by j-a

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April 2008

Prejudice Against Prejudice

echoes of echos

I now understand that one of my symptoms is echolalia. I've known of this symptom for a while, but I never realized that it applied to my own behavior, because my version of the symptom seems to be very subtle.

I see now how this is what I did (still do, though ever so much more subtly) in a kind of sophisticated, non-immediate way, when I "adopted" others' opinions [and sometimes restated them back to them, sometimes literally, such as in childhood and into early adulthood, when I would, for example, complain to Mom about Dad's poor dishwashing, echoing her complaints;

ditto, the poor cleaning habits of the previous inhabitants when I moved into my current residence, among many, many other incidents; even imagining, later, that this behavior served a social function by showing people, at my expense (being the unwitting victim of scapegoating by making myself look sycophantic by echoing people's previously stated erroneous, juvenile, or prejudiced opinions), how they act by turning their whining behavior back on them];

but sometimes, especially in later life, but occasionally when I was young also, I (unconsciously) do this in a way that significantly alters form/content so as to render the echo unrecognizable, so that people will come to think that I merely agree with them, and for good reason, because these are really their own ideas that I have incorporated into my belief repertoire;

or, so that people will conclude that I am intelligent (and even, occasionally, psychic)--because I agree with their opinions and even seem to anticipate what they are thinking, when they don't notice how it is that I am echoing, because any more I tend to do it so "creatively"--i.e., not literally.

In addition, appropriation of others' material into my creative writing (a technique I learned from Kathy Acker), I see now, is a form of echolalia, as is my pastiche method, which more directly incorporates others' material.

This leads me to a repetitive fantasy I have of being someone else, which I often combine with my time travel fantasies, all of which is additionally suggested to me by the tv series "New Amsterdam," where Amsterdam is a painter who has lived for several hundred years and is currently a city detective. I imagine (and consequently, to feed the fantasy, do research over a relatively long period of time) being in a different place and time as a different personality (a mental behavior that echoes my own diversity of personality, I might add). I engage in full time and exhaustive projects/learning experiences, and then move on to other projects (with residue and modified tasks of old projects reduced to minimum maintenance levels). In this way, I am different people, all wrapped up into one complex (confused) bodymind; but I don't think I am this way because I act this way, but rather the other way round. I echo other people's ideas and experiences, but I also echo my own.

Meanwhile, the pressure builds, increasing, day by day, until...
I just have to do something about it, get up off my ass and out...
Anything, it doesn't matter, any project, so I can look back...
At least I will have done something, taken some action...

This is my other mode of existence: Do whatever, choosing from a list, abandoning anything that doesn't go easily, accomplishing a lot, though it not be what is most important, as long as something gets done, as long as I can see a reduction in the accumulating list(s).

I know. I've said this all before. It's all just another echo.
Time to get to work.

gearing up

I finally got all the files on the desktop copied and transferred over to the laptop and ran the desktop recovery disk. I didn't do a full reformat and recovery. I was going to, but I figured I might as well try a partial first; and it worked. So I never lost any files anyway. It even re-installed a lot of my apps; and, most importantly, it got rid of the trojans. Apparently there were three of them, and I found two of them before I even began the recovery: When I was transferring the last folder, my backup files, to the laptop, the virus scanner located and deleted three files. I tried to deleted these same files from the desktop, but the system would only allow me to remove two of them, which got rid of one of the two nagging pop-ups. Anyway, the desktop is up and running full speed again and internet capable. (I stayed off the net with it because I feared someone would steal my identity/valuable info.)

On the home front (as opposed to the internet one), spring planting (seedlings) is going well. I've got all kinds of little babies growing in plastic cups: tomatoes, peppers, squash, cantaloupe, amaranth, rutabagas. I know the rutabagas should be sowed directly, but I wanted to test the seed germination rate. All of the above were sprouted between sheets of wet newspaper and transplanted into the cups. I was especially surprised at the success of the amaranth, since the seeds are so small. This has motivated me to try and sprout the yarrow, mugwort, wormwood, and salsify. All except the last have seeds that look like dust. (I'm going to try the herbs as beer bittering agents once I get a crop in.) And, also, I'm successfully growing carrots and ginger from store-bought foodstuffs. (Various kinds of potatoes all failed this experiment, probably because they were sprayed with some hormone solution to prevent them from sprouting.)

