My 3 1/2 loyal readers may have noticed that this is my first post in a month. There are a number of reasons, chief of which is I have returned to school, in a city two hours away from where I live. We’ll see how long this lasts. I’ve already dropped one of the two courses I signed up for this term, realizing belatedly that three kids, badly-timed Jewish holidays, and exhausting commutes are not conducive to more than very-part-time academic endeavours.
It’s not just the blog that has suffered. Over the summer I had managed to get into a decent dog-walking routine. I took Our Best Friend out at least 4-5 mornings a week, far superior to the “seldom-to-never” routine we’d had before. But now walking, like blogging, has fallen off considerably. In fact, our default has become visits to the dog park instead of actual exercise. This isn’t good for either of our waistlines.
And now it’s that time of year again– the Jewish New Year is upon us. Rosh Hashana begins next Wednesday at sundown, ending Friday night at sundown, whence begins the Sabbath. This is known in Jewish parlance as a “three-day yom tov” (a holiday, that lasts three days instead of the usual two because of Shabbat tacked on afterwards).
Three-day holidays are difficult. There is a lot of food prep, because there is a lot of eating. You spend many hours in synagogue. Rosh Hashana services typically last until 1:30 or 2:00 (some synagogues go as late as 3:00 or 4:00), and they start early in the morning. Somehow, all this eating and praying is more exhausting than one’s usual routine of kids, school, work, and normal life.
Many people feel compelled to cook enough food for each meal to feed several army brigades. I am not one of these people. I know, from years of experience, by the time dinner on Thursday rolls around, no one will be hungry. Some poached salmon will suffice. Because I completely freaked out about handling school and the holidays simultaneously, and because I am blessed with wonderful friends, we have been invited out for two meals. Another meal I am doing in collaboration with my brother and his girls. If we don’t overeat and I don’t make myself crazy with prep, we’ll have a good time.
I don’t know about Our Best Friend, though.
I already wrote about Rosh Hashana last year. And last year I wasn’t exhausted from school. I can’t see myself getting up at 6:30 to walk the dog. We’re going to be out a lot– at synagogue, at friend’s for meals, or just zonked out. By the time next Sunday rolls around, I think I’ll have a wild dog on my hands.
They say it takes three months to form a habit. For me the ratio is more like forever to make it, and a second to break it. The last month has been overwhelming. As usual, I didn’t get enough done in advance, and I don’t want the dog to suffer because I didn’t manage my time efficiently. At the same time, there are only so many hours in the day, and my energy is not limitless. I’ll have to forgive myself for what does not get done. I hope Our Best Friend forgives me if his routine is not all it could be.
Rosh Hashana is a time of repentance, a time to take stock of one’s life and make the necessary changes to make oneself a better person. These changes are meant to be of a moral and spiritual nature, along the lines of refraining from gossip or taking greater care with other religious obligations. “Walk the dog more often” is not the ultimate Rosh Hashana aspiration, yet it has become symbolic of all the obligations and responsibilities I feel I’m not meeting.
There is certainly plenty of room for in self-improvement in my life. My first commitment, of course, is to my children; I need more patience, more cheer, less judgement, and better meals. I complain too much. I do too little. I don’t give thanks enough for my many, many blessings. Prayer is a form of meditation, and it wouldn’t hurt to meditate on what goes right from time to time.
Maybe, just maybe, if I can find a little more inner peace and a little less anxiety, I’ll be able to do what needs to be done (homework, housework, cooking, cleaning… okay, maybe not cleaning), and therefore feel more entitled to the “me” time of dog-walking and down time. It’s all about forming good habits of both thought and action. Easier said than done… but I’ve got three days coming up (and Yom Kippur the following week) to think about it and really concentrate on what I want to achieve in the coming year.