Voice of Reason

Five o’clock. I ordered two more books by Ayn Rand, but direct from the publisher rather than from Amazon. Free shipping. One title, The Voice of Reason, reminds me of a coworker I once knew named Raejean. I don’t know if she ever read the book, but I think it’s possible because she used the phrase to me in a conversation. She was kind of a Vulcan, but for a few years, so was I. I wore an engraved dog tag that said “Reason” around my neck. I had a little obsession with the idea of “practical reason,” a term I borrowed from Aristotle, for as long as I was working. I converted myself into a robot and worked my job for as many years as I could. The abstraction of Reason was my totem every day until it broke down. Maybe it would have kept going were it not for my growing addiction to alcohol. Being a machine was okay with me up to a point. But eventually I wanted my freedom of thought restored to me. Or maybe I only wanted to drink my life away? I wonder if I’ll ever want to be a robot again. While it lasted, being a cog in the machine wasn’t so bad. It gave me a paycheck every two weeks, and I had a vehicle to drive around. The best part of it was that I could eat all the fast food I wanted. I was a frequent flyer at Carl’s Jr. They had one burrito item, grilled chicken seasoned with cumin, that I was crazy about… Perhaps it was just the alcohol that sabotaged my working life. How can I prevent this from happening if I decide to work again?

Another Letter

I don’t know if I ever confessed this before, but I know why my family disowned me. It is simply because I don’t work a gainful job for my living. It is a white working class family, which is another way of saying redneck, although that’s derogatory. Whatever, they will always be right in their own opinion. It doesn’t even matter to them that I have a mental illness that qualifies me for assistance. They refuse to believe that schizophrenia is a valid reason to accept benefits. It’s a very stupid attitude to take. There are two Jeffs in my family tree: my brother and my nephew, and I don’t know which one is worse. Most of what I know about my nephew was reported to me by my brother, both of them named Jeff. I have a hunch that the more poisonous one is my brother because he was projecting his own feelings onto the other Jeff. I suppose that if Polly had a choice, she would be a little nicer to me just because she is a woman, with a woman’s sensibility.
Another facet to the whole thing is the way I abused alcohol almost to the brink of death. Now I am quite certain that my feelings about the family drove me to attempt slow suicide. Ultimately I chose to live over making the family happy. Alcoholism is built into my working class family system. This is why Polly doesn’t condemn Ed, her middle son, who drinks way too much and yet has a good job as park ranger. You are an okay person as long as you’re working. Well, I don’t have a job, and regardless of my illness, I am considered worthless by all of them. I think it may be because schizophrenia is a malady that doesn’t show. You can appear normal and still be a sufferer. Therefore they think there’s nothing wrong with me.
Even worse, they think that if I am disabled, then I ought to behave like it. It isn’t fitting for a schizophrenic to have any intelligence at all. I’m supposed to be stupid, according to their attitude.
Well, there you have it. I think I’ve figured it all out. It isn’t that they don’t have a valid point. I can see how they might think that way: it’s their tax dollars paying for my existence, and so on ad nauseam. All this is true. But it’s the malice behind this attitude that really takes my breath away.

Advocacy

One fifty. I guess I’ll just start writing and see where it goes. Maybe there’s not much to say. Except this: life doesn’t take a dump on me like it used to. Life respects me a little better than in the past two decades, which seems like a miracle. I remember the uphill battles I fought in the workplace 12 years ago, and how guilty I always felt. What was that all about? More recently, I was able to go back to L— H— and get a little revenge. Truly it was criminal how they arbitrarily closed Harmony House and began to crack the whip on the mentally ill. I never felt that that was right. The agency transformed into a labor camp, in my opinion. I only know what I saw firsthand: participants shredding documents, mowing agency lawns, and washing agency cars. Only once I saw a guy watching a movie by himself in what used to be Harmony House. I felt a strong sense of injustice at what I saw happening. For their part, the Republicans at L— H— were loving it. But it was just wrong. Those participants deserved to have fun and to be human. Instead they were treated like robots. My resignation was in large part a conscientious objection to the injustice I witnessed. Call me a radical, I don’t care what people say.

Samedi

Eight twenty.

