Happy for Myself, Worried for the World

I wanted to get up early again, but I felt really drained this morning and got up at 10.30am (I’ve been up later, but still…) and still struggled to get going. I was glad I had the house to myself for a bit as Mum and Dad were at the hospital much of the day. I did do a few things (see below), but I struggled to find the energy to do as much as I had planned and wanted. It’s not surprising that I’m drained from yesterday, but I do find it frustrating that I can’t live my life at 100% optimum (or anywhere near it) the way some people seem to do, even though I know that autistic burnout and perhaps the remnants of depressive exhaustion are real parts of my life.

Achievements: I read a book on writing (developing realistic characters) for an hour; I studied Torah for nearly an hour; and I watched an interview with Ed Husain (whose book The Islamist I just read) about Israel and the Islamic world. I went for a 5K run too, which unfortunately gave me a bit of a headache and stopped me doing much in the evening.

Not a lot else happened. I was, as I said, exhausted from yesterday, so I didn’t do as much as I would have liked. I feel that my communication (too early to say ‘relationship’) with PIMOJ seems to be going well (basing this largely on what she said explicitly in emails, as I’m bad at reading between the lines), so my mood was reasonably good. Then in the late afternoon I had some very good news, but I can’t share it here yet (hopefully soon). But it was very cheering.

We’ve got to strictly shield from now until Mum’s operation on Thursday, so I won’t be running or walking or even going outside for a few days. I probably wouldn’t have gone for a run today if I had known this, but my parents were still at the hospital when I went out. On the plus side, I don’t think we need to shield so strictly afterwards, so in theory I could go to shul (synagogue) again from next week, but I feel very nervous about doing so for multiple reasons.

Despite my reasonably good mood, I was a bit upset by some news from the wider world. On the one hand, Ed Husain seemed very positive in his interview about the possibilities of wider Israel-Sunni Arab peace deals, which is good, although I worried he was over-optimistic; on the other hand, Unherd had disturbing articles about the normalisation of violence against women in otherwise consensual sex and the worrying news that 28% of “Biden supporters” (which I assume means Democrats) and 19% of Trump supporters (which might well not be a straightforward synonym for Republicans) say that they won’t accept the legitimacy of a victory by the other side in the forthcoming presidential election. Neither of these things bode well for Western society if true (I’m assuming that bad social/political trends that start in America spread to the rest of the Western world sooner or later), and I suspect they are true. So that brought my mood down a bit.

Pogo Stick

Today was another up and down day.  I coped with shul (synagogue) last night.  I enjoyed dinner with Mum and Dad.  I spent quite a bit of time on Torah study afterwards, including trying to prep for today’s Talmud shiur (class) after dinner at 10pm when my brain was just not working.  When I got to bed, I couldn’t sleep, so I stayed up until 3am reading Doctor Who Magazine (some pretty good articles this month.  I just wish I had enjoyed the last series as much as the people writing in to the letters page appeared to do).

I woke up several times across the morning, but felt too depressed to get up and go to shul, or even just to get up.

I dozed after lunch again and when I woke up I again felt too depressed to want to go to shul Mincha (Afternoon Service), but forced myself to go anyway.  I probably got there late semi-deliberately to avoid being asked to lead the service.  I actually quite enjoyed Talmud shiur, although I was inwardly relieved when the rabbi admitted that even he had struggled with the sugya (discussion) in question.  It was so opaque and discursive that I’m not even going to try to summarise it here.  Talmud study is definitely better when I prep a day or so beforehand and review it a day or so afterwards, although that obviously makes a bigger time investment per page.

My sister and brother-in-law came over after Shabbat (Sabbath), mostly to see Mum post-chemo.  As my sister uses the Tube every weekday, she was wary of infecting Mum with something – not necessarily coronovirus, but some kind of virus that she might be incubating.  We had a good time, although I slipped away for a bit after a while.

