Friday, November 14, 2014

Notes On Feeling Fat

Notes On Feeling Fat

            I did something that took some nerve yesterday.  I looked at myself naked in a full length mirror.  Frontal and side view.  I’ve avoided doing it for years and I finally got tired of being such a coward and did the deed.  I looked.
            It was disturbing but also liberating.  I’m sixty five years old; age is happening to my body. I won't be one of those people who cling to youth with frantic denial. I want to enjoy being a cranky old man who groans and says "Fech!" Things could be much worse.  All the flab has settled around my mid-section, leaving my shoulders, arms and legs looking okay..  I weigh two
hundred and stand five foot eight.  I “carry my weight well”, so I’ve been told.  I’m not a waddling fire plug.  I’m more like a bear or a gorilla.  These creatures don’t have tapering waistlines.
        It’s the fault of the medications.  That’s what I tell myself.  The medicines changed my metabolism.  I got heavy after I started taking the medications for my leg neuropathy and ...all those other things.
Forget the compulsive bed-time eating, the appetite for Reese’s Pieces and
Nestle’s Crunch.  Never mind the yum yum indulgence of putting peanut butter on Ritz Crackers and tossing down half a roll.  I ride a bicycle every day, three sixty five.  I know, you hate me.  I also do a daily yoga practice.  I know, you hate me even more.
            It’s a case of good disciplines counteracting bad habits.
            I am a disciplined compulsive.  Is that a paradox?  Try living with it.
Is anyone else like this?  Is anyone locked in a struggle between the rational and irrational parts of themselves?  I’m killing myself while saving my life.  I’m a suicidal yogi health food candy addict.  
            I practice aerobic “spinning”.  I sweat hard and push myself until I’m panting .
            My treadmill test indicated that I am free of heart disease.
            How do I live with myself?
            Tolerantly.  Very tolerantly.
            Am I the only baby boomer with a past full of addictions and recoveries?
Am I the only sixty-something with chronic pain in at least two parts of my body?
Am I the only man who feels conned and imprisoned by the pharmaceutical companies because I have to take meds for blood pressure, depression and physical pain?  These meds have saved and restored my quality of life.  They’ve also made me a prisoner.
            I feel as if I’ve loaned out my body as a lab rat and everything will stay cool as long as I keep running on the treadmill.
            My belly’s been large for twenty years.  I’m a husky strong man.  What will body shame get me?  Nothing.  Avoiding my reflection in the mirror is absurd., I don’t know what I really look like.  Each gaze into my reflected image is so loaded with ingrained value judgments, fantasies and delusions that it’s pointless to obsess on my appearance.  I just don’t know and never will know what I look like.  Furthermore, I don’t look the same to any two people.  Nothing does!  So what the fuck?
            I’ve made a deal with my belly.  I talk to it.  Belly, I say, you are a part of me, you are a product of genetics, lifestyle and a thousand other factors.  You and I will have have to get along.  Let’s be friends.  It’s obvious you’re not going anywhere.
            So, belly, how ya doin’ today?  No pain?  That’s good.  Let’s go for a ride.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Superman On Prozac...Chapter One excerpt

I've written about a third of a novel of this re-visioning of the Superman Myth. Of course there are copyright infringements. I would have to be hired by Superman's owners, or simply sell the idea and be a consultant.  Any time, Super People!

