There’s a new hotline that the New York Times opened last week called the Primal Scream Line. It is capturing the exhaustion, rage, and overwhelm of mothers who have been carrying the brunt of the burden of housework and homeschooling while many are also trying to work.
A Primal Scream
The hotline serves as an outlet. It helps mothers take a moment to scream instead of soldiering on; to vent instead of internalizing each struggle; to share an inner truth and not feel ashamed and alone thinking that everyone else is fine. Most of all it creates space to laugh at the absurdity of it all, and to shout out into the ether in the hopes that someone is listening.
Our spiritual lives have another kind of Primal Scream built into the rhythm of our days that is accessible to us all the time.
That something is prayer.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote this back in 1969 in an essay called “On Prayer”:
A soul without prayer is a soul without a home. Weary, sobbing, the soul…seeks a moment in which to gather up its scattered life…in which to call for help without being a coward. Such a home is prayer…Though often I do not know how to pray, I can still say: Redeem me from the agony of not knowing what to strive for, from the agony of not knowing how my inner life is falling apart.
Inward and Outward
Prayer can be both a retreat inward and a calling out. It can be spontaneous or it can happen at a fixed time. While my own usual prayer routine has been disrupted by the pandemic – I used to pray in formal synagogue settings – today my prayers are more spontaneous. They are moments of pause between loads of laundry when I whisper “help me”. They are the moments when I go for a walk and look up to the heavens and utter, “I just don’t know” as I think about a challenging situation with one of my kids. They are also the moments of overwhelming gratitude I feel as I watch my daughter’s eyes look up when she is thinking hard and I say the words from the traditional morning liturgy, Modeh ani, I am grateful for so much.
This past week I was in conversation with Rabbi Lisa Sacks, my learning partner in a series with the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies. We focused on our prayer lives and I was moved to hear how many people intuited the need both to call out in prayer and to turn to prayer to calm and strengthen them during this time.
Pray because your soul needs it. Pray because it will help you feel less alone. And pray because it can model for your children what to do when they may be feeling lost or alone. And sometimes pray by simply saying “Thank you”, to remind ourselves to stay open to recognizing the blessings in our lives, even when times are hard.
Blessings for the journey,