Birthright

Quarter after nine.

Black Friday is like any other day to me. The neighborhood seems rather quiet today. Last night it rained and then quit by the time I got up. My financial situation is pretty tight right now, so it’s lucky that I don’t do anything for Christmas. I don’t know if I’m supposed to call my sister today or not, but I’m feeling kind of disinclined to do that. My family wrote me off for the holidays starting in 2007 because I refused to sell my house as my sister wished. She wanted me to bury the past with my parents and become one of her own family, but this would have meant sacrificing my education— as if that were even possible. Short of brain damage, the knowledge we learn is irreversible. My sister has this illogical quirk of wishing to undo what is done and go back to when things were peachier, as she sees it. It’s impossible to turn back clock and calendar without a time machine or such a delusion when you get drunk or wasted on some drug. As for my house, there was no good reason to sell it. Polly just had some weird sentimental motives regarding it, really not taking my interests into account. Instead, she was thinking of herself. No surprise at all. And so I chose to keep my house, and forget ever celebrating the holidays with family after that. All families have strange dynamics, but it’s worse when a relative is seriously mentally ill. I consider it no great loss to spend Thanksgiving away from the family. It was worth it to keep a roof over my head and not be at the mercy of someone’s bad judgment. 

A Forecast

Quarter of eight.

The weekend has arrived at last, which means no appointments or phone calls. The skyline looks a bit like Neapolitan ice cream. I wonder what kind of Friday night other people had? Yesterday I wrote maybe ten pages in my journal, trying to get to the bottom of my feelings. Often my thoughts and behaviors are mysterious to me until I analyze them for the motives. Sometimes, it’s resentment that drives a course of thinking; it’s a reaction against someone for what they said. I can hold a grudge for a very long time, but perhaps this doesn’t produce the best ideas. It could be better to clean my slate and start from scratch. Now the view outside is blue and vanilla, the clouds whipped and fluffy. My red oak has littered the backyard with brown leaves. The air has a bite of chill to it, but there’s no rain this morning.

I speculate on my brother, and I question if my sister tells me everything she knows in our talks. Family dynamics and politics are always weird, and even worse when someone has schizophrenia or bipolar. I forecast another Thanksgiving spent alone or with my church. It’s okay, I’m used to that. I don’t even know my relatives anymore, except for my sister. The effect of mental illness on a family is like an atom bomb, but the one who suffers the most is the sick person. The holidays can be the worst time of year for us. By the way, I think the theories of Carl Jung by this time are very outdated. He didn’t really know anything about how to treat psychosis, so why do we still read his stuff? Meanwhile, there’s a box set of Richard Wright I might like to have. He was the Black American author who wrote Native Son. Too many Americans have heads in the sand about the plight of people of color. But fixing this situation is probably a long time coming. 

Unscrooged

Noonish.

The thought of the Christmas season came over me while I was eating lunch. Maybe I really have been a Judas for the past twenty years, and the best thing for me is to open my heart to my family and their concept of human life. Christmas is a big piece of that. Even my mother once celebrated the season, decorated the house with a tree, tinsel, lights, ornaments, and so on. At some point she grew jaded and sour and lost all faith, or perhaps she had never understood the reason for the tradition. My own Christmas spirit died when my mother passed away… or went underground and dormant. Maybe this year Christmas will come to my home again. And I’ll probably go to church tomorrow morning, though it’s not a church that my family would choose. In the end, it’s not an intellectual thing. 

It Conquers All

Quarter after five.

It’s a thin line between Christ and Freud, rational love and erotic love, as life shows me from time to time. I believe Karen is crazy about me, though usually I am blind to her feelings. I’ve seen it in the smirk on her face when she cuts my hair. Also in her boundless generosity to me that exceeds reason or common sense. Her salon is filled with messages of love, little proverbs pinned to the walls. Everyone needs love, even a tough minded guy like me. Amor vincit omnia. Love conquers all. Karen always offers me a donut when I walk in, never counting the cost. And yesterday after lunch she sent me home with a boxful of food to last me a few days. Whence springs this inexhaustible flow of loving and giving? It is a thing not to be known, but rather to be experienced. To love is to live. 

