Tonight is Kol Nidre, the start of Yom Kippur. For Jews, that means it is a time of reflection. A time to ask ourselves what we have done wrong in the past year, and to reflect on how to become better people in the year to come.
This last year has been, without a doubt, one of the hardest of my life. Last year at Yom Kippur I was still trying to figure out if I'd need rotator cuff surgery. M was barely out of rehab after his brain surgery, and we were getting used to life with the Optune and our return to the routines of chemotherapy. RH was starting to potty train in earnest, and SI began having serious emotional outbursts at school.
A month later, I had a very difficult surgery to repair my shoulder. I lost my grandmother. My mother nearly died after catching what was probably meningitis in MY HOME. By the spring, M and I were working to sell the only home my children had ever known, and we moved away from everything about the city we loved so much to begin a new adventure in a new place.
And it has been hard. And it has been work.
Most days, I think of this year as being one of the best of my life. It is a year in which my husband survived a second battle with brain cancer. It's a year in which my children grew and overcame challenges and made me proud every day. It was a year when we achieved a middle class dream, when I got the chance to make a house into a home. It was a year when I went from freelancing in a desperate, confused way, to working as a writer for an organization that does work I find deeply important and meaningful. It's a year in which I've grown, professionally and personally. It's a year in which my life has become fuller and richer.
Most days, that's how I look at my life. But on Yom Kippur, I see things differently. I see every time I've curled up and cried instead of doing the work that needed to be done. I see every time I let myself wallow in laziness and justify it by saying I "earned" it. I see every time I screamed at my children, every time I didn't listen, every broken promise and forgotten plan.
Every year, and every day, is a glass both half full and half empty. That is neither sad nor regretful, it is simply true. No matter how we try, there are few days either perfect or truly unlivable. And tonight, if only tonight, I permit myself to feel ashamed for my inability to live up to ideals of perfection I know are unrealistic. Because tonight, if only tonight, I must assess how much room for growth there is within me, and what I must do to become better. Always better.
Unlike most holidays, this one is entirely personal. It is not about our hopes for the world, praying for others or for peace or for justice. It is about the internal struggle with ourselves. And if it does make the world a better place to change ourselves, to see that and act upon it.
Tonight we pray with sinners, and I have many prayers. Although I doubt there is a god there to listen or care, I pray. Because inside myself there is more than I have given, more than I have bothered to give. Inside myself there is potential I have left ignored, cocooned in comfortable fear.
I see my sins, and instead of telling myself the good outweighs the bad, tonight I will allow my personal shame and my personal regret to wash through me, and renew me.
I renounce my vows, my pledges. I clear my plate of all debts, I forgive myself for my failures.
Tonight I am full of flaws, full of fault, but I am here. I am seen and heard if only by myself. Tonight I can begin to become better again.
Lea Grover scribbles about sex-positive parenting, marriage after cancer, and vegetarian cooking. When she isn’t revising her upcoming memoir, she can be found singing opera, smeared to the elbow in pastels, or complaining/bragging about her children on twitter (@bcmgsupermommy) and facebook.