Rochester

Quarter of five.

I feel liberated from a friendship that had become rather toxic to me. All of my energy was sealed up in my head for a long time, but now I feel more whole, reunited with my body. I can’t be a Puritan like some people, and that’s okay for them. It’s like the character St John in Jane Eyre, sort of; a Christian stoic with no real feeling, no passion. Jane finally exclaims to him, “I scorn your love!” All his feeling was in his head, his intellect, his reason. And at last she finds her way back to Rochester, who loves her from the heart and soul. A very valuable lesson from Charlotte Bronte and literature, with very real applications… It is still dark outside, yet I’m ready to start my day. I have an appointment by Zoom at nine o’clock with Rebecca. This might be kind of fun. I also need to get ahold of Darcy regarding my Vraylar. The first light is appearing above the trees and the store opens at six o’clock. A new hope kindles in my heart. 

Friends Old and New

Ten ten. I just feel kind of empty today and want something to fill the void. It might be a good day to read some Edgar Allan Poe again. I don’t remember what happens at the end of “Descent into the Maelstrom.” Some of his tales were rather silly and not very clever… I look out the back door and halfway expect to see a raccoon in my magnolia tree. Hallucinations come unexpectedly, but usually when I’m under stress. Heidi is supposed to call me today at two o’clock. Suddenly the gray weather sort of gets me down. I slept fair last night, though I don’t recall any dreams I had. It isn’t like how I slept when I was thirty years old. I guess I’m missing my parents this morning, especially from the times when I played music professionally. They made my life at home very comfortable, and even kept the fridge stocked with beer. My friends wanted me to fly the nest and be independent, so I felt myself being pulled in two directions. I don’t know how my parents would have gotten along together if I had left home. They wouldn’t have been very happy; rather, lonely and depressed because they had no friends of their own. I did the best I could with the situation.

Eleven o’clock. It’s okay to be honest with myself. I really do feel hollow and meaningless in the absence of my parents, and I also miss my brother a little, although he has changed, and actually he never has cared for me very much. Probably the best thing I have going for me is the church, where all of my friends are. And the word really is “friend.” A therapist once suggested to me that my relationship with my parents was more of a friendship than family, and I have to agree. 

Monday Morning

Eight twenty five.

The sky is cloudy and gray to match my mood. I think the world is still trying to understand itself, but while it’s doing that, I’m going to live my life. Relationships with people are often difficult. They go more easily when we know what we’re responsible for. Sometimes I have to stop and analyze the thoughts that cause my distress. It doesn’t pay to own other people’s feelings, or to be an emotional caretaker. And yet it’s hard to keep up boundaries with others. One has to be quite self contained, and maybe a little bit cold, to remain intact and not enmeshed with friends. I’ve never done anything like this in my sobriety, so I’m just learning.

I feed Aesop at nine o’clock. He gets Hill’s Science Diet chicken and vegetable for senior dogs. The package arrived in the mail Saturday afternoon, just as I was stepping out the front door on my way to practice. Today, after Aesop’s breakfast, I’ll go get foodstuffs at the market like I do every day. My mind begins to play “Jumbo’s Lullaby” by Debussy, a little piano piece from Children’s Corner. It’s about a circus elephant falling asleep and having an animal dream. It is my favorite work by this composer, and it always makes me emotional… Now Aesop has been fed, so I guess it’s time for my trip to the store. 

Easter Sunday

Quarter after eight. Sheryl from church texted me a while ago and said it would be nice to see me for the Easter service. So I replied with my reason for not coming to church as often anymore. Interesting; she said she misses my singing voice. And I do have some fond memories of singing with our choir a couple of years ago. The people were so nice and we had a lot of fun together. The only relationship that went kind of sour was the one with Pastor himself, and that’s a regrettable thing for me and the others… I am still very excited about my band. I thought our rehearsal yesterday was the best one ever so far. It seems to me that the three of us feel more comfortable with each other now; we’re becoming better friends, so the music flows a bit more easily than before… It’s another partly sunny morning. The sunlight splashes down and dapples the magnolia tree in my backyard. About two weeks ago I spotted a raccoon jumping into the same tree and settling there in the lower limbs. Even at the time, I thought maybe I was hallucinating; it was so surreal and bizarre to see. Since then I haven’t seen the raccoon again, thus maybe I really was deluded. “Cold hearted orb that rules the night / Removes the colors from our sight / Red is gray and yellow white / But we decide which is right / And which is an illusion?”

Sheryl just texted me back; she’d assumed that my absence was due to Covid. But no, it was the sermon on demonic possession that alienated me from church, at least temporarily. I’m going to stay home today except for my daily trip to the market on Maxwell Road. I had an exciting day yesterday and need a rest today.

