Get Thee Hence

“Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me. I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in. What should such fellows as I do crawling between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves, all. Believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery.” – Hamlet William Shakespeare

I threw myself into work today and the depressive and anxious thoughts went away for a while, but they returned on the commute home.  There is a realization that my sister’s wedding will involve parties and crowds, ones that I won’t be able to get out of, and probably starting very soon (I suspect there will be an engagement party soon).  On the plus side, my parents finally get to throw a party after attending so many of their friends’ children’s weddings (and, as I mentioned yesterday, there is the hope that they might finally have grandchildren).  On the downside, I hate crowds and parties.  I think the one good thing about not getting married is not needing to have a wedding party.  And my sister’s party won’t even have the advantage of being my party.  I will be anonymous (what role is there for the bride’s elder brother?).  I might as well not be there, except that if I really wasn’t there, people would notice and comment (if I had time and the inclination I could write about my attempts to abscond from my bar mitzvah party and my sister’s bat mitzvah party).

But mainly it’s loneliness and anxiety about dating that has been troubling me.  I was speculating again on why women are unwilling to go out with me.  Most won’t date me at all, those that do date me generally won’t go past a second date.  Is it my looks?  I’m under no illusions, I know I’m not particularly good looking (a therapist said I was good looking a while back; I wasn’t sure how to take that because it didn’t seem to be true).  Is it my weird interests that almost no one I’ve tried to date shares?  Or my mental health issues?  Possibly a combination of the last two, bearing in mind that the only person I have had a relationship with was a fellow Doctor Who fan and that she used to ignore me when my depression was bad (presumably because she couldn’t be bothered with it or just didn’t know what to say – I thought this was my paranoia, but she admitted to me that she was doing it).  One woman refused to date me apparently in part because I haven’t been to yeshiva, which makes me fear that anyone frum enough for me to date is going to refuse me for the same reason.

Or maybe it’s something else entirely.  I wonder if there are whole vistas of off-putting inadequacy in my personality that I haven’t discovered yet.  I don’t think I really know why anyone refused to date me.  No one ever gave me a real answer and I didn’t like to press the question,  having learnt early on that you can’t reason someone into liking  you or dating you.  They either like you or they don’t and that’s an end of it.  Similarly, I never really found out why I got turned down for a regular writing slot on Hevria.com and I think the people who run it have forgotten now.  I was just told I didn’t fit in the direction they wanted to take the site, which I guess is the equivalent of, “It’s not you, it’s me” (translation, “It’s you.”).

[See also daily record]

Adventures in Searching for a Soul Mate

It’s been a busy twenty-four hours, leaving me with mixed emotions.

First the good news: my sister got engaged over Shabbat!  I’m very happy for her.  Her fiancé is a really nice guy and I get on well with him (fortunately).  I think they will be very happy together.  I’m also happy for my parents, who have watched from the sidelines as most of their friends’ children have married and had children.  At least my parents have a chance of being grandparents now.

The not-so-good news: I have been on two dates with someone over the last week, the second being a walk in the park on Shabbat (as she lives locally).  I thought it was going well even though my mental health issues came up.  But at the end she said she wants some time to think about whether she wants to go out with me again, which I took as an indication that she probably isn’t that interested, although maybe that’s reading too much into it.  Maybe she just wanted time to think about my mental health.  I don’t know.

It was quite difficult that both these things happened within a few hours of each over.  I have some really conflicted emotions right now.  Fortunately my mood overall is still OK, although because of it I did go to bed really late (after 3am) because I was watching Doctor Who and emailing a friend, trying to process everything that had happened and to relax.  Then I slept through the whole morning and got up at noon.  I am trying to be more forgiving of myself when I do things like this now as I know I need to do it sometimes for my mental health, even though I missed most of Shacharit and lost the morning.

Right now I have two verses going through my head.  One is, “Is not Aharon (Aaron) the Levite your brother?… and also behold he is coming to meet you and when he sees you he will rejoice in his heart.” (Shemot 4.14 concerning Aharon rejoicing over Moshe (Moses) becoming the leader of the Israelites, even though he was displacing his elder brother Aharon who, unlike Moshe, had been with the Israelites in their suffering in Egypt).  The other is “This is not done in our place, to give the younger in marriage before the elder.” (Bereshit 29.26, concerning Yaakov (Jacob) being tricked into marrying Leah before her younger sister Rachel).  I feel happy for my sister, but also frustrated that my little sister is getting married and I might not even have another date.  When we have two conflicting verses we search for a third to reconcile them, but I haven’t found it yet.

