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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.


Clearing stuff out.

Despite all my threats — and despite some nostalgia-induced wishful thinking — I have not gone into crazed cleaning-obsessively-for-Passover mode.

Not that there hasn’t been a ridiculous amount of cleaning because ohmygod it starts tonight there has.

Just that I’ve been able to go about things in my own slow, measured way, and I’ve been mostly okay with that instead of ending up all Passoverwhelmed.

Yes, I know I’m the only person in the world who thinks Passoverwhelm* is funny. Just go with me on this one.

*Hat-tip to Cairene for introducing this word into my consciousness, where it quickly took up permanent residence.

Point being, I’m not as scattered as I’d imagined I would be, but my thoughts aren’t exactly coherent or anything either.

So I’m just going to think out loud a bit about what it means (for me) to clear things. Up. Out. It doesn’t matter. Just clearing.

There’s a lot of stuff to not like about being Jewish but at least you never end up with a five-year-old jar of pickles in your refrigerator.

That should totally be the title of a Woody Allen movie.

It’s so true though. Growing up, I had no patience for any of this. Not for the weeks of spring cleaning and definitely not for the general hysteria surrounding it.

The irony of being enslaved to a holiday that’s about freedom… I just didn’t get why any of it was really necessary.

And fine, I’m still not sure that it is. But I appreciate it so much more now than I ever did before.

The first time I was at someone’s house and discovered a bottle of something ancient in the refrigerator, I was baffled. How had this not gotten thrown out? WHAT ABOUT SPRING CLEANING?

All those years grappling with everything I don’t like about Judaism, fighting with tradition, arguing with identity… and I never stopped to appreciate something really, really important:

That you’ll never find anything in my refrigerator more than a year old. Small blessings. You take them where you can find them.

Symbolic clearing, part 1.

Since my hurt-ey arms don’t allow me to do as much scrubbing and scouring as I would normally deem necessary, I’ve been delegating like crazy to my gentleman friend and my brother.

But much more importantly, I’ve also been finding other ways to practice clearing out stuff that no longer needs to be there.

With some assistance on the clicking and deleting end, I took on the task of making sense of my web-browser-toolbar-bookmark thing.

Almost five years of bookmarking things on the computer … total chaos.

So I started with the goal not of making order or creating the perfect system or finishing this project, but just of symbolically clearing stuff out. If I could delete even a chunk of things that didn’t’t need to be there, that would be enough.

And each time something got deleted, I said “I don’t need you anymore. I’m making space in my life.”

This clearing out of bookmarks thing was so fascinating that it really deserves its own blog post.

For now I’ll just say that it was amazing to discover just how many things no longer exist. To see how advice I thought was totally biggified and impressive a couple years ago now seems completely boring and useless.

Anyway, we got twenty-two folders down to five. And eighty-something random uncategorized bookmarks down to seven.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Space. Even the symbolic kind. It just feels good.

Symbolic clearing, part 2.

This is the stuff I talk about here all the time. Interacting with walls. Having conversations with blocks and other stucknesses.

The internal kind of clearing.

There are so many ways to do it. And not just the “talking to your stuff” work that I do. Meditation. Yoga. The life-changingly great and completely bizarre epiphany-launching Dance of Shiva.

So yeah, it’s not just for Passover — I’m pretty much always doing internal symbolic clearing work.

But the kind of questions I’m asking myself now — especially in the context of my ever-changing relationship with time — are all coming out of the themes of this holiday:

What do I need to happen in order to move from a mindframe of bondage and rules to one of freedom?

How are the structures and boundaries of freedom different from what I know?

What needs to happen for me to appreciate the freedom I have?

What other experience of freedom is already inside of me that I haven’t been able to access yet?

If I know what needs to be done, what else am I waiting for?

My second-favorite Pesach memory.

We opened the bar late. Sometime between ten and eleven. Knowing that people would start to straggle in after the big family meal at some point.

Because it’s the first night of Pesach in Tel Aviv, where people can’t not go out and a lot of places are closed and come on, they have to go somewhere.

Just me and the manager, one of my closest friends at the time. You know that thing that happens when someone gets promoted to manager and turns into the world’s biggest asshat? It still hadn’t happened to him (yet), so we were still cool.

Anyway, it was just the two of us. No waitress. I was covering the bar and he was taking the kitchen.

We knew we’d be hanging out together until at least six in the morning when we closed, so it wasn’t like we needed to fill the space with conversation.

I was cleaning something. He was cleaning something. Johnny Cash in the background. All the space in the world. All the time in the world.

Just cleaning. And thinking. And waiting, but not impatiently. Knowing that any minute a door will open. A bell will ring. And there you are.

