This week’s Torah portion covers a part of the Exodus story when the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt. Most people are familiar with the narrative which includes Moses asking Pharaoh to free the Jews and G-d causing the first seven of the ten plagues to harden the heart of Pharaoh. A lot of weird shit happens: blood fills the Nile, hail which contains both ice and fire rains down on the Egyptians and they are afflicted with horrible boils all over the bodies. It sounds like science fiction rather than the unfolding of an historical event.
On the surface, it is certainly a stretch to try and relate such events to your own life. Jews retell the story during the festival of Passover every year and remember other periods in history which involve similar experiences of exile and redemption.
But there is actually an important message on a personal level for any and everyone living in modern society. And I think it is especially meaningful for people who feel debilitated by fibromyalgia or another chronic condition.
You have to think outside the box and not accept your current state of being as a foregone conclusion.
Egypt represents limitations. When the Israelites were finally freed, they were both physically released from their enslavement but they were also freed on a spiritual level too.
People with chronic disease are often to told that they need to learn “how to manage” their symptoms and “accept their limitations.” While you may not be tethered to your bed or the couch, some days it feels that way. You may find yourself crawling under the covers every afternoon just because that is what you did yesterday and the day before and the day before. You stop making plans because you expect to feel lousy and don’t think you will have the energy to go and have fun. So you give yourself this really negative self-fulfilling prophesy. The only way to break the cycle is to DO SOMETHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
You have to force yourself to do something that you didn’t think you could or just don’t feel like doing (ie. like taking a shower and getting dressed up). Make plans with a friend or better yet, buy a ticket to a show or event so you have some skin in the game, and actually follow through (or else lose $$).
In my experience, the fear and anxiety that keeps me from doing whatever it is that I’m not doing is totally unjustified. Whenever I leave my personal Egypt, I usually feel much better.
Do not let your friends and family members be enablers.
Sometime the most well-intentioned folks actually make a sick person’s disability worse by helping them too much or going along with their apathy. Let the people around you, who care about you, know that you want to release yourself of self-imposed limitations. Choose a few reasonable goals and ask others to help you stay accountable. Set a reminder on your phone or have someone call you and make sure you are keeping up the faith.
Now go out and have fun!