Haven’t seen you in a while.
Yeah. You look a lot older.
Yeah. Wow. You look like a full grown man!
I am. Even though a big part of me still feels like I am twenty seven.
And you own a house, have money, a job and are married now?
Jeeze. That is so crazy.
I just can’t imagine that right now. Did you become a published novelist and artist?
Lets not to talk about me right now. How have you been?
I don’t know. Stressed out I guess.
Why stressed out? You are too young to be stressed out!
Yeah. But it doesn’t feel like that.
What do you mean?
I just feel like I am just existing. I’m not accomplishing anything or going anywhere. I have no idea what I’m going to do.
Yeah. I have no sense of direction. I’m sad all the time but no one sees it. No one realizes how stressed out and upset I am. I hate that I feel this way but I do. I feel so unsure of myself that I can’t confidently make even the most basic decisions. I have no clue about anything.
That is not true man. You are a smart young man. You know a lot.
It doesn’t feel that way. I feel like I can never be sure about anything. I’m just so stuck in myself and it sucks. I don’t know how to get out. I have so many hang-ups and I’m sick of it.
So why don’t you just get a job? Just find a job doing something so that you can make some money and not have to be dependent on your difficult parents. Don’t you think that would help?
I don’t know. I feel pressured by my parents and everyone else to make a decision. To do something, but I don’t know what it would be. It feels so confusing. I have no idea what I want to do and as a result I feel like I can’t commit to anything.
I see. Must be rough.
I don’t know. It makes me feel very uncomfortable. I can’t do anything without feeling guilty about it. I feel guilty about everything. Even just hanging out and drinking a beer or just listening to music makes me feel guilty. I feel like I should be doing what other people expect me to do. Like make a decision. Find a job.
Don’t you just want to find a job? Wouldn’t that make things easier for you?
I don’t know. I guess a part of me feels like having a job would make me feel more accomplished and happier. I could have my own money and buy things I like. I know I feel guilty because I am just hanging out in my pajamas all day but I love doing this. But at the same time it makes me feel non-existent. Like I don’t matter in the world at all. This feeling non-existent just feels like too much for me. I can’t take it.
So why not do something about it? Change it?
I’m trying. I started looking for a job but looking for a job makes me feel very anxious. Job hunting depresses the shit out of me. Makes me feel uncomfortable with myself.
I don’t know. I guess because I know I am spending all this time filling out these job applications but none of it will really matter. But I still have to do it to maybe find a job and the amount of time and energy this requires makes me feel very sad.
I just am going to have to apply to every single job I can. I know that in order to get one response I have to apply to a hundred jobs. I have to fill out every god damn application even though I don’t want to.
I know. It is rough.
In just three years I will be thirty. Time feels like it is ticking down for me. I feel guilty that I am not like every one else already making my own money and with a good job. I see people who are like this at much younger ages than I am. Makes me feel terrible about myself. I have to do something or I feel like I am going to die. I have to spend all my time looking for a job if I am going to find something. This makes me sad because I won’t be able to spend my time doing the things that I enjoy doing. I will have to give these things up.
You don’t have to give them up, you just might have to do less of what you want right now.
Maybe. But getting a job and becoming a real person just feels like I am going to have to give up so much of myself. I am going to have to go work most of my time and then the rest of the time I will be too tired to do the things I like. Maybe on the weekends I will have energy to do things I want to do but this makes me feel very sad.
That I will have to give up so much of myself. I will have to sell out. But I want a standard of living that I can feel ok about and I need a job to get to this spot. I know it sounds superficial but having money of your own does make such a big difference in how a person feels about themselves. It sucks that this is the way it is but it is the way it is. The barrier between getting from here to there just feels so strong that it feels impossible to achieve. I know I would feel better if I could advance to the next stage but I just have no idea how. My lack of progress just makes me very sad.
So why not just really make an effort to find some kind of job. Dedicate yourself to doing something! Write a novel and get it published. Get a gallery show for your art. Find a job. Just do something!
I know I need to do this. I know accomplishing something in the world would make me feel happier but I’m the kind of person who will just keep doing the same thing if it feels comfortable. I know I need to change but it feels like it would require a massive effort. So I just keep doing what feels more comfortable.
Like sleeping in, reading, drawing, hanging out, spending the day in my pajamas, watching films, sleeping. Not doing these things just feels like it would require such a massive effort. This makes me sad because just looking for a job or not sleeping twelve hours a night should not feel like such a massive effort. It should not feel like running a marathon to not do these things. But it does. Now I feel guilty about everything I do. Skyscrapers of guilt have built up. I’m pissed off about everything. I need to find some way to alleviate all of this other than drinking beer and smoking pot. I feel like just finding a job is the only logical way that I could feel less guilty and be more happy. Isn’t this what society wants me to do? I feel stupid feeling the way that I do.
Don’t feel stupid. In a sense, what you are going through is normal. You are having to assimilate into society and as a result you feel like you have to lose a part of yourself. In a sense, you are right. You do lose a large part of yourself and your time. It hurts. Only the lucky few get to assimilate into society while staying true to themselves. It can be done but it is hard. In order to have a decent standard of living most of us have to lose a big part of ourselves and this can be painful. You are just resisting this process and it makes it harder because it feels like there is nothing that you want to do and can make money from.
People don’t understand this though. Everyone just thinks I just need to find a job and then everything will be better. Maybe they are right. I feel deeply upset and alone about all of this. No one else understands. Everyone else seems to have happily assimilated into society. They all seem to do it just fine. Why can’t I? I feel so guilty about this that it causes me to think myself into destruction. I feel trapped in this. I know I have the potential to be a lot of things but my negative thinking never lets me get to this point. Makes me feel very frustrated and sad.
But you don’t really know what you want. How could you expect things to be going how you want them to be going when you don’t know what you want?
This frustrates me that things are not going the way I want, but I don’t know what I want.
So what are you going to do?
I don’t know. I feel like if I am going to find a job I really have to force myself. I have to give up all the things I like doing and just force myself to find a job. To only do that. But then I don’t really know if once I find a job if I will really be any happier. I will have to give up so much of myself and my time. People want me to find a job and feel like I am not progressing in life because I spend all my time in my pajamas. But I like doing this. But it makes me sad that everyone else looks at me like a complete fuck up. This makes me feel very guilty.
Yes. It is rough. It is not as bad as you think though. You can find a job, earn money and still stay true to yourself. It is hard to do. Really hard. I will not lie about that. But it can be done.
Do you do that?
I try. I do the best I can. I think I have managed to stay true to myself but a part of me does have to do things I do not want to do to earn a living. You do have to trade your time for a certain standard of living.
That is what I am afraid of. That must feel terrible.
It is not easy but it is the nature of society. Society is an assimilation machine. It is the way it goes and you need to accept this at some point if you want to have a decent standard of living.
I know. The way I see it, I have two choices now. I can adhere to what society wants of me and find a job or go to graduate school to find a more specialized job and then maybe I will be happier. I will not have the guilt anymore and I will have money to support myself. This feels like it would lift a huge load. OR I can just stay the same and just learn to be happy with what I am doing and how I am living now without feeling guilty all the time. Both of these options feel like they will require a massive effort.
Yes. Personally I think you should just keep buying time. Learn to enjoy what you are doing now. Don’t feel so guilty about it. Just enjoy yourself while your parents are still willing to help you out. Make good use of this time rather than wasting it feeling so despondent and depressed. Write a novel. Paint. Find some kind of job. Go easy. Don’t worry about the future because everything will turn out fine. Not ideal but things turn out well for you. For now just enjoy being young rather than filling it with so much despair!
Yeah. It is good to hear that things will turn out ok for me but it is still hard for me to believe that. I am worried that I will have to give up too much of myself to get to where you are. But soon I will be thirty and I don’t want to be thirty still spending my entire day in my pajamas.
(To Be Continued)
I’m late for everything. Dentist, therapy, dinner, lunch and business meetings. I am late on bill payments, bank deposits, email replies, car tune-ups, car-registration and work deadlines. My dogs go several days without food because I am late to buy their food. I am late to buy myself groceries. I am late to getting myself in better physical condition, eating a healthier diet and visiting doctors for general check ups. I am late to watering my plants, cutting my toe nails, doing my dishes, laundering my clothes and filing my car tire (which is almost flat) with air.
I am a late man.
I am late for everything. I am late to wash my car. I am late to floss my teeth. I am late to do all the things that I need to do to have better oral and sexual health. I am late to write a novel. I am late to write anything. I am late to having a career as an author. I am late to becoming the man I want to be. I am late to telling other people that I love them. I am late to getting the dried leaves and dead branches off the roof of my house (the leaves are currently causing the roof shingles to break apart).
I am a late man. Late, late, late, late.
I am late to organizing my life. I am late to keeping a daily journal. I am late to going for long walks every morning. I am late to finishing several projects I have started. I am late to listening to all the records I want to listen to. I am late to finish writing this. It is as if being late is a fundamental part of my biology. Being late seems to be imbedded in my neural operating system. A way of being that I was born into. I was late to being born. Doomed from day one. My mother says I took 15 hours longer than expected to show up. Is it true that the way in which we are born determines our fundamental behaviors for the rest of our lives? I think so.
With my therapist we discuss lateness. My therapist also struggles with being late. I have been working with her for almost a decade and I do not think that she has ever been on time to one of our sessions. This is ok because neither have I. Because my therapist is late, I can tell that she is hesitant to really talk about what it means to be late. She fears exposing too much about herself to me. I understand. She fears that I would see her as a flawed human and thus no longer trust and desire her psychological guidance. She doesn’t know that the more flawed she reveals herself to be, the more I trust and desire her psychological guidance. She is late to knowing this.
Most humans are late to everything. Everything important at least. Even the ones who are on time to appointments and meetings are late to almost everything else. They are late to knowing themselves. Late to achieving authentic human happiness. Late to love. Late to figuring out their life’s meaning. Late to learning how to appreciate the people in their lives. Late to knowing how they hurt others. Late to realizing that taking care of themselves is being kind to others. Late to not being so deeply self-absorbed. Late to knowing how to properly floss their teeth. Late to being sexually comfortable. Late to taking care of their bodies. Late to feeling comfortable in the nude when around other people. Late to being the directors of their own lives. Late to spiritual understandings. Late to not feeling bad after masturbating or having non-traditional sexual experiences. With medical improvements, most people these days are even late to their own deaths.
