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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.  

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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.  

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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.  

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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.

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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

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Gratitude List 1321

(1) It’s another new day full of unique hope and promise, even if I didn’t sleep a wink last night.   God’s morning is still made up of beauty and full of wonder.

(2) My friend Holly called from California, and we had a nice catch-up.  I like Sunday evening conversations, and I think we might make it a regular thing.

(3) On Saturday I had an amazing four mile run out of the blue, though I’d not run for three weeks.  Thankful for the gift of long distance running.   It’s a large part of the reason why I’m still alive.

(4) I was kinda down last night when I suddenly got an email from a retired columnist whom I’ve known for many years, someone whom I admire.  We shared ideas as to what to do with our respective retirements.  It was lovely, and my spirits were lifted thereafter.

(5) By the way, I’m retired now.   I was “disabled” and deemed “legally incompetent” for a few years prior to my 66th birthday; but once I turned 66, I got a letter saying I was now “retired” and could therefore work all I want.  Nice to know that my entire incompetence vanished overnight.  (I even got twenty five more bucks a month out of the deal.)

(6) To each their own.  Some people take the pills.   Some people run the miles.   I prefer the latter myself.   Neurodivergent and PROUD.  

(7) You wanna see my antidepressant of choice?  Voilà :

Capture.JPG

(8) On suspicion I might have morphed into an Extrovert, I took a personality test that showed these results:

Introvert    38%       Moderate preference of Introversion over Extraversion
iNtuitive     22%       Slight preference of Intuition over Sensing
Feeling        34%       Moderate preference of Feeling over Thinking
Judging       9%         Slight preference of Judging over Perceiving

Looks like I’m coming out of my shell a little bit, and I’m glad.  I can be a social butterfly for a season before I give up and climb back into it.  

(9) I keep noticing that wonderful things tend to happen unexpectedly whenever my mind takes me to a new low.   

(10) For all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.   There’s a lot of wonder out there — we just need to look for it in the right places.  God is Wonderful.

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Gratitude List 1315

This one’s from Sunday morning.  

1. Slept from 630-930 and then from about 11-5.  Rested and energetic.

2. Beautiful weather on the walk to and from the store — this would be a perfect morning to start running again.

3. Thoughts in my morning reflections today have been distinctly more constructive than usual.  Prayers seemed newer, and more to the immediate point.

4. Felt much gratitude last night when, having neglected to eat during the day since the 4am burrito, I found that I still had 5 cents in my account after I bought two Top Ramens at the Sunset Market.   Later I was even more richly rewarded when I found forgotten salami in the fridge as well as some spaghetti in the cupboard.

Perspective-2

5.
 Found the above image and had a hunch it would make a good desktop background.   Yes it does, if you can picture it, my icons all being arranged in the upper left, with the telescope searching in that direction.  But even more so, I get a sudden sense of peace every time I clear my browser windows.    I clear all the windows periodically at moments when the computer stress has reached an uneasy peak, and it’s nice to see it all be replaced by a spiritual image that has  such a nice contemplative feel to it.   It has the overall effect of easing my computer-related nervous tension.

6. Overcame a morning mood yesterday that was bitterly despairing, and realized in so doing how much of it was computer-connected.  Once I left the device, I smelled the roses.

7. Had a nice time visiting with Patty and her son Jesse, who have an apartment up the hill to the West of here, more like a house, rented from my same landlord, but in a much more secluded, forested area.  If I were to get a place in that area, it would have a real appeal in terms of separation, and the walk would still be good into town and campus.

8. Should be able to make it to Bible Project at 9:30 and still get to Jodie’s church by 10:45 to play piano at 11.

9. Just now ran/walked 2 miles, first run in a few weeks.

10. God is Good.

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Gratitude List 1244

Happy Labor Day.  Here’s my gratitude list from Saturday morning.   I’ll be posting three music clips and one announcement, all three hours apart, throughout the day.  Hope it all finds you blessed.    

1. Slept solidly for nine hours between 10 & 7, no sleeping pill being needed, and no sleep paralysis.

2. Observing the Sabbath, mostly reading.  Grateful for quietude.

3. Grateful for my apartment, for its “out of the way” location, for my new incentive to keep it tidy, and for my positive relationship with the landlord.

4. Glad I’m not in the awful space I was in two days ago, and grateful for the lesson of just how far into spiritual darkness the “obsession of the mind” can lead me.

5. Grateful for Matt, one of the better sponsors I’ve had.

6. First thing I read this morning was an unusually good “Got Questions” article.   It started the mind off thinking the right way on the Sabbath Day.

7. Grateful for the Day of Rest and for the knowledge that once the sun goes down, I can start working again.

8. Glad I have a computer expert for a sponsor.  Matt helped me to get the CD’s burnt correctly with a new and better CD burner.   Also installed a better free media player.

9. Open Mike was a gentle experience last night.   Grateful for my positive relationship with Dave Harlan.  I played three pieces of “improvised classical” and was able to sell three CD’s.

10. Breakfast at Courtyard in 40 minutes, Farmer’s Market thereafter.  Somebody called this place “The Town Time Forgot.”  God is Love.

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Homelessness and PTSD

Trigger warning: some people may be triggered by information contained in this entry that pertains to personal violation.  Please proceed with caution, and read at your own risk.  

Earlier, when I created a talk on this theme, I did not believe I could capsulize my thoughts into a single blog post.   So I talked for a half hour instead.

I’ve since changed my mind.   It’s taken over a week for me to discover how to present these ideas more succinctly, in a logical order.  The first thing I would like to address is that people are generally unaware that homelessness — with all its confusing, unpredictable, and dangerous components — is as much a breeding grounds for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as situations arising in combat or from having been physically or sexually abused.

PTSD is triggered when something happens to remind a person of past trauma, the memories of which are often buried.  When the reminder occurs, one leaps into the context of the trauma formerly inflicted.  And then, one begins to relive the entire circumstances involved in that traumatic event.

See the source imageSevere abuse comes with the homeless territory.  A person who is exposed, out in the open twenty-four hours a day, is a visible target.  This person is made even more vulnerable when they are sleeping.  When I was homeless, I was pistol-whipped, subjected to strong arm robbery, sexually abused, subjected to arson, and physically abused multiple times.  Any one of those situations can lead to PTSD — let alone all of them in confluence.

Because the first of these traumatic events was a sexual violation that took place on a very hot day when I could find no way out of it, I have been triggered on extremely hot days when I was lost and did not have clear directions to where I was going.  My PTSD counselor and I worked out a series of steps that I would take automatically if I felt that the PTSD had been triggered.  I would stop and take a number of deep breaths while looking for a shady spot.  Then I would sit in the shady spot, no longer moving around or looking where I might go, until the PTSD had subdued.

The reason for taking such steps is because I was reliving the horrific event of a sexual assault.  When the horrible event was over, and the rapist disappeared, I was so freaked out that I ran five miles in 90F degree weather.  That single event has affected my sexual attitudes for life.

But that was only a solitary example of numerous violations that were to ensue during the twelve years when I was homeless and “borderline-homelessness” — by which I mean staying in motels, residence hotels, and other sketch indoor situations.   The overall experience of homelessness carried with it its own set of triggers.   By and large, these were based on two things:

(1) A sense of inequality with, and inferiority to, the people around me.  

(2) A sense of being fully exposed in a context where most of the people were concealed.  

An example of something that triggered me was the event of having a story of mine published on a news site that permitted comments from its readers.  All of the readers had usernames and avatars.  One of them referred to having known me personally — but I had no idea, nor was I able to learn, who this person was.  This bore enough resemblance to the homeless context that I began to relive my homeless experience.

More information about PTSD triggers may be found here, for starts.  An excellent article exploring PTSD among the homeless may be found here.  And of course, further information on the Homeless Experience can be found all over this blog.

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Gratitude List 1229

(1) Though I only got about an hour and a half of sleep before I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep, I’m still very thankful that it’s been seven days now and I’ve not gone into sleep paralysis.

(2) I was able to get a large tube of toothpaste and a bottle of shampoo for free at the Co-Op in the box of things they take to the Food Bank.   Also, I found a brand new toothbrush in my backpack that I’d forgotten about.

(3) Really looking forward to calling my friend Danielle, and to talking with her for 45 minutes between 4:45 and 5:30.  I’ve missed the last four times due to sleeping in, and it’s left a bit of a void.  I very much gain from this early morning fellowship.  It’s been a tradition now for a long time.

(4) My daughter has connected with a writing coach whom I regard very highly, Lauren Sapala, and Lauren has promised to read a book she has written, called Secrets Held Too Tight to Keep.  

(5) As of this morning, I believe my unhealthy attitudes toward money are being healed.

(6) For the second time this year, just when I ran out of reading glasses, I found a nice pair of dollar readers sitting on a bench, and they suit me perfectly.   

(7) I was able to cry during the church service, though not a whole lot.  Still, it’s a start.  I hardly ever cry, but the times when I’ve gotten in touch with the deeper feelings, I’ve cried in torrents.   It’s always cleansing when I do, and it helps me to move forward once again.

(8) I’ll probably have two new piano pieces for you later on in the week, as soon as I get them off of that guy’s smartphone and upload them onto my youtube channel.  I recall they both came out very nicely.

(9) Letting go off the past has always been very difficult for me.   But it’s become clear that I really need to count my blessings and look forward.   That said, there are some pretty substantial potential blog posts hidden in some of the very long emails I have sent to those who have ceased to contact me.   The words I wrote are still valuable.  I only wrote them to the wrong people.

(10) Training for window washing at 6am, should make some money in cash before 9am, when I have to go to the hospital and finalize my volunteer position.  The volunteer position, by the way, is that I will now be playing piano regularly at the entrance to the Courtyard Cafe — in the hospital where I was born.   Stranger things have happened!  And the Lord Himself moves in strange and mysterious ways.

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Talks 2019 No. 2

I promised to get a new talk to you guys by 7:30 this morning, so here it is.  The purpose of this talk is to describe how the conditions of homelessness can easily lead to a PTSD diagnosis, and what the triggers can be like.   I hope you enjoy & gain from this. 

See the source image

The Perception of Inequality

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Tuesday Tuneup 53

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Waiting for you.

Q. What do you want from me?

A. Questions.

Q. Why?

A. Because your questions always lead to interesting answers.

Q. Like what?

A. Like what I should be doing this morning.

Q. What should you be doing this morning?

A. In my opinion, I should be staving off depression by hurling myself full-force into an artistic project.

Q. Why should you do that?

A. Because I’ve been doing it all my life, and it usually works.

Q. Have you ever considered facing the depression directly, rather than doing something to avert it?

A. Sure I have.

Q. And how does that work for you?

A. It usually only makes me more depressed.   

Q. And then what?

A. Then nothing.  Stagnation.  Inaction.  Futility.   

Q. But if you stave off the depression through Art?

A. Then everything.  Motivation.  Action.  Meaningfulness.  

Anger-management-quote

Q. Why then would anyone ever want to face their depression directly?

A. Probably because they deny it.  If one is in denial, things don’t work too well.

Q. Are you in denial?

A. If I were, I wouldn’t know it now, would I?

Q. I don’t know – would you?

A. No, I would not.

Q. But do you feel like you’re in denial?

A. Maybe a little bit.  Nothing serious, though.  Nothing that would land me in jail or in a psychiatric facility.

Q. Where would your level of denial land you?

A. Probably on a piano bench.

Q. What do you mean?

A. When I start to suspect that something is internally amiss, I usually play it out on the piano and see what happens.

Q. What happens then?

A. I channel my feelings.

Q. And this is?

A. Healthy.

Q. Anything else?

A. Not off the top, no.  Oh wait a minute – I’m going to be posting a new talk tomorrow.  It will still be called “The Perception of Inequality” just like the talk I removed earlier this week.  It will just be a lot more thorough, more purposeful, more academic, more informative.

