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Many years ago when my children were younger, if the day got off to a bad start, I'd tell them that they must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. I'd make them go upstairs, wait a few minutes, come back downstairs and start the day all over again with a wonderful, "Good morning mommy." In retrospect, I can't believe how well it worked every time; I was shocked. The day began anew and their mood was much improved. They were grateful for the second chance and, more importantly, they got to save face and do it right. Ah, if only life could always be this easy and we could simply erase that part of our past that we weren't so happy with.
Would we be grateful to be given the opportunity to try it again so we could get it right? Could we really see the first time as a dress rehearsal, and then maximize the next go-round as the second and final opportunity to do or say just what we really need to? It's Elul again, and for me it is a reminder that it is a perfect time to once again focus on forgiveness - of others and ourselves - and this time to "get it right." Many people have angered and upset me over the years - be they family, friends or even strangers. I also have many loved ones who are nearing the end of their lives. I want to make sure that when all is said and done, I too leave with a clean slate. Given that I may never know just when that may be, I've tried to make sure that at the end of each day, I'm in a positive balance with those I care about.
How exactly does one ensure that when he "starts the day over again," he has taken full advantage of all that life has to offer? Here are a few thoughts to get you started. Your list really has to be your own.
Look around you and appreciate all that you have. Before making aliya, I served on the Hevra Kadisha. When I came home after helping to prepare a body for burial, the appreciation of life was never clearer. I truly saw the blessing of my wonderful husband and children and the beauty of everything around me. Focus on what you have and it can change your entire outlook on life. Name just five things that you are grateful for each day and see the process begin.
Let those you love know it. Life is short. Don't keep IOUs or you'll run out of time. It is hard to say the words "I love you," yet we all want to know that we are loved. Start by telling yourself in the mirror and then move on. You'll be amazed by the results.
Live each day to the fullest and as if it is your last. In 1998, I was one of the psychologists involved on the emergency disaster response team when a plane carrying 229 people crashed. There were no survivors, just families and their heartfelt stories. Many said good-bye to their loved ones in the morning expecting to see them shortly thereafter. They never had a second chance. Last weekend alone there were 228 people injured and one fatality on the roads. Decide who and what is important in your life and go for it. Don't wait until the kids grow up, you win the lotto or you retire. Be in the moment with those you love. The future is now. Sometimes there are no second chances but only finality.
Examine your anger. It can weigh you down, take over, distract you from important things, sabotage your physical and emotional well-being and destroy you. Who are you angry with and why? Learn forgiveness. Forgiving does not mean forgetting or minimizing your hurt. It is something you do for yourself. It means letting go of your anger, resentment and your intense emotions attached to past incidents so that you can move on. Forgiveness enables you to feel much lighter and happier. There are times when we are reluctant to do this because we think anger protects us from being hurt again. It doesn't. If you are unable to forgive someone, ask yourself why. This may be the secret to giving someone a second chance.
Treat others as you would like to be treated. Take a huge deep breath, remove your boxing gloves, take a step backward and listen empathically. Walking in someone else's shoes enables you to hear where he is coming from and appreciate what he is going through. Open your heart toward someone and work together.
Rewind the film. What regrets do you have and what would you do differently if given a second chance? How can you find a way to view the situation anew and with a fresh approach? What have you learned that may not have been obvious before? What would be helpful this time? You have the ability to change someone's life forever simply by taking one small step. You may just discover that the life you change may very well be your own. Isn't taking a second chance well worth it?
The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra'anana. firstname.lastname@example.org www.drbatyaludman.com