I feel like giving my mind a rest for a day. Aesop’s muzzle is supposed to arrive tomorrow. Then we can go for a walk outside. I hear “Jacob’s Ladder” in my head. At the heart of my thinking last night was the dichotomy of the University and the Church. It may be a false dichotomy. Perhaps all dichotomies are false. My tendency to create contraries could be a symptom of schizophrenia… I mustn’t forget to take my mask to volunteering today.

Three thirty. I feel really good today. Just one of those things. Who am I to question it? “If you’re the joke of the neighborhood / Why should you care if you’re feeling good? / You take the long way home.” The sun is out and it’s fifty fifty clouds and sun. The church assembly is a truly amazing bunch of folks. We fed close to thirty families this morning. Pastor went out to Cal’s and bought us a box of donuts. I ate two of the applesauce ones. This afternoon I brought out my kit J Bass and played it for a while. It weighs eleven pounds and feels like a ton, but that’s why it sounds so good. For cosmetic reasons, it only needs a little finishing work on the headstock. After Monday I will look into returning the new Fender for a refund. If I’m stuck with it then I’ll sell it. In the future I will trust my own knowledge and experience in choosing an instrument… Damien has just arrived in order to do some yard work. I hope he’s feeling all right…

Self Medication

Nine o’clock. My brother probably called my number by mistake last night. He’s had accidents like that before on his phone. Anyway he didn’t call me today. I rested in bed for over three hours, but I still feel kind of lousy. Maybe tomorrow I’ll call and ask about Heidi, see how she’s doing. I’m hoping she can return to work soon. Mike texted us a YouTube link to a music video. I wasn’t impressed. He doesn’t like what I like either, but Ron does. I can’t tell yet which of them is the leader of the band, but Ron tends to comply with Mike’s judgments. I’m merely the new guy jockeying for position. Every band dynamic is different, and I just have to feel the situation out. I played with two other guys long ago and it ended up with two of us splitting off from the trio. The guitarist and I jammed together until I started drinking again.

Labor Day 2004 was a fateful weekend. I still don’t know what went wrong. What was my thinking process when I stopped by the convenience store on my way home from work? I bought a half case of Fosters and drank nine of them. But I remember how different my mind was on a medication that didn’t work very well. My head was usually filled with terrifying religious delusions. Getting drunk was the best way to disperse them, and in the morning I would be psychosis free— exactly what I wanted. I don’t blame myself now for overindulging in alcohol back then. Most Fridays when I drank a half case I would watch a horror movie about the devil. It seems to me that this was cathartic, a purging of the psychosis. Then in the morning I woke up feeling better. I’d go to Carl’s Jr. and get a pastrami burger at the drive through. There were no bothersome thoughts then. I felt comfortable for the rest of the weekend.

Defenseless

Six o’clock.

Daylight is on the way, through an overcast. My mental state is always changing, but even more radically since yesterday. I feel like a different self from the one with schizophrenia.

Eight thirty five. Not much in the mood for writing, and that’s a switch. My dose of Vraylar is at 4.5 mg daily. Can’t predict where the benefits will take me. I don’t feel like I used to after the illness. I slept decent last night because of no caffeine yesterday. As far as reading material, I will read what I want to read. Was Jeff right that I’m just a hedonist? And yet he makes a hypocrite of himself. For the record then, I guess I do like pleasure and despise pain. Like my parents. I wish I could spin the clock back to the mid nineties, when the autumns were so comfortable and Duck football was on the television. With music, I seemed to have found my calling. Entertainment is all about feeling good… The church brainwashing is wearing off and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m having a tough time. Probably all the remedy in the world couldn’t make me useful and productive. My parents must have spoiled me. The critical period for learning the work ethic is long past. I feel like I can’t defend myself from myself. Not even with my diagnosis. It feels like me against the whole world. But the pandemic can’t last forever…

Sunday Morning

Nine forty. The clouds are burning off and the sun is out. Vicki was in an okay mood. I heard her say she’s been working for the store for thirty years. That might be all right if you work to live rather than vice versa. I don’t know anything about her personal life. My own experience with employment was feeling fettered, bound up in chains, like a galley slave on a ship going nowhere. The job had nothing to do with me or my interests. I spent so many sleepless nights. In my time off I was a bad boy within reason. How many times did I get ripped and watch The Ninth Gate or Rosemary’s Baby? But it was partly the kind of trash I worked with every day. The workplace was like that. An odd mixture of good and evil, with the one giving license to the other. It took a toll on my health. Industry is a satanic mill, as William Blake warned us two centuries ago… The weather is beautiful right now, and I can hear a lot of activity outside. A mourning dove is cooing softly from its perch somewhere to the west. Aesop has had his breakfast of beef stew. In the kitchen the ants are back, so again I hit them with vinegar. Suddenly it’s quiet but for the hum of the clock. And the Coca-Cola is very good.

