When I said that I was planning not to post tonight, I knew I was tempting fate (not that I believe in fate).  Inevitably, I had a terrible Shabbat (Sabbath) and need to offload.

The good thing was that I did my CBT homework of shaking hands with the rabbi and grinning at his banter (I didn’t really know what to say).  The bad thing was everything else.

On my way to shul (synagogue) I realised I was feeling a lot of anger and frustration directed at shul and the community.  Feeling frustrated that I have to hide my beliefs and behaviours because they would be considered “too modern” and unacceptable.  Things like being a Doctor Who fan and trying to write a book about it, accepting evolution and an old Earth, not taking Midrashim literally and not believing that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai wrote the Zohar.  Stuff that would be normal and accepted in a Modern Orthodox community, but not a somewhat Haredi/ultra-Orthodox one.  I felt like this during shul and things probably got worse because of the noise.  The Kabbalat Shabbat service seems to have got very loud and happy-clappy recently, I think since the new rabbi came, and I struggle with it because of my autism.  I like the tunes, I just wish it wasn’t so loud and there wasn’t so much clapping and thumping the tables.  No dance circle this week at least.

I like the people at my shul, I like the speed and style of davening (prayer), I think we have interesting shiurim (religious classes) even if I don’t agree with them, but I feel like some kind of Marrano the whole time, hiding my true identity for fear of rejection.  And also hiding my illnesses and issues: when the assistant gabbai (the person who runs the service) said that I should come to shul in the morning so they can call me to the Torah, I was too shy to say I have health issues and just smiled in an embarrassed way.

When I came home, I tried to explain this to my parents, but they didn’t really understand.  I don’t think they understand the sociology of the Anglo-Jewish community the way I do.  All the demographic data suggests that the community, specifically the younger members, is polarising: some are becoming Haredi, most are stopping being religious at all.  The middle ground, which once dominated the community in a way unlike the US and Israel, is rapidly vanishing.

My Dad said I should just be myself, regarding both my religious beliefs and my illness.  I was upset and said it is easy to say “Be yourself” if you already have friends who accept you.  I shouldn’t have said it, and immediately realised that, which only added to my upset.  Between this and the friends who stopped talking to me, I’m not having a great time lately with dealing with people.  I probably got into one of my ruts where depression and autism make me super-pessimistic and unwilling to listen to advice.  I leapt on my Mum for describing autism as a “mental health” issues, which strictly speaking it is not, but I should have just let it go.  I really shouldn’t have brought the issue up, because I knew they wouldn’t understand or be able to help, but I needed to vent and I couldn’t blog until after Shabbat, nor do I know when I might be able to speak to my rabbi mentor about it.  My parents suggested trying to talk to various people, but the only one I thought might help is a Modern Orthodox rabbi family friend, although I don’t know what I would actually say to him.

I honestly don’t know how to open up to people.  Dad thinks people would accept my religious heterodoxy; I don’t think they will, and I don’t know how to bring it up with out sounding like I’m trying to be deliberately controversial.  I know some people from shul are more Zionist than the rabbis (past and present), but I haven’t seen people cross any other lines.  Aside from evolution (which they have probably heard about whether they believe in it on not), I don’t know if anyone would have even heard that some people don’t take Midrashim literally or that the Zohar is Medieval not Mishnaic.  And I don’t know how to talk about autism or depression, especially as my psychodynamic psychotherapist warned me that I hide behind my issues to push people away (or something.  I don’t think I ever really understood it).

I struggled to sleep last night again, probably because I was upset.  Today I slept too much, which I think has become a way of avoiding shul.  I decided I was too depressed to go back to shul at all today, especially as I want to try to volunteer tomorrow.  I went for a short walk and saw some people from shul who were friendly, which in some ways made me feel worse.  They are nice people, I just have a different hashkafah (religious philosophy).  There isn’t a shul that is a better fit, though.  My parents’ shul is more modern, but I didn’t like it there for a whole host of reasons.  There is another Modern Orthodox shul, but it’s the other side of town and I couldn’t walk over there regularly.

The other thing that upset me was looking in one of the autism books I bought yesterday where the author defends autistic people against the charge of being “under-achievers” by saying that they don’t do what neurotypical people do, but that’s because they have different priorities.  That’s true up to a point, but I would like to have a career and family as well as meeting my own priorities (which I haven’t met yet anyway – no books published yet).  And, if you went to Oxford, but at the age of thirty-six have still never had a full-time job and only two real relationships, neither lasting more than nine months, it is easy to feel that you did not meet your early promise.

Anyway, I suppose I should think about watching some TV to unwind and then going to bed if I want to go to volunteering tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “Alienated

  1. Fundamentalism – can relate to your difficulties re: creationism etc. Hard to find a place of worship that both fits your beliefs and your personality. Plus – often those places which are more liberal in belief are also less rigorous in devotion/commitment. There may be many who can swallow everything they are taught and never question. And there are also probably some who do question lots of things privately but the conflict does not bother them as much as it bothers you. I am not Jewish but have similar difficulties in my faith.

    Under-achieving — I’ve read a lot about autism and read there is a distinction to be made between high functioning autism and Asperger’s as they are often confused. (I know that the current DSM does not agree with this now). One difference is that the former group are content to live without much social contact and tend not to be driven to achieve. Happy in their own little world. The latter may long to be connected and overcome their social inhibitions. The latter group may be very high achieving, even driven. Not sure if this is true but I have seen so many examples which suggest this may be a helpful distinction.
    (From Edward Aull – The Parent’s guide to the medical world of autism – he divides Asperger’s into 5 sub-groupings and distinguishes it from Autism ).

    ASD is definitely not a mental illness – this is true, but those on the high end of the spectrum are more prone to depression and anxiety which when severe are considered mental illnesses (co-morbidity).

    Hope you manage to do your voluntary work. I am interested in the way voluntary work is seen. On the one hand as it is not paid it is often not held in esteem by the world. But in another way it can be seen as the highest calling: to work for no profit is, in some ways, more glorifying to God.


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