Tuesday, July 28, 2015
I found a surprise on my seat during my Weight Watchers meeting this morning. Along with my name tag, sat a card. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was for, but when I opened it I found birthday wishes from all of my Weight Watchers friends from that meeting. So sweet! I must have the best meeting. I had told my buddy, Kevin (yes, THE Kevin), that I was going away with 2 friends to celebrate our 30th birthdays and he rallied the troops to welcome me back with a card. Meanwhile, my birthday actually falls on Yom Kippur this year. Woohoo! Let's all celebrate with no cake and bad breathe. But we celebrated early to accommodate all our birthdays and now I have a card from my meeting to add to my simcha (happiness). As my mother always says, "happiness shared is multiplied."
The reason I am telling you all this is because of something amazing Kevin said to me. After I thanked him for the card, Kevin added, "you're worth it!"... What shocked me even more than his little blessing was my reply, "I think so too!" I'm not sure why, but tears flow through my eyes as I write this. Why is it such a big deal to say and really feel that I am worth it? Shouldn't this feeling of worthiness be ingrained in my deepest core? Shouldn't I look at the life I have built and the body that I live in and be like the God of Bereishit (Genesis) who looks at creation and says "this is good?" You're damn straight this is good (now militant Dahlia comes out).
I'm angry that it has taken me so long to feel worthy. I'm not sure who I am angry with... magazines, TV, models, our self perpetuating culture of extremes... It would take too much effort and therapy to figure that out and not enough room in this blog post. In fact my anger dissipates as I realize it is counter productive. It's time to nurture the positive, rather than stew on the negative.
Our theme this morning in my meeting was body gratitude, identifying things you love about your body. It may seem self serving, but it is so important to cultivate and it really ties into worthiness. Think about all we have done with and in our bodies?!? I promise to keep this PG;) Some in my meeting shared that they loved their bodies because they had carried and birthed their babies. What a miracle! So I'll bare my soul and share what I am grateful for. I am celebrating this body because with it I have:
Climbed Masada in Israel many many times
Got down on the floor during the song "Shout" with my hubby and our friends at our wedding
Earned a bachelors, masters, and rabbinic ordination
Done the freeze (break dancing move) at a ton of USY (youth group) dances...jealous?
Lifted my closest friends up on chairs at their weddings
Built a sukkah and various ikea furniture with my bare hands
Stomped my feet with 100 8 year-olds singing "Ozi Vezimrat Yah"...(God you are my might) at camp
Lost 48 pounds! Even if some (or God forbid, ALL) of it comes back, I gotta celebrate that feat.
This can just go on and the list will grow with every move I make. Maybe it will inspire others to make their own list.
We're taught in the Jewish tradition that our bodies are on loan to us for our lifetime. They are a holy gift. Every time I cut up veggies or go for a run, it is not a punishment. It is an act of love and gratitude.
Perhaps 30 will be the decade of, "I'm worth It."- Scratch that... I can't just wait and hope that someone will look at my life and bless it. It's time to look at the world I have created and say, "this is good." Because... it is:)
Posted by Dahlia Bernstein at 11:16 AM
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
A friend once asked me why I still go to weight watchers meetings if I have lost the weight already and have kept it off. I tried to explain that those deeper places inside of me that want to soothe pain, anxiety, and feelings of worthlessnesswith food still exist and will likely always exist. I still make mistakes and fall in ruts. Weight loss surely brings higher self esteem, but I am who I am and I haven't white washed my inner canvas with weight watchers e-tools. The impulses and appetites still exist and this got me thinking about the Jewish concept of our primal inclinations, the yetzer hara.
We normally translate the yetzer hara as evil inclination. I'm having a hard time with this, and I believe that our sages do too.
The rabbis teach that "if it were not for the yetzer hara, the evil inclination, no man would build a house, marry a wife, or beget children." What are these inclinations? Competition? Self aggrandizement? Sexual desire? The need to be seen? There most certainly is a place for the yetzer hara inside of us and within our communities. City planning, scientific advances, and the survival of humankind would be at risk if we did not have these impulses. Our yetzer hara is integral to life.
I believe it is my yetzer hara that helped me "beat Kevin," my friend who told me he thought I would be unable to reach a weight loss goal I set. That competition, the need to prove myself, and my own superficiality all played roles in my stubborn determination. I thank him for activating this in me.
And now, KEVIN has started his own challenge, to lose 12 pounds by Labor Day. His focus... BEAT THE RABBI. The yetzer hara can be an incredible driving force.
There is an interesting midrash, rabbinic folktale, that demonstrates this point further. It is said that two thousand years ago, a group of rabbis encountered the Yetzer Hara amidst the destruction of Jerusalem. Knowing that the evil impulse was to blame for the devastation of their Holy Temple, they grabbed him and wrestled him into a chamber pot, where they held him. Ready to destroy the Yetzer Hara, one rabbi interjected. “Who knows what will happen if you destroy him. Hold him for three days and see what happens!” The rabbis waited patiently for three days and then began scouting the city. Immediately, they noticed that the world was beginning to rot away. People stopped doing business. Chickens stopped producing eggs. Families stopped building houses. Immediately, they knew what they had to do. They let him go, knowing that the world could not be sustained without him. (Yoma 69b)
We're not ready to destroy those impulses and appetites. It can be dangerous to be too righteous. My new favorite teacher, Ruth Calderon, likens this to holding a beach ball under water until the pressure makes the ball uncontrollably crash through the water surface. In the Weight Watchers world, this looks like such strict denial of cravings that you end up binge eating on an entire challah when you could have just eaten one rugelach.
I'm also not interested in shaming myself. Even God in Bereishit metaphorically feels the rush of endorphins that comes with creating or achieving something that you deem "good." Perhaps this is the point. If we want to diffuse the impulse, take note of it, label it, and perhaps find a healthy outlet.
We're multifaceted so the same impulses that might make me want to eat destructively may also make me an empathic listener, and the impulses that cause me to achieve and strive can also make me trample over someone else's needs. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't.
It's when these impulses lead us to hurt ourselves or those we love when they become evil inclinations. To be human is to be flawed. Now it makes sense to me why we strive for the time of the Mashiach. All is this grey area will be much more discernible.
In the meantime, trying for extremes, even righteousness, backfires. So we strive for moderation and we learn from mistakes. We don't let ourselves off of the hook, but we also forgive ourselves and sometimes each other. We go to meetings, we pounds our chests, and we reflect honestly, all to breathe air into our humanity, not to be stifled by it.
Posted by Dahlia Bernstein at 12:18 PM