Sunday, April 29, 2012


I don't normally listen to Cat Stevens' "Trouble" anymore. It was one of my drinking, weeping songs. I could somehow ALWAYS relate to it, no matter what my predicament might be at the time. It was a vodka song, not a wine song. Wine made me infinitely happy and warm (until I passed out). Vodka made me piss-ass, weepy drunk, FAST (and I'd pass out much more quickly). (See also Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and Genesis' "Ripples." And if I listen to any more Syd Barrett, it'll be me that randomly ends up with a shaved head and eyebrows, mindlessly brushing my teeth over and over again in the Flaming Lips' studio while they're recording an album all about me going mental and how much they miss me. "Shine on You Crazy Diamond!")

I thought of "Trouble" tonight, after my mom finally asked me if I was "ok mentally." (When am I ever "ok" mentally?)  I told her I was depressive and that I couldn't pinpoint the actual trigger, though my nurse practitioner friend said that depression after a major surgery is quite common. Luke's still in the dark about it, however, and it's better he not know and that I laugh and play and talk with him like a normal mother, though he is tired of putting ME to bed when I'm kept awake longer than my nightly, say, "expiration date" after taking my night meds, while he's still up bopping around. I feel like I can't trust him to turn off his electronics and veg out as he's supposed to unless I'm watching, and I can't physically stay awake much longer than 10-10:30 pm on a school night, so consequently, I'm babbling incoherently, in a dream-transient state of other-worldliness and he's tucking me in, setting up my laptop beside my bed to play ambient music to lull me to sleep and fending for himself. (Which neither I, nor his father, nor his therapist think is healthy and reminds me of taking care of my father.)

The 2 weeks of bed rest and not being able to do anything (except dick around my laptop or read a book) gave me cabin fever, as I couldn't (but did anyway a couple of times) drive by myself or lift anything. It didn't help that I caught a nasty cold right after I got out of the hospital. Or that whole re-hospitalization the day I came home and had dementia and dehydration and lots of Dilaudid. (I found out through another doctor that driving is frowned upon that early in recovery because of an air bag deployment issue). My mom largely just drove me from doctor's appointment to doctor's appointment. I did make it to Good Friday and Easter church a week and a half after my surgery, and out to De Kalb though I was still very sore and worn out.

The physical recuperation was constricting enough, so little by little I tried to integrate outside of my house, only to still feel withdrawn, emotionally, from the world. Isolated. That's when I declared my condition as a depressive bipolar episode. Skies have been mostly gray and late April rains are settling in. The temperature is still in the 40's. Not very inspiring or spring-like. Not one to suffer from seasonal-affective disorder, it's a little late in the game to be S.A.D. but the perpetual chill in the air just makes me want to cower into my Chick Cave even further, annoyed by the sounds of my mom upstairs shredding all the paperwork and cancelled checks she still had from my dad's ill-fated business in the early 80's. (I convinced her not to throw away his Navy discharge papers, thankfully. He was honorably discharged after only a couple of months and nobody seems to know why. In my heart, I know why. Because he was Fuck. Nuts.Psychiatry was a big taboo when my dad was still alive, but from all the pieces that have been presented to me, I have diagnosed him as manic-depressive, though nobody did anything about it, so he self-medicated with a deadly amount of alcohol. Ooh! Look how quickly the apple falls from the tree!)

I didn't and can't have my psych meds tweaked because my PCP, who's managing my meds until I can find a competent new psychiatrist, doesn't feel comfortable or doesn't know enough about psychiatric meds to do anything without fucking me up worse. And which med, the anti-depressant, the anti-psychotic or the mood stabilizer? Fucking nobody takes Medicaid unless they're a methadone den in Edgewater, it would seem.  Like I've said on another blog, depressive episodes with me are very rare and that more of my episodes were hypomanic, neither lasting more than a couple of days. But this has been ongoing for weeks.

But this time I think it's more actual depression that's set in. More forced bed rest last weekend because I ripped a stitch inside of me and was having heavy bleeding, so another trip to the Evil Gynecologist office was necessary. Her examination was tortuous as she tried to get the bleeding former stitch area to coagulate. My other stitches are coming out now, so I feel like the world's only utererusless woman having a week and a half long period. Figures. And for cripe's sake, does every magazine they have in the waiting room HAVE to be about babies or pregnancy? Waiting for the gyno to come into the exam room, I stared at the model of the female reproductive anatomy on the desk, pointing to all the parts I no longer have. This depression's not a hormonal thing, for I still have ovaries, which emit and regulate hormones normally, which means I get all the benefits of ovulation-induced acne breakouts with no means' end. What's left of my eggs just float away into the stratosphere. Gawd, I have to see her again on Tuesday for another full post-op appointment. God give me strength. If all goes well, I won't need another gyno visit for at least a year. Or never. Sure, I'll get mammograms, especially since my mom had breast cancer, but unless I come down with ovarian cancer, there's really nothing more this perky, body-jewelry removing crackhead woman and I have to accomplish together.

Further proof of depression is that over the weekend, when I normally every day wake up at 5:30-6am, I've slept until 9 or 10am. That's totally uncharacteristic of me. When the episode initially started, I was sleeping like a manic person--getting by on 5 hours' sleep and charged and ready to go without being tired. I have no appetite, but that's normal for me, so force-feeding.

I did drum with the Praise Band this weekend, and practicing and playing with them is one of the few remaining highlights of my life, my son obviously being the brightest. Pastor gave one hell of a sermon on Saturday, full of energy and the positive vibes he brings to all of us. So that kept me busy for a few hours over the weekend, just like it did 2 weekends ago, when I again, played. There are droplets of positivity intertwined into what's otherwise a very intricate spider's web, with a venomous tarantula holding down the home front in my brain chemistry.

I don't know what I should do about the depression other than to ride it out, just as I've always I've done in the past, which is to put on my brave face and press on. I could engage more of my troubles with my Pastor Dave, my Stephen Minister (my spiritual therapist) from church (who let go of the reins to my sponsor), explain it to my therapist further, or talk it over with my sponsor. I *tried* telling one of my friends and just began talking about depression, and he got a call from his broker and had to call me back. After that, he'd forgotten about his emotionally-paralyzed, psycho friend's issues and didn't talk to me about it and I wasn't about to bring it up again. The only other people in the immediate-clan way are Kate and SuperJuls who know that I'm depressed. Patti sort of knows, but I didn't want to bug her when this weekend was 2 of her 3 kids' birthdays.  Christa sort of knows, but she's got enough in her own life to manage. But largely, I've kept it to myself, though if you read my blogs regularly, you'll notice as of late, they've grown increasingly depressing. I tried explaining a little bit of it to my brother on the phone, who sympathetically listened. He was more concerned with what blasphemous permanent marking I planned to get inked on my body instead of my mental health. But few GET it.  That's just the mindset I'm in.

My therapist said "Fake it til' you make it." Meaning, do what you have to do, and press forward until the depression lifts. What do I do, pray tell? I incite riots within my church denomination when I'm not playing drums. And write my stupid blog that only Googlers looking for "offbeat for a drummer" seem to read, or curious George Harrison fans. And obsess about unrequited love when I'm not reading philosophy. Occasionally, I'll grocery shop or get gas in the car. Some days, I have Luke to enjoy and manage. Other days are full of solitude and tend to go on endlessly. School doesn't start until June 4th.

No, I'm not having suicidal thoughts. Not even thinking about drinking. My will is strong enough in that regard.