Q. Has working on this new talk helped you to be less depressed?

A. Yes, it has.

Q. But won’t all the depression return as soon as you’re done with your project?

A. It might.  It might not.   

Q. What now?

A. Calling my friend Danielle in about ten minutes, as per usual.   Waiting for the sky to get light.  Lacing up my shoes, going on a run.   

Q. And after that?

A. Planning on enjoying the day.  God’s blessings are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness.

The Questioner is silent.

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Is There Life After Homelessness?

Below the illustration is an excerpt from my personal diary.   

The Battle After the War – Homelessness and Housing

I’ve thought about almost nothing but homelessness in Berkeley throughout the past five days. It’s a disease; it’s a disorder; it’s PTSD; it’s been triggered.   So I thought I’d take the opposite tact as oft-advised. Rather than distract myself from the triggers, I would embrace the experience completely.

In that spirit, I created this talk, called It Can’t Be Forgotten. Later I judged this effort harshly. Not the fact that I did it — that I don’t mind at all. I was happy, thrilled, and thankful that I completed the spontaneously conceived task, exciting as it was to undertake it.

What I judged was its quality. Two glaring errors stood out. For one thing, while I spoke often of the “inequality” factor, I did very little, if anything, to back up how that sense experience was valid for those of us enduring the Homeless Experience. It could just as easily have been a reflection of my own individual inferiority complex as it was an alleged manifestation of a social injustice.

Secondly, when this issue of inequality arises in the speech, I adopt a tone of voice that seems excessively strident. This could make the listener uncomfortable. The stridency could be alternately interpreted as either anger or sarcasm, something of an almost bitter outrage enters into the vibration from time to time, and the whole thing can make one very uneasy. This is especially the case if one can only tune into the upset tone of voice, and figure this guy’s got some kind of ax to grind, and then never tune in to the actual content of the dissertation, due to the fact that the ostentatious style has stood in the way.

I just now listened to the whole thing for the first time this morning. I don’t find it nearly as objectionable as I did during yesterday’s listen, but that may be because as a listener, I’m simply getting addicted to the repetitive playing of an interesting piece, and I’m getting into the groove of it. But it also may mean that my original objections are not so objectionable, because to remove that element of anger as well as the component of vagueness as to what exactly made us all feel so unequal and so dehumanized when we were all together back then on the streets, would be in essence to assault the very concept of the piece. It is what it is. If it makes you uncomfortable, good. What does this say about you?

That question asked, the speech, on that level, succeeds.  What might be a distraction from that success, however, is if a certain kind of listener jumps to the conclusion, based on early, as yet undeveloped information, that the piece is “about” Internet trolling, trolls, etc.  But it’s not.  It’s about homelessness, inequality, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The troll is only used as a device, to serve as a trigger.

8:06 a.m. – 2019-08-10

 

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Gratitude List 1209

(1) I slept from from eight in the evening till six in the morning, ten hours.  I did eat red meat, having cooked up half a pound of ground beef, as Christine suggested.  Someone else told me I ought to eat a lot of green vegetables.  In any case, I finally resorted to a cannabinoid to get to sleep, and I did not have paralysis.  Slept quite a bit, for the second night in a row.

(2) Just now got some good sun and exercise, though I exercised only moderately.  Ran a mile to the Campus Starbucks, where I had water and a mocha.  Walked a mile and half back, circuitously.  I think I still am tired from the Ativan the doctor at Emergency gave me the night I wrote Sleep Paralysis.  It helped me to sleep for seven hours.  So I’ve gotten two good night’s sleep in a row, without paralysis.  I’m grateful for the gift of being lucid enough now to get my bearings, and proceed forward.

(3) At the doctor’s office, I was down to 204 lbs.  Lost 8 pounds.  Blood pressure 116/72, pulse 56bpm, O2 Saturation 95%, BMI 28.8kg/m2, 97.8 F body temperature.  Great vital signs.  Pulse is low from working out a lot, running, walking, riding my bike.

(4) Heard from my old friend Paul in Berkeley, in response to Sleep Paralysis, and wrote back.  Great to hear from him — it had been a while.  We agreed to catch up later in the week.

(5) Though the new computer they bought me for the musical project is hung up in a loop and won’t get from startup to the desktop, it’s catalyzed a positive change in routine.  I can work on the vocal parts at home, using the Finale program loaded on my home computer.  That’s a decent ASUS laptop with broken keyboard and screen, used with external keyboard and LG flat panel.   Then, I can use the public computers at the local library to work on my script revisions.  This will get me out of the house, and also designate an environment to be associated with that particular task.  This plan was Dave’s idea, for which I’m thankful.

(6) I’m soon to be published in Berkeleyside.  I’m to hear from them today, and according to Alastair, it’s a decent-paying gig.

(7) Nick called just as I’d alighted upon the Campus Starbucks, and we had a substantial conversation. I’ve talked to Kent a couple times recently too.  It’s good to have good long-term friends.  Danielle, too.

(8) Grateful for Norman, Kathy, Jeremiah, Bruce, and the wonderful, wise people I have met at my church.

(9) Grateful for the decision to avoid anxiety-provoking people and places, and focus on healing.  (Symbolic of which, I will be replacing the version of “Bubbles” I just posted (and just now set aside) with a more relaxed, definitive version using Norman’s device, the same one we used for the album Exile.  I’ll try to do that today.)

(10) After filling out some paperwork, I’ll soon be on the volunteer staff at the hospital and will be playing piano at the Courtyard Cafe.  Life is good up here, for the most part.  I’m getting organized, and God is Good.

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Sleep Paralysis

I never knew what it was called until they came up with a name for it about five or six years ago.  I’ve been having it since I was 14.  I believe my brother has been having it since he was 15.  My daughter has it but her mother, my ex-wife does not.

The reason why I’m bringing it up is because, although I’ve been dealing with this phenomenon at varying levels of discomfort throughout my life, it has never been as bad as it’s been in the past ten or twelve days.   I’m having it day after day; I’ve been to Emergency about it; I’ve even had a guy from my church come over and perform a kind of charismatic exorcism.  

I’ve probably averaged three or four hours of sleep a night for the past ten days or so.  Only on one night did I get a good seven hours sleep.  The night I went to Emergency the doctor there gave me 0.5 mg clonazepam on my request, which was the same medication I swore off cold turkey on May 10, 2004.  A reaction to a prescription of 6mg / day I was given on the morning my mother was to die caused me to start behaving very strangely, uncharacteristically.   Anybody who’s heard my story knows that between October 9, 2003 when Mom died and May 17, 2004 when I spent my first night homeless at the Burlingame CalTrain station, I lost everything I had.  I took clonazepam (klonopin) all that time till I quit cold turkey on May 10, 2004.  

The reason I bring this up is that I don’t ask for a clonazepam lightly.  But I’ve known that a low dose like that is usually sufficient to get me from a waking state to sound sleep without stopping at that horrible zone where you kinda feel like this:

What Are Your Experiences With The Sleep Paralysis Demon Like?

Seriously.  Something from somewhere is pressing upon you.  You don’t quite see it, but boy do you feel it!  It’s one of the most terrifying experiences I know of.   

The night of the exorcism (not quite the right word; I think he use the word “intercession”) I slept very well.  It seemed all sense of such invasive entities had stopped completely.  But last night the invasion resumed.  I jumped out of bed pretty mad.   When is this thing going to end?

I was so mad, I ran three miles at midnight, did eleven push-ups, then wiped myself out enough to conk out from about two till six in the morning.   My vital signs were good at the doctor’s visit – lost eight pounds, medium to low blood pressure, heart rate 56.  Lots of exercise lately, and not much rest.  That could be a factor, but man, I am getting tired of this!   

I called the guy from my church and we prayed I would just get a decent night’s sleep.  I’ve been contacting old friends, and preparing for the worst.   I’m not sure how much longer I can hold up.  I have never had it night after night, day after day, on the bus, in the doctor’s office, sitting on my desk, sitting in the cafe — it’s horrible.

I’ve alternated between thinking that the loss of my medication might have something to do with it, but it was happening before that as well.  I’ve thought the medication itself might be involved, but one way or the other, I don’t like it.

I know this isn’t my usual post, but I’m not sure I’ve got much longer.  Every night I wonder if I’m going to get to sleep, or if I’m going to wake up, when it’s done.   So, if I’ve seemed to be weird the past few days, this is why.   

Today is the third year anniversary of the day I stepped off that bus on July 27, 2016 to start a new life.  If you pray, please pray that the new life will manifest fully from here. I’ve been feeling like I’ve been half asleep and half awake. Half in Cali, half up here. Half outdoors, and half inside. I’m in paralysis. I want to be full and complete from here on in, and paralyzed no more.

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Pitfalls of Forgiveness: Part Two

I wanted to subtitle this one: “How NOT to forgive somebody.”   I got this crazy idea that  if somebody whom I have resented would only answer a few questions for me, I would finally “understand” the situation, and therefore finally “forgive” the guy.   After all, isn’t there a French proverb that reads: “To understand all is to forgive all?”   Sure there is!  Therefore,  if I could only understand this fellow’s baffling behavior toward me, then naturally I would finally arrive at a moment like this:

“Oh!  I get it!  That’s why you said all those weird and totally hurtful things!  I understand now!   It all makes sense!!  Finally, I forgive you, man!!!”

Believe me, this is not the way to approach the matter.   To illustrate this, I’ve prepared a fictitious email, sent to someone named “Tom” who hypothetically had offended me.  The nature of the offense is based on truth, though the names and variables have been altered and mixed, for the sake of discretion and taste.  Observe the absurdity of such an entreaty:

Hey Tom –

As you know, I’ve been having a very difficult time forgiving you for nearly two years now.    Largely, this is due to a single conversation in which you suddenly decided, among other things, that you were not really my good, close friend, but only a “casual acquaintance.”

Being as we have had many close conversations over a twenty year period of time, this demotion seemed a bit unfair.  Come to think of it, however, it was only I who kept revealing all kinds of personal information to you, thinking you were one of my very best friends.  Perhaps this explains why you would often take the information I conveyed to you in confidence and freely distribute among your many associates.  Had I been your friend, and not just some random guy, you might have been more loyal.

It appears that either you are one of the most malicious people I’ve ever met, or one of the stupidest.  I sure hope the latter is the case.  If you are stupid, then you simply don’t realize the implications of your statements, and therefore it is more difficult for me to find fault with you.

I have therefore provided you with a 12-point questionnaire, designed to determine whether or not you are an evil genius or a stupid idiot.  Once I know the answer, I will understand you perfectly; and therefore forgive you.  

Best Regards,

Andy

Do you see how ludicrous that would be?  If the situation were reversed, and I knew that someone hated me, and the person who hated me was insisting that I alter my behavior in some form or another, until he would no longer hate me, how would I feel?

I would be incensed!  It is not my purpose in life to adjust my behavior to please him who hates me.  That person who hates me is not God, and has no right to insist that I change in any way.

Scrummaster Needed Desperately at LAST Conf 2016 in ...

But the aphorism above comes to mind and is wise.  This person whom I am calling “Tom” also had a way of lecturing me.  Lengthy dissertations on how to live my life, flavored by little gifts he would buy me — running shoes, a cell phone, and lunches.  It took me a while to realize that he must not have been all that bright.   People who give a lot of advice generally mean well.  They’re just not smart enough to realize that they shouldn’t be doing it.  

Of course, this begs the question: “Why on earth did I listen to all these uninvited lectures in the first place?

