Hurricane Dorian

In a previous letter to you, I wrote that there was a small tropical storm brewing in the Caribbean Sea which was moving upon warm waters and was about to form into a hurricane. I told you it wasn’t coming toward us, but the forecast track had become unpredictable. I kept hearing from the local meterologist that the storm was strengthening, but it was expected to hit Florida and move into the Gulf of Mexico. As I was contemplating this, I went out my front door of my apartment to check my mail and I found a notice from the property manager taped to my screen.

It read that it was imperative for the residents to prepare for the impacts of hurricane Dorian upon the Carolinas. A hurricane watch meant that sustained winds of 74 mph or higher were possible. The watch would be posted 48 hours before the tropical storm force winds of 34 to 74 mph were expected in our area. A hurricane warning meant that hurricane force winds were expected and would most likely occur. We must be aware of the latest weather forecast, local conditions, and evacuation orders. During a hurricane watch was the best time to gather our storm supply kits. These included a three day supply of bottled water, assuming that a person consumes a gallon of water per day. We must keep a three day supply of food which requires no refridgeration or cooking, and to keep a manual can opener handy in our kitchen drawers. It would also be a good idea to have a battery powered radio and a flashlight for every person in the apartment (do not use candles). We should also keep a first-aid kit, spare batteries, and a seven day supply of our medications that we take, along with keeping our cell phones fully charged prior to the storm and to utilize text messaging to communicate in order to preserve battery life. If a hurricane warning is issued, we should remove all items from balconys and porches, as these could become lethal missles, and to close all window drapes and blinds to prevent flying glass or debris from getting into the apartment and injuring someone. We should clean the bathtub and fill it with water for flushing toilets and for sponge bathing (do not use it for drinking). We should also inform family and friends about our whereabouts during the storm, and have this important contact information available if we cannot access it on our phones. And we should gather up our important documents, such as our renters insurance policies, along with the contact number from our carriers or representatives. Our health insurance policy numbers, along with our contact numbers, should be where we are able to get to them. Also, we should have cash on hand in the event of widespread power outages, since ATMs and banks would not be functional, and to keep our cars filled up with gas in case an evacuation order is given.

This notice giving me cause for concern, I checked the latest weather forcast, finding out that the storm had turned into a monster and the forcast track had suddenly taken a drastic turn towards the north, with a well defined eye and winds of about 175 mph. It wasn’t going to strike Florida after all, instead, it was headed in our direction. A sense of dread and anxiety overcame everyone here. When storm was stalled over the Bahamas, and two days later, after the storm drifted towards the north, the first pictures emerged of the terrible devastation the hurricane reaped upon those islands. Whole towns were leveled to the ground. Seventy thousand people were left homeless. This rampage was to make landfall upon the barrier islands of North Carolina in three days, but weather conditions were expected to weaken it by the time it arrived here.

It is always miserable when you lose power to your home. My mother lost power for two days after leaving home and staying with her sister. Laura was anxious about what was about to happen, but ended up sleeping through it most of the time. I told her not to watch the Weather Channel, but she did so anyway, falling asleep in front of it. Our phones sounded the alarm that there was a tornado warning in our area. I slept hardly none at all. As the winds were howling, the power flickered a couple of times, but it never went out.

After the hurricane passed, Laura’s back yard was covered in tree limbs, and when it stops raining and the ground dries out, we will be left cleaning up the mess. We also suspect there is some damage to her roof.

A Search for Truth

How are you doing today? I woke up in the middle of the night and I thought it was time to write you a few lines. Let me tell you a little something about a book I’m currently reading. It is entitled Confessions, by Saint Augustine. It is considered one of the great books of the Western tradition. In it, the narrator makes his full confession to God, describing an ordinary life through the prism of guilt. There is always an inner conflict within him. After chasing every whim of doctrine he reads about in philosophy books, he finds his truth in the Bible, cradled in the bosum of the Catholic Church. I’m only half finished with the book, so I don’t know what it’s leading up to, but it was written in the fourth century AD and it has a surprisingly modern feel to it.

My letters to you have also been, at times, a confessional. I tried organized religion once, but all I found was entertainment and advertising. “Evolution is the big lie,” the preacher once pitched to us. He also told us that homosexuality is a sin — not something as complex as genetics, but merely a lifestyle choice — and that people with these proclivities should not be granted equal rights in our society, because, as Christians, it impinges upon our religious freedom. Christianity was once a religion of the humble and the poor, but this new belief spread rapidly in their pursuit of converting people, and it soon became the religion of kings, bishops, and mighty popes. It is now a religion of materialism for the worldly, even though the practitioners of it claim otherwise.

My personal search for truth has been conducted in the field of psychology, but these books leave me feeling cold and barren. My search has ended by seeking universal love and kindness. One afternoon, Laura and I exited a restaurant with a take-out box full of left-overs. We were approached by a sad and bedraggled homeless man, holding up a cardboard sign we couldn’t read. When Laura gave him the box of food, his face lit up with a smile and he thanked us. Laura had done her good deed for the day.

In a country as wealthy as our own, I feel that homelessness is unacceptable, but it exists here anyway and thousands of people go to bed hungry.

