I finally got up after having a dream that refused to make sense. Now, Aesop is up as well. I’m quite convinced that he understands most of what I say to him. It would be odd and frustrating to comprehend language but be mute like a dog except for barking and whining. It looks like a cloudy day ahead. The sprinklers have turned on, startling Aesop, so I tell him this is normal and it happens every day now. The music in my head is poignant: “Long Ago Child” by Pat Metheny. I used to listen to New Chautauqua when I was a senior in college. In the summertime I felt very lonely, so I would go to the bookstores to hang out and try to meet people to talk with. There was just nothing to do during the summer, and no one seemed really interested in talking about abstract things. Everyone’s mind was on the matter, thus I would be very disappointed when I came home and read a book by myself or listened to music… The little market is open now. I could go buy some foodstuffs anytime, if I wanted… One remedy I’ve found for loneliness is the activity of writing. This is like Henry James, keeping himself company with thousands of pages of his own prose, but which he shared with the reading public, to his great acclaim. How would it feel to be awarded the Order of Merit and then be buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey? Did he still feel lonely or was he at last fulfilled? And do I really want to live a life like Henry James? Well, on certain days I don’t have much of a choice… Later today I’m going to DDA for a meeting. I’ll get to see a few people, and the most interesting ones are often the cabbies who drive me there and back. I think I’ll go buy a Snapple very soon, and take a look at the neighborhood around me.
Quarter of eight. Now there is sunshine through the heavy clouds. Michelle was distracted by her cell phone when I was checking out. As I was standing in line, I saw my image on the monitor and marked how stupid I looked: a bald guy of average height with poor posture and a clueless expression on his face. Just an intellectual geek caught on Candid Camera in a convenience store at seven in the morning. Otherwise I noticed nothing out of place. Crossing N. Park on my way home I thought again of Henry James, of his loneliness and the way he often went to dinner invitations to hear stories from which he could fashion new fictions. Music: “A Day in the Life.” Aesop looks at me and I tell him 49 minutes till his breakfast. It is good to be understood.
I kind of dread my appointment with Rebecca, though it’s not her fault. The problem stems from the other guys in the band, who wouldn’t understand why I need a personal care attendant to keep organized at home. The guys are a working class sort and probably want me to be one of them. The more I think it over, the more I see how this band is causing me grief. It started when I bought a new bass for myself, knowing that this was something my friends wouldn’t do, or approve of me doing. I suffered a great deal over my decision to buy this instrument. So now I’m beginning to think these guys are not worth the pain I go through on their account, yet it’s hard to know what to do. I realize that I’m taking responsibility for their feelings, which isn’t the right thing to do, according to cognitive therapy, although some philosophers disagree on this tenet. The point is for me to avoid depression and anxiety as a result of interaction with other people, thus the cognitive perspective is likely my best option. Of course I have the freedom to choose to leave the band if things get out of control. And then there is the issue of their substance abuse, while I’m trying to stay sober in their midst. Maybe the music profession is not what I might wish it to be. I feel myself being pulled apart by the attitudes of other people, their politics, and their personal opinions and backgrounds. It makes it very difficult just to be a person in this world, but there has to be a solution.
Seven twenty five. Today ought to be lighter duty than yesterday. Only my phone appointment with Heidi this afternoon. I want my Snapples, so I’ll get to the market pretty soon. I rescheduled with Rebecca yesterday because I just wasn’t feeling up for talking about hiring a helper. Late last night I texted with Mike for an hour. Today I just want to be myself, and with Heidi I can do exactly that.
Eight twenty. It was quite early, so I met with very few people out of the house. It’s sunny now, contrary to the weather forecast. I’m already looking forward to music this Saturday. I really like to play, to jam, to lock with the drummer and make a groove pocket. It’s nice when the barrier of language is overcome and the music takes over. I hope I feel up to it after my vaccination on Thursday… Michelle wore her pink Tom and Jerry shirt today, and the distributors were just arriving. There was nothing out of the ordinary this morning. I felt the urge to pretend that the past was similar to today, to sort of dwell in nostalgia, but I resisted this and walked in the door. The past has certainty to recommend it, whereas the present is still in the making— and I’m part of the creative process of history. Everyone is. It’s a scary responsibility… The forecast missed the mark, for it’s still clear blue sky. Nobody knows what the future holds.
