A few weeks ago we celebrated the bar mitzvah of a relative in our family. Although in the past I’d think of every excuse in the book not to go (and these days, I’ve got more valid excuses), since Moshe’s gone, I make a real effort to attend the kiddushim, bar mitzvahs, and other simchas I’m invited to. It’s not easy for me to do. Besides the whispers and looks that I see (and some that I thankfully don’t see), I’ve developed a fear, an anxiety around large groups of people. It’s plagued me for years now and it took time for me to realize what it was. It wouldn’t always happen, but it happened often enough for me to stop and try to understand what was happening.
I have panic attacks. I don’t know why it started but I’d attend a wedding and get very nervous. I’d overheat and it would physically take on a life of its own. Eventually, the feelings would subside and I’d be able to get through that initial uneasy feeling, but it’s definitely something that would reside in the back of my head as I began to go to simchas on my own after Moshe’s passing.
Why do I do it to myself? I could just stay home.
Everyone would understand my feelings of discomfort, of having to come to these events by myself, how nerve-wracking it would be; they’d get it. No one would blame me for choosing to be alone, to isolate myself a bit.
Firstly, Moshe definitely wouldn’t approve. And I want to do right by him and I want to represent him and make him proud. I want my kids to see that this won’t stop me. Losing my partner won’t define me and the rest of my life that I’m still here to live. And if you have the gift of life given to you by G-d, do you waste the days feeling sorry for yourself and thinking about the way your life should have been? The way you deserved? Or will you regain your balance and get back on course? For the first time, it might be just you, without a significant other. And the cause can be several different things — it can be loss or a divorce. It can simply be that it’s taking you longer to find your soulmate, but until you do, do you stop living? Do you give up and throw in the towel because life didn’t go as planned? Because things aren’t as effortless as others have it (or you think they have it)?
It would be easy to blame a higher power for your problems, wouldn’t it?
Is it the most effective way?
Will you find inner contentment and happiness that way?
Ask yourself these questions when you feel like giving up.
Sometimes I feel a push that must be from Moshe and that’s what gets me to do things that are way outside my comfort zone. It’s him whispering in my ear that it’s on me to represent the family and make sure people know that I haven’t given up, and I’m more than just a young widow with kids to raise.
I’m still funny and smart and I still appreciate a beautiful day. I haven’t lost my humor and my penchant for odd things that most people don’t get.
So when I walk into the kiddush room and survey the throngs of people, way too many for a room that size, I might take a minute before I’m comfortable. I also might get a comment that goes a little like this:
“Malkie! How are you?! Wait, wait .… don’t answer that …. I know how you are.”
No. No you don’t.
We have great days too. We can walk outside like anyone else and appreciate a beautiful sunny day and be truly thankful for that.
We can still count the blessings in our life because, as crazy as it sounds, there’s nothing like that feeling of being grateful amidst the knot of nerves, worries, concerns, and unfortunate life events we would have rather not had.
With all that, there’s still a reason to be thankful. Imagine that.
So I smile and make light of the comment but say, “Am I not allowed to have good days anymore? Today’s a good day. And I’m happy I’m here to celebrate a simcha.”
She falters for a minute and moves on to other well-wishers. But she does come back and apologize for the statement. She tells me that she just doesn’t know what to say. She knows how hard this must be for me, she reads my words and thoughts that are published and she just wanted to tell me that I’m always in her thoughts.
I give her a reassuring hug and tell her that I’m just happy to be here and I appreciate it.
A universally acceptable question or comment would be, “How are you today?” or “It’s really good to see you.” Light sentiments like that. Something that has a deeper meaning but doesn’t say, “Yeah, I know how awkward this must be for you, attending simchas without him. That’s gotta be tough.”
Day by day, I gain a momentum I never thought possible a mere eight months ago. It’s hard to explain myself, but recently I heard a vort from the Ramban about abilities you had in you all along that break free once you call on that need.
The word “nisayon” (test) shares the same root as the word “neis” (miracle).
What is a miracle?
It’s an obvious act of G-d.
Yes, of course, everything is an act of G-d, but miracles are those occasions when it’s so clear and so obvious, it’s like a banner flying in the wind, proclaiming G-d’s existence.
Not coincidentally, another definition of the word “neis” is a flag, or banner.
Going through a nisayon brings out strengths we never knew we had within us. Strengths we could never have imagined we possessed until we were called upon to use them.
We make it through each nisayon that we are given by utilizing these previously unknown kochos and, of course, with the help of Hashem. We can’t make it without Him. Even with our newfound strength, there’s no way we could do it alone.
And each day that we get out of bed and greet the day and keep on keeping on through whatever difficulties we may face, we are waving a banner proclaiming, “I am stronger than I have ever realized. I will make it. And my journey of struggle, strength, and growth that you are witnessing is nothing short of miraculous.”
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away in March at the age of 40. Over the past few months, Malkie has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are now privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.