(How) Do We Move On?
I spent all day yesterday debating about what I should do yesterday.
I stare at the bright, shiny screen waiting for me to type in the magical marketing words to advertise my newest Skillnosh course. And I just can’t do it.
My kids need winter clothes. And I can’t bring myself to shop.
In the first week after the massacre, I was unable to eat. I couldn’t bring myself to play piano. Me, who wears a sheitel from dawn to dusk, was walking around in tichels–and I couldn’t even care less. It was painful to me to hear people chit-chatting and going on with their daily lives My People had been butchered and kidnapped. How could I even think about frivolities? It wasn’t a conscious, righteous decision; it was a visceral, unconscious reaction.
Honestly, I was surprised by the tangible depth of my pain. Historically speaking, I’ve been more the type of person standing in Shul on Yom Kippur, watching the sobbing women all around me and feeling like the awful, stone-hearted sinner struggling to shed a single tear. This unexpected emotional deluge in the face of this travesty was actually a relief, a gift to me. I could truly be part of Am Yisrael’s pain! I could pour my heart out to Hashem! I could disconnect from the banal and devote myself to what is truly important.
And yet, this week I found myself suddenly, shockingly, beginning to recall weird things. Like work. Like doctors’ appointments. Like does this shirt match this skirt. Like gawking at a 2023 Corvette (yes, massive car fan here–just imagine all the other things you don’t know about me…yet!! 😃).
I started sheiteling again. I started onboarding some new Skillnosh courses. I have an urge to go out for coffee with a friend.
And I’m feeling such intense angst.
NO! NO! IT’S NOT AT ALL OKAY! HOW CAN I LET THE INSPIRATION SLIP?! screams my heart. How can I re-enter the superficiality when the world is in chaos and Moshiach feels just around the corner? How can I write chatty marketing emails when hundreds of families are mourning their loved ones? When hostages are living in treacherous conditions with their lives hanging by a thread? It feels so sacrilegious, so completely tone-deaf, to rejoin the mundane.
It’s amazing to me how the parshiyos are segueing so perfectly with current events, and especially dovetailing with my quest through this emotional upheaval. Rabbi David Ashear points out that when Noach emerged from the teivah he saw utter and complete death and destruction. It was an absolute annihilation of humankind.
What did he do in the face of devastation?
Here we are, at Lech Lecha. How poignant! As I write these words, I’m getting chills. Lech lecha. Go! You can do this! Pick yourself up and find the strength to go on. It feels, in a sense, like Klal Yisrael is getting up from an ongoing, collective shiva. Like we are emerging from endless days spent in complete darkness and now we stagger outside, half-blinded by the daylight.
There’s a long process of processing, of internalizing, of finding a way–and that way will be individual for each of us.
Like all of Life, there is that gesher tzar me’od, that very narrow bridge that must be straddled. Always. Even in grief. Especially in grief.
There is mental health to consider. There is the need to create a calm, happy, stable environment to enable our kids to deal with the anxiety and uncertainty. There is the risk of emotional overwhelm and spiritual underwhelm.
There are bills to pay. There are meals to cook and clothes to wash. There are friendships to maintain. There are serials to write 😉.
For me, I have decided that I want to keep my question open-ended, instead of tying it up in a neat little answer-bow. I want to continuously check in with myself on all planes: physical, emotional, and spiritual, just to be sure that I am aligned with where I believe I should be–and where it would seem that Hashem wants me. There are big things happening in the world and I want these events to vividly color my reality.
I want to focus on the macro as well as the micro, on all the big-little things that make up the mosaic of my life. I want to give myself permission to fall and get up and try again. I want to cry sometimes and laugh sometimes. I want to hug my kids more and check the news less. I want to play piano, which gives me vitality and peace of mind, but hold off on buying myself a new top right now. I’m basically choreographing a confused, ambivalent little Find Your Way Through Grief dance where you lose your balance right after you’ve found it, and then make up a new step to keep yourself on your toes.
In essence, I want to reach for the sublime while maintaining the ridiculous. I’m trying to take something shattered and put it back together in a way that feels tentatively whole.
That’s where I’m at right now.
How about you, my dear friend?