Some might consider it cheating, but I’ve always made two new years resolutions: one in the fall for Rosh Hashanah and one on December 31st. In years past, both have reflected typical ideas about breaking bad habits (2005: I swear I am DONE eating ramen noodles), and self improvement (2011: hot yoga 4-6 times per week). Regardless of whether or not I’ve achieved the sometimes impossible goals set forth (I still buy ramen), none of my resolutions have ever required that much mindfulness or new energy.
Since becoming a mom in 2013, I’ve begun to see my new years resolutions on Rosh Hashanah as distinct from those I devise later in the year. I started seeing the Jewish new year as a chance to do something completely new. And now, pregnant with my second child, the idea of creating something from scratch at the new year is even more meaningful.
Go ahead, go back to school to get your master’s. Join a dating website. Open up your Etsy store.
After the shofar is blown on Rosh Hashanah, we say, Harat olam!, which describes the world as being pregnant with eternity or possibility at this special time. Although we often think of this holiday as a sort of birthday for the Jewish people and perhaps the world, it’s actually a pregnancy metaphor that we so joyously announce. As I waddle through my third trimester with all of its glorious back aches and weight gain, I prefer not to pay attention to an alternate translation: eternal pregnancy.
Moms of my generation are often asked to talk about their experiences giving birth, but to discuss the joys and frustrations of the pregnancy that led up to that birth is somehow less interesting. It’s as if the experience is common, reduced in simple terms to morning sickness, stretch marks, and heartburn. While individual birth stories are no doubt full of deeply meaningful, unique, and intricate moments, so too is pregnancy. We are asked to make room within ourselves for a new being that we alone are responsible for nourishing… for nine months! At the risk of sounding smug, this is amazing! And every woman who goes through it experiences it differently, both physically and emotionally.
True, I’ve never described it this way before writing this sentence, but for me, being pregnant is like a nine-month-long Rosh Hashanah meditation on the infinite possibilities that exist within me—for my new child and for myself. This year especially, I am feeling in my heart and belly the potential that new life brings. What will my second child be like? How will my toddler react to the new baby? In what ways will our family dynamic change? Will my relationship with my husband shift and grow with this addition as it did the first time around? Will I be the same mom to this little girl as I have been to my older daughter? All of the unknown can be intimidating, but it is also exciting.
So, what about those of us who are not pregnant on Rosh Hashanah? How do you go about appreciating harat olam on a deeper level? Try this: imagine you’re able to generate new energy and enthusiasm within yourself that has the potential to do and be something extraordinary. Too abstract? How about this: take the new year as an opportunity to breathe life into something, anything, that’s been kept from seeing the light. Now is your chance to try. Go ahead, go back to school to get your master’s. Join a dating website. Open up your Etsy store. Start writing a blog. It’ll be intimidating and scary and a million questions with unknown answers will go through your head during the process. But it’s like pregnancy. You go through it because it’s worth it to see what the potential inside yourself looks like out in the world.