by Jamie B. (OJ)
The story of Hanukkah is one of triumph. On Hanukkah we celebrate Judah and the Maccabee’s victory in battle, giving power to the Jewish people to practice their religion without fear of persecution. As the story goes, during this battle the first temple was destroyed. Following this destruction, the Jewish people returned to this holy sight and found oil to light the menorah that was supposed to last for one night. Instead, it burned for eight nights. Thus, deeming Hanukkah the festival of lights. My family and friends commemorate this holiday with the lighting of the menorah, games, gifts, and traditional foods.
This year’s Hanukkah means a lot to me as it’s the first year in many where I can acknowledge that my own personal triumph over my eating disorder feels possible.
This Hanukkah I was warm. I remember feeling the warmth from spending time with friends. I wasn’t stuck inside my head, desperately trying to get away from the kitchen. Rather this year, although, I could have easily spent the day at home, I decided to join my partner and our friend to help prepare for a party the following day.
This Hanukkah I was intrigued by the food and the smell of food. This is different than in the past when I would not allow myself to even consider trying certain dishes that I deemed “off limits”. The smell of food was never something I let myself truly notice. This Hanukkah, the smell of oil in pans while making latkes offered comfort rather than fear.
This Hanukkah I surrounded myself with truth. The truth of my identity, as queer and non-binary, the truth about my eating disorder, and the truth of where I’m at in my recovery.
This Hanukkah I remember what it means to be full. Fullness is a difficult physical sensation for me to feel, but this year, there was a glimpse of hope. I could feel my heart full with satisfaction, with life, with reciprocal love, with hope for the future.
Yes, undeniably there was still anxiety around the amount of food and fear of what other people were thinking of me, but there was also authentic space for enjoyment. I tried my friend’s homemade latke recipe that had been passed down through his family for generations. I tried his brisket, a very traditional Jewish food that I haven’t eaten since I was a child.
On the fourth night of Hanukkah, my partner and I stood around the menorah with our friends. We lit the candles and recited the blessings. The word “Hanukkah” means dedication. As the candles flickered in front of us, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the commitment of my partner and my friends, and for the power of connection.
The Hanukkah miracle says that even though there was only enough oil to keep the candle’s burning for a single day, the flames continued flickering for eight nights. For me the miracle this year came during that moment when the triumph of completing my Hanukkah dinner overpowered the triumph of using eating disorder behaviors.