Quarter of nine.
It’s not going to rain today, though the overcast makes it very dark out. I’m sick of the food I buy at the market, so I think I’ll go to the grocery store today. Treat it as a voyage of discovery, and take my time. Figure things out as they come.
Ten thirty. I didn’t see much of anything interesting on my trek to the grocery store. The new house they’ve been building on Silver Lane is nearly completed. It was painted gray, just a mute and understated color to blend in with all the other drab houses. Unimpressive. It only shows that someone wasn’t thinking for herself. I bought three cans of Blue Buffalo dog food, some of it seasonal for Halloween and Christmas. Humbug! To a rational thinker, it really is. But it should be tasty for Aesop over the next six days. The bell ringers are getting ready to do their business in a few minutes. The shepherd and his flock. I feel like such a radical, but I’m merely following the dictates of my own reason. Would life be chaos if everybody did that? We would still need laws to maintain order. I had to throw away a moldy hunk of cheese, but the banana peppers are still good. Now I have my favorite bread, dry salami, and some honey ham. Carol, the cashier, was kind and let me have a bag for free. The walk wasn’t too much effort because the weather was mild. I’ve lived in this neighborhood since 1971 and seen a lot of turnover in the tenants. Many of them I still don’t know. Makes me feel rather lonely.
My suspicion is confirmed: there is a sociological component to schizophrenia. To be ill with it is to lose touch not only with reality but also with society. For convenience, let’s assume that there’s a collective soul of sorts, which we may call “God.” A person with schizophrenia has lost contact with this reality. Another way of saying this is that schizophrenia is nonconformity or even rebellion towards the trends that others take for granted. There really is a right way and a wrong way of doing things, in accordance with one’s social context. Or anyhow, this is my impression today. The factual accuracy of this observation remains to be substantiated… UPS just dropped off a package at my door, upsetting the dog and interrupting my whole train of thought. I was saying that schizophrenia is a sociological condition as well as psychiatric but I cannot verify this claim. I am only one person with the illness and can’t speak for everyone. And how much sense does it make to say a person is “sociologically ill?” Let alone how to help the person. Radical nonconformity is unhealthy for both the individual and his culture… but again I am ignorant about the field of sociology and its terminology. It would be necessary for me to go back to college and study the science formally. Still, most people will understand when I quote Pink Floyd: “Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs / Got to keep the loonies on the path.”
Quarter after nine. Raj drives a fancy white sports car. I saw it in the parking lot. Cathy walked in while he was ringing me up for 11 bucks. She keeps her mask on at all times. The whole thing with the pandemic is an experiment in conformity. To what extent can they make us all the same? Already the answer is that they can’t. And that is as it should be. Nature makes everyone different. Society tries to make us uniform. We end up being divided. I think the abstraction of society takes a leap of faith to accept. We refer to it as “they,” but no one knows who they are. It is only a ghost, a holistic phantom we take as a given. Really it is only us, you and me and the choices we make. There’s nothing but individuals… It’s a cloudless blue sky day. I took a look at my oak and maple as I approached the driveway: the oak is enormous and decked out in green leaves, hurling a challenge to the azure, photosynthesizing like crazy.
Quarter after ten. I used to be a great bass player. I’m still decent at it, but circumstances are not cooperating. It’s interesting: I once believed in a dark providence that made the way easier for me. This was merely the influence of grunge music. The summer sun reminds me of it. Eighteen years ago I felt both paranoid and invincible. I was always drunk, and my medication was not very good. Still I could be very insightful. Today is different and alike at the same time. Meeting Kate online changed me a lot. But I grew tired of empiricism and wanted to go deeper. She was tired of talking about anything… Tonight is the service gig. It could be fun. No news regarding a band practice this weekend. If I had to bet, I’d say we’re off for yet another week. The swallows in my chimney cheep and swoop, very happy that the sun is out. Whatever happens, all I have to do is not drink.
Today I’m going to swap bridges on my new bass. It needs a little boost in the low frequencies. Might be a fun experiment. I was just at the store. The rain missed me, gave me a window of opportunity. For a change I bought peanut butter and jelly and a loaf of white bread. Also dry food for Aesop and a two liter of cranberry ginger ale. It all was quite a load to carry home, but I live just around the corner. Now I feel a bit lonely, but things are quiet and serene at least. I’d be lost without Aesop’s company.