The next morning, Laura wanted to go to a yard sale. We drove to the location, and we saw mostly old clothes hanging on racks, but upon the tables beside them were trinkets and knick-knacks of all shapes and sizes. Laura bought some Christmas tree ornaments, a fancy clock, and a bird cage. I saw two pieces of amateur art for a dollar a piece. One of them was the scene of a blue sky with a flock of Canadian geese in flight behind two trees, while the other was a multicolored sea horse under water.

“I wish I could be talented,” I thought to myself.

When we read stories in books, or hear about great artists or political leaders, some of us tend to wish ourselves the same fame and fortune. Give a teenager an electric guitar and he wants to be the next Eddie Van Halen, or give someone some art supplies and he aspires to be the next Picasso. Every writer wishes he could become a great one. But what is wrong with living an ordinary life? What is wrong with being average? I have a to-do list which involves folding clothes and putting them away, washing dirty dishes, vacuuming the carpet, and sweeping the front porch. It can’t be interesting to read about, or is it? Every day has challanges and victories for each and every person.

Just a few thoughts and musings. The morning sun is high up in the sky now, and I think I’ll call Laura to wish her a good morning. Until we communicate once more, may you have an amazing day.

Transformation

I’ve been away from the blogging world for eight days now, and after some much needed rest, I feel refreshed and renewed. I have much to feel thankful for, like the taste of the apple I bit into today, or the can of sliced pears I enjoyed before I thought of writing you. I have become increasingly mindful of my food as I eat it. I look at the piece of steak before I eat it, noticing the colors and textures of each and every part. I cut off a piece and put it in my mouth. I relish its flavor as it impacts my taste buds, feeling its multifaceted tactile characteristics as it sits upon my tongue before I bite down. Then I chew slowly and deliberately before I swallow, and my stomach knows exactly when to stop. This technique has given me a better relationship with food, and has relieved some of my stomach pain.

My girlfriend, Laura, was the last person I spoke to today. We were watching television in her bedroom when she fell asleep in front of it, with Pumpkin the cat lying beside her with his eyes closed. Words cannot express how much I love and appreciate her. Our relationship has become closer and more inseparable lately. I care deeply about her, and even though we may miscommunicate and argue like all couples do, we don’t take it to heart anymore as we used to.

I peep through the blinds in my window and there is very little sunlight outside, the clouds dark and foreboding, the prognostication of another summer shower. Tropical storm Dorian is rotating in the Caribbean, but it is not moving in our direction. Tomorrow will have a sunny start with stormy weather in the afternoon. The next day I plan to take a trip on my bicycle, and the stationary front which is bringing us the rain is supposed to dissapate then, according to the weather forecast. This will be a good chance for me to see how well the crops are doing in the fields outside of town.

I realize that I have written to you about some very difficult things. I have noticed that my blog is much different than all the others I’ve seen. When I started out, it was as if I wanted to write a book, but now I know that blogs are different. Personal memoirs are not very popular unless you are a celebrity. I thought I would leave a legacy of some sort, but I must admit that I do not always like the direction this blog has been taking me. Psychotherapy is a dirty job, and I have graphically described it — covering all its ghastly details — but I have benefitted from it, and now I am sure that the worst of it is behind me. I’m not seeing Dana as often because I have undergone a transformation.

I would like to thank the blogging community for reading, understanding, and for never passing judgement. All that I have received from you is love and support, and this really brings the sunshine into my heart. So until the next time I write you, have a wonderful day.

Meditations

I thought I would write a few lines to you, telling you about my new discovery — the power of meditation and mindfulness. I used to go to sleep with a fan to create white noise, listening and feeling the circulating air, while listening to a talk show on my iPhone. I listened to Sputnik News, a mouthpiece of the Russian government, who never said a word about what was going on in their own country; instead, they always talked about the United States, about what a dysfunctional place it was. They kept bleating about American imperialism, government cruelty toward its Hispanic population, the rich versus the poor, the black people versus the white people — the list of grievances were endless, calling out the empire for what it actually was: a giant octupus with its tentacles spreading out all over the globe, sucking dry all the resources of the earth, belching tons of black smoke into the air, filling the ocean with disposable plastic, concentrating wealth to the privileged few, and bringing war and destruction to foreign lands. The commentators on Sputnik News continued to pontificate upon the things America was always guilty of, while the Russians were equally culpable of the exact same things. Ever since my psychotherapist, Dana, recommended the mediatation apps for my iPhone, I gave up Russian propaganda, which sometimes kept me awake with its attempts to mold my attitudes, and now I listen to bedtime stories, followed by the sounds of water flowing slowly down a ravine, coupled with the sounds of singing birds, or, perhaps, a roaring campfire, listening to the sticks crackle and pop as they are consumed by the flames.

The last of the ancient Greek philosophers, Plotinus, wrote centuries ago that in each and every person is a soul, a tiny spark which is part of an everlasting fire. This tiny fire inside us comprise the tentacles of the true being, part of the all-encompassing One, representing the Good and the Sublime. This is the thing which brings human beings together for eternity, and does not divide us.

We can never find happiness by focusing on powers we cannot control. What we can control is our minds — keeping them focused upon the immediate moment — not contemplating the past, nor thinking about what might happen in the future. Concentration on our breathing and driving out all other thoughts will bring us inner peace when we need it most. These techniques have been handed down to us by Buddhist monks, who have attained an acute awareness of the body, filling it up with mental sunshine from the tips of the toes — slowly, like filling a receptacle — through the arms and fingers, to the top of the head, releasing all tension in any form in your physique.

