Being Myself

Noon.

I’ve been to church this morning and back. I walked there and got a ride home with Barb. With me I took a book of Hellenistic philosophy for Tim to look at, thinking he might be curious about Epicurus and his similarities to the Stoics such as Zeno. It’s okay if he doesn’t like it; I just thought he deserved to be informed. Also, a book contains a lot of information that you won’t find on the internet… The transition in my medications is going pretty well since a few bad days last week. Last Tuesday I felt almost ecstatic for some reason, followed by a couple of days of despair. My body was a bucket of gravel mixed with sand, or a tin machine badly in need of oiling. Perhaps the missing ingredient was just the company of other people, particularly having a close friend. Good friends are hard to come by in my locality: people who will be likeminded and exceptionally smart… The assembly sang Happy Birthday to Helen, just having turned 98 years old. It’s an amazing thing to be a nonagenarian and to have seen the events of a whole century… I can’t shake off this music in my head, so it’s probably time to listen to something different.

One o’clock. I look forward to the next time it rains, for it’s been a very long summer and not much fun. I’m just thinking: I’ve grown up a lot in the past four years, such that I can stand up to anybody in my family and not feel guilty or ashamed for anything at all. People either like you or they don’t, and being disliked is okay with me because it says more about the other person than myself… It sounds like the children in the street are playing with some kind of pedal car. At least somebody’s having some fun. And you know, right now life isn’t so bad for myself either. 

Double Edge

Quarter after nine.

My neighbor Lenore went away and left her dog overnight. The dog isn’t happy about it, barking her displeasure with being deserted. I feel quite dysphoric this morning, just the general bad sensation of aging. I asked for ibuprofen at the store, but they only had acetaminophen, or naproxen for ten bucks. Much of life is balancing pleasures and pains, hopefully minimizing the latter. There’s no question of maximizing pleasure anymore except on rare days. Last night I thought of someone who used to be a clerk at the market maybe ten years ago or more, a redhead named Pam. I only remember that she liked ZZ Top and chili dogs with ketchup, but she was very nice to me. I was such a lush back then, but she never judged or criticized. I think the summertime is playing weird tricks on my mind, bringing old feelings to light. I was never really a saint, notwithstanding the years in the church. I just want to enjoy my life again, so perhaps the rock and roll has superseded my religious identity. Time will tell. There is plenty to be said for liberty, for simply being a natural human. Or is this just crazy?

Quarter after ten. Right now there’s no breeze outside; the air is as still as death. The neighbors are noisy, shouting and banging car doors. I think of my brother from many decades ago, driving a red Volkswagen van he named Barney. Nothing impeded him from taking a road tour across the United States and Canada, living life to the hilt. But he also often said, “Live by the sword, die by the sword,” which might serve as a warning to me today. 

Life of the Mind

One twenty.

Polly called me up and we chatted for an hour and a quarter. I was able to remember a lot of things that happened back in the ‘70’s when we were young boys. How interesting it would be if our family could somehow come together again in the near future. But it takes a strong desire on all sides to make this a reality. Also, a lot of things I’ve learned on my own will have to be suppressed if we are going to get along. Maybe it’s not worth doing. Yesterday afternoon I read the first 30 pages of a Henry James novel, which is about the furthest thing from my family background. I don’t know: when a person has the intelligence to aspire to something a little better than his kin, should he go for it or should he let it stagnate? It is a real ethical dilemma, yet I’m more inclined to concur with my first psychologist who advised the use of my brain rather than letting it rot. My brother, in my opinion, has made some bad decisions regarding his health and mental well-being. So again I assert that it’s better to be true to yourself, however selfish that appears… Today is a nice 80 degree day with no clouds. I don’t feel like allowing anything to prune my life of the mind. Let it flower like the blooms on my magnolia tree, large and white soft petals to the sun… 

My Big Mouth

I’m afraid I might have blown it with R— and the whole proposition of getting a personal care attendant. I texted her Monday morning but got no reply all day. If I don’t hear from her again, then I guess that’s the consequence of my big mouth, talking big about “freedom” and independence, etc etc. Also I guess I didn’t like R— very much, especially the way she employed dishonest tactics and handled schizophrenia in such a shameful manner. I would have hoped for better because she had two kids with autism. We just didn’t hit it off, and you either like certain people or you don’t.

So, I’ve had rather a bad day all day today, and additionally the wheels seem to be coming off my blog writing. Like in the Carole King song, I am down and troubled, and nothing is going right. Hopefully the darkest hour is before the dawn. This thing called responsibility for our choices has a double edge: it means the individual is in control, but also he is accountable for what goes wrong… It tends to offend people when I use logic with them and point out their fallacies and inconsistencies, such as telling R— about the absurdity of “hiring” a person to give me orders in my own home. But you know, I felt very strongly based on my observation. And when I had my say on the phone, well, I took a chance. I felt pretty big for my breeches. She talked with me for only 15 minutes that day.