I did think on Friday, before all this started, that if I have to be single my whole life, I can accept it.  I’m lonely, I want to love and be loved, to have companionship and children and being a virgin in my mid-thirties is increasingly difficult, but I can cope with those things.  I have lived by myself for nearly a year now and I have survived (admittedly mostly going home for Shabbat and Yom Tov).  I see no reason why I can’t survive indefinitely like this.   But I don’t want to just survive, I want to be happy and loved.  I wonder if that will ever happen.

Also…

I’d just like to add, I know I’ve picked up a number of followers since starting this blog, and I’d just like to invite people to comment.  Don’t be shy!  I don’t bite!  I’d love to hear from you!  I like having comment discussions with people,  much more so than talking to people in the real world.

Identity

I have not written much lately.  This is not for want of things to write about.  So much has happened or is happening, but I simply have not had the time or energy to write.  Pesach (Passover) was better than it has been for a couple of years; there was some OCD and some family tensions, but better than the last few years.  I have started a new job, which is going well.  The team are friendly and the work is challenging, but not impossible.  In the background I have various writing projects and am trying to get to shul (synagogue) more often and to do more religious study as well as keeping up with the household chores.

I am trying to find the balance in my life, to make positive changes (the new job, trying to daven (pray) more with a minyan (prayer quorum), trying to study more Torah) without getting overwhelmed by the changes.  It is hard sometimes as, although I am not depressed as I once was, it can still be hard to enjoy things.  In particular, I have been thinking lately about not having simcha shel mitzvah (joy in performing the commandments).  I heard from a rabbi a while back that I won’t experience this until after I have recovered from the depression, but it makes it hard to get motivated to do things if I can’t experience joy in them, especially as I am thinking more these days of managing my mental health than of being “cured.”  It is hard to know what to do sometimes.

I have also been struggling with questions of identity, about trying to find a place in the Jewish community and in the wider world with my niche interests.  I have been thinking about politics quite a bit, unsurprisingly given the news, and thinking that my political views probably come across as complicated if not confused.  I don’t really feel comfortable with any party, but, given that I do force myself to vote for someone, I suspect I will be voting for a party that a number of my friends do not approve of.  There is so much anger in the world at the moment, especially regarding politics and identity that I feel under attack a lot of the time, especially given my fragile ego, whether it’s Doctor Who fans insisting that you have to be progressive to enjoy the programme or people at seudah shlishit (the third Sabbath meal) in shul being scornful of giving tzedaka (charity) to non-Jews or the horror stories I hear from American friends of Orthodox Jews bullied at the Shabbat table for not voting for Donald Trump or the ongoing antisemitism crisis in the Labour Party…

Even as my own world is improving, the wider world feels increasingly like a frightening and tribal place where a slightly unusual and (I hope) thoughtful person like myself is forced to squeeze himself into uncomfortable boxes or lose his friends.  I am trying to go slowly, to focus on my recovery and to take things one step at a time, but sometimes it seems as if events in the wider world are pushing on faster than I would like.

Despatches from Pesach (“…And I Would Rather Be Anywhere Else Than Here Today”)

I  haven’t blogged for nearly a fortnight.  I’ve been busy with Pesach and with a Hevria post as well as emailing a couple of new friends I’ve made (frum Doctor Who fans with mental health issues).  This isn’t a full post, just a quick update/venting.

Pesach has been better than the last couple of years, but still problematic.  I’ve done a couple of questionable things.  I guess we all make mistakes, and this is compounded by not being 100% in control of my environment, but I feel bad.  Worse, I feel I’ve completely screwed up Pesach and lost my share in the World to Come for (possibly) eating chametz on Pesach. [Redacted.]

I’m worried about big things (Pesach, starting my new job next week) and little ones, too trivial to mention.  Somehow the little things seem the most important.  I guess my mind is trying to ignore the bigger ones.

Despatches from the Front Line 10

Agitated.  Can’t sit still, can’t concentrate, don’t want to sleep.  Am I too weird to ever get married?  I think so.  I worked out there are only about 1,000 frum single women roughly my age in the UK.  How many of those are going to be remotely compatible with me?  I mean in terms of values, personality and interests.  Very few.  Was trying to explain this to my sister, not sure she got it.  Was trying to explain why I think it is hopeless looking for someone with similar interests and I just have to find someone with similar values and hope we can make it work.  Not that many women like SF, not that many frum Jews like SF; how many single, frum women like it?  Gah!

