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Friday, October 23, 2009

The Outline

One thing I can say for certain about this blog is, after the last two days, it has made me feel like—as clichéd as this sounds—a new person. That I am told by many people in private messages that it may stand someday as an interesting document for me to look back on is not something that concerns me right now. I have felt this unbelievable compulsion to write, write, write since my tumor removal—like my existence quite literally depends on it—a kind of crazed, reptilian determination just to open my laptop, find a public website, and write down my thoughts. The overhwelming compulsion stems from the idea that, from the “privacy and safety” of my couch, feeling completely alone and at peace with myself, I can write down one record of everything I feel compelled to say. And also I have the general awareness (on some level) that the contradicting people in my life could all have the option to read the same exact words, the same “official record” of my thoughts. For some reason unknown to me now, this why I feel compelled to write at this juncture—to put it out there in the Universe as an official record of what only I have been thinking all my life, and that if anyone wants to read it, fine. I don’t want to throw it in people’s faces—no, it’s not that at all, and I don’t want people to cry for me and I’m not soliciting sympathy—I just have this overwhelming desire that my thoughts are “available” in long form if you are interested. If you don’t care to read this, don’t read it. I don’t really care if you do or don’t and I won’t wonder why.

Any time I have written anything in my blog, it has been with this almost maniacal drive to write about what I feel like I want to write about, just at that moment. I have had no plan, and no idea where this was going to take me. No ulterior motive, no timeline, no “goals to achieve”, just an open forum where—at any given moment—I can spring up from the couch (MJ’s surprise: “What’s wrong!?” Me: “Nothing, I’m fine. I just need to write.” MJ: “OK.”) and feel this incredible urge that I simply must write one particular thing, right at that moment, be it an old memory, a dream, a silly vignette, or something else. The only thing I can say for certain is I just “knew” in every instance what I have “had” to write for every entry, going back to the Caring Bridge entries (which I guess I should copy at one point and bring over here to have it all in one spot; I’ll make a note to do that).

Husband Amused is therapy for my frazzled, disoriented mind just as My Couch is therapy for my frazzled, disoriented cells, brain tissue and spinal fluid. The important thing to me about Husband Amused is that I am not conceiving of it in terms of having an “end point.” I don’t know, going into it, for example, that I have only ten sessions with a therapist that my insurance will pay for. I’m too smart for myself, too much of a planner in that I have gone into those ten sessions knowing exactly how I was going to come out of them. I have sized up therapists at the first session and figured out that, just like in a good movie plot, on the second or third session, I would “discover” the unconscious reason why I really was there, the “hidden” motive really driving me to seek help for the first issue that was bugging me. On the fifth session I would bravely look at the therapist and say, “I’ve reached the point of no return, and I choose now to go forward. I can’t turn back if I take this next step, but here I go.” [Deep breath, step.] Then on the seventh or eighth session I “therapize” myself down, down, down into the deepest, darkest hole, so desperate, nowhere to turn, so afraid of the dark, then on the eighth and ninth sessions I break through new barriers, crying, slaying demons, avowing how I now have power over those things, then the tenth session is for wrapping things up and rolling the end credits.

I’ve done that, convincingly, three separate times as an adult, supposedly trying to heal the pain of my childhood. One therapist once said to me, at the end of the tenth session, standing at the door, “You know, sometimes I wonder about whether I’m really helping people, whether I’m doing any good in this world with my chosen career. But then there are patients that come along like you and I know everything is worth it.” I’ve heard a therapist say those exact words to me, and I have also been fully aware that I’ve been faking the whole thing. Not with the issues, mind you—I don’t lie to a therapist about anything that has happened in my life, and I don’t make anything up—nothing like that, and I have never “invented” some kind of phony trauma that didn’t actually happen for the sake of a therapist. I have always worked within the guidelines of my real life, talking about real things that have happened to me. Rather, I have gone into therapy already knowing and having personally “worked through” these private issues on my own, then re-enacted them in front of a therapist, kind of like a “performance” after I have done all the work myself. The point is that it has made me feel good to help the therapist, that I have created a kind of “safe, predictible” version of myself to go into the therapist with the goal of helping the therapist. That has always been my goal going into therapy—not to help myself, but to size up a therapist, find out what they need in their life, and try to give it to them so they feel better about themselves. I am so good at that.

