Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner alone went OK. I read more of The Complete Peanuts and was distracted by the craziness of the forthcoming Israeli general election in The Jewish Chronicle, so I didn’t read much of 13 Minutes, which is less of a thriller than I thought from the blurb on the back and more of a teenage school story (I had a similar experience with Turtles All the Way Down a few months ago). I slept too long and missed shul (synagogue) in the morning again and dozed off as well in the afternoon, which is frustrating.
Now I’m facing a busy and stressful week combined with my parents being away and am wondering how I will cope. At least the hardest thing, the networking workshop, is over first.
On Shabbat in shul (synagogue), I found myself reflecting about the values of my shul against my own values. We both value prayer and Torah study (in both cases the shul value both much more than I’m able to right now with my mental health issues). But the shul places value on quarantining oneself from the wider culture, to a greater or lesser extent, while I do not. I think Jews can learn things from the best of other cultures, if we’re careful, and we can teach things too. I wouldn’t want to be set up with someone like my shul on a date, which is problematic as someone from shul might try to set me up with someone one day… but as it’s never really happened before now (slightly, once), that’s not really much of a concern. More pertinent is the fact that I don’t know how to find a shul that fits more of my values. I would probably have to be earning a lot more money and be more emotionally stable and independent so I could move out of my parents house and to another area and even then I might not find one.
I found myself feeling glad that I have Judaism, and books, and Doctor Who and other vintage science fiction/telefantasy to hold onto. (Are they autistic special interests? I’m not sure that they all are; I feel uncomfortable with the way some autistic people I know list all their hobbies as ‘special interests’ which I feel devalues the notion. My interest in literature and even Judaism, important though they are, don’t seem as intense and self-soothing as my interest in Doctor Who and vintage telefantasy) They give me a refuge and alternative ways of conceptualising the world. A link to the past, something bigger and older than myself, somewhat bigger and older in the case of Doctor Who, immeasurably bigger and older in the case of literature and Judaism. I feel sorry for people who have nothing larger than themselves. I suppose that’s why it’s so important to me to try to find friends/a partner who share all of these interests, because they are so central to my sense of self.
I was feeling OK, but I suddenly felt quite depressed. I don’t know if it’s apprehension about the week ahead, especially the networking workshop and coping without my parents, or if 13 Minutes is bringing up bad memories from school. I would stop reading it, but I don’t like giving up on books, plus I want to know the reason behind the book’s central mystery, how Natasha Howland ended up drowning in the river in the middle of the night. So much for trying new things.
My depression and autism make me feel that I won’t enjoying new things and they are sometimes right, but I’m not sure that they don’t sabotage things to prove themselves right. When I was a child, my parents would push me to do social stuff saying, “Just try it once.” Then, if I didn’t like it, they would press me to try it again on the grounds that the first time might be atypical. I actually did more social stuff when I was very young (pre-teen), cubs, scouts, karate, but I’m not sure that I actually enjoyed any of them and I certainly didn’t make friends through them. Mostly I just pined for my mentor friend and felt unable to talk to other people or feel comfortable without him. I don’t think I could express or even understand my ambivalent-going-on-negative feelings about these activities. I just avoided doing things as much as possible.
When I was eleven and twelve I got invited to bar and bat mitzvah parties of people in my class at school. I hated them, all noise and music and dancing and emergent adolescent sexuality (boys and girls were dancing together (they weren’t frum simchas), which I simply didn’t understand as I didn’t hit puberty for another year). Although I knew everyone, I had few friends, especially as my mentor friend simply didn’t go on the grounds that he didn’t enjoy discos and his parents didn’t push him to go, whereas mine said that if I was invited, it was rude not to go. I used to hide in the toilets, which I thought was ruder than not going at all, but my parents disagreed. I put it down to shyness, as did everyone else, but in retrospect the whole thing is an autistic deathtrap. The funny thing is that I can’t remember consciously disliking the noise. Trying to think back to it, I get a strong feeling of get me out of here, but it’s hard to identify the cause and I can see why I and everyone else assumed it was just my shyness at work. Even my own bar mitzvah was like everyone else’s, because no one told me I had the option of another way. My parents would have allowed something else, but, I suspect that in the absence of being presented with other options, I couldn’t think of anything. Or perhaps I had been offered other options, but didn’t really understand them because I hadn’t been to similar parties, or lacked the imagination and self-awareness to predict what I would like. Anyway, at my own bar mitzvah, I went outside and played in the entrance hall with a friend for most of the evening. I remember that at my sister’s bat mitzvah my Mum got really angry with me for not standing with the rest of the family at the end of the evening; I think my issues was less noise and sensory overload there and more shyness and not wanting everyone staring at me. At least these days my parents are more understanding of my mental health and neurodivergence, although I worry that I hide behind these things. Then again, without them, maybe I wouldn’t want to hide.
I’m just struggling to do things today, to go for a walk and cook dinner. I don’t exercise or cook as much as I used to, even when the depression was worse than it is now and I was still working more days per week. I don’t know why this is the case. I’m cooking red bean chilli because I’ve done it loads of times before. I feel guilty that I’m not using the cookery book I got in the summer for my birthday. I’ve only used it once, but I’ve hardly cooked anything since then and have mostly relied on known recipes. I shouldn’t feel guilty about this, but I do. I feel guilty about lots of things that aren’t my fault, and some that are. I feel guilty that I burnt the onions again and that I probably damaged my Mum’s pot. Actually, I probably should feel guilty about that.
Feeling like an anxious mess now. I volunteered to help with something today; it took an hour, but I can’t do very much and that plus shopping plus cooking plus Talmud study has eaten up my whole day, so I probably won’t be able to work on my books as I wanted. I still plan to do too much each day, or at least each non-work day. I don’t know how most people manage to live much busier lives than me; I’m barely functional.
I’m so anxious about tomorrow, coping with the networking workshop and getting to the theatre on time in the evening for the Jewish Book Week talk and then getting home in time to get some sleep before work on Tuesday. I feel, probably somewhat arrogantly, that I ought to be giving talks at Jewish Book Week one day. I don’t mean that I’m a gifted or insightful writer, merely (yet again) that I feel in some nebulous way that everyone expected me to be a “success”, whatever that means, that I got through school telling myself that once I left and was free of the bullies, once I got to university, I would be a success, and yet I am a miserable failure who can’t even cook dinner. How can I even think of careers and relationships when I’m such a non-functional mess? I do feel that if the kids who bullied me at school could see me now they’d die laughing.