Categories
Artist marijuana mental health

Tuesday Tuneup 75

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Elation.

Q. Elation?  Are you out of your mind??

A. Not that I know of, no.   Why would I be?

Q. Well, what on earth is there to be elated about?   Don’t you know what’s going on in the world?

A. I do.   

Q. Then why are you elated?

A. Elation is an ephemeral state.  It won’t last, you know.   I just happen to be elated right now.   

Q. What about?

A. Something really great happened, and it got me feeling good.

Q. What happened?

A. I figured out how to pay the phone bill in time to keep the service on before they disconnected it.

Q. You figured it out?

A. Yes.

Q. What is so hard about paying a phone bill?

A. Well, I don’t know.  Have you tried lately?

Q. What do you mean?

A. You got to get the money off of one card to the other card, switch accounts, deal with voicemail loops, get it to revolve on the day when you have the money, deal with them lying to you, trying to get the money out of you earlier, shortening the days in the business cycle, hoping you won’t notice, not to mention —

Q. STOP!!   Are you having a manic episode?

A. Not at all, sir.  I’m merely elated.

Q. Just because you were able to pay a phone bill?

A. Well, you should have seen me last month and the month before.  It isn’t easy these days for me, given all that goes on between my ears, to pay a phone bill.   Both of the previous months they turned off the service until I could manage to get to the office and have the guy there take my card and go through the motions for me.

Q. So you paid the phone bill, and proceeded to feel elated?

Q. Overjoyed, man.  Happy, chipper, and high.   

Q. High?

A. Figuratively speaking.

Q. What about literally?

A. Literally, no.  In fact, I resisted that one.

Q. How so?

A. Well, when I became elated, I wanted to celebrate.  I felt myself cycling over toward the marijuana dispensary three miles down the road.  

Q. Marijuana?

A. Yeah.  This stuff:

Marijuana high: Strains, smoking, vaping, and edibles

Q. Why would you want to smoke marijuana?

A. Psychological association.   There was a time when I would reward myself with a celebratory bowl, every time I accomplished something noteworthy.

Q. Such as pay a phone bill?

A. You got it.

Q. But this time you resisted?

A. Yeah – I felt myself headed in that direction.  So I took a different turn.

Q. What turn was that?

A. I located a local homeless boy and gave him five bucks.

Q. How did that keep you from smoking?

A. Oh it made it easy!  It was the last five bucks I had left after paying the phone bill.

Q. You’re that broke?

A. Again, an ephemeral state.  I won’t be broke at all come Friday.  End of the month, you know.   Poverty Culture.   We kinda live month to month, fend, try to enjoy life, the best things thereof being free, and all that.

Q. Isn’t it a bit crass to be broadcasting your personal financial situation?

A. Not where I come from.   I’ve been in some societies where it’s crass to bring up money at all.

Q. And in your society?

A. You mean Poverty Culture?   We talk about money all the time!   We talk about small amounts.   We loan each other fifty cents and back.   How can we even co-exist without talking about money?   There’s only so much to go around.

Q. What are you driving at?

A. Nothing really.  Just shootin’ the breeze.

Q. What about COVID-19?

A. Sheltering in place.  

Q. Wouldn’t that be the perfect place to smoke your weed?   Where nobody is watching?

A. It’s been done.  But believe me, I like myself better without it.

Q. But aren’t you way more hyper than you used to be?

A. Is that a problem?

Q. I don’t know.  Is it?

A. Not for me.  Not home alone.  Not here all by myself.   Who’s to complain about my level of energy?   Who’s to call me manic?   Who’s to call me on anything?   I’ll be as manic as I want!   Any of you psych agents wanna try to medicate my precious mania out of my system, you go right ahead.  I’m an Artist!! I will generate a manic episode if I think it’s going to help my work!    But WOAH!!! WOAH!!!!!

Q. Did you just feel an earthquake?

A. Yes I did.   

Q. Aren’t earthquakes pretty rare in this part of the world?

A. Maybe.  I don’t know.  Gotta check Facebook.

Q. Facebook?   Why not check USGS?

A. Good idea.   Somehow I assumed Facebook would be the more authoritative source.  Hang on a minute . . . no, nothing at USGS yet.   Oh – here it is!   6.3!  Wow!  

Q. Did you actually just have an earthquake right while you were writing this post?  

A. Sure did.   Check the link.   

Q. Still elated?

A. Naw.  I think I blogged it out of my system.   It’s a good thing, too.   Elation can be very deceiving.   There’s a cooler, steadier energy at work here, slowly creating finer facts and fiction — but it works behind the scenes.   

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Categories
Christianity love mental health

I’m Seeing Red

In light of “3/11” I decided to do my version of the song “Love is Blue” yesterday.   I’ve been a conservative Christian throughout most of my adult life.  But as of POTUS and Wednesday night, I’m “seeing red”  — for what it is.

There are unfortunately issues with the video.  I will be posting the SoundCloud version as soon as I can get it uploaded on the appropriate computer.

As a side note, it’s very likely that someone hearing this, perhaps of the more classical bent, will protest that Beethoven is probably turning over in his grave. This would be due to my overt references to the 2nd movement — the Allegretto — of his brilliant 7th Symphony.

