This article is nothing like most of mine.

Normally I write about Jewish texts. About laws, and scriptures, and rabbis. Occasionally, I'll publish a vague 'personal' article, speaking vaguely of 'challenges' or 'difficulties', linking these concepts to the Torah, or an upcoming Jewish festival. But enough jargon. Enough about all this. For once, I'm writing an article about me. Just me. I don't have many readers, but maybe someone wants to know who I am. Either way, I need to get this out- on paper, or rather a screen. I need to stop hiding behind the anonymous mask which impersonality has leant me. Most of all, I need my readers to understand.

I need them; I need you; to understand my work. Why I write about this and that, why I write at these times, on these days; why there's sometimes that longing in my words. And to do that, you're going to have to understand me. 

I'm not like most people in the social media age. I don't constantly post updates about what I'm doing, where I'm doing it, and why. I don't post 'selfies' or personal updates. If I speak to someone online, chances are, they have no idea who I actually am, or what I look like. But I've been told that most people imagine a woman in her sixties, a writer, an Orthodox Jew, social and happy and possibly even married. That's not me. I'm a writer, yes. An Orthodox Jew... I suppose so. In many ways, I'm a Chassidic Jew- we're those people you see on the subway, near Brooklyn in New York, and Golders Green in England, with the black coats and hats and sidecurls (men) and long skirts and wigs and eight children in tow (women). I dress like that. I try my utmost to be like that. I study Jewish texts daily, I keep a set of Jewish dietary laws called Kashrus, I don't touch men. But I can't practice the way I want to. I'm not married, my family aren't religious... If you came and visited me in my home, you would never know any of this.

I'm a survivor of domestic abuse. It seems silly when you put it like that, seeing as I'm not so much a survivor as someone still firmly lodged in that nightmare called abuse. I still deal with it every day. Every hour. It's there. It's always with me, and I think it always will be. It- he- controls my life, every aspect of it. Even while I sleep, my nightmares focus around him, beating me or burning me or worse... And when I wake up- back to reality!- I know I'm going to have to face hours upon hours of threats, of control. Of fury and shouting because I want to leave the house. Of degrading and belittling remarks, because I dared open my mouth. Of crippling loneliness and depression, because I'm- well, I'm alone. I am meant to be locked away here, in this little world, without my keyboard or my website or my words. Without my rabbi or my friends- can I call them that, even? I am not meant to know a single person, and for most of the week, I live that lifestyle. Mine is a lonely life.

So how come I'm still here, now? Maybe it's because I write. It's not only therapeutic. It's sometimes all I have. Words, sentences, paragraphs, pages- all my own doing. Often tinted with regret and sadness, because that's all I know. Then one day a week, the Sabbath, I can't write. I slip away from this world, that of the lonely writer, and into that of someone else. I dress up. I quietly sneak out of the door. And I'm there, already. In the world of a normal girl- well, a normal woman. I'm a woman, I guess. And for a few hours, I'm surrounded by people, people whom I love and respect or just like and people who feel the same way about me. I don't need to write.

If I were happy, would I still be a writer?

Yes, I think so. Just a very different one. Less vague. More decided. Maybe even more serious. More motivated, for sure. But why dwell on what could have been? It's not. Let's focus on the future instead. Some day soon, I'll be coming back to the keyboard and writing another personal story. A very different story. Of how I got away. Of how I'm happy, contented, alive and free. But not yet. Because I'm not any of those things.

Until then.

Published by Lily Smythe