A time of personal renewal

As individuals, personal growth and renewal can come from examining who you are and what you value.

April 18, 2011 16:13
cherry trees near New York’s Central Park Res.

Runners in central park_311. (photo credit: Mike Segar/Reuters)


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s we prepare to celebrate Pessah this year, now is the time for our own personal renewal, as Spring approaches and the beloved rains of winter slowly diminish. When we think of Passover, the first things that come to mind are the intense weeks of pre- Pessah cleaning and lots of planning of meals in anticipation of the weeklong celebration.

As a result, we often come to the Seder table dropping from exhaustion and weakened by the dread as to how the various family members will get along. On top of this, as we review the past several weeks, many feel drained and devastated by world events.

The concept of freedom and renewal, one of the central themes in the Haggada, the retelling of our ancestral journey, may seemingly be overlooked unless we remind ourselves that this is what the celebration of Passover is really all about. Perhaps now is the time to do some real emotional spring cleaning. Maybe this night, this week, this year can be different from all others if you actively take stock of where you’ve been and where you’d like to be going with your life – as an individual, within your family and as part of the greater community.

As individuals, personal growth and renewal can come from examining who you are and what you value. What gives you meaning in life? How do you define yourself and your role? Are you living the life you’d like? What are your dreams? What are your short and long term goals and how do you plan to achieve them? If you discuss or write down a concrete plan, you’ll be more likely to succeed.

Choose projects that are realistic. For example, if your goal is to actively change your health habits, see a doctor, start a practical nutrition and exercise program, plan how to get more sleep, keep a journal, monitor and reevaluate your efforts. Or perhaps you feel that time eludes you and you’re too busy to do things that are important for your own well- being.

Maybe you need a break from intrusive technology. Turn off your cell phone after six and check the computer only once a day. More time, energy, and greater balance in your life might enable you to enjoy the freedom of a good book, a walk in nature or simply quiet time relaxing. You must recharge your own batteries before you can help others.

It is, as well, a rare person who would not benefit from taking time to work on their relationship with their partner and other family members. Assess how you spend your time and when you last spent quality time with someone you cared about. What values are important to you as a couple or within your family? Can you make yourself available to both hear and listen to what your loved ones would like and can you share your thoughts, beliefs and dreams? When did you last tell your loved ones you love them? Did you tell them why? What makes them special? And as we go through the Passover story, when did you last look back at past generations and personally retell your own family’s history to your children and your grandchildren? This is the time to involve your children, pique their interest and encourage them to ask questions, lots of questions. If you don’t have the answers, maybe now you can speak with older family members or work with the younger generation and learn together. These are the projects that children will remember for life.

Finally, spring is a time of hope, of rebirth. As individuals, how can we rededicate ourselves to enhance our small community, our city, and our country? How can we give to others who are less fortunate than us? This giving back to our community is a big step in creating happiness for ourselves and in creating real freedom for all those we care about.

Perhaps as free men, women and children sitting around the Seder table, you can explore ways to work together to enhance our collective survival. Like the wise son, determine which questions can and should even be asked. Here are some suggestions to start that process of your own renewal: Imagine a 24 hour vacation and then make it reality. Be spontaneous and try something different. This opportunity to pause and rejuvenate may consist of a night camping or a stay at a local B & B, a trip to a museum, a day playing tourist, taking a course, or a long bike ride, hike and a picnic.

Nurture every relationship that is important to you. Make sure you have a non-judgmental friend who you enjoy being with and trust.

Turn off technology. You can control your devices rather than having them control you. What we once thought would save time, may actually deprive us of time and deplete us of energy.

Don’t make yourself promises that you don’t passionately want to keep. Separate your goals into “have to’s” and “want to’s” and then prioritize things to ensure a healthy balance between self-nurturing activities, family, work and leisure. “Ought to’s” and “shoulds” just create guilt so strike them from your vocabulary! Look at what you can minimize or omit all together. You can’t do everything so be realistic.

Let go of perfectionism and acknowledge that you can’t be or do everything for everyone. Put on your own oxygen mask first and make sure your own needs are being met before you try and help others. Let others know what you need. They cannot read your mind.Time, energy, money and ability can either enable or prevent you from reaching your goals and being happy.

Listen to both your body and your mind. Get enough sleep, eat properly and take care of your basic needs. Life looks much better when you do.

Take time to be your own best friend. Remember, how you treat yourself lets others know how you are willing to be treated.

Simplify and declutter your personal and professional life. You will feel lighter and better about yourself.

If you tend to procrastinate, focus on getting started and not on finishing a task. In life it is the journey and not the destination that is often important.

Vary your activities to avoid boredom and resentment.

Volunteer. Do something for someone else and you will inadvertently benefit.

Be positive. See problems as challenges.

Find ways to be grateful and appreciative.

Take time to pray, meditate and enjoy life. Take the time to smell the roses and make every minute count.

Dr. Batya L. Ludman is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra’anana. Her book, ‘Life’s Journey. Exploring Relationships Resolving Conflicts,’ is to be published in May.

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