When I was in first grade, I fantasized about having an older sister – Rachel – who was in seminary for the year. I was born into a family with two brothers and was extremely envious of my friends who had REAL sisters. My friends would boast of sharing clothing and shoes with their sisters, gossiping about boys with their sisters, and having someone who despite not always seeing eye-to-eye, always had their back.
It is no coincidence that my closest childhood friend also did not have sisters. In a sense, we “used” each other as “sisters,” developed an extremely close friendship, and it was glorious.
I used that friendship model in my other friendships too – I invested a lot of time and energy into being the “best” friend so that I could secure myself, surrogate sisters. I became a great listener, planned vacations and outings, always made myself available to do whatever was needed, was supportive of even the unhealthiest and/or ridiculous ideas just for the sake of not looking bad, and essentially morphed into whoever I thought my friends needed me to be.
Years and years of repeating this codependent pattern did nothing for my self-esteem or self-worth – I had no identity and I felt extremely misunderstood.
When it came time to start dating for marriage, I did the only thing I knew how to do – I became a chameleon in each relationship. And though I was doing everything the men expected of or wanted from me, I remained single. I watched many of my close friends “fly off the shelves” and begin families of their own, leaving me in the dust with nothing but a memory of the good old days.
Nevertheless, to the outside world, I was persevering. I went to law school, got a great job, was keeping fit and healthy, living the single life and “loving it.” But behind closed doors, I was severely unhappy, disenchanted with G-d and Yiddishkeit, and despondent over my dating opportunities. I wanted to be married so badly and since “it wasn’t working,” I told myself I might as well throw caution to the wind and have some fun. I won’t go into the nauseating details of what “fun” looked like to me at the time, but needless to say, no fun was had and my self-worth completely disappeared.
When “fun” stopped being fun, I told myself it’s time to settle down and get “serious” about marriage – as if I hadn’t been serious all of those years?!? And so I endeavored to try anything and everything in my power to find “the one”; Traditional dating, dating sites and apps, singles events. You name it – I did it. But instead of meeting eligible men, I found myself attracting and attracted to men that were completely inappropriate for me, to say the least.
How could this be happening to me?! I just couldn’t understand how I was 25, single and nowhere close to finding the man of my dreams. Finally, I was forced to asked myself what was the common denominator in all of my painful experiences? How much longer could I blame “the system” or the men I chose to date? How much longer could I evade responsibility for my choices and behaviors?
I had a choice: I could keep doing what I was doing, and hope for a different result – definition of insanity- or I could do something different.
Thank G-d, I chose something different!
I joined a 12-step program focused on building healthy relationships, upped my therapy game, and quit dating for 1.5 years. 12-step recovery is the hidden gem that gave me the life I have today. The women in the fellowship became my tribe, my sisterhood, my family and my friends. My newfound sisterhood taught me that I am worthy of love, that I deserve to be loved and that I do not have to settle for anything in life that does not serve me.
After experiencing the dramatic impact of the power of sisterhood, I knew I needed to share and spread this precious gift with others – I needed sisterhood to be more present in the frum single community for those like me to feel safe, heard and appreciated. In August 2017, I came out of social media hiding and created the Facebook group, “Free To Be” – a sisterhood made up of singles and divorcees (and dare I say, even some marrieds) who gather together in a safe space to inspire, empower and love each other.
Sisterhood has transformed my life into something I could have never envisioned for myself. I have an army of support by my side every step of the way, with each new adventure I embark upon and I never feel alone or misunderstood anymore. Today, I know who I am and I love that person. To all my sisters out there – may we know who we are and never stop loving ourselves.