It is said that each year on Rosh Hashanah, “all inhabitants of the world pass before G‑d like a flock of sheep,” and it is decreed in the heavenly court “who shall live, and who shall die . . . who shall be impoverished, and who shall be enriched; who shall fall and who shall rise.”
Thirteen months ago, right before the Jewish New Year, my life fell apart and, since then, I have been forced to drastically slow down in an attempt to to settle in to this new normal.
Slowing down has been difficult for me.
Probably because I was a real mover and shaker in my former incarnation, so I often feel like I’m not doing enough for my family.
I beat myself up, saying I should be able to do X easily, the way I used to.
Like it should be no big whoop.
Except, sometimes, even completing one thing on my to do list is wicked hard.
I know a few people who have been through benzo withdrawal. These good people reassure me that the burning mouth and the fatigue, the dizziness and the agoraphobia will eventually all go away.
I want to believe them.
In the meantime, I have to surrender to the idea that my life may never be the way that it was.
To accept what is right now and enjoy today.
Right now, my cat is resting next to this keyboard. His body is relaxed, his breathing even. He is a living meditation. Nothing bothers this cat. Even when I clumsily step on him, he never makes a peep. He eats and cuddles and plays and sleeps. He isn’t concerned with the idea that he should be doing more. He just is.
I want to live like my cat, without worrying about what I should be doing.
I’m fortunate to have people who care about me: folks who continue to check in with me via telephone or Facebook. It’s easy to feel forgotten when you’ve been sick for a long time, so I’m grateful to these people who keep showing up for me.
I’m trying to stop beating myself up about the things I can’t do and congratulate myself for the little things I am able to do.
Yesterday, my husband and I went apple picking.
Apple picking has always been a family ritual. This year, however, we didn’t have our son with us. And we didn’t ride the tractor. Holding on to my husband’s arm, we walked slowly up the path to the orchard. I’ve been feeling particularly dizzy recently, feeling like I am being pushed to the left by an invisible hand. It’s a frustrating feeling, and a distressing one too.
Part way up the hill, a woman emerged from one of the rows of apples. She held a camera, and asked if we’d be willing to pose for a photograph for a nearby small town newspaper. At first, I was uncomfortable with her request. I hardly feel like my best self these days, and it’s been a long time since I’ve felt well enough to wear anything other than yoga pants. I didn’t have any makeup on and my hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail because that’s about all I can muster these days. I didn’t like posing for the camera. I felt exposed and raw. It’s hard for me to smile these days, due to the emotional blunting caused by the drug.
I did it.
More importantly, I was there: taking in the view from the orchard, grateful to see the apple trees heavy with fruit; able to appreciate the leaves turning from green to red and yellow and brown.
I couldn’t have gone apple picking 13 months ago.
And this year, I was able to go with assistance.
This is where I am today.
Caught in an the middle place.
Desperately uncomfortable, but alive.
I’m here, limping along, like everyone else.
I’m challenging myself to write more, to paint more, to get out more… but many times, I am still too sick.
I hope that next year at this time, I’ll be able to easily attend Rosh Hashana services, to listen to the rabbis words, and feel that my life has been enriched in ways that I cannot yet imagine. For now, l’ll dip my apple into honey and wish everyone a sweet year filled with good health and happiness. If there is a reason for my suffering, I sincerely pray that it will one day end so that I can be of service to others who are going through their own dark times.
For now, apparently, it is still my time to receive.
I’m sharing a photograph of myself, the way I am right now, in hopes that one day I will be able to look at photos of myself and see how far I have come.
For better or for worse, what has changed for you in the last 13 months?