We’ve been going through some ups and downs in the Klempner household, and while today I feel like singing Hallelukah, I wrote a little personal essay while suffering through a spiritual valley a few weeks back. It’s about the Shema and relating to G-d when you feel disappointed and downtrodden. The piece is up today on The Wisdom Daily, and you can find it here.
I’m started to prepare a bit for NaNoWriMo 2018, and I’ve been looking up agents to submit my most recent novel to. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to tell you about both soon.
5 thoughts on “New Piece Out on the Topic of Faith and the Shema”
I really liked the essay. I feel like that too. Actually, I’m worse: for some months now I’ve been actively angry and resentful towards HaShem and feeling that He absolutely hates me and spends His time thinking up new ways to hurt me. Even when something good happens, so many good things have gone so bad for me that I assume that it will lead to something bad sooner or later. I got a new job this week, but I’m just terrified that I’m not going to be able to cope with it and I’m going to get fired (my last job didn’t end that well). Although the more logical thing to worry about is that it’s a three month contract with only a possibility of a limited extension so even if I don’t mess anything up, I’m going to be unemployed by the end of December anyway.
It’s been hard coming up to the Yamim Noraim. The year did not go well for me. I haven’t done a cheshbon nafesh this year because I don’t see the point; I didn’t achieve any of my goals for last year and in many ways I went backwards. Between them, my depression and social anxiety mean I don’t daven with kavannah or with a minyan, and sometimes not at all. Likewise many days I just do a few minutes of Torah study. I feel completely inferior to everyone in my shul, because they all seem like tzaddikim to me. I feel like I have zero chance of getting married because I’m so screwed up (the weirdest thing that happened in 5778 was that I think I might have met my bashert (maybe) only for her to break up with me because of mental health and low income – not the way you might think, she’s just concerned that we’re both too “dysfunctional” (her word) for things to work especially as neither of us are well enough to work full time, so we wouldn’t be able to afford to have children). I can’t ever see myself fitting into neurotypical, non-mentally ill, conformist frum society, or any other type of society, really. I don’t think I’m the right career and I don’t know what to do about it. I just moved back in with my parents for financial reasons. I just feel like I screw up everything I touch: religious life, dating, career, social life…
Half the time I feel really angry with HaShem for the way my life has gone. I’ve now been depressed for half my life or more. I don’t even really know what adult life is like without mental illness. I don’t even know who I am without mental illness. I acknowledge I’ve made some bad choices, but in a lot of ways I feel I was set up to fail and even a highly competent person (which I am not) would not succeed with the mental health and other issues I’ve been given… except the other half the time I feel disgusting and repulsive and wonder why anyone would ever care about me, especially HaShem, who knows all the stuff I manage to hide from everyone else.
I don’t know that I can face going to shul on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. I just can’t face HaShem. Although to be honest I don’t think I can face my kehillah seeing me coming in at eleven o’clock either. Although I don’t know how much I can face Mincha and Ma’ariv either, even though I go to shul for Mincha and Ma’ariv on Fridays and Shabbat. I guess I can’t face meeting Him face to face and making Him my King.
I know this comment sounds really petty and self-centred, but mostly I’m not angry primarily because I’m not financially secure or because I’m mentally ill or lonely or single (although I am upset about all those things). I’m angry because I really want to be frum, or at least I did until recently, and every time I try, it feels like HaShem pushes me further away than I was to start with. Like He actively hates me and wants to sabotage my mitzvahs. When I see other people describe how their lives got better and “miraculous” things happened once they became frum, it just makes me feel that I must be really disgusting and reprehensible for HaShem to be so angry with me.
Sorry, I’m being a drama queen again. I guess that’s another thing I need to sort out…
I don’t think that miraculous things necessarily happen to people because become frum. And if people become frum or stay frum because of some kind of external reaction, then it’s probably not very deep. I think that people who struggle have to work harder, and from deep inside, that that’s a more sincere attachment to Hashem.
Can you break things down to three tiny, like SUPER tiny goals? Like, “I will make it to shul on time and stay all the way through ONCE for ONE service during all the Yomim Noraim.”
It doesn’t have to be big, because like you said, Hashem knows everything. And He sent you all those trials. He doesn’t expect you to suddenly transform or overcome it all. He created humans in such a way that’s impossible.
I don’t know if I can think even of any tiny goals. I just feel so pessimistic about being able to change anything in my life. I was talking to someone the other day at the autism support group I’ve started to go to about self-love, which made me feel I should work on that, but I have absolutely no idea how to work on it. I mean, how to find some kind of concrete task that would help with that, because obviously thinking “Don’t beat myself up” has never really worked and just makes me feel worse when I do beat myself up, because then I beat myself up for beating myself up.
Shanah Tovah to you and your family!
Sometimes, adding a couple of things to one’s perspective can help deal with situations. Keep in mind that 85% of the cars on the road are financed; that means that the neighbor who drives an expensive car likely doesn’t own it. The people who live in the $2 million house may be struggling to afford mortgage payments and property taxes; it’s also possible that they are drowning in credit card debt. Once, a mom of six (I think) kids told my wife that she and her high-income husband were struggling, because their yeshiva asked them to pay full tuition.
There is often a lot of stress and struggle behind the veneer of affluence.
From your essay, it looks like you’re doing the best you can given your circumstances. You have a close-knit, loving nuclear family; no dangerous addictions; no crippling illnesses.
I would never minimize your difficulties; I just want to point out that you’re not alone.
Sometimes we just have to start actively ignoring other people’s situations and their insensitive, ignorant “advice.” In other words, “Their house costs a king’s ransom and mine doesn’t? Who cares?” “That woman’s minivan has a ton of optional, useless bells and whistles, and is fuel-inefficient, and mine keeps breaking down? Shrug.”
Focus on your own successes. Do your best. It’s all Hashem wants.
K’siva v’chasima tova!
Another thing to remember is that the only worthwhile comparison is between yourself today and yourself yesterday. Don’t compare yourself to others; it’s not constructive.