Tuesday Tuneup 111

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater satisfaction.

Q. Do you feel unsatisfied?

A. This morning I do, yes.

Q. Why?

A. I’m not sure.   It may just be a Tuesday morning mood.

Q. Without basis?

A. Not entirely.   I’m dissatisfied with certain aspects of the way things are going, invariably related to behavioral patterns of mine that need to change.

Q. Like what?

A. I seem to often make blanket decisions when I am dissatisfied.   And later, I am dissatisfied with those decisions.

Q. Like what?

A. A while back I decided to stop posting piano pieces on Fridays, at least for a while.   In my heart, I felt a huge desire not to post any further piano pieces at all, to be honest.   This is a “blanket” decision.  It’s black and white.   It goes against the gray areas that comprise reality.

Q. What else?

A. I recently decided to stop writing about homelessness.

Q. Why?

A. Because I was dissatisfied with it.

Q. Why?

A. It’s not objective.  It’s emotional.  It derives from subjective personal experience.   It relates more to my own personality than it does to any concrete statement about society.

Q. Are you sure about that?

A. Yes.

Q. But can’t you do anything to change this for the better?

A. I probably could.  I recall reading yesterday the last words of Romans 12:

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Q. How do these words apply to you?

A. I get overcome by “evil.”  I post piano youtubes and look at them in disgust.  For one thing, I never seem to be able to lose enough weight to look thin or healthy enough to satisfy me.  For another thing, I never seem to get it together to obtain new clothes or an interesting wardrobe.

Q. Why is this?

A. I think my priorities are screwed up.

Q. So you are dissatisfied with your priorities?

A. Yes.   They need to change.

Q. Let me see here.  If you don’t prioritize writing about homelessness, and you don’t prioritize playing the piano, what will you prioritize?

A. The answer is at the end of Matthew Six.   Surely you know this!

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God — and His righteousness — and the rest will be added unto thee.”

Q. Have you not been seeking first the kingdom of God?

A. Not always, and not lately.

Q. What have you been seeking first instead?

A. Isn’t it obvious?

Q. I don’t know – is it?

A. Obviously, my first order of business is to seek the production of my musical.   This is the real reason why I am tired of writing about homelessness, and tired of playing piano solos on my youtube channel.   They take so much energy, they take away from the energy I feel I need to put into my musical, in order to get it produced.

Q. But if you were to seek first the kingdom of God, what does that mean exactly?   What would it entail?

A. It means putting God first.   Serving others — not self.   Finding out what He wants me to do — and doing it.  Not just doing what *I* want to do, at the expense of helping others.

Q. But won’t your musical help others?

A. Not if it’s my first priority, it won’t.   I’ll become so obsessed with the musical, it will override all other concerns.   Not just the piano.   Not just the journalism.   But everything!   I will cease to eat.  I will disdain sleep.   My house will deteriorate into a filthy mess.  I won’t lay hands on a vaccum cleaner, for fear of taking precious time away from working on my musical.

Q. And then what?

A. Then something will go wrong.  Terribly wrong.   And I will be tempted to drown my sorrows.

Q. As in drink?

A. I do not drink.  There are other ways for one to drown one’s sorrows.   Unfortunately, these ways are illegal in the State of Idaho, though I notice they are legal in adjacent States.

Q. When was the last time you drowned your sorrows?

A. It was right after the close of the Pandemic Workshop.   I had thought we were ascending to higher heights.  I had thought everything was expanding.  And then — suddenly — everything collapsed.

Q. Are you to blame for this?

A. Not entirely.  But I do know that I failed to seek first the kingdom.   I was seeking first the expanding production of the musical.   And then, seemingly at that moment, it ceased to expand — but rather contracted.

Q. Have you learned from this?

A. Yes!  I am doing everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen this summer.

Q. But you still feel that your priorities are screwed up?

A. Dude!   When was the last time I washed the dishes??

Q. What can you do about all this?

A. Just what the Bible says.  It must become more important for me to be of service to the people around me, than it is for me to produce my musical.

Q. How can you better be of service to the people around you?

A. What I have to give to them, to offer them, needs to become more important than what I think they should be offering me.

Q. Does this apply to any group of people in particular?

A. It applies to all people — of course.

Q. But aren’t you thinking about a specific group of people right now?

A. Of course I am.

Q. Then isn’t that a part of the problem?   Why should that single group of people be more important than any other group of people?

A. They shouldn’t be — it’s just that — they’re the people I am called to serve . . .

Q. Called to serve?

A. That’s an interesting expression.   Not sure why it came out of me.

Q. Are you beginning to rethink the situation?

A.  Somewhat, yes.

Q. How so?

A. It cannot be denied that the Lord does put certain people into our lives for certain reasons.   Undeniably, we are called to serve those people.   That’s what love is.