I was thinking of these new ideas as I was riding my bicycle to Greenville, in the mists of dawn, to make it to the medical school where I was to pay Dana another visit. The sky was completely grey, being the source of thunderstorms the night before, the fog obliterating the tops of distant trees. There was rain in the forecast today, and I had a change of clothes wrapped in plastic inside my backpack, so I was prepared in case I got caught in a downpour. As I rode past the tobacco fields, I could smell the aroma of the plants, as they stood tall in the muddy ground. I was serenaded by the staccato chirping of crickets as I traveled down the rural roads, which were mostly devoid of traffic. When I was about to arrive at the city, I looked towards the east, noticing the murky disc of the sun as the clouds began to recede in their thickness.

I made it across town to the Human Services building, having avoided the rain. After securing my bike upon the racks outside, I called my girlfriend Laura to wish her a good morning, and I went inside the building to cool off and dry out from the summer humidity, spending some time in the library, then I entered the waiting room of the clinic. I was sitting there — as my appointment time was drawing near — and a young man with long hair, dressed in women’s clothes and carrying a purse, entered, sitting in a chair opposite me. As he was looking into his iPhone, I couldn’t help but notice that fingernails were painted, as were his toenails (he was wearing sandals), and, when his therapist called his name, and as he walked briskly toward her like a young female, I could never imagine the distress it would cause a person to be a woman trapped in the body of a man. I have often expressed to you the humiliation I have felt from being stigmatized by society because I’m disabled, but this is nothing compared to the baptism of hatred that this same institutional brotherhood expresses towards transgender people.

But these contemplations were soon interrupted when Dana called me into her office. When I entered and took my seat, it wasn’t long before the difficult part of the session began, when I told Dana that I was experiencing violent fantasies, using knives as weapons — watching the blood spouting from my imagionary attackers — but I have never acted upon these notions, nor did I have any of these weapons at my disposal. We discussed the neurology behind these fantasies, and I told Dana I felt like a caged animal, being teased and taunted by someone outside of the cage, wanting desparately to lunge at my tormentor, to sink my fangs into his cowardly flesh, but I remained confined by the bars of my cage — feeling wild and rabid — and powerless, demeaned, and degraded. I mentioned an incident in Central State Hospital, where I was tied down to a bed in the seclusion room before receiving an injection, and I was being taunted by a staff member. I wanted to bite one of his ears off, but I couldn’t do it because of the restraints upon my arms and legs.

We talked about my attendance at the food bank and the distress it was causing me. Dana suggested a method of creating boundries between myself and that place over there, so I would deal with this unpleasant task when the time came, and, when I made it back home, I could leave the housing projects all behind me, not letting them feed into other parts of my life. I told Dana that things build up in my mind and my ideas become distorted, and it would be several days before I would realize the truth of the situation. When I observed people at the food bank breaking in line to get more food for themselves before it ran out for the others, I felt like it was the classic Survival of the Fittest scenario, and it filled me with agitation, giving me the feeling that I must fight or be killed.

Dana told me that this was because, in the past, I was actually in situations where I must fight or be killed. I told Dana that this discussion we were currently having was torturing me. I felt a strange sensation around the crown of my head, and I was seeing spots in front of my eyes. Dana conducted a meditation with me in her office to ease the pain.

Dana concluded by complementing me on the hard work I was putting into my therapy.

“I have only one life,” I told her, “and most of it is already gone. I’ve continued for years with obesity, bad mental health care, along with all the lost time which I shall never see again.”

Dana replied that this was time that was taken from me.

After the session was over, I exited the building and there were already sprinkles coming from out of the sky. As I traveled through the city, the sprinkles turned into a summer shower. I was tired, wet, and hungry by the time I arrived at Laura’s house. I reached into my backpack, pulling out my dry clothes to change into, and Laura saw me as I was pulling off my shirt in the bathroom, telling me that I was too skinny. She fed me some leftovers from the last time I took her out to eat, and we sat in front of the television, watching a show entitled Undercover Billionaire, which asserted that America was a meritocracy, and anyone, with a little ingenuity, could get rich as an entrepreneur, building a million dollar business in ninety days.

This was propaganda from America instead of Russia.

The Brain, Meditation, and Philosophy

I just thought I would send you a few lines in a desire to know how you are doing. As for me, I have my alternating rises and falls in my emotions. I sometimes ask myself, if I have been in psychotherapy for nearly three months, why am I not feeling any better? This is because therapy is hard work. It is difficult to control the thoughts and to change deeply ingrained attitudes. My therapist, Dana, talked to me the other day about how the human brain evolved. She showed me her fist with her thumb tucked inside. The thumb represents the inner core of our brains, which is called the reptilian brain, where the primeaval drives of mankind are controlled. This part of our brain is where our “fight or flight” reactions reside, but we have since evolved and we are not fighting or running away from dangerous animals anymore. Now we have a frontal cortex, which was represented by Dana’s overlapping fingers, which is the seat of executive decision making and judgement. Aggression or panic is not usually needed in today’s world.

What we need now more than anything else is the skill of meditation — the ability to calm the mind, driving all your thoughts out and focusing entirely on your breath. I downloaded a couple of apps on my iPhone that Dana had recommended, which includes “body scans,” where you visualize warm sunlight entering your body, starting at the tips of your toes, engulfing the feet, rising up to the ankles, up toward the knees, rising up through the upper thighs to your waist, filling up your abdomen and your chest, through your shoulders and arms to the tips of your fingers, then up through your neck, and, finally, filling up to the top of your head.

