Five o’clock in the morning.
I woke up an hour ago and it seemed I was done sleeping for the night. It’s about time again to call my sister on the phone. Still I have this feeling of my privacy being invaded, my heart ripped out of my chest and diced to pieces. It feels cold in the house: suitable for a martyr… Finally I see the sun rising in the colorless east. I hear the calls of a few birds. In ten minutes, Michelle will open the store on another business day and obediently I will go buy some things. “Man is born free and he is everywhere in chains.”
Six thirty five. Of course, since it’s so early, there was no one out on the street. Only two other customers at the market. My pen pal hasn’t written me yet. It’s weird to have a cold day in July, but then I look forward to the fall. Hopefully the music venues will be open and my band can gig. The thought of society weighs heavy on my mind, and not as a desirable thing. I’m not like Pastor Dan, who argues for the rights of the collective whole; for me, it’s the individual that matters. It’s okay with me to be the black sheep of the fold, or better yet, consider me gone. The world seems slow to wake up this morning. If I said I want to go home, would anybody understand my meaning? It’s kind of like looking for Mercy Street in a dream: not there. Seeking high and low for Eldorado. Arcadia, the lost and last remains of the Golden Age. Life after the lapse isn’t much fun, and the freedom I believed I had was an illusion… But life goes on anyway. Maybe the stoic solution is all right for me. Whatever gets you out of bed in the morning. It’s not that people are bad. I just can’t grasp how the monster of civilization got out of human hands, assuming a life of its own.
Seven thirty. The furnace turned on for a minute. Still no word from my correspondent in Texas. And a new thought presents itself to me:
Perhaps the cage is really a cocoon.
I’m watching the gray and citrine sunrise out of my front window. I got a pretty good sleep this time because I was very tired from the exertion yesterday. I’m also waiting to get an email from my Texas friend. The convenience store doesn’t open on Sundays until seven o’clock, so I’m basically twiddling my thumbs in the meantime. Like the guy in The Stranger by Camus, I’ve never cared for Sundays. In the days when I used to work, I even loathed Sunday because of the prospect of Monday morning. I was in a strange limbo back then, not daring to dream or think of being anything like a qualitative person. I remember one day on a weekend wanting to read some Lewis Carroll for the idea of being transported to a different reality by falling down the rabbit hole or going through the looking glass. But I denied myself this luxury because I had to stay focused on the material world, which seemed so alien to me, and so unpleasant, like wearing a hair shirt or something else to mortify the flesh. And the bondage was never ending, since every weekend was inevitably followed by another Monday. So anyway, on that day, when I thought of flying over the rainbow, I don’t remember what I did with the Lewis Carroll book. Perhaps I took it off the shelf and indulged myself in a little humanness, even though it was dangerous to do so.
Six thirty. Now the light of the sun hits objects in the living room, and rather than being a galley slave chained to my seat, I’ve passed permanently to Wonderland.
Quarter of three in the morning.
I wasn’t sleeping well tonight, so now I’m up for a while. Maybe now I’m done with trying to be Sigmund Freud, so it’s time to put myself back together. Recently I noticed some white whiskers in my beard, and together with my crow’s feet and worry lines I look rather old. It is very frustrating to grow older and feel so lonely and hollow inside. Either way, alone or with somebody, is a trade off as far as my freedom is concerned. I was never very good at compromise or even sharing with others. The worst that anyone could accuse me of is selfishness, but you know, my lifestyle might be enviable to some people. Remaining without commitments and responsibilities entails that I am comparatively free as the wind. I don’t have a wife to tell me I can’t play in a rock band. Has life passed me by, or is my maverick behavior paying off? I wish I could find a psychologist who is worthy of my case; but on the other hand, therapy is often more about the clinician than the client. I just don’t want to arrive at my deathbed with the regret that I missed something.
Quarter after seven.
I believe my appointment with Rebecca is at eleven o’clock, and then I have one with Heidi at two o’clock. Maybe I should be more trusting of people; and also I could try to keep relativity of perception in mind when I have disagreements with them. How can anyone’s vision be absolute? And yet I consider myself very realistic and accurate. I guess I just don’t get along with people very well. Sometimes it sounds good to think of drowning my perceptions with a 12 pack of my favorite beer. To drink from the River of Forgetfulness would be a great pleasure; but when you think about it, existence in the world is a sort of challenge, and to renounce it is to say you’re not up to it.
