E is Here!

I haven’t written for a few days, as things have been very hectic. E arrived on Wednesday! Dad and I collected her from the airport. I also sent out the wedding invitations that day via Greenvelope. Thankfully, only one bounced due to an outdated address, although my Mum’s failed to arrive and we don’t know why. I generally sent only one invitation to couples (I usually only had one address for them anyway), but for close family, I sent individual invitations. Dad’s arrived, but Mum’s didn’t and we don’t know why as the system failed to register it as unsent. It wasn’t in her spam folder. Aside from that, we’ve received a lot of replies already and I’m glad that my rabbi mentor is definitely coming, although sadly his wife is not. My oldest friend is coming without his wife too, in both cases, due to work commitments they can’t get out of.

On Thursday E and I had our marriage authorisation meeting at the United Synagogue. I’m not going to re-open debate on whether this is a good thing; I don’t have a problem with it, although E didn’t like the process, although she found the meeting OK. Anyway, it went without a hitch, although I was quite anxious beforehand. My Mum had told me in advance that she thought I was at kindergarten with the rabbi we were going to speak to. I was tempted to spiral into comparison, but decided I would not devalue myself that way any more. I don’t know how well I will manage to continue this attitude in the future.

The meeting went better than expected, but afterwards we went to Brent Cross Shopping Centre to get a wedding ring, which went a lot worse than expected. The service in the jewellers we went to was very poor. E wanted to discuss rings with an assistant, especially for advice on matching the wedding ring with her engagement ring (which used to be my grandmother’s and is a family heirloom). In the end, we didn’t get a ring. We’re going to speak to one of my Dad’s friends, who is a jeweller, after Pesach (Passover). Hopefully he will give us some more personal advice.

We spent some time in John Lewis looking for things for our gift registry. It was actually OK doing this with E, even a bit fun. I think with anyone else, I would have been bored rigid. I guess that’s true love.

On the way home, I wanted to cheer E up after the ring problem, so suggested we do a detour to the free bookshelf in the hope she would find something good. She didn’t, but I ended up with three books: a translation of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (which I may not read from cover to cover, but is good to have), the Sherlock Holmes-themed mystery novel Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz and a Bill Bryson travelogue A Walk in the Woods (which E may read, so I guess that was a partial success for her). I have a lot of light books to read at the moment, which I should be reading now at this time of stress, but I’m some way into Children of Dune and don’t want to stop now I’ve started. The problem is I rarely have the time or concentration for it right now.

I’m actually reading a different Bill Bryson book at lunch at work and on the Tube home, as The Great Dune Trilogy, which includes Children of Dune, is too big to take with. This is The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, about growing up in small-town America in the 1950s, part memoir, part social history. I’m enjoying it a lot, for all that I find Bryson’s sense of humour a little off-putting at times, in terms of childhood anecdotes involving bodily functions and the like. It’s certainly an easier read than Children of Dune!


I’ve been feeling very tired this week, even more so than usual. I’ve had to get up early most days, not just by my standards, but by most standards, and I’ve been going to bed late so that I can catch up on things for the wedding and/or Pesach (mostly wedding, I am not doing much for Pesach this year, I just don’t have the time or energy). I wake up most days at the moment with a stress headache. It usually goes once I get up, but it makes getting up harder, and sometimes (like today), it doesn’t go entirely, even with medication. E has also been tired with jet-lag so we haven’t done much more than we need to, it’s just difficult that we’ve needed to do a lot. We’re having a quieter day today and Shabbat (the Sabbath) should be quiet too, although next week will be very intensive in the days immediately before Pesach. I haven’t had any real time or energy for reading or even TV and the lack of relaxation has made it hard to fall asleep at times. When I do, I have weird dreams and wake up more tired than I went to sleep (still no news on the sleep study results. I can’t even find a number to chase). I’ve noticed that marriage conversations can start suddenly and go on for a while, admittedly more with my parents than E, and this can take quite big chunks of unscheduled time from the day too.

I also find balancing the very different personalities of E and my parents a bit tricky, as well as developing my relationships with them. They don’t get on badly, I just need to adjust to the new family dynamic. It’s hard for E and me staying with my parents too. It makes sense to stay before the wedding, but in an ideal world, E and I would move out straight afterwards, but we’ll probably be staying here for some months after the wedding, given that it’s unlikely that we’ll have time to look at flats before the wedding and the process of buying property can itself take months even after finding somewhere.

That said, I’m really glad E is here and the wedding seems closer now, although I would like Pesach to be out of the way as it’s a whole other load of worries, despite my being less anxious and OCD about it than I was a couple of years ago. Actually, my raised anxiety level generally has probably made my Pesach anxiety worse than it was last year and the year before, but not significantly so.


I don’t really want to get political, but I do want to say something about the arrest of Donald Trump. I don’t like him and don’t want him to be president again, but the charges brought against him seem too trivial and politically-motivated, like Al Capone being arrested for tax evasion. They should either have tried to arrest him for the Capitol Riot, which was significant enough to need follow-through, or just left things to the ballot box. This will just inflame his already conspiracy-minded followers and I think it will backfire badly on the Democratic Party. I don’t know if the Democratic leadership actually want this prosecution, but it will reflect badly on them all the same.

It also represents a trend in American politics to disparage election results and try to involve the judiciary in politics in a dangerous way. There was Trump’s riot in 2021, Trump was impeached twice during his term in office, before that was the Florida Recount in 2000 and before that was Ken Starr’s attempts to impeach Bill Clinton in the 1990s. I think these things lead a distrust of the electoral system and an impatience with it that does neither party any good in the long-run and will just lead to further erosion of support for democracy. Except in exceptional cases, bad presidents should be removed by the voters, not the judiciary.

Seasonal Anxieties

I’m going to have to abandon my usual blow-by-blow account of my days for a bit due to lack of time (actually, I’ve wanted to get away from that for a while, I just stuck to it out of lack of imagination). This is really a quick update.

I’ve had weird anxiety and non-anxiety lately. I have plenty to feel anxious about, with Pesach (Passover) a little over a week away and my wedding less than two months away. I feel strangely not anxious about various things I thought I would feel anxious about (I won’t list them), yet I think there is some anxiety there. I noticed that I had various physical anxiety symptoms today (this is alexithymia, not understanding my own emotions, at work again) without being entirely sure why. I think there is a fear that something will go wrong with Pesach preparation or the wedding and also a strange fear that if I’m not anxious, that’s a sign of pride. I have for years struggled with the fact that we’re supposed to trust in God to help us in our difficulties, but it always seemed like pride to me to assume that I’m good enough for God to want to help me, even though I’ve been assured by rabbis that this is not the case.

I find it a time of year where it’s hard to find the time to relax anyway, with Pesach preparation eating up non-work time. This is a problem, given that I need to relax quite a bit to avoid burnout. I think I struggled to sleep last night as a result. It’s also a strange time of year seasonally, with longer days now the clocks have gone forward, but weather that it still often very bad.

I spent a fairly mind-numbing afternoon at work sticking error correction stickers on books. As well as being mind-numbingly boring, is rather humbling. I have two degrees, one from Oxford, and I am being paid to stick stickers in books. Thousands of stickers. Not hyperbole, literally thousands of stickers. And I know I’ve got to this point as a result of struggling so much in more “suitable” workplaces. I don’t mean this to sound entitled, although I know it does, it’s just that I feel I went wrong somewhere and wasted what gifts I have, but I don’t know how I did this.

I made an impulsive decision to go to the charity shop on the way home and ended up buying Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts. It’s an academic book on understanding classic Jewish texts: Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), Talmud, Midrash, Medieval commentators, Kabbalistic texts and prayer-books. E and I both have a feeling sometimes with Jewish texts of thinking, “What is this trying to tell me? Why should this be relevant to me?” so hopefully this will help us.

“In an outback dimension, somewhere between mythology and madness, the Doctor seeks truth and beauty at the edge of the world.”

The last few days were relatively uneventful, but I still feel the need to get my thoughts in order before bedtime.

I was pretty exhausted on Friday, but now we’re getting towards spring (without quite feeling there yet), Shabbat (the Sabbath) starts somewhat later and I’m not under such time pressure on Fridays getting ready. This meant I had some time to fiddle around with my phone and iTunes. The good news is that I got all my music onto my phone! The bad news is that it took up almost all my free memory, even after ditching various WhatsApp video and audio files and some apps (games I don’t play) on Thursday. If I want to listen to music on my phone, so I don’t have to carry my iPod and so I can potentially get cordless earpods or noise-cancelling headphones, I will have to select whatever music I want to listen to in advance. This is not the end of the world, and as I do often listen to whole albums (I know, very retro), perhaps not as hard as it might be for some people who listen to random songs from different artistes. I’d just got used to the convenience of having my whole music library with me all the time (!) and being able to play on shuffle through every song I own (even though half the time I get something I don’t want and skip on anyway). And, yes, I know this is pretty much the definition of a twenty-first century, first-world problem. But still.

I went to shul (synagogue), even though I was tired and the weather was bad, although it didn’t actually rain in the periods when I was walking to/from shul. After dinner, I did some Torah study (about half an hour as I’m trying to take time to relax) and reading. I’m going through Children of Dune very slowly. I think I’m getting slightly bored with the Dune “universe” (as we have to say nowadays) and the fact that even the likeable characters get corrupted by power sooner or later, which is realistic, but not much fun. And there are another three books afterwards (many, many more if I read the sequels not written by Frank Herbert, but I have no intention of doing that, just as I haven’t read the Foundation novels not written by Isaac Asimov). I re-read some more Doctor Who comics too.

I did go to bed rather late and also got up very late, and felt exhausted when I did get up (after a disturbing dream). The day was another usual Shabbat mix of sleeping, reading and Torah study, except that I got another stress headache and didn’t do much reading or Torah study as a result, nor did I do much after Shabbat either. These headaches tend to be on my forehead and actually in my eye, which I find a horrible sensation. They tend to come intensely for a minute or two, then go before I can take any medication. I don’t like taking painkillers needlessly (and taking medication for minor ailments on Shabbat is a complicated area anyway), so I tend to wait until these are bad until I take anything, which is not necessarily the best strategy. I hope they will go after the wedding, although that’s still nearly two months to get through. Anyway, this one did get bad enough that I took something, and used a cooling strip too.

After Shabbat, I watched Yes Prime Minister while I waited for medication to kick in, and also read Voyager, perhaps the most strange and haunting of Doctor Who comic strips.

Oh, and a mysterious parcel turned up today, addressed to E and myself. I haven’t opened it yet, as I wanted to ask E if she wants me to wait for Wednesday and open it together. I guess it’s a wedding present, but I’m not sure from whom. It’s domestic mail, so not any of E’s family or friends or my Israeli family. Probably not any of my local friends (not that I have many) or my parents’ local friends as they would have saved themselves £2.85 postage and dropped it round personally. That narrows it down a bit, and I know who I think may have sent it, but not with any certainty.

That’s it, really. I’m going to try to go to bed soon, as I’ve got quite a bit to do tomorrow, for Pesach (Passover) and for the wedding, and we lose an hour tonight due to the clocks going forward (groan). I’m glad that E will be coming here this week, although the week as a whole is going to be hectic, again with Pesach and wedding stuff, as well as work. I’ll be glad when Pesach is over and I can concentrate all my anxiety on the wedding!

This Post is so Emotional, It Needs Emojis

…or possibly I’m too stressed to express myself in words.

I haven’t written for a couple of days, and as I probably won’t write publicly tomorrow (a work event that I can’t write about publicly without compromising my anonymity), I thought I would write today even though I don’t have much to say. I’m living a very day-by-day existence, worrying about the wedding (TWO MONTHS!!!😱) and Pesach (TWO WEEKS!!!😱😱😱) and also health stuff – not serious, but annoying, particularly two NHS issues: the ongoing problem of my missing sleep study results and a big mess up with my new prescription. I kept getting prescribed my old prescription, not the new one (lower dose) I started in December. The GP’s receptionist blamed the pharmacy and the pharmacy blamed the GP. I think I sorted it today, but who knows?

Other worries: really annoyed 😡 with a particular rabbi involved in our wedding (not the officiating rabbi) who, after asking for a load of documentation months ago, has now asked for something else that we’re not going to be able to get in time and who suddenly wants to see us next week, after sitting on an email from me for a week, even though I told him E is immigrating next week. I got very anxious about him forbidding our wedding, although after I said it wasn’t possible, he just said don’t bring it. But I do worry about E getting completely turned off Orthodox Judaism from this.

Why do so many Orthodox rabbis act like this? I know they’re all busy, but so many seem not to understand the implications of being in a client-facing role where people have the ability to go elsewhere. I’m sure it plays a big part in turning people off Orthodoxy. I wouldn’t choose to leave Orthodoxy, because it’s the only Jewish denomination that I’m compatible with, in terms of theology and practice, but many people in the Anglo-Jewish world do not think much in terms of theology and are flexible (or minimally-observant) in terms of practice, but respond very negatively to this kind of behaviour (understandably) and go elsewhere. The Israeli Chief Rabbinate is, if anything, even worse. Paradoxically, Orthodox Judaism might be in a better state if more rabbis and synagogue bodies thought of themselves like a business trying to maintain market-share by pleasing customers. I don’t mean interpreting halakhah (Jewish law) extra-leniently, but just being courteous and helpful, replying promptly, being consistent and so on. Then, when people leave Orthodoxy, we just talk about the powerful attractions of the world outside Orthodoxy or cast aspersions on the mental health of those who leave and assume there was nothing we could have done about it. Gah. 🙄Anyway.

I got very anxious because of this and went for a longish walk. I picked up my 25mg clomipramine prescription (I hope that’s sorted now too – the NHS is another organisation that tends to forget the clients are key, not the staff) and went to the park. It was fairly empty (except for the inevitable dog-walkers) and much of it still looks bleak, but there were patches of colour from the daffodils and violets (? I’m not good with flowers).

In terms of doing stuff, I put together a draft invitation for the wedding, but not much else, except emailing back and forth with that rabbi. Maybe it’s OK to focus on wedding at this time. I sent an email to try to chase my sleep study, only to get an automatic response saying not to use that email address for chasing sleep studies, but no indication of who I should email instead (classic NHS).

 I feel bad about not helping much with Pesach, but I’m just struggling with wedding stuff. E and I have said that some stuff (florist, musicians etc.) is going to have to wait until after Pesach, even though that’s just five weeks before the wedding. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. I do still feel a little bad that I persuaded E to have a larger wedding than she wanted, even though our “larger” is small by most Jewish standards (fifty or so invitees for tea instead of a couple of hundred for a four course meal with dancing). E is very stressed about moving to the UK too, understandably, and it’s hard comforting and supporting her long-distance. On the other hand – E is immigrating in one week!🥳🥳🥳🥳🥳

I am trying not to give in to stress and to take time to relax. I’m not pushing myself with writing or heavy reading. I started Children of Dune, but haven’t got very far with it; mostly I’m reading Doctor Who graphic novels: Steve Parkhouse’s time as writer on the Doctor Who Magazine strip (currently on The Stockbridge Horror, which I think is under-rated). Likewise, I finished watching Undermind (underwhelming, overall) and am still watching Yes Prime Minister. I’m not doing much Torah study, although I did manage to listen to an old Orthodox Conundrum podcast on the Pesach seder which gave me one or two ideas of things to say at the seder. I’m not doing much seder preparation at all this year, though. In fact, most of the seder preparation I’ve done has been trying to work out how to make it easier for E, who we suspect has ADHD or AuDHD (autism plus ADHD) and struggled through our long seders last year.


I listened to an Orthodox Conundrum podcast today about anxiety in the Orthodox community. I wrote the following to post on the podcast’s Facebook group, then decided it was too focused on myself and my issues and not really engaging properly with the podcast, but I think it does bear posting somewhere:

This was interesting, but I guess it really addresses people whose situation and problems are “normal” for the frum [religious Jewish] community (let’s call it “Ortho-typical”). As an “Ortho-divergent” person with autism and a history of mental illness, including social anxiety, as well as being a BT [ba’al teshuvah – someone raised less religious who became more religious as an adult] with less-frum family, I feel like I’m often in difficult situations that other frum people wouldn’t be in and making choices that I know other people wouldn’t agree with (some people would say I should just not socialise with less-frum family, for example). This fuels my social anxiety and the intense feeling I have that other people in the community are judging me negatively.

One example related to what you spoke about: my minyan [communal prayer] attendance had been declining for years, based on my declining mental health and exhaustion as my work situation changed, but COVID finished it off. I don’t really get to shul more than once a week now, sometimes not even that, if I’m struggling with autistic exhaustion. I often don’t see any social benefits from going, only negatives, in that I struggle to talk to people, people rarely start conversations with the socially anxious autistic guy in the corner, and even if someone did talk to me in Kiddush, I can’t actually hear anything anyone says as I can’t tune out the ambient noise and focus on what’s being said to me. The assistant gabbai at the shul I used to go to once criticised me for always leaving the Kiddush after five minutes, which only made me more self-conscious and socially anxious about it and less inclined to go.

As I said, I didn’t think it was so appropriate to post this there, but I do feel that “Ortho-divergent” people are marginalised in the frum world. We hide and camouflage ourselves, meaning that we can’t turn to each other for support and advice and, I’m sure, many end up leaving Orthodoxy for lack of support when, with help, and a less judgmental community, they might have found their place in it.

