I went to bed late again last night with little downtime. This is a problem at Chanukah, as a key part of relaxation for me is watching TV in my room while eating dinner, but during Chanukah I tend to eat with my family at the dining room table where we can see the Chanukah candles. This is not religiously required, but somehow it seems wrong not to do it, even though it’s not an old tradition for us, just something we’ve started doing in the last few years. To make matters worse, I find eating with my parents extra draining. So I feel like I haven’t had much downtime for the last few days.
I did go to volunteering. I feel comfortable enough there now to make a slightly teasing joke to one of the other volunteers; he responded in kind a while later. I felt a bit awkward, though. Perhaps because of my history of being bullied as a child, I feel uncomfortable when people tease me, even when I know it’s meant in a friendly way, or perhaps it was just that it took me a minute for me to understand the joke (it hinged on my having red hair, but I feel that my hair is brown with bits of red in it, which isn’t the same). We had jam donuts with our coffee as it’s Chanukah. I ate one, even though I usually avoid the biscuits during the coffee break (to lose weight) and even though I knew I would have another one in the evening. Chanukah is not really a time for dieting.
Afterwards I went to Golders Green for lunch. Years ago, I used to periodically find myself needing to eat lunch in Golders Green and I used to go to a particular cafe where they served a tuna melt that I really liked. I hadn’t had it for years, not least because nowadays I’m semi-vegetarian and only eat fish and meat on Shabbat and Yom Tov (Sabbaths and festivals). As these are mostly days when one can’t eat in restaurants, I don’t eat the tuna melt. However, I do eat fish on Chanukah, when work is permitted (as it’s a minor festival – yes, even though it’s perhaps the best-known Jewish festival, Chanukah ranks low in the official pecking order), so I decided to make a special trip to eat it.
I was rather stunned when I got there by how crowded and noisy it was, but I decided to go in nonetheless. I certainly wonder how I coped with such noise and overload in the past. I really think that, before lockdown and before my autism diagnosis, I didn’t notice how much things like this stressed me out, or, if I noticed, I suppressed my feelings as silly or childish. I did very much notice my feelings today, but I really wanted the tuna melt and coming back wasn’t really an option, so I braved it. It was worth it. I’d forgotten how big the slices of bread are that they use for the sandwich. Very filling.
On the bus, I listened to the latest Orthodox Conundrum podcast on The REAL History of Chanukah… And Why It Matters Today, which I would definitely recommend to all religious Jews (regardless of denomination) and anyone who thinks they know the Chanukah story. It was really good, so good that I immediately recommended it to E, who texted me later to agree how good it was. If you only listen to one podcast this Chanukah…
I came home exhausted, but not for very long, as we (me and my parents) went out to see my sister, brother-in-law and nephew. Nephew was asleep when we got there, so we lit Chanukah candles or at least Sister and BIL did – I was prepared to compromise on this occasion and light there and blow them out when it came time to go (which I think you can do if they’ve burnt for half an hour), but my Dad for once was the machmir (strict) one who wanted to light and home and let the lights burn themselves out.
More donuts were consumed, this time chocolate-filled.
After a while, Sister and BIL decided to wake Nephew as he needed to feed. I got to hold him for longer this time. I sat on the sofa, where I was more comfortable and supported. I shook a little, but my parents didn’t notice, and I felt more comfortable with him. I did struggle to know what to say to him, but my Mum said I was fine and the photos people took of me holding him show me looking relaxed. He is still a very little thing, and very sleepy. I did feel good holding him, though.
My sister is suddenly very maternal, which is not a side to her that I’d seen before. She’s already got a unique term of endearment for Nephew, although maybe that’s not surprising, because as a child she was always making up words.
When my Mum was holding Nephew, she said to him that she was going to come on Tuesdays to help Sister and that she would see him too. Nephew reacted to this news with what can only be described as a look of sheer horror, or it would have been, if a three week old baby could understand what someone is saying to him. It was very funny.
One thing we did speak about was the baby blessing for my nephew, which is back on the agenda. Sister and BIL want to do it at the end of January, as a combined baby blessing/Kiddush (refreshments) in shul to thank the community for their help/family birthday celebration for Sister. This would be a week or so before another party, this time for my Dad’s seventieth birthday. I am not entirely happy about all this, although I have agreed to at least to try to go to all these things. Even aside from my discomfort about davening (praying)at a non-Orthodox shul (synagogue) (nothing against non-Orthodox shuls, it’s just not right for me), which I can get around (daven at home on Friday night, daven early on Shabbat morning and then go to shul afterwards), it’s a LOT of peopling in a week and especially over that Shabbat, doubtless with little recovery time. It can be hard doing things with Sister and BIL, as I’m very conscious that they are further on in life than me (married, child, much more financially secure than E and I are likely to be in the foreseeable future, accepted and given a role in their shul community) and at the moment it’s even harder, as doing family things without E just seems so painfully wrong, and there’s nothing I can do about it. And I find family events can be hard anyway, as I can’t always work out how to join in the conversation.
I do feel a bit nervous about all this, although I realise that I really just have to do it somehow, that I shouldn’t try to make it about me, and that there are many worse things in life. But these things are stressful to me, much more so than for an allistic (non-autistic) person.
Speaking of nervous, I’m a bit nervous of tomorrow, when I feel I have a lot to do: Torah study, novel stuff (I know I’m on hold with it, but I have a few ideas I want to type up anyway), go for a walk (much neglected lately), renew my library ticket, try to move forward with setting myself up as a freelance proof-reader (which I’ve been procrastinating about too much)… All this coming from not having relaxed properly tonight (and instead having procrastinated online…).
Plus, I have to be alone in the house with the cleaner for a couple of hours. I really don’t like doing this, as it’s against Jewish law for two unrelated people of opposite sexes to be alone together (yichud), but having flagrantly broken this with E, I feel I can’t protest, even though I intended my breaking of the halakhah to be specifically because of our relationship and not a general abandonment of yichud.
I have now woken up and feel I ought to try to do a little more Torah study now I have the energy, even though it’s 11.15pm (there’s a lot of guilt here for internet procrastination instead of Torah or real relaxation).