I started going to kabbalat shabbat at a shul in my neighborhood about a month ago. I had been a shul-hopper last year as a student studying here in Jerusalem, and I continued to seek out places that filled my soul for my most beloved prayer service after making aliya. My new place is up the street and has beautiful, soft and slow melodies, which drag out the service, leaving the songs lingering in my soul long after they are over.
One of the draws about this shul as well is that there’s a Carlebach minyan upstairs. I always want to go, but usually arrive late or can’t seem to figure out how to get up there. I’m sure it’s not complicated, but whenever I ask people, they either send me to the wrong place or don’t know. So I resign myself to the main service, all the while hearing the other minyan and wishing I were there. Part of the reason is that I love to sing, and people in the main service tend to harmonize in the lower octave ranges, so I can’t fully sing as I’d like to and can’t seem to get the resonance right.
I was determined not to let it happen again this Shabbat, and yet when I reached the main service and heard the beginnings of Yedid Nefesh, I didn’t want to miss a moment and there wasn’t anyone outside to ask, so I grabbed a seat.
I’ve recently started surrendering to an unknown illness that seems to be robbing me of myself. I’m not sure what’s wrong, and despite my changes in diet, exercise, and sleep along with Western and Eastern doctors hard at work to figure out what’s going on, I feel myself slipping away. Today was the day I had to tell a massage client “I must take a break. I won’t be massaging for a couple of months.” She was glad for me that I made that decision, but giving her money back for a package she had bought months ago just broke my heart into pieces. I so badly want to be doing this work. I so badly want to be there for others, for my clients, to help them heal themselves. And yet the message I am receiving from my body is that I need to show up for myself first, I need to help myself heal first. This is not an easy thing to give in to, and I’ve fought it hard for a very long time.
What does it mean when you lose your identities? When you stop becoming a student, a doctor, maybe even a redhead? How can you find yourself in a new identity, especially if it’s not one you’ve chosen for yourself, like dealing with health problems or being laid off?
I’ve had to acknowledge my health issues, allow them to be there, instead of pretending they don’t exist, or forcing myself to do the things my body is trying so hard to tell me not to. As I sat in shul, in the main service I always try to get out of, I heard the rousing sounds of the minyan upstairs. And I realized I’m always chasing the next thing. Looking for excitement, looking for growth, looking for new experiences. And what I realized was that in my weakened state, what I want and what I need are two very different things.
What I want to do is get out of my chair, run upstairs, and start singing and dancing. But what I need to do is be exactly where I am, taking things long and slow, allowing myself to be exactly where I am, not striving to be or do something different than exactly who or where I am at each moment. By being present with that, and showing up for myself, I am able to heal myself more fully, and thus be able to serve more absolutely. So in that moment, in that chair in that shul on that shabbos, I stayed where I was and learned to be resonant with myself, learned to harmonize with my own voice, learned to meet myself where I’m at and still make beautiful music.