Quick Update

I’m still here! I have been struggling with some family issues around the wedding. I didn’t want to go into them publicly, so I haven’t been posting. I think we’ve reached an equilibrium for now, but certainly the family dynamic is changing/has already changed as a result of E joining the family, our wedding and the birth of Nephew and I’m struggling to adjust. My therapist said this kind of change is normal and I guess most people would struggle to adjust to it, but being autistic and having all the social interaction issues that come with autism seems to make it harder. Part of the issue is that my family aren’t very much like me in terms of personality and outlook. That’s not to blame them (or me), but it does make it harder.

I wrote a post on the autism forum about family issues, but after two hours, I panicked and decided to delete it, but apparently I can’t. Someone responded to it (d’oh!) and said I’ve let my parents control my life because I’ve been unwilling to take control, which isn’t entirely my perspective on things, to put it mildly, although I guess there’s a grain of truth in there or it wouldn’t hurt. And it’s true I let them do some things for me because I can’t work out how to do them for myself or because I struggle to assert myself.

I spoke to my rabbi mentor about some of the things I’ve been struggling with lately, around family, Pesach and the wedding. He said some helpful things about focusing on one step at a time and that stresses are common around these events. I said I was upset that I wouldn’t have time this year to do much religious study with a view to sharing ideas at the Pesach seder. Really the seder should be an educational event; I’m always the person with the most Jewish knowledge at our seder, so I focus on teaching more than learning, but he said I should focus on the family aspect instead of the educational aspect. He also said he struggles with this, which surprised me a bit as he comes from a frum (religious) family, but it made me feel a bit better.

Dad and I went shopping for suits for the wedding. There is probably a lot I could say about this, but as it led to my ill-advised autism forum post, maybe I should not say anything at all. I got a wedding suit, which Dad paid for and he insisted on buying me a second suit (or got talked into it by the salesman), which I don’t actually need. But they are nice suits.


I thought today marked the fifth anniversary of when E contacted me on email via my blog, but it turns out it was yesterday. I missed our anniversary! We didn’t know then that we would get married or even date. We’ve definitely come a long way since then and I look forward to the next stage in our relationship. And it’s ten days until she comes here!

Day of Statistics

I got a message on LiveJournal this morning to say I started my blog there seventeen years ago. My blog there has been defunct and hidden for years, but it means I’ve been blogging for seventeen years, minus eighteen months or so when I switched to writing poetry that I didn’t feel confident enough to share. Other important dates: E comes to the UK in two weeks today. And we’re closer to our wedding than to New Year’s Day.

However, I’m in full-blown negative mood today: pessimistic (not about marrying E, but about everything else, from wedding planning to global politics) and drained. I got up late and it’s been hard to do anything. Mum and Dad have been doing Pesach preparation and I haven’t been joining in, which I feel bad about. Dad and I were supposed to buy suits for the wedding today, but the Tube strike ruled that out. I wanted to start getting the invitations done, but I didn’t manage it. I just felt overwhelmed and unable to do anything. I got a bit of a stress headache again too. I ended up taking the day as a mental health day. I know I’ve had a busy few days and I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, but Pesach and the wedding are going to happen when they happen regardless of what I do and I need to be ready.

Family wedding drama has continued. It’s not actually drama, mostly because I agreed to most of my family’s requests. I just feel uncomfortable about what I’ve agreed to and I worry that E and especially I will be exhausted by the time we get to the wedding day (or wedding night). I feel my family understand autism up to a point, but they don’t really understand autistic exhaustion (e.g. today) as opposed to just being tired and I don’t know how to explain it to them. I’m pleased they accept that autism exists and that I’m autistic (many people on the autism forum don’t have that from their families), but there’s probably an empathy problem of them not understanding how I think and feel and not even realising that they don’t understand. Most of them don’t even know that E may be autistic too, as I haven’t told them, as I thought it was E’s decision to say, not mine.

(Parenthetically, autistic exhaustion is something that isn’t really acknowledged by autism researchers, who are only beginning to research it, yet it’s something that so many autistic people complain of, particularly those who should probably be described as “moderately-functioning” – not super-high-functioning people like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk (supposedly) and not non-verbal severely autistic, but able to do some “normal” activities, but who struggle with them and often suffer afterwards.)

 I don’t know what to do about any of this. Sometimes I feel that I come quite low down the family pecking order, when it comes to making decisions of mutual concern. My therapist says that there’s often someone in a family who isn’t heard, or isn’t heard as much. I think in my family, it’s me. For years this didn’t worry me much. I would either opt out of stuff, citing mental illness, or I would grin and bear it, but I didn’t get much say over what was happening and I guess I didn’t actually care that much. But now I want more say for E’s sake as much as my own and I don’t know how to be heard. My therapist said this is common too, and why so many weddings result in arguments, because it’s when people get married that they try to change the family dynamic for their spouse’s sake, but I know from experience that people don’t like changes in the family dynamic, especially where the less-assertive person becomes more assertive. It’s hard to draw boundaries after so long (I’m nearly forty!) and when I do genuinely need more help from my parents than most people my age. Sometimes the boundary between “willing to compromise” and “not enforcing boundaries” is not clear.


Lately I feel difficulty engaging in autistic special interests that might revive me. I still enjoy the original series of Doctor Who, but the last few years, and the news about the episodes coming later this year, have soured me on the new series, although I’m still looking forward to watching Matt Smith episodes with E when she’s here. We’ve put Doctor Who viewing on hold for the next fortnight, though, as E is busy moving and is going to be living with her parents for a bit.

I don’t know if Judaism counts as a special interest, but I’m too exhausted and lacking in time to engage much with it, and it’s hard working out what I can do, as well as realising that to be a “good frum Jew,” you really have to be neurotypical and mentally healthy, and ideally quite well-off. And I don’t have time, energy or spoons at all for writing (other than blogging), my other hobby. So I feel rather stuck.

I ended up taking some time out for a while for my mental health and maybe think about invitations later today. Watched Undermind and Yes Minister. I’ll probably read Batman before bed. I tried reading Children of Dune before, but it’s heavy-going and by this stage in the series, it seems like all the even vaguely-likeable characters have died or become evil and unlikeable/unrelatable.


Just read a not-very-good devar Torah (Torah thought) from a very prominent UK Modern Orthodox rabbi that said that, if you keep Shabbat (the Sabbath), God will ensure you aren’t out of pocket as a result. I don’t know why rabbis share ideas like this. All you need is to find one person who ended up out of pocket as a result of keeping Shabbat and you’ve disproved it, casting the whole of Judaism into doubt. Plus it sends a negative to people struggling financially that God is not looking after them. It just reinforces my feeling that the Orthodox world is designed for “winners” and not “losers.” Although the community does provide support for the poor, unlike some other minority groups in the Orthodox community.


I also read a very unhelpful article on dealing with wedding day anxiety for autistics. Like a lot of stuff aimed at autistics, it made me feel like a Fake Autistic for not reacting the way we’re “supposed to,” e.g. I don’t have such a problem with bright light, I only stim very subtly and don’t use stim toys. The only thing I took from it was the need to have time away from the crowd during the wedding day, but E and I have basically planned almost the reverse, four or five hours around people and nothing before or after. I guess we can see if we can slip away during the tea, but I worry my parents will want us to mingle the whole time. I hope it works out, especially now the Shabbat the day before has basically been joined to it.

Small Victories

I struggled to get up for my telephone appointment with the doctor today. I managed to get up and eat breakfast beforehand, but I was still in pyjamas when the doctor called. I think I procrastinated about getting up and getting dressed because I was nervous about the call, more because it was a phone call than because I was worried about bad news. I did experience the NHS working well for once: the doctor said he would look into my missing sleep study results and gave me the name of the NHS Trust he referred me to so I could chase them too. He also sent a prescription straight to the pharmacist so I could collect it in the afternoon.

I felt most of the day feeling exhausted. I did some wedding paperwork and went out to get that prescription and some blood test forms as well as going to check my library card still works. I tested it by borrowing two graphic novels (I have too many prose novels and non-fiction on my ‘to read’ pile to add more of those), one Batman collection of short stories (Batman Black and White Volume 4) and the first volume of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series, which my oldest friend recommended I read about twenty-five years ago. The library’s graphic novel section is disappointingly small and focused on superheroes (notwithstanding my recent Batman reading/borrowing), but as I’m slow to try new things, it probably doesn’t make much practical difference. Long before I got home, I was struggling with exhaustion and feeling slightly faint. I’m still not sure what causes this, except the doctor today said it doesn’t sound like diabetes, although he’s going to test me for it to be sure.

 I didn’t do much in the rest of the afternoon. I did a few minutes of Torah study and cooked plain pasta for dinner. I would have liked to have done more Torah study and cooked something more interesting for dinner, but ran out of time. Then I had a long wedding planning Zoom call with E, my parents and her parents. We made some progress, but it was overwhelming. My parents and E’s parents get on well, which is good, but it means the call is constantly at risk of going off at tangents into a general conversation. E and I Zoomed a bit by ourselves afterwards, but I was too drained to speak for longer.

