I felt drained when I woke up again today, and wanting to withdraw rather than do the things I was supposed to do. After lunch I spent some time filling in a form for the Department of Work and Pensions, saying that I’m working now, albeit part-time, and probably shouldn’t be getting state benefits. After that I went for a 5K, one hour, walk in the damp and the fading light. I came home feeling very tired and not inclined to do very much.
I tried to work on my novel. I spent about an hour and a half on it, although some of that time was spent procrastinating, but I did rewrite the climax of the novel, which I had been both eager and nervous of tackling. I’m still worried about it, but it’s closer to what I wanted. I’ve now basically finished the second draft, although I have a long list of changes to make to in the third draft, including a whole new chapter early on. I’ve gone off the title, though. I did have an alternative, but then I realised it was similar to another best-selling novel that was recently made into a TV series, so it’s probably not a good idea to be so similar; it might make me sound like a plagiarist.
PIMOJ phoned me in super-excitement after I told her I’d finished the second draft. She was much more excited and happy than I was. It’s strange how different we are in personality. It’s very much a case of opposites attract, which I hope is OK. My previous relationships were not like that. I think PIMOJ and I have similar values, just different personalities. I think we both like the differences. That said, I did an hour of Torah study today, looking at the coming week’s sedra (Torah portion) and had an idea for my devar Torah (Torah thought) for the week and I got quite excited about it, so maybe we’re more alike than I think.
Seen on The Sceptic’s Kaddish blog: “‘We realize–often quite suddenly–that our sense of self, which has been formed and constructed out of our ideas, beliefs and images, is not really who we are. It doesn’t define us, it has no center.’ ― Adyashanti.” I’ve realised this, or something similar, recently, that my thoughts, feelings, memories and beliefs are not the same as who I am. It’s both scary and liberating in equal measure, but it does make me wonder what I actually am. I’m not sure where I would put the self/soul in this, or how I would even define them, although I do believe very strongly in the existence of the soul.
Another interesting thing seen today, on Elisheva Liss’ marriage and family therapy blog, was a blog post on being “normal.” She says that often when we think we want to feel “normal,” we really want to know that we are good enough and accepted. This is true in the case of my own search for normality. She says, “Don’t worry about being normal; normal is boring. Aim for healthy.”
She also says:
If you have concerns about your “normalcy” you could ask yourself:
“Is the way in which I deviate from the norm a problem? Does is or could it cause any distress or harm to myself or to others? If it continues would that be a problem? Are there any advantages to my differences?”
My non-normal behaviours are not harmful to myself or others. However, I feel like I want to be in groups that have strict limits on belief and behaviour. In many ways, this is less of a problem in the Orthodox Jewish world, which can be strict, but which is also fairly open about what is acceptable. Even if sometimes a person may find those limits frustrating or even dangerous, the limits are usually clearly signalled. More difficult is engaging with people online and not knowing how many of my religious or political beliefs it is safe to share and what will happen if I do share them. This is something that inhibits me a bit on mental health blogs, as I wrote recently and is also part of the reason I largely stopped engaging with online Doctor Who fandom. The latter has a reputation for being a particularly political fandom (although it’s probably a vocal minority who shout very loudly), but also I haven’t really enjoyed the last couple of years’ episodes and that can be hard to voice too.
One thing I did today was cut a fragment of the novel. It was a surreal dream sequence that I enjoyed writing, but seemed totally out of place with the rest of the novel. I thought I would include it here as it’s venting a lot of feelings that I’ve had from decades of dealing with the NHS and welfare bureaucracies.
I am in a narrow, brick passageway. It seems to be underground. It is lit by a single unshaded light bulb hanging from the ceiling. It feels damp and cold. It is the type of environment where one would expect to see mould. There is a cork notice board on my left. There are faded notices pinned to it with drawing pins. They are all years out of date. There is a wooden door painted dark green in front of me. I knock. A disembodied voice bids me to enter, which I do. The door is heavy and takes all my strength to open.
Inside is a medium-sized room, plastered over and painted a faded light green. In the centre of the room is a heavy wooden desk. There is a wooden hat stand by the door with a bowler hat on it and a metal filing cabinet in the corner. A packing case lies in the corner opposite.
There is a man here, short and slight, balding. He is sitting behind the desk wearing a pinstripe suit and a black and pink striped tie.
“Who are you?” he challenges me. “What are you doing here? Why do you exist? What purpose do you serve? Who have you helped? What have you done? What is your chosen career? How far have you advanced in it? Who are your friends, your lovers? What are your goals and objectives? What is your plan for the future? Where do you see yourself in one year? Two years? Five years? Ten?
I can not answer. I just cry.
He pulls a thick document out of his desk drawer and passes it to me.
“Please fill out this form, honestly and openly, omitting nothing relevant and including nothing superfluous.”
I stare at the document. Then I look around the room. There is nowhere for me to sit. I perch on the packing case, resting the form on my thigh.
“Could I borrow a pen, please?” I say.
“You should have thought of that before you came here,” is the reply.
Pulling a nail out of the packing case, I scratch my wrist until the blood begins to trickle out. I dip the nail in the blood and use it to write on the form…
Related to my comments above, I watched The Impossible Planet, a Doctor Who episode from 2006. I felt somewhat nostalgic for it, but it also annoyed me in places. I don’t think I can tell if it’s objectively a good story or not (if any art can be analysed “objectively”).
It’s strange to think that most of “new” Doctor Who isn’t new any more. Strange also to think that I’ve spent fifteen years thinking about new Doctor Who and how it differs from the original series, why I prefer the former to the latter, without ever finding a definitive answer. The best I can offer is a mixture of wider cultural change and specific disagreements with the outlook of the writers, particularly the showrunners. Russell T Davies, the first showrunner on the new series and supposedly the main author of The Impossible Planet (although it’s credited to Matthew Jones) clearly had such different views to me on Doctor Who, science fiction, drama and life in general that it’s no wonder I struggle to engage with much of his work.
Doctor Who is still my big autistic special interest, and a massive part of my life, but I’ve come to accept that twenty-first century Doctor Who will never resonate with me the way the original series does. I now tend to focus on the original series, and other weird old TV shows that resonate with me (The Prisoner, The Avengers, Quatermass, Sapphire and Steel, Twin Peaks…).
I should clarify that I did not watch the original series (1963-1989) on original transmission. I was too young. I found it after cancellation in the nineties, on rare repeats and in avidly-consumed novelisations, borrowed from the library or purchased with saved-up pocket money. I read Doctor Who Magazine avidly in the late nineties and early noughties, when it was, as Scott Gray, a writer for the magazine’s comic strip put it, a kind of cosy MENSA club for science fiction trivia buffs. The magazine veered from obsessive fact-checking to middle-brow intellectual analysis to postmodern “Are we all a bit sad?” self-mockery, often in the space of a single page. Obscure TV writers and character actors would be interviewed at length and quizzed about decisions made in a job they did twenty years earlier. Articles would talk about Barthes and postmodernism, and then list the ten best cliff-hangers of all time. Photos would frequently be given humorous captions. Jokes would be hidden in the copyright notices (actually, they still do this). It was wonderful and I miss its passing terribly. But it is gone, and the fandom that went with it also seems to have gone and all we have left are our back-issues and our DVDs.