Okay. Here's the next chapter in the Jackson family saga. This is based mostly on impressions that I got while talking to Joyce on New Year's. It's taken me a few days to assimilate it all enough to write it out. I don't know how much of this is really "true" and how much Joyce influences my perceptions of it. Only time will tell, I guess.
[I've had great doubts about publishing this piece, due to the personal nature of some of the material about the people involved. But I've concluded that not to publish it is a compromise I'm not willing to make.]
I went over to Jim's house today for dinner (New Year's Day). I got there around two. Joyce was in the kitchen, cooking. I asked her why she was there, since she said she was going to be working until six. She said they changed their minds and gave her the day off. I asked where Jim was, and she said he was over at the fire hall. It didn't seem like she wanted to talk. It took her a while, but eventually she got around to telling me what was bothering her. Jim has been drinking again and they've been having fights about it. She says that, actually, he'd never stopped, that he quit his rehabilitation (back when he'd got his DUI) halfway through, blaming it on her because she had to work on one of the days he had to go to his meeting and she couldn't go with him, so he chose not to go by himself.
Joyce characterizes Jim as drinking continually ever since then, but I wonder. It may be more episodic than she makes it out to be. Whatever the case, she says that Jim believes he can control his alcohol consumption--but not entirely successfully, I guess, judging by the incidents that Joyce goes on to describe, like New Year's Eve when he got drunk and tried to drive. (She kind of skipped over that one, so I didn't get the details. In fact, I had to put a lot of this together later from memory and thinking between the lines because she was crying and jumping around from subject to subject and not being very coherent.) I don't know how many of these incidents there have been over the years, how frequent they are, so I can't judge how serious the problem is, but at least one of them is very serious and changes everything I've previously written about Jay. Joyce told me another side of that story:
From what Joyce says, Jay wasn't at all at responsible for Jim breaking his arm. Apparently, Jim completely mischaracterized that when he told me of it. Jim had been drinking and wouldn't leave Jay alone. He was yelling at him and kept pushing him until Jay had finally had enough and said don't push me again, and when Jim did, Jay pushed him back. Jim staggered backward, all the way across the living room, lost his balance, and fell and broke his arm. Joyce says that, as he did it, he reminded her of Fred Sanford with his hand on his heart saying "I'm coming, Elizabeth." If that's true, then Jim blaming Jay in the way he did is kind of a horrible thing for him to do. Apparently, the impression that Jim conveyed to me, that Jay was physically explosive, is more denial and projection than it is grounded in fact. Jay may tend toward that type of behavior when cornered, but Jim provoked him physically when he was drunk so that Jay felt he had to assert himself to keep from being physically abused.
A week or so ago, I think (again, Joyce wasn't being too clear about this and I didn't want to interrupt her), Jimmie and Danny were fighting and Jay went upstairs to defend Danny. He pulled Jimmie off Danny and so Jimmie and Jay started fighting (wrestling, I guess, but seriously). Joyce went up to try to break them up, but she couldn't. Jim came home and couldn't get them apart either, so Joyce suggested that he call the cops. Jim went and called the police, and then he left before they came, leaving Joyce to deal with the situation. The cops came and Jay was upset because he thought he was going to be sent to Shuman (local teen detention center). Joyce's point in telling me this was that she is left alone to run the family, that Jim "ran away" from the problem, because he thought he'd get into trouble himself for being drunk, when, she points out, he wasn't doing anything wrong, and being drunk in his own house is not a crime. (At best, I guess, his judgment was impaired.)
Joyce says that Jim has been using his broken arm as an excuse not to work. (The cast is off now, but he's still going to therapy.) He has had no work and she claims that she is entirely supporting the family and managing it on her own. She is their sole source of income. Jim, she says, does nothing around the house any more and spends most of his time at the fire hall. Joyce is torn between leaving him and staying, but if she leaves, she asks me, where would she go? (I have no opinion.) She can't force him to leave because he hasn't done anything. (I don't know how the legality of that all works, when a wife forces her husband to leave the house.) Anyway, she doesn't really want to leave him, she wants him to quit drinking, she says. But she feels that Jim doesn't think his drinking is a problem (and probably it isn't, I suspect, most of the time--except to himself, to his long-term health).
To a certain small degree, Joyce exaggerates the situation, I think. Jim is probably not a problem most of the time. But she wants him to quit drinking completely to preclude those few times when he is a problem, and in that I can't blame her. Generally, though, Joyce's position is not an exaggeration. Every time I've been over there, when Jim's drinking is "under control" (I can see now how suspicions that I have had previously were true, that it was not just me expecting the worst of him), he is still psychologically and verbally abusive toward Joyce and the kids. But he never acts that way toward me. I pointed this out to Joyce and she said that it's because he knows that I would just say "fuck you" and leave. And she's probably right.
Given that background before Jim came home on New Year's Day, I could easily notice how he had been drinking, whereas before I might have ignored the symptoms. He was in complete control, no slurred speech or anything, but he tried to be too jovial, like Dad used to be when he drank. He thought that things on tv were funnier than they really were, and he encouraged Danny to play "guess the state and world capitals," dragging the game out longer than it was entertaining, when if he had been his "normal" self, he wouldn't have even bothered to play at all. And he wrote me a check for $200 that he owed me and the handwriting was so bad that I'm not sure the bank will even cash it. (I didn't look at it until I got home. I just folded it and put it in my pocket.)
