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.