Here we are, one year since the start of the Corona epidemic and while restaurants and social venues are opening up around Israel and things seem to be going back to normal, it may be easy to forget that the rest of the world is not up to par with Israel. I still have many friends and family members in the United States who have yet to receive the Corona vaccine and there’s no sign of knowing when that may happen.
Just the other day I noticed a friend’s post on Facebook. She wrote, “Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, I will be alone for the two nights of Seder.” She went on to write that while this may seem like a dream to some people, she was, in fact, terrified because Pesach is her “over-the-top favorite holiday” where she tends to go all out in the preparation and creation of a joyful family experience. She wrote this post not to seek pity or advice on how to change her circumstances, but rather to learn from others how to get through the Seders alone.
My heart went out to her.
I’ve never experienced Pesach alone and I can’t imagine doing so: lighting the holiday candles, making the blessing over the wine 4 times, asking the four questions, breaking the middle matzah and hiding half of it, eating the karpas, and charoset, maror, and all of the other traditional holiday foods, singing Hallel, opening the door for Elijah, chanting the blessings after the meals and the traditional holiday tunes… all alone. Without a single person to sing and lift the holiday spirit with. I truly cannot fathom such a situation and I whole-heartedly understand why my friends was hoping for some love and support.
I read through the first few comments.
I knew the responses weren’t what she was looking for:
“Do you Zoom on the holiday?” One friend asked.
No, she doesn’t.
“If Zoom is put on before the holidays, you could still participate in a virtual Seder,” another person offered.
No, she wasn’t interested in that, nor was she interested in Halachic loopholes. She was simply looking for ways to approach the Seder solo with joy. As an emotional well-being coach, these are the kinds of things people ask me about all the time which is why I developed powerful self-help tools to guide them do just that. I responded saying I’d be happy to meet with her on Zoom and guide her using my tools.
She liked my comment, but didn’t respond.
She hasn’t taken me up on the offer yet either.
And that’s OK. Maybe she doesn’t want my advice (even though I never offer advice, I just offer considerations and new perspectives for people to look at). Maybe she’s feeling a difficult emotion she doesn’t want to reveal to me, or maybe she thinks she already knows what I’m going to say.
I have no idea if she will end up reading this article or not, but I decided to write this piece not necessarily for her sake, but for the sake of anyone else who is planning to be alone this Passover.
The unSTUCK Method
The unSTUCK Method is a simple and practical step-by-step process that takes you from “stuck” to “unstuck.”
S – STOP. Take a breath. It’s never a good time to make a decision when you are stuck. And sometimes when the “stuck” story is so deeply embedded inside our heads, the story easily can turn into a drama. By taking a stop, you invite yourself to step outside your story and redirect your mind to the present moment.
T – TELL. This is where we identify which emotion(s) we are stuck on. Since I did not coach my friend, I couldn’t know for sure, but my gut is that at least one emotion she is stuck on is fear. And rather than resisting that emotion, I would encourage her to embrace the fear. To simply notice it and allow it to be there.
U – UNCOVER. This is where we get to the source of the “stuck” spot – which is always a thought. The only reason we get stuck in the first place is because of a thought we are thinking, and not the circumstance itself. The circumstance (that is, that my friend will be alone for the Seders) is not what is making her stuck, but rather it’s her thinking about it. Perhaps she may be thinking thoughts such as:
I believe I won’t be able to make it through the holiday with any sense of joy.
I believe it’s going to be miserable.
I believe it’s going to be the worst Seder I’ve ever experienced.
The second part of this “UNCOVER” step is to investigate the truthfulness of our thoughts. Are our thoughts 100% true? Can we prove our thoughts in a court of all? Would everyone in the world agree with our beliefs?
Using this measurement, the answer is, “No,” my friend’s beliefs are not true. While she may be believing them in her head, her thoughts are not True. And when you debunk your beliefs, you end up debunking your story.
C – CONSIDER. When you realize your story isn’t as big and solid as it was to begin with, you open a window of opportunity to consider other perspectives. Often, we can find great considerations in the flip of our original thoughts, such as:
I can consider I will make it through this holiday with some joy.
I can consider the holiday actually can be lovely.
I can consider the holiday going to be the best Seder I ever experienced.
You don’t need to marry all of these considerations, but you do need to choose one that you believe in order to get unSTUCK. When you choose a new thought, you begin to feel differently because your thoughts create your emotions.
