Adler

Wee hours.

During the afternoon, something awakened me to the validity of other psychoanalytic theories than simply Freud, which I’d lived by ever since junior high school, namely Alfred Adler. He reminds us that we need security and confidence to carry out our lives, a skill to be proud of and do competently, etc. We need self esteem and a little bit of pride in ourselves. I’ve known some people who take this to the extreme of invalidating other people from their own feelings of inferiority, jealousy, or resentment. Perhaps even some therapists have done this to their clients. I feel I was shipwrecked by one such person four years ago, and the trauma still messes with me in the springtime. I never should have left my psychiatrist in the first place. Human relationships can be very delicate things. There’s always someone with a pellet gun to shoot down your balloon in order for themselves to rise. We say the good die young and nice guys finish last. But sometimes you have to protect yourself from predators. 

Taste

Wee hours of Thursday.

The wet weather continues. I think that with the current trends in psychology, certain good things are being forgotten, or maybe just not discussed anymore. I have a painting by Picasso in my mind called Joie de Vivre, made to celebrate the end of WW2 and remind us of the things that give us happiness. Today’s culture looks upon such things with incomprehension. I remember giving a book of Salvador Dali to a friend who I thought could use it because she had an interest in being an artist. A few days later she returned it to me saying that it was bizarre. But the art really expressed some truths of psychoanalysis that apparently were above her head. At the time, I took the rejection hard, so I gave the book away to St Vinnie’s, now to my regret… It was a beautiful book that I bought from Borders for only twenty dollars, and a very full collection of his paintings… I guess the point is to trust yourself when you find something of great value to you, and persist in the face of the world’s ignorance. Public opinion is cheap and uninformed. Everything is geared towards making money, whether or not they’re selling quality. If nothing gold can stay, then it’s also true that cream rises to the top. In the end it’s not about the money, or the kind of gold I mean is psychological, and what Mephistopheles has to offer in the second part of Faust… When people are blind and obtuse, just consider the source if they say your taste is bizarre. Whoever said taste makes waste was an idiot. 

Love Triumphant

One fifty.

Well, the sun actually came out after my session went really well. It renewed some of my belief in myself. My other experiences with therapy were execrable; they simply didn’t know how to relate to me. And, whatever other people may say, I still adhere to the Freud I learned in school. If there’s no chance of romantic love for a person, then life feels pointless. I think a lot of people can identify with this statement because there’s so much repression in today’s society. But right now the sun rams through unstoppably and the life force itself is invincible. No matter what a huge mess we’ve made of our culture, love still triumphs. 

Eudaemonia

Ten twenty five. I’ve been back to bed to sleep in, then I got up to feed the dog. I tried to call my sister but the line was busy. So I walked off to the store for the daily foodstuffs. There was a string of customers ahead of me and one person behind me when I checked out. Evidently the market did a lot of business on Saturday during the beautiful weather. From what Michelle said, people are receiving their stimulus payments in a somewhat random order, or at least I don’t know when I’ll get mine, if ever… Still no answer when I try to call Polly. Robert Burns was right about the best laid schemes of mice and men. But to be realistic, not everything is going wrong this morning. It could be a lot worse… I should have some free time today to read a book, but I’m getting a little annoyed with Emerson, so I think maybe Baudelaire is good… My sleep last night was very troubled. My poor brain feels like a junkyard full of wreckage, a forsaken place where I can’t make any sense. Does everyone condemn me the way I condemn myself?

One ten. Polly called back. We chatted for quite a while about Mom… It’s partly sunny out and I hear a couple of aircraft overhead. Euphoric recall can be difficult to fight, and it seems stronger in the springtime… I wish in hindsight that I had encouraged my mother to write or do anything creative. She likely had the ability. What prevented her from it was the anti intellectual feeling of the family, which is really criminal and ignorant of its members. Mom had eight cylinders to her engine and only ran on two. I wonder how many other people are in the same boat. She could’ve been the next Elizabeth Bishop with the right feedback from people. Instead, she met with incomprehension and scorn whenever she took a risk. Now it’s up to me to challenge the bogus values that ruined my mother’s chances at fulfillment. It can mean isolation and alienation, yet ultimately the result is enduring happiness. 