When we were down in Virginia, Jim told Joyce about me and him going into the "junk" business. (Cleaning out houses to be remodeled.) He's talked about this kind of thing with me for a long time, not only cleaning out houses, but before that, of buying, remodeling, and reselling old houses, and it's only occurring to me now what his motives might be for wanting to do this. First of all, he probably doesn't have any work. (Joyce said, as a passing comment, that not only has he ruined his own business, but he's ruining her job as well--because she has to take off time to attend to problems that he won't handle). [I suspect that the hospital didn't I give her the day off, that she had to take it off to cook dinner because he wouldn't do it and she'd invited me over on Christmas and didn't want to cause me to suspect that something was wrong--although I guess she decided that she couldn't hide it from me any longer.] And Jim has always admired Jim Sugden, his old boss, for the way he involved his whole family in his work. So I think that he has this vision/strategy that he and I and his sons will develop a family business. I think this is kind of a semi-conscious response of his to Joyce's criticism of him, which has apparently been going on for a while. And Joyce all of a sudden telling me all of this stuff when she has kept it a secret since Jim's "rehabilitation" may be an (unconscious?) attempt on her part to keep up her side of the argument, to justify herself, because she feels that maybe Jim is going to actually make this happen, at least in some small way, since we've got our first job together, Jim, Jimmie, Jay, and I. (At one point he'd even included Danny, but I guess he's backed off that idea, that he's still too young.) Joyce may feel that Jim is "winning" the kids over to "his side" and she has to act to keep them. I remember a long time ago thinking this about them, that they used the kids as pawns in a destructive game they played out between themselves. If so, then I guess that Joyce had been winning that game for a long time. She definitely made it a point to tell me on New Year's that Jim thinks that no one knows what's really going on re his drinking, when everyone is aware of it. When she said it, I understood that she meant that the kids were well aware of the problem. Danny was standing in the dining room with us while she was saying this, listening to every word, and I got the impression that she'd talked directly to the kids about the problem. And now Jim is maybe gaining back some ground with his kids by employing them so that they can earn some spending money working in a family business. It's in this sense that I think that maybe Joyce is not quite so right as she may otherwise seem to be. Yes, Jim shouldn't be drinking, and he certainly shouldn't be drinking to the point where he becomes abusive and out of control, but I wonder how much of his problem is prompted by Joyce's "need' to keep him locked into his situation and unable to stop drinking. Several times on New Year's Day and on a number of occasions over the years she's told me about how her father was an alcoholic, and her brother and her older sister also, how she understands the problem because she's lived with it all her life, how she feels locked into it, a victim of it, etc. So, in a way, she may be playing out her early family script in her own family. I think she may consciously realize this, but I don't think she knows how she may need to have Jim dependent on alcohol and thus dependent on her to maintain and support the family. She went to great lengths to explain to me how Jim thinks he's so secure in his family situation, that he believes that she will never leave him, and she even told me that she believes that herself, that she can't really decide to leave him. She said that he doesn't know how much he needs her, but I don't think she understands how much she needs him to remain in the situation he's in. So she feels stuck, unable to leave him even though she knows it's her only option to solving the problem. She indicated to me that she knows that one way to force Jim to stop drinking was to leave him until he does. But if she chooses not to do that (and she concluded that she definitely has made that choice, at least for now, despite what she'd earlier implied about leaving him), then what does that say about her?
I got the idea that Joyce wanted me to say something to Jim about this. She seemed to be dropping hints, like when she talked about her thinking that Mickey (fire hall associate) knows what's going on, but doesn't say anything, and no one else at the fire hall will say anything to him either. But I get the feeling that if I would say anything, and especially if I would be in any way successful in convincing Jim to stop drinking (which I don't think I could in any case), I'd be more of a pawn in her battle with Jim than helping her to "solve" her problems. In agreeing to work with Jim, I feel like maybe I'm already heading toward getting stuck in the middle of something here that I don't want to become involved in. In a sense, it'd be a healthy thing for Jim to work together in a family business. But that's a family that Joyce would be excluded from and I don't think she likes this idea, based on the way she ridiculed him in Virginia for his idea about going into the "junk" business. [Her earlier reference to Fred Sanford may have been an unconscious revelation of this point.]
This whole situation makes me feel sad and cautious. I think about Dad and Uncle George, how they stopped talking to each other for the rest of their lives over a dispute about the money from Grandma's house that Uncle George kept and spent on alcohol. I see how easily I could end up falling into that same trap if I don't keep it consciously in mind. Jim has owed me $50 for over two years. And he's owed me another $100 for nearly six months. I wonder if he can afford the $200 he paid me on Wednesday that he's owed me for nearly two months. I know that he keeps his work money separate from Joyce's household money (I think that the money he makes is his and Joyce's income goes to support the household), so I guess if he has the cash, he can afford it. I don't really care about the money. In fact, if he had asked me to work with him for free to help him out when he broke his arm, I probably would have done it. But I feel like I should continue to expect him to pay me what he owes me because I think he needs to be responsible for his debts. I feel like if I let him off the hook, that'll be just one more step on his downhill slide. But I have to keep in mind that I can't ever argue with him about it because I can see how that script of Dad and Uncle George could come into play if Jim is spending his money on alcohol instead of paying his debts--which he is, because on Christmas, Jim told me he'd spoken to Bill Coll (I can't remember the details, something about Joan and the kids, nothing important), but then, on New Year's Joyce told me that she met Bill Coll in Giant Eagle the other day and he mentioned that he saw Jim. Joyce asked him where he saw him and Bill said at the State Store. So, Jim has enough money to buy alcohol, even if he's not working.
