To Each Their Own

Eight thirty.

There’s no end in sight to these sunny days. I suppose you can get too much of a good thing. It was over a month ago when it last rained. I learned today that Heather is a fan of AA, so I didn’t have much to say about that. To each their own. Usually when I go in the store on weekends, she has the radio tuned to New Country music with its stifling Christian lyrics. But if it helps her, then in some sense it’s a good thing: the essence of Pragmatism. The truth of a belief resides in its results. Still, it’s hard for me to keep that point of view, as it clashes with the facts very often and challenges the definition of truth. The first time I heard a lecture on William James, I found it very idealistic and uplifting. But years later, when his ideas were forced on me, I resisted them like a cornered rat and refused them any validity. Maybe it’s just my nature to be perverse to some extent. When you think about it, not even a dog likes to be pushed into things… 

I just fed Aesop, speaking of dogs. Practice with the band is six hours away, and my old body, full of aches and pains, is hard to galvanize to action. The walk to Mike’s place is less than a mile from home; to church is give or take a mile, the same as going to Bi Mart. I can do it if there’s no big hurry to get there. I may huff and puff a bit and break into a mild sweat, but at least I arrive. I don’t know what kind of “belief” motivates me anymore. In the workplace long ago we got clobbered with the doctrine of “karma,” which only succeeded in making me feel guilty and paranoid all the time. I think I’m basically a utilitarian: I function on the Greatest Happiness principle. Whatever promotes general happiness must be good. 

Double Edge

Quarter after nine.

My neighbor Lenore went away and left her dog overnight. The dog isn’t happy about it, barking her displeasure with being deserted. I feel quite dysphoric this morning, just the general bad sensation of aging. I asked for ibuprofen at the store, but they only had acetaminophen, or naproxen for ten bucks. Much of life is balancing pleasures and pains, hopefully minimizing the latter. There’s no question of maximizing pleasure anymore except on rare days. Last night I thought of someone who used to be a clerk at the market maybe ten years ago or more, a redhead named Pam. I only remember that she liked ZZ Top and chili dogs with ketchup, but she was very nice to me. I was such a lush back then, but she never judged or criticized. I think the summertime is playing weird tricks on my mind, bringing old feelings to light. I was never really a saint, notwithstanding the years in the church. I just want to enjoy my life again, so perhaps the rock and roll has superseded my religious identity. Time will tell. There is plenty to be said for liberty, for simply being a natural human. Or is this just crazy?

Quarter after ten. Right now there’s no breeze outside; the air is as still as death. The neighbors are noisy, shouting and banging car doors. I think of my brother from many decades ago, driving a red Volkswagen van he named Barney. Nothing impeded him from taking a road tour across the United States and Canada, living life to the hilt. But he also often said, “Live by the sword, die by the sword,” which might serve as a warning to me today. 

Soliloquy at Night

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. 

Pumpkin Eaters

Seven o’clock.

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. 

High Fidelity

Midnight hour.

I must be going through a depression this year, especially since last month, around the time I bought my G&L bass and felt so divided and at war with myself. To be totally honest, I would have preferred to spend my stimulus payment on the American made G&L bass because I felt I really deserved it. If I get another chance at it then I’ll spring for it, and to hell with the other guys in the band. The take-home message is always the same: you ought to do what is right for yourself rather than trying to please other people. And this is the same old jam I used to find myself in when my life was more functional. The truth is that it’s impossible to make everyone else happy by your actions, and the only person you can really please is yourself. For this very reason, we should never do anything self harming to gain approval from others. Nobody’s worth it, no matter how they try to shame you.

One ten. I’m beginning to think I’m in a bad situation with this rock band. All we have in common is the music. None of our other values are the same. A friend once told me that I’d do better in a jazz fusion band, if such a thing can be found in this area. At least those musicians would be totally serious about making music. 

Self Management

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.” 

Sartre Says—

Ten o’clock. I can think of little else to say right now. This is Monday. I think I might call a taxi to get to the pharmacy today. It’ll be expensive but worth it to me. Lately I’ve been forgetting how important it is to enjoy life’s pleasures, and not let other things interfere with that experience. It is hard when I forecast disaster around every corner, the slings and arrows and the thousand natural shocks.

Noon hour. Now I’m back from Bi Mart, where I bought a new furnace filter and picked up my medications. I took a taxi both ways because it’s a low energy day for me. Meanwhile the sun has come out as the garbage trucks do their jobs. I feel kind of tired…

Three o’clock. I ordered the new English translation of Being and Nothingness because Sartre’s freedom and responsibility philosophy works for me better than anything else, and I’ve never read the entire book. Philosophy in general is more useful to me than religion or psychology, I guess because it’s founded on the principles of freedom and critical thinking and discussion. It’s an open ended inquiry with no limits, and everyone can participate. I hope to see a revival of philosophy someday soon since it is needed now more than ever… I don’t care for theories that bifurcate the self into conscious and subconscious components that fight each other for supremacy. Sartre rejects both “human nature” and the “unconscious mind,” eliminating all such primitive stuff that a lot of psychology thrives on. For him, there’s only the conscious perceiver, who thinks and acts freely within a certain facticity… For many years I gave in to the Freudian point of view, when it would’ve been more beneficial to use Sartre to steer by. 

