Over Yom Tov, a friend shared an article with me from Family First. It was an essay called “Sense and Sensitivity,” (scroll for an excerpt), written by a woman who had struggled with infertility. In the essay, she described an experience she had at an A T.I.M.E. Shabbaton, where a speaker mentioned a baby stroller in the context of his story. Incensed (her word) at his lack of sensitivity, the writer approached multiple participants at the Shabbaton and shared her hurt due to the speaker’s word choice. To her dismay, word reached the speaker himself and he apologized to the crowd at the beginning of his next speech. After Shabbos, the writer came to understand that she had made a mistake by hurting the speaker, and she wrote an apology letter to him.
Some of the ideas expressed in her essay relate to the experience of being single.
“To me, the Shabbaton was supposed to be a sterile environment without a hint of a mention of children. A little slip of the tongue could ruin my elevated experience.”
The writer is describing a very difficult nisayon. And of course, onaas devarim is serious business and we need to be careful with each other’s feelings.
But maybe there’s another way to process potentially hurtful input, a way that doesn’t give your nisayon the power to steal your wellbeing. Maybe there’s a way to avoid having to tiptoe around yourself, afraid of allowing the world to do its thing for fear of how it will make you feel.
You are not your challenge, and you don’t have to filter your experiences through the lens of your challenge. Refusing to be defined by your nisayon means, “I can hear the word ‘stroller,’ [or fill in the blank] and it can hurt me, but in this life there are strollers and I want to live this life.” You have the capacity to feel pain and keep going. You do. Caving to the bizarre societal expectation to be suffocated by the one thing you aren’t means denying yourself a rich, expansive life. Why allow that to happen?
When we daven, we call to Hashem min hameitzar, from our constricted places. But we don’t need to create our own meitzarim if we can help it.
That doesn’t mean you should stop wanting the thing you want. It doesn’t mean you can’t feel pain. It also doesn’t make you a traitor to those in the same situation.
I means you choose life. Because to fully live the highs of life, you have to be willing to fully live the lows.
“It would take the advent of blessed parenthood to put the incident into perspective.”
Our challenges can take us to dark places. I’ve had moments that were so painful, it was hard to breathe. I’ve had days that were so black, I thought there could be no way out. But…there is a way out: through. And you deserve to walk through your experience with your head held high. No one should make you believe that you’re so fragile, you can’t embrace the entirety of the life you have until it looks like the life you want.
Everyone falls. Everyone gets down. Everyone needs support sometimes. We all have good days and bad days. Perspective is attainable at every age and stage. You can teach yourself to see life in context: the good, the bad, and the ugly. See your challenge true to size – a big problem, but not the sum of who you are. Don’t allow the problem to loom so large it blocks out the sun, eclipsing all the good in your life.
And always remember, you are loved in the place you are right now.
What are your thoughts on this?