I asked Joyce if she had anyone to talk to about all of this. She said she has Alanon, but I got the impression that she doesn't go there very often. She said she doesn't talk to anyone she knows about this because Jim convinces her to keep quiet to protect his image. She says she can't talk to her sister about it because Karen would judge Jim and end up thinking badly of him, and of her too for not leaving him. And she said that she thinks that my sister thinks badly of her because she invites them up to Boston and they don't go, and so every time she calls them, Joyce feels bad and goes off somewhere so that she doesn't have to talk to her, because she feels that she'll accidentally reveal the problem to her, and Jim doesn't want her to do that. But I think that she also hasn't wanted anyone to know about it either, and not only because outside involvement might work toward solving the problem and threatening to end their codependency, but just because she feels ashamed that she's in this situation in the first place.
Without me even bringing up the subject (I thought of this a while ago, but not recently), Joyce went way out of her way to explain to me how the medical profession (or whoever) has redefined the ‘dysfunctional family' in a more lenient way so that families who fight are not automatically categorized as dysfunctional. She emphasized this so much that I have to think that it's defensive. I think she's afraid that her family is dysfunctional and she's trying to rationalize her way out of that fear.
So, that's a basic summary and analysis of my New Year. Pretty intensive in comparison with my relatively calm "holiday" since Dec 21st. I hope this isn't an omen for how the whole year is going to turn out.
I slept only an hour and a half last night and then watched movies until eleven this morning when I switched over to Hometown High Q because my nephew was on it. I taped it for my brother. After it was over, he called and asked if I taped it, because he forgot about it. I'm wondering if this were some kind of a cosmic (or personal) test. What if I had forgotten too? What would be the effect? Anyway, because I thought he might come over and take the tape before I had a chance to copy it, I got out of bed and moved the video player from the living room and connected it to the computer. (The tv in the living room is still not working. The fuses, arriving yesterday via priority mail, did not fix the problem. There's power across the fuse, but it still will not come on. Something else is wrong that had caused the fuse to blow. I'm suspecting the picture tube. I've been planning to move the player anyway, but I always hesitated because I didn't want to be moving it back and forth, but now that the tv is probably not going to get fixed... Who needs a big console tv anyway?) Next, I copied the sections of the tape I wanted to keep, those with the girl and I sitting side by side pretending not to be attracted to each other. This is the completion of a long-held goal, the first time I've copied digitally from tape. Another item crossed off my list. It works great, but it's not too practical. It takes up too much disk space and compressing the files deteriorates the quality too much. Next step: save the transferred files to CDs and delete them from my hard drive.
I'm trying to get back to a daylight schedule, and I only have two more days to do it before I have to work with Jim (Tuesday). I'd hoped to get to bed early last night, but it was seven in the morning before I finally did. I rationalized that I'd only sleep for a few hours and thus be tired this evening so that I could get a full night's sleep. But then I slept for six and a half hours. Got to get serious tonight.
I installed more interior lights in the car. They're blue "mood" lights. Now my car at night when you turn them on looks like some kind of futuristic sci fi machine. Cool.
Slept late (i.e., got up early after four hours sleep and took a late morning/early afternoon four-hour nap). Pretty much blew my opportunity to standardize my schedule, but I couldn't sleep and I just didn't have the resolve to stay up during the day.
Left the house at nine-thirty, went to the bank to deposit the check Jim gave me last week, then stopped for gas at Exxon, where I got us each a coffee. We arrived at the job at about ten-thirty and worked for three and a half hours. I made a real haul. I got all kinds of stuff, a ten speed bicycle, all kinds of containers and wire connections (tv and phone), two computer keyboards, two monitors, a serial port, a modem, two clock radios, a wall clock, an office swivel chair on wheels, 44 cents in change, batteries, batteries, batteries, and (talk about synchronicity) I got a tuner (cable box) for the tv in the basement and (ta-da) a strobe light. I've been researching strobes for over a month now, looking for the lowest price on the Net. I almost bought one at radio shack until I found better prices on the Net. But I waited, undecided, and viola. [But there's also asynchronicity too (see next entry).]
We finished cleaning out the house this morning. We filled a twenty yard dumpster and were beginning to wonder if there would be enough room for everything. But we just made it. Six hours, four guys. Not bad. $750 - $275 (dumpster) - $150 (two guys) = $162.50 ea (for Jim and me) / 6 = $27/hr. Not as great as I thought, but not bad considering all the stuff I got: among all the other stuff I mentioned before, I got a six foot particle board cabinet (I don't know where I'm going to put it), a video cassette rewinder, a Brother electric typewriter/word processor, a camera case, a canvas briefcase, a Green Day CD, an Aerosmith cassette tape, a blank CD-R, a cassette tape storage case, a door-bottom weather guard (brand new), fancy shower curtain hooks, a binder, all kinds of nuts, bolts, washers, etc., etc., a lot of them in their original containers, aquarium filters & heaters, at least one of which was brand new etc., a complete two gallon self-contained aquarium, a staple gun, a roll of screen mesh for replacing window screens, four nice Corningware cups, and innumerable little pieces of junk that I've got to sort through to see if I want to keep or throw out. I could have had a SkiMaster that was like new, but we broke it up and threw it out because I didn't want it and didn't want to go to the hassle of trying to sell it, although I probably could have gotten a nice piece of change for it.
On the way home, I forced myself to go grocery shopping, even though I didn't want to, and when I got home, I ate a whole lot of food and went to bed for a four hour nap. When I woke up, I was muscle-sore from all the exercise over the last two days, and now I feel like I'm getting a cold from working outside and breathing all that nasty moldy dust. (We should have been wearing dust masks.)
Now all I've got to do is go through all this stuff, sort it out, and put it away. And talking about synchronicity, it sometimes just misses: last week I bought a tv antenna output-to-cable adaptor, and then at the house I found two of them. And I bought cable connectors and cut my extra long cable and divided it into two sections, and now I find long lengths of cable with connectors already attached. I should have waited a week. Hey, you never know what's just around the corner.
