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Monday, January 1, 2018

It's January 1, 2018: Own Your Fear


So the world did not go up in flames last night, which is a good thing. 

But for many people in the world, life is nevertheless suffused with tragedy.
This Sabbath we went to synagogue and learned that someone in the community was stricken on vacation. In one freak accident, he lost his wife, his son, and his mother-in-law. He suffered many broken bones.
I saw the man standing on a cane, but I didn't know who he was, or what had happened to him.
The rabbis' wife walked over to him, and spoke to him in hushed tones.
It was only a few minutes later, during the speech, that I learned the scope and scale of the tragedy.
During his speech, the rabbi spoke to the man before all of us. He said that we are all one family, and that the community grieves with him.
Looking over at him, I saw a human being whose spirit was totally shattered.
I wondered how he got up the strength to come to synagogue at all.
The pain in his being was so strong, so palpable, it was as if the air around him was tinted a different color altogether.
And yet he was there, and he wasn't screaming or tearing out his hair.
He wasn't raging against God, against His unknowable ways.
The rabbi kept his focus on staying in the moment. We needed a minyan for the afternoon prayers. A carpool to visit the family at shiva. Could someone step up and help contribute toward a digital display, to communicate events of interest.
Life is what is happening when you are living in fear. The thing you are afraid of has already happened, it's happening to someone else, it could be in the future, you just never know.

Over the course of my life, and in the past few years particularly, I have become more aware of and sensitive to the suffering that other people go through.
Over and over again, because I think I am unshockable, I find out things that shock me, the depth of the pain, the loneliness of the ordeal, the fact that someone seemingly calm and collected on the outside is literally on fire in the heart and soul and mind.
And I guess what I want to say to you is this.
Whatever it is you're going through in life, know that other people are going through it too, right now, at this very moment.
They will survive, and so can you.
The unpredictability of world events is frightening.
You can still make this the year you ignore all that, and put one foot in front of the other.
Like in that great moment from the movie Annie Hall, when Alvy Singer freaks out and says, "The universe is expanding...some day it will break apart and that will be the end of everything."
Alvy's mother yells at him to get him back on track. "You're here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!"
"The world is a very narrow bridge," as Rabbi Nachman of Breslov once said, "the important thing is not to be afraid."
The truth is there is a lot to be afraid of.
Make this a year to focus on your homework anyway.
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Posted January 1, 2018 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. CC0 Creative Commons photo by Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay.