Last night I came home after being gone the latter half of the day so weary I could hardly move. Caterpillar was waiting at the door, wanted me to pick her up. Her food bowl needed more. I made the motions required to take care of cat, stepped over cat eating, threw off the jacket and flopped down on the bed wanting sleep. But sleep would not happen. My head ran for at least an hour before I got up. An hour unable to sleep tells me it's not going to happen any time soon. I got up as I do after lying there with head going, knowing from experience to just get up. My head was whirling around an issue with a friend of the past who wants to be friends again. I ran into him by chance a couple weeks ago after two years of not seeing him. We used to meet for lunch a couple times a month at a restaurant in town. Last time, I called him on his contrarian bullshit at the table, he stood up and walked away. I sat at the table alone and clenched my fist as soon as he'd gone, in celebration like the young pump the air with a fist as a gesture of Hooray. I thought: Good, he's gone, I never have to listen to his arrogant contrarian attitudes any more. The thrill was palpable. One upmanship is his game. Anything I know, he knows better. The internet is one of his key words that sets him off with opinion letting. I started a sentence, knowing better, "I saw on the internet this morning...." He interrupted and said, "I know everything that's on the internet," his way of saying shut up. That's all he was really saying. I said, "No you don't." He said, "Don't what?" I said, "Know everything that's on the internet." He said, "I didn't say that." I said, "Those are the very words that came out of your mouth." He rose from his seat, went to the register, paid his part and left.
The thirty years of knowing this guy has kept me in a state of mental agitation when around him. Every time I'd drive home from seeing him, I'd get with myself, "You know better. You know better. When will you get it?" I think of it as kicking myself in the ass all the way home. Always went back for more. Always came home saying, Why? I don't like to throw away friends. My issue with him was that he carried an attitude that he's superior to me in every way. I don't care. That's his game for his own diminished self-esteem. I'd figure it was his problem, not mine, and do my best to let it go by. Then go home kicking myself all the way, saying to self, "When are you going to get it?" I sat at the table after he'd gone asking self, Why is it I am expected to put up with disrespect, but can't give any in return? The moment I spoke up was after I'd already begun to kick myself while at the table. I thought: Here is one disrespect for the last thousand I've endured from you. He couldn't take it. Then why was I taking it? Because I talked to self over and over about forgiveness, let it go. His unconsciousness is his problem, not mine. Several years ago I came up with a maxim concerning such disrespect. "Walk away from me, keep on walking." I said that to myself while he was walking away, thinking: Good. This is it. No more one-way disrespect. Many times I felt like saying to him, A man can be killed for disrespect in prison. I was tired of his dismissive attitudes when I spoke and the inevitable announcement, in whatever the form, that he knows better. I'd think, Maybe you do, but you've never shown evidence of it. I've made allowances for an old hippie acid-head who took way too many trips, "back in the day," and blew his ego out of proportion. I'd tell myself it was a medical problem that had nothing to do with me.
Two weeks ago I saw him by chance and we spoke a little while. He was uber-friendly and I was guarded. He said, "We're getting too old for this." I edited it out of saying it, I don't give a shit. Some people think it's important to die believing everyone they know likes them. I don't have that. What do I care about after I'm dead? I'm not leaving any legacy that is precious to me. I have dear ones who are precious to me. Periodically along the way, I'd find myself knowing more and more people, many of them superficially, and I'd have to pull back to my core circle of friends, the people I care about who care about me. It would take some real consideration to figure out how many times I've done this. I'll say several. More than three. I'd go back to my original purpose for being in the mountains, not to be a social butterfly. Around a bunch of people interrupting each other, I ask self, Why do I do this to myself? I have a choice. The decision is mine. About a year before this event, I threw off another friend of many years. A retired professor of Psychology would send me emails after I'd begun writing this blog, essay test questions telling me to explain why I said thus and such, telling me I'm wrong, grading it. He had to grade every one. I told him, "I know in advance you disagree. I am not you. And I will not read Henry Kissinger's autobiography, no matter how important it is to you that I read it." It was three or four days later I'd get the email about a given blog entry. I quit reading them and quit responding to them. He kept it up and I told him to quit it, unequivocally. Next I get an email of exam questions, at least fifty lines. Finally, I told him to stop emailing me or I'd block him. He stopped, appreciably to my satisfaction. The tipping point came when he told me to explain two lines of a verse from the Tao te Ching I'd posted in the right column of quotations on the blog page: Not knowing is true knowledge. Presuming to know is a disease. I thought: You're the PhD in psychology, you tell me. I replied, "I can't explain. You either get it or your don't. You had to be there." My thinking was, Why bother? Whatever I say, he'll prove me wrong.
And about a year after the friend who walked away event, I alienated another friend of many years, tired unto a coma of being told what to do every second; y'needta, y'gotta, y'oughta, y'should, y'better, you'll love it. Like watch the movie, Jack the Giant Slayer, it's heavy. A walking commercial. I told him to get out of my face and he'd get in my face shouting he's not in my face. So tired of it I couldn't face it again, I alienated him with intent. It worked. Next, I looked back over alienating three friends over the course of two years. I questioned, What is going on? What am I doing? It came back every time I asked the question: They were not my friends. It was part of the process of trimming down to the people I care about who care about me. In every case, I held on until I couldn't hold on any longer. Since the brief exchange with friend who walked away, I think every day maybe I should give him a call to arrange for a lunch this week. I cannot pick up the phone. And there is the word should. I threw this word out of my vocabulary at least twenty years ago. I feel like it is the most meaningless word in the language. Every time it comes up, I throw it out of my mind, saying, Not necessarily. Nobody but me could know what I should do, and I don't have any idea, ever. How can somebody else? I don't even respond to the presumption anymore. The grumpy old bastard zooms to the surface again. I've even come to think of being told what I should do as a degree of disrespect, like interrupting. So I don't do it to anybody. It's saying, I know you better than you know yourself, which I already know is not so, any way I look at it. The only thing they're telling me is the person talking is unconscious after a lifetime of sitting in front of a television. I'm sympathetic, but I can't help them. It would be as presumptuous for me to want to help them as for them to be telling me what I should do other than what I am doing.
paul gauguin by paul gauguin