Every cell of my soul and heart is coated in bruises. Despite desperate begging prayers made even in childhood, my life feels like it has been one long beating. And now at middle age, I feel myself freeze down inside this rock and a hard place. I still do what I can. The mysteries of Hashem and the universe are the stars I look up at from my gutter. But in the gutter, my spirit and heart remain. And of course, the outside begins to match what is sprouting from the inner roots. Chaos, minimal control. Decades of turning cogs, because life insists on movement or you will be punished. Thank G-d for the respite of Shabbat, where I hide and catch my breath.
I feel like I was born with this broken heart. I have stopped dreaming of anything that others dream of. Even simple things others take for granted. The carpet has this knack of being swept out from under my feet when I dare to want or desire. Flat on my face. So no dreams.
The agony is many, many things. But sometimes it can be ravenous longing for love. To be wanted, not just needed. I can only liken it to the sharpness of a growing birth contraction. It takes your breath away, it consumes your mind, but there is nothing you can do but let it pass. The difference between this and a birth contraction, is what is being birthed? There is no answer. A woman in labour can be reminded of her reward. But there is nothing to say about the contractions of other sufferings. Only the sandpaper against your heart that is “This too shall pass”. But it always comes back around again. And don’t mention medication. Occasionally it works for others. But for me, it does not and turns me into a frozen zombie. I’ve been down that road throughout the decades and it always fails.
My observance is minimalising. Like holding onto the edge of a cliff with my fingernails. Over the years, even opening a siddur to say morning brachot can find me heaving in agonized tears. So I do hitbodedut. I speak my own words, even though I feel like it is through broken teeth. Listening to shiurim is something I so rarely do, as I end up depressed. These well-dressed, well to do people with lives that fit the programme, telling me how to live. Judging me for failing to live up to their standards, not through their words, but by the way they appear.
For a few days, I have been in one of these suffering contractions. My social media feed threw up a shiur by a Rebbetzin, who’s loving husband teaches her the Torah he learns, and she passes it on to her audience. The subject was suffering. The Gemara first discussed how G-d gives those he loves extra suffering, and they will be rewarded. It then tells the story of many Rabbis who were suffering, and another Rabbi would come to them and asked if they loved their suffering and wanted the reward. Each Rabbi said they didn’t want to suffer anymore, and the other Rabbi took away their suffering. So, a paradox.
The Rebbitzen concluded by saying you need to find someone to confide in who can help you heal.
I know no such person. I have tried many over the decades. MANY. And here I am, nothing has changed. They have tried different healing techniques, and lessons, and coaching. You name it.
And now I am too weary to risk inflicting myself on another to seek help. I always just end up feeling powerless and empty, the suffering just reconfirms and grows. A reconfirmation that I am nothing and no one and am beneath everyone else.
So I listed the questions that began debating in my head:
What would it mean for the suffering to be over completely?
The Rabbis who were asked if they wanted to love their pain, and wanted its reward, they said no, take it away.
What does it mean in it’s entirety to have the pain taken away?
Would you become some kind of numb robot?
Or would you be able to use the memories of the pain for good?
Or does using those memories of the pain for good mean gathering a reward from the suffering?
(It’s surprising how many people actually want their suffering).
But I’m at the point where the mental and emotional anguish is suffocating and crushing. It is leaving me frozen in place. But I greatly fear becoming a smiling robot, a walking platitude. Is there joy without the contrast? Is there no middle ground?
The ability to integrate suffering?
Or is it foolish to refuse an offer for suffering to be removed? If there is a cure, and you continue without it, are you just a martyr, and the suffering then become a self-infliction, self-flagellation, in the hope for a reward?
I think I want the suffering gone.
But I just don’t know who to ask, Or who will ask me. Does someone need to ask me if I want the suffering to be removed? How does it work?
And then…what about the suffering you experienced up to the point of its removal – does it suddenly become worthless? It could have been decades, or even an entire lifetime of pain and suffering to that point, all for naught?
Haven’t these questions been asked for millennia?
So as always, I never leave square one.
But I have used my agony to write this, and now share this with others who may feel exactly the same, for what it is worth.