The answer is this:

When you’re homeless, and you’re out on the streets, and you’re not sleeping very well, and you’re being treated left and right as though you are a totally worthless scum bag with no clue how to live your life, you eventually begin to believe it.

So you turn to those who appear to be doing well, and you eat up their worthless advice as though it were manna from heaven.  Somehow, you don’t realize until you finally get inside that their advice pertains only to the world of the wealthy.  It has no relevance whatever to the world of the underprivileged — the world where you actually live.

As far as forgiveness is concerned, as Bryan Wagner has pointed out, it has nothing to do with the other person at all.   The idea of requesting that someone alter their behavior in order that you might forgive them is absurd.   Had they been willing to do something like that, you’d have never resented them in the first place.

Forgiveness is an inside job.  It can only be accomplished in that place inside you where you meet your True and Highest Self.  It can only be accomplished in the heart.

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Pitfalls of Forgiveness: Part One

As most of  you know, I am of a genetic heritage (Sicilian) that is noted for resisting the notion of forgiveness.   Some of us seem to have an alarming capacity to take our grudges to our graves.   However, because I am a Christian, and I take the Bible seriously, I would like to make sure that I forgive those whom I still begrudge.   Yet I frankly find forgiveness of these people to be next to impossible. 

But I’ve got to forgive them!   Even if I didn’t identify as a Christian, I’d probably still feel a need to forgive them, if for no other reason than that a lingering resentment doesn’t feel good.   Resentments against others eat away at one’s mental health.   If I weren’t a Christian, I would want to let go of these grudges for my sake.   But because I am a Christian, it is not only for my own sake that I must forgive.  It is for God’s sake — for the sake of all that is good and just and kind in this world.  Look what Jesus said:

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.
–Mark 11:25-26

So if we want to be forgiven, then we need to forgive.   That much seems simple and sound.   But whether or not you are conversant with Scripture, these words of Jesus are likely to strike a puzzling note.   Aren’t we Christians the ones who believe that we simply are forgiven?   As in, no matter what we do?

forgiveWell, yes and no.   There are Christians and there are Christians.  A Calvinist might believe this.  An Arminian might not.   We could get into Romans Six and all that, but this single Scripture definitely appears to contradict numerous biblical references to the security of the believer. Have our names not been written on the Book of Life since “before the foundation of the world?”  If I am a Christian, and I believe that God has already forgiven me, then why would I need to forgive anyone else in order to secure His forgiveness?   

Although I’ve read numerous studies on the matter, they seem by and large to be rationalizations.   One suggested that Jesus speaks in this context not to “believers” but to “people in the world.”   But that doesn’t hold water.   Jesus is simply speaking to everybody — to whoever has ears to hear — whether they believe Him or not.

So I pondered this apparent contradiction for a long time.  Finally, I arrived at a reconciliation within myself, as a result of performing the following dialectic:

Q. What’s bugging you?

A. I think I might be going to hell.

Q. Why?

A. There are three people in my life whom I have not forgiven.  

Q. But aren’t you a Christian?

A. That depends upon what you mean by “Christian.”

Q. What do you mean by Christian?

A. A Christian (according to me) is a person who is in the process of being saved.

Q. Saved from what?

A. From the just consequences of our many misdeeds.

Q. Can you document this scripturally?

A. I can try.   Romans 10:9 states:  “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  According to this Scripture, these are the two prerequisites for salvation.

Q. Do you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord?

A. Sometimes.

Q. Do you believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead?

A. Always.

Q. Then why would you not be saved?

A. Because I haven’t forgiven these three people, and God says I have to forgive them if I want to go to heaven.

Q. Do you want to forgive them?

A. Oh yes!

Q. Then why don’t you?

A. I keep trying, but I keep winding up going back to the grudges.   It’s not that I don’t want to forgive them, it’s that I don’t feel I have the power to do so.

Q. But as a Christian, doesn’t your power come from God?

A. Well, if it doesn’t, then it ought to.

Q. Then why not ask God to empower you to forgive them?

A. Good idea.   I will do so immediately.

Q. Anything else?

A. Yes.

Q. What?

A. As I asked God to empower me to forgive the triumvirate whom I begrudge, a thought came to mind.  Something I’d never thought before.

Q. Really?  What thought is that?

A. Since God knows all things, maybe God knows that ultimately, at some time in my life, I am going to forgive all three of them.   Therefore, though I haven’t forgiven them yet — and would certainly go to hell were I to die on this very day — I am still nonetheless going to go to heaven on some future day, because by the time that future day rolls around, I will have forgiven them.   And God knows this!  I may not have forgiven them yet, but I will forgive them.  I will then be free to depart gracefully from the present planet, and take up my throne in heaven.

Q. Your throne?   Isn’t God the one on the throne?

A. 2 Timothy 2:12 & Revelation 20:6, dude.  We’re all gonna be reigning in heaven.   Remember: you are dealing with a person who actually reads the Bible.   I’m not a person who blindly swallows every lie that comes out of the mouth of the preacher on the pulpit.  Nor am I of the camp who absolutely refuse to open the Book, for fear of its contents.   Nor am I —

Q. Excuse me!! What about 1 Corinthians 8:1?

A. Oops — I forgot.  You actually read the Bible, too.

Q. Well, what about it?

A. What about what?

Q. Don’t dodge the question — what about 1 Cor 8:1?   Paul clearly states that the pursuit of knowledge leads to arrogance, whereas the pursuit of love leads to encouragement and spiritual growth.

A. All right, I’ll admit it.  My problem is that I’m too hung up on learning, reading, absorbing, acquiring information, and gaining knowledge.   And despite all of that intellectual focus, the plain fact is that I just don’t have enough love in my heart.   

Q. And Who is Love?

A. You know the answer to that.   Luke 15:9 & John 4:8 come to mind.   God is Love.

Q. Then Whom shall you seek, if you are to learn how to love?

A. Deuteronomy 4:29 & Jeremiah 29:13 hold the answer to that one.

Q. Wasn’t that a bit indirect of you?

A. Was Jesus always direct?

The Questioner is silent.  

Obviously, I’ve arrived at a resolution that is quite pleasant, if tenuous.   It would seem that my next move along these lines should be to forgive the three people whom I continue to begrudge.   So, in Parts 2-4 of this series (if I ever get around to writing them),  please expect me to go through great efforts to forgive the triad of traitors who so treacherously trapped, tricked, and traumatized me.   I’m not going to mention them by name — of course.   But I’m definitely going to delve into it.

Why?  Because I must.  It’s not just being Sicilian.   It’s that I spent way too much time on the streets.   There, the concept of achieving peace of mind over a troubling individual was virtually synonymous with the notion of getting even with them.   If I wanted there to be peace between me and someone with whom I was quarreling,  I didn’t even think about forgiving them.  I thought about intimidating them until they were too scared to mess with me.   It was only then that I would breathe my long-awaited — though highly temporary — sigh of relief.

Let’s put it this way.   I may have Mafioso blood, but I sure didn’t have anything against any of these people before I had to spend twelve years on the streets.

TO BE CONTINUED

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Tuesday Tuneup Fifty

Q. What’s been bugging you lately?

A. Remnants and reminders.

Q. Of what?

A. Not of what — of whom.  Of the last person who lived here with me.

Q. What kind of remnants?  What kind of reminders?

A. Oh – a dresser.  A book case.  About fifty books. A bunch of foodstuffs that seem unusual to me, grains collected in canisters, things that look like rice that don’t taste like rice, and other stuff I don’t want to touch.  Unreceived mail, a pair of very nice dress boots.   And many knick knacks.  A tapestry that reminds me of her.  A carpet that reminds me of her.  And an upright piano that I never play, because it reminds me of her.   It doesn’t belong to her, but it reminds me of her.   

Q. Can’t you just ask her to come get her things?

A. She hasn’t answered a text or call from me for several months.  I have asked her many times.  Once she even came up to get them, but left almost all of it in the house, inexplicably.   And that also was nearly a year ago.

Q. Why did she leave all of that stuff with you?

A. I don’t know.   It may be a hardship for her to get up here and get it.  It might also be that she left it here to “ensure her return.”

Q. Ensure her return?  What do you mean by that?

A. When people inwardly suspect that the day will come when you don’t want them around any longer, they have a tendency to leave some of their belongings with you, so that you can’t say “no” when they want to come back.

Q. Have other people done that with you?

A. Yes.  Usually either very insecure people, or scammers of one kind or another.   But to be frank, it hasn’t happened very often in recent years, because I haven’t had a place to live.  For many years, I was homeless.   So it’s particularly disconcerting that it’s happening now, when I finally do have a place to live.  

Q. Isn’t this all a bit inconsiderate of her?

A. It would seem that way, yes.  I doubt she considers the issue.  It doesn’t seem like she gives it a second thought.  I’m pretty sure she assumes that I’m easy about it — if she even ever thinks about it at all.   I don’t think she thinks about what effect it might have on me to feel as though this home of mine that I was so lucky to get after all those years on the streets is her home and not mine.

Q. What do you mean?  How can it be her home and not yours?

A. Because I feel as though I am living in the type of apartment that she would have, all done up the way she would do up an apartment.  It’s not the way I would do up the apartment.  Her personality, her spirit, is all over this place.

Q. Is that a problem?

A. It wasn’t when we were still together.  When we were still together, my spirit was her spirit.  We were One.   But now that we’re not together, my spirit is my spirit.  And it’s a new spirit, which is not compatible with my old spirit.

A. So how can you solve this problem?

Q. By renting a U-Haul for about $50, boxing up all her things, putting the bookcase and the dresser in the U-Haul, and taking it all down to the basement of my church.   We’ll mark it for safekeeping, and it will be safer there than it is in my house.

Q. Why would it be safer in your church basement?

A. Because I occasionally allow homeless people to stay at my house, which is a risk.  One of them ripped me off.

Manliga och kvinnliga tecken, Vektorbild - Clipart.meQ. May I ask you something?

A. By all means.

Q. Do you love her?

Pause.

A. That depends upon what you mean by love.   

Q. Did she hurt you?

A. Yes.  She says she didn’t intend to, and I believe her.  But I wound up getting hurt, and I’d rather not be hurt if I don’t need to be.

Q. Do you think that you hurt her?

A. I can think of some things I have done that probably hurt her.  But I didn’t intend to hurt her either.   This is why I believe her, when she says she didn’t mean to hurt me.   Different people are hurt by different things.

Q. Are you saying that you and she are incompatible?

A. Yes!  And that’s the best way to frame it.

Q. Are you still hurt by her?

A. Only on a bad day — and only because all these remnants and reminders of her are strewn about my house.  If I get lonely, if I get depressed, I keep having to look at the remains of her spirit.  It can be painful. 

Q. Aren’t relationships usually painful?

A. I have no idea.  I’ve only been in one meaningful relationship.  Come to think of it, however, even the meaningless relationships that I’ve had eventually turned out to be painful.   

Q. Do you want to be in a relationship?

A. I don’t know.   I don’t think in terms of relationships.   It’s not in my nature to pursue them.   

Q. Do you prefer being alone?

A. That, I don’t know either.  I don’t have much to measure it against, other than the one relationship to which I refer.

Q. What about sex?

A. What about it?  It’s a nice thing to contemplate, but in reality, it’s unwieldy.  Not to mention, I space out.  I don’t focus well.  I focus better on other things.

Q. Like what?

ABlack Grand Piano Clip Art at Clker.com - vector clip art online, royalty free & public domain. Like playing the piano.

Q. But the piano is only an inanimate instrument, isn’t it?

A. I beg to differ.  The piano responds to me.   The piano reflects me.  I animate the piano with my will.  But making love is different than that.  To animate another person with my will would be nothing but a control issue, a manipulation.  I refuse to do that.  I am not God.