I’m left wishing I had done more, had more energy and coped better with things, although I suppose I didn’t do too badly. I am exhausted now. I read a few pages of Children of Dune at lunch and watched an episode of Yes Minister at dinner, but not much else relaxing. The Yes Minister episode was also the bleakest one, The Whisky Priest, where Hacker tries to tell the Prime Minister that British arms are being sold to terrorists, but gets bullied out of it by Sir Humphrey Appleby and the Chief Whip. It’s funny, but less funny than usual, and more downbeat, even by the standard that Yes Minister episodes usually end with the status quo upheld and no positive change forthcoming, so they’re all downbeat to some extent, especially if you think this is how British government really works (Margaret Thatcher did; it was her favourite TV programme). Ugh, tangent, but I’m too tired to do anything about it. OK, bedtime.

Resentful of God?

You might recall that yesterday I went to a big family get-together, stayed longer than I intended (because I was enjoying it), then forced myself through wedding preparation and Torah study when I got home. This was probably not so wise as I was pretty exhausted today.

I got up on time, but I struggled to get going. I did get out on time, but was delayed by my oyster card (London public transport fare card) not working. Apparently if the card cracks even slightly, it’s completely broken. At work, my jumper ripped and I felt quite faint before lunch. I’m used to feeling exhausted and faint at home, but struggling to get through the last half hour before lunch is a new difficulty. I’m glad I’m speaking to the doctor tomorrow (half glad anyway – see below).

The afternoon was mostly spent sorting papers in the office, which I hadn’t done for months. It feels a bit like the children’s toy where you have to rearrange tiles to form a picture, except that I didn’t have a “missing” tile to allow me to move things around. I probably also need to get clearer instructions from J as to what I should keep or dispose of. I worried in the past that I was throwing away too much; now I worry that I won’t be able to throw away enough. It doesn’t help that I haven’t done this for months (it’s a job for the slow times at work and not the busy time at the beginning of the year) and couldn’t really remember where different papers were.

I spent most of the day feeling down, drained and bored and was exhausted to the point of feeling somewhat ill again when I got home. I feel better now for having had dinner and watched Yes Minister (the one where Hacker is made “Transport Supremo,” a job Sir Humphrey says he needs “like an aperture in the cranial cavity.”)


I said I was only half glad I am speaking to the doctor tomorrow. This is because I will miss volunteering because I don’t want to take a phone appointment with the doctor somewhere were reception is poor and there is no privacy. As a lot of other volunteers are away, this means that tomorrow there will be no non-perishable food packers (my usual job). I’m sure food will get packed; there are paid staff as well as other volunteers. But I feel a little bad that I’m missing the whole morning for a ten minute call, especially as I didn’t want to admit to the doctor’s appointment and so said I’m doing wedding stuff. Which is not a lie, as I will be, but I could have done that as well as volunteering, although I would have been exhausted (again).


During my twenties and early thirties, when I spent much of my time struggling with depression (which was probably at least in part autistic burnout), I was angry at God sometimes. I tried to express it in my hitbodedut (unstructured prayer), but I felt like I was being blasphemous so didn’t always vocalise it much.

I thought I was past that and grateful for the positive things in my life now (E, having some kind of job even if it is part-time and not ideal for an autistic person), but I have been wondering if I’m harbouring some anger or at least resentment against God for making me autistic. As I’ve said before, I experience my autism more as a disability than a difference, even though many of the autistic people I’ve come across advocate for the “difference” model. If I wasn’t autistic, I probably wouldn’t have met E, therefore it’s good that I’m autistic, but I feel that our financial troubles would be eased if I could hold down a full-time, nine to five job. I also feel that I would be serving God better if I could daven with a minyan (pray with a community) three times a day, study more Torah, be more involved in a community, focus on personal growth (etc.) than I’m able to do right now and not being autistic would make that service easier. This is despite the rabbi who said I should not be doing all those things right now (ever?). I guess it’s hard for me to believe that I shouldn’t be trying study Torah, grow, etc. even though a rabbi told me. The whole mindset of “Maybe I exaggerated how I feel so he gave the wrong answer?” kicks in.

I’m thankful to God, but maybe I’m resentful too. I stopped doing regular hitbodedut some months ago because I was “blocked” and couldn’t think of anything to say. Maybe I couldn’t vocalise my resentment OR my gratitude and just couldn’t say anything. (Lately I have restarted hitbodedut, but in a more structured way, trying to take ideas from a text to start a conversation.)

It doesn’t help that I have complex feelings towards the Orthodox community at the moment. I go back and forth blaming the community for my social isolation, then blaming myself (or my autism again) for not reaching out to them. Plus, there are a lot of wider negative societal issues in the Orthodox world right now that make connecting with it seem difficult. On some level, I ask if Torah can’t stop people being corrupt, racist or abusive, then what is the point of it? It’s easy for those negative feelings to carry over to God or alternatively to try to disconnect my feelings about God from those about the community in a very unJewish way.


OK, going to try to relax for the rest of the evening (probably Batman or more Yes Minister as I don’t think I should push myself to read something heavy like Children of Dune).


I mentioned in my previous post that I woke up in the early hours with a headache and couldn’t get back to sleep. I did eventually dose for a couple of hours during the late morning, so I’m not too sleep-deprived, but it wasn’t a great night.

I woke up the second time in time to go to my second-cousin’s house for lunch. As I said yesterday, I have lots of second-cousins, but only two I see regularly. We had a big family gathering of eleven adults, three children and one baby. I only intended to go for a while, as I thought I would be overwhelmed and I had wedding stuff to do at home. I didn’t say much and I did feel overwhelmed at times and struggled to join in conversations, but on the whole I had a good time and stayed for the whole afternoon. I had a cuddle with Nephew too, who drooled all over my jumper, but I didn’t care. When it was time to go, he did a weird sticking-out-tongue thing at me, which Dad thinks is his attempt at a kiss.

Afterwards, I intended to do wedding stuff, and I did, but not as much as I intended. I was probably too distracted after peopling to focus properly.

I had a slightly heavy Skype call with E dealing with our wedding, family and autism. I feel I still don’t know who I am now that I know I’m autistic, but I’m suddenly required to make decisions about the wedding, our marriage, relations with family, friends and community, decisions about work and career… It all feels overwhelming, but maybe it’s only by making those decisions that I can actually work out who I am.

I feel that I’ve gone through life on auto-pilot thinking things “had to be this way” from autistic rigidity, not noticing how bad I felt at times due to alexithymia (to be fair, years of depression and burnout felt very bad, but I couldn’t work out why exactly). I’m actually mostly OK with my religious decisions, even if I am trying to find ways to make it easier for those around me, and even if I’m now trying to acknowledge that my mental health, autism, and having less religious family and friends give me unique challenges here and that I need to adjust my expectations accordingly. However, other decisions possibly need to be challenged e.g. assuming that I need to aim towards one day working 9am-5pm in an office. I don’t believe this now, but it’s a recent change.

It’s kind of sad that so many of my life decisions are determined, at least in part, by my neurology and my tendency to certain mental illnesses, but I guess that’s life. We get to choose the decisions we make, but not the conditions under which we make them.


I’ve got a phone appointment with the doctor on Tuesday morning to discuss my missing sleep study results and a few other things. I find phone appointments very hard and would like to challenge them on inclusion grounds, but don’t currently have the time or energy. I’ll be skipping volunteering that day to take the call as I didn’t fancy taking it with other people around and, anyway, I need to have energy in the afternoon for wedding stuff and lately volunteering exhausts me.

“Daisy, Daisy”: ChatGPT Writes “Political” Poetry

I woke up with a headache in the early hours of morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. I played around on ChatGPT, which I’d been meaning to do for a while as it is relevant to my novel, but I hadn’t got around to it with wedding stress. Like a lot of people, I tried to test the AI by getting it to write poetry. I’m not sure why we do this. I guess because writing “real” poetry seems a “human” thing to do, therefore a test of the AI’s capabilities. Or maybe it’s just more interesting to share than the answers to the trivia questions I asked it initially.

I asked ChatGPT to write limericks about British Prime Ministers, initially because I had just tested it with a trivia question about Britain’s first Prime Minister (it correctly stated that, although Robert Walpole was the first person to be referred to as “Prime Minister” in the eighteenth century, the term didn’t become official until centuries later), but also because I wondered if I could get it to say anything vaguely controversial. I didn’t really succeed.

Here are the limericks:

Robert Walpole

There was a great statesman named Bob,

Who ran Britain with power and nob.

As the first Prime Minister,

He was known to administer,

And in history, he’ll forever remain a gob.

This is semi-incoherent. “Nob” is a rude word in British English, but I don’t think that’s what ChatGPT was trying to say. Nor do I know why he thinks Robert Walpole was “a gob” (mouth, or possibly some spittle). And all Prime Ministers are supposed to administer.

