Any minute now my ship is coming in
I'll keep checking the horizon
And I'll stand on the bow
And feel the waves come crashing down…
And you said, 'Be still, my love
Open up your heart
Let the light shine in'
Don't you understand?
I already have a plan
I'm waiting for my real life to begin…
These are lyrics from the Colin Hay's song "Waiting for My Real Life to Begin."
I imagine his words resonate for many of us. After all, it's human nature to keep waiting for our "real" life to start once we have all our ducks in a row. We're waiting for that dream job, that dream love, that dream baby, that dream white picket fence, to reach that dream body size.
But while we wait, we're stuck in a holding pattern. While we wait, we miss out on the good stuff that's all around us. While we wait, we miss our lives.
Don't get me wrong. Dreaming big, holding on to hope, and creating lives with intention are all important, but just as vital is how we spend the here and now.
We as people, particularly as Jews, know that life is precious and fleeting. One of the tenets that's core to Judaism tells us it's how we treat each other today and what we do today that counts. As Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, teaches us: "Who is happy? He who is happy with what he has."
Did we love, laugh, learn, lift people up, and find meaning in today? Why sit and wait for what may or may not happen tomorrow, or after we pass on?
Last spring, I shared a poignant exchange with Rabbi Naomi Levy, a spiritual leader and author living in Venice, Calif., who spoke to the Chicago Jewish community when she was in town. When Levy's daughter was just a little girl, she was diagnosed with a serious illness. After facing a lot of tough days and introspection, Levy discovered that no matter what obstacles were thrown her way, she would still manage to see the blessings in the present. "I found a way to see the openings," she told me, "to see more of the light than the darkness."
In fact, she encourages everyone to discover meaning and blessings in today, to live the best possible life now-even though life is imperfect.
For instance, as a rabbi who often counsels Jewish singles, she advises unmarried people to stop putting their lives on hold until their potential, future partners walk through the door. "I've seen single people unwilling to even buy dishes, eating off paper plates," Levy said. They'd tell her, "'I'll buy dishes when I get married and for now I can just slum it." Instead, Levy urges them to say, "'I'm here, I'm alive, and I deserve to eat off dishes. I deserve to live the most beautiful life possible and not put it off for some magical point in the future.'"
Today's technology makes us less centered than ever. We're constantly splitting focus from what's present and real to what's virtual, on our screens. In a recent New York Times column, titled "Stop Googling. Let's Talk," written by technology professor Sherry Turkle, the author asserts that dividing our attention between face-to-face interaction and face-to-smartphone interaction is lessening the quality of our conversation with each other. Texting is tampering with our ability to talk to each other in a deep and meaningful way because we all have (tech) attention deficit disorder. Even when we're alone, Turkle explains, by looking at our phones every two seconds, we're detracting from own concentration and imagination.
So maybe it's time to put our phones away a bit more. As we approach the holiday of Thanksgiving -- a national holiday that I've found to be an extension of the High Holy Days because it centers around themes of gratitude, so present in Jewish values -- maybe it's time to focus less on what we don't have, on what we want next year, or some day way down the road. Maybe it's time to look at the blessings we have right now.
I'm thankful -- right now -- to be relatively safe, free, loved, at peace, in good health, and full of joy. I'm thankful for the beautiful bonds I share with my family, friends, and community. I'm thankful to get to do meaningful work every day. I'm thankful to be constantly learning and growing. And I'm thankful to be a strong Jewish woman living in a time and place where I'm encouraged to say and believe what I want -- to be me.
What are you grateful for today?