Q. Why am I getting the feeling you need professional help?

A. I’m already getting professional help.   I have a therapist, and I’m also involved in pastoral counseling.

Q. What does the therapist say?

A. He says she probably has Borderline Personality Disorder.

Q. But what does he say about you?

A. He says that I don’t like to address my mental health issues directly because I feel that they make a positive contribution to my Artistic efforts.  He says it’s more important for me to create beautiful Art than it is for me to work on developing a beautiful personality.

Q. Is that true?

A. Well, he’s not the first person to have said it.  It’s gotten me to thinking, but I will say that I honestly try to be respectful of others, and to treat all living beings with kindness and dignity.  

Q. What did the pastor say?

A. The pastor said that when she was here, everybody could tell how much happier I was.   How much mellower, and more at peace.   Before she came here, I was stressed and restless.  Since she has been gone, also I am stressed and restless.  But hey — it’s my nature.

Q. What else did he say?

A. That it could very well be that I am not meant to be alone, but that perhaps it is not she with whom I am meant to be..   In other words, the happiness and contentment came from there being a woman in my life.  She just wasn’t the right woman.

Q. But if she wasn’t the right woman, how could she have made you happy?

A. That, sir, is a very good question!

Q. Do you want another woman in your life?

A. Like I said earlier, I don’t know.

Q. Well then, what can you do to alleviate the depression?   

A. For a while, I smoked marijuana.

Q. Why did you stop?

A. Because it’s a drug.   The pain returns when I run out, and is worse than if I never had any to begin with.   Not to mention, I can’t afford it, and I have addictive tendencies around it.  

Q. What else can you do, then?

A. Like I said, I can rent a U-Haul next time I’m flushed, or maybe even get a friend with a truck to help me.  Then I can move all her things to the basement of my church, where they will be in safekeeping — like I said.  After that, I can replace all the items with parallel items that reflect my own spirit, and not hers.

Q. What is her spirit like?

A. Hippie.

Q. And yours?

A. Impoverished yuppie.

Q. But aren’t you an aging hippie?

A. I’m changing into an aging yuppie.

Q. Isn’t that an oxymoron?

A. Next question, please.

Q. Are you separating your spirit from hers?

A. What an awful thought!  I don’t think anyone should separate their spirit from anyone!  That’s like – Anti-Love.  We’re all connected on this planet.  We’re all One.   But my house is my house.  I was on the streets for a long time.  And after all those years, and finally landing a place of my own, I sure don’t want to be living in a house that is not the House of Andy, but the House of —

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 49

Q. What’s really bugging you this morning?

A. Way behind on my work.

Q. Is that all?

A. Lousy computer, slowing me down.

Q. Anything else?

A. Scattered, evasive mind-set.  Unwilling to confront harsh realities.  Impatient.  Resentful.  Objecting to this and that.   Generally freaked out.

Image result for pressed for timeQ. Why?

A. Overload.  Too much going on.

Q. What can you do to change this?

A. Simplify.  Eliminate unnecessary stressors.  Smooth out the rough edges.  Count the minutes, count the costs.

Related imageQ. And the costs are?

A. Exorbitant.

Q. How so?

A. You don’t want to know.

Q. May I then therefore be excused?

A. I’d prefer it, frankly.  Am under time pressure.  Time is money and money is time.   I have more important things to do.   Goodbye.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 46

Q. What’s really bugging you this morning?

A. Not much.  Not much at all.

Q. Anything bugging you just a little bit?

A. Well, if you must ask, I suppose there are a couple things.

Q. Like what?

A. We didn’t get a very good turnout at the second round of auditions last night.

Q. Why not?

A. Probably because we haven’t advertised very well.  This all came up rather suddenly.

Q. What else is bugging you?

A. Well, my dyslexia is very inconvenient.   I’m doing a very important task that involves two separate computers, and saving files in two separate ways on each computer.  It’s sort of like dyslexia upon dyslexia.  These kinds of tasks take me five times as long to accomplish as the normal human being even if only one dyslexic factor is involved.  Now it’s taking twenty-five times as long.  It can be discouraging.   But you know what’s bugging me the most?

Q. What?

A. The fact that I even am expected to discuss what’s bugging me this morning, rather than what I’m really happy about.

Q. What are you really happy about?

A. My daughter!!

The Questioner is silent.   

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The Death of Death

I wasn’t sure what to offer you for Easter Sunday, when a story popped into my head.  It was something that happened way back in the 70’s, when I was hanging out in an all-night restaurant.

A man entered.  He seemed to have a mental health condition.  He took a napkin and a pen, and drew the famous equation:E Equals Mc Squared Calculator | Komseq
“You know what that means?” he asked, smiling.

I looked up from my seventh cup of coffee.   “Energy equals matter times the speed of light squared.”

“Ha!” he said.  “He knows!  But that’s only half of it.  It actually is about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

“How do you figure that?” I asked.

“The only constant in the Universe, according to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, is the speed of light.  The only constant in corporeal life is death.   The speed of light squared is the speed of light times the speed of light.  Death squared is death times death.  In multiplication, the word “of” is often used as a multiplier.   Therefore, we are dealing with the death of death.

“Matter corresponds to the corporeal body.   So, matter, times the death of death, equals what?  Energy.  In other words, everlasting life.

“Are you a Christian?”

“No, I’m not,” I replied.

“You will be,” he said mysteriously, and walked out of the restaurant.

An interesting word of prophecy, as it were – for I eventually did become a Christian (though possibly not as a result of his bizarre analogy.)  I could tell you how I became a Christian, in the Spring of 1983, but that would be a theme for a much longer, larger post.

For today, I only want to say that I went running along a strange and merry trail, where no other runners were.   A lone rabbit eased up towards me, on the other side of the creek, and surpassed me at amazing velocity.

“Aha!” I proclaimed.  “There’s the Easter Bunny!”

He is risen! He is risen indeed.

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Gratitude List 1133

This one’s from about 6:20 in the evening last night (Sunday).

1. Wiped out from only 3 1/2 hrs sleep and sleep paralysis Friday night, I crashed out at around 5pm and woke up at 1am, a good 8 hours sleep. Was still wiped out & depressed, bt slept from 4 till 7am, and the extra three hours slept off the depression.  

2. Going to church seemed a no-brainer after that, whereas earlier I was reluctant.

3. Can’t help but notice I’m focusing much better on the Confession and the Sermon than earlier, before the meds.

4. The words in the Confession spoke to my heart.

5. I also really enjoyed Julie’s Bible Project, and gained from it. (My only gripe there is something in my own personality. I know what I’m doing wrong, because a previous employer cued me in on it. But I still do it. Well, at least I’m aware of it, and will have
the opportunity to try and stop it next time.)

6. Finally got a decent draft of the newsletter and succeeded in sending it out to everybody. Copied it to Darrell, Shaun, Melissa, Norman, Kathy and Bruce, just so they’ll see what’s in it. It’s a little long, but seems fairly decent compared to previous drafts, in terms of being relaxed and not overly arrogant or self-promotional.

7. A talented musician by the name of Leslie reblogged my post of me and Paul playing my “I Am the Blues” number, and now all his fans are groovin on it. Texted the link to Paul and Jens, the blues guitarist-harmonicizer.

8. Although after one week of incubation, nothing on the Elegy emerged fruitful,
after only one more week, it’s amazing how much has illuminated. I’m on Measure
29 now, successfully correcting the wonky errors in the four-part harmony, and it’s
coming out whole. I betcha I can get all the way to the end, ere long.

9. Once again, the Round Table has proved the ideal site for musical composition
and arrangements.

10. God is in control.

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Gratitude List 1125

My gratitude list from Sunday afternoon, after a nice long nap.

1. Napped for an hour and a half solidly between 1:30pm & 3pm.

2. Saw my Yamaha electronic piano first thing on awakening, and thought “it’s so nice to have this place of my own.”

3. Actually ate a banana this morning.

4. Am drinking orange juice now instead of coffee.

5. I’d been having a bit of difficulty getting along with this one person at the church, but after she came up and sat behind me in the pews and we started talking, I wound up sitting next to her.  Then I wondered why I had been having a hard time getting along with her.  It all seemed nice, normal, natural & no-big-deal.

6. Despite drowsiness, I got more out of the sermon than usual.  I think this new ADHD medication is helping me be a better listener.

7. Had a good talk with that one guy about that one thing that was bugging me.  He wasn’t passing judgment against me as a person; he was just a bit exasperated with the general situation in question.  Goes to show how we can’t always tell what someone’s thinking by a look on the face, and our own insecurities will often read too much into stuff.

8. Finished the second of the five new assignments with the paper.  I’m calling it “My Life Has Just Begun.”  Sent it to Alastair, telling her I’d rewrite the 1st one again, and call it “Bigger and Better than the Streets.” It feels good that the block has been removed and that I’m on a roll with the articles for the new column.

9. The more I think about it, the more the talk with my daughter last night was encouraging.

10. Really beautiful day today.  I think I’ll head down to the cafe and chillax.  Life is good.

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Gratitude List 1116

(1) I’m in good spirits this morning, and rested, after a lengthy period of anxiety and self-doubt.

(2) I’ll be turning 66 on Wednesday, and I have yet to have a serious physical ailment beyond a flu or a common cold.

(3) I’m at a new clinic where I have finally begun to receive effective treatment for my Severe ADHD and Dyslexia.

(4) Though I awoke discouraged, I found myself encouraged after a long talk with my good friend Danielle, wherein I was reminded of all the many positives in my present life.

(5) Just after Danielle and I got off the phone, I received a first-time call from Jennifer, the new behavioral health specialist at the clinic.   As a result of her influence and insight, I am uplifted.  I am now encouraged to focus on that which I am able to change; i.e., my own self, and not on those whom I am unable to change; i.e., most of my old friends and family members in the State of California.

(6) Alastair not only published two of my articles in the April issue of Street Spirit, but is giving me the opportunity to write regular monthly articles on a certain exciting theme, and also is willing to recommend my work to three major San Francisco Bay Area newspapers.

(7) I have found a publishing house in White Plains, Michigan willing to publish the anthology I am compiling of stories I’ve written about homelessness in America.

(8) Two weeks ago, I received a definite offer for a production of an unstaged concert-reading of Eden in Babylon at a local community theatre company.  The only reason I’ve not yet said “yes” is because a fully staged production is in the works at a much larger venue on the University level.   

(9) I have not met one person in this city who does not want to see Eden in Babylon produced here and elsewhere.   By contrast, there was not one person in the last city where I lived who cared about my musical at all.

(10) Three years ago I was in that city — and I was sleeping under a bridge.  I had been homeless and borderline-homeless in the San Francisco Bay Area for twelve years — and life was getting worse and worse.  Everybody I knew had given me up for gone.   Everybody I knew was just waiting to read my obituary, and I myself expected to die a miserable death in a California gutter.   Now, three years later, every prayer that I prayed to God in anger, yea, in outrage – is being answered – in spades.

Life will always have its ups and downs, and we are none of us perfect.   But the fact that I am not only alive and healthy, but also in the process of fulfilling my life’s dream, is little short of a miracle.  Glory to God – to the One True God — Jesus Christ the Same: Yesterday, Today, and Forever.

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Gratitude List 1074

1. Slept deeply for 6 1/2 hours solid, from 9:30 to 4am, without having to get up once to go to the bathroom. First good night’s sleep in almost a week. Hallelujah.

2. I remembered to leave the mouse in the backpack last night so as to resist the urge to run to the computer and issue vitriol, if perchance I were to wake up in a rage. That said, I didn’t wake up in a rage (just a fog).

3. Pretty sure the manic phase is over.

4. Considering the time frame in which the nice long sleep occurred, it’s highly likely I can get myself organized and have a pretty productive day.

