Tuesday Tuneup Fifty

Q. What’s been bugging you lately?

A. Remnants and reminders.

Q. Of what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q. Have other people done that with you?

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

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

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

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

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

Q. Is that a problem?

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

A. So how can you solve this problem?

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

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

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

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

A. By all means.

Q. Do you love her?

Pause.

A. That depends upon what you mean by love.   

Q. Did she hurt you?

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

Q. Do you think that you hurt her?

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

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

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

Q. Are you still hurt by her?

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

Q. Aren’t relationships usually painful?

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

Q. Do you want to be in a relationship?

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

Q. Do you prefer being alone?

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

Q. What about sex?

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

Q. Like what?

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

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

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

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

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

Q. What does the therapist say?

A. He says she probably has Borderline Personality Disorder.

Q. But what does he say about you?

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

Q. Is that true?

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

Q. What did the pastor say?

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

Q. What else did he say?

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

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

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

Q. Do you want another woman in your life?

A. Like I said earlier, I don’t know.

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

A. For a while, I smoked marijuana.

Q. Why did you stop?

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

Q. What else can you do, then?

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

Q. What is her spirit like?

A. Hippie.

Q. And yours?

A. Impoverished yuppie.

Q. But aren’t you an aging hippie?

A. I’m changing into an aging yuppie.

Q. Isn’t that an oxymoron?

A. Next question, please.

Q. Are you separating your spirit from hers?

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

The Questioner is silent.  

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A Fountain of Tears

Oh, that my head were waters,
And my eyes a fountain of tears,
That I might weep day and night
For the slain of the daughter of my people!

Oh, that I had in the wilderness
A lodging place for travelers;
That I might leave my people,
And go from them!
For they are all adulterers,
An assembly of treacherous men.

 “And like their bow they have bent their tongues for lies.
They are not valiant for the truth on the earth.
For they proceed from evil to evil,
And they do not know Me,” says the Lord.

Jeremiah 9:1-3

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For the Director of Music

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction?
Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

But I cry to you for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, Lord, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?

From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.

–Psalm 88

A Fountain of Tears

Oh, that my head were waters,
And my eyes a fountain of tears,
That I might weep day and night
For the slain of the daughter of my people!

Oh, that I had in the wilderness
A lodging place for travelers;
That I might leave my people,
And go from them!
For they are all adulterers,
An assembly of treacherous men.

 “And like their bow they have bent their tongues for lies.
They are not valiant for the truth on the earth.
For they proceed from evil to evil,
And they do not know Me,” says the Lord.

Jeremiah 9:1-3

Of Creation and Control

I’m writing on a text file in Open Office. I have the emerging text to The Oracle Sequence open on another file. I’m making a conscious point of avoiding the typical Internet venues on which I write. That means WordPress, DiaryLand, Facebook, Twitter, and all email-related interfaces, such as Zoho or G-Mail. I’m trying to break certain negative associations I have developed with all of those venues, for they seem to be thwarting my progress on this particularly pertinent portion of my project.  Never before have I felt such an enormity in the gap that separates the degree of my desire to progress with the degree of my actual progress, as pertains to a specific project or piece. I want nothing more than to begin making substantial progress on this project. I want the piece to “break.”

But let me explain what I mean by “break.” I use this expression a lot, but I don’t often take the time to clarify what I mean.

ionescoWhenever I am in the process of creating something substantial, my progress seems to proceed extremely slowly for the first several days, taxing my patience. But I endure, for the knowledge that at some point soon, the piece will “break.” When it breaks, it is as though floodgates have been opened. Where the rate of progress before was tortuously slow, all of a sudden I am progressing at a very rapid, steady pace. The process of producing the piece has begun to “flow.” With that sudden huge burst of energy comes a renewed confidence. I no longer brood with the sense that the inevitable break I await will be delayed interminably. Instead, I exult in the creative process.   Whereas, days or hours earlier — or even moments earlier — various aspects of the process seemed to pose nothing but horrific obstacles toward my progress, they now seem to work marvelously in my favor, as if by magic.  And before you can bat an eye, I feel that I am actually completing the piece in question.

