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. 

Prudence

Eight o’clock.

No email from my friend yet. I don’t know what she is up to today. I don’t want to go to church tonight or on Sunday. I’m going to boycott Christmas and just take care of myself. I know how to do this better than anyone else. I think I’ll leave the church for good. Religion is usually a right wing thing.

Nine thirty five. It was lovely to see Michelle this morning. From her I bought a new orange bandanna and peppermint candy ice cream, plus ribeye chewy treats for Aesop. It was cold and a little foggy outside. A pretty girl on the sidewalk passed me and we said good morning. I saw Dell carrying some cardboard boxes out to his car. Michelle helped a customer with the propane tanks while I was walking into the store. Her temperament is a lot different from that of Vicki; kinder and friendlier, not so jaded and sassy. Her logic is not so clouded by personal hurts. She is always fair dealing with people, but when she is on the receiving end of injustice, she’ll defend herself. When she had more money, she used to go to the theater… My pen pal let me know that she’ll be late today… The changes are coming a bit more swiftly now. I sense a shift in attitude and mood around me generally. Christina on Wednesday was kind of fun. She even said it was fun working with me after we’d done some exercises in physical therapy… I am hopeful that musicians can play again when vaccines are available this winter. Just wait it out and see what happens… 

Out with the Old…

Five o’clock.

Now I wonder if Vicki will be working this morning. My imagination can summon all kinds of fates that could have happened to her. But the only fact I know is her absence yesterday. I also know the circumstances of her headache that never went away, the tumor on her brain, and the doctors who didn’t give her any straight answers… I don’t know how I feel about it, but I was used to seeing her every week morning for many years. Her quality of life probably wasn’t so great. She lived by herself and worked like a drone every weekday. She didn’t seem to enjoy it anymore; even stopped bantering with the guys who came in from the distributors. Her sense of humor had gone out of her life… What makes life worth living? Endless drudgery doesn’t seem to be the best thing. Rolling that boulder up the hill over and over again gets tiresome and boring to tears. The futility of it brings you down after a while. I lived that way for a short time until I learned that I couldn’t do it anymore. I had options available to me, and I chose wisely. My brother can call me names all he wants, but he isn’t happy with his life. He tends to blame others for his own unhappiness, but he needs to bring responsibility home to himself. He is free to choose for himself, regardless of what other people do with their lives. The truth is that everyone is responsible only for their own feelings, their own behavior. The ultimate arbiter is you.

Quarter of seven. I imagine that with the change to a Democratic administration, blogging will change accordingly, but I was prepared for this. I plan to keep writing on into the next year and see who shows up… I heard a shower of rain a few minutes ago. There should be daylight by seven twenty or so. When it comes, I will go to the store as I do every day. My heart is open to what the new year and the new government bring. It seems like anything can happen, but personally I’m very happy for the defeat of a tyrant who made us an embarrassment to the rest of the world. Aesop has finally gotten out of bed and wants a snack. I catch myself still avoiding the salon because I think Karen is very disgruntled over politics. Roger probably is too. I don’t see people openly jumping for joy, and yet my heart leaps quietly. Eventually it will be okay to talk about it. The rain has begun again, fortunately, though it’s still very dark outside. It’s going to be one of those days. 

Our Way: a Letter

Sometimes I wish I’d taken Ancient Greek at the university, but that might have been over the top. As it was, I got to take Aristotle in the philosophy department with a good old Jewish professor. One of my favorite terms in school was winter 1989. I was 22 years old and taking, besides Aristotle, Literature of the Renaissance and a psychology survey course. The English class was great, although I skipped a lot of the reading assignments. We studied Sir Philip Sidney, and I still want to sit down with The Old Arcadia and absorb the whole thing. I wrote papers on Thomas More’s Utopia and Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella. Also we read John Lyly and Mary Wroth, and of course Shakespeare’s sonnet series.

The same winter we had a great dumping of snow in Eugene, but classes still were not canceled. My dad and I rode the bus up to the Campus on a day or two (he was the fiscal officer of the psychology department for twenty years) and on a Friday morning I remember being on the bus with other students. One of them was a music major girl who was busy sight reading a composition from a book. Her name was Dunia, and she’d been the girlfriend of a drummer I’d known. She didn’t recognize me. The afternoon of that day Dad and I waited at the bus stop a long time. My writing assignment was due Monday, on Thomas More, so I was rather preoccupied. On the bus again, we picked up two guys I remembered from grade school, Ron and David. They’d been playing in the snow together and asked each other if they were cold. I felt awkward because David probably knew me, but we said nothing. My education had divided us into different social classes, and even though we went to the same high school, I’d never seen them around. It happened with my nephews as well: we attended North Eugene together, but due to the differences in our coursework, our paths never crossed. I loosely belonged to the academic elite that took AP classes and tended to disregard those in a lower stratum of the school.

