Today my mood has been OK when I’m busy doing things, but it drops pretty quickly when I’m not. I especially low at the moment (see final section).
I feel sexually frustrated again, not the in obvious way, but just wishing that I was with someone I loved and could give to that way. Also, to have that type of intimacy. I think I’m generally a sensible, play it safe, type of person. I don’t take risks. I don’t drink or smoke and illegal drugs scare me. Yet, for most of my adult life, I’ve found myself constantly wishing that I was in a relationship, even though I know that would not have been a sensible thing for me to do most of the time, given how much I’ve been struggling with mental illness since I was sixteen (at least). I guess it’s loneliness and feeling that I’ve never been completely accepted and understood. I felt that acceptance with E., until suddenly it wasn’t there, which was frightening.
I’m trying not to think like that (about wanting to be in a relationship), but it’s hard. I guess it’s better to accept those feelings, and to sort of make space for them in my head, but to acknowledge that I shouldn’t be focusing on them right now. It’s hard not to focus on them. Lately my mood has been OK when I’m doing something, but then I stop and suddenly the depression and loneliness rush in.
We’re in the introspective time of year. The Three Weeks of Mourning are introspective, thinking about what we’ve done wrong to contribute to the exile of the Jewish people and the destruction (or non-rebuilding) of the Temple in Jerusalem, then we go into Elul which is the month of introspection before Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and then we have the Ten Days of Repentance bookended by Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). Even though this introspection is only really starting, I already feel that I know what to focus on this year. I need to learn to be in the present and not worry about the future and to stop trying to predict it, because it’s impossible to predict accurately.
The Medieval Torah commentator Rashi says (on Devarim (Deuteronomy) 18.13): “‘You shall be wholehearted with HaShem Your God’: walk before him whole-heartedly, put your hope in Him and do not attempt to investigate the future, but whatever it may be that comes upon you accept it whole-heartedly, and then you shall be with Him and become His portion.” (translation via Sefaria, slightly modernised)
I think Rashi is quoting or paraphrasing the halakhic Midrash (I haven’t checked which). It’s talking primarily about not engaging in soothsaying, divination and the like (that’s the context of the verse), but Rashi makes a wider homiletic point about having faith in the future and accepting whatever happens.
I’d like to have the mindful/present-centred mindset of not worrying about the future or feeling excessive guilt and shame about the past, but it’s hard. I worry a lot, and when I think about my past, it almost always seems to lead to guilt or self-blame. It would be so nice to think of myself married to someone who I love and who loved me, just as it would be nice to think of myself as making a career writing Jewish novels, but both seem so distant that they seem like I’m taunting myself rather than setting realistic goals.
I guess I feel scared because it seems like I’ve passed the point in my life where I could have the things I want in life. I could still get married any time until I’m ancient, but if I want children (and I do) I have to either find a wife in the next few years or marry someone significantly younger than me. I know people who have happy marriages who do have a big age gap, but I feel it’s not so likely for me. Likewise with careers, it’s really hard to be building a career from nothing in my late thirties, especially as I am struggling with librarianship, but not confident enough in my writing ability and struggling to get started with that too. If I built some kind of career and if I got married, then I think I could have some happiness even if I couldn’t have children, but I struggle to feel positive about being unemployed, single and living with my parents in the long-term. And of course in the frum community almost everyone my age is married, just as most of my Oxford peers (that I still know of) have important jobs in law, politics, academia, the rabbinate or the like. This is why I left Facebook, to try to stop myself from comparing myself to others. I have to accept that my life is going to be very different to other people’s (including my sister’s), but it’s hard to do that when I don’t have a clear idea of what type of life I could realistically build.
I woke up early, about 7.15am. Despite only having had four or five hours sleep (I went to bed late and then struggled to sleep, probably from sleeping too much in the day), I didn’t feel too tired, but I didn’t feel inclined to get up and just stayed wrapped up in my duvet. It wasn’t a particularly sensible thing to do, as I eventually fell asleep again, for several hours and ended up getting up no earlier than usual.
Achievements: an hour and twenty minutes spent on the novel (admittedly with some procrastination). I finished another chapter. I’m up to 66,000 words, with two chapters left to go, so hopefully the word count will be OK. There’s a lot to do in redrafting, though. I see this taking at least four drafts, maybe more.
I also did forty-five minutes of Torah study, reading this coming Shabbat’s Torah portion (Va’etchanan, my bar mitzvah portion).
I got changed to have a run, put insoles in my trainers to see if that makes them more cushioned and stops hurting my feet, and warmed up, but once I started running, I could feel my ankle hurting again. Not badly, but I didn’t want to risk making it worse, so I decided not to run for a few days. I went for a walk instead, which isn’t as good at sublimating negative feelings, but is better than nothing.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do or think. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about China persecuting the Uighurs, and also the Tibetans, Chinese Christians and adherents of Falun Gong, who are also being persecuted, but aren’t in the news. I want to do something, but I don’t know what. I feel very small and insignificant. It’s hard even to talk about it without sounding like I’m making a point about some other issue. The Jewish newspapers have been drawing parallels between the treatment of the Uighurs and the Holocaust, but it is hard to know what can be done. There aren’t large numbers of refugees here that I could help in some practical way (I used to volunteer at a refugee drop-in centre, although it’s been shut from COVID), nor is escalated confrontation with China a promising option, when it could easily become a nuclear standoff that would destroy the planet.
The Doctor Who bit; also the antisemitism bit (skip if not interested):
Asking for the Doctor Who Series Twelve box set for my birthday looks more and more like it was a mistake. I watched episode three, Orphan 55, which I hated first time around, in the hope that I would find something to like now I know what the bad bits are. I didn’t. In a word, awful. In two words, really awful.
Unlike first viewing, I’m not completely sure that there’s an antisemitic bit. There’s a montage of images of natural disasters and riots that includes a shot of fighter planes flying over Jerusalem, the only identifiable place in the sequence. I feel it shows that BBC-types see “Israel” as a shorthand for “evil” in a way they wouldn’t with other countries. At least, I hope it’s “Israel”; it’s possibly “Jews,” a thought not dispelled by the BBC’s low-key coverage of the weekend’s Twitter antisemitism storm compared with the coverage of other forms of prejudice.
I told myself I wouldn’t write negative reviews any more, for various reasons, so I’m going to let it go rather than reviewing it on my Doctor Who blog, but I hope I get more out of the rest of the series or this will be a waste of time and money. I think the series did get somewhat better as it went on.
The sad truth is that I’m enough of a completist that I still want to have every TV episode and that I will watch episodes at least twice because I know a first viewing sometimes obscures good points. Experimental episodes in particular can improve on second viewing once you can see what they are trying to do, although very little of this series was experimental. You can call that autistic obsession on my part if you want, and certainly the BBC makes a lot of money out of people like me. Still, there are more expensive hobbies out there. I’m just glad I don’t have the need to own every Doctor Who novel, audio drama, comic strip, computer game, etc. which would be an enormous drain of time as well as money.