KJ Hannah Greenberg

A Pause from Worries

A great rabbi, who was suffering unimaginable pain for years, was asked how he managed to endure distress for so long. With a serene smile, he answered that the pain he felt yesterday was no longer with him, that the pain he might feel tomorrow was not yet with him and might never be with him. and that the pain he withstood at the moment was just momentary pain.

When we break our trials and tribulations into small bites, we can more easily navigate them. Whereas agonies are no less real if we tolerate them for five minutes instead of for an hour, or for a day instead of for a week, by cleaving them, we can better abide them. Let’s see how this notion applies to three cases;  the case of a recently widowed woman, the case of an injured soldier, and the case of an unemployed youth.

In the first instance, a woman was newly deprived of her life partner. Prior to his passing, her days and nights were filled with him. To begin with, they shared many joys. Later, they shared his decline. Although, sometimes, it was exhausting to provide his care or, to supervise the in-home professionals who, in the end, cared for him, she had been able to share this world with him.

In the beginning of her grief, especially since we’re rejoicing with Hanukkah, she’s been lonely. However, rather than regard the holiday as a seemingly endless succession of eight sets of 24 hours, this widow embraced the holiday in sections. At the start, she stayed with a married daughter, her son-in-law, and their children. During the second night, she stayed with a married son and his family. Throughout Shabbat, she celebrated with other seniors; they had a potluck seudah for one meal and a catered meal for another. Their third meal, again, featured their handiwork. For the remainder of the festival, she plans to enjoy herself at friends’ homes, except for when she’ll be attending the wedding of a dear one’s son.

The woman feels the pain of her beloved’s absence. Nonetheless, she’s coping by taking each day as it comes and by living her gratitudes.

In the second circumstance, that of a wounded soldier, his parents were more aggrieved than he was by his injury. The combatant thanked HaKadosh Baruch hu that he was alive (two young men in his unit were not as fortunate). Likewise, he appreciated that his hurt was sufficiently severe as to merit hospital care. Nevertheless, he itched to return to battle.

To his parents’ chagrin, after an operation and weeks of physical therapy, the trooper again donned his uniform. He limped, a little, as he boarded an army vehicle to return to his pluga, his company, in Gaza. He hobbled because a bit of shrapnel remained in  his leg; his surgeons had determined that it was better to leave in that bullet shard than try to extract it.

The warrior’s strength derived from his thankfulness and from his ability to break his problem into chunks. He recognized that Hashem had kept him alive, that Hashem had enabled him to once more become mobile, and that Hashem had given him the holy work of defending Eretz Yisrael. As well, he saw his immediate mission as recovering so that he could return to the front. So, the serviceman focused on healing from his surgery and then on pushing himself in his physical therapy sessions. Only thereafter did he contemplate rejoining his unit.

The fighter broke the process down even further. During his weeks of rehabilitation, he first sought to stand. Then he sought to walk a single step, then to walk two consecutive steps, and so on. Had he, initially tried to walk down an entire corridor on his own power, he would have failed. His modest goals enabled him to once more hoist a gun to defend our land.

In the third scenario, a young, unemployed woman, who was possessed of multiple college degrees, found a job. After spending a long span ranting and crying, she sought counseling. Plus, she asked her friends and to family for the type of support that she had come to realize that she needed. For example, from one bestie, she asked for companionship, thrice weekly, on walks; exercise is known to boost morale. She asked another gal pal to help her organize her closet so that she could easily access interview outfits. To boot, she asked her mom to regularly drop off her favorite chicken soup, and she asked her dad to help her hang up the many pictures and mirrors that sat in her closet, not on her walls.

Additionally, she rallied round herself. She made her favorite coffee every morning and, once a month, indulged in a manicure. Subsequent to engaging all of these aids, her improved mood enabled her to power through, a page at a time, sundry job listings. Moreover, every three days, she completed job applications.

Within two months of her boosted self-care, which was enhanced by the succor of her closest people and by the encouragement of her therapist, she found an appropriate position. By viewing herself as a worthy person and by removing some of her self-inflicted job search pressure, she was able, one sidewalk square at a time, to find work. When her friends similarly tussled with unemployment or underemployment, she taught them, too, to split their conundrums into pieces and then to address each piece separately.

We cannot prevent challenges from entering our lives. We ought not to want to avert them; they help us grow. On the other hand, we can reach to The Abishter for help, we can ask our closest associates for backing, and we can be kind to ourselves. It’s vital that we dissolve  “impossible” goals into attainable fragments. When we do so, we allow ourselves a pause from worries.

About the Author
KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing with words for an awfully long time. Initially a rhetoric professor and a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, she shed her academic laurels to romp around with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs. Thereafter, her writing has been nominated once for The Best of the Net in poetry, three times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for poetry, once for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for fiction, once for the Million Writers Award for fiction, and once for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. To boot, Hannah’s had more than forty books published and has served as an editor for several literary journals.
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