Sunday, May 22, 2016

Spirituality = Mental Health (we're getting there...)

I started therapy last month as a result of my husband requesting and pushing me to do so. I got lucky; the nearby university had an opening and I grabbed it (they have Master's and PhD students conduct therapy sessions at a reduced cost as part of their requirements for graduation).

I won't get into all the details about why I'm going to therapy but I'll say this.. I've heard that the three biggest stressors in life are (not necessarily in this order): losing a job, moving, and someone close to you dying. In the past couple years, I've hit all three. I have never really had the time or opportunity to deal with all of this when it happened, so now I'm doing so - for my health and for my family's health.

My therapist is a great guy, an Israeli with fantastic English (I'm really impressed). He was assigned to me after I described the issues I'd like to resolve and I truly enjoy our conversations each week. Sometimes there's a concept or word that we have trouble expressing but we get through it. At the end of each session, he almost always has a unique perspective on what I've shared the past hour.

I guess that's the point... sometimes we get so deeply mired in our own lives and minds that we can't dig ourselves out, we can't get an outside perspective on what we've experienced or how someone's decision 35 years ago benefits us now. Let me share...

When I was little (or just before I was born, I don't know), my mom and dad were driving in a car, chatting about how they wanted to raise their children. At that point, they already had two (maybe three) kids, and wanted to make sure that we grew up enjoying Judaism, married Jewish, and remained (at least somewhat) religious. They realized that in order to do so, they needed to act the same way and so they made a conscious decision to become more observant of the laws of Judaism.

Fast forward several decades.

I've made quite a journey through Judaism. I pulled away when I was a teenager (due to my dating a secular Jew), then stopped being religious altogether for about eight months. I hated it. All my weeks starting running together. Nothing seemed special; I felt ordinary. So I went back to keeping the Sabbath and kosher and I've loved it (mostly) ever since. The Sabbath is my weekly vacation and mikveh (the ritual bath - but that's another whole story) allows me to give my kids' souls a fresh, clean start in life (and hopefully won't screw them up too much along the way). I don't always cover my hair, but when I do, I make sure to match my scarves to my outfit in an artistic way.

With my belief in G-d and feelings of spirituality, I have faith that things happen for a reason. I don't know what those reasons are, but I don't need to.

Years ago, when a close family friend passed away suddenly from cancer in his early 40s, I was shaken. The deceased man's brother was a rabbi and he shared a story at the funeral. He explained that our lives are represented by the back of a tapestry. It is made up of knots, this yarn leading to that yarn, colors leading into other colors - none of it makes sense. But... if you were able to look at the FRONT of the tapestry, it would be a gorgeous picture.

The problem is, we don't get to see the front of the picture while we're in this world.

I am not telling you what to feel or to religiously observant, but I had to have some sort of belief that there is a bigger picture. I am simple human being with a good, but limited, brain. I'm simply not capable of seeing why bad things happen, but I know, I believe, that things happen for a reason. Maybe I'm wrong and there are times when it's just sh*tty luck, but I don't think so.

After I relayed all this to my therapist, he asked me if I believed that my mom passed away for a reason. The truth is, when people pass away, when things just suck, people want to understand why it happened. When my mom passed away, I think I also wanted to understand why (I don't remember), but I know that right now, the 'why' doesn't matter as much because it happened. Period. It is what it is.

After talking this through with my therapist, he helped me realize (just by him listening, of course) that if I weren't religious and observant, more so if I weren't spiritual, I would be a lot worse off when dealing with the loss of my mom (and everyone else I've lost). Trust me, that ain't a pretty picture.

What else did he tell me? That 35-37 years ago, when my mom and dad made that decision to raise us as Jewish kids, to give us that support, they also, unknowingly, gave me the spiritual tools to deal with their passing away.

Mind blown.

That's quite a long yarn woven over the course of decades. I am forever grateful to my parents for that tapestry - in my mind's eye, it is gorgeous.

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