I was very tired on waking today and struggled to get out of bed; then I had to rush to leave on time for work. This week I have essentially been working for three consecutive days: actual paid work on Tuesday and Thursday, plus volunteering on Wednesday morning alongside a stack of chores and therapy on Wednesday afternoon. Perhaps it is not surprising that it was a struggle to get up today. Next week J wants me to work on Tuesday rather than the Monday again as well as Thursday, plus there will be volunteering on Wednesday. I hope it won’t be so much of a struggle if I keep Wednesday afternoon free (at the moment therapy is alternate weeks).

I pulled some muscles in my arms and leg at volunteering yesterday, which didn’t make things any easier. My arms are OK, but I can’t walk up and down stairs without limping and experiencing some pain. Minor train delays made my journey into work more difficult and I was mostly too tired and depressed to do much Torah study on the train in to work, which I use as my main Torah study time, something that made more sense when my journey was longer.

As a result of all of this, my mood was lower today too, although it did improve once I got to work and especially after lunch. My work is not terribly interesting, but the pay is good given my hours and the environment seems fairly comfortable for me, in terms of autism and social anxiety, at least at the moment with hardly anyone in the building. So far working for a friend is going well, although I am still nervous about messing something up. I have made some small mistakes, but nothing unexpected considering it is a new environment. On the whole it seems positive, especially as working part-time means that I can spend more time working on my novel.

I spoke about spoons yesterday without thinking that I’ve picked up a lot of readers since I last explained “spoon theory.” Spoon theory was formulated by Christine Miserandino to explain what it’s like to live with chronic pain. Essentially, you start the day with a number of units of energy, represented by spoons (because she was in a restaurant while trying to explain to her friend and there were spoons handy). Over the course of the day, you expend energy (spoons) doing tasks. Once you’ve run out of spoons, that’s it, you can’t do anything else until you recharge, which will probably require a night’s sleep (and you may not recharge even then).

What she wrote about chronic physical pain applies in many ways to mental illness, and also to the way “difficult” environments are extra draining for someone on the autism spectrum (noisy, too many people, etc.). I think this week has cost me a lot of spoons and I’m looking forward to Shabbat to recharge.

***

I wrote this in my devar Torah (Torah thought) for this week:

[Rav Steinsaltz] takes this a step further to an even purer form of love, which is love of God.  Here, a person may not (in this world) receive any overt signal or sign of God’s receptivity to the love.  The person may struggle through life, trying to be a good person and a good Jew, without receiving any direct indication that he or she is succeeding.  Perhaps we can see this as a call from HaShem to perhaps the greatest form of human love.

It only occurred to me afterwards that I was really talking about myself, about wanting some kind of sign that I am succeeding to be a good person and a good Jew.

PIMOJ asked me about this passage. She felt that God does speak to us and send us signs. I felt, although I did not say, that she is a mystic for whom God is constantly immanent, whereas I’m a Jewish religious existentialist (as far as I understand the term) for whom God is usually, if not always, transcendent and hidden. We had a WhatsApp text conversation about it, which was a big thing in itself, as I usually avoid contradicting people and discussing things with them for fear of rejection.

PIMOJ feels that we can see ourselves and our religious progress when we pray and study Torah. I do not feel this. She feels that we can intuit God’s feelings about us the way we can intuit the feelings of our parents, but I don’t feel I can do that either. (At this point I started to wonder if all my religious and political beliefs as well as my social intuitions are rooted in my experience of autism, social communication impairment and bullying… It’s entirely possible.) I feel that I can’t do “enough” because of autism and depression. So my parents and friends tell me to lower my expectations because I can’t expect to do so much. So then I wonder, am I doing enough of what I can be expected to do… It’s hard to tell and I don’t think I really made myself clear to PIMOJ. It could be an autistic thing again, that I want God to tell me “I want you to do X, Y and Z. You are doing X well, Y is OK, but you need to work on Z.” Real life doesn’t work like that.

To be honest, I found the discussion a little worrying, as I always worry that I’ll be rejected by people for having a different opinion, but PIMOJ said she found it enjoyable to speak to me about a deep topic, so I guess that’s good. She said I’m a good communicator too, which is good (good that she thinks I communicate well, as I worry that I don’t).

