New Year's day at my brother's house: SOS. I deliver the painting I did for Joyce. When I walk in the door, Jim is sitting in his chair in front of the tv. He wants to know what it is that I'm carrying, so I show it to him. He acts typically unimpressed. I realize that this is my unconscious reason for not showing it to him immediately. I expected that response. When I take it out into the kitchen to show Joyce, she loves it. I point out a few minor perspective flaws and she is quick to rationalize them; but Jim, overhearing her from the living room, comes out to criticize her, assuming she's being critical of the painting, when she's actually overriding my own criticism of it.
Jim tells Joyce that she's always too quick to take the opposite side of anything anyone says, which is not what she's doing at all and, in fact, he's obviously projecting, because that's exactly what he's doing to her, and what he does all the time to the kids. I recognize Jim's deflected envy of me because, just before he comes out, Danny says, "How come you're so much smarter than my father?" (That's a not-so-subtle way that the kids criticize their father when I'm around, started by Jay several years ago.)
Behind my back, I motion to Danny to shut up. Joyce is talking and I don't want to interrupt her. But I want to tell Danny not to talk about his father like that. I should have just interrupted Joyce and said it to him. This incident pretty much sets up the whole day. While Jim and Joyce argue, I go into the computer room to hang up my coat.
A little bit later, Jim and I are watching the Steeler game when Joyce comes in and asks me if I will see if I can fix the computer printer after the game is over. I say sure. She describes the problem and I say it sounded like a software, not a printer, problem. Jim says, "Why do you come in here and interrupt us while we're watching the game? Why can't you wait until it's over?" Joyce says that she said she wanted me to do it after the game. At the next commercial, Jim goes in to see what's wrong with the printer.
[Joyce probably did have an ulterior motive in mind when she came in: she was still fighting the earlier battle (responding to Jim's unwarranted attack), intentionally interrupting his game-watching by pretending to talk to me and appealing to my supposed computer expertise, thus subtlely suggesting the same thing that Danny said outright earlier; and she covered up her motive by making sure she said I should do it after the game.] Jim prints out a file with no problem, and he shouts this out to Joyce, who comes into the computer room as Jim leaves. She, with me observing, prints out her file. No problems at all. Jim announces from the living room that it was "operator error." She thanks me for solving the printer problem, loudly enough for Jim to hear. I tell her that I didn't fix it, that Jim did. End of "discussion."
A little while later, I'm working with Jay, trying to e-mail some files to my e-mail address. The computer is slow and it's taking a long time to open applications, because the kids have an online game they play that ties up available memory long after the game is shut off. Earlier, when Jim was printing out his file, we had to wait a long time for it to open, and Jim began bad-mouthing the kids for always screwing up the computer with the game. He said that he had to reboot the computer every time they used it, which is understandable.
After Jay and I are done, Jay goes into the living room and asks his father to back up all the files he has on the computer so that Jay can reload the operating system. (I have no idea why he wanted to do that.) Jim gets pissed and vehemently says, no, he's not going to do that, and Jay better not lose any of his files. They begin to argue, and Jay storms off to his room, pissed that his father is being so unreasonable.
Jim sits and stews for a few minutes. Then he gets up and angrily tells Joyce that he's leaving, he's not taking any more of this. As he exits through the back door, he sarcastically tells her to have a nice dinner. I know where he's going, to the club to get a drink--or two, or three. Even though I realize that his real problem is that he's been trying not to drink, a part of his New Year's resolution to lose weight, when Joyce calls me into the kitchen and asks me to "analyze your brother," I talk around the subject and don't tell her that I think the real problem is alcohol withdrawal, because I don't want to get her started on that problem and have to put up with her tears and fears about how he's ruining his life, his health, his work, etc. and causing her all of this grief, because it's hard enough not to tell her the truth about how she enables him and contributes to the arguments they have; and is herself the cause of her own grief. (We are all responsible for how we feel.)
So, instead, she tells me about an incident from the past week. A friend of Jim's, recently divorced, called him and said that he had two girls and plans for New Year's Eve and was stuck for a fourth for their party and wanted Jim to come along. Jim declined and told Joyce about the call. Joyce asked him what he said to the guy. He said that he simply told him he couldn't go. Joyce wanted to know if he told the guy that he couldn't go because he was married. Jim said he didn't. Joyce was outraged by this serious faux-pas and she wants to know what I think of it. I tell her that not only is it disrespectful to Jim that the guy would ask this of him, but it's even more disrespectful of Joyce. We completely agree that Jim should have defended his marriage, and that, even if he hadn't had the presence of mind to properly respond to the guy on the phone, at least afterwards he should have realized his error and admitted to Joyce that he was wrong--which he did not, but instead got into a serious argument with her. She wonders how the guy would even think to call Jim and ask him that. I don't say to her that maybe the guy got the idea from the way Jim talks about her behind his back. I have no intention of getting between them on that subject.
[Jim telling Joyce about the call was a way he had of calling attention to his error, in a way, an unconscious way of picking a fight, sort of like shooting yourself in the foot, stabbing yourself in the back, undermining your own good intent: he's aboveboard, acting openly and honestly with Joyce, thinking he's doing the right thing; but his attitude re how he should have defended her is wrong, so the whole incident comes back to bite him in the ass.]
Jim comes back about an hour later acting perfectly fine, not angry at all, and not appearing to be drunk. (All he needed was a drink or two.) Then, later at dinner, as the meal is nearing the end, Joyce says to Jim to tell me about the phone call he got last week. Jim plays it off, mumbling something about not wanting to get into that. But Joyce eggs him on until he begins to tell me. I can see exactly where this is heading and I do not want to go there, and besides, I'm stuffed full of food and feeling uncomfortable and don't want to listen to the story again, so I tell Jim, "I already heard this story," and when he gives me a questioning look, I jerk my head toward Joyce at the other end of the table. Jim looks at her and begins to bad-mouth her about her revealing all of their private matters, etc., and Joyce says to me, "Thanks a lot, Joe, for telling him that." She's pissed at me, which she very seldom ever is. So I explain, without looking at her, that all she wanted to do was get me to tell Jim my opinion about the situation. She says that, no, she wanted Jim to tell his side of the story, which indicates to me that either she's lying or that she doesn't know what she's really up to, probably the latter.
