I am running, running, on the racetrack, trying to get to the finish line so I can finally sit down with my feet up, to enjoy the satisfied pleasure of accomplishment. My feet ache, the sun’s rays are burning, and a headache is forming and gaining strength. I wish that my path wasn’t so long—and that the weather be cooler, that I would be stronger, that the headache would wait until I could sink into oblivion on my cozy bed.
Frustrated, yet driven to achieve my goal, I keep going, and going, and going, and going some more . . . and then I trip, slip and findI suddenly land with a thud on a surface deep down under myself tumbling down, down, down into the dirt. Into the dirt?! How can that be? Solid ground is solid ground—my track has no pits, my shoes are not tools able to drill. Without finding answers to my dilemma, I suddenly land with a thud on a surface deep down under.
The darkness is deep and thick; not a bit of sunlight reaches this unfamiliar strange place. Eerie sounds can be heard in the background. The smell is dusty and musty, like an airless cellar that hasn’t been cleaned in years. I gingerly touch the ground beside me; I feel the roughness of pebbles, the scratching of thorns scraping my skin and gritty dirt lodging under my fingernails.
I am terrified; fear fills my head, then my chest, arms, legs, and soon, my entire body is gripped with overwhelming, choking, powerful fright. What will become of me? Will I perish here of hunger and thirst? Will I go insane from lack of stimulation? How could anyone ever find me or help me if I don’t even know where I am—if this is a newly discovered place that does not appear on any Google maps?
I think of the sunlight, the carpet of grass, the joy of moving and progressing, the company of other kindred souls; will I never have those pleasures again!? I didn’t even know they were pleasurable, just as I didn’t know it was possible for the ground to betray me and deposit me in this forsaken location.
“I can’t! I can’t!” I scream. “I can’t deal with this! Is anyone there? Can someone hear me? Did anyone else fall down with me? Is there any way up and out?” I scream and scream like a madwoman until my voice is hoarse.
A madwoman? I am gripped with a panic that seizes me tightly in its deadly embrace; I can’t breathe. “You’re going crazy!” pronounces the panic in a chilling whisper. Crazy? No! No! Anything but this! I am normal, you see. I am not “one of those” who have issues or missing screws. I am a productive member of society, a good person who tries her best. I don’t deserve this shame, this pain, this . . . this . . . I don’t even know what to call this environment, this experience; I never saw a word in the dictionary describing such a thing. What will everyone say? What will everyone think? Will anyone want to marry my children? “Stop it!” I shout at the panic. “Go away and leave me alone!”
Slowly, the panic subsides, but in its stead comes sadness. I cry and cry from the depths of my heart, and when the tear supply is used up, I sit spent, drained, with a heavy sadness filling my heart and mind.
Think! Think! Maybe there is something to do about this. My mind is fuzzy, and amid the fuzz I find a rational thought—my cell phone is in my pocket! Cautiously, praying that there is service here, I call my husband, and he answers. The sadness inside does not allow me to feel joy at the ability to communicate with the outside world, at the hope of freedom in the future. But I manage to say, woodenly: “Jack, I am stuck! I fell into a deep hole, not sure where or how. Please try to find and rescue me. There is no food or light here, and I really want to come home!”
A silent pause. Then he responds with a confused edge to his voice, “Judy, I’m not sure what you referring to . . . I see you through the kitchen window, picking up the garbage the kids left on the lawn. Um, maybe you are very tired and should go rest in bed? Did you eat anything today? Maybe you should eat a nutritious meal so you’ll feel better . . . ”
“Are you crazy?!” I yell back. “Maybe you are hallucinating! I am not in our yard; I can’t be in two places at once! Meanwhile, I need you to feed the kids something for supper and make sure they end up in their beds. You also need to go shopping because by tomorrow there will hardly be any food left. If you don’t do the laundry tonight, then everyone will have to wear smelly clothing from the hamper, and their teachers will think they come from a dysfunctional home.”
This time, Jack raises his voice slightly, and speaks slowly like to an old man who is hard of hearing. “Maybe you forgot that I don’t know how to cook or do laundry, and can only manage shopping if you make a very detailed list. If the kids are hungry, they know where to find cereal and milk, and when they are tired enough, they’ll fall asleep. Don’t worry so much!”
Frustrated and hopeless, I begin to cry again. “Don’t you care about me and our children? I’m your wife, remember? Can’t you at least do what I explicitly asked for?”
“Judy, it seems we are speaking different languages. I’m not sure what you are trying to say. Can we continue this conversation later? I have a phone call to make. If you still need help later with the laundry or shopping, then give me detailed instructions and I’ll try to help out.”
I sit stunned, tempted to call back but afraid to hear more of the same. What’s going on? Does he love me? Is he normal? Maybe I am crazy.