So, after having stayed up all night the previous night working on the computer and awaking from a nap out of particularly disturbing dream this afternoon [I drive up Rodi Rd., heading toward the shopping center, but I feel like someone is going to see my expired inspection sticker and report me, or else I'm going to get caught by a cop, so I turn around to come back after, while waiting at a traffic stop while trying to get onto the main road (Frankstown, but as if I were on the main drag in Monroeville), I get paranoid. But now I'm walking along back streets and alleyways that serve as loading areas for the stores in the shopping center, and I have Slim with me. Store employees are all Blacks and Latinos and I feel like I should be intimidated, but I'm not. I feel like I fit right in. The walkways are all covered with that greasy, gritty anti-slime that covers restaurant alleys in large cities; and, along some of the egresses, seedy, grit-covered plants (a la a mill town) manage to grow, including, at one point, a hedge. Slim is interested in sniffing and perhaps tasting everything, and I have to keep distracting him away from crap, including some nice, plump, juicy blackberries that are laying beside the hedge. I finally decide to put him on a leash so that I can better control him, and I produce a leash out of nowhere, thinking that, if he starts to get into anything, I can jerk him away. Awake, I don't have to think too hard to understand that this is my own inner self that I'm trying to control] with a twinge in my back that seems to be getting worse as the weather heats up. I begin to worry that, come summer, all of my planting efforts will be for naught, since I will again experience the severe pain of last summer and will be unable to work in the yard for weeks or months at a time. And the contagious doubt begins to spread to other projects:

Will I ever get the roof fixed? (This worry is spurred by the sound of the dripping faucet in the bathroom; but, then again, it only leaks when it rains--the roof, not the faucet; that leaks all the time.) Will any of my myriad of projects ever get completed? I go and get a cup of coffee and walk outside into the gloaming to check the traps I set several days ago, when I found a huge hole dug into the 4'x4'x2' (deep) garden bed that I used as a compost bin last year, having filled it with shredded tree limbs and thus created a perfect nesting habitat; and also to check the pool that I began to fill with rainwater re-directed from the gutters before the last predicted rain, which didn't materialize like they said it would (so, what else is new?) and ended up only putting about two inches of water into the pond, plenty of room to allow mosquitoes to deposit eggs, but not enough to move the goldfish outside into to gobble up the larvae before they graduate into a swarm. (Last month, I unwittingly left a five gallon pail out back and rain partially filled it with water and, before I happened back there and discovered it, mosquitoes were swarming around it. (It only takes seven unattended days to enable the buggers to do their thing); but it's still early, and that brood will be long dead before prime outdoor season is upon us (adult mosquito life cycle being approx. 30 days.)]

So, anyway, all of this pathos has filled my brain and is spilling out all over the place when I have my first cup of coffee of the day, which dispels the daemons and brings me to my "senses." I think it doesn't matter if I am temporarily disabled this summer. If I am, then I am, and the planting and the garden projects can grow wild or wither away from lack of attention. Negative future consequences should have no real impact on current activities, lest they deter early planning and execution. To allow that attitude to creep in is to defeat yourself before you start. So what if I am, later, disabled? It's the same thing as saying that we might have a severe drought this year, so there's no sense in planting; or that I might drop dead in the fall, so there's no sense in living now.

