Many things are coming to an end. My father’s life is almost over. He’s in hospice care sleeping most of his remaining hours away. I myself don’t feel so well. I may have escaped Covid 19, at least for now, but I am still at risk for heart and brain trouble, possible heart attack or stroke. And the whole world may be ending in one of several ways.
The climatologists watching the release of methane gas from the Siberian permafrost are now reporting a massive release of gas over the summer, as much as 500% higher than predicted by climate change models. That cuts years off the time we have left to mitigate the disaster, if it is not already too late.
And the pumpkinhead dictator that refuses to admit he lost the election is continuing to make dealing with the environmental issues and the current pandemic harder and harder as he wastes more time on petulance and greed and treasonous actions.
I am not going to say I believe the world is ending. My world is ending, no matter what is probably going to happen to yours.
I am going to say I believe the only time that is relevant to me is right now. And I am ill. It only matters how I do what I can still do to live a good life and make the world a little better for having allowed me to live in it
I am not suicidal. I have two books I am working on at the moment, and two more books I hope to do after that. My family still needs me for as long as I can hang on. But I am not going out of my way to try to extend my own life. If I have the option, I’d rather die at home in bed than in an expensive hospital. And if my heart gives out before this day is over so be it. I’m satisfied with the life I have had.
There are those who believe I will suffer an eternity in Hell for what I believe… or don’t believe. Some of those are in my own family. But if Hell is real, well, the people there are all the really interesting ones. Heaven and harp-playing is boring unless God is more of a liberal than he seems in the Old Testament.
Anyway, I softly, slowly make this promise. I will not give up. I will continue to do and be precisely what I should be doing and being. And you can take that promise to the bank. Of course, they will laugh at you. I am bankrupt and literally have no money. But you have my word. And my word is more golden by far than the word of that Cheeto in the White House.
My name is Michael Beyer. That’s not a pen name. It’s my real name. And I was a victim of sexual assault on a child in 1966. I know that makes this essay hard to read in an awful lot of ways, but it is something I have to talk about. You see, I wasn’t merely seduced into having a sexual experience. I was tackled, dragged out of sight, warned not to yell for help, and then tortured. He got pleasure from hurting me in my private parts. He made me believe it was how I was going to die.
But I did not die.
In fact, now, almost 54 years later, I can honestly say I am healed. But it took a long time. My terrible secret almost killed me more than once, as trauma like that can cause suicidal depression. It messes up your ability to have intimate relationships. And the hardest thing about it is, you can never really be healed until you can tell someone. I mean, not merely say the words, but have someone hear the words… and empathize.
If you regularly read my blog or my books, and there honestly are a few who actually do that, you know I have written about this topic before. And you know that I have told people before. I told a girlfriend in 1985. I told a former student who needed to hear somebody else confess something painful that needed to be talked about in a moment of crisis. My two sisters both learned about it when I was able to write about it after the death of the perpetrator. And, of course, I found the courage to tell my wife about it before my marriage and we have told all three of our children. You need to be able to speak about these things after the fact to reassure and protect others in an increasingly dangerous world.
But, recently, my blog told somebody else whom I never really expected to hear it. Because I mentioned the incident in Saturday’s blog post called Every Picture Has a Story, and then I posted that post on Facebook, a classmate that I went to school with from kindergarten all the way through high school graduation found out about it and expressed empathy in a way that touched my heart.
The young lady in question was the one I gave a free copy of my novel Snow Babies to because I named the main character, Valerie Clarke, after her. She is a very kind and gentle soul. She has children and grandchildren of her own, and is well connected on Facebook.
Soon I was getting sympathetic comments from other people I went to high school with. One of them was a guy I played football and basketball with in high school. He was an excellent athlete. And he has admitted to me over Facebook that he too suffered from abuse as a child, though not the same kind of abuse I am talking about. Ironically, he too is at least partially the inspiration for one of my novel characters used in a number of different novels.
He was the model for the character of Brent Clarke, Valerie’s cousin and leader of the Norwall Pirates in novels like Superchicken, The Baby Werewolf, The Boy… Forever, and my most recently published novel, The Wizard in His Keep.
When someone like that, a good friend and comrade, says he knows what the pain is like, and he wishes I had told him back then… well, it means a lot.
But, for so many valid reasons, I couldn’t possibly have told any of my classmates back then. My high school guidance counsellor had a long talk with me about it, but I was unable to tell even him who it was or what they did to me. He only knew that I was suffering from something traumatic.
