“The anticipation is worse than the actual event”. This could be a mantra to my life. From blood tests to interviews, I am an exceptional worrier. I also know it is true for the smaller things in life. I write to do lists every day, and notice that some things stay on my list for weeks because I keep putting them off – too scared or overwhelmed by the mere idea of the task. And yet, thankfully, the anticipation is worse than the actual event. Usually once I start doing whatever it is, it takes less time and is less difficult than I had suspected.
This week I led Lunch and Learn – a fantastic Thursday lunchtime slot of Torah study – in Rabbi Rebecca’s place. I need to prepare for this rather more than she does! I give myself a few hours curled up with various Torah commentaries, and go through verse by verse noticing the interesting word choices, peculiar grammar, or odd structures and repetitions in the text, exploring the various explanations and commentaries that have been written about them.
It feels…holy. A strange word, I grant you. It is all-consuming. I am a poor multitasker at the best of times, but this requires a wholly single-focused attention. If the phone rings the sound feels like it’s coming from a million miles away. I would describe it as meditative except it makes my brain work so incredibly hard. I find it exhausting and thrilling. But I put it off like mad.
It was on my to do list for the start of the week, and yet it was Thursday morning when eventually time pressure forced me into action. I know that once I start it I’ll enjoy it but I still cannot make myself do it. I don’t like the current idea that ‘we all have a shorter attention span nowadays’ – it feels like I’m doing us a disservice. And yet I wonder whether I do shy away from this incredibly intense experience because of the focus it requires, because of just how much I need to turn my back on Twitter, Facebook, text messages and notifications, and let myself sink in to the task.
It feels rebellious, somehow, to give something such undivided attention, particularly now as politics and news feel so all-present. And yet, offering ourselves that time to turn away is so calming, so reassuring. I hope you find a moment this week to give undivided attention to something or someone you love, at synagogue or at home.
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