But before we get to that, I need to say that Pesach cleaning was kicking my ass.
Notice the was.
Mrs. Type-A has decided to take a new approach to Pesach cleaning.
Wait...let me back up for the non-Jews. Before Pesach (also known as Passover) each year, you go through the house, cleaning thoroughly and removing everything that is chamatz out of the house. Chamatz breaks down into two categories. The first category is anything made from fermented grain (for example, flour). The second category is anything that has the power to ferment other dough (for example, yeast or sourdough starter). So you take out your Costco-sized box of goldfish crackers and the bagels that you've packed into the freezer and you get rid of it. You eat it or you donate it (and the point of this post is not to give you the intricate details of dealing with chamatz, so I'm just going to throw out the comment now that there is more to dealing with chamatz than this, but I'm simplifying it because I'm assuming that I am not your source for all things Jewish).
Growing up, I loved Pesach as a holiday. It's a little hard for a vegetarian since you eliminate most of the grain food group, but I liked getting together with family. Pesach hit its peak for me in college. We threw huge non-denominational seders in our apartment. My roommate and I would become giddy over our cleaning schedule--two Type-A girls in heaven with a bucket of bleach and a toothbrush to clean between every tile in the bathroom. I liked that process of turning over my kitchen and getting rid of food I wasn't going to eat and reorganizing. Pesach practically spoon-feeds cleaning orgasms to a Type-A personality.
But once I got married, Pesach sort of changed into a cesspool of stress that grew little by little over the years. First it was the balance of family--where do we go for the seder (the ritual meal)--your family or mine? Prior to marriage, it was a no-brainer. There was only one family to consider. But add in Josh's feelings and the feelings of everyone else in his family and mine and we had to think through how we were going to handle Pesach year after year.
Then came the first round of infertility. I think there are many similarities between how Christians celebrate Christmas--family coming together, many expectations, a focus on children--and the way Jews celebrate Pesach. It's a big family holiday. And I have a big family. We would go to the seder and people would ask us when we were going to have children and cousins would pass around their sonogram pictures. I would try to keep myself from losing it during the service when we read aloud about the "barren women of Jerusalem." What about the freakin' barren women of Maryland? When would they be "a happy mother of children" (psalm 113)?
And finally, the burden of turning over the house (in other words, removing the chamatz) as life simply became too busy. It became one more chore that I dreaded--one more thing that I had to do on a long to-do list. I still did it every year, but it wasn't with the lightness and satisfaction that came from cleaning with my college roommate. It was with a heaviness and a franticness and an anxiousness. Would I finish in time? Did I do a good enough job? Was someone fucking up all of my hard work by eating noodles in a kitchen that I just cleaned?
And I have to admit, I was dreading Pesach this year. I started worrying about Pesach months ago, and the stress has only grown as the holiday loomed closer and closer. I didn't know how I was going to do work, volunteer, parent and set-up for this holiday all at the same time. I spent Saturday morning organizing and I ended up snapping at everyone, especially Josh who snarkily told me that it was truly about getting the chamatz out of our hearts and not the chamatz out of our home. It really doesn't help when you're about to have a nervous breakdown and your husband is smiling and saying, "what chamatz are you holding in your heart, chamoodi?"
Hmmm...what is fermenting in my heart at the moment?
There is definitely a big pile of floury hope. And if you make a well in the center and start pouring inside the salt that has been rubbed in open wounds and the yeasty froth of anger that I feel towards some people and the slickness of oil as I slip away from certain friendships--I believe you form some type of bready mixture that is most definitely chamatz.
Out it must go.
As I tottered on the edge of a breakdown, I spent precious cleaning minutes at the computer googling the rules of Pesach cleaning. And discovered that while it is certainly nice to have a bathroom so clean that you can eat off the bleached tiles, it was never necessary nor a part of the Pesach cleaning ritual of removing chamatz. This idea from an article on Pesach cleaning drove the point home:
In other words, when it ceases to be enjoyable anymore, you should regroup and find the balance.
One important point: If you feel like going beyond the limit and scraping the walls and ceiling, go right ahead. Of course it's not required, but the halacha is actually stated in Shulchan Aruch that no one is allowed to laugh at you. In the words of the rabbis, Yisrael kedoshim heim -- "Jews are holy" when they go beyond the letter of the law.
Be careful, however, not to go so far that you develop an antagonistic attitude toward Passover. If all this extra, non-required cleaning is going to make you dread the holiday, then forget about it. And certainly you should not clean so much that you're exhausted for the Passover Seder. Part of being "holy" is appreciating the holiday, too!
There are still certain things that must get done--turning over the kitchen, for instance. I need to go through the cupboards and the refrigerator and remove all the cookies and crackers. I need to clean and put away the chamatz dishes. But if I don't get to bleach every bathroom before I head out to the first seder? I guess it just won't get done.
It does bear a striking resemblance to what the East Village Mamele calls the Baatan Sex March. The sex that replaced the lovemaking that occurred in the first two or three months of trying. Determined sex. Strategic sex. The kind that is just no fun at all. But how do you grab back the happiness when it gets to this point? How do you keep conception from becoming such a cesspool of stress that it sucks you under to the point where you can't even enjoy new motherhood when it happens because you're still trying to swim your way out of that slime? And is it even possible to cut back and do the minimum to preserve sanity when your emotions are so deeply entrenched in the process? I've read about people who have set up breaks for themselves--not medically-prescribed breaks, but self-prescribed emotional breaks--and I want to learn how to do that. How to take the Baatanness out of the sex march and make it have the lightness and giddyness that existed in the first few months. Okay, perhaps you can never go back to the giddyness, but you can probably get back to a point where sex doesn't feel like a chore that you've scheduled on the calendar. Where it goes back to being fun instead of something that feels semi-superfluous considering all the real work is performed by the RE.
In other words, I think I need to spend some time removing the chamatz from my hoohaa.
As for the chamatz I've already identified in my heart? Perhaps this week would be better spent reflecting on how to clean that up before the holiday begins. Perhaps there is more googling to be done while I eat through the rest of the crackers in the cupboards. Or I'll just have to save that chamatz for another year. I mean, there are only so many crevices a girl can clean in one week...