A friend suggested an Orthodox shadchan (matchmaking service) to me (this one). I had actually already heard of them – nearly used them, in fact, before using the values-based dating service. I don’t think I should be dating right now, because of my unclear employment situation, not just being unemployed, but not even being sure I’m in the right career, wanting to try to be a writer, but being too scared to try and not really knowing how to go about it. My parents and my rabbi mentor disagree with me and think I could be dating, but it just feels wrong to me. Actually, if I asked any rabbi, they would almost certainly tell me I should be dating, because I’m not likely to get much better, mental health-wise, marriage and children are mitzvot (commandments) and the right woman would overlook my mental health issues and unemployment because we would be soul-mates (really?!!). I suppose I agree, up to a point, I just don’t believe there is a magic “right woman” out there for me and I can’t face opening up to women only to be rejected again and again. Particularly as I can’t find a shadchan in the UK who deals with people with ‘issues’ like mine. But I’m lonely.
It makes me wonder what women would think if I did turn up on a date without a job. L. didn’t seem to care, but I think most women would. In the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) world it’s more common for men to date while not in employment, but that’s because people date while still in yeshiva (rabbinical seminary), and in some communities the man is expected to stay in yeshiva or kollel permanently, with the woman supporting the family while he studies. I disagree with this behaviour and don’t particularly want to go down that path in a weird sort of secular way (being supported by my wife while I try to build a career). And I really, really, really can’t imagine what type of woman would be interested in a depressed, autistic, unemployed frum-but-not-frum-enough geek.
But I do get really lonely. Then again, dating just because I’m lonely isn’t necessarily the best idea either, although lots of people do it.
“But at my back I always hear/Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near”. I feel I should have got my life sorted out by now. I should have dealt with my adolescent angst and my mental health issues, I should have got my autism diagnosis, I should have sorted my career and started a family already. My peers at shul are all married with children and careers. Assuming I marry someone my own age, it’s going to start getting harder to even have children soon.
I feel like my shul is trolling me. Shortly after writing the above paragraphs, I saw they had sent out the text of a special prayer that I had never heard of before to say on Rosh Chodesh Sivan (tonight and tomorrow) to pray for one’s children to be righteous and that they should find righteous spouses from families of Torah scholars. Seriously?! You really want to rub in that I have no wife and children?! For the sake of some obscure minhag (custom) that comes from just one seventeenth century kabbalist? It’s an unfortunate coincidence that this should happen today, but it does reinforce the feeling that if you don’t have a spouse and children, there really is no room for you in a frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community. You are just too weird and unusual. I shouldn’t get annoyed about this stuff, but it feels too much sometimes. I don’t think it’s just my shul either. I think any Orthodox community, Modern or Haredi, would assume everyone my age is married.
As if this wasn’t enough, another bad shul thing happened today. I went to shul for Mincha and Ma’ariv (Afternoon and Evening Prayers). I got there early and started reading Pirkei Avot to pass the time. Suddenly I noticed out of the corner of my eye most of the people standing up and on some level I knew the new rabbi must have walked in (I’m very bad about standing up for rabbis, which is taken very seriously in the Haredi world). I glanced up and saw him, but I just couldn’t stand up. I don’t know why. Maybe on some level I didn’t want to. So I hoped it looked like I hadn’t seen him, but I was worried we had made eye contact when I looked up. Then he started going around the shul talking to people. I didn’t realise until he had almost got to me. I stood up when he started talking to me, but I was so anxious my legs started shaking quite badly and I found it hard to stand upright. I don’t know if he noticed. Then he said something about he hoped I wasn’t working too hard and I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. I wasn’t sure if it was a joke or a genuine question or what. My autism means I don’t always get jokes in casual conversation with people I’m not so familiar with, particularly if I’m nervous, and also that I can’t always tell when people are asking something out of politeness or if they really mean it. So I wasn’t sure whether to say that I’m out of work or what. Then, when davening (prayers) started, I suddenly had a fear that he thought I was in school and coming up to exams. I’m nearly thirty-six, but I look a lot younger and have been mistaken for a sixth-former in the fairly recent past. (I guess it’s better than looking older than my years.) So, I have no idea how that interaction went. I know it went badly, but I’m not sure just how badly.
