Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thank G-d For All I Missed...?

While a lot of modern secular music today is utter trash - full of nivul peh, discussions about physical relationships, women's bodies, lustful desires and other inappropriate topics not worth singing about, there are still a few gems out there.

For some reason, on the days I've gotten tired of listening to the few Jewish Music CDs I have in my car (my older model vehicle doesn't have a multi-disc CD changer), I've been gravitating toward the local country station. Yes, go ahead and laugh if you'd like, but there are some very moving and inspirational songs to be found there. At the very least, there are definitely more worthwhile songs there than on the popular "90's, 2K, and today" stations.

I stumbled upon a song called "This" by Darius Rucker, once known many years ago for his band Hootie and the Blowfish (and their classic song "I Only Wanna Be With You").

In short, it's about a man reflecting on where life has taken him - or not taken him - along with his recognition and gratitude to G-d for arranging things the way they've happened. Despite the many setbacks and disappointments he's experienced, from the seemingly minor red traffic lights or the more major heartbreaks suffered from relationships that didn't work out - he's thankful for what he has and appreciates his life as it is.

I don't really know how I got here
But I'm sure glad that I did
And it's crazy to think that one little thing
Could've changed all of it

How often do we take a step back to think about the process that led us to where we are now? I know I did this a lot when I was in yeshiva in Israel, and I began to see how many of the little, often complicated pieces of my life all came together to allow me to spend time learning in the holiest place on earth. 

Of course, life being as busy as it always is, I fell out of that mindset after I got back to America and YU. Not only did I not think about the positive things or circumstances that brought me to where I was, my mind veered the other way entirely, and began to focus on the negative happenings that upset or disrupt my life. I am embarrassed to say that after some time, I seemed to focus on a string of negative experiences that appeared linked together - for the purpose of dragging me down.

Maybe it didn't turn out like I planned
Maybe that's why I'm such, such a lucky man

Despite all that, there is so much to be thankful for - no matter how rough or frustrating life may become. Man's plans can go totally awry, but nevertheless, it will work out in the end, if we give it time and proper consideration.

We can apply these thoughts to any area in life, but they are especially suited to dating, marriage and personal relationships. Often, when we get frustrated with how this are of our lives is going, we become resentful, wondering why we have to go through so much for seemingly so little gain - or what appears to be no gain at all. Yet, we don't know what will happen a year from now, six months from now, a week from now or even tomorrow. Things can and do turn around in ways that we don't expect because we aren't privy to the whole picture.

I didn't understand it way back when
But sitting here right now it all makes perfect sense

It may not make "perfect" sense, since nothing in our human realm is ever really perfect, especially our understanding of how life works, but it will make some worthwhile sense.

One day, hopefully sooner than later, the process of dating, meeting people, forming connections, making phone call after phone call, dressing up and going out again and again will come to an end.

For those of us who are already married, I can speak from personal experience that marriage is definitely a beginning rather than an ending, with its own trials and tribulations,  its highs and lows, the full spectrum of emotions. Figuring all that out, discovering more about your new life partner as well as learning more about yourself and how you work - which you would NEVER have thought through as a single person, can be maddening.

All the fights and tears and the heartache
I thought I'd never go through
And the moment I almost gave up
All lead me here to you

Yet, if we all take a step back and try to see the bigger picture we can be appreciative of what we have and how we got here. The journey may be rough at times, but we're still here, right? For every opportunity you've had but lost, felt like you failed, or reached a hopeless dead end, think more deeply and wonder where you were able to go on from there, precisely because of this roadblock that frustrated you at the time.

Don't think about what could have been had you succeeded there, because there is no use crying over spilled milk. What did you do in that situation? How did you move on and to where? More importantly, where are you now? How did that event affect you, positively or negatively and lead you to where you are and who you have become? Did you use those "missed" opportunities for what they really were - a chance for growth, or did you stew in misery? Even if you didn't learn something then, what can you learn from it to apply to life in the here and now?

All the doors I had to close
All the things I knew but I didn't know
Thank G-d for all I missed
Because it led me here to this

This mindset is particularly appropriate for the month of Elul, when we should be focusing on the past year and the things we've done and experienced. If we can see our mistakes and other negative moments in life in a positive light, to draw strength and inspiration from them, we can use that to turn even our aveiros into mitzvos, regretting the negative but learning from our actions to propel us forward into a better, more informed future.

May we all appreciate all the things we've missed, tap into that source of inspiration for the good.