The week before Pesach I just got to the point where I was overwhelmed by so many community responsibilities. I blamed it on being busy with a lot going on at work plus the Pesach cleaning (which never properly got done, actually), but in retrospect I realize that it was more of a long term problem than that. I basically withdrew from everything, not "making it" to most of the social events I'd planned to attend, not answering any phonecalls or correspondence from anyone local. It wasn't deliberate; on each individual occasion, I happened to be working late, or I was too tired, or there was some reason I couldn't make it. But it was a very bad idea; depriving myself of social contact really does not do me any good. And yes, a lot of my social life at the moment consists of various bits of volunteering, but I enjoy it when I do it, and I'm far happier when I'm almost overwhelmingly busy than when I have plenty of free time.
Friday last week I was invited to supper with someone who is trying to get more young people actively involved in Jewish life. I was sort of dreading it, and actually very rudely didn't even answer her invitation until the last minute. But she turned out to be really lovely, and it was just exactly the way shabbat meals should be. I was also really encouraged because she's about my age, and not a frighteningly competent hostess, but willing to just muddle along. That gives me more hope that I can get my act together about inviting people for meals more often; of course people care more about convivial company than a perfectly laid table, but I need to get over the confidence barrier. The other guests were two couples with babies, and I made a concerted effort to be friendly to the babies, such as holding the smaller of the two while his dad reached something from a high shelf. Inevitably, lots of the conversation was baby focused, but that can be interesting in small doses, and it wasn't the only topic either.
The bar mitzvah this weekend was, well. This is the pupil who wanted to have a Progressive education but a Conservative ceremony, so I wasn't involved in any of the organizing. It was also leaning more towards the American tradition of a lavish occasion rather than the European approach where the event is primarily a religious service that happens to include an element of celebration. But considering that, it was sensitively done, and they'd included some really nice personal touches to involve the whole family in the event. The security guards tried to throw out a friend of mine because the service was a "private party", which is really not on at all, but I don't think that was the fault of the host family.
I don't think anybody intended to patronize me; they invited me to the party because it's perfectly normal to invite your bar mitzvah teacher to the party. But I did feel a little underdressed and out of place all the same. As well as all the dignitaries there were a bunch of disturbingly sexy 13-year-old girls; I eventually worked out that they are the bar mitzvah boy's classmates. Since he attends a specialist music school, the girls have to have proper grownup evening dresses for performance purposes. But I can't imagine what it would be like to be a teenaged boy going to school with so many frighteningly glamourous girls.
Today I spent longer than I'd quite intended playing Civ, (which I won convincingly but with a rather low final score). Then I went out to get some shopping; I succeeded in finding a USB headset. This should mean I can use VoIP (Skype, or Gtalk, or whatever) again. Though I think I should have gone for a slightly higher price band; the headphone part is definitely better than my old stereo headphones, but the microphone doesn't have noise cancelling and it shows. I failed entirely at girl, though; I was looking for some light summer skirts and possibly some underwear, and trailed round four different clothes shops without making a single purchase. This is partly because I'm bad at clothes shopping, and partly because it was hot enough that I was actually uncomfortable, and I didn't quite have the motivation to make a proper lunch so I was hungry as well.
I must must must stop displacing from:
- Sorting out the logistics for my last bat mitzvah next week.
- Getting things going for the traditional egalitarian minyan before everyone goes away for the summer. I've been promising Joanna I'd do this for months, and I keep putting it off because I know it's just going to be another major responsibility for me. I hope it's not already too late.
- Contacting the Limmud committee to explain why I've been ignoring them for weeks.
- Sorting out bar mitzvah teaching for next year, if it's going to happen at all, or possibly work out what I'll do instead if not
- Organizing a final event for the bar mitzvah class, to round off the year properly and not just let things peter out into last minute logistical business around the ceremonies.
- Contacting my hostess from last week to thank her and discuss followup.
- Figuring out if I'm going to make it to North America this summer, and if so how.
- Various work stuff I'm not going to go into here.
- Preparing proper food and not living on toast and pasta.