The same thing happens EVERY year without fail. I always plan to “turn over” my kitchen (that is, clean and kosher it for Passover), as close to Passover as possible so that my family doesn’t have to either eat kosher for Passover food longer than necessary or eat their floury, chametz-leaden food in the garage. I plan and think I have everything down and scheduled.
Inevitably, I always wind up beginning my cleaning and then just turning over the kitchen a few days earlier than I’d planned. Every. Single. Year.
I’m not even sure why, but at some point, it seems less stressful to just get it done. Maybe it’s that I hear of other women turning their kitchens over earlier and I begin to worry I won’t have time to cook? Or, perhaps it’s just that the cleaning begins to take on its own momentum? I’m not sure, but I think it has to do with a discomfort with living “in between.”
At a certain point, you begin to have some areas cleaned and some things kashered and some things not and in that state, it gets harder and harder to keep things separate and not make any mistakes. I feel a sense of relief when the kitchen is all turned over and set for Passover, even if my family is huddled around the toaster oven in the garage or eating potato kugel for an extra week. I’m fine before I begin turning things over, but once it’s started, I really feel this need to get it all finished as quickly as possible so that the wrong spoon doesn’t wander out or someone cooks in the wrong pot.
I think that probably says a lot about me in general.
There is a discomfort that comes with living in any half-completed state. I think we feel this in the last weeks of school before a graduation or those rushed weeks before a wedding. A big life transition is taking place, but, at least for a short while, there is a space where you’re between and there is a mental and emotional discomfort that accompanies that state. It’s a feeling you’d think our family would be accustomed to by now!
I find comfort in the idea that there is a purpose to such states, though. Hashem certainly could have simply brought the Jews out of Egypt and directly to Israel. It would have been simple given all the other miracles He performed. Alternately, He could have just led them on the most direct route right to Israel. Instead, the Jews had to wander for 40 years in the desert. They needed to dwell in the discomfort of being free from slavery, but not yet having their own land. As uncomfortable as that state was, it was necessary for so many reasons for them to become the nation they were meant to be. Similarly, when we individually make big life transitions, sometimes, as painful and awkward as it can feel, we need to live in a state between one thing…and another.
I have a friend currently experiencing this in a very personal, visceral way. Her marriage has ended, but both her civil divorce and the process of getting her get have stalled (to be clear, she is not an agunah and it looks like everything will work out…it’s just going to take more time than she ever imagined). She has to live in an awkward place between being married…and being single and not really being either. A chapter in her life has ended, but she can’t yet begin the next chapter and she’s stuck at the turning of the page.
Life just simply isn’t as orderly as the numbered pages of a book. My rush to turn over my kitchen is my small way of trying to make it more like that, to make the world simpler for me to understand, where the change between one state to another is so much easier to see and so much neater and cleaner. That anxiety I feel where things are halfway turned over and my kitchen is not quite kosher for Passover but also already contains things that need to remain kosher for Passover is such a mirror of the powerlessness I often feel when I feel like I’m stuck at the turning of a page. In my kitchen, I have the freedom to rush through and my family is patient enough with me to allow it. In fact, they know by now that when I say I’m going to turn the kitchen over on X day…they might as well subtract three days from that. They just smile knowingly.
In life, we rarely have the ability to control the big transitions of our lives in this way. I’m sure it’s for the better than we can’t because who would willingly choose to live in-between for any longer than they had to? Still, within that tension of not quite being what we were and yet not being able to step fully into who we are becoming is where we find some of our deepest growth. We’re off balance between steps, essentially falling forward until our foot catches us, but that’s how we move forward in this life.
As I finish turning over my kitchen tonight, I will pray that I become more graceful when it comes to these in-between spaces and try to resist the urge to rush through them so much. Who knows what I might miss along the way?