Tuesday Tuneup 22

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. I do.  You are the part of me who questions the logical validity of my inner workings, to the end that I might make more rational, better-informed decisions.

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Because I am contrite.

Q. You don’t say?

A. I do.  I am contrite, because I feel I have wronged you, and I owe you an amends.

Q. An amends?  Or an apology?

A. An amends, like I said.

Q. What is the difference?

A. An apology has less merit than an amends in terms of acknowledging the inner-connectivity of all beings, whether they exist within the consciousness of a single being, or whether they are attached to separate consciousnesses of multiple beings.

Q. Could you run that past me again, please?

A. I could, I suppose.  But I grow weary of words.

Q. You??

A. Yes, me.  Sadly, even I tire of them.

Q. Then why not cut to the quick?

A. How can I?house-divided

Q. Can’t you just — get to the point?  And make your amends?

A. I’ll try.

Pause.

A. I would like to mend fences.  For I have treated you harshly — as though you were an enemy.  I fought against you, as though I wished to remain separate from you.  But in so doing, I denied that you are but a part of me.   Why should I fight against myself?  A house divided cannot stand.

Q. Then what do you propose to do instead?

A. I propose that we be friends again.   Lovers, if you will.   Let us become one being — no longer divided into two.

Q. This is your way of making peace?

A. Yes.  And not only peace — but unity.   I propose you and I join forces within me.  Gradually together we will transform me from a confused, conflicted sort of fellow, to a fulfilled friend of humanity, moving forward according to a clear and distinct vision, and no longer wallowing in the past, as though at war with the present.

Q. Won’t this affect the nature of my questions?

A. It will indeed.

Q. How so?

A. Come back next Tuesday.   And we shall see.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 21

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Not this again!

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Because I’m getting tired of hearing these first two questions.   

Q. Why are the questions tiring you?

A. Isn’t it obvious?  They’re the same every time.  No variety!  And besides, I’m running out of clever answers.

Q. Why do your answers have to be clever?

A. Because I need to entertain my readers.

Q. Why do you need to entertain your readers?

A. Because I’m an entertainer.  It’s what I do.  If I don’t entertain people, then I fail.

Q. And if you do entertain people?

A. Then I succeed.

Q. You equate success with entertainment?

A. If I’m in the entertainment business, I do.

Q. How long have you been in the entertainment business?

musical prodigyA. Since I was a little boy.

Q. You were an entertainer when you were a little boy?

A. Yes.  I was expected to entertain everybody.

Q. And if you didn’t?

A. Then they got bored.  They shrugged and frowned and said: “Oh boo!  You could do better than that!”  And then, they walked out.

Q. How did you feel when they walked out?

A. I felt — abandoned.  Abandoned — and worthless.

Q. And then what happened?

A. I cried.  I waited till they were all gone —  and when I was all alone, I burst into tears.  And if I couldn’t stop crying, I had to run and hide.

Q. Why?

A. So my dad wouldn’t find me.

Q. What would happen if he found you?

A. I’d be punished.

Q. Why?

A. Because a man wasn’t supposed to cry.  

Q. How did that make you feel?

A. Pressured.   Pressured to perform — to always be entertaining, in order to gain their interest, and their acceptance.  

Q. Do you mean to suggest that when you were little boy, you were judged on the basis of your performance?

A. Yes, I was. And guess what?

Q. What?

A. So are you.  You are being judged on the basis of your performance.  For even as I was judged, so do I judge others.

Q. How are you judging me?

A. I’ll tell you how! If you don’t come up with two new questions by Tuesday Tuneup 23, then you fail.   My judgment will be chiseled in stone.  There will be no forgiveness.  Only condemnation.  

Q. You mean – you’re going to do away with me??

A. You got it.

Q. But isn’t that a bit severe?

A. Well how do you expect me to react?   If you cease to entertain me, I have no further use for you.

Q. Are you saying you’re going to abandon me?

A. What else can I do?  Be with you till the ends of the earth?  Of course not!  I am going to leave you and forsake you.  For even as I have been abandoned, so do I abandon others.

Q. But – but – don’t you feel like you’re putting too much pressure on me?

A. Of course I do. Even as I have been pressured, so do I pressure others.

Q. What if I fail?

A. Then you’re gonna get a whoopin.’

Q. You’re not going to resort to — corporal punishment, are you?

A. I wish I could.

Q. Why can’t you?

A. Because all you are — is words.   Baseless words, without feeling or flesh.  And that’s how I felt when I was a kid.  My feelings didn’t matter.   My body, my flesh — didn’t matter.  The only thing that mattered — was that I entertain.   And if they didn’t clap for me when I played the piano, and if they didn’t laugh at my jokes in between songs, then I failed.  And if you don’t start entertaining me again, man —

The Questioner gulps.

Q. Then I fail?

A. You said it.

Q. But — what other two questions can I come up with?  

A. That’s for you to decide.  I’m not your Director.  I’m only your Creator.

Q. But – but – but what if — ???

A. No buts!   You have till Tuesday after next.   On Tuesday, August 21, 2018, I expect you to start off with a new pair of questions.   Do you hear me??

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 19

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Not sure.  You could be one thing, or another.

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Because I am a crossroads.  I could go one way, or another.

indecisionQ. But couldn’t you have said that yesterday?

A. I could have.  And I should have — since yesterday was Tuesday.   I could have talked to you on Tuesday, like I’m supposed to.  But I didn’t.  And that’s part of the problem.

Q. Why didn’t you talk to me yesterday?

A. I don’t know.  I meant to.  I tried to.  But every time I started, I came up against a brick wall.

Q. And today?

A. Today I still — don’t quite know what to say, or to do.  I still feel like talking to you is like talking to a brick wall.

Q. Then why are you bothering?

A. Because — I’m supposed to.   I’ve found that if I see you every Tuesday — or once a week rather, even if it’s Wednesday or Thursday — I somehow stay tuned up.  I stay in touch with myself.   I know what I’m supposed to be about.

Q. You do??

A. Well, no — not now I don’t.  But over time, if I practice this consistently, with discipline, then yes, I begin to get a better idea what I’m supposed to be about.

Q. Can you really give me that power?  I mean, considering you’re not even sure who I am?

A. Not logically, no.  And I don’t mean to, exactly.  It’s not you who is the solution.  It’s the process.  The fact that I choose to engage this dialectic, once a week, with consistency.   It adds up, eventually.  It means something.  It takes me somewhere.

Q. Even when it feels like it doesn’t?

A. Perhaps.

Q. How does it feel right now?

A. Shitty.  Lousy.   It’s all a reflection of my — my uncertainty.  My unwillingness.

Q. Unwillingness?

A. Yeah — I’m not willing to — to make a move, one way or another.

Q. Why not?

A. Fear.

Q. Fear of — what?

A. Fear that I’ll be – barking up the wrong tree.   Choosing the wrong path.

Q. How will you know till you try?

A. I won’t.

Q. Then why don’t you just try one way, or the other, and see what happens?

A. Because I have not counted the costs.  Of either path.   I haven’t sat down and listed the pros and cons.  I haven’t really made an effort to scan each option, and make a conscious decision which one looks to be the better.

Q. Then why not sit down and do so?

A. Good idea.

Q. Isn’t that better than wallowing?

A. It is.

Q. Isn’t it better than being frozen in fear?

A. Yes, it is.  Even though I’m not yet taking one path or another, at least I’m doing something. 

Q. What’s that?

A. Deciding.  I’m making a conscious, concerted decision – and taking the time to do it.  I’m not juat taking this decision lightly, nor am I avoiding it.

