Last year, I was recently divorced when Purim fell. Purim, for those of you not in the know, is a spring holiday commemorating the near destruction and redemption of the Jewish community in Iran some 2000 years ago. For the record, it’s the Book of Esther, God’s name is curiously never mentioned in the entire Megillah that recounts it, and the hero of the story is actually a heroine named Esther. She’s awesome. Anyway.
Last year, amidst the still-clearing rubble of the mess and chaos that is divorce (even one that is managed extremely maturely and lovingly as my ex and I strive to do), my kids assumed that we would do a family costume like we always did. At that time they were 4 and 7. So we did a family costume in the middle of a divorce. We went as the cast of Tintin, with both of my boys as Tintin, my ex as the drunk Captain and me as Snowy the Dog, of course. Here’s me as Snowy in case you missed it last year.
It was beautiful, last Purim. It kind of broke my heart and made me super sad, and it also made me really hopeful and I felt a lot of love in my heart overall.
This year Purim is harder. I am in New York with DeVry University for National HerWorld Month, encouraging high school girls to get involved in STEM careers. This precluded making hamantaschen which I probably couldn’t have done anyway because of my hand. My mom made us some before I left for New York. They are tasty but have four corners. Unsure why, they just do. Here’s one:
My ex turned them into hamantaschen sundaes which everyone thought was awesome. Here’s Firstborn with his:
As a working mom, I missed the Purim carnival my kids went to. I mean, I know working moms and dads miss stuff all the time, but it’s especially hard after a divorce to feel you miss out. Because I am. I know it’s OK. Things could be worse. I know.
I was never a bratty child. I mean, I’m sure I had my moments but I was more of a contrary child, not a bratty one. Sometimes I want to be a bratty adult. I literally feel like stamping my foot and shouting: I DON’T LIKE THIS.
I DON’T LIKE MISSING SEEING MY KIDS DRESSED UP AT THEIR PURIM CARNIVAL. I DON’T LIKE BEING A WORKING MOM IF IT MEANS I MISS OUT ON STUFF. I DON’T LIKE NOT BEING THE ONLY ONE MAKING ANY DECISIONS ABOUT ANYTHING I EVER DO AND EVERYTHING MY KIDS DO AND DON’T DO.
But that’s not helpful. I can’t control most things. Just myself. And my perspective. And my reactions to things. I can take what I like and leave the rest from this world. I can be upset the things are not as I planned and it’s OK.
I will be spending the weekend of Purim at my ex’s mom’s house. We have a wedding from his side of the family to attend on Purim. I am excited for his family and I am excited to see my (ex)mother-in-law and obviously I am excited to be with my kids after a few days of long work in New York. But it’s hard. It’s hard to be divorced. It’s just hard. I know, it could be so much worse. I know.
One of my closest friends works at AlephBeta which is an incredible online resource for learning more about Judaism in small snippets from very rational and level-headed teachers. Check out their free courses; I have done a handful of them and love them. Anyway.
I studied a bit about Purim with this friend of mine and here’s what I got from it. Purim teaches us that nothing is what it seems. King Achashverosh thought he was happily married until Queen Vashti refused to dance naked for him wearing only her crown. His new gorgeous bride was–surprise!–a Jewess! His trusty advisor Haman was–surprise!–plotting to kill all of the Jews. The feasts Esther held for the King were–surprise!–an elaborate and very wise womanly way to get his attention and speak up for her people, ultimately saving them.
The moral of this story can not be summed up even in a clever Kveller post such as this, but the take home messages I am getting are:
1. Marriage is really complicated. Don’t assume you know what’s going on in someone’s marriage. Sometimes even what’s going on in your own marriage may surprise you at some point!
2. Women wear many masks in our culture. We have to. Blame patriarchy. I do.
3. Be careful who you trust. Always.
4. We women get to use our womanly wisdom to be a source of bravery and courage and strength for not only ourselves but for our people as well. Sometimes we have to even be willing to sacrifice to do what is right and good and true.
The thing I love about Jewish learning and the study of text is that is forces us to confront dark places in a way therapy doesn’t and in a way just talking doesn’t. I like to have things stirred up and I feel it is my purpose on this planet to find my will and actively pursue things that feed the realization of my will and support it.
For this I am grateful this Purim. I wish you all a freilichen Purim, full of revelations and redemption. Chag Sameach!