Embracing Camp

by Sheri Oppenheimer

For many women, Jewish overnight camp was the place where we felt the most beautiful.

There were no Spanx underneath our Shabbat dresses. We danced in the rain because our counselors told us that it made our hair soft. In the evenings, the mountain air would cool down our sun-kissed skin, and flashlights and campfires would illuminate us. Through all of the singing and dancing, do you ever remember not feeling like yourself? Worrying about what you looked like in your bathing suit? Feeling bloated?

Camp was an enchanted place where we came alive. As soon as we got out of the car and waved goodbye to our parents on arrival day, camp became a magical place where we could just be ourselves. The summer was an invitation to celebrate our femininity, to be authentic and to embrace exactly who we were. It was a chance to be perfectly imperfect in every way.

At some point, our Champion sweatshirts were replaced with work clothes and jeans that are too tight. Now, we’re working long hours, caring for our aging parents and our young children and cooking Shabbat dinner–all at once. We’ve forgotten how to embrace our imperfections rather than quell them, constantly covering our dark circles under our eye with concealer and adjusting our personalities to fit our place of work or our social circle. And not being comfortable in your own skin can be exhausting.

So what can we do when our spark starts to flicker?

Do something you loved to do when you were eight. Whether it’s watching a thunderstorm, jumping in puddles or playing with dogs, try to remember an activity you loved to do when you were eight years old and schedule an appointment on your calendar to do it. Sometimes the simplest pleasures are the best.

Get in touch with a friend you miss. Life is too short to miss people, and social media has made it easy to find anyone. No matter how long it’s been, identify a friend or family member you miss and get in touch with them. You’ll likely pick up right where you left off.

Do something active. Our bodies were designed to be active, but our busy lifestyles make it difficult to get the level of physical activity we need. Reconnecting with your body can help you reconnect with yourself.

Get outside. When was the last time you sat outside and appreciated nature for more than 10 minutes? And no, sitting in the parking lot waiting for your kids doesn’t count. Walk the dog. Plant some flowers. There is something sensual about being close to nature.

Find community. Studies show that people in the cultures who live the longest often have one thing in common: community. Eat dinner with your family. Join a new book club. Find a way to connect with people who bring out the qualities in yourself you miss.

Sheri Oppenheimer is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Ramah Darom, Camp Ramah’s Jewish overnight camp in Clayton, Georgia, which will be hosting a Jewish Women’s Getaway on November 4-7.

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