As for my 40th birthday celebration, I decided to have my brother and nephew over on Mother's Day to kill 2 birds with one stone. (My birthday falls on a Wednesday, the 9th of May.) I also am trying to plan a small get together of friends (so far Christa, my sponsor, Jenny, Patti and SuperJuls, though only Christa has officially RSVP'd. If nobody else comes, we'll probably go into the city and get more tattoos) on the 19th. I sent Tatus an invitation, though I absolutely won't get my hopes up. If nothing else, perhaps Tatus will take me back to the Tattoo Factory for the next tattoo as we celebrate both our birthdays (if he won't do it and I sure as hell won't ask Craig again, I think I could lasso the Pastor into it) and we can have dinner and I can give him the two gifts I picked out for him, like in 3 months when he has a free night. One's a book I know would be a total page-turner and he'd enjoy immensely, that I took the liberty of reading first some time ago. The other gift is a cheeky (but appropriate) Irish gift for Irish people that non-Irish people would find utterly useless, that's relatively messy, that doesn't involve Guinness. I expect nothing in return...his presence is present enough to me. I just want to celebrate his day (his birthday is 4 days before mine) and my day.  I asked some of my best friends from church, and Pastor Dave & his family, his 2 nieces singing in my band, and the rest of my little band. Invited an old college buddy and a friendly ex-boyfriend in hopes one of them would consider procuring the dreaded lysergic, though I'm admittedly chicken.  I'm just not a celebratory mood (and bad mood = bad trip). Hell, that might all turn around by May 9th. We'll see. Just not feeling the love right now. But at least I get to have an unsupervised adult party in my mom's house. It's BYOAB, as I'm not serving any alcohol myself. But the rest of the guests? Get as ripped as the legal driving limit allows. I feel like I'm turning 18, not 40!

Everyone has their bit of advice about my depression. Quit smoking. Take a brisk walk around the block (if it wasn't freezing cold and/or raining here in Chicago and I weigh 117 with multiple layers on and I'm grossly out of shape). (Incidentally, I wear the heroin chic/anorexic model look very convincingly.) "Get some exercise!" they say, not knowing what condition my body is presently. I'm lucky I make to the alley and back. Get lots of rest. Take a hot bath (uh, not after I take my night meds, or I'll end up like Whitney Houston, thanks). Write (MORE? SERIOUSLY?). There's always arguing more with the Satan that is following me on Twitter. Again, fuck yoga. What *this* punker needs are boxing lessons.

"Trouble" brings back a lot of personal demons and issues, but I listened to it several times today, and  sympathize with what Harold's character does in letting his car run off a cliff while he's playing a banjo in the end credits, after Maude dies in "Harold and Maude." Because that's something I would totally do if my portentous inamorato died on me. I'd run the Pacifica into Lake Michigan, jump out in time and then play the banjo. But I have never felt so poignant and on-topic with my life right now as is depicted in "Trouble". In that darkest hour..

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Freaky Shit. And serious shit.

Long-Term Relationshipville:

On "Friending" people on Facebook, and how I got blocked by the homophobic pro-lifer I argued with:

My new mantra. 

Finally, a test to see how near or far-sighted you are. I could see Einstein with my glasses on, and Monroe without them on. Freaky shit, as promised.

Still waiting for a Superman:

When in doubt, remember, "God's got it."

Never doubt my strength, my fortitude. I am, as my son said, "invincible."

Finally, what's up with this creepy Jesus in the operating room? I'm all about Him inspiring doctors to do great work, but the least Jesus could do is change into scrubs and sanitize this hands.

That is all.

The Exposure Meter & The Visible Refrigerator: The Electric Slide...Or, A Musical Exorcism.

I don't know which of the two statements by my son was more frightening last night:

1) That he's been learning the "Electric Slide" in Gym class for the last four months, and that this is deemed "physical exercise."


2) That he's been learning said has-been perennial wedding favorite dance to Bon Jovi's "Have a Nice Day." 

Let's look at #1 first. True, when I was his age at the same school, we had a unit  in gym on square dancing, which we all hated, and it was also deemed exercise. (The school must have some LCMS synod-wide school bylaw that states that outdated dances should be uniformly taught to the children at an age when they're barely coming out of the "opposite sex is icky" stage and discovering that they require deodorant.) I can't remember to what music we were square dancing, but in my dreams, it'd have been "One Toke Over the Line." 

The "Electric Slide," though? How passe. I asked Luke if he was also learning the "Macarena," and he said, "NO! Thank GOD!" I told him snidely that if nothing else, he'll be a hit at the next wedding he attends. He was not amused. I mean, come on. The kid's been ON STAGE at Lollapalooza with The Flaming Lips for crap's sake. When he's older and hitting on girls, he can whip that bit o' history out and use it to his advantage. Chances are, he won't be Electric Sliding down the hallways in high school.  

Dancing, period, for the very limited time the kids spend in Physical Education a couple of times a week, though? I can't ration that one out. I suppose Richard Simmons has had multi-million dollar success "Sweatin' to the Oldies" with adoring fitness fans for 3 decades and that counts for something. My vote would be to rigorously work their pre-teen asses off  and burn some serious calories, though. How do I purport they achieve this goal? Either of these two ideas popped into my head:

A) Dodge ball. Go back to fucking dodge ball. Our system in grammar school was to set up 3 books, and each of two teams would have to guard the books so that the opposing team couldn't knock the books over with the ball. Was hitting that elusive book over the goal of dodge ball as a combat sport in Phys Ed? Hardly. It was to beat the shit out of one another. And you always put the powerhouse, bigger kids as the book guardians. The rest of the lot of us were busy pegging the opposing team with these heavy rubber balls. It was grea fun and worked our muscles and minds.

B) Slam-dancing. Mosh-pitting. You jump up and down and float one another on your shoulders and hands, for a good upper body workout. Good leg muscles from jumping and kicking one another.
Preferably to this song, if you're going to pick "a song." Watch this live clip. Notice how the square kids in the audience just stand there dumbfounded while the punks rev things up.

On the above points, I believe my ex-husband would agree. It's a shame that dodge ball was eliminated and slam dancing/moshing is frowned upon at most concerts these days. An awful shame.

Looking at #2 without being hair-splittingly pedantic, I took the time to listen to the Bon Jovi song before I  started writing this blog entry, as I was not familiar with it. (I can't personally stand Bon Jovi, though I know a lot of people who can, which is why they're still dicking around arenas all over the country.) But this is the song my son's been dancing to. Blech alert! 

It's supposed to sound edgy and indie, but it's mass-market, innocuous crapola. But at least it's not THE "Electric Slide" song you hear at weddings. 

Finding out Luke's been listening to it now makes perfect why he comes home and blares emo techno and has a particular fascination with a song that ends "Death so close that I can taste it," which he sings in an angry, gravely voice that's supposed to scare me (it doesn't. It's just annoying.) I have gotten used to, in my old age, telling him to turn his music down, and in that regard, I've officially turned into my mother, and am showing my true age (40 in a couple of weeks!). Plus, his music in the next room often overpowers the music I'm trying to listen to in my room, also annoying. He's rebelling against being forced to listen to Bon Jovi in gym class, I'm sure of it.

What have I been listening to a lot these days, caught in a depressive episode that seems to be getting worse and persisting since I had the hysterectomy exactly a month ago? Lots of Hole. Lots of The Bee Gees' early stuff. Janis Ian's "At Seventeen." Sebadoh. Warren Zevon. Naturally, The Flaming Lips (trying to concentrate on their more uplifting songs, like "Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear," Parts One and Two, though it's been a "Soft Bulletin" kind of week this week, "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate"). The Beatles, especially "The White Album," looping "Piggies" and "Long, Long, Long" and with "I'm So Tired." Lots of George Harrison and John Lennon. Garbage. Clapton.Michael Nesmith's more sentimental country/rock songs. Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work". Led Zeppelin. And a continuous loop of Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." (That's a song I used to listen to when I was getting shitfaced drunk on vodka towards rock bottom of my alcoholism.)  Too much Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett solo material.  And, of course, Simon and Garfunkel's "I Am a Rock," which I posted a couple of days ago. Songs about dying. It's not exactly the practice of good mental hygiene. 

Music has the power to change our moods and behaviors. It's used as therapy for a lot of people. But it's all in the choice of music. I guess Bon Jovi's "Have a Nice Day" is a good enough sentiment for kids Luke's age, but his Mom, in a deep funk, can't get beyond the depressing bent.  

My pick for most self-pitying? The Janis Ian tune, "At Seventeen."