This exchange redirects the argument back between them and leaves me out of it. As they argue, I ignore them and finish stuffing the rest of the food on my plate into my already too-full stomach and marvel at how I unintentionally and intuitively slipped myself out from between them. I had no conscious intention of being that adroit; all I wanted to do was to be left alone and out of it. That should teach her not to mess with me; but I doubt that it will.
She's always trying to move me into a position between Jim and herself, ostensibly to get me to act as a mediator, but unconsciously to scapegoat her/their problem(s) onto me in order to be temporarily free of them, so that they may "come together" for a while. I know this because I've seen her do it many times, a lot less with me than with others. And she's always trying insert herself between Jim and me, and to a certain extent, I allow her to do it, when we are alone, especially when she's right and he's wrong; which is generally the case. But when the three of us are together, she's got to learn that I'm not about to take her side against him, no matter how wrong he is. He's my brother, and no matter how much she may want to establish herself as an intimate family member (which she tries to do all the time by trying to convince me to come over on holidays aoutomatically, without an invitation, like we all used to go to my mother's house when she was alive), she is never going to develop the kind of relationship with me that exists between Jim and me. I may respect her intelligence that she developed through hr persistent education, and I may respect her wit and insight; but she'll never be my family. She has six brothers and sisters of her own whom she rarely ever sees, and who rarely come around even on holidays. If she wants intimate family relationships, she can develop her own. It's not that I think badly of her, it's just that I don't appreciate the way she tries to manipulate me. She can do whatever she wants, as long as she doesn't try to do it to me.
It's occurred to me many times in the past that I'm way too revealing about my family (as well as other) situations, and if any of them would discover this website, they'd be shocked and pissed at the stuff that I reveal. But, as I've pointed out before, like Truman Capote said when he published his revealing tell-all, they know I'm a writer and they told me those things anyway. If they (particularly Joyce, but Jim too) don't want me writing this stuff out, they shouldn't play the games they do in front of me, and especially they shouldn't try to drag me into the middle of it all. When I get all of this crap stuffed inside my head, I've got to get it out, or else it ferments and rots in there and causes me much distress. If you think my stomach gets too full when I visit my brother's house, you should feel my mind. If I don't relieve myself of the burdens they dump on me, I'll explode; and there is no better way to get rid of this crap than to write it out and publish it. It's standard advice to write about what you know. I do.
[It occurs to me that maybe I should have intervened between them. But I am not their therapist, no matter how well I might think of myself in this way. (Therapists should never have family members as their patients; there's too much baggage. But the fact that Joyce seems to have tried to set me up as such is perhaps a positive outcome. Is she changing her mind (at least unconsciously) re her opinion of me in this regard?]
The discrepancy between social interaction and isolated existence becomes more apparent as the winter deepens. I remain inside. Holiday "celebrations" that lure me out into the social arena disturb my equilibrium as I return home to mull over relationships that are so much more profound than I (want to) perceive them in the moment, because the profundity is wrapped up neatly inside conventional ritual packages that turn me off; or else, people themselves, with their insipid personalilties, come on to me so banally that I must keep my distance.
I hate banality--and holidays, especially American holidays. They're about as banal as you can get: Xmas presents wrapped with fake bows... [I could put a long list of examples here, but I won't.] It's all so conventionally false; and convention is what I really hate. Convention and George W. Bush. And conservatism, which really pisses me off because at this time in my life I should be beginning to appreciate the staid values of a true conservative point of view--and I do, at least financially; but these clowns in office now are not true conservatives.
When the Democrats are in office and spending a lot of taxpayer money by protecting the environment and helping to alleviate the plight of the marginalized and disenfranchised citizens, okay. When the Republicans are in office and saving a lot of taxpayer money by acting fiscally responsible, building a surplus while cutting taxes, even though they are ignoring the environment and the marginalized and disenfranchsied citizens, well, okay too, I guess.
But when the Republicans are in office spending the most amount of money in the history of the country while not merely ignoring the marginalized and disenfranchjised citizens, but waging an all out war against them while they funnel the taxpayers' money to the rich and transform it into corporate profits, that is completely unacceptable.
The standard political philosophies, liberalism with its expensive welfare system that assures citizens' well-being, and conservatism with its hands-off approach, each have positive and negative aspects; but this administration incorporates the worst aspects of each philosopy while eschewing the best. Instead, I believe that it's possible to incorporate the positive sides of both without the negative sides by adopting a government agenda that is mostly hands-off while yet protecting the public and environment, as it keeps spending within a budget that ensures a treasury surplus.
How? Via: 1) a balanced budget amendment; 2) sound laws that are enforcable and enforced. No one wants the authorities to disregard thieves and murderers when they are detected. In the same way, we should not disregard (let alone enable) corporate malfeasance, especially when it results in death and loss of money. These kinds of activities are every bit as much theft and murder (or at least manslaughter).
End the corporate hegemony now! Vote the bastards out and elect a responsible and responsive government. Whether Republican or Democrat, they should certainly not be despots. [End of polemics, for now.]