Q. Do you feel then that I have helped you this morning?

A. Yes, you have.

Q. May I then be excused?

A. Yes.  You may go.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Classism, Stigma and Mental Health

If a white collar worker is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, the medications given are intended to make it easier for that person to function in the mainstream workplace. But if an impoverished person is diagnosed with that same mental health disorder, the same medications are given with the idea that the person will be directed toward disability culture, and never work again.

If a person is arrested for a non-serious crime in which alcohol is involved, the Courts order daily attendance at A.A. meetings, where the paradigm of the Twelve Steps is geared toward reacclimating such people into the mainstream of modern life.   These meetings, by the way, are free of charge.  But if a person with a mental health problem is arrested for the same crime, the Courts will direct that person toward a community counseling center with a “sliding scale.”  In other words, the support is at cost.  In fact, the options for cost-free mental health support groups stop at the level of a MeetUp.  Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) groups, for example, are difficult to find without paying good money.  A one-to-one Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) counselor will certainly expect to be paid.  Those in poverty culture can’t possibly afford the fees for mental health support, and often wind up finding them in psychiatric facilities only, where the price they pay is complete loss of freedom.

Step Two of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous reads: “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  Note the use of the word “restore.”  This implies that the alcoholic was, at one time, sane, and that through the application of the Steps, they may again become sane, and thus able to reintegrate themselves into mainstream culture.    So, even though the condition of active alcoholism is regarded as “insane,” a path toward sanity is indicated.

But for a path toward sanity to be recommended for one who has a mental health diagnosis, that person must have privilege from the start.   People of poverty with such diagnoses are considered to be unemployable.  This is pure stigma against those who have mental health conditions.  People of privilege with those same kinds of conditions are routinely encouraged to keep their jobs, their families and their social lives; the idea being that the very same treatment will enhance their ability to function in mainstream society.  But impoverished people with identical diagnoses are thrust into disability culture, made to subsist on minimal income, classified as “legally incompetent,” and threatened with loss of their cost-of-living income if they even try to go out and get a job.  This clearly amounts to class discrimination, when it comes to treatment of the mentally ill.

To understand why such discrimination is directed toward those thought to be “mentally ill” but not toward those considered to be “recovering alcoholics,” I think we need to examine the grounds on which mental illness is determined.    My theory is that one is considered to be “mentally ill” as soon as one displays an inability to function healthfully within the “box” of the status quo.   Those who flourish within normal expectations based on the work ethic and success model are considered to be mentally healthy.  Those who are focused on “climbing the ladder” are considered to be “successful,” and as role models for others.   But a person who thinks outside the box is somehow seen as a threat to society, and therefore limited to confinement within the realms of those labeled “incompetent’ and “unemployable.”

I would not doubt it if well over half of those who have mental health diagnoses are actually quite eminently sane, even perhaps brilliant, perhaps luminous visionaries.  Such people often focus, not on scaling the ladder of “success,” but on actualizing their own true selves, to make the most out of their own innate design and potential.  They often develop ideas and visions that would truly benefit society if given a chance to bloom.  But how can one be in orchid in a petunia patch?  The Powers That Be will continue to uphold the status quo, despite classism and social stigma on the grandest scale.  How sad it is that those who have vision are seen as pariahs by those who do not!

different drummer

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Tuesday Tuneup Twelve

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. (guarded) Well, if I don’t, somebody does.

Q. Er . . . why have you summoned me?

A. Why not?  Is there something wrong with that?

Q. How do you expect me to answer that?

A. I don’t.

Q. What’s wrong?

A. What do you mean, what’s wrong?

Q. Isn’t something bothering you?

A. Why would anything be bothering me?

Q. Aren’t you feeling a bit on edge this afternoon?  And maybe a little bit paranoid?

A. Paranoid??  What have I got to be paranoid about?

Q, Oh, perhaps, paranoid about your possessions, maybe?  About the prospect of theft?

spiritual identity theftA. But I don’t own anything!  There’s nothing to steal!

Q. But aren’t you thinking only of material things?

A. Me?  Thinking only of material things?  Don’t make me laugh.   My mind is constantly on the spiritual, or at the very least the cerebral.  The material world is of no interest to me.  You know that.

Q. I do?

A. Yes, you do.  If I am afraid of anyone stealing anything, it would be something invisible to all but the most adept of thieves.  Something internal, something stored up deep inside of me.

Q. Such as — your peace of mind?

A. Exactly.  My peace of mind.  That’s what they’re after!  I can tell.

Q. How can you tell?

A. (looks around) How can you not tell?  They’re all around.  Don’t you see them?  Don’t you feel them?

a-house-dividedQ. See them?  Feel — whom?

A. Don’t give me that!  You’re probably one of them.  All they want is to take this delicate balance inside me, this thing that’s uniquely me, that makes me who I am, and tear it asunder, break it into pieces — I feel it — my destruction —  I can’t let them do it to me anymore — I can’t let you do this to me — I need my inner self to be — synthesized — harmonized — not divided any longer!!  Not divided any more!!!

Q. Do you need a doctor?  Should I dial 9-1-1?

A. Not on your life, buddy!

Q. Then – what can I do for you?

A. Just keep your nose out of my business, O.G.!   And keep you big mouth shut when it comes to me!!

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup Eleven

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Probably.

Q. So why have you summoned me?

A. Because I am annoyed.

Q. What about?

A. It has to do with the Prayer of St. Francis.

prayer of saint francis

Q. You find this prayer annoying?

A. Not at all, sir.  I only find it annoying that I seem so lame when it comes to applying it.

Q. How so?

A. Well, take the part where he prays “not so much to be understood as to understand.”  I feel so misunderstood, it’s very hard for me to get past this frustrating urge to explain myself all the time.  But it would be better for everybody if I would instead open up my eyes and see where others are coming from.

Q. So you are annoyed by this personal quirk of yours?

A. Extremely annoyed.  And even more so when I see the same trait in a very close family member.  In my flesh and blood, there appears to be remarkably similar DNA.

Q. Can you elaborate?

A. Of course!  This person reaches the place where whatever anyone else says to her is utterly unimportant.  The only things that seem important are what she says to us.

Q. And you see yourself in this unenviable trait?

A. I do.  It comes from a feeling of being misunderstood.

Q. So how can you and this dear family member begin to make yourself more understood?

A. By listening more.  By seeking to understand.  For you see, people don’t care about what may constant explanations say.  They only care about the fact that I’m explaining myself.  It gets tiresome.  It exhausts them.  They would rather see me become interested in them, not in proving myself to them.   If they see that I am interested in them, they will then therefore become interested in me.  Law of karma.  What goes around comes around.  You reap what you sow.  All that good stuff.

Q. How can you begin to change?

A. By listening to her.  By not letting myself become exasperated when she constantly tries to explain herself.  By looking at her — and seeing in this mirror the Echo of Myself — and realizing that I am not alone.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup Ten

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Do you ever listen to my answer to that question?

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. I guess not.  Well, I summoned you because I am disgruntled.

Q. Disgruntled?

A. Is there an echo in here?

Q. Why are you disgruntled?

A. Cognitive dissonance.

Q. Meaning?

A. I simultaneously hold to two conflicting systems of values.

Q. Specifically?

A. As a Christian, I believe in forgiving those who have wronged me.  As a guy who spent twelve years on the streets, I believe in rewarding loyalty and punishing betrayal.  

