Tuesday Tuneup 123

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. I’m not sure.

Q. How can you become sure?

A. By thinking it through completely.

Q. By thinking what through completely?

A. All the factors of getting my show produced, maybe getting my job back, and all that.

Q. How does getting your show produced relate to getting your job back?

A. Darn it! This is why I wish I had a therapist.

Q. What do you mean?

A. You ask me all these questions. What I need are strong, solid suggestions.

Q. If you found a therapist other than me, would they offer you strong, solid suggestions?

A. Hm . . . come to think of it, most of them only ask me questions. Okay you win.

Q. Now once again: what is the relationship between the production of the musical and your job?

A. The job’s a musical job. A theatre company needed a singing teacher, a piano teacher, and a musical director. They hired me to do all three, but I had to leave early in the middle of the third show–for health reasons. The idea is that I’m supposed to become healthy again and come back when I am.

The musical is–well, a musical. After I did a decent job on the first show, they approached me with an offer to produce my musical.

Q. How did that feel?

A. You already know. I’d been working on this musical since 2009. The production of this musical has been a life’s dream. I was overjoyed. Words failed me. I walked alone in nearby Nature for an hour, with tears in my eyes, and silently thanked the Lord.

Q. Then what happened?

A. Well, I had the health issue, and I had to leave the job, on very short notice.

Q. Does that mean they won’t produce the musical?

A. I don’t know.

Q. Why don’t you know?

A. They won’t tell me.

Q. Why not?

A. They don’t say.

Q. Why do you think that is?

A. Probably because they themselves do not know. Since I left for health reasons, how can they know when I will be healthy again? Or even if I will be healthy again?

Q. But do you have to be in good health for them to produce your musical?

A. Of course not! I could be dead and they could still produce the musical!

Q. Then what’s the problem?

A. The problem–as I see it–is that they don’t want to do the show unless I am also there on hand. I would need not only to be the musical director of my own show, but of most of the other shows as well.

Q. And they won’t let you do that?

A. Not if they don’t think I’m well.

Q. Do you want to do that?

A. I don’t know. If I return to a job that made me unwell, and nothing is different, it could make me sick again.

Q. Wait — did the job make you unwell?

A. I just said that, didn’t I?

Q. Put it this way: did any of the details of the job make you unwell?

A. No. I can’t say that the job details were in any way toxic. This is work that I generally enjoy.

Q. Did any of the people on the job make you unwell?

A. I think so, yes. There were a couple guys whose personalities were challenging,

Q. Did they say inside their hearts: “Let’s make Andy sick?”

A. What are you driving at?

Q. What is your favorite chapter in the Gospel of Mark?

A. Well, that certainly came from left field! I would say probably Mark Seven. It’s the one I most often quote.

Q. What did Jesus say in Mark Seven?

A. Um . .. well, for one thing, he said: “There is nothing entering into the man from outside him that can defile him. It is that which comes out of the man that has power to defile him.”

Q. So did these two guys outside you have the power to make you sick?

A. You’re not saying I’m the one who made myself sick, are you?

Q. Let’s put it this way: whose responsibility is your health?

A. God’s!

Q. Not your own?

A. Well I can participate in it. I run, I don’t smoke tobacco cigarettes, I don’t hang out in bars. But God has the final say in such matters. He holds the keys to sickness and health, and to life and death.

Q. Did God make you sick?

A. Yes. The sudden sickness was not my doing.

Q. Are you healthy now?

A. I certainly think so.

Q. You don’t know?

A. How can I know? I can tell you I feel good. I can tell you my vital signs are good. But this is not about physical health. It’s about mental health. How can I possibly gauge the health of my own mind?

Q. If you can’t, who can?

A. Society.

Q. How so?

A. Society is the entity that judges whether people are sane or insane. I could avoid human beings for the rest of my days, sit here and score my music and write my columns, and no one would be the wiser. But if I tell another human being I have a mental health disorder, they will then begin to look for signs of it–whether they know anything about it or not. They will no longer see me as sane, whether I am sane or not. In this manner, I become insane–in their eyes. The people of this society have become the judges of the crazy. In my own mind, I am always eminently sane.

