It is that time of year. We look at the bounty and recall what we are thankful for. Some have more reason for gratitude than others. Some have more reason to celebrate than others and yet still more have good reason not to celebrate at all.
And so things continue as we start the countdown to the day we celebrate the arbitrary change of the year and even before that, its shortest one. Thankful is relative when the day is also. I am taking the long way around of saying is this:
I am thankful for another day. I am thankful for the relationships I have now and in the future. I am thankful the sun turns, things grow, and the world spins.
Today is about discovery, like all days should be. What don’t you know today that you will tonight? Open your ears, eyes, and heart and the world will open for you.
I am thankful for all of these things and more. I am thankful for my friends. I am doubly so for family (and triply so for my grandchild).
Here is the thing. I don’t need a special day to remember these things. These are part of the things that make me, me. What I am grateful for, life and all of you, is what drives me to start each new day.
I have shopped this story around but I have decided to publish it here and just see what people think. I feel like maybe I am trying to be too clever. Let me explain:
There is a moment when you have had a mental illness break, where a quantum state exists. I have experienced this after manic and psychotic episodes. A state where everything and nothing is real. A state where you are trying to figure out what happened but part of you doesn’t want to know.
This disorienting experience is, as you can imagine, disconcerting. I have explored this in some form or fashion of a story for some time. The idea of being in a quantum state, a dissociative feeling of being out of control and how that feels. Being bi-polar, I have direct knowledge of this feeling.
I first explored this idea via a story of drug addiction. The nature of which is not so different from a manic episode. A blackout, a moment forgotten and remembered. Memories that others have that you don’t yet possess.
When I sat down to explore it again in this story, I decided I wanted the reader to experience the same thing. And how best to that then with a sci-fi Bourne style action story? An assassin, a target, and an escape in a hot overcrowded city. I want to leave the reader wondering; What really happened? I promise, something did, and you the reader are left to decide what that was. Enjoy the story.
A year ago, with little fanfare, I put down my last cigarette. In this past year, I have had reason to reflect… actually, I really don’t want to talk about quitting. It was 365 days ago and I am a non-smoker, happily, hopefully, and willingly.
Smoking was one of my last defenses. When I was feeling particularly mentally ill, I could always duck out for a smoke to soothe the cacophony around me. My cigarette was my shield, a cloud of safety in various parking lots around the world.
When your brain is distracted, and people are in tunnels around you, being outside was literal and the best way to deal with it all. A place to formulate a plan and screw up the courage to once again wade into the breach that is human interaction.
Sometimes, the cigarette you clutch in your hand is the last grasp you have on this planet. A burning in your lungs and a burnt smell assuring you, yes, you are still here.
Only the untethered know what I mean.
My mind goes a million miles a minute, thinking about Genesis post-Peter Gabriel and quantum states of cats and stories about a hacker/ninja girl named Babette. All this while I disassociate, floating above my body, controlling it like a puppet.
The cigarette in the parking lot saved me from all of that.
So now I have no rope of smoke, as impermanent as it was. Now, I am forced to deal with it all. If I really have to dodge, most of the family understands if I take a loooooong bathroom break. There is the smaller ‘breathe break’ (4-7-8 FTW) to get by as well.
It’s all a matter of degrees now. I need time alone (provided I should have time alone, unless, of course, I shouldn’t… IYKYK) and a quiet moment, because if you lived in this head mentally and physically, sometimes not focusing, not thinking, not having to be present is a gift.
I am always floating away. That is the truth of it, cigarette or not. The cigarette was an excuse to increase my altitude, above it all, beyond it all, in the shadows of a parking lot.
I know it sounds like I am being dragged somewhere, kicking and screaming (and though I am a nonsmoker, I am not offended by the smell, for the miracle, as well as highly addictive, drug, nicotine lives there. Like opiates, I will miss your high, but it never made me high enough, just leading me to a hospital bed wondering if I was going to bleed out). I am finding reasons to ground myself, because, frankly, I am fucking strong enough to hang on.
That wasn’t always true. It was a cigarette in a parking lot.
Nobody dies alone, but we walk the path of oblivion on our own. I won’t die alone and I don’t need the other. Oblivion is easy. The end of the world is easier to face than the rest of your life.
The end of the world doesn’t need to happen with a cloud of smoke in a parking lot. In fact, it doesn’t need to happen at all.
I have been thinking about this quote by Sartre and Steve Bannon’s strategy to flood the media with shit. Make of it what you will…
“Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”
“The Democrats don’t matter,” Bannon told Lewis. “The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.”
I had written a whole thing about podcasts and blather from them, which is really just blathering to myself. Until I saw the following: My intuition is fallible.
What a freeing concept and far more interesting to write about.
Complaining about the guys with their brick walls, and name in neon plastered to it, and the comically oversized microphones is an easy target.
No, when I saw that phrase online this morning it stuck with me. My intuition is fallible. Because it feels true, it doesn’t mean it is. If my knowledge is incomplete, don’t guess (not confidently he says. I try to practice it, but you know, blather?).
I guess the other five hundred unpublished words are just unknowingly repeating that theme. It is freeing to admit you don’t have all the answers and even more so, being okay that you don’t.
I am reminded of ‘Thine Own Self’, an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Data has amnesia (for some space jargon reason involving radiation. You know, Star Trek stuff) and attends a school in a small pre-industrial village after crash-landing on their planet.
In the school, the teacher is talking about fire, and how the wood must contain the fire since it burns. The fire inside reacts when fire is present. Seemed pretty obvious to the teacher.
Of course, Data questions this, but the point stands. The character was teaching what made sense in their mind based on their limited knowledge, based on their intuition.
Maybe, just maybe, we can understand intuition is fallible. That it is okay not to know (there is generally someone who does, though. They need to be vigilant about subject outside their expertise as well, but because of their knowledge, ‘I don’t know,’ often leads to breakthroughs).
So my promise to you is this; I don’t know. My intuition is fallible. And that’s okay.