I have muddled through some tough times: the long, slow death of my first husband, Barry Friedberg, z"l, after a cruel illness and crueler still course of treatment. He teetered between remission and recurrence for five years until he died well before his fortieth birthday, leaving me with three small children and a vacuum in my universe. That was eighteen years ago and I've had plenty of time to reflect, if not recover. I see how the course of my life veered away from where my peers seemed to be going and left me dawdling along a road leading to no particular destination. At least that's how it felt much of the time. Planning for the future, even minutes into the future, was difficult. In fact, just about everything was difficult. During those times when Barry suffered so many needles and toxic medicines and humiliating hair loss, I learned to revere the tiny and the inconsequential.
Like lots of women, I have a thing for shoes and handbags. This triviality I celebrate. What pure joy to be on a shoe quest, find the perfect little chunky heeled cobalt suede shoe, all the better if it happens to be on the sale rack. Score! Immerse in the experience, forget about the fragility of life and the insurmountable losses for a moment or two. Sublime. Ponder over a nail color, trying to decide between deep purple or burgundy. Celebrate that superficial moment. Dire concerns about life and death, those will wait. But that little sequined tee shirt on the sale rack at TJ Maxx? Carpe diem, baby.
In life, stupid things happen. Good people suffer and we figure out how to go on. The challenge arises during difficult times: to immerse oneself in the trivial and the mundane and never to take for granted the ability to be absorbed by the superficial. In that moment, there is an opportunity to achieve a transcendant and spiritual superficiality.