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Not long ago, a friend wrote to me stating that she had a strong memory dating back to when she was married (we’re both divorced, single moms). She remembered standing in a store about to purchase a $50 pot, worrying that her husband might be upset about the purchase (they were a kollel family then). Well, she bought that pot, went home and baked a delicious cheesecake. Her husband loved it and didn’t fret over the price. Wow, life was so simple back then, she thought. If only I knew then what I know now, what real problems are!
Another old friend (who is luckily remarried) told me while she was divorced she remembered getting very angry with her ex husband because he didn’t do the dishes after dinner (she was home all day, he worked outside the home and provided very well for the family). Well, she too realized that this was something she should never have complained about, being that as a divorcee she hardly had any help at all.
A married friend of mine (whom I was once close to) called and complained repeatedly about how terribly stressful it was renovating her new home (she didn’t have to go out to work). Oh, she had to constantly direct the workers and, nebach, had the unfortunate job of having to go to the store to exchange (an expensive) faucet. My, how terribly stressful!
It was a couple of years later when she may have unfortunately experienced real stress, when her husband lost his business. Now I am not saying that remodeling can’t be stressful – I can very well see that it could be, but let’s live our lives with perspective. And please, if you have a single friend, acquaintance or family member, don’t complain about these sorts of things. My friends and I would give anything to have “renovation” type of stresses.
In addition, I know someone who is having huge shalom bayis problems. Not so much because of a lack of communication or incompatibility with her husband, but because of her mother-in-law. They’ve always had slight differences, but the thing that is ripping her marriage and family apart concerns a piece of jewelry (that her mother-in-law gave her). This is a highly intelligent person, yet everything is falling apart because of a piece of jewelry!
Again, I’m not saying that whatever is transpiring isn’t hurtful, but this individual needs to gain a huge amount of perspective. I’m writing this with the hope that you will print this, because I know of too many couples on the verge of divorce, or who will eventually be if they do not gain perspective, get their priorities straight, and if they do not stop feeling complacency in their lives.
My hope is that no one needs experience the very real tragedy and pain of a broken home.
Keeping perspective is the key
The dictionary interprets ‘perspective’ as a standpoint, a point of view – as in one’s understanding of the relative importance of things. Speaking of “relative,” that precisely is what makes one person’s perspective vary from the next person’s.
Your divorced friend looks back to a time when she was a young kollel wife and wonders how her “simple” life could have seemed so complicated. It is always easy to know that which has already occurred rather than to predict what is going to be. In hindsight, we are all a little smarter. Such is the nature of humans. Hopefully we learn as we go along so that we can think more clearly when tackling future challenges.
Getting back to “relative,” one dictionary defines the word rather well: “The food required is relative to body weight.” Quite simply, your friend who complained of the stresses of renovation may have been just as stressed as one who cannot afford to renovate at all. It really comes down to relativity; each one’s pain is very real, though admittedly some do cope better than others. (That is why there is help available to us in the form of counselors, therapists and understanding friends who listen sympathetically, advise wisely, and better yet, lend a helping hand freely.)
We all start out on our various ventures in life with the hopes of meeting success. But things don’t always go our way. Sometimes we can help it and sometimes we can’t. Still, it is always easier to pass judgment on another’s bad luck than to critique our own set of circumstances.
It would be really be great to have our priorities in place all the time – never to “lose it” when being hassled and to always put things in perspective. And we should certainly work on ourselves to that end. But in the interim, let’s not be hasty in casting aspersions on another’s frustrations. We are truly at a loss as to what makes another tick unless we stand in his/her shoes. What may seem trivial to one may in fact be most significant to the other; the seemingly simple may actually be quite complicated. It’s all “relative.”
What we often fail to take into account is that each of us has been divinely allocated a unique set of tasks and trials. While praying that our neighbor, friend and loved ones succeed in theirs, let us not lose sight of our own – and of the reality that nobody, no matter how it may seem on the surface, leads the perfect life.
Being in touch with the real world means being happy for a friend’s good fortune. Who would wish for a friend’s marriage to fail just because his/hers did not work out? A childless woman can still feel joy at another’s ability to conceive. The proper perspective can then be defined as the acceptance of one’s lot and of another’s right to kvetch about his/her own.
Thank you for making us sit up and take note of the “relative” beauty in each of our lives.