I dial my mother’s number. “Ma, the strangest thing happened to me. I fell suddenly into a deep pit and have no idea how to get out. ICrawl out of this tunnel? How? called Jack, and he says he sees me in the yard, but I know this forsaken place is not my yard! He said I am not speaking the same language as him! Maybe you can organize a search party and try to find and rescue me?”
“Oy, I’m sorry to hear that, honey. I fell into such a pit years ago, after Susan was born. It’s actually a tunnel with openings in both directions. It’s tough, but try some deep breathing exercises to relax and energize yourself. The roof is too low to stand up in, so crawl slowly in a straight line, and eventually, you find your way out. Within a few months, you’ll be back home, and hopefully, you won’t fall in again. Don’t be concerned about your children; they’ll survive one way or another, just like mine did.”
I hang up, my thoughts racing in so many directions. What is my mother saying? Crawl out of this tunnel? How? Does she really get what is happening? Does anybody?
My fingers mindlessly dig through the dirt; I am way past caring how dirty I am, way past caring about anything at all. Absently, I find myself holding a hard metal object. I rub away the dirt to determine what it is and find a gold coin, stamped with the words “HUMILITY” on it. I guess I have no choice but to be humble when I’m so low down. A thread of sanity compels me to put the coin in my pocket, and I whisper: “If I’m here anyway, it can’t hurt to pocket a valuable item. Maybe one day if I ever get out of here, it will be helpful.”
I ponder my situation in a vain attempt to make sense of the senseless. I finger the coin in my pocket, and it brings a touch of calm to my empty heart. Yes, empty. I never knew that within me is a core—an emotional foundation around which all else is built, from which everything I am and do draws strength. And now, in its absence, I appreciate and oh-so-desperately crave it.
At the thought of how messed up I am, my spirits plummet again, and the anxiety monster grips my chest in a suffocating squeeze. Vaguely, I hear a familiar beep. My cell phone. A new text message. Someone cares enough to connect with me.
I look at the screen and see a message from my husband. Judy, I did some research and found a therapist with great references who might be able to help you. I will ask her to visit you to get started. Good Luck.
I swallow the lump in my throat and text back. OK. Thanks for arranging. Will try my best and keep you posted. Then the tears come. Me? I need a therapist to help me be normal and functioning again?
Help! I can’t deal with this, this . . . I don’t know what to call it, but whatever it is, I can’t deal with it! “Oh, G‑d! My Father in Heaven! You created me; you created all the billions of people, the trillions of creatures, plants and everything else. Only You have real power, see what happened to the power I thought I had! I don’t know why You gave me this unbearable affliction, this impossible test, but there surely was a good reason that I don’t know. And surely you can take me out of this dungeon! Oh please G‑d, I know you love me, and I love You, too. You’ve given me everything from the moment I was born, and even now, whatever I do still have is from you! Please, free me! Save me! Heal me! Help me get out of here!”
Spent, I lapse into silence. An expression floats through my mind—one I heard many lifetimes ago, and only now do I begin to understand. There is nothing more complete than a broken heart.
Suddenly, something hard hits my shoulder and bounces to the floor. What’s going on, are there acorn trees in this hole-in-the-ground? I look around and see a brilliant sparkle, so incongruous on the bare brown dirt. I lift the object, and to my surprise, it’s a diamond. Engraved on its surface are the words: “Connection to your Creator.”
The minutes pass slowly. Before long, I see a woman approaching me. She doesn’t look like she fell here in the way I did; she appears poised and confident.
“Hi,” she begins softly. “I am so sorry to hear that you are stuck in such a painful unpleasant situation. I have helped many people in your situation before; this type of fall is not as uncommon as you might think.” She pauses, apparently waiting for a response.
“Sounds good,” I venture hesitantly. “But how exactly can you get me out of here?”
“I have a toolbox”, she responds, “with many tools that you can learn to use in order to climb out of here. But it will take commitment on your part, and I cannot guarantee how long the process will take. Are you interested in working hard together with me?”
“Yes.” I respond simply. “Yes, I am.”
“Way to go, Judy! With an attitude like this, you can do it! You are amazing!”
And so the journey begins.
It takes many moments, hours, days and weeks. complete with setbacks, growing pains and lots of patience. But slowly, I climb higher and higher, towards the light at the end of the tunnel.
Suddenly, I am back in the fresh air! I look at the carpetSuddenly, I am running of soft green grass and breathe in the delicious, nourishing air. I test my legs; to my delight, they’re in working order. I break into a run, and suddenly I am running, running on the racetrack, and then the thought hits me like a thunderbolt: It is the energy, the running, the moving towards a goal that is in and of itself the greatest pleasure in the world.
“Master of the Universe,” I whisper. “Thank You for releasing me from bondage, for bringing me back to the joys, pleasures and pains of a healthy growing life! Please help me always to be able to connect to You, to my family and to my inner world from this place of clarity I have reached.”
In the warmth of the sun, I feel G‑d hugging me tight. So I go inside to pass on the hugs to my beloved family, who has been looking forward to my return.
Thank you to chabad.org