New Years resolution

On Rosh Hashanah, we all think about the kind of people we have been and promise to change for the better. I personally always found this concept quite difficult - How can I just change? It’s so hard to change a character trait… It’s my personality, how can I change that…??

When I started thinking about the whole concept of personality, I found it fascinating. Ask anyone what their personality is and they will give you a full description: I am shy; I am outgoing; I am confident; I like going out; I’m more of an introvert. The list goes on. As humans, we seem to define ourselves by what we like doing and our usual behaviours.

Take an extrovert and stick him in a house for a week, with the instruction that he can go out for a maximum of two hours at a time and had to be home most of the time, he will find himself miserable. That was me.

I always saw myself as outgoing, a socialiser and someone who enjoyed being busy. I therefore made sure that my schedule was filled with seeing friends, working or anything else that involved leaving the house. I just wasn’t that girl who enjoyed staying home…. And then I had my baby. I found myself getting frustrated without realising why. I loved my baby but I felt confined. I’m just the kind of person who needs to leave the house to enjoy my day. Between nap times and feeding times, staying home for most of the day was my only option.

But if you take an extrovert and follow him around for a week you will see something fascinating. He will have moments of enjoying a social event but also moments of wanting to go home; moments of wanting to talk but also moments of enjoying his peace. The ‘outgoing’ moments might be more common and last longer. But they are not ‘who he or she is’.

And so, one day it hit me, I realised I had unintentionally put myself in a box. An extrovert box. Whilst living from the inside of this box, my life had to be filled with constant adventure and stimulation for me to be content. I then got curious about it and considered whether it was possible for me to be happy even if it was just me and my baby at home all day without any adult company? Did I have it within me to enjoy things an introvert enjoys just like I enjoy things an extrovert enjoys? And so I tried it out. I sat down with my baby, forgot about the fact that “I was an extrovert” and simply took pleasure in spending time with my little girl. The day was over and I’d had a great day!

I then felt free, free from my “personality” that had dictated to me the way I had to react to situations; free from my box that I had imprisoned myself in for so many years. And then I felt excited to live in the moment without my personality attached to me.

I now see the idea of change and striving to be a better person this year differently. Our true nature is that of love, goodness and peace. There is no such thing as someone who’s personality is being obnoxious and irritable. It is simply that people innocently see themselves a certain way and believe that is who they are.

This Rosh Hashanah, set yourself free from your self-imposed “personalities” and you will find that change occurs effortlessly.

My post-birth experience

Post-birth is difficult. Everyone told me it would be, but I guess I just didn’t fully understand what they meant until the time came. I have lots of younger siblings who I would help with a lot as I was growing up, so I thought I was a pro. What I didn’t realize was the extent to which I’d be up all night, not to mention the 24/7 care I had to provide whilst I was physically drained from birth. People told me in my ninth month to enjoy my undisturbed sleep. I hadn’t understood what they meant.

Two nights after I had my baby, I was still in the hospital. I opted for “rooming in” instead of sending my baby to the nursery – because, again, I was a pro at this. Well, it was 3 a.m., and my baby was waking up every ten minutes. I was having trouble feeding her and I was simply shattered. What was I even thinking having this kid? I was two days into motherhood and I couldn’t handle it. I should be excited, I thought, why do I feel like I made a mistake by having her? Why do I have thoughts about what would happen if I threw this child out of the window?

From that second night in the hospital, such thoughts continued to come.

But here’s the interesting thing. Thoughts are just that – thoughts! I know that thoughts do not represent an absolute reality, and I knew it then too. So instead of judging myself for the experience I was having, or think that maybe I was a psychopathic mother, I started to become fascinated by these thoughts that filled my mind. And, it gave me new insight into how people can innocently react from their thinking. Without this understanding, I could see why someone might be terrified that they had a thought of throwing their newborn out of the window!

