Darn these lazy Sundays

Obligatory SNL link :

YouTube doesn’t have the full video, so audio will have to do.

Having a pleasantly lazy Sunday. Well, pleasant until it’s blog time and I find my marbles stubbornly resisting coming together. Apparently my brain is trying to take the day off too.

Well tough titties, brain (don’t make me hurt you, pinky), we got one thing to do today and that’s come up with the usual 1000 words. It may seem like a lot today, but if we just keep at it and try not to get distracted by shiny objects, we’ll make it.

I really feel like a child right now (but where would I get one on a Sunday?). A child on holiday, seeking only fun, mind loose and open but also impatient and prone to petulance. So maybe a wee bit spoiled.

It must be the proximity to Xmas that is doing it. My mind wants to retreat back to a time when Xmas was a wonderful time when the family was all around me and happy festive things were happening (getting the tree, trimming the tree, helping Mom make the rapure by cutting up the meat) all leading to Xmas morning, where we would all sit around the living room, doing one gift at a time, everyone watching and sharing in the joy of the person unwrapping.

Even my father was nice around Xmas time. He really did his best to keep his temper under control. Sometimes he slipped, but for the most part, he was good.

So despite a largely lonely childhood, Xmas was a really good time for me, and I have many treasured childhood memories of the Yuletide season. When you are a kid, Xmas is nothing but magic.

So different when you are an adult. There’s nobody there to make the magic for you. You have to do it yourself, and when you are all alone, it’s just not the same.

So while I keep Xmas in my heart, I don’t really do anything to celebrate it by myself. Not so far, anyhow. I am too scared that if I go there, the sentimentality will also bring sadness and loneliness with it, and I need to avoid that to stay safe.

Like I say ever year, Xmas is the most dangerous time of the year for me, mental health wise. The emotions it brings up can be very dangerous for a depressive like me. I might harm myself. So I have taken to enjoying the holiday season, but when Xmas Eve and Xmas morning come along, I more or less hibernate through it.

Otherwise, the sadness and loneliness will put me in the kind of danger that only people who have been suicidal know.

Of course, there are placed I could go. Places where they open their doors to all who are lonely and alone, places that would welcome me in, and I wouldn’t be so alone, and I would be around others, which is… safer.

The problem with that notion is the usual one : social anxiety. The very thought of going to some place I’ve never been that will be full of strangers who might have unrealistic social expectations of him and who will definitely find him to be cold fish, and a strange one at that… that might actually be worse than being alone.

I’d probably need to have a few stiff drinks in me just to walk through the door.

Maybe some day, when I am a little healthier, that would be an option. Find some open doors Xmas Eve event, bend the rule a little and have some Xmas cheer, and maybe even learn to relax about people and let them in.

It’s a good dream, one I can imagine happening. Using liquor as a social anesthetic is not strictly kosher by the rules of both my diabetes and my medications, but I can’t think of anything else that would work.

I have tried taking an extra dose of my Paxil. My therapist says that is totally legit and something I should always count as part of my coping resources.

But I find the emotional chill that produces to be very unpleasant. I would never rule it out completely, because there are undoubtedly situations where it would be worth it, but there is a reason lowering my Paxil dose has made me a happier person and that’s because I want to feel things.

I might be numb, but I know it and I am actively trying to escape it and let my emotions flow.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all glacier metaphor on you this time.

So no, I don’t think I will be seeking an open door this Xmas eve. And I doubt I will do anything special all by myself except open some presents Xmas morning.

Luckily, this year, instead of a virtual gift certificate, my sister Catherine sent me a whole whack of wrapped gifts, and so I will have a bunch of things to open that special morning.

I suppose I could get some Xmas cheer of my own. Might make the evening go a little more smoothly. I don’t know where the liquor store is around here, but it would not be hard to look up. Might be nice to have some mulled apple juice mixed with spiced rum.

But knowing me, I will likely never get around to actually going out there to buy the ingredients. So I will not invest a lot of hope in that outcome. It’s a possibility, but not a necessity.

I guess today’s blog entry turned into my annual Fru’s Sad Xmas blog entry. I feel a little better for having gotten some of my thoughts and worries out. Whatever happens, I will muddle through somehow.

And of course, I have Xmas dinner with Joe’s family to look forward to as well. That really does me a lot of good, knowing that the whole thing won’t pass me by entirely.

Don’t worry too much, folks. I’ll make it through.

And I will talk to all of you nice people again tomorrow.

Save me from the steel machine

In order words, save me from myself.

I’ve talked before about the steel machine of my mind. It’s very left-brain : it sorts, divides, analyzes, reduces, purifies… and eliminates. It is as cold and merciless as the guillotine’s blade, and while I have in some ways enjoyed that and the feeling of power and control (and hence, safety) it gives, it should come to nobody’s surprise that I am also its chief victim.

There’s a line from Silence of the Lambs where, after Lecter brutally and presumably quite accurately psychologically dissects Clarice, she turns to leave, and as she does, she says “Maybe you should turn that high-powered perception on yourself.”

Or something like that.

And presumably, Lecter doesn’t do that. He takes all that overactive superego, harnesses it to his considerable intellect and projects it outwards. He does that to such a psychotic extent that he, in a sense, fed it live victims. He turned people his overactive superego told him were unworthy and turned them into something it approved of, namely fine food.

All to keep his machine from turning on him. Total externalization.