Q. Can’t you forgive them and punish them at the same time?

A. (nods) The concept of chastening.  I’m afraid only God has the rights on that one.

Q. But supposing your son or daughter had wronged you, wouldn’t you forgive them and still “chasten” them, as you say?

A. Sure I would.  But these people are not my sons and daughters, nor am I their father.  One of them is a 63 year old man.  Another is 62.

Q. What about their own fathers?

A. Neither of them is alive.  And if they were, I doubt they’d take my side.

Q. Then doesn’t that leaves the Father God to do the chastening?

A. But Father God might not be their father.   

Q. How can that be?  Is not God the father of all?  

A. Not necessarily.  According to Scripture, their father is either God the Father, or “their father the devil.”  Look what Jesus said once:

You are of your father the devil, 
and you want to do the desires of your father. 
He was a murderer from the beginning, 
and does not stand in the truth 
because there is no truth in him. 
Whenever he speaks a lie, 
he speaks from his own nature, 
for he is a liar and the father of lies. 
But because I speak the truth, 
you do not believe Me. 
“Which one of you convicts Me of sin? 
If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? 
He who is of God hears the words of God; 
for this reason you do not hear them,
because you are not of God.”

— John 8:44-47

Q. Do you really think it’s all that black and white?   Are there a bunch of liars that are children of the devil and another batch of truth-seekers that are, like, God’s kids?

A. (nods again) Black and white thinking.  I don’t like the concept much either.  But as the article I just linked to points out, a lot of times we engage those approximations because the language lacks wording that will sufficiently describe the “middle ground” or “gray area” without having to use too many words, thus impeding communication.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. Well, take the word “God” for example.  Any intelligent person engaged in the vaguest search for a definition of that word will first have to admit that “God” is only a word.  Like all words, it has a meaning.  Many meanings.  Different meanings for different people, and so forth.  So one person will say, “I don’t believe in God,” based solely on their preconceptions as to what that word means.

To one person, “God” is an old man with a long gray beard sitting in the clouds somewhere.  Do I believe that meaning?  No, I do not.  But the same person who holds to that idea of “God” will often speak of a “force” or a “higher power” or even of the Universe.  Who’s to say that those descriptives are not of God?  And yet, they say they don’t “believe in God.”  To me, it seems that they do believe in God.   They just won’t use the word God, because it’s loaded down with stigmatic preconceptions.

Q. Then why do you keep using the word “God?”

A. Ease of use.  It’s simply easier to say the single word “God” than to keep saying, “Spirit or Power of the Universe or whatever you want to call it.”  I get tired of using too many words when one will suffice.  I use too many words as it is already without having to add yet more words to the mix.  

Q. But why does the single word have to be “God?” Why not use some other word, if “God” is so loaded down with stigma?

A. (frowns) I find they all fall short.  The other words “Spirit” or “Universe’ somehow lack sufficient power or personality for me — or maybe command or authority — something like that.  I don’t know exactly.  But really, Questioner dear, aren’t we veering a bit astray of the subject?

Q. And what, pray tell, is the “subject?”

A. The subject is the black-and-white codification of humanity into a batch of Satan’s babies as contrasted with the real children of God.   I believe the words of Jesus I quote run deeper than that.

Q. In what way?

A. In lots of ways.  For one thing, I think we’re all born “children of the devil” in the sense that we’re too unsophisticated to grasp the concept of a loving Father God apart from our own earthly fathers — who, let’s face it, might not be all that loving.  We’re innocent.  We’re vulnerable.  We’re easy to con, to manipulate.  I learned that on the streets.  The people who were pushovers seemed to be so faultless, yet in a very real sense they were the devil’s babies.   The hustlers, the thieves — they had them over a barrel.  In order to realize the authority of the True God, and to see yourself as His child, there has to be some kind of revelation, leading up to a transformation.  One gets to the point where one refuses to be hustled any further.  One says to oneself: “Screw these guys!  I’m a child of God!  I don’t have to put up with their garbage.”

Q. One says?  Or you say?

A. Both – along with a lot of other people who have managed to escape all the trappings of street life.  I’m a lot better off spiritually than I was earlier on.  I was such a pushover I believed all those lies I heard from pretentious preacher’s pulpits.   It’s like I always say, before the age of 51, I believed just about anybody who wore a badge.

Q. And now you don’t?

A. No, I don’t.  And obviously, in the passage I quote, Jesus didn’t either.  Those were Pharisees he was talking to — religious hypocrites very much like those who betrayed me.  Like I said, there’s a lot of depth to what the Master is saying here.  He speaks on many levels.

Q. Such as?

A. This.

(The Answerer takes a very deep breath.)

A. There are people who are so caught up in the game that they can’t tell lies from truth.  They lie so much and are lied to so often, they come to expect it from everyone.  You would think that the truth would stand out like an orchid in a petunia patch with people like that.  But somehow it doesn’t.  They are so used to lies, that when someone speaks the truth like Jesus did, they don’t hear it.  Their minds immediately begin to speculate and calculate.  

Speculate – by which I mean they speculate as to just what kind of a scam the truthful person is trying to pull.

Calculate – meaning they calculate a response designed to trap the one who tells the truth, and get them to say something completely inconsistent, to prove them a liar.

Q. And you are not one of those people?

A. Sure I am – in a certain context.  I test people all the time.  But the testing is of a different nature, because it follows an inward process of trying to dredge out the lies within my own heart.

Q. Are you lying to me, Andy?

A. Verily, verily, I tell you no lie.  But this is because I find myself lying to myself at times, and compelled to share that lie to others.  And when I do, I stop to examine my motives.  What am I trying to conceal?  Who am I afraid of?  Who am I trying to impress?

Q. Then what happens?

A. Then, when someone like that fellow who betrayed me lies to me, I don’t swallow his lies, because I see the same lies in my own self.

Q. Really?

A. Really.

Q. So the streets have made you sharper?

A. Can’t speak for my sharpness.  I’m an old guy, and my intellectual powers are naturally on the wane.  But I’m a bit more discerning between falsehood and truth.

Q. Andy, what is the bottom line?

A. This.

(Another deep breath is taken.)

Q. People seem to think that all those years on the streets are supposed to have crippled me to the point where I should have no higher goal than to sit in some meeting and raise my hand as an alcoholic or a drug addict, and then get down on my knees (and stay on my knees) and humble myself before every Tom, Dick, and Harry on the block.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I came off the streets realizing I no longer had to take crap from just anybody.  I came off the streets seeing through all the Mainstream garbage that I swallowed so wholeheartedly before.  I came off the streets discerning that all those money-chasing money-hoarding money-worshipers who look down on poor people are the liars — not me.  They lie to their own selves, and yet they don’t stop to look within, to really see what’s inside them, to be able to discern with accuracy what’s going on around them.

So the bottom line is, I’m not going to get down on my knees before all those Mainstream robot clones, or to their “God,” whoever they think he is, or cow-tow to whatever they think it means to be a “Christian.”  I know what I’m about – or beginning to find out anyway – and on my spiritual journey, I ain’t taking no shit from nobody.

Q. Do you want to know what I think?

A. Shoot.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup Eight

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. I really wish you would quit asking me that.

Q. Why did you summon me?

A. Because it’s Monday.

Q. Um – isn’t the Tuesday Tuneup supposed to take place on Tuesday?

A. Supposedly.  But with my track record, if I began writing on Tuesday, it probably wouldn’t happen till about Thursday, if at all.    And anyway, it will be Tuesday in about a half hour or so.

