Tuesday Tuneup 82

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Just waking up.

Q. Now?   At 9 in the morning already?   Don’t you usually get up much earlier?

A. Usually at around 4:30.  But lately I’ve been getting up at 3, and this morning it all caught up with me.

Q. Why have you been getting up at 3?

A. Not tired anymore.

Q. What time are you going to bed?

A. That’s another thing.  It used to be, I’d go to bed at 9:30, and get a good 7 hours sleep.  Now, I don’t go to bed till 11.

Q. And you sleep till 3?

A. Yes.

Q. No wonder you’re so tired.   But doesn’t this remind you of something?

A. Yes it does, now that you mention it.   It reminds me of the time I always used to go to bed at 3, and get up at 7.   Very similar dynamic.   

Q. And when was that?

A. It was in 2003, right after Mom died.  Every night I stayed up till 3.   Every morning I got up at 7, and drove to the private school where I taught music.   That was the job that I lost in 2004.   I mentioned it in an earlier tuneup.

Q. Weren’t you having a first-time manic episode at the time?

A. Yes.  

Q. Are you afraid of having another one?

A. I don’t think “afraid” is the right word.   But I’m concerned.   I’m always concerned about this, as well I should be.   

Q. Is there any medication you can take to address it?

A. Perhaps.   I’m a little sensitive about it, being a runner.

A. What’s being a runner got to do with it?

A. My physiology is a lot different than someone who does not run.   So medications don’t have the same effect on me as they have on people who are more sedentary.

Q. Can you document that?

A. I can try.  I’m only stating my experience.   

Q. You haven’t always run, have you?   You’ve gone through periods when you don’t run much at all, right?

A. That’s right.

Q. How do medications affect you when you’re not running?

A. More like they’re supposed to, I think.  But check it out.  I didn’t run from about 2000 to mid-2003.   And I got super fat, by the way.   I was on 2400 mg a day of Gabapentin.

Q. Whatever for?

A. They believed it would be a good replacement for the Klonopin I had been on earlier, and less habit forming.

Q. But the Klonopin did not make you fat?

A. Not at all.  In fact, I requested they return me to the Klonopin, after I’d gained approximately 75 lbs.

Q. Did they accommodate your request?

A. Yes.  And then my Mom died, later that afternoon.

Q. So you think the combination of the medication switch and your mother’s death triggered the episode?

A. That’s my thinking, yes.   And psychiatry seems to agree with me, by and large, on this one.

Q. Does psychiatry often disagree with you?

A. I cant say that, no.   What I can say is — as a runner — I am always engaged in an experiment with my own body.   George Sheehan, in his book Running and Being, called it the “experiment of one.”  Since I continually experiment with my own body — that is, I develop theories, test them out, and draw conclusions — it disturbs me that someone who doesn’t know my body as well as I do should be experimenting with it.

Q. You don’t like doctors, do you?

A. I didn’t say that!  I just went to one yesterday, and I liked him very much.

Q. So what are you saying?

A. That I just have to hold this thing in check.

Q. You?  All by yourself?   Don’t you have a therapist?

Free download Core Competencies in Brief Dynamic ...

A. That’s right, I gotta find a good one.

Q. Were you going to a bad one?

A. Can’t exactly say bad — he just seemed, kinda like, he thought too well of me.

Q. Can you clarify?

A. I think he thought I was a lot more on the ball than I actually am.  First session, he kinda looked down as though guilty, and said: “You’re about twice as intelligent as me!” He said it in a tone of great self-pity, as though he were about to quit his job or something.

Q. He was insecure?

A. Yeah.  And now we had TWO insecure people in the room.

Q. So you left that guy?

A. Actually, he eventually quit the job.  And when he was leaving, he told me I should open up a private practice.

Q. And where did you go then?

A. To my pastor.   

Q. How did that go?

A. It was different.   Extremely intelligent, insightful, compassionate.   But somehow I felt as though something was cutting into my core — almost as though trying to create a disruption within me —

Q. Why would he have wanted to do that?

A. Oh, he wouldn’t have wanted to do it — not intentionally, not by his own self.  It was just an inadvertent effect of the logical progression of our mutual thought.   I left eventually, once I felt that something sacred within me was about to be desecrated.

Q. Sacred?

A. Yes.  Like an inner temple.  An adytum, if you will.   Something inside me that is so critical to my being, that no other influence has any business there.  Nobody, not even me, ought to tamper with that inner temple.

Q. So you felt threatened by the pastor, and you left that room as well?

A. You have such a crude way of putting things.   Yes, I left — but only because I then found a Masters Candidate who could see me for free, three times a week for five weeks, in order to fill out her hours for her Masters Degree.

