Month: August 2018

Apologies to the World

apologies

Teshuva

This is always an interesting time of year for me. The Jewish high holidays are right around the corner. People are speaking all the time about being the best versions of themselves. And there’s never ending talk about teshuva, which loosely translates to repentance.

I find the word “repentance” very off-putting. Not only is it not in most people’s everyday vocabulary, but it has a certain overly religious ring to it. There is nothing inherently religious about apologies. Teshuva is about returning to a previous state. It’s about resetting the situation, taking the errors that have occurred and learning to move past them. It is a fundamental part of the Jewish faith, and an essential part of all quality human interaction.

We all make mistakes. We all hurt other people. Sometimes we do so intentionally, but far more often we either don’t recognize we’ve done it, or we can trick ourselves into thinking we’ve done nothing wrong whatsoever. But with just a little gentle introspection, and none of us will be able to escape the countless times we’ve hurt others in our lives. Very often the people we would least like to harm.

An Odd Tradition

There is a bit of an odd tradition around this time of year that irks me a little. It’s done with very good intentions, but I feel it misses the mark, and removes the depth of the concept of teshuva. People will make blanket statements to many people apologizing if they’ve wronged them in any way, or they’ll do the same kind of thing with scores of people throughout the weeks leading up to Yom Kippur.

Are we all so self unaware that we don’t know when we’ve hurt others, that the only “real” apologies we can offer are for vague actions or events that may or may not have happened?

Bigger and Better Apologies

I propose something far deeper, something that takes a great deal of hard work and introspection. And it also takes digging deep within yourself to find where damage has been done and repairs need to take place.

Grab a pen and paper and start surveying your life. Take a deep look at decades worth of relationships. Look at the good ones along the way. Look at the ones that were really challenging along the way. Start slowly compiling a list of names. Ask yourself questions like you never have before. Did I have a wonderful friendship with someone that went sour? Why’d that happen? Is it something I said or did? Is it possible I pushed someone away from me?

Look at the hurt and pain you’ve caused others throughout the years. Please don’t be naive or arrogant enough to think you haven’t done so. We all hurt people. We all cause pain. That doesn’t mean we’re bad people. It means we open our mouths! Every time we speak we’re risking someone around us feeling hurt. One person’s cute, simple joke is another person’s ruined evening.

Start from your earliest memories and slowly work your way toward the present. Jot down name after name. When you think you’re done, start over. Do it again! Even slower this time. Think just a little bit harder. And get that list as fine tuned as humanly possible.

Finding The Hurt

We are blessed in this generation to have countless ways to hunt people down. Usually it’s as easy as a simple Facebook search. It doesn’t really get much harder than asking a friend of a friend.

Once you find those people, it’s time to pour out the words. It’s time to search the deepest depths of your humility to admit that maybe, just maybe, you had a hand in the damaged relationship. And it’s time to (gasp) say that you’re sorry. Not empty apologies to a group of people with no real substance or meaning. Not a vague shell of an apology to someone for whom you really don’t see any issues.

Only sincere yearning for someone to forgive you for the wrongs you have done.

Apologies: What Happens?

I took exactly this approach a few years back, and it was one of the most meaningful things I have ever done. By the time all of my introspection was complete, my list had about 20-30 people. There were a couple I couldn’t find. And some for whom I couldn’t eke out a response.

But beyond those few anomalies, finding the remaining couple of dozen was one of the most incredible and freeing experiences of my life. There were a few shocking realizations, such as people who turned out weren’t actually upset with me. Misunderstandings abounded. Sometimes things aren’t as they seem. Sometimes not even close. The only way you could ever know is to open up the dialogue.

The second most common response I received was straight-up, unadulterated, thorough forgiveness. The outpouring of love and understanding was so inspiring. It’s worlds easier to forgive than it is to ask for forgiveness. And once you ask, a beautiful process just pours forward.

