Today was a hard day to get going again. I had strange dreams, which I can’t remember now, and ended up waking up at 11am and lying in bed for nearly half an hour feeling too depressed to move. I think the main reason was anxiety about the Zoom meeting I had scheduled with my shul (synagogue) rabbi. It was a much-postponed meeting from before Pesach (Passover) where I was going to talk about Mum’s diagnosis and my fears of Pesach religious OCD, but then he got coronavirus and lockdown happened, and then Pesach happened, and we haven’t been able to speak until now (he was ill for quite a long while), when it isn’t so important to speak any more. Nevertheless, I thought it was worth keeping the meeting just to keep lines of communication open, as anything could still happen in the near future.
The Zoom meeting turned out to be fine, we just chatted for twenty minutes about how I’ve been, how Mum and the family are, keeping routines in lockdown and so on. I was inwardly glad that the rabbi also finds Zoom prayer services or shiurim (classes) difficult, so it’s not just me. It was good to have a chat with someone other than family or E. for a change. I know I struggle with community life sometimes, but I feel if I’m paying my dues (literally and metaphorically), it’s OK to take some of the benefits of belonging to a community in terms of pastoral care.
Other than that, I cooked dinner, read over the job application I worked on yesterday and sent it and did forty-five minutes of Torah study plus fifteen minutes working on my devar Torah (Torah thought) for the week. I tried to go for a run, but I’ve had some aches and twinges in my legs recently, even when not running, and it felt like they were getting worse as I was running so I decided to stop after just over fifteen minutes. I was a bit disappointed, as I do get a lot from running at the moment. To make up for it a bit, I read over my previous novel chapter; it seemed OK for now, but I’m waiting to hear what E. thinks of it.
I’ve been trying in the last couple of days to accept my negative emotions without either fighting against them or wallowing in them. Also to try to ensure that I’m not worrying or obsessing about things that aren’t in my control or even directly in my life – things like abstract questions like what will the world be like after coronavirus, but also looking at online debates that would have been upsetting to me in the past and just accepting the difficult thoughts prompted and moving on. Getting upset because of other people arguing online, in the press or on TV has been an issue for me in the past, usually if people argue against my opinions, but sometimes just people arguing violently on a subject I’m neutral about because I dislike conflict.
I think I picked it up from this post and then my therapist said something similar in passing yesterday. So far it’s been quite good, but I feel I haven’t really been tested with really strong and difficult thoughts/low mood days/situations yet. We shall see.
It’s Lag BaOmer today, which is a very minor semi-festive day, but notable for marking the end of the semi-mourning period of the Omer (at least according to the custom I follow), so I have clean shaven again and am able to listen to music more loudly now or be seen out with headphones on without feeling I have to explain about people with depression being allowed to listen to music.
My Mum had got an invite to a Zoom Lag BaOmer celebration at our old shul (the one we used to go to five years, before we moved house) where Ashley Blaker was performing. Blaker is a Haredi stand-up comedian and comedy producer. We watched that at lunchtime. It was very funny, although it felt somehow lacking without being able to hear the audience respond. I’ve seen Blaker perform a couple of times (and sometimes seen him in the street as he lives around here) and actually have one of his CDs. He’s very funny, but I guess he walks a line that might be described as “I can say it because I’m Jewish” – telling jokes about Jews that might sound antisemitic if a non-Jew said them e.g. “There’s nothing harder in entertainment than playing to a room full of Jews. I was going to say ‘Hosting the Oscars,’ but that’s also basically playing to a room full of Jews.” I found that really funny, but he’s also saying that (a) Jews are picky and critical and (b) Jews are disproportionately represented in Hollywood, which are not statements we would want non-Jews to make.
Most Jewish humour is at the expense of Jews and it’s interesting that we do that rather than mocking non-Jewish groups (I think Sigmund Freud wanted to write about this, but never got around to it). I’ve come across some Jewish anti-Nazi, anti-KGB and anti-Czarist jokes, but far more Jewish self-mocking ones. It’s interesting. Anyway, this turned into a bit of tangent, but it interests me. One of the books I’d like to write, but will probably never get around to, is on Jewish humour.
I’m in the middle of watching the third episode of Ashes to Ashes and it’s annoying me that it’s not as good as Life on Mars. Some of it is that the main character, Alex, isn’t really working for me as a character yet, although Sam, the hero of Life on Mars didn’t work that well for me either, certainly not initially. Alex seems so sure that she’s not really back in 1981 that she doesn’t seem to engage with any of the other characters properly. She also spouts a lot of psychobabble that I find vaguely annoying despite being interested in psychology, so it’s no wonder the other characters hate her.
The real problem is that it’s set in Britain in the eighties, and hardly a scene goes by without the implication – or just as often the explicit statement – that Britain in the eighties was a horrible place with a horrible government that let a small number of rich people get richer at the expense of most of the population. I don’t think that’s necessarily untrue, but it does seem a bizarre political fixation what’s supposed to be a fantasy crime drama. Life on Mars had its political moments, but not hammered home like this.
It bugs me, because I’m a student of history, and I think governments and societies are rarely all good or all bad, and thirty years after Mrs Thatcher fell from power one would hope for some perspective. And this is not atypical of drama dealing with the Thatcher era. Last year the BBC showed a very good, very balanced, documentary series on Mrs Thatcher and her government (Thatcher: A Very British Revolution – still available on iPlayer and recommended). I don’t know why a documentary can show there were good and bad things about Mrs Thatcher as a person and about her government, while dramatists can’t get any perspective.
Anyway, another tangent, sorry.
Tomorrow I have a Zoom shiur (religious class) at the London School of Jewish Studies, which I’m looking forward to, but also a bit nervous about, as I don’t feel entirely comfortable with Zoom.