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.