traditional jewish matzo

Holidays and Loss Management

With the Passover holiday, this might be the first tough week in feelings since all the big changes. I was swimming in feelings, mostly good-happy-vibes, for a few weeks. I checked off key “surviving this moment” boxes over the last six weeks, building new routines with the kids, even starting to establish a standing disc golf game with friends for Saturday late mornings.

I’ve had a couple of run-ins with loneliness since moving back. Thankfully, these spells don’t last too long (hours, not days) and that’s partially due to the support network I was able to establish before they started hitting… being able to easily recall not only how recently people have been “there” for me, but also to look at a calendar and see how many opportunities to connect with people and feel good are already in motion — that usually can help me get myself back to good.

Holidays, though, can be unavoidably difficult. Easter was a surprising challenge for me. Even though I really don’t care about Easter, as a holiday, being a dad and especially being in mixed-faith relationships for the last 30ish years — NOT being part of anyone’s Easter was really weird and isolating in a way I didn’t expect. That experience should’ve better prepared me for my feelings around Passover, but I clearly avoided that topic until it hit me hard on Monday.

My Favorite Holiday

Passover is, bar none, my personal favorite holiday of all the holidays. Not just Jewish holidays. It’s easily up there a little higher than Thanksgiving — and it’s because of all the Thanksgiving reasons that bring family and friends (or found family) together ATOP ALL THE VERY UNIQUE THINGS ONE MUST DO ONLY ON PASSOVER. There are rituals and they’re weird — not just for gentiles and casual observers but even for the hardcore. Also, the holiday is maybe the most death metal holiday ever (ANGELS OF DEATH…. SMITING OF THE FIRST-BORN… RIVERS OF BLOOOOOOOOOOOOD… RAINING FIYAHHHHHHHHH). It has always been my favorite holiday.

As an adult, and especially once I was a dad, I almost always hosted a seder. I love preparing all the things. As part of a family, I spent much of the last decade having neighbors and friends and their families over, sharing the story of the outgoing from Egypt, discussing everything that comes up along the way, drinking lots of crappy Concord wine or grape juice — and generally renewing the bonds among family and friends through rituals over time. My good friend, Craig Wiggins, improved how I do the afikoman hunt by putting in red herrings so the kids get some taunts as they hunt and fail to find the hidden matzoh. I figured out a coffee-garam masala rub for brisket to pair well with the haroseth. I’m ready to put together drinking bingo cards for The Ten Commandments.

I love Passover. I should also say, I love hosting Passover.

Holidays Hit Different

Passover is a story of big changes. Lots of refrains out of a Haggadah will go like “this year we are _____; next year we will be _____.” Well, last year we skipped Passover in Philly because I was the only one in the house who could make time for it, and I thought it was a blip, not the early start to the new normal. The year before that, and for many years before that, I got a lot of satisfaction from bringing our family and friends together at our house for a seder. This year, I went to my parents’ and it was lovely… but it wasn’t my seder. It wasn’t my house.

This year, I have a one-bedroom apartment and have no room to host even a small seder. There’s no space to have people over and watch (and laugh through some of the awkwardness of) The Ten Commandments. I have to jump through several hoops of planning and logistics to smoke a brisket to prepare for such a seder even if I could host one here. I don’t have friends who could just walk over and walk back if I did host a seder here.

Everything is different, and I didn’t sign up, let alone ask for, this being different. That’s not to shit on all the amazing aspects of my life that are open and opening up because I’m in Chicago now, and single, and closer to many lifelong friends

It’s just that with Passover hitting so different this year, it’s led me to wrestling a bit with all the life I had in Philly that I kinda just got laid-off from. Just one day, there’s a fifteen minute meeting, and then it’s all about closing out files and severance agreements.

Managing It

As I wrote recently, How I Hold it Together, I picked up a notebook and pen and started writing verses. Dunno if/when I’ll record this but I figure at 107bpm this gives me a few different styles of rapping I can pull off and helped me capture and contain this cluster of emotion so I don’t have to keep replaying or examining it… having captured and articulated the body-feeling in verse (if not fully fledged song, I can *hear* the full music through the words) I can now put this feeling down and pick it back up when I need to dwell on it, work the issue more.

used to be

seven years I hosted the Passover 
this year I went to my mother’s,
last year, my ex, she couldn't be bothered

i like them old haggadahs
reclining means hoodies no collars
seders with neighborhood ballers
jelly jars filled with the manischevitz
but I digress

this year it hittin much different since hitting the pavement
the angel elijah is hitting a spliff on my couch
up to eleven to finish the Shogun
spark up and turn on the Brenner and Heston
my ex, she broke a commandment
this year there wasn't a choice
suffice that i focus on my inner voice getting out

i used to be
used to be a big man on my block
used to have a key to every lock
in the borough
then i got furloughed

but i used to be
used to be a volunteer leader
used to have a pup you shoulda seen her
about the town, we got around

cuz we used to be

local to philly, cheesesteaks was silly
i could get one whenever i wanted
with all the peppers i could put on it
now all i can do is write them a sonnet

used to be a phillies fan
watching harper nail homers into the stands
topple teams from across the land
just one on a team of supermen
and now i gotta hang with the cubs fans,
some, an entitled piss-bucket of stans
who pay outrageous prices for stands
i'm talking four grand
the hot dogs are plain,
they only serve Bud Lite
and it's flat and bland

used to be hating on the Nets and the Knicks
used to roll with Maxey was on my six in the city
now it's a pity i got the best jerseys, and fans, and friends who talk shit
but not for the city i live in
i used to be someone in Philly
now i just used to be

not quite the big man in chi-town
more like a weed they can't put down
whether the kind that you stomp or smoke
it's not a put-down
it's comin' around
i'm a surviver, a thriver, your late-night driver
i push
i eat your leftovers, outdrink your friends or stay sober,
the kush

i used to be a leader of men
maybe someday i'll do that again
but today i gotta roll with used to be
i used to be


2 responses to “Holidays and Loss Management”

  1. Thanks Aaron – I have been following along and reading your posts. Really appreciate what you share – it resonates and am cheering you on from here! I was compelled to comment as I smiled big at the notion of totally the Ten Commandments bingo!

    1. “Edward G. Robinson says MOOOO-SES”