Rishi Sunak

There once was a man named Rishi,

Whose job was to handle the cash flow dishy.

With a mind for finance,

He had to take a chance,

To keep the country’s economy swishy.

This is better, but ChatGPT is still using words in a way that isn’t entirely accurate. You can’t really keep a cash flow “dishy.” Or is it being used instead of “dish”? A dish for cash? It’s really not clear. And “chance” is a bad rhyme for “finance”.

I asked about Boris Johnson in the hope of provoking something more controversial, but it didn’t really work.

There once was a man with blonde hair,

Whose love for politics was quite rare.

He climbed up the ranks,

And with wit and some pranks,

Boris Johnson became the UK’s mayor.

Obviously “UK’s mayor” is not a synonym for Prime Minister. Possibly the AI was misled by Johnson previously being Mayor of London. But it did pick up that Johnson was seen as using humour to further his career in a way that most contemporary politicians don’t, which is good.

Then I switched to US Presidents, starting with Gerald Ford, for whom I have a weird fondness.

There once was a man from the Midwest,

Who took office when Nixon was stressed.

Though his time was brief,

He brought some relief,

And the country he did his best to bless.

This is probably the best of the limericks, technically, although the last line is awkward.

The Nixon reference made me decide to ask for a limerick about Tricky Dicky himself.

There once was a man named Nixon,

Whose secrets were often a fixin’.

With a scandal at hand,

He resigned from his stand,

And left the White House with some mixin’.

I’m not sure that this is entirely coherent either, although I may be misunderstanding some slang. It’s interesting that this is a bit more political than the more modern limericks and is more substantive in terms of his actual career.

Then I asked for a limerick about Donald Trump and was told, “As an AI language model, I strive to maintain a neutral stance and avoid making political statements or expressing opinions about individuals. Therefore, I will refrain from writing a limerick about Donald Trump or any other political figure.

It’s interesting, although not surprising, that Donald Trump seems to have been the subject of a particular restraint. ChatGPT was able to write about contemporary figures Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson, but not Trump. Apparently it’s impossible to write about Trump in an objective way, as if we hadn’t learnt that from the history of the last eight years. (Maybe there should be a Fourth Rule of Robotics: A robot may not mention Donald Trump or, through inaction, cause Donald Trump to be mentioned.)

Curious, I then asked for a limerick about Joe Biden.

There once was a man named Joe,

Whose leadership skills began to glow,

He took up the presidential mantle,

And led the nation through the scandal,

With grace and dignity, he steered the ship in tow.

So, apparently it’s not forbidden to write about this political figure, and in a very positive way too, much more so than the others (“grace and dignity”)!

Overall, I think the standard of poetry was very poor and the language sometimes incoherent, but the limericks were more relevant and meaningful than the first one led me to expect.

I then asked the AI whether Jews are privileged. I was trying to see if I could push it to the type of statement about “Jewish privilege” that Jews see as antisemitic, but that non-Jews often don’t see as problematic. Perhaps fortunately, it just waffled for a bit and said that some Jews are successful, but others are discriminated against, alongside a paragraph on historical persecution and the Holocaust. Out of curiosity, I then asked it whether African-Americans are privileged and it responded with almost identical waffle, except with the paragraph about antisemitic persecution replaced with one about slavery and segregation.

The overall feeling I was left with is that ChatGPT is a lot more advanced than I would have thought a few months ago, but it still lacks real literary skill. It also reinforced what I already knew, that its political impartiality depends on how it’s programmed. At the moment it’s programmed to avoid anything remotely controversial, but this makes its answers about politics dull and lacking in insight, so this could be changed if there’s ever a commercial application. In which case we can doubtless expect lots of arguments about its answers and what is the “objective” assessment of a politician’s actions. The Donald Trump and Joe Biden answers show that ultimately the programmers decide whether something is too controversial for it to answer.  I tried to probe the point where “politics” becomes “history” and if it has more freedom to answer the latter with the Nixon questions, but I’m still unclear where the AI draws the line between the two.

Similarly, the content it generates is never anything more than the content available to it. It can’t analyse in an original way, only using the analysis it has access to, and within the parameters of its objectivity protocols, hence the waffle in the “privilege” questions. Again, this is hardly surprising, but it’s worth pointing it out amid all the “AI will end all white-collar jobs” articles out there.

Stressed (and Unable to Think of an Original Title)

I feel very stressed, about wedding stuff, family stuff and Pesach (a month away). I’ll go in chronological order, but I wanted to put that up at the start.

I posted on a Facebook group for people who have medical issues that prevent them keeping Jewish law about my alexithymia (difficulty recognising and understanding my emotions) and the problems that gives me with observing Jewish law (e.g. loving God). People seemed supportive and gave me some suggestions, which was good. Maybe I’ve finally found somewhere I can talk about these issues, which was difficult in non-Jewish support spaces.

I managed to get to shul (synagogue) on Friday night for the first time in weeks! I was tired, but I got there. I didn’t do much Torah study in the evening, though, as I was tired – although, given what I was told by the mental health helpline rabbi, maybe I did too much. It’s hard to gauge. I read a Batman graphic novel (prompted by watching The Batman in the week) and started Children of Dune, the third Dune book, but I didn’t get very far with it.

I did decide that I shouldn’t push myself too hard at the moment to read prose fiction (let alone non-fiction) when I’m feeling stressed about the wedding and Pesach. It’s OK to spend my free time over the next two and a half months watching TV or reading graphic novels, if I’m too stressed to read prose much.

Today was similar, although without shul, just Torah study (getting through the first of this week’s two difficult Torah portions (Vayakhel)) and a bit of reading. I wanted to do a few small (I thought) chores after dinner and get to bed early, but things got out of control, hence blogging to off-load even though I intended not to blog today.

My uncle phoned to say my cousins won’t be coming to my wedding, because it’s too expensive. I think my uncle and aunt are still coming, although there are still some issues to discuss. It’s sad, but I guess I wasn’t expecting them to come, as they’re almost all adults now with other responsibilities, except for the youngest, who is still at school and we already knew he couldn’t come, because he has an exam the next day. My sister was lucky that they were all able to come for her wedding, but that was five years ago when they were all in a different place, metaphorically and, in most cases, literally.

I need to put together a wedding “To Do” list. I have several different and incomplete lists and need to compile them into a master list (and hope I don’t forget anything). I wanted to do this tonight, but I ran out of time, so I’ll have to do it tomorrow.

I was trying (and failing) to clear the decks tonight, with Torah study and the To Do list as tomorrow we’re going to my second-cousin’s house. I have lots of second-cousins, most of whom I’ve never met, but I have two (brother and sister) about my age who my sister and I grew up with. We get together every six months or so, along with my parents, my second-cousins’ mother and her husband, and everyone’s spouses and children (except me, as my spouse (civilly, if not religiously) is in America and we have no children, which is always hard). I do like to go, but I also struggle to find anything to say and deal with the noise and peopling. Wedding planning now gives me a reason to leave early after an hour or an hour and a half and get the bus home, which is probably win-win.

One final stress factor today has been the sleep study I had done in November. I have found the receipt for the return postage of the equipment, so I can prove I returned it. What I can’t find is any paper that says what hospital was supposed to be analysing the results. The postage receipt has an address and postcode, which I googled, but it’s just an office somewhere that receives the equipment, not the hospital that would know where my results are, and I can’t find a phone number for it anyway. I thought they sent me some papers, but if they did, I must have thrown them away, as I can’t find them now. Unfortunately, when it comes to papers, I either keep everything or throw away everything. I find it hard to keep the right things and throw away the right things. I guess I was assuming that everything would go according to plan and the hospital would just send my results. HAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As the GP surgery’s receptionist couldn’t find any relevant information on my record, I think my best course of action is to try (try being the operative word) to get an appointment with my GP and find out where he referred me to. Which is a total waste of his time and mine necessitated by NHS incompetence. I still can’t believe some people think the NHS is brilliant and the only problem it has is not enough money.


Today was another slow day at work. I did make a number of difficult phone calls, requesting payment of invoices. I think I did OK. The other news is that I’m worried we’re about to have the first family broiges (argument, fall-out) of E and my wedding, but I’m unashamedly putting E and my needs first for our special day. I’m not going in to more detail here. Hopefully we can negotiate our way through it.

I went into the GPs surgery on the way home. I masked, but no one else did, staff or patients. I felt somewhat stupid. I’m not sure whether it’s still legally required. Masks are rare enough now in London for it to be notable when people are wearing them and I keep being jolted by seeing references to them as necessary on American blogs. I did some research the other day and, over the last year, only about six weeks saw excess deaths above the number before the pandemic in England and Wales i.e. most of the time no more people are dying than pre-COVID. The figures for Scotland and Northern Ireland were somewhat higher, but not enormously so. I don’t know why, though, especially as Scotland had stricter laws than England for most of the pandemic.

