It’s time for me to quit this “I’m too uptight and shy to let go” thing and get ready for next week, because on Sunday I fly up to Connecticut and jump into the Davenin’ Leadership Training Institute (if you’re a new reader of this blog, check out the post called “DLTI – What Was I Thinking?!” for an explanation).
It occurs to me that this is partly why I was thinking about the hallway prayer service yesterday, because at the time I was as embarrassed as I was proud, and I had the hardest time concentrating on the service. It was excruciatingly painful to simply relax and be in the moment. I couldn’t turn off the annoying voice in my head that wants to narrate everything, ad nauseum.
It’s so easy to blame it on the externals of our world. We’re caught up in our busy-ness, always rushing from this to that…and it’s worse now than ever, what with cell phones that double as cameras, tape recorders, TV sets, calendars, web surfers and more; plus the I-pods, electronic books, and all the other toys that we haul with us everywhere we go. For instance, I sometimes think that my daughter is addicted to her cell phone. She actually sleeps with it, and other parents tell me their kids do the same thing. I used to joke about how many texts she sent in a month, until we gave up, stopped counting, and signed up for a service with unlimited text messages.
But I digress. I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to being distracted and unfocused. It doesn’t help to blame it on technology — after all, I can just blame it on living in a society that insists of distracting us with thousands of messages that come streaming into our lives every hour via radio, TV, internet, billboards, etc… but again, I digress.
My problem is that I ignore the little voice in my head that says, “stop, slow down, pay attention, relax” and instead listen to the little voice that says “you’re going to look like an idiot if you do that.” I can go only so far and then become uneasy in situations that require physical closeness and emotional openness with anyone who isn’t family, especially if someone else initiates the closeness. Hence the fact that I insist on calling the folks at the DLTI “touchy-feely;” it’s easier to keep someone at arm’s length if you pidgeon-hole them, slap a definition on them.
Did you know that there are at least half a dozen websites with formal definitions of the phrase touchy-feely? Here’s one from yourdictionary.com:
touchy-feely (tuc̸h′ē fē′lē); adjective; of or characterized by the overt display of affection, compassion, and other tender feelings, as through hugging, crying, etc.: used disparagingly to convey excess, indulgence, superficiality, etc.
Mea culpa. But in my defense, I find the idea terrifying. Which I shouldn’t, because as Ellie said, I really do lots of “touchy-feely shit.” Especially in synagogue. Especially when I lead services, or someone interacts with me as their spiritual leader. I’ve learned that people want my full attention when they’re speaking with me. When I focus on them, shut everything else out, I can feel the pleasure they get from that moment. It’s not much to ask of a person, to simply pay attention. And when I reach out and touch them, even just a gentle touch on the arm, I can feel a tiny part of them melt.
I guess my mission, should I choose to accept it, is to let go, stop talking so much, and just listen. And let people touch me. Without flinching. [sigh]
I saw a cartoon of a couple of guys looking at a computer with the message “Do Not Touch” on the screen. One guy is saying to the other, “It’s very user-friendly, once it gets to know you.”