Musings On 11/22/63

So thanks to my wonderful Dad, I got Stephen King’s 11/22/63 for Christmas, and devoured about 550 pages of it on last night’s plane ride.  And it’s interesting thus far.
11/22/63’s pitch is “Man goes back in time to stop Lee Harvey Oswald,” but realistically it’s not about that at all.  The gateway to the past is in 1958, which means that Our Bold Hero has to live through five years of late 1950s/early 1960s life, and the first 500 pages are about him trying to get by in early America.  He tries to prevent a couple of past murders he knows will happen, visits wonderful Derry, gets a job as a schoolteacher and settles down.  It’s mostly about the feel of America on the cusp of a great change, as viewed through small towns and cities.
The problem is that we’re now at the point where Our Bold Hero is intersecting Lee Harvey Oswald’s path, and it’s boring.  Why?
Because Lee Harvey Oswald’s not that interesting a character!
Oh, King’s doing what he can, but Lee Harvey Oswald’s personality is pretty well documented – I struggled to get through all of Bugliosi’s lapbreaker of a book on JFK, and King presents Oswald accurately, in all of his overblown, wife-beating, insecure ways.
But I keep thinking, “Out of all the characters here, I don’t really give a crap about Lee Harvey and his pal George de Mohrenschildt and all the Oswaldian friends.”  King’s trying, but the weird thing is that this book is absolute proof of how life just isn’t as interesting as what a good fiction writer can provide.  The least-developed character is the one who Unca Steven couldn’t generate wholesale from his mind.  The real stunners, the ones who you want to be around, are the ones he made up whole-cloth – even his villains are more villainous.
That’s the sign of a great writer, man.  When you outdo real life.
(Also, this book is a fascinating parallel to The Dead Zone, another tale of a guy who has to assassinate someone to ward off a terrible future history, and I’m probably going to reread Dead Zone when it’s done to see how they match up.)

Bodega, The Self-Actualized Wine Dog

Meet Bodega.  Bodega is one of the fine Wine Dogs of Napa Valley.  He lives at Vincent Arroyo Winery!
Bodega, the overachieving dog
Bodega is famous, because Bodega has his own wine!  See?  A 36% Cabernet, 19% Malbec blend, with a Calistoga earthiness.
Bodega's Wine Label
Bodega is also a fan of Ayn Rand.  Bodega realizes that he is a prime mover, one of the self-made dogs without which American culture would collapse.  Bodega is a creator, and proud of it.
Bodega understands that the other dogs who don’t have their own wines are simply lazy, lazy dogs.  He made his own wine, didn’t he?  And all around him, he sees other dogs who have their own wines.  Clearly, the dogs who don’t have their own wine-brands are slackers.
Sometimes people explain to him that Bodega is lucky, that he was born by chance into the right environment that gave him the right support to show off his winery talents.  But this is ridiculous.  His dark-cherry, French Oak-aged wine was all thanks to him!  Sure, he had some owners who owned a winery, but there are plenty of other winery dogs who don’t have red wines named after them.  So what he’s done must have been entirely by the sweat of his brow.
Bodega the wine dog hears that there are dogs without wineries somewhere.  He’s never really met them, but sometimes he sees pictures in his black-and-white dog-vision.  He feels bad for those non-winery dogs, because they’re so deluded.  If they only worked harder, they too would have their own wineries, and then they could be fully self-actualized like Bodega is.  Bodega’s a top dog because of his intellect and cunning.
Bodega curls up in the corner while the workers pick the grapes, pick the grapes, pick the grapes.  The workers are not creators.  Bodega hopes one day they will all be as wonderful as him.