Coupled with lots of ditties from Hole's "Live Through This," especially "Miss World.":


...and lest we forget the saddest song The Bee Gees ever recorded, featuring lead vocals by Robin Gibb, who is dying from cancer, "I Started a Joke." This is where my headspace truly is. The song, most poignantly: 

Furthermore, this classic from The Bee Gees, "Words." Because while a beautiful song, my favorite line is "It's only words. And words are all I have to take your heart away." The only way, besides music, that I can seem to get through to anyone. Because I'm heartsick, though not heartbroken in any realm... I explained to one of my friends "my brave face." My game face. I used to flash it, mentally and physically, when I'm in a depressive episode at my former job. And historically, depressive episodes for me are VERY rare. I'm far more hypomanic than I am depressive. But I truly am living the life of a nun. Not just depressive, depressed. The bare essentials are getting accomplished, but not much more than that. Goals aren't being achieved. Deadlines aren't being met, often. At least the bills are getting paid on time. 

I wanted to put this song below, among others from this post, on a new CD for a friend of mine, and to entitle the mix as "Propinquity." I'm still convinced he's not looked up its definition. I chose "All We Have is Now" by the Flaming Lips because to me, anyway, it's so totally true. We have only so much time on this earth, and no one can guarantee us a tomorrow, so we better live in the "now."  "...all we'll ever have is now..." (Provided I continue to discredit the idea of reincarnation, though I put a lot of thought into the concept.) FYI, I have 3 different versions of Michael Nesmith's "Propinquity" song on my iTunes, 2 live and one recorded. Can't decide which to put on the CD for him. 

The propinquity effect between me and this particular friend has physically gone, for we no longer see each other 4 or 5 times a week. We see one another every couple of months, which is how I told him I *didn't* want it to be. He promised never to abandon me, but I feel abandoned anyway.
Work sucks up like 80% of my friend's time. The rest is filled with obligations and things to do that don't include me. We're reduced to infequent texts, emails and 20-minute phone calls. I still believe in our emotional/intellectual/soulful propinquity, though. And the time we do get to spend together, I believe we mutually treasure.

A soulmate is a soulmate and we encounter many of them throughout the course of our lives--friends, lovers, no matter who they are. It's a virtually unbreakable bond. So I hold tight to that concept. "You and me were never meant to be part of the future. All we have is now...." But alas, while he's so busy managing his overly-hectic, tiring life, I'm missing him. Missing his wisdom, his wit, his storytelling, his dimples, his many things. And it's safe to say I even cross his mind very little, judging from the lack of response or a listening ear he's extended during this depressive episode, whereas other friends have said to call them anytime if I need them. I think we *are* meant to be part of the future. But we have to work at it, our friendship. You can't expect a plant to thrive and grow if you leave it alone in the shade forever and never water it. It needs to nurtured. Often. 

Conversely, there is a greater degree of propinquity between my Pastor and I, since we see each other on a regular basis. We've forged a friendship because we're in each other's presence all the time.  That's the propinquity effect in action--forming relationships/friendships/kinships with people you encounter often. That's how I got to be friends with this particular friend and with Pastor Dave. Just as an example.

Physical propinquity has never existed between one of my old soulmates, my best male friend, who lives in another state and always has. He travels the world, so our communication can be scant, though he checks in more regularly when he's on the road. Still, our emotional propinquity is solid. And we thrill at the joy of when our physical propinquity is present. EXPLOSION!

PS-- I love you though you're chicken.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Love Letters. And a Total Non-Sequitur Alert.

True story *not* about the characters Layla and Majnun IN the book "Layla and Majnun by Persian poet Nizami:

"Layla," let's call her, quoted Baudelaire to pacify the lonely, lovesick "Majnun", let's call him, in an exchange once, with the following verse:
"Magnificent is space today!
Cast bridle, spurs and reins away
 And let us race on steeds of wine
To skies enchanting and divine!
As though two angels overcome
By fever's delirium,
Through morning skies of limpid blue
Let us that far mirage pursue!
Gentle the winging of our flight
As we the cunning whirlwinds ride
 In rapturous and shared delight."
(No, I don't know if either of them had a preference either way regarding poems that rhyme. Immaterial.)

This was before the texting/emailing age, back when people sent actual letters and postcards to one another. Layla felt tremendous pangs of guilt having led him on in such an overtly glorifying and promising manner in her (borrowed, not original!) poetic response to his earlier letter, as she belonged to another man at the time. Majnun was being tortured, physically (on heroin and drinking) and emotionally by her unresponsiveness to his pleas for her affections, despite his ambrosial attempts. Her silence was vociferous. He'd written her, oddly enough, on a torn-out front page of a copy of "Of Mice and Men,":
"dear layla,
for nothing more than the pleasures past i would sacrifice my family, my god, and my own existence, and still you will not move. i am at the end of my mind, i cannot go back and there is nothing in tomorrow (save you) that can attract me beyond today....
...if you don't want me, please break the spell that binds me. to cage a wild animal is a sin, to tame him is divine. my love is yours." 
Majnun went on to speculate, in his letter, what it was about him that turned her off: was he too ugly? A poor lover? Too weak? Coming on too strong? Not knowing what else to say, he signed it simply with a heart and no name. Layla knew it was from the beleaguered Majnun. (If nothing else, his handwriting in all small letters gave him away.)

There was nothing inherently wrong with Layla's husband, other than to say he was a workaholic who spent too much time with his religious buddies. Majnun really rather liked the guy, who was handsome enough, provided for her, was of equal talent and ability, though he was guilty of having a wandering eye from time to time, which Layla largely tolerated and besides, her eyes were wandering as well. But realizing the mixed signals she was sending Majnun, which began as secret rendezvous that really didn't amount to anything, and how it was slowly driving the poor man insane and embittered, after the Baudelaire, she sheepishly penned him a quick postcard apologizing for her suggestiveness. (Majnun received both the letter and the postcard on the same day.)

Knowing not what to do, both of them conflicted, Majnun replied to Layla with the following:
"i don't think, even if we were the last ones left alive, that you could be happy with me, and as for me i think i am content to remain alone until someday i am free to be discovered...i love you even though you're chicken.
p.s. baudelaire too, was ultimately a pessimist.
p.p.s. the thing about pessimism is that in most cases it's nothing more than a front behind which a body can hide its most sweet yet painful hopes. please forgive mine."
Baudelaire was a 19th Century French Symbolist, most famous for his prosaic volume of poems, "The Flowers of Evil," which was utter and complete scandal back in the day, for the poems were ultimately about sex and death. Perverted yet lyrical. He wrote about booze and lesbianism, profanity and sacredness. Beautifully vile. Hot stuff to whip a verse out of, there, Layla, to throw at this poor man who's head over heels for you. (Then again, name a woman who hasn't fucked with a guy's head at some point in time. Seriously.)

And yes, Baudelaire was a pessimist. I have to agree, ultimately, though, with Majnun about pessimism. "Sweet yet painful hopes." It's my firm belief that every hopeless romantic is ultimately a pessimist and not an optimist. If romantics were optimists, the moniker of "hopeless" would never have been attached. If things worked out EASILY, smoothly, where would all the passion be? One thing is true--there'd be a helluva lot less poetry and music out there if optimism and love jived.

Speaking as a fellow hopeless romantic, the hopes are typically doused with pain and disappointment in the end. The hopes are indeed sweet and stick like honey that's impossible to get off of your fingers and can go on seemingly forever. Is there such a thing as a happy ending? Not that I've seen in my lifetime. My ex-boyfriend was fond of saying, "Every man (person) has his breaking point." Not true at all. There are plenty of reasons why a person--no matter how beautiful, how smart, how talented, how spiritual, how enigmatic, how entrancing and soul-thrilling he or she might be--can fail just as Majnun was seemingly failing, though it was clear Layla loved him. I guess you could say I'm jaded enough to choose solitude too.

