Friday, April 8, 2016

How Those Countdown to Pesach Emails Gave Me an Unexpected – and Somewhat Embarrassing – Aha! Moment

It’s inevitable. Right after Purim, all the wonderful kosher food blogs and Jewish websites I subscribe to begin their barrage on my inbox. One month until Pesach! Are you ready? or something of that ilk appears in the subject line, and from there, the daily tips, countdowns, and reminders follow, tracking the moments until the arrival of the Big P.

I know they are doing what they should be doing this time of year. Still, the notifications make me nervous, though the emails surely contain great ideas, like tips for cleaning an oven without poisonous chemicals and delicious set-it-and-forget-it recipes. For the sake of my sanity, I don’t even read them.

Let me say up front that I love Pesach. Once I’m in the groove, I enjoy the preparation, too, even the hard labor and the cooking for a crowd. What I can’t abide is any external pressure, like those emails and the one-upmanship conversations I get cornered into at the market. It makes no sense that I let any of it bother me. I’ve been making Pesach in my own home for more than two decades. Yet the word countdown sends me into a tizzy, nearly convincing me that this will be the year I won’t be ready on time.

The daily emails fulfill their good purpose: to get folks into the spirit of the season and to make the inherent tasks more manageable. But for me, they only feed the neuroses I have to fend off while preparing for this holiday. I know there are freezers out there that will fill up with Pesadik cooked briskets and kiwi ices long before I’ve tackled my shopping list, and that’s fantastic. What I need are reminders that it’s okay to live in my own Pesach time zone, that it’s fine for me to get there whenever I get there because I will, in fact, get there before we sit down to the first seder.

This year, just two days into the countdown launch, I was already on edge. It was morning, and I was engaged in my usual dawn exchange with one of my sons. He had lingered in bed for too long and once up, was doing everything but getting dressed. Frustrated, I began repeating the refrain, “If you don’t hurry up, you’ll be late for school.”

At first, he shrugged me off with teenage annoyance. Then instead of the usual “Leave me alone,” he burst forth with a shout.

“Counting the minutes isn’t helping! You’re only making it worse!”

Oops, I thought, swallowing my words with a proverbial dose of bitter herbs. I knew exactly how I must sound to a guy who has never once been late for school. I apologized, put my tail between my legs, and resolved to keep my countdowns in my head, even in the moments when it’s really, really hard to do so. I’ve since woken him up each morning with nothing but a time check and a weather report, crawling back to the kitchen to prepare his lunch while sipping my coffee in silence.

Later, I turn on the computer, girding myself because I know what I’ll find. But those well-intentioned emails and I have reached d├ętente, and I’m learning – slowly – how to keep them from rattling me. After all, I owe them a debt of gratitude now and it would be in bad faith not to read them. So I open them up and say with a wink, “I know exactly how you feel.”

Wishing all of you a worry-free Pesach preparation and a wonderful holiday, however you celebrate it. We will be zonked, but we will get there.