My father-in-law has something he calls the “Decades Club.” He makes one good friend for each decade of his life. I may be on to a similar trend with my own personal development. If I had to categorize my 20s, the theme would be marriage and motherhood.
You see, in my subculture, dating is for the purpose of marriage and I was fortunate enough to find “Mr. Right” on the very first try. We were quickly blessed with three babies. Which meant that by the time I was 23, I had a fairly large clan to attend to. You could say I was thrown into what millennials would call “adulting” while my peers were still in college.
With my husband studying in rabbinical school all day in nearby Jerusalem, I began my own business in the suburbs, while managing my babies. Self-care was sadly at the bottom of my totem pole. It was a very busy decade: One marriage, four cities, four babies (did I mention we had another one when I was 27?!) and if we’re counting, six different homes.
The next chapter and the next decade demanded change. I could not go on in that manner. The lack of sleep and pace I was going at were not sustainable. The next decade opened with a commitment to myself. It started with throwing myself a 30th birthday party. I joined a gym, started working out regularly and carved out time for basic grooming. This felt great. I was making time for myself, my outer appearance was helping me feel more confident and helping me perform better professionally. This was no small feat while raising four young kids with no family nearby.
Some time into this routine I had a realization that although this was commendable, it was really basic. I needed to care for my body because it houses my soul, but this was as basic a human need as air, water and nutritious food (and wine and chocolate!). Self-care is a basic need and was by no means replacing the human desire for self-expression. But at that point, I couldn’t even remember what I wanted to express! I used to love to paint but that was more than a decade ago! I used to enjoy decorating cookies but after doing that as a business for six years, it didn’t seem fun anymore. Who was I outside of my family and work?
In a letter to myself on an inspirational trip to Israel, I set a goal for myself to begin painting again. Walking through the Artist’s Quarter in Tzfat made me want to splash color on a canvas. I’m embarrassed to publicly admit but it took me a full year and another trip to Israel to go to Michael’s to buy a set of paint brushes and a canvas. Then after a weak attempt to get back into it, I took another very long hiatus.
My husband is an avid reader who goes through dozens of books while I look at my Facebook newsfeed. Once in a while he wants me to read one of his books and I readily agree as his recommendations have always been spot on. So, a few months ago I find myself reading “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert (also author of “Eat, Pray, Love”). She urges all artists to create even if the finished product isn’t perfect and to view everything as part of the process. This got me painting again. Imperfection and all.
Another inspiration was watching my cousin, a busy mom of five and grandmother to two, train and raise money in Bike 4 Chai. For the longest time I wanted to race too, but thought that it would be a conflict of interest, as my husband and I run a nonprofit. A friend and board member told me do whatever makes you happy, it’ll only make you better at your job. I’ll be racing in 2017.
The tipping point to my level of commitment to my self-expression, came last week when I had my handwriting analyzed. The graphologist stressed that I was extremely creative and that currently I’m not fully maximizing my gift, and that if I allow it to lay dormant, I will be very frustrated. So for the sake of accountability, I am telling all of you that for my 35th birthday I am committing myself to be more expressive of my creativity, starting with this article for TC Jewfolk!
So I put the challenge to all of you busy people out there: Juggling relationships, kids, family, work and community – what are you doing to express your inner essence?
Giti Fredman’s fun, “get-up-and-go” attitude have made her a magnet for her fellow Jews throughout the Twin Cities, attracting them to Jewish places they never had dreamed of before. She loves facilitating Israel trips for moms, activities for young families and huge Shabbat dinners and demystifying Orthodox Judaism. Ask her questions about being Orthodox; she welcomes them with open arms.