That title…  I think I’m clever and funny when really, I’m not.

I just feel inadequate today.

I was pretty exhausted last night after Skype therapy and Zoom shiur (religious class) and I went to bed early (for me at any rate – midnight) hoping I would get up earlier today, but I still slept very late.  I just feel so depressed and exhausted on waking.  Maybe it’s not surprising given that I had a very draining day yesterday.  I think a lot of the problem about waking tired is to do with low blood sugar, which has always affected me badly, although I don’t plan on getting up in the middle of the night to eat.

Even after breakfast and getting dressed, I still felt really depressed and exhausted.  Struggling to do anything.

***

I feel like I’ve sunk into some kind of religious crisis (again) without really realising how.  Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav says that religious crises are inevitable and unending in this world; as soon as you achieve some kind of certainty about something, it brings with it a whole load of new unknowns for you to worry about (it’s not clear if the unknowns are completely new, or old ones on a deeper or more intense level).  I believe in God, but I find it harder and harder to connect to Him and to Torah and mitzvot (commandments).  I know a lot stems from not fitting in to a religious community for moral and practical support and also feeling like I’ve transgressed the community’s standards in ways that I’m not always sure about (as in, I’m not sure if I’ve transgressed them or not).  I’ve always felt alone, even in my religious practice, even when I was a more regular attendee at shul (synagogue).  I’ve always felt that in the final analysis, it came down to just me and God without other people really being involved.  That’s probably a horrible thing to say, but it ties in with my lack of friends, my difficulties communicating with my parents, the fact that I was single for most of my adult life and my fascination with solipsism and solipsistic fiction.

I guess now I feel that I have to “sell” Orthodox Judaism to E. or she won’t join me in it and I don’t know how to sell something I feel so increasingly equivocal about.  Depressive anhedonia is a big part of the problem too, more so than anything theological.  It’s hard to enjoy Judaism when I can’t enjoy anything, even things that are easier to enjoy.

Ashley Leia asked me on the last post if I felt that God causes my suffering.  I said yes.  Conceptually that doesn’t bother me so much. I came to the conclusion a while back that we aren’t here on Earth to be happy, but to grow, and growth often requires suffering as a stimulus, therefore suffering is to be accepted as part of the human condition in this world.  Nevertheless, I feel exhausted and not sure how to carry on sometimes. It just feels so overwhelming and unending. There is definitely a difference between accepting suffering intellectually and feeling emotionally accepting of it.  I can accept it intellectually (I know other people have it much worse than I do), but it’s hard to accept emotionally.  Hard to accept that I might always feel like this, that I’ve lost the life I thought I would have at this stage of life (career, wife, kids, community, self-love).  It’s hard to see so many other people apparently living that life with no idea if I will ever achieve it.

***

It doesn’t help that I’m feeling quite blocked with my writing at the moment.  I sit in front of the computer, drink a lot of tea, idly surf online and blog, but it’s a struggle to write anything for the novel.  I wonder if the story I’m trying to tell is too complicated for me, or if I’m cut out to be a writer at all.  Maybe it was absurd to think I could write about domestic abuse, a subject which I have not experienced directly.  All my writing about  it seems crass and ill-formed.

***

Religious crisis, low mood and writer’s block are probably connected with isolation.  I haven’t been on the depression group Zoom call for weeks as I get too tired after therapy now, which is on the same day.  E. and I haven’t spoken much for the last few days because of Shabbat and my shiur yesterday and E.’s workload, although we did speak today.  Some people who used to comment here haven’t done so for a while and nor have some bloggers I follow/am friends with posted on their blogs lately and I’m worried if everyone is OK, or if they’re angry with me and are avoiding me/have taken me off their friends’ list.  I guess I feel isolated.  I didn’t have much in the way of social contact even before lockdown, but I feel like I’m losing more of it.  My shul (synagogue) is doing another Zoom Kabbalat Shabbat service (beginning of the Friday evening service), but I found the last one awkward and uncomfortable, so I probably won’t do it again.  My parents are hoping to have my sister and brother-in-law over either socially distanced in the garden or via Zoom on Sunday to celebrate my Mum’s birthday, so hopefully that will help, although I’m nervous about even socially distanced meeting.

