by Elana Rivel
I still remember when my mom turned forty.
My dad held a party for her in our home. My mom, in her radiant beauty (complete with perm), surrounded by friends.
Playful and loving.
In photos, I was her spitting image.
I could only hope to be like her when I turned forty.
Her forties became a time of great strength for her as she made difficult decisions that allowed her to be true to her self.
I always imagined that figuring out who you were, while raising four children, could not be an easy balance.
But I appreciated the model she set for us of prioritizing family and traditions in addition to the self.
My sister, just two and a half years older than I,
Another role model. Always an inspiration.
Her forties have also been a time of change and growth.
She too has made difficult, but significant decisions and has become
One of the strongest people I know.
Mom to three, graduate student, professional and athlete. Inspiring.
I do not believe that it is coincidence
that for both of these amazing women in my life,
these changes came in their forties.
Their lessons of perseverance,
of knowing you who you (or being willing to find out)
and of having the strength to do so as gracefully as you can
are not lost on me.
So as I plod along in this decade
I can say
I am happier than ever before.
I am able to speak up for myself, and know when to pull back.
I am in a relationship with a true partner in life, who, after 20 years of marriage has grown and changed with me, and separately from me. But continues to love me for who I am. Today.
He feeds me, my desires and my soul. And I am sated.
I have made two beautiful children who, before my very eyes are growing up into young adults who I would be pleased to meet and get to know even if they weren’t mine.
Even when I struggle as a parent, I am confident that I can tell them so. That parenting is hard.
And that parenting is one of the most awesome things you can do.
And I believe they are no worse for knowing. And that they believe me.
I have family, more in number than my age, of siblings, in-laws, parents, nieces, nephews and cousins, between the ages of 1-77.
Each of them share a piece of my heart.
Each of them expand my understanding of my world.
And of myself.
I have friends, both old and new, who revel in the time we spend together.
Who want to hear what I have to say.
Who serve as confidants and play mates.
Who remind me who I was. And who I am.
I am part of many communities that welcome what I have to offer
and provide me with both spiritual and physical nourishment.
I have breadth and depth of knowledge to share and am not intimidated by what I do not know.
I have a body complete with imperfections, and I know that it’s perfect.
It has pushed me across finish lines I could not imagine crossing
And has strength I did not know it would have.
It allows me to be present.
I do not know what comes next.
Change may be around the corner.
And it may be down the road. But I can say
Bring it on.
I’m Ready for it.
I’m Willing to take chances.
Those before me have shown me that
I most certainly have the strength to take it on.
Elana Rivel is the Associate Director of Jewish Learning Venture. Over the last 25 years, Elana has worked in Jewish organizations across the spectrum of movements, geographic locations, and experiences, providing her with a wide-range of context for the work she does at Jewish Learning Venture. At the agency, Elana works with the program staff to strengthen individuals, institutions and the greater Jewish community. In May, 2013 she was recognized with a Professional of Excellence, Change Agent award from the Tri-State Jewish Professionals Organization. Elana was a member of the pilot cohort of the Jim Joseph Foundation Fellowship, delving into the use of text and technology for building online communities. Elana received her M.Ed from The University of Judaism (now American Jewish University) and a B.A. in Near East and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University.