All I can say to that is that he died on my birthday, and I therefore am his reincarnation.  ;) Neither of us is turning over in any grave right now.   But the national situation is grave. God bless us every one — and God bless America.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Categories
gratitude mental health Spirituality

Gratitude List 1423

(1) Thankful for the current mania, because I’m in good spirits and getting a lot accomplished.

(2) Thankful for the recent depression, because I got caught up on my sleep and gave my head a rest.

(3) Thankful that I am only mildly and not severely bipolar, because managing this disorder without medication has been both a challenge and a source of beauty in my life.

(4) When I contemplate how hugely I’ve been blessed, I almost feel guilty that I’m not doing my best to return the favor.  But it’s a good feeling, a quasi-guilt, kinda more like a heartfelt conviction than a self-abnegation.

(5) Am really enjoying Ashley’s book.  She writes very clearly and is obviously an expert on mental health conditions & the DSM-5.

(6) I’m being called upon by the people at the coffee house to subdue the erratic energies of the people from the recovery center next door, which I believe is impossible.  However, what I’m grateful for is that someone would consider me mature and responsible enough to be in such a mediating position.   Usually it’s my own energies that they want to subdue.

(7) I’m also being called upon to fill the shoes of my musician friend Paul, who passed away suddenly last month.   A number of the younger musicians and even their parents are turning to me, because Paul was such a great mentor.  While I don’t know that I can follow his act, it’s a good feeling to be thought of as someone who might.

(8) I’m starting to realize that all these things that I tend to perceive as “Mainstream Stress” — the kind of stress that broke me down in 2004 and landed me on the streets for 12 years — are better seen as marvelous opportunities for me to show my shine.

(9) “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

(10) I’m not too manic, I don’t think.  Tears are happening, and they are cleansing.  One day I believe God will wipe every tear from our eyes.   There’s a lot of good in this Universe — we just gotta find it and do something with it.  God is Good.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Categories
Homelessness Mainstream mental health Psychology

Dangers of Liberation (Part Six)

If you’re new to my blog, “Dangers of Liberation” is a seven-part series that I began several Thursdays ago.  The previous posts are on consecutive Thursdays, with a one week break after Part Four.  

The extent to which my mother symbolized the Mainstream cannot be underestimated.  In fact, the only way I was ever able to achieve independence from the Mainstream was to achieve independence from my mother.   I did not do so until long after she died.

A mother’s love is not always unconditional.   My mother loved me to the extreme, under one condition: that I remain emotionally and psychologically dependent upon her.  She gave me everything a mother could possibly have given me, except for the one thing I eventually needed most — my independence.

As the first-born son of her four children, I was never able to come into my true identity as long as my mother was alive.  I was always her “little boy.”   Though she loved all her children immensely, she favored me among the four.  This favoring became more noticeable as she approached her death at the age of 89.  At family gatherings, she practically forgot that any of her other children were there.

After she died, my oldest sister and a close friend informed me that Mom had been “manipulating” me.  Throughout my life, she affected my decision-making in such a way that was designed to keep me out of trouble.  In so doing, she kept me locked into the box of the Mainstream.  I stayed out of trouble, but I lacked personal freedom.

It was almost like an indoctrination, the way my decisions were manipulated by her will.  My own will became a passive extension of hers.   Though I thought I was making my own choices, they were always the choices that Mom would have approved of.  I never realized that she had been doing the deciding for me.

This dependency grew worse and worse as I began to become more successful. Though I hadn’t actually lived with her since my thirties, I relied on her well into my late forties.  I called her five times a day, sometimes only to ask: “What do I do now?”  At that, she would laugh and make a suggestion.  Without questioning it, I would unhesitantly follow her suggestion.   It was as though I didn’t have a mind of my own — only somehow, I did  not know it.  

My mother died when I was fifty.  By that time, I had ascended to heights of success in the form of society that I call the Mainstream.  I was renting a luxurious room in a large mansion owned by one of many wealthy people for whom I was working. Though I rarely had to work more than twenty hours a week, I was nonetheless making $50,000 a year as a church musician, a music teacher at a private school, and a personal piano and voice teacher.  download

From the moment she died on October 9, 2003, till the moment I first became homeless on May 17, 2004, it was a downward plunge.  As I mentioned in the previous post, my psychiatrist had changed my anti-anxiety medication from Gabapentin to Klonopin on the morning of the day she was to die.  She then died in the afternoon, and I proceeded to have a first-time manic episode.  In a little over seven months, I lost all my jobs, my car, my living situation, and every penny of the $13,000 I had in the bank.

The moment she died, aided by the suppressive power of 6mg of Klonopin, I instantly blocked out every mental image of my mother.  I also immediately forgot every conversation she and I had ever had.  No longer able to call her five times a day, nor able to imagine how she might have directed me, I dispersed my many questions among my various associates.  I began to ask just about everybody, including total strangers, what I should do next.  Then, unquestioningly, I did what they suggested.  It is no wonder I lost my jobs!

My ability to perform in the Mainstream was entirely dependent upon my ability to interact with my mother.   The extent to which she valued personal security over personal freedom had left its mark.  But by the time I became homeless, I was thrust into a kind of liberation from all the icons of stability that the Mainstream had displayed.  But my liberation was tainted, because it lacked an internal association with my true identity.  My identity instead became further squashed and suppressed during twelve years of undignifying, degrading, demeaning homelessness.

