Now, I tend to get a lot of strange physical health issues, including myriad bumps on the eye, so initially I wasn’t that freaked out by it all. I went through my ‘holistic health’ stuff of sticking a bunch of lentils on my hand; inhaling industrial doses of aromatherapy, and then started trying to make some serious teshuva to find out WHY God is sending this stuff to me.
(At this stage, I should also add in ‘wrapping my head in a grounding mat’, to my list of strange holistic practices…)
But while I’m used to having ‘weird eye’ issues, last week it went up a whole other level and I started to get a little worried.
What would I do, if I couldn’t type anymore? Or read anymore? Or keep my eyes open for longer than a few minutes without them starting to get mega-achy?
These thoughts by themselves took my stress levels up even more, and I started to feel completely exhausted and stressed out. (There was a lot of stressful stuff going on last week with other things in my life too.)
So I decided to clear the decks, and do a six hour prayer-a-thon to try to get some clarity on what was really going on. In the past, I normally found it pretty easy, relatively, and pretty enjoyable to do six hours of talking to God. I’d often get big insights, feel much calmer, get solutions to my problems - even some miracles!
Then came that worst year of my life, 2014-2015, when despite doing many six hour sessions, my life continued to plunge down the toilet in just about every way imaginable.
That year kind of broke my belief that six hour prayer sessions could definitely turn things around, or that solving my problems solely relied on doing more and more hitbodedut. Throughout everything, I continued to do my one hour a day of talking to God, and I really think that’s what got me through a bunch of the difficulties that I still find it really hard to even talk about.
So hitbodedut worked to keep me frum, and to keep me just about functioning (which at that stage was probably miraculous enough) - but I started to find the whole idea of doing more six hour talking to God sessions extremely difficult after that year.
But by the middle of last week, when my eyes stopped working so well, I was feeling desperate enough to try again.
I’m not going to pretend the heavens opened or anything - It was actually pretty lame, as these big talking to God sessions go.
But I still got one big insight that made it all worthwhile: it’s connected to shmirat eynayim, guarding the eyes.
Whenever I have a job to do on the internet, or research to do, that’s fine and doesn’t damage me. But when I’m just surfing, stam, or reading news sites, or bad-for-me blogs - basically anything that has lashon hara, harsh judgments or even just a subtle anti-God / anti-tzaddikim perspective - it’s doing me a lot of damage.
So that was my first aha! moment: If I want my eyes to get better, I have to be much stricter about what I’m reading on the internet, especially when it comes to Jewish sites.
The second aha! moment was for my husband, because we are two parts of the same soul, and oftentimes God uses my health issues to give him a message, too. The guy made a super-human effort to guard his eyes for years, and that was part of why he decided he couldn’t work anymore, because his work entailed being online.
Then we ran out of money, had to sell our house to live, and even then the ‘miracles’ we’d been guaranteed by a couple of the rabbinic fakers in our lives still didn’t show up - so he had to go back to work. Online. With all the issues that entails. Yes, he has internet Rimon as strong as it can be without disrupting the work he needs to do.
But still, it was a crushing spiritual blow, and like me, he fell into despair about being able to maintain his pious practices now God had forced him back into the 'real' world.
Every now and then, I’d prod him, but it takes a lot of spiritual strength to guard your eyes, and over the last couple of years, we both ran out of it.
But apparently, God hasn’t given up on him, and his shmirat eynayim, and I got a clear message that my husband has to raise his game again, as much as he can, while staying online. After I spent a whole two days pretty much stuck in the house because of my failing eyesight, he’d kind of come to the same conclusion.
It’s so hard to be in this modern world and be holy. That’s part of why so many of us give up and fall away, because we can’t ‘get there’, really, and continuing to try to ‘get there’ when you know you can’t is often a recipe for permanent frustration.
I can’t stop being online, and neither can my husband. We tried that, and it lead us to a disastrous place. But being online and maintaining a certain level of kedusha, holiness? That’s next to impossible! Or so it seemed. But when your health is on the line, it’s amazing how you find new stores of motivation, and the spiritual strength required to stand back up, and to try again.
At this stage (and on the condition they continue to improve…) I’m very grateful for my eye problems. Now I know WHY God wanted me to have them, I can see the kindness that was hidden in the difficulty.
But if I hadn’t gone back to a long hitbodedut, I don’t know when - or if - I’d really ever have figured it out.