There's A Hole In Your Bucket, Dear Lover, Dear Lover

If you’re dating a person with depressive issues, you have to realize they cannot retain love.  They’re like a leaky bucket; you fill them full of love and affection and bold shows of adoration, and a few days later it’s all trickled away.
Most normal people can hold onto love for a while – a nice gesture will make someone content for a while.  Whereas a depressive will be working merrily and suddenly some dark part of their brain will go, You know she’s lying.  She doesn’t really love you.  It comes out of nowhere, this bucket-puncture, and all the affection that’s been given just vanishes – unless you’re a depressive, you can’t know what it’s like to be mugged by your own brain like this, where you’re filing papers and suddenly you’re consumed by this baseless terror that the person you love most is on the verge of leaving you.
Your job, as their partner, is not to take their need for more love personally.
Yes, I know, it’s crazy, two days ago you bought them a pony tattooed with “HERE’S HOW MUCH I HEART YOU” on its flank and then took them on an expensive ride around candy mountain.  They should know by now.  But the very nature of their disease means that this, too, slips away from them.  They’ll still be cuddled up with you, wondering.
If you get mad at them, it’s counter-productive.  Then their stupid-brain goes, Oh my God, he’s angry, I’m screwing this up further, they must not really love me, and wham they’re in a frenzy.  It’s difficult, I know, but you need to just nod and say, “Yes, I love you,” not the very reasonable riposte of “OH FOR GOD’S SAKE LOOK AT ALL THE PONY POOP IN OUR BACK YARD, DOES THAT REMIND YOU OF ANYTHING!?!”
You need to be calm, remember they’re pretty fucked up, and just say, “Yes.  I love you.”  Refill the bucket.  And remember it’s gonna drain again, and that it’s nothing you’re doing wrong.
As the depressive, it is your job not to make filling the bucket their job.  You must remember that your leaky bucket is not their issue.  The temptation is strong to go, “Well, my bucket’s empty, so they need to fill it now!”, but you can drain your partners really quickly that way, and eventually they do stop loving you because you’ve made them into little Mickey-brooms constantly toting endless buckets…. Or worse, you find someone who will be willing to constantly fill your bucket at a price, which leads to abuse and dysfunction like you wouldn’t believe.
You got a bad bucket, which means that you’re gonna have to learn to function with it empty sometimes.  Doesn’t mean you’re dying of thirst, man, it just means you can’t drink now.

Depression and Bullies

I used to think you could turn bullies into friends.  If I just wear the right clothes and act the way they want, I thought, then suddenly everything they’re making fun of me for would be gone!  And logically, once I’d made myself into what they wanted of me, the bullies would welcome me into their group.
As it turns out, I misunderstood what the bullies wanted.  They did not want me to change so I could fit into their social group better; they wanted me to be miserable.  My poor clothing and book-nerdery was just an excuse to pick on me.  The hook to hang misery on, as it were.
Even if I had learned to dress exactly like all the other kids in school, they would have started making fun of me for thinking I was good enough to dress like that, or mocking me for how stupid I looked in that clothing compared to them, or maybe they’d just ignore the clothing and move on to my terrible hair.
The point is that bullies, once they’ve chosen their target, are not rational beings.  And that was a lesson that came hard to this psychotherapy-soaked child, where every conflict could be smoothed out in a room between two reasonable people and a therapist to mediate them.  I kept thinking that this could all be worked out, when the proper solution was to ignore the bullies as much as was possible.
Depression is a bully.
I was suicidally down yesterday for no reason except brain chemistry, waking up with the belief that everyone I knew would be much better off if I killed myself.  And I did my usual ration-checks to see if what depression was saying was correct – because, like bullies, occasionally the cruel will tell you what the kind will not.  So I looked at the evidence.
What the evidence told me was that as a polyamorous man, I had several women who loved me deeply, women who had the choice of other partners and yet still cared about me enough to send me texts and emails, and this should be evidence that I was not a worthless human being.  At which point my depression started in on me: See?  All these women who love you, and you just write them off.  That’s how selfish you are, ignoring the adoration of these women.  You’re such a self-centered asshole, you should kill yourself.
Fortunately, I knew my old adversary well enough to understand where it was leading me.  I stepped away from the self-destructive sequence my depression was trying to guide me down, recognizing that when I’m in this mood every path goes straight to off-yourself-ville, and understood that the facts would have to be enough.
Depression is a bully in that it’s fundamentally out to destroy you.  You can’t quite get away from him, like any good bully; the best you can do is come to an understanding that this is unpleasant, but it’s nothing you should take too personally.  And hope, one day, that you’ll become strong enough to walk away.

What I Hope, What I Fear

What I hope will happen when I write about my own depression: other people who are depressed will see that yes, it’s possible to suffer from a draining depression yet still function.  That it is possible to draw a distinction between “What it feels like in my head” and “What the evidence of the real world actually provides” and act according to what objective data tells you is reality and not this fucked-up horrorland inside your head.  That someone who’s depressed, somewhere, will feel a little better when they realize someone else somewhere knows exactly what they’re going through.
What I fear is happening: people are going, “Ferrett is such a whiner.”  They’re stepping away from me, talking about me behind my back as a drama queen, lowering their expectations for me.
Usually, hope wins.  I’m seized by emotions I have little control over.  It’s a disease.  And I struggle with it, and try to be open, because depression’s one of those hidden malfunctions where nobody has to know unless you let them.  And I think it’s important to acknowledge that it does exist.
Still.  When I am depressed, fear matters a lot.  I try to battle it with hope.