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Remembering ... With a Little Digital Help

The time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur offers one mom a chance to reflect

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Photograph by Getty Images

About this time last year, I saw this notice in the weekly email bulletin I get from my Jewish congregation.

The 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a heightened time of reflection, introspection and questioning. To help facilitate the process, sign up for 10Q from Reboot: 10 Days. 10 Questions. Answer one question per day in your own online 10Q space. One year later, your answers will be returned to you. 10Q begins September 28.”

I’m a journalist by trade, which means I’m usually the one asking questions. Someone asking me questions? And then giving me my own answers back a year later? That intrigued me. I clicked the link and entered the 10Q world (10Q is a pretty basic website that stores the answers to 10 questions so you can be reminded each year what was important to you last year.)

A year later, the words ... remind me of things I’d forgotten—like how shaken up I was by the death of my grandmother.

Now, just to give non-Jews a little bit of background, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as the High Holy Days (they fall in either September or October, as the Jewish year follows a primarily lunar calendar)

Rosh Hashanah is the New Year, when we celebrate fresh starts and make resolutions for the upcoming 12 months. Yom Kippur, which follows a week and a half later, is the Day of Atonement, when you are supposed to fast from sundown to sundown, and reflect on the sins you committed in the previous year, and the improvements you will make in the new year that lies ahead of you.

Like many people, I’ve got a busy life: a husband, three school-age kids, freelance work, a dog, a household, volunteer commitments that are sometimes more than I can manage. So although ideally I would use the High Holy Days to reflect and regenerate, in truth I’m just happy to get to services in one piece.

But 10Q helped me process, despite myself. Day by day, I answered the questions that arrived in my inbox. When I finished, I’d click “Save” and whoosh—they’d whisk away to what the website bills as a “locked online vault.” And now, a year later, the words I wrote, that 10Q delivered back to me in an email on September 10, remind me of things I’d forgotten—like how shaken up I was by the death of my grandmother:

“She was 107, and it was definitely time [I wrote last year]. She died on Aug. 19, after at least 6 weeks of severe decline and a couple not-so-great years. Still, it was hard to let her go. I'm surprised by how much I miss her. Not the woman who was in that nursing home these last two years, but the wonderfully vibrant woman I grew up with. I wish I could pick up the phone and have her say, "Hello, darling." I realized that no matter how old a family member is when they die, it's still sad for you because you miss them. It's still a loss. And it's still hard to think and talk about.”

There were also some nice surprises. I wanted to lose 5-10 pounds - well, because I cut out gluten in January to help manage my migraines, I ended up losing 8 pounds. An unexpected victory. And I wanted to get more freelance work, which I did when I started writing for this website in the spring. Of course, I planned to work on my novel-that-is-always-in-progress. I did get about 80 pages in, but then had to backtrack when I realized I did not know my main character well enough. Happily, there’s always next year...

It’s September again, and I’m smack in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, answering one question a day, for 10 days. Most of the time, I feel like my answers are dumb or patently obvious, but I keep on going. Who knows what I’m going to want to remember next year?

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