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Mar 23 2012

Friday Night: Stressed Out Shabbat

By at 11:33 am
crib in baby's room

This Shabbat, we may be saying goodbye to the crib.

I submitted an article to Kveller earlier this week, and then asked Debbie, my editor, to ignore it. It wasn’t very good. She read it and agreed–my heart just wasn’t in it, she said.

She was right. My heart wasn’t in it. My heart, and my mind, have been in a million different places lately, everywhere and thus nowhere. I’m packing the family for a long weekend vacation for a cousin’s bat mitzvah. I’m wiping the snot from my toddler’s face, who has been battling the same head cold for a week now. I’m worrying about where my big girl will sleep (or not) in the hotel, as she’s too big for a travel crib, but unwilling to sleep in a bed. I’m thinking about friends with cancer, and friends of friends with cancer. I’m managing chronic extended family stress and pretending like I’m prepared to defend my dissertation next week (which I’m not). I’m grateful but terrified to finally be teaching my first class this summer. I’m waiting to hear if another manuscript will be accepted for publication. I don’t have a job for the fall yet, and I’m wondering if I should go back to clinical practice.

I’m in denial that Passover is just around the corner, and that we are hosting seven little ones (and their parents) at our house for a kid-friendly second seder. I’m wondering what my daughter will eat over the holiday, as her current diet consists primarily of plain noodles and macaroni and cheese. I’m thinking about the murders in Toulouse and Jordana’s subsequent experience on Facebook, and feeling both blessed and burdened to be Jewish.

Like I said, I’m all over the place.

I am constantly mindful of how many balls Josh and I are juggling right now, and how lucky we are that we get to have them in the first place, and that they are mostly soft and manageable, the type of balls that we can catch, or if we don’t, they probably won’t break. We’re so fortunate to be able to travel for family simchas. Our friends with cancer are healing (thank God). A cold is only a cold, and everyone sleeps in a bed eventually. I’m so grateful to have been able to pursue my doctorate, and to have had the support to complete it. The kitchen will be cleaned in time, and no Jewish kid ever died from malnutrition because they couldn’t eat hametz for a week. (If you have evidence to the contrary, please don’t tell me about it. It might just send me over the edge.)

And yet, I find myself a bit lost, a bit scattered these days. I walk upstairs to get something, and come down with five other things, none of which I actually need. I forgot to put wipes in the diaper bag yesterday. I spent the morning cleaning out the girls’ dressers and switching out their clothes, when I should have been preparing for my dissertation defense. I forgot to make dinner. Yup, just plain forgot.

I’m trying to slow down and focus. It isn’t easy, and it doesn’t come naturally to me, but it’s happening slowly. Today I was on my way to the pharmacy (in my current state of craziness, I felt a compulsive need to purchase a travel-sized first-aid kit for our trip), and I suddenly realized that it was 80 degrees out (insane for March in Boston), the car windows were down, and the radio was playing the song my husband and I danced to at our wedding. I had a rare, and greatly needed, moment of perspective. Yes, my family and I are in state of transition, but we’re fine. And even if, in any given moment, we’re not fine, I know we will be soon.

Then I remembered the Jewish tradition of saying 100 brachot, or blessings, each day. I’m not terribly observant, and I certainly don’t say 100 blessings every day. Yet I suddenly understood why it makes sense. I may be dealing with a few additional stressors right now, many of them good ones, but I also know that this too shall pass. And as soon as I catch my breath, our family will be facing some new set of challenges. Adulthood has come on fast and hard for me in the past few years, and I’m increasingly aware that life is, well, hard. Even when it’s good. Counting my blessings, of which there are many, reminds me to pause, take a breath, and see through the clutter of life that can so easily consume and distract my heart and mind. Those brief moments of gratitude, however fleeting they may be, help me focus on what’s really important. So, as we approach Shabbat this week, my last Shabbat as a student, and my daughter’s last Shabbat in her crib (hopefully!), I’ll be especially grateful for the weekly reminder to slow down and appreciate what I have, just as it is, no matter what it is.

Shabbat shalom.

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