It’s that time of year again for my New Year’s message, excited I assume?
I imagine the first thing you will do now is scroll down the page and see lots of words! Don’t be perturbed, please read on. I hope what I have written is both thought provoking and potentially vaguely amusing, although I accept annoyance might perhaps be the overriding emotion.
I have tried something different this year, more involved, attempting to provide some context for the message both religiously and for me personally. If you have received a message from me before you’ll no doubt have some idea of what this is about, but this year I have attempted something a little harder, more honest, and so in that spirit feel free to be honest with me if you wish to respond…
The Days of Awe
Once again (astonishingly early this year! Hannukah starts in November, wtf?) we find ourselves in the Days of Awe, and in particular the Ten Days of Teshuvah, a powerful time for repentance and transformation.
This is a period in which we awake from the dream that reality often becomes, an endlessly churning cycle of days and nights, meals, computer screens, compromises, kisses, tough work days, tough arguments and even tougher decisions. It is at this point, at that liminal space between summer and winter, one year’s waning and the other’s birth that our thoughts tend to turn inwards, as the summer’s light recedes and we sit behind misted windows that block out overcast skies. At this point, it can feel like a crisis moment, as the gaping chasm that is the future falls away ahead of us, and the past slowly ebbs away, the present can seem ever precarious, fraught by the infinitude of possibility. For me, I often become aware that I am increasingly unsure of who I am and how I got here.
Personally I feel as if my mid-20’s, I’m sure you can relate, is a time when this period of introspection and confusion is both particularly vivid and pertinent. It can strike one with an almost hallucinogenic sharpness at times when one visits a place one used to think of as home, and that flickering imperfection between the back-of-the-hand comfortable and the confusingly new, forces one to accept the nature of this period of transition. You may go home, but it no longer quite feels like home. This is just one example of thousands of shards of moments where the lack of clarity is the only thing with clarity. Where the way in which the pieces of our long concatenated chain of events and consequences hang together is abstruse, recondite, obscured, obfuscated, and other such brilliant synonyms.
Similarly who one is and what one does can seem similarly in flux, yet alone catching a glance of a face in a mirror or window and finding that the face staring back at you is your own, only not exactly as you remember. For me it these physical signs of change that I have found difficult to deal with over the past year (sorry to those who have heard me moaning about my hairline), as they constantly re-affirm both change and my adult nature that I feel can no longer cower behind some shield of youth. Now is time to take in hand who I am and who I want to be, yet that challenge can feel monumental, stretching up, a bleak and unassailable peak.
Take heart, such feelings are common during Teshuvah where we wrestle with the fractal shapes our actions make, splintering out around us, trying to make some sense of the world, our place in it, and how we can effect some small change in it for the better, if such a word has any meaning. But change at this time is not only external, for in Jewish tradition it is said that this is the period of time where God writes the names for the coming year in the Book of Life, and in the Book of Death. This is often taken very literally but it is perhaps more helpful to think (props to Rabbi Alan Lew) not that the repentance we do during this time allows us the blessing of life, rather the transformation that occurs allows us to come to terms with all that may happen.
If you have got this far, thank you for investing your time however unusual you may be finding this, but don’t worry this is all going somewhere…
A part of acceptance and realisation is coming to terms with both ones actions and the events that one finds oneself standing in the middle of, as if suddenly caught by a gust of wind. Time is both cyclic and linear, we can get trapped into patterns of behaviour that can be cut into ever deeper grooves, and can feel as solid as the stony metaphor I am attempting to paint here. Here it comes back to me and you, have events so conspired that there is something we need talk about? Whether this year or another, have small glimpses of moments built up over time, or has perhaps a single event occurred such that you feel we could improve whatever relationship we have by talking and seeking to set the record straight?
If so, do contact me, and I will endeavour, in a far less earnest and pompous way, to do what I can to sort things out.
But, perhaps more positively, is there any way we can work together to grasp close who we both want to be. This year I want not only to passively sit and try and solve those challenges that come to me, I want to, with you if we may, go forward and with a strong right hand (Passover allusion there for those not in the know, for those in the know that’s a referential rhetorical device) brave the challenge together.
Sorry for more pomposity at the end.
La Shana Tovah,
May you be inscribed in the Book of Life.