What do we do when we’ve just had a really hard week? To help myself, sometimes it’s enough for me to “treat” myself to a simple pleasure, like ordering from Starbucks instead of setting up my coffee maker, or to give myself 30 minutes to walk & call a friend instead of composing that email that needs to be sent. Occasionally it’s eating something (but sometimes I do regret that! Social worker and author Brene Brown teaches that true comfort never comes with a dose of shame- that’s been a helpful guide for me).
But sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes the weight of the world feels too heavy to bear. The problems are too big, the unfairness of life simply unjustified and irreconcilable. What do we do then? I’ve learned from my years of mindfulness work at The Soul Center that sometimes the amount of exertion required to push away those hard feelings actually takes more effort than just allowing those feelings to wash over you. “Come on in, sweetheart” is the mantra taught by Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels, founder of Or Ha-Lev in Israel. You’re feeling sadness? Come on in, sweetheart. You’re feeling despair? Come on in, sweetheart. You’re feeling overwhelmed? There’s room for you, too. One morning this week I was feeling down, so I played two of the saddest songs I know (“River” by Joni Mitchell and “February” by Dar Williams). And you know what? I let myself feel sad for those two songs. And it helped, a little. I let the sadness in, and let it wash over me.
On Friday morning at The Spark we were learning with Rabbi Rachael Bregman, a rabbi in Brunswick, Georgia, now infamous for being the town where Ahmaud Arbery was murdered. She was telling us something particularly painful about his murder, and many of us on the Zoom were visibly moved to tears. And then she did something brilliant. She stopped talking, acknowledged that we were in pain, and instructed us to live in this moment, to put our hands on our hearts and feel that heartbreak and pain. She suggested that part of the work of justice is to feel the pain, to stay in the discomfort. But not to get stuck there.
In this week’s parsha, the Israelites definitely feel stuck. They’ve escaped Egypt, seen the parting of the Sea of Reeds, celebrated and sang on the other side with Moses’ sister Miriam, and begin their desert wanderings. They have seen the power of God, and God’s special connection to Moses. But, despite witnessing these miracles, they are hungry, thirsty and scared, and start to complain to Moses. They don’t have faith that their needs will be met. They can’t see their way out of what must have been a terrifying situation. They feel this way, even though they have Moses as their leader! And where are our prophets today? Do we know anyone with a direct connection to God the way that Moses had? No wonder we often feel scared and alone and stuck. The key, I think, is to allow ourselves to feel these things, but then, in the words of Anna and Olaf from Frozen II, you just gotta do the next right thing.
What do you think? As always, I would love to hear from you.