My three-year-old is a happy little girl. She jumps, sings, laughs and plays. She thinks she is very big and is constantly reminding me that three is very old. She tries to prove this to me by buttoning her own buttons, helping me in the kitchen and setting the Shabbos table all by herself. But she knows that when she needs me, I am here for her. Her mother and her home are her secure little world. If she is sad or hurt, she knows that I am there to hug her and make her feel better. If she needs a bath or food, she knows that I will take care of her physical needs. As she cuddles under her blanket at night in her cozy pajamas, she is content. She is going to sleep after a happy day knowing that tomorrow will bring more exciting adventures. She barely stirs when I go in late at night to check on her, but I like to imagine that as I kiss her on the cheek, she feels my love pouring into her. Her little world is perfect. I once had a perfect little world like that. It was safe and dependable. My parents took care of all my needs. I knew they were there for me. My days flowed in a peaceful monotony. There was school and home. There was supper and homework. There were weekends and Yomim Tovim. And each night I went to sleep knowing that my little world was a safe place for me. And then came the day when I was older and ready to start my own home. Full of confidence and excitement, I exchanged my small, comfortable world for the unknown world of marriage together with my husband. I felt ready to navigate the roads of life on my own. I was ready to create a safe haven for myself, my husband and my children. And so I left my parents’ home to start living this new and exciting life. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to learn that my husband had a mental illness. And it didn’t take long for the walls of my little world to start crumbling.
With the destruction of each wall, I was left feeling so afraid and vulnerable. I got a glimpse into a much larger world—a world that I hadn’t known about before, and that I didn’t want to know about now. Divorce was not an option for me, so I attempted with all my might to rebuild the crumbling walls. I spoke to my teachers, I sought guidance from rabbanim, and I also tried to work on myself. After all, I knew that there is no suffering without a reason. Hashem obviously wanted something from me. So as I struggled through my challenges, climbed the mountains that seemed insurmountable, staggered across the rough terrain and crawled through winding tunnels, I knew I was becoming a better person. I felt good about the positive changes I had achieved. I understood that they only came about because of the difficult tests I had been given. But I still wished that I could will them away and reenter my safe haven. I learned over and over again that I was powerless over my husband’s choices. Although I didn’t have to stand idly by as he hurt himself and me, the only thing I really could do for him was to daven. And so I did. I tried so hard to keep the remaining walls of my little world intact, but I wasn’t strong enough, and soon they had all crumbled away. I tried my best to stop it from happening, but it was out of my control. I was still determined to continue trying to navigate the rocky roads and to climb the insurmountable mountains. And I did. Time and time again. But now I feel so tired and worn out. The momentum to keep on going is quickly dissipating. Sometimes I just want to give up and admit defeat. When I feel this way, I envision taking my daughter and dropping her off in a different neighborhood.
I imagine waving good-bye to her and telling her she is on her own. The walls of her secure little world would be no more. What would she do? How would she find her way back home? Who would be there for her when she cried over a scraped knee? Who would give her food when she was hungry? Who would wash her sticky hands and face? Who would love her? How would she survive? The vision is so horrible. Even the most coldhearted adult would shudder at the thought of an innocent little girl with bouncy curls being abandoned like that. But I feel like that has been done to me. I have the fears of an abandoned little girl. I don’t know in which direction to go anymore. I don’t know where to turn. I am part of a big world full of people, but I am so alone. I am exposed to all the elements, and I have nowhere to hide. I feel like I am climbing a mountain, but I keep slipping down. The roads are rough, and I can’t navigate them anymore. I enter a twisting tunnel and can’t find my way out. Just as my little girl would surely feel if I ever carried out that ghastly vision, I have so much fear and so much pain. But of course, I would never do that to my three-year-old daughter. I would never abandon her, because I love her so much. I just want to be able to continue pouring my love into her. I want to keep on taking care of her and protecting her in the sheltered walls of her little world. Am I not Hashem’s child? Doesn’t He want the same for me? Do I think that He has forsaken me and left me to fend for myself? Do I think He broke down the walls of my house, handed me my challenges and abandoned me? Do I think He expects me to climb towering mountains and navigate the rough spots of life without His help? No. I don’t believe that at all. I know He is here for me. I know that He sees my suffering. And I know that He is there, behind the scenes, taking care of me. But for now, though I continue to feel so alone, so full of pain and sadness, I hope to feel better tomorrow. Because even amid the loneliness, the suffering and the pain, I know I can achieve serenity. After all, Hashem is taking care of me, His beloved little girl. Like I do for my own daughter, He pours His love into me during the dark night so that I, too, can feel safe and secure in my little world, which is somehow perfect for me.