My mind is all over the place--again. I can't seem to slow it down enough to make sense of the impressions it's receiving. I wish I were a reporter with a daily deadline, a columnist maybe, not writing news, but commentary. That would be easy, yet insistent. My laissez-faire attitude toward writing backfires, when all I want to do is wrap everything I write up into a big rubber band ball of a novel that has to wait for six months to a year to be finished. Maybe I should be contented with piecemeal publication. Maybe that's the legacy of Asperger's that I can't avoid no matter what I do. I like to think that, eventually, if I never give up, I will achieve my ultimate vision; but I end up working so little at it, that I wonder:
People, in my future, "discover" me (though, like the native Americans, I've been here all along) when they come to recognize their own selves in me and think it's someone else, me, because they don't understand the nature of mutual existence and so don't know that I am their own self reflected back at them. I know what I mean when I make these kinds of comments, but I can never adequately explain it. Maybe it can't ever be exlained in words, maybe our verbal conventions are too attached to a common discourse, maybe it's better explained via what it is not:
All of these people, women mostly, who watch movies designed (i.e., written) to elicit their fond tears of remembrance of times they never had, or nearly had, except that their personal, cultural, and/or ancestral scriptwriters weren't quite good enough, cry in empathy for characters who don't exist. It points out the true nature of an empathetic reaction: it's not a jump-spark across an otherwise impenetrable gulf; it's a recognition of an inner analogous state, an abandoned well you find and almost stumble into on a piece of country property you're thinking about buying, except you're not quite sure if you have enough resources. Or, at best, it's three jump-sparks, from empathizer to character, to writer, to the writer's motivation; but that's just silly. There's no connection there, except an intellectual one, which has nothing to do with empathy at all. We find what we feel to be understanding inside ourselves; or else we never really understand. Everything everyone else is that we know lies within our own psychology; otherwise we can never know.
People think my ideas are crazy, when they don't understand what I'm talking about. They automatically assume that, if they aren't incapable of understanding something, it's crazy. It's the height of egocentric behavior. Take the cold, for example. People don't understand it's true nature, and so they fear it. If, as recent research suggests, mentality (will power, effort, determination, etc.) can prevent or reduce discomfort and even damage from exposure to cold [they thought I was crazy when I told them I could do that when I was a teenager] by increasing and/or re-directing (heat from) metabolism to where it is most needed, then the same should be true for other body functions, such as those involved in losing weight, for example: you should be able to increase your metabolism to burn fat via mental concentration. Maybe I do this, semi-consciously: I have never wanted to be fat, I've always had a prejudice against obesity, and so I've remained thin throughout my life. People want to believe that it's a genetic body-type issue. Maybe that has something to do with it too; but people way undervalue the role of the unconscious mind in their lame lives.
My unconscious mind directs my own lame life in ways I hardly ever see (otherwise it wouldn't be unconscious), except in deep retrospection, sometimes even many years later. Still, I consciously try to coordinate ideas, classifying and transitioning them into continuous and/or interrelated pastiches, when they occur in a more or less isolated and discrete fashion. It's what I do, trying to make my life more meaningful, when the meaning is far more potent when it remains unconscious. We humans are far more meaningful when we are not so conscious of what it is we're up to--except when we contemplate metaphysical matters, of course; but in purely physical (and in many cases psychological) terms, not realizing what we're really up to is often a benefit. Of course, there are very obvious exceptions here, like murderers or rapists who act purely on instinct and disturbed brain chemistry.
But here I'm talking about more or less "normal" people who live out there lives oblivious to their inner workings and deny them consciously if the subject is ever brought up, and yet exhibit a kind of genius they know nothing of, establishing in concert a mass human meaning that defies individual purpose; we might call it, for lack of a better term, a "life force" or some sort of organic, planet-wide imperative to exist in the most harmonious way possible, despite the obvious evil (cacophony, as a metaphor) that simultaneously exists. This is what I imitate (unconsciously) when I write pastiches, trying to consciously stitch together the apparently disparate elements I experience that are not really disparate as they occur, except consciously.
But the whole point is: maybe by writing in this way, I rather end up achieving the opposite of the intended effect; maybe I create an artificial collection of elements that merely samples my life in a way that is not representative of the unconscious whole; and maybe, by simply reporting the discrete phenomena (like many bloggers and all news sources do), I might achieve a more natural selection of integrated material, as readers put it all together in their own unconscious minds. You see, this is the problem: I want it to be all about me, when it is not; not about my own life and not even about my own present time.
Within the unconscious mix, extrapolated out of it, the future exists within the past and present; but it's hardly interpretable under "normal" conditions. This phenomenon applies to all phenomena, both physical and mental, but it is most obvious and understandable if we think of future ideas: before we think of something consciously, perhaps a very long time before, it exists in the unconscious mind, developing into a form that can manifest itself in terms that the conscious mind can understand. As we make our way through our conscious lives, we unconsciously gather information relevant to the idea we are in the process of forming. Then, one day, when it reaches a "critical mass" (metaphorically speaking), it bursts forth as a conscious idea. But, it had been there more or less formed all along, a future idea existing in the past and present. The same thing is true of physical phenomena, but to understand this condition requires a bit more of advanced understanding of psychology and physics as well as a "leap of faith" (not unlike understanding quantum physics).
And physical and mental phenomena (there is no difference, really), all physical and mental phenomena, are continuous and ubiquitous, but appear discrete to us, because of the nature of our (more or less) rational minds. Unconsciously, we perceive more continuously than consciously, continuity increasing the "deeper" (more resolute) the unconscious state. What we perceive consciously as discrete events or episodes have roots that extend down into the unconscious where they intermix increasingly until they become inseparable and finally identical.
I've been writing, everything I write, under the (mis-?) apprehension that ideas are of discrete phenomena that yet flow into one another, so that my words should also flow, that all my writing should be, if not typically understandable, at least smooth and easy on the reader's mind's ear--not so much because that's the traditional style I was taught to write in as because I intuit that it mimicks the unconscious process of my mind, smoothly transitioning in and out of content as it runs simultaneous threads in a kind of multi-stage (anti-)program, while my conscious mind works in fits and starts, linearly, jumping from one thread to another as they rise up out of the subconscious and demand attention. These are the episodes that the conscious mind selects from a far greater storehouse of content, much of which is available only with a great deal of difficulty and some of which is not available at all. (I assume; but how would I know?)
