Lion & Ox

Five ten.

Of course it’s still dark outdoors, but I was done sleeping for the night. I wrote something about memories and regrets before bedtime. I concluded that because I decided as I did, I am still alive, safe, and writing today. In other words, I made good decisions, so those regrets are useless. It’s sort of like Pollyanna or Pangloss, reasoning from what is optimistic, looking on the bright side, the glass half full. This made me feel better before I went to sleep… I reread my letter to a friend from yesterday and remembered how I felt at the time of composition. Not only were there no regrets, there was no guilt or shame whatsoever. I believe that being remorseless is the key to solving depression. And if a person wields guilt as a tool to manipulate you, then you should probably blow them off. Life is too short for feeling shame. The experience of pride is our ticket to joy… The “mild yoke” that Milton refers to is the yoke of shame, in my opinion. Under the burden of guilt, your whole perspective is darkened as long as it remains to plague you. Therefore it is desirable to liberate yourself from it.

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The Puppet Fish

Wee hours.

I got some sleep tonight but my dreams are a turmoil of political thoughts and controversy. The idea is like gravity, things being held down and together in coherence and sense and how this is lost. The contradiction is mostly internal, all within me. How do I feel about having a PCA to take care of me twice a week, and the answer is ambivalence, a perfect split down the middle. I feel both ways. However, I see the truth that, without help, my life is disorganized. And my resentment of the powers that be is actually irrational. Still, it’s hard to shake this feeling of having hooks in me, pulling me this way and that like some kind of puppet fish… At some point they will reel me in and bonk me over the head: game over. In the meantime it’s awfully difficult to sleep at night with these mixed paranoid feelings, the kindness of the government that can kill. Is there a difference between the government and a god? Victor Hugo believed so, with a different morality for each one. But the analysis of this is very complex and wearisome. It could be that I’ve won the lottery but I’m crushed under a huge burden of guilt. And as ever, guilt is my Achilles’ Heel. 

Waterloos

Six forty.

It’s supposed to be cooler today than the last two days: mid eighties. But I’m really enjoying some of these summer moments, appreciating what I have and what’s happened to me. It may be wrong to credit the invisible powers that be for this good fortune. Most people don’t see what I see, that is, a kind of providence intervening to take care of people, particularly the poor and underprivileged like me. Maybe there’s an element of cleverness in my situation today, of erring on the side of caution. I don’t know what it is but I’ve survived a lot of stuff and lived to write about it. My biggest Waterloo was alcohol addiction. Occasionally I still need a dose of social support to help maintain sobriety, and luckily the church has been there for me. Without it I might be sunk. And in turn, without sobriety, everything is lost… I learned from something I read how guilt can be a person’s Achilles’ Heel. Actually, it was an astrology report for myself, done online twelve years ago. It was very true. I wonder how many people can relate to guilt being a problem in their lives? How many would like to remedy this condition?

Goose and Gander

Quarter of ten.

Gloria is here, vacuuming the floors, while I just sit and enjoy my domesticity. I could feel guilty for being lazy but I manage to defuse that bomb somehow. There’s no percentage in feeling guilt or remorse, these emotions that serve no purpose and only destroy you. Earlier this morning I remembered something a professor said about Aristotle’s Ethics: basically the virtues of not being a couch potato, but keeping your mind active. I never did read the Ethics from cover to cover. Maybe I’ll do that and see exactly what Dr Zweig was talking about, and of course, what Aristotle said. I think his philosophy has been on my mind lately, whether it’s very relevant or not. Antiquity always has something important to teach people in the present day.

Eleven ten.

Things have settled into quiet now that Gloria has left for the day and I’ve let Aesop out of his little cell down the hall. I haven’t decided on church or no church tomorrow morning. It might be nice to stay home and rest. My mind was a jumble for most of the week from worrying what people think of my judgments and choices. But it really shouldn’t matter if others disagree with you. We do what’s right for us because no one else knows how we feel or experience reality. So, judge for yourself. And be eclectic with what you read or listen to. “Until you get there yourself / You’ll never really know.”

Nobody’s Perfect

Nine ten.

At the store, I confessed to Heather what a mess my house is on the inside and that I was really nervous about having a PCA come and help. She had some kind things to say and now I feel a little better about it. This morning is sunny and nice. Last week was pretty rough on me, from the time of the power outage on Monday morning. It seemed like something supernatural to me, an omen or some other divine intervention… Aesop is really whining for his breakfast, so I’d better feed him now… So anyway, it feels like doomsday is coming to my house very soon and I’m trying to avoid feelings of guilt and shame until this happens. Some people are more critical than others. Years ago my old psychiatrist and my sister judged me very harshly, and this made me curl up in a fetal position with my feelings. It’s really not worth it to feel so terrible at the hands of another person who is no more innocent than you are. Nobody is stainless in a moral way, so we should give each other a break. Who made the rules, anyway? Who says? 

Autopilot

Any kind of catnip would brighten my day, yet the responsibility for my mood is mine. If it’s not, then David Hume is right about causation or determinism. My dog now relies on routines rather than on his own wits. He’s on autopilot every day, not thinking of his next moves; not thinking at all. Living with him is possibly getting me down. Aesop used to be so bright and vivacious, but he’s fading at nine years old. He is just a creature of habit.

One ten.

I called Guitar Center regarding pickup installation. Their tech is out today but back tomorrow and Friday. I can’t think of anything very intelligent to say now, except follow what makes you feel happy. Could John Watson really turn a garbage man into a lawyer as he boasted? Is there no such thing as native talent? I’m still stuck on Mark Twain’s “Man Factory” idea. He was also unimpressed by musicians, from what I can tell. Emerson was a lot different about poetry and music, the things that take inspiration from the muses. The sun has come out. My maple and oak have lost all their leaves for the winter. I regret that the medication is so effective sometimes; at night I can’t even dream like a normal person. I think what I need is unconditional love from someone, or just to be forgiven my weaknesses. Then it occurs to me that my harshest critic is myself; so how does that happen? If I disable the guilt, will I feel better? Maybe we should all cut each other some slack, maybe bolster each other up for a change. I know one person I can go easier on right away. 

Reply to Sartre

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. 

Dodgeball / Mary Shelley

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. 

Words in Space

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. 

Flowers

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.