This past Sunday, Erev Yom Kippur, the time prior to the beginning of the Day of Atonement (or At-One-Ment), I was in the yard cleaning up and cutting branches for our Sukkah and the Sukkah for my Jewish renewal group, Chadeish Yameinu. (A Sukkah is a temporary structure erected on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot). I was trying to get ready for a drumming we were planning in the Sukkah the coming weekend. While I was cutting tiny little Redwood trees from around the base of one of our huge – I mean really huge – redwood trees, the needles on a branch poked me in the eye. It hurt like the dickens, and I immediately knew I had done something serious, like scratched my cornea. I cursed, wiped my eye and kept cutting — only to have it happen again!
Although I told my children, who had come out to help me drag the branches off, that I might have to go to the emergency room, I kept on working and tried to ignore the pain. About three hours later, I was still in the yard. I decided to cut a few more little saplings to add to the Chadeish Yameinu pile of branches. Would you believe it! I got poked a third time in the same eye.
Well, I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason…or at least so we will look at them, learn from them, change because of them, rise to a new opportunity because of them. I had to ask myself what I was supposed to see. Or what wasn’t I seeing?
These were not difficult questions to answer. First, I had come outside to work full of anger and resentment. My husband was at the office working, but I definitely felt he should have been home helping me get ready for Sukkot. In fact, he was supposed to cut the Redwood branches and saplings with his chain saw and finish erecting the Sukkah. Since he wasn’t around to do the former, I was left to cut them with my hand clippers.
Instead of blaming him, which I surely did as I held my hurt eye, I needed to see that he wasn’t any happier than was I that he had to go to the office on a Sunday afternoon. Yet, he was going to miss work the next day because of Yom Kippur, and he felt the need to handle things. I needed to redirect my anger away from him and realize that I was simply angry in general that he wasn’t around to help; I wasn’t actually angry at him. And, in the spirit of Yom Kippur, I needed to apologize – which I later did.
Second, I had done a lot of yelling at my children that morning – for not doing what they were asked to do. In fact, I had taken out my anger and resentment about the situation on them…and I had multiplied those negative emotions with my past anger and resentment over them not doing what they were told. I needed to see that this was less about them in this particular moment than it was about feeling like I was stuck doing things I needed to do but didn’t necessarily want to do – and without help (although I forced them to come out and help briefly) — while they hung out inside doing exactly what they wanted to do despite what they knew they needed to do. And, again, I owed them an apology – which I gave them along with a request that they do what they were asked.
Third, I needed to look at why I was poked in the left eye – the feminine side. I saw that while I wanted to nurture my guests with a lovely yard and garden and a beautiful Sukkah, I was not nurturing my husband or my children on that day. I was not using my feminine, soft, understanding side. I was staying on the masculine, doing, pushing, side. And this was not something new…this was something that I needed to change in the new Jewish year. Every year I set a goal to not yell at my children, to be more supportive of my husband and to be more understanding, nurturing, compassionate towards all my family members. Each year, I hate to admit, I fall far short of my mark.
In fact, I fall short of my mark in a lot of areas. At this time of year – well, in the week or two prior to this – Jews spend a lot of time thinking about how they need to improve and be their best selves in the coming year. We look at how we didn’t do that in the past year. While Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, Jews don’t see themselves atoning for “sins.” The Hebrew word for sin is “chet,” which comes from an archery term meaning “to miss the mark.” (I love this term. It is so much more nurturing than “sin.” Everyone misses the mark once in a while. It doesn’t make them a “sinner” or a “bad person.” It just makes them human.) Basically, each year we set our sights on new goals in all areas of our lives. Then, we take aim and shoot, but we don’t always get a bull’s eye. In fact, more often than not, we miss the mark. So, my poke in the eye also served as a reminder that I have missed the mark…actually, sometimes I haven’t even bothered to pick up the bow and shoot — or maybe I picked up the boy and shot but didn’t bother to aim.
I see this every day. Even today, when I said I would first get down to my work – really do some writing — I have not done so. I’ve checked E-mails, handled some things, added names to my mailing list…basically procrastinated in useful and productive ways, but not done what I said I would do to help me reach my goal – having a proposal and sample chapters for my book completed by the end of November. My goal this year is to really do what I say I want to do – to write, and, in so doing, to fulfill my purpose. So, now that I’ve spent some time writing my blog, which does count as writing, I will end and actually do what I said…I’ll pick up the arrow, aim and shoot (open a new document and begin working on that first chapter to my book…).
And, I’ll try to keep in focus what the scratched cornea of my left eye helped me see.