Speaking of which, the coronavirus news coverage reminds me of the Tomato Flu episode of Broken News, particularly the bit where Pip Torrens warns of symptoms including “hot or cold sweats; hot or cold aches; sweaty acheyness; runny or sweaty or achey nose; tiredness; a sense of slight confusion; blinking; passing water; and, of course in extreme cases, death.”

I saw this comment in the Jewish Chronicle comparing the Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu with the first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion: While the Netanyahus have racked up huge bills at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer, Ben-Gurion’s greatest financial vice was his propensity to buy too many…books.”  I felt that I have something in common with him.  A few years ago I actually went to his apartment in Tel Aviv, which is a museum now, preserved as he had it, and there are books everywhere, on all kinds of topics: lots on Judaism and Jewish history, but also a lot on the sciences too, I think even on relatively obscure subjects like geology, and to my surprise a copy of The Zohar, the primary book of Jewish mysticism (Ben-Gurion was an atheist and secularist, albeit like many early Zionists he was a keen amateur Bible scholar).

Sudden Sadnesses

It seems that I forgot to take my medication yesterday, morning and evening.  While I can believe I forgot the evening dose, as I was rushing to go to depression group, I’m a bit surprised I forgot the morning dose.  But it would explain why I was so anxious and despairing yesterday.  I do feel a lot better today.

It’s also worth noting that my parents are really proud of how well I’ve coped with things this week, the things I’ve written about here and the things I don’t think I should share yet, if at all.  They said that I’ve coped a lot better than they expected/feared.

There isn’t a lot left to say.  I was feeling OK today, but suddenly my mood will drop with no obvious trigger.  I feel quite sad at the moment, without really being sure why (possibly empathy for a friend whose family are going through a very tough time right now).  I hope I feel well enough later to get to shul (synagogue) tonight, because that is very important to me, even though I have been struggling with it lately.

Big events are happening in the geopolitical world and part of me would like to write about how that affects me emotionally, but I haven’t really got the time or, if I’m honest, the inclination.  Writing about my emotional response is likely to lead me sooner or later into writing about my political response, which I have no real wish to do.  Politics in general just seems so poisonous these days, although one can probably overstate it; I’m not convinced by arguments that global politics is as broken and dangerous as it was in the 1930s.

Symbolic Dream

I had a fairly vivid and memorable dream last night.

In the dream I was in a Jewish library that doubled as a shul (synagogue), like the one I was working in recently, but it was being used as a shul for a Shacharit (Morning Service) service while I was there.  There were copies of the Qu’ran and somehow building bridges to the Muslim community and fighting Islamophobia came into it, I’m not sure how exactly.  The rabbi of the shul was a very well-known rabbi who I greatly respect and whose books have influenced my thinking a lot (in real life I mean as well as the dream).  I didn’t think he knew me, but after he gave a vort (literally a word, i.e. a very short Torah thought), I commented to him on it and he announced my insight to the community and mentioned me by name.  Somehow an old acquaintance of mine who I have drifted away from in the real world was involved (in real life he is very involved in left-wing causes and anti-Islamophobia so it isn’t so surprising that my mind should make the association).  Then I was walking in to a different, secular, library where I was working or volunteering.  I was helping to sort the Tintin books and regretted that I couldn’t put them in the correct order without looking it up, whereas in real life I could probably more or less manage that.  There was also something about having a child and asking that rabbi to bless him, although I’m not sure if I had a child in the dream or if it was just an aspiration.  I woke up early, as if it was a work day, but refreshed and with a feeling of peace, although I did fall asleep again.

I feel that this is a very telling dream.  Some of it is about Trump’s Israel-Palestine “Peace Plan” which I feel is no such thing and is just about to legitimate a land-grab by the Israeli right.  It pains me to say this as a staunch Zionist and someone who thinks that the situation in the West Bank is more complex than the mainstream media represents, but I can’t think of any other outcome.  The dream was saying that it will be necessary for the Jewish community to build grassroots links with the Islamic community in the days ahead, although I’m not sure how that relates to me, and I’m not sure how many people in the Islamic community are willing to build bridges back.

