Carrier

carryheart1

I remembered today I had purchased Sykamore’s album “Petal” after hearing her belt out with great strength the chorus to Transit’s “Never Left”. It’s one of those days when nothing really sounds appealing, like I’ve heard it all before and my expansive and diverse library just can’t cut it. I think it’s safe to say, after some mild depression yesterday, I’m vacillating between that and just plain anhedonia.

But I heard something, as if through the radio. It was spoken with the high and low levels dropped out with some static and noise, so it was hard to make out at first. But I caught enough to use google to find out someone was reciting this, nestled in the instrumentals of the song, “Hope”:

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

BY E. E. CUMMINGS

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

 

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

 

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

 

I don’t know what it was about these words, but they kicked me in the chest. And there was some familiarity to them. Then I remembered this particular scene from what should be considered the greatest medical drama of all time (suck it, Grey’s Anatomy). Then I remembered they were lines uttered by one of the characters I could identify with the most throughout the entire series.

The magic and yet the more difficult things about television shows is the characters are never complete people. They often represent separate parts of the human psyche which makes them easier to put together and tear apart, if necessary. Abby Lockhart (played by Maura Tierney) faced so much hell throughout the series and she still manages to have a sense of humor, albeit a dark one. She stood in front of an armed gunman in Murmurs of the Heart and said, “I knew, I mean, I was positive that happiness was something I was never gonna find… I am just trying to tell you that things can change, they can get better, even if you don’t see it, they can.”

Life left her jaded before her character was fully developed through the seasons. She dealt with alcoholism, divorce, her family’s mental health,  and her own mistakes. And through her story, as long as it spans (about 8 seasons, if I recall), she overcomes. You might find this an odd entry, but if you know me and my love for story and characters, then you understand why. If you don’t, then, to keep it short, I wrap myself up into characters deeply, I analyze and I find parts of myself in them by nature. Some, more than others.

Anyway, the poem and Abby. I remembered this scene after some pondering. Proof that Abby was right. Things do get better. It’s all fiction but it’s a tale of hope nonetheless. Redemption, in a way.

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Accept my Coat of Armor

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Sometimes I wonder why I even bother trying. I am very aware of the fact that I do not think or act like most people which is something I’m actually pretty proud of most of the time. Of course, there are times when the depression sinks in or the anxiety spikes and I feel that grim isolation that comes with having been diagnosed and living with mental illness. These are the times I really am not sure how to be myself and I try my best to fake being human until it passes. But, as I’ve mentioned before, faking it until you make it is not something you can rely on when your brain is wired completely different than most people in the general populous. There are certain situations where I wish I could escape the fire of misfiring synapses and just function like everyone else. I hate getting in my own way.

It’s really hard to meet new people and not feel like I need to wrap myself in body armor, especially when I’m trying to get to know them without making it difficult or awkward. I am often a target of sympathy because a lot of my life stories are sad tales filled with heavy sighs. So, conversation has proven to be difficult, especially when I have to talk about myself because I don’t want to evoke some sort of emotional response or scare them away, especially if I find them interesting. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to have a deep and meaningful conversation when you’re constantly afraid of revealing a part of yourself that might scare them away. The worst is the look I get when I tell some people what my life has been like, especially over the last few years. I’ve long since given up on trying to impress people but there are some reactions I would rather avoid when talking about myself. I hate pity, sympathy, empathy, or any other sort of reaction that puts that look on someone’s face that’s tantamount to looking at a puppy that’s been kicked one too many times. I don’t need that. I know how to take care of myself.

How hard is it to have a normal conversation and treat someone like every other human even though you know they’ve seen more than their fair share of hell?

I recently experienced this on the first date I’ve been on in years. Admittedly, I met her over the internet on a dating website but she stuck out amongst the vapid and repetitive nonsense I was seeing all too often on other womens’ profiles. She seemed to have heart and we connected alright by message. We met up at a bar and grill, had some food and decent conversation. There’s something you need to know about me. I don’t have much of a filter around people anymore. I’ve been around myself for far too long and don’t have a problem saying what I think. This is good and bad. Some people find it acerbic and blunt and even take offense to it. At the same time, I found myself trying to keep the sorrow of my life over the last couple of years out of the conversation. “Why?” you ask. The most common response to telling the majority of my life stories results in a paradigm shift from getting to know each other to either a counselor/patient dynamic or just really awkward moments of silence where the other person doesn’t know how to react.

In this case, I can only speculate, but I think we fell into both categories. To my credit, I think I was doing quite well considering I had been awake since 3AM that morning thanks to a wonderful bout of insomnia.

I’m 28 years old and I still don’t understand the dynamic of human relations beyond the simple things. Because, while I thought we had a good time and she even agreed to meet up again, I now find myself being ignored. It’s like every connection I’ve had with a woman in the last few years in microcosm. We meet, we talk, I think we connect, she leaves, and I never hear from her again. No returned texts or phone calls. And while it ate at me for a little while I just came to the conclusion that I am an acquired taste and some people just can’t acquire me. She was nice, which is something I haven’t experienced in a long time. I have a history of finding the crazy ones and they rip my life apart, so it was a nice change even if it was only for a couple of hours. I did my best to abstain from talking about the horrors of my life but I did tell her I was diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder. Part of me wonders if it put her off in some way but, quite frankly if someone can’t accept all of me it’s just a waste of my time, isn’t it?

