You know the drill. You get to Rosh Hashana. There HAVE been warning signs it was coming – daily shofar blowings throughout Elul, selichos, special seasonal insertions in davening, the piles of charity appeals in the mail or email – you should have taken notice.
And yet so often we just don’t.
The intentions are there -the desire to be better, to go into the holiday knowing you have taken concrete steps to improve, to make yourself better. We’ve all read all the articles and schmoozes that come out this time of year – “taking on something small and sticking with it is better than grandiose plans that soon fall by the wayside.” Somehow there is always work to be done, family needs, another cute whatsapp video posted by a family member – nothing is calling at you, pushing for immediacy to work on the whole teshuva thing.
In my family Friday night we have something called “accomplishments” – we go around the table and say something we feel accomplished by. We don’t judge them – something huge for one person can be ridiculously easy for someone else – and it’s a great way for everyone to be able to “toot their own horn” and take pleasure in what they’ve worked to achieve. Sometimes just getting through a stressful week with no yelling can get a round of applause. Someone once was working to get over a childhood fear/habit he had developed of not stepping on a crack in the sidewalk – and he had just stepped on his first cracks!
So ten days ago on a Sunday I was thinking about what my accomplishment for the upcoming Shabbos would be (yes I am the competitive type and wanted to be READY!) I started thinking about Rosh Hashana and what I wanted to be able to “give to HaShem” when I stood davening.
At 50 plus years old, very happily married with kids and grandkids, a successful and stable business, and good health there is a tremendous amount I have to be thankful for. I spend a lot of time just saying “Thank you HaShem!” for all the good he has given me.
One thing I don’t like about myself is when my head space goes toward unproductive thoughts. By nature I am very upbeat, focusing on the positive, but sometimes I get into thoughts that are just not where I want to be. I started analyzing where those thoughts come from – what are the inputs that lead to these places. It didn’t take long to figure out that YouTube time was the main culprit. I don’t do the t.v. thing, spend very little time reading secular things that aren’t business related, but have a certain weakness for watching movie trailers, t.v. trailers, etc. Nothing that most people would consider offensive or of the Dark Side, but after careful consideration I decided that if I limited these inputs, my thought outputs would be in a much better place.
So simple – just turn off the “Tube!” Turns out not QUITE as easy as I had imagined. Even though I think I had deluded myself into imagining I only spent about 10 – 15 minutes a day on it, I soon noticed the number of times during a day I instinctively went to type in the url. Then I noticed when I was busy and things were going well no problem, but when things were slower, I was more tired, or things were NOT going well, the impulse to just sit back and do a little chillin’ became much stronger…
At first I told myself I was just going to do Sunday and Monday and that would be enough to be my accomplishment. But then it got to Tuesday – a busy with work and chavrusas (learning partners) and exercise so that day was pretty easy. Once I got to Wednesday it was like “hey, another couple days and I can say it was a whole week!” as obviously not watching on Shabbos was an automatic.
So I think I won the accomplishment award Friday night (nope – no real awards given out!) Here it is 11 days in total and not one misstep! More things are getting done, the list of things to do grows shorter- and I even found time to write an article for aish.com! Who would’ve thought?
Not bad for only “adding’ an extra “10 or 15 minutes” a day…
Remember – everyone has their own demons to conquer so never laugh when someone is working on what might seem ridiculously easy to you.
The thoughts have cleared up with rare relapses and I am looking forward to the Holy Days with a concrete step I’ve taken to show I am stepping up to the plate and am ready to be in on the teshuva action!