"I love you even though you're chicken." While not the most profound or poetic of Majnun's professions to Layla, it's the most spot-on. She *was* chicken. Cowardly. She knew, in her heart, that what she had going on at home wasn't working anymore, and instead of cutting the cord with her pretty-unaware-anyway husband, she kept both men--an atypical case where it's the woman who has her cake and eats it too. It's usually the fellas who make out like bandits.

What happened, in the end, to Layla and Majnun? Well, after relentless persuasion, she left her husband (again, this is a true story) and finally married Majnun. (They'd later divorce due to his alcoholism and wandering eyes extending far enough to conceive secret children that Layla didn't know about. meanwhile, she was infertile..) It was a happy ending for a while, extinguished. I can't help but think of this Elvis Costello/Burt Bacharach tune about the whole concept of lost love....


"Rhythms" has a new look because Blogger has a new interface that I could actually make heads or tails out of. Whatcha think? Too hard to read? My portentous inamorato once complained that the old background was "too flowery" or some such nonsense, when they weren't flowers at all. Anyway, I guess his larger point was that the physical style of the blog was inconsistent with my personality, but customization eluded all of us who utilize Blogger until a few days ago. If the page looks too "busy," I'm manic-depressive, what the hell do you expect?

As proxy servers go, there have to be gajillions of them out there, but I have to hand it to whomever comprises 5% of my overall reader base using when they should be jerking off doing something else, or, gasp, working at their jobs. In all seriousness, if you feel the need to hide your IP or use a proxy to go to the length to read my stuff, I don't understand why you don't just do it when you're free or what have you or what the inherent benefit is of reading me anonymously (unless you happen to be stalking me; in which case, I'm going to call you out publicly on your behavior, sans apologies). I appreciate the readership, well, from the vast majority of you, but there are still trolls out there who derive pleasure (or severe physical anxiety) from the blog, whom I've tried to thrust away, but who are still looking for The Daily Dish. To each his/her own and as always, Happy Reading!

What Seems To Be Is Always Better Than Nothing. Than Nothing at All.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sorely Lacking. Or, "And A Rock Feels No Pain. And An Island Never Cries."

Yeah, Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush with that whole "Don't Give Up" duet can suck it. Instead, I hereby subscribe to this:

Paul Simon says Art Garfunkel called this Simon's "most neurotic song." Simon said, "It's a song about loneliness."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

To The Toppermost of the Poppermost, Johnny.

Rolling Stone Interview, 1971:

Jann Wenner: Do you think you're a genius?
John Lennon: "Yes, if there is such a thing as one, I am one. When did you realize that what you were doing transcended -- People like me are aware of their so-called genius at ten, eight, nine. . . . I always wondered, ``Why has nobody discovered me?'' In school, didn't they see that I'm cleverer than anybody in this school? That the teachers are stupid, too? That all they had was information that I didn't need? I got fuckin' lost in being at high school. I used to say to me auntie, ``You throw my fuckin' poetry out, and you'll regret it when I'm famous, '' and she threw the bastard stuff out. I never forgave her for not treating me like a fuckin' genius or whatever I was, when I was a child. It was obvious to me. Why didn't they put me in art school? Why didn't they train me? Why would they keep forcing me to be a fuckin' cowboy like the rest of them? I was different, I was always different. Why didn't anybody notice me? A couple of teachers would notice me, encourage me to be something or other, to draw or to paint - express myself. But most of the time they were trying to beat me into being a fuckin' dentist or a teacher. And then the fuckin' fans tried to beat me into being a fuckin' Beatle or an Engelbert Humperdinck, and the critics tried to beat me into being Paul McCartney."

Craig and I noticed evidence of above average ability in Luke at a very young age. It didn't matter that his feet turned in when he walked from being a double footling breech baby. It didn't matter that he couldn't properly pronounce his "R's" and "L's" until he was 9. (Doctors uniformly told us his feet would be fine and he could run, and that he'd grow out of the speech impediment without speech therapy. And they were all right.)  Luke is a very, very different child.

Luke said that today is the 4-year anniversary of his YouTube channel, Bechteloffices, where he's been posting the results of his creativity (even if not all of his videos are magnetically entertaining to his family). To date, as is statistical evidence on his channel, he's had 1,444,344 video views. Almost a million and a half. He's been honing his film making crafts since he was 8, even when he had a shitty camera and trouble keeping steady. He'd write out elaborate spy plots and his dad and I were usually the co-stars of his early movies. Now he's all high-tech and doing stuff like stop-motion animation with Legos. Check out his new video intro:

What did we do, as parents, to foster knowledge in Luke? Certainly, we had no idea of his capacity for knowledge while he was still sleeping in his all-John-Lennon decorated nursery (seriously, Carter's came out with a licensed Lennon artwork for kids, mass-marketed by Yoko's authority, nursery set, with accessories and stuffed animals, and we had it ALL. It was pure coincidence that I, as a Beatlemaniac, got to have a Lennon artwork nursery for my baby, born in 2000. Good timing.)

We did what all the new-age parenting books said to do, like read to your baby aloud while he's still in the womb, play music over the pregnant belly, typical stuff. But once he was born, and we were given this tiny human being to bring up, we applied our own parenting philosophy, which was this: We will never treat him like a baby. We will never treat him as if he's lesser than we are. We will speak to him as if he were a peer, not a moron. We never once had to say to him the oft-heard, typical parental request, "Use your words!" to get him to convey a thought or emotion to us. He talked early and just bloody spoke up.

We played music of all kinds when he was a baby, but he was only soothed by FUNK. I played that baby more Parliament/Funkadelic and "Superfly" and "Shaft" music than I could even stand to try and get him to go to sleep, when the lullaby CD's did nothing to soothe him. Essentially, we read to him virtually constantly, and by the time he was 2, he had memorized easy books like "Goodnight Moon" and would recite them to us as we read them, night after night.

It was amazing as he grew into toddler-hood. He enjoyed the PBS shows (like the wretched "Caillou," which I bought VHS tapes of in French, thinking somehow he'd pick up French, though neither his father nor I understood it) and the Baby Einstein series, which he found funnier the older he got. But what COMPLETELY absorbed him at age 2? The show "Win Ben Stein's Money" on Comedy Central, hosted by the actor/economist Stein and co-hosted originally by Jimmy Kimmel. It wasn't visually stimulating, bright or colorful. Craig and I liked it for it's sardonic humor, and it was admittedly a HARD GAME SHOW. But Luke went through a long phase where we'd have to record episodes (since new ones were on after his bedtime) & he'd sit, transfixed, as if he remotely understood half of the content of the show. Early in 2002, Stein came to Chicago and after I emailed him telling him what a big fan our TODDLER was, he agreed to a private meet and greet with our family. Ben Stein couldn't get over how "good looking" he thought Luke was at the time, but it took a while for Luke to process that Ben Stein WAS Ben Stein. That the image on the television was an actual person. We tried to get Luke to repeat his never-ending catchphrases at home, "MORE BEN STEIN MONEY!" and "BEN STEIN NOW!" but he was, for once, speechless.

The day I dropped him off at Pre-Kindergarten for the first time, when he was 3, he was left crying at the window watching me crying to the car. His teacher, my friend from childhood, Jenni, assured me he'd be fine. Soon into the semester, she took me aside and asked me when he started reading independently, and I honestly couldn't answer her question. Craig and I didn't teach him how to read. (Coincidentally, I taught myself to read when I was also 3.) "Because HE CAN READ," Jenni said, "And he UNDERSTANDS it," she said, meaning he comprehended what he was reading and wasn't just looking at words and reciting them. He had to be taught how to write, naturally, for that was a skill set beyond his parents' technical capacity. Emotionally, he was very much in his own age group at the time, and had his requisite tantrums and naughty times, and potty training took forever, but instead of just chastising him, we spoke to him logically, and he got it. 

