Possibly I did too much yesterday, as I felt very depressed on waking again today and struggled to get up and get dressed. I felt a bit lonely today, despite my parents being around, and I miss E. We don’t know when we’ll get to see each other in person again, which in some ways is no different to before coronavirus, except that previously E. was supposed to be coming to the UK for work reasons and now that’s been postponed indefinitely. I didn’t really feel like doing anything, but my parents were depending on me for dinner, especially as Mum was feeling quite ill today with chemo side-effects.
Even once I had worked through the initial depression, or some of it, I had quite a lot of anxiety. Some of that was Pesach (Passover) related. Some was listening to another Intimate Judaism podcast and worrying about my relationship with E., although there isn’t any rational reason to do so. Worrying that our religious differences would be too big to bridge despite all the other similarities. Wondering if we will ever get to move our relationship forward, and how. Wondering when we will be on the same continent!
On the plus side, I dropped the parev (neither dairy nor meat, according to the kosher food laws) measuring spoon into the milchig (milk) sink and calmly rinsed it off and moved on rather than going into a religious OCD panic and emailing my rabbi mentor as would have happened a few years ago.
In terms of achievements, I cooked dinner (while listening to the podcast) and helped look after Mum who, as I say, was quite ill today. I also went for a jog. I jogged for longer than usual both in terms of time (another five minutes or more) and distance (over half a mile more) and my pace was reasonably good; I think it actually improved in the added bit as I got my second wind. I did end up with an exercise migraine, though, and I hurt my foot somehow, although both feel better now. I Skyped E. and did about twenty-five or thirty minutes of Torah study; I don’t seem to be able to do much more at the moment except on Shabbat (the Sabbath).
I feel a bit like I should be volunteering at the moment. In a way I am, because I’m helping with housework and especially cooking now Mum is ill and we don’t have a cleaner. Still, I feel I should do more for the wider community, but the sad truth is that I’m barely coping with everything I have to do as it is (in fact, I’m not doing stuff I would want to do, like write fiction) and the Pesach stress is only just starting; next week will be much harder. It’s hard just to keep going at the moment with depression and anxiety. The clinching argument, of course, is that volunteering would probably expose me to coronavirus and other contagious illnesses that we’re trying to keep away from Mum at the moment.
I watched a(nother) silly Star Trek Voyager episode where the ship was attacked by a virus that has grown to macroscopic size and is now a foot long and flies through the air attacking people with its stinger (?!). Maybe coronavirus isn’t so bad.
Two religious thoughts I’ve been thinking about:
- Although a lot of Judaism is intellectual and text-focused, much of it is emotional and experiential, especially the festivals, none more so than Pesach with the symbolic foods we eat and the foods we deliberately don’t eat. Given the problems I’ve historically had accessing and accepting my emotions, it is perhaps not surprising that I struggle with this. On seder night, the first two nights of Pesach, when we tell the story of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and eat the symbolic foods of matzah (unleavened bread) and maror (bitter herbs) and drink the four cups of wine (grape juice in my case, because of medication interactions), I seem to end up thinking hard about the symbolism rather than emotionally connecting to it. Possibly if I could stop thinking about things (things in general) and just experience them, my life, and especially my Jewish life, would be much better. I need to focus less on thinking and more on feeling.
(An aside: the Kotzker Rebbe was once confronted by a Chabad Hasid who waxed lyrical on the Chabad mode of prayer, all emanations and unifications. But where, said the Kotzker, is the pupik (literally the belly button), where are the emotional guts of the matter?)
2) I have historically struggled with bitachon, trust in God. In particular, the idea that good can come of my long mental health history is something that I struggled to engage with emotionally, even if I could vaguely see it intellectually (that thinking-feeling dichotomy again).
Lately, as E. and I have tried to make our long-distance relationship work, I can sort of see how some negative or difficult things brought me to where I am now, where I’m in a relationship with her. If I hadn’t been depressed, I would never have set up this blog and I would never have met E. If I had been better integrated into the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community, I probably would not have contemplated being with E. If I hadn’t struggled growing up with being more religious, or at least wanting to be more religious, than my parents were, I wouldn’t have learnt how to handle such conflicts in my relationship with E. And so on.
Still, even though I can see that maybe there was a reason for all those things, I’m still terrified that things won’t work out for E. and me, that this is setting me up for another disappointment, the worst one yet. I’m trying to trust, but it’s hard.
It’s also late. My “No screens after 11pm” rule has been broken flagrantly this evening, but I am up late partly because I was being a good boyfriend and a good son, talking to E. and looking after my Mum, so I don’t feel too bad. I am tired though, and hungry. So hitting ‘Publish’ now.