“If I am not for myself, who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?” – Hillel
How much courage does it take to step out of your comfort zones? Chances are, like most people, you have a routine to begin the day. Mine starts with a morning prayer, expressing gratitude for waking up. In the Judaism of my upbringing, it is called Modeh Ani. “Modeh anee lefanecha melech chai vekayam, she-he-chezarta bee nishmatee b’chemla, raba emunatecha. “I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul.” It is followed by the intention to “have extraordinary experiences and connect with amazing people”. What occurs throughout the next 12 hours is bookended with what I think of as the signature prayer in the tradition, called the Shema. “Shema Yisrael, Adonai, Elohenu, Adonai Echad,” being chanted by rote, and the translation I followed it with then, “Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.”
Much later in life, when attending synagogue services at Beth Or, in South Florida, the rabbi, Rami Shapiro, introduced me to words that resonated more fully with my searching soul, “That which we call God is Oneness itself.” It was such a vital custom in my childhood, that even when my parents went out for the evening, babysitters would listen to our recitation.
Although I don’t tell anyone what to believe spiritually, I find that these ritual bolsters me when, as a former client said, “life gets lifey.”
Depending on time and schedule, fingers tap keyboard as The Muse speaks, and I take dictation to meet writing deadlines. Other days, the gym is my immediate destination, so that I am able to maintain physical and emotional wellbeing. Coming up on five years post heart attack, daily fitness is a necessity. From there I may see clients until the evening. In between, there could be interactions with family and friends.
My life seems pretty predictable, even as open as I am to new adventures. Still, much of what I do is outside the box for many who observe it. My interests are fringe-y for some… dancing, drumming, chanting, yoga, doing healing for horses, teaching classes that have to do with touch and consent and offering FREE HUGS to strangers. As much of a social butterfly as I am, lately I have been sticking pretty close to home, with a need to decompress and push the reset button. It took a lot of gumption last May to get myself on a plane and wing my way across the pond to live a long-time dream of visiting Ireland.
In 2014, that aforementioned life altering experience occurred that had me questioning what I had done up until that point. Had I been wasting time in frivolous or meaningless pursuits or investing it in worthwhile experiences that would reap greater reward? I did what — in 12-step parlance — is referred to as “taking my own inventory.” Were my relationships in integrity? Did I follow through with what I said I would do? Did I treat others as I wanted to be treated? I found that they were solid. The one relationship that was sadly lacking was the one with myself.
My bestie (since we were 14) reminded me that “You think of yourself as a woman of integrity, but you have been lying to yourself all along. When you tell yourself that you are going to slow down and rest and take better care of yourself and you don’t, your body stops believing you.” She then promptly invited me to join her and her husband on a week-long vacation to their time share in the Outer Banks. Fear clutched me, as it often does when I contemplate veering from my home-based routine, which is odd, because, once I am in travel mode, I am at ease. Fortunately, at the time, I was working full time as a journalist and could write from anywhere. I toted my laptop with me and set up shop in the comfy condo as I could feel the beckoning of the waves and wind. I wrote several articles, inspired by the refreshment and restoration that was swirling around me. By the end of the trip, I felt filled up.
In the two years post heart attack, I traveled more than I had in the previous 20 years. California, Canada, New York, Nassau, and Oregon were on my itinerary. Most had me sharing time with dear friends and family, and one was a much-needed reprieve at an Ashram. Each time, I knew I was filling my tank up so I could continue to engage in my rewarding routine.
When I consider now, nearly five years later, I have come to recognize that as much as I like to think of myself as a go-getter, I sometimes sink my toes into familiar ground, not wanting to budge. “What happens,” I ask myself, “if while I’m gone, things get out of control? What if they fall apart?” I am reminded that I only have control over certain aspects of my life. My family, friends and clients are not in that category. Neither is the weather or the ultimate state of the world. I can only take charge of my own beliefs, feelings, words and actions.
I wonder often what it is that prompts the worry if I wander too far from predictability. When I look back over the past 60 years, I see that all has fallen into place, no matter the surface appearance. I have overcome the lengthy illnesses and deaths of my husband, father and mother. I have risen above major health challenges. I have picked myself up following job losses and financial concerns. Having crossed that threshold into the seventh decade of my life, I witness the future spread before me like a banquet table. Do I dare partake? Will I stick to the familiar or stretch comfort zones and try new foods, new adventures?
What’s on your bucket list? Mine includes doing a TED Talk, interviewing Oprah and Ellen, being in a committed relationship again, experiencing financial ease, traveling comfortably, seeing all of them as leaps of faith that require a sense of knowing, not just believing that anything is possible. Imagination is the fuel that fires creation. I invite you to expand your horizons, without waiting for life crises to arise as a wakeup call, and if you are not ready to dive in head first, at least dip your big toe into the waters that you may find refreshing as you ask yourself, “If not now, when?”