Beyond Covid

Ten thirty at night.

I had a lonely day. It was like being a lone explorer in Antarctica, lost and forgotten where no other people exist. Is there such a thing as “social responsibility?” But when things are bad, everyone looks to themselves first. I’ve seen this happen at least four times in my lifetime. We are not at our best when things are their worst; it’s not like On the Beach, where the characters bravely make the most of their lives as they await certain death. It isn’t like a Sartre story or play, a chance to be a hero. Human nature is sniveling and cowardly except for a courageous few who endure whatever comes. It is to those brave and curious people that I dedicate this post. 



Eight thirty in the morning.

Two intellectuals have said that literature is always moral; they were Ralph Waldo Emerson and D.H. Lawrence. I would extend this to any written description of human affairs, like a sketch or even a blog post, though we don’t usually consider them literature. Perhaps the definition of literature is any writing that expresses a moral of some kind… Aesop hears a dog barking far away and feels upset; but I tell him that he doesn’t even know what the other dog is barking at. The sympathy of the canine world is like human society. Roger’s garage door just opened with a squeal, so I know he’s starting a project for today. Last night I thought of how my life was before the Vraylar kicked in and also I had a year of therapy. I was abused by superstition from 12 Step programs and my own religious delusions. In April four years ago I finally did something big for myself with the help of my neighbor next door… Today I can say with conviction that schizophrenia and Christianity do not mix.

Wee hours.

It was eight o’clock at night when I made the late decision to swap bridges on my blue Fender bass. The idea was to go for a more natural sound from the instrument, less grungy than the zinc piece of hardware I’d been using. So, undaunted, I went ahead and did that, but I can’t test the tone through the amplifier until a decent hour of the day. In the meantime, the bass is settling overnight. After I got the strings back on it, I tuned it up and played it a few minutes. I discovered a new chord with harmonics that sounds like Rush in “One Little Victory.” Basically it’s a clash of major and minor thirds, for a sound like instability. I like it.

Where There’s a Will

Quarter of nine.

Today I made it to the little store. The construction crew actually gave me an escort through the traffic and pylons. I saw another pedestrian ahead of me who avoided communication with the men and took his chances on his own. Both ways got us to the market okay. I think my virus is going away; I started feeling better yesterday afternoon. It’s a white overcast right now, with showers. I’ve had my almighty Snapple tea for the morning. If I read something, it’ll probably be Mark Twain again, because I want to finish that novel. I can’t think of anything intelligent to say just now, except that it’s better to approach your fears than to avoid them. Go forward and negotiate them even if the sign says road work ahead. When the rain is heavy, put on rain boots and splash right through big puddles. The only real obstacle to progress is fear. Go up to the troll and bicker with him; he’ll let you pass most of the time. There’s always a way. 

World without End

Quarter after six.

It’s been a good day, probably because I did something different this morning, got out and saw a different piece of the community. It gave me food for thought. It’s always cool to see young people gathered someplace and making conversation together. The future belongs to them, so of course they will make it happen. I was able to put aside my self pity for a while and kind of look around in awe and wonder at the workings of humankind, providing for a future that I probably won’t see very much of. People have sounded so hopeless about the pandemic, putting on sackcloth and sprinkling dirt in their hair, wailing and moaning; and then I see these teenagers meeting the challenge almost with nonchalance, either bravely or foolishly, but definitely heroically. It’s enough to make me spit at my own shadow or the cloud hanging over my head; who cares about the aches and pains of one person who is growing older when these youngsters are our saviors? So that’s what I see since my morning excursion to River Road today. We all could stand to be a little more courageous and not snivel at the difficulties we face. Life goes on because humanity goes on, building its new schools almost like the Jerusalem that never comes; as if we don’t really expect the world to ever end. 

Love and Fear

Wee hours before Tuesday.

