Take Your Mask Off!
#Learning to Find Calm During Uncertain times
What type of mask do you wear?
I’m not referring to the disposable, cloth, or personalized kind that we have all adorned during the pandemic. Rather, there is an entirely different pandemic mask many of us have had to sport these days.
It is the mask that hides our true emotions, specifically worry.
During these uncertain times, anxiety abounds.
Will my family members and friends stay healthy?
How will I survive financially through this pandemic?
When will I be able to consistently work from the office again and resume my previous productivity level?
When will school officially start again? Will it stay open?
How can I plan my upcoming simcha when so many guidelines keep changing?
Will there be another government-imposed shutdown?
When will pre COVID-19, normal life resume again?
The reality of COVID-19 can compound stress for many whose burden is already quite heavy, making everyday life feel unmanageable.
Our children, family, and community often necessitate that we ‘mask’ that worry, and many of us mask it all too well.
I’ll never forget the first time someone told me she suffered from anxiety (this was before COVID-19). I was shocked because externally, this woman had a relaxed demeanor, and appeared calmer than most.
Those who are anxious may appear put together and portray a facade of serenity. But peel away the mask, and underneath it they are barely coping.
Maybe we don’t have to wear a mask anymore.
Perhaps instead we can learn to shed our false faces and start to truly feel confident and secure in our present and future.
How can we eradicate the worries that life circumstances create and COVID-19 exacerbates?
It is possible to ignore the noise that worry creates and place our trust in something greater instead.
A famous story relates that there was once a man traveling along in a wagon pulled by a horse. The driver turned to the passenger and said, “Why don’t you put your heavy bags down? There is plenty of room on the floor of the wagon.”
The man replied, “Oh, it’s okay! The horse is pulling so much weight already, I don’t want to add to its burden. I’ll just hold it myself.”
The driver responded, “Don’t you realize that the horse is pulling the whole burden, regardless of whether you carry it yourself? You should at least drop the bag for your own sake!”
Throughout life, we ride in G-d’s wagon. We can put down our baggage, because He is carrying our burden anyway. He loves us more than we realize. When we have pain, He has pain, and when we struggle, He is right there with us for every moment of the challenge. We can let go and let G-d; there is no need for us to hold on to worry, as well.
We can take this concept a step further by not just letting G-d carry our load; we can also allow Him to carry us by leaning fully into His presence.
A teacher of mine from seminary taught me this lesson well. She and her husband had been childless for years, and when she was finally expecting a child, she glowed with joy and radiated both inner and outer beauty. The day her son was born, she did not even have the chance to hold him in her arms before he was whisked away for testing. The doctors returned with devastating news: her precious son was born with a rare amino acid deficiency. So rare, in fact, that he was literally one case in a billion. When the baby was five days old, a gathering was made for his speedy recovery.
My teacher left the hospital to speak that day in front of 500 people. She was still recovering from a C-section, was feeling very ill herself, and yet selflessly wanted to speak to give others strength. She did not know if by the time she finished speaking her child would still be alive, as each breath he took endangered his life.
She walked into the room and described that despite her own emotional and physical pain, she felt G-d lifting her up and carrying her to deliver her profound words. As I listened to her speak, I expected her to grieve, or at the very least, complain. But instead she emphatically cried out, “I want you all to know that I have never felt closer to Hashem in my entire life. He is guiding me and holding me through every step of this trial.” She told us that although she couldn’t hold her baby, she would sing tehillim to him instead.
Her child survived his rocky start to life, but my teacher still has many challenges. In a follow up conversation with her years later, she expressed, with a hint of longing in her voice, that her period of challenge was a profound experience for her. She admitted she has still never felt closer to Hashem than she did at that time. She felt him Holding her and caring for her through the entire ordeal.
The only thing certain in this highly uncertain time is that we have G-d’s love. When we increase our faith and relinquish our burdens to Him, our anxiety can decrease. When I am dealing with my own challenges, I ask myself, What else do I have but Hashem? With this thought, I strengthen myself to turn to Him.
Hand G-d your burden, trust in his love, and drop your bags. Release that mask of worry, and start enjoying life’s wild ride.
 Living Emunah, Ashear, David, pg. 317