Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Views from a Troubled Mind 
Scene #17

Daydreams & Nostalgia:
Can't See Reality for the Trees

by Anthony Servante

Memory is the glue that holds fantasy and reality together. In the case of the fantastic, we have been weaving daydreams into well-plotted situations that actually live in our heads. We imagined that pretty cheerleader who sat across from you in English class asking us a question about the homework, and how we impressed her with our witty answer and offer of help with the assignment. We reimagine the scene with more detail each time we relive the plot that we weave: She is wearing her cheerleader outfit, whereas she was dressed casually in the first draft; she meets us in the library; we have fun doing our homework together; we both get good grades; we become good friends. None of it is real. 

Then at the 40th High School Reunion, she comes over to you and thanks you for the help with the homework, that she became a teacher. No, impossible. I imagined the whole thing. She asks if I ever became a writer. I lie and say no. You were good, she says. I read all your stories from that first one about the Catacombs. How the hell did she know about that story? She tells me things about me. But I don't remember her, except as the Cheerleader. Finally, I ask, Weren't you a cheerleader? For about a week, she says, laughing; I felt like such a hypocrite that I quit the team. I liked spending time in the library after you helped me get an A on the English test. Then she changed the subject and sat at my table. Do you still like Rock music? Yeah, I say unenthusiastically. Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, man, you liked every band that I liked. Why didn't we hang out more? We had so much in common. Who is this person? Why is she talking as if she knows me? It doesn't fit the plot. She talks and talks, touching my arm, smiling at the memories. 

My friends return to the table after the dance ends. She stands and asks for a hug. We embrace. No, she embraces me. She whispers, If you would have asked, I would have said yes, and then she kisses my cheek and caresses my shoulder down to my elbow as she walks away. Then she stops and says, I still think about you all the time. It sends chills over the length of arm she touched. She waves goodbye and sends me a kiss. My friends ask, Man, you knew Linda? She was hot since middle-school. Everyone wanted to date her. I don't answer. I remember: In my plotted daydreams, I did date her. 

Then it hits me like waking from a nightmare. She has plotted daydreams, too. We are both figments of our imagination. What was real was captured in a fantasy about a relationship that never came to be. The fantasy became real. I don't know her. She knows me. My fantasy is reality that I invented; her fantasy is reality that could have happened. We are both right and wrong. 

Then the topper comes to the table. My mom took off crying. I saw her talking to you. Her daughter looks like a younger version of herself, an older version of her high school self. She says, She told me about you a long time ago when I was in high school. I didn't understand then. I think I understand now. My mom was a heartbreaker, even my dad was a victim. You broke her heart. So you're some almighty writer now, huh? Not good enough for her. And she left, eyes brimming with tears, but her pride kept them from falling. 

The next dance song started to play; my friends went to ask old girlfriends to dance. I sat alone. My mind wandered back to Linda. Maybe she'd return, dressed in her cheerleader outfit and ask me to dance. We'd be perfect. The crowd would stop dancing and surround us. Linda would rest her head on my shoulder, one hand around my waist, the other on that elbow. The Righteous Brothers were droning "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling". The crowd was applauding, half of them crying with the joy of renewed love and the sadness of love lost. 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Update 12B

Trauma & Therapy

Painting Therapy
Introductions & Echoes

Familiarity breeds contempt.  Black Hooded Parakeets. (Santa Monica)

Just a normal morning. Parrot infestation. (San Gabriel)

WARNING: I neither encourage nor validate any reaction to my blog. But some people read my series on Trauma and see themselves in my articles and updates. My trauma series deals with MY trauma, but because my Shrink thinks that it would be useful to be inclusive with my studies into trauma therapy for me by sharing my findings with others, I have asked others to tell their story here in my blog. Since I've started this series Trauma & Therapy, I've had dozens of therapists, patients, and relatives of patients contact me and share their experiences. I've never condemned, minimized, or mocked their experiences. I don't judge, mainly because I don't like to be judged. I know my sense of humour can often be misconstrued as sardonic or plain old sarcastic. My article on the "Mandela Effect" was meant to be sardonic, but writing it was also therapeutic. It felt good getting that off my chest. I think that this belief in multiple dimensions only hurts trauma therapy. Maybe this series isn't the place for me to make such sarcastic assertions, but I will not remove the article that I wrote for my Views from a Troubled Mind series. As such, I want it to be known that I am publishing today's [Sunday's] Painting Therapy exactly as I remember it from the notes I made for my blog. I have not, nor do I intend to, alter or edit out any far-reaching experiences. I am not being facetious. Trauma plays tricks on the mind. That's not an excuse for the connections one ties together from what one experiences in daily life to the memories that a traumatized mind twists and confuses. My younger brother told me that we saw Queen in concert in 1975 at the Santa Monica Auditorium, with Thin Lizzy opening act; I told him I never saw Queen till 1977 at the Long Beach Arena with Mahogany Rush opening. I remember seeing Renaissance live in Sherman Oaks in 1982; my older brother says it was 1972. We all have "perfect" recollections of those concerts. We all cannot be right, but we all can be wrong. Memory is fragile. Trauma makes it more so. Keep this in mind as you read today's entry into my last therapy session. Because if the participants in today's session are not all wrong, then what is right just might be a trigger I'm not ready to face. 

