I am feeling a tremendous amount of stress this week, like the air around me is slightly constricting.
Thank G-d, nothing specific has happened. I am not fighting the battle of a lifetime. I am not describing the health challenges or life challenges so many face. I am simply in a phase of a lot of transitions at once, and it is enough to rattle my equilibrium.
School restarts in eight days. We have wound down from day camps and vacation plans. While we are enjoying our last days of
chaos freedom, it isn’t our normal summer routine and it sure isn’t our school year routine.
I am also moving from the slow period at all three of my jobs to the craziest time of the year. I teach, so my lesson planning for Ivrit has had to switch from “thinking about it” to some very real and concentrated work. (Of course what I mean by that is that I have been slaving away at it all summer.) The Jewish outreach center that I work for has little-to-no programming over the summer, so we are in high gear for both the resumption of programming and the big push for the High Holidays. And the Girls’ Israel Year Program I work for will be sending 75 anxious young women away from home for the experience of a lifetime in just a couple of weeks, and I have to help prepare and send them on that journey.
Of course, it is more than work. My family is in transition too. My stepson is preparing college applications. His wings are spreading and his sights are clearly set out of the nest.
I am planning the bat mitzvah for my oldest daughter. I am as unprepared to watch her step into this new phase of life as she is to leave her childhood behind. It causes me to spontaneously cry when I have more than two minutes to think about it. I am enjoying her as an older child with the intelligence, compassion and reason of a person; a friend. But she is still my baby, and it is still an emotional adjustment.
My youngest potty trained this summer. No more diapers. Did I just say that? No more diapers. My youngest child is 3 and a half. I have never been able to say that before! I have blogged often about my enjoyment of “phase II”, meaning that I now have a house full of children instead of a house full of babies. I do enjoy it, but it is a gradual transformation. Family life is so different that what became normal for so many years.
Lastly, there is our biggest transition of all. With an 11-month countdown for Aliyah, the “to do” list is simply daunting. The changes are innumerable. Most immediately, I have to contend with the seemingly infinite clutter that I must sort and remove over the coming months. More importantly, the transition with friends and family has begun. As our much talked about dreams are transforming into a palpable reality, time with loved ones takes on different weight and import, and conversations are shifting.
Elul is coming, and we all have to wake up from our spiritual vacation as well. The
chaos lack of structure with the children always translates into lack of structure for me, including my davening and learning. I am conscious of the transition, and know that I have to move into a much more focused mode religiously as much as everything else. The only true answer for me to handle this rattled feeling is to cling to Him as my rock and daven for the help and focus that I need.
My friend Rena taught me a powerful lesson through her art many years ago. She had a showing that included works of hers depicting the beauty of fall, and the beauty of sunset. In describing her work, she explained her own realization that the original artist, Hakodesh Baruch Hu, made the transitions of this world stunning. Sunset, dawn, fall, spring – are all the subjects of art and music throughout the ages. She came to understand that Hashem is teaching us the beauty of transition. Although it often feels unsettling, change is often gorgeous if we can just take a few steps back.
All of this shifting shakes me and takes me out of my comfort zone, but it is all “l’tovah”. I know it is for the good. I am just working on the knowledge travelling from my head and my soul to my kishkes.
Please check back next week as I will be hosting Haveil Havalim.