Quarter of nine.
The little market opened an hour later today for the holiday. The radio played the Beastie Boys, rather incongruous for Easter morning. For the past few days I’ve felt lousy from a certain prescription drug, so now I’m stopping it. I gave Aesop some Gravy Train after his breakfast, which he didn’t like, but it was all they had at the store. After a while I guess I’ll read my Henry James again, although his attitude kind of annoys me. Everyone would probably love to live in the lap of luxury, but it’s an elusive thing even when you have it, and it so easily melts from your grasp. I feel more like Pip in Great Expectations than like a character in James. It was just a happy accident that I ever went to college, and the benefactor was my mother… My mother despised money and raised me to be oblivious to the fact of it. She sheltered me from the grimy reality of hard knocks, and as a consequence I’ve ended up on the sidewalk, but luckily with a place to live. I still dislike the sight of cash; it makes me think of alcohol… Yesterday morning I was in the car with Gloria coming back from the thrift store. As we passed under the highway we saw the camp of some homeless people: a few shopping carts and a string of junk that they considered worthy belongings. An hour later I’d be sitting reading a book of drawing room manners, never putting two and two together until now.
Quarter of ten at night.
By now, church feels very far away from me, nor do I ever intend to go back. I feel pretty much like I used to when I was twenty years old, minus the alcohol I did daily. The booze only engulfed me when life got onerous and unrewarding; when my time was not my own and I couldn’t be its director. Feelings of guilt and shame contributed a great deal, although all I needed was to assert myself with the people who made life hell for me. And most of self assertion is the ability to say no when you mean no. Life runs away with you when you make inauthentic choices for the sake of being loved by others. It takes strength to let them down, but better than letting yourself down. Or does that sound rather Machiavellian?
Last night I read something interesting about the difference between Albert Camus and his French rivals including Sartre. He was a moralist and humanist above all, even though he was an atheist and said life is absurd and meaningless. He still believed in humanity. His lessons for us were often derived from the Bible, with the supernatural element taken out. He would not throw in with the existentialists because his humanity was ineradicable; because he wouldn’t be a Machiavellian. And these facts make me stop and think for a minute…
Three thirty in the morning.
The weather yesterday was cloudy. I didn’t pay much attention to it; stayed indoors all day, scribbling notes in my journal. It’s odd to think of how utterly responsible we are for the biosphere and the cycles of the weather. We believe we’re doing good just by working to earn a living, yet the economy is not everything. It’s a small, artificial part of a much bigger whole. “All the busy little creatures chasing out their destinies / Living in their pools they soon forget about the sea.” …I don’t remember what dreams I had before I got out of bed, but they were set in my own street.
Eight o’clock. It is foggy at the tree line. Heather had on a T-shirt with the logo “Ghost of Gatsby,” a local rock band that plays originals. She said they were pretty good. I stood deliberating in front of the freezer, looking at the peppermint candy ice cream, and finally decided a negative. Instead I got a mango tea Snapple, plus a reuben sandwich and some cottage cheese. Through Kat’s front window I could see the backs of three heads that were fixed on the giant tv screen as I ambled by on Fremont Avenue. Karen’s salon front sported a homemade sign: “Nail technician needed.” Jessica has been gone for a week or two now, left to be with her family. Kim still works there, I think, but she doesn’t do nails. Something about the salon gives me an impression of any book you like by Charles Dickens. Probably I should stick my head in the door and say hi someday soon, and forgive Karen’s rightwing politics. I might be just in time for “A Christmas Carol.”