The rabbi I respect is in favour of a land-for-peace deal and does interfaith work in reality, so could have appeared for that reason, but also has a connection to the library I was working at, although I did not meet him there.  Perhaps him knowing me in my dream is my unconscious saying that I did good work there even if it’s over now, hence also the feeling of satisfaction on waking.  Working in another, secular library afterwards could be my unconscious saying that I should be optimistic about finding new work.  The library being used as a shul for a service where I felt comfortable may be optimism about finding a shul where I can be fully accepted.  The child I thought about in the dream may be a feeling of optimism about building a relationship with E. and one day having children.

I don’t really see dreams as prophecies of the future, but even as a sign about my unconscious understanding of the present, this one seemed positive and I was not surprised to wake feeling refreshed even after only four and a half hours of sleep, although, as I say, I did fall asleep again.  There were some other details, but I’m not sure where they fit in.  But it did seem a positive dream, even if it seems to stem from negative events in my life and the world.

Kill Your Darlings (not your Daleks)

I’m feeling awful again today.  I got up late and kept going back to bed.  I knew it would be hard coming back from holiday, but I didn’t realise just how far backwards I would go.  I know I need structure, but I’m worried about the stuff I have coming up in the next week or two.  I worry about even managing to get to these things on time (I’m basically nocturnal at the moment) let alone get through them.

I’ve got a meeting with a careers charity on Friday, a different one to the one I saw on Monday, not a specifically autism/mental health one, to talk about alternative careers and interview practice, but I’m worried I’m not going to say much and it’s mostly going to be me being told I’m doing everything wrong (that’s how the previous meeting there felt, a bit).  Then it’s going to be hectic to get home in good time before Shabbat.  Then next week I have a day long seminar thing on building a second career (I never really built the first one…).  I just got an email about it; it’s a series of talks over the day, but apparently “Morning and afternoon refreshments, together with lunch, are complimentary, and an important networking part of the day.”  Scary.  I might try to stay for refreshments, but, even aside from kashrut questions (the charity running the seminar is Jewish, but not religious, so it might not be kosher enough for me), I think I will need to get away from everyone for an hour if I am to have any hope of staying in the talks for the whole day.  Oh, and weirdly one of the speakers is the rabbi who was my shul rabbi growing up; he eventually quit the rabbinate and went into finance in which capacity he’s speaking.

***

I’m struggling with concentration and motivation again.  It’s hard to feel that I could be working in this state, yet I feel I should.  I discussed this with someone else online today, that I feel I should be working, even if part-time.  It’s partly that I don’t like being dependent on my parents, partly social expectation, part genuine feeling that I want to do something meaningful with my life.  Plus, although I’m going to have another go at applying for benefits, I doubt very much that I would qualify for sickness benefits.  I’m too functional.  It’s very difficult to claim benefits for mental illness as the system is essentially based around physical incapacity.  If you can see and walk and don’t need constant care it’s difficult to meet the burden of proof for being disabled.  I’m sceptical of whether I will get unemployment benefits, but I need to try and apply while I’m still in a period where I worked significantly in the last two tax years.

***

I did manage to do a few things.  I went for a walk and picked up my blood test form for my next blood test (I have them every three months on lithium tablets).  At the doctor’s surgery I saw someone I dated a number of years ago who dumped me as soon as I said I had mental health issues.  She lives locally, so I run into her from time to time although we haven’t spoken; I’m not sure if I’m good at hiding or she’s good at pretending not to see me.  (I suppose I’m pretending not to see her, really.)

I wrote a devar Torah (Torah thought) for Shabbat (the Sabbath), which took an hour, but I was pretty exhausted afterwards.  I did the slightly naughty rabbinic trick of writing about what I wanted to write about and tying it in to the parasha (weekly Torah reading).  Actually, that’s not entirely true; it’s more that I thought there was a link, and there was, but then when I sat down to write it, the link wasn’t as strong as I thought, but I carried on anyway.  I tried to work on my novel for an hour too and wrote a bit, but then decided that my narrator was acting out of character and the incident should happen later in the chapter, in a different context and perhaps a different way.  So I’m left with a shorter chapter than I started with, and a fragment to be reworked later.  But it’s too late to work on that tonight.  I need to find a way of getting more time to work on my novel, but it’s hard when I’m expected to make job hunting my “job” and still fit in chores, exercise and the like as well as coping with poor concentration and motivation.

