by j-a

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November 2006

Scary, Kids


I've been doing a lot of oversharing these days, just talking and talking. And then...the regrets. It's kind of my way. But now there's this exhausting new meta level I've been taking things to, where I've oversharing [sic] about how much I overshare. Just me endlessly trying to explain to people the poignant details of how I said so much to which wrong whom. See?
Evany's blog Friday, Nov. 03, 2006
Halloween, this year, like every other year, turned me off. It's not that I hate the holiday so much as it is that, like most other holidays, I recognize its superstitious nature--which is based on the very real fear of coming winter and, consequently, the fear of death, which was a very real and prevailing winter consequence in former times. Of course, this is all mostly repressed in society, despite its obvious symbolism. In its superficial way, mainstream culture latches onto symbols and trivializes them [much like tv does to movies when it edits them to show on tv or, worse, when it transforms them into sitcoms or "dramas"], thereby pretending that the fear of death is not still so real a phenomenon. People let their kids trick or treat as a rite of passage, a ritual we're supposed to get over as we grow up [much like we're supposed to get over our childhood (read "childish") hero worship stages (cf., Maslow's hierarchy of needs) of playing "army" and "cops and robbers," or being "rabid" sports fans], which some of us never do. We ply evil forces with treats so that they will not harm us. As adults, however, we substitute prayers for candy and "pretend" that our superstitions have become real.

I do not fear death, although I regret that I will not last forever. (I do, however, fear a painful death; it's not a fear of death, but a fear of pain.) Therefore, I have no need for superstitious ritual, Pagan or otherwise; and I bristle when I uncover ways in which I have been duped by superstition disguised as ordinary culture. In a way, though, I fear life, when people crowd in on me, and especially when they adopt an authoritarian role toward me. It feels to me like they're closing in on me and choking off my personal space, even if they're miles away and communicating via phone or email; or not even personally communicating with me at all, but just doing it via an impersonal media that they go way overboard to make seem so personally directed and attentive. But even when I meet simple and genuine enthusiasm, it can become too much; I guess because in the past I've suffered from the waning enthusiasm of others who engage me and then abandon me, second-guessing themselves and their motivations while I continue on, dedicated to my own inner vision that I seldom, and even then inadequately, communicate to anyone.

I am so (overly) self-confident that I usually don't understand until much later after thinking back on the interaction what people mean when they express self-doubt of their abilities. I let a lot of exchanges of this nature pass on by as idle chit-chat, because, in this sense, to a fault, I myself have no doubt and so no need to project it or perceive it in others, thereby disabling my ability to empathize. My mother raised me to believe that I could do anything I wanted to; and she was very effective in that regard. My memory is packed full of projects I started out on, absolutely convinced that I could accomplish them, and only when I looked back after having completed them did I realize that I had no idea what I was doing when I started. This kind of doubt is so foreign to me that I don't recognize it in others, even when they express it directly.

My doubt is of a different nature altogether, the initiation of a complex leading first to worry, then to anxiety, then fear, and finally into full-blown paranoia--if I allow stress to overtake and dominate me (which I have for the most part learned how and arranged my life to avoid). My doubt has to do, not with what I'm capable of doing, but with how others will perceive me. I learned very early to keep my plans and projects secret so as to avoid the doubt that others would inevitably express (my plans tended toward the fantastic; and they still do) as to my ability to accomplish them; not that they could ever have convinced me to doubt myself, but that I would feel badly that they did not see me in the positive way that I saw myself. If I did not remove myself from others' presence, or at least remove my ideas from others' scrutiny, I began to worry as to how they would subsequently treat me. The idea caused me anxiety, which if it persisted led to paranoia, as I feared that others' disapproval would cause them to mount innuendo campaigns against me. I had no choice, I felt, but to hide myself away. I still to this day from time to time find myself doing this same thing. But when it's an extended experience, it can be overwhelming.

I don't know why I should feel so overwhelmed when things start to pile up (and sometimes when they don't), when I know that, every time, ultimately, it all seems to work out just fine, and life balances out so evenly and peace of mind returns. But when it all gets to be too much, I myself have been known to leave people hanging. I don't mean that I break appointments or anything. I'm always punctual and dependable, because I hate it when people act unreliably toward me and I'd never want to be the kind of person who accuses others of doing what he himself does--which is what I end up doing anyway, if not in kind, then by analogy: I am unreliably there for people psychologically, or mentally, or spiritually if you will, when they will come to expect, because once or twice or even many times over the years they got from me what they wanted or needed, that they will get it in the same way the next time, and the next. Sometimes, sometimes often, I feel like I cannot open up to people in the way I sometimes do.

It bothers me a lot when I do not respond to people in the way they want me to; but still it doesn't bother me enough to actually go and do something about it. I can't get beyond my ennui and/or withdrawal mode of existence at times when I am caught up in it. Instead, I just sit around and feel guilty, which I know will eventually lead to a kind of depression if I entertain it too long; so I look for ways to distract myself, and pretty soon I'm off on another tangent, having forgotten about the people I've left hanging. It's maybe not so nice a way to be; but it's the way I am, a way I have been conditioned, a reaction against feeling like I have put myself out too far, been too intimate with someone, let them see too much of what I really am. And it comes back to haunt me, when I observe their reaction--or imagine I do, which may be nothing more than a projection on my part--when they withdraw from me, confused or upset because I have withdrawn from them; and so I feel what they are feeling, because they feel what I am feeling (if they do), and we communicate empathically, in absentia. This is what I mean when I say that we are never alone: If, in fact, we share intimate experience, then the experience remains when we are separate; and it is this shared experience that we each work out each in our own individual minds, but along similar lines, to perhaps similar conclusions that keeps us on the same or a similar page (as if we share a limited personal zeitgeist by virtue of our having been previously intimate--if only psychologically, but especially if it had been physical, human psychophysiology being what it is) until, if ever, we are together again--because sometimes we are not, because sometimes I just go too far, reveal too much, both in words and more directly, "spiritually" I (want to) think.

This same semi-conscious motive plays itself out in our brave new world: I don't want to go anywhere where "they" can overly scrutinize me in any way (metal detectors, hidden cameras, taking off my shoes at airports, etc.); and I will actualize that aversion whenever possible. It's going to require actual legal threats or severe social compulsions to make me submit to these kinds of personal invasions from now on. Society, as I try to retreat from it, feels to me like it is increasingly pressing itself in on me; and I would have thought, had I thought about it, that I was succeeding in my longstanding attempt to socialize myself. But society is tricky. It sneaks up on you when your guard is down and, when you are most comfortable, it jumps out at you and screams, "Trick or treat" and, afer the initial shock of fear wears off and with it the brief anger that you experience for having been caught off-guard, you smile and accept your social fate, because if you don't, if you let them know that they're getting to you, if they sense that your are abnormally vulnerable, they'll go for the jugular, because that is they weed out the weak among us, because, after all, survival of the fittest is still the rule of the land, and it plays itself out most effectively at night, when the demons are unchained and the fears that you thought you'd put behind you long ago pop up again to scare the superstitious shit out of you. Happy Hallow's Eve. If only all of that were really over for another year. It just goes on and on, and when it seems to have relented for a bit, I go searching for it, dredging up the memories of past events, pretending to therapeutic purposes, because, as much as I despise superstition, I'm as much caught up in it as anyone. (I'm not really talking about Halloween here, am I?)

life on hold

My biggest recent scare (there always seems to need to be something) is electricity. It's been over a week since my electric went out because I burned out a circuit in the fuse box. I'd called Jim to come and check it out, but he said he was "settled in" for the night and I should run extension cords from the living room to keep the fridge and other critical appliances running and he'd be over the next morning, Wednesday; but he called me in the morning and asked me if everything was all right by running the extension cords, and he said he'd be over on Thursday instead. He checked out the problem on Thursday (while complaining of being sick; he smelled heavily of his powerful "breath mints"), rewired a few circuits to redistribute the load, and said he'd be back on Friday morning to install the new service panel that I told him, again, that I wanted.

He also asked me if I was paying for it, and I said yeah, assuming he meant the materials--which he did. He said he didn't have the money right now and made some reference to the money he owed me. I guess he assumed that I would want him to deduct the cost of the materials from what he owed me; but that hadn't even occurred to me until he mentioned it. I asked him if he could charge it and I'd pay him the next day, and he said yes. But on Friday he called and said he couldn't make it and would be over on Monday morning (because he's adamant about not working on Saturday or Sunday--he didn't say that, I just know it from before--and I guess that applies to helping out family too.)

On Monday, he called and said he couldn't make it and would be over on Tuesday. On Tuesday, he showed up with the service panel, but said he couldn't do the work that day because he was too sick. He gave me the receipt, so I started to write him a check, telling him not to cash it until tomorrow because I only had $74 dollars in the account; but he said he needed the money right away. So I gave him a check for $73 and two dollars in cash. He said he'd be over in the morning to do the work--unless it rained. It didn't rain, but he didn't show up, or call. And I haven't heard from him since.

