“. . a lantern, burning in the midst of parenthetical opaqueness. . “ (1)

Do you know your temporal lobe  from a hole in your head?

Do you know your temporal lobe
from a hole in your head?

But I use memory differently. I use memory to fortify an idea. These . . . are meditations on subjects in which I use my childhood as information to support the theme, the thesis of the meditation. But it’s not a . . . memory of my life. I use my life for other purposes (2).

Two friends have prodded me to write today. The first responded to my post yesterday in which I wrote I’m often the bull in china closet (if I had any artistic sensibilities, I would find a poetic rather than a clichéd way to say that). That was in response to my reporting that my shrink told me I’m “fragile”—??

Judith said, “Yes. I find you often fragile, and often a “bull” who goes “where angels fear to tread . . .” and then, “Add to the above. ..reference ‘bull’…see Turku Cathedral…wooden cane. What happens in Scandinavia stays in Scandinavia. Reference ‘fragile’…see also Turku” (3).

The second friend asked me why “Temporal Lobe Epilepsy” is always a tag for my posts here.

A word about TLE. I have written about my experience of the condition here before. I won’t repeat myself except to say that a certain emotional intransigence (that is not to say, obstreperousness brought on by confusion) is one of the “presentations” of the condition.

The cathedral in Turku, Finland.

       The choir of Calvary Lutheran Church in Richland Hills, TX, was  traveling in Scandinavia this past summer. A wonderful time in Sweden, equally delightful time in Finland, and then out of Scandinavia to St. Petersburg. I was blessed, thrilled, to be asked along to play the organ and piano. I have pictures of all of the places we went except Turku, Finland.

What I am about to write is none of the following:
an attempt to garner pity or engage in psychological exhibitionism
my playing doctor
excuse-making for a man behaving badly.

My psychiatrist, Dr. Mary Bret, of whom I wrote yesterday (doesn’t it sound so ‘70s and ‘80s to say “my psychiatrist”), tells me more often than I want to hear that unseemly anger is symptomatic of at least two of the two neurological disorders with which I have been diagnosed.  Temporal lobe epilepsy, and Bipolar II disorder. The jury is still out on the second. It was, after all, the designer disease of the decade of 2000, so diagnoses are suspect.

We avoided the front staircase.

We avoided the front staircase.

However, my bag of behavioral and affective tricks includes most of the symptoms of the diagnosis. So we’ll go with it, neither stating with certainty that it’s true, nor wanting to make anyone squeamish. If it’s true, it’s no big deal, and if it’s not, I probably simply need some anger management classes.

Back to Turku. We got off our bus at the cathedral to visit on our way to the Medieval Market, simply because it is so splendid.

I was walking with a cane because I needed hip surgery. The woman who was showing us the cathedral kindly took the two of us with canes aside to let us in a door which did not require climbing stairs. But she left us waiting while she took the others in. By the time she got back to us, everyone else was having a grand time looking at the magnificent church. Including our director who, by the time I arrived, was already playing the organ.

The old church’s organ was, of course, in a loft accessible only by climbing a daunting spiral staircase. I went creeping and stumbling up with my cane and arrived at a balcony snuggled under the eaves of the building. I could see my friend at the same level playing the organ perhaps fifty feet away in the loft—to which I could find no means of approach other than a flying leap across the nave.

I was already out-of-sorts because of the cane, but as I stood trapped, watching Viktor play the organ which I knew I should be doing, I became enraged. It was blind fury. The loft was a sort of museum, glass cases filled with treasures of the 1,000-year history of the place. I was ready to smash one of the cases. Instead I brought my cane down to the floor with all of my force, smashing it into many lovely pieces.

Whatever trouble I was having getting around with the cane was now going to be exacerbated trying to walk in pain without the cane. The rest of the story is sweetly strange. The group thought I had somehow broken my cane stumbling up the stairs, and that’s why I was angry.

Remarkably, one of my friends found a store (a drug store?) and bought me a replacement cane.

I finally calmed down enough to tell my friends that I had simply lost it, that I was sorry for causing them concern, and more grateful than I could say that my cane had been replaced.

