I’ve mentioned before my feeling that the “J-blogosphere” (the Jewish blogosphere) that I used to be a part of has declined in recent years. Yesterday I came across this list of the “Top 50 Jewish Blogs and Websites to Follow in 2020”. I was surprised that a lot of them are institutional rather than personal blogs, and many of the private blogs are defunct. I don’t want to read too much into this, as I don’t know how the list was compiled and I think it’s just another online list, but it does reinforce my feeling that the thriving J-blogosphere that I was a part of (or at least, slightly more than a spectator to) ten or fifteen years ago has gone somewhere else, but I’m not sure where exactly. Probably Facebook and Twitter. It’s strange that I mourn it now, as I never really felt that I fitted in to it, but I miss particular blogs and feel a sort of wistful regret that I could express my Jewish identity online, and to talk with people whose Jewish identity, however defined (Orthodox, Reform, secular, Israeli, diaspora etc.) was more instinctive and natural than my own. I don’t think I really appreciated that when it was available.
It occurs to me that I tend to get nostalgic for communities that I was never really a part of. I participated in the J-blogosphere, but while I commented on some blogs and read others, few (no?) Jewish bloggers read my blog, so far as I could tell. Similarly, I can get hugely nostalgic for the Doctor Who fandom of the “wilderness years” when the programme was not on air (1990-2004) and when fandom was a kind of club for people who found Mensa insufficiently geeky and obscure, mixing quasi-academic analysis with juvenile humour, yet my active involvement in fandom was limited both in scope and in time.
I don’t really know why this is the case. Perhaps it’s easy, when looking at my current struggles with socialising, to look back to a “golden age,” but I don’t think there ever was one for me. There were social groupings that I wanted to join, but I never really managed to infiltrate them (not really the right word, but in many ways exactly the right word). But, as the Doctor said (Doctor Who: Invasion of the Dinosaurs), there never was a golden age; it’s all an illusion. Perhaps I should take that as my starting point when trying to make friends. I am at least slowly making friends and getting known in my shul (synagogue), or was before coronavirus hit, albeit possibly just in time to move somewhere else with E.
Perhaps it’s related to my tendency to avoid categorising my religious, political and cultural opinions, to always opt for the “Yes/And” rather than the “Either/Or.” To see myself as someone who doesn’t fit into convenient boxes, but rather who unites opposed points of view. It’s a sense that I’m too big for anyone else’s categories, which is probably self-aggrandising, on some level, as well as providing an overly-convenient explanation for my failure to make friends (“They don’t understand my complexity!”).
Good news for the day: my oldest friend got in touch to say he’s read my non-fiction Doctor Who book and really enjoyed it. He even paid me the biggest compliment you can pay a writer: he stayed up later than intended because he couldn’t put it down! I feel really pleased about this. I may ask him to write a review on Amazon or Lulu although he must be incredibly busy at the moment (he’s a rabbi). Of course, my negative thoughts are already trying to discount his praise…
(This also means that I’ve sold at least one copy more than I thought, and than Lulu.com’s tally suggests. Possibly Amazon sales take time to register?)
I actually got up early today. Well, earlyish, for a Sunday, when I hadn’t slept well. I got up just after 10am. Considering I’ve been getting up around midday for weeks, this is an improvement. I hadn’t even slept well. I shouldn’t have watched Life on Mars late last night, as the blue light stopped me sleeping. I just felt I needed to relax, but I should have read, or rather should have just read, as I read too. I did eventually fall asleep, but woke just before 10am from a nightmare where my “Dad” (in inverted commas, as it wasn’t my real Dad, but some violent thug) was fighting with me. I didn’t want to go back to sleep after that. Maybe I need to have a nightmare every day.
Unfortunately it did take me a while to get going. I felt tired and got distracted online. Once I got going, the day was mostly taken up with Pesach (Passover) preparation: cleaning fridges and freezers and cleaning the hob. I got very tired by the late afternoon. It’s a continual source of frustration to me that I can only do much less work in a day than most people, because of lack of energy and depressive procrastination. I would have liked to have done a whole day’s work today rather than just an afternoon’s. Still, I did manage to go for a decent run in the twilight for about half an hour and had a Skype call with E. that was very enjoyable. I think I laughed more with E. than I have since the coronavirus hit.
I felt less anxious about Pesach preparations today and more able to keep things in perspective and resist the religious OCD. What the logic of the Jewish dietary laws, and the special Pesach dietary laws, might be is a subject of debate and from the outside I imagine that they don’t seem to have much logic at all. Nevertheless, there is an internal logic to how it all works, an understanding of how food or its taste might be passed on that holds true across all the Jewish dietary laws. As I understand this better, it becomes less a vague and fear-inspiring superstition (“I think that’s wrong, but I don’t know why”) and more something I can assess and analyse for myself and decide if it’s a problem without asking a rabbi. I still have a long way to go, but I am getting better at this.
One thing I’ve learnt to look out for with OCD (I think it probably applies to any OCD with compulsions) is doing things multiple times. The mindset of, “I think I’ve done this, but I’ll do it again to be sure” or simply “I must do this X number of times” with no clear explanation. I fell into that a little bit today while cleaning, cleaning things multiple times, but I have become wary of it. Similarly, I need to avoid checking things: asking questions of a rabbi when I know the answer or looking through old emails where I’ve asked questions to check the existing answer. It’s very hard though. Really the difficulty of OCD is resisting this desire to check things, whether it’s locking doors and windows, or washing hands repeatedly or checking about ritual performance.