Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Blessing of Rain

You guys, we made it. Cheshvan starts tomorrow night! I have never looked forward to a month so much. Actually, I think we should start a movement to remove "Mar" from "Marcheshvan." Cheshvan is not a bitter month. Cheshvan is the best month. NO HOLIDAYS--an introverted routine-lover's paradise.

So, yes, the chaggim were a bit...much. More to the point, this entire fall has been a bit much, which is why I haven't been writing. I've been too busy trying to navigate my brain chemistry, which has been a little temperamental due to a shift in medications. It is not an exaggeration when I say that there were some days when managing my mood felt like such a monumental task that taking a shower seemed a cruel and unreasonable additional chore.  Oh, you want me to enter assessment data into a spreadsheet? You want me to make travel arrangements? You want me to go to a social event? I'm busy SURVIVING here, people. I'm in full canary mode, sensitive to everything and feeling all the feels.

I don't think it's a coincidence that my mood started to stabilize right as the chaggim were winding down. Cheshvan and a neutral mood--quiet on all fronts. I'll take it.

Since I'm feeling more even-keeled, I've been able to actually stop and think about items that catch my attention. One thing I noticed recently is that we just had a change in one of the parts of the Amidah. Beginning on Simchat Torah, we add the following phrase to Blessing #2, which focuses on Divine might:
משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם
He makes the wind blow and the rain fall

Taken in geographical context, it makes total sense why we need that addition. We say it during the winter, which is the rainy season in Israel, while during the rest of the year there is basically no rain there at all. So we really need that rain during the winter in order for things to grow and bloom. If the rain doesn't come, the land dies. 

But let's be honest, rain is kind of a pain. You need special boots. You need a raincoat and an umbrella. It makes driving difficult. Streets can flood. It makes everything grey, which is kind of depressing. So it's easy to forget, on your third consecutive day of rain, why rain is such a blessing. It's easy to forget that rain makes things new.

For the past two months, I've been in rainy mode. There were a few peeks of sun, but mostly clouds and rain. I fear that place and when I'm in it, I worry that I will never get out. But I did get out, because the storm passed. That was Lesson #1: The Storm Always Passes. And on the first day I finally felt the sun come out, I was so excited that I actually emailed my psychiatrist and said, "I felt like a normal version of me today! It was AMAZING!" So that was Lesson #2: Rain Brings Gratitude. Probably the best part of that story is that my psychiatrist replied and basically said that she was really glad I had a good day, but there would probably be more bad ones to follow because that's how recovery from depression goes, which I thought was a great dose of realism. There will always be more rain, and for those of us who roll this way, the storms may be extreme. But then...there is the washing clean, and the growing, and the blooming. During my most recent dark time, I learned a few things. I learned how to trust my friends more and accept their love. I became a better observer of my own emotions and reactions without judging them. I also gained confidence in my ability to hang tight and wait it out, without using self-destructive behaviors. Those were all things I needed to learn, and I couldn't have learned them without the dark time, so G-d sent me some rain. It was painful and messy, but it was what I needed.

Come to think of it, my entire eating disorder--the rainiest years of my life thus far, for sure--may have been a complete emotional washout, but it was also where my best growing came from. I am absolutely certain I would not have become the person I am today without my journey through recovery, which would not have happened had the eating disorder never occurred. Once again, G-d gave me the rain I needed in order to bloom. I am NOT saying that, "everything happens for a reason," or some other platitude to brush over the very real and very damaging pain that I went through, or that others have endured. I'm not suggesting that we just put on our rose-colored glasses and thank G-d for all our suffering. What I am saying is that if we're going to go through a rainy season, we might as well reap the benefits. And I do believe that from every flood, every collapse, every breakdown, something new can grow up from the center of the destruction, if only we allow it--and it might be even stronger and more beautiful than what was there before.

When we add the phrase about rain into our prayers, we are acknowledging that we need G-d to send us this weather that is sometimes quite inconvenient, because it is vital to our survival and growth. Rain is what allows us to thrive in the sun. Emotional rain works the same way, and that's what I'm taking away from this holiday season. Rain comes and then it goes, and leaves us with a new beginning.