I don’t remember exactly when the idea came into my head; about a year ago or so is a good guess. It was at first just a little flash, nothing serious, and something easily dismissed and forgotten about until the next little flash.

But at some point between then and the moment I found myself standing in the rain, watching the pages of my Psalms fill with droplets and begin to wrinkle from the moisture, I had decided to visit the Ohel, the Rebbe’s gravesite in Queens, N.Y., a place I hadn’t been in more than 16 years and a place I actually thought I wouldn’t ever be again. Not because I had necessarily changed my outlook on religion or observance or because I had taken some dramatic new course in life, but because when I left Brooklyn so many years ago, I didn’t believe there was anything missing by never visiting again. In fact, I didn’t think anything was missing at all.

I would beI didn’t think anything was missing at all proven wrong. Tied to this decision to make the trek back to a place that had played a large part in my life—and in ways that go deeper than an easy explanation—is my decision to once again begin to cover my hair with a wig. Who would have guessed? Certainly not me. At least, not a few months ago. Yet now, it seemed to make sense. It seemed clear and obvious, though I don’t exactly expect this return to make much sense to an outside observer.

What I was doing was answering a question posed to me near the beginning of my odyssey: Is it enough? So there I stood in the rain in a place so familiar from what felt like a lifetime ago. An unexpected messenger, I had with me letters and lists of names written by friends in my pocket, standing only with my daughter and one or two strangers, my newly acquired hair hanging wet on my shoulders and my thoughts suddenly running too quickly to grab a hold of after having practiced what I would say for days.

I am not a person who makes decisions impetuously. I tend to pause; chewing on angles and outcomes, ramifications and justifications. I don’t follow impulse. I desperately try to find the rational route, even in the face of irrationality, and never trust a decision I suspect was made as reactionary or based on emotion.

This outlook can be a tremendous strength, but it can also become a devastating weakness. I easily become suspicious of anything outside of reason and thought, and eventually, that suspicion included faith and ultimately a personal relationship with G‑d, which seems like a very bizarre thing for an observant Jew, I suppose.

It was rational thought and observation that brought me to admit G‑d’s existence to myself and convert to Judaism nearly 20 years ago. I could no longer see the world and not see Him, and I could no longer see the Jewish people and not see His hand.

That’s not to say that I came to this conclusion entirely happily or suddenly had this miraculous feeling of warmth and belonging. Conversion, both the halachic process and the personal process, is difficult, and there was a moment of deep frustration where I stood at the Western Wall in Jerusalem and begged (or maybe demanded) that G‑d make me a Jew or remove any desire to join His people. Remove it all and let me go back to whatever it was I had been before or let me move forward. Eleven months later, I stood in the sun of a warm November day, my hair still a bit wet from the mikvah, a complete failure as an atheist.

I lived in Brooklyn for three years, two of them before getting married. At some point, unable to deny a lack of something, I began to visit the Ohel weekly when I could. While I never professed to be a Chassid, I felt a calmness and centering from these visits.

I sometimes wrote pages and sometimes said very little. But I wasn’t quite able to allow myself to feel much more than the quiet connection, the low grade hum that is in the background of our lives as Jews. That feeling of living in two worlds, the spiritual and the mundane. The knowledge of the monumental mission of making a home for what was for me a distant G‑d in this world and the daily, sometimes drab mission of simply living.

I strengthened that pull to the eternal and essential with study, and adding these visits was another way to hone my sensitivity to it. I still believed, however, that there was little need for joy or an actual relationship with G‑d in this mission, and that knowledge of purpose in itself was enough to pull a person through life.

I am a Jew. I follow the mitzvot that are commanded and I have knowledge of my place in the universe. Shouldn’t that be enough? I swore it was. In my arrogance and hubris, I believed that I could stand apart from G‑d and have faith without warmth. This was despite very wise and patient people telling me to the contrary. It took 16 years for me to come to the conclusion that they were right.

That time saw me go through the childbearing years of marriage with four children. It took me through a few moves as my husband finished his medical training. Two states. The death of a parent. The gut punch that is having children diagnosed with conditions and, thankfully, the great successes that followed struggles. Babies who became teenagers, and all the stress and laughter that goes with it.