Reciprocity

But by far the most common response I received from people was a return apology. The willingness to see your own culpability, and to reach out and try and put these life messes behind you, opens up people’s hearts. Introspection is inevitable. And a simple act of contrition turns into so much more than the original intention. Mutual apologies along with forgiveness is the best possible scenario, and it is touching every time it happens.

Obviously we all have different life experiences; however, so long as you interact with other people, mistakes and conflicts are inevitable. As the years progress, the numbers increase. The burden increases as well. And it becomes more and more daunting to think that maybe we should go back and revisit the past. Why can’t we just let it disappear forever? Why? Because it never does. All of our experiences, good or bad, become a part of who we are. What a unique opportunity it is for us to go ahead and flip the switch! We can take the many “bads” that happen over the years and turn them into something truly and unforgettably amazing.

May we have a phenomenal year of powerful connections and even more powerful reconnections.

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in judaism, opinion, 0 comments

Weight Loss: What the Heck is Going On Here?

weight loss

A couple of decades ago, I was quite overweight. I’m 5’6 and I was over 200 pounds. Not a single pound came from muscle.

I got a bit of a scare when I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and I worked like a madman to lose nearly 50 pounds. For sure, I didn’t exactly know what I was doing, but I enjoyed watching the numbers melt away and the clothing falling off of me. I was still by no means in shape, and I had no clue what I was doing, but my confidence was increasing and lots of things that had been ailing me for years started just disappearing. For example, I had been battling chronic heartburn since as early as I could remember, and now it had simply vanished.

All was well, but…

It would seem all was well. But life is a long, insane process. And every day is a new challenge.

I watched over the next several years as my weight went up and down several times. I got certified as a personal trainer and became pretty consistent about my fitness goals.

And several summers back I was in a weight loss competition with two colleagues. I won! If I remember correctly, I lost about 37 pounds that summer. When the summer ended, and I was crowned champion of our competition, I recall standing in my office when someone came in and left a box of donuts. I decided to reward myself for a summer well done, and cut a donut in half. I enjoyed the sweet, delicious goodness… and ultimately ate three full donuts… and over the next few months, I gained everything back.

After this incident, I resolved that the next time I would go forward and fight through the all the challenges in order to successfully arrive at a healthy weight, it would be for life. No more dieting. It was time to stay fit and healthy forever.

Sugar Addiction

It was very important for me to recognize that I’m an addict. My body reacts terribly to sugar. When I eat it, I just want more and more. In fact, I’ve noticed that when I’m eating sugary foods, all I’m thinking about is the next bite. I react with such horrific addictive tendencies, I knew my only choice was to avoid these products entirely. And here I stand, nearly three years later without eating cookies and cake and pie and ice cream. And believe it or not, I don’t miss any of it.

Cutting sugar out of my diet was a challenge… until it wasn’t. It takes about two weeks before the cravings subside. I’m not going to lie. Those two weeks are awful. It’s all you want to eat. You find yourself pulled toward the cupboard or fridge. Fighting against your body’s tendencies.

And then one day, the cravings are gone.

Now I can sit at a desk with a stack of freshly baked cookies right in front of me, and I won’t take the smallest nibble. It won’t be challenging. I can ignore it, and all is well in the world.

Weight Loss Plateau

But severe sugar reduction can only take me so far. As of about two months ago, I couldn’t seem to dip below 180 pounds. And it was driving me crazy. I eat clean and healthy most of the time. I exercise a lot. But that silly scale just wouldn’t budge. Further weight loss felt impossible.

And in the last 2-3 months, it budged. Boy did it budge.

For only the second time in my adult life my scale went below 170 pounds. I’m still shocked when I see numbers that low. And very excited, since it gives me renewed hope that some of my loftier goals might still be achievable.

Unfortunately, I often try a lot of new things, so it’s hard for me know 100% what’s caused the changes. But I have three theories, and if you struggle with weight loss, I suggest you give them a shot as well:

Time-Restricted Eating

I was watching this video and I knew immediately that time-restricted eating was something I wanted to attempt to incorporate in my own life. The basic theory is like this: Everyone, everyday should have a window when they eat, and they should not be eating outside that window. The clock starts ticking the moment you put anything in your mouth that impacts your metabolism (which very much includes coffee).

