I broke my fast for Yom Kippur at 11:00 a.m. with a chocolate peanut butter brownie while waiting my latest new prescription to be filled at the pharmacy. I did not go to the Kol Nidre service for the first time since I returned to Judaism as an adult; I was so worn out physically and emotionally after yet another trip to the doctor that I was in bed before the service had even started. I did not go to the synagogue today because it hurts to sit on my comfortable sofa let alone a normal chair. It would seem that I already have much to atone for next year, and the Jewish year has just begun.
This last year, I have not been the person I wanted to be. I wanted to be the woman who climbed mountains and slept in remote wildernesses after hauling her pack over a pass. I also wanted to be the woman who handled her pain with grace, cheer, and hope. I was neither.
As the prognosis worsened and degenerative conditions stacked up like vertebrae, I began to feel bleak and then bitter. I haven’t raged at God. I don’t think God burdened me with osteoarthritis, herniated discs, and scoliosis. Instead, I won some kind of genetic lottery coupled with the complete happenstance of my old spinal injury. I don’t believe that God will heal me through my praying hard for a miracle; God isn’t like Santa Clause, bringing neatly wrapped gifts of new spines and the much wished for Red Ryder BB gun.
Yet I find myself bitter and resentful anyway. I alternated between hope and despair with each progressive trek to the doctor until I finally and completely fell to pieces. This undoing was not as a beloved shirt would fall to pieces: slowly being worn thin until translucent and frayed. No, I fell apart more as an earthquake does by the gradual buildup of the forces between two unseen tectonic plates until the strain became too much and the earth groaned and split apart, leaving the scraps of my life fragmented amid the flutters of medical bills to the scarred ground.
I want to blame God as much as I want God to give me that new spine. I resent that I hurt all the time and that I could take one hell of a vacation or pay off so much student-loan debt with the money thrown (and yet to be thrown!) at doctors. I am bitter about the burdens I bear, but I do not want to be bitter. I must come to terms with the pain; I must also hope that the radiofrequency ablation will relieve the pain. I must find gratitude for that relief, though I know it will be transient as it fades out from my life when the burned nerves regenerate and enact their own angry vengeance, perhaps increasingly spiteful as the osteoarthritis worsens. I cannot change it, so I have to learn to live with it.
As Yom Kippur comes to a close, I have tried amid my sadness to atone for wanting to blame God and for falling apart even as I have received so many blessings this year: an empathetic husband, a house that we love, a garden of my own to cultivate and grow our futures in. I have had the support of many friends and family members who have reached out to me or who have prayed for me to be given strength and my spirit soothed.
My sin against God this year for which I must atone is one of ingratitude. I failed to be the person I had wanted to be. This next year, I hope that the treatment alleviates the pain so I can climb those mountains and that I will endure the pain with good cheer when it inevitably returns in 6-12 months.
May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life, and may we all love the life that is inscribed in it.