“Withholding.” The End.

A blog posted on December 9, 2007.

–Friday–11/2/07–My 44th birthday. Hip-hip-hoo-fucking-ray.

Any calmness I felt about my situation the previous day thanks to my therapist’s calm and sane talk was dissipated today, as I continued to worry about things. And it was not enough that I was making myself sick–James had to pitch in.

–I can’t talk long–I need to go out and start looking for jobs, and drop off my application at Starbuck’s.

–Why do you wanna do that for?

–I don’t wanna do it, I have to do it, to get some money coming back in.

–Well even if you started a job today it’d be 2-to-4 weeks before you got paid.

–What does that matter? I need some kind of income rolling in.

–You should learn how to live in poverty like I do.

–Poverty? You have a fucking paid-off townhouse. I do not want to be and will not be homeless and lose all my stuff. My stuff is the only thing I give a shit about anymore anyway.

–Well why do you keep applying for shitty jobs you hate and that make you crazy, that stress you out, that you can’t do well, and that you’ll probably quit or be fired from quickly?

–Because that’s the only place I can find work! I can’t find work in the fields I’m good at!

— You see, this is why your friends don’t want to help you-you never listen to the advice they give. Austin is the biggest writer’s market in Texas.

–Probably.

–Trust me–it is. And I could find you plenty of writing jobs in Austin.

–Okay, name me five. Five jobs right now or in the next few days, that are hiring.

–I didn’t say I could find you five places that are hiring. And I didn’t say I could find you jobs that wouldn’t make you crazy. I’m not inside your head, so I can’t know….

–Well stop playing fucking word and semantical games and name some places.

— “Texas Monthly,” the “Chronicle,” the “Statesman”….

–Yeah, yeah. I know all those usual places. But they’re never hiring, And they already have a backlog of applications.

–When have you ever seen those places advertise openings?  Never ever. They don’t advertise. You should know that by now.

–Well, what fucking good is that list? You’re just stating the obvious. And you’re naming places that never hire.

–Well, maybe you’ll have to become a better writer.

–Fuck you! I am a good writer! That doesn’t have a fucking thing to do with it.

–Well, you’re just setting yourself up for more misery applying for these crappy jobs.

–Well I know. But what fucking choice do I have?

–Your choice is to get a job in writing.

–Dammit, it’s not as easy as you make it sound!

–I wish I could kick you in the nuts every time you apply for those type of jobs. Those jobs are just going to increase your depression and hinder your treatment.

–I would rather get kicked in the nuts than work any more of those jobs.

And so needless to say, I spent the afternoon of my birthday in a serious, serious depression, but I think less because James was provoking me than because I knew he was right. But I didn’t know how to fix the problem and break the cycle of shit I’ve been in all these years.

I went to the Starbuck’s. While I waited to drop off my application I noticed how busy it was and how painfully loud the music was. This would not be a good place to work. And none of the other places where I picked up applications had much going for them either. Each place was just a new version of hell, in different clothing. Every one of them seemed noisy, hectic, and involved using a cash register….

–Saturday–11/3/07–Sleepy. Depressed. And my ankles and shins are still killing me from that last job. The prospect of taking another shitty job just overwhelmed me. I took some meds and went to bed at 8pm.

–Sunday–11/4/07–After many interesting dreams, I finally got up around 2:30pm. Again I was overwhelmed with depression over my job prospects and the idea of doing more retail bullshit. I tried to fill out some applications, but could only get so far, plus I kept making writing mistakes, blacking out what I’d written, and so forth.

On one application it asked what I liked least about that proofreading job. There were so many answers I could’ve given but I just wrote “The hours (3rd shift).”  It also asked what I liked most about the job and I wrote “Nothing.”

I wanted to sob unceasingly, but I couldn’t even force that out….

*******

A blog posted on December 9, 2007.

–Tuesday–11/6/07–I got up early and bused it downtown. At the stop at 9th and Colorado I was listening to my little radio when I became aware of a woman yelling at me. I figured the fact I had my headphones on was a good enough excuse to not answer her. But I soon realized she wasn’t yelling at me–she was just yelling. I eased back about 50 feet away from her. Then she began stamping angrily at some invisible pests on one segment of the sidewalk, then looked all around and yelled louder, then barked like a dog. She was really losing it, to the extent I think she probably should’ve been locked up.

My first stop was the medical card place. I always leave there in a tearing, bloody rage, and today was no exception. Since the inefficient cocksuckers won’t transact any kind of business over the phone, I had to go AGAIN physically there to set another fucking appointment which won’t be until fucking December, when I’ll have to physically go in YET AGAIN. Plus I’ll have to bring along the same fucking stack of documents I brought in when I was there three fucking weeks before, as well as a fucking form filled out by my fucking former manager explaining that I no longer work at his fucked-up store. The reason I have to do all this bullshit is, of course, that I got fired and so my income level has changed. If I get a job between now and the appointment date, my new supervisor will also have to fill out another fucking form, so they gave me a spare just in case.