Sixteen years also brought, admittedly, a period of laziness on my part, where I suddenly found myself not shoring up my connection to G‑d and purpose through learning as I once had. It is easy to justify. I’m busy. I have a lot on my plate with challenging kids. I can make up for it later. I’m still doing what I need to do.

The laziness hit me hard because I had nothing to fall back on, no relationship with my Creator. To me, He was distant, unknowable and maybe even uncaring on the individual level. I did what I needed to do not out of love, but out of loyalty and the simple fact that I am a Jew and that is what a Jew is supposed to do.

Sixteen years brought a lot of things my way, however, and in the end, it brought the reality that the answer to the question is that it isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to simply accept and do what needs to be done. Eventually, everyone gets tired; we are not machines. At some point, we need to feel that reassuring warmth of a parent. It isn’t enough to know you are not alone. We need to know that we are valued and loved.

So what I was missing was something that I had at times thought wasn’t needed—at times thought could be filled with intellectual pursuits, or during the times I felt the most distant, simply didn’t really think existed at all in reality. I found myself feeling something that I never expected: jealousy.

For most of my life, I thought people who had this deep joy and connection were foolish. Maybe even liars. I couldn’t understand what they had so I dismissed it as unnecessary.

With age comes wisdom; at least, that’s the plan. I was, and am, incomplete. Pride, fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of being fooled kept me at a distance, just outside. I would watch my fellow Jews with such ease speak of love of G‑d, being loved, the comfort they feel, and an ember of envy began to grow. The very personal part of the conversion process, I suppose, was far from over.

I was advised to study Chassidic teachings by someone I trust. I carved time out (often well past midnight) to begin what I initially assumed would be a fruitless effort. I learned with my husband, I learned by myself, and I felt the connection begin to strengthen once again, and it felt … really good. With each passing week, I felt not only that eternal connection grow, but I also seemed to suddenly notice where I had eroded, how edges that had once defined me as a Jew had gotten a bit worn and blurred. How much of my life had tipped into the realm of the mundane at the cost of the essential? Quite a lot. And so the idea of not only returning to reconnect with that centering, calming routine, but of once again covering my hair more carefully came into my mind.

I had been covering it with a scarf or hat, and while I can and will only speak for myself, I found that over the years I had become less concerned with how much hair was showing. Covering my hair was an afterthought and not a defining feature. And I planned my trip back to Brooklyn and the Ohel hoping to once again feel a bit of that centeredness that I had felt.

I approachedI felt oddly nervous the Ohel more concerned about the new layout of the buildings than anything else. There was a part of me that wanted the easy way out—to go on autopilot and not think. To distract myself just a bit and act as though this was simply routine. That part of me quickly crumbled. With my daughter at my side, I felt oddly nervous. We sat and wrote our concerns, our fears, our questions, our requests and notes of the good things we have in our lives.

I admired my daughter’s ease and lack of self-consciousness. To her, all of this, all of Judaism, was as natural as breathing, while to me it was something I had to wrestle with and don’t really know how to stop wrestling with. One of the greatest joys I can imagine is seeing my children grow into adults who are comfortable with G‑d, who trust Him and feel loved by Him. I checked for what felt like the thousandth time that I had the letters and names entrusted to me, and then we made our way down the wet path under the gray sky.

I shyly knocked and walked in. Checking that my daughter was OK, I turned my attention to Psalms. Over the past year or so, I had finally seen, and then admitted I saw, what was missing—a relationship with G‑d. I had thought about what I would say to the Rebbe, imagining him hearing and hoping I would be given a moment of clarity with an answer on how to build this relationship with G‑d. I had even written some of it down and held it in my hand, but found myself unable to really say anything. All I could do was cry.

I had, for the most part, given up on prayer. How much of this struggle is rooted in my refusal to push myself? Growth can be deeply uncomfortable, and often happens after we have been knocked back or wounded.

If I see the hand of G‑d in the existence of the Jewish people, then I must see His hand in the twists and turns of my life. But proof of existence is not the same as proof of love. For me, that will require stepping off of reason and going beyond it, and that is frightening; it will be a leap I have to take again and again as I struggle with my nature.

I remained still and in the silence for a few moments with the book open before slowly beginning to say the prayers. I don’t have the relationship with G‑d that I need, and I am sometimes at a loss as to how to build one, but I believe in Him completely, and I know our Father will be patient with me.