I’m breaking with my usual post-Yom Tov (festival) habit of trying to catch up on blogs and stuff in the hope of getting to bed before 2am. For the same reason, this is going to be more of a summary of the last three days than a blow-by-blow account.
The shortest version is that the first two days (Yom Tov proper) where an emotional rollercoaster, but I was broadly coping, but Shabbat (the Sabbath) was just too much and I was not good. To be honest, three day Yom Tovs, or “Three Day Events” as my parents call them, are pretty draining for everyone even without COVID-19 disruption and without depression and OCD.
As for the more detailed version… well, the first two days I was up and down. At times I was worried or depressed about some things, but mostly I was able to calm myself by reminding myself that my rabbi mentor told me not to worry about chametz (leaven food, forbidden on Pesach) smaller than an olive (although I know he is being lenient with me here, so it doesn’t always help) and by reminding myself that I’m not responsible for what my parents choose to do. I think there was probably in the background the usual current worries: worries about my Mum, her cancer, and her risk of COVID-19 infection; worries about COVID-19 in general; worries about E.; worries about my relationship with E. (which is going well, I hasten to add, but is at a crossroads, which is exciting but also scary, or was at a crossroads until COVID-19 put our plans on a back burner). And so on.
The sederim went quite well, considering there were just three of us, although it felt a bit weird. Usually we would have about ten or so people in total one night; the other would be me, my parents, my sister and my brother-in-law. This year it was just three of us both nights (“Why is this night so different?”). We did have some more discussion than usual, which gives me an idea of how to do things differently in the future. I had a migraine on the afternoon of the first day, but it had subsided by the second seder, which was good. I still struggled to learn anything new at the seder, and to connect emotionally with the ideas of the night. I still end up over-thinking things and not feeling them. I wish I could get more out of seder, and out of Judaism in general. The only real feeling of connection I had was via guilt and anxiety when I did something wrong (see below).
One interesting thing while I was eating the matzah (unleavened bread) was a strong feeling that freedom is being able to “just go,” which obviously connects with the story of the matzah in the Torah, that the Israelites did not have time to bake bread before leaving slavery in Egypt, but is interesting in terms of my usual procrastination and my awareness that my relationship with E. is going to require quite a bit of risk-taking and adventurous departures if it’s going to work.
I made some mistakes, in terms of forgetting to do a few things. Most of them were rectifiable, but in opening some celery I had forgotten to open before Yom Tov I tore some writing on the packaging, a big no-no on Shabbat and Yom Tov (it’s considered erasing). I felt very upset about this, and then managed to do it again the next day on something else (that was less obviously my fault though). As I say, I felt upset, but I did manage to move on.
And then we got to Shabbat… It was going well, and then there was an Issue. There was an oversight in the kitchen (I won’t go into the details which are fairly complex) and potentially we had messed up the Pesach kosher-ness of some food. I was 80% sure it was OK, but still couldn’t bring myself to eat it. I didn’t argue with my parents, but they did eat it, and put it on our plates, which meant that the plates were now potentially problematic. I tried to stay calm, but it was hard to do that with all the worries I mentioned above in my head plus the minor Pesach worries and now plus this. I tried not to eat anything potentially ‘contaminated’ for the rest of the day, but it was hard to keep track of what cutlery had gone where and by lunchtime on Saturday I was de facto relying on my opinion that the food was OK (which at least had now grown to 90% certainty).
After Shabbat we emailed my parents’ rabbi and he said what I had thought: it was OK, we had just infringed a protective measure intended as an extra level of safety. But it’s hard to spend Pesach every year wrestling with feelings that God is going to deny me any reward in the afterlife because of confused and panicked decisions I take at Pesach, especially as those are motivated more by a desire to avoid arguing with my parents than some selfish desire to eat chametz on Pesach. I thought I was past this stage, but apparently not, or at least, not in this crazy year.
It’s hard to treat OCD at a time of the year when we are supposed to be worried about what we eat. I suppose the analogy would be to someone who had germ contamination OCD and was trying to treat it with exposure therapy, but now has to deal with COVID-19 and suddenly being told to wash her hands all the time.
I also ate a load of junk over the three days and little fruit and veg, again because of a complicated religious/not-arguing-with-parents reason (I usually eat a lot of fruit and veg). On the plus side, my biscuits tasted good, despite the cinnamon balls turning into macaroon shape and the almond macaroons ending up as a solid block that my Mum had to hack into smaller chunks.
Other than that it was the usual Yom Tov mix of over-eating, oversleeping, praying and reading. My parents more or less forced me to go for a half-hour walk each day, which I needed. I worked through a couple more Tehillim/Psalms in Hebrew and read more of Ani Maamin as well as more than half of a murder mystery set in a Haredi community, the first in a long sequence. I’m enjoying it enough to stick with it to see how it ends, but I’m not sure if I’ll be reading any more. It’s not really as interesting as I thought it would be, maybe because the Haredi community doesn’t seem so exotic; if anything, it seems less strict than my own community, which probably wasn’t the intention.
I should really go to bed. I’m already violating my “No screens after 11pm” rule just to write this, but I’ve been struggling for the last few days with trying to keep going without being able to off-load. I feel like I need to watch some TV to unwind. I know it might keep me awake, but not relaxing will also keep me awake and I don’t really feel like reading any more.