When I think and talk about teshuvah, I usually focus on change. How can we take stock of our lives and improve the parts of ourselves that we wish to change? This year I was struck by a different aspect of teshuvah. I realized that teshuvah doesn’t need to be focused solely on changing who we are. Teshuvah can also be about learning to accept and forgive ourselves, and learning how to embrace our abilities, limitations, bodies, and relationships.
I was reminded of this while listening to “Same Love,” the powerful song by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. During the chorus, Mary Lambert sings, “I can’t change, even if I tried, even if I wanted to.” I recently gave birth to my first child and the truth of this lyric has particular resonance for me right now. I have been learning that sometimes what is needed most is honesty and acceptance, rather than change.
At the beginning of my pregnancy I often got frustrated when suddenly I couldn’t do something that I used to be able to do. Everything from bending down to carrying the laundry up the stairs was a challenge and I kept hoping that if I did just a little more prenatal yoga, then I would magically become “Superwoman.” I would be able to do everything I did before I got pregnant—regardless of the 10, 15, and, finally, 35 extra pounds strapped to my body. I was so caught up in what I thought I should be able to do, that it took me a long time to step back and acknowledge what my body could actually handle. It was only then that I could fully appreciate (and be in awe) of the miracle that was occurring inside of me.
My goal for these High Holidays is to examine where I’ve been and where I am going through the lens of acceptance. I will try not to focus exclusively on the teshuvah of resolving to change, but on the teshuvah of resolving to stop trying to force changes that can’t be made. I resolve to better love myself as I am, and to learn how to be the best person I can be.