Today's #BlogElul theme is counting. Round about now, there are parents everywhere counting down to the start of the school year. For some, they are counting down to their kids being back in a regular schedule - they can stop worrying about how to keep them occupied in the wide expanse of Summer. For some, they are counting down to the end of the delicious, extended time they are able to have with their children in a qualitatively different way to the rest of the year. For most, its probably a combination of the two, depending on the day and the hour, and how adorable (or not) our kids are being.
Poet and writer, Merle Feld, has a powerful poem in her book, 'A Spiritual Life' that describes a mother looking through the window at her child, worrying about her wellbeing. She reflects on the years she spent watching and worrying, never just looking out the window to take in the pleasure of watching her child at play.
I've recently been through (admittedly, am still going through) a transition of my own. I left my position as the Associate Rabbi of one congregation to begin as the Senior Rabbi of another. The last month in my last post was both a counting down of the precious days I had left there, in a community that I loved, and a counting down to beginning a new and exciting phase of life in a community that I was looking forward to getting to know. On days when I felt myself consciously counting, I realized that this act was a way of managing my emotions and the mix of excitement and anxieties that come with making significant changes in one's life. But, in the moments that I stopped counting and, instead, was just 'being', I experienced a much more complex and richer array of emotions. I allowed myself to feel all that was happening for me, my spouse, and the communities that I was a part (or soon to be a part) of. These emotions could sometimes feel overwhelming, but it was at these times that I was most present to what was happening, moment by moment.
I've noticed in other contexts too, that counting often appears to be a substitute for just being present. Like the mother in Merle Feld's poem, worrying about things that may not be real, counting the passing of days and years, but missing out on the sheer pleasure of play by simply being present to her child in the moment.
We can count our days, or we can learn to make each day count. And they are very different things. What choice will you make today?