K – KINDNESS. Even though you get unSTUCK in the previous step, there is one final process to go through and that is, to be kind to yourself. Place your hands on your hearts and take a deep breath. Hold yourself in self-compassion. We aren’t angels and we aren’t perfect, and we need to remember that. We all get stuck. And that’s ok.
While getting unSTUCK is the best place to start, just getting unSTUCK is not enough if you are looking to be in the driver’s seat of your life and create a new reality for yourself.
The next step is to get CLEAR.
The CLEAR Way
The CLEAR Way is a powerful tool I created that helps you get mentally prepared for any tenuous future moment you are heading into, such as being alone for a 3-day holiday.
C – CALM. Similar to the “STOP” in the process above, it’s important to always start with a pause and in this case, get out of the future-focused mind. Taking a moment to redirect your attention to your breath will guide you back to the present moment where all wisdom exists.
L – LIGHTEN. Whether we realize it or not, when we head into tenuous future moments, we bring with it heavy thoughts, such as: “I know it’s going to be a washout,” (as if we truly know what is going to happen in the next moment). We lighten our thoughts by changing our language and staying in a posture of curiosity, rather than in a place of all-knowing, because in truth, we are not God and we have no way of knowing what will be in the future. “I have no idea how this holiday will be. It actually may work out fine,” is one way of lightening your thoughts.
E – EXPECT. In this step, we recognize what we want or wish for. We all have expectations, many of which are unconscious. It is essential to uncover your expectations so that you can avoid getting stuck. For example, expectations regarding this situation may include:
I hope I won’t be sad during the holiday.
I hope I’m not bored.
I hope I can make it through the whole Seder.
A: ACCEPT. After you identify your expectations, the next step is to radically accept the possibility that the opposite of your expectations may occur. We do this, not because we want the opposite to occur, but because if we can accept the opposite may happen, then if or when the opposite does occur, we won’t get stuck because we already accepted it. For example:
I accept the possibility that I may get sad.
I accept the possibility that I may get bored.
I accept the possibility that I may not make it through the Seder.
(If you can’t accept the possibility of the opposites of your expectations occurring, you may be stuck and you may want to consider going back to The unSTUCK Method to get unSTUCK.)
R: RESPONSIBILITY. The final step in in this process is taking responsibility for who it is you want to be. You release responsibility for others (which you have no control over anyway), and take full responsibility for yourself. By default, we often show up in the world as people we don’t necessarily want to be without even being aware of it. For instance, when I’m not being intentional, I may show up anxious, impulsive, or unloving. But when I’m living in awareness, I show up as the person I truly want to be.
I would be curious to hear how my friend would choose to commit to being. Perhaps she’d want to commit to being positive, or proactive, or grateful, or any number of possible ways.
The Living Deliberately Approach
And finally, the last tool for getting emotionally equipped is The Living Deliberately Approach. In a nutshell, this process help you realize that who you are being dictates the actions you take, and hence, the results you see in your life. Most people believe that if they want to create a change in their life, they need to place their focus at the action level. But this is erroneous because when you focus first on the actions you need to take, you work against your identity.
For instance, if someone who smokes decides one day they want to stop smoking and they take actions they believe they need to do in order to stop smoking (for instance, they don’t buy cigarettes), they are invariably going to struggle because their identity will still be “a smoker.” Instead, it is more effective to first change their identity (to “I am a non-smoker”), and from that place, their actions and results will follow.
If my friend commits to being positive, perhaps she would get out of the house and take a stroll in nature each day; or perhaps she would buy herself flowers; or perhaps she would say to herself, “I may be by myself, but I am never alone”.
If my friend commits to being proactive, perhaps she would check out new Passover recipes; or perhaps she would order a new Haggadah; or perhaps she would prepare new and exciting study materials to review over the holiday.
If my friend commits to being grateful, perhaps she would invite some of her friends and family to send her holiday messages that she would print in advance and read at the Seder; perhaps she would invite Ushpizin to her table like we do on Sukkot; or perhaps she would create a long gratitude list and have the list visible during the three days for her to return to over and over again.
Some of these ideas came from responses to the original post, but the truth is, the ideas are limitless. It all comes down to who it is you want to be and what results you want to create for herself. Each of us is, in fact, the co-creator of our lives. While we have no control over the circumstances that exist in our lives, we always have control over what we choose to think and feel, and how we choose respond to those circumstances. And while we aren’t out of the woods yet when it comes to this pandemic, we still must remember we can manage our minds, if we do the work.