Please Excuse My Mental Illness or Plea of a Barnacle to the Ship Owner
by Tova Gabrielle
Saturday, August 31, 2002
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I want you to like me. ...I insist on it!
...However. if you really can not stand me, I would simply ask that you continue ignoring me-- Just-- whatever you do, please donít remove me!
Hey, I respect you, really; you are in charge, you man the great boat to which I cling. You are in and of the world of things (and thatís good!).You know the value and uses of materials (and people). Your rig isnít dented; it is never out of oil and the windshield-wipers always work. Youíre responsible and in control: You read directions, put things away. You rewind video tapes, return them on time.. You are not a fugitive from the video store and the library.
Youíve never bounced a check.
You have excellent boundaries: You respect privacy. You are good at keeping secrets. You can hold your tongue; hold onto your assets, your spouse, your home, your job.
You own your house (and mine). You always know where your children are and you havenít wrecked any (at least, not in obvious ways).
However; and forgive me for saying this, but
sometimes (only once in a while of course) you do tend to overlook others.... Naturally itís not your fault. Itís just that you can't seem to see the little beings like Me until either you fall in down here, yourself, or your great rig is out of the water. In which case, it would be easier to deal with me; on your turf, where you support yourself on those strong legs I so envy. However being out of the water isnít so great for me. In fact, the real world, [real? ] as you call it, makes me feel quite (unbearably) vulnerable. I can't figure out what my world is when yours is the real one. It makes me mentally ill to even try to imagine. Iíd even claim feeling "skinless", if thatís a possible feeling for the likes of a barnacle (is it?).
Anyhow, I just want you to know, in case it occurs, that your discovery (me clinging there all nobby and dark, where you expected smooth and shiny) could be a bit traumatic, and for us both. Personally (and I hope you donít think Iím over-reacting when I say this) if I'm out of my element, I will be at your mercy! For, not only will I already be drying up from over exposure but there is
a chance you might think I'm damaging your boat. Let me assure you, then: me and your boat have a good thing, really!
Well, I just hope, that even if you don't condone our relationship, youíll just shrug your broad shoulders and just ease me (still safely attached) back into that water.
Oh, and sorry to belabor this but I've just got to say that it makes me just about psychotic
to think how simple it could be for you to rid your rig of me because it may appear to you that Iím not alive. Honestly, I think, I feel, I can even write! The thing is, though-- even if you donít believe I'm already dead: I still worry that youíll judge me intrusive and rude, besides being insignificant, unproductive, unpatriotic. Or maybe it's my personality, but while i have rough edges and while they can make me seem stuck up, the truth is, Iím just stuck. I canít help it, though.... I get panicky under your scrutiny- I feel about as unwanted in your world, as obvious and helpless as a beached whale.
I, like you, wish I werenít dependent on you,
but being attached is my nature.
Look, you might look at me and think, "whatís the point?" but, please! There are lives (even whole colonies below you that you just cannot see) and they arenít hurting you. Besides, we have character. Why not think of us like your antiques: fragile, some rare remnants? You see, I, like you, have a hard time with rejection (or maybe you donít, I didn't mean to sound assuming).Itís just that, you man this great modern boat of western civilization.
Listen, be a good guy, I mean, you are a good guy, right? Youíre conservative; reasonable. You take care of things. So, why not just think of me as one of your things? Hey, I'm strange, maybe you could think of me like good wine!
No? OK water.You like water! Hey, if you spill something, you clean it right up, you donít get rid of it! And surely you are a good Christian who knows to take into consideration how, being privileged as you are, morally requires you to be charitable to us less-fortunates.
Oh I know that you may think that since you can handle problems, I should be able to stand on my own feet. But isnít it worth considering that I donít even have feet?
Hey, PLEASE. Donít tell me Iím feeling sorry for myself: You are watching a completely different movie than i am down here. The particulars to which Iím connected, just donít occur, in a non-fluid world. See, down here walls (what walls? am I crazy?) are blurry feelings uncontrollable I don't know what's real. I can't see what you see Up where its dryer and where you arenít allergic to the atmosphere, like I am.
You have luxuries I am not afforded:
for instance, you arenít fussy about air and
water. You can wait until you get home from work to cry, shout, and generally misbehave Or until you are dying, for that matter. Meanwhile, I have to be sensitive to both worlds. While being attached to your stuff, yet submerged, I am always struggling for survival.