This evening, lying in bed, watching tv, and wanting to accomplish things, but feeling worn out and sore every time I actually get up to go and do something, I remember how I used to feel every single day while I was working, coming home exhausted, going to bed for a few hours, getting up and doing things that needed to be done, feeling exhausted all the time and fighting off the feeling. Most of my problem then, I think, was that I was chronically physically drained from resisting the near-pain (even though you can kill it with drugs, its effects still take their toll), and accompanying exhaustion. Never mind the mental effects, the physical ones are enough alone to do you in. And yet now, having finally recovered after years of early "retirement," in this postmodern society I could be among the fittest, surviving by staying out of the way of the caustic social (stress) and noxious (physical) elements that are killing off or debilitating those people who cannot take better care of themselves by living a healthy life because they are too caught up in the times, needing to involve themselves more completely within the social/physical structure, stressing themselves out to the point where they ruin their health and shorten their lives. At least, it sure seems that way when I go out to work for a few days and begin to suffer for it. How many other people feel this way every single day and fight it off in order to "survive and prosper"? I've solved this problem for myself, when I will not go out.
Recovering from the heavy work. Putting in time putting things away. Getting a lot of sleep.
Last night on the Discovery Channel, a revisionist history program investigating the Alamo introduces one of their researchers as an "avocational archaeologist." Slick. As if people aren't going to realize that the label means that the guy is not a professional, but a hobbyist. Actually, now that I think about it, most people probably won't take the time to even think about it. Anyway, the assignation is clever enough to start me thinking about what I can be, in an avocational way, what I can call myself. I could literally be anything I want, avocationally: a teacher, a cosmologist, a physicist, a minister, whatever. This opens up whole new realms for me.
Life proceeds slowly again. Put a few things away, organize a bit, watch a little bit of tv, have devastating dreams, meditate. Nathan Shakin, man. Too much time on my hands. Thinking too much, dwelling on the past: Despite my (congenital?) disability, I aspired to and achieved success as a production manager, much in the same way as Marlee Matlin overcame her disability to become a mainstream actor. It's true that the stress that I underwent as a result of my persistent and single-minded purpose took its toll and I eventually fell apart, but that fact cannot take away the interim success I had. For someone like me, extremely introverted and frozen into inaction by social anxiety as I had been early on in my life, to have accomplished what I did is a monument to dedication and focus. I should be celebrated for achieving what I did. But I am not. And so I celebrate myself.
Existing. Winter affect settling in, and I am fighting it all the way, trying to keep accomplishing token tasks, keeping my hand in at doing things, if only minimally. But otherwise existing, and not in that positive way that you exist in the summer, lazing in the sun. In that winter way where you put in the time and hope that you can get through it without the cold breaking through the outer walls and seeping into the heart of your existence. (I'm sleeping well, though. Long hours.)
The Brother Word Processor that I got from the old house works perfectly. And the Acer keyboard is compatible with both my Compaq and my Leading Edge computers. The U.S. Logic keyboard seems to be compatible with the old IBM (same plug), but I haven't tested it yet because that one isn't hooked up to run.
I think I have too many computers.
Chipping away at long term tasks, and getting nowhere, really. Burning up all of the long wood by feeding it into the woodstove as it burns, and thus avoiding having to cut it all up. That's how lazy I am these days.
The Zenith monitor that I got from the house we cleaned out works on my new system, but it's only a 640 x 480 resolution, so it doesn't allow some of my system functions to appear, and I can't seem to find a way to reduce their display size any further. It'll be a good replacement monitor for my brother's old Hewlett Packard, though, if I ever get it set up again.
I never wanted to be a writer, really. I had fantasies when I was young that I would be a professional writer, that is, that I would earn money writing. But I never really wanted to do it.
I wanted, merely, to express the ideas, and early on, especially, the dreams. And if I could make something further out of that expression, and if I could make money, so much the better.
I never wanted to be anything, really. Only me. I had fantasies when I was younger, and still, that I was successful in various professions, but I never wanted to actually work at them.
I only (ever) want(ed) to be myself, whatever it was, or is, I am. It's time to realize that dream. What I am, today, forever, is, what I am, always, and have been. I can be nothing else.
Still struggling with what to do. Feeling kind of lost. Don't want to write. Don't want to work. Well, I want to, but I'm not motivated to. I'm not motivated to do much else daily other than to go and get the mail, sweep snow off the sidewalks, burn wood in the wood stove, and watch tapes. I guess that enough, though. It is winter, after all.
I want to write, but I'm still not motivated. So late today I begin at least to think about it. I want to incorporate all of my formats into one, a kind of creative fictive encompassing all my experience: dreams, fantasies, my real (local, personal, etc.) life, and the "real" world (news, politics, etc.), ala Kathy Acker. This is an old goal of mine that surfaces occasionally when I try to become productive again after a long lull. It's the goal that resulted in the pastiche format, which is what I want to do again, but better this time around.
New neighbors moved into the rent-to-own next door. The guy is short, almost dwarf-sized. He has at least two kids, a son and a daughter. I haven't seen the wife yet. They seem very family oriented, so I guess there's not too much chance of any trouble. Actually, I've been really lucky with neighbors, though. I could care less who moves in, Charles Manson could move in so long as he doesn't cause me any problems.
I've started working (writing) again. What a relief. It seems I need a period of adjustment between productive periods alone and being out among people, especially during intense family situations like those on New Year's. But I already knew this. Life is for learning (the same things again and again and again).