“Happy Holidays to a Great Neighbor”

Eight thirty.

I found a little surprise in my mailbox a bit ago: a holiday greeting card from my neighbor across the street, Victoria. She is the sister of Bonnie Rose, the youngest of three daughters. The note inside says thank you for always being so kind to me, and thinking of you. So then I headed for the store with a lighter step. I saw on N. Park not one or two, but three squirrels chasing each other in the spirit of fun. The sun had just barely risen behind the clouds. Michelle told me a little of what was going on with the deli next to the store. And the latter will be open for Christmas, as it is every year. When I saw Bonnie Rose approaching in her big black truck, I stepped to the left to let her pass and waved. Once inside again, I put Victoria’s card on top of the bookcase as a reminder that life is really pretty good. 

The Phone Rings

Quarter of ten.

It was odd to encounter no one on my daily walk except for Karen in her Chevy SUV. Even so, we didn’t speak to each other. She was just arriving at the salon an hour early to get some work done. The sky was very dark gray, yet luminous. Out of curiosity I threw a glance at the coffee shack: business seemed to be pretty good. I saw four cars in the drive thru. I know that Bonnie Rose goes there early every morning. I haven’t seen Derek or his daughters in a long time. They live in the maroon house on the corner where it’s a blind intersection. Across the street from him is Randy’s used car lot, with the cars being possibly stolen. It’s a part of the neighborhood fallen into disrepair and disrepute. Next to Derek is an olive duplex where I’ve heard some choice profanities occasionally… The phone rings and it’s Karen inviting me to lunch on Christmas Eve. Chinese food. I feel like a character out of Les Miserables. Quite disowned and dispossessed, like so many other people with mental illness… The phone rings again: Eileen from my health insurance is concerned about any falls I might’ve taken. Do I have a cane or walking stick? Yes, there’s one in my garage… And it occurs to me that a family needn’t be biological to be real and true. A light rain begins to fall from a solid white sky, and the sound reassures me. 

Second Thoughts on a Christmas Gift

Three thirty. I got through the lengthy digression in Victor Hugo, and I actually enjoyed the last part that goes more into philosophy of religion. Just as I was finishing up, a package came for Roxanne and Aesop. But the book for Roxanne contains some ideas that aren’t necessarily very Christian, so she may object to them. I think David Burns is probably an atheist, or else he couldn’t claim that absolutes do not exist in this universe, and that no one but yourself can criticize you. He also says that justice is only relative, and absolute justice doesn’t exist. This all points to godlessness, and this undercurrent runs through the whole book Feeling Good. A reader who is not wide awake might miss the inevitable implication of heresy. I think I’ll give her the book anyway, but I’ll warn her of its religious pitfalls. I’ve met more than one person who read this book and saw no incompatibility with Christianity, so maybe I’m splitting hairs and being pedantic. More likely, my instinct for coherence and consistency is able to compare and contrast ideas and isolate contradictions among them that other people simply won’t perceive. Therefore, I should give Roxanne the book and shut up. Call it a Merry Christmas and call it good. Hohoho! 

Getting Better

Seven twenty.

The dawn is coming up very rosy outside. I need to get Aesop some canned food this morning. We finished off the ice cream in one day. Recently, I went searching for the word origin of “church” and could find nothing… Okay, it derives from the Greek that means “Lord’s house.” I’d expected something different, like a collective of people, a community maybe. Interesting how embedded in the human psyche is the idea of God, but also the way it skips over some people… Another thought is the nature of schizophrenia, whether it can be considered a willful nonconformity or instead just a biological disease. Opinions will always be divided on mental illness. I suppose that religious indoctrination is not harmful for a person with schizophrenia, although I’ve resisted Christianity for almost twenty years… I guess I’ll go to the store now.

