Shabbat (the Sabbath) was difficult at times. I had forgotten until I arrived at shul (synagogue) that the shul was having their communal dinner this week, the one I wanted to go to, but missed out on due to not realising when the application deadline was (partly my fault, partly the shul‘s fault for sending the publicity out at the last minute). That made me feel a bit upset, especially when I realised that a neurotypical person might have followed my parents’ advice and emailed the admin office to ask if I could come if someone cancelled or if they could squeeze one more person in (there have to be some advantages to being one of the few single people in the shul). However, I was too socially anxious and caught up in autistic black and white thinking (“It is past the deadline therefore there is nothing I can do”) to do any of this.
I had a long conversation with my parents over dinner about where my life is at the moment. I can’t remember many of the details, but they were a lot more optimistic about my meeting with a matchmaker tomorrow than I am. I feel deceitful and manipulative even arranging the meeting, as I don’t feel there is any realistic chance I can marry any time in the near to medium future. I believe in God and Torah, but I struggle to believe that there I have a bashert (soulmate) out there who will see the good in me and be able to cope with the many, many difficulties that someone would encounter in a relationship with me, from my low/soon to be non-existent income to depressive low moods, socially anxious withdrawal and autistic empathy issues. My parents’ insistence that someone might want me was not convincing, unless you somehow assume that all other frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) men are really unpleasant and unmarryable (they aren’t) or that someone would marry me just because she wants a child and needs someone, anyone, as a father (I can’t see that ending well). E. was more into me than anyone I’ve ever dated (not admittedly a high hurdle to clear), but she couldn’t cope with me for more than two months, so I really can’t see anyone else tolerating me. To be honest, if it was ‘just’ a question of depression, social anxiety and autism, I might still have hope, but my low income and uncertain career path is just too much for me to expect anyone to deal with, given that I want to have children and would be looking for a woman who wants to have children and children require lots of money.
I wanted to try to go to shul this morning and I actually woke up at 9.00am (shul starts at 8.45, but I would consider getting there by 10.00am a victory at the moment), but I fell asleep again before I could get up. When I got to shul for shiur (Talmud class) this evening, I realised I had only read half of this week’s page of Talmud. To be honest, I don’t think I understood any less than usual. I really struggle to understand Talmudic logic. Aren’t autistic people supposed to be good at detail?
On the way home from shul this evening it really hit me that I don’t belong anywhere in the Jewish world, at least not as it is in the UK. I was thinking about the upcoming festival of Purim, where people wear fancy dress. One of my friends dared me last year to wear my Doctor Who scarf, but I was too scared. I’m trying to get the confidence to do it this year, but I’m not sure I’m going to manage it.
Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) communities like the one I belong to advocate keeping clear of most of the world outside the community. I shouldn’t read biblical archaeology or secular literature or watch Doctor Who, because it’s all likely to raise questions and temptations and plant bad ideas in my head. I don’t believe questions are resolved by running away from them or by giving them easy answers. Likewise, most Charedi Jews (to be honest most religious Jews in general) avoid non-Jews and non-religious Jews outside of work situations. Again, they’re seen as potentially tempting and corrupting. But I need to go to my support groups for my mental health and if people there are in trouble, I will try to help them. Likewise, with people who read my blog. And I like talking to people about Doctor Who and I feel bad that I have not been able to do that much in recent years and want to get to situations where I can do this again, which means going into non-Jewish environments where many people’s ethics are going to be different to my own. I feel that I know who I am and what my values are, but I do realise that my worldview has potentially been changed (“corrupted” if you want) from my interactions outside the community.
More Modern communities might be more understanding of these things, but I don’t think there are many Modern Orthodox communities in this country where most people are frum (rather than ‘traditional’, but not shomer mitzvot/keeping the commandments) and take davening (prayer) and Torah study seriously. Certainly that’s not been my experience. In my parents’ shul, which is virtually the only Modern shul I could realistically go to for the foreseeable future, there is too much talking during the services, too much chazanut and choral singing, too many people in general, too many people who aren’t frum and a rather cliquey and unfriendly feel to the community. I didn’t fit in there at all when I used to go, even without the problem that there I was just seen as an extension of my father, not a person in my own right.
I would like to find a community that takes Torah and davening seriously, but is also friendly and open to the outside world and ideas from the humanities and sciences as well as popular culture and which doesn’t look down on non-Jews. I don’t think such a place really exists in this country. I do sometimes go to shiurim at the London School of Jewish Studies and they do have the right hashkafa (religious philosophy) for me. The trouble is, everyone there is my parents’ age or older. It’s depressing. I feel that wherever I am, I’m hiding or stifling part of myself.
I know I’ve said most of this a lot in the past, I just need to vent at the unfairness of it. If I was in America or Israel I wouldn’t have to twist myself to fit into one of a small number of boxes. If I was well enough to be able to get a job and live by myself I would perhaps consider emigration, but it’s not realistic to do so now.
The other scary thought that I had on the way home is that it is a month to Purim, and from Purim another month to Pesach. I will doubtless write more nearer the time, but these are the hardest, scariest two festivals for me, in terms of triggering OCD, depression, autistic triggers, everything. Plus, I need to go in to work late on Purim, but I’m scared to ask for the time off after the whole situation I blogged yesterday about my psychiatrist appointment (I hate the NHS).
Tonight I’m drifting from one task to another without really finishing anything. I had a pile of emails that arrived during Shabbat to sort through and most were job alerts i.e. scary stuff. I think even though I knew there was little or no realistic chance of my job being extended past March, I was in denial about it and was hoping I would somehow stay in this job, which is the one I’ve been most comfortable in since leaving my first job in 2017. I feel pretty pessimistic about finding anything remotely as good any time soon.