I was woken far too early by a large bee that was trapped between the blind and the window and was making a lot of noise. I failed to prod it out the window and decided to stay up, open the main windows (I only had the small ones open) and wait for it to leave of its own accord while I had breakfast.
On waking I noticed something odd. The photo of my maternal grandparents, which sits on the bookcase opposite my bed, was on my bedside table, on the other side of the room. I’m sure I didn’t put it there. I do believe in God, but I don’t believe He randomly moves my stuff around. I don’t believe in demons, ghosts, reincarnation, astrology, the evil eye, clairvoyance and various other things that some of my coreligionists believe in. I am sure there is a rational explanation. I just don’t know what it is. I suppose the most likely explanation is that I got up and moved it in my sleep, somehow, although I have no history of sleepwalking, even as a child.
I am rather disconcerted by this, but I will endeavour not to tell my parents. Similar things have happened to my Dad and he reads great significance into them, hinting, although not quite explicitly saying, that he feels them to be messages of some kind from his late father, something which I do not feel comfortable with. I have no wish to encourage thoughts like these. Still, it is disconcerting.
I submitted the job application I’ve been working on all week, the one where there were a lot of vague open questions that my autistic brain struggled with, and others that indicated that they wanted more experience than I had and a greater commitment to CPD (continuing professional development) than I can manage at the moment. You know you’re trying to bluff your way through something when you start an answer “I endeavour…” I think I have zero chance of getting the job and I doubt it even counts as good experience, given how much I struggled with it. I feel a bit of an idiot.
There’s a book I’m reading, one chapter each week on spirituality, based on the weekly parasha (Torah portion read in the synagogue). I’m struggling with it. I don’t like to give up on books, but I’m worried it’s having a negative effect on me. I just can’t work out how to have the kind of dynamic spiritual life the author suggests, full of inspiration and natural highs, enthusiasm, love for God, love for others and more. I know it’s the depression, but I don’t think there is ever going to not be depression there for me, at least on some level. I don’t know how I can enjoy my religious life. This is especially problematic as “going through the motions” religiously, doing stuff by rote is criticised in Judaism, both by this book and by other teachers (e.g. my hero the Kotzker Rebbe said something along the lines of, “Someone who studies Torah and is not moved by it, who sins and forgives himself, who prays today because he prayed yesterday – a completely wicked person is better than him!”).
I wonder if I will ever have the religious life I want. I want to have religious joy, simcha shel mitzvah (the joy of fulfilling the commandments). I want to enjoy studying Torah again. I want to feel part of a community. I want to build a bayit ne’eman beYisrael (faithful house in Israel, a metaphor for a religious home). But I worry that I will never manage these things. For one thing, it seems to be a catch-22: if I don’t have joy, I won’t be able to get motivated to study Torah or to pray enthusiastically and mindfully. But if I don’t study Torah or pray enthusiastically, I won’t earn the joy of the commandments. Even at a basic level, if I cut Torah study and prayer to the bare minimum, there’s no room for joy from them. They’re just chores, quickly dealt with. Similarly, I can’t become part of a community while I feel myself to be so spiritually impoverished, but I can’t grow spiritually without being part of a community; I suspect I can’t get married without being part of a community either (to get set up on dates), but I suspect if I ever become fully integrated to a community, it would be because of a wife who is able to navigate things better than I can.
A related realisation I’ve come to in recent years: probably the biggest argument against the existence of God, or at least the Jewish conception of God, is the existence of suffering. Why would a benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient God allow so much undeserved suffering? I think there are really only two possible answers: either there is no God (or at least not a benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient one) or suffering is the point. Not that we’re made to suffer per se, but that suffering is a key part of what happens to us here, to stimulate character growth and empathy and to give us challenges to overcome.
But it’s hard to believe that all the time. Some of it is subjective, feeling that I’ve suffered in my life more than other people. This may be true, but it’s hard to tell as I don’t know everything others have been through or will go through, or what I will go through in the coming years. But some of it is more objective (although still somewhat subjective), feeling that I can’t go on any more. I feel tired a lot of the time, and not just depressive exhaustion. I’m not suicidal, but I often feel I have exhausted everything life has to offer me and that I have no strength to go on any more. I have no enthusiasm for Jewish life or for life in general. I don’t really have any hopes or ambitions for the future, and the thought that one day I will be dead is still quite calming – that I won’t have to worry about things any more. It doesn’t help that these days the world around me (in the news) just confuses and scares me, but even without that, I feel drained and negative.
I don’t know how to get more energy and motivation. This is, believe it or not, a good day for me. I don’t feel as depressed and lonely as I did earlier this week, when my parents were away. I have some energy. I finished a job application, did nearly an hour of Torah study and worked on my book for an hour or so as well as going for a twenty-five minute walk. But even so, I feel a lack of enthusiasm, joy and meaning. Even writing my book, which in the past was restoring, felt like a struggle, although I did manage to write a thousand words or so.
An aside: someone who goes to the shiur (religious class) I go to was absent last night. Today the shul announced that he and his wife had a baby. He is my age or perhaps slightly older. I try to feel happy for people, but every time I hear of someone my age marrying or having a child, I seem to feel my life slipping away from me.