I am sitting here in front of a computer. It is late. There is a half eaten bag of chocolate chips in front of me. It is the period of time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that is supposed to be about reflection and introspection. And instead it has already become a race against time, from one holiday to the next, half cleaned platters on the counter from last week’s holiday dinner, unfilled suitcases to prepare for next week’s trip out of town for Kol Nidre schedules, classes, activities, appointments, life keeps churning.
I am not feeling very introspective. It is as if within mere minutes of walking out of that synagogue where I literally stood before God and beat my chest and begged a pardon for all the crap I’ve pulled over the past year, I walked out and just reset myself as if nothing had changed. I hadn’t changed. I was completely flawed and frazzled as I was when I walked in.
It is what, day seven? And somehow I’ve already managed to be hardhearted, have a bribe-giving hand, a haughty demeanor, given proud looks, used tale-bearing lips, and passed judgment. For all these sins, on day seven of this new year that is to be filled with such hope and sweetness and a fresh outlook, before I have even had a chance to fully complete the process of asking for and receiving forgiveness, I feel as though I have failed.
On day four of this period of introspection, I yelled at Dylan when I was tired and crabby and he wanted that third band aid on that cut that wasn’t even bleeding. I bribed Ruby with a juice box after we’d both had a long day. I was proud and haughty with Phil when it was late and I saw us heading down a path where we’d argue and somehow he’d end up sort of being right. I couldn’t let that happen. And you, mother on your smart phone with your kid on the iPad during Tae Kwan Do, I sat in judgment of you. That was until I looked down and realized that you were me. And the phone slid out of my hand and hit the floor. And the sound of it startled me back to something.
Maybe it was humility. Maybe it was reality. Maybe it was what this period was supposed to be about, introspection: the process of turning in. I spend the majority of my days, my life, chasing my own tail. Screwing up and stressing about the screw ups and getting up each new day with a pledge to be less of a screw up, until the high holy days roll around when I make the biggest pledge of all that, seriously, today, I really and truly will be less of a screw up. I will be more patient with my kids and my husband. I won’t snap at them. I won’t gripe at myself and others and judge.
Except I still will. Because the reality of it is that even as I am standing here begging you Lord for forgiveness, I’m not really that sorry that I did all that stuff. The only thing I perhaps feel badly about is pretending I won’t actually do it all again–because I know myself. I’m a flawed human being, and more than that, I’m a mother; a tired, screw up mom executing a parenting and general life strategy of faking it till I make it. And this year I’m giving myself the sermon I need to hear. I am forgiving myself for my imperfections. I am withholding judgment on myself and healing myself from the inside out on all the different ways I have condemned and slammed my own personal and parent fails.
In 5774, I will work hard at finding that tiny sliver; this place in my heart that I will keep returning to, no matter how many times I fall down, that tells me to get up and try again. Life is hard, but you must fight harder. After all, anything worth anything is worth struggling for, which I would assume is pretty much the definition of faith itself. If that’s the case I would assume the most holy thing I can do on any one of these days for the entire next year is fail at all of this stuff, get up, and try again. And teach my kids to do the same. And love ourselves regardless of how badly we suck at all of it. Because in the end we should remember we are small in the scope of the world. And all of this struggling and failing will never be pretty. But I have to imagine you God, are not expecting pretty.
In this new year, I pledge to be perfectly imperfect as a woman, sister, daughter, wife, friend, mother, and Jew. And I will love myself for that. And teach my kids to do the same. It is the best I can do at way more than 10 days worth, and more likely a lifetime’s worth of holy work. Most importantly, this is a promise I know I can keep.