When planning and starting to execute those plans, you should take into account any major pitfalls ahead of time and plan reasonable contingencies against them; but severe doubt, worry, anxiety, and paranoia is not a method of contingency planning. Rather, they tend to stop you before you begin. They can have their place in the planning process, it's true, in that they can serve to cause you to foresee problems and head them off; but they only go so far, and when they go farther, they can grind you to a halt. Plan and then be done with it, and go ahead and do it and forget about the future; because, like the past, the future exists only in your brain. Don't make it too real a thing. It'll only drive you crazy. Do what you (want to) do in the present. Do it because it's fun, or satisfying, or...whatever. Drudgery is never an adequate reason for reward. (Well, maybe, it is. It depends on the reward.)

painful memories

But this seems to be a season for allowing doubt, worry, etc. to grind me to a halt, especially when I survey my past for reasons why I feel this way: As a result of my genetic predisposition, I do not read social cues very well. Rules of social behavior either pass me right by or else I interpret them literally, with no flexibility at all. And, as (unconsciously) confused (which I render as disconcern) as I can get, I just as easily confuse others, with my "excessive" language usage (because I seldom recognize in the moment the fact that others do not have the advanced knowledge of grammar and vocabulary that I do) and sometimes-odd behavioral quirks (which I consider to be quite "normal").

I've come a long way toward understanding society's "ways" and learning how to convince others to understand my ways--if I will go to the trouble to pay attention and to actually engage people, which usually I won't bother to do; but I now know how to do it. But my past is filled with painful memories that I never noticed as they happened and only recognize now, looking back. And considering some of these memories, I begin to get pissed off at the people who created them:

They (my bosses, my critics, my tormenters, "they") created the problem that caused me to suffer (job loss, social censure, would-be bullying--if I had allowed it, which I didn't, I learned early on how to defend myself) by their inability to understand my condition, which is maybe understandable re would-be bullies and similar ignorant assholes, but is unforgivable re bosses and other authority figures, such as, for example, the cops in Harrisburg who would not allow me to apply for the state police academy because of the way I appeared to them. Those who would make a claim to be legitimate authority figures within society should be responsible for knowing and understanding the mentalities and behavior patterns of those they would act in authority over; otherwise, they are despots, acting prejudicially, according to some arbitrary, perhaps self-imposed standard. Or, if they act prejudicially according to an overriding social standard, then the society at large is at fault.

Of all the people I know, only my sister knows I'm autistic. But people who know me do know how I feel about being interrupted or introduced to sudden change. They may not know why I become so disoriented and lacking of focus, all but unable to function when my routine is interrupted, but they do know the fact of it. I've had occasion to tell any number of people any number of times not to do the things they try to do that interrupt my routine. [This goes back a way now; it doesn't happen any more, mainly because I've given up on these friends, though they would probably claim that they have given up on me. That's what they believe, not being capable of understanding how I can engineer social situations by withdrawing my attention from them (from people) so that they have no choice but to forego continuing their acquaintance with me.] And I've had occasion, I'm sad to report, to blow up at people who insisted that they were going to determine what it is I was going to do, how I was going to live my life, what I was going to believe, or how they were going to blame me for how they themselves were unconsciously behaving. All as a matter of due course within this interactive society of ours.

But, fortunately, most of my angry moments were very few and far between. My better course of (in)action was to simply stonewall people or give them minimal response until they went away. And yet people continued to try to change me, in one way or another, usually via nagging until I relented; and I increasingly refused to allow them to get away with it. This, maybe, explains my recurrent dreams that involve my rage at someone having rearranged my household/living conditions. It's repressed anger at people who can't accept me for who I am and insist that I be the way they want me to be, and anger at myself for being unable to deal with changes that NTs find to be no problem at all and even welcome.

People just don't get it; and I don't bother to try to explain any more, although I could explain far better now than I ever could have in the past. And yet, I wonder. Would people even believe that I am autistic (given the exceptional way that I have, all my life, developed an outward NT appearance), let alone understand what it was I was talking about without ever having known and come to understand anyone in a similar situation to mine? Or would they start up with their same old shit all over again, believing that they know better than I do what is the good or right or proper way for me to behave? The latter, I think. The neurotypical mindset is programmed, conditioned (prejudiced) against true understanding of different mentalities.

