Shana Tova!

It was just Rosh Hashannah, Happy New Year to all – Jew style!

The New Jew Year is always more meaningful to me than the “regular” New Year. The “regular” New Year is about getting together to celebrate the past year and the year to come. This celebration usually includes making resolutions that we rarely keep, drinking champagne (among other things) and if we remember watching the ball drop in time square on tv. The next day is usually spent by many recuperating and wondering what the heck really happened last night and asking ourselves such questions as did we really sleep on that table?

The timeline of the New Jew Year is different. I spend an evening, and the next morning, praying at synagogue. Not just because “I’m supposed to”, but because I want to. Why? Because the New Jew Year is special. I can feel the time for renewal radiating out from my core, my very soul before I see it on the calendar. Internally I know that this is the time to renew. Time to renew my mind. To renew my body. To renew my faith. To renew my soul. To renew me. This has never been more the true than it is this year.

(Warning. Long blog post is long. Not for the TD;DR crowd.)

I have spent the last 10 weeks away from my usual life in Minnesota. Away from my familiar housing, my friends, my activities, my job, my support system. Away, physically and often emotionally, from everything that I considered “normal”. This decision to leave for the summer was one of the hardest I have had to make in a long time. Why did I do it? I did it because I needed to reconnect with a place I had once been. I did it because I needed to reconnect with a lifestyle I once had. I did it because I needed to reconnect with someone I had stopped thinking was important and become distant from – me.

Now, that may sound silly to some of you reading this, but for me is it just natural to worry about and take care of other people before myself. I believe this trait has been key in my organizing and activism and therein made my work also my passion at times. The problem arose when this passion was paired with a lack of self-care.

Like many others, my over committed nature really started in college. I was overcommitted in my student organizing mostly because I had to learn things by doing them (and what I ended up doing was often way more than the bare minimum or my share.) When I did enter more non-college related activism groups, I entered a community where many of the people I worked with and learned from had less than ideal self-care practices. This led to the idea that being over committed in the activism work was the “norm” and thus it was the path that I went on as well.

This path felt fine to me. I moved through my life, loving it (especially the summer of 2007 and everything about it). I had friends, housing, food, a job, support and, most importantly for myself, I had finally been in consistent therapy for several years. One day in therapy I was discussing the wholeness that I had felt while attending Shabbat services the previous weekend. I wondered, why did I not feel this way all the time? I had a life, I loved my life, I was happy with my life. What was the issue? The issue was there was something very key in my life that I was not happy with – myself. I knew at that moment that there were many things I needed to change and the first place to start was with my physical health, more specifically my weight.

I was not a heavy girl my whole life. It started in high school, more towards the end and I “ballooned” during my extended college years. I have always said I have felt beautiful in my skin at my size, and I do, but I have always known that at my core I was not happy with how I looked and more so how it made me feel. (But I will leave that to its own blog post later on)

So where to go to change that? The place to do this was a place I had attended in years past. On July 9, 2010 I started the drive to Durham, NC to spend some much needed me time at the Duke Diet and Fitenss Center. The DFC has an amazing program. In a nutshell they have a four prong approach: Behavioral, Medical, Nutritional and Physical. They have lecture classes, group therapy, weekly check-ins, exercise classes, a meal plan and so much more. I could go on and on about this program and how great it is and I am willing to talk to anyone who wants to know more, but the specifics of the program are not as important as what I got out of it.

Over the weeks I was able to take in so much more than my previous visits to the DFC and left extremely happy with my progress. It is not so much about that I am leaving on less medication than took when I arrived. It is not so much about the fact that I was able (and willing!) to exercise almost every single day in Durham. It is not even so much about how much weight I lost while down there (~30 lbs) and have moved below a “century mark” on the scale. Okay, I’ll give you that. It totally is partly about the weight I have lost and I am frickin’ ecstatic about that. BUT more importantly it is about how I felt, reacted and lived each day since restarting my life putting myself in the forefront.

