I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
-Bertrand Russell

What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell

November 20, 2012 - 8:12 p.m.

Non-Papal Indulgences

Two editions of Wise Madness in one day? What gives? The first was about NERFA. I want to write one about mental state and what I did about it.

If I talk about mental state you can guess that it isn't good. I'm having my anxiety problems. It started on Sunday and grew most of the day. I escaped it with a three hour nap in the early evening. Good thing that I can sleep even when I have anxiety. Actually the sleeping is a symptom of the anxiety. As I said, it's a way of escape. If I'm sleeping I'm not anxious.

On Monday I took some palliative measures. I start the day teaching and that is good in and of itself. I'm doing something useful that I'm good at and that requires my full attention. And of course I enjoy it. By luck I taught one of my favorite topics word problems leading to rational equations. I don't have to prep because I have the problem sheets already written out. All I had to do was hand them to the class and explain how to solve them. I actually came up with some new bookkeeping on the fly. We'll see if it helps them. It's designed to get them to avoid a specific common error.

After school I had my therapy. Now of course the entire point of the therapy is to help me with my anxiety. And I think it does help but it also churns things up. Like chemo it has unpleasant side effects. So I followed it with a day of indulging myself. The first dose of indulgence was Max Brenner's Chocolate. My first thought was to get a syringe filled with chocolate. Why did I change my mind? When I went to post that on facebook it said that I was spelling syringe wrong, I wasn't as I see now. It just didn't know the word syringe. Yes that's a stupid reason but I also figured I'd sit down and relax so I ordered a chocolate peanut butter crepe. I sat down at the bar right under the sign that said, "Chocolate Peanut Butter Crepe ~ $8.25. I ordered and then was given a menu. I looked at it to see what I should get on future visits. The crepe came and I took a picture. It's a bit out of focus but from the reaction it got on facebook still yummy.

It was as good as it looked. That did a world of good for my mood. Then came the check,
Banana Split Crepe ~ $12.95

I of course called the waitress over and told her that wasn't what I ordered. I pointed ot the sign over my head. She went and checked with her manager. She came back to me. The sign over my head was for takeout even though it didn't say that anywhere. They charge an extra $4.70 for eating in which seems absurd. She didn't explain why it said banana but I'm assuming that it was the same price as mine. I paid it and because it was so good I wasn't that upset. Chocolate heals a lot of hurt.

My next indulgence was the Strand Bookstore. I bought not one, not two, but three books. The amazing thing is that none was by Terry Pratchett. I've been reading so much by him I decided I need a break. Instead and this is exciting I got two hard cover editions of Horatio Hornblower books that were cheaper than new paperbacks but I also a Tolkien book that I didn't know existed, "The Children of Hurin." Now it might just be the "Narn I Hn Hrin" which I read in the book "Unfinished Tales" minus the commentary but I think Christopher Tolkien smoothed it out and made it a more coherent story. In any event it bears rereading.

Part three of my indulgence was going to the Union Square Holiday Market. My friend wasn't at the chocolate truffle stand and I had just been to Max Brenner so I didn't stop there. I did say hello to the guy at the Irish booth even though he wasn't the one I usually talk to and buy things from. I found a zillion things I would love to buy friends and a hat I might have to buy for myself. Yes I already have two of the winter hats with the pig tales from Nepal but one is fake and the other doesn't fit perfectly and neither is as nice as the one I saw. I told Sarah I'd be back. Yes I'm on a first name basis with the hat lady. I also know her family is mathematicians. This is why the market is an indulgence. I always make friends with people that work there. I didn't make friends with the woman at the cork belt stall. She was already my friend, Caitlin Canty. She told me on Saturday that she might be manning her fianc's booth. It was just about the last booth I saw and not because I stopped looking when I found her. I had actually looked at every other row of booths in the market. It was the last partial row left.

I was good and didn't buy anything as it was my first pass through the holiday market and there are two others I have to check out. Well OK I bought a cheddar truffle pretzel. Food doesn't count.

I walked home from there because I could and I stopped at Trader Joe's for a few things. I can't actually remember what I bought other than the honey wheat pretzels that are right in front of me. I know it was good though.

I then made a comfort dinner of Nathan's hot dogs and Cajun roasted potato medley. The blue ones are the best.

Later in the evening I had my last indulgence; I played in the Boobly room on Turntable.fm with Carey.

What was the effect of all this indulgence? I didn't become quite functional but at least I was less dysfunctional. I was not in nearly as much pain. That's the first step. You can't do much of anything when you are suffering. This is something I can speak of from experience. Back in 2001 I spent a month in profound pain. I had an undiagnosed perforated small intestine which I have been told is the most painful thing possible. It lead to an abscess the size of a softball, When I finally got diagnosed and had surgery I fought the pain with morphine. It isn't the best thing for working efficiently but it's better than the pain. Before that I treated myself with indulgence. It might not make the pain go away but it makes it easier to deal with. I couldn't eat my indulgences then, or eat anything. Instead after teaching I went down to Penn station and got on a train bound for Baltimore where Carey picked me up and we drove to the Birchmere in Alexandria Virginia where we met Lawrence and saw Dar Williams, We then drove back to Baltimore, I spent the night at Carey's then went to work with her and got a ride from her boss to the train station where I caught a train back to New York, Then got on the LIRR and took the train back to Bayside. Two days later I went to the hospital for a month. You might think that was crazy but it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was going to be in pain no matter what. This way I was in pain doing things I loved with someone I loved and that made the pain a lot more bearable.

The pain from the anxiety is not the same as the physical pain but there are many similarities. In both cases I'll use every weapon in my arsenal to fight it. Yes it is better to work on the underlying problem but fighting the pain is important too.

Oh one last observation. Part of the reason the indulgences work is that it's how I've always handled things. Chocolate makes me feel better because it's part of my routine to take chocolate to feel better. It is a taste of routine and normalcy in the turmoil I find myself in. And that is where writing this comes in. Wise Madness is one of the ways I fight the pain. It is therapy in and of itself. Now I have to fold the clothes I took out of the drier before the wrinkles become permanent. There's probably a metaphor in there someplace.

I signed the Pro-Truth Pledge:
please hold me accountable.

Memories: Not that Horrid Song - May 29, 2018
Wise Madness is Now In Session - May 28, 2018
The NFL and the First Amendment - May 27, 2018
On The Road Again - May 26, 2018
Oliver the Three-Eyed Crow - May 25, 2018

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Horvendile November 20, 2012
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