More Flat-Hunting, Or Raising the Roof

This will be another truncated post as I’m overwhelmed again, feel a bit ill/autistic exhaustion, and am trying to get to bed earlier. I really shouldn’t write, but (a) it’s been a few days and (b) I need to write to process.

On Saturday I was exhausted. I didn’t go to shul (synagogue) at all because I was too exhausted and I thought going would make the exhaustion worse. Did I do the right thing? I don’t know. E wants to know how to help me when I feel like this, when to push me and when to let me crash. It is hard to tell. I would like to ask the question on the autism forum, but haven’t had the time and energy.

E and I walked around a somewhat nature-ish area nearby. It helped a bit. People on the autism forum talk about being around nature to recover from burnout, but it’s not easy in the suburban London. I didn’t do much Torah study. Instead, I read more Terry Pratchett (the book is just about good enough to justify not giving up on it) and we (my parents, E and me) played the game E and I bought Mum for her birthday, Ticket to Ride Europe. We played an open game so that we could learn the rules. They seemed daunting initially, but we got the hang of it quickly and it turned out to be a lot of fun. Hopefully the long summer Shabbat afternoons/evenings will provide many more opportunities to play.

I didn’t sleep in the afternoon, which was good, but I still went to bed late and I then woke up an hour or two after going to bed with a migraine and stayed up late (or early) until I felt better.

Sunday was going to be mostly dedicated to flat-hunting. E and I took some time out by going to a nearby suburb that may be closer if we move to the flat we saw on Friday and wandered around the high street for a bit, investigating grocery shops and charity shops. Most of the charity shops had few books, except for one with quite a large book section where I bought three Doctor Who: The New Adventures novels for £2 each (the Cat’s Cradle trilogy: Time’s Crucible, Warhead and Witch Mark). The New Adventures were original Doctor Who spin-off novels in the years Doctor Who was off TV. They were pitched at people in their late teens/early twenties, rather than the family audience the TV series was pitched at, which caused some controversy around their somewhat more graphic violence, sex and swearing than the TV series and the BBC made the publishers reign things in after a while. To be honest, I think I bought the books from nostalgia for 1990s Doctor Who fandom and my youth as well as to express disenchantment with current Doctor Who as much as from a burning desire to read the books (or add to my vast To Read pile), although I do now feel excited to read them (at some point).

Afterwards, E and I looked at flats online and made tacos, but once again, I ran out of time and energy to write wedding present thank yous. Overall, I felt stressed and overwhelmed, but good.

Work was hard today. I went to bed a little earlier last night to try to be more alert at work, but then I woke up earlier this morning for no obvious reason. I had to phone a lot of people to ask for money again, which I hate doing, even though it’s money the organisation is owed and needs to function. I think I may be finished with this task for a few months, but I keep thinking that and then finding more people to phone. I left work feeling pretty exhausted again.

After work, I met with E and my parents to view the flat we saw on Friday again. E and I still like it and Mum and Dad were impressed. There were a few problems, but mostly fixable. The big drawback is that today the estate agent suddenly told us that a new floor is being built the flat we looked at. The flat is on the second floor (third floor to Americans) and they plan to build a new third floor. This will lead to a lot of noise and disruption for over a year, perhaps closer to two. The estate agent treated this as a done deal, but Dad tried to find the planning permission online and doesn’t think it’s been approved by the council yet. We need to investigate this further.

We definitely won’t find a better flat than this in our price range and meeting our other criteria (location, mainly). We’re not even sure we will find one equally good. But E works from home and I’m hoping to set up some work from home and am very sensitive to noise and disruption, so the building work isn’t something to take on lightly. Mum and Dad have said we can come and work in their house if necessary (the flat is about a twenty minute walk away), which is a possibility, if a slightly awkward one, given that we are moving out to get some space and independence.

We need some time to think about this. It’s hard to work out how to process it and decide. I think a lot of it boils down to how long we think we will be in this flat. If it’s five years or more, then the benefits of the wonderful flat outweigh the problems of the building period. Under four and it’s probably not worth it. The thing is, the length of time we spend there is dependent on whether we can improve our financial situation significantly as well as what happens regarding starting a family, so it’s hard to tell at this stage.

E and I sometimes feel like two children who have suddenly found themselves living as adults, but at least we’re together now.

I’m going to have some decompression time in front of Quatermass II (or more decompression time, as E and I watched Doctor Who earlier) and then try to get an earlyish night as I have volunteering tomorrow for the first time in a month or more followed by a thank you lunch for people who volunteer for the same organisation. I hope that the latter will be fun and not an energy drain, as I really want to write some wedding thank yous in the afternoon.


E and I went to bed about 11.50pm, which wasn’t our target of 11.00pm, but was at least before midnight. We need to work on this. I woke up feeling exhausted and struggled to get going. E was sympathetic, but we both find my energy levels, and the inability of sleep to restore them, frustrating, especially as it’s so hard to tell what is sleep apnoea, what is autistic exhaustion and what is medication side-effects (and what may be who knows what else).

I did have to get going eventually, as we were going flat-hunting (I could do a joke here about safari suits, rifles and snares, but Monty Python already did it). The second flat we saw was really not for us. It was already above the top of our price range and need a significant amount of refurbishment to make it liveable. However, the first one we saw was much better. I don’t want to say too much at this stage. It’s still at the top of our price range, but it seemed to meet most of our needs. We’re hoping to see it again at the beginning of next week, this time with my parents, who are more experienced homeowners/buyers and know what to look out for (I keep wondering if we overlooked some massive snag the estate agent is hiding from us). Of course, now we are worrying about rushing into a deal too fast, as we expected time to look round different communities, whereas this would be locking us into our current community for several years.

I probably won’t go to shul (synagogue)tonight as I feel exhausted. I’d like to go with E tomorrow, but I don’t know if I’ll make it. I worry I’m heading for burnout (probably delayed from the wedding) if I’m not careful, but it’s hard to know when to stop in time to avoid it and to convince other people that I need to do so. I’m not planning on doing more than about ten minutes or so of Torah study today to try to take things a bit easier and I hope to get a TV (Quatermass) break before Shabbat (the Sabbath) starts.

There isn’t much time or energy for much else, but I have a stack of things to do. I’m trying to find some easy wins, maybe working on one big thing and one small easy win each non-work day? It’s an idea.


I re-read a couple of Asterix comic books on our honeymoon, which made me want to re-read some that I didn’t own. Browsing on eBay, I managed to get a five-in-one omnibus for £2.90 with free postage. I didn’t have any of the books collected in it either; in the past when I’ve looked at Asterix omnibuses, I usually have at least one of them. I know I shouldn’t be buying more books, given how many unread ones I have, but this seemed a really good buy. It arrived today and turned out to be hardback too!

Exhausted and Overwhelmed

I’m not going to blog E and my minimoon. I wanted to, but there’s just too much going on right now and I need to move my focus on. I am exhausted, physically and possibly emotionally. Maybe the events of the last few weeks are catching up with me. I am possibly not sleeping well in the same bed as E, but I’m not sure about this. We both seem to have some kind of sleep disorder, so maybe we’re stopping each other sleeping well, or maybe I’m just not used to sleeping with someone after nearly forty years of sleeping alone. Or maybe it’s coincidence and I’m just going to bed too late. I mean, I am going to bed too late, I just wonder if there’s something else too.

I feel overwhelmed with house-hunting stuff. We’ve got four properties to view set up, three tomorrow and one next week, except one of the estate agents from tomorrow is probably switching us to next week, because customers are cattle with no lives of their own and can be moved around at whim he double-booked us. I feel overwhelmed with writing wedding thank yous, which I’ve hardly started on. And I have a list of other things to sort out, from small (sort out a new To Do list, believe it or not) to unrealistically massive (learn to drive, start writing my novel). I feel OK pushing off learning to drive, but my novel nags at me. I want to do it, I just don’t have the time/energy/brainpower.

To make things worse, I had to phone people to ask for outstanding payments at work again today. This kind of thing always makes me feel something between a bailiff and a loan shark’s enforcer. I dealt with some incoming phone calls too. I made mistakes and uncovered a big mistake I’d made weeks ago, thankfully before any harm was done (I hope). By the end of the day, I felt pretty awful, tired and burnt out, and faint. E and I were supposed to be meeting for a date night, but the restaurant didn’t have any tables. We went to a different restaurant, but it was too noisy for me. I just couldn’t cope. We ordered the food as takeaway and ate it at home. My vegetable curry was extremely good. Afterwards, I lay down on my bed by myself for fifteen minutes with no screens or noise and slowly felt a bit better. Then I had to plunge back into flat-hunting and I feel bad again, although not as bad. I’m hoping to watch Doctor Who with E soon; if not, I’ll watch Quatermass. I might eat ice cream; I certainly need to (whether I deserve to is another question). Whatever I do, I’ll try to get to bed earlier than usual.

E and I are good at caring for each other, because we have similar unusual (excessive) needs. This is good, as we have unusual (excessive) needs and need all the help we can get, which isn’t really anything from outside our family circle.

I spoke to the GP yesterday about reducing my medication (can’t get a psychiatrist appointment). I reduced the dose a little today and wonder if it was a good idea, although one day is hardly a fair test.


The Terry Pratchett novel I’m reading (I’ve stuck with it; it got a little better) said to “be yourself,” which is a pretty standard moral in 90% of novels, film and TV since the Romantic era, but I don’t know how to be myself, or who myself is. Or rather, I feel like I’m several different selves from totally different lives glued together in a weird metaphysical accident.


I have no idea what 90% of the memes and list articles I get on my Facebook feed are about. I don’t understand the cultural references or the slang. I’m not sure if this means I’ll never be a successful writer (in a postmodern age, where intertextuality and cultural references as well as an informal, slangy style, at least for dialogue, are in vogue), or that I’ll be a very successful writer (original), or that it won’t make any difference either way. Probably the latter.

Moaning Luftmentsch Overdrive

I was supposed to be blogging the wedding party today, but I ran out of time to blog yesterday and I need to off-load stressful stuff, so no wedding party (also no thank you notes being written due to exhaustion, which is another issue).

Sunday’s adventures in social anxiety: emailing various friends to ask for their real-world addresses to send them thank you notes for wedding presents. I don’t know why this made me so anxious and why I procrastinated so much to avoid it. Maybe I feel I should know my friends’ email addresses? Even though one has two homes at the moment (he basically left his home to become his parents’ carer), another couple moved a while back, several people I usually socialise with in restaurants not their home and one I hadn’t seen in person for years because of his work schedule, we have just Skyped. But social anxiety isn’t rational.

I suppose some of the fear is missing allistic (non-autistic) social cues. I realised after sending most of the emails that perhaps I should “your kind gift” instead of just “your gift”. On the other hand, anyone who really cares probably wouldn’t be a good friend to start with. I feel like my parents tried to bring me up to pay careful attention to these things, but they don’t always stick in the autistic brain.

This all took about half an hour with procrastination. Because of this, I didn’t write any actual thank you notes. The advantage of a small wedding, of course, is that we don’t have as many thank yous to write, although a number of my parents’ friends gave us gifts anyway.

In terms of procrastination as well as many, many other things, it’s hard sometimes to know how much I should push myself and how much I should resign myself to being different or to struggling because of neurodivergence and mental health issues. E has started pushing me to get up earlier and to get to shul (synagogue) on Shabbat (Saturday) mornings, which I think is positive, but there’s still a lot going on in my life and I don’t want to take on too much at once. I’ve really cut back a bit on Torah study and I feel like I am taking a lot of recovery time, although this may be selective memory. I should probably ask E. Like I said the other day, I have had rabbis tell me not to push myself too hard, but it’s hard to internalise that message.

Other than this, I messed around with my music on my phone to try to get more memory and I finally worked out how to copy notes from my phone to a Word document on my computer (I had a thousand words of notes for my novel on there and was worried about transcribing or losing them. I don’t know when I will get time to start the novel properly).

E and I went for a walk in Golders Hill Park and Golders Green before dinner with E’s uncle and cousin. We popped into a bookshop and I ended up buying a cheap copy of Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson, partly as research for my novel but also because I like the title. Like Neuromancer by the same author, which I bought a while back for the same reason, but haven’t read yet, it’s a seminal cyberpunk novel dealing with the world of virtual reality before it was a reality and should be useful for understanding how other authors have dealt with similar themes. Dinner was good, but I struggled with insomnia afterwards, perhaps from not watching TV to unwind. I read for a few minutes, but probably not for long enough and not something I was enjoying enough (I Shall Wear Midnight – see below). I feel guilty for saying it, but often my brain needs the comfort of my favourite old science fiction TV programmes, even episodes I’ve watched many times, rather than reading. This feels wrong as reading “should” be more intellectual and “better” than TV, although I’m not sure the books I read are necessarily much more intellectual than the TV I watch.

Eventually I got up and watched a not-very-good “comedy” episode of The Twilight Zone. I’m re-watching the first series of The Twilight Zone because when I first wanted to watch the series, I was unwilling to commit to buying the complete series box set without having seen any episodes, so I bought the season one box set second-hand. After I watched and mostly liked season one, it turned out that buying the complete series box set brand new was still cheaper than buying seasons two to five second –hand. But now I worry that the discs for season one may be damaged and I should check they’re OK before giving away the original season one box set, even though I don’t particularly want to watch all the episodes at this stage. This is probably something else I’m over-thinking.

The insomnia meant I got about four and a half hours sleep and went to work feeling exhausted. I think I dozed off on the train. I needed an unprecedented four coffees to get through the morning. Work was not great. I’m phoning people to get membership fees. I hate doing this, but I have to do it every few months. The least said about that the better. I need to watch some comfort TV, but probably not The Twilight Zone. Maybe Quatermass II. Or The House that Jack Built episode of The Avengers. Now things are a struggle to work out what E wouldn’t want to watch when I’m watching without her.


I’m also getting annoyed with the Terry Pratchett book I’m reading. I read Pratchett’s Discworld series a lot as a teenager, but drifted away in my late teens. If you haven’t read any Discworld books, the idea is that they’re in a Tolkien-style fantasy world, but inhabited by people with contemporary mores. The effect is like Medieval Europe with real dragons, dwarves, witches etc. The novels often satirise our world.

My problem with the current book, I Shall Wear Midnight, is that it’s about witch-hunting, in a literal sense (although probably in a metaphorical one too once we get into it, otherwise it would be pointless writing it now). The problem is that Pratchett’s world is essentially a Medieval Europe with no Christianity, nor even monotheism. And Pratchett, being a twenty-first century liberal, professes tolerance, but also thinks that religion, especially monotheistic religions, are responsible for much of the world’s evils, including a lot of intolerance. But there is no monotheism in Discworld. So the hatred of witches doesn’t really seem thought out. Religious beliefs aren’t really spelt out in Discworld (actually, the first Discworld novel I read was Small Gods, but the thing I mainly remember was the power of a god being proportional to the number of people believing in it), but people seem to be broadly pagan. So it’s not really clear why people would be so opposed to witches, given that magic is intrinsic to paganism and it’s only monotheistic religions that have any interest in stamping out “unauthorised” magic. There’s even a bit where we’re supposed to think that only idiots would do something as pointless as praying to relieve someone’s pain, even though a few paragraphs later the heroine is removing someone’s pain with magic as if that’s not just as “irrational.”

The other problem I’m having with the book, which I didn’t have when I read the series as a teenager, is that so many of the characters across the series seem to have the same voice, which is the narrative voice: clever, witty, sardonic, cynical. As I recall, Captain Vimes, Granny Weatherwax and even sometimes Rincewind all have this voice, and now Tiffany Aching does too, even though she’s only sixteen and a bit young to be world-weary. It is a little annoying. It is hard not to see it as the voice of Pratchett himself. Particularly given that, as an adult, I now think that this voice isn’t as all-knowing as it thinks it is, that, while mocking the prejudices and inconsistencies of others, it has prejudices and inconsistencies of its own.