Q. Do you feel that you are unloving?

A. By nature, yes.  But I’m not so bad off that the situation cannot be remedied.

Q. So you have found the problem?

A. Yes.  I have found the problem, and the problem is me.

Q. Anything else I can do for you?

A. See me next week.   Let’s pursue this theme further.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 108

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater security.

Q. You??

A. What do you mean, me??

Q. Since when have you cared about security?   Aren’t you a risk-taking adventurer who will not sacrifice your freedom for all the safety in the world?

A. I am not a Trump supporter, no.

Q. But traditionally, have you not always favored freedom over security?

A. Is that even valid question?   Are freedom and security diametrically opposed?   Or mutually exclusive?

Q. Why are you asking me?  Why don’t you answer that for yourself?

A. Okay well let me think.   Freedom vs. Security.   One is reminded of an oft-misquoted Ben Franklin meme.   Something to the effect that those who would sacrifice their freedom for a little temporary security deserve neither.

Q. Would you sacrifice your freedom for a little temporary security?

A. Depends on how temporary.   I’ve been secure for almost five years now, compared to how “free” I used to be.   And that freedom I knew when I was outside was very tenuous.   Free of schedules, free of deadlines, free of the Mainstream.   But not free from accusations, threats, and assaults.   Trading the security of house and home for the chaotic pseudo-freedom of outdoor living isn’t quite a 50-50 trade-off.

Q. Then why aren’t you feeling secure now that you’ve escaped it?

A. My lack of security is on another plane.   I am not safe from my foibles and defects.   I am not safe from the consequences of the words that emerge from my mouth.  I am not safe from — well, to be honest with you, from PTSD.   I never know when the trigger will strike and lead to a flashback.  I thought the last time it happened was the worst it could ever have been.   But what happened six days ago took the cake.

Q. What happened six days ago?

A. I was at a meeting and I blurted out an opinion that certain people whom I might characterize as “Far Left” do not believe is a valid opinion.  An argument with one such person ensued after the meeting.   They seemed quite calm in apparently advising me that my opinion was unacceptable.   The result was, in a word, reactionary.

Q. Reactionary?

A. Yes.   While I ordinarily lean a wee bit Left of Center, I suddenly was hurled into a right-wing reactionary mode.

Q. Did you temporarily become a Trump supporter?

A. No — but I suddenly became about as conservative as I was about forty years ago.

Q. How conservative were you then?

A. Enough to prefer Ronald Reagan over Walter Mondale.

Q. Were you less enlightened then?

A. I’m not very enlightened now, to be honest with you.  I was just younger, more gullible, less discerning, and less informed.

Q. What about when you were on the streets?

A. Libertarian.  Voted for Gary Johnson against Obama.   Slipped right into the mode of most of my White middle-aged companions who had fallen on hard times.   We were very assertive as to our personal rights and freedoms.

Q. And that changed once you got inside?

A. It began changing before I got inside.   It started changing around about the time Bernie Sanders was competing with Hillary in the 2016 primary.   I registered Democrat then, to vote for Bernie and against Hillary.   Moved up to North Idaho (largely Libertarian & Independent) and have not changed back yet.

Q. Are you planning to become a Libertarian again?

A. Not sure.   The Party here leans too far to the Right.

Q. Why would you even consider it?

A. Um — I recently met a Libertarian who is very open about his views.   He also seems a very happy person.  He has reminded me of certain ideals that the Party embraces.

Q. Such as what?

A. Reverence for the Constitution.   That’s valuable.   We need that to hold the country together.

Q. Can the Libertarians hold the country together?

A. Not as long as we’re all perceived to be a bunch of lunatics.

Q. Why would that perception have evolved?

A. It seems that the party clings relentlessly to ideals that don’t always pan out positively in the modern world.

Q. So you may remain a Democrat?

A. Probably.

Q. What about your conservative streak?

A. Between the two main parties, I would say that at this point the Dems are doing a better job at upholding traditional conservative values than the G.O.P.

Q. Would you repeat that, please?

A. Between the two main parties, I would say that at this point the Dems are doing a better job at upholding traditional conservative values than the G.O.P.

Q. How can traditional conservative values help us in the modern world?

A. Well, if everybody stopped sleeping with multiple partners and spreading STD’s and screwing around on their spouses and increasing the rate of abortions and alienating everybody with their incontinence, that would be a good start.

Q. So you think the problem is sexual abandon?

A. It’s a large part of it, yes.

Q. May I ask a question?

A. Please do.

Q. May we index this discussion for a future time?

A. Fine with me.   My ride will be here in a couple minutes.

Q. Meet again next week?

A. Sure.

Q. Anything else?

A. Yes.  May we not talk about politics next time, please?

The Questioner is silent.

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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?

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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.

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