So I'm wondering if I'm in the process of changing my writing style, because for a long time I've been experimenting with ways of mimicking my mental processes; and suddenly I find myself wondering why I want to mimick my unconscious as opposed to conscious thought patterns, as traditional writers do. I admire non-traditional writers; yet, despite a few stylistic quirks, I tend toward a traditional style. (Or I used to; it may be that I'm evolving--or devolving.) And yet I seem to be concluding that, if I confine myself to a conscious (episodic) thought pattern-style, I would deviate quite a bit from a traditional style, which demands a reasonable, even (somewhat) logical structure. A truly "conscious" style would defy logical analysis, jumping here and there as it encountered its various subjects, not so much stream of consciousness [because it is writing, after all, and not thinking; when you think, you may move freely, but when you write you tend to provide some kind of structure to your words] as...well...as episodic.
I want to write episodically, I want to just dump it out onto the page and reveal each episode for what it is, and then jump to another one, and then another, without transition. I've wanted to do this for quite a while and have made a lot of false starts at it; but that style violates some nebulous sensibility that I treasure, because every time I deviate from my "transitional" style, I feel like I'm cheating someone, maybe my readers, but more probably myself. I want unity, in everything I do, even if the unity is only a metaphor, a pretense at it, a transitional artiface. But, I think, if it's a pretense anyway (the real unity is the unconscious mind, and the writing that mimicks it, the conscious writing, is a creation that tries to make conscious sense of out marginally accessible material), I might as well report the episodic data more true-to-form instead of trying to make it flow smoothly along, traditionally and as unconscious mimicry.
I don't know. I want to do it and I don't. We'll see.
It's summer in January, global warming running amok, or the near future frostbiting me on the ass, memories not yet formed as visions: in the sun, in the calm, on a warm summer day, nothing happening, Nathan Shakin, as they say--as a friend says--plants grow in the gentle breeze. To sit in the afternoon in summer in the sun (at least it seems like summer now), or in the shade, or in the winter in a comfortable chair, or in a warm and cozy bed, reading, improving the mind via acquiring information and/or simply exercising mental faculties (even if all you read is trash) is the height of luxury. Some people can't, or believe they can't, afford the luxury; they're wrong, of course: this way of life is free; and it's the one thing you can do to successfully negate a life of squalid despair.
I'm taking time out to review recent episodes in my life, which has been going on and on with a minimal morning documentation and nothing more, sketching out in brief words events and ideas so that I don't forget them, and letting them go, so that I can get outside to do some preliminary preparatory work in the gardens before it gets cold again, just as an excuse to be outside. The focus of my life has shifted to my gardens plans again, away from writing and ideas, which I'm beginning to think may have become a winter exercise. Exercise the body in the summer and the mind in the winter? Sounds too cut and dried, like something I harvested last fall.
The nature of my conscious existence is discretely episodic, and it's only the nature of my mind that imparts to it the illusion of a conscious continuity. Thoughts are episodes too, but sometimes they seem to link together and, when the linking doesn't stop, they actually start to seem like they're making sense. This is the deception the mind creates: it convinces us that what we understand as logic and reason is reality, when it is actually an artificial patina of arbitrarily chosen contractions that reflects, not reality, but the conscious mind that levels discrete phenomena into a sense of unity. It's closer to the truth to simply report the episodes that occurs without trying to make something out of them:
1) Someone I know, a woman, tries to convince me that she extends out beyond her body and perceives, with her "feelings" the physical and psychological conditions of others. At first I try to convince her that she's describing intuition, but she insists that it's more "real" than that, that she actually exists out beyond herself. So I begin to explain pheromones and energy fields, planning to elaborate into fields in general and eventually to make the leap to quantum fields, but she stops me by saying that she thinks that I may understand the phenomenon (that's my word, not hers) intellectually, but that she perceives it directly, in a feeling way. I say, no, I feel it too; and I do, but not nearly so well, I suspect, as women do. I've been training myself in that direction all my life since I recognized this difference between men and women early on: women feel (or intuit) and men reason (or rationalize).
But there's a difference that women don't discern as well as men (one of the few disadvantages of the more global female perspective) between spiritual communion and romantic love; and, I suspect, this woman is, perhaps un- or semi-consciously, scheming to hook up with me, since I haven't shown any inclination in that direction with her and so she feels that she has to manipulate her way into a closer, more intimate relationship, because (most) women, despite the general trend toward "liberation," still can't seem to manage to act straightforward and direct in this regard and expect men to do all the acting.
You can truly love someone without being sexually attracted to them--and I'm not talking about the brotherly or sisterly kind of love, which women seem to be able to separate out quite well. Women, when sexually attracted, invest far more of their physical existence in the process: pleasurable tongue kissing and all of the other little nuances of foreplay involve a woman's entire physical being and intermix it with her psychological nature into a global perceptual amalgam with the sex act and the love that her instinctual nature provokes; men want organ-driven, orgasmic sex, and love, if it happens, is a nicely related phenomenon, but hardly necessary. Of course, I'm generalizing here and individual differences abound.
2) I know from history that I am right and you, when you disagree with my political and/or social polemics/agenda are wrong: slavery, women's rights, gay rights, etc. Society advances, to the left. My ideas and ideals will prevail and yours will pass away like all bad ones do. So, back off, retro assholes. Your days have passed. Step aside and let the future begin. Hanging onto the future is not nearly so bad as hanging onto the past.
