| Musings |

Where I’m Cherished    

 Maybe… maybe I’ll be the one he’ll stick with? Maybe I’ll meet his high standards? Maybe I’ll be good enough?

It started with tightness in my chest.

Then, it felt impossible for my lungs to swallow a full breath of air.

I couldn’t shake the feeling and couldn’t pinpoint what triggered this sudden sensation that could only be described as a panic attack.

I reviewed my day, desperately wanting to make sense of this seemingly arbitrary occurrence. The only thing I could isolate was a difficult client who emailed to say he was no longer interested in my graphic design services.

When I first read the email, I’d been relieved. This was a client who a different artist had referred on. The client told me it hadn’t been a “match”; later I found out my friend was the fifth (!) graphic artist he’d researched, interviewed, hired, and fired for this particular project.

So a part of me expected the ax to fall. When the inevitable message came, thanks so much, it’s not going to work out, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

But another part was invested. Because despite the client’s constant input, overall it seemed he had actually been pleased with the mock-ups I’d done for him. On some level, I’d been patting myself on the back: See, you have something others don’t.

Maybe… maybe I’ll be the one he’ll stick with? Maybe I’ll meet his high standards? Maybe I’ll be good enough?

The first reaction was shock. Despite all the signs pointing to this outcome, I genuinely felt surprised.

Then I felt flooded with relief. The worst had happened. The other shoe dropped. I was still breathing.

Next came gratitude. I’d squeezed in extra hours to accommodate working with him, cutting out other things from my schedule. Un-clocked time included research and scouring sites for ideas, as well as discussing possibilities with a colleague. At least I’d no longer be resentful about unpaid time. And if nothing else, why not work with a client who was less critical, more pleasant, more appreciative?

I thought I’d worked through the storm of emotions. Only later, when the tightness in my jaw made itself known, did I realize the incident had hit a tender nerve.


It hurt.

And those familiar thoughts: Maybe I’ll meet his standards? Maybe I’ll be good enough? They echo in my brain — long-lost acquaintances I thought I’d let go of.

Maybe it’s because it’s Erev Succos.

Every year anew, I experience a sort of anniversary reaction to that Succos years ago.

It had all been very last-minute: Erev Rosh Hashanah, a friend approached us, asking if we knew anybody going away for Yom Kippur and Succos. Her family was flying in from the States, and the apartment they were planning on taking fell through. They were desperately scrambling to find an alternative arrangement.

I ran a crazy idea by her: What if they take our apartment? The cost of rent would cover our airfare to my parents’ home in England, we could visit family, and her guests would have somewhere to stay. My husband and kids were thrilled at the prospect. It was a win-win all around.

I ran the idea by my father, Ta. And that’s when everything came to a screeching halt.

“Oh. Well, hmm…” Not exactly the enthusiastic response I was looking for.

“What’s the problem?”

“Well…” More hemming and hawing. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

More pushing on my part.

“I don’t think Ma will agree,” Ta grudgingly shared.

My bubble promptly deflated.

Ma. It was always about Ma.

What was she upset about this time? For what unknowable reason were we now on her blacklist?

I’d always known she was a difficult person. Well, when I was younger, I assumed it was me. Through lots of therapy I realized she had her personal struggles; rarely was I at fault, or deserving of the treatment she unleashed.

I’d grown to separate she from me, her response from my action. I grew “differentiated,” in psychology parlance.

Yet now she wasn’t allowing me into my childhood home. Even for Ma, this was a new low.

Differentiated, yeah right.

I cried. A lot.

I noticed the usual triangles between me, my mother, and my father: me and him against her, she and he against me. Ta, the perpetual peacekeeper, mediator, soother, avoider.

Even if he wanted us, he would never stand up against Ma.

It became a topic Ta and I avoided. We discussed plans, minyanim, vacation plans. We never spoke of that potential Succos visit again.

The rejection from my own home stung too much. It was reminiscent of Tisha B’Av, of exile, of a child expelled from his home.

And yet, it wasn’t. It was Succos, when we are enjoined to be happy.

But how?

It’s years later, but I reread the email from my client, and I’m in that place again, that sense of abandonment, of rejection, all too familiar. And ironically, it’s Erev Succos again.

I think about that year, that pain, and that balm when I entered the succah: the reminder of the temporary nature of This World, of these relationships.

Only one home, only one relationship, is eternal.

I crave to enter the succah and be enveloped in Hashem’s embrace; to love, to be loved, to be totally immersed, body and soul, in a mitzvah.

I think of the One Who will gather us home: v’kabtzeinu mei’arba kanfos ha’aretz.

I know this year, when I enter my succah, I’ll again hum quietly to myself, “Atah bechartanu… ahavta osanu v’ratzisa banu.”

The message will resound: I’m chosen. I’m beloved. I’m wanted. I’m enough.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 760)

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