Content warning: This article references depression, anxiety and ADHD “newly diagnosed” affirmed in my mid-30s
Journey back with me to the early days of the pandemic in 2020 — when I rebirthed my art-making practice with a kind of Jewish Artist’s Way.
It had been less than two months since I moved back “home” to Michigan and into my parents’ basement, uprooting the life I’d been living in Colorado to “try and settle down” back in my hometown.
As someone in my mid-30s, none of this felt good at all. Was I really having to start over and do the hard work of re-inventing myself again? I had thoughts like, “Why am I even here, what am I doing with my life? Should I just pack up my things again and move back to Colorado with little to no money, no job?” When depression and a funk comes in, even the simplest things like showering, feeding and nourishing our bodies, minds and souls become increasingly challenging.
As soon as I moved back home, I felt a heaviness in my chest, in my energy. I felt like I needed to escape my life. I tried to leave multiple times and envisioned myself just leaving Michigan and going back to Colorado. I needed to breathe. I needed the wide open spaces. I needed the majestic and welcoming mountains. I needed to run but couldn't. I didn’t. I let things sort out as they did and unfold as they did.
Around that time, I heard a lot about this app called Clubhouse that was essentially an audio networking app. As time stood still and also moved on, I felt more alone, depressed and isolated. The only thing that made sense was the synchronistic signs and connections I was making on this app and other offerings that started to flow into my life as Passover neared.
I began listening more to my “intuition.” One day, I hopped into a Clubhouse chat called “Sefirot Ha’ Omer” (Counting the Omer) in the mystics and musicians room. Every evening, we came on mic, counting together as a community to bring in this spiritual divine practice. I also randomly found out about The Tasman Center, another resource that deepened my understanding of the Omer.
The Omer is a 49-day intentional practice, rooted in mysticism and self-exploration that we observe between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot. Each day offers its own theme for contemplation and growth. It turns out that the timing of the Jewish calendar was following me and it was becoming even more apparent in my life.
Perhaps the practice of Counting the Omer was exactly what I needed.
I had the idea of doing some type of art-making journal to mark this time. The art room in my parents’ basement was the perfect place to start “creating” again. I randomly found a blank sketchbook. Every night, I joined the Clubhouse room to Count the Omer.
We would recite the nightly prayer for counting the Omer: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’Olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tizivanu al sefirat ha’omer.
When I started this practice, I didn’t yet realize how much I was going to treasure the stability it brought me during the unknown of the pandemic and of my personal transitions.
Around the same time, I was having a difficult time with my new position. I was feeling increasingly burned out, depressed and anxious. I was not unfamiliar with these feelings. I knew something had to change. I was “let go” from the position that was dimming me out and feeding into my intrusive, painful thoughts. Almost simultaneously, I received my “affirmation” of having ADHD.
I do believe that this was beshert — meant to be — and in ways, the universe was opening a portal, a space that I needed to step through and into.
As challenging as it was to receive this news, I sensed that I needed to move through the darkness, the depression, so I could walk back into my “calling” and what makes my soul come alive. I was orienting myself toward being able to create, to dream, to grow and to express myself through my art, Jewish spirituality, and my inner wisdom.
Through it all, I kept making art. (You can see everything I created on my blog.)
I started researching, utilizing other resources and text to help me come up with the imagery and storytelling connected to each page that I brought to life. I moved through the seven weekly themes: Loving-Kindness, Boundaries, Harmony, Splendor, Foundation, and Royalty. Something came over me. I became obsessed with it, in ways. It healed me. I needed it to help me get through the uncertainty of my life.
Now, two years later almost to the day. I am thankful for this practice. It has opened up my spiritual self that feels authentic, real and is not forced. In many ways, Counting the Omer Within has become me and I have become it.
I encourage anyone who is going through a hard time, a time of transition, to connect with this ancient practice rooted in healing properties. Maybe, this practice will help you come home to parts of yourself you’re also questioning. I encourage you to follow your intuition, and lean into the incredible benefits of counting the Omer.
My Moon Message, At The Well
Illuminate the Omer On-Demand Course, The Tasman Center for Jewish Creativity
The Omer Workbook, Gold Herring