I had a client the other day who is at the stage in life where she is marrying off her children. With married children and grandchildren, she’s still busy. Her life continues to be nonstop. There’s no doubt in my mind that she feels fulfilled and grateful for her family andI admire her journey responsibilities. But it is quieter, and with this quiet, she has more time to think. With these thoughts, she tells me, she has come to realize that she doesn’t even really know herself or desires in life. It’s time, she tells me, to think about these things and figure out how to get “in touch” with herself. How to bring out her strengths and work on her weaknesses.

I’m not at her stage yet. As I listen to her, I admire her journey, but I ask myself, “Do I have to wait until then, whenever then is, to get to know myself? Who am I, and what is it that I want?” You see life, at any stage, is busy. We live in a world of seasons and change, but mostly, one must admit, one lives in a world of routine. A person can go and go and go, and never stop. A person can go and go and go, and never grow.

I see a picture of my mother, and I remember when she was the age that I am now. I thought that it was so far away, and it’s not. If you were to ask me to sit down and make a list of all my goals and desires, I’m not even sure that I could. One thing is certain though: I don’t want to be the same person now that I was 20 years ago or in 20 years be who I am now. I want to work on myself. I want to grow!

I think again about my client and decide that right now, in my busy life, I must take time to get to know, who ... ? Me. Who am I? What are my G‑d-given strengths that I can utilize to be a better person, a better wife, mother, friend? To be a better Jew. What are the things that I need to work on?

“I” in Hebrew is ani.

Upon rising in the morning, the first thing that a Jew says is Modeh ani lefanechah, “Grateful am I before You (G‑d) ... .” We first express gratitude for being alive, gratitudeI need to be without to our Creator Who keeps us alive. The word of gratitude, modei, comes before the I because I don’t exist without my Maker. I, ani, has three letters. These three letters also spell the word ain, which can be translated as “without.” As life humbles me over and over, I can’t do anything without G‑d, and anything is possible with Him.

There’s another aspect to the ain, the “without.” Which is, to be me, to get to know me, I need to be without. Without interference, without noise, without a cellphone, without anything or anyone—just to be alone. I need to disconnect and clear my mind, remove any distraction. I can’t wait for the storm to subside or for the quiet in my life to calm. I need to take responsibility for making time to tune everything out so that I can tune in.

Yes, life is a balance of giving and doing with receiving and being. It’s being on call, but it’s also knowing how to shut off (not just turn the phone on silent) and shut down so that you can meditate and look inward. I don’t want to wait until ... and so I decided that at least for a few minutes a day, I would make time for myself to meditate and pray. To have a sense of self-awareness and to connect to my soul, my goals and my desires.

I feel a different person because of it, calmer and more focused. Even my thoughts feel clearer. By improving my relationship with myself, there is a ripple effect in my home and an improvement in my relationships with others.

As the great sage Hillel said: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” (Ethics of the Fathers 1:14)