Hey Hevria, Why Are You So Afraid Of The Dark?

This isn’t a letter of revenge.  I hope these words don’t ooze venom or reek of defensiveness because really, I don’t feel that way.  Perhaps I was a bit hurt, the wave of disappointment that rushes after any rejection.   But then it got me creative thinking and when I start creative thinking I feel happy, and that’s because of Hevria… so thanks.

I wrote a piece for Hevria.  I don’t even know the Hevria peeps personally, yet I really really know them because they are me.  I tell people about Hevria and about that moment when I read the wonderful articles and felt like I found The Mothership of my creative soul… so thanks again.

The piece was about being bored after seven plus years in Teshuva.  A certain drop in enthusiasm, a fatigue of the mind and heart, the I’ve-already-heard-this impatience, the daily grind of a housewife who had kids very close together.  It meandered to the feeling of alienation in my chosen lifestyle, like the whole religious thing hasn’t seeped through all the way, and the dissonance it creates in identity.

It spoke of darkness.  A moment that smeared into a many moments when I realized the lights went out and the pyrotechnic spiritual high had faded into something resembling run of the mill boredom. Not resembling but actual run of the mill boredom.

You wrote back.  You said it “seemed like the beginning of a great piece” but it provided no “light at the end of the tunnel” but rather plunged the reader into a struggle with no twinkling hope to strive for.

I read the piece again.  I was mortified that perhaps I had written a despairing, depressing, loony toon regurgitation of my spiritual woes.  Yes there were the dark feelings, the difficulties and confusion.   But if you looked closely there was also a glimmer… it wasn’t of hope, or understanding that this is just a phase soon to pass.  It wasn’t of an acceptance of life’s up and downs as we head forward with faith and perseverance.

The glimmer, barely discernible I agree, was this–I am not afraid of the dark.  I don’t see anything now, no illumination, no new understandings, no matured and deeper aspect of faith.

Just black.  Dark.  Nothing.

And that is okay.  It is okay to be here sometimes too.  Not only okay but necessary.

There is a Hassidic idea that the closer you get to the sun, the darker it gets—you are blinded, see nothing, a loss of everything you knew and took for stable and static. What you thought you knew, where you thought you were at, what you believed and held on to tight like my baby with his stinky ratty security blanket– it’s taken away.  You think you have lost everything, sometimes even the will to stay in the fold, but it is an illusion.  You are actually closer to the light than you’ve ever been.

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Sometimes the darkness isn’t chaos.  Sometimes it’s just boredom.  The feeling that what can possibly grow out of this barren place.  I prefer chaos to boredom. At least there is movement there.  But that isn’t complete darkness for the likes of me.  Darkness to me is a place of vacancy, of nothing happening but the regular happenings, of humdrum routine.   

So how do you get to the sun? To the happy ending?  To the revered light at the end of the tunnel?

You forget about it for a second.  Stop wanting to get back to a comfortable place, for a second.  Stop seeking relief for a second.  Stop rejecting your present and skip to some banal Hollywood movie ending future for a second. Stop escaping for a second.

You accept the darkness.  You accept your helplessness in it.  It is the only way.  You don’t plunge down into it, but allow yourself to float in its murky shadowed waters. Sometimes you might even realize that this feeling is also from G-d (unless of course, there is a mental health issue—seek G-d’s helpers—good and reliable doctors).  If you try to relieve yourself of the discomfort it’s causing, you are likely to turn away from the sun, head back to the security of planet earth where you will get the familiar rays (perhaps a good book or new restaurant), the weak illuminations(shopping? coffee?).  But you will miss the source, the sun.

And believe.  Believe that sometimes it is not in your hands (perhaps you will achieve the great wisdom that it is never in your hands).  Believe that when G-d feels like it is the right time, he will reveal to you a new place, a new will from a deep down under spring, a new you.  But you must walk through the darkness first, the unbearable emptiness, the helplessness.

And stop being scared of the dark.

This isn’t an easy task because everyone around you will be scared of your darkness.  They will worry and dote on you, or abandon you, or think you’re weird or unstable, that something is wrong.  Don’t be scared of their fear either.  We live in dark times where darkness is unacceptable. This will compound your fear and you will try to make it as if everything is okay.  Or you will retreat from social affairs.  This is also part of the Master Plan.  Everything and everyone you relied on, is suddenly unreliable or don’t understand you.  It’s part of the darkness.  And then you are forced to inch closer and closer to the source of the light—G-d—because He is all that is left.

You come to realize that darkness is nothing more than the absence of light; it is not a different place you are seeking, a new reality or set of circumstances.  You are not out to revolutionize your life.  You have kids now and you’re a mother and wife.  No escaping.  It’s just a matter of turning on the switch.

It might take awhile.  You’ll knock your knees against furniture and stub your toes while meandering through the darkness.

For now, just accept the darkness.   Then a day will come when G-d will say let there be light.  And there will be light.  And the chaos will begin to organize into a whole new world.