I should probably give up on the book (which isn’t particularly funny, the cardinal sin of this sort of thing), but somehow that feels like a betrayal of my teenage self, or maybe a betrayal of Pratchett for the pleasure he gave my teenage self, so I persevere for now.


I think I’ve adapted quickly to having E live with me in my room. Never having room-shared for more than a couple of days, I wondered how I would cope. I think we’re pretty good at giving each other space when we need it. I should probably clear out some stuff from my wardrobes to (a) give E more space and (b) get ready for moving out, but it’s just more things to do.

The one thing I haven’t figured out is how to listen to music when I’m getting dressed, as when I do that, E is either sleeping (work days) or working (other days) and it doesn’t seem right to impose on her. Music does help me getting going when I’ve just woken up and feel down or drained. Because of my own sensory sensitivity to noise and difficulty doing anything if I can hear unwanted noise, I think I assume that E is the same, but she isn’t.


I do feel better for having spent time with E tonight, but there still feels like there is so much to do. I won’t go through all of it again, but I have to phone two estate agents tomorrow to talk about flat-hunting. It does feel better doing this while being married to the woman I love, so I don’t want to sound overly negative, but life doesn’t stop just because you finally got some of it sorted.

The Wedding Part 1: The Auf Ruf

I’m finally beginning to blog the wedding! I’ll do it over a few days as it’s very long.

Friday 19 May

We had a lot of my family over: aside from Mum, Dad and myself, Sister and Brother-in-law came over with Nephew and Uncle, Aunt and Cousins 1, 2 and 4 came from Israel. I didn’t go to shul (synagogue) this evening, as Sister wanted earlier dinner for Nephew’s sake (although he slept through the whole meal in the end) and I wanted to be in bed early too, to make it easier to get up for shul for my auf ruf (being called to the Torah as a groom) on Shabbat (Sabbath) morning. Sister, BIL and Nephew actually came around a bit before Shabbat to drop some stuff off and Nephew was awake then, so I got a couple of dazzling smiles from him. He’s nearly six months old now and beginning to really pay attention to the world around him.

The dinner was good, but I missed E, who decided to stay with her parents elsewhere (we weren’t sticking to the custom for bride and groom not to see each other for a week before the wedding for various reasons). Afterwards, I read some of The Guide for the Perplexed for a brief period for Torah study then read recreationally for a while before bed.

Saturday 20

I did make it to shul fairly early for my auf ruf. Various relatives got aliyot (called to the Torah) too, which was nice. I did have to put up with a couple of well-intentioned, but painful (to me) jokes. When I got to the bimah (Torah reading platform), the warden said I should smile; I was actually struggling with social anxiety in front of the crowd in the shul and worried I was going to do the wrong thing. And someone else later said it was “about time” I got married. I know people don’t know my neurological and mental health struggles or the difficulties I had finding dates, let alone getting married, but this kind of thing is painful. I guess it does make me wonder if any jokes I make are painful to their recipients; probably.

Lunch was good, but there was a heated discussion of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers, the part of the Talmud dealing with ethics) between Uncle and Cousins 2 and 4. That side of the family debate/argue very loudly and passionately and I couldn’t get in and found the intensity of discussion too much, so I went to play with Nephew for a bit.

After lunch I slept for three hours. I woke up with a slight headache. The extended family had all gone, so it was just Mum, Dad and me, which was fortunate (you may remember I tried to stop extended family hanging around all afternoon because I knew I would get peopled out). The headache seemed to be getting better, but then, about half an hour before the end of Shabbat, it turned into a full-blown migraine. I took medicine, but it took ages to work, so after Shabbat I spent a while in my parents’ bedroom (mine was too hot), watching The Twilight Zone and feeling sorry for myself. By the time the migraine went and I could get ready for bed, it was very late. I think I got to bed about 2am, and then woke up briefly about 5.30am before falling asleep again. I did get about six hours sleep, which is the minimum I need to function, and it was reasonably refreshing, so things weren’t too bad.

After The Event

I still haven’t blogged the wedding, and I’m not going to do so tonight. I hope to get to it in the coming days. But I wanted to quickly set down some thoughts from Shavuot, the Jewish festival that just passed (the English word is Pentecost, but that confuses people as it has nothing to do with the Christian Pentecost).

Each day of the two-day festival went much the same: I went to shul (synagogue) in the evening, had dinner with my parents and E, read for a bit with E, then went to bed (I didn’t go to tikkun leil (all-night Torah study). In the morning, E dragged me out of bed (almost literally) and I fought sleep disorder-induced exhaustion and social anxiety to get to shul, very late, but still for a chunk of the service and which I enjoyed once I was there, but ate too much in the kiddush afterwards. After lunch, E and I napped, then on the first day, we went on a long walk and on the second day E and Mum went to a women’s tea and Torah event while I stayed at home and read.

It was enjoyable, and E enjoyed it too, but I felt a bit religiously disconnected. On Shavuot we celebrate receiving the Torah, but as I study Torah every day, it can feel hard to connect it to just one day, particularly as I missed the Torah reading in shul due to over-sleeping. I often go through Jewish festivals feeling I should be feeling some kind of noticeable spiritual feeling or connection. Maybe that’s not how it works, either in general or for me with alexithymia (difficulty recognising and understanding my own emotions).

Lately I feel like I’m juggling a lot of stuff. A lot of this is in the wake of my wedding, but also two years after my autism diagnosis I’m still trying to understand what that means for me, especially for my Jewish life. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m juggling, or soon will be juggling, practical things like writing wedding thank you notes, finding somewhere to live with E and trying to set up a secondary career as a freelance proofreader and editor. At the same time, I’m trying to find the right balance between the Jewish life I want (which would feature quite a bit of prayer and Torah study) with the wider life I want (doing stuff with E and writing fiction) and balancing that against my various current diagnoses (autism, sleep apnoea, social anxiety, alexithymia).

I used to feel that, with my current and past diagnoses, my life has been a bedieved, something that is only religiously justified after the event. As in, you shouldn’t pray with no intention to concentrate, but, bedieved, after the event, if you prayed and your mind wandered, that would be OK and you shouldn’t repeat the prayers. I felt that the life I was living was not an ideal frum (religious Jewish) life and was only permitted because I was depressed, autistic, living with less religious family, etc, etc.

Now I’m married to E, I very much feel that our marriage is NOT a bedieved, that we are supposed to be together. But if we are supposed to be together, then the things that brought us together were supposed to happen too, which largely means our various diagnoses. Which in turn means that my life wasn’t/isn’t a bedieved. Which means God wants me to live this life, with all the ways it is imperfect from a strictly frum perspective. I don’t quite know what this means for me. I’ve discussed it/am discussing it with my rabbi mentor and also with a rabbi from the Ma’aglei Nefesh rabbinic mental health service, but I feel I’m still finding my way forward between wanting to study Torah and pray, but also wanting (or rather needing) to work and to build my life with E without burning out again, as well as to do things that matter to me and help keep me mentally health, like blogging and fiction writing, and also reading fiction and watching the TV programmes that help me switch off.

It would be nice to have a snappy conclusion here, but I don’t have one. I’m a work in progress and this is a topic I keep returning to here. But maybe I am inching forward; at any rate, being married to E does feel like a big positive change, even if I am not sure exactly what the ramifications are at this stage.

Weekend Update

We had a quiet Shabbat (Sabbath). I was exhausted by the time Shabbat came in and didn’t go to shul (synagogue). I feel frustrated by how exhausted I get and don’t know how to change it, not least because I don’t know how much is sleep apnoea and how much is or autistic exhaustion or something else, perhaps connected with my blood sugar issue. E and I went for a longish walk on Shabbat afternoon, about an hour. Afterwards, we played Scrabble with my parents. E won. I came second, but was pleased with playing ‘hex’.

Today E and I went to Hyde Park. We went on the bus. There’s a bus that goes from near where we live to Marble Arch (at the edge of Hyde Park). The journey takes quite a long time, even with little traffic. E likes long bus journeys, so we went and sat on the upper deck. We had a picnic at Hyde Park and then wandered around for a bit, mainly around The Serpentine lake, which isn’t very serpentine in my opinion. There was a fair amount of activity around Speaker’s Corner: missionaries (Christian and Muslim), gender-critical feminists and trans activists (and a lot of police to separate them) and a few cranks.

On the way back home, we got off the bus near Swiss Cottage and walked up some of Finchley Road, going in a lot of charity shops. I picked up two books, The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale) and Facebook: The Inside Story by Steven Levy, which might be useful for research for my novel.

When we got home, E and I did some wedding planning stuff. We both had headaches at different times, which wasn’t good. Mine was probably from wedding stress and E’s may have been too. I thought mine had gone, but it seems to have come back, along with a neck ache. We watched Doctor Who in the evening, Time of the Angels, which reminded me that I do like some new Who. I should probably be heading for bed. It was definitely a good day.

Super-Duper Long Catch-Up Post

I haven’t blogged for a few days. I have things to say, although probably fewer things than in the past, I just don’t have the time. So this is a catch-up post for the last few days.

As I mentioned in my last post, on Monday night E was staying away overnight at a work event and I ate dinner with my parents, as much out of politeness and not knowing how to say no as anything else. The result was extreme autistic exhaustion. I watched The Twilight Zone, which helped relax me a little, but I had a late video call with E as she couldn’t get away from the work dinner until late, so I was up late.

By Tuesday morning I was still tired. I got up later than I intended, but I managed to go to volunteering, cook dinner and speak to my rabbi mentor. On Wednesday I was still tired, but went with E to Dad’s jeweller friend to discuss her wedding ring, as well as having therapy afterwards. E and I went on a date in the evening as we haven’t actually gone out much since she’s been here. We went to one of the three local kosher pizza places, the one with the worst ambience (it looks a bit like an old-fashioned American diner, but in a slightly tacky way rather than a retro way), but the best pizza. To be fair, I haven’t eaten at one of the other pizza places, so maybe I’m maligning them, but the pizzas at the place we went to were really good. We bought two pizzas and shared them, one vegetable, one four cheeses. They were both pretty good, but I worry that the four cheeses may have upset my stomach today, although I’ve had stomach issues for a couple of weeks, so maybe not. The date was good, though, and we both feel that dating is easier once you’re committed to each other and don’t have to worry about getting dumped at the end of the evening.

Unfortunately, I then stayed up late again. I had no reason, I just lost track of time on the autism forum. The result was that I struggled to get going for work this morning. I had some mild anxiety or agitation at work in the morning and I’m not sure if that was related. It could just as easily have been caused by J pointing out some mistakes I made at work on Monday. He never tells me off, but I feel like an idiot whenever this happens, which is too often. There was quite a bit to do at work today, but I was bored much of the time. Afterwards I got some glucose tablets at Boots. I struggled to find them and had misleading advice from shop assistants, so I ended up being in the shop for twenty minutes looking. The weather had been warm and sunny when I went to work in the morning, so I went without a coat and had to come home in the cold and wet this afternoon. So it was a stressful day without anything really bad happening.


I mentioned going to get E’s wedding ring. We were not planning to get a ring for me. It is required by Jewish law for the man to give the woman a ring, but not the reverse, although it is permitted for the woman to give a ring to the man if they want. In the Haredi world men generally don’t wear wedding rings as jewellery for men is frowned on. In the Modern Orthodox world it’s more of a personal choice; some do it and some don’t. I assumed I wouldn’t, as I don’t like wearing jewellery, which is probably an autistic sensory thing on some level (I have never liked wearing a watch much, the only jewellery I’ve worn until now), and I was thinking in very rigid halakhic (Jewish law) terms about what was legally necessary. But on the way back from the meeting with the jeweller, I surprised myself by thinking that I would like to show the world that I’m E’s husband, so I think I am going to wear a ring, although I’m a little nervous about it. I do still need to see the jeweller about it.


I finally heard from the NHS about the sleep study I had done in November. I got a text saying the advice from my sleep study is to get a mandibular advancement splint. No indication of what that means. I googled, and it’s a sort of mouth guard used to hold the mouth open in people with mild obstructive sleep apnoea. I assume that’s my diagnosis, although they didn’t say (!). Apparently the splints help a third to a half of people with this condition. I did find a short article online from a different NHS trust saying a bit more about it, including that the splints are not available on the NHS, which was implied by the text I got, which told me to reply YES if I had a splint and wanted an appointment with a member of the sleep team and to reply DELAY if I wanted a splint, but hadn’t purchased one yet. No advice in the text about how to get a splint, but the article I found has some suggestions. They do seem quite expensive, although if it can help with energy levels and getting up earlier it will be worth it. I will try to look into getting a splint. I might ask the dentist next week if they can help or recommend anyone, which was another suggestion from the article I found. Otherwise I’ll have to use the sites listed on the NHS article.


As I mentioned, I spoke to my rabbi mentor yesterday. I told him that I feel I’m being less strict with myself religiously, partly to create a religious environment that E feels more comfortable in, given that she does not come from an observant background, and partly because I feel that I need to prioritise my mental and physical health, as I am slowly recognising that I am an autistic person living in a deeply allistic (non-autistic) world and becoming increasingly aware (two years after diagnosis!) of what a toll this has taken on my mental and even physical health since childhood (I am nearly forty now). I knew this before intellectually, but I hadn’t internalised it.

I am doing things if I am 95% sure they are permitted rather than refraining unless I am 100% sureas I would have done previously. In some cases I am doing things without really knowing if they are permitted or not, but I am doing them just because I think the result of not doing them would be terrible for my mental health. For example, we are in the period of the omer, between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Pentecost) where there are traditions of national mourning, including not listening to music (the exact parameters of this and the dates included are very complicated and I won’t go into them here). I knew there is a leniency that allows depressed people to listen to music and my rabbi mentor has told me that this leniency applies if I need to listen to music when suffering autistic exhaustion. However, I didn’t know if it applies whenever I feel emotionally disregulated. As I wrote recently, I realised recently that I am very disregulated emotionally as a result of my alexithymia (difficulty recognising and understanding my own emotions). To cut a long story short, a couple of times since Pesach I have felt very emotionally disregulated without suffering autistic exhaustion or depression and I listened to music knowing that it might not be correct according to halakhah (Jewish law), because I felt that the psychological/emotional consequences of not doing it would be too great. I am not seeing this as a blanket permission to listen to music whenever I want nor am I listening to music when I just feel vaguely down and tired (as was the case today), only when I feel totally exhausted or emotionally disregulated.

When I said this to my rabbi mentor he suggest that, rather than being lenient with myself (excessively or otherwise), it might be more accurate to say that I am finally learning to find more balance in my life. I hope he is right. I feel my behaviour before was as much about perfectionism as halakhah.

Related to this, I just read an article in the latest Jewish Chronicle by David Baddiel, plugging his new book attacking religion (about fifteen years after this was fashionable, but anyway…). I only skimmed it because it was too awful to read properly, all stuff about religion existing to stave off fear and that Orthodox Jews only keep the mitzvot (commandments) because of fear that undefined terrible things will happen if they don’t.

I don’t know if people really think like that. I’ve never met anyone who does, although I read an anthology of passages written by the Chofetz Chaim about the Yomim Noraim (High Holy Days) that was full of fear of punishment and I’ve encountered (online) people who have left Orthodoxy (particularly the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) world) who say that atmosphere of fear was how they were brought up and part of the reason they left observance. I don’t want to deny their stories, so maybe some people/communities do think like that, but it’s not the only or even primary attitude in Jewish texts of the last 3,000 years. (I did just read a review of Baddiel’s book that says exactly this, that he doesn’t actually seem to have read any Jewish theology as research for his book and just makes sweeping generalisations based on what he thinks Jews believe.)

When I had religious OCD, my religious thoughts were fear-orientated (although not so much punishment-orientated as fearing my being imperfect), but I was mentally ill. If I had had schizophrenia and thought the government was monitoring my thoughts, it would not be accurate to say that Orthodox Jews believe the government monitors their thoughts, so my OCD shouldn’t reflect badly on Jews as a whole. Since recovery, the level of fear in my religious life has declined a lot.

