Gratitude List 1413

This week’s gratitude list is from yesterday morning.

1. Only slept 4 1/2 hrs btw 10 & 2:30, but I’m truly thankful to be up during the ‘absolutely quiet hours.’  I always reflect better, and also get better writing accomplished, during these early morning hours. 

2. Though I hadn’t run for quite some time, the ease with which I ran the full 4 mile course yesterday was startling. I also did 22 pushups afterwards (10 before the shower and 12 after).

3. The morning run helped me to relax and keep the Sabbath afterwards. Somehow, that kind of running helps me to be okay with being alone. 

4. My daughter and I talked at length. I always hear everything she says, despite that I am not a very good listener in other contexts. It is good to know of her situations, as they become my prayer concerns. 

5. Continuing to tidy up the house is getting me to remember that a lot of my alleged severe ADHD is resolved when I know where everything is.

6. Heard from my friend Nick from California on his work break. Hadn’t talked to him for a while and really enjoyed the conversation.

7. After that, I meditated for twenty minutes. I’m researching it, and starting to get more out of it. It’s a practice.

8. Community Action calculated my benefit to be $297 and paid that amount to the utility company.  This is great, especially since I’d only requested $99 (my current bill for two months in the Winter). Looks like I’m covered for a while.

9. Realized on reflection, I need to hold off on the column about homelessness for Spokane Faith & Values a while longer. I don’t mind expressing my opinion as long as it’s a genuine conviction. But there’s something on the last page of the 5th Draft that isn’t quite right. Tracy said she’d hold off. In the meantime, best I turn in one of my other stories.  Grateful I realized this, as I’d have stuck my foot in my mouth.  

10. God is Good.

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Gratitude List 1385

This week’s gratitude list is from last Thursday morning, the 16th.  

1. Slept 6 hrs from 9 till 3, deeply w/dreams.

2. I’m gettting to read Proverbs 16 (my favorite chapter) this morning, with 16:7, my favorite verse.

3. My piece on Cancel Culture is being published in The Spokesman.  I have to edit out 300 words to meet their requirements, and it’s due tomorrow. But I can do it. It’s a priority, as The Spokesman is the major newspaper of the 2nd largest city in the State of Washington.

4. It dawned on me during Bible Project that I would probably think more clearly and have less anxiety if I ate a little more properly.   So I resolved to start with eight forms of food that I read are good for people with ADHD in that they adjust dopamine levels in the brain: milk, eggs, fish, strawberries, apples, bananas, almonds and dark chocolate.

5. Ran 1.2 miles from the church to my landlord’s office to Ace Hardware in spikes & street clothes in 24F weather with the wind on my back, nice brisk run. Ran/walked 1.8 back against the wind, since Ace couldn’t copy my mail key and I had to go to the locksmith in the mall on 3rd Street. Good exercise. (Gives “running errands” a new meaning.)

6. Looks like it’s 31F degrees and less snow on ground. I can probably do a significant run this morning, yesterday’s jaunt being a warm-up.

7. Good Folger’s coffee at my own home out of my own Black & Decker coffee maker. Grateful for this place and for the amazing way it came together without my having to pay a deposit or them runing a credit or background chack, thanks be to God and Young Paul, the college graduate whose lease I took over.  Grateful to finally be no longer surrounded by tweakers, in life.

8. Got my daughter’s youtube of her song “Sparrows” from the open mike at the Starry Plough, a work of genius.

9. Got the Street Spirit check and 3 complimentary papers, along with a Happy New Years and a thank you from the editor-in-chief.  Also, John C. paid me the $10 he owed me on a Suspended CD, so I made $35, which ought to cover the utilities bill.

10. Excited about my theology group tonight, which will be on Martin Luther King and Gandhi. I’ve got three writing deadlines before Friday, and this will be a welcome restbit. God is Good.

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Tuesday Tuneup 62

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Getting my bearings.

Q. What happened??

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

Q. What kinds of things?

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

Q. What happened then?

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

Q. What did he give you instead?

A. Another hook.

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

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

Q. And what did you do then?

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

Q. Who is Amanda?

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

Q. What did you say to Amanda?

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

Q. How did Amanda respond?

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

Q. Were you thankful?

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

Q. Then what did you do?

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

Q. Why did you depart swiftly?

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

Q. Mainstream Stress?

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

Q. What other kind of stress is there?

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

Q. Where are you now?

A. At the local cafe.

Q. Do you plan on returning to the church?

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

Q. May I ask two more questions?

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

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

A. Don’t ask me, man.

Q. May I please ask the second question?

A. Shoot.

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

A. It wasn’t.   Today is Sunday.

Q. It is?

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

The Questioner is silent.

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A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

Piano Player

Hey I’ll post something tonight, I have something in mind, the dude with the iPhone is coming over at 11:30, it will take a while for him to get the file to me and for me to upload it.

I’m kinda bummed with my playing lately, haven’t been practicing, seem to be in a rut, and don’t really have my chops in line.   The song “Kum Ba Yah” came up in my philosophy class yesterday and I thought of an arrangement of it when I was neurodivergentally contemplating the concept and spacing out Mortimer Adler.

We’ll see what happens.   I’ll try not to hit the keys too hard.  It’s been brought to my attention that the piano keeps bouncing up and down.   The tuner came, so I talked to him about it, worried that I might break a string and lose my privilege. (I mean, a key to a building with a Baldwin Grand Piano is a heck of a privilege, in my book.)

The tuner guy tried to console me, advising me that in all his many years in the trade, he had only met three pianists to have ever broken a piano string.

“Well!” I said. “My name’s Andy.  Now you’ve met four.

Anyway, get ready, I’ll be with you at around 6:30pm PST.   My “Kum Ba Yah” should be live by then.

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An Open Letter to the Community

Sun, 13 Oct 2019 8:17:54 PM -0700
From: Andy Pope
To: Heart of the Arts
Subject: An Open Letter to the Community

To Whom It May Concern:

I’m sensing from everybody’s non-response that everybody thinks I am making a mistake.  If so, everybody is wrong.

Nobody but me is in my head and my body when the peak of unmanageable anxiety strikes.  Why should I risk running out of the church screaming after throwing all my messed up attempts at organizing my work onto the floor?  True, you guys are tolerant.  True, my friend the church secretary was right when she said that very few people would have done what she did afterwards, which was to pick up everything and sort it back together after I threw an apparent tantrum.  But nobody but me is inside my head and my body.  Nobody but me knows that the “tantrum” is an effect of uncontrollable levels of anxiety that are solely produced by a failed attempt to manage vibrations from multiple human entities while trying to focus on the single task of vocal-directing for musical theatre as I always used to be able to do so prior to the Summer of 2017.

I know what you all are thinking. You’re thinking that Opportunity has knocked. You’re thinking that here’s a way for me to “give back” and make a contribution to the community. Well! I would make a much stronger contribution to the community if I sat here at home and finished the vocal score — which is nearly done, honestly, just a few glitches to correct — until it was in such a condition that somebody of the calibre of [Name Withheld] could interpret and direct it (if he wanted to) and somebody of the caliber of [Name Withheld] could actually play it. And they don’t have the problem dealing with the panoroma of discontinuous non-myopic autistic dyslexic blah blah blah that I do. I know everybody else is a nice person and tolerant and a good Christian but if so, why is everybody making me suffer?

It’s because nobody understands the autism spectrum, you all think it’s a moral problem, and the notion that I personally do not have any God-given desire to interact, other than in a superficial way, with any other human being again -let alone two or three or more — is unfathomable to all you social animals.  I’m an Autistic Artist and I Need My Space.

Now about the Summer of 2017. I was already speeding up the tempos before I lost the church job. But I could still VD – I just could. I remember one time taking over a Choir rehearsal and doing it. It was musical theatre style as per high school students as per my experience but the fact was I could do it. I tried the same thing last year, with my own music even, and I could NOT do it. It had to have been what happened throughout the summer of 2017 at the Friendship Apartments.  It hasn’t happened since then — but it left its mark.  PTSD is real.  You guys have gotta grasp that I’m not just whining.

I failed to help my ex-wife, I failed to help my daughter, I failed at vocal-directing my own show last Summer, and I will fail at everything I set out to do henceforth if I don’t wholeheartedly go about doing the one thing I seem to be doing right, which is write.(Other than a play a piano, and that sure isn’t making the O.G. any money. Not in this neck, and not without a car, and I’ll be damned if I try to start driving again after 15 years. Can any of you even imagine it? I’d wipe out on the first day.)

Mortimer J. Adler - Wikipedia
Mortimer Adler

To me this is a no-brainer. Now I’ve been trying to read Mortimer Adler and my reading of even the Prologue was hounded by these thoughts as-yet-unexpressed, so I have expressed them. Hopefully this has not been at the expense of the health of any of the recipients. Anyway this is easy reading and engaging compared to most Philosophy.  I think his thought is very important. I wish my daughter would read it — but this is not about my daughter. It’s about my musical and the heart failure I will have if I re-enter the exact same stress that I couldn’t handle last Summer.