Superman was awakened by the buzzing of his Iphone.  It was still in the utility pocket of his tights.  Now it vibrated against his butt cheek, bringing him out of a deep dreamless sleep.  The fact that his Iphone was in his tights and his tights still on his body was due to his having fallen asleep after a hundred hour work-day.  He had gotten back to the Fortress of Solitude only long enough to have a cup of Ramen noodles and collapse onto his bed, eyelids falling of their own weight like leaded curtains.
                “Awww, shit!” He rolled to his left, and the badly fitted contour sheet snapped up in the corner, so that all his bedding started to unravel.  He slapped at the buzzing pest in his pocket, hoping to kill it as easily as he would a mosquito.  It vibrated insistently.
                Superman sat up, dragging blankets and sheets with him.  He rocked to one side and fished the smart phone from his pocket.  There were only four people who had his phone number.  He tapped the face of the device and squinted blearily at the display.
                “Where R U?”
                The Man of Steel pushed the Clear button.  It would notify his Project Manager, Piers Bloch, that he was in the Fortress.  That was all Piers needed to know.
                “Where the hell would I be?” His voice had the gravel of fatigue and irritation.  “Moscow?  Alma-Ata?  Minsk?”  He sat up, kicking his sheets and blankets into a pile on the floor.  The place was a wreck.  Outside, he could see the mountains of  Greenland, rising in range after range, deep in the interior.  Wind kicked disdainfully at the peaks, blowing off piles of ice and snow.  It was almost possible, here, to make the world stop.  Almost.
                For Superman the world could never stop.
                Sighing deeply, summoning his will power, he got up.  He took three steps to the left and
was in his bathroom.  Outwardly, to the visible world, the Fortress of Solitude was a wheel-less Winnebago.  Superman didn’t need much in the way of personal accommodation.  There was more,
 much more, underground. Next to the trailer, a twelve foot satellite dish and several other antennae rocked in the gusts.
                Superman looked at himself in the mirror.  There was a faint sizzling sound, and a blast
of heat from his eyes.  His three-day stubble disappeared, leaving behind the odor of burning hair.
                His gut hung over the red-speedo  atop the blue legs of his tights.   He needed a Rejuvenation, he realized suddenly.  But who has the time?  Wait, he thought…..that’s  a joke.  A Rejuvenation is about moving so fast that time runs backwards.  He could make the time, if he wanted.  It was the wanting… was the motivation that was missing.
                Superman thought,  with sudden and unexpected longing, of the key to the Kryptonite Vault. It was hanging just out of his reach, in the towel shelf.  He could see it, dangling from a Bugs Bunny key chain.  He could go down into the underground world of the Fortress, unlock the vault, walk in….and never walk out again.
                He rubbed his now-smooth chin, patted his belly, and reached inside his tights.  A discreet little Jockey-style flap enabled him to reach Super Junk, as he called it (with a super amount of self-mockery).  He made a piss that poured from him like Niagara, on and on.  After three minutes it gradually rattled to a halt….squirted one last time…and was done.  The super hero replaced himself in his tights and went into the single room of the camper, stepping over empty cans and papers.  The lights were on…he had fallen asleep with the lights on….but they were beginning to dim, and his computers had already kicked over to auxiiary power. 
                Impervious to the cold, Superman went outside, brushed snow off a stationary bicycle,
and pedaled for two minutes with such speed that smoke rose from the bushings that
kept the bike’s cranks and pedals attached to the frame.  The lights came back up. 
                He returned to the trailer’s interior.  “I should clean this up,” he mumbled to himself.
He was, after all, Superman.  He could have asked one of his clones do the cleaning, but the idea
of watching himself working for himself, that was a little too much….and he could, or would, only clone himself, so there was no cloning some sweet plump girl named Rosita to do his housework.
                He heard a sound like distant thunder.  This was followed by another sound, like a straw sucking on an empty milkshake.  FtooothweeeeeeEEEP!
                Superman looked out the window.   One of his clones had just landed and was heading towards the silo opening behind the trailer.  Briefly, the clone and its maker exchanged a glance.  Superman nodded perfunctorily.  It was best not to engage them in conversation. 
                Hunger.  He registered hunger as the quiet gurgling at the center of his abdomen and a
slight dizziness due to lowered blood sugar levels.  It was ridiculous, this need to eat, defecate,
occasionally masturbate, blow his nose, fart.  Ridiculous.  But that was where the central problem
was located, wasn’t it?  He was Superman.  He wasn’t  Super Super.  He wasn’t Man Man.  He was Superman.  He was, in fact, a goodly part human being, even if his Kryptonian origins lent him
unusual faculties. No one knew the truth: that his mother was a human being transported from Earth by Jor-el.  There was no getting away from it.  It was a long and complex story, best left in the dust of the past.
                He called himself by his real name, Kal-el.  That was his given name.  This Superman business was ridiculous.  True, he could leap tall buildings in a single bound…..
                He waved his hand in front of his face, as if to dispel a mirage.  To get to the
half-sized refrigerator, he had to wade through the detritus of his trailer:  bedding, old
newspapers, empty CD jewel cases, cans of Calistoga water.  He couldn’t even get it open;
there was a box of Ramen jutting from the cabinet, obstructing the door. 
                Frustrated, he decided to clean the place, now, not later, NOW!  He became a blur,
and twenty seconds later the Winnebago was spotless, immaculate.
                “Why did I wait so long to do that?”.  Kal-el spoke aloud.  He was beginning to
worry about himself.  The brooding, the mess, the overwork….all classic symptoms of depression.
                “That won’t do,” he said bitterly.  “We can’t have Superman on Prozac.”
                He was going to take this day at a slower pace.  He was going to relax, meditate, read
some Dostoevsky and some Philip K. Dick, watch the Lakers take on the Bulls.  Almost…almost,
a day off.   

