By: Ilana (Rubenstein) Kendal
“Everything has its season, and there is a time for everything under the Heaven…” (Kohelet, 1:1)
I was in the middle of making supper, and suddenly I was overwhelmed. Pots, pans and cutting boards cluttered the space, counter tops held the evidence of food on its way. Amidst the chaos, I suddenly wished I was on a cooking show—minus the cameras—where the setup would include neat little bowls and pre-chopped ingredients. In lieu of that, at least I might press pause and create some more order before moving forward. But the water was boiling, and there was no time to make things more perfect before moving forward. Sigh.
Maybe I could find an instant-clean-up-fairy? I looked left and right, but she was nowhere to be found. In fact, the more I grew anxious about the mess, the quicker time seemed to march onward. There was no stopping. There was no going back. There was only forward—even with bowls and not-yet-washed cutting boards around me.
You may not grapple with kitchen chaos, but surely there is some area of life—a relationship, finances, the pile of papers on your desk or the list of ‘should-get-tos’ that hover over you. And then there is the belief: “Once I get to (fill in the blank) or once that part of my life is fixed, then I can move on, be who I want to be, feel how I wish I would.” This thinking keeps us stuck in the sort of clutter anxiety I have described. If we were to zoom out on my scene, what would we see? A room full of abundance, evidence of many blessings (food, family, heating…), a life in process.
It’s easier to see this in the kitchen than in the messiness of a relationship, the challenge of health or the stretch of finances—but this is our challenge: to embrace the messiness, to live in the process and celebrate the not-yet-tidy or barely completed tasks. It’s in between the cutting boards and boiling pots of our days where life happens. If we are too busy waiting for it all to be sorted out and perfect, we will miss the opportunity to grow, to love and to connect.
G-d is the Keeper of perfection. We are the managers of messy, imperfect, ever-in-process lives. This makes us human, this gives us permission to show up and try our best. This is what our time here on earth is about. I did get to the cleanup. Eventually there was some order, but soon more dishes were used and new needs arose. But not before I was reminded that my work is to live within the imperfect, to find gratitude in the mess and celebrate the process. I still wouldn’t mind those cooking show pre-chopped ingredients, but I’m working on enjoying things as they are.
Ilana (Rubenstein) Kendal
is a psychotherapist and occupational therapist and teaches in Toronto. Her classes are a fusion of the poignant and personal, mining Jewish wisdom for its relevance to our personal paths and struggles. Her writing can be found online on aish.com, chabad.org and Kveller, through her weekly Shabbat email and in her upcoming book, "Choosing Up", slated for publication in 2019. Ilana describes her most important job as being a wife and mother.