I had a strange dream about presidential election, and it was related to my church. It isn’t clear who was the candidate for President, but it might have been myself. Whoever, I felt a very strong desire for something or someone, perhaps a woman I cared about. Yesterday evening I had another dream, about a crush I have on somebody I’ve known for a few years. It was a sweet little dream, so all hope is not dead. It contained a lot of water imagery, and it seemed she was teaching me to swim at some point. Toward the end, I ate black caviar on a tortilla chip with her… I often think, what would my life be like if I only had more balls, more masculine assertiveness than I do? It seems like sometimes you have to push the envelope of what’s acceptable in order to make any progress in your life, and move outside of your comfort zone, take some risks, and live dangerously until you win the prize. Even then, having a comfort zone can be a trap. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Not even fear of the devil should stand in the way of conquering happiness… Now I wonder what my parents were so afraid of, and why did they have to tyrannize over me the whole time they were alive? They had very little intelligence and hardly any generosity, hiding away with their television and cigarettes, doing no good to anybody. If they had looked at it from the worst case scenario they might have taken some heart, some courage to take the bull by the horns. They lived to be in their early seventies, but it’s more accurate to say they existed.

The root of all infirmity is fear. 

Courage or Corona?

Wee hours. I just updated my home page as long as I was awake. I don’t worry about insomnia because I know I’ll fall asleep when I’m exhausted. Eventually I pass out. I wrote a thoughtlessly vain email to my friend a few hours ago that I immediately regretted. So I pursued it with a brief apology… On my trip to Bi Mart yesterday noon, I took account of the incidence of face masks in the parking lot. The ratio was about 75:25 percent, masked to unmasked. I saw one woman whose attitude seemed a bit brazen with no mask. I paid four dollars for my Vraylar, a very far cry from the list price of over fourteen hundred. And now I remember why I opted to stay on SSI. Shawn was very grateful for my business. I’m grateful for Medicare. My brother used to envy my benefits so bitterly, to the point where I couldn’t listen to him anymore. So much of my break with my family is over money. They seem to think I’m a lucky golden boy who gets everything for nothing. But there’s no sense in arguing with them. The centerpiece of my nephew’s video library was a movie called Unforgiven. Nothing more need be said… I have a feeling that Mike will never want to play music with us again. The media keeps working the coronavirus thing for all it’s worth, scaring the shit out of paranoid people. I guess I’m one of those brazen people with no mask. To hell with it. Fear is unreasoning, and courage is rare.

Utopian Notes

Three thirty.

Aesop wanted to get up, so I complied. He had a drink of his water. A moment ago we both heard a strange sound outside. Aesop barked. It hasn’t been repeated. Now there is absolute silence except for the whir of an electric clock that used to belong to my mother. It keeps fairly accurate time. The furnace just kicked on, adding to the chorus.

I consider my life at this point and wonder why the particular circumstances of today. Why these friends, out of everyone I’ve ever known in my life? Was there a meaningful pattern guiding my steps? For some reason, I could never stop drinking under the care of Dr T. Only after I wandered away to the Lutheran church did the drinking cease.

The darkness and light of human nature depend on where you focus, and among whom. Heaven on earth is just as possible as the hell we give each other. The choice is up to us. I believed this idea even three years ago, when I was still drinking. Utopia begins as a state of mind. It grows into a reality when enough people share the same vision.

Humanity seems to be at a juncture where we can rearrange our thinking, and thereby, our reality.

Nervous Service

Five forty. We’re having a food pantry tomorrow, and I will go help out. But I still feel weird about Christian faith. In our culture, is it the only way to be a good person? Pastor proposes having a Zoom coffee hour after virtual service on Sunday. I don’t know. I feel uncomfortable right now. I’m inclined to go to bed and rest for a while. Maybe I’m a little scared of the virus. But many other people are more afraid than I am. Anyway, I gave my word that I would show up, and that’s that. Also I will send in a check to Our Redeemer next week. I feel a little tired. Anxious and distressed, I’m not sure why. Yet getting out of the house tomorrow is better than being shut in. I don’t feel very well… I’m torn between doing the right thing and doing the easy thing. The right thing is to help out my church. But it’s easier to stay home and read a book. Or just do nothing. I will do what I can.

