I have often wondered (sometimes aloud) about others who lead their communities in prayer and music over the Days of Awe. Do you all find it as difficult as do I to discover an inner space in which to reflect, contemplate, and to perhaps converse with that still small voice found deep within? Are we so immersed in the task before us that we tend to overlook our own teshuva-repentance? I have attempted mightily to avoid this....
but I often fail miserably as my mind and voice are always set several pages ahead to avoid dry spots and gaps in the services. I struggle greatly to find that personal space.
This year something happened to compel and encourage me into conscious and meaningful acts of teshuva. What happened? He happened.
Meet Gus. Gus is the new adoptee of Younger Son and His Young Lady. Since the aforementioned are currently (and temporarily) residing with us, so is Gus....and all of Gus' paraphernalia. Now...regular readers of this space will know me to be both canine loving and canine friendly. I have been actively lobbying for a dog ever since our big goofy Labrador left a huge hole in both heart and home, so having Gus arrive on Shabbat Shuva, right smack in between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur was an excitement I could barely contain. He is sweet, lovable, easy on the eyes, and smart. Although there have been some frustrating training moments that have challenged two sleep-deprived, working young adults, he really is learning fast. He loves to cuddle (as I type this post, I am contorted into a still to be invented yoga position because he has decided to fall asleep in my lap) and he rarely barks, putting aside the stereotype of small and yapping dogs.
But....Gus is a puppy...a baby. He requires constant attention and even more supervision. It has been almost 20 years since we have had a puppy in this house. I hadn't forgotten it all as much as I had romanticized it. The schedules, the chewing, the worrying about inadvertently poisoning the poor creature because he is digging in a houseplant, the standing in the rain waiting for him to....well you know. And believe me when I say that I am happy to do it all. I have become quite attached to this little guy, but I must admit that 20 years is a very long time. I seem to remember that I had an endless storehouse of energy back then. To where did it all disappear?
Gus is a walking advertisement for teshuva. He has reminded me to consciously curb my temper, to re-develop my patience gene, to refocus my attention on something other than myself, and to willingly accept the wondrous affection and unconditional love that goes hand in hand with sharing one's space with a dog. In these past ten days, I have become a grandparent. I have had to listen to and follow the demands of my children when it comes to how they wish to rear their child, all the while curbing my selfish instincts to shamelessly spoil the creature rotten and let him have free reign of the house. (I must admit that it would be so easy to do. He is just so damned cute!) But I refrain and restrain, knowing that I must act in the best interest of Gus and his long term well-being and the long term mental health of Younger Son and His Young Lady. I have turned inward and have rediscovered a long-dormant part of me. Gus made me remember what the Yamim Noraim are about. U'tshuva, u'tfillah, u'tzedakah....But repentance, prayer, and charity temper judgement's severe decree.
It is so very easy to get caught up in the extraneous stuff around the holidays, so much so that the purpose often becomes camouflaged. This year I was reminded of it all by a 7 pound Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. This year I found that still small voice within.