I’ve been told in the past that I’m a very negative person, and I know it’s true. I don’t think I complain as much as I used to, but I do feel very despairing about the future a lot of the time and that comes across when people try to help me or offer advice, particularly here. I just feel like whenever someone suggests something to me that I could do to change my life, I’ve often done it before and it didn’t work. I’ve been depressed for twenty years, I feel like I’ve tried most things. Sometimes you have to keep trying something until it works, but it’s hard when it feels that nothing ever works. Particularly when I sometimes feel like God is deliberately sabotaging everything I do for some mysterious purpose that I don’t even understand.
I told myself I would try to believe in myself more, but I don’t knowing how to do that. How do you just start believing in yourself? I don’t know how some people manage to reshape the world the way they want.
In terms of building a career as a writer, I’ve tried pitching article ideas to Jewish and geeky publications and sites in the past, but I haven’t found any interest so far. I haven’t tried for some months, because I got disillusioned and then lockdown happened. I don’t know if I’ve done it wrong or I just need to keep persevering or what. I also need to send a copy of the book I self-published to Doctor Who Magazine to see if they will review it, or at least acknowledge it.
In terms of pitching articles, there aren’t that many Jewish sites or publications to try out for in the UK. There are quite a lot of geeky ones, but my interest tends to be narrowly focused on Doctor Who and other classic British telefantasy; I don’t have much interest in gaming, superheroes or horror and even a lot of contemporary science fiction passes me by. I know Doctor Who Magazine is being aimed at people half my age whose experience of the programme and fandom is very different to my own, so it doesn’t surprise me the editors don’t want me to write for it. To be honest, I don’t look at much other fan stuff and I only glance at the Jewish papers. I find them focused on cultural Jewishness more than religious Judaism and are at times hostile to Orthodox observance (we don’t get the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) papers); I also find the quality of journalism and commentary poor in some of them lacking sometimes. I’m wary of pitching to the Haredi newspapers because I don’t know them or their world, and I feel deeply uncomfortable writing for newspapers that won’t print pictures of women, which is the policy of most Haredi papers now, I think.
Trying to be positive about things, I’m trying hard not to get upset when I feel that my peers have achieved things and I have not, not to be upset when they get married and have children and so on. I think I’ve improved in that area a little. I am also trying to acknowledge and accept the Piaseczno Rebbe‘s (Rabbi Kalonymus Kalmish Shapira’s) idea in Sacred Fire that suffering does legitimate reduce our ability to pray and have faith in God and religious joy and not to beat myself up about lacking these things.
I couldn’t sleep last night. I made two sleep hygiene mistakes that I thought I could get away with, but obviously couldn’t get away with one or the other or both. One was that, after shiur (religious class), I needed “chill out”/decompression time in front of the TV just being passive, but I was wary of watching TV after 11pm in case it stopped me sleep, so I read instead, which was probably too active, intellectually, plus I made a bad choice of reading more of The Siege, which was full of depressing stuff about the Lebanese Civil War and Israel’s involvement in it. I tried to balance this by eating ice cream as a treat for getting through shiur, but I suspect eating ice cream late at night wakes me up. Whatever the reason, I was still awake at 2am. I got up and ate porridge, the only way I can consume warm milk, as that helps me sleep, and watched Star Trek: Voyager. I think I fell asleep around 3am.
I felt so depressed and self-critical after lunch today that I actually went back to bed and curled up in my duvet. I had music on, but I think I drifted in and out of sleep for an hour or so (not because of not sleeping last night, as once I fell asleep, I slept for nine hours). I felt very self-critical on getting up again, feeling I shouldn’t have gone back to bed and that I won’t do enough today as result.
I did eventually get up and force myself to do something. As my weekly devar Torah (thought/essay on the weekly reading from the Five Books of Moses) has a looming deadline (tomorrow afternoon, to get it sent before Shabbat (the Sabbath) starts in Israel), I focused on that. I was also aware I’d been apprehensive about it this week because I knew it would largely be a chiddush I had that I want to share. A chiddush is an innovative interpretation of Torah. This would seem to be paradoxical, as Torah is about revealed truth, not reasoned truth, but the idea is that the Torah is infinite, therefore there are always new interpretations to find. (Admittedly that some people, mainly in the Haredi community, have an idea that all interpretations, including chiddushim, were revealed by God to Moses.)
However, I have noticed that, sociologically, people are very suspicious of chiddushim, particularly on aggadic (non-legal) passages. While someone might feel very confident to give on an interpretation of a halakhic (legal) passage of Talmud in a chevruta or a shiur (paired study or class) and not mind if it’s new as long as it is well-reasoned, people rarely try to interpret aggadic passages, perhaps because there isn’t a clear “right” interpretation, unlike halakhic arguments. I suspect this is related to the idea I have suggested in the past, that Jewish education for men is very “left-brain”/logical and not at all “right-brain”/creative. Analysing halakhah is logical, but analysing narrative requires creativity and imagination. This sociological situation is problematic for me as I’m a creative/associative thinker, not a logical one. But I decided to stick an idea out there and see what happens. I might even flag it up as a chiddush in my accompanying email and see what feedback I get.
I went for a run. Halfway around it started raining, but I carried on. My iPod has been telling me recently that my runs have been burning a lot of calories. I’m not sure if that means I’m running faster or more consistently (not dropping into walking so much) or what. So far I haven’t had an exercise migraine. I think my mood did improve afterwards.
I did work on my novel for a bit after dinner and made a little progress, but gave up after a while as it was late and it clearly wasn’t going any further tonight.
I also felt upset and angry today that antisemitism seems to be so deeply embedded in parts of the far-left that an upswing of anti-racism protest and awareness actually leads to an increase of antisemitism, and that it’s largely been ignored by the mainstream media as it doesn’t fit their narrative. But I don’t want to be political here, so I’ll move swiftly on…
I’m still worried about E., but convinced I shouldn’t contact her at the moment. I wish we had a mutual friend so I could check she is OK.
Mum spoke to her oncologist. The oncologist was OK with me going to shul (synagogue) services that are outside, but not inside, while Mum’s immunity is low. I’m still wary, though. I think the risk of rain and a move indoors is too high at the moment, plus I’m not convinced that my shul has the space to have thirty people in the small outside area available and still have good social distancing. I am upset at missing my Talmud shiur though and worried about keeping up with them without knowing how far they got each week.