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.
Quarter of eight.
It’s the same old story: Aesop is out of canned food. I should call Polly after nine o’clock.
The sounds of bird life around Fremont Avenue are insane today. I halted on my walk to examine the treetops, where you could see them perched, twittering in a frenzy. I took my excursion very slow this morning. Also I was slow at the checkout counter, and it annoyed the customer behind me. But it didn’t concern me that she was irritated. Michelle acted as her emotional caretaker and checked her out immediately at the other register. My business wasn’t even finished yet.
Eleven o’clock. It’s been raining and shining by turns while Polly and I talked on the phone. Our chats keep getting better. It seems that she’s done some serious independent thinking over the past few years, or maybe she’s always had a separate opinion from her son. I feel privileged to get to know her. We agree that money and material success are really negligible, and the important things are integrity and caring about other people… I missed the garbage pickup this week, but the service is cheap. I guess I’m feeling kind of relaxed today. Not exactly devil may care, but nothing inconsequential can ruffle my feathers. People can chase their tails all they want and it doesn’t bug me. They can foam at the mouth and throw a fit, but it’s all fruitless for them. I’m having a pretty good day.
The first thing I’m going to do is buy a Coke and some food. Today should be approached from the precept of freedom and responsibility, and it is so if you think so. I’m slightly tempted to just give up like everybody else; and maybe I will. But if I do resign, then I’ll be angry afterwards. Therefore, obey your own feelings and be true to yourself.
Eight o’clock. Vicki appreciated me this morning… I won’t let the despair of others drag me down today. The reality we live in is the one that we make. I just unsubscribed from a blog the hopelessness of which was affecting me. I was sorry to have to do it, but now I think I’ll be glad I did. The day is beautiful and pregnant with promise if you look for it. Positive change starts with just one person, who then communicates optimism to a few people, and by exponents it spreads. Certainly if I can deal with schizophrenia, then other people can handle their depression. Everyone is responsible for their feelings, and to some extent, the feelings of others. Some people might argue with me on this point, and that’s fine with me. Meanwhile I’m going to spread as much happiness as I can and forget the despair I’ve seen. I believe that happiness is our natural state, so I’m beginning with myself.
One thirty. I went and hung out with Kim and Angela at the salon. The talk was mostly beauty school stuff, about which I hadn’t a clue. Their friend, who used to be Kim’s boss, dominated the conversation. Karen and Jean carried on a separate discussion. I just sat in a chair and listened. The lemon meringue pie was great.
I still feel pretty good today. I have no desire to practice the bass guitar this afternoon. My jamming days are over. The rock and roll image is not for me. I could sort of make it work when I used to drink, but now I have nothing to rebel against. My mentality is all different now. That’s a good thing. I’ve even made friends with my sister, which until now would have been impossible. On the other hand, my brother’s alcoholism will make reconciliation very difficult, if it’s even advisable. He’s in a different world from me as long as he drinks… Aesop is telling me that he needs water, so I tell him five minutes, and he settles down. Give him a time frame and he is happy…
I look forward to the fall, but until then, days like today are good enough. Probably tomorrow I will export more boxes to the garage. Chip away at it until I’m done. The whole house is mine, yet I’m only using a fraction of it. Some idea that was on my mind had backed me into a corner. I think I’m free now. I feel very confident.
Six twenty. I took a nap, feeling very uncomfortable, though I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was probably craving alcohol on some level. Maybe I’m putting too much pressure on myself? Nobody’s perfect, no matter what the church expects of people. I got the impression there that having pornographic thoughts meant a person was evil. But if a person is honest, doesn’t everyone have sex thoughts? How can humans avoid this? And again I think that our Neo Victorian attitude will have consequences at all strata of society… Maybe I’m just tired of trying to be a Christian. I don’t think it’s for me anymore. It’s like stuffing your brain into a jar in so many ways.
Quarter after six (morning).
No one ever said I had to be a Christian… I just read ten pages of Bishop’s poetry from North & South. I really like “The Man-Moth” and “The Monument.” Also “The Weed.” These poems are quite personal, dealing with life as an individual. Really, our own experience is all we can know, and the best we can write about. I feel clumsy even trying to think like a religious person, so I’m ready to discard the whole thing. My romance with Christianity is done. Like Emerson, I shall have an “original relation to the universe.” Like Whitman, I will put aside the opinions of others and write what I know… Online worship is officially today, but I won’t be there. For me, Friday night was a disaster. I came away from it feeling unwell mentally. I still have a lot more to learn from the book of myself and not from the musty brown Bible we used as a prop at the lectern. The props and stilts of “culture” suffice for people who don’t want to think; and it seems to me that thinking is the entire issue. Today begins a new day and, for me, a new way of living.