I spent Shabbat (the Sabbath) with my parents at my sister and brother-in-law’s house. We had a good time, but I had some anxiety about certain religious things where my sister and BIL aren’t as strict as I would like to be. It wasn’t always clear what was a genuine issue and what was my religious OCD. One or two things I asked politely if we could do differently or if I could do it for myself separately; with a lot of things, I just accepted it in the name of shalom bayit (family peace i.e. not having arguments), although I want to ask my rabbi mentor what I should do when I go there again. I did have to deal with a lot of anxiety on Friday night, which was ostensibly focused on not being sure how they would do various religious things, but was probably also on some level my autism panicking about going to a new situation/building. Perhaps because of being tired from anxiety and ‘peopling,’ I slept a lot, although I tend to do that anyway. I did feel slightly upset about not going to shul (synagogue) over Shabbat as I didn’t want to go to the Masorti (non-Orthodox) one around the corner that everyone else went to, but I was too socially anxious to go to a different Orthodox one by myself. I also missed my Talmud shiur (class) which is frustrating, but unavoidable. It was a good Shabbat overall.
When I got home I spent about forty-five minutes on Torah study, mostly Talmud, the first Talmud study I’ve done by myself in over a month, I think. My understanding of the Aramaic language of the Talmud is improving, but the arguments can still be hard to follow.
I tried to work on my novel afterwards, but 10pm is really too late to be sitting down to write. I managed to write for half an hour, but my mind was elsewhere and I procrastinated a bit, only managing about 200 words. While procrastinating, I came across a quote from James Bond author Ian Fleming saying that he used to write 2,000 words a day over four hours. I usually manage 500 words a day, generally writing for one hour, so in terms of work speed, I seem to be doing OK; I’m not massively slow. I do wish I could just find more time each day to write, but it’s hard to do that while job hunting and trying to do Jewish stuff and dealing with depression. Just doing an hour a day most days is hard enough.
Workwise, I got a message on LinkedIn from someone asking if I would be interested in being a school librarian in the Cayman Islands. Death in Paradise fantasies followed (I don’t watch it, but my parents do). It’s not exactly a sensible plan for where I am right now, or for any religious Orthodox Jew, but I guess it’s a nice idea.
Speaking of remote exotic islands, The James Bond Collection arrived unexpectedly early today. The postman had to hide it as we were still with my sister and brother-in-law. Watching Live and Let Die the other week only fuelled my nostalgia for the Bond films of the sixties, seventies and eighties that I grew up watching (I’m much less interested in the more recent ones). I bought the box set as it turns out you can’t buy individual Bond films on DVD currently, it’s an all-or-nothing proposition.
I still feel that this is a vaguely retrograde step in my development, given that Bond is not exactly a role model to me, but I guess I need escapism and I’ve watched every Doctor Who and The Prisoner episode umpteen times as well as most Star Trek and a lot of The Avengers more than once. While I don’t think Bond would make me violent (and maybe provide vicarious release from my desire to punch J*r*my C*rbyn in the face, preferably while shouting “Nationalise this, you antisemite!”) I guess there is the risk that the amorous adventures of Commander Bond just making my own feelings of sexual inadequacy and loneliness even worse.
Taking buying this DVD box set with some other things I’ve been doing lately, I do wonder if I am slipping religiously. I also wonder if it was even possible for me to stay at the religious level I had achieved in the past for the long-term, while I’m struggling with undiagnosed autism, severe depression and social anxiety, and while I’m unmarried, have few religious friends and don’t feel connected to my religious community (although someone from shul texted to ask if I was OK as they didn’t see me over Shabbat, which was nice). It is very hard to stay Jewish and religious while socially isolated and especially while an “older single” or widow or divorcee with no children. So much of Judaism is family- and community-based. I’ve seen other people say the same thing.
Possibly I’m overthinking things. I do tend to do that.
To be honest it’s hard to stay religiously Jewish at all these days; most Jews are not religious. I was thinking about this a lot on Friday night when I was at home by myself when everyone else was at shul. There’s a quote (which I’ve taken from Buber’s Tales of the Hasidim) from the Rebbe of Rizhyn in the nineteenth century that, “In the last three hours before redemption it will be as difficult to cling to Jewishness as to climb a smooth wall of ice.” The three hours has gone on an awfully long time and it gets harder and harder to stay Jewish, but still… I remind myself of this sometimes when I feel I’m struggling to run fast enough to stay in the same place. Hopefully it counts for something.
8 thoughts on “Three Hours”
I find it quite remarkable that you have stuck with being religious. That’s a lot of effort to put in while dealing with all of the mental health stuff.
I’m sad that you felt anxious over your sister’s lax approach to Jewish ritual. Religious OCD sounds dreadful, as does the forced behaviors you have to engage in for daily worship. It seems way too strict to me, and impossible to live up to.
Personally, I often write my novels at 10:00 pm, but not if it’s been an exhausting day.
Why have your sister and brother-in-law have relaxed their traditions? Maybe you should open up with them, and it might help you reappraise the stifling role Judaism plays in your daily life. All religion started strictly, with Christians honoring the Sabbath Day, for example. That activity has flown out the window, but nothing could ever undo the love of God for His children.
I’m mostly over the religious OCD these days, except at times of stress.
I don’t feel that the things I do religiously are “forced behaviors” or that it’s stifling. Maybe I’m used to them? Lots of people manage to live this way.
I don’t really want to talk about my sister’s religious life here as it’s not right to talk behind her back, but I’ve always been the most religious member of the family. I don’t feel anxious over her approach to Judaism, only when it affects me.
I’m trying to reply to this, but the comment keeps ending up attached to Meg’s comment below! Not sure why that’s happening.
Sometimes I feel like that too. I guess at other times I wish I could do more, like other people, and I forget they aren’t dealing with mental health stuff.
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Yeah, I’m still able to see it.
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My daughter is Orthodox in Los Angeles. She is in a small but very kind and friendly community that welcomes new people. I wish you could find something like that where you are. I know you are relatively anon, so I won’t suggest a connection.
I’m also in a small but friendly community, it’s just that the religious philosophy is rather more ultra-Orthodox than I feel comfortable with. The nearest more modern community is intimidatingly huge and unfriendly (my parents’ community, where I used to go).
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