It was a rather stressful day again. Volunteering went wrong from the start. It wasn’t set up in advance, so we would have been delayed fifteen minutes just catching up. Then a table collapsed. I was worried I had not put it up correctly, but it turned out that a leg had just snapped off (I assume from corrosion). Unfortunately, when it collapsed, it squashed a large carton of mango juice, spraying juice everywhere, so we had to tidy that up before we could really start. Then it turned out that we had all misread the number of bags of food needed this week and we were sixteen short when the volunteer drivers came to deliver them. They ended up being added to tomorrow’s workload as it was late (the food bank operates on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but I only volunteer on Tuesdays). I had to get home as I was talking to my rabbi mentor at 3pm, so I missed coffee even though I could have done with the sugar boost of a biscuit or two and even though I like the social interaction of sitting with the others even if I don’t say much.
Other stuff: there was some family drama that I inadvertently started. Not going into it here, but I wished I’d kept my mouth shut. I cooked dinner after talking to my rabbi mentor (the call was helpful), but didn’t do much else this afternoon. I feel like I’m struggling to hold everything together at the moment and even minor stresses like those today can feel like massive, intractable issues.
Other issues: I’m going to volunteer next Tuesday even though it’s the minor festival of Purim. There is a Megillat Esther (Book of Esther, read Purim night and day) reading where I volunteer, as it’s a Jewish institution, so I can listen there and volunteer afterwards. Unfortunately, I’ll have to get up very early, despite being likely to be drained the previous day with work and the evening Megillah reading (crowded, noisy). J wanted me to cover for him in the afternoon in case we have to do the Very Scary Task (he’ll be getting drunk at his Purim seudah (festive meal) as per custom), but now I’ll be out of communication for a bit in the early afternoon. I did check with him and he said it was OK, but I feel a bit guilty. I felt I should volunteer nonetheless as we’ll be several people short next week. I vaguely feel like I’m ruining J’s seudah deliberately because my seudah will probably be alone and I don’t approve of Purim drunkenness (or other drunkenness), even though that’s not really what’s happening.
The other Purim issue is struggling to do mishloach manot (gifts of food to friends). I can’t give to my parents (which I mistakenly did for many years) because we’re in the same household. I only really have two friends in the area; one I haven’t seen for the better part of a year (although I will be inviting him to the wedding) and he’ll probably be either at work or at a seudah somewhere else when I get back from volunteering (the gifts have to be given after hearing the Megillah, but before sunset). The other person is J, but I don’t know exactly where he lives and it seems vaguely inappropriate to give gifts to my boss. The timing issue might also be relevant there too.
I can’t find any charity doing a system where you can give money to them to buy food to send to someone, only for giving money directly (which is also a Purim commandment, but a separate one). I’m not sure what to do. E wondered if I can give money to be included in my parents’ mishloach manot gifts to their friends, but I need to check with a rabbi if that “counts.” This is the type of thing that makes me feel a pathetic Jonny No Mates, something that will be reinforced by the four or five sets of mishloach manot my parents will probably receive from their local friends. This is just a part of the reason that Purim is not fun for me. Actually, I do have friends, just not necessarily Jewish, local or in the real world rather than the virtual one (you can’t send virtual gifts of food).
I wrote to the rabbinic mental health email helpline again a while back about my struggles with spiritual growth and Torah study when dealing with autistic exhaustion. The rabbi sent back a long email that I need to re-read and process, but summarised in the quote that “personal and spiritual growth is welcome only where it enhances your wellbeing, and if you find it causes you anxiety or exhaustion- it is “off limits” for you!”
I am not sure what to make of this at the moment. I don’t think stopping growth or Torah completely would be good for me, but I keep thinking of my first burnout/depression when I was sixteen and the doctor told me to stop working for a couple of weeks. I stopped for a bit, but then went back to it. Realistically, a week or two off wouldn’t have stopped my slide towards major burnout a couple of years later, which was driven by undiagnosed autism, but I feel it shows I should take this kind of thing more seriously.
Incidentally, that first burnout/depression started on Purim, which may be another reason it’s not my favourite festival.
Someone on the Orthodox Conundrum Facebook group opined again that for non-married adults, the choice is between transgressive sex or “pathetic celibacy.” I suggested that Moshe (Moses) and Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) were celibate and not pathetic. I was told by the first person and one other that they were great people and we can’t compare ourselves to them, which wasn’t really my point. (Also, this is a classic frum (religious Jewish) debating/pedagogical tactic: when famous biblical or Talmudic figures do something the speaker wants others to do, they’re examples; when they don’t, they’re exemptions who we can’t copy due to their special status. Frum girls are brought up on the Talmudic story of the woman who covered her hair even when home alone despite this being unnecessary according to Jewish law; if anyone suggested she was too holy to copy, they would get short shrift.) I said that fulfilling the will of God isn’t pathetic and was also told that “pathetic” was being used in the sense of “inspiring pathos” which seemed pedantic and unlikely, and that something can be admirable and pathetic at the same time.
At this point I gave up on the argument, but it touched a nerve as for years I did feel pathetic for failing to attract a spouse and did want people to pity me, on some level, but I also feel, particularly in retrospect, that it was, at least on some level, difficult and admirable for me to stay a virgin for so long (by the time I get to my wedding, I will be just two months short of my fortieth birthday). I am reluctant to describe myself as “pathetic” in either sense.
E and I were talking about service animals and I decided I need a talking service parrot that will sit on my shoulder and make small talk to people for me when I can’t do so.
I just read an old Dilbert comic strip the joke of which was that Windows 95 was new and exciting and I felt ridiculously old, although not as much as when E and I went to the Museum of the Home last year and I heard a small girl look at a landline phone and say, “I’ve seen one of these before, but I don’t know how to use it.” It was possibly a rotary dial phone, but even so.