Everyone is late.
Knowing that everyone else is late makes me feel better about being a late man. The difference between myself and other on time people is that the ways in which I am late make my struggle to be on time, more transparent. Being late to meetings and appointments gives me away as being a person who struggles with showing up on time in every other aspect of my life. People assume that if I am late to appointments and meetings, I must be late to learning what it means to be a healthy and responsible human being. I think they are wrong. People who show up on time to meetings and appointments are just better able to hide how they are late for everything else in their life. Even though everyone struggles with being late for most things (especially the important things like love, health, flossing, guilt free sexual fulfillment, generosity, kindness, being naked and happiness) those who are on time to appointments and meetings get to appear like they “have their shit together.” Obviously, this appearance could not be further from the truth.
I am late to buying new underwear and socks. I am late to career development. I am late to committing to a career. I am late to being financially independent. I am late to having a hairstyle that I am comfortable with. I am late to being comfortable with my physical appearance. I am late to being able to be vulnerable with another human being. I am late to authentically being a nice person who is not sometimes faking being a nice person. I am late to being able to turn to a stranger who is sitting at the table next to mine while talking really loudly and eating with mouth open and being able to let her know that she is talking really loudly and being really obnoxious. I am late to accepting the conditions of my life as they are. I am late to not feeling guilty. I am late to giving before getting. I am late to inner peace. I am late to transparency. I am late to telling people what I really think. I am late to not caring what other people think. Obviously, I am late to all the important stuff.
My therapist tells me to be patient. That I have made massive improvements over the past ten years. My therapist tells me that gradually I will be more and more on time. That being on time is not something that happens on time. Being on time takes time and happens in stages. My therapist tells me that because I am working on my inner self so diligently, everything will gradually fall in line. These are the fruits of long-term psychotherapeutic labor, she tells me. I trust her. I am on time to more things in my life now than ever before. Especially love, inner peace, kindness and sexual fulfillment. Also economic independence and not caring what other people think. More and more I am on time for these things, no longer as late as I once was. But I am still late to appointments and meetings. I don’t know if I will ever be on time for these things. Maybe it is a fundamnetal genetic flaw which escapes all attempts at correction. What is important is that I try. That I keep trying to be on time. That I do not retire until there is nothing left in me but bones, blood and an empty space where my will once was. This is what my therapist tells me. This she says is how I will be an older man who is more on time in life.
No longer late.
“The grass always looks greener when you are really high.” -A commercial airline pilot
Like any other addict, the first thing he thought about when waking up in the morning was getting high. “Waking and baking” had become one of his favorite activities of the day. In the mornings he would have less anxiety when using marijuana. He got out of bed and made his coffee. He sat down in his chair or went outside and took his first hit of marijuana for the day. It felt good. It helped to wake him up and put him in a less grumpy mood. He drank his coffee and enjoyed feeling the combined effects of caffeine and THC. He would then read or exercise or do some domestic chores. Being high made it feel much more enjoyable for him to do these ordinarily mundane things.
Whenever he felt the effects of being high begin to wither away he would smoke again. This way he could hold back the tiredness, boredom, lack of interest and slight depression that comes along with no longer feeling high. He often made sure that he did not get too high. He just wanted to maintain a slight marijuana “buzz” to take the edge off while getting through the day-to-day. (Sometimes he would get immensely high, so high he did not want to move. But this was only on weekends or after a hard days work was done.) The marijuana just made things feel easier, more enhanced. Made the mundane much less mundane. Made the things he did not want to do much more enjoyable to get done. Being high seemed to take away the more unbearable aspects of his being.
He was able to be productive when high. It seemed like he could be even more effective at doing certain things (especially cleaning). Sometimes he felt like the marijuana gave him more focus and creativity. It opened his mind and made him want to do things. Everything he did seemed to be done with more interest and enthusiasm when high. The existential pain and banality that daily life often created, were alleviated by marijuana. Suddenly he was happy doing whatever it was that needed doing (which was often nothing). Even going to work felt fun. Marijuana sometimes made him feel like an accomplished Zen practitioner but without the Zen practice.
When high he went about his life in a happier state. He often felt like a better person than when not high. He would convince himself that marijuana was his medicine. This is why he needed to be high all the time. Things just felt better.
But sometimes this was not the case. Sometimes being high would not work as well for him. He would become paranoid that other people knew that he was high or thought that he was acting dumb. He would wonder if people thought he was a loser and this would make him distance himself from them. Sometimes he even felt bad about himself for being high all the time. He felt like he was doing something that he knew he should not be doing. But he would tell himself that this was just conservative social conditioning kicking in and then try to let these more shame-filled thoughts go. He was just a better person when high is how he really felt.
Sometimes he would begin to freak out because he feared that he could stop breathing or lose control at any second. It felt terrifying. Maybe the marijuana was poisoned? He felt his heart beat and he would become suddenly aware of the very fine line between life and death. His anxiety would spike and he would be unable to get rid of a sense of impending doom. Maybe something was seriously wrong with him? Maybe he should call an ambulance? Sometimes when this would happen he would drink beer. The combination of beer and marijuana seemed to balance out the more undesirable effects of being high. Sometimes the beer would get completely rid of the anxiety caused by the marijuana and this would allow “highness” to be so much more enjoyable. Often times he would drink beer when smoking marijuana. Often times he had to drink beer when smoking marijuana.
Sometimes marijuana would also cause him to become easily angered. More reactive towards things he would not normally get so angry about. When high he would sometimes lose control of himself without any say in the matter. It was just a sudden lose of self-control. When not high he noticed that he had more self-control over his reactivity, but when he was high if even the slightest thing made him mad he would react. The paranoia that he did not know he felt caused so many things to be blown out of proportion.
The more he used marijuana on a regular basis, he noticed that these negative effects of marijuana would often mellow out. The anxiety would still occasionally be there but the paranoia and anger seemed to dissipate over time. But he had to remain high all the time in order to have this more desirable outcome. But so what! Life was better high! Music was better. Television and film were better. Being creative felt easier. Sex was better. Sleep was better. Focus was easierLife no longer felt so dull. The pain was gone. Yeah he gained weight as a result of always needing to be munching on something delicious and drinking beer, but life was just happier when high. The belly and love handles were a small price to pay.
He had a hard time accomplishing things. Marijuana allowed him to be more content with his life in the present moment so there was not as much of a need to be ambitious about getting things done with a future purpose in mind. His future ambitions seemed to lessen and he didn’t mind that he was getting less done. Society was a trap anyways that he wanted to drop out from. Everybody was controlled by “the forces of mediocrity” and marijuana allowed him to become very aware of how narrow people’s minds had become. Timothy Leary’s saying: Turn on, Tune in and Drop out become his motto. By smoking marijuana he was liberating himself from the more socially conditioned workings of his own mind.
He always wanted to be high. When he was out of his house it was a bit more difficult. He felt some paranoia when interacting with the world. The world that he wanted to drop out of made him anxious. Being in cars or public places made him anxious when high. Being social made him feel uncomfortable. Uneasy. He much preferred the quiet and calm of his home when high. The home environment was much easier to control. So he became more isolated. Spent more and more time at home and in his head. He preferred being lost in the stoned meanderings of his own mind rather than engaged in social interactions with other people. Being social with others was just too hard when high.
He remained high for years. Years. All in all it was not a regrettable experience even though he does not really remember much. Several times he tried to give marijuana up or smoke it less frequently but his attempts almost always failed. After a week of not using marijuana he told himself that he could just use it more recreationally. But once he got high again he wanted to be high all the time. His own company and solitary activities were just so much more fun when high. The boredom was gone. The grass looked greener. Things just felt better, so he was back to being high all the time again and again. He was not as worried about what he was going to do with his life. Money was no longer as important. Everything was just fine when high. He did not need anything more than what was right here. He was all good. Everyone else was too uptight. But in the back of his mind he knew that he was going nowhere. He knew he was not living the life he really wanted to be living. He knew he was throwing his full potential under the bus. But that was ok. Such is life. He was right where he wanted to be. What a wonderful weed!
When he finally did manage to stop using marijuana it was not so easy. The first week or so he felt very anxious. Uneasy and on edge. He was tired a lot of the time. His mood had become depressed. He would become depressed when using marijuana as well (those times that he would not be high were often filled with a low-level depression). The cravings for marijuana were strong and constant. If he just used marijuana again all of this would go away. He would feel better again. But he stuck with it and just dealt with the cravings. His thoughts told him he could use marijuana recreationally. He remembered how nice it was being high and somehow managed to forget about all of the less advantageous aspects of using marijuana. It was as if his brain was continually trying to talk him into using again. Come on. You will be fine. But this time he was determined to not give in. He knew that if he went back and got high just one time, he would be high all the time.
The boredom returned. The mundane feelings returned. Cleaning or being creative was no longer nearly as enjoyable. His job became a drag again. He seemed to slow down and become less enthusiastic about basic things. It felt like he had to rebuild from the ground up. Normal life returned. Now he had to do what felt like really heavy lifting without the medicated feeling helping him out. But gradually things improved. The paranoia went away. He was much better at controlling his anger. He became reactive much less. The depression seemed to dissipate. His ambition gradually returned. The fine line between life and death began to feel much thicker. And even though things did not feel nearly as enjoyable as they did when he was high, gradually he felt like he was doing much more with his life. Now he was not stealing Zen. He was actual practicing it.
He still thinks about getting high each and every day. How nice it would be to be back in that stoney space where everything feels more enhanced and fun. With one puff to be able to eradicate the boredom, stress and mundane nature of day-to-day life. It is a continual temptation. But he also knows that boredom and the mundane are matches which light the fires of ambition. Without the matches, nothing can catch fire. He no longer wanted to drop out. He did not miss the paranoia, anxiety, angry reactivity, shame and continual need to buy more weed that seemed to accompany his perpetual dropping out. He still wanted to turn on and tune in but now he had to put in the effort that was needed to create these inner states for himself.
To my subscribers.
Please excuse the spelling error in the first sentence of Hot Soup On A Hot Day. I spelled “rarely” correctly but for whatever reason spell check changed it to “early” without my say so. I had sent out the finished piece before noticing the unintentional error. Here is the first sentence in it’s corrected and meant-to-be form:
Please learn from my mistake, even though I realize this rarely happens.
Thank you for your understanding that sometimes, in rare circumstances, spell check can work against us despite our best editing efforts.
