I seem to be able to get to bed a bit earlier than a few weeks ago, but I don’t get up any earlier; later, if anything. I think I slept about for twelve hours last night. I basically have the type of depression where my body tries to hibernate: eat lots and then sleep for the rest of winter. I’m trying to cut back on the eating, but the sleeping is harder to change.
Speaking of eating, my weight is the same as it was before Chanukah. After eight doughnuts and a couple of mince pies, I’m counting that as a victory.
I went to the opticians for a routine eye test. Aside from being kept waiting for a long time, there was nothing to report. No change in my glasses prescription and I didn’t shake when I had lights shone in my eyes like I did last time. I walked back in the rain, feeling guilty about not knowing what to do about all the homeless people who were stuck out in the cold and wet.
I tried to work on my novel, but didn’t get very far. The way my book was structured, it had three main characters who alternately narrate chapters. I tried writing the first chapter for narrator three and I just couldn’t do it. It was bad enough that narrator two had covered some ground already covered by narrator one, but doing it a third time was ridiculous. However, I couldn’t suddenly introduce a new narrative voice in the middle of the book after establishing two narrators early on especially as his story is so intertwined with narrator two’s that the problem of repetition would keep arising. In any case, narrator three is also not much like me and I was struggling to get inside his head. I can describe him through narrators one and two, but I can’t find his voice, at least not for long enough to write a chunk of the novel. So, the important bits of his story are now going to be seen through narrator two’s eyes. There wasn’t a lot to move or cut, which is telling, but cutting chapters means I’m now significantly below the average number of words per chapter for a novel-length story. I hope to be able to put on some weight (so to speak) in redrafting, but I’m a bit worried about it.
I agreed to do some proofreading/editing for a friend. I started today. She’s a good enough writer that I haven’t had to correct much, including a slight tautology which I feel bad for picking up on as you could put down to a stylistic choice. I also had to check a few British English vs. American English variants, but they were all OK. I’m not so sure about the editing side of things, as this is a YA book and I don’t really read many of those. I certainly don’t feel myself able to pass judgement on the accuracy of teenage speech patterns. I’m going to have to assume she’s got those OK.
I did have trouble with the page layout and I can’t work out why; I couldn’t switch from the page view my friend had to my normal one.
I still don’t feel that I’m where I should be religiously. Building on yesterday’s comments and my responses there, I’ve been told by rabbis that I’m doing OK considering all my issues, but I have high standards and feel that I don’t fit into the community, however understandable that is given depression, social anxiety and autism. Also, my issues are dynamic; how I feel changes from day to day and even from hour to hour and it is hard to know what is right for me to do right now. It’s a moving target that is hard to hit.
For example, today I only did ten minutes of Torah study because I was depressed and I used my limited resources of energy to proofread and work on my novel as well as going to my eye test and walking home (Dad gave me a lift there). I also spent a lot of time procrastinating. I’m not sure how I could/should have done things differently. I could have procrastinated less, but I think that assumes non-depressed levels of energy, concentration and motivation. But it’s hard to be sure. Maybe I could have done things differently. I don’t know.
Things are made worse by depressive anhedonia, so I can’t find my religious life enjoyable (no more so than any other part of my life, but this takes more effort than anything except work), and by my social anxiety and autistic socialising issues, which makes it hard to benefit from the close, supportive community that so many people identify as one of the major positives of being an Orthodox Jew. I don’t feel that God really cares about me either, although going down this route takes us into philosophy (rationalists and kabbalists alike insist that God does not have emotions, although clearly there’s something which it is useful to us to understand as “love” for us) as much as depression and low self-esteem, although those are relevant too.
I don’t really think much of New Year’s Eve. I’ve never even been to a New Year’s Eve party. Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) is a ten day introspective experience that essentially involves a symbolic death and rebirth as a newer, better person (hopefully, anyway); New Year’s Eve involves spending an evening getting drunk and singing Auld Lang Syne. Moreover, this isn’t the start of a new decade, although I remember from 1999/2000 that convincing people that 2020 is really the end of the 20-teens is going to be a non-starter (plus I’ll concede there is logic in treating 2020 as the start of the ’20s even if it falsely assumes that the calendar began with a year zero. I will point out that the Victorians said celebrated the start of the twentieth century on 1 January 1901).
Still, I’ve been thinking lately about the last ten years, not so much because of New Year’s Eve, but because of my life. E. and I have both feeling somewhat frustrated and pessimistic about our future; we both like each other and care about other, but it seems so hard to get the practical problems in being together out of the way. Looking back over the last ten years shows how much could change in a decade, for better or for worse.
On 1 January 2010: my paternal grandfather was still alive (he died later that year) and my sister was single (she married in 2017). My relationship with my mother was rather worse than now; my relationship with my father was better, for reasons I don’t fully understand (not understanding makes it hard to change). I had never lived by myself unless you count university (Oxford is not exactly living by oneself) and never really thought that I might live anywhere other than the area I grew up for the foreseeable future (we moved in 2015). I didn’t have many friends in 2010, and I don’t now, but I possibly have more now, at least if one counts online friends. I did lose some friends over the decade, most through the usual “drifting apart through living in different cities, with different lives,” but a couple this year through doing the wrong thing and getting them angry at me. That still hurts a bit, mostly because the way they reacted made me feel that they had hated me for some time and were just acting friendly out of pity. There was one other friend I lost because he treated me badly and I just moved out of his life. He still doesn’t realise how upset he made me and probably never will.
In 2010 I had never been on date, despite being in my mid-twenties (I went on one for the first time in 2011). I hadn’t asked many women out, but I had asked a few, all of whom turned me down. I had got my BA and was preparing to do start my MA later in the year (it was supposed to be two years part-time, but took three and a half, notionally full-time). I had never had a paid job (I still haven’t worked full-time, but I hadn’t even worked part-time then). I suppose I felt comfortable in my Modern Orthodox shul (synagogue), although it was too much a fixture of my life to really think about it. I had never lead services or given a drasha (religious speech/class) (I would lead services for the first time that year, after my grandfather’s death). I blogged and occasionally wrote fiction and would move on to poetry in a couple of years, but I think by this stage I had abandoned any thought I might ever have had of writing a book, fiction or non-fiction, and would probably be astonished to think that I could do it.
By mid-2010 I felt that I was finally over my depression, but this was illusory. In fact, I think I was still feeling bad at the beginning of the year and I would have a major relapse in the winter of 2010/11. I had social anxiety which I did not really pay any attention to. I had not yet really developed religious OCD, but the seeds of it were there. At this time, autism was off my radar and hadn’t yet come back on it, having been told I was not on the spectrum and not knowing enough about autism to think otherwise.
I don’t know what conclusion I should draw from this. There were a lot of ups and especially downs over the decade. The overall trend was upward until about two years ago, then it slumped back down again. Despite the improvements in some areas, I’m not really where one would expect a thirty-six year old to be in the abstract, not at all. I don’t know what the prognosis is for E. and me.
And that’s about it for today, and 2019, really. The only other thing I did today, other than cook some plain pasta, was finish watching Licence to Kill, and Timothy Dalton’s tenure as James Bond, which was interestingly down-to-earth, but not particularly fun or escapist. I did mostly enjoy The Living Daylights, although I’m possibly being generous to it because I enjoyed it as a child. Licence to Kill was too grim and gory for me. I will probably pause watching Bond for a bit now; I was getting a bit tired of it anyway and there’s new Doctor Who tomorrow and again from Sunday, I’m hoping to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on Thursday and I want to get started on my Star Trek: Voyager box set. At least no one could accuse Voyager of being grim and gory.