The reason I went into the surgery was to try to get the results of the sleep study I had done last year. Worryingly, there is no sign of it and the receptionist told me to phone the hospital that did the test. As I had it done at home, I need to find the paperwork that says which hospital was analysing the results. I’m worried that the sleep study equipment, which I had to send back in the post in a pre-paid package, has got lost in the post and I will have to do the study again.

Today was also the second anniversary of my autism diagnosis, but I’m not really sure what I make of that right now. By coincidence, someone on the autism forum asked today how we came to terms with diagnosis. I commented, “I’m two years from diagnosis (today, actually) and I think I still haven’t completely come to terms with it. I accept that I am autistic, I am glad I finally got an explanation for a lot of things in my life that made me feel weird and inadequate, but I still struggle with what it means for me and my life. I can’t really say that I see it as “a difference, not a disability” as many people here say. I do feel disabled, at least in some ways, and I don’t feel I have any of the “autistic superpowers” that some people describe. I want to see it as a difference, but I’m not there (yet?). I’m hoping things might get better in coming months as I get married, move out of my parents’ home and life with my wife (my fiancée is a lot more compatible with my autistic needs than my parents) and perhaps I’ll be able to improve things job-wise too, but at the moment autism still feels something I struggle with a lot of the time.”

[Reading the comment back, writing “my wife (my fiancée…” looks really awkward, but it does make sense if you read carefully: she will be my wife when I live with her, but right now she’s my fiancée, albeit only because I didn’t go into the whole between “two weddings” scenario.]


I read an annoying advice column originally from a Jewish newspaper. A full-time kollel student (advanced Talmudic student, but probably not training for the rabbinate), married, with a baby and a wife who works part-time, and getting a stipend from the kollel, was complaining that, while his parents lavished money, gifts and free babysitting on him and his family, his wife’s parents hardly gave them anything. He wanted them to help them buy a house! And yet his wife refused to raise the subject with them! So he was asking the therapist who writes the advice column how to get them to pull their weight. He wanted to ask a rabbi too (given the Yeshivish mentality, I am actually genuinely surprised he didn’t just ask a rabbi straight off). Fortunately, the therapist politely gave him a reality check.

I don’t agree with the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) full-time kollel for all men mentality, and this culture of entitlement is one of the reasons why (aside from it being innovative and totally against Jewish law and the Talmud). Sadly, E and I are going to be stuck in similar dependency when we marry, not due to religious or cultural norms, but due to our respective mental health and neurodivergence issues preventing both of us from working full-time, without having enough of a recognised disability to get any kind of state benefit. I know it’s not the same; we do both work even if we don’t work full-time and I am trying to increase my workload. And we do have genuine issues, even if the state doesn’t acknowledge them. Still, it saddens me a bit that we’re going to have to rely on parents to help us find somewhere to live and to help practically and financially with childcare.


Speaking of entitlement… I say I don’t talk about Harry and Megan, but then I end up making snide remarks, because they are just so funny. The front page story on The Evening Standard today was about their declaration of their children’s “birthright” to be called a prince and princess. I love the way they oscillate between super-woke “everyone is special, everyone has a right to be themselves” egalitarianism and aristocratic “of course we deserve privileges, it’s because we’re better than everyone else” hauteur, without the slightest trace of self-awareness. You can draw your own conclusions about any wider societal applications of this observation.

Incidentally, I think the only way I can cope with the news nowadays is by engaging my sense of dark humour and irony. Who says autistics don’t get irony?

Purim Part II

The good news: E is coming here on 29 March! Three weeks! Also, the wedding is seventy-five days away!

I didn’t blog yesterday. Purim was a mix of good and bad, but I didn’t have the time or energy to blog. I went to shul (synagogue) for Shacharit (Morning Prayers) and the daytime reading of the Megillah (the Book of Esther). As usual, it was a lot less noisy and faster than the evening reading. I was a bit late for volunteering as it took me longer than I expected to eat breakfast and do one or two other things at home. I was glad I went, as we were very understaffed, with several people on holiday and at least one doing Purim stuff elsewhere. We had extra Purim food during the coffee break and were given some mishloach manot (gifts of food) to take home too. I mostly listened to the conversation between volunteers and paid staff. I wanted to join in, but as is often the case, I struggled to find an entrance point or to be heard.

Afterwards I went to Golders Green as I knew my parents were going to see Sister and Nephew so decided to eat my Purim seudah (festive meal) at a cafe that does a tuna cheese melt that I really like and which I rarely get a chance to eat now that I only eat meat and fish on Shabbat and Yom Tov (Sabbath and festivals). One of the other volunteers got the same bus. I would have liked to read, but I was polite and made small talk, difficult though I find that. It turns out that her best friend since childhood works in the same shul where my office is.

The tuna cheese melt was very good, but I struggled with the noise in the cafe. It wasn’t very busy, but I struggle with noise more since COVID, and I found the “background” music intrusive. The journey home took about an hour and a half when it should have taken an hour at most because of bad traffic. It seems like every major road in Barnet is being dug up simultaneously. It’s probably to use all the council’s money up before the end of the financial year in April, otherwise the budget will get cut next year.

I wanted to relax after a couple of intensive days by watching a film (The Batman), but I was distracted by eating, emailing, speaking to Sister on the phone (and hearing Nephew, who now gurgles, in the background) and having strong emotions prompted by an Intimate Judaism Facebook post, which led to my spending an hour emailing them about it (not an angry post, I should clarify). Because of all this, I only watched half of The Batman, although at nearly three hours long, it’s arguably too much to take in one go anyway. I’ve still got half an hour left. It’s pretty good, although not as good as the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy. I’m annoyed that everyone in Gotham City mumbles, as I keep having rewind to hear important dialogue. If my parents borrow the DVD, I’m going to recommend they put the subtitles up (which they do a lot anyway).

Today was mostly spent with wedding stuff, aside from a useful therapy session. Wedding preparation is going slowly. I do one thing, but it leads to another thing to do that I didn’t expect. But I am getting there and, as I said, E will be here soon and things will seem a lot better then.


I don’t want to be political, but I want to comment tangentially on the Gary Linekar/immigration/Nazi Germany controversy. I feel like everything people don’t like politically gets compared to Nazi Germany these days and it’s overkill (except the thing that should most be compared to Nazi Germany, but is largely ignored, i.e. China’s concentration camps). Perhaps people don’t actually know any other historical events to compare things to. That’s why no one says, “This society is like Ancien Regime France” or “We could be facing another Defenestration of Prague” (although there probably are politicians I would like to throw out a window onto a dung heap). Also, I note that the people making these comparisons are rarely Jewish; one wonders what would happen if a white person compared something to the American South in the era of slavery or segregation. I think public the response would be rather different.

Autistic Purim

I couldn’t sleep last night. I think it was a weird mixture of still “buzzing,” in a good way, from the Facebook group call (for people with health issues that impact observing Jewish fast days or celebrating Jewish festivals – we have one of both this week) and anxiety about Purim (Jewish festival this week). I did finally fall asleep about 1.30am, only to wake up at 5.30am and be unable to get back to sleep.

Work was boring and went slowly. I always feel awkward eating in a shul (synagogue) on a fast day (it was the Fast of Esther) even though I’m medically supposed to eat on the minor fast days. My boss J knows I don’t fast, but I worried about the rabbi walking in, even though I know I shouldn’t (and he hardly ever does either as we’re not really a part of his shul, we just have an office in the building). I went to Minchah (the Afternoon Service) purely because I was in the building. I thought I was going to be asked to do something and have to say I’m not allowed to as I’m not fasting, but it didn’t happen. I felt more positive about Purim as the day went on, but once work ended, the anxiety came back. I’m also anxious about having to make a bunch of calls to strangers asking them to pay their bills over the next week or two. That never gets easier. Definitely the second-least favourite part of my job, after the Very Scary Task.

I got home in time to go to my local shul for the reading of Megillat Esther (The Book of Esther). It occurred to me that this is my thirty-ninth Purim, but only my second knowing that I’m autistic. I was diagnosed shortly after Purim 2021. Last year’s Purim was still a bit COVID-ey and restrained, so this felt in some ways like my first “real” autistic Purim.

When I was growing up, I didn’t like Purim much, but I didn’t know why. I felt guilty about it. I assumed it was just because I was a non-rowdy, serious, vaguely melancholic person who has trouble letting his hair down and also that I didn’t like the noise during the Megillah reading that stopped me hearing every word (you are supposed to hear every word of the Megillah, both morning and evening, but this is made harder by the fact that everyone boos the villainous Haman (Haman = Hitler, basically)). Then when I was sixteen, I was mildly ill during the morning Megillah reading in school. I didn’t know it, but this was part of my first autistic burnout.

