Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Five "S" Plan

Many of my readers have asked me how I cope. They say life is so difficult, replete with hardships and peppered with disappointments, and they bounce continually from resignation to despair. Love of family is key to my mental health. Who wants to be alone? Yet I’m aware that not everyone has a spouse and children. As I was driving through the Smoky Mountains of Eastern Tennessee this morning, I reflected on five recreational activities that keep me sane: listening to music, writing, drinking whiskey, making sarcastic remarks, and working out. To make my “coping mechanisms” easier to remember, I use alliteration and list them below. Let’s call these activities the Five “S” Plan for healthy living.

I couldn’t live without music in my life. Back in the day I wrote and performed music; but nowadays I hardly ever pick up my guitar or tickle the ivories. Nonetheless, I still listen to music, albeit mostly in the car when I’m driving from Point A to Point B. For the most part I like my music hard, dark, complicated and fast. Yet I have an eclectic taste and listen to many genres. My sister, for instance, indulges my secret hankering for Tom Jones’ baritone voice by feeding me one of his CDs every now and then. There’s a reason why I’m writing under a pseudonym in this blog, my mention of Tom Jones being a case in point. Music soothes me, calms me down, and takes me into a contemplative mode. When I listen to Hate Eternal and Malevolent Creation, say, or Satanic Slaughter and Evil Cunt, I gain a greater appreciation for the human condition.

Apart from a few nonfiction publications, I have little experience in professional writing. In the past few years, however, I’ve taken up creative writing to help me get through some tough times. Writing stories is an opportunity to resolves issues in my mind or simply live vicariously through characters. I don’t know much about writing, but I do know to keep it simple. You know what I’m talking about, right? Boy meets girl. Boy becomes girl, forcing girl to rethink her life. Meanwhile, the boy-girl, that is to say, the boy who became a girl (not the original girl) starts to experiment with his, or her, sexuality by getting an apartment downtown and hanging out with other weird boy-girls. Meanwhile, the girl got pregnant from another boy who had terminal cancer. Eventually the girl and her son joined a cult in Arizona.

I don’t think I could carry on if I weren’t able to mock and ridicule people on the basis of their physical appearance, ideology, religion and the like. I mean, what’s the point of living if you can’t have fun at other people’s expense? On a more philosophical level, sarcasm fulfills my need to assess human behavior in as realistic terms as possible. The dictates of nature have made all of us self-contradicting, hypocritical, and manipulative primates. We organize our lives around principles but don’t always abide by them. We have ulterior motives and let passion guide us more than reason, even if we claim the latter as our motivation. Caustic remarks delivered in the form of dry humor only bring to light these amoral attributes in the human species. Sarcasm, like death, is the great leveler, sparing nobody in its assault. It reduces everyone to selfish organisms carving out meaning and purpose for their lives. In short, sarcasm is a useful way to exercise one’s wit.

I enjoy drinking whiskey either straight or with Coke once in a while. Jack Daniels is my preference, but I drink other brands as well. Vodka is fine, but I have no taste for beer or wine. Unlike the other four “S”s I could probably do without spirits if I had to, but a shot or three of whiskey is sometimes just what the doctor ordered. I’ve decided not to touch the stuff for the next three months of my military training in South Carolina and parted with my flask with no small amount of sadness and misgivings. I’m sure I’ll miss it most in October. I have fond memories of stumbling around as drunk as a skunk and urinating in neighbors’ Jack o’ Lanterns.

As I get older, working out becomes more important to me. Back in the day I pumped iron to beef up my body, but now it’s largely about stamina. And as we all know, physical fitness gives one confidence mentally and enhances the quality of life overall.  Being a solitary creature, my workout involves individual sports like running, swimming, weightlifting, and biking.  I suppose being in the military is a motivating factor, but working out had been an important part of my routine long before I enlisted.  I don't want to sound like one of those self-help gurus and tell you how to budget your time; but one thing they'll often suggest is true: people who complain about a busy schedule can always cut and prune TV or other unnecessary activities here and there.

I'd like to address a couple of other ways in which people usually cope, namely prayer and pills.  Throughout my life I have prayed, usually asking God to destroy my enemies or to give me a souped-up, silver metallic Chevrolet Camaro.  But my prayers have become fewer over these past few years, less formal, and now consist of one petition: If you exist, please reveal yourself in some way to give me guidance, hope and ultimate purpose.  I don't do pills of any kind: antidepressants, ibuprofen,  aspirin, or vitamins.  The only exception here would be those blue and orange tablets that I keep in a metal canister and locked in a file cabinet.  I bought them from some guy in El Segundo.  I pop a few in my mouth and down'em with whiskey.  They do the trick.