I was ready to hit someone when I walked out of there, and headed over to yet another bus stop. There was a drunk (at 9:30am) middle-aged woman there arguing with her boyfriend. I was waiting for her to start messing with me so I could bash her in the skull with my radio. But the bus soon arrived and the ride back into downtown was uneventful. I took another bus south and someone was kicking repeatedly on the metal panel against which I was leaning, so I thumped the panel back hard with my elbow.

I showed up at the place where the group sessions are held, just in time for the second hour of the art class. The project was to do a collage illustrating how we saw our “Higher Power.” I found this next to impossible to do with the same pile of shredded magazines that have been pawed-over for art projects the last few months.

At first I looked at a travel magazine for pictures of cathedrals, but in truth I found the assignment rather obscure and perhaps even poorly thought out: how, in fact, does one portray God with magazine advertisements?

So I settled for images of qualities that I considered important–pictures of dogs, to represent unconditional love, a photo of a guy working at a computer in his underwear–symbolic of how uplifting a good job well done is, and conversely, how miserable a bad job is. I found some pictures of bed–my shelter from the buffetings of life, and even a few pictures of mosques, even though I’m not a Muslim.

One of the group leaders came over with a picture of a statue in a beautiful Oriental garden, saying she heard I was looking for religious images.

–Oh, that’s a Kuan Yin, right?

The group leader was astonished.

–Wow, you really know your stuff. The Goddess of Compassion, that’s right. How did you know that?

–I study comparative religions.

–Wow. I’m from Malaysia, and there’s a huge statue of her there where people make pilgrimages.

I never really finished my collage–in fact, I only managed to tear some pages out. But on the sly I was mostly tearing out pages of magazine stories I wanted to read later at home (the architecture of Le Corbusier and Eileen Gray on the Riviera, boutique casbah hotels in Morocco…).

But one guy–one guy–he baffled everybody…well, at least everybody in the room who wasn’t zombified from their meds. He made a collage of his Higher Power entirely out of images of Harleys. The group leaders had no idea what to say about that. Normally they can come up with something supportive to say about the lamest and most foggy-brained efforts of the most mentally-unsound patients, but this time they were gob-smacked.

This guy explained that the collage did not represent his Higher Power, but said he had once owned a motorcycle, and had known a lot of Harley aficionados, and to them owning and riding Harleys was a way of life, but he stopped short of saying that it was for them almost a religion. (Of course, I’ve known weird fuckers who regard wearing Birkenstocks and flip-flops almost like a religion, or at least a tacky cult, but that’s another rant.) At any rate, the links in this guy’s chain of logic seemed tenuous at very best.

During my Anger Management group (where it turned out I was the angriest person in the room, with an unscientific and self-applied rating of 9 out of a range from 0 to 10) the group leader asked a new guy a question and wanted to write his name on the erase board, and she thought he said “Rollen,” when in fact he said, “Roland,” which for some reason threw her, and I got impatient with her difficulty over the name and almost spouted out,

–You know, like “Childe Roland to the dark tower came…,”

 but I held my tongue. I do tend to show off so much in those groups that I really have to pace myself. In the Health group one of the leaders announced an art show that was being held at the State Hospital featuring work by former patients, and that got me off on a tangent about Louis Wain, the turn-of-the-century British artist who, after being institutionalized with schizophrenia, began drawing very bizarre representations of cats.

I talked to James after I got home and he finally decided to clarify terms for me, after I’ve been screaming for months about it. He finally defined what he meant by my being “responsible” for all my problems:

–If somebody on the bus hauled off and smacked the shit out of you and injured you, whose fault would that be?

–His.

–If you don’t go to the hospital and get your injury treated, whose responsibility is that?

–Mine.

–Exactly.

–And I am getting treatment for my problems and trying to fix my fucked-up life.

–Yes, you are.

My problem was the way James was saying it, it sounded like he was claiming it’s my fault my life is the way it is, and despite my screaming at him over and over, he only now decided to explain himself.

*******

A blog posted on December 23, 2007.

…–Thursday–11/8/07–A busy day. On the way downtown on the bus a young woman told me all her problems–lack of housing and health care and so forth, and I gave her the names of four agencies she could go to to get those things.

At my second bus stop an off-duty bus driver came up and started talking about his love life, how that now he’s in his 50s he thinks he’s too old to bother with most womens’ bullshit. Then during the last third of the ride he held forth on religion and how important it was to get right with God. The conversation was actually more interesting than I’ve made it sound….

As usual my therapist and I covered a lot of ground, and we also discussed these job-training programs (and after the appointment she called me with information on other programs, though after looking at the websites I’m not so sure they’d be helpful). She did say, however, that I really don’t need to be getting any more stressful jobs, as they are just making my symptoms worse. She suggested I supplement my contract work with something quiet and stress-free, possibly even something boring….

–Saturday–11/10/07–Monday–11/12/07–I spent these three days writing the first installment of my latest writing contract job.