I, of course, have the opposite problem. I absolutely refuse to ever take my crap out on anyone at all. That’s what my father did and that’s what I refuse to ever do. If my machine needs feeding (and out of control superegos are always hungry), it has only one source of food, and that’s me.

And, in a minor way, the bad guys in video games. I guess.

So I am my own torture victim, my own lab rat, my own punching bag. And I have never known anything else. There’s never been a time when, even unconsciously, I took it out on others.

For one thing, in order to take it out on others, you sort of need subordinates. I have always been the social omega. if I ever had people within my social circle over whom I was dominant, I sure as heck didn’t know it. I really don’t want to be above or below anybody. I want me to be me, and you to be you, and we’re both just cool like that.

And the thing is, once you deny yourself permission to take it out on others, there is no going back. You no longer have the excuse of ignorance, so you can’t just start taking it out on others without knowing what a shitty thing you are doing.

And yet, the machine feeds. It is always hungry because it can’t actually give the psyche what it needs, which is love, acceptance, inclusion, and so forth. All it can do is use intellectualization to distract and harsh analysis to destroy. The pain drives the id’s rage and the id uses the superego machine to express that rage, and there’s no way out so it all stays in.

That’s how love defeats evil, by the way. By giving it what it really wants and soothing the pain that is the cause of it all.

My therapist has suggested that there are healthy ways to release the anger. Beating up a pillow and so forth. And I suppose that would work for at least the physical tension aspect of it all.

But no amount of non-destructive rage externalization is going to make me feel the love, hope, safety, and acceptance that would make me whole once more.

It might, I suppose, help clear the way to feeling it, though. Like I have said before, maybe everything I have ever wanted is right there outside my wall, waiting for me to let it in.

Like this music video :

In it, Elvis Costello is in a photo booth talking about being lonely and looking it, too, while people are giving him love in the form of kisses throughout the whole thing. And at the end, he looks at the pictures, and they all show him alone.

There’s people who love and accept me in my life. I know there is. But depression makes it very hard to feel it. I have that big block of ice in my soul, keeping me numb.

And all the while, the machine feeds on my frozen flesh.

So maybe getting all that anger and other unprocessed emotion out of my system would open my up more to feeling the love that is already out there. I have friends. I have family.

Why can’t I just let them in?

I don’t know the answer to that question. But it fills me with a terrible fear, the kind that comes from too deep a level to require an imagined consequence. It’s the mortal dread that is bigger than your conscious mind can handle, fear on an identity level, as thought if the dread event occurs, it will simply destroy you, like a gnat in a supernova.

That is, of course, highly unlikely. But the fear of melting remains.

I’m sorry, but I just have to link this song again.

What I need, I guess, is my own personal flood, where spring finally comes to this wintry heart of mine and all that frozen emotion within me melts like wax and the tundra is flooded with all that I used to be.

And I will say goodbye to flesh and blood, metaphorically speaking, and maybe even give my island to survive. Clinging is a hard habit to break but it’s also not really getting me anywhere either.

And after my forty days and forty nights of drowning in a sea of my own tears, the waters will recede and I will be left with nothing but who I really am.

And from there, build a new life.

Sounds good, but I don’t know how to trigger it. Or I do know, and I am just too scared to admit it to myself.

Maybe all I really need to do is let the sun shine in.

It takes a while to get to the song, but it’s worth it.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Writing things down

You know, I really need to start writing my blog ideas now. I must have had at least five really good ideas today for what to write about tonight and now I can’t remember a single one.

Oh well. There is this comedy thing.

It’s called Stand Up For Mental Health, and it’s a workshop style program where people suffering from mental illness learn to do standup comedy in order to boost their self-confidence and so forth.

Sounds perfect for me, doesn’t it? Here I am, a very funny dude with big time mental health issues looking for a way to get around my mental blocks and use my talents, and here’s the program which could do just that.

Admittedly, I am not that keen to do standup. There was a time, back in the Eighties, when I thought being a standup comedian would be the most awesome thing ever. But that was a (depressingly) long time ago, and I find it hard to think in those short, focused comedy bursts any more.

But hey…. I can learn.

I have no fear of performing to speak of, at least in the sense of stage fright. But then again, all my performances have been scripted and all I had to do was say (and emote) my lines. I had a role to play and an entire play to provide context for what I was doing. For me, that makes things very simple.

For standup, however, your script is your set, and you have no idea if people are going to laugh or not. There’s no story to continue. If you tell a joke and nobody laughs, there’s no safety net. And it’s a joke you wrote yourself, possibly that same day, so you can’t blame the writer either. You can go on to the next joke, but you are still really vulnerable in that spotlight.

So it will be a little scarier than what I have done before. But not quite as much as you might think. After all, one of the plays I acted in was one I also wrote and directed.

Does that make me a triple threat?

And that play went over great. Audiences laughed and laughed. So clearly I can make the people laugh.

It’s just that whole “up there as myself” thing that is a little spooky. Perhaps I will develop a comedy persona and adopt a stage name in order to still have something to hide behind.

But then I could get into that whole Paul Reuben/ Pee Wee Herman thing. Or what’s his name that does Dame Edna. I am not really built for that sort of identity conflict. The very idea of it makes me feel a little ill.

So maybe Michael Bertrand As Michael Bertrand would be a better bet in the long run.

It would also give me a chance to try out my theory that if you love the audience, they can’t help but love you back. I don’t mean that in a soppy sentimental way, like the old time comedians bursting into tears about how much all you people mean to me.

