So with CPE we have individual supervision. Yesterday my supervisor gave me an assignment- that today, when we had group, I needed to share some of my feelings of loneliness, anger, sadness and fear. Yup, he wanted to me really share some of the things that I am going through. He wanted me to share not only my relationship with God/spirituality/religion, but also my feelings right now. And in addition, I need to write to him in the morning to tell him how it went.
I’m apprehensive of sharing, just for sharings sake. I found that in all places I was pushed to share my feelings it was mostly for voyeuristic vulnerability. I was placed in situations to share and cry, but then there was no one that was there to pick me up. There was no real purpose to the sharing other than just sharings sake. There were even times I was told explicitly that even though I feel a certain way, they don’t care. Or asked “so are you doing ok now” after crying hysterically, as if lunch time was going to change how I felt. And following that there was no follow up.
In addition, sharing is hard for me because I feel like the things that I am going through are just spoken about SO often. Who really wants to talk about the loneliness and frustrations of being single. Who wants to talk about what it means to be an orthodox female rabbi and the difficulties that go along with that. In the past year, the group I was speaking with were also orthodox female rabbis, so it was everyone’s pain. My story was someone else’s story, and we were just running in it. It really was a place of trying to encourage one another, because we really do need one another to create change.
I also don’t like to feel vulnerable or even worse broken. I don’t want to hear words that are either pity or trying to convince me that I am good or that “it will all be ok”. I do know that it is ok to be sad/angry/etc, but I also need those around me to allow me to feel that way. To see where I am coming from. To allow me to feel that, so I don’t need to switch to the strong one right away- although I do know how to do it.
Well, today was the day. To be honest I was quite nervous about what I would say and how I would say it. I didn’t know what conversations would be happening and really didn’t think I would have the guts to bring this up if it was a different topic altogether.
It turned out I shared a lot…twice. I both started and ended my day in tears (I also brought others to tears, just from crying).
The day started by a passage that one of the other residents brought to start our day. It was about following in the way of God and if one does, then one will feel whole. Many in the group were talking about how much it meant to them, and how it spoke to them. While she was reading I was already tearing up, something I really didn’t want to do. There was a part of the passage that spoke about not looking for acceptance in humans, but rather in God. And through following God you will find happiness. It was then that broke me. I am struggling so much with the feeling of being torn- of doing what I think is right for me to be doing, but for it to be in a place that I will have to be alone, with marriage prospects being slim to none or doing something else so I can be in a larger place. I brought up my fears of being alone forever, and how hard it is to be alone, and the difficultly for me of thinking that this is what God wants for me- how it is not something I am willing to accept yet. I spoke about how hard it is to be single during the holidays and the struggle of feeling alone.
Well, that got another member to speak about her difficulties, and she said allowed that she was thankful that I said what I said, because she thought everyone else was feeling in line with the text. Another woman spoke about the difficulties of being in a relationship with an atheist, and how even in partnership there can be great loneliness and trials.
And then we had some class. And then we had our spirituality process group. It was the first one, so our supervisor started just with two questions – what is our concept of God, and what is the area we are struggling the most with God right now and how might that effect our work as chaplains.
I didn’t really have much intention of it being such a big thing. And I definitely didn’t expect it to be the main point of conversation.
I shared how in some ways I feel guilty that I am doing chaplaincy instead of doing a shul job. How I still feel bad that I gave up fighting in Israel. How being in the hospital I feel outside of my community – that I am not dealing with any of the politics, I am not preparing sermons or programs for shuls, I am not able to go to process group (and even if I could I wouldn’t have much to share), I’m having an experience that is not furthering the path of orthodox women. I shared that I haven’t learned anything since I was in Colombia, that something is keeping me from picking up any books, to the fact that I am 50 dapim off on daf yomi. I shared that I even lost my Bar Ilan disk on key, basically the first day of work…in essence lost my Torah. I shared that doing chaplaincy I’m not really working with people of my faith background, and that well, nothing I learned in the past five years is useful for this work. I shared that others have told me that I am “giving up” or doing a “disservice” to orthodox women, because I have a training that almost no one else has, and I should be doing something with it to better Orthodox Jewish women.
Well, I started sharing and then my supervisor had even more questions, and got me to share my feelings. Others in the group started to share bits and to see my pain and fight. It was not a fight they are part of nor did they realize that this was something I was carrying. Others shared their anger at my situation, told me that maybe it is a good thing for me to do things for me this coming year, and maybe see what happens after to where I feel I need to go, giving me blessings that I should find peace. One woman was silently crying next to me – sharing in my frustration and pain, and unable to talk about her own pain.
But then something different happened today. People came over to me to find out if I was ok. People came over to me to tell me that there was something in what I said that resonated with them, and reminding me that I deserve more for myself, even though I have done something different and historic. One told me that she was worried that she would not be able to connect with me because I am more brain than feelings, and this allowed her to feel connected to me. I received text messages of stories of similar struggle in another religion or just a message even later in the evening to make sure that I am still doing ok. I even got an email from my supervisor thanking me for sharing.
I am used to being the strong one. The feminist fighter. The one who creates and gets others to create and follow. I am used to sharing and it feeling like it fell on deaf ears, and I’m left in my heaviness alone. But today it was different. Yes, I still wanted to crawl into a ball, and I was still exhausted at the end of it. Even though I did feel kinda weird that my story was what was expanded and we spent a lot of time one, it was not bad. My pain is part of who I am, and a lot of it is the language that I use in my life, and something that others in my group are not aware of. It did seem like others had points of connection 0 I am not the only one feeling lost, alone, destabilized. And I guess more so for me, I didn’t really feel like my sadness/pain was a burden. I didn’t feel like others were overflowing with things that they were not going to be able to be there for me.
So it wasn’t so bad in the end. Yea, my brain feels like mush right now. Yes, I get that sharing allows others to connect. Yes I get that seeing me in states of vulnerability lowers things down, so I am not the one running around doing thing – I too am holding some pain and struggle. You never know when your pain will be an opening for someone else to share or for someone else to know that they are not alone.
This is going to be an interesting year