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Musing for Meaning

Praying to Be Wrong

November 27, 2011

I’m a real perfectionist. And most of all, I hate being wrong. Those who love me will attest that it is both my greatest strength and my worst fault. Those who don’t love me know this part of me better than the rest.

So it is hard for me to want to be wrong. Even when all logic and emotions dictate that I would be crazy to hope for anything else.

You see, it is 3:27 AM, and we spent nine hours today driving back from Vermont to Pennsylvania. We returned home around midnight, and I now sit in the emergency room with my youngest daughter, awaiting the results of her tests for appendicitis.

Being that I am here, it means I do not think this is nothingFor the last three days I have mostly ignored her complaints of stomach pain, and rationalized that her low-grade fever was a result of too much running around outside. But then, upon arriving home and with her still complaining of pain, I checked with Dr. Google and became concerned. So concerned that, rather than waiting until the morning and taking her to the doctor down the street for a $15 copayment, I chose to drive 20 minutes to the emergency room and pay $100.

So here is the twist. Being that I am here, it means I do not think this is nothing. And, not wanting to look like either a hysterical parent who overreacted or a delinquent parent who didn’t react quickly enough, I want the nurses and doctors to likewise share my concern and suspicions.

But do I?

I don’t actually want to be right. I want to be told that everything is fine. That nothing is wrong. And go home. And yet I am here. Struggling, as crazy as that sounds, to accept that being wrong is the ideal outcome. Yes, it will mean driving home at 5 AM, after five hours in the ER for really no reason. Yes, it will mean paying $100 for the same thing the doctor could have told me for $15. But yes, it will mean that, thank G‑d, my baby girl is healthy and back home with me, where she belongs. And yet, embarrassingly enough, I struggle with being wrong.

And then, as I write this, a call overhead says to prepare a room for the ambulance arrival. I immediately say “refuah shleimah” under my breath, and pray that it is a woman in labor and nothing else. Though I am pretty sure that, unfortunately, it is not.

How ironic. I worry about whether I made the right decision in coming here. And I struggle with being able to be wrong. Yet somehow, until now, I have forgotten how none of this is in my control. How this person being wheeled in didn’t make a decision as to whether or not to come. And how grateful I should be either way. If, G‑d forbid, I am “right,” then thank G‑d I brought her here, where she will receive excellent treatment. And if, G‑d willing, I am “wrong,” then we get to go home, worry-free, with a healthy little girl.

I have forgotten how none of this is in my controlAnd yes, I am well aware that I used G‑d three times in the last two sentences. After all, I had some making up to do. Until now, it seems I left Him out of the equation altogether . . .

It is now 3:59. I am no longer anxious, no longer annoyed, no longer focused on me. But grateful. Very grateful. And not just hoping, but praying, to be wrong!

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.

Two Big Words: Thank You!

November 20, 2011

It’s amazing how two little words make all the difference. Two? I know, you are thinking the big three: I Love You. But arguably there are two that, I think, might be even more important at times.

So it was a Wednesday afternoon, as my children got off the school bus with a little boy I have never seen before. His name is Sam, and the kids ask if he could stay at our house for a little bit. It seems Sam missed his stop and had nowhere to go.

In comes Sam and stays for a few hours, playing with my kids. Unable to reach his mother, and having not heard from her (and having no idea who she is), I am a bit perplexed.

Was it possible that his mother actually had the gall to pick him up without so much as a word?Sam then eats dinner with us, and as I go into the living room to check on something, I discover Sam is no longer in the house.

Was it possible that his mother actually had the gall to pick him up without so much as a word? Without even introducing herself? Without thanking me?!? I was livid. I stormed into my husband’s office ranting and raving at the utter chutzpah of this woman. I entertained her child, I helped him with his homework, I fed him dinner, and nada.

And all I was looking for was a simple “thank you.” Two words.

The word for “thanks” in Hebrew, todah, comes from the same root as hodayah, which means “acknowledgement.” To thank someone means to be aware of what they did for you. To be aware of the gifts we have. This is why the first thing a Jew is to say upon waking in the morning is modeh, which means “thank You”—for restoring my soul, for giving me another day.

So simple, yet so transformative.

Without her thanks, I was irate. I felt taken advantage of. I had no desire to help her in any way again.

And then the phone rang.

A woman on the other end introduced herself as Sam’s mother. She felt terrible that she had not been able to introduce herself in person earlier, but when she came to the door I was on the phone, and she hadn’t wanted to disturb me. She continued that she had just given birth two weeks ago, and her newborn was in the car screaming and needing to be fed. She had been stuck with him at a doctor’s appointment, and that was why she was so late.

She continued how sorry she was. How grateful she was. And she said more “thank you”s in five minutes than most people say in a year.

And me? Well, of course I understood. And terrible I did feel for having thought (and screamed) such unpleasantries about her!

So what did I say in response?

