The Jewish calendar has a funny way of corresponding to what we need in real life: The lights of Chanukah in the dead of winter, the wild abandon of Purim just as spring comes around, the curious lack of important holidays during the lazy days of summer.
This week we’ve entered into the month of Elul, a time of reflection and quiet repentance before we ramp up the soul searching during Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), collectively known as The Days of Awe. It’s a transitional time when the year is at once winding down and revving up; school has begun and the hideous heat has finally broken. It’s a time to look back on the year and muse on what we can do better and what we want to create in the next—in a gentle way, without the finger-wagging of “Man, I really was a douche and should hide in a hole for all of 5772.” I say this as a personal reminder to hold myself in as much kindness as I believe God holds us.
Three days into Elul I already I feel like life is operating at a new level, one that will require more vigilance, compassion and responsibility. My dad’s brain aneurysm last week was a hard slap of a lesson that little else matters beyond keeping our relationships with our loved ones clean and clear. I’m so grateful for the time I was able to spend at his side during the most acute phase with my mother, who is such a tremendous teacher in presence and patience. Likewise for the moments with my brother (who is clearly not only a very good doctor but a real, deep-down mensch) and his wife-to-be, who already feels like the sister I’ve always wanted. Through this crisis the distance created by geography and years was sucked away, perfectly captured the evening we left the hospital to grab some dinner during the nurses’ shift change, and my bro put his arms around all of us and called “his girls.”
Of course I must shout out props and “huzzahs” to my dear El Yenta Man, who dealt with peanut butter sandwiches and itchy scalps and hungry snakes and the needy pug and laundry while attending to his clients and own parents while I was gone all with good humor. The kids rose to the occasion by exhibiting never-before seen abilities to wake, dress and feed themselves and complete their chores without constant reminding, so I suppose Elul is having an effect on all of us.
This week Dad is stable, his motion and speech getting a little better each day. We don’t know yet what the new “normal” will be and are taking each day as it comes. Thank you to the many, many friends and friendly strangers who have expressed wishes and prayers for him—I believe they’re working, so keep ’em coming! I know so many of you are going through similar circumstances with your loved ones; I send back prayers to you for equanimity, grace and good news.
Elul has also brought a new level for me professionally: The day after I returned from Arizona, I reported for duty at the Community Editor for Connect Savannah, what I’ve always considered the best rag in town. I started my writing career in the mid-90s at the Pacific Sun, the oldest alternative newsweekly in the country, and stepping in line with my unapologetic liberals and Rob Brezny’s Free Will Astrology feels a lot coming home (Well, it’ll feel more like home once I truss up my desk with some family photos and New Agey-girly things that will surely incur snickers from the all-male editorial staff.) My first pieces will drop in the September 16 College Issue.
From my perch, Elul is at once contemplative and exhilarating, and always inspiring. Speaking of inspiration, those fabulous foxys at Craig N Co have once again launched The Jewels of Elul—a daily bite of wisdom from quite an array of people; some rabbis, some rock stars, some everyday folks just trying to widen the ray of light from above as we move into another year. I’ll delve more deeply into the Jewels next week, but in the meantime, sign up to receive them in your inbox for the next few weeks (you don’t have to Jewish; many of the contributors aren’t) and download the free music sampler (which ROCKS.)
An earnest Shabbat Shalom to all. Remember to be kind to yourself.