Suddenly, without any preliminary indication that it's coming, I'm ambitious again. [Looking back, I see that there were indications that I wasn't paying any conscious attention to.] I'm getting my schedules, if not yet exhaustively, somewhat done again. What keys this return to productive behavior? What can I do to prolong it, to make it permanent? As I indicated yesterday, it may very well have to do with having been out and about and negatively unconsciously influenced by the psychologies of others. I'm aware of the fact that I am affected in some way by going out among people, but am totally unaware of the mechanism by which it all operates. But if I am to develop a strategy to counter this "too open" aspect of my psyche, I‘m first going to have to become aware of that mechanism. I've tried before to develop this strategy, without success (not that that is any reason not to try again; many successes come after repeated failures), and it's such a lot of hard mental work better put toward writing, I think. On the other hand, that type of thing is what much of my writing is all about. I'll just let the strategy develop, if it will. No need to go out of my way to provoke it, but if the thoughts occur, I'll follow them and maybe come up with something. (This is me, without having realized it until now, programming myself in that direction.) But, this tendency toward loss of "ambition" (for lack of a better word) is also a symptom of depression, perhaps keyed by having been out among others' psychologies so as to unwittingly develop transferences, but certainly internal nonetheless, that is, of my own psyche. I should be asking: What can I do to ward off this depressive effect? And if it is that, the answer is probably nothing, or at least nothing I want to do, like taking psychoactive drugs, etc. Been there. Done that.
Jim called this morning. Everything comes to him who waits. He said he saw my number on his (electronic; automatic) calls list and wanted to know what I wanted. I said I told Danny to have him call me. He said he didn't tell him. I said I just wanted to know if we were going back out to the house to get that stuff we left there. He said maybe sometime this week. He had another job out there, spackling, dry-walling some ceilings, etc. The way he talked, I couldn't tell if he meant that he wanted me to help him or not. I thought to ask, but got interrupted by other stuff. Either way, it's okay. He said he'd get me the money he owes me as soon as he "gets back on his feet." Then he added "from my arm," as if it had been necessary to point that out, which made me think that maybe the statement could have indicated more and that once he said it, it had to be qualified. I mean, if a certain amount of guilt hadn't been there, why would he have to qualify it in the first place? When I called him the other day and Danny said he wasn't there, I asked Danny if he was at the fire hall. Danny said he didn't know and told me to wait a minute. When he came back to the phone, he said he didn't know where he was. The exchange caused me to suspect (intuition? imagination?) that Jim had been there and had told Danny to tell callers he wasn't home (which Jim will do). And this, in turn, caused me to suspect that he'd been drinking and talking to me might have revealed it. Maybe it's true and maybe it's not, but I've been here before and given him the benefit of the doubt, only to later have my suspicions confirmed. This brings to mind again the whole idea of New Year's Day. I have to go back and revisit that stuff, finish it up, and send the appropriate summary to my sister. That was where I was when I got off on this recent "depressive" tangent (which could be not too much more than simple "winter blues," as I earlier pointed out). Anyway, whatever it was, I've waited it out and things are moving again. But last night I was channel surfing and came across a statement [CSPAN2 books' weekend] by some aged ex-princess who was talking about some Jewish artist or dignitary of some sort (his first name was something like Primo) who had killed himself during one of his depressions. She said that he was probably in one of his normal bouts and expected to come out of it as usual, but something happened that caused him to choose to kill himself instead. I awaken late this afternoon after a five hour nap (I was up all night burning wood and writing, backing up files, etc. after a three hour early evening nap last night) thinking about depression and suicide (thus this piece). I think that what happened to that guy could never happen to me because I never want to kill myself. No matter how bad things are, I value my life, even my "misery." But then, I think, it hasn't really been all that miserable. I mean, I've never been starving, for example, nor terminally ill, not even seriously chronically ill (although I came close with the stress stuff and the CFS). And, in fact, I do think about killing myself, as an option, but always I rule it out with the above logic, so who knows what I might do one day in a fit of deepening ennui. I rationalize that I always would decide that my life is a precious thing, and I just know there's nothing else after what I now have, so how could I possibly choose to shorten this perception? But who knows what's in store for me to change my mind. I hereby firmly resolve never to end my life intentionally, no matter what. But you never know what's around the corner. I've got to stop qualifying myself, or else I'm leaving the gate wide open for the winter wolves to enter. Never will I do it. Never, never, never. (That's way too vehement for my taste. Is there a pointer to repression in that rhetoric?)
It's been difficult interpreting this matter: I'm beginning to get the idea that Joyce, on New Year's Day, was not so right. I understand that she made some good points, but she may also have been wallowing in her own misery and being an uncaring bitch, exhibiting a non-understanding attitude toward the pain in Jim's arm (and in his mind) and how it's been bothering him. Yeah, some of Jim's complaints are an excuse not to work, but then, if he isn't feeling well, why not make that excuse? Other people do. A lot of what Joyce accuses him of (e.g., not working and not taking on his share of responsibility for the house) may be just his reaction to having been injured, and not so permanent a situation. And, especially, Joyce doesn't understand Jim's psychological pain, a part of which she contributes to. Not that what she had to say on New Year's wasn't true, even if it may have been exaggerated a bit, but that she isn't seeing the whole picture, the reason why Jim drinks, and the codependency she's caught up in.
