They say, “If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.” In other words don’t try to tamper with something that is fine the way it is. This kernel of wisdom essentially offers a warning to not interfere or try to change something that seems to be working as is, because chances are the “repair” will ruin it.
For example, a young man decided to trade in his two year old car that had served him well for thousands of miles, because he wanted something more updated, something with some built in features to make his ride a bit more comfortable. His new car afforded him months of grief and aggravation with problems that necessitated him returning the car to the dealership (it was under warranty) a distance from where he lived, and using a rental. When one issue was repaired, another one cropped up. Obviously, this car was a “lemon” and he rued the day he gave up his previous car that never had given him any trouble.
Now and then I read about people who looked fine, but insisted on having plastic surgery to “fix” their looks. They endured risky medical procedures with weeks of agonizing recovery.
Imagine a root canal with residual pain for a couple of days. You might be flinching as you read this, remembering how miserable you were, yet it was a necessary undertaking.
Multiply this by weeks of swelling, bruising and physical dysfunction due to strong medication, just to “repair” a perceived flaw.
And they are the more fortunate ones. Now and then you read about patients who were critically damaged by their enhancements, or simply did not wake up from their cosmetic surgery.
Conversely, I believe that if something is “broke,” you don’t ignore it; it is necessary to try to fix what is wrong, as opposed to putting your head in the sand and ignoring that which must be looked at and dealt with.
This is especially true when it comes to medical issues. I sadly paid a shiva call for a woman whose symptoms were ignored for too long. Obviously, something was “broken,” but there was denial of how serious the situation was. To spare her family worry, she barely mentioned the pain that was wracking her body, and attributed her problem to the physical nature of her work – even though she had not had any discomfort for years. “Guess I’m getting old,” she rationalized.
After she was niftar, the family commented on what a tzaddaikes she was – rarely complaining and making light of her “discomfort,” having bitachon that she would eventually get better and was experiencing something temporary that would “go away.” But it was not the outcome she was hoping for, and she left parents, in-laws, a spouse, children, siblings and other family to grieve over her untimely passing. She kept her agony to herself in a misguided attempt to not cause her family distress, but it backfired in a huge way. Now they are facing years of sadness and loss without her.
It’s possible the outcome would have been the same even with a timely diagnosis; even early detection of a problem does not change the result, as all is under Hashem’s orchestration – but we are admonished to take care of ourselves to the best of our ability and that means refraining from being in denial whether it involves yourself or someone you are closely connected to. Whether there is a medical issue, a mental health illness or an addiction, it must be confronted. The first step to “fixing what is broke” is facing reality and admitting that something is broke.
And that first step is huge. It’s like when a newborn takes its first breath as it leaves the womb. There is no placenta providing it with oxygen and it must take immediate action. It takes a breath and cries, proclaiming that something is different. That first breath is probably the hardest thing it has ever had to do – but is crucial to its survival.
Sometimes a person does recognize that there is something off, and it is their health care professional that minimizes or ignores the situation.
A young man I know noticed a rash on his arm and figured he may have come in contact with an irritant or was stung by some insect while cutting the grass. But when it spread, he went to a dermatologist. Aware no doubt of the many people waiting, he gave his patient a 30-second cursory look, but did not bother to see how much it had spread. He gave the young man a steroid shot and a prescription and went on to his next patient.
The rash improved slightly, then got worse, turned a deep reddish purple and spread even more. In addition, his face was numb and there was tingling in his arms. The young man’s wife urged him to reach out to a friend, a doctor who quickly assessed that the young man was having a medical emergency. Even though Yom Tov was almost over, and the young man suggested they wait, the doctor drove to his home to get some medication and immediately injected his friend, likely saving his life. He also called the pharmacy so as not to delay his getting necessary follow-up meds.
Always get a second opinion if you feel a doctor, lawyer, therapist, accountant or car mechanic, has been clueless or on the wrong track.
I speak from personal experience and am still negatively affected financially and medically from the ineptness of lawyers and doctors I used decades ago. The repercussions are often life changing. I recognize Yad Hashem in all these misadventures, and am grateful that I learned from their mistakes – and mine.
If you can find a silver lining in the dark clouds that have enveloped you, whether as a result of your own mistakes and miscalculations and by others’ ill-advised “expertise” or foolish or self-serving opinions, then you can develop a true hakarat hatov. Being aware and cognitive of the valuable knowledge one can reap from harsh situations can enhance one’s life.
I’ve always felt that one of the benefits of getting older and having more life experience is that I became less naive. At least I hope that’s the case. With age, comes wisdom, and a component of that wisdom is to see that good can come out of bad – and to embrace and be grateful for the good that is there if you open your mind and are willing to look for it.
Gratitude means that one is aware of the positives in one’s life – and thus one can be sameach b’chelko and live with some measure of life-enriching simcha.