In My Own Words - A new year by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

So long, 2019. Good riddance and don’t let the door hit you on the way out. In case you hadn’t already gathered, 2019 is not going down in history as one of my favorite years. I normally think of years using Jewish time; for example, Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the New Year for me. However, problems from the summer got worse during the fall and continued into the beginning of winter, so I’m happy to draw a line after 2019 and say 2020 is a new start.
Thinking about this reminds me of how artificial most of our time markers are. Yes, a year is a real thing: it’s the time it takes our planet to revolve around the sun. But there’s no reason that the secular year has to start in January. We could easily decide that June or October was the beginning of the year. In Judaism, there are actually four new years listed in the Mishnah: each measures a different thing. 
Sorry for the tangent: it’s easier to pontificate about the history of the year than think about what occurred during 2019. Actually, looking back, I’m struck by the mixed feelings that have risen in me after almost every event. For every bad thing that occurred, I managed to find a number of things for which to be grateful. That gratitude, which is not part of my basic nature, is something I’ve cultivated to not only keep my stress level down, but to create positive emotions in my life. 
I’m grateful that medical tests I had this summer turned out negative. Dealing with co-pays for two outpatient surgeries made me appreciate my health insurance. The $450 cost per surgery was far less than the more than $13,000 total cost would have been if I had to pay for both procedures. It also helps me understand why people wait until it is really clear they’re ill before having tests performed. That includes those who have insurance, but can’t afford the co-pay: do they buy groceries and pay their rent this month, or have the medical test? That’s a horrible decision to have to make.
Family issues consumed my fall and continue to be on my mind. The problem is that none of the choices were things I really wanted to do. So, I was picking the least bad option. What I do appreciate is all the people who reached out to me when they learned of my dilemma – offering to talk to me about the similar choice they had to make or to just be a shoulder to cry on. To my surprise, people asked me how I was doing. (I was more concerned with the family member.) They also suggested something I had never considered: they told me to be kind to myself. That’s different from taking care of myself. Taking care of myself can mean just the basics: get enough sleep, eat a good diet, exercise, etc. Being kind means not only doing something nice for myself, but not judging myself to harshly. I shared this with a cousin who is facing her own difficulties. When I told her of the people who’ve helped, she wrote, “They’re keepers.” She is definitely right about that. I am lucky to have such good friends and such a wonderful community.
Things have also been difficult here at the paper. Many of you might not be aware that we recently lost two clients. Advertising income is down as more businesses use social media for advertising purposes. Fewer people are reading hard copy newspapers. The idea that my staff and I might not have jobs is scary. The good news is that the Federation has been wonderful. We’re in the midst of making difficult choices, but the awesome Reporter staff have been helping anyway they can and the new Federation executive director has shown how caring and concerned she is. The chairwoman of The Reporter Editorial Committee has also gone out of her way to help fill in the gaps of my expertise. 
I am well aware that our lives don’t follow the paths we expected. The Yiddish phrase – man plans and God laughs – would be perfect for my tombstone. I think I must be on Plan F or G by now; I’ve lost count of how many changes I’ve had to make in my life. I may soon have to be thinking of plan H or I. I hope retirement will be one of those someday, if only so I can catch up on my reading. What I realize, though, is that being negative will not make things better (as natural as negativity comes to me). Instead, I’m going to end by using a variation of a motto – today is going to be a good day – that comes from someone I work with in my chaplaincy job. So, today, and hopefully every day this year, I say, “This year is going to be a good year.”