21 Iyar 5779 / Sunday, May 26, 2019 | Torah Reading: Bamidbar
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The Remedy's Already Here    

The Remedy's Already Here

"Life is all about adapting to what is and accepting G-d's reality," the Tennessee mountain man told me. "I never feel sorry for myself or focus on the things I lack..."


They say Hashem gives the remedy before He gives the dis-ease. Well, let me tell you about the person He introduced me to the day before my back went out.


I was on a family vacation in Tennessee, hiking the Great Smoky Mountains and enjoying the glorious nature. One morning while driving through the mountains, I was on the lookout for a place to get a cup of coffee. After what seemed like an eternity of windy roads and broken down trailer homes I spotted civilization — a sign marked "cafe" in a quaint little strip mall. We pulled over into the (empty) parking lot and I headed toward the cafe, but to my dismay, it was closed. Disappointed, I went into the neighboring store to see if perhaps there was another cafe nearby. Upon entering I was cordially greeted by a friendly man with a long pony tail and a plaid shirt. He acted as if he hadn't seen a customer in years.


"Top of the mornin' to ya!" he chirped, "welcome to Bill's Pottery. I'm Bill, how can I help you today?"


"Good morning!" I replied, "I'm looking for a cafe. The one next door is closed, do you know if there is another one nearby?"


"Not an open one," he said, "but I have some apples and nut butter that I would be more than happy to share with you."


"That's very sweet of you," I said a bit taken aback, "but I'm just looking for a cup of coffee."


"Can't help you with that," he replied, "got some bottled water if you're thirsty, but aside from that, ain't no cafe around these parts for miles."


I thanked him for his generosity and left the store. As I headed back to the car I noticed that the rest of my family had made their way into a nearby music store where they were admiring the handmade string instruments. Intrigued by the sound of the dulcimer they didn't notice when the pottery shop owner came into the music shop to tell us that our car lights were on.


"I was looking out the window and I noticed that your headlights were on," he said. "I figured it was your car kuz it's the only one in the lot…and now that I've seen the back of your car," he smiled, " you gotta tell me about your bumper sticker!"




"The girl doing a side kick!" he said, "What's that all about?"


"Ohhhh!" I said, "I'm a martial arts instructor, I have been training for 30 years."


And that's when the conversation really took off.


Bill preceded to tell me that he is a martial artist too, and that he has been doing karate for most of his 50 years on this planet. He showed me some of his favorite techniques and we exchanged experiences about our training and competition backgrounds. He even shared stories about some of the major injuries he has endured, including a broken eye socket and 2 busted knee caps. "And I thought my injuries were bad," I said, bemoaning my few minor physical limitations from overtraining and competitive sparring, "but it must be so much harder for you."


"No, I don't think of it that way at all," he said, "instead of seeing myself as having limitations or being unable to do things, I adapt my movements to do the techniques in a way that works for me."


Bill's philosophy of adapting didn't end there. He went on to tell me that he lost his home, and all of his possessions in the Gatlinburg wildfire of 2016. He has since been living in his pottery shop hoping to save up enough money to buy a new house. Ever since the fire, he says he has developed a newfound appreciation for life, and in my opinion, his joy of living is contagious.


"Life is all about adapting to what is and accepting G-d's reality," he told me. "I never feel sorry for myself or focus on the things I lack.  All the stuff I lost in the fire is just stuff. Materiality comes and goes. I have my family, my health, my sanity and my life, and thats what matters most. G-d is good," he continued, "and crazy as it may sound, I thank G-d for bringing the wildfire. It's brought out the love, the generosity, the compassion and the beauty of the human spirit in me and my community, and we are all better people because of it."


I was surprised at how much Bill sounded like a walking version of the Garden of Gratitude, and after our conversation I went back into his shop and bought myself a handmade coffee mug. I filled it with his words of wisdom and left feeling grateful to have met him.


Early the next morning, a few minutes after I got out of bed, my back suddenly gave out on me. There I was in our mountain peak cabin, in my pajamas, stuck in a crumpled up position on the floor like a twisted up hanger.  I was in agonizing pain, unable to move, and scared to death.


Panic, fear, anger and worry started dancing around my head, hijacking my thoughts, and pulling me farther away from truth. What am I supposed to do now, I thought.  I'm basically paralyzed. How can I function like this? How will I take care of my kids? How will I work?  What if I never heal and I'm stuck like this for the rest of my life?


As the negative emotions increased so did the pain in my back and I found myself sparring with reality by arguing with what was. I was wishing it didn't happen, regretting getting out of bed so early, and feeling angry about my current state of being. After a few frustrating moments I tapped back into emuna and reminded myself that this too is from Hashem. I thought of Bill and I imagined him saying, "don't think about all the ways you can't move right now, think about the movements you can do. You're not limited, you just need to adapt."


So I tried on his attitude to see how it would feel. True, I could not walk, but I discovered that I could crawl.  I could not straighten my back, but I found that laying on my side was bearable. I didn't have any normal range of motion with my torso, but my arms, legs, hands, feet and head were able to move fine and for that, I chose to be grateful.


Over the next few days I oscillated between feeling sorry for myself and being at peace with what Hashem has given me, and the more I was able to focus on the positive, the better I started to feel. I took Bill's coffee cup (crawled to the kitchen to get it) and said, "G-d is good. I am alive, I am breathing, I am adapting to what is, and right now I am on vacation with my husband and children and I have nothing do to except lay her, relax and smile at my family."


BH, the remedy was already there and it continues to be a source of healing for me to this day, I just needed the dis-ease to learn the lesson.

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