I rolled out of bed, sat down for a while, then walked to the store when there was enough daylight. Once there, I ran into Lisa and her daughter Olivia. Lisa bought a bunch of energy drinks and a Coke for her kid. At my turn to check out, I told Lisa the clerk that the sale priced beers on the table were a distraction for me. But she helped remind me that you lose everything as an alcoholic… At ten o’clock I have Gloria today. Thursday I’m going to the agency to see my med prescriber, a PNP named Todd I’ve known for four years, though I can’t believe how time flies. It’s also been that long since I had contact with my brother, whom the family has sort of ostracized. The only relative I talk to now is my sister, the family matriarch; but I’m always on the fringe of the gang, having a totally different set of values from them. I think it goes back to my dad, and my mother too. They cared about education and sophistication, whether or not they could be accused of snobbery. My dad was a peculiar kind of guy, with polished manners but many foibles. Both of my parents were hard to get to know, keeping to themselves in their safe little bubble. The rest of the family despised them.
But they gave me everything they had…
Again I feel tired and kind of lonely since talking with my sister on the phone. Sometimes we just don’t agree on much at all, and it wears me down. I had a different father from my siblings, which puts me on an island all by myself.
Quarter of three.
I was feeling low, so I needed to distract myself by doing something different. I played the bass for a bit and found myself picking out an old song by The Motels called “Only the Lonely.” I used harmonics for the synth chords, just simple diatonic fourths, and the bass line was easy enough. Presently I felt sad and pensive, remembering my mother’s own loneliness and need of a friend. When I was 16 I vowed to myself that I would be kind to Mom and be her buddy. The video by The Motels was often on MTV that autumn, causing me to stop and think, though a teenager’s thoughts are mostly nonverbal. At least mine were. And the emotions I felt were pain and pity even though the song was a little lugubrious.
Quarter after ten.
Ugh. I just got off the phone with my sister. She loves to talk family stuff but it leaves me cold. Why is family never there when you need it? My identity doesn’t depend on my family… The rain started again an hour ago. Aesop wasn’t happy that I used the phone. Neither was I. The broken harmonium ought to stay that way and I’ll go on my own path. Ancestry sucks. My other relatives hated my mother but I didn’t. It’s all a royal mess but I won’t budge on the subject of my mother. Again it sounds like Roger Zelazny’s Amber chronicles, in which none of the brothers and sisters trusts each other and they plot against each other with a view to ruling Amber themselves. It’s a fantasy series, but this detail about family is realistic. The thought of it takes me back to my high school sophomore year, long ago. The year I became an insomniac and when I caught mono during a trip to California. Now the rainy weather drags on for another long day. My neighbor’s yard service is making noise next door to me. If I had a magic wand, or a genie in a lamp to grant me a wish: if magic worked— I don’t even know what I’d ask for. Just to feel better for a day. Just for mercy.
Yes, a birthday today. The occasion brings to mind how I came to exist, or rather the one who bore me: I mean my mother of course. I tried to believe what they say in phenomenology, that I somehow determine my own being, but this is hyperbole or a just plain lie. So instead of this philosophy I moved back to Lucretius with his “nothing can be made from nothing.” Common sense says that every human is born by woman into the world; everybody has a mother. After a while, all of this reasoning becomes extraneous and illegitimate, but the problem still bugs me at an emotional level, or I still grieve for my mom unconsciously. Meanwhile I’m kind of forgetting what she was like the more time goes by, so it feels more mysterious. I think a lot of knowledge depends on what we can remember. I know some people don’t remember very much of anything for very long, so it’s easier for them to postulate nonsense stuff. It’s like the ones who claim the moon is made of cheese or the discoveries of nasa never happened.
Anyway, it is no leap of faith to believe I was born into this world by a woman named Gloria M— who married a man, Robert Graden, and so on and on. Again, my thinking is pretty flaky and ridiculous, like someone who’s read too much intellectual tripe that goes to his head. Probably the field of phenomenology is all bogus and a brainwashing waste of time.
