This book was written after the death of his son. Rabbi Kushner's son was diagnosed with a childhood illness at age 3 and was only expected to live until his teenage years. (He lost his son 43 years ago.) The Rabbi felt that enjoying each day ensured that no day was wasted. He grieved at his son's death, found some catharsis in writing his book (research shows the benefits of autobiography), and comforting words for us all. How differently would we live our lives knowing the day of our or our loved one's demise?
Rabbi Harold Kushner has been written10 books so far! He has comforting words, as only a well-loved spiritual guide can write.
What are you afraid of?
For some, especially in the U.S., they fear losing their home. Many believe that the poor are poor because they aren't working hard enough. We know this isn't true. Some are only a pay cheque away from poverty and homelessness. In Canada we have been hit economically, and for those who have lived through the depression, many fear poverty. It is a very difficult fear and it changes how you live your life. Think of those with their cash buried in their mattress!
Other fears, not phobias, that limit your perceived success and happiness in life:
Success, public speaking, death, dying, pain, rejection, doing the wrong thing, not being there for a loved one, technology, poverty, failure, being single, being married, getting old, being alone.
Family love us for who we are; not for what we have, or don't have; not what we do, or don't do; not for what we look like; or for our perfection. We cannot fear failure. If our loved ones and friends cannot accept our mistakes, then who can? We all perfect and we are allowed to make mistakes. The idea is to learn from them.
The saddest thing, he says, is to think of those with their dream girl one phone call away, afraid to make the phone call just in case she says no. Or that perfect job, with evil inertia holding one back from success or the joy that arises from taking a risk and winning. There is no shame in losing. I always counselled my students: you only lose if you fear failure and do not try.
Fear of trying.
This isn't a world that condemns failure, the Rabbi tells us. We know that the media isn't very forgiving; for this reason we have to endeavour to keep friends around us who do forgive us. You only lose if you do not try. It is more truly fear of rejection. This is shattering. This is why, methinks, being unfriended on Facebook is as serious as a slap in the face!
Some fear singing in public. But look what happens when we lift our voices in song. Everyone smiles.
People complain. They have unrealistic expectations of us, of themselves. We image our dreams and create visions. My dream of being principal was shattered with my depression and caring for palliative parents. I dreaded not doing the right thing. Every day. I impacted me greatly. As with many in depression, I ended up having panic attacks, tied to something to do with my balance. A common story.
If something is facing us and we aren't sure we are up to it, we fear action. I know, when caring for my parents I was afraid of not doing the right thing. Friends can attest to managers who fear making a decision. It drives employees nuts!
As a caregiver I made some mistakes. I have forgiven myself for them. Some of my distant relatives have not forgiven me. They are out of my life, and have cut themselves off from me. I can live with this! As Maya Angelou says: you do the best you know how, with the information you have at the time.
To cope with fear of the unknown, have confidence in yourself. If you fail, forgive yourself. You will not be thought the less if you fail. You will be forgiven by those who love you.
|Dad, in long-term care|
There are times when you are asked to do something and you wonder if you can do it. When we reach deeply into our souls, the Universe sends us the energy or the person we need. Kushner says this is 'God at work in this world.' In my mind the Universe sends a teacher when we need one.
|Here is to family!|
The Hebrew Bible says (82 times, Kushner says), 'Be not afraid'. Being afraid diminishes our humanity. If we let our fears take over our lives we rob ourselves of the joy of life. Live in the present.
Be not afraid. If you don't make any mistakes in a day, you aren't really trying!