But I’ve been reading a book that teaches us to deny this body of ours — that the world of matter is evil — written by the last of the great ancient Greek philosophers, Plotinus. He is telling me that we all have a soul, and that it receives impressions as forms of the outside world, that the soul permeates the body which eventually melts into an all emcompassing One, as a cosmic unity with all people and with the universe. This is the ultimate discipline of the heavens and the earth, with good and evil interweaved within themselves, whose presence here allow us to distinguish the darkness from the eternal light.

This is what has been going on inside my mind this past few days. I thought I would share this with you until next time.

Medicine and Inequality

Let me tell you about some of my psychotherapy sessions. I think I’m ready to discuss them with you now. As I’m leaving home on my bike, in the early hours of dawn, there is a haze in the air, with some patchy fog. There is rain in the forcast this afternoon, but I am certain I can make it back home before I get caught in it. My bike rides to Greeville are becoming routine now, I even see the same cars and trucks as they are commuting to work. The crops in the fields are doing fine, nourished by the sunshine and the recent rains.

I entered the city, and as I rode past the university campus, turning onto Greenville Boulevard, while I was traveling toward the Medical District, I saw a large billboard sign with a picture of an elderly man who was once a coach of a professional football team. He had received a heart transplant. The caption on the picture read: “Organ donars are this country’s most valuable players.” I’m sure he would feel this way. I once agreed to donate my organs after I died by indicating it on my driver’s license. I believed what the media told me about what a gift of life I could give to someone. As soon as I passed away, a physician could harvest my good organs, perhaps giving a child a new lease on life.

But something happened which made me change my mind. Dr Saba, my psychiatrist, told me I needed an EKG done on my heart, because on my psychotropic medications could pose a risk factor. I went over to the town doctor, to an establishment entitled Robersonville Physicians, one afternoon to have this taken care of. When I arrived there, there were no patients in the building, and the female doctor and the receptionist had nothing to do. The doctor seemed eager to handle my case. She asked me what insurance I had. “Medicare and Medicaid,” was my answer. Then the doctor suddenly looked downward, reacting towards me with an air of smug complacency, “I’m sor-r-r-y!” she replied, in her loud, sing-song voice. And I looked her in the eye. “You don’t want to take care of people like us, do you?” She paused for a second, then replied, “No, we don’t take care of you people.”

I walked out the door feeling humiliated and dehumanized. Why should I let them take my organs when I die when they deny me care while I am living? I found out about a child in an orphanage who was suffering because he needed a kidney transplant, but he wouldn’t get one because he couldn’t pay for it. Why should I let a surgeon take my good organs for free in order to sell them to another? The retired football coach could afford a new heart, along with the medications he needed to take care of the organ, because he was wealthy. I read the story of entertainer Gregg Allman, who destroyed his own liver because of his alcohol and drug habits, but he was wealthy also, and recieved a new one. He died anyway.

There was another vacant medical pavillion across the street from Robersonville Physicians, which was bought out by Martin Family Medicine a couple of years ago. They accept patients regardless of what kind of insurance they have. The doctor there just happens to be black, so now the affluent white people in town go to Robersonville Physicians, while most of the black people go to Martin Family Medicine. As I have demonstrated, racial segregation is still alive and well in the town of Robersonville.

But my current physician is in Greenville, and I am happy with her.

As I was turning at an intersection, and continued traveling down Arlington Boulevard, past the bike shop, past the television station, toward dentist offices and medical pavillions, I went past Vidant Medical Center, then entered the campus of the medical school. When I arrived at the Human Services Building, I spent some time in the library to cool off and to look at some books. Then I took the elevator upstairs to the Navigate Couseling Clinic, and Dana called me into her office.

I sat down in a chair and Dana closed the door. I told her about some problems I was having at the food bank. It is located at the housing projects in Robersonville, and some of the people were coming out of their apartments and breaking in line in front of the others, to get a better selection of food before it ran out. When Tina opened the door to the Community Center and allowed some people to cut in front of me, we got into an altercation. It made me feel awful. I was stern and stood my ground, while no one but Laura came to my defense. I was overwhelmed by feelings of aggression, agitation, and irritability. Aggression and physical violence was a learned strategy from my father, who was a narcissistic bully, who dominated my mother and myself. I told her about an incident in the state hospital, where I responded to an antagnizing nurse by throwing a cup full of water in her face. I also told Dana about a place I used to live where a neighbor was disrespecting me, and I wanted to borrow my stepfathers rifle so I could shoot him in the kneecap.

All the things I have told Dana — about family life, about life in the hospital — have the leitmotif of being bullied, with no one to come to my defense or support. We discussed ways to avoid future incidents at the food bank, like arriving later, so the line could start moving before I got there. Dana and I also discussed ways to be assertive instead of aggressive — this was very important if respect was what I really needed. We also talked about other methods to combat anxiety and agitation, including riding my bike and doing meditation.

Meditation means being in the moment, not engaging yourself in any thoughts of the past or future. You sit still in a chair, relaxing completely all the muscles in your body — your head, your neck, your shoulders, along with your arms and fingers, your legs, feet and toes. Then you focus solely upon your breath. The inhaling and exhailing is all you think about. If your mind should wander, as it is only natural to do, slowly bring your thoughts back to the breath. After several moments of this, you will feel calmer.

