Ready, Set—

Today is the day I slough my summer skin, that sun-dried outer shell, and expose my gooey center, the one that gets filled with cake and challah and buttercream. And then I’ll swear off that stuff for awhile. It’s a pattern.

I know it’s a pattern because I live a well-examined life. As a chronic chronicler, I know what I was doing last year (and the years before) at this time. I have pictures of the bread I braided and baked. I have pictures of my uncle’s taxidermy, my unhappy self, new leaves I had planned to overturn. My usual post-summer funk, a carryover from my summer funk, was coming to a head like an ugly talking boil. (It speaks with the Suck Voice, which, I imagine, sounds very much like Richard E. Grant.) Rejection, hand pain, fat—the usual.

It’s a coincidence, of course, that life seems to get crappy just before Rosh Hashanah. But here I am again, with back pain, insomnia, fat, a bit of the suck voice. I’ll overdo it tonight for a fresh start tomorrow.

The best part about Rosh Hashanah, besides the cake (this year: lemon pound cake with lemon glaze) and the challah, is that if I screw up—if I cheat on the diet or miss a day of exercise or lose my momentum altogether—I get another shot in January with the rest of you.

This is the perfect time for a fresh start, isn’t it? The air has that crisp newness. The sky is all swoopy with birds. The decorations are orange. And October is my birthday month! I can make myself ready for the shock of having to tell people I’m forty-six (forty-six? It doesn’t even sound right) by getting my roots touched up tomorrow and buying a whole bunch of new clothes that I’m bound to look great in by November*.

Between today and my birthday, which falls, this year, on the eve of Yom Kippur, Jews will do a lot of reflecting. We’ll ask those we’ve wronged for forgiveness (I try to do that as I go along so I can spend more time reflecting and planning and less time apologizing). We’ll be a little extra nice. We’ll set our goals. And then, it is said, if we were thorough enough, God will write us down in his book for a good year. L’Shana Tovah Tikatavu, the greeting Jews use for this holiday, means, literally, may you be inscribed for a good year.

Last year, I was written down big-time. I resolved, on my first New Year’s eve to do something with my book, and, in the two months, between Rosh Hashanah and Thanksgiving, I got an agent and a contract. I resolved on my second New Year’s eve to write a page a day, and I did it, finishing the manuscript seven months earlier than my contract required.

So what’s on my plate right now, besides my last piece of cake? A new book proposal is in the works, and I’ll need some serious charms for this one. And, since I’ve done irreparable damage sitting on my butt writing my first book, I’ll need to spend a lot more time moving around.

If you could start fresh tomorrow, what would you do? Wake up with a smile, despite how poorly you slept? Work harder, be nicer, eat better? Treat every problem as if it were an opportunity for creativity? We can’t abandon our obligations; on the contrary, we hand-picked these obligations—motherhood, marriage, careers. And we can’t expect to become a new person overnight. I don’t know about you, but I worked hard to become this one.

But say you have a week-long planning period and dry run. What one thing would you change tomorrow? On your mark, get set—

P.S. The suck voice says this is a lame post. I tell the suck voice to stick it.

*Bob Schneider hits the World Cafe on the 13th of November and the Recher on the 14th.

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  1. andy66 September 30, 2008 at 11:15 am #

    Well,I liked it.

    I’m in a bit of funk myself though this is a time of year I like the most.I think it’s the potential..I like potential, (though I always hated it when people said I had a lot of it)but maybe that’s the problem,I like potential if it’s only an idea,safe and distant,unthreatening not required to put into practice,taking comfort in the fact I could do something but afraid to try.
    So I will try harder,smile in the morning,at work,exercise,…

    This comment sucks.

  2. Anonymous September 30, 2008 at 6:27 pm #

    All of life is gravy. The time we get to spend with those we love is gravy. Time spent alone…gravy. Being able to do what I want…gravy. Having to do the stuff that needs to be done…gravy. I love getting up in the morning to see what great thing is happening and if only sucky things happen I survived and great things may happen tomorrow.

    Somewhere along the line I decided to wake up in the morning to face the day like that. And it works for me.

    Strangely though, I don’t eat gravy.

  3. Aunt Teena September 30, 2008 at 7:07 pm #

    I enjoy reading your blogs always. This year is starting out in a pretty bad way for us. Our friend Alice, who you know, lost her mother this past week, quite suddenly. My sister-in-law was taken to the psych ER, as we speak, not because she’s crazy, but she seems to have been taking so many medicines, she is totally out of it. Lots of worries, like many people. We seem to start out every Rosh Hashanah wishing for a better year than the last.

    After our very nice Rosh Hashanah dinner last night, I seemed to have a meltdown and screamed like a Banshee at Barry. I haven’t screamed like that in years.

    So, what’s my point, other than taking over your blog. I don’t know. Except it’s hard to plan, to make resolutions. It’s more like things happen, and you react. I would like to be a better person, this year, than I’ve been before. And I pray for a year that doesn’t require strength for me. Selfish? Probably.

  4. Leslie F. Miller September 30, 2008 at 7:10 pm #

    Andy, it couldn’t suck because it made me laugh.

    Anonymous, I’m familiar with that variation, yes. I also hate gravy. In this case, it could be a good thing, as it’s made with flour.

    Teena, oy. I’m sorry for all of that. And you’re sort of right; things happen, and we react. But apart from that. What about if we try to make some good things happen for ourselves? We can’t control other things, but what about the things we can make happen for us, like taking a course we’ve always wanted, learning an instrument, those things?

  5. Cybergabi October 1, 2008 at 10:02 am #

    Can I help in muting your suck voice by saying I think this is one of your best yet? Especially the part about having worked hard to become the person you are. There’s so much truth in that.


  6. Keri October 1, 2008 at 10:02 am #

    I always feel a bit of peace when I read your writing, Leslie. Something deep down and true. No matter what your topic I know that it is coming from a place down in your gut. It strikes a chord with me. (B flat minor? heh My musical instrument playing days are far behind me – do not mock!)

    Anyway, that lemon pound cake makes me gain weight just looking at it… I LOVE lemon. I think we seriously have to get some lemon into one of our truffles… *sigh*

  7. Auntsmack October 1, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    first off – im glad i know you..and wish you and marty and serena a happy, healthy, prosperous and sweet New Year..

    as for struggles.. it seems like everyone is having a hard time these days. . my new years didn't start off as well as i hoped either. . im trying to process it all and figure it out .. and keep, keeping on..

    glad i have your blog to read . . .

  8. Leslie F. Miller October 1, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    @Auntsmack Three years later, and I have even more shit, you know? Back problems again, dizziness again, and cancer. I've started again on Aktins+ Beer (my personalization of the diet). Maybe I can fix myself a little.

  9. Auntsmack October 1, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    @Leslie F. Miller
    beer and chocolate never count anyway.

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