I had high hopes for Pesach–in fact, I had planned in my head an amazing series of posts in emulation of my week in December covering Chanukah: I had planned to speak about the Seder on Friday evening, about being a slave on Saturday, share a Pesach story on Sunday, talk about freedom on Monday, reminisce about traditional Pesach songs on Tuesday, delve into my personal history of the holiday upon Wednesday, and give thanks today.
As you can see, school has once more kept me away.
It’s not that I haven’t wanted, it’s that I haven’t slept. For nearly the past week, I have run so wild that I have missed deadlines, missed meetings, and missed entire homework assignments by convincing myself I will only sleep for a few minutes before getting out of bed to finish my work and then instead sleeping the entire night. It hasn’t been hell–I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve done, I’ve had plenty of excitement, and I love life in general–but it hasn’t been the happiest time of life. I’ve been critical upon myself, hating myself for my own failures, but unable to figure out how to best pull myself to succeed, how to hold onto everything without letting it all fall.
Today I had two meetings on campus to go. I also had fliers to put up. Yet after class, I came home, I ate lunch while I watched an episode of GCB I had missed, and then I went to sleep for about four hours, sporadically waking up just enough to reply to a text message from a significant other or calling downstairs parts of conversations I only half recall. When I woke up and realized I had missed these meetings, part of me felt shame at falling short of my duties, but a greater part of me realized there are others now who can fill my spot on these committees–seats that were from the start only intended to be temporary–and my personal commitments to health and homework must supersede these secondary responsibilities.
I hate it, I thoroughly despise it, but it’s how it must be–and I can’t deny that.
Today, I just feel in general quite lax. I read a little bit of my history book and I took a quiz in mythology, but I just feel worn out. There are only three weeks left to this semester, but I don’t know if I have the strength and energy to make it through them. Yet I know I will. I know I have friends and family and my future cheering me on, people and potential that like magnets drive me forever forward.
I am not exactly sure what exactly I am thankful for, but whatever this is–this feeling of compulsion, this force of drive, this crippling commitment to achievement–I am thankful for it. But I am thankful for so much more: I am thankful for the freedoms we have even if there are those right now who wish to take them away. I am thankful for the ease with which I have lived these days of Pesach when food is scarce, but I have found salads and fruit at school and–God do forgive me–have indulged in foods preserved with soy lecithin, even though I know it’s not technically kosher for Pesach but with meandering budgets, those foods as such are harder to come by. I am thankful for the amazing night I had last Monday and the even more amazing night I had last night. I am thankful for classmates that understand my tardiness with returning their workshop reviews. I am thankful for the Creative Writing minor coordinator at NC State who has taken time to look at my course syllabi and is trying to get me credit towards classes that will enable me to have a minor in only three more, not five. I am thankful for my teachers, for my advisors, for my club members and companions. I am thankful. Who says I need a predicate for that?
If I had to reduce this feeling to a word, I would say I am thankful for the pause–this pause amid the chaos that rekindles my flame with small feelings of thankfulness that make me want to continue moving forward, that make me want to spend more time with my friends and bleed more blood upon my journal. These pauses that give me time to think, time to sleep, time to spend with those I love most. These pauses in which I realize my mistakes, my faults, my challenges, and those secondary pauses in which I am finally able to act.
To tie it to Pesach, a small salvage of what I hoped this week would become, I am reminded of a joke my rabbi once told about matzah. For those who don’t know, matzah is unleavened bread eaten during Pesach to recall the swiftness with which the Hebrews left the enslavement of Egypt, such swiftness that failed to let their bread rise before they departed. Known as the bread of attrition, it’s made of flour and water and has about as little flavor as the cardboard it comes in. But also the bread of freedom, it has the potential to be combined in many ways to make many amazing dishes–such as matzah pizza or matzah brei or merely matzah and cream cheese, an amazing little snack that tastes so good.
In any case, matzah is flat. It is crumbly. It is pockmarked with about 624 little holes to keep it from rising while being baked so its surface is uneven and bubbly. So one seder, which is the communal feast that begins the holiday, my rabbi said there was once a blind man who was handed a piece of matzah and, upon feeling it, exclaimed, “Who wrote this rubbish?”
Sometimes what life gives us seems like a bumpy mess of flat, stale, flavorless bread, and at first all it seems like is rubbish. But when we take that moment to sit back and think about what we have in our hands, that rubbish we’ve held onto so tightly, we can see that this pause, this misconception, is the guise of something greater. Today I am in the midst of that realization and I cannot express how thankful it has made me.