Friday, April 13, 2012

The Mind Boggles


I saw a shrink once. Oh sure, I know what you're thinking. "It's just not possible! You're the most together man I've ever met!" I'm sorry to say that response says a lot more about you than it does about me. No really, I went to a shrinky facility and met a man who promised to twist my brain until the ick was squeezed from it. Ok, I made that part up, but that's how I imagined it.
 
See, I was depressed. I get that way sometimes. And I wasn't doing very well with it. And I figured, well what the hell, maybe I should go see if I can exorcise my demons and put this thing to bed once and for all. See, Linda was depressed. She was doing that cancer treatment thing and thought her life was falling down around her so while I was cheerfully bucking her up I noticed my life had fallen down around me and I figured "what good am I gonna be to her if I'm like cryin' in my beer while she's swimming in poison" so I thought it only appropriate to give a shot to curing my issues so I could be a better sponge for hers.

He was a reasonable enough guy... for a shrink. He really knew his shrink stuff. He was probably a good dad too. I can tell these things. So he asks me what's wrong and I tell him 'oh a million things' and he says pick one and let's get started. So I told him about Susan Johnston and how I was in love with her but she didn't even look at me, in fact I think I disgusted her so she'd talk behind my back about what a creep I was. He asked me how long ago that was and I told him. "Sixth grade" I said. "Go on" he said, as if he had the time to hear my entire life story; but since he asked...

I've never been good with rejection. A lot of people aren't, I know, but I mean I'm really not good with it. I pine, if you get my drift. And the fact is that I've been rejected about 78 times in my life so if you figure that each time I was rejected I made a huge fuss about it, internally of course, well you can imagine what it's done to me. I've never been good with failure either. In the same way as rejection I guess, but with failure the pouting is far more severe. Vicious you might say. And let's get real, I fail about as often as I scratch my ass, and I have a very itchy butt so take it from me I've spent a lifetime being very very upset about stuff.

I've never been good with death either; and people die around me like flies! Hell, even my characters die all the time. I write 'em, I have them drive around and say clever stuff... then BOOM they're dead!!! It's easier when my characters die, but it still hurts. I've never been good with abandonment; it's kinda like rejection only with a cattle prod. Pretty much everyone in my life has abandoned me, except for Linda, and of course she had cancer at the time so who the hell knows.

Well, about an hour later he says "like woah! I think I have an idea!" and he proceeds to explain to me that much of what I said led to my hating myself and he thought maybe if I were to be able to see myself as a good person having bad things happen to me rather than a bad person who deserved to be crapped on all the time, life would get a lot easier. So he had this plan. He told me to put my palms in front of my face like they were a book with really, really small type and I had an astigmatism so I had to hold the book real close to identify any freaking thing at all. So I did. And then he said, in a shrink kinda way, "this is what you've been looking at, this is how you see the world." And then he reached over and gently touched my wrist like he was worried I was gonna come apart any moment and start eating his carpeting if he wasn't careful with me. He pushed my hands to the side so my face was no longer buried within 'em and he said "this is how I want you to see the world. I want you to try and see the world without the blinders for as long as you can, and then come back and tell me what you saw."

Sure, I got it. I'm the metaphor king remember? I eat semantics for breakfast. He said I was obsessing my woes, whether important or not, and in the meantime I was missing all the rest of life available to me. He was intimating that if I stopped burying myself in darkness and paid attention to the light, I would become so weightless and free that I'd likely forget about my misery for minutes at first, then hours, perhaps days and eventually, months at a time. Maybe even one day, forever. He was saying 'if it hurts when you do that, don't do that.' He was saying 'there's no reason to hate yourself, it's not your fault.'

I thanked him and wrote the check. I said I'd make an appointment soon and left his office, determined to think over what he'd said. And then I did.

I thought about the fact that of course he was right, that all I have to do to be happy is be happy, that I have no reason to hate myself since I'm really not to blame for always being rejected and abandoned and maybe for failure most of the time but not all the time. Hey, I already know all that stuff, and actually I didn't need him to remind me of it 'cuz it does come to me on a fairly regular basis that I'm an ok person for the most part. But then I started thinking of the consequences of that kind of thinking.

If I were to admit that none of what makes me miserable is truly important, that all these years I was exaggerating, fluffing up, pedestalizing my many so called horrors, that would mean I'm either a drama queen, or pretty damn dumb. Like, you should have seen me during my first divorce. I was a basket case. Crying all the time, wandering around staring aimlessly at neon signs, eating nothing but liver and cottage cheese and drinking beer even though I hated it so I could fall asleep so I could work the next day 'cuz I was on the radio and had to sound happy and chipper and I couldn't afford to lose the damn job 'cuz I needed money to pay for her goddamn clinic bills 'cuz she went and got herself some stds from one of her hundred new boyfriends. So, what if all that was nothin? What if I should have been happy she left me, or at least complacent like "hey, who cares, I still have my health and I'm a great guy who can easily live alone because I love myself! I'm great company! And besides, I'm sure there are other fish in the sea and one of them is probably just waiting to fling herself into the bottom of my boat and lay there flopping around until I notice."

The point is, if you haven't guessed it from my incredibly transparent and eloquent example, what the shrink was saying and what I would have to say as well if I was going to be honest is that all the time I've spent in misery, hating myself for being such a freaking loser, was all for nothing. That the approximately 50% of my life that has been used by remembering, enlarging, and absorbing all the horrible things that have happened to me, and all the horrible reactions I've had to the horrible things and all the consequences of those reactions like all the people who have been hurt or disgusted or turned off or driven into their own depressions because of those reactions... has been entirely wasted.

Like maybe I could have been a neurophysicist, or the first American Pope for God's sake if I hadn't been such a baby and flushed all those days down the toilet. Maybe I could have written a dozen sonatas for harp and harmonica, or climbed the Eiffel Tower in flip flops. Perhaps I might have been a Supreme Court Justice and open to bribes, but only from my friends, who would be legion since if I didn't have a bad time with rejection I would still love everyone who crapped on me and call them all my pals.

So if I were to believe that it's NOT a fact that I'm a total loser, and in spite of that I pissed away over half my life and only have about a tenth of it left now that I'm old and falling apart...

I would have to be the most stupid, ignorant, fucked up moron on the face of the earth. I would be pathetic, doofy, retarded, completely out of place on the planet. I would have a so overwhelming reason to hate myself I would possibly crawl under a rock and never come out again as long as my pathetic life lasted.

And in the end I figured, I loath myself just fine the way it is, so why jump into something new. Change is overrated. So are shrinks if you ask me. All they know is what we already know and just forgot for a few minutes. And that's worth a couple hundred dollars an hour? I don't think so!

So when I got home I just took a nap, and when I woke up I thought "screw it, I suck, I know it, that's fine." And that made me feel so much better I wasn't depressed for a long time after that.

It's amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. Linda's lucky she has me. No really, she is. Outside of Barney Fife, I'm the only one in the world that can make her laugh; and if hating myself brings her pleasure, I'm all for it.

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