On Wednesday afternoon I get an urgent call at the office from a friend, an invitation to Saturday lunch. Shabbas lunches tend to be festive affairs, meaning we all dress up and the food is great, but I'm routinely declining invitations this year because of availus (rhymes with duh-pay-loose, Hebrish for availut; Hebrish being a cross between Hebrew and Yiddish words. If you're just be tuning in, try not to worry about it).
Technically, being in availus means mourning the loss of a parent for a full calendar year, avoiding parties and new clothes, good times in general. We don't need to discuss the emotionality, psychological, financial or anything other than the technicality of availus right now, or if I need therapy for such a condition.
Anyway, I ask my friend if she's having other couples over because technically, according to Jewish law, FD and I could go to this luncheon if we're the only other couple in attendance.
But alas, there are two other couples invited. We know one of these couples well, but the other is new to us, and there's something unique about them. The he, Joel Pollak, is running for the United States Congress, and the she, the lovely Julie Pollak, is running, too, in a sense, for they are both out there, in that totally non-socially-phobic, confident, supremely intelligent way that tells us they themselves support their place in the universe, their agenda. They're on speaking tours, kissing babies, charming all of the 9th District with romantic unaffected South African accents.
I have to ask the Rabbi, I tell my friend. This is the kind of thing that requires a little guidance, going or not going, even if it is an exceptional thing, having lunch with a political candidate and his bride, married only ten months. You learn these things at lunch, and how he proposed, if you ask.
Because generally I feel very removed from politics (mostly out of sheer laziness, not so much hopelessness), and because eeny meeny, miny, moe is the way a person like me sometimes chooses a candidate in the voting booth, I call the Rabbi right away. I want to go. Maybe it is time for better decision-making therapy in the booth, time to become more involved in the cosmos.
The Rabbi is out of town, of course, which could be a good thing, or a bad thing. But my friend, wants to know by evening if we're coming. Who could blame her! If we turn her down, surely someone else will take our place. This, too, is a rule of therapy. If it isn't you, it will be someone else; might as well be you.*
I tell her, We'll be there. When I get a call back from our spiritual leader another question will surely come to mind, perhaps something along the lines of a new winter coat. Having worn out my old one last winter, tore the lining, it is not shayich (rhymes with my-lich, hard ch, meaning: becoming, or appropriate), this coat, for a person that others pay for advice.
I'm a little nervous because I haven't been out socially in quite awhile, and the last time we did go out, supposedly a simple Friday night dinner, others joined unexpectedly. The hosts couldn't exactly throw them out, and it just felt wrong. When you're used to following rules, breaking them kicks at your cognitive sets, messes with your head, and it's not good.
But maybe it was too early, too soon, that dinner, too soon emotionally in the calendar. Accepting this time, months later feels weird, too, even under these exciting circumstances, so I warn FD that an emergency escape might be imminent, that someone might suddenly remember leaving something on the stove. He furrows his brow, tells me unconditionally, in a tone he rarely takes, "You can't do that."
There's a psychological rule that if you dread something, expect that it will be annoying, upsetting, etc., it is likely that it won't be nearly as bad as you expect it to be.** In fact it's best to dread things. Dread away! Better to dread, for the more you dread, the less you'll regret it in the end, not having dreaded a possibly dreadful situation. But if it is fairly well-dreaded, the situation, it is unlikely that it will be dreadful at all.And you will laugh at it if it is, for you have predicted it.
The rule is that if you expect less, you will get more. It is the Satisfaction Quotient taught to medical students at Loyola University Medical School; the credit goes to Domeena Renshaw, MD (psychiatry). Divide Achievement (A) by Expectation (E) to get Satisfaction (S). The theory goes you'll be satisfied with any result over the number 1.0, but less than--you're in therapy.
Take spelling tests. A person correctly spells (A) five out of ten words. But he expects (E) to get many more than five, perhaps expects to get a ten. The quotient, Achievement over Expectation, 5/10, one-half, does not cut it, is not above 1.0.
How could anyone be satisfied with only a half? And it isn't his fault! Except that this person's expectations were too high. Better to keep them low. Expect to get a two on the spelling test (E = 2); that way anything over a two, say even something lame like a five, is golden. The quotient, 5/2 or 2.5, is higher than 1.0, the not so loneliest number.
Lunch, of course, was fabulous. My friend is up there with Julia Child, although she complains vociferously, indeed grieves that the pumpkin muffins stick to the muffin paper, and she has forgotten the nutmeg. She serves beautifully, we eat and drink, and you know how it goes, talk of many things, including politics.
Joel Pollack, the candidate, can't help but be political, but he is theoretical and philosophical, too, applies the concept of limits to something we're talking about. He's very into this concept of limits, something that therapists are forever waxing on and on about. After much deferring in the conversation, I can't help but advise him.
"Joel. Use the word boundaries, not limits. Seriously, everyone loves this word now. I'm sure Oprah has done five hundred shows about boundaries."
He listens! He gets it right away! You see the light bulb. He is a natural, and if you read more about this guy, you wish that they, the other politicians, all had his personal attention to scientific detail (I quiz him about recycling, natch), his education (Harvard), his energy, integrity, good sense, interest in others.
So lunch was great, and I learned that I should probably get more involved in these matters, politics, blog less and listen to the candidates more, especially if they are bright and promising like Joel Pollack. Probably many of them are bright and promising, although it is unlikely many bring a copy of the Constitution with them on the circuit, but they should. This candidate does.
And for the first time in my life, it is happening, no promises, I am getting a sign for the front yard supporting a candidate. It had to happen sometime.
*This is a statement dependent upon context, of course. If someone is passing you a joint, for example, it might as well not be you.
**Just because a person wants to do something, go somewhere, doesn't mean there won't be a layer of dread. This is one of the many double binds, paradoxes of the human condition.