Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tisha b'Av

A day on which to mourn. Much has been written, spoken about the difficulty of connecting to Tisha b'Av in the modern era. How do we make ourselves feel pain? How do we manufacture that emotion? My problem, today, is slightly different.

I spend my life running from sadness. It lurks around every corner, just out of sight. I sense it there constantly, knowing it waits for me. But a productive life is not lived under the shadow of desperation. Somehow, one must escape the looming spectre—death, meaninglessness, loss—and find the sunlight, a sense of purpose, motivation to act, to pursue greatness. So I become an expert at avoidance; not to deny the existence of tragedy, but to find life.

But here, on this day, I am enjoined not to run. It is a day to sit, to let the cloud descend and envelop me, to cry and rage against the agonies of being human. Yet I find it surprisingly difficult. Why? It should be natural, merely a matter of acknowledging what I am distantly aware of always. But I am so used to fleeing. Greeting the sorrow with open arms contradicts a lesson painstakingly learned. Like a well-trained typist told to return to hunt-and-peck, I must, for one day, un-learn the skill I have acquired.

Since sundown last night, I have found moments of the sadness I know I possess, have found the tears flowing. But I have also had many moments of strange placidity. I know I have enough grief and fear within me to cry uncontrollably, to rail and rage without pause, but I cannot tap into it. I want to find the area of vulnerability, the trigger that will allow me to begin to cry, unleashing all the emotion I keep huddled inside myself the rest of the year. But I am afraid, I think; afraid of finding myself overwhelmed, unable to rise again come nightfall.