As Elul starts, all I can think is ‘not yet!’ I am not ready. I haven’t done all the things I want to be judged on this year. In fact, looking back over my post in Tishrei (here is a link to last year’s Elul and Tishrei – http://wingnutfamily.wordpress.com/) where I hoped this would be the year, I can say definitively – this was not the year. This was not the year I became a full-time teacher. It was a hard year, as far as work goes, and I am happy to have done as well as I did, but it was not the sterling success I thought it would be. This was not the year in which I tithed. Yes, I increased my charitable donations from none to 2% of salary, but I certainly didn’t tithe. This was not the year in which I lost weight – in fact, I gained a few pounds. This was not the year where my relationships magically became perfect. There was noise and distance and difficulty. This was not the year in which I became super-organized and had a magically clean room. My room continues to be a disaster at times, liveable at others, too much stuff always. My budget didn’t magically become perfect either. I still seem to spend about what I make and not set aside the lovely amounts of money I should. This was totally not the year.
So, I’m not ready. I’m not ready for Elul or the High Holidays. I’m not ready for all of the people I will need to deal with. I am not ready to start another year of constant change and constant unknowns, as I substitute wherever and whenever and teaching whatever someone else needs. I’m not ready to carry this load, which feels like it is getting heavier and less manageable all the time.
Maybe if I hurry, I can do it all in Elul? I can find a full-time job, which will pay enough to cover all my debts and have enough left over to save for a course, and I’ll lose tons of weight, give a bunch of spare money to charity, call all of the people and do all of the favours I haven’t had enough time to do, perfectly clean my room, and oh, master 3 languages, 2 instruments and a martial art? Maybe I can do it all while remaining friendly and positive, getting enough sleep and plenty of exercise and spending a lot of time with my children.
But I didn’t manage it in the other 11 months – what makes me think I’ll do it now? And if I can’t do it now, what makes me think I’ll do it ever? What’s the point of Teshuva, of repentance and trying to do better, of goals and plans – if I just make the same mistakes, don’t do any better and fail to meet any of my goals. I am not spiritually ready to say sorry for my mistakes, because I know part of that is not making the same mistakes in the future, and I don’t know if I can do that.
So, I focus on achievements. I look at what I did accomplish. Was it enough? Some tzedaka. Some teaching. Some writing. Some talking (quite a bit of talking) with people in my family. I look at what I talked about trying. Some of it, I tried. Some I didn’t. A lot of it – just holding on. I stubbornly continued to try to be a member of my family, to be a good parent, to be a good friend, to be healthy, to work, to be a good teacher. I stubbornly continued to try to be a good Jew and a good person. I wrote, I sang, I smiled, I taught, I talked, I prayed – I lived every day of those 11 months, and I held on. Maybe that’s meaningless. Maybe more letting go would have been better. Still, that’s what I chose and that’s what I did. That is what I have to bring to judgement.
It’s not enough. The mistakes outshine the achievements, and it’s embarrassing to even try to list where I should be according to my standards (which, for myself at least, are somewhat high, I know that.) It’s nowhere near enough, but it’s what I got, and maybe, it does as a starting point for teshuva. Maybe that’s a place I can turn from, the knowledge that I will persist in my path, and keep trying even if I don’t always succeed. Focussing not on my successes but my attempts – that gives me courage and helps me to be ready for doing the work that Elul asks me to do.