“This is Real, and You are Completely Unprepared…”

~Rabbi Alan Lew~

09/02/90

This quote was inspired by the title of his book about the “Days of Awe” – the month leading up to the Jewish Holidays, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. 

During this time, practicing Jews journey through the period of brokenness to wholeness.
It is a period of contemplation and repentance. It is a time during which the practice of introspection, humility, amends, self-acceptance and forgiveness are examined. If we choose, we take action to ask for compassion, offer compassion to others, mend something broken, embrace and create a new possibility within ourselves. We reclaim some of what we have lost and restore what we choose to have within ourselves and with others.

I immediately gravitated toward this quote for the obvious reason. It’s the truth about life. As we endeavored into 2020 – many of us left 2019 with a big sigh, a hooray and the hope for a new beginning. I remember many conversations in which a lot of people felt in this “even” year, there was possibility, opportunity. We do this. We project our greatest hopes and desires onto a year, or a celebration, a planned event, a rite of passage-a time of our lives. And then, inevitably, impermanence arrives unannounced- it’s the party we unexpectedly got invited to - and we aren’t even remotely prepared to attend.

We are never prepared – and we were not prepared for what was coming in March of this year.

Within 10 weeks of January 1, we ( in the U.S.) were swooped up, tossed around and thrown down. Up we struggled to make sense of the assault, and down we went- waves of disease, senseless killings, unrest, protests, extreme weather, political upheaval, beat on us, played out on the theater of our screens large and small, and in our homes and no matter where we went, even if we were lucky enough to leave the epicenter of the dramatic forces surrounding us, impacting us, there we were – confronting something.

Life itself, without “biblical” and epic level intervention whispers the concerns I wake with and those that keep me from sleep - Will my kids be ok? Are my aging parents doing ok? Do we have the financial resources for all of our needs? Is my heart full – or what am I yearning for? Who am I angry with? How did this happen? What can I do? Where can we go? What is the quality of our life? How am I contributing to the higher good of anyone or any cause? Am I taking care of my health? Am I fulfilling my potential? Is there joy in my life? How do I inspire others?

Since March these questions loom larger and instead of a whisper- they are screaming at me. I meditate, I exercise, I journal a little, I listen to TED talks and read things that inspire me and make me think and feel. I do the things I think I am supposed to do-I’ve worked hard, long hours, cleaned and organized. I’ve stayed away from crowds and kept to myself. I’ve adapted – I think, in the ways I can, and now, more than ever I keep asking what is enough?

As we approach these days of awe, I am driven inward. I am more in the “moment” than ever. I am not “waiting” for anything. ( except the day we can stop wearing these masks- even though my masks are very fashionable.) In the text of the “Desiderata”– Max Ehrmann wrote: “And whether it is clear to you, no doubt, the universe is unfolding as it should…in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.” Written in the early 1920’s, I coincidently discovered it in my early 20’s and I keep rediscovering it.

So, as I try to make sense of the senseless- most recently the shooting of Jacob Blake and the loss of Chadwick Boseman, as I navigate continuing weekly news of the unimaginable, I am awake to doing more than shake my head in disbelief. I think I am being asked to be better, to be resolute, to be clear, to be kind, to take the actions I can, to be present in a world that has the potential be a better place – to have compassion, to seek peace and to remember what’s important. Finding and celebrating love is a start .

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