I struggled to sleep again last night. I got about four hours in the end. I was surprisingly awake in the morning, but flagging by mid-afternoon and had to phone my Dad for a lift home from the Tube station after work as I was too tired to walk home.
Most of the day was OK, although I changed my plans for the library in a large-ish way which I hope wasn’t too much of an impulsive decision or one that will cost me support with library users. I am still adapting to the environment and what is expected of me on the one hand and what resources are available on the other. I need to take some time to think about long-term planning, probably away from the library as it’s hard to sit and plan there because of interruptions and not wanting to look like I’m just spending my time staring into space (I’m very happy to stand staring into space while thinking about things at home, but my parents always come and ask if I’m OK, which breaks the train of thought).
The benefactor who owns the library came in today for Minchah and Ma’ariv (Afternoon and Evening Prayers). I tried to show him what I was doing, but I got the impression he thought it was fine and didn’t really want to be hands-on with it. I guess that’s good, I just worry that I won’t be able to cope with being so self-directed.
I was going fairly well until after davening (prayers). The last hour or so of the day was really hard. By that stage I was very tired and my blood sugar had probably dropped. I tend to snack on fruit during the day, but for various reasons that isn’t always easy at work. I was dealing with some books that someone had bought or, more likely, donated to the library at some point by and about Chabad Lubavitch. Chabad is an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic movement noted for kiruv (outreach), essentially trying to encourage/help non-religious Jews to become more religious. They tend to provoke polarising reactions in other Jews and I have mixed feelings about them. Some of the books were by Rabbi Shmuel (Shmuely) Boteach, who is an even more polarising figure. You may have heard of him as he has a media presence far beyond any official position he’s ever held. He even stood for Congress a few years back. He was Chabad shaliach at Oxford. A shaliach is an emissary; shluchim are a couple sent to a particular place to a place, generally a remote one with few Jewish amenities (shuls, kosher food etc.) to run Chabad kiruv there and provide services to Jews who live there or are passing through as travellers. It’s usually a life-long commitment, but Rabbi Boteach outgrew Oxford and he left before I went up, but older students and community members still talked about him a lot during my time there, which shows how big a personality he is.
I flicked through his book, which was titled Moses of Oxford. The title might give you an idea of why Rabbi Boteach is such a polarising figure. (I have to flick through books to get an idea of where they belong in the library, but then I worry about reading too much and wasting time… this is a problem I have never resolved in all my years of librarianship.) The book was a collection of essays he wrote, or possibly lectures/divrei Torah he delivered in Oxford. There was quite a bit about sex. This is one of Rabbi Boteach’s favourite topics. He became quite notorious for writing books with titles like Kosher Sex and Kosher Adultery. His argument is that pornography, masturbation and the general sexualisation of society are robbing us of true intimacy and eroticism within marriage. His argument is not that sex is bad, so it should be limited to marriage, but rather that sex is great, but it only works in marriage.
It’s not an argument I’m particularly opposed to, inasmuch as I know anything about sex, being a thirty-six year old virgin, but that’s kind of the point: it just reminded me that there’s this big thing in life that almost everyone experiences and almost everyone enjoys (to the extent that not enjoying it is seen as a symptom of a problem of some kind) and I’m never likely to experience it. From there on it was just a downward spiral into thinking that E. and I will never move our relationship on. By this stage, the toxic cocktail of hunger, exhaustion and self-pity sent me towards general catastrophisation of my life. Fortunately I was able to eat something on the way home and feel better.
Honestly, lately I’ve been feeling happier about my love life than I have felt for a long time. E. cares about me more than anyone who isn’t an immediate blood relation ever has done and if anything I worry that I can’t reciprocate well enough, not that E. has ever complained (she says I’m a good friend). And I’m glad she’s in my life even if our relationship remains platonic. It’s just that every so often something makes me think about how much is missing from my life, sometimes sex, sometimes children, sometimes a more nebulous sense of contentment, meaning and stability, and then I wonder if I will ever be “normal.” Even if my life comes together at some point, say in my forties, I wonder how I can keep going until then. That’s something that applies to many, many more things than just sex, but sex is somehow emblematic of them all because it is so ubiquitous in secular Western society and covertly signalled in Jewish society with talk of producing children and grandchildren and the sanctity of marriage and the “Shabbat mitzvah.”
Anyway, I went home and crashed. I wrote most of this post, but didn’t hit “publish” then watched a James Bond film, Die Another Day, because it was too early to go to bed, but I was too exhausted to do anything that required brainpower. I struggled not to eat junk food and eventually succumbed to the big box of Quality Street that my parents opened. Not eating any junk at all most days is hard when I have traditionally used small treats as a reward for getting through difficult depression days. I did at least only eat one orange creme. I’m the only person in the house who really likes cremes, so I’ve potentially got a whole stash down there. Diet another day.
Die Another Day wasn’t great, but I was too tired to care. I think I like James Bond for the “wrong” reasons. The sex and violence doesn’t interest me much, but I like the laconic villains, the bad jokes, the gadgets and the lateral thinking problem solving, plus supporting actors like Desmond Llewelyn and Judi Dench. My favourite Bond so far is Roger Moore, which I know makes me a Bad Fan to most Bond fans, but there you go. I like the sillier (I would say fun) films of the seventies too.
Bedtime soon, I think.