***

I mentioned the other day about unfollowing a blog because the blogger said something that I felt was dismissive about mental illness and didn’t respond to my polite response.  Well, she just responded today and said she thought she had responded at the time, but her comment didn’t post properly and she only just realised.  I believe her, because I’ve been reading her blog for years and she’s never struck me as the type of person to casually lie or act rudely, and if she didn’t want to respond at all, why respond now?  (She can’t see that I unfollowed her because she posts on Blogger and it doesn’t show that I was following her on WordPress.)  But I’m undecided about following the blog again as I feel I do seem to end up with differences of opinion with her a lot.  But then again, maybe it’s good for me to see that I can open up to someone with very different opinions to my own, and disagree, and we still stay friends.  In the past we have often disagreed on matters “safely.”  That’s something I do struggle to accept; I usually keep quiet about differences for fear of rejection.

***

It’s also been a day when I’ve wandered into political stuff online again, which just depresses me beyond measure.  The flare-up of fighting in Israel depresses and worries me too; I was within range of some of the 360 rockets fired from Gaza just a few days ago.  Cousin 3 lives in the south of Israel, which is the most dangerous place for rockets.  It’s scary.

Speaking of which, some photos from my trip.

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Yam Kinneret/Sea of Galilee

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View from Bental towards Mt. Hermon and Syria

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Talmudic-era village, Katzrin

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Talmudic-era synagogue, Katzrin

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Goats! Katzrin

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Arbel National Park. I wish I could go to wilderness more often

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Sunset on Kinneret/Sea of Galilee

Still Abroad

Sitting in the departure lounge, feeling bored and overwhelmed – overwhelmed by noise and by depression. I bought my Dad a multi-ink pen that says “I love Israel” but I still wonder why I can’t remember to buy him a present, but on seeing our flight is EZY 2084, I remember immediately that 2084 is the year the Doctor Who story Warriors of the Deep is set in. If I’m not autistic, someone has a lot of explaining to do.

Homeward Thoughts from Abroad

I’m writing from the airport. I feel bad, partly because the holiday is ending and I’m back to job hunting, but mostly because I feel useless.

Last night Mum reminded me to thank Dad for the holiday. I don’t know if I would have remembered otherwise. I forgot to buy him a souvenir to say thanks because usually my sister would remind me. Similarly, today I finished packing and waited for my parents. It didn’t occur to me that Mum and Dad might need help.

I know that inability to “mind-read” is a classic high functioning autism symptom. Likewise for trouble acting on initiative. But somehow I feel I should be “better.” And I worry that I’m not on the spectrum, I’m just selfish and useless.

At the start of the holiday, when things were going well, I was more optimistic about my life and especially about me and E.  but now things seem hopeless again. A real downer to end on.

Arbel and Kinneret

We spent the early afternoon at Arbel National Park, looking at spectacular views over Tiberias and towards Tzfat. The rocky paths were awkward, but not too difficult or dangerous.  I saw several lizards to add to the list of wildlife spotted on this trip.

After lunch we intended to go to Capernaum, which we thought was a ruined Roman city, but when we got there we were greeted by a sign that said “CAPERNAUM – CITY OF JESUS”, signs warning that this was a religious site and prohibiting various things and hundreds of pilgrims being constantly bussed in. So far as I could tell, the main attraction here was the church.

We decided this was not for us and drove to the far side of the Kinneret/Sea of Galilee. We ate ice cream and watched the sun set over the lake/sea and and watched the birds flying past, including some brilliant blue ones.

I have a headache that has come and gone all afternoon, but otherwise it was a good end to the holiday. Tomorrow is the flight home, and a return to the cold and wet.