I'm worried about the electric, because the fuse box is showing signs of scorching in other places too, and I'm worried that another circuit will start to burn and cause a fire. So I guess I'm going to have to hire an electrician to do the work. I could probably do it all myself except for tying it in; but I don't feel too confident about doing it. And the next time Joyce calls me to help one of the kids with their school papers, if it's on a weekend, I'll tell her to call back on Monday. (That's a joke. I'd never really do that.)

[As soon as I finish writing this, Jim calls and says, "I didn't forget about you." (He must be psychic.) Then he says he's been sick all week and the brakes went out in his truck and he had to get them fixed, etc. That may all be true (but if it is, why didn't he call earlier; even the mere fact that he didn't call reveals his undependability), but I can't help but think that these are the same kinds of excuses he makes to everyone; and I feel slighted and almost insulted that he expects me to believe--or pretend to believe--that I don't know that the real problem is that he's been drinking. And even if it would turn out that he wasn't (which I doubt), the fact that he has gotten himself into a situation where people believe it of him is...I don't know. I think that the next time I have any problems that I think he could help me with, I'll just hire someone instead. I hate to feel this way, but I think it's best that I expect nothing of him. He said he'd be over on Monday, but what are the odds?]

I put my life on hold, waiting for him; but he's chronically undependable. Maybe I should have learned this lesson long ago; but I think I may have finally learned it now. Now, I have to get back to my life, and he will have to suffer the consequences, whatever they may be. When he is finally motivated to act, I may by that time have already taken care of the problem, perhaps by having hired someone else to finish what he started; and although he may feel relief at not then having to do the work, yet the issue will dwell on him, perhaps unconsciously, but it will be conscious at least in part, feeding back to him as further evidence of his undependability and social incompetence, a direct result of the alcoholism, which itself is a consequence of his lifelong inability to deal with other problems, all just a further escalation of his decline toward ruin. I miss the days when we worked together, when he resisted this decline, when we struggled together against it. I still struggle, and fairly successfully.

I see this, like a lot of the things I write, as a projection: I feel the same motive within me, and I take great care not to allow it to negatively affect my own life; but I wonder if I really succeed at this, or if I am blind to the process. Is my withdrawal from society, my anxiety and depression, a parallel to his undependability? In fact, is this affect the same one that affects him? He complains about his pain and how it prevents him from working a lot of the time. I do not (complain); but it nevertheless is a factor--not as big as one as with him, but a factor nonetheless. Projection, however, typically works by hanging itself on a hook that is a mere wisp of the problem being denied, while my projection is a wisp being hung on his far more serious problem. That insight doesn't absolve me, of course. In fact, the empathy generates understanding. However, my understanding of Jim's condition doesn't resolve my electrical problem.

Anyway, life is a matter of degree. Everyone has problems and flaws. I should take to heart that mine are so much less than my brother's; but I don't. Instead, I fight the smugness that I feel that I am so goddam superior to him, which only ends up feeding back to him and making him feeling even more inferior and needing to defend himself. Ah, well.

I'm feeling overburdened by life right now. I feel like should be more capable, less subject to the wayward whims of the physical world that cause mechanical breakdowns. I am capable, I am rather mechanically-minded and over my life have developed a wide range of mechanical skills. With a different mind in this body, I could have become a competent blue collar worker. But the mind that has possessed me would never let me do that. Even though, throughout my past, I have always been my own maintenance person (except when I was away from the house working at a job ad had no recourse but to hire people because of time constraints that prohibited proper planning and purchasing of materials), I never willingly undertook such work and always considered it to be somewhat of a burden, tasks to be added on to the mental burden I felt I had to bear (mostly unconsciously; I never would have consciously framed this orientation this way when I was younger).

But, looking back, I realize that there were people who saw this about me and demurred from placing any additional burden on me, even as others (the majority) would continue to pile on at every opportunity. But, I see now, that the people who demurred were wrong to take my condition into account, as wrong as were those who sought to take (further) advantage of my pliable nature. People should definitely not lighten up when they feel they may be overburdening me, no matter how I might feel or what I might say at the time. People should do exactly what they feel like doing, or what they feel is right (even if it should turn out, like I suspect in the cases where I have been taken advantage of, that they are actually wrong). If I can't handle it, too bad for me. I need to be "pressured" into either deciding to interrelate, or not. (Otherwise, I stagnate.) It's a problem that I must face up to. If I choose to withdraw, which is probably what I will choose, then so be it.

This is a perfect example of how I equivocate so as to "think" myself into a stasis of inaction. I will come up with any excuse not to act, and in the process rearrange (or fail to rearrange) my system of belief in order to prolong the process (when acting might very well solve problems that I dwell upon way too long). My beliefs may actually cause me more problems than they solve (if they solve any), because, in my attempt to be as universal as I can be (a belief I treasure and advance at every opportunity), I extend my beliefs as far as possible, to include even opposing positions in any and every given issue. (This may not seem to be true if you read what I write; but it is true within my mind, in the ideas that I perhaps withhold, for sake of argument, when otherwise I might equivocate to the point of believing that everyone is right within the system of belief that they maintain. In other words, I strive toward a meta-belief system; and often I achieve it. I try to see all sides and in doing so raise myself to a level above the argument as I understand that each side has its own internal logic that is comprehensible; and who am I to say they're wrong? Even though I will, as I say, for sake of argument. But often I do not so much believe what I'm saying as I pretend I do.)

Consequently, I end up with a head full of cognitive dissonance that is not always so unconscious. If I could just decide, once and for all, what my beliefs are, if I could "fix" them in my mind, take a firm stand and stick with it, like other seem to do so readily and easily, then the input I get from the big bad world would hardly affect me at all, because it will have passed through precise censors that reduce cognitive dissonance to a minimum. As it is, I consider it an advanced practice to entertain all POVs both logically and intuitively, extending their beliefs out to see where they will go, rejecting very few outright. I don't (necessarily) do this intentionally; in fact, I probably developed this practice not by having decided on a philosophy so much as by concluding it from an unconscious analysis of the way I have always been. This more or less accepting attitude creates a multi-faceted world-view that can often lead to a confused state, because the human mind is meant to remain selective. I would not have the (conscious) problems I do if I were a rough and ready blue collar worker with a steel-trap system of belief that readily excluded divergent opinion. (In other words, what I'm saying is, if I were more prejudiced, my life might be a whole lot easier.)

I kind of like it

My brother finally shows up over a week later. He works for a little while, but accomplishes very little, derailed at each small task he tries to do by the littlest bit of difficulty. He complains of his back pains; and although I understand his discomfort, I hardly feel any compassion for him because, not only do I have back pains of my own (which, by the way, he never commiserates with me about and most of the time fails to acknowledge me when I mention them to him), but also I've told him any number of times that if he would just take naproxen, it would reduce the inflammation and act to alleviate most of his pain. But every time I tell him that, he plays it off by telling me something like he takes Vicodin or some other prescription concoction that his wife, being a nurse, gets free "samples" of; so I know he can't be taking much of it, because he doesn't get that much and so only takes it after a long while when he can no longer stand the pain.

So I conclude that he doesn't really want to feel better, but would rather to wallow in his misery, wearing it perversely like some kind of a badge of (dis)honor. I don't like to take painkillers either, and I often find myself not taking even naproxen when I'm feeling the slight but persistent ache that precedes serious pain, knowing that, likely as not, the pain will go away with the movement of going about my daily routine; but if it does not, but escalates instead, I take the medicine, because if the alternative is to be in serious pain, then I'm not having that. Of course, unlike my brother, I don't allow myself the excuse of having a drink or two to kill the pain (which, by the way, was also our father's excuse for drinking). My brother leaves, again, without finishing the job. I decide that he has problems he's having trouble dealing with and I should try to be more understanding.

Meanwhile, I have problems of my own. I have to go and get the car inspected, and it's causing me a bit of anxiety. What if it fails? I check my anxiety, thinking I've been indulging myself in this way too much lately. For a long time, without actually consciously forming the thoughts, I've assumed that if I ever really had a problem, such as, in the most benign case I can right now think of, if I ever need to go out and buy a new car because mine is no longer inspectable (an idea that has been preoccupying the back of my mind since last November) and I waited too long and allowed the current inspection to run out and thus had to walk or take public transportation everywhere, which modes of ambulation prohibit my getting easily to a car dealership--or whatever other reason I might need to go out into the big bad world without the wherewithal to do it--I could depend on Jim to transport me and to provide me some advisory companionship while I return myself a few steps back toward the main stream of society, enough to become capable of relying on my own self again, because he has acted, eventually, in this capacity for me in the past when I have taken a few steps too far out. (It's that "eventually" qualification that bothers me; I don't like to wait when I know what needs to be done and feel like not having a car is a serious enough condition so as not to want to apply my "waiting" philosophy.)