I just mean that I think that if you go out there with the attitude that you love all these people out there and want to do your best to make them happy, I think audiences will find it hard to resist that kind of emotional energy.

It won’t always work, of course. And there will undoubtedly be some audiences that are not exactly easy to love. But I still think going into it with an attitude of love is the right way to go.

You have to give to get back, after all.

Colbert ended last night. It wasn’t as harrowing as I thought, probably because it wasn’t a sitcom ending, where you have to say goodbye to a whole whack of characters you will never see again (outside reruns) and you get all verklempt.

I only had to say goodbye to one character, the fictional right-wing version of Stephen Colbert, and to be honest that guy was kind of a dick. The real Stephen Colbert will still be around, and without the character keeping him down, we will see even more of his amazing likability.

The choice to give him Letterman’s job is no mystery to me, especially since I have (almost) stopped resenting it for taking the Colbert Report away. He made his right wing persona, who again was a total dick, insanely likable. Lovable, even.

Imagine what he will be like now!

Today was a therapy day. As usual, I went into it sleepy. I have two choices, have no diet cola and go into it sleepy, or have diet cola and go into it anxious.

Sleepy is, at least, less stressful. So I was Sleepy and my therapist, of course, was Doc.

No big groundbreaking stuff occurred. I suppose it’s that time again where I nudge things towards the darker stuff. I am starting to thing I am, in a sense, too well-spoken for my own good. I lead the conversation without even trying. Perhaps that has to do with charisma too, or at least, power of personality.

And while I hate it when therapists seem determined to do all the talking (grr), if they are spellbound by my dazzling intellect and get swept away by my force of personality, they can’t do me a hell of a lot of good.

That brings up the always depressing thought that a therapist has to be smarter than you in order to be truly effective. If so, ?I am in dire straits. I keep telling myself that no, they just have to see things that you can’t see because you are too involved, but the thought keeps coming back anyway.

I guess no matter what, there’s nobody who can save me from myself. Whatever I didn’t get in terms of emotional nutrients as a child, I am going to have to go find it myself now.

And I am just not ready.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Bring it all up

Sometimes I wish I could just stick my finger down the throat of my psyche and bring up all the toxic undigested emotions and suppressed drives and sublimated desires that have been blocking me up and slowing me down and just vomit them into the world all wet and squirming and finally be rid of it all forever so I can start anew.

In a way, it seems absurd, at least to my over-rational mind, that I can’t do that. That I have to wait around for some slow-moving natural process to get around to dealing with every last little bit of it on a distinctly geological timescale. Why can’t I just push a mental button and, if not deal with it all at once (I doubt my mind has the cognitive bandwidth for that), at least speed up the process a little bit.

What brought this to mind was a sort of bad run I had last night when it was time to bake. I won’t go into the details, let’s just say it was one of those times when a lot of little things go wrong and you get all bent out of shape and that leads to even more little things going wrong because you’re making rash, ill thought out decisions and it all leads to you wanting to just scream into the night.

And in this case, it also ended with me screwing up a perfectly lovely lemon pound cake. By naking an error I have made a bunch of times before. Seriously not cool.

And the thing is, that was bad. It was, in fact, almost like a media representation of a “bad day”. And yet, I think it actually did me some good because it made me feel things. It briefly melted this glacier inside me and let my emotions flow out and I feel like, because of that, today the glacier is a little smaller.

So who knows, maybe I should have more bad nights. Or at least find some way to stimulate some emotion in myself beyond my usual low level depressive state that looks like I am okay but usually only means I am busy. When I stop moving, the depression comes back and I feel sad, anxious, and bored.

This does not make my life any easier, but I think it does mean that I have to deal with my depression more actively now, and I don’t just mean by baking. It means that I have to feel it in realtime and process the emotions involved, even if it is just the low grade sadness and depression that I have always had to deal with, only far more intense and real.

Of course, as always, I can’t discount my physical health problems as being part of the equation either. My sleep apnea is completely untreated. I am probably under-oxygenated a lot of the time even when I am awake. Between sleep apnea and terrible cardio health, it’s a wonder my poor brain gets any O2 at all.

Add in that I only half-treat my diabetes… I take the pills, avoid sugar, and take insulin every night, but I don’t monitor my levels at all… plus, obviously, the physical side of depression, and I am not at all well.

And it sure looks like all of that is within my power to change, doesn’t it?

But it isn’t.

Oh, and I have an untreated knee injury and two freaking holes in my abdominal wall that apparently are no big deal because I still haven’t heard from my doctor about them, and he’s the one who diagnosed me.

If I call up and they are all “We’ve been trying to contact you! Where have you been?” because they have been calling my old phone number, I am gonna lose it. I did all I could to make sure they had the new number and address. The person I talked to on the phone assured me that my information had been updated. So if that’s it, I will be pissed.

Another possibility is that my doctor just forgot to refer me to a surgeon for the patch up job on my guts. Or he filled out the referral form but his receptionist never faxed it in. Or some such garbage.

Now admittedly, it’s been a long time since I was diagnosed and I probably should have called them up about it ages ago. I mean, it’s pretty easy just to pick up the phone and call, right?

But it isn’t.

Part of my constellation of problems is that it’s very hard for me to advocate for myself. Which is exactly what they say you have to do in order to keep the medical system’s attention. And it’s exactly what I can’t do.

Life is damned near impossible when you are a grown man who can’t take care of myself properly. Especially when you are one who has trouble even asking for help in the first place. And especially if you are a big bearded tall guy whom society assumes should be able to take care of themselves and will have nothing but contempt for if they show weakness.

