Questions for the New Year

Friday. Tonight starts the Jewish new year. Good yuntuf. I was just emailed ten questions I answered in 2019 (from an organization called Reboot) and it’s difficult to read a year later, how I had looked into the future and assumed the same challenges I already have but not the new ones to come in early March, the pandemic 6 months that have disrupted and marked the latter half of the year into before and after with the latter feeling like there’s no end in sight.  And then the awful news of RBG’s death puts a further pall on what lies ahead.  Still, I try to start this holiday of reflection with humility at what I couldn’t predict and gratitude for our resilience.We dip challah into honey as we wish for a sweet new year.  This year it feels more like a plea, more plaintive than hopeful but I dip and pray for better times.

Saturday, I start answering questions with 2020 hindsight . A sample two:

Things I wish I’d done differently? Too much to say. Next?
Alternately what I’m proud of? I’m proud of getting through the past 6+ months sane and full of as much grace as I can muster if grace can in fact be mustard mustered. I’ll take it in whatever form I can get.

What was your main New Year’s resolution or personal goal at the beginning of 2020? Does it still seem relevant? Trivial? Distant?
Doing something next step with my creative work. I successfully workshopped a solo theatre piece I hoped to develop. I was working on a series of interlocking personal essays I’ve long wanted to turn into a book. Not trivial but distant and sadly irrelevant in terms of being impossible to pursue right now given lack of time and energy. I can’t even write a blog post a week. I’m bone tired and what little time I have free is spent trying to refuel. At least this year I’m entering humbled by reality; we have no idea what comes next. The best laid plans…

Sunday I get up determined to finish this but it’s a day without respite so I try to be realistic. We attempt a Zoom service for V, from a nearby temple that has a monthly service we used to attend for those with special needs; he has no interest in it but I stay nonetheless, listening to prayers and stories and music to celebrate with people I know and like. In advance of the service someone from the temple delivered a holiday box that included a round Challah, a siddur (prayer book), grape juice and a few other items, including a mask with the temple’s name on it, marking the strangeness of this year’s celebration. It was a lovely package to receive, large and festive beside the usual impersonal mail that piles up on the table.

Late afternoon we go to the park with a lake, to do tashlich, the ritual casting off of sins by throwing bits of bread into a body of water. Apparently we are not the only ones with this intention as we run into several gatherings of Jewish congregants (their bags of bread and yarmulkes are a giveaway). I stand alone throwing challah into the lake, not ridding myself of sins per se (although envy is considered a sin and of this I am guilty) as much as habits and tendencies I wish to let go of: dread, fear, anxiety, a sense of isolation. It’s a beautiful day and I let myself believe that things can change for the better, although they may get worse first.

It’s Wednesday already and I’ve been back at work as teacher the last three days. I hear so many moms (& a few dads) complain about having to be parents and teachers now and I understand, and yet for those of us who already have been wearing other hats (caregiver/ administrator/ advocate) we feel that overload as a way of life.

V is resistant to the virtual learning he has three days a week and by the time I try to wrangle him to sit in front of the computer for an unrealistic four hours (he requires frequent breaks, and many snacks beside the screen) I’m spent. Then there’s the rest of the day to fill. By Thursday and Friday when he has his half days of school I’m so relieved for both of us. I work on cultivating gratitude all the time but since COVID my gratitude meter is off the charts, the smallest thing going right, the shortest breaks, anything good feels huge.

What do I wish for this year? Radical acceptance. Ease of well being. To feel less alone even when I am. To cultivate compassion and reject pity. To feel interconnected in divisive times. To realize these are challenges and I may will fall short and that’s fine. As a poem in my siddur says,

May our lives acquire form, order, and meaning
Where now aimlessness, willfulness, and chaos threaten.

To those in a good place, I hope it will last. For those in need, I pray for peace of mind, solace and comfort in trying times. For all, a wish for sweetness in the year ahead, wherever and however you can find it.

4 thoughts on “Questions for the New Year

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