Even though I have worked with “real, true” issues in therapies before, I know I have never once spoken to a therapist about witnessing the brutal shooting of a dog, or even once mentioned my nanny Eloy and everything she meant to me. Those things never even occurred to me. With the open-ended and limitless boundaries of what Husband Amused has represented to me, I know right from the start I have achieved more with my writing post-op than I have with a lifetime of self-scrutiny.

So—to begin—with Husband Amused it has been vitally important to me to embrace the concept that there are no “end points” associated with it. “End points” is simply a term I hear myself constantly referring to since the surgery. I don’t know what I mean by that, but I hear myself using the term “end points” as a negative term I can’t deal with. Any abstract thought that gives me a headache—physical pain, seriously—has been something I define as having an “end point.” When I felt good enough a few days after coming home from the hospital to get up from the couch and go downstairs to my office for an hour, catching up on a few bills and correspondeces, I came back upstairs for lunch frazzled and blabbing to MJ about how “my office is all end points, all things to do and put in folders, to end them, go onto the next thing, put that in a folder, end that. It’s all numbers, quantities, and end points.” I heard myself say that, saw MJ’s puzzled look, and took note of it.

The thought of an “end point” as an abstract idea has made me so sick so I feel physical pain in my brain. Only pain medication and an ice bag sitting on my head will take away the pain I feel from the concept of an “end point” anywhere in my life right now. I need everything to be open, limitless, without a particular direction, and I need the ability to act and think suddenly, and WRITE at the key moments I need, and this drive is primal. I have my family and friends rallying around me, picking up all the slack as I do this to go on healing. I have no concept of what anyone else needs right now, none (and this is way it is supposed to be for people coming out of brain surgery). I am relying on the people close to me for everything, and they are providing it to me because they love me.

So I have no idea, literally as I write this sentence, where I am going to go from here. I only know Husband Amused is not associated with any concept of an “end point” anywhere, and therefore it is the only safe place in the Universe Alexander Miller can write anything Alexander Miller wants, with complete protection and anonymity. Paradoxycally, I am simultaneously aware that as I do this anyone in the world—even people I know who want to hurt me—can have access to these words as well. I know both these things are true at the same time, and I readily admit that these things contradict each other.

And—most importantly—I know that everything I write in Husband Amused is coming from the perspective of a strong adult and not a weak adult. Perhaps also a confused adult, but nonetheless a strong one, because I have never envisioned myself as a “strong” person, not once in my life. From my earliest years, I have approached every situation from the perspective that I am the weakest person in the room, the one with the least reason to ask for anything because everyone else’s needs must come first. So I decided anything I write (and, in fact, any single word I have so far written, right from the start) is me writing from the perspective of a “New Me, Version 2.0”, a regular, normal, average, real and strong adult. I don’t mean “strong-er” in terms of overpowering others and putting others beneath me, but rather “strong” in a more abstract sense, meaning strong within myself and knowing I have some kind of value in the world.

So far, this New Me v2.0 is someone I would define exactly as this:

“The Outline.”

The Outline, simply, is what I envision as the parameters of a fully strong, adult male, 41 years old. In the area OUTSIDE OF this outline I envision all my memories, strewn about, floating around in the space around me, available to me, but NOT inside The Outline. Not yet. The memories are ALL there, every single one of them—happy, traumatic, silly, horrifying, innocuous, shameful, stupid, lame, insane, ebulliant, serene, melancholy, wistful, “invented”—but they are now all there in equal portions, nothing hidden away or stashed, nothing “conveniently forgotten”, nothing elaborated, with the same amount of light shining on all of them for me to inspect, take a good measure of before “The Outline of the Fully Strong 41-year-old Male” decides how to put everything back inside of The Outline and how to prioritize and embrace these familiar or forgotten memories. They all need to go back in there, even the ones I don’t like, but The Outline of the Fully Strong 41-year-old Adult Male will be overseeing this whole reconstruction, and no one else can have a say. The Outline will make every hard decision, down to every nuance.

As I write this, I know that is the only thing I can say I know about myself for certain as I embark on the second half of my life, the half that doesn’t have the tumor stuck in the middle of my brain. This is the one and only thing I now know about me. I know outside of myself I have people protecting me, allowing me to do this, but that is something that is not inside The Outline. I will have to put all the memories back, but I will do it in only the way I choose, and it will be done in my own time, with no concept of an end point. And I promise to do everything in writing, right here on my daily blog I have aptly titled Husband Amused.

So I guess it is two things I know for sure about myself: 1) the above, and 2) I got the title right.

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