13 Responses to Clearing stuff out.

  1. chas says:

    how sweet…i totally cleaned up my office today! before and afters at #180 on twitter…and lot’s of recycling of paper went on…as well as a little bit of trash :(

    some of the stuff i recycled was just ridiculous stuff…and some was stuff i was saving for some special day in the future when i would have time to do something with it…pitch!

    i’m totally grateful for the use of my arms, today havi…and looking forward to hearing you announce that to the world!

    p.s. this morning the boy and i were looking at the newly risen sun and he said “i love you passing-over sun!”

    chass last blog post..why don’t we do what we say we want to do?

  2. Faith says:

    Just what I needed today, even though I’m not in Passoverwhelm (LOVE that word!).

    I fully realize that a large chunk of my current stuckness is that I have tons of stuff — internal and external — that needs to go. Now. But the thought of dealing with it and figuring out how to get rid of it overwhelms me, so I watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer on hulu instead (not that there’s anything wrong with Buffy, but the timing could be better).

    So, yes, exactly what I needed to hear, and hopefully, when I get home from work and house sitting I’ll try to do something about it, before watching more Buffy.

    Thanks, as always.

  3. chris zydel
    Twitter: wildheartqueen

    Oh Havi,

    I just loved that story that you told at the end of your post. It made me think about your post from yesterday about “free time” and that when I do have that experience of free time it’s just like what you described in the bar.

    Nowhere to go, no need to do anything except simply what’s in front of you, a sense of deep deep relaxation and that place where time actually becomes TIME LESS! It is just delicious beyond measuring!

    Just reading that gave me that momentary internal experience of that spaciousness. Thank you!

    And yes, I think that Passoverwhelm is totally hilarious, even though I’m not Jewish!

    Happy clearing out!!

    Love Bunches,

    chris zydels last blog post..THE WISDOM OF NO MISTAKES: DRIPS CAN BE FUN ( or at least not total torture)

  4. Yay Seder! Here’s an outsiders take on Passover….
    My best friend in the whole world was Jewish (she has passed away, RIP Bethy-poo)and so one year she invited me to the passover meal with her family.
    Her family was very gracious and managed not to roll their eyes at a goy being their daughter’s closest friend, let alone sharing Seder.
    All was going well and I was feeling comfortable until the gefilte fish (a huge slab) arrived on my plate. I listened to the explanation of the tradition and dug in. OMG! You’re kidding right? Not wanting to be rude I managed to eat the whole thing.
    You know that a collosal amount of food follows this…I tried to explain that I don’t eat very much. WHAT?
    So I ate…and ate. My tiny little stomach was so full it hurt, but the food? It was fantastic! (except for the slab of white fishy stuff)
    I even managed to surprise them by being able to pronounce Challah properly. Thanks to my Dutch heritage.

    So Havi, I wish you and yours a wonderful passover.
    Be free, be clean and eat lots!!!!

  5. Josiane
    Twitter: kimianak

    This question – “If I know what needs to be done, what else am I waiting for?” – really hit home. I’ll try using it in my Shiva Nata practice; insights related to it would be very useful…
    I’m not Jewish, but I totally loved the word Passoverwhelm when you tweeted it! I thought it was the cleverest thing ever. Brilliant!
    Enjoy the benefits of the symbolic clearing! :)

  6. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi

    Yay. Thanks, guys.

    @Laura – what a great story. LOVE it. You know, my gentleman friend isn’t Jewish either, and he makes a great tzimmes and amazing kneidelach … :)

    And I’m not so crazy about gefilte fish either. Though when I used to eat it once upon a time, never the sweet kind. Blech.

    @Josiane – ooh, perfect question for a Shiva Nata practice. I should do that too. Can’t wait to see what comes out of that.

    @Chris – thanks, sweetie! You’re the best.

    @Faith – I SO get that. Yes. And (who knows) maybe Buffy will plant some “let me learn how to use my secret powers and start kicking ass” seeds too.

    And of course I have to link to my old noozletter on the little known self-work practice of watching TV” post

    The clearing advice that I love best comes from Jennifer Hofmann and it’s the “tiny little bits count too” thing. Like, I don’t have to do the whole closet. Sorting out one or two things and giving them symbolic power of “look, I’m working on it at my own pace” is also good. Easier said than done, of course. So good luck with that either way and I am blowing a kiss your way.

    @Chas – Your P.S. (and he said “i love you passing-over sun!”) is SO AMAZING because today is the once-in-28-years special blessing of the sun and creation day. Your kid just did a cool (and VERY obscure) jewish ritual. Wild!

  7. Heidi Fischbach
    Twitter: curiousHeidiHi

    Overwhelm all over the place in my life. Sort of a confluence of too much of stuff that feels, looks and sounds like noise (even when it’s good stuff) and lots of missing: space that is so wanting to be filled with something else that it doesn’t feel spacious but rather empty.