Tuesday

Quarter after one. Pastor called me before lunch and said I was missed on Sunday. But the real reason he called was because he needs help recording worship this Friday. So I’ll probably go ahead and do that… I watched myself reading the lesson in church again. Yes, my voice is meek sounding, rather mousy. But it’s not a bad thing, necessarily. I might as well get used to it. It’s easy to see why I chose bass for my instrument: compensation. And I like the story by E.B. White, The Trumpet of the Swan, very much. My voice has made me a pushover all my life, but I never realized what it was until recently. My family took terrible advantage of me because of it. Jeff was a bully, and Polly almost as bad. My dog didn’t take me seriously. Even professional people have picked on me for being timid and mousy. I guess the written word has been a way for me to assert myself without depending on my voice… The sun is out right now but the clouds are heavy. Yesterday’s mail came not until nighttime, so I don’t know what to expect today.

Quarter after five. I read The Lotus Eaters episode of Ulysses. It ends with Bloom going to the public baths. Next he’ll be going to the funeral for Paddy Dignam. There’s a lot of alcoholism in the book, but that’s not the reason Joyce wrote it. Then the mail came, bringing bones for Aesop but no book for me. He chewed on the first one until he was tired and thirsty, and chewed some more. Now he’s resting at my feet. Before I cut open the package, I found about three dozen black ants in and around the kitchen sink basin. I turned the water on them and sprinkled vinegar about the spot. They hate white wine vinegar. Now it’s time to eat my cottage cheese. Not much of a meal, but better than nothing. I will call Shasta tomorrow morning.

Time and Power

Six o’clock. Even as I look on, Aesop is getting mellower day by day. He is a very good dog. When the temperatures are warmer, I’ll give him a bath in the tub. His age is seven and a half; he’ll be eight years old in September. I think about how much our life together has changed and go wow. My relatives are all either gone or very distant and have no power over me. I’ve made some really good friends who encourage me and don’t criticize. Many of them are far away, and yet as close as a finger tap. My confidence has grown to a healthy size thanks to blogging. I can handle just about anyone now. In my book, there’s nothing more fearsome than a human being. Only other people can make life hell for us. But not if we don’t let them. It’s crucially important that we take charge of our lives in a way that benefits us. I’ve seen some self defeating people, like the ones who vote against their own interests. Above all, it’s important to use your voice to assert yourself. Don’t let anyone sew your mouth shut. Never be devoured or gainsaid by anybody, especially if it concerns your life. Of course we will make mistakes, but nothing can prevent that, least of all warnings from others… In another hour it’ll be dark outside. Nearly seven o’clock now. Aesop’s mellowness is a manifestation of the passing of time. Everything is subject to time, and is its inmate. My mother’s little electric clock attests to this with a whir and a chug. All else is silence.

First Amendment

I wrote a thoughtful reply to the Daily Devotions from this morning. I just said it honestly, like the fool I am. It might make someone think a bit. Joe wrote something trite about letting go, something predictable and conventional. My response came from a solid education and from experience. From intelligence, basically. I’m growing less afraid of exhibiting intelligence lately. My brother used to hate me for “flashing brilliance,” but that’s tough shit for him. He used to lecture that I mustn’t open my mouth. It was just a family rule. I defy them now. When I have something to say, I bloody well say it. It may kill a conversation, but it’s better to speak than not. Don’t we all have an equal right to free speech? I remember when I used to dream about trying to talk with my mouth sewn shut. It was a recurring nightmare I had before I got active on WordPress. I didn’t care anymore. I was sick of being disenfranchised. I did the right thing, and my family can go squat.

“Security”

I still believe what Adler suggested about ego and power. Is this only due to the way I was brought up? I must remember the story I wrote at 19 years old about invalidation, the SOP of my dad. The story may be trusted to be true. My dad’s mentality was security through knocking other people down. Mine was being okay by creativity. Indeed I made a little philosophy of life centered on “security.” The inspiration for it was my dad’s policy and practice of “do others before they do you.” My response to this was to advocate creative endeavor as a means to promote self confidence. My dad was awfully insecure in his aptitude. If he just could’ve settled for love for his higher power he might’ve been okay. He never talked much about his beliefs. They were only evident from his outward behavior. I don’t know where he got the idea that “it’s a dog eat dog world” and such. If he was merely incompetent, he should’ve expressed himself about it to someone. Any kind and understanding person would’ve told him life is about more than competence. Deep down, my dad wanted to be loved— like everyone else. His competitive streak might’ve come from having a twin brother… Anyway, I’m trying to sort out how my parents impacted my beliefs and behavior when I was growing up. The competition and confidence issues all started with my dad and how the family responded to him.