Please learn from my mistake, even though I realize this rarely happens.
I don’t know why I did it. It’s been a long process to return to normal. I never appreciated normalcy as much as I do now. Many years ago, while seeking treatment for a certain health condition, an Ayurvedic doctor told me to never consume hot liquids on a hot day. He said that this was the worst thing a person could do to their health. I listened, up until last week. Then I forgot.
When a person is hungry and there is very little food around, eating for the sake of health no longer matters. Eating to be healthy is a luxury that most people in the world can not afford. I made my self hot soup only because there was no other food to eat in my house. I had to be at work within the hour, so I had no time to go out for food. I had to eat what was left in my pantry and since there was only one can of minestrone soup and I was starving, I ate it without thinking.
I had not been outside yet that day so I was not aware of how hot it was. I suppose I should have been since normally I check the weather on my iPhone. But that day I did not. Had I known that the day was going to be so hot I probably would have eaten the soup cold. This is a common human problem- only realizing what the correct thing to do is after doing the wrong thing. I am human.
I brought the soup to a boil in one of my pots. I then added a few tablespoons of cayenne pepper to make it spicier. I prefer all of my food spicy. Non-spicy food bores me. It lacks soul. I also added some garlic salt along with a few raw cloves of garlic. I then took out a tablespoon and began eating the soup right out of the pot. I don’t enjoy doing dishes and avoid using dishes whenever possible. My wife often gets frustrated that I eat my meals right out of the pot they were cooked in. Since I am the one who does the dishes in our house, how could she understand?
I always eat as if someone is about to take my food away. In retrospect I now realize I should not have eaten the hot soup so quickly but I needed to be at work. I burned my mouth and my gut and probably began the process of some sort of abdominal or esophageal ulceration. When a person is hungry and in a hurry all health considerations go out the door. I finished the minestrone soup quickly, put the empty pot and tablespoon in the sink, picked up my things and left the house. From the start of eating the soup to the time I left my house, no more than five minutes elapsed. It really is not a good idea to do anything in a hurry.
The moment I got into my car I noticed an unusual amount of perspiration on my forehead, chest and underarms. I thought nothing of it. It was just an effect of eating hot soup and would pass quickly enough. I turned the air conditioner on HIGH and drove to work. During my seven minute commute, the perspiration turned into a full blown sweating attack. But I still assumed it would pass.
While at work the sweating did not cease. It became relentless. I had to take off my button down shirt and use it to soak up the sweat coming out of my pores. I hated doing this since the shirt was new, expensive and I had just received it as a birthday gift. Sweat was dripping from my forehead onto my desk and crotch area. My entire black t-shirt was soaked. What the hell is going on? was all I could think. My tan pants were also absorbing a large amount of sweat from my leg and crotch pours. After an hour at work I was completely drenched in my body’s sweat. My sweat filled the room with the rancid smell of digested garlic. It looked as if I had jumped into a pool with my clothes on. This is when I began freaking out. I use the word freaking literally. I panicked.
I left work without asking or letting anyone know. I just ran out the front door and went directly to my car. As I ran I could hear the soaked cotton sound of my pants rubbing together at the thighs. When I got into my car I looked at my face in the rearview mirror. I was drenched. My hair and forehead were dripping with sweat. I considered going to the emergency room but decided to drive home and figure things out instead. Other than feelings of panic I felt fine. I was just sweating profusely and it would not stop. I had my car’s air conditioner on HIGH as I drove home, all the vents pointed directly at my chest and face. It is strange that I was thinking this because I have often heard people say things like this but suddenly I was the one thinking, Why me? Why do things like this always happen to me? I wanted to cry.
Once I made it home I took off all of my clothes and turned my home’s air conditioner on HIGH. I considered texting my wife and letting her know what was happening but I did not want to worry her. In the nude I walked all around my house waiting for the cold to kick in and trying to calm myself down. I got bath towels out and carried them around with me in order to absorb the massive amounts of sweat. I opened up the freezer and stood in front of it. I even stuck my head in the freezer with the freezer door closed against my back. None of this seemed to help. I continued to sweat.
I took a cold bath, rubbed ice cubes all over my body, ate a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I laid down on the kitchen floor and covered as much of my naked body as possible with packages of frozen vegetables that we had kept stacked for years in the freezer in case the apocalypse struck. As the packages of frozen vegetables thawed and the air conditioner roared away- I continued to sweat all over the linoleum. I had no idea what was going on.
Should I go to the hospital? Should I let my wife know? What if I sweat so much I just melt away? All kinds of thoughts ran through my mind. I thought up various ways that I could try to stop the sweating. Climb into the freezer and shut myself in. Build a tent over the air conditioner vent and stay in there with packages of frozen vegetables duct taped to my body. Fill the bathtub with ice and soak in it (we did not have enough ice for this, I would have had to go to the liquor store down the street and was in no condition to be seen in public). As I was searching my mind for solutions to stop the profuse sweating it was then that I remembered the Ayurvedic physician telling me to never consume hot liquids on a hot day. I then remembered the hot minestrone soup. “Shit,” I said out loud.
When my wife returned home later that day and saw packages of frozen vegetables duct taped all over my naked body, she began laughing hysterically. I often did these kind of pranks to lessen the stress and banality of normal life. When I was finally able to calm her down, convince her this was for real and tell her about the severity of my situation, her laughter turned into deep concern. The sweating lasted for several days and my wife helped me out in whatever ways she could. I do not know what I would have done without a loving wife to help me. She kept me hydrated, she made me delicious cold gazpacho soups, she bought me powdered electrolytes which she rubbed into my body and kept fresh bags of ice piled on top of me as I rested in bed. Most importantly she continually calmed me down by telling me that everything was going to be alright. This helped my mental state so much because when the sweating would not stop for days, I really believed I was going to melt away.
The sweating ran its course and I have thankfully lived to tell this tale. It was a terrible experience that I am sure will traumatize me for the rest of my time on earth. Sweating that profusely for so many days was something that I would not even wish upon the most terrible human being. It was the single most awful experience of my entire life, even though I did enjoy the attention and care that I received from my wife. For months to come I will have to take mega doses of supplements and drink a lot of coconut water to return my bodies potassium and magnesium levels to a normal state, but this is fine. I am just happy that I did not melt away.
Most lessons are learned after the mistakes have been made. I realize that very rarely do us humans learn anything without experiencing the consequences first, not matter how much someone tries to teach or warn us. This is a fundamental human flaw and we just have to accept that some things don’t change. As far as consuming hot soup on a hot day is concerned, I will never do that again. I realize I can’t stop you from consuming hot soup on a hot day, but for what it is worth, I wanted to try.
The writer Marty Fletcher interviews the writer, blogger, artist and psychotherapist Randall Sokoloff. This interview will be published in our upcoming summer issue of WEDONTEXIST Magazine, which will be about the art of blogging.
Interviewer: Hi Randall. Should we continue the interview now for thirty more minutes or so?
Randall: Sure. What was it you were saying last time we talked?
Interviewer: I’ve been reading your blog and other published writings for a long time now. I can’t seem to figure out what exactly you are doing but this interview is an attempt to make some sense of your writing. Is it one big lie you are constructing or are you actually telling this continuous, never-ending story with each piece that you write, like an open ended novel? I think of your writing as merging somewhere in between these two points, but I wanted to ask you, what are you doing?
Randall: With my writing?
Randall: I like a quote from Stevenson about fiction: “The novel, which is a work of art, exists, not by its resemblances to life, which are forced and material, as a shoe must consist of leather, but by its immeasurable difference from life, which is both designed and significant, and is both the method and the meaning of the work.” So for me the meaning has nothing to do with what I write, the meaning of what I write is entirely in the distance from what is being written about.
Interviewer: So you are merging both method and meaning?
Randall: I suppose. Each story that I write is really just setting up the need for another story, so yes your statement about my writing as a kind of continuous and unfinished novel or literary project is correct.
Interviewer: The meaning of what you write is to be found in its distance from reality?
Randall: I think that fiction is realistic when it reminds readers that what they are reading is a complete lie. Getting readers to a point where they can accept the pleasure and excitement of the text they are reading as being just that and not a reflection of something else. In fiction meaning only exists in the experience of reading. Outside of the book or blog entry the story does not exist. The meaning is temporary, transitory, like all forms of meaning. It is the same when watching a film or listening to music. The meaning is transitory. The problem is when people try to extend the meaning of art into reality (the world).
Interviewer: What I like about certain stories or pieces of music is that they are not trying to offer up some kind of conclusion that you can take home with you. There is an infinite bundle of possibilities within the piece but ultimately it does not mean anything beyond the experience of reading or listening. Even though I feel like sometimes you are offering solutions in your work, I don’t feel like there are any conclusions. Just infinite possibilities.
Randall: I like that reading of my work. Thank you. For me, fiction is the only authentic terrain where anarchy is still possibility within a society that has become completely militarized and regulated. Within the context of fiction the writer has limitless possibilities. They can shape realities in whatever way they want. This is the exciting thing about blogging. There are no rules online. Do whatever you want! There is the freedom to create whatever meaning you want to create. Where else in life can a person do this?
Interviewer: This is why it so important to not accept any conclusion, even though it may look good.
Randall: Absolutely. In our current society, if you accept a conclusion, chances are you have accepted propaganda- not straight talk.
Interviewer: I feel like your work has something to do with a kind of resistance. Resistance to the status quo, to the society you find yourself living in. It seems like there is a kind of heroic struggle in your writing.
Randall: I don’t know about that. Sure there is a lot of resistance in my writing. Writing for me is an act of resistance against status quo. Ultimately, I’m trying to work through the problem of sincerity. I am attempting a kind of sincerity between what the story is about and what is being said. This is the interesting problem for me to try and work out in my writing.
Interviewer: Yes. The pleasure of reading your work, for me at least, is going on this journey as you try and work through the interesting problem you just spoke of. You are a terrific narrator and you make things happen on the page that I identify deeply with. Even if you are not understanding what may be going on there is still the pleasure of discovery when reading what you write. I feel like I get to join you on the path of discovery, that reaching into what you do not know yet.
Randall: Thank you. I like that and would like to say more about it. Do you mind if I go get a cup of coffee quickly and then you could call me back in say twenty minutes?
Interviewer: Sure. No problem. I could use some coffee myself.
Read more of this interview with Randall Sokoloff in the upcoming summer issue of WEDONTEXIST Magazine!