And Dana said that my concerns with what other people are thinking about me, along with their possible reactions, are connected to my attempts at being a kind and caring person. She challanged me to address the people I thought were hostile toward me with a friendly greeting, to find out for certain how they really felt.

So I left Dana’s office with the tools she gave me to cope. After I rode past the outskirts of town, I was out on the open road, getting ready to cross a busy highway, when Laura drove past me through the intersection and beeped her horn. We waved enthusiastically at each other. Then Laura turned her car around and met me down the road, asking me if I wanted a ride. She opened her trunk and we managed to get the bike in, tieing it securely with a bungee cord. When we arrived at my apartment, going inside to exit the summer heat, Laura sat in my recliner and said her back was hurting. She got up and showed be the bruises where her doctor had given her injections in her spine. I gave her some water to drink, then I got my umbrella and we went over to Laura’s so she could take her medicine and lay down on her bed. Pumpkin crawled up there, too, and layed beside her. Laura fell asleep to the sounds of Bach piano music played on my iPhone, as the summer rain began tumbling down.

How Are You?

How is this letter finding you today? In other words, “How are you?” Have you ever noticed that we hide our vulnerabilities, automatically replying that were doing fine? We don’t want to think seriously about an everyday question posed to us by an everyday person, for we fear to reveal our true feelings to a quasi stranger or friend, but I challange you to tell your interlocator how you really feel, and start a dialog. Maybe you can connect with this person in a more meaningful way.

What is making me think of this? It is the actions of a fellow blogger, who has nominated me for what is termed a “Vogue parody,” comprising 73 questions mimicking a Vogue magazine series which interviews celebrities, designed to let its readers know more about them and their lifestyle. The person interviewing me is the anonymous author of the blog

Reasons2Stay.

I shall answer the questions he asks which I feel are relevant to me personally, in a format I feel comfortable with, and I hereby thank him for nominating me.

You ask me what is my usual Starbucks order. It used to be a large mocha, but one was never enough because I’m a caffiene addict, and had to join a support group to keep me away from it. I still suffer from chronic inflammation in my stomach from my abuse of espresso, so I have to stay away from coffee shops from now on. I no longer drink coffee. What I am the most grateful for this year is that I finally broke myself free from my addiction. What is the best thing that has happened to me this month? I made it through six weeks of caffiene sobriety, and as a reward, I ordered a set of books from Amazon. The best thing that has happened to me today is that I arose with a motivated mind in spite of all this, feeling alert, and ready to take on the day.

What is my favorite author? That is hard to say, because I am a voracious reader and different books have captured my imagination at different times. The last author which moved me immensly was Marcel Proust. It was his massive work in six volumes, In Search of Lost Time, which inspired me to start writing myself, in an effort to imitate him. The fictional character I relate to the most is Sal Paradise, the anti-hero of Jack Keroac’s novel On the Road, because it showed me that there was an alternative to living as a cog in the machine of capitalism, but it had a dark side, as Keroac seemed to be celebrating the life of a vagrant who didn’t feel he could do any better.

I like to collect books, and I have my own private library in my living room. They don’t make books like they used to; now they are made up of cheap paper and glue. My favorite kinds of books are cloth bound, containing ideas as magnificent as their binding. As far as movies go, I used to be a movie buff for a brief time. My favorite director was Stanley Kubrick, and my favorite movie of his was 2001: A Space Odyssey. If I were to play a historical figure in a movie, I would like to be the star of Cecil B. DeMille’s Ben Hur.

What does my workstation look like? It is a rolltop desk with a overhead lamp placed to my left, with my laptop placed upon beneath it. Sometimes, if have a book to read, I’ll move the computer to another table, and just sit here and read beneith my lamp, usually in the hours before dawn.

My favorite food is steak, and, yes, I like muffins, but I don’t eat them very often. I cook at home, but I let the oven, the microwave, and the crock pot do most of the work. My favorite dessert is chocolate cake; a dessert I do not like is cocanut cream pie. I prefer cake to pie. My least favorite food is spinach, but I eat it from time to time because I know it’s good for me. My favorite condiment is cheese. If I should wake up hungry in the middle of the night, I will probably warm up some left-overs in the microwave and bolt them down. My guilty pleasure treat is a bagel filled with cream cheese. 

If I were to describe myself in three words, I would repeat what my psychotherapist told me about myself the other day. I would use these three words: intelligent, kind, and caring. My favorite kind of blog post is one which reveals the personality of the person behind it. WordPress is the only form of social media I will use. I quit Facebook and Instagram years ago, because I don’t trust the people who owns and operates them. It isn’t difficult to put people down or call people names on those platforms, and they are not a representation of a person’s reality. I don’t like Twitter, either.

And I don’t really like surprises. I like everything to be predictable. My biggest surprise came as a shock and it destroyed my life for a very long time. It was a surprise which made me want to cry.

What am I doing for tomorrow? I will probably go over to my girlfriend Laura’s house to visit with her. She has a cat named Pumpkin. I prefer kittens to puppies because the neighborhood dogs aggrivate me with their incessant barking. Laura’s next door neighbor has a pit bull pinned up in their back yard, and the racket he makes is unnerving. Cats don’t make as much noise, and they are more independent.