But, I guess, depending on Jim is just not something that's available to me any more. I can't depend on him--or anybody else; not even our sister, not only because she lives so far away, but because I doubt the wisdom of even wanting to. This is just another one of those remnant ideas, an implicit assumption that has gotten lost amid the detritus of a past life; this is the final lesson: There is no one left that I can or should depend upon, and there hasn't been anyone for a long while now. Oh, there are people out there, I suppose--my sister, for example, or maybe even Joyce--who might come through in a real emergency; but that's not what I'm thinking about. It's not the literal fact of having someone dependable waiting in the wings, it's the assumption I've been unconsciously relying on, that's the problem, that I need a support community (however small). I don't; or maybe I mean, I shouldn't.

By social standards, of course, I should; and maybe for my own personal growth purposes too. But there's a fine line between relying on a social support system and becoming (co-)dependent upon people and unable to function without them. For a long time now I've been severely resistant against allowing myself to "depend" on people for "support," as a reaction against feeling insecure. Security for me has meant developing my own (self-)support system and relying as little as possible upon others. Now, I feel like I have to take it one step farther and assure myself that I can make it entirely on my own if necessary. I've always assumed that I could do it, and in the distant past I trained myself to do just that; but if absolutely necessary, if I would fail miserably without support, I need to adopt an attitude that I this is the way it is, this is the situation that I have gotten myself into and so now there's nothing I can do but suffer the consequences, on my own, without anyone around to bail me out; because, really, there isn't. And, if some savior would the happen along and do just that, then it's a gift I don't expect to receive. Jim's undependability informs me that my assumption that I have a fallback position is weaker than I thought, and I better start living in a real world instead.

If I don't have a car and can't walk or take public transportation (which service is sparsely scattered hereabouts), I'm screwed. Therefore, keeping a car always maintained and inspected is essential, as essential as maintaining my house or my savings. And I have to do it all by myself. Essentially, for all practical, everyday purposes, I have no family, and no one is going to suddenly show up at my door and offer to help out. That kind of thinking is just fantasy, the kind of idle thinking I never engage in, but which, probably, I have assumed--until now.

I've known for a while, via my dreams and their analysis, that my sister, in the sense of this train of thought, has been a mother substitute, not one I consciously would choose; but apparently my unconscious mind feels differently. But this is not what I want, this violates my sense of progress toward a total, albeit fictive, independence. I am self-sufficient, finally--in a relative, social sense. I want to stay that way, I don't want to backslide. I am on my own. This is my fate, my destiny--or, at least, it's the consequences that a life of Asperger's symptoms leads me to: I am on my own. I always have been, relying only on dependence to save me from physical nonexistence. And, you know, even though it still scares me a bit, even though it creates anxiety, which can still become extreme at times, in a way, I kind of like it.


Sometimes I just sit for long periods of time and pare away at totems of identities I've adopted and peel away the delicate wisps of skin-like goals and motivations that separate them each from each within the onion of personality I am, until I slowly uncover the nebulous layers of near nothingness that exist between them. I think that this may be a waking manifestation of the same thing I am doing in dreams, though with far less conscious understanding:

I drive into a large empty lot in a combo-area: the school off of Saltsburg Road; the parking lot of the dek-hockey rink in Universal; some other place I am not familiar with. Despite the fact that I'm going all the way across the lot, I park just inside the entrance and walk across. There is only one other car in the parking lot, a large, older model sedan near the entrance with a guy sitting in it, reading a newspaper. As I get out of my car, I wonder if he is a security guard or something. He doesn't look up at me. I'm going to a tire wholesaler to get tires put on my car. The place is a small shack at the edge of the lot, where the land drops down sharply over the hillside. But when I get there, I realize it's closed and I'm too late; when I'd previously [before the dream started] dropped off my car [which is paradoxically the one I drove to get here] and parked it right in front of the place and left it there for the tires to be installed [although it's still parked on the other side of the lot], either: a) I didn't realize they'd be closing so soon and so failed to take note that, if I didn't get back in time, no one would be here when I did; b) I never actually went into the place to arrange for the tires to be put on my car. Not only, now, is the place closed, but it doesn't even exist any more; the shack is gone and there are no cars there any more, not even my own. I look back across the lot to see if my car is still there near the entrance where I parked it; but I can't see it because the single car that is there is parked between me and my car, blocking my view. As I walk back across the lot, I try to see around the car, but as I near it, I realize that my car isn't there, that I am abandoned in this empty place without transportation. But I will not accept this outcome and I insist that my car be there, and despite the fact that no imagery for it appears, I begin to "drive" off of the lot as if I am in a car nonetheless. I drive (without imagery) up Poketa Road and I start to turn up Rockcliff when I realize that there's no sense in going up there because Mom doesn't live there any more. I continue on up Poketa, past Oliver's house. It and the house next to it are opened up, every door and window, revealing the fact that their contents have been emptied out and some kind of major remodeling is going on.

I awaken thinking that by this time in my life I should be settled in my mind about who I am and what I'm supposed to be doing in this world, that I should not still feel so insecure, not about transportation, and certainly not about my social role. I decide: I am who I am, and no amount of expectation along the lines of who others are is ever going to change that fact, no matter how much others may want me to be that which they are looking for and trying to manipulate their own world into being for them. People read what I write and it disturbs them, when it doesn't conform to what they expected it (and therefore me) to be. It tends to shut them up, because they don't know what to make of it (me).

I'm in an unknown house that's located in a combo neighborhood (1728, and other unknown places, on a street across from our old house, as if there is a street, or field, between the ones that actually exist--sort of). Mason visits us (Jim, Dianne, and me). He's here to inform us of some conspiracy theory [which has been his primary preoccupation in real life], but his "presentation" is interrupted by a bomb threat. We hurry out of the house through the back door, shouting warnings at Jim, who has lagged behind. The bomb explodes just as he exits, tossing him through the air, the clothes of his upper body afire. As he's exiting, I think he's probably pretty badly burned, and I feel bad about it. But he turns out to be just fine. We go into a wide field beside Carey's house, an area far wider than the space that was there when we lived there, but incorporating that space, yet making it look as if it's a treeless "orchard" with only a tree here or there that is not fruit-bearing. We're intent upon hiding from the bombers, who begin to search for us with helicopters. We hide beside a low hedgerow, between it and the house. It's close enough to the house that the people in the helicopter can't see us as it passes over when it's moving toward the house, because it passes over too quickly; but we know that, as it turns and heads back in the other direction, it will more readily notice us. So we move to the other side of the hedges. But we realize that, once it passes over, if anyone in the copter looks back, they'll easily see us. Jim, who is much smaller than the rest of us (he's a little kid), crawls beneath the hedges. We realize that there is an area under there that is kind of "hollow" (i.e., once you squeeze in past the restricting branches, they thin out). We crawl under the hedges with him; but Dianne hesitates, and the copter is returning. We yell at her to crawl under, but still she hesitates. When she finally does decide to crawl in with us, she leaves her legs sticking out. We scream at her to pull her legs in, which she manages to do just before the copter passes over. When the copters are gone, we go out into the neighborhood, passing through the yards, looking for a better place to hide. But we can't find any, and we are restricted from gaining access to any of the houses. Finally, our pursuers zero in on us and it looks like we will be captured. Cut to:

The front street at 640: I'm in the driveway, trying to sort out a lot of trash, putting some of it away in the garage before people see what it is and decide it's valuable. [recurrent] Copters are flying overhead. Something has happened, some crime or something, and the police are looking for the perpetrators. I know I am not a suspect, but I worry that I will be if people see my trash. The manhunt winds down, but the copters keep flying over about once an hour, keeping an eye on the neighborhood. It's gotten dark and they search the area perfunctorily with their huge spotlights, turning them on and off (a la Close Encounters). Cut to:

A courtroom: A woman is suing her ex for child support. After she left him, he never saw her again until they appeared together in court. She thinks he should at least have tried to see their son. At the hearing, the guy says, "He's not my son." He says it both in his defense and to try to hurt her. She thinks he's cruel and says so, blurting it out in court. The judge warns her attorney to keep her under control. What the guy doesn't say, what he keeps to himself, what he'd rather not let anyone know about himself, is that he could care less about the kid. He married the woman when her kid was two years old. He never really liked the kid, primarily because the kid never really took to him. He thought the kid was growing up to be just like his irresponsible father, despite everything he tried to do to teach him right from wrong and to properly educate him. But all the kid wanted to do was to play sports, and the guy was not a sporting kind of person; yet he tried even to play sports with him, figuring it was his responsibility as a father; but the kid ridiculed his lack of ability and sport acumen. When the woman decided that she no longer wanted the guy around, he felt that it meant that his responsibility for the boy had ended. She, on the other hand, argues that, although the kid isn't really his, he helped to raised him from infancy, providing the entire financial support for the family since their marriage. She can't understand and is deeply hurt that the guy will not stay in touch with the boy. She doesn't expect him to remain her friend, but he should care enough about the boy he raised to want to continue to see him, and she can't understand how he can be so cruel as to have abandoned him completely. [I am not a character in this dream. I observe it, disembodied, and know omnisciently what each of the characters feel and think.] What the woman really feels, but can't admit even to herself, is that she's hurt that she can't continue to manipulate him from a distance, not even by using her son to that end. [This is a common phenomenon exhibited by women whose men leave them unannounced and they, deserted, feel "unresolved." (They want "closure"; but there is, really, no such thing. If you want closure, die, bitch.) But women who leave their men tend to experience the same feelings when the men will not comply with their desire to remain in contact, to "just be friends." It must be a genetically programmed behavior in women, understandable and probably bio-selectively established in antiquity (where the man leaves and the woman seeks some of the lost security by trying to stay in touch), which generalizes to cases (where the woman leaves the man) where it is not appropriate. And women, all the time, use the kids they have with the men to manipulate the men to satisfy their genetic "maternal" instinct, which also generalizes inappropriately when they try to apply the manipulation to men who are not the real fathers.] The judge rules that, despite what anyone may think that the guy should do, he has no legal obligation to the boy. The woman goes into a vitriolic rage as the judge gavels the case closed and leaves the room.

