Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I Am Going To Hell

Last night I pretty much made the final payment on my first class ticket to Hell. As many of you know it's Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish High Holidays and I had to go visit my grandparents for dinner. You may recall Passover, long descriptions of which can be found in my April archives over in the sidebar. Rosh Hashanah, the New Year is similar, except with the addition of bread and apples and honey. My grandmother always makes a beautiful table setting and I wanted to photograph it, my reasoning being that my grandparents are not long for this earth. Pop's death in June has made me feel even more keenly that I must preserve as many memories of my older relatives as possible. I want everything of them. I want pictures and movies and recordings to keep them alive because I will miss them so much one day and the one day will be soon. I wanted to photograph the beautiful table settings my grandmother makes and which I feel are not as appreciated as they should be. No one in the younger generations will ever spend the long hours that she does making sure everything is perfect and this makes me a little sad. At the same time no one has ever photographed any of her tables.

I decided that since we were finally, for the first time ever, allowed to photograph the Passover seder, that if I snuck a picture of the table before anyone even arrived that the world would surely not end. I was, however, deeply mistaken. My grandmother, Savta, caught me and freaked the fuck out. I then tried to lie and dug myself deeper into the pit of hellfire I was already in.

"I'm photographing it for my cousins who couldn't come," I said, lying. Sort of.

This caused her to freak out more because they would not approve and they would be shocked and appalled at my abomination of taking pictures on Rosh Hashanah which is like Shabat (the sabbath) when mechanical devices like light switches and computers and cell phones and cars and pretty much everything that makes life convenient, are prohibited. I was screwed.

Then she panicked at the thought that maybe the mirror over the table had reflected an image of her in the background which would surely cause her to go to Hell. I assured her that she was not in the picture and she was deeply relieved. I was mortified and felt a combination of pissed off, resentful and ashamed of myself. Albeit this IS the way I feel most of the time during these events anyway.

All night long I felt like I was doing everything wrong and the truth is that there is so much about this religion that I don't know and don't understand and it's to the point where it begins to seem absurd after a while. I hate that in my grandparents' house that I have always felt like I was doing something wrong that was going to cause a major disaster. I have never lived down the time I used a dairy glass with a meat plate.

Because I was already going to Hell I snapped a picture of my grandmother's linen closet which I think proves that maybe her fervor is more than simple religious devotion. I've long suspected that in some ways Savta is batshit insane and has a raging case of OCD. She measures each of these sheets and towels so they are all the same. I should post a photo of MY linen closet for comparison. It is nothing like Savta's. I almost feel like a bad person. I don't measure my linens when folding. I lack this degree of devotion and precision.

I understand OCD. Cousin Bella has it. I was once diagnosed with it during a period of great stress. When I get stressed out even now I notice little neurotic symptoms creeping back, but my brand of OCD relates to germs and illness and I start to think that everything I eat is going to kill me. I think Savta suffers from scrupulosity.

Just last week I read Jenniger Traig's memoir "Devil in the Details" about her struggle as a teen with this condition. She too, was Jewish. I think we Jews are predisposed to OCD. The religion to me seems to encourage it, although Traig makes a distinction between religious fulfillment and pathological behavior. I think Savta kind of crosses that line though. I really do, as much as I love and admire my grandmother. I feel like her life would have been happier if she had been born in a different time and diagnosed and helped with the condition. I could be wrong.

But OCD is a fascinating topic. As the illness runs rampant in my family on several sides I have a lot of experience with it and the good thing about it is that as far as illnesses go, it's pretty freakin' hilarious sometimes. Bella and I laugh at ourselves constantly and Traig, in her book does too. The memoir is hysterical, on a few different levels. You gotta laugh at yourself to heal I think. Now let me go make sure my Purell bottle is full before I leave the house.

Jennifer Traig's book can be found here and if you are interested her website, which is not updated a lot is here. I really recommend the book if you have or love someone with OCD or even if you don't. It's just a good, funny, compelling and interesting read. I hear she has a new book about hypochondria which I plan to read too. Lord knows I definitely have that.

Happy New Year. See you all in Hell.


Mrs Parks said...

Happy New Year!

Does it count if I say that and I'm not Jewish?
I hope it does, because I REALLY enjoy your blog, and I really do hope you have a happy new year.