Nine o five. I finally learned that Vicki was let go from her job. It took two years for them to make this decision, and Deb sat in on the meeting. Now Michelle will be working five days a week at the market. I’m sort of glad, because I never knew what Vicki might say from one day to the next. Hurtful things, sometimes. Overall it looks like the little store is becoming more professional and conscientious about customer service. And that’s kind of a relief to me… I may or may not go sing carols with the church tomorrow afternoon. I’ll probably pass on the Christmas spirit this year. The hoopla of the season is not for me. As long as it’s optional, I will opt out. I don’t get the feeling that the church has ever understood schizophrenia, so maybe it’s time to reevaluate my situation. I don’t feel particularly guilty or ashamed for anything anymore, and I believe that consciousness is being raised in general regarding the mentally ill. I imagine time will tell. 

Thankful and a Little Wishful

Quarter of nine.

Thanksgiving Day has started out quite nicely. I bought Aesop a special treat of T bone snacks. The peppermint candy ice cream tempted me but I passed today. In the home stretch of my walk, I met with Bonnie Rose in her big black pickup truck. She rolled down the window and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. I wanted to ask her if she was the one who kept setting up my lawn sign, but there wasn’t time. It was a little like Beauty and the Beast as I trudged up the street in my sapphire hoodie with a full shopping bag. Or maybe Lady and the Tramp. I can remember when she was a young girl and my mother had just passed away, nineteen years ago. Her older sister played the piano and her younger sister shot hoops with their dad in the driveway. The parents divorced a few years back, and now the family of women keep more or less to themselves.

Quarter of ten. The other morning I spun the disc of Rush’s Power Windows and was impressed with their mid eighties sound. Hearing Geddy Lee play his Wal bass made me wish I had another bass with active electronics. Perhaps someday. I wish even more for opportunities to play with other musicians… What I’m thankful for today is my sobriety and the positive effects this has had on my relationships with people. My pen pal thanked me this morning for my kindness, and it’s nice to be perceived that way. I still believe that alcohol is the root of all evil, though I know madness can stem from other factors. It does seem that avoiding alcohol has a magical impact on my fortunes, the year 2020 with its strangeness notwithstanding. It’s miraculous alone that I stayed sober through the trials of this year. I think fleetingly of my parents: they could never have maintained sobriety for three years. Whatever helps me today, my parents had nothing to do with it. 

Black Monday

Noon hour. November is packed with memories for me. Sobriety is hard to keep up, but I think about what my financial situation would be like if I drank daily. A 12 pack of good beer goes for about $15 or more. I don’t think my liver can metabolize alcohol anymore. It’s the worst thing for my health. Addiction is a steamroller, and it doesn’t care whom it crushes. This afternoon I might go buy my usual Snapples… Suzanne had to delay writing to me this morning. People are preparing for the holiday, everyone except me. But my book of Sophocles is coming tomorrow.

Quarter of two. I’m at physical therapy right now. My mind is a blank…

Quarter of four. The idea of sociology returns to tease my brain again. Maybe it’s a higher function of human minds to obey the unwritten rules, to conform and cooperate with the group. On the other hand, there are always square pegs and misfits, and these people help to make life a diverse experience. The unity of a given culture is one thing, but diversity from individual to individual is also inevitable. Rousseau: “Man is born free, and he is everywhere in chains.” The social contract is not something that comes naturally to us. And yet I put on a face mask in public like everybody else. I suppose the most antisocial behavior is substance abuse, when you isolate yourself and get high. You disconnect with culture and create your own reality, totally out of touch with people. Maybe people constitute the common denominator, the bottom line. Thus sociology has a point. But I think I’ll re-examine Rousseau’s political philosophy, though I know he concludes with the necessity of the general will. We sacrifice our native freedoms in order to have a civilization. We go at the green signal and stop on the red. Or perhaps we do something different when no one else is around?