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Thoughts on Waking at 1:00 a.m. - nhpeacenik
Thoughts on Waking at 1:00 a.m.
Having collapsed into bed at 8:00 p.m. last night,  I woke at one in the morning with a head full of thoughts that, as Bob Dylan says, "were driving me insane". Outside, the wind was gusting loudly, and I could not easily go back to sleep. My mind was filled with a clear image of the face of a spotted seal, some memories of my Mother's long descent into Alzheimer's disease decades ago, a realization that I must have appeared insane to quite a few people yesterday, and warm wishes  that bordered on prayers for struggling friends near and far. Unlike the "Maggie's Farm" situation, I was not obligated to "scrub the floor" for a few hours, so I came downstairs and started writing to see if this synthesis of thoughts and experiences could be expressed coherently in words.

Where It All Came From

Yesterday was one of those days where keeping regular commitments called for somewhat superhuman effort. There was a snowstorm scheduled to begin at 3:00 a.m. and since I wanted to make it to Lowell in one piece to do the radio show, I left home a little after 3:00 and drove through darkness and swirling snowflakes to the parking lot by the Lydon library, where I parked in the most out-of-the-way corner and carried a large number of bags into the basement where the studio is located. My load was so large because I was trying to get at least one of  three disintegrating laptops  configured to do the task of recording the show off-air, and I assumed there would be enough spare time to get this task done during the new student-run morning drive-time show, since my show didn't start until 9:00.

When I got to the studio door, my ID card would not let me in.

On Monday, my ID card had stopped working the gate that allowed me entrance to the parking lot, as well as the door that let me into the studio. When I called the office that handles card issues, I was on hold for more than an hour. I tried a few more times and was on hold for shorter periods. Finally, at about 2:00 pm, after a busy morning and a meeting, I got through to a live person who told me the only way to resolve the problem was to go the the card-services office on South Campus. Since I had laboriously squeezed my car past the gate barrier to get one of the coveted North Campus staff parking spaces, I didn't want to abandon it, so I walked the crooked mile to South Campus, leaping through the snowdrifts from icy footprint to icy footprint and dodging oncoming cars. I felt a lot of anger at being put in this situation and found myself dragging attention back to the present again and again as I made the journey, insisting on seeing what was actually around me rather than obsessing; it was a struggle. The card was re-enabled, and I was assured that it would work in both places.

Fortunately, one of the students doing the morning show arrived and let me in, but by this time, my mind was primed for suffering.
The transmitter spontaneously turned itself off at 6:00 and we weren't  able to get it back online for about 45 minutes. Nothing I did with the laptops worked, but I burned up hours, getting more and more frustrated.

Just before going on air, I briefly entered another state of consciousness as I read John Crockett's Natural Contemplative Blog about singing seals , which had just arrived in my mailbox.

The show went reasonably well. I did a reasonably coherent rant about the Gaza situation and the concept of Just War, discussed the relative importance of Global Warming and the world economic disaster, and gave a lead-in to my friend Nancy's song I Wish I Was in Geel about a Belgian town that has integrated people called mentally-ill into its creative and social life for centuries. Nancy sees being mentally-ill as being "differently-wired" and having special creative and shamanic abilities to offer, and not necessarily a disease in need of cure. Nancy's thoughts have been on my mind a lot lately; she's introduced me to the mad-pride movement . The Spanish-language portion of the show went OK, but I kept going out into the lobby and tring to tweak one of the laptops, so that when it came time to play a little music, I couldn't relax and let it flow over me, sing along, play pennywhistle, as I usually do... I hope some listeners enoyed the music because I was too trapped in the hell of identifying with technological failures to hear it properly.

I left the studio, stuffed the bags of laptops and CDs into the car and spent a half-hour shovelling it out. On the way out the library door, a woman asked if I was speaking to her, and I realized I had been muttering things to myself without being conscious  of  it. I drove slowly and carefully along the icy city streets and country roads toward home. In Mason, I lost traction on the hill about a mile from our house, backed down the hill and spent a subjectively VERY long time struggling at the side of the road  to get the chains on the tires. Finally, I got home, ate the wonderful meal that Denise had prepared (for which I am intensely grateful, since I hadn't really eaten all day; obsession tends to make me forget about eating, hmmm ), and pretty much collapsed exhausted into bed.