My problem is that, having alexithymia (difficulty recognising and understanding my own emotions), I struggle to put this into words to explain how I feel to other people, particularly E and (hopefully, one day) our children. There just seems to be a kind of rightness, an almost mathematical elegance to Judaism and Torah and a sense of calm about Shabbat (the Sabbath) that I can’t put into words. I don’t feel it about every mitzvah or religious concept; there is much that I don’t understand, some things that I do not like, and I struggle greatly with many sociological aspects of the Orthodox community. Sometimes, to borrow a phrase from E, I want to go on a holiday from – if not Judaism, then particular mitzvot. But it kind of makes sense to me in a way I can’t seem to explain or transmit and it’s frustrating me that I can’t do that, particularly as I’m supposed to be good with words, at least in writing. I want to be able to express this to other people.


E and I have been watching the Doctor Who story The Chase. This came about because E said that she thinks I am right to prefer old (twentieth century) Doctor Who over new (twenty-first century) Doctor Who. I said this wasn’t a fair test, as we had been watching new Doctor Who sequentially (we are on series five), so it’s not surprising they are a mix of good and bad, but I had mostly cherry-picked good stories from the old series for us to watch, aside from a few that came up when we were watching a whole season or a bunch of connected stories. So she challenged me to show her a really awful old story.

I went for The Chase even though it’s not quite on my absolute worst list (although it’s close) because I wanted something we would get some enjoyment out of, even if in a “so bad it’s good” way. This backfired a bit, as E found it boring in parts, but also enjoyable in other parts and “cute.” Overall, she says it’s absolutely not the worst Doctor Who story we’ve seen together. To be honest, I found myself agreeing and enjoying it more with her than in the past. The first episode is a typical early 1960s story, focused on exploration and the main characters. The second episode is the worst, trying to build an alien world with about two sets, three costumes and no time. The third is vaguely dull, but E was amused to see Doctor Who’s first trip to New York (stock footage, a single set and some bad accents representing the top of the Empire State Building). The fourth is actually quite funny and is possibly unique as the only time the Doctor doesn’t really work out what’s going on even by the end (he thinks he’s landed in the collective unconscious, but is actually in a robotic haunted house). The fifth is mostly set-up for the final episode, which is pretty good. The Mechanoids were never going to work as a recurring foe, but are quite striking in appearance and the sequence where Ian and Barbara finally get home is a gem. I’m not entirely sure why this seems to have shot up in popularity among younger fans, but it wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

Maybe we should watch some more clunkers. E says that her least favourite new Who stories are the depressing ones, but the old series generally wasn’t that depressing, except for in the mid-eighties. Maybe we should watch something from then, not least as it’s my least favourite era of the old series. Although maybe I shouldn’t be looking for things we won’t like.

Number Crunching

I woke up feeling drained today and not sure why except Pesach (Passover) stress and maybe wedding stress, although it hasn’t been on my radar much lately. I love having E here, but I guess we’re going through the “first year of marriage learning to live together and compromise” stuff, even though we aren’t fully married yet. Having worked out our position on the “big” topics, we’re having to find compromises on topics that we didn’t even know existed a few weeks ago, with the added complication that this isn’t actually our home, so we have to organise a whole other set of compromises with my parents too. I wish we were living in our own place, but it won’t happen for a while. E was very homesick this morning too. Married life is hard, and we aren’t even allowed to sleep in the same bed or share very intimate touch yet.

Related to feeling drained, I would like to have more energy, but I’m not sure how feasible it is. Other autistics seem to think there is no real way of boosting energy levels, aside from relaxation and sleep and sleep is not always refreshing to me due to my suspected sleep disorder. You can only manage your environment better to lose energy slower and leave more rest time to allow energy levels to naturally restore. I’m not sure how much I can do that right now, given that I have to go out to work and do a lot of non-negotiable (to me) religious stuff, although I’m trying to find ways to make the religious stuff more negotiable and hope to move completely to work from home one day, although it’s a distant dream right now.

Speaking of sleep, the respiratory department (which weirdly was responsible for my sleep study) finally got back to me today regarding my email about my sleep study results. They asked for my date of birth and post code to try to find my results. I don’t know why it took them over two weeks to write one line. Small steps…

Other than that, I feel like I took advantage of one of the Jewish Facebook groups I’m on to post about how I’m feeling rather than asking a specific question, so now I feel bad about that, and also feeling that no one likes me on the autism forum (I haven’t looked at that much for the last week and don’t feel I’ve missed much).

I’m also struggling to feel the meaning and joy of Pesach, but I feel like that about much of Judaism. I can’t tell if it doesn’t really engage me and I only do it out of abstract belief or if it’s just the alexithymia (difficulty recognising and understanding my own emotions) screwing up my life again. I think Judaism engages me, but that means I can’t reach the positive emotions I have about it and maybe never will, which amounts to the same thing in practice as not having them in the first place. It makes it hard to share the joy and meaning of Judaism with E when so much of my own presumed joy and meaning goes unnoticed by me.

E and I did some cooking together just now and that felt positive, but on the whole I feel slightly down and alexithymically unaware of what my problem is and what I could/should do to fix it, if that’s even how I should be looking at it. I think that some sadness is just part of the human condition and needs to be ridden out rather than changed.


I’m still thinking about the statistic I saw yesterday that there are about 1,380 autistic Jews in the UK. I suspect it must be an underestimate either of the number of autistics or Jews. Looking online, it seems that a little over 1% of the UK population is diagnosed autistic. Assuming that’s the same in the Anglo-Jewish population, the equivalent figure would be just over 4,000 Jewish autistics.

I did a back of an envelope calculation, admittedly with some questionable assumptions, and even with this higher figure, it’s likely that there are just forty or so autistics in this country who are broadly in the observant Modern Orthodox community, and many of them are probably severely autistic (I can’t find statistics on the percentage of autistics who are described as “high-functioning”). This means that the number of people who experience the interaction of autism and Jewish life the way I do in this country is almost non-existent. Even if I widen that to include the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community, I think it would still be hard to actually find people like me, as I’ve encountered almost no Haredi non-severe autistics online or in person and suspect that anyone even vaguely functional in that community is encouraged to keep quiet about any neurological differences as it would be “bad for shidduchim” (finding a partner for yourself and your siblings).

No wonder there’s so little support for non-severe autism in the Jewish or frum community. No wonder I’ve struggled to so hard to find people on my wavelength in the frum community over the years. And no wonder my wife came from overseas!

E is Here!

I haven’t written for a few days, as things have been very hectic. E arrived on Wednesday! Dad and I collected her from the airport. I also sent out the wedding invitations that day via Greenvelope. Thankfully, only one bounced due to an outdated address, although my Mum’s failed to arrive and we don’t know why. I generally sent only one invitation to couples (I usually only had one address for them anyway), but for close family, I sent individual invitations. Dad’s arrived, but Mum’s didn’t and we don’t know why as the system failed to register it as unsent. It wasn’t in her spam folder. Aside from that, we’ve received a lot of replies already and I’m glad that my rabbi mentor is definitely coming, although sadly his wife is not. My oldest friend is coming without his wife too, in both cases, due to work commitments they can’t get out of.

On Thursday E and I had our marriage authorisation meeting at the United Synagogue. I’m not going to re-open debate on whether this is a good thing; I don’t have a problem with it, although E didn’t like the process, although she found the meeting OK. Anyway, it went without a hitch, although I was quite anxious beforehand. My Mum had told me in advance that she thought I was at kindergarten with the rabbi we were going to speak to. I was tempted to spiral into comparison, but decided I would not devalue myself that way any more. I don’t know how well I will manage to continue this attitude in the future.

The meeting went better than expected, but afterwards we went to Brent Cross Shopping Centre to get a wedding ring, which went a lot worse than expected. The service in the jewellers we went to was very poor. E wanted to discuss rings with an assistant, especially for advice on matching the wedding ring with her engagement ring (which used to be my grandmother’s and is a family heirloom). In the end, we didn’t get a ring. We’re going to speak to one of my Dad’s friends, who is a jeweller, after Pesach (Passover). Hopefully he will give us some more personal advice.

We spent some time in John Lewis looking for things for our gift registry. It was actually OK doing this with E, even a bit fun. I think with anyone else, I would have been bored rigid. I guess that’s true love.

On the way home, I wanted to cheer E up after the ring problem, so suggested we do a detour to the free bookshelf in the hope she would find something good. She didn’t, but I ended up with three books: a translation of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (which I may not read from cover to cover, but is good to have), the Sherlock Holmes-themed mystery novel Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz and a Bill Bryson travelogue A Walk in the Woods (which E may read, so I guess that was a partial success for her). I have a lot of light books to read at the moment, which I should be reading now at this time of stress, but I’m some way into Children of Dune and don’t want to stop now I’ve started. The problem is I rarely have the time or concentration for it right now.

I’m actually reading a different Bill Bryson book at lunch at work and on the Tube home, as The Great Dune Trilogy, which includes Children of Dune, is too big to take with. This is The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, about growing up in small-town America in the 1950s, part memoir, part social history. I’m enjoying it a lot, for all that I find Bryson’s sense of humour a little off-putting at times, in terms of childhood anecdotes involving bodily functions and the like. It’s certainly an easier read than Children of Dune!


I’ve been feeling very tired this week, even more so than usual. I’ve had to get up early most days, not just by my standards, but by most standards, and I’ve been going to bed late so that I can catch up on things for the wedding and/or Pesach (mostly wedding, I am not doing much for Pesach this year, I just don’t have the time or energy). I wake up most days at the moment with a stress headache. It usually goes once I get up, but it makes getting up harder, and sometimes (like today), it doesn’t go entirely, even with medication. E has also been tired with jet-lag so we haven’t done much more than we need to, it’s just difficult that we’ve needed to do a lot. We’re having a quieter day today and Shabbat (the Sabbath) should be quiet too, although next week will be very intensive in the days immediately before Pesach. I haven’t had any real time or energy for reading or even TV and the lack of relaxation has made it hard to fall asleep at times. When I do, I have weird dreams and wake up more tired than I went to sleep (still no news on the sleep study results. I can’t even find a number to chase). I’ve noticed that marriage conversations can start suddenly and go on for a while, admittedly more with my parents than E, and this can take quite big chunks of unscheduled time from the day too.

I also find balancing the very different personalities of E and my parents a bit tricky, as well as developing my relationships with them. They don’t get on badly, I just need to adjust to the new family dynamic. It’s hard for E and me staying with my parents too. It makes sense to stay before the wedding, but in an ideal world, E and I would move out straight afterwards, but we’ll probably be staying here for some months after the wedding, given that it’s unlikely that we’ll have time to look at flats before the wedding and the process of buying property can itself take months even after finding somewhere.

That said, I’m really glad E is here and the wedding seems closer now, although I would like Pesach to be out of the way as it’s a whole other load of worries, despite my being less anxious and OCD about it than I was a couple of years ago. Actually, my raised anxiety level generally has probably made my Pesach anxiety worse than it was last year and the year before, but not significantly so.


I don’t really want to get political, but I do want to say something about the arrest of Donald Trump. I don’t like him and don’t want him to be president again, but the charges brought against him seem too trivial and politically-motivated, like Al Capone being arrested for tax evasion. They should either have tried to arrest him for the Capitol Riot, which was significant enough to need follow-through, or just left things to the ballot box. This will just inflame his already conspiracy-minded followers and I think it will backfire badly on the Democratic Party. I don’t know if the Democratic leadership actually want this prosecution, but it will reflect badly on them all the same.

It also represents a trend in American politics to disparage election results and try to involve the judiciary in politics in a dangerous way. There was Trump’s riot in 2021, Trump was impeached twice during his term in office, before that was the Florida Recount in 2000 and before that was Ken Starr’s attempts to impeach Bill Clinton in the 1990s. I think these things lead a distrust of the electoral system and an impatience with it that does neither party any good in the long-run and will just lead to further erosion of support for democracy. Except in exceptional cases, bad presidents should be removed by the voters, not the judiciary.

“In an outback dimension, somewhere between mythology and madness, the Doctor seeks truth and beauty at the edge of the world.”

The last few days were relatively uneventful, but I still feel the need to get my thoughts in order before bedtime.

I was pretty exhausted on Friday, but now we’re getting towards spring (without quite feeling there yet), Shabbat (the Sabbath) starts somewhat later and I’m not under such time pressure on Fridays getting ready. This meant I had some time to fiddle around with my phone and iTunes. The good news is that I got all my music onto my phone! The bad news is that it took up almost all my free memory, even after ditching various WhatsApp video and audio files and some apps (games I don’t play) on Thursday. If I want to listen to music on my phone, so I don’t have to carry my iPod and so I can potentially get cordless earpods or noise-cancelling headphones, I will have to select whatever music I want to listen to in advance. This is not the end of the world, and as I do often listen to whole albums (I know, very retro), perhaps not as hard as it might be for some people who listen to random songs from different artistes. I’d just got used to the convenience of having my whole music library with me all the time (!) and being able to play on shuffle through every song I own (even though half the time I get something I don’t want and skip on anyway). And, yes, I know this is pretty much the definition of a twenty-first century, first-world problem. But still.

I went to shul (synagogue), even though I was tired and the weather was bad, although it didn’t actually rain in the periods when I was walking to/from shul. After dinner, I did some Torah study (about half an hour as I’m trying to take time to relax) and reading. I’m going through Children of Dune very slowly. I think I’m getting slightly bored with the Dune “universe” (as we have to say nowadays) and the fact that even the likeable characters get corrupted by power sooner or later, which is realistic, but not much fun. And there are another three books afterwards (many, many more if I read the sequels not written by Frank Herbert, but I have no intention of doing that, just as I haven’t read the Foundation novels not written by Isaac Asimov). I re-read some more Doctor Who comics too.

I did go to bed rather late and also got up very late, and felt exhausted when I did get up (after a disturbing dream). The day was another usual Shabbat mix of sleeping, reading and Torah study, except that I got another stress headache and didn’t do much reading or Torah study as a result, nor did I do much after Shabbat either. These headaches tend to be on my forehead and actually in my eye, which I find a horrible sensation. They tend to come intensely for a minute or two, then go before I can take any medication. I don’t like taking painkillers needlessly (and taking medication for minor ailments on Shabbat is a complicated area anyway), so I tend to wait until these are bad until I take anything, which is not necessarily the best strategy. I hope they will go after the wedding, although that’s still nearly two months to get through. Anyway, this one did get bad enough that I took something, and used a cooling strip too.

After Shabbat, I watched Yes Prime Minister while I waited for medication to kick in, and also read Voyager, perhaps the most strange and haunting of Doctor Who comic strips.

Oh, and a mysterious parcel turned up today, addressed to E and myself. I haven’t opened it yet, as I wanted to ask E if she wants me to wait for Wednesday and open it together. I guess it’s a wedding present, but I’m not sure from whom. It’s domestic mail, so not any of E’s family or friends or my Israeli family. Probably not any of my local friends (not that I have many) or my parents’ local friends as they would have saved themselves £2.85 postage and dropped it round personally. That narrows it down a bit, and I know who I think may have sent it, but not with any certainty.

That’s it, really. I’m going to try to go to bed soon, as I’ve got quite a bit to do tomorrow, for Pesach (Passover) and for the wedding, and we lose an hour tonight due to the clocks going forward (groan). I’m glad that E will be coming here this week, although the week as a whole is going to be hectic, again with Pesach and wedding stuff, as well as work. I’ll be glad when Pesach is over and I can concentrate all my anxiety on the wedding!


I mentioned in my previous post that I woke up in the early hours with a headache and couldn’t get back to sleep. I did eventually dose for a couple of hours during the late morning, so I’m not too sleep-deprived, but it wasn’t a great night.

