It’s that time of year, to take stock, look back, look ahead and have the most compassion and gratitude for everyone and everything around us.

I’m taking 12 days off from work (well mostly, yes, I’ve ducked into the office a bit each day, damn it!) to sleep when I’m tired, rise when I’m awake, set the alarm to see a lunar eclipse if we want to, and just cuddle up with my kids. Embrace the amazing gifts in my life. Breathe deeply and soundly. Prepare food to nourish the soul. Read books together under layers of blankets on the sunroom couch. And really listen to, and look at, the people whom I love.

This is true freedom: the ability to spend my time how I prefer, owning my moments. Sure, I’ve had a bit of pushback from well-meaning clients when I say I will be out of the office for 12 consecutive days. But really, the proper answer is: good for you – you’re making time for self and family! Talk to you when you return.

When I return energized and with renewed focus, with the kind of clarity and vision they pay me for.

True freedom, I have come to learn, is freedom from worry and conflict, from concern over how others view you. True freedom is being able to walk away from anyone or anything when that’s exactly what you should do (and not stay tied to a bad situation because of money or fear or codependence…)

We Americans are fond of boasting that we live in a free country – but we are more chained than many other nations. We immerse ourselves in obsessions and obesity to quiet our fears and emotions. We spend more than we should on items we never needed in the first place because, for a moment, it makes us feel good. (Until the bill arrives…)

We are more divorced than any nation in the world. Our children are more drugged. It’s not the best picture of freedom is it?

So this has been my last five days: a quiet Shabbat dinner with the kids and Dan, including homemade whole wheat challah. Asher and Eliana’s class holiday parties and a long day alone with Shaya at my hip. A Saturday driving around downtown Detroit – at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen holiday fair, at Eastern Market, at the Science Center.

A Sunday at home, hunkered down and cozied up, with a homemade dinner on the table piping hot. A Monday half spent at my sister’s house, six cousins running between basement and family room and kitchen, then half immersed in the splashing waters of the Livonia Aquatics Center. I took several rides down the slide with my delightful daughter. And then dinner at home, home-cooked once again, with my nearly 89-year-old grandmother.

Today: Hands-On Museum with friends, making toys and playing. Tomorrow: Planetarium show and an un-sleepover at Grandma’s house. Thursday: Mary Poppins on the stage and dinner as a family.

This is the meaning of life, these moments when we are together and we learn about the way the world works. The times we burrow into our coats and hold hands as we cross the street. It’s all good. It’s all very very good.

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