With less on my plate I sometimes forget there’s a plate at all

seder-at-obamasWhat wonderful Passover seders we had. Okay – so we didn’t draw the kind of attention that the seder at the Obamas house  did, but both nights were truly memorable and fabulous for us.  Right now I’m luxuriating in the glow of having just spent meaningful time with some of the people I  love the most.  These are the moments – for me – when I really can experience the light and the darkness together  (check Part 2 of this linked posting) and just see how much goodness surrounds me.  Let me go back – though – to a few  days before Passover and a startling realization I came to.

It was the Thursday before the Wednesday night of the first seder.  Because I was starting first seder day doing a keynote address out of town I had to be all ready for the seder by Tuesday night.   Having planned what I thought would be two incredible seder meals (including Slow-Braised Lamb Chops in Guajillo-Pineapple Sauce  without the coconut tamales)  I needed to go to Kensington Market to buy eggs and flowers and produce so that I could start cooking.  

The day dawned sunny and springlike.  I started by picking up my daughter  Nili and grand-daughter Freida from Porter Air at 8 a.m., parking across from the Y, having a leisurely coffee and breakfast together, and then walking her the two blocks to where she was giving a lecture while I had the delight of taking Freida for a long walk.  I’d be taking her back to the airport around 2 in the afternoon and arranged to meet my son Motti who would join me to do the Kensington shopping just after that.

kensington-marketMotti and I had a lovely time in Kensington Market.  You see, I’ve been buying my produce before Passover in the market since I first came to Toronto 30 years ago.  I go to the same produce stand year after year.  For the past 29 years I’ve always bought my legs from “the egg lady”.  I’ve got to pause here for a moment.  Cippora Ossman died in December 2008.  Since I only saw her once every year, I didn’t know that she’d died until I couldn’t find her store in the market.  She was a remarkable woman, as described in these words from her obituary:  “What made her special was that she treated customers as family”, said Phil. “She knew generations of families” he said. “She didn’t know names, but knew the family history, and the kind of eggs they liked – brown or white, small or big. ”  I will miss her.

So – just about at this point in my shopping my cell phone rang.  It was David, who was fortunately working from home that day.  “I just dropped Eli off at the JCC” he said.  Oh crap!!!  I had a Bar Mitzvah lesson at 3:45 and it was now a little after 4.  Eli’d arrived, David had tried to reach me by cell but I didn’t hear it ringing, and so he’d given Eli a ride to the next place he needed to be.  Oh crap!!!  This was only his 2nd lesson.  How could I explain this?  What would he think?  How could I have forgotten?  

I decided that I’d wait until the next day to call Eli’s parents and apologize; I needed that time to think this through.  When I did call to explain what had happened as honestly as I could his Dad was more than delightful … he’d assumed he must have gotten the date wrong.  We’d had another lesson since then – all’s well on that front.

But what did I learn in the end?  For nearly six months I’ve been focusing a lot on removing myself from the things that I thought had too much possession of my time and energy when I was working.  I’ve determinedly put my mind to making changes in my life; to breaking out of restrictions – self-imposed or other-imposed – and limitations.  I consciously chose that one of the things I needed to do was give myself time to just drift and think and make the transition from the “old” life to the “new” one.  Something in this isn’t working for me though.

Missing my class with Eli is a symptom.  I’ve missed a couple of other things too though – like a colonoscopy appointment (okay – so maybe I did want to miss that).  I guess I could explain this – and get panicky – as a sign of aging;  or maybe – more panic –  I’m showing early signs of cognitive decay.  Easier – by far – to think that the cause for this is having no routines in place that can frame commitments and appointments.  I can’t any longer say “Monday after work” as a reminder to do something … and without that kind of context it is far too easy for me to just overlook things.  

I’ve already done the obvious thing; I’ve decided that just before I go to sleep every night – and first thing every morning – I’ll check the calendar on my iPhone and review the activities scheduled for the next day.  That’s a start.

I’m also going to give some thought to how I do want to divide my days.  To do that I need to think about – and answer – questions like: How many hours a day do I want to devote to writing?  How can I build exercise into each day?  Who do I want to spend more time with and how can I work that into my days?  Spring’s around the corner (I hope) so I need to ask how much time each day I want to spend in the garden?

