It’s been a very difficult day.
I was feeling quite anxious on waking up this morning. Then Mum was quite ill very suddenly. I was going to write what happened, but then I thought she might not want me to. She’s OK now, but I was very worried for a time and thought briefly I might have to phone for an ambulance. It was very frightening. So that added a new level of anxiety. Fortunately she’s seeing her surgeon tomorrow, so she can tell him about it. I’m not sure he’s the best person to tell, but it’s a start. But it’s a reminder of my parents’ mortality, and of the fact that while Mum’s prognosis is good, she is still seriously ill.
After a while Mum seemed to be OK and the adrenaline rush from dealing with the situation wore off, and I drifted back into depression, possibly worse for being post-adrenaline. I managed to work on my novel and wrote quite a bit without too much procrastination, but once I had stopped, the depression came rushing back at me again, with agitation and probably also anxiety and loneliness, although it’s hard to be sure. I felt pretty overwhelmed.
I tried to get myself to do some Torah study without using “should” language about it, but it was hard. It was just a slog to get through it. Here are some things that are hard to read in the Torah, from a contemporary perspective: genealogies, descriptions of sacrificial Temple rituals and censuses, because they are all very long and repetitive and it’s hard to connect them to anything in modern spirituality. I struggle to connect them. And they were all in this week’s sedra (Torah reading). There was a little bit of narrative, but not much. I did get through it and technically I didn’t “should” myself into it, but I think that was because autistic determination/absorption took over, and not in a good way, and I sort of forgot that I had the option of stopping.
I’m also trying not to think about the future, but it’s hard. And it’s hard not to do it without “shoulding” myself into not doing it (“I should not think about the future.”).
About 8pm it hit me that it’s been a really hard day. I hadn’t really thought about it that way before then, I’d been too busy living through it. I felt a bit tired, but really tense. It was late, but I wanted to go for a run before dinner to relieve some of the tension. Possibly there was some “shoulding” there, but I did feel that I would be tense all evening unless I went out for a bit. I had a reasonable run, and didn’t get an exercise migraine, so that was good. I was still feeling stressed, so I ate ice cream for dessert after dinner, which probably put back the calories I lost running. Oh well.
I felt a bit bad that my sister seemed more worried about Mum than I was. Of course, by the time Mum told her, I’d seen that Mum was feeling a lot better, whereas my sister didn’t know and was probably imagining the worst, so in some ways it’s not surprising that she was very upset while I was calm.
I spend all my time worrying about some fairly abstract things in my life and the world at large (if I’ll ever have a proper job, if I’ll ever get married, if antisemitism is getting worse), but I can be pretty detached about people who I actually care about. I feel like it makes me a bad person, but I’m not sure what worrying would achieve; if anything, I’d rather worry less about myself than more about my family and friends. I guess it can be hard distinguishing caring from worrying, the former being good and the latter bad. Maybe this is another “should” to avoid. I just wish I didn’t feel inhuman and uncaring sometimes.
Detachment can be another autism symptom too, of course. It could be that I do care about my family and friends, I just express it in a different way to most people.
NB: this next isn’t really anything to do with today or anyone I mentioned here today, just something I’ve been thinking about recently.
I find it hard to understand people. They’re… complicated. Sometimes one person has apparently contradictory character traits. They can be supportive to some people, but cold to others, or caring when they’re in a good mood, but unbearable when they’re angry. I find it difficult to understand. Maybe I’ve been an avid reader since childhood to try to get inside other people’s heads. I know autism doesn’t make it any easier. I wonder if I will struggle to invent believable characters in my writing because of this. Already I think my second most important character is flat and bland, while the villain is probably too nasty. He’s a psychopath; psychopaths are usually very charming to most people and I think I’ve struggled to show that.
I struggle to understand people on a societal level too. I don’t feel like I belong to either twenty-first century Western society or to contemporary frum society. I can “pass” in both, but not always very well. I’m not good on details like slang or popular culture in either society.
Maybe I’m just afraid of opening up. Maybe people would be OK with my idiosyncrasies if I did so. Or maybe not. I suspect on some level I studied history to try to understand societies better. I’m not sure if it helped any more than reading novels helped me understand individuals. Sometimes I try to look at our current society as if I were an outsider, a future historian.
Maybe that’s why I’ve always liked time-travel stories. I’d much rather have a time machine than a spaceship. Maybe that’s why I prefer Doctor Who to Star Trek (OK, among several other reasons). The idea of being lost in time is scary, but sometimes that feels how I live my life.
“Have you ever thought what it’s like to be wanderers in the fourth dimension? Have you? To be exiles…?” – Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child by Anthony Coburn