How do you make changes in your life? I get so overwhelmed thinking about how many things I want to improve, to do differently, or “better” in the New Year. I want to believe that people have the capacity to grow at any life-stage though the older I get, the harder it is to break habits. I want to believe that my thoughts and actions matter - to those I am close with and in a larger sense, but I get overwhelmed with where to begin.
In my early twenties, when I first moved to New York City, I heard a rabbi mention that he said the Shema prayer whenever he heard an ambulance pass. He imagined what it would be like for the person in need of help, and their loved ones, to know that instead of cursing the sirens and the traffic, people were praying, directing their hearts and minds towards bringing the person in need to safety.
I was struck by this, and took on the ritual. I usually pray silently, especially when I’m in public, so this was a private undertaking. But when my husband and I began dating, I confided this practice to him and soon enough he knew to pause - even if it just turned out to be a car alarm - and let me do my thing.
I am someone who gets easily overwhelmed and am often guilty of “sweating the small stuff” but I’ve come to realize that the flip side to this is celebrating the minutiae - that my capacity for joy and sorrow are in equal measure - and that small acts can hold great consequence.
Maybe it is less about breaking old habits, and more about creating new ones to incorporate into your life. Find something that resonates, feels meaningful, and take that on.
Your question lets me know that you are a deeply feeling person, someone who is concerned with things that matter. All of the sensitive people in my life get overwhelmed because they feel things to their core, and it can be hard to know how to channel this into action.
I struggle with organization; I have fought with anxiety and depression; I have been known to take things too personally.
But there is a flip side.
For fifteen years, now, every time I hear a siren, I stop whatever I am doing and I say the Shema. I hold a stranger in my heart. I pray for that person and for their family.
Your thoughts and actions do matter, overwhelmed. Begin anywhere you like, just begin.
Shana Tova and a meaningful Yom Kippur.