This writing is not a meditation in Roger Rosenblatt’s sense (I’m not self-deluded enough to pretend to write with his impact and precision). This is not a “lantern burning in the midst of opaqueness.” But I can use the memories of “my life for other purposes.”

It is immaterial whether or not my tantrums are, as Dr. Bret tells me, a symptom of my manic disorder. I don’t know. Those moments feel like mania. That’s not important. It is also not important if such outbursts result from the lurking fearful confusion of TLE. That could be also.

A flying leap across the nave.

A flying leap across the nave.

If this were a “meditation,” it would be about my continually and undeservedly being cared for by others. Yesterday I wrote that Dr. Bret told me I seem to “have trouble finding people to be kind” to me. She is absolutely right. I don’t, I can’t find those folks.

They simply appear.  A cane will materialize when I least deserve it.

______________________
(1) Alexander, Will. “On Anti-Biography.” Poets.org.  Academy of American Poets, 2011. Web.
(2) Rosenblatt, Roger.  “In ‘Boy Detective,’ writer Roger Rosenblatt investigates his Manhattan childhood.” Transcript of interview with Judy Woodruff. PBS Newshour (October 30, 2013). Web.
(3) Palmer, Judith. Comment on Posting by Harold Knight. Facebook. October 30, 2012.

I’ve never seen AUSTIN POWERS (!?)

Quasi-evil?

Quasi-evil?

I know you won’t think this is funny. But often no one gets it my jokes.

I know the look. I know you’re nervous at anything not suitable for chat at the office Presidents Day party. Nervous. Squeamish about reading something too private, too personal, too out-of-the-ordinary? Stop reading. I’ll forgive you. Really. Be a little sad, but not hold it against you.

All over the web, Flannery O’Connor is quoted, “The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.” I’ve never seen a reliable citation for it. I think it’s drifted over into the category of an intellectual urban legend.

But without doubt, it sounds like something O’Connor might have said. She stared.

The doctor’s waiting room, which was very small. . . Mrs. Turpin, who was very large, made it look even smaller by her presence. She stood looming at the head of the magazine table set in the center of it, a living demonstration that the room was inadequate and ridiculous. Her little bright black eyes took in all the patients as she sized up the seating situation. There was one vacant chair and a place on the sofa occupied by a blond child in a dirty blue romper who should have been told to move over and make room for the lady. (Flannery O’Connor. “Revelation.”)

You couldn’t write that unless you had stared at large ladies and crowded waiting rooms. “Stood looming?” Popular fiction writers don’t stare. They exposit. Halfway through a bestselling novel and I still don’t know what the protagonist looks like. So much for staring.

I can stare if I want

I can stare if I want

So Thursday afternoon I was staring. At myself, I guess you could say. Trying to find someone else to stare at and write a short story. But as usual on Thursday afternoon I was alone. Nothing to stare at but me and the TV. Rerun (they’re ubiquitous) of “The Mentalist.” Tell me you’re not in love with Simon Baker. Almost as goo-goo-eyed over him as over Guy Pearce.

I’m staring at myself. And Simon Baker. And I’m sobbing. Stop!!!! You think that’s sad. I think it’s pretty funny. Staring and sobbing. I’m supposed to feel bad about that. And I sure as hell am not supposed to talk about it. Not in private or–for God’s sake–here!

Apparently in one of the Austin Powers movies, Dr. Evil says to his son Scott, “You’re quasi-evil. You’re semi-evil. You’re the margarine of evil. You’re the Diet Coke of evil. Just one calorie, not evil enough.” So I’m the margarine of Bipolar. You can make whatever you like of my staring at Simon Baker and myself and crying. But I’m writing about it at 5 AM two days later, and you don’t think that’s funny?

The opposite of crying over Simon Baker is grandiosity I can’t control (that’s what the “Bi” means). Mine is as harmless as my crying. As Therese Borchard says in her article about Catherine Zeta Jones, “my form of ‘grandiosity’ is simply not needing to solicit so many affirmations to feel okay about myself.”

I keep good company. Austin Powers and Catherine Zeta Jones! I don’t need to

Bipolar Too?

Bipolar Too?

solicit affirmations. Staring at Guy Pearce and Simon Baker.