Month: September 2018

A World Without Regret

regret

Dr. Jerome Eckstein

I went to college in 1995, and I quickly developed a wonderful relationship with one of my professors, Dr. Jerome Eckstein. We came from completely different worlds and had completely different life paths, but there was such an overwhelming mutual respect, so much so that I eventually became his Teacher’s Assistant and later organized and spoke at his retirement dinner.

But life moves forward, and I later moved to Israel. Dr. Eckstein and I maintained a connection very briefly. It was 1997 and even though email did exist, my professor was a bit on the old school side. So, our only form of communication was good ole handwritten letters. They went on for a little while.

And then they stopped.

13 Years Later…

About 13 years later I found myself itching to regain a connection. I searched around the internet looking for some way of contacting my wonderful professor, and after I finally made some progress, I was devastated to not only find out he had passed away, but it was wasn’t much before I had tried to get in touch with him.

I was filled with all sorts of uncomfortable emotions. A deep sadness. Regret. Guilt.

Feelings like this have come and gone my entire life. When my grandmother left this world, I felt a tremendous pain because I didn’t spend nearly enough time with this remarkable woman. Honestly, it still stings. The pain is real, and even though it’s been over a decade, I’ve had a lot of trouble forgiving myself.

And the pain hasn’t fully faded.

Regret is a Useless Emotion

I’ve often said regret is a useless emotion. We all feel it, but what does it accomplish? Even anger, one of my least favorite and one of the most confusing emotions to me, seems to have its place more than regret. Regret to me seems like the ultimate “crying over spilled milk”. Why dwell on the past when the present is so in our faces and the future is right there waiting to pounce upon us?

We only get a few short years in this beautiful world. Why waste our days away with what could have been?

But perhaps regret has its place in this world. Maybe regret is a trigger.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop believing that regret in and of itself is not worth it, since an emotion that just results in sitting around upset about something you cannot change certainly has no place in my life. But what about the future? What if regret can be refocused and changed into the catalyst for personal change that will impact and influence a bigger and brighter future?

Regret as a Trigger

I picture a moment of sadness. A fleeting little incident of feeling bad about a lack in your life. Something you said or did. Something that didn’t quite happen the way you wanted it to. A moment that you should have jumped upon but for whatever reason you stalled and missed an opportunity. We all have times where we could have done something better, said something more sympathetic or intelligent, stalled trying to catch the bus only to see it zooming on by.

And we’re sad, angry, frustrated. Nothing we can do.

At least at the moment.

But then what? Do we choose to dwell? Do we have trouble sleeping that night stressing over what could have been?

Only a Moment of Regret

I say cry for a moment, ever so briefly. Then cast any and all regret to the floor. Stand up. Brush the dust off your shoulders. Reevaluate. Take any pain you may have been feeling, and turn it into energy to fuel the desire to do things better the next time around.

Regret is in fact only a useless emotion in that most of the world uses it to slow down progress rather than to improve themselves. Regret serves as a way to find more excuses to be sad, rather than a useful tool to propel each of us to ensure a brighter and happier future.

The Past

I’m done.

My past has held me back long enough. Sure, I’ve made mistakes. And I will continue to do so. I will err until the day I die. But I am done watching as past mistakes hold me back and weigh me down.

I am deeply saddened about those who I didn’t spend enough time with while I had the chance. But I’m so glad it has given me the perspective to look at the wonderful and amazing people currently in my life and to try and appreciate them that much more. I am ecstatic that maybe my moments of regret will push me toward a life where there will be fewer and fewer things I would even consider regretting.

I am deeply saddened by those moments throughout the years where there were opportunities passed up and lost forever. However, I am overjoyed at the opportunity to learn from my mistakes. I am so happy that with each moment of looking back with even the slightest biting feeling of regret that I can now choose to make better, more well-informed decisions.

Regret Modified

We should all be blessed so that our every negative can be turned around, so that our decisions can be intelligent and  thorough, and we don’t need to be concerned that our past will interfere with our future. Rather, our past will help ensure a better future for us all.

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, 1 comment

Forgiving Myself (Guest Post)

This is quite a heartfelt guest post from my buddy Isaac Green.