My writing is a mixture of quasi-autobiography and fiction. I pull from my life but then run it through my imagination. Some people go to sports events, bars, sex shows or movies to have fun. I have fun by combining my real life with my imagination and then blending it all together through writing.
Several years ago I wrote a mini-story called Confessions Of A Facebook Addict. It was ten percent autobiography, the rest was fiction. This is why I distinctively remember having a lot of fun writing the story in my small writing studio in Davis, California. I sent the story out to several publications but no one was interested. I posted the story on my blog and no one read it. Confessions Of A Facebook Addict, like most online stories, hung there suspended and unread in digital space. After a few weeks I forgot all about it.
But then I began receiving emails. The New York Times, The Huntington Post, Money Magazine and many other on and offline publications I had never heard of wanted to interview me about my Facebook addiction. I thought about whether or not I should tell the truth and let them know I am not really addicted to Facebook and it was just a story I made up. But I have always been interested in the intersection between life and art. I love it when art gets away with imitating life. Doesn’t happen often that art can be victorious over the forces of banality and conformity that are continually trying to destroy it. But sometimes art sneaks in and no one knows it’s happening. Blending art with the banality of real life is something I never had the opportunity to do outside of my blog and other writings. This was my moment, my one shot to make my small contribution. So I played the part and pretended to be the character that I wrote about in Confessions Of A Facebook Addict. I was interviewed and confessed to being a Facebook addict and before I knew it the fictional character was being made real in many on and offline publications such as The Huntington Post. This just goes to show that A LOT of what you read online is not true.
I did leave Facebook not long after. I broke up with Facebook because I already had enough anxiety in my own life and felt like Facebook was adding an extra level of anxiety that I really did not need. Like most people, my relationship with social media is complicated and not having this added complication present in a life that already felt complicated, was really nice. Facebook keeps a person in touch with people who in a world without Facebook would remain in the past. I think it is healthy for most people you have known to remain apart of your past. The past heals. We know each other for a period of time and then we don’t. This is natural. But holding on to a past that should be long gone creates all kinds of unnecessary difficulties. It is something that is not supposed to be happening and we suffer the consequences for holding on to something that really should no longer be there.
As it is with a lot of complicated relationships that have a blend of love/hate feelings, after a three year absence I returned to Facebook not really knowing why. It was good to be back because Facebook is a realm in which time stands still. In a world where time ravages everyone I know and knew, it was nice to find a warm place seemingly immune from the ravages of time. Sure the interface and various Facebook accessories changed, but more or less everyone was still doing the same thing; posting about fun times, feelings, people they love, opinions, songs and bands they love, things they have accomplished, political and spiritual perspectives and on and on. As a man who is not entirely comfortable with the rapid passing of time, Facebook provided me with a kind of SAFE SPACE in which to hide from storm. A space where whether people are aware of it or not, everyone is taking collective shelter from the ravages of time. This is what creates that underlying sense of community on Facebook. It is a community of people all connecting up together and pushing back against the forces of entropy.
Like most communities that provide people with a safe space, it is easy to get too involved, too quick. Of course I involved myself too much, too quick. I got in over my head as I often tend to do with most things. I shared and said too much. Without Facebook, a person is much more alone in the outside world. Fewer people listen to things you have to say. You get to be less yourself. At times being alone in the outside world can feel isolating. You might even question if you really matter anymore especially when you know that to be relevant in this tech driven world, you must join the gathering going on inside. I already have a tendency to share too much in my day to day life. Give me a microphone and I become that quiet guy who has so much more to say than you ever thought possible. Like most people, I keep a lot in, but when given any opportunity to express myself, it will be a gushing forth.
This time around on Facebook, I deleted more status updates than I shared. The status updates I did share, I felt apprehensive about. Did I say too much? Maybe I should not have said that? This was my common thought process every time I posted something. I did not want to post banal status updates about say my new puppy or the plate of food I was eating but I was also aware that Facebook is a pretty conservative place where people are overly concerned about what others might think of them. Most people on Facebook just elect to play it safe. Personally, I find this boring but maybe that is my downfall. Like Icarus, despite your warnings, if you give me wings to fly I will definitely get too close to the sun. And besides, do most of my “friends” on Facebook really need to know this stuff about me? Maybe they need for me to be just as a part of their past as I need them to be apart of mine. This is not a bad thing.
So in a sense, maybe Karma has bit me in the ass. The character in Confessions Of A Facebook Addict is a neurotic man overly concerned with all the different nuances involved in the Facebook world. He is continually wondering about what others think of him, angry about the vast degree of passive aggressive behaviors and judgement of others that is an epidemic on Facebook. He is annoyed with his own narcissism, human folly and frustrated that he allows Facebook to turn him into what he feels like he has become. In a lesser way, maybe this is what is starting to happen to me now.
Some people, like my wife, can be very responsible with their Facebook usage. They check in every few weeks or so and that is it. Some people have no need to share at all. They play the role of the voyeuristic troll going on Facebook to see what certain people are up to. But then there are those of us who go on Facebook several times a day. When given an opportunity for self-expression, we indulge. As an artist, writer or any creative person this is a great asset. The artist or writer who has a lot of self-restraint when it comes to self-expression makes mostly boring art. All surface no depth. But Facebook is not the place for most kinds of self-indulgent, self-expression and if someone does not take the mike away from me I will keep expressing myself when maybe what I really need to do is shut up and sit down. This is why I am breaking up with Facebook (again). It feels like the right thing to do before karma really sneaks up on me and turns me into that character in Confessions Of A Facebook Addict.
It is always a beneficial human ability to know when it is the right time to jump ship and then to be brave enough to actually jump. Without this ability, we just live our lives stuck on the edge.
I’m jumping (again).
*This will be my final post for a week or so. I will be finishing a short novel, which I hope to self-publish in full on this site. Thank you.
I am not a conversationalist. At least this is what I tell myself. When I do engage in interesting conversations with certain people, I often find it a relief to get out of my own head for a bit. I then wonder to myself, what would I be like if I was more of a conversationalist? What would I be like if I actually struck up conversations with random strangers? But I don’t. Normally I keep to myself and pretend not to see other people.
Maybe if I took a small dosage of a certain psychiatric drug I would be more of a conversationalist? Or, maybe if I drank beer or consumed marijuana on a regular basis I would be more interested in talking with other people? What would it take? In my normal state of sobriety I don’t really want to talk to anyone. This is why I was so surprised when I walked into the record store yesterday and started up a conversation with the record store clerk.
I startled even myself when I said, “Hey, how are you doing?” Startled, because when I said this I was actually interested in hearing his response. Normally I am not. I use this question in the same way I use soap, it’s a habit. Do I really care about the response? I’m not certain. I am often asking the question before I know I am asking the question. Hey, How Are You Doing? It’s a question in a can that I have been trained to pull from without thinking about it.
Hey, How Are You Doing?
Hey, How Are You Doing?
I feel bad about how often I have disingenuously utilized this question. I try not to do that anymore but like all bad habits, it sneaks in. For whatever reason, I meant it this time. Maybe it was because I have a deep respect for anyone who works in a record store.
Walking into a record store (for me) is always a feeling of walking into a happier place. A record store is a place filled with endless possibilities, endless new discoveries. Very rarely am I more excited about life than when I walk into a record store. What new discovery will I make today? I am no different from a child walking into a toy store or a religious person walking into their holy space. My mood is instantly lifted every time I walk into a record store.
“Oh, I don’t know. I am existing I guess,” the record store clerk replied in a defeated kind of way. Shoulders hunched, back bent from carrying too much psychic weight as Sade played on the sound system. I don’t know why or what this says about me but immediately I could relate. I stopped at the counter and he moved towards the counter. I wanted to hear more of what he had to say.
“Other people just really suck, you know? The mass human beings just fill me with such disdain and disgust. I really don’t like other people at all. Such a selfish and ugly species, destroying everything we touch. Like cattle or something. Just a really stupid people. You should see the crap I have to sell everyday. I don’t know man, I just don’t like other people one bit,” he said while looking me straight in the eyes.
He looked like a nice guy. A guy that was once a cute kid deeply loved by his parents. He had wide brown eyes and a boyish smile. His hair was short, black and parted to the side but his style (Guided By Voices t-shirt and black jeans) indicated that maybe he stopped caring about fashion after the nineties ended.
“I understand man, I really do.” I meant what I said rather than saying something I did not mean just to be nice. I have found myself thinking similar things about other people from time to time.
“Other people can be really troubling, I know. I get it. We are in a really difficult period in human history. I get it man,” I said.
“You do?” he said with a smile breaking through what I assumed was a permanent grin on his face.
“I do, I really do.”
“You know, I think my day just got a lot better. I am so happy to know that I am not insane for feeling the way I do,” he said.
“No, you are not insane at all. I get it and don’t disagree with you but the question is what are you going to do with the set of circumstances you have found yourself in? You live in this society surrounded by people you have immense disdain for. What do you do?” I asked. I was hopeful that maybe he would provide me with an answer.
“Didn’t Albert Camus write that the only real question is whether or not we should kill ourselves?” I asked not thinking that he would know.
“Yeah, but Camus advocated against suicide in favor of making life as meaningful as possible within the meaninglessness of life. In his book The Myth Of Sisyphus, Camus wrote about how we, like Sisyphus, are doomed to have to roll the boulder up and down the hill every fucking day for a lifetime and that we should learn to make the best of it even though none of it means anything and it all sucks,” he replied. I was impressed.
“I thought Camus thought that suicide was the only reasonable answer given the situation human beings have found themselves in?” I asked.
“No, he argued for making the best out of a life that would always be filled with suffering and ultimately has no meaning. That is existentialism,” the record store clerk replied.
“I see, I guess I had that one backwards.” I was slightly embarrassed by my ignorance but glad to finally get it straight.
“So then what do we do?” I asked him again.
“Roll the boulder with a smile? I don’t know man, I just spend most of my time reading and listening to records. Outside of work that is all I do. I am a consumer of culture. A culture whore. I consume but do not produce. I don’t produce anything. All consumption with no production. I just read and listen to records. It’s pathetic, I know.”
“I dont think its pathetic at all. How old are you?” I thought he might say 32 or 33.
“I am 40 man,” he said as if it was something to be ashamed of. As if he should have all of this figured out by now.
“40, that is tough. It definitely gets harder at 40, I know,” I replied sympathetically.