So when was I actually liberated from the Mainstream?   It happened the moment I rose up from the prayer that I quoted in the previous entry.  At approximately midnight of an unknown date in July 2016, I fervently appealed to the Universe to put an end to twelve years of homelessness.  I made that appeal in the name of Jesus Christ.  When I rose up from my knees, I sensed something was very different.   I didn’t know it yet — but I was free at last.

Exactly how free, I will divulge in the seventh and final post of this series.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Categories
Composer Homelessness mental health

Dangers of Liberation (Part Five)

For the sake of new followers I gained shortly before my hiatus, I’ve been thinking to reiterate some themes that are essential to this blog.  But for the sake of my longtime readers, I want to be careful.   In approaching the tail end of the “Dangers of Liberation” series, I wish not to fall prey to repeat information.   I’ve told my story so many times, in so many ways — from so many different angles — that I fear losing some of those who have followed me regularly.   Hopefully, after the last three Thursday posts in this series, my fears will have proven unwarranted.

A particular sound often heard is that I ought to get over the homeless topic and resume writing on other themes about which I am passionate.   This kind of sound does resonate with me.   But I also need to fulfill something I started here.   Hopefully I can impress upon my more longstanding followers that this is not exactly “repeat information,” but the announcement or heralding of something completely new.

After all, isn’t this the essence of liberation?   It is the opposite of being locked into any kind of box.   So what exactly happened after the cacophony of disturbing, disparate events described in the previous post?   How did I get from a place of hurling vindictive curses at the Almighty, to a position of recognizing that He had responded to those prayers, despite my curse?

I mentioned that on June 24, 2016, I walked quietly out of the City of Berkeley without saying a word.   This was immediately after buying a refurbished computer at Bill’s Computer Store on Shattuck Avenue after receiving an advance on my social security check.   Given that I was essentially a marked man, and that the sight of me with a full backpack would indicate to any one of a number of thugs and gang bangers that there was no doubt a laptop inside that backpack, one might think I’d have left Berkeley first, and bought the computer later.  After all, I had had four laptops stolen in Berkeley in the past four years, two of them the result of strong-armed robbery.

But the fact was, Bill had been working on an old Dell Latitude, and he was about to give me a much better deal than I’d have gotten from a complete stranger.   Moreover, I would need as much money as possible to start an entirely new life, outside of Berkeley.

Image result for dell latitude e6430

So, computer in tow, I headed for a small, out-of-the-way city called Burlingame, and for the all-night Royal Donuts shop, where I had some fair standing in the view of the nice Malaysian people who rolled doughnuts all night long, singing songs in their traditional fashion.  Though I was very eager to begin notating all the music I had “written in my head” while walking about the Berkeley city streets, I was also aware that I had practical matters to consider.  I needed to get some kind of roof over my head in a community where homeless services were few and far between.

Long story short, I found a shelter in a nearby city.   I recall the rules being fairly regimented.   For example, all shelter residents were required to attend daily meetings of either Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.   I personally didn’t mind the meetings, because I have a reverence for the Twelve Steps and for that model of dealing with life’s difficulties.   But it was a red flag to find homelessness equated with drug addiction or alcoholism, as though those were the only reasons a person could have become homeless.   As one who was already painfully aware that most people in the San Francisco Bay Area were becoming homeless for socio-economic reasons entirely beyond their control, I found such stigma unsettling.

But there were some perks to being in the shelter.  I began working with a caseworker who rightly determined that the best thing for me would be to move to an entirely new State.   Then, as we began to work on this, I caught the flu.   Clearly, I had caught the flu from other residents in the male barracks who were coughing and sneezing throughout the night.  But the “mistake” I made was to let them know that I had the flu.  I went to the hospital, and came back with medical information.   When the people running the shelter learned of my medical diagnosis, their response was to kick me out of the shelter, lest I contaminate the other residents.

Something about this didn’t seem quite right.   For one thing, my immune system is such that I had only caught a flu twice in the past fifteen years, even though I had lived outdoors throughout most of that period of time.   That I had clearly caught the flu in the very shelter from which I was being expelled was obvious.

So I returned to the hospital in hopes of their letting me stay there.  But their reply was that they couldn’t make a special exemption for me being homeless, otherwise they would have to make exceptions for all homeless people, and the hospital would become overcrowded.  Standard procedure was to write “rest in bed for ten days” on the release form.  Of course, I did not have a bed.  But I couldn’t be made an exception — not in a part of the world where there are thousands of visible homeless people, night after night, lacking beds.

Next I tried the all-night bus that would run from Daly City to Palo Alto repeatedly.  This bus was a haven for sleeping homeless people who had nowhere else to go.  But when the homeless people saw me shivering and heard me sneezing, they too became concerned for their health.   The upshot was that the bus driver kicked me off of the bus, and I had now had literally no options but to suffer a flu of some 100+ degrees with no place to lay my head, except for outdoors in the elements.

It was then that I got on my knees.  Somehow, after twelve years of homelessness and borderline homelessness, it was catching a flu and being denied an indoor bed to rest in and to recuperate, due to no factor other than homelessness, that finally got to me.

