Tag Archives: New Years

Seeking Inspiration

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I had a really rough year. I lost a beloved friend and a beloved
pet. I had medical issues that were difficult to diagnose and to cure. I
had to cut far back on my social life to accommodate all the
immediacies of family and healing. Now I am feeling isolated,
somewhat vulnerable, definitely poorer, and very protective of both
my body and my soul. I miss being the optimistic and outgoing person
I have been most of my life. I am wounded and fragile. Do you have
good advice for getting my mojo back?

Seeking Inspiration

Dear Seeking:

That old saying about the Chinese character for “crisis” also represents
“opportunity” is highly relevant. You’ve been through the worst of it,
one can only hope. Now’s the chance to create a better life, not just
re-create the one you had before all the bad (as if you could). Instead
of being in resistance to the changes, look for ways to become the new
and happier you.

Think about hummingbirds in a late summer garden. They’re attracted
to the bright colors, the reds and oranges, and they come seeking
sweetness. Your mojo’s only going to come back when you make an
attractive landing zone for it. Instead of cowering in your room hoping
the world turns into a friendlier place, go out and engage with it. Seek
out the sweetness life offers. Try new things and even new people.
You’ll have dead ends and misses. But you’ll also have surprises and
delights, and those joys– both hoped for and unanticipated– will start
to fuel your spirit again.

Think about your time: what’s fixed and what’s malleable about your
schedule. Identify zones that are available to pursue happiness. Then
go after it in a variety of forms.



Get into counseling: Even if you think you understand what’s been
going on in your life, heart, and soul, it can really help to get fresh
perspective. Friends know us inside and out. A new person, especially
someone trained to listen, probe, and help us open and see ourselves
differently, can add new perspective and insight. As you do the more
worldly things below, invest in your heart to keep your motivated
change pumping.

Do for others: Look for volunteer opportunities, from your local food
bank to a Habitat for Humanity build. See a bigger world than your
small life.


Get involved with a cause: Commit to helping, whether it’s for your
favorite candidate or a local or environmental issue.

Learn something new: Take an art class, study a language, or explore
a new way of cooking. But push your gray cells to work and play.

Get physical: All the gyms have New Year’s specials. Try Sufi dancing,
weight machines, Nia, spin, or restorative yoga. Look for ways to get
back into your body.

Get metaphysical: Start reading uplifting writers. Meditate regularly.
Even ten-fifteen minutes a day of quiet breath or life-affirming
mantras will impact your soul. So will going to synagogue more often,
both the prayers and the music.

Get mental: Join a book group by asking your friends if they know of
an opening, or start one based around your own reading preferences.
Share opinions and tastes, and get to know other people’s worldviews.

Make time for old friends: Get deeper with the friends who stood by
you in your tough times. Have them over for dinner one-on- one, or
start a monthly salon.

Meet new folks: Tell people you’re interested in expanding your social
circle. Ask to be invited to parties. Look at the “happenings” section in
the Weekly and go to gatherings that are a little bit of a stretch to
push you out of your comfort zone.

Cultivate curiosity: Like a child learning to walk, every baby step will
help move you down the road to happiness. Don’t isolate or clutch
what feels safe so tightly that you cannot embrace the new. Leave
room in your life for unexpected joys. Ask for and welcome surprises.



Give gratitude regularly: Times were hard. They’ll be hard again. The
best insurance policy is a warm personality and a resilient soul. Believe
in and cultivate goodness. Practice tikkun olam. Help the world heal
and you will heal too.


Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I don’t want to seem trite, but it is end of year and the time when I
traditionally take an inventory of my life. Here goes: I am at the tail
end of my career but still plan to work for two-three years (my choice
– no danger of being fired because I am the boss, ha ha). I have
various health issues (osteo, weight, insomnia). I feel less inspired
than I remember feeling when I was young. I’m single and a little
lonely and bored, but do not want to compromise again just for
companionship. I make resolutions but feel silly weeks later when I’m
no longer going to the gym, eating fewer sweets, etc. Can you give me
a way of improving my life that will last past January 31?


Dear Sprinter:

In games like golf and table tennis, we’re told “keep your eye on the
ball.” That’s my advice to you. Figure out how to stay focused by
making all your resolutions and behavioral changes actions that give
you joy, make you laugh, and make you feel lighter.


Career: If you are really measuring in a handful of years, and are the
boss, vision your working life as a legacy investment. Think about
what contributions you can make while you are there. I’m talking
mentorship of deserving and aspiring staff in the generations one and
two younger than you. Go out to lunch with people you think have a
special spark and get to know them. Ask if they want to be mentored
and tell them No is an okay answer, and Yes means you will work
together to help them reach their goals. Write a vision statement for
yourself for your last few years: what you can contribute and what you
can accomplish. Meet with your financial advisor to be clear when you
can afford to stop working. Set a tentative retirement date and make a
countdown clock that ticks off on the first of each month.


