What Matters Most.
Remember when life was simply beautiful?
Children didn’t get cancer. No one filed bankruptcy. Marriages were mostly… good. Hospitals were places young women went to deliver babies.
I yearn for that innocent past- fruits that tasted like grandma's love, friends more loyal than the morning sun, days where laughter was unencumbered by expectations.
In returning the Torah to the ark, we sing “chadesh yameinu ke-kedem” or “renew us as in days of old.” We seek oneness. We need the unbroken, the whole. Then, the Kotzker Rebbe's words pulsate: “There is nothing more whole than a broken heart.”
We forget. We magnify joy and repress pain. The human survival mechanism warps reality.
What if I tried to recall horrid childhood events?
When I was eight, my mother’s cousin died at sea, swallowed by a ruthless ocean, the night after she dreamt her teeth were missing. At nine, I saw a child with what I now recognize as Huntington’s chorea, involuntary movements, crossing the street, falling to his knees, then hit by a car. At ten, a school teacher who took off for summer never returned because of sexual abuse charges. At eleven, I remember a mother who always wore black because she remained in suspended mourning after her young daughter died of a mysterious illness. That same year, one of my friends, while jumping over the traditional Persian charshanbe soori bonfire, burned alive. At twelve, before we left Iran, the local market owner spat in my face for touching a fruit because I was Jewish.
We live despite the pain. We lie to ourselves to go on. We lie to others so we can carry on.
It’s all a lie. But some lies are greater than truths. In breaking, we become whole.
Remember the movie Life Is Beautiful? The librarian used humor to protect his son from the pain of the Holocaust, creating an imaginary camp inside a dangerous one.
Life is a masterpiece with torn corners and red marks and holes ranging from those found in Swiss cheese to great abysses no love can cross.
Life is messy.
As we age, another squiggle appears. Scribble. Scrabble.
What matters is how we embrace the squiggles, how gracefully we engulf them as part of our story.
What remains is how deeply we repair the holes with love, how gently we hold the hand being pulled away, how well we lie to make others happy, how well we photoshop the red lines.
In the immortal words of Bukowski, and in the memory of my Eleven-year-old self, “what matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”