Today was difficult and I feel rather down. I suppose the background is a week of stress of various kinds and disrupted sleep (too little, too much), as well as meals at different times, and different foods as well as too much peopling. Pesach (Passover), basically.
E and I went to the science fiction exhibition at the Science Museum this morning. Unfortunately, a number of things went wrong for us. They were mostly minor things, so I won’t list them all, but the major ones were that the exhibition didn’t have enough exhibits, many of the exhibits it did have were replica props or costumes rather than originals, and the exhibition as a whole seemed pitched more at children rather than adults, although not quite at either, which was not clear from the advertising. The intellectual level of the signage seemed aimed at children, but the exhibits themselves were probably more recognisable to adults; I’m not sure how many children have seen Forbidden Planet or The Day the Earth Stood Still, let alone Alien (actually, more likely Alien than the 1950s films). We came away feeling we had neither seen anything unusual nor learnt very much and felt a bit ripped off as it was an exhibition we had to pay for, unlike the regular exhibits at the Science Museum. There was a lot of ambient noise in the exhibition too (it was supposed to be set in a spaceship), which, to be fair, they warned us about, but the noise and the people probably contributed to my feeling bad. It wasn’t terrible, but I felt short changed. I would have liked to have learnt more about some exhibits, especially the robot doll with highly realistic facial expressions that teaches young autistic children about emotions.
Afterwards, we found the museum as a whole too busy and noisy and went outside to eat lunch. We found a bench by a memorial to victims of the Soviet Union and ate our lunch until someone sat next to me and started smoking. The smell and fear of secondary smoke put me off finishing my matzahs. We decided we didn’t really feel like going back in the museum and wandered around for a bit, but there wasn’t much to see except a so-so bookshop, so we came home. I did a few odd chores, but lacked concentration and motivation for anything more significant. Anyway, there isn’t much that can be done at the moment for the wedding, which is my main focus. I do feel that I wasted the afternoon, though, aside from a short walk with E to the two local free bookshelves.
I struggled with interactions with Dad again. I feel I should be able to cope with his repetitions and intrusive small talk, but I can’t, certainly not when I’m already feeling down. E struggles with them too, but is more polite than me, or more inhibited. I get sarcastic or just short.
I think part of the problem is that I have an autistic “script” on how to live with my parents, albeit a sometimes dysfunctional one that involves being sarcastic and then apologising, then doing it again. I have no script on how to live with my fiancée/wife, but I am more able to be myself with her and we’re slowly learning how to live together, although it is very early days and we probably won’t really make progress until we’re living in our own space, away from my parents. The problem is that I have no script at all for living with parents AND my fiancée/wife at the same time, even though this is a much more difficult thing to do than living with either parents OR fiancée/wife separately. It feels like being in two plays at once. Added to this is that the family dynamic is changing because of my marriage, so even old scripts don’t apply.
It’s probably noteworthy that E thinks that I’m a very different person, a happier and more functional person, when I’m alone with her than when I’m around my parents. I suspect I’m also happier and more functional with her than at work, but I’m not sure how social situations and volunteering fit in. My Mum texted something today about me being happier with E too.
While E and I are still PG-rated in our behaviour, we are relating to each other more in a sexual way, unsurprising given that we will be married in six weeks. This is probably the first time I’ve really interacted with a woman in such a sexual way, certainly the first time for over a decade (depending on what you think of my behaviour with my first girlfriend, who did not respect my boundaries, unlike E). I think this is bringing up some difficult feelings for me that I can’t articulate to E or in writing and which I wouldn’t share here anyway, but I feel I need to access them in some way before our wedding. It’s fun, absolutely, but I think there’s also guilt, shame and fear in there from decades of sexual repression, as well as the fear that sex is a big Pandora’s box and if I (or we) open it, there’s no telling what might come out, even though I know I’m pretty vanilla.
I feel like I really need a therapy session to help process the last week or so (wedding, Pesach, having E here with my family, sexual maturing), particularly as I haven’t blogged much here lately. Unfortunately, I don’t have another session until next week because of Pesach and my therapist being away.
E picked up a book on Jewish marriage years ago that she didn’t like. She offered it to me, but I looked at it and thought it would upset me and trigger religious OCD, so we left it in a free book box. It takes an attitude to dating that makes me wonder how any frum (religious Jewish) people get married. Dating should be through a matchmaker (professional or amateur), it should consist of serious conversation (interrogation) to see that the couple have identical life aims and key values (if people in their early twenties or even late teens even have clear life aims and values). The conversation should be used to determine whether the other person has good character traits, particularly kindness, charity, patience (in the sense of no anger) and, for women, an indefinable “charm.” They should be on comparable religious levels from “good” (i.e. conventionally religious) families and ideally the man should be a good Talmudic scholar too. It’s acknowledged that no one has all these characteristics, but no guidance is given about how to prioritise those they do have. It feels like every normal person would have at least one serious mark against them, so I don’t know how anyone gets married in the frum world, particularly as it’s increasingly common to do advance checks of a person through their “shidduch resume” (dating CV) and character references so you can ditch potential dates who you deem inadequate without even bothering to go on a date with them. The boys apparently just judge by the attached photo. I bet some of the girls do too. I guess people just lie and regret it later.
There is an article in the latest Jewish News about autism and youth movements in the Jewish community. Inexplicably, I can’t find it on the website, only in the hardcopy newspaper. It says there are an estimated 1,380 Jewish autistics (in the UK, I assume from context, although this is unclear). However, it is not clear if this includes high functioning autistics. Certainly the article seems to be based on the idea that autistics are excluded from Jewish youth movements because they have learning disabilities as much as, or more than, social impairments. The idea that children of average or above average intelligence can be autistic and still be excluded by other children and struggle to fit in and join in at youth movements is not mentioned. High intelligence in children can be just as isolating as learning disabilities, entitled though that sounds, especially when combined with poor social skills and sensory sensitivities. I stopped going to anything resembling a youth movement when I was twelve, because I couldn’t make friends and was untrusting of children my age from my history of being bullied at school. As I’ve said before, I think this had a big long-term effect on my socialisation into the Jewish community, from which I’m still suffering today. I’m wondering whether to write in about this.
From a comment I left on a previous post: Yes, I also love the meaning of Pesach, but struggle with the practice. I’m struggling to find where I am with stringencies. I feel that I want to obey “basic” halakhah [Jewish law], not stringency, but that basic halakhah can be hard to find. And I have an ascetic side that tends unconsciously to self-denial and stringency which I don’t always notice until E or my parents points it out to me, by which time I can have upset them. Even without stringencies, it can be hard to negotiate a way through Pesach when there are four of us in this house each with their own take on what the “basic” practice (not the same as halakhah) is for us, or should be, even without taking into account the evolving family dynamic.
Also, with alexithymia (difficulty recognising and understanding my own emotions) it can be hard to tune in to even the spiritual meaning.
It is six weeks, or forty-two days, or less than a thousand hours until the wedding! This still seems far off at times, but too close when I think of all the things that need to be done.