By Malkie Hirsch
Life lessons can be presented in a variety of ways, and I’m always open to learning something profound where I can.
Like, for example, when my breathless 40-year-old unfit form is desperately trying to keep up with a peppy but super-wise and deep Peloton instructor named Robin. Her religious views differ from mine, but she definitely has her finger on the pulse of what makes people think and how they feel.
She professed her love for Tabata, a form of HIIT (high intensity interval training) because something about expecting the workout to hit you hard but knowing what to expect and meeting it with determination is sort of like waking up every morning and making a promise to yourself that you’ll not only get through the day, you’ll crush it.
It’s knowing on some days what you’re up against and getting up anyway, bracing yourself for that high-impact workout, otherwise known as your life, and walking through the challenge, the adversity, the stress, and the pain. Walking through, not under or over.
As Robert Frost so wisely said, “The only way out is through.” Walking through it establishes a muscle memory, which eventually becomes less problematic and more predictable. Hard times might still feel challenging, but eventually you’re familiar with it and, better yet, know you can thrive after dealing with it.
Life lessons indeed come from daily happenings, and when we open our eyes, we can see these lessons in plain sight. And sometimes they might come from unlikely places, but I’m not one to deny or judge how these messages filter into my life. I just know that they’re meant to arrive and sometimes they get to me in unusual ways.
To backtrack a bit, I want to preface what I’m about to write with a confessional detail about myself:
I was never a person of depth. I say this not from humility, but honesty. You could say that I was somewhat on the sleepy side. (I’ll explain that analogy shortly.)
I wasn’t unhappy about it, either. I had other gifts in my life and was comforted in that knowledge and accepted that some people are one way and I was another way.
But over the past two years, things have drastically changed. And when I say that my eyes are open to life lessons and signs that are clear in my life, I don’t mean my actual eyes are open (though that’s helpful, too). I mean that the eyes to my soul are open.
I see things clearly and I understand them better. When messages get to me and are supposed to teach me something, I realize the intent. I hear that it’s being spoken to me and I take it in and try learning from it. And sometimes the lessons can arrive as a fleeting moment, one that could be mistaken as just regular life, a moment that could easily be forgotten.
Being awake instead of being one of the many I encounter who are asleep means that you need to always be on alert and be ready to learn from everything, even the little things.
Today brought a profound moment, and to some, it won’t sound earth-shattering. But to me? It has the ability to change so much.
The first lesson came in the form of a bouquet of succulents and cacti. Strange, right? Because on the surface, all I did was accept a gift from a local woman I had met over Instagram who had recently started a business making these beautiful arrangements with something other than the usual flower varieties.
As I asked her about how she got started arranging these bouquets, and she started telling me about how these plants are her favorites because of their will to survive a variety of weather conditions, I realized that she loved them because they share a similar quality to us humans. These plants hold their water in their petals and roots and save their sustenance for a time when it’ll be needed.
They plan for the future, for a time when water might not be available to them because they’ve lived through dry periods in their natural habitat in the desert.
So as she gave me a tutorial on where they store their water, I couldn’t help but think about how all of G-d’s creations share similar qualities: on the surface, they look one way, but inside, they’re built to withstand the hardships of life.
You could be a person or a houseplant, but both creatures will innately know what it takes to survive when times get tough.
People, like those fascinating desert plants, have to withstand life’s challenges and sometimes they do so by holding on to the good times, the hopes for a better future, the sustenance that provides that respite needed when going through a famine, like Yosef.
These stoic, prickly plants know through G-d’s brilliant design of all creation that things might sometimes look one way but are wired to survive beneath the surface.
I simply don’t think that the old me would have responded in the same way to the unusual bouquet I was gifted.
I look in on the bouquet’s well-being often, marveling at how well the plants do with as little as I’ve been instructed to feed it, but it speaks to me because of the hardships that I’ve gone through, too.
I pass by the arrangement and touch its petals, smiling when I feel the swell of water inside, and it in turn provides me with strength. All this coming from a pretty, strange green plant with thorns. Imagine that.
I guess my point is that there are so many things in life that can teach you something, if you’re willing to let them.
The series of events that happen in our day are never random occurrences and there’s no such thing as a coincidence.
So what if instead of thinking in terms of happenstance, we could realize that what’s placed in our lives is possibly done so with the intent to inspire, to awaken, to realize that there’s always the option of a deeper meaning than what it seems on the surface?
It says in Pirkei Avos: “Who is wise? One who sees what is to come.”
Prepare for the future, as much as reasonably possible—store your water.
“Who [else] is wise? One who learns from everyone.”
I’ve begun to look at the events of my life as a series of parables—rich meshalim from which to drink wisdom, sometimes humor and hope, and always friendship.
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away at the age of just 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are now privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.