Mesorah (Jewish stuff)

When Remaining The Same Is The Same As Changing

As I was driving my kids to school this morning, I was thinking about how I feel basically the same. After a whole day of fasting and even some praying, I really feel the same. I’m actually more than okay with that. I’m happy about it.

And that’s the change, right there.

The acceptance that I can be okay with who I am, flaws and challenges and all, and still accept that I can grow and change, but not being down on myself that I have so much work to do or that I’m not who I used to be, or who I want to be.

I actually am exactly who I want to be. Right now. And I will continue to move, hopefully, in the direction of the person I want to be.

This year, like many years, as I read the Al Cheits, I felt a yearning to return to the person I was when I first converted. That is, to become the most right-wing version of myself, to follow the most strict interpretations of halacha.

And that version of myself was a great place to start, it really was. I needed to start off in that place. But now, ten or eleven years later (I really can’t bother to figure that out at the moment), my relationship with Hashem and Judaism is in a different place. There’s more nuance, more understanding that the most strict interpretations isn’t always the right one for me and my family. There’s years of asking sheilos and getting guidance in areas of life and observance that have led to a healthy and appropriate observance for me, making me a more effective mother and wife and person.

It’s often difficult being in this middle place, where there is a balance and tension of keeping the outside world both in and out, of having to be very honest with myself about what I’m exposing myself to, what I’m choosing not to, and constantly reassessing. Even more so for my kids.

This year, I can tell I’ve grown because I’ve accepted where I’m holding, I’m not full of guilt for not being more strict about things that I don’t need to be strict about, and I’m not full of brazenness for the things I’m less strict about. Through this perspective, I feel more able to be honest about the areas that I could fix up and the areas that I can chill about.

Maybe this seems like a no-brainer or super obvious to some of you, but to me it’s huge! Like, whoa! Self-acceptance is not an easy thing for me. I’ve apparently equated it for a long time with complacency, but nope. No. It’s not the same. And I’m hoping that my self-growth with be exponential without that pesky self-flagellation I’ve been used to.

image by Asim Bharwani on Flickr

4 thoughts on “When Remaining The Same Is The Same As Changing

  1. I’m trying to get to that place of being comfortable with who I am. I’ve never been comfortable with who I am and for years I assumed that if I was comfortable, I would stop growing. As some who’s been on the road of the ba’al teshuva since the age of twelve, that seemed frightening and just plain wrong. Now I realize that I won’t be able to grow and live a healthy Jewish life while I hate myself so much. My main resolution for the year is to try to turn off the self-critical voice in my head and replace it with something more nurturing. This is really difficult! But I’m trying to make some progress with it.

  2. Yes, exactly! I’m an FFB, and I feel the same. I accept who I am, which is not the same as still trying to do better. Being more patient, more focused, more present. Yet I still am happy what is intrinsically me.

  3. Me, me and furthermore, me. I don’t currently live in a Jewish town and the constant pull of worldly things v religious things is a bit wearing. But then, we’re called to bring the sacred to the mundane, so I guess there shouldn’t really be that dichotomy. Obviously there are some sparks you just can’t refine, but I can completely relate to what you’re saying. Kol hakavod!

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