Peace

Nine o’clock.

At the store, a guy showed up in a green Chevy truck decked out in a complete Santa costume and went in to give Heather a candy cane. Heather didn’t know this person from Adam. She was wearing headgear with two Christmas trees on springs. I bought a Coke and more than the usual treats for Aesop. My friend on WordPress gave me an Amazon Gift Card late last night that took me by surprise. I’m thinking I’ll get myself a new set of bass strings with the money. The church gig last night went pretty well for being under rehearsed. We’re not professionals and our church is small… A small miracle I’ve noticed is that my back pain is a lot better than it was a year ago. I tend to believe that the pains I’ve had since being on my medication were side effects that came and went. So I’m not as old as I’d thought. But the medication is indispensable because without it, my interior experience would be a living hell. Thanks to modern medicine I don’t have to suffer like that. Aesop and I are spending this day alone together, and that’s fine with me. It’ll be a time of peace and quiet to hear myself think. A day of shalom. Peace that passes understanding. Shanti

Eve of the Eve

Quarter of seven.

It should be a restful day today. For the moment, the rain is absent in the predawn darkness. Everyone was very kind to me last night at church, even when my amplifier had technical difficulties due to dust and dirt and I had to use Pastor’s all purpose Peavey. Tim gave me a padded vest for the winter and he also thought they could open up my amp to fix the problem. Perhaps some canned air would do the trick. I have nothing to lose by this because the amp cost me only a hundred dollars… I still can hear the sounds of the Holden Evening Prayer in my brain. The rain last night was insane, and more is forecast for today and tomorrow. But as they say, everything turns out for the best, or is that Panglossian optimism, to think that this is the best of all possible worlds? There are also people who say that life is worst for those who want to criticize it. They tend to be bibliophobic, but it’s no use arguing with idiots… The rain has started up again as the sun behind the clouds lights the sky by degrees. Before I got out of bed I was dreaming about the essays of Montaigne, full of contradictions from one to the next. I might have a look at his writing later today because I miss studying the Renaissance in school.

Eight twenty five.

The rain was actually pretty light and I could get by without using my umbrella. I like my new vest; it works well under my rain jacket. Aesop got two cookies and had one already. The day is low key so far. The rule of thumb for my life is persistence, whatever may happen, and curiosity keeps me going forward. And I try not to underestimate the importance of having good friends. 

The Absolute

Quarter after nine.

If I don’t play the bass with the church for Christmas Eve then I have no other gift to give them, or nothing else as valuable. My situation is like that of the Little Drummer Boy: “I have no gift to bring / Pa rum pa pum pum.” Vaguely my mind ponders the idea of the Word made flesh, the nativity scene with the Lord as a newborn baby, and the whole mystery of Christ. Four years ago I went for Christmas Eve worship and the turnout was very big. A beautiful young Croatian lady with glittering dark eyes and two boys almost as big as she was sat down in the pew behind me. Pastor was really in his element that night, very confident and officious, but also enjoying the moment. At the time, it was a new experience for me, so I didn’t criticize it so harshly, and moreover it was before I started the Vraylar medication. 

If the desire to believe is strong enough, can a group of people “drag the dream into existence?” Will reality yield to human fiction and make our wildest dreams come true? And then I remember the poem by Robert Frost, “Love and a Question”: the bridegroom wishes he knew the absolutely right thing to do; and this is the revelation that everyone craves. Because, human beings are a moral species and we seek the truth like characters in a drama in search of an author. Perhaps religion is itself a science of morals, which would be the supreme knowledge of nature; we want to know, like the bridegroom, what we ought to do. So we turn to the night sky, where the “stars expound our conscience,” in the words of the old Yes song. 

Exile

Quarter after ten.

Life is hard. Kim’s husband started drinking again after being sober for 16 years, so a person in recovery is never really safe. Today I feel like a humbug. I wish the holiday season would all just go away. Since Sunday morning I’ve morphed back to my normal self more or less. People can be very persuasive, but only if you allow them to be… I passed Willie and his dog Rosie on the street. He’s the guy with a booth at Saturday Market, a happy old hippie. He made a comment about smiling under a mask: how can you tell when someone does that?… Michelle said she was aggravated by the customer who had just left the store. He always gives her a hard time. Then she told me that she and her husband got talked into hosting a Christmas party at their house. She was far from enthusiastic. Sometimes people only want to relax and get away from everything. It’s unfortunate that society doesn’t give us any reprieves. If you do choose to opt out, you’ll probably be alone— which may not be so bad. Though I haven’t read Frankenstein in many years, I always remember the image of the monster fleeing across the arctic wastes to go and live in utter solitude. This is kind of like life with a mental illness. 

The Goose Is Getting Fat

Six fifty.

It was so dark outside that I couldn’t see where I was stepping, except in places where there was a streetlight. Yesterday the City of Eugene came to pick up the leaves from the curbside in my neighborhood, and Aesop barked at them while I was on my iPad with the therapist. Now there are spots on the street of leaf pulp that can be very slippery and perfidious in the darkness. Generally the streets are still wet from the showers yesterday all day. I bought Aesop a mixed pouch of chicken and beef jerky strips for 30 cents each and I got my Snapples 2 for $3. The pickings were rather slim for food for me but I never say anything about it. I see the twilight before sunup, mauve until it goes to gray a little later. Finally, in my mailbox I found a greeting card from Pastor Joe, a member of our church. I haven’t opened it yet, though I know it can’t be anything bad. I’m not in a hurry to do anything today…

The card says, “Wishing you a blessed Christmas. Rock on! With love, Pastor Joe.”

And out of doors, the official sunrise is only five minutes away. Through the gray shroud you can see it now anyway. My olfactory imagination recalls the scent of real Christmas trees. There’s nothing else I have to do today. 

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.