In just a few short days, I will be undergoing a surgical procedure. Obviously, this puts me out of my comfort zone and into unfamiliar territory (although I had the same procedure done on my other eye some five and a half years ago).
This circumstance has got me to thinking about the value and wisdom to be garnered from uncertainty, discomfort and even confusion.
In many ways, life is a struggle. It is not as if G-d puts stumbling blocks before us, but that we are challenged, at every turn in life’s journey to rise above discomfort and grow through our travails. It is all too easy to become complacent in our routines, wary of any change in ourselves or those around us and hesitant to embrace the potential and possibilities that surround us, if we would just let go and move through the unknown and darkness into a new light.
I find it poignant and fitting that this eye surgery, accompanied by at least one week of lying face downward, is happening just as Passover/Pesach is about to begin. The Passover story is the retelling of the Jewish peoples’ release from Egyptian bondage and movement forward towards freedom and nationhood. What a struggle that was! More importantly, we are tasked, at each Seder (ritual Passover meal and service) to consider it as if each of us was personally freed from slavery. “B’chol dor v’dor hayav adam l’rot et atzmo k’elo hoo yatza me’mitzrayim” -- “ In every generation, one needs to see oneself, as if one has left the land of Egypt.”
We all have our own personal Mitzrayim (narrow places). Will we face them head-on, or try to ignore “the still small voice” that is asking us to grow through the struggle -- to come out the other side a stronger, kinder, gentler, more compassionate person, recognizing that each of us, in our own way is tasked with such a journey.
How do we open our eyes to expand our lives beyond what we already know or believe? I would like to suggest that illness and the fear, uncertainty, and worry that that presents us with, is one powerful way.
There are many ways to view a situation, and I do not mean just with our eyes. Close your eyes for a moment. What do you see? Hear? All is not lost when we move into a new realm. We must have faith that G-d will guide us and see us through. In fact, some of the most transcendent, liberating moments in life can happen when we step outside of our comfort zone into new uncertainties.
As I think back to five and a half years ago, when I struggled through my first macular hole surgery, I remember glimpses of the growth that the experience brought into my life. When denied the opportunity for visual cues, we turn to our inner resources. We can use our imagination, listen more intently, focus on our “third eye.” Being “forced” to slow down, literally lie down, can open up opportunities to relax, rest, enjoy more music -- all things in our all-too-busy lives that we often neglect.
“The world is a narrow bridge and the main thing is not to be afraid.” So said the founder of the Breslov Chasidic movement, Reb Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810). Challenging, yet wise words to live by.
As both Passover and Easter draw near, I invite all of us to leave the safety of certainty and enter the wilderness of discomfort.
Chag Sameach (happy holiday!).