Not much to report today. Work is a struggle against boredom, tiredness, exhaustion (in my mind the tiredness I fight in the morning is qualitatively different to the exhaustion I fight late afternoon, the former the result of lack of sleep, the latter of working too much without enough of a break), hunger (some of which is probably disguised boredom and some exhaustion), depression and anxiety about doing the wrong thing or making mistakes, and general self-consciousness. I’m currently feeling particularly self-conscious for carrying around a big cabin bag, as, while my backache has largely gone, I’m wary of it coming back if I take a heavy rucksack again; yesterday my boss asked me if I was staying away from home in the evening. I was crying at my desk again this morning. I feel that something has to give, but I know from experience that I can stay in the ‘something has to give’ state indefinitely, even for years, before an outside event makes things somewhat better or worse; the melodramatic and violent (in multiple senses) ‘breakdown’ of fiction is not really the everyday reality of depression.
I was thinking on my way home, not for the first time, that I’m not sure what the difference would be between my life and Gehennom (purgatory). Gehennom supposedly consists of a constant re-viewing of one’s life, filled with guilt and shame for everything one did wrong. I can only see two or three differences: Gehennom only lasts a year (then one usually goes to Heaven unless one is very bad, in which case one ceases to exist) and eventually has a therapeutic effect whereby the soul comes to terms with the bad things that it has done. On the other hand, if I was really in Gehennom, I probably wouldn’t have my books and DVDs, so I’m somewhat better off in that respect.
Similarly, the news – I mean the actual national/international news, not my personal news – is depressing beyond belief. I’ve largely tuned it out. It feels like something has to give there too, but, again, I doubt it will. We’ll probably just carry on, lurching wildly first to the right and then to the left, interspersed with occasional financial crashes and wars, the way we have done for thousands of years.
I’m trying to call myself out on my negative self-talk/internal monologue, but it’s hard. Harder still to replace it with something more positive. I still worry that if I don’t beat myself up continually, I will turn into some kind of psychopathically violent narcissist. Inasmuch as I see myself as a good person, which isn’t much, I fear that it’s less down to natural goodness and more overactive conscience, runaway guilt and social anxiety.
I still don’t know what to do about the woman my Mum wants to set me up with. My feeling is that if we don’t have much in common, there wouldn’t be much point dating, but if we do have stuff in common, it could potentially lift my mood. Unfortunately, I can’t find out if we have anything in common without going on a date if she’s even interested, which she may not be. In the very frum (religious) world, it is common to ask all kinds of questions in advance of a date to see if two people might have stuff in common (even though this is in conformist communities with perhaps less individual variation than normal, at least according to stereotype), but I don’t think I could get away with that. Also, someone did it to me last year and it was quite irritating.
I’m apparently currently glutted with women being suggested to me, which is unusual. Glutted only by my standards, though i.e. two. I’m just back from shiur; it was cancelled, but I didn’t realise until I got there because my phone isn’t working properly, so I didn’t get the WhatsApp messages. Someone else obviously didn’t get them either, because he was there. I’ll call him Talmudist, because I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him. I’ve mentioned him before as the person who was astonished to learn that I’m single and told me to marry. He greeted me bluntly with “Would you go to Israel to live?” I could see where this was going, but feigned ignorance to buy time and said that was a big question to suddenly ask me in the street. Apparently someone’s sister-in-law’s daughter (or was it his daughter-in-law’s sister? One of the two) is looking for someone, but only if he’s willing to live in Israel. I made non-committal noises and was told to I need to think about such things (actually, I’ve been thinking on and off about living in Israel for years, but for better reasons than looking to marry, but I don’t think it’s feasible for a number of reasons). I was also recommended to look for a wife in Manchester, which at any rate isn’t as far away as Israel, with less of a language barrier. According to Talmudist, many Jewish men find brides in Manchester, although the laws of supply and demand, not to mention basic biology, being what they are, I wondered what happens to the glut of Mancunian men deprived of native-born wives. Perhaps they all come to London (or Israel).
Anyway, Talmudist says he wants to see me happy and fulfilled, which apparently is only possible if I marry. Years ago I would have welcomed this sudden interest in finding me a mate, but lately I feel that I’m better off trying to find ways to be happy while single. Give me the serenity to accept the things I can not change and all that. On the way home I wondered what would happen if I publicly admitted to being a weirdo geek freak with depression, social anxiety, complex trauma and high-functioning autism. I’m honestly not sure. I don’t think Talmudist would understand.
I suppose this seems all very strange and backwards and Fiddler on the Roof-esque to most of my readers. The Orthodox Jewish community is small, conservative and traditional; it’s considered quite normal to be overly-interested in other people’s behaviour and to feel threatened by even minor non-conformity. The assumption is that everyone wants to conform really, so you can help them by nudging them in the right direction. That’s not to say it’s right, morally or halakhically. You’re not really supposed to rebuke people (or you are, but only in narrowly-defined situations that most people won’t meet) and talking about sensitive subjects is flirting with ona’at devarim, hurting people with words, a very serious sin according to the rabbis. But most people in the community marry early and with fewer people suffering fertility issues than in the past, most people don’t really understand what long-term single people or childless couples go through. It’s a failure of empathy, really. I suspect this incident may repeat itself…
A curious autistic-type moment today: thinking about the first time my sister brought her now-husband to meet us, I found myself wondering why I was so nervous about meeting him when I get on well with him. It took me a minute to realise that past-me hadn’t met him yet, and so didn’t have the knowledge of present-me (knowing that we get on well). I know difficulty with perspective-taking is a common autistic symptom, but I hadn’t experienced it with a younger version of myself.
I finished a masechta (volume) of Mishnah today (the Mishnah is the older, shorter and simpler part of the Talmud). Four down, fifty-nine to go. It’s good to have small victories, even though I sometimes fear they just throw the failures and anxieties into sharper relief. The pile of unanswered emails and jobs to do, grows exponentially, though. Even the urgent jobs to do list is too long. Well, I can at least use some of the time I would have spent at shiur trying to sort out the problem with my phone.