From the last hours of 5776: Erev Rosh Hashanah
I remember the year I finished the conversion at the Conservative synagogue in the city where I went to graduate school. I went to bet din that time on Chol Chamoed Sukkot. It was a crisp fall in southern Wisconsin. The Days of Awe and Elul were glorious — I was caught up in a social whirl for the first time as a Jew and on Simchat Torah I would meet The Physicist. I remember thinking, “It will always be like this.”
It’s almost never been like that.
So many holidays passed in Texas and Florida, hot and steamy. In the many Germany years, the weather was crisp, but the social atmosphere couldn’t have been more different. I loved them both, but the difference between Conservative shul in a university town and emerging “liberal” Judaism in a provincial town in Germany where three quarters of the synagogue members were Russian immigrants was marked.
I’ve mostly loved it. Some years have been sad, while in others I’ve been contemplating big questions. Fall always makes me more melancholy than normal, even in places where it’s sunny and warm.
And here I am, again, in yet another place, the wheel having spun round again, with apologies for the cliché. I sort of noticed when Elul began but as this year it fell so close to the anniversary of mom’s death and the local fall-out, I bookmarked repentance, return, and self-examination, and never came back to them.
Is time unraveling so quickly now? Have I lived here again nine months?
Among other things, inevitably I think of all the writing I wish I’d done this year and didn’t finish. I’m determined not to let this blog degenerate into “richard + richard armitage,” the way it did during The Crucible. But three premieres in three weeks have left me a little flat. Mr. Armitage, you need to get on top of that — spread these things out a little. I still have to write the third Toronto post, the one about me. It’s on my mind.
I was watching a performance review go in a local café a few days ago (why? why conduct these in public? the mind pales) of a lawyer who was working for a local company, and both the lawyer and the reviewer were put-together women with everything in place. Casting no aspersions on the type, I am not that woman. I’ve always got a stray strand of hair escaping, my book bag is always too full, there’s always crap on the floor of my car. I think I am a personal entropy hot spot some days. I need a life with fewer moving parts.
Sort of like thinking “it will always be this way” about the holidays, I think I’ve been stuck on becoming for a long time, perhaps a consequence of working in a university and the related emphasis on the growth mindset. I’ve always thought, “some day I will be put together like those women, some day my life will not lurch from crisis to crisis. Someday I will be whole, someday I will be complete, enough.”
I think I have to accept that just like the history of Rosh Hashanah for me is one of a holiday on strange terrain, I will always be the woman who’s forgotten to return at least one library book. Between “who will rest and who will wander,” I think the book was sealed a long time ago.
I decided about a week ago that I’m going to stick with Chabad for now, even though it’s a drive from here. It’s a feature of the Wisconsin Jewish experience anyway, driving long distances for worship. I think I will eventually join the Conservative shul here in town but I don’t want to until I’m employed full time again. And I enjoy the comparatively lower judginess of Chabad, where no one cares what I wear. I stand out because of my voice anyway, and I find that wearying but don’t know how to shut up while praying, either. Too much “he who sings prays twice” from my childhood, I suppose.
אָדָם יְסוֹדוֹ מֵעָפָר, וְסוֹפוֹ לֶעָפָר בְּנַפְשׁוֹ יָבִיא לַחְמוֹ מָשׁוּל כְּחֶרֶס הַנִּשְׁבָּר כְּחָצִיר יָבֵשׁ וּכְצִיץ נוֹבֵל כְּצֵל עוֹבֵר וּכְעָנָן כָּלָה וּכְרוּחַ נוֹשָׁבֶת וּכְאָבָק פּוֹרֵחַ וְכַחֲלוֹם יָעוּף
Yesterday, I made tzimmes (kind of — left out the carrots because dad hates carrots and didn’t tell him that was what it was) and a small honey cake (which dad didn’t like — where’s the frosting?). I’ll light candles tonight, but after he goes to bed, I think. I don’t want to drive to shul tonight, but I’ll be there tomorrow, and Tuesday if tomorrow goes well.
If you’ve read this far and are looking for Richard Armitage news, I will probably collect today’s tweets but definitely won’t be online for most of tomorrow.
I wish a sweet New Year to those who celebrate and may you and all of us be inscribed in the Book of Life and sealed for a good New Year. Shanah tovah!