Living is a fight. Dying is when you lose the will to fight.
I feel like such a minority, yet there can be great satisfaction from a little victory here and there. My sister’s opinions are very narrow and exclusive; she even said that the walk with Christ is narrow. It reminds me of a Hawthorne tale: “The Celestial Railroad.” No one gets to heaven by the quick and easy way. But that’s just her opinion, and maybe heaven is overrated after all. Maybe there is no heaven anyway. It’s too difficult a problem for a person like me to puzzle out…
It’s supposed to be 88 degrees today. Damien is coming after three o’clock to help me get a window air conditioner. And during the wee hours I listened to the first disc of Romeo and Juliet: almost as sublime as that half case of beer. Now a different tune begins to play, an oldie by Queen called “Bicycle Race.”
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like
Quarter after five.
Life in recovery is an adventure. Nothing is ever predictable, so when I get dealt crappy cards on a given day, I just have to accept my feelings, however dark they may be. But the deck of cards is influenced by the ones I play, and sometimes it doesn’t get shuffled very well in order to randomize what I get. I still would like to read the Oration on the Dignity of Man, only about 35 pages. The nobility of humankind is a great theme for when you are depressed and need an inspirational boost to get through the day. I particularly don’t feel like genuflecting in abject humility to some higher power, so maybe DDA is not for me. Somewhere along the line I got off the track, probably last December with Laurel Hill. I’d rather just be myself. And would this be such a crime? Who really likes to be led through brainwashing programs that try to persuade you of your helplessness? I don’t believe this at all. Maybe I listened to too much Rush when I was growing up, but you could do a lot worse.
Quarter after six. I think I’m going to cancel my ride to DDA for Thursday afternoon. I’ve never been a fan of the Twelve Steps. By now I’ve had enough of that nonsense. It is just plain unhelpful to me towards recovery, and I’m not even sure I agree with the term “recovery.” I either drink or I don’t drink, and this is good enough. I’m sick of being told what to think and what to do, so now I’m taking the dice out of their hands. The best game in town is the one I create.
I went to the store super early because I judged that I was free to do so. As I was on my way down my street I heard Aesop barking and crying for some reason; maybe he thought this was unusual for me. There is free will and then there are expectations from others. I saw one Black man inside the market and another guy in a motorcycle helmet. At the checkout counter nothing was extraordinary. I bought four pounds of Dog Chow and two Snapple teas. Michelle might’ve been a little paranoid. Coming home I passed an older couple who greeted me good morning very cordially. Kat was just opening her garage door when I was rounding the corner and said hello. Rather stupidly I showed her the dog food and she said you can’t do without that. I never know what to say to Kat. Her values are probably quite conservative, but you never know until you break the ice, and then you’re taking a risk. People are often not what they appear to be. I have another neighbor who keeps his wife in a pumpkin shell, to allude to the old nursery rhyme, and I always feel so sad for her. She could be having a lot more fun with her life, and meanwhile the decades fly away like sand off the desert dunes. Life can be an open and generous thing, like a bird on the wing, if we only seize opportunities as they are offered. Life also can be deceptive, a thing of duplicity, so again appearance may not be reality.
Quarter of noon. A few minutes ago I poked through a box and pulled out an old copy of Wordsworth’s selected poems and prefaces. The brown spots of age couldn’t be avoided, but I still really love this book. When I read it the first time, my comprehension wasn’t very good, and getting through it was a struggle. And yet I think I absorbed much of it subconsciously. The year 1993 was an interesting one for me. That Christmas Eve, my dad gave me the complete ballet of The Firebird, which was a big thrill when I listened to it and The Song of the Nightingale… I can hear neighbors mowing the lawn in the sunshine. I feel a lot better than I did yesterday, and now I’m done with the vaccination. It does seem rather like an exercise in conformity, but I guess our government knew what was best for us. Aesop has fallen asleep at my feet. There are times when I wouldn’t mind owning a television, but the cost of cable tv is extortionate in my opinion. About twenty years ago, cable was the first expense I got rid of. And even if I had television, then Aesop wouldn’t be sleeping peacefully as he is right now. I guess the fewer the hooks I have in me the better. Reading poetry is not a hook. It is something I have control over, while tv tends to be the controller of what you see.