My brother acts in this same way toward me when he calls and arranges times to come over and then never shows up or shows up hours late, thinking that's it's no big deal. I "rearrange" my time (sleep schedule, etc.) and home organization (cleaning, etc.) around the expectation of his (and others') arrival. And I can lose a whole day with his "thoughtlessness" (which is literally what it is: Though his alcoholism is the cause, the act is unconscious). It's better that I try to stay away from people than to suffer through their incorrigible ignorance (which, I recognize that I encourage, because I will not even try any more to explain how it is that I have the right to determine how I live my life).

institutionalized prejudice

Denial is a form of natural protection that allows us to let reality in bit by bit.
In The Evidence of Things Not Seen, James Baldwin says, "It is a very grave matter to be forced to imitate a people for whom you know -- which is the price of your performance and survival -- you do not exist. It is hard to imitate a people whose existence appears, mainly, to be made tolerable by their bottomless gratitude that they are not, thank heaven, you."
I recognized the prejudice against me long before I knew exactly what it really was that people were actually prejudiced against. I knew very early on that I was being treated unfairly; being "prejudged". The responses of several African-American acquaintenances, co-workers, when I tried to explain this "feeling" of being prejudiced against to them, ranged from simple disbelief that I could even understand what real prejudice was to being outright indignant that I, being white, would even dare to equate my feelings on the subject with his.It seems that blacks have a whole lot of identity issues wrapped up in being prejudiced against and wear it as a badge of honor. Well, guess what? Other people have identity issues too, and they are equally as honorable. And the oppression on my historical past goes back at least as far as black oppression, and "my people" also suffered horrible wrongs.

Blacks want to believe that no non-black can understand the prejudiced attitude and behavior they experience at others' minds and hands; but that is just not true. When I read the Baldwin quote above, I thought, "That's exactly what I feel." How can this be, since I am not black? Because prejudice is color blind. Now, isn't that an odd thing to say? But it's true. Prejudice is a universal phenomenon; everybody feels prejudiced against, and everybody does it too. And some of the prejudice, specifically against those who are disregarded completely through their invisiblity, rises to the most critical level. So, when instances of it are related, anyone can empathize--especially those of us on the autistic spectrum; and, especially, because, until fairly recently, autism was "the hidden condition"; no one wanted to know about it, and when it was made all too obvious, no one wanted to have to deal with it. And when they were forced by circumstance to deal with it, no one seemed to be able to manage a non-prejudicial attitude. But, more relevant to my own personal situation, when the autism is high functioning, prejudice is the easiest reactive behavior, because the autism is easily ignored in favor of a perception of mere "oddness." We are geeks or nerds or dorks or...whatever. We are disconsidered, deemed to be in one way or another less than adequate citizens, even still today when many of us have been revealed to have been existing forever at the higher levels of society.

I know prejudice. I've been living with it all my life. I've even been prejudiced against my own self. I've gone to great lengths to cast my self-image as "normal". I no longer do that, though; and it's been a revelation. It has occurred to me that my therapy for the past several years has focused on the comparison between my younger life and this current one. In a lot of ways, it had been far more comfortable being young, naive, and unconscious of my basic nature. When I actually had convinced myself that I was neurotypical (without even knowing that term or its underlying concept), I think I was a happier person. Being able to ignore my "difference" was calming. Denial is a powerful weapon in the arsenal against selfhood. But, in another sense, I did know. Deep down, in a quasi-conscious place, I knew that a difference existed. I felt it without a fully conscious awareness of it.

Sometimes I feel like I may be the "missing link" between the neurotypical and autistic mindsets. [But "...remember that everyone you meet on the Spectrum is also going to be somewhat NT as well."] I'm definitely on the spectrum; but I've been so (unconsciously) diligent over the years at trying to be "normal" that I seem to be able bridge the gap in a lot of (social) instances (but, sometimes, not in others). When I was young, I valued my brain over-stimulation, even as I often was frustrated because I could never follow up on my many, many plans. Then, when I got older and had more time to follow up, I didn't; because I discovered that it was never the lack of time, but the over-stimulation itself that caused the frustration. The over-stimulation is an autistic symptom, but the use I made of it, when I managed to direct all of that excess energy in society's direction, made me look like a successful NT. And yet, without the reins of social demand, I could never harness all that energy for my own idiosyncratic purposes. It sounds like a great argument for forcing autistics to adopt an NT mindset (which is exactly society's strategy, not only with autistics, but with any form of divergence), except that I was never happy doing "social" work and only found contentment and satisfaction when I was off planning and executing my own divergent projects, which during the course of a busy work life I found very little time or energy for, even when I could manage the confusion of over-stimulation.

