Why Do I Write Books?

I was going to title this, “Why do I write?” but that question is answered by an internal spark inside of me, which I cannot fully explain. But why do I write books? What motivates me to invest financially and emotionally in creating finished products out of my writings? Well, that has a more concrete answer.

For the past two years or so, I have attributed my desire to write a book (and then another book!) as a way to counteract my perfectionist tendencies, as well as those of my mother. We both have a tendency to want to make something perfect before we share it with the public and I have seen my mother’s frustrations at having started her own creative projects, but not quite bringing them to fruition.

This feeling of just wanting to put myself out there and be heard and seen was one of the great driving forces that motivated me to start a listserv seven years ago and send out my writings to friends and family. Each time I pressed the send button, I felt liberated in knowing that I had edited and reviewed my writing well enough, and it was now ready for the consumption of others.

But there is another reason why putting out a book is so attractive to me. And while I am not always as conscious of this reason, it is just as powerful and cathartic, if not more so.

I write and publish books in order to create products that will last eternally. Having experienced the sudden death of my father when I was twenty-one, I learned that life is short. Publishing books of my writings is a way for me to soothe my soul—to affirm that I will make my mark on this earth and have an influence on this world that goes beyond my own lifetime (may it be a long one). My father’s sudden passing taught me the fragility and temporal nature of life. I want to connect to posterity, just as my father lives on in me and in the many lives which he so beautifully touched.

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Not So Awake, But Alive!

This morning I missed the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) train to a conference by five minutes. This is day two of the conference and I was fortunate to make that train yesterday, but the bus/subway ran differently today and I left the Bronx subway stop eight minutes later. Since I knew I would anyway miss the LIRR train, I decided to stay on the local 1 subway where I had a seat and was comfortably reading my book, instead of switching to an express train at 96th street.

The thing about the LIRR is, like the Metro-North, it only runs every 40 minutes or so. As I sat waiting in a cafe which played soft rock music and watched the multitude of passers-by who regularly commute at 7am, I began to realize that even though I was exhausted and crabby, I did have 35 minutes of free time.

With the energizing music playing in the background, I opted out of continuing to read my book. Feeling bored, I went on Facebook. I saw a post by the cousin of Adam Krief, z’l, which accentuated how being alive is such a blessing.

Yes, waking up at the crack of dawn and commuting to Long Island was uncomfortable. But it was intriguing too. Here I was in Penn station observing the lives of hundreds of New Yorkers. Most days I am not part of this particular hustle and bustle, but today I was there to see it and experience its energy.

Feeling more liberated and less irritated, I did some calf stretches. A few minutes later I recorded a video for my Gila Health and Wellness YouTube channel documenting my unique morning experience.

Somehow, although I am anything but wide awake, this morning I am feeling very much alive.

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Tough Realities of Adulthood: Desk Jobs with No Windows

This afternoon I went for two quick walks in between patients. I had managed to workaholicize my lunch break, and I had a bit of extra time in my afternoon schedule, so I took advantage of it.

As I went for my second walk, which lasted a whole 8 minutes, I pondered an oft-pondered thought: that I get paid to be in an office for 8 hours a day to sit on my a** and work at my computer. Well, I do get a one-hour lunch break, so I should not overlook that. Nevertheless, adulthood is not what I imagined it to be. When I was a little girl, I thought my parents were going out and pursuing their dreams and talents and saving the world when they were at their jobs. But now, I see the truth: that adults get paid to sit on their a** all day and not go outside.

Yes, there are many people, myself included, who are in jobs which they are passionate about and which serve an important cause. But when you think about it, we are all getting paid to stay indoors during the daylight hours. To sit at our desks, to answer phone calls, to type up reports, etc. So long as we don’t have too much fun—we are doing our jobs. Heaven forbid, we should ever take a beach day in the summer, or take part of the afternoon off to go for a delightful spring stroll. No, that is reason for getting fired!

And so, when my child asks me, “Mom, what it is like having a real job?” I will tell her, “I get paid to sit in an office on my tuches for 8 hours.”

Of course, I will also tell her that I enjoy helping people with their nutritional intake and health, but I want her to get an honest look behind the scenes of reality. Being a responsible adult means denying your natural instincts for fresh air and the outdoors, it means having to be disciplined so you can’t have fun most of the time, it means putting the welfare of others ahead of your own.

Oh, the irony that in our livelihood we die a little every day.

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Studying My Study Habits: Choosing Compassion Over Perfection

This morning I completed the pre-test for the Pediatric Weight Management training course I will be taking at the end of the month. On the heels of blogging about graduating Brandeis early, as well as recently writing a book which goes into further detail about this and other formative experiences of my twenties, I am feeling rather self-aware about my studying habits.