I will never forget the exact words to the prayer that I prayed.   Just after midnight on  July 17, 2016,  I hit my knees so hard on the pavement outside of the Sequoia Station in Redwood City, California, I compounded illness with injury in order to scream these words:

God!!
If there is Anybody out there,
I don’t care Who you are,
or what your Name is,
if you can feel me,
where I’m coming from, please —
I do not care about drug addiction
or alcoholism,
or mental illness,
or being a lazy bum
or a slacker or a slouch –
I care about Homelessness!
Please put an END
to twelve years of totally unpredictable,
totally unreliable,
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN,
ANYTIME ANYWHERE
HOMELESSNESS!!!
In the name of Jesus Christ I pray –
AMEN!!!!

One might argue the theological validity of a prayer worded in such a haphazard fashion – or even its internal logical consistency, for that matter.  Such discussions would be another story altogether.  What is critical here, from the standpoint of Homeless Rights Activism, is that it was the first time I had actually offered the heavens a petition with respect to homelessness itself, and not to all these other stigmatic things that are so often attached to that label.

Mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction and laziness are not identical to homelessness.   But, much as I despised the stigma that was often thrown my way — even to the insistence that, as a homeless person, I needed to attend A.A. or N.A. meetings in order to sustain residence in a shelter — I myself suffered from the same stigmatic assaults on my identity.   My true identity, as the sociologist Erving Goffman framed it, was “spoiled” by perceptions people have toward the homeless.

Stigma Quotes. QuotesGram

Had this not been the case, I’d have certainly found within me the power or presence of mind to have prayed such a prayer long ago.   In fact, the practical wisdom of leaving the State of California and the San Francisco Bay Area in particular had been offered me by friends whom I knew from the Internet as early as 2004 — when I was first becoming homeless.   But I did not have the ears to listen.

I did not have the ears to hear the fullness of the fact that my problem — far and away more serious than any of its associated labels — was homelessness.   I had basically bought into all the very lies that I disdained.

That, above all things, is what kept me homeless for all those years.  I saw the contradictory nature of what it was assumed I must be.   I saw the ridiculous horrors of myself and others being treated as criminals, our true stories disbelieved by authority figures.  I felt the frustration we all felt when having to face such demeaning treatment.   But still, I hung on to the false notion that there must have been something about me that was innately flawed in such a way that I would never warrant a normal, self-respecting living situation such as even thieves and criminals are able to secure in our society.  I never fully allowed the truth about homelessness to enter my heart.

Why not?

The short, simple answer would be low self esteem.  That, combined with a certain measure of social indoctrination.  When one hears something about oneself repeatedly, by people who appear to be in authority, one eventually begins to believe it.

But there’s a deeper answer than this.   The dynamic of believing what one is told about oneself is most common when one is a child.   In such a case, the looming figures of authority are one’s parents.   Though my father had been dead since 1985, and my mother more recently deceased, they still remained the original authorities, exerting their influence upon me even as they tried to steer me away from dangerous behavior.

My mother died on October 9, 2003.   That morning, I had beseeched Kaiser Redwood City to put me back on a medication called Klonopin, being as the past three years under the medication Gabapentin had been extremely challenging for me.    While it is true that the combination of the med switch and my mother’s death triggered what psychiatry calls a “first time manic episode,” and it is true that I lost a $50,000 annual income, a home, a car, and all my professional accounts in the process, there is a deeper truth at work here.

The full extent to which my relationship with my mother ensured on a daily basis the type of sanity I needed to function in the workaday world of the Mainstream was something I was not to grasp until years later.   Essentially, hearing of her death so soon after many of my senses were being dulled by 6mg/day of a powerful sedative — the highest legal dosage at the time — resulted in my blocking out the feeling of every interaction I had ever known with the person with whom I was undoubtedly the closest.

Like the motherless child whom I was, I then began to seek her guidance and comfort through the many disparate, detached figures of authority whom I soon found in the vast cosmic orphanage that is Homelessness.   The horrible degree to which her nurturing love was cloned by the callous manipulations of an impassive band of power-hungry scoundrels was something I would have to face fully, were I ever to come to know the true identity of my actual enemy in life.

The manner in which my mother represented the Mainstream needed to be understood and embraced in completion, if I were ever to succeed in crafting a life free of her restrictions, and full of the independent identity that is mine and mine alone.

It will take me two more posts to drive the point home.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Categories
Homelessness mental health Spirituality

Dangers of Liberation (Part Two)

This post is a sequel to Dangers of Liberation (Part One).  I strongly urge you to read it first, if you want to get the most out of this one.   

I am not the only person who has had an experience like the one described in the first post of this series.  After the unbelievable epiphany of August 8, 2006, I was later to be drawn toward a number of individuals who reported a very similar event.  The problem, however, is that the information received in that moment was processed prematurely, in a mind that was unready for so radical a change.   So I didn’t encounter the others till about five years later.  

Liberation is a two-way street.  It’s not just that someone finds themselves released from a form of inner bondage or imprisonment.  When one is liberated, they are released into a new realm.   The nature of that realm is of extreme significance.   We are not only liberated from.  We are liberated into.  

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all ...

This raises a couple questions. From what sort of inner prison were we released?  Essentially, it was a conglomerate of rules, customs, social mores, status symbols, contracts, hierarchies, schedules, regimens, routines and protocols that ran contrary to our natural God-given design and character.  For lack of a better word, I and others called this conglomerate the Mainstream.   It was a stifling force, the Mainstream, whose role was to quench the spirit.  

