May 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I first learned a few years ago that many schools—particularly girls’ schools—give the day off for Shushan Purim. This was news to me and when I asked why, I was told that there are a number of reasons, one of which is to provide ample time to begin planning for Pesach; Purim is over, we’ve likely just received a plethora of food—now let’s quickly turn over and get ready for the next holiday.

Wait—so should I start cleaning for Pesach this early too?

More often than not, we have doubts in our minds, comparing our situations to others. Just this week I was talking with a friend about our toddlers, very close in age, and when I heard something that her child did I wondered, “Does this mean my child should be doing this too?” Now of course in this example we can acknowledge developmental milestones as a factor but that was not my mindset; my question came from an anxious place, resting on a bed of comparison to try to make sense of my experience. Because this is something that so many of us do: We Google or ask others to find an answer that will calm our anxious minds but instead, this likely brings up feelings of insecurity. Yes, hearing that others have similar experiences can be so incredibly validating and normalizing. But what I’m referring to is less about joining together in a common experience and instead feeling isolated, left with the question of, “Am I doing this wrong?”

As we prepare for Pesach—a holiday that involves turning our houses upside down—it is important that we consider what works best for us, on an individual level. Some people begin making a menu for next year the moment Pesach ends—writing down what dishes were and were not a hit, menu planning for one’s future self. Others may have rules year-round of what rooms or places are off-limits to chametz. And then many individuals begin their prep work some time in advance, taking stock of what chametz they have, kashering an area—if there is one—to begin cooking in advance.

But it is important to note that many people begin the week, or even days, before the holiday. I cannot tell you how many individuals in my life have shared that despite knowing about an assignment for some time, it is impossible to do it unless there is a time crunch or pressure. They tell me that the cursor blinks on the page, no cohesive thoughts coming in until the night before the assignment is due and that somehow that framework causes their mind to explode with ideas. The crunch time puts the mind into an all or nothing mindset; no distractions or procrastinations are possible because this needs to happen now, and that propels the person forward.

And then there are those who find some type of happy medium, preparing in advance but not too far in advance, recognizing what must get done and perhaps consulting with a post-it of checklists.

We all prepare differently. But our society tends to move us toward the belief that preparation far in advance is the best approach. We are given the message that those who get up early in the morning, starting their days hours before work begins are “doing it right.” We are taught to be organized and tackle assignments as soon as they come in. This works for many, allowing the brain to engage in a clear manner. But for many others, this simply does not equal success. It is easy to compare ourselves to others when in reality we must make decisions by looking inward and knowing what works best for our particular lives. We must reflect on what is possible for us, what activates our motivation, and what feels best. We must also be realistic: We might wish to prepare in advance but this is impossible due to scheduling or little child hands crumbling crackers from room to room.

Do what you know works best for you because, as Theodore Roosevelt taught us, “comparison is the thief of joy”—but it can also be the thief of success. Comparison can also nestle its way into our minds, already grappling with seeds of doubt, stress, anxiety and many other emotional experiences. It’s crowded in there, and yet the doubt makes itself perfectly at home, taking up lots of space.

As we prepare for Pesach, please take this message with you. And expand it beyond Pesach to recognize that while we wonder if we’re ‘doing this right,’ ask yourself just if it is ‘right for you.’


Temimah Zucker, LCSW works in New York and New Jersey with individuals ages 18 and older who are struggling with mental health concerns, and specializes in working with those looking to heal their relationships between their bodies and souls. Zucker is an advocate and public speaker concerning eating disorder awareness and a metro New York consultant at Monte Nido. To learn more or to reach her, visit www.temimah.com.

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