You heard me: completing the piece.  The prospect of its elusive completion no longer buzzes about my brain like an annoying insect I can never manage to swat.  Completion occurs readily, rapidly, precisely — and in fact, numerous times

“What?” you may ask.  “How can completion occur numerous times?   You just got finished telling me that until this thing ‘broke,’ you couldn’t even complete it once.” 

That’s a very logical question, and please allow me to explain.  For you see, it seems I’ve substituted one problem for another one.

What happens after the piece “breaks” is that, in my greatly increased productivity, I get from A to Z so fast that my emotions can barely handle the sudden positive turn of events, and I decide that everybody needs to know about it.  So I gleefully send out a “completed” version of my piece to all my dearest friends and family members, hoping they will be as excited at the surprise “completion” as I am.  But then, little do they barely have the chance to open their email, when BAM!  I decide that the recently completed version wasn’t quite good enough; and so I send a second version of the piece; say, Version “1-B.” 

After that, I send Version 1-C, and then Versions 1-D thru F, and so on down the line.  People in my life are suddenly receiving so many versions of some new work of mine, they naturally have no idea when the bombardment will cease, and exactly which of the many versions, if any, they should bother with.  

correlationWhile this is happening, I vaguely sense that there is something wrong with my approach.  Oh, I understand exactly why this pattern has come into being.   The hugeness of the moment when the piece finally “breaks” is typically too much for me emotionally.  You see, I had been frustrated for days, perhaps weeks, all around a relatively insignificant creative project of mine; for example, this polishing of The Oracle Sequence that has come to receive such prominence in my head lately.  But once The Oracle Sequence “breaks,” then to whatever extent that I had earlier been impatient and frustrated, I will now have become just as excited, and in fact, full of glee.  Excited, exuberant, and gleeful.  I feel almost mischievous at that level of enthusiasm.  In that sudden, newfound elation, it will be extremely difficult for me not to burst forth with a constant, incessant gush, exulting in the experience of excitement that so elates me, and exuding that ecstasy upon the world.

But when I do this, I forget that the world is not necessarily predisposed to tuning into the value of my creation at that moment.  Moreover, the world does not necessarily care about my creation — at least not yet. If I want them to care in some future, positive scenario; then probably I shouldn’t be bombarding them prematurely as though to prove my prowess and prodigy in an a priori fashion. Wouldn’t it be better to hold back, until I really have a product worth releasing; and even then, to release it to the world with humility, and grace?

graham_wallasOf course it would be. I therefore must commit myself to terminate my earlier practice, difficult though that termination may be to effect emotionally.   I need to cease to involve all my close friends and family members in my process.   Henceforth I will not even go online, not even to WordPress, but do all my work in secret, offline, where nobody will see me, and where I will nor be tempted to share my work prematurely.  Far better will it be for me to regard this wonderful burst of creativity as a private matter, something that speaks for the ineffable unity of the Creative Mind.   In this way, it is akin to the moment of “illumination” delineated by Graham Wallas in his work on the four stages of the creative process.  According to this model, the previous period of frustration and confusion actually parallels an unconscious process of “incubation,” whereby the piece is quietly being constructed with great direction and progress in the unconscious mind.   The conscious mind remains unaware of this inner process, and in fact believes falsely that nothing is being accomplished at all.  According to that model, The Oracle Sequence is at this very moment being polished, refined, and completed — even as we speak — though in my limited awareness, I feel as though nothing is happening at all.

Obviously, this explanation is pleasant to the ears of the Artist.  But how valid is it, really?  There are other ways of framing this event of “breaking,” this sudden bursting of the floodgates, and the subsequent steady flow of unprecedented Artistic creation.   Some of those ways are not particularly favorable, however, or sympathetic with the Artist’s dilemma.  Take the view often espoused, for example, by those in the mental health profession.   These are those who contend that the Artist is only subject to his mental health disorder, since his pattern clearly manifests the mood swings of manic depression, nowadays known more commonly as Bipolar Disorder.   In this view, the Artist is unable to create while in the depressive phase, because his depression prevents him from doing so, on a basic neuro-physiological level.  When, in my case, I experience the event of the “breaking,” followed by a fast flow of creative prodigy, I am according to the psychiatrist merely in the “manic” phase of my “disorder.”