3) Maybe, like Emily Dickinson, when I die someone will find all of my writings and marvel at why I made so few attempts to publish anything. But unlike her, my work will probably not be finished: I work on each project bit-by-bit, trying to coax each one toward completion as I am (sometimes seldom) motivated to do so. Maybe, by the time I'm dead, I will have finished something or have gotten a number of them close enough. But maybe not. Then, people may marvel at how much work I actually managed to accomplish without really accomplishing anything at all.
4) I'm getting older. But no matter how old I manage to get, no matter how long I survive--and I intend to survive for a long, long time--I will never admit that I am 'old' and never apply that label to myself, except perhaps sarcastically, or maybe at moments when it might benefit me in some way. It's a subconscious programming thing. I hypothesize that the younger I can manage to conceptualize myself, the younger I will feel, and the less likely I am to succumb to the negative effects of old age. (But you can bet that I am going to take advantage of any positive effects, such as, for example, senior citizen discounts and disregarding the opinions and social sanctions of stupid and ignorant people and institutions; in that latter sense, I've been an old, old man for a long, long time now--ever since I was a kid.)
5) Trusting in the basic benign goodness, or at least neutrality, of the world is a difficult undertaking; but without this trust you run the risk of prejudicing the world against you and provoking a similar reaction, because people and systems tend to treat you the way that you treat them. I see the future out ahead of me like a twisting pathway: I anticipate the general direction, but there are too many turns that prevent exact discernment of its actual nature. So trust is essential. (Religious people call it faith.)
I can feel it out ahead of me as I approach it; and yet there is no way to turn away, like a train with too little distance to stop about to plow into an eighteen wheeler stalled on the crossing ahead--except that, with enough warning beforehand, the train could stop, whereas I am certain a full year ahead and still cannot prevent it. Like the train, I'm on a track that prevents me from turning aside; unlike the train, I never pull into a station. The passage of cyclical time is relentless.
During this time of year, the gravity of life increases, pulling me closer to the core. Each little worry, each minor incident, even those devoid of affect, becomes a candidate for attachment to anxiety. All events seem out of kilter and nothing seems to go quite right, even the things that do. I stumble through my life in a fixed direction--unless something highly significant or interesting happens to divert me for a while. I like it when I can justify not having to worry because something happens in the world that is more important than my small life and so commands my focused attention: Jeffrey Dahmer. O.J. Simpson. 9-11. Then my worries will have to wait until later to be dealt with; or when winter comes and I can hide away until spring and rationalize my absence from society as an extreme dislike of the cold.
Yesterday, I got the car inspected. I always feel a rush of relief when I finally do something that had needed to be done that I have been putting off doing because I need to fail to act. When I got the phone message that my car was done and I could go and pick it up, I was elated, because that meant they weren't calling me to approve expensive repairs. But when I picked it up, the mechanic, a fellow former high-schooler who understands my laid-back situation and defers as much as possible relatively unnecessary repairs because he knows I put very few miles on the car each year, dashed my elation by telling me that he doubted that the gas line would last another year. When I asked him how much the parts would cost, he said he doubted he could get them; maybe I could find them at a junkyard, but would they be any better than what's on the car now? He seemed to be of the opinion that I would have to junk the car. Junk a perfectly good car with low mileage for lack of a gas line? It didn't seem reasonable. And it dampened my spirits and ruined a day that should have felt like I'd accomplished something.
So, I decided to go to bed and read and waste a little bit more of my life watching stupid tv. When I was almost asleep, I realized that I didn't put the garbage out for pickup. So I got up and took it out. Then, after about only four hours of sleep, I awaken to waste more time, and then in the morning, I walk out into the house and notice that the garbage men missed picking up my garbage, probably because it was only a small single plastic bag and they thought it was an adjunct to the recyclable can it sat beside. I see every little detail as an additional trial, and that simple oversight sets me off. Why must everything happen to me? Why must I be so put upon?
I write, if not to get over something, then at least to put it behind me for a while. That's my therapy, in immediacy, in times of stress, my means of anxiety resolution, and during the times when I feel calm and anxiety-free, my means of ferreting out unconscious trends of a deeper psychology; but that's not the issue here.
What I want to do is to document a step-by-step method for how I deal with anxiety. So here it is:
I must keep in mind, however, that the issues aren't the real issue. It's all about the anxiety. I must make it my friend instead of seeing it as an enemy to defeat, so that it will work tirelessly for my overall benefit. Think about it: what's more insistent than anxiety? If I can use it in this positive way, I'll have an unlimited source of energy. I know. I experienced this many times before. When I'm not anxious, I can become a dullard who will even bore myself. But during my anxious times, I am most productive.
I've been aware for a long time as to how we influence each other, positively and negatively, how moods are passed from one person to another, not unlike ideas, until a pervasive atmosphere is established. And I use this awareness, when I think of it, to try to brighten up the places I happen to be in, often with some success. But I never thought to attempt to do it mutually consciously. I wonder why. This is a great idea: make others aware that this is what you're up to. I mean, why should we skulk around secretly trying to improve our mental environment when we can come right out and state our purpose overtly and thereby enlist the aid of others in our quest? This is a key element in resolving anxiety: ask others for help, if not with the anxiety itself, then at least with the issue that the anxiety has attached to; this is something I have never wanted to do, ask for help. I can do it all myself, dammit. I'm incorrigible.
