Woman in Straight-jacket:
I popped a couple of Wellbutrin last night to kick start a mania. Off all drugs for a few months and making a dive, it’s worth a try. If that doesn’t work, I’ll add the Adderol. Thankfully, my manias are controllable. I don’t think I’m Jesus. I don’t fly to Greece to rebuild the Pantheon. I just get through the day without the stabbing physical pain of consciousness. Some depressives describe depression as an all-over body ache, an anvil pressing against their heart, the tightening of a sieve around their head, a first-degree burn behind their eyes. Wretched thoughts are the least of it. Any idiot can control negative thoughts with simple cognitive exercises found in an Oprah reviewed self-help book. I am worthy. I deserve to exist. Everything is okay. I am not to blame, but after practicing the positive thinking techniques, and quieting the mind, the body has it’s own mind and it doesn’t respond to the bullshit as easily. The body is a third consciousness that picks up cues far beyond the reach of rationalization. It doesn’t give a shit if I’m worthy and deserve to exist. It doesn’t care if everything is okay.
A drug, in this case, Wellbutrin, even as a placebo, can stop the physical pain of sadness. In fact, it can calm the body even if the mind continues to insist that life is not worth living. If your body feels good you don’t care if life is worth living or not. You can go out for a pizza, take a bath, read a magazine, without the burning coals of
Hells kitchen under your feet.
No, I do not work for a pharmaceutical company. I just believe that the body-mind connection, though real, is not dependable. I know that the mind controls the body, alters the chemical cocktails and adjusts the hormonal thermostat. But if somebody takes an iron frying pan and slams you over the head, the mind can’t stop the bleeding. Depression is a well aimed frying pan.
If you don’t have a job you can’t take a vacation. I don’t work so I can’t take any time off. I am constantly not working, day in and day out, year in and year out and the monotony of it wears on me. If you don’t work a job you are usually working in other ways that are much more exhausting. Not only that, you don’t get paid. If you think that not working is easy, give it a try. The mind and body were not built for leisure, and they rebel against it. You will fidget and worry and piddle-diddle around with various projects and find yourself neck deep in half-assed projects that need to be finished. You don’t have time to finish them because you don’t have a job and you don’t need to be anywhere in the morning, so you can sleep in or get up and lounge around procrastinating, and soon it’s 5pm and all you’ve done is create another half-assed project that you can’t finish because you aren’t working. A job brings numerous benefits, the least being the paycheck, the best being a structure, scaffolding for your life from which you offshoot. Without a foundation, a building falters, and in this case the building is your life, the foundation your job, whether you hate or love it, plan to quit or climb the ladder. Lousy or good job- both potential springboards.
Artists speak of their “work” – and work it is, but work is not considered work without a paycheck. Cash doesn’t count either. There must be a paycheck and a pay stub and an acknowledgement from the government, as they garnish your wages, that your work is valued monetarily. Manual labor is sometimes immune to this rule. Digging a ditch is work, paycheck or not. Digging your own grave is the ultimate expression of meaningful work. You are attending to the inevitable, the place you will go when you are, finally, on vacation.
My friends think I’m a bum because I don’t get a paycheck. Well, not exactly. I get a check from the government because I am disabled. I am disabled because I cannot work. I cannot work because I cannot wear pantyhose. I cannot wear pantyhose because it makes me insane. I am insane therefore I am unemployable. I am unemployable because I am disabled. I cannot work because I am too busy working. I cannot work because my number one life priority is freedom. Freedom is Uncle Sam’s middle name, so he on some level understands which is why he pacifies people like me with 700 bucks a month. Otherwise we would take to the streets and rob the drugstores blind.
My psychiatrist suggested Social Security Income, i.e. disability, because he considered my depression disabling on a global scale. I questioned my ability, as a white, educated woman, to pay inspection. The disability interview that applicants of SSI are required to endure. My psychiatrist said, don’t worry. With the letter I write for you, they’ll take heed.
I went to the interview dressed in skirt, blouse and pantyhose. I walked into government office in the pantyhose and sat down regally, with purse set primly on my starched and ironed polyester lap. When they called my number, I stood tall and waltzed with confidence and elegance to the desk of a government employee whose job it was to decide whether I was insane.
I don’t remember the questions I was asked. The female government employee, wearing the same blouse and skirt, looked over my psychiatrist’s letter and said, “Looks like you’ve had a difficult time.” She expected me to extrapolate. I did not.
