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At a Loss

What part of 'No, I'm not from Israel' is hard to grasp?

When people ask 'Where are you from?' What do I say?
My usual answer is 'Here and there' but that is almost never good enough for complete strangers who just walk up to me and ask me where I'm from.

I can't shake how creepy that was and I feel weird about that petrol station now.

Of all places you could think me from, I'm clearly Israeli because of my Mogen David necklace? Seriously? When I have a (generally) English accent? Really?

I actually like it when people are curious about me, but not like that ... that was creepy. And he was trying to block our exit and it was NOT COOL.

In any case, that was an experience we actually had some time ago brought on by something that I was reading in another community that also flagged something else I've been dealing with lately:

*I* am good with my religious/spiritual expression. The more I study and practise, the cooler everything gets and the better I feel and the more ... well, anyway ... I wish I could hunt down other people in my situation. Maybe some of you are in the same way and I don't even know about it. If so, though, I wish you would have mentioned it ;)

Here's the problem:

I find it difficult to talk about *my* religious expression. I love talking religion, but often it comes up that my views will clash. Someone (especially in the LJ-setting) will say something like 'That's an idol!' to someone else and I so badly want to jump in, but then ... from their point of view, my opinion is not valid. Why?

I don't just practise Judaism.
I don't just practise Hinduism.
I don't just practise Islam.
I don't just practise Shinto.
I don't just practise Buddhism.
I don't just practise Orthodox Christianity or Catholicism or Anglicanism.

How dare someone insist I pick one. These were gifts given to me by my family. My ancestors came together in beautiful streams of spirituality and those streams are my birthright, everything else aside.
I'm sorry that you see a clash here. I am desperately sorry, because I don't and what I *do* see is beautiful and passionate and vital.
On top of that, I've brought additions of my own, and these things assist me in joining these streams given to me by my family into a powerful river of an amazing faith that is as holy to me as anyone's faith can be.
My own family has problems with it.
And as much as I love my friends, my husband, my family ... I feel like I have no one to talk to.
Sometimes I feel like it's that no one cares, though I'm sure that isn't true. Mostly, I feel I might offend or that (even if they don't let me see it) they'll simply be uncomfortable or think me mis-led. I don't feel like I can find a place to talk that is simply ...talking.

I search, I experiment, I experience. I can't live my spiritual life any other way. I don't think I should have to. This is the gift of my heritage.

One of the practical sides of this is - now that I'm going back to headcoverings, I've been going over my options. Before, I've had to make my own, so my options were very limited and I stuck with a snood, because it was easy. I also messed with tying regular scarves, but that was incredibly uncomfortable. Now I want to purchase just one or two coverings, made by people who know what they're doing, that will contribute some simple honour to their role in my life.

My most immediate choices: Islamic or Jewish?

I know people in both camps who would be horrified by the idea that I even have trouble deciding.

What I'm hoping I'll be able to do is buy one of each, search out my faves (within a very limited budget) of each and try them out, probably just in my house, and see how they feel.
It's been so long since I've worn a headscarf in public ... I've been wearing hats and bandannas that would no one would notice. It was a big loss for me that I really need to correct, but I'm nervous. I remember this nervousness.

Reactions were mixed.

Geez, I don't know if I'm getting the issue across at all ...
 But this is getting ridiculously long, so I'll end here by asking:
Any opinions? -hopeful-


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 21st, 2008 03:43 am (UTC)
I think the best I can go with is... don't make a choice. I mean, it's hard. But sometimes choosing not to chose is a good choice (and ohmygod if that made any sense, please explain my own reasoning to me!)

I'm Jewish as anything. I wear an Anubis charm as the only Jewelry I've ever been able to stand, know more about Egyptian mythology then Jewish mysticism and I don't even have a relationship with Egypt at all.

This is something so personal that making a choice has to be done by the age old method of living, experiencing and creating it yourself. The first step might be choosing a way to answer the question "What religion am I?" Not by saying a certain religion, but by coming up with something like a definition. And then just tell everyone you're a religious-mutt. If people can be ethnic mutts, you can be a religious mutt.

I'll admit that I was raised in a single religion household very open to discussion that helped me, early on, cement a religious identity. I was lucky, I am lucky and yet I still have discussion about different parts of belief, why people believe, how they believe and how it affects me and the rest of the world.

... That's not actually an answer. But I tried!
Jan. 21st, 2008 04:01 am (UTC)
Fantastic advice, and pretty much what I do now. The problem is - it rarely gets me anywhere with people.