Q. Why are you up so late?

A. Sleeplessness.

Q. Why are you sleepless?

A. I don’t know.  Runs in the family.  My dad, my brother, we all have insomnia.

Q. But you don’t have insomnia every night, do you?

A. Not at all, sir.  On most nights, I sleep rather well.

Q. So why the sudden insomnia?

A. I don’t know.  Restless.  Stuff on my mind.

Q. Like what?

A. Wow – you sure do ask a lot of questions, don’t you?

Q. Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?

A. Never mind.   What’s on my mind is, quite honestly, my own shortcomings.  My flaws, my faults, my mistakes.

Q. Is not to err human?

A. What?

Alexander_Pope_by_Michael_Dahl
Alexander Pope

Q. Is it not human to make mistakes?

A. I suppose so — at least according to the descendant of an ancestor of mine.  But I am not divine, and I just cannot forgive myself my mistakes.  There are too many of them.  They are too huge.   And try as I may, I never seem to make any progress toward correcting them.  

Q. Do they need to be corrected?

A. What do you mean, do they “need” to be corrected?   What kind of a question is that?  They’re mistakes!  If things are wrong, they must be made right.

Q. Why?

A. What do you mean, why?

Q. Why can’t you just let them be wrong?

A. You mean – not even try to correct the mistakes?

Q. That’s what I said, didn’t I?

A. Are you honestly trying to suggest that I make no effort to correct my mistakes?

Q. The mistakes are past, aren’t they?

A. They occurred in the past, yes.   I think the last one was about fifteen minutes ago, but it’s still past.

Q. Can you change the past?

A. No, I cannot.

Q. Then why are you trying to do so?

A. I don’t know, sir.  I honestly do not know.

The Questioner is silent.  

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All for the Love of Coffee

Not everything that happened in the psychiatric facility described in the previous entry was humane.  For example, there was a very disturbing turn of events that took place after I noticed that, while all the other patients were receiving caffeinated coffee with their breakfasts, I alone was condemned to decaf.

When I asked why this was, a psych tech named Steve stepped forward.  The following conversation ensued.

coffee protectionSteve: Well, Andy, because you are bipolar, we feel that regular coffee would hype you up too much.

Andy: But I’ve been having a cup of coffee every day since I was 19 years old.  I can tell you for a fact that a cup of coffee relaxes me.

Steve: If you were ADHD, the cup of coffee would relax you.  But since you are bipolar, the cup of coffee hypes you up.

Andy: Well then, I suppose I must be ADHD, because as I just told you, my morning cup of coffee relaxes me.

Steve: Andy, be honest with us.  You know for a fact that because you are bipolar, your morning cup of coffee does not relax you!  Your cup of coffee makes you hyper.

Andy: But Steve, don’t you think I know how my morning cup of coffee affects me?

Steve: Listen Andy, we know that you want help, but you seem to want the help to happen on your own terms!

Andy: My own terms?  A cup of coffee in the morning is my own terms?  ME AND THIRTY-FIVE MILLION OTHER AMERICANS??

Suddenly, about five mental health workers leaped out of their seats, and before I knew it, I was being given a shot of concentrated Zyprexa on my tongue.  Everything went black.

Approximately 24 hours later, I woke up to the sight of another psych tech, a fellow named Tim whom I had remembered from my first incarceration in said facility back in 2004.  He was dressed entirely in black, which I recall caused a disturbed schizo-affective back in 2004 to think he was a manifestation of the devil.  I, however, knew him to be a pretty nice guy.

“Andy, don’t make a big deal out of a cup of coffee here, man — it’s not going to work in your favor.”

“I don’t know, Tim.  It just doesn’t seem like three days of forced caffeine withdrawal is working in my favor either.”

As I began, in my typical fashion, to go over the heads of everybody and anybody in order to secure my badly needed cup of coffee, I eventually landed at the director of the institution, who happened to be from Austria.

I guess they think a little bit differently over there in Austria.  The psych techs who had forced the Zyprexa concentrate into my body were reprimanded, and my cup of coffee was made manifest on the third day.

Just in time for me to meet Greg the Bartender and head towards Stockton.  But in all due deference to those who have been asking me to write my memoirs, I’m pretty sure the buck stops here.

Or does it?

TO BE CONTINUED

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The Revelation of Humanity

It was the year 2008 — the year in which I lost over half of my so-called “friends” and at least one close member of my extended family by sending a single three-sentence email that I guess they couldn’t handle.   The word “homelessness” might as well not have even existed in that email. 

The few friends who cared wrote back with advice that had to do with anything and everything other than the fact that for over four years now, it had been all I could do to keep a roof over my head.  One person even advised me to look at its contents when I was “sober” — as though assuming that a person had to be drunk in order to express that he could no longer handle the ongoing conditions of Homelessness.   I had written that somebody had to believe in me enough to let them stay at their house long enough so I could get back on my feet — or else, I would do something drastic.

I would take my own life.

Record gales were assaulting my entire body in Golden Gate Park.  Do I die of hypothermia tonight, or do I spare myself the trouble and do the deed of my own courage and power?   I had just heard yet another landlady claim that I had to leave my cottage because her daughter was separating from her husband and needed to move in. In California, they call this an “Owner Move In.”  It’s the easiest way to get rid of a renter whom you don’t happen to like.

I had been working as an accompanist for a Gilbert and Sullivan company, the Stanford Savoyard Players, at the time.  When I lost the cottage, the musical director kept paying for my motel rooms so I could finish the show.  This was more than gracious of him, but of course I could not expect such treatment to continue once the show was over.

I had been in so many different programs, shelters, and board-and-care homes — in addition to all the rentals that somehow only led to irreconcilable conflicts, owner move-ins, and finally a crash landing back on the streets — I had stopped counting long ago.  None of those situations had ever put a single dent in the rock hard armor that is Homelessness.

In this case, I guess my $900 monthly disability money vis a vis my $550 rent was making the landlady nervous.    And though she knew I’d landed the Stanford gig after finishing my opera coach service at Peninsula Teen Opera, she still came up with the Owner Move In.  Last I checked, her daughter never even moved in.   Guess she didn’t like the way I looked. 

Sure, I remember pacing the floor in her living room, when I was supposed to be staying inside the college.  I remember her approaching me, asking: “How did I ever wind up with the likes of you?”

I remember the incredulity she expressed when she didn’t believe that all of my family members were refusing to let me stay with them.

“But why should they let me stay with them?”  I asked her.  “You won’t even let me stay with you, even though I’m paying rent.”

“You’ve got a point there,” she shrugged.   And of course, she still kicked me out on my ass.

coldest winter san francisco

So the show ended, and a couple days later I found myself completely lost in the kind of “summer” that Mark Twain claimed to be the “coldest winter he had ever spent.”    I crawled into the Simple Pleasures Cafe on Balboa, and after breaking my last five dollar bill, bought a minimum three dollar hour on their public computer.

It was then that, overwhelmed with despair, I emailed at least one hundred people at once with these words:

I am stuck in a T-shirt out in Golden Gate Park in the freezing cold wind, and I do not believe I can make it through night.  I am writing to let you all know that I can no longer handle the ongoing conditions of Homelessness.   Please, somebody let me stay over tonight, or show me where I can go, because at this time, I am prepared to take my own life, to avoid what I feel is coming.

And though I indeed lost at least a hundred formerly positive contacts with a single email, the revelation of humanity that poured forth from exactly three people whom I hardly knew was astonishing.

