Sometimes weeks are long, and praying is hard.
Nothing notable happened over the last few days, but everything seemed to take much more concentration than usual. A day or two when I didn't have to pay attention would have been nice. Last night I helped lead services (18th time--chai!--maybe this heralds upcoming luck) as part of a combination I hadn't experienced before: the cantor; the rabbi with the beautiful voice; a drummer who sings wonderful harmonies; and myself. I was intimidated for no good reason by this particular company and worried about singing too much and stepping on toes, but also didn't want to seem too passive. After the holidays I figured I'd be full of confidence if asked to lead again. Not quite, and I really need to fix this, because I'm getting annoyed with myself. I don't believe people when they tell me I sound beautiful. I continue to worry, irrationally, that I will miss a cue, come in flat, and never be asked to do it again. These seem like odd concerns when leading prayer, but part of the life of this service is the layering and trading back and forth of of voices. And none of it is planned.
I was tired; making sounds took a great deal of effort. I couldn't find the key or tempo, and was aware that I was paying no attention to the congregation. I felt lost. I kept thinking, they don't really need me here at all!--the cantor can do it in his sleep. So I should just keep my mouth closed, since I'm not sure what will come out. After the first few minutes, however, I took a deep breath, sat up straighter, and remembered where I was. We sang brand new melodies for two prayers (one learned by me that very afternoon from an MP3 emailed by the cantor... would there have been a Golden Calf, I wonder, if Moses hadn't been out of touch for 40 days and could email those commandments instead?) The four of us up front were mostly in unison, since the new tunes were fast and powerful and didn't lend themselves to harmony. It was just what I needed; every loud note was like a brick added to a buttress that held me up, or an injection of vitamins. By the end of the service I felt fully present, but also sad that I had struggled and lost out on some of the fun. For the rest of the evening I tried, with partial success, to forget about all my perceived little mistakes, aware that I would be less hard on myself if I'd led with anyone but the cantor. And then, when my angst was over and done with, I sat on the sofa and marveled that I get to do this amazing thing. Even after all this time, it still doesn't seem real.