Book Review: Life's Journey
Reading Dr. Batya Ludman’s wonderfully wise Life’s Journey: Exploring Relationships, Resolving Conflicts (Devora Publishing, 2011) sparked some memories.
In 1970, when I had my first child, two best-sellers sat on my night-table: the umpteenth edition of Benjamin Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care and the just-published Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler.
Spock’s message to parents was "Be confident -- you know more than you think you do – and the rest is clearly explained here." Even in 1946, when the book was first published (it’s still going strong, having sold more than 50 million copies in 42 languages), many young parents needed both the encouragement and a friendly knowledge-source, because – like today’s olim -- they were living far from their extended families.
Toffler defined future shock as “a personal perception of too much change in too short a period of time". Although Toffler wrote before anyone could even imagine specific changes like computers in every home (or room) and cell phones in every pocket, he was spot-on in predicting that masses of unexpected or unfamiliar information would weaken one’s sense that “I know how to get along in this world”.
In 1975, when I came on aliya, the only useful book was The WonderPot Cookbook. It taught me about unfamiliar ingredients and non-oven ways to prepare them, but any other info I needed for navigating into Israeli society, and for raising my children within it – was totally unavailable. Knowing Hebrew gave me the illusion that I understood what was going around me. In reality, it’s the culture, not the language that takes time, patience, and human guidance to understand.
Although future shock now engulfs everyone in “western” society, groups enduring extra-large doses are new parents, parents of teen-agers, and new olim, each making their first entries into unfamiliar worlds. Many people belong simultaneously to two or all of these groups. Oh for a map, and a helping hand!
In her book, Dr. Ludman, a licensed clinical psychologist and a familiar name to Anglo olim, who is also a family therapist and trauma specialist and who writes a column for the weekend edition of the JPost, provides cogent descriptions of life’s challenges, mental exercises that lead to personal insights, and practical advice for dealing effectively and meaningfully with people and events throughout the life-cycle.
Among the topics: stress and its antidotes, effective communication, marriage, child-rearing, technology and its challenges to family life, the senior years, bereavement, and much more.
One chapter, “Take Your Foot Off the Gas”, should be translated into Hebrew and read together by all Mediterranean parents and their new-driver teenagers.
In addition to the high quality and scope of its advice, what makes the book unique is its chapters on life in Israel – the initial aliya adjustments, the difficulties of living far from loved ones, dealing with children’s teachers, coping with terror and the threat of terror, worries about our soldier-children, the roles of religion and culture in our lives, and all these combined.
Here’s one of my favorite paragraphs (it was hard to choose...):
"Pretend for a moment that you are from another planet. Remember, life is not what you knew back home. Appreciate all the things your new life has to offer and enjoy your adopted country’s strengths.....Where else do you see pink and red flowers growing on the same tree?..... You have to be moved when the bus driver, the woman at the checkout and the gym instructor all say Shabbat Shalom."
Life’s Journey is an excellent gift for anyone at any stage of life’s journey – especially (but not only) if that journey includes aliya.
The reviewer is a certified family therapist.