Then across my twenties and thirties there were years when I was too depressed and/or autistically burnt out and anxious (although, again, I didn’t know that) to go to a reading at all, plus the years when I had religious OCD and I came home distraught because I wasn’t sure I’d heard every word and my religious OCD was in overdrive telling me I was a bad Jew and should go to another reading to be sure.

Now I know that I’m autistic and there are a whole load of difficult things at Purim including the noise (just in itself, without the hearing the Megillah question, but also the fact that I can’t “tune out” background noise and focus on the reading; I am aware of every cough and grunt in the room), the number of people, the removal of social boundaries (I struggle with social conventions at the best of times and now even the ones I know about are gone) and the expectation (religious expectation and social expectation) that I should have fun (is there anything more likely to stop someone enjoying something than being told that they MUST or WILL enjoy it?). In theory alcohol could also play into this, but I mostly avoid boozy places; in all my Purim struggles, I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone trying to get me to drink, which is good. Then there is the fear of autistic exhaustion or even burnout as a result of all this (lately I’ve been feeling about as exhausted as I’ve been without hitting burnout because of wedding planning even without Purim). Then on top of all these autistic issues, there are fears that the minutiae of the laws, particularly the “hearing every word” one, will send me spiralling back into OCD. And all of this together sets up a lot of anxiety: social anxiety and religious anxiety. I could feel as we started the Megillah that I was “wound up” and tense.

I might have understood all this years earlier if it hadn’t been for my alexithymia (difficulty recognising and understanding my own emotions).

(An aside: I find the Megillah reading nerve-wracking even without the “hear every word” law. I always get a weird feeling that everything hangs in the balance every year, that if we’re not careful, somehow Haman could still win and wipe out the Jews this year. We’re supposed to have this level of imaginative involvement at the Pesach seder, but not here. I have no idea why I’m like this. Maybe after the Holocaust, the idea of someone wiping out the Jews doesn’t seem like something academic that happened “in those days”. Like I said, Haman = Hitler.)

Looking at this year’s reading, as I mentioned, I was very tense the whole time. It was a noisy reading; even aside from the “Haman” noise, there were a lot of people with coughs. As it went on, I began to worry about having missed words, repeating them to myself. Then I thought the reader made a mistake. I don’t know if he did or not. I often thought this when the OCD was bad. On balance, he probably didn’t, but I worry. I actually instituted a “one reading rule” a few years back, that I can only go to one reading in the evening and one in the morning, so that I’m not tempted to repeat readings. I’ve never actually gone to a remedial reading, but I’ve come close a few times. (Another aside: I have probably missed the morning Shema prayer thousands of times over the years I’ve been struggling with sleep issues (depression, medication side-effects, burnout, suspected sleep disorder), but it doesn’t bother me as much as missing the Megillah, even though the Shema is more important (biblical vs. rabbinic commandment). Somehow, the fact that we only read it on one day in the year makes the Megillah seem more important, even though Jewish law actually rules that the more frequent something is, the more important it is.)

I tried to focus on the idea I’ve had lately that the minutiae of the laws are less important than whether I’m moving towards God. I told myself that I tried my best, and I struggle a lot more than most people, and I hope God will accept my effort. I tried not to get caught up in the obsessive thinking that characterises OCD, to keep these thoughts as passing thoughts and not obsessive ruminations that could lead to full-blown OCD again. It’s hard, but, until I can find (or start?) a sensory Megillah reading in North-West London, I don’t really have a choice.

I had dinner with my parents afterward and felt better. We had Purim bread, which E tells me doesn’t exist in the US. It’s sweet challah bread, like Ashkenazi Jews have on Shabbat (Sabbaths) and festivals, but with raisins, sprinkles (we call them “hundreds and thousands” in the UK, which E thinks is quaint) and icing, although this one didn’t have icing for some reason. I had a hamantashen (Purim pastry) too. I wore my jester’s hat for some of it, my nod to dressing up for Purim. I heard somewhere that you should dress up as something you want to be, so obviously I want to have licence to tell people painful truths by couching them in humour (my satirical novel is still in the planning stage, though).

Now I’m going to watch Doctor Who to try to relax a bit, then sleep and get up early enough to do it all over again before going to volunteer…

Being Accepted

I woke up about 10am and got up to go to the loo, but then went back to bed and oversleep, which I really shouldn’t have done. I was glad to get some peaceful relaxation time when I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed, which has been hard to come by lately, but the rest of the day was a rush.

I felt sad for much of the day. The immediate trigger was an email on a mailing list I’m on, but I think it broadened into not fitting into the frum (religious Jewish) community. What I’m slowly thinking about Purim is that I have to do it on my own terms, trying to keep the mitzvot (commandments), but trying not to beat myself up if I can’t do all of them, or not perfectly. This is hard! But really I need to do it with my whole religious life. The frum world is not made for neurodivergent or mentally ill people.

The problem is still wanting to be accepted by frum people and wondering if I’ll ever have friends who can understand all of me. Maybe that’s not necessary, I don’t know. I just feel uncomfortable compartmentalising my life: frum friends, Doctor Who fandom friends, blog friends, autistic forum friends… Maybe that’s normal. I guess I remember the rabbis at school who were upset that I didn’t go on to yeshivah (rabbinical seminary) for a year and who were disappointed in me. I felt it was partially their fault for not convincing me that it was important to go or guiding me to an appropriate yeshivah, but I still felt bad for letting them down. Sometimes I wonder if people on the Orthodox Conundrum blog would shun me if they knew more about me (which just wants to make me dump my life story on there to see what reaction I get, which would not be sensible).

I wrote the above in the early afternoon. Towards evening, I joined a video call from a Facebook group for Jews with medical struggles related to festivals, in this case, Purim, which starts tomorrow evening. The group was originally for people who couldn’t fast on fast days, but it’s broadened to any kind of medical problem affecting fast days festivals. Actually, the conversation drifted into even more general issues with religious observance and I spoke a bit about some of the issues I’ve posted about here above and in the past. It was good to feel heard and accepted, although I struggled to work out when to speak on a multi-person video call. Another call is planned for before Pesach (Passover) and I hope to attend. The organiser said that they’ve had attendees from different Jewish denominations in the past, although everyone there today seemed to be Orthodox-affiliated. I did feel a bit like “Maybe I’ve found some people who can really understand me?” and one participant messaged me on Facebook afterwards and asked to stay in touch as she has autistic family.


E and I were talking about making friends when we get married and live together. I suggested we might want to volunteer at our shul (synagogue) or similar as neither of us is great at the “talk to people in the Kiddush (refreshments in synagogue after the service)” mode of socialising and making friends. I feel like I’m a lot better at making friends online than in the real world.


I was too exhausted to go to shul (synagogue) again on Friday night. I was wondering if I “give in” to exhaustion too easily these days, as I’ve often struggled to go to shul, particularly in the winter, but forced myself to do so and been fine once there. Then I remembered there was a choir this week and decided I definitely couldn’t cope with that, so I stayed at home.

Mum and Dad wanted to talk a lot about the wedding over dinner, which I didn’t really want, but couldn’t really stop them. I can’t even remember what we concluded in the end, although we didn’t decide anything without E’s approval. Afterwards, I wanted to do some Torah study, but I remembered being told by the mental health helpline rabbi that I shouldn’t overdo things and increase my exhaustion and anxiety, so I just read Judges: The Peril of Possession (on the biblical book Shoftim/Judges) for a while. It put Shimshon (Samson) in a light in which I had never really seen him before, as a Jew rebelling against the concept of Jewish distinctiveness and his own mission. To be honest, I’ve never connected with Shimshon, but he was more relatable here, though still pretty much a failure.

I had the intermittent headaches I’ve been getting for the last couple of weeks over Shabbat. They last for a few seconds, then go away again and come back seconds or minutes later. This doesn’t sound so bad and they aren’t too intense, but it’s hard to know whether to take medication for them when they come and go. They are always in one of the same two places, either on the left side of my forehead or in my right eye. My Mum cheerfully suggested I should ask the doctor for an MRI as I may have a brain tumour! (Yes, health anxiety is an issue in this house.) I think I should wait until the wedding anxiety calms down before I think about that, unless they become more intense or frequent, not least because I had an eye test a few weeks ago and the optician didn’t see anything wrong. I did take painkillers tonight, as the pain in my eye was distracting.

Because of the headache and the rabbi’s advice I did almost no Torah study today. I read a short essay by Dr Tanya White about theodicy and Iyov/Job which I had printed before Shabbat (Sabbath) and a couple of short essays on the weekly Torah portion. I had wanted to read more of The Guide for the Perplexed or the very long opening section of the coming week’s Torah portion, but my head/eye hurt too much and then once the medication kicked it, it was too late.

I did quite a lot of recreational reading, so I’ve nearly finished Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

I did some wedding and non-wedding related chores this evening, but not much. I feel a bit bad about wasting the time, but I probably do need some less-intense time. I wish I could have used it in a more structured way, but I got distracted by stuff online (AKA procrastination).


