Passover Seders will kick into gear this Friday and while the diversity of rituals is extensive, one common thread is singing the Dayenu song. Dayenu loosely translated means, “It would have sufficed, or it would have been enough.” Rarely do we take time to check in with our lives and see what is working, what is good enough, and what is positive. Too frequently we focus on what is left to be done, what is missing, what is not ok, and obsess on fixing what we perceive as being broken.
Whether you are celebrating Easter or Passover or nothing at all, consider taking time this week to acknowledge and appreciate the things about you that are good enough, ok, wonderful, smart, funny, quirky - all of the things that make you YOU. And know that without you, this world would be a less unique and wonderful place. That is not egotistical, that is not bragging, that is just fact.
I will be taking a bit of a blogger vacation for a while, but would like to leave you with the blog I wrote last year for Passover. I hope it gives you a chuckle and a moment of feeling, “I’m not the only one.” I also want to appreciate my readers, whether you comment on “Dr. Deah’s Tasty Morsels” or not, for taking time from what are certain to be extraordinarily busy lives, to “visit” with me once in awhile.
Passover is one of the many Jewish holidays that is celebrated with a ritual feast. A feast filled with symbolic foods and a prescribed schedule for when to eat which foods. Depending upon how observant the participants are, there is a wide range of recipes for the ritual readings at a Passover Seder. Some read from ancient texts, others from more progressive versions. Some are tailored for passionate political discussion, others for children with short attention spans. Despite the diversity of the Seder itself, there are at least three specific commonalities adhered to by the most liberal and orthodox Jewish celebrants.
There is no leavening used in any of the meals, there are at least four cups of wine, and when it is time to eat, there are no restrictions on how much you can eat.
As a kid growing up, dieting and caloric restrictions were an everyday part of my life. I was surrounded by dieters. The youngest of three girls, my two older sisters always dieted and both of my parents did as well. The diets never really seemed to work, none of us were thin. My mother often chortled, “Imagine how fat we would all be if we didn’t diet?” And of course I believed her and followed suit.
Many young girls that diet wind up becoming sneak eaters and I was no different. Because we are forced to satisfy our hunger and cravings privately, we develop the notion that we are beasts with insatiable appetites. Our appetite for food is freakish and our need to satiate this hunger is so strong we must adopt furtive methods of feeding that monster. It is a double bind. We feel weak in our inability to resist the urges to eat the “bad” food and yet the part of us that is demanding the food is a formidable foe of great strength and power. We are split and fractured around food.
Passover and other food-centric holidays present a double bind for people already struggling with feelings about how and what they eat, how and what they don’t eat and how and what they would like to eat if they were allowed to eat how and what they wanted to eat.
I KNOW YOU HAVE TO READ THAT SENTENCE AGAIN…BUT TRUST ME IT MAKES SENSE AND PUNCTUATION WOULD ONLY DIMINISH THE LOGIC!
The Double Bind of Feasts as Rituals
The week before the Seder, we obsessed over what to wear. An unsanctioned but equally predictable ritual of Passover was:
The Body Scan; everyone checking you out to see how you “measured up” to the last time you were all together. In my family, despite the fact that very few of us were thin, there was still a hierarchy within the ranks that clearly labeled the “Always Thin” relatives as the better ones. The praise and attention was lavished on them. The jealousy dripped like honey.
Then there were the “Always Fats.” They were already “fats de complis.” They would always be fat and that was that, those poor people.
“Newly Thins” were the ones I envied the most. The attention they received, the fawning, the exclamations of, “How did you do it? You look amazing!” They were the stars of the night. Somehow they had conquered the beast, they had become successful.
Conversely, the lowest caste of the crew was reserved for the “YO YOs,” those who had lost but gained their weight back plus more.The tsk tsks and cluck clucks of the tongues, the subtle shakes of the heads, the implied message of, “If I had lost that weight I would have kept it off,”… or more blatantly, “I knew she or he couldn’t do it.” They were the ones my heart ached for and the club I dreaded ever joining. (Of course I was in and out of that club numerous times until I realized that it was the dieting that was creating the largest part of my problem).
So I would go to Seders ready for my “close ups Mr. De Mille,” and often encased in tight body control top pantyhose literally binding my belly. But the second bind of the double bind was not far away. After the reading of the ritual story of Passover, the feast would commence. Places everyone! But wait! It was as if they had replaced the cast with all new people and all new scripts.
All of a sudden size or weight was inconsequential. There was a resounding chorus of, “Eat eat!” And, “Have more, what you don’t like my matzo balls? This is no time to diet, this is Passover, forget about it for just one night, you look fine!” And for the next couple of hours I felt normal. I felt happy. I felt I could eat with abandon and enjoyment. I could savor the pleasure of food, slowly, languidly and not worry whether I was leaving crumbs behind like a guilty Gretel who subconsciously wanted to get caught eating Ring Dings in her bedroom.
I didn’t feel insatiable, or monstrous.
Why is this night different from all other nights?
Because on this night I’m allowed to eat my fill in public, without guilt, with enjoyment and with self-acceptance.
Dr. Deah Schwartz has more than 20 years experience using therapeutic arts, music, drama and recreation activities in a variety of clinical and educational settings with clients ranging in age from 5 to 80+. She has a Doctorate in Education, a BA in Theater, an MS in Therapeutic Recreation, and an MA in Creative Arts Education and is a Nationally Certified Recreation Therapist. This background, coupled with her fervent belief in size acceptance, has led to her passionate involvement in the “Leftovers Workbook/DVD set,” that helps people make peace with their bodies. She is also a co-author and original cast member of “Leftovers: The Ups and Downs of a Compulsive Eater,” and a co-founder of Education Through Therapeutic Arts (ETTA).
Her inspirational and thought-provoking posts are syndicated with permission on More of Me to Love from her blog, Tasty Morsels.