During the second intifada I was well into the “I am invincible” stage of adolescence. Though daily life was scary and fraught with tragedies, I never truly internalized just how precarious every outing was. The possibility of death was ever-present, but it didn’t weigh heavily on me.
Recent events, while far from constituting a full blown intifada, brought back the old feeling of constant danger. And as an adult and a mother, I can no longer indulge in the youthful illusion of invincibility. I have far more to lose, and a greater responsibility. Like many of my friends, I cant help but worry when I leave my kids in daycare. I cant help but wonder what will happen to them if I’m hurt. In the face of constant insecurity and painful tragedies, where can we find the strength to go on with our daily life? How can we sustain our sanity and inner strength?
Here are the methods that I find helpful:
1. Understand the significance of your actions:
Terrorists aim to paralyze us by fostering a feeling of constant insecurity. While military actions follow certain rules, terror can hit anywhere and at any time. A terror attack can be successful even without casualties, simply by tainting our daily activities with fear. Will the next attack happen in a bus, we wonder as we wait for one? Or in a shul? Should we look out for a car, or for a knife? The uncertainty cuts deep, leaving us feeling helpless and on edge.
When we find ways to go on with our daily lives despite the fear, we achieve more than mere functioning: we foil the terrorists’ attempts to paralyze us. Every walk down the street, every detour to a playing ground, is a little victory in our war against our enemies. By keeping in mind the national significance of my daily actions, I find the strength and inspiration to live on.
2. Be proactive:
Terror creates fear, and fear creates helplessness. By being proactive, and taking charge of our experiences, we regain a sense of control and normalcy. Pro-activeness can take many forms. For example, we can purchase pepper spray, donate money to victims of terror, and go to rallies.
Personally, I feel most empowered when I reach out and help other people to deal with their feeling of helplessness. By noticing the emotional turmoils of our friends and by being there for them, we both banish our own helplessness and alleviate our worries through companionship.
3. Be social:
Share your feelings with friends. Vent in Facebook groups. All burdens are lighter when shared.
One way to be both proactive and social is to organize events in your neighborhoods or shuls. You can organize a support group for parents, a prayer rally for a community, or a simple social gathering for your friends. Every opportunity to talk about our fears and share our feelings empowers us to go on.
4. Be only as informed as is good for you:
Are you the kind of person who feels more in control when you know all the details of a situation? If you are, then by all means go ahead and educate yourself about the Conflict in general and this conflict in particular. If, however, too much information makes you panic, find ways to stay uninformed. Avoid facebook after a terror attack, limit the time you dedicate to reading the news, and ask a good friend to inform you if there is something you need to know.
This particular piece of advice may sound obvious, yet my own experience taught me that it’s a difficult principle to follow. During the second intifada I spent hours glued to the TV screen after every single attack. Sometimes I felt like those hours helped me process my emotions better, but there were times when it was simply too much. By understanding how much exposure was good for me and setting rules in advance, I acquired the discipline to stop watching before the information overwhelmed and paralyzed me.
5. Don’t listen to rumors:
As we all saw first hand this summer, rumors abound in times of crisis, all the more so in our age of social media. Rumors have some positive functions. They serve as a way to seek information in uncertain situations and as a way to share emotions and fears. But rumors also invade our inner peace, trigger our emotions, and encourage an obsessive search for new information. Their ultimate effect is panic, and they end up serving the purposes of the terrorists and hampering our daily lives.
We shouldn’t only be as informed as is good for us, we should also take care that the sources of our information serve us well. If we avoid relying on rumors, and refuse to engage in their transmission, we contribute to our own sanity and the mental health of those we love. The positive purposes of rumors can be achieved instead by sharing news reports and inspirational stories.
During the war this summer, my favorite Facebook groups were overrun by rumors. They were usually prefaced with something like “I heard from my aunt’s friend’s uncle…” and raised the level of general panic. One day, a playful mother posted something that at first seemed like yet another crazy rumor. Yet the hearsay she “reported” was that a friend of a friend saw terrorists coming out of faucets.
We all laughed, and had a blast commenting on her post with our own hilarious ideas for fake rumors. And I think that we all felt much more functional that day.
Joke, laugh and be merry. Every peal of laughter is a dance of victory in the terrorists’ face.
7. Make time count:
Ultimately, we can’t control our time of death. But we can strive to make our life meaningful. If we fill our daily life with meaningful relationships, activities, and ideas, we will find our routine easier to pursue. We might even feel less afraid of death.
By being proactive and controlling our exposure to information, we reestablish a healthy sense of self determination. By infusing our daily lives with purpose and meaning, we strengthen our resolve to live on. And by filling our days with friends and humor, we make it easier for ourselves to stick to this resolve.
And so we go about our lives, and score a point against the terrorists.