I kept Milo home from school today because it’s Rosh Hashannah. But we didn’t go to synagogue. We prayed my way. We took a 3 mile hike through the woods.
“Why is a hike a good way to observe the new year?”
“Because it’s healthy to start off the year seeing green, noticing nature and feeling fresh air in your lungs. Also, moving your body, sweating, and being with someone you love. It’s a way to be in touch with yourself and your feelings.”
“Why does it matter if you’re in touch with yourself and your feelings?”
“Well, Rosh Hashannah is a thoughtful holiday. You think about the past year, your victories and your mistakes. And you think about the coming year and what you’d like to do differently. I find it easiest to think while walking in the woods.”
“I find it easiest to think while playing Minecraft.”
Milo rattled on about Sonic the Hedgehog for a mile. When he realized we weren’t turning around he turned on me, calling me a liar, swearing he’d never trust me again and moaning that he hated the hike. At one point he fell to his knees and started to crawl. Then he clutched his back and limped. Next his tongue “went numb” and he “couldn’t feel his legs.”
“You know Buddy, this would be easier if you would accept that you’re on this hike. If you keep moving your feet, eventually you’ll get to where you’re going. And in the meantime, check out these cool berries.”
“It’s hard for me to accept something I don’t like or don’t want to do.”
“I know it is. It’s hard for everybody. But so much in life is easier and even enjoyable when you surrender to it.”
“I. Will. Never. Surrender.”
I wasn’t the surrendering kind either. Until Milo. He wrestled me to my knees. And I have been belly up ever since.
In the late afternoon we met several other families at the home of our dear friends E and A. Together we walked to a neighbor’s pond with challah in our hands and threw the bread into the water. This is called Tashlich, the symbolic casting off of our sins. I threw a dozen scraps of bread, each time thinking, “love more. More love.”
My sins are too many to enumerate, and too dull to describe. They are nearly all sins of insufficiency. The new year is about more, and better. I have until Yom Kippur, 10 days from now, to think through my mistakes of this past year and to make amends.
I like these days. These days of awe. I’m self absorbed enough to revel in the exercise. And I find it empowering. It’s about making plans and setting expectations, for yourself. And it’s about forgiveness. Forgiveness is a compliment to surrender.
A Rabbi once told me that as a parent, you are only as happy as your least happy child. My least happy child is miserable at school. Earlier this week he punched a hole in the classroom wall. He ran the pacer test and walked home barefoot after destroying his shoes using them to pound out his fury on a gym mat.
Between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur I have an IEP meeting in which I’ll try, with the help of Milo’s school team, to solve the problem of school. Or not. We might only be able to lessen the pain of school. And I’ll have to forgive myself for that.
I’ll also have to forgive Milo for his misery because it’s making me miserable too. I’ll have to forgive him for his lack of surrender. And I’ll have to forgive myself for needing to forgive Milo for being so miserable. (You see why it takes ten days.)
The awe in these days is in reference to introspection that leads to repentance that leads to forgiveness that proves the power and glory of God. I’m not so into that last part. But I get the relationship between introspection and forgiveness. For me it starts with walking which inspires introspection which results in forgiveness. But that’s just me.
In the new year I hope to get Milo out walking more, so that next September he’s ready to belly up to love and learning and he’s ready to forgive me. And himself.
That would be truly awesome.