That’s not paranoia. I am positive that’s why some people, especially women, have treated me poorly, even with contempt. And I am talking medical professionals who work with the mentally ill for a living. Even in the compassionate professions, some people fail the empathy test.

Anyhow, I should really call them up. Really, really should.

And who knows… it might even happen.

Meanwhile, I am still birthing the glacier. Instead of throwing up my problems all at once, I have to push them out slowly and painfully and be stuck in this holding pattern until the process is done.

It’s a long way out of this tomb of mine. I spent such a long time building it, after all. And there’s no wrecking ball coming to set me free.

Guess I’ll just tunnel my way out with a spoon.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

There’s no such thing as…

Too Much Dessert

The hell there ain’t.

I currently have portions of three different cakes plus half a batch of those oat things I like so much in my dessert arsenal. I can’t keep up. Production exceeds demand.

Traditionally, were this capitalism, that would lead me to seek new markets. But I am mostly the only market for my baked goods. Joe samples them sometimes, but Julian eschews most of them because of a dairy allergy.

Pretty much everything I make has milk in it.

So I have no idea what the hell I am going to bake later tonight… but it sure as hell won’t be a dessert. I am growing tired of my usual biscuit recipes, so I will likely seek another, simpler one. Or something else of the petit pain variety. Muffins of a non-dessert kind, perhaps, or a simple bread.

Things really took a turn for the crazy last night. I was halfway through putting together my fave chocolate cake recipe when I suddenly realized this recipe is for two full eight inch cakes. It was far too late to correct it, so I had to just go with it, and I ended up with two choco-mint cakes of roughly equal size.

Hence my having three cakes. One is that molasses one I talked about yesterday, and the other two are choco-mint. One choco-mint has a vanilla glaze on it, and the other has some leftover chocolate icing from the last time I made it.

I am pretty sure the remnants of the molasses cake will not get eaten. It has two other, much tastier cakes to compete with, and by the time I am done of them, it will probably have dried out beyond edibility.

Which brings me to another problem : I have no way to preserve an iced cake. With a plain cake, you can always just cut it into squares and store them in a jar. But if you tried that with an iced cake, all you would get is a huge mess.

So I suppose I need one of those cute little pedestal things with the plastic lid over it. I don’t know what they are called. But I have seen them in bakeries and in restaurants where they like to show you the yummy cake you can order a slice of.

Yes, I totally ended a sentence with a preposition there. It’s something you’ll just have to get used to.

What kills a city?

I watched a documentary called Forgotten Planet : Abandoned America today.

It was about the various abandoned places all over America. There’s tons of them, which has always amazed me. The entire idea that all that makes a town or city could be just… sitting there, unused, freaks me out. It seems so harshly wasteful. I always imagine that the right people could exploit this obvious resource and turn it back into a town again.

This is obviously not true. If it was, I am sure capitalism would have figured it out by now. But it is how I make peace with the whole idea in my mind.

As seems to always happen when I watch docs lately, I found this one both interesting and aggravating. It was aggravating because, for one, the narrator delivered all his lines like he was recording the voiceover for the trailer for a horror movie, and come on dude. It’s abandoned communities. They are creepy, but they are not actually frightening.

So that was grating.

The other annoying thing, and this is less the doc’s problem than my advancing age making me cranky and impatient and set in my ways, was they kept talking over and over again about “These are the streets where children once played… ” and “during its heyday, this factory produced twenty cars a day” and I am like… “We get it! There was people, now there’s not. Get to WHY already! What the hell killed this places?”

The most mind-bogglingly boneheaded decision, though, was to do Detroit second last. They actually had a story about some abandoned boom town (of which there are hundreds) after it.

You can’t make something FOLLOW the story of the death of what was once the fourth biggest city in the USA. (Apparently, it was once known as “the Paris of the Midwest”, which makes me snicker every time. )

And they didn’t even refer to what the hell happened to Detroit once! The other segments all gave an explanation for what killed the town… mines ran out of ore, gold booms ended, everything got contaminated, and so on.

But as for the biggest murder mystery in the world, the Case Of What Killed Detroit? Nothing. And I am dying to know.

So what else is new?

Not a lot, I guess. Not looking forward to the last episode of The Colbert Report this week. Final episodes always just about kill me emotionally. I always end up a sodden sack of ALL THE FEELS IN THE WORLD. My slightly hidden sentimental nature takes over and I am just a wreck by the end of it.

It has to be done, of course. Nothing good ever comes of refusing to see things through to the end. The end might be painful and emotional but it serves a function.

Watching a final episode is almost like watching the funeral of the show. (A little melodramatic, I know, but I was raised by television. ) Funerals are sad, but you need that ending ritual in order to process everything.

And the thing is, final episodes are always bittersweet. They are sad because it’s ending, but they also celebrate the show and remind you of all the good times you have had with it.

Also like a good funeral, come to think of it. Damn, no wonder I get so verklempt.

Anyhow, this too shall pass. I have been through this with enough beloved shows that I know the drill. I’ll get super emotional, I will be bummed out for a little while, then I’ll get over it.

And that’s how it’s supposed to work, right?

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Dipping a toe

My main project for this afternoon was to cruise the forums for Cracked.com. This is harder than it sounds…a LOT harder. Because the thing is, just being there makes me freak the hell out.

