Sometimes life deals us great difficulty. For people who are very sensitive about certain things, they would probably have a great deal of trouble handling even things that are not so challenging. Most of us, however, would handle it the way we handle most things. For people who are functioning well, that means looking at the situation, trying to figure out what caused it, analyzing what consequence would occur if we chose one of the various options and then deciding, as best as we can, which one would bring the best outcome. With situations that are much more complicated, we might consult experts, agonize over the options—some of which might be disastrous—and do everything we can to make it more likely that the outcome will be at least somewhat positive. That is pretty much all we can do.
Some of us are better at figuring out possible reactions, coming up at times with impossible solutions that work, even counter-intuitively! Or, perhaps, we would continue to try and seemingly never give up until we have, against all odds, come up with a solution!
But there are times that no matter what we do, we can’t change the situation. Every one of us has probably had, or at least know of such challenges—whether it be dealing with a special needs child or somehow adjusting to a dramatic drop in income, or having a hurricane occur just before a wedding or bar mitzvah. But as difficult as those situations are, at least it is conceivable to deal with them in a way that would make it more palatable.
Most people today deal with a special needs child in a very different way than people in the past generally did. They find organizations that help, they look for ways of assisting the child to better deal with some of his challenges and they may find some glimmer of hope or, in fact, great satisfaction in the midst of a very complicated situation.
Losing a job, or facing a radical change in ones financial circumstances, is very challenging, but some people may retrain or find other options. Those who can, may eventually somehow accept the change in their status, and after much terrible frustration and appeals for help, find some pleasure in things that most of us would find terrible. And of course, a ruined marriage ceremony, though very difficult, can be rearranged or rescheduled, or even redone in a simpler way. But these are, in fact, the “easy” roadblocks.
What about the truly impossible situations that allow no solutions? What about being confronted with the reality that your spouse is a serial rapist? Or having your spouse of three years killed in front of you when picking up your car in a shopping mall? Or the trauma of having your child dying slowly and painfully. Or the even more horrendous possibilities, such as occurred to millions of people just 73 years ago in the Holocaust. As much as we go on through life as if nothing terrible will happen (and frequently, that is the case), not one of us is guaranteed protection against the impossible. Indeed, life is sometimes beautiful and precious, but it is sometimes unspeakably cruel. But this is the only life that we have. And when we deal with the impossible in a way that increases our suffering (as virtually all of us do, at least initially), we are joining the forces of evil in the world that seem intent on destroying us. However, some of us, somehow, find ways of going on, in spite of the impossible. As did, Elie Weisel, as did Esther Wachsman, as did the parents of Koby Mandell, as did countless people, who in response to the impossible have dedicated themselves in some way to improving the world. That always seems easier in someone else’s circumstances. But though it is never easy, it is possible in some fashion for everyone.
Please feel free to contact me regarding this (or any) topic. You can do so anonymously by writing to mordechaiglick_gmail.com. Dr. Glick was a clinical psychologist in private practice for 35 years as well as a rabbi of Congregation Ahavat Yisroel. If you would like to submit a question, or contact him for an appointment, he can be reached at mordechaiglick_gmail.com
By Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Glick