remembering your strengths


This morning I was invited to Lucas’s school for “Torah Time,” an intimate meeting with rabbis, where together with our children, we learn the significance of the Torah. At one point, the parents and caregivers of nineteen children were welcomed onto the bima (the stage/platform), and forming a semicircle, facing the Ark (basically a cupboard for the Torah scrolls), we each had a chance to hold the Torah. We were asked to introduce ourselves to the group, to share if we’d ever held a Torah, if so when, and to talk about how it feels to hold it.

I didn’t want to be there. That is, yesterday, upon learning that this event was taking place, I replied to Lucas’s teacher that we weren’t religious people and that I wasn’t exactly sure what this event even was, aside from a push into religious schooling. So, I met with her yesterday, and she encouraged me to come, explaining that Lucas could, if we wanted, spend time in another preK classroom, or he could join us. “It’s really a parent child experience.”

Listening to the other parents share their stories, however short, felt like an opportunity that doesn’t happen enough as adults. That opportunity to watch people open up, even if it’s in a small way, to talk about their childhoods, to think back, to see body language open, to watch a room warm up. I love that everyone has a story, that a nanny with broken English, many parents raised Catholic, converted Jews, girls given the choice to Bat Mitzvah in the face of brothers who were all required, all opened to the experience.

Most remarkable to me was a moment when a rabbi talked about needing to remember how sacred the Torah is. She wasn’t speaking at us, but was sharing herself, her own need as someone who handles the Torah as often as she does, to remind herself of the history, the hands—and lives—in history who’ve touched these same scrolls before her. Just then, as she mouthed the words, I felt myself nodding. What a wonderful reminder, to hear from people who’ve maybe never held one, to listen to them tell you that holding a Torah feels like a hug, a child, a comfort, a part of something bigger.

In that moment, I thought of my writing. I’ve been circling this idea for the past two weeks, that since fourth grade I knew I wanted to be a writer, to spend the rest of my life “doing just this,” and then “it happened,” I was published, and that strong longing to be validated as a writer, that hunger to prove something, that eagerness to write, it stopped—just as a film ends the moment the central question is answered (Who will she choose, the good boy or the bad boy?). The hunger abated but the instinct to write, that natural reaction, is still there.

I know it because the other night, as I shared a cozy night among new friends, women sharing their stories of heartache, marital strife, and ex-wife woes, I kept thinking, “This would make a great premise,” or “I love your meet cute! I’m totally stealing that.” I wasn’t putting pressure on myself; it’s just my instinct, what I’m naturally drawn to do. That next morning, I awoke with a flood of ideas, beginnings of something.

And then today, as I heard the rabbi speak of that inclination to be desensitized, to take things for granted, it just clicked. That’s what I’ve been doing with my talent. I haven’t been valuing it, haven’t nurtured it, respected it. I believed that maybe there was something else I should be doing. And maybe that’s true. Nothing is keeping me from doing whatever it is I’m drawn to do, but I’ve been keeping me from fully valuing and appreciating my innate talents. I’ve taken my own strengths for granted.

I’m blessed today for having paid attention to my surroundings, for grabbing this meaning from a semicircle of preschool parents. And I’m sharing it with you to bring it top of mind for you, that you were born with distinct strengths, and it’s your responsibility to continue to discover and develop them. Maybe it will even help if you “play” along… what’s one strength you remember having as a child?



  1. As a child I would spend hours and hours drawing in my sketch book. I haven’t done it in years (although I still am drawn to paper and notepads and coloured pencils..) but I see my own daughter (13) now spending time sketching and drawing. I’ve bought her artist’s pencil crayons and sketch pencils and sketch books for Christmas hoping that she’ll keep on going. She’s so good!

    This was a great post Stephanie.

  2. I remember being good at drawing. That skill didn’t carry over into adulthood, I can tell you!

    I guess what I’ve always excelled at is arguing my case. People told me to study the law, but I just wasn’t into it. I guess that’s what I’ve gravitated to with my blog though,to some extent.

    It’s good to share, thanks for making us all take a moment!

  3. I’ll give you two.
    1. I was great at finding things. Once, my dad lost his Daytimer (the iPhone of the 80’s, if you will). He lived and died by that thing, and it was a huge problem to have lost it. I found it. Another time, my mom lost a diamond earring. I found it in the car.
    2. To this day, I’m wicked creative. As a kid, I used to watch all my favorite sitcoms (Growing Pains, anyone?) and find ways to insert myself into each show, for multiple episodes.

  4. This was a great post, and really something I needed to hear at this moment in my life. I am an attorney, which is something I always wanted to be, and which best uses my talents. Unlike most lawyers, I actually love what I do.

    However, I had a baby six months ago, and while I do not want to be a stay at home mom, I am finding myself struggling to be engaged in my work. Being a mom has taken over my every thought, and I feel like I’m losing myself. I have also seen my work decline recently (I own the law firm, so work comes in when my partner and I work for it), and I am struggling to get the motivation to network and bring in new clients. I have been feeling a little lost lately.

    I think I need to remind myself that I am damn good at this and I need to keep it going. So, thanks for the reminder. Here’s a question for you and other moms, though. Is it normal for priorities to shift so much that your career takes a back seat? Is it possible to realign things so the baby is still number one but you don’t lose yourself and your work in the process? Or am I just screwed?

  5. Good post!! I like that it is pre new year/resolution thing..
    HOW do you stay skinny when you are a food obsessed person? Seriously. I know you hate the gym. And you drink socially too.. ARGH!

  6. When I was a child (nerd alert) I was extremely organized. For some reason, as an adult, I am not as organized anymore and I sort of miss it. I really miss it at 6:30 in the morning when I cannot find shoes, my phone, or a watch to save my life.

    P.S. You look fantastic!

  7. I’m gonna pass on the ‘childhood strengths’ question and instead ask one. When you say you aren’t religious people, do you mean just you? Or you and Phil? Are you going to raise your children Jewish?

    I only ask because it’s something I’m thinking about with regards to my kids. While I don’t want to force anything, I do want to enrich them.

  8. What a sweet picture. So excited that you found the “it” you’ve been looking for. It really is harder to find than most people would realize.

  9. I used to take a picture of every single animal at the zoo, I loved it. I loved looking at old pictures of my family members, pictures of this, that, etc. Not until I showed someone one of my photos and they said it looked like a postcard that I thought wow, that felt good, maybe I should continue this…
    Now, I’m working to become a full-fledged nature photographer. I still take a picture of every single animal at the zoo, even though I never do anything with them!

  10. Being creative and crafty. Sewing dresses and bags with my mom. Beading, making jewelry. I’ve recently circled back to this and made some stuff for my house, and have bought a project center so I can have my sewing stuff close at hand – so I can bring out some appliques and some scraps and make an embellished onesie without thinking to myself “That would be so fun to do but I’d have to drag out the machine, etc….”

  11. great post – i love how lessons can happen anywhere, at any time, and you never get to choose when you learn them. good thing you’re keeping open to the universe – at first you didn’t want to go to the event but the talk with lucas’ teacher nudged you on b/c there was a gift there waiting for you. just continue to be open – really open – to all of life’s possibilities while nurturing your incredibly talent and you will get to where you are going next! i can’t wait to see where it will be!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.