I'm starting to feel a little jittery.
Hey just because youíre not like me, thatís not a reason to disregard my rights to love (if not thrive) and, perhaps even some day, find happiness?
Hope I didn't offend.But I do have faults like blurting out what i feel, and although they may be totally unlike yours and you can store them up until...until?
what DO you do with them anyhow?
Listen, sorry for being personal, i can't help it, it's my nature, see i live in a very tight colony down here so it's different, we talk about everything!
Anyhow I'm not as good as you, OK? You want more evidence? Well, when you make mistakes you probably donít automatically groan and go lie down because it means you canít get the most simple tasks right, that you are a total failure and everyone knows it. The bottom line, if i could see one, is that you are a man of the world and i am a fungus of the underworld who depends on you. You live a productive life with many assets to prove it. Your mistakes arenít indelible. You are polite, proper, donít leave tracks when you visit. And unlike me, you never wear-out your welcome because you have your own home.
You never splashed ink or coffee pon your parentís expensive furniture and if you did
it was too long ago for them to remember.
When you went to stay at your step-fatherís cousinsí he didnít reassure her about putting you up by saying that she could expect a well behaved bulldozer. And when she told you what heíd said, you didnít feel flattered and ingratiated.
Now, you wouldnít want to be known as a
fungus-plant abuser, would you? You, who always have fresh flowers and plants around yourhouse? And, of course, the animals donít eat them. Your pets are quiet, well-trained and donít chew up the house. You donít consider tag-sales and clothing bins the responsible way to shop because you regularly replace couches and chairs the animals took over. You keep dogs or cats, not reptiles, birds, or monkeys. Your pets donít own you. Your pets donít have pets of their own. And you donít prefer them to people.
You can exercise constraint, and donít take home stray people for the night. Nor would you ever take in somewhere between six and twenty animals, depending upon the dosage of your psychotropic medications.
Andyou only take medications for physical
things and you never feel a need to speak of them (except to nurses and doctors, who you see regularly).
You trust doctors and bosses, and they trust you as well. And no doubt, you have regular
bowel movements and you donít write or talk about them, either.
I comprehend that, above all else, you work for a living; instead of working at staying a alive or living for a living or concentrating on your breathing so you don't panic at everything over-oxygenated.
But no one ever told you to do the world a favor and stay home. And you arenít at risk, even when alone in your own house. Youíre efficient and organized: You donít burn things every time you cook; even water.
You know where your glasses are and you clean them often (and you donít buy them in sixes at the dollar store and lose them within two weeks).
Youíre good at math, realistic and objective. You havenít lost count of your sexual encounters. You are neither frigid nor a nymphomaniac. You find sex simple
and donít ascribe metaphysical meanings to physical acts.
You never confuse intensity with intimacy,
You donít find the simple act of mating as bonding as super-glue. And if you do bond, itís by choice. You marry that special someone who is happy to marry you (and not because sheís pregnant).
You keep essentials well-stocked. You donít knock on neighborsí doors to borrow toilet paper, making sophomoric jokes about
returning it when you are done using it.
Every decision doesnít seem arbitrary.
You donít constantly begin things in the middle, trying to make meaning from chaos. Projects and relationships have clear beginnings and proper endings. Especially endings.
Your actions are all planned, and carried out to completion.
You havenít brought fire, floods and pestilence into your home.
And Iím sure that your boss, if you have one, never informed you that the only thing that is consistent about you is your inconsistency. You have the endurance and the fortitude to work at the same place for years. And I understand how rewarding it is to get
paid well out there in the real world, where life is tactile, visual, audible, and not always easy; nor forgiving.
Your production flow is not as unreliable and unfullfilling as an affair with a married person.
Your bed is not your office.
During work breaks you donít whip out a vibrator.
Your thoughts and speech are appropriate and logical.
You donít sabotage your jobs by insisting on telling your supervisor what you think, or worse, showing him what you feel.
You arenít at the mercy of instincts and impulses. Thoughts, rather than feelings, control your actions.
