After the last lights of Shabbat have faded, often the world feels a little colder to me. I miss the warmth of the candles' glow. I miss the warmth of the fresh challah in my hands. I miss how much my face tingles from smiling in synagogue when I see my community and they radiate their light into my life. I miss how the words I chanted feel in my mouth as I said them to welcome in Shabbat, to bless meals, and then to mark the end of Shabbat and the start of the week. However, most of all, I miss the peace of Shabbat.
As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety disorders, shalom, or peace, is such a foreign but welcomed idea. I crave peace but yet when pressed I could not fully define it. Is peace something we feel or is it a status in life? Can we have peace in our hearts but not in our lives? Can we have unrest in our hearts and peace in the world around us? I ask many questions of you the reader and of myself. I am not sure whether you or I will be able to answer these questions now or ever. I believe, however, that these are important questions to ask.
In terms of my own life, I look for peace in my mind. I seek peace to be able to function every day. Some days it is difficult to get out of bed, even to see people whom I love or to go to my favorite places. My depression robs me of my self worth and energy. It leaves me alone and by the wayside left to try and masquerade through life as someone who is just as whole as everyone else appears to be. My anxiety makes me fear life in its entirety. I fear new situations and old situations. I fear everything. I am robbed continually of the carefree person I used to be and am turned into this person that is always calculating risks and evaluating options. As a Jew, I feel this loss often. When we speak in services of being thankful for G-d making us free, I feel a little sad every time I say those words because while I am physically free, mentally I am not. Mentally, I am held captive by the ever changing whims of depression and anxiety. While medication and therapy help at times, there is never complete relief.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder makes me feel like every decision I make has life and death consequences. Many movies and TV shows feature actors and actresses that portray likable and quirky characters with OCD that makes us fall in love with them. The problem is, they are painted with a very broad paint brush and are not always typical of every person with the disorder. For me, my OCD is about safety and perfection. I often feel like I am literally carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. When I make a mistake, it tears at my soul because my OCD tells me that it is life and death and someone could seriously be harmed- even if the situation is as simple as I loaded the paper wrong in the printer.
Many of us have heard that little nursery rhyme growing up that if you step on a crack, you break your mother's back. While it sounds so very silly, to me, it's terrifying. Even as an adult though I know it is not true, it is the first thing I think of when I walk on the sidewalk and I still find myself trying to avoid those cracks. Therapy has taught me that the world does not operate on a system where our loved ones pay in painful ways for our tiniest of mistakes and that it is our disordered thinking that tells us that. And so I crave peace in my mind. I crave peace that can once for all free me from this game that my mind is playing against my will. Peace that will allow me to step on all the cracks, load that paper wrong in the printer and be free to make a lifetime of mistakes without hesitations.
As a Jew, I try not to even harm bugs and sometimes this in combination with my OCD feels overwhelming. I am reminded by friends often that while we must be careful not to harm anything, G-d alone has ultimate control. So usually after having some sort of panic attack after making a mistake, I am able to remind myself of this and take reassurance in knowing that G-d is not the one placing the burden on my shoulders, it is my OCD.
I want peace. I crave the peace of Shabbat every single day of my life. I have spent a lot of time seeking peace. I have gone through Jewish prayer books, read many Jewish books on peace and prayer, and and have meditated. The most helpful way to find peace I have noticed, is to just try. Even if it is helping a friend just by listening to her. Much like my journey to Judaism itself where the journey itself was so very important, the journey to peace cannot be ignored. You cannot skip the journey and just land in peace. On Shabbat, I cannot skip all the steps of preparing for Shabbat and just jump right to my favorite parts of peace and expect to reap the same rewards.
I think that we can all work on creating more peace in our own lives by praying, reading, meeting with each other. I think that acts as simple as helping a friend out create peace. Anytime a burden is eased, peace is released. It's so important but forgotten so often in this busy world. Especially during the holidays when everyone seems to be bogged down with anxieties and worries. Peace needs to be a priority. Peace in the mind, heart and family.
As Jews, no matter where we live, we personally have to make room for the daily journey for peace. I personally have to make room for the journey for peace. I think now more than ever we need peace in our lives that we can carry over into the lives of those around us. I will continue to seek peace in my life for my sake and for my community's sake. I will continue to value the journey to peace and not take for granted the small moments along the way.