Words in Space

Quarter of eight.

The band agreed to have practice this Saturday at four o’clock. And there are other signs of human life going on around me. It’s yet another clear morning. A song from Keys to Ascension begins to play in my head, making me feel a little sad. I could never take spiritual things literally. But that’s just it: spirituality can’t be understood literally, so it is best expressed in metaphor. A mourning dove coos somewhere near. I think of my brother at some point every day, wishing he would change his mind. His values are simply different from mine, as well as his destiny… I’m going to give myself a break from my conscience, accept myself as I am for today. If other people don’t like it, then tough luck for them.

Quarter of nine. It’s interesting how we have to defend ourselves from our critics all the time, and happiness is when we feel above reproach. The worst critic is internal. It is yourself. Guilt and self loathing lead to despair. My motivation is rather low today, or else I would go trim my beard and smile at myself in the mirror. Maybe I should spend some money on myself to feel better?

Eleven o’clock. Melissa had on a funny T-shirt about wtf-ing her way through life. I got a late start to my day due to a phone appointment with Rebecca. Tomorrow I might give my sister a call for the fun of it. My mind is crowded with should statements and other depressing thoughts. I could use a review of the basics of cognitive therapy to pull myself out of the pits. Wouldn’t it be weird if reality were constructed of nothing but language, only the words we use in dialogue and monologue? But there’s still the element of feeling, tone, body language. Music is closer to the truth than words, yet my dog doesn’t understand it. To him it’s just noise… I’d thought maybe Rebecca would stand me up this morning, but my assumption was all wrong. She was just a little late in calling. Evidence is everything, and usually you can take people at face value and trust their word. 

The New Normal

Quarter of ten.

It’s mostly sunny this morning. I feel pretty good. I saw two young women in dirty clothes at the store; Michelle eyed them suspiciously. It was cold out, with frost on the grass everywhere. I worried a little about my situation with the church, but I think I’ll be all right. They can manage their own feelings. I’m leaning toward a revival of cognitive therapy in my mind. It might be good to read Jane Austen, picking up where I left off in Sense and Sensibility. There’s so much polarity in the world now and not much wisdom to see both sides. Early this morning I had some dream thoughts that were very difficult to verbalize. They had something to do with the concept of the unconscious mind. I ponder whether it’s possible to dissolve the dichotomy of conscious and unconscious and eliminate traditional psychotherapy. Some people are still stuck in Jungian thinking. I just want life to be more balanced and sane… I spent ten dollars on Aesop’s Dog Chow: his favorite since puppyhood. Michelle noticed that the potato salad I’d chosen wasn’t very full, so I exchanged it for a different container. That was nice of her. Without the ibuprofen, my back would still hurt, hence I take one pill every morning.

Quarter of eleven. Also during my walk, I thought about how I don’t seem to belong in the world anymore. It has changed so much and left me behind like a beached whale. Particularly, education is not the same as when I went to school. People are being trained to function like robots rather than humans. No one is encouraged to think their own thoughts. If you do choose to discover your own truth, you’ll be either very rich or very poor. But again, wealth or poverty is not necessarily financial.

Three thirty. The weather is beautiful now, so I made a run to the market for some beef jerky— very expensive. I spoke with my neighbor Jeff for a couple of minutes. Boats are his hobby. He even has a pirate outfit. When possible, he puts his boat in over at Fern Ridge Lake, a man made body of water with a reservoir. Jeff says we’ve been short on rainfall this year and the level of the lake needs to come up a couple of feet. The marina has been closed, but opens again on the First… While I was in the store, I sort of wandered around looking at the different jerky snacks. It was like being in a new world, a world where I don’t have to drink anymore. The other customers appeared rather rough and ragged to me, as if they lived in poverty, so I fitted right in— up to a point. Suk manned the cash register. He asked me if the jerky was everything… I also saw my neighbor Steve, though he didn’t notice me passing by. There were two children in his yard. Somebody on a motorcycle came down Fremont Avenue and nearly stalled. Right now I hear a lawn mower on my street. Things are getting back to a new kind of normal while the sun shines on carelessly in a sky of blue dust. 

Splitting of the Mind

Midnight. 

