Jessica SieffThis time of year, in the religion in which I was raised, is the time of year when we stop. Take time for reflection and introspection.

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Jessica Sieff: Taking stock and staying maintained in the new year

Published 10:31am Thursday, September 24, 2009

Two things it seems we could use a little of at the moment.

I had a few topics I was playing with and wanted to write about, but I couldn’t because the thoughts just weren’t there, the ideas weren’t ready to be laid out on paper and even as I wrestled with them, remembering just what time of year it was I thought to myself that it was better to let them be. There are some things … important things … that need to stew. Need to be thought on, not just of. Need to be kneaded and left to rise in order to take shape.

In this age of constant distraction and addictive, racing paces, it is imperative to latch on to moments that allow – not just force – us all to reflect and look deeper at what surrounds us, what matters to us, and most important of all what it is that defines us.

That is what this time of year is about.

As people and as a nation, it’s important – it’s necessary to take stock. Take stock of our mistakes, our missteps where we are lacking as well as where we have succeeded. It is the all important first step in this high holy day season of ours and the all important first step in making changes – be it to a national healthcare system or to a way of being, a blueprint of character.

And I find myself looking forward to what follows, the start of the new year, a chance to refocus and begin anew and try again and keep on keeping on. It’s about more than just raising glasses of champagne into the air and toasting to friends and family.

If the weeks prior to the start of the high holy days is to think and reflect on ourselves, the start of the new year serves as a sort of “needs assessment” period. So often we look to the new year as a time to define what it is we want. Rather than what it is we need.

Need. The word sounds a little greedy just when you say it to yourself. It has been mired with negative connotation ever since the very first child every threw his or her first temper tantrum after most likely mistaking need for want and getting whatever it was anyway. Ever since the first evidence of selfishness took it and turned it all against us.

Sometimes, to some of us, need can feel shameful. As if we should not dare to be so bold as to believe we should need anything at all. It opens a door to being misunderstood for vulnerability. As if to say to need help, is to imply we can not do for ourselves. As if to say to need freedom is to feel chained by that which we embrace. As if to say to need fulfillment is to be ungrateful for that which can not satisfy.

Need is so much harder.

But need is maintenance. It’s what we need to maintain who we are. And the fact of the matter is, there are just too many people out there who are willing and determined to take those needs away by putting theirs above our own.

It’s a new perspective on the high holy days for me, I suppose. Where on the surface it can look like new year full of wishing and hoping followed by a day of atonement to be asked forgiveness for all our sins…

Maybe this year, as we struggle to find our footing through yet another wave of economic change, political unrest, a seemingly growing lack of character on behalf of politicians, sportsmen and women, celebrities and even friends and neighbors everywhere, we can only benefit from a needs assessment.

The need for a new approach, to size up the people that surround you and a separation from those who shouldn’t be… The need for family values, for resolutions to issues such as healthcare and war and bad financial decisions that, regardless of position, are just starting to wane on a little too long. The need for strong local governments, not spiteful ones.
A new idea. A new way of thinking.

Once those needs are found, the most important atonement we can make, is the one we make to ourselves, for not having maintained those needs of ours sooner. For getting off track. For falling down, if that be the case. Atone, forgive and get back up again. Start anew.
These are the moments that change people. These are the moments that open up the doors for the most broken, beaten, disenchanted of us all – to look up. To be given the sight of a new perspective. To begin anew.

We could all use a little push of the pause button. To take stock. Stock up on a little faith and maybe some energy – and take the new year by storm.

Happy holidays.

Jessica Sieff is a reporter for the Niles Daily Star. Reach her at

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