I was suffering from a kind of traumatic amnesia that often sets in with young victims. I could not tell anybody what was wrong because I didn’t clearly know myself. It is a defense mechanism children sometimes resort to in order to preserve their sanity. And though I couldn’t tell you why, it was the reason I wet my pants in 7th grade Science Class because I simply could not go into the boys’ restroom alone during class. It was the reason I called a friend in Goodell, Iowa from the pay phone on Rowan’s Main Street one Saturday Afternoon and tricked him into talking me out of cutting my wrists with a kitchen knife. He saved my life that night without ever learning that that’s what he was doing. God bless people who not only listen, but hear it in their heart.
And another high school friend on Facebook reminded me that I went on to pay it forward, making a difference for students… sometimes even helping them get over trauma as bad as, or worse, than mine.
Facebook is a very mixed blessing. It helps you make reconnections with people whom you haven’t seen or talked to in a long, long time. Yet it makes it hard for you to keep anything secret. Even terrible secrets. God knows, you can’t hide your political opinions on Facebook, or even the fact that you might be a nudist at heart. But if you have been brave enough to read all the way to the end of this very difficult essay to write, some terrible secrets need to be told. And the trauma doesn’t heal fully until somebody has heard it. So, thank you, and God bless you, for hearing me.
I know I am mixing metaphors again. It is supposed to be blueBIRDS of happiness. But not only am I starting this essay with a berry theme, I happen to be allergic to blueberries, thus solidly symbolizing my somewhat complicated relationship to the state of being truly happy.
You see, blueberries are full of antioxidants that are beneficial in so many ways that I really need that it seems absolutely a bitter irony that they make me sick to my stomach and constrict my lungs. I used to love eating blueberry muffins and blueberry pancakes, as well as fresh, cold ripe berries. They are good for my strained urinary tract and my glaucoma-plagued eyes. They help stave off cancer and help circulation to prevent heart disease. They are good for your blood pressure. But I also learned the hard way that they can stop me from breathing, a habit I really don’t wish to give up.
It is, unfortunately, a universal fact that no human life ever ran on one-hundred percent happiness. It is not possible to be a living, breathing, feeling human bean without knowing a little sadness… a little tragedy… a fair share of sorrow. In fact, I think it must be a rule that the happiest people you know have faced some of the hardest things you can imagine. My Great Uncle Harry was never able to talk about his experiences in Normandy during World War II. But I never knew a man who appreciated a good joke and a laugh more. My Grandpa Aldrich, my mother’s father, was probably the happiest man I ever knew, but his childhood was made difficult because of his mother’s dark secret, and how his father handled the truth about his birth. I too am a generally happy person. Did you know I have been in a psychiatric hospital after midnight admitting someone I love to the suicide-prevention ward? And I have had serious discussions on more than one occasion with more than one other person who was seriously discussing self-harm with me. I think there is probably no one in this life who truly appreciates happiness that hasn’t stared at least once into the dark eyes of despair.
It goes a long way towards explaining why I included a picture of Blueberry Bates in this essay. She’s a character in more than one of my novels, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius, Magical Miss Morgan, and Kingdoms Under the Earth.
Blueberry blames herself for the death of her mother. She was born a cyanotic, or blue, baby at the same time that her mother went into cardiac arrest during childbirth. The tragedy of her birth broke her father’s relationship to reality. He rejected the little boy who had been born to him because the mother, his beloved wife had died in the process. It fell to Blueberry’s two older sisters to take the baby, care for it, and give it a name.
You’ve probably figured out by now that Blueberry was raised as a girl even though she had a penis because her father would never have accepted the son whose birth killed his wife. He secretly blamed himself because the only reason they had a third child was because he so desperately wanted a son. So, he ended up with three daughters, the youngest one with a terrible secret that she really didn’t understand. And Mr. Bates never really came around to accepting that third daughter either. She was raised by her sisters Becky and Carla, and her Aunt Wilma, her father’s unmarried sister. And it took years of therapy and visits to the specialist in Minnesota who became the expert on gender dysphoria to reach the determination that Blueberry was going to be a girl and would transition when she was old enough. You are probably aware that this is a hard thing to deal with, especially when you don’t have any actual parents to help you deal with it.
But Blueberry is one of the happiest characters I have created in my fiction so far. She loves to draw, especially with colored pencil. She loves her boyfriend, Mike Murphy, to whom she revealed the truth, and in spite of Mike’s struggles with it, he eventually came to accept her not only as a girl, but as a girl he was in love with. That was a choice that didn’t sit well with Mike’s best friend, Tim Kellogg. Tim would have to come to terms with either accepting Blue as a girl, or losing his best friend. And that took more than one novel to decide.
