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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
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The Cat Lady’s Message

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I was going crazy. I couldn’t stand it another minute. Yes, I was feeling sorry for myself.

I had been blessed, b’li ayin hara, with children very close in age. Surely having one child after the other was a blessing to be grateful for. I knew there were many people who would give a million dollars to have such a “problem.” But still, it was very stressful. But that wasn’t the hardest part, and it wasn’t the main reason for my feelings of despair.

I was in such a terrible state of mind because in addition to the normal stress of being blessed with one child after the other, I was also dealing with our oldest – a severely autistic boy who was profoundly developmentally delayed, and prone to tantrums and aggressive behaviors.

So there I was that Shabbos, feeling depressed and alone. I was feeling nothing but utter despair. In short, I was at the end of my rope.

Suddenly there was someone at the door.

Oh no! Who was it now? I was certainly not in the mood for anybody just then. But I went to the door.

I opened the door and there stood a short woman who was obviously not frum. I didn’t think she was even Jewish. “I’m sorry to bother you,” she began. “I’m just going around the neighborhood to let people know that I lost my cat.” “I’m sorry,” I said, pretending to care.

She took out a photograph of her cat and showed it to me. I nodded. “If you see my cat, please let me know.” And then she said something I will never forget: “My cat is my whole life. I have nobody else.” I expressed polite words of sympathy and assured her I would let her know if I found her cat.

When I closed the door, I had no doubt that Hashem sent this woman to my door to deliver a message. The message: Stop feeling so sorry for yourself. Yes, you have it hard with children so close in age and a child with a disability, but think about the fact that you have something to live for. Think about the fact that you have a family who needs you. There are people who have nobody to live for – but a cat.

And now even her cat was gone.

The Cat Lady thought she was knocking on my door to ask for my help. But in truth, Hashem sent her to help me. Like magic, my whole attitude changed. Yes, life was still tough. But I was now imbued with renewed strength.

I wish I could say I learned my lesson for the rest of my life, and stopped complaining. But we humans don’t learn that easily, do we?

We all know what happens. You go to an inspiring lecture. You come home feeling enthusiastic and ready to make some real changes for the better. But how long does the enthusiasm usually last?

So fast-forward to years later. My children are older now. The oldest is in a group home.

Life always has its challenges and problems. The challenges just take on a new hue as our children and we get older. And one day this summer, I once again found myself in one of those moods.

One thing I was particularly frustrated about that day was that I had been davening about certain issues for a while but Hashem was not giving me what I was asking for. Yes, I knew the hashkafas. I knew the purpose of davening is not just to get what we want. But on an emotional level, I just couldn’t go on anymore. It was getting harder and harder to open that siddur, harder and harder to ask Hashem for anything.

That morning, I found myself walking down the street. There was only one thing I managed to bring myself to ask Hashem for that day. While walking down the street, with my last energy, I made one more bakashah: “Please Hashem, give me the strength to continue davening.” That was all. I was not up to more, and I didn’t expect Hashem to say yes to this request. After all, He had been saying no to all my requests lately.

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I was going crazy. I couldn’t stand it another minute. Yes, I was feeling sorry for myself.

I had been blessed, b’li ayin hara, with children very close in age. Surely having one child after the other was a blessing to be grateful for. I knew there were many people who would give a million dollars to have such a “problem.” But still, it was very stressful. But that wasn’t the hardest part, and it wasn’t the main reason for my feelings of despair.

I’d like to believe that I at least have average intelligence. And when in need of inspiration or to learn something to facilitate my personal growth, I gain much from adult tapes and books. I’m greatly inspired by the words of the plethora of writers and speakers who target their words to adult audiences; their sentence structure and vocabulary meant only for us grownups. Their valuable lessons are often arrived at through a series of logical steps any adult with reasonable intelligence should be able to follow. And follow I do.

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