How do I let go of the longing for a different reality?
Nissan in Review
One day I woke up sick and I needed to spend the whole morning in my room. I knew I was going to have to take it easy the rest of the day, and I was feeling guilty that my husband had to pick up the slack. Midday, I was about to tell him, “I’m sorry I’ve been in bed for so long,” when I stopped myself.
“Thank you so much for being there for me and the kids,” I said.
That statement changed my inner reality. I understood that being sick wasn’t something to feel guilty about, and I was secure in the fact that I needed this time to rest. I realized that I wasn’t “sorry” — I was grateful. So instead of making it all about me and putting my husband in the position to have to reply, “Nah, don’t worry about it,” he could now comfortably say, “You’re welcome,” knowing that his help was appreciated.
Iyar Goal: Acceptance
When Yosef was sent down to Mitzrayim, Yaakov Avinu was led to believe he was dead. Yaakov could not be comforted over the loss (Bereishis 37:35) and Rashi explains it was because Yosef was still alive.
Hashem ingrained within us an essential ability to mourn and to move on, to eventually accept a new reality. But this is only possible when we accept that the reality has changed — and is not going to change back.
Yaakov could not move on, because something inside him understood that there was still a strand of hope to cling to. However, we often live our day-to-day lives holding on to things that don’t exist, wishing reality were different.
I’m standing in the supermarket aisle with my Shabbos shopping list and see that they don’t have the salsa I need for that perfect chicken recipe. How long will it take me to let go and choose another recipe? When my son manages to pry open the fridge for the fifth time that day and “helps himself” to a cup of water, will I once again be upset that he’s only two years old? Will it take until next Purim before I’m able to accept that this year we dressed up as kings and queens instead of something more exciting like giant hot dogs and cupcakes?
Here’s how the Sifsei Chayim defines menuchas hanefesh: using every moment for its purpose — now. Realize that any thoughts about the past or future that take you out of the current moment, are not life, but a waste of it.
To fully be where I am now, to be present in the current conditions, isn’t possible when I’m thinking about what I wish they looked like. While wishing, I’m living in a fantasy world that does not allow me to appreciate and utilize the gifts of my actual situation.
Last month, I worked on accepting myself and my limitations. I tried to not feel bad about things beyond my control. This month, I’m practicing acceptance in a different way — by accepting the circumstances I cannot change. This is what it is, now make the most of it!
Of course I can theoretically hope to live this way, but how do I change my mindset? How do I let go of the longing for a different reality?
One way is by “mourning the loss.” Before I can fully let go, I need to stop for a moment and acknowledge that something was lost — because the feeling of disappointment will usually not walk away on its own. Saying “it is what it is,” starts with recognizing that, on whatever level, it is hard.
Mourning does not need to be an intense, lengthy process. It can be a few words of validation for the difficulty of the situation that allow me to accept and move on. It’s like that little kiss a mother gives her child when he falls and gets a boo-boo. We all know that kisses don’t really have healing powers, right? Yet somehow the message of “oy, that must have hurt,” contained in the kiss, gives the child the energy to go back to playing.
I can achieve this by expressing my feelings (to a friend, in a journal, etc.). If I’m doing it on my own, I may want to actually verbalize it aloud, if only to hear that it’s real. I might even imagine holding hands with the emotion, telling it that I’m here with it, giving it a hug of some sort.
Of course, everything is in proportion to the level of inconvenience or hurt I am feeling: missing an important family simchah will take a lot more work than the unexpectedly changed chicken recipe. And as with any avodah, I need to start small. It may not be wise to expect acceptance for the really big losses that made a lasting impact in my life. But over a longer course of time, those can heal, too.
This month, I can try to move on from the more manageable issues that are taking away from my daily state of menuchas hanefesh, keeping me from experiencing the beauty of a new reality.
Make It Yours
Acceptance can sometimes seem elusive. Here are some additional ways to achieve it:
- Recalculate. Our GPS does it all the time, and so can we. When faced with a sudden change that throws us off course, sometimes all we need is a quick route recalculation to live with the new reality
- Sleep on it. In the heat of the moment, things can be hard to handle. Starting fresh, on a new day, can often make the difference when trying to find acceptance.
- Accept a lack of acceptance. I can tell myself that this is something that’s too hard to accept right now, and gently allow myself the time and space to find comfort in the future.
- Daven. Ask Hashem for help accepting what seems impossible to hold.
MANTRAS OF THE MONTH
Oy, that must have hurt.
It is what it is.
Embrace the hurt, then embrace a new reality.
Gam zeh ya’avor (This too shall pass).
This month I will:
take notice when I’m not letting go and verbalize what I’m feeling.
discuss a difficulty I’m experiencing with a friend, and clearly tell her that what I need most is validation.
not deal with a loss by trying to push away the feeling. Instead, I’ll embrace it with a hug so I can move on.
remind myself that the pain of each difficulty will eventually pass with time.
Special thanks to the women in my Serenity Group who helped with these suggestions.
Are you taking this journey with us? We’d love to hear about your experiences at
Mindel Kassorla has been advising students — both in Eretz Yisrael and beyond their seminary year — for over a decade. She lives with her husband and children in Jerusalem.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 737)
Oops! We could not locate your form.