SaraH was quiet during the hour drive to the Santa Monica Temple for my second visit for Painting Therapy, her first. No chit-chat. No small talk. She played GWAR on the SIRI. Loudly. As though she preferred the quiet. I immersed myself in the music. Metal. Head-banging joyfulness. What some detractors might call a cross between Industrial and Death Metal. Her mind seemed elsewhere. Not on the music. Still, she fiddled with the instructions to the SIRI. Increase volume. Lower volume. Maybe it was a matter of the song choice. I thought bringing up the lack of conversation would add to the tension, so I shut up. I was glad to arrive at the temple..

When she parked, she finally spoke. "Were you nervous coming back here? I know I am." Then she took a deep breath and we exited the car. We went into the temple, and SaraH walked right up to Priest Bobue Horaguchi. First they shook hands awkwardly, then they embraced. Norie and her friend Suz joined them and they embraced as well and talked. I couldn't tell what they were saying as I went straight to the drawing tables to grab my usual seat. SaraH seemed to have warmed up to "small talk". Maybe being in close quarters made her shy around me. You know, like being in an elevator. Even with my former girlfriend, we shut up while riding the elevator. And if someone did talk during the lift ride, they'd get a dirty look from the other passengers. I was out of earshot as I set down my art materials in the same spot I had last time. SaraH sat with Norie and Suz. Horaguchi took his place standing at the head of the table. The volunteers were new. I was hoping the volunteer who showed me two-point perspective would return. I have been practicing my drawing houses by watching art technique videos on YouTube. I was still having trouble with perspective.

Then Horaguchi spoke: We will have an hour of free-form drawing. Then one hour for discussion. Let's begin. The volunteers are Janet, Manuel, and Serbui. They and I will be available if you have questions during the first hour of drawing. We'll have refreshments after the drawing. Let's begin, shall we?

And we began.

The Painting Session & Discussion Group

The Painting Session went as well. When the hour was up, we walked around the tables and viewed each others' work. I was curious about Norie's drawings. They looked like designs for clothes. Suz bowed politely to me and said, Welcome back, Professor. Your blog is my therapy. I thanked her and noticed that her drawings were similar designs for clothing. I drew my two-perspective houses. No birds this time, asked Horaguchi. Nope, wanted to work on perspective. Sorry to hear that. The volunteers came today to see the birds. I opened my drawing pad and handed it to Serbui, a pretty girl with exotic eyes. The other volunteers looked over her shoulder at my drawings as Serbui turned the pages. They lingered on the bird drawings. The Horaguchi said it was time for discussion.

We sat around the tables, facing each other. The priest smiled as took his place at the head of the tables so that one group (me, SaraH, Norie, Suz, and Norie's mom on the left), the second group (Janet, Manuel, Serbui, and Suz's mother on the right). Horaguchi said that we were invited today for this special session and that the volunteers were in fact PTSD patients who had asked to attend a Painting Therapy session after hearing from the other volunteers from the college. He explained that those who wanted to speak would be allowed to, would not be interrupted, and those who wished only to listen were welcome to do so. Norie's and Suz's mom bowed respectfully, which I took to mean that they would only be listening. We'll start with our group on the right. Janet?

My name is Janet. Mr. Horaguchi said no last names. Just last initials if we wanted. She looked to be around 19 years old, with that Geek Chic appearance: Male shirt, hair tied back, big frame glasses. No make-up from what I could see, but I don't really know what make-up is supposed to look like. She was about 5'9", tall for Geek Chic, but normal for the beach town of blondes and surf bums, as we called them in those years when I worked as a teen at Zuma Beach, north of Malibu. She continued: I read the Servante of Darkness Blog. That piece about the parrot infestation really freaked me out. Especially the part about the Black-Hooded Parakeets; they own the trees in my neighborhood. You think of parakeets like canaries, you know, sing-song birds. But these Hoodies, as we call them, shriek in unison, like they're trying to disturb you. And always in the morning. The County Animal Control companies don't do birds, only ground vermin--that's what they call them--not sky vermin, not pigeons or anything like that. My mom teaches part-time. About four months ago, my dad's car broke down in the garage, so my mom and dad take turns using her car. She parks it in the driveway. My mom got up early to go teach, and the birds were all over the car, like a horror movie. She got the water hose and sprayed the birds. They just stood there and took it. They didn't fly off. They just let the water hit them. They slid off the car, landing in the driveway. My mom hosed them into the street. Then the Hoodies overhead started shrieking. I was watching from the kitchen window. I saw my mom turn off the water and toss the hose into the yard. When she backed up the car, I saw the wet birds get to their feet. They stood there as my mom drove over them. I got sick. My mom just drove off. I threw up in the bathroom. This is almost a daily ritual now. My mom isn't bothered by it. My dad thinks the birds are sick. And when I read your article about the parrots, you said it was the weather. My parents may be okay with it, but it still freaks me out. That's why I decided to come to this therapy. To talk about it, but also to see your drawings, Professor. Then she sat down.