If you also have something you’d like to say, something burning in your heart that you need to get off your chest, let me know. I’d love for you to make a guest post as well! Shoot me an email and we’ll talk: jaffeworld@gmail.com.

forgiving myself

A few weeks ago, I was serving dinner to my kids and I completely broke down. I started crying heavily. It was unstoppable. My whole body felt shattered, my mind was lost and I couldn’t stop weeping.

I Signed Up for It

Rewind. Last November, my kids’ mom and I decided to get divorced after being married for 12 years. Even after the initial conversation about possibly getting divorced, I still felt like I was wrong for not working harder to make it better, for not doing something different, or for being less selfish. For 12 years I had lived under a mantra: I signed up for it. When we lived apart while I was in grad school for two summers, I signed up for it. When her father died suddenly, I signed up for it. Also when we had trouble getting pregnant, I signed up for it. And when her mother lived with us for a whole year to take care of our first child, I signed up for it.

But, after a while, more and more things began to occur in our relationship where I started to ask: Did I sign up for this? Did I sign up for us not sleeping in the same room for six years because of a supposed sleep disorder? Well, that’s what I did for six years. Did I sign up for never spending any time together as adults after our children were born? I did for six years. Did I sign up for not having an equal say in our finances or our kids’ education or their diet? At a certain point, the answer started to be no. I didn’t sign up for that.

A Glimmer of Hope

And yet, I still clung to the glimmer of hope that something would change.

I am an emotional person in the sense that I have a lot of passion about things and I get heated about some things. But I also bottle up my emotions and try to be “strong” – not for others, but for myself. I cannot allow myself to feel what’s going on. I just internalize it. It’s a coping mechanism I’ve developed to get through traumatic aspects of my life.

That night when I served my kids dinner, one word of criticism from my eight-year-old son about how he didn’t like something I had made sent me spiraling. All of the feelings of loneliness, of being unworthy, a bad father, a bad husband, of not trying hard enough, of feeling defeated, they gushed out of me all at the same time.

On the positive side, my kids saw their father as a human. Frail at times, capable of feeling emotions, caring about them, apologizing to them for his flaws. We cried together, we hugged and held each other as our new family. After the incident, I felt better. Like I had allowed myself to be vulnerable. But in all of that, the most positive was a first step. Something I never really did in all of the years of having signed up for something that I ended up being cut out of. That day, I started to forgive myself.

Forgiving Myself

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are quickly looming ahead of me and of all of us. We are meant to create visions of who we will be and to find those we harmed and wronged and ask for forgiveness. This year is particularly difficult as I am not sure how to ask forgiveness from my soon-to-be-ex-wife. There’s a lot of bitterness and hard feelings there. But, I do know one person that needs my forgiveness: me. Accepting my lack of perfection, my frailty, my mistakes doesn’t make me less of a father and person, it makes me capable of greater growth. Losing myself in front of my kids was a step in a teshuva (repentance) process where the person I need to apologize to is myself.

I need to apologize to myself for not being more proactive sooner, for allowing negativity in my marriage to grow and fester, for not standing up to a bad relationship sooner, for not being strong enough to fix it all by myself, for still feeling slightly worried when I do things with my kids that their mother would never have allowed when we lived together. I am not sure where this all takes me, but I bless anyone who might read this that when we sit down to do our chesbon hanefesh (personal inventory, to borrow an AA term), we remember that we must forgive ourselves before we can begin to forgive and ask forgiveness of others.

Shana Tova

***

Isaac, thank you once again for your beautiful contribution. I’d love to hear from all of you!

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Posted by jaffeworld in divorce, guest post, opinion, 0 comments

Never Settle… Reloaded

Never Settle

I had a lot of strong responses to my Never Settle post and it made me think it’s worthwhile to do a bit of a follow up about some details, three of which I’d like to discuss or clarify here:

Settling vs Realism

A few folk told me that it was wrong of me to tell people they should search for perfection, since perfection is not a realistic goal. This made me wonder: Did I actually say people should seek perfection? Looking back at my words, I don’t think I said that at all. However, if people are hearing it, maybe it’s worth clarifying a point or two.