I have energy. I am positive and optimistic. I absolutely love working out. I have been able to flirt and tease and keep up with snarky comments that are thrown my way. I have been able to better utilize my trainer and facilitation skills and be articulate while discussing issues of privilege, politics, gender, orientation, race (and everything in-between and beyond) in spaces that are not set up for these types of discussions. And most noticeably, I have been able to handle situations that years ago probably would have sent me crying in hysterics.

While down in Durham I received hits of disappointing news in what I call a one-two punch. When I left Minneapolis I had a Plan A and a Plan B created for the Fall. Long story short, I was informed that neither of these plans were available to me. Being down in Durham I did not have my usual support system to process this with and figure out what I was feeling and what action steps needed to happen. Yes, the folks at the DFC were amazing and supportive, but it was not the same as those that knew more of the framework of my entire life. I cried a lot that next week and people were shocked because they always saw me smiling. The difference from the past is that it was rarely a bad cry. I was confused about my future and needed release, but (and this is important) the need for release did not hinder my progress at the DFC.

The night I was most confused and conflicted about my future I received a voicemail message from one of my best friends. She was at a Guster concert and the voicemail was of my favorite songs of theirs called “Come Downstairs and Say Hello”. The timing could not have been more perfect. Somehow that song always seems to apply to my life, this time was no different. The lyrics that stood out as I listened (and cried happy tears) in the middle of a supermarket this time were “I look straight at what’s coming ahead and soon it’s gonna change in a new direction. Every night as I’m falling asleep those words repeated in my head”. Yes. This time I really was changing in a new direction and that was a good thing.

And that brings me back to renewal. This New Jew Year is symbolic to me. While down in Durham for Rosh Hashannah, I had a choice. Did I want to find a synagogue to attend services or should I just say “screw it” this year? This choice was an easy one. Go back to what I know, go back to where I am whole. I needed to be at synagogue for the Holiday.

It was odd and fitting that I prayed and reflected this Rosh Hashannah alone (figuratively of course, there were others at the synagogue). My time in Durham was time for reflection around myself and what –I- need, not what other people expected of me. This New Jew Year was the time for a new me.

The evening service of Rosh Hashannah the Rabbi’s D’var (Read: sermon) brought me back to my Minneapolis reality. In short, the Rabbi talked about the dangers of the “Us versus Them” mentality. He talked about where to channel that energy. He summarized he very long (yet amazing) D’var the following morning with a great quote from rebbe Shlomo Carlebach. Years after he fled the Nazis, Shlomo returned to give concerts. Someone asked him: “Why are you doing this? Don’t you hate them?” His answer: “If I had two souls, I’d devote one to hating them. But since I have only one, I don’t want to waste it on hating.” This, my friends, is the root of my Jew Year’s resolution.

There are three things that I consistently heard from other clients and the staff at the DFC. They would say “You are so confident. You are so optimistic and positive. You are going to have a bright future”.

My Jew Year’s resolution is to live out these things. To work towards the point when I can feel internally and truly believe that I am what these people perceive me to be (and so much more).

As I sit in my hometown of Madison, WI hours before Kol Nidre, my mind drifts back to the paragraph I meditated on during Rosh Hashannah. I offer it here in hopes that perhaps you will get something from it as well.

“Smooth speech and deception are forbidden to us. Our words must not differ from our thoughts; the inner and outer person must be the same. What is in the heart should be on the lips. We are forbidden to deceive anyone, Jew or non-Jew, about anything. For example, one must not urge food on another knowing that the other cannot eat it. One must not offer gifts that cannot be accepted. A storekeeper opening a bottle in order to sell its contents must not pretend to be opening it in honor of a particular person, and the like. Honest speech, integrity and a pure heart – that is what is required of us.”Moses Maimonides

With Yom Kippur (The Day of Repentance) mere hours away, I apologize and ask forgiveness if I have hurt you, knowingly or unknowingly, in the past year. For those of you who will be fasting for Yom Kippur, may you have an easy fast. Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova U’Metukah. I wish you a sweet and healthy new year. May you and your family (of all types) be inscribed in the book of life.

