I went to bed at 2.30am last night/this morning and I don’t know why. Actually, that’s not true. I do know why, I just don’t want to admit to it. I spent ages procrastinating before cooking dinner, because I wanted to cook something from fresh ingredients, but felt too depressed to do so. Then after dinner I spent ages emailing and procrastinating online again. I slept until 1.00pm, which was far too long, with weird dreams (from what little I can remember – more on this below). Then I procrastinated, getting in and out of bed for hours, eating breakfast but not being dressed and having lunch until after 4.30pm. I still watched Doctor Who while eating lunch, because I’m on holiday and I can (since you ask, it was The End of the World, an episode that has grown on me over the years, although I still don’t know what I think about the line I quoted in the title of this post). I just feel so burnt out, like I’m recuperating from a physical illness. I guess depression will do that to you, but somehow I feel like I should be able to power through the exhaustion somehow, even if I can’t get through the low mood. I wanted to go jogging today, but I just don’t have the energy, or the time now, as I want to do some other chores.
I was thinking today that postmodern Western society today offers us more choices than probably in any other society in history: choices about work, free time, sexual partner(s), food and drink, fashion, everything and anything. And, on the whole, this is probably a good thing, but even when it doesn’t get confused by our more negative emotions (particularly our tendency to choose immediate gratification over patience and pleasure over personal growth) it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the choices, particularly if, like me, you don’t always have such a clear idea of who you are, what you want and what is good for you (not always the same thing).
I don’t really know what I should be doing career-wise, or when/how to look for a wife and what I should be looking for. My job is what I saw myself as doing when I started down the librarianship road, but I don’t think I do it very well. And as for dating… well, I’m not sure that any of the women I’ve dated are really who I would have thought I should date, except perhaps my ex when we started going out (less so as I learnt more about her, and as she changed over the course of the relationship). I don’t know whether the problem is that I get attracted to the wrong women (due to ignorance, fantasy or self-loathing) or if it’s more that the people around me set me up with the wrong women. Probably a bit of both, given that some of the women I’ve dated I’ve asked out, while others have approached me or I’ve been set up with them by third parties. It’s probably too small a sample size to draw any real conclusions from. So I guess my dream job and dream girlfriend turned into difficult situations and I don’t know how much that was my fault or how to avoid making the same mistakes again.
Admittedly my ignorance and naivety plays a part here. Although I’m in my mid-thirties, I’m only on my second job and I’ve only had one real relationship (maybe one and a half), so I don’t really know what I can do and what I want in either sphere. Worse than that, my low self-esteem and depressive sense of self actively distorts what I think I want, what I think I value, and what I think my abilities are, so that what I think I want might just be the opposite of what I really want or need. Even worse than that, I don’t really know how to decide, except by trying different jobs and dating different people, but, aside from being a strategy for getting hurt and aside from feeling like I’m running out of time as it is with both work and marriage, it’s hard enough to get people to pick me as an employee/partner without even going into the situation thinking, “This probably isn’t The One, I just want to see what it’s like” (which also seems pretty manipulative of the other people involved too).
On that note, I still can’t decide whether to ask for a reduction in my working hours. I did a pros vs. cons list and there were more pros, but I worry that the cons carry more weight. Certainly the pros are largely unknowns that I hope will turn out well, and hopes don’t usually turn out well for me*. LinkedIN just recommended a librarian job at Penguin Books to me. I was actually tempted, even though – or especially as – it was entry level, on the grounds that I can’t operate at the level my training and experience suggest I should be operating at. However, the job was in Northamptonshire, which saved me a difficult decision.
I was supposed to be reading Halakhic Morality by Rav [Rabbi Joseph] Soloveitchik over the holiday and I even read the preface, but I was feeling too depressed to deal with dense religious philosophy, so I picked up Why Bad Things Don’t Happen to Good People by Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt instead. It’s a theodicy book, but it’s based on his experiences when his first wife died of cancer leaving him with four young children and then marrying his second wife and is written in a very readable way. Still, there’s a fine line at the best of times between encouraging people to look for positives in terrible situations and victim-blaming people who are unhappy. To be fair, the book isn’t written for people with messed-up brain chemistry that is physically incapable of being happy (there’s an excerpt from the first edition of the book, which had a different title, here if you want to judge for yourselves). Yesterday the book seemed encouraging and helpful; today I just feel jealous that both his wives seem like total angels, and resentful that having smicha (rabbinical ordination) carries so much weight in the frum (religious) marriage market, then feeling guilty for being jealous of someone whose wife died of cancer.
Speaking of Jewish stuff, my shul (synagogue) is starting a programme where the men of the community are to study a page of Talmud each week, followed by an explanatory shiur (class) on Shabbat (the Sabbath). I would like to be a part of this, particularly as they are starting with Brachot, one of the few parts of the Talmud that I have studied a little bit of, but I don’t know if I will have the time or energy to do it. One page a week doesn’t seem much, but a page of Talmud is incredibly densely written, full of complicated legal reasoning. Frankly, it makes my head hurt. It pains me greatly that I just don’t have the head for Talmud, given how vital its study is to Orthodox Jewish life, but feel I can’t pretend to be something I’m not any more (except when I do, because of social anxiety at being myself – see above about being in the wrong jobs and dating the wrong people). I don’t know when I would even get the time to study it; I do most of my Torah study on the train into work and I don’t want to take a heavy volume with me. On days when I don’t work, it can be hard to do any Torah study at all. Maybe I’ll just go to the shiur and see how much I can take in without the preparation, although I suspect that the answer will be very little. I had an anxiety dream about this last night, which probably does not bode well.
I feel I said stuff I shouldn’t say on Hevria again yesterday, although I was fairly restrained by my usual standards.
On the plus side, last night by “chance” I found a quote I had been needing for my Doctor Who book while flicking through an old Doctor Who Magazine. It’s not the greatest hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence) story in the world (I can’t see Aish.com running it), but I need to take my hashgacha pratit moments where I can get them, given that my life feels so rudderless and uncontrolled right now.