May 20, 2024
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‘Resolving’  Not to Try So Hard

When the first of January rolls around each year, I can’t help myself but wonder who ever thought the dead of winter lends itself as the time of renewal and a time to set resolutions. I’m sure I’m not the only one who saw the memes referencing that the new year for Jews already occured months ago when we actually made our resolutions. As I thought about it this year, I realized there may be something even more intimidating about hitting the middle (or the first third) of the year than the actual beginning.

The upside of having a life revolving around a Jewish calendar is that just about every month we have a chag or even a fast day as a focal point so that we never even have time to feel any monotony in our lives. Furthermore, the weekly Torah portions provide additional demarcation points for the passage of time. We’ll be pre-gaming for Pesach as we learn about Bnei Yisrael being in Mitzrayim and ultimately experiencing the geulah. We get to know Moshe Rabbeinu as possibly the epitome of someone who had to step outside his comfort zone to serve the greater goals of his nation. While we could see his hardship with this when the going got tough, Hashem quickly reminded Moshe that he was capable of so much more than he realized.

With Rosh Hashanah being so close to the beginning of the academic year, there are many goals I set for myself and my family about how the school year will run. Lofty ideas, from never being late in the morning to mastering a crock-pot supper always float around my head as I daven on Rosh Hashanah, along with less-materialistic resolutions such as doing more chesed in my community and attempting to daven at least once a day. Well, it is now mid-January and I haven’t even bought myself a mini crock-pot and I likely only truly daven about once a week; so how am I doing so far?

From an objective perspective, it doesn’t look like I’m in such good shape. But you know what? I’ve got a new resolution. I’m going to cut myself some slack and just not be so hard on myself. When I set new goals for myself—such as creating balanced meals—I always wonder if they just look good on paper or are they actually attainable. Inevitably it is some sort of hybrid.

Of course, eating a fresh supper that has been warmly bubbling away all day sounds like an awesome idea, but more days than others I can’t imagine it happening. I have terrible eating habits so I thought maybe now that I’m 35, this is something I really should be focusing on. That crock-pot is a click away on Amazon and I can even get my groceries delivered, yet tonight we had eggs and toast for supper.

I imagine when someone sets any sort of goal for themselves at any time of year and with respect to any aspect of their life, he or she imagines that the change will come with some significant benefit or improvement to his or her life. So then why is it so hard? It seems like I’m not alone in this idea. A bunch of friends have mentioned to me that the once-realistic goal of losing weight now seems like an impossible task; or maybe it’s just called “being in our 30s.” But you know what? It’s hard to step outside the status quo and make changes. And lots of days, just getting to 8 p.m. without having a complete meltdown seems like the only realistic outcome for the day.

So, where does this resolution pressure come in? Why do we spend the new year coming up with goals and working to improve ourselves if we only get disappointed when our own self-set goals are just not met? We clearly are not all Moshe Rabbeinu.

Often I take shortcuts and psych myself out; I will make lists of things that I have to get done on my note app on my phone as opposed to writing it down on paper. This way if something does not get done, I can simply erase it as if it was never supposed to happen, without the guilt of the task staring back at me from the daunting piece of paper.

A relatively new concept in my life is to try not to be so hard on myself. I’ve been told this by many members of my support team (yes, there is a legit team) that I am my toughest critic. If I set a goal of cleaning out my pantry by the end of a weekend, I don’t need to get bent out of shape because it’s not done. Presumably, I was busy doing other productive things around my house or spending time just binging Netflix. I have come to terms that sometimes the most productive thing I can do for myself is to spend some time being completely unproductive for a few hours just to recharge. As I write this all down, I can honestly say that the only person I’m preaching to is myself. I imagine that even with the goal to have fewer goals and more downtime, I will continue to struggle.

One evening last week, I was sitting with a friend going through the next couple of weekends and seeing when we had bar mitzvahs and dinners and other social engagements, and it seems as if I’m booked until Purim. I looked up at my friend and simply said that we might as well start packing up the kids for sleepaway camp, as the year feels like it’s over. Time seems to be outpacing me and I just have to embrace it and accept that I just can’t keep up. And while this winter seems to be particularly colder than in the past, I genuinely don’t seem to mind it as much as I have before. It’s good to have the excuse of cold winter nights to stay in, when I’m just happy to just do nothing. Instead of feeling guilty about it, I’m going to work harder at actually enjoying the chillaxing time.

It should always be our ultimate goal to just try our best. And if our best is visiting a friend who seems to be struggling or raising funds for charity, then all the power to you. But if the best is trying to use at least a half a can of whipped cream with just one cup of hot cocoa, then that, too, is an accomplishment that should not be underrated.

By Rachel Zamist

 Rachel Zamist has lived in the Passaic community for the past 32 years and has watched it grow and transition. She is the beaming mother of Mimi, a seventh-grade student at Rachel’s own alma mater, YBH.

 

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