Past and Future

What was that thought I had concerning the mystery of Christ? I didn’t read the New Testament until 2007, and then saw my past through a lens of the apostles. Mostly I was just confused. I couldn’t hear my own voice in the clamor of fundamentalism in my mind. At Optical, we were taught two contradictory beliefs: Christian altruism on one hand and the value of money on the other. How could we be selfless and selfish at the same time? But the same absurdity was true of all republicans. My obsessive mind created its own little shrine of iconic books, consisting of three main ones: The Basic Works of Aristotle, a red KJV Bible, and a hardcover of The Fountainhead. These formed the triumvirate rock that got me through each workday. By a form of talismanic telepathy I was kept safe. I further wore a heavy sterling silver dog tag engraved with “Reason.” I probably realized what a mess I was, but I believed that in order to survive I had to be a robot at all times. The message I got from my siblings was that the robot existence was right, and it was okay to salve the pain with binge drinking. In fact, that’s what my coworkers also did. In sum, I had to brainwash myself to be a republican, something I was not. But as with all disguises, mine couldn’t last forever, for as Shakespeare wrote, the truth will out. I see my NKJV Bible as a souvenir of hard times dealing with the loss of my mother. When she was gone, I had to learn to be independent, and that took me some time. I’ve learned to trust my own wits and resources, which nobody before ever encouraged me to do. The revolution began with finding my voice, and WordPress was there to facilitate the process. In a literal way, so was Our Redeemer when I started singing. My voice with the choir was artless yet tuneful enough to build confidence. And the rest is destiny yet to unravel…

Rain (1986 short story)

