Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Iyar 5766 - May 10, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Home and Family

I Am Making Shabbos

I am making Shabbos, peeling apples for an apple crumble and some fruit salad. Separating the eggs for some ice-cream, browning the turkey roll for a succulently herby Friday night treat. Oh! I am making Shabbos, changing the medley of raw ingredients in my shopping basket into Shabbos worthy tastes.

It has been such a long time since I last stood here doing my once weekly taken-for-granted chores. Thursday comes and you make Shabbos — what else would you do? Yet Thursday came a few weeks ago and I realized that I just couldn't make it. The chemotherapy I was having just overwhelmed me and then the flu and I SOSed it to my family. Help! I can't make Shabbos.

What a bunch, what nachas, my daughters-in-law and my boys took over. Cooked, cleaned and pampered while I lay in my bed or sat in the rocking chair, watching my boys banter and frolic away as they made my Shabbos for me. Sometimes, I'm sure you've felt it, with eyes half closed and aching back, you've surely thought — "Oh! wouldn't it be nice if someone would just come and take over and let me go to bed!" Sometimes you might even have resented some of the work, some of the chores, as you are rinsing off yet another sinkload of dirty dishes. Yet, yet when you can't do it, when you really can't even peel the first potato, Oh! how you long to be up, fighting time and tiredness to produce a Shabbos. As the minutes drag with unused time, you wonder "What did I use to do ? I never seemed to have enough time. I used to go to bed so late. I used to be so busy. How do I fill a whole day? What shall I do next?

Somehow this chemo-therapy has thrown my whole world out. I stare into space, my body doing stranger things to me by the minute. I am in pain, I am in a tiredness state. Give me myself back, predictable, functional, and useful to mankind in general and my family in particular. Flu and chemotherapy certainly didn't mix but even when the thermometer went back down to a reassuring 98.4 (oh! all right then, 37), my energy resources were still depleted. I didn't have the sitzfleish to read and read. I didn't want to relax and listen to Torah tapes or music. I saved up the dishes and the laundry-folding as a treat to relieve the monotonous boring sameness of my woozy unfunctioning state.

Friends came to chivvy me on. "Go back to writing," "Start doing again."

Finally the chemo finished. I didn't exactly bounce back to health. It was a struggle which was taking far too long.

Yet now I am making Shabbos and I am wondering what lessons I have learned. That life is precious and every second is important, that the ordinary chores of the day-to-day are rare beautiful opportunities. Yet perhaps even more important are the practicalities of how to deal with such a debilitating time. How could I have done it differently, how could I have prevented myself from so completely losing my direction, my focus, myself?

I think it's a matter of pacing. A matter of being realistic about the limitations and being imaginative in the search for a new focus, one that is in the range of possibilities. I tried to fight the physical effects of chemo. To get on with my life as if nothing was unusual. I fought and tried to deny my symptoms. Every time I was forced to 'scale down,' I felt a failure, angry with myself, angry at the chemo.

I should have planned a sort of holiday. Not tried to cope despite it all but instead to play another role. If I had been willing and ready to 'let go,' I would have managed to listen through Torah tape after Torah tape. Perhaps I could have filled photo albums with our scattered disordered boxes of photographs. Perhaps I would have managed to teach myself how to touch-type. Perhaps, at my best moments, I could have read books to my children and grandchildren. Perhaps I could have continued writing.

I needed to accept. I needed to be realistic, not to give up on myself but to choose to play a gentler role. I needed to stop running, take a back seat and fill the wakeful hours I did have things that had meaning, things that were worth waking up for.

After the chemotherapy your hair grows back, your energy returns, it becomes almost, as my surgeon said, like a bad dream. But a bad dream can be a present. It gives you that 'back to square one' perspective.

I am making Shabbos! YIPPEE!!!!!


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