Habits

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.

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About one person's view

I'm the mother of three girls, three cats, and a dog. All need constant attention, but only the dog likes to go for long walks!
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27 Responses to Habits

  1. chesshirecat says:

    One of the many beautiful qualities our best friends have: they are the most forgiving and loving “people” on the planet. You need to prod your self to go out with the guy…so the walk isn’t 20 mins. long today, if it’s 10 or 15 mins. the dog still “wins” and is given the pleasure of his pack time with his pack leader. You’re a rockin’ lady, you will find what it takes within you to continue to be his best friend, a hard studying student, a mom who is there when the kids need her, and a woman of the world. Time management? Yeah, well…that too will fall into place. I’ve got faith in ya.
    (I think I might be the 1/2 you mentioned LOL…)

  2. Silverycloud says:

    a great post. real food for thought. you’re amazing that you can find the time for all this introspection. I need to do some more of that

  3. aleksandra says:

    Interesting how the one habit that is so easy to develop but so hard to break is being too hard on ourselves. You are doing just fine!

  4. Jodi Stone says:

    Since the dogs have started daycare again, I am only walking them four days per week and I am finding it harder to walk four days per week than I did when I walked every day.

    The truth is, I enjoy the quiet time with just me and the dogs, time to clear my mind and get my thoughts in order. If you can make yourself find the time even if only 10 or 15 minutes, you may find it helps you in other areas of your life.

  5. Kristine says:

    Make sure to schedule in some time for yourself as well while you are at it. You need to cut yourself some slack. You have a lot on your plate and while your dog may not be your top priority, the fact you are worrying so much about him tells me he is not as neglected as you make out. It sounds to me like you need some time to decompress. When I was in school I could barely handle doing my homework – that was enough stress. The fact you are doing all of this, I think, is pretty spectacular!

    While I have missed your posts, I understand you have other things going on. More than blogging right now I think you need a glass of wine and a bubble bath (or whatever your equivalent is.).

    • I like to lie in bed and watch TV… assuming there’s something good on. The Spouse is bringing me sushi. That works too. 🙂

      I hope to start posting again more regularly once the holidays are over. But sometimes, trying to keep up with blogs and comments and writing just adds more pressure. 😦 Then I feel both guilty and frustrated that I don’t have time to do the fun stuff in life.

  6. Kari says:

    Do I count as the 1/2? 😉 Inner peace and less anxiety sounds amazing

    Kari
    http://dogisgodinreverse.com

    • Why does everyone think she’s the half??? I have a serious fan who always reads and never comments. If she wasn’t my sister, I wouldn’t know who she was. 🙂

      I think I should have become a dog walker. Or a bum on welfare with very few wants in life so I could stay in and watch TV all day. Too bad I like things like living in a house, eating regular meals, and owning a dog. And this nagging sense that I should make something of my life. It all leads to work and money– the two things that stress the world.

  7. Pamela says:

    You’re not the only person trying to create a balance between all these conflicting responsibilities.
    I hope the holidays bring you some feelings of renewal in the middle of all the responsibility.

    The Christian scriptures speak of Sabbath being made for man instead of man being made for the Sabbath. I suspect the same could be said for the Holy Days. And a whole bunch of other things.

    • There is no question the whole world is completely stressed out. Some people just handle stress better than others. I’m not so good with stress.

      There is no question we need the Sabbath to rejuvenate ourselves and remind ourselves that money and gadgets and movies and whatnot are not the be-all and end-all of our existence. If not for the weekly Sabbath, I don’t think my husband would ever take a single day off. Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentence, is called “the Sabbath of Sabbaths” because it’s an extra-concentrated form of spiritual renewal and reflection.

      And instead of rest and reflection, we get caught up on how much food we have, whether the brisket will be dried out by the time we get home, and other such mundane matters. That’s why I try to keep the cooking simple and the meals light, even though it flies in the face of modern “traditions.”

      Not much about dogs here, is there?