Nine twenty five. Most people want to repeat pleasant experiences. When we get burned, we avoid the hot stove. Alcoholism is a pleasure dome, a Xanadu away from reality. And when you leave Eldorado, there’s no way back to the same bliss. The Golden Age is far behind us. We were expelled from Eden. All of these names refer to the same utopia.
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.
I’m just beginning to understand the difference between prosaic and poetic, and what poetry is supposed to do. It is something untaught in a book like Perrine’s Sound and Sense, a mere handbook of literary devices. The effect of poetry ought to be like that of intoxication either by liquor or very abstruse ideas. It should transport the reader to heaven and back again, or to the world of Platonic Ideals. Sometimes a dream does more than fulfill a wish: it unveils the reality beyond this shadowy illusion. A dream can be a poem, and a poem can be a dream.
My dog just jumped out of bed and trotted down the hallway to see what I’m up to. In a few minutes I have to take my medication to banish “false beliefs” and perceptions that aren’t true. Occasionally I think this judgment is an arbitrary call. Still, I take the pills dutifully every night to be responsible for my behavior. And it’s worth it to be able to play my music without the assault of religious delusions on the dark side.
When I was a junior in high school, I fell into quite a depression without knowing the clinical terminology for the condition. Now it seems to me that depression is a doorway to more severe mental illness, as well as to substance abuse. These things are colloquially known as “demons.” And after all, maybe certain kinds of music really are unhealthy for the soul. How can we guard against darkness and look instead for the sunshine?
Two o’clock. Some music simply strikes me as intrinsically beautiful. Right now I remember the sound of “It’s My Life” by Talk Talk, with the words, “Funny how I plowed myself an avenue…” Around the same time, I was reading an arabesque by Lovecraft full of fantastic images, such as being aboard ship on a transparent sea and peering down at the life on the ocean floor. And again, these things are not taught in a manual like Sound and Sense.
Quarter of noon.
The sun has come out, and the sky is half full of puffy white clouds. I’m trying to eliminate the layers of negative thoughts in my mind to promote confidence and happiness. Aesop is upset because he heard another dog barking outside. There are some other little noises around the neighborhood. I think Lenore is doing gardening next door, or just something in her backyard. I could criticize myself as a very disorganized person, lazy, hedonistic, and so on, but what’s the point in being depressed? Applying moral labels to experience doesn’t help me. I used to be good at defusing the bomb of guilt and just accepting myself as I am. Eventually things do get done, but for me they happen slowly. Now I will go down the hallway to play the bass for a bit while the sunshine increases, brightening the day.
Quarter after one. So I did that, while my mind speculated on the inner spiritual life as opposed to external nature. I found that I couldn’t rule out introverted experience. The sunlight comes and goes indifferently to the invisible world within, which is permanent. I feel the way maybe Goethe would, yet I still can’t write about it with conviction today. There’s too much pressure from the majority of people to believe in spooks, so of course I fight what is popular and trendy. Should I really take the spirit world literally? It has at least subsistence in the medium of language, but actual existence would be difficult to show. Feelings are one thing, and facts are another.
Some weird things happened to me after I worked at the agency, however. In September of 2009, my brother and I were watching college football together and drinking beer. The sports commentator said the Arizona State quarterback hadn’t thrown an interception all day. I told my brother that he was jinxing him. About three plays later he threw an interception. Jeff nodded credulously and said, “Jinx.”
Quarter of one. I recognize now that I was very delusional Sunday and yesterday. The devil has nothing to do with everyday life, so it was only my illness flaring up. Dealing with religious fanatics doesn’t help the situation at all.
Here I am at the cancer institute, waiting on the second floor. I don’t know how I feel right now; kind of washed out and not very awake. Definitely lonely for a friend. But I’m hopeful for the future. This year has only just started. I miss my old friends from four years ago.
Three forty. I was treated impersonally for my appointment. I waited in the exam room for 25 minutes, then the doctor spent only 2 minutes with me, and was obviously in a hurry to get out of there. Next, the scheduling desk person kept me waiting for five minutes while she jabbered on the phone. When my turn came, she didn’t want to bother the doctor for the approval on my next visit— so I stood there and forced her to do it. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Finally, in the breezeway of the building, I asked the attendant if Joann the oncology nurse still worked there. Her eyes got big and she shook her head slowly. Simultaneously my taxi showed up and it was time to go home.