Why? It’s hard to articulate. Too real, I guess. It’s a place where I have a real chance of finding some kind of work that would use my amazing comedy writer skills. They have an open editorial process and that means anyone, even just some fat guy in Canada, can pitch ideas, and if the pitch is accepted, write the dang thing and have it show up on like, the top comedy site around.

So just being there makes me incredibly nervous. That is what has kept me from really engaging with it in the past. I signed up ages ago, and very tentatively poked a toe in the water, but got extremely mildly admonished by one of the higher ups there and fled like a startled gazelle.

Since then, I have tried to go back many times, but the fears always got the better of me. But today, I decided that I would stay on the forum, with only a chat window open for moral support, and poke around some.

Previously, I had asked about how to get list ideas. Well, what I asked was how to make the list, but that’s approximately the same thing. First someone pointed me to their post on advanced Google-fu, and while informative, that’s still not much help.

But then someone pointed me to the official “where do you get ideas” thread, and that…. also didn’t help much, to be honest.

That’s when I realized that, as usual, what seemed like a practical problem was really an emotional one. I could probably whip up a list in a heartbeat, or at least an afternoon, if I wasn’t so damned anxious about the whole thing. It’s the fear interfering with the operations of my clever and creative mind that is the real problem.

That stuff really gums up the works and makes the whole damned machine shut down.

It’s true that I don’t naturally think in list form. My mind goes perpendicular to that. I follow connections, the more disparate the things being connected, the better. Connecting similar things is the opposite of that. It will take me a while to train my brain to run in that direction.

I am aided by the fact that they no longer insists on strictly fact-based articles. It could be something like Ten Reasons Why Star Trek Is Full Of Shit or Six Ways You Think Wrong and that would be cool. Some of their highest grossing articles have come from those sorts of articles. So I have an “in” there.

So it’s really about taking my existing ideas (of which I have just a few… hundred… thousand) and somehow formulate them into a plausible list format.

Put that way, it doesn’t seem so impossible. I can even go back over my previous think pieces (of which I have a few… ) and see if I can turn them into some kind of list.

It’s not impossible that I could learn to do the fact type listicles some day, though. I like to say I have poor research skills, but that is not really true. I have poor research patience. Again, the real problem is emotional. When I think of the tricks I have come up with in my search for something I wanted in the past, it is clear that I do not lack the necessary verbal skills, inventiveness, and insight.

I just lack the sort of patience that lets one search source after source after source in order to come up with your list of six precious fact based entries.

Just thinking of that makes me go…. man, I just want to be funny! You know?

What else… well I am still baking, obviously. Last experiment was a recipe for gingerbread cake that did not turn out that great. Granted, I only had half the amount of ginger needed, but I think even if I had the whole thing, the flavour would still have been too heavy with molasses flavour.

I mean, the thing called for a whole cup of molasses. And this is just a regular eight inch round cake.

At first, I worried that the thing was, if not exactly inedible, then utterly unpalatable. That heavy molasses flavour really needs a strong spice component to make it work. If I ever make that recipe again, I am going to bump up the spice content considerably. Especially the ginger.

Anyhow, luckily I remembered something from my children that pointed to a way to make the thing palatable. I remember that when my mother made gingerbread when I was a kid, it was always served with butter.

A ha! I have it a shot, and yup, with enough margarine melted into it, the stuff is okay. Thus, it is edible, and not a failure. It’s not one of my rousing successes, but it’ll git et.

Tonight, I am probably going to do some kind of cake, because I am feeling lazy. Possibly choco-mint… the last time I made it, it didn’t turn out as well I had hoped, so I have an itch to make it again even though I made it last Thursday.

I am also influenced by the fact that I can make that chocolate frosting recipe work now. Last time I tried it, it turned out too bitter again, so I added a whack of Splenda to it, which gave it the right sweetness but then it was grainy.

Grainy frosting is gross.

Luckily, after letting it sit for a while, I discovered that the extra Splenda had dissolved into the frosting all by itself, and that it was now creamy and chocolatey and wonderful.

Okay, now I am drooling. I think choco-mint cake with chocolate frosting is in the offing tonight.

And I will talk to all of you nice sweet people again tomorrow.

Tortoise versus hare

I have always hated the story of the Tortoise and the Hare.

Why? Because it gives people a terribly unrealistic idea of how to get ahead in life. The turtle wins the race not because he goes slow and steady, but because the rabbit is an idiot. The real message of that story isn’t “slow and steady wins the race”, it’s “don’t be a smug, cocky asshole or you will look like a total idiot when someone way slower than you beats you in a test of speed. ” By all rights, the turtle should have lost. It was, to put it mildly, the rabbit’s race to lose.

The best you can say is that “slow and steady gets there eventually”. And even then, not necessarily.

Perhaps some of my irritation at that insipid and counterproductive fable is because I am sort of between those two extremes. I am certain not fleet of foot, or anything physical like…. at all. But I am blazing fast of mind, for mostly better and occasionally worse, and a lot of my life I have been extremely frustrated by how slow everything is.

Starting with school, of course. I was always light-years ahead of everyone else. Every time the teacher had to go over something again so the slower students could catch up, a little part of me screamed then died. Never mind the fact that a lot of the time, I already knew what was being taught. Having to back up and go over it again was like a form of Hell.

And yeah, I know that makes me seem pretty arrogant. I suppose I am. But the fact remains that I am hella smart, always have been. And sometimes, I am going to want to talk about it.