Q. How was she?

A. Excellent!   I learned a lot in those five weeks.   But then she was done.

Q. Can’t you continue to see her?

A. Do I have $150 an hour?   

Q. Well then, what are you going to do?

A. I believe there are psychotherapists in my vicinity who accept MediCare and MedCaid.

Q. You gonna look for one?

A. It seems the humble thing to do, yes.

Q. Whoever called you humble?

A. No one yet.   May I be excused?

Q. Why?

A. Time for my morning run — and half the day’s gone already.  

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

 

Dangers of Liberation (Part Six)

If you’re new to my blog, “Dangers of Liberation” is a seven-part series that I began several Thursdays ago.  The previous posts are on consecutive Thursdays, with a one week break after Part Four.  

The extent to which my mother symbolized the Mainstream cannot be underestimated.  In fact, the only way I was ever able to achieve independence from the Mainstream was to achieve independence from my mother.   I did not do so until long after she died.

A mother’s love is not always unconditional.   My mother loved me to the extreme, under one condition: that I remain emotionally and psychologically dependent upon her.  She gave me everything a mother could possibly have given me, except for the one thing I eventually needed most — my independence.

As the first-born son of her four children, I was never able to come into my true identity as long as my mother was alive.  I was always her “little boy.”   Though she loved all her children immensely, she favored me among the four.  This favoring became more noticeable as she approached her death at the age of 89.  At family gatherings, she practically forgot that any of her other children were there.

After she died, my oldest sister and a close friend informed me that Mom had been “manipulating” me.  Throughout my life, she affected my decision-making in such a way that was designed to keep me out of trouble.  In so doing, she kept me locked into the box of the Mainstream.  I stayed out of trouble, but I lacked personal freedom.

It was almost like an indoctrination, the way my decisions were manipulated by her will.  My own will became a passive extension of hers.   Though I thought I was making my own choices, they were always the choices that Mom would have approved of.  I never realized that she had been doing the deciding for me.

This dependency grew worse and worse as I began to become more successful. Though I hadn’t actually lived with her since my thirties, I relied on her well into my late forties.  I called her five times a day, sometimes only to ask: “What do I do now?”  At that, she would laugh and make a suggestion.  Without questioning it, I would unhesitantly follow her suggestion.   It was as though I didn’t have a mind of my own — only somehow, I did  not know it.  

My mother died when I was fifty.  By that time, I had ascended to heights of success in the form of society that I call the Mainstream.  I was renting a luxurious room in a large mansion owned by one of many wealthy people for whom I was working. Though I rarely had to work more than twenty hours a week, I was nonetheless making $50,000 a year as a church musician, a music teacher at a private school, and a personal piano and voice teacher.  download

From the moment she died on October 9, 2003, till the moment I first became homeless on May 17, 2004, it was a downward plunge.  As I mentioned in the previous post, my psychiatrist had changed my anti-anxiety medication from Gabapentin to Klonopin on the morning of the day she was to die.  She then died in the afternoon, and I proceeded to have a first-time manic episode.  In a little over seven months, I lost all my jobs, my car, my living situation, and every penny of the $13,000 I had in the bank.

The moment she died, aided by the suppressive power of 6mg of Klonopin, I instantly blocked out every mental image of my mother.  I also immediately forgot every conversation she and I had ever had.  No longer able to call her five times a day, nor able to imagine how she might have directed me, I dispersed my many questions among my various associates.  I began to ask just about everybody, including total strangers, what I should do next.  Then, unquestioningly, I did what they suggested.  It is no wonder I lost my jobs!

My ability to perform in the Mainstream was entirely dependent upon my ability to interact with my mother.   The extent to which she valued personal security over personal freedom had left its mark.  But by the time I became homeless, I was thrust into a kind of liberation from all the icons of stability that the Mainstream had displayed.  But my liberation was tainted, because it lacked an internal association with my true identity.  My identity instead became further squashed and suppressed during twelve years of undignifying, degrading, demeaning homelessness.

So when was I actually liberated from the Mainstream?   It happened the moment I rose up from the prayer that I quoted in the previous entry.  At approximately midnight of an unknown date in July 2016, I fervently appealed to the Universe to put an end to twelve years of homelessness.  I made that appeal in the name of Jesus Christ.  When I rose up from my knees, I sensed something was very different.   I didn’t know it yet — but I was free at last.

Exactly how free, I will divulge in the seventh and final post of this series.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

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.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

(Talks 2018) – Talk No. 1

A while back, I mentioned I was going to try to start posting a speech here every Wednesday.  Well, I never got around to doing it.  That is, until now.   Happy Independence Day — and God bless America.  

Homeless by Condition: Part One 

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

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.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!