“Please excuse any typos & brevity, I am probably typing while holding the twins” was the closing signature of my email for the past seven years. According to many of my friends, family and even strangers receiving emails from me, I was about five years overextended in allowing myself to use my twins to defend my typos and brevity.

Then one fineI sent out an email and noticed that my signature was gone November morning, I sent out an email and noticed that my signature was gone. It was replaced by our new Chabad Intown logo (which is awesome, by the way), my name, my position at Chabad, my cell number and nothing else.

I froze.

My children were on my case “Mom, the twins are 7, and if they are still on your lap, it’s a problem!” So with my half-hearted approval, my husband made the update.

I had forgotten about agreeing to this change. Now staring at my computer was the glaring void.

My armor was gone. I was exposed. I felt vulnerability emerge from within my subconsciousness like a deep-sea diver swimming up for air.

It was such a nuanced change in my daily mode of communication, yet it’s symbolism for me was raw. Like ripping off a long-stuck Band-Aid.

Upon reflection, I realized that not having this short concise line excusing myself for any typos or brevity was overwhelming because I was holding on to the protection I had attached to its meaning. Removing my tag line was taking away my reason for being imperfect (as if I needed one).

Assigning blame to my twin babies, toddlers and now school-age children in order to protect against my own grandiose expectations of what I thought was required of me was not the first time I had used motherhood as a justification to avoid being vulnerable.

Twelve years ago, after I gave birth to my fifth child, I suffered with debilitating pains in my upper body. Those pains should have prevented me from nursing this baby, yet with the help of strong meds and my supportive friend-lactation-consultant-doula, I persevered.

When my baby was a few months old, I was sitting at the pool of another friend while her mother, a natural healer, started massaging my shoulders as I held my baby on my lap, watching the other children swim. The healer was holding onto both of my shoulders when she told me that I was filled with anger, and that was why I was in so much physical pain.

Anger? Was she kidding me? I had a healthy infant, a loving husband, four additional adorable children and a minor crisis of health. What could I possibly be angry about? Such strong language. I was taken aback. Incredulous even. My dismissiveness of her prognosis would only intensify.

“Dena, you are angry that you are not pregnant.”

I literally sputtered and spit out my drink, and laughed in her face. “Are you kidding? My pregnancies are so hard, and I love my newborns. Why would I be angry about that?!”

At this point, I was thinking about all the legitimate reasons I could be angry. One of them was her ludicrousness.

And then she laid it bare for me. “You are angry that now you have to show up, you are not pregnant anymore, and so there are expectations of you. And you have no blatant excuse for your shortcomings.”

The lightbulb wentThe lightbulb went on, and it was blinding on, and it was blinding. For the first time, I had an inkling into my inability to express helplessness, which fueled my desire to armor up.

My children. My motherhood. All virtuous. All weighty. All armor. Protection. To hide my flaws, my imperfections and absolving me from having to show up.

For me, showing up means being fully present. Which includes being friendly, making conversation, asking questions, taking an interest in someone else’s life, showing empathy and providing counsel. And then, of course, there is all the actual work—directing the preschool, teaching, arranging programming, having to physically show up and on time. I have learned that all of these things are hard. Hard for me and hard for many.

But instead of permission to fail and acknowledging that I was actually doing my best with normal limitations and inadequacies, I armored up.

While pregnant, nursing or holding twins, I could show up on my terms. Using all of my tiny humans as an excuse for my shortcomings. I acknowledge that nobody was demanding perfection from me. I am fully responsible for the demands I was placing on myself.

What was most striking as I recognized personal accountability and vulnerability surface in my consciousness was the fact that on this day, towards the evening my daughter would be going on her first date.

I took a deep breath, and I knew that I was ready to let it all go.

The protection.

The armor.

The excuses.

“Wholehearted living is about engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’” — Brene Brown

My daughter was ready for this next step, and I wanted to be there with her, wholeheartedly.

This was a momentous time in her life, and I would be fully present.

The symbolism was profound. It was my fiddler on the roof, sunrise-sunset moment.

It says in the Talmud, Kli maleh einoh machzik, kli rekon machzik: “A full vessel doesn’t hold, an empty vessel holds.” I would empty myself of all the self-judgment and protection, and make room for the blessings.

This was a long timeI wanted to be there with her, wholeheartedly in coming, but I was now prepared for perhaps the most vulnerable process of my life. The process known colloquially as “entering shidduchim,” where thoughtfully arranged dating is filled with the hopefulness of commitment and then marriage.

Vulnerable, because a few weeks earlier my husband and I willingly submitted ourselves to painstaking in-depth analysis, research and scrutiny of our family and our child. We did this when we asked my mother to reach out to a family friend, wondering if she would set our daughter up on a date with her nephew. I know about this extensive fact-finding because we were busy with the same process when we set out to find out about the young man and his family. This is generally how the shidduch process works.

When a young man or woman is ready to start dating, their parents look for a suitable suitor, but the decision to continue dating or not—and the commitment to get married—is entirely up to the young couple.

I had been told that the experience of setting your child up to date is humbling. It is humbling to remove your armor, your protections and expose yourself to the elements of rejection and judgement. Another family would be evaluating my child, and our family to make a judgement call about what was best regarding their child.

When you inquire to find out if the other family would agree to have their child meet yours, it is wide-open exposure. I cannot imagine mastering that with the delusion of an armor of confidence. All of the armoring up would never be enough.

I had to have conviction that we are enough.

This process ofAll of the armoring up would never be enough taking off your shield and taking down your defenses while bringing your authentic self forward isn’t easy. It requires humility and faith. As my husband repeatedly reminds me, “Let go and let G‑d.”

This is not a defeatist position, but a commitment to recognizing that despite your efforts and good intentions, it is G‑d who runs the world. This is the best kind of humbling. To be humbled by G‑d’s goodness, kindness and revealed help to your own Herculean efforts.

I am so grateful for the clarity shown to me on that fateful day as I hit “send” on my email. When the doorbell rang, I stood wholeheartedly with my husband and daughter, ready to meet the young man that she would be leaving with on her first date.


This is the young man she is now engaged to marry.

Mazal tov!