A mixture of good and bad stuff happened over Shabbat (the Sabbath).
I led Mincha (the Afternoon Service) in shul (synagogue). I was asked and, somewhat to my surprise, found myself saying yes. I think the person who asked me was surprised I said yes too. I shook really badly the whole time, to the extent that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get through it, but no one said anything (not even the rabbi, who was only two feet away from me), so it probably wasn’t noticeable (or people were too polite to mention it). It did mean that I had no real kavannah (mindfulness) though, which I feel bad about. Hopefully it will be easier if I do it again.
I had an argument with my parents when I got home. It came out of nowhere really. It was probably partly my fault, or at least the fault of my poor communication skills. It scares me when arguments come out of nowhere. The reality was that we were all stressed and were probably a bit fed up of each other after spending eight days together all the time, but still, it upset me. There’s a lot more I could say here, but I don’t want to talk even semi-publicly here. It’s at times like this that I wish I was still in therapy, or could talk to my rabbi mentor. On that note, I couldn’t get in touch with my rabbi mentor while I was in Israel and am now rather worried about him, but unsure how to contact him. I do have a landline number for him, but am unsure if it’s still a current number, don’t know what time to phone, and have a great deal of social anxiety about using the phone and especially having to speak to his teenage and pre-teen children who I haven’t seen since they were young children.
I missed Shacharit (Morning Service) again today. I woke up at 7.30am and thought I would stay in bed until 8.00am, even though I knew I would probably fall asleep again. I forgot to tell myself to just get up and eat something and then make a decision about whether to stay up or not. Everything (depression, social anxiety, motivation) is so much easier once I’ve eaten, but getting to that stage is hard.
In shul, the person who gave me the job of tidying up the papers after Shabbat said he really appreciates my doing it. From the fact he said it out of the blue, I eventually realised he was politely reprimanding me for not doing it the last two weeks (two weeks ago I was sick and last week I was in Israel). By the time I realised that, he was gone and I didn’t go back and explain it to him, which was more a product of social anxiety than humility.
Someone else who I am somewhat friendly with at shul and who knows I am a librarian made a joke about me sorting out his own personal library, but, he added, “I have some books you wouldn’t approve of.” I was rather dumbfounded. This was coming from someone with a long, untrimmed beard and black hat, the trappings of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) conformist piety. The reality is that I probably would approve and may even have read them, but I was again too shy to say anything. What could I say in that situation anyway? It’s not like he said, “Oh, I’ve read book X” and I could say, “Oh, I’ve read that too.” Still, it shows that my shul may be more diverse in practice and ideology than I thought. And I guess he is indicating a degree of trust in me to make such a remark.
This Jewish year I set myself three targets to meet, to get to shul more frequently, especially on Saturday mornings; to be more patient and less angry or sarcastic with my father; and every evening to list three positive personal characteristics that I exhibited by my actions during the day (to boost self-esteem). I didn’t really want to do three things, as I thought even one target would be difficult to meet if my depression is bad, but I could not decide what was the biggest priority; in any case, I read somewhere that one should make targets for mitzvot (commandments) between me and God (shul), me and other people (Dad) and me and myself (personal characteristics). A little over one month into the year, I feel that I’m not doing well on any of them. However, while I didn’t mean to focus on this, I have made some slight improvements on kavannah (mindfulness) in prayer and mitzvah performance and perhaps also in the amount of Torah study I do and how much I enjoy it. I’m not quite sure what to make of all this. Again, something I’d like to discuss with my rabbi mentor.
This is a post-Shabbat thing, but I stopped following a blog I’ve been following for many years. The blog is by a somewhat geeky moderate Haredi woman who at the start of her blogging career was an “older single” (which in Haredi terms is anyone who gets to about twenty-five without being married). For a long time it was a positive thing for me to see there were other frum (religious) geeky people out there, even in the Haredi world, and even women, and also that other people in the frum world were struggling to find their mates. But lately the site has been difficult for me to read. I’m not entirely sure why. I don’t think it’s because she got married, but it seems to stem from around then, so maybe it is that, on some level.
The final straw was a piece she posted quoting a frum mental health professional who claimed that in the shtetl (the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe in the Medieval and Early Modern era until the Holocaust) people were too busy to suffer from mental health issues; they just forced themselves through things. This is supposedly why there are no words for many contemporary mental health issues in Yiddish. I left a polite comment saying that there was no real knowledge of mental illness anywhere in that period; there weren’t words for them in other languages either. Minor “strange” behaviours were probably ignored as personal idiosyncrasy; more serious problems were dismissed as laziness, weakness, “female hysteria,” “nerves” and so on. If someone was severely affected and ended up non-functional, they were written-off as “insane” and institutionalised, as probably happened to my great-grandmother (in the UK, not the shtetl). I also pointed out that, if you know how to read between the lines, a lot of rabbis (the most documented figures) of the last few centuries have shown signs of mental illness. I forgot to add that the fifth rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch was treated by Sigmund Freud himself.
She didn’t reply.
In the last few years, I have seen myself drifting from a friendly online relationship with her to one where I seem to be annoyed by her a lot and struggling not to show it and this was the final straw. So, unfollowing seemed more sensible than ending up as a troll. I would rather check out while we are still on reasonably good terms. It saddens me, though, as the ending of all friendships do, especially as I have lost too many friends in the last eighteen months for reasons I still struggle to understand.
I do worry about ending up on my own one day. As I’ve said before, many of my friendships are online, on blogs or via email, and those seem more fragile than in-person friendships. Since university, I’ve had a lot of close female friends, one at a time, and the friendships often ended badly with some kind of argument; the ones that didn’t ended when they moved away or got married and we drifted out of touch. E. is the only female friend I’m in regular contact with now. Maybe the frum relationship advisers are right that men and women can’t be close platonic friends (there was sexual tension in some of those friendships that didn’t last), or maybe I’m just bad at friendship. Or maybe all friendships are transient and situational and I’m stuck in my situation while my friends move on.
I worry that I will lose E. one day too, but also that I won’t date anyone else while I’m friends with her, because I can’t imagine anyone else being so accepting of me or being so much on my wavelength, nor can I imagine another woman accepting my having such a close friendship with another woman. At the moment I don’t think I should be dating anyone anyway, so it’s not much of an issue, but I do worry that it will be one day.