#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 1: Prepare

PrepareForty days before the gates will close on Yom Kippur, the shofar starts blowing to remind us that it is time to prepare. To prepare for us who live more and more in a world of attractive distractions. When we think we have the time. When we forget that we had to breathe. To pause. To stop. To take stock of our priorities. To say no to some of the shiny objects that take us away from what is truly important that eyes can’t see.

This lovely book of Psalms was given me for my birthday this year. The gift is wonderful because it is not a one time, quick read, that you hop from to another quick share. It is such a precious gift that I have kept it in sight, just to remember to open it when the time is right.

Today, Sunday, the first day of the last month of the year, was the right day: I am ready. I am ready for the next challenges that are awaiting me. I want to use the month of Elul to be prepared for the days of Awe starting in 29 short days. I do not want to run amok and feel like I wasted my energy in panic, scrambling as if I did not know in advance what was coming, the high holy days. We even had an extra month this year to do good deeds, so if we forgot, or procrastinated, it is still time. Elul is a gift that keeps giving.

This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

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The need for consistency

Consistency - Target
iStock Photo

Sure enough, consistency is key to my organization. I have been wanting consistency in my life always, and at the same time, it faces the constant flow of change.

Change is the sign of life.

Art is another form of our world that emanates from creativity. It produces beauty. And then it stays. It does not change once it is produced. It becomes something different, but it does not change after it is produced. It will change others in the sense that art moves you. But it does not change itself after it has been created.

I struggle between two poles. My need for consistency. My aspiration for art.

When I write I can forget about everything in the process. I forget about the others. I forget about my pain. I forget about my worries. I forget about the rules and the necessities. I just create a flow and I navigate it.

Then I have to end the journey at some point because one cannot endlessly float on their back staring at the sky and enjoying the ride, and I have to go back to the bare necessities.

And I go back to my lists, and they feel so dull.

It is like having taken a wonderful vacation and returning to the old factory in a grey and smokey city in the last century. I drag my feet. I want to remember the journey. I am not yet ready to go back to work. The alarm clock screams at me. Time has passed. I am late and have missed my deadlines. Now it is rush hour.

Between dull and stress, my heart always hesitates.

Do NOT get on your email before breakfast

Email Clipart For some reason, I followed this rule this morning, for the wrong motive, in fact I was waking up and did not get up right as usual, certainly because it felt coldish outside: I can sense it even though the home temperature would remain the same, but the furnace was roaring, that is the first indication, for sure.

Then because it was a little later, I realized I was sleepy, and dragging and getting everyone late in my trail. Having two teenagers to get ready for their respective schoolbus can be a morning chore, that needs no distraction, and believe me, checking my emails can be a distraction: I generally get a good fifty new emails during the night, because some of my correspondants are already operational since they live in different areas of the world: the late owls from California, as well as the early birds from Europe and Israel, when we are not talking about the news flowing from the very far-East that are always interesting too, even if they may be less personal to me.

Of course, today, there was an email that I should have seen, that contained an attachment to be printed and handed to one of my sons before he goes to High School. I missed it. He left without the handout, which he generally enjoys reading prior mentoring in a 3rd Grade religious school class. I feel a little guilty about it, but not so much, the teacher sent it at her usual active hour of the day, which seems to be 3 a.m, I’ve always wondered…

I’ve always wondered how my imagination can go fly into other people’s lives, with little such indications as the time they post an email, or how they format their documents, or how they write their thank-you’s, etc. Those indications go through my own filters and they become the drip that opens the flow to many representations. I do not necessarily attempt to correct my representations, and I assume that the image I start forging is going to flicker soon enough, and that the next time I meet this person, I won’t be prejudiced, it has never served any other purpose than entertaining me for a couple of seconds, while noticing the oddity or the difference.

However, this rule of never checking my email before breakfast proved once again that it was not the right rule for me! If I do I am doomed and get late, if I don’t I am doomed and get even later!

What’s your rule of thumb? When do you check your email? What are your practices with email? Are you disciplined? Are you carried away? Has email become less important to you because you prefer other means to communicate with others? How do you master your communication with the people you work with? Please comment! I am genuinely interested in others’ habits and hurdles!

What slows me down

I have a lot of tools to measure my motivation, my energy, my activities. That is not the problem. I always know when I am on a roll and when I am not. Measuring is a great way to know what is going on and to help to correct actions when it is needed.

However, it is not always easy. It requires the extra ingredient that will make the tools at hand really efficient. The extra ingredient may be determination, it may be willpower, or it may be discipline.

Some call it time, some call it luck too. There are days you feel lucky, everything runs smoothly, no catastrophic interruption slows you in your stride. The thing is that you do not really know in advance. And that is where planning is another issue.

Sometimes I plan ahead, I work with calendars, I write and jot down, and seldom go back to the plan, because I won’t take the time to evaluate how it worked: often looking back on some previous plans depresses me a lot, because it throws me in the past, and it brings me lots of judgments on my failed actions, or so perceived.

With planning ahead, should always come acknowledging the accomplishments, in a very small measure. Every day’s accomplishments may not always feel like they have had their place in the plan, and I am always so harsh on myself: looking back is never as exciting as looking ahead. It proves to have been more painful than expected, more tedious, more discouraging.

And it slows me down.

I tend to keep a lot of tools at hand: they might prove useful once, and then I try to keep them for they might prove useful again. Even if they are just tools, I give them power, instead of remembering that the power is in myself, this extra ingredient that is difficult to tap in, to store, and to keep always at hand, because it is not a tool, it is more like a spark, a spirit or a force, that I can forget about, or simply not feel connected to.

Like all sources, it definitely needs to be nurtured, fed and taken care of. These operations take time and pace. So when I actually slow down, it may be the right time to remember that this is the best opportunity to feed and nurture the spark, and be kind to myself without blame or judgment, without fear of failure, and with an open mind to what will come in during these times of lesser productivity.