I awaken feeling quite smug that justice has been done; but, at the same time, I realize that it's a distinct possibility that this might not have been the outcome in a real-world hearing.

postponing the inevitable

I keep putting off what I know I must inevitably do; but I just don't want to do anything but write. I write until I can't keep my eyes open, forcibly pushing ideas about what I have to do out of my mind. Then I fall asleep and dream and awaken to write out the dreams:

My brother (who is also my dad) and his wife (who I am aware is there, though I do not see her) are staying in my house. [The theme of Dad, and sometimes Mom, staying here is recurrent. This is the first time it's been my brother.] We're in the kitchen, and I notice that the stuff in the cabinets above the sink have been rearranged. This bothers me, but I don't know whether to complain about it, let alone change everything back in a fit of pique. I mention it, as if in passing, to my brother. He makes a comment to the effect that that's the way she is. I want to change it back, but I also recognize the benefit of having her here, because she makes us home-cooked meals and serves them at a table (as opposed to me making quick sandwiches or microwaved meat and veggies and carrying them to the bedroom or living room and watching tv while I eat. Actually, awake, I realize I prefer the latter; but within the dream I like eating cooked meals at the table). My brother/Dad instructs me to make him a pina colada from one of the mixes that Joyce keeps in the overhead cabinets, some of the items she has imported to displace my dishes, etc. [I keep only dishes, etc. overhead, and foodstuffs are in the cabinets off to the left; but Joyce has violated this division.] I don't mind making Jim/Dad the drink, but his attitude of expectation, that I should cater to his whim, irks me. I say that the drink mixes should be down in the living room with the alcohol, and he agrees; but we don't move them, we leave them where they are.

I awaken with a keen sense of having to do a lot of things that I've been postponing. I've got to make a list, I think, and get started catching up. But I know that making a list is not a solution to getting tasks done, but merely a (non-)activity that serves to reduce my anxiety about not having done them.

The night before, I fell asleep with the idea that anxiety (and depression) is not so big a deal in my life as I make it out to be (although anxiety would be a big deal, still, if I were required to spent a significant amount of time out in public). If I would document, each time I felt anxious (or depressed), the length of time the affect lasted, when I added up the total time, it would be miniscule, seconds on the hour. I estimate that it might be, perhaps, ten or fifteen minutes a day, at the absolute most; probably a lot less, and some days not at all. So what's the big deal? Well, the feelings expand to make it feel like it's an ongoing condition, not only because, when they occur, they dominate my consciousness so profoundly (when I will allow it, which I am learning not to do, by diverting my attention onto something else as soon as I realize what's happening) that it seems like the condition is permanent and forever, but more importantly because I have the inherent sense that the brief pangs will return, again and again.

So when I awaken in the morning and the affect of the dream disturbs me, I know that, if I wished, I could easily make it go away; but I try to hang onto it until I can get to the computer and document it, meanwhile considering how I am just like Jim in his delaying and avoidance tactics:

He (probably, I don't know for sure, of course, what's going on in his mind) avoids facing his problems, by drinking certainly, but even via simple denial. (I try not to engage in denial, at all; but I worry that avoiding anxiety in the way I have learned how to might lead to that.) But what's more significant is that I [as I try to write this out, I'm experiencing a great deal of repression, having a very difficult time dragging this idea back up out of the subconscious state it has settled into] find myself postponing doing things in the same way he does:

It's raining when I wake up; in fact, that's what woke me, after only six hours of sleep. I'm happy when it rains, even though I worry about the roof leaks, because I can "justify" sitting cozily in front of the computer all day in my sweats and robe, typing away, instead of having to go outside to do what I should be doing--or even doing what can be done while remaining inside. It's been raining or miserably overcast for almost a week now, and every day I look outside I feel that same affect I've always felt in this kind of weather: it's nice to be inside, safe and warm; I don't have to go anywhere today. Or, if I must go somewhere, I feel dejected and put-upon. This is exactly the opposite of sunny days, when if I choose to stay inside, I feel guilty; but if I'm outside, I feel up and happy. This is a fairly standard psychology, I think; but I think I may carry it to extremes, at least the rainy day part of it.

I understand how Jim uses this same rainy day excuse to avoid work. He used it with me when he was over here checking out my electrical problem: He said that he'd be back the next day, if it didn't rain. And it did, and he never showed up--for the next three days. (In fact, it's been three weeks since I've seen him and the electrical problem still exists.) So, I conclude, I do the same thing he does; but not quite. I hide out too, postponing the inevitable. It may not be because of alcohol, but the effect is just the same.

But there's a not so subtle difference: When I make a commitment, I keep it, invariably, and on time. I've always made this a big deal throughout my life. I'm always where I'm supposed to be, ahead of time; I'm never later, nor undependable. Often, I refuse commitments because I know I will not want to keep them when the time comes for me to act; but I would never do that with a member of my immediate family who requested my help. When Jim came over, responding to my appeal for help, he could have refused to commit to doing the job. It would not have been proper of him to do so, but he could have done it and thereby acted dependably, if not responsibly; but, as it is, he is neither dependable nor responsible, because undependability is inherently irresponsible.

Anyway, I find myself wanting to postpone outside (by which I really mean social) activity, often, even when it's not raining; and in this I am just like Jim, which makes me wonder if, despite his demeanor to the contrary, he experiences anxiety similar to mine. (I've suspected this before.) If so, he puts up a good front; but so do I. I doubt that anyone would ever suspect that I suffer from anxiety (when I do) if I didn't write about it. And I know he experiences depression, because he's mentioned it to me, in passing in a kind of obscure way, telling me that if he ever feels depressed, he can end it by going and doing something (engage in activity is what he meant).

I'm driving a new tiny car I got, kind of like a toy, on Rodi Road. While I'm hanging around down at the corner, I see Chris. She doesn't see me, so I stand off to make sure she doesn't. Then I realize she's hiding from me, aware that I'm around. When I awaken, I feel as if her presence was a psi experience. But then I think that she is me, our behaviors echoing each other.

I've been hiding out big time for the past few weeks. I like it when I get like this, especially if I'm writing prolifically, which I am. But I hate the affective dissonance created by the few important things I have to do "out there" that I don't want to and that are making me anxious.

a basic procedure

I get up in the morning with not enough sleep and unable to remember my dreams. I feel a bit disoriented and down from having taken too much melatonin last night and having had only one cup of coffee (two is my standard therapeutic dose) yesterday. I want to go back to sleep, but I don't think I can, so I make a cup of coffee and begin to work: I think that I may finally be learning how to control the affective result of the Asperger's when it begins to escalate and threatens to take over, just as I had learned to control the more direct symptoms (although I didn't know anything about Asperger's at the time) via my dogged dedication to the program of social skills development that I designed way back when I recognized that I needed to do something to mediate the introversion I experienced if I were ever going to succeed in the business world.

A year ago, I began another program, designed to mediate the anxiety and depression that I'd been putting up with, all my life really, although having hidden away fairly successfully during these more recent years has been a great help, especially re stress reduction. My new program, still mostly formally undeveloped, existing as a collection of still to be processed notes abstracted from journal entries, is a compilation of ideas that I have been using for a while, but piecemeal, here and there, as I happened to remember them. I intended to pull them all together into one procedure, but never quite got around to doing it. So now, having realized the efficacy of a few of the ideas, how they seem to be taking hold in my memory and working to keep the affective states at bay, that's exactly what I want to do, formalize them into a method I can consciously apply when necessary, until it takes over on its own by becoming a part of my subconscious process.

But life can be tricky sometimes. This morning I got up, planning to work on my "novel" (it's not really a novel, but I call it that anyway, and I'm busy trying to sort of turn it into something vaguely resembling one); but, before I get to it, the above ideas occurred to me and I determined instead to make that project my day's work, and, as soon as I did, even before I drink my coffee, even before I began to write out the sketchy ideas of the previous paragraph, the electric goes off. My first reaction is to curse my brother for abandoning the installation of the new service panel. For ten long minutes I am up against it, anxiety threatening to overwhelm me, as I get dressed and go down to the basement, assuming that the circuit that we transferred the lines to after the other one burned up also burned. I have to go back upstairs to get the flashlight because the circuit we transferred the wires to fed the basement lights.

