In the end I did a half-hearted chesbon nafesh (assessment of my spiritual standing last year) in the closing hours of year while I was doing other stuff. I didn’t write it down, unlike the previous twelve years or so that I have filed on my laptop. I’m not sure I can remember what I found, but did feel I had done slightly more than I expected, but not much more.
I had a surprise short-notice invitation to the rabbi of my shul (synagogue) for dinner. I must have slipped out at the end of Ma’ariv on first night Rosh Hashanah (New Year) last year because I didn’t know that the rabbi gives everyone (well, every man, but there weren’t many women there) a personal bracha (blessing). He wished me a year of equanimity, which was nice. The assistant rabbi blessed me that I should find someone to marry “at right time”. I’m glad that he said “at the right time” because I really don’t think I am marryable right now. See also the person from shiur (religious class) who said a fine person like me deserves beautiful wife… there are several questionable assumptions right there, but I’ll leave that for now. It’s all meant well, but I feel realistically I would be better off with a blessing to accept that I’m always going to be single. I can’t tell the rabbi or assistant rabbi about E, but I don’t think either would approve (my rabbi mentor does, but he is probably more broadminded). But the Talmud says that a man without a wife is without blessing, life, joy, help, good and peace so opting to stay single doesn’t really come in to it. Plus, one has to be socialised into the norms of the community (more on this later).
I enjoyed dinner, but I didn’t say much. I really take with me two things from the evening: the person sitting next to me played a little practical joke on me, telling me something obviously untrue that I completely fell for and one of the other women at the dinner looked familiar, but I couldn’t work out why; only later did I realise I think tried to talk to her on a Jewish dating site years ago (she wasn’t interested – she thought I was too “wordly” and would find her boring).
On the morning of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, I was too depressed and socially anxious to get up, so I missed shul and the blowing of the shofar yet again. I feel bad about this, but it has happened so many times that I don’t feel that bad about it any more and not in a good way. It was harder to explain my absence to the people I was sitting with (the seating has been rearranged for chaggim (festivals)) when I saw them in the afternoon. I said that I have health issues without say what.
Based on a dvar Torah sheet I read on first night, I tried to focus on accepting my feelings when davening (praying), even thought that meant most of my davening was full of very sad feelings. It wasn’t always possible, though, and sometimes I was on autopilot or just too socially anxious to concentrate.
On the second night I went to dinner with one of the people I usually sit with in shul, the closest friend I really have there, and his family and the other person who sits with us. This was a less anxiety-provoking meal and I enjoyed it, but on the way home I suddenly developed a migraine. It’s like I’m not allowed to enjoy myself without something going wrong.
I was supposed to be on security duty at 12.30pm on the second day. I was feeling depressed, but forced myself out about 12.15pm (shul had started at 7.45am, I think) only to discover there was some kind of mix up about the security rota and I didn’t need to be there. I took the opportunity to daven and to hear some of the shofar blasts, although I’m not convinced I heard enough to fulfil the mitzvah because I was so late. I was overwhelmed by the noise and the close proximity other people (far more people come for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur than for ordinary services, so we are packed in to the small school hall where we daven).
There was a shiur in the evening between Mincha and Ma’ariv which made me quite depressed. It was given by a rabbi who does kiruv (outreach) work with teenagers. He was talking about the lack of self-esteem in teenagers, which made me feel depressed, similar to the way the rabbi, at dinner the first night, said that one should find one’s tachlit (purpose) by the end of one’s teens; I’m thirty-five and I have absolutely no idea what my tachlit is or how to find out. On the way home I reflected on my own teen years and felt very lonely and depressed. I feel there was a way I could have succeeded in my life, particularly my religious life, but probably my mental health too, if I had made certain decisions when I was thirteen or fourteen, even when I was eighteen. But social anxiety and a feeling of non-conformity, a feeling that other people (peers, but also kiruv rabbis) were trying to bully and twist me out of shape kept me from doing that. Now I don’t fit into a frum (religious) community; I can’t get married (I’m in a weird non-relationship with a non-frum woman); I have few frum friends, but not many; I have no role in my community, nowhere where I fit in. I made some bad choices, but I was also pushed into bad choices by family dynamics, social interactions, bullying, loneliness and a fear of a one-size-fits-all approach to kiruv and acceptance in the frum community that allows the secular world to enter in some ways, but not others (yes to football and politics, no to geekyness). I don’t know where I go from here.
I couldn’t sleep last night, probably due to sleeping too much over Yom Tov (so much for the minhag of sleeping less over Rosh Hashanah). I eventually got four or five hours sleep and spent much of the day struggling at work, feeling exhausted and not knowing what to do and thinking that I can’t actually do the fairly simple task I’ve been set. On the way home I saw the frum woman I dated briefly last year only for her to drop me instantly when my mental health issues came out. And then I managed to run into her again. I can accept that life is miserable, but why does it have to be so hard?