Q. In other words, your recent employers are going to be the ones to assess your sanity?

A. Yup. I have no plans to deny it. But since I cannot be trusted to gauge the health of my own mind, it’s their call.

Q. Then where to we go from here?

A. We keep up our dialogue until this matter has been thought through completely.

Q. Same time next Tuesday?

A. You’re not putting me on a yearlong waiting list or refusing to pay my copays, are you? See you Tuesday.

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1821

(1) We’re getting off to a great start in the third week of our five week rehearsal period for the musical Pippin.  I’m very much enjoying the professional atmosphere at the regional theater company I’ve been so fortunate to have discovered.

(2)  It was good having the weekend off.  On Sunday I worked with Karlie, who knows all her parts for the three-part harmonies she’s going to sing over herself.  Here’s a recording of her singing the low part to the scratch track of Ode to the Universe that I’ve created with my music production software.   You can probably see where it’s headed if you use your imagination, and Karlie is a joy to work with.

(3) There’s an Open Mike every Monday night at a club around the corner from the theatre.   They’ve got a full length Young Chang concert grand, one of the better pianos I have had a chance to play.   They gave me three songs to close the place.  I did My Heart Belongs to Daddy, then Cody sang “Hunted” from Eden in Babylon, and finally I did “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”  Looking forward to going back next week.

(4)  My new therapist is really working out very well.   This morning I’ll have the fourth session of the five I committed myself to, and I am really looking forward to it.  She gave me a good book called Shame and Guilt: Masters of Disguise and she is in all manners a competent and in fact gifted therapist — quite a contrast to the last three I tried.  .

(5) Just letting you know I am presently creating this gratitude list on the new MacBook Pro I got on a $550 steal from Backwater.    So far I am having the same experience as when I graduated from the Android to the iPhone.  I simply never want to go back and use a Windows machine again.  (Guess I’m addicted to the fancy colors.)   Grateful for all the good gifts God gives us, in good time.

Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above.  These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all.– James 1:17

 

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Gratitude List 1819

(1) I’m grateful for how peaceful and quiet is right now in Room 33 at the church. Often I am frustrated when a friend calls me as I’m out and about, and I can’t find a single spot to relax and listen, where I can actually hear what they’re saying. Grateful for this spot and for the occasional phenomenon of “peace and quiet” in general. With a mind as noisy as mind, external quietude can be a real blessing.

(2) A brief conversation with my pastor reminded me what an extraordinarily good listener he is. Not many people would have understood what I was saying, let alone have been able to empathize. I’m happy to have found this church.

(3) The second therapy session furthered my feeling that this therapist is particularly outstanding among all therapists I’ve tried. Stuff is already emerging that’s causing me to take a step back and think about how I’ve been going about things lately, as well as throughout my life in general.

(4) First night at PIPPIN rehearsal went very well and was informative. The only downer is that I have to play one of those modern electronic pianos, instead of the time-honored old Hamilton clunker I’m used to using to get the “boom-chuck” that is the hallmark of American show tunes. If you’re on the older side, you might identify. They all thought I did just great. Me, I left the theatre thinking: “I need four things: a hearing aid, reading glasses, a water bottle, and an acoustic piano.” Seriously, I am thankful for the opportunity.

(5) After living in a city composed almost entirely of White people throughout the past five or six years, it was refreshing to be in a city where I encountered people of different races and cultures. The gentle drizzle and cloudy sky, combined with hills and a metropolitan flair, reminded me quite a bit of San Francisco. After rehearsal, I went to an Open Mike at a very large, sophisticated pub with un upstairs section and several dining floors. I got to play a Young Chang concert grand – one of the finest pianos I’ve ever played. The experience was an eye-opener. There’s a lot more to life outside the curious little hamlet where for almost six years I have been so pleased to dwell. But if I were to move anywhere, how long would it be before I became homeless again? I don’t have a very good track record of holding on to living situations. I am grateful for my community, my apartment, and the love I have found in the city where I was born.

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Never the Twain Shall Meet?

