A while ago, I wrote a post about how difficult it had been for me to juggle two calendars in my head, to remember when Jewish holidays were and to keep myself from mentioning anything that would indicate to my family that I had arranged my schedule without paying attention to those holidays.
Over the past few weeks, conversations I’ve had in a few OTD groups reminded me of these difficulties.
This week Tuesday was Tisha b’Av (the ninth day of the month of Av), the most intense day of mourning in the Jewish calendar. It’s the culmination of “the three weeks,” a period of mourning that begins with a fast on Shiva Assar b’Tammuz (the seventeenth day of the month of Tammuz), and “the nine days,” a period of more intense mourning that begins on the first day of the month of Av.
I’m currently not in contact with my parents, so I didn’t have to worry about mentioning swimming or music during the nine days, and I didn’t have to worry about their pangs of pain when I forget and mention eating on either of the fast days bookending the three weeks.
I did have to think about the fast days when I spoke to my siblings, but there’s less tension and worry and concern in those conversations, because the siblings I speak to on a constant basis truly accept and don’t mind that I have chosen a path which does not include fasting and mourning each year – unlike my parents, who will likely always feel pain when they think of it.
But when I asked my brother to help me out with some things, we had to schedule it around Tisha b’Av (no, he couldn’t come late Monday afternoon, because the fast would start before he could get home), and when my sister and I wanted to go to a play, we had to schedule it for after Tisha b’Av when she would be allowed to listen to music. No big deal, and all of us respectful of each other’s needs, desires, and convictions.
I traveled for a week or so in July, and my sisters are excited to hear about all the details of my trip. One sister is perfectly okay with me saying “and then on Saturday I took the ferry,” but when I speak to the other one, I leave out that detail and just say “so the next day, I took the ferry,” so it’s not so in-her-face. Since I’m not in contact with my parents, I don’t need to watch their faces fall as they calculate the amount of days that have come in the string of “so the next day…” and figure out exactly where and how I was mechalel shabbos this time.
For those still in close contact with their parents, however, or for those not “out” as OTD yet, it’s a minefield.
In one group I’m a part of, someone posted a PSA on July 11 reminding everyone that “if anyone talks to their parents it’s shivasar bitamuz.” Again on July 31, someone else posted “PSA: Tonight and tomorrow is tisha b’av. Be aware if it makes a difference for you, your family or friends.” The general consensus in the responses to that post were that “this warning thing is a really good idea.”
It helps to remember that, on a day when they’re fasting, sitting on the floor, crying, and reciting kinnos, you shouldn’t ask your parents if you can come over for a lunch visit.
On Tisha b’Av itself, one group member commented after they caught themselves just in time before sending their family photos from something cool that had happened at work. (A mock-rabbinic comment followed pointing out that it was after chatzos, and therefore late enough in the day that it was okay to be at work.)
Today, another group member said they had invited some friends to an event they were organizing without realizing that the entire event takes place over the first days of Succos.
It’s sad that I’m distant enough from most religious family and friends that I don’t have to remember these dates, but omigod it’s such a relief not to be stressing over that kind of thing too much anymore.