Quarter after eight.
I totally forgot to buy dog food this morning. Shame on me! So I’ll give Aesop part of my own lunch today. The ground is wet from the overnight rain. Kat waved to me from her living room as I walked past her house. Last night, for some reason I remembered things that happened three years ago, when I was a client at P—. Everybody was such a robot who worked there, or a puppet on strings. In the lobby downstairs I would wait for my taxi when I was done, with a view of the breezeway to the hospital. Some days were better than others, though I often felt judged by the therapists. The nicest person I met there was a guy named D— who had an idea for how to clarify the language. Basically he would purge everything poetic and make it plain and literal, sort of like logical positivism. He was very kind and humorous but troubled. I liked him… I let Aesop know what his breakfast will be today, and now we’re counting down the minutes.
Nine ten. I don’t make a contest of things like I used to. There’s no sense in competition with others. My brother even made a Darwinian thing out of singing karaoke at a local bar, which missed the point completely. I think the best feeling you can have is freedom from guilt and shame that usually result from condemnation by other humans. If you can be remorseless consistently then your life will be carefree… or maybe not. At least we can try to create an earthly paradise for each other, so that heaven is other people.
Wee hours Wednesday.
I have a rather stupid song playing in my head, called “Jenny,” a cheap imitation of “Message in a Bottle” by The Police that got airplay in 1981. Forty years ago is a very long time. I guess I was feeling sort of bitter all day yesterday because of how my doctor appointment went: just strange and awkward for some reason. And then I began to personalize the whole pandemic, saying it was all my fault that it was happening. Like I was the ultimate jinx on humanity. Also I felt guilty for doing pretty well in these times while many others are less fortunate. So yes of course I felt bitter and resentful for the way I was treated at the cancer institute. It was as if they blamed me for doing okay. My crime was simply to be a survivor, I guess. I feel the way I used to in grade school when we played dodgeball. I was good at avoiding being hit, but otherwise I was a lousy player. At least once I was the last one on my team still alive in the game, and the ones who were out shouted at me to forfeit so they could play again. I was just a useless piece of slack to them. So maybe that’s what I am in this pandemic as well, but hopefully my analogy isn’t true… In fall of 2008 I bought a copy of The Last Man by Mary Shelley because I had left my job and I felt lonely and alone in the world. I didn’t realize that my choice was prescient of a real pandemic that would hit us in another 12 years. It’s very odd the way things play out. And someday maybe one of us will indeed be the sole survivor and the true last man.
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.
Seven fifty five.
The clouds appear like molten iron in the east. History never repeats itself. Or not intentionally, like a sleeping Sphinx. The inside of my house is a wreck from negligence. Sometimes it bugs me, other times I can excuse it by some mental trick. The supervisor at my job accused me of doing only what I wanted to do. I resented him for saying that because he was a hypocrite moralist. Probably the one who judges me is myself. Occasionally I run into people who criticize… And sometimes history repeats itself.
Quarter after nine. Michelle said it was good to see me this morning. At eight forty, the store was quite busy with customers. I waited in line for a minute to check out. During that time I looked at myself on the surveillance screen above the sandwich display, wryly noting my male pattern baldness. It’s Monday and people were on break. A small part of me misses the job I had fifteen years in the past, but there was nothing beautiful about labor. Only when Supertramp came on the radio was I pleased, and then I regretted that I hadn’t the time to make music myself.
Today I ought to have plenty of time to soak up some nice French poetry and meditate on the Ideal. Out of the industrial litter of ashes, butts, gravel, and fast food debris rises the full moon, enormous and red, close enough to touch. It’s hard to see the moon when you’re on a hamster wheel, reliving the same day, day after day. Once in the springtime years ago I saw a young student on the campus smelling the flowers. At the time, I sort of judged him for a weirdo. Now I think he was brilliant.
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.”
Band practice yesterday afternoon went very well. Mike bought us an ambient microphone for smartphone so now we can record our sessions. It works great. Listening again to our opening jam in D minor, I thought to myself that the bass alone wouldn’t sound like much, but in the context of the drums and keyboards it makes sense… At three thirty I left the house with my kit bass in my grip. It was 48 degrees outside so I didn’t wear a jacket. I tried to clear my mental windscreen and just go and play music with the fellas. I encountered a few neighbors on the street, but kept on walking. When I got to B— Lane, Mike passed me in his truck and offered me a lift, but it was only a few minutes to his house so I declined…
Most of the clutter in my mind stems from guilt received from my case manager at Laurel Hill. It does me a lot more harm than good to feel so burdened by health professionals who do nothing but criticize me. It takes all the joy out of life to be browbeaten. I think I’ll start looking for an alternative to the agency because quite frankly I despise it. I only need someone to prescribe my medication— that’s all. They can keep their stupid advice.