Someone I know wrote recently in her online journal about her belief as to how we draw (positive or negative) energy and/or situations to ourselves in order to test or try ourselves. If this is true (and I'm not so sure it is), how would it be that I do this? Do I in fact tend to encourage my trials and tribulations (social/monetary/home maintenance--because that's what they all seem to be about) in order to test/develop myself in the face of anxiety (my primary ordeal)? Or is my "reaction" inevitable in any case, a product of maladaptation that will occur whenever my internal state is vulnerable in any trying situation that sets it off? The latter, I seem to want to suspect. Which came first, the anxiety or society? Like the chicken and the egg, they each evolved simultaneously, each an aspect of the other, escalating action and reaction based on fears of being unable to continue to survive (Thanatos), with financial and security concerns attached as correlate issues. And which came first, the anxiety or the Asperger's? Hmm. Tough call. But I think that Asperger's symptoms are based on a physical, if not congenital or genetic, condition that creates the anxiety or at least a propensity toward it and that separation anxiety is merely (one of) the first manifestations of the condition. Everyone experiences separation anxiety; but the anxiety experienced is not necessarily assimilated as a symptom of a physical condition, I am guessing, but can become expressed within any number of different conditions relative to the psychology and physiology of the particular individual.
I can see, now, how this all relates back to Asperger's. I can trace the anxiety, the depression, the isolation, the confusion and lack of focus, the schizoid formations back to the same source and understand the symptoms in this regard:
I will not be prejudiced against, in any case. Sure, people and institutions will continue to discriminate against me; but I will not allow the actions and opinions of others to alter my own mindset, at least to the degree that I can become aware of what's going on. That much has not changed, and I hope never will. But I find myself wanting to start to develop my ability to push back instead of shying away from prejudicial/judgmental attitudes and behaviors, by appealing to my "disabled" conditions, using them as a means to re-level the playing field. I see nothing wrong with this, as long as I can get away with it. And I'm sure I will to some degree, because many people are more than willing to be fair and/or to defer to others who suffer more than they do.
But it's not so much a matter of whether there is an inequity to be resolved as it as matter of advertising a supposed inequity, of letting others know about things that I previously would never have revealed: the vulnerabilities of being human; previously, I never wanted to admit to being vulnerable because I felt that it put me at a disadvantage; but now I can see how it can work to my benefit. [I've always used it to my benefit sexually/intimately; but that was a manipulative agenda on my part. This new approach is more of a counter-manipulative thing.]
Asperger's, rather than being exclusively a mechanism that alienates me from people/society, can also have its benefits: I can see how the syndrome is responsible for why (some) people think I'm an extraordinary person. Without it, I'd be just another guy. I believe that I'm attractive (when I am) because I'm both distant and intimate at the same time. I wouldn't want to be without this "trait" or ability. This and my obsessiveness toward exhaustive problem solving have afforded me what success I've had.
But there's a dark side too: there's no way I should ever have had to fight my basic nature so damned hard for so damn long in order to be successful, suffering as a result from chronic stress and risking my health and even my life. Although it's fortunate that I was smart enough and intuitive enough to know to save all of the money I did so that, when I finally had had enough, I could retreat and recuperate long term in very early retirement, still, I shouldn't have had to go through all of that.
But now that I can see the true nature of the ordeal, I feel empowered. Knowing what I know now, I could do it all over and avoid the pitfalls; and, especially, I could do it for myself instead of for some thankless idiot who hires discounted people (because they have problems that prevent them from getting jobs where employees are treated with respect and dignity instead of being criticized, dismissed, or even scorned--all done mostly behind their backs, of course). [Enough of this. It's starting to sound like whining.]
The world provides me with plenty of opportunities to express myself in ways that pretend to divert attention away from me and onto my socio-cultural environment (when it's really all about me after all; what we express is always about our own selves):
Jurors decide issues of law. It is illegal to offer judges, lawyers, and jurors money, whether or not it is our intent to influence them. How are elected and appointed government officials any different? Government officials decide and execute issues of law. Why are we allowed to offer them money and/or benefits and favors (via lobbyists), whether or not it is our intent to influence them? And besides, whom do we think we're kidding when we give them what we give them? Of course we're trying to influence them. And anyone who argues that we are not is just trying to blow sunshine up people's butts;
I see all of these studious-looking women behaving themselves intelligently on tv (especially on C-SPAN and PBS; I disconsider the more arrogant/opinionated ones on the cable news stations) and I think, Wow! Why can't I find someone like that to hook up with? But it's an idle speculation, a typical, if disguised whine, because I know why: I hang out among the wrong kinds of people. Studious women tend not to be working class--and neither am I; but I hang out with working class people, on the rare occasions when I do [it may be a symptom of low self-esteem; or maybe not];
And then there are the fanatics who are against abortion: They'd have the unwanted children grow up in bad home environments, refuse to give them a proper education, and turn them into ignorant adults who end up poor pregnant mothers or absent fathers, all of whom they continue to refuse to help. It seems to me that the fanatics would further their social agenda in a much more efficient way if they'd just agree to allow the fetuses be aborted in the first place. Then they wouldn't have to go to all the trouble of fighting the extended social welfare programs. But maybe they get off on seeing lots of struggling citizens barely getting by. Maybe it feeds their sense of superiority to have a lot of poor people around to contrast themselves against. Maybe, even, they derive some perverse pleasure from the suffering of others;
But the biggest source of material onto which I may project and/or which I may introject (they're pretty much the same thing, really, come at from opposite directions) is the written word:
I frequently define my life in terms of the lives of people I read about. I use them as examples. Everyone does this, more or less, although they may not use what they read as sources of information. Celebrity exhibits itself far more readily in society these days via the movies and tv. But I am a reader, and for some reason the written word influences me more readily than the visual media.
I've found a lot about Anais's life that I admire (and a lot that I do not), but as for her writing, well, for me it's just plain boring. I guess you have to be a woman--something else I have to whine about; but that's another story altogether, one in which reality plays no real part. In this one, I'm more concerned with meaning and purpose, the hard core kernal of reality.
It's been twelve years since I "retired" and what have I been doing with my life that is worthwhile? Other than remaining alive, that is; because that was the main reason for retiring in the first place (whether I fully realized it consciously or not), to assure my health. It would be a valid argument to claim that I might have better utilized this time, except that had I continued working and actually managed to remain alive, I wouldn't have been doing anything worthwhile anyway--working at thankless jobs for nothing but the money, making products that have a minimal social function in a society that, if it didn't have the products that I helped to make, would have gone along pretty much in the same way anyway.