Simplicity

Eleven twenty five.

I got a lot done this morning. Now Aesop has his flea medication; all I have to do is give it to him. It was overcast a while ago, but just now the sun is coming out and the sky is mostly clear. Nice to see the blue sky. In the old days I would drink it up and savor its beauty. Sometimes I wonder what Thomas Hardy would do with a problem like recovery. He was such a fatalist, but presented the idea brilliantly. I especially liked his writing because he challenged my position on free will so convincingly. It made me want to prove him wrong. I don’t know if that’s what I did or not. Recovery itself could be fated from a first cause, so Hardy would still be right. The Mayor of Casterbridge is one of the best books I ever read… It’s almost like magic how sobriety increases your fortunes. It used to be that I never had any money. My checking account was often overdrawn due to my alcoholism.

Three ten in the morning.

There isn’t much to say right now, but I happen to be up. I took my daily medications, thinking about my separation from the church. It seems to me that Pastor’s sermons messed with my mental health, and this went on for a long time. Finally I think I can just be myself. No ideologies are really needed to live by. I used to believe that Freud was my belief system, but now it’s not even that. I was right about Pastor being excessively political and sociological. This complicates the experience of life unnecessarily. I think I’m just a realist at this point. It’s like what happened to philosophy after the 19th Century: the decline and fall of the Absolute and the rise of the age of analysis. But even this is too cerebral. In the case of schizophrenia, all that is required is to take the medication. The rest is simply getting on with your life, and for me, music is all I want to do. 

Wednesday Moods

Quarter after eight. Michelle was cute this morning, with a cobalt blue T-shirt that said, “Well bless your heart!” We talked about the products of a regional food company: potato salad, summer sausage, dips, and so on are all good from this place. Aesop needed his canned food, so I looked for that and my usual stuff. The music by Chick Corea I heard the other night was very pretty, particularly the four slow songs I have in mind. Sometimes I really enjoy good jazz fusion. Unfortunately it’s a dying art, just not popular anymore as our culture grows increasingly primitive and selfish. No one has any time for beautiful things, time to unwind and be fully human. It’s kind of an Ayn Rand existence for us: always technical with no space for feelings and sensibility, as if we were slave to our own machine heads. In this regard I am very old school. The technocracy is running our legs off and will be the end of us. And to compensate for this state of affairs we defer all happiness to an afterlife that probably doesn’t exist. The job of a musician is to make people happy here and now, today. You get loose with a little wine and groove on the sound of music and maybe reflect a bit on the lyrics. What are we here for anyway if not for happiness? “It is not the reason that makes us happy or unhappy.” Still, we keep getting it backwards and make ourselves miserable, and life is pointless except for the desert oasis known as music.

Nine twenty five. The psychiatrist I left behind often quoted Freud on the two primary functions of humankind: to work and to love. But what music does sort of combines the two modes… My bass guitar will arrive this afternoon, between the noon hour and five o’clock. I feel excited but also a little nervous about the uncertainty when it comes: what might go wrong? I just hope the instrument isn’t damaged in shipping, and my dog is going to act berserk, barking his head off… The weather is still sunny and bright, though this Saturday it’s supposed to start raining. Tomorrow I have a follow up appointment with my primary care provider, which means a long taxi ride to Springfield again. But it’s okay; I sort of like Springfield sometimes. I miss my psychiatrist when I don’t think about it. I have to remind myself of my reasons for terminating with him four years ago. I feel as if I’d rebelled against a father figure, and done like Zeus to his father Cronus in classical mythology. Not only does he murder him, but he liberates his siblings who had been swallowed up before him. It is a powerful story of rebellion and independence, and the defeat of tyranny… 

No Surprise

Nine forty.

I just looked at the forecast for next week: sunny every day. Aesop is nosing through his dry food, playing with it. He wants water, so I tell him 18 minutes and he understands me. Today is cloudy but it isn’t dark like the wintertime. I’ve bought my two Snapples and things to eat for the day. I had some trouble keeping my bandanna on my face; the knot in back kept coming undone and I feared the whole thing would hit the ground. I stood in the parking lot farting with it until it was safe. The store offered two kinds of potato salad, one from the deli next door and the other one packaged by a larger company. I went with the latter because I knew it had sweet pickles and pimento. Melissa said she was looking forward to a nap after work. 

As I approached the parking lot from the sidewalk I thought of my old Scottish friend, a person with excellent common sense with whom I shared an interest in cognitive therapy ten years ago. During that time I ordered a book from a local shop called Tsunami on Willamette in the south part of town; the book was Cognitive Therapy of Schizophrenia. The same day I went to pick it up I realized that my heat pump had quit working. The outdoor unit crashed and I was without air conditioning after that. I was always penniless due to my alcoholism and couldn’t afford the repairs. So today, when I ran my card in the slider at checkout, it was no surprise that I had money. I think good things happen to people who don’t abuse substances, for whatever reason. It could be magical or maybe it’s simply natural, but either way it’s good.