Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Day of Atonement

The Jewish high holidays always make me think of the year that has passed and the one that lies ahead. Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the new year. We eat round challah bread and dip apples in honey for a sweet new year. On Yom Kippor, the Day of Atonement, we reflect on all of the mistakes we have made in the past year and ask for forgiveness from those we hurt, from ourselves and from G-d.

This year over the high holidays, I have been thinking very seriously about my new start to my thirty-second year. The goals I have set before me are great. Not just in selecting twelve meaningful projects that I have passed over throughout the years. But also, to listen to the voice inside me and hear what it has been saying. How do I select the tasks that will steer this year in the right direction? How do I choose from amongst all of my goals and fears and decide which ones to tackle?

Should these projects have to do with my mom and accomplishing dreams of hers she never had the chance to tackle? While I have to admit, I find that path very tempting, I know now after all of these years, I have to live for myself, for my family, for my children. I have to answer to all the hopes and dreams within my own self and my own life before I can come to terms with what it means to live for another person. My mom, may she rest in peace, went to college, became a teacher and later a stay at home mom to her three gifts in this world. She was living out her dreams. And somewhere deep down inside, I know she would want me to live for myself, continue to develop my inner voice and challenge myself in a way that brings inner peace to my year of introspection.

So, already, I have cleared the path around my project to require that these projects be about me. To make a list of goals and fears I want to accomplish despite the tempting nature to live out the hopes of other people. This year is about me growing closer to the person I am inside and there is only one way to achieve that outcome---I have to make the path for myself, one stone at a time.

Some ideas such as learning to riding a bike or overcoming my fear of heights came to my mind almost immediately when launching this project. I knew riding a bike was something I needed to master as I began watching my three year old ride her tricycle around our neighborhood. If you can't learn to ride a bike in your thirties, when can you? It's one of those things I feel like I have to accomplish alongside my children.

As an environmentalist and an avid hiker, overcoming my fear of heights seemed inevitable. How could I, the tree-hugger from New England, not learn how to climb a tree or complete a ropes course? I do hike and I do ski but the hiking is very low-grade. No rock climbing or snowshoeing over here. Just a casual walk through national parks or around a waterfall or two. I like cross-country skiing, not just because it includes quiet walks through the forest in the winter, but because it excludes the ski lifts. I have gone a few times up proper mountains, but I certainly would not say I did it with ease.

I mentioned public speaking as it seems like something I have tried to tackle on a number of occasions. Sure who hasn't tried to run for student council in high school or given a presentation during a college class? These required speeches in small settings drove me nuts. The night before a talk, I would be up all night pacing, practicing my words, worried I would trip up the stairs. You know, the typical "night before a speech" mind games. I need something bigger, something more challenging to push me. Perhaps my talk will take place at my synagogue as an end of the year review. I certainly don't expect Oprah or Ellen to call me up to visit their shows. (Please note: If they did, I would bite the bullet and run with it). So talking in front of a large group of people, publicizing my efforts, reflecting on my accomplishments and elevating my mom's spirit... definitely a must on this list.

A few other ideas I have in mind include: working in a flower shop, whitewater rafting and taking ballroom dance classes with my husband. The flower shop has always been a place of happiness for me. Growing up in the suburbs outside of Boston, I loved visiting the plant stores and nurseries around town. I loved shopping for flowers before a big dance at school or planning for the bouquets for my wedding. Something about the arrangements and colors always attracted me to flowers. First I fell in love with peach roses, then calla lilies, then gerbera daisies. Now I am in love with orchids. I had one once but they are so delicate to care for, it didn't survive a trip I took to Denver. I guess a call to a local flower shop is in order to see if they want a volunteer some time this year.

Rafting stems from my love of nature and obsession with water. I love, love, love the rain. John Cusack in Say Anything standing in the rain with the radio blasting "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel is the quintessential romantic moment of all 80's movies, if you ask me. In fact, it poured rain on my wedding day and despite our plan for a calm, outdoor ceremony, I was internally thrilled that it was raining. When other people go inside and shut the blinds during a storm, I put on my raincoat, rain hat, grab an umbrella and take a walk. I like boats and boat houses... and I love the City of Seattle and anything that has to do with it. Sleepless in Seattle is another favorite of mine. At the same time, I am afraid of little boats. Cruise ships don't phase me. But paddle boats, canoes and certainly anything inflated, is on my "fears of all time" list. So rafting makes the grade.

My last idea, which brings me to number six if you're counting, is ballroom dance. Sure I was in a few musicals and show choir (think Glee) in high school. But ballroom dancing with someone always seemed like a fun but difficult feat. I do like Dancing with the Stars and I admit to watching Dirty Dancing as a child and practicing some of the moves in my living room--- But to dance with my husband, that will be the challenge. To learn the steps, dance to the beat and then have to practice those moves relying on another person to lead, that sounds like a crazy task to me. Let alone the task of trying to plan around my husband's residency schedule which reads like a law review. It is so complicated, I wonder sometimes if he knows when he is supposed to be "on" at the hospital. I think sometimes people in his program must just show up at shift change times just to cover their bases in case they were scheduled. (Don't tell him I said that)!

So there we have it. A holiday weekend behind me and six tasks for the taking. The question arises... will I complete each of these tasks in order? I need to think about how to plan this year. Surely some tasks are seasonal. Bike riding, climbing and rafting are all spring/summer projects. While public speaking, ballroom dancing and flower shop work can be done year-round. So perhaps I will leave these for the winter. I have already declared September as bike riding month so at least I am safe for now. But October is right around the corner.... I guess I better get cracking to line up the next task and do some research for the months ahead to find a flower shop nearby and locate a dance class.

Still six more projects to select and which ones will I choose? Hopefully more dreams will come to me. Maybe once I complete a task, something else will pop up in its place. The truth is, I find that the more people I tell about this project, the more others share their goals and fears with me. People share tasks still incomplete in their lives and dreams they left on the shelf for another day. If I have learned nothing else two weeks into my thirty-second year, it is that one is never too old to learn, just sometimes a little too unwilling to listen to oneself.

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