This is the bread of affliction* (Or–if I can’t even eat kalamata olives, how the heck am I supposed to eat matzah?)

So grocery stores can be a problem for me sometimes.  This is something that I wasn’t really expecting.  I have found myself shaking like a leaf a couple of different times in the local mega-grocery store, when something gets triggered.  This week I’ve been going to the grocery store almost every day for something or the other.  Sometimes are harder than others.  The first time I went by myself to get food that I liked “for me” (as my tastes and preferences are pretty different from my parents’) I found myself unable to buy some of the things that I really like.  I would find myself looking at the box or the jar of whatever it is that at one point I couldn’t stop eating, and I would have to literally avert my eyes, as Mr. X’s aura seemed to be emanating from the food’s label.  So things that we would enjoy together, or I would buy for him, or he introduced me to–I think that they’re off the menu for the moment.  I suppose that someday I’ll start wanting them again, but old X needs to get a little more out of my head first.

Tonight is the first night of pesach (passover).  This will the first big jewish thing on my own.  I had a shabbat (sabbath) already, but I just kind of cruised through that with my eyes closed, pretending it wasn’t there.  I think I was hoping to do the same thing with pesach, particularly since I’m at my parents’ house (they’re not jewish, I converted), and the whole prospect just seems really painful right now.  (So I partly converted for X, but partly for me.  I think that if I had had more time, I might have converted on my own anyway, but that’s a whole other conversation for another day.)  Anyhow, I know I said that I was waiting to get into the back story of my drama, and I mostly am going to wait, but this is about RIGHT NOW, and to understand right now you have to know that I really love being jewish, despite all of the abuse baggage with it, and despite the fact that all of the stuff connected with jewish observance/practice in my life with X was very tied in with control (his) and fear (mine).  I never felt like I had any space to figure out my own observance, my own sense of jewishness.  Now I have that chance, but I’m having a hard time doing anything about my feelings because I want to just forget all about everything and play with my niece and the dog and read some blogs and maybe eat some ice cream and get really busy in this place in which I don’t have to be busy at all.  Which is understandable, because there’s a lot of pain.  Pain that I’m going to have to feel in order to get through this.  And that sucks.  Meanwhile I just want to show a happy face to my mom and dad (though they’re not asking me to) to say, “look, see, I’m all better, now!” which is totally ridiculous.  I only arrived here a week ago, today, and I’ve barely let myself feel anything since arriving.

So last night I spoke with a wonderful, wonderful friend whom I’ll call Cherry.  She was a therapist for a long time, and is now in a new-ish career as a rabbi.  (She was the only one I ever talked to about the way X would talk to me.  I guess I thought because of her former career, she would be objective and wouldn’t think badly of him.  Anyway, she had seen “it” as abuse long, long ago and started telling me last fall that I “didn’t have to stay,” which freaked me out at the time and kind of made me mad.)  She is one of my dearest friends ever, and was the only IRL person that I had told about my old blog.

So Rabbi Cherry and I talked about how I’m doing–which is basically running as fast as I can from my feelings (and how quickly that happened!).  I don’t know how it came up, but we started talking about pesach, because she was , of course, getting ready for pesach–it is a holiday whose preparations are of epic proportions.  And I told her about wanting to do jewish things, like lighting candles on friday night, or doing something for pesach, but then thinking I was only wanting to do it to prove to X that I wasn’t giving up on judaism (“See!  It wasn’t all about you!”), and not wanting to do it for that reason, and not wanting to do anything because it would hurt, and not wanting to do anything because I could feel him standing over my shoulder with every Hebrew word, with every piece of matzah–just like in the grocery store.

And that Cherry–she totally called me out.  Because she’s Cherry, she did it in a great way.  Ahem.  She reminded me that Mr. X has already taken so much from me, and she “encouraged” me not to let him take my religion from me, too.  She told me I didn’t have to do things in any particular way, that I should just do something, anything (she even gave me a couple of suggestions–one so jewish-lite you would be surprised it came from a rabbi).  She said even if I have to bawl all the way through doing whatever, do it anyway.

And all of that feels right.  I don’t know if I would have become jewish without Mr. X or not–but, who cares?  I’m jewish now.  Just figuring out the little bit I’m going to do for my first pesach on my own felt right.  And this holiday, is so extraordinarily appropriate for me, right now.

I’d like to devote a lot more time talking about how appropriate pesach is for me at this turning point in my life, but for now I will leave it for another post on another day.

*Refers to matzah.  From the Pesach Seder:  This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt.  Let all who are hungry come and eat; let all who are needy come and celebrate the Passover with us.  Now we are here; next year may we be in the Land of Israel.  Now we are slaves; next year may we be free.

6 responses to “This is the bread of affliction* (Or–if I can’t even eat kalamata olives, how the heck am I supposed to eat matzah?)

  1. That has got to be a big challenge. I’m so glad you have a friend like Cherry to help you through and to help you hold on to your religion.

  2. I’m glad you have Cherry. She seems wise and will hopefully be able to give you some comfort as you go through the next few inevitable phases. Sending you vibes of strength and comfort…

  3. YAY for supportive, smart friends who will give you that push in the right direction. I’m so glad you have her. I’m sure your parents are just waiting for you to not be “just fine”. They will be there to help you if/when you need it.

  4. I hope for this Pesach that you are able to find a way for yourself to enjoy and worship in the way that’s right for you. As far as the getting away from things in the past it will take a while. Things will maybe creep up on you and surprise you when you’re not expecting it and it will be something to process at the time. No need to work to process it all at once. I hope the coming days go well.

  5. You are doing a great job at taking care of yourself. Remember, as my sixth-grade Hebrew teacher used to say, Judaism is to live by not to die by. We do what we can, G-D knows this.

    My heart goes out to you.

  6. Good luck as you redefine how you live your life! Right now it may seem too scary to really change things much, but this is just the beginning. I think your friend sounds great – glad you have someone in the faith to talk to. This year just getting through the day being observant may be as much as you can do, there will be other years to do more. G-d with be there to lean on too, never forget you aren’t alone!

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