I felt really defensive on waking today.  I think it was because I dreamt about one of my secondary school Jewish Studies teachers last night.  He was telling me off because I had come to class without shoes, as I had left them in the P.E. changing room locker.  In reality, this was the teacher who really introduced me to Torah study at a more advanced level, the level of Mishnah and Gemarah (Talmud).  I guess he also made it seem possible to be frum (religious) while still being a ‘normal’ person with a sense of humour.  He was an important person in my journey to becoming frum.

I know I disappointed him and some of the other Jewish Studies teachers by not going to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) after school, although it wasn’t really where I was on my journey of religious growth or personal development when I was eighteen.  I think the dream came about because I assume he would not approve of my relationship with E. either, that he would want me to marry someone more conventionally religious.  Like I said, this left me defensive today.  I could not articulate my reasons for not going to yeshiva when I was eighteen, but I don’t think I would have been ready, realistically, at that age, particularly given what I know now about how I function, or don’t function, in high stress academic environments, social environments, and especially noisy social environments (yeshiva is really noisy, because everyone studies out loud, in pairs, arguing loudly to be heard above everyone else arguing loudly).  I also think that E. is right for me, and that frum people who haven’t had issues with mental illness, high functioning autism and difficulty fitting in socially in the sometimes narrow and conformist frum world shouldn’t judge our relationship.  Ashley Leia asked the other day if the idea of bashert (destiny, especially a destined soul-mate) affects my thinking about E., and really it doesn’t, but inasmuch as I believe in bashert at all, I strongly suspect that E. is my bashert and people who haven’t been through everything I’ve been through in the last twenty years don’t really have a right to judge me for thinking that (cf. Pirkei Avot 2.4: “do not judge your fellow until you have been in his place.”).  Plus, as E. said when I told her about this dream, it’s not fair for people not to support me in the community then turn on me for dating someone from outside it.

Reading the last paragraph back, it seems very defensive.  I guess I feel defensive today, maybe because I feel anxious and depressed.   I’ve never been one to follow fashions and I’ve always been myself privately, but it’s hard to openly break with one’s community.  I do find it hard to be frum socially a lot of the time, even though I am objectively very religious.  I guess being in frum society brings up a lot of fears about where I stand religiously, where I should stand, am I good enough and so on, as well as fears about my relationship with E., what the stresses would be with that and so on.  E. was saying that she’s enjoying a Jewish book I recommended for her, but that its description of how Jewish communities should work does not match her experience of how they do work in reality and she has a point.  I guess I’ve always just tried to get on with my own stuff and not worry about fitting in so much, except that I get lonely and now I feel that I do need to put down roots somewhere where I fit in.


As for activity, today I worked on my short story for an hour or so, writing nearly 900 words, which was very good.  I spent half an hour writing my devar Torah (Torah thought) for the week.  I stopped when I felt I had run out of energy.  Soon afterwards I started feeling very depressed.  I went for a run (thirty-five minutes, mostly running with little walking), but while I was out I started feeling really anxious.  I wish I was in therapy at the moment; there are so many things that are making me anxious and I can’t tell which ones are legitimate and which aren’t.  I suppose all anxieties are “legitimate” in that it isn’t “wrong” to have an anxiety, but I feel some would worry anyone and others are more pathological and unique to me.  I would like to be able to talk things through with someone objective.  I speak to my rabbi mentor sometimes, and he is a trained counsellor, but I feel like I impose too much on him and it isn’t always easy to find time to talk, plus it’s hard to do it long-distance.

My sister and brother-in-law came around to drop some stuff off and have a socially distanced, two metres away conversation on the doorstep, which was nice, particularly for my parents.

I decided I needed a break from the weekly COVID-19 depression group Zoom meeting.  I just didn’t have the energy and mindset to relate my feelings and listen for long periods to other people’s experiences.  I feel that I’m still recovering from Yom Tov, plus my worries at the moment are mostly religious OCD/Pesach-based rather than COVID-19/lockdown-based.  Perhaps I’ll participate again next week.

It was a reasonable day for Pesach OCD worries.  I feel bad that this year has not gone as well as last year, but that was probably unfeasible, given everything happening to my family and in the wider world.  I’m still better than all the years where I ended up a quivering wreck of anxiety at some point before or during the festival.

7 thoughts on “Defensive and Anxious

  1. Given how important marriage is in the frum community and your advancing age (in very relative terms), do you think people would just be glad when you’re “finally” getting married, even though E. isn’t frum?


    1. I’m not sure. I did think about that a bit. I would hope that my friends would be happy for me regardless. Some people probably would be glad that I was finally getting married, particularly if I didn’t disclose much about E. To be honest, most people don’t know enough about me to care one way or the other, it just feels hard to have to hide things.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What has happened in the past can be a definite drag in the present. I believe that our feelings, opinions, and life choices are our own and private. We all have a public and private “face” and how much of the private we reveal is completely up to us. (in my opinion) It doesn’t matter what I think, but E. and you seem well-suited. You can talk to each for a long time, and frequently which means there is a strong connection between you.


    1. The past does drag on the present, yes.

      The problem with public vs. private is that these boundaries are drawn differently in the Orthodox world; the community is deemed to have more legitimate say over things that would be considered private in the secular world.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hope you don’t mind me asking but how big is the religious difference between you and E? Am assuming you are both practicing Jews, but she less strict or non orthodox. Is it comparable to the difference between RC and Protestant; Calvinist and Arminian? I do understand the importance of community approval, but would there be any danger of excommunication by your synagogue if they did not approve? (Excommunication is not the right word, I’m sure, but you get my meaning — and I say this as someone who was excommunicated many years ago by the church over a religious issue — thankfully now resolved!). Please don’t feel obliged to answer this if you’d rather not and apologies if I’m being overly intrusive — or ignorant!


    1. No, it’s OK to ask. We are both Jewish, but she is not really practicing. It’s not really comparable to schisms in Christian churches, which as I understand are mostly over doctrine (although my understanding of Christianity comes mostly from studying Medieval and Early Modern Europe at university and may not reflect modern Christianity). It’s about how many of the commandments we observe and how strictly.

      There wouldn’t really be a danger of formal excommunication, which happens (a) very rarely; (b) for actual breach of religious law (this is more like doing something reckless or inadvisable than actually forbidden); and (c) usually when trying to make an example of someone for political reasons (e.g. Spinoza). People might I suppose shun me on an informal level or communicate social disapproval. I’m not sure. Being autistic, I find it hard to read social cues in community settings and know how people would react to me. It could be that they wouldn’t care what I did or wouldn’t be interested enough in me to care. Orthodox Jews are often blunt and sometimes intrusive, so it could be that they would simply tell me to my face that they thought I was making a mistake; I would probably not be the first person in an Orthodox community to be told that.


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