Dear Miriam | Make Life Work for You

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Dear Miriam,

As a Jewish professional and grad student, I am struggling.  I am eager to find ways to ground myself in today even when I need to reflect on the past or plan for the future, but I’m feeling a bit floaty, which is what I imagine the opposite of “grounded” to be. When you’re planning for Purim, or Pesach, or even Shavuot now, how do you remain in Shevat/January? How do you not let this moment and this time pass you by?


In the Moment

Dear Moment,

Time has been funny for a long while now. Or maybe it’s a short while; it’s hard to know. It seems impossible that Passover is just around the corner because, according to my memory, we just had the struggle to wrap our heads around how to do seders during a pandemic, and it can’t possibly be time to do that again.

It seems even less possible that Purim is so very soon (Feb. 25 this year!) both because it’s very early this year and because Purim last year was, for many of us, either the first thing that was canceled for COVID, or the last thing we attended in person. Time itself is a challenge right now, and it’s no wonder you’re struggling.

My first suggestion for you is entirely logistical: make schedules, detailed ones. Set aside the times when you are going to think about each upcoming holiday and put them on your calendar.

If you’re planning for Purim from noon-2 p.m. on Tuesday, hopefully you can compartmentalize your brain so that the rest of the day is reserved for not thinking about Purim. Similarly, put times on your calendar for things like going outside, calling loved ones, drinking water and eating lunch. Then, when you look over your plan for the day, which I recommend doing the night before and first thing in the morning, you’ll have an overview of what topics are going to get your attention.

I also recommend having a divide between your work space and your living space, which is obviously harder now than ever. Even if you just close your laptop with intention at the end of the day, you’re helping yourself to create some separation.

My second suggestion, though, is more ritualistic. You have to force this on yourself through practice and routine. Subscribe yourself to daily rituals that will bring you out of the past, away from the future and into the present. The Jewish practice of praying three times a day can be taken literally or adapted to your lifestyle. Maybe you start more intentionally say brachot (blessings) at the beginning and end of your meals, or maybe you say the Sh’ma morning, noon and night.

Other possibilities are to recite a mantra, meditate, take up a craft, knead bread or keep a daily journal. Even writing one word or one sentence a day can give you something to look back on and to reflect that you are here and now and that day happened.

Finally, though so much about this past year has been solitary, you cannot do this alone. Accountability buddies are great for all sorts of things like confirming that you’ll clean your house (before and after pictures to friends), completing onerous work tasks (text me in 10 minutes and see if I did it) and, in your case, helping you live in the moment.

Get a friend or two on board with your needs and see if you can find someone to talk to while taking a walk, or someone to text your one word summary of your day, or someone to remind you to walk away from your computer and take a deep breath.

While most of these ideas are relevant for anyone, I’ll end with some specifics for my fellow Jewish professionals: Though you might have planned 100 Zoom programs in the past 10 months, have you attended any as a participant? If not, find one that speaks to you, outside your community if necessary, and feel what it’s like to be nurtured instead of doing the nurturing.

Remember that for all the time we spend figuring out how to make Jewish life accessible and engaging to our constituents, we can spend a fraction of that time figuring out how to make Judaism work for us, too. Before you spend another hour planning for a holiday that’s a month or two away, spend at least a minute, or two, figuring out how to make today work for you.

Be well,



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