It’s March now and the slushy snow is melting. The daylight lasts longer, and the air is beginning to mellow. I should be feeling hopeful and serene. Instead, I suddenly feel as though two crazy squirrels are racing around, digging for nuts in my head. I’ve nicknamed them Purim and Pesach. Affectionately.
Purim is the hyper one. “Buy all the nosh you can find!” he shouts, whipping his bushy tail like a metronome. I nod obediently, in time to his tail. He’s right.
Pesach is more menacing. “Stop buying anything, start eating down the house!” he demands, and glares at me with his beady little eyes. I nod again. He’s right too.
“Well, we can’t both be right,” they shout in squirrely unison. My aching head rattles as I nod repeatedly. This too is true. I wonder if they are rabid. I wonder if I am rabid.
“Leave me alone,” I plead miserably, “Find someplace else to go.” But no. They know a nut when they see it and they’ve found a big one. Now they’re trying to crack it. Sadly, the nut is my brain.
Like Jewish wives and mothers through the ages I’m caught between the warring desire to fill up and to empty out, to play and to work, to give and to get rid. It’s enough to make a person seek professional help. But since I didn’t know if I should call a psychiatrist or an exterminator, I just reached out to a friend. Hesitantly, I told her about the squirrels in my brain. I was scared she’d think I was crazy, but she smiled sympathetically.
“Those aren’t squirrels. They’re the Yetzer Hara,” she said sagely. I thought she was crazy but I smiled anyway. It seemed only right.
“No, really,” she insisted, “that’s the Yetzer Hara trying to make sure you don’t get to enjoy anything at all. Once he takes away your Simcha, he’s ruined your mitzvah.” I thought that was pretty wise, but she was just getting started.
She rattled off loads of advice, some really helpful stuff. Stuff like making itemized lists, cutting back on the Purim popularity contest, re-thinking the whole spring cleaning thing, and occasionally sitting down in the middle of chaos for a hot cup of coffee. She said I should buy a set of toys and set them aside for Pesach every year so I don’t have to clean the other ones out. She said that my Purim list could be slashed in half and no one would be offended. She said that I should remember to breathe. Best of all, she told me that in her house they don’t start Pesach cleaning until Rosh Chodesh Nissan. That way, Purim has its time and Pesach has a separate time. That may not work for everyone, but I think it might work for me. Besides, anything you do that far in advance probably gets undone anyway.
I’m sure I’ve heard all this advice in some form or another before. But this time I really listened and it felt different. I sensed a quietness in my head, as though those two overgrown rodents were finally gone to wherever it is that squirrels go. Maybe searching for nuts in someone else’s head. In the sudden calm I breathed deeply. Then I took out a pen and wrote down my friend’s advice so I wouldn’t forget it. I underlined “Drink Coffee” and “Remember to Breathe”. I think there’s a lot of merit to what she said and I’m going to get on it right away. There’s just one thing I need to take care of first.
I’m going hunting for squirrel.
Yael Zoldan is a Brooklyn girl, who lives in Passaic, New Jersey, with her husband and children. Somewhere between carpool and laundry she finds the time to write.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.