One thing I have noticed is the huge amount of religious tat: kitsch art and souvenirs with religious themes aimed partly at Jews, but mostly at Christians. Occasionally you do see tasteful pieces, but a lot are kitsch: replicas of the Ark of the Covenant, candlesticks in the shape of Samson pushing the pillars of the Philistine temple, Noah’s Ark models, lots of crucifixes. You see this stuff all over Israel, but particularly at places with religious resonance for Christians. I’m afraid in my head I have an image of pilgrims from the Bible Belt being the main consumers of this stuff. That’s probably me stereotyping; I’m sure there are Evangelicals from Texas or Alabama with a highly developed aesthetic sense, but they aren’t buying this stuff.

To be fair, my parents have a small model of a Hasid that I think my sister and I bought for them on one trip. I think that’s more tasteful, either because it’s very small in comparison with some of these pieces or because it’s not directly religious. There’s something about taking imagery that goes to the core of Western religion and art and using it for cheap, mass-produced tourist-fodder that is inherently kitsch.

Goats!

Today we went to see the ruins of a Talmudic era (2nd to 8th century) village at Katsrin. It was fascinating, with restored or partially restored houses, wine and oil presses, bread ovens and the partially restored synagogue (Beit HaKenneset – no Yiddish shul in Talmudic times!).

Also on site were a large peacock and two rather cute small goats. One was definitely female (no horns, but udders and long ears framing her face like payot/sidecurls). The other, with horns, looked male to me, but one staff member addressed it in the feminine, “Mah at ochelet?” (“What are you eating?”) The answer, apparently, was a piece of string, which in goatish fashion it refused to relinquish. I now want a goat for a pet…

davened Mincha (said Afternoon Prayers) in the ruined synagogue, but it didn’t feel as “connected” as I had hoped. I’m not quite sure what I was hoping for. I got interrupted by a tour group, which didn’t help.

Afterwards we went into town in modern Katsrin to the archaeological museum there, mostly Roman era coins and pots, but some prehistoric artifacts and a carving of a biblical story that connects to me for reasons I won’t mention here.

Afterwards we sat and ate ice cream. I had a Magnum Duet, which isn’t kosher in the UK (most Magums aren’t, sadly). To be honest, it didn’t taste that different to classic or white Magnums, which are kosher (in boxes of four only, not loose).

We’re planning on looking for falafel for dinner, which we haven’t had on this trip yet.

I realise my mood seems better in these posts. The sunlight and warmth help, but I suspect it’s mostly the freedom from responsibility. My parents are dealing with a lot of stuff and I don’t have to worry about job hunting. Even my status as the only family member here who speaks any Hebrew is rarely needed, as most Israelis speak better English than my Hebrew, although I did speak a bit to order dinner last night. Sadly, tomorrow is the last proper day of the holiday.

Bental

I’m trying to type this on my phone. I’m not sure how it will work…

My parents and I spent the day (well, afternoon – none of us are early risers) at Bental, a mountain (hill, really) in Northern Israel from which there are stunning views towards Lebanon and Syria as well as of Mount Hermon, Israel’s tallest mountain. There are remains of military fortifications from the Yom Kippur War, where a small number of Israeli tanks held off a much larger invading Syrian force. There was supposed to be a film about it screened in a kibbutz at the foot of the mountain, but it wasn’t signposted and we couldn’t find it.

Because of looking for that film we ended up at a loose end afterwards. It was too late to start anything new, as all the tourist sites were shutting, but we didn’t want to come home. My parents went grocery shopping in Katsin, a small town. I sat in the town centre and listened to a Doctor Who audiobook. We came home for a bit and are going for dinner soon, either pizza or falafel (hopefully).

I still feel exhausted.  I feel bad that I sleep so late and get so tired as I feel I’m slowing everyone down. Realistically my parents would not be going much faster, but I wouldn’t cope with going on holiday with a partner or children. I also feel bad that my Hebrew isn’t fluent or even conversational, but there isn’t much I can do about that at the moment either.

I’m also worried that I’ve upset another blog friend, although perhaps I’m projecting the fact that she offended me. I seem to have fallen out with a lot of online friends in recent years.

