click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Re-Inventing Our Lives
Mom with a View

Re-Inventing Our Lives

Don't believe the women's magazines. Passover tells us how to truly re-invent ourselves.


It's a big theme in women's magazines, especially for the over-40 crowd. Apparently at that age, we no longer care how we look (and thus ignore all the makeup and clothing ads accompanying the piece), we no longer care what others think about us (leaving us very free to start anew since we've now lost all our friends) and we are no longer trapped by societal expectations (which is why we flee to some lonely, yet beautiful, spot where there is no society!).

All these things have been holding us back from being our true selves. We have also been trapped by our commitments and responsibilities (apparently after 40, we can throw those all off), by the children that still live at home, by the jobs that allow us to pay the bills, by the husbands that also still live at home. All these things stand in the way of true self-realization.

Each month I read stories of women (finally!) pursuing their dreams, and leaving a trail of broken marriages, unhappy children and unfulfilled commitments. As we like to say about Passover, there is a difference between freedom and license.

Apparently it is now possible to stay married, maintain a relationship with our children and still pursue our dreams.

Luckily, for future women and future readers of these magazines, a new voice is appearing. Apparently it is now possible to stay married, maintain a relationship with our children and still pursue our dreams. This is hailed as a breakthrough. Yet all these fantasies are so dramatic -- running horse ranches, professional scuba diving, writers, artists, mountain climbers. Is this what we've been waiting for? Is this the freedom that can only be acquired at a certain age? Is this how we re-invent ourselves?

I'm all for pursuing dreams. I'm all for re-inventing myself (please do not send in suggestions!). But is it really only accomplished by climbing Mt. Everest? Is it accomplished there at all?

I find that the things that hold me back from true self-realization are not the external circumstances of my life. It's my internal reality, it's those internal voices, it's my choices about my spiritual and emotional life. On Passover when we speak of freedom, it's not a political reality we are referring to, but an emotional one. We want to be free of the habits and behaviors that are trapping us and holding us back. We want to be free of inappropriate expectations, free from ego. Then we could really re-invent ourselves. Unfortunately a lot of women (and men) just make choices that reinforce our bad habits, that indulge our egos and name it freedom, opportunity, re-invention.

True re-invention is the opposite of self-indulgence. I would like to re-invent myself -- if you're not over 40 yet, you won't have to wait, and if you are, it's not too late! And I don't think I need to travel anywhere. Or spend any money (my husband will like that part!)

Sometimes travel can provide the perspective needed for change but the work is still done internally, slowly, ploddingly, without drama or sensationalism. We do need to explore our artistic side to make this happen. But the canvas is ourselves, our character, our souls.

I don't want to be a pilot, but I would like to be less anxious.

I don't want to join an artists' colony in New Mexico, but I would like to take more joy.

I don't want to sail to Tahiti, but I would like to be more patient.

I don't want to take up rock climbing, but I would like to have more trust.

That's the new person I'd like to be. It's not age-dependent. It's not limited by small demanding children or by large demanding children. It's not thwarted by marriage and may even be assisted by it. It's not as easy as a new carrier or a trip to China. There's no prestigious patent available for it and my work won't hang at the Guggenheim. But perhaps it's the only new creation worth inventing, the only one that will make any difference.

April 8, 2006

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 9

(9) Laura Teske, April 22, 2006 12:00 AM


Thank you for this wonderful article. I have passed it on to many women to read.

(8) Anonymous, April 19, 2006 12:00 AM

Less this, more that, but what's the goal?

Emuna, I've found a lot of useful insights in your essays. I'm one of those newly 40-somethings who feels a need to reassess and refine my goals. All your goals are defined as being "less" this and "more" that, but if you define your life goals this way, no matter how much you are of anything on one day, you can still be less of it or more of it the next day. What is the goal? How do you know when you've reached it? You keep trying to improve every day and then you're dead? If that's the idea, then even as you improve yourself, you have to look back and realize that you raised your children during days when you weren't as good as you are today; you made a life with your husband when you weren't as good as you are today; you never gave anyone your best self. One could never look back on one's days with a sense that one had fulfilled one's calling; one could only look back with a sense that one had not done as well as one could. I don't think that continuous improvement is enough of a definition of self-realization. Are we really living this life just to make ourselves better people? No, that doesn't seem right to me. We are called to do something, just as you are called to share your wisdom in your column. You can look back on the body of columns you've written, and the words of people you've touched. These are concrete goals you've achieved, and you must draw satisfaction from this. Women and men have ideas to contribute to society, and things that must be done. You obviously are blessed with much wisdom, and I'd love to read any further thoughts you have on the subject.

(7) Barbara Jehudit Michel, April 15, 2006 12:00 AM

absolutely great!!!

thank you for this wondeful article about re-inventing myself! It´s absokutely great and worth reading it and meditating on it!!!! This is exactly what I´m looking for in my stressful life (I turned 40 this year :))! I´m a very fond reader of AishHaTorah!
Chag sameach!

(6) Wendy Portman, April 13, 2006 12:00 AM

Thank you Emuna. While I am not a mother, I am a woman, 57, who looks internally for the ways I am enslaved and how I unconsciously enslave creation. Passover heightens my awareness and am grateful for the opportunity to continue growing.

(5) Leah, April 11, 2006 12:00 AM


Thank you, Emuna! How true. I am not 40 yet, yet they even have me labeled:"young-ish" give me a break!!!!!!!! Why do I have to be labeled-and certainly why? by my age?????? Helloooooooo! I have to ignore these labels and do what brings me fun-responsibly while not ignoring my priorities like you said. Thank you again, Emuna. Chag Kosher V;Sameach!

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment