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Music Performing Arts recovery

Tuesday Tuneup 73

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Conviction.

Q. You’ve been convicted of a crime?

A. Not that kind of conviction.

Q. What kind, then?

A. Spiritual conviction.

Q. Can you elaborate?

A. I’m convicted!  Does the word mean nothing to you?

Q. Why should it?

A. Weren’t you around during the 80’s?

Q. What happened during the 80’s?

A. There was a massive movement throughout America, I guess it started in the late 70’s.  35% of Americans began identifying themselves as “born again Christian” — and they were markedly more conservative than the average voter.

Q. What’s this got to do with conviction?

A. It became Christian slang for a person to say there were “convicted” when they believed that the Spirit was impressing upon them some thing that they should or should not do.

Q. Isn’t that more like guilt?

A. Not exactly.  One can feel guilty even if one has done nothing wrong.   There are many sources of guilt, and not all of them are positive.

Q. But conviction is always positive?

A. Yes.

Q. Well then!  What are you convicted about?

A. Gee, I thought you’d never ask.

Q. Are you convicted you’ve been doing something wrong?  Or convicted that you haven’t been doing something right?

A. Both.  But the latter seems more salient, and to the point.

Q. What is that you ought to be doing right?

A. Something that doesn’t come natural to me.  But every sign is pointing that I do it.

Q. But what is it?

A. I hesitate to say.

Q. Why?

A. I’ll sound weird.

Q. Cold feet?

A. Heebie jeebies.

Q. WHAT IS IT??

A. I’m supposed to take on these — um — roles.  In the community here.  One is that of being a mediator.   Another, a mentor.

Q. Mediator?  Mediator over what?

A. I seem to have been selected to smooth relations between two neighboring businesses.

Q. Why you?

A. Because I am involved in both businesses, one on a volunteer basis, and one as a hanger-outer in a coffee shop.

Q. What is the essence of the tension between the two establishments?

A. Culture clash.   You see, the people next door from the coffee house are involved in trying to get their lives back together.   A lot of them  have been on drugs, or on the streets, or otherwise severely traumatized.  Some of them have serious mental health conditions.   The point is, many of them come across in confusing ways that don’t fit the social norms.

Q. But they’re good people, right?

A. Absolutely!  It’s just that the people in the coffee house don’t necessarily know that.

Q. What are the people in the coffee house like?

A. Quiet, studious, and reserved.

Q. And the people from the place next door?

A. Loud, boisterous, and unrefined.  

Q. So you’re supposed to be a go-between?

A. Yes.  I’m supposed to gently tell them not to be too loud around the coffee house, or cuss too much, or refer to themselves and others in derogatory terms.   And I’m supposed to explain and defend them to the baristas who may feel uneasy in their presence.

Q. Well, isn’t this a good thing?

A. Well, yeah.  It’s better than if the owners had decided just to kick them out of the coffeehouse.  But it’s still a strange position for me to be in.  I have no experience in this area.

Q. So how will you go about this?

A. One step at a time.

Q. Will you wear a badge?

A. Not on your life.  

Q. What about the mentoring?

A. That’s a little more down my alley.   You see, this guy died last month.  A dear friend of mine.  Here’s a picture of him:

Paul Anders

Q. Wasn’t he a little young to die?

A. Young like mid-50’s.  Fit, healthy, vibrant.  Paul caught some kind of flu, turned to pneumonia, turned to a staph infection, then sepsis – and he was gone in about ten days.  He was a great musician – and a great guy.  It shocked the entire community, and left a great void.

Q. What’s this got to do with mentoring?

A. Paul was a mentor and a role model for many of the younger musicians in the community.  He played about ten different instruments, freely played music with all, and encouraged all musicians to embrace and develop their full potential.

Q. And you are supposed to do this in his stead?

A. No one can replace Paul.  But I get this sense that I’m supposed to break out of my shell somewhat, and contact some of the musicians, and see if I can be of help in any way.  In fact, there’s these two brothers who play music — they’re both in their early to mid twenties, and one of them is a fantastic bass player.  Their dad actually approached me.  He said point blank that I am the one to fulfill this role.

Q. How does that make you feel?

A. Honored.   And like I said, convicted.

Q. Almost guilty?   Or afraid, maybe?

A. Only because I’ve never done it before.   

Q. Is that really true, Andy?

A. Well — not for a long time.  I used to be a music teacher, and a musical director for musical theatre productions.   I saw that the kids looked up to me, and I enjoyed passing off my knowledge as best I could.

Q. Then what happened?

A. I think you know what happened.  But let’s just say I was no longer in the position where anybody would see me as either a mentor or a mediator.

Q. But now they do?

A. Somehow, yes — however magically.

Q. So what are you going to do about this conviction?

A. I’m gonna just do it.  I called the bass player, and we’re going to jam at my place on Saturday.   Paul’s 26 year old daughter, herself a singer-songwriter, is going to show up later on this morning with her guitar.

Q. Why does this seem strange to you?  I mean, you’re a musician, right?

A. If you want the truth, the reason I feel so convicted is that it’s making me realize what a self-preoccupied egomaniac I have been throughout most of the past fifteen years.  I’ve lived largely in my head, and not in the world of people.  It started when I was — homeless.  The world of people was too painful to face continually.  So I developed my inner creative world to a new peak, in order to block out the pain of the world around me.

But now, in the world around me — at least in my immediate community — there is very little pain.   Yet for over 3 1/2 years, I’ve persisted in living in my head.  This will give me a chance to get out of my head, and do good things for others, for a change.

Q. And how does that make you feel?

A. It makes me feel good.  Today is the first day in forever that my restless spirit has been at peace.    

The Questioner is silent.

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Christianity gratitude recovery Spirituality

Gratitude List 1367

This week’s daily gratitude selection is from Saturday, New Year’s Day.  

1. Happy New Year!

2. Slept six hours from 11:30 till 5:30.   Very sound, tranquil sleep.

3. Nice of Bruce to meet with me for coffee in the morning yesterday.  He’s a good, supportive listener and a very nice man.  Very perceptive, as well.

4. Spent most of the day at the Center yesterday, which in this case was healing.   April is working there now and she has come a very long way.  April and Amber helped me a lot, and it gave me a place to chill when my nerves were harried from lack of sleep the previous night.

5. Prompted by noticing that more people are showing up on Tuesdays than any other day on my blog site, I made a New Years Resolution to put more effort into the blog and stick to the scheduled posts on scheduled days.   Started out with a bang and am encouraged.

6. Really grateful that the recent storm has passed.  For a while, during the sleepless night, it wasn’t possible for me to hang on to a positive thought, and I felt nothing but self-hatred and frustration with others, as well as deep pessimism and a sense of utter defeat.   Somehow that was all lifted during the time when I was at the Center.   Now I don’t feel any frustration with anyone at all, and I have compassion for people whom I usually begrudge.

7. This makes it easier to pray for them.   Also, about prayer life, I noticed something toward the end of Proverbs 1 this morning that answered a big question for me.   Looking forward to a healthier interior life.

8. Was just reading Galatians 5 and had forgotten about some really good stuff in there, particularly how faith is “expressed through love.”

9. Got to have a long talk with Alex last night, which was inspiring on many levels, including meditation, DBT, our daughters, and the great encouragement of his political bent.

10. Out with the Old, in with the New.   2 Corinthians 5:17.   God is Good.

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Christianity fitness gratitude recovery running

Gratitude List 1334

I make these gratitude lists every morning when I wake up, and choose one to post every Monday.   This one’s from Friday morning.  

1. I did get another hour’s sleep from 9 to 10 yesterday morning, and that saw me through the day. Then I slept very solidly from 10 pm till 4 am this morning.

2. After hearing the words of Jeremiah’s prayer in the car, I did not enter into despair after the next two mistakes I made. Because I was not despairing, I went to bed without desire to escape into the ephemeral pleasure of the sin that has troubled me so. My sleep was as though guarded by angels, my couch undefiled and sweet.

3. This morning I succeeded, as hoped, in having the synthroid with a full glass of water and avoiding the computer until the doctor’s orders regarding my hypothryoid condition were fulfilled. Didn’t have any coffee during that period of time, but prayed and read a Psalm. So I can do it, despite morning disorientation, but I think it wise not to do the reading at the computer. Also, I often have a hard time making out the small print in the hard copy RSV, but this time I read it very easily under the bright kitchen light.

4. Ran the 4 mile course yesterday as per Thanksgiving ritual. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and perfect running weather at around 40F degrees or so, blue skies, big clouds, gentle winds — I love running and am somewhat amazed it’s still even possible at my age. My mind may be in shambles and disarray, but I can be grateful my body is still in one piece.

5. Finished the Inequity Series yesterday with Part Five. If you want to check it out, here it is.   I’m proud of my work, you know, and grateful that God has provided me with a place to accomplish it. That has rarely been the case before, ever in life. Grateful for my nice, quiet apartment.

6. Really nice Thanksgiving gathering at Norman’s place (though he’s in Virginia). It was great talking with people, and especially playing the Kawai piano and singing with Chelsea. Once I was warmed up in the “second set” I did a fiery version of “We Three Kings,” and it blew me away to hear how it was happening, even though my thoughts were riddled with paranoias about gang bangers and other murderers all the way through the event. Then we sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and it was plaintive, peaceful, powerful . . . I love the whole musical consciousness in this town, and Chelsea invited me over to her place tonight at 7 for a big jam.

7. Resigned one of my writing gigs due to a combination of PTSD and a revelation of practical wisdom. I know it’s the right choice, I worked through all the logic of it, and I committed myself on the run to do it, despite later conversations of confirmation. I felt a great peace in my spirit after submitting my resignation, and I remain thankful for the editor-in-chief of that paper, with whom I hope to work in the future.

8. Thankful for Jeremiah, for the fellowship and prayers last night, and for my Presbyterian church.

9. I need to express that the Revised Standard rocks. I turned to Psalm 55, and in the RSV every word was the exact cry of my heart. Turned to Psalm 55 in the Berean Study Bible – nothing. Checked the English Standard Version, thinking at least it would be authentic — still nothing. Confusion of the tongues, man! I’m posting Psalm 55 RSV on Sunday.  I know no one else can get inside my head, but reading every word and praying it confirmed God’s love for me at a very troubled time.

10. God is Love.

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Gratitude List 1264

1. Slept six hours last night between 8pm and 2am. Also got an hour nap yesterday afternoon between 12:30 & 1:30.

2. Ran three miles yesterday morning. I see no reason not to run a couple miles or more this morning, with better form.

3. Was in a good mood during the gig at Jodie’s church, played “Be Thou My Vision,” and got a lot out of the sermon.

4. Jodie paid me $50 in cash. Now I can pay the phone bill.

5. Just noticed it was Proverbs 16 this morning, my favorite chapter in Proverbs. Just looked at 16:7, my favorite verse in Proverbs, and it applies.

6. Good Grapevine meeting last night, sat between two members whom I like who shall remain anonymous, and talked afterward to a member of the clergy who shall remain anonymous. It was a lot like an Al-Anon meeting, and I needed that. Gained from it.

7. Ran into J. drinking at an outdoor establishment taking with D., and tried to avoid them so as to continue doing all the creative work that I typically do “in my head” while briskly walking.  But then, when J. hailed me, I succeeded in not responding with annoyance, as though it were an impolite intrusion.  Rather, I managed to be cordial and smiling with both of them, though still successfully conveying that I had work to do, and managing a getaway without appearing hostile.  For me, this is a breakthrough.  I hate it when people interrupt my work, and it’s been frustrating trying to explain to non-autistic sorts that most of my work is done invisibly in my head.

8. Was praying that somebody would let go, when it came to me that I was the one who needed to let go.

9. I have discovered a truly marvelous resolution to the last Scene in Eden in Babylon, which unfortunately this margin is too narrow to hold.

