Since emerging from the basement and returning to work last week, I’ve been trying desperately to reassert discipline and to restore routine in my life. Repentance is a hallmark of the month of Elul, which carries us to the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. But it’s only the second day of Elul, so I’ll refrain from dwelling on failures and instead celebrate the incremental changes I’ve made to my daily routine.
The writer’s notebook that lay abandoned and empty most of the summer is now tethered by both my hands, held open by the right while the left fills its pages with barely legible notes. Alternatively, it is propped open on my desk, its four corners weighted down by random objects—a three-hole punch, a tape dispenser, a broken cell phone and a ceramic mug filled with pens. Extracting ideas from my brain and crafting them into words, phrases and, finally, sentences takes time. I’ve succeeded, most days, by clearing my calendar of meetings to allow for hours of sitting with my notebook, alone, in silence.
While the afternoons are still hot and humid, the morning hours after I drop my son at school are generally cool and pleasant. I take advantage of this recent change in weather, walking with Luna while my thoughts incubate. After two miles, our energy spent, we are ready to sit still with our legs stretched along the length of the couch.
Summoning the self-discipline to reestablish routine isn’t easy for me. I remember the good habits that I developed last winter, at the beginning of the secular year, when I joined the My500Words challenge in January. Setting the phone to silent, shutting down the Internet, ignoring the laundry, resisting the temptation to run errands and meet friends for lunch, I return to my routine.
Summer vacation is officially over. All three kids are back at school. Writing deadlines and meetings crowd the calendar. The High Holidays are right around the corner.
I picked up the last of my pieces from the kiln this week and went back to work at my desk.
On Monday, I received an Educator Update from my Rabbis Without Borders colleague, Rabbi Ben Greenberg. He has just launched a new project called OpenSinai.com, which will soon be THE source for high quality interactive online Jewish learning taught by educators and rabbis from all backgrounds and approaches to Judaism. Classes will begin later in the fall, but you can visit the website now to meet the teachers.
On Tuesday, my inaugural post at the Rabbis Without Borders blog at MyJewishLearning went live. We have an excellent line-up of writers this season; I encourage you to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, etc. If you missed it, read the opening paragraph and link to it below:
Emerging from Hiding: There’s a reason you haven’t seen me online much this summer. I went underground to avoid the graphic images of children suffering in Israel and Gaza, Iraq and Syria; to escape the vitriolic language of my friends’ Facebook updates; to disconnect from bullying demands that I demonstrate loyalty to my ally and condemn the enemy. Unable to find peace, I chose to disengage from the violence in the world upstairs and Read more →
Yesterday, I began to wonder when I’d return to the ceramics studio. I’m ready to jump out of the frying pan and get back to the fire. The empty kiln awaits.
Havdalah Set – 3 pieces in LF Mocha clay, glazed in MSS Blue and The Blues (sold)
Havdalah set – 3 pieces in LF Mocha clay, glazed in primary colors (for sale)
We are walking to synagogue down a quiet, tree-lined street in Palo Alto. This bustling, tech-industry exurb is just a sleepy college town on a Saturday morning in early August. He reaches for my hand and gives it a quick squeeze, our “I love you” signal from our long-ago courtship days. He’s quiet, like Palo Alto on a Saturday morning, but also sturdy and strong with wide, protective arms, like the palm trees that line the entrance to campus.
Months ago, I began planning this trip to celebrate our 25 years together, hoping that it would connect us to our more carefree twenty-something selves. I painted the scene for our three children: we’ll go to dinner at the restaurant where we had our first date; walk around campus; play Scrabble on Shabbat afternoon; have breakfast at Hobee’s on Sunday morning. They agreed it was a romantic gesture worth pursuing, despite that the trip inconviently coincided with their return to school.
Returning to a place where you once lived evokes a particular type of nostalgic disappointment; the reality is never the same as how you picture the place in your mind’s eye. Although we knew Palo Alto had changed–people had moved on, time had moved forward–our imaginations created a different reality, one that existed only in a daydream. In that Palo Alto we’re young and carefree, with no worries about children or mortgage payments, and certainly no thought to professional obligations. This fantasy is built on the firm foundation of denial; two decades of raising children has forever eradicated “carefree” from our shared vocabulary.
Still, the reality of being away from home, of leaving grandma in charge and stealing away to the place we met, enables us to reconnect with our younger, more carefree versions of ourselves. After 25 years, the energy of new love can be recaptured and the commitment of steadfast love can be renewed. Nostalgia cedes to a transformed reality in a place–in a relationship–that has successfully weathered change.