Lonely House of Truth: Part V—Confronting Thoughts

Illustration by Rebecca Shapiro

Illustration by Rebecca Shapiro

Anonymous

Shalva awoke to a faint beeping. She glanced at her wrist to check the time. 6:15. Must be Danny’s alarm she was hearing. 

“Sorry for waking you, honey. I guess I didn’t hit the button fast enough. I’m really sorry.” Danny had already stood up and was pulling on his tzitzit.

“That’s ok. Sometimes I hear it and sometimes I don’t. Anything exciting happening today?” Shalva asked to keep the conversation going.

“We have lunch with one of those important clients who demands that we come and waste a few hours of our time, but the food should be good. Do you have anything besides your usual hectic day?”

“I’m meeting Shoshi for a quick coffee break before I head into work,” Shalva tried to keep her voice calm, but inside her heart was racing.

“That’s great. You deserve more than just a little break, but I’m glad you are taking some time for yourself.” By now Danny had finished getting dressed and headed to the bedroom door. “Have a nice day, Shalva," he grinned like the old Danny—the one Shalva missed these days.

“You too, Danny,” she responded as she smiled back.

After the door closed, she lay her head back down. Why did this have to be so confusing? Sometimes Danny could be sweetness and light, and other times—most of the time, these days—she dreaded him walking through the door. Maybe speaking with Shoshi this morning would help. They could come up with a plan or an idea or…something. Anything to make her feel like she had some option she hadn’t thought of already.

Between the hectic morning preparation of lunches, breakfasts, and bookbags (and shoes!), Shalva had squeezed out a moment to ask Shoshi where they should meet. So, after their carpools, Shalva and Shoshi sat opposite each other, sipping their comfort drinks. “Where do we start?” asked Shoshi with a big grin.

“And where are we going?” Shalva responded, partially joking and partially desperately afraid.

“Where do you want to go?” asked Shoshi, suddenly serious.

“I want to go back to the time where Danny and I were all smiles and happiness, and everything seemed like it would be great forever. To the place where I didn’t cringe at every wedding, wondering when their happily ever after would become a nightmare. I want to go back to that innocence and have it be the truth, not a fairytale. I want to be a happy family where things really are as good as they are in a family picture. Everyone all happy to be together. Looking like loving each other is the safest place in the world,” Shalva felt her heart ache, as tears stung her eyes.

“That would be great, but we aren’t getting a redo.”

“I know, and I hate it. I didn’t want this life for my kids. I can’t protect them or save them. I brought them into this, which pains me even more. I feel so trapped.”

“You do have choices.”

“Radical acceptance or divorce don’t seem like great choices to me,” answered Shalva with a sigh.

“Deciding to just accept and not fight the situation can help you free your emotions from this constant tug of war of trying to make things better. Divorce does come with its own challenges. There is no easy out when you are in a marriage with children," responded Shoshi.  

“I am just trying to live a happy life, in spite of everything."

“You are doing a great job. And so am I,” Shoshi smiled and lifted up her hand to high five Shalva, and Shalva high fived her back.

“Why do you stay? Is that too personal?”

“Not too personal. I also feel stuck, but I decided that choosing to stay is an active decision, not hanging in midair while I decide to take a position. I am actively staying and trying to build a good life for myself and my kids. And for Chaim. Chaim gets help sometimes, and sometimes he doesn’t. But I put firm boundaries down that keep my sanity in place. Sometimes I get angry, and I just accept my humanity. I have to keep things real for myself,” Shoshi paused.

Shalva picked up the conversation, “I feel so weighed down by dealing with the bills, taxes, tuition…it just feels like it crushes me. I try to handle it and encourage myself, but it is not enough. I feel so alone. Do you see this bracelet? It just looks like silver beads, but it is actually a secret message in Morse code. It says ‘I am enough’, so no matter where I am, if I need a pick me up, I can remember. I can’t do everything and be both a mom and a dad. But I am doing the best I can at that moment, even when my best falls short.”

“OK, one second, that bracelet is so awesome! Can you tell me where you got it?”

“Sure, I can send you the link,” glancing down at her watch, Shalva continued, "but I think I better get out of here and get to work. I’m already going to be late. Thanks so much for suggesting we get together.”

“Just the beginning, I hope. I think we have a lot more to discuss and learn from each other. Do you ever write down what you feel? I find that things come out in my writing which I didn’t expect, and it gives me clarity.”

“I don’t write that much, but I’ll give it a try. At this point, I would try anything, I think.” Shalva and Shoshi reached out to hug each other at the same time. Laughing, they gathered up their bags and headed to their cars. As Shalva drove to work, she thought about writing. She wondered if it would help. 

Shalva moved through the day, pondering over the writing idea. Not sure why she was drawn to it, she finally sat down in front of the computer. She thought of a poetry slam she had seen. She had admired the choppy structure and its ability to cut to the emotions.  Maybe that would inspire her. She found the link and watched it again. And then began.

I kept dozing off

Hoping 

to be left alone

but 

I know from the past

That there is 

No

no hope of escape from my thoughts

no matter

how tired 

Am

no matter the pain

or accomplishments of the day

Enough is never truthful

 

I still have to carry 

This relationship

This family

and

I will still owe

a piece

of my sanity

To my tortured “what if” thoughts

 

During those times

I reflect on the slave girls weary from 

long days of unrelenting work

they would be plucked

out of their beds

to be someone's muse

Voiceless

Am I just a slave of

laundry 

cooking 

finances 

Shabbat  

silently

wanting to be heard

and not just seen as a provider 

without equity

resenting

the unstoppable

inevitable

silent

heartbreaking

destruction of safety and trust

 

Shalva stared at the words that appeared before her. Not realizing that she was holding her breath as she reread her own torrent of emotions, she finally exhaled forcefully. She blinked a few times to try to clear her thoughts. What was all of this that had just flown out of her like a bird being let out of its cage for the first time? Her phone rang, with Danny’s name flashing on the screen, catching her off-guard.  She waited a moment and then picked up.

“Hi,” she said hesitantly.

“Tzvi can’t learn tonight, so I can come home early. Do you have time to hang out for a little while?” Danny asked eagerly.

“OK, sure.”

“See you soon!”

“Bye,” Shalva responded. She hung up and closed her document before signing off. So confused by writing, and drained by the emotion that sprang forth, she waited for Danny to come home.  

To be continued…


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Rochel Lazar