I woke up the second time in time to go to my second-cousin’s house for lunch. As I said yesterday, I have lots of second-cousins, but only two I see regularly. We had a big family gathering of eleven adults, three children and one baby. I only intended to go for a while, as I thought I would be overwhelmed and I had wedding stuff to do at home. I didn’t say much and I did feel overwhelmed at times and struggled to join in conversations, but on the whole I had a good time and stayed for the whole afternoon. I had a cuddle with Nephew too, who drooled all over my jumper, but I didn’t care. When it was time to go, he did a weird sticking-out-tongue thing at me, which Dad thinks is his attempt at a kiss.

Afterwards, I intended to do wedding stuff, and I did, but not as much as I intended. I was probably too distracted after peopling to focus properly.

I had a slightly heavy Skype call with E dealing with our wedding, family and autism. I feel I still don’t know who I am now that I know I’m autistic, but I’m suddenly required to make decisions about the wedding, our marriage, relations with family, friends and community, decisions about work and career… It all feels overwhelming, but maybe it’s only by making those decisions that I can actually work out who I am.

I feel that I’ve gone through life on auto-pilot thinking things “had to be this way” from autistic rigidity, not noticing how bad I felt at times due to alexithymia (to be fair, years of depression and burnout felt very bad, but I couldn’t work out why exactly). I’m actually mostly OK with my religious decisions, even if I am trying to find ways to make it easier for those around me, and even if I’m now trying to acknowledge that my mental health, autism, and having less religious family and friends give me unique challenges here and that I need to adjust my expectations accordingly. However, other decisions possibly need to be challenged e.g. assuming that I need to aim towards one day working 9am-5pm in an office. I don’t believe this now, but it’s a recent change.

It’s kind of sad that so many of my life decisions are determined, at least in part, by my neurology and my tendency to certain mental illnesses, but I guess that’s life. We get to choose the decisions we make, but not the conditions under which we make them.


I’ve got a phone appointment with the doctor on Tuesday morning to discuss my missing sleep study results and a few other things. I find phone appointments very hard and would like to challenge them on inclusion grounds, but don’t currently have the time or energy. I’ll be skipping volunteering that day to take the call as I didn’t fancy taking it with other people around and, anyway, I need to have energy in the afternoon for wedding stuff and lately volunteering exhausts me.

Stressed (and Unable to Think of an Original Title)

I feel very stressed, about wedding stuff, family stuff and Pesach (a month away). I’ll go in chronological order, but I wanted to put that up at the start.

I posted on a Facebook group for people who have medical issues that prevent them keeping Jewish law about my alexithymia (difficulty recognising and understanding my emotions) and the problems that gives me with observing Jewish law (e.g. loving God). People seemed supportive and gave me some suggestions, which was good. Maybe I’ve finally found somewhere I can talk about these issues, which was difficult in non-Jewish support spaces.

I managed to get to shul (synagogue) on Friday night for the first time in weeks! I was tired, but I got there. I didn’t do much Torah study in the evening, though, as I was tired – although, given what I was told by the mental health helpline rabbi, maybe I did too much. It’s hard to gauge. I read a Batman graphic novel (prompted by watching The Batman in the week) and started Children of Dune, the third Dune book, but I didn’t get very far with it.

I did decide that I shouldn’t push myself too hard at the moment to read prose fiction (let alone non-fiction) when I’m feeling stressed about the wedding and Pesach. It’s OK to spend my free time over the next two and a half months watching TV or reading graphic novels, if I’m too stressed to read prose much.

Today was similar, although without shul, just Torah study (getting through the first of this week’s two difficult Torah portions (Vayakhel)) and a bit of reading. I wanted to do a few small (I thought) chores after dinner and get to bed early, but things got out of control, hence blogging to off-load even though I intended not to blog today.

My uncle phoned to say my cousins won’t be coming to my wedding, because it’s too expensive. I think my uncle and aunt are still coming, although there are still some issues to discuss. It’s sad, but I guess I wasn’t expecting them to come, as they’re almost all adults now with other responsibilities, except for the youngest, who is still at school and we already knew he couldn’t come, because he has an exam the next day. My sister was lucky that they were all able to come for her wedding, but that was five years ago when they were all in a different place, metaphorically and, in most cases, literally.

I need to put together a wedding “To Do” list. I have several different and incomplete lists and need to compile them into a master list (and hope I don’t forget anything). I wanted to do this tonight, but I ran out of time, so I’ll have to do it tomorrow.

I was trying (and failing) to clear the decks tonight, with Torah study and the To Do list as tomorrow we’re going to my second-cousin’s house. I have lots of second-cousins, most of whom I’ve never met, but I have two (brother and sister) about my age who my sister and I grew up with. We get together every six months or so, along with my parents, my second-cousins’ mother and her husband, and everyone’s spouses and children (except me, as my spouse (civilly, if not religiously) is in America and we have no children, which is always hard). I do like to go, but I also struggle to find anything to say and deal with the noise and peopling. Wedding planning now gives me a reason to leave early after an hour or an hour and a half and get the bus home, which is probably win-win.

One final stress factor today has been the sleep study I had done in November. I have found the receipt for the return postage of the equipment, so I can prove I returned it. What I can’t find is any paper that says what hospital was supposed to be analysing the results. The postage receipt has an address and postcode, which I googled, but it’s just an office somewhere that receives the equipment, not the hospital that would know where my results are, and I can’t find a phone number for it anyway. I thought they sent me some papers, but if they did, I must have thrown them away, as I can’t find them now. Unfortunately, when it comes to papers, I either keep everything or throw away everything. I find it hard to keep the right things and throw away the right things. I guess I was assuming that everything would go according to plan and the hospital would just send my results. HAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As the GP surgery’s receptionist couldn’t find any relevant information on my record, I think my best course of action is to try (try being the operative word) to get an appointment with my GP and find out where he referred me to. Which is a total waste of his time and mine necessitated by NHS incompetence. I still can’t believe some people think the NHS is brilliant and the only problem it has is not enough money.


Today was another slow day at work. I did make a number of difficult phone calls, requesting payment of invoices. I think I did OK. The other news is that I’m worried we’re about to have the first family broiges (argument, fall-out) of E and my wedding, but I’m unashamedly putting E and my needs first for our special day. I’m not going in to more detail here. Hopefully we can negotiate our way through it.

I went into the GPs surgery on the way home. I masked, but no one else did, staff or patients. I felt somewhat stupid. I’m not sure whether it’s still legally required. Masks are rare enough now in London for it to be notable when people are wearing them and I keep being jolted by seeing references to them as necessary on American blogs. I did some research the other day and, over the last year, only about six weeks saw excess deaths above the number before the pandemic in England and Wales i.e. most of the time no more people are dying than pre-COVID. The figures for Scotland and Northern Ireland were somewhat higher, but not enormously so. I don’t know why, though, especially as Scotland had stricter laws than England for most of the pandemic.

The reason I went into the surgery was to try to get the results of the sleep study I had done last year. Worryingly, there is no sign of it and the receptionist told me to phone the hospital that did the test. As I had it done at home, I need to find the paperwork that says which hospital was analysing the results. I’m worried that the sleep study equipment, which I had to send back in the post in a pre-paid package, has got lost in the post and I will have to do the study again.

Today was also the second anniversary of my autism diagnosis, but I’m not really sure what I make of that right now. By coincidence, someone on the autism forum asked today how we came to terms with diagnosis. I commented, “I’m two years from diagnosis (today, actually) and I think I still haven’t completely come to terms with it. I accept that I am autistic, I am glad I finally got an explanation for a lot of things in my life that made me feel weird and inadequate, but I still struggle with what it means for me and my life. I can’t really say that I see it as “a difference, not a disability” as many people here say. I do feel disabled, at least in some ways, and I don’t feel I have any of the “autistic superpowers” that some people describe. I want to see it as a difference, but I’m not there (yet?). I’m hoping things might get better in coming months as I get married, move out of my parents’ home and life with my wife (my fiancée is a lot more compatible with my autistic needs than my parents) and perhaps I’ll be able to improve things job-wise too, but at the moment autism still feels something I struggle with a lot of the time.”

[Reading the comment back, writing “my wife (my fiancée…” looks really awkward, but it does make sense if you read carefully: she will be my wife when I live with her, but right now she’s my fiancée, albeit only because I didn’t go into the whole between “two weddings” scenario.]


I read an annoying advice column originally from a Jewish newspaper. A full-time kollel student (advanced Talmudic student, but probably not training for the rabbinate), married, with a baby and a wife who works part-time, and getting a stipend from the kollel, was complaining that, while his parents lavished money, gifts and free babysitting on him and his family, his wife’s parents hardly gave them anything. He wanted them to help them buy a house! And yet his wife refused to raise the subject with them! So he was asking the therapist who writes the advice column how to get them to pull their weight. He wanted to ask a rabbi too (given the Yeshivish mentality, I am actually genuinely surprised he didn’t just ask a rabbi straight off). Fortunately, the therapist politely gave him a reality check.

I don’t agree with the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) full-time kollel for all men mentality, and this culture of entitlement is one of the reasons why (aside from it being innovative and totally against Jewish law and the Talmud). Sadly, E and I are going to be stuck in similar dependency when we marry, not due to religious or cultural norms, but due to our respective mental health and neurodivergence issues preventing both of us from working full-time, without having enough of a recognised disability to get any kind of state benefit. I know it’s not the same; we do both work even if we don’t work full-time and I am trying to increase my workload. And we do have genuine issues, even if the state doesn’t acknowledge them. Still, it saddens me a bit that we’re going to have to rely on parents to help us find somewhere to live and to help practically and financially with childcare.


Speaking of entitlement… I say I don’t talk about Harry and Megan, but then I end up making snide remarks, because they are just so funny. The front page story on The Evening Standard today was about their declaration of their children’s “birthright” to be called a prince and princess. I love the way they oscillate between super-woke “everyone is special, everyone has a right to be themselves” egalitarianism and aristocratic “of course we deserve privileges, it’s because we’re better than everyone else” hauteur, without the slightest trace of self-awareness. You can draw your own conclusions about any wider societal applications of this observation.

Incidentally, I think the only way I can cope with the news nowadays is by engaging my sense of dark humour and irony. Who says autistics don’t get irony?

Autistic Purim

I couldn’t sleep last night. I think it was a weird mixture of still “buzzing,” in a good way, from the Facebook group call (for people with health issues that impact observing Jewish fast days or celebrating Jewish festivals – we have one of both this week) and anxiety about Purim (Jewish festival this week). I did finally fall asleep about 1.30am, only to wake up at 5.30am and be unable to get back to sleep.

Work was boring and went slowly. I always feel awkward eating in a shul (synagogue) on a fast day (it was the Fast of Esther) even though I’m medically supposed to eat on the minor fast days. My boss J knows I don’t fast, but I worried about the rabbi walking in, even though I know I shouldn’t (and he hardly ever does either as we’re not really a part of his shul, we just have an office in the building). I went to Minchah (the Afternoon Service) purely because I was in the building. I thought I was going to be asked to do something and have to say I’m not allowed to as I’m not fasting, but it didn’t happen. I felt more positive about Purim as the day went on, but once work ended, the anxiety came back. I’m also anxious about having to make a bunch of calls to strangers asking them to pay their bills over the next week or two. That never gets easier. Definitely the second-least favourite part of my job, after the Very Scary Task.

I got home in time to go to my local shul for the reading of Megillat Esther (The Book of Esther). It occurred to me that this is my thirty-ninth Purim, but only my second knowing that I’m autistic. I was diagnosed shortly after Purim 2021. Last year’s Purim was still a bit COVID-ey and restrained, so this felt in some ways like my first “real” autistic Purim.

When I was growing up, I didn’t like Purim much, but I didn’t know why. I felt guilty about it. I assumed it was just because I was a non-rowdy, serious, vaguely melancholic person who has trouble letting his hair down and also that I didn’t like the noise during the Megillah reading that stopped me hearing every word (you are supposed to hear every word of the Megillah, both morning and evening, but this is made harder by the fact that everyone boos the villainous Haman (Haman = Hitler, basically)). Then when I was sixteen, I was mildly ill during the morning Megillah reading in school. I didn’t know it, but this was part of my first autistic burnout.

Then across my twenties and thirties there were years when I was too depressed and/or autistically burnt out and anxious (although, again, I didn’t know that) to go to a reading at all, plus the years when I had religious OCD and I came home distraught because I wasn’t sure I’d heard every word and my religious OCD was in overdrive telling me I was a bad Jew and should go to another reading to be sure.

Now I know that I’m autistic and there are a whole load of difficult things at Purim including the noise (just in itself, without the hearing the Megillah question, but also the fact that I can’t “tune out” background noise and focus on the reading; I am aware of every cough and grunt in the room), the number of people, the removal of social boundaries (I struggle with social conventions at the best of times and now even the ones I know about are gone) and the expectation (religious expectation and social expectation) that I should have fun (is there anything more likely to stop someone enjoying something than being told that they MUST or WILL enjoy it?). In theory alcohol could also play into this, but I mostly avoid boozy places; in all my Purim struggles, I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone trying to get me to drink, which is good. Then there is the fear of autistic exhaustion or even burnout as a result of all this (lately I’ve been feeling about as exhausted as I’ve been without hitting burnout because of wedding planning even without Purim). Then on top of all these autistic issues, there are fears that the minutiae of the laws, particularly the “hearing every word” one, will send me spiralling back into OCD. And all of this together sets up a lot of anxiety: social anxiety and religious anxiety. I could feel as we started the Megillah that I was “wound up” and tense.

I might have understood all this years earlier if it hadn’t been for my alexithymia (difficulty recognising and understanding my own emotions).

(An aside: I find the Megillah reading nerve-wracking even without the “hear every word” law. I always get a weird feeling that everything hangs in the balance every year, that if we’re not careful, somehow Haman could still win and wipe out the Jews this year. We’re supposed to have this level of imaginative involvement at the Pesach seder, but not here. I have no idea why I’m like this. Maybe after the Holocaust, the idea of someone wiping out the Jews doesn’t seem like something academic that happened “in those days”. Like I said, Haman = Hitler.)

Looking at this year’s reading, as I mentioned, I was very tense the whole time. It was a noisy reading; even aside from the “Haman” noise, there were a lot of people with coughs. As it went on, I began to worry about having missed words, repeating them to myself. Then I thought the reader made a mistake. I don’t know if he did or not. I often thought this when the OCD was bad. On balance, he probably didn’t, but I worry. I actually instituted a “one reading rule” a few years back, that I can only go to one reading in the evening and one in the morning, so that I’m not tempted to repeat readings. I’ve never actually gone to a remedial reading, but I’ve come close a few times. (Another aside: I have probably missed the morning Shema prayer thousands of times over the years I’ve been struggling with sleep issues (depression, medication side-effects, burnout, suspected sleep disorder), but it doesn’t bother me as much as missing the Megillah, even though the Shema is more important (biblical vs. rabbinic commandment). Somehow, the fact that we only read it on one day in the year makes the Megillah seem more important, even though Jewish law actually rules that the more frequent something is, the more important it is.)

I tried to focus on the idea I’ve had lately that the minutiae of the laws are less important than whether I’m moving towards God. I told myself that I tried my best, and I struggle a lot more than most people, and I hope God will accept my effort. I tried not to get caught up in the obsessive thinking that characterises OCD, to keep these thoughts as passing thoughts and not obsessive ruminations that could lead to full-blown OCD again. It’s hard, but, until I can find (or start?) a sensory Megillah reading in North-West London, I don’t really have a choice.

I had dinner with my parents afterward and felt better. We had Purim bread, which E tells me doesn’t exist in the US. It’s sweet challah bread, like Ashkenazi Jews have on Shabbat (Sabbaths) and festivals, but with raisins, sprinkles (we call them “hundreds and thousands” in the UK, which E thinks is quaint) and icing, although this one didn’t have icing for some reason. I had a hamantashen (Purim pastry) too. I wore my jester’s hat for some of it, my nod to dressing up for Purim. I heard somewhere that you should dress up as something you want to be, so obviously I want to have licence to tell people painful truths by couching them in humour (my satirical novel is still in the planning stage, though).