5. I have some good friends and a good support group these days. Given the weirdness of my personality, I’m pretty happy that I even have any friends at all. And the parts of me that are off-putting can also be put to use, because I’m just weird enough that people have a way of not wanting to approach me, which helps me to get more work done than would be the case if I were this really charismatic, attractive, appealing presence that everybody was drawn toward.

6. Somebody sent $25.

7. Looks like I have a nice email reply from Lynne. Skimming it, I see she agrees with my take on Part Two of Firefly Magic. She also says she’s been corresponding with Lauren lately, which is unusual and somewhat intriguing. I’ll look forward to digesting her words, as they tend to be brilliant, thought-provoking, and encouraging.

8. Lauren Sapala agreed to schedule a Skype call with me to discuss Firefly Magic and money-making implications in the modern world.

9. During the manic phase, it seems that my extraverted function was enhanced (to put it diplomatically). I contacted a number of people with whom I’ve not been in touch in quite some time, including Pastors C. & S. from the Berkeley realm, and my old friend Jean Anne from Stockton.  While this may have been a dubious choice, I couldn’t help but notice that the responses were generally very warm, and that every one of these people commented on how much better I sounded. If I sounded “better” during a manic phase when I was often angry and freaking out, how much better will I sound as I return to normalcy? There is indeed a sense of progress here.

10. Life holds promise. I doubt I’ll go hungry today. God is Good.

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Homeless in Mayfield: Part One

One of the great buried treasures I’ve been able to dig up since having lived indoors these past two and a half years is a folder full of pasted timeline posts preserved from a long-deleted Facebook.  All of them display the cavalier attitude of a homeless Artist given to brutal sarcasm as a coping mechanism.  

I just finished reading three consecutive entries about harsh treatment by the local officers of the peace, shortly after I had vacated the Berkeley homeless scene in favor of a low crime district in an all White, sheltered upper-crust community.  The name of the city is not actually Mayfield — but if you ever watched “Leave it to Beaver,” you’ll get my drift.

Well — I’ve humbled my head full of hubris just enough to figure out where the food is on Friday. As a result, I’ll be attending my first feed since having found myself home-free in this fine town of wealth and promise (whose name is being with-held until further notice.) It will be taking place at 6:30, and I’m looking forward to what fashion of food will be fed at the commons to the commoners.

Moreover, in the passage of time, I’ve realized that the tone of desperation in my universal Facebook appeal for “shelter with dignity” could conceivably have been off-putting. It’s well-known that I am not permitted into friends’ and family’s homes during the holiday season because I have a reputation of being “manic.” No one wants their walls bounced off by a belligerent birdbrain of such ill repute. And of course, the penalty for such a hyper-active mind is — you guessed it: homelessness.

AFree Homelessness Cliparts, Download Free Clip Art, Free Clip Art on Clipart Libraryll sarcasm aside, I recognize that in the absence of mariijuana, my overall energy level is off the charts. Therefore I amend my earlier proposal. Just kick down the good weed, guys. Who cares about “vibrancy?” It only got me to complete a rough draft of a long-desired libretto to a musical that, unlike the last two I wrote (and promptly shelved), I actually believe in for once. No doubt I should have stopped smoking pot — among other things — much earlier in life. My apologies for such reprobate tardiness.

Now – to figure out where and how to sleep tonight, being as a certain red-hot hot-shot hog of a cop saw fit to do a sweep of my only Spot thus far evoked, as he poked his blaring brights my way, thus scaring the daylights out of the would-be dirt-bag he had wished would have been me. 

So bright was that light at its closest, grossest height – that long into night I could still scarcely see. There but for God’s grace goes Me.

© A. Pope 2014

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Tuesday Tuneup 33

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of peace.

Q. Are you at war?

A. Yes.

Q. With whom?

A. With my enemies, of course.

Q. And who are your enemies?

A. Good question.  I tend to think that there are two of them — two young rapscallions from the hood, deluded young gentlemen who are often ringing my doorbell at odd hours of the night, for lengthy periods of time, and only to request annoying favors of me.

Q. These two young rapscallions — are they truly your ememies?

A. Probably not.   My enemies are probably more internal than external.  

internal enemyQ. What do you mean by that?

A. Well you know, I have all these inner blocks or demons that try to prevent me from staying the course, from keeping to what I’m about, and all that.

Q. But if a guy rings your doorbell at three in the morning, and keeps ringing and knocking until you finally give up and go answer it, and you can’t get back to sleep, how is that your fault in any way?

A. You know something, you’re right.  Almost any O.G. would not be able to get to sleep after something like that!

Q. So why are you being such a pushover?

A. That’s the internal enemy I’m talking about.  I’m a pushover.  The Kid knows that once a month, I’m going to be available to walk down to the nearest ATM and get him money for his chewing tobacco.   So what I’ve got to do is just say NO and say it firmly.  

Q. Why haven’t you done this already?

A. He keeps catching me off guard.  Both of them do — the other one’s not so flagrantly nefarious – but he’s still got his angle.  And his angle involves me, because—

Q. Because?

A. Because I’m a pushover.  And worse yet, I just told the whole world about it.  Pretty soon, every rambunctious rapscallion in town will be knocking on my door.  On MY door!  On the lockable, locked door that I EARNED – after putting in twelve hard years on the streets, where there was no door to be locked, or even to offer the slightest separation from me and all the evils of the night.  What a fool I am to willfully descreate and violate the sanctity of my sanctuary!   Damn, I’m pissed.

Q. And now?

A. And now what?  I just have to make the internal change, and enforce it, and be firm about it.  It’s like — a life lesson.  It’s something I’m supposed to learn here, while I’m on this Earth, and take it to the next stage of experience, when I’m not.

Q. You think so?

A. Sounds good to me.   Not knowing how to stand up for myself and say NO to people landed me in a gutter for over ten years.  I daresay I shan’t make the same mistake twice.

The Questioner is Silent.

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Gratitude List 960

(1) Somehow the house felt like a furnace this morning, and it sure felt good to get out of the house and get a blast of nice cold fresh Winter air.  Thank God for the open air.  Just because I have a decent place to live after living outdoors for all those years doesn’t mean I have to stay inside all the time.

(2) That said, I still thank God that for the past two years, I have lived indoors and have generally been getting a good night’s sleep.  I was practically sleeping with one eye open for the better part of twelve years down there.

(3) I was able to get my thyroid medication refilled today and also a scrip to address my bipolar affective condition.  This will be the first time I’ve addressed that condition through medication for approximately a year and a half.  Though I am leery of the medical-pharmaceutical paradigm in general, sometimes you just gotta take care of your head.  Life’s too short, if you know what I mean.   

(4) A meeting with an important person on Friday was auspicious.

(5) When I find myself losing sleep over the precarious position of a close family member, it helps to remember that I have also been in that same precarious position.  God helped me see my way free of the dangers of the time, and He will help her too.

(6) Nice talk with my good friend Nick last night, and another this morning.  He always has a way of helping me put things into perspective.

(7) An unexpected $75 donation took place over night, and should be able to help me defray certain upcoming medical costs.

(8) It is a beautiful, bright, brisk Winter day in the city of my birth.

(9) Returning to my birth city after 63 years was the most positive thing I could ever have done for myself.  I knew nothing at all about this town when I stepped off of that bus, let alone that I would have a new job and an apartment within days.   By now it almost appears as though this town was custom-designed for me since the day I was born.  Of all the positive possibilities that loom ahead of me, the most promising are those that are right here where I stand.

(10) In the words of Oscar Hammerstein II:

You’ve got to have a dream!
If you don’t have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?

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Tuesday Tuneup Thirty

Q. Where would you like to be?

A.  In California.

california
California

Q. Why on earth would you ever want to be in a place like California?

A. I get tired of not being allowed to have a problem.

Q. What’s that supposed to mean?

A. My experience with the State of California, having lived in a number of different cities there, is that in California, I was permitted to have a problem.

Q. What do you mean, “permitted to have a problem?”

A. Down there it was okay for me to have a problem.

Q. And it’s not okay up here to have a problem?

A. Not really.  Nobody seems to have any problems up here.  Or, if they do, they certainly don’t show them.  Me?  I’ve got problems.  I’ve got issues.  And when they arise, they stick out like a sore thumb.

Q. So you’re saying you don’t feel like you fit in up here?

A. Not when I have this many problems, no.  Down in California, it seems like everybody’s got problems.  So I blend right in.

Q. But haven’t you solved a lot of your problems since you’ve been up here?

A. Some of them, yes.  I’m paying $450 for a one bedroom apartment that would have been $1800 down there, at least in the Bay Area.  I’m not on the streets anymore.  I’ve got a decent place to live, and privacy.   And being around happy people has boosted my morale.  Just today, the Personnel Director at my church said twice that he believes I was meant to be here.  That God had something to do with it.  And it was encouraging, but still — I kinda feel like I’m just about the unhappiest one in the bunch.

Q. Why do I find that hard to believe?

A. Probably because I have a reputation of being a happy-go-lucky guy who rises with the song of the lark and wants very little out of life except to write his writings, speak his speakings, and compose his composings in peace.

Q. And are you not precisely what your reputation suggests?

A. Usually I am.  But right now I’m not.   Not the past three months anyway.  Too many problems.

Q. Would going back to California solve these problems?

A. Of course not.  But it would put me in a place where everybody else had at least as many problems as I do.  I wouldn’t feel so alone.

Q. Could it possibly be that you are only having a bad day?

A. Maybe.  And just maybe it’s in a financial area.  Now I don’t personally mind being poor or encountering setbacks.  It’s a lot better to be poor, and to live inside and have food in the cupboard, than it is to be poor and have to live on the streets.  But what happens is that when setbacks are encountered, it aggravates my class issues.  

Q. Class issues?

A. Yes.  All the things that I get paid by people like Classism Exposed to write about.  And while these events may indeed bolster my writing eventually, I tend to have to wade through a wad of resentment against “rich people” in the meantime.

Q. You have resentment against rich people?

A. Well, I try not to.   And I eventually get over it.  But I gotta just tell you, some of these rich people — I don’t care about their money.  It’s the lectures.  They lecture me about things they’ve never been through and can’t possibly understand.  And they expect me to kiss their asses every time they do me the slightest favor, even though it’s totally no skin off their backs.  And they, they —

Q. They what, Andy?  And who are they?   Isn’t this supposed to be about you, and not about an abstract group of invisible “rich people” who are always lecturing you expecting you to kiss their asses?

A. Three questions at once?   Really, Questioner!  You seem almost as uptight as I am.

Q. Then why don’t we both slow down?

A. Sounds like a plan.   I’ll answer the first question.   They — whoever they are — expect me to be able to do the things that they can do.  This is because they, unlike me, either have either the money to do them, or the mental health to do them, or both.

Q. And who are they?

A. Just a bunch of phantoms from my past whom I never see anymore, never talk to, and yet still fly around like bats in my brain.

Q. Isn’t this supposed to be about you and not about them?

A. Yes, but I am just too upset right now.

Q. Why?

A. Financial.  It’s the end of the month.  I’m on a fixed income.   A couple unexpected charges came in, and it threw me into a state of insecurity.   When I was feeling kinda low about it, I made the mistake of mentioning it to somebody.  I went into some detail, and they only said: “that’s life!”  In California, they would have commiserated.   They would have all shared stories about similar insecurities, and how frustrated they all were.  And then, my depression would have been validated — not dismissed.

Q. But rather than seek validation for your depression, why not accept that this is a fact of life like the happy people do?

A. Well, that’s where my mental health comes in.  I’ve got some kind of problem that makes me over-react to stuff like this.  They say — bipolar.  I don’t know.  I get tired of it all.  Which is also a part of my mental health problem.

