Tisha B’av (Fast of the Ninth of the Month of Av), 2013 was the day I started this blog. I remember it. I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom, bawling, writing what would become my first post on this blog, the words swimming in an out of focus through the tears. I had a lot to mourn for last year. I was just coming to terms with some things about my past that I’d recently discovered, my best friend, the person I love most in this world, was raped on her birthday, and, overall, the enormity of suffering in this world was just hitting me particularly hard. I was almost looking forward to Tisha B’av last year; I was looking forward to the crying, the catharsis. I was looking forward to screaming at God for the evil allowed in this world. The words of Eicha (Lamentations) still felt fresh on my lips:
The Lord has become like an enemy; He has destroyed Israel; He has destroyed all its palaces, laid in ruins its strongholds, and He increased in the daughter of Judah, pain and wailing.
I was exposed to suffering I’d never experienced up close before. I’d read about how people suffer, but I’d never seen it firsthand. I’d never actually heard someone say the words “I was raped last night” before. I’d never felt the rage, the all-consuming bloodlust, the powerlessness, the simultaneous desire to hold the person I love most close while we both watch the world burn for its crimes. I’d never seen the effects of domestic violence, the terror and confusion in the eyes of a wife at once petrified but still protective of her husband. I’d never been the person to whom other people turned when life violently flung them out of their element. It was all new to me. So raw. So abhorrent and aberrant. It was so far outside of the standard deviation of my life, and it needed to go somewhere. Tisha B’av couldn’t come too soon last year.
When I was finished writing, I knew I had written something special—something that should be shared. It felt like an opportunity for a new beginning, to do something that could actually make a difference.
It’s a year later, and I’m sorry to say that it’s no longer raw, no longer unusual—it no longer has that effect on me. These issues are common, almost foregone conclusions. While hearing people’s stories of abuse and hardship used to throw me for hours, sometimes days, rendering me incapable of functioning properly, it has become, in this past year, just another day in the life. I used to cry when I heard about terrorist attacks in Israel; now I keep scrolling down my news feed and laugh at something funny from 9gag. Every once in a while something comes along which arrests my attention and violently awakens my empathy, but those instances are becoming fewer and farther between.
Last year I wrote that I was mourning for the conscience that died in those who made us suffer. I cried as I wrote those words. I meant them with all my soul. I don’t feel that way anymore, and honestly it scares me. I sat on my floor this year and read Eicha just as I did last year, and I found myself counting pages until I could go back to checking Facebook. The things I had cried for last year didn’t even register this year. That scared me. It almost made me cry. Almost. And that scares me even more. I feel myself beginning not to care. Tonight I mourn the empathy inside of me that I feel slowly ebbing away with each passing tragedy.
There is what to be said for becoming jaded. We have to cope somehow. Holding on to every ounce of grief is unhealthy. We need to forget, let go, move on, and stop caring. We need that to live. By the same token, however, we can’t afford to entirely lose the pain we feel when we see a fellow human being suffer. Tonight I pray that God grant me the strength to live with the pain, the fortitude to accept it without giving up, the ability to process and let go of the excess, and gift of always being able to feel it.
One thought on “The Gift of Pain”
You may be interested in reading about what was formerly called empaths, and now referred to as HSP’s, or highly sensitive persons.
I limit my reading of the mainstream news because it’s draining, and that leaves less energy to care in the actual sphere I live in.