This week's portion: leaving the ark
This week's portion: going forth into something new

In which I turn out to be like my cellphone

Yesterday morning I came downstairs with the intention of davening, but noticed my cellphone lying forlorn on the floor; I had forgotten to plug it in the night before. I picked it up to connect it with its charger, and noticed the little symbol that denotes a voicemail message. Acting on autopilot, I keyed in the code that allows me to access my voicemail. The message I received seemed urgent; I had screwed something up. I sat right down at my computer to try to resolve the situation.

All day yesterday I felt off-kilter. Nothing was wrong, exactly, but I wasn't quite right. Old anxieties nipped at my heels. It wasn't until evening that I realized one reason why I might be feeling so out-of-sorts: I had allowed my prayer impulse to be stifled by my sense of obligation to the world at large. By my emails and voicemails and assignments and obligations, all of the things clamoring for my attention that so easily drown out my awareness of the presence of God.

Today I came downstairs, murmured a blessing over my blood pressure pill, and went for my tallit and tefillin before anything could entice me away. Today I opted to use a siddur I don't often pray with, and as a result didn't get very far into the service; the Artscroll is significantly more text-heavy than the Kol HaNeshamah I often use, and both are more texty than Kivinu Kol Hayom, the daily prayerbook my rabbi assembled for use at our shul. But it's interesting to dip sometimes into a different way of approaching morning prayer, and seeing prayers I know and love embedded in a new context can offer new insights.

And then I unwound myself and moved on with my day. It wasn't until I began writing this blog post that I consciously recognized the humor in this little cellphone story. When I'm not plugged-in to my source, my batteries run dry, sometimes faster than I expect. In retrospect, finding my cellphone low on juice yesterday morning seems like God winking at me...and probably sighing ruefully at me when I used the experience as an excuse to follow my well-intentioned instincts toward overwork, instead of as a reminder that might point me in the right direction.

Sometimes friends ask me how to be grounded, how to remain rooted and resilient in the face of stress, overwork, fear, and frustration. It's easy for me to recommend mindfulness, meditation, and prayer as a, maybe the, recipe for spiritual wholeness. But in my own life? I'm perennially overcoming the part of myself that fails to get the message. It's so easy to believe that if I just work harder, I could actually be on top of things. As though I were actually in control. A pernicious untruth.

Mondays are stressful, sure. But getting a running start on my day doesn't actually help, and sometimes -- like when I miss prayer in order to do it -- it makes matters worse. I'm more like my cellphone than I usually care to admit. When I feel myself low on battery, it behooves me to plug in and reconnect with gratitude, supplication, mindfulness, and praise.

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