Old as You Feel

Nine ten.

I was probably wise to never get married in my life. No one ever blessed me with a Midas touch, nor cursed me with the same thing. Solitude, like everything else, has pros and cons. My life has ended up being like the conclusion to Aristotle’s Ethics: that of the lone philosopher. Insight tends to be keener this way, though most people couldn’t stand it. Some lessons I’ve learned by observation, others firsthand. Addiction is a thing you have to go through yourself; no amount of warning is effective, because we never think it can happen to us. An alcoholic death only happens to other people until the Grim Reaper pops up right in our face… While I was outdoors I didn’t study the color of the sky. Looking at it now, the atmosphere is still very smoky, the sky a dirty white, and the reflection of the sun burnt orange. The transition to my new medication has had rough days mixed with better ones. My dog Aesop is really good about rolling with the changes. When I don’t feel good, he doesn’t complain. I doubt if anything will make me feel like a thirty year old again, so I just accept what is. The older I get, the more I try to avoid pain, but forget the pursuit of pleasure. Fun is for younger people. I also feel amazed and thankful to have made it this far… I’m always polite and courteous when I go anywhere. It was later this morning when I went to see Michelle and buy a few things. A pretty young lady smiled at me with her blue eyes when I held the door for her and her boyfriend. Otherwise it was just another trip to the store.

Quarter after ten. I have nothing planned for today. It’d be nice to see the blue sky a little later. Maybe I can brush up on my French; take a look at Baudelaire, cross the rainbow bridge to a different language. They say that the languages we learn are stored in different “buckets” of the brain. French may be my ticket to the Fountain of Youth. It’s worth a try. 

Eternity and Time

Nine fifty.

Everyone was pretty friendly when I went out a little while ago. I heard Roger’s voice say, “Hi Robbie,” but I couldn’t see him, and I said so. Then he stepped around his truck and waved, explaining with a laugh that he’d seen me through the window. At the store, another customer and I finished shopping at the same time, so I let her go ahead of me in line. After she was done buying her pint of half and half, she turned to me and thanked me. I recognized her as one of the regulars at the market. Behind me was a big guy with gray hair. We got finished simultaneously at the registers and I held the door for him going out again. The essence of the convenience store depends on how it is used. The morning bunch is different from the people who go there in the afternoon and evening. It’s almost as if there were two different stores, each having a different purpose… My mind is playing a hymn from church: “Healer of Our Every Ill.” My brain is disposed to play back the music it hears, often quite randomly and unexpectedly. I can be in the direst predicament while the music keeps going unperturbed, as though it were party to a separate reality, someplace beyond particulars and their accidents. And for all we know, perhaps music really is our vehicle to the divine… and the divine is a place within us.

Ten fifty five. I haven’t read Joseph Campbell in ages, but it’s from him that I gleaned the terms of time and eternity, the first being a lapsed condition of existence, and the second one existing outside of that condition, external to it and unaffected by it. You can see time and eternity operating in your daily life, like two opposing halves, and one owes its being to the other. I read in a psychology textbook long ago that the right hemisphere of the brain may be just stupid. But there must be an evolutionary reason for the fact of it, and it takes up so much space to be merely useless. Maybe the right brain is more like a radio receiver on a frequency to God? 

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. 

On Labor Day

Near seven o’clock.

I had a nightmare last night about being discovered a homosexual by a few mean doctors or scientists; but maybe I was thinking of a time when I went to the emergency room on Labor Day four years ago, where I was given a “rectal exam” by the sadistic woman doctor. She stuck her whole fist up my butthole and felt around. I screamed with the pain, although you know, soon afterwards I quit drinking and I haven’t done it again since. Was it aversion therapy?

Cathy manned the store this morning when I got there and bought the usual stuff for Aesop and me. I saw only two other customers, both of them guys. The first one was tall and wore cowboy boots. He carried a knife at his side, which I wondered at. I guess it’s like packing a handgun anywhere you want to go. The second guy’s face was brown with dirt and he brought in a bunch of empty cans and bottles for redemption. I thought about hanging around until he was gone for Cathy’s benefit, but then the guy would have been suspicious of me. So I simply left and came home. It is Labor Day weekend, so not much is going on. I guzzled down my Snapple tea to pick myself up. Aesop gets his breakfast at eight thirty. Overall, it doesn’t feel like God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world, even though there is church at ten o’clock today. Outside there’s not a breath of air, and it hasn’t rained since June. I can hear the sound of crows in the neighborhood. But mentally I feel pretty good: no delusions or hallucinations that I can notice. Why is it that the world is on the downswing while I’m doing better? It just feels like a sort of irony. 