***

The Kotzker Rebbe spoke about the evil inclination stealing “the delicate chord of truth from your heart”.  After that, it no longer worries if you work or pray or study, because without the chord of truth, whatever you do is of no interest to him (i.e. it’s meaningless).  I feel like I lost the chord of truth a long time ago.

***

I’m just feeling today that I failed at everything.  I failed at being a good Jew.  I failed at being a good writer.  I failed at being a good blogger.  I worry that I’ve failed at being a good friend and boyfriend, and probably also at being a good son and brother.

I feel that other people I meet online have a reason to be mentally ill (often abuse or trauma of some kind), but I haven’t experienced anything bad, I’m just too useless to function properly.  I should get over myself.  Alternatively, they produce something with their pain, some art or something to help others, something that somehow justifies and explains what they endured.  I haven’t managed that either.

Part of me says that this is just my inner critical voice speaking, but it seems kind of reassuring to say that.  Much harder to confront the reality of having failed at everything I tried.

The sudden upswing of depression might also be because Mum has asked me to go with her to her oncologist appointment tomorrow.  Mum likes to have someone with her, as she gets overwhelmed sometimes and misses information.  Dad went to the first few meetings, then COVID-19 happened and non-patients were not allowed in the hospital.  Now one non-patient is allowed in “At their own risk” (which is a bit scary in itself).  Mum wants it to be me rather than Dad because he may not be able to park the car there (I’m not sure why) so will have to drop us off, go home, and come back to collect us later.

There is also some genuine fear about me and E., in that we know that we both have real anxieties about the relationship over things that we can’t do anything about at the moment and we have to just sit with those feelings and see what happens in the long term.

***

Achievements today: I cooked dinner (spicy rice and lentils), and spent forty minutes or so researching and writing my devar Torah (Torah thought) for the week.  It’s easier to write a devar Torah sometimes (like today) than it is to study Torah for some reason, perhaps to do with concentration and motivation.  I was also anxious that I would not find enough material for this weeks’ sedra (Bamidbar, focusing on the census of the Israelites in the wilderness – not easy to talk about) so was I trying out ideas and looking for sources when I found something.

I went for a run, which I hoped would help my mood, but I struggled to run, walking lots of the time, partly because of depression, but also because of the heat and, in the second half, an exercise migraine.  I had a lot of negative thoughts buzzing around my brain: that I’ve disappointed my parents and never given them any naches (reflected glory from children or grandchildren); that E. will realise sooner or later what a useless, pathetic, needy, screwed up boyfriend I am and leave me (she’s told me I’m catastrophising about this, but it was still what I was thinking); that I’ll probably die lonely, impoverished and unloved, maybe even homeless and living on the streets…  just a negative thought spiral.

I came back too exhausted and migrainey to think negative thoughts; post-migraine I tend to feel physically fragile, but emotionally OK (a rather extreme and counter-productive way of shifting a low mood).  However, the negative thoughts are already creeping back.  I need to daven Ma’ariv (say Evening Prayers) and I want to do a little Torah study if I can today, even if it’s only a few minutes.  I want to chill out in front of the TV for a bit, but it’s getting late and I’m not sure if that will just keep me awake later.

***

The rabbi from my shul WhatsApped me to check how I am, which was nice.  I do feel a bit more a part of the community when he does that.  I’m not quite sure what to say at the moment, though.

***

There aren’t many jobs being advertised at the moment, unsurprisingly, but I just got an advert for a “Cybrarian” which sounds (a) horribly like something out of Doctor Who*, (b) horribly like something from dot-com boom of the nineties and (c) like a overly-modern company where I would not fit into the corporate culture, particularly as they put “The ability to laugh at yourself” on the job description.  How do they interview for that?  I worry they make fun of you and then say, “What’s the matter?  Can’t you laugh at yourself?”  Mind you, they put “a profound love and passion for Technology [sic]” on the list too, which sounds even more disturbing, particularly as “Technology” was capitalised throughout the advert and job description.

* Which has given us Cyberman, Cybergun, Cybercontroller, Cybermat, Cyberplanner, Cyber-megatron bomb, Cyberleader, Cyberwar, Cyberbomb (“The most explosive devices in the universe!”), Cyberlieutenant, Cybermite, Cyberiad, Cyberium and Cyberdrone.

