Sunday, November 4, 2007

Breaking out of the box


Boxes inside boxes. That was the standard doodle for boring classes. As a rule, I was pretty interested student, but every so often a teacher would lull me into the box-inside-box monotony. The worst thing a teacher could ever say is that the material taught in that lesson would not be on the test...

But that day, as I picked up my pen to occupy my mind with aimless scribbles, I didn't know that I was to learn a lesson so important, a mere test on paper or scantron could never accurately record my knowledge of it, or its practical application. Indeed, the test of the day would be....life.

When I heard one word my ears perked up. Family? Since when do we talk about family in Chumash class? I looked up, bemused, but suddenly curious about what Mrs. Jacobs had to say about family.

"Hashem created the family structure to serve as a workshop for each of us...."

She's talking in a general sense. Surely not my family...

"Each neshama was put in the perfect family for it to have the ability to grow to its fullest potentail. Your family is perfect for you. You would not grow as well or reach your potential if you were put somewhere else..."

No. Mine must be a yotzei min ha'klal. Maybe someone else's family, but mine...? No. My family is not the perfect place for me.

"Hashem in His infinite wisdom matches each child with his or her family. And do you know what, girls? Each of you, before you were born, actually chose your own family to be sent to..."

Can't be. This is just too weird. Why would I have chosen my family?


The bell rang. We packed up our books and left school. On the way home, my mind was still whirring with the last lesson. My family? The perfect place for me? No...can't be...

But that lesson stayed with me that whole week. Through Shabbos when I was so angry I just wanted to storm away from the table and run upstairs...but I didn't. On Sunday when I couldn't imagine having to go to the park with my family...but I agreed anyway. Throughout the week when all I wanted to do was run away from them and stay alone in my room, or go visit a friend, the words of my Chumash teacher echoed inside my head...
"Your family is perfect for you. You would not grow as well or reach your potential if you were put somewhere else..."

Oh, how I had wished to have belonged somewhere else...to have been part of Esti's family, or Shana's, or Sariva's...any but mine! How could my family possibly be helping me grow? It just didn't make sense...

But that lesson stuck with me. For years it comforted me when I felt that things were not fair, that everyone else was so lucky to belong to their family...except me...

And as the years went by, I started understanding things a little better, seeing more of the picture. I began to see the middos I developed and the wonderful traits I had that were only brought out as a result of me being part of my family...a product of my parents' parenting and my interactions with my siblings.

And the more I realized how true Mrs. Jacobs's words were, the more I realized that all those years I'd been squishing myself into tiny boxes, each one smaller than the one before... Instead of realizing that my family was a place for me to grow, I pushed them away and retreated into my cramped quarters, thinking I could better myself alone, without their help. I closed myself away from them, failing to realize their potential to help me soar, climb, reach out, be loved for being myself....

Now I can see it. It's taken me a long, long time, but with His help I can now understand a little better that where I was placed is indeed the best place for me to grow. Not only that, but it was me who chose to be a part of this family when I saw things more clearly up there...

Even with this knowledge and acceptance, it can still be very hard. Excruciatingly hard at times...painful, lonely, misunderstood... But I still repeat that lesson of many years ago to help me get through those struggles. He knows. He runs the world. He planned it all. In His wisdom He picked this one for me... And I try my hardest to extract myself from my self-imposed imprisonment inside my tiny, blue-penned boxes inside boxes...

I break free. And it feels wonderful. It feels strange, because I'm unused to it...but I feel like a newborn child...

...able to soar, climb, reach out, be myself.....






27 comments:

Scraps said...

Wow. That was beautiful and profound. I think I might just have to write a post of my own in response to this; a comment won't be enough. Stay tuned...

The Dreamer said...

i love you, you know?
and i don't say that often, but your posts... well.. just make me love you, cuz you write me down so well.

Madd Hatter said...

Scraps, i concur.

I actually remember learning a very similar lesson when i was younger as well, and it definitely gave me a very diff. perspective on family life. I love how you used the metaphor with the boxes to explain it.

Ezzie said...

Agh - too much to say [again]!

But perfect timing for this post...

This past Shabbos I was in Far Rockaway, and after davening at one place, my host was headed to a kiddush elsewhere. He asked if I minded, and so we went. I walked around aimlessly for a bit, eating a drop, when I suddenly saw my old 8th grade Rebbe... who despite his inability to see with his eyes, was always able to "see" me far better than most. I said hello, he stared up at me for a couple of seconds until he recognized me, and suddenly grabbed my head and gave me a kiss.

We talked for about 15 minutes as we walked around the room, and at one point, he asked about my parents. After the typical "they're good" discussion, he paused and stated, "Your parents are great people." I thought about that for a second before replying, "....true. Though I didn't really appreciate it until I got older." To which he simply replied knowingly, "Uh-huh."

Ezzie said...

Argh. Long conference calls are distracting...

anyway, while I think parents and family frustrate many of us, I think you said a lot of it perfectly: I began to see the middos I developed and the wonderful traits I had that were only brought out as a result of me being part of my family...a product of my parents' parenting and my interactions with my siblings.

Perhaps this is what you meant at the end, but it's not just their good traits and qualities that we learn from; we learn from those interactions and strains so much more. I never liked the question "If you could do it all over again...", because I always thought "well, if that hadn't happened, or if I hadn't messed up there, I wouldn't have learned _____ or done ____." Sure, we regret that had to happen, but ultimately we did gain from it and that helped us become who we are now. The same applies to family, too - even those things that I hated (or hate still) about my parents are things I can learn from, ideas that I can utilize.

