Altruistic Hedonism Reset: If not now, when?
After two dates, he called me “Hurricane Audrey.” Not the term of endearment you expect from a new romance. Yet, he was right. And he was Israeli, they don’t bullshit. They see and speak the truth. For our third date I asked if he’d help me shop and cook for 90 people for Rosh Hashanah dinner at my house over two nights. He did and then he sadly spun out of the category four hurricane of my life.
This past year, after my Dad died in February, I had an unconscious shift to embrace an ‘altruistic hedonism’ lifestyle. To embody my Dad’s memory, I began this frantic quest to bring happiness to others at the expense of ignoring my needs (altruism)….and have a hell of a good time doing it, regardless of the financial or physical cost (hedonism).
My Dad was the king of altruistic hedonism. He lived his life in brilliant color and everyone loved him (except ex-wife #1, my Mom). Careerwise, his technology transformed the global computer banking system, he drove his friends in his convertible Corvette with red leather interior, he hosted fabulous parties, he jumped from one hot woman to the next and he gave generously to everyone. That giant of a man, my Dad, was gone. I wanted to be him. And these last 10 months, dammit, I’ve tried.
I admit it, it’s been one hell of a fun year being an altruistic hedonistic force of nature. But now the hurricane of my life has died down to a drizzle and I’m left to look at my aftermath.
But I don’t want to stop and self reflect. I live a fabulous, meaningful, purposeful life! I don’t want to acknowledge my flaws and do anything about them. Other people are self-critical and beat themselves up. Nah! I have self-love dammit. Criticizing myself is a waste of time.
But stopping to take stock in my life, without judgement, is valuable. It’s what I should do at year end. New Year’s resolutions and all that. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Honestly, it’s not my first choice. What would my Dad do? Plan some wild, fun adventure and take a new lover or a few buddies for a crazy New Year’s celebration.
I thought about it, but then I tried on my sexy party dresses — they were all too small. And I looked at my fun slush fund. It’s at zero $0.
Fortunately my zen sister gave me a gift. She asked me to housesit and take care of her three snuggly animals for the week over New Years while she took her family to Israel. She and her husband, both Dr. Goldsteins, own the Center for Mindful Living in Santa Monica. Imagine the tranquil, zen environment of their home. Yup, then add in cuddly animals and a cabinet full of dried seaweed. A healthy paradise.
I said yes. And I committed myself to solitude to look back at this year, not only at all the crazy fun, fabulous ways I helped others, but at what cost to me. What the hell did I do to my body and my bank account and how the hell was I going to reign it in for the coming year?
As I always do when seeking answers, I turned to Jewish wisdom for guidance. My favorite Jewish sage is Hillel. I named my third son after him. His most famous saying is one of the core mantras of my life. It’s a good one, but I forget it often and have to remind myself of it:
Hillel says, “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
That pretty much sums it up.
Who am I? G-d gave me the gifts to help others: to raise my sons to be men, to help entrepreneurs to fulfill their visions, to help Jews find their soulmates and to a powerful connector. Now, it’s to be my Dad’s legacy.
I wrote my life’s personal mission statement when I was 17,
“To be a catalyst for positive change by educating and inspiring individuals and communities.”
Impressive, inspirational, isn’t it? Yet I forgot to write, while changing the world and people’s lives, don’t eat everything in sight and occasionally look at how much I’m spending. Oops.
Remember that Rosh Hashanah dinner I hosted for 90 people? Even with my Israeli lover’s help, it cost me $3,000. I made a lot of people happy providing a loving home and a gourmet, five course Kosher, Moroccan meal; but for a single Mom with a son in college, that’s irresponsible.
I came to my sister’s home to as Hillel says, to “be for myself.” To reset my life, to take time to reset the way I eat, manage my finances and reboot my creative outlet — writing. I want to embrace a life reset without giving up what I love most, helping others.
As I began to reflect, sheer terror set in fast. When I read, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” I realize NO ONE will be there for me. I am totally ALONE. It’s time to own it and embrace it.
When I got divorced three years ago, I was scared that I alone was financially responsible to care for my three sons and secure my financial future. But in the back of my mind, I had a rich, young Daddy who I thought would be my safety net. But he died February 20 at age 72 and left everything to wife number four.
Plus I’m not counting on a rich Jewish knight to ride in on his lime green, special-edition Mclaren sports car and financially support me. (Truly, he is the nicest Jewish man I’ve met, and he really likes me, but my heart isn’t in it).