      • Pamela says:

        I don’t know that there’s nothing about dogs in your comment. I believe dogs experience the presence of God in a way most people don’t because they don’t get distracted from being fully present the way we do.

        Maybe a holy days discipline will be to spend a few minutes watching Your Best Friend.

  8. Pup Fan says:

    I’m pretty sure you have more than 3 1/2 readers, unless you’re counting each one of us as a teeny, tiny fraction of a reader. 🙂

    I totally know what you mean about habits – it takes me ages to get into the habit of something, and if I miss one day, then all bets are off. I was running regularly during the spring, and then I missed a few days and poof… now I’m a slacker again. Well, I guess this mostly applies to good habits… I adopt bad habits (like eating too many sweets) in a heartbeat.

    I hope that you are able to get some time to relax… sometimes responsibilities can seem overwhelming, but remember to schedule some time to take care of yourself. I think there’s a lot of pressure to do it all, but my (new) philosophy is to view that as crazy talk. I have to remind myself that not everything I do can be perfect and that I can’t do everything. You’ll get done what needs to get done, and if it doesn’t get done, then for the most part, it can probably wait. 🙂

  9. Mel says:

    I can relate to your feelings of guilt over your friend and feeling overwhelmed by all that you have to get done in a day. I learned a lot from your post today. I had no idea that Rosh Hashana was so involved! I also did not know that it turned into a 3-day holiday when the Sabbath was tacked on. Holy cow! And, here I was feeling overwhelmed just trying to get things done after a busy work day!

    I love the meaning behind Rosh Hashana. I think I need to be less crabby and more calm. Maybe even a little less bitchy too. (It’s been a hell of a month.) Thanks for reminding me to stop and take stock and reflect on what I could do better. I know your friend will forgive you the schedule. That’s the best part about dogs. They forgive and forget pretty quickly. 🙂
    I hope you have a good holiday.

    • Mel, this doesn’t even scratch the complex surface. Exactly two weeks after Rosh Hashana is another holiday that lasts a week, the first two days and the last two days of which make two more of these “three day yom tovs.” By the time it all ends, you can’t move from food and exhaustion! (Some years they start Friday night– those are the BEST years!)

      The ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are called the Ten Days of Awe, when you really focus on repentance and prayer. Yom Kippur is pretty intense– a 26-hour fast and lots of praying. So lots of stock-taking in the next few weeks!

      It has been a month for you– one thing you learned is how much your readers and friends love and support you. I admire how you rose above the kerfuffle with dignity and grace. Mid-Westerners… G-d bless ’em. They have class. 🙂 (I’m originally from Winnipeg, so that’s a bit of a biased statement. :))

      And yes, Our Best Friend will forgive us anything. That’s why he’s Our Best Friend. 🙂

  10. thatjenk says:

    Shana Tova!

    Okay, I may have Wikipedia-ed that phrase. One of my degrees is in Religious Studies and I dropped out of Hebrew before we got that far (in my defence, the class was at 8:00am and that is just ridiculous).

    Funny you talk about meditation and introspection – for me, those are the dog walks. I rarely go to the dog park (in addition to other dog park things, the dog park = socializing, and I’m a confessed hermit), so I enjoy walking Moses alone, late at night, or – my personal favourite – on those blistering cold, still and silent winter evenings when there’s no one else out there. It’s my “me time” and Moses’ and my “our time” all bundled together. It’s ideal and really keeps dog walks from feeling like a chore (most of the time).

    But I know OBF will wait (patiently or not) for the holidays to be over and for a semblance of a routine to return. He can be bribed with poached salmon too, no? 🙂

    In the meantime, try to enjoy the holidays!

  11. Brian says:

    Yep, sometimes is is so difficult to get it all in, but we keep trying too!

  12. The Hook says:

    Hopefully better days are ahead. Sorry I only check in every once in awhile, but my own life is hectic beyond measure.
    Great post.

    • What would I know about hectic lives? I’m only commuting two hours to and from school (four hours total by train) once a week for school! All is always forgiven in the blogosphere. Now go move some bags!

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