A few years ago, at a lavish bris filled with perfectly iced, monogrammed cookies, I ran into one of my rebbetzins.
She, the mother of many, spoke to me as her multiple progeny milled about in an organized, complimentary manner, while my own two-year old scarfed down a chocolate cupcake and hid mysteriously in the corner.
Despite the frenetic energy of a sugar-filled bris room, the rebbetzin’s eyes glowed, untainted by outside concerns, her centered mind focusing itself on me.
The adultness of her gaze struck me, as my own mind pleaded for a dose of her focus. I craved her evident gift; the priority of people, the overstepping of self, the ability to hug someone else so fully and deeply. I wished for her eyes; warm and never-ending.
Years passed, and my own children multiplied and grew.
The ticking reminder of time nuzzled against my ribs.
They whirl past me now, in a different rhythm entirely, oblivious to the moss and ivy as they climb up the hill. There is so much for them to explore. Their minds beat to incessant, ear-thumping melodies of jumping, thinking, wanting, and dreaming.
My own shifting, inner rhythm is very different. Slow down, it says, do less, take in. I still explore, of course, but I’m holding on as I go. Don’t go too fast, make sure you have enough strength, my beat reminds me. Caution.
Doing less, my newest rallying cry, feels like giving up at its finest. Giving up the notion that if only I reached farther and ran faster, thighs hitting each other, breath choking for more oxygen, I could grasp it all. Each morning is a new reckoning and reminder of this, as my inner clock ticks pointedly next to my expanding heart.
I set my bedtime earlier, deliberately turning off my phone and forgetting everything that is the doing-me. My night is a miniature preparation for death as much as it is a preparation for tomorrow’s stage of living. I drop my worldly concerns from my shoulders and prioritize my body and the resting of its implanted soul.
Every morning, the grass on the hill – the grass my children haven’t seen yet because they’re too busy staring at the sky- reminds that I am still not all-powerful, nor will I live forever. I, too, never used to look at the grass when I was climbing as fast as they were. I only saw that wondrous sky. Now, as my toes rub through the soft patches of dirt and growth, I give up omnipotence for the opportunity to admit glorious defeat.
Glorious defeat; the laugh reverberating through a mother’s body, as her children watch in pleasure.
Glorious defeat ; the actualized understanding of digging stakes into the ground, making a sustainable, comfortable dwelling place.
Glorious defeat; a slow in-breath of need and want, and then exhale; relief.
Glorious defeat ; my daily redemption cry.
I slowly roll down that mossy hill, a little bit a day, grabbing the ground with my toes, stabilizing myself as I do, smelling the air, watching the sky, for as long as I can, spreading forth my arms to offer support.
This is me, when I am called to listen to the world’s ebb and flow, to the question and answer of my life.