How has anxiety affected you, your family or the Jewish people in general? That’s the question we’re asking in this year’s Elephant in the Room Contest, a partnership between Moment and the Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety. Below are a few excerpts from some of the entries we’ve received so far; to submit your own entry, please visit the contest’s page or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Three winners will each receive an iPad and be published in the pages of Moment.
“My father ended up in Stalin’s Polish Red Army. My mother, with cunning and resourcefulness, lived through the war years in a gulag in Siberia. They were fighters, both of them. When a problem came up in my home, it was handled with efficiency and pragmatism. That’s how I was taught to live. This is the culture not of anxiety, but of what is best expressed in Yiddish: the culture of der shtarker. It’s a culture that demands all to show strength and be resolute. As my father told me time and time again when I was little and had to do something difficult, ‘Shtark zich, shtark zich.’ Don’t be a chicken. Make yourself strong.”
“When I think about anxiety, I think about my Grandmother. When I was a teenager, she confided in me that everything really bad in her life she had never worried about and all the bad things she worried about, never occurred. Over the years, I have thought about her comment. When I was a teenager, I thought her anxiety had prevented her from living life; she never remarried, she never learned to drive, and she was always worried about my Mom. Thus, I took her comment that being anxious was bitterness for all the time she had wasted. However, my Grandmother’s comments were like the Torah, and in the re-reading (and maybe even with a little wisdom), I now believe that her anxiety prevented many bad things, and that she was not complaining, but telling me to live life and not let anxiety control it.”
“How could anxiety not become encoded in our genes? Or maybe it’s the collective unconscious or just a culture passed down through thousands of years of never knowing when the other shoe will drop, when the time will come to run for your life. Years of being on the outside, confusion between being chosen and being persecuted, wanting to belong and feeling inferior but erecting barriers of superiority.”