My birthday wasn’t as bad as I feared in the end.  I enjoyed Shabbat (Sabbath) meals that I had chosen (schnitzel, salt beef) and the stuff Mum added (potato kugel, breaded cauliflower).  I also realised that in gematria (the Hebrew system where letters are given numerical values used to compute mystical values and equivalences for concepts) thirty-six is twice eighteen which is the value of chai (life).  This is seen as significant and people often give charity (etc.) in multiples of eighteen/chai.  One shouldn’t look for signs, but this made me feel marginally better about heading towards my late thirties single and unemployed.

I’m struggling with shul (synagogue) during Kabbalat Shabbat (Friday night services).  There’s a lot of clapping and noise that I find uncomfortable.  There seems to have been more since the new rabbi came; possibly he’s encouraging it as he’s somewhat Hasidish (sorry, don’t know how to explain that without a long essay).  I feel that since I’ve become aware that I’m probably autistic, I’ve become less tolerant of noisy situations and I don’t know if I’m recognising discomfort I did not understand before or if it’s some kind of placebo effect (I believe nocebo is the negative version of a placebo).

I woke up on time to go to shul this morning and I didn’t even feel depressed or anxious, but I still didn’t make it.  I have to make a hierarchical list of difficult situations to expose myself to in order to challenge my social anxiety and low self-esteem behaviours for CBT and I decided that one of the ones at the top would be going to shul on Shabbat morning.  So then when I woke up and felt OK going without building up to it, I suddenly felt I shouldn’t go because I’ll mess up the list.  This is such a stupid reason that I feel it was probably social anxiety acting in a cryptic way.

Another thing on my list of challenges, potentially, is regarding dating, either to go to a paid shadchan (matchmaker) or to go to the person who someone suggested to my Dad might be able to help me date while depressed.  I’m still not sure if this is a sensible thing to do while unemployed, particularly not the paid shadchan, as I can see that being a potentially endless drain on my funds at a time when I have effectively zero income (I have yet to manage to sell any articles and feel quite despondent about it).  My parents and my rabbi mentor are very keen that I should be dating right now, and I am lonely, but I can’t imagine anyone wanting me when I have unemployment to add to all my other issues and it just seems like a distraction that could leave me feeling worse.  Plus, looking to get married without being able to support a family just seems wrong, even if it is normal in parts of the frum (religious Jewish) world.

I had a weird thought in shul.  I don’t really know how to conceptualise the afterlife (I believe it is so unlike this world that all suggestions are at best metaphors), but usually I don’t think of encountering other beings than God (which is telling in itself, from an autistic and socially anxious point of view, given that I am apparently quite happy at the thought of not meeting anyone I know ever again for all eternity), but it occurred to me that Jewish interpretations seem to suggest one might meet other righteous souls.  I started worry about people I knew years ago, at Oxford or school and whether they would want to “talk” to me, the ones I just drifted away from and the ones who fell out with me because they couldn’t cope with my depression and autism (my fault, I can be a bit much in person).  It was a weird thing to worry about.  This was triggered by the fact that I sometimes see people I was at school with in shul, and they show no sign of remembering me or wanting to talk to me, although to be fair I wasn’t really friends with them at school and I am actively hoping that they don’t talk to me because I don’t know what to say, so I’m probably giving off “Leave me alone” vibes, which I do a lot, both consciously and unconsciously.

Speaking of which, someone sitting opposite me at seudah tried to talk to me and I had no idea what to say.  If CBT is going to encourage me to talk to strangers more, I’m going to have to learn quickly how to have a conversation in small talk, because in thirty-six years I’ve never worked that out.

4 thoughts on “Many Happy Returns

  1. Also pleased to hear your birthday was not as bad as you expected! Re: small talk (something I also dislike) … the most useful thing I try to remember is that most people like talking about themselves — so asking questions and letting the other person do the talking often works well. These tips for small talk are just commons sense but may be worth a look. I think points 4 and 5 are particularly useful.


    1. Thanks for this. My Dad says to ask questions too, but because of my autism, I struggle even to find questions to ask people. I wouldn’t know how to do most of the things in that article.


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