For months he was anxious to be accepted to a different yeshiva. His current yeshiva had its plusses, but he was clear it was not a long term fit. Last week he was finally accepted to his school of choice. Immediately, he became terrified of switching.
He had detailed analyses on why each school could be both the right place and simultaneously a real mistake. He was swinging like a pendulum while loading up on more and more outside input to help solve his clarity problem. Emotionally and physically exhausted, he was also becoming frightened: what’s wrong with me that I can’t find my way?
When he shared all this me, a few things seemed clear.
1) His fear was not the problem. It was his misunderstanding. Like a toddler frightened by his shadow, my son was frightened by his own fear. Both the shadow and the fear are real perceptions; they’re just not dangerous.
2) He was trying to vanquish his fear. Vanquishing fear generally amplifies it.
I shared this with him to be the best of my ability. And then at a certain point I suggested, “You are exempt from making this decision.”
“Huh?” he said.
“You are spinning in circles, you sense it, but you can’t stop. So you’re an oness,” I said, using the Jewish legal term for one who is incapacitated and thereby legally exempt from responsibility.
“But I still need to make a decision!” he cried.
“That’s true. So ask someone you trust to decide. Your work will be in the humility of accepting your limits. The decision itself is not your work right now.”
He paused. He seemed uncertain. On the one hand, he knew that challenges require hard work. On the other hand, he saw that he had no clue how to work harder or better.
“I don’t know about that,” he offered.
A day later, he called back.
“I’m still not sure which way to go,” he said. “But I’m not panicked. I see I could actually be fine with either choice.”
“Really?” I asked. “That’s good news.” I could feel the difference in his voice. “How did that happen?”
It was a somewhat leading question. I knew he didn’t do it. I knew it was a Divine gift. He had been stuck. He had wanted out. He couldn’t make it happen. And then it happened. He had an Exodus.
“Honestly, I don’t really know,” he said. Then he reconsidered. “No, God took me out of my stuckness.”
Seeing what we are not capable is an essential part of accessing more of our capabilities.