I felt short periods of sadness about breaking up with PIMOJ over Shabbat (the Sabbath), with some doubt about whether I did the right thing, but mostly I was OK.

I went to shul (synagogue) last night and again this afternoon, for Minchah (Afternoon Prayers) and the restarted Talmud shiur (religious class). As we were inside last night, I assumed we would be today and so brought a mask, but no coat and no glasses (as wearing a mask makes them steam up); I also wasn’t sure if the Talmud shiur would be restarting where we left off when COVID started last year or if we would be somewhere else, so I didn’t bring my copy of relevant volume. I was wrong on all counts, but was OK, aside from being a little cold towards the end of the shiur. At least I know for next week. I still can’t understand much of the Talmud shiur and feel a bit bad about not being able to do so when so many other people seem to be able to follow, although I don’t know how many can really follow and how many just seem to be doing so. I do want to go back to doing some preparation for the shiur each week as part of my Torah study, which may help. I try to remind myself that until about one hundred and fifty years ago, the proportion of Jews expected to understand Talmud was very small.

I’ve actually been timing the amount of time I spend on Torah study each day for the last five weeks, and finding the weekly average. It’s actually better than I expected. The first week was distorted by going to a six hour plus study day at the LSJS on Zoom, but the other weeks were never low than an average of forty-seven minutes a day and mostly over fifty minutes a day, which was much higher than I expected. This is counting my time writing my devar Torah as Torah study, though; I’m never sure if that’s legitimate.

The other thing that happened at shul was someone telling me that they are trying to get every family in the community to set up a “team page” to raise funds for the new building. Apparently I count as a family. I am not entirely sure what a “team page” is (some kind of fundraising page, I assume) and I feel uncomfortable asking people for money at the best of times, and raising for the shul is harder. I have very few friends. Of these a couple go to the shul and will be doing their own fundraising. The others are not frum (religious) or not Jewish and I don’t feel comfortable asking them for money for the shul. Most of my friends I only see once or twice a year anyway, so asking them for money does not seem polite. I feel this is something that I can’t really do as an autistic introvert with social anxiety.

I was actually wondering on the way to shul if it would be worth “coming out” as autistic to my community, or to select members (e.g. the rabbi), but as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really know what kind of response or understanding I would want from them, besides understanding of my intermittent shul attendance and avoidance of things like circle dancing in Kabbalat Shabbat or Simchat Torah, as well as, I suppose, of not being married and not finding it easy to talk to people at kiddush or social events.

Perhaps because of the novel I’m reading (Anno Dracula 1918: The Bloody Red Baron — basically World War I with vampire flying aces) I had an idea of another metaphor for autism and social interactions, where neurotypical people are flying modern 747s, with all kinds of instruments (GPS etc.) and autopilots, only needing conscious thought from the pilot occasionally, whereas autistic people are flying World War I planes with fragile wings, limited instrumentation and no autopilot, requiring constant attention despite the distraction of being open to the freezing air. I have to navigate conversations consciously, not really knowing what to say or what the other person means, while also having to consciously make sure that I don’t interrupt them or, conversely, pause too long and try to find signs that indicate whether my interlocuter wants to continue the conversation, change the subject, or finish it. All this and also often having to ignore background noisy from a noisy kiddish hall or whatever. It’s no wonder that neurotypicals can manage conversations with several people at once or several conversations consecutively, and can do so without breaking a sweat while I find a two or three minute conversation in kiddish to be terrifying and confusing. Unfortunately, I don’t have a parachute.

8 thoughts on “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines

  1. That’s an excellent analogy. You’re flying without instrumentation or cues so that every small thing takes work and you not even sure if it’s “right.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your last paragraph was a very articulate description of what it feels like to be autistic, and helps me to understand what you go through on a daily basis.
    You really do express yourself well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. On “coming out” to your community — I think this could be a good idea, but perhaps discuss it first with the rabbi or your rabbi mentor? How did the latter respond, assuming you told him? I think it should be easier to share your AS than to share your mental health issues (depression etc) as there is less stigma attached to the former. As you probably know, some people actually see AS as a “cool” diagnosis and associate it with super intelligence and even giftedness. That aside, I do think it might help others to understand you better, and be less likely to see you as cold or aloof, which is how some autistic people can, unintentionally, come across. Additionally, people may actually warm to you more, and appreciate your trusting them with this personal information. Indeed, you might be surprised that many may have guessed it all along anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I told my rabbi mentor when ASD first came on my radar, more than fifteen years ago, so I can’t really remember how he responded. He did say more recently that he felt there is more stigma and misunderstanding around ASD than depression and advised not to disclose to dates early on or to matchmakers at all. I didn’t listen to him about this once, and I think I suffered as a result.

      I hope making it known would lead to others understanding me better. Certainly I have worried for years about seeming cold or aloof (or just weird and incompetent). But I’m wary of stigma or (worse in some ways) people just not really taking it on board.

      Like

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