You ask me if I got good grades in school. I didn’t get along well in high school or college, but I managed to attain an associates degree. I enjoy intellectual discussions, and my dream job would be a college professor. If I were to teach a college class, it would be on the subject of philosophy or literature. The project I’m working on right now is to read the Great Books of the Western World series, which is the backbone of a liberal arts education. This is what is on top of my wish list now.

But do I play any sports? I enjoy cycling for pleasure and for transportation, since I don’t own a car. My favorite season is fall, because it gives me the best scenery as I pedal down the rural roads past the family farms. I really don’t like the holiday season, because of the stress and all the commercialism. I don’t have a favorite holiday.

I don’t have any tattoos. If I were a rapper, I have no idea what my stage name could be. If my life were a song, it would be Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony! I would sing you an Ode to Joy!

The country I would most like to visit would be Canada.

And I am a citizen of the United States of America. I live in the small hamlet of Robersonville, located in the eastern part of North Carolina. It has a recreation complex that I frequent often. I enjoy walking the half-mile circle, wearing my wireless headphones, listening to different kinds of music as I exercise. Currently, there is a three-way race here in the campaign for mayor. The incumbent, Frank Mesamer, has been running this town for years. He owns and operates Village Pharmacy, one of the few businesses left among the abandoned store fronts downtown, where I go every month to buy my medications. A new person has moved down here from New Jersey, named Don Fulman, who came into the Robersonville library while I was in there one day, telling everyone what a terrible job Frank was doing. He had sold Robersonville’s assets off for next to nothing, he told us, and it was obvious why the everything here was going downhill. Frank was old and it was time for him to retire! Don talked about having local law enforcement giving out more tickets, because eighteen-wheelers were traveling through downtown instead of using the bypass, in violation of traffic laws. At night, people were slowing down at the traffic light on the intersection of Highway 903 and Highway 64, looking both ways, then running past the red light before it changed. Don also proposed putting up surveillance cameras to catch teenagers breaking windows in the vacant buildings around there. He would even try to bring in a Walgreen’s (a drug store chain) in order to put Frank and his crew out of business. Then, there is Tina Brown, who operates the Community Center and the food bank. She wants to be mayor, too. Tina is African-American, and the vote in Robersonville is going to be primarily along racial lines. If Tina should win, it would be good for people like Laura and I, but there is a lot of white people that are well off financially who would never vote for her.

So this is the end of my interview, but I won’t nominate anyone. Follow the link if you wish to participate, and I would like to invite you to follow the Reasons2Stay blog. I am sure he will follow you back.

Apology

My apologies for not writing to you every day as I said I would. I was making it a point to do this for a while, but I had problems concentrating and I could not overcome a blank screen. As I have freely admitted to you, I am mentally ill, and I’m under the care of a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist, along with being the reciepient of several state sponsored programs to assist me in living independently. I cannot navigate life on my own. I have a mental disorder which the second cousin to schizophrenia, in which disorganized thinking is at its core. On top of this, I have severe emotional problems. This is the reason why my writings have been a disappointment to me, because I’m making the focus all about myself and the ugliness within, instead of describing life in my town as I had planned to.

I told my therapist, Dana, that I didn’t wish to be a recluse anymore. She had told me that she was happy that I was working so hard in therapy, and making so much progress in such a short period of time. But this progress has been painful. Sometimes it gives me feelings of joy — a sense of blessed relief — but at other times, it can cause me sadness, anxiety, along with feelings of agitation and anger. This shows up sometimes in my writings also, but my face is now turned toward the sunshine, and I’m committed to finding positive modes of expression, while, at the same time, being a realist when it comes to social issues, equality, and justice.

“But when I observed the affairs of men plunged in such darkness, the guilty flourishing in continuous happiness, and the righteous tormented, my religion, tottering, began once more to fall”

— Claudian

I have begun to feel uncomfortable about writing to you and revealing so much about myself. According to my statistics, most of my readers are not hitting the “like” button or leaving comments here. Sometimes, I think some of these mysterious people are fellow bloggers, but I’m also sure that some of them just Googled something and found me, glancing at me once, then moving on. I’m concerned about online harassment, or if maybe someone from Robersonville will find my blog and can identify me using my picture, using it to hurt me and Laura. But to everyone who follows me in here, I know I can trust you. I was especially moved by the online support I received on my last post. If you don’t know the people I’m writing about, I invite you to visit their blogs and follow them, for I am sure they will follow you in return.

Radhika’s Reflection

Radhika offers beautiful thoughts, along with lovely haikus and poetry. Her modest and unpretentious style is what draws me to her writings, and I find them fascinating and uplifting.

Orkidedatter

When you visit Lillian’s blog, you will see a portrait of a woman looking upward, her long tresses covering one side of her face, the painting covered with beautiful shades of red, green, purple and blue. This is her own original creation. She also shares an entire art gallery with us, showcasing her wonderful art. Not only that, she is a poet — following a sensitive muse — creating her art in her own space in her kitchen. I was deeply moved by her recent comment, where she sent me her loving kindness from her home country of Norway.

Sparkkling Thoughts

There is nothing more delightful and inspiring than Kranti’s philosophy. These are the thoughts of a person who wishes to influence others for the good of humanity. She spreads good vibes and good thoughts, showing us that, in her words, everyone’s life is their own personal art, encouraging us to create a beautiful aesthetic.