Often, still, when I am dealing with society, I get overloaded and confused. A month or so ago, at the grocery store, during one of these episodes, I paid for the purchase with my debit card instead of the credit card I intended to use. Unfortunately, my bank balance was lower than the debit, and the bank charged me a $35 fee. Last month, severely overloaded and withdrawn and lost in an extended fit of ennui and confusion, I paid my sewage bill three days late. In addition to the ordinary late fee, the agency, a contractor for the local government, charged me a $30 penalty. I try to be as diligent as possible to avoid these kinds of situations; but they happen, far more often than I'd like. (Actually, I feel like once is far too often.) Society does not accommodate my difability in these kinds of situations; and I feel that it should. Its intransigence on these matters is one thing; but the costs seem to me to be excessive and designed to increase profits as opposed to simply discouraging delinquency.

In any case, exceptions should be made for people who experience difficulties in this regard. Not to do so is a form of implicit prejudice against people who are often out-of-tune with the way in which society's mechanisms are supposed to work. People are given special privileges all the time, such as handicapped parking, for example. Exception are frequently made, and not only by rote, according to established alternate procedures put in place by an enlightening society, but by the occasional friendly, sympathetic, bureaucrat who has managed to overcome institutionalized prejudice (in the form of established rules and the required adherence to them) and treats people as individuals with differing needs and abilities. The "if we do it for you, we'll have to do it for everyone" excuse is no longer an acceptable way to dismiss people who have special needs. There is nothing wrong with treating people like the individuals that they are instead of like automatons who are required to conform to the institutionalized prejudices of the state, of the people who run it, or even of the people who pit themselves against it in order to establish an underdog prejudice all their own.

fits and starts and little victories

I am my own prejudice. (Everyone is.) I pursue myself in a dedicated way, trying to change myself in ways I could never even hope to achieve, prejudiced against the stubborn self I am; and yet I do change, though hardly as thoroughly as I intend, hardly in any significant way at all, growing so slowly that I should be plant rather than animal matter. One way I try to change (myself) is via my projects (sympathetic magic).

My (Asperger's) mentality dictates that I, to the exclusion of all else, diligently and as exhaustively as I am able, pursue whichever project I am working on. And my central project, the one to which I continually return whenever possible, is my pursuit of self-understanding. To its purpose, I haphazardly collect (as is my wont) whatever information I come across, hoping one fine future day to collate it all into an integral whole that makes my understanding of self an easier undertaking. But...the future is a fiction that never comes.

What does come, occasionally, are numerous partial (more or less accidental; or maybe I mean spontaneous) collations, which are somewhat satisfying in their execution and subsequent review, but which are hardly efficacious in their attempt to make my mentality more permanently comprehensible. I understand myself in fits and starts that pass frequently into unconsciousness; but there is some small progress over lengthy time.

Much of the information that I collect to be collated is personal experiences of others with whom I empathize, whose related episodes cause me to think, "Hey! That's just like me." I wade through a lot of extraneous material in order to find these little gems, which I copy and paste into my raw journal, to be later processed--or not. This is me, this collection of simpatico.

This is the same method I use on all my other non-writing projects too: gather and collect until a critical mass has been reached, and then begin a marathon put-it-all-together session. Meanwhile, the collections I'm not working on become increasingly disheveled and unsightly. Traditional people call this process hoarding. I call it artistic intelligence. I work at it day and night, though erratically, sometimes motivated, often overwhelmed. But occasionally…

It's a wonderful feeling when you achieve your most important goal for the day at nine in the morning, and especially when you've been waiting for it to happen for nearly three months. I got a confirmation call from Verizon this morning. They'll be here tomorrow. Hoo-yah. Then I can really tell Comcast to kiss my ass. When goals, even stupid simple ones like this, become resolved, it makes me feel free, of the necessity I feel to accomplish something, anything, merely to justify my existence.

