Oh, I am such a sweet man

I’m unemployed right now and looking for work, and in fact I’m pretty desperate.  If I can’t find something this month I’ll have to leave my apartment and the city and move back in with my parents.  I love my parents and I can deal with living there if I have to, but (among other problems) I’d have to cut down my halakhic observance by a lot: no kosher meat, having to announce to my Maritimer mother that I don’t eat shellfish anymore, and observing Shabbos would require Big Discussions even though I’m still in the baby steps stage of exploring.  I’ll have those talks in due time, of course, but I’d feel like a jerk by inconveniencing my family when I haven’t even spoken to a rabbi yet, which I also wouldn’t be able to do at home.  It would just be easier and a lot nicer to stay here, is what I’m saying.  So I’m applying for every job I can, no matter how grim.

I’m also in the position for the first time of having to think about not working Saturdays.  So far the jobs I’ve interviewed for offered flexible schedules, but at the interview before last I was asked, “Are there any days you wouldn’t be able to work?” and for the first time I said yeah, Saturdays are out.  And then when I didn’t get the job I got to wonder WAS IT THE SATURDAYS, IS THAT WHAT IT WAS?

(Probably not)

Despite the element of worrying (I always worry), it’s still cool to bring mitzvot from the realm of “yeah, that’s a nice idea” to the realm of “no seriously, I do this now.”  This process always reminds me of the Louis CK bit from the Beacon Theatre set:

“Every time I see a soldier on a plane, I always think: ‘You know what?  I should give him my seat [in first class].  It would be the right thing to do, it would be easy to do, and it would mean a lot to him…I should trade with him.’  I never have, let me make that clear.  I’ve never done it once.  I’ve had sooo many opportunities.  I never even really seriously came close.  And here’s the worst part: I still just enjoy the fantasy – for myself to enjoy.  I was actually proud of myself…for having thought of it!  I was proud!  ‘Oh, I am such a sweet man.  That is so nice of me!  To think of doing that, and then totally never do it.’” [*]

This kind of thinking can get ass-chompingly out of control in the Christian mindset, to the point where you feel like anything good you do gets cancelled out by the pleasure you take in thinking about it, or the resentment you feel about doing it.  Sometimes I would (semi-unconsciously) start to avoid opportunities to do things just because of the maelstrom of annoying thoughts it would cause–like I would take alternate routes while walking downtown just to avoid homeless people.  Not because I begrudged them my change, because I didn’t.  Because I got sick of listening to my own brain congratulate myself for thinking of giving them the change.  Maladaptive.  Proper motivation is important, no question, but it’s a lot better for my mental health to focus on identifying stuff I can do and then doing it regardless of motivation rather than getting up myself about thought processes.

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2 comments

  1. F14TRex.com

    I think–this is in a protestant Christian’s experience–that the closer you get to Jesus, the more good deeds will come naturally and reactively. For example, when you see a soldier on a plane, you instinctively give him your seat without much thinking about it. Also with that closeness comes humbleness, so if you do find yourself patting yourself on the back, you immediately realize you’re not all that great and come back to where your mind needs to be.

    Good luck with the job search. They’re hard to find nowadays. (I’m looking too.) And without sounding preachy, just know that Jesus came in part to relieve us from the stress of the Jewish Law! God bless–

    • F.M.

      A lot of the good deeds I do are ordinary things, yeah, and a combination of getting older and working on my relationship with God have made me realise that they’re obligations, not generous gracious things I do because I’m so wonderful. But I also have issues with anxiety and a certain inborn tendency to just pick things to death in my head, so I need to find ways to dodge that. It helps me a lot to focus on actions. (C.S. Lewis’s take on the endless cycle of “prideful thoughts/defeating the thoughts/feeling pride for having defeated the thoughts” is about what it’s like for me.)

      And, well, there’s always a certain amount of stress that comes with making any effort to pick up a new habit. Getting out to Mass on time every Sunday can be stressful at first too. But at this point I’m doing these things because I feel that they’re spiritually worth the effort. God bless you too!

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