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Lesson Learned

10/31/2022 09:30:30 AM


Tami Raubvogel, President

About a year ago I received an Apple Watch as a birthday present. I got this gift because I was often counting my steps and keeping track of my daily activity so, in theory, it was a good idea. However, I was resistant to wearing something that could monitor my every movement. Sure the technology was impressive, but I was skeptical that I really needed information like the time of the sunset or the UV index on my wrist.

More than that, I had observed people who seemed distracted by their watch every time a text or notification came up on the screen. As I said on Yom Kippur, I value being present for every moment and I couldn’t see a way to wear a device that reminded me to stand up every hour without feeling distracted.

After wearing it for a few weeks, I realized that, although it is more fun than necessary, it is actually a pretty useful gadget. I liked access to some of the operations on the watch. However, I still wasn’t convinced this was something that was best for me because every time there was a reminder, a message or an email, my thoughts were interrupted by this little buzz.

Around this time, I figured out the settings and was able to turn off notifications. Just like that, no more distractions! Turning off notifications allowed me to forget I had a device on my wrist and allowed me to just be present with the task at hand. This was the turning point. I couldn’t believe how simple it was to just change a setting to limit distractions.

The concept of simply flipping a switch to minimize distractions speaks to me on a deeper level. I have always struggled with the idea of having to be everything to everyone. Like most people, I wear many hats. I am a mother, a wife, a school administrator, a volunteer, a daughter, a sister, an aunt and a friend. It may be irrational but the idea of letting any of the people in my life down makes me feel like I have disappointed someone.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized I was multitasking my relationships. I talked to my daughter while making dinner. I took a work call while I was in the car taking my mom to her doctor appointment. I sent a text in the middle of a conversation with a colleague. The problem with trying to make everyone the most important is that all of my relationships inevitably suffered. Because trying to be literally present with everyone meant I was meaningfully present for no one.

The experience using my watch allowed me to identify the real question. Who or what is most important at each moment? Whose notifications do I turn off and whose do I leave on?

As the High Holidays approached, answering this question was very important. I was worried that my irrational desire to be everything to everyone would jeopardize my connection to my practice of prayer. I knew in my speech I was going to ask the congregation to step up and serve and I wanted to make sure I was modeling this behavior. I was especially concerned about balance; specifically how to balance my own needs with those of the people I am supporting. What kind of leader of the community  would I be if l turned off the notifications from the different facets of the synagogue in order to participate in the service in a meaningful way for myself?

My “Aha!'' moment happened during a weekly Friday meeting with the clergy and executive director. We were talking about all of the details that still needed to be worked out for the high holidays and I shared that we were missing a few spots for usher duty. I was waiting for someone to panic and try and come up with solutions. But instead, they said whatever it is will be fine. It was that permission not to be perfect which allowed me to relax a little. I took that as a green light to turn off the notification of usher duty, let the person overseeing it bear the responsibility and give attention to other things that were important: like prayer and reflection.

My experience during this holy holiday taught me that it is vital for all of us to find ways to silence the noise of the less important or even the less important at that moment. You might be able to determine for yourself when to turn off notifications or you might need an outside source to help you decide what to choose. The bottom line is building meaningful relationships and being attentive to what is important starts with yourself.

It has been almost a year and I can honestly say that I love my Apple Watch but not for the accessible stock report or that I can know what time it is in Montreal. Now when I look at my watch, instead of it being distracted, it is a reminder that by turning off notifications, both literally and figuratively, I can balance what is most important.

Mon, March 4 2024 24 Adar I 5784