Ten forty. I was just dreaming about abusing benzodiazepines. I was in my mother’s bed with my fist gripping the pill bottle. Dr T came down the hall and muttered something. I also dreamed that I was in the driver’s seat of a car parked at the roadside. It was night. My head was just inches away from being hit by cars passing in the right lane. I guess the message is that I don’t feel very safe. I’ve put myself in the path of danger. I admonished myself aloud, “Jeez Rob, you need to relax.” And it’s true. My body is tense like a coiled spring and my mind can find no peaceful place. It seems that in tough times there’s no substitute and no alibi, no ticket out. The only way out is through.

Step by Step

Eleven o’clock.

I had a donut at the salon and went to the store. Life seems almost normal despite the lockdown. The radio at the market was playing “Rooster” by Alice In Chains. A few times I stopped and told myself that this is reality. I’m supposed to call Todd in a half hour. Darcy was aware of the situation with Ride Source. So I get to have a phone appointment today. She said that Ride Source will be messed up for the next month. I’m beginning to wonder at the process of life. It seems there’s never a respite from the ups and downs. It’s a constant roller coaster, particularly to a sober person. The only nirvana is the delusion of being on drugs. My parents lived in this house as if it had been a safe haven from a world of chaos.

Quarter of one. Todd was concerned about my hemoglobin being elevated, so I called the office of my hematologist. They are working together on the concern right now. I don’t know what to think about that… I guess it indicates dehydration. Again it’s never a dull moment. The reprieve we’re all hoping for doesn’t come, and then we die. For many years, alcohol was my security blanket and shield from the hostile universe. Eventually it became just another item in the same menacing world. Now the force field has been deactivated and I’m a sitting duck. But so is everybody. We’re all in the same boat of danger and uncertainty. I can understand why people get addicted to things. We find a comfortable feeling and want to repeat it. When that comfort zone is used up, we seek another sensation. We don’t realize or admit that we are defenseless. In reality, we survive by our courage and our wits. The logic of the heart is our best weapon for staying alive. The brain can turn traitor on us, and then what do we do? Put one foot in front of the other…

Not for Wimps

Almost four o’clock. Charlie has left for the day and will be back in the morning. It’s been a good day, with sunshine and good vibes from people and a little music. I hazarded showing Dominic two of my blog posts. He looked rather stunned, and commented on their insightfulness. Said they touched him emotionally, and he envied me my ability. As we walked back to the agency from the hotel across the street, he seemed a little dazed. I spotted my taxi in the parking lot and knew I had to get going. Eric the cabbie was waiting for me in the lobby, but he said no sweat. We heard an obscure Rush track off of his cell phone on the way home: “Ghost of a Chance,” from 1991. Also a comparatively recent Bob Dylan song called “Trust Yourself.” On arrival at my house, Charlie was already working outside. He told me that my dog had been silent, and he feared that Aesop had escaped. But I checked and all good. I emailed my friend from where I sat on the loveseat with a view of the sunshine through the glass door. The temperature outside rose to above 50 degrees after a morning that had felt bitter cold. I guess I started the day off right with a liter of Coca-Cola. Dominic grew thoughtful after I told him I had resolved to be out of the closet with the schizophrenia. He thought I was being contrary with Dr T—, who had demanded secrecy about it. Said it was human nature to rebel. In truth, I believe it was more than that. I’ve never been good at keeping secrets, plus I wanted to score a few goals for people with mental illness; to show the world what we can do in spite of the curse and the terrible stigma of schizophrenia, bipolar, obsessive compulsive disorder, and so on. Mental illness is no place for wimps. So now Dominic has more to think about, as do you, dear reader.