Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Leaving Egypt


By Tzvi Freeman

This world was not created for some apocalyptic finale; its magnificence was not formed to dissipate into ionized gas. Each thing was formed for the glory of its Maker who stands forever.

Only the darkness must wind itself to its end, and it must be robbed of the treasures it holds. For the most precious things of this world are held in darkness.
By Tzvi Freeman
From the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, of righteous memory; rendered by Tzvi Freeman.

The last few days as I recover from this last round of Taxatere and Decadron, I find myself yet again awakening to just how insidious depression can be. Thankfully, I have been down this road before and have been prepared to expect it. So I catch myself when my mind starts turning that way and can say to myself, "Oh, wow, that's depression" - instead of letting it take me where it wants me to agree: "yeah, isn't my life awful".

So most times, before it gets to "poor me", I can let the depression fall away by not giving it anyone to listen to its sorry ways of thinking. This is crucial to my health and future because if I instead allow myself to sink into wherever the depressive thoughts want to take me, I end up with feelings of defeat, hopelessness and wanting to give up. And I don't want to be defeated. I want to live and I do feel more sure everyday since diagnosed that I will live for a long time, done with this chapter of my life.

So I have learned to catch my thoughts and watch how they go down that road and how easy it is to get lost in that and make it worse and worse. I feel so lucky that I can see depression for what it is and stay outside of it somewhat. The "treasure" of experiencing this "darkness" so many times during my treatment is that I have developed so much more compassion for people who can't get out of depression no matter what medication they try.

One of the things I've been doing to keep my mind on more positive things is to do some learning online with the Chabad audio-classes on Passover. Pesach is such an amazing, rich, symbolic, healing and enriching holiday. But you'd never know it unless you actually learn something about it's inner symbolism from the Hasidic perspective.

One thing that struck me as a new insight from my studies this week was the idea of freeing ourselves from those things that we think are so great but really end up enslaving us. Like Pharoah. He was like a god, had all the money, power, influence, and the food we needed when we were starving in the Holy Land. So we went there and ended up enslaved to him.

So I started wondering what I am enslaved to this year...what do I think will bring me what I want that isn't really going to and instead doesn't amount to anything substantial? What do I think is eternal but is only fleeting? I was able to name two of these things last night and noticed that my thinking they were substantial led me down the depression road. One was the birthday cake I really wanted to eat and the other was my bald head that I didn't want Jason's friends to have to be confronted by. Addiction to sugar and vanity are two things that enslave me every time.

A friend wrote me an email today congratulating me on Jason's birthday (he's 15 today) and thanking me for being there for her in the past. I was so grateful to have gotten that email because it was the answer I was looking for to another question. If addictions and money and fame and sugar and vanity and many other things enslave us and are not real, then what is real and eternal?

My son, Jason is not eternal. But the fact of his life and who he is and the impact he's made on the world is definitely eternal. I am so proud to be his mom and so proud to be Aimee's mom. How I raise my children and treat them and how I treat my own parents and friends...all that creates eternal treasures that are meaningful forever. My friend's thanking me for helping her was an eternally meaningful moment for me that did help me prepare myself for going out of Egypt this Passover.

If any of you want to explore those audios, go to http://www.chabadbythesea.com/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/257152/jewish/Passover-Audio-Classes.htm
There are "tidbits" a couple of minutes long and "insights" that are an hour or so. My recommendation for a tidbit: "Going Out of Egypt Daily" by Moshe New - it's only a couple of minutes long: http://www.chabadbythesea.com/multimedia/media_cdo/aid/368439/jewish/Leaving-Egypt-Daily.htm And if you want a longer one, "Passover Night and Kabbalah" by Shlomo Yaffe - this was so excellent!!! http://www.chabadbythesea.com/multimedia/media_cdo/aid/486417/jewish/Passover-Night-and-Kabbalah.htm Play the audio and then play solitaire.

I hope you have a kosher Pesach and enjoy your seder and find your own way out of Egypt this year and every day of your life. I can't wait to taste my first matzo!!!