Q. Come on now — is it really your mental health?   Are you really that crazy?

A. No – I don’t like to think so anyway.  I mean, what are you driving at?

Q. Do you really want to sacrifice the things you do well in order to correct the things you do poorly?

A. Don’t make me laugh!  Have you listened to my piano playing lately?  There’s rage written all over it!  If I treated a human being the way I treat that piano, I’d be in jail for Assault and Battery.

Q. So these psych meds will make your music more placid?  Less threatening?

A. I wasn’t going to put it that way!

Q. Are you ready to play hard ball?

A. Probably not.   Do I have a choice in the matter?

Q. How many laptops were stolen from you in California during the last three years you lived there?

A. Five.  Four in Berkeley, and one in Oakland.

Q. How many laptops have been stolen from you in the past 2 1/2 years you have lived here?

A. Zero.

Q. How many cell phones and headphones were stolen from you in California?

A. Too many to count.

Beautiful Fall colors in Boise Idaho.  Beautiful Fall colors in Boise Idaho.
Idaho

Q. Has anything at all been stolen from you in Idaho?

A. No.  Not one thing.

Q. How many jobs did you get the last three years you were in California?

A. Zero.

Q. How many jobs have you had since you’ve been up here?

A. Two.

Q. When was the last time you signed a one year lease on an apartment in California?

A. Gosh, I don’t know.  Probably in the 70’s in college, when my dad cosigned.

Q. How many one year leases have you signed on apartments in Idaho?

A. Two.  Go on.

Q. How many people called you “crazy” when you were in California?

A. Just about everyone I know.  Close friends even.  I was like — a curiosity piece to them.  Always the odd man out, the weirdo.

Q. How many people have called you “crazy” in North Idaho?

A. Zero.  Go on.

Q. How many years were you out on the streets in California?

A. You know the answer to that.  Twelve years, barring scattered rentals here and there that never worked out.

Q. How many days have you spent on the streets since you’ve been in Idaho?

A. Zero.  Please continue.

Q. How many people whom you know from California think that you experienced a total psychic change on a 48-hour bus trip to Idaho?

A. Quite a few.  If one more Californian tells me that I “found God” on that bus trip, I think he’s going to find a right cross in his mug that came straight from the devil.  Go on.

Q. How many people in Idaho believe that you experienced a total psychic change on a 48 hour bus trip?

A. Zero.  Of course, they have no idea what I was like before the 48-hour bus trip.  But I can guarantee you that I did not change one bit during those 48 hours.

Q. How many drivers have flipped you off in Idaho?

A. Zero.

Q. How many grown men and women have you encountered in Idaho who blame all their problems on their parents?

A. Zero.

Q. Have you met anyone in Idaho who refuses to call their mother on Mother’s Day?

A. Not yet.  Go on.

Q. How many people accepted you for who you are in the State of California?

A. Not too many!  They were always trying to change me into something I was not.

Q. Are you accepted for who you are here in Idaho?

A. Totally.  Nobody tries to change anybody up here.  It’s refreshing.

Q. When your ex-wife came back to you after thirty years, what was the overall reaction among people whom you know here in Idaho?

A. People were thrilled!   They encouraged us.  They thought what we were doing was fantastic – we got nothing but positive from every single person here.

Q. And how did people in California react?

A. They thought I was crazy, as usual.  If they said anything at all, it was something along the lines of: “I’m gonna stay out of that one!”

Q. Are you ready for the Big One?

A. There’s a bigger one than that?  You gotta be kidding.

Q. How many people complimented you on your typing speed in California?

A. Not many.

Q. How many people in California told you that you were typing too loud?

A. Innumerable.  It happened three times a week.  Sometimes three times a day.

Q. How many people in Idaho have told you that you were typing too loud?

A. Zero.

Q. How many people have complimented you on your typing speed here in Idaho?

A. Shucks, I don’t know.  Twenty or thirty maybe.

Q. And what does all this say?

A. It says that, due to a variety of factors, some of them cultural, some of them socio-economic, people in Idaho seem to have a tendency to emphasize the positive.  People in California, unbeknownst to them, appear to have a tendency to emphasize the negative.

Q. Which do you prefer?

A. The positive, of course.

Q. Then why don’t you start emphasizing it?

A. That, sir, is the $64,000 question.

Q. May I be excused, then?

A. Not so fast, buddy.  You gotta feel my sarcasm first.  I’ve got issues.  And they’re a hell of a lot deeper than financial.  I’m as positive right now as I can possibly be, or as I even should be, in the eyes of an all-knowing God.

Q. Do tell – what are these deeper issues?

A. They’re none of your damned business.  Get outta here.

The Questioner is silent. 

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Tuesday Tuneup 29

just-say-no-to-nike-v-1200x630Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater fortitude.

Q. And what is fortitude?

A. Something like courage, but not quite.

Q. What’s the difference?

A. “Fortitude” implies more of a “just do it” approach.  That is, even if one lacks courage in general.  Just do it anyway, even when scared.  “Saying no” is a good example.  I need “fortitude” (not courage) to say “no.”  That’s what I think the difference is, anyway.

Q. Does this apply to something in your life today?

A. Lots of things.

Q. How so?

A. I burn out a lot.  If I don’t feel like doing something, I usually don’t do it.

Q. Then how does it ever get done?

A. Because I know that later on, I probably will feel like doing it.  So I wait till that happens, and in the meantime I do what I do feel like doing — knowing that I probably won’t feel like doing it later.

Q. Does that apply to everything?

A. No.  It doesn’t apply to things that I never feel like doing.

Q. What do you never feel like doing?

A. Washing the dishes.  I never feel like washing the dishes.

Q. And the dishes have piled up?

A. “Piled up” is an understatement.   

Q. How did you allow this to happen?

A. Well – it’s a bit on the personal side, but I guess the answer would be: “When have I not allowed it to happen?”  I’m just lousy at washing dishes.  They were clean for a while when there was someone here helping me with that kind of thing.  But that person isn’t here right now.  And anyway, dishes are just an example.

Q. What’s another example?

A. Saying “no” in general.  Keeping a couple people from knocking on my door at any hour.  And they don’t just knock.  They ring the bell.  Then they wait, and then ring it five times.  Then they wait, and start pounding on the door.  Then I finally realize it’s never going to end.  So I get up, even from being fast asleep, and explain that I’m sleeping and could they please come back another time.

Q. Where did you meet these guys?

A. At the Recovery Center.

Q. And you gave them your address?

A. Well yeah – we had the one guy over for dinner a couple times, when there was still two of us here.  It didn’t seem a big deal at the time.

Q. Then why does it seem a big deal now?

A. Other than that I’m being woke up in the middle of the night a lot?  That’s not a big deal?

Q. Isn’t there a bigger deal?

A. Well yeah – at the root of it, there is.  The bigger deal is I never just flat out tell these guys that I’d rather they don’t come over at all.  

Q. Why not?

A.  I don’t know.  I feel sorry for the one guy.  He’s been out in the cold a couple times.  Less sorry now, though, because I think he stole from me, and I heard he’s in jail right now.   Didn’t figure him for the “type,” but I noticed something was off last time.  Probably they switched his meds or something.   

Q. What about the other guy?

A.  I keep coming up with a use for him.  He’s a computer whiz, and he helped me get the right adapter so I could use my ThinkPad as a desktop now that it’s screen is cracked.

Q. Your laptop screen is cracked?

A. Yeah.  I had to plug it into an external monitor and start working from home.

Q. How did this happen?

A. I have no idea.  All I know is that it happens all too often.   And now I’m tempted to go over to the guy’s place with my old Dell, because I can’t get it to start up.  

Q.  But didn’t you start it up this morning?   Didn’t I read that on your gratitude list?

A. Yes, you did. But it only started up that one time.  Every other time I’ve tried it gets into a weird loop telling me it needs to restart, then I restart, and it tells me it needs to restart.  And so on.  

Q. Do you ever feel like you’re having more than your fair share of technical problems?

A. What do you mean?  New cell phone gets damaged due to water damage.  Second new cell phone gets cut off because they think I’m supposed to have the number of the old cell phone.  PayPal account gets locked for “suspicious activity” when I try to change my phone number.  Trying to send money from my PayPal somehow takes the money out of my bank account instead of my PayPal balance (Lord knows why) and now my bank account is overdrawn, plus I never succeeded in sending the money.   It’s still just sitting there in my PayPal account.  But when I try to transfer it to my bank I get a message telling me that they’re “not sure it’s me.”  I called them, and apparently when a person changes their phone number, it is regarded as “suspicious activity.”

Q. Anything else?

A. Thanks for asking.  So I wake up yesterday morning to a broken laptop screen.  And finally my back-up computer refuses to start up.  Well fine.  I’ll just work at home even though I’m totally paranoid these Kids are going to start pounding on the door any minute now.

A. Is that all?

Q. Probably not.  I mean — I’m an Artist.  I live for these moments of ecstasy I get when my work is going well.  I don’t know how to make money.  I don’t know how to deal with all this technical stuff.  They should only lay technical difficulties on people who can afford to deal with them.

Q. When did your life become so erratic?

A. One guess.

The Questioner is silent.

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Statement of Artistic Neurosis

I’m sorry to have to do this to you guys, but if I don’t submit my statement of artistic neurosis very soon, the neurosis is likely to increase.

My neurosis is most manifested in two recent posts, one which I have deleted, and one which I am about to delete.   The one which I have deleted is Tuesday Tuneup 28.   I will probably compose a shorter and less wild tuneup soon, and post it in its place.   

Secondly, we have the issue of Brian’s Song.  This one I won’t delete until I’ve played it to my satisfaction.   Then I’ll replace it on the same link.  (By the way, since this will probably take me forever, you might as well continue to enjoy it, if you happened to like it the first time.)   To be honest, I was ready to delete it about twenty minutes after the first time I listened to it.  But then, when I went to remove the post, I found that three people had already commented on how much they liked it.  I couldn’t bare to delete it after that, because people had liked it, even though I had not.

There’s probably a psychological term for that form of people-pleasing.  In a lay person’s terms, I would say it relates to my having been brought up as an entertainer.  Please allow me to elaborate.

These days, we hear a lot about people who have been traumatized in early childhood, due to abuse or neglect on the part of parents or other older “role models” in their lives.  My childhood contained nothing of the sort.

Bob Hope
Bob Hope

When I was five years old, my family was calling me the “Bob Hope of the future” due to my propensity to entertain them with original jokes that seemed a bit out of character for a five year old.  

When I was eight years old, I basically kicked the school music teacher, Mrs. Bechmire, off of the piano bench and began to accompany the elementary school choir.

By the time I was about ten, it was not uncommon for news cameras to show up wherever I happened to be playing the piano, as people shouted out requests.

Play Hello Dolly!

I gladly indulged their requests, after which I would tell a few jokes, soak in the applause and the laughter, and go about my merry way.   While other children were being abused and neglected, I was being belauded and praised.   Only one person did not join in that praise: my dad.

While everyone was encouraging me to pursue a career in the Performing Arts, my dad (whom I idolized) was expressing extreme disappointment that his firstborn son was not following in his footsteps.

However, I could not follow in his footsteps, and for two very good reasons:

(1) I wasn’t genetically wired to be good at things like carpentry, electronics, and auto mechanics.   My DNA was heading me in a very different direction, at a very early age.

(2) Whenever he tried to teach me these things, I couldn’t focus or understand what he was saying.   Looking back, there are probably two reasons why this is true:

(a) I had severe, untreated ADHD.

(b) I was terrified of my father’s disappointment.   I wanted terribly to please him, and yet he was the one person whom I could not please.

