As Rabbi Zusya wept on his deathbed, his students asked, “Rabbi, why are you so upset? You’ve been nearly as kind as Abraham and as wise as Moses – surely you’ll be rewarded in heaven!”
Zusya replied, “Yes, but when I get to heaven, God isn’t going to ask me why I wasn’t more like Moses or Abraham . . . He’ll ask me, ‘Zusya, why weren’t you more like Zusya?’ And then what will I say?”
I heard this Hasidic story as I was contemplating Thanksgiving and all that I have to be grateful for. When I started this blog, I had no idea how much I would learn about myself, and, more specifically, that it would help me to more fully experience the freedom of being me. Because of it, I believe I could answer God that “Every day I am working on being more like Jennifer and less like who I thought I was supposed to be.” I can’t imagine anything I could be more thankful for.
Most importantly, I’ve come to see myself as worthy even when I make mistakes. Coming from that space, I find it easier to own my choices and make amends when I need to rather than becoming defensive or seeking validation from others’ approval. Writing these stories has pushed me past my fears to share parts of myself with the world that I’ve tried to hide, especially the anger and shame that I’ve often struggled with. I’m understanding my motives better, and how abstract concepts like mindfulness, acceptance, and self-compassion work to help me find more joy and be more me in every moment. I’ve come to understand that beliefs, even the good ones, are just thoughts, and that I can choose how I see the world and myself. I’m slowly dismantling each of my limiting beliefs – the “shoulds” and the “supposed tos” – so that I can accept the world as it is right now and proceed accordingly. While this will continue to be a lifelong process, I’m grateful for how far I’ve come this year.
While I am thankful for the blog, I’m conscious that I could not have done it without the weekly conversations with my friend Deb. Nor would I have been able to keep going without those of you who have been following along this year and engaging with me about the posts. You gave me courage with your supportive words and insightful observations that often came at just the right moment. For all of your support, I am hugely appreciative.
This year also saw the death of my brother and I’m still sorting out the ways in which I experience his loss. The lessons I learned while writing this blog helped me enormously in dealing with my grief. Nonetheless, I passed through some very dark moments and many friends and family helped me back into the light; I’m eternally grateful for you in my life.
I cannot say enough though about how thankful I am for my sister-in-law who has taught me more than I’m sure she’s aware by being a thoughtful presence and a steady, loving mother to her kids. My niece and nephew have been constant loving presences and teach me lessons on an almost daily basis. I’ve learned more about how to better move in the world through my interactions with this family than anything else. It’s impossible to know how I would have fared without them, but it’s meant so much to me that they’ve let me be such a huge presence in their lives.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because it is the only one that has, mostly, resisted commercialization, and focuses on a concept that we can agree on – giving thanks for our blessings. While I believe in a daily gratitude practice, I love the annual gathering together to give thanks. Its history may not be blemish free, just like us humans that created it, but I do not have the space here to address those issues in the way they deserve. And so, as we approach Thanksgiving day, I will simply thank all of you for helping me to become more me.