To what sort of freedom were we liberated?  To freedom from the outmoded rules of a former day.  From customs by which we could no longer abide.  From social mores that bespoke hypocrisy, status symbols we no longer possessed, contracts severed, hierarchies violated, schedules disregarded, regimens rejected, routines discarded, and protocols exposed.   Where could we find such freedom?

Only in homelessness.  Everything else reflected a Mainstream that never served our true natures, and from which we were eventually severed.

It took five hard years for me to find the others who shared this unusual gift.  For in the days that followed that moment of bliss, I struggled to process the strange twists and turns that came of outdoor living.  I learned, for one thing, that a person doesn’t just walk into a shelter and expect to be served.  There was an application process, and a long waiting line, before one could be granted a bed.   So for three days I struggled to manage, with no money, no roof over my head, stuck and stranded in a strange town called Berkeley.

By the third day, my thinking was very much awry.  I got in with the wrong crowd, and long story short, found myself running from would-be assailants.   Though I believe I eluded the two young rapscallions, I was by that time completely spent.  In desperation, I flagged down a police car and beseeched them for help.   Discerning my mania, the officers had no problem escorting me to the place where they felt I belonged.

So on August 11, 2006, I sat in the John George Psychiatric Pavilion, having persuaded myself and others that my issue was merely one of untreated bipolar disorder.  The entire memory of a momentary freedom now paled in the wake of a serious disease.  In that downtrodden state, I permitted the clinicians to diagnose my liberation, and prescribe me the mood stabilizer Depakote.   After a single night’s stay in the psych ward, my thinking was clear enough to steer me toward a $50 PayPal loan from a friend in Las Vegas, a one-way Greyhound ticket to a small town in the Valley, a shelter, a clinic, and a cheap residence hotel.  

“I must have been out of my mind!” I told myself.  And then, for five years, I followed the guidelines of a Mainstream I’d already rejected in my heart.

It was not until April 15, 2011, that I took the next plunge into the realm where the memory of a transcendent event had informed my true spirit.   On that day, I took $40, left the last of a series of untenable living situations, hopped on an AmTrak, alighted upon the City of Berkeley once again, and proceeded to become Homeless by Choice.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Categories
Christianity Family mental health social statement

Tuesday Tuneup 65

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Why do you ask?

Q. Isn’t it Wednesday?

A. So what?

Q. Aren’t you supposed to write these on Tuesdays?

A. How consistent have I been with that? 

Q. Didn’t I ask you?

A. Well then.  You have your answer.   It’s Wednesday morning.   It’s Christmas.   I wrote two of them yesterday and hated them both.   I’ll be tempted to delete this one, like I deleted both of the others.  I hate this day.  It’s a day of celebration for others, and of mourning and grieving for me.  It’s this day that I used to love and have come to dread.  It’s finally here.  It’s upon me.   And I’m miserable.

Q. Aren’t you forgetting the “reason for the season?”

A. Thanks for reminding me of the most ludicrous cliche imaginable.  If Jesus Himself  down and expressed His own disgust with this ridiculous sham of a so-called holy day, would you ask Him that same question?

Q. Aren’t you only projecting your own disgust onto Him?

A. I beg your pardon!   I’m only asking a question.  To be honest with you, I don’t believe Jesus has any particular opinion about this holiday at all.   I believe He relates to individuals on an individual basis, whoever it is who seeks relationship with Him.  He is therefore pleased with some people on Christmas, and not others.

Q. And you are one of the ones He is pleased with?

A. I didn’t say that!   How can He possibly be pleased with me if I am not at all pleased with myself?

Q. Are you suggesting that He would suddenly become pleased with you if you were to become pleased with your own self?

A. Of course not!   I could become pleased with myself over the slightest success or victory at damned near anything — whether Jesus was tracking with it or not.

Q. Seriously?

A. Yes – seriously!  I’m the type of person who feels good when he’s accomplished something successfully, and feels lousy when he hasn’t.  Isn’t that obvious?  Aren’t I transparent?

Q. When was the last time you accomplished something successfully?

A. Too long ago.  It’s been days, at least.  Maybe weeks.

Q. So then it’s not really Christmas that is the issue, is it?

A. No, not really.  But I’ll make no bones about it.  I do not like this holiday!  I don’t believe it has much to do with the birth of Jesus, or His life or teachings, much at all.  We hear the stories at church, if we go to church, and then leave them behind.   It’s a sham; it’s disgusting – but yes, you’re right.  That’s my own disgust, not His.

Q. So why the disgust?

A. Because — it used to be — there was family.  There was connection, there was warmth.  We opened gifts.  We had a Christmas tree.  I played the piano, and we sang carols together.

Q. What happened to all that?

A. At some point, I just became  —  I don’t know.  Uninvited.   Mom and Dad are long gone, there isn’t a “parent’s house” anymore.   I tried to reestablish family, but I failed.

Q. Why is everything about your personal success or failure?

A. I don’t know.  My dad was kinda hard on me, kept saying I couldn’t do anything right.   I just want to prove that I can do some things right.  When I get something right, I feel warm inside.  Like loved.

Q. Loved?

A. Yes. Loved.  God loves me because He lets me get some things right.

Q. Isn’t that a rather limited view of love?

A. It’s a start.

Q. Wouldn’t you have started long ago?

A. Of course.  But maybe I was barking up the wrong tree.

Q. What do you mean?

A. It might not be in my destiny for me to be a very successful family man.

Q. But are you content to be alone?

A. Usually.  But not on Christmas.   And not lately, to be honest with you.  Ever since my daughter left, just kinda — lonely, and feeling like I failed.  