Shana Tova!

It was just Rosh Hashannah, Happy New Year to all – Jew style!

The New Jew Year is always more meaningful to me than the “regular” New Year. The “regular” New Year is about getting together to celebrate the past year and the year to come. This celebration usually includes making resolutions that we rarely keep, drinking champagne (among other things) and if we remember watching the ball drop in time square on tv. The next day is usually spent by many recuperating and wondering what the heck really happened last night and asking ourselves such questions as did we really sleep on that table?

The timeline of the New Jew Year is different. I spend an evening, and the next morning, praying at synagogue. Not just because “I’m supposed to”, but because I want to. Why? Because the New Jew Year is special. I can feel the time for renewal radiating out from my core, my very soul before I see it on the calendar. Internally I know that this is the time to renew. Time to renew my mind. To renew my body. To renew my faith. To renew my soul. To renew me. This has never been more the true than it is this year.

<<CUT>>I have spent the last 10 weeks away from my usual life in Minnesota. Away from my familiar housing, my friends, my activities, my job, my support system. Away, physically and often emotionally, from everything that I considered “normal”. This decision to leave for the summer was one of the hardest I have had to make in a long time. Why did I do it? I did it because I needed to reconnect with a place I had once been. I did it because I needed to reconnect with a lifestyle I once had. I did it because I needed to reconnect with someone I had stopped thinking was important and become distant from – me.

Now, that may sound silly to some of you reading this, but for me is it just natural to worry about and take care of other people before myself. I believe this trait has been key in my organizing and activism and therein made my work also my passion at times. The problem arose when this passion was paired with a lack of self-care.

Like many others, my over committed nature really started in college. I was overcommitted in my student organizing mostly because I had to learn things by doing them (and what I ended up doing was often way more than the bare minimum or my share.) When I did enter more non-college related activism groups, I entered a community where many of the people I worked with and learned from had less than ideal self-care practices. This led to the idea that being over committed in the activism work was the “norm” and thus it was the path that I went on as well.

This path felt fine to me. I moved through my life, loving it (especially the summer of 2007 and everything about it). I had friends, housing, food, a job, support and, most importantly for myself, I had finally been in consistent therapy for several years. One day in therapy I was discussing the wholeness that I had felt while attending Shabbat services the previous weekend. I wondered, why did I not feel this way all the time? I had a life, I loved my life, I was happy with my life. What was the issue? The issue was there was something very key in my life that I was not happy with – myself. I knew at that moment that there were many things I needed to change and the first place to start was with my physical health, more specifically my weight.

I was not a heavy girl my whole life. It started in high school, more towards the end and I “ballooned” during my extended college years. I have always said I have felt beautiful in my skin at my size, and I do, but I have always known that at my core I was not happy with how I looked and more so how it made me feel. (But I will leave that to its own Blog post later on)

So where to go to change that? The place to do this was a place I had attended in years past. On July 9, 2010 I started the drive to Durham, NC to spend some much needed me time at the Duke Diet and Fitenss Center (LINK!) The DFC has an amazing program. In a nutshell they have a four prong approach: Behavioral, Medical, Nutritional and Physical. They have lecture classes, group therapy, weekly check-ins, exercise classes, a meal plan and so much more. I could go on and on about this program and how great it is and I am willing to talk to anyone who wants to know more, but the specifics of the program are not as important as what I got out of it.

Over the weeks I was able to take in so much more than my previous visits to the DFC and left extremely happy with my progress. It is not so much about that I am leaving on less medication than took when I arrived. It is not so much about the fact that I was able (and willing!) to exercise almost every single day in Durham. It is not even so much about how much weight I lost while down there (~30 lbs) and have moved below a “century mark” on the scale. Okay, I’ll give you that. It totally –is- partly about the weight I have lost and I am frickin’ ecstatic about that. BUT more importantly it is about how I felt, reacted and lived each day since restarting my life putting myself in the forefront.

