Every time I go to the dentist, I get a lecture. You’re supposed to come every four months, not every six. You’re supposed to brush your teeth for a full five minutes at a time.
When I called the service company about our water purifier, I got a variation on the theme. Don’t you know it needs servicing more frequently? You need to call about changing the filter more often.
I’m afraid to call the treadmill experts, usually only reaching for the phone when it grinds to a halt and refuses to move. And what about getting the car washed? Well, there’s always the day before Passover, isn’t there?
It’s not that I’m cavalier about important things (my kids have all their shots and their eye tests are up to date!), but every professional or service man you speak to seems to think that their specialty should be yours as well.
“Don’t put so many clothes in the dryer,” says the appliance repairman. Well, do you know how much laundry I have?! “Your nails are a real mess,” admonishes the manicurist on a rare visit. Well, do you know how many potatoes I’ve peeled?! The silver needs polishing, the windows need washing, and my ‘mature’ skin wouldn’t mind a facial.
The problem (challenge?/opportunity?) is time. “Spend a half an hour private time with each child every day,” intone the experts. Well, do you know how many children I have?!
When it comes to the finite reality of time, something has to give way. I’d rather fewer trips to the dentist (who wouldn’t?) than less time with my husband and children.
It’s possible that the dryer won’t always operate at its optimum ability and the washing machine may tax the electricity grid, but we have to make choices. Evenings for family. Extra daytime hours for family as well. And working on my relationship with God.
Of course I’d like to look perfectly ‘coiffed’ with a house that’s featured in “Better Homes and Gardens” but I’m not willing to pay the price (literally and figuratively).
More relevant than the budget considerations (sometimes it feels like nothing is more relevant than the budget considerations!) are the emotional costs. I’m not willing to spend my evenings doing chores while I miss out on that time with my children (although I wouldn’t mind throwing in a load during math homework!) I’m not willing to sacrifice time I could be learning and teaching for more sparkling teeth.
And if the price of making a nourishing dinner for my family is unpolished (and cracked and jagged) nails, it’s no sacrifice. (If you think this point is too silly to even mention, you clearly don’t live in Los Angeles!)
To the dentist, the world is seen only through the prism of straight, white teeth.
We frequently spend our time on trivial pursuits at the expense of more important ones. Even to the extent of work versus family.
I’m not advocating complete neglect of all other concerns but perspective. The dentist has no perspective. The world is seen only through the prism of straight, white teeth. The appliance serviceman has no perspective. His world revolves around motors and coolants and leaking water valves. The personal trainer has no perspective. Barbells and Nordic Tracks dominate his world. The nutrition obsesses about brewers yeast and spelt flour.
But Jews say everything in moderation. We say that family takes precedence. We say that a relationship with God takes precedence. All else will fade away.
On the High Holidays we begged forgiveness for inappropriate uses of our time and skills. On Rosh Hashana we explained how we plan to use the upcoming year more productively. Now the new year is upon us. Now we have to act upon our resolutions. Now we have to be real with it.
“Killing time” is anathema to Jews. But it requires constant consciousness to use our time well, constant vigilance. It’s easy to get caught up in spa mornings, mall afternoons, TV evenings. Not only do our spouses suffer. Not only do our children suffer. We suffer.
We suffer from missed opportunities for intimacy, missed joys of connection. We suffer from missed moments of meaning, missed chances for learning and growth. Missed conversations, missed laughter, missed prayer. All for the sake of glossier hair and folded clothes.
When we ask for life, we are asking for the opportunity to live life to its fullest, to grab it with gusto. Maybe the lawn will still need raking. Maybe the gray will still show up in our hair. But we’ll have the love of our families, a relationship with our Creator, and the knowledge of time well spent to comfort us.