Yesterday my pal, Bethie, and I “did” a sort of brunch thing here in the city. The odd thing was how oddly quiet San Francisco was. For well over three hours I heard no sirens, slamming of brakes, horns, crazy homeless people yelling, junkies roaming about lost, crack whores peddling their goodies, teens screaming in languages unknown to me or scantly glad gay men. After Bethie returned to her home, I took a walk down to the ocean and only saw soccer moms and happy white children frolicking about. and faithful looking dads strolling about in cargo shorts. Where were all the tat’d surfer dudes and hippie chicks?
Well, this morning I rode with the hubby, Mr. B, to San Rafael so that he could take measurements and photos of a building for which he must do some re-design work. Then, I drop’d him off at his office. As I drove from downtown San Francisco back to Sutter Beach San Francisco, I am happy to report that charming and “normal” aspects of my city had returned to form. Yes, as I drove up Sutter and back down via O’Farrell to Divisadaro to Haight to Geary Blvd I saw that things were truly back to form. A stoned psuedo hippie stepped in front of the car as I was turning a corner. Horns were blasting all around me. Cantonese, Spanish, Korean, Polish, and English obscenities and joys were being screamed about. Gay men disguised as in shape gym bunnies were romping about inappropriately next to nothing despite the deceptively sunny morning with temp at about 57 degrees. The rest of us in our various forms of layering for the day looked on in confusion. Those boys nipples are going to just pop off! And even the crack whores were starting to get an early jump on the day. I only saw one soccer mom struggling with one of those strollers that requires an engineer to unfold. And, even then, a homeless veteran was hustling her for some money. She ignored him.
Yes. I was home and the Mayberry Pod People had not taken over!
Thank Goodness! …I was getting worried!
And, I felt a great stir of pride as I walked by the evil empire known as Starbucks and walked into my fave independently-owned coffee/donut shop where they know my name and got a kick-ass cup of java. I drove to the ocean and watched the surfer dudes struggle to find waves to catch and all the hippie chicks watching them as they shared a joint. Yep. I was home.
“The other day” could mean last month. “About a month ago” could end up translating to last year.
And, even further to the point, I seem to forget the order of the days and events that happened on them. Sometimes I can remember every detail of something that happened, but can’t pinpoint either when the “thing” happened. Just that it did.
And, other times, I know something happened on Monday around Noon but the memory of whatever happened is too cloudy to fully recall.
Part of this could be attributed to the boredom of my days and inability to work right now. But, the bigger piece probably relates to the phase of the “process” I am in as I try to get to the core of me.
Yes, I am living in a really lower than usual budget LifeTime Movie of the Week which has been rated TV-21. …a new rating devised by the network to allow it to air after 10pm.
Well, one just pushes forward. …and pushes. …and pushes.
Tricky. …this life of mine.
And, I feel that I even have a fourth: limbo/lost consciousness.
It seems, for now, I spend a good deal of time stuck in the limbo/lost state wherein I am left wondering what I’ve just done, where I am and why I am ‘there’ — a bit different from all of the other three because in recent weeks there are bits of foggy/dream-like memory creeping all around me.
At some point, probably around the age of four, my sub-conscious created ways of coping or dealing with trauma or experiences that were both too painful and too scary to deal with on a fully conscious level. These resulted in a fragmenting of the mind — or a fragmenting of myself. Looking back now, I can see and am starting to recall times throughout my life when I do not have a clear memory of a certain time or — and this is particularly new to me — times/experiences which I simply did not remember but now suddenly do remember in fairly strong context.
For almost two years I’ve been aware of losing the state of consciousness — and then “waking up” to discover that I had been functioning perfectly well and fine. This, upon deep reflection, has been going on all my life. Looking back at my journals and thinking about it — most of the time (in my youth) I shrug’d it all off as effects of drugs or being just goofy. Later, I would shrug it off as a panic attack of some sort and most other times in my adult life I simply refused on some level to even acknowledge it for fear that I was going insane or that I had some sort of brain tumor I did not want to know about. I would actually manage to not think about it. …to the point that pages in my journal were either ripped out or scratched over to the point that I could not read what I had written. At one point in my adult life (my mid twenties) I was actually convinced that a pal of mine who was mentally unstable and who sometimes slept on my futon with a teddy bear (?) was sneaking into my journal and screwing around with it.
But, close to a couple of years ago this losing time business was really taking a toll. It could not and would not be ignored.
This had sort of happened before in the early 00’s when it was thought that I had suffered some form of nervous breakdown related to work stress. Every test was done on me from the physio standpoint and then the mental standpoint — and it was determined that I was suffering with PTSD.
Medication, therapy and lame attempts at reducing stress pushed forward with a vengeance.
