This morning is rosh chodesh- the start of a new month. A day we normally associate with joy and expectant anticipation and the promise of freshness and hope. A new beginning. A day designated for praising our creator.
And as I woke this morning, to a gray, cloud-filled sky above, I thought of the month that is being heralded in- Cheshvan- the month that follows Tishrei, the brimming-to-near-bursting month that holds our New Year and the Day of Awe, and as if that’s not enough, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah to boot.
And I wondered, half musingly, half not, how it must feel to be the month that follows such joy. Not only to be that month that holds no special day to mark it as “special,” but to actually be given the nickname MarCheshvan- the “bitter Cheshvan,” because its very identity is associated with this void, this lack, this not being as good as…The core of Cheshvan reduced to what it doesn’t have, as opposed to what it does.
And it struck me that this identity crisis, if you will, of this sad, hopeless month, feels deeply familiar- for is there not a tendency amongst so many of us to look at the other and compare ourselves? Where do I stand in relationship to my friend? Is my sister, brother, coworker, smarter than I? More popular? More successful? More beautiful? Can I ever be like x?
The root of this bitterness lies in the very dangerous, toxic, paradoxically tempting tendency to see
ourselves through the prism of how we see others. In so doing, we set ourselves up for certain failure- for as a wise friend once told me, we only compare ourselves in areas that we feel lacking- so in other words, we automatically lose. We can’t win- because we’re only “competing” in our weakest, most vulnerable zones.
And then it struck me, that perhaps allowing Cheshvan to name its bitterness, to look at it head on, to not be afraid of the dark and ugly that it might be struggling with, is actually liberating. It allows the nasty and negative to be brought into the light, uncovered and looked at and explored. It strips it of its tyrannical rule. Those feelings no longer hold the power to overwhelm or undermine. They no longer need to be feared. Rather, they can be faced, named, understood, validated, and accepted.
And this, ultimately, creates a new space- a space for awareness, self-compassion, for moving forward, for choice. It enables proactive decisions that can bring a greater sense of vibrancy and meaning, allowing for the stepping into one’s life in an intentional, authentic way.