Back downstairs, I examine the box with the flashlight. I can see no blown fuses or scorching. I jiggle few wires and discover one of them is loose, probably from having been minutely vibrating over the weeks from not having been properly secured in the first place. I don't want to pull the main fuse because I don't want to shut off the electric to all of the clocks, etc. upstairs and end up having to reset them all. (They're still running on the extension cords that I ran from the part of the house that's unaffected by the electrical problem back when the circuit first burned up; I only put the main appliances--space heaters, fridge, etc.--back on the main circuits after we re-routed them.) So I get a screwdriver with a wooden handle and carefully tighten down the lose connection. Simple. Problem solved; but not really. It's still a serious hazard, needing to be taken care of; and I guess I'm going to have to hire an electrician to install the new panel, because I don't want to pull the meter by myself.

I'm wondering about my brother and feel like I should call him; but I don't want to put any pressure on him. He has enough of that already. Maybe I'll get a better sense of where he's at on Thanksgiving--if his wife invites me over. She usually calls me a few days before holidays and asks me over for dinner; but she's missed the last few, and I suspect it's because my brother is...well, I don't want to get too gossipy here, I don't want to be that kind of person, and I'm not--except in this format, which is my outlet. I manage, with a bit of resolve, to set the electrical problem aside until a time when I feel more up to it and have solidified the plans and procedures. Meanwhile, I go back to my second original plan for the day:

the basic procedure1

When you feel the first pangs of anxiety, and certainly, when it is full blown, in case you fail to pay enough (or any) attention to the early pangs:

  1. cognitive: review (and memorize, again) this list of ideas:
    • *"Buck up, l'il girl. Hovering in the corner of your bed whimpering, afraid, isn't going to solve anything."
    • This is who/how I am, and no amount of therapy is going to change me (maybe that's not true), so I might as well get used to it and get down to accepting my basic nature: I am going to feel this way, from time to time, sometimes for long periods of time.
    • I have the balls to do whatever it is I want to or need to do. Going out into society is easy to do if you have balls, and I'm the bearded, long-haired hippie biker dude.
    • I'm crazy: Okay, so maybe I'm not; but whether I am or am not crazy, it's much easier on me to think of myself as crazy, as long as I don't lose my sense of objectivity. This way, I don't have to worry so much about what I say or do. [ e.g., I'm "crazy" for wanting to live without a car.]
    • Right now, everything is fine. And it's always right now. "We plan ahead. That way we don't [ever] have to do anything right now." [Kevin Bacon, Tremors] I don't have to do anything today. Usually, it can wait until tomorrow, or the next day, or even later. For any given plan, there is an earliest start date and a last possible date. To relieve anxiety, it may be best to get it over with as soon as possible; but it may also be a relief to postpone it day by day until the right mood, mode, and circumstances prevail. Someday I'm going to have to do something I don't want to; but until then, I can do what I want.
    • principalities: Turn the problem over to a "higher power" and rely on it/them for help.
      "If you can argue for the existence of principalities, then you can argue for the existence of God. It's just a short step farther on."
      "But I don't argue against the existence of God. I only question Its nature and whether It is conscious."
    • "It just doesn't matter." [the Meatballs defense]: Go ahead and do your worst. Not only can I take it, but I can dish it out too, if need be. I'd rather not, and I appeal to the principalities that govern this area of the universe to intercede to smooth out the wrinkles in this period of travail; but, when it comes right down to it, it just doesn't matter.
    • Everything is temporary.
    • What's next? What's the next Big Thing? Or little thing? I hope it's something more pleasant that a car inspection.
    • What do I have to do today? [the Harvey Pekar defense]: What do I have to worry about?3
    • "All in good time, my pretties." [The Wicked Witch of the West defense]: I don't have to do anything right now, and there may be a better time to do it in the future, when my mood/psycho-physiology is more up to it.
    • The "pangs" are minimal: Anxiety pangs only feel like they predominate my whole day, but in fact are the very smallest number of seconds here and there.
    • Feel the excitement: Right now, anxiety is always excitement. It's only when you get stuck in the future that fluid excitement freezes into anxiety. The trick, maybe, to beating this recurring negative affect is to stop trying to hang on to the present and accept that whatever happens will happen. Maybe. So feel the "excitement," knowing that anxiety exists only in the future and there are no consequences to feeling in the present the "excitement" that presages future anxiety; and when this "up" feeling begins to wear on you (which it will; you can't be excited all the time), you can escape it by sleep, fantasy, beer, etc.
    • personality: i.e., charisma (charm), et al. People feed back to you what you give to them. [see #3a below] This may work in conjunction (or contend against) principalities.
    • stage fright is what social anxiety actually is. Get "up" and let it motivate you.
    • I own my space, and the area I am familiar with, by virtue of my frequent possession of it; and areas I'm not familiar with (by virtue of being crazy and having balls.)
    • What's the calculated risk v. benefits in any given case of going out and doing what it is you need/want to do? In most cases, there is very little (getting shot by a drive-by, getting in an accident, etc.)
    • The Out of Africa defense: If I can just go one more minute (or day, or week), then I know I can do anything.
    • "Some of your hurts you have cured. / And others you still have survived. / But what torments of grief you've endured / From evils that never arrived."2
  2. Plan via writing down affects and ideas as they occur [Write down what bothers you and try to figure out what it is about it that is bothering you and why] and process this material in the established way [clipboard notes > journals > artistic expression].
  3. Negate anxiety by adopting this attitude of patience and calm acceptance: "All in good time (my pretties)."
  4. Do what's necessary when the time comes; most affect occurs when you "must" do something at a time when you're not in the proper frame of mind to do it, so that the only alternatives are:
    1. do it anyway, and feel badly, and perhaps undermine your purpose by unconsciously transmitting to others your anxiety and timidity or unwillingness. (Timidity can have a positive or negative effect, depending on the psychology of the other: in some cases, you can use the timidity to your advantage; but it's difficult to predict when it will work and when it won't. An extended consideration of this point is necessary; but for the purpose of this treatment, enough said.)
    2. prepare to do it by gearing yourself up and changing your unwilling state of mind. Coffee and beer can help here; but especially this entire procedure, beginning with the ideas (in part 0., underlined catch phrases repeated as a mantra, although mindfully). Use anxiety productively (like actors do with stage fright), as motivation: "up" energy; at least a part of the problem here may be a "depressed" state, maybe even hypoglycemia.
    3. leave it for another time. To this end, the following analysis comes into play:
levels of existence
    (in ascending degree of "advancement"):
    • What I must do, but feel anxiety about and would rather not. I don't want to do this, and so I've developed a strategy to try to cope with the anxiety. [real(ity) work]; or,
    • anxiety > fear/paranoia, not as isolated "pangs" but rather as a more pervasive, ongoing negative affect, re what the future might or is scheduled to bring
  1. What I must or want to do (or must or might in the future) and, as I anticipate the tasks, small pangs of anxiety occur that I ignore or repress, a la my strategy. I'm going to do this, but it's okay. It's no big deal. [my work and/or obligation]
  2. What I must or want to do, but not quite at this moment or this day, and with very little attached anxiety. I don't have to do this or anything, right now [avoidance]
  3. What I want to do, right now. I can do whatever I want right now, or nothing at all. No anxiety. [my spontaneous work and play]
  4. increased serotonin > decreased anxiety: Research foods, supplements, and activities to increase serotonin and implement these new steps, as a therapy to decrease anxiety. This is a possible way to head off the problem so that this procedure need not ever have to come into play. (Of course, there are anti-depressants, etc. that will do this for me; but I don't want to take them.)
    situations that evoke anxiety
    (in order of severity):
  1. the thought of having to approach someone whom I don't know so well. I'm fine going out into society if I can feel relatively assured that I will remain anonymous. And the thought of someone approaching me doesn't bother me at all, because I know that I can accept or reject any proposal they might make, with the exception of:
  2. the thought that someone might approach me in his or her official capacity as an authoritarian figure for the purpose of censuring me (or, worse, arresting me) for something I am doing or have done that is unacceptable to whomever, especially if the censure involves:
  3. the thought of spending a lot of money I don't expect to spend, especially if I feel that the expenditure will impact my future ability to exist without having to go out and get a job, and very especially if I have the feeling that I'm being ripped off, not getting full value for my money, etc.
That's it, I think. Those seem to be the only conditions under which I react "anxiously." The syndrome is a definite mix of anxiety and paranoia, with a tinge of depression if prolonged. During the worst episodes, when the paranoia is highest, approach can mean something as simple as having to go and get the mail or downloading e-mail because there might be some message that will affect me in one of the above ways; but this manifestation is usually minor when compared with actual contact with people.