Again his eyes opened wide and his back straightened. “Really. Thank you for saying that. I really appreciate that. Everyone is always telling me that No Everything Will Be Fine, Everything Is Ok, Don’t Get So Down but no one seems to acknowledge how much harder it actually gets. I am glad you do.”
“Yeah, it does get harder,” I said. I wanted to say: Yeah it does get harder especially if you have a lot of self-judgement, are working retail and have a strong dislike of other people.
He kept looking around the store trying to see if his manager was looking at him and getting frustrated that he was taking up so much time having a conversation with a customer. I didn’t want to get him in trouble, so I started moving the conversation towards an ending point.
“Reading and listening to records all the time is not a bad thing. Someone has to do it in order for there to be writers and musicians,” I said. “Some of the greatest artists, musicians and writers were obsessive consumers of culture.”
“Yeah I know but I am not producing anything, just consuming.”
“So what? That is great that you have something you love to do!”
“Yeah but I am not consuming stuff that the mass of people consume. I can’t stand all that crap. I consume obscure books and records that no one reads or listens to so it can feel really alienating and isolating,” he said while looking around the store.
“I know man. I like all of that stuff as well. It does make you an outsider,” I replied.
“Thank you, an outsider. That is exactly what I am. A doomed outsider.”
“Oh common, you are fortunate to have discovered and cultivated an interest for music and books that the mass of people have no idea exists. Don’t look at it as a bad thing. By working at a record store you are just buying time. Buying time so that you can spend the rest of your time reading and listening to records. It’s a very noble pursuit in a time where most people’s interests are shaped by massive advertising and entertainment companies making a fortune from figuring out how to feed the mass of people a steady diet of mind numbing crap filled with propaganda,” I said.
I really wanted him to know that he was not alone. That we were floating along in the same boat.
“Maybe so, but I’m not producing anything. A person should produce something.”
“You just need to stop judging yourself for that one. That is your real problem. You got to just let yourself enjoy what you love doing. Stop beating yourself up about it. Listening to obscure records and being a reader is a perfectly productive way to spend a life.”
It seemed like he was becoming a bit lighter. Like his mind was backing off from the beating it was always giving him. He told me about his two divorces and his recent break up with his girlfriend. I asked if the decline of these relationships had anything to do with his misery. He said no, then yes, then definitely his first two marriages but not the recent break up with the girlfriend. I asked him his name.
“Anthony,” he said.
“I’m Randall,” I said reaching out my hand to shake his. I felt like I was meeting someone who I could be good friends with but probably never will be. We seemed to be similar in many different ways except that he was still spending much of his time beating himself up. I like to think that I finished with that long ago.
He looked around the store again, this time he looked worried about being reprimanded by his manager who was walking around the store pushing a cart filled with records and then filing them away into their correct resting place.
“Well, I am going to go buy a record. It was really nice talking with you,” I said.
“Really nice talking with you as well,” he replied.
I walked further into the record store, ready to make a new discovery.
It is difficult. It requires commitment and a will to succeed. It is not something that you just do, like watching television or driving a car. No, sleeping upside down requires a discipline and willpower that most humans would rather not engage in. But anyone who succeeds at anything must push through immense resistance and be persistent even though all they want to do is quit. Persistence is not easy and it requires moving against the forces of gravity. But persistence is the only way that human beings can achieve anything that is impossible for most people to do, especially when it comes to hair growth.
I was always the one with a full, curly head of hair. In a crowd of people my head of hair would be the first thing noticed. I had (and still have to an extent) the kind of hair that can only be bestowed upon a person through the inheritance of certain genetic predisposition. I won the cosmic hair lottery. But I suppose all good genes suffer the same fate- there must come a time for their rapid decline. A decade or so ago, as I was at work on my first novel entitled The Absurdist, I noticed strands of hair collecting on the paper as I wrote. I remember thinking, Oh no, the time has come. I felt like I was still too young to really start losing hair, but I also was well aware of the destiny that awaited me.
My father, my four uncles and both of my grandfathers all had large bald spots on the back of their head. As a young man I remember thinking that they all looked like they had encountered angry Native Americans seeking revenge on Jewish white men. (I did not realize then that being scalped involved taking out a chunk of the scalp along with the hair. I just thought it was the absence of hair.) I grew into adulthood assuming that one day I would look like I had been scalped as well. The site of my father’s bald spot would induce a depression in me so deep that I would refuse to get out of bed. What was the point of growing older if this was my fate? I thought. (This was before I knew that having a completely bald head had some sex appeal.) But like most things that horrify us, I put balding out of mind, stopped looking at the back of my family members heads and forget about it until years later strands of hair started falling from my head like a winter’s snow.
A decade later and now the bald spot is just about to break through the thinning hairs on the back of my head and declare itself for what it is, a bald spot. I still have enough hair to hide the spot but it is kind of like a girl wearing a thin, white t-shirt without a bra. If you look hard enough you can see her breasts just underneath. I am now at this point, what my barber calls the balding line. There is little time left before a spot of bald scalp will appear on my head. I needed to take radical action. I tried all the Thai, Swiss, Arabic, Australian and Russian massage techniques and a plethora of nutritional remedies but nothing seemed to work. Online I found a community of almost balding or bald men who wanted their hair back so bad that they were willing to sleep upside down. The site claimed that sleeping upside down is the best way to generate new hair growth but they also claim that it is no quick fix. In the About Sleeping Upside Down section of the website it reads: Sleeping upside down can be brutal. It is not for those who are not desperate and it is filled with obstacles. You can no longer sleep next to your partner and this might create intimacy issues. You can no longer read or watch television in order to fall asleep due to nausea and headache issues. If you have to wake in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, it is at least a thirty minute process. Sleeping upside down is a radical lifestyle change but it will give you your hair back.
Using the instructions in the Sleeping Upside Down How To section of the website, I created my own sleeping upside down contraption. The contraption is not unlike an inversion table. The difference is that with the contraption I made, I am using a long piece of the strongest kind of silk material that exists. It is so strong that it is used by various inversion and ariel artists. I attached this piece of material to a bar and hooks that hang from my ceiling and can hold my body weight. When it comes time for bed I sit inside the material (kind of like a hammock) and then with a strong push of my body weight I swing myself upside down. I rest my legs and feet up against the wall and support my head with a pillow that I keep inside the silk material. This took getting used to (the continual pulsations in my head and ears were the hardest part) but over the past ten days I have become more and more accustomed to sleeping upside down.
My wife is frustrated that we no longer fall asleep holding one another, but she is fifteen years younger than I and the last thing she wants is a husband with a bald spot. As a result she has been supportive. I have yet to see any proof that sleeping upside down is working. The testimonies and information on the Sleeping Upside Down website claim that it takes at least two months before a person sees any significant new hair growth. Over time, immersing the scalp in at least eight hours of blood flow directly to the scalp will generate new hair growth (so they say). If a person wants to achieve what most ordinary mortals consider impossible, then they must be willing to take great risks. It is the only way. All I want to do is quit and return to my comfortable bed and hold my wife tightly as we fall off to sleep together. This is all I want to do but if I do it I know I will end up with a bald spot. So I must persist. Persistence is the only way anything impossible become possible. This much I know for certain.
I refuse to go bald just yet. I have a wife that fell in love with me because of my full head of curly hair. The way that I rebel against the forces of normalcy (that run rampant in our American society) is by letting my hair grow longer than I should. If I had a bald spot in the back of my head, I would loose all cultural legitimacy. It is at this point that I presume I would begin to hunch over, go limp and grow old (unless of course I made the radical decision to shave my entire head). A bald spot in the back of my head would be the ultimate defeat, which I realize is inevitable with age. But I am not ready for this yet, since I believe I have many potent years still to go. Every night I will sleep upside down for as long as need be. I will tell my wife I love her and kiss her goodnight from a distance. I will persist and hopefully in the end, all this sleeping upside down will allow me to prevail over the forces of my genetic destiny.
Sure, it is good to go out and get in to the outside world. But the opposite is also true, it is just as good (if not better) to escape from the outside world. For those who love peace and calm the outside world can be a very difficult space to navigate. While it may be healthy to go out now and then, here are ten tips (which, I have tested out myself for weeks at a time) for periodically or permanently escaping the outside world:
#1. Procrastinate. Don’t think about it, don’t worry about it, don’t care about it. Just leave it alone. Stay present and let the future work itself out. Just enjoy your time now and don’t worry about what may or may not be coming up ahead.
#2. Really try to stay offline. Turn your phone off as much as possible, don’t check email, don’t go online. Try to live your life as if none of that existed. Do anything else but use the internet.
#3. Be creative. Write a story or write in a journal. Paint something. Make a detailed drawing. Build something. Garden. Make a sculpture out of wood. Think up your own philosophy about something and write it down. Talk to yourself about something interesting. Play a musical instrument. Move the furniture around in your house or apartment. Do anything that feels like you are engaging the more creative parts of your brain.
#4. Listen to music. Find interesting music that engages your creativity, or imagination and listen to it. Currently I am listening to the earlier work of Klaus Schulze, who is a German electronic musician. If you have yet to listen to much Krautrock, I recommend starting there. Give Kraftwerk’s earlier albums a try. Or listen to classical music. Listen to records. Listen to cassetes. Listen to the radio. Spend quality time really immersing yourself in musical sounds.
#5. Don’t worry about stuff. This is so important since the outside world really gets its hooks in you through worry. This is how the outside world holds you hostage. So do whatever you can to stop worrying. Meditate, play music, listen to music, go for a walk, drink a glass of wine, do deep breathing, make art, write in a journal- anything to get control of your worry.
#6. Watch cats, birds or dogs. Notice what they do, how they spend their day and try to learn from them. Eat, play, go to the bathroom, rest, listen, observe, sleep.
#7. Just sit there. Pascal, the French writer, mathematician, inventor and philosopher (he made good use of his time while escaping the outside world) said that most of what ails human beings would be avoided if we could just learn how to be content sitting in a chair, alone in a room. So just stay where you are. Hang out. Control yourself. Stay put. Relax. Chill. You really do not need to be running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off.
#8. Don’t drive anywhere. For the most part, once you are driving a car you are immersed in the outside world. Driving a car involves you in the affairs of the world. You are subject to the legal system, stress and other driver’s personality disorders. There is no way to escape the outside world when in a car. Walk wherever you need to go. Stay on foot. You can walk all around in the outside world but still be free from it.