I could apply other silly abstractions to what happened with the PCA opportunity, but the common sense answer is again that I blew it by offending the wrong person. I could evoke ideas like the zodiac or other expressions of fate. My brother would say I acted like my dad. He thought my dad had a tragic flaw, the unfortunate tendency to stick his foot in his mouth when the stakes were high.

But I think that either way I acted from a pure and authentic impulse; I spoke my mind and said what I meant to R— on that fateful day last month. And knowing this, I have no regrets for my behavior.

And I guess that’s all I have to say about that!

Signal to Noise

Wee hours.

I slept for about four hours, dreaming of how I was obligated to one or two of my followers on WordPress. I kept trying to escape and just be autonomous and free, not responsible to others who may read my blog. It was like the long arm of the law: a boomerang between freedom and captivity. I needed a get out of jail free card. Also it was like an interesting play by Jean-Paul Sartre titled No Exit. Yesterday evening I’d been writing in my journal something about cultural relativism, and was it really possible to have an original thought when we live together in a society? The availability of the truth is limited to the resources our culture provides. I wrote rather deliriously about my affair with Jungian psychology that went on for twenty years, until finally I made a breakthrough to cognitive behavioral therapy, and then only because the time seemed to be propitious. My home city was at last getting wind of the latest trend in psychology, some forty years after its invention… What do I really want to say that comes from my identity alone? But that’s just the kicker: there seems to be no independent self, none that isn’t borrowed from the readymade uniforms mass produced by society. Pink Floyd sang lugubriously about this in “Welcome to the Machine.”

It appears that in order to find your sanity, first you have to go out of your mind and be a knight errant. Again I ask myself, What did you want to be? When I was nineteen years old, I had a pretty good idea of what that was. But college became a complicated game of brown nosing your professors to get a grade. And then we were turned loose into a competitive world, up shit creek without a paddle. A good expression of this is “45 Mercy Street” by Anne Sexton.

Perhaps Goethe is right that the ultimate truth comes from within your heart. But the difficulty consists in decluttering your system to be able to recognize your voice. It’s the same as tuning out the radio static to isolate the pure signal. 

True Blue

Quarter of four in the morning.

I dreamed I got together with Dr T—, my old psychiatrist of 26 years, for a Mexican lunch. Lately I’ve been dreaming about him a lot, perhaps betraying a wish to return to his service. But what would happen if I did go back to his practice? It was out of a fiercely defiant impulse to independence that I left him four summers ago, redirecting my energies to blogging and attending church each Sunday. Now it’s all the same to me which options I choose, because my sobriety will probably remain intact. I should do whatever is faithful to myself.

Quarter of five. There’s a first gray gloaming in the east, even though it seems awfully early for the appearance of daylight. I just ordered two sets of Ernie Ball bass strings on Amazon, arriving Sunday.

Quarter after six. I wonder why I would want to make my peace with Dr T—? No matter what I did, there’s no going back to a previous condition. It is futile to entertain regrets for what is lost like spilt milk. Staying sober has its costs and also its rewards… Today there’s no practice with the band. I guess it’s another day to read and think about stuff.

Quarter of eleven. I disagreed with part of the conversation I had with my sister this morning. I still feel a little nettled about it. She can be quite self righteous in her Christian walk with God, as if her reality were the only and absolute truth. I told her that I’m a churchgoer but I don’t identify myself as a Christian necessarily. It was after I said something about the Christian Left that she started spouting her religious and political views on transgender people and how children are being educated today. I don’t really want to go into it further, or anyway not now.

At the store, Heather paid me a compliment on my honesty, which made me feel good. There were a few spats of light rain while I was out. I dropped in on Karen and Jessica for a moment and asked about Kim, whose shoulder is recovering only very slowly with the help of physical therapy. And finally I stood in Roger’s driveway shooting the breeze about his ‘73 Dodge truck, just recently finished. The color was supposed to be candy apple red, but afterwards it looks closer to scarlet, a bright red with a tinge of orange. I said it looks different on a cloudy day. 

High Fidelity

Midnight hour.

I must be going through a depression this year, especially since last month, around the time I bought my G&L bass and felt so divided and at war with myself. To be totally honest, I would have preferred to spend my stimulus payment on the American made G&L bass because I felt I really deserved it. If I get another chance at it then I’ll spring for it, and to hell with the other guys in the band. The take-home message is always the same: you ought to do what is right for yourself rather than trying to please other people. And this is the same old jam I used to find myself in when my life was more functional. The truth is that it’s impossible to make everyone else happy by your actions, and the only person you can really please is yourself. For this very reason, we should never do anything self harming to gain approval from others. Nobody’s worth it, no matter how they try to shame you.

