The Calendar Conundrum
I keep very extensive diaries and journals. I’m not talking about small, petite, pretty journals with which to record my thoughts (even though I have those for other purposes). I mean big, hefty sketchbooks or notebooks with dividers (obviously, in school, it was easier to get away with writing in a diary during class if it looked like a school notebook). As of the last time I counted them, there are approximately thirty five of these massive notebooks taking up closet space in my bedroom. They’re heavy too. I lug my diary with me everywhere. Sometimes I take it to work, I always take it with me on the train, or when I have important events in my life such as lectures or speaking event that I want to record. I like to keep everything in one place. I like to be organized in the support of my personal growth. I write about everything from personal and world events to discussions I’ve had with people or things I have observed. These diaries also work as photo albums, as I take pictures of everything I write about and paste them in (I’m Snapfish and Target’s best customer between the amount of photos, glue, tape and scrap booking material I purchase yearly). I like to record everything that has happened to me, good, bad, and ugly. I want to be able to look back on my entire life and see how I lived. So, you can imagine my surprise when, last week, I discovered that for the past twelve months, I’ve been living in the wrong year.
Let’s break away from that odd confession for a moment to think about the following scenario: It’s one of those mornings where everything goes wrong. You know, the morning when your alarm clock doesn’t go off, you wake up with a start, rush out of bed, stub your toe, fall over and land with a thud. It’s a quarter to nine. You were meant to be at work forty-five minutes ago. You struggle to figure out what comes first. You call the office with a fumbling, mumbling excuse about your car breaking down (even though you take the subway), and apologize, promising to get there as soon as possible. You hang up and try to figure out how to go about your day now that you’ve ‘made up for lost time’ Still half asleep, you decide to skip the shower and the fancy make up routine (or, if you’re a male, insert your morning ritual here ______) and just head straight for the closet. You usually pick out an outfit the night before, but last night was ‘one of those nights’ and so you are now left with a dozen options, none of which feel appropriate to fit to your unwashed, ill feeling body. You throw together an outfit that you would never be caught dead wearing otherwise, but hey, it’s just ‘one of those mornings.’ You rush to put yourself together in the most decent way possible; toothbrush in one hand with a comb in the other, using your fingers to wipe last night’s make up from around your eyes. You look like a walking disaster. But, who has time to piece disasters together when it’s just ‘one of those mornings?’ You certainly don’t. You tell yourself that you’ll make up for this disaster by being better tomorrow. You tell yourself that having ‘one of those mornings’ is a once in a while thing and will certainly not turn into a ritual. You forgive yourself when it begins to happen once a week. You tell yourself that everybody has ‘one of those mornings’ and even if ‘one of those mornings’ turn into ‘one of those days’ that’s okay too, because it’s only once in a while. Eventually though, ‘one of those days’ turns into everyday. It becomes a ritual to stumble blindly through life, trying to catch up with time you’ve lost or haven’t used wisely. When your answer to everything becomes ‘it’s been one of those days’ you know you’re in trouble. You’ve officially lost grip of reality or staying in the moment. Life is passing you by and you have no idea how you’ll ever recover.
I am reminded of a song by Superchick that I liked when I was younger. The lyrics go like this: It’s been one of those days for a lot of days now/I need a day when the world can take care of itself/This isn’t what I wanted how I thought my life would turn out/And I wonder if it’s like this from here on out. I never paid attention to the lyrics as a child, but I heard it recently and it struck a cord with me, because my life has become an endless string of using ‘it’s been one of those days’ as an excuse for running around looking like a chicken without a head. My life has become an endless string of the toe stubbing, frizzy hair rocking (more like anti rocking), stained clothes wearing, always missing the bus ‘kind of days.’ I think it started to happen when I moved to New York, thus being on my own and making my own schedule for the first time in my life. Is it easier to lose track of time when you become complacent? When you’re not moving forward, when things stay the same day after day after day, after a while, it’s easy to lose track of who you are or what you’re doing. Example A: Moi. It’s so easy to fall behind when you allow life to push you in every direction it so desires. When there a million things to be done and you crack under the pressure of the workload that life hands you, it’s not always easy to recover. However, recovering is possible. It’s difficult, but it’s possible. You cannot make up for lost time, however, you can take note of your previous mistakes and shortcomings in order to avoid waisting precious time again in the future. There’s an art to staying balanced and present, one that I am yet to master.