We don’t have a Stage Manager. We don’t truly have a Vocal Director who can handle this score. We don’t have a rehearsal accompanist. All we have is a playwright trying to do five people’s jobs. We don’t even have but four people committed in the cast! How can I pull this thing off with only Kelsey and the Three Girls? It is not possible. I will just be going through the same junk as last Summer.

I’ve already talked to Dave and the deal is off. This show will be produced when it’s good and ready and not a moment before. I am not Superman.

Yes, scoring a piano-vocal score will take forever. Maybe I can find a piano-playing music student with perfect pitch and send them the recordings.  They’ll probably need to get paid.  And that’s another story!  But somebody has to sometime give the O.G. a break, I’m sixty-six, I’m retired, I want to write at home and live a quiet life.  I didn’t write a musical so as to get all wrapped up in its production and have the same kind of nervous breakdown that caused me to become homeless in the first place in 2004.  I do not need to become homeless again.

I wrote a musical so I could make a needed statement to America on an important issue using a medium with which I have a wealth of experience.  My role should be restricted to an occasional show-up at a production staff meeting and a show-up on Opening Night with a date.

Seriously,

Andy

P.S. And this weird idea floating around town that I’m supposed to have a lady friend or some kind of wife or girlfriend has got to be the most preposterous proposal ever propounded. Talk about adding stress to stress!  You guys act like I was born yesterday.  Really!

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Bad Dream

I get tired of talking about ADHD & Dyslexia, let alone being on a autism spectrum.  Most people just wanna see & hear me hit the keys.  So let’s just say I’m a highly disorganized person, and that the hassle of trying to get these piano tubes together without a sufficient recording device (i.e. a smartphone) has been kinda like a bad dream at times.

On a brighter note, the problem should soon be solved, being as my daughter Angela will be arriving tonight for a two-month visit — complete with iPhone Six.  Henceforth, you can surely expect piano pieces promptly posted properly if not previously.  

Here’s her bold version of “Bad Dream” by one of my favorite, highly underrated artists, the great Chloe Howl. 

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A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Gratitude List 1125

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

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

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

3. Actually ate a banana this morning.

4. Am drinking orange juice now instead of coffee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gratitude List 1116

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A little bit goes a long, long way.

Tuesday Tuneup 33

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of peace.

Q. Are you at war?

A. Yes.

Q. With whom?

A. With my enemies, of course.

Q. And who are your enemies?

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

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

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

internal enemyQ. What do you mean by that?

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

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

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

Q. So why are you being such a pushover?

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

Q. Why haven’t you done this already?

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

Q. Because?

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

Q. And now?

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

Q. You think so?

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

The Questioner is Silent.

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Statement to the World

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

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

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

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

The point is, no consistency.

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

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

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

Sigh.

There’s even more to it than this.

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

However, somebody whom I respected once told me this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

Tuesday Tune-Up Two

Q.  Do you know who I am?

A.  Not exactly.  But I don’t think it’s relevant.

Q. So why have you summoned me?

A. Because it’s Tuesday.

Q. Tuesday?

A. You heard me.

Q. What have I got to do with Tuesday?

A. I don’t know.  It just kind of seemed like a good day to check in with you.

Q. You mean you’re going to see me every Tuesday?

A. Yes.

Q. Why?

A. Because it represents order.   Regularity.   Discipline.   Things that are sadly lacking in my chaotic life.

Q. Why is your life chaotic?

A. I think I’ve explained this already.   But I suppose it can bear review.   I made a drastic life change about a year and a half ago, in which the old standards and values began no longer to apply.  An effect of this shocking translation is that of chaos.

Q. But don’t you despise chaos?

A. I not only despise it — I am entirely threatened by it.   As a creative, I thrive on order.  There is no place for chaos in my ideal, beautiful world.

Q. Then what can be done to remove it?

meditation-key-loving-reaching-healthy-weightA. Meditation.

Q. Are you serious?

A. I am indeed.

Q. But isn’t meditation a device of the devil designed to make the mind open to demonic influences?

A. Oh, please.  I may be a Christian, but I’m not stupid.

Q. You aren’t?

A. I could conceivably be offended.  Of course I’m not stupid.  Only chaotic, convoluted, and confused.

Q. But how can meditation help you with this?  

A. I can’t tell you.  All I know is that the one time I dared to try it, the results were marvelous.

Q. How so?

A. I noticed all these bizarre thought patterns that had been holding me back.  And in noticing them, and accepting them, somehow they dissolved.