–Tuesday–11/13/07–Today’s main project was going across town for a doctor’s appointment. Three hours on the bus all told. And when I got there the doctor had gone off to a meeting and hadn’t bothered to call me and cancel. I met with a nurse, but nothing really productive came of it. When I left the clinic I put on my headphones and the first song I heard on the radio was, appropriately enough, “I Wanna Be Sedated.”…

*******

A blog posted on December 23, 2007.

…–Wednesday–11/28/07–Today I met with a doctor for my three-month follow-up on my crazy pills. He suggested I keep the Vistaril on hand if I ever needed a sleeping pill, but to switch to Fluvoxadine for anxiety. He also gave me a prescription for my thyroid medication, which I had run out of.

My case worker had to accompany me downstairs to attend to more bureaucratic matters with the pharmacy. As the elevators doors closed her eyes grew wide and she clutched my elbow:

–This is the first time I’ve been in an elevator since I got stuck in one over the Thanksgiving holidays.

–Yikes.

–Have you ever been stuck in an elevator?

–Not that I recall….But I did get stuck in a toilet stall in the Louvre once.

–Oh, well that’s a much better story.

(My case worker says she enjoys hearing me expound on the events in my past and present because I “organize them into neat little chapters.”)…

–Thursday–12/6/07–I reported to my therapist how, apart from my quarrels with James, things are going extremely well, that my freelance/contract work seems to be falling into place, and that I should soon be back on my feet financially if things keep going the way they are now. She was almost beside herself with happiness for me. She was surprised things came together so quickly….

–Sunday–12/9/07–Sunday–12/23/07–Despite all the crap that’s gone in recent months and years, especially the crap that I’ve posted in this multi-part piece, things are going superbly right now. The change came at the beginning of this month. I’m actually happy for the first time in years. I am keeping very busy doing writing work that pays better than anything I’ve ever done. And the work is expected to last at least through the end of 2008. And I’m finally making plans for the future.

In our meetings the last few weeks my therapist has been offering some pretty amazing insights on a dream I had. My meds are pretty disappointing; the side effects include serious dry-mouth that chokes me in my sleep. I don’t know whether the meds are contributing to my good mood or not….

*******

I continued going to therapy. Since I used a low-cost clinic that charged a sliding scale, and most of the therapists employed there were students or therapists who were just about to take their licensing exams or had just completed them, my therapists usually only last from eight to twelve months. Then I’d have to start all over and tell my stories to a new therapist….

I had another therapist who was a Jungian, and a reader of great literature, so we connected well. He understood how I see my life as the unfolding plot of a novel. He saw me as a Faulknerian character, such as Quentin Compson or the Reverend Gail Hightower, trapped by my family’s ghosts, unable to move forward. He liked to quote Faulkner’s line from “Requiem for a Nun:”

–The past is never dead. It’s not even past….

My friend Jeb e-mailed me, saying that I should consider working from home, doing freelance writing for his company. Within a few weeks I was finally making some good money. Though I have by no means resolved my financial problems in the years since, I did seem to turn a corner when I started working from home. I thought I had possibly broken out of the cycle of dead-end jobs at long last. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see now if that’s true.

I wish I could be more optimistic about that, but it feels almost like a drug or alcohol problem. I’ve managed to stay off the stuff and on the wagon all these years, but I’m still terrified that something will happen that causes me to take that bad habit back up again.

Before the end of the 2007 I arranged to have a meeting with my Case Worker, Maggie, at our usual spot—the cafe of a supermarket near my apartment. At our meeting Maggie was very surprised at the change that had come over me and how quickly I’d transformed from lost soul into an apparently happy man, filled with hope.

–It’s like the difference between night and day! Your whole look and aspect is different. You’re talking directly at me instead of staring at the floor. You seem wide open and direct, whereas before you were all withdrawn. Even your posture is different. You used to be all sunken down into yourself, with your back bent over, almost parallel with the floor. Now you’re sitting up straight. You seem almost happy. You seem…I don’t know…like you’re finally free!

*******    

THE END

[Some Final Thoughts:

First, I realize that the book is much, much too long, though I am unsure what to do about that. To divide the book into two or even three volumes would rob it of what little drama or driving force it has, and to severely cut it down would mean I wouldn’t get to say everything I want said. I don’t expect I’ll get any decent advice about this problem either, since the negative reactions to my Paris book (which were either hostile or indifferent) have disabused me of the idea of ever again submitting my books to my friends for their constructive criticism.

Second, as I’ve said before, a great deal of this book has been censored for the time being. Though the omitted material explains a great deal, and makes much clearer certain developments and motivations, and also changes to tone of the book somewhat, I cannot now include it. Some readers from my older blog will understand the reason why. Even with character names changed and my own removed, I am sufficiently paranoid about telling the whole truth. You’ll just have to wait for that to come out.

Third, I find the current ending, if not dishonest, then at least inaccurate. At the time I wrote it, I had reason to believe that better times were on their way, and that the two main problems I discuss in the book–career/finances and the censored issue–were about to finally be resolved. This turned out not to be the case. So I don’t really have a proper stopping place for the story.  I must find a happy ending in these aspects of my life, and only then can I go back and add an ending to this book.]

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