Sometimes I get a bit of a temptation to drink beer, but at least four factors prevent this from happening. The fifth one is the certainty that, for me, alcoholism is fatal. It’s odd that people never think that bad things could happen to them; bad things only happen to others… From what I could hear last night, and from what people were saying, they were determined to have a good time for Halloween this year, and to hell with Governor Kate Brown. You can’t contain the human spirit when all is said and done, and oppression only fuels the fire of resentment and rebellion. I feel a similar way towards our regular church pastor, who has lost all hope and anticipates doom for humanity. After a while, this attitude grows very tiresome for the parish— or it did for me, anyway. I feel sad. It’s the middle of the night and outside is black as pitch. It’s going to rain all morning but so far I haven’t heard a sign of it. Aesop is low energy right now. And yet, even if I have to do it singlehandedly, I’m going to change people’s attitudes from despair to joy of living. Some aspects of church are toxic to me right now but I believe it can be turned around. Next Sunday I will go back and confront Pastor about his attitudes towards the pandemic and life in general. If God exists, he wants us to be happy.
I just remembered something from two years ago, around this time in October. It was occasioned by paying my utility bill and having it be no sweat. Two years ago I was still living in the trailer with Aesop. What got me through the whole fire disaster was a Pollyanna kind of optimism and belief in divine providence. But in October, Polly and her son came looking for me. And then a few weeks later, she made some cynical remarks about my remodeled home, after which I began to lose my faith in the same providence. I never recovered this optimism, and then in March, Covid hit us. But now I’m thinking that there’s nothing to prevent me from being an optimist again, even though it’s hard to maintain in the midst of a pandemic. Pastor himself has been very gloomy for a long time, giving sermons about the devil and such.
Maybe a revolution in thought can help restore the church to the happy thing it used to be prior to March of 2020. I mean, maybe it’s up to me to change my thinking and bring this back to my church so that everyone will be happy. If this is true, then what do I do with my sister and her family? Or perhaps I’m trying to take too much responsibility.
I used to believe that the good things that happened to me were a heaven’s reward for not drinking anymore. There’s no evidence for this either way, so why not give it the benefit of the doubt?
It looks like I have two families: biological, and the Lutheran church. I felt a lot happier before Polly came back into my life. The circumstances around all of us have changed a great deal with the pandemic, yet the way we think about it might make a big difference in our power over it. Now I’m thinking like another William Blake. I think it’s necessary to change our attitudes in general and to exclude no one from the global community. Consider it one big church of humankind.
Those are my thoughts for right now. They might be different tomorrow.
Ever since Sunday I’ve been worried about Pastor’s reticence regarding my rock band. This silence tends to make me imagine all sorts of things that may be blown out of proportion to reality. In the first place, I can’t figure out why his opinion means so much to me. It’s as if his approval were the ultimate judgment on the quality of the music, especially its spiritual goodness or badness. So then I have to remind myself that Pastor is just a human being, not a god or even a saint. Maybe he’s just concerned that I might be tempted to use drugs with the other guys and mess up my life?… I didn’t notice much on my excursion to the store today. It’s cloudy right now. I bought Aesop two peanut butter bones for a special treat. I’m not so afraid now that I will lose my sobriety, so when I go into the market, the place feels rather dull and insignificant to me. It is simply where I get something to eat every day and chat a bit with Michelle. The old excitement associated with the store is gone. The only thing that gives me a thrill now is playing music in the band, and I anticipate it all week. Intellectual gymnastics don’t interest me as much as they used to. I still like good books, though perhaps something a little lighter than heavy old classics. Dunno; I’m just figuring myself out while the times keep changing and developing into new things. Now it’s time to feed my dog.
Currently it’s 78 degrees inside the house, and it has affected the way I think somewhat, actually in a beneficial way. I don’t feel quite as depressed as I did yesterday. While I was writing in my blank book rather prolifically my mood did an about face from melancholy to much more optimistic. Certain possibilities I hadn’t considered before made themselves known to me. Usually my self concept is pretty low and crummy, never giving myself the benefit of the doubt. I’m just a lousy schizophrenic person that nobody loves. But how do I know this to be true? I could be more appreciated than I realize, and I think being sober should be a big plus in my favor.