Without her thanks, I was irate“Please let me know how I can be of help . . . Anytime you need anything, just call . . . Seriously, it was my pleasure.”

And I meant them all.

Now that I had received that “thank you,” I would have given her the world. That was all it took. Two words.

Yes, I realize that the higher road is to do the good deed without the need for thanks. But for those of us not quite yet there, never forget the difference our gratitude can make!

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.

Losing a Day

November 13, 2011

I just flew with my middle daughter to California. Only a three-hour time difference and a six-hour flight, but it got me thinking about losing time. This summer I boarded a plane on a Wednesday afternoon to fly to Australia. I arrived . . . Friday morning. Essentially, that means that I lost a day in travel. In hindsight, I find that quite strange and a bit sad. A whole day lost? I guess at least part of Thursday happened in midair, but either way, I lost a significant amount of time.

I guess we all lose days. Sometimes it is simply because nothing monumental seemed to happen. Other times we just can’t remember what we did. It is the classic situation where my kids return home from a full eight hours in school to report that during their day they did “nothing.” Nothing . . .

And yet we all know how other days are so full, so brimming with activity and accomplishment and results, that those days define us in many ways. The days our children were born, the day we got married, the day we landed that great job. And of course, other days are etched in our memories forever as well. The day we lost a loved one. The day a relationship ended.

Ultimately, we have no idea how many days we have in our livesUltimately, we have no idea how many days we have in our lives. It is so easy to feel that our days are endless, that there will always be more time. And yet, think how many would do anything—give anything—for just one more day in their life. For just one more day in the life of someone they loved.

So perhaps that is why reflecting back on a lost day is making me uncomfortable. I don’t want to lose a Thursday. I don’t want to lose any day. Or even part of a day. And because I did, it is making me realize how much I can truly accomplish with my time when I make the most of it.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe once asked what time a certain event would begin. He was told around 10:00 or 10:15. He asked which one it was, for he explained that there was an incredible amount that he could accomplish in fifteen minutes.

It is so easy and so cliche to say that we should use our time well and take advantage of every day. But it is true. For what a shame and waste that a twenty-four-hour period can pass, and we might feel that during our day we did “nothing.” All the more so if we let that day turn into a week, or even longer. Steve Jobs has been famously quoted as saying: “Live each day as if it is your last. One day you will be right.” We can’t live in the past, and we don’t know what tomorrow brings, but we can determine how we want today to be. So get away from your computer screen, and make the most of it!

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.

Ignoring the Itch

November 6, 2011

My daughter is covered in a rash. Head to toe. She is miserable. We are miserable. And she itches, terribly and nonstop. And try as we may, no matter how we beg her not to scratch, she simply can’t stop herself. She isn’t even aware she is doing it. Both when awake and throughout her sleep, all she does is scratch.

I can somewhat relate, as I am one who gets eaten alive by mosquitoes. And yes, I know, I must just have the sweetest blood. Of all compliments, I could live without this one. And when the itching begins, one needs superhuman strength to leave those bites alone. And let’s be honest, the feeling accompanied by a real, good, thorough scratch is simply amazing. For about five seconds. And then it pays you back with a wrath unparalleled.

We scratch because it feels good. At least in the momentThese rashes or bites are not a part of us. They shouldn’t be there. They are foreign to who we are, and that is why we react to their poisons. And the more we scratch, the more we spread the poison around, the more we itch and the longer it lasts.

But we scratch because it feels good. At least in the moment. And it is a relief. But the pain always returns, for the itch comes back begging for more, and the cycle continues. And ultimately, there is only one thing that will make it go away, and that is not to touch, not to scratch, not to engage.

We all have the things we know we should stay away from. They are attractive, interesting and inviting, but get too close and they will bite. And once that poison is released, it spreads so easily.

In this week’s Torah portion of Vayeira, we also learn of a poison in the form of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham is foretold of their destruction, and can’t understand how cities could be annihilated; so he pleads, he argues, for them to be spared. He asks G‑d if He would save the cities in the merit of fifty righteous, but Abraham can’t find that many. Eventually he realizes that he can’t even find ten, so he must accept that the cities need to be destroyed.

There are certain things that we are simply allergic toWe too so badly want to find the good, find the positive. But there are certain things that we are simply allergic to . . . all of us. Drugs, abuse, violence, infidelity . . . are poison, even if we do not immediately see the breakout of the rash. And then there are the things we are allergic to, even if others are not. And if for me it is a poison, I better stay away, even if it doesn’t affect you at all.

If we are lucky, we will discover our poisons without direct exposure. Other times, it is only when the itching begins that we realize we have a problem. The question then is not why we are having a reaction, but what are we going to do about it. And that is our test. Can we remember that some itches should not be scratched?

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
Every situation we find ourselves in is a lesson waiting to be learned. That is what this blog is about. From the people I meet, the places I go and the experiences I have, stories emerge, each teaching me something that I hope you will find useful for your life as well.
Sara Esther CrispeSara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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