Maybe philosophy is a thing that makes you feel better in times of adversity or pain? We use it for consolation. Or I should say not we but I. It can be a defense mechanism against my emotions— and right now my feelings are probably pretty difficult to sort out. I’ve pushed them down underground to be unaware of them.
Now I’ve turned my birthday into a problem rather than a cause for celebration and joy . If I did remember my mother better, then maybe I’d still be drinking heavily to blot it out.
But it’s been an okay day all in all. The morning sunshine was transformed to rain this afternoon and it continues even now. As I write, darkness is falling and the sky goes midnight blue. My neighbors across the street turned on Christmas lights one more time. I’m keeping my tree up till after tomorrow. Gloria was here and took me to Bi Mart to get food for Aesop. And I’m thinking of scrapping the kit bass I put together a few years ago. Maybe I’ll give up music entirely depending on what happens this year. The longer I live, the more I feel like the project of life is solitary and totally up to me. And maybe this is the prerogative I should have had for my whole life.
Maybe I really did have it but I didn’t choose it until now.
Nine ten AM.
My gaze wandered over to the beer cooler as I waited at checkout, but I believe working and drinking constitute a philosophy that many people live by. It’s a lifestyle I fortunately found my way out of. There are lifestyles and there is life itself: would you sacrifice the second in the interest of the first? Life is precious enough to preserve when the reaper stares you in the face. No shame is worth dying for. So my brother can have his mentality of capitalism while I explore other possibilities. I came home with my shopping bag full of food and drink for the day plus my dog’s jerky, and everyone is satisfied and even happy. “To question such good fortune, who am I?” From a song by Petula Clark I heard in childhood, before I could even talk… Family is an odd thing. I don’t know if I still resent my family or if I want to repair our relationship. I had planned on calling my sister today, but I guess there’s no hurry. During the small hours I heard music by Three Dog Night in my head, a souvenir of grade school. It’s a mystery.
Quarter of nine.
I’m done filling another journal with stream of consciousness thoughts. Reviewing it, I see a few thematic threads that repeat. One of them is my refusal to condemn my parents for their lifestyle of moderate alcoholism and belief in utilitarianism. I don’t think it’s right to denounce anyone for committing sins that you wouldn’t do. It was maybe two years ago when a peer from church disparaged thoughtless hedonism to me over coffee. Now I ponder what is so “thoughtless” about it. But his attitude affected me deeply for quite a while, so that I wanted to come to my parents’ defense… There was a service for Christmas last night but I decided not to go. I had my own sort of Santa Claus Christmas with my dog and we were happy enough. From around eleven yesterday morning it rained all day and night. Today the ground is still wet and it’s rather warm out. While I was at the store, Kathy walked in to say hi to Thomas, who was glad to have a slow day. Outdoors I saw a few people and we all greeted each other on this holiday. I didn’t miss anything last night. Everyone likes Santa Claus.
Quarter of nine.
Now I’ve got a red Christmas stocking to go with my ceramic tree. It was only $4.19 from the Bi Mart, where Gloria and I went after lunch yesterday at Lupita’s across the street. The weather was quite cheerless: wet and drizzly from dark gray skies, yet it couldn’t dampen the spirit of the coming holiday. Wonders never cease: my neighbors next door have decorated their front yard with white and blue lights. Usually I don’t decorate for Christmas either, but something is different about the season this year. My sister sent me a greeting card containing a message of hope for the New Year. A little later today I’ll give her a call. I’ve been wanting to read more of A Journey to the Center of the Earth, but reading a novel takes a different kind of concentration than something like philosophy, and sometimes I don’t feel very smart. I’m not sure what I was looking for in the first place, what kind of investigation I started. Maybe the answer will find me when I’m not searching for it. Today it’s still cloudy but I feel pretty good. Gloria has invited me for her family’s Christmas gathering, which makes me feel kind of special. Also she’ll be here again the day of Christmas Eve… At Bi Mart I always buy Aesop a little treat in addition to his dog food cans. The stocking can belong to him, filled with tasty snacks.
