During my seventh grade class “Ask the Rabbi” session last week, one of the kids asked what I would do if I was not a rabbi. I quickly answered, “I’d bake muffins.” The kids were amused. I explained that I inherited my love for nurturing with food from both of my grandma’s and I would so enjoy the simple opportunity to just take care of people with delicious muffins. I have enjoyed baking since I was their age, and so the fantasy of getting a chance to bake all day, creatively thinking of new recipes, ah, well that feels like heaven!

In truth, I have come to use the refrain, “I’d bake muffins” as my expression of exasperation when I have a rough day. I recently came home late from a long and challenging day, and the first thing I said to my husband was, “In my next life, I am just going to bake muffins!” He laughed, lovingly supporting me as he always does and I was ready to let go of the day.

My husband Bob and I used to share a fantasy about our retirement: we’d buy a Bed & Breakfast in Vermont, where Bob would raise Alpacas and build furniture. I’d bake muffins and run retreats for rabbis, who need a break from their hectic lives. Of course, since the fantasy is intended to imagine a simpler life, it is just a fantasy. Owning a B&B is hard work.

Last week I went to a local tailor to alter a jacket. He is an older Italian immigrant who has a small storefront shop in our suburban town. He asked me for a deposit in cash – he doesn’t take credit or debit cards. I told him that I don’t carry much cash and didn’t have the money, but he was kind to me. He told me he is a simple old man, running a simple business. I told him I admire that he has a chance to run a simple business. (I thought, “I’d love to be just a tailor!”) With that, I unleashed something – he vented that he has such a hard life; I wouldn’t want to live his life, he told me. “Why?” I asked. “I have no life!” he exclaimed, “I run this shop all by myself and I have to work terrible hours and I never get a break.” I thought I was listening to myself at my exhausted lows for a moment. Then he said, “If I had a job with a boss, it would be so much better.” I chuckled. “If only,” I thought.

Many of us live complicated lives that can be exhausting. But simplicity may be an elusive fantasy. Maybe it is not just about doing fewer things, but about the way we construct our lives. Do we leave ourselves time for replenishment and renewal? It is not enough to do what we love doing. Just as my tailor loves what he does but hates the schedule, I love what I do and also need to find time to be “off.” How wonderful to just bake muffins sometimes. My tailor and I really do have a lot more in common that I thought.

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