My Israeli family (uncle, aunt, five cousins aged between twenty-five and eleven) are in the country for my sister’s wedding. They came for dinner on Thursday night. They are a very loud and boisterous family (one cousin has ADHD and we strongly suspect that another also has it and that a third has ADD; my uncle might have one or the other too). Hyperactivity, argumentativeness and shouting do not always mix well with Asperger’s and social anxiety, even within family. The first hour was good, but after that I felt I needed to get away. I chatted with my Dad in another room for a bit. By the time I got back to my flat, I was very overwhelmed and depressed. I don’t remember what I did exactly; I think I procrastinated online for a bit, read a bit, maybe watched a DVD. Whatever I did, I didn’t get to bed until gone 3.00am which was very bad of me. Having to go to bed and get up early for work often seems to provoke a reaction in the opposite direction on non-work nights.
My extended family stayed with my parents for Shabbat (the Sabbath). I stayed in the flat so people could sleep in my room and walked over for meals. Friday night was good. Really good. Everyone was in a good mood, we had a long dinner, lots of talking and joking. I discovered that cousin number 4 is also turning in to a bit of a geek. I saw the cover of the book she was reading and asked her if it was fantasy fiction and she said yes “because realism is boring!” (Her eldest cousin, No. 1 is already a bit of a geek; he’s a sofer (religious scribe) and is also training as a rabbi and is about to start training as a civil engineer (if this sounds a strange combination, bear in mind that ‘rabbi’ in the Orthodox world is an educational qualification like a PhD, not a vocation like priestly ordination. Lots of rabbis get smikhah (rabbinical ordination) and then go and work in the private sector e.g. my rabbi mentor.) Cousin No. 5 (the eleven year old) gave me mussar, telling me, “It doesn’t matter if you aren’t good at something – if you enjoy it, do it!” I wish I could think like that.
However, by the time I got back to my flat, I was exhausted from being around people for so long. I read for a while, did some Torah study and just lay on the bed too tired to move, but the wrong sort of tiredness to sleep, if that makes sense (if the train companies can complain of the “wrong sort of snow”…). I went to bed at about 12.20am, which wasn’t too bad. It was better than Thursday night at any rate. However, I overslept (one alarm briefly woke me, but the other two didn’t even manage that) and I didn’t get up until something like 11.30am, maybe even later. I had some breakfast, which I needed as I was feeling drained, dressed and davened before walking over to my parents’ house.
I had missed shul, which I was a bit upset about as my Dad was giving a dvar Torah (Torah thought) and various relatives were leading parts of the service. I got to my parents’ house a bit late, only to discover my Dad was walking over to my flat to find me even though I had been told they were not waiting for me. Unfortunately, we missed each other (there is one point where you can walk down one of two parallel roads and we both took different ones) and we had to wait half an hour for him to return.
Lunch was harder. There were some kashrut issues which I think were genuine and not my OCD, but I was given short shrift. I think they were OK in the end, but they did genuinely need thinking through and I feel uncomfortable enough that I want to double check my reasoning with my rabbi mentor. (My extended family is as frum as my parents, but they don’t know my parents’ kitchen or cooking habits as well as they think they do and sometimes put the wrong spoons in things without asking first.) The noise and bickering was more exhausting this time around. I gave a little dvar Torah, not a chiddush (novel interpretation) of my own, just something from Rav Kook that I read last night, but I managed to make it segue into a blessing for my sister and her fiancé (who wasn’t here, the custom being for the bride and groom not to see one another for a week before the wedding).
I made it back to shul for Ma’ariv (the evening service) with cousin No.1, which I did mainly because I needed to get out of the house. I had been thinking of singing havdalah (the end of Shabbat prayer) at home for my sister, but I had a headache and let my cousin do it, but it just reminded me of how little I will be doing tomorrow. I’m making motzei (the blessing on the bread) and that’s it. I was offered one of the sheva brakhot (seven blessings on the newlywed couple) at the meal, but turned it down because one has to hold a full cup of wine to make it and I was worried my anxiety would make me shake as happened when I did one of the sheva brakhot for a friend a number of years ago (this was originally to do with drug side-effects rather than pure social anxiety, but now it has happened so often in different situations that simply being in certain situations can trigger it) so I turned it down. Other than that, I am to stand by one of the poles of the chuppah (wedding canopy) during the service and that’s it. There are people much more distant from the bride and groom who are doing more than me. I feel surplus to requirements, but I’m also worry that I will get so nervous that I won’t even be able to make motzei.
I’m worried about the wedding tomorrow. I have a headache (which is finally shifting) and I’m not sure if it’s from anxiety about tomorrow or the noise today. Apparently there will be what my parents are calling a ‘chill out room’ for me tomorrow and potentially for another of my cousins, who also has mental health issues, but it is still going to be a tough day.
For now I need to have something to eat, take my medication and get an early night. I plan to watch a DVD, but I’m not sure what (my Doctor Who viewing is on pause while I wait for Shada‘s DVD release on Monday*, it having come at the exact right time on schedule. I do feel strange tonight, though. Not lonely exactly, but wishing I had a frum, geeky, calm wife to watch a geeky DVD with. There has to be one single, frum, geeky, Asperger’s-and-mental-illness-accepting, family-centred woman my age out there somewhere, right? Except somehow it doesn’t seem likely that there is, or that I could meet her if she does exist.
* For those who don’t know Shada is a Doctor Who story written by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams that, uniquely, was only partially filmed and so never broadcast due to a strike at the BBC. Every ten years or so it gets sort-of completed in another format (video of the filmed footage with added narration to bridge the gaps; an audio drama with primitive animations; a novelisation) and everyone goes wild about it ‘finally’ being as finished as it ever will be, even though most fans don’t even like Adams’ other work on the show (not me though, I really like it). This latest version marries the filmed footage to new animation voiced by the surviving cast members. It is being released on Monday exactly in the place it would have been broadcast in my viewing of all of Doctor Who as research for my book. To be honest (and don’t tell my family I said this), but it’s mostly the thought that I have Monday off work to recuperate and watch the DVD that is getting me through the wedding weekend..