• Musings

    Pausing of the Waters

    The building I live in has a water problem. I moved in two years ago, and at the time saw how efficiently the staff and maintenance people attended to a leak in the ceiling in the lobby. Their work ethic and commitment to keeping the building operating impressed me, and also the attentive manner with which the manager engaged with residents coming into her office also felt reassuring.

    Meanwhile, I signed the lease and moved in. Leaks continued to plague the building, springing from ceilings, running down walls, and causing them to have to open up the wall behind the sink and toilet of my newly renovated bathroom – twice. This was alarming to me, my nicely plastered walls were now a bit lumpy-bumpy the charm of the upgraded apartment was dissolving into concern about what might come next with regard to repairs.

    Our water was shut off time and again, now to stop a burst pipe in the apartments upstairs, and again to stop a catastrophic flood in the sub-basement parking garage, and again to replace the boilers. The building is over 60 years old, and has the ambience and look of a nicely appointed Old World style hotel, with statues and figurines and chandeliers and fountains leaping in the lobby. But, eventually, even with the greatest attentiveness and care, things wear out.

    Long time residents tell me that the leaks and water problems have been going on for years, my estimate from averaging the varying time frames they report, about maybe 4 years now. The building has so many nice features, because it is old. The walls between apartments are thick and so it is quiet with little disturbance from neighbours; it is very low tech with no electrified walls or wiring beyond fire safety alarm codes; everyone has a spacious balcony; and as mentioned, the staff have an old fashioned commitment to attending to residents’ needs.

    Yesterday, I came home from some errands to find that the water was shut off without notice for an emergency: the city is replacing the drainage system, which apparently has been the cause of all the water backups and pressure leaks inside the building. But, the city broke something and our water was shut off – again, and for an indeterminate amount of time.

    Oy! it’s right before Shabbat, and right before Passover, and most of the residents of this building, like me, are Jewish and rushing around trying to get their apartments ready for festive meals and guests.

    I was heading out for a Tai Chi class (at the Renge Dojo in Toronto), and got into the elevator. It was crowded with people going out for Shabbat and stopped on a couple of floors on the way down. I made a joke about how boring our building would be if we didn’t have these water shutoffs from time to time. Everyone chuckled and one gentleman laughed, and smiling at me, said he liked making a joke about it instead of a complaint

    The truth is, though, they may never end. The other truth is, that we were all in the same boat (or elevator) and instead of staring at the doors or the floor counter on the wall, we were chatting and bonding with our complaint, and also having a laugh together.

    Although our ride down to the lobby was brief, it changed something for us all. No longer stuck together in an elevator or in a leaky building, we got to know our neighbours a bit better, and got to step into a new way of looking at our situation, replacing angst and irritation with irony and humour.

    Perhaps at this season of turnover, when it is traditional for Jews to read the passages in Torah about the exodus from Egypt, or Mitzrayim – the narrow place, we can find a new way of seeing challenges or barriers to our wellbeing. Part of leaving Egypt meant the Hebrews had to face the barrier of the Sea of Reeds (or Red Sea). Did they stand at the shore and complain? Some of them did! But then, one person, whose name in midrash is Nahshon, saw a way forward, and he put his foot into the water, and the waters withdrew.

    Think about some narrow place you may be in, and how you react to that. And then, think about this man who stepped into the Reed Sea first and made a path for others, or even how my joke in the elevator brought change for some residents. Opening up to as many options as are available can liberate us from seemingly endless or hopeless bondage.

    Have you tried this lately? write to me and tell me your story, too!

    Wishing You a Peaceful Transition in this Season of Freedom Celebration.