New Year's Resolutions?
If you're confused, then you are looking at the wrong calendar.
According to the Hebrew Calendar, today is the sixth full day of Jewish New Year.
On Sept. 29, Jews all over the world commemorated Rosh Hashanah ("head of the year"). On this High Holy Day, we celebrate the Earth's creation, and we begin a 10-day period called the Days of Awe, which culminates in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
These 10 days are always very special to me and remind me why I so appreciate my religion. While there are some important communal celebrations, the High Holy Days are primarily a time for personal reflection, reassessment and introspection: What do we regret about our actions in the past year? Whom have we hurt or offended? How have we failed to honor our responsibilities to our faith, and to love our neighbors as ourselves?
Most significantly, it is a time to chart a more righteous path for the coming year. Unlike the secular New Year, in which some of us make resolutions to lose weight, exercise more or strive for a promotion, for the Jewish New Year, we try to self-analyze and figure out how we can better honor God, family and friends. We also try apologize and seek forgiveness for our own mistakes, while promising to do better in the months ahead.
As a recovering politician (six months, clean and sober!), I have a lot of atoning to do. So in the spirit of the season -- and of my website, which gives me and two dozen other former politicians an opportunity to recover by writing candidly about the system and the issues of the day -- I offer my own half-Letterman list of New Year's resolutions:
1. Recommit to my faith
Being the first Jewish-Kentuckian elected to statewide office was an honor, but not necessarily a political asset. I certainly didn't hide my faith: While in office, I even wrote a book about my experiences as a progressive Jewish elected official in a Red State, an inner-notch of the Bible Belt. But the extraordinary time and energy consumed serving your constituents is naturally going to distract from your time serving God, your synagogue and your community. My resolution for the coming year is to rededicate my time to my faith, attend religious services and community celebrations more often, and focus my attention and talents on ways to help ensure a safe, secure and peaceful Jewish homeland in Israel.
2. Focus on the most important title of my life: Daddy
A friend once suggested that I write a book about how to be a good parent while involved in politics. I replied that the book would be short; indeed, it would be a simple, declarative sentence: "Don't run for office!" While I exaggerate a little, I have found that my family life outside of elected office has been extraordinarily richer: for me, my wife and especially my two teenage daughters. While I constantly battled to carve out quality time with my kids during my political career, I've discovered post-politics that even quantity time doing frivolous activities with my daughters can be extremely meaningful for all of us. In the coming year, I resolve not only to remember that my family is my first priority, but to continue to back that up with action, attention and my full presence.
3. Share my opinions and experiences -- with candor
As I discussed in my inaugural piece for The Huffington Post -- in which I came out of the political closet to announce my support for marriage equality -- I, like a significant number of pols, struggled every day to accommodate my personal values with political realities. With a political system that forces candidates to the extremes, and with a media culture that portrays issues in black and white, it can be impossible for many officials to share their complex, nuanced views on critical issues without doing great damage to their electoral prospects. In the upcoming year, I resolve to continue using my various platforms to speak candidly about the issues of the day, and to help spur political reforms (through organizations such as No Labels) that promote a more honest and civil political dialogue.
4. Apologize for my mistakes and forgive others for theirs
One of the recurring themes of the High Holiday liturgy is that we must forgive -- and seek forgiveness from -- our neighbors before we ask for God's absolution. With politics often a zero-sum game in which no punches are pulled, there are plenty of opportunities for apology and forgiveness. And while I'm pretty good at taking responsibility for my mistakes, my record in forgiving others who've wronged me is poor. I've learned the hard way that nursing a grievance is bad for one's health and state of mind: As the proverb declares, holding onto a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. I resolve in the coming year to follow the example of my friend, the "other" Diana Ross (whom I profiled this summer at The Huffington Post), whose resolute faith and extraordinary strength enabled her to forgive the man who brutally murdered her daughter.
5. Battle my e- and i-Addictions:
While overcoming my addiction to politics has been a whole lot easier than I expected, some of the bad habits I acquired while in the arena have been difficult to shed. One area of great pride is my successful self-imposed boycott of websites that traffic in political gossip, innuendo and character assassination. My faith teaches me that destroying one's reputation is akin to murder, and I refuse to empower those who seek to build themselves up by tearing others down. Unfortunately, however, my Crackberry addiction continues to fester unabated, and has been exacerbated by all of the wondrous new devices that much, much too often occupy my attention. I resolve that as a first step, this Yom Kippur -- as I join world Jewry in a sunset-to-sunset fast -- I will also lock my iPhone and iPad into my desk drawer and abstain from all electronic communications. While just thinking about that gives me the cold sweats, it is a challenge worth undertaking.
OK, now it's your turn! Whether you are Jewish, Jew-ish, Gentile or with no religious beliefs at all, I encourage you to make your own New Year's resolutions. Use the comments section below, or send them to me and I will publish them at The Recovering Politician in our Resolutions Week next week. Just click here to learn how to submit a piece.
And may the new year be a happy and healthy year for you and your family.