#BlogElul 24: End
August 30, 2013
I get attached to what is. Especially if it's something I'm enjoying (a weekend with dear friends, a stunning sunset over a lake, a cuddle with my child), though I'm capable of getting attached to even something I'm not enjoying (a dysfunctional relationship, a discomfort which becomes familiar), just because I get used to what is, and change is hard.
But everything ends. Both the sweet things -- sunsets, Shabbats, time with loved ones, every childhood, every life - and the bitter ones.
And every ending is also a beginning. The end of a particularly glorious Shabbat -- say, a Shabbat on retreat with my Jewish Renewal community, everyone all in white, a full day immersed in community and prayer and song and meaning! -- can bring tears, but without that ending, the new week can't begin. If we were to freeze time, we'd never move forward. This existence isn't meant to be static. Endings are built into the way things work.
I grieved my pre-child life once I became a mom. I missed the autonomy, both physical (what was it like before someone needed my body constantly for sustenance? soon I couldn't even remember) and emotional. I missed sleeping in. I missed spare time. I missed feeling in charge of my own life. But without the end of that life, I never could have experienced being someone's mother -- being this little boy's mother, in particular -- and those joys and sorrows (but mostly joys) have been so deep and so transformative that I now can't imagine who I would be if I'd never known them.
Some part of me doesn't feel ready for this Elul to end. I love this month of teshuvah and cheshbon ha-nefesh, taking an accounting of the soul. (And I'm never ready for August to end. I love the profusion of greenery, the fresh corn and tomatoes, the summer light.) But Elul has to end in order to get to the sweetness and the challenges of the Days of Awe; August has to end in order to get to the sweetness and the challenges of the coming autumn. Today has to end in order for us to reach tomorrow. Always.
One of the things I've always loved about the character of President Jed Bartlet on The West Wing is that he meets every ending with "...what's next?" I try to take that as a mantra, too. Everything ends. The question is: now that this is ending, what's next? Where do we go from here? What do we want the coming moment -- hour, day, week, month, year, lifetime -- to hold?