My plans for the evening had been thwarted by the rain. The sudden, violent downpour with occasional strobe-like lightning streaks made an outdoor walk impossible. Standing before the sliding glass door, I sipped whiskey and water and watched my carefully planted flowers being pelted into the mud. The persistent drops of rain drumming on the roof made me wonder how much actually separated me from the wetness outside. How protected was I? Suddenly, I appreciated the warmth of my house and the comforting buzz of the liquor in my temples. With nothing else to do, I drew a contented sigh and went back to work on a drawing I had begun early that morning. I leaned back from the table once in a while to take another slurp of bourbon. Sometimes routines were pleasant. At least, they were safe. After a few more drinks, I felt so comfortable that I fell asleep, face down on the drawing table.
I awoke at one in the morning, sweating. Looking outside, I saw that it was raining harder now, and the lightning flashes appeared at shorter intervals. I had been dreaming, but now I could not remember what the dream had been about. Something disturbed me. I had never been apprehensive in solitude before. In fact, I had always preferred to be alone, away from the interference of other people. I was uneasy, now, in my solitude. But it wasn’t because I was alone; it was because I feared that I was not alone. I took a sip of my drink, now nothing but melted ice, shivered, shook the moisture from my hand, ran my fingers through my hair. It was just an impression. Since I was awake, I decided I would finish my drawing. The perpetual patter and whish of rain against the windows and roof gradually became less ominous and turned into a kind of comforting accompaniment while I worked.
I paused to look out the sliding glass door. The light from inside the house afforded a range of vision outside that stopped abruptly at the edge of the patio. By this light I saw endless sheets of rain water washing across the cement. Lawn chairs blew to the ground under sudden, crushing gusts of wind and spray. Beyond the patio, I could see the silhouettes of tangled maples struggling valiantly against the relentless force of the storm. I stared. I was glad to be inside. Whenever lightning flared, the entire backyard was visible for several seconds. In one of these instances, I glimpsed a strange man vaulting over the side fence into my yard.
My throat constricted. I felt the impossibly rapid flopping of my heart in my chest. My legs were paralyzed by the stinging blood coursing through them. It couldn’t have been real. I leaned my elbows on the table, my hands grabbing fistfuls of hair. No, not real. Half involuntarily, I looked up again. He was at the sliding glass door.
He simply wore a sleeveless white T-shirt and a pair of torn bluejeans, drenched and plastered to his body. Thoroughly soaked tendrils of clustered black hair clung around his temples and forehead. I noticed the face. The lower lip hung, exposing crooked teeth and fixing his lower face in a frozen sneer. Tendons stood out on his neck; his head shook. His green eyes, focused on mine, seemed to glow with an insane kind of anger. It was a face vehement with wanton fury. In a flash of lightning, I saw the glint of a blade. Only now I realized that he was jiggling the door handle ferociously and screaming at me. At first, a sense of surrealism about the situation pushed me down by the shoulders and encircled me. My mind was not a part of my body. Then, panic shot through my nerves and galvanized my mind into frantic calculation. This was real. This man wanted to hurt me. Suppressing a sob of horror and pain, I forced my numb and weakened limbs to move. I knew I had to find a weapon; the latch on that door was not going to last.
“Aren’t you going to let me in, you asshole?” he screamed.
I left the room in search of a defensive tool. I didn’t own a gun; I wouldn’t have known how to use a gun even if I had had one. After looking through the whole house, I decided that a stool would have to suffice as a safety device. I returned to the room, armed with the piece of furniture, holding it at shoulder level. The man was not outside the door.
“Looking for me?” I whirled around to find him in the room with me, shaking in silent spasms of mirth. “Your puny lock wasn’t enough to keep me out. That pathetic pile of sticks won’t save you either, bonehead. I’m still going to kill you. Say, I was just admiring your work here.” A long, knobby finger indicated the drawing table. He knitted his brows and stared hard at me. “You know, you don’t deserve your ability. In fact, you don’t deserve to live.”
He was probably right about the futility of my weapon, but after hearing him speak I immediately knew what kind of human being he was. I thought that this knowledge might be to my advantage. Though I felt hesitant, I affected an appearance of confidence throughout my reply. “Well, maybe not, but you don’t deserve to live, either.”
“Oh?” he snorted. “Why not?”
“First, because you’re ugly as all hell. Shit! Hair growing out of your ears, crusty snot on your face, crooked teeth–”
His face changed. “Shut up!” he screamed.
“And you’re stupid. You have the IQ of a rock. That’s why–”
“No, damn it!”
“You’re a reject. Society doesn’t want you. Your own family wouldn’t accept you. You’re–”
“Shut up, god damn you!”
I continued, thrusting the stool in his face. “You’re afraid!” My voice shook. “You really are petrified! You have no potential. You can’t make anything of yourself! To feel good about yourself, you have to bring other people down so you can look better, superior! Like you’re going to do with me, right? You have to hurt, even kill, people to make yourself feel good, to be secure! You’re sick!”
Without warning, a flash of lightning blared into the room like a spotlight, framing the man’s figure against the wall. He collapsed on his hands and knees, moaning.
“Don’t you see?” I exclaimed. “We’re both trying to avoid the same thing. It’s this damned lightning. We just deal with it in different ways. Look, try to do something productive; make something of yourself. Concentrate on creating things with your mind rather than destroying.”
“I can’t change now,” he groaned. “I feel like I can’t do anything now, like I’ve been destroyed. I’ve…lost something.” He stared at the floor between his hands. He never looked at his hands.
I turned away. “Whatever it was, I think you lost it a long time ago, not just now.”
Thunder drummed on the roof. Through the deafening crash, I heard only one footfall. I snapped my head around. The man was half way across the room, knife raised high above his head, teeth gnashing, masticating nothing. The legs of my stool met his rushing body in the chest and deflected his charge away from me. Knife still raised, gasping with pain, carried by his momentum, he crashed into a lamp. The hand with the knife flailed wildly, slashing the lampshade to lacerated tatters. Suddenly, a small shower of sparks erupted around his hand and his body stiffened, quivering. I heard a sizzling sound. It took me a moment to realize what was happening. I remembered having neglected to put a new bulb in the lamp. It was also possible that I had forgotten to turn the lamp off. Evidently, the point of his knife had found the empty socket. He was trying to scream. By the time I had pulled out the plug, the man was dead. I had to go outside, to get away from the putrid smell.
The rain had stopped. The liberated moon shone sadly on a broken tree, whose trunk had been split by lightning. A little remorsefully, I thought of the man inside. It seemed that violence expired violently. I chose not to call the police right away; I wasn’t looking forward to their questioning. I wanted to be alone. Looking up, I stared at the moon, my moon, all surrounded by a fathomless vault of black. I wondered if lightning ever struck on the moon.

Robbie Graden, November 1986