I have energy. I am positive and optimistic. I absolutely love working out. I have been able to flirt and tease and keep up with snarky comments that are thrown my way. I have been able to better utilize my trainer and facilitation skills and be articulate while discussing issues of privilege, politics, gender, orientation, race (and everything in-between and beyond) in spaces that are not set up for these types of discussions. And most noticeably, I have been able to handle situations that years ago probably would have sent me crying in hysterics.

While down in Durham I received hits of disappointing news in what I call a one-two punch. When I left Minneapolis I had a Plan A and a Plan B created for the Fall. Long story short, I was informed that neither of these plans were available to me. Being down in Durham I did not have my usual support system to process this with and figure out what I was feeling and what action steps needed to happen. Yes, the folks at the DFC were amazing and supportive, but it was not the same as those that knew more of the framework of my entire life. I cried a lot that next week and people were shocked because they always saw me smiling. The difference from the past is that it was rarely a bad cry. I was confused about my future and needed release, but (and this is important) the need for release did not hinder my progress at the DFC.

The night I was most confused and conflicted about my future I received a voicemail message from one of my best friends. She was at a Guster(LINK!) concert and the voicemail was of my favorite songs of theirs called “Come Downstairs and Say Hello”. The timing could not have been more perfect. Somehow that song always seems to apply to my life, that time was no different. The lyrics that stood out as I listened (and cried happy tears) in the middle of a supermarket this time were “I look straight at what’s coming ahead and soon it’s gonna change in a new direction. Every night as I’m falling asleep those words repeated in my head”. Yes. This time I really –was- changing in a new direction and that was a good thing.

And that brings me back to renewal. This New Jew Year is symbolic to me. While down in Durham for Rosh Hashannah, I had a choice. Did I want to find a synagogue to attend services or should I just say “screw it” this year? This choice was an easy one. Go back to what I know, go back to where I am whole. I needed to be at synagogue for the Holiday.

It was odd and fitting that I prayed and reflected this Rosh Hashannah alone (figuratively of course, there were others at the synagogue). My time in Durham was time for reflection around myself and what –I- need, not what other people expected of me. This New Jew Year was the time for a new me.

The evening service of Rosh Hashannah the Rabbi’s D’var (Read: sermon) brought me back to my Minneapolis reality. In short, the Rabbi talked about the dangers of the “Us versus Them” mentality. He talked about where to channel that energy. He summarized he very long (yet amazing) D’var the following morning with a great quote from rebbe Shlomo Carlebach. Years after he fled the Nazis, Shlomo returned to give concerts. Someone asked him: “Why are you doing this? Don’t you hate them?” His answer: “If I had two souls, I’d devote one to hating them. But since I have only one, I don’t want to waste it on hating.” This, my friends, is the root of my Jew Year’s resolution.

There are three things that I consistently heard from other clients and the staff at the DFC. They said “You are so confident. You are so optimistic and positive. You are going to have a bright future”.

My Jew Year’s resolution is to live out these things. To work towards the point when I can feel internally and truly –believe- that I –am- what these people perceive me to be (and so much more).

As I sit in my hometown of Madison, WI hours before Kol Nidre, my mind drifts back to the paragraph I meditated on last week during Rosh Hashannah.

“Smooth speech and deception are forbidden to us. Our words must not differ from our thoughts; the inner and outer person must be the same. What is in the heart should be on the lips. We are forbidden to deceive anyone, Jew or non-Jew, about anything. For example, one must not urge food on another knowing that the other cannot eat it. One must not offer gifts that cannot be accepted. A storekeeper opening a bottle in order to sell its contents must not pretend to be opening it in honor of a particular person, and the like. Honest speech, integrity and a pure heart – that is what is required of us.”Moses Maimonides

With Yom Kippur (The Day of Repentance) mere hours away, I apologize and ask forgiveness if I have hurt you, knowingly or unknowingly, in the past year. For those of you who will be fasting for Yom Kippur, may you have an easy fast. Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova U’Metukah. I wish you a sweet and healthy new year. May you and your family (of all types) be inscribed in the book of life.

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