    I keep coming back to asking: what is of the essence here? what is really needed? and what about *that*? Because I’m finding that so often in my life I have ended up getting (or very close within reach of) something I thought would be *it*–you know, the proverbial house with the picket fence–but then it wasn’t.

    So these days are days of simple. Of basic.

    One thing that is so much wanted is spark: of life. Of beauty. In the midst of emotional or cognitive overwhelm, sometimes the wonder, the amazement, the beauty of life can’t be noticed.

    But this afternoon? You know what? Something beautiful found me. It looked a whole lot like four itty-bitty paragraphs:

    Anyway, it was just the two of us. No waitress. I was covering the bar and he was taking the kitchen.

    We knew we’d be hanging out together until at least six in the morning when we closed, so it wasn’t like we needed to fill the space with conversation.

    I was cleaning something. He was cleaning something. Johnny Cash in the background. All the space in the world. All the time in the world.

    Just cleaning. And thinking. And waiting, but not impatiently. Knowing that any minute a door will open. A bell will ring. And there you are.

    Thank you, Havi. Thank you for giving me a spark today. Thank you for giving me sparse and beautiful.

    Loving you.

    Heidi Fischbachs last blog post..April Blog Series: "Taking the S out of Scared"

  8. Susie says:

    Omg I just cleared out and organized my bookmarks two days ago and felt amazing afterwards!! Also, I don’t think it’s just you who thinks “Passoverwhelm” is a great word. I think it’s hilarious. :)

    Susies last blog post..fitsandgiggles: @HelloIamJamie Yayyyy!!! <3<3<3

  9. Sanders says:


    “If I know what needs to be done, what else am I waiting for?”

    This resonated so much with me!

    A couple of weeks ago, I had the following epiphanies:
    1) Messines stresses me; 2) I, too, can become very messy, which makes me feel guilty; 3) when I become messy, there is something blocked in my life; 4) when the blockage goes away, I clean the mess; 5) could it be that if I allow the mess, listen to whatever it is telling about where I am at that moment, and clean just a little bit of it, the other part of my life that is blocked could get unclogged?

    So this week, I tried a little experiment: I have been hugely procrastinating at work, and there it was at home: a huge (2 feet high, 4 feet wide) pile of papers and books and “stuff” on the dining room table… So, I “told” the pile it could stay there as long as it wanted to, I asked it what it wanted (for me to keep the many many “little” promises I made to others or to myself, or to stop making them). I then cleaned just the book part of the pile by putting them on shelves, and guess what? I STOP PROCRASTINATING AT WORK!

    So, I can totally relate with Passoverwhelment.

    Also, the last part of your post made me choke:

    “Just cleaning. And thinking. And waiting, but not impatiently. Knowing that any minute a door will open. A bell will ring. And there you are.”

    I don’t know why, I just choked. But thank you for making me choke…

  10. Marilyn Rosenfeld says:

    I have been wanting to tell you the story of the Heavy Coat ever since my daughter Liz, madeinlowell.com, told me about you. I read you every day and love your posts.

    I am in my seventies. This happened about 30 years ago at a dinner party on a cold winter night in a suburb of Boston.

    Dinner was over and the other couple, older than we were at that time, were getting their things, and the husband said, “You have to lift my wife’s coat.”

    He handed me a grey ordinary looking winter coat. I held out my hand. I almost dropped it. It must have weighed fifty pounds. The couple laughed merrily at my astonishment. The husband explained that the company he owned had developed this material for the Defense Department, but it had been a failure, did not stop bullets or something. So he had a coat made out of it for his wife. She put it on. She drooped under the weight. She said, with a sad little laugh, “I know it is heavy, but it cost so much money, thousands of dollars to develop, I have to wear it.”

    I went home and started throwing out all the symbolic Heavy Coats, and I am still doing it.

  11. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi

    @Marilyn – Wow! Liz’s mom! Also, that story is incredible. And I could not be happier that you shared it with me.

    What a wonderful and perfect demonstration of the whole “let go of stuff you don’t actually need” thing. It reminds me of that quote from the Buddha, “You have every right to hang on to the hot coal, but the healing doesn’t begin until you let go.”

    Much nicer to think of all the Heavy Coats that I don’t need to wear anymore. I love this!

    @Sanders – Also an amazing story. So inspiring. I love that you talk to your pile. And I love that interacting with one stuck thing in one place ended up destuckifying another stuck thing somewhere else.

    I hope you put this in a book one day!

  12. Sanders says:

    @Havi – Thank you! It all happens because you have been modeling this for us: I’m just imitating you.

    A book?!? Scary and excited thoughts at the same time! And where did you get that idea from? Are you psychic, too?

  13. […] This beauty looked a whole lots like 4 itty-bitty sparse paragraphs written by the equally beatiful Havi Brooks: Anyway, it was just the two of us. No waitress. I was covering the bar and he was taking the […]

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