Traditionally, Jews meet on this night in a darkened shul or other space, sit on the floor in faint light, and weep while someone chants Eicha (the Lamentations of Jeremiah). I've been to a couple of Tisha B'Av services in my lifetime, and I've had a couple other profound experiences on that particular day that had nothing to do with Judaism but everything to do with the unnameable, gnawing ache in my heart.
This year, I will not fast. I will not go to shul and I will not formally observe Tisha B'Av in any particular way. Not because I'm in denial of it, but because of everything I've seen and heard and done and learned about the world and especially about myself since last winter.
I was diagnosed last winter, after over a year and a half of ups and downs I could not explain, and with the help of some very good counseling, with chemical depression. I am being treated for it, and I am doing much better now. And I could spend hours and tons of bandwidth going into how I think some of my depression is hereditary or chemical or whatever, and how I think some of my depression is environmental, political, social or whatever. Maybe it's all of a piece. In any event, I think that it has to be perfectly okay to say that this is my reality right now. It doesn't define me and it isn't anything to be ashamed of and honestly we should all be able to talk about it the way we talk about cancer (and maybe someday we'll get there). And it has to be completely okay to look at something like Tisha B'Av, and then look inside myself, and realize that the two just aren't going to get along right now. At least not this year.
The world is already depressing and it would be whether I'm Jewish or not. Perhaps the depression takes on a special feel because I'm Jewish. But in light of the awful history, combined with the awful news of the world these days -- nukes and mass shootings and a lack of spine in our elected leaders and hunger and racism and classism and all the rest -- the best thing for me to do is to give my weary heart a break from every bad thing that ever happened, that is happening, and just be in a space where I can be myself, gently and generously and simply.
So I'm staying home from services tonight. And tomorrow, I will ride my bicycle and volunteer at Sunday Parkways. Sunday Parkways is a community event designed to get people of all stripes, races, ages, classes and genders out of their homes and cars and out onto the streets where we can talk to each other and walk and ride and play with each other and, ultimately, hopefully, be less afraid of each other.
I figure that's the best thing I can do on a day like Tisha B'Av. At least this year.
Whatever you decide to do, if you observe the day, may it bring you deep understanding and deep meaning.