One ten. I’m beginning to think I’m in a bad situation with this rock band. All we have in common is the music. None of our other values are the same. A friend once told me that I’d do better in a jazz fusion band, if such a thing can be found in this area. At least those musicians would be totally serious about making music. 

Fidelity to Yourself or Compromise?

Quarter of eight. Now the sun is coming out. Heather at the store seems very nice. I used my food stamps plus my debit card at checkout and she had no trouble with it. Her last job was at Dari Mart on River Road. I haven’t been there in many years; when I did go there, it was an alternative place for buying beer, usually late at night… I made a connection of my past alcoholism with something that happened with my psychiatrist a long time ago. Once I attempted suicide when he put a lot of pressure on me to finish my degree. How was that different from the drinking I did up until the time I fired him? All of this reminds me of the importance of being authentic in what you say and do. If you mean to say no, then don’t say yes. Do what is right for you, not for others.

Three thirty. Church went just fine, and Sheryl gave me a lift home. Pastor worked hard on today’s service, doing the lion’s share of everything. I asked our musician, Eduardo, if he would someday do “Jumbo’s Lullaby” by Debussy for a prelude or postlude to worship, and he said he would look into it. Once he told me about a website with a lot of free classical sheet music that you can download, including stuff by Erik Satie; anything public domain where the copyright is expired. The thought of this makes me drool a little, even though I don’t do much sight reading…

Quarter of five. The band did a lot of improv yesterday, and some of it sounded good to us, though I don’t know how an audience would appreciate it. Self indulgent music doesn’t usually go over very well with a crowd. Generally people want to hear songs they know from the radio or other media, stuff they’ve heard before and can recognize. Once I was doing a gig in a Cottage Grove tavern and we warmed up with some self indulgent noise. A man who was shooting pool shouted, “Quit f—-ing around and play some music!” So we started our set with “Can’t Get Enough.” But sometimes if the crowd is wasted you can get away with jamming onstage. It all depends on variables. 

Idea from Atwood

Eleven twenty five. I’ve been on the phone with Damien regarding my yard work; he’s coming out sometime this week. The band will jam this afternoon at four o’clock. I seem to hear the sounds of someone playing a bass guitar on my street, but sometimes my senses are unreliable, even deceptive. Instead of a solid gray sheet, the clouds are now individually distinct, permitting occasional sunshine through the cracks. I was somewhat paranoid a few hours ago, a little skittish and scared. I feared being hit by a car, and then I thought I’d lost my wallet when I got home. When bad things happen to you, it’s easy to color everything else black. I guess the trick is not to personalize what happens… It’ll be interesting to hear what kind of music comes of our jam today. Go with the flow, don’t force anything. And don’t think too much.

Quarter of one. It’s different when I feel like I have to depend solely on myself, and there’s no providence or intervention of any kind from a supernatural place. God is quite dead all over again, which should mean that more things are allowed for us to do, as Dostoevsky wrote in Karamazov. I guess this is the problem bothering me since this morning. I even dreamed that Belinda, the convenience store ex owner, was one of my English professors. How in the world does that happen, except in the lunatic experience of dreams? She was coaching me on how to write essays that were more organic and less mechanical.

Two o’clock. I’ve decided not to take my new bass with me today. It’s probably going to be a casual practice… I was just thinking that I don’t know what I am or why, or what my purpose is in all of this. I think many people feel that way. A collection of cosmic dust that happens to have some self awareness: this is nihilism, and sometimes I feel like that. I’m losing my religious indoctrination as the weeks go by. They can stain it in your fleece, but it washes out rather effortlessly. All you have to do is stay home on Sundays.

And then what happens?

As Atwood put it, you wait until the fur grows. 

Afterthought to a Friend

Just another thought.

In these circumstances, when I feel so helpless and powerless, it is very desirable to take what little responsibility for my life that I have. I do have the option to cancel my vaccination, and if that’s what I want to do, then I ought to do it, just to exercise my freedom. The consequence of this act may be to lose my band, and maybe the church won’t want me around either. However, the important thing is like Polonius to his son Laertes in Hamlet: to thine own self be true.

I repeat that I don’t like the science of sociology, while Pastor Dan has the opposite attitude about it— which is easy for him as the leader of a group of people. I imagine that he relishes the idea of having power over his flock. I guess if I’m a lone wolf, I might as well embrace my life, as solitary as it may prove to be. It’s far more essential to be my authentic self.