As those who know me well, I'm an obsessive preparer. I schedule, I chart, I plan. I write my High Holiday sermons months in advance (though I'm not scoring well on that one this year--more on that in a minute). I like all the details worked out in advance--not to be inflexible, but so that, knowing the flow and structure, we can deviate if needed. All this is especially true for the High Holidays. This is my 'high season' and I spend a lot of time working on cues, sermons, stories, and the like.
But I readily admit that there are two problems with preparation, or over-preparation.
1. Inevitably, I'm not as prepared as I feel I ought to be. I don't have my sermons written in July. I don't have every detail mapped out. As a result, I feel incredible guilt and pressure to redouble my efforts.
2. I lose the opportunity for spontaneity. When everything is choreographed, there's less chance I'll have a serendipitous moment, a natural, artless, unscripted experience. What's worse, when I do, rather than seeing the opportunity in the moment, I'll see instead the crisis.
So last year, I decided, to butcher the film subtitle, to stop worrying and love the chaos, at least a little. I refused to stress this, that or the other thing. I couldn't control everything, only my own work. And in the process, I had the best High Holidays I'd had in years. Oh, there was still stress, both expected and unexpected, but it felt better from stem to stern.
So I'm trying to get back there, to be prepared ENOUGH (I'm not going to wing my sermons, after all) but also keep myself open to those moments of chance, because those moments are sacred. And we as a people know that, while looking for one thing, occasionally a bush will burn in our midst, and a voice will emerge, and we'll be called to a sacred task. Who am I to refuse to turn and look?