Stephanie / Yukaeshi said...

Happy New Year!

Really enjoy your blog, have been a loooong time reader.

As a psychology student, OCD IS an interesting subject. What makes it even more interesting is that I have mild cases of OCD + ADD brought on by stress and anxiety. Not fun I tell you, having to arrange things exactly the way they are and do little rituals (Although it's nothing that serious like washing hands 100 times a day).

Jess said...

I seriously thought the blog would end with that picture. Did you delete it?

I remember the days when I was a kid, attempting to help my grandmother fold her towels. She had a certain way of folding them so they would "fit" properly in her linen drawer (she didn't have a closet). To this day, when I fold towels I remember how OCD she became in her folding techniques.

Happy New Year to you!

LegalMist said...

I tried this before but I think I hit the wrong button and it looked like the comment disappeared into the ether. So I'm trying again. But if you did get this comment already, feel free to delete this one, or disregard it.

I just wanted to say that I have been reading (and loving) your blog for quite some time now. You tell great stories, and in such an engaging way. I have left a few (nice) anonymous comments before, but mostly have lurked about, enjoying stuff you and your commenters have written, for a few years.

You (and some other blogs) have inspired me to start a blog myself. I have linked to your blog from mine. Don't worry, I am totally not asking for you to link to my blog -- I just wanted you to know, and in case you want me to remove the link, I will.

Thank you for the inspiration, and for the multitude of great stories!

KT said...

Happy New Year!

I remember reading Devil in the Details a long time ago and really liking it - it was so informative, and super well-written. As was this post, as always :)

Fancy Schmancy said...

OCD runs in the Jewish side of my family, too, but so does a whole other host of mental illnesses. I love your grandma's linen closet. I had the same Raggedy Ann towel and matching washcloth when I was little.

Anonymous said...

I taped DWTS last night just to see your mom. They showed a older lady in black w/ dark hair standing next to a man applauding for Brooke. Was that your mom? I am thinking no.

Serenity said...

Holy crap that's a lot of linen.

feefifoto said...

If it brings you any consolation, my grandmother used to open a new package of rice or Cream of Wheat and spread it out on a white pillowcase to inspect for bugs.

My brother-in-law insists that my sister patronize a certain dry cleaner because they put his shirts on the hangers facing the right direction.

Hilary said...

One of my cousins, her sister, mother and niece ALL have mild OCD.. they all count in fours. And yes, all Jewish. Your Grandmother's linen closet puts mine to shame!

Missicat said...

Shana Tova!
I think I have the opposite of OCD...if you go by the state of my linen closet. Or any of my closets for that matter....

Karen said...

I don't have OCD - I have CDO - it's the same letters but in alphabetical order - the way they should be! hahaha

Seriously, the older I get, the more I want things to be clean, tidy and orderly. I envy that linen closet!!! Sad huh?

Dayna said...

I am self diagnosed ADD and OCD(procrastination always fighting perfection, not easy). That's how obsessive I am. I diagnose myself and others. My 2nd daughter is OCD also and takes meds to control anxiety. We count everything, not realizing we do. Only even numbers, odd numbers disturb us. If my husband and other 2 children didn't live w/ us our house would be immaculately clean and in perfect order. Maybe that is why God sent us the others, for balance.
**we are not Jewish, we are Catholic.

Karen said...

Like the earlier commenter, I was transfixed by the Raggedy washcloth or towel or whatever it is.

I wish my OCD were less about anxious thought-repetition and more abotu compulsive cleaning, because my house is a mess.

Anonymous said...

'...I had the same Raggedy Ann towel and matching washcloth when I was little.'

I had the matching set of sheets on my bed when I was little.

Suzanne said...

I've never understood such stringent religious rules, which is probably why I'm lapsed from Catholicism. It just seems so silly. Frankly, if God is petty enough to send me to hell over taking a picture or eating His wafers without confessing first, I don't think I want any part in that in the first place.

Anonymous said...

My sister-in-laws have linen closets that look like that. My grandmother used to iron the sheets and pillow cases---my hall closet looks as though a burglar had been in there rummaging for treasures!
I wish , truly, that I could care that much what my linen closet looks like--I just don't.

Anonymous said...

reading this blog made me hungry for latke.

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