Aug 26, 2012

Bechira, not Victimhood

I read chunks of a fascinating though creepy book in which the author describes in detail what it was like growing up with drug addicts for parents.  I didn't read the entire book because some of the descriptions of street life and the underworld were too seamy for my sensibilities.  However, it is quite remarkable that with such a turbulent, unstable, poverty-stricken upbringing, the author and her sister have made fine lives for themselves.  The following quotes are taken from interviews that were held with the author:

I grew up with a family surrounding me and a home full of love.  It just so happened that my parents were addicted to cocaine and heroin and my mother was an alcoholic.
I realized my life is a blank slate.  I had the freedom to declare - what do I want my life to be about?
It occurred to me that the answer is education.  I felt invigorated by going back to school.
Nobody knows what's possible until they do it.
Every single day is another chance.
I learned to say - it's unlikely but it's possible, and put all my efforts into possibilities rather than limitations.
I felt deeply loved by my parents.  I don't hold anger towards them.  I saw them as sick.  People can't give you what they don't have. 
I knew I had to be independent.  It was up to me to figure out my life.  I felt no one owes me anything.  I'll have to figure stuff out on my own. I'll have to create what I want in this world.  I was responsible for my life.  No one was going to pave the path for me.  It was normal for me, something I understood instinctually, not a realization that I had.
I was homeless at the same age that my mother was homeless and I wanted to break the cycle of poverty I had come from.  So choice by choice, day by day, I went to school.  Part was choice and part was having the help, the support.
After my mother died, and we loved each other deeply, her dying unlocked my mind to possibility in my own life.  At one moment I had a family, I had my mother and then I lost everything.  Life changed rapidly, for the worse.  I saw that life can change and I was inspired by this. 

What transforms a life? One empowered choice after the next, over time.
I had a passion that I felt of - what if I just kept going?

You either move on or you don't and I decided to move on.

Let go of being stuck in the energy of all the things you don't have, and be grateful for the things you do have and calling that enough, and moving forward from there.

In the frum world we have children, teenagers, young adults and even older adults who need to hear messages like these.  Even if their circumstances were not quite like those of this author, the message of bechira rather than victimhood is powerful.  The downside is that this author doesn't speak about G-d; it's all about her choices.

It would be enormously helpful if we had the frum version of this woman's story, the story of a contemporary frum boy or girl who overcame adversity to become solid people with firm Torah values.

No matter what your history is, no matter where you've come from, every moment is a new possibility.

An Elul message indeed.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately the frum world has mixed messages such as sit and learn Torah full time but at the same time, send all your children to Yeshiva, invite lots of Shabbos guests and feed them the finest, agree to finance your children while they sit and learn, etc. There is also a mixed message about choice. If we realize that we chose this frum life and it was not forced upon us, we can view it without victim-hood. G-d did not punish us by giving us this religion and all the hard work that it entails. If we chose a life of Torah over a life of materialism, we cannot be upset when we must tailor our material choices to the income that we have. Many young people who grow up frum see leaving frumkeit as the only "choice" that they have. They don't see that they can tailor their own frum experience because the frum world over-emphasizes conformity.