After Ben Stein burned out, and Luke had seen all of the "Star Wars" movies, he moved on to science fiction and fantasy. One of his Christmas presents when he was almost 4 was Craig's collection of vintage "Star Wars" toys and action figures, and he knew who all the characters were...which, as seen below, he anal-retentively aligned between the cushions of a chair (because he has his mom's Polish OCD's):

...and he became obsessed with watching "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, which he found hysterical, re-enacting it at his cardboard desk in a shirt and tie...

He was already in his big-boy bed, and I'd re-decorated his room with moons and stars as the theme, Van Gogh paintings, Craig mapped out the solar system on the ceiling of his room with glow-in-the-dark stars, planets and moons, and memorabilia from the first real novel he read by himself, Antoine de Saint-Exupery's "The Little Prince," which he completed by age 5.

He was writing fiction stories at that age, and like Lennon, poetry. Unlike Lennon's Auntie Mimi, I kept the original compositions he created that I thought were of particular artistic merit while inevitably tossing out the rest of the weekly work that came home.  He was always making up little songs, though he didn't get an electric guitar until he was 8, which he still can't play (someday...). He still makes up songs with melodies and rhyming words, increasingly more mature, but doesn't always write them down.  I've always let him tinker on the drums and he can create a beat and stick with it, but he doesn't have the opportunity to play my drums often. (I figure if I can teach myself to play drums well enough to be in a band, eventually, if he's interested, he'll get into it. I think rudimentary drum lessons are utterly and completely worthless wastes of money, unless you plan on joining a marching band. Then again, he learned how to read music in elementary school and I still can't, so he has an edge over me already.) He paints well, but not exceptionally at all. He is better at digital arts and computer arts than the traditional disciplines.

Still, emotionally and socially, he was, while intellectually above his peers, he was the age he was. There was the annoying "Blue's Clues" phase....

A political activist, he campaigned for Kerry over Bush, though at the time of the photo, he was interrupting my viewing of "Rosemary's Baby."

And so on, and so forth through the years. He's held himself to a very high standard in school this whole time (as we have, too, as his parents) and gets his work done at a pace unlike anything I've ever seen, and it's accurate. He does well in arts and sciences, combined. He has Bible verses to memorize for school that he can look at twice and remember the whole thing, photographically. He does math equations far better than I can ever claim to. (If I have to take statistics for grad school, you-know-who is going to have to help me.)  He usually doesn't study for tests, even though I tell him to, or he'll look over material again for 5 minutes, commit it to memory and go from there.

Craig and I are constantly on this-year's-teacher to keep him engaged and busy, with increasingly challenging projects, and he's getting better at doing his work more laboriously slowly and neatly, though my observation is that once his head gets going, his brain fires at a frantic rate (which concerns me as a manic-depressive).  This summer, I put, on his reading list Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason," since Einstein read it at his age, and Susan Sontag's "Illness as a Metaphor," both of which made his teacher go "Whoa, sister, slow down!" He'd much rather play Call of Duty than read philosophy, but that will not stop me from continuing to foster in him the gifts God gave him. 

His counseling psychologist wants him to have a battery of tests taken, including emotional/social development and an IQ test. Having spent a considerable amount of time with Luke alone, and observing him with his parents, she's said that he's "not just really bright" and will score "off the charts" for IQ but may score lower on an emotional level (hey, he walks around the house honking a giant stuffed walrus that travels between homes and goes to De Kalb when we visit my brother). The psychologist, who's helping him work through the difficulties he's faced in life thus far, is pointing us in the direction of some summer programs Luke could take for gifted children (he's already done science in college at the local community college-that was when he was around 6 years old).  

I debate IQ tests and standardized testing in general, though Luke scores at a post-high-school level on most of his achievement tests. Hell, I was measured as having an IQ of 162, but I flunked all my math tests up until college, when I took Math for Non-Math People. The gang at my old job widely considered me to be stupid, incapable of performing simple tasks that were all left-brain oriented. Luke is one of those rare individuals who is left and right-brain equal, as I've said before. He's a science geek who loves to blow stuff up and do experiments, but he has to capture them all on film and meticulously edit the sequences for videos on his YouTube channel. 

When he gets to college, I will encourage him to abandon much of what he's learned up until that point and to follow his bliss, instead of conforming to a more practically acceptable career path. His father promised to have the birds/bees talk with him, while I'm taking on the less daunting task of explaining evolution to my raised-Creationist parochial school son, though I'm more medically capable than Craig at explaining the mechanics of sex and he knows his evolution better than I do. 

Has Luke had a perfect life? Is he a perfect kid? Hardly. His folks divorced. He had to visit his alcoholic mother in rehab when he was 8. He's seen drug-fueled horror at home with me and drunkenness, and me being overtaken by my own mental illness, impressions so ingrained in his brain that he still, close to 13, brings up. He's lived with a physically and mentally sick parent who is his custodial parent and has a constant fear that I'll die. He's toughed out economic hardships with me, especially. 

He's on the heavy side, and has been bullied for years on end at school and made fun of (though he's the tallest AND biggest kid in class, currently at 5'3"), which has been hard for him. He is made fun of because he's atypical. He prefers the company of older kids and adults, or to retreat to himself, though he has a couple best friends. It's my personal opinion that he's teased so incessantly because he is so different than his peers, as God designed him and we raised him. (He intends on losing a big chunk of weight over the summer, which will require diet modifications and lots of bike riding.)

He can be a real pain in the ass sometimes, too. He's sloth-like. Messy. He plays his music too loudly. He tells me to fuck off (in context, correctly, but still, how rude!)  He harbors in him MANY of the personality traits of his mother, which is both good and bad. (The sloth comes from Dad.) But he won't turn out to be a "fuckin' cowboy." That much is certain. 

Where is Luke headed? To the toppermost of the poppermost, in whatever way he sees fit. God gave him unusual talents, and he should use them to His glory and be thankful for them. I'm thankful every day that God blessed Craig and I with such a kind, sensitive soul in our lives, who just happens to be really, weirdly, super-smart.

Until then, he's still at heart, just a typical 12-year old kid who likes to buy gadgets like the "TV Be Gone," a remote that can randomly turn televisions on and off virtually anywhere. Watch this prank he pulled on Craig's crazy mother. Follow your bliss, Luke. Follow your bliss, ya punk.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Chico, Don't Be Discouraged. The Man, He Ain't So Hard To Understand.

‎"You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that 'as you reap, so you will sow' stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff. That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep shit. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity."
- Bono, (Excerpt from the book - Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas)

My son is learning, in the Lutheran school, that the Hindu concept of karma's not any different than that of the Golden Rule of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," just in a different manner and language. But he's also learning about the undeserving notion of God's salvation through grace.

Too often, we who are of the Christian faith completely lose sight of the concept of grace through Christ. It's an essential point that separates the condition of karma in Hinduism from Christianity. It's my understanding that, in Hinduism, karma binds you into a cycle of perpetual physical reincarnation until you achieve, through your manifestation of good karma and God-consciousness through meditation, chanting and clean living, salvation from the material world. That's why so many of the activities of the Hindu soul are centered around generating good karma and avoiding bad karma. Because, like Bono says, if karma's your judge and jury, you're sort of screwed.

In Christianity, through Christ's death and resurrection, through our own repentance for our sins, through receiving the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion (my Synod's web site FAQ is undetermined whether or not we acknowledge 2 or 3 Sacraments, what the 3rd one is I don't know, marriage???? in the Lutheran Church, whereas denominations like Catholicism have many more Sacraments), we have been redeemed and through God's grace, not by our own accord, and with our acceptance of Christ as our Savior, we are Heaven-bound once our physical bodies die. End of story.

That's not to say I haven't philosophically pondered the concept of reincarnation, because I have. (As my ex-husband pointed out, coming from a girl who shuddered at the mere mention of evolution when we were younger, I've, well, evolved into a very philosophically enlightened, free-thinking woman. I've become sort of a world religion junkie, since I quit doing drugs.) That doesn't mean I'm not a "good" Christian or a "good" Lutheran.

