Convenience beckons and tempts us with thoughts of future pleasure, of relaxation and contentment. Of the universe being in sync with our plan in life.
And yet, on a more subtle scale, waving quietly in the background, is our actual need and desire, for dignity.
We run after convenience but we inwardly thirst for dignity.
In our last apartment, it got to the point that with two little kids running around, I felt like I could practically stretch out my arms on both sides and touch opposite walls. I was a monster in a tiny room, running around in little toddler-shaped circles. The list of why this place was a disaster could go on for a long time, but I will refrain from going over every single ridiculous thing that happened there and the fact that it felt like we were living on top of a garbage landfill. I will just briefly mention that I always felt this sensation of being watched( I remember discussing this at a Shabbos table at our home, which first received some laughter around the table, then as I continually exclaimed- " Don't you feel it? ! Don't you feel like someone is always watching you here ? Like you're not really alone? Don't you feel like you're on stage?!" the guffaws slowly faded into worried grimaces, glancing at one another. The subject was shortly changed.)
But it was so convenient to feel like we were on some Big Brother Landfill of Brooklyn, because we were one block away from not one but two produce stores, all the kosher and Jewish shopping you could dream of, a trendy flower shop, two blocks from the Subway, two and a half blocks from 770. I mean we were in Prime Real Estate. That was one of the big reasons why we took the place, and the main response we got when we told people where we lived :" Great location!" It was a great location. It was so convenient. Yes, it was kind of Very City, but with the cost of moving, we couldn't move, could we? We couldn't find a better location than this, could we? So we stayed, surfing the landfills in DisasterLand. I never felt alone or completely calm a day in the almost three years we lived there.
By the Hand of God, we were plucked out of Big Brother Apartment, and pushed to the streets. Through a diligent search, that ended with Gd selecting our current location despite us, we signed a lease for our current home.
Let me tell you something, sit down New Yorkers if you're prone to anxiety: We live FIFTEEN long minutes away from my daughter's school. That's right. We have to walk 15 minutes to get to her school EVERY DAY ( New Yorkers seem to find these types of times and distances excessively alarming). However, it's true, this location is not as convenient as our last place, and it's true that with the sidewalks only slightly paved in the middles, and 3 degree weather, going back and forth is not that pleasant. Honestly, during the snowy winter, it takes me half an hour each way. Which can add up to two hours a day if I take her both ways. It's good you're sitting down. It's true, our new home is not as convenient. It's true, it's harder. It's true, it's not easy.
But dignity-wise? I feel like a normal, breathing human being. I feel like I can walk around in my own home. When I close my door at night and sit down to write, I feel beautifully, gracefully alone. I feel like I have gone from walking on all fours to heaving myself upwards and joining the human race. And it's all worth it.
Similarly, I have begun to question my decision to stick it out financially and not buy trendy but comfortable footwear , and just wear my super sassy neon colored sneakers. Back where I came from, wearing sneakers and pajama pants was acceptable. You could make pjs cool. People would go out to the store in their workout clothes before a long run. Or after. Or during. You do not do these things in New York.
So, in the name of convenience, I strut around The Block in my workout shoes and basically a neon sign that says : I Am Not From Here. M'Karev Me.
Yet our clothing, our homes, speak to us. It gets inside our head. "C'mon", it smirks, as I neon-strut, " How much better would you feel with nice shoes? Is it worth it? "
There is nothing convenient about a lack of dignity. It eats us up. The things we own, own us. They worm into our sense of integrity, our inner malchus, and began to erode our center, our foundation. We lose critical energy trying to fend off and argue with its attacks, its destabilization attempts.
Choose dignity over convenience I to try repeat to myself, a physical/spiritual mantra.
Just last night, I complained to my husband about a recent fairly terrible doctor appointment I just had. " You have to find a new doctor," he wisely advised. "But it's so conven-" I clamped my mouth shut.
Convenience is a tricky creature. Be advised and stay on guard. And invite some dignity in for a cup of tea. She's quiet, but she's so so worth it.