I guess today is the birthday of Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m not very impressed. AA members never did me any favors. Often they are terribly self righteous, crashing the meetings of alternative groups. After all, we are merely people. We all have red blood, and it is immaterial who has God on their side. Tomorrow I will have 33 months sober, totally without the involvement of AA. Maybe someday I’ll write my own recovery self help book, but I kind of doubt it. Every individual has to find a recovery that works for them. Some people, like me, are too smart and too defiant for a “simple program.” There are a few dozen reasons not to join AA. Nothing in life is ever that simple. You can stuff your brain into a little jar and force things to be simple, but eventually the jar bursts. Perhaps we’re all in the recovery game alone, but I can live with that.
Quarter of four. I feel really good today since my adventure to Bi Mart. I scanned more of the sociology book and found I could relate to the phenomenon called xenocentrism. This is when you try to compensate for ethnocentrism by favoring a foreign culture to your own. It’s also becoming clear that Christianity is a thing of American culture, a culture with which I’ve lost touch. People believe in religion just because it is done as a matter of expectation. It is one of those unwritten rules that people conform with. I wonder what schizophrenia looks like from a sociological perspective? Is it a failure to conform to your culture, to be out of sync with your society’s values, beliefs, and practices? My old psychiatrist used to view me from a sociological standpoint sometimes. Once he even compared me to the Unabomber; it must have been in 1995 or 96. When I later reminded him, he denied remembering ever saying such a thing. So now I ask myself just what is schizophrenia to a sociologist. A loss of contact with reality, in more ways than one? Maybe schizophrenia ought to be an interdisciplinary study? Looking at it in the light of culture adds a dimension to the illness. It also informs me of the way my family sees my behavior, they being relatively normal. And what does sociology reply to the idea that there’s no such thing as normal? It talks about shared beliefs and practices and mores: basically, norms. But if normal doesn’t exist, where does that leave sociology— and society and, more personally, my family? Because after all, my family is probably what I’m concerned with.
Guilt is an expendable emotion; it serves no purpose whatsoever. There is no particular way a person is supposed to be. Who says we have to look a certain way or act a certain way, etc etc? I don’t care to be conscientious like some people. Take it or leave it. There’s no such thing as perfect. There is no king of public opinion, or if so, then who is it? Martha Stewart was put in jail, wasn’t she? Kathie Lee Gifford and her sweatshops. Regis Philbin. I don’t watch tv, so I don’t even know who is popular anymore, and care less about it. Kill your tv! Live your life your own way. Oprah Winfrey sucks. My sister thought Oprah should run for President. I can’t imagine much worse… They’re making good progress on the fence. Damien is using a nail gun and they move right along.
Three o’clock. I took the Snapples out to them. I’ve been forgetting the idea of faith that all shall be well. In other words, optimism. In uncertain times, this is indispensable. The fence has needed replacing for a couple of years, and now I can do it. In fact, it’s almost done. All I did was not to drink alcohol anymore, and good things came to me… Aesop’s treats are coming from Amazon tomorrow. Filet mignon flavor soft chews. I hope he likes them… I noticed that the paranoia is a lot better than before. Most people don’t have bad intentions toward others. Only if they use drugs or have a mental health issue. Or if they are driven by the big bucks… Now the guys are building the gate. The day has turned out kind of good. I’ll be glad to have the job finished. And then I can listen to the other disc of Permanent Waves.
Quarter of nine.
I leave for the church very soon. Aesop has been fed. It’s another sunny day today. This time I remembered my tithe, so I wrote a check for two hundred dollars. Not a day goes by without thinking about my family.
Quarter of noon. Just got home from volunteering. Tired. I observe what an anachronism I am, out of our time, and also out of place. I don’t conform to what other people do. I’m just a maverick, I guess. But my peculiarity hopefully serves a purpose. I no longer see it as righteous. People are supposed to jump on the bandwagon and do what is expected. I am a loner doing just what I want to do. Others look at me kind of funny. Maybe something went wrong with me after my parents died and my siblings bullied me so unfairly. But you know, my parents were pretty weird people, though I loved and honored them all I could. I had friends who either liked my parents or not. My mother was very sympathetic toward people with disabilities, people of color— everybody in the rainbow category… After they passed away, I was left alone not knowing how to act. Even now, I’m still figuring it out. I doubt if I’ll ever be like other folks… Aesop came up to me and asked with his eyes if I was going to play my bass today. It really upsets him when I do. So I’ll give him a reprieve for the day.