Anyhow, I grew up being a hare forced to go through life, or at least school, at tortoise speed. Physically, I was totally a Taurus tortoise, but inside this capacious cranium I have a platinum plated supercharger and a need for speed.

Things would have been different if someone had actually figured out how to challenge me. Perhaps if I was a more demanding personality, I could have forced them to do so, either by demanding it outright or acting up until they realized that the only way to keep me quiet was to keep me entertained.

But I lacked the courage and self-confidence for that. Mostly, I did what I was told. I had a smart mouth and could be very difficult when someone was trying to get me to do something I didn’t want to do (moo!), but for the most part, I was too timid to really do anything on a Bart Simpson level.

I sometimes feel bad for my teachers. I must have been a hell of a lot to handle. Nothing like being needy AND sarcastic.

I really do contain a lot of contradictions. In some ways I am incredibly bold and self-confident. I have never had any problem speaking up for what I believe. (Kind of the opposite, really. ) I have a lot of intellectual self-confidence, as well as confidence in my own insights and perceptions. Maybe that just comes from being smarter than everyone else growing up, I don’t know. Maybe if there had been someone to really put me in my place and take me down a notch or ten, I would have learned a thing or two about humility.

But no such person existed. Even the adults were intimidated by me. I learned at an early age that I was a giant amongst pygmies and I had to tread very carefully just so I didn’t hurt anyone or scare them away.

And it hurts to have to do that all the time. At times I felt like it was all I could do to keep myself from just… floating away from everyone into the stratosphere of my own mind. Who knows…. maybe if I had let go, I would have learned that I could fly, and most importantly land, all by myself.

But as is, the very tender tether I had keeping me in contact with the world of humanity and warmth that was all the positive emotional input I had needed constant, multi-level concentration to maintain. No wonder I became such a loner eventually. When I was alone, I did not have to run my hopelessly ineffectual and costly simulation of normalcy.

Maybe I would have been better off just striking out on my own fully. Tell the world “see you on the next horizon!” and head off on my own and forging my own path regardless of my desire to stay within the warmth and light of emotion. Perhaps then, I would have learned to be self-sufficient, and thus learned that I can handle whatever comes along and need not fear the open road, and actually become a less timid, more confident, and altogether easier to get along with and more likable person.

But that was not in the cards. I have always walked sideways, crabwise, between curiosity and ambition pulling me forward and fear and timidity pulling me backwards.

I mean, at the same time I was this academically gifted elementary school kid, I was also the kid who went through emotional paroxysms when the time came to pick a new author’s books to read.

Even then, I had serious option paralysis issues.

Now, whenever I look at my past, I wish I had been bolder. I wish I had just gone ahead and developed that big ego everyone seemed so worried I would get, including me. Fuck humility. At least a huge ego would have kept my self-esteem afloat and been of some comfort to me when I was all alone in the world.

Maybe it’s not too late. Perhaps I can still escape the gravity well of ironic self-awareness and the vast black hole of depression and become the cocky, confident, bold as brass version of me that I know is in there somewhere.

I swear, I won’t become much more of an asshole.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

The truth about beliefs

The truth is, most people don’t know what they really believe.

For one thing, most people have never had their beliefs truly tested. They know what they think they believe, but unless said beliefs are brought to bear on a direct, real life experience, we have no idea how we truly feel… how we would really react.

For another thing, a lot of people adopt beliefs not as true deep down convictions, but as part of their social camouflage. They know what answers are required for them to fit in with their social group, and use those beliefs to guide their social actions. They know what they want to be seen to believe.

There is also the identity aspect of professed belief. People adopt the beliefs that match the kind of person they want to be, or the kind of person they think they are. As long as said beliefs remain untested, there is no conflict. Someone can go on thinking that gays shouldn’t be able to marry or that all races are equal for many years, but then one of their children comes out of the closet or a black family moves in next door, and they find out what they really believe.

Also, most people are too busy dealing with life to really reflect on what they truly believe. Modern life keeps us busy. That’s what it’s supposed to do. And being that busy keeps us off the philosopher’s road most of the time. We simply don’t have the time, energy, or desire to think really deeply about things. The philosopher’s road is a rough and dangerous place. It’s far better to just get on with life and not worry about the big things.

That’s why philosophy requires solitude. You need time where your mind can be clear enough to delve deep into complex and difficult thoughts. This is why philosophers become loners, and loners become philosophers.

Now obviously, I am not talking about the simple beliefs about how the world works that we use all the time. We’re not talking about beliefs about how to drive a car, what makes for a good lunch, or how to give a presentation. We are not talking about beliefs as to how doors work or a belief in the practical applications of gravity.

No, we are talking the deep stuff, like how criminals should be treated or what should be done about world hunger or what kind of a person people should strive to be.

That leads us to the arena where our beliefs come into contact with practical reality : politics. Despite how it seems a lot of the time, politics is where the marketplace of ideas interfaces with the way our various levels of government are actually led.

Due to the highly indirect nature of representative democracy, the interface is weak and unreliable at best. A lot of other factors cloud the picture. But, amazingly enough, and despite all the odds, our governments do end up more or less representing the will of the people sooner or later.

Which brings us back to what people truly believe. We must ask the question : how many people vote their true beliefs, versus how many vote their social camouflage or idea of themselves?

I think, in modern democracies, we have ways of convincing ourselves either that our beliefs do matter (say, on an Internet forum) or that they do not (say, in election season). Lost in the shuffle is the true power of the marketplace of ideas. History clearly shows us that public opinion about subjects changes in very large ways over time, and it is rare that we stop and think about exactly how this happens.

