Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Word About Real Life

Right about now, when women meet each other, the first question always seems to be "How are you holding with making Pesach?" This is usually followed by a few groans and a grimace or two. One woman answered this way: "I thought I'd be further ahead but real life keeps getting in the way." An interesting choice of words.

Just what is "real life"? One way to look at it is that real life is what happens when the alarm clock goes off. It's getting children ready for school, it's getting yourself ready for work. It's doing laundry and shopping and all the myriad activities that having a home require. "Real life" is making and returning phone calls, checking e-mail, opening the regular mail. "Real life" is getting your taxes in before the 15th. "Real life" is having the car's oil changed, and dentist appointments and haircuts. "Real life" is weddings and brisim and funerals. I won't deny that "real life" constitutes all these things. But there is more.

"Real life" for frum Jews is making minyan in the morning. "Real life" is davening mincha, only you are on the "B" train or the bus. Real life is shul and learning. "Real life" is not just plopping items into a shopping cart but stopping to check if they have a reliable hechsher. "Real life" is minhagim that say "do things this way" and, yes, some chumras that say "do things a different way." "Real life" is writing out tzedaka checks and scheduling chesed visits. "Real life" doesn't just run on the alarm clock, but also on the calendar. "Real life" is having a full schedule of holidays, with all their requirements. Sad but true, for some people yom tov is not about "real life" but about something extra thrown in to put a monkey wrench into the functioning of "real life."

I can complain with the best of them, but I recognize that there is nothing "unreal" about preparing for chagim--they too are part of real life. They aren't an extra thrown in to drive us crazy. An attitude change can help. It's not that the billions of details and work will disappear, but the burden becomes lighter if you don't look at it as a burden but as a privilege. Aren't we all lucky to be here and to be able to make Pesach so that our families may have the joy of the yom tov? And yes ladies, you may give yourselves a pat on the back, even more than one, for stretching the definition of "real life" to include all the things that frum Jews do. When the question asks "Why is this night different from all other nights?" one answer is "because I was privileged to help to make it so."

Take a breath, square your shoulders and soldier on. "Real life" is about a week away. You'll make it--we always do.


Bas~Melech said...

Forget Pesach -- This is my gripe all year 'round. True, chagim are part of real Jewish life just like minyan, etc. But I think that every part of life is "real life." Sometimes people just wait to get to "real life" and never validate what they're doing at the moment.

For example, I don't think my life is any less "real" than that of my friends who are married with kids. ("Groan...I'm sooo overwhelmed." "Get used to it -- that's what real life is going to be about.") Ditto for all those poor school kids who are told that real life begins in adulthood: If they're living in it, how can it not be real?!

ProfK said...

I won't argue with you because you are right. Real life begins when we draw our first breath and doesn't end until we take our last breath. I suppose what people really mean to say when they tell others that they haven't experienced "real life" yet, is that there are other stages yet to come. It's a kind of verbal laziness--seems to be easier to just say "you don't know what real life is" then to try and explain what is really going on.

Anonymous said...

TY a whole bunch for this posting. We'll be away for the sedorim but home the rest of the time and it's my first time making my house pesachdik and shopping and doing the cooking. I was beginning to think it could only be me that was feeling awfully tired and frustrated with things to do. I think I was really resentful that we had to stay at home. It made a difference to me to hear that others also get tired but that there is something beautiful about being able to make Pesach.