Always, it is the thought of future encounters that causes the problem, and not the actual encounter, which I seem to handle quite adequately, if sometimes passive aggressively; which leads me to a perhaps simpler procedure: Short-circuit the "approach" syndrome by just simply doing it (plunging right in as opposed to planning it all out and gearing up for it), despite the extreme affect, assuring as best as possible that you don't prejudice the situation by transferring the affect to the people you interact with. Almost always, once I am in a social situation (unless it is an unstructured group such as a party where the ongoing situation is actually a large number of possible encounters), the affect melts away and I do quite well. It's the anticipation of social events that "disables" me and freezes me into inaction.

only a pawn in their game

I finally get out of the house by going over to my brother's for Thanksgiving. When I go into the house--I don't remember exactly how it happened--I end up, instead of in the kitchen talking with Joyce like I usually do, in the living room watching tv with Jim. I'd planned to do this at some point (after having realized that I unwittingly favored Joyce's company over Jim's when I visited), although in this case, I made no effort to execute that plan. Rather, it happened automatically, although I think Jim may have intended it and led me in that direction. A while ago, Joyce told me that Jim said to her that I had more in common with her than with him, that I always have a lot more to say to her, which is true, because we talk about a lot of stuff, like psychology or medicine or religion or some other subject that Jim isn't at all interested in and, if he's around, he walks away when we start talking about things he's not interested in; and I could care less about sports, which is his main interest, although we do talk about stuff like politics and things on the news. But on Thanksgiving, I hadn't thought about any of this consciously. Rather, I just ended up sitting with Jim because he was there in the living room watching TV when I came in.

So, having recognized a while ago how I paid more attention to Joyce than Jim and hadn't in the past paid all that much attention to him, I'd decided to do so. This was something, however, that I did not consider my fault. I sat with him in the living room on many occasions; but, being like he is, discontent to remain in one place for very long, he would get up and wander off. So, after a while, watching tv on my own, I would get up and seek out others to talk to. Or else, Jim would leave because he'd get mad at Joyce, who would come in and interrupt us, ostensibly simply socializing. But there's an ulterior (unconscious, I believe) motive here on Joyce's part that I'm just now fully realizing: she intended to command my attention; and in the past, she has successfully accomplished this, in large part because Jim enabled it by the way he would drift off and leave me alone, thus playing right into the trap that she set for him.

As I'm sitting in the living room with Jim, he complains about the pain in his back, which reminds me that I forgot to take my pills, and he asks, "What pills?" I tell him naproxen, and he wants to know what that is, that maybe he should take it too--all as if I haven't told him about it many times before. So I explain it again. At first, he tries to maintain that it's just like Ibuprophen, which doesn't work for him. But I manage to convince him that it's much better and longer lasting than Ibuprophen. So he says that maybe he should take it. Next, we get into the standard discussion of me never having told him of it before. (He does this often on a number of topics, probably because he was drinking when I told him and didn't retain the information.)

Joyce is hovering between the kitchen where she's cooking and the living room, trying to monitor our conversation. Jim tells her to buy him some naproxen for him. She makes several objections as to why they won't work. I shoot each one down: can't take them with anything else (I argue as to total dosage and the danger of combining anti-inflammatories, that it's not so much the combination as the total overall dosage); they don't work for her (I tell her you have to take them daily for a week or two until your body adjusts to them); people who drink shouldn't take them (people who drink shouldn't take lots of other medications too, including Ibuprophen--implying that alcohol, not OTC medicines, is the real problem here). Jim is convinced that he should take naproxen, if for no other reason than Joyce is arguing against him taking it. But I'm beginning to think that maybe convincing him of this might have been a mistake, that maybe he should worry about not drinking instead. That would probably cure most of his pain. (I suspect that he uses the same faulty logic that our dad did: The alcohol kills the pain. But that's a short-term solution that causes increasing long-term problems; and not only increased pain.)

I've known for a while now that Joyce and Jim (the both of them, although Jim far less so than Joyce) try to manipulate me for their own purposes (they do it to everyone they can, I think, even the kids, so I'm not so special here; but since I'm the only one who visits them on holidays... Hmm. I wonder why), but I never realized that I have been this much of a pawn in their game (as I will try to explain as this story goes on).

So, I'm sitting in the living room talking with Jim and watching tv, aware that what I'd planned to do happened without me consciously trying to make it happen, and pleased with this outcome, when Joyce comes back into the room after a brief trip to the kitchen to monitor her cooking. She sits on the far sofa across the room, at a distance and angle that inhibits her participation in our conversation, as she tries, I eventually realize, to interact with us. (That's the nicest way of putting it.) I don't realize this until after she leaves, when it occurs to me, based on something Jim said to her, that she was in fact trying to grab my attention away from Jim. And I understand (again from what Jim said to her, a brief and somewhat disguised criticism to that effect, I can't remember the exact words, something about her getting pissed off) that this is not so much an unconscious ploy, that they have discussed this matter. I'm putting this all together based on a lot of things they've said over the past few years. I can imagine that Jim may have complained to her that I do not socialize with him, but seek out and choose to talk to Joyce instead whenever I visit; and I can imagine that Joyce said to him, Well, if you wouldn't be so...whatever.

Any criticism will do for this purpose--Jim getting up and leaving, being so nasty and/or so critical to her, getting so angry; it's not so much the subject matter that's important here as it is the one-upmanship game they're playing. Jim's behavior in this regard doesn't bother me all that much, because he never directs his anger at me; when he gets angry when we're talking, it's always a mutual anger we express against the world, especially against the conservative political agenda, and when it appears that we're shouting at each other, we're not, we're together shouting at the world, and although others may not understand this, we do; it does bother me that he gets angry at others, when I understand that it is displaced anger, that he is really angry at himself and/or what he thinks is his impossible situation in life; but as long as the anger is not directed at me, I feel no threat from it and so allow him to be himself.

So, I think that Joyce had told him that if he wouldn't act this way, then I (the pawn--I guess that makes them the king and queen) would stay and talk to him. As I've tried to indicate, these are not the reasons I don't talk to him; but Joyce is sort of right: I can't talk to him if he's not there, and he will from time to time make himself unavailable, physically. (It's never the case that he makes himself unavailable psychologically, with me. Eventually, if we are physically together, we commune. It's a natural occurrence.)

Anyway, for the rest of the day I notice how Joyce has been left out, and how she's pissed about it that Jim has managed to capture and keep my attention and presence. Probably, if she had understood how her criticism of his behavior might help him to remedy the situation, she might never have offered it--in other words, it wasn't really constructive help she offered him when they discussed this matter (which I believe they did), but disguised vindictive criticism. He's realized, with her unwitting help, how he's lost my attention in the past, and he has successfully overcome the problem. I think he planned this out ahead of time; I believe this is true for this reason:

When he called me on Wednesday to invite me over (which he never does; Joyce always does the inviting), he suggested that we might go out and rent movies to watch, which I now see was a part of the plan to keep me in his living room and out of Joyce's kitchen. He also said then, on the phone when he'd called me, something about my electric, I forget exactly how he put it, but it was his usual way of apologizing without apologizing. I think he felt that he had to call and sort of apologize ahead of time before I came over. And the next day, when he was carving the turkey, he told me he'd come over on Friday; which, of course, he didn't. I suspect, though I'm not really certain of this, that he fully intends to do it when he says he will, but that he's drinking every day and just can't manage to go out to work. I also suspect this because he left a lot of his tools in my basement, and that was over a month ago.

The few times he was over here to work on the electric, it was obvious that he was struggling just to get around. He could hardly walk up the steps when he had to go up to pull the meter. And when he couldn't get the connectors to break free on the old service panel after spraying them with WD-40 and some other stuff he had, instead of hacking them off with a Saws-All, which would have been easy to do, he postponed working further on it and instead said it would be easier to replace the whole line coming in from outside and reposition the new panel. This would cost me an extra sixty or seventy dollars. I didn't object at the time, because I assumed that he knew what he was doing and that he was right about what needed to be done; but when I thought back on it later, I realized how easily we could cut the connectors away. And this is what I told him at Thanksgiving when he was carving the turkey, because I didn't want him to go out and buy the extra materials to replace the whole line coming in when all we had to do was cut the old box off. He said that he knew this (he probably realized it later also), and that was when he said he'd be over on Friday.

This reminds me of when we were working across the state installing lines for printers at the CVS stores. The first day we wasted half a day going from store to store in one area surveying what we had to do instead of just getting started on one of the jobs. Then, in the afternoon, when we finally got started on one, we ran into a problem where we had to run wiring under the floor boards. He was making a big deal out of it and seemed confused and unable to figure out how to do it, trying to do it in a way that seemed to me to be exceptionally roundabout. Finally, after he kept expressing frustration at being unable to get through, I told him to let me do it, and I went a different way, drilling through the boards crosswise, which is what I had suggested in the first place, but which he said wouldn't work. I thought back then that he was just being stubborn and insisting that it had it to be done his way; but now I don't think that was it. I think that he was just muddleheaded from the booze, or maybe he was sobering up and unable to think straight. I knew he had been drinking, by the way he'd been driving on the way there. This is the same way he was acting that day here when he wanted to strip out all the old outside wiring and replace it because he could break a connector loose.

Anyway, instead of renting movies on Thanksgiving, like he'd suggested on the phone, we play cards, which was something he announced we could do shortly after I arrived. He goes off to assemble the kids, and we play Uno, for hours; and we have a great time, the men in the living room, bullshitting over a card table while the woman cooks, excluded in her kitchen.

