Inaugural

I had another difficult morning/early afternoon when I struggled to get up and get going because of depression and exhaustion.  My day was to be structured around two fixed points (not in the Doctor Who sense, I assume), Skyping E. and going, or trying to go, to the new rabbi’s inauguration at shul (synagogue).  In addition, I wanted to do some Torah study and my parents wanted me to do some chores; I wanted to watch Doctor Who after the inauguration, but was aware that it was an extra-long episode and I might not get the time.

Once I got going, I felt a bit better, as usual, but during the afternoon, while doing Torah study, I suddenly felt quite depressed again.  Admittedly the Torah portion for this week, which I was reading, is hard to get inspiration from, focusing on the design of the High Priest’s vestments and the inauguration ceremony for the Tabernacle (which involved more slaughtering of animals than the rabbi’s inauguration did).  I was glad to get through such a difficult sedra (portion) when not feeling great, particularly as I am going to have to spend much of my Torah study time this week researching an idea for this week’s devar Torah (Torah thought), which requires some research and thought, so I didn’t want to have to come back to finish this later.

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The rabbi’s inauguration pretty good.  Some interesting speeches/drashas (religious homilies).  There were quite a lot of people there, packed into the relatively small hall.  Ma’ariv (the Evening Service) followed by the inauguration took about two hours.  There were cakes, drinks and whisky afterwards, but I decided sitting for two hours in a crowded hall counts as ‘peopling’ and two hours of peopling + loud music + a crowded room did not make for a situation I wanted to continue being in, even if the cakes were good (I couldn’t see clearly enough to tell) – plus I really wanted to eat dinner before moving on to sweet things.  Of course, as I sat at the back, near the door (in case I needed to leave during the inauguration) no one is going to realise I was there, but at least I felt that I was doing the right thing and being part of a community.  On the way home, I noticed I was getting the stomach cramps I’ve had intermittently lately, which I think are anxiety-related, so I probably did the right thing in getting out while the going was good, especially as the stomach cramps went after I got home.

I did have complex feelings about fitting in and not fitting in to the community.  Feeling like I was part of the community by being there, but also that I don’t fully subscribe to the community’s outlook, and I know that E. wouldn’t feel comfortable there and that if I had children I would probably not want them to be brought up with that outlook, or at least not without being exposed to other outlooks too.  It’s not so much that I disagree with major articles of faith as social and cultural assumptions and general worldview.

At the same time there were thoughts about what would have happened if I had become Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) or had gone to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) after school and so on.  My life might have gone in a different way, but it is impossible to tell what way.  Sometimes I think I could have become a conforming Haredi Jew, perhaps with a more strained relationship with my parents, probably married with children.  Other times I think force-feeding could lead to vomiting, so to speak, and I would have stopped being frum (observant) entirely.  And I have no idea how my mental health issues would fit in here.

 

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(The last bit is Doctor Who, but also some stuff on autism and popular culture if you want to skip to the last paragraph.)

So, Doctor Who, after being atypically good last week was back to being pants and not worth hurrying home for.  The plot thread I really liked last week turned out to be a throwaway thing that wasn’t very relevant.  I actually nearly gave up on the episode twenty minutes from the end, I was so uninterested, which I think is unprecedented.  It wasn’t even a car crash awful story like Timelash or Kill the Moon.  Just really boring and incoherent while trying to be pointlessly epic and definitive, as well as hitting a load of my dislike buttons.  Maybe one day I’ll review it properly for my semi-defunct Doctor Who blog, and doubtless the two people reading this who might be interested in more detail from me will discuss it on their own blogs soon enough and I will comment there.

For now I’ll just paste this comment I saw on Twitter (I broke my “No Twitter” rule briefly out of curiosity to see if anyone else was so dissatisfied): “Most of this series of Dr Who has given me the same sense of disorientation I had when reading most of the New Adventures – a feeling it’s made by & for people who see something very different in the programme to me. Which is fine I suppose, but for me just 😕”  (Hoping I got the right emoji there as I had to paste from another source.)  To be honest, I think it’s just that I dislike, on some level, much of post-1989 (original series) Doctor Who, and it’s just fluke that Steven Moffat provided enough bits I like to get past the usual dislike of New Who much of the time when he was showrunner.