An Actress: Andy, I’ve been there.  Give me your number; I will do everything I can possibly do to help you.

A Bartender: Andy, I’m driving over from Lodi to get you.   Tell me where you are — my dad says you can stay at his house for a night or two.

A Poet: Andy, check your PayPal.  I just shot you eighty bucks.  Get yourself a hotel room, get inside for tonight, and take it from there.  Tomorrow is another day.

Of course, the final offer was of most immediate appeal.  I used my last two dollars to hop on a SamTrans bus and check into a cheap motel in Belmont for the night.

In the morning, I woke up, scratched my head, and scanned my options.  I knew that Greg the bartender was willing to come get me.  But it seemed as though something more important needed to happen first.  So, I walked up the hill to Sequoia Hospital, and told them everything I just told you. 

I explained how my job contracts had ended, and how it would be a bit of a lull before I could find another gig.  I expressed how I had thought that surely now, with both employment and a rental, I should have managed to get back on my feet.  Before, I explained, I either didn’t have a job or I didn’t have a place to live.  This time, I had managed to muster up both at once.   And yet still the Homelessness loomed larger than any of that. 

I told them how two nights prior, I had written to all of my family members to beseech them to let me stay at their homes for just a couple nights, and no one at all replied.  I told them I had been trying to deal with my mental health issues ever since a first-time manic episode in the year 2004 had lost me my job, my car, and my home.  I told them how every time I entered into some kind of program, something would happen, something having to do with my inability to get along with others in close quarters, and I would get kicked out.  Or else I would finish the program, and then what?   Where would I go?  All roads, I told them, led to Homelessness.

I told them I completely understood why people didn’t want to have me over, because I probably would’t want me over either.  But at the same time, I asked them, where is compassion?  Who has a heart?   Can’t somebody bend for a little while?  When is anybody going to realize that I’m not going to be able to solve any of my “boundary issues” or exacerbations of ADHD or bipolar disorder if I don’t find that somebody loves me enough to make a simple sacrifice – and yet, nobody will.

“Can I possibly be that bad of a piece of shit that nobody will let me stay with them?”  I asked them.  “I’ve let homeless guys stay at my place before.   I didn’t like having my space invaded either, but I had compassion.   Sure, Tony slept for twelve hours and left a mess in the kitchen.  So what?   Was I supposed to let him die out in Golden Gate Park on a night like this?  Why can’t they get that I won’t be able to solve any of these other problems of mine if I can’t first solve the much more enormous problem that is Homelessness? 

“And why, why, why doesn’t anybody love me anymore?” I cried.  “How can they keep saying they ‘love’ me, yet forbidding me to even so much as knock on their door, or to come over for Christmas dinner?  What is wrong with me?  Am I that horrible of a human being that, for all of my God-given gifts and musical abilities, I am supposed to die in a damn gutter?   Why can’t anybody give me a break?”

I shut my mouth and ceased my appeal.  I looked in their eyes, fully expecting them to say the usual:

I’m sorry, Andy.  We’re not a spa or a ski resort.  I know you want to get your meds fixed and find some help here, but we can’t just let every homeless person on earth over for a 72-hour stay.   We feel for you, but you will just have to receive help for your condition somewhere else.

Tears were flowing down my eyes.  I stayed silent and gazed at the three women in front of me, who in turn gazed at me. 

And I tell you — when those three social workers rushed up and hugged me, I remembered again the Revelation of Humanity — that inkling of hope, not just for me, but for the entire human race.   

I was not a piece of shit.

I was not “worthless homeless scum.”

I was not a “dirt bag.”

I was a human being who needed and deserved real help.  

Sure, I lost at least eighty professional contacts, maybe twenty people I had thought were my friends, and another person whom I very much love, with a single email.   But what I gained from this experience was far greater.

I thought I would end my meaningless, worthless life.  Instead, my life of worth and meaning had just begun.   

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The End of an Era

It has now been 92 hours since I made it impossible for me to log on to Facebook. How did I do this? It was simple.

I opened Notepad.  Then, I created a random password consisting of about thirty-five random characters in a row that I produced by closing my eyes and doing a big piano glissando up and down the computer keyboard.   I copied it, put it in the “change password” field on Facebook, and promptly deleted it from Notepad.  Then I logged off.

Since Facebook requires one to post their old password prior to creating a new one, and since I now have no idea what my old password is, I will simply never log on to Facebook again.

Why did I do this?   Let’s look at the hard facts.

(1) I just punched in facebook.com on my browser to see how many notifications I had received in the past 92 hours.  Interestingly, the number is 184.  That’s twice 92 – and I kid you not.  This means I was receiving one notification every half an hour.

Now, let’s say I would spend fifteen minutes addressing each notification.  (That, by the way, is a very conservative estimate, knowing me.)  15 times 184 amounts to 2,760.  2,760 minutes amounts to 46 hours.  In the 92 hour period of time, that means I would have spent half my time on Facebook, dealing with the notifications alone.  Can I afford to spend half my time on Facebook?   No, I cannot.

(2) I am a person who has been diagnosed with severe adult attention hyperactive deficit disorder, otherwise known as ADHD.  What this means, as far as Facebook is concerned, is that whatever stimulus is the strongest and most immediate will be the one that grabs my attention. 

One morning, for example, I logged onto Facebook in order to grab a video from my daughter’s video files to send to a friend of mine.  Before I could find the video, a friend of mine who was feeling depressed logged on, and I spent two hours in an effort to console him.  Point is, his depression struck me as being of more immediate importance than the elusive video my daughter had made, which was buried somewhere deep within her video files, and therefore less immediate.  Once my friend was comforted, no sooner did I begin once again to look for the video, when another friend of mine showed up,  wanting to discuss a subject about which I am passionate.  Her passion striking me as being of more immediate importance than my daughter’s video, I quite passionately discussed the important subject with her for another two hours. Then I had to go to work.  In the meantime, I forgot all about the video, which was the only reason I had logged onto Facebook in the first place.  Thus are the effects of Adult ADHD.

(3) As one who is Sicilian by genetic predisposition, I have a very difficult time letting go of the past.  It therefore stands to reason that if I want this situation to improve, I ought not to be hanging around too many people whom I knew in the past, and instead throw more of my focus on developing positive friendships in the present, that will lead me to a more positive future.   Moreover, reconciling with certain figures from the distant past has more than once proved to be disastrous.

And here’s where the story gets good:

(4) At one point in my life, I made a casual comment on my Facebook that was misinterpreted by a well-meaning Facebook friend.  All of a sudden, three cops came pounding on my door.  They handcuffed me, ransacked my hotel room for narcotics and firearms, (of which I had neither!) and hauled me off to an insane asylum.

I was released the next morning, but highly inconvenienced by the ordeal.  My blood pressure shot up sky high, and I had to sit on a gurney in an emergency room for about six and a half hours before it was low enough for me to be legally hauled away to the nearest local loony bin, twenty-five miles South of my hotel room.

There, I managed to convince the baffled psych techs that I was neither suicidal nor homicidal.  I was released in my T-shirt in freezing cold December weather, and I wandered around for three days until the debit card refund for my hotel room cleared to my account.  (Obviously, I lost the hotel room, where I had paid for a two week stay, because when the 9-1-1 team showed up to haul me off to the psychiatric pavilion, all of the tenants came out of their doors to see what all the ruckus was about; and due to the police involvement, the hotel manager did not want to rent to me any longer.  I also left most of my clothing in the room, along with some books.  The motel room owners claimed no responsibility for items life in the building.)