On Saturday night, I was talking to my sister on the phone about the events of Rosh Hashana. I celebrated in New York while the rest of my family celebrated in California (another part about getting older that I am not fond of). I was casually chatting with her when I said something along the lines of “Wow, I can’t believe it’s already תשע”ג (the year according to the Jewish calendar, which translates to the year 5773). Time flies, huh?” There was silence on the other line for a moment. “Leigh, it’s תשע”ד. I got married towards the end of תשע”ג, remember?” I laughed off my mistake, telling her that I was just tired, and of course (‘of course’) I knew what the year was. When I hung up the phone, I pulled down all of the diaries I had written in the past year (three of them), off the shelf. I flipped back to last Rosh Hashana and saw that, for the first two weeks of the year, I had written the date correctly. However, I must have subconsciously switched back at the end of the month, which meant, that for majority of the year, I was writing the wrong date on all of my diary entries. *BOOM* The theme of The Twilight Zone started playing in my mental background. I was so caught up in trying to stay on top of my life that I didn’t even have the time to be present for one moment to realize that I was technically living in the wrong year. What had happened to me in 5772 that was still holding me back from living in the present? And why did it take me a full year to pick up on such a weird mistake?
In 5772, I began my life as a ‘new adult’ in a world of ‘older’ new adults who were telling me how to live my life. I was just out of seminary, was still deciding about college (and we all saw how long that decision took to make), and drafting Shattered Illusions. It was my first taste of what the real world was like. I was working at a miserable job (Thank G-d that only lasted a couple of months until I found my current position), living in a teeny, tiny little basement with my sister and two friends, and learning how to fend for myself. Then, my sister got engaged, and I was suddenly working around the clock on preparing Shattered Illusions for it’s release date. Life was picking up at full speed ahead, and I got lost in the process. So, when the next year came around, I still hadn’t fully caught up with all of the events that had taken place in the year before (weddings, deaths, friends lost and gained, publishing contracts signed…), so, subconsciously, I stayed there. Technically, I moved forward. I learned how to be single (because until my twin sister got married, I had never been on my own for more than three weeks. Ever.), I made new friends and jumped way, way out of my comfort zone by trying things I had never tried before. My novel was published somewhere in there. I learned to stop carrying so much about what people think (but that’s a gradual process). I grew up. A year is a long time if you use the time wisely. You can accomplish more in a one year that some people do in their whole lives. At the same time though, it’s so easy to get caught up in life and completely lose focus. So, sometime in the beginning of last year, I lost my focus, and went back to my comfort zone, backwards in time to things that I wasn’t particularly fond of when they actually happened. But, that’s how humans work. We become nostalgic about things that we didn’t like to begin with.
Old year, old mindset. New year, new mindset. Every year on Rosh Hashana, I take on a resolution, something to enhance myself in spiritual, mental and physical matters. Last year, at the beginning of 5773, my resolution was to think before I speak or react. I wanted to break the nasty habit of speaking prematurely or with anger instead of calm. I vowed to work on myself improve my health in all aspects. To a certain extent, I accomplished it. I learned how to breathe, possibly for the first time in my life. Yoga became a part of my daily ritual, as did really saying the wording during davening (prayer) instead of just mumbling them in a rush. I opened my mind to new ideas, and even some old ones that I had long lost interest in. When I entire a new year, I do my absolute best to shed the skin of the ‘old me’ and emerge as a completely new person. New soul, new body, new outlook. It’s not the easiest transition, and I’m fooling myself by expecting such an outcome in such a short amount of time, but I set the goal so that, by the end of one year and on the threshold of the next, I will have moved up a level and can therefore continue to move forward. What happened in this case, it seems, is that I worked backwards. I had ‘unfinished business’ with the year before, but by tying up those lose ends, I mentally lost out on a large chunk of time. I spent a year living in a mindset where everything turned into ‘one of those days.’ One of those days where you can’t get your act together, where you can’t wake up no matter how much coffee you’ve had. One of those days where you can’t seem to shake your bad mood no matter how sunny it is or how well things are going for you. One of those days where all you can do is look at your life, no matter the situation and say ‘woe is me.’ It’s just one of those days.
It’s a new year. I am a new person. It’s time to stop living such a mindset. The ground doesn’t have to feel shakey beneath my toes, nor do I have to constantly struggle to keep up. I can’t make up for the time I spent living in the wrong mindset, but I can recognize my mistakes and make sure not to make them again. Perhaps in this year, with a clean slate and a clean mindset, with the right year marked on my calendar, I’ll be able to grow in the ways that I wanted to last year, but couldn’t. If I was able to accomplish so many incredible things with the wrong year in mind, just imagine what can be done once I start marking my calendar correctly!