I decided that since we were finally, for the first time ever, allowed to photograph the Passover seder, that if I snuck a picture of the table before anyone even arrived that the world would surely not end. I was, however, deeply mistaken. My grandmother, Savta, caught me and freaked the fuck out. I then tried to lie and dug myself deeper into the pit of hellfire I was already in.
"I'm photographing it for my cousins who couldn't come," I said, lying. Sort of.
This caused her to freak out more because they would not approve and they would be shocked and appalled at my abomination of taking pictures on Rosh Hashanah which is like Shabat (the sabbath) when mechanical devices like light switches and computers and cell phones and cars and pretty much everything that makes life convenient, are prohibited. I was screwed.
Then she panicked at the thought that maybe the mirror over the table had reflected an image of her in the background which would surely cause her to go to Hell. I assured her that she was not in the picture and she was deeply relieved. I was mortified and felt a combination of pissed off, resentful and ashamed of myself. Albeit this IS the way I feel most of the time during these events anyway.
All night long I felt like I was doing everything wrong and the truth is that there is so much about this religion that I don't know and don't understand and it's to the point where it begins to seem absurd after a while. I hate that in my grandparents' house that I have always felt like I was doing something wrong that was going to cause a major disaster. I have never lived down the time I used a dairy glass with a meat plate.
Because I was already going to Hell I snapped a picture of my grandmother's linen closet which I think proves that maybe her fervor is more than simple religious devotion. I've long suspected that in some ways Savta is batshit insane and has a raging case of OCD. She measures each of these sheets and towels so they are all the same. I should post a photo of MY linen closet for comparison. It is nothing like Savta's. I almost feel like a bad person. I don't measure my linens when folding. I lack this degree of devotion and precision.
I understand OCD. Cousin Bella has it. I was once diagnosed with it during a period of great stress. When I get stressed out even now I notice little neurotic symptoms creeping back, but my brand of OCD relates to germs and illness and I start to think that everything I eat is going to kill me. I think Savta suffers from scrupulosity.
Just last week I read Jenniger Traig's memoir "Devil in the Details" about her struggle as a teen with this condition. She too, was Jewish. I think we Jews are predisposed to OCD. The religion to me seems to encourage it, although Traig makes a distinction between religious fulfillment and pathological behavior. I think Savta kind of crosses that line though. I really do, as much as I love and admire my grandmother. I feel like her life would have been happier if she had been born in a different time and diagnosed and helped with the condition. I could be wrong.
But OCD is a fascinating topic. As the illness runs rampant in my family on several sides I have a lot of experience with it and the good thing about it is that as far as illnesses go, it's pretty freakin' hilarious sometimes. Bella and I laugh at ourselves constantly and Traig, in her book does too. The memoir is hysterical, on a few different levels. You gotta laugh at yourself to heal I think. Now let me go make sure my Purell bottle is full before I leave the house.
Jennifer Traig's book can be found here and if you are interested her website, which is not updated a lot is here. I really recommend the book if you have or love someone with OCD or even if you don't. It's just a good, funny, compelling and interesting read. I hear she has a new book about hypochondria which I plan to read too. Lord knows I definitely have that.
Happy New Year. See you all in Hell.
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