In Bob Dylan’s iconic song, “Blowin’ In the Wind,” he wrote:
“How many seas must a white dove sail
before she sleeps in the sand?
How many ears must one person have,
before he can hear people cry?
How many deaths will it take,
till he knows that too many people
It appears that the answers are not merely just blowing in the wind, instead, the wind belongs to God Almighty, who is always blowing. The choice however, is ours as to whether we want to use this Godly wind to blow out our fires or to fan them! If you have never read the book called “The Choice” by Dr. Edith Eva Eger, a holocaust survivor, I strongly encourage you to.
Life is a journey, and, for many, not a simple walk in the park. It is not always a “rose garden,” either. Life hands us many challenges.
A connection has been made between the number 42 and the number of roads implied in the first line of Dylan’s song:
“How many roads must a man walk down
before you call him a man?”
According to legendary comedy/sci-fi author Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” the number 42 is the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.”
Honestly, I have not read this book, but I was intrigued enough to do a personal mathematical calculation.
Currently, the year is 2020. I was born in January of 1964. If I go back 42 years, I was 14, the year would have been 1978. I was preparing to graduate the 8th grade. I was always the oldest in my class since my parents had chosen to have a 2-year school difference between my older sister and myself. The actual age difference is only 14 months.
I was a very anxious child since I had already survived many traumas, which were never addressed. June 1978, I graduated as Valedictorian.
Life seemed on the upswing since I had chosen to leave, what to me, felt like the suffocating environment of a Bais Yaakov style school I had been placed in.
I lived on Long Island, and the High School I had chosen was Central, Yeshiva University High School for Girls, which at that time was located in downtown Manhattan.
For me to get to Central and back each day, it would entail going by Long Island Railroad, The New York City Subway, and a walk. If you are familiar with New York City in the 1970s, the subway system was no place for a sheltered, young, very religious, anxious, traumatized girl traveling alone.
I was placed in only Honors Classes. I was honored. I came into the school, though, as a single. Others came in as pairs or groups from other schools, camps, or neighborhoods. I tried to convince myself that I was brave.
On the very first day, I sat down in my English class. The teacher began with the following monologue:
Any paper with three errors, whether grammatical or spelling, even if it’s a typo, will automatically receive a failing grade, if you have three papers, which will be assigned weekly, with a failing grade, you will immediately fail the semester.
At the tender age of 14, I did not know that I suffered from panic attacks, probably due to trauma. I instantly shut down. I didn’t hear anything else because my brain was incapable of understanding anything else. My body was struggling to breathe, and it was doing everything possible to get air into my lungs. All other functions shut down.
At the end of the first day, the one other girl, from my neighborhood, one year ahead of me, who had also decided to make the long daily trip with me, dropped out. It was too much for her.
The wind was blowing fiercely, and the flames were being fanned furiously. I did not possess any tools whatsoever to help blow out this fire! I had nothing in my toolbox. I had no fire extinguisher, no water hose, no backup phone number for the fire department or police, not even a neighbor or friend to rescue me from the engulfing flames.
At that moment, the fire consumed me; I burned and became a pile of ash. I was not brave. I waved the white flag, tucked my tail between my legs and with my head and shoulders bent over in defeat, returned to what I thought of, and felt, was a prison, not a school.
Forty-two years later, my toolbox, thank God, is FULL and overflowing!!
I have and continue to learn everything from
1. breathing exercises
3. Distress Tolerance Skills
4. how to get myself unSTUCK, a method created by Shira Gura
5. Interpersonal Relationship Skills
6. The science behind how the brain is affected by trauma and how I can manage it.
7. I have even become a certified Living Deliberately life coach.
Does this mean I don’t get triggered? I get triggered all the time, but now it’s about how I manage it, for that, I am eternally grateful to God.
Interestingly 42, is also very powerful in Judaism:
1. The Jews rested/camped in 42 places between Exodus to Deliverance to their Homeland.
2. The prayer “Ana B’Koach” said on Friday nights, has a mystical background, and is comprised of exactly 42 words.
3. According to Kabbalah, the world was created by God’s mystical 42 letter name (Zohar II, 234b)
4. The number of days of the Omer, after the seven days of Pesach, equals 42.
I will always be a work in progress, and I will always be on the lookout for which way the wind is blowin’.
If you want to be a fire extinguisher for a trauma survivor, please validate them. There is nothing stronger in their toolbox than validation.