Jiva and Ajiva

Seven ten.

The sky is pinkish brown from wildfire smoke. Yesterday afternoon I revisited a place on the web that serves as support for people with schizophrenia. But now, the appeal of this site has diminished for me because I don’t want to identify myself as mentally ill. Rather, schizophrenia is just an accidental attribute and not a definition for myself. If it’s true that the essence of any human being is freely created by himself, then why choose to mortify your own spirit? Even if I choose images from the zodiac for my nature, it’s still me who does the choosing. The one who esteems and assigns value is always oneself. It isn’t something external. We determine our identities and design our own fates through self expression. In the beginning is freedom of the will.

Eight forty. I’ve been over to the market and back again and seen a few people this morning. Suk worked the store himself because Heather went to a convention of beauticians in Washington DC. He said he’d like to see more customers in the morning because it makes the time go faster. I caught myself buying more food than usual due to increased appetite from my med. So I began to ponder selfhood and the issue of freedom: just what is the soul in its purity? It seems that part of behavior is material, like karmic particles stuck to the life principle, the monad, the soul. But you don’t have to be a slave to physics; you can override it as long as you are self aware. Across all philosophies, it appears that the individual soul is entirely responsible for its destiny by choosing certain actions, good or bad… I dreamed about my brother and a nephew last night, both of whom have serious problems with addiction. I only wish they could see the light and take care of themselves. The key to their liberation could be forgiveness. 

Matter of Perspective

Quarter after eight.

It can be over a month before Risperdal takes full effect, so I should just be patient and a bit sympathetic with myself. I had my morning Snapple tea for my caffeine buzz and I’m feeling better. I didn’t see Michelle today; Suk held down the fort himself. There were quite a few customers, and also a small beer distributor for a product called Boneyard Beer. I saw a few Mexican guys and some blond woman who was obnoxious for saying excuse me— or was it thank you? Aesop is whining for his breakfast. I texted Rebecca about this week’s developments a few minutes ago… The funny thing about different brands of beer is that they all have the same active ingredient: ethanol. No matter how unique they say their product is, they all just get you drunk.

I guess I’m going to church this Sunday to participate in the service. My mind keeps playing the same Yes song, “Awaken.” I shared it with Pastor and he said he liked it when he emailed me yesterday evening. He even researched it a bit for some background information on its composition, particularly the lyric. I suppose I was way off when I compared it to Keats. It is different when you engage with the text alone from digging for historical and biographical contexts. Maybe there’s no wrong interpretation of a work of art. So, to my mind, this Yes song may always be like Endymion or “Ode to a Nightingale.” …The air quality outside is getting even smokier, clotting the blue sky and changing the color of the sun. For a moment I forgot about the trouble with my medication. Everything is the same when I don’t think about what drug I’m taking. Or maybe music and poetry comprise a drug in themselves, one that’s nontoxic and good for the soul. 

Promises, Promises

Seven forty.

I got up at four o’clock this morning for a bit and was so sedated that my vision was double. Dunno how I feel right now, but at least I can focus my eyes. Maybe it was more than the sedation; maybe I was under a lot of stress from the salon people. But after this morning I can go back to being myself again… I just fed Aesop. The air outside looks smoky. Can we ever predict how a day will go? Some things we can infer from day to day, for instance that there will be a tomorrow. But really, nothing is a given, and nothing is promised. Sometimes the memories of my childhood are quite clear, but others they only tease the edge of my mind. When I was three years old, my parents used to take me to the Barbecue Pit in Salem for roast beef sandwiches and a side of spaghetti. Then one day during the summer of 1997, my dad and I took a trip up to Portland, stopping for lunch at the same place. It seemed that nothing had changed since 1970. I think Dad was feeding his nostalgia for a time when he had a big shot job at the State Capitol.

Nine twenty five. He was probably dreaming of what might have been had his job continued, or just regretting that it didn’t… “Gaze into your omphalos.” Dad seems like a stranger to me now, just another person who used to be in the world. Or maybe I’ve switched off my feelings towards him? I know there’s a reason why I think of him whenever September comes around. It’s also going to be Labor Day this weekend, which was once fatal for my sobriety. There are so many people from the past that I miss today. Chemistry is an odd thing, pushing and pulling us together and apart. Even the strongest ties can become frail and eventually break.

Eleven ten.