Christmas loneliness and grief 'very, very common', says clinical counsellor | CBC News

Q. How is it that Christmas brings about these feelings of discontent?

A. It is on Christmas that the pain of knowing that other people are with family, seeming to have a good time, is most highlighted.  The pain that I am excluded — for some reason.  Naturally this leads to misery.  Especially when combined with the fact that everything closes down.  No food services.  No Starbucks, no MacDonald’s.  No library.   No restaurants.   How do I get food?  I have to stock up — well, you know, you get through the season, you get through the day.   I’m thinking MacDonald’s might be open till noon on some kind of truncated schedule.   Might as well hoof it down there once this thing’s over.

Q. So that is your idea of Christmas?   Spending the morning at a McDonald’s?

A. No.  My idea is still to gather around somewhere where there’s family and play a piano — but that’s long past.

Q. Could it not also be future?

A. Do I have a very good history at holding a family together?

Q. Could you have given up too easily?

A. Perhaps.

Q. Might you be blaming yourself too much?

A. Maybe.

Q. So what is your strategy?   How will you get through the day?

A. Well – I can start by repenting.

Q. What sin have you committed?

A. I mean – repenting of my attitude.  Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.  I lack faith right now.

Q. How can you get faith?

A. By choosing it.

Q. And what then?

A. Um –  I can pray.  I’ll start praying again.

Q. Why and when did you stop?

A. It was a few days back, after — something horrible happened personally, involving the loss of a friend — or maybe just the misplacement of the friend — she did wish me a happy Christmas back this morning, by text —

Q. Then she has not abandoned you, has she?

A. Maybe not.  Then again, she might have just been being nice.

Q. Isn’t that a start?

A. Yeah.  Lots of things can be starts.

Q. So what’s the strategy?

A. You make it sound like I’m fighting a war.

Q. Aren’t you?

A. I shouldn’t be.  I should just be surrendering, trusting in God, having faith, looking expectantly for the good that will inevitably come . . .

Q. On this horrible day of Christmas?

A. You said it.

Q. I’m curious, though.   Why did the severance with your friend cause you to stop praying?

A. She has always reflected Christ in my life.  I can’t explain it.  Maybe I put too much of a burden on her.   There were times when nobody else even believed I was a Christian, and yet she still had faith in me.  And now she’s gone.

Q. Can you — pray anyway?

A. And not be reminded of her?   I can’t even read my Bible anymore.  I read it — but it’s not the same.  It’s as though I’m reading her Bible, not mine.   

Q. So you’re — experiencing loss?

A. Loss upon loss.  Here I’ve already given up.  I’ll just say it:

Christmas in America is a time for people of privilege to enjoy the presence of other people of privilege.   They could at least invite those who lack over to their houses.  But they don’t.   And what’s that got to do with the so-called spirit of Christmas?  It’s not spiritual in any sense to exclude others from a gathering that is supposed to be held holy and pleasing in the eyes of God.

Q. Come on now!   Do you truly believe that Christmas has been reduced to only this?

A. Only this and worse.  I used to have a friend.   And I don’t any longer.

Q. But don’t you have a friend in Jesus?

A. I do.  And honestly, thank you for reminding me.  If I can just make my mind turn to Him – maybe when I’m on the way to that McDonald’s — I bet they’re open — and it can’t possibly be as bad as that one Christmas was when I was homeless and it was raining — and nobody would let us in  . . . 

Q. Your Christmas has been a lot worse than this one, hasn’t it?

A. Well yeah – it beats that one year, I think it was 2015, the only people I saw all day were about twenty-five other angry homeless people, it was pouring rain, I remember logging onto Facebook and just screaming at everybody — it just seemed heartless that they could keep flashing all these festivities on their timelines — if one even suggested being invited over on Christmas Day, they made you feel like you were a horrible person for even thinking such a thing . . . 

Q. But you are not homeless now, are you?

A. No I’m not.   

Q. And have you not become heartless in your own rite?   

A: I have not!

Q. How many homeless people are you letting in on Christmas?

Pause.  

A. I’ve let a lot of homeless people in this house, and you know it.

Q. What about Christmas?

A. You know I have my reasons.

Q. Didn’t they all have their reasons?

A. No doubt.  To put it mildly, to let strangers inside your house is risky business.  But I wasn’t a stranger to any of those people I was buzzing on Christmas Day on Facebook in the rain that day.   They all knew me.   They knew exactly what my situation was.

Q. And their response was?

A. Denial and disdain.   

Q. Why do you think that was?

A. Who likes a party–pooper?   Why should I be raining on their parade?

Q. You’re not raining on them now, are you?

A. Not that I know of  —  unless some of the more lurkish among them are reading these words, and feeling the storm.  

Q. And you’re not being rained on now either, are you?

A. More like snowed on.  But not at the moment, no.   I’m indoors – and I should be grateful.

Q. Are you?

A.  Grateful?   One wishes the word did not apply.   But yes, come to think of it, I am grateful.   I should be, after all.  Things could be a lot worse.   I could be robbed of anything approaching a First Amendment right in some parts of the world.   I could be put to death just for writing these words.

