The morning is still benighted for two more hours, but even so, I might go to the store at opening time: six o’clock, and see Michelle. What makes a nice person nice and a mean person not nice? Michelle is made of sugar and spice, in accord with the old nursery rhyme. In colloquial French, the word for “nice” is sympathique; and “mean” is mechante. And the person who wears a frown is malheureuse. The rain is forecast to start again at noon today. It’s warm enough outside to go without a jacket. I think Aesop would probably like to get more chicken strips, so I’ll oblige him if they still have those. Pretty soon I will leave the house and just pretend there’s an invisible sun in the sky.
Six fifty five. I heard about Michelle’s weekend while I was at the store. More out of control stuff; her life seems quite unmanageable, so I hope she gets some help. Perhaps she’s been a little too nice and not assertive enough with the people who push her buttons. People generally talk about their “spiritual leader” nowadays, but I’m very skeptical of this, of course. No supernatural power is going to take control over your life and make everything better. It’s all up to you to take the wheel and drive your life like a car, with as many passengers as you wish. Even God can take a back seat if you must have one. I won’t go to hell for saying so, either… Now the sun pushes over the rim across the street from me, illuminating gray clouds. The gibbous moon was directly overhead when I went out an hour ago, accompanied by a few stars through an opening in the cloud canopy. Nature is enough.
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.
I suppose I’ll be in limbo for a long time, in the cracks between nothingness and being. I’m not sure of the motive for my intellectual quest, especially when the old canon of classics has been dismantled, dropped entirely, leaving nothing to replace it. In my head I hear archaic music from the forties, the era of big swing bands. One time thirty years ago, as I was passing by Gerlinger Hall on the sidewalk up on Campus in the evening, I heard the sounds of swing music through the windows of the second floor, and I knew that people were dancing to visions of the past. I felt half inclined to go inside and check it out, but I was very shy in my early twenties and continued on my way home. The University was such a cool place to be, yet ever since the illness I’ve felt exiled from what was so dear to me. I was seeing a psychologist who assumed I was “normal” but at the end of that year I passed into the hands of psychiatry, after which nothing was the same. My deepest resentments went to the English department for the terrible snobbery of faculty and staff, an attitude that alienated me from school forever. And now my reality is the psychiatric rehabilitation place and the church, these refuges for freaks and geeks. I found my way there by instinct since I fired my shrink, whose insults I wouldn’t tolerate anymore. The world can be a mean place. And really there’s no excuse for people to act that way, except to say that it is done, it is precedent from time out of mind. Thus it’s no wonder that I shrank from Mean Street and sought a softer way of treating each other. When life sucks, it really sucks, so it’s such a gift sometimes to go where Dickens is still observed.
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.
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.
Quarter of noon. The girls were very nice to me this morning, both at the store and the salon. At the red checkout counter, I paused a minute to just be there in the present. There were four of us in line, and Vicki called Cathy away from her unpacking tasks to man the other register. To me, it felt a little like old times, with the difference that I don’t drink anymore. In some ways, I’m still the same old guy as ever. I have more recall available to me as well. My entire life coalesces into coherent sense. At the salon, Angela said they love to have me drop in. Karen was on the phone making someone an appointment. The rain was rather light, thus I could manage the trip without using an umbrella. Just now, the rain is coming down more seriously; I timed my excursion about right. But who cares about getting caught in a little rain? My mother used to think it was a major disaster. I’m glad I’m not a child any longer.
The breakfast burrito was pretty good. Meanwhile the rain keeps coming down. I thought of human kindness, and how it’s universal. You can find it everywhere that there are people. My dog has changed. He enjoys affection from me now and loves to be petted. We didn’t use to have such a bond. It’s something new… As on every Tuesday, the Sanipac garbage truck is making the rounds. We are cozy inside the house and can’t ask for more.
Quarter after ten.
The possum under the house made a big racket early this morning. I missed some sleep because of it. At dawn, I slept in until nine thirty and then fed the dog. My walk to the store was rather difficult. I just felt tired and defeatist. What was the use? So I bought a two liter of Coke to pick myself up. I feel a little bit better now. Sometime between noon and four o’clock today, Damien is coming, so that’s something to look forward to. I wonder now if the key to human happiness might consist in generous acts. I should visit the salon more often than I do. Even if I feel awkward when I go there, still I ought to do it just because it gives someone pleasure. The Vraylar tends to put my thinking in Enlightenment mode, but as Wallace Stevens says, “It is not the reason that makes us happy or unhappy.” Perhaps all the knowledge in the world wouldn’t conduce to joy. Think of Odin, who possessed perfect wisdom, but for whom this was a woeful burden. The Father of the Gods was melancholy because he foresaw their own demise… Yet a little generosity and kindness can go a long way. And it takes my mind off of myself. Let us all share a Coke and a smile, on me.
