Today I slept a lot, had anxiety dreams (I don’t know why I still get anxiety dreams about breaking Shabbat when I’ve been shomer Shabbat for twenty years), woke up still feeling burnt out, as well as overwhelmed at the things to do in the next few days, in particular fitting Talmud study and writing my devar Torah around work, dinner with my family and therapy, as well as buying Dad a belated Father’s Day present, collecting my repeat prescription and hopefully continuing to work on my novel.

Once I got going, things got a bit easier and I began to work out when I could do things. I spent an hour redrafting my novel. There was some procrastination, but I actually did quite a lot, writing about five hundred words, although I’m not sure if I should necessarily be writing much more at this stage. I probably need to cut and rewrite as much as write more. I do need to force myself out of narrating and into showing, and hopefully the new bits helped do that. It also showed my protagonist’s interactions with his family a bit more, another of my main targets for this redraft.

I was a bit stuck for both ideas and time for my devar Torah this week and spent forty minutes or so revamping an old one from years ago and expanding it significantly. I’m not really happy with this, but I feel overwhelmed this week and it seemed the best thing to do.

I went for a walk and my mood went down a bit. The future seems scary sometimes. Even the good things, like building my relationship with E, will lead to scary things, like possibly changing communities or even countries or dealing with immigration law in the UK or US, buying a house, and other scary “adult” things. Then there are the things that are scary without any positives, like the fear that I might never being able to hold down a full-time job, while simultaneously not being eligible for compensatory state benefits. E and I have been told to stay in the present and not race ahead to the future, but it’s hard, particularly when (a) we’re both pessimists and worriers by nature and (b) the present is frustrating because we don’t know when we can spend time in the same country due to COVID travel restrictions.

E and I “went” to a Zoom shiur (religious class), the first of five on Devarim (Deuteronomy). It was very interesting, with a lot of information to grasp in a short period. One thing that happened that I found curious, not related to the content, was that the teacher had made a mistake on one of the handouts, mistranslating “eleventh month” as “twelfth month,” which had a knock-on effect to which month was being referred to. I noticed the mistake, both spotting the word and knowing that the month should be the eleventh one, but I didn’t say anything because I was too shy. The strange thing was that I became filled with a lot of anxiety lest someone else point it out and embarrass the teacher. Eventually someone did pick up on it, and I felt quite embarrassed for several minutes on the teacher’s behalf, as it were.

I know people think that autistic people don’t feel empathy; I think the reality is the reverse, that we feel a lot of empathy and can “pick up” other people’s emotions without really understanding them or being able to process them properly, which is what happened here.

4 thoughts on “Adulting Fears and Empathy Overloads

  1. I’ve been working on a growth mindset stuff for my kid because one of the things the kid struggles with is a desire for perfection in herself. She’s very tolerant of mistakes in others, but not so much in herself. And one of the things the growth mindset stresses is progress over perfection. (not progress in a linear sense – where each time is better than the last, but rather progress as over time, more tries that result in success than tries that result in never trying again) What is mistakes are a teachable opportunity? Not something to be embarrassed about, but a chance to progress over time.
    What if they are intended to illustrate that we each have a chance to make mistakes and still be perfectly acceptable human beings. Think about the parsha this week and last. Last week Moshe hits the rock. It was a mistake (not like at a level of the stupid mistakes we make on a daily basis, but still), but Moshe is still Moshe. He’s still a great leader, even if he isn’t perfect. Look at Bilam. Going out to curse the Jews is a mistake in anyone’s book and G-d straight up says, “this is not gonna go down the way you want, I wish you wouldn’t…” and Bilam is like, “I am all in with this.” It’s a mistake. And probably a really embarrassing one for him. Compared to that, what’s a wrong number on a handout in a class? And my point is just not judge which mistake is worse or whatnot or to say that no one is allowed be embarrassed by their mistakes, because at least no one wrote your mistake down into the single-most read piece of literature in the entire world for hundreds of generations to judge.
    But mistakes are part of who we are and how we grow. And maybe someone in that class needed to know that the teacher who was running the class is a scholar, and a leader, and a mentor, but also a human who can make mistakes and will be approachable understanding if a member of his class needed to approach him with a mistake. We don’t know how that one mistake might influence or help someone who sees it. So are we the person who sees a mistake and says like Zoidberg, “Your music’s bad and you should feed bad!” or are we the person who sees the bigger picture and says like Zoidberg, “The beauty was in your heart, not your hands.” (Futurama: “The Devil’s Hands Are the Idle Playthings”)

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