I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs, a very endearing sight, I'm sure you'll agree. And even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged onto a half submerged log. As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters, who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature's wonders, gentlemen. Mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that is when I first learned about evil. It is built into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior.
Terry Pratchett, Unseen Academicals
As a pessimist and someone who's one step removed from dystheism
, I have a bit of a hard time with Yom Kippur. Fortunately, it is written
For transgressions against G-d, the Day of Atonement atones; but for transgressions of one human being against another, the Day of Atonement does not atone until they have made peace with one another.
so despite my opening quote, this is going to be about the latter.
At the beginning of the month, I wrote about being an introvert
and how that affects my interest in social events. And that post is true--schoolpsychnerd
can tell you that even doing things that I love, among people whom I love, if I don't have enough social battery I'll end up like a rat in a cage, constantly looking for an exit. But you know, a nicely-appointed cage filled with wonderful people.
Perhaps I could have picked a better metaphor.
That's about half of it, though. The other half is anxiety. I've had huge problems with anxiety for as long as I can remember. I taught English in Japan for years, including a year spent teaching in a private school
, and I never
got used to it. Every single lesson was as nerve-wracking as the very first lesson I taught. And actually, just writing about it now and remembering it made my stomach twist up for a moment.
It's part of the reason I have my current job, where I listen to podcasts all day, don't talk to anyone, and can relax.
So where am I going with this on the Day of Atonement? Well, on a whim, I checked out my Facebook memories from a year ago, and there on the page was one that seems pretty topical:
"Maybe I am alone because I am not good."
-Screen quote, Mountain
One of the effects of my anxiety is that I'm always worried that no one actually likes me. Maybe they're just too polite to tell me, or maybe they're resigned to my presence, or maybe they like schoolpsychnerd
and are willing to put up with me to hang out with her (this one is particularly insidious, since schoolpsychnerd
is so fantastic). But in effect, this is assuming the worst of everyone else. For any of that to be true, my friends would have to uniformly be the kind of people that become the villains in young adult books, simultaneously capable of sociopathic emotional masks and extreme cruelty in their black hearts. And that's really not
a very flattering thing to believe about one's friends.
So, I ask your forgiveness for thinking the worst of you, even inadvertently. For letting the Hedgehog's Dilemma twist around my thoughts so that I keep you at arms' length, to the point where people assume that I'm anti-contact and ask before giving me a hug (which is not a bad course of action to take! But I love
hugs). For withdrawing into myself. For spending so much time worrying that I avoid you at social events or don't go entirely. For not saying anything in any non-structured group larger than maybe two or three. For joking about how I hate people as a cover for the truth, which is that I'm nervous around them.
.תיעתענו ,תעינו ,פשענו ,ניאצנו ,טפלנו שקר ,זדנו ,דברנו דופי ,אשמנו
If you got this far, thank you for reading.