I get so lonely sometimes.  A lot of the time, really.  I’m not as much of a loner as I’d like to be i.e. if I was more of a loner, I wouldn’t be so lonely.  I want a few close friends, not many, but a few, but I’m hardly gregarious so I struggle to make them.  I lack social skills.  I keep reminding myself – I keep being reminded by events – that I’m a fairly extreme introvert, borderline autistic, borderline socially anxious.  I shouldn’t hold on to these (non-)diagnoses like liferafts, but I do.  I tell myself that it is medically proven that I don’t know how to act around people (except it isn’t, because technically I don’t have a diagnosis only a knowledge of symptoms that I’m told are not intense or numerous enough for a diagnosis).

I feel I’m only truly authentic in my own head.  Somewhat authentic in writing, not authentic at all in person, but only truly authentic in my own head.  Only God knows the real me (even I probably don’t know him).  “O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.”  (Hamlet) I have bad dreams of having friends and being married, being loved.  Bad dreams, because they can’t come true.

I fear that lately I have begun to wear my virginity like a crown of thorns.  Something that hurts, but also redeems.  (This is very Christian imagery for a good Orthodox Jewish boy.  I find the Christian story powerful even as I reject its theological premises.  But if a nice Jewish boy is going to die for everyone’s sins, I want it to be me, not some yeshiva bochur from the Galil.)  I think about marriage too much.  I think about sex far too much.  I wonder what it would be like to be loved, emotionally and physically.  What it would be like to feel safe with someone, really safe and understood and accepted.

If I don’t love myself, how can anyone else?  (Not that many have tried.)  But how can I love myself when I seem to be so loathsome, as shown by the fact that no one likes me.  (As Oscar Wilde said of George Bernard Shaw, I haven’t an enemy in the world and none of my friends likes me.)  This is a vicious circle.  I hate myself, so no one likes me, so I hate myself some more.  How to break free?  Answers on the back of a postcard, or in the comments section below.

“Good night ladies.  Good night sweet ladies.  Good night, good night.”

Despatches from the Front Line 9

I’m just back from a run.  I had music going, but I spent most of the time brooding on loneliness.  I think I’m angsting about being lonely to avoid angsting about Pesach (Passover), which is one week away and I still have some big questions that I can’t get hold of a rabbi to ask.

I have a post about loneliness out on Hevria.com tomorrow, so I don’t want to go into this too much (anyway, someone told me this week that I write too much about how depressed I am…).  I don’t want to fall into the trap of saying, “If I have X, I will be happy” because usually if you aren’t happy without X, you won’t be happy with it.  You need to be happy in yourself and I am very much not happy in myself.  Still, IF I ever manage to be happy in  myself, I think I would still want the following to live a happy and fulfilled life:

one wife who loves me and who is willing to let me love her;

two good friends who I can talk to about my geeky and cultural interests and about Jewish things (probably some overlap here with my wife, who I would want to be my best friend, but I’m assuming that, given that the number of single frum geeky women (worldwide, let alone in the UK) is vanishingly small, it’s best not to assume my wife will share many or even any of my outside interests);

three happy, healthy children.

Add in my parents and  my sister and I think I only need a total of nine people close to me in my life, which is not very many.  I’ve largely given up on being accepted into a wider community, religious or geeky.  Throw in a reasonably engaging job that earns me enough money to support the wife and kids with a small amount over for occasional luxuries and also some joy and meaning in my religious life, which lately (lately?  For years) has been lacking both and that’s basically all I want out of life.  It doesn’t seem much to ask, but so far it is proved completely beyond my reach.  The problem is, I do not have a clue how to set realistic targets to reach it.  I have poor social skills (the borderline Asperger’s and borderline social anxiety cause problems here) and am very bad at talking to people, particularly to strangers.  I don’t know how to make friends at all, let alone to find a wife.

Despatches from the Front Line 8 (Too Niche)

I broke up with my date, if “broke up” is the right term to use after only two dates.  It was understandable, as we had very little in common in terms of interests, although our personalities seemed quite similar.  I was probably blinded by the excitement of dating for the first time in four years and didn’t really see the problem looming.