Now I’m going to watch Doctor Who to try to relax a bit, then sleep and get up early enough to do it all over again before going to volunteer…

Being Accepted

I woke up about 10am and got up to go to the loo, but then went back to bed and oversleep, which I really shouldn’t have done. I was glad to get some peaceful relaxation time when I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed, which has been hard to come by lately, but the rest of the day was a rush.

I felt sad for much of the day. The immediate trigger was an email on a mailing list I’m on, but I think it broadened into not fitting into the frum (religious Jewish) community. What I’m slowly thinking about Purim is that I have to do it on my own terms, trying to keep the mitzvot (commandments), but trying not to beat myself up if I can’t do all of them, or not perfectly. This is hard! But really I need to do it with my whole religious life. The frum world is not made for neurodivergent or mentally ill people.

The problem is still wanting to be accepted by frum people and wondering if I’ll ever have friends who can understand all of me. Maybe that’s not necessary, I don’t know. I just feel uncomfortable compartmentalising my life: frum friends, Doctor Who fandom friends, blog friends, autistic forum friends… Maybe that’s normal. I guess I remember the rabbis at school who were upset that I didn’t go on to yeshivah (rabbinical seminary) for a year and who were disappointed in me. I felt it was partially their fault for not convincing me that it was important to go or guiding me to an appropriate yeshivah, but I still felt bad for letting them down. Sometimes I wonder if people on the Orthodox Conundrum blog would shun me if they knew more about me (which just wants to make me dump my life story on there to see what reaction I get, which would not be sensible).

I wrote the above in the early afternoon. Towards evening, I joined a video call from a Facebook group for Jews with medical struggles related to festivals, in this case, Purim, which starts tomorrow evening. The group was originally for people who couldn’t fast on fast days, but it’s broadened to any kind of medical problem affecting fast days festivals. Actually, the conversation drifted into even more general issues with religious observance and I spoke a bit about some of the issues I’ve posted about here above and in the past. It was good to feel heard and accepted, although I struggled to work out when to speak on a multi-person video call. Another call is planned for before Pesach (Passover) and I hope to attend. The organiser said that they’ve had attendees from different Jewish denominations in the past, although everyone there today seemed to be Orthodox-affiliated. I did feel a bit like “Maybe I’ve found some people who can really understand me?” and one participant messaged me on Facebook afterwards and asked to stay in touch as she has autistic family.


E and I were talking about making friends when we get married and live together. I suggested we might want to volunteer at our shul (synagogue) or similar as neither of us is great at the “talk to people in the Kiddush (refreshments in synagogue after the service)” mode of socialising and making friends. I feel like I’m a lot better at making friends online than in the real world.

Every Mitzvah Counts

I was exhausted today, but had to get up to help with the Tesco grocery delivery. I went back to bed for forty minutes after breakfast, even though it was late, and that helped a lot. Just lying still in a dark room wrapped in my weighted blanket can really help with mood, even though it’s not a practical suggestion much of the time.

I do also need to get off the computer earlier at night. It’s such a relief to be off it, but it’s so hard to get to that stage, partly because of writing my blog post and speaking to E, but also because of internet procrastination. Procrastination does me no good, but I do it anyway. As I’ve said before, the internet seems so urgent and attention-grabbing, but often it’s not urgent or even relevant,  it provokes pointless negative emotions and just leaves me feeling bad, but it’s addictive. It is the junk food of activities. At least E will be here LATER THIS MONTH and we won’t need to have late night (my time) Skype calls.

There was an apology for the family drama of the last few days, so hopefully things will be a bit more stable there from now on.

We got a contract from the photographer we want for our wedding. It’s good, but I find every stage in wedding planning can prompt “Did we make the right decision? This seems so final” thoughts.

I went to the bank and did a little shopping and was totally exhausted afterwards. E and I did some wedding paperwork stuff and I’m going to do a little Torah study after this, although it’s late. Unfortunately, I spent most of the day struggling with exhaustion and some of the evening with a mild, but persistent headache.


Sometimes (often) I wonder what it would be like to be a “normal” person, with no autism, mental health issues, a full-time job and so on. I used to think about it mainly in terms of marriage; now I have a wife who loves and accepts me, I think about it in terms of the Jewish community, being accepted and having friends, but also performing mitzvot (commandments) “properly.”

When I speak to my rabbi mentor, he always seems positive about my religious life, even when (as at the moment), I feel like I’m giving up on aspects of observances because I can’t cope practically and emotionally. I can’t work out if he really thinks I’m doing well or if he’s just trying to keep me Jewishly engaged and positive. He’s an honest person, so I imagine he really thinks it, but it’s hard to believe. Similarly, I never worked out if he said I should be open to dating less-frum (religious Jewish) women because he thinks that, as a general rule, frum people should be open to atypical relationships or because I found so few frum women willing to go out with me that I needed to broaden my search. I wouldn’t have dated E if he hadn’t said that, so it’s good whatever the reason, but I wonder about it sometimes. Likewise, when my Dad tells me he’s proud of me, I can’t help but wonder if he’s proud of me in the abstract, that I have done things that are inherently worthwhile or if he’s proud because I have a lot of “issues” yet I have done stuff which, although trivial to a “normal” person (e.g. my sister) are challenging to me. I guess I feel a degree of shame in not being “normal.”

Related, I’ve been thinking a lot about alexithymia (not being able to understand and process my own emotions) and Judaism. There are lots of emotions that I am supposed to feel as a Jew, for example, love and reverence of God, love of other people, joy on Yom Tov (festivals). I find all this very hard as I’m often not aware of these emotions and don’t know how to inspire them in myself. Now I wonder if I do feel some of them and just don’t know it. There are mental health and autistic challenges for me with most Yom Tovim, so I am probably not feeling joy there so much, but it occurs to me that if I can “prove” to myself that I love my family by looking at what I’m willing to sacrifice for them and how anxious I am about losing them, the same applies to God and Judaism. I have sacrificed a huge amount for them and don’t want to lose them I know it’s not from fear as it doesn’t feel like the anxiety I used to have with religious OCD. That would seem to indicate that it’s from love.

Other related thoughts I’ve had today: I had a headache, which reminded me of something I read in the book Calling Out to You, about Judaism and depression and anxiety, that if you had a headache, you would not pressure yourself to do your regular Jewish activities, so you shouldn’t pressure yourself if you have depression or anxiety. I feel a bit like I have a “permanent headache” in the form of autism, at least in some respects and maybe I shouldn’t pressure myself to behave like a neurotypical person.

E and I were speaking about Chabad and their kiruv (outreach) philosophy of acceptance of all Jews wherever they are religiously. While some kiruv organisations are very focused on getting people to commit to a fully observant Orthodox life, Chabad have an attitude of “every mitzvah counts.” They focus on getting people to do just one mitzvah regardless of whether they’re going to go on to do more mitzvot. Maybe I need to focus on one mitzvah at a time and just do what I can.


I still haven’t had my sleep study results and I don’t know who to chase. NHS, etc, etc.

Not Secure in My Self and My Life

Last night, I blogged that I would do ten minutes of Torah study and relax. I actually did about twenty minutes, although it made sense to split the sedra (weekly Torah portion) where I did, as Tetzaveh falls into two very different chunks. I just spent too much of the evening doing “stuff,” but it was important stuff. The upshot was that I had little time to relax (just one episode of Yes Minister) and when I got to bed, I couldn’t sleep. I am not good at the whole balance thing, even though I only work two days a week and don’t take my work home with me.

I did eventually get about four hours of sleep and coped OK at work, but it was slow and boring and even a trip to the bank was hard as I got overloaded from the crowds in the streets. J asked me to cover for him on Purim next week if we need to do the Very Scary Task in the afternoon, as he wants to fulfil the commandment (“unhealthy custom” is probably a better description) of getting drunk at the celebratory festive meal. I agreed, as he’s so flexible and forgiving for me, but also because I didn’t have the courage or vocabulary to explain just how much I’m dreading Purim and how this could make it even worse. I just have to hope we don’t have to do the Very Scary Task. Between all this and worrying that alexithymia (difficulty experiencing and understanding my own emotions) means that I will never experience religious joy, I came home feeling pretty depressed.

I watched another episode of Yes Minister and some of Undermind and spoke to E and I feel a lot better now, but I still feel very drained and as I have volunteering tomorrow and more stuff to do, I will try to keep this briefer than might otherwise have been the case.


Reading some of this week’s sedra, combined with the family event yesterday, got me thinking about not being envious. Moshe and Aharon (Moses and Aaron) could, according to rabbinic tradition, have fulfilled each other’s roles as prophet and leader and as high priest, but each was happy for the other’s success in their roles. I suspect this is a lot easier if you are secure in knowing what your own role in life is and this is where I struggle as I just don’t know.

On the Intimate Judaism podcast they spoke about the Orthodox world’s tendency to exhort young people to “date for marriage” being counter-productive, as it encourages over-thinking and turning down dates for reasons that need not prevent a relationship developing. They said instead to date for the date, to see if there is something there. I’m glad my rabbi mentor said something similar to me, otherwise I would not have gone out with E. But I wonder if I need to think the same about my role in life, to stop over-thinking my role in my life as a whole and just focusing on being a good husband/son/brother/friend/online community member in the current moment. The problem is that I’m not sure how good I am at any of those…


A while back I watched a video on where an abuse survivor said he struggled with tefillin (the leather boxes Orthodox Jewish men and some non-Orthodox Jews strap to their arms and heads during weekday morning prayers) because wrapping them tightly around his arm gave him abuse flashbacks. He asked a rabbi, who said he could stop wearing them, but after a while he went back to wearing them again despite the flashbacks, as he felt that a Hasid should go further than the letter of the law.

I’ve been struggling with this. Aside from the negative social effects of the way this attitude of going beyond the letter of the law in everything has taken hold in many parts of the Orthodox world, it just reinforces my feeling that relying on so many legitimate leniencies myself (leniencies for mental illness, autism, low income, living with less religious parents) makes me somehow inadequate. That I should be able to get by without the leniencies, let alone the things I do that are against halakhah (Jewish law) without being permitted even by a genuine leniency. It’s a struggle and probably connected with the idea of not being secure in my sense of self and my own role in life.

Halfway There Day

Yesterday was my half-birthday, for those of you who take note of such things. I don’t really see any significance, but my oldest friend was born on 19 January and another friend on 20 January, so the date leaps out at me. I am now closer to my fortieth birthday than my thirty-ninth, which vaguely troubles me, although it shouldn’t.

I also worked out that if E and I get one of the two wedding dates we’re currently aiming at, both in the second half of May, we’re more or less halfway now between the civil wedding last August and the chuppah (religious wedding). We should have more of an idea this week if that’s a realistic date.


This week was the baby blessing week for Nephew. I couldn’t go in the end because of difficulty finding somewhere suitable to stay. I was OK home alone. I didn’t go to shul (synagogue) on Friday night because I felt too tired, which was a shame and vaguely troubling in terms of how frequently it seems to be happening. The house was cold and I have chapped hands again, but otherwise things were fine.

I did some Torah study: Talmud and The Guide to the Perplexed, which is currently full of stuff about the Aristotlean view of the universe as a series of living spheres, one inside the other, definitely not made of atoms and definitely not containing any vacuum. It’s interesting from a historical point of view, but this bit is not really relevant to modern day theology. Hopefully it will get back to more relevant stuff (from a contemporary perspective) soon.

I finished reading Dune yesterday. I intend to go on to the second book, Dune Messiah. It was a good book, but hard to get into, and weirdly structured.

I slept too long as usual, about twelve or thirteen hours at night. I still went back to bed after lunch today, more because I was cold than tired. I think I drifted into that state of mind between sleeping and wakefulness and was late for seudah (the third Shabbat meal).

It was a struggle to do things after Shabbat. It always is, as I feel lethargic, even at 5.30pm. I did manage to tidy up and do a bit of Torah study. I did a little novel planning too. I would have done more, but I had a headache for a while.


I tried to friend someone on the autism forum a while back. We have some things in common (librarians, Doctor Who fans). He didn’t respond to the friending and accompanying message, but has chatted with me on threads since then. He’s got other friends. Friending doesn’t really do anything other than allow direct messaging, but I do feel weirdly unliked from only having two friends, both people who are not there any more and who didn’t stay on the forum long. But I’m nervous about friending people (in general and after this). I wonder if the friend request didn’t go through properly to this person and if I should send it again, or if that would make things worse if he was deliberately not responding to me.

I also wonder if it’s worth friending other people. I would be open to making friends on the site, which would realistically only happen if I friended people, but I don’t see it as essential. Still, I wonder what to do. I feel really self-conscious about being the only (open) Jew on the site, but can’t stop mentioning it. I don’t think anyone is antisemitic, but a lot of people have funny ideas about Jews, particularly if they haven’t met any (which is feasible as Jews make up about a half of per cent of the UK population, largely concentrated in just a couple of cities).


Today was difficult in some ways, albeit mostly fairly minor ones. I spent most of the day wrestling with some thoughts that I’m not willing to share here yet, triggered (not in the trauma sense) by an Intimate Judaism podcast I am in the middle of listening to. Both the Intimate Judaism and Orthodox Conundrum podcasts and associated Facebook page seem to be talking a lot about the links between sex, relationships and identity in the Orthodox world (LGBT, older singles etc.). Both podcasts are run by Rabbi Scott Kahn, the former along with Dr Talli Rosenbaum. It’s interesting, and I have things to say, but I worry about saying too much, or the wrong thing for a public forum. I am vaguely thinking about messaging Rabbi Kahn, but part of me feels I share too much with strangers online, and that people don’t really want to hear my thoughts and I shouldn’t look for other people to validate my life choices.


I sent a question about autism to the email helpline for people who want to ask mental health-related questions to a rabbi/religious expert trained in mental health. Autism isn’t strictly a mental illness, but I feel I need some specialist help and don’t know where to turn, even if they just send me a different email address to write to. I just want to discuss how much I can “realistically” force myself to conform or, alternatively, allow myself to depart from communal standards in things like communal prayer, amount of religious study and so on, given the things I deal with on a daily basis (more on that below).


The psychiatrist has reduced my clomipramine, but she isn’t sure whether the dosage she prescribed is actually manufactured. She gave me an alternative in case I can’t get 25mg tablets, but it’s annoying to be put in the situation of having to check this out when the reason I waited a week to hear from her was because she wanted to check this!


The main struggle today was with mistakes at work. I made quite a few, just when I was hoping I was getting the hang of things again (you may remember I periodically feel like this, then make a load more mistakes).

Yesterday, when I was doing proofreading at home, I spotted and corrected a number of very minor mistakes immediately (in text I hadn’t written). Today, in the office, I made loads of mistakes, both in written text and in terms of entering data wrongly. I’m struggling to understand why. I have a couple of suggestions:

  • The office is quiet (just me and my line manager, with only a few more people in the building), but I get over-stimulated and sensorily overloaded on the commute in on the Tube before I arrive. It’s not as crowded as it was at rush before COVID, but it’s still quite a lot of people to deal with first thing in the morning, and the announcements go right through me (particularly the super-annoying “See it, say it, sorted” anti-terrorism announcement that they make every couple of minutes, which could probably drive someone to committing an act of terrorism just to stop it).  This puts me in the wrong mindset from the start.
  • The lighting in the office is very bad, with minimal natural light and dull light bulbs (possibly LEDs, I’m not sure). I know autistics are supposed to prefer soft, muted lighting, but I find clear, bright light often more helpful for being in a work state. Dull light just makes me feel tired and struggle to focus (literally).
  • The work I was doing at home yesterday was one, focused task. At work I have to switch between different documents and programs as well as between tasks, which raises the likelihood of executive function issues.
  • Related to this, I don’t really take any breaks during the day except a forty-five minute lunch break (aside from toilet breaks). This is because I work somewhat shorter days and it feels wrong to take breaks if I’m finishing early. I’m beginning to wonder if this is a false economy and I should finish later so I can take longer lunches and maybe a mid-afternoon break to try to adjust between tasks better. I’m not sure if my line manager would want this.
  • I’m probably too tired most of the time, which is partly my fault for going to bed late, albeit that my sleep pattern is largely fixed by things outside my control at the moment (e.g. being in a long-distance marriage with someone in a different time zone, so I’m online late at night Skyping). Hopefully this will change soon, although if I have a sleep disorder (the NHS hasn’t decided yet), there may be a limit to how much things can change.
  • I’m distracted. There isn’t really a way around the fact that my job is boring and I only survive it by thinking of other things at the same time.
  • Masking. I’m not sure if this is an issue. There is only one other person in the office with me, but I feel like I’m masking from the moment I step out the front door in the morning until the moment I get back in the evening (if not later, as I mask with my parents too, just not as much). It’s very draining even if there aren’t many people around at any given time and if anyone else does walk in, I feel even more tense.
  • Not autism-related, but it is easier to spot mistakes in someone else’s writing than your own. With text you have written, your brain tends to read what you want to be there rather than what’s actually there.