10. I so love the “absolutely quiet hours.” Can’t wait to finish my reading — and write. God is Good.

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Christianity gratitude mental health Music recovery

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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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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addiction mental health recovery running stigma

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.   I’m thinking about ditching the psych drug, much as I’ve thought it helped.  I’ve stopped everything else, and I don’t need to drink.  Street drugs?  They’re for the streets.

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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Christianity Psychology recovery Spirituality

Tuesday Tuneup 52

Q. What are you doing here?

A. What do you mean, what am I doing here?  I’m here to answer your questions, as best I can.

Q. But didn’t you say you weren’t coming back until October?

A. I changed my mind.

Q. What made you change your mind?

A. There’s much less stress in my life now than there was when I made that decision.

Q. But didn’t you give me your word?

A. I did, yes.

Q. Then why are you breaking your word?

A. Are you really taking this game that seriously?

Q. What makes it a game?

A. Hmm – good question.  I used the word “game” automatically, without really examining it first.

Q. Why do you think you did that?

A. There was a game on my mind.  A game where we used to always give our words, and shake on deals, even though a lot of the times, those deals were broken.

Q. What game was that?

A. Do you really need to know?

Q. Why shouldn’t I know?

A. It’s privileged information.

Q. Am I not privileged?

A. You are not.  And neither am I.

Q. Well, can you give me a clue?  

A. Can we have a guessing game?

Q. Okay.  Where did this game take place?

A. On the streets.

Q. Who did you play it with?

A. A bunch of other people who lived on the streets.

Q. What was the game called?

A. It was called the Game.  Capital G.

Q. How long did you play the Game?

A. Three years.  I began, to be honest, in July 2013.  I stopped in June 2016.

Q. Do you have a photographic memory?

A. I’m not sure.

Q. What did the Game consist of?

A. Interactions with others based on monetary exchanges, supply and demand.

Q. Were you a merchant in the Game?

A. No.  More like a customer.

Q. Why did you stop playing the Game?

A. Because I was no longer interested in the products that were being provided.

Q. Did you then begin to play another game?

A. I did not.  

Q. Why not?

A. Because, as a dear friend once told me, I am not immortal – and life is not a game.

The Questioner is silent.  

Life is Not a Game - Being Effective for God (April 2012)

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Christianity gratitude mental health recovery Spirituality

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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Gratitude List 1063

My list from yesterday morning.

1. I feel kinda “normal” this morning.  I like it when I’m at my norm, when nothing is setting me off.

2. I noticed, as of this morning, that I’m able to pray again. When people have come to mind, I’ve been able to pray for them rather than just worry about them or (worse yet) be indifferent toward them. It’s the evidence of a prayer life that I associate with the state of sobriety that I find to be the best, most useful state.

3. Slept during a normal time frame. I forget when I went to bed (8 or 9) but awoke at around 4am feeling rested and refreshed. Dreamed a lot too.

4. Heard from my daughter for the first time in a long time.   All she said was “hey daddy, love you hope you’re well” and then didn’t reply to any of my following, very immediate, most excited texts. Still, that’s better than nothing.  Grateful to hear that she is (1) alive, and (2) breathing.  It does make a difference.  ;)

5. This coffee is great, from the Sunset. I enjoyed jogging to the store and back in the 18 degrees. It didn’t feel oppressively cold, and the nice guy was working graveyard shift. Got a large Hi-Rev coffee, still working on it.

6. This is a really nice spot, where my apartment is. I like my desk, and where it sits, and the view. The seclusion really sits well with me, if truly appreciated and used properly. I like the early morning hours.

7. Nice chat with a good friend, one of the volunteers at the Center.   

8. Soon I’ll be in the cafe, probably at the Round Table, probably writing music, probably smiling.  Looking forward to church this morning, too.  And you know — my life is good these days. There really is a lot to be grateful for.

9. Working on a big number in Act Two for the vocal score.   It’s intriguing.  There’s an interesting tension between the powerful statement of solidarity and the weird campy musical theatre show tune aspect. That’s the tension I’ve got to work with, in order to make this number truly great.  And I will do so.

10. His blessings are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.

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