I’d just like to add, I know I’ve picked up a number of followers since starting this blog, and I’d just like to invite people to comment. Don’t be shy! I don’t bite! I’d love to hear from you! I like having comment discussions with people, much more so than talking to people in the real world.
I have not written much lately. This is not for want of things to write about. So much has happened or is happening, but I simply have not had the time or energy to write. Pesach (Passover) was better than it has been for a couple of years; there was some OCD and some family tensions, but better than the last few years. I have started a new job, which is going well. The team are friendly and the work is challenging, but not impossible. In the background I have various writing projects and am trying to get to shul (synagogue) more often and to do more religious study as well as keeping up with the household chores.
I am trying to find the balance in my life, to make positive changes (the new job, trying to daven (pray) more with a minyan (prayer quorum), trying to study more Torah) without getting overwhelmed by the changes. It is hard sometimes as, although I am not depressed as I once was, it can still be hard to enjoy things. In particular, I have been thinking lately about not having simcha shel mitzvah (joy in performing the commandments). I heard from a rabbi a while back that I won’t experience this until after I have recovered from the depression, but it makes it hard to get motivated to do things if I can’t experience joy in them, especially as I am thinking more these days of managing my mental health than of being “cured.” It is hard to know what to do sometimes.
I have also been struggling with questions of identity, about trying to find a place in the Jewish community and in the wider world with my niche interests. I have been thinking about politics quite a bit, unsurprisingly given the news, and thinking that my political views probably come across as complicated if not confused. I don’t really feel comfortable with any party, but, given that I do force myself to vote for someone, I suspect I will be voting for a party that a number of my friends do not approve of. There is so much anger in the world at the moment, especially regarding politics and identity that I feel under attack a lot of the time, especially given my fragile ego, whether it’s Doctor Who fans insisting that you have to be progressive to enjoy the programme or people at seudah shlishit (the third Sabbath meal) in shul being scornful of giving tzedaka (charity) to non-Jews or the horror stories I hear from American friends of Orthodox Jews bullied at the Shabbat table for not voting for Donald Trump or the ongoing antisemitism crisis in the Labour Party…
Even as my own world is improving, the wider world feels increasingly like a frightening and tribal place where a slightly unusual and (I hope) thoughtful person like myself is forced to squeeze himself into uncomfortable boxes or lose his friends. I am trying to go slowly, to focus on my recovery and to take things one step at a time, but sometimes it seems as if events in the wider world are pushing on faster than I would like.
Despatches from Pesach (“…And I Would Rather Be Anywhere Else Than Here Today”)
I haven’t blogged for nearly a fortnight. I’ve been busy with Pesach and with a Hevria post as well as emailing a couple of new friends I’ve made (frum Doctor Who fans with mental health issues). This isn’t a full post, just a quick update/venting.
Pesach has been better than the last couple of years, but still problematic. I’ve done a couple of questionable things. I guess we all make mistakes, and this is compounded by not being 100% in control of my environment, but I feel bad. Worse, I feel I’ve completely screwed up Pesach and lost my share in the World to Come for (possibly) eating chametz on Pesach. [Redacted.]
I’m worried about big things (Pesach, starting my new job next week) and little ones, too trivial to mention. Somehow the little things seem the most important. I guess my mind is trying to ignore the bigger ones.
Despatches from the Front Line 10
Agitated. Can’t sit still, can’t concentrate, don’t want to sleep. Am I too weird to ever get married? I think so. I worked out there are only about 1,000 frum single women roughly my age in the UK. How many of those are going to be remotely compatible with me? I mean in terms of values, personality and interests. Very few. Was trying to explain this to my sister, not sure she got it. Was trying to explain why I think it is hopeless looking for someone with similar interests and I just have to find someone with similar values and hope we can make it work. Not that many women like SF, not that many frum Jews like SF; how many single, frum women like it? Gah!
I get so lonely sometimes. A lot of the time, really. I’m not as much of a loner as I’d like to be i.e. if I was more of a loner, I wouldn’t be so lonely. I want a few close friends, not many, but a few, but I’m hardly gregarious so I struggle to make them. I lack social skills. I keep reminding myself – I keep being reminded by events – that I’m a fairly extreme introvert, borderline autistic, borderline socially anxious. I shouldn’t hold on to these (non-)diagnoses like liferafts, but I do. I tell myself that it is medically proven that I don’t know how to act around people (except it isn’t, because technically I don’t have a diagnosis only a knowledge of symptoms that I’m told are not intense or numerous enough for a diagnosis).
I feel I’m only truly authentic in my own head. Somewhat authentic in writing, not authentic at all in person, but only truly authentic in my own head. Only God knows the real me (even I probably don’t know him). “O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.” (Hamlet) I have bad dreams of having friends and being married, being loved. Bad dreams, because they can’t come true.
I fear that lately I have begun to wear my virginity like a crown of thorns. Something that hurts, but also redeems. (This is very Christian imagery for a good Orthodox Jewish boy. I find the Christian story powerful even as I reject its theological premises. But if a nice Jewish boy is going to die for everyone’s sins, I want it to be me, not some yeshiva bochur from the Galil.) I think about marriage too much. I think about sex far too much. I wonder what it would be like to be loved, emotionally and physically. What it would be like to feel safe with someone, really safe and understood and accepted.
If I don’t love myself, how can anyone else? (Not that many have tried.) But how can I love myself when I seem to be so loathsome, as shown by the fact that no one likes me. (As Oscar Wilde said of George Bernard Shaw, I haven’t an enemy in the world and none of my friends likes me.) This is a vicious circle. I hate myself, so no one likes me, so I hate myself some more. How to break free? Answers on the back of a postcard, or in the comments section below.
“Good night ladies. Good night sweet ladies. Good night, good night.”
Despatches from the Front Line 9
I’m just back from a run. I had music going, but I spent most of the time brooding on loneliness. I think I’m angsting about being lonely to avoid angsting about Pesach (Passover), which is one week away and I still have some big questions that I can’t get hold of a rabbi to ask.
I have a post about loneliness out on Hevria.com tomorrow, so I don’t want to go into this too much (anyway, someone told me this week that I write too much about how depressed I am…). I don’t want to fall into the trap of saying, “If I have X, I will be happy” because usually if you aren’t happy without X, you won’t be happy with it. You need to be happy in yourself and I am very much not happy in myself. Still, IF I ever manage to be happy in myself, I think I would still want the following to live a happy and fulfilled life:
one wife who loves me and who is willing to let me love her;
two good friends who I can talk to about my geeky and cultural interests and about Jewish things (probably some overlap here with my wife, who I would want to be my best friend, but I’m assuming that, given that the number of single frum geeky women (worldwide, let alone in the UK) is vanishingly small, it’s best not to assume my wife will share many or even any of my outside interests);
three happy, healthy children.
Add in my parents and my sister and I think I only need a total of nine people close to me in my life, which is not very many. I’ve largely given up on being accepted into a wider community, religious or geeky. Throw in a reasonably engaging job that earns me enough money to support the wife and kids with a small amount over for occasional luxuries and also some joy and meaning in my religious life, which lately (lately? For years) has been lacking both and that’s basically all I want out of life. It doesn’t seem much to ask, but so far it is proved completely beyond my reach. The problem is, I do not have a clue how to set realistic targets to reach it. I have poor social skills (the borderline Asperger’s and borderline social anxiety cause problems here) and am very bad at talking to people, particularly to strangers. I don’t know how to make friends at all, let alone to find a wife.