As for the Facebook friend who made the dubious 9-1-1 call?   Long story short, I basically never heard from him again, except for a total of exactly two fairly unpleasant interactions in the following four years.  Must not have been much of a friend.  But he sure seemed like a friend for a while there, because he was the only one out of my some 300 odd Facebook friends who was concerned enough about my well-being to even consider making such a call.  And this leads to my 5th reason:

(5) These hundreds of people on your Facebook “friends” list are by and large not your friends.  You think they are your friends, because you befriended them when you were both in your teens or early twenties, and it was wonderful to reconnect with them.  Perhaps they are friends of friends of yours, or maybe even friends of people who are not your friends.   You know how to find out who your friends are on Facebook?  It’s easy, which leads to my sixth reason:

(6) I gave my phone number and email address to all of my Facebook friends some time prior to my abrupt departure.   Outside of the handful of people whom I already knew to be my true friends, you know how many of them actually called me?   Exactly three.  Thank you, Paul, Mari, and Holly.  Now I know who my friends are.  :)

(7) When I found myself arguing politics pointlessly with a total stranger in New York City who would not only never change his mind, but was probably drunk off his butt and had no idea what I was even talking about, enough was enough.

What all of this points to is:

(8) I have had five Facebooks in the past ten years.  Every one of them started out fine, then in some way imploded.  Every time I started a new one, I mistakenly thought I had overcome my dysfunctional obsessive-compulsive addictive relationship with Facebook.  I was wrong.

What did Albert Einstein have to say about the matter?

einstein insanity

Touché.

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Psychology of an Insecure Creative

Last night I sent the music to my song “The Very Same World” to Erika, the new Director of Music at my church.   This afternoon I found myself writing very nervously in my private diary.  Included were passages such as follows:  

I felt instantly horrible about the song I sent her the very first moment after I clicked on “send.”  Before I clicked on “send,” I thought my song had promise.  Immediately after knowing it would soon be scrutinized by a person of intimidating musical talent, I decided that the song sucked.

I chose that song, The Very Same World, only because of three things:

1. An earlier, faster version of it has gotten far more plays on my SoundCloud than any other song of mine.

2. When I sent my music to my brother, he singled out “The Very Same World” as the song he liked the best, calling it an “excellent composition” and “world class.”

3. When I sent the lyrics to my daughter, she got back to me saying they were “awesome!”

Other than that, no one has really commented on it. I don’t much like it myself.  I somewhat regret not finding the time today to get “Midnight Screams” to her instead.  But “Midnight Screams” forces the singer to extend a very high long “e” sound, odiously enough. I haven’t gotten around to changing the words yet, which might even involve changing the title, since that “e” sound is on the word “screams.’ Forget what high note it is specifically, but it’s high.

Later, after the church dinner, I spoke briefly with Erika.  During the brief conversation, I changed my mind.   I decided the “Same World” tune was good after all, because I heard myself sing a few lines from it.  The lines sounded good to me when I sang them, and I believe I saw Erika smile.

Most of all, however, when I timidly admitted that I had put the word “screams” on a long-held high note in “Midnight Screams,” forcing the singer to have to sing an extended long E vowel sound, Erika simply said:

 

The gallery for --> No Problem Smiley

She then amazed me with just about the most thrilling long E high note I’ve ever heard.  Nobody’s going to shout “verboten” at that good a voice  – and now I don’t have to change the title either.

I slept well last night.  My neurosis has been relieved.   

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More Culture Shock

I was going to remove the previous post because it was basically the “illustrated version” of a 27-paragraph Facebook timeline post, printing out to 13 pages (1 1/2 spaced) on a Word doc, and I didn’t expect anyone to bother to read a post that lengthy on either site.  The only reason I wrote it in the first place is because I was feeling depressed, and I was giving myself an online pep talk at the time.

However, four people read it on Facebook, and it looks as though three people read it here on WordPress, although I’m pretty sure at least one of them was a “likes collector” and did not actually read the post. 

It is both interesting and depressing that, of the four people who read it on Facebook, the two who decided to comment did exactly what I was hoping no one would do.  I even think that I pretty clearly suggested in the topic paragraph of the post that this was not what I wanted anyone to do.  I had said that my posts were in general “social statements” and not “requests for advice or assistance.”  So, when two people proceeded to give me advice in their comments, it made me think one and only one thing:

Can my writing possibly be that bad?

However, of the other two people who read it on Facebook, one of them gave it a “love” and the other one private-messaged me with the word “wow.”  (I wish she had put the “wow” on the post itself, but I suppose I can’t have everything.)  So I have to remember that it’s not always all about me.  People’s inability to understand the gist of my posts is not always related to my inability to write clearly.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, they just don’t understand.

download

In any case, depression has been striking me much more frequently and much more easily ever since March 4th, which as you may recall is the day I finished the script to my musical Eden in Babylon.

Talk about your crash and burn.  It seemed as though I had reached a peak, after which I could only descend, when my desire had been to ascend further upward.  My doctor and my therapist both want me to try this new medication, and I’ve been feeling like telling them both to take all their damned psychiatric drugs and cram them up their you-know-whats.  The last one gave me acid reflux, for which they responded by wanting me to take yet another med, one to wipe out the awareness of the acid reflux.  Of course, I stopped taking the psychiatric med instead, and the acid reflux went away.

The psychiatric med had little or no effect on my mental health while adversely affecting my otherwise excellent physical health.  I just do not understand why a person would ever want to take a psychiatric drug unless they absolutely needed to. Psychiatric drugs lost me a $50,000 annual income, a car, and a house in the year 2004, only because I still believed anyone who wore a badge.

As far as my piano-vocal score, I made it about halfway through the Opening Number during the first week of my plan to work twenty hours a week on it and get it all done before October 1st.  Though the task was not as tedious as I’d expected, nor did it feel as much like drudgery as I’d anticipated, I still felt like I couldn’t rise to the occasion.  I was on my way down.  There was no stopping it.  I was living in a beautiful, idyllic city of my dreams between July 27 and March 4th.  Since that date, practically everything I have touched has turned to dirt, and the city of my dreams has become a ghost town.

This is neither a social statement, by the way, nor a request for advice or assistance.  I’ll be back with a social statement very shortly.

Succeeding

I’ve been succeeding in putting in the three hours a day that I promised myself I would do in order to notate my piano-vocal score, but I have *not* been succeeding in getting the three hours to occur consecutively one after another, or in the same place at the same time each day.

The first day was the best. I found a spot at the Co-Op with a power outlet that was just perfect. I did the first two hours until I noticed I was beginning to nod. So I went home and took a power nap, then returned to the same Spot to wrap things up. My pastor Norman came in while I was working there, and he gave me a good muse.

teensuicideintervention_1186378
INTERVENTION

So, I was extremely encouraged after the first day. Tuesday consisted of three scattered hours at totally different times, and also turned out to be a day (naturally enough) when nothing else was accomplished. Then yesterday, I worked the three hours pretty much consecutively, although I was seeing stars in the third hour. This is probably due to my having to manage multiple choral parts and solos in the gargantuan Opening Number, entitled Intervention (only a mere fraction of it being reproduced on the foregoing link.) But then, I had enough to time to prepare one of the four speeches on the Homeless Experience I’d planned to prepare.

