Sunday Morning

Last year, as often happens, my mood waned with the autumn light. At work, I stared blankly at my computer, inexplicably on the verge of tears. At home, I counted the minutes until I could sleep. I still woke early, intending to read and write, but instead lay on the couch, idly thumbing at my phone. I felt numb to the world. My psychiatrist adjusted my medication and suggested I invest in a light-therapy lamp. “Winter is coming,” he said without a hint of irony…

The darkness threw me over the edge. Over the next few days, as I began a free fall into despair, I was surprised to find a quiet comfort in the birds flitting about my friend’s window. Suddenly, I grew envious of his yard, a seeming prerequisite for a feeder. Then it occurred to me: I am not the first apartment dweller with this predicament. I opened Amazon, where I’d been browsing for light-therapy lamps, and discovered feeders that could be attached to our apartment windows with suction cups. “I bought myself a Christmas present,” I told my wife when I arrived at my in-laws’ house.

When we returned to Brooklyn, a house-shaped plexiglass feeder and four pounds of Deluxe Treat birdseed were waiting…Three days later, my wife texted me a picture of a blue jay. More soon appeared. So did sparrows, nuthatches, cardinals, mourning doves and a single red-bellied woodpecker. Within two weeks, I was ordering 20-pound bags of birdseed, Eastern Regional Blend, and filling the feeder’s trough daily.

Initially, it was the sheer novelty that caught my attention. My phone couldn’t compete with a woodpecker eating two feet away. Then I started to actually notice the birds, the peculiar rituals and particular charms of each species. I saw the nuthatches creeping down the window frame vertically, like awkward thieves, and dashing in for single sunflower seeds. The fat, insatiable mourning doves gorging themselves on white millet. The cardinals loitering shyly in the pear tree, waiting for them to finish.

The novelty has faded over time. But the beauty of the birds continues to draw my attention. In the tableau of blues gridded across the jay’s wing and tail, I see patterns of a Mondrian. More than once I have begun to scare away greedy doves only to stop short at the gleam of iridescent plumage. In these moments, and in the daily routine of filling the feeder with seed, I forgot my anxieties.

That something as simple as bird-watching could release me from the confines of my mind came as a surprise. When I began to struggle with depression, at an evangelical college, the faithful proffered a verse from the Gospel of Matthew: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” This provided exactly zero comfort. I wasn’t sure I still believed in a benevolent father. And besides, I’d seen enough dead birds in my cat’s maw to question their value in his eyes.

If the birds still don’t fill me with any divine reassurance, they provide something far more valuable: a respite, a chance to turn my attention away from myself to the grace and beauty of the world. I don’t know if God is feeding them, but I am.

~ David Michael, from “Letter of Recommendation: Bird Feeders” (NY Times, July 9, 2019)

(Sleep) Walking. Into Saturday Morning.

Friday night. Netflix movie. Two handfuls of shelled pistachios. Heaping bowl of Nacho Cheese Doritos. 3 scoops of The Fixer, Talenti’s Mint-Chocolate Chip gelato.

Full shot? Or half shot? After effects: Groggy to semi-groggy. I bite down on the smooth, egg shell blue Tylenol PM pill, snap it in half. Toss one half back and place the other half on my tongue.  I cup hand under the running water, scoop it into my mouth, throw my head back, and chase it down. Do your thing Girl, do your thing.

I flip through blog feeds, Apple News Feed, Google News feed and RSS feeds. A quick peek at work emails. And then on to Kindle.  I wade through the last two chapters of A. K. Benjamin’s Let Me Not Be Mad: My Story of Unraveling Mind. Turn the last page of the book, and pause. Why this book, this title, at this time, out of the millions of Kindle options. Benjamin’s words: “Words never surpass the bliss of breathing. Place hand through head: no brain, no mind, no hand” and “I could walk over London Bridge in rush hour, faces thronging around me, and diagnose each one in an instant: Psychosis … Depression … Lewy bodies … Panic … Depression … Sociopathy … OCD … Cynophobia … Panic … Guam’s … Everybody has something.” 

Everybody has something

Just give me 7 hours, 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

And then this somebody will deal with that something, and that everything.


Notes:

  • Inspired by: Michael Wade in his post: “The Day” …”Firm Ground Rule: Do Everything Slowly.
  • Inspired by: “Recreation, love, spirituality—each turned into work: This is how we cope …A current darling of neuroscience research—the cultivation of default-mode networks—indicates that our brains need mindlessness, unemployment, f*$king about, eating mental crisps, in order to thrive. ~ A. K. Benjamin, Let Me Not Be Mad: My Story of Unraveling Mind (Dutton, June 11, 2019)
  • Photo: Wes Sumner (San Francisco, CA) (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

 

Look at you: You are no accident.

Your face: the eyes…the line of your nose; that lickerish mouth, one moment tight with fear, overtaken the next by fountainous laughter … Always faces, tens of thousands across a career, each one made up of countless micro-expressions that register everything; more liminal than a blood test, less decisive than a lumbar puncture, but meaningful all the same…

We are skull-jumpers; there is no limit to our identificatory capacity. Your face, voice, breath continue their unfolding, each now different from the last, changed beyond recognition in the two hours since we first met. Looking: more intimate than any physical examination. The voltage switches once more, symptoms pooling between us, tributaries of some larger untold story…The intensity of neuronal activation is processed through deep limbic structures, and when intensity exceeds a genetically defined threshold it leads to activation of the autonomic nervous system, triggering unconscious automatic changes in cardiovascular and respiratory systems—readying us to fight, to flee, to freeze, to love. We are sensitive; we have no choice. Look at you: You are no accident.

~ A. K. Benjamin, from his new book titled Let Me Not Be Mad: My Story of Unraveling Mind (Dutton, June 11, 2019)


Notes:

Driving I-95 S. With Hammer at Rest.

