Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ups and Downs

Lately, it feels like life is one big obstacle course. Everywhere I turn there is another obstacle in my way, and as soon as I gather the strength to approach with full force and I manage to conquer one challenge, it seems that within the blink of an eye another obstacle is in my way, and this time it is even bigger. The truth is that this feeling that life is a constant challenge isn’t something I’ve only felt recently, that’s just how life is, despite the fact that we seem to be born with the misconception that life should just be smooth sailing. Having said that, however, I can think of times when my life was just happy and good and didn’t feel like a constant struggle, and some of those times weren’t that long ago at all. This summer, though, has been filled with an unusual share of bad days and consequently, bad moods. I find it so appropriate and applicable to my life that we started adding Tehillim 27 in Elul, which mentions “Yom Ra’ah,” a bad day.

Do you want to know the best part of having bad mood? (Yup, I did just say the best part, there is actually something good about it.) It’s what comes after the bad mood- the super good mood. Maybe this is just me, but often when I’m in a really bad mood it seems like the world is going to end and there’s no way out, like being trapped in an elevator. Just for a second it feels like it’s never going to get better, no matter how much I remind myself that life moves on. But once the bad mood fades, (and even though sometimes it takes forever, it always does go away) it’s amazing! All the sudden things seem wonderful again. The feeling of working through a problem, over overcoming a difficulty, is one of the most uplifting feelings. When a difficult situation is turned around, whether because I worked hard to do that, or if it magically works out on its own, the result is an emotional high that is unbelievable.

The interesting thing is that the deeper the bad mood, the lower the low point, the more intense the good mood is and the higher the high point is. I think it’s because the spiritual world and the physical world are complete opposites. Picture a roller coaster, for example. It needs to go very high up in order to come crashing down. The higher the roller coaster goes, the more drastic the drop is. Or even just think about gravity. The higher you lift something up, the longer a fall it will be. Bad moods are just the opposite. The lower down you go, the larger the potential to be lifted up. It’s like a reverse roller coaster. Momentum builds up as you sink, and then you go shooting up. Good moods defy gravity. You sink lower and lower and lower until you reach the bottom and go soaring up.

What’s amazing is my inability to learn this. Each time I’m in a bad mood I forget that it will fade and will be replaced with joy. I forget that the thunder and lighting will stop, that the rain will stop, and that the sun will come sneaking out of the clouds. That as bad as things might seem, they can almost always be fixed and there is a way to make it all better. And even if there’s not, there is a way to accept it and move on. The main thing is to start by accepting the fact that life will always have obstacles and challenges, and that is just how it is so you better learn to deal with them. There will always be something that tries to break me, but I have to remember that I’m strong enough to deal with anything G-d sends my way. That’s why Tehillim 27 ends with “Kaveh El Hashem, Chazak V’Yaametz Libecha, V’Kaveh El Hashem.” You start by longing for Hashem, but inevitably *something* will bring you down, and so the posuk doesn’t say “hope to Hashem,” it tell us to hope for Hashem, and then strengthen ourselves. Because something is bound to try to break us down, but we have to hold on and be strong in our hearts, and then go at it again full force ahead.


  1. If every time you were in a bad mood, you were able to think that it's going to be replaced by joy, maybe it wouldn't be, b/c you wouldn't really experience the bad that leads to the joy. I hope things get better for you soon! Unfortunately I can relate to the roller coaster ride analogy, I feel like I've been on one for a long time. Ironically, I really wanted to go on a real roller coaster this summer, but haven't had a chance.

  2. its one of the hardest things to remember..that Hashem never gives us anything that we cannot handle. Everything we are given is tailor made for our growth and our situation.

    I think that part of that high that comes at the end of the bad mood is the feeling that "wow, i made it through..i really did it.." and that is an incredible feeling of accomplishment..

    now if we only felt Hashem holding our hand as we are going through the hard times then it maybe wouldnt be so hard?

  3. After having gone through something very similar at the end of this past school year - I can definitely relate. I can also relate to the upswing, as the depressing murkiness of my future definitely gave way to a brighter picture of concreteness. I always like listening to Hoobastank's "Crawling in the Dark" when I'm in a downer mood. It's very honest about the struggle we often face with not knowing where our lives are headed, and it's pretty catchy too, if you like more modern rock.

  4. BJG- you make a good point about bad moods. You're right- if we could see past them then they wouldn't be half as bad.

    aminspiration- so true! if only we felt Hashem holding our hand...and it is amazing how tailor made life is to push us.

    Shades of Grey- I've never listened to "crawling in the dark" I'll have to check that one out!


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