Surrender is something I always want to be good at, but really struggle with. A great example is anesthesia.
When I was 15 years old, I had to have my wisdom teeth extracted in a surgery. For this, they had to put me under and when I woke up, I heard the WORST language being yelled. We’re talking every nasty word in the book. As I began to regain consciousness, I realized that there were a few odd things worth noticing.
- I was strapped down pretty tightly to the gurney.
- The cussing was actually coming from me!
My mother, who really showed some good judgment here and deserves commending, was sitting next to me and simply turned and said, “Are you feeling all right, sweetie?”
So, it turns out that I’m not alone in this, but some people fight falling asleep to anesthesia SO strongly that they wake up fighting. Apparently I wake up cussing and trying to throw punches before my brain finally begins to boot up and takes over, returning me to the normally peaceful person I try to be. I have to remember to tell anesthesiologists about this before any surgeries so that they can plan accordingly. They’ve reassured me that it’s not uncommon and they just strap me down once I’m out and give me a little extra medicine so that I come out of anesthesia more slowly, giving my brain more time to come back to itself.
Some of us just have a personality that makes it harder to let go.
This serves me well when a situation comes along that requires grit or determination. At work, I can push past frustration or obstacles to great accomplishments. In our conversion process, it’s what helped get me through each twist and turn and just keep going. It’s the stuff that makes me not give up when things are hard and helps me be loyal and dedicated.
Like any trait, though, it has a flip side that isn’t always good or helpful.
This trait makes it hard for me to relax, to let go, and surrender control to others. I have to work to delegate tasks to others. I have a hard time leaving work at work or leaving worries in the daytime and I find myself waking up at night going over some problem in my head, whether it’s a situation with my kids or a technical puzzle at work. The most difficult part, though, is letting go of what isn’t mine to carry when it comes to my relationship with Hashem.
I daven like crazy asking for help with situations like my husband’s health, but do I ever really surrender? Do I fully trust and let go of worrying? This week has taught me that, no, I tend to hold on tightly even as I’m asking Hashem to take this from me. On the one hand, I’m begging him to take over, but on the other, I’m holding on with every ounce of strength I have. I hold on because I’m afraid and because my ego whispers to me that I have to hold on or else bad things will happen.
Since my husband’s heart surgery, I have tried all kinds of things to help him. I’ve carefully cooked meal after meal of the perfect heart-healthy diet…only to find the leftovers in the fridge gone bad and the wrappers from pretzel rolls in the trash. I’ve tried to get him to exercise, only to find him putting off workouts week after week. In short, I’ve tried to control him because the thought of going through another surgery or worse (Chas v’shalom, heaven forbid), losing him scares me just that much.
I also haven’t been much fun to be around. Who likes sharing a meal with someone who is hyper-vigilant about what you’re eating? Who feels like working out when you have your own in-house critic counting your miles?
My husband has something akin to an addiction when it comes to food, an eating disorder and I’ve been like the wife trying to take the bottle away, always trying to fix the alcoholic. It’s been just as useless.
This past week with our trip to the ER and all the tears I’ve cried has been a big, glaring reminder that my work remains in learning how to better surrender to Hashem. I need to learn how to love and support my husband without trying to fix him, even if it means watching him continue to struggle with this. This is between him and Hashem and I need to let it be between them and focus on davening about it, but then letting it go. I have to love my husband as he is and where he is now…even if that means I could lose him.
That’s a huge challenge that makes conversion seem so easy by comparison.
I look to Torah and Tanya to see where to begin. I look to my Rabbis and Rebbetzins for advice and inspiration, but just like it was up to me to do the studying to learn halakha for conversion, the work here is all mine to do, one day at a time and it’s so much tied in with what we learn about the nature of relationships as well as our relationship with Hashem.
How do I love someone or something so much that the mere thought of being cut off from it is painful and frightening, yet not grab onto it and try to control it? How do I let go and trust Hashem even in this, that somehow, everything will be good even if I lose what I love most? That what I love…isn’t really mine anyway, but His and always has been His to give or to take away, for my own good?
I remember sitting by my husband’s bedside in the cardiac ICU. There were tubes and machines all around him. He’s a big man, but he looked small in that room, surrounded by all that equipment keeping him alive. I held his hand and cried, happy he was alive, but suddenly so aware of how he was so fragile despite being so much bigger than me and stronger than me. I was acutely aware of how precious he is to me, how much my life revolves around him. Do I make my husband into an idol sometimes, looking to him as my rock and security when I should be looking past him to Hashem? Do I sometimes confuse where my protection and provision really flow from, in my own nearsighted way not seeing past my husband to the real source for both of us?
Does my ego even go so far as to think I can keep my husband alive, that I have that kind of power where only Hashem does?
I’m certain there are so many lessons for me here, so many ways Hashem is trying to talk to me, but I’ve been like a stubborn child with my hands over my ears, shaking my head…just not wanting to let go of this man I love so much, holding him tightly like a rag doll, refusing to listen to anything else because I’m afraid that he’s going to be taken away.
Perhaps, if I slow down and listen…Hashem won’t need to in order for me to learn.