A nothingburger during a nondescript morning commute a month ago.

Not a Vuong nothing Moment that changed everything after it.

But it changed Something.

Why this particular Moment among the billions?

Why is it called up when it is?

And here IT comes again this morning.

This Moment. It’s pulled forward, to the front. Taking its right hand, sweeping aside the incessant swing of the Hammer on the searing molten metal, of not enough, not good enough and Now.

And it’s exactly at this Moment, when the Hammer rests, and Vuong’s luminescence offers its cooling respite.

It whispers listen, pay attention to This. And it hangs around until I do.

The pre-rush hour traffic on I-95 was detoured onto Exit 2. GPS routes me through Port Chester. I pull up to a stop light, and there they are.

Father and Son. Son, maybe 4 years old.  Dad is wearing an overcoat, much too heavy for the season.  Son looks up to his Dad, Dad bends over and picks him up, hugs him tight, then sets him down.

And they walk. Dad’s lunch box swinging in his left hand, his Son’s hand swinging in his right.

Let’s play it again Vuong. One more time.

The Hammer rests, for this Moment.


Photo Credit

Normal People

Last night he spent an hour and a half lying on the floor of his room, because he was too tired to complete the journey from his en suite back to his bed. There was the en suite, behind him, and there was the bed, in front of him, both well within view, but somehow it was impossible to move either forward or backward, only downward, onto the floor, until his body was arranged motionless on the carpet. Well, here I am on the floor, he thought. Is life so much worse here than it would be on the bed, or even in a totally different location? No, life is exactly the same. Life is the thing you bring with you inside your own head.

~ Sally Rooney, Normal People (Hogarth, April 16, 2019).

DK Rating: Highly Recommended. Sally Rooney, 28 years old, and to write like this, Wow…


Notes:

Tuesday Morning Wake-up Call

Everything that she used to take for granted produces a sense of revelation, as if she were a child again. Tastes—the sweetness of a strawberry, its juice dripping onto her chin; a buttery pastry melting in her mouth. Smells—flowers on a front lawn, a colleague’s perfume, seaweed washed up on the shore, Matt’s sweaty body in bed at night. Sounds—the strings on a cello, the screech of a car, her nephew’s laughter. Experiences—dancing at a birthday party, people-watching at Starbucks, buying a cute dress, opening the mail. All of this, no matter how mundane, delights her to no end. She’s become hyper-present. When people delude themselves into believing they have all the time in the world, she’s noticed, they get lazy.

~ Lori Gottlieb, from her new book titled Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed. Chosen as one of Amazon’s top 10 Books of the Month for April 2019.


Photo: via Newthom

T.G.I.F.: I wish. I do. I hope.

He starts singing. “‘Half my life is over, oh yeah. Half my life has passed me by.’” I roll my eyes, but he keeps going. It’s a bluesy tune and I’m trying to place it. Etta James? B. B. King?“ ‘I wish I could go back, change the past. Have more years, to get it right . . .’”

~ Lori Gottlieb, from her new book titled Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed. Chosen as one of Amazon’s top 10 Books of the Month for April 2019.

T.G.I.F.: still for the count of one, two, three . . .

I’d made the appointment hoping to get advice on how I might help him. After giving me advice, the therapist, a kind, smart and soft-spoken man by the name of Jeff Pollard, asked simply, “And how are you feeling these days?” I felt my body go utterly still for the count of one, two, three . . .

Pam HoustonDeep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country 


Photo Credit

Will I be confined by my DNA, or will I define who I am?

This is the central tension of Springsteen on Broadway: the self we feel doomed to be through blood and family versus the self we can—if we have the courage and desire—will into existence. Springsteen, as he reveals here, has spent his entire life wrestling with that question that haunts so many of us: Will I be confined by my DNA, or will I define who I am? … “Yeah…,” Springsteen says when I sit down with him a couple weeks later and tell him it seems the essential question of his show is “Are we bound by what courses through our veins?” He looks off to his left into his dressing-room mirror… It’s into this mirror and toward these talismans that Springsteen often gazes when he is answering my questions. He’s a deep listener and acts with intent. He has a calm nature and possesses a low, soft voice. He has a tendency to be self-deprecating, preemptively labeling certain thoughts “corny.” He smiles easily and likes to sip ginger ale. Sometimes before telling you something personal, he lets out a short, nervous laugh. Above all, he speaks with the unveiledness of a man who has spent more than three decades undergoing analysis—and credits it with saving his life…

Springsteen’s first breakdown came upon him at age thirty- two…On a late- summer night, in remote Texas, they come across a small town where a fair is happening. A band plays. Men and women hold each other and dance lazily, happily, beneath the stars. Children run and laugh. From the distance of the car, Springsteen gazes at all the living and happiness. And then: Something in him cracks open. As he writes, in this moment his lifetime as “an observer . . . away from the normal messiness of living and loving, reveals its cost to me.” All these years later, he still doesn’t exactly know why he fell into an abyss that night. “All I do know is as we age, the weight of our unsorted baggage becomes heavier. . . much heavier. With each passing year, the price of our refusal to do that sorting rises higher and higher. . . . Long ago, the defenses I built to withstand the stress of my childhood, to save what I had of myself, outlived their usefulness, and I’ve become an abuser of their once lifesaving powers. I relied on them wrongly to isolate myself, seal my alienation, cut me off from life, control others, and contain my emotions to a damaging degree. Now the bill collector is knocking, and his payment’ll be in tears.”

~ Michael Hainey, from The Mind is a Terrifying Place. Even for Bruce Springsteen. (Esquire, November 27, 2018)

Deep Thought.


Source: Reno Gazette-Journal, Nevada, November 8, 1961

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