                “There’s so much to be done,”  he thought desperately.  “So much to be done.”
                Then, as always, aware of his mental processes, he stopped thinking and hurled  his psyche a billion light years into space.  From that distance, he looked down upon the infinitesimal speck of this person, this unfortunate hero the Earthlings called Superman, Kal-el, son of Jor-el.
                This thought, he realized, was his nemesis:  There’s so much to be done.  In those five
words huddled a universe of misplaced responsibility, guilt, neurotic over-achievement. 
He had that insight for a few seconds, then his distance collapsed, his detachment gave way to
a sucking rubber-band sound, thwangggg! and he was pulled back into his personality.
“Who am I kidding?” he asked himself.  “I’m the only person who stands between these earthlings and utter self destruction.  I can’t afford the luxury of neurosis.  I am doomed to be a workaholic because the alternative is to be uncaring, unfeeling, and to let these people fight each other to extinction.”
                He had altered the political structure of the planet Earth until its stability depended upon
his intervention.  He kept the peace by what he called “The Balance of Astonishment”.  Or, sometimes, “Mutually Assured Incompetence.”
                Kal-el found a can of chunky pineapples in his kitchen cabinet, and a container of cottage
cheese out back in a tin box.  The wind drove particles of stinging ice into his face, but he didn’t
feel it.  Pain was, for him, a voluntary experience. 
                His computer chair was a drummer’s stool, a collapsible Gibraltar Power Throne.
He sat in front of his monitor, moved his wireless mouse with a nudge of his forefinger. 
Eating with deliberate slowness, he watched the monitor come to life.  Between bites, he brought
up his email program.  It was server-automated, and software sifted the messages for code words
and phrases of things he thought might need his immediate attention.  At the bottom corner of
his Outlook Express in the left hand box, the program said, “You have 17,596 unread messages.”
                About average.  Down in the bunker complex, a dozen of his clones answered email,
another hundred thousand messages a day.  Automatically sifted out were the “Dear Superman,
can you get my neighbor to drop dead” messages.  Emails from civic leaders, volunteer coordinators, educators, local politicians, national politicians, tribal chieftains, individuals who fit the profile of true need, those were the emails he answered and responded to with the appropriate action.

Monday, October 20, 2014

How Do I Define My Work?

As I was setting up the pages for Tumblr, I was asked the following question in setting up my profile:
How Do You Define Your Work?

Holy Shirt!  What a question!  It caused me to pause....and pause...and in this manner some days went by...and I paused some more..  This is how I finally defined my work.

I work to express the beauty and majesty of the Universe.  I work to understand and to worship those Energies that are involved in its creation and continued existence.

I work to help those people who are involved in healing themselves from parental abuse, violence, ignorance or indifference.