I slept in for a while. I’m putting off my road trip till noon or after that. Looking outside, it’s very foggy on my street. Today is the anniversary of my mother’s death. Lately I’ve been thinking about the year I played with the disco band. It turned into a nasty business for nasty people and I was wise enough to leave the situation. I cite Robert Fripp again in saying that if you love music you should stay out of the business. Just now I have old Genesis songs in my head from Selling England by the Pound, mostly because I miss my parents. I remember getting a bunch of Genesis CDs one day from Circuit City, where many of them were only ten bucks apiece. I liked the band better with Peter Gabriel. If I listened to The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway I’d get too emotional… I used to be very confident and cocky as a bass player but now I’m not so narcissistic. I’m happier being free to apply my knowledge. The sparrows are having a good time on my back porch: purely instinctive little birds, not like us. I reject psychodynamic theory and the unconscious. I don’t believe in fatalism as my dad did. The individual is an integrated whole, and free to choose among options from moment to moment.
You are what you believe.
As day wore on to evening, I had a backlash of conscience for having rejected pastor’s offer. And then my imagination compared the situation to a kind of father complex, like when Zeus defeated his father Cronus for control of the world. This idea has me wondering about the natural order of things. I remember a play by Ibsen, The Master Builder, whose theme was the fear of the coming generation by every parent. It’s a phenomenon in psychology called the Cronus complex, though there’s not a lot of information about it. My dad was very bad that way: doing his worst to keep me dependent on him so I couldn’t show him up and be better than he was. He even had a sign up in his office that read, “Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.” He was a sick man in that he competed with his children to keep them down: the very epitome of insecurity. The truth is that he wasn’t very smart or particularly talented in anything. After he died, my brother did the same stuff with me, fearing to be defeated somehow by me. It’s a wicked thing that happens in families. Jeff is 14 years older than me. I could swear that he cheered me on to drink myself to death; a terribly toxic person in my life, so now I have no respect for alcoholics.
Every life is the growth of a flower towards the sun: or maybe more like a tree. Unfortunately there are others who try to deny us the sunlight. I had a weird dream about my old psychiatrist: he had a following of his protégés, as if he were some godlike figure with his own school of thought. Eventually, in real life, I broke with him and set out on my own, sort of writing my way to existence. To independence, that is. Funny but he never encouraged me to write. He wanted to create a bunch of clones of himself, as my dream expresses.
Nine thirty AM.
I’m beginning to see some social friction growing for two places up and down Maxwell Road. For some reason, the customers that come to the little market in the morning have become rather rough. A different bunch is attracted to the business, and I’m liking it less and less when I have to go there for my daily groceries. Meanwhile, attitudes at my church are divided among the parish while the pastor keeps going his own way and screw the feedback. A lot can happen during a hiatus of three months. Irrelevantly, the song in my head is “Tango” by Igor Stravinsky. Or maybe not so off the wall, in that social life is like a dance; but it’s an apple cart that can be upset. I just called my sister but she was eating breakfast, so I suggested calling back in twenty minutes. For my walk this morning it rained, though it wasn’t heavy. I carried my umbrella without using it. I feel like I can negotiate almost anything, especially by the use of language to communicate with others. And yet, words can do as much harm as good, depending on time and place. It might be a weird kind of day today.
I’m now off the phone with my sister. It was a two hour rambling marathon, with her doing all the talking, going off on tangents infinitely, and I just saying uh huh a lot. In the meantime it’s begun to rain in heavy earnest. Thankfully I don’t have to go anywhere else today. At least for the rest of the day I have some free time; maybe from today until Sunday. Let it rain…