I’m wondering if I should set aside five or ten minutes a day for novel research reading. Not so much because I would achieve much in that time, but just to feel like I’m setting aside time for it and that it is still “in play.” I still regularly jot down ideas for it, so it is in play on some level, but this would feel more structured and might act as a reminder that in a couple of months I will have less stress and more time.


Something slightly weird happened on Friday that I don’t want to go into here, but now I feel vaguely bad for ever stopping following blogs, even though there is obviously no obligation to read someone’s blog indefinitely and people have stopped following mine. Possibly I’m over-thinking again.


I feel this blog has got very autism-centred. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, but I used to like it when I could include digressions on politics or literature. I just haven’t had much time/energy/brainpower/bandwidth/spoons/whatever you want to call it for that lately.


Work was not good again. The morning was OK, but in the afternoon I was very bored. First I was going through a list of outstanding payments from the auditors trying to check which ones were genuinely outstanding, not helped by the auditors not making the timescale clear. I do this task once a quarter and I still haven’t figured out what “Current”, “Period 1”, “Period 2”, “Period 3” and “Older” refer to exactly. I assumed Periods 1, 2 and 3 are the same length, but this doesn’t always seem to be the case. After I got bored of that and fed up staring at my computer screen, I started on another task: adding stickers to correct typos in some books. I have to add stickers to three pages in each of five thousand books, totalling 15,000 stickers. I stuck about ninety stickers today, so about 0.6%. It was very boring and also very difficult, as the books had never been opened before and wouldn’t stay open, so I needed three or four hands to hold the book open, unpeel the backing from the sticker, align it correctly over the book, stick it down properly and smooth it flat. I only have two hands.


I sometimes imagine myself as a “normal” frum (religious Jewish) person, rather than the idiosyncratic frum person I am in reality, sitting on the margins of the frum community. Before I met E, I wondered why God didn’t make me an FFB (frum from birth), as it would have made my religious observance easier, with family who were equally frum and habituation to Jewish life and socialisation into the frum community from birth. However, I wonder if I would have stopped being frum, as I feel poised between two worlds. I want to escape the tension of the balancing act, but maybe the balancing act is the point. Or would I just have been a more conformist, less interesting person? I wouldn’t have met E, so I don’t see it as a better alternative any more, but I find myself still fascinated by the idea, wondering what sort of person I would have been. Maybe it’s a form of over-thinking.

I believe that God doesn’t make mistakes, therefore he wants me to be where I am, but where I am is a constant spiritual struggle, always becoming and never quite getting there, never just being. But becoming is probably more Jewish than being, even if frum Jews don’t always see it that way. The Kotzker Rebbe, as I’ve said before, said that the searching is the finding. However, it is much easier to believe this when I’m calm than when I’m depressed, stressed and anxious as I usually am at the moment, particularly at work.


One thing I realised today, which may be related to (not) finding my place in the frum world in a strange way: the novels I tried to write in the past needed an audience. I was trying to say something that I wanted people to hear, because I felt it was important and because I wanted it to justify my existence and place in the frum community. The current one makes me happy even with it just in my head. I’ve told E some of the jokes, but just “playing” with it in my mind and understanding the world differently through that play makes it worthwhile to me even if I never actually set it down on paper, let alone get published. This seems a breakthrough.


E and I have been watching season eighteen of Doctor Who, the 1980-81 season, Tom Baker’s last in the title role. We’ve just reached the final story of the season, Logopolis. I’ve never been sure what to make of it. I loved the novelisation as a child, but as an adult watching the episodes, I find it a bit of a mess.

It’s popular with fans, albeit mostly with those who complained that the stories of the late seventies were “silly” (I don’t think they are, and Logopolis certainly has its own moments of inadvertent silliness). It has a small cast, but is manifestly not a character piece; characterisation is limited and mostly provided by the actors not the script. The plot is atypical, which is good, but it’s not advanced in a clear or logical way and it’s hard to get a clear sense of why things happen. It’s epic, but not the normal Doctor Who epic of armies of Daleks or Cybermen or both. OK, armies is more the new series than the old, but even so, epics in the original series were usually about action, such as Destiny of the Daleks the previous season or Earthshock in the next. This is about silence and entropy, about the universe falling apart from old age. It’s atmospheric and ghostly, but the author is the most vocal rationalist to work on the show or at least the most vocal in his declarations that the programme should be fundamentally about rationalism and empiricism. And yet it somehow lives on in my mind through its imagery and dialogue when much better stories have faded into obscurity. It has a sort of poetry which might not be what author Christopher H. Bidmead intended, but is still there.

Every Mitzvah Counts

I was exhausted today, but had to get up to help with the Tesco grocery delivery. I went back to bed for forty minutes after breakfast, even though it was late, and that helped a lot. Just lying still in a dark room wrapped in my weighted blanket can really help with mood, even though it’s not a practical suggestion much of the time.

I do also need to get off the computer earlier at night. It’s such a relief to be off it, but it’s so hard to get to that stage, partly because of writing my blog post and speaking to E, but also because of internet procrastination. Procrastination does me no good, but I do it anyway. As I’ve said before, the internet seems so urgent and attention-grabbing, but often it’s not urgent or even relevant,  it provokes pointless negative emotions and just leaves me feeling bad, but it’s addictive. It is the junk food of activities. At least E will be here LATER THIS MONTH and we won’t need to have late night (my time) Skype calls.

There was an apology for the family drama of the last few days, so hopefully things will be a bit more stable there from now on.

We got a contract from the photographer we want for our wedding. It’s good, but I find every stage in wedding planning can prompt “Did we make the right decision? This seems so final” thoughts.

I went to the bank and did a little shopping and was totally exhausted afterwards. E and I did some wedding paperwork stuff and I’m going to do a little Torah study after this, although it’s late. Unfortunately, I spent most of the day struggling with exhaustion and some of the evening with a mild, but persistent headache.


Sometimes (often) I wonder what it would be like to be a “normal” person, with no autism, mental health issues, a full-time job and so on. I used to think about it mainly in terms of marriage; now I have a wife who loves and accepts me, I think about it in terms of the Jewish community, being accepted and having friends, but also performing mitzvot (commandments) “properly.”

When I speak to my rabbi mentor, he always seems positive about my religious life, even when (as at the moment), I feel like I’m giving up on aspects of observances because I can’t cope practically and emotionally. I can’t work out if he really thinks I’m doing well or if he’s just trying to keep me Jewishly engaged and positive. He’s an honest person, so I imagine he really thinks it, but it’s hard to believe. Similarly, I never worked out if he said I should be open to dating less-frum (religious Jewish) women because he thinks that, as a general rule, frum people should be open to atypical relationships or because I found so few frum women willing to go out with me that I needed to broaden my search. I wouldn’t have dated E if he hadn’t said that, so it’s good whatever the reason, but I wonder about it sometimes. Likewise, when my Dad tells me he’s proud of me, I can’t help but wonder if he’s proud of me in the abstract, that I have done things that are inherently worthwhile or if he’s proud because I have a lot of “issues” yet I have done stuff which, although trivial to a “normal” person (e.g. my sister) are challenging to me. I guess I feel a degree of shame in not being “normal.”

Related, I’ve been thinking a lot about alexithymia (not being able to understand and process my own emotions) and Judaism. There are lots of emotions that I am supposed to feel as a Jew, for example, love and reverence of God, love of other people, joy on Yom Tov (festivals). I find all this very hard as I’m often not aware of these emotions and don’t know how to inspire them in myself. Now I wonder if I do feel some of them and just don’t know it. There are mental health and autistic challenges for me with most Yom Tovim, so I am probably not feeling joy there so much, but it occurs to me that if I can “prove” to myself that I love my family by looking at what I’m willing to sacrifice for them and how anxious I am about losing them, the same applies to God and Judaism. I have sacrificed a huge amount for them and don’t want to lose them I know it’s not from fear as it doesn’t feel like the anxiety I used to have with religious OCD. That would seem to indicate that it’s from love.

Other related thoughts I’ve had today: I had a headache, which reminded me of something I read in the book Calling Out to You, about Judaism and depression and anxiety, that if you had a headache, you would not pressure yourself to do your regular Jewish activities, so you shouldn’t pressure yourself if you have depression or anxiety. I feel a bit like I have a “permanent headache” in the form of autism, at least in some respects and maybe I shouldn’t pressure myself to behave like a neurotypical person.

E and I were speaking about Chabad and their kiruv (outreach) philosophy of acceptance of all Jews wherever they are religiously. While some kiruv organisations are very focused on getting people to commit to a fully observant Orthodox life, Chabad have an attitude of “every mitzvah counts.” They focus on getting people to do just one mitzvah regardless of whether they’re going to go on to do more mitzvot. Maybe I need to focus on one mitzvah at a time and just do what I can.


I still haven’t had my sleep study results and I don’t know who to chase. NHS, etc, etc.