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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