The whole experience left me very anxious and agitated and unable to concentrate on davening. During davening and afterwards I had violent agitated thoughts of having my throat slit or of maggots eating my rotting flesh. It was horrible. I started wondering why social interactions are so hard for me. Not in the literal sense of having autism and social anxiety, but in a deeper, metaphysical way. In Judaism there is a concept of middah keneged middah (measure for measure), that we get punished in the way we sinned, so I started wondering if I embarrass people in public (which is a very serious sin in Judaism). I do tease my Dad and get annoyed with him more than I should and some of that may count as being in public, but it didn’t really seem to explain why I find it so hard to go through social situations (sometimes including just going shopping) without feeling embarrassed. So, perhaps there is another reason, but I don’t know what it is. I don’t know why I can’t just live an ordinary life like most people get to do. Some Jews believe in gilgul neshamot (reincarnation). I find that it raises more problems than it answers, but sometimes it’s tempting to believe I was just a horrible person in another life and that outweighs whatever it is I’m doing now.
I feel that I hate myself today. I just feel that I hate everything about myself. I’m not even sure why. It’s probably just frustration with my life. Sometimes I wish I believed in da’at Torah, the mystical clairvoyance that Haredi Jews believe their rabbis have that allows them to prophetically answer difficult life questions. I wish I could believe someone could just tell me what to do with my life and then I could go and do it, or at least try to do it. But I don’t think life works like that, certainly not my life, where I have to struggle for every little thing. Plus there probably is some self-sabotage going on here, in dating and career.
But I’ve said all this before. I wish I could break out of the loop my thoughts run around, but I don’t think that’s going to happen until someone either publishes me or marries me, neither of which seem very likely right now, and perhaps not even then. I can’t believe I could meet someone like me through an Orthodox dating service anyway, and I certainly don’t believe I could meet someone in another way, so I’m stuck. There just isn’t anyone like me (weird and dysfunctional). I’m weird, crazy and lonely, I’m religious, but not enough. When God made me, He made me too broken for anyone to match with me.
There’s a lot online about body image. I don’t particularly struggle with that. I don’t think I look great, but I don’t feel self-consciously ugly either most of the time. But I don’t like myself as a person and I find it hard to believe that anyone else could like me either (I mean even as a friend, let alone for dating). I don’t feel that I have any particularly good character traits and on the rare occasions people have said what they like about me, they tend to focus on my intelligence, which is problematic as (a) I don’t consider it a particularly strongly positive character trait (it’s not bad, but it’s not good like being kind or generous, it just is) and (b) my intelligence seems to have been negatively affected by my depression and I feel stupid a lot of the time these days, especially in social situations where social anxiety and autistic impairments kick in.
I didn’t have any jobs to apply for today, aside from a school librarian job I really don’t want, so I focused on my writing, managing to write much of the first draft of the final chapter of my Doctor Who book, covering the most recent episodes. It feels a bit unsubstantial and I may have to rewatch some of those episodes before attempting a second draft. I might try to get some feedback from friends first, though (I would like more feedback in general, if possible, if anyone else would like to volunteer). Other than redrafting that chapter, the main thing to do now is to wait for feedback from friends I have shown chapters to and to decide whether to attempt a fourth draft or to submit it. I think I probably will do at least one more draft.
Other than that, my only achievements today were going to shul, including walking there and back, and doing about an hour of Torah study. I should be pleased with my writing, and on one level I am, but I always feel bad about prioritising writing over job hunting. I wish I could get the courage to dedicate serious time to writing professionally, but I don’t have the guts. Oh, and somehow I lost my to do list and I can’t remember what was on it. I also watched a forgetable episode of Blake’s 7 (Volcano). So not a great day in all.