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December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Aunt Beatrice’

The Second Time Around

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

 


Have you ever asked yourself-or anyone else: If you could live your life all over again, what different choices would you make?

 

            Most people-myself included-would answer this question with a slew of situations, big and little that we would handle differently a second, more mature time around. From possibly exchanging the individual they married (ouch!), to choosing a different career path (I always wanted to be an astronaut), from the city or country where they live (Honolulu has fantastic, sunny beaches), the list of things that people would do differently are many.

 

Once, I heard a wise person respond to this question with a slant that caught me totally off guard. “What changes would I make? None. I wouldn’t do anything differently.”

 

Huh? Was he in denial over all his past mistakes? Or was he one of those previously-thought-to-be-non-existent individuals who lead that elusive “perfect” life? Or was he simply too arrogant to learn from his own setbacks to make better choices?

 

Or, perhaps he was truly wiser than most of us. Perhaps he came to a realization that “From G-d, a man’s steps are established” (Psalms 37:23). His destiny was predetermined, his footsteps guided from Above. All those choices he took credit – or discredit – for, were part of G-d’s master-plan.

 

Every decision that “he” made presented him with just the opportunity that he needed. There were no “good” or “bad” choices for him. Ultimately even those situations that were challenging were exactly what he needed in his personal destiny, for his ultimate good.

 

Ever consider that? Imagine how liberating such a perspective would be.

 

But, you ask, what about those decisions you made that really were dreadful. Like the time that you finally stood up to your overbearing Aunt Beatrice and told her precisely what you thought of her advice, only to immediately regret saying what you did, but still causing her not to speak to you for the last two decades since then or the time with your boss, er, former boss-well, you get the picture Or how about regrettable decisions you made in prioritizing your time, not spending enough of it with family and friends?

 

Unlike your job, your spouse, or your city of residence, ethical choices are yours alone. You can’t chalk up those horrid choices to “destiny”-because your loss of composure and resulting behavior was a result of your personal free choice. These are choices that the Torah tells us that we must sincerely regret-that is what teshuvah (repentance) is all about!

 

But here the mystics introduce us to an interesting dichotomy: After we have made those less-than-perfect choices, there is an opportunity for us to exploit these decisions, and even their consequences, for our own benefit. In hindsight – and in hindsight only… – we accept that this is exactly what we needed, at that moment, for our individual spiritual progress. We may have chosen the regrettable path that got us into the bind, but the fact that we now are in a bind, which is ultimately part of His plan-we are intended to use this opportunities for our essential spiritual growth. When properly utilized, these setbacks, and the lessons we take from them, can propel us to incredible heights.

 

So think about your answer to this question. If you could live your life all over again, how would YOU do it?

 

Differently, perhaps.

 

But you don’t get to live life again.

 

So maybe the better question is: If you are living YOUR life today, complete with all the decisions that YOU made, how are you using EVERY one of those decision as an impetus for self-improvement?  

Allergies!

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

        My day begins as a perfectly sunny, breezy, late summer morning. But then we meet. The encounter leaves me debilitated, my eyes red and swollen and my beautiful day in ruins. No, I’m not talking about my confrontations with Sally, my moody, volcanic boss. Nor am I referring to huffy Aunt Beatrice, who dispenses scathing criticism on my children’s behavior and my parenting skills at every family get-together. I’m not even speaking about my grumpy neighbor Harry and his huge brown dog that grunt threateningly at anyone who approaches the vicinity of their immaculately manicured lawn.

 

         I’m not talking about how encounters with difficult people can spoil a hitherto wonderful day, but about my seasonal meeting with plant pollen, which leaves me sneezing, coughing, and itching, with a runny nose and swollen, watery eyes.

 

         Like an estimated 45 million Americans and Canadians, I suffer from hay fever, otherwise known as seasonal rhinitis or pollen allergy. Pollen allergy, like any other allergy, is sensitivity to a normally harmless substance. Scientists think that people inherit a tendency to be allergic, or that it develops when the body’s defenses are weakened.

 

         When allergic people come into contact with an allergen, their immune system responds to a false alarm, treating the allergen as a hostile invader and mobilizing to attack. The result is a powerful reaction releasing inflammatory chemicals and basically leaving you feeling miserable.

 

         In fact, if you think about it, allergic reactions are a lot like our reactions to Aunt Beatrice, Boss Sally and Neighbor Harry. Their anger, criticism or condescension is really harmless, but it affects those of us who have a tendency to allow it to bother us, especially at times when our defences are down. It’s not the “allergen” that causes the inflammation, but our reaction to it that leaves us feeling so miserable.

 

         So, if you’re like me, what can you do to get some allergy relief at this time of year? And, is there any method of relief for those encounters with the “difficult” people in our lives?

 

         Basically, there are three approaches to the treatment of hay fever:

 

         1) Avoidance. Avoidance of the allergy means staying indoors, wearing face masks to filter out the pollen when outdoors, or relocating to a place where the offending plants don’t grow. But this extreme approach means missing out on some of life’s most beautiful experiences. Moreover, it is usually not sustainable, and thus offers only short-lived relief.

 

         While we can try your best to avoid, reduce and/or filter our exposure to disparaging people, this method is quite costly to ourselves and, at best, only works in the short term.

 

         2) Medication. Hay fever symptoms can often be controlled with antihistamines or decongestants. The drawback to this method–in addition to the undesirable side effects of these medications–is that the problem hasn’t really been solved. The allergy hasn’t been cured – only its symptoms have been mitigated.

 

         We can stop ourselves from reacting negatively, answering back, or inflaming the experience of a confrontation with a negative person. We can control the outward eruption of irritation, anger, or hurt, and continue to function normally. Still, we haven’t dealt with the root causes of our predicament. Inside, we are still seething…

 

         3) Immunotherapy. Otherwise known as allergy shots, the aim of this treatment is to increase the patient’s tolerance of the allergic substance. Diluted extracts are injected under the patient’s skin, followed by carefully monitored, larger doses. The body eventually learns that its irritable reaction is derived from its own misconception and stops treating the pollen as an enemy. The drawback of this method is that it takes time to build up tolerance and prolonged treatment may be needed.

 

         We can change our reaction to “irritating” people by training ourselves to look beyond their surface crabbiness and see the person behind the unattractive façade. We can learn to accept that the “enemy” is, in essence, a good person; it is only that external circumstances have twisted his behavior into negative patterns. When we identify our misconception and start looking at people in that way, their behavior becomes more bearable, and eventually it no longer inflames us.

 

         Like allergies to pollen, there’s no easy cure for difficult people, and exposure to them can be just as (if not more) debilitating than the dreaded hay fever. Indeed, pollen only affects us at limited seasons of the year, while difficult people tend to intrude into our lives at all times.

 

         Which makes adopting an effective method of treatment all the more worthwhile…

 

         Chana Weisberg is the author of four books including the best-selling Divine Whispers and the newly released Tending the Garden. She is a associate editor for www.chabad.org   and lectures worldwide on a wide array of issues. To have her speak for your community or to be a part of her upcoming book tour, please contact her at chanaw@gmail.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/allergies/2007/08/08/

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