19 thoughts on “Quick, Let’s Drink a Million Cups of Tea While We Procrastinate

  1. I would just say that unless you are at the end of your life (which you’re not), you haven’t failed at anything. You are a work in progress. The reason I keep coming back to your blog, in spite of the fact that we have nothing in common, is that I see someone searching to be better, while working at writing, relationships, exercise, religion, and the meaning of life. Please don’t denigrate your struggles, but focus more on the fact that you keep trying and will, I hope, find answers along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just feel I should have made more progress by this stage. I’m going to be thirty-seven in two months and I haven’t really achieved anything or found any of the answers I’m looking for.

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  2. Difficult life experiences aren’t required in order to have mental illness. And who is the authority that defines who is a good Jew/writer/blogger/person/purple-people-eater? If you know, tell me, and I’ll start sending them hate mail.

    On a more serious note, what would E. have to (and I don’t actually mean “have to”) buy that you’re trying to sell? Would Shabbat and kashrut be the main things? Would she need to act frum-ish in other ways?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s tempting to say that God defines who is a good Jew, but I think it’s also people in my community who do that. And publishers and reviewers define who is a good writer, even if I think they get it wrong sometimes.

      Well, ideally I’d like to be able to help her enjoy some Jewish stuff as well as just doing it, but that seems hard when I don’t enjoy much myself (although I do enjoy Shabbat). There is some stuff related to sex too.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The whole woman being unclean thing seems like it might be rather off-putting from a female perspective. A ritual bath as a symbolic gesture is one thing, but if the underlying idea is uncleanliness, that seems like a harder sell.

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              1. I have seen books and articles that mention the beauty of the ritual of mikveh and how it enhances a marriage. It sounds like perspective. Perhaps E. can gain a new perspective by reading a few things that talk about ritual uncleanness rather than it being like a physical “you’re dirty for these days.” I never liked the word “unclean” in this sense as I think it has a much different modern-day meaning.

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                1. Yes, I’ve seen articles like that too.

                  I don’t like the word “unclean” either. My perspective is that it’s about having a close encounter with fundamental processes of life and death (menstruation, birth, contact with a corpse).

                  Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like I’m a failure, inasmuch as I haven’t really succeeded at anything.

      The problem is, I’m not a good Jew according to my own definition (and probably not according to God’s either).

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      1. You weren’t coming across as unpleasant.
        What’s your view of god? I hate the word ‘God’ because to me I associate it with harsh and punitive.
        Have you ever read books by R Aryeh Kaplan? Hey, you mentioned hasidic writers, can’t recall what when or where. They’re all about a source being love. Think, you’re doing your best, doesn’t a source see that? Every single moment you are alive this source is giving you life. Because you are worth it.

        And yes, I know the self loathing. When whatever I do is wrong and I’m guilty and a failure. At this moment I’m trying to change it.

        Something my rabbi once said to me was that I get to choose which of my actions I identify with.

        Sending sunshine and sparkles

        Love, light and glitter

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        1. I’m glad I didn’t come across as unpleasant!

          My view of God is a bit complicated, or contradictory. I was taught that God is loving and forgiving, but I struggle to internalise that. I tend to think (not the right word – “feel” is probably better, as it’s instinctive rather than rational) of Him as distant and… not uncaring, but so remote from me that He thinks I can cope with more than I can actually bear, so He keeps putting me in situations I can’t cope with or tests that I fail. This is instinctive rather than thought-through, and it seems silly and wrong writing it down, but it’s how I feel particularly when my depression is bad.

          Yeah, I actually read a couple of Rabbi Kaplan’s books recently, The Infinite Light and If You Were God. I read them because of this contradictory feeling about God, believing one thing intellectually, but emotionally feeling the other way. They helped a bit, but I always feel with mystical books like that, how do we know that? And I worry that anything I think about God is necessarily incorrect because no one can understand God completely, so maybe I shouldn’t try.

          In terms of God knowing if I’m doing my best, I also worry, what if I’m not really doing my best? Either because I think I am and I’m not (self-deception) or because I get to a point where I don’t care about something, as has happened recently.

          That’s interesting about a source, and about choosing which actions I identify with. I’ll think about those.

          Thanks for commenting!

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