My letter to S— this evening was pretty good; it became a discussion of William James quite out of the blue. He sidesteps reason altogether and looks instead at the practical consequences of any belief an individual holds. This method may be the best way to save metaphysics from the logical positivists. And maybe this was the reasoning of the movers and shakers two decades ago when my mother died and the real world blindsided me. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing bogus quantum mechanics or faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the intelligence of water crystals, Intelligent Design Theory, and discovering a Boeing 747 on Mars. The rationale for all of this became the figure of William James, especially his Pragmatism and The Will to Believe. As late as winter 2010, his philosophy was resurrected to sort of usher out the crazy millennium, or perhaps give it another last gasp. In August 2002, I had an assessment for addiction issues at an agency downtown. I told N— what my beliefs were, and was there anything wrong with that. She replied, “It depends on how you use it.” This was a statement of Pragmatism very early in the game, which would drag on for another ten years. I first heard about Cognitive Therapy the following year, but it wasn’t available here until spring 2006. It ran contrary to Jamesian philosophy by being evidence based, almost too little too late. Simultaneously there were these two competing ideas, Pragmatism and something more akin to science: enough to split anybody’s brain into halves at war with each other.

One twenty five. So what is the solution to this pandemic of schizophrenia, which literally means “splitting of the mind?” Because ultimately it comes down to the nature of the human brain, with its two cerebral hemispheres, each with its own mentality. They communicate with each other by means of the corpus callosum and the cerebral commissures, bridging the gap between them. They inform one another. Some people are more dominant on one side than the other. And some people fiercely deny the truth of hemispheric lateralization, that is, the specialization of each half of the brain. My brother and I got into an ugly argument over it twelve years ago, before he retired from his career as a professor. He told his students that hemispheric lateralization was a myth after our disagreement. But he wasn’t aware of the studies done with split brain epileptic patients, where the results suggested a recognizable difference between the left and right brain… Whether you accept lateralization or not, the solution is to improve communication of one side with the other— and to educate people about psycho physiology. 

Getting Around Guilt

Seven twenty five.

We’re getting a very hard rain this morning, for the first time this fall. You can barely see the daylight. Michelle should be the clerk at the store today. The darkness outside is actually very miserable and gloomy. I assume there’s church tonight, but I’m not looking forward to it. I always stumble over the block of Jesus. How can any human being be a demigod? Besides, I don’t feel like listening to sermons anymore. I want to accept the fact of mere existence and let that suffice.

Nine forty. Michelle was super nice this time. And as I was returning on Maxwell Road, Karen was just arriving at the salon. I waited for her while she opened the shop, then she gave me a chocolate donut. I also bought a green and yellow Duck face mask from her for five dollars. She wore a nice royal blue sweater. For my trip this morning, the rain stopped as if by providence. But there was a huge puddle at the intersection with Fremont I had to navigate. It’s the same thing every rainy season. The storm drain doesn’t work very well. I got myself a Pepsi today for a change. Tastes pretty good… The future promises to be complex, with a new set of associations in my mind. Family is usually difficult, though I’m still free to shut that door if necessary. The trick is the avoidance of guilt. It’s so easy for our feelings to get hurt. Relationships take work, but it seems like my family is particularly narrow minded and cold hearted. Prejudice is likely a function of ignorance. Whatever, I’ve had more than my share of guilt heaped on me over the years, until I vowed that it would stop. And yet the one piling it on was mostly myself. There is no telepathy. When the internal critic kicks on, it is only us berating ourselves. No one else really has the power to condemn you. When you grasp this truth, it’s the most liberating thing in the world. 

The Name of Action

Eleven o’clock. It baffles me to know that my brother, once so clever and socially apt, has now been exiled from the family due to lies and duplicity, and even stealing. Maybe he just has no respect for my sister’s family… I’ve eaten the cottage cheese for lunch. It feels like fall in the air today, with the climate much cooler and fresher after the rain. I feel pretty good; just a little guilty for the church situation. I can only imagine what Pastor has been thinking, and this only tells me about myself. All psychoanalysis reduces down to the self. It’s the same as reading a Henry James book. All the intuitive guesswork never gets you out of yourself, and this solipsism is the condition you have to live with. Maybe this is the only truth we can know— and it’s the point of literary Impressionism to always mediate the facts with a mind. Perhaps cognitive therapy is naive after all, because all truth is ultimately subjective. This is a hard datum to live with. But it gives validity to the old school of psychology… I kind of wish I had a job, though I wouldn’t want to be in a situation that would make me drink. The ritual for many people is to work and drink alcohol every week. Supposedly this is being a grownup. It is good to be free, however you define your freedom. For me, capitalism is more a bondage than a liberty. If I had to go to work, then I would probably drink again, and the whole endeavor would amount to suicide. I’ve done that before— and made it out alive. I don’t really know what to do with my life. I’m spinning my wheels just sitting here analyzing the truth, while life passes me by. They say that actions speak louder than words. Also, actions get more done.