Sex, Friends, Books (No, the Genie Didn’t Give Me Three Wishes)

I had my last chatan (bridgegroom i.e. marriage) class last night. I think there might be another one closer to the wedding (no, still no news on the visa). I learnt more than in the previous one, although I still struggled to work out if I was expected to say anything and if so, what. I did wonder what someone who isn’t already committed to observing at least some of the laws of taharat mishpacha (family purity) would make of it, particularly if they were already having sex with their fiancée, as, realistically, many couples getting married through the United Synagogue would be. I don’t know whether taharat mishpacha contributes to keeping marriages fresh the way that it’s often claimed. Probably it sometimes does, but not always. I’m committed to the idea for religious reasons, regardless of any other benefits. I am, as a rule, sceptical of the idea of non-religious benefits from mitzvot (commandments) such as the purported (and mostly spurious) health benefits of kashrut (the dietary laws). Inasmuch as I see non-religious benefit in taharat mishpacha, it’s to stop men pestering their wives for sex when they’re on their period. I guess my view is different to most people’s anyway; if you’ve been celibate until the age of thirty-nine, abstaining from sex for two weeks a month doesn’t seem particularly daunting. It’s the being able to have sex for two weeks a month bit that is novel.


This morning neither of my alarms went off, for some reason, so I overslept by quarter of an hour, although I hurried and got to work on time. Work was busy again as it’s the time of year when most people pay their membership fees. I went to the bank and paid in fifty cheques to the astonishment of the clerk until she realised we are a charity, not a business, although we’re not a typical charity (“communal organisation” would probably be a better term), hence the membership fees.

I came home and intended to spend some time unwinding without screens, but went online instead. Big mistake. After a while, I felt ill from too much screen time, which was my fault, and from not eating which was not my fault, as dinner was very late. I hope E’s visa comes soon so we can set up home together; like me, but unlike my parents, she prefers to eat dinner early.

I would have liked to do some more Torah study or novel work after dinner, but felt too exhausted. I’d like to read some more of Dune before bed (I’m about three-quarters of the way through now), but don’t know if I’ll have the energy/brainpower. I’d rather not push myself too hard and burn out tomorrow, although it may be too late for that by now.


In therapy we touched on a subject that I’ve discussed a bit with E, about the fact that I mask my autism (as a general rule, masking in autistics tends to result in burnout in the end). I try to be what people expect me to be, to do what is “normal” or “right” rather than – well, I don’t actually know. I can’t really say “rather than what I want to do,” as I don’t actually know what I would do without masking, because I’ve been doing it from a very young age, maybe four or five, but more so from adolescence.

I don’t really know what I would like to do or who I really think I am. I remember Ashley saying a while back to imagine how I would behave if I was on a desert island just with E. It’s hard to tell, as I’m not terribly imaginative in that way. I probably wouldn’t be that different from how I am with E now, but it’s hard to map that on to interactions with other people. I would probably be a bit freer to voice opinions, including controversial ones, to make jokes or explain things to people.


The flipside of this is the online autism forum, where I’m beginning to wonder if people are deliberately not “talking” to me. Other people seem to have conversations, but that rarely happens to me. There’s a core of people who seem to connect and refer back and forth to each other and I can’t seem to get “in” to the group. Possibly they comment a lot more than I do, I’m not sure, so maybe it’s a visibility thing. I try to only say things if it’s going to be helpful or incisive, I don’t just joke around. And, as I mentioned the other day, I tried to “friend” someone on there, but he didn’t respond and I don’t know if he didn’t see it or didn’t want the contact.

The worst thing is, because I’ve mentioned being an Orthodox Jew a number of times, I wonder if that’s why people aren’t responding, not so much from antisemitism, but because they have an image of Orthodox Jews being judgmental, ascetic, humourless, and who knows what else. In a word, “Other.”

Probably I should stay away from there. I feel I’m on the forum and the Orthodox Conundrum Facebook group too much at the moment, trying to get noticed, in a “I want to be friendly and talk to people” way, not an ego way, but I don’t think it’s really working. I look forward to E being here; hopefully I won’t need to feed my social needs in this unhealthy way when we can interact normally like most couples instead of through WhatsApp texts and limited Skype time.


I found a substack by someone who experienced child abuse in the Jewish community. I am not sure whether to follow it. I don’t know why I have this fascination with abuse survivors. Is it because I dated one? I suspect not. I think I became more aware through being in group therapy-type spaces (support groups etc.). It made me realise how many survivors are out there, and how invisible they are unless they tell you what happened to them.

I worry that it’s some kind of morbid emotional vampirism, as I’ve mentioned before. I think a more likely reason is that for decades, I’ve been aware of myself on the margins of the frum community because of neurodivergence and mental illness. Somewhere along the line, I got interested in other people on the margins of the frum world, and abuse survivors are about the most marginal people there, often actively thrown out by people who don’t want to believe that abuse happens in the community, and that it’s often the most powerful, influential or “religious” people who perpetrate it. Hence, I am more interested in survivors from frum backgrounds. What I have experienced isn’t anything like what they have experienced, but I see some similarities about feeling unwanted in the community, feeling anger at being marginalised, wanting to fit in, but not knowing how, feeling shame just for being who you are…

“Tali Steine” writes: “My light speaks to me, enveloping me with goodness, with beauty, with love. You aren’t bad or worthless, she says. This wasn’t your fault… You don’t have to carry this shame.” I feel if she can tell herself this, then I should be able to tell myself. But somehow I can’t. I feel, “If I suffered as much as she did, I could say it wasn’t my fault, because it would clearly be disproportionate to anything I might have done, but I haven’t, so maybe it is my fault.”

I’m still not sure what to do about the substack.


I’m a bit stressed at all the books on my To Read shelf, particularly those in series. Herewith, a list of book series I’m in the middle of at the moment. To qualify, it has to be a series where there is reasonable continuity beyond one recurring character and I have to want to read the whole series; I’d like to read all of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Poirot stories, and all of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey stories, but the links between stories in these series are slight and the series are long enough that I doubt I’ll read all of them (I think Christie wrote something like seventy-nine mystery/thriller stories, plus half a dozen pseudonymous romances and a couple of memoirs).

James Bond: I figure these just about have enough continuity to qualify. I’m reading them in a completely random order, for various reasons. I’ve got about two thirds of the way through the series in two years or so, so I guess I like them… I currently have copies of Live and Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me on my To Read shelf, then there are another three to read after that. In recent years, a bunch of people have written other James Bond books, but at the moment I only plan on reading Ian Fleming’s ones.

Dune: I just started this a few weeks ago, but I do want to see how it plays out, even though it consists of two trilogies (or one hexalogy) of very long books.

Harry Potter: I’ve read the first two and I have most of the others and I will read them, but I’m not in a huge hurry, as I felt the first two were a bit over-rated. On the other hand, I like the word “Azkaban,” so I’ll probably read book three sooner rather than later.

A Wrinkle in Time: I’m not sure what the overarching title for this is, so I’ve just gone with the title of the first one. I read it a couple of months ago. It was OK, but I’m not sure whether I’ll read the others. As with Harry Potter, it seems to clearly be a children’s series and I wonder a bit why so many adults read it.

Robot/Galactic Empire/Foundation: in the 1940s (I think; I’m too tired to check), Isaac Asimov wrote three science fiction short story series, collected into books: the Robot, Galactic Empire and Foundation series. The three series were totally unconnected (technically, you could argue that he originally wrote two very different series of a robot stories, some short stories and longer murder mysteries with a human and robot detective team) [EDIT: Wikipedia tells me that there were light connections between the Galactic Empire and Foundation stories from the start]. Then he stopped writing them for decades, but in the 1980s, he went back and expanded the Robot and Foundation stories and tried to join them together, with the Galactic Empire stories in the middle, into one big future history sequence.

I’ve read the Robot and Foundation series and I keep thinking I should read the Galactic Empire books (there are only three novels and a short story), but I’ve never been that enthused by the concept. The Galactic Empire was the only series he didn’t later expand to make the connections clearer and I feel it will be disconnected and galactic empires don’t really grab my attention, unlike the premises of the Robot and Foundation series. But I also feel I should read them while re-reading the other books, as a lot of the connections between the books and the overarching narrative went over my head on first reading (I’m not actually sure what the best reading order is: internal or external chronology). I should also say that, as an end to this massive series of about fifteen books over five decades, Foundation and Earth was really weird. Not exactly bad, but weird, with a strange “The end… or is it?” moment just when it seemed finished that makes me feel vaguely negative about the whole sequence. On the other hand, Asimov is a light read, so I could probably get through fifteen of his books in the time taken to read the six Dune novels.

Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy: technically, I haven’t started this yet, but I got the first two volumes from the free book box a few weeks ago and I’d like to read them, but I feel I ought to make progress on some of the other series first.

Richard J. Evans’ Third Reich trilogy (I didn’t say this was only for fiction series!): I still have the third book in this series to read, The Third Reich at War but I know it will be the hardest, given that it deals with the bloodiest war in human history and is permeated by the Holocaust (the Holocaust has its own chapter, but Evans says in the introduction that it’s really present in every chapter because it was so tied to the Nazi war aims and conduct). I actually have a big book on the Soviet Union to read afterwards, because I told myself to concentrate on one totalitarian dictatorship at a time! Thankfully, that’s a one-volume history.

Midwinter Blues

Trigger warning: reality

“Human kind/Cannot bear very much reality” — T. S. Eliot Four Quartets

While it is, technically, the middle of winter, I actually always feel like the new year is less the turning point towards spring and more the start of the worst part of winter, January and February. The days still feel as short as ever, the weather (in the UK) is even worse and, unlike December, there are no festivals to look forward to and create a general atmosphere of cheer. And then I have the awareness that the end of winter (which I want) is marked by the two hardest Jewish festivals for me, from an autism and mental health point of view, Purim and Pesach, which makes the onset of spring more challenging than simply the advent of longer days and warmer weather.


I stayed up late. I can’t remember what I was doing. Probably looking at the responses to the Facebook group post I made or just trying to process the answers I got. I was too tired to watch the whole of Ghostbusters: Answer the Call. It’s not really a good enough film to be split over three evenings, let alone four, as may still happen.

I slept a long time again (ten or eleven hours) and woke up feeling tired. When I woke up, I couldn’t move at all at first. This happens to me periodically. I used to think that I wasn’t fully awake, or I was dreaming I was awake, but wasn’t really, but I’m pretty sure I was at least somewhat awake this time and I’m wondering if it’s sleep paralysis. I did mention this in the questionnaire for the sleep study, as I’ve been aware of it for a while, but I can’t remember how much emphasis I placed on it, because I wasn’t sure if it was “real” or not. I recall that the questionnaire placed more emphasis on things like, does your “bed-partner” report snoring (I don’t have a bed-partner. I did have a room-mate (E) for a week who reported that I snore a little, but that was after I sent the questionnaire back).

I couldn’t get going once I got up either. I’m not sure why. I didn’t feel physically drained, but maybe emotionally drained. After a while, low mood set in, or maybe I only just noticed it. I struggled with low mood all day. I’m monitoring my mood at the moment to check that I’m not becoming clinically depressed. I don’t think I am, but I am having some monstrously bad days, like today. Being off work so long probably doesn’t help, as it’s too easy to get out of the habit of doing anything productive and to avoid contact with people other my parents. And missing E is so difficult.

I didn’t revise my proofreading profile as I wanted. I did do some work on planning my novel. It’s hard to see it as productive as the productive bits (ideas) were just a few moments out of an hour and a quarter of mostly procrastinating (plus another fifteen minutes or so typing up notes) BUT I probably need the procrastinating time to let my brain tick over and the ideas were, I think, reasonable. There’s such a long way to go, though.

I did a little Torah study, but not much else. I’m trying to be kind to myself and not beat myself up for not managing more than I did (and not for not reading any more of Dune either – I’m enjoying it, but feel frustrated that it’s a book that needs to be read slloooowllly, and it’s really not a good book to read when down), but it’s hard.


I think discussion has died out on the Orthodox Conundrum post I wrote about neurodiversity in the frum (religious Jewish) community. I got some supportive responses, and ‘care’ likes (or whatever they’re called; I’m not great at emoji), but no practical suggestions and I only found one other actual neurodiverse frum Jew (with ADHD). And someone said I shouldn’t call myself disabled and I decided to let it go rather than get into an argument. I’m not sure if that was the right thing to do.

The hard thing about the response was that a couple of people said that the frum world isn’t going to change and one said I should consider finding a less frum community or less frum friends. This was painful to hear because, having seen them comment on other posts (and one is a well-known activist in the Anglo-Jewish community), I know these are the more tolerant, inclusive people in the group, the ones who advocate for women’s rights, LGBT rights and abuse survivors’ rights in the frum community. While I don’t think they were saying I should leave, they did seem pessimistic about any kind of change in the near future.

I am a member of a couple of Jewish autism FB groups, but they aren’t very active or very frum and some are pretty American-centric. Either way, there don’t seem to be many people specifically struggling with autism issues in the Orthodox community. Part of me wonders why I don’t just walk away. I guess I do sometimes, to some extent, but I always come back. I have some kind of loyalty that goes beyond just belief. And I guess I feel there must be other autistic Jews in the frum community, even if they’re masking, even if they don’t actually know they’re autistic. I would think in the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community in particular there it would be considered shameful and there would be the desire to hide it “for shidduchim” (marriage prospects), for those of siblings as well as the person with autism. I feel I should do something, but I don’t know what. I’m not really an activist-type person and autism by its nature makes it hard to know what to do in a social context like this.


Someone on the autism forum was asking about positive traits we have from autism. I find this kind of question hard to answer, but I tried anyway:

I really struggle with this question, as I find it so hard to tell what is because I’m autistic and what would be the same if I was allistic. Or is that even a valid question? I don’t know. It’s also hard to separate nature and nurture. I guess there’s part of me that is reluctant to ascribe positives to my autism as I still experience it primarily as a disability (which I know is not a popular opinion here).

Anyway, in the hope that this will make me feel more positive about my autism, I feel it at least contributes towards my being:






And perhaps also resilient.

(Several of these factors helped me stay religious in a culture (Orthodox Judaism) that isn’t always accommodating to difference, neurodiversity or mental illness, so I’m grateful for that at least.)


I’m feeling depressed about the state of the world too. American and Israeli politics have both been like watching a car crash in slow motion for many years now. At least I’m saving E from America’s post-imperial self-destruction. I worry about Israel. There’s nothing I can do, but I care. It’s frustrating that I probably know people who voted for the crazies in both country. At least in the UK our politicians are “merely” incompetent, hypocritical and sometimes mildly corrupt. They aren’t racist, theocratic and seriously corrupt as a matter of course.

(This thought triggered by this Times of Israel blog. Compared with some things the new Israeli government has promised to do, allowing unlicensed therapists is pretty trivial, but it’s just the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.)