My theory was that if I had a past life, it must have been riddled with bad karma to come back as the person I am today, with all the apeshit lunacy, heartbreak, failure, illness and those damn addictions--which some people have misjudged to be all my own personal fault--that I've faced. It was my ex-mother-in-law who said to Craig, in front of Luke, "It's amazing how much trouble Andrea gets into by her own actions," which was essentially the same as the woman from my church saying that my addictions were not mishaps of medical science or funky brain chemistry, triggered genetics or scientifically-proven predispositions, but rather diseases of poor choice. (I'm of the belief that no human disease is a disease of choice, period.) Oppositely, I pondered that if I was to be reincarnated after this life, I'd like to come back as a lotus flower, tended to by a loving, tender gardener, picked at it's peak and appreciated as something beautiful for a short period of time, until it's time for me to die, and have that be IT in the karmic cycle.

But Bono's right about our sins, trials and tribulations being between God and ourselves, not between us and other humans. True, we hurt one another and sin against one another, but not a single one of us is in the position to judge the actions or conditions of another human being. Not a single one of us is in the position to decide who is "better" at practicing our religion than others. Sometimes, we do a crappy job of acting like Christians. Other times, we are capable of leading (while still sinful) righteous lives. Some of us have liberal interpretations of "The Rules" and others have conservative interpretations.

I have been accused of "attending a Lutheran church but not practicing Lutheranism" because I disagree with various doctrines the LCMS dictates. A very dear friend of mine, who is also Lutheran, was the one who shared this Bono quote with me, and phrased it this way: "I'm a follower of Christ, who happens to attend a Lutheran church." I told her I really liked that notion. If I'm a Christian who accepts and praises Christ, and wants to actively participate in the ministry of my chosen house of worship, what the crap difference does it make how strictly I adhere to how Luther or the modern-day church leaders laid out the map of our denomination? If I was baptized and confirmed into the Lutheran church, and heartily believe in Christ as my Savior, how am I an outcast because I happen to hold different opinions about certain life issues and challenges than most of my church brethren?  That, to me, is as silly as judging me because I physically don't look "typical" or "proper" or "conservative," or as silly as backing two of my friends for the Presidential bid in 2012 with a sticker on my car instead of Romney. (By the way, my current plan is to not vote the Coyne/Drozd ticket but rather to write-in David Byrne from The Talking Heads.)

My recent blogging about the wickedness and nastiness between myself and a family at my church was a mutual go-for-the-kill character assassination, plain and simple. They hurt and accused me of sins of omission and commission, so I touted my brain power against them to purposely outwit them. God gave me a gift of intellectualism, but Satan taught me how to exploit it for my own gain (or defense). In all fairness, the accusers attacked me with Bible passages that they, themselves, were exploiting to prove their points and make me look like a heretic. Nobody was acting properly--not me, not the woman, not her mother-in-law.

No, I won't take those blogs down, for they are a part of my overall emotional makeup and are indicators of how I felt in at-present moments in my life, and while I am apologetically ashamed that I acted in an unfavorable manner towards my fellow Christians, the Facebook posts and blogs about the situation have validity and, as this whole blog does, tells part of my life story. (Bumps and bruises are included in the package.)

In therapy today, we talked about me being more mindful of when I'm having negative thoughts or when negative experiences happen to me, and ways I can counteract jumping from Point A (the hurt, the feelings of unworthiness, failure, anger or sadness) to Point C (retaliation or payback towards individuals or groups who oppress me) by doing something in the middle, at Point B, to achieve a more positive end result. CBT is all about replacing negative emotional schemas with positive ones, even schemas that have ingrained into your psyche since you were a child. That's part of cognitive behavioral therapy, the concept of mindfulness, which, incidentally, is one of the tenets of Buddhism...but we don't have to open THAT can of worms up right now.

If we can't get along or we disagree, just call it a draw, like I tried to tell the woman from church. If members of my congregation truly believe me to be a "dysfunctional loser," as I was called, then so be it. Believe me, I've been called worse by people who's opinions matter more to me than theirs. Furthermore, if I'm one, then so are you, and you, and you and all of us. Because we are all sinners. And guess what? It makes little difference in the end, because Jesus Himself chose to hang around a lot of whom would be deemed dysfunctional losers in contemporary times. He loves me just as much as He loves EVERYONE ELSE, those who follow Luther to the letter and those who bring a madcap spin to the denomination.

And none of it will matter when we're up in the Great Gig in the Sky anyway.

OM Christ. Why can't we all get along like these two guys?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hello, Fellow Drummers. To Those Who Google "Offbeat Drummer..."

To all of my fellow drummers out there:

If you Google "offbeat, for a drummer" or "offbeat drummer" or "offbeat drums" or "offbeat drums" or "what is offbeat for a drummer?" or even "offbeat drumming mom" and expect to find a blog that's remotely about drumming patterns, techniques or even gear, you're not going to find it on my site, with my apologies in advance. I like to ramble on about music frequently, but not strictly in the realm of the art of drumming. 

"Rhythms from the Offbeat Drummer" is a play on words, as I *am* a drummer, but I don't write about drumming very often, unless it's a post about my band, or a link to my band's work, or if I'm regaling a story about my vintage Rogers kit. You're more than welcome, encouraged even, to pull up a chair and visit my posts. 

Just for shits and giggles, though, this is my kit:, a mid 70's maple Rogers kit with a Dynasonic snare. Some crappy Sabian cymbals, some sweet Zildjian A-Series. And I play with Vic Firth 7A Nylon sticks. I also play hand drums (congas, djembe, etc.) 

I don't get to use this kit very often, as I'm relegated to an electronic kit when I play indoors, that I absolutely detest. That's in the changing status, now, though, and soon I'll be bringing the Rogers back inside, with a drum shield (some squares were bitching I play too loudly, so I was given an electronic kit to quiet me down..)

Explaining the Muse

‎"Go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living, [but] they are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something." - Kurt Vonnegut

"Illumination" wasn't a lousy poem. Of that I am certain. It was for a friend, so it's intrinsic value is more sentimental than commercial anyway, though I've begun submitting it to various journals. Of those whom I personally allowed to read the poem who know the history of the muse and myself, it was widely considered beautiful and befitting. Kate called it "superb." But it was neither literal nor definitive, elements that confused the intended muse, who, as I've said before, is a Rational while I'm an Intuitive. (See

I achieved great reward in composing the poem, from an artistic and emotional standpoint, with an element of catharsis, but I'm afraid it was indeed lost on the muse, which saddens me. We talked the other day, and he said, "I think I fit more into the category of 'friend' than 'muse.'" This statement confused me. (I had told him, in the card that cradled and enclosed my poem, my gift to honor him, that "every artist has a muse.")

"No, no, you don't get it!" I snapped back, my one free hand flailing. Admittedly, I half-jokingly chastised him for his lack of humanities-related coursework throughout his otherwise extensive education. Just as I took one basic math class in college (pass/fail) and one chemistry course for non-science majors (pass/fail), and took Genetics as an elective (do not ask me WHY, but at the time it seemed interesting) and got a "D" for "dismal," his education in the arts/humanities was limited to one Western history course and, I believe, one basic English course, as a scientist. Yet, he's well-cultured. Well-read. Well-traveled. Well-rounded. In, what seems, The Art of the Overt.

Then it dawned on me that I needed to explain to him exactly what the function of a "muse" was in the first place, in context, or at least my personal interpretation of one as an artist. (Bear in mind that I haven't had a chance to discuss muses with Kate, a professional painter, so I was going off of solely my own experience.)

I told him that the muse is whatever or whomever inspires you to create a piece of art (writing/music/visual/etc.). I told him it didn't mean any big, major thingy; rather, it was just like looking at an object and painting it. (I was trying to keep it simple.) "Ah, the fruit bowl!" he said. "Right," I replied. I said that the muse was whatever compelled an artist to create art. Whether that's a painting of a fruit bowl, or the architecture of a building, a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, a piano composition, or a poem about a guy who leaves his Christmas lights up outside all year long, the artist has to be inspired by *something* for the creative process to successfully blossom.