Thinking about that now, it was an awful circumstance to undergo for all of us. My nephews really resented me, and our families divided even more deeply as it was clear that I would go to college while they were stuck with manual labor. There’s a lesson in here somewhere, perhaps an epiphany for me: pride leads to a fall. And yet the school system is set up that way. I remember the insane amount of pressure that was applied to us students who supposedly had a promising future. I also recall a few students who objected to the whole situation, renouncing the opportunity to take AP English, and then sort of coasting out the year with less stress, but retaining their humanity and their sanity. And for that reason, I have to respect their decision. After all, look at what happened to me under all that pressure and stress. Was it really worth it even to graduate from college? And what is the quality that gives people dignity when all is said and done? Maybe with Sinatra we can sing that we did it our way.

Blame the Winds

Quarter of three. On a whim, I looked up the consensus on the most popular Star Wars movie ever, and I would have guessed right: it was The Empire Strikes Back… I’m in a retro mood today, and maybe that’s okay for me. I found my copy of the Star Wars Trilogy and put it in a safe place. How many times did I get wasted and watch Empire? I had a job at the time, but I was very unhappy with my dead end life. I was coasting or treading water throughout that period. I didn’t realize what potential I had, but then again, I was on a different medication that didn’t work as well. Everywhere I looked I saw religion, no thanks to some of the healthcare professionals who shoved it down our throats. The system is just set up that way. It used to be a lot worse than today. By the time 2009 arrived, I was overdue to escape from it. I was a delusional wreck. I’d been surrounded by terribly racist right wing people who didn’t know the difference.

Quarter of five. I guess I would drink beer if I could get away with it. And yet I know I won’t do it. There are too many things in my life that drinking would screw up. Today has been kind of strange and solitary. I feel bad for the salon girls and I wonder why Karen is so grumpy lately. Perhaps business is not so good right now. Also her candidate for president lost the election. Maybe things aren’t going her way in general, but she’s taking it out on her friends, and she might regret that later. Overall it was a topsy turvy week. Some people aren’t very happy with current events. Derek had a sheepish look on his face when I walked by his house. His little girls seemed aloof to my presence. And in spite of everything, somebody keeps setting up my political lawn sign when it blows over. I don’t have to lift a finger. Attribute it to the winds of change… 

Inalienable

Quarter of nine. Day has dawned, but it’s still pretty dark. Feeling tired and tempted to drink. This is because I’m lonely. Sometimes it might be nice to have a wife, somebody to live with and to love. And who is anyone to say no? My sister would be stupid to tell me what to do. She should have learned that by now… I guess I’ll go to the store and get something to drink. Never underrate freedom, which is inalienable by anyone else. You always have options. This is the endowment of nature, no matter what the system of government. Yet I do feel very tired and heavy hearted. For a treat I could buy a Coke…

Ten o’clock. I passed the salon and caught Karen chewing out Kim for something, so I didn’t stop. Michelle told me she got a new second job. The job as security officer she perceived as sexist, so she left it last month. Now she works in a small grocery store in a small town on the outskirts of Eugene. She is pretty good at taking care of herself. Michelle is always very nice to me, thus I look forward to seeing her on weekends. It was so cold outside that I flipped up my hood to keep my head warm. Just briefly I saw Derek with his two daughters in his driveway. All along on my walk I thought about society versus personal freedom. It makes me think I should check out the writings of Thomas Jefferson myself: just what did he mean by liberty and the pursuit of happiness? And what did the French people think of that? I wonder if Pastor ever read Henrik Ibsen. Somehow I doubt it, but A Doll’s House was such a cornerstone to my education. I am unlikely to ever forget it. 

Goodbye Silver Lea

Nine thirty.

