Sometimes late at night, when I get up to use the bathroom or get some water, trying my best to not disturb my sleeping girlfriend and the cats at our feet, I have these moments of quiet panic. At two, three, four in the morning I stand, paralyzed with fear, in front of the mirror, stifling the urge to scream and cry out. Usually I can choke it down, into the small, dark place where fathers hide their disappointment and politicians hide their hypocrisies. Sometimes I find it too hard to handle; I sit quietly on the toilet, head in my hands, and slowly melt into a puddle of unorganized emotional soup.
At these times, I miss my mother. I miss her always, but these times in particular and most pointedly. I remember things she has said – always reminding me to not be so self-righteous – or certain peculiar expressions she wore while cutting my hair in the kitchen while I was in high school. Alongside these fleeting images of her are reminders of my father, a hard-working, perseverant man. I recall him saying on my birthday a few weeks ago, “David, you’re making me old,” trying to pass the buck on the threatening storm of his 65th birthday.
I worry I let them down, that any feeble success I have is an fraction of what I could have done, not just for them but for myself as well. I worry that I squander my opportunities and my life. These thoughts are accompanied by a maelstrom of ideas: student loan bills, professional failure, inability to build a life; what on earth am I going to do?
Eventually, I head down the expected trajectory: I think about death. Not in the suicidal kind of way, but I think about dying. Although I’m only twenty-six, I can see I am older, more worn than I used to be. I’ve slowly been losing my hair since I was sixteen teens, but for the last year or so I have been noticing grey hairs multiplying near my temples. My back is sore in the morning, although I think the old mattress has something to do with it. I’m no longer in my glamorous early-twenties: the wry joke made by one of my students echoes, “jeez Mr. Tow, it’s all downhill from here.”
However, minutes or hours later it subsides. Many years ago, my Rabbi told me with a crooked grin, when I complained of being nervous to read from the Torah, that this too shall pass – Gam Zeh Yaavor. Inhale, exhale, get up, and go to bed: you have work in the morning. I lay down, patting the cats back to sleep and sidling into my divot in the bed when I try to take King Solomon’s cure to heart. All life is in transit, in flux, in motion. I believe that everything will be alright. I promise myself again as I nod off finally: everything will be alright.