And then the Verizon guy shows up late in the day instead of the next. Pleasant surprise, since the phone message this morning said that he was rescheduling for tomorrow, which put me off a bit, but not enough to dispel my satisfaction; I had justified what I thought would be a day-long wait by cleaning up the place a bit, because it needed to be done anyway.

So I am now officially Comcast-free. I'm going to go out tonight to buy a pizza to celebrate. He was a really nice guy, Mr. Verizon, a young man that any corporation could be proud to have represent them. But I was disappointed to discover that, when he opened the back doors to his truck, no light beams lit up the neighborhood; probably because I didn't sign up for FIOS, but only for the most basic service.

So, that's taken care of. Next (and last, for a while, that I can foresee), my sister arrives on Thursday for a brief stay enroute between DC and Boston. The painting I did for her family room, a seascape of Kaneoke Bay, Oahu, has finally dried and is waiting on an easel in my living room. I'm going to miss it. I'm a little bit envious that she and not I will display it; but, then again, no one will ever see it here, and her house is a virtual gallery.

While I was online tonight, because it just happened to pop into my head, I did a Google search on "fuck Comcast" to see what I would get. Apparently, there are a lot of people who feel the way I do about the company. With this kind of groundswell, how do they stay in business? Obviously, like Netflix--by cheating people and lying in their tv ads about how great they are. On the other hand, it occurs to me that I could probably get similar results by Googling "Fuck [insert the name of any corporation here]." It's not Comcast specifically, but corporations in general that suck. Support Corporate Dismantlement.

Finally, after a long, productive day (it wasn't all that productive, but it felt that way; and isn't that what's really important?), I finish up with my most favorite activity:

I'm walking through the strip district, beyond the wholesale stores, closer to Lawrenceville. The area has a lot of porn-like shops. One storefront conceals a theater, which is in the back (not unlike a carny tent show). I go in, curious. It's an elaborate "alternate lifestyle" stage show. I try to remain open-minded, but after a short while I decide that I just can't take it, and I leave. The exit opens onto a stairwell that is like a subway entrance. Here I meet Bill Clinton and he gives me a knowing and friendly smile. As we ascend the steps together, he says something about how he just couldn't handle the show. (He's echoing my own feelings. And, since all dream characters as aspects of self, I am echoing my own feelings. The ultimate echoalia.) I agree. [of course.] Near the top of the steps, he turns and gives me that smile again, and (within the dream) I relate it to the previous dream I had about him and Hillary, recognizing the same camaraderie we had there at the end.

In the dream, I had the distinct feeling, as before, that he was my buddy and that I had a commitment to him that went far beyond politics. This, I think, fully awake again, is exactly what is missing in my life; not the commitment, I have lots of unrequited commitments, but the reciprocation.

commitment redux

I make commitments, either in the moment or via having been "convinced" by an appeal to some form of social guilt (i.e., I'm manipulated); then, when the time comes to honor the commitment, I no longer feel like I want to or am even capable of the interaction. It's the way I am, a way I've always been, a symptom of my difability, a function of overload.

I didn't always honor my commitments, but was selective of them, based upon how I felt when the time came and, more importantly, how the commitment was elicited in the first placed. But, now, I always honor all of my commitments. It's a "rule" I made up for myself a while ago, when I realized that I didn't like it when others left me hanging.

But that doesn't mean that I will act according to the spirit of the occasion when I show up. I have not yet "advanced" to the point where I can turn the symptoms off at will (at least for more than a few minutes at a time; and, in any case, the process wears me out--even more than usual). Yeah, I'll be there if I say I'll be there; but I make no promises as to how I'll act.

Crowds (sometimes of even merely two or three people) can overwhelm me, as can noise, or bright light, or...let's just say there's a list and leave it at that. These conditions (interaction, noise, etc.) tend to move me toward shutting down; at best, I begin to operate on auto-pilot, which can be dangerous when others are not being very nice and I'm in "mirroring" mode.