Noon hour. Here it is already midday. I should do something with the time, like go buy some worthwhile food. Put on my bandanna and go raid the grocery store. But by now the checkout lines will be longer and more tedious. Tomorrow morning will be a better time. 

Birthday!

Eight o’clock.

Here and there I have a bleed through of psychosis, saying that this is the end of the world, and by a freak of metaphysics, a god will emerge from the machine. Psychosis is radical emotionalism; if it feels true, then it must be true. It’s important to remain evidence based when I’m tempted to exaggerate the reality. My mind wonders why the crap all hits the fan in September. And more, what will future Septembers be like? It feels cold in here, and the smoke outside is still very dense. Linn County is getting ready to evacuate.

Nine o’clock. I just paid my garbage disposal bill online. For many years I paid over the phone, but now I’m all set up. It seems like an investment in the future. I don’t feel so pessimistic now about current events. Perhaps it’s just chance that everything has happened at once. I should remember all the distortions of cognitive therapy and apply them. Pastor wrote something in the Daily Devotions that I was inclined to take personally. But the truth may be that he wasn’t thinking of me at all. Consistently, time after time my assumptions have been proven wrong since Monday. When I catch myself in a thinking error, I feel a little silly afterwards. I wonder how many of us are making the same mistakes?… Aesop gets breakfast in a few minutes, and then I’ll get ready to go to the store. Or maybe I’ll delay it for a while. I can relax and have a burrito. It’s only 50 degrees outside. Wait until it warms up.

Ten forty. I saw Karen, Angela, and then Michelle. I made an appointment for a haircut next Tuesday at ten o’clock. Karen was happy about that. The countertop at the store is definitely red. Michelle was there by herself. It just feels different from the old glass counter in the middle of the floor. Less personal somehow, more official or conventional, like all other convenience stores. Almost more regimented. I like the way it frees up space on the floor, though. It’s just another sign that we’re saying goodbye to the past. A man walked into the store with 36 empty Rolling Rock cans as I was leaving. This reminds me that my “birthday” is tomorrow: three years sober. It’s been a roller coaster, and not only for me. The world was rather crazy this year, and last year my house caught fire. Regardless, I didn’t drink. I rolled along with the punches. Some days I feel absolutely terrible, and seldom do I feel really good. But always I am free to choose my mood. I can put on different music when I feel down. And it’s good to be a member of the human race. 

Since the Birds

Quarter after seven.

I ran my little errand to the book share, placing the Austen volumes plus one of Ibsen. I thought, if I were going to teach something, what would I want people to know? I added A Doll’s House for the message of personal freedom and feminism. From there I marched off to the store and bought food and a one liter of Coke. It only cost me $9.04, and I still have $53 in food stamps. The sun had cleared the rim of the land as I executed my task… The email from my friend was nice this morning. The next event is Aesop’s breakfast, followed by my cottage cheese and then bass guitar practice. I hear Roger’s Ford idling across the street, revving here and there. There he goes. My brain is playing an old song by Yes, from their commercial phase with Trevor Rabin. “I’m Running” is one of my favorites. I wonder where they got the idea for the Jacaranda Room? A species of tropical tree. Saddening to remember that Chris Squire passed away a few years ago. For a lot of fans, he embodied the essence of Yes. His old Rickenbacker ought to be in a museum. I read that the instrument was an American export called the 1999 bass, not the 4001 or the 4002. Paul McCartney had the same model. The common practice was to refinish those guitars with a maple color. They came with no binding and no shell inlays on the neck.

