It was liberating, yet it was also isolating.

For the first time since my marriage almost five years ago, I embarked on an airplane journey alone. I have flown with my kids, I have flown as a family unit, and II had never flown completely alone have had the opportunity (thanks to wonderful in-laws and parents who have watched our kids) to have flown alone with my husband on a few occasions since our children were born.

But I had never flown completely alone.

It was a strange feeling to walk up to the check-in counter with just a leather rucksack on my back and a small wheeled suitcase. No tefillin bag slung around handles, no strollers to fold during security, no trail of wipes and dropped Cheerios following my path.

I stopped at an airport kiosk and bought a couple of magazines, a drink, some chips. No one grabbed the juice from me. No one spilled the bag of chips.

I found my gate, and sat down and listened to the noise and bustle around me . . . and felt an eerie silence in my own head. I looked at the time and realized I had about 12 hours of solitude ahead of me. Twelve hours of solitude, yet I was surrounded by people. Only, they were people I had no interest in talking to and who probably had no interest in talking to me.

The strangest part of it was that I was going home. To the house I grew up in—from childhood through to adolescence—the place I had looked in the mirror and seen me and only me. Since being married, I had only returned home with my husband and my children in tow, and I suddenly felt naked of a heavy security blanket. It felt almost as if I was being plucked by a pair of tweezers from my new home and little family, and being thrown back in time to five years ago, only with the full knowledge that those five years had indeed happened and much had occurred in my life during them.

As I sat there pondering the intense mix of feelings, I remembered a poem that I had written about a year-and-a-half ago:

Sometimes I wish,

I could go back to those days.

When my life was all about


When exhaustion

Was an entire day spent shopping.

When aching bones

Was from a hike up a mountain

In Switzerland

On a Europe trip.

The only people

I had to worry about

Was myself.

The only person I wanted

To satisfy

Was me.

The only needs I cared about

Were my own.

And I look around sometimes

At people who still live

That life.

A life of self wants



A life of carefreeness

Of liberty.

A life of picking up one day

And packing a bag or two

Booking a flight

And traveling to


And working things out


And cultivating

A self-image

Just for themselves.

And I wonder how it all changed

So fast.

Just yesterday it was


Running around the world.

Living life.

Pleasing myself

Just the way

I pleased.

And now I run my own

Little world


A different life



Two tiny people

And a strong man.

Just the way

I used to dream of living

When I was pleasing only


It was indeed a relaxing weekend. I shopped. I stayed up late. I woke up embarrassingly late. I took my time getting dressed in the mornings and applying my makeup before I went out.

Often, I found myself waiting for that call—for that voice of demand, for that reminder of responsibility. But it didn’t come because there was no one to voice it.

It was amazing.

It was awful.

It was dreamy.

It was scary.

It was liberating.

It was isolating.

I looked at myself in the mirror in the bathroom of my parents’ home, the one I had looked into many times for the first 20 or so years of my life. I scanned my eyes, my features, my hairline, my smile. It was all pretty much the same. My chin has become somewhat more pronounced through pregnancies; my cheekbones stick out more for the same reason. My eyebrows are a little untidier because I don’t do them as often as I used to, and my face does look a little wan after four years of minimal sleep.

But I couldn’t help but marvel at the reflection that I saw. The reflection showed only me, just like it used to. A 27-year-old girl (alright, woman) staring at herself in the mirror. It didn’tThe reflection showed only me, just like it used to show my husband, who is such a huge and pivotal part of my life—my other half, my soulmate. It didn’t show my first daughter—my confident, spunky, passionate, happy oldest. It didn’t show my toddler—my stubborn, endearing, adorable, demanding little girl.

Here I am, I mused in amazement, living, if fleetingly, the poem I wrote so strongly some time before. I picked up and left. I booked a ticket and got on a plane, and catered to myself and my own wants and needs for four days. I had no other worries, no responsibilities, no commitments.

So why did I feel . . . empty?

My mind has been playing tricks on me, imitating my children’s voices calling for me. My hands have felt rough, tingling with the expectation of a little hand about to slip into them. Even my words seem simpler, less weighty, less important.

I was this person before I got married, and I will be this person one day again, please G‑d, when all my children are grown and leave home. What is it then, this sense of being a stranger in my own body? Why can I not revert to the girl I was before and be content in that?

I know the answer even as I ask myself those questions. I know it as I struggle to fall asleep the last night of my stay—images of my husband and my girls filling my mind, and excitement and yearning to see them preventing sleep from taking its hold. I know it as I pack my suitcase and a smile plays on my lips as I stuff the little gifts I picked up for my kids inside. I know it as I eye the clock nervously on the way to the airport, willing time to slow down so I know the plane will not leave without me. I know it as I hand over my green card and tell the check in attendant that yes, I am going home.

This is what G‑d wants from me right now. This is my path. He guided me to choose my husband, to marry him, to love him, to grow with him and to start a life together. He blessed me with children who took over my heart, took over my thoughts and who, right now, I need in my life almost as much as they need me in theirs. He unified me with a new purpose, a new little world, a new mission. While I am a strong believer in cultivating a self-image of my own along the way, so I don’t lose sight of my own goals and aspirations, it is only natural that the sudden removal from this tiny world that I am so much attached to threw me into a sense of being in the unknown.

I am grateful for the realization that I cannot live without them. I am even more grateful for the realization that it’s OK at this point in my life to feel that way. I am grateful to Him for placing me with this immense responsibility, and I am grateful for the time I had away to re-evaluate my role and come to accept it with a new love and appreciation.

They all have a piece of my heart in theirs. As they have a big piece of theirs inside mine.

Just the way G‑d wants it to be.