I had something amazing happen to me a few weeks ago...right before the intersection of my getting some nasty strand of the flu and my laptop going ka-boom. I was waiting for the train in Manhattan one Friday afternoon when I spotted a woman obviously travelling to my part of Brooklyn, aka Flatbush. What I happened to catch my attention, aside from her being a compatriot and her evidencing exhaustion by slumping against a column, was the fact that her sheitel had a completely tznius and yet very attractive cut.
I decided to amble over and asked her where she had got her sheitel. Not that I was planning on shelling out a bundle on a new sheitel; my most recent hair piece cost me a total of $32, shipping and handling included. Instead what piqued my fascination was the fact that the cut was so very flattering. We struck up a conversation and proceed to talk the whole way to Flatbush. In fact, so engrossed were we that we neglected to hear the conductor announce that the train was going express and we had to travel to several stops out of the way in order to double-back to our respective stations.
We talked a lot about what constitutes tznius, about married life, about the hectic state of life here in New York. Never enough time despite all the modern conveniences, never enough time to sit down for a minute and relax. I had never really thought about it before, but I realised how much I had the feeling the past year or so that I do not stop all day long. I can be home for hours after work and yet I only sit down right before I go to sleep. Why is that, we wondered? We could not figure it out, except for the fact that what I learned in university seemed to ring true for New York: the more modern life seeped into women's lives, the more modern technology became commonplace, the less time women had for themselves.
Nowhere else that I had lived have I felt so deprived of time. And yet I do not find that life in New York is hurried as it is so often portrayed. Rather, the sense of rushing stems- at least in my case- from the fact that everything takes so long, often for no apparent reason. When I walk in Manhattan, I am generally walking faster than everyone around me. But at every single corner I miss the light and have to wait for the walk signal. When I shop, there can be a half dozen cashiers on duty but my 12 items take five minutes to ring up. And, it goes without saying, I may live in Brooklyn, but I am almost 30 painful stops from my job in lower Manhattan.
The morning I met my fellow train traveller, I had made the uncommon decision to skip reading an additional five lines during my morning learning. I was running late and it being Friday I figured I had to get out the door already. How did Hashem pay me back? By reminding me in the form of my train trip home both via our conversation and via the fact that I had to spend an additional10 minutes doubling back. The moral of the story: make time for those few final moments devoted to Hashem. Because in the end you gain nothing but cutting back on that time.
Since that train ride, I remember the lesson Hashem reiterated to me. And I consequently ensure that no matter how powerful the urge, I always focus on the fact that I am here only to serve Hashem. My train, my job, the shopping, the cooking- in the end, none of it is more important than Hashem. So, let the shopping and the train ride be a bit longer than I would like. As long as I have done my daily learning and davening, and have spent my day in constant awareness that I am here for Hashem and representing Hashem, I figure the exhaustion is worth it.
After all, we only get one trip through this lifetime. Best to make the most of it...