Positive Side of the Coin

One morning, I was searching in my WordPress reader, looking for a blog which would give me inspiration, then I found Anjali. She has encouraged me, through her blog and comments, to view the proverbial glass as half-full instead of half-empty. She once wrote to me that if I would view the positive side of the coin, and reject negitivity, I would live better; and I know for certain that she spoke the truth. Her outlook, along with Kranti’s, have influenced me tremendously, and helped me to gain strength of mind, and to change my life.

Aesthetic Miradh

Moushmi is an intelligent young woman from India. I’m always impressed with her. Sometimes she shares with us the books she has read in the past month, and she reads numerous ones. I have gathered from looking at her blog, that she is putting off marriage and having a family of her own for school and a career. (If you are reading this, Moushmi, please correct me if I’m wrong.) And I have gathered that she believes in justice for women everywhere, and that they should be paid as much as a man. She believes — and I agree to this — in justice and equality for women everywhere. Women and men should be equals, and women should not be made to be subservient to men.

Dees Platter

Deeksha has a cooking blog, where she encourages us to “savor and eat.” I have just met her in this blogging world, and I appreciate her sudden interest in my personal story. She has recipies for many good things to eat.

“A friend is the medicine of life.”

— Unknown Author

On Monday morning, I left at dawn on my bicycle for the city of Greenville to keep my appointment with Dana. There air outside was cool and humid. As I placed my bike in high gear and pedalled rapidly, I passed through the outskits of Robersonville and began to look at the crops growing in the open fields. The tobacco plants were progressing nicely, being over five feet tall, their bottom leaves ripe and already pulled off to be placed in barns for heating and curing. The cotton crop was all bushy, with a dark color green enfolding white blossums. The corn has not fared so well, however, turning brown prematurely, its growth, stunted.

When I entered the north side of the city, passing through downtown, turning toward the streets leading me to the Medical District, then arriving at the human services building at the Brody Medical School, I had some extra time before my appointment, so I went up to the medical school library to cool off and look at some of the books. I find the treatises that comprise the milestones of the history of medicine to be the most fascinating texts I have ever read. As I continued brousing from book to book, I laid down my biking helmet somewhere in the stacks, and absent mindedly walked away from it. I was the only person on the third floor, it was very quiet and I was basking in the silence, the students having gone back home for the summer, and, when I suddenly realized what I had done, I walked around everywhere among the desks and aisles of books, looking everywhere for my helmet, but it was nowhere to be found.

When it was time for my appointment, I left the library and walked over to the clinic. Dana called me back into her office soon after to start my session. I might take you inside with us sometime, and share with you the things that we have been talking about, but right now my emotions are raw, and I’m not able to do this.

When my counseling session was over, I walked back upstairs to the front desk of the library to see if somebody had found my helmet and turned it in. The librarian looked inside a nearby cabinet, but the helmet wasn’t in there, so I rode my bicycle to the bike shop to purchase another one. When I arrived, there was a young woman with an effervescent personality who helped me pick out the perfect helmet. She even went so far as to fit it upon my head, adjusting the straps and the knob on the back as if she were a tailor fitting me for a fancy suit. I realized that losing my old helmet was actually a blessing — it was as if I had traded a cheap helmet for a really good one. The young lady, with sandy blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail and a cheerfulness that was guaranteed to win over even the most hardened misanthrope, crushed the box the new helmet came in, folding it up so I could fit it into my backpack, and, as she held the front door open for me, I pushed my bike through the doorway toward the bustling street outside.

“Have an amazing day!” she exclaimed as I was leaving, with my new helmet strapped securely upon my head.

And you, too, my friend, may you have an amazing day.

Lazy Sunday

I hope this letter finds you doing well, as I make this zealous attempt to write to you every day for a while. As you already know, I am faced with daily challanges: I awoke this morning hours before dawn to a messy apartment. When I was in one of my psychotherapy sessions with Dana, we discussed making a to-do list and attempting to give structure to my daily life. I have a dry erase board along with some markers, and I listed some tasks to accomplish in the coming days. I was able to check off everything on the list that didn’t require a phone call. I spent most of my time rearrainging cans of food in my kitchen cabinets and scrubbing the kitchen floor. There was a sense of accomplishment in my heart over this small victory, knowing that my kitchen was now clean and tidy. Then I proceeded to vacuuming the carpet in the living room, the hallway, and the bedroom. All of this didn’t take long, it was just difficult to get started, the tribulation being all in my mind. I told Dana that I wanted a higher standard of cleanliness in my apartment, and not to wait until the housework piled up to do it, and have it start bothering me.

After checking these tasks off my to-do list, I felt that my work was done for today. The sun had already risen when I took out my tablet and opened the Aljazeera app and started watching. I saw images of the war in Syria, Bashar al-Assad’s forces fighting with the rebels in the province of Idlib — the rebels refusing to lay down their weapons and to surrender — so Russian warplanes were striking residential areas, markets, and hospitals. The the news presenter — an enormously attractive woman with a lovely voice — showed me a video of a six story apartment building which had collapsed, with rescue workers pulling people out of the wreckage. The scene shifted suddenly from the war to social unrest on the far side of the world. In the city of Hong Kong, masses of people were shuffling and rioting under the streetlights of the city, as the police — wearing helmets and carrying batons — were firing tear gas and rubber bullets, with blue flashes of incandescence and wisps of smoke erupting among the agitation of the crowd. There were also unauthorized protests in Russia, with activists being beaten with sticks and dragged into buses to be carried off to jail  — angry that the elections to the Duma were being rigged — and opposition leader Alexi Navalny was taken from jail to a hospital because the conditions in detention were so filthy that he caught an infection. Navalny’s YouTube channel was also shut down — the presenter being arrested in front of the cameras — for covering the protest marches where over a thousand people were apprehended. The scene shifted once again to farms in the green, bucolic pasture-lands of the United Kingdom, where researchers were attempting to reduce the methane gasses emitted by cows and sheep, whose carbon footprint is greater than all the cars, trucks, and airplanes in the world combined.

