I had a night of disturbing dreams about assassins trying to kill me and the like, which I suppose is indicative of feeling trapped in various situations (unemployment; uncertainty with E.; and the whole ongoing Brexit situation, in which I think both sides have behaved fairly badly). I woke feeling disturbed and more tired than I went to bed, although the latter is fairly normal for me. Despite initially feeling depressed, today was productive, and I completed a job application, did fifty minutes of Torah study (including some Talmud) and I went for a jog, albeit probably too late in the day, so I was tired, resulting in poor stamina and a slow pace. I did some work on my novel too, finishing the first draft of the first chapter. I seem to be OK writing fiction late at night. I’ve long had nocturnal tendencies and my depression is always worst in the morning. Being unemployed means I don’t have a strong reason to get up early (except to daven (pray) – I’m ashamed to admit I don’t usually feel awake enough and not-depressed enough to daven Shacharit (Morning Prayers) at the correct time).
I feel I achieved quite a bit today, hence the title of “More Than Holding On?” after feeling I was merely “Holding On” yesterday. I guess I just feel frustrated that I don’t have a “normal” life (whatever that is) and that I can’t do a 9.00-5.00 job or get paid for writing or meet all of my religious obligations in the most socially acceptable way. But I should try to be positive about what I have achieved.
I also did a cheshbon nafesh for the last Jewish year, which is almost over. Cheshbon nafesh means literally “an accounting of the soul” which sounds very ominous, although “an accounting of the self” is probably a better translation (‘nefesh’means ‘soul’ but also ‘self’). It’s a review of what I did during the year. Reading it back I see I have achieved some things this year, but not many. It was a year overshadowed by falling out with good friends, and by being left on hold waiting for a formal autism diagnosis (the job that convinced me that I was on the spectrum started around Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year); the positive screening that indicated that was the first step to diagnosis (hopefully) came in December; I’m still waiting for the actual assessment). I am wary of taking on resolutions for the new year, but feel I should do something, so I resolved to keep working on a couple of things I’m already trying to deal with.
On his Elul thought today, Rabbi Lord Sacks was saying that, “If you want to find your purpose in life, think about the following sentence: Where what you want to do meets what needs to be done, that is where God wants us to be.” I guess I feel more positive about this now than I did a few months ago. Writing, especially writing fiction, has crystallised as something I really want to do, and to try and get paid for doing. It’s what I want to do, and I think writing about traditional Judaism and the modern world – the conflicts and tensions as well as the positive side – is something that needs to be done, both for Jews and non-Jews, to show the former that one can balance tradition and modernity and to show the latter that religious Jews exist in the world and this is what we do. Rav Kook also says something about the need for religious writers and creatives in The Spiritual Revolution of Rav Kook, albeit that he was writing a hundred years ago. It’s just difficult working out the best way to go about writing and getting paid. Plus, I realise that a couple of years ago I was sure that librarianship was also where God wanted me to be. At least Rabbi Sacks says that it can take a few tries before you find the right place to be (he said the rabbinate was his fourth choice, after being an economist, lawyer and academic).
I forgot to mention yesterday that a new book, Making Sense of Psychiatrist Diagnosis, by Ashley L. Peterson, who comments here as Ashley Leia, has been released this week. I have contributed to the chapter on autism spectrum disorder, as well as some thoughts about my struggle to get accurately diagnosed. You can read more about the book, and where you can purchase it, here.