Relationships/Social Life: Choose to be happy. Be nice; be kind; be
mellow; be generous. Tell people you love that you do, sincerely and
often, with words, flowers, phone calls, soup, or special events and
treats. If you see someone in trouble or pain, interrupt your life to try
and help. Think “pay it forward,” “do unto others,” and other platitudes
that turn out to improve life on the planet for us all. Pick a non-profit
that works in an area of change that you care about. Volunteer several
times a month. Hang with those who make you laugh and feel good.
Tell them you are ready to date and ask them to think about you when
they encounter other single people. Smile at strangers when you do
your errands. Listen with sincere attention. Open your heart and see
what moves it.


Health: I can’t say it better than my mother or your doctor, though
you should probably meet with him/her to set goals and review your
medical stats. My guess is that message will be: Eat less; move more.
Find exercise you‘re passionate about, something you look forward to
rather than dread. I recommend table-tennis for aerobics, bending,
and feeling like a kid again. Look for a team sport; get a wii; whatever
exercise that your body can tolerate without risk of injury. Focus on
play, not counting reps; you’ll do more of it and look forward to it. Find
a food program you genuinely enjoy, or change it monthly. Understand
what your body needs: smaller quantities with healthy nutrients and
treats that don’t disrupt good choosing the rest of the time. You don’t
have to forsake all things sweet and caloric. Balance them with savory
and fresh fruit. Retrain your taste buds and your gut. Find a favorite
outfit that’s too a half-size too small; try it on weekly; repeat until it


Spiritual/Emotional life: At least once a day, do something
spontaneous that gives you joy. Go for a walk in a completely different
part of town; have a drink in a new café or bar; read poetry or a great
book; let yourself fart around online without judgment. Make time to
look or howl at the moon; watch grass grow. Taking good care of your
heart and soul will boost your emotional resilience and your immune
system. The glow will show and people will be more drawn to you. The
more often you choose to be happy, the more likely you will be. Make
yourself a priority this year by lightening up. Sing in the shower or the
car. Let yourself indulge in people and experiences. Learn something
new or practice something old. Whatever makes you feel good, wise,
or holy, give yourself a little more of it each week. Remind yourself
regularly: You are a good person and you deserve to be happy.

Sprinter, Not Marathoner

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I always make new years resolutions but then feel silly when I a few
weeks later I am no longer going to the gym four days a week, eating
fewer sweets, etc. Can you give me a better way of improving my life?
One that will last past January 31, please.

Sprinter, Not Marathoner

Dear Sprinter/Marathoner:

Not to change sporting metaphors too much, but in games like golf,
baseball, and table tennis, the advice is often “keep your eye on the
ball.” That’s my basic advice to you. Figure out how to keep yourself
focused on both short-run actions and long run objectives in several
key areas of your life: career, relationships, health, and soul.


Career: Do some very simple and tangible things in your office. Start
by cleaning your desk. . It may sound simple but it will force you to
get a handle on where you&'ve been. Fruitcake stupor or too much
shopping, December takes its toll. Rather than feeling like you&'ve been
dumped onto concrete, take some control of your re-entry. Buried
under the seasons greetings and the cookie crumbs are important
things you need to remember, things that other people, the people
who pay your paycheck, expect you to do. Clean through email,
assemble files, make stacks, make lists, remember what&'s due this
month. Get out your calendar and set priorities for the next few
weeks. Once you’re back in the saddle, you&'ll start to feel better.
Update your resume. Think about how other people see you: your
resume is the two-dimensional window they look through. It&'s a
reminder of what you’ve done in your current job, what you&'re good at
that you, your employer, and any prospective new employer should
value, and what you&'d have to sell on the job market if something pink
appears with your paycheck. Update your accomplishments, list new
skills and current references who&'ll sing your praises. This will boost
your confidence for the here and now as well as for the future
possible. It&'ll help you be ready to apply for internal promotions as well
as identify areas in which you should seek additional experience or

Relationships: Do for others. Not much in life beats feeling like
you&'ve helped. Acts of kindness and usefulness enhance any day.
They&'ll make you feel good as well as productive. If you have a chance
to help a friend or family member, take it. Don&'t worry about getting
credit for what you do, or the time it takes from your own projects.
You&'ll be more efficient with those commitments later. Think “pay it
forward,” “do unto others,” and all the other platitudes that, like your
resolutions, you may have let slide. Also, let others do for you.
When you&'re offered helping hands, take them, assuming they&'re
competent and caring about your welfare. As good as helping makes
you feel, it feels as good to others. There are times when you simply
cannot get everything done that you need to if you try to do it on your
own. That goes from yard work or deck building to cleaning out the
garage. Consider organizing monthly neighborhood work parties to
lighten everyone’s load. Ask for help when you need it, and take it
when it&'s offered. Say thank you graciously, and maybe even with


Health: I can’t say it any better than my mother or your doctor. Eat
less and move more. Find a form of exercise you are passionate about,
something you look forward to rather than dread. As a born-again
table-tennis player I can recommend it for aerobics, bending, and
feeling like a kid again. Look for a team sport or get a wii-like device.
But focus on playing not counting reps. Find a food program you
genuinely enjoy, or change it every month. But understand what your
body is asking for: smaller quantities of healthy nutrients. You don’t
have to forsake all things sweet and caloric. But balance them with
savory and fresh fruit. Retrain your taste buds about flavor and your
gut about quantity. Find a favorite outfit that’s too a half size too small
and try it on weekly. Repeat until it fits; then decide if you want to
keep losing.