#9. Stay Home. I know this will be difficult for many, but and ideal way to escape the outside world is to not go into it. Stay home. Many of the above recommendations are things to keep you occupied while home. If you are really involved in your creative work you will have no need to leave your home (other than possibly for food). Find a space in your home where you like to be and just stay there. Don’t go online. Don’t talk on the phone. Don’t text. Read, write, meditate, listen to music, clean, sleep, watch films, cook- just be home.
#10. Read. This is the number one way to escape the outside world. Have you ever met a prolific reader who feels like they are all there? Probably not because the reader exists mostly in their head, not the outside world. If you are not a reader, chances are that you are completely swallowed up by the outside world. Reading prevents this from happening. Read novels, read non-fiction, read magazines. Read. I recommend reading really obscure, independent fiction. There is so much good stuff out there. Start with independent presses like Penny-Ante Press, Coffee House Press, Akashic Books or Two Dollar Radio. Engage your intellect and imagination. READ. If you become an engaged reader, this will guarantee your escape from the outside world.
I have a confession to make. What better place to make it than here? It is a little embarrassing to be telling you this. Maybe it is a lot embarrassing since no one knows about this, not even my wife. I don’t know why I feel the need to come clean now, but it is time. I must. My hope is that my readers will not judge me too much. I realize that this is much different from anything you have read from me before. I also understand that what I am about to tell you may sound crazy to many. It may seem even mentally insane, but for me it is something so normal that I am not bothered by it. What does bother me is what I am about to confess to you.
Let me tell you the more typical part first. You ever see a spider trapped in its own web? Well, this is how I feel. We all play a part, a role in our social lives. In our day-to-day social lives everyone is acting. The role that I play is that of a psychotherapist. I am a very well-respected psychotherapist who is good at the job that I do. I care about the people I work with, probably too much. Everyday I come to work, conservatively dressed and ready to help others in need. Not far from my office I have a nice two bedroom home, on a quiet suburban street. I live there with my wife and three dogs. My wife is also a psychotherapist and we share the same office. Since I was married five years ago, my wife and I have built a very comfortable, safe, secure and meaningful life for ourselves. I suppose that you would be correct if you were to say that we live in domestic bliss. But underneath domestic bliss, there is always someone who feels stuck.
Unlike city living, suburban living demands a certain degree of conformity. One must play a particular part if they want to not deviate from the norm. If a person deviates too much from the norm in the suburbs, they could lose all of their cultural legitimacy. In the city, the norm is not as narrow and rigidified as it is in the suburbs. This is why many people who live in the suburbs live very different lives behind closed doors than the lives they live while working. If we really knew one another, we would be shocked by how different they are from the person we thought they were. Maybe this is why the suburbs breed a quiet life of desperation. You would not be wrong if you said that I was living a quiet life of desperation. I have done exactly what I am not supposed to do if I really wanted to be the person that I am. I am not supposed to find domestic bliss just yet.
So I guess I will just come right out and tell you. I apologize for taking so long but I needed to preface my confession with some important supporting details. In the back of my bedroom closet I have what I guess you could call a uniform. It has been hanging there for years, unworn by me. The uniform consists of a black suit, with a black belt and black button down collared shirt (which, I wore buttoned all the way up). There is also a black face mask and a black rimmed hat. Beneath the suit there is a pair of wingtip black shoes with a pair of black dress socks stuffed in them. The black face mask I keep hidden, so my wife has not seen it. She has seen everything else though and wonders why I have never worn my “nice outfit.” I tell her it is something I wore a lot before we met but have just not had a chance to put it on since. She has often wanted to go out to a nice club, a place where I could put the black suit on and have some fun, but I always tell her I am not in the mood. She basically thinks of my black suit as an outfit I used to go out and have a stylish, fun night in. She knows nothing about The Man In Black.
Yes, I was once The Man In Black. I was what most people would refer to as a superhero. I never thought of myself as a superhero but I guess I was. In my mind I was just some guy who was inspired by the graphic novel The Watchmen and wanted to do something about all the tricks I saw the police and local government officials playing on the more disenfranchised people in the city where I lived. I bought my black suit and all of its accessories at a Salvation Army store in downtown Oakland for less than forty bucks. From the moment I put the entire outfit on, in my small studio apartment, I felt strong and powerful in a way that I had never felt before. I was in my mid-twenties and living in a poorer neighborhood of Oakland, California. I was confused and angry like most men in their mid-twenties who are yet to figure out what they are going to do with their life but the moment I put the black suit on I found my life’s purpose. I knew I could not change the world, but I could make the city where I lived a better place for those with less power and money. This became my main objective.
I suppose that I was not your typical kind of superhero. I did not get in fights. I did not kill anyone. I did not jump off buildings or scale walls. I had no real superhero powers other than that of my intellect and sense of confidence when I put the black suit on. All I did was talk to people. Go figure. I would walk around the Oakland ghetto (West and East Oakland) dressed in my black suit with hat and face mask on and speak with the prostitutes, the crack addicts, the pimps and the gangsters. I would tell them that they were capable of so much more than what they were doing and that they were falling into the trap that society had created for them. I would tell them that the government wanted them to be doing exactly what they were doing so that they could catch them, charge them, put them in jail and make lots of money off of them. I would help these “social deviants” to see the errors of their own ways and get them off the streets and working towards bettering their lives. I believed that knowledge was ultimate power and because of this, they listened.
I would walk into the middle of a dark street and stop the men who would spend hours and hours driving around the ghetto looking for young prostitutes to pick up. When the men would see me in front of their cars they would be startled. It was always after midnight that I would go out so I imagine that the site of me was quite frightening. I didn’t mean to startle anyone but it was better that they be shocked by me than handcuffed and publicly humiliated by the police once they got caught. There is no greater social disgrace than to get arrested for soliciting a prostitute and I would make these men, some of whom would spend hours in their cars day after day searching for just the right prostitute, realize this. I would walk up to their car window, make them roll their windows down and then tell them who I was and that I realized that they were addicted to pornography and trying to live out sexual fantasies but what they were doing was incredibly dangerous to their social reputation. I told them of the humiliation they would suffer if caught by the police and most of these men would listen and head home when I was done speaking with them. I would go out on these missions at least three or four nights a week and every time I returned home to my apartment I felt incredibly satisfied, like I was doing real good in the world.
I did this for around ten years, until my wife and I moved to the suburbs. There was never any mention of me in the newspapers but over the course of the ten years that I would go out on what I called my midnight missions, violent crime, prostitution and crack abuse declined by 70% in Oakland. There was word on the streets about a crusader who went by the name The Man In Black, but outside of this, I was completely unknown. No one could understand the reason for the massive decline in illegal activities in Oakland. All I knew was that I was happy because now the police, the city and state government where not making nearly as much money off of those who had fallen into less fortunate fates. In fact, Oakland was going broke because they were now making very little money off those who were considered serious offenders. They could not get nearly as much money from parking, speeding and jaywalking tickets as they did by incarcerating prostitutes, pimps, drug addicts and gangsters. I was succeeding at the job of setting people straight. The only difficulty was that no one knew about me.
I was just Randall to everyone. No one knew what I was doing after midnight. I was just some poor, struggling artist who worked as a waiter and was confused about what I was going to do with my life. This is what most people thought of me. But I knew I was so much more than this but could not figure out how to make any money off of being The Man In Black. I did not want to sell out (like most superheroes do) by publicly claiming who I was and then getting all kinds of comic book, action figure and film deals. No this would be despicable. I could not live with myself if I sold out, so I kept my secret to myself. When I unexpectedly fell in love with my wife, I knew that I was going to have to give up being The Man In Black and go back to graduate school so I could find a decent career that would provide us with security and a comfortable life. Since I cared about righting the wrongs that had been done to people and since our parents are often the ones who do real wrong by us, I decided to go to school to become a psychotherapist. This way I could help undue the damage done by dysfunctional parents with personality disorders. My wife decided to join me and we became psychotherapists together.
But it has been very hard for me. Being a psychotherapist has been nice. I am grateful that I have been able to be successful helping others undo the trauma from their pasts but being a psychotherapist is not what I really want to do. I am not made to be confined to an office all day long. I need to be out in the world, late in the night, wandering around. Now my job as a psychotherapist causes me to become so exhausted that I can not keep my eyes open after 9pm. I end up falling asleep in front of the tv. I am also a quiet man. It is not my nature to have such deep and emotional conversations with other people for such an extended periods of time. Having to have these conversations over and over again, five days a week leave me feeling flat and with no energy to do anything else. I have gone to various hypnotists and healers to find a way to keep my energy intact, while working with other people, but nothing has been effective thus far. I have tried to only work six hours a day, three days a week, but this is 18 deep interactions with people a week and I am still feeling flattened out after day two.
I have no energy to even think about being The Man In Black anymore, so my uniform is collecting lint, dog hair and dust in my closet. I do not know what to do at this point. I know I am not living my purpose but at the same time I feel fortunate that I can help others as a psychotherapist. But being a psychotherapist is not in line with who I truly am. I feel that in order to live a life that has some cultural legitimacy, where I have a good income and am able to support a comfortable life for my wife and I, I must continue working as a psychotherapist. I have no other choice since I have no idea how to make a living as The Man In Black. I’m stuck. I remember reading in The Watchmen about how if a superhero lives a more conventional and domestic life that this would lead to their rapid decline. I suppose I did not take this into consideration when I built the life I have now with my wife. I did not realize that it would leave me with very little energy to pursue my deeper purpose.
So here I am now, sitting at my desk dressed in sweat pants and a sweat shirt. I am wearing my bedroom slippers. My hair is still the way that it was when I woke up this morning. I have a cup of coffee by my side and after I am done writing this I need to get dressed and ready for work. I live with this deep pain about continually having to pretend to be something that I am not. In truth, deep in my soul I am still the strong and powerful Man In Black that I felt like the first time I put on the black suit in my studio apartment. But now I have to go to work each day and pretend to be someone else. I must pretend to be a conservative, professional and upstanding member of my community. I must spend my entire day sitting in a chair, stuck in a dark office talking with other people about their lives and helping them work out deep emotional traumas. Things could be a lot worse, but it is difficult to pretend to be someone other than who you really feel like you are. Maybe if I came to work dressed as The Man In Black this could help, but I think that I would scare most people away. No longer would my clients see me as the qualified mental health worker that they think I am. Most professionals suffer this fate. They must compromise their personal values, their sense of who they really are in order to create a persona that gets them paid. I try very hard not to fall in to this. I like to think that I am being myself but it gets tough.