Q. So – what’s your strategy?

A. Well . . .  I don’t know how strategic it is, but I just made a decision.   This tuneup needs to be wrapped up anyway.   It’s dragging on kinda long.

Q. What’s your decision?

A. I’m going to go down to that McDonald’s and find someone more miserable than myself.

Q. Then what?

A. I’ll take it from there.   I’m at least usually a happy person.  I can share my happiness with them, even if I don’t experience it at the time.

Q. But won’t you just be just like the people on Facebook, flaunting their festivities?

A. I’ll try not to be.  Thanks for the warning.

Q. Anything else?

A. Not that I can think of.

Q. Cold feet?

A. Some.

Q. Just do it?   

A. Wish me luck.  

The Questioner is silent.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Categories
mental health Playwriting Psychology

Tuesday Tuneup 64

Q. What are you doing here?

A. I don’t know.

Q. What do you mean, you don’t know?

A. I mean, I don’t know why I’m still sitting here.  I’m supposed to go to a Christmas party.

Q. Then why don’t you?

A. Because I dislike forced social gatherings, especially when I would rather be alone.

Q. Would you really rather be alone?

A. Well — maybe not.  It would be nice to be among people.  But not at a forced, previously defined, premeditated gathering.  

Q. Why not?

A. Because no doubt they will force various activities upon me that are supposed to be fun, but that will wind up only embarrassing me and testing the limits of my ability to perform as normal in public.

Q. As normal?

A. You heard me.

Q. What the heck is “normal?”   Have you ever met anybody who’s normal??

A. Of course I have!   Just about everybody I’ve ever met is normal — at least compared to me, they are.

Q. But why compare them to you?

A. You mean to say I shouldn’t?

Q. Well, why should you?

A. I don’t know.  Just comes natural, I guess.

Q. But why give in to what comes natural?  If you always went with what was natural, wouldn’t you find yourself acting on some basic instinct, and winding up in a– a– 

download.jpgA. A jail cell, right?   Go ahead and say it.

Q. Why a jail cell?  Why not a psych ward?

A. Six of one, a half dozen of the other.

Q. What about the Christmas party?

A. What about it?

Q. It’s not a jail cell, is it?   It’s not a psych ward, is it?

A. Uh — er — I don’t suppose so, no . . .

Q. Then why not go to the party?

A. I can’t just go anywhere I please, on the basis of it not being as bad as a jail cell or a psych ward!

Q. Why not?

A. Because — that’s setting a pretty low bar.   I mean, you might as well tell me to go hang out in the Emergency Room.

Q. Wouldn’t the party be better than the Emergency Room?

A. That’s debatable.  In the Emergency room, there’s free coffee, and they’ll probably let me sit there all night, unless they’re busy.  Besides, they all know me, and they’re friendly toward me.  They’ll just say, “Hi Andy!”  And I’ll pick up a magazine, read it, and feel right at home.

Q. You honestly think that will be better than the Christmas party?

A. Maybe, maybe not.  But at least in the Emergency Room, I know what I’m in for.  At the party, anything could happen.  

Q. Like what?

A. There could be alcoholic beverages there.

Q. So what?  You don’t drink, do you?

A. No I don’t, personally.   But others might, and they might get drunk.  I can’t stand being around drunken people.

Q. But suppose nobody gets drunk.   What else might go wrong?

A. They might offer me marijuana.

Q. Then what will happen?

A. What do you think will happen?  Don’t be silly!   I’ll smoke it, and be grateful for it.

Q. If you would be grateful for it, then why would that be a bad thing?

A. Because I like it too much, and I’ll probably want to go out and buy some, which will cost me money I don’t have.   And then, I will no longer be grateful.  Besides, I like my sobriety.  It feels good.

Q. Can’t you just say no?

A. I could.  But I won’t.

Q. Have you ever tried?

A. Can’t say that I have, no.   

Q. Then why not just try saying no?  Just this once?

A, Okay.  I’ll grant you that.  But there are other temptations that could arise.

Q. Like what?

A. Oh — well lately — not sure how to broach the subject.  You see, I don’t deal well with these holidays.  People take off, everybody kinda leaves me in the lurch, and I feel more lonely than usual.   Usually, I’m not lonely at all.  In fact, I disdain loneliness.  I feel that loneliness is a pathetic and pointless feeling.   It’s like self-pity.  I should be bigger and better than such self-absorbed pettiness. 

Q. How did that answer my question?

A. It didn’t.  I just hadn’t gotten around to the point yet.

Q. Beating around the bush?

A. All right then.  When I’m lonely, I’m vulnerable.   I might meet another lonely person, and then — we might sort of hang out together — on the basis of mutual loneliness — and you know where that leads.

Todd Rundgren Quote: “Love between the ugly, is the most beautiful love of all.” (7 wallpapers ...Q. I do?

A. Don’t you?

Q. Why would I?

A. Come on!   Surely you’ve been lonely before!

Q. How could I have been lonely?

A. Hmm – well maybe you haven’t been then.  But I’ll tell you.   When two people get together, and they’re both lonely, it can lead to some pretty bad places.  

Q. Like where?

A. Like — like —

Q. Like what?

A. It can lead to places like —

Q. Hmm?

A. (after a pause) All right, I give up.   I’ll just go to the party.    

The Questioner is silent.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Categories
Christianity gratitude mental health

Tuesday Tuneup 62

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Getting my bearings.

