Last year and the year before, the Jewish High Holy Days brought an especially welcome respite from the stress I felt in my daily life. Now, I’m trying to make my daily life a respite—that’s my self-styled Mary Oliver Challenge. So Rosh Hashana felt different this year. It was warm and communal, as always. But instead of providing a break from busyness, the holiday itself felt busy.
It was on Wednesday morning, after the two-day holiday ended, that I recognized this most clearly.
The previous two mornings, I curtailed my usual stretching-and-yoga practice so that I could get to synagogue—and I paid for that choice in the form of achy muscles. On the morning after, I indulged in the full practice, and my body thanked me for it. Then I put on my tallis and tefillin for my solitary morning prayers.
It took a long time to settle in. Thoughts kept running through my head—many of them good thoughts, feelings of gratitude, useful insights. I felt the privilege of sitting on my deck, in my beautiful backyard on a glorious late-summer day, with a cup of the delicious and fortifying coffee that I’m trying to wean myself from before next week’s Yom Kippur fast. I felt the privilege of having that time to devote to my self, my psyche, my soul. And as my thoughts gradually came to rest and I settled into myself, I realized how much I had missed that reflection time during the previous two days.