Explore Darkness and Discover the Light
In reading the Chanukah story, we probably would have understood if the Maccabees chose to play it safe and sit things it out. “Listen guys, there are five of us and 40,000 of them, we just can’t fight. Let’s do what Antiochus says. We don’t stand a chance. It might not be so bad.” They also could’ve been discouraged and feeling sorry for themselves. “How are we going to have light for eight days with this?? There’s not enough! Forget it! God obviously doesn’t want us to light the menorah. It’s a sign.”
What would have been? I’m sure many Jews were telling them to just chill out and not ruffle feathers. They probably had their own inner conflicts at some point while hiding in those caves, wondering if it was all even worth it. Upon their return to Jerusalem, seeing the Temple in total disarray with only one tiny jug of useable oil, they might have been very disheartened. Still, they were not deterred even though things may have seemed pretty hopeless.
It’s no coincidence that Chanukah, the holiday of light, falls out during a time of long nights, short days, and grey skies; a season where we feel anything but hopeful and energetic. The lessons of this holiday are all about faith, hope, beating the odds, overcoming obstacles and fighting through darkness.
What a wonderful thought, right? But how on earth do we apply these lessons to our daily lives? How do we bring light into our lives when they can be so dark and difficult? How do we overcome odds when we are NOT the mighty Maccabees, rather we are just regular everyday women trying to keep it together (or at least make it look that way)?
Happiness is a goal that everyone always aspires to, but what is happiness anyway? Is it feeling good all the time? The absence of problems? Having loads of money? Going on fancy vacations? Media, billboards, and Instagram feeds might lead you to think so. However, while some of these things can bring us feelings of pleasure, such feelings are short lived and based on external factors.
Conversely, there are many things in life that do not feel good but the end result brings about such an intense feeling of joy and achievement that we ultimately feel it was worth suffering for; like running a marathon, labor and childbirth, an intense workout, sticking to a nutrition plan and seeing results, pushing through on an idea you’re passionate about and seeing it finally take off. Struggle, pain, rejection, discomfort, taking risks, discipline, persistence, facing fears, and accomplishments- THIS, my friends, is where happiness comes from.
We think feeling good should be easy but it’s really just the opposite! When you want authentic, long lasting happiness, it requires taking on challenges that seem daunting and facing realities you might rather avoid. In short, you need to start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Ironically, this also means we might be the very root of our own unhappiness. Our unwillingness to challenge ourselves, have those uncomfortable talks, admit to our faults and weaknesses, accept reality, take a good look at our relationships and what needs to change; this only ensures the problems never go away.
So, what am I trying to tell you here? Finding happiness in the darkness is a subjective journey full of bumps, bruises and hard knocks. There is no one clear cut route for us all to travel to get there. Your challenges are what will lead to your ultimate happiness, but only if you stop fighting them and start working on them. Detach yourself from the mindset that because things are tough you need to give up. Learn to trust the process and have faith that God will pull through for you, if only you pave the way.
This next month, commit to allowing yourself to sit with uncomfortable feelings at least once, instead of pushing them away. View them as the opportunity to build more happiness, even if right now you can’t even imagine how.
“My child is struggling with anger he might need help. My relationship with my mother is really tense and needs to be addressed. I am so short tempered with my husband all the time I might need help. I am never happy in any job could it be me? I think she may have a legitimate reason to be angry at me. My relationships are full of drama, something needs to change.”
Introspect sincerely. After that, we work on making a plan of action for those feelings. For now, by acknowledging and accepting the struggle, we create little sparks of hope, perseverance and, ultimately, bright and shining happiness.
Let’s do this.
Rachel Tuchman is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) with over ten years of experience. She is in private practice in Cedarhurst, NY, where she provides individual and family therapy to address a range of issues, with specialties in behavioral and adjustment issues, skill-building for parents, and support for women going through infertility. In addition, Rachel gives parenting courses throughout NY and NJ. For more information visit www.racheltuchman.com.