Noon thirty. Trying to collect my thoughts. I still feel quite up in the air as far as the political transition. And then, Polly has an attitude about books and higher education that sometimes raises its ugly head. My response is to feel guilty, but I don’t believe it’s really my fault. I love books, and I have ever since I was about eight years old. Books form a kind of dividing line: you either love them or you hate them. They are just as symbolic as wearing glasses or having an egg head. In the end, you are what you are, and no bones about it… Dunno; should I feel bad for being a bibliophile? I think there’s no percentage in feeling guilty for anything, so I should heed my own lesson to others.
Quarter of three in the morning.
Now it finally occurs to me that Polly’s phobia of books is wrongheaded, or at least my love of books isn’t a bad thing. It is simply a difference in taste, but my sister’s opinion is absolute in her own mind. I wish she were more tolerant of the things she doesn’t understand. She tends to crucify people with an education, and maybe those who have more brainpower than herself. Somehow she can turn another person’s virtue into a vice. My whole family condemns intellectuals, but that still doesn’t make it wrong. At some point I have to stand up to them and say it’s not a crime to use your brain for something more than meat and potatoes. Indeed, I’ve done this already, and the family excommunicated me. But it’s been worthwhile to start my own blog and write out my ideas just for me. It’s a world of live and let live, of liberty and justice for all, and anyone who tries to deny another person his happiness has a serious problem.
Seven twenty five.
We’re getting a very hard rain this morning, for the first time this fall. You can barely see the daylight. Michelle should be the clerk at the store today. The darkness outside is actually very miserable and gloomy. I assume there’s church tonight, but I’m not looking forward to it. I always stumble over the block of Jesus. How can any human being be a demigod? Besides, I don’t feel like listening to sermons anymore. I want to accept the fact of mere existence and let that suffice.
Nine forty. Michelle was super nice this time. And as I was returning on Maxwell Road, Karen was just arriving at the salon. I waited for her while she opened the shop, then she gave me a chocolate donut. I also bought a green and yellow Duck face mask from her for five dollars. She wore a nice royal blue sweater. For my trip this morning, the rain stopped as if by providence. But there was a huge puddle at the intersection with Fremont I had to navigate. It’s the same thing every rainy season. The storm drain doesn’t work very well. I got myself a Pepsi today for a change. Tastes pretty good… The future promises to be complex, with a new set of associations in my mind. Family is usually difficult, though I’m still free to shut that door if necessary. The trick is the avoidance of guilt. It’s so easy for our feelings to get hurt. Relationships take work, but it seems like my family is particularly narrow minded and cold hearted. Prejudice is likely a function of ignorance. Whatever, I’ve had more than my share of guilt heaped on me over the years, until I vowed that it would stop. And yet the one piling it on was mostly myself. There is no telepathy. When the internal critic kicks on, it is only us berating ourselves. No one else really has the power to condemn you. When you grasp this truth, it’s the most liberating thing in the world.
I just gave the second copy of Bishop to Kim, who reported that she loves books. First I had put it in the book share, so I had to walk all the way back and retrieve it. But I think the volume has found a good home. Kim said she would cherish it. I also went to the market for a soda… Yesterday afternoon I had some thoughts about genetic fatalism, especially expressed from my dad’s side. Maybe my half siblings are right about how I resemble him. But even so, I can’t do anything to change it. I believe that I possess my dad’s willpower over things like addiction. He was able to stop smoking by sheer effort of will. I know it does no good to condemn the traits I inherited from him. People can throw a Bible at them, but feeling guilty doesn’t eradicate them. Why repent what you cannot change? Instead, just get on with life. We’ve evolved beyond throwing stones at people who are different… The weather today is partly sunny and more temperate than the last two days. Possibly the best ideology is no ideology at all.
I know I’m lazy. If there’s no incentive to work and if I’m comfortable, then I won’t bother with it. The house is paid for and I make do on $803 per month. As long as I don’t feel guilty, I’m in good shape. D— said that some people would judge me, but he was speaking for himself. Our last meetup was quite strange. Neither one of us was feeling well. He had a flu bug and I was psychotic. But I stood my ground with him and he sort of wilted. The most important thing, no matter what happens, is not to drink. In my experience, feeling guilty is a recipe for any kind of behavioral havoc. I consider toxic any person or situation that plays on guilt feelings. I just avoid putting myself in those positions. My brother wallows in guilt and alcoholism, each feeding the other in a loop. Oh well… Aesop slept in this morning. I heard him breathing rhythmically, sound asleep. I went to the store for a few things and chatted with Michelle. Putting on a face mask is like a brassiere for the nose, or so it seems to me.
Quarter after ten. Aesop just had his breakfast. We have a daily routine that he depends on. I’m thankful that I can afford snacks for him nowadays. Maybe again today I’ll listen to Permanent Waves. I could email Mark just for fun. The fireworks last night weren’t too bothersome with the new storm windows. I explained to Aesop how some people like to make noise, and this was normal. By ten thirty or so, they stopped. I walked past the blast marks on the street this morning, black and brown skids of gunpowder. Right now the sun is trying to come out. It could be a good Independence Day.