It’s been a week now since I’ve updated.   Mostly it’s been all bad.   The day after I last posted here, I was chewed out at work by a person who is not my boss but who insisted on giving me a ride home, evidently so she could lay on me all the things that she thought I was doing wrong.  Because I’d had a bad night that night, trying to function on very low sleep, and continuing to try to adjust to this new medication, I sort of felt as though I was being hit below the belt.  To address all her criticisms effectively would have involved implicating the conductor, which I did not want to do.   I felt, as I have often felt while accompanying this particular church choir, like a scapegoat.  It’s easier to blame things on the accompanist, whom you can clearly hear; than on the conductor, whom you cannot clearly see – and this is part of the problem.  I became really angry over the whole thing, and I almost quit my job.  It doesn’t pay me well enough to have to keep putting up with all this pettiness, when I feel I’m doing the best job I can do.

The conductor herself is not faulting me for my job performance, either.  It’s only the members of the Choir.  I’ve talked with my pastor about this, and basically what I’m supposed to do is try to remember Who is being glorified here.  But that’s the problem – God is not being glorified.   There’s just a bunch of petty bickering that makes me feel like I don’t belong there.   To be honest, I’m still thinking about quitting.  I’m on a fixed income anyway – and when the Feds found out I was working, they charged me all kinds of money and chopped my Social Security payments practically in half.  I’d have been making more money had I never dared to get a part-time church job to begin with.   So I’ve definitely only been hanging on to the job for its propensity to glorify God.   It’s not as though there’s a monetary advantage in my keeping the job.   In fact, ideally, I would only be a member of the church, with no job responsibilities whatsoever.   But somebody has to do it, and I have a funny feeling I’m not going to be able to quit.  Something tells me that, much as I dislike my world right now, it’s still the best of all possible worlds, for me.

So all of this has been preoccupying me.  I fell into a deep depression, and I called in sick on Sunday when, to say that I was “sick” was probably more than a minor understatement.  I couldn’t focus on my playwriting at all.   I had begun to worry that I have been focusing too much on the playwriting anyway, and not enough on my job.  I had even discussed this with my pastor, and no doubt will discuss it with the therapist when I meet with him next on Friday.  The church is supposed to provide a spiritual anchor – and I guess, in most ways, it does.   God probably also knows some things I am loathe to admit; for instance, that if I didn’t have the job, I probably would never make it to church.   So any “anchorage” I’m getting from the church itself wouldn’t be happening if I didn’t have the job that goes with it. 

I slept round the clock for three days solid.  Finally, I cut back on my medication unilaterally.  I just can’t be as exhausted as I’ve been, and expect to get anything accomplished on any level.  I’m beginning to curse myself for even conceding to take the meds.  They’ve never done me any good in the past.  Why would now be any different?  I thought they were helping me to handle the social interaction of my Writer’s groups.  But now I just want to lay in bed all day, and not interact socially at all.   This is unlike me.  I’m not prone to depression, as a general rule.  Maybe the meds are making me depressed?

I think I’ll take back my mania, thank you.   But gosh – there’s got to be a middle ground! I’ll call the doctor today, and hopefully he’ll either take me off the meds or cosign my decision to cut back.   I should have called earlier, but I was too depressed to deal with reality.  Only this morning did I finally arise at a normal hour.  Only last night did I make some headway with the script.   And, I didn’t like letting a whole week go by without updating, so I figure I’d post my truth.  Now, if you don’t mind, I must cease this whiny rant and all the self-piteous bemoanings that go along with it.  I abhor these kinds of personal entries; I’m an Artist; I have pride.  Guess that’s the bottom line.  

I’m an Artist – and I must have pride.   But I’m a Christian – and I must not have pride.  Somehow there’s a “never the twain shall meet” aspect of all this — and it doesn’t sit well in my stomach.

The Second Act

I’m currently lodged within an out-of-the-way fast food joint on the edge of town with a Wireless connection and a very limited number of customers on site.   I figure I’m removed enough from my ordinary itinerary that I’m not likely to be disturbed as I try to sink my teeth into the Opening of Act Two.

I did write four pages Monday morning before my first meeting with the therapist to whom I have been assigned.  I had been struggling for about three days with exactly how to begin the second Act, prior to its opening number: Hunted.   During those three days, there was a sequence of illuminations, each one drawing me closer to the point where I could confidently put pen to page.   Then, when I wrote those pages, I was rolling.  They were almost right.  However, the first time that new characters needed to arrive, I got stuck again.  Something was wrong.