It took losing a major career and a daring move cross country, falling in true love and finding a truly satisfying job and life before my brain’s clever fragments started to crumble as “defense mechanisms” and morphed into “self destruction” — not that these fragments/aspects/alters ever intend to cause destruction — the fact is that they all appear to be stuck in both their own specific time and state of emotion. …developed to react and protect me from things which have not been a part of my reality since I was 9 years old. …they have no emotional maturity or true logic. They are simply fragments of me from various times and experience that have “sort of” grown with my real self. …Or, Conscious Self.
Now, when something upsets me or I suffer some form of life/adult setback — these aspects/alters take over from my Conscious State and operate/react in totally inappropriate ways to my current life.
So, now the real hard part begins: Somehow removing myself as the block to understanding the needs of my sub-conscious self. My therapist has suggested that we work toward creating a sort of conference table where negotiations begin between my conscious self and my aspects/alters to understand what they feel they need and to eventually work toward the dream result of anyone battling DID: Co-consciousness. …At which point I get my life back.
It has been hell getting to this point. But the really frustrating — no, horrifying thing — is that this is only the beginning and it is only going to become more challenging, scary and difficult. Welcome to my mind.
How long had it been since I wore these Fluevog shoes? At least four years – maybe a bit longer, actually. This morning I found them sneaking a look at me from behind the mess in our tiny bedroom closet floor. I dug past tennis and dress shoes long forgotten and pulled them out.
I slipped my feet into them. They felt somehow comforting. These old shoes of mine for which I had paid what I had felt was far too much. I bought them on Newbury Street in Boston several months before I decided to forever leave that city and to head to Northern California. I can remember breaking them in that winter. My feet were far too cold in the snow to notice the pain from the unworked leather bindings of Mr. Fluevog’s design.
One early evening I trounced through the South End with this man I quite liked. He admired my determination to get them to have that “worked in” feel. We stopped at a coffee shop and he explained how he didn’t feel he could walk away from a profession that not only fueled his wallet but his self-confidence. A fake bit of confidence that was flaking away quickly as he had just celebrated his 45th birthday. …Tho, to any of his clients, he had only just turned 35. Clients, upon his initial meeting were far too desperate and lonely to protest that he didn’t exactly match the picture that sold his services. He had kept up the muscles, but smile lines were etched firmly into his face and the challenges of time had somehow covered his once firm six-pack with a small belly. But, he was still handsome and knew how to work it.
I can remember him holding his giant coffee cup with two hands. Looking at me in a way that reminded me of a frightened child, “Matt, I just can’t quit what I do. I need it and them as much as they need me.”
I can remember sitting quietly weighing the thoughts that were racing through my already muddled head. I can remember shifting as the combined warmth of my hot-coca surroundings made me aware of the pain inflicted by my new shoes.
“Nothing has to change between us. I know monogamy matters to you, but I am monogamous. This part of my life is my job. They are not real encounters. Besides, what else can I do at this age? I’ve been doing this since I got my real estate license when I got out of high school. This is all I know to do.”
It is interesting to me that I can remember his hands better than his face.
We sat in silence for a long while. Natalie Merchant’s voice was carrying through the coffee shop’s speakers and it was close to closing time.
We began to put on our coats, scarfs and gloves. I remember opting to forgo my ear muffs. It was impossible to not notice that his eyes were filled with tears. Like some lost soul wanting me to tell him that it was all cool and OK with me.
We stepped outside on to Columbus Avenue. There was a light fall of snow and I took the bitter cold air into my lungs. I don’t recall what I actually said to him, but I do know that I essentially told him goodbye and wished him the best of luck. He started to cry. I gave him a hug and he grabbed me and gave me a kiss full of misplaced emotion. As I forced my way out of his kiss and embrace I started to slip on the cobbletone’d sidewalk. He caught me at my lower back.
The last thing I ever said to this sad man was that I really loved my shoes. A few more days and a box of bandaids – and they’d be all set. I think I was wanting him to laugh as I made my exit back to my high rise apartment. But, he didn’t laugh. He gave me a half smile and a wink. I watched him walk down the avenue with his head aimed firmly at the ground in front of him.
Today, as I walked in my old shoes this memory flooded over me. I guess he must be 50 now. I hope he is OK, but I’m so glad I turned away and left New England behind me. I wore these shoes on to the plane that brought me to San Francisco. Funny. When I realized the plane was getting close to California, I removed these shoes and put on a pair of cool comfort shoes. I wore them to a Bauhaus concert a few weeks later when my best pal, Alan, bought us tickets. I think that was the last time I wore these shoes.
