"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Monday, December 15, 2003
Surrendering to the Roller Coaster
go-lem Function: noun
Etymology: Yiddish goylem, from Hebrew gOlem shapeless mass
1 : an artificial human being in Hebrew folklore endowed with life
2 : something or someone resembling a golem: as a : AUTOMATON b : BLOCKHEAD
3 : me, making myself up as I go
Amazing, that a 30 year old wound can still hurt.
I mean, not like it is fresh, oh no, nothing like that. More like an old familiar ache that happens when a cold front comes through. When I write these things that happened so long ago, those hurts and pains come back, just like that.
But that's ok, I've never really dealt with most of this stuff, and its time to lay it on the table and spread it out and see what happens.
After the incident with Patty (*see preceeding blog entry) my heart seemed to turn into something quite different. It surely was not the source of love that it had once been, but then it was not the simple predator it had been either. It was a maelstrom of emotions and frustrations and anger, never lighting for long in one place, always intense.
What I did not realize was that I had probably begun to go into a mental phase called "rapid cycling" as my bipolar illness began to manifest itself ever more into my life, with me completely unaware that I was sick. Day to day I would be all over the place mood wise.
And I was blind to it.
It would take 30 years for me to find out I was wired wrong. in the meantime, I found other ways to cope.
The first and foremost way I coped was Rules. Yes, I know I capitalized that, because that is how they were (are) to me. I found that by setting rigid and hard rules for my life and my behavior I could function no matter what I was feeling at the time. Essentially, I could run mostly on autopilot, as long as I programmed it right.
Rule number one, the most extreme parts of my personality were reserved for use out of town. Never at home. So, the most risky behaviour I began to take part in was never done at home in my home town, but rather at the beach or somewhere else.
Rule number two, I could reinvent myself at will, especially when playing hard and fast under rule number one. And I did. Lots.
Rule number three, always do the unexpected.
You see, there I was, suffering the throes of a broken heart like only a 16 year old could, and at the same time promising myself that it would never happen again. Ever.
Oh, lets make that rule number four. We can call it "shoot first before you get shot."
I spent a great deal of my time in my manic state when I wasn't cycling, and I had the grandiose tendancies that people with my illness can exhibit. But the thing was that I could pretty much pull off most of the things I set my hand to. I was teaching guitar, and had over 100 students at one point. I was performing. I, to everyone's great surprise, made the highest score in my town on the PSAT by 100 points, high enough for Mensa membership just by flashing a certified copy. I was announcing the basketball games as my alter ego that I used for the school radio show, named "Frankie Flash." When I was Frankie, I would wear wild stuff and talk like Wolfman Jack, and rhyme everything I said.
Yeah, I know, that was hokey, but I was only a high school senior.
I dated almost anyone I wanted to, but behaved myself. See rule number one.
Now, when a person goes into a personality reversal, which is what I was doing, there is a period when the old behavior co-exists with the new mindset. That period can be dangerous if one is plummeting downward as fast as I was.
That was when I did a concert for a church group in a nearby town, and met Karen.
Karen was an absolute dream to look at - long naturally platinum blond hair to her knees, cute face, and head cheerleader for her school. And her town was little compared to mine, so I was the exotic guy from the big city. That suited me just fine.
We dated many times, and this time I had a date to the prom, the prettiest date in the entire room.
As a matter of fact, that entire prom night was a real coup for me.
I got together with two of my friends and we took all of our dates to the nicest restaurant in town, the Greenbriar. The Greenbriar was ultra elegant, with tuxedoed waiters, gold flatware, the whole shebang.
My dad used to take us there all the time, so I knew what was up. "Just follow my lead," I told my friends.
We all arrived at the same time and were seated with the appropriate fanfare that a frequent customer gets in a place like that. That impressed the girls.
I had already told my friends what to order, so we all ordered the same things.
About that time, another group came in and sat at the only other table in the room. It was a bunch of jocks, people who had been some of my worst torturers in earlier days when I was bullied so badly, and their dates.
I grinned to myself, I knew what was coming.
The waiter, who was a personal friend because we had been there so many times, seemed to pick up on it too. So, he served each course to the the other table before he brought ours.
First, he came out and brought salads in bowls to the other table. They started digging in, trying hard to have good manners, which was hard for some of the guys.
Then the waiter returned in a moment with the salad cart, and made a Ceasar Salad from scratch for us, making a big show of the whole thing. Our dates loved it.
The jocks and dates at the other table wished they had gotten Ceasar salad instead of just the house salad. Oh well, steak was coming, so they were not too upset.
And here it came. Standard New York strips for them, which the waiter dutifully delivered on platters, one by one. They began to dig in.
Which was about the time the waiter returned, with a cart holding a whole prime rib roast cooking on a spit, and cut our steaks to order right there at the table, making a big show of it all.
Well, the jocks and dates were not thinking their steaks were all that special by now.
Then it was time for dessert. The waiter brings them vanilla ice cream, elegantly displayed in crystal bowls.
And yet a third time, he returns wheeling a cart out. This time he fixes flaming cherries jubilee for our table.
That meal really felt good. In a way there was a lot of revenge there for me.
The prom was great. Even though I was wearing a white tux with baby blue trim. No, we won't go there. Hey, it was 1977, that was cool then. For about ten minutes.
Karen looked incredible, sweeping beautifully over the dance floor, her hair swinging lush and full behind her, graceful in her ballgown that she wore like only a lady in the southern United States could, elegant, classy, refined. We had a really good time that night. Even the ride home was nice. I was on top of the world.
As summer neared, my mania began to take over my life. I was acting more and more risky. I began spending a lot more time at the beach.
I let go all of my guitar students and found a job playing in a lounge at North Myrtle Beach. It was a small lounge in a hotel, but it was steady work seven days a week.
When Karen found out, she seemed upset, and wanted to talk with me about it.
"Cliff, I'm concerned about your playing in a lounge."
"Karen, it will be fine, there's nothing wrong with it."
"But it is wrong, those places are wrong to go into."
"I'll be fine. Really."
"Well... You are going to have to make a choice then. Its either the bar or me. If you go to work there, I do not want to see you any more."
I just sat there, thinking how ridiculous this was. A million reasons why playing in a bar was OK ran through my mind. Sadly, no reasons why I wanted to not end that relationship ran through my mind.
It was not her fault. I was blinded by my mania's grandiosity, which was now in full swing. Now, I can see my answer was a bad move.
"Well, if thats the choice, then I'm sorry, but goodbye Karen."
In that one moment I could have avoided so many things. But I didn't.
We would never speak to each other again.
When I drove away from Karen's house, I was on the roller coaster for real, no stopping, only slowing on occasion to reinvent myself again according to my whimsy.
Problem was, although I was good at that "how" of reinventing myself, I was lousy on the "what."
And the what is what makes all the difference.
It would take a while to learn that lesson, and it would be a hard one.
I love acting. It is so much more real than life.
Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900)