Shabbat (the Sabbath) was OK. I felt ill on Friday evening and didn’t go to shul (synagogue). I was light-headed again and had a bit of a headache, but I think it was side-effects from the flu jab I had on Thursday rather than work stress.

Mum and Dad’s conversation at dinner exhausted me again. Their conversation is usually small talk, generally about work, shul, their friends or football. I don’t have much to say about most of that, but Dad was trying to bring me into the conversation again. I’m not sure why he’s started doing that recently. He doesn’t really get that I struggle to engage with this conversation and I don’t like being asked questions to which he already knows the answers to just to bring me in. I prefer just to tune out, but I probably shouldn’t say that. I don’t know why I’m struggling with this more now than in the past. It’s probably partly Dad trying to engage me, but also because I’m impatient to live with E and have conversations about things that interest both of us.

I guess dinner at the moment reminds me on some level of my childhood, when I was called an “intellectual elitist” for trying to have deeper conversations and using words no one else understood (I didn’t know they didn’t understand). It’s partly the familiar syndrome of university-educated children from families that have not had access to higher education ending up on a different level to their parents and struggling to communicate, but also the issue of children with autism communicating differently to their neurotypical families and also being intensely interested in certain subjects and boring people with constant talk about them as well as being less interested in, and able to engage in, small talk.

After this I was tired, but did some Torah study. I managed some Talmud study, which I was pleased with, especially as it was a new page (I study each page three times: the first is really to get myself familiar with the subject and vocabulary, on the second I begin to understand better and by the third I usually have a reasonable understanding, at least on a basic level). I re-read bits of Jewish Meditation by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, but it didn’t elaborate on the things I had heard about on a podcast last week.

After this, about 11pm, I fell asleep, fully dressed and on top of the bed. I slept until about 3.30am. This is a bad habit I seem to be getting into, as if my sleep wasn’t disrupted enough as it is. I got into my pyjamas, but decided I needed some relaxation time and read more of Flowers for Algernon before going to sleep again.

I slept through most of the morning, then fell asleep again after lunch. I got up in time for Minchah (Afternoon prayers) (at home, I didn’t go to shul). I probably won’t be able to sleep on Shabbat afternoons after the clocks go back tonight. I read The Guide for the Perplexed for a bit – the translator’s introduction; I still haven’t got to the actual text. After half an hour, this got too heavy-going, and the print was too small, so I switched to Judges: The Perils of Possession by Rabbi Michael Hattin, from the Maggid Koren Tanakh series.

After dinner I checked my blog list and heard that Ashley Peterson, frequent commenter here, had died (see below). This brought my mood down. When I had dinner, I tried to finish reading Flowers for Algernon, which was a bad choice for my mood, but I just wanted to finish it; I was saving some comedy for later in the evening which I will definitely watch before bed, as I feel very depressed now. Unfortunately, Mum had the TV on, which made it hard to read (alternating between Strictly Come Dancing and The Chase, which were about the most distracting things it could have been, but anything would have distracted me really). I did finish the book after dinner.

I saw a post on the autism forum this evening from someone who says he’s suicidal because he’s lonely and still a virgin and has (in his opinion) no chance of changing any of this. I don’t think he gave his age, but I guessed twenties from a few things he wrote. I wanted to write something sympathetic, because I’ve been there, but also I’m nearly forty and kind of married and still a virgin, so it was hard to be fully sympathetic, especially as I’ve been missing E a lot recently, and I really wanted to say that thinking you have no hope for anything good in your life because you’re a twenty-something virgin is not clear thinking. In the end, I didn’t write anything; I decided the post was just triggering me because of missing E and thinking about Ashley’s death. I don’t think I can really help; not tonight, anyway. Then I found another post on the same forum by a twenty-five year old threatening suicide because he’s still a virgin. I feel I should be able to say something, but anything I say would be coming from a particular religious context and personal history context and probably won’t be helpful. I do think Western society places too much emphasis on sex and being sexually attractive. I’m glad the forum is moderated and the moderator posted links to crisis lines and the like.

***

LinkedIn keeps sending me emails to “connect” (equivalent of friend, follow, etc.) with my first girlfriend. Apparently we have a mutual connection, although I’m not sure who. I have no desire to connect with her. She does not work in any field that I am likely to work in. We parted on reasonably good terms, but I have not seen or heard from her for nine years and have no desire to do so. But there is no button for “Do not ask me again,” or “Block,” just one for “Connect.”

Seeing her photo or even her name sparks a load of strange and difficult feelings whenever LinkedIn sends me an email trying to connect me with her. It reminds me that she trampled over my boundaries about physical contact in our relationship and refused to support me with my mental health struggles the way I supported her in hers. There is more to say, but don’t think I should in public.

I don’t use LinkedIn much (at all, really – I only have twenty-three contacts, which is why I’m surprised I can’t work out who is the link with first girlfriend), but will probably have to if I try to set up as a freelance proof-reader, so I want to get it sorted.

***

This evening, I’ve been thinking a lot about Ashley Peterson. I knew her online for several years; I’m not sure how many, exactly, but quite a long time. She was one of the most frequent commenters on my blog.