When I say someone should never settle, I mean they should follow their hearts and trust their instincts about what they truly want from a partner.

Now this can theoretically get a bit tricky, since some people out there have highly unrealistic expectations. We’ve all heard the stories of the short, dumpy, uninteresting, unemployed dude who will only date super models. I don’t think these are the average scenarios for those accused of being “too picky”; however, it does behoove people to sit down with a trusted friend or family member, someone they know has their best interest in mind and knows them very well, and figure out whether or not they’re being realistic.

Just because we should all learn to be realistic, and because we should recognize the futility of searching for perfection, still does not mean we should ever settle. Even our aforementioned short, dumpy friend should never settle!

Before vs During

Much of what I spoke about in my previous post dealt with the way other people might react if you repeatedly go on dates and deem the people “not good enough” or that you are just not “feeling it”.

Some might argue that it’s worth giving things a bit more time. I hear what they are saying. Everyone has heard the story of the person who “stuck things out” just a little longer and now they’re happily married with three kids. I do believe there’s an element of truth to the idea of “giving things a chance”, but I think there’s just as much validity (or more) to the idea of trusting your own instincts. We’re all adults here, and pushing people to stay in relationships they’re not enjoying is not doing anyone any good.

But what about beforehand? What about constantly rejecting suggestions without ever giving the guy or girl in question a chance? Is that any different? It’s certainly not what I was speaking about in the earlier post, but it’s worth considering.

Five Rules for a Setup

I would say these five points:

  1. Yes, it’s worth greater consideration. It’s very hard to really know a person you’ve never actually met. Can you really have a strong idea that you’re not about to meet someone incredibly important to you without actually having sat across from them and looking them in the eye? No, you can’t…
  2. But… sometimes you can! I still think it’s important to trust your instinct, even with just a picture and some peripheral information. Especially in a generation where finding out information is so quick and simple. If you don’t like the information you are seeing, or you are simply not attracted to the person in question, you have every right to not go on a date. That’s even if you’ve never been married, have no children, or are past a certain age.
  3. If you’re choosing to get involved in other people’s love interests, please please please be thoughtful about it. “I know someone who’s also single and somewhat close to you in age” is not and will never be enough information. If the great majority of failed dates were “not bad” or “pretty close”, I think people would get discouraged less often. Frivolous, thoughtless dates are more often than not a giant waste of everyone’s time, and the more awful dates people go on, the more the process will be a turn off.
  4. You can ask. You can even possibly offer a gentle encouragement to give it a shot after some initial pushback. But anything more than that is completely obnoxious. Please allow people to trust their instincts. When you don’t, you’re weakening their resolve. You’re telling them their own thoughts and feelings are not good enough. And frankly, if we saw someone pushing too hard for a date with someone, we might call it harassment. Why is it any different if it comes through someone else?
  5. I’ve seen this now a few times. Someone wants to set somebody up. They respond by thanking the other person but explaining that they’re already involved with someone. The response: “Oh. Well… if it doesn’t work out, be in touch.” For the love of God, never say that or any variation to anyone! Ever!

What about Children?

Another friend asked me about children. For women there is often an overwhelming desire to have children and, unfortunately, a biological time limit for how long they can do so. What happens when that need is borderline oppressive and the deadline seems right around the corner? Is then a time to consider settling?

God no.

It is incredibly important to recognize that setting yourself up for an unfulfilling marriage is also setting your future children up for an uncomfortable, upsetting household. Obviously many children have grown up in such homes, and many have done so with great success; however, it’s certainly not ideal, and every child deserves a stable, calm household. We should certainly not push for situations where that’s far less likely.

And we are blessed with countless opportunities to adopt beautiful children who really need and want you as a parent. And those children ARE your children. Biology is nothing. If you raise a child, that is your child 100%. Sure, you can go ahead and find an incompatible match in order to raise biological children in an uncomfortable environment. How much greater would it be to wait for the right spouse in order to raise your adopted children in a home built on love and trust?

 

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Posted by jaffeworld, 1 comment