As 4pm approaches, they are still comfortable but oddly unsteady. I think I shall take them off. Maybe I will wear them again some day or maybe not. But, I do think I will keep them. They are my shoes. It is my walk through life. Walking in a constant jag’ed line is not always easy but it seems to be my fate’s want.
I continue to plow forward. I can’t give up. Marching forward — old or new shoes. Cheap or expensive. Actually, maybe barefoot is the best way to go. …As long as one is not walking in the Tenderloin or Crack Alley.
At the moment, my life is consumed by confusion, fear and therapy. It’s an old and over-used metaphor, but sometimes one must look at his/her life as onion. In therapy — especially the type of three days a week’s worth which I am in — one must rely upon metaphor to grasp an understanding so that the mind can get a grasp around the core problem. At the core is the key to the way toward integration.
So, I sit with my therapist and think of a conference table at which to negotiate and make peace with parts of myself unknown to me. Fragments of me that have long ago split away from the person I know as myself. We are unpeeling the layers of my life — my onion. Some of the layers I know. Oddly, the most soured/bitter layers I already know. But, other skins are layers that have been long hidden somewhere in my psyche.
Sitting on a beautiful beach this morning with my toes pushing through sand, sun pouring down upon my head, cold ocean breeze messing my hair, cigarette in one hand and a coffee in the other. I watch the waves as the surfers head to catch some magic waves. I begin to think of this onion that is my life and all these layers I’ve never really known that are slowly returning to my memory. Suddenly odd choices I’ve made in my life start to take on a sense I had long since tried to understand.
The sting or stench of the smell can be unbearable as we peel. Bringing tears of regret and fear to my eyes. I do my best to toughen up and get a grip to face the truth that is my life. I am tough. I can roll with the toughest of them and, if required, can usually take them down if they push me against the wall. But, I grow so very weary.
Pull back this layer and I suddenly remember experiences and misadventures that seem so alien that it doesn’t seem possible that these memories are mine. Here is a layer that reveals a long lost trip to New York with a black dude who was into things far twisted from my own interest that I was in way over my head. Another very thin layer and parts of a debauched night spent in a hot apartment in Harlem. Another layer and I discover a trip with a doctor to Fire Island. Is that me auditioning for a career in porn? Another several layers and prostitution reveals itself. $50 for this and that. Closeted lawyers, law students, MIT professor, an old man, a married “straight” doctor from New Hampshire, some sad sack editor and some guy named Julio who gives the smell of meth on his breath. Here is another layer. I’m walking down an alley with some big scary looking guy. I think we’re behind some educational institute annex on Newbury Street. I’m thinking to myself, “Is the money worth it? Is he a cop? Am I going to get killed? Arrested” …As I try to push this slice of skin to the side I find myself wondering if maybe that is what “I” wanted.
As I think about my first physical in San Francisco I remember being so very relieved that I was totally STD free. And, yet I can remember wondering why I was worried about these tests. As I move the bits of onion to a tuberware container for further examination at a later date, I realize that there must have been some “aspect” of “me” urging me to be tested just to be sure I was OK.
She leans forward and tells me we are doing hard work. …unpeeling such a complex onion. She encourages me by letting me know that we are moving forward at a very good pace and she feels quite positive that I will come through this fine. That this is the hardest part of my journey and that it will be quite difficult as we work it all out and try to understand “me” and the things that “me” wants that “I” don’t understand or know. In the meantime, life gets turned upside down for me and my significant other (the most important “aspect” of my life) — I try to get a grip and be tough. I try to find reasons to laugh and smile.
I escape into movies and music quite a bit. I lean on FaceBook and sometimes to find the level of concentration required to read a book — but that can be a stretch. I find it hard and almost impossible to be reliable. …to be on time. …to be in a place where there might be more than one or two people. Some people who are strangers to “me” at the beach seem to know “me” — I go along with it best I can. I pretend and act like I know them. I try to approach it like I’m some private investigator in disguise trying to resolve the unraveling mystery of the onion that is my life. I’m trying so hard, but sometimes I really have to fight not to give it up.
This onion stinks. This life is a hard one. But, then, who ever said it would be easy? Like PE coaches love to tell their students, “Look kid, life isn’t fair. Give me ten.”
…I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly..
Joni Mitchell …I find myself leaning heavily on the likes of Ms. Mitchell, Tori Amos, Barbra Streisand, Tom Waits, Jennifer Warnes and Leonard Cohen lately. Then again, I always have. When you’re feeling down and out who can resist a defiant cover of “Cry Me A River” or Captain Tom Waits invitation to the blues and a drive in an ol’ 55? Let me tell you – no one can.
And, I wait til 3pm to pick up my peeling knife to work closer to the core of Me.