I wonder if a lot of my fears are about control.  The fear about not being in employment again, the fear about dating and marriage and being alone forever… what worries me is not just the object of my fear, but not knowing.  Not being able to psychologically prepare myself for it somehow.  Keeping on trying in vain to sort my life out.  Even the fear about being alone forever, which is my biggest fear.  It would be sad never to experience love and sex, but I’ve been without them for nearly thirty-seven years now, so I should know I can survive them.  It’s true I’ve never been completely alone, but there have been times (particularly when I was at Oxford) when I was pretty cut off from family and friends and I survived, and I have better coping skills and social skills now than I did then.

No, the fear is control.  Not knowing what will happen.  Not being ready for it, for the choices I will have to make.

I think a lot of my anger with God comes down to this.  To not knowing.  I feel like I’m sitting a exam without being taught the subject first.  That I can’t prepare myself.  Feeling that I’ve been set up to fail.  That He wants me to fail.  That He wants me to be lonely in This World, essentially so that I will fail my test and lose the Next World too.  That if I knew what was going to happen to me, I could prepare, and pass the test, and be happy in This World and the Next World.  Perhaps some people do get to prepare themselves (hence, Torah and mitzvot), but not everyone.  For some of us, the whole of life is the test (Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi says in a couple of places in the Talmud that “Some acquire their World over many years, and some acquire their world in a single moment.”).

I think we are defined by the choices we make.  So it’s probably not surprising that I take that seriously and want to ensure I make the best choices.  It’s probably not helped by low self-esteem that makes me fear I’m going to make much worse choices than I actually would make (no, I don’t realistically think I’m going to turn into a misogynist, incel or Viking, according to this depressing article, even if no woman ever consents to go on a date with me ever again).  There is the fear that if I was given a sudden choice, I would make the wrong decision.  That I need to think (over-think) everything first.  That’s also probably not true.

I also feel that my life will only have meaning if I do a “meaningful” job, or write meaningful books or get married and have children.  Maybe that’s not true either.  I feel life in the abstract has meaning.  I would not feel that anyone should commit suicide.  Yet I back away from assuming that my own life has absolute value.  I feel I have to justify it somehow.  It’s not helped by getting a lot of signals from society (general Western society as well as frum society) that everyone should have a job and a partner and children.

I’m not sure how I can find my inherent meaning.  Logotherapy is the school of psychology devoted to meaning, but I’ve never met a logotherapist.  I’ve read Man’s Search for Meaning, which is the founding document of logotherapy, but I’m still unsure of what meaning means for me (so to speak).

I guess things like learning about history and the society around me, making ethical choices, being part of the Jewish people across time and space and appreciating literature give my life meaning.

In a strange way, I find meaning in watching Doctor Who.  Not just the stories that are objectively worthy of artistic response, but the not-so-good ones too, or even more so.  It’s easy to find merit in City of Death or Heaven Sent, but to find it in The Space Museum or Terminus is harder and finding something enjoyable in them feels like somehow rescuing something that the world, and even fandom, had written off.  Like finding hidden treasure.  Or showing gratitude to the writers, performers and producers: that they aren’t forgotten or despised.


It’s funny, I wrote the above, and then I felt overwhelmed with depression about probably being single forever.  So it’s not the whole of the reason for my depression.  I clearly don’t want to be alone forever even if I can prepare somehow.  I want to get married.  But I think control and meaning are parts of it.


Achievements: I sent off my CV for the job I mentioned yesterday.  I still feel inadequate for it, a thought only reinforced by drawing on memories of an earlier job and interview for my novel-writing today.  I felt quite anxious while writing because of this.

I spent nearly two hours working on my novel.  I tried to to do another ten or fifteen minutes to take it up to two hours.  I didn’t get far with that, but I did at least write over 1,500 words, which is I think the most I have written of the novel in one day and is especially good given that the writing revisited some difficult times for me.

I worked on my devar Torah (Torah thought) for fifty minutes, as well as managing about twenty-five minutes of Torah study.  I also went for a half-hour walk, plus did some ironing, so I guess it was a busy day.  I still wish I could do more though.  I still feel inadequate and not fully adult.

12 thoughts on “Control and Meaning

  1. Meaningful is in the eye of the beholder though, isn’t it? By your writings, I can tell what you find important, and when so much of that is out of your control, it can be like walking (and living) on quicksand. You are certainly(in my opinion for what it’s worth) finding as much appreciation and meaning in your pursuits and activities as you can. As I’m sure you realize, none of us know what will happen. I didn’t expect to be a widow at 56. The odd thing was that when we found out that he had terminal cancer, all I could think about was, “But that’s impossible. We were going to buy kayaks. We were planning to enjoy our empty nest by taking up more recreational activities.” I had to learn to be by myself and live alone, which isn’t easy at all. From the outside, you are doing amazingly well at handling a lot of stress, loneliness and changes to your life, although I realize that it doesn’t feel that way to you at all. I admire how hard you struggle to understand your religion, your relationships, and yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I suppose meaningful is subjective. Maybe I should say that I don’t find enough meaningful things in my life or, as you say, that it’s outside my control.