I can’t escape the general election even in the Middle  East as my parents insist on having Sky News on…

Tiberias

Not much to report today. I had lunch with my parents, uncle, aunt and cousins 3 and 5, the others having already left Tiberias to go back to school or university.

In the afternoon, I wandered round Tiberias with my parents. It was nice, but a bit… not lacking exactly, but it seemed… not as old as Jaffa or as bustling as Tel Aviv or as important as Jerusalem. It was frummer (more religious ) than I expected though and fairly easy to find kosher food. I tried to use my Hebrew, but I’m very hesitant and stumbling, and so many Israelis speak fluent English, it seems pointless to try.

I got some nice photos of the Kinneret/Sea of Galilee/Lake Tiberias. I might post some when I get home.  It seems really a lake rather than a sea. It’s very tranquil by the water. I saw some feral kittens on the rocks by the water, and numerous feral cats. Israel is the stray cat capital of the world. There werearly some nice public sculptures and a couple of historic buildings.

Between my parents’ age and my depression, we get tired easily and came home around 5pm to recharge before going for dinner with my sister and brother-in-law at an outdoor restaurant serving steak and the like. I’m vegetarian on weekdays, but they brought in egg noodles from their sister, Thai, restaurant. It was a good evening. The restaurant is on a kind of pier into the sea and a stray dog wandered in which was (a) not so hygienic  (I saw a stray cat too, eating some meat near the kitchen ) and (b) none of us are really dog people and some of us are dog-phobic, so this was not ideal. It was a fairly good-looking dog, though. It reminded me of the dog that used to try and follow me home whenever it smelt (?) me go past in our old house.

That was it really, aside from learning a Mishnah that mentions Tiberias while I’m in Tiberias, which was cool, and listening to another Doctor Who audio book. I will probably go to bed soon and try to get up earlier tomorrow.

The Bar Mitzvah

I’m posting on my Mum’s tablet, which I find awkward so this may be more error-prone than usual.

The flight to Israel was not great. There were a lot of screaming kids and despite napping for a while  (even though I can’t sleep on planes) I had a headache which turned into a migraine and did not completely go all evening. We arrived at the hotel around 11pm, bought bread, cheese, cereal and milk in a supermarket, ate dinner at midnight. By the time I had eaten, showered and tried to relax it was 2am. I struggled to fall asleep and slept badly as I was cold and had a headache.

Most of Friday afternoon was taken up with driving from Tel Aviv to Poriya. I fell asleep again in the car, uncharacteristically.  We arrived shortly before Sabbath and rushed to get ready on time. Shul (in the youth centre where we stayed – everything was on site) was okay.  Dinner was really noisy, with 75 guests of our family and several tables of other people staying there. I got through it and led bentsching (grace after meals) badly, making mistakes. I was quite glad to leave and get back to my room. I stood on the balcony looking over the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), then did some Torah study and read a bit, but by 10pm I was exhausted and went to bed.

I slept for 12 hours or more. I missed Shacharit and my cousin’s leining,  which upset me, but I don’t know what else I could have done, struggling in a very autism- depression- and social anxiety-unfriendly environment. I got through lunch but then fell asleep for another 3 hours. I missed some activities and only just got to seudah shlishit.

I’m skipping a lot of details here for brevity, but I consider it a success that I did what I did. I would have liked to have done more, but I felt uncomfortable so much of the time that I don’t think I could have done more. I would have liked to have seen my family more, but they were mostly mingling or doing stuff. The food was great, though.

After Shabbat we drove down the road to Tiberias where we’re staying until Thursday in a rented apartment. Hopefully more details later this week.

Muppets

I’m having some trouble with OCD thoughts again, albeit on a very small scale at the moment.  I’m not sure where this has come from.  I can identify the immediate trigger, but I’m not sure why I’m back in OCD thought-territory when I thought I was doing so well in recovery.  I hope it’s just the stress of being ill and preparing to go on a trip that I’m anxious about after a month continually interrupted by Jewish festivals.  I’m trying to stay on top of the thoughts, but it’s hard.