So, while Dad tried to mold me into a junior form of his own self, I cowered in fear of the words that were soon to come:

“Andy, I’m afraid you can’t do anything right!”   

My father was a Jack of All Trades.   As such, he also happened to be a very fine piano player.  But for some reason, the piano was the one thing he did not try to teach me.  I watched him play piano after dinner between the ages of 5 and 7, and told him repeatedly:

“I see what you’re doing!  I’ve figured it all out!”

At that, Dad would chuckle.  “You can’t learn how to play a piano just by watching somebody play!”

But lo and behold, when I was seven years old, I stepped out of the bathtub one day (where I had been practicing “Old McDonald” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on my imaginary bathtub keyboard.)   Sitting down confidently at the piano, I played the two children’s songs on the piano, never having a played a piano before.  (With both hands, too!)  My mom just about dropped a plate of spaghetti on the floor, and rushed me to the nearest piano teacher.   

ragtime piano player
The Type of Piano Player that Dad Was

It was me against Dad from then on.   He tried to mold me into the type of piano player that he was.   But it didn’t work.  I became the type of piano player whom I am.   

So that’s my story in a nutshell.  I couldn’t please my Dad, so I went out of my way to please everybody else.  And how better to please them — than to entertain them.  And if anybody can apprise me as to the proper psychological term for this kind of disorder or dynamic, please fill me in.   Only one caveat — anybody saying Narcissistic Personality Disorder may expect a pie in their face.

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Gratitude List 910

1. Norman. Really grateful for my pastor and supportive friend.

2. My apartment. It’s in a nice secluded location; it’s quiet; the neighbors are quiet and unintrusive; it’s spacious and well-furnished; and it gives me personal space, privacy, and solitude — much appreciated at this time in my life.

3. A friend offered me $50 to help me through the rest of the month.

4. The haircut place, and Carmen being such a nice person and a good barber. Glad I got a decent haircut and beard trim yesterday.

5. The city in general. It’s a very positive and accepting community, and very supportive of the Arts.

6. My church. It really is a nice church. People are intelligent, and educated for the most part, and kind.

7. The One World Cafe. It’s really a nice place to work on my vocal score. A nice atmosphere with a nice staff and crew, and a pleasant group of regular customers, mostly students and professors from the University.

8. Danielle, who has been such a great and faithful friend over so many years.

9. The way that everybody here at the Recovery Center likes my music, and how they’re even going to pipe the piano pieces from my youtube channel over the speakers at the Fairgrounds when we have our picnic on Saturday. The way that this directly contrasts how everybody at the fellowship in the Bay Area kept telling me that my music was my biggest problem.

10. Nobody is mad at me these days. I’m not perceived to be in any way weird or different or wrong. It’s just such a great feeling. They kept telling me I was “crazy” for so long, it got to me. I’m not crazy; I’m just different. And that’s okay. Ir’s better to be me than whatever it is they all seemed to think I was supposed to be. And what’s great right now, is that whoever I am is all right. It’s so wonderful to be respected, to be treated with courtesy — as an equal, and not like some sort of lesser being, leper, or pariah.

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Tuesday Tuneup 23

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a safe place.

Q. Is there something about your present place that is not safe?

A. What kind of a dumb question is that?  Of course there is!  Why else would I wish I were in safer place?

Q. Could you be a bit more specific, please?

A. What do you mean?

Q. What is it exactly about your present place that is unsafe?

A. That’s a good question.  Let me think about this for a while.

Pause.

A. Well, it’s like this.  I can’t exactly say that I’m in an unsafe place, at least not with respect to many of the other places where I’ve been.  When I slept on a pile of cardboard in a high-crime district, I was considerably more unsafe.   Yet at the same time, if I took care of myself, and I did the right things, I felt that God protected me.

Q. And if you did not take care of yourself, and did not do the right things?

A. I sometimes got burned.  He protected me insofar as that He spared me my life, and saw to it that I didn’t suffer as much bodily harm or psychological damage as a lot of the people around me.   But I was hit enough — and hurt enough, hard enough — to get the message.

Q. That message being?

A. All over the Book of Proverbs — for starts.   But I’m afraid we’ve drifted from the point.

Q. And what’s the point?

A. The point is that, even though I’m living in a nice one-bedroom apartment in a secluded area with good neighbors, lots of protection, and a couple of locks on my door, there’s something about the place I’m at that isn’t safe.  It’s not my physical spot that is my biggest concern.  It’s my mental spot — where my head is at.

Q. And where’s your head at?

A. All over the map, man.  I still dwell on a lot of the situations from my past, people from my past — from my homelessness.  The people who tried to help me, even though they didn’t quite really get what my problem was, and so they couldn’t really help.  And not only them, but the people who tried to hurt me, and who sometimes succeeded.  And not only them, but — 

Q. But whom?

A. My friends.  The people I miss.  The people who were in the same boat as I was.  People who, for one reason or another, had lost their homes.   We bonded together.  We prayed together.  We watched each other’s backs.   We were there for each other, whenever somebody was down, or hassled, or messed with in some way.  It was powerful.  And that bonding, that love — I miss it.

Q. But isn’t there love in your life today?

A. Lots of it!  Don’t get me wrong.  But it’s a different kind of love.

Q. What makes it different?

A. Context.  

Q. What do you mean?

A. See, I don’t have the same issues here.  And the people I hang with, they don’t have the kinds of issues I had back then.  Most of them never have.   So when we share our love with each other, it’s on an entirely different basis.

Q. Is that a bad thing?

A. Not at all.  It’s just that — I sometimes feel alone.  As though my own specific experience, the particularly powerful progression of my life that has shaped me, is too weird for anybody to relate to.   So while I may not be surrounded by people who blatantly want to hurt me, the ones who want to help me don’t quite know how to help.  Or maybe I don’t let them help.  I mean, I gotta admit, my pastor helps.  My lady friend, she helps — though it’s not her job, and I sometimes feel guilty.  I should be helping her, supporting her.  But I’m not.   I’m still on disability, and all screwed up in the head.  So I turn to the therapists, to the doctors, to the system.  And I find that — 

Q. That what?

A. They totally don’t help.  It happened just this morning even.  I go to the therapist, and I think I’m advocating for myself, and I’m finding once again that I really like the guy, and I’m thinking it’s all good — and then, at the end of the session, it all comes down to the same old thing.  That same old useless, worthless band-aid that can never really stop what’s bleeding inside.

Q. What same old useless, worthless band-aid?

A. Lithium. 

Q. Lithium?

A. You heard me.  No matter what I do and where I go, it all comes down to lithium.

Q. Why do they keep wanting to put you on lithium?

mental abuse quoteA. Because they’re boxing me into a box and not listening to my real issues.  They think they know something more about me than I know about myself, because of their credentials and alleged expertise in their field.  But how can they know me, if they’re not listening?   They think that just because it’s well-known that those of us who are quote-unquote “bipolar” don’t like to take our medication, it means that I’m in denial, and I’ve got to take their medications.  What a bunch of malarky.   They might as well have told me that just because people are bipolar don’t like to walk across a pile of hot coals, then I’m in denial, and so I better walk across a pile of hot coals.   Think about it!  Do they think I’m stupid?

Q. I son’t know — do they?

A. Probably not.  But I sure think they’re stupid, if they think that after all I’ve been through, I’m going to turn around and start believing anybody who wears a badge.  And I won’t!  Because I already know what’s going to happen   That lithium won’t have anything to do with clearing out all of the garbage that is related to years of living on the streets.  Which of course is the part they never listen to — the main part.  The important part.  And you know what else it will do?

Q. What?

A. It will destroy all the things that are good about me.  The things that I waited years to be able to get inside and do –  and that now I’m finally doing — because I finally got myself inside. 

Q. What things?  What things are good about you?

A. Dude!  My piano playing!  My speaking!  My writing!  My playwriting!  My songwriting!  All of that good stuff that I so delight in finally being able to do will be trashed and shot the hell if I take their lithium — just like it’s been trashed whenever I’ve taken any other psychiatric drug that those bastards have never ceased to cram down my throat!   I lost a $50.000 annnual income in 2004 because of a psych med!  And do those money-guzzling mainstream, medical monsters give a damn?  Do they care?  Do they care about Andy??  Do they???

Pause.

Q. Do I detect a note of resentment?

A. Listen, I’m sorry I got so pissed off.  But now you understand how hard it is to keep going back to that damn clinic and trying to advocate myself.  When they throw their crap back at me, I explode.  I hate those medical bastards so much for what they did to me all my life – you don’t even know how much I hate them.  All of them.

Q. But aren’t you — stigmatizing them?   Lumping them into a box?   Much as you yourself dislike being pigeonholed, can’t you find it somewhere inside yourself to be more open to them?  To forgive them?  To give them another chance?

A. There’s a big difference between forgiving them and just swallowing any damn pill they stuff down my esophagus.

Q. Then what are we to do about it?  Shall we adjourn until next Tuesday, and give you a chance to get your bearings?

A. Sounds like a plan.  I’ll need about a week to cool down.

Q. May I be excused now?

A. You may.   Thank you for your time.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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Statement to the World

I’m finally going to try to adhere to my earlier stated concept.   I’m going to try to make sure that six posts of six different natures are each posted here at 7:30am PST, Monday thru Friday, with Saturday off.  

Why am I going to try and do this?  It’s not necessarily for the sake of creating a decent, appealing blog here.  That’s part of it.  But it’s a bit deeper than that.

People who have been diagnosed with mental health conditions are often regarded as unstable, incompetent, or insane.   It is generally held that we are flaky, unpredictable, and unreliable.  We can’t hold down jobs, and people can’t tell which way we’re going next, or where we are going to land — if we are going to land.   So, naturally, I would like to do my best to dispel that stigma.

So far, however, I can’t help but feel that all I am doing is proving them right.  My Tuesday Tuneup often shows up on Wednesday — if not Thursday, or even Monday.  There is no consistency whatsoever as to the times that any of the posts show up.   I don’t always take Saturdays off, and in fact the Friday piano video often gets postponed till Saturday or later.  Frequently, I disappear for a few days (while probably in a depressed funk), and then try to “make up for lost time” by, for example, posting the Wednesday speech, the Thursday “blog of substance,” and maybe even the Friday piano video all on the same day, which might even be Sunday.

The point is, no consistency.

How can I possibly dispel the notion that those of us who have diagnosed mental health conditions are unstable, inconsistent flakes if I don’t get it together and bring some order to the table?

Well, obviously, I can’t.   But that doesn’t mean I might not be — er – biting off more than I can chew.  Still, I’m going to give it the ol’ college try, one more time.   You will see this post tomorrow at 7:30am PST, rain or shine.   The mail must go through, and the show must go on.

idiotsavant-tshirt
Severe ADHD, Dyslexia, Bipolar One Hypomanic Disorder, PTSD & Blah Blah blah.

Sigh.

There’s even more to it than this.

People with mental health conditions are often very talented, vibrant people when given their chance to shine.   To meet me in real life, I might not be the most charismatic fellow on the face of the planet, but I do have some specific talents in certain key areas.  My writing isn’t all that bad, for one thing.  It’s good enough to have been published this past year, anyway, for the first time in my life.   You can’t say I’m a bad piano player, and I’m told I’m a pretty good speaker — although admittedly, it’s a lot easier to make a speech in my dining room using the voice recorder app on my lady friend’s smartphone than it would be to stand behind a podium and boldly address the multitudes.

However, somebody whom I respected once told me this:

“You act as though all these talents of yours make up for all your bad qualities.”

While that’s certainly debatable (if not hurtful), I can see where she was coming from.  The particular skills of expertise do not make up for bad qualities in other areas.  I’ve even said it myself, in so many words.   We live in a society that values competence, and devalues moral integrity.  And I hate to say it, but I’m pretty sure the person who said that to me felt that I was morally lax.