The bias/prejudice/close-mindedness/stubbornness/etc wouldn't bother me, except that it locks me out of circles and I end up, again, with no one to talk to.

Though apparently you get it ^^ Yay!

I was actually told by someone in an LJ community that if I was Jewish, I should be Jewish, PERIOD. And this, in my experience, is the prevailing opinion (not just in the Jewish community).

And I still have the head-covering thing. Or do you think I should just allow myself to switch coverings whenever I feel like it? Public confusion/consternation/upset be damned?

On an interesting (at least to me) side-note - I have a Muslim cousin in Egypt who wears an Anubis pendant and doesn't know why. Anubis is JUST THAT COOL XD
Jan. 21st, 2008 04:07 am (UTC)
Try Jewish Reconstructionists if you're going to go for something a bit more unusual Judaism-wise. They're very big into the more 'fringe' type of things and might be a good choice.

I'd do whatever feels right, really. Head-coverings... well, I dunno how many people will even realize the difference. Unless you point it out, that is. So don't worry too much!

Anubis is the best. I have to frame/hang my Giant Painting of him. He's my favorite mythology ever, right up there with Hermes.
Jan. 21st, 2008 05:51 am (UTC)
My family (the Jewish part) is actually mostly Karaite. Talk about 'unusual' and I like that. ^^

The schul I went to for adult ed was Reform and they made me feel uncomfortable about both covering my hair and being into Jewish mysticism :( Unfortunate. I have very little experience with Reconstructionists, so I'll have to poke around some more.
Jan. 21st, 2008 05:57 am (UTC)
It also totally depends on the temple, seriously. I went to a reform temple where the Rabbi had been an atheist when he was younger... it was a very open, talkative, debate-filled place. And then we got new Rabbis and it's a totally different place with a very different philosophy. It's amazing how much a temple relies on its Rabbi.

But, yes, the Reconstructionists are very open to everything, they're sort of fringe!Judaism. I admit to being a biiit more traditional than they tend to be, but they're a very good place to find acceptance for anyone, at least that's my experience.
Jan. 21st, 2008 06:08 am (UTC)
Still though I have to wonder how one broaches certain subjects ...

I don't know, it's entirely my problem that I want to be able to talk about G-d in the ways I do. I'd be a heretic in so many places XD
For instance, I have an altar with a beautiful image of Shiva on it, as well as a statue of Buddha and, depending on what I'm up to at the time ... a Catholic rosary, a mirror for Amaterasu, the Quran, any number of things.

I don't want to go somewhere where I have to literally or metaphorically put something away. At the same time, I never want to bring anything up for fear of losing a resource for one religion or the other.

I have such issues.
Jan. 21st, 2008 06:11 am (UTC)
I'm not sure if almost any of the major organized religions are right for you at that point. Because almost all of them ask for something, although Buddhism might actually be the best bet. Seriously, I'd look into Buddhism. A lot of Jewish people take on Buddhism as a compliment, as well as a lot of Islamic folks to my understanding... My dad reads reports about that stuff. So that might be an option...
Jan. 21st, 2008 06:20 am (UTC)
Oh, I know they're not ^^ That's the problem.

1) I have nowhere to go to meet with like-minded people.

2) I fear the consequences of expressing myself to the world at large.

For instance, when I go to the grocery store wearing khamir *and* a star of David ...
And if I wear a cross or a crucifix, people *are* going to assume that I believe certain things that I do, in fact, *not*.

I really do worry that I'm actually going to piss people off, to be frank.

and etc. etc. etc.
Jan. 21st, 2008 06:27 am (UTC)
I recommend... fire! Just carry lots of fire and light people who get upset on fire.

... Possibly, this is not my finest solution. But I like it anyway.

There's no solution to that. You'll upset people no matter what choice you make. I promise. Having been yelled at for mentioning that Christmas music is, y'know, Christian... people will get upset about anything if they want to and the only solution is to walk away rapidly.
Jan. 21st, 2008 06:34 am (UTC)
Here's my scary - and, no, there is no fixing it and that is *so* much scarier. The first part of the OP? The one with the guy who was insisting I was from Israel?

He was at the petrol station down the street from me, saw where I was walking from and KNOWS WHERE I LIVE. I live in such a spot where anyone who sees that you're walking KNOWS WHERE YOU LIVE.

There are creepy, crabby people here. I've had that kind of scary before, but in places that weren't by my house or in a place where someone would assume they knew where I lived. Here, I have no options.

