Not Coping Well With a Whole Month of That

“Thursdays felt like Sundays but then the next day was Friday and how could anyone really cope with a whole month of that?… I can’t keep up anymore.” Rivki Silver

I’m not keeping up anymore either.

I did not have a good run up to, or a good time during, the High Holidays. And I was so glad when they were over. Of course, I have so much guilt for feeling that way, but I couldn’t help myself. I’d decided not to write about it because Rivki Silver summed up so many of my feelings in her latest piece. One of the things I am right now, is indeed very, extremely, outrageously, tired.

But then I realized she didn’t talk about a couple of things that contributed to my overall crazy tired, because, of course, how could she? Especially since the first one was the mosquitoes.

I live in a state that has gotten a lot of rain lately. Not the category “some number” storms or hurricanes. Nope. We just get the remnants – the tail end of those nasty episodes of the skies opening up and all the weather forecasters trying to look pleased about being forced to stand outside (We know they’re forced because no sane person would be out in that kind of weather.) while telling us that Mother Nature is pissed off and that she’s trying to wash us away, or in other words, it’s raining hard and the wind is blowing like it’s trying to help Dorothy get out of Kansas.

Now I’m not saying I’m not extremely grateful that we didn’t suffer through the winds and the floods. I am. Especially today looking at the pictures of the town of Mexico Beach  in Florida that just suddenly isn’t there anymore. Because 150 mph winds, and a heck of a lot of water will do that.

Still, the rain we did get was more than enough to make hanging out in a sukkah a lot less fun, and certainly a lot less spiritual, than it was probably supposed to be.

For a couple of days, it was just too rainy to be out there for very long. So we all went out and huddled under our parkas while blessings were said, wine was drunk, and challah was eaten. Then we all rushed back inside to dry and warm and food.

And then once the rains stopped enough so we could eat outside, there were all these lovely little, rain water born, flying critters that thought Sukkot was their special time for snacking… on us. After the first night, I wised up and used bug spray, but it was way too late.

Since Rivki wrote the serious, incredibly good, big girl article, if the mosquitoes were my only issue, I might still have just sucked it up and kept quiet. But they weren’t.

A long, long, long time ago (over half my life ago at this point) when I was still part of a Wiccan coven back in Denver, I used to read tarot cards at the local Renaissance Fair. I was pretty good at it. Witches believe, like Jews do, that women are naturally closer to G-d, and that it is easier for them to do some things that require that connection, like reading tarot. (As an aside: the more I learn about Judaism, the more I realize how much Wiccans stole from the Jews.)

Anyway, there are traditional decks, and like everything in the modern world, many newly created, non-traditional, ones. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that I generally read with a non-traditional set. Also, I wasn’t one of those people who just opened the instruction book and read what was written there. Instead, kind of like it is now with my writing, I felt the meaning of the cards in my hands.

Tarot cards have four “suits” like regular playing cards do. And of the three cards I personally identify with, two of them are from the suit of Cups which represents emotions and spirituality. The other card I identify with is from the suit of Swords which represents problems; as well as the ability to solve (cut though) problems.

The introvert in me is represented by the Ace of Cups, although I’ve always thought of it as the Ace of Solitude. In my favorite deck, it contains a single figure in a black mask. Although there is nothing to indicate gender, I’ve always thought of the figure as female. She stands totally alone in front of a full moon, in a bare landscape, empty except for the giant goblet (cup) beside her. It’s huge, coming up to her shoulder. She is not passive so much as self-contained, quiet, totally content alone, and focused on other realities.

And as much as that card is my core personality, it’s the other two cards that most represent my life during the recent High Holidays: the Ten of Swords and the Eight of Cups.

In most decks, the Ten of Swords, shows a prone figure, face down with 10 swords sticking out of his back. But in my favorite deck, there’s a goofy, cartoony looking, little guy standing there. I just realized I’ve always thought of this figure as male. But really, again, there is nothing to indicate gender, except maybe the two long hairs sticking out of his belly button. (I suppose that’s sexist, but hey, it’s a cartoon!)

He’s holding a bunch of rapiers in his arms, looking down at a few of them that he’s dropped laying around his feet. And especially at the one that is standing straight up embedded in his duck-like foot. He doesn’t look like he’s in pain. He just looks… perplexed.

In the traditional deck, the figure is obviously dead, and obviously dead by someone else’s hand. In my deck, the little guy is very much alive, and just as obviously, very much did this to himself. I’ve always called this the “oops, how could I have dropped a sword in my foot… again” card.

The Eight of Cups is a more serious and more traditional card. There are 8 goblets (cups) in the foreground sitting on the side of a mountain. In the background there’s a figure, back turned, climbing the mountain, walking away from the goblets. There’s a full moon. It has a face with its eyes closed. Perhaps not wanting to watch what the person is doing? I’ve never been sure about that.

I think this represents “working hard, getting what you want, and then walking away from it.” Or maybe it’s the “oops those dreams/accomplishments weren’t as fulfilling as I thought they would be” card.

In the card from my favorite deck, the cups are all sitting upright, so they may, in fact, represent accomplishments and they may still be full. I have another deck where all the cups are laying on their sides, obviously empty. Did they fall over once the dreams faded or the accomplishments disappointed? Did the figure in the card knock them over in anger or frustration… or sadness?