My truck (85 blue Toyota) is parked facing east at the side of the road on the short stretch between the top of Seagirt Street and the alleyway to the east. db and I are talking to neighbors we know in the area. I get into the truck to pull it out into the street for some reason, but the left rear wheel is stuck in mud. I spin the wheel for a short while and then I try to free it by more subtly rocking it back and forth. CUT TO:
Driving in the opposite direction (west) and turning south (left) onto the last street. db is with me. The street turns into a street high up on the hill in Oakmont, and we're traveling in the opposite direction (north). I'm upset at db for some reason, and so I get out of the truck while it's still moving, so that db has to hurry over into the driver's seat, with difficulty because of the bucket seats and floor shifter, in order to take control of the truck to keep it from crashing. She continues to drive on, leaving me there walking along, pissed. [When I awaken, I think that an option she had, which idea didn't exist in the dream, could have been to stop the truck and, perhaps, try to coax me back into it. I think, awake, that this is what she may have done in reality (at least in order to find out why I would do such a thing, but probably more likely to act from an insecure motive, that she is with me and should not leave me alone and thus be abandoned herself), which suggests that her dream character is not really her, but an aspect of my personality. I wonder, awake, why I have all these dreams about db. Maybe it's because I've introjected her as an aspect of my psychology. Seems logical.] I walk over to Hulton Rd and down the hill, planning to return home (to 6023) via Allegheny River Blvd. As I'm walking down the hill, I pass a heavy-set girl and a heavy-set older woman, not paying any attention to them, more concerned with how I might avoid walking all the way home, hoping db will return with the truck to pick me up. [I see now that in the dream I wanted db to stop.] The girl calls to me and I turn. She has to tell me who she is because I don't recognize her. It's Beverly and her mother. She asks me if I need a ride, and I say yes, I do. We get into her car, which is parked at the side of the road, but as we get into it, it turns out to be parked, not on the hillside, but on the level, up at the top of the hill. The car has a steering wheel on the right. Before I notice this, as Bev and her mother are getting into the right side and I the left, I say, "Oh, do you want me to drive." Then I see the wheel. But Bev gets into the car and slides across the seat and the wheel comes with her. I have an option to get into the back seat. The seat is pulled forward (2 door coupe), and Bev is, again, not yet in the car. I want to sit next to her and have her mother drive the car. But I end up in the back seat. And just before we're ready to drive away, Bev's retarded [oh, excuse me, 'special'] son and db show up in the back seat with me. db and I talk, indirectly (to each other and about the subject) about the difficulties we are having with each other. CUT TO:
Main street of Oakmont. There's some kind of celebration going on and everyone is partying in the street and selling things at tables in front of stores (stores on both sides of street). Mom is with us, and Jim. We walk past an Isaly's store. Mom suggests we get ice cream. Everyone thinks it's a good idea. We go into the store. I ask Jim to lend me some money, because I don't have any with me. He pulls out a lot of small denomination bills from his pocket and holds them out for me to choose. I try to take a one, but the bills are all crumbled together and I'm having a hard time separating them, so I take a two because it's the easiest to separate. I think of telling him that I'll pay him back, but rai: he tells me to subtract it from what he owe me.
I feel a certain sadness while remembering jumping out of the truck: an old affect that I haven't felt so much lately, related to introversion and detachment, separating myself from people because they "hurt" me, but feeling sad as a result, not from the hurt, but from the necessity of the separation.
note: Creating short stories out of dreams (this is not what I'm doing here) is a way that I deal with dreams (and other material, by association) without having to (so much, except when it is immediately obvious to me so that I can document the ideas as they occur to me) become aware of the "meaning" of the dreams. I create stories out of the material, and probably I benefit unconsciously (if I do not make any conscious connections, which I often also do) through the process.
I want my ideals to be effective in the world, but I recognize that they are not likely to take hold, at least not in my lifetime. So, while I continue to espouse my philosophy, I watch with interest as the world plays out its evil, violent, and/or mercenary/pecuniary scripts. It's good entertainment, the news. (It's at least as good as drama, and the media play it for all its worth in that regard.) For example, while I am against a war with Iraq (or with anyone, I suppose), I find the build-up and the rhetoric, and even the bellicosity, captivating. I could be a warrior myself, in a different frame of mind, or with a different physiology/psychology. I hone my philosophy to exclude this type of behavior/thought. But I enjoy it nonetheless, watching it in others and getting a certain vicarious pleasure from it, projecting my own instinctive motive onto people who are more comfortable with being warriors. It's hardwired, and to deny it completely would be as hypocritical of me as the philosophical stance I take is.
For a long time I've recognized the discrepancy in my theory of appearance v. true inner self, that one's inner self determines one's appearance and, at the same time, belies it, that one's physical attributes, i.e., one's countenance and stature (to the degree that they are not congenital or genetically determined) and one's behavior reflect one's inner state that has persisted over time, yet one can exist, often, trapped within a body and unknown to those who judge people by their appearance. But I think I may have stumbled onto a resolution of that opposition.
Early on in our lives, when we are young enough not to have yet become set in our ways, nature (genetics and/or early environment, including prenatal) can deal us a bad hand, and we can end up looking much unlike we really feel we are. But as the years roll by and we feel the further ravages of nature and the not-so-nice aspects of the human psychology of others (and ourselves), our defective outer appearance programs our inner nature, twists it into a kind of nastiness to match the outward appearance. (Sometimes this can happen early on, especially in cases of extreme deformity, where it becomes impossible for the young mind to ignore its appearance until it becomes older and more personally observant.)
But an opposite formative process can occur simultaneously. We can recognize our defects, not accept them, and struggle to make them go away, in whatever way we will happen across to accomplish this. We can go to doctors, to dermatologists, to chiropractors and osteopaths, to plastic surgeons, to whomever we think may help us in our inner battle with our outward appearance, so that we may tend to slow or even stop our inner nature from mirroring our appearance and vice versa.