Saturday Morning

Seven fifty five. I’m leaving for the church at eight forty. If there’s any canned dog food, I’ll feed Aesop before I go. It’s raining this morning, but lightly. I anticipate that my walk will seem strangely isolated. I hope a lot of people come to the pantry and make it worthwhile. A carping voice in my head tries to say I’m just a no good alcoholic and schizophrenic. Alongside the voice plays the Stravinsky music I used to listen to 25 years ago. Am I as useless now as I was then? Or is the self criticism remembered from someone else who was cruel to me?… Almost time to go. I fed the dog. Now to get on my jacket and get ready…

Noon hour. It worked out just fine. I found myself hanging out up front, facing the parking lot and being a go between. Sometimes I felt like a fifth wheel, but hopefully my presence was helpful. I was the one who suggested putting out the placards and getting the operation going. Barb was reluctant to start, but she assented, and we were soon underway. The first car that drove up turned out to be a woman donating vegetables. It got us off to a good start. Between 9:30 and 10:45 we served over 20 families. Then the crew was reduced to skeleton and I could come home. I’ve just returned from the market with comestibles. Because it is Saturday, I saw more people outside than during the week. I’m having a Dr Pepper and chilling out. Tomorrow’s coffee hour after service ought to be interesting.

Metropolis Revisited

Two forty. My visit with Heidi was very nice. We went to Cal’s for bubble tea, mango for her, blueberry for me. The weather was perfect, and the windows let in a lot of daylight. The same Vietnamese proprietor took our order and prepared our drinks, which were really super. We still don’t know what the bubbles are made of. Heidi said I was very insightful into my delusions. Even some intelligent people with the illness can’t tell when they are psychotic. I thanked her for the compliment, and I guess it’s true how perceptive I can be. She remarked that her car needed a wash, but it wasn’t even her own car. I said she was thinking like a tweaker. We agreed that neither of us sleeps very well at night. We also talked about our experiences with the agency. It sounds like things haven’t changed much since my employment there. The actors may be different, but the roles the same… I’m glad we chose Cal’s this time. By contrast, Black Rock has tinted windows, muting the ambience to semi darkness inside. The place tastes of a nationwide franchise, and feels just as impersonal and industrial. Sort of the way it felt to build a railroad from sea to sea in 19th Century America: this black beast called a locomotive didn’t belong in the landscape. Likewise the urbanization of River Road near the Beltline onramp. Eugene was never meant to grow this big. My feelings on the metropolis are being revised. And yet there’s no flipping the calendar back forty years… except in make believe.

Dream No Longer Deferred

Ten twenty.

Heidi is coming out to pick me up tomorrow at one fifteen. I hope the weather is nice. She’s too cool to be bipolar, yet there it is. Maybe we could go to Cal’s again instead of Black Rock. There’s more light inside the former, and it has a local feel to it. It’s been there since at least 2006, when Alice and I used to meet there before work in the morning. I was like a different person 14 years ago. I had a job and I drove a car, and also I drank like a fish on Friday night. Those must be someone else’s memories. I hovered so close to quitting my job when the old Bell and Howell scanner bit the dust and my supervisor was too chicken to ask the CFO to buy our department a new one. This situation dragged on for weeks, and during it I could hardly get any work done. Ron was a coward, afraid of confrontation with people. He was also a damn fool. Sometime that spring he finally called Office Imaging and the agency purchased a new high speed scanner… I deceived myself that I was happy when I worked a conventional job, but I also felt trapped and miserable as a victim of industrialism. Before 2004, I was still a Lawrentian, an anti industrial Luddite, and a Romantic. Working in an office forced me to become handy with computers, but it was never very natural for me… So tomorrow afternoon could be a time to reminisce a little if Heidi and I go to Cal’s. The contrasts between past and present always are interesting, with a confusion of pleasure and pain. Overall, it will feel like the triumph of freedom in my life.