After the newscast, Laura called me and asked why I hadn’t rang her phone at 8:30 to wake her up so she could go to church. I replied that she made no such request to me yesterday. Laura asked me if I wanted to come over, so I turned off my tablet, put on my shoes, strapped on my backpack, and left home on my bicycle. We had planned to go to the grocery store today so I could buy soda for Laura, in exchange for some meat she got from the food bank. Laura’s spine has been hurting her — she says the pain is excruciating — so she got into one of the motorized carts for the handicapped, then we went down the grocery aisles together. When we arrived at the check-out line, I felt a feeling of dread, because I knew I was going to have to use my food stamp card — and everyone in town knows what one looks like — a multicolored red, white, and blue card depicting the American flag. A man who looked like a construction worker got in line behind us, trying to buy a loaf of bread, and he kept watching me, to see what type of card I was about to pull out of my wallet. As I was swiping my card to pay for Laura’s groceries, I was almost trembling with anticipation, in case this person dared to say anything disrespectful. It seemed like — for a few tiny seconds which seemed like mintunes — the whole store grew deathly silent as I sought to quell rising anger.

Laura and I left the grocery store without incident. We returned to her house and she made some smoothies with milk, bananas, and strawberries. Laura filled my backpack full of frozen meat and fish. I brought up the YouTube app on my iPhone and put on the music of Mozart, as Laura streached out on the bed along with Pumpkin the cat. She took her medicine and was about to fall asleep when I took my leave.

I arrived home, putting my food in the refrigerator, feeling strange sensations under my scalp and my mood was sinking. It was now my turn to take medicine. I swallowed it down with a glass of water, took my clothes off, and got under the covers of my bed with the fan on. It wasn’t sundown yet, but I felt incredibly tired, and I had a big day tomorrow, for I was going to ride my bike to Greenville again tomorrow to keep my psychotherapy appointment with Dana.

So now I must end my letter with love and best wishes. Take care.

Mental Health Day

How are you doing today? I’m doing much better since I rode my bike to Greenville and paid a visit to my psychiatrist, Dr. Saba. I secured my bicycle to a tree in front of the building, and his wife, who runs the front desk of this busy office, greeted me with a smile when she saw me carrying a helmet. They always seem to like it whenever I ride my bike over there.

When Dr. Saba walked up and retrieved my file, he escorted me into his private office. I shut the door behind me and stepped upon the scale. I weighed in at 164.6 pounds. “What’s been going on?” is his usual question. I told him that the side effects of my medication was bothering me. For one thing, I was grinding my teeth, and for another, I was troubled by nightmares and insomnia. I thought the 75 milligram Effexor I was taking, along with my other medicine, was bothering me. “What time are you taking this medicine?” Dr. Saba asked me. I told him at 5pm every day. Dr. Saba replied that Effexor was a stimulant, and it was meant to be taken in the daytime. This could be what was causing me problems. If I took the Effexor in the morning when I arose, the insomnia should clear up.

Dr. Saba asked me what else was going on. I told him about the emotional distress I was experiencing while wearing a large backpack upon my back in public, riding my bicycle to the food bank to get my groceries. Dr. Saba said that I was a man taking care of his own business, and not to concern myself with what total strangers thought about it. He told me that back in Goldsboro where he lives, there is a dry cleaners where he gets his shirts done, and beside it is a food bank. He has seen people drive up there in fancy trucks, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and in any other type of vehicle you could possibly imagine. Food banks are a phenomenon which have cropped up in this country only over the past several years. There are a lot of people doing it now.

Dr. Saba proceeded to commend me on keeping my weight down, saying that I looked really good. He asked me what books I was reading lately. I told Dr. Saba that I have been reading the works of the ancient Roman historian Tacitus, along with the war commentaries of Julius Caesar — wading through their long, latinized sentences structures with very limited character analysis — but describing in minute detail the battles, the geography surrounding them, and the hundreds and thousands of people slaughtered, as if they were objects instead of people. Dr. Saba said that the reason there was no character analysis in those books was because the rulers at that time had no real character to speak of. The focus was entirely on expansionism. Dr. Saba said that the reason the Roman Empire collapsed was the same reason the British Empire eroded and faded away: they grew too large for them to govern.

“What do you think of the Boris Johnson character?” I asked Dr. Saba.

“Well, he is a fast talker. He has made a lot of promises with no real plans to carry them through,” he replied. “But Theresa May was a disappointment.”

Dr. Saba is origionally from Sri Lanka, and he spoke of the times when the British were getting out of his home country and out of India, the development of the European Union, along with the United Kingdom’s efforts to break out of that, also. We talked about European politics for a while, then, as we concluded our session, Dr. Saba escorted me out of the office and admonished me to use plenty of sunscreen.

Have a wonderful day.