Like a bear, I rummage, first through the fridge, and then the freezer. The good stuff is always in the freezer. I’ll take out the piece of cake/cookie/banana bread, and cut it, sliver by sliver, until it’s gone.
Somehow, cutting a little bit at a time makes it less bad. I call it death by a thousand cuts.
Unfortunately, the scale tells me that the end is the same.
I am no stranger to weight gain and weight loss. As a health coach and someone that lost 100 pounds, I know what it takes to lose weight, and what it means to keep it off. And how hard it is to keep it off.
In a lot of ways it is the same for marriage and child-raising. Very few of us flat out ruin our lives or our relationships in one fell swoop. We chip away, little by little, telling ourselves that this one little white lie or one negative word isn’t really hurting anything or anyone, until we realize we’ve crossed over the line and don’t know how to come back.
But things can turn around for the good. There is an incident in the biography A Tzaddik in Our Time that describes how Rabbi Aryeh Levine went to the kotel, looked up, and made a decision, then and there, to dedicate his life to God. When I read that, I got a shiver. The concept that someone could have a turning point, could cross over that line and not look back stuck with me. How I would LOVE to do that!
Now, well over a decade later, I would still love to do that, but I’m skeptical about my ability to keep to that decision and truly make such a drastic turning point in my life. And I tell my clients that being overweight, unhealthy, or not showing up as the best version of yourself isn’t a temporary thing that can be cured once and for all.
As frustrating as it is, it’s in the day in, day out decisions where we slip, we fall, and we need herculean strength to get back up. But just like it’s the little mistakes we make that eventually turn us into the people we don’t want to be, the opposite is also true. We become giants by making small decisions throughout the day. They all add up and eventually transform our lives, becoming the person we want to be.
Growing up I used to think that the power of Rosh Hashanah was distilled in one moment where my entire year would be determined. I used to put all my energy into that moment – maybe it’s when the shofar blows – when God would sign me in the Book of Life and determine my happiness and growth for the year.
It doesn’t quite work like that. Yes, it’s possible to change the course of our lives in an instant, but that doesn’t matter nearly as much as what we do on a daily basis to push ourselves in the right direction. Rosh Hashanah isn’t just one minute; it’s a commitment to put in the work every moment of the year.
We are responsible to make the hard decisions that create the life I want God to give me. Sure we beg God to give us life and a year of all good things on Rosh Hashanah. We beg him to forgive us and let us start fresh on Yom Kippur. But that’s only Stage 1.
God gives us the potential. What really matters on our end is what we choose to do with that potential.
I was once asked if I would be a part of a new learning initiative at a local synagogue. When I replied with my standard, “God willing,” the rabbi who had invited me immediately said, “Yes, God wills it!” Suddenly, I realized that I had to be willing. And to see if you are really willing, you must take action. Not huge grandiose statements that dissipate the moment after you say them, but the tough, little actions. Say no to the small piece of chocolate today. Say yes to that opportunity to compliment your spouse, or to hug your children.
Will it change your life? Yes, sliver by sliver.
To an extent, hoping for that one moment where I change my life was hoping for something that was unrealistic and too simplistic. Part of us yearns for greatness and wishes that it we could attain in a snap. But greatness is never easy. Changing your life requires a lifetime of consistent work.
I misunderstood the incident in A Tzaddik in Our Time. When Rabbi Levine made the choice to dedicate his life to God, it didn’t automatically happen. It was his everyday acts of greatness that fill the page of his biography that made it happen.
We can make it happen too. As long as we have breath in our lungs, God wills it. Now we have to will it. Step by step, decision by decision. One sliver at a time.