It is a time of returning. Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, is upon us. We are in the midst of the Hebrew month of Elul, which, in preparation for the Days of Awe, is a period of Teshuva, often translated as repentance, but which literally means to go back, to return. PJ Library sent us a book called Engineer Ari and the Rosh HaShanah Ride, about a man who turns his train around and returns to his friends. Jews around the world are involved in spiritual preparation, returning to God, returning to the selves they wish to be. So, I feel, it is an especially fitting time for me to return.
Except that I’m returning to work.
In preparation for the auspicious day, I’ve been maniacally going through drawers and scrubbing under sinks. We had to rearrange our house to make room for the new baby, and I’ve been uncovering every crevice in an attempt to find more space. Unlike the mother hummingbird, who spent less and less time on her nest before her babies flew off, I have become obsessed, spending hours going through bookshelves and re-arranging the angles of chairs before I fly off. I am trying to leave my mark, so that when I’m no longer home when the baby cries, turning his head from side to side in his crib, searching for me, he will know that I love him, because he has a dresser now, and a cubby at the bottom of the crowded closet, and a quilt hanging on the wall. Maybe I’ve been trying to make the new seem old, and comfortable, before the old routine returns, belying its name, and bringing more change.
It’s a strange business, this “returning” to one’s self. Pregnancy and childbirth are especially powerful physical metaphors for the reality that we are always in flux. My grandfather used to say that change is the only constant. In the past months, I have watched my body wax and wane like the moon. I have cut dozens of white crescent fingernails, surprised at how quickly they grow. I have built sandcastles by the side of a lake, and thought of nothing else but how much more water we need for the moats, and how sweet it is that children of a certain age don’t walk, but run, no matter how small the distance. And my ears are full of the sweet sighs and grunts of a new life. I have been present in my motherhood, having nothing else tugging at my attention. I return now to a life conflicted. I will have to go through my internal drawers and closets and create more space. Perhaps I will uncover a moonlit stream of space for spirit and self and soul. For God to leak in and help me to be present. And remind me to leave some drawers unoccupied, some walls blank, some space between my ribs to breathe.