Today I read an article in the New York Times entitled "Why Is It Hard to Make Friends Over 30?" which discusses all the reasons why you have currently all but stopped making friends, and you're stuck with the ones you made in high school or college. It lists the three main conditions necessary for the making of BFFs (I'm not kidding, they use "BFF" in the New York Times): proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.
Which basically means that I'm screwed as I am homeschooling my three kids alone on a farm. But really it brings up something I've been contemplating lately. Once in your thirties, everything takes effort. I mean everything. If before you had a job, now you must work on your career. If before you rented a small apartment, now you're a homemaker with a mortgage. If before you focused on yourself, now all your focus goes to your children and their needs. If before you spent time developing yourself, now you have to carve out time for creativity. If before you davened when you went to shul, now you read board books in the playroom. If before you stayed up nights, some mornings, and on special occasions, afternoons, being intimate with your partner, now you have to choose between shower, book, dishes or marital time. And hanging out with friends? Seriously, who has time to hang out?
If you want your children to become independent, confident, caring, healthy people, you MUST be a conscientious parent who knows the difference between punishing and giving consequences, who feeds them organic food, who gives them the right circumstances for optimal brain development in the first three years of their life, and compensatory therapeutic activities for how you failed them those first three years.
If you want a healthy marriage you MUST make time for each other. You MUST put in the work to make room for another ego, another point of view, another set of valid needs. And you must validate those needs. You MUST keep your intimacy going; Never let it slack! That is a one way ticket to divorce-ville.
If you want friendships, you MUST make time for them. You MUST find somewhat like-minded individuals who's schedules somehow work with yours and who enjoy doing similar recreational activities. You MUST find a way to be vulnerable, but not needy; open, but don't overstep the privacy of your marriage, and if one of you has a lot of money and the other one doesn't, good luck with the awkwardness. MAKE SURE the spouses all get along. After-all, if your friend's husband is a douche, there's only so far you can go. One more thing, nowadays, everyone was raised in a PC society and people take everything personally, so DO NOT offend anyone! But ALWAYS be honest.
If you want to continue in your self-development, you MUST make time for yourself. If as a child you never learned to play an instrument, make art, dance or do other forms of self expression, then I hope you like to exercise, because that's about the only other thing you can do on your own. (Or you can spend money you don't have on therapy, trying to forgive your parents for never giving you those opportunities for self growth as a child.)
If by now you haven't found G-d in some form or another, it's TOO LATE in life to go to an ashram in India, a pilgrimage to Mecca, or a birthright trip to Israel. You are too old. You have a mortgage. And your cats won't feed themselves. So, good luck with that one. If you have found G-d, you MUST pray three times a day, but not at work, while cleaning your house, or watching your children at the playground. Also, TAKE YOUR TIME, don't rush through the words. DON'T pray by rote. MAKE it meaningful. Each time. Everyday. Three times a day.
It's time to focus on your career. You CAN'T work a dead-end job for the rest of your life. Find something that you love. Put in the extra hours, DON'T slack. No one likes a slacker. Start at the bottom and work your way to the top, but make enough to pay your bills and put away money for your kids' college tuition and your retirement and bury some gold in the backyard in case the economy collapses. And DON'T forget, it's not all about money. It's about job satisfaction.
Oh and MAKE SURE to prioritize. You NEED to live a balanced and meaningful life.
And this, my friends, is why I NEED to live in a Jewish Intentional Community. I don't think there is any alternative way to balance out all of these components in life. All of the above are MAJOR priorities in my life and I'm not willing to sacrifice ANY of them. But how can I possibly commit myself to so many things? I suppose there is some super efficient or lucky person out there who can work from home, have playdates with their kids' friends who are your friends' kids, get intimate with your spouse while doing the dishes and have extra money for spiritual retreats on the weekends. But I have not met that person, and if I did, I would probably resent them.
In an intentional community setting I imagine many of these coming together harmoniously. Perhaps I am overly idealistic. But I would rather that, than give up on any of my dreams.
1. Bedtime without tears tonight
2. My daughter calling automatic toilets 'magic toilets' that you can make wishes on
3. A great article by PopChassid that made me feel a little less alone
4. My awesome hubby for being awesome
5. No more fried food now that Chanukah is over