I wrote this essay a few years back and find that it still helps me prepare for this season. Happy New Year to my Jewish friends and family + Happy Autumn to my friends and family celebrating new beginnings. Enjoy!
A New Year and Nu, You?
Autumn arrives and thoughts of High Holidays dance in our heads: will they be early or late, is it chicken or brisket, Aunt Ida or Cousin Gloria. Before long we stop and think about Rosh Hashanah, the new year, and what it means to us. Reflecting on the state of the world and our place in it, we consider struggles, losses and accomplishments. We may pause and remember those people we have lost this year – thoughts that walk us down the road of our own mortality. Resolutions surface: better nourishment, both spiritually and physically; less weight, emotionally and literally. More action. The shofar gloriously confirms the birthday of the world. It is a new year and with it, a new you.
But I have another way of looking at it. I see it as a new year and, nu, you? Nu: this small, Yiddish kvetch of a word is a prod, a question and a pause. It is pregnant with untranslatable meaning. It can be a mother’s whine – Nu, are you done? It can rest curiously alone – Nu? Well? Or it can stand right next to you – Nu, what about you? It’s a new year. Nu?
This year don’t re-invent yourself again. Instead, wonder if you have been the juiciest you that you can be. It is the question the Chassidic master, Reb Zusia asked himself in the oft-told story. He wondered how he would present himself to God, since in his lifetime he had not been as strong as Joshua or as brave as Moses. In a moment of clarity the humble rebbe realized that the hardest question he would be asked by the Divine was not Why were you not like these mighty men, but Why were you not Zusia? Zusia, were you the most you could be?
The question can get you right in the kishkes. Are you the most you can be? Not the richest or prettiest person around. Simply the most.
Reflect on the times in your life when you lived in accordance with your best self and knew what you stood for. Do you still? Peel the world off your weary body and soul and think about your connection to your values. Are you living in harmony with your principles or is there a gap between your beliefs and behaviors?
As you connect to your values, you live the authentic life that has always been yours to create. An authentic life is a more effortless life, even if the journey back to it is tough. Perhaps your dreams have given way to oppressive goals and your desires have led to endless habits. Self-reflection may have become self-absorption. You may have to work to rediscover your truth but as you do you will become freer to do good work in the world, create, laugh and play more too. People feel healthier and more connected to others when they finally listen to the quieted whispers in their hearts. Less is more. Less distraction, less fluff, less stuff leads to more peace, more knowledge and more focused action. More you. More ease.
An easier life. Hmmm. This is a tough one. Is an easy life meaningful? Mustn’t we struggle to repair a broken world and our broken selves? The concept of an effortless life is foreign and intriguing. But easy is not necessarily simple or painless. Being human is to encounter pain and suffering. My story includes breast cancer and the loss of two parents within three short years. At that time my two daughters were on the cusp of adolescence and I woke each morning knowing that this thing called life is tough. The traumas are part of me, just the way my joy and enthusiasm are. I honor those I have lost and heal my own sadness when I live in integrity and wholeness. When I am my truest self, I flow, choosing how and where to put my valuable energy. Tikkun Olam, repair of a broken world, beckons and I can follow with clarity.
When you peek at the new year ahead, habit may tempt you to list what you need to accomplish and what you should do. This year, change the paradigm and meet your authentic self at the top of the list. You can be the most that you already are with ease, grace and integrity.
On this Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the world, take the time to fully celebrate creation – yours. Nu?