I've been writing about life journeys in terms of setting up dominoes. A few articles ago, I received an anonymous comment from Psychology Today about my domino theory. The writer provided some positive feedback regarding the theory and included some additional examples of how using the theory allows us to focus on process over outcome. They suggested that I not minimize the importance of having final goals which keep us centered and focused. This anonymous author also wrote "I've changed paths so many times my dominoes would physically look like a crazy piece of abstract art" and as a result of that process, they admitted "I've learned, grown and become wiser with every step."
I responded by thanking the author for their insightful comments and indicating that they must have taken a peak at my next few articles because I was going to write about the two topics that were the focus of their remarks; mindfulness or being process-driven and having principle or value-based goals.
The response that I received took me by complete surprise. It simply stated, "No need to sneak a peek. Guess I still know you pretty well, huh Abba?"
Abba is Hebrew for father.
Yes, the anonymous author had been my nineteen year-old daughter, Kaelah. She had been living in Israel since about twenty minutes after graduating high school in Wisconsin. She went to Israel to volunteer in the army for eighteen months, which would have ended about two months ago. She has not yet started.
After arriving in Israel, she lived on a Kibbutz; doing laundry and learning Hebrew. She then took a course for the Israeli Red Cross and got certified to ride on the ambulance as a first responder. She worked as a nanny, then in an ice cream parlor, and then I lost track—although I heard that she was living in a tent in Jerusalem for several months. Kaelah had joined me as a volunteer on a medical mission in Columbia about one year ago, which was the last time I had seen her. At the time of the Psychology Today article, she was living incognito in Israel. I hadn't heard a word from her in over six months.
She has now reconnected and is back visiting before moving back permanently (who knows what permanently really means?) to Israel. I asked her to write down her thoughts about her recent journey—here they are...
My Dominoes - by Kaelah Farber
Sometimes we get into difficult situations and then fool ourselves into believing that we have little control. It is easy to forget that we are both responsible and in control of our reactions.
Over the last twenty months, I have been in several of what many people might consider negative, unpleasant situations. In fact, my friends have labeled these situations as problems. I think that had I also looked at them as problems, I would have had a very difficult time rather than a truly amazing and unforgettably positive experience. I think that this happened because I was able to view these situations as opportunities for learning/discovering more about me, others, and even the way the world works. This is how I was taught to think when growing up—optimistically.
If you are not naturally an optimist, this may not be easy at first. The little voice inside your head that might normally say, this sucks! or why me?? should instead be saying, okay, that was tough, but what can I gain from this? What did I learn? How might this be a blessing in disguise?
I spent the last year and a half in Israel. As a nineteen year old with no family, money, phone, or computer in a foreign country while not yet fluent in the language, challenges were bound to arise. When I tell people I lived in a tent for four months in Jerusalem, they sometimes respond with "why would you do that?" or "wow that must've been difficult..." It was difficult sometimes, I respond. But each individual challenge was coupled with a number of benefits. If I ever find myself in a tough situation, I now know places in town to bathe, wash my clothes, have a warm meal and get online. I also learned that one can become as familiar with a city as they do with a friend. It would have been hard to appreciate these benefits if I were to have thought of these situations as problems or if I became depressed or frustrated that my path had changed so much from what I had initially planned to do.
As my father would put it, I was continually changing my plans and shuffling my dominoes. My path was based on my goals. As my goals changed so did my path and so I rearranged my dominoes. I wasn't derailed because my course was always based on my values of living in Israel, being independent and self-sufficient, resilience, and helping others.
A certain challenge really stood out for me. One day, I came back to my tent to find that it wasn't quite as rain-proof as I'd thought. Many of my things were destroyed, including my favorite leather-bound journal, full of my original poems, stories, and thoughts. Since it happened to be a particularly difficult day, I was initially furious at the universe. Then I was sad to lose something so close to me, writings that I'll never get back. But after a short while I decided, "you know what? It was meant to be this way." It was a sign for me that it is time for a new journal, conveniently symbolic for a fresh "page". A new beginning. Yes, I lost something, but I gained something even more important. It was an opportunity to start over. To me, this meant rekindling relationships with family and friends that I let weaken, and to take a stand to better my life.
Some people might look at these challenges as negative, or a "pain", glad it's over. But I chose to take a healthier approach. Because of this, I gained certain skills and perspectives that I would not have otherwise attained. I recognize that my struggles were mostly self-imposed as a result of decisions that I had made and I have no regrets or remorse about them.
I knocked down dominoes on the way as I accomplished so many of my other goals - I learned and grew along the way. Techniques, strategies, friends, resilience, knowledge about myself, others, life, will all help me in the future, no matter what I decide to do. Each encounter and experience has enhanced my overall being and I am eternally grateful.
Now you'll have to excuse me; I've got to get going because I'm in the process of setting up more dominoes for another journey.
Next article how to set up principle-centered dominoes - tune in