The eating window can go as low as eight hours, but in its simplest form should never exceed 12 hours. What does that mean? If you sipped on a cup of coffee at 8AM, you should stop eating by 8PM.

According to the video, this inherently helps. It’s your body doing things like it’s supposed to.

That might be true. But I saw side benefits right away. First and foremost, it was the only thing I ever tried that successfully got me to stop eating at night, one of the worst things you can do for your health. It also helped me to improve at not eating in general. In order to be able to do the system correctly, I would need to delay eating in the morning, which over time has taught my body how to not constantly crave food. In addition, I found myself getting fuller quicker.

And finally, the process has made me more mindful of food in general. I think about what I eat much more. I slow down and appreciate things more than I did before, and I often make better choices, because hey, why would I do all of this in order to still not be healthy? And so I found myself in every way making healthier choices.

Kill the Gluten

Certain things in my life have led me to severely reducing my gluten intake. Now I’m no wacky, Los Angeles hippy who thinks gluten is the devil. But in order to accommodate important people in my life with gluten sensitivities, gluten has become far less prevalent in my diet. And there I was, likely eating the same amount as before. And often eating very similar foods (rice pastas, etc), but with the pounds pouring off.

Now if I ever found out definitively that it is gluten that’s causing me to hold on to all that extra fat, all I can say is that I’m more than happy to cut that crap out of my diet for good.

Holistic Approach

Finally, there’s always the classic “try whatever you can” approach to weight loss. Drink apple cider vinegar or grapefruit essential oil? Sure! Why not?

As long as they’re not invasive or insanely expensive, and there’s a good amount of evidence to support the idea that they could help, I’ve been trying to get my hands on whatever I can.

Something’s helping. Something pushed me past the annoying plateau I was trapped on earlier. I don’t know what it is. But I’m grateful. Now let’s see if I can truly accomplish each and every one of my goals!

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in Health, 0 comments

Never Settle

Never Settle

If you’ve been watching for any amount of time, you’ve heard me highly critical of several aspects of the dating scene in Israel (especially in Jerusalem). I think single people are looked down upon, and are in many ways treated like second-class citizens. And I think that the pressure is far too intense, and it pushes people to make decisions they do not want to make.

I wanted to address another topic that feels like it comes up a lot. And the topic makes me livid.

It’s Time to Settle Down

In the Jewish world (perhaps to some extent outside), when you hit a certain age without settling down and having kids, people begin to look at you funny. This is true for men, but the amount of inappropriately aggressive pressure placed upon women is downright reprehensible.

And just to be clear, we’re talking about people in their early 30’s or even late 20’s.

And what happens when a person (gasp) is looking long and hard for someone they truly love and admire, someone with whom they can picture building a caring family with for the rest of their life? What happens when they choose to continue that search past these ancient years?

They are told things like they shouldn’t be so picky, or they should lower their standards or expectations, or they should learn how to settle with someone with whom love could develop later on.

If I accomplish nothing else this entire year, I’ll be happy if I found out just one person heeded these words:

Be picky. Do not lower your standards. Your expectations can and should be met. And never settle. Never, ever settle.

I know at times it can seem impractical. But not everyone meets the right person at age 20, not everyone meets and marries the right person at all, and more so than anything else, it’s best to do everything in your power to meet someone you truly want to be with. It’s best to find someone with whom you’re compatible, with whom you can picture spending the rest of your life. And even if you start late or very late in life, it’s best to spend the rest of your life with the right person, than a minute with the wrong one.

Why Should You Settle?

I’m trying really hard to understand the mindset of those who push toward lowering standards in order to ensure a quicker match. These are what I believe are three reasons behind their thinking, and my responses:

Love Comes Later

“Don’t look for perfect. Look for really good. Love can and will develop.”

Right… And next you’re going to tell me divorce rates are getting lower, and couples across the world are happier than they’ve ever been.