Instead of feeling guilt or despair, I simply got curious. I got curious to see what else would come up… It was almost like watching a movie. I didn’t get too involved in it or take it too seriously; I was just watched and waited.

During the first month, I had my moments of excitement around having my baby, but for the most part it was overwhelming and exhausting. After learning the Three Principles for so many years, if there is one thing I knew with absolute certainty, it is that I am okay no matter what. This isn’t just a faith I have, it’s something that I know and have seen to be true – in all circumstances.

So yes, the first month of my daughters’ life was not what I had expected it to be. I had always thought that the moment I saw her I would be totally in love. I would be overjoyed to take care of her no matter the hour of the day. But my reality was different. Deep down I was excited; deep down I loved her. But on the surface, my feelings were different.

Someone once said to me “when you think you’re crazy you’re okay”. Meaning, we’re all a little crazy sometimes but if you know it’s just you “being crazy again” it’s fine. I would say it slightly differently: “When you know you’re human, and you understand your human experience, you’re okay no matter what”. During my first month, I could have totally gone down the route of “not being okay”. (And some people reading this are probably thinking I definitely wasn’t!) But I have been blessed with the gift of understanding the human experience (in my own limited way, of course!), so even though my “thinking” was dragging me in a certain direction, I didn’t buy it. It held no credibility, so in they came but out they went.

Fast forward another few months, and I am the happiest and most grateful mother of a gorgeous little girl. Do those thoughts of doubt and anxiety still come? Of course! But I know my thinking is not who I am. It’s something that comes and goes. Or something that hangs out with me for a bit and then goes. Who am I? I am happy, resilient and capable – just like everyone else in the world.

And most of all, I am a very proud Mommy :)

You have all the strength you need inside of you

It’s 5.30 a.m. a week before my due date. I’m not having a baby yet; it’s my first birth and all first births are late. I mean, everyone knows that… 

Well, 5.30 a.m. I wake up from a back ache. It’s quite intense, but after all I’m nine months pregnant and aches and pains are normal.  6.15 a.m. the pain is stronger; I am on all fours in my bed trying to find a comfortable position to go back to sleep, but not quite managing…

6.30 a.m. my husband Daniel wakes up, takes one look at me and asks, “are you in labour?!” 

“No, no, go back to sleep, it’s nothing.” And I mean it. 

6.45 a.m. I feel my waters breaking – I guess I AM in labour. My first thought is, I have a class to teach tonight I’m not ready for this! I pack hospital bag between contractions, which becomes increasingly difficult as the contractions get stronger by the minute. 

8.00 a.m. we arrive at the hospital. I can’t take the pain. All first births take at least 20 hours… Right? How will I survive this? The midwife checks me and tells me I am 7.5cm dilated. Wow! OK. Maybe I can do this. There’s no time for any pain relief but this should be over soon. The contractions are becoming more and more intense.

I can’t do this! I can’t, I can’t handle this anymore! Inside, I feel myself losing it. I have been so contained until now, but this is it… I have reached my limit. I don’t  know what to do with myself. I’m getting so worked up, I am going insane. I feel myself going into a state of panic. 

Suddenly, in the middle of it all, I get a thought out of nowhere. It says “Shifra, you are OK. You have all the strength you need to get through this. Going in the direction of your thinking that tells you otherwise is simply unhelpful”. I see the truth of this thought and suddenly I relax. I see a difference between the actual and very real pain of the contractions and my thinking around that pain. The pain is still here (oh, is it here!) but my anxieties and panic around the pain have disappeared and in its place comes a wave of strength and knowing that I am just fine. I know that I have all the strength I need to bring my little girl into this world. 

 room realises the shift in me, but for me it’s profound. It’s amazing for one moment to feel as if I am dying and certain that I can’t go on for a minute longer, and the next moment to feel strength and serenity amidst the pain. Yes, the pain is still excruciating but somehow, from this moment, I see that it is OK. 

At 9.00 a.m, my beautiful Yael Elana is born.