Holiday cooking for 50 guests. That’s how my Passover began.
How else does a workaholic celebrate her holiday?
You know I’m a workaholic. Juggling way too many projects. Seven days a week. So I’m aways behind schedule. And sometimes I drop a ball. Which means: I’ve let someone down. I’ve failed.
Yes, I feel like a failure.
So I get a positive personnel review at work. More invitations to speak, sing, and lead ritual. Praise for bringing skills to communal projects. Love from my kids. But, none of that matters.
Because I don’t meet my own standards. Thus, I feel like a failure. Especially when I look at my successful colleagues. Can I really compete in this field?
Maybe, I think, it’s time to retire. Because I’ll be 59 next week. So, my career is in decline. It’s the normal course of life, isn’t it?
My husband, doctor, and therapist know something else about me. I worry about my health. Lifestyle changes, tests, medications, supplements. Still, there are bad days. Days I can’t wake up, organize my mind, or quiet chronic pain.
Maybe, you think, she just needs a holiday.
She can clean out the fridge and pantry. Then, change dishes. Cook a three-course vegetarian meal for 50. Lead a creative Seder ritual. Finally, wash dishes until 3:00 am. Two nights in a row!
So, yeah, that’s what I did.
For three days, I worked on only one project. Holiday preparation.
My husband shopped, and I got ready to cook. The menu? Same as last year. But I had learned from my mistakes. So, this year, I made a heartier soup. I timed the eggplant perfectly. Marinated the tomato-mozzarella salad with great flavour. Right on time, I served it all!
For once, I wasn’t behind schedule.
But my sous-chefs didn’t show up. Due to a family emergency. So, I cut up every vegetable. Spiced each sauce and dressing. Hard-boiled 51 eggs. Chopped fruit and nuts. Cut parsley. Sliced horseradish. Peeled oranges. Washed the cooking utensils. Kept the counter clean and orderly.
As I worked, I used no written recipes. Wrote no to-do lists. But experimented and adapted as I went along. My mind was sharp. Organized. Focused. Creative.
So, I didn’t worry about mental acuity. Didn’t fret about cognitive decline. Just enjoyed the moment, and waited for the Seder guests.
The guests arrived on time, too. They brought food, poetry, questions, music, and more. We heard a West African tale of hope. Discussed oppression of humans and creatures we see as less than human. Explored a developmental interpretation of the four children. Viewed original artwork expressing freedom. Learned about the mystery of locust swarms. Joked about the uses of matzah. Sang Passover songs, accompanied by a four-piece band. And, finally, watched an improv skit of Canada Border Agents refusing entry to the radical prophet Elijah.
Sure, I orchestrated the gathering. Gave advance assignments to talented friends. Wove their creativity into the evening. Moved us through all 14 traditional stages of Seder ritual. And served each food at just the right time!
But I got my holiday!
What made it so special? So relaxing? After all, I worked hard.
But on one project. With full attention. Using body and mind in harmony. Blending familiar and new routines. Working to a clear deadline. Teaching and learning. Trusting in family and friends.
Is it time to retire? Maybe not. But it is time to see myself clearly. To re-evaluate how I do my best work. Even if it takes a holiday to show me!