Q. Do you mean that when you were done meditating, you were no longer harangued by these processes?

A. Not for a while, I wasn’t.  A few of them later returned to me, along with some new ones.

Q. So what does this tell you?

A. That I should meditate every day.  It’s a place I need to revisit regularly, in order to get myself clear.

Q. So what’s stopping you?

A. What do you think?

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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By Nature

Note: I tried several times to post this on my facebook timeline (where it belongs) but they wouldn’t let me do so — for some reason.   So here goes.

BY NATURE (an excerpt from my personal diary)

It seems I often awaken in a depressed state these days.  But the depressed state usually is based on extreme black-and-white perceptions about what others think of me.  These perceptions soften within the first ten minutes of the day, as I gradually realize that everything can or should be viewed in black-and-white terms.  While it is true that I often feel extremely misunderstood, it is not the case that everybody misunderstands me.  I can think of four people who understand me right off the top: Norman, Kathy, Danielle, and Jack.  And I’m sure there are others — or at least there can be, if I branch out and start meeting the right people.  

Yesterday morning was a case in point.  black and whiteI awoke depressed as usual, but was able to transform the depression into a sense of quietude. In that quietude, I prayed for all the people who had been troubling me. Then I sipped my coffee, and it was the best coffee I had ever tasted. I felt blessed, for having done the right thing. I even felt I could go back to bed, and I had the time to do so, to catch more sleep before Writer’s Guild.

Instead, I logged on to Facebook. It wasn’t long before the sense of over-stimulation, combined with loss of control, me becoming rattled, my nerves being strip-mined, my balance off-set by all the notifications, buzzes, comments, etc. was too much for me. Trying to order my responses seeming next-to-impossible, while imposing chat windows pop up in the way of my efforts to moderate the new Lincoln Summer Theatre group, and all kinds of other stressors, gradually put me into battle mode, feeling as though I was a soldier in battle needing to fire at the nearest, most dangerous approaching tank.

My sense of peace shot up to high anxiety within an hour or so, as my sense of inability to control the Power Greater Than Myself that is Facebook expanded beyond all reasonable proportion. I enjoy being connected with wonderful people from the “past” (?) in the “present” (?), but isn’t this all a but unnatural? If there were a meeting in quote-un-quote “real life,” where there were twenty people in the group, and I didn’t like one of them, I would either stay in the group, or drop out of the group. I wouldn’t have the unnatural social power to simply “block” the person I didn’t like, not see him or hear any of his statements, and yet still interact with the other nineteen. This is unnatural.

It is unnatural, and is what is unnatural healthy for us? I begin to doubt it.

What is natural is that life runs its course from birth to death; we move from job to job, town to town, and in some cases, from marriage to marriage. I’m a Sicilian who has a hard time letting go of people, places and things. By nature, I am never done with anyone. By genetic nature, I either stay friends with them, or if they dump me, I am still not done with them, because I will track them down to the ends of the earth. By nature, I reward loyalty and punish betrayal. That’s my nature, and I struggle to overcome the extremism thereof by exercising restraint and observing traditional standards of morality and etiquette. For another person, this may not be so much of a struggle, because it is not their nature, and their nature may provide them with other struggles – as well as other strengths – naturally.

So is it healthy that I, who already is struggling against my nature telling me not to move on, not to let go of people, places, and things that haven’t worked out for me, to be enveloped in an atmosphere that continues to flash the very people in my face that I am already struggling to let go of? Twice now — and I am not faulting anyone for doing this out of utter innocence and good nature — I have had to see the face of a person whom I thought was a very good friend of mine, flashed in my face (so to speak) on Facebook Messenger, knowing that this person had told me never to talk to him again and that any further contact from me would be considered harassment.

This is not natural. It doesn’t happen in what we used to call “real life.” I would have never reconnected with that individual (on Facebook) to begin with. He would have been somebody I’d have stopped seeing whenever we first parted ways — by nature — back in the seventies or so.

I have enough trouble “moving on” and “letting go” as it is. Does anybody feel me?

Here’s what happened to me personally after I had been rattled yesterday morning by making the dumb decision to log on to Facebook at a moment of idle down time. I became progressively more uptight, and finally drained. I had only slept three hours anyway, and I figured I had about an hour to kill before Writer’s Guild, so I went down for more rest. But did I rest? No way.