I got my haircut done. I didn’t hear any very interesting conversation; just cliches about So and So being selfish and unchristian, when the accusers hadn’t read the Bible at all nor understood the sermons in church. The only hint of selflessness by Jesus is his sacrifice of his own life to redeem all of humankind for our sins. He never said to be unselfish; he only commanded us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves… At the market I stood behind a Black guy who compulsively checked his card balance but then didn’t buy anything from Michelle. She told me later that he always does that. I fell in behind him on the sidewalk going home, and he was still obsessing about his card. He probably had OCD or something close to it. There are a million of us like that. And all the street can offer you is a lesson out of the New Testament, sprouting up the Word from the ashy gray landscape as a forlorn hope, not to say a promise. 

Oxymorons

Eleven o’clock.

Well now I’m getting lonely for someone to talk to. I had my lunch already because I was ravenous as a side effect of my medication. I’m also kind of dopey from the same thing. Maybe I’ll make another trip to the store just to see some people today. “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do…” There’s nothing on my slate really until church on Sunday. Some people charge their battery by spending time alone, but I’m just the opposite. It might be okay to read a book, however. Goethe sounds good right now. Maybe it will inspire me with a new idea.

Four fifty. I went to see Karen about getting a haircut tomorrow morning. She caught me up on what has been going on in her world. It sounds like some of her former employees have stabbed her in the back and been dishonest with her. I don’t want to be involved in any cat fights among these people; I only wanted to get a haircut. The stories I’m hearing are all very irrational and even crazy, and they would be avoidable if those people used more sense… I guess that’s why I usually stay away from the salon these days. I really don’t like insanity. Perhaps this makes me a walking oxymoron, to be a schizophrenic person with a great deal of reason and sense. It is a paradox. But it’s sad to see others who are less fortunate struggling to keep afloat on tides of lunacy and heartbreak, clinging to a spiritual life preserver that is not watertight, repeating the same mistakes and bad decisions time and again.

Six thirty. At the store, the radio was playing “One,” the same song I quoted earlier today, as by a fluke of meaningful coincidence; but which was it, fluky or meaningful? Maybe it depends on what you pay attention to. Human experience is full of maybes, but also little miracles if you are watchful for them. Someday this house of cards may collapse to expose the City of God that dwells in and behind it, of which we’d only caught glimpses in the cracks before. 

Death Is Nothing

Noon.

I feel really good today from the switch in medication, and it’s even better because the change was my decision alone. I had a nice little excursion to the agency to see Misty. She talked me into returning to DDA group, so I’ll see them again in two weeks from Thursday. Actually, it didn’t take much talking. The incidence of COVID-19 has been insane lately; I’ve heard about more and more cases from people I know. I’m finally beginning to think, What if I caught the virus myself? But still I won’t let it get me down. I don’t have much of a life, so I should go for broke and do everything I can. It’s great that I feel so much better now. Everybody ought to feel as good as I do right now. The psychology of the pandemic is a very strange thing. We get to see what human beings are really made of now that we are so tested. And it reminds me of the book by Nevil Shute again, On the Beach, about how people respond to the fallout after nuclear war. Basically, they choose to live life to the hilt while they still can. I think it’s up to us to live up to a book like this and prove ourselves worthy. So far I’ve seen more of cowardice and depression than anything else from people in general. The worst that can happen is you die, and then everything goes black forever; a dreamless sleep from which you don’t awake. People ought to read their Lucretius on not fearing death, for death is nothing to us. It is nothing, therefore there’s nothing to fear after it. Thus reinforced, we should be able to do some good and maybe turn this ship around… I don’t think my church would agree with the Epicurean point of view, but really it’s tough luck if they feel that way. His philosophy, if you are open minded, makes excellent sense. Over the centuries since his time, Christians have blackened his reputation by calling him a hedonist, but what motivated it was his denial of the afterlife. This is a big stumbling block for most people who want to live forever, but they need to grow out of their greed for eternal life, and while they are here, live for today. 

An Old Tortoise

Seven o’clock.

The store was quite busy even though it was so early in the morning. I had on my “sapphire” hoodie with the hood up and I moved like an old tortoise at the checkout counter, so Michelle scrambled to help other customers at the adjacent register. The daylight was just barely coming and the streetlights were still on, and now it’s a gray overcast. A guy from Derek’s house pulled out of the driveway and passed me by on N Park Avenue, and I automatically thought of the “ghost” truck with a white supremacist message. If you didn’t learn anything in seventh grade social studies, then you never will. I have no sympathy for such people… I paid cash for Aesop’s Milk Bones and peanut butter treat. On the whole trip I took my time, scuffling up and down the pavements and defying the breakneck pace of this world, daring it to act as it thinks. Probably I looked like old Father Time hobbling along in blue clothing and scoffing at people. But no; actually I was just a poor disabled guy walking invisible on the quiet streets of the suburbs, unseen and ineffectual.