I struggled to sleep last night. Often, after experiencing a migraine, I feel tired, but not actually sleepy. I don’t know what the migraine does to my brain chemistry to do that. I didn’t fall asleep until long after 2.00am. Despite that, I woke up at 9.15am, feeling very tired, but also upset by an unpleasant dream I had (no relation to my usual worries) and feeling rather anxious about dating. I decided there was no point in lying in bed feeling anxious, so forced myself to get up and have breakfast, which was a good decision. I did at least say some of the Morning Prayers on time.
I tried to focus on staying in the present, difficult though it feels at times. I learnt a grounding technique recently that works for me, so I’m trying to stick with that (when I spiral into depressive or anxious thoughts, I try to notice five things I can see, four things I can hear, three I can touch, two I can smell and I you can taste. The last two are not always easy. I think some people carry sweets or smelling salts, but I haven’t gone that far). Despite this, I did have quite a bit of anxiety over the day.
I applied for another job. It was a simple application on LinkedIn, just sending them my CV and profile page link. Much easier than yesterday’s one. There was an unexpected question at the end about how many years of experience I have with a particular software that I’ve never heard of before. I don’t know why that wasn’t on the job specification. It’s not a library job, but would use some information management skills. The hours sound a lot though – forty hours a week. I think that would be too much for me, if that’s all they will accept. About fifteen minutes after I sent the application, I got phoned by the agency who was recruiting for the position. They talked me through some questions. I felt I did badly, because I was unprepared and on the phone and couldn’t always understand the person I was talking to well (I hate the phone), but they said that they would forward my application to the company.
I also emailed a recruitment agency who got me two jobs in the last two years to say that I’m still looking for work.
I spent some time working on my novel, reading about plot structure. I can see what I was already intuiting: that my novel is under-plotted, particularly in the middle. What is harder is to see how to change it. I may have to ditch some of what I have written completely and re-plot some of it. That’s somewhat dispiriting. On the other hand, I feel the structure the “how to write” book suggests is overly schematic and forcing myself to follow it slavishly will disrupt the flow of the novel. I need to work out what will work and what won’t, which may involve trial and error. It’s also possible that my novel, or the autobiographical plot-line, is based too much on my own life. I changed chunks to make it flow better, but even so, I think some things don’t “fit” properly. Real life doesn’t always flow the way fiction should.
I ran into these issues right before dinner. I couldn’t come back to it after dinner because I was going to a Zoom depression group meeting , so I finished work today on a downer, worrying if my novel was workable. This led to some catastrophising about the novel, my career, my dating prospects, everything really. It was partly anxiety and partly low blood sugar – this was late afternoon and I had not eaten much. After dinner I had better perspective, especially as I got an email from a writer friend saying not to feel bad if my novel seems bad when I re-read the first few times.
I attended depression group on Zoom. I was glad I went, as it’s good to talk to people, but the meeting was emotionally draining and I felt exhausted afterwards even though it wasn’t yet 10.00pm.
I signed up for an autism group peer support meeting on friendships and relationships next week too (not the informal autism group I used to go to, a more formal one).
Overall, I felt very anxious today with dating (waiting for responses to my messages or getting one line answers that imply that the person doesn’t really want to engage any more), job applications and working out what I need to do to my novel. Part of me thinks, “Why am I doing all this if it’s going to make me so anxious?” But I guess the anxiety is itself the reason why I have to push through this, if I’m going to make any progress with my life. I’ve been feeling “stuck” lately, with lockdown and loneliness and depression. Maybe that was why I unconsciously felt the sudden need to move on with things, so suddenly signed up for dating services and applied for jobs and support group things. It is all scary, but I have to go through with it.
I’m trying to be gentle with myself. I’m going outside my comfort zone suddenly and that’s going to be difficult even without the ongoing COVID situation.
I’m about two thirds of the way through Mishlei (The Book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible). It’s more interesting than I remembered, although there seems to be a lot of repetition of similar ideas (ancient societies had greater appreciation for repetition than we do, perhaps because it made memorisation easier in mostly oral cultures). The terse, context-free, stand-alone proverbs can be very hard to translate, often just seven or eight words. A couple of verses stand out strongly. “The heart alone knows its bitterness,/And no outsider can share its joy.” (14.10). I’ve felt that a lot over the years. Also, “A man’s spirit can sustain him through illness;/But low spirits — who can bear them?” (18.14) is something I’ve often thought. People say things like “I had cancer, but I kept going because I was happy,” but what do you do if a symptom of your illness is the inability to be happy? (Translations from The JPS Bible).
I’ve been a bit sceptical of Divine Providence stories in the past, but I find myself finding them in my own life suddenly. At Purim this year, I was upset not to be invited to friends for the seudah (meal), especially as Mum and Dad were at a medical appointment so I had to eat alone. But the friend who I was hoping would invite me came down with COVID soon afterwards and perhaps I would have contracted it from him if I had gone (it has been suggested that Purim parties and seudahs partially explain the disproportionately high fatality rate in the Jewish community. Purim this year was just as COVID hit, but before most people were taking it seriously and many parties and events went ahead as planned with large numbers of people together, some of whom may have been carrying the virus).
Similarly, if I had still been living away from home, I would either have been in lockdown alone (including doing Pesach alone) or would have had to pay rent on an empty flat while I locked down with my parents. If I hadn’t been here (because I had my own flat or because I was married), my parents would have had much more of a struggle dealing with lockdown and shielding with Mum’s cancer, both in terms of practical things like the fact I’ve been cooking a lot and also emotionally from being separated from both their children for months on end.
I tell myself things like this to try to “prove” to myself that I shouldn’t assume that God only wants to do negative things to me and that He won’t let my life get any better. It is difficult to believe that sometimes, but I’m trying.