      Thanks for saying I’m doing well. I know that I am coping with a lot, it just feels like I should be doing better somehow. That other people are doing better. But maybe they don’t have all these issues.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In terms of meaning, maybe there’s more to be found in the things that offer themselves up organically (like Doctor Who) than in pursuing things that may or may not be attainable that seem like they should provide meaning.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Fair enough. But if the bar you set for meaningfulness is things that you don’t have control over, and that may or may not be realistic, you risk being trapped in a cycle of endlessly reinforcing feelings of inadequacy.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. That makes sense. I don’t know what to do when society (frum society or general Western society) says some things are more meaningful than others. It’s difficult.

          It’s also difficult to assess some things. I don’t consider my blog particularly meaningful, because few people read it and I consider it letting off steam rather than tackling stigma or providing useful information (like your blog). OTOH, I do sometimes get people saying that it legitimises their experiences and makes them feel less alone. I would consider that meaningful. But it is hard to tell how many people feel like that. The group “people who think like me” is necessarily going to have a big overlap with “people who are too shy to comment on a stranger’s blog” because that’s also how I am most of the time.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Why does meaningfulness have to be based on what any societal group says? Why can’t it be based on what’s meaningful to you?

            If you’re evaluating meaning based on what others think, that gets into the territory of a lot of assumptions, because you have no way of knowing what other people think, and inferences based on behaviour aren’t necessarily reliable. There’s no single kind of blog that’s the only meaningful way to blog. If something falls outside of your control, like when, if, and how someone comments on your blog, that’s not a solid foundation for meaningfulness.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a really hard time comprehending everything you or anyone else writes. I have to read your post 2 or 3 times to comprehend anything. Your writing is excellent but I’ve always had a hard time comprehending.
    So I do the best I can when I respond….

    I’ve had sex before but I was only used. I don’t care if I ever do it again. I think I was in love one time but it has been so long ago (14 years) I don’t really know. I don’t want to be alone either but I don’t feel like I have to be in love, have sex, have children, or get married to not be alone. I guess everyone wants different things. I want to find my happy place…. I want to find people that I can love even if I never fall in love. I want to find activities that I love too. With those two things I don’t think I’ll ever be alone. Even if I do end up alone (no significant other)…. I think everything will be okay if I have friends and hobbies. (I have a really hard time making friends because I can’t communicate but I do have one friend. And I think I will make more once I figure out what interests me)

    If we knew exactly what was going to happen in life then life wouldn’t be so exciting (not sure if that’s the best word for life bc my life sure ain’t exciting). I think it’s better not to know what’s going to happen. You might live in more fear, than you already do, if you knew everything that was going to happen. Life is scary without knowing about everything bad that will happen. Although it would be nice to know the good.

    I sometimes get mad at God too. About why my life is the way it is… about feeling like I have no purpose… about not being able to communicate with hardly anyone unless it’s a personal topic. For being weird… for being me. For having all the issues I have. But then I try to just believe that God has a plan for me and everything will be okay. I may never find love, I may never get married (I don’t want children)…. but I do believe with my whole heart that I will find happiness one day. Deep down I believe that I will find love too.

    I feel that I have a hard life but I couldn’t imagine dealing with what you deal with. You never give up though. I really believe that you will find your dream job one day and that you will find love. You seem like a really good person. I don’t think God will let you die feeling alone. Just don’t ever lose your faith and always believe that everything will be okay.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and responding when you have a hard time comprehending. I really appreciate that.

      Finding people and activities I can love without being in love might be the best strategy for me too.

      You are right that life would be scarier if we knew all the bad stuff that would happen. I guess I feel I could prepare myself, but I probably couldn’t.

      I don’t think you’re weird. You always come across to me as a good and pleasant person. I hope you find happiness and love too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What’s meaningful is hard to define and varies by person. I think it’s easy to let the “shoulds” define it for us, but then we could have those things one day and find they don’t feel meaningful. I think if you’re regularly doing things that make other people feel good, that make the world a little brighter, that help improve life for others, these things are meaningful and they don’t require a job, a spouse, or children. Your writing and blogging are meaningful. You write from your heart. You help others with your posts and your comments.

    Nice progress on your novel today!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I hope what I write (here and my novel) is meaningful and that I help improve life for others. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that. It is easy to define ourselves by our shoulds and you are right that they might not feel meaningful if we get them.


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