I was chatting with a family member, who was venting about some of the burdens of their life. Nothing earth shattering, but enough sleep deprivation, cranky kids, and a tight budget were enough that they were on edge.
I did my empathic listening, and mirroring, and tried to just be a friend in a time of their need when I realized that they, myself, and really many (all?) of us have this incorrect perception that if fixed, really solves a lot of problems.
Why are we kvetching? No one said life was going to be easy!
There is a notion out there, pushed unintentionally by millennial’s, but in some senses believed by all, that we are entitled to, and can expect that life will be good and easy. Then when life does not turn out that way, in fact, we are disappointed and let down.
I turned to that family member and said, we are under this misperception that life is supposed to be easier. Who said so? Perhaps life is supposed to be difficult? Or at least the notion that it shouldn’t be as difficult as it is, at times, is just false?
With Purim just around the bend (easily my favorite holiday), we find a parallel and a very clear life lesson, I believe.
To sum up the story of Purim, as the old jokesters like to say, they tried to kill us, Esther saved us, lets eat, and drink and be merry. So merry, in fact, that the Code of Jewish Law instructs us to imbibe to the point that we cannot distinguish between blessed Mordechai and cursed is Haman.
Wow, that has got to be the greatest of miracles, and happiest of occasions, for the law to instruct us to celebrate and tell how hard to pound back the drinks!
Yet, if you look at the story, after the dust settles, and the genocidal pogrom is averted, things are not all that pretty in Shushan.
Esther is still in a loveless marriage, married to the ogre Achashveirosh, the Jews are still under his dominion. The Temple has not been rebuilt, there are no choirs of beautiful people singing into our ears as unicorns fly distributing candy to one and all.
Rain (or snow if you live near me) still falls, the sun is still hidden behind clouds at times and there are dark dreary days, and things are just not perfect?
Is this the great celebration that our sages teach us about? Is the bar for happiness so low, that not-being-killed is cause for over-the-top celebration? Shouldn’t we be celebrating all that is good (amazing) in our lives, not the lack of our being eradicated?
In fact, that Talmud tells us that Akati Avdi D’achashveirosh Anan – We were still servants to Achashveirosh, once the story was over, which is (one of the reasons) why we don’t say Hallel on this holiday.
So what gives?
My supposition. Yup, no on said life was going to be easy. In fact, often it is going to be super hard. But there is always a silver lining to find and hold onto.
Yes, Esther’s life was still pretty lousy even after she saved the Jewish people, but she chose to focus on what was good in her life. Her rough circumstances enabled her to become a major player on the world scene and save her brethren. Even if she wasn’t to have the marriage to a great Torah scholar like her uncle Mordechai, with a bunch of little cute chassidic kids singing Shabbat songs at her table on friday nights.
We too must find a way to find that silver lining in our lives. Or as that relative who I was chatting with said to me.
Thank Gd I have a great marriage. It’s because I have such a great partner, that I can get through my tough child rearing challenges. I add, perhaps, be thankful that you have children. Many others don’t have even that, as much as they pine for children.
Here is the bottom line. No one ever promised us an easy life. All that we are told, is that if you have a win, no matter how large or small, it is a cause for a celebration. It’s worthy of writing a Megilla about it, and being grateful and merry.
Even if after the dust settles, there is still pain and suffering in imperfection in your life. There is always a silver lining to hold onto, to make things a bit more manageable.
Esther teaches us many lessons. Perhaps the greatest of which is to focus on what is right in your life, not what isn’t!
It will make you a lot happier with your lot.