Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mike's Story Part 27- Voices

 By Jenna Orkin  

               One night, Mike woke up at four A.M.

  "I was thinking about [two employees who he believed had smashed his computers, whether as part of a government plot or personal vendetta.] I'm not going to let them get to me. I'm not going to let them get to me."    
 "They're not here. You'll probably never see them again. If you do, it will be inconsequential. They're not doing anything to you right now; you are."

   Another night he woke up hot, itching, a rash on his back.

   "If it's a metaphor, it's of being uncomfortable in your own skin, itching to shed it."
   Or, of course, it could have just been a reaction to his medication.

   "Each morning, my mother and father wage war in me."
   His father represented the active side of his personality, the one to which could be attributed his management of FTW at its height but which, taken to extremes, became manic; his mother he equated with passivity and, taken to extremes, depression.  Knowing the depths of his ambivalence for his mother, one could understand why he so needed to be on the move, never staying still.  He had to run from the lure of lethargy, for fear of drowning there.
   Worst, he said, were the mornings when his father's voice hammered, "Got to; got to. You should have..."
   "We can work around that voice or undercut it," I said.  "I think the way to do that is to talk about something that's different but relevant."
   That was the tack I'd been taking with him.  To think you could change the subject completely would have been naive; he was obsessed.  So you entered his world with him and tweaked it a little to alleviate the torment of the same thoughts pounding relentlessly.  Just seeing the problem from another angle was respite enough and the only kind he could take in anyway.
   "The reason you don't let go of that voice is that you think it's responsible for what you've accomplished. On the other hand, it's driving you nuts, in the lay sense of the word."
   He waved aside my concern that he might think I was calling him "crazy;" he had gotten my drift.

   "My shrink used to say to me," I continued, "'You're suffering instead of doing the work you're supposed to be doing.' By that she meant psychological work, being honest with oneself at a deeper level."  I had also learned that punishing oneself psychologically, however torturous, could be a way of escaping an even worse memory or belief.  But Mike wasn't ready to go there yet.
**************   One evening, he wanted Thai food so we set out for Smith Street, Brooklyn's trendy restaurant neighborhood, and ate at the first Thai joint that came along.

   He ordered Pongoon, which he pronounced excellent; almost as good as the one in Los Angeles.   But in the middle of the meal, he had a panic attack.

   The restaurant had brought up his pattern while at FTW:  the lonely life, working long hours. The Thai place had been his treat to himself, very like the one we were in, only the one in LA had had a fish tank. Sometimes he brought dates there but usually he ate alone, came home, watched movies.

   "The one thing I would like," I said when, in a more expansive mood, Mike expressed a desire to repay me for my hospitality, "would be if you could talk to Alex [the name I use for my son in writing] about what's coming."  
   "Not a problem," Mike replied. "But that's the sort of thing that has to come up naturally, organically."  
   Alex, who was in college, came over during the Christmas vacation, with tales of the Daily Show, the "moment of Zen" with Donald Rumsfeld listening to a question from a marine about why troops were scavenging in the garbage for body armor, then saying, "Could you repeat the question?"
   When Alex left, I asked Mike, "You see what I mean about his being out of it?"  Alex was a typical kid his age; "out of it" was Mike's and my shorthand for people who were oblivious to the direction the world is heading in. 
   "I wouldn't even try to address Peak Oil with him," Mike said. "He's one of those people going back to the bar on the Titanic."  
   While we prepared dinner, I started to cry. Mike looked at me, mystified.
   "Back to the bar on the Titanic," I explained.
   He was still clueless.
   "Oh. Perhaps I should explain. We'll go prepare a place for him. He's smart. When things start to fall apart he'll say, 'Mom and Mike have a place in Portland," and he'll get on a plane and come. You think I haven't been thinking about that? He's your flesh and blood. I love him almost as much as you do."

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