When I awoke, I remembered meeting a young spotted seal on a sand-spit on Chamiso Island when I was a child. I've never heard seals sing, but what I remember is the intelligence and kindness in the seal's eyes. There is something about being a mammal that seems to mean we're made essentially of love and water, all of us, me, my cat, the seal... My mom, Bets, was like that:  her great talent was empathy... she could sense what people were feeling and speak to that feeling rather than to the questions they seemed to be asking. When she was starting to suffer from Alzheimers, she was just completing her doctorate in the Union Graduate School. She was studying with a group of peers, each of whom focussed on a different field of study, but all of whom shared their progress in regular gatherings. One of those other students was a humanistic psychologistamed Cal Leonard, Bets introduced him to me, and I went through a course of study and "therapy" under his tutelage that I realized just this morning  really had freed me from near suicidal despair. Nancy is bringing back to my consciousness some of the things I learned when working with Cal..

At one point, when Bets was struggling with cognitive problems,  the doctors had no clue about Alzheimer's... they thought Bets was suffering from depression or bipolar syndrome and prescribed lithium; she told me one day that the lithium made her feel like crying but prevented her from doing so. More sophisticated drugs that are used for bipolar syndrome today have even more devastating side-effects, as Nancy points out. In my day-to-day life I don't think about drugs very much, either expensive prescription drugs or the self-medicating kind. Apart from coffee, vitamins and homeopathic remedies, I don't need/want them, and they seem like snowmobiles and chainsaws, powerful but dangerous tools that I would rather avoid owning and using if I don't absolutely have to.

And then there are my several friends and acquanitances who are struggling with unemployment, poverty, sickness, the prospect of going to prison in these unprecedentedly harsh times. Every  problem is intensified by the economic uncertainty, and here in the North, by the intense weather. I find that my introspection is never unmixed, that the consciousness that we're "all swiming in the sea together, some in power and some in pain" is always there too.

So I hope there is some coherence in this. Time to try to go back to sleep. See you!

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Current Location: Greenville NH USA

6 comments or Leave a comment
pirate_moo From: pirate_moo Date: February 2nd, 2009 02:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I hate those days where nothing seems to want to go right... it's really hard not to just give up. But I like to think maybe days like that are just getting all the crap over with, and you'll have a really good few following days!

Going to check out that song just now.

*sends huggles*

nhpeacenik From: nhpeacenik Date: February 2nd, 2009 11:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Did you ever notice how seal-like this (avatar) dog is?
pirate_moo From: pirate_moo Date: February 2nd, 2009 01:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
pirate_moo From: pirate_moo Date: February 2nd, 2009 01:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
He actually makes seal noises too! o_O
pirate_moo From: pirate_moo Date: February 2nd, 2009 02:31 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh and it all made sense. Hope you got some decent sleep!
From: sonoran_scrawl Date: February 23rd, 2009 12:34 am (UTC) (Link)
hi Jim, Lizzie pointed out this post. She is my friend on here who also wrote "I Wish I Was in Geel." She and I share the lyric writing part of songs often together. We get a good flow going. She is in Ohio but we have talked on the phone for 8 years now every day. I think we will finally meet this spring.

Thank you very much for playing it on your show. I need to tune in. I lose track of time. I will have to ask the schedule again. Well I have it bookmarked. I will look again. I am looking forward to it. I feel very honored that you would play that and thank you for being so supportive and spreading the word.

That does sound like a difficult day. It sounds like my PMS sort of. My old boyfriend used to get a sort of male pms where he would always start reading too much Sartre and got the existential dread.

I am sorry about your mom having alzheimers. A dear friend of mine also has a mom who has it. You are so good at articulating things that can help others make sense of things. I really appreciate how thoughtful you are. I am sorry I missed this post. I am trying to slow my pace down some on things. I get so scattered. Well. take care, Peace, Nancy
6 comments or Leave a comment