Eight thirty. It is a blessing not to be paranoid. People are calling the tenets of cognitive therapy “classic” now, so does that mean that they are dated? I know some people who are still unfamiliar with CBT. If something new became available, Oregonians would be the last to know… The first therapist I had was a mean sort of person. I fired her because I didn’t like her, and I was within my rights as a client. My favorite primer on cognitive therapy is still Feeling Good by David D. Burns. A lot more are available, however. You don’t have to go to a therapist to learn about cognitive therapy, but it helps to have someone to practice with.

Before the Birds

Wee hours of Monday. Since Friday night, the weekend was rather out of joint. I hope for a good Monday. I’m enjoying Sense and Sensibility for its realism pertaining to psychology and human interaction. Jane Austen makes me think of Kate, even though that happened long ago, when I still drank a great deal. My past seems a continuous whole to me now, not bifurcated into drinking or not drinking. Funny how I had to cut my brother loose. Everyone considered, his voice was the most poisonous.

Four forty. Aesop stayed in bed while I got up to write this… Now we’re both up. Today I’m going to place a couple of books in the book share on Fremont Avenue. I have too many books, and duplicates of books. This morning it’ll be two volumes of Jane Austen that I don’t need. Her stuff is always a favorite with the general public. I find it often prescient of the tenets of cognitive therapy, especially gray thinking and overcoming arbitrary inference. The latter is also known as jumping to conclusions. Seems to me that I put a book in the little birdhouse recently, but I don’t even remember what it was. I should make a regular habit of donating books, because I know I’m only going to buy more. I catch the first glimmer of the predawn gray sky, if it isn’t my imagination. The sun rises officially at six thirty. It feels chilly in here with the windows open…

Five forty. I have no other big plans for today. The high temperature is forecast to be 85 degrees. The sky lights up, a greenish glow in the east. One purple cloud. It’s good to be out of the murderous heat we experienced for a few weeks. All the food I purchased Friday is now gone. That’s an excuse to go to Grocery Outlet again. Generally I feel that I am releasing the past, even my education— except for what I can use. As already observed, no one else believes in Freud anymore. And even cognitive therapy is gathering dust. What’s to be the next big trend in how we interpret the world? Will it be intelligent or instead a ridiculous joke?

Paradigms

Two twenty five. I forget why I started reading the Sartre play yesterday. It isn’t very life affirming or romantic. The situations are extreme and no fun at all. People are popping each other off right and left. I don’t think I’ll finish it. Too grim, like Norman Mailer or something. I might take a nap now. I didn’t sleep very much last night.

Four thirty. Until I was about 24 years old, I never had any Romantic thoughts. That was when I was introduced to Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous, and the effect of those doctrines was not healthy for me. But once I had discovered his theories, I was stuck with Jung for another 20 years. Finally I took cognitive therapy seriously and began to apply it to my life. My mind had been in the habit of “splitting” everything into dichotomies, or pairs of contraries, like Aristotle with the law of excluded middle, only much worse. I was 39 years old when this was happening. After I turned 40 I began looking for the shades of gray. I learned that predicting the future was impossible, and how to avoid magnification and personalization. Eventually I mastered all of the cognitive distortions. Now it seems I’m sort of waiting around for the next movement in psychology. Something will doubtless come along. Hopefully it’ll be more accurate than the previous two trends. I heard some talk of phenomenology being absorbed into psychology two years ago, something along the lines of Sartre and existential psychoanalysis. There are no new ideas, just new terminology for the old ones. I guess I’ll finish that Sartre play now.

Friday Forenoon

Eleven thirty. I keep thinking this is Saturday. I slept in for a couple of hours, then fed the dog and went to the store. I ran into Lisa from the salon. Apparently she’s working but not doing hair. She added that her uncle just died the other day. I still think people are magnifying the negative things that happen. Surely not everything is going wrong. This is where cognitive therapy can be useful, if people are receptive to learning something new. I see many of us letting one or two negative events color everything else dark, but that’s not realistic. Rather than wallowing in depression we ought to balance the bad perceptions with positive ones. Try to be optimistic on a daily basis. The end of the world hasn’t happened yet, so don’t expect it now. Having a positive attitude can turn the ship around, while moaning merely assists the storm. I don’t want to see us all shipwrecked. I guess that’s why I kick against the prevailing sentiment of doom and gloom. Despair avails us nothing. We owe ourselves an outlook of hope.