Why is this night different from all other nights?

Disclaimer: This post will be posted a day after it was finished. Some say it might take away from the point of the post, but this is what happens when you don’t quite finish it the morning of the 15th and go straight from work to Passover Seder and don’t get home until it’s past your bedtime.

April 15th, 2014. Just a day like any other. Quite unremarkable, really. It’s raining, but warm rain. Standard for a spring day in Philadelphia.

A date is just a day on the calendar until something happens.

April 15th, 2014. Tax day in the United States. The day before my father’s birthday (and he still doesn’t look a day over 35). And it also happens to be the second night of Passover. Tonight, I will go to my childhood home and feast with 20 different family members and friends. Despite my age, I’ll be seated at the kid’s table. We’ll drink wine, eat cardboard known as matzo, break into a spontaneous rendition of “Let My People Go,” and argue over which child is the wise one, wicked one, simple one, and one who doesn’t know enough to ask a question. And at some point throughout the night, we’ll ask, mah nishtanah, ha-laylah ha-zeh, mi-kol ha-leylot?

What has changed, this night, from all the other nights?

April 15, 2013. Two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing 4 and injuring hundreds. It shattered a nation and rattled a community of runners. I wrote a blog post detailing my own reactions of this horrific event, acknowledging both the intense fear and incredible resilience that can arise from tragedy.

Until I became a therapist, I didn’t really recognize the true significance and value a date can have. I knew that certain dates could elicit certain emotions and reactions, but not at the intensity I’ve seen. I have clients who will not come into therapy when a particular date approaches because they physically cannot get out of bed. They may be suffering from a flashback related to post-traumatic stress disorder, or be so consumed with grief that they cannot function. Dates remind us of joyous occasions and the world’s worst horrors. I’ve seen dates cause clients to re-experience that trauma, and it can be the hardest thing in the world to come back to the present moment. A day might just be a day on the calendar, but it can transport you back to that moment that changed everything.

Today has been a particularly emotionally intense day for me. On the one hand, it’s one of my favorite holidays that celebrates the liberation of the Israelites and lets me spend time with my favorite people in the world. It reminds me just how lucky I am, and how lucky many of us are, who have the opportunity to feast and experience love. But it’s also brought back some of that fear and anxiety that occurred this time last year. In the days leading up to it, it’s been difficult to focus on work knowing what feelings are coming up. On top of it, I’ve been dealing with a health issue that is currently preventing me from running. On this day, it seems wrong (for me) not to run, and it’s been difficult to find other ways to deal with it.

But if April 15, 2014 means anything, it means strength, hope, and healing. I can put on my big girl pants and wait until I get medical clearance to begin running again. My ancestors wandered in the desert for 40 years and made it out alive. Some of my clients made it through days that caused them incredible pain and suffering and returned to therapy to process that moment once again. And the city of Boston and its people showed their resiliency and desire to help others in the midst of a horrible event.  Through it all, we have capacity to heal, move forward, and experience the next day on the calendar.

Update: As of April 16, 2014, WordPress.com told me it’s my blog anniversary. Time is an interesting thing, isn’t it?


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