I work to manifest images that evoke emotional truth and self-revelation. I work to revive atrophied faculties of mind and spirit that have been damaged by our culture.

I work to contribute my iota to the world of self-knowledge.

I write, play music and practice photography for people who want to be mirrored in their deepest selves, that they may better understand their confusions.

At the moment I can't bring any more cogent definition of my work that wouldn't involve writing fifty pages of boring junk.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cries From The Heart

Lately I've been getting messages from people that I would term
"Cries From The Heart".  The French have a term for this: Cri de Coeur.   A Cri de coeur is deep, serious and without artifice.  It's the real thing.  I've gotten emails, facebook messages, texts, phone calls, cries from everywhere on Earth.  They are wails of desperation, despair.  In May I uttered such a cry to a few of my friends.  Perhaps that's why I'm getting these messages now.  People feel they can let down their guard.  I hear from strangers, from acquaintances and from friends.  It's as if our bodies are distilling our  experiences and allowing these feelings to percolate downward into the Earth.  "WE'RE IN TROUBLE!" is what I'm hearing. Well...what else is new?  We've been in trouble for some time now.  When Robin Williams died there was a collective outflow, as if a giant balloon had been punctured. PSHEEEEWWW!  Suddenly the world had lost an important shade of color.  Gone!  Our palette was subtly impoverished.  I found myself thinking, "If he could get to such a state, then ANYONE might find themselves so distressed that they start looking for a way out."
Fortunately, I survived my May crisis but I will admit that it left me frightened.  It was ungodly painful!  I don't want to go through that again.  I don't want anyone to go through such an ordeal. Perhaps it was a true mid-life crisis, just a little late.  I didn't have the crisis about getting old in my fifties.  But at 65, whammo!  I write this because I think it's time to be honest.   Hang on tight, my friends.  We live in "interesting times" as the Chinese curse has it.  "May you live in interesting times" is an oriental malediction.
It's like saying "may you be witness to much war, famine and suffering." 
  We have all of that and we are forced to be witness because we live in a global information network where the news is even pumped through men's room urinals. It's important that we help one another, any way that we can. Expect to feel confused. Reach out when the confusion gets overwhelming. Reach out, anyway.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Compassion Found Dead In House Of Reps


            Early this morning Compassion was found dead on the floor of the House of Representatives.  An employee of the Capitol’s maintenance staff, Dizzy Tilton, found the body as he was sweeping debris down the center aisle.
          “I seen it comin’ for a long time.  It wasn't no shock." said Mr. Tilton, who has worked in the House for thirty seven years.  
            The body of Compassion was sprawled across a large number of  seats in the House Chamber.  Of course, Compassion was well known for her immortal hits such as “Wake Up Before It’s Too Late,” and “I Seen the Devil And It’s You,”. An anonymous source in law enforcement told this reporter that as many as fifty knives were used in the killing.  The FBI and the Secret Service say they have no suspects at this time, but a thorough investigation will be mounted as soon as a committee is formed to decide who will lead the inquiry.
            “There’s plenty of evidence”, said Special Agent Dawn Zerle-Light, 

“There are fingerprints on top of fingerprints.  Seems like everybody 

wanted Compassion out of the way.  The timing is suspicious, I must say.  

Only last week, Wisdom was blown to pieces in the Senate. Officials in 

Congress are trying to pin the crime on lobbyists. Of course the 

investigation won’t start until the end of the current filibuster.”