Q. What happened??

A. I stressed out at the church service, and my heart started beating out of my chest.  They kept making me do things that are really really hard for me, but that are really easy for most people, and it stressed me out.

Q. What kinds of things?

A. Oh, uh – page turns.   Fumbling with bulletin inserts.  Trying to get to the right hymn in the right hymnal at the right time.  And worst of all, we had to put these ornaments on a Christmas tree, and the hook of my ornament fell out.

Q. What happened then?

A. I went and showed the guy with the ornaments, assuming he would give me a new ornament with a more secure hook.

Q. What did he give you instead?

A. Another hook.

Q. And you weren’t able to put the new hook on the old ornament?

A. Well, I fumbled with it for long enough, and I know myself well enough, that I determined fairly quickly it would be impossible.

Q. And what did you do then?

A. I gave both ornament and unhooked hook to Amanda.

Q. Who is Amanda?

A. The person standing next to me.  She’s a speech therapist and works at a hospital, so I figured I might luck out and she might understand why it is actually impossible for me to put a hook on an ornament.  I mean, done deal.  It’s a disease.  It’s called ADHD / Dyslexia and High-Functioning Autism.

Q. What did you say to Amanda?

A. I told her it would be impossible for me to put the hook on the ornament in order to hang it on the tree.

Q. How did Amanda respond?

A. She nodded her head in compassionate understanding, then deftly placed the ornament on the tree in my stead.

Q. Were you thankful?

A. Uh — more relieved than anything else.  But now that you mention it, gratitude is certainly an appropriate response.   It’s rare that somebody believes me, in such situations.

Q. Then what did you do?

A. I sneaked out of the church, placing myself in the middle of a long line, so that no one would notice my swift departure.

Q. Why did you depart swiftly?

A. Because by that time, my heart was beating out of my chest, and I was having a major panic attack.  I mean, it was like — I was under pressure, in a line, with people waiting on me – and everybody could see that I was fumbling with the logistics of trying to get the hook on the ornament and the ornament on the tree — it was like — Mainstream Stress – the kind of stuff that made me homeless in the first place back in 2004 —

Q. Mainstream Stress?

A. Yeah.  The kind of stress you get when you’re pressured to perform under time constraints, with people observing you, and people to answer to, under deadlines —

Q. What other kind of stress is there?

street person stress.jpgA. Street Stress.  It’s a horse of a different color.   It’s the kind where you’re not under time constraints, but at the same time, you never have time to check in with yourself and feel what your actual feelings are.  You’re in a state of shock at all times, as though in a battle zone, ready for anything, at any time.  No time to feel.   Anything.   

Q. Where are you now?

A. At the local cafe.

Q. Do you plan on returning to the church?

A. Yes.  After I’m through getting my bearings.   I can make it there for the Fellowship, where my mental health condition will not be so severely challenged.

Q. May I ask two more questions?

A. One will do.  I’m running out of time.

Q. What does all this have to do with the birth of Jesus?

A. Don’t ask me, man.

Q. May I please ask the second question?

A. Shoot.

Q. Why was the church service being held on Tuesday?

A. It wasn’t.   Today is Sunday.

Q. It is?

A. I told you I was neurodivergent!   Now get outta here!  

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

Categories
mental health Poetry prayer scripture

The Noise of the Enemy

I’m posting this psalm for a reason I would be remiss not to state. My PTSD was triggered shortly before Thanksgiving Dinner, and I spent the entire dinner and evening thereafter processing frightening thoughts related to traumas past. In the morning, I was still troubled. Then I opened my Bible to this Psalm, and found that the Psalmist was troubled in the exact same way that I was. So his words became my words, and I was given new hope.

Give ear to my prayer, O God;
and hide not thyself from my supplication!
Attend to me, and answer me;
    I am overcome by my trouble.
I am distraught by the noise of the enemy,
    because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they bring trouble upon me,
    and in anger they cherish enmity against me.

My heart is in anguish within me,
    the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
    and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove!
    I would fly away and be at rest;
yea, I would wander afar,
    I would lodge in the wilderness,
I would haste to find me a shelter
    from the raging wind and tempest.”

Destroy their plans, O Lord, confuse their tongues;
    for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go around it
    on its walls;
and mischief and trouble are within it,
ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud
    do not depart from its market place.

It is not an enemy who taunts me—
    then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
    then I could hide from him.
But it is you, my equal,
    my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to hold sweet converse together;
    within God’s house we walked in fellowship.
Let death come upon them;
    let them go down to Sheol alive;
    let them go away in terror into their graves.

But I call upon God;
    and the Lord will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
    I utter my complaint and moan,
    and he will hear my voice.
He will deliver my soul in safety
    from the battle that I wage,
    for many are arrayed against me.
God will give ear, and humble them,
    he who is enthroned from of old;
because they keep no law,
    and do not fear God.

My companion stretched out his hand against his friends,
    he violated his covenant.
His speech was smoother than butter,
    yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
    yet they were drawn swords.

Cast your burden on the Lord,
    and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
    the righteous to be moved.

But thou, O God, wilt cast them down
    into the lowest pit;
men of blood and treachery
    shall not live out half their days.
But I will trust in thee.

  –-Psalm 55

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.