***

I’m struggling a lot with procrastination over packing today.  I did pack, but slowly and it’s fairly clear to me it’s because I really don’t want to go on this trip, but it’s too late to back out now.  Shabbat (the Sabbath) and all the bar mitzvah stuff is likely to be tough on me and I just have to do the best I can and hope no one gets angry or upset if “the best I can do” doesn’t correspond to “what others want/expect me to do.”  I can’t get hold of my rabbi mentor to meet him while I’m there either, which is upsetting.  I go to Israel every few years and always meet with him, but this time it looks like it’s not going to happen.  I’m actually worried more than anything else, as he’s not usually this hard to get hold of.  I hope he’s OK.

After Shabbat, hopefully things will be a bit easier.  We’re in a hotel tomorrow night and some kind of youth hostel (??? it has not entirely been made clear to me, but I think my aunt and uncle are renting a youth hostel to put 75 or so people in it) for Shabbat, but then from Sunday onwards we’ll be renting an apartment and if the worse comes to the worse, I can spend the morning or even the day there while my parents go off and do tourist stuff.  I’ve got books, and the latest Doctor Who Magazine had a special promotion of eleven hour-plus long Doctor Who audiobooks that I downloaded, so I can be occupied.  It will be a bit of a waste, but at least I would have done the important family bit.  Unfortunately, I can’t always read much when I feel depressed, and reading a non-fiction popular science book may have been a strategic error, although I’m taking a short story collection and a novel as backup.  The flight may be hard.  Fortunately I’ve charged my iPod.  I wish the latest copy of The Jewish Review of Books had arrived as it should have done (I need to chase that when I get home).

***

I finally started reading the latest issue of Information Professional, the magazine of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).  They send me this each month because I’m a member of CILIP (mostly to access their job vacancy listings) and I hate it.  The magazine just makes me feel so inadequate.  It’s full of librarians who are doing amazing, creative things with their libraries or who are doing lots of CPD (Continuing Professional Development) and becoming Chartered Librarians or whatever.  I don’t do CPD.  It’s hard enough for me to do a job, or look for a job, with all my issues without having to do unpaid extra work in my free time, just in order to keep up with a changing workplace.  I know this is the reality of the modern labour market, but I simply can’t keep up with the kind of CPD that my peers from university seem to be doing to stay in their well-paid, middle class, professional jobs.  Likewise, I can’t come up with amazing projects in my library (even if I had one), like the article I was reading today about a prison librarian who started a film club that became a massive successful project a famous actor and director getting involved.  That’s just not how my mind works.

***

(The next few paragraphs are a bit of a rant, so if you aren’t interested in politics, or rather with people who are fed up with politics, you might want to scroll down beyond the next row of asterisks.)

One advantage of going away is avoiding general election commentary for a week.  There will be enough of that when I get back.  Sometimes a political party does something that makes you think, “I could never vote for them ever again, or at least not without a fundamental change of personnel and ideology.”  The things is… all the parties have crossed that line for me in the last few years.  What do I do?  Do I abstain?  Do I say I’m an anarchist and don’t believe in government and The System?  (I actually have a bit of an anarchist streak, but not enough to usually consider seriously acting on it.)  Do I swallow my pride and vote to stop the antisemitic party getting in?  It is hard to tell.  I spoiled my ballot at the EU elections earlier this year, but I’m wary of doing that and handing Jeremy Corbyn a victory.

I was brought up to believe that I should always vote for someone, because people died to win me the vote (a somewhat specious argument; as Oscar Wilde pointed out in The Portrait of Mr. W.H., the fact that someone was willing to die for an idea does not, in itself, prove that it was a good idea).  But the last ten years or so have shown how little influence most people have on politics.  Your vote might bring to power people who share your ideas, but it’s just as likely to bring in a coalition (literally or figuratively) who do a little bit of what you want and a whole load of what you don’t want.  Even Brexit, formulated as an ‘in or out’ question looks like ending up as a compromise Brexit that annoys Remainers by formally leaving the EU without pleasing Brexiteers by staying in line with a lot of EU legislation like employment and environmental law.  That’s without the feeling many people have that MPs see themselves and not the voters as the ‘adults in the room,’ and place their own consciences ahead of what the public voted for.  This is possibly the right thing to do morally, but surely requiring more discussion before becoming part of our constitution.

