Worse Before Better?

Last year I wrote the following for another blog (unfortunately, not accessible at this time):

Even Our "Temporary" Home is Different
וְשָׂמַחְתָּ בְּחַגֶּךָ... וְהָיִיתָ אַךְ שָׂמֵחַ
And you shall rejoice in your Festival...and you will only be happy
(Devarim 16: 14-15)
The first year after a loss is impossibly hard.  Every annual milestone passes and you feel the loss anew. I am trying to find a way to ease the pain for myself and my children. We honor the memory of their father and spend time thinking of years past, our traditions, and stories.  I am extremely focused on keeping his memory alive for the triplets.
Barry’s birthday has just passed. We made “The First Annual Barry Shuter Commemorative Birthday Party.” I baked a confetti cake, his favorite, and we read stories that friends from around the world had shared online.  We have a website, http://www.shuterfamilytrust.org, where people who knew Barry or have been touched by our struggle can contribute thoughts and anecdotes to help the kids get a glimpse of their father beyond the overprotective, loving parent they knew for too short a time.
Rosh Hashana  and Yom Kippur were so painful for me, remembering last year, when we davened so hard, literally begging for Barry’s life. Since those days are the amongst the most somber in the year, the bleakness in my heart didn’t really feel beyond the scope of the holiday. 
Now we are on the eve of Sukkot and I am stymied by my own mourning and find myself unable to fulfill my self-declared goal of keeping traditions.  I just cannot do it. 
Ever since I was a young child, my family has had a tradition to purchase decorations for the Succah as souvenirs from our vacations.  Each year we lovingly unwrapped each item, remembering the trip on which we bought it, sharing memories.  Decorating the Succah went way beyond paper chains and mylar florets.  We had bells from Acco, a lighthouse from Maine, a blow fish in a sombrero from Florida.
Barry and I incorporated this tradition into our own vacations and our Succah overflowed with wind-chimes, ornaments, and sun-catchers from our travels.  Once the triplets were born we were overjoyed to add the handmade Bruchim HaBaim signs (x3!) and other school made decorations. In the last few years, each meal included games of “I Spy” where the decorations were the stars and we tried to challenge each other with outlandish descriptions for the beloved items.
Our Succah decoration box was the first we officially packed for our Aliyah.  We made the decision to make Aliyah in October of last year, so we packed up the box knowing it would be opened next in Eretz Yisrael.  But it is not being opened this year.  I just can’t bear to be overwhelmed with the memories. In the past year our house, home and family has changed so drastically, there is a part of me that needs our Succah, our temporary house,  to reflect that change.  I think I will be able to pull out the old decorations again in the years to come. I sincerely hope so, but just not yet. 
The triplets don’t seem to mind, they are currently making a paper chain that will certainly circle the Succah numerous times.  We bought some mylar florets. The Succah is pretty, but to me, it is not really our Succah.
יד. וְשָׂמַחְתָּ בְּחַגֶּךָ אַתָּה וּבִנְךָ וּבִתֶּךָ וְעַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתֶךָ וְהַלֵּוִי וְהַגֵּר וְהַיָּתוֹם וְהָאַלְמָנָה אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ
טו. שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תָּחֹג לַי־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בַּמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְ־הֹוָ־ה כִּי יְבָרֶכְךָ יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכֹל תְּבוּאָתְךָ וּבְכֹל מַעֲשֵׂה יָדֶיךָ וְהָיִיתָ אַךְ שָׂמֵחַ
14. And you shall rejoice in your Festival-you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, who are within your cities. 15. Seven days you shall celebrate the Festival to the Lord, your God, in the place which the Lord shall choose, because the Lord, your God, will bless you in all your produce, and in all the work of your hands, and you will only be happy
In Sefer Devarim (Deuteronomy), when the Jews are commanded to keep the festival of Succot, the widow and the orphan are specifically mentioned to be included in the rejoicing. Our new community, Neve Daniel, has gone above and beyond this obligation.  We are not eating a single Chag meal at home and the triplets have already been regaled with tales of Succah hopping and candy collecting.  We are all honestly anticipating the Chag.   
In the passage in the Torah, Hashem promises “and you will only be happy.” My wish for my children, as we enter this period of supreme happiness of the Jewish people, is  that even though our happiness is tinged with bittersweet, we will continue to heal and the bitter will soon be completely overwhelmed by the sweet.  One day, may we “only be happy,” once again, in our Succah.   
Somehow, together with friends and family, I think we will find our way.   

So much hope. So much belief that it will get better.

In some ways, it has.

But honestly, and this is so brutal, in most ways it has gotten worse.

I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and the Trips have watched me suffer pain, days in bed, and frustration on the highest levels with my own limitations.

My great (project-based) job is in between projects and has been since Summer started.

The funding for our grief counseling has been cut and we are scrambling to restructure so that we all get the help we still so desperately need in some form.

We have moved into a charming, but tiny, 2 bedroom apartment. I wish I could say it has brought us closer and we are rising to challenge of the close living quarters.  Really, we just fight more.  Any mess feels claustrophobic to me and three eight year olds and two dogs can make quite a mess. I desperately want to buy us a permanent, stable home.  However, there is just no way I can afford it.

This year we are not building a Succah. Our real home feels so fragile, I just can't bear the thought of exposing yourself to anything more destructible.


Sharon A said...

Impossible to comment, but wish you well and a better year ahead!

Anonymous said...

We have a hard time seeing beyond what we are currently suffering through whether it be loss of dear one, illness, financial struggle...the list goes on. Surrounding yourself with positive influences and in a loving environment doesn't always ease the pain, but will be there when the pieces fall apart and you're too weary to put them back together again. My wish for you this year is that you begin to see happier, healthier days. xoxo

Dani Gottlieb said...

You are opening the box this year, maybe not in your own succah, but in a succah that is the whole family's. One giant pool of happy memories. Aunt Amy, three more words.


Though the battle may be long, the spoils are greater than the effort needed to achieve them. we all love you :)


Anonymous said...

Thinking of you all.

Batya said...

refuah shleimah
Obviously your stress and emotional pain have cost you your own health. G-d willing you'll recover.

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