During the course of the card game, the subject turns to my having abandoned our plans many years ago to enlist in the army on the buddy system, chickening out, he believes, and leaving him to enlist alone. I tell him that's not true, that they put me on a temporary medical deferment, and he objects, disbelieving me. I remind him that he was enlisting anyway and that it was merely a spontaneous decision I made when I said I'd enlist with him. Again, he doesn't believe me, but I eventually manage to convince him otherwise. This is another breakthrough (the naproxen was the first). I've explained to him many times in the past about this army thing, and he refused to allow the information in. But this time he does. Joyce asked me about this the last time I visited and I explained it to her--more evidence for them having talked about this earlier. So, apparently, she got it through to him, though not having convinced him--I had to do that; but she opened his mind enough to the possibility so that he had to question me about it, if for no other reason than to prove Joyce wrong; which he couldn't do.

Next, the subject of Steppenwolf came up, because Jay was humming a tune, "Smoke On The Water," and claimed that it was by Steppenwolf. I told him it was by Deep Purple. This then leads to the subject of the lyrics to "Born To Be Wild." Jim had argued with Joyce's sister (I learned the last time I visited) that the phrase "like a true nature's child" was "like a tumescent child." I told him I looked it up on the Steppenwolf website, and Karen was right. After having accepted being corrected on all of the other points we'd been discussing, he accepts this and says that he's going to have to apologize to Karen. Three breakthroughs.

To my surprise, we manage to delay dinner to finish out an exceptionally long hand of cards. I wasn't paying too close attention, so I'm not exactly sure how this played out, but Joyce was stewing in the kitchen and Jim was aware of her and asking her if she needed help, which she declined. It seemed as if (I conclude this in retrospect; I didn't realize it at the time) they had a previous understanding that this was Jim's day; so, if our card game delayed the meal a bit, although it pissed her off, she would tolerate it for his sake (which is why I believe that Joyce's earlier interrupting "antics" was unconscious behavior; because, otherwise, she would have insisted that we end the game and come to dinner).

Earlier, at one point, before we began to play cards, Jim left the living room and I walked out into the kitchen. [I did this without thinking about it, despite the fact that I'd earlier realized how this dynamic worked. He didn't tell me where he was going, he just got up and left the room; and I didn't pay any attention to his leaving.] Joyce asked me if Jim got mad and left, and I said, No, I don't think so. I realized that she automatically assumed he'd left angry, when what he'd done was to go down into the basement, apparently to rally the troops for the card game. Joyce thought she had a victory there for a minute; but then Jim walked into the kitchen from the basement. So, though much of her behavior may be unconscious, she definitely has a battle going on between her conscious and unconscious states re this issue (as well as many others).

Later, long after dinner, we watch TV. Joyce had gone to bed--I guess. Usually she says goodnight, but this time she didn't, which is maybe more evidence that she was pissed off. I want to watch Grey's Anatomy. Big mistake trying to watch it there. I should have gone home. I can't hear the dialogue above the talking and shouting and the kids' grab-assing and Jim's shouting at them. I caught only bits and pieces of the show for the first fifteen minutes, and I missed a lot more after Jim became interested in the storyline and kept asking about its back-story details. But he stayed with it, when usually he would just leave. In other words, it seemed like he was intentionally staying put and socializing.

One sour note, though: Twice during the evening Jim said he had to go out and "lock his truck." I suspect that the second time he didn't remember that he had used that excuse the first time. I don't know if he had anything to drink before that, but I suspect he had (but probably not a lot), but I know what he was going out to his truck for, and I really think he thinks he's fooling people when he does things like that.

Cut to Friday morning, four a.m.: Jimmie and Danny pick me up to go out to Wal-Mart for the Day-After-Thanksgiving sale. They're going out at the request of their mother to buy and put on layaway a wide screen tv; I am going there to get a combo VCR/DVD recorder. Joyce doesn't come along because she's going to Best Buy on a mission of her own. The whole thing, even the day before during the planning stages, seems like a military operation: you go here with him, and I'll go there with him, and you do this, and I'll do that. Jim, of course, disagreed with the whole deal. He said that, when they put the new tv in the living room, he'll never get to watch it because everyone else will take it over. His disagreement was prompted by Joyce catering to him by asking him what he thought about buying it, but when he expressed his dissatisfaction, she went ahead and made the plans anyway. In other words, if he had agreed, then she would have included him in on the decision making; but she was going to buy it anyway, no matter what he said. And he knew this, even as he was disagreeing, because after Joyce and the kids went off into a huddle in the back room to review the sale items on the internet, Jim said, "It doesn't matter what I say. They're going to get it anyway."

As it turned out, Jimmie didn't get the tv, because Wal-Mart was disallowing layaways on super-sale merchandise; and anyway there were only ten of them and at least fifty customers lined up. I got my recorder; and it works far better than I expected it to. I can record even the marginal channels, even on the VCR. Apparently, the problem I had recording with the old recorder wasn't that it couldn't record marginal signals per se, (i.e., due to its "advanced" signal detection that excluded weak signals rather than passing them with poor quality), but that whatever was wrong with it (something to do with the tracking mechanism and/or electronics) prevented that recording. A whole new era of tv watching has opened up for me now that I can record shows that I would either have to watch when they were broadcast or miss.

we have met the enemy

After the spate of socializing, I am, as is typical after such prolonged interaction, overwhelmed. My head is swimming with ideas that I've been entertaining for some time now. I want to list them out and be done with them, but I know that once I start, I won't be able to constrain myself to such a meager effort. They've been building up for so long now that I know I have to stand back out of their way and give them their head. (Sorry for the semi-mixed metaphor.) Many of these ideas tie in with fragments I've written in my journal over the past few weeks, so I look with trepidation at the work I see ahead, and I have a small glass of homemade wine before I start:

I've never before appreciated the difference between a beer buzz and a wine mellow. Although I've made homemade wine all of my adult life, I'm not very into wine. I only made it for the "art," and not even for that, because I didn't make it, nor did I buy and drink commercial products, for connoisseurship reason. If I've ever had any really good wine, I never knew it. When I was young, I drank it to get high, and for the taste (and the low cost, of course); but all that meant was that I bought and drank what did not seem to me to be unpleasant. But now, I think, I'm beginning to understand. Not that I'm now going to become a wine connoisseur. I mean, who cares? But at least I understand.

I've become aware of this difference between the effects of beer and wine (and I assume between a lot of different alcohol products; the same non-differentiation described above applies to my consumption of harder liquors also) by having altered the wine I'm drinking now, a homemade 18% alcohol '82 parsley wine to which I added an equal amount of apple juice and a pinch of bread yeast and stored it in plastic bottles for a few days in order to transform it into a sparkling wine, because I like the way that carbonation affects wine taste and the pleasure of drinking it. This carbonated version of my aged product makes me feel so good; high, yes, but mellow as opposed to "buzzed" like beer does. I'd really rather have a beer; but the wine mellow is an interesting diversion.

And it's interesting that the carbonated dilution with juice brought out the parsley flavor, which had been previously overpowered by the tart, almost medicinal quality of the original product, which the juice significantly reduced. I think I may try this with all of my aged (less tasty) wines as I open them. It's kind of like turning them into wine spritzers, except that the alcohol content of all my wines is way up there, so that the finished content after carbonation remains quite high, somewhere around nine or ten percent.

I drink (very modestly, well apportioned, not at all like my brother, though you may recognize my projection here) in part to ease for a brief period the "pressure" I feel [I can easily understand how people become addicted to alcohol--and, for that matter, other substances] that my own overly demanding self places on me, over and above how I feel pressured by extensive social interactions (there's a wide overlap here between personal and social, mostly involving, but not completely restricted to, superego concerns), such stupid preoccupations like feeling obligated to answer personal e-mails, even when I don't know what to say--even when there is really nothing to say. I have to run any given e-mail over and over again in my mind, first, to determine if I can delete it without answering it, and, if I can't, second, to decide what it is that I will say. (Some few of them will answer themselves, and I think that has more to do with me, with the mood I'm in, than with my corresponder and/or the nature of the email.

I often end up embedding into email responses material that ends up in my books. (Eventually. It has to work its way through my journal filter first.) So, I'm thinking that I should somewhat formalize this, since it's what I usually do anyway, and make it a stated purpose that, whatever I say in emails will become a first step in creating content for my writing work. Any excuse to write about whatever. (Usually my own life). This way I will at least not be so torn between answering email and writing. And if, as I've sometimes suspected, the person I write to is put off by my (unusual and/or off-topic and/or inappropriate) words/ideas and fails to respond, well, as I've said before: I win! (Yet another projection.)

The dual nature of projection:

  1. Others deny what they really are and project their denials onto you because you exhibit traits that are similar to theirs. Your traits may be full-blown and so, although others may be in denial, still they may be correct in their assessment of you; or you may be only the merest wisp of a hint of what they deny, which makes you their scapegoat.
  2. You think others are like you because they provide a hook to hang your projections onto, which may mean they are like you, or it may mean that they have only the very slightest hint of a trait that is only very slightly similar to yours, and when you believe them to be like you, though you may not deny your behavior, you are still projecting.

