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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
I just missed the heavy rain. It was very windy while I was out walking to my usual haunts. Kim and Angela are managing business by themselves today; Karen is on a mini vacation until Thursday. The girls had the radio tuned to an eighties station rather than the oldies that Karen likes. I heard The Clash come on. Then I moved on to the store, where Vicki was in an okay mood. Cathy busied herself with unpacking foodstuffs.
Prior to my excursion, my sister called me and we chatted for an hour. She and her son are having their Thanksgiving with three other relatives at their house. I don’t have any plans of my own for the holiday. Usually my church has a public dinner, but this year it isn’t doable with the pandemic. Maybe I’ll take a food box from Laurel Hill this year. It’s rather strange that Polly didn’t invite me over, but then I’ve been unwelcome for Thanksgiving since 2007. It’s all right with me. Mixing with family would feel very awkward. After all, the only relative talking to me is Polly. She has to distort herself a bit in order to do this. But she can’t control the behavior of her family members. It’s all out of her hands. Whatever; she tries and does the best she can. I know that she’s a different person with me than she is with her own kin. As her brother, it’s always been kind of like that. Probably we’ll do something special for my birthday in January. I guess I am sort of a special case.
Ten o’clock. Vraylar tunes out the static and amplifies the human signal from out of a confusion of nonsense voices. Every person with schizophrenia has a human voice that wants to make a connection with other humans. The fortunate ones find a way to do this, while there are many unfortunates who don’t. They end up working in janitorial if they work at all, and hang out where they find a safe place. Some patients have nowhere to go. Their families turn them out on the streets and they have to survive alone. They are at high risk for substance abuse and addiction… A lot of this sounds like my own life, but I was always lucky enough to have a home, thanks to my parents. In the mental healthcare world I’ve met some professionals who were good, but also others who were frankly clueless and unhelpful. The very worst ones tried to incorporate quackery into their practice. The woo woo stuff is positively aggravating to any person with psychosis and religious delusions. Treatment must be kept in the immanent, the ordinary and everyday. I feel embarrassed for one or two providers who didn’t have their own feet on the ground… So, this holiday season, may we keep in mind the less fortunate mentally ill who have no family and nowhere to go for Christmas Eve dinner. There’s probably no other group of people more in need of advocacy and empowerment.