Shabbat (the Sabbath) was mostly good, somewhat to my surprise. I woke up a bit late, but I was overwhelmed by anxiety about work and stayed in bed for twenty minutes or so, making me very late for shul (synagogue). I did manage to meet my social anxiety CBT target of wishing a “gut Shabbos” to someone I don’t normally talk to (actually to two people) and I spoke to someone who started a conversation with me.
Then I walked to the flat of the woman I was dating a few weeks ago for lunch. The walk itself was about six miles and took just under an hour and a half, so a twelve mile, three hour round trip, by myself and without music etc. It was a little boring, but manageable, although I should have worn thicker socks and a hat as I ended up with blisters on my feet and a migraine in the evening. I have been so consumed with work anxiety this week that I ‘forgot’ to worry about lunch until I was walking there, when I suddenly started worrying that I would be too shy to talk to anyone and also that I would get lost and not be able to find the flat (I didn’t). Initially I did find it hard to speak to people, but once we all sat down to lunch I became more confident. It probably helped that I was next to someone who seemed quite talkative (in a good way) and asked me lots of questions about myself. I tried to speak quite freely about myself for a change, even though it took me to areas I normally try to keep quiet i.e. Doctor Who fandom and mental health (although I didn’t quite say that I have mental health issues). After a while I felt confident in joining in the general discussion around the table.
Unfortunately I couldn’t stay as long as I would have liked, as I wanted to be back in time for shul, but it was a boost to (a) be able to converse with other people my age and level of frumkeit (religiosity) about myself and my interests and (b) to realize that there are still plenty of other frum people roughly my age who are unmarried (of the eleven adults (plus one baby) present, only two were married) and none of them, male or female, seemed the unmarriable freaks I sometimes fear I am. This makes me feel more confident about resuming dating in a couple of months’ time, although I still think contacting the shadchan (matchmaker) who specializes in matching up people with health issues or other issues is probably the place to start.
On the way home I reflected that I might be more interesting than I usually assume. I do have a range of interests and hobbies, from Jewish learning and reading (Torah and Jewish history, nineteenth century Yiddish literature) to general history to science fiction, particularly vintage British TV science fiction to creative writing to jogging. I’ve met (and dated) plenty of people who struggle to find so many interests. This was not the first time I have thought this recently, but it is still a new and unusual enough thought that it is hard to believe it or think it without a degree of effort.
With these boosts to my self-esteem, my anxiety faded somewhat on the return trip. I managed to talk to people a bit at seudah (the third Shabbat meal) at shul and listened with interest to the shiur (class), although unfortunately it was around this time the migraine kicked in, so I couldn’t concentrate as well as I would have liked. (I’m going to get religious for a few lines so feel free to skip ahead if this doesn’t mean much to you.) The rabbi was talking about the paradoxical nature of the forthcoming Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) festival where we are supposed to feel fear of God, but also love of God. This seems contradictory, but he argued we start feeling fear that our lives for the next year are being decided today, move to a feeling of dependence when we realize that not just every year, but even every moment of life that we have is given by God and that we have no ultimate control over the matter, but this dependence in turn leads to appreciate for the lives we have and the realization that God has given us this life to grow into the best people we can be, which in turn leads to love for God. This was what I really needed to hear right now and it was unfortunate that my head was aching and I couldn’t take it all in.
I had to leave shul early during Ma’ariv because I felt too ill: my head was pounding and I felt sick; the fact that the shul is a very hot and poorly-ventilated building didn’t help. Again, there was a positive here as in the past I would have forced myself to say the whole of Ma’ariv despite my headache and stay until the end, whereas today I said the essential prayers quickly to myself and went home long before the rest of the congregation, which I think shows that I am beginning to put my own needs first when necessary and to worry less about the negative judgment of others.
So all in all a positive day. I have a busy day ahead of me tomorrow, so I should get to bed soon.