Tuesday, August 11, 2015
I Need a Hero!
Today is a miserable day. It is gray and rainy. There is nothing enticing about what I see outside. What really gets me is that this is my last few hours of a too short stay on the Jersey Shore's Long Beach Island. I envisioned waking up early, jogging on the beach, jumping into the ocean for a cool down and then reading the rest of the book, The Fault in Our Stars, while reclining in a beach chair. How nice does that sounds?!?!? Well... It's not going to happen and my disappointment grows with each of the tiny thuds of rain drops on the roof. This is one of those "hevel" (futility) days, when you feel like nothing will bring you happiness and you might as well just be miserable and hide under the covers with a jar of Nutella. (Don't you wish you were my family right now?)
By contrast, yesterday was glorious. Yesterday, after basking and baking (I'm a little crispy) in the sun for hours, I quoted my favorite verse from Psalms (we rabbis have things like favorite verses):
זה היום עשה ה׳ נגילה ונשמחה בו
Zeh hayom asah hashem, nagila venismecha vo.
"This is a day made (just for me) by God, let's enjoy it and be utterly content in it." (My liberal translation).
That captures my feeling when the day just can't get any better. I love that feeling and I know I'm not alone. So what do you do when life gives you hevel (futility) and all you want is simcha (joyousness)?
I read in a magazine recently that "any day can be a good day." I took this to mean that you are the architect of what is a good day, whether you are given bright and shiny or dull and dank.
Lemons... Lemonade, right? Easier said than done. Because when you are in, what my hubby Aaron calls "a mood," it's hard to break out of it.
I find that this is a question of will, that strength and stubbornness inside that keeps you running that last (or first) mile, holds you're mouth shut when someone says "I" when it should be "me," and empowers you to turn down ice cream cake at a birthday party (why would you do that!!?)
My friend from my WW meeting, Kevin, inspired me when he said that his goal is to impose his will on life, rather than allowing life to impose itself on him.
What a wonderful and powerful attitude.
Just because you are served something it does not mean you need to except it as is. I'll give you an example. Aaron leaves a little bit of whatever he is eating on the plate, just one less bite, to show himself that he imposes his will on the food, not the other way around. He is flexing his willpower muscle. Every time we do this, we grow that muscle and it becomes easier and easier to construct our lives as we want them to be and not just take what we are given.
This is one of Judaism's greatest gifts to the observant Jew. Every time I look at a menu or go to a grocery store and say, "I eat this and don't eat that" because I observe kashrut (keep kosher), I am cultivating willpower. Every time I choose to read a book on Shabbat over going to the mall, I am sharpening that tool in my emotional and spiritual toolbox, the one that tells me that I can live out my values and not accept what others think I should do with my time. While we Jews love to eat, I will say that saying "no" to bacon all these years has made it easier to say "no" to other foods and habits that will not help achieve my weight or spiritual goals. Living an observant life of "don't's" and "do's" is reminding us that holiness is carved out of every day life. A snack is turned into a conversation with the unfolding source of creation when I say a blessing over my peach, because I didn't let hunger make me ravage it like a lion ripping into a gazelle.
Willpower gives us the strength to take enjoyment out of a disgusting day, not allowing curveballs in our plans to derail our contentment. As we learn in Pirkei Avot, "Who is a hero? The person who overcomes his urges." It doesn't name grand heroic acts like saving a puppy from a burning building or splitting the Sea of Reeds. If you can break out of "a mood" and redeem the day, then you get a gold star. And if there is anything I have learned from Weight Watchers meetings its that no matter how old you get, we all love being rewarded with a gold star:)
Posted by Dahlia Bernstein at 3:10 PM