Perhaps he was confused because he knows that I have been and am someone's muse, and that THAT relationship has an element of intensity and passion (historically) that DID amount to a big, major thingy, thus he incorrectly assumed the intention of my poem.

True, in this particular instance, "Illumination" is about both of us and our friendship, so it'd be fair to say our friendship was the literal muse, while he was the virtual or accessory muse, since I wrote it intended for him. THAT's why he didn't *get* the poem and why we had such an awkward dialog about it on the phone. A) He misunderstood what a muse was. B) He's far too Rational to, off the top of his head, in the moment, critique a piece of poetry with an English-Writing major when the poem's about the two of us being friends.  As per usual, I ask too much of him.

If you look at the header of my blog, under the title "Rhythms From the Offbeat Drummer," it clearly states "musings, diatribes and dialogues..." blah blah blah. Musings. I write about things that inspire me to create pieces of prose, non-fiction, in the format of an online blog. My muses are as varied and multifarious as the day is long, though there are indeed ones deemed special. Just as the friend in the poem is my muse, so is my son, God, my best friend Kate, George Harrison, the office where I used to work, my medical team, my eyebrow rings, The Flaming Lips and even the wicked mother-in-law of that chick at church whose skin I make crawl with my outrageous religious/societal opinions.

And that's sort of art's point, isn't it? To convey, in whatever medium the artist might choose, a conglomerate of visions, conversations, experiences, wins and losses. It takes a relative amount of courage to share your art with the world, a lionhearted vulnerability, and a pair of balls to boot. ESPECIALLY when you're commissioning yourself a piece that's meant to ode someone in whom you have a relatively vested emotional stake; in my case, the poem for my friend.

Ultimately, I texted him to re-read "Illumination" with a fresh pair of eyes, now that he knows what the true meaning of the muse is to me as the poet. Provided he didn't glibly throw it into the trash, which I suppose is also possible at any juncture. Even if he takes a few minutes to read it again, I'm not sure he'll understand, though I am creatively satisfied with the final product of my energy.

Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"The Teacher is Silent During the Test."

...What was left out of this quote that appeared on Facebook the other day by the mother-in-law of the church member woman who's in fistocuffs with me? A key word. "Always." Implying that my supposed heresy against the tenets of the Lutheran church were a test of the woman in question's faith in Christ, the mother-in-law quoted "The teacher is silent during the test." But "always" was missing, thus the quote was misquoted. Indeed, God's not always silent when He teaches us things. Sometimes He screams in our faces. Sometimes He provides outward signs of His power and presence. Sometimes God is trying to teach us important life lessons via unconventional ways and means, i.e. NOT just through the Holy Bible. Through people, through music, through poetry, through meditation and prayer, through sacred texts. Through the founders of our denominations. Every day.

I can't tell you how many people in my life have told me personally or written to me that my nutty irreverence towards my faith in God has brought them closer to their own God, be God in whatever incarnation suits those individuals. That's what's called, in Christianity, "witnessing." I'm an unlikely witness. An oddball witness. A punk witness. I witness for Christ, most definitely, for I am a Christian. But can I quote random Bible passages at the drop of a hat with which to witness? In truth, no. Not since I was in my early teens. But I still have my Confirmation Bible, highlighted with all my favorite verses in it, which I refer to (and refer others to) from time to time.

As part of my offbeat witnessing, I posted this to my Facebook today, which I found hysterical. Over on Twitter (@AndreaMiklasz), my tweets are protected and only the select people who ask to follow me can see the 140 character musings or observations I post. There are various sarcastic "Jesus'" and "Gods" and "Satans." But I received an email that garnered me that elusive 100th Twitter follower...a glowing achievement, if I do say so myself.

Keep in mind: Satan wants to follow ME, not the other way around. Sneaky asshole that he is. Naturally, I accepted his request.

Some Lutherans are so stuck in their ways that the witnessing of the Contemporary worship service is scary and unfamiliar to them, and they don't like the unconventional Christian music we play. I wish that weren't the case, but the band is part of *how* I witness, even though, as I've said many times, I don't listen to CCM in my daily life. I don't listen to KLOVE radio. I'd sooner listen to Iggy Pop duets with Yoko Ono. (How cool would THAT be?) Some of the songs my band plays? I honestly don't like them. It's a matter of musical tastes, not the message. It's been better since Pastor's been picking out the set lists, rather than our old guitarist, who would compile sets of songs that sound exactly like one another (maybe that's just the nature of the genre..but it seems like, sometimes, I'm playing the same beats and fills for like 3 songs in a row. The songs we play need more diversity, to me, anyway, as a musician).

But I digress.

A lot of what I pray for includes God making things REALLY obvious to me, because I need it. I don't do well with God's subtle cues and clues. When God showed me what my purpose was in life, I took it head on, though I feel like I'm treading against the tide, mostly because of medical setbacks that continue to impede on my stampede on jump-starting my career in psychology. I know what I want out my love life; it just seems out of my grasp at the moment. I know I'm raising a fantastic son, that much is at least on track with God's plan. I continue to ask God to bless me with the blessings He's given and continue to ask for forgiveness, patience and understanding. I ask God to relieve me of the physical challenges that engulf me and threaten my health on a continual basis.

The embattled church member posted this strut-worthy status update to Facebook the other day. It's amazing how naive and humbled, yet egotistical and grandstanding one can be in the same statement:

"I unashamedly believe what the Bible says. I believe God created the world in 6 days (dinosaurs included). I believe He flooded the world and saved Noah and his family. I believe Jesus said He was the only way to heaven. I believe all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I believe Jesus will return. I believe I am imperfect and cannot do a thing to save myself. I will not apologize for these beliefs."

Dinosaurs included! I don't recall shaming her into believing what she believes. I take no issue with most of what she says. I believe that God created the world in 6 "days," but that those days were billions of years long, and the concept of "days" was a metaphor in the Bible chosen so that humans who followed a 24-hour clock could comprehend. I believe He flooded the Earth, now whether or not God had Noah on the World's Largest Ever boat with Every Living Species of Anything (in pairs!), ok....we know He saved Noah and his family...anyway, I, too, believe that Jesus said He was the only way to Heaven. He is the Messiah. Jesus wasn't about to tell His followers to follow other gods. And yes, we have all sinned (from birth) and are imperfect. Christ will indeed return to judge us, though as I told a friend recently, I don't see it happening in my lifetime or my child's children's lifetime, though who knows, with all the crazy shit that has been happening in the world. And no, there's nothing we can do to "save" ourselves. Only God can save our souls. So no apologies necessary from this woman on what beliefs she holds to be true. I don't believe I ever questioned her having those beliefs when we were in religious combat on Facebook.

My brother is a very Christian man, raised LCMS, though now belongs to a more casual yet even more Bible-based and charismatic denomination, River of Life. He plays drums in his church's band, too. Several holidays ago, Luke got me a book by Buddhist philosopher Thich Nhat Hanh, one of my favorite philosophers, called Living Buddha, Living Christ. My brother wasn't happy about the book, and thought it would inherently teach me erroneous things about the comparisons to Buddha and Christ.

But Hanh raises very salient points in this book. For example:
"But we must distinguish the 'I' spoken by Jesus and the 'I' that people usually think of. The 'I' in His statement is life itself, His life, which is the way. If you do not really look at His life, you cannot see the way. If you only satisfy yourself with praising a name, even the name of Jesus, it is not practicing the life of Jesus. We must practice living deeply, loving and acting with charity if we wish to truly honor Jesus. The way is Jesus Himself and not just some idea of Him. A true teaching is not static. It is not mere words, but the reality of life. Many who have neither the way nor the life try to impose on others what they believe to be the way." (55-56)
SEE: ORTHOPRAXIS. AGAIN. "Correct belief, correct action."

In Paul's letter to the Romans, 1:16-19:

 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, 'He who through faith is righteous shall live.' For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all un-godliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth."