Is anyone else sick of “journey” being an all-purpose metaphor for everything? When I was working in further education, the college used to refer to the students’ “Learning journeys,” which used to drive my boss crazy. “They aren’t on a “learning journey,” they’ve gone to college!” She wasn’t always an easy person to work for, but I did think she was right there.


My Ghostbusters marathon has revived my one of my earliest career ambitions: to be a ghostbuster! The problem is that I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t really believe in anything supernatural other than a (rather Maimonidean) God (who I think isn’t supernatural in the way ghosts would be supernatural). Although maybe I could claim this as proof of my ghostbusting skills. “How many ghosts have you seen? None? Well, that just shows how good I am at catching them!”

Autism (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) vs. Asperger’s Syndrome

I woke up late, feeling very tired again. I hope I get my sleep disorder diagnosis soon. I had a dream where I was listing missing Doctor Who episodes. My unconscious did pretty well (albeit only getting halfway through the list before going onto something else), but missed The Celestial Toymaker, possibly because it’s over-rated rubbish (one of my least favourite original series stories). Mind you, I think I also missed The Smugglers, which I’m quite fond of, so maybe it was just my unconscious not focusing.

I feel down today. Some of it is the winter, and knowing I’ve got another two months or more before the days start getting noticeably longer and the weather improves. But a lot of it is missing E and not even knowing when we will be together again. I think we would both find it easier if we knew when we will be in the same country, and when we will get married, but not knowing makes it harder.

I set up a profile on a particular freelance work site for work as a proofreader and copy editor. To set up a profile in the writing and translation area, I was presented with a load of tick boxes and told to tick a minimum of two boxes. The only relevant one was for proofreading and editing (one box). In the end I had to tick “Other” just to be allowed to move on, because I don’t want to do copywriting, write press releases and so on. I don’t know why they want you to tick at least two boxes.

It was getting dark, so I stopped in the middle of setting up my profile and went for a run. I had to stop after thirty minutes (I usually aim for forty-five) as I was feeling shaky and faint. I did a bit under 4k, which I guess isn’t awful, even if my pace was. I do need to run more than once a month, but it’s hard with UK winter weather and daylight hours, my inability to get up in mornings and my tendency to get exercise headaches, plus lately I’ve been busy on Sundays, which is my main day for running. When I got home I ate a load of salty food, which seemed to help with the shakiness, but I felt too shaky to do any cool down exercises for ten minutes or so, so I’ll probably ache all over tomorrow. The shakiness went a bit, but not completely, and I got a bit of a headache. I took some tablets and eventually felt well enough to cook dinner (pasta with sauce from a jar), but spent the evening watching Ghostbusters: Afterlife as I didn’t feel well enough to finish the proofreading profile or do any Torah study or anything productive.

I’m not sure what is wrong with me. It’s possibly some kind of autistic interoception issue (difficulty understanding the messages my body is sending me), which I didn’t think was a problem I have, but actually might be one. It would explain why I let myself get dehydrated a lot when I was a child, until I learnt to drink even if I didn’t feel thirsty, likewise for eating. Maybe interoception issues would explain why I often feel vaguely shaky or vaguely faint without really being able to identify clear symptoms or causes. Interoception issues might also explain why I also think I’m really hungry late at night when I’m probably not.

I haven’t done any Torah study today. I’d like to do some, but it’s late and I still don’t feel 100%. I might see if I can find a short article to read for five or ten minutes as I don’t really feel up to reading much else.


There’s a post on one of the Jewish autistic Facebook groups I’m on about an argument on a crafting FB group where someone used the term “Asperger’s” as in Asperger’s Syndrome. Apparently some autistic people on the group complained about the term as Hans Asperger was Nazi and things spiralled out of control from there with a lot of anger. I don’t know why the internet is so good at bringing out the anger in people. Some of it is the anonymity, but I feel there’s more to it than that. I feel people often say offensive things through ignorance rather than malice, but then other people respond in a way that makes them feel attacked in public and it escalates from there. Sometimes I think people would better respond in a tactful private message rather than posting a “You’re ABLEIST” public comment.

That said, I really have no idea why the person reporting this on the autism group spelt “Nazis” as “N4zis”, supposedly “to avoid triggering people”. Does substituting one letter make such a difference? And do people really get that triggered by seeing the word Nazi? I’m Jewish and easily upset and I don’t get triggered. Although I think the cases where trigger warnings are helpful are fairly limited.

Although the anger of this post turned me off, I thought it was a good prompt to explain why I still use “Asperger’s” as a tag, even though I know Asperger cooperated with the Nazi euthanasia plan for the mentally ill. Partly it’s that “Asperger’s” is on my diagnosis report from the NHS. I know DSM-5 (psychiatric diagnostic manual) has switched to “autism” for all autism spectrum disorders, but the NHS isn’t using DSM-5 (I can’t remember what they’re using). I thought it was strange when I got it, but that’s the NHS. From the autism forum (which is mostly UK-based), it seems that, depending where you live in the UK, you can actually get different diagnoses. Some places give “autistic spectrum disorder” with no further details, while others specify a level of severity, and some places are still using “Asperger’s”.

In addition, I felt that “Asperger’s” would be better for finding people searching for high-functioning autism blogs via WordPress, but that does not really appear to have been the case. Also, when I previously contemplated stopping using “Asperger’s,” I felt I wanted something to distinguish me from people with more severe autism. However, I no longer see such a big difference between myself and people with more severe autism. We all struggle to function in a noisy, busy, social world. It’s true that I can talk, and do (some) paid work and have a wife, but I still struggle a lot and I feel that at the moment. So I’m thinking of stopping using or even deleting the Asperger’s tag. I’d like to merge the Asperger’s tag with the autism one, but I don’t think WordPress will let me do that. I probably will stop using the tag, although I don’t know if I’ll delete it.


Ghostbusters: Afterlife was the Ghostbusters sequel released last year after being delayed by COVID. I didn’t see it in the cinema, as I was still nervous about going to the cinema for COVID reasons (I actually still haven’t been to the cinema since COVID although I was hardly a frequent cinema goer before then).

It’s a slightly strange film, reverent towards the original film, if anything excessively so, as it struggles to find its own voice, but, like Ghostbusters II, it somehow missing the fact that the original film was a comedy. There are a few jokes, but it’s really a fantasy/adventure story, and a somewhat slow one, particularly compared with the original.

I’m not sure who the audience was meant to be. The huge connection to the original film suggests it’s aimed at die-hard fans, but the adolescent main characters suggest a younger audience that wouldn’t be expected to know a film from 1984.This is further undermined by the 12 certificate, which would prevent pre-teens watching. The main character, Phoebe, is twelve; children and teenagers tend only to identify with characters their age or older, so that’s pretty much ruling out a teenage audience too. I did like Phoebe and wondered if she was supposed to be autistic, although geeky characters in fiction tend to read as autistic generally, or at least are open to that reading.

Overall it was a decent film and I probably will watch it again at some point, as I think some plot points, and probably some in-jokes, escaped me, but it’s not as good as the original film.

Bumper Last Night of Chanukah Post!!!!

My mood slumped last night and didn’t really rise all day, at least not until I Skyped E. I went to bed late last night as I was reading Quantum of Solace, a James Bond short story that isn’t really about James Bond. It’s a story told to him by someone else, a story that has nothing to do with spies or anything usually associated with James Bond. I thought it was still quite engaging; I think Ian Fleming is under-rated as a write, like many successful authors of “pulp” fiction.

Despite that, I got up early this morning (about 9.30am – early for me, anyway), mostly because I woke up early and felt hungry. I even stayed awake, although I went back to bed for a few minutes after breakfast. It was a struggle to daven even an abbreviated Shacharit and Musaf (say Morning Prayers), as I felt so tired.

That said, I think I woke early because I woke struggling to breathe again. I’m still waiting for the results of my sleep study to see if I have sleep apnoea. I might have to wait another two months for the results! I believe the results can be downloaded as soon as the sensors are returned to the hospital; the huge delay is in getting the personnel to interpret said results. All E and I seem to be doing these days is waiting…

I went for a longish walk for an hour. This helped my mood a little, but not totally.

I didn’t do much else. I spent far too long messing about on the Orthodox Conundrum Facebook page (see below). I’m enjoying being on there, slightly more than my annoyance at how awful FB is nowadays, but I’m not sure that I’ll achieve any of my aims for joining the group, such as making frum (religious Jewish) friends, becoming more integrated to the frum community or starting a conversation about the place of the mentally ill and neurodivergent in the frum community (again, see below).

I did spend a little time working on my novel plan, even though I said I wouldn’t, because apparently I really can’t keep away from it (see below). It looked better than I thought it would, although there’s still a lot to do.


It’s really hard being away from E, especially not knowing when we’ll be together, let alone when we’ll get married. I read an article on a Jewish site (that will go unlinked, as I’m going to criticise it) about the laws of taharat mishpachah in Judaism (essentially, not having sex when the woman is having her period and for a while afterwards). The author repeated the standard frum line about this preventing divorce. Which it may do, as I think the divorce rate in the frum community is still lower than in the secular world, but it’s clearly not a panacea, as divorce is still a very real thing in the frum world. The type of married people (not just Jewish ones) who write essays about relationship breakdown seem to think that there’s one simple mistake that all divorced couples make that dooms their relationship and other people can easily avoid it, and I really don’t think there is. That’s what makes it scary.

That said, the thing that really annoyed me was where the article stated that newlyweds are “young and carefree, with no grey hairs or wrinkles.” Although aimed at less frum people, the article seemed to be based on the idea that everyone marries young and no one has any life problems until they have children. Um, maybe you were, but E and I are in our late thirties and come with suitcase loads of “baggage”! But we love each other despite this (actually, E doesn’t have wrinkles, although I do).

In the wake of this, I did think of posting something about conformity in the Jewish community on the Orthodox Conundrum Facebook group, perhaps based on the thing I wrote here a few days ago about the difficulty of being frum if you’re mentally ill, neurodivergent, poor, etc., but I held back because it was too long, unfocused and ranty and because I didn’t know what response I even wanted (cf. my discussion with JYP in the comments to that post). The OC group does show care about some marginalised groups in the Orthodox world, such as abuse survivors, LGBT Jews and agunot, as well as about women’s rights in the Orthodox world in general, but I haven’t really found a way of starting a conversation about mental illness or neurodivergence there. I searched for older threads about mental illness and they tended to be focused on issues like rabbis answering mental illness-related questions badly rather than integrating the mentally ill or neurodivergent into the community.


I’ve been thinking a lot about writing at the moment instead of actually writing, as I’m on a break to try to calm down about it. I felt a kind of urgency about writing as I wanted to get something published and try to build a career as a writer to help support E and our potential children. This is clearly not happening, as we will be married long before I get anything published, particularly as I’ve stopped sending out my first novel to agents, as I’m not sure whether I want to rewrite it. I do want to get set up as a freelance proofreader in the next few weeks, as that seems a more practical way to earn money.

I am slightly ashamed to admit that I do still feel the need to prove myself with writing, to show I’m as good as all my school and university peers who went on to good jobs (or any jobs, really), not to mention the other writers and newspaper columnists who I read and think, “I could do better than that,” although I probably can’t. Spite and envy probably isn’t a good reason to do anything, let alone to make art.

I probably will keep writing as a hobby/psychological need. It’s hard to work out how to balance it with religious obligations and family obligations. E supports my writing more than I do and wants me to keep writing despite family obligations, but the frum world doesn’t really see writing or creativity generally as an important activity. I don’t think I can justify my writing on the grounds of supplying an important need to the frum/Jewish community or increasing Jewish visibility in the wider world, as I really don’t think I’ll get published. It’s just something I need to do.

I used to get annoyed with the Hevria people for prioritising writing and creativity over religious obligations, but maybe they were right. Maybe you need to be ruthless about family and community to get published. Then again, I think Mattue Roth was the only Hevrian who actually got any fiction published professionally.

 I’ve mentioned before that David Bowie said the worst thing God can do to you is make you an artist, but a mediocre artist. I feel that’s true of me. I have basic writing skills, but I lack imagination, unsurprisingly, as that seems to be common with alexithymia (difficulty understanding my own emotions).

As I said above, I did do some work on the novel plan today, which was good, and I do feel very drawn to writing it, but I am struggling a bit with where the novel is going and what to write, while feeling that I need very much to write.


Books: if I’m not writing them, I’m reading them (which is not a bad thing).

I finished re-reading Doctor Who: The Discontinuity Guide. It was a good 90s fandom nostalgia trip, but other books came out later and went further than it did. I also tried to put my pile of new Doctor Who novelisations away. These were the books I felt a little guilty about, as I was pleased to add them to my collection for free, but wasn’t likely to read/re-read them in the near future, and wasn’t sure if I should have accepted them.

My bedroom is hardly minimalist. It’s got four bookcases (three big and one not so big), one packed full with DVDs, most lying on their side, warehouse-style, so I can fit more on the shelves. The other three are full of books (and some CDs), many of them also lying on their side. (I also have books in a couple of cupboards and a bookcase full downstairs too.) There are also several piles of books on top of one of the bookcases, containing over 150 Doctor Who books (fiction, as the non-fiction is on another shelf) along with a couple of other TV/film tie-in books. I have about 1,300 books in total. Yes, E is right that I should get rid of some. It’s hard! I might donate some non-fiction books I’m never likely to read to the charity shop in a week or so, although I don’t know who will buy books on Medieval Scotland.

I went to add the new books to the pile on top of the bookcase. I hadn’t realised how far the case has come forward from the wall with the weight of all the books on it and one of the books fell down the back. It was Doctor Who – The Daleks, the novelisation of the first Dalek story, which I disliked as a child because it departed from the TV series in its depiction of the events of the first ever TV episode (which isn’t even part of the Dalek story on screen), but which now, in the age of DVD, seems significant for precisely that reason, for being an entirely new take on the events of the TV story.

I’m not sure how to get the book back from the black hole behind the bookcase. I quickly decided that I wasn’t going to take the hundreds of books off the bookcase (not to mention wargaming models) to move it out, especially as it’s the middle bookcase and I might have to move one or two others too to get to it! So the book will sit there in the black hole for now.

I noticed a while back the bookcases wobble a bit, and I am vaguely worried about them falling on me one day. I guess I just have to hope that when E and I move somewhere of our own, we have enough space that taking a reasonable chunk of my books is a good idea and that I can move the bookcase then. I think we’re unlikely to be able to afford a place big enough to hold all my books along with those E brings over from the US.


My parents bought me an extra Chanukah present, even though I said they didn’t need to: A Fire Burns in Kotsk: A Tale of Hasidism in the Kingdom of Poland by Menashe Unger. Even though I own every English language book I can find about the Kotzker Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk), I’ve put off buying this for years because (a) it’s expensive (about £30) and (b) it’s a weird book, sitting on the boundary between history and historical fiction, presenting itself as the true story of the Kotzker Rebbe and his Hasidim, but also written in novelistic style with (presumably) invented dialogue. I’m not quite sure what to make of it and probably won’t be until I’ve read it (if then). At least it’s something to read on the way home from work while I’m reading The Great Dune Trilogy, which is too big and heavy to take to work.


Contemplating all this stuff (low mood, not fitting into society, struggling to sell my writing, lack of imagination), I’m having one of my “I hate being autistic” days. I think I get fewer of these than I did a couple of months ago, but I’m still not at peace with myself, and I still see ASD as a bad hand I’ve been dealt, albeit one I want to play as well as I can, and admitting that it’s better than some other people’s cards. It frustrates me enormously that so-called “high functioning” autism means I can write literary fiction, read in a dead language, read and understand (at least partially) twelfth century Jewish rationalist philosophy… and still screw up basic stuff like editing  an invoice template at work (why? This is like proofreading; I should be good at it, unless it’s the pressure of masking in the office), speaking on the phone (or at all), doing tasks in the right order, promoting my writing, networking, etc., etc., etc.

It doesn’t help that I have a lack of mentors or guides to help me integrate into the frum world or for raising the profile of my writing. It’s sad, because I do feel I have stuff to say to the frum world and the wider world, but I don’t know how to say it because of my autism, while people who might know how to help me say it don’t know that I have anything to say.

