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To Lose the Blues

To Lose the Blues

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“Can’t you do anything right?!” I snapped, after deleting a good portion of the document I was working on . . . for the second time.

I had overslept my alarm, spilled the orange juice, and one annoyance seemed to follow the next. I was just having one of those days.

There are loads of expressions for days like this and the way we feel about them: woke up on the wrong side of the bed, had a bad day, I was in a funk, in the doldrums, had a case of the blues.

I was just having one of those daysYes, that was just how I felt. As things seemed to go from bad to worse, I pushed my chair away from the desk and forced myself to take a few breaths. I had to do something, or I knew I was doomed to have my day continue its downspin.

I picked up my Tehillim, the Book of Psalms. Its author, King David, was no stranger to troubles. His father-in-law, King Saul, tried to have him killed many times. His son Absalom led a revolt against him, which led to David’s flight and Absalom’s ultimate death. David had it rough, and it shows in his poetry.

I turned to King David’s words, and recited a few psalms. I started with Psalm 121: “I lift my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come? My help comes from G‑d, Maker of heaven and earth.”

Yes, He is the Master of the Universe. He created everything; surely He can help me out of this funk. I put in a short prayer to get back on track, and for things to go more smoothly.

I went back to my work, and still felt a little nervous that things would go wrong again. It occurred to me that this time of year, the three weeks before Tisha B’Av (which commemorates the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem), is traditionally a mourning period for the Jewish people. Weddings and live music events are postponed. During the nine days preceding Tisha B’Av, many Jews traditionally refrain from eating meat and drinking wine, which are symbols of happiness. It’s reasonable to have a case of the blues right about now.

Yes, it’s reasonable to feel down, I thought. But I reminded myself that the upcoming Tisha B’Av currently serves as a reminder only of unparalleled destruction for the Jewish people. However, in the future that day will be totally transformed. Moshiach (the Messiah) is slated to be born on Tisha B’Av, and in the future Tisha B’Av will be celebrated as a yom tov, a major holiday.

I liked that idea of transformation. Maybe I can do a little transforming on myself, I thought. There’s a concept of “a descent for the sake of an ascent.” We can really look at every situation as an opportunity for growth. Tisha B’Av time is the perfect time to focus on looking at adversity and striving for better times. I took a few breaths and tried to imagine myself more competent, more in the swing of things going right.

I recalled a study I read about in college, of which I am reminded every so often. The experiment went something like this: Researchers divided their subjects into three groups (all were women). Individuals in the first group were seated (separately) at a desk in a small room. They were told that they would be hearing a series of loud noises, and there was something they could do to make the noises stop. The desk had a buzzer attached. Participants in the first group realized that if they pushed the buzzer several times, the noise would stop.

Tisha B’Av time is the perfect time to focus on looking at adversity and striving for better timesThe second group was also put (individually) into the same room, but they were told that they would have to endure the unpleasant noise, and there was nothing they could do to stop it. There was a buzzer on the desk, but none of the subjects even tried to push it. Had they pushed it several times, indeed the noise would have stopped.

Third group: same room, same circumstances as the first, except the buzzer was not attached. No matter what they did, they could not get the noise to stop.

Afterwards, the participants were given anagrams to unscramble. Can you guess the results? The first group did well. They just came from an experience of facing a challenge, taking action, and reaching success. The second group, rattled by those noises, did less well. And the third group—far, far worse. They had thought that something they could figure out would bring an end to the annoying noises, and nothing worked. They were frazzled!

The authors of the study concluded that we tend to generalize. Women especially, they said, found that if they thought that their actions would bring good results and the results were not forthcoming, then the women had the feeling that they were destined to fail with other things as well.

It makes sense that success breeds success, and failure makes us feel like failures.

I gave myself a pep talk: Just because you messed up on a few things—okay, even a lot of things—does not mean you are doomed to fail everything. I decided to crawl out of the descent up to the ascent, and get back with the program.

And you know what? I did! Things really turned around for me.

Blues—diffused!

Jolie Greiff is a journalist and a mother. She lives with her husband and two children in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.
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Rosemary Brisbane, Qld/Australia July 26, 2012

Reading this again is even better One year later , and Tisha B'Av again imminent, I'm reading this article again & am struck by how profound it really is. Not that I didn't realise it was great on my first reading of it.

Maybe I got a bit wiser over the past year so I understand so much better at a conscious level how expectations make such a difference.

It really is important to tweak those expectations. Reply

Anonymous via thechabadcenter.org July 26, 2012

I have been feeling sad about a few things lately and this article was very revealing and meaningful .Thanks Reply

Rosemary Brisbane, Qld/Australia August 1, 2011

Awesome Thanks for that. Reply

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