I also did some thinking on the nature of my psychosis, particularly the initial episode 30 years ago. Somehow I compared it to the adventures of Don Quixote, which show an ambition to be free and independent in a rather radical way. Wasn’t Cervantes in prison when he wrote most of the novel? Yet his imagination was unbound… Anyway, another fact of my case is that my brain has no structural abnormalities, such as enlarged ventricles. Anatomically it’s a normal study, and just my brain chemistry has been wrong. I don’t know what causes that. Oh— and to answer your question a while ago, yes, the predisposition for schizophrenia can be hereditary, but the onset of the illness depends on environmental stressors. It is one theory, anyway, and called the diathesis stress model… But the idea that was kind of blowing my mind came from the Sartre book I received the other week. Considering this plus the story of Don Quixote, I asked myself, What if madness is simply a desperate attempt to be free?
In this situation, what appears to be sheer lunacy may really be methodical and sane, just on a different level of consciousness, or of interpretation.
I did some research: the prevailing opinion on the etiology of schizophrenia leans toward biology rather than childhood trauma. But I still wonder how I could be so high functioning and have this illness. The interesting thing is how attitudes seem to have changed a bit in the past year or so. My experience for a long time suggested that schizophrenia was treatable by psychotherapy almost to the exclusion of psychiatry. And now it has swung back to biology. I don’t know; it depends on the source of information you consult. For most of my life since my diagnosis I believed in the biological factors.
Another possibility is that the change came from myself alone when I fired my psychiatrist and joined the church four years ago. And this course of action influenced everything that happened to me ever since that decision. I remember thinking that maybe schizophrenia could be explained in terms of my interior experience, another way of saying phenomenology. I thought it might be treated from the inside out rather than the opposite way.
So now I can’t tell where this change in attitude started; was it just me, or was there a general movement in behavioral health away from psychiatry and toward psychology?
Probably there are sociological variables involved, but it’s very difficult to sort them out.
Predawn blackness outside. I think I’m done sleeping, yet I’m tired. I’ve written in my blank book that I’m sick of the sermons about culture and the doom and gloom. I’ve had enough: it’s time for a holiday. Instead of saying “we” I’m going to say “I.” And I will make a clean break with the church once and for all. I contributed all I could. Tried to help Pastor out during the summer and fall. Time to say goodbye… There should be daylight in about twenty minutes. I see a gray glow in the east right now. The promise of a day that’s just for me. Nature cares nothing for society, and can’t be blamed for it. The sun in the sky is equal opportunity and available to everyone. I plan on disengaging from the media for a while. No news and nothing social when I go on holiday. Unplug the devices and turn off my phone. Had enough of thought control. Then I will write more in my blank book, conferring with my own spirit and shaking off the BS. I might buy a little tub of ice cream today. I’d forgotten what it’s like to treat myself.
Four o’clock in the morning.
I had a lousy day yesterday. Just one of those things. Maybe Monday will be better. I still hesitate to buy myself a birthday present for financial reasons. The holidays are always very rough on me, particularly the pressure to believe in something absurd. I keep trying to end my relationship with the church, but feel duty bound to stay and help out…
Quarter of ten. I just reread “The Sisters” by James Joyce. Very subtle and symbolic. Speaking of sisters, I should probably call mine this morning, but I’m still kind of mad at her for not calling me on Christmas Day. I generally feel frustrated and uneasy with my situation in the church and some of my friends. I realize what a hypocrite I am to continue going to church when I have no faith in Jesus Christ. This fact bothered me all during the summertime. It sometimes seems that words only get me into trouble, so maybe I should just play my bass and keep my mouth shut. Two decades ago I was in a band with a guitarist who used to say, “Play your bass, Rob.” In other words, shut up… In addition to these problems, I haven’t been very mentally well lately. But overall, I’m just not a happy camper, especially on WordPress. I can’t expect myself to change the world singlehandedly, and besides, I don’t have the right. I think I’m simply in the wrong place, and ought to look elsewhere for friends. As it is, I’m butting my head against an implacable wall.