Before working at that series of jobs, I'd been at college, accumulating knowledge, for its own sake, with no practical concern for how I would put that knowledge to use once I finished. But I never really finished. After graduating, I continued studying like I had been. It became a way of life; and the jobs were merely the way I supported myself as I pursued my primary motivation: learning. This is the answer to my worthwhile question: I am learning, so that, one day, when I will die, it will all be lost...unless I end up doing something worthwhile with my life after all.
I'm lying in bed, falling asleep while thinking these thoughts, and, as has been the case for the past few nights, I feel a few heart palpitations, which over the past few nights I've been ignoring, since they've been subtle and hardly noticeable; in fact, not noticeable at all as actual missed beats, but only as that vaguely disturbing shortness of breath and general "rumbly" feeling that is as attributable to the stomach as the heart. But I decide to pay them a little bit of attention, and I monitor the pulse in my neck, only to discover that they are actually rather pervasive, skipping at least once or twice a minute and occasionally once every other beat for three or four beats in a row. This starts to worry me and I resolve that I must stop drinking coffee for a while, because I theorize that caffeine has accumulated in my bloodstream and the levels have risen to too high a level. I will test this hypothesis over the next few days.
This may have been going on for a while now. I may have been a walking time bomb; not noticing skipped beats occurring during the entire day and night and only becoming vaguely aware of them as I'm falling asleep. If this is true, what am I going to do? Without coffee, I am nothing, literally. Even if I don't start to become "depressed" (which I will), I won't want to do anything at all. As it is I only manage to put in two or three productive hours a day. What's to become of me? I'll sit around like Samuel Becket in an empty room with four bare walls. But let's wait and see if the palpitations go away.
After a long and complicated dream about walking down a long hill (Hoover Drive), hanging around down at the corner interacting with a number of different people, and walking up the fused identity of front streets, mailboxes, and mail at 6023 and 640, I end up at a lunch room at a place of employment (where I've never worked or even been), where I am met by Joan, a hybrid version of Cindy E and Rae Ann, and one other smaller woman, whose identity eludes me, but who characterizes the four of us with her missing identity. [I know who she is, I can feel her presence still after I awaken, and I'm extremely fond of her; but I've been through my entire list of women I know who are/have been attracted/attractive to me and I can't identify her. Maybe she's a celebrity or something and I know her from the news or movies.] Prompted by Joan, we all wrap our arms around each other and, after a long group hug, we walk, still hanging onto each other, to the lunch tables, where we sit. As we walked there, I heard someone behind us say, "I don't believe it," said derogatorily and referring to the fact that we are always together and inseparable. I appreciate the intimacy of the low class clique we have formed, which is based on the news Joan has to tell us that Rae/Cindy already knows; but they can't tell us until we are all alone. Other people at the table will overhear.
Caffeine (all stimulation, really: sex, caffeine, beer, food, etc.) is a substitute for what? Intimacy? Belongingness? Is that what Joan was going to tell us (me), that my artificial, caffeine-driven "drive" is unnecessary, that it can be replaced by someone who will love me? Well, hell, Mel, I already know that much. Tell me more.
I'm an electrician working in a new department store that is partially open to the public while construction continues. I'm installing both ordinary lights and "black" lights. I go over to another electrician working in the adjacent department installing fluorescent lights to check to see if he is working "hot" because I want to turn the lights on to test them. [This is illogical: if he's working hot, then I could just test them without asking. The electricity would be on. But for some safety reason unknown to me now I know in the dream that I should check with him.] Back in the department I'm working in, I follow a salesgirl and another girl, per their request, toward the back. [Cf. later parallel.] Without transition, I go over to the men's department (where the other electrician was working.) The department is all set up for sales. I see lots of good-looking shirts. But one display stands out: strait jackets. I ask the salesman if they have any shirts that are designed to look like strait jackets without actually being them. He says, no, but he'll check the brochures to see if they exist. CUT TO:
A park-like area with trees (combination of the North Shore on Oahu and Henry's field off of Poketa Road): At first, I think I'm in a cherry orchard. But then I notice that many of the trees are not cherry, but are widely varied species. Some of the trees have a lot of dead growth on them and look threatened. I tell the caretaker that they need to be pruned. I walk down across the rocks to the ocean. It's wild, foaming, surging, and looks very threatening. It looks salty, as if the waves are encrusted with white salt. And it looks icy, as if it's cold enough for ice to be forming on the wave crests. I feel strangely attracted to it, yet at the same time I'm afraid of it. I head toward "home" (Schofield Barracks), but a fog is coming, which I get a short warning of [from nowhere] before it arrives. But there's not enough time to get to safety before I am completely fogged in--from the landside, not from the ocean. The fog is so thick that I can't see anything even immediately in front of me. I freeze in place, thinking that if I go wandering around, I will become lost. [Hmm.] I immediately think to remember my bearings, NSEW, before I turn myself around, so that I might be able to maintain my orientation should I begin to move. But I soon discover that the fog is patchy and I navigate my way through the openings and find the road, which is a suburban-like commercial area, but only on the side of the road opposite the park-like area. I go into a hotel-like business that is at the same time a private (i.e., not a retail) business. A woman, a secretary type, is hospitable, understanding that no one is moving around outside because of the weather and that we are fogged-in. We watch tv until the fog lifts [this is what I do when I run out of motivation and exist in a "lost" state, lay around and watch stupid tv programs] and when it does, I walk up the road toward the hills. But a building constructed across the road blocks the way. Inside, I ask if there's a way to get back onto the road farther on. A guy tells me that, yes, there is, but I won't be able to go that way for too much longer because the road is in the process of being privatized. He shows me brochures with diagrams, floor plans, etc. [cf., "schematics" elsewhere in my writings; this is an outline of the "structure" for my present/future, I will later think] outlining the future course of development. (Cf., men's clothing brochures earlier, except that they were not actual images, but only referred to.) I follow a woman [see earlier parallel; obviously, whatever the message here is, my unconscious mind is trying to make sure I get it. So why doesn't it just come right out and state it, for Christ's sake? What? I'm supposed to follow a woman? Hell, I've been doing that all my life] through the business to a small flight of metal stairs to the right. We exit onto a lanai-type outdoor "passageway" (a nicely maintained upscale alleyway) and we walk back toward another business building, where another woman meets us. The two women confirm what the guy in the first building told me, that soon I will not be able to go this way, that access to the public is being closed off completely and permanently. The second woman asks me a series of questions about what I'm here to have done (at the company she represents). My skin? My this? My that? Apparently, the next business we're heading toward is a kind of personal self-improvement company. I tell her that my hair is thinning, but that I hadn't intended to have anything done, but only wanted to go on up the road. But I think that maybe I should take advantage of this opportunity that I've happened across. [This is like the Anais Nin's life strategy I've been reading about: in her later years, she plans plastic surgery and begins to go against her basic withdrawn nature to aggressively market herself and her work. In fact, this may be the source material that this dream is drawing on.]
