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Windows: The Twenty-Second Rule

Linda Hirschel

When things become difficult in her social world, hormones, FOB, and CSI all kick in. And of course she has the very human response to loneliness: hurt

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

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“I ma, what do they mean by a short attention span?” my 13-year-old daughter Batsheva asks me.

“Well, it’s like when the teacher starts talking and…”

Batsheva slips on her earphones to listen to music. I continue my explanation, mouthing the words. Curious, she takes off the earphones. I continue: “… and the student can listen for about 20 seconds or so.”

“Oh.” The headphones go back on.

It must be hard for Batsheva to raise her mother. I’m not sure it’s because of a short attention span; I’d call it a Fear Of Boredom. FOB has a friend. It’s called CSI, Can’t Stand It. I can’t stand it when I’m bored. Also: can’t stand math, can’t stand tomatoes, can’t stand it when I feel alone.

Two of Batsheva’s best friends moved to a different school. Her immediate reaction was, “I’m not going back to school.” When things become difficult in her social world, hormones, FOB, and CSI all kick in. And of course she has the very human response to loneliness: hurt. One very hurt teenager.

She feels alone and abandoned. Each evening, she informs me she’s not going to school the next day. Somehow I get her to go, but every day is a new Presidential Debate on whether she really has to go.

Then I switch into CSI mode: can’t stand the teenage years. I can’t stand to see my flesh and blood suffer. I actually can’t stand the tantrums, the emotional ups and downs. Can’t this be easier for me somehow?

The antidote to Fear Of Boredom and Can’t Stand It is Resilience. And boy, do I need some of that right about now, eight in the morning, when I have to extract her from her warm, cozy nest and send her out into a cold, lonely world. I need resilience to get me through the teenage years. She needs it to get her through the day.

We speak about mindfulness, and about how putting our minds on the present moment can be a respite from worrying about what was or what will be. 


“Oh, I get what mindfulness is,” says Batsheva one day. “You say every day on vacation how you’re bored and there’s nothing to do, and all of a sudden vacation is over and you say, ‘Too bad I wasn’t more mindful of my days, then it wouldn’t have been over so fast.’ ”

Wow. She got it.

Meanwhile, a sobbing girl fills her pillow with tears of loneliness.

“Batsheva,” I want to say, “when we’re mindful and accept the pain, we are able to carry it. Like a flower that grows, even as its leaves wither. We are not avoiding the pain, denying it, forgetting it, or belittling it. Paradoxically, by accepting the pain, sometimes the pain may be minimized.”

In fact, if I wanted to get really big about it, I’d say that this is the experience of the Jewish People: We carry the pogroms, the inquisitions, the terror attacks — we carry them all with us as we move on to births and weddings and every occasion that affirms life. We carry the pain, but we move on.

Of course I don’t say any of that. Too many words. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 572)

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