Another dull day at work, which I don’t mind so much, but it’s another day when I made what seemed to me like foolish mistakes and generally handled myself badly. I don’t know what to do about that. Whenever this happens, I start to self-blame and pretty soon I’m comparing myself to school or Oxford peers who are doing better than I am (or who I assume are doing better than I am). To be fair, I mostly kept that in check today, but it’s there in the background. I would like to be doing a job that I felt good at, doubly so if it was one that seemed socially-acceptable given my level of academic success and/or allowed me to support a family, or at least to support myself. Contrary to what your parents and teachers told you, success at school or even at university does not correlate exactly with financial, social or cultural success later in life.

It didn’t help that I only had about four hours of sleep last night as Yom Tov finished late and then I felt I needed to blog to process my thoughts about it and then watch TV to try to unwind a bit. Then I just couldn’t sleep. At least it’s not so hot today.


Ashley and Margaret commented on my previous post, about God moving away as I try to move closer to Him. Margaret’s comment reminded me of the comment I posted recently from the Kotzker Rebbe, that “the moments of labouring are the finding.” It’s strange how it’s easy to say that in the abstract, but not when confronted by my actual feelings of hollowness or even failure. I think I was happy after the first day of Yom Tov, despite my failure to get to shul (synagogue) for Shacharit (Morning Prayers) or even to pray at home at the correct time. However, I was upset more by the second day, when I was too burnt out to do much and missed shul in the morning completely. Perhaps I expect too much of myself. I wonder what other frum people manage, those without autistic burnout or social anxiety. From the outside, it looks like they mostly make it to shul early in the morning on Shabbat and Yom Tov (at the very least).

I guess related to this is the difference, as I said yesterday, between a punitive God and a loving God. This is, in part, the difference between God in the Written Torah (Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible) and God as presented in the Oral Torah (Midrash and Talmud). You can get into this very deeply, about the Written Torah coming from the side of din (strictness and justice) and the Oral Torah coming from the side of hesed (lovingkindness) and the fact that I generally tend to line up with din in numerous ways. I don’t really want to get so kabbalistic. But obviously there are these two different sides to God which we believe is a difference more apparent than real, because obviously we’re monotheists and not dualists (like the Gnostics or the Manicheans).

I can believe that a loving God exists, but it’s hard to feel that a loving God could love me. I know this is rooted in childhood experiences and my lack of self-love, but I don’t know how to move on from that. No one has given me practical steps I could do to love myself, let alone to believe that God loves me. Even so, I’m not sure how my inability to love myself corresponds to my inability to find meaning on festivals. Unless I expect too much from them. Similarly, why do I struggle to feel the kind of spiritual joy I feel I am ‘supposed’ to feel or that others seem to feel — is it my old friends anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) and alexithymia (inability to recognise emotions) again? Or something else?

It’s uncomfortable to feel that I’m still held hostage by my autism (nature), as shown by my experiences at work today, and also by my formative years (nurture). I’m not sure what the solution is.


I feel torn between trying to find an agent for my novel, working on the short story I started recently or planning my next novel, but it’s too late to work on any of them (too late at night, not too late to ever work on them). I doubt I will have much time in the next couple of weeks given Yom Tov. Which is a shame, as I feel somewhat creatively-stifled at the moment. I also feel like a bad writer, and the only real cure for that is to write. But, it’s probably on hold for a while.

10 thoughts on “Nature and Nurture Vs. Me

  1. I think of my own children and my grandson learning to walk–those first steps toward the parent, and the parent moves a little way farther back so that the baby will continue to move forward and get stronger in his/her steps. Or the baby will fall down, and get up again to try to get where s/he wants to go. We all fall down many times. Sometimes our steps falter and we want to turn around. Lately I’ve wanted to bury myself in the past when life seemed so much simpler.

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      1. Without all the electronics and social media, as well as the lack of instant access to everything, yes. Simpler doesn’t equate to happier though. Our expectations of life seemed to be lesser. Growing up we had one small house and one car. We didn’t go out nor take splashy vacations. It was a big deal to take a road trip in my state. That was normal then but today would be the signs of poverty.

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  2. It seems like the people in your life that love you the most (your parents, E) are the people who have gone deeper than the more surface-level things like cultural expectations. If the people who know you the best love you the most, and presumably God would know you even better, God loving you would continue that pattern.

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  3. I’ve always found that interesting about you, that you seem to lean pretty far toward the idea of God of din vs. God of hesed, and yet you voluntarily took on a lifestyle so heavily based on that belief. To me, all the appeal is in the idea of a loving God, and if I spend too much time thinking about the other side of things it just sort of makes me want to bail on the whole enterprise.

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    1. I actually wrote a whole thing about the God of din for this post which I cut, not actually from the bit God, but a bit I’d written about my day, about connecting with the Fast of Gedaliah. I do definitely come from that side, and it’s not really a choice, it’s my natural inclination, that I don’t really want anything from God for free, I want to earn it.

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      1. I know it’s not a choice, I just meant I find it interesting that you chose to become more observant given that it is your natural inclination. If it were mine, I don’t think there would be much appeal in the religious life. Then again, I find it admirable that you want to earn things, from God or otherwise; I’m the total opposite. I want to be given everything for free, by everyone, because I am fabulous and special just for existing. I’m not proud of it, but that is very much my nature.

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