Latest update: April 2nd, 2012
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Last week’s column featured a letter from a woman who, by her own account, has lived the ideal life: loving and caring spouse, nachas from children and grandchildren, good health, and material comfort to boot.
Yet this grandmother has been plagued for all these years by the pain of regret – as she deeply mourns the loss of a young love that she feels she carelessly forfeited through her own foolishness, having been “too naive and too young” to recognize it for what it was.
My dear woman, you wrote not to seek advice but – as you yourself put it – to “unburden.” You have also been straightforward in admitting that you have no intention of ever relieving yourself of the emotional weight you have carried around with you for over 40 years. One senses that in the depth of your being you would like your pain to be validated.
All things considered, and in light of the fact that a broken heart is most resistant to logic and reasoning, one may wonder what the point is in responding to your letter. Let’s just say for now that perhaps another hapless soul in a similar circumstance, still fresh, will take some of these words to heart and be lucky enough to sidestep a lifetime of heartache.
“Romantic love is an illusion,” wrote the poet Thomas Moore. “Most of us discover this truth at the end of a love affair, or else when the sweet emotions of love lead us into marriage and then turn down their flames.”
You were all of 15 years of age when you discovered that a young man of 17 had tender feelings for you. In the next two years, you were the subject of his adoration and the recipient of his expressions of love in almost every form. Serious and mature for his age and a real romantic at heart, he was able to communicate his endearment through his poetry, letters and soft nature – all the while picturing himself as your knight in shining armor. When he moved in to sweep you off your feet, you shocked him by innocently declaring, “We are too young, I need time.”
Whether you are ready to accept it or not, you spoke wisely. Ask yourself how you would have advised your daughter had she found herself in this quandary at such a tender age.
Since that time, however – since the day he walked out of your life and you could suddenly no longer take his doting affection and attention for granted – your romantic natured soul teamed up with your imagination and lonely heart to build a grand castle in the sky. Ever since, you haven’t stopped embellishing and nurturing your dream for a second – even though there is no way you could know how your life would have turned out had you married the youth that squired you around town when neither of you had a care in the world. Neither do you know whether he is still alive (though you seem to assume he is when you convey the wish that he visit your gravesite after you are gone).
The bigger tragedy in all of this is that while you immerse yourself in fantasy and allow illusion to rule your existence, you miss out in fully appreciating the real beauty in your life, the wonderful blessings from G-d. Even if, as you say, you have never given your husband or family any reason to “suspect,” you have been cheating them and robbing yourself of wholehearted love and giving. Instead, you have torn yourself apart by eating your heart out over a missed opportunity – though that “opportunity” may not have led the way to a “happily ever after” sequel, regardless of its promising outlook.
As you read this, your heart is protesting “impossible!” But there is only one truth, my dear – the reality you live, breathe and taste on a daily basis, the authenticity of the here and now, the devotion of your life partner, and the daily joys you reap from your beautiful extended family. How is it not apparent to you that what was once upon a (inopportune) time was not meant to be? Has your negative emotional energy so eroded your emunah as to have you believe that had the young man been your rightful zivug, G-d was incapable of implanting in him the motivation to wait, to give you – a mere 17-year old – the chance to grow up some?
In Yiddish there is a saying, “men tur nisht zindigen” – which means that one is not to sin by complaining or lamenting his/her lot. In essence this would be tantamount to casting aspersions on Hashem’s designs, which could chas v’shalom arouse a heavenly tribunal to investigate whether the dissatisfied person is indeed deserving of His abundance.
I can hear you protesting that you do appreciate what you have. Maybe so – but does shedding “buckets of silent tears” qualify as a show of appreciation? We are called upon to serve Hashem with happiness. “Ivdu es Hashem b’simchah,” for “His kindness endures forever…”
Someone once penned a truism: “If you love it, set it free. If it comes back, it is yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.”
You set him free and gave him every chance to come back. He didn’t – because he wasn’t yours. If he is still alive, he is probably happily married. That does not mean he forgot you. But when he thinks back to when he fancied himself in love, he does so with fond memories of a bygone time and with acceptance of G-d’s ways. For it was obvious to him that another soul had been divinely assigned, 40 days before you were born, to be your true zivug.
Resolve today to put the past behind you for good, to start living life to the fullest, and allow yourself a good cry – of relief, and gratitude to Hashem.
About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.
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