I feel like lately I’ve been doing a generally terrible job at being human. I have been trying really hard to be clear and honest, to make amends, to reach out. Still, time and time again I feel like a failure. Perfect timing, I thought, to struggle with and address these issues before Yom Kippur. I feel like this week there is a lot to accomplish, a lot of growth to achieve, a lot to come to terms with.
Let’s begin with the fact that 5774 did not start how I hoped, planned or expected, it actually did not start well at all; the New Year began with a lot of hurt, disappointment, and anger. These last few days have made me question issues I thought were settled and have created new issues I am not sure how to settle. Part of me feels guilty for being so helpless, for not being able to move forward, but another part of me is tired of having to figure everything out on my own. I feel guilty for blaming others, but I feel angry that others fail to be considerate and kind. So where does that leave me during a period of atonement? I don’t want to be either one of these women. I spend a lot of my life making excuses for others, giving the benefit of the doubt, hoping that next time will be different. These are my own downfalls, these actions cause me to expect a lot from others, often more than they have to give, and in the end I feel hurt and stupid. Expectations are hard to manage, they are especially hard to manage when I set them so high. Since Rosh Hashana I have seen people, things and ideas I’d grown to love fall apart, I have seen their true colors, I have seen what I had tried not to see. Now, only a few days before Yom Kippur I cannot unsee any of it; I cannot pretend it didn’t happen despite the desire of others that I do just that. I can choose to forgive transgressions, I can choose to move forward, but I cannot forget, I cannot disregard the choices others made.
Still, this period seems perfect for such a high degree of introspection, for making significant decisions, for choosing how to move forward in life. According to Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashana G-d inscribes the judgment of each person for the coming year into the Book of Life, but waits until Yom Kippur for this judgment to be sealed. As a result, it is imperative (unless you’re exceedingly smug) to take these ten days to change, to set the tone for a better year and a better self, to recognize our shortcomings and make amends, make better choices.
I value the woman I have become. I am not always perfect, I make mistakes often, but I try to be better with each passing day. I value my strong sense of independence, my kindness, my open-mindedness, my authenticity. Conversely, I am disappointed by my stubbornness, my insecurities, my silence, my laziness. So for this Yom Kippur I think my focus is a little bit different. Although I have tried to make amends and recognize my shortcomings, I will try to use these Days of Awe to set out the outline for my life, a sort of skeleton structure of what I want the next year to be for me; As G-d seals my fate for the coming year, so shall I. It’s time to start making major changes in my life, I want to grow and improve, I want to see a clear path toward what my life can become. I am going to devote my time and energy to worthy causes and people who matter, I am going to work harder, I am going to be more vocal, I am going to be stronger and I am going to be better to myself. I have hope that some around me will also take this challenge to grow, I have hope that some of my relationships will progress, but I have no expectations. I have learned an important lesson this week, I cannot control the behavior of others, but I can control my response and reaction to that behavior. Where I am in life is greatly due to my choices, I don’t have to continuously work to preserve something that is not worth keeping, I can choose to let it go. I am choosing to take this opportunity in my life to make necessary changes, despite the growing pains. I have hope that the outcome will be a life I am proud to lead as a woman I am proud to be.