But there’s another facet to all of this.   While skillful expertise cannot compensate for moral turpitude, it can compensate for the lack of expertise in other areas.   I am horribly incompetent when it comes to most jobs, because my mind is largely incapable of panoramic focus.  I can only focus myopically.  If there is more than one thing I need to keep my mind on for any significant period of time, my mind will fail me.  I will screw up.  It will be noticeable and frustrating to my coworkers, and I like-as-not will be fired.

They call this Severe ADHD and Dyslexia.  Other aspects of my personality have been dubbed Bipolar One and Hypomanic.   Throw in a little PTSD, and the O.G.’s pretty much a mess.

Given all that, to cut to the quick, why should I not be focusing on the things that I can do?  I’ve spent most of my life trying to excel at things at which I suck, just because they happen to be the things that make money in this world.  But now I’m an Old Guy, and I’m on Social Security, and why not just take some time to show the world what I’m really made of?

In fact, if I don’t do so, I would feel like I’m shirking a calling of mine.   Yes, a calling – of which this post is a part.  

My disability landed me in a gutter for damn near twelve years, where none of these special gifts I have to offer were given the chance to shine.   While my ascent from that gutter to a decent apartment in another part of the world was rapid, sudden, unanticipated, and miraculous, that ascent would be meaningless if I didn’t do something with it.  For I am no less disabled, no less “incompetent,” than I was when I was sleeping under a bridge.   

The difference is not in my personality.  The difference is that I have been granted favorable circumstances in life, in such a form that the gifts with which I hope to bless you actually are given a chance to shine.

And that alone is the essence of my Statement to the World.  Not every homeless person is a worthless, low-life scum bag.  In fact, none of them are — because no person on Earth needs to be saddled with that tag.   Every person is redeemable and salvageable, for our Father in Heaven desires that none will be consigned to perdition, but that all will be preserved and saved.   So, if I don’t hide my light under a bushel, and I don’t let it shine before humanity, then people will not glorify the Maker of All Things — and yet, that’s what life’s all about.  (It’s also 2 Peter 3:9, Matthew 5:16, and Ecclesiastes 12:13 in a nutshell — and the reason I know this is because I just looked ’em up.)

So I’ll give it a go.   If you’re reading these words, it means it’s 7:30am PST or after.  If you’re not, you’re not.  Wish me luck.

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Tuesday Tuneup 18

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Yeah.  You’re a pain in the ass who darkens my door once a week, annoying me with an incessant series of inane questions, challenging my patience.

Q. So why have you summoned me?

A. What choice did I have?

Q. Aren’t I supposed to be asking you the questions?

A. Supposed to schummosed to.  I’m totally disgruntled.

Q. Whatever for?

A. I don’t know.  The whole thing just seems to be — on me. 

Q. What whole thing?

A. Forgiveness!  Why am I the guy who always has to focus all his energy on forgiving all these other people?   If even one of them would so much as give me the time of day, it would sure make it a lot easier.

hillary forgivenessQ. Easier on who?

A. On me — obviously!

Q. Why don’t you make it easy on them?

A. Don’t insult my integrity.  I’m already trying to do that, and you know that.

Q. How?

A. By apologizing to them.  By asking their forgiveness.  Like the Bible says.  Like Jesus says.  Like we’re all supposed to do with each other.  But they still won’t —

Q. Give you the time of day?

A. Right.  How do I know they’re even reading my emails?  Or listening to my voice mail messages?  Or even reading my carefully, prayerfully worded snail mail letters?   I wouldn’t be surprised if whats-his-face just ripped up the letter I sent to his home address, without even bothering to open it.

Q. But why would he do that?

A. I don’t know.  Fear of its contents, I guess.  Or disrespect for me as a man.  Hard to say.  Maybe his wife doesn’t want him to have anything to do with me.  Maybe his doctor told him to avoid “toxic people,” and he decided I was “toxic.”  Or maybe he’s just a cowardly wimp who can’t face up to his own bullshit unless he’s painted into a damn corner.

Q. Do you really need this guy?

A. No, not really.

Q. Then what do you need?  

Pause.

A. I need to forgive him.  To be free and clear of all the lingering resentment over the way I was treated — and the way I treated him.   To know that he has received my apologies, my requests for forgiveness, and that they matter enough to him — that Jesus matters enough for him — to say “I forgive you, Andy.”  And then we can both move on.  Or even be friends again, who knows?   God only knows.

Q. How long has this been going on?

A. Five years now.  

Q. He hasn’t talked to you for five years?

A. Not just him – but all kinds of people.

Q. Why did they all stop talking to you?

A. Probably because of the way I was coming across at the time.

Q. How were you coming across?

A. I was desperate.  I was homeless.  Sure I had all kinds of other problems, but I couldn’t solve any of them from homelessness.  And none of those damned group situations that were always recommended ever worked out for me.  They only surrounded me with thieves and criminals, and furthered the violation of my person and my property.   I was down in this hole that was so deep, I couldn’t climb out of it myself for the life of me.  I kept beseeching them, please, let me stay with you, just for a while, just for a month or so, till I can get my bearings, get some sleep, and see a way to maybe get back on my feet.  But nobody would budge.  They all rejected me.  Most of them without even a word of notice or warning.  They flushed me down the toilet like I was a total piece of — piece of — piece of  —

Q. Shit?

A. You said it.  

Q. Why did you internalize their opinions of you?

A. I couldn’t help it.  I knew I was coming across in a way that freaked them out, or pissed them off even.  But all the gross details of homelessness, the sleep deprivation, the constant insinuation from everyone around me that I was this worthless piece of crap, that my music didn’t matter, my singing, my piano playing, my writing, my public speaking, none of the good things about me counted!  I was just supposed to cram a bunch of damned pills down my throat that I knew would destroy everything I had going for me, and get into some group home where they monitored all my meds and only let me out under supervision on Sundays.   

And I had already tried all that.  And I just couldn’t do it!  I’d have rather slept alone out in a field somewhere.  So I did.  But then — all the other crap set in.

Q. What other crap?

A. You know something?  I really don’t want to talk about it.

Q. Then why are you?

A. Because of you.  And all your damned questions.  Go away! And don’t come back till Tuesday!   Tired of your robotic, unfeeling crap.

The Questioner is silent.

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 
 

Tuesday Tuneup 15

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Yes.  You are a feelingless generator of questions, whose function it is to churn out question after question, based on a logical follow-up to my responses, with little or no empathy for my emotional state.  Moreover, your first two questions are the same every Tuesday.  Therefore, my first answer is immaterial, since you will only ask me why I have summoned you, and it really does not matter what I’ve said.

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Because I can’t read.

Q. You can’t?

A. Not very well.

Q. And how does this affect you?

A. It disturbs me a great deal.  It also causes me to waste huge amounts of time.

dyslexiaQ. Doing what?

A. Trying to read.  Staring at the pages, while my head is flying, off in space, not seeming to be able to alight upon a single word or phrase of meaning.

Q. Why do I find this hard to believe?

A. Probably for the same reason everyone else does.

Q. And what reason is that?

A. The reason that I seem to be educated, and reasonably articulate, and able to write fairly well.

Q. If you cannot read, then where did you pick up all these words you use?

A. Mostly from talking to a lot of smart people, and remembering their words.  You see, I do have an unusually good long-term memory.  I am only unable to focus in the short-term.

Q. Unable?

A. Well, hardly able.  I suppose you have caught me in hyperbole.  It’s not that I can’t read at all.  I can read short articles, and emails on occasion, and unusually engaging works that don’t challenge my dyslexia.

Q. Then why did you say that you can’t read?

A. Because I can’t ever seem to finish an entire book.  I’ve finished only one book in the past several years.

Q. What book is that?

A. The INFJ Writer: Cracking the Genius of the World’s Rarest Type by Lauren Sapala.

Q. What enabled you to finish that particular book, if no other?

A. A matter of threefold interest.  There was not one, nor two, but three things about the book that intrigued me.

Q. Those being?

A. First, the MBTI.  I myself am an INFJ, and I saw myself all over the book.

Q. And second?

A. Writing.  Something I love to do.  The book was about INFJ’s who are Writers.

Q. And third?

A. Recovery.  The account of someone who had been deeply hurt, and who had escaped from that hurt by evoking a typical escape mechanism, and an addictive one at that.  But most importantly, she recovered.

Q. Have you done so?

A. Recovered?  Or escaped?

Q. Both.

A. Recovered?  Partly.  Escaped?  Totally.

Q. When?

A. All too often.   In 1979 after a break-up with a finacee.  In 1982 when I learned I was too sensitive for a highly competitive position in the music world.  In the early 90’s, after a difficult divorce.  And between the years 2013 and 2016, after being deeply hurt by a critique of my unfinished first draft to my musical Eden in Babylon, when I had turned to a friend for encouragement, and not only had received no encouragement, but the painful information that this man was not even a friend.

Q. How did you find out he was not your friend?

A. In the same way that I learned last night that another man was not my friend.

Q. How?

A. It is too painful to answer.  But it might inform you what was on my mind when I tried this morning, unsuccessfully once again, to read.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Wisdom

Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.

She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.

Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.

–Proverbs 3:13-18

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Homeless in the USA

On the site Quora, where I am considered to be a “Most Viewed Writer” on the subject of Homelessness, somebody recently posed the question: “How do people become homeless in the USA?”  I answered it quickly according to my experience, and later noticed that it had received over 3,500 views and 73 “upvotes.”  So I figured I’d share it here.  I hope you gain from it.

Having lived in a community of over 1,000 homeless people for five years, and having been homeless and borderline-homeless in other areas for seven additional years, I think I might be qualified to answer this question.

There are many ways that a person can become homeless in America. Let me list four that seem most prevalent:

(1) A sudden medical problem or family crisis that costs a person an unexpected amount of money, making it impossible for them to continue paying rent or mortgage.

(2) Socio-economic factors beyond the scope of individual control; e.g., a persistent rent increase over a period of time that far exceeds any increase in the renter’s income.

(3) A drug or alcohol problem resulting in job loss, eviction, and/or general inability to make rational decisions over the long haul.

(4) A mental health condition that goes untreated or is (as in my own case) misdiagnosed, resulting in one’s taking medications that work to one’s detriment rather than one’s benefit.

My experience is that, in larger urban areas, there is a greater percentage of people who became homeless as a result of socio-economic factors or circumstances beyond their control.

evictionIn smaller, more rural areas, such as the small college town where I now live in Northern Idaho, it is much more difficult to become homeless without sort of “asking for it” by displaying a serious drug or alcohol problem.

I do know that in the two years that I have now successfully rented apartments in my present city – first, a studio, then a one-bedroom, I have done every thing that would have “made me homeless” in situations that arose in the San Francisco Bay Area, where rents are on the average four times as high, but where my fixed income from Social Security has not varied.

Had I not moved to this small college town in the middle of the country, I would have died a meaningless death on the Berkeley city streets. I simply would never have been able to pay the rent. And because I was largely regarded as unemployable due to my mental health condition, I found it difficult to cut through that stigma in order to find a job.

After almost two years of successfully paying my rent every month, I am living a very meaningful and happy life.

All it took was a $200 Greyhound bus ticket to a distant State, and a loan on an apartment deposit, to end twelve years of seemingly inescapable homelessness in the Bay Area. I applied for a part-time job three weeks after I arrived in Idaho, and was hired. I even managed to keep the job for ten months before aspects of my condition caused them to ask me to resign. But by that time, I was established in the community with a church and a solid support group, and I knew how to make ends meet.

I hope this information has been helpful, and of particular use to someone who may be in need.

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Anything Helps – God Bless!