Thursday, September 5, 2013


In the Jewish tradition, the new year is preceded by a month of preparation called Elul. It's a month to take stock and prepare for the two Biggies of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I believe you're supposed to make your apologies to those you've wronged, consider your missteps, think about your sins.

One day maybe I'll observe it, do it right. This year, though, I was distracted.

Rather than prepare for the High Holy Days, I was worrying about Ben's surgery, trying to breathe, and then watching him recover. That seemed like enough to occupy my consciousness.

On second thought, maybe that was my preparation.

With my anxiety about our MIA therapist, I was further distracted and dislocated from the Days of Awe. In fact, I was so fractured that up until I arrived at shul yesterday evening I wasn't even sure I wanted to be there.

And then a shift happened. Reb Irwin talked beautifully about longing and belonging (I recommend you read his sermon, he is so wise) his theme for these holy days. Everyone is longing for something and our people has a history of, in fact has made a cultural art form of, intense longing. Are we not the people longing for the Promised Land? Longing for freedom, for peace, for justice, and safety. He asked us to consider what we were longing for: was it love? a partner? some ease in our lives? He talked about what those longings signify: a lover = to be loved, money = safety, a good job = to be useful. He spoke of belonging,, connection, feeling comfortable in our own skins. All of this resonated with me.

Today in services, Reb Irwin asked us what was something we'd longed for and then received...and what the upshot was. Was it worth all that longing? What were the lessons we learned?

This has been quite the year. Ben underwent five surgeries. I had a spiritual awakening. Toby began ballroom dancing and preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. Harry began to take the reins of his life more firmly in his hands. And Mark kept us all afloat.

I asked myself: What have I longed for?
I asked myself: What have I learned from my longings?

Calm. Health. Happy, productive boys. Connection with my husband. A feeling of being awake and alive. To be able to use my voice to move people spiritually. To have some ease in our lives, some room for silliness and fun and play. Relaxation. Motivation. Contribution.

This month of preparation for the Holy Days was a month of worrying and breathing. Longing and reminders to be present in the moment. To trust in myself as a mother to give solace to my child, to trust in my child to know how to move forward in his own life.

This afternoon, I stood on a bridge overlooking the Laguna de Santa Rosa on the edge of Sebastopol. Mark and I were there for Tashlich, a part of Rosh Hashanah, a metaphorical shedding of what is holding you back, keeping you from being your truest self. (Originally, I believe the practice symbolized tossing away your sins from the previous year, but we cast it in a somewhat different light.) We stood on the bridge and sang "The whole world is a very narrow bridge and the only thing is not to be afraid." We stood there and thought about our personal impediments to happiness and ease.

I asked myself: What do I want to shed? What do I need to shed? How can I belong more to myself than in this past year?

And what came to me were these three things: Worrying, Self-Doubt, and Lack of Trust in Others.

Yesterday afternoon I felt raw and disconnected. I felt myself spiraling into a place where I could not sing or meditate or stop perseverating about things out of my control. And then today I stood on a narrow bridge and cast seeds into the water saying: Goodbye worrying, Goodbye self-doubt, Goodbye lack of trust. I am done with you all. Get out of my way. I surrendered to where I know I have been and I resolved to let those weights sink into the waters of the laguna. Letting them go. Letting them go.

When I got home I felt relief. I truly felt lighter and happier than I'd felt in days. I went out on the deck to take some self-portraits and I twirled around and threw my hands in the air. YES! I felt YES and YES and YES.

I welcomed in the New Year with an open, lighter heart. Yes, 5774. Welcome.

L'shana tova u'metuka v'shalom. May we all be blessed with a year of happiness, health and peace.