Ten forty. I made my trip to the store. I saw Michelle, Cathy, and Suk. I passed Derek on my way there. The morning is overcast. Suddenly the thought of sociology intrigues me again with regard to this community. There’s a birdsong coming from the backyard. Cathy was busy with inventory, it looked like. Some kind of paperwork. There were only two customers in the store. Tonight is the church singing gig. I hope Lisa shows up, but we managed without her last time. Tomorrow I have to pick up a prescription at Bi Mart. I think of an old Queen song, “Somebody to Love,” and wonder how much people really feel it these days. Maybe everyone really does but dares not say it. Or maybe society has changed and grown colder. So that those old love songs are no longer relevant. They’re just background noise in the supermarkets and shopping malls, totally meaningless. Then what do people really value today?
Eleven forty. As if in answer, Karen rang me up and had a surprise for me. So I walked around the corner to see what was going on. Kim had gotten me a couple of fans for the house on hot days. Also, Gloria remembered me and wanted to say hi. The interior of the salon is all rearranged now. Karen’s desk is against a different wall. The atmosphere is light and airy with the new flooring. It looks great. And then Kim drove me home. Now the overcast has burned off and the sun is bright.
Noon hour. Now Charlie is here doing some cleanup with a wide broom. I imagine that it’s prep for the flooring. The weather is cloudy but supposed to rain again tonight. If I had to paste vicious labels on myself, the first would be sloth and the second, pride. Mental health professionals beat around the bush when it comes to moral issues, but I know what they want to say. They might as well say it, but I guess they’re afraid of lawsuits. I left my old psychiatrist because he said I looked like a bum, a homeless person living under a bridge. I didn’t know I had rights until a phone conversation with my health insurance. Dr T—‘s repeated insults hurt me so much that I didn’t want to talk to him anymore. When I realized that I didn’t have to put up with him, I fired him, though that might’ve been extreme. I sort of regret it now because I’m without a psychiatrist of his expertise… The rain started again, which proves that no one really knows. And the same for the psychiatrist. If I had it to do again, I’d probably do the same. I was looking for a softer way, nicer treatment from people. Was I right or wrong to desire that? The church assembly has never given me a hard time for anything at all. If anything, they treat me with respect because I’m really a pretty nice guy. Or maybe they treat everyone equally well. But when I walk into a therapy session I get the screws put to me. I’ve grown to be picky about the kind of treatment I get from people. Perhaps that’s okay. I can’t stand to be verbally abused. And for as long as I have the right to choose my company, I choose to go where people are decent. The rain is coming down hard and steady while Charlie continues his work. It’s a torrent just now. I have to go to the store eventually, but I’ll wait for a break. Aesop needs his canned food and I want something to eat and drink. The forecast says the rain will stop at three o’clock, yet the hourly chart changes hour by hour. No one ever really knows, so one might as well rely on his own wits.
Near eleven o’clock. I was just thinking about how my siblings and I are decent to everybody but each other. There’s probably something wrong with that. I know that James Joyce would have something to say; or maybe he’d agree that that’s the way of things. That is, all humanity is related like one big family, yet we don’t treat each other like it. Family is supposed to be a support, and more; from family we are supposed to feel that we are loved and needed. I don’t know why my siblings and I hate each other with such a passion. It defies all logic and sense of what’s right. My thoughts were occasioned by the way I treat other people with disabilities with kindness. I can’t believe that my sister would do any differently, though my brother is questionable. But why is my own disability an exception to both of them? They always willfully believed that I faked schizophrenia in order to shirk work. But my illness is not one that shows outwardly, and that seems to be the confusion. If I don’t look sick, then I must not be sick. And it’s true that mental illness may never be regarded with the same compassion as a physical disease like cancer. This is because nobody likes the stigma of madness, and because people can’t discriminate the clinical from the moral. It’s inconceivable to them that the moral and psychological, the human, should be marred by disease. It’s the worst thing that could happen to a person. Therefore people deny it totally. So I guess that’s the situation with my family, so unfortunate for me but even more so for them to remain so ignorant.