I was up at 6 this morning. I’m not an early riser by choice, so being awake before dawn was not what I’d call a welcome situation. The bedroom was a bit chilly with the windows wide open. I truly wanted to fall back asleep, but it was very clear that this would not happen. I was conscious.
You know how sometimes when you wake up you have a particular thought in mind. It’s not disturbing, and may, in fact, be pleasant or calming. Maybe it’s the remnant of a dream or due to the music that’s playing as you rise. It’s a gentle way to start the day.
That wasn’t my experience. My eyes opened after 6 am and that was it. It was as if my brain were a chainsaw and somebody yanked on the starter cord.
Schedules, appointments, things that must be done, worries about people I care about, will I or won’t I get to the gym, sermons, High Holy Days, what about dinner… it all came crashing in on me. At once. Was I going to fall back asleep? Not this morning I wasn’t.
So I got up to make the coffee. And as I stood there the aroma of fresh coffee began to caress my olfactory nerves. All of a sudden, I wasn’t obsessing about the 25 things that had to happen immediately! At once! Right now! I was smiling about how good Peet’s Major Dickason’s Blend smells as it brews, which led me to remember my first taste of Major Dickason’s Blend at the Peet’s on Union Street in San Francisco 37 years ago which led me to remember the months I spent with Liza before we got married and how sweet and romantic a time that was, which led me to smile some more…
I could’ve stood there, working myself into a frenzy of anxiety. I chose, instead, to just stop it. I chose to chill. Will all of these things get done? Maybe yes, maybe no. Does anyone’s life hang in the balance over anything I am required to do today? No. Will my staff slash my tires? I don’t think so. Will my wife and kids and grandkids still give me a hug at the end of the day? So far so good.
Look: life is so very precious. Not just at the 30,000-foot spiritual overview general statement of principle level. But perhaps more importantly, at the up close granular level. Every little thing we do, every decision we make impinges on the sacredness of our lives.
Spending time planning one’s day is a wise and mature thing to do. Spending time slapping oneself upside the head and repeatedly saying “Gevalt!”, does nothing but waste time. It reminds me of a famous rabbinic quote (which rabbi? I’m still looking it up…), which I paraphrase: “One who obsessively talks about their flaws and failures and sins thinks only about their flaws and failures and sins and soon becomes their flaws and failures and sins. Stir filth this way it’s filth; stir it that way and it’s still filth. And during all this time of brooding, I could be stringing pearls for the Holy One. You’ve done wrong? Who hasn’t! Now turn away from the brooding and start doing good!”
All I can do is the best that I can do. And that has to be enough.
And now it’s time to string some pearls for the Holy One.