Recently, I had the pleasure of going wedding dress shopping with my youngest daughter and, yes, she ultimately said “yes!” to a dress.
She began the process with a vision of what the dress would be like and, while the ultimate pick was somewhat similar to her initial dream, the two weren’t exactly mirror images of one another. As our searching took place amidst the recent holidays, with so many opportunities to listen, pray and engage in quiet introspection, it occurred to me that our shopping trips were the perfect metaphor for the season. Any season, in fact.
We all have visions. Visions of what our lives will be after college, after retirement; visions of our bershert, visions of our dream homes, how our children will turn out and who they will choose as partners; visions of ourselves at every stage. And, sometimes, these visions pan out. We find the person of our dreams with whom to share the rest of the journey toward that dream house; we find a cute little cottage by the beach in Miami; our eldest, youngest or middle child becomes a doctor—or marries one! And, sometimes, we find the dress that visited during our dreams.
Sometimes, however, reality takes a turn and our lives curve in a completely different direction. Sad? Simply unfortunate? Not necessarily either one! Since my children were younger, and when I was treating patients years ago, a mantra that often came in so handy was, “Different from does not always mean less than.”
During the High Holy Days, many of us entertained visions of the coming year. Covid-19 would be behind us; we would all gather for in-person services, life cycle events and dinners with those we love and have missed so much. The new year would bring us safer streets, better weather, better health, long awaited vacations, evenings at the theater and mask-less visits to the hairdresser. The strife in relationships repaired during the Yomim Noraim would be absent forever and life might just find a way to be easier, happier, more fulfilling. Of course, all of this would be wonderful and I wish each of you the peace that results from a smooth life path. But, what if the meaning and joy, the rest and the peace, come from sources we never anticipated? What if, instead of better weather outside, we find shalom b’bayit, peace in the household, to warm us? What if, instead of that vacation, we have to cancel plans to stay home and welcome the arrival of a new grandchild? What if, instead of a total absence of strife in every relationship, we have to navigate a few challenges as we make room for new friends and learn how to welcome new neighbors into the fold?
Different from, truly, is not always less than. It’s making lemon bars when life hands us lemons and it’s saying “yes” to a dress that surpassed even the most beautiful of dreams.