***

Other than that, I’ve been feeling vaguely listless all evening. I usually watch TV when I have dinner, but I couldn’t decide what to watch. I told myself I would only watch Doctor Who episodes from the new series for a bit (Doctor Who was on TV from 1963 to 1989, then, bar a TV movie in 1996, it was cancelled until 2005), but after a couple of days I’ve run out of enthusiasm already. I like much of new Who, but it doesn’t satisfy me the way the original series does. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to work out why that’s the case, and there isn’t really an easy answer. Some is nostalgia and familiarity, but a lot of it is due to stylistic changes in Doctor Who as well as in TV and in general culture.

I read over dinner instead of watching TV. I had been enjoying the novel (The Naked Runner – I hasten to add that the title’s a metaphor; it’s a spy novel, not one about someone who literally runs in the nude), but I failed to summon any enthusiasm for it. I did some ironing and watched the first two episodes of Daleks!, an animated Doctor Who spin-off made by the BBC, but available for free (legitimately) on YouTube. It didn’t really interest me much though and I didn’t watch episode three, although I probably will at some point. I guess I should be thinking about bed, but I feel I need to relax somehow. Maybe original series Doctor Who, or have another go at The Naked Runner. I just feel that I’m going to go to bed stressed and I know that if I do that, I struggle to sleep or to be refreshed, but I don’t know what I can do that (a) I will enjoy and (b) I can do at midnight when I feel tired.

20 thoughts on ““Are You There God? It’s Me, Luftmentsch”

  1. Until I had children that didn’t perform and succeed like other children God was distant (apart from a few isolated “spiritual” experiences) at best and at worst angry and disappointed in me. This is because even when we are autistic we can’t help imagining God to be as we experience our parents and other people in authority. My experience was that I disappointed, exhausted, and frustrated those who were in authority whereas my siblings received praise and affirmation. When I had children who were much more severely autistic then me whom I loved and as a result of my own struggles understood even a fraction of what life was like for them I had to give up my arrogant misjudgements of God. If God is the originator and source of all goodness how could I imagine that He would approach my children or myself in a manner worse then I would? The love I had for them was from Him. Love does not remain distant and hidden. Love comes near. Unless evil builds a barrier. My oldest son Ephraim likes to watch Star Wars because he deeply relates to it. His father is Darth Vader. He would beg me not to have to go to his Dads. I can’t change that right now but it doesn’t change my love and my goodness as a mother. Spiritually we choose where we live but all hell tries to keep us from living there. Ephraim would often refer to anyone he loved as a place. I was Mummy’s house and his favourite support worker was Stacey’s house. We weren’t just people we were a place where he felt he could rest and be accepted. David B. introduced me to the word HaMakom or Makom that means The Place and sometimes refers to God. The place where God is is the place where there is a welcoming place for you. King David said over and over again that he wanted to dwell in the house of the Lord. Why would the God who is stern with us when we do not love and welcome others not welcome us? I embraced and celebrated my children in all their weakness and failures and limitations but I never tolerated them hurting each other or anyone else. If we feel the frown and disappointment of God when we hate and hurt others then we are intuiting correctly. If we feel the frown and disappointment of God for the way He made us we need to quickly leave that dark house we have mistakenly entered and return to the house of the Father. Faith is constant warfare in order to come back home to HaMakom. It’s a Promised Land. A place of Rest. The rules and religious practices were given to help us find that place. If they don’t help us and just weigh us down or cause us to compare ourselves to others then we need to drop them and hurry home to God by whatever way works for us. Sorry, I know this is a lot but I helped myself even by writing it out. PIMOJI sounds like a sweetheart. There are things we just can’t see without the other gender.

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    1. Thanks for sharing this, very moving.

      The rules and religious practices aren’t an issue, just the feeling of existential loneliness. Rav Soloveitchik speaks of the importance of “covenantal community” to redeem solitude, but I’ve never found a community where I really fit in. Maybe if I did, I would experience God’s love.