I worked on that speech for six and a half hours, but it didn’t come out too well. I knew there was something wrong with it when I went to bed late last night, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. My friend Danielle listened to it, and said it was “pedantic” and that I sounded like I was “lecturing” and that I had “no real feeling for what I was saying;” that is, up until the very end, when I seemed to pour my whole hugely indignant heart into it. She said she liked the earlier speeches on my Talks page a lot better, because they just sound like “Andy talking for a half hour or so.” (She’s certainly heard Andy talk for a half hour or so, without stopping, many times on the phone in the past.)

Well, I guess I’m just a talkative guy. But I do agree with her perception. I left the speech on the shared link, but I’m going to re-do it once I have the presence of mind. Also, I am committed to getting the three hours of score notating done before I pursue any more pleasant projects. It will be good if I can get myself regularized (fat chance!) and do them concurrently, rather than all over the daily map.

Today, I’ve only done one hour so far, but I’m all set up at the Bagel Shop and about to do the other two. I’ll be done at four, then I’m going to see a show tonight at the Moscow Art Theatre.

So I’m right at the spot at “Intervention” where all the adversarial characters in the Opening sing at once, just before the hook where they are joined by the characters sympathetic to my protagonist. It will be a cacaphonic nightmare if I don’t determine just the right harmonies. But it will be good for me – and let’s get crackin.’

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An Odd Feeling

The odd feeling I described in the last paragraph of the previous post seems to be in the process of panning out into an approximate facsimile of the predicted reality. Specifically, that feeling was stated as thus:

I have this odd feeling that the next time I put pen to paper, I’m probably not going to stop until the long-awaited moment arrives when I write the words “The End” at the bottom of the document.

A bold claim, if there ever was one. However, what has been happening is much akin to my feeling, despite its alleged oddity. At a certain point yesterday, I began working on Act Two, Scene Two; and I found myself quite unable to stop until the inevitability of a certain annoying necessity known as “sleep” bid me do so. I saw once again the eeriness with which the time when I wrote the words “End of Act Two, Scene Two” at the bottom of p.116 coincided with the exact time of 1:45am. Strangely, I seem to be finishing up at the quarter of the hour, every time I do finish up. Not sure what it means (if anything) but it’s an interesting thing to behold.

So – what is being manifested is an approximate facsimile of the predicted reality. I had predicted I wouldn’t stop until I reached the end of the entire script. This proved to be a completely unrealistic prediction, though I must admit it spurred me on. Instead of finishing a complete draft, I still have one Scene to go. Not only that, but I went to bed disgruntled. There were still strange inconsistencies in the story line that were heading me toward the dreaded deus ex machina. I went to bed having no idea how to resolve them.

aha_titleThe good news is that, not a half hour into the morning, I had another luminous moment of “Aha!” Who would have thought it? I now sit cheerfully in the local cafe where the Writer’s Guild meets on Saturdays, awaiting the arrival of the other Writers, so that I might share my jubilation with those of like mind. In fact, I hope they may add fuel to the fire, that all remnants of a cheap “wrap-up ending” will on this day be discharged for good.

Besides, I promised the Minister of Music at my church I’d be done with this draft by tomorrow. She’s hoping to retire soon, in which case there’s a chance I might be called to assume some of her responsibilities. But I’m enough of an Artist to know that for me to presume to do so right now would be foolhardy, as long as this script still dangles. And I’m enough of a Christian to know that at a certain point, I’m going to have to sacrifice some of my current absorption in my Art to focus more fully on my devotion to Christ.

It’s a fine line.  One way or the other, I can honestly say that I’m almost done with the initial draft of Eden in Babylon.  It’s been a long time coming — and it won’t be long now.  When I do write the words “The End” at the bottom of the document, I can assure you — you’ll be the first to know.

 

The Second Act

I’m currently lodged within an out-of-the-way fast food joint on the edge of town with a Wireless connection and a very limited number of customers on site.   I figure I’m removed enough from my ordinary itinerary that I’m not likely to be disturbed as I try to sink my teeth into the Opening of Act Two.

I did write four pages Monday morning before my first meeting with the therapist to whom I have been assigned.  I had been struggling for about three days with exactly how to begin the second Act, prior to its opening number: Hunted.   During those three days, there was a sequence of illuminations, each one drawing me closer to the point where I could confidently put pen to page.   Then, when I wrote those pages, I was rolling.  They were almost right.  However, the first time that new characters needed to arrive, I got stuck again.  Something was wrong.

I retreated into incubation; and arguably, into depression.  I really wanted to be rolling — to be flowing.  I don’t enjoy these lulls.  But once again, during the lull, I gradually received a substantial illumination.  It is now clear to me that if I want to know what the entrance of the new characters is all about, I’m going to have to go back and rewrite the first four pages.   Those four pages in and of themselves seem very effective, but they are not sufficiently continuous with the end of Act One.  The continuity that I need in order to proceed must be evident at the very beginning of the Act — not midway through the first Scene.  

light-goes-onSo the light had gone on, and I could relax a bit.  Still, none of this is as important to me at this moment as the substance of this first meeting with my therapist.  I had been nervous prior to seeing him.   I’m not a person who very readily places his trust in psychologists or psychiatrists.  At times, they have even seemed to be the very enemies of Art in my highly defensive view.  But this time, I had too much to get off my chest — and too much at stake.  Moreover, the doctor who recently diagnosed me as “mildly bipolar” strongly encouraged me to seek therapy in order to supplement the low dose of the mood stabilizer that he had prescribed.  So I was eager to meet with Dave, the therapist — though admittedly very nervous.  

To my surprise, Dave made me feel quite comfortable the moment I walked through the door.  As it turns out, he is from a musical family.  He himself is musical, as are his parents and siblings, and his daughter is a high school music teacher.  More crucially, he thinks like an Artist.  So I could tell that, as I discussed the dilemma of the Writer’s Block that had paralyzed me for three years, and its lingering effects, I sensed that he identified. 

When I finished my explanation, he said something very profound, and I quote:

Wherever Art is involved, the ego of the Artist
is something that the Artist will seek to protect at all costs.

His insight was that, in the manner in which I could not “take or leave” the perplexing implications in the professor’s critique (see this post), I was protecting my ego for the sake of my Art.  The manner in which I protected my ego was, unfortunately, to pester the professor, badger him, and possibly be perceived as a threat to his own well-being as I persistently tried to persuade him to clarify his mysterious review before it drove me nuts.  All the while, I was blocked against further work on the project, because I couldn’t rectify my respect for his opinion with the fact that I was unable to understand it.

His theory is that the professor himself, also being an Artist, had to protect his own ego, for the sake of his own professionalism.  He had hoped I would “take it or leave it.”  Had I been more professional, I most certainly would have left it.  Unfortunately, due to my very low station in life at the time, being lucky enough to have secured a 30-day stay in a homeless shelter during the Winter, with no possessions to my name other than the laptop which was, in fact, a gift from the professor, I was unable to ascend to the level of professionalism the professor expected of me.  In my downtrodden state of being, I considered that script to be all I had going for me.  Since the professor was the only person in the business who was paying any attention to me, I placed an inordinate amount of hope in his estimate of my work.  Then, when he “panned” me, I felt attacked.  So I protected myself – by fighting back.   He then protected his own self – by withdrawing, and eventually removing me from all Internet interfaces.

