We train ourselves to respond to limitations on our actions — especially those of us who had once been accustomed to not having such limitations — by intoning that these limitations are what help us grow. This sense of loss over participating in something, eating something or being somewhere you might otherwise been if not for that seminar, that bit of challah, or whatever it was that got you here is, we say, the very fertilizer of spiritual growth.
I’m fine with that. It works for me. I’ve said it many times, written about it many times here, and I believe it.
Does that mean I have to like it?
I don’t think so. Even if I know it’s “good for me,” it’s okay to admit that I feel the loss. Not just okay because, yes, it is the realization of that pain that makes the teshuvah happen, if you must. But also it’s okay to admit, hey, I feel badly about this. I feel left out. I used to like doing that. I always wanted to do that.
Denying this feeling, or forcing it into some construct that fits one’s “revised” worldview without acknowledging what it really is, is a bad idea.
Now, there are parts of my inner workings that have completely transformed over a quarter century of mitzvah observance. In certain areas, my preferences, sensibilities and desires have actually changed. You would hope so, wouldn’t you?
But some things you never stop missing. I am not referring to sensual experiences, but things I have written about in the past here: dining out, college reunions, singing in a choir. Have I beaten the corpse of this horse enough already?
Maybe, but I am trying to focus here just on this point: I decided, and not so long ago, not to feel guilty about missing these experiences. And not to feel guilty for not exulting in the pain of missing them either. Well, okay, I probably should feel guilty for the occasional bout of self-righteousness over the whole thing, but that’s a post for another day. (Mussar [ethical considerations] complicates everything.)
I am who I am. I don’t mean that in the excuse sense of the cliche, which some of us employ to avoid doing something we know we ought to do to improve ourselves. Rather, I mean that whatever I am today, for better or for worse, is the sum total of 48 years (who’s counting?) of being me, in a number of modes.
At this point, I don’t see any benefit in trying to fool myself about what I feel and think, or to regret not having the appropriate “growth” response to feelings of loss and pain. Denying a voice to my interior life had been a source of stress and conflict, which did not make the challenge of doing the right thing despite what I feel easier or healthier. It’s there, it’s me, and I’m still going to do the right thing. That’s just the way things go when you make choices that have meaning. This isn’t necessarily a BT thing.
It’s an adulthood thing.