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      1. Yes, any community where you have to make changes to yourself before you can fit in will not redeem the solitude. A covenant is a commitment that will not be broken. Communities don’t understand commitment anymore. Because of this our feelings of existential loneliness increase. When I would try to communicate what I was looking for in a community and I would express to God my anger over not being able to find it I would repeatedly sense God saying “Give what you’re asking for.” Which of course felt unfair because I had just expressed that I didn’t have it. But the source of authentic community is God. So I went to God and worked through all the stupid ideas that my religion and culture had taught me about Him. Then I took my new understanding and created the community I wanted in my home because that’s all I had. Me and my two kids. I created an environment of kindness and acceptance and I received that back from my children. On my off weeks I worked on being kind to myself – not easy. Practicing kindness opened the door for the literal presence of God. The existential loneliness began to dissipate. The existential loneliness increased in the context of toxic community. Most people can’t be kind to themselves and can’t be kind in their families but they somehow think they are gonna join the magical kind community. Before the Israelites went into the promised land they each individually consecrated themselves to God. Then Joshua makes the statement “as for me and my house”. Only then are they ready for healthy community and national life. Unfortunately anyone else I invited in to be a part of what we had came with judgement and impatience. I could see it coming out of all the negative self talk they had running through their heads.

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          1. I don’t think you should have to have a 100% match to be a part of a community. That would be loving one’s clone. Diversity within unity. Men and women do not match each other. They compliment.

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              1. Okay so trauma from your past. My kids are afraid to be different too. Should they be excluded until they get the courage to change? Perfect love casts out fear. I love them and welcome them even if they don’t change. The community needs to cast out the fear with their acceptance. With a “I know you don’t know how to change right now but you are welcome just the same.” Unless of course you are hurting someone.

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  2. I definitely recognized you in that devar Torah passage. Sounds like an interesting conversation about it with PIMOJ. That’s an interesting perspective about being able to intuit God’s feelings; is that something that’s part of Jewish mysticism?

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    1. Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t know much about mysticism.

      In truth, if you get deeply into Jewish philosophy or mysticism, we say that God doesn’t have emotions as we understand them; really it’s just metaphorical, to say He has something like what we call emotions or that produces similar effects to the way we experience emotions. I’m not sure the extent to which most people/rabbis would say we can intuit this.

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  3. It sounds like PIMOJ and you are having some deep and interesting discussions and learning about each other in the process. That’s a good thing! You are very busy lately and that is putting a strain on your spoons/energy. Lots of change to one’s routine is stressful. Also I had to smile a bit at your title.

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  4. It seems to me that your job and your relationship with PIMOJ are developing well. These are 2 areas in your life that you were despairing about. This is cause for optimism and a sense of achievement. Well done . Things are looking up !

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  5. I too have struggled a lot with God’s silence. I have often told him that just one whisper from him would sustain me for the rest of my life! I think it is good that your girlfriend has an experiential faith – you will complement each other.

    We will never know this side of eternity why God apparently chooses to reveal himself more fully to some and not others, and also in different ways. Here are two books I have found helpful – totally different in their approach. One is “The practice of the presence of God” by Brother Lawrence, a Christian mystic. I have found this mindful approach to devotion very inspiring – making me realise that even the most mundane of tasks can be done with a heart devotion to God and this transforms them – and that we can practice them now, we don’t have to wait for revelation. The other which I am reading now, is by Prof Iain McGilchrist and is called “The master and his emissary: the divided brain and the making of the Western world.” (And he has a shorter, more accessible summary in “The divided brain and the search for meaning”). This has really helped me to understand some of the reasons why modern rational thinking – scientism and materialism — has interfered with our natural abilities to perceive the transcendental. McGilchrist himself has drawn interesting parallels between left brain dominance and autism. As I work in my day job with stroke patients who have of course suffered brain injuries – I see fascinating parallels here and it has helped me to understand better the limitations of left-brain dominance. This has important implications for our perception of the divine.

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  6. I also think it is difficult to intuit G-d’s feelings. There are perhaps three or four times in my life when I felt I was receiving a message from G-d, generally in the form of “you should not be doing this and I’m letting you off easy” (and when I recounted these stories to a couple of trusted mild-moderately religious people, they largely told me I was being ridiculous and that these were not divine messages). I think it is because regardless of how you communicate with G-d, be it talking to G-d via prayer or listening to G-d via study, the message is usually not as clear, as say, when you talk to your parents. I’ve generally felt that a lot of the common metaphors for G-d’s relationship to the people – parent/children, king/subjects, shepherd/sheep, husband/wife a la Shir Hashirim – are lacking for me because I just do not experience G-d as clearly as any of these metaphors require. That said, there are deeply spiritual people who experience G-d more directly. More power to them.
    I think this is one of the better topics to have a disagreement on in a relationship.

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