I had another late night last night, largely due to spending two hours writing a blog post that got out of hand. I originally intended just to write vaguely that I had some agitated thoughts about religion, but as I wrote, I felt I kept needing to go into more and more detail. I’m not even sure it was particularly coherent, or expressed what I wanted to say (if I even understand what I’m feeling well enough to say something coherent). Maybe I should have a “no blogging after Shabbat in the summer” rule, but sometimes I need to offload thoughts or I fear I won’t sleep. I struggled to get up and get going again this morning, which has become a repetitive mantra for me, but is true. As usual, I said only the smallest part of Shacharit (morning prayers), at the last minute and with poor kavannah (concentration/mindfulness).
I felt depressed and exhausted for much of today, which isn’t so unusual. More troubling was a feeling of uselessness. My Mum watches a lot of property programmes on TV like Location, Location, Location and A Place in the Sun where people try to buy a dream home, sometimes in a foreign country. The attraction of the programmes, I assume, is looking at the splendid and luxurious houses under consideration. I feel that I will never be able to afford a house anything like that. I worry that E. will have to support us single-handed as I won’t be able to hold down a job and we will never afford anywhere nice to live, or to be able to have children. I can cope with being a house-husband, but I want to contribute more, but unless I can somehow manage to write a best-selling novel, that seems unlikely. I think I probably could write a novel, but a best-selling novel is probably beyond me; even getting a book published by a real publisher seems impossibly difficult. At times like today I wonder if I’ll even be able to finish a novel, or at least if I have more than one novel in me.
In the afternoon we had a family Zoom call with me, my parents, sister and brother-in-law. It was a poor quality call with very patchy audio and I found it hard to hear and understand what was being said. As is often the case with family meetings, I struggled to engage with my family’s chosen topics of conversation a lot of the time, although I’m not sure why. My sister is younger than me, but I feel she has somehow overtaken me and successfully made the transition into adult life that I have only made partially, if that. I left the call after an hour and a half. I felt a bit bad for leaving early (albeit that in the end the call only lasted for a few minutes after I left), but then again, I lasted about half an hour longer than I expected.
I struggled to work on my novel, procrastinating endlessly online. I wanted the interest of finding some new and startling idea or perhaps just to connect with another human being, having failed to connect well to my family. I did eventually get a bit further into the novel writing, managing to write about 600 words in an hour and a quarter (the exact number is difficult to see as I was doing some redrafting too), which is above my daily 500 word target, so I did snatch some kind of victory from the jaws of defeat there. I have very mixed feelings about the level of quality. I certainly realised my writing is not terribly descriptive and lacks details. In some ways it reads more like a film script than a novel, with dialogue, but limited description. That’s something to work on in the coming days. It probably stems from not having a good imagination for descriptive detail; I don’t see details of the story in my head, and when I read descriptive passages in a book, I struggle to focus on more than one or two details. Although I do sometimes think in images, these are usually borrowed or repurposed from images I’ve seen elsewhere, on TV or in comics, and the images are usually pretty fleeting and lacking in detail; it’s often the emotional impact that stays with me rather than the detail.
I wonder if it’s possible to write a book from the skeleton outwards, like a house, building the infrastructure of plot and dialogue to get an idea of the shape of the story as quickly as possible and then going back in subsequent drafts to add the descriptive details and more complex character traits. I suppose it’s as good a way of doing things as anything else.
I felt a tension inside myself today. I’m not sure if it was depression, despair, anxiety or something else, but it was uncomfortable and I didn’t know what to do with it. I’m trying to avoid turning to particular negative coping strategies that I’ve used in the past, such as eating too much, procrastinating endlessly online, watching too much TV or impulse-buying books and DVDs, but I’m not sure what else to do, other than tell myself to sit with negative feels and accept them for what they are rather than repressing or ignoring them. It’s hard though. It’s like being told to hold a burning hot object (a literal hot potato, perhaps) and not drop it, but just accept the painful burning sensation.
I went for a thirty-five minute run in the early evening and I felt a bit better while actually running, but my mood plummeted again on coming back home. After dinner I had a Skype call with E. We had decided to spend a Skype session studying a Jewish text together. This was completely E’s idea, as she wanted to take an interest in the things that matter to me. We decided on Pirkei Avot, the volume of the Mishnah (the oldest stratum of the Talmud) that deals with ethics and interpersonal behaviour. Unlike the rest of the Mishnah, it is mostly presented as aphorisms or advice that can be studied in isolation rather than inter-related legal arguments (which neither of us are confident in tackling). We went through several Mishnayot until I started getting a post-exercise migraine. We just chatted for a bit after that until my head began to hurt so much I had to stop and take something for it. I enjoyed this Skype call a lot and it did a lot to raise my mood. I’m just glad I have a girlfriend like E. who is so supportive and interested in my life.