As with most new beginnings, Rosh Hashanah is a time to reflect on the year that is past and make plans for the year that is starting. As Jews, we are lucky - we get to do this journey more than once a standard Western year, so I tend to take advantage of the opportunity. For me that means reflecting upon my spiritual journey during the Jewish High Holy Day season and the more mundane aspects of my life during the week leading to the change over of the Gregorian Calendar.
So, how did I start my reflections today? By building a bookcase.
I understand that Jewish law dictates that we be still, we study, we reflect upon the year that is past. That being said, living with a slightly developmental delayed son and my own disease, I also know that what may be right for the majority of the world is not necessarily going to work for me or my family. We must be flexible when it comes to plans - jubilant when we can pull them off and forgiving of ourselves when we cannot. OK - I know the second part of that lesson on an intellectual level but living it has proven to be a bit of a challenge to say the least. So rather than abstaining from all forms of work after sundown this evening and having a lovely roast meal on the table here is how my family's Erev Rosh Hashanah went.
I spent most of the day sick. Not sure why, but I have been sick quite a bit this week. Could be the reaction to the flu shot on Monday (I always get them) or could be that I caught something from going between two schools or it could just be allergies. It seems I ran out of medicine a couple of day so we got it today and I should be breathing better in a day or so. What this meant was that I was not able to chaperon my son's trip to the circus. Thank goodness for a company that actually understands that sick leave probably should not be monitored as closely as it is in some companies. Come on - if you, or someone in your family is sick, and you need to be there forced to come to the office isn't going to help you, your office mates or the work. But I digress. This is supposed to be reflections on my year, right? So let's start with how I reflected while my husband took my son to the circus (they want to go again, of course) and go from there.
The Method & Reflections
I like to work with my hands. I like to build, draw, knit, cross-stitch, stamp and write. For me having an idea and seeing it actually come to light is the biggest thrill. From concept to design to something you can hold in your hands - incredible. So today, my method of meditation was building an Ikea bookshelf called Expedit for our hallways. The prohibition against work did not begin until sundown this evening and it was 98% built by then. While I built the frame, sections and peripheries I learned that organization is important to me and that I have not done a very good job of instilling it in my life.
When I say organization, most people think of a house where everything in the place it is supposed to be and neatly returned when whatever it is used for is no longer needed. Yeah - that would be nice. May even make my house look clean for about a minute and a half.
Don't get me wrong - that is an aspiration for a great number for people and I would love it. But because of everything in our lives we have had to choose a different style of organization. For me, organization means knowing which pile the bill is in so I can grab it quickly and pay it. It means the toys are all in the corner, but that doesn't necessarily mean put away. I can find things in stacks as long as no one moved it over. But I want to start putting some order around the chaos - not a lot, just some. Thus the new bookcase with shoe holders, door cubbies and sliding plastic bins.
I started building at about 11 AM. My stomach had calmed down enough for me to build the entire case, no drill this time, by the time it was time to start making dinner. Instead I finished the entire project by 12:30 AM. Most of the case was built by 1 PM, maybe 2:30. It was the doors, shoe holders and bins that held me up. But it gave me time to think about things I would change from 5771 as I start 5772. I am not someone who tends to want to rewrite history. I live more with Carpe Diem than Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda, but I do reflect to make sure those choices I made were good for me and my family.
So far, I can say they have been. My son is beginning to thrive in his new school situation. He made art for Rosh Hashanah as well as a gift for his family and a card he crafted the message for -entirely. The card was a plan yellow piece of construction paper and said "Happy New Year, Mommy and Daddy. Love Sammy." And we could read every word. I worry about him so much. First he is my son so I have a Jewish mother's right but mostly I am concerned because of the dyspraxia and the pressure it must put on him because there is no way he doesn't know that something is going on.
But then today he built a bowling alley out of Legos. There was no plan, just his mind, and no architect, limited help from his father and it's functional. This little design of a Lego bowling alley was all his.
From this I realized, again, that G-d doesn't send us what we cannot handle but only what we can. Perhaps we can't handle it immediately, but eventually we can. And no - getting there is never easy, but you can get there.
What I will change, or try to change, is my reactions to things that aren't in the play book - like 11 PM sleep schedules and toys on the floor rather than in a bin or in a drawer. Those are my issues and yes, I would like to teach those values to my son - but it is more important that he get over being so shy in the classroom and that he speak with spoken to in the form of a conversation or that he continue to write the way he has been. If I change my reaction, perhaps he will change his and things will continue to go up.
Another thing I learned is that I cannot, cannot, cannot control my body. The most I can do is try to keep it from controlling me.
And as for my work, my writing. This week I received more than one encouragement. This is the time, the when I am supposed to be writing. I even have the whats - as in multiple. One trilogy (10,000 words in), one multi-season podcast (Pilot needs some revision, the story ark needs to be created for the season and for the show then scripts written before I start recording Season 1), and one story that is currently in deep development but sounds like fun every time I think about it. Definitely a message that I am in the right place, at the right time - my time to do this work is now - well, more likely sometime after tomorrow night sundown.
Today's reflection also taught me that the building where I speak to G-d doesn't matter, the conversation does. While I have known this for years - I tend to take notebooks to synagogue so I can write down what interests me regardless of where it is in the shul. I write passages from a service down to review later, I listen to music and writing down the stanzas that ring true for that particular year.
This year I may not get that opportunity to write my prayers to G-d. Instead I got the idea that all prayer for the High Holy Day s must happen inside a synagogue but rather, if you cannot make it to a House of Prayer, pray where you are. A prayer is just a conversation, right? You can have those outside of a Starbucks, right?
These are my lessons so far as taught to me by G-d during our conversations while I built a bookcase on Erev Roshashanah.
I cannot wait to hear my lessons tomorrow - either at the synagogue or at home moving items into the bookcase and dipping apples into honey depending on how I am feeling.