I set an early alarm because I had a vague magical thinking fear that J would call me to do the Very Scary Task again early today. In the event he did not, thankfully, and I fell asleep again after turning my alarm off. It’s interesting how much magical thinking I’ve had around the VST this week. I don’t usually think of myself as a superstitious or magical thinking person, but I can’t deny the evidence of my own thoughts.

It’s been a fairly tough couple of weeks covering for J and working from home and I’m aware that it’s going to continue to be tough for a while, albeit for varying reasons. Next week I hope to ‘come out’ as autistic to my shul (synagogue) rabbi. I’ve prepared notes of what to say, but I really have no idea how it will go or even what I really expect or hope from the meeting. Then, for unrelated reasons, I’ve been invited to his house for Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner next Friday. I accepted, but only afterwards did I wonder how safe it would be, COVIDly. I mean, the government COVID regulations permit it, but I wonder if I’m being reckless. It’s hard to tell. But the real thing worrying me about it is the usual social anxiety stuff.

E was surprised that I don’t get extra-socially anxious with rabbis than I do with other frum (religious) people. To be honest, I think I’m nervous enough with ‘ordinary’ frum people that there isn’t anywhere else for the anxiety to go, plus I feel I’ve had exposure therapy with rabbis over the years. I have eleven Orthodox rabbis’ phone numbers on my phone (a minyan and a spare), so I do have experience with talking to them. They don’t intimidate me the way they do to some people.

If I get through that, then we’re into the autumn Yom Tovim (Jewish festivals), but I’m trying not to worry about that now, albeit that I’m starting religious preparations for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year).

This week in shul we read the Torah portion of Ki Tavo (I admit I’m not that likely to get there for this in person). This contains the curses that will befall the Jews if they break their covenant with God. The Talmud says we always read this a couple of weeks before Rosh Hashanah so we can say, “Let the old year with its curses end, and the let the new year with its blessings begin.” I think we’re all looking forward to new blessings after eighteen months of COVID curses, although COVID doesn’t look to be vanishing any time soon.

E and I have both taken COVID very seriously, mostly followed regulations and are both double vaxxed; still, we’re both sick of it and want to get back to normal life, life without masks, travel restrictions and noisy social media arguments about masks and vaccines. We wondered last night how long it can carry on for like this and whether governments are secretly aiming for zero COVID deaths, which seems as unachievable and flawed a target as zero flu deaths. I don’t think the UK or US governments are aiming for this, although the New Zealand government seems to be doing so; I think it’s only possible in a small, sparsely-populated and out of the way country. However, I’ve heard people (experts and callers) on the radio who seem to really want zero COVID deaths. One expert even seemed to want zero COVID infections, on the grounds that infection, even in the young and vaccinated, can lead to long COVID and long COVID is debilitating, therefore the government should aim at eradicating it, presumably like smallpox and bubonic plague. This seems as crazy as vaccine refusal, albeit in the opposite direction.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine ever getting back to normal. It just goes on and on. I still feel nervous at shul, one of only three or four people still wearing masks now they are no longer mandatory. At the moment E is worried about being able to come and visit me, in terms of fear that the USA might be put on the UK’s red list and Americans banned from entry, and at the moment I couldn’t visit her, because direct travel from the UK is banned, and also because I’ve had the AZ vaccine, which the USA still hasn’t recognised (all of which strikes me as a bit rich, considering how poor vaccine uptake has been in the US; please get your own house in order before criticising others). We just want to spend some time together this calendar year! Is it too much to ask? Sigh. At least we have Skype.

***

My shul is still bringing Shabbat in early, at 6.25pm today, so I didn’t have much time to do things, considering I slept late and struggled to get going. I did my usual pre-Shabbat chores and spent some time on my cheshbon nafesh, my self-reflection on the previous Jewish year. I didn’t get time to work on the short story I planned yesterday or to do much in the way of Torah study. The latter doesn’t bother me much, as I can catch up while I wait for my father to daven (pray) tonight, as his shul isn’t starting until 7.35pm.