I did just dig out an email from my parents’ friends’ son-in-law from an earlier attempt to set myself up as a proofreader. He is a freelance proofreader and said to persevere as work is out there. He also said YOU HAVE TO NETWORK!!!!!!!! (I put it in capitals because that’s how scary it is.) That email was pre-COVID, though, so I don’t know if it is still true.


I saw the Doctor Who trailer. I wasn’t impressed, but I didn’t expect to be. David Tennant + Catherine Tate + Russell T Davies = pretty much my least favourite Doctor/companion/showrunner combination.

Post-Shabbat Slump

I was really exhausted on Friday and felt very burnt out again, a bit ill and incapable of doing much. I did my usual pre-Shabbat (Sabbath) chores, but then lay down on my bed for an hour instead of going to shul (synagogue). I guess it’s a kind of “autistic shutdown,” where I get overloaded and have to lie still in quiet for a while. I’m not sure why they seem to be more common than they used to be, or why I don’t remember getting them as a child.

I did some Torah study last night and read a bit more of Dune, although I’m going slowly with it. I guess it’s the kind of book that demands to be read slowly: little plot (I’m 100 pages in, about a quarter of the way, and very little has actually happened), but lots of description and science fictional detail. I’m enjoying it, but I don’t think it will be a favourite story as it seems to be for many people. It is frustrating that the volume, The Great Dune Trilogy, is too heavy and bulky to take to work, as I do a lot of my reading during lunch and on the Tube. I’m always in a hurry to read books and it’s frustrating me that, because of size and complexity (among other things), it’s going to take me ages to read The Great Dune Trilogy and also The Guide to the Perplexed (see below). There isn’t a lot I can do about it, though. Some books are just slow reads, because of size, content and style.

I think I woke up a couple of times in the night. About 6.30am I woke up and contemplated getting up, but I decided that even if I did get up, I wouldn’t go to shul. This is where I’ve got to with my social anxiety post-COVID, sadly. In the end I fell asleep again and slept through the morning.

I lay down for two twenty minute periods this afternoon too, although I’m not sure whether they were mini-shutdowns. Other than that, I haven’t done much else other than Torah study (about fifty minutes reading The Guide of the Perplexed) and watching Ghostbusters II, the neglected first sequel, although I did send a couple of overdue emails. I’m feeling a post-Shabbat slump. I had a slight headache earlier, which didn’t help much.

I don’t celebrate Christmas or New Years and when I initially planned to watch Ghostbusters II, I’d forgotten that it’s a seasonal film, although it’s only slightly seasonal (the climax of the film takes place on New Years’ Eve, which necessitates Christmas decorations being visible in some earlier scenes, but no one really says much about it). Unlike the first film, it’s not really a comedy being more of a family fantasy/mild horror film with occasional funny lines, although I appreciated the line about spoilt middle class children being “Ungrateful yuppie larvae.” There’s also a lot less smoking than the first film, which may be another sign of aiming more for a family audience. Incidentally, nowadays the river of evil slime that feeds off anger and hate is called Twitter.

“There’s definitely a very slim chance we’ll survive.”

I don’t have much to say, but feel the urge to write something…

I had an OK Shabbat. I decided it was too icy to risk going to shul (synagogue). It was probably the right decision, but I feel bad. I’ve been completely out of the shul-going habit since COVID, and I’m very far from where I was seven or eight years ago, when I was going to shul two or three times every day. Days like this don’t help. I did some Torah study, including getting back into The Guide for the Perplexed and (after Shabbat) Shoftim (The Book of Judges). I did OK with the quite difficult Hebrew vocabulary of Devorah’s (Deborah’s) song. I did spend too long asleep and then spent another hour after lunch in bed with my eyes shut. I don’t know why I do this, except that I seem to need to, on some level. I suspect it’s an autistic recovery thing, although the only thing I can be recovering from is eating with my parents, unless it’s the week in general.

I’ve been thinking a lot about politics lately and feeling I don’t fit anywhere on the political spectrum. That wouldn’t bother me so much, except that I’m trying to write a satirical novel and can’t work out if it’s an advantage or disadvantage to be able to see both sides of an issue. Nowadays it seems that if you want to be taken seriously as a writer on anything political, you have to be totally unable to see anyone else’s viewpoint and, ideally, to insist that anyone who disagrees with you is a Fascist. Also to insist that everything is everyone’s fault, but your own. Well, maybe it really is someone else’s fault, but at some point you have to take responsibility for your own life regardless of your circumstances and try to make a difference by engaging constructively with other people. Or maybe I’m too self-critical to blame Society for everything wrong in my life.

I’m still struggling to know what to do with my writing. E says that she can see improvements in my fiction from my first novel to my second (the one on hold because it was upsetting me). It’s also hard to stop thinking about writing, even though I’m trying to pause for a fortnight or so until the end of the year as my thoughts were getting to intense. I guess I feel that if I’m going to be able to make money from writing (a very, very big if), I need to do it soon, so I can help support the family when E and I are fully married or at least by the time we have children. That’s pretty unlikely to happen at this stage. It looks like we’re going to be dependent on parent money for quite a while, which saddens me, not least because of my comments about taking responsibility.

I’ve only been on Facebook for a month or two, and I have few friends or groups I’ve joined, but my feed is already full of junk, mostly adverts and other groups FB is trying to get me to join. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve made a mistake. I am enjoying being on the Orthodox Conundrum group, but I’ve had no real interactions with people, so it seems unlikely I will make friends and I worry I’m just voicing my “issues” the way I did at Hevria.

I watched Ghostbusters again this evening. It’s my favourite film. I am actually revisiting the first two films because I’m hoping to watch the recent Ghostbusters: Afterlife soon (which I missed in the cinema as I’ve been too scared to go since COVID), but it was probably a good choice as I was feeling down. I always find funny lines I’ve forgotten since my last viewing, although I could probably recite chunks of the film more or less off by heart. I enjoyed it, but seeing something written, acted, directed and even scored so perfectly made me despair of ever producing any good art. Aren’t films supposed to get worse when you’ve seen them ten times? Neil Gaiman says that we read so much more than we write that we’re super-critical of our own writing, which is probably true, and applies to all stories, not just books.

I should probably go to bed now. This post is short, but I kept procrastinating online, so I spent over an hour or so writing it. Unfortunately, I’ve now discovered that every Dilbert cartoon since it started in 1989 is online…

Writing: Just Do It or Pause?

Today was a stressful day. The snow has turned to ice. The pavement of my road was gritted, apparently for the benefit of the bin men, as the other roads were not gritted. My Mum suggested that if a bin man slipped and hurt himself, he could sue the council for not providing safe conditions, but mere taxpayers are not entitled to such consideration. (Gosh, I’m getting cynical and reactionary in my old age…) I slipped several times walking to the station, but managed to regain my balance without falling over. A car didn’t see me on the zebra crossing and nearly ran me over; luckily I saw it. When I got to the station, the departure board said the train was not supposed to leave for a minute, yet the doors suddenly started to shut. I jumped on, but my rucksack got caught, and I collided with someone who was standing near the door. Then there were Tube delays again, but this time I didn’t find out about them until I was actually on the train and had to improvise my way to work, just getting there on time.

And that was just up to 9.30am!

After that things settled down, but I made stupid mistakes, probably as a result of thinking about my novel when I should have been working. The afternoon was largely spent trying to reconcile differences between two different presentations of data from a database. I eventually solved it, but it was tiring, although I suppose tasks like that do make a change from my usual work, and it’s good to solve a problem completely, even if I’m not sure I always manage to explain what the problem wasto J.

I didn’t fancy walking on the ice in the dark on the way home from the station, so did what I rarely do and phoned my parents for a lift. I then spent far too long online responding to an article someone had posted to the Orthodox Conundrum Facebook page. I didn’t really have much new to add to the discussion, I just wanted to make contact with other frum (religious) Jews, or maybe just other people. Like the Jewish joke about the never-ending conference, “Everything has been said, but not everyone has said it.”


I was thinking a lot about my satirical novel today, probably too much, especially when working, as I said. I feel like I want to write, but I also need to work, I want to widen my work to work from home proof-reading to increase my (low) income, E and I will be getting married soon and we want to have children, then there are my various daily religious obligations. All these things take time and energy. Writing seems like a luxury at best, a distraction at worst. Yet it’s the thing I most want to do, after marrying E (which isn’t an activity in the same sense). E indulges my novel writing, which is good, but sometimes I wonder if it’s a good idea.

I feel I should blog less and write fiction more, but they don’t really take up the same store of psychic energy. Fiction is about understanding the world and I have to be pretty alert to do it, blogging is about processing my emotions and I can do it when tired (like now). It would be easier if I slept less and was less exhausted when awake, but it’s hard to change those things with a suspected sleep disorder and autism. Autistic exhaustion seems to be commonly self-reported among autistics, even if the psychiatric world doesn’t really recognise it.

Like a baby, the novel will probably come when it comes, if it comes. An article in the Jewish Review of Books that I read today stated that writing success requires “talent, persistence, an almost naive self-belief, and courage.” I’m not sure how much I have any of those, except perhaps persistence. I think it also requires imagination, and I’m not sure how much I have of that either as people with alexithymia are not supposed to have much imagination. Part of me feels I should JUST DO IT; another part feels I should take a break for a couple of weeks, although my  mind will probably continue to think about the plot of the novel, as the monotropic (singularly-focused) autistic mind doesn’t let things go easily.


The Facebook article I commented on is political, and so is my novel, in some sense, and I’ve drifted back into a “My political thoughts are confused and contradictory and all too often I just mindlessly agree (or mindlessly disagree) with the last opinion I heard and I really should not be allowed to vote or have opinions” mood. There is nothing constructive I can say about this, so I will stop.


Someone on the autism forum started a thread about being autistic and Christian. I think my response sums up a lot of what I’ve been trying to say here for the last couple of years:

I’m Jewish, not Christian, but I definitely struggle with synagogue: too many people, too much noise, and sometimes we have a cantor who doesn’t sing so much as shout (very uncomfortable for me). The refreshments after the service are also difficult: being expected to make small talk, difficulty hearing what people say to me over the general noise, etc.

Religious study in the Jewish community is supposed to be in pairs, which I have not been good at. My brain just stops working when someone is sitting opposite me expecting me to say something insightful. I just study by myself.

Then there’s the social expectations to be married by age twenty-five and have a big family. Also the fact that Judaism expects people to have a lot of energy and focus to meet the requirements of prayer, religious study, ritual observance and family, alongside work, and that’s hard even without factoring in autistic exhaustion and being “out of spoons,” not to mention the issues I noted above.

Excursions, No Alarms

I started reading Dune a few days ago and read it to relax before bed yesterday evening rather than watching Doctor Who. It’s good, but not an easy read. There is a glossary of fictional words at the back, but I don’t like to keep turning to it and disrupting the flow of the novel, instead using it just for what seem like key words and working out the rest from context or just letting them go. The world-building is extremely complex, more so than anything I could write. This is positive, but intimidating. The fact that the book (the first three Dune novels in one volume) is too big to take to read on public transport means that it will take twice as long to read as the average novel even without the complexity, as I usually do a lot of my reading on public transport.

I got up later than I intended this morning and was tired. I miss sleeping on E’s sofa, where my sleep seemed more refreshing than in my bed in London, although it was probably more proximity to E and the absence of work in New York that made the difference. On which note, I’m still waiting for my sleep study results.

This morning, instead of going to volunteering, I went for my appointment with the psychiatrist to speak about reducing my medications. Except when I got there, I was told there was no record of my parents changing the appointment date (from 9 January) while I was away. They said something about a doctor having left and I wondered if someone was going to see me out of hours from kindness. The receptionist said appointments for new referrals (which I am, having been discharged years ago) are at 9.30am and 1.00pm and never at 12.00pm which was when mine was supposed to be. It’s yet another awful NHS incident. I hope I never have to see a proctologist on the NHS, as I don’t think an NHS employee could find their backside with both hands. I do at least still have my 9 January appointment, but I’m annoyed to miss volunteering, especially as I will be missing two or three consecutive sessions in a few weeks as I’ll have to rearrange my work days around the winter bank holidays and then so that I can go to the 9 January appointment.

I came home for lunch and went out again as I had a blood test in the afternoon. That at least went OK, except that when the needle went in, I suddenly got a stabbing pain in my forearm, a couple of inches below where the needle was, which continued until after the blood had been taken. I’m not sure what caused this (psychosomatic?). By this stage, the snow had largely turned to ice and I slipped twice on the way to and from the hospital, but didn’t fall over. I went into some charity shops. I bought the complete BBC Chronicles of Narnia on DVD for £4 as I knew that E wants to watch it. I also picked up the DVD of Donnie Darko, as it’s a film I vaguely feel I should watch and there seems to be a copy in every single charity shop in the country, like the universe wants me to buy it. I nearly bought Vasily Grossman’s novel Life and Fate, which I sort of want to read, but I decided my reading list is long enough, and my mood low enough, as it is right now without adding a thousand page book about the Battle of Stalingrad.

My Torah study today was mostly listening to the latest Orthodox Conundrum podcast while walking to and from different appointments. It was on Rabbi Sacks’ Jewish philosophy, with Dr Tanya White and Rabbi Dr Samuel Lebens, two of my favourite contemporary Jewish educators. They spoke about Rabbi Sacks’ communitarianism. This appeals to me, but I struggle to be community-minded with social anxiety and autism, which impair socialising. Then again, I do volunteer, and I do a job that is inherently socially worthwhile, even though my role is mostly paperwork. Is this enough? I don’t know. I do feel disconnected from shul (synagogue) and real world contact with other religious Jews, especially since COVID. Am I wholly or partially exempt because of my “issues”? I don’t know. Maybe there isn’t an easy answer. It did occur to me that I study Torah from a Jewish perspective, through Jewish texts and commentaries rather than just from my own thoughts, so that’s a kind of communal connection, albeit more with dead people than living ones.

I worked on plotting my novel. However, I feel frustrated by having to do so much planning, and that so much of it is so difficult. I do feel that my satirical dystopian thriller is likely to be a failure as a satire, as science fiction and as a thriller, but I do want to persevere with it for myself, if only to see how it turns out. I do feel at the moment that I will probably never be a published fiction writer, but I’m trying to accept that. It’s frustrating as I feel the things I want to say exceed my ability to say them. I’ve been told I’m a good writer on more than one occasion, but there’s good writers and there’s good writers. My sister used to be a talented amateur artist, and my parents have three of her paintings on the wall, but I don’t know if she could sell any of them, certainly not for enough to justify the time spent on them, which was probably a lot less than the time I would spend writing a novel. I do feel a little envious that my parents’ friends can see and admire the paintings whereas my writing is harder to casually show off (although one of my parents’ friends did buy and apparently read and enjoy my non-fiction Doctor Who book).

That said, I do feel a sort of general pessimism at the moment, some worry and frustration about when E’s visa will come and general feelings of inadequacy. A couple of conversations, in blogs and the real world, lately have hinged on the idea of how one copes with feeling inadequate compared with other people’s achievements, which in my sake would include people with children, successful careers and comfort and respect in where they stand in the Jewish community. I try not to be bitter or envious, but it is hard sometimes knowing that to some extent I’ve been set up to fail by my autistic genes and my childhood and adolescent experiences. However, there really is very little I can do about it at the moment, so I try not to think about it too much. I also wish I knew why I was here on Earth so I could get some sense of whether I’m doing what I’m supposed to do or not, but there’s no real way of knowing.

I also feel vaguely nervous about chatan (marriage) class tomorrow without really being sure why except for it being a late night before a work day, and the embarrassment if the teacher offers me a lift home again – not driving is another thing to feel inadequate about. I suppose a lot of it comes from feeling I know a lot of what I’m being taught, but I’m too shy to make that clear, and also that I struggle to contribute to the class, in both cases because of social anxiety and autistic communication issues.