Ten o’clock. As with most Easter Sundays, the neighborhood has fallen very silent, and the silence is rather disturbing to me. It is the silence of the tomb, of death, and maybe of intellectual poverty. It is the quiet of oppression, perhaps, when nobody dares to speak their mind. My closest neighbors behave very strangely, not very amiably with each other or with me, keeping to themselves and basically being quite self centered. I find this is true of many conservatives: they’re paranoid and care only about what is theirs. They scoff at people who don’t have a home or a job; people who are unfortunate. They figure that it’s tough luck for them; we got ours, so screw the people who have nothing. Such a selfish attitude, and essentially asocial. How can my neighbors be happy with such narrow views and feelings? They cloister themselves in their homes and watch tv all day… The book of Plato I ordered was probably delivered to the wrong address, but do you think the erroneous recipient will bring the package to me? No one practices common courtesy around here. Every house is an island on my street, and finders keepers, losers weepers… I jumped to a conclusion. The computerized Amazon chat assistant said the book probably hasn’t arrived yet. But this is another example of the dehumanization of society. “It’s so hard to stay together / Passing through revolving doors / We need someone to talk to / And someone to sweep the floors.” 

An Experiment

Four thirty in the morning.

I got up because I couldn’t sleep any longer. My attitudes in general are torn between the virtue of Emerson and the fatalistic sexual theory of Freud. I gave up on Platonic idealism, choosing instead the realism of Aristotle. But maybe it’s better to get away from intellectual traditions for a while and start with how I feel. Six hours ago I was feeling frustrated at the uncertainty of our human future. I even considered defecting from this ride everyone is on, taking a girlfriend with me to a desert island, and starting the human race over again from scratch. It would be an Adam and Eve experiment. Yet as Hawthorne observed, the first things needed for any utopia are a prison and a cemetery. This means that original sin is for real. And in the Golding novel, the perfect society pictured by Ralph on their little island is messed up when Jack shows up with the other choirboys… I guess everything has already been thought of. No utopia is really feasible, and yet life as it is leaves so much to be desired. Probably all of us want to start up their own society with its own set of values. The fact is that we don’t all agree on everything, so people have to make some sacrifices to get along… So what is my mood right now? I anticipate the dawn, after which I can go see Michelle at the store like I do every weekday morning. Though our ideas are different, we are reassured by the sight of one another. The only utopia is possible where a person clones himself. And then there would be perfect peace and accord…

Think again! 

Defogged

Six twenty.

Imagine no limits. There’s band practice today at three, and the weather is supposed to be nice. I dreamed last night that my mother was trying to stay sober. It made her a basket case, and she had to tell everyone about it. Thinking of it now, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with her anymore. She never would admit that she needed help with her mental health. I guess that’s kind of like a person I know in my life today, and it’s sad the way he’s come to cope with his problems. Like everyone, he’s a very nice guy underneath it all, and just needs some guidance. Maybe I can be the one to do that for him. On the other hand, perhaps I’m trying to shoulder too many burdens and be an emotional caretaker for other people. I could just say screw it and mind my own business.

Nine o’clock. It’s foggy outside, rather dense, and later it’ll be partly cloudy. I may be at a point where I can be peer support for other people with mental illness. Wait and see how things go. This afternoon will be a test for me. I want to do the right things, but knowing what is right is never easy. I keep thinking of “Love and a Question” by Robert Frost: does nature prescribe moral absolutes, and are they knowable to us? Frost was skeptical of that, while Emerson was more optimistic on the whole issue. I don’t mean to prejudge my day ahead, but I anticipate that it’ll be quite difficult. I hate worrying about stuff. Maybe treat the future like a throw of the dice and deal with the aftermath as it comes. Every decision has unpredictable consequences. But it’s better not to just flip a coin. We have to use our best judgment.

Ten ten. I just took an ibuprofen and simultaneously the sun is coming out. As the fog lifts, my head clears a little and my mood improves. All is not lost, and I can trust myself to judge rightly and fairly. “The sun will lead us, our reason to be here.” 

Unchurched

Nine twenty five.

Cloudy morning. I met with nothing extraordinary going to the market. Just another day. But later I received an email from the people who will help me find a personal care assistant. This will help me out a lot.

Ten ten at night.

It was kind of a mixed up day. I was still doing fine when I read and wrote about the Ideal and the Sublime, etc etc, but when I thought of Jane Austen unifying opposites I began to get a little lost. Why would I remember her novels in the springtime? Or maybe the season is irrelevant. Possibly the name of Austen stands for a real person I used to know.