Awake, I make a connection between the strait jackets symbolism and women: I'd like a woman to dominate me sexually, but not physically; that is, I would feel threatened if I was tied up (out of my own control), but I would mind, in fact would prefer it, if a woman would take the lead and insist herself on me--where I always have the option of opting out (should I determine that she is "unsafe"; but if I knew her and had developed a relationship with her, then I would be sure she was safe to be with).
And I interpret, doubtfully, that the access that is being closed off is sexual (the two women being sexually attractive), that it will not be too long before I am unable to use my sexuality to attract women. This may be a warning: get it while there's still time. But I also seem to want to interpret the impending closure as a social matter, that society, in the guise of a business-government conspiracy (the business exists within the buildings, the government maintains the roadway), is "privatizing" what is now public so that citizens will have to pay for what is now "free" government entitlements (social security, medicare, etc.) and the range of coverage, as with health insurance plans, is getting more and more narrow, so I should take advantage of what is covered while the opportunity still exists, because it won't be here for too much longer.
Sad: I can't have what I want or need.
Nearing despair, I have a cup of very weak coffee.
An hour later: Okay. I'm over that now.
Caffeine is a great mood leveler, I'm discovering.
Otherwise, my mood is all over the place.
Elated. Sad. Both at the same time even.
Caffeine withdrawal report--end of day one (except for the one very weak cup of coffee): no skipped beats. But it's not necessarily that simple. It's a complex, each part of which must be kept in balance: The problem could have been caused by a caffeine build-up; or it could have been caused by too little sleep, because I haven't been getting all that much lately and the skipped beats went away after I took a six hour nap; or it could have been caused by my back problem, inflamed vertebrae closing down the passageway of the nerve that runs to the heart, which condition is alleviated by naproxen, which I took two of before I took the nap; or it could have been caused by the stimulation of all the raw onions I've been eating on my sandwiches (I love onions); or it could have been caused by my poor eating habits, since an empty or upset stomach can aggravate my heart rhythm. So the skipped beats could have been caused by some combination of all of the above. Whatever the case, the problem seems to have been solved. Balance is the key. I must maintain the mean in all areas of my life. Boring.
Now maybe I can turn my attention to all of the other "problems" that I've been worrying about: the car gas line, the persistent roof leak that will not stay repaired for more than a year, the difficulties I'm having backing up my computer files, my house organization/cleaning that I've been ignoring for way too long now. Hmm, that's about all I can think of; nor does that short list bother me so much now. It's amazing how you gain a certain perspective when you become afraid that you might die or end up in a hospital.
The difference between my states of mind when hopped up on caffeine v. severely deprived of it is exactly the same difference as that which psychoactive drugs produce. It's a serotonin thing. Therefore, if I were ever to go on those drugs, still I would have to focus my increased productivity in the same way I do with caffeine, to make sure I'm using my "up" time effectively, to prevent my imaginative flights of fantasy that can waste a lot of time; and even more so in the case of the more effective drugs, because they'd be longer lasting and so I'd tend to waste a lot of the time and take it for granted in a way that I do not now with caffeine, because I know that the "up" period is limited. But, on the other hand, if I was in a good mood all the time, I could waste all the time I wanted to and it wouldn't matter, because I wouldn't feel bad about doing it--and there'd be a lot of it to waste and still get something done. In other words, I'd be normal. Wouldn't that be something?
A presentation for a doctor to get a prescription cheaply (each point to be expanded into a short dissertation):
0. People think I'm this cool guy, that I've got it all together and am a strong and independent person. It's a disguise.
1. I have Asperger's, which has the effect of causing me anxiety and depression.
2. I have ankylosing spondylitis, which affects my heart rhythm and has caused several instances of atrial fibrillation.
3. I have very little money and must make every penny count. (A lie, but it's better than the doctor thinking he can soak me.)
4. Caffeine works. I've depended on it all my life. It made me "successful" despite my disability. But I can't drink it any more.
5. I want to see how Prozac works [see above text], if it could provide me with a steady "good mood" state similar to the one I get from caffeine for a relatively short period of time (one to three hours). [Maybe, on this or another drug, I could actually finish writing books, etc.]
* This is difficult for me to explain orally. It feels like it's so complicated and I sometimes don't communicate so well in person, so I wrote it all out, just in case.
? How does Prozac (etc.) react re heart rhythm problems? What are the contraindications?
Conclusion: Life without caffeine is not worth living.