Happiness is like that. The higher your kite flies in the April breeze, the harder it crashes to the ground. And if it is not destroyed in the fall, it longs to fly high again.
Happiness is a blueberry. And I like the taste very much. But I am also allergic to blueberries.
I am not Richard the Third. But I did do that soliloquy in college for my class in oral interpretation and got an “A” for it. I can channel those who think they have been wronged. I know whereof they speak… forsooth.
If you are not happy with the President’s handling of the pandemic and economic crisis, (and if you are happy, I hope your recent lobotomy is giving you some peace and rest) you are not alone. The Sun of York has not been the right answer.
I am not, however, a dissembler like Richard. I have no plot to remedy the discontent. I can only tell the truth. I will probably die of the virus before this pandemic passes. I honestly do not fear death. I do fear for loved ones who are also at risk. But while I do not welcome death, it will not find me with any sort of burden of regret. I have been an honorable man. I have taught children, and acquitted myself well of the task. I have been a passable husband and father. I have committed serious acts of art… as well as numerous less-than-serious ones. This is not a suicide note. This is simply me declaring myself at peace with the universe.
And this is also me declaring that I once again am unwell. I don’t think it is the virus. I have been extremely careful. But this one stalks more successfully than the H1N1 and various bird flus that I have previously survived. And I always seem to get whatever serious virus is passing around.
Still, it is probably not the Coronavirus that currently has me sick and in bed. No fever. Only chest pain, headaches, and nausea. I also have a variety of other pains, mostly psoriasis in nature, but also some other internal ones. I could be suffering from prostate cancer, heart disease, or mini-strokes brought on by diabetes. My eyes are going bad. And I am not going to any doctors because of the risk of infection in the doctor’s office and the expenses that health insurance expects me to pay for myself. (I hope this pandemic eats all of Aetna’s lunches for the rest of the year.) There are plenty of ways that this current health crisis can do me in. I will endeavor to die at home on my own terms. And I will try to stay alive long enough to vote the bast***s out of office.
I apologize that Mickey wasn’t funny today. Sometimes he needs to complain a little. Even Richard the Third was down and blue in between villainies. And he ended on one really bad day at Bosworth Field.
I finished a possible cover for my work in progress, A Field Guide to Fauns. It is a book about re-forming families from tragedies and divorce. It is also about suicidal thoughts and depression. And it takes place in a nudist park where the family has a permanent trailer.
This book will definitely be about some of my own experiences with these things and issues. And I hope to distill a bit of high-quality wisdom from this brewing novel. After all, when it comes to depression and battling it, I have deep scars and burned-in notions of how you overcome them. It is ironic that I know so much about fighting depression and darkness, even though it was mostly about the depression of other people, not me.
I have come to know how to stitch families together out of used and discarded parts. Hopefully not creating a new monster. And again, it is ironic that I know this mostly from other families, not ours.
The book is flowing, practically writing itself. And that is always a sign of a big idea turning itself into a great novel. I look forward to finding out what happens in each and every next chapter… or, in this case, Canto.
We have been using Walmart’s restroom for an entire week now, including late-night trips. The toilet’s shut-off valve has exploded with water twice. My daughter lost her school ID badge and missed two days of school feeling terrible. She also dropped and shattered her favorite sculpture to make herself feel worse. I had a car accident on Friday. A fender-bump that didn’t damage my car, but made me almost go into shock with a sudden blood-sugar drop. Stress may kill me yet.
It is almost the worst streak of bad luck that I have ever had. It ranks second, maybe. Or possibly third.
Chances are… I could wear a foolish grin, like a Johnny Mathis Moon in the sky…
I could waltz… all alone in a dark room, never seizing on the chances to fly…
But there’s a time… meant to let the summer in…
And love songs… all make me wonder… Why?
Silly, I know. But silly and surreal is how I go, how I deal with the time. A song in my head leads to rhythm and metaphor and rhyme. And it takes me from old winter and the waning of the moon… to the silly month of June… And my dancing shoes were never quite so spry.
Chances are… if you really read this, you will know I am depressed.
My life is all unfairly messed.
And I barely can get dressed…
To go tripping cross the floor, dancing awkwardly toward the door, ’cause I’m in need of so much more.
But in a poem I find it… the very reason that I rhymed it… like the crooning song that’s stuck in my old head…
I will catch it, and I’ll bind it, like a fool who hopes you’ll find it, and the treasure will be revealed before we’re dead…
Chances are… that you hear that silly tune, as it reels across the page in silent spread. And the song will slowly stop, as I dance a final hop, and the answer is brightly shining in my head.