Quite why I react so differently to pre-1990s Doctor Who and pre-1990s popular culture in general – to contemporary iterations is an interesting question I’ve never solved.  I basically like the stuff that was already old and unfashionable when I found it as a child in the 90s or later.  It’s not just nostalgia, as I have liked some new Doctor Who as well as old programmes like Sapphire and Steel and The Prisoner that I discovered when an adult.  I do genuinely believe that popular culture has changed in recent decades (as it always does) and is now less autism-friendly.  I think contemporary culture is much more information-dense and difficult to keep up with if you have slower processing time.  Likewise, the idea that everyone has to go on an Emotional Journey preferably involving love/sex is difficult if you struggle reading and understanding emotions and especially hard to empathise with if you are still a virgin.  There were emotional journeys in the past, but not always foregrounded so much (compare the original 1982 Blade Runner with Blade Runner 2049 from 2017.)  Things are also much bigger and more “epic” – I’m not really sure how to explain that if you don’t watch modern science fiction or superhero films and TV, but the hero has to be shown not just as competent, but superheroic and almost godlike, which I find pompous.  Plus there’s all the postmodern identity politics stuff which just irritates me.  But I still wonder why I like some things more than others.  I really liked Star Trek Discovery season one (looking forward to season two after I’ve finished Voyager), which was mostly up-to-date stylistically and appropriately diverse, but still managed to avoid hitting too many of my dislike buttons.

Good/Bad (Mostly Good)

More bureaucracy weirdness.  I got a letter last week saying that my doctor’s certificate was about to run out.  As I had been told I wasn’t going to be eligible for benefits, and as the letter telling me the certificate was about to run out was dated after the time it said the certificate would run out (classic Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) incompetence) I just shoved it in a drawer and forgot about it.  Now I’ve received a letter saying that I am going to be getting Employment Support Allowance for a year.  Despite being told that my doctor’s certificate was not correct and then being told it was out of date, as well as being told that I don’t have the right amount of NI contributions.  All very strange, but I’m not going to complain – but similarly if it somehow doesn’t materialise, I won’t be surprised either.  Hopefully by the time it runs out next year I’ll have a better idea of where I stand with my autism diagnosis and whether that leaves me eligible for anything, although I suspect I’m too high functioning.   I seem to be too high functioning to claim much for depression too, especially as the assessment forms are geared towards physical disability.  I swear the DWP live on another planet though.  Their communication skills are appalling.

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Friday night was good, given how exhausted I was.  I got through shul (synagogue) OK, even joining the circle dance in Kaballat Shabbat.  I do find it awkward holding hands with other people, plus the room, full of chairs and tables, isn’t really laid out for that kind of thing and we get a bit squashed in (the “dance” is more of an awkward walk around the room).

I went to Shabbat dinner at one of my shul friends’ flat and enjoyed it.  I think I joined in the conversation more than I used to.  My friend and the other friend there are on the mailing list for my weekly devar Torah (Torah thought) email and I was persuaded to read it aloud at the table (he had printed it off in advance).  I only shook very slightly, interestingly when I was self-conscious, either about something that I had written (referencing a non-religious Bible critic) or just about shaking.  There were a couple of awkward moments, when I was asked how my parents were and I didn’t want to lie, but wasn’t sure how much to say, and when one of my friends suddenly asked me apropos of nothing in particular, if I had ever thought of writing a book.  I was rather astonished and I think I lapsed into incoherence before saying I’ve been published in a couple of places and am writing a novel.  I didn’t mention the Doctor Who book, partly because I wasn’t sure what frum (religious) people would say about a book about television, but also because I feel even for a non-frum audience, it’s a strange thing to admit to.  I mean, I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent on that book in the last seven years.  A lot.  It does seem slightly odd to invest so much time in a family TV programme for such little return.

I got home about 10.00pm, spoke to my parents for a bit and did some Torah study, although the Talmud I was trying to prepare just confused me.  I couldn’t sleep and stayed up late reading Alex cartoons.  I missed shul again this morning and fell asleep after lunch.  I don’t want to sleep so much, but heavy Shabbat lunch makes me so drowsy that I just want to wrap myself in my duvet (a classic autistic habit I’ve had since childhood) and inevitably I drift off after a few minutes.  When I woke up I finished re-reading The Art of Biblical Poetry and went to shul, where I was baffled by the Talmud shiur (I could not understand it easier with a group at 6.00pm than I had by myself at 10.30pm the previous night).  I managed to speak to the person I saw at the shiur (class) I went to last week, which I wouldn’t have done in the past.  I also told an (I hope) amusing anecdote to people in the car on the way home when my friend offered me a lift, which I also would not have done in the past.  So I guess Shabbat was more good than bad.

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I got a couple of job rejections in the last few days.  I have nothing to say about this any more, so I will resort to emoji.  😦

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I’m planning on going to the rabbi’s inauguration ceremony at shul tomorrow, but fortunately I didn’t need to book so I won’t feel bad if I don’t feel up to it.  To be honest, I expect it will be a bunch of long speeches and then refreshments where I’ll find it awkward to talk to anyone.  I suspect I will spend the whole evening longing to go back home and watch tomorrow’s Doctor Who series finale (the first episode I’ve been anxious to watch in some weeks, thanks to a quite good and intriguing first half last week).  Nevertheless, given my patchy shul attendance, I feel I should show my face if I can, even if I don’t last the entire evening (although walking out in front of the various dignitaries could be awkward.  I should try to get a seat near the door).