Two thirty. I wonder why alcohol and sex, or maybe sex, drugs, and rock and roll, all go together in a bundle. Thomas Hardy observed how drunkenness and sexuality and the way of the natural world all go hand in hand, at least in our culture. These things are the makings of fate, so how is it possible to remove yourself from the plan? I guess you just go to church or something else drastic. It seems to have worked for me, though I don’t know how. Doubtless it’s something cultural. A lot of people would refuse to do what I did. Probably even Hardy would’ve been reluctant to join something Christian— and that’s why his fatalism failed on me, and I discovered a new avenue to free will. I broke the spell of his Casterbridge novel by stepping outside of his world of Wessex— by going where the author himself wouldn’t go.
Quarter after four. Quite honestly I don’t see the point in going on with my life if I never find love. This makes me feel like a failure in life, probably because of all the love songs I heard growing up. Part of me would like to drink again. And yet alcohol is no solution to my depression. I feel really tired and rather hopeless. The conversation with my sister was good. Mike canceled our practice for tomorrow, but I can still go to church Sunday. And this will have to be enough for me.
Quarter of midnight. Now I feel a lot better. The symptoms from the vaccine have mostly gone away… I was thinking about the first therapist who treated me, and she must have believed that I was a pushover, a person with no backbone or masculinity. Or perhaps she just wanted me to be unhappy? I’ve met a few people like that: misery loves company. And then there are the people who shine happiness like the sun, and who are loved by everybody. Such a person is Heidi… I did the right thing to confront the people in charge of the PCA program, and to suggest going back to Square One with my case manager. I let myself be talked into some things that I don’t really agree with. The last thing I want is to compromise my own freedom. And there is truth in this quote: “Every man is the arbiter of his own virtues, but let no man prescribe for another man’s wellbeing.”
Quarter of nine.
I decided I would confront Rebecca on hiring a personal care attendant, so I sent her a text saying I wanted to talk about it some more before going further with the plan. I don’t know how she is going to respond, but it’s her own business. Likewise, my feelings are my business. It just seems like things have gotten out of hand since last fall. I’ve complied with other people when I should have asserted myself. I don’t like being pushed around…
I gave Aesop his breakfast. The weather is cloudy, and I felt a couple of sprinkles when I walked to the store. No rain is predicted, but that doesn’t mean anything in Oregon. My magnolia has a lot of unopened green buds and should bloom next month. Big white flowers. I kind of like the overcast days in May and June. Pleasant memories come back to me this time of year and lend optimism to the here and now. I never underestimate the importance of freedom in my personal life. It’s the whole Don Quixote theme again of knowing yourself and what you may be if you choose. And if your freedom is a crazy delusion, still your actions proceed from this belief in free will. In some noumenal and subjective way everyone is free to choose what they do.
Quarter of ten. Rebecca texted me back with a reasonable reply. No worries. I think today will be a good day for reading philosophy or maybe Cervantes.
Five twenty five.
It’s already getting light outside, yet the store doesn’t open until seven o’clock. I’ve put on my red hoodie for Pentecost today, whatever that is. Church is at ten. Band practice yesterday was interesting. Sobriety is definitely becoming an issue for the three of us, but I have no intention of falling off the wagon. For me, to drink is a death wish, a veritable suicide, and I believe I’m smart enough to make my life work out the way I desire. My sister said some things yesterday that were illogical, even absurd. She often keeps a double standard for herself and others, or maybe her codependency is insurmountable for her. It’s too bad she can’t be more selfish and do what’s good for her… The sprinklers just turned on in the backyard… Sometimes it’s hard to see our options for our circumstances. We feel painted into a corner, and no way out. The more extreme options don’t occur to us right away, like firing a psychiatrist or blowing off your family or joining a church. Yet these options were always available. Other people can put a great deal of pressure on you, but really the only decision maker is yourself. Right now I feel pressured by my case manager, so I need to say something to her about it before I feel desperate.
Six thirty. Looks like a cloudy day today. I don’t know the forecast, and that’s just as well. I think I’ll be prepared for any weather. Music: “Tea in the Sahara.”