Clearly, sometimes, people arguing with each other over politics actually has an effect. Certain positions gain power over time via people knowing how to overcome others rhetorically. In general, the more socially advanced, tolerant opinions overcome the more narrow and prejudiced ones in modern democracies because out societies are based on tolerance and understanding, at least in the “live and let live” “mind your own business” sense. This can only happen if, over time, some people start winning arguments while others lose.

The true sign that one side is winning, then, becomes the other side’s unwillingness to engage. When one side knows, even if only on a subconscious level, that their positions are no longer rhetorically supportable, they become understandably reluctant to enter the arena. They know they will lose every single time.

So while it is easy to tell oneself that political arguments never solve anything, nobody ever changes their minds, and even if they do, they will never ever admit they lost, so what’s the point? And it’s true in the small scale. Our reptile brains cause us to seek to dominate others with our arguments, and that means forcing them to submit to us and cry uncle.

But verbal arguments lack the kind of force to make that really happen. It’s clearly possible, but extraordinarily unlikely. No argument is so perfect that it can actually make someone admit they were wrong, and to think so is to assume that everyone is intellectually honest, and to be honest, they aren’t.

This lack of clear victory makes it seem like the arguments are futile to our reptile minds. But opinions clearly change over time and argument is the only plausible mechanism for that. Somehow, these seemingly pointless arguments, at least some of the time, actually have a point.

And seeing as these arguments are based on personal belief, and we know that the people of today have reached consensus on things that were extremely contentious in the past, what people actually believe in the future is really on the line at all times.

It’s hard to tell what contribution we make ourselves because the effect is cumulative. It is meaningless to ask which rock is truly the avalanche. All we can do is apply what force we can, and hope our side wins.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

The shadow of our loss

I have been thinking about people’s ability to, in a strictly mental sense, create what they need in order to compensate for a lack of an expected stimulus a lot lately.

Sorry that’s such a complicated sentence. It’s the best I could do.

The example I talked about yesterday was the way a blind person’s other four senses heighten in response to the lack of visual input. Whether born blind or blinded, the human brain will compensate for the lack of expected stimulus because it has to. The human mind simply cannot accept a lack of expected stimulus.

This is easiest to see in sensory deprivation experiments. When the stimulus level is that catastrophically low, the mind’s react to this stimulus starvation is to generate vivid hallucinations which can include all five sense. That is how powerful the mind’s need for stimulation can get, and shows that the human mind can, in certain situations, generate the stimulus it lacks.

That’s easy to see with sensory stimuli. But I think it works for emotional stimuli as well. I think that in a healthy mind, when a necessary emotional stimulus is absent, the mind creates a version of that stimulation, a sort of placeholder image version of it, until the real thing can be found.

This pale imitation cannot compete with the real thing. It is merely a ghost, a shadow of the real thing. It merely acts as the minimum stimulation level to prevent catastrophic emotional collapse.

The unhealthy mind, by comparison, cannot do this, and it is a strict rationalist sense of only believing that which is “real” that prevents it. When the mind is rendered incapable of fooling itself even a little, it becomes extremely vulnerable to the breakdowns and malfunctions (and even delusions) of a stimulation-starved mind.

Thus, a rigid rationalism with no room for belief for its own sake actually sabotages the ability of the mind to cope.

This psychological self-righting mechanism, in most healthy people, takes the form of religion. A belief in an all-powerful loving God allows the individual to generate the feelings of love, acceptance, belonging, and so on in order to continue to function and keep going even if life fails to provide those stimuli itself.

However, everyone’s emotional gaps are different, and if religion comes into existence in order to fill those gaps, religion must different from person to person too. We cannot all have the exact same God. One key cannot fit all locks.

For those of us without religion, or at least without religious belief, the outlook for psychological health is bleaker. We cannot generate our own cure the way someone with some kind of all-encompassing belief system can. Our gaps, left to themselves, would remain unfilled, and so another solution must be found.

Thus, we turn to the wide range of alternatives offered by modern society. None of them have the panacea effect of religious belief, so they are usually high maintenance solutions that do not so much solve the problem as mask it.

They distract, they sedate, they suppress, and they substitute, but they can never do the job for long.

For a lot of people, career is their religion and ambition is their interface with it. You can fill those gaps in your emotional inputs with the hope that the next promotion, the next big deal, or the next fiscal year will be just the thing for them.

And even if the last string of successes failed to do it, the need is so strong that it is easy to convince ourselves that is is the next whatever that will do it.

Otherwise…. what’s the fucking point?

Really, this need to fill the voids within us drives all our modern addictions. In our daily spiritual crisis, stripped of the ability to imagine our way healthy, we follow the destructive path of decadence : we try to fulfill our emotional needs via hopelessly indirect and short term solutions like food, drugs, ambition, acquisition, or even rage.

As modern spirituality/psychology teaches, this search for external solutions to our lack of all the complex emotional stimuli we need is ultimately futile. No solution outside ourselves can ever become permanent. It will always be doomed to eventual failure. The only possible permanent solutions have to come from within. Somehow, in this rational age, you have to give yourself permission to fill these gaps in order to function.

This is how the refusal to allow or accept any belief that is not externally verifiable leaves people psychologically vulnerable to anything from depression to addiction to being victimized by those who seem to offer easy solutions. Under that system, there is no way for the mind to compensate for lack of love, friendship, social acceptance, or whatever.