Yesterday and tonight I’ve been oversleeping. Bad dreams about my poor housekeeping and hygiene. Therapists and other people in psychology want a why answer to behavior. But you know, sometimes there just is no reason why. People with schizophrenia have hygiene issues and nobody knows why. It’s a brain glitch. I’m simply tired of the phenomenological approach to mental health. I’ve met other people with schizophrenia on the internet who bore a striking resemblance to myself. Same diagnosis, very similar habits and values. The guys in particular were often very intellectual, drawn to music, philosophy, and languages. And the women were fantastic artists! I’m just saying that schizophrenia is a phenomenon in itself, and doesn’t always conform to normal psychological standards. You’d have to be blind not to see this. Imagine going online and finding a bunch of people who are just like you. And that’s the experience of the schizophrenia forum.
Ultimately one must accept what is. And schizophrenia just is.
Am I saying something wise? It contradicts what the experts try to say, namely that schizophrenia is not a person’s identity. That it’s just a disease. But no; I believe it’s a phenomenon. Something that happens. And the rest is merely society trying to force you to conform to the norm.
I believe that no one else in my family has schizophrenia. And failing to understand, that’s just the way it is.
One o’clock. My conscience accuses me of being lazy, as it often does. Should I obey what it says? My family doesn’t care what I do, so maybe my conscience is illegitimate. I didn’t understand where Carmen was coming from with her speeches about control. To me, it just sounded like marketplace cliches. The language she used didn’t speak to me. I believe she was trying to say that I ought to conform to the norms all around me. The ones we observe on television and in the movies. But she couldn’t express herself very well. I heard something vague about control, and how this was a bad thing. Why couldn’t she just say what she meant? What is the alternative to being a control person? I asked her that, but she had no answer. I came away with the impression that Carmen didn’t know what she was talking about. It was kind of like the parent who doesn’t know the answer when her child asks her why. Why conform to what everyone else does? And who set the trend for everybody? No one knows, yet people agree with the herd and follow along, lowing and bleating like cattle. Who is the King of the Media? Somewhere there is such a person directing the puppet show. It would be sort of like an Ayn Rand novel. Who is John Galt?
Two thirty. I can see Carmen’s face in my mental eye. She said once that I was doing pretty good. At least I don’t drink anymore. The rain meanwhile has stopped. Probably a lot of people would say that God is the puppeteer, and that it’s diabolical to rebel. I don’t know about the supernatural— still. Why am I such a minority? Am I just a miscreant? Am I alone in having doubts? What became of Kate; where did all my agnostic friends go? Would they return if I went back to drinking? I consider my old friend Marc the guitarist. He wanted nothing to do with me when he learned that I had joined a church and stopped drinking. Strange how that works. I’m on the fence with my beliefs… I haven’t seen the inside of Polly’s house in many years. I saw the outside of it maybe five years ago, when we had my birthday lunch at Burrito Boy. I was still driving my truck, and picked her up. She had tried to weasel out of lunch by saying her van had troubles. But I forced the meetup. Over the meal, I told her I thought I was a nicer person when I could drink. It was before I ever had gastritis from drinking… Today, it doesn’t matter what I do, Polly avoids me anyway. And just what if the puppeteer is God? Was that what Carmen tried to say? Except, I think she lacked faith herself. That’s why she was so unconvincing. And as I write, here comes the sun, if only for a moment.
Five o’clock. I miss having church worship the normal way. Some black clouds passed over and it hailed on us. Aesop went out in it, against my advice. He took it like a trooper. Last night, I dreamt a lot about things that happened in fall 2017, particularly Valerie, my case manager at Options. She came to the house a few times to motivate me to clean up. But eventually it became a waste of her time and she stopped it. My life was really going nowhere that year, but I didn’t drink. As always happens, I met some people I really liked, and others that I didn’t… There’s a rainbow behind Diana’s house, in the east. That’s where I see them every time. Now gone… People are strange. The way affiliations are formed is a matter of trust, especially when the issue is sobriety. I don’t think about AA much anymore. Their way is not the only way, as I’ve proven.
Six thirty. Some things about my behavior just aren’t going to improve. Ever. The model citizen conforms to the norm and does everything he’s supposed to. I don’t, and I’m not a poster boy for anybody. Carmen the therapist wouldn’t say what she meant by my being a control person. Maybe she didn’t know what she was talking about. The issue of control is a buzzword among psychologists today, and for Carmen it was only an echo of what she’d been told. I believe that what’s wrong with me is precisely that I do think critically about everything. It would be against my nature not to do so. If I analyze a proposition and 2 plus 2 doesn’t equal 4, then I won’t go along with it. I don’t just go with what people are saying on this or that topic. The movies can claim anything they want, but the truth is up to you and me. Another therapist said I was very logical… I’m only saying that it benefits you not to follow the leader over a cliff. Don’t be a pilot whale or a lemming.