/rehabilitation over 5 times. The last time when I signed her out, she was acting out, according to her nurse. she smiled at me standing in the middle of the room deficating. She was ignored by the staff and treated poorly because she cursed at them and gave them a hard time. I had to intervine and make things better so that they would care for her and give her food on time. If she took her time to eat it they would take it away. I fixed things when she grabbed the stethoscope and tried to hurt the doctor. Her hand was bruised. I then had a health care proxy in place. Most of the time they tried to ignore this and speak to her. Not the best thing to do.

    I noticed a lot of people just dumping their mom or dad or other relative there. And that was it. So I visited her frequently and was her advocate when things got rough. I’m happy to say she back home, in her own environment. She has two aides and she looks well. She even thanked me.

    The family shouldn’t just be the immediate one. The extended family and friends are important too. And what about this wonderful family on-line? For me this is a wonderful safe place where I feel accepted and loved. My family of origin did not treat me well. I was sad most of the time.

    That was the past. I’m here now and I am able to share with everyone here. And that is what it is all about

    • Debbie says

      Bobbie Anne – Your description of your mother-in-laws’s “behavior” is so familiar – along with the desire of staff to reduce or eliminate the “problem”. You are a brave and tender soul to care for her with kindness. Even if this was not what you received from your family of origin. Thanks for being a “regular” and sharing your stories with us.

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