Let me start with Rosh Hashanah….
Rosh Hashanah was only a few days ago, and yet I find myself not at all sure just where to begin blogging. So much has gone on, and it has been so long since I collected my thoughts here.
I was determined to remain calm at holiday time this year. With unexpected guests, a steady pile-up of details, the kids’ intense first week of school, kids having off from school on the day I needed to prepare, two new jobs and that other minor detail of my SOUL BEING UNDER FINAL INSPECTION, consistent calm was a large enough goal to be the only one. I am happy to say that in the days leading up to and the days of Rosh Hashanah I did manage to remain calm…. I lost it a little once, only once, (with my husband) and promptly sentenced myself to some time in bed, which led to a half-hour long nap and a return to myself.
Early in the morning erev Rosh Hashanah I had gotten a last minute announcement from my DSS that he was coming for the holiday. I knew that three days of yom tov (and sibling time) in a row would be no small feat for a teenager who generally lives a completely secular life, primarily as an only child. It wasn’t easy for me to adjust to the change with basically no notice. At the same time, it made the whole holiday feel more real, more complete. I had my whole family home, and it filled my heart. That just doesn’t happen as much as I would like anymore.
I missed Shofar blowing entirely the first day of Rosh Hashanah because the first night one child got sick and spent the better part of the night vomiting. We stayed home together the next day. I stayed calm. I wound up with tons of leftovers because some of our guests understandably didn’t feel like taking chances. ( Said child was on the trampoline and asking for food all at the same time by three in the afternoon, but I had to stay home with him that morning nonetheless.)There is a tzadik in our community who blew the shofar 100 blasts for a second time in one day, before eating his meal or taking his nap, so that I and his mother-in-law could fulfill the mitzvah. Other guests came hours earlier than my husband got home, trying to be very patient while lunch hour got much closer to dinner hour.
I had to miss (part of ) shofar blowing on the second day of Rosh Hashanah because a GANG of teenagers were on their way to my house without any adult supervision or permission! I took it as a backward compliment that any teen would be crazy enough to think that we are that “cool”… we aren’t. Part of me really wanted to resent my removal from davening…. but I remained calm.
Over the course of those three days, some of my possessions were damaged. My children got into it with each other, and younger children got hurt by older children. Albeit accidentally, there was a lack of care and restraint. After so much “together time” some of us forgot to “use our words”. And I remained calm.
I think that I have made a consistent mistake in the past to confuse excitement with seriousness. If there is no build-up, tension, excitement and drama then there is no serious “largeness” to the holiday.
The learning I was able to squeeze in during Elul this year kept returning to the idea of our effort being the point, not the output, or other people’s expectations. I heard repeatedly that accepting that this might not be my year to win medals in High Holiday davening, but that sometimes having small children means showing devotion to G-d by refraining from davening and focusing on the needs of others.
I guess it was my time to hear this message, to learn this lesson.
I davened when I could, set up and cleaned up a lot of meals (gave away as much honey cake as I could so it wouldn’t stay in my house) and tried to prioritize remaining a calm presence in my home as a means of showing my service to G-d and my way of crowning him King.
I don’t know if it improved the holiday for any of my kids. Three days of yom tov, long hours at shul, too much dessert and too little sleep seemed to be a lot for everyone to handle, Ima’s mood notwithstanding.
I know the change made for a better holiday for me. The serenity I cultivated translated into a great sense of emunah, faith. There was no lack of noise and chaos throughout the days, but the lack of anxiety and stress or a “having to” feeling made my holiday more meaningful.
This is only the beginning in a long month of three-day holidays. I hope I can keep the calmness up. Only a few days out, I sit amongst piles of work, mess, laundry, leftovers and dirty dishes… and pray I am really up for the challenge!