The Jewish New Year, not coincidentally the traditional start of the school year in occidental cultures, is upon us. This has been THE most different new year observation for me in 20 years; it is the first time it has not been spent with at least one or both of my sons. One currently in England, and one in San Francisco, I attempted to high tail it up to SF to spend it with my older boy. Friends in SF with whom I could stay and play, opened their arms wide to greet me, but my son had other significant plans. We expect to see our children growing up, but this mom grew a lot when I cancelled my plans to allow my son some space to do his own thing last weekend.
I was rewarded for my forbearance. Instead of six hours spent on the road, I took the opportunity to finish some projects at work on the Friday. On the Saturday, I dutifully attended a board meeting for my dance community; my colleagues are not the wiser (unless they read this) how close I’d come to blowing off my “civic” duty for that proposed northern jaunt of mine. I ended up being invited to an impromptu pre-dance (I dance EVERY Saturday night) dinner, and one of the attendees graciously mentioned having extra passes to one of my favorite synagogues in town…all of a sudden, I had a place to belong at Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur evening services, right here in concrete-river city.
For morning services – we are a lunar people, and all of our observances last from sundown to sundown – I had yet another opportunity to attend a service I’d only heard about for the past 17 years. On my own and free to choose, I found my place at a warm, inclusive, communal spiritual experience where both the rabbi and cantor are good friends of mine from within my dance community, as were many of the congregants. Then, I went home to chef up a traditional dinner for only two blood relatives, but also eight more dear friends and extended family. The year 5776 therefore goes down so far as one of the most enjoyable Rosh Hashana celebrations ever.
But with our new year, also, comes the resolution process. We famously call it “atonement.” We reflect on transgressions from the year prior and contemplate ways to repair broken relationships with other people; we also seek ways to repair broken aspects of our personalities, like, overeating, not exercising, hoarding, or other habits.
Finding new ways to do things has kind of been foisted on me. Without my kids at home, every night is free. Every afternoon after work is free, too. Consequently, I’ve been spending some longer hours at work, starting projects at 3:00pm. The only thing that gets me to leave the office is the prospect of darkness falling; I commute to work by bicycle, and don’t like the idea of riding home in the dark. The heat at home has been oppressive, so the comfort of an air conditioned office has been alluring.
As I look toward the new year, I’m not so motivated to repair lost relationships; I have plenty of friends, and am constantly offered opportunities to acquire new ones. I’m also sufficiently dedicated to my current exercise gain and weight loss initiatives, although I am, and must be, ever vigilant. My focus, instead, is my living space(s). Over this past year, I first considered selling my rental property and after I decided against that, I actually considered moving out of my house. Instead, I ended up re-dedicating myself to both places. I fixed up my rental property and, with great fortune, turned around and rented it out to a wonderful young family. Likewise, I did some minor repairs to my house, and rented a room to a wonderful young student.
So I have come out into the new year with the wherewithal to focus on taking on a couple of new projects here and there. I am considering one professionally-related yet extracurricular endeavor, one entrepreneurial yet volunteer-oriented endeavor, and at home, I am committed to, finally, ridding myself of clutter. To that end, I didn’t search for, but arrived (at Costco) upon the book, “the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of de cluttering and organizing” by marie kondo.
Interestingly enough, the title of the book AND the author’s name is all in lower-case letters EXCEPT for the word “Japanese” – perhaps to catch my eye, or perhaps because Japanese doesn’t have the concept of capitalization? With auto-correct as I write, I had to re-type the name “Marie” three times to get the lower-case “m” accepted by this writing app. The book has been translated by a Cathy Hirano, who has done, in my professional opinion (as a translator myself), a great job in capturing the voice of a Japanese woman advising us all how to, as she calls it, “tidy up” (the Japanese verb is “katazukeru”). She even occasionally throws in terms in the original Japanese vernacular, much the way I pepper my speech and writing with Yiddish. The book, therefore, is palatable to me, and I’ve begun flowing it’s strident suggestions, which are absolutely presented more like admonitions, the point being: if you don’t do it my way, it’s all good – you’ll still get somewhere – but you’re likely to fall back into your old patterns. She’s putting me on the Weight Watchers of clutter.
So, I’m doing it. Therefore, my main resolution for the Jewish new year is: to get rid of the clutter. I’ve started with toiletries and cleaning supplies; I’ve made inroads, but I’m not finished. Kondo-Sensei demands that it be done, as they say in Japanese “ikki-ni” (all at once), but I’ve parted with the guidelines already; I’ve been working in spurts all weekend. Still, I am definitely on the journey.