I worked against type, as I had learned in my Sanford Meisner acting classes.
“Well, no not really” I answered. “I think my psychiatrist is prone to exaggeration.”
“In what way?” She was now in confrontational mode. I was not following protocol. I was, I expect, supposed to blubber and start speaking in tongues.
“I think, actually, that I am merely misunderstood. I feel I am perfectly able to work if given the right opportunity.”
“What opportunity might that be?” she asked.
I smiled demurely and took a Kleenex out of my pocketbook. I held the Kleenex to an eye.
“If only I could give as I want to give, to the people who are truly disabled? Who truly need guidance. I am very good with children, for example, and also very good with older people. Do you offer any employment placement services here?”
That was it. She circled something at the bottom of the form. Stapled it to the psychiatrist’s letter, threw it into her outbox and leaned towards me.
“Thank you for coming in. We’ll be in touch.”
A few weeks later I received a check for 723 dollars. I am still receiving checks for 723 dollars each month under the stipulation that I remain too insane to work, too insane to improve, to insane to rebel, but not too insane to need more than 723 dollars a month to live on.
Man in a suit:
My law practice, specializing in marital divorce, doesn’t bring in the kind of income I had hoped for. People who want a divorce, at least in Milwaukee, are hiding their money from their spouses and themselves. They are money-poor, money desperate, money motivated. They’ve lost the love they thought would save them, and although they profess relief, it’s an enormous loss to them on a deep level. The deepest level. I get the brunt of that deep level anxiety in that they don’t want to fork over any dough in the process. They just want out. Out, but with some money left over.
They all cry poverty, and being that I’ve been divorced a couple of times, I feel their pain. I take them on, hoping they’ll pay me after the settlement, but that rarely happens. I can’t turn people away. I wasn’t raised that way, neither were my brother and sister, and that’s probably part of the reason we struggle through life like salmon swimming upstream during a severe drought. It’s like this: We don’t like to fuck people over and we don’t like to see people suffer. We don’t like to go to bed at night thinking that we made a buck due to someone’s vulnerability, fear, gullibility or just plain stupidity. The universal stupidity that suggests an old-fashioned trust based on business ethic principals to which every suited ape, you assume, is attuned.
For whatever reason, we Casey’s, with the exception of my sister, would rather be duped than dupe others. It’s not that we’re necessarily fans of Buddhist or Christ like principals, we just don’t want the hassle that being an asshole eventually brings to the fore. It’s selfish, really, and lazy. The ya-da-ya-da sucker-born-every-minute mind-set is a low life attitude and becomes it’s own punishment.
Woman on a hotel stool with Martini:
Sitting at the Taj Hotel bar in Boston with two men and a woman. I’m there on a whim, meeting an old friend for a beer, choosing the hotel because it’s an easy landmark. Martini doused, the two men, one puffy and white, the other thin and Indian, roll through polite conversation towards the subject of profitability.
“I got out of Harvard and hell, I was just a kid, and the opportunity came along, porn films, and I made a shit load of money, but that was a long time ago.”
“Hey, man, I know” says the Indian. “Did the same thing. Still going on. Did you work with Mac Burgess?”
“Well, sure, I guess, think so.”
“Mac’s still with it.”
“I would like to say I’m out of the game. As I said, made shitloads of money. But money runs out.”
I was waiting for a friend that never came. Before I knew it, I was drunk and the Indian was propositioning me.
“You’re a good looking broad. I’ve got some work for you. Want to make a lot of money in one day? “ He put his purple shining mouth next to my ear. “I say, you’re a fine bitch. Wanna make some quick dough?”
The white, puffy Harvard man stirred his martini with his finger and stuck it in his mouth. His eyes were dull and drifting.
“I can’t really say.” he said to himself. “what happened….. I was at Harvard. Not a great student, but not at the bottom. It was different back then, not an issue. Kind of innocent. I was just a kid. I went to L.A. and people gave me a shit-load of money.”
“What do you do now?” I asked, because I wanted to know. I wanted to know how this white, puffy man could afford his Rolex, his alligator shoes, a martini bill in a five star hotel. He looked like an insurance agent.
“I sell insurance.” he answered emotionless. “Easy money.” He added.
The Indian took affront.
“Not as easy as porn, not as much fun” he challenged. “It’s fun, admit it.”
“It was a long time ago” said the Harvard man. “I was a kid.”