And, once I am in a "committed" situation, often I can't make myself leave, despite a pending shutdown. I can't make excuses for departing. I get "stuck." This is, maybe, an unfortunate consequence of my increasing awareness of social interaction, because leaving, especially without notice (disappearing) was one of my typical defense tactics early on.

I never liked people (often even myself) to know what I felt, the anxiety, the fear, the fact that I actually had "needs" that had to be catered to. In other words, I toughed it out, faced the situation, stonewalled it to whatever degree necessary, and persisted, in survival mode. (This was a part of what attracted me to want to learn the art of wilderness survival.)

I sometimes fantasize a different kind of social world, one in which "sociable" means what it is purported to mean in the real world, but doesn't, where, instead of artifice and affectation, the practice embodies genuine communion and affection, where the people with whom you socialize accept you for exactly who you are and embrace the changes of personality you transition through, even during the course of a few hours, where no one tries to "convince" you to talk when you prefer to remain quiet, where no one tries to speed you up when they feel that you're talking to slowly by, for example, interrupting you to announce to others what you're really thinking or, being embarrassed by your difference, by trying to change the subject, where everyone entertains the perseverative preoccupations of everyone else without getting bored or disinterested, where physical behavioral differences are taken as normal, and, especially, where antisocial means what professional psychological research has defined it to mean, psychopathological, and not simply unwilling or unable to communicate and interact "properly."

But it's just a fantasy. Please excuse my flight into non-reality. It's nothing more than an attempt to distance myself from events too close to the real thing:

The whirlwind of family relationship passed through here this weekend. Four days of non-stop (or so it seemed) activity revolving around my sister and her husband who were visiting on their way south for an extended vacation, overload increasing to extremes, three days in a row.

And then, a sudden sadness, at her departure; and at not hanging around after she left to socialize with my brother's family, but driving away immediately after her. By that time, I had had more than enough of family; and I had much to do that had been left undone, personal tasks and goals interrupted by the family get-together.

It all reminded me of when I worked for a living and was chronically overloaded and overwhelmed. Then, I never got anything personal done. I spent most of my time and the best hours of my energy at work; and, the rest of the time, I spent sleeping or trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to maintain my house, car, self, etc.

Since I "retired", I've gotten better at doing what I really want to do; but I still suffer from overload if I try to do everything I really want to (not to mention social obligations, which throw me into extreme overload). But that's all over now, for a while. I'm a little bit taken aback by the sadness I'm experiencing. Hoodathunkit? But I'm back to "normal" again. Time to settle down and get something accomplished:

a delicate subject

Anthony Perkins
Vince Vaughn
(your choice)
The future's uncertain and the end is always near.
Jim Morrison, "Road House"

So. I arrive back home this afternoon after a particularly arduous walk up to the shopping center. (Back aching, neck tightening and cramping, hot day, and only six hours sleep last night after several nights with not enough sleep.) So I tune the tv to CNBC to check the market conditions and I try to stay awake as I download my portfolio results. Then, I change into my sweats and fall asleep with the tv still on, and I sleep fitfully, awaking through Cramer and, later (I don't even remember changing the channel), the Fox comedies (Frazier, Two and a Half Men, and Seinfeld). I get back up at eight to take a piss, pull down my pants, and, gasp, blood! Blood in my underwear!

Now, blood is the one thing you absolutely don't want to see in your underwear. It's just a step above awakening to find the severed head of your favorite horse in your bed. WTF, I think, still groggy from sleep. I undress and examine myself. I can find nothing, which only aggravates the anxiety. I get out the 3X hand mirror, sit down on the bed, and do a more thorough examination; and I find a very tiny scab, hardly noticeable at all. And, then, I make a BIG mistake: I pick at it.

Now I'm bleeding again, a lot, and I can't make it stop. First step in first aid when bleeding: Apply pressure. It works, but only for a long as I maintain the pressure. Half a persistent hour later, after creating a bandage out of toilet paper and masking tape, I'm no longer bleeding, judging by the minimal spot of blood on the tissue. I thought of using adhesive tape to hold the paper tightly in place, but I had the foresight to imagine trying to get it back off. As it is, the masking tape is going to be a difficult enough ordeal.

