In between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we Jews are prodded to remember, reflect and return… This past year has been… Hell. I know I know Jews don’t believe in Hell which actually is not really true. It is just a bit different for us. For Jews Heaven and Hell play out minute by minute, week by week and month by year. We co-create both the joy and trumpets of our heaven and fiery hot pit of our personal hell. You see, Hell has been right here in New Jersey, at my doorstep, right here in my head and right here in my heart. My Hell is a very private one unless you are close enough to get in my line of fire like my husband, my kids and a few close friends. The fire that has burned with in me from too much pain, too much confusion, trying to control too many uncontrollable things all while surviving a pandemic and getting my first born off to college!
During the Jewish High Holidays, we recite the Unatan A tokev prayer which asks us to hold a mirror up to ourselves and ask if we like what we see? Looking in a mirror and seeing two distinct parts staring back and at times in battle with each other: my fire and my light. Both glow but are distinctly different experiences of self. One is healing with warmth and the other can burn white hot. Both parts important and both equally me but like any fire it must be tended to.
My own unattended fire within became dangerous and at moments would flame up, out of control and could destroy not just my relationships but it could destroy me. The fire is from many things outside of me and inside of me: the death of my mom, the pandemic, our tragically divided country , fathers committing suicide to ensure financial stability and the most shallow of all – my basically “dead” thyroid and the Covid19 pounds clinging to my big ass! By all accounts a real winner of a year on a personal note and globally… For my part I contributed some stellar personal qualities that helped the fire burn longer and hotter. My perfectionism, my arrogance, my weakness to know when or even how to change course at times, my desire to “win” over understanding, my cruel vengeful side, my tired and very hardened heart.
My fire and its light were my protector but now in moments, too many to count, this scorching light can overtake me and consume me in its heat. The thick smoke blocked my light it confused me and hid me from me. There were frightening moments where I became the fire… red, hot glowing embers exploding without warning from my mouth, my head and my heart. The fire literally made my life hell… My fire also made me hellish to deal with at times too.
I know we contribute to our own hell which then means we can actively contribute to our personal heaven. I reveal to help some of you feel less alone in your own pain. I am willing to take this risk because I know when I reveal my dark shadow, cruel, angry and fearful parts I begin to heal myself because I know my words and vulnerability will become the cool water that puts out the glowing red hot flames of rage.
I reveal because growing up in toxic enmeshment where gaslighting was a sport made me believe my experiences of pain and suffering were not real, right or worthy of understanding. I reveal to remind myself my pain is real and that even though harsh, chaotic and dark, it not only existed in my childhood but exists now. I reveal my hell to encourage others to share their shadow in the hope of easing our pain collectively. Oh wait, I think I hear heavens trumpets playing or maybe that is the sound of my shackles of shame being broken apart or hopefully perhaps both.