July 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

What Is Your Background Music?

Many of us have a favorite childhood vacation memory. Some of my friends vacationed with their families in the mountains, often referred to by New York Jews as “the country.” My father loved the ocean, and therefore we spent every family vacation by the sea. He instilled in all his children and grandchildren a fondness for the beach, and to this day, if we have a choice between the mountains or the sea—the sea wins every time. A group of researchers were interested in the link between personality and geography, and the results of their study were published in 2015 in the Journal of Research in Personality. Based on their research, they found that mountain-lovers had a tendency to be more introverted and ocean lovers more extroverted. My guess is that there were not many Orthodox Jews from Brooklyn that participated in the study!

I have wonderful memories of summers in Atlantic city, Far Rockaway and Bradley Beach. My siblings and I spent hours riding waves, collecting shells and exploring the shoreline for treasures. We swam in the ocean with complete abandon; we did not notice the temperature of the water or the intensity of the waves. We were mindful of the undercurrent and we would comment to each other if it was strong that day, but we did not fear the water. The ocean was our playground. But in the summer of 1975 that all changed. My older sister took me to see a movie that forever altered my relationship with the ocean. She took me to see the movie “Jaws.” The movie is set in a small fictitious beach town in New England. The town is terrorized by a big, white, man-eating shark. The local sheriff, a marine biologist and shark hunter, decides to hunt down and kill the shark. Prior to every shark attack in the film, the same rhythmic melody of bass notes played. For those of you who remember the film, you can probably hear the music in your head as you read this article. According to the composer John Williams, the music was meant to represent the shark as an “unstoppable force of mindless and instinctive attacks.” Williams achieved his goal and the movie’s musical score will forever evoke the terror of a terrible event. The summer after I saw the movie I was afraid to go in the water for fear of what lurked underneath the surface. As an adult I still love the ocean, but I do not approach the sea with the carefree innocence of my youth. I am afraid of riptides, rough waves, jellyfish, and I admit I sometimes do think about sharks.

For some people, the post-Purim, pre-Pesach experience is similar to my experience with the ocean. As children we love Pesach, but as adults, while the love is still there, it is clouded by stress and worry. I mentioned to a client of mine last week that it is four weeks to Pesach, and with a look of terror on his face he told me not to say “that” out loud. I have seen and heard similar responses from many of my friends and female clients describing the Pesach aisle in Shoprite. As soon as the first macaroon, box of matzah meal and package of chocolate-covered jelly rings is placed on the shelf, many kosher shoppers are overwhelmed with a sense of dread. If there was background music in the grocery store, the theme music from “Jaws” would capture the mood of the kosher consumer in the weeks leading up to Pesach. What unseen chametz lies underneath the mattress, in the corners of the closet, in the nooks of the bookcases, and in the crevices of the toys? How many different food items need to be prepared so that our family members will not miss eating bread, pasta or cake for eight days?

What can we do for the next three weeks to change our background music from “Jaws” to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”? First, take a deep breath, assess what needs to be done and what is on a wish list to get done. Chances are it is still going to be cold outside this Pesach, and you will not be wearing your spring clothes, so no need to shop for a new outfit or to clean out the closet. Pesach is only eight days long. Try not to buy more food than you need. The best kosher-for-Passover food is never eaten the day after Pesach. I make matzah farfel cookies every year (not a health food) because we love them, but once we say Havdalah on the last night of Pesach, not one member of my family would allow any kind of matzah-based cookie to pass their lips until next year. Any leftover cookies go directly into the garbage. Many of the imitation foods that are made for Pesach are awful tasting, so try to avoid the temptation to buy them. Try to consolidate your shopping to one or two stores. Avoid trips to Monsey or Brooklyn, because we have everything you need locally, and you don’t need to spend the extra time driving and shopping. Try to simplify your menus by sticking to proteins, fresh and frozen vegetables and fruits. If you can manage it, get some extra cleaning help in your house. If you have someone who helps you clean, ask them if they would be willing to help you in the kitchen and work as your sous-chef cutting up all of your veggies and fruit.

If you are someone who creates to-do lists, put yourself on the list so that you are eating healthy meals, drinking water, exercising—going for a walk, and getting enough sleep.

It is up to us to change our own background music. I hope that this Pesach season yours sounds something like “And I think to myself what a wonderful world.”

By Beth Taubes, RN

Beth Taubes RN, OCN, CBCN, CHC,CYT, is the owner of Wellness Motivations LLC. She motivates clients of all backgrounds, ages and health conditions to engage in improved self-care through nutritional counseling, personal fitness training, yoga practice and stress reduction techniques. Free pre-Pesach candlelight, singing bowl meditation on Sunday, March 11, at 7:20 p.m. Contact [email protected] or wellnessmotivationsbt.com for more info or to make an appointment.

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