About 15 years ago, when my eldest child was five years old, I came in from work later than he did and saw his jacket, socks and shoes scattered all over the place. I started calling him and berating him for this and that and the other thing all at once, he replied, “Eema, you are cranky, you need a time out.” After I had him clean up his mess, I thought about what he said.
He was right, I needed a time-out, and as days passed, and I thought of giving my children a time-out, I considered whether it was they who needed a time-out, or I, and I realized most of the time, it was I who needed the time-out.
What is a time-out versus a vacation? We usually give a child a time-out when he has done something like hit another child. Then we give him a time-out without distractions to consider his actions, realize he is not on the right track, consider changing his ways and determine how to change his ways. If you have not defined what the time-out is for a child, then he is losing an opportunity to understand that it is not really a punishment, but an opportunity. Sit with him and explain to him why he has to sit in a quiet room, what he has to consider, and when he is ready to behave or change his ways, that he could re-enter family life.
I realized there were times that I had to have my own time-out between work and home. A time when I could stop what I was doing and ask the question, am I on the right path, am I reaching my goals, what are my goals, how do I get back on track and change? A time in between work and home to change my clothes, wash up, blow off the details of my work day, and make space internally for the children for the rest of the day.
I shared these thoughts with the audience at the Jewish Learning Institute retreat this past week. The topic of the forum was 8 Women, 12 Fundamental Principles, and I was discussing perseverance. One cannot persevere if one is burned out. Many women work until they burn out and then take a forced unplanned vacation. I submit that women should determine when they are likely to burn out and take a time-out to prevent burn out. I take a planned time-out twice a year, once before Rosh Hashanah, and the other before Passover.
The length of the time-out depends on the extent of the work/stress at the time. For instance, summer through the end of the year is a busy time for me. It is when tax plans have to be funded and re-planned. I also know that this time of year, camp ends, the kids are home from camp/school, I have to get my daughter home from camp, send my son off to interim camp on the same day my youngest son comes home from camp. My son is coming home from interim camp on the same day my daughter has to move into college. Then there is orientation and school supplies and then the month of Jewish holidays. I needed more than a half a day at the beach to offset this plan, so when I was asked to present at the Jewish Learning Institute Retreat and experience it for five days, I eagerly accepted.
I don’t have words to express the magnitude of the event, I am still very much processing it. 180 classes given over the course of five days. There were times that I wanted to hear two or three classes an hour, that I stayed in one for half the time, and ran to the other to catch the end. They had very prominent instructors in their fields like Rabbi Lau, former chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Dr. Edward Reichman on medical ethics, Rabbi Manis Friedman, Rabbi Simon Jacobson, Karen Leavitt, George Rohr, Molly Resnick, Scott Turow, the best-selling author. Besides for classes on law, medicine, philosophy and spirituality, there were classes on calligraphy and silk screening, wine tasting, wine/food pairing, a challah baking class with a women who was awarded the best challah in the world title, pickle making, and a spiritual class atop a mountain via tram up 3,000 meters.
If that wasn’t enough, there were 1,100 intellectuals from around the world eager to learn and experience more about Judaism. In between classes, while sitting in the tea room or at meals, I got to speak with people from tiny corners of the world, who were touched by Chabad and sparked with the desire to learn more and experience some days of Judaism with other Jews and kosher food.
Speaking of which, think of the most extensive bris you have ever attended. The fanciest dinner at at the fanciest restaurant you have ever gone to. The meals were extensive and all five-star. By the second day, I was waiving a white flag of surrender to the food. From soup to chocolate fondue desserts. I was so busy processing the classes and the people, that to process the food as well, was herculean. All of this at a Five Star Resort in Palm Springs, with a built in man made lake that snaked through the hotel compound.
Put it all together, and it was some time-out for me. A time to refresh and restore my soul and meet new friends from around the world. I had a chance to speak with Jewish college students from around the world and answer their questions on how to have G-d in one’s life while building a career. On Friday morning, on my way to challah baking, I had two experiences which were off the board. I was davening in an empty ballroom save for a grand piano. As I was davening shmoneh esreh, a teenager walks in and sits at the piano and plays a Chasidic melody. When I completed my davening, I walked over to him to tell him how beautifully he plays and thank him for enhancing my praying for the day. Outside the ballroom, I saw a man with what I thought was a falcon, so I walked outside, and spoke with the man. He gave up his finance career to train birds for corporations. He was hired by the resort to train their birds. This was an eagle. He showed me how he had the eagle go to a point in the hotel and return and sit on my shoulder. I was shocked at the beauty of the exchange.
Then came the challah baking class. I was already on a high from my morning’s experiences, and the class, taught by Sarah Briman, was spiritually uplifting. Her story is fascinating. Her daughter died at a young age, loving to bake challah as a mitvah/good deed. When her daughter died, Sarah took over that mitzvah and committed to spreading the love of this mitzvah to others around the world, which she does. Truly inspiring!!!
I could go on forever about my experiences at JLI. But in sum, it is important for each one of us to identify when we need a time-out and to inspire our souls and reinvigorate our bodies, so that we can persevere in our tasks in life.
The Jewish holiday time, September/October, is difficult physically and spiritually for working parents. Take the time for yourself so that you can enjoy the family holiday time without letting the fatigue set in. Grab summer, hold it tight and relax a bit.