Bazy Swirsky Rubin
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Please don’t tell me I shouldn’t complain

The holidays are wonderful. And an emotional roller coaster. And a lot of work. Really, a lot of work. If it's been challenging, I can tell you, you're not alone
After my husband and I (and our three little boys) hosted my three siblings, my parents, and my grandmother for Sukkot, a family portrait! So much fun, truly blessed, and also exhausted! (courtesy)
After my husband and I (and our three little boys) hosted my three siblings, my parents, and my grandmother for Sukkot, a family portrait! So much fun, truly blessed, and also exhausted! (courtesy)

The nurse looked at me, and asked if my children are healthy. I said yes, BH (Baruch Hashem, thank God), they are. She then commented “So I have a friend who has three special needs kids, and she’s a single parent. Your kids are healthy, you really shouldn’t complain.”

My blood began to boil. I almost felt bad about what was coming next. I mustered all of my calm and told her I’m very glad she is saying this to me. Because I’m clever enough, and thank G-d have had enough life experience for her comment not to make me doubt myself. But if she were to say this to someone else, she would basically be invalidating that other person’s feelings. Sending her off to feel like she is not enough, that something must be wrong with her, all because her problems are not big enough or similar to other people who are going through hardship.

It was just my routine checkup. 32 weeks pregnant, my list included seeing the nurse, giving some blood, getting weighed, all really exciting stuff. The nurse asked me to fill out a questionnaire about my mood. It was Wednesday, the first day after a month of holidays and vacations when all three of my boys were back in school. “Are you sure you want me to fill this out today?” I asked the nurse, “It’s been a really rough month. All of the cooking and caring for my children while my husband worked every Erev Shabbat and Chag, plus this stage of my pregnancy, have not been easy for me. Maybe I can come back and fill it out in a week, once I have had some me time to recover? Get back into my routine?”

I just wanted to scream! I still do. We have all gone through a very difficult period. No matter how much I love the Jewish holidays, no matter how much I love to be with my family, every single person who is part of the Jewish faith has had to deal with a rollercoaster of emotions. Elul. Rosh Hashanah. Aseret Yemei Teshuva and Yom Kippur. Sukkot. Simchat Torah! Be it parents with little kids trying to find time to have meaningful tefillot (prayers) while catering for their children’s needs. Single parents who feel like they are not enough for their children while they see other families enjoying the holidays. Couples dealing with infertility who are just waiting in anguish to have families to celebrate with. Singles, who are constantly wished “soon by you” like one million well-intentioned daggers into their hearts. It’s been just A LOT for everyone.

But if we are told that we shouldn’t complain because someone else has it worse off than we do, how will we find support? How will we know that this is normal? That it’s OK to feel all the feels?

More than that, how will we know when our feelings might NOT be normal and it’s time to get some help?

When we tell others they shouldn’t complain, we are sending them into a deep and dark void where they isolate themselves. Where they feel they must hide their feelings, their struggles, because clearly it’s not OK. I could have lied on the questionnaire and said everything is fine, but I believe in being honest. I also believe in getting help when I do need it, and getting assurances I’m fine when I don’t.

Three years ago, we moved to Efrat. We knew one or two people, but were new to the neighborhood. Just as we finished unpacking, I went for an important operation after struggling to breath from my nose for years. The recovery was painful, and I felt isolated. No one knew I had had the operation, as no one really knew me. My husband was my hero, and our families helped out with the children, but we were otherwise on our own, while I was bedridden.

Fast forward three years, lots of kiddushes and meals later, I had an altercation with a sidewalk that left me with a disabled left hand and a bloody knee. Being very pregnant, I went to the hospital just to make sure the bruises and cuts were mine alone and that my baby was OK (She is! Thanks for asking). The altercation was a pretty public affair as it happened right outside gan (childcare) pickup. Several friends saw it happen and rushed over to help. As I was being monitored in the hospital, I was flooded with messages asking how people could help. It was, of course, a Thursday, and that Friday, we had friends coming over with food, offering to help with the kids, giving us the support we so desperately needed. One friend even called to yell at me after Shabbat because I didn’t let her know in time, “and how can I bring you cake for Shabbat if I only find out now?” People are wonderful.

I know physical struggles are more visible than emotional ones, but just as we are supposed to celebrate with Am Yisrael in all simchas, we have an obligation to commit to כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה (all of Israel is responsible for one another) with the hardships. Not to compare them with other people’s troubles. Not to belittle them. Not even to try and fix them always. Sometimes, all we need to do is nod and say wow, that sounds so very difficult for you.

The holidays are over. We are slowly setting into the routine that Mr. Cheshvan (the official name for the new month is Marcheshvan, often known as Cheshvan) brings with him. Now is the time to regain our strength. Settle back into our good ol’ lives, where Shabbat comes only once every seven days. People have gone through emotional rollercoasters. Some people are more spent than others. I’m here to remind everyone that that is 100% OK and that no one is alone.

Last night, I went out for dinner with a bunch of ladies from my neighborhood. The official business of the meal was: Let’s celebrate that we survived the last few weeks. Each woman talked of things that were wonderful, and those that were not. We didn’t judge each other or make each other feel small. Rather, we smiled and said: We are here for you. Welcome back.

About the Author
Bazy (pronounces Bah-zee) is the Daughter of Olim from the US. Bazy grew up in Beit Shemesh which they say is just a five minute drive from Israel and is probably part of the reason she speaks English fluently today. Married +4 and completely outnumbered, Bazy is the proud owner of Bazy Productions for video editing, and works at JNF-USA. Her goal in life is to eat lots of chocolate and make sure people laugh a little more every single day.
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