Friday, March 28, 2014

Why Adults Should Return to Elementary School

When did my balanced diet of life go completely off track? Well, maybe not completely but clearly enough to become scary. When did I risk becoming THAT person – you know, the workaholic that is so consumed with and by their work (as much as they might love it and feel passionate about it) that there is literally no time to smell the roses, or the appropriate equivalent for someone with my allergic life?

And love my work I do – teaching, learning, changing lives, creating and building new educational models – it has been a blast for 40 years!

So almost a year ago something happened that could have been (and was in its own right) devastating for me. Due to a bizarre set of circumstances completely not my doing, I found myself NOT EMPLOYED FULL TIME for the first time in my life! That’s right, not having to run from pillar to post 24/7 minus Shabbat and Hagim, which have their own rhythm of frenetic living (Thank G-d I am religious, otherwise I really might have ended up in a padded room!). Truly, my time was always work-family/children-Jewish observance based. In the meantime, our beautiful piano sits in our living room with nobody to play it, we have enough exercise equipment to count for a small personal gym, we live in a gorgeous area which just begs to be walked in, and I still want to take that art class.

One thing I have done is return to real serious learning of Gemara, which I love. I spend two hours five times a week just learning. It is restoring my soul and reminding me what I love so much about Judaism and this system of life, which is now between the text and its Tanaaim and Amoraim and me. This works much better for me than the distilled interpretations that abound around me in our world, too often far too simplistic or too particularistic for my taste. My two hours of daily learning is most assuredly one of my favorite things to do. It also makes me a much better teacher. I have always said that what I bring to my teaching is my passion for learning – and now I am engaged actively in that daily! My college, graduate school and adult students in the classes I now teach are definitely the beneficiaries. I am also writing and creating wonderful educational materials, which are equally enriched.

I have also been taking walks and using the exercise equipment and, of course, will resume my daily swimming once we re-open our pool. I am beginning to get back to a balanced diet of living – with relaxed reading, serious learning, some art and music, and physical activity along with wonderful family and community time. I am even learning to enjoy this and let go of the guilt for having the opportunity to live in this new intentional not-as-frenetic manner.

I have been thinking a lot lately of a very important lesson I learned in San Antonio, Texas many years ago. Our family was there for our annual Jewish Family Camp experience known as my professional CAJE conference and we went to a wonderful outdoor fair that was held annually there for artists, musicians, artisans, dramatists, and such. Here is the deal! In Texas, we were told, people are encouraged when they are in their 50’s to reclaim their passion – join a club, take on an artistic mode of expression, find a hobby and do it! And so they did – there were potters, woodworkers, weavers, musicians, and so much more! The idea was that by doing this, when the time comes to retire, Texans would have something to retire TO – doing something they love, maintaining a purposeful and vital life – and stay more healthy! But of course, clearly, those Texans are on to something.

So I have been instituting my own program right here in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. I am balancing my life more evenly these days and am filled with gratitude that I have the option to do so. I am learning, reading, writing and creating, teaching, starting new communities and exercising. It is actually hard to get into this in a guilt-free way, but I am still working on that going on a year now. My next steps – reconnect with long-standing friends, start that art class and reintroduce myself to my piano!

Elementary school – part work—part play – part arts – here I come!

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you are getting to do all the things you love Mom!