I have to be honest, Rosh Hashana never really feels like a new year. I don’t know if it is because I am a convert, or if it’s because I live life on the Gregorian calendar, I don’t even know if other people feel this way. But generally it’s just a nice day to spend with family, go to services and eat. The feeling I get on December 31st is not the feeling I get on Erev Rosh Hashana; the anticipation, the traditions, the leave-it-all-behind attitude to start anew, none of it is there.
However, this year it feels a little bit more like December 31st is fast approaching. I feel rundown and long to take a deep breath. But I also feel hopeful. That’s generally how I feel as the year ends. The last two weeks have been complete madness. For days I worried about the safety of my loved ones (and, admittedly, about the safety of some of my worldly possessions). I packed up my apartment, prioritized my belongings and went on a journey northwest (Tampa). The northeast (Orlando). Then braced for the inevitable (Irma). My parents decided not to join us on that journey at the last minute. It, inevitably, caused a huge blowup before we parted ways. I left in tears and filled with regret. I wondered if I would see them again. I cried for some of the drive and apologized as best I could from afar. Another blowup followed a day later. We were all on edge and not handling it well, at all.
Yet, what followed was a week of witnessing humanity at its best. Family and friends from afar checked in filled with love and concern. They all helped as best they could. My sister sent me weather updates when we lost power and had no radio, my mother-in-law helped us find dog-friendly accommodations, a cousin I reconnected with online offered here home, another offered her calming voice.
The monster storm passed and we were all safe. I felt great relief when I was able to communicate with my parents again, despite the spotty cellular signal. We got on the road early Monday, eager to reunite. We returned to find our city rattled, but not broken. Our homes were fine, albeit dark and hot. I made friends with neighbors and we helped each other as best we could; we shared information, food and comforting words as necessary, even some laughs.
Sleeping in our apartment without electricity to power our air conditioning was not easy (especially for Finch and my mid-western husband, in that order), but we were quickly taken in by my aunt and uncle who had electricity, with love and a spare room to share. The news from loved ones trickled in: my friends were safe my grandparents were safe, extended family members were safe. Facebook became a lifeline for information and everyone was willing to share what they knew and offer what they could. My grandmother was able to send a few e-mails from Cuba to let us know she was okay and how things were progressing there. My grandfather’s home in Key Largo weathered the storm for the most part. Some weren’t so lucky, like my aunt, but they knew their material losses would be restored with their loved ones by their side. I felt infinitely grateful.
This week I have seen the worst of Miami make a comeback -the rude drivers, the short tempers, the self-centeredness- but it will not phase me (too much). I am grateful for the safety of my loved ones, I am grateful to have weathered the storm both literally and figuratively, and I am grateful for an unexpected lesson on letting go of the stuff.
Before we left on our evacuation journey I secured what I felt was most important (family pictures and what I consider heirlooms) and felt at peace with coming back to an empty wardrobe and no electronic distractions. I had never felt so detached from the stuff that clutters my apartment. It was freeing. Now, I won’t lie and tell you I am not psyched to have come back to a closet full of nothing to wear and hours of mindless television to watch, because I am, totally; I have invested a lot of hard-earned money into both.
Still, I will carry that feeling into the new year with me, this new year that is feeling so new. I will carry that gratitude and freedom, I will carry that love and that view of humanity into 5778 (and through what’s left of 2017). I am taking my leave-it-all-behind attitude to start anew, carrying with me only what is necessary and truly important, and trying to peacefully leave all of that other stuff behind.
Shanah Tovah Umetukah