Gut Yonteff, Pontiff — Lessons in Liberation

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I have some explaining to do because only a rarefied few would understand the title of this post.  “Gut Yonteff” is the traditional way Jews greet each other on religious holidays.  The phrase (from Yiddish and Hebrew) literally means:  “Good good-day”.  This year, we had a guest in town for Passover, the pope, and so we were able to utter the phrase some wag coined a long time ago:  “Gut yonteff, Pontiff!”  And welcome.

I had a weekend filled with “organized religion”, albeit an ecumenical one.  Normally, that could go very badly or very well, but fortunately this weekend went well.  I went to a Passover seder at a friend’s house in which dear husband officiated, and I was very proud of the way he handled himself.  He did not grow up religiously observant, so whatever he knows he learned as an adult — with a lot of help from me, I have to admit.

Passover marks the deliverance of the ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  But it can also represent deliverance from present-day difficulties.  For example, the Haggadah (what we read at the seder) exhorts people to imagine themselves in the here and now — as if they had just been liberated from bondage.  So at our seder, DH asked the people present one-by-one the following question:  What it is that you are enslaved to today?  We all have something that we feel is more in control of us than we are of it.

I was surprised by the answers.  Not one person mentioned being held captive by illness, even though the crowd was middle-aged and older.  However, a number of people mentioned feeling enslaved to feelings like envy, anger, self-hate, or extreme ambition.  When it came to my turn I mentioned anger (among other things), partly because I am very angry that we have been stiricken with this disease.  I’m angry at the world, at God if He exists, and at my husband.  Even though I know it’s irrational.  I was just reading a manuscript of a book about PC and I came across this dialogue:  A man was diagnosed with PC and asked his pastor the age-old question, “Why me?”.  The pastor replied, “Why not you?”  Why not indeed.

Part of the reason I’m angry is that I view prostate cancer as a disease of old age (average age at diagnosis is 68) and I didn’t appreciate being robbed of my middle age, even though I may not be missing much!

But I know that the first step in liberating yourself from negative influences is becoming aware of them.  So anger is something I have to work on getting rid of. 

The second question I had about “liberation” was this: Can we as a couple liberate ourserves, i.e., separate ourselves from his disease, or does it have to define us?  Can dear husband and I think of ourselves as a regular couple who are encountering a negative event in our lives as all people do — or do we think of ourselves as a couple with prostate cancer, where the cancer is omnipresent and intricately intertwined with our beings.  No question that the former way is a better way to live.

But I have to place myself in the latter category.  I can’t separate the man, the couple, from the cancer.  Maybe I even have an unhealthy attachment to it.  DH does a much better job of defining his relationship with prostate cancer.  He puts it in its place, i.e., he recognizes that life has its ups and downs and that he is experiencing one of the downs and hopefully there will be an end to it.  He carries on with life as before.  But I must say that it’s hard to know what DH is really thinking, as he doesn’t talk much.  And his way of dealing with unpleasant realities is denial.

I may be more identified with DH’s prostate cancer because I did all the research about the disease and arranged all the doctor’s appointments.  I don’t nag DH but I try to see that he eats a certain way and takes some supplements — i.e., follows a PC-friendly diet.  So the truth is that in some ways I’ve become more familiar with the PC than my husband has.

I am going to try to deal with my feelings of anger about the PC.  I will try not to see our lives as being inseparable from it.  We are a couple with a lot going for us, and the cancer is just one item on the debit side of the balance sheet. 

So on this Passover, I wish that you all that you be liberated from whatever is holding you back, keeping you in bondage.

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I love pageantry and nobody does this better than the Catholic church, so on Sunday I sat in front of the TV entranced, watching the pope officiate at mass at Yankee Stadium.   Ted had gone to the synagogue for Passover services and when he returned he called out to me:  “Where is this divine music coming from?”

So Ted and I sat and listened to a sublime concert.  Music is another thing nobody does better than the catholic church.  I love all kinds of choral music, also organ music, and spouse loves early (church) music, so we were both very satisfied.  I wonder if someone could be healed of PC by listening to church music for days on end.

I doubt that I would agree with the Pope on any one thing — maybe the death penalty, because it’s so flawed — but I still found the pontiff’s visit healing.  As Peggy Noonan wrote in the WSJ, “There is a sweetness about this man.”  He is the contemplative type, and supposedly in his homily he touted the virtues of silence.  Amen to that.  We live in such a noisy world, what with our cellphones, TV’s computers, blackberries, ipods and so forth.  Silence can be a healing antidote to all that.  As a matter of fact, I once posted an article with suggestions from Johns Hopkins about dealing with anxiety, and one of the recommendations was “Turn off the TV”. 

I just want to make one more comment about this pope.  He apologized for the clergy sex abuse scandal without resorting to gay baiting.  He acknowledged that the problem had everything to do with pedophilia and nothing to do with homosexuality.  He deserves credit for that.

By | 2017-10-19T10:58:06+00:00 April 23rd, 2008|Healing the Mind, Op-Ed/Inside Scoop|0 Comments

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