Meanwhile, yet another process occurs. Early childhood trauma (even that which is based on "ordinary" events that we, in our fragile, absorbing states of mind unwittingly assign too much importance to) can upset our inner workings and cause more or less permanent "disturbances" that in turn, if we are of a certain propensity, can begin to concretize into our external appearance, which in its turn can feed back to even more solidify the inner problems.
So, taken all together, a personal matrix is formed that reflects and further determines each individual's external/internal balance. We are products of our appearance, and we strive to change negative aspects of it; we are products of our early conditioning, and we strive to change that conditioning; even as our appearance changes our inner workings and our inner workings sculpt our appearance--all to varying degrees, depending on our personal history.
I have striven all of my life to correct my physical deformities and to negate the effects of not an inconsiderable amount of negative early conditioning, with the results that I look quite normal now (with the exception of a certain appearance that I intentionally cultivate to look outrageous). I believe that, if I had been a different person early on, I could have easily given into my physiology and ended up a crippled old man long before his time. I could have been one of those guys with a severely pitted face, yellowed teeth, twisted neck, and bent back. I could be a fat, sour old bastard who hates life, even his own, and goes about criticizing and berating everybody.
But I am still continually heading off those tendencies and constructing something worthwhile, when it seems that most people my age have given up and are accepting the inevitable ravages of time and psychology. I continue to work against my physical and mental faults in the best way I know how. I have not given in, and I believe I never will. My body/mind is my living sculpture, an ongoing art project that I am always working at. When I give up on this work of art, I give up on myself, and I might as well then go ahead and die.
This is the first time this winter that the wood stove, when I used it, couldn't keep the house at seventy degrees and the furnace had to keep kicking on. It's three a.m. and four degrees with a wind chill of about two hundred below, and it's only supposed to go up to eleven tomorrow. I'm settling into the depths of winter and wintering it very well, huddling inside except for minor forays out to the shed to get wood, and into the basement for token tasks, to keep my "hand in," to avoid becoming too sedate. I'm fighting off, daily, a tickling feeling in my throat and nasal passages with massive doses of vitamin C and Listerine, and minimizing stress by lazing in a warm bed watching tv and tapes. Things have been going well for me, although not today (I hope this isn't a harbinger) as I meet obstacle after obstacle in my attempts to carry out my daily routine; but when this happens, instead of beating my head against a psychic wall, insisting that I get my way with the world, which is my tendency, I head off in another direction, doing something else, because God likes to have Its little joke from time to time, inserting disharmony and incompletion into the fabric of the material world to test its mettle and resolve, and I will not play that game with It today. It's a nasty little game anyway, and I wonder that I play it at all, except that I can be nearly as stubborn as It can, when I want to insist that my little ego is as important. But generally, things are going well this winter, better than usual, so that I'm finding myself actually enjoying the weather from within. But it's a tentative peace and calm, with the usual winter affect hovering just outside the door, scratching at it like the freezing wolf it is. But at least my mental state has been better thus far than in past winters, when I have felt inundated with seasonal affective disorder. I wonder if I am changing, maturing, healing, or at least, getting smarter and living more sanely--inside.
Think about the state of music before it became an 'industry'. For millennia, musicians performed in the moment. If you wanted to hear music, you had to go and hear it performed. Then Edison invented recorded sound and, viola, suddenly music ownership and rights came to the foreground. And that was only a century or so ago! We've lost the sense of performance as an experience, sacrificing it to music as a product. Early recordings (ala radio, for example) were a great way to get people interested in coming to see you perform live. But in less than a hundred years, we've turned that idea on its head. Now, musicians tour and go on tv in order to stimulate record sales. The fundamental purpose of music, performance, has been usurped by greedy promoters and record companies (and artists; let's be fair). The recording industry has been on a free long ride. Successful musicians sit back and rake in massive profits while actually performing less and less. But now, it all seems to be coming to an end as desperate industry suits scramble to try to salvage the deteriorating market. If things continue to go the way they have been going, musicians will have to return to performing for a living. And as far as the executives go, they were never much more than blood-sucking vampires anyway. Internet file trading is a wooden stake being pounded into their hearts. (That's hyperbolic metaphor. At worst, it's a necklace of garlic.)
Music used to be a local enterprise. Musicians traveled between localities, performing on tour. People actually went to see them. It's a time-honored practice that is all but dead now. Modern concerts are a joke. Too many people, usually screaming and distracted by drugs and alcohol, make it impossible to enjoy the experience as music. Serious fans cannot appreciate the performance, which is almost always far substandard to what the group can do in a studio, a 'local' place where they can settle in and actually perform--except that they can do continual retakes and need not be too concerned with getting an actual 'live' performance right, the first time. We're in danger of losing our musical heritage, i.e. quality in the moment. (I know this is more hyperbole; there will always be great performers. But how "famous" will they become?)
But file trading promises to bring back the old days of the traveling minstrel. By devaluing the postmodern product, it endangers the livelihood of the people who produce it. If things keep going the way they're going, soon, if not already, music in a digital form will be ubiquitous, there will no companies to market the 'hard copy' products (driven out of business by an inability to mass market), and the 'soft copies' will be available for free to anyone with a computer connected to the Internet. This is a good thing. Musicians will return to live performance as the primary means to earn their living. The excess of promoters and executives, those who cannot survive promoting live venues, will migrate to other businesses where their skills at preying on people are valued. (Don't worry about them; there are plenty of those businesses around.) People will actually have to go and see live performances (or watch them on tv), and digital music, like the original recordings, will be made for promotional purposes, to lure in audiences. But don't count the record companies out just yet. They're desperately trying to figure out how to stop file trading, which the may very well do, by severely limiting our right to interact with whom we will in private and exchange what we possess without Big Brother looking over our shoulders.