I am further told that during the depressive phase, the Artist may not even be aware that he is depressed.  This is due to the intensity of his Artistic focus, in which he is completely immersed —  even as he gets nothing accomplished at all.   His focus, after all, is on his Art — whether he is succeeding in manifesting that Creation or not.  So if he is not succeeding, he may well be depressed and in fact rather irritable.  But he does not know this, for his focus is not on his feelings — but on his Art. 

psychiatrist couchThe psychiatrist continues to advise him that the reason why nothing is getting done is on account of his depression.  The depression, claims the psychiatrist, has overwhelmed him, and rendered him inert and immobile with regards to his creative goals.  But the Artist doesn’t see it this way.  He argues that the converse is the case.  The only reason he may be depressed is because nothing is getting done.  And besides, the word “depression” doesn’t quite cut it.  “Annoyed,” perhaps.  “Annoyed, irritated, aggravated, frustrated, impatient, confused, bewildered, and generally out of sorts.   But depressed?   You gotta be kidding me!  Depression is for less inspired, less purpose-driven men than I.”  

At this, the psychiatrist typically only nods her head.  “Give it about a week, my boy, and you’ll be just fine.” 

Be this as it may.  We have the clinical, ultra-behavioristic approach of the detached, unfeeling psychiatrist, dismissing all the mysterious spectacles of Artistic angst with a cold, calculated DSM-V approach to life.   A bit more pleasing, we have the intriguing approach of Mr. Wallas and his followers, an approach that is definitely more Art-Positive than diagnostic in nature.  But neither of these perspectives really assists me in confronting the essential anxiety that I must endure in order to attain to a happier state of affairs.  The one way exalts Art above all, the other poo-poos and dismisses the Artistic character, even hinting at attributing the Artistic Focus to some form of mental illness.  Yet despite this glaring difference in the two perspectives, they both point to one very disturbing factor that they share in common.   In each case, the Artist is at the mercy of a psychic process that is largely beyond his conscious, creative control.  

What is needed, then, is greater control.   

As to just how this greater control is to be gained, please don’t think for one minute that I have not already pondered this question eternally.   There are in fact several text files on Open Office already, exploring this perennial question.  I even draw near to a solution or three, in places.   But let me take my leave at this juncture, and advise you of my findings when they are bit more conclusive.   It may well be that as I complete my analysis as to what it will take to complete my piece, the completion of the analysis may prove to be a more important creation than the completion of the piece itself.

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Gratitude List 591

Although this blog exists in order to promote my own project as well as to support the projects of similar, like-minded Artists and Writers, I can’t help but confess that I’ve been posting a lot of personal stuff here lately.   It doesn’t sit entirely well for me to do so.  However, my Art is so entirely wrapped up in my personal issues and experiences, it becomes a bit difficult to separate the two at times.  Nor should I really concern myself with creating an arbitrary separation, as though my absorption in Art were a strictly professional matter, mandating that I leave my personal stuff behind in order to work.  Such distinctions never pan out in reality — not for me, anyway.  

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaThe best “separation” I’ve ever been able to accept is that I write better about personal experiences when they are not immediately happening.   Take my recent writings on Homelessness, for example.  The descriptions of the homeless life that I wrote while I was homeless might be extremely lurid, perhaps even shocking, but they don’t adequately convey the essence of homelessness towards those who are not homeless.  I write better about homelessness when I am removed enough from the experience to be more objective in my writing, but not so far removed as to have forgotten entirely what it was like to live outdoors, sleeping with one eye open, constantly wondering when I was going to be awakened, by whom, and for what purpose.  I’ve been living indoors for almost a year now, and the urgency with which I sometimes feel compelled to post about my homeless experiences is based almost entirely on the perception that I’m about to forget all about it, any day now.

All that said, I don’t wish to belabor personal issues here on this blog to the extent that they overwhelm or even replace my focus on my Art.  But lately they have been so intense that I’ve felt that I had to.  It would have been sheer hypocrisy to sit here behind my computer, pretending that everything is A.O.K.   Still, enough is enough.  It’s time I take responsibility for my depression, and move forward once again.  

So I’m going to swallow my pride once again, and meet with my therapist and my doctor on Friday, and concede to explore the new mood stabilizer that they have considered for me, on the basis that the previous one (which I’ve not taken for months now) was giving me acid reflux.  Although I am leery as to any lasting effects the medication may have, I do recall that the previous medication definitely helped me to focus well enough to finish my musical script and to interact favorably with the other Writers in my guild.  After a while, however, its favorable effects sort of wore off, and all I was left with was the acid reflux.  Maybe this one will be better.  We’ll see.  In any event, I don’t want to become as depressed as I’ve been throughout the past several days, if I don’t really need to be.