Fact is, not every couple is compatible. Some relationships are volatile, cancerous messes whose ends are inevitable. The question isn’t if the relationship will survive. The question is when they will finally pull the trigger and put it out of its misery.

The notion that any two people can put together a happy, healthy household is patently absurd. There isn’t a shred of evidence to support the idea, and continuing to perpetuate it will just keeping pushing people to make more and more bad decisions.

The base of a sustainable couple is shared values. They should NEVER settle for less. But after that, there are still plenty of things that should not be considered unnecessary. They should could be considered integral parts of a healthy relationship.

You could and should have lots of fun together. Lots of fun!

If you don’t, the assumption that you might one day have that is asinine at best.

Single is the Devil

“You’re doing yourself a disservice by remaining single. The only proper way to truly accomplish and enjoy life is through marriage.”

I’ve already written extensively about my feelings when someone insults single people or our supposed lack of abilities or potential for true happiness.

I think the concept is abhorrent.

And utterly and completely wrong.

Furthermore, it ignores the statistics. It ignores the reality of the world out there. There are many happy, accomplished single folk out there in the world. And there are many people suffering through countless terrible, debilitating marriages.

I believe there’s an agenda. Usually a religious one. The agenda is attempting to prevent behaviors others deem inappropriate or sinful prior to marriage. It’s fine if that’s your belief system. It’s not fine if you’re willing to let others make ill-fated, hasty, uninformed decisions just because of your own stubborn and dare I say somewhat outdated beliefs.

And even further, by pushing people to leave being single prematurely, you’re also preventing them from doing the single greatest thing they can to attract another great human being into their life:

Working on being amazing at being single.

That doesn’t mean sneering at the concept of dating or serious relationships. That means spending your days not hyper-focused on marriage, but rather focusing your full attention to becoming a great individual.

You are worlds more likely to never even consider settling and to attract an amazing person if you have spent many a waking hour bettering yourself and pushing your confidence through the roof.

Loneliness Prevention

“I just don’t want you to be lonely. There is nothing worse.”

There is something worse. Something so much worse. Please understand that being lonely while married is infinitely worse than being lonely while single. I’ve been both. There is no comparison.

There’s a lot I can say about the topic, but I’l leave you with this: When you’re single and lonely, there’s a way out somewhere. There’s hope. When you’re married and lonely, it feels like there’s no escape. This is your reality. Loneliness forever.

Having another person in your life does not equal an end to loneliness. But being in a bad relationship creates endless problems and solves none.

So What Should You Do?

What do I propose?

Wait. Wait as long as it takes. Work day in and day out to have a life filled with joy, growth, and accomplishment. Never settle for less with your single life. Never settle for less than amazing with your partner for life.

What if you knew that waiting another ten years would produce the results you are looking for? Choose the ten years. Choose it every time.

Never settle.

Never ever settle.

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in divorce, opinion, 0 comments

Adulthood and the Evolving Soul

adulthood

Ah, adulthood.

Filled with so many interesting changes. The most profound of which become clearer with each passing year. One of the most fascinating parts of adulthood for me has been watching some of my perspectives switch in ways I never thought imaginable.

I’d like to explore three tremendous ways I’ve changed as I’ve watched the years go by.

1) It’s Not OK to Hurt Others

With less than zero pride I can safely say that I was a bit of a jerk in college. I stepped on more than a few people along the way, and I did so with no fear of consequences.

But times change. People change. Circumstances change.

The concept of “burning bridges” is a forever shifting one in my mind. And it was highly shaped by an incident a few years back. I was sitting in my office and received a message asking me for an evaluation of a former colleague who was interviewing for a job.

So many thoughts flashed through my mind at that moment. This former colleague was in essence a boss of mine. And not a very nice one. In my estimation, he was not great at his job, and in particular I found his attitude toward me to be, well, less than welcoming.

And here I was. I had, to a certain extent, the fate of this man’s job in my hands. Just a few years earlier he was in charge of me, and now in a complete reversal of fate, all I needed to do was squeeze just a little, and I could have a major impact on his future.

