This is the first year since I separated from my wife that I’ve spent the Jewish High Holy days of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, with other people.
As much as I knew it was the right thing to make my own plans, it made for a certain sadness. It was the High Holidays, after all. There is a part of me that still thought I should be with my wife and her family, as I had done for 23 years. Instead, I spent the eve of Rosh Hashanah with new friends at a communal Rosh Hashanah dinner at a local restaurant and then we walked to an egalitarian LGBT synagogue that my friends belong to.
I don’t regret the choices I have made or my new life. In fact I love the life I am living. I do not want to go back to my old life. But it is hard showing up at a new synagogue, with people who are new friends, with new rituals, new tunes to old prayers, and the effort of making a go of it. It is the starting all over again that is hard.
Next week is Yom Kippur. I will be going to a pre-Kol Nidre dinner with a group of gay men on Friday night, the eve of Yom Kippur, followed by services at the same LGBT synagogue on Friday evening and Saturday. Then I will join the LGBT synagogue for their communal break-the-fast meal Saturday evening.
I’m not very religious. I’m usually bored by religious services and can’t wait till they are over. But I do love the ritual of the meals: the big meal before Rosh Hashanah; breaking the fast after Yom Kippur. I spent 23 years with my wife and her family, who love food, for many amazing meals.
The afternoon of Rosh Hashanah I left a message on my in-laws answering machine and wished them a happy new year. My mother-in-law called back the next day and we had a warm and lively conversation. Then I spoke to my father-in-law, and again it was warm, friendly and felt just like the old days. I always loved my in-laws, who are wonderful people, and I have missed them.
I also left messages for my wife and son wishing them both a happy new year. My son texted me back that he would call me later. My wife texted me that she was sorry she missed my call and would call me the next day. Both have called me back with good conversations that followed.
I suspect this Rosh Hashanah, the first one that my wife and I are truly apart, has been difficult for her. She is a person who loves the rituals of the Jewish religion and feels strongly about family and family traditions. Last year, even thought we had separated for four months before the High Holidays, I joined her and her family at my brother-in-laws synagogue, so that I could be with my son for the last High Holidays before he went off to college.
My wife and I have been separated for a year and four months. After a very painful separation, we spent a lot of time rebuilding our friendship, and have managed to rebuild a warm , friendly relationship. Somehow it just doesn’t feel right that I’m not with her or her parents for the Jewish holidays.
When I spoke to my in-laws it was really a lovely conversation. and for a little while it felt like nothing had changed. But we only spoke about the easy topics. We spoke mostly about my son, and how he was doing college. We never tackled any of the more difficult topics.
I will be with my in-laws and my wife in November when we make our first trip to visit my son in college for parents weekend. I’m sure the trip will go well, but it does make for a strange and odd time.
It’s all new. My brave new world. I suspect that I am mourning the loss of the rituals of 23 years, with my wife, son and her family. What do I miss? I miss my mother-in-law and wife’s cooking. The amazing brisket that melts in your mouth with the hot Colman’s Mustard, and carrots cooked with the brisket. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
But do I want to go back? No, I don’t want to go back. I want to go forward and let this wonderful new life unfold.
When I think about how incredible my coming out has been. When I think of how much support I’ve gotten from my new friends and work colleagues, it has been tremendously positive and empowering.
I know that not every gay man coming out of a marriage is this lucky. I know many men who have gone through very painful separations from their marriages and come out the other end so damaged that it takes years for them to recover. I’m grateful for my new life. Even with the challenges of starting all over again. I keep putting myself out there to meet new people and make new friends.
It is hard work going forward. But go back? No I don’t want to go back. I want to go ahead into an unknown exciting and incredible future.