I do want to report that I’m in much better spirits today.  For one thing, I got up and made a daily gratitude list — as I do every morning — only this time it was not merely the empty ritual it had somehow become.  I sincerely attempted to come up with ten things I could truly be grateful for — and you know what?   It worked.   (The strong cup of coffee alluded to in #9 below also helped.)

GRATITUDE LIST 591
 

1. It was good to go to One World last night, where I felt the energy of being around students who are into higher learning and not into ripping me off, rather than around tweakers who are only into crystal methamphetamine and ripping me off.

2. I had this funny feeling of “recognition” when I walked past the Kenworthy on the way to One World and “remembered” how David H. would often invite me to some theatrical event there, and often I would attend and talk with him thereafter.

3. I noticed that D. seemed kind to me when he paused briefly from his studies to say “hello” — not so much as though I was only another interruption.

4. I did something different when I got up this morning and listened to this brief clip of Pastor Larry Austin, my friend from Faith Family Presbyterian Church in Oakland. A nice reminder with which to begin the day. I was grateful that God sent it to me first thing in the morning, and grateful that Larry requested my Facebook friendship, after all this time.

5. Jim the Janitor has also requested my friendship on Facebook. I’ve also noticed that Jim is a lot more fun to talk to once I have accepted his peccadillos.

6. Speaking of which, today would be Day 13 — were it not for the “peccadillo.”

7. I remembered Homelessness in the surprising rain that poured when I left One World last night, and I felt that earnest gratitude once again when I got behind the locks of the room I am renting. Beats being out in the rain.

8. I get to play for the Taize service tonight. I can also apologize to Erika and maybe even show up for Choir practice, if they have it.

9. Vandals Blend coffee from the Bagel Shop last night. Good thing to have saved it for morning, and grateful for the coffee cup that Kathy Pendegraft gave me from the church yesterday. Glad she pointed it out, because I would never have thought of it, despite how desperately I’d have longed for one in the morning.

10. Though depressed throughout the day yesterday, a brief conversation with Nick cheered me up quite a bit. It was as though I picked up his positive attitude all the way from Marin. I was able to sleep well after that, though previously I had been very anxious.

I actually got all the way through the Gratitude List without spouting anything negative that I am aware of. This could be a good day in Christ, and anyway His blessings are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. It is another day of Grace under the sun.

 

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Despair

I’ve never felt a depression anywhere near this deep before.   The depression keeps me from being able to do simple things in life.  Wash the dishes.  Take out the trash.  Make my bed.  Wash my clothes.  

It just doesn’t seem that there’s any way out of it.  I hesitate to write, to even post, because it consumes me so entirely.

It used to be, there was a reason to be depressed.  Now it’s just — constantly happening.  I keep telling myself that maybe if something changes for the better, I will feel better, and I can start anew once again.  Or I tell myself, I will just pick up where I left off, before I got so sidetracked.  But nothing works.  Nothing helps.  

I used to be able to rely on this person, this Andy, who was always motivated, who always gritted his teeth and faced whatever adversity there was, and endured it.

Now I can’t rely on him anymore.  He’s missing, he’s vacant, he’s gone astray – he doesn’t know where he is.  He can’t do the things he used to do, and enjoy doing them.

I’ve been writing music for several days.  But I don’t like the music.  It’s lousy.  I don’t enjoy it.  I don’t want to be writing it anymore.

I wrote this musical – but – how easily it came to appear to me to be useless.  I can’t even put a demo together; I can’t find singers; I should not even try any more.  All it does is increase the depression.

I just feel like – God blessed me so hugely in bringing me here, bringing me off the streets. Then I somehow transformed the blessing into a curse.  It used to be the other way around, and it should be.  I used to be able to transform curses into blessings.  That was my strength.

I just don’t know what to do with myself anymore.  I pray – but I feel so disconnected from God.  I just can’t see a light at the end of this tunnel.  It just goes on and on, winding in a way that I never can tell what’s ahead.  All I know is what is ahead — is total darkness — and I am always, always in despair.