Spiritual/Emotional life: Give yourself the best gift of all, the gift of
time. For at least 30 minutes a day, let yourself do whatever you most
want in that moment, without guilt. Pick up your book or pet the cat.
Let your blood pressure drop and remember how to relax. Make time
to breath fresh air, to look at the moon, to watch grass grow. Taking
good care of your heart and soul will boost your resilience and your
immune system. The glow will show and people will be more drawn to
you. The more often you choose to be happy, the more likely you will
be. Make yourself a priority this year by lightening up. Sing in the
shower or the car. Let yourself indulge in people and experiences. Play
more. Learn something new or practice something old. Whatever
makes you feel like you&'re having fun, give yourself a little more of it
each week. You&'ve earned it.


Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

It’s New Year’s 2013 and I am inundated with advice about resolutions
to make, most of which I need to listen to. Baseline information: I
could stand to lose twenty pounds. Thirty would be better. I have a
small savings account and a small retirement fund. But I tend to use
my credit card freely each month and when the time comes for big
non-monthly expenses like car or home insurance I have to take it out
of savings or as an advance. I don’t drink a lot but I also have been
known to have more than one and then drive myself home (if I’ve
been out with the girls after work). I have more “stuff” than I know
what to do with but still don’t know how to pass up a great sale or
bargain. I’m not a hoarder but my drawers and closets are full. Some
things, blush, still have tags on and are too small for me. I like my job
but haven’t thought about a career change in years. I go to synagogue
for the High Holidays but rarely in between unless there’s a B’nai
Mitzvah among my friends or family. I do have a loving partner and a
beautiful home that I love to use to entertain those I love. Can you
help me put the best foot forward in 2013?


Dear Coasting:

You sound like you have a very clear sense of whom you are and how
you like to live. I’ll tell you what I see from here: someone comfortably
middle class, used to taking good care of her needs and extra good
care of her wants. You sound comfortably middle class, though that
could change in the future if you don’t pay more attention to your
retirement savings. Here’s some suggestions for how to start the year
off right:

– Clip all the resolution articles you see in the next week out of the
paper and put them in a file (including this one). Read them on the
first Sunday of each month with a good cup of coffee to remind
yourself that you do want to make changes, not in the big thrust of
your life but in all the margins.


– Dedicate January to cleaning your closets and drawers. Set some
very clear criteria, like tossing anything with stains. And by tossing I
mean to put in a donation bag labeled marginal. Also start a bag of
better things, especially work clothing. Most women’s shelters are
hungry for interview clothing. Keep a decent wardrobe in your current
size and one lower but make sure there’s room between the hangers.

– Do the same thing for your food pantry, your freezer, your bathroom
cupboards, your garage, and anywhere that you cannot see the walls
and floor. Call around to local non-profits to see whom you can donate
what to. Lots of people with much less than you can benefit.

– Set some weight loss criteria that you can keep to consistently.
Going meat free one day a week is good for the waistline and the
planet. Make sure you have a salad for lunch and for dinner. Try going
without carbs for one of those meals (i.e. no bread, potatoes, rice,
etc). Ditto for desserts and alcohol. Weigh yourself at least once a

– Walk more. Start with a 10-minute walk each day and up the time
and/or distance at least weekly, though daily would be better. If you
can work your way up to an hour a day you will benefit your long-run
health in very solid ways.

-When you get your paycheck, put $50 extra into in the savings
account. Also start an annual expenses fund. The math is easy: add up
all the annual expenses and divide by12. Put that amount in each
month. That’ll force you to cut back on small expenses like daily lattes,
or whatever you spend money on without blinking. Use only your
checking account debit card, and lock your credit card away.

– Rewrite your resume. You may never choose to apply for a different
job, but this will give you perspective on your strengths and
weaknesses. Have a sit-down with your boss. Say you are happy with
your organization but want to challenge yourself to grow more. Ask
what will help both of you.

– Go to services more often. Or take a community ed class in
something you care about. Go to music recitals or talks at the library.
Start meditating or volunteer at a non-profit you care about. Push the
boundaries of your life beyond whatever you’ve been doing with your



– Never drink and drive. You’ll live longer and so will the rest of us.