I did things a little differently this morning. Aesop was out of canned food and I was concerned that he didn’t get enough variety, so I walked the mile to Grocery Outlet under the clear sky. I bought him four cans of Blue Buffalo in three flavors, plus sourdough bread, dry salami, pepper Jack cheese, and a summer sausage for me. A demo team on Silver Lane is tearing down my old grade school. I stopped and watched the big Caterpillars doing this dirty work. I don’t know if a new building will replace the old… According to the official report, the new North Eugene High School will be built on the grounds of the old Silver Lea school. The Japanese immersion program has moved to Kelly on Howard Avenue, and Corridor School has closed forever. So this really means goodbye to my elementary school. I attended there from 1973 to 1979. Learned a little bit of everything. Through the wrecked walls I could see into the classrooms, with the wall clocks frozen at two o five. I don’t remember how I voted on that ballot measure. I didn’t realize that revamping the high school necessitated the demolition of Silver Lea. Obviously the measure passed. Be careful what you vote for. Otherwise it’s a beautiful morning, and now I have a few groceries. 

Dreamer

Ten o’clock.

The same thing happened with my Black Lives Matter lawn sign: a good fairy set it up again after it had been knocked over. The little market was doing a good business this morning. I actually saw a person buy a pack of cannabis capsules. The guys in line ahead of me were probably construction workers or something else blue collar. I had the sensation for a second that I wasn’t really there, that I didn’t exist or maybe it was a dream. As if I could close my eyes and be back in bed. It required more effort for me to walk to the store this time. When I stopped by the salon, Karen’s mood was foul because the girls had made a mess while she was gone. She tends to vent at whoever happens to be in the way. Yet she gave me a chocolate brownie anyway. By degrees she controlled her temper. I just stood there and waited for her to calm down. On my own street again, I said hi to Roger. He was bundled up in a khaki green jacket against the chill… 

I don’t have any real worries today, and no engagements until tomorrow night for church. Physical therapy with Christina yesterday afternoon went quite well. She is supportive of my writing and encourages me to switch to my laptop to do more serious stuff. It’s good to get a boost now and then. The clouds are huge and lined with gray, permitting a little sunshine through. On the edge of my memory I can feel what college life was like. It was a lot of fun to study Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz when I was still twenty one. I still have my course text, an Anchor paperback called The Rationalists. It was like living in a dream to sort of deny objective reality and turn inward to a priori experience. Very strange approach to knowledge. My head was in the clouds… 

Monday Morning

Quarter of nine. I bought pumpkin pie ice cream at the store, but no drinks. I grew tired of insomnia from the caffeine. I feel kind of tired today. This afternoon I have Erin for physical therapy. I leave the house after two o’clock. It rained all night again, and now it’s just cloudy. On my walk to and from the market I encountered nobody except one old man with white hair wearing earmuffs, or maybe headphones. We passed each other without a word. I also had the store pretty much to myself… Aesop just had his chicken and rice dog food. He doesn’t complain about the monotony of flavors, but I’m considering a trip to Grocery Outlet for some variety. Things are getting stagnant. To avoid getting upset, I won’t call my sister this week. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go round, but sometimes I can’t tolerate bigots. Her concept of what is orderly I don’t share… Now I hear “Love Is the Drug” by Roxy Music. I want to pick up my Precision Bass and make people dance around the world. Maybe someday this will be more than just a dream, and British people will love what they hear. Until then, I’ll keep practicing and waiting out the pandemic. 

Holier than Thou

Eight ten.

It might be interesting when I go to the store this morning. People of color are coming out more since the election. The weather is rather blah right now. I have to go load up with dog food. My sister still has racist feelings that she can’t overcome, and this is embarrassing to me. Also she hates homeless people. I’m just thankful I have a home…

Nine thirty. I’m home again and I’ve fed Aesop. I spoke with Karen for a minute, after a hiatus of a week. The election had been a source of division to us, but we should be able to heal the breach. Something I realize is that it’s a mistake to personalize differences with other people. This was the main problem in my relationship with my sister. I admit that I still struggle with personalization, taking offense over disagreements, feeling judged or criticized. I think we were both inclined to do this. My temper flares when I imagine her middle son playing the moralist in his job of park ranger. What makes him holier than everybody else? He’s a drunkard, for crying out loud. Hypocrisy is a form of ignorance. But why do I allow it to get my goat? In my experience, guilty people make the most outspoken moralists in the world. Seeking personal happiness is great, but going around pointing the finger and telling people what they can’t do is very hard to tolerate. It’s absurd. I believe in maximizing pleasure for everybody. A moralist is someone who denies people what makes them happy in the interest of safety. But often the moralist himself has a major foible, and this motivates his preaching to others. He needs to remove the plank from his own eye and stop throwing stones… And the best I can do is just avoid talking with him. It’s no use arguing with an idiot. All I want is my own happiness and the greatest happiness for all people.