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On Happiness, Loss, and Mixed Emotions

A lot has happened to our family and me the past month.  Many happy events and also some not-such-happy events.

From birth, bris, haircutting ceremonies, engagements, marriage, and death – our family has experienced the vast life cycle in just one month. Many of my nieces and nephews had new babies, my grandson got his haircut at 3-years-old, and our son got married.

And sadly, my mother-in-law, the matriarch of our family, the force, the backbone, the constant presence in ours and our children’s and grandkids’ lives, passed away at age 97 1/2.  I plan to write more about my dear mother-in-law in a future post, but suffice it to say that with her passing, we’ve felt the gamut of emotions from sadness and shock at her brief illness and sudden passing, to confusion and overwhelm at the timing a few days before our son’s wedding, and to gratitude and acceptance that she lived a long and fulfilling life.

And these happy and sad events spurred many strong emotions. Life is full of paradoxes and happy events spur good feelings – along with a sense of loss. Sad events cause mourning and loss – along with a sense of acceptance.

Back to our happy occasion – our son got married. Mazel Tov! A myriad of emotions have spread across our hearts. First and foremost are the feelings of  overwhelming gratitude. Gratitude to G-d for helping and guiding us to this stage. Gratitude to family for supporting us emotionally while we raised this child and our others. Gratitude to friends for being there with us through thick and thin.

And mixed with all that happiness at our son’s marriage (Did I mention it is our youngest son?) was (is!) the feeling of “loss” of my position as his daily Mommy, and of my stature as the one and only woman in his life (And did I mention he doesn’t have any sisters?)

Till now, I was the one he called when he wanted to discuss something (besides his rabbi and friends of course!). I was his go-to person. No more. Now, it’s his wife. And of course – that’s the way it should be. Right? That’s what we pray for and long for. That’s what we want in life – that our children move on. But still. Still. Just because we want something, doesn’t mean when we get it – there won’t be a change in the dynamic that takes getting used to. Change implies loss of one thing and replacement of another.

Other  mundane losses for me surround our son’s marriage – ranging from my missing seeing his stuff in his room, to my longing for of his many phone calls to me during the week. In general, the idea of having him all to ourselves has now gone away. We have to share— share him with a wife, a new family and in-laws.

With loss comes sadness, void and emptiness. Sadness that things are not the same. Void and emptiness for the space that used to fill the busy-ness of taking care of that child. Change is never easy and when I acknowledge those changes and move gently with them, I know things will be good.  Then, I can fill those spaces with good things.

What are those good things? Time will tell. But for now, I’m acknowledging and even accepting the void, the lack, the space. The Quiet. The Emptiness.

It’s all good.


Turning the Corner

Remember the fun of riding a bike for the first time?

Remember the excitement of being able to balance while going straight down the street or in the park? While staying upright (barely), pedaling the wheels and holding the handlebars, you looked straight ahead and felt the wind blowing in your face. Maybe your mom was holding on to the seat of your bike to help you along. Maybe she already let go.  Practically holding your breath, you didn’t dare look to the side.

And then you came to the end of the path. It was time to turn the corner. You were excited. But also a bit afraid.

Turning the corner required  extra skill  and was a risk. You had to tilt the bike ever so carefully, while veering the handlebars to the right or left.  You might fall and get hurt. You might find new territory on the other side, while going further away from home. Turning the corner was tough stuff.

The past 7 months, I’ve had a broken ankle, several surgeries, and complications. With lots of encouragement from my wonderful husband, children, family, friends and community, I’ve done pretty well.

I’ve moved  forward. Sometimes backward. Sometimes staying the same.  More recently,  I found a great doctor who got me on the road to recovery, and on the straight path.

But  I wasn’t allowed to put my foot down, or bear any weight on it. Doctor’s orders.

Until today.

Today, I went to the orthopedist for a check-up after my surgery 7 weeks ago. He told me the news I’ve been hoping for. The words we were all waiting for.

“It looks great. It’s healed.”


Buzzzz...ohhh. it tickles

And…on with a simple boot that I can walk on very soon.

In one week, to be exact. That’s. Very. Soon.

I’m excited. I’m happy. But there’s another component here.

Part of me is afraid. What if I turn the front wheel too far to the right and end up plopping down? What if I make it around the corner but find that it is too scary or painful over there?

What if I find that it’s too hard to do stuff around the block, and decide to go back to my own street,  up and down the same street?

But honestly, I cannot really afford to think the above thoughts, or remain gripped with fear. Such ruminations will prevent me from moving to the next step in my recovery.

All beginnings are hard, and so are transitions. Change is exciting and wonderful, but it doesn’t come without fear.

I remember looking at my injured leg before surgery 7 weeks ago, and mentioning to the anesthesiologist who was there, how utterly skinny my leg was. In comparison to my good leg, this leg was shriveled and thin. What was that about?

“Oh, that’s because you haven’t been using it for so long,” the doctor explained, referring to the many months that I’ve been without a useable leg, due to several surgeries and an infection.

His comment led me to think of the implications for life.  When we don’t use certain muscles, they shrivel up, and waste away. When we refrain from turning  corners toward change, we make it harder and harder to get back into things. The more we put off doing what needs to be done, the more we have a hard time doing it.

That is why I’m looking forward to taking that first step in my boot in one week from now. It may hurt, and it may be difficult. I may limp at first and I may want to stop walking and rest.

But the more I exercise my muscles of change (within reason and appropriately), the better and easier everything will be. Eventually my leg will fill up with muscles and will be more like a “regular” leg. Turning the corner takes trust, courage, and effort.

Maybe during this time of introspection during the month of Elul, before the High Holidays, each of us can figure out what is our “corner.” What place is our point of change were we go from a straight line to a right angle?

What is that point of difficulty where we have to exercise new muscles and joints to make it work in another new way before venturing into new territory? Figure out that point or joint that is your own niche for change, and then turn it. Turn that corner. It’s hard at first.

But it’s so worth it.

See you around the corner!

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