Passing the marsh by the Delta Highway I saw out the window some large waterfowl, including a white crane with an S curve neck and some darker birds with huge wings. Also we drove alongside the old gravel quarry before you get to the Fred Meyer to the right of the Beltline. Observing these familiar sights, I thought of my parents and felt like the last man living on earth, and for a purpose I couldn’t fathom.
Eight thirty five.
Last night was strange. Aesop didn’t rest very well and everything was out of joint. Pastor’s daily email was political, which demonstrates to me how obsessed he is with the subject. Maybe I’ll stay home from church tomorrow. Instead of healing the division of the country, Pastor helps to fuel it even more. I only want to enjoy my life. Aesop has some kind of discomfort with his hindquarters, so I have to watch him for a while. As I said yesterday, I’m just sick and tired of everything. Today I’ll do what is expected of me and nothing more. Nothing really gives me pleasure anymore at the age of 54. So there’s no point in having even a Snapple tea or whatever.
Ten ten. I guess I’m just adapting to the changes since staying sober. I should give myself some space and not try to force things to happen. My mother is truly gone, so there’s no reason for me to keep doing the old stuff. It was nice to see Melissa this morning. Plus I stopped and said hello to Karen and Jessica. Kim will probably return in April. She had a rather gnarly surgery on her shoulder last month. And Angela has left her job with the salon. Everything changes, both outside and within. It’s hard for me to keep up with it. “You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone / For the times they are a changing.” …I did go ahead and had a Snapple tea and it was very good. Aesop is acting like he wants to be with me; he doesn’t like being on the floor by himself. He’s a very intelligent dog.
Eleven twenty. He let me know he wanted attention, so I petted him for a few minutes. There’s also a fly buzzing around the house, which bothers him. Beelzebub means “lord of the flies,” but Aesop wouldn’t care about that.
Eleven o’clock. I know that I’m a complete slob. The inside of my house is a pigsty, but without assistance I can’t do much about it. I can’t seem to organize my environment to make it habitable. Every therapist I’ve had has despaired and given up on me. It makes me feel so worthless and hopeless. But at least I don’t mistreat anybody. I hate cleaning and cooking chores, so I simply don’t do them. Probably I learned my behavior from observation of my mother, who always put pleasure before business when I was growing up. The older she got, the more her negligence and social withdrawal. If I had a limitless supply of money I could hire a housekeeper. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about what people will think of me. As it stands, my behavior is exactly like my mother’s. The only difference is that I don’t drink anymore, and I never have smoked cigarettes. And instead of doing crossword puzzles, I write my thoughts and post them to my blog. But the underlying principle of pleasure is the same for both of us. Would anyone want to judge me?
One twenty. The truth is that I’m disordered by the schizophrenia; I didn’t learn it anywhere. I tried to play the bass just now and it didn’t sound good to me, just a flurry of nonsense notes, noisy squirreling in the low frequencies. To play well, I really depend on the band being there for structure and organization. And forget about music composition. I couldn’t concentrate to do something like that. The illness pretty much blew away my ability to create music recordings. Yet still, in spite of this, I refuse to give up out of love for my late mother. I just need a context to plug my bass into. Nobody can live in a vacuum. We’re all symbiotic and dependent upon each other. Or maybe it’s only me who has this problem with organization and focus?
I guess I’m satisfied with the authenticity of my choices over the past few years. It isn’t like I made decisions for no reason. The bottom line is always sobriety and whatever promotes this condition. I was just poring over some editions of Mallarme on Amazon, considering a purchase, but then I remembered that he was probably not sober, and this would affect his poetry. Until now, with the rock band, I never worried about another person’s drinking behavior influencing me. It puts me in a difficult position.
Nine thirty. I feel so much better now. The day has a good vibe to it. Last night, Sandi said that the Wetlands Brew Pub on Garfield was packed with people who wanted to get out and socialize. Melissa just told me that Rick is going to try to open the deli today. What a relief this will be. I treated myself to a raspberry tea this morning because it felt right. Pastor’s sermon was rather gloomy, but I think people are getting tired of that stuff. I encouraged my pen pal to check out the books of John Muir and John James Audubon online. Also I offered to get Ron a new keyboard if he wanted. And Aesop seems pretty happy with his life today. All is better with the world. On second thought, I might have another look at the book of Mallarme’s poetry.