Anyway, with all my extra cash this year, instead of being responsible to buy another property or invest in more cryptocurrency, here’s what I did, GULP:
- Took handsome, fabulous, dirt-poor men on luxurious, indulgent trips
- Took my three sons to Cuba for a week
- Lavished my sons with fun trips to NYC (including my birthday)
- Travelled to Italy for 10 days, 3 days alone, and 7 with a wonderful girlfriend
- Hosted 6 gourmet supper clubs with a private chef
- Hosted 6 Jewish singles dinner parties for 40 to 50 people
- Hosted 50 people for a second night Passover Seder with a full theatrical production of Exodus in my backyard
- Hosted 90 people for Rosh Hashanah dinner over two nights
- Hosted “Soul Sister Life Hacking” dinner parties for my girlfriends
- Organized crowdfunding campaigns that raised over $160K to help my friends dealing with medical issues
- Spoiled my girlfriends with lavish birthday celebrations and gifts
Whoa Nelly! Now, that’s what we call altruistic hedonism! I know, grief counseling would have been a lot less money, but also zero fun.
Yup, it was a really good year. Besides the core values of nurturing my kids, career, friends and lovers; I brightened a lot of people’s lives.
At my Dad’s memorial service, every person who spoke to me privately told me how he had generously given to them and changed their life for the better. I so want to live his legacy.
But all this giving and helping others could not fill the vast void of losing my Dad.
I hungrily gorged on the gratitude of my recipients. I got greedy. Greedy feeding my ego, eating everything in site and making and spending money.
But now I look at an infinity mirror. I’m 15 pounds heavier and I miss the time and money I gave away at the expense of myself. And I still miss my Dad.
Before my he died, I took daily stock in what I spent and what I ate. I kept a financial and food diary. The process of daily accounting for my life held me accountable.
When he died, I stopped. Totally. I lost control of monitoring myself.
I still took care of my sons, my company and home. And I occasionally tried to meditate and exercise (depending on my crazy travel schedule).
To keep up my facade of being OK, to process his grief and honor his memory, I began to write and publish personal blogs highlighting how I wrestled with his death and my demons.
I wrote for myself, but also for an audience. I felt my writing could be part of my mission. If I shared my journey I could inspire others to live a meaningful life rooted in Jewish values. Sounds pompous. Again Hillel writes the words, “Who am I?”
Who am I to think my own line of bullshit doesn’t stink and will uplift someone struggling more than me?
Regardless of the motivation or the content, I love writing, it’s my creative outlet. Everytime I write about my Dad, I feel close to him. The rhythm of forcing me to think and write is good for my soul. For someone who thrives on being with people, it’s intoxicating to find a passion that I can only do alone.
Yet in late September, when I started to travel seemingly nonstop, I stopped writing and my altruistic hedonism got even more out of control. Almost everything on that ridiculous list above, I did in the last three months. Time to slow down before I crash and burn.
Hosting another fabulous party is not going to make me feel any closer to my Dad. He’s gone. It’s time for me to be an adult again.
Now it comes back to Hillel’s final words, “If not now, when?”
It’s New Years Eve, no time like the present. It’s time for me to reign in the altruistic hedonism and indulge in self-care to reset the balance of my kooky universe.
So since I got to my sister’s house five days ago, I re-read “State of Slim: State of Slim: Fix Your Metabolism and Drop 20 Pounds in 8 Weeks on the Colorado Diet”, I bought a ton of protein and veggies, cooked up a storm, re-read the book, “The Prime: Prepare and Repair Your Body for Spontaneous Weight Loss”, upped my daily ayurvedic herb dosage, bought and programmed a fitbit, downloaded and began to track my food and exercise on the “MyFitnessPal” app, alternated my daily 5K run with weights, began to run sprints, obsessively climb stairs, walked Rosie the dog a lot, conducted a year-end accounting and tax analysis, reactivated and categorized my Mint financial daily tracking software and went back to sleeping 8 hours a night. Plus for all my Jewish singles events I love to host, I created the “Audrey’s Tent” concept and worked on my crowdfunding campaign to fund my passion project.
Whoo Hoo! I’m a reset Rock Star!
Bullshit. I’m in a zen bubble without work, kids, friends, lovers or travel to distract me.
What will happen Tuesday Jan 2, when I have my sons for two weeks while my ex-husband takes his significant other to Paris to probably propose? Then mid-January I take off to Israel for two weeks for my company’s annual summit, then to return to travel 2–3 days a week to host road shows to raise capital for Israeli startups. Can I keep up my daily diary of food, exercise, expenses, writing, manage the rest of my life AND have a good time touching and changing people’s lives?
I don’t know. But thinking my Dad would be proud I got my act together, will motivate me.
My astrological sign is Libra. I hate astrology and most kinds of fake science. But I like the symbol of my sign, the scale. Striving for balance. It’s trite, but it’s true.
I’m going to try; try to balance it out, try to do as much for myself as I do for others.
One more time … “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?”
It’s about balance. It’s about time.
Happy New Year! May your year of giving to yourself and others return abundant blessings.