Loss is difficult. Anyone who has experienced it can tell you that. How difficult depends on the situation, on the person, on the circumstances.
Loss is transient. One minute, it doesn’t feel like anything is missing; the next, the whole world can come crashing down in one second. A memory sneaks up from behind and puts it’s arms around your eyes and yells: “GUESS WHO!?”; circumstance brings up feelings that are too raw for you to know exactly where to put them.
For my whole life, I think I’ve always felt that if I could “conquer” one thing at a time, the large things would never make me sweat. They would never challenge me in ways that I didn’t think I could ‘handle.’ I could ‘handle’ being sick; I could ‘handle’ a bad teacher, a bad grade, a fight with a friend. As long as it was one thing at a time, I could figure out a way to put one step in front of the other.
These days, I feel like ‘stepping’ is all I can do. Some mornings, it feels like I am carrying the weight of the whole world, and then I remember: Pop Pop is gone. I get bad news. I look at our bank statement. And it takes every ounce of my being to put one foot in front of the other.
Control has always been my biggest issue. I want to control everything, which I joke is why I cannot ever decide to become a surgeon, but really, it affects every aspect of my life. Because when something happens that’s beyond my control, or when something doesn’t seem “fair” or “the way things are supposed to be,” it seems like everything begins to spiral out of control. Sometimes, I feel like I should have done something differently. That on some cosmic level, I have to be paying for something. Other times, I just don’t know what to do because it feels like everything is spiraling out of control and I simply don’t know where to begin. How to get back on my feet. How to walk in a straight line again.
Recently, I’ve been handed a series of challenges that are so intricately connected and complex that I feel like I have no choice but to face them all head on at once. I don’t have the option of trading scrabble tiles for better or more useful ones, and I certainly cannot fold this hand of cards. Suddenly, I’m forced to deal with challenges that I thought I’d ‘handled’ long ago, and experiencing feelings and dealing with issues that I never thought would be on my radar screen, let alone forcing me to have tunnel vision. My coping mechanism? I retreat. Onto a sofa, into a book, TV show, or gallon of ice cream. These days, ice-cream’s off the table, which means a lot of time on the sofa or in bed.
I recently started taking a class on Wednesday nights with a group of my girlfriends, and the introduction to the book that we are using talks about the concept of patience. Patience, or in Hebrew, “Sooflanut”, has a very different concept in Judaism than it does in the secular world. Sooflanut doesn’t mean to “roll with the punches,” or to ignore feelings such as anger and resentment when something doesn’t go your way. Instead, it means to have those feelings, and to channel them to a place that makes you better, to say, “This sucks right now, but I have no choice but to keep moving, and it’s up to You to give me strength,” or “This really sucks right now, so I’m just going to focus on putting one step in front of the other until I can handle a little bit of a heavier load.” That sometimes, we don’t have to necessarily learn from our challenges, experiencing and living with them can be enough. We don’t have to “conquer” everything at once; instead, we just need to focus on getting from point A to point B to C and D without any (or many) physical or emotional casualties along the way.
The key to this? Time. Time, like loss, is also transient. Some days, it’s easy for me to get out of bed and notice things like the reflection the rays of sunlight make on the window panes, or to appreciate the pounding rain as it washes away the pollen from our unwashed windows. Other days, I just want to retreat under the covers with a cup of tea and a novel, retreating away from my emotions and from my soul until I feel strong enough to deal with everything once more. And that’s okay. I’m allowed to take time. I’m allowed to have these feelings, to feel like everything sucks until suddenly, it doesn’t anymore, and I’m in the kitchen mixing spices, herbs, and ingredients to feed my husband’s and my soul.
The healing process isn’t easy, and on days like today — impossible. It feels like I took five steps forward only to take ten steps back. But I just have to keep telling myself — it’s okay to feel this way, it’s okay for things to suck.
And tomorrow? Tomorrow will be better, and if it’s not, that’s okay too, as long as I never give up, focusing on putting one foot in front of the other, telling myself that I’m getting to a place of “okay” with every step along the way.