“If it weren’t fer bad luck, I’d have no luck at all… Gloom! Despair! And Agony on Me!” I often think of that old Hee-Haw! song when bad luck continues to pile up on me in waves… err… waves of bad luck crest over me in piles… or some other gol’ danged mixed
Some of my tip money, artfully backlit so you might not notice they are all ones.
After the tax man took all my spare change and dollars I didn’t have to spare, we woke up Monday morning to the Princess still down with flu and me with no more doctor-bill money. Fortunately there are a few things I can still do about it. I mean besides eat chocolate and play with dolls.
I have been able to earn extra money by driving for Uber. I have been mostly delivering meals for restaurants who use Uber Eats, but I have also delivered folks to the airport, taken non-car-owners to work, and occasionally delivered drinkers to liquor stores. (You wouldn’t believe some of the rationalizations and excuses and made-up stories I have heard from people who regret being sober.) This last week I made $102 on 11 fares plus the cash you can see in my hand. It may not seem like a lot to you, but for someone who feels sick 95% of the time, it is miraculously helpful to have a job that won’t fire you if you are repeatedly too sick to work. And I don’t drive if there’s any hint of not being well enough. I can’t afford an accident caused for any reason. And you get to talk to people. Most of them just want to quietly ride and look at their phones. But some of them ask me questions and strike up story-telling liars’ duels. (Yes, I know I don’t have to lie to come up with a funny story about being a teacher, but lying, especially exaggerating, is a required part of a teacher’s job. And that goes for any other kind of story-teller too, so they lie to me more than I lie to them.) Three straight weeks I have made $100 or more a week. (Not a lie OR an exaggeration). And that helps.
I had some necessary yard work to do where the pool used to be. I had thistles growing that needed to be cut down. So I pitched in and got that done… in the nude. Be glad I didn’t take any pictures of me doing the actual work. Thistle cutting naked? I am not a nudist in order to offend people. It was just a way of working off stress without working up a sweat. It was a cool morning. And the yard in question is in the middle of the city, but fenced in on all sides. And no one can see in without climbing the outside of the fence or locating an un-patched hole. That would be their bad, not mine.
And of course, I have been working on my humor writing. What other excuse is there for the last paragraph? And I just published a humor novel, Superchicken, and started working on publishing another, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.
There are many more ways to heal the mind of dark depression than you might imagine. Of course, I did also buy chocolate covered peanuts again, and played with dolls again this morning. Old nudist fools with their Cirque du Soleil clown noses rarely learn new tricks.
One of the side “benefits” of having diabetes is that it often comes with an extra helping of diabetic depression. I had the blues really bad this week. I am not the only member of my family suffering.
So, what do you do about it?
Or, rather, what does a goofy idiot like me do about it?
Especially on a windy day when the air is saturated with pollen and other lovely things that I am absolutely, toxically allergic to?
Well, for one thing, I used the word toxically in this post because it is a funny-sounding adverb that I love to use even though the spell-checker hates it, no matter how I spell or misspell it.
And I bought a kite.
Yes, it is a cheap Walmart kite that has a picture of Superman on it that looks more like Superboy after taking too much kryptonite-based cough syrup for his own super allergies.
But I used to buy or make paper diamond kites just like this one when I was a boy in Iowa to battle the blues in windy spring weather. One time I got one so high in the sky at my uncle’s east pasture that it was nothing more than a speck in the sky using two spools of string and one borrowed ball of yarn from my mother’s knitting basket. It is a way of battling blue meanies.
And I bought more chocolate-covered peanuts. The chocolate brings you up, and the peanut protein keeps you from crashing your blood sugar. I have weathered more than one Blue Meanie attack with m&m’s peanuts.
And I used the 1957 Pink and White Mercury of Imagination to bring my novel, The Baby Werewolf,home. I wrote the last chapter Monday night in the grip of dark depression, and writing something, and writing it well, makes me a little bit happier.
And I have collected a lot of naked pictures of nudists off Twitter. Who knew that you could find and communicate with such a large number of naked-in-the-sunshine nuts on social media? It is nice to find other nude-minded naturists in a place that I thought only had naked porn until I started blogging on naturist social media. Being naked in mind and body makes me happier than I ever thought it would.
And besides being bare, I also like butterflies and books and baseball and birds, (the Cardinals have started baseball season remember) and the end of winter. “I just remember of few of my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad!” Oh, and I like musical movies like The Sound of Music too.
The monsters of deep, dark depression are being defeated as we speak.