We faced the Ark for the Barchu. I am always incredulous that the rabbis let me sing those lines. Who am I to invite the whole community to prayer? What chutzpah. I sing them and pray that I'll be a better person by the next time I do it (and pray there will be a next time).
We remained with our backs to the congregregation, and suddenly I felt very lonely. I understood, in that moment, how much I rely upon the presence of everyone else to help me stay focused--I lean on, even leech off of, their energy. Even though I knew they were only a few feet away, I couldn't see them, and got confused. I stumbled on a word in the Hatzi Kaddish, and almost forgot to turn east for the Amidah. I didn't breathe; my voice seemed flat and tinny. I looked up at the Ark, so close now, and its presence helped me regain my bearings. But by that time the service was almost over. The bar mitzvah boys led Kiddush, and I stood to the side feeling like I had just returned from a long journey.
I had been lost in the sanctuary, and was sad that I missed part of the very same service I was leading. I sang Shalom Aleichem at the end with all the energy I could summon, glad to be back.