Is “the clock” ticking?

It’s always been interesting for me that of all the 613 mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah, only 3 (THREE!) are considered chovah, mandatory for a woman. The commandments are split up into to general categories, commandments that time restricted and commandments that are not. The Mishnah (the compilation of Jewish oral laws) explains that women are not required to fulfill laws that are time-restricted, and they may voluntarily choose to do the laws that are not time-restricted. This leniency is granted because of their constant demands, children, the household, etc. Requiring them to do all time-based laws would be unrealistic.

Isn’t it fascinating? For a gender that time is so much of the essence, ┬áJudaism decided to give a break on exactly that issue? Women are not bound by time!

As I grow, as a woman, time is becoming more and more of an issue. What do I want to do with my life, when do I want a family, how will it all figure in, if I do this now how will I become successful, if i wait will I be able to have kids and raise them as I want to…it’s actually quite terrifying. I know people, friends and family who have gone through fertility issues, first and second marriages, first and second careers. Culture and society, obviously, play into this a lot. It’s more acceptable now to put off having kids, to pursue a career and make professional success a priority…but is it? I am sandwiched between modern culture and the modern orthodox (Jewish) culture. I would say that at least 50% of the people I went to high school with are married…and that is a conservative estimate. So am I late? According to a woman in our community I am; she once told me, “Nuu, come on, when I was your age (22 at the time) I had 2 kids!” Ehem…

Yeah, it’s a different generation, but different, in a big way, in that it is confused. Mixed messages are all around. Teen pregnancy, divorce, adoption, motherhood at 65, in-vitro at 25. We know we have options, but how can we hear our own voice over all the bantering, all the suggestions, all the PRESSURE?

It’s about perspective…objectivity to be precise. At the end of the day, time is an illusion. At best it is a social construct. “Norms” don’t entirely exist anymore, as far as I can see. I think as a woman who struggles with expectations, ambitions and guilt, the first and healthiest thing one can do is to just throw that clock away all together. It is a hindrance to creativity and a burden. We/I need to always remember that the world is wide and age is a number. This is not to say that one can just float like a dandelion seed ┬áto wherever the wind blows. My point is that life is not about reaching checkpoints in a timely manner. It’s funny, that game “Life” that we play as kids is just like that. You get a job or go to college, you get married, you buy a house and have kids…but we need to remember, that’s just a game. It’s not the real thing. Forget the checkpoints. The only way to have peace of mind is to be efficient in whatever it is you are doing. Live. Whatever you are doing, do it with purpose, with mindfulness and with love.

Once in college I went to career guidance to talk about and plan graduate school. I came into college as a naive, sheltered (very sweet) observant girl from a religious high school. I asked the career counselor, “so how does all this figure in if I get married? How do people balance?” She gave me this funny look as if to say, “You got plans to get married, hunny?” And she said, “I…wouldn’t PLAN around marriage. You do your thing, and if something comes up like marriage, then you fit it around what you are doing.” It was SO incredibly important that I heard that piece of advice.

I think the moral and my message are first, as I said, throw out that old clock. It’s meaningless, a waste of time and causes the secretion of unnecessary stress hormones (bad for the skin). As a woman I know I need to be mindful that I am living for myself and not for a mold or a norm, imposed by others or even by myself.

Just look for a minute at the mystical aspect of things: The soul is timeless, isn’t it? So what is age? A number…not more. And we all have as much time as we want to have…we are as free as we allow ourselves to be.

Chag Shavuot Sameach :)

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5 Responses to “Is “the clock” ticking?”
  1. Daisy says:

    Shiv,

    This is beautiful. I have come to believe that what you are writing about is incredibly, and sometimes painfully, true (when someone realizes this a little later than they would have liked to in life).

    The concept of time…being drained or wasted–what does it mean? That you are not doing what you are supposed to do? Who is to say what you are meant to do or be, anyhow?

    Like you said, it’s just like a game. We are often so focused on getting to a target as quickly as possible that we often lose track of our purpose and reasoning behind that “goal”.

    Some believe that wasting time means missing that step ahead, the future moment. I, personally, see wasting time as missing the present moment– not really being in that time and place. It’s about lack of appreciation for the breath that you are currently inhaling because you are too caught up thinking about exhaling it and moving on to the next breath.

    I believe that living a full life means learning to live with purpose rather than picturing a destination or a goal. Keeping your eyes and heart open for opportunities and the beauty all around you. Time truly is an illusion, and it can deceive us from reaching our potential by pushing us to check off meaningless deadlines.

    It’s such an important topic that we can all relate to, especially women who are often pushed to standards that include the “biological CLOCK” early on in life.

    Thank you for this post.
    *AHAVAH*

  2. Esther Nefesh says:

    I’m sure Zion would love to see that “age is just a number”. He’s been saying it for years :):).
    Joke aside, this is a great subject that you chose. Everyone at some point in life struggles with this issue. I’ll share with you what I think about this :):)
    How about we just relax a little and let go of the need to control and trust in the general plan that was made for us, with our input, before we came down here. The older I get, I realize more and more that no matter what we do, try and struggle, if we’re supposed to reach a certain point we do, and if not, we don’t. Struggle all you want, have the guilt, the worry etc. It’s useless. So, trust in the system and believe that there will be signs along the way to shape your life. We get married when we are supposed to to, if we need to go through in-vitro, we will, etc. We have to face that we need to experience certain things as an individual soul to grow and become who we are supposed to become.
    In the mean time I think the biggest merit a person can have is to have the ability to be happy with the process, accept it as is, and enjoy life. For me that is the biggest challenge.

    Love you!

  3. Asal says:

    Shiva Joonam,

    You are so on target. When I decided to take a gap year between undergrad and grad my unaffiliated Jewish professor assumed it was because I was getting married. Real reason? I was not ready for graduate school. I needed time to find myself- however cliche that is. I was bombarded with friends and family constantly asking when I was going to “get on with my life” and that ” you need to finish grad by___”. I have learned to live my life not according to society’s timeline but my own. Some people choose to buy custom made bridal gowns, I choose to lead a custom made life. =)

  4. Evelyne Bize says:

    Shiva,
    LIke you, I come from a traditional background – my grandmother married at 18 and my mother at 17, and in my old world anybody over 25 is considered unmarriable and a big failure and liability to her parents. Two college degrees, an MBA and a successful career, and my mom’s friends looked upon me with pity and incomprehension – such a nice girl, what’s wrong with her?
    Yes, I got married later in life, but not for a moment have I ever regretted my earlier decisions to get an education and to realize myself as a professional. If anything, it helped me to be a better wife and mother to my 3 children. My husband always appreciates my contributions to his business, and my kids – well, need I talk about 5th grade math homework that nowadays requires an advanced-degree tutor?
    But above all, I feel accomplished, I know that I’ve had it all, I have not missed out on anything, and that feeling is very empowering.
    We do live in a different world. There is absolutely no reason that our potential, whatever it is, should not be realized just because we are women. We can and should have it all! And you’ll see that an accomplished, self-assured woman attracts an accomplished, self-assured mensch, the time will come.

  5. mahtab says:

    very interesting points have been outlined, I quite enjoyed reading it keep up the good job :)

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