Read: "He who through faith is righteous shall live." But as long as we're speaking of wickedness, the mother-in-law said this about me on Facebook, for all of our mutual church friends (and former church friends) to see:

 Do not waste your time dealing with a dysfunctional loser that is screaming for attention, she needs professional help. The silence of other church members is only an indication that they also don't care to deal with her rants. Be at peace, ***, and know that "the Teacher is Silent during the test."

I can't find to whom the quote is attributed, but let's say my presence in this woman's life, which as she put it, makes her physically tremble in anxiety and discomfort, would be reason enough to keep our lives separated. Perhaps the silence of the other church members wasn't based on the fact that they didn't champion her religious beliefs; but rather, using their collective wisdom and intelligence, they were able to piece together that I'm not one of Jesus' lost lambs and that I wasn't inherently evil OR insane. True, I'm not your average Lutheran. But I'm not your average anything.
"God God God
A voice cries in the wilderness
God God God
It was on the longest night
God God God
An eternity of darkness
God God God
Someone turned out the spiritual light..."
The woman replied to her MIL:

 Please, no more name-calling. I'm done with it. Just let it rest.

The MIL didn't let it go and retorted back with the following snark:

just sayin she should take her Meds and do MORE PRAYIN !!!!

Oh, pardon me! This "dysfunctional loser" didn't realize that sitting in the Seat of Judgment was plopped upon by the ass of this trembling young woman's haughty, bejeweled mother-in-law. I thought that seat was reserved for, well, GOD. I appreciate her suggestion to take my meds, which I do, every day without fail. As for doing "more prayin'," she has no concept of how or when or why I pray or chant or meditate. What should I be praying for, MIL?

(The MIL likes to brag at church about what computer geek geniuses her twin sons are, one of whom is married to this woman. Well, among the many gifts God has blessed me with so richly, are the powers of logic and reasoning, intellectualism, humor, artistic ability, a photographic memory, musicianship, writing, and PS--I'm damn good when it comes to computers. We'll get to more of that later.)

But I digress. Some philosophical examples to ponder:

In How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, as translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, it is said:

"The pain which is yet to come may be avoided.  There are three kinds of karma: the karma that has already been created and stored up, so that it will bear fruit in some future life, the karma created in the past or in some previous life, which is bearing fruit at the present moment, and the karma which we are now in the process of creating by our thoughts and our acts."

Essentially, karma is just the Hindu/Indian/Sanskrit version of the Christian "Golden Rule," as Jesus taught us, to do unto others as we would do unto ourselves.  Different culture and different reference, but the principle is almost exactly the same.

 Nietzsche said:

"Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one."

Keith Richards said:

"There's nothing wrong with the gun. It's the people who are on the trigger. Guns are an inanimate object. A heroin needle's an inanimate object. It's what's done with it that's important."

Further on in Paul's letter to the Romans, he says (12:19-21):

"Beloved, never avenge yourselves but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. No, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

"I'm done with it. Just let it rest," she said. The woman from my church literally almost begged me to stop arguing with her, because it caused her so much stress and she said she was more anxious than she'd been in the last year, so much so that she blocked me from Facebook altogether. Fine by me. It put her in such a tizzy that she couldn't remotely enter into an intelligent religious dialog with me, because the entirety of her religious intelligence comes from the Christian Bible and no other religious resources. Theology is not the easiest subject to understand. The load of engaging in a religious debate with me was more than her brain could process.
"God God God
You are the wisdom that we seek
God God God
The lover that we miss
God God God
Your nature is eternity
God God God
Your are Existence, Knowledge, Bliss..."
Which is why I find it SO utterly fascinating that she visited my blog 13 times in the last 2-3 days, several times a day, for lengthy stretches, as bad as the gang at Balderdash & Verities bad and it's just begun. I know she's using a Mac. I know that she's searching me on Google by my name. I know that Firefox is the browser she's using. Her "unknown ISP" she's trying to hide behind anonymously traces directly to a domain that includes her last name, owned by her husband, so it was literally less than a minute's time before I knew who my new blog fan was. 

Even though the woman said, after quoting from the Bible, gasp, AGAIN:

 I understand why no one said anything now. Everyone else understood the verse I shared later that day and knew saying something would only prolong the issue.

Prolonging the issue? Everyone else understood? Still, no one from the church came to her defense against me. Because getting involved in a pissing contest (like the mother-in-law was trying to start) would be worthless. Not terribly Christian. Mind-numbing (for me and my friends). As my one friend, who is in the LCMS said, the mother-in-law's behavior was "inexcusable."

She said, before her mother-in-law got involved:

 I never thought I would have to defend such a position to a fellow church member. Nor did I ever think I'd belong to a church where other church members, after seeing both of us post, me defending the position that, theoretically, we all believe, would stand silently by while I'm insulted, by this church member, for my Biblical position.

And I never thought I would have to defend my positions which weren't even insulting, they were fact-based, logical, and thought-provoking, overtly liberal and humane. 

"God God God
Won't you lead us through this mess
God God God
From the places of concrete
God God God
Nothing's worse than ignorance
God God God
I just won't accept defeat..."

I said this to her, after reading what she and her family had said about me: 

"Why didn't anyone come to your defense from the church? Probably because you lost the war of intellect. I'm sorry I ruffled your feathers in such a way that you experienced physical symptoms of anxiety but, in all fairness, your MIL decided to essentially call me a psycho who needs to take her meds to the REST of our church community. I just took them, as a matter of fact. Making fun of someone who has mental illness and addiction issues isn't very Christian of you, S*** (or your MIL, who's the one who said the aforementioned). FYI, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are all recognized as diseases by the CDC and the DSM-IV. In case you're wondering, the DSM-IV is the psychiatric BIBLE. Homosexuality is STILL not recognized as a disease. 

My "loony rants" are nonesuch. You have no opinion of your own, and I urged, begged you to think, for just a moment, outside of the Bible box and consider other peoples' perspectives outside of the LCMS, like a lot of my friends, many of whom are also Christians but practice other denominations, like my Episcopalian friend, Jennie. Maybe you would've liked to discuss your fears with my United Church of Christ minister friend, Nicole. Or my Unitarian friend, Laurie. Or my atheist friend, Sreedhar. I don't expect you to apologize for your beliefs just as I won't apologize for my own. I'm going to Heaven. You're going to Heaven. Jesus loves both of us. Again I say, I don't need saving. I know I'm saved through Christ. 

How about instead of the scriptures from other religions, I point you in the direction of Immanuel Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason?" Einstein read it when he was 13. You should be able to handle it by now.

Next time you want to go off on your own rant about how your feelings were hurt and nobody from church saved you from the Scary Liberal Punker Chick, you'll think before you post. There is that old "hide conversation from" option. Just sayin'. 

My salvation from the material world is through Christ. Your capacity for un-forgiveness and a lack of Christian ethic in your own Facebooking is astounding."

She spent the following day doing little but quoting Scripture, which was totally self-aggrandizing and not, I believe, in the true spirit of Christianity. It was to prove her point, to appear to be the obedient Lutheran, reinforcing it with the only armor that she carries, the armor of the LCMS. Though she blocked me from Facebook, I have several other resources with which to see what she's posting. She accused me of "attending a Lutheran church" but not "practicing Lutheranism" because I disagreed with some (but not all) of the denomination's doctrines. I challenge anyone from St. Paul to agree with EVERY SINGLE doctrine or position that our highly conservative denomination professes. I believe in Christ as my personal Savior, was baptized, confirmed and am an active member of the church. Is that not enough to satiate my accusers? 

I've always said that I thought Jesus was a radical punk who hung out with other radical punks. He didn't cater to the high and mighty, the wealthy, the holier-than-thou, the over-indulgent (like this chick's mother-in-law). During His time on Earth, Christ spent time with the poor, the lowly, the outcasts of the world, not the aforementioned. I still maintain that Jesus was a radical punk in His time, who picked a bunch of other punks to break away and follow Him. 
"God God God
Must be something I forgot
God God God
Down on Bullshit Avenue
God God God
If we can only stop the rot
God God God
Wish that you'd brainwash us too..."