Much of the problem is that we seem to be moving from a political system dominated by two parties with clear winners and one party in power at any time (like the USA) to a system with multiple parties of varying sizes, no clear winners and coalition governments (like much of Europe) so it could be that with time this will seem less frightening and we will find ways to make our voices heard (or just lapse into chaos like Italy).  It’s true that Brexit has been damaging and difficult precisely because the views of most MPs, of all parties, were so out of sync with a dangerously slender majority of the public, making clear decisions difficult and it could be that with Brexit dealt with (hopefully, one day, maybe) the political wounds will heal.  Who knows?  I just know I’m not the only person in the country, or the world, feeling politically powerless and unwilling to engage in the toxic debate that engulfs just about every opinion these days.  It’s much easier, and better for my mental health, to leave the big political questions to my supposed “betters,” the people who care about this stuff and want to argue it, and just focus on my own life, the bits I can actually affect and change.

In Britain we have a tradition of joke candidates.  In the 2017 general election, Lord Buckethead stood against then-Prime Minister Theresa May, just as he had stood against previous Conservative Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major (albeit with different people inside the helmet each time).  Also standing against May was a man dressed as Elmo from Sesame Street, who I thought was a joke candidate, but was actually campaigning for child access rights for divorced fathers.  He got three votes, rather less than Lord Buckethead.

It did make me think that an official Muppet campaign could solve my political woes.  Who wouldn’t vote for the Muppet Party?  Their slogan could be, “Tired of useless muppets running the country?  Vote for the real Muppets.”  The Count from Sesame Street could be Chancellor of the Exchequer.  “I’m raising income tax 1%… 2%… 3%…”  Kermit the Frog could be Environment Secretary.  He could sing It’s Not Easy Being Green with Greta Thunberg.  The Cookie Monster could be Health Secretary.  He would make sure everyone has their five-a-day: chocolate chip cookie, digestive, garibaldi, bourbon, shortbread.  Fozzie Bear could be Foreign Secretary.  He could defuse volatile conflicts with bad jokes.  The Prime Minister would have to be someone with immense charisma and boundless self-confidence.  There’s only one possibility there: Miss Piggy.  If Donald Trump tries anything, she can karate chop him!  Kiii-yyaaaa!!!!!

***

Sigh.  My life still seems so unfocused and drifting, but sometimes – sometimes – it feels like things are moving forward or falling into place, just really, really, really slowly.  It’s like there are two big dramas, the one out there of Brexit and Trump and the economy and the Middle East and identity politics and a million other things and all the shouting and screaming and ranting that goes with all those things.  And then there’s the drama in here, in my head of me trying to sort out depression and OCD and social anxiety and autism and making friends and finding a religious community and sorting out my feelings for E. and a number of other things that I don’t talk about here.  And I can’t really do anything about the out there drama and I don’t really want to any more.  But the in here drama is maybe, possibly, slowly shifting, but it’s far too early to say where or how it’s shifting or what I can do to help it along.  It’s just frustrating that the out there drama tends to get in the way of the in here drama and trying to work that out.

Earlier today I thought I should be back in therapy, but now I don’t think that’s true.  I think I might have to go back to therapy one day, but for now there isn’t anything my therapist could tell me that I don’t already now.  I need to work things through somehow.  The only way I know to do that is writing, here and in the novel I’m working on.  Even that’s not a cure, but a catalyst for different thinking.  Maybe.  To be honest, I’m really not sure about this bit.  Writing has been disrupted a lot recently, by Yom Tov (Jewish festivals) and my cold and now my trip. Hopefully I can set aside some significant amount of time for writing my novel when I get back and we’ll see where that takes me.