I noticed I was much more compassionate to myself during this pre-test process and much less perfectionist than I had been in the past. To be sure, after I graduated college, I began to mellow out about my grades. After all, I had already gotten the great SAT scores that I had dreamed of as a kid (My parents modeled academic excellence for me. Ever since I was young, I knew my dad went to Harvard, and my mom went to Yale. Not because they were haughty about it, but because they valued their academic achievements.) I also had already graduated college with honors (Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude) and straight As.

I certainly can’t go back and say I resent my perfectionist tendencies, since they fueled my previous success. But in a way, I do, because they blinded me from other areas of my life which needed more attention, in particular, my mental and emotional well-being.

So today when I completed the pre-test for the Pediatric Weight Management training course, I brought to it a more moderate and self-compassionate approach. I didn’t aim for perfection. I aimed for the 80% I needed to pass and attend the training. I kept everything in its proper proportion. Knowing that I also want to begin studying for the Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) exam helped me not to obsess over the nitty gritty details of the weight management pre-test. But it is more than that. It is knowing that I no longer base my self-worth on how good my grades are. It is accepting that I am not perfect and I cannot get everything right. And that that is ok. Because in the end of the day, I know I have a lot to give to the world. And my goal right now is to move forward, make healthy, grounded decisions, and contribute my unique gifts to the world.

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For If You Keep Silent, Relief Will Come From Another Place

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place…And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

During the Fast of Esther, I felt humble parallels to the line above where Mordechai tells Esther that if she does not stand up to save the Jewish people, perhaps someone else will. After which she became committed to risking her life and approaching King Achashverosh.

In a very humble and subtle way, I experienced something along this theme. This morning, I got an update from the self-publishing company that if I don’t add more pages to my book, it will not meet the minimum thickness required for having writing on the spine of the book.

The project team member verified that I was writing a self-help book and said that I could therefore put in note pages for readers to jot down their thoughts. Now, my book is both a memoir and a self-help book. In providing further self-help tools at the end, I would be declaring evermore that I was writing a self-help book; that I have what to educate people on. The thing is, I have been struggling with this aspect of my book, because I am a nutritionist and a health and wellness coach, not a therapist or life coach who specializes in healthy relationships.

I already put a list of recommended readings at the end of my book, but to add even more resources? To put in note pages?

Gosh, it makes me feel like such a poser!

As I thought more about adding the note pages and other content, I realized that I could share with my readers the names of spiritual retreat programs that I had attended. I then realized that I could also list websites that I have found helpful.

And then, of course, there was that one sex-ed brochure that I really related to. Perhaps I could even reference that?

In deciding to add more tools and resources to my book, I have to admit to myself that it is ok for me to be somewhat of an authority on healthy relationships and sex-ed. Although, I am still nervous that I am inadequate in this role. Surely, I can be a resource to others.

When I called the creators of the sex-ed brochure to discuss how I could appropriately cite it, the woman I spoke with said that it is great that I am writing a self-help memoir about relationships and sex. She assured me that it would help people; that many would relate to my story.

My conversation with the health education company that produced the sex-ed brochure reassured me of my decision to speak out; to not keep silent; to not stay small.

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A Collage of College Memories Ignited

Last night Brandeis University called me. I had thought it was to request money, but, as it turns out, it was to remind me of my 10th reunion coming up this June. “Funny story,” I told the bright-eyed Brandeis student. “I am not actually in the class of ’07…Well I am. But not really.” I then told her about how in the fall of 2006 I petitioned to graduate Brandeis one full year early so I switched from the class of ’08 to ’07. (I did not include the detail about how I originally was accepted into the class of ’07 but deferred to go to Israel for the year—that was tangential and had nothing to do with my graduating early).

Speaking to the Brandeis student about this, I remembered how weird it was to leave campus in May ’07. I was ready to graduate and excited to begin my graduate studies in nutrition—that is why I petitioned to graduate early in the first place! But there was something about the day of graduation that felt rushed. The ceremony itself was wonderful, with my mother, brother, grandmother, uncles and aunts in attendance. But after the ceremony, I simply remember packing up my belongings and driving away. That was the part that felt so sudden. I felt like I was ripping myself away from Brandeis like one who removes a Band-Aid quickly to avoid pain.

On the one hand, it felt too quick, too sudden. But on the other hand, it felt eerily just right. After all, just 7 months earlier my father had suddenly passed away. I felt like I was exacting revenge on the universe, on my peers. My father was stolen from me in such a shocking manner, and now, instead of being the passive recipient, I got to be the aggressor of sudden abandonment.

I had decided to graduate college early a few months before my father’s sudden passing, but these two events were emotionally, and seemingly cosmically, intertwined.

Since I only discovered my love of writing 8 years ago, and I have only come to more fully dedicate myself to it in the past year, this is the first time I am writing about this incident. But I have a feeling it won’t be the last. Nor the last time I look back at experiences I’ve had that were shocking and traumatic at the time, and only in recent months, am I becoming able to put them into words.

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