Begin Again…Today!

Begin again…today!  What a freeing and invigorating thought that should be a morning mental mantra, but is it easier said than done? At this time of year as children head back to school, adults shed their summer clothes replacing them with business attire and full agendas, and Mother Nature shifts the season, life can seem as if    daily routines and challenges leave no room for personal choice. We have a lot to do and a lot of people telling us what needs to be done. How do we break free from the pattern of being that feels tirelessly restrictive?

Recently I was in a near fatal car crash on the Atlantic City Expressway. I was a passenger in a car that was in the right-hand lane going the speed limit.  Suddenly, and without warning, a car bolted from the median of the highway directly aimed at us, crashed into our car, sending our vehicle down a ravine into a tree. After the pounding force and cacophonous clatter of metal there was clear silence. As I sat in this silence, airbags blocking me from the shattered windshield, I felt strangely washed in calm.  I had survived and so had the driver of the car I was in. That was all that mattered. We had survived, and G-d had given us a chance in a very dramatic and unforeseen moment to begin again.

Rabbi Laura Geller, in an excerpt I read today, writes about Rosh HaShanah and the meaning of this season’s Jewish holiday that celebrates the anniversary of the creation of the world, “Your book of life doesn’t begin on Rosh HaShanah…it began when you were born…and the message of Rosh HaShanah is that everything can be made new again, that much of your book is written every day—by the choices you make.” If one believes that at birth one’s book of life is already written and sealed, Geller says that “you get to edit it, decide what parts to emphasize and remember, and maybe even which parts you want to leave behind. Shanah Tova means both a good year, and a good change. Today you can change the rest of your life. It is never too late.” I believe this message is universal and resounds in every faith.

Begin again…today! It is a simple and stunning thought. Life presents each of us with many obstacles and challenges and so many unexpected twists and turns. One’s life can change in the flash of a minute, or can wear one down in a slow, painful grind.  We often can control nothing about our lives except one vital and critical thing that is perhaps greater than anything that can be thrown at us—it is our power of choice. We can choose to begin again, to keep marching, to keep fighting the good fight, and even more, we can choose to live the life we have with the knowledge that is right in front of us taught by the mother of all mothers, Mother Nature…after the storm there will be calm, after the rain the sun will shine, after disaster there will be rejuvenation. Begin Again…today!


It Doesn’t Hurt to Be Bold…

Did you ever notice that some people are naturally outspoken? I sometimes watch in awe as these fearless folks wave their arm up to be recognized at public forums or at meetings and now even in social media. Although at times, we less outspoken souls roll our eyes or wince when the floodgates open, often it doesn’t hurt to be bold, and can actually be a good thing. Boldness can help define issues, boldness can give voice to the unspoken and boldness can help fulfill dreams.

Arianna Huffington who wrote,” On Becoming Fearless…in Love, Work and Life,” contends that we can be assertive without sacrificing charm and humor. I fully subscribe to the notion that it is all in the presentation—or at least a good deal is. Part of this is taking what we have to say seriously but not taking ourselves too seriously. And one other thing my grandmother taught me, and maybe yours taught too,” you get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”

When I think about the most effective and persuasive people I know, they share certain attributes that make them successfully and non-offensively bold. First, they know who they are and what they stand for: call this self-confidence or self-awareness or self-actualized—all are good descriptions. Next, they are not obnoxious or offensive, rather they express themselves without attacking in a calm way that engages. Another attribute these well-spoken speakers possess is their ability to get their point across in a way that is respectful of their audience without coming across superior or humorless. Finally, and maybe most importantly, they do not have to go on forever with their thoughts and skillfully state their case and sit down.

It doesn’t hurt to be bold when we have something we believe in, and we think it through before we speak. At times we do not express our thoughts for fear of being criticized or misunderstood and these are compelling reasons not to be bold. But to not speak and wish you had may have more dire and long lasting consequences. It doesn’t hurt to be bold but like in all things, be mindful of moderation.