As a child, I thought of fasting on Yom Kippur as the pinnacle of adult-ness -- a demonstration of piety, self-restraint, and poise -- but when I became a Bat Mitzvah and my turn came, I became much less enthusiastic. Most years, I was ravenous by 10:00am, and so undeniably "hangry" that there was no room in my mind for introspection, only fantasies about continental breakfasts. Yet, despite my discomfort, and the introspection it clearly did not inspire, for more than a decade, I continued to observe my annual fast.
But this year, fasting just didn't feel right.
5777 was a tough and beautiful year for me; one of high highs (getting my first full-time job, moving into my own apartment) and low lows (losing, not one, not two, but three family pets and battling near crippling personal and professional anxiety). It was a year full of internal battles, of loving and questioning and hating myself; of taking responsibility for situations beyond my control and internalizing faults that were not mine. It was a year that I could have been kinder to myself.
So, on Yom Kippur, the traditional Jewish Day of Atonement, I did what I always did. I asked for forgiveness. But, instead of asking God, I asked myself.
I did this by treating myself with love and respect on a day typically reserved for self-discipline.
Instead of skipping breakfast, I made some of my favorite foods. Instead of not showering, I took a long, hot shower and used my favorite rose-scented soap. I took a leisurely walk in the sunshine and enjoyed long phone calls with my grandmothers. I went to services when I felt like it and left when I felt like it. I schmoozed with strangers for hours in a local coffee shop and left counting them as new friends. I went to the beach and listened to the waves. I met up with my family and we sat together for closing services and Havdallah. Then we went to the synagogue break-fast and I treated myself to a slice of quiche and a big old gin and tonic.
It was, truly, one of the most beautiful and fulfilling days I have ever had the pleasure to live. It left me feeling closer to God (and myself) than I had in ages and inspired to bring a little more Yom Kippur self-love into everyday life.