[It could also mean, as explained earlier, that the material that you're projecting is only the very slightest hint of that which you are projecting onto; but that, if it is real projection in the first place, is hardly what I'm talking about here.]

Both of the conditions may operate at the same time, either re the same traits or more likely re different traits, so that both you and another unconsciously (or consciously; and even while knowing you're doing it, like when you're trying to squirm out of a difficult situation) blame each other for what you each yourselves are, whether you each are to a large extent what you are accused of or are only that to the very slightest degree, each in the same way or differentially. It can get so complicated, especially when third parties start to play into the mix with projections of their own, that it becomes impossible to tell who is projecting onto whom and what traits and attributes belong to whom. This is the nature of personality that we do not (want to) see, preferring to believe that we each exist within our own selves, alone and separate. But we (most of us), nevertheless, strive to bridge that gap, not realizing that we bridge it readily every time we interact in even the most (supposedly) superficial of ways. It's a scary process to think about. We are not alone. No wonder we believe in aliens. We have met the enemy...

Most of the time this kind of perception eludes me. I see it only when I choose to engage in self-analysis, which can often be just too time consuming and dedicated a process to pursue. But, more often, I catch more or less superficial glimpses of it when I awaken out of dreams and try, for a brief while, to understand what they mean. That's why, when I hear people (usually of the "medical" variety and especially in an authoritative manner and out of an air of "expertise") claim that dreams are "the random firing of neurons," I think that they must be wrong. This idea has challenged my assumptions about dreams and stirred up my intellect. Dreams must be more than this. How do you explain my elaborately plotted dreams at this level? Maybe dreams are initiated by the random firing of neurons; but certainly once some content is retrieved, the unconscious mind goes to work on it to mold and shape it to some kind of purpose, even if that purpose is merely reptilian--which I believe is the least possible explanation, because my dreams deal with a lot of post-reptilian material and processes, up to and just short of a command of language. [Words, when they appear literally (to render dreams, dream recall uses words that had not been literally in the dream) within the context of dream imagery, which is the milieu of dreams, always stand out and take on a charged significance.] And what about recurrent dreams? Recurrent dream themes, where the content changes slightly (or dramatically) within a given restricted format or "plot" has got to be evidence for the fact that dreams are far more than random firing of neurons. The concept of recurrent randomly firing neurons is self-contradictory.

I've recently been having a series of dreams about my extended family, awakening each time to mull over the dsicrepancy between family members' dream images and what I thought them to be in real life. I think of my mother and her brothers and sisters. (She had eleven of them). They were old people, no matter what age I remember them being. If I am a kid (awake or in a dream), they're older, and thus old; if I'm an adult, they're still older, aged; if I'm aging, they're dead. Then I think of my brother and me. We're not the same that way, we're not old like them. We're their age now, but they were so much older. When I dream of them as being alive, I yet know, even within the dream, that they are dead--except for my father and, rarely, my mother, whom I experience within dreams (somewhat lucidly) as being as alive in real life as they seem to be within dreams, existing in a kind of extended-life state, having never really died. This can become frightening at times when I awaken in the dark and still feel the dream seeping through into "reality"; because also seeping into the waking state is the (dream state's) "rational" perception that they are still alive. Old age is meaningless in this regard: Firing a few random neurons can change your entire life's outlook. Perception is far more profound a process than science. I'm a scientist, but...

acceptable social standards

"Older people should be treated with respect, not much but some."

"I have hope," Simon says. "Not a hell of a lot of hope, but some hope. You need tons of hope in order to function. Got to think that everything will work out..."
Donald Barthelme, Paradise
I'd rather be a professional writer than have any other kind of career. I have a talent for writing. I could write good fiction and get paid for it; or even get a more modest sum for bad fiction; or, maybe, even earn millions for bad fiction like lots of other bad writers. And what do I write about instead? These strange and/or ordinary ideas that I am that no one will ever publish; but this stuff is why I have a talent for writing in the first place. I developed it out of a need to express just these kinds of ideas. Otherwise, I would have no need to write at all.

I've long envied people who have found their calling in life and work to it, breezing through the rest of the crap that life throws at them, more or less disconcerned with it. I've often wondered what my one thing is. And then I wake up to the idea, again (and again): "Oh, wait a minute. Of course. It's writing." Especially these pastiches; but now, too, the books. I came to this awareness relatively late in life; but at least I came to it. And, so, all of this other crap, all of this shit about car inspections and house maintenance, and...whatever; it's a bunch of crap. If I have to walk up to the store every day to buy enough food to carry home so that I can survive, so what? It's not important. It just doesn't matter. It just doesn't matter. Because I know what matters: writing.

But that's not it, that's not the problem or the solution, the one purpose. The problem is all that other stuff, and the solution cannot be to ignore it all and get on with that which is important. Because you can't ignore it all, it dwells on you, it insists itself on you, all the more so because you ignore it. How do all those people do it, the people I envy? They don't. Someone else does it for them, they pay someone, or someone loves them enough to shield them from it all so that they can work in peace at what they most love to do. That's what I'm really missing, that's the real problem, that must be what I actually envy, the freedom from distraction, the insulation fromsociety.

I was going to go out shopping today, just to get some things I've been planning on getting; but now I'm thinking, Why bother? I don't actually need anything, and it's such a nice day to be lazy. So I started watching the Steeler game and fell asleep. There's nothing more peaceful than dozing off on a Sunday afternoon while watching a bunch of has-beens lose, even if I have more "important" things to do, like get out, do some shopping, clean up the house a little bit. I'm stuck in a rut.

My quirky household habits, most of them born out of a feeling of needing to conserve resources (meaning, ultimately, money) may appear to be OCD-like and therefore aspects of Asperger's (and, in a sense, they may actually be derived therefrom); but, when you come right down to it, they're really no different from the practices of any good housewife who keeps a meticulous house. I don't keep a clean house, by any socially acceptable standard; but the behaviors I engage in to save money through conservation are the same kinds of behaviors that housewives do to keep their houses clean. For example, I save all of my burnable paper in boxes by the woodstove to use to start fires in the winter, and I move the excess down to the back of the basement until winter arrives. It's an odd practice, mostly because I'm so dedicated to it, saving every little scrap. In that same way I save every little twist-tie I encounter, to use in my gardens in the spring. And lots of other odds and ends. Bottles and cans. Old clothes torn into rags. (The list would be endless if I didn't stop myself in fits of storage space practicality.)

The amount of money I save this way, even considering all of the practices in total, is probably minimal, and (probably) it wouldn't mean the difference, if it came right down to it, between austere survival and death (although there is the very slight possibility that it just might make a difference); but I do it just to be sure--after the fashion of a fastidious housewife who cleans her kitchen to a spotless glimmer, even though it makes little or no difference in the daily lives of her family. (Okay. Maybe we're both fucked up; but the same conclusion applies: we're not that much different.)

And other behaviors, ones that are not related to savings, but to convenience, though again flying in the face of social standards, are the same kinds of housewife-like behaviors. For example, I keep two twelve-ounce empty coffee jars on my counter-top, usually neatly arranged, set back to be out of the way and squared up with the appliances there, which I use to store an extra cup of prepared instant coffee, because I make two cups at a time in order to proportion out the coffee and sugar more easily (the amounts I prefer for one cup are not readily divisible by two and thus are more difficult to exactly spoon out) and also so that I don't have to make a second cup later in the day, but rather I can just heat it up in the microwave--the point being that, like typical housewives, I have a place for everything and everything (when I'm at my anal best) in its place. I have lots of these kinds of idiosyncrasies around the house that I adhere to, as if compulsively. The only real difference between typical housewives and me, as I've said, is that my arrangements don't conform to acceptable social standards whereas I do not.

I try to accept myself for exactly what I am; but the particulars of my difability leave me worrying about my future ability to survive and cope as I age. I tend to hoard and scrimp because I worry that the money I have in savings bonds, which I think of as my long-term retirement money that I increasingly will need as I continue to deteriorate, will not last and that social security will not be enough to sustain me for as long as I am determined to live. This is, of course, a very ordinary worry; but I take it to extremes, mostly, I think, because I cannot accept the "value" that this society places on its senior citizens, whom it allows to deteriorate without much care (unless they happen to be rich, which is not social care at all, but rather the value of money). This is all depressing to me; and I use that word literally. My depression is grounded in my ultimate lack of hope. (I have a lot of hope about a lot of things; but it is not ultimate--because everyone dies and I do not believe in an afterlife. I wish I did, so that I could have some hope; I wish I could deceive myself.) I want to find something that I can have hope in, anything, perhaps some small subsidiary aspect of my life that I can focus on to turn my attention away from that part of life that I despair of. And then it hits me: I'm a writer! I hope that turns out to be enough.

Click on footnote number to return to that respective point in the text.
1. Some of this material is abstracted from previous journal entries.
2. Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoted from memory, so there may be a few minor mistakes.
3. Harvey Pekar, An "American Splendor" Comic