We starve inside because we refuse to generate our own sustenance. Better to starve than to eat illusory food?

I used to think so, but now I am not so sure.

The problem, of course, is that there is no path back from the rationalist route. I cannot see a way for a rationalist mind to consciously accept that which is not “real”, regardless of how dire the emotional need might be. Before this rigid rationalism sets in, the mind might still have the necessary “wiggle room” to at least fool itself a little in the background, letting the conscious mind continue to think it is perfectly rational while the rest of the mind keeps things balanced with the kind of unobtrusive delusions that are easy to conceal and rarely face scrutiny from the outside world.

But if the rigid rationalism sets in and the conscious mind insists on stripping out everything inside itself that is not “true”, then this vital coping mechanism will be destroyed and the only way to cope is to find the necessary inputs in their genuine form, accepting no substitutes.

And how do you get there when you are starving inside?

So go right ahead and love yourself, without condition and without proof. Only this will provide the permission to fill one’s emotional needs oneself. Not entirely… you will still want all those needs met by the world as well.

But it will let you get by until you do.

I will talk to all you nice people again tomorrow.

We are numb

Therapy day. Angst day. Hip hip hooray.

One thing we talked about was my theory that depression comes from the mind responding to trauma by flooding itself with the equivalent of a psychic anesthetic. This is not the warm happy everything is okay and I am so relaxed kind of anesthetic. (Trust me, I’ve had that, and it’s marvelous.) This is the cold, numbing, paralyzing kind of anesthetic that you dentist might use so he can take out your wisdom teeth.

And it does its immediate job : it numbs you from the pain so you can function. And in the normal course of events, your mind would heal over time, just like a broken leg. And like said leg, there would be times where there was pain, but the pain would be manageable and eventually you would be back to normal, healthy again.

But what happens when the trauma is so severe, the mind simple can’t heal itself without help? If, for whatever reason, help never comes (like, say, it happened when you were so young, you didn’t have the words to ask for help, let alone know how), then your mind copes whatever way it can and, like an untreated broken limb, puts itself back together in random, unhealthy, even disabling ways that leave you crippled for life.

And all the while, the brain keeps itself going by keeping itself numb.

And this numbness makes it hard to cope with life. You can’t feel your way through things like other people do. You can’t rely on your reflexes, your instincts, or your intuition. They are too distant to be trusted.

Instead, you develop what you do have access to : your abstract reasoning mind. You learn to think, learn, understand, and retain. If you’re like me, you also learn to examine, compare, analyze, and synthesize. Or you might learn to try to contact the alien planet where your emotions live through art.(Yo. ) Whatever form it takes, you are like a blind person developing their other senses in order to compensate for the one they are missing. You become, for lack of a better term, intelligent.

But you are still numb. Life is still harder for you than it is for others in ways that defy articulation. Things that come naturally to people with a more balanced and functional emotional array need to be explained to you. Everything has to be made to work with your remaining faculties.

This furthers your intellectualism. When all you have is a hammer, the whole world starts to look like a nail, and when all you have is your intellect, the whole world looks like a puzzle to be solved.

But it isn’t. It’s the approach you are forced to take given your limitations. You have to keep going through life as though your intellect is all you need, but it’s not enough. So you keep falling down and running into things.

You are physically clumsy because you do not have access to the kinesthetic instincts and hardwired programmed needed to be physically adept. You are socially awkward because you don’t have access to your social instincts either. You try to understand everything via that excellent mind of yours, but the world is not school, and you need so much more.

All this leads to further psychic trauma. And how does your mind handle that?

You get even more numb.

This is what “retreating into your mind” really means. The world gets further away from you as you become more numb. You withdraw from the world by withdrawing into yourself and your cloak of ice. This numbs you from the pain and lets you function a little, but when that numbness gets too much, you find even the simplest things hard to do and you are, officially, depressed.

But it’s worse than that. All that numbness leaves you feeling very, very cold inside. Without access to the positive, motivating inputs of life, your unmet emotional needs grow until they are a vast void within you. The warmth can’t get in. Nothing can penetrate that numbness. The light and warmth of the world are out there, waiting to be experienced, but the deep bone numbness keeps you from feeling it at all.

And so you feel very, very alone. Doesn’t matter what it out there or who would love a chance to get close to you and bring you the warmth you need so badly but cannot receive. You tell yourself that nobody loves you, nobody cares about you, everyone hates you, and so on because that is what is feels like. That’s the only interpretation of your emotional state that makes sense.

Because you don’t know you are numb. So if you do not feel it, it must not be there.

And being numb has another effect : stimulation hurts. Like slapping your foot when it’s gone to sleep. Anything but very low levels of physical stimulation is interpreted as pain by your numbed out brain. This alone is enough to make us withdraw from everyday life. The world is a House of Usher nightmare when you are numb.

That’s why all depressives self-medicate. For some it’s the obvious stuff, like drugs, liquor, sex, or food. But for others it is things like obsessing over a particular topic so deeply that it shuts out everything else (I call this ‘falling down the microscope”). Or it might be obsessively exercising, or burning through short term relationships for the “falling in love” high, or if you are me, obsessively exercising your brain.

Feed your gut and feed your mind, and don’t you dare tell me you are full.

So that’s us… the numb people. The people with the busted antennas. The depressives, all of us, from those who use to those who drink to those who eat to those who cut to those who just stay angry all the time.

Whatever your poison, we are all addicts, and we are all numb.

And the only cure for that is opening the door to let the sunshine in.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.