Monday, November 2, 2015

One Amongst the Many

I'm in my late 20s and have been reading Modern Love since I was a teenager. I have the most supportive family and friends. I have a challenging and rewarding job I enjoy. I love living in New York and traveling even more, and work hard to see as much of the world as I can. I didn't feel heartbroken when my engagement to my boyfriend of many years ended this spring because it always felt wrong and I finally felt free. 
But now, finally single, I find myself an addict just as the author has described. Loved ones describe me as rational, pragmatic to a fault and successful in whatever I put my mind to. But in love I am the opposite. I put so much stock into an intense initial connection or early excitement of a new encounter only to find myself heartbroken when it doesn't work out.
I wish I could find the balance that the author achieved. I wish I didn't feel this massive hole in both my head and my heart every moment of every day wondering how and when I will find that person I'm meant for. I wish I was convinced of my self-worth in the way my family and friends say I should be. 
Instead, I just feel like a desperate little girl with no control over her life seeking something you can't force yourself to find. I truly hope one day I have a happy ending to share like the author of this column does. 
—K, N.Y.C.

This letter was printed in response to this article, "Overcoming Love Addiction: One Apple Martini at a Time" by Peter DeMarco. A diagnosed "love addict" who saw a fairy tale ending in every encounter with a female, he was eventually redeemed by an offhand comment to become a teacher. In pursuing that career, the void he desperately attempted to fill was appeased, and shortly thereafter established a romantic yet healthy connection which led to his happy marriage. 

But it was the above letter that spoke to me. I could have written part of it. 

I do find, at times, days, weeks, or even months of calm, however. I think the secret is when I take the individual out of the equation. 

Prior to Rosh HaShana, I listened to a number of online shiurim to get my focus in the right place. They tend to all be delivered by Rabbi Daniel Glatstein. Since his shiurim are delivered to numerous audiences, there can be some repetition, but when the same sentiments echo more than once they stick to you. 

A Navi geek, I perked up when he cited the story of the Isha haShunamis. Quick rundown: A wealthy woman, the Isha haShunamis, eagerly accommodates Elisha whenever he is in town, even having another floor added to her home to provide him with a private sanctuary.
Grateful for such comfort, Elisha sends Geichazi, his sidekick, to discover any wants or needs she may have. She informs Geichazi: "I dwell amongst my people." The meforshim glean from that statement that she wished to be included in the zechusim of klal Yisroel, not to be singled out.

Geichazi reports her response to Elisha, who was probably flummoxed. A navi, especially of his repute, was probably begged for brachos all the time. Not wishing to leave without some sort of compensation, he realizes that she has no child. Without her say-so, he blesses her with one.
Rabbi Glatstein references this happening to reinforce the importance of viewing oneself as part of the kehillah. Then the gray cells began to percolate: 

Do you think that the Isha HaShunamis didn't suffer over her barrenness? That she hadn't plead, wept, sobbed for a child, as Sarah, Rochel, and Chana did? And yet here she is offered, on a gleaming silver platter, an opportunity to ask for anything

But at this point, she had already made her peace, by realizing she "dwells amongst her people." (I'm guessing that if she's the type to build a second floor on the chance Elisha may visit, she was probably an all-around mitzvah lady.) She is one of many, a nation with a cause. It gives her joy and purpose to care for this great man, without any thought of return. When she selflessly gave, without ulterior motive, she was showered in bracha.

Because there are a multitude of stories that display the same moral—giving freely opens many doors—am I even capable of giving freely? In the middle of the spiritual high that is generosity and consideration, a little voice pipes up, "Look how nice you are! You'll probably get something for this!" It saddens me when I hear it. I want to give like she gave. 

In the meantime, until that day, I forget about my own obsessions . . . and dwell amongst my people.     


Daniel Saunders said...

"If you live for others, you must live for others, and not as a roundabout way of getting an advantage for yourself." - George Orwell, Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool

At least you are conscious of the voice. I think a lot of people think they are being altruistic when they aren't. This from another recovering love addict. I think the day I'm ready to get married is the day I'm not pinning all my hopes for happiness on getting married...

Princess Lea said...

Self-awareness is so tiresome. For once I would like to fool myself.