I noticed recently that she hadn’t commented on my blog for a while, or anywhere else that I had seen, and certainly she hadn’t posted on her own blog for a while. I thought about emailing her, but she had said in the past that she gets got annoyed when people chase up on her when she’s depressed, as she doesn’t didn’t like the attention. So I didn’t do anything. Then a few days ago, two other bloggers emailed me in the space of about half-an-hour to ask if I’d heard from her. I said I hadn’t. We were all worried by that stage, and I think we guessed what happened (she’d been open about her depression worsening and having suicidal ideation), but didn’t want to say what we were thinking. None of us knew what to do.

Then after Shabbat, I saw that her family had posted on her blog that she had died. I wasn’t surprised, but I wasn’t sure what I did feel. Sad. Maybe numb. Then, quite a lot later, anger, not at her, but at other things, particularly those commenters on the autism forum.

I haven’t told my parents, I’m not sure why. They don’t know Ashley, but I should tell them I’ll be sad for a while. I should tell them before I go to bed. I can’t tell E for a bit, as it’s still Shabbat in New York. I feel like I want to cry writing this, and part of my brain says that’s crazy, as I didn’t know her that well (she was very private and I wouldn’t claim to be one of her closest blogging friends), but I feel I miss her already.

I don’t think a friend of mine has died before. I’ve lost friends to arguments or (more usually) drifting apart, but not through death.

I was thinking about what Ashley meant to me and I remembered a quote from the theologian and civil rights and anti-war protestor Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, that “Spiritual freedom means: flattering no one, neither oneself nor the world; not being subservient to anyone, neither to the self nor to society.”

I had actually posted that on my blog once, and she liked it. That’s how I think of her: independent, honest and vocal in speaking her mind, especially in the cause of justice.

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18 thoughts on “More Disrupted Sleep, LinkedIn, and Ashley

  1. I cried when I read her family’s statement. I still am tearing up today. I didn’t “know” Ashley, but she was a frequent commenter (and vice versa) and we’d emailed as well ~ not often, but even so. I don’t email with most of the bloggers I interact with. I thought I’d be able to “tell” if she was getting worse, but I was only flattering myself. She wasn’t crying out for attention. She just wanted it done when she made up her mind. I keep thinking I should have seen something, but there was nothing to see. It reiterates the point that we’re all really strangers to each other, and not just in Blogland, but everywhere. A very lonely feeling…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh regarding LinkedIn. I think it’s the phone number or email that connects because it kept doing that to me with one ex and we had no one in common. I finally figured out how to block. You visit their profile (in cloaked mode, if you can) and click the MORE button, which is under their name and next to the MESSAGE button. Then a menu will pop up and in that menu is a BLOCK option!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh my! The news about Ashley really tore me up – and I knew her far, far less than anyone else who reads this blog. I don’t think we ever interacted at all but I saw her comments daily. I thank you for mentioning it because I think we can sometimes underestimate how much we mean to others when we’re so overwhelmed with our own demons.

    I don’t know what it’s like in other places but here in Seattle, suicide is a very tricky subject. News articles will hint that the cause of death was suicide and post a phone number for a crisis hotline – as though encouraging discussion will only prompt other people to follow through with copycat suicides. There’s rarely any reflection on the life that just ended.

    But nothing is better at jolting me into reconsidering my end-of-life thoughts than a reminder of the pain that a suicide leaves in its wake. I really needed it today. So thank you again.

    Your life is very interesting! Thanks for sharing so much of it with us.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You’re definitely correct that we can underestimate how much we mean to other people. That was one of the things, probably the most important thing, that kept me going when I was feeling suicidal.

      Thank you for saying my life is interesting! I don’t really feel that it is, but, as I’ve said before, this is my method of processing (most of) it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, that’s heartbreaking, though I didn’t know her well. It’s a shock. She was a regular here and often had very insightful comments that made it clear she put a good bit of thought into them. Very sorry to hear the news. I wasn’t aware before I read your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I compartmentalized over Shabbat, but Ashley’s death hit me hard too.

    I liked Flowers for Algernon. It’s not a light read, but I found it engaging and Keyes’ use of voice is very good.

    Re: autism forum, I think society does place a lot of unhealthy pressure on sex and sexual attractiveness. The negative impact on women is pretty bad, but I don’t think the negative impact on men gets talked about enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that Flowers for Algernon was very well-written.

      That’s true about social pressure regarding sex and attractiveness. For men, I think it’s less about attractiveness per se and more about “ability” (for want of a better word): how many people you can sleep with. (And I know it’s more complicated for women in the secular world who are navigating the double bind of “Sleep with too many people and you’re a slut; don’t sleep with enough and you’re frigid.”)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t really experience that dynamic for women in the secular world but my “experience” (for lack of better word) is weird and not relatable. But I think it exists. I think the societal pressure on the men about “ability” is also a contributing factor to the issues that women face.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I didn’t know her, but I remember agreeing with her comments and finding them perceptive and well-written. It’s very sad news; I consider blogging commenters friends or at least friendly acquaintances, so it hits hard.

    Liked by 1 person

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