You are an all-round, great guy! You are a person of carefully chosen words, a being of meaningful silences and quiet nuances. You can be extroverted at will. Getting where you want to go doesnítdepend upon the moon and shifting tides. You donít find getting out the door of your house to be as challenging an ordeal as jumping naked into the ocean in February. You travel on top of the world (not inside of or under it) on the highways in nice cars, you are a real "shaker and mover". You are not a vibration in the soil, a misplaced strand of memory or an animal spirit. You donít need to compensate by reminding yourself and others, that in another culture youíd be a Shaman.
You are out and about, moving freely; not stuck inside your head, unable to get to a door, a captive of your fears and you house. You donít feel your only salvation is in obsessively trying to recall and put on paper, dreams and inspirations that evaporate in mid-sentence. You have a good understanding with your computer and your printer and you are still on speaking terms.
Itís easy for you to be normal, consistent and
trustworthy. You make your bed and exercise regularly. You jog and like it. You rise up to meet the challenges in your life. Your mind is well structured;
you donít catch on fire with ideas that then fizz and go out before they ever get off the ground. You are blessed with a chemical balanced brain Youíve never smoked pot or if you have it was a brief experiment.
You donít have to see a therapist because you are too honest. (You donít have to see a therapist; for that matter.) Your neuro-transmitters don't misfire.Your hands arenít freezing on a warm Spring day. Your
central furnace purrs when itís cold, and the fire in your belly is not out. And you donít confuse people with strange metaphors.
Furthermore, youíre family and friends are
respectable. You donít have a partner or housemate whom you must remind to put on some pants when he goes out on the deck for sun (for that matter, you donít have housemates). You understand your role in
organized groups and donít have to watch your mouth.
People donít answer their phones when you call by asking immediately whatís up.
You are a team player who not only knows the rules but observes them. Your
life works! Your friends include those from your childhood. The kids call on weekends and when they visit, they return to their productive, busy, lives.
They observe appropriate beginnings and endings (especially endings).
You have donate both money and energy (of which you have plenty) to important causes. You know all of your
teenage sonís classes and teachersí names and you always read notices and return report cards on time.
You are on a first name basis with that principle because he knows of your contributions to the community and respects your work and not because of the times your child almost got expelled when his pot
pipe dropped out of his knapsack in class, nor the time he told the teacher to get out of his space.
You get enough sunshine, donít sit in front of colored lights with a towel over your head. You donít talk about emptying out your head, as if it were a bathtub. Or about getting enough Melatonin. You don't write in sentence fragmants.
You donít need to worry about the mechanical condition of your thinker. You donít need a support group, to give you the courage to open your mail. You enjoy paying bills which you open immediately and you regularly balance and manage your checkbook in accordance with your budgetary needs, of which you are well aware. You eat and sleep for health purposes only, maintaining a well- balanced diet and schedule.
You are not a traumatized person who cannot get up till Wednesday.
You spell out words fully and correctly.
But me, I live in my head. I cannot get out from under the weight of all this liquid. I have to either dodge fast-spinning thoughts or function somehow with a leaden body and head. The roller coaster within me
constantly threatens to unravel whatís left of my life. I dream my car has gone off the edge into water, my mind keeps slipping away. I go too far, say the wrong things, have the timing of a drunk. Just living
interferes with my life. Working regularly and keeping a schedule seems to me to be, both over-rated and an unattainable luxury.
Being a barnacle, I seem to think weíre all one. I donít seem to see the edges of roads or of people, until I ram into them. I think Iím Moses or Tich Nat Han. I try to improve people until they scream out for mercy . Iím more pathetic than an aging hipster expecting a handout while boring passers-by on the streets, by playing off-tune Dylan songs on a beat-up, dead guitar. I have the
audacity to tell my dreams to people in cafes, innocent people who are trapped behind counters. I tell my problems to strangers in nearby booths who happened to look up, while trying to drink their Mocha
But try to understand me: Someone is playing with the volumein my brain. Which should explain why voice gets too loud
in cafes and restaurants, if not why I do what I do. I canít help but expect clemency for my misdeeds. Pity me! For, while I can swim or float, or go deep, Iím always afraid of being cut off or somehow being swallowed, by whatís above or behind me. Iím a woman
and Iím too sensitive, one of those; you know the kind: Intense and interesting but you wouldnít want to marry me.