Me personally, I was almost instantly assaulted by what seemed like a demon spirit from hell, grabbing ahold of my neck and my back, thrusting his/her arm around my waist, and taunting me with the words: “Okay, Mr. Wonderful – how does *that* grab you?”

Now I’m glad I no longer live in the State of California or a densely populated urban area, where even making that admission might cause somebody to dial 9-1-1 and I find all my artistic progress further delayed by yet another pointless stay in a psychiatric facility. Just for speaking my truth.

The point is, had I not logged onto Facebook, had I followed my gut and gone back to bed while in a rested state, I would not have become so uptight that I would have risked entering into an hour’s worth of hell in sleep paralysis, fully conscious of my surroundings, knowing that I was dreaming and having a specific sort of nightmare, and unable to move my body for an entire hour, except for rare intervals when I came to, through the use of a couple techniques I learned through research, and then descending into sleep paralysis again. It is not fun.

Nor is it caused by Facebook. But if that’s the kind of height of anxiety that Facebook can trigger (not *cause*) in me, (not *you*), then what the heck am I doing here? This is the 5th Facebook I’ve had in ten years. Every other one of them imploded. Who am I trying to fool? Will I be any better able to handle this Facebook than any of the others?

rotary telephoneOf course not.

So here’s what I am going to do. I am going to go down and get a rotary telephone, like we had back in the Good Old Days, when the phone would ring, and we all would simply answer it. We weren’t afraid of each other in those days. We didn’t have the unnatural power to block out any and every person we didn’t happen to want to deal with from our lives. We didn’t burn bridges left and right. We built them — in ways that are natural. I’m going to plug it in my wall, and I am going to make sure there is no Call Waiting in any form attached, no touch tone, nothing.

Even when two of my Facebook friends were cool enough to actually indulge my natural neurosis and agree to talk with me on the phone, the very next day I had to contend with the phenomenon of Call Waiting, whereby I couldn’t even get through a conversation with before the little “bloop bloop” that tells me somebody else is calling kept continually interrupting my focus, as though this new person calling in was the “most immediate and threatening danger on the battlefield.”

I’m not saying that you guys necessarily encounter these same difficulties. But there’s a reason why I do, and just has to do with the way I’m wired. Call it ADHD or what-have-you. Every single time a Facbeook Messenger box pops up while I’m trying to do something else, my attention is *immediately* diverted to the Messenger, I ex it off, and then I return to whatever I was doing before, asking myself, “Now, where was I?” Sometimes I even forget completely what I was doing before. Sometimes I even forget that what I was doing was the only reason I had logged on to Facebook in the first place, like, for example, to find somebody’s phone number that they had given me in a Facebook comment, or to ask the previous tenant of my new apartment how to turn on the heater.

THIS IS NOT NATURAL. And correct me if I’m wrong. Am I the only person who is tired of having to tolerate all these unnatural social media weirdnesses? Probably not. And that’s part of the reason why this time I will not destroy my Facebook, I will not give up yet again, only to find that I miss everybody, wonder how they’re all doing, and start a Facebook again. I will take my lumps, I will take my chances, and I will bow before the monarch that is Facebook, while at the same time doing my best to give homage to my own King, whose name, by the way, is Jesus.

So – not upset, not defeated, not exasperated, not infuriated. Just a little miffed, and figured it was about time I spoke my piece, as cogently and clearly as I can.

But do me a favor. Let’s not make this entirely about my “mental health,” OK? I decided my mental health was either shot to smithereens and irredeemable, or else completely irrelevant when I first made the decision on August 8, 2006 to drop out completely from the Mainstream of Modern American Life and try to become the best Writer I could be. After all, every effort to become the best Musician or Teacher I could be was pretty much consumed in a confluence of losing one job after another due to things like absent-mindedness, tardiness, or general inability to keep up with the insanely fast pace of workaday urban life.  I’ve got a fast enough pace going on inside me as it is, without anybody else having to add to that velocity.

I’m a Writer. I wrote an entire musical about social dropouts, why we drop out, and what we can all do about it. To hell with my mental health! Click on the link below, and LET’S GET THIS SHOW ON THE ROAD.

Daylight’s burning. I’m not going to be around forever.

Please consider making an any amount donation to Eden in Babylon at this time.  The stuff that gets people interested in original musicals by unknown playwrights unfortunately does not grow on trees.   

can-do

Anything Helps
God Bless

Please note.  As of October 30, 2017, all donations to this cause will be sent to my assistant, Danielle Stephens.  Further information as to this arrangement may be found here.   Donations in any amount may be made safely here.