So this is my confession. Now you know who I am and what I struggle with. I am a superhero who can not be a superhero anymore. I am The Man In Black but I am seen as being a nicely dressed and conservative professional man who lives a simple life. I have my black superhero uniform hanging in my closet. I struggle to embrace and make peace with the more domestic life that I am living now. This is me and I needed to get it off my chest. Hopefully in time I will figure something out. This hope keeps me going. The hope that things will change, that I will find a way to live a more authentic life that does not compromise my personal values and sense of self as much. To become again who I really am, The Man In Black.
Thank you for reading.
“A nice piece of modern contemporary philosophy and contemplation about the way we live our lives in the modern world.” -Tracie Sokoloff
Nothing makes me happier than the complete absence of all obligations. Nothing. To be alone in wide open time and space, free to go and do whatever I want, is the ideal condition for myself to exist within. Free to listen to music, free to write, free to make art, free to fall asleep in my garden, free to go for a long walk, free to drift in whatever direction I get blown in without any concern for time or things that must be done- this is what I consider to be basic human freedom. Human freedom is a basic need that we all share and the more that this basic need goes unmet, the more we experience mental and physical illness. (It is ironic or tragic that in the society we have created, the more this basic need goes unmet the more material and financial gain we often get. This is why in America more people are on psychiatric drugs and suffer various addictions than any other country in the world.)
For close to thirty years now, I have managed to put everything off. As I get older I am becoming more skilled at doing this. Prior to thirty years ago, I still put everything off but I had my parents continually placing in front of me what I was trying to put off. Without anyone forcing my hand, I am able to keep everything away. The difference between myself and most Americans is that I see what is often referred to as procrastination as a very healthy behavior (if done right). In fact, I feel it is necessary to put things off in order to live a life freed from as may obligations as possible. I have always believed that the person who dies with the largest amount of things put off or not taken care off, has lived the fullest life. In a society where a person’s value is in equal measure to the amount of obligations that they have, we must actively engage our ability (which we all have) to put things off, if we want to live free from this often self-made prison.
In order to successfully put things off for as long as possible (in order to live more fully now), it is important to know how to be alone. If an individual is not able to be genuinely alone without anxiety, it will be difficult for he or she (or it) to free themselves from all obligations. Putting things off will be a struggle for the individual who is not able to be alone. By being alone what I mean is the ability to be completely undisturbed by the outside world. To shut the entire outside world out as if it was not even there. When we shut the entire world out, people who want something from us no longer exist. Other people become like trees or clouds in the sky- they are just there, coexisting along with us rather than wanting or demanding something from us or us needing something from them (obligation means to need something from another person or for another person to need something from you). To be free of obligation means to not need anything from others and to not be disturbed or anxious about what others might need from you. This is why being alone is a skill that is crucial for successfully being able to put things off.
The skill of being alone is in great decline in American society. This is one of the most tragic phenomena of our time. The ability to be alone is disappearing in front of our eyes. Individuals can no longer even be alone while sitting on the toilet! Most individuals sit on the toilet with some kind of digital device in their hand. These digital devices (computers, smartphones) serve one fundamental purpose, to prevent people from feeling alone. Most of us can’t handle being alone. We don’t like how it feels. We become uncomfortable and anxious, feel like we are missing out when alone and digital intervention comes to our rescue. This is tragic because the human soul needs to be alone in order to flourish. Less time alone equals less soul and more mechanization (which is what the corporations who sell us these products need and want us to become- mechanized).
The one phenomena that differentiates our period in human history from any other period is that we can now avoid being alone even when we are alone. Our phones and computers are doorways through which the outside world can slip in and fill our aloneness. Most of us voluntarily open up this door for the outside world to come on in when we are alone because we have forgotten how to be alone. Being alone is a skill that requires practice. Once we are constantly interrupting our aloneness by checking our emails, texts, Facebook and Instagram our ability to be alone becomes weaker and weaker until we can not be alone anymore without some sort of distraction present. This is a human tragedy.
If we are not able to shut the outside world out and be fully alone, we will not be successful at freeing ourselves from all obligations. As long as we let the outside world in, even if we manage to put most things off, we will still be tormented by the lingering feeling of all the things we are not getting done. There is no greater waste of time (life) than putting things off while worrying about what we are not getting done. The entire world must be completely shut out, forgotten about or neutralized (meaning everything is just how it should be) in order for a person to successfully put things off. Our day is spent doing exactly what we want to be doing, free of any extraneous concerns or worries, free from the constraints imposed on humans by time. We are fully content and at peace in our aloneness, not worried about what is being left undone or missed out on because we are fulfilled (engaged) in our lives now. This is what it means to be free and the only way to be truly free in our contemporary world is to put everything off.
Protagonist: You might not want to drink that second cup of coffee that you have there.
Me: Thanks, but I need it. I’m feeling tired this morning. Probably will not drink all of it though.
Protagonist: Don’t you think you should start exercising in the morning rather than sitting here doing stuff like this?
Me: Probably would not hurt, but I am too tired. Besides, this is my time for drinking coffee, reading and writing.
Protagonist: I remember when you would wake up, meditate for forty-five minutes and then go for an hour walk. I think you have just become lazy and neglectful of your mental and physical health.
Me: Ok, well I appreciate your perspective but this is actually supposed to be an interview with you rather than a therapy sessions for me, so would you mind if we begin the interview now?
Protagonist: Ok. Hey you might not want to keep sipping from that coffee cup.
Me: Thanks for coming today. I appreciate your willingness to be interviewed.
Protagonist: I did not have much of a choice, right? I have to just show up whenever Randall is ready to write. This is the unfortunate thing about being a protagonist. No free will. No matter what I am doing in my own life, even if I am in the middle of making love with a beautiful woman, I have to stop, get up and show up for Randall whenever he is ready to write.
Me: Ok, well thank you. I do appreciate that.
Protagonist: I don’t think you really do. I do not think you really understand how difficult it is to be a protagonist. Imagine, if you were in the middle of making dinner and you were really hungry and then without any choice you had to suddenly leave and go play some part in someone else’s story.
Me: Sounds hard but I think we all have to do this in one way or another. Most of us live lives that are parts in someone else’s story. Besides, you are a protagonist, this is your job. But this is not the point of this interview. Tell me, what is your life like when I am not writing about you?
Protagonist: You don’t want to talk about this stuff because it is true. My life has been greatly sacrificed by having to show up whenever you want me and I have never even made a single penny off anything you have written.
Me: Well I am yet to make any money either from writing. But please, tell me about your life outside of my writing?
Protagonist: Maybe if you got your act together, made more of an effort to get your work out there rather than just publishing your writing for free on your blog that no one reads we both might be able to begin making some money. Life is not easy for an artist, you have to push yourself beyond your blog.
Me: Maybe so.
Protagonist: You have to be willing to work harder! Did you know that Beethoven was sued more than once by his landlords for scribbling all over his walls?
Me: I did not.
Protagonist: Now that is a sign of someone hard at work.
Me: Maybe so. Are you going to answer the question that I asked you?
Protagonist: Would you mind turning off the heat? It is getting uncomfortably warm in here.
Me: Sure (I get up and turn off the electrical heater).
Protagonist: So what are we doing here? It is early Sunday morning and I am not so sure what the point of all of this is?
Me: I am trying to ask you questions about yourself. I thought that since you have been a fundamental character in my writings for the past ten years that it would be good to get to know you better.
Protagonist: Get to know me better? You are the one who creates me. Shouldn’t you know more about me than I know about myself?
Me: Sure, but I want to know about the you that exists outside of my writing. I want to know about your life outside of my stories.
Protagonist: This is one thing that frustrates me with you Randall. You are always looking for the easier way out. You want me to help you learn more about me? Yet you are the one who creates me. How the hell would I know more about myself than you know about me? Outside of what you write, my life is not interesting. You want me to tell you about how I live in poverty because the author who creates me is not willing to make any money off of what he writes? You want me to tell you about the shit jobs I have to work because the writer I work with is always looking to take the easy way out by self-publishing on his blog rather than actually trying to get legitimately published?
Me: Ok. First of all, I am certainly not always looking for the easier way out, that is ridiculous. You really think it is easy to be sitting here for hours doing this? Writing and editing and then publishing on my blog regularly is no easy undertaking. I would much rather be reading or doing something else. As far as not getting legitimately published, well I don’t know what to tell you. I tried for years and it came to nothing. I believe that this blogging thing will pay off in time, we just have to be patient. The purpose of this interview is not to talk about what I am doing wrong. It is just to learn more about you!
Protagonist: That is your problem, not mine. Randall, did you know that James Joyce had lost all his teeth by the age of forty-one? Aren’t you forty-five?
Me: I am yes, almost.
Protagonist: Hasn’t it been more than a decade since you have been to the dentist?
Protagonist: Well, you might want to take better care of your teeth because there is nothing worse that a writer with teeth falling out. What if you become a successful writer later in life? You going to show up to book readings and signings with no teeth in your mouth? That will really help your career.
Me: (My protagonist is really starting to piss me off.)
Protagonist: Did you know that the painter Monet was so broke when he was thirty-nine that when his wife died he could not find the money to be able to redeem the pawned locket that he knew his beloved wife wished to be buried with?
Me: I did not know that. That is sad.
Protagonists: Life is never pretty for artists and writers but it is even worse for protagonists.
Me: So lets get back to the point of this interview. I am curious to know what you think of how you are portrayed in my writings?
Protagonist: Honestly, I’m bored by what you write.
Me: What do you mean by this?
Protagonist: I mean I like how you make me out to be this troubled and neurotic, middle-class misanthrope who is always at odds with his life and family but you no longer take enough risks. You are now playing it safe and it’s getting a bit boring.
Protagonist: Remember years ago when you first started self-publishing on your blog? The stuff you wrote then was great! Sex Life Of A Man Without One, Part One through Part Twenty. Now that was a great series of writings to be a protagonist in. You had courage back then. You were unafraid of taking deviant right turns. Now it seems like you are going left instead.
Me: I remember that stuff. Times were different then. I could afford to take those kind of risks. Now I have more to lose.
Protagonist: You’ve become fearful.
Me: Maybe so.
