The other day the guy next to me threw his computer bag on the table and quickly exited Starbucks. Without a second thought, I followed him out, but I stopped abruptly when I spotted him, cell phone in hand, making a call. Realizing he had no intention of blowing up the store, I took a deep breath, relaxed my shoulders and returned inside to try to enjoy my drink. When he eventually returned to his table, it took all the restraint I could muster to keep silent about the anxiety unleashed within me as a result of his clueless actions.
It has been almost a decade and a half since I left Israel, yet I have not shed all of my old habits and fears I acquired while living abroad. In Israel, when an individual leaves a bag behind and flees, we are told to report it and evacuate. I learned to call home after each terrorist attack. Then I would reach out to local friends and roommates to ensure everyone I knew was accounted for and safe. After a few days of avoiding public places, I would reluctantly make my way back onto the bus again, often the same bus route that was targeted; after all, life must continue. I told myself confidently that I still had much more business left to complete on this planet and I needed to give thanks for each day going forward.
I reflect often about my younger years while I sit in Starbucks, which has become my habit, my retreat and my sacred space on the long nights and weekends when the children are away at their father’s. Before my divorce, before my world turned into chaos, I had a very different outlook on my life. I followed the rules. I studied, I worked hard, I earned degrees and built a career and a family. Yes, I sinned–worse than some people, but certainly not as badly as others. Still, I have come to recognize that there is no logical explanation as to why good things happen to bad people and tragedies befall the rule-followers.
It is easy to become disillusioned when I look around and see my peers doing so much better than me by society’s standards. I remind myself, however, that nothing is truly as it seems and even though I have lost much, I have what matters the most…our children. As I scan the daily Facebook posts I see my friends getting a “much deserved mani-pedi” or a “much deserved latte after a rough morning with the kids.” I deserve. I deserve. I deserve. Advertisers realized a long time ago the benefits of showering consumers with such statements like You are worth it! and You deserve more! We are constantly hearing we deserve this product, or that service. And we believe what we hear and tell ourselves we deserve these items too because we work hard, we schlepp kids here and there, and because life can be so stressful.
Until recently, I was also guilty of believing that I deserve all that I desire. But the fact of the matter is that I deserve zilch, zero, nothing in this life. What I have, I now cherish. What I receive, I have come to perceive as a blessing rather than a right. No one deserves to live in fear of terrorist attacks. Our children do not deserve a childhood of moving back and forth between two households. I do not deserve an overpriced cup of coffee simply, because I earn a paycheck and I provide for my family. As for our children, I am trying my best to instill this idea early. We do not deserve, but rather we are fortunate to receive. It took me a long time to learn this simple concept.