I shouldn’t make assumptions but I feel it’s kind of shady to tell someone you’d meet up with them again and then completely ignore them. But people will be people and I’m beyond the point of caring about the people who don’t give me the time of day or can’t accept me for who I am. I know I’m weird, I know I’m crazy, but I’m proud of who I am and who I’m becoming. I am constantly seeking to evolve and if the disclosure of the fact that I’m wired differently than most is a problem for someone, it’s really not worth my time to convince them otherwise, is it? I’d like to think I’m worth the time despite my many quirks. I just don’t understand the people who seem to decide otherwise.

 

The Ceiling

His nerves were live electric wires passing current from his heart and lungs, sending the former into the speed of snare hits he could feel against his sternum and the latter intaking oxygen faster than his body could process it. The current passed down his arms and into his hands, causing them to tingle and lose sensation. It was disruptive. He did not feel the need to eat and sleep came in fits if it came at all, the wires in his brain firing electric catastrophe through his overactive, overworked and now sleep-deprived imagination. This was all instinct and he tried to tell himself that it would all be over soon.

Trust did not come easy to him though he told himself he trusted her implicitly, or as implicitly as one can another person, remembering the fallibility of anyone and everyone; it is human to fail. This led his brain to falter in trust and so he would see horrific images that would intensify the current running through his body every minute of every day since he heard the words, “You’ll just have to trust me”. He thought he could until now. He had no idea what was going on after not hearing a word for too long and so his mind started to fill in the gaps. The means with which those gaps were being filled did not make him feel any better.

It was much easier for him to distrust than to trust even then. The history he had was not one of someone who had seen the best part of the human experience. While everyone has been lied to and everyone has been betrayed at some point in their lives, there seemed to be an inordinate amount of those kinds of stories being told in his short lifetime. He realized that he had to be careful not to sabotage himself. It was a battle of psychology and history and, in his mind, both sides were losing. He was seeing himself alone yet again, left to pick up the broken shards of his heart which he had kept to himself and well-mended for so long and it frightened him so much there were days when he couldn’t function. In the same vein, he didn’t want to say anything to her for fear of being a burden.

There was a part of him that wanted this anguish to end. Everything he saw in his waking nightmares he wanted to see come true so he could at least breathe again and not have to try to disassemble scenario after scenario. But he cared too much to give up on it and the small part of him that was an optimist was hoping that this would pass and things would return back to stasis. He wouldn’t have to feel like he was about to crack open like an egg and have his insides made into an omelette for the sake of someone else’s decisions. At the very least he was tired of staring at the ceiling wondering just what was going to happen next.

He saw his phone go off next to him.

Tales from an Open Book: Jimi X

As I had stated in my previous post about passing train cars, I had hoped to turn this into a recurring theme of this blog.  This particular story was sparked by a drive down 144th St. near W. Center.  There was a man standing on the sidewalk with a pack fit for a mountain hike, a grizzly white beard and a sign in his hand that said, “Anything helps”.  I am very cynical about people like that when I shouldn’t be.  I didn’t give him any money, but someone two cars behind me did.  He ran into the street to the left turn lane and took their donation then returned to his spot back on the sidewalk giving the peace sign and he even took his hat off to them in thanks.  I wanted to call him over to my car because I had cash in my pocket to give, but something kept me from doing so.  It brought back a story of a dealing with a person begging on the street with my best friend and brother, AJ.

The day was June 16th, 2007.  I remember the date all too well because it was the Metal at the Mall show that was to be the last show for Dead of Dawn, my old band.  We were ending a 3 year stint together that day and I remember it well.  It was hot and gross and I was dressed in all black.  We played the show at the Gene Leahy Mall in downtown Omaha on top of a concrete stage area.  I poured my heart out to maybe 20 people, some of them I’d seen at shows before.  I was depressed, of course, because the band was breaking up and I didn’t know why.  I still don’t know why.  I was bitter and pissed off and thinking about myself more than anything during that show.

My best friend whom I call a brother, AJ was there with me.  He rode down there with me, helped me with my equipment and wandered around the Old Market with me after we were done playing our set.  I was burned out and sweaty but didn’t or couldn’t go home yet.  I can’t remember which.  I just remember how hot the sun was that day and how bummed I was about everything.  AJ and I wandered into record shops and talked about things.  I can never remember what we talk about but I always know we laugh and that was what I think I needed at that point.

We had walked a few blocks and had turned left on Harney at about 13th.  It was then that we passed a man with a hat with some change in it.  He cut right to the point and said, “I don’t want pity. I don’t want to tell you my life story.  I’m homeless and I was wondering if you could spare something for me.”  The man was average build, black man with grey coming into his beard and hair.  When he spoke I could see he was missing some teeth, so you could hear the force of his voice passing through those gaps when he talked.  I liked how direct he was and apparently AJ did too, so he dropped what little change he had into the hat.  I put in a couple of dollar bills.  For this he seemed to be genuinely thankful.  It’s been a couple of years so it’s hard to remember all the details of this exchange but I would like to think he smiled just a bit which brings sadness to my heart.

Let me take this opportunity that I have some resistance to just giving money to the poor.  You don’t know what that money is going to go to whether it be booze, drugs, what have you.  But I feel like such a heel passing them by and ignoring them like everyone else does.  But anyways, I digress…

He seemed to think a minute and said, “I’m going to tell you a story…” In my head, I remember thinking that he had just told us he wasn’t going to do that but I remained silent.  “My name is Jimi X.  That’s J-I-M-I and the letter X.”  My mind [and probably AJ’s too] went straight to Jimi Hendrix and Malcolm X.  That may come off as racist or something like that, but it wasn’t.  This man could have been albino and I would have thought the same thing.  The mind is a wonderful thing.  Anyways, he began to unfold this wonderful story of which I can only remember as a general.  I’m thinking right now of how I wish I had something to record it with because it was beautiful in a very, very broken sense.  He told us that he has a mixed heritage, that his great-grandmother Native American and his grandmother was white.  Essentially, it broke down that his family tree and heritage was so mixed up and messed up that he wanted nothing from either side of his family and adopted the last name of X.  It wasn’t that he was trying to make a profound statement of society, he just generally despised his own bloodline that much.  I remember not moving while he spoke, as if the entire world folded in and collapsed around us for those few minutes while he told us this story.

After discussing with us his family issues, he told us about a possible job opportunity.  I’ll pull the direct quote from a piece I wrote about it around 10:30 PM that night:

A man came by here and offered me a job today, told me if I cleaned myself up, stopped drinking, quit smoking crack… Quit the rocket fueling, y’know? That he would make sure I stayed fucking clean and that he’d give me a job.

AJ and I both affirmed that this was a good thing and that we hoped he did get clean and get that job.  He continued to talk, this time saying that he had 5 kids.  I have since forgotten all the names but one:

James Jr. He’s only a year and a half. I want to clean myself up, but what am I going to do, man? I’m 48 years old. I’m getting old. They aren’t going to want to do anything with me.

My heart was definitely broken for this man and I felt bad.  I believed him, he had gotten past my cynicism and skepticism and gotten to the very core of me.  If this man was a liar, he was a very good liar.  I didn’t know what to do once he had finished talking.  I probably looked ridiculous in my sweat-stained clothes, wide eyes and probably a slightly agape mouth.  AJ picked up the slack for me and asked if we could pray for him.  I remember him saying it was okay, that he was into spiritual stuff and that he knew how old he was going to be when he died.  He said his lifeline told him he would live to be 96 years old.  In my heart I hoped that he was right so that he could maybe right some of the wrongs he did to his family, friends and himself.

So, we all joined hands and AJ prayed for Jimi.  We said our goodbyes to him and started walking down Harney when AJ stopped, turned and ran into a door we had just passed, saying he had an idea.  I waited outside a couple of minutes and realized he had run into a restaurant.  After a while, I got impatient and wanted to get inside to the air conditioning.  AJ had ordered a personal pizza and a cup of water.  He explained to me that this was a tactic he had picked up from his dad, that you gave food to them because, unlike money, they can’t use it to get things that could be harmful to them or help further any sort of addiction.  Jimi was thankful and, with that, we back down Harney towards my car with the June sun pounding on our backs.

My aversion to homeless and begging people has not died, I discovered.  I saw a man today around 144th and Center with a sign that said, “Anything helps”.  I remembered, though, what I had picked up from AJ.  I thought about buying the man some food because there was a plethora of food joints in that general area.  But then I realized the left-turn arrow had turned green and I drove on.  Someone was nice enough to give him something a couple cars behind me.  Thinking about it now, I wish I had given him something.  I don’t know him or his heart, but if I learned anything from my experience with Jimi it’s that God knows a person’s heart and it is up to Him to judge.  If I give him money and he uses it for alcohol or drugs then it is between him and God and not my business.

It is amazing what the memory will contain.  I don’t know how I recall a lot of the stories I have nor do I want to.  What is important to me is that I am able to share them and that they might be of use to someone.  With Jimi I learned that my version of broken is a lot different from other peoples’.  That we can love someone without any sort of return or exchange.  I don’t think I will ever forget those moments I stood rooted on concrete listening to this man bear his hear to us.  I was actually down in that are again about a week later and, as I passed 13th & Harney, I looked to see if he was still there.  I smiled when I saw that the spot he had been sitting was vacated.  I hoped that he got that job, that he got clean and that he went back to his kids, his family and got things straightened out, that our prayer for Jimi on the corner of 13th & Harney in the blaring heat of June had been answered.