I am glad that I didn’t make a long list of resolutions for 2016. With less than one week into the new year, I would have blown them all already.
I haven’t started my diet.
I haven’t gotten back into the gym.
I haven’t started that new book.
I didn’t clean out my closet.
I haven’t maintained the calm, relaxed, centered self I found while on vacation last week.
After six days of Mexican sun, sand, and Piña Coladas, I returned to work on Monday with a bad cold and – even worse – learned that a colleague and longtime acquaintance has an inoperable brain tumor. It is mind-boggling how life can go into a tailspin with virtually no warning. Karen and I are the same age; we met when our kids were in kindergarten together nineteen years ago. Before I left town, she and I were giggling like schoolgirls in our office break room and less than two weeks later I was at my desk crying over her new reality.
Karen’s situation, taking on new responsibilities at work, and trying to catch up (serves me right for taking ten days off!) have stressed me out and made me irritable all week. I’ve been curt, short-tempered, and – in some cases – not very nice. So tonight, as I sat down to write, I turned to the man who always has the right words to clear my head and get me refocused…
This week, in a commentary on parashat Vaera, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks talks about overcoming setbacks. He shares examples of how Moses, Van Gogh, Gandhi, Mandela, Abraham Lincoln and others all encountered challenges and obstacles along their paths to greatness. He says, “leaders are tested not by their successes but by their failures.” He explains that becoming “stronger, wiser, and more determined” comes from treating failures and setbacks as learning experiences. Moses was extremely frustrated by his encounters with Pharaoh, which caused the plight of the Israelites to become even worse. Yet he persevered and ultimately accomplished his God-given goals. Sacks summarizes: “Defeats, delays and disappointments hurt. They hurt even for Moses. So if there are times when we too feel discouraged and demoralised, it is important to remember that even the greatest people failed. What made them great is that they kept going.”
Okay. Thanks, Rabbi. The first week of 2016 may have been blah, but I’m going to keep my eyes fixed on the fifty-one others ahead. Life as we know it can change in a heartbeat, so let’s make it count. I need to get moving…keep going…and make this an amazing year. Resilience, optimism, and determination can make unbelievable things happen.
I’ll hit “restart” on Monday.