I think that after Pesach, when I’m settled in my new job, I will go to a shadchan (professional matchmaker).  I feel embarrassed about this, although it is the normal way of dating in the frum (Orthodox Jewish religious) world.  I do worry that I won’t be able to find someone, partly because of my mental health issues, but mostly because of my weird interests.  As my sister said to me yesterday, “You are quite niche.”  My interests are fairly unusual in general, doubly so for a frum person.  There are maybe 1-2 million frum Orthodox Jews in the world, mostly living in Israel and the USA.  I don’t know how many geeks there are in the world, but it is also a fairly small community and the overlap between the two communities seems to be very small (even before you start subdividing between people who have different frum outlooks and people who like different geeky things – I have no interest in video games, for example).

To be honest, I would be tempted to give up, the whole dating thing as too much pain and too little chance of happiness, were it not that the thought of maybe possibly meeting someone who is right for me one day seems too satisfying to throw it away now.  Maybe in another five or ten years.  Although I don’t really know what being married is like, I’ve only had one, relatively short-lived relationship, and that was good at first but turned bad.  Maybe marriage wouldn’t be so good after all, especially as I don’t really trust myself to make the right choice, given my loneliness and nervousness prompts me to make bad decisions (like telling someone I “really like you” on a second date) and I have had crushes on wildly inappropriate people before.

The frustrating thing is I feel I have a lot of love to give someone, and I come with a few plus points (gentle, caring, intelligent, honest, loyal, in touch with my emotions (too much so…), good listener (according to my Mum anyway; I’m not so sure), good with children (ditto), willing and able to cook, clean and launder…), it’s just frustrating that I can’t find anyone willing to receive that love.

Despatches from the Front Line 7

Spring is a time of change and renewal and this year there are multiple changes, not all of which I am ready to share here yet.  Pesach (Passover) preparation is underway and the OCD is already trying to make me feel anxious about it.  I am just about holding on, with exactly two weeks to go.  I hope I feel like this in three weeks’ time.

I start my new job immediately after Pesach.  That’s just a huge, scary unknown at the moment, with nothing of substance to write about here.  I’m hoping it will be good.  I’m a bit anxious about a lot of things connected with it of varying degrees of likelihood, from my ability to do the job, to the fear that I will encounter antisemitism in the workplace or the trip in to work.

There’s another potentially big change on the way that I am reluctant to write about here, but it is very much up in the air at the moment anyway.

Then there is dating.  I have had two dates now and don’t know how things are going.  I am not good at social interactions at the best of times and think I accidentally came on stronger than I intended at the second date, trying to be light-hearted, but sounding flirtatious and making the Freudian slip of saying “I really like you” when I did not mean to put it so strongly.   Because of this I thought I would give my date space for a few days before calling her again, but it’s hard.  I feel there’s a spark there – nothing more definite at the moment, but the potential of something positive in the future, but I don’t know how my date feels about me.  I opened up a bit about  my mental health and she was understanding, so that at least is good.

Looking back at my last post, I see I have mostly covered the same ground.  Perhaps things are not changing quite as fast as I thought/feared.  Or maybe it just shows the same thoughts and anxieties going round and round in my head.

Despatches from the Front Line 6

I haven’t written much this last week.  This is not because nothing is happening; on the contrary, my life seems to have sped up enormously over the last month and is set to continue to do so.  I’m in the last few weeks at my current job, preparing to start my new job soon, Pesach (Passover) is now well and truly on the way and – well, I’ve started dating someone new.  I have not dated many women and I hadn’t been on a date for four years, so that was quite exciting and, frankly, a bit terrifying.  Our first two dates went well, but I’m still terrified that something will go wrong, not least because I felt I said the wrong thing today (I tried to say something reassuring and think it came out like flirting, which wasn’t my intention).

Oh dear, I didn’t mean to write about my dates and somehow it has come out anyway!  It’s really on my mind at the moment – I just wish I could look into a crystal ball and know what will happen.  But life doesn’t work like that: I don’t believe in fortune tellers and I don’t believe it’s healthy to want to know the future like that.  But it is tempting!

The point I was trying to make is that my blog might be on hold for a while as I deal with some of these other things.  I think the “Despatches from the Front Line” posts will probably continue, as they are relatively quick and easy ot write and help me to vent my difficult feelings a bit (hence writing about dating anxieties).  Judging by the number of likes, they seem to be the most popular part of the blog anyway, so maybe that’s not a bad thing.  I’ll see in a month or so how things will work out, once Pesach is out of the way, I have started my new job and perhaps I have a clearer idea of how some other things in my life are going.