It has been a very emotionally draining time in our history. In our lives. Some are affected more, personally; some are affected differently, yet all of us have been touched by what is going on. Every time I read something that infuriates me, I say to Husband #1, “I feel so helpless. What are we supposed to be doing? Is this how people felt during the Holocaust?”
We are buying supplies for soldiers, supplies for the families that have been decimated by the atrocities of October 7. We are sending money, candy, handwritten letters. We are posting on social media, we are writing letters to politicians. Why do we feel so helpless? So sad? So unbelievably broken?
And then there is the war. Classmates of our children are posting pictures and sending heartfelt voice notes. They are the front line. They are the ones fighting a war against an entity that does not value life, not even their own lives. These children are the ones who are going to defend our honor. I am worried about my boy driving back to Baltimore late at night, and these moms are worried about so much more. So much more.
Does it help to say, “I am thinking about you?” Or does it infuriate them? Should we all be there? I haven’t seen Danish since April. I feel incredibly guilty for feeling scared to go visit them. Shame on me! When all these boys are risking everything to protect and defend, I should be scared to go visit my children? Who do I think I am?
And then there are the times when I am thinking about other things, my Strudel, her sister, my boys, my daughters-in-law. Does Husband #1 need more Fanta? More cream cheese? Who cares? Am I allowed to let my mind wander to the day-to-day things that calm me down? Or should I be feeling anxious and jittery all of the time? Scrolling on my phone all day long?
Poor Husband #1 is so sad because he wants to talk to his father about the situation. “What do you think your dad would say?” I ask him. “I wish I could ask him,” he replies. My dad would tell me that everything will be all right. He would make me feel calm and give me a hug. Wouldn’t it be nice if a hug could make everything better?
I keep thinking back to 9/11. I felt almost grateful that my children were too young to understand what was going on. And now, I feel sorry for the parents that have to navigate their own grief, while putting on a brave face for their younger children. And how much are you supposed to be protecting your older children? Things like this aren’t supposed to happen. Things like this happen in horror films that aren’t real.
To those parents, I send you a lot of strength. Real life has never been scarier than it is right now. Protecting your children has taken on a whole new meaning. Because if we have learned anything from October 7, it’s that we cannot always protect them.
I was joking with a friend that I wonder how much anti-anxiety medication has been prescribed in the past few weeks. And the truth is, numbing that pain doesn’t make what caused the pain to go away. And eating the pain away, well, I can tell you that that does not end well either (though I cannot tell you about drinking because I haven’t done that since Son #1’s bar mitzvah, but that is for an entirely different column, which would not be as depressing as this one.)
Someone living in Israel had posted in a Facebook group that she has been having trouble connecting to her prayers. She still prays every day, but is having difficulty finding meaning in it when everything is so horrific and unsure. Many people responded with various suggestions, but one woman posted a video of a soldier speaking about the very same thing. He was saying that after sleeping for less than three hours, he is supposed to say the morning prayer, “How am I supposed to do that seeing where I am? But it says that I am supposed to pray. So I pretend I am not myself, since I am having trouble connecting with the words, I say that I am praying as part of Am Yisroel. I am praying for others. I find meaning in the prayers to help my fellow soldiers and my neighbors and my family, just not me.”
I thought that was kind of beautiful. It is hard to find strength and meaning and connection, but we want that for others who are hurting. For others that are defending us. For all of Am Yisrael. Let’s keep praying for each other.
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is, God willing, going away for the weekend with her sister and her mother and is praying for sanity…. (Have to try to put something humorous in this week….)