I started this by saying that “I had a bit of a wasted day” but this is not entirely true. I woke up feeling very anxious again, about my relationship with E. and about other things that I can’t actually remember now (which may be telling – are they insubstantial worries?). Across the day I worried at times about events that are out of my control: Brexit and the Arab-Israeli Conflict in particular, although I probably could have started worrying about climate change and other things too.
I had a meeting with the employment person from the charity where I was volunteering recently. We spoke about why I left and about whether I could find any further volunteering opportunities. We spoke about the museum I want to volunteer at and about a public library run by a Jewish charity that is looking for volunteer library assistants. I had seen the latter advertised and felt that becoming a library assistant would be the kiss of death to my career as a librarian. He thought that it would not and it might lead to a job. I am rather sceptical of this. I know I’ve practically given up on a career in librarianship, but I haven’t totally given up yet. The positive side is that he had contacts in both organisations (museum and library) and said he would contact them for me, which is good. I feel vaguely guilty about all of this, as I wonder if he is giving me this support as my sister’s in-laws are major donors of both time and money to the charity.
I did a little bit of job hunting today, applying for a part-time proof-reading job, although I think they wanted someone with more experience as a writer. The application forms often as for years of experience as a writer and I have to put 0 even though I have been writing as a hobby for nearly fifteen years! Other than that there were two library jobs, which I felt I couldn’t apply for: one required experience I don’t have (it was really a museum job than a library job), the other might have been difficult for me to take Yom Tov (Jewish festivals) off and certainly had a two hour commute each way (so four hours travelling each day).
I worked on my novel for a short period, but I got bogged down in some issues and didn’t have the head for the significant rewriting of my plan that I needed to do to fix it. I did a little bit of Torah study (not really enough, to be honest) and went to shul (synagogue) for Mincha and Ma’ariv (Afternoon and Evening Prayers), but I spent a lot of the time today clearing out old papers.
I like to think I’m not a hoarder, but this is blatantly not true (like I like to think I’m logical when I’m actually super-emotional). Occasionally I have a clear out. I had folders and folders of Jewish papers that I don’t look at, some of them going back twenty-five years. Source sheets from shiurim (classes), notes from school Jewish Studies lessons, essays I’d printed off the internet… I kept them because I thought I might want to refer to them, but I never do and in any case it would not always be easy to find anything.
I cleared out a load of stuff to be buried (Jews don’t put religious papers in the bin, we bury them in the cemetery). I still kept a couple of folders of stuff. I decided to keep papers where I had been to a series of classes making up a whole course, at least for now, as it was more likely I would refer to them. I kept long essays, particularly if they looked like the type of thing I might want to refer to again: Rabbi Joshua Berman on the historicity of the exodus, Rabbi Lord Sacks on happiness, Rav Soloveitchik on suffering, that sort of thing. One or two other things slipped through too, but I did get rid of a great big pile of stuff which I now have to remember to dispose of appropriately.
I also found a whole folder of my divrei Torah (religious thoughts): old blog posts I’d written on my earlier blogs and printed off, articles I’d written for the shul newsletter, notes for drashot (religious talks) I’d given, all from before we moved to this community. In my old community I was much more confident about sharing my thoughts. I can’t bear to look at them, yet I can’t bring myself to throw them away either, which is silly. I doubt that they are particularly profound, although there are probably a few thoughts I’ve had that are worthwhile.
I heard a story years ago that haunts me. A frum (religious Jewish) man died. He was not learned, but every week he had read the sedra (weekly Torah reading) and recorded his thoughts on it in a book that he wanted buried with him. After his death, his children were reluctant to bury it in case there were great chiddushim (innovative interpretations) in it that would be lost for ever. They ask a famous rabbi (I can’t remember who) what to do. He opened the book at random and came on the page for sedra Vayetze, which opens with the story of Jacob’s ladder and the ascending and descending angels. He had written: why did the angels need a ladder to climb to Heaven when angels have wings? He answered his own question: “These were baby angels and their wings had not grown yet.” When the rabbi read this, he said they could safely bury the book. When I try and publicise my ideas, sometimes I worry that everything I write is just on the “baby angels” level.
Baby angels or not, I now have a usable drawer that I didn’t this morning, and another drawer that is somewhat tidier than it was and which I can use for folders on work, CBT, my psychiatric history and my novel that have been sitting on my desk every evening, being moved to my bed or bedside table every day when I use my desk.
All in all, the tidying took about three hours and was exhausting (how can sorting piles of paper be exhausting?). If I want to, I’ve got another cupboard full of non-religious papers to sort (bank papers, instruction manuals for electrical goods etc.). I probably do not need bank statements going back to 2001 (or possibly earlier). I feel frustrated that I didn’t manage to do much other than this, especially not more Torah (the great cry of my life) and getting further with my novel, but I did at least do some things.
The other way I lost time was watching another episode of The Vietnam War at lunch. It’s brilliantly produced (the amount of contemporary footage they have of the front line is incredible), but deeply depressing about man’s inhumanity to man as well as man’s inability to see when he is stuck doing something self-destructive. It took me a while to get through as I had to stop at times and have a break as it was so overwhelming.