Well, guess what: neither would I. I would
leave me too, if I could, saying "Adios, kid, see ya when you grow up," if I had any choice about the matter. But I donít share that luxury with you (nor do I want you to share it with me). Sure Iím interesting, but like a specimen. Unique too: "Youíre, well, different!" Iím told. Oh yes. When out of water, Iím a hot potato, alright, but I proceed to then burn up. And thatís why I must stay immersed.
I envy you, you know. Youíre mildmannered, even keel. Youíre normal. And why not-- this is your home, the world. You think itís boring being so normal, but I think youíre lucky, and not only that, but I secretly believe that you owe me. And thatís not right, that makes you mad.
Iím the nouveau poor. I have a trust fund or a
government subsidy-- I forget which. I am not materially motivated, nor do I seem able to pull myself up by the bootstraps. Racked with loneliness and self-loathing, I donít seem to value or understand the meaning of independence. And youíre right about whatever you see about me that you dislike. But you are frozen in your role as an adult while I am stuck in my childhood. The truth is
we need each other.
Let us strike a bargain then, a compromise (you are a fair person, right?): I will offer you a rare, gritty glimpse of the underside of modern life, the "psyche," if you will; which is important: without undersides, the great boat wouldnít float! And you can either try to understand me, or understand and accept that you cannot understand me. Even when it hits you that I donít seem right in the head, or just plain "nice". But Iíll try to act straight and be nice, to the limited degree to which I am capable. The problem is, and I can only pray youíll forgive me for saying so: but it seems to me, that on this particular yacht where Iím so stuck, nice means, "White, Middle-class, Protestant, and Male". None-the-less, I promise that I will try, as best as I am able, to be those things. But when, in spite of reminders, I do still displease you, please consider my failures to be symptoms of my disability. Everyoneís gotta have one. Mine may not be obvious like a bandaged head. But you should see the insides! My brain must wobble like a falling gyroscope.
Yet, just because I have a disability, that doesnít mean that I shouldnít be here. I kinda think if I didnít belong here (and for some reason) I wouldnít have been put here in the first place.
Having said that, I hope you can forgive my theorizing when Iím not a priest or rabbi. Let me reassure you, I do know Iím as annoying as a big sore on the nose. But fortunately (for you) I promise to try to stay hidden down, only coming out once in a while for your air (which, if you donít mind my saying, we sometimes do share, no offense intended).
Well, I know Iíve said too much already-- guess I said it so that you will be assured I understand how uncomfortable I make you feel, and now I just pray you donít throw out the barnacle with the bath-water. I only need to ask you : if at all possible, could you do as Greg Allman suggested when he sang, "donít remind me of my failures, Iím aware of them"; So I'll end with one more request: Please consider that what goes up must come down, and what goes down must inevitably come up. And as the tide turns, we shall try to be more aware of your needs than youíve been of ours when we commence to kick ass (no offense intended
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|Reviewed by Micha Julian
|Painful truths, written with amazing, well...courage, inspiration and how it f'ickg hurt to read...as it is so more than f'ing Honest...BRAVO, and forgive, but, being a 'barnacle', myself...
I, am shattered and in the best way, envious of the gift of your words, I am grateful that you gave so much of this reader some dignity and worth...through your words, I want to cry and wish I could...
I am shaking at your courage and your talent and I truly hope you know that, this is Powerful...more than powerful, Beautifully written Haunting, Piece of potent and human, too, too human need to simply be accepted, and...I, well...Thank You, I...So hope that you somehow receive all that your talent sings of...I cannot think, I can only feel this and, I...it seems you would know that, so, Bless you and Thank You and MORE!
Thanks to Janet for pointing me to you...painful, this piece, so full of what so, so many cannot see...
|Reviewed by Alexander Shaumyan (Reader)
|Great poem, Tova. The irrational and rational must co-exist somehow. Those who try to impose their structure and order on the world don't see their own madness. Hilarious and very true.|
|Reviewed by Vicky Jeter
|I too hope that you have a broad and well rounded support system to make the most of
this energy as possible. Blessings, Vicky
|Reviewed by Caldwell Phillips
See my 'other' comment on this. I did want to add though, that with all of your digging the 'shit' out; I hope and pray that you have a good support system. It can be so critical at times. You are one amazing lady! More power to you.
Love, Janet & Alan xoxoxo