I feel like I’m about to turn a corner in retirement life and I’m guessing that six months from now – after a year of living this new life – things will be quite a bit different than they are right now.  In the meantime, this is kind of scary because the forgetfulness has introduced a new kind of anxiety to my life that really is unpleasant.

What an interesting journey this is!

I wonder if there are other questions I need to be asking myself as I rethink the past six months and think about where I need to be heading next?  All advice from those with more wisdom will be much appreciated.  Hopefully I’ll be able to remember some of what you share!

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10 responses to “With less on my plate I sometimes forget there’s a plate at all

  1. That’s the White House in the pic, right? I love Passover. It’s a wonderful holiday at a great time of year. We always apply the ‘lessons’ of the holiday to all people who are suffering around the world.

    • Sylvia Bereskin

      Then I’d love to come to your place for a Seder one year … or have you here as our guest. One of the key differences in the Haggadah that David and I put together from the more traditional ones is that it has a real multinational, multicultural, inclusive focus and we spend a lot of time talking about the ways in which we enslave ourselves and enslave each other. It’s the richness of that discussion each year that makes all the work worthwhile for me. I’d sure love to attend a seder with Barack Obama!

  2. Ah, Sylvia – welcome to the world of the unstructured life! I find it very hard to keep all the balls I want to juggle going the way they should.
    The difficulty comes from trying to plan the big things that I care about or that involve others, and then saying yes to a lot of small things that pop up without thinking about the amount of time each will consume.
    It’s no wonder you forgot something on that busy day! I don’t have an IPhone but I use the calendar on my laptop religiously since it shows whole blocks of time (color-coded even) to give me a better idea of how crowded a day or week is becoming. Then I know when to say “no” or re-schedule or ask for help.
    And sometimes I set an alarm on my cell phone so I don’t forget an appt in the middle of the day.
    Enter everything into it and then check that IPhone every morning and you’ll be fine. It helps to stop and focus for a few minutes on a regular basis. The primary reason we forget is that our minds are overloaded with stimuli in this society.

    • Sylvia Bereskin

      Your words are really truly comforting Jane. There’s this niggling feeling all the time that I’m walking around in a fog and sometimes that just feels like the rough edges are being blunted – which is rather lovely – but other times I just feel kind of lost. Of course that just gets me more scattered. More meditation! Fewer appointments! Hhhmm … I’m stuck here … there’s a word for a word that sounds like what it means the active equivalent to what onomatopaeia is to sounds …. roar (for the sound of a lion), zip (for the sound of a zipper), bark for the sound of a dog. More focus … less noise?

  3. You do get used to it – the need to check what is in the diary. With both of us retired one weekday can feel exactly the same as any other so I begin my morning reminding myself of what day it is. I have been known to set the oven clock to remind me of local appointments.
    If it cheers you up, or it may make you shake your head in wonder, one Saturday after eating an early lunch we had a phone call from a friend
    ” so glad you haven’t left yet – we thought we should warn you of the road works ….” That’s right we ate a second lunch!
    One thing I must add is that most retired people will tell you they don’t know how they ever had time to go to work. Be patient dear friend your enthusiasm and many skills will land you in an area that will be rewarding and satisfying.

  4. Sylvia Bereskin

    Oh Donna – do you mean that I just have to get used to forgetting things? Somehow I’d pictured that as something I’d be doing down the road but not before I turn 60 (okay … that’s only 4 months away …. but still). With help of good friends like you it is easier to work my way through this for sure; thanks so much. Being patient, however, has never been a strong suit for me as I’m sure you can guess.

  5. I didn’t mean that you get used to forgetting things, I still feel mortified if it happens BUT I think once you aware that it can happen, that it is a possibility, you put more checks into your routine to prevent it.
    I’m not certain if comments added after “the use by ” date are read but I did want to reassure you that it does not need to become a regular event.

    • Sylvia Bereskin

      Comments are always read and always very much appreciated. I get kind of excited when I see there are new comments in fact. Now if I could just remember why I was getting excited …..

  6. Interesting. It’s good to know that this happens to others, it’s not a symptom of aging as much as it’s a symptom of moving into a less structured life.

    • Sylvia Bereskin

      So what we need to do is pool our ideas on how to not re-structure ourselves right back into living “working style” but sufficient to not be drifting in a cloud so much? Or should I just get more comfortable with this cloud?

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