Suicide And Robin Williams

            Suicide.  Robin Williams.  You would think that those two items would not compute, that they wouldn't add up.  I can hear millions of people talking: "the guy had everything", they say.  "He was successful, famous, loved around the world.  What could be so depressing that it would cause him to wrap a belt around his neck?"
            I counseled a Suicide Hotline for five years.  I burnt out.  I couldn't take it any more.  My mother was a suicide; I found her cold body laid sideways across her bed.  I never thought that I would entertain suicidal thoughts, but I was wrong.  Only recently I had a two month depression so intense that I did indeed creep up to the edge of that precipice and look over the rim.
            In suicide counseling we were taught to look for particular red flags.  The first indicator was whether the caller was having thoughts or fantasies of suicide.  Then we would ask if there was a plan, a mental blueprint of how the suicide would happen.  If there was a detailed plan we were to probe for the acquisition of the instrument of self-murder.  A gun, razor blades, means of asking these questions we were trained to evaluate how seriously the caller was flirting with suicide.  If things were bad enough it was time to trace the call and get the police involved. 
            A prominent suicide like Robin Williams strikes us in a peculiarly vulnerable place.  If he can kill himself, we think, then anyone is capable of suicide.
            That is the plain truth.  I never thought that I would encounter suicidal ideation, that I would entertain fantasies of killing myself.  Around the beginning of June this year, a depression of overwhelming intensity seemed to leap on my back like a leopard striking from the high branches of a tree.  It's mostly over, now, I feel better, but I will never again put myself beyond the reach of the bony hand of self-killing despair.  Whatever deadly instrument it holds, I know that I have suicide within me.  My mother did it.  I thought about her a lot as I endured my mental and emotional pain. 
            Robin Williams, Robin Williams.  I loved Robin Williams.  I spent an evening in a club, sitting next to him at the bar.  We talked about the band we had both come to hear.  He was a compact little guy and as I was being entertained by our conversation I felt a weird familiarity but i didn't realize that he was THE Robin Williams, comedian, actor, bicyclist, humanitarian and all around conscious intelligent man.  Then, just as we were going our separate ways it hit me.  OH!  That was Robin Williams.  Well I'll be damned!  I didn't have to pretend not to recognize him because I didn't until the encounter was over.  Just as we were shaking hands and saying farewell a little voice in my head said "Television Television" and I thought maybe he was in a commercial or something and then, as I watched his retreating back exiting the club I got my "AHA!" and I knew he was Robin Williams.
            Having Robin Williams hang himself with a belt hurts so hugely I can't even begin to encompass its massive trauma.  I can only think, "That poor man!  His family must be going through hell!" My brush with the heavy dark freezing terrifying possibility of killing myself was enough to lift the blinders from my eyes.  Anyone in this world can find themselves in enough trouble to seek the last, only, final way out.  The problem is this....I know nothing about the Afterlife.  But I have an intuition that suicide doesn't get you a free pass out of that trouble.  It lands you in even worse trouble.
          But that's only one possibility.  I imagine there are as many afterlives as there are people and each one of them is unique.  I hope desperately that Robin Williams escaped from whatever it was that so tormented him.  I can't begin to imagine.  Due to Williams' drug history there's a widespread assumption that drugs were involved.  Now we have late breaking news that he was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.   That would push me towards the precipice.  One of the hallmarks of depression is the phenomenon known as "catastrophizing".  In my case I began fantasizing about my future; that I would end up lonely, sick and homeless.  I would be a degraded dweller in cardboard boxes.  THAT's catastrophizing.
          There's some deeper wound that exists in all of us, some Original Grief that accompanies us into the physical world.  It rides along with us in our physical bodies and sometimes it just waits there and does nothing but cause pain, momentary pain, endurable pain.  But sometimes that primal slash starts to bleed and no matter who you are, you can't stop the bleeding, you can't stanch the flow.  Your psychic energy begins to drain from you just like real blood and you get weaker and weaker and you tell yourself, hang on, be a warrior, endure.  You do NOT want to hear some fool tell you "Get over it.  The past is the past, it's over and done with.  It's time to move on."  You don't want to hear that because the fool who says that is clueless, has no idea how deep psychic pain can take you. 
            Just pray, O Afflicted One, pray and reach out to your friends, the ones who understand that no one is immune, no one gets a free pass, when the Darkness descends.  It can come at any time.  We never know.  If it's not on top of you right now, breathe a grateful sigh of relief and thank the Gods that you are more or less normal.  Enjoy that so-called Normal because sometimes it's the best we can have. After feeling what I felt these last few months, NOT feeling such things is pure bliss.