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Re-Inventing Our Lives

May 9, 2009 | by Emuna Braverman

Don't believe the women's magazines. Passover tells us how to truly re-invent ourselves.

It's a big theme in women's magazines, especially for the over-40 crowd. Apparently at that age, we no longer care how we look (and thus ignore all the makeup and clothing ads accompanying the piece), we no longer care what others think about us (leaving us very free to start anew since we've now lost all our friends) and we are no longer trapped by societal expectations (which is why we flee to some lonely, yet beautiful, spot where there is no society!).

All these things have been holding us back from being our true selves. We have also been trapped by our commitments and responsibilities (apparently after 40, we can throw those all off), by the children that still live at home, by the jobs that allow us to pay the bills, by the husbands that also still live at home. All these things stand in the way of true self-realization.

Each month I read stories of women (finally!) pursuing their dreams, and leaving a trail of broken marriages, unhappy children and unfulfilled commitments. As we like to say about Passover, there is a difference between freedom and license.

Apparently it is now possible to stay married, maintain a relationship with our children and still pursue our dreams.

Luckily, for future women and future readers of these magazines, a new voice is appearing. Apparently it is now possible to stay married, maintain a relationship with our children and still pursue our dreams. This is hailed as a breakthrough. Yet all these fantasies are so dramatic -- running horse ranches, professional scuba diving, writers, artists, mountain climbers. Is this what we've been waiting for? Is this the freedom that can only be acquired at a certain age? Is this how we re-invent ourselves?

I'm all for pursuing dreams. I'm all for re-inventing myself (please do not send in suggestions!). But is it really only accomplished by climbing Mt. Everest? Is it accomplished there at all?

I find that the things that hold me back from true self-realization are not the external circumstances of my life. It's my internal reality, it's those internal voices, it's my choices about my spiritual and emotional life. On Passover when we speak of freedom, it's not a political reality we are referring to, but an emotional one. We want to be free of the habits and behaviors that are trapping us and holding us back. We want to be free of inappropriate expectations, free from ego. Then we could really re-invent ourselves. Unfortunately a lot of women (and men) just make choices that reinforce our bad habits, that indulge our egos and name it freedom, opportunity, re-invention.

True re-invention is the opposite of self-indulgence. I would like to re-invent myself -- if you're not over 40 yet, you won't have to wait, and if you are, it's not too late! And I don't think I need to travel anywhere. Or spend any money (my husband will like that part!)

Sometimes travel can provide the perspective needed for change but the work is still done internally, slowly, ploddingly, without drama or sensationalism. We do need to explore our artistic side to make this happen. But the canvas is ourselves, our character, our souls.

I don't want to be a pilot, but I would like to be less anxious.

I don't want to join an artists' colony in New Mexico, but I would like to take more joy.

I don't want to sail to Tahiti, but I would like to be more patient.

I don't want to take up rock climbing, but I would like to have more trust.

That's the new person I'd like to be. It's not age-dependent. It's not limited by small demanding children or by large demanding children. It's not thwarted by marriage and may even be assisted by it. It's not as easy as a new carrier or a trip to China. There's no prestigious patent available for it and my work won't hang at the Guggenheim. But perhaps it's the only new creation worth inventing, the only one that will make any difference.


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