I retreated into incubation; and arguably, into depression.  I really wanted to be rolling — to be flowing.  I don’t enjoy these lulls.  But once again, during the lull, I gradually received a substantial illumination.  It is now clear to me that if I want to know what the entrance of the new characters is all about, I’m going to have to go back and rewrite the first four pages.   Those four pages in and of themselves seem very effective, but they are not sufficiently continuous with the end of Act One.  The continuity that I need in order to proceed must be evident at the very beginning of the Act — not midway through the first Scene.  

light-goes-onSo the light had gone on, and I could relax a bit.  Still, none of this is as important to me at this moment as the substance of this first meeting with my therapist.  I had been nervous prior to seeing him.   I’m not a person who very readily places his trust in psychologists or psychiatrists.  At times, they have even seemed to be the very enemies of Art in my highly defensive view.  But this time, I had too much to get off my chest — and too much at stake.  Moreover, the doctor who recently diagnosed me as “mildly bipolar” strongly encouraged me to seek therapy in order to supplement the low dose of the mood stabilizer that he had prescribed.  So I was eager to meet with Dave, the therapist — though admittedly very nervous.  

To my surprise, Dave made me feel quite comfortable the moment I walked through the door.  As it turns out, he is from a musical family.  He himself is musical, as are his parents and siblings, and his daughter is a high school music teacher.  More crucially, he thinks like an Artist.  So I could tell that, as I discussed the dilemma of the Writer’s Block that had paralyzed me for three years, and its lingering effects, I sensed that he identified. 

When I finished my explanation, he said something very profound, and I quote:

Wherever Art is involved, the ego of the Artist
is something that the Artist will seek to protect at all costs.

His insight was that, in the manner in which I could not “take or leave” the perplexing implications in the professor’s critique (see this post), I was protecting my ego for the sake of my Art.  The manner in which I protected my ego was, unfortunately, to pester the professor, badger him, and possibly be perceived as a threat to his own well-being as I persistently tried to persuade him to clarify his mysterious review before it drove me nuts.  All the while, I was blocked against further work on the project, because I couldn’t rectify my respect for his opinion with the fact that I was unable to understand it.

His theory is that the professor himself, also being an Artist, had to protect his own ego, for the sake of his own professionalism.  He had hoped I would “take it or leave it.”  Had I been more professional, I most certainly would have left it.  Unfortunately, due to my very low station in life at the time, being lucky enough to have secured a 30-day stay in a homeless shelter during the Winter, with no possessions to my name other than the laptop which was, in fact, a gift from the professor, I was unable to ascend to the level of professionalism the professor expected of me.  In my downtrodden state of being, I considered that script to be all I had going for me.  Since the professor was the only person in the business who was paying any attention to me, I placed an inordinate amount of hope in his estimate of my work.  Then, when he “panned” me, I felt attacked.  So I protected myself – by fighting back.   He then protected his own self – by withdrawing, and eventually removing me from all Internet interfaces.

This all seemed somehow perfectly understandable.  Dave was able to help me see a broader view, in which the professor and I were more alike than different.  Our artistic egos are strangely locking horns in an invisible dimension of the Arts.  Both egos desire the horns to be unlocked.  It only takes one entity to unlock both horns.  I only have the power over the horns of one of the entities.  It’s time I unlocked the horns of my ego – and my ego will be at peace.

horns Dave then asked how the script was coming along now.  Perking up, I was able to convey the happy news, how the block first began to break at a cathartic Thanksgiving dinner, where a kind family from my church permitted me to express my angst without judging me or writing me off as some kind of petty bastard, wallowing in the bitterness of a broken friendship.   I shared how, gradually, more and more people in my community have tuned into my project, and have shown a surprising amount of support for my work.  But most of all, I shared how I had proceeded much further into the script than ever before, more slowly and carefully, reaching the end of Act One even, and on into the second Act.   The 91 pages now are far more evolved than the earlier 56 pages of relative drivel I submitted in haste to the previous professor.   Nor am I at an impasse or any kind of roadblock, but plowing steadily forward to the end of Act Two.  My creative life has been transformed far and away for the better, since the darker days of dejection, despair, and dependency upon the approval of a single, detached individual.  As I approach the end of the Second Act, I need neither praise nor blame.  My approval resounds from within and without me.  My God has accepted my work.