The Beauty of Atonement

dove_of_peace_312270When I was younger, I thought of atoning as primarily dark. It was about apologizing for actions I’d already taken, with the promise of betterment should the situation arise again. Making amends. Sometimes I’d grasp for things to apologize for, some years I’d have a list prepared. Oh the college years!

I’m not very religious. But I always participate in Jewish High Holiday traditions, and will always buy Chanukah presents. I don’t go to temple (unless to watch my nieces sing) or belong to a congregation, but I do my own thing. Maybe not as conventional, but it feels more authentic.

As I was doing my Rosh Hashanah hike and throwing Atonement rocks over Runyon Canyon, I began to see the beauty in all of it for the first time. I’d of course known the loveliness of renewal and beginning a New Year (even if in September) – but the atoning portion usually felt shameful. This year was the first time I saw the beauty of atonement, as it wasn’t so much about apologizing for my sins but rather acknowledging that I can be a better human.

So I made 6 Acknowledgments. Well really 5, and 1 bonus. Having said that, no offense taken if you stop reading here. Truly. Also I haven’t eaten, so babble is almost guaranteed. What follows is basically me putting my acknowledgments (and atonements) out to the universe in hopes of keeping myself accountable.

1. Be less negative. Get less irritated. This includes anything from being more patient with the cyclists and Prius drivers on the road, to exercising more patience when adults act like teenagers, to mustering up a smile when I pass a hiker who’s blasting music without headphones.

2. Get over insecurities. Really it’s enough already. I will never look like Jessica Biel or articulate like Lin-Manuel Miranda. Whatever voices I have leftover in my head from childhood (Don’t eat that! Chew on some paper…) need to be silenced. Life’s just too short to not feel confident in the skin you’re in.

3. Jealousy should have left with the Gin Blossoms. This one’s in tandem with #2. Again, it’s enough already. I’m not actually a jealous person per se, but I am over the “I wish I….” thoughts. Admiration and inspiration, good. Gratitude, better. Jealousy, never changes anything. Wasted energy. And at this midlife point, conserving energy seems like a much smarter notion.

4. Feel less lonely. Ugh, the L word. I recently met this beautiful, successful blogger on a trip to Mexico. When she confided in me how lonely she was, I was floored. How can this woman who’s lived such a big life be lonely? But then I remembered one of my friends laughing at me when I admitted the same thing. There’s a lot of stigma that goes with being a single woman over 35. Yes there’s plenty of freedom and fun, but there’s also plenty of not.

My reality is that it’s sometimes easier to enjoy life solo than constantly question if he really gets me. Then other mornings I think, Well he does get my coffee… that’s something. Last week someone said to me, “You don’t even like me, you’re just lonely.” The truth in it stung.

I think the key is to be happy and fulfilled with yourself, and then feeling ungot by others won’t feel as lonely.

5. Be more empathic. This one’s tricky. Sometimes I’ve got too much empathy and other times it’s non-existant. Believing that we’re all doing the best we can would be a good place to start. We’ve all got our own stuff.

Like when someone knows it’s your birthday and intentionally doesn’t call. Or when a good friend keeps expecting you to believe the same blatant lies. Or a bored blog troll spouts off about the vapidness of lipgloss. This is their stuff, not mine. And not yours.

Whatever drives questionable behavior probably deserves empathy instead of an inner-eye roll. It’s rarely personal. Know when to step in and support, and know when to mind your business. If in question, do like my favorite YouTube baby says and worry ‘bout yourself.

6. Live more proactively. Oprah’s got it right. Obviously. If I’m not living everyday with the intention of making a difference, odds are I will never make one. The lesson: Make your moments happen. If you’re lucky enough to have the present, start living in it.


There, that’s my list for the coming year. Apologies for the babble, but I did warn you. Good luck to me!

…And if anyone Jewish is still reading, Good Yuntif.



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