Last week I started discussing the prayer Modeh/Modah Ani, “I am thankful.” It is the prayer that we are supposed to say as soon as the alarm rings, even before we get out of bed. It is about making sure that we begin the day with a sense of optimism. By the way, there is a prayer for nighttime for when things did not work out exactly as planned. I will talk about that in a later entry.
Today, I want to focus on the second Hebrew word of the prayer, “Ani”, or I in English. There is a great story of a rabbi who showed up two hours late for morning services. The people asked him why he was so late. He said, I got to the Ani, the I, of Modeh Ani, and I did not know who the I was. I spent the morning trying figure out who I am.
A lot of us wake up in the morning feeling a little disoriented, and not just because we may not have gotten enough sleep. We have so many roles to play, whether parent, child, partner, employee, employer, friend, or community member. Sometimes these roles are in conflict. Sometimes we do not even know what the individual role even is. We do not feel like a person, but a series of tasks, that if we complete all of them, still make us feel mediocre. There rarely seems time just to be a person.
We may also be wondering where the time went. When I look in the mirror, I see a middle-aged man, someone who looks a lot like my father. I love and admire my father dearly, but it is still sometimes a jolt. Whose life am I living?
The prayer of Modeh/Modah Ani is about taking a moment and thinking about what kind of person you want to be today, what kind of life do you want to live. It does not mean you can do anything you want, because taking care of our responsibilities is important and a privilege. It means, though, that you do not have to live just for others. You are entitled to your own joy and your own definition of a meaningful life.