Chronicles of a Grant Writer in the Time of Social Distancing — Week 20

July 27

This morning, in the midst of preparing breakfast, I misplaced a half stick of butter. I was sure I had taken it out of the fridge, but couldn’t find it anywhere. After a few minutes of looking, I gave up and pulled another one out of the fridge.

The mystery was solved today when I picked my son up from camp. As he was getting in the car, his counselor called out, “Did you tell your mom what you found in your lunch today?” Yep, the missing stick of butter was in his lunch box. Apparently, it was the talk of lunch, and resulted in some good natured teasing in which my son was called “butter boy.” The whole scenario made him laugh hysterically, and also gave me a good laugh. Unfortunately the stick, now mostly melted, was still in his lunch box when I opened it at home.

Clearly, I am distracted. And I’m not alone. This evening, my husband took my son an hour early to his little league game because we had the time mixed up. An hour early is definitely better than an hour late, but on a hot day, it’s really not a great scenario. Fortunately, they had chilled drinks to keep them cool, and my son, who is easy going, wasn’t upset about the mix-up. However, my husband and I are both finding it increasingly frustrating to manage everything.

On the other hand, these sorts of forgetfulness are just part of living a busy life, with or without a pandemic. It’s good that we are still able to laugh at ourselves. As the saying goes, this should be the worst of our problems. 

July 29

We are drawing toward the close of the hottest month of summer, and it is the eve of Judaism’s saddest day, a fast day known as Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’Av commemorates many tragedies in Jewish history, including the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. Over the centuries, many prayers for this day have been composed to commemorate historical atrocities, including the Holocaust, and the tragedy of all these times is condensed into this one day of sadness.

I began this week tired and stressed out by work and other responsibilities, and also shaded with a sense of dread about Tisha B’Av, which is truly a miserable fast day — 25 hours of no food or drink during the hottest part of the year. In contrast with Yom Kippur, which is uplifting, Tisha B’Av is depressing.

In spite of all this negative feeling, I come into this time with a bit of relief and happiness. Yesterday my daughter’s leg brace came off, and for the first time in two months, she was able to walk up and down stairs today. So, while I dread the fast and the obligation to dwell on sadness, I am buoyed by good news within my family.

Isn’t this the essence of life itself, pandemic or not? While we all go through times that are purely happy or unhappy, most of our days are some combination of the good and the bad. Life can be pretty great in general, and in spite of that you can have an awful day. On the other hand, you can be wrenched with feelings about others’ suffering, and still celebrate events or moments that are personally good. We are all tied up with others, and feel each other’s pain. By necessity, we compartmentalize the negativity so that we can enjoy life. We don’t turn our back on others, but learn that we are not obligated to be constantly sad, fearful, or depressed.

On the other hand, the day of Tisha B’Av is a reminder that it’s important sometimes to stop and reflect on the sadness and all that is not right with the world. In these particularly trying times, when there is so much negativity and strife, I will focus my prayers and lamentations on the senseless divisions I see in our society, with hopes of helping things become better. To transcend these times of difficulty, sometimes we have to marinate a bit — just one day — in the negative feelings.

So, I enter this depressing day with the fortification of more positive developments for my family, and with hopes of general healing for my community, my religious homeland, the nation of my birth, and our troubled world.


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Susan Jablow, Free-lance Writer

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