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From Skokie to Sam's Club: My Search for Serenity on the Seventh Day

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Dana’s happy feet, on a Hawaiian yoga retreat, blissful yet fleeting

Eight months pregnant with our first child, I traded in the keys of our cool Evanston loft for a Skokie bi-level. It’s practical, it’s convenient and it’s so unimaginative I sometimes turn into my neighbors’ driveway instead of my own. Her violin students knock on our door. His leaves fall on our neglected lawn. The old Jew across the street dies. A new one moves in.

Even though our cloned bi-levels are 2.5 blocks north of the Skokie Eruv, I’ve observed enough serene-looking, shul-going neighbors to develop an acute case of Shabbat envy.

Okay, so maybe they don’t always look serene. Sometimes they look cold. Or hot. Or wet. But the general attitude as observed (imagined, projected) from the comfort of my passing Honda Civic is: I don’t care if there are 352 unread messages in my in box. So what if the grass needs mowing, my to do list is growing, the playoffs are at noon and cat litter is on sale two for one at Costco. It’s Shabbat (for chrissakes). And I have no choice. But to rest.

As someone who Googled “sanitarium” as recently as 10 days ago, I see a certain beauty and wisdom to Shabbat. Abraham Joshua Heschel called it “a palace in time.” My friend Brian said, “It anchors your whole damn week and your whole damn life. You rest. You adjust your frame of mind, your entire being. And it just works.”

Let’s be honest – we could all use a day each week to slow down and reflect and breath.

In other words, God was on to something when He rested on the seventh day. But as an agnostic, Reform, multi-tasking resident of Skokie, I’m not sure I can convince myself not to sow, plough, reap, bind sheaves and/or thresh at 10:10 on Saturday morning. While I have no intention of trapping, flaying, or scraping a deer or any other large mammal this weekend, I’m not sure I have the discipline to turn off my BlackBerry. Or the time.

These days, I say I love you a lot. But I say, C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, COME ON even more. Starting at 7:26 a.m. Monday through Friday, plus dinner time, bath time, bedtime, get-in-the-car-we’re-late-for-Sunday-school time, and random transitions in between. That is, when I’m not tap-tap tapping on my BlackBerry at the stop light, on the toilet, at 3:52 a.m.

Can’t everyone just shut up and leave me the fuck alone. I realize that doesn’t sound very professional. Or motherly. Or nice.

So what are the alternatives? That’s not rhetorical, my friends.

I realize that whining is a fairly unbecoming quality on a 39-year old woman, even if she is sitting on the early train into the city, the day before her deadline, eating a frosted Blueberry pop tart and tap-tap tapping into her BlackBerry this Oy! essay that was never supposed to be written.

I am retiring, I declared after my last Oy! story to anyone who would listen. I need to sleep, I unabashedly whined, downing a large coffee with cream and sugar. (Editor’s note: We would not listen. We continue putting Dana’s name on the schedule because we like her stories—apologies to her family.)

But why retire when you can instead look to Judaism for stress relief? It can be a blog, a midnight project, a multi-part series. It can be a quest. Consider this a plea for suggestions. Get drunk on Manischewitz? Do Rav yoga? Take a walk through the woods on Tu B’Shevat? That’s my new plan.

NEXT: Jewish Meditation. Sit and shut up. It might not sound so Jewish, but meditation was popular among the mystics on the hilltops of Sfat back in the day. The Jewish Healing Network of Chicago hosts Dr. Yonah Klem, the Midwest’s only Jewish Meditation Teacher ordained at Chochmat HaLev in Berkeley. I plan to check it out on March 8, 1–3 at JCFS, 5150 Golf Road in Skokie. Contact Tracey at 847.568.5216 or  JHNC@jcfs.org to register ($15).

Anyone care to join me?

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