***

I just wrote this comment on Ashley’s blog: “My self-esteem has been pretty low since adolescence, maybe earlier. Getting my autism diagnosis earlier this year has really helped, though, inasmuch as I can now see myself as an autistic person who is trying hard with some success rather than a neurotypical person who is frequently failing for no obvious reason.” I don’t think there’s really anything to add to that.

***

I read a Philip K. Dick short story last night that was extraordinarily misogynistic and generally misanthropic (Cadbury, the Beaver who Lacked). It rather made me regret my decision to read rather than just watching TV. Dick had issues with women, to put it mildly (he was married five times). His last completed novel, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, has a female narrator who is a likeable and interesting character, but most of his other female characters are not, to put it mildly. Still, I wasn’t quite prepared for just how negative the short story would be.

14 thoughts on “The Curses of COVID

  1. I didn’t realize that about Philip Dick. I would make a naughty remark related to his name…but I will refrain. I think you’re right that 0 covid deaths and infections would be an unrealistic goal. Getting it under control so it’s like a bad flu would be my preference. I don’t want the flu either but know that it’s treatable and that a preventative shot will help me a. not get it or b. get a milder version. Hope you and E. can meet up this year! Distance relationships are hard; you’re both doing a good job of it, but it’s much better to be face to face and not just on Skype.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we accept a certain number of flu deaths each year and I think we’re going to have to accept a similar number of COVID deaths a year, but we don’t seem to be able to have that discussion.

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  2. Nitpick: The USA does consider int’l travelers to US who’ve had a WHO-authorized vaccinated to be considered fully vaccinated for the purpose of int’l travel to US. It’s towards the bottom of this page https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/international-travel-during-covid19.html.

    Also, personally, I don’t think there is any relationship between FDA’s lack of approval of additional vaccines (which would be based on available safety and efficacy data – I do not have the medical expertise to weigh in on whether FDA should approve AZ) and the Americans who have chosen not to get vaccinated. I think the vaccination rates in USA are an embarrassment as well, but I really do not think that FDA approving another vaccine would really change them. Unless AZ got approval for use in children. I think that’s really the only thing that would really change the vaccination rates in USA, to be honest. And I’m not even that optimistic.

    I think your feelings of frustration at the situation are completely valid, and yes, the current travel ban on UK travelers to US, and potential for a travel ban for Americans going to UK are incredibly frustrating. But I really don’t think lack of FDA approval for AZ is affecting this situation.

    I once leyned the tochecha aliyah of Ki Tavo. Not a fun one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s good to know about WHO-approved vaccines.

      I don’t think approving AZ would improve the US’s vaccination rates, I was just annoyed that they seem to disparage it while struggle to ‘sell’ vaccination as a concept to so many citizens. I was just being grumpy and bad-tempered rather than rational.

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  3. For all that some people think diagnostic labels are bad, I think there’s a lot to be said for having a name for what’s happening that actually explains what it is that’s happening.

    I don’t think there’s enough between-department communication, much less cooperation, going on in the US for decisions made by one area of government to have anything to do with decisions made by any other area.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It would be nice to have ZERO deaths from auto accidents. But no one would ever seriously suggest that we remove all motor vehicles from the world. Instead, we try to find ways to make driving safer. There are so many things that can kill us. You don’t even have to leave your house.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right. A number of months ago I heard a caller on a radio call in saying, “Boris Johnson is going to accept a certain number of COVID deaths for the sake of the economy.” He said this in a tone as if that meant the Prime Minister was going to ruthlessly murder thousands of people, rather than it being a trade-off between different types of death and suffering that governments have to make all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Right. And either one of us can killed as pedestrians on our way to work/volunteer/schul/whatever – and that will just be an everyday hazard of going about our daily lives. A death we have to accept.

    Not all deaths are equal. Obviously.

    Liked by 1 person

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