Freedom means different things to different people. What does freedom mean to you?
As we watch the war on Ukraine we can appreciate the comforts we take for granted in a whole new light. This is the season of Passover, the holiday that commemorates the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. On this holiday we eat maror, a horseradish that represents the bitter tears of slavery, and charoset, a wine and apple mixture that represents the sweetness of freedom. We eat them side-by-side acknowledging that life is both bitter and sweet. The matzo that we eat with it is unleavened bread because our ancestors didn’t have time to bake bread as they were escaping.
We accept the sweetness of life easily and often without really acknowledging the miracle of it, and we do everything we can to escape the feelings that come with the bitterness of life, of which no one escapes.
I see this with my patients and with myself. We often buffer our feelings with overeating, social media scrolling, video games, etc. Wouldn’t it have been great if we were taught how to feel our emotions, both good and bad, when we were in grade school? Instead we were told to “suck it up”, “be brave” and “deal with it”.
In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%, according to a scientific brief released by the World Health Organization (WHO) today.
We are experiencing Covid, school shootings, the Ukraine war and so much more “bitterness”.
So what can we do now?
When you are feeling overwhelmed by events out of your control, you can:
- Acknowledge your feelings. Really give yourself time to feel them. Write down your feelings or talk them out with a therapist.
- Deep breathe. Inhale for a slow count of 4 or a normal count of 7, hold for a count of 4 and then exhale at the same rate of 4 or 7. This can decrease your fight and flight response.
- Exercise. It gives that extra nervous energy an outlet.
- Surround yourself with people who you love and who love you back.
- Volunteer your time. It can put things into perspective when you realize what you are grateful for.
My memories of Passover from my past include dinners full of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters and cousins and from my present with my kids, our friends, their families and at least three dogs. It is a wonderful time to reflect on the bitter and the sweet, slavery and freedom.
Take a moment to ask yourself, what does freedom mean to you?
The beautiful picture you see above is a watercolor painting created by Laura Miller who donated the proceeds to a Ukraine charity.
The recipe you see below is my Grandmother’s recipe for charoset and with it my wish for you to have a life full of feeling, mostly sweet.