That's not really what I started this post worrying about. Actually, my ideas on what, exactly my problem was were pretty vague.

But I think *this* is the big problem.
I'm just plain scared.
Jan. 21st, 2008 06:37 am (UTC)
That's where the fire comes in. Flamethrower + scary people = Safety!

... Or not. *hug* I dunno, that's a much harder problem to solve. I don't think LJ works for that. Or possibly it's just that I've never bee able to give advice about being scared. Psch, I get nervous commenting on people's journal.
Jan. 21st, 2008 06:42 am (UTC)
Well, you're doing an awesome job anyway.

Actually, this whole thing has helped a lot more than it probably seems it has. At least now I have a better grasp on what's going on in my head. And that means I can deal with it that much better.

I'm off to bed.
You rock ^^
Jan. 21st, 2008 05:00 am (UTC)
I'm not really religious (my belief in God wavers depending on different events in my life >_>) but I do believe it's not right to be forced to chose one religion if you want to experience them all. Have you read Life of Pi? No? Well there's this thing at the beginning that reminds me of kind of your dilemma...

So there's Pi, a young boy born with one religion. But then, he becomes intrigued by the strange ways of 2 other religions. He secretly practices all three religions and he feels an attachment to them all.

But then one day his parents and him are strolling through the market and they meet the religious leaders of all three religions. Pi is horrified to find that they're all headed towards him. The three religious leaders are equally annoyed that the others are approaching Pi. When the meet up, each compliments the parents for raising such a devoted boy to their religions.

The three leaders are shocked to hear the others praising the boy about foreign religions and argue about it and about which religion is better, or correct. His parents, being not really religiously involved, are amused. "Pi is free to choose any religion he wants." "Yes!" they cry, "Religion, singular!" And then one of them says, "Why not let Pi decide?" and Pi, upset about this whole situation, burst out with, "I just want to love God..." and there's an awkward silence. And then his dad says, "I think that's what we're all trying to do, love God."

Does that make any sense? I think I completely missed the point of your post...sorry...but I that chapter of the bookis a good lesson. We're all just trying to love God, no matter what religion, so why does it matter what you choose? Well, at least the people that are religious... >_>
Jan. 21st, 2008 06:01 am (UTC)
Awesome story.

It's not *my* choice that's the problem, I know where I sit and I'm happy doing what I'm doing. It's the isolation. It's easy to get involved (online at least) with any religious community ... again, singular. But trying to find a place to commune with those who like to share variety ... not so easy.

I've gone UU before, but ... it just isn't *religious* enough for me. I consolidate my beliefs into a whole and it's exhausting when I have to split it up in order to talk to other people.

That was the real point of the rambling post :/ Trying to express myself when I go *out there*. Plus, being assumed to be one religion or the other and offending people by then *not* being what they expected :(

I mean ... I sit here thinking about things like wearing hijab/khamir *and* a star of David. It actually scares me in this day and age.

I've been a accused of being 'flakey' too, because I 'only want to do what *I* want' and don't 'follow whatever I don't like'. But that isn't true. I meditate and pray long and hard about aspects of my religions that don't sit right, or that I don't understand. Usually the answer comes pretty easily and I'm able to take that in. For some things, I'm still working on it :)

Anyway, I'm starting to ramble again ...
Jan. 21st, 2008 06:45 am (UTC)
-sigh- Khimar* typo
Jan. 21st, 2008 03:59 pm (UTC)
I'm really sad that you're in a position that you have to care about what other people think, or risk being isolated :(

But I think I can understand...in this time people are dicks :B I personally think that people say they want change, but are terrified of anything different.

I don't think that there's much you can do...it's a man eat man world out there (Sweeney Todd, anyone? xD) so it's either give up some stuff you want to do and conform a bit, or stay as you are and try to overcome the uncomfortableness (I know, I give much help, don't I? >_>).

But at least you know that you'll always have us :D
Jan. 21st, 2008 06:14 am (UTC)
I should mention that I *do* have my buna. She is a wonderful lady who feels much the same way I do. She considers herself Romanian Orthodox (Christian), but is a proud Jew XD She doesn't believe Jesus to be the Jewish Messiah, but has her own way of explaining *her* Christianity. It was through her help that I was able to reconcile my own issues with Christianity.

She also has many Romani practices woven into her personal spirituality.

My other grandmother is a devout Muslim though much of her family is Hindu, with a couple of Anglicans scattered about.

My sofu holds to Buddhism and Shinto.

This is basically where I come from ^^
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )



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