Many years ago I mentioned that my uncle and aunt studied Mussar. When my uncle died, my aunt continued to go to her synagogue and participate, and I went along with her. It became our Tuesday night thing: I'd go down to NYC, we'd do Mussar, Thing One and I would walk her home, then I'd spend the night at Thing One's. Obviously, when I moved out of New York State that became impossible.
I'm not sure when my aunt mentioned Mussar to C (a converted Jew and one of my father's companions) but with COVID, the group has gone online. C convinced my father to attend with her, and when he mentioned it to me, I decided it would be a nice way to spend time with my father, aunt and C. Most weeks there are maybe 20 people, four of whom are related. I may not be the literal youngest but I certainly look as though I am.
Each week we explore a midot, a trait, and are given reading to do to prepare for the conversation. Yesterday, it was grief and we were asked to read excerpts from The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief by Francis Weller, specifically the five gates of grief. At the start of the meeting, we were asked to choose one bullet point from a gate and journal about it. Here was what I chose, and wrote:
Illness is another grief we find at this gate. Any lingering illness can activate a feeling of loss. When a prolonged sickness arises in our life, we lament the life we once knew and enjoyed, the one brimming with vitality. We may feel betrayed by our body, as though we no longer have a foundation beneath us for living fully. Illness dislodges our sense of control and invulnerability. We resist, resent, argue, and protest, attempting to wrestle our lives back from this unwelcome guest.
The illness part really spoke to me because of my years long battle with CFS and now CRION. I don't remember what it was like to have enough energy, to be able to stay up late and rebound, to not worry how a small thing could create a huge problem. I mourn the person I was in my teens and 20s, even my early 30s. It means I may not be the friend that I want to be, or my work may not be at the level I think it should be, because things are a little muted (as they are when people are tired). I try not to think of myself as a sick person, but years of experience have taught me that I actually *am* one - and that I shouldn't blame myself if I can't live up to my own expectations.
My father, perhaps obviously, wrote about the loss of my mother last year. Others wrote about illness, depression, the ancestral grief that comes from having family lost in the Holocaust or to slavery, what's going on in our political world, among other topics (not everyone spoke). One woman mentioned the term "anti-fragility" and my ears perked up.
Of course I started to poke around looking for resources, finding mostly a book that seems to apply mainly to businesses. But then I saw this article that speaks to it from a human, psychological perspective. And then this article. Something to ponder as I prepare for next week's midot (praise).