Last week, before I took a tumble down our back stairs, I went for a long walk with Percy, my daughter’s 3 year old Corgi. Tisha B’Av was on my mind, but I was also exhausted from a week of puppy potty training and work. I was also exhausted from the past 2 years, which never seem to end.
I’m thankful that the Jewish calendar has times and days of mourning, times when it’s specifically ok to be down, to not be all right, to not put a brave, stoic face on things. As we walked, I realized that I have been working so hard these past few years to put a bright side on everything, to smile and never show how bad things really are, to not have anyone worry too much about us.
The truth is…things are often not ok.
The weight of it all came down on me on that walk and the tears began to fall. My husband still isn’t back to anything remotely close to what you’d call “normal.” He’s in pain every day, the kind of pain that has him clenching his fist and groaning or breathing heavily. His doctors don’t know how to ease this pain for him. He can’t resume a normal life and it’s possible that all this might just be how things are for us now. It takes a toll on him and all who love him. He bravely fights through it so that we can try to have a normal life and do things like our road trip to Arkansas, but that entire trip was colored by his pain. When we did go try to do “fun” things, he remained back at his own hotel room resting and waiting for new medications. He couldn’t stay with us because most nights…he doesn’t sleep…and he doesn’t want to keep us awake. Every day we live our lives around his pain and suffering, unable to ease it for him, unable to help him.
It’s taken a toll on both our children. Our daughter has been in therapy for months for depression, anxiety, and OCD. Our son is doing so much better with his Autism, but he still struggles. Getting puppies may not have been the wisest move in terms of time, but just seeing the family laugh as they play has been worth all the late nights and extra work. My husband’s puppy cuddles close to him when he’s hurting and provides so much comfort. Somehow, between it all, we have to carve out some joy, some reminder that life isn’t just about fighting death, but also about fresh new life, laughter, and joy.
And, when I’m brutally honest with myself…it’s taken a toll on me, too. There are times I just don’t have the energy or emotional space to go out and be with friends. There are times I fall apart, alone and in private. There are times I’m angry because it is all so unfair. There are times I feel trapped or alone in it all.
As I walked and cried I also talked to G-d. I poured out my heart, raw and unfiltered. Sometimes I’m angry at Him for the way things work. Other times, I beg and plead. I do still thank Him for the bits of joy and happiness, but I also question Him for why there is so much suffering and pain. I know He can take it. I imagine that I’m like a small child in the lap of a parent, getting a necessary shot or medical procedure, crying out in pain and struggling against their arms, looking up with that heartbreaking face of betrayal as I’m held to endure whatever is needed. I remember holding my children like that when they were small and my heart breaking with them. I imagine G-d’s heart breaking with me, wishing He could explain to me why this is all needed, why my family must endure this for our own good.
By the end of my walk, I felt better, my tears slowing. Percy was the perfect companion, never questioning my tears or asking me to explain. He just walked by my side, a comforting presence. I cried also for my big dog, Sam, missing him by my side and how he always made the world seem safer, even as I am thankful for a cute new puppy to cuddle with.
I love that my religion makes space for joy and for mourning and recognizes that mourning is another part of life that needs acknowledgement and its own time. Fast days and periods of mourning aren’t always easy. I never look forward to them, but I always feel better after them, somehow lighter and more able to move on with the day to day business of life. I felt lighter as I wiped my tears and opened the door to our home, ready again to try to find the joy amid all the crud.
It’s ok to not be ok.