This all seemed somehow perfectly understandable.  Dave was able to help me see a broader view, in which the professor and I were more alike than different.  Our artistic egos are strangely locking horns in an invisible dimension of the Arts.  Both egos desire the horns to be unlocked.  It only takes one entity to unlock both horns.  I only have the power over the horns of one of the entities.  It’s time I unlocked the horns of my ego – and my ego will be at peace.

horns Dave then asked how the script was coming along now.  Perking up, I was able to convey the happy news, how the block first began to break at a cathartic Thanksgiving dinner, where a kind family from my church permitted me to express my angst without judging me or writing me off as some kind of petty bastard, wallowing in the bitterness of a broken friendship.   I shared how, gradually, more and more people in my community have tuned into my project, and have shown a surprising amount of support for my work.  But most of all, I shared how I had proceeded much further into the script than ever before, more slowly and carefully, reaching the end of Act One even, and on into the second Act.   The 91 pages now are far more evolved than the earlier 56 pages of relative drivel I submitted in haste to the previous professor.   Nor am I at an impasse or any kind of roadblock, but plowing steadily forward to the end of Act Two.  My creative life has been transformed far and away for the better, since the darker days of dejection, despair, and dependency upon the approval of a single, detached individual.  As I approach the end of the Second Act, I need neither praise nor blame.  My approval resounds from within and without me.  My God has accepted my work.

Highs and Lows

A while back, in my post The Creative Process, I wrote these words:

There is a theory, most notably espoused by Graham Wallas, that once a creator is fully committed to their creation, the creative act continues constantly, even when nothing is being considered consciously.  This process of unconscious creation is known as incubation.  Then, in conjunction with a moment of illumination, the creative process is consciously resumed.   Arguably, this is what took place during the week when it seemed that nothing was accomplished.  Suddenly, much was accomplished on a single day.   Of course, there are other theories as to why this could have come about. 

At the risk of being stigmatized or stereotyped, I’m going to open up about one such theory.  It is said that some very creative people have Bipolar Disorder; and it is also quite possible that I might be one of those people.  If so, it is possible that, for me, the stage of “incubation” corresponds to the low end of the bipolar mood swing, commonly referred to as depression.  Then, the stage of “illumination,” – and all the satisfying work that follows – may correspond to the high end of the swing, commonly referred to as mania  I’ve noticed that ever since I’ve been writing this play, I’ve been cycling back and forth between these two stages — whatever they’re to be called – and that the cycling has been occurring like clockwork.

However, when I read the symptoms of the disorder, they seemed to me to be much more extreme in general than what I was experiencing.  It may surprise you, for example, that I wasn’t so concerned about the low end of the ebb.   Sure I was depressed when my sister died.  Of course I was depressed when, three days later, we in America elected a reckless and unscrupulous, inexperienced buffoon to be our chief political officer.   I was also more than a little depressed whenever I was first trying to break through my three-year Writer’s Block, and could not get my mind off how my failure to make progress with this piece seemed inextricably linked to a failed 45 year friendship.  But as far as depression that would be experienced as part of a cyclic mood swing — no, I did not experience depression at any level nearly commensurate with the awful accounts I read about.  If anything, I felt a bit annoyed that I seemed creatively dry, and I was eager for the situation to change. 

It was what happened when the situation changed that concerned me.  True, I would have incredibly satisfying bursts of long-winded creative accomplishment, such as the day when I wrote for sixteen hours.  It’s also true that I would sometimes enter into elation, and feel that I needed neither sleep nor food, on the premise that my soul was being fed.  While excessive goal orientation and loss of interest in food or sleep are both known symptoms of a bipolar “manic episode,” I still wasn’t concerned.  What concerned me was that I became so happy that I was finally getting into my script again, after an infuriating three year Writer’s Block, I could barely sleep at night for excitement.  All I could do was lay awake in bed at night fantasizing about who was going to be playing what part on Broadway, and what my acceptance speech would look like when I picked up my Tony Award.

So I went to the clinic and saw a doctor, who had me fill out a simple questionnaire.  He wound up diagnosing me as “mildly bipolar,” and put me on a low dosage of a bipolar medication.   This turn of events seemed reasonable to me.  My level of bipolarity, so to speak, is not so huge as to cause gross disruptions in my personal, social, and professional relationships.  However, it is pronounced enough to have caused me to become concerned and seek medical attention, before the situation should worsen.

It has now been ten days since I began taking the medication.   Although at first I didn’t enjoy its effects at all, I’ve begun to notice some things that I can’t help but interpret as positive.   Let me list a few:

  1. If a problem is solved during Writers Guild meetings as a result of intelligent feedback from the other Writers, I don’t become so excited about it that I can’t focus on applying the solution.
  2. I no longer lay awake in bed all night fantasizing about future successes, but rather wind down normally, do some light reading, and drift off into sleep.
  3. I’m more relaxed in my work situation, and less anxious about missing my cues.
  4. Probably most significantly, the amount of time spent in what I’ve been calling the “incubation” or “depressed” period is significantly reduced – at no expense whatsoever to the amount of time spent in the highly productive period.  The only difference is that I am now more inclined to stop the production, get some food or rest, and continue the high level of productivity the next day.

As to point #4 above, I’m in the process of getting the first Scene of Act two prepared, which will include the musical number I call Hunted.  I wrote this in 2012, when I first conceived of this musical, as described on this page.   I’m eager to finish the lyrics, and apply its dynamics to the current incarnation of Eden in Babylon.   In the meantime, I’ve linked to a instrumental recording of it below.  It is my hope, like that of any other Artist, that you will take a few minutes to enjoy and appreciate my work.

Hunted

from Eden in Babylon
Copyright © 2012, 2o17 by Andrew Michael Pope.
All Rights Reserved.

Writer’s Block

Somebody said something to me yesterday that struck a major chord within me.

“Forgiveness isn’t between you and the person you’re trying to forgive.  Forgiveness is between you and God.”

I stared at her for a moment, half humiliated, half disgusted.

“I knew you were going to say that.”

Of course, it’s true.   The only drawback is, now I have to forgive God, too.  I have to forgive God for making it so hard to forgive that other guy.  But looking at the bright side, let’s consider what I need to forgive the other guy for.  

In case you haven’t been following my last few posts, the man in question basically pulled a hit-and-run.  He hit me – then he ran.  As far as the actual hit, I can roll with that punch.  It’s the run I have to forgive him for.  He abandoned me.  He ditched me.  He forsook me.  But will God forsake me?   Will God run?

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5 ESV

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. – Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.– Joshua 1:5 NKJV

There you have it!  He said it at least three times – (in three different translations, even.)  That Guy will not forsake me.  So why not start looking to God for my forgiveness needs, not to people?  If I’m mad at Whats-His-Name, be mad at God instead.  If What’s-His-Name won’t help me to forgive What’s-His-Name, then turn to God to help me to forgive What’s-His-Name.  If What’s-His-Name won’t help me remove my Writer’s Block – then maybe God will.

In fact, that’s it!  I need to ask God to remove my Writer’s Block!  Not whoever that other guy is.  In fact, it’s not important who he is.  What’s important is what he represents.writers-block-1-2

No one having offended me and left me with a Writer’s Block would have the power to remove the block by ceasing to offend me.  Moreover, it is not possible for me through my human powers alone to persuade somebody to stop offending me.  This is all just some game I’ve been playing at a deep unconscious level, blaming some other guy for my Writer’s Block.   That block is not going to be removed until God Himself removes it.  So all I need to do is to start praying for God to remove my block.   Then, when the time comes – and not a moment before – the maddening three-year-old Writer’s Block will at last be removed.

Then, and only then, will I be to finally finish this script!  Why didn’t I think of this earlier?   I’ll get on it right away.  Praying right now — even as we speak.