Meanwhile, I've run my mind through all of the usual and a few new personal disaster scenarios, the least of which involves having to go to the doctor and exposing myself, and the worst of which involves my death at the "hands" of some unknown viral or bacterial infection that has arrived by mysterious and surreptitious means from some third world hovel. (News of the flesh-eating disease has forever changed my perception of modern medical efficacy; not that it was all that good a perception in the first place.)

But, this is a brave new world, isn't it? I turn to my sole source of information and comfort these days: the internet. I google "scrotum bleeding blood blister," because I vaguely remember seeing two small dark spots down there that I've had for a long while and only paid passing attention to, and which I now post-identify as typical blood blisters. Several medical information websites inform me that the problem is a minor one, the result of some burst capillaries. Close call, though, I think.

This starts me to thinking about my future (again). Inevitably, unless I am blessed with a quick death such as being struck down by a car or drive-by shooter, I will, one of these years, discover something about my physiology that will be a serious issue. No one lives forever, and most people die of some invasive pathogen or defective body part. I should, by then, I want to think, be well trained and prepared, given my pervasive paranoia. But, of course, this is not true. Every even minor episode, when it occurs, is the worst thing that could happen to me. And never mind that each and every episode has eventually resolved itself in a positive manner. (I've made a lot of lemonade in my life.) One of the episodes, barring my sudden death, is going to be the one that I cannot resolve.

Here's the current episode's research, for anyone who's interested in the gory details:

Steady Health
Health Boards

Possibly, the action of walking, with the typical action of scrotum against pants, broke the blister. Or it just burst spontaneously. Whatever. It is so fortunate (for many other reasons than just this one) that we have the internet. What did we do before we had access to the info and comfort of a community of people with like problems? Well, we went to the doctor, of course; and we incurred a lot of unnecessary expense if for no other reason than to know we weren't going to die immediately or rot away in horror. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of good reasons for going to the doctor, but easing of anxiety isn't one of them. Most doctors aren't all that good at what should be that most important of their functions.

Another symptom (result) of today's outdoor experience (which caused me some discomfort as I "slept") was cramping leg muscles. Usually, when I get them, they are in the calves. But this time my whole leg was cramping, all the way up to and into the glutei. In the past, calcium supplements have relieved this problem; and, lately, I've been severely lax re my vitamin regime. In fact, I had planned to buy some multi-vitamins while up at the store, but I forgot, despite the fact that it was on my shopping list. I've just got to get it together here. I've been behaving rather vacuously lately. But I've been woken up a bit by this most recent "episode".

I had meant, upon awakening, to write out a particularly potent dream, but by the time I resolved the blood issue, it was gone. It had something, I think, to do with prejudice. (The issue has been on my mind a lot lately.) But, though I tried hard, I could not recall it. So, instead, I begin to think about people who let me down. When people (especially company representatives) say that certain things are going to happen, unless they tell you otherwise beforehand, then those certain things should happen. And, when they don't, you should know, without a doubt, that the people who told you what would happen are not to be trusted. No exceptions. No taking into account personal feelings of or for those people. No excuses made for emotions they may be subject to. Generally, things must be the way they are intended to be, things must go generally according to plans that are made; and if this is not the case, then someone's reputation must suffer. For example, technicians' who are supposed to show up to fix something; or friends who are supposed to show up when they say they will, and not at some undetermined time in the future, at their whim and will.

I'm trying to make this fit the hallmarks of a case of prejudice; but I can't. Seems I want episodes in my life to be instances of prejudice against me. It kind of gives me a purpose. "Look", I say. "Look at how they compromise my existence!" Which people do; but not nearly so often as I expect them to, an attitude that compromises my compromise. I either want to be completely prejudiced against or not at all. It's another symptom of my genetic predisposition. I hate prejudice, absolutely. And to be assailed by that which you hate is a kind of justication of existence. I'd say I maintain a hard prejudice against prejudice; but that would be defeating my purpose.