Either way, the person is leaving them there. Moving on. Either going after some other dreams, or losing hope and giving up on dreams entirely. Again, I’ve never been certain which.

For me, it’s not one of the really big dreams, like winning a few million in the lottery, that is causing me such confusion. It’s that I have always wanted to work for a synagogue. Preferably the one I attended.

One of the things that drives me is giving back. My current synagogue hadn’t had an Administrator for quite a while. I thought that being Administrator there would be a way to give back. I’d asked about the vacancy a couple of times in the past, but never received a response.

So, I was both surprised and pleased recently when I was offered that job, part time. I was also both surprised and not terribly pleased when I found out that their bookkeeper would be leaving shortly after I started. But I’d picked up a fair amount of QuickBooks experience at my last job, and I thought (with, as it turned out unwarranted optimism) that, with training, and working some more hours per week, I could handle that too.

It turned out that what I got was a few hours of training on four (count ’em four) whole days, and the promise that the now ex-bookkeeper would answer any questions I had by text, since he was leaving the state.

Ummm… followed by random bad words.

I was a little freaked out. OK, I was a lot freaked out.  But not seeing a lot of options, I just took a deep breath, hoped for the best, and dived in.

And the first bit wasn’t too bad. I didn’t completely know what I was doing bookkeeping-wise, but I’d taken a lot of notes, and I know how to look up instructions on the “interwebs”. I was both learning and getting things done. And the ex-bookkeeper did, in fact, answer my texted questions quickly.

But, way too soon, came the run up to the High Holidays. The amount of work on the Administrator side and on the bookkeeper side, doubled, tripled, quadrupled. On the down side, I was putting in a lot of extra hours. On the upside, I got paid for a lot of extra hours.

By the way, I mentioned this was supposed to be a part time job. There was a reason for that. I have another part time job. The two of them started adding up to way more than the slightly over 40 hours per week I’d planned. And then there’s also this writing thing I do every other week for a website you may have heard of.

As Cher sang, “all my life I’ve been driven by perfection” and this clearly was not working out to be that. I was upset that I couldn’t seem to get everything done. Because, of course, I should have been able to.

I mean, why shouldn’t I be able to do three brand new jobs that I was still learning, plus find time to write? Not to even mention finding the time for eating, dishes, laundry; and praying and learning. What was wrong with me?

Of course, I wasn’t sleeping because worrying is so much more useful than sleep. (In case you are wondering, that was a joke. It isn’t.) On the upside, and it was only barely an upside, I did lose a few pounds.

The dream synagogue job’s cup was teetering. The second job’s cup, also a dream job in its way, and the writing cup, were still upright; but keeping them that way was adding to my crazy tired.

I’d always wondered why Administrators don’t attend the synagogue where they work. It turns out there is a really good reason for that. Everyone wants you to do something, or they want to to tell you something, related to your job, any time you’re in the building. No – correction – EVERY time you are in the building.

Including holy days. Including Shabbat.

So you end up losing the joy and the relaxation of Shabbat. You end up losing the ability to focus on the wonder of the High Holidays.  You end up losing the quiet time you used to have to talk to G-d.

Not to mention losing your temper from time to time. And since you are officially staff, it just won’t do for you to look as annoyed as you often are. (Yeah, like that’s gonna work for a person whose every emotion shows on her face.) Synagogue dream cup swaying even more.

By the end of the High Holidays, I was wrestling pretty much full-time with whether I should quit the Administrator job, or stop coming to services. I  didn’t see a way I could continue to do both. And I really wanted to continue to do both.

I didn’t consider quitting the other job because, simply put, it pays me more for more hours. I live in one of the most expensive areas in the country. Even I, who count on my fingers, could do the math.

And I didn’t consider quitting writing, because it isn’t something I can quit. More than what I do, it’s become who I am.

More of the non-useful, non-sleeping was going on. Rivki’s “so tired” was steadily increasing.

Then, of course, came Sukkot with its rain (did I mention I was a cat in another lifetime and I hate being wet?) and those blood thirsty little mosquito monsters. So now I was exhausted, in itchy pain, and an emotional mess.

Finally, finally… why did it feel like forever?… the High Holidays were over, and I was guiltily grateful.

I am still behind on my bookkeeping input, but a wonderful member of the congregation is not only helping me get caught up, but also helping me better understand why I’m doing what I’m doing. And since the amount of work has dropped off, I am moving slowly toward catching up. I’d been feeling swept away in a pile of papers and numbers, so I’m grateful for every little bit of progress… and help.

Besides that, most of the mosquito bites have cleared up.

Still I have walked a little ways up that hill. I am looking down at my cups at the bottom. I haven’t turned my back and walked completely away. But I can’t yet say I won’t.

Lessons learned? Be careful what you wish for. Not only might you get it. You might also find you’re in pain because, in trying to do too much, oops…you’ve dropped a sword in your foot  And, you have no choice but to allow a whole lot of people to tromp all over your lovely (and necessary) introvert solitude.

I want Rivki to know how grateful I am that she wrote the wonderful, reasoned piece she did, giving me the space to whine about the mosquitoes in the sukkah and my possibly spilled cups of dreams.

Photo by Luke Besley on Unsplash