Great post, CP.

halfshared said...

I was recently thinking about just this post. I actually think about it often. Like what would it feel like to be in a different family. And then I go through all my friends family and realize that there is NO other place I'd rather be but in my family, with my parents and my siblings. They are the best for me and I realize it. Thank you for this wonderful profound post.

G said...

"he paused and stated, "Your parents are great people." I thought about that for a second before replying,..."

Not fair, not fair at all.

G said...

Some of look around at our families, see the diverse personalities, the different outlooks and viewpoints, the mosaic if you will that is the X's; and at these momnents of introspection we look up to the sky, turn toward the lord almighty and with a slight catch in a whispery voice say...adopted, right?

Stubborn and Strong said...

That is really funny, because i never want other family because i have so many things to be grateful to be in family but again when i was teen, I see them as trying to kill my soul but at same time i don't want to be other family at all because my family help a lot. So I was very confused but now even though they still could break my heart but i wouldn't be here today without my family. So that's caused me to have clear vision of my family.

corner point said...

Scraps--
Can't wait...

Dreamer--
Wow.
Wow...
That...that makes me feel very very special... Thank you...

Madd--
The box metaphor actually evolved as I was writing it, but I like it too...if I may say so myself :-)
And by the way, the actual details of how the lesson was taught were changed slightly, as were all the names...

Ezzie--
Say it all! I want to hear it...

It just makes me a little sad that in this case--and in so many others--we only see things clearly and appreciate them after the fact. Why can't we be granted the insight, the knowledge, the maturity, the clarity, to be able to appreciate what we have while we're still able to fully appreciate those things?

But I suppose we can...if we're committed to really seeing where we are...

And...thanks
:-)

Halfshared--
You're so welcome. It's helped me verbalize what I need to keep telling myself, and I'm glad it's helped you, too.

G--
LOL! For years I thought I was adopted...

S&S--
Good for you that you got to that point... I wouldn't say my family tried to kill my soul (quite the opposite, actually...they probably would have helped me a lot more if I had not shut them out...) but b"H I can now appreciate things so much better.

David_on_the_Lake said...

Beautiful...
I've heard that too...although I sometimes still wonder...

Miss Teacher said...

Beautiful. Simply Beautiful. Much to say on the topic... maybe one day...

corner point said...

David--
Thanks. Don't we all :-)...Just gotta be realistic, too...

Miss--
One day soon, I hope...
Thanks :-)

Ezzie said...

Ah, because then we wouldn't appreciate it...!

Another good story from today (it's like these things are happening just so I can post 'em!) -

A friend was filling out a long, long shidduch... thing for lack of a better word today, and decided she'd ask me my opinion on her because I'd be more honest than her about her.

It asked one interesting question about family, and the question, after asking how her relationship was with her parents growing up and now, was basically something like 'what have you learned and gained from dealing with your own family?'

She looked up at me, I looked back at her, and we both knew: She had simply had it easy. She feels like she's missing a lot because she never really had any tough spots in life to learn from... almost like she simply doesn't have a deeper level of understanding about almost anything. She was really saddened by it, while at the same time obviously fortunate to have had things pretty good.

Bas~Melech said...

So beautiful. I think most people go through teenhood wanting to be in any other family... It's wonderful that you've come to appreciate them now.

I understand how my family is perfect for me, but it's still not quite internalized... But I do know that I am very lucky to be where I am.

AT PEACE said...

WOW!!!

You've literally read my mind, more acurately, my soul!

I've had similar experiences with my family...and took the long road to building relationships and love...

I love this line: "Your family is perfect for you. You would not grow as well or reach your potential if you were put somewhere else..."

You actually gave me an idea. I might post parts of my story on my blog...will get to work...

corner point said...

Ezzie--
I disagree. We could appreciate it while it's hard...

Interesting story. I was actually planning a post on a very similar topic so I'll wait for then to spew my feelings on that matter
:-)

Bas--
It's good you feel lucky even though it's not totally internalized [yet...]. Not evreryone even gets to that point in life...
I'm not even totally "there" yet. Still hard, still working, but b"H, b"H I'm seeing progress and growth.
And thanks for the compliment :)

Peace--
I can't tell you how amazing it is to hear firsthand that there are so many others out there like me...
Can't wait to read what you have to say! Looking forward...

the apple said...

Great post :).

Can you email me? My email's on my profile.

LakewoodShmuck said...

excellent post!

p.s. if you would only know what goes on by others behind closed doors. you would feel even more grateful for who and what you are.

corner point said...

Apple--
Thanks. And sure :)

L'Shmuck--
That's what I try to tell myslef when I start feeling unlucky and upset with my pekalah...that there are so many out there who would gladly switch with me...
It scares me...a lot...

Ezzie said...

I think we appreciate it more in retrospect, when we can look back on the whole picture. But I hear ya.

Lvnsm27 said...
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Lvnsm27 said...

I can so relate.

College Maidel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
College Maidel said...

I love the way you write. It's poetic and real.

Like you, I learnt this at one point, I don't remember my initial reaction, but now I can definitely say "home sweet home" with everyone and everything and every word in it.

Thanks for reminding me of this lesson. (If anyone knows the source for Each of you, before you were born, actually chose your own family to be sent to I'd appreciate it. email at gr8basmelech at yahoo dot com)

David_on_the_Lake said...

25..wooohooo

Dry Eyes said...

Corner point, I don't generally go this far back in people's archives, but I am so so so glad I did.
This was exactly what I needed to hear right now.
Thank you.