Monthly Archives: September 2017

It’s a Brand New Year, Baby

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Competitiveness. Infatuation. Greed. Vanity.

Do you know the famous story of the spider and King David? Young David is hiding in a cave from King Saul. He sees a spider and wonders why the Almighty bothered creating spiders at all. (I admit I’ve questioned their purpose at times!) Long story short, the spider saves David from Saul by spinning a web that covers the mouth of the cave. When King Saul approaches the cave, after being tipped off by a spy, he doesn’t even enter since he assumes that David would have broken the intricate web when going in to hide.

Spiders have a purpose in the world and sometimes their purpose is quite lofty.

Our inner ‘spiders’ (competitiveness, infatuation, vanity, and greed) can have a lofty purpose too. They can be the first steps in motivating us to accomplish great deeds.

Lately, I’ve been noticing the volume of people who are at a crossroads. They’re toying with new ideas for their careers, they’re ending relationships, some are feeling anxious about their future, others are experiencing the bittersweet flavor of closing one chapter and beginning the next.

We see that we need to make a change in our lives but we are masters of distraction and rationalization. We stay in the rut and we are sure that’s the most practical course of action.

But then…

We bump into a contemporary who seems to be running his life far more efficiently, happily, and successfully than us.

OR We are attracted to someone who appreciates achievements that we suddenly have energy to accomplish.

OR We look in the mirror or try on that outfit or step on the scale.

OR We want more attention, money, honor, affection, medals, degrees, accolades, or popularity.

Suddenly, we are able to update that resume, skip that dessert, set up that date, book that ticket. We are spontaneously and wholly motivated to accomplish what we were sure was impossible.

What about these negative traits and emotions that we’re capitalizing on to accomplish great things?

A Jewish perspective? Go for it. Seize the day. Just do it. Fake it ’til you make it. What begins with impure intentions can transition into idealistic ones.

So to those around me who feel that they are at a crossroads…and to me, who can appreciate downtime like a champ but knows the value of accomplishing.

DO. Do at all costs. Do ambitiously, boldly, and bravely. Use the hidden ‘spiders’ in yourself to haul your body off of the couch and accomplish.

It’s a brand new year, baby. Live greatly.

 

 

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The Most Important Shoes

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I closed my eyes. Just for a second because I was driving. The kids were all speaking at the same time. One child was repeatedly asking me to pass a water bottle over to the backseat. The next one was explaining how he reached his ‘superstar’ status at school (a teacher’s recognition for good work) and interrupted himself to quiet his siblings down. The little one was very angry about her pacifier lying on the floor and was shrieking for it. I prayed that I could keep the wheel steady as I passed the water back two rows and grabbed the pacifier quickly thereafter (nearly dislocating my elbow). I popped the pacifier into my toddler’s mouth and now heard just one frustrated little voice.  I told my son to continue his story and to focus on me instead of the previous noise because I WAS listening.

I closed my eyes. Just for a second. I found myself wishing for a little quiet. I was tired after a long work day and in the mood to think. I wanted to mull over a conversation I’d had with an employee, figure out how to effectively support a friend in mourning, and make a mental to-do list for the following day. I wanted to plan out my evening action steps from calling a colleague back to packing lunches. I didn’t want to hear anymore whining or talking or demands. I almost voiced the thoughts running through my mind but then…

I closed my eyes. One last time. This time, when I opened them, I saw what I had missed. The little blessings in the backseat who needed me to be fully present in mind, body, and soul. The strategies, the analysis, the rushing would have to wait. Right then, I needed to be successful with my most important little clients. Success requires me to slow my mind and my pace (not my natural tempo) and smile or shake my head at the right times to listen wholly.

I am so tempted to become absorbed into every other arguably important task and overlook my most important ones. Not just the children but close relationships in general. Judaism asks us to fill the void that only we can fill first. In other words, if someone else can take the phone meeting but only you can visit your sick best friend to cheer her up, then the right path is clear. If someone else can do your laundry and prepare dinner but only you can help your niece with her homework, then your choice is simple. You are the only person who can fill your unique task. Let’s not lose sight of the most important shoes we need to fill: our own.

My Fear of Groundhog Day

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You wake up when the alarm begins to buzz. But you’re tired. You press the snooze button. You doze off only to be awoken again eight minutes later. That alarm clock of yours is persistent if nothing else.

Oh fine, you’ll get up. So you do. You wash your hands, your face, you use the bathroom, maybe you say a morning prayer, maybe you check your phone.

You get dressed, you give yourself one last look and have one lingering thought: Need. Coffee.

Some of you will splinter into a different phase of the morning but those of you with young children will pack lunchboxes and oversee wake up calls, some good dental hygiene, and offer encouragement (read: nagging) to get everyone dressed.

You pour cereal or coffee. Maybe you exercise. You hop in the car and drive to work or you drive the kids to school.

I could keep going through your day but in the interest of time, and because I think you get it, I’ll stop here.

This concept of living what’s essentially the Groundhog Day movie version of your life scares me to pieces. It always has – since I was a teenager and realized that people waste so much of their lives running on a metaphoric hamster’s wheel. Uninspired or dwelling on pettiness,  or just generally surviving their lives instead of living them.

But is my life any different than that? I wake up the same way you do. You could say we lead parallel lives with a few adjustments.

I saw a 30 Day Fitness Challenge video where people were tasked to do 100 push-ups for 30 days straight. Their journey of emotion- from frustration to exhilaration and back, from physical impossibility to a reality was fascinating. But even more impactful was, of course, the results.

We are all vulnerable in perceiving that our lives resemble the Groundhog Day movie. What differentiates this day from the last one is the effort I put in every single moment. To learn, to work, to be better each day. The moment I take to think through my attitude or speech and choose a higher road is the moment I am elevated to new heights.

Then, we can wake up, take in the newly elevated scenery, and unaided by an alarm, smile.