Bi-Directional Burning Bridges

Most people don’t realize that the concept of burning bridges is bi-directional. You never know who will become important to you later in life. You never know from whom you’ll need to ask a favor. And when the time comes, you better hope to God you didn’t treat them like garbage.

For the record, I chose not to toss him under the bus. Although I also chose not to sing his praise, which in many ways just might be the same thing.

The primary point is: There is no one you meet in life for whom you should think of as small or insignificant, so much so that you can act with no foreseeable consequences. In the blink of an eye, everything can change, and the person you innocently mocked or gently bullied can hold sway over your life.

There is no such thing as a person to be discounted. It’s not OK to hurt others. And the consequences of doing so can haunt you for the rest of your life.

2) Stirring up Trouble is Not a Virtue

Alongside of such less than prideful aspects of mine in the college days and before was my flair for the dramatic. My drive and excitement about “stirring up trouble”. About creating a ruckus.

Truth and fairness were pushed aside for the sake of creating a visible and shocking presence. And I was good at it. It’s an unfortunate part of adulthood, recognizing that just because you have certain skills does not mean you should use or abuse them at every chance. In some ways, others may have continuously pushed me to use those skills for the wrong reasons. But I take full responsibility for any of my own actions.

On the other side, looking back at so much I’ve said and done, I pray every single day that I can place reason and kindness over such petty things as needing to please others, seeking attention, or “being right”. There is no greater affront to reasonable behavior than the desire to be correct all the time. It is pure hubris and does nothing to make the world a better place or to improve ones own character.

3) A Change in Politics

I think one of my most profound changes as I arrived into adulthood was finding balance in political perspectives.

When I was in college, I was a member of a right-wing Zionist group. It had a very narrow, black and white view of the political scenery in Israel. Which in many ways is easy and comforting. It’s a simpler lifestyle to ignore grey areas and just see the world through one perspective.

But it’s not realistic. And it’s ultimately childish.

Everything became exacerbated by circumstances. I lived in Israel through seven years of an horrific Arab revolt that resulted in countless Israeli deaths, including one of my neighbors. These events just caused anger to boil up inside of me. And this further prevented me from looking at issues with any semblance of nuance.

But a handful of events and circumstances took my viewpoint and threw it to the ground.

a. Teenagers are Teenagers

First was when I was walking along one day with a friend, an Arab who had converted to Judaism. We saw some Arabic graffiti and I asked him what it said. I assumed the worst. Hateful malice. Bloodthirsty, violent rhetoric. But no. Just a teenager professing his love for someone.

And in one simplistic moment, I was reminded that people were people. Politics doesn’t rule their lives any more than it rules my own. It’s just another bunch of humans on the other side of the tracks, who eat, drink, and sleep, just like I do. They are complex and filled with a plethora of emotions.

Just like me.

b. Parents are Parents

A while later I was sitting in the American Consulate in East Jerusalem. An Arab woman kept on staring over at me and my baby with what I could only assume was contempt.

After enduring the piercing glares for quite some time, she finally spoke. She apologized for looking over repeatedly, but she had a child the same age, and couldn’t help but looking over at me with my baby since she just missed hers so much.

So SO easy to misinterpret intentions, and project feelings on to others that aren’t even close to real.

c. Friends are Friends

Finally, I took a job in Kansas where one of my best friends at work was a devout Muslim. We had lovely conversations and an amazing time hanging out.

And it wasn’t until later that I realized he and I had far more in common than either of us had with just about anyone else in the building, which was filled predominantly with practicing Christians.

We had similar dietary needs. Our holidays were more parallel than I had previously understood. And our cultures were remarkably connected.

A few people throughout history created animosity and discord that wasn’t there beforehand and should never have existed, and we in the modern world continue to suffer through the pain of other people’s unnecessary conflicts.

 

May we all be blessed to grow and mature with each passing year. May we be discerning enough to see the folly of our ways. And may we all learn how to live together in peace and harmony.

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in Israel, opinion, personal story, 0 comments