Less than one month out

Our temple‘s monthly bulletin arrived this week, including the page that lists congregational birthdays, anniversaries, new members and b’nei mitzvah for February. And there I am — a little color photo of me right next to one of the 13-year-old boy whose bar mitzvah precedes mine!

Things are pretty much under control. My d’var Torah is written and my Torah/haftarah portions are learned. I’ve coordinated music selections with Cantor Stephen Saxon — yes, the cantor from the Gospel Shabbat that I blogged about last spring! — who will be filling in since our regular cantor is on sabbatical.  I’ve met with the caterer about the kiddush lunch after services, and figured out who will be doing aliyot,  and picked a favorite quote to appear in the printed program. Still ahead are two dress rehearsals with Rabbi Chester, plus a medley of additional small logistical errands.

When I run into friends these days they say, “Oh, just three weeks! Are you excited?”

And weirdly, I’ve only been able to say, “I guess so.”

This is entirely my own doing. I have a lifelong mental habit of looking at things with a critical, skeptical eye. I see the deficiencies, the limits, the broad context that makes something just a tiny dot on a big field. That’s a useful habit for journalism,  and for politics, and is in fact essential in editing one’s own writing.

It is not so useful in personal life.

Take parenting. I always resisted being one of those parents who SWORE that their child would be the next Mozart because she banged on the piano when the Raffi tape was playing. I made a point of keeping things in perspective — yes, she’s cute, smart, talented, but heck, so is every other three-year-old, and the piano banging is really only piano banging, and it’s really no big deal. Which is all true, but maybe I missed out on a little bit of fun by not letting myself crow like a character from Peter Pan.

And now my Bat Mitzvah. I’ve spent the past year telling myself it is no big deal. I’m not 13 and Becoming A Woman, I don’t want a big party, I gave myself so much time to do this that the work has been pretty mellow, these are skills that come easily to me, what would be a much bigger deal is selling my novel….  and so on.

I’ve made it hard for myself to feel excited. But now I want to feel excited! I don’t want to plod through the day like I’m checking off items on a to-do list and only afterward say, “Huh! That was pretty cool.”

I need to let go a little bit and let myself feel proud  — even if, truly, it hasn’t been as hard as selling a novel.

It turns out that letting go of my reflex of skepticism may actually be harder than any of the chanting I’ve had to learn.

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4 Responses to “Less than one month out”

  1. susie m Says:

    I have no doubt that the day of your Bat Mitzvah you will deeply feel the biggness of the occasion, the awe. I look forward to crowing with you afterwards!

  2. Naomi in Newton Says:

    G-d bless you dear. I can relate.
    But….
    So proud! Such a big deal!
    Be kind to yourself however you feel, OK?

  3. Janice Dean Says:

    I can’t claim to be great at the realism and critical thinking that’s at the heart of your struggle with being excited, but I do understand wanting to feel more excited about a big event. I am excited for you, however, and I feel just a little sad every time I see your Bat Mitzvah on my calendar and know that I can’t go. All the way from Virginia I send you hopes for a wonderful and fulfilling Bat Mitzvah with just the right amount of excitement!

  4. Judy Pace Says:

    Hey Ilana — How about thinking back to the reasons you decided to do this? It may be less about individual accomplishment and more about learning, community, spirituality — adding to the fullness of your life and others life. Our lives will be fuller by joining with you in this event! Judy

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