When is this going to end?

Photo by Ángel Navarro on Unsplash

At least once a day, I ask my husband when this is going to be over.

He’s a doctor, so he’s supposed to know something more about medicine than the rest of us. When I ask him medical related questions, he usually responds. This time around, though, those four years of medical school, three years of residency and many years now spent working in hospitals do not seem to be helping.

No one has the answer.

We are coming close to the one-year mark of when this all started, and, although we feel incredibly fortunate to have gotten the vaccine here in Israel, it unfortunately does not look like that alone is going to bring the quick end to this that we were all hoping for.

Months ago, I wrote about not just “getting through this” but making the most of it.

But that was when I thought it would last a few weeks, or maybe at most a few months.

But what if this never ends?

Or at least that is what I worry about in my most panicked moments.

Or what if it ends but things are still not really normal?

What if we are forever hesitant about handshakes and hugs, Shabbat meals with friends, community gatherings, big weddings, flying on planes and traveling to foreign places?

That’s when the sadness kicks in.

And it’s hard to be a good mother when you are sad. It’s hard to be productive when you are sad. It’s hard to remain optimistic when you are sad, and it’s hard to find the silver linings when you are sad.

But sadness is real, and it is important.

The other night, I watched “Inside Out” again with my kids. The whole movie is a reminder of why sadness is necessary. We need to be able to recognize and let ourselves feel negative emotions in order to process them and handle them.

If we don’t acknowledge our sadness, it quickly morphs into anger and blame.

That might be the story of the exodus from Egypt.  Maybe the Jews thought redemption would be swift. Ten plagues, mass exodus, splitting of the sea… new homeland. But their expectations are dashed. They cross the sea, begin their journey in the desert and soon enough are complaining that they are thirsty, blaming Moses and God for taking them out of Egypt where things, at the very least, were predictable.

What would have happened if they would have stopped for just a moment to acknowledge that “this is hard, this is not what we expected… we are sad?”  Is it possible that that recognition alone would have given them the emotional space and strength needed to move ahead?

At work, we keep talking to our students about the “10-minute rule”.

These days, we can’t really plan more than the next ten minutes. When we do, things inevitably change on us, and we are disappointed once again. But in those 10 minutes, we can feel fully, live fully and decide what most suits us and will help us best thrive for the next little while.

All we can do at any given moment is make the best next decision that we can.

Recently, reading the incredibly moving book The Choice by Dr. Edith Eger, I was reminded once again of the powerful words of Viktor Frankl:

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Our growth and our freedom is rooted in our ability to be human, to be genuine and authentic, to be honest about our challenges and shortcomings and, with all that, to then choose our best response.

Sometimes, responding by just pausing and admitting that we are suffering is redeeming in and of itself.

And sometimes, that is just the liberation we need to regain our composure and move forward.

About the Author
Shayna Goldberg (née Lerner) teaches Israeli and American post-high school students and serves as mashgicha ruchanit in the Stella K. Abraham Beit Midrash for Women in Migdal Oz, an affiliate of Yeshivat Har Etzion. She is a yoetzet halacha, a contributing editor for Deracheha: Womenandmitzvot.org and the author of the forthcoming book: "What Do You Really Want? Trust and Fear in Decision Making at Life's Crossroads and in Everyday Living" (Maggid, 2021). Prior to making aliya in 2011, she worked as a yoetzet halacha for several New Jersey synagogues and taught at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School in Teaneck. She lives in Alon Shevut, Israel, with her husband, Judah, and their five children.
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