Five years ago, when I began my doctoral program to become a clinical psychologist, I was looking for more spiritual practices as extra support. Counting the Omer is an easily accessible practice that could be nurtured by signing up for online Judaism (emails, Facebook posts, groups, etc.). At first, I identified with the sefirot (soul traits) of chessed (lovingkindness) and tiferet (splendor/compassion). However, I was surprised by how taken I was with the sefirah (soul trait) of netzach, which can be translated as persistence, perseverance, endurance, resilience, or eternity. Having been on this academic journey for almost 10 years, I was newly drawn to examine my own netzach, endurance, how I relate to it, and cultivate it. Thinking about our academic or career paths, we need a lot of netzach in order to persevere through the challenges in order to reach our goals.
And then March 2020 happened. All of a sudden, (and it really did feel like in a snap of a finger) everything was closed and we were all put in time out. At first, we thought it was going to last around 14 days. Ok, not too bad, right? But more than 6 weeks later and we are still on lockdown, left to pace our homes, trying to find ways to fill our time. The concepts of persistence, perseverance, endurance, and resiliency have gained a whole new meaning.
It often feels too big, too overwhelming, to even attempt to comprehend what is going on right now. Hearing the repetitive chorus from my screens saying “in these uncertain times,” and “especially in times like these,” feels like I’m watching a history channel, not our current reality. Many of us feel as though we are in “survival mode” in the day to day. By definition, each one of us have been reaching deep inside our kishkes (gut) and searching for endurance and perseverance that we might not have ever experienced before. This global pandemic has revealed so much about our fragility and vulnerability as humans, as well as our resilience and fortitude.
Amidst the sluggish chaos, we return to netzach every week as we gather for Kabbalat Shabbat services on Friday nights. As the days blur together and the structures of our world are crumbling, we still have Shabbat to land in. In these past 6 weeks, I have lit the Shabbat candles, attended Kabbalat Shabbat, and chanted the Havdallah prayers more consistently than ever before. Even when I’m exhausted, worn out, burnt out, and sad, I push myself, using my netzach, to join our virtual shul and mark time.
The Netflix adult cartoon, Bojack Horseman, is about a flawed, burnout actor with a severe lack of self-discipline and a propensity for risky behavior. One day, Bojack attempts to jog up the steep hill outside of his house, trailing behind the Baboon, his neighbor who is a frequent runner. Bojack struggles and pants and eventually collapses on the ground. He opens his eyes to the Baboon above him who delivers this quote, taking a long pause between each sentence,
“It gets easier.
Every day it gets a little easier.
But you gotta do it every day.
That’s the hard part.
But it does get easier.”
While this quote has become a mantra of sorts for me in terms of persevering through every challenging hurdle towards my ultimate career goals, it has even more weight during this “Time of Corona.” We are enduring an uncertain amount of time that is forcing us to find our inner netzach and persist.
May we all continue to endure, through the ups and downs. May we continue to persist every day, even while knowing that doing it every day is the hardest part. May we continue to take this day by day and be gentle with ourselves when it is difficult. May our enduring love for ourselves and each other provide the strength we need to persevere through this current reality.