Sunday, March 23, 2014

Anything but routine

Friday night we were invited to join some friends for Shabbat dinner, a novel experience for me. I didn't grow up in a religious community, and although my husband is Jewish, we've never observed Shabbat in our home. For anyone not familiar, this is the weekly day of rest (in Hebrew, "Shabbat" means "rest," or "cessation") the observance of which is a remembrance of the day of rest taken after the Biblical creation of the heavens and the earth.

I'd received two other invitations for Friday night, both of which I had declined. I've had an exhausting few weeks, between two important events at work, and major upheaval in my personal life (now nearly two weeks into our displacement due to a major flood in our condo). I'm doing my best to get in a short, head-clearing run every few days, and to spend a little time on the yoga mat on the hotel room floor on a regular basis, so I'm kind of holding it all together, emotionally speaking. But tired is tired.

When our friend extended the invitation to join him, his wife, and their family for an evening of eating, drinking, and resting, however, I didn't hesitate for a moment to say "yes." And I'm so very grateful. The matriarch of this beautiful family had prepared a feast of colorful dishes piled high with fresh and flavorful Persian fare. Drinks were flowing, children were playing, and some members of the family had driven for hours to be there. Just like every Friday night in this home. I was drawn in by the connection and engagement this family clearly feels with one another, and have been thinking about the experience nonstop.
On Shabbat we take a break from our mundane weekly activities. It is a time to regroup and pray, to eat and rejoice, to spend time with family and friends, to study and share - to indulge and pamper our spiritual side. (From
I'm a person with very little structure in my life. I work long and highly irregular hours, travel frequently, and tend to follow my impulses when it comes to how I spend my free time. Even while training for a marathon, I can't seem to keep to a schedule. I don't have a "gym day" or a "long run day," but rather create a schedule each week, fitting in the activities where I can find (or create) the space. This is very much by design, as I've always feared a life of boredom and routine. But I'm beginning to understand the difference between routine and ritual, and to appreciate the need for a little more ritual, a way of pacing my life such that there are built-in periods of conscious rest and reconnection.

I don't know how I'm going to pull this off. Honestly, I can't think of one single waking hour of the day or week when I could commit to doing the same thing on a regular basis, to holding firm and honoring some space that I've created for something or someone that is important to me. But it seems like an important thing to try to figure out. Could I get to a yoga class every Wednesday at noon? Commit to regular Sunday dinners with family and friends? Spend twenty minutes writing every morning? Perhaps I can make it happen and, once and for all, pin myself down and say with confidence, in the face of another opportunity "Sorry, I can't make it. Saturdays are my long run days."

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