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The Twenty-Second Rule

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“I ma what do they mean by a short attention span?” my 13-year-old daughter Batsheva asks me.

“Well it’s like when the teacher starts talking and…”

Batsheva slips on her earphones to listen to music. I continue my explanation mouthing the words. Curious she takes off the earphones. I continue: “… and the student can listen for about 20 seconds or so.”

“Oh.” The headphones go back on.

It must be hard for Batsheva to raise her mother. I’m not sure it’s because of a short attention span; I’d call it a Fear Of Boredom. FOB has a friend. It’s called CSI Can’t Stand It. I can’t stand it when I’m bored. Also: can’t stand math can’t stand tomatoes can’t stand it when I feel alone.

Two of Batsheva’s best friends moved to a different school. Her immediate reaction was “I’m not going back to school.” When things become difficult in her social world hormones FOB and CSI all kick in. And of course she has the very human response to loneliness: hurt. One very hurt teenager.

She feels alone and abandoned. Each evening she informs me she’s not going to school the next day. Somehow I get her to go but every day is a new Presidential Debate on whether she really has to go.

Then I switch into CSI mode: can’t stand the teenage years. I can’t stand to see my flesh and blood suffer. I actually can’t stand the tantrums the emotional ups and downs. Can’t this be easier for me somehow?

The antidote to Fear Of Boredom and Can’t Stand It is Resilience. And boy do I need some of that right about now eight in the morning when I have to extract her from her warm cozy nest and send her out into a cold lonely world. I need resilience to get me through the teenage years. She needs it to get her through the day.

We speak about mindfulness and about how putting our minds on the present moment can be a respite from worrying about what was or what will be.

“Oh I get what mindfulness is” says Batsheva one day. “You say every day on vacation how you’re bored and there’s nothing to do and all of a sudden vacation is over and you say ‘Too bad I wasn’t more mindful of my days then it wouldn’t have been over so fast.’ ”

Wow. She got it.

Meanwhile a sobbing girl fills her pillow with tears of loneliness.

“Batsheva ” I want to say “when we’re mindful and accept the pain we are able to carry it. Like a flower that grows even as its leaves wither. We are not avoiding the pain denying it forgetting it or belittling it. Paradoxically by accepting the pain sometimes the pain may be minimized.”

In fact if I wanted to get really big about it I’d say that this is the experience of the Jewish People: We carry the pogroms the inquisitions the terror attacks — we carry them all with us as we move on to births and weddings and every occasion that affirms life. We carry the pain but we move on.

Of course I don’t say any of that. Too many words. (Excerpted from Family First Issue 572)

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