Sunday, August 22, 2010

Watching the pot: To hope or not to hope

There is a famous saying, “A watched pot never boils.” Having spent much time in the kitchen, I can tell you that a watched pot does indeed boil, though obviously the point is true that seems to take much longer when you’re standing there watching the pot than it does when you leave the kitchen and keep yourself occupied with other things. Some have suggested that the same is true with shidduchim. If you take your mind off it and stop waiting around for it, then life will surprise you when you least expect it.

I would love to take this advice to heart, but it seems to be impossible as I seem to become the expert on imagining how any scenario whatsoever can lead to one’s finding their bashert. In my mind, all roads can lead to finding a spouse. This is coming from a good place, since I have focused on the message that Yeshuat Hashem K’Heref Ayin, that Hashem can save you in the blink of an eye, but unfortunately has been taken to an extreme. Let me explain.

Yeshuat Hashem K’Heref Ayin means that every single second of every single day no matter where you are or who you are with, every single second is the possible second of initiation of the series of events to lead you to find your bashert. Some situations are obvious, as they are clearly conducive to finding one’s bashert. For example, if someone is in a place where there are lots of single guys and lots of single girls, be it a wedding or shul or a singles Shabbaton or a situation like that, it is not so far fetched to imagine how one might meet their soulmate. Other situations it becomes slightly less plausible, yet I can still figure out how all roads lead to finding your bashert.

For example, walking down the street or taking the train. Your bashert could just show up randomly. Maybe you will accidentally drop something and they will rush to help you pick it up, maybe the only empty seat left on the bus will be next to you and they will sit there and you’ll end up talking. Maybe you’ll both be in the supermarket and there’s an item without a price tag and one of you will turn to the other and shyly ask if the other happens to know the price. The possibilities are endless.

Those aren’t even very far fetched. Here’s a challenging one: For a girl, walking into the ladies room. “Ha!” you think, “I’ll bet there’s no way she could come up with a way to meet a guy in a place where there are no guys!” Wrong. His mother or sister or cousin or aunt or grandmother could be in the bathroom and you could end up in a conversation with her, and she thinks you are so nice, that she decides to set you up. There is no situation that can’t lead to finding your bashert. Even if you are stuck stranded on a dessert island, you never know who could be on the boat that comes to rescue you.

This kind of thinking is hopeful, yet destructive. Because in case you haven’t noticed, 99 percent of the people you know did not meet through some outrageous barely conceivable series of events. If you spend every second hoping that this will be the second, that maybe a huge hurricane will sweep you off your feet and you’ll magically land right next to the right person, you’re in for a big disappointment. It could happen, but what are the chances? All roads have the potential to lead to finding your bashert, but most roads don’t. In fact, there is only going to be one road that does. We can’t spend every second watching the pot otherwise it will seem like it’s never going to boil.

I just wish I knew how to stop watching. Even when I decide firmly that I will not watch, I still glance over my shoulder. And if I manage to really stop glancing, there is always someone who will point out that this situation could lead to my bashert, and all of a sudden the power of suggestion has me watching again.

Someone was recently telling me about a girl who had barely started dating and already had thoughts wondering whether she would ever find the right person. I was surprised because she barely even started looking. How could she be ready to give up so soon? In addition, a few friends who have been “in the parsha” for a while have recently expressed to me that they think that they might never get married. I found this depressing, but they found it easier to live with that so that they can accept their life and move on without trying to fight reality. I admit that sometimes I worry about that too, but I still hold on strongly to the belief that I will fin the right person one day, even if takes longer than I expected.

So which approach is better? To believe that all roads can lead to finding your soulmate, and hoping in every situation that it could happen this second, and then being sourly disappointed when that is not the case, or believing that no roads lead to finding your soulmate and it’s never going to happen? At least then you can only be happily surprised. I’ve written before that my #1 rule of shidduchim is don’t get your hopes up. But that means don’t get your hopes up in individual situations, not in the long term ending of your story. Each situation may end up going nowhere, but don’t give up hope that it will end up OK.

Food for thought: Is it better to not watch the pot and wait for life to surprise you, or to watch the pot to make sure you don’t miss anything? Is it bettter to hope constantly and be disappointed, or to give up hope completely, accept it and move on with your life?


  1. One of the more annoying comments that I hear is "You never know." Usually, that's supposed to talk me into a social function I'd rather not attend, banking upon my obvious desperation of singlehood.

    I go with the premise that if Hashem wants me to come upon my bashert, He'll make it happen; I don't have to go out of my comfort zone to ensure it will. Of course, if I go away for a Shabbos or if I'm at a wedding, the "What if . . . ?" goes through my mind, but I try to put it aside and enjoy myself as though it's not on the table at all.

    I would say that some girls are despairing very early on is that they've been terrorized with "shidduch crisis" talk, plus the American "I want it now" mentality. If they don't get it right away, they fear the worst on both ends. A solution to that sort of thinking would be to focus on Hashem as one's matchmaker.

  2. SternGrad, I SOOO can relate to this...
    it's like shidduchim are on my mind. 24/7. Especially on the train/subway.
    It's something I'm trying to work on...I know I need to calm down a bit.

    Someone was once telling me how you meet your zivug davka when you least expect it. But IDK about that...
    I don't think there are any set of rules. It all boils down to when HaShem decides to send you your zivug.

    Sooo I say keep watching the pot and wait with the pasta in hand!

  3. Bookworm- I can totally relate to the "You never know" line being used to convince us to do things we don't want to do. It's as though we're supposed to jump at ridiculous suggestions that are clearly going nowhere.

    Sefardi Gal- yes, for some reason the train/subway is the worst spot for me- I'm trying to work on it too. It doesn't help that I know of someone who met a guy on the train and set him up with her friend. The story doesn't have a happy ending, they broke up, but it means that it's possible...

  4. SternGrad - yes, it definitely is possible!
    In the book The Art of the Date, there was a story about how one of the train employees would often see a frum guy reading a sefer on one cart and a frum girl reading on a different one. They never met, so the employee decided to introduce them, and voila, now they're married.

    But the thing is...
    I'm not sure how I'd react. I think I'd be a little taken aback if a frum guy approached me on a train. I wouldn't purposely be cold or rude, but it's definitely not an expected occurence.

  5. Sefardi Gal- you're right. It's kind of ironic actually. We spend train/sunbway rides hoping to meet someone, but if we actually did it would be kind of sketchy. I've been meaning to write a post on a similar topic.

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