I had a strange dream last night about working in a public library, finding a condolence letter someone had left in a returned book and putting a lot of effort into trying to track down the person who lost it only to be told not to bother by my colleagues. One of my colleagues was Spock from Star Trek for some reason. I got woken up suddenly by my alarm at that point, and woke feeling somewhat distressed.
I woke up thinking about someone I asked out years ago. I don’t know if she was in my dreams too (the dream I described above was only the end of the dream; I can’t really remember the beginning). Years ago I read her blog and asked her out. A disproportionate number of the (admittedly small) number of women I’ve asked out have been known through the blogosphere, probably because I meet so few suitable women in real life. She wasn’t interested in me, partly because I hadn’t been to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary). I think on some level that this is why I get so worried that any woman who is religious enough for me will turn me down because I didn’t go to yeshiva, although I think the fear must have been there already on some level, because that was why I procrastinated so long over asking her out, because I thought she would object to that.
I saw this article on the Orthodox Union website. I’m not quite at that stage (too old to have children, but still looking for love) yet, thankfully, but I feel that I’m only a couple of years off. This quote resonated even though I am younger than the woman who wrote the article; in my case, it’s not just not being married that is the issue, but not having built a career, or even having a job at the moment, or having left home (actually, I left home and then came back): “According to developmental psychologist Bernice Neugarten, all societies have a “social clock,” a conscious or unconscious consensus that dictates the age norms by which events should occur. People who do not achieve milestones within this time frame feel that they have failed to live up to their family’s or society’s expectations, and often judge themselves harshly when they see others achieving them on time.” (Compare with Pirkei Avot 5.24)
I got another job rejection without interview. There isn’t a lot to say about this.
A mysterious note in my diary for Sunday reads “Find a writing book”. I don’t remember writing this note and am rather at a loss for what it means. Find a notebook to write ideas for pieces of writing in? I already have one of those (unless I wanted two, one for fiction and one for non-fiction?). Find a self-help book about writing fiction? Possible, but I’m not sure if that’s the best thing for me to do right now. Find a book about getting published? That’s a more obvious need, but it’s odd that I would call that a “writing” book and not a “getting published” book.
I find myself avoiding a shiur (religious class) at shul (synagogue), partly from social anxiety (which is expected, if upsetting), partly because I’m convinced that I won’t get anything out of it and might end up feeling resentment at those whose religious life is (apparently) more straightforward and who have a stronger connection to God (and community). This is not good.
I had CBT today. It was just an initial session to let the therapist know a bit about my situation and for her to let me know how CBT works and how it differs from other therapies, which I already knew as I’ve had it in the past, so we finished a bit early. The therapist agreed with me that my social anxiety is probably at least partially a product of my low self-esteem and that by focusing on the latter, we may resolve both problems.
I mentioned here the other day my concerns about having a female therapist, as Jewish law does not allow unmarried men and women to be secluded alone together. This is not usually seen as applying to medical personnel, but does apply to therapists. I was hoping that the door would have a window on to the corridor, which would be enough for the therapy room not to be considered as “secluded”. This was not the case. I found that I didn’t really care.
This was strange, as I have felt guilty in the past when challenged in this area. It is worth noting that my religious growth has largely been driven by guilt rather than by anything more positive. As a child, I was taught to believe in God and the divine authorship of the Torah and we practised elements of Jewish law, but not its entirety e.g. we did write or drive on Shabbat (the Sabbath), but we did use electricity and watch TV. Growing up, I felt a sense of hypocrisy (I really hate hypocrisy). I felt that I wanted to keep more of Jewish law, but it was hard living with family who were less religious. As it happened, my family became more religious over time, which made things easier, but for long periods I felt intensely guilty over not fulfilling halakhah (Jewish law) as I felt I should. I also still do feel guilty over various things, usually based around ethical rather than ritual dilemmas these days.
I never had a strong religious experience the way some ba’alei teshuva (people born Jewish, but who only became religious later in life) do, and although I have had various teachers/mentors at different times, my personal hashkafa (religious philosophy) is derived primarily from my own reading and thinking. Again, this is unlike a lot of ba’alei teshuva. This may explain a lot about why I struggle to feel intense religious feelings and why I struggle to fit in to the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community. I don’t know how to move forward, though, or if my lack of guilt portends a drop in observance.
I wrote most of this post earlier today. Now I have a migraine, which is my fault for walking in the sun without a hat (thirty-five minutes each way to and from CBT). I’m too ill to go to shiur. There is a very noisy party outside that isn’t helping. Somehow I can make allowances for not meeting my religious obligations for physical illness a lot more easily than I can for depression or autism. I’m not sure how much of this is due to socialisation and how much is due to me.
Hitting publish now because my head hurts…