I will admit from the start that this story doesn’t reflect well on me.  I started writing to vent, but the more I wrote, the more I realised that it really is my own fault.  I’m writing partly to get perspective, partly to explain why the next X number of months while I live with my parents are going to be tough, and why it’s doubtful that anyone could bear to live with me for long.  Also, no explanations of Jewish words/concepts this time as I’ll be here all night.  Sorry.  If you’re not Jewish, you’re just going to have wing this one.

I just had a conversation with my Mum that went something like this:

Me: My friend who I thought was taking me to shul on Friday night next week when I’m in Crown Heights has said he doesn’t go, so I’ll have to daven at home.

Mum: Why don’t you go online and see if there are shuls in Crown Heights?

Me: I don’t want to wander around Crown Heights by myself at night in case I get lost.  It’s an area with a lot of crime.

Mum: But there may be a shul on your road.

Me: If I did, it would be Chabad.  I’ll be the only person there not in a suit and is clean-shaven.

Mum: We davened at Chabad and we didn’t stand out.

Me: You davened at Chabad House.  It’s geared up for kiruv.  It’s not the same.

Mum: So you’ll be a guest and they’ll make you feel welcome.

Me: They’ll try to convert me.

I can’t remember what Mum said next, but it ended with me saying that I understand the frum world more than her and her storming out while I said something unpleasant (I am not proud of this, but I am being honest).  This was just after Mum and Dad had a conversation across me while I was in the room, but as if I wasn’t there, asking who is giving me a lift to the doctor tomorrow morning when I hadn’t asked for a lift and was planning on walking.

OK, I admit I handled this whole situation badly, partly because I’m tired, hungry, stressed and anxious.  I know I’m a difficult person to live with, but there are also psychological issues here.  I guess the specific issues here that I can see now I’ve calmed down a bit are:

  1. My parents think of me as a child.  This is partly because I always will be their child, but mostly because I’m unmarried, live at home, am unemployed and am lacking in some life skills.  They don’t treat my sister as a child to the same extent, even though she’s younger than me.
  2. I hate being thought of as a child, especially as I realise that in many ways, I am still a child.
  3. I don’t like it when people try to solve my problems.  A lot of the time, when I raise a problem, especially if I don’t specifically ask for advice, I’m looking to vent, not to have a solution thrust on me.  I’m not good at taking advice.
  4. Worse than that, what I say the problem is is not always what the problem actually here.  Here I came up with lots of problems, all of which were true to a greater or lesser extent, but the real problem was only vaguely touched on: I hate walking into a new shul by myself.  The fact that the shul would be Hasidic makes it worse, but that is the issue.  When I calmed down, I googled shuls in Crown Heights as Mum suggested and in a few seconds found two on the road I’ll being staying on, albeit I think quite a way away.  One at least was Hasidic (although not Chabad), but that isn’t the point.  The point was, I had said my problem was one thing, when it was really something else.
  5. The something else here, and probably usually, is social anxiety.  That’s what stops me walking into a new shul.
  6. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I tend to try to tell people that my problems are hopeless.  I generally want either to be agreed with and proved that they are hopeless or to be disagreed with and proved that there is hope.  However, no one can prove the future, so people just try to problem solve or dismiss my problems, both of which anger me.
  7. I just have personality clashes with my parents which naturally lead to a lot of bickering.  To be fair, there is a family dynamic of bickering.  I am not by any means the most argumentative person in the family.  There are deeper issues here that would carry me outside what I think I can halakhically say in public, even anonymously, but there are historical family issues that mean that when arguments start, a lot of bad buttons get pressed for me – not anger management ones, but catastrophising, feeling frustrated, not taken seriously, isolated and ignored and so on.
  8. You may have noticed that being ignored and isolated is pretty much the worst thing in the world for me, and I spend a lot of my life worrying that I will die lonely and unloved and then go to the afterlife where God will tell me that He hates me and isn’t interested in me.  Basically 90% of the biggest mistakes I’ve made and sins I’ve done, and perhaps also a lot of arguments I’ve got into, come from my fear of being isolated and ignored.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that almost ALL my problems are rooted in this dynamic of the family dynamic of bickering leading to feelings of isolation and rejection.

There probably is a lot more I could say if this was a therapy session, but the takeaway point is that I realise that that argument was (a) largely my fault (my parents might have realised after thirty-five years that social anxiety is at the bottom of most of my fears, but I don’t blame them for not doing so) and (b) was largely preventable.  But I can’t work out how I could have got out of the argument.  From the point where I nonchalantly said I’d have to daven at home (when I was just venting, not looking for a solution to a problem or even much of a response), I was basically locked in to an argument because every further step pressed more of my buttons about rejection, isolation and not being listened to, but because I couldn’t openly admit to my fears, I was just driven to more bizarre (albeit logical in my head) reasons to defend my position.  Logically, my Mum was right: google and find a shul (plus I don’t know how dangerous Crown Heights really is, as a non-New York resident.  I was just freaked out by people on Hevria joking about crack addicts on the streets.  I basically don’t want to be in Crown Heights at all and am only there because of a friend who has seriously let me down and am finding more and more reasons to hate the fact that I’m going to be there and worry that they’re going to find my bullet-ridden corpse in the gutter).

In my defence, all I can say is that some of my fears are justified.  Orthodox shuls are often not welcoming, sadly, and ultra-Orthodox communities in particular are notoriously insular and suspicious of outsiders, especially those who, by dress and bearing, are clearly not ultra-Orthodox themselves.  That doesn’t really justify what I said, though.

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3 thoughts on “Family Tensions

  1. When most people give me advice I try to nod and smile and just ignore it, but there’s something about advice from parents that’s inherently button-pushing. My solution has become to not tell my parents anything of consequence, although I suppose calling that a solution is rather unrealistic.

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  2. I guess it’s a kind of solution! I’m really bad at keeping stuff secret, though, especially from them (you may have noticed I write 1000 words about my thoughts every day for public consumption even though I tell myself I’m a private person…). Plus my self-esteem is sufficiently low that if people give me advice, even if I don’t act on it, I end up beating myself up about it e.g. all the people who said I should have taken the revised contract.

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