Protagonist: Once a writer becomes fearful, their work becomes dull.
Me: Maybe so.
Protagonist: Did you know that the writer John Kennedy Toole was so convinced that his writing career would come to nothing that he committed suicide by running a hose from his exhaust pipe into his car?
Me: I knew that he had committed suicide but did not know how or why. Why are you asking me these questions? I feel like you are testing me.
Protagonist: No, I just want you to know that the path you have chosen is no easy path. Even those who came before you that you think of as being successful at their craft suffered immensely.
Me: Point taken. So I am curious if…..
Protagonist: Did you know that Gustave Courbet died when he was fifty-eight? Towards the end of his life the guy was drinking a full dozen bottles a wine a day!
Me: I didn’t know this but thanks for letting me know. I always liked his work.
Protagonist: Oh common, you didn’t know his work. What work of his do you like?
Me: Look, can we just get back to the interview?
Protagonist: Tell me, what work of his do you like?
Me: Look, I don’t know right now, nothing comes to mind, but I am trying to conduct this interview with you and you are making it very difficult. If you do not want to participate, lets just call it a day. I am getting sick of this bullshit. I am not interviewing you so you can teach me some kind of lesson about how hard being a writer is and how much I am failing at this task. This is an interview that is supposed to be about you and I have had it with your bad attitude.
Protagonist: My bad attitude?
Me: Yes, your bad attitude. You always have a bad attitude.
Protagonist: Well dammit you might want to take a look at that because my bad attitude is your creation! You are the one creating me, lets not forget! I am not choosing any of this for myself. You think that if I was given the choice I would be the way I am? You think I would be behaving in the ways that you make me behave? If you do, you are nuts. I have always just played the part you want me to play without any complaining. I am the blank canvas for you to project your disturbed mind all over. My bad attitude is your fault dammit. Not mine.
Me: My fault! My fault! I don’t have any say about what I write. I just sit down and write. You are the one who does the rest. I give you complete freedom to be yourself! You think I am creating you? That is such a crock of shit. That is such an easy way for you to take no responsibility for yourself. Sure, just blame all of your actions on the writer. Typical. Raskolnikov tried to do that with Dostoyevsky and the stress from that relationship caused Dostoyevsky to become a drunk. I will not let you do this with me! You are responsible for your actions just like everyone else.
Protagonist: You know, I am tired of this. I have had enough. You know damn well that Raskolnikov had no say in things. You know that he was Dostoyevsky’s slave. I don’t have to sit here and listen to you tell me about my bad attitude and how I want to blame you for my behaviors. That is a typical cop-out that writers often take. I thought you were better than this. You never take any responsibility for the way you create me and I am tired of it. You need therapy. You need to take a better look at yourself so that you can realize what you are doing to me and my life. If you are creating a character that might end up destroying you in the end, are you going to blame your down fall on my bad attitude? Probably. I have had enough of this bullshit for today. The interview is now over.
Me: Fine. Lets call it a day. This has gone a lot worse than I ever thought it could. I will be sure not to make the mistake of ever trying to interview you again. Have a good Sunday.
Protagonist: Did you know that the Russian writer Emile Zola died from smoke inhalation when the chimney in his bedroom fireplace backed up? He could not afford to have it cleaned.
Me: Enough! Enough! I am feeling really agitated and anxious and just want to get my stuff together in peace and get out of here.
Protagonist: Fine. Fine. I told you not to drink that second cup of coffee.
I had no idea that things would turn out this way. How could my grandmother of lead me to this place? Nothing that I have Googled says anything about what to do about this problem. I’m angry. Angry at the world. Angry at other people who have been treating me like I am some sort of freak. How could I have been so naive? How could I be so stupid? Why would no one help? I’m not sure how to resolve this. I did not listen to my grandmother when she was alive, so why did I do it now? I have places to go. I have to work but I can’t go looking like this. I don’t even want to go out of my house.
My immune system had been low for some time. This was unusual for me since I had always prided myself upon my strong immunity. Swollen glands, scratch in the throat and feeling fatigued had all become a normal part of how I was feeling. I tried all kinds of remedies; high doses of vitamin c, cordyceps, elderberry, circumin, colloidal silver and a plethora of Chinese herbs. The swollen glands were still there. The fatigue and the scratch in my throat laughed at these natural remedies. Nothing worked. And then my Jewish grandmother came to me in a dream (she was wearing a long dark purple dress) and said:
“Beetroot Randall. Beetroot! Beeeeeeetrooooooooot. I do not understand why you are not remembering what I taught you. It really hurts my feelings that you would forget. Remember all of those times I would make you Borscht when you were not feeling well? Remember how much that helped you? Why are you forgetting about your Jewish heritage? Why are you becoming a gentile? Please take the beetroot and start going to Temple again. You’ve really disappointed your grandfather and I. You must keep our Jewish heritage alive and consume beetroot. Go to Temple, ok?”
Being subjected to guilt from family members all of my life has made me very skilled at subverting feeling guilty. Feeling guilty is one of the main feelings that drives Jews. I don’t fall for it any more. My grandmother’s spiel about hurting her feelings and disappointing her didn’t work on me. I have no desire to go to Temple and if I am letting the Jewish heritage go, that is ok. All things must end. Besides, Judaism no longer appeals to me. I like to think that I have grown beyond it. But I don’t know why I had forgotten about the main ingredient in Jewish remedies for all things that ails a Jew- beets! That afternoon I bought several bottles of beetroot juice from a health food store.
The directions explained clearly: No more than two tablespoons a day. But it was beets! I used to drink bowl after bowl of my grandmother’s beet soup, so how harmful could it be? I ignored the directions and drank two large glasses full of beetroot juice everyday. Immediately, I began feeling better. Within a few days I had my energy back, my glands shrunk and the scratch in the back of my throat vanished. After a week I was even getting my erections back. So I kept drinking one or two glasses full of beetroot juice everyday, for weeks.
I don’t know why I did not notice the signs. Maybe it is because I am lost in thought all of the time. Why did it take a friend of mine saying something about it for me to notice? How did my wife not notice? Humans really do not see each other, when we see each other everyday. We become habituated to one another. We only see the image that we have formed of the person in our mind projected onto the person standing in front of us. We do not see the actual person in the present moment, as they are. Wether it is ourselves or someone we live with (see all the time), after a period of time we only see them as we think they are. This was proven to me by what happened with the beetroot juice.
For weeks I was drinking so much beetroot juice that my skin, nails, eyes and hair all turned a darkish purple color. It was almost as if I was covered in dark purple paint. My gray hair had turned dark purple. My white nails had turned dark purple. My brown skin had turned dark purple. The whites of my eyes had turned dark purple. Without my wife, dogs or I noticing, I had turned dark purple!
My friend asked me why I was covered in dark purple paint and I said, “What do you mean?”
“You are dark purple!”
“What are you talking about?”
“Are you kidding me? You really don’t know?”
“Don’t know what? I really don’t get what you are saying.”
“Randall! YOU ARE DARK PURPLE. Go look in a mirror.”
So I looked in a mirror and for the first time noticed that I was covered in a darkish purple color. Hair, skin, eyes, nails- everything was dark purple. I had been going to work, going out to cafes and restaurants and no one had said anything to me! But everyone one had been treating me differently and I could not figure out why. This is why I became angry at the world and other people. I was being made to feel like I was some kind of freak. That there was something wrong with me. Little did I know that there was! But someone could have said something.
After I returned home from being with my friend, I immediately Googled the effects of too much beetroot juice. There was nothing about the external parts of the body turning dark purple. I don’t know why or where this came from but I then Googled: Beetroot Jew. To my surprise several entries on this topic came up; Jews Turning Purple, Jewish Beetroot Syndrome, The New Beet Jew, Beetroot And The Jew, What Every Jew Should Know About Their Favorite Soup.
Turns out that because of a Jewish person’s biological constitution, if they ingest too many beets or beetroot they are prone to turning a darkish purple color! I could not believe what I was reading. Why did my grandmother neglect to tell me this? I continued to investigate. In the 1930’s and 1940’s there was a phenomena of Jews using Beetroot to cure themselves of various serious ailments and many of these Jews ended up in hospitals because their entire bodies turned a darkish purple color. One Jew in particular, Abraham Yisrael, after not being able to rid himself of the color change, joined the circus and was referred to as The Beetroot Jew! I couldn’t believe it. As I sat there at my computer reading all of this, I felt like I was going to faint. What if I was going to be the Twenty-First Centuries version of The Beetroot Jew?
I don’t know what to do at this point. Now that I am aware of what I look like, I will not go anywhere. I refuse to go to work, which has put a huge strain on my economic and marital situation. “Just go to work. Who cares what you look like,” my wife says and I become angry at her terrible advice. (I work as a psychotherapist. Being a successful psychotherapist is dependent on the therapist’s ability to present as being the archetype of mental health. If I show up for work looking like this, no one will take me seriously. I will lose my psychotherapeutic reputation.)
I have been angry at my wife for several days because I can’t believe she didn’t notice what was happening to me! If she would have just said something, so much of this could have been avoided! How is it that she was so preoccupied in her own life that she was not able to notice these drastic changes that were taking place in the man she falls asleep with every night? How can something so obvious be missed by the one person in the world who is closest to you? I don’t understand how it is that she missed the obvious effects of ingesting too much beetroot juice. A a result I feel neglected. This has made me very concerned about the state of my marriage. I have recommended that we go see a couple’s counselor in order to try to get to the bottom of this (obviously I will not go until my normal color returns).
I stopped drinking beetroot juice. All of my low immune symptoms have returned. I have been drinking a lot of water in an attempt to flush the dark purplish color out from my cells. Nothing on the internet tells me anything about what to do in this situation. Should I go ahead and join the circus like Abraham? This is not an option for me since I think the circus is not what it used be. I’ve been trying to get in touch with my dead grandmother, but have heard nothing from her. This is typical Jewish behavior. Jews are so filled with guilt that the moment they feel like they have done something wrong they retreat so as to avoid feeling the guilt. I know this because I used to do. This is one way I have grown beyond being a Jew. Now, when I have done something wrong or wronged another person, I confront it right away. Even in death my grandmother is obviously yet to get to this level in her personal growth. She is still hiding away, since I am sure she feels bad about what has happened to me. I understand, so I will wait. I will wait for her to reappear and hopefully she will know what I should do next.
The Beetroot Jew.