I shouldn’t be surprised that I got angry last night. I completely lost my temper, and yelled at my family. I threw a serving spoon on the ground, and stormed upstairs. My anger had been simmering for days. I felt resentful, scared, sad, and lonely. I felt the anger in my body as a small burning sensation in my mid-back and tension in my jaw. When our kids were younger, there would be days when they completely lost control. Everyone would be miserable as we got sucked into their tantrums. Then, without fail, the next day, the child at the center of the drama would wake up sick. Every single time it happened we reminded ourselves that this was always the case. Our kids were good natured and generally easy to parent, but whenever we noticed that complete loss of control, we failed to remember the pattern, and let ourselves get pulled into the storm.
Well, it happened to me, and I failed to recognize it. I stopped taking care of myself. The last day I did an online workout was over a week ago. That doesn’t sound unreasonable, but it turns out that all of the work I do to keep myself grounded is essential. I have been practicing qi gong almost daily, taking walks outside, and taking time to rest. When I prioritize those things, I have the energy to make healthy meals, take care of my family, and be engaged in the community. The minute I start to forget the importance of self-care, things spiral fast. Add that to a few days of eating sufganiyot and other junk food for Hanukkah, and I was set up for a crash.
Yesterday, we turned Kayla’s tiyul with Akiva into a family outing. Danny’s work computer was hacked last week, and he was unable to get anything done. We hadn’t made any plans for Hanukkah break. Another family expressed interest in joining the trip to Mount Meron and Tsfat, so Akiva opened up the trip to families. I knew when I woke up in the morning that I should stay home to take care of myself. My nose was congested, I was sneezing, and I had low energy. Instead of listening to my body telling me that it needed to rest, I took an allergy pill, extra drops of Vitamin D, and some advil, and hurried the kids into the car. I was so afraid of missing out on a fun excursion that I pushed myself when I knew it was not the best idea for me.
For some reason, I have never had a good experience in Tsfat. Maybe it is the emphasis on the spiritual aspects of a town that I find dirty and unkempt. Perhaps it is my own lack of confidence in my personal spirituality. Akiva said most people either love it or hate it. I guess I fit into the latter group. The hike at Mt. Meron was nice, but it was a cool, damp, overcast day. We have been taking so many beautiful hikes on sunny days that being out in the cold didn’t feel energizing for me. The temperature in Tsfat was even cooler, and the town felt almost desolate without tourists. Most of the shops were shuttered, and many tourist attractions were closed. Akiva ran into a few friends in town, and they told him that many stores have closed permanently. People simply can’t keep their businesses without the tourist revenue. I was frustrated seeing the ultra-orthodox residents of Tsfat walking around without masks. The falafel stand where we stopped for lunch had 2 employees, neither of whom wore masks or gloves while preparing the food. Each little frustration started to build until I could no longer ignore the anger I was carrying.
Little fights with the kids spiraled. Misunderstandings ensued. By dinnertime, I was out of control. The entire situation was a setup for failure, and that is what I got. I slept fitfully last night, and woke up forced to acknowledge that I have a cold . My body took over, and illness made me to stop. I made chicken soup, and am still sitting in my pajamas. Kayla took over my volunteer job this afternoon at the English book shop (apparently the kids Hanukkah book sale was a big success). Moving forward, it is essential for me to remember not to let things go this far.
This is the darkest time of the year. We have to work harder to find the light in all of this darkness. Although I was upset last night, I logged on to a zoom class that I have been taking through Ayeka about Rav Kook’s mystical approach to the Jewish people. I didn’t say anything on the call – in fact, my mic was muted and my video was off. About 30 minutes into the class, we were put into breakout sessions in small groups. I opened up, and told the small group about my outburst and how I was feeling. One person offered a teaching from Ram Dass, and another asked how I would feel if I let go of all the anger. It is always amazing to me how we are willing to talk about our deepest fears with complete strangers, but unwilling to open up with those closest to us. My hope is that I can allow the light from each new candle this week to open up those darkened places in my soul, and rededicate the relationships that are the most important to me.