I cry for understanding, not forgiveness

It’s been a rough 2020. In some surprising twist of fate, while cases of depression have rocketed, my chronic depression lifted as the enforced quietness of lockdown led to reconnecting with myself. But the problem with having chronic mental illnesses is that, well, they’re chronic. They resurge. And I’m depressed again. I’m writing this not to broadcast my pain for sympathy, but to share in the hope that others equally suffering might feel less alone.

Mental, emotional and spiritual pain is agonising. In fact, it’s cruel. As more of a practice-r of, rather than a spiritual connector to Judaism, I’ve always suspected and believed that G-d is just pointing out to me that I’m a spiritually agnostic infidel. I am certainly not being punished out of love as a righteous individual (one of the answers for theodicy). To that extent, I’ve rather given up on G-d. I am not a believer of G-d being intimately involved in our lives. To be more than facetious, I highly doubt that G-d cares whether you had a chocolate instead of an apple. For G-d’s sake — quite literally — what and why on earth would a divine intelligence care? I hold by Maimonides’ opinion that G-d is only truly involved in the life of  one who is close to Him, one who has made extensive progress in spiritual and character refinement.

You might want to say that that’s half my problem — that I don’t see G-d as involved in my life. Let me clarify: I do think He is involved but only so much as I can reach and aspire to spiritual refinement. Summarily, I don’t believe He will help me unless I make the effort to reconnect and better my ways. For that reason, I pray for forgiveness for my indifference and lack of effort rather than for help. I don’t expect help for the agnostic that I am.

Music is not something I overly connect to for I much prefer silence. Silence to think and daydream; I find music chaotic and distracting. However, that said, there are also songs I connect to. Last night, I listened to Timchal Li (Forgive Me) by Omer Adom. Released shortly before Yom Kippur, he sings for G-d’s forgiveness, not to be abandoned by the Almighty, to be allowed and guided to closeness with G-d – all at the time of Neilah, twilight. The light is fading and darkness approaches. I played it on repeat over and over again as I sat in a dark, quiet garden, and felt my heart cry and contract with pain.

Reading over my words thus far, they are, well, the words of a depressant and to be truthful, I have no intention of ending on a positive note. Positivity is far gone for me at this point in time. Optimism has never been something I cherish. My late mother always used to say that “people who are depressed are the realists.” When I try speak to G-d – I don’t think I’m quite sincere enough to say “I pray” – I ask that He understands my inability to draw near to Him. I ask for understanding, not forgiveness. I don’t believe that I need to atone for my anger, for my hurt and agony. G-d created this world, He can well understand the human perspective.

Pain and anger is not misguided. It is so easy for someone else, someone not sharing your suffering, to tell you to “get over it” “everything is for the good” “it’s all part of G-d’s greater plan.” Well… Wait until they are in the same position and then happily return those same lines. See how they feel then. G-d does not expect us to accept. If we accepted, we would never fight against injustice, we would never aim to counter the apparent evil in the world. G-d expects us to act. There is nothing wrong with saying that life is hard. In fact, there is everything right with saying that life is hard. We wouldn’t be human if we felt no pain.

Do I not expect G-d to help me? Do I expect Him to make things better? I don’t disbelieve that He can. But human action is required — G-d is not going to send me to therapy, He will not be the one giving me the medication that will stabilise me. Those are steps that I will have to do for myself – when I am ready. At the moment, I don’t believe He will help, but what He can do is understand why I don’t believe. I can acknowledge to Him my disbelief, my agony and pain, my anger at Him. I can ask that He understand.

About the Author
Raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tanya graduated cum laude with a BA in French and Philosophy earlier this year. An aspiring academic, she hopes to continue her studies in philosophy by pursuing a MA in Jewish Studies.
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