So, Saturday was my birthday — well, the be accurate it was the anniversary of my birthday. We haven’t been “out” lately, so when I saw that the Gainesville Community Playhouse was putting on a production of Next to Normal I thought, “Wouldn’t that be nice way to have a treat for my birthday?”
Little did I know — that is one serious production! We went, we cried, we tried to decipher the oh-too-rapid lyrics of the rock production and we ‘enjoyed’ ourselves if you can say that you enjoyed watching a provocative play about mental illness. I was glad we went, but I can’t say I enjoyed it. It’s not a great experience for an empath; there are a lot of raw emotions and serious content — and yet it’s a great experience. I should have totally confused you by now.
I don’t know. Mental illness isn’t something that crosses my mind very often. I don’t think anyone in our immediate circle of associates/family are afflicted in anything like this sort of way. And I’ll be honest in saying that I do not understand “illness” that isn’t caused by germs/virus. I have always had a hard time with the new categories of disease that are discovered relating to behavior.
I guess I’m such a strong-minded person that I don’t understand other ways of being.
Then again I could be as, or more mentally ill, as other diseases and I’m just too stubborn to go talk to anyone about it.
In the 80’s I was working for a company that was having serious technical issues with their product. The things were failing right and left. The engineers denied there was a problem but even they ‘admitted’ that the design resulted in a product that was “dimensionally active.” Of course that’s another way of saying that the product vibrated itself to pieces.
At the time I was involved with warranty repairs and I was not having any fun telling customers why their $15,000 machine needed $10,000 worth of repairs for no good reason that they could see. Frankly, I had to agree with them, but I wasn’t given the choice about what I was supposed to believe. Or how I was to sell the company line.
My solution was not to go see a shrink. I have very little faith in shrinks; the ones I know are as (or more) dysfunctional than their patients. And no one I knew (at the time) ever got better — they just saw their shrink forever. (But then I was in my 20’s and a lot of things seemed to last ‘forever’ including the manufacturing faults that weren’t getting any better.
I know it was probably a very childish solution but Peg and I talked about it and we came up with our own solution. Once or twice a month we’d made an “appointment” for counseling. Which is to say that one of us would call one of the nicer restaurants in town — usually the English Room (in the Pfister Hotel) where Frank Bonfiglio was the Maitre d’ and we’d plan an evening out.
We weren’t going out to ‘eat.’ There was a meal — an awesome meal — but we were really renting a table. I paid more for tips usually than I did for the meal because we would stay for 2 or 3 hours. And we would talk. We talked about everything wrong at work. We talked about everything right at home. We made plans for the future and we reminisced. Peg was my shrink. I unburdened myself with someone I could trust and I felt good about it. I wasn’t breaking any confidence with her by blabbing our problems to some stranger. I never expected any so-called breakthroughs but we got them — many of them and quite frequently — because we were honestly confronting what was going on and how we felt about what was going on.
I wish everyone had someone like that to talk with.
To this day I remember some of the meals. I remember the time we bought two bottles of Pouilley Fuissé and I got drunk and threw up in the bathroom. That was only one of two times in my life that I got drunk and the feeling upset me enough that I only did it one more time. And have no intent of ever repeating. I remember Royce the wine steward, and Frank coming over with the ornate press to process a duck presentation table side. I remember 7 course meals and ridiculously delicious plates that spoiled me for normal dining and resulted in learning to cook more things better. But most of all I felt closer to my wife, I felt I could cope with the stress at work (until I chose to leave — comes a time when lying isn’t worth it) — but at least I left feeling in control of my own destiny, not feeling victimized.
I wish I could understand mental illness better; it’s real problem. I guess I say to myself that we all have aspects of life that we are better at and some at which we’re no good at all. I chalk understanding mental illness as one of those. Peg has a cousin who in her early 20’s had some issues. She has struggled with them her entire life and my heart goes out to her. But I have absolutely no way of knowing how to cope with that. We’ve only seen her a few times over the last 40 years. I suppose that makes me a bad person in some way — I don’t think much about it, as I said — I have no idea how to think about that. I can’t deny that it’s real but I don’t understand it. I guess I get hung up on understanding things. It’s how I cope with the world. If I don’t understand, does it not exist? I’m not sure I can answer that.
Anyway… the play was provocative. I’ll admit that it had me wondering if there was something I could be ‘doing’ in this life to be making more of a difference in the lives of others. I have no quick answer to that. And I’m not 20 years old anymore. I have seen enough to know that businesses and such don’t always want help or volunteers our age. But that doesn’t mean that I feel helpless, or should I say, unable to help.
The other part of our day was a visit to a new resto. It turns out this chain (yes, I admit — we went to a chain food store!!!!!) exists in Milwaukee but I’d never heard of it. Blaze Pizza is a place that sells one size pizza, with any toppings and however many you want for one price.
The unique feature is that they bake your pizza in about 180 seconds. Yes, that’s right — in three minutes you have your pie (give or take a few seconds depending on the employee and how hyper they are at the moment! I have to say for a thin crust pizza it was pretty decent. The crust could have been a little crisper, but it was tasty and just about the right size for a nice lunch.
Saturday turned out to be a nice day. In spite of the unexpected rain. Yes, more rain. We’re back in the 50’s & 60’s for the daytime temps for the next week and in the 30’s (high and low) for overnights for the same period. It’s warmer than Milwaukee, I’ll say that for Florida. And we are having fun each day. It’s not what we expected but we laugh each day and have excellent excuses to snuggle at night. Not a bad way to spend your retirement, I think.
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you again tomorrow.