Pastor argued with me that Jane Austen was a Romantic, while I said she was just the opposite, a realist, especially in her treatment of psychology. She was very cognitive two hundred years before the popularity of CBT. She also didn’t want to be associated with the Romantic period. I’m not sure why we were arguing about this, or what, subconsciously, we were really talking about. It now occurs to me that Pastor is unacquainted with the principles of cognitive therapy. He only understands C.G. Jung and the Romantic tradition that gave him rise. Even this is overstatement, because he doesn’t know Romantic poetry… I guess it doesn’t matter what he knows or doesn’t know. Then again, do I really want to sit through his sermons?

Eleven ten. I feel tired and my back aches, and my mood is rather grumpy. I feel like Childe Harold or Frankenstein’s monster, alienated from society and doomed to wander the earth in search of a mate who can sympathize with him. Somewhere among the Arctic ice floes, the monster still keeps a low profile. He drops in on the social world here and there, then vanishes again.

Midnight. In plain English, my relationship with the church is spotty and probably destined to dissolve altogether. 

Up to Me

Quarter after nine.

I finally got my benefits squared away with DHS this morning, so that’s a worry off my mind. The weather is only a little above freezing. There’s an advisory for snow possible this afternoon. I’m okay with that as long as we still have electricity. Some hours ago I canceled my order of those books by Clark Ashton Smith. I felt uncomfortable concerning my sobriety, thinking that his writing might trigger cravings. If I want to read something horrific I can pick up Paul Bowles, but even that seems pointless. I’ve got a nice big anthology of Bertrand Russell I could thumb through. Probably it’s above my head, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a peek. My brother has been on my mind a couple of days. I doubt if he thinks of me, however. Write him off as a toxic person. It concerns me somewhat that I’m the only sober person in my rock band. The music itself is not a problem. It’s the state of mind each of us is in when we play together. I guess don’t borrow trouble at this juncture and let events play out as they will. But I may be the one who has to bail out… The trip to the market was nondescript and uneventful. Just another day.

Ten thirty five. I remind myself that I’m the one in charge of my life, and every decision I make is up to me. Sobriety is my Number One priority. It makes a big difference in my relationships with people, even just three guys playing music in a room. Perhaps in that situation this difference glares the most. Time will tell. And again it’s up to me. 

Another Tuesday

Four forty.

The sun is getting ready to go down on another Tuesday. I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary today, except to treat myself a bit more kindly. I’m still the same old pleasure seeker as always. Played some Queen songs on my green Dean bass, including what I could remember of “A Kind of Magic.” 

Something made me think of my mother again; it began with my dreams last night, flashing back to January twenty years ago. Life wasn’t too bad back then, although I didn’t feel as free as I do now. Poor Mom never had any friends, and the family from her generation had all passed away. I guess it’s fair to say that she was very difficult to get along with. I wouldn’t want to do it again. Her subjective opinions were so absolute to her as to be irrational. There was no discussing anything with her. She was as hardheaded as adamant. So it was rather odd to have a dream that was indirectly about her. I wonder if it’s because of her memory that I still do rock and roll music? I had another friend whose perfectionism was instilled in him by his bipolar father. He carried his dad around with him in his mind, and it made him depressed and suicidal. Possibly I’m a little bit like him, with the difference of some insight into myself. My mother expected nothing short of rock stardom from me, but maybe this isn’t the lifestyle I want. I think I’m happy enough as a writer of blog posts for right now. But nobody ever said I can’t be both a writer and a musician— again, like Paul Bowles. I reckon some things are just spelled out in the stars… 

Unruffled

Quarter of eight.

It’s the same old story: Aesop is out of canned food. I should call Polly after nine o’clock.

The sounds of bird life around Fremont Avenue are insane today. I halted on my walk to examine the treetops, where you could see them perched, twittering in a frenzy. I took my excursion very slow this morning. Also I was slow at the checkout counter, and it annoyed the customer behind me. But it didn’t concern me that she was irritated. Michelle acted as her emotional caretaker and checked her out immediately at the other register. My business wasn’t even finished yet.

Eleven o’clock. It’s been raining and shining by turns while Polly and I talked on the phone. Our chats keep getting better. It seems that she’s done some serious independent thinking over the past few years, or maybe she’s always had a separate opinion from her son. I feel privileged to get to know her. We agree that money and material success are really negligible, and the important things are integrity and caring about other people… I missed the garbage pickup this week, but the service is cheap. I guess I’m feeling kind of relaxed today. Not exactly devil may care, but nothing inconsequential can ruffle my feathers. People can chase their tails all they want and it doesn’t bug me. They can foam at the mouth and throw a fit, but it’s all fruitless for them. I’m having a pretty good day.