Nothing worth writing about. This is a statement, not of the state of the world, but the current state of my mind. [But isn't that true of all statements?]
More of the same. It's taken me eight years to get to a point where I no longer feel guilty for staying home and can just simply go about my life without worrying about how it is I am able to work at what I want to do without having to go out to a job every day. I've finally fully settled into my new life and can go about my three-tiered day [morning-writing, afternoon-"house" work; evening-art, music, tv, reading, and general relaxation] in relative peace and harmony with my small-world environment.
The larger world out there, though, is a different story. The world is a tough and dangerous place. In order to get into and remain in power, people must be evil. "Good" people, if they happen to grab a bit of power (which is not likely), do not keep it for very long. A big part of remaining in power consists of convincing those whom you are in power over (and, many times, convincing yourself) that you are good and those who oppose you are evil (or just plain bad, or wrong, if your opponents happen to be members of the same "good" political system of which you are a member), when in fact you and your opposition are both part of the evil force that runs the world.
It is the nature of power that makes it evil. Good people cannot secure power because evil people will always eventually outwit them, having the advantage of a far wider range of action, not being restricted by the scruples that hinder the good. This fact of human nature (animal nature cannot be evil) makes a dangerous world even more dangerous as evil people define themselves as good and the weaker (less bad) people as evil. You see this pattern across all human institutions: governments, churches, businesses, universities... The most effective tool that evil people have is their ability to make good people believe that they are not evil. If they can make themselves believe it too, so much the better.
But this kind of dichotomous thinking is deceptive, because there are no completely good or evil people. Good and evil exist within each of us. However, it is that evil part of ourselves that we access when we rise to take on power.
I feel like I'm heading off in a different direction. The daylight schedule that I maintained for so long is beginning to deteriorate. I strive to keep on schedule, but I have no real motivation to do so. Why should I when the days are so bleak and cold?
The stock market continues to drop over the uncertainty of war with Iraq. Can there be any doubt remaining that Bush is bad for the economy? Business doesn't like Europeans to be bad-mouthing us, disagreeing with our war plans and rhetoric. The world is a global economy and business sees how that will become affected. Business likes stability, and it's afraid of what Bush will do next. It wants the world to settle down so it can begin to make big bucks again. As far as war with Iraq goes, I think Bush is "right," but that doesn't make him right. As a practical course of action, Saddam must be dethroned. He will never give in to demands that he disarm, nor will the world ever be safe as long as he's around. But who determined that that was the criteria for national engineering? Well, George Bush did, of course. Like his father, he believes that "democratic" capitalism is the only proper future for the world, and he is about to make it happen, despite the cost.
I think I'm beginning to get a case of cabin fever. At least, I'm beginning to show symptoms of a winter chill. My back aches from carrying too much wood. My nasal passages, although not symptomatic of a full-blown cold, are slightly swollen and semi-clogged. I look out at the street and wish the snow would melt. I sick of shoveling it, nearly every day. I want to work, but all I do is lie around feeling guilty that I do not. The minimal amount of work I do per day only teases me, and even when I work, I don't feel like it, I only put in time, according to schedule, like I'm doing now. I'd much rather be in bed watching movies. I'm sleeping days and watching tv and reading all night long, with short interspersed periods of getting out of bed to go and do some small task, as the motivation strikes me. I'm eating too many carbohydrates and my weight has crept up a few pounds. But I'm not feeling at all depressed, at least not mentally. But then, that typically sets in later, in early spring.
It's beginning to seem to me that the repetitive (over the years) and prosaic nature of these journal entries make the whole process a waste of time. Although I know that this is a symptom of my winter affect (this theme itself is an example of this perception), still, it's a valid observation. Much of the life I'm documenting here is a bore, a worthless description except for the fact of it, because a life is a life. Yet, this is my purpose here, to document it. I'm creating hard evidence of the futility of (my) postmodern, narcissistic life.
For a while now (since December--even earlier) I've been having doubts, which I've managed to keep in check, but not without effects (i.e., not working). I know that if I allow it, the doubts will escalate into worry, and then anxiety, then fear, then full blown paranoia. But I haven't been allowing it. This particular set of doubts concerns my website project. Why am I doing this? Is it of any value? Who cares, really, anyway?
I do. Most of the time. When I do not doubt it.
But when I will allow myself to think "What's the use? Why do it? Why document my life in this way?" I'll sometimes set about to pare down the site, to eliminate all of the crap and make it lean and to the point. But I start to read what I've written in the past and it's not like when I read my journals, searching for things to abstract to the site. There I find a lot of crap, but my method has developed to a point where I have learned how to weed out that crap or rewrite it into something more satisfying, so that when I read the site, although it still contains a bunch of mundane stuff, I end up liking it. I'm happy with what it says, for the most part. And so I set aside the idea of deleting stuff or even of deleting the whole site. It's okay. Nothing great, but okay. It says what I want it to say. It defines (a part of) who I am, which is its purpose. Even the stupid stuff is okay. It's not embarrassing to me, like some of the raw journal stuff is.
Went to bed at noon after being up all night downloading mp3s and watching tv. Then, my brother called at 12:30. We're going out to pick up the remaining items at the house tomorrow. Then, he told me a story (which I already knew, because I got an e-mail from my sister last week) about a death notice that appeared in the paper about a nineteen year old who drowned, naked, in the river. He happened to be the same age, have the same name, and was from the same township as my nephew. Friends and relatives were calling, expressing condolences over the death. They got over a hundred calls. Girls at the high school who had known my nephew when from when he'd attended (he's in college now) showed up in the office crying. People at the hockey deck where he plays were shocked. My nephew said he'd always wondered how people would take it if he died, and now he knows.