Desperately Seeking Shabbat

Two weeks ago I passed my seven-year cancer anniversary. Seven years feels like a big milestone. I have been holding this number in my heart, feeling the weight of it, and wondering, if I were to grab hold of it with both hands, where it might pull me. I have been contemplating rest.

For too long I have been in a frantic post-cancer/post-divorce survivor mode whirl, but seven is telling me that it is time to start to relax. I am feeling the need for a sense of completion to this cycle. So I have been turning towards ancient wisdom to process this time. The Hebrew people were commanded to keep the seventh day of every week as holy rest, a day of quietness, stillness, and simple pleasures, and they were commanded on every seventh year to let their land lay fallow, cancel all debts, and turn their attention away from earthly labors. I am wondering if it would be possible for me to devote a whole year to such spiritual rest and what kind of changes could possibly occur in my life in the process.

So, I marked September 14th, as I always do, in red on my calendar, but this time I endeavored to avoid thinking of it as the end of a year. I want it to be rather the beginning of a new, different kind of year. I started on that red letter day to take some baby steps towards a more restful life.

Letting my fields lay fallow: Focusing on the chores that I enjoy and letting the others slide.
I have been cooking like crazy. I love to try out and create new recipes, but I have not had the chance to be as creative in the kitchen due to my schedule over the last six months. Since cooking creates dirty dishes which are my least favorite chore, I tend to be a less adventurous cook when I am feeling pressed for time. I need to cook with abandon and let the clean up fall as it may.

I have been trying to walk away from messes that I would usually clean and choose to rest instead. The challenge is that I may be able to walk away from a mess but I cannot rest in sight of one. This paradox is now leading me to do radical things, like sit on the back porch in the middle of the daytime. Despite my son’s complaints (He believes I should never be outdoors unsupervised!), no one has seemed to suffer from this, and a few times someone else has actually come along and worked on the chores in my absence. Surprising!

This summer was the first summer I have felt healthy in seven years and I made the most of it. I was doing 1-2 hours of exercise outdoors almost every day. My heart was glad for it, but I think my body was a little overwhelmed. I was starting to have daily pains in my left knee, my left hip, my neck, and both Achilles tendons. So the last 2 weeks I have decided to rest. I’ve scaled way back on exercising, and instead I went back to my massage therapist, which had fallen off of my schedule since my mom was injured in the early spring. I think I am feeling better, less aches and pains. Now the challenge will be finding a way to exercise restfully. I need to be active, but I have a tendency to not listen to my body. I will have to strive to find a way to find some joy in exercise without wearing myself out to the point that it becomes a chore.

Cancel my debts: I owe myself far more than I have been giving.
I have spent a long time focused on pleasing others and putting aside all my own interests. It’s time to start repaying the debts of things I have wanted and put off for another day. I need to indulge in things that I enjoy. I need to read, watch movies, listen to music, write and paint, and go on date nights. I need gift myself the time to do these and not just wait for a free minute to fall in my lap. I need to push back at my schedule and habits a bit to make these things a priority.

Amazingly, by walking away from some of the chores and responsibilities that used to suck up my time, in the past 2 weeks I have clocked up an amount of me time that I would not have imagined. I have read the first two books in the Divergent series and started on the third. I have finished two paintings. I watched an actual grown-up movie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, as well as the full concert version of Sweeney Todd (which I had never seen). I even managed to arrange a babysitter and a couple of free hours in my husband’s schedule on the same day! This is the third blog post I’ve written after a long dry spell, and I have a couple of articles in the works too.

I have been listening to a fabulous album, AKEDA by Matisyahu. It is a beautifully raw picture of one man’s journey through illness and divorce towards healing. It is triumphant brokenheartedness, and I love how it draws me to listen to every song without skipping, like a complete story. This music answers my every mood because when I am sad the songs mirror me, but when I am happy the same songs sound so joyful. It’s the sort of music I wish I could have heard in the days of my suffering because it might have helped me heal, but I am going to rest in it now and continue to seek healing, however much delayed.

Remember Shabbat day: Keep it holy
I have been trying for the last year to keep Shabbat. I have wanted it. I have thought about it. I have even at times attempted to schedule it, but I have mostly let other plans get in the way. It is time to make it a priority. So, the last two weekends we have put Friday family night as the first thing on the calender, and we have gone all out, leaving the candles lit and the TV and computer screens dark all night for quiet time together. We have also extended the feeling into Saturday by planning fun times with family and friends to fill the rest of the day until we have ended our set-apart time with a real Havdalah ceremony of our own making. I was successfully able to absolutely turn my back on all chores during both of those 24 hour stretches, and guess what, nobody suffered. In fact, everybody seemed happy, relaxed and joyful… no complaints!

This may be the first September in a long time that I am sad to see end. Welcome October! Bring some candy, but please, bring more rest.

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