I’ve never been a compulsive cleaner, and I know better than to say I wish I were. Many of my patients past and present struggle with this urge, which is not particularly pleasant. But I do tend to get into a bit of extra cleaning in this season.
In preparation for the Passover festival, those who observe are obligated to do some serious physical cleaning, throughout the house, and even of the car. The goal? To get rid of the residual leavening—you know, the crumbs—from eating while driving, eating in your bedroom and TV room, as well as the kitchen. Even if you appropriately and mindfully eat solely in the kitchen, no corner is to be left uncleaned, in this Passover preparation. Even closets, if they might contain some food remnants, and blankets, need to be dealt with.
But the deeper meaning of this preparation comes as I am mindlessly vacuuming out my minivan, a task last completed a full year ago. It’s a mess, and I must say I actually looked forward to this cleaning like I look forward to my daily Matzo Brai, a kind of French toast equivalent made with matzo. There’s something so pleasing about making things happen. You vacuum, and things look and feel better—immediately. Ah, if only changing our behaviors were this easy!
But what struck me most is the feeling as I tossed out the old wrappers and coffee cups, the used tissues and pre-GPS printed directions scattered on the dirty car mats. It felt good to get rid of things, useless things. Clearing out my physical trash and cleaning house, so to speak, somehow orients me, grounds me. Sound weird? Perhaps. But there have been plenty of studies about how our physical environment influences how we feel, and vice versa. It’s a scary thought, if you saw the inside of my van!
So I got to thinking about clearing out the internal crap. What chametz, or undesirable leaven, do I need to vacuum out of me? The answer isn’t a quick one. But I’ve decided to start with adding a filter, a cheese cloth of sorts. I’m working on more mindfully, and sensitively, letting out some of my less-than-thoughtful reactions to people and situations.
And what does this have to do with me, you ask? It seems that we would all benefit from examining which thoughts and beliefs we live by, or more specifically, eat by, and which are best sent on their way.
Do you hold on to crumbs of old diets, labeling foods good versus bad? Do you live by the clock, trying desperately to extend the interval to prevent eating until so many hours, all the while denying your hunger? Do you hold on to the crumbs of belief that you don’t deserve to eat well, to feel well, to indulge in foods you enjoy?
Regardless of religion, whether you follow one or not, we could all use a bit of spring cleaning, to sweep out the chametz. And to destroy those messages we replay that keep us stuck in unhealthy patterns.
Happy holidays to all.