I’m finding that I crave the consistency Friday afternoons bring.
Today was a off-day. With Boston preparing for the wrath of “Nemo” the city felt flustered and I, in it, isolated. I’m prepared: the groceries are ready, water bought, flashlights located. And yet, none of it seemed necessary nor important today as I sat “alone” at home. There were no coworkers to chat to about when the office was closing down or plans for riding out the snow. There was no camaraderie on the T- because I wasn’t on it. The preparation for this blizzard felt empty.
And that’s not to say I didn’t leave the house. I wandered down for a cut and color this morning and spent a lovely 2 hours with Katie, my friend and hairdresser. Chatting about her upcoming holiday, my current relationship and work status, her current relationship status. We laughed so much i nearly cried at times. And she gifted me with a “Darlin’, you’re unemployed” discount for which I’m truly grateful this month, as unemployment insurance still hasn’t kicked in 4 weeks later.
Walking home, I took my time and enjoyed the flurries before popping over to my neighbor Tina’s home to ask if we could use her driveway to park the motorcycle in. We chatted for 15 minutes, I petted her dog, Gini, and then headed back home across the street readying myself for my afternoon- for the preparation for Shabbos. For challah and thoughtfulness and prayer.
And I didn’t find it. For the last few weeks, as soon as I begin making the dough- pulling out flour and eggs and yeast and sugar- I begin to feel peace. Today I felt rushed inside. Unsettled. Granted, my body gifted me with its every 6 week menstrual present today, so I’m not underestimating the impact of hormones in all of this. But still. I’ve been concerned, worried, sad, angry, panicked, and any combination of these feelings on these past Fridays and still found peace as soon as the bread-making began.
In desperation, while the dough was rising, I crawled into bed and fell fast asleep for an hour. I awoke still unsettled. Snapped, unnecessarily, at my boyfriend as we were moving his truck cover into a better blizzard-protected area, and so took myself for a shower knowing that the water would loosen me up a bit.
Post-shower, with my apologies, his forgiveness, and a little time cuddling on the bed, I left my boyfriend to begin the braiding and knotting. This week I decided to make two batches of dough: enough for a full challah loaf and six chocolate knots, which, thanks to my bf’s sister, Yehudit, I learned are a real Jewish baked good and not something I simply made up. [Note: This makes me feel good to know this for no reason I can readily identify]. And, thanks to Google, I now know that challah knots are called challot; though I don’t know if there’s a special name if they contain chocolate!
So, I came to the kitchen having shared with my bf my process of writing to his mother who’s wrestling with cancer. Having spent a few minutes sharing love with him. And, as I began the first round of rolling and braiding, I felt calm for the first time today. And, even more, I felt thankful, which is how I usually feel on these afternoons. As I worked, I was able to peacefully, thoughtfully, and fully thank G-d for the gifts in my life today. For Katie- who offered me reprieve and a gift of not just a “cheaper” cut and color, but of understanding and of laughter. For Tina, who thanked me for coming to ask for her help, and immediately and graciously offered space in her driveway- for this weekend and any time to come. For my boyfriend, who was able to take my frustration in stride, accept my apology, and receive me with love after his long day at work. For the flour, sugar, eggs, salt, and yeast (and chocolate) that I can still afford, so that I can have an afternoon making challah dough and an evening of prayer braiding, knotting, and baking.
The more I rolled and braided and knotted, the more thankful I felt. For my parents who check in with me every day. For my brother, whom I can call in the middle of the work day to chat, or cry, or both. For my friends, who offer their resources and time and joy. For G-d, who I am building a relationship with every day, and who is giving me the capacity to look inside and into the world around me, be thankful, and practice realizing that thankfulness with little acts of generosity, kindness, patience, and being.
Two hours later, baking complete and challah cooling, I find myself typing with tears because, despite myself and my difficulties earlier today, I still found my Self in the consistency of preparing for Shabbos. I still have not perfected my challot, and I still do not know how to celebrate Shabbos itself in the “right/best” way for me. But, I’m learning to prepare for it and I appreciate that time and consistency.
Addendum: Seeing my neighbor Tina’s delight as I handed her two warm chocolate challot and a small bag of pretzel/chocolate/toffee cookies I baked yesterday afternoon just added to the warmth of the evening- despite the cold of running through the snow to her home down the street!