Manuel and Serbui didn't want to talk. They only gave their names. Suz's mom bowed politely and passed with a wave of her hand. Norie's mom did the same.

Horaguchi nodded to Suz. She stood.

My name is Suzue. Pronounced "Soo-Sway". You can call me Suz or Suzy. I know this is Drawing Therapy, but Norie and I have been drawing designs for pajamas. I'd like to talk about that, if you don't mind. Horaguchi applauded and encouraged the rest of us to join him. When the applause died down, Suz spoke with the glee of a young girl who had found a unicorn in her back yard. Suz was a middle-schooler, if I remember my notes correctly. Norie and I created the idea for pajamas from Norie's made-up characters called The Plumage Pvnks. Punks with a "v" instead of a "u" so when people google the name, only hits for our pajamas will appear. We got the idea from the band "Chvrches"; if you google the word with a "v", only the band information will appear, instead of a bunch of churches, you know. Norie's mom copyrighted the name Plumage Pvnks, so they're ours. Our friend Bridge is still in bed sick, but she is a partner in our company. If you're familiar with the "Cactus Kids & Pets", you'll know that they wear cactus costumes so Evil and Death cannot touch them while they're wearing their costumes with needles on the outside. With the Pvnks, we use bird pajamas that you wear to bed, so that if you are having nightmares, you can fly out of them before Evil and Death get you. They don't work when you're awake, only while you sleep. See, it helps kids with trauma like us to sleep better. Each set of pajamas is made special for each person, and we'll make only one bird. The Plumage Pvnks are not about making one bird over and over. Lots of kids we know say that penguins would be popular, but they can't fly, so we might make one penguin pajamas set, but not for a trauma child. Trauma children will get strong flying bird costumes to feel confident that they can fly when the nightmare creatures appear. And that's what I'm doing with my friend Norie and our moms.

Suz sat, and Horaguchi, who was leaning against the wall listening, returned to the head of the tables. Norie, anything to add? Norie shook her head no. SaraH? She, too, declined. Anthony? I, too, declined. Then that will wrap up our little session today.

We helped Horaguchi toss the empty tea and coffee cups into the trash. I took a few donuts for the road. The rest were divvied up by the group. We said our goodbyes and walked to the parking lot. Janet approached me, and SaraH said she'd be in ;the car with the A/C running. Don't be long.

Why didn't you speak, Anthony? she said to me. About what? About the elephant in the room? We're drawing the same birds. We're finding dead animals in our yards. Like the dead birds. Maybe it's Global Warming, I joked. I could feel my headache coming on. She took out her sketch pad and showed me two drawings. Do these look familiar?

They kinda look like my owl drawings. Kinda. Right, she said. Kinda. Kinda like kids pajamas that protect from nightmare birds. Animal pajamas are normal. What kid doesn't like them?! You're right. All kids like them. Traumatized kids NEED them. The others in the sessions here are drawing the same birds. I haven't seen them, but I bet the pajamas look "kinda" like these birds--if that's what you can call them. Well, isn't that why we're here--for the therapy? I'm not traumatized. I'm trying to figure out why my yard is covered with dead squirrels and birds. I thought you could help. So what's all that crap in you blog about "Views from a Troubled Mind"? Why don't you talk about those things? Can we finish this talk by email? My ride's waiting. Let me write it down for you. I have it, she said. The blog email, right? Actually, this is my personal email. If I'm not traumatized, why are we experiencing the same phenomena? Because we're both crazy, or we're both not crazy. Let's stick to traumatized and avoid "crazy". Email me. Tonight if you want.

As I got into the car with SaraH, I heard Janet shout, Global Warming my ass.

The drive back to San Gabriel was just as quiet as the drive to Santa Monica. GWAR blasted our eardrums all the way home.

Final thought: Janet didn't email me. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Views from a Troubled Mind 
Scene #16

A Conspiracy of Language:
Chinese Whispers & the Mandela Effect

by Anthony Servante

To understand time through the eyes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) victims, we must stop playing games with our definitions of language and communication, labeling our traumas with terms like Mandela Effect. In short this "Effect" argues that multiple memories of the same event exist; in the case of Nelson Mandela, some remember his dying in prison, while others recall his being released from prison to go on to become President of South Africa. Neither side can be dissuaded that their version is the true one. Fiona Broome, a Science Fiction enthusiast, first wrote about this Effect on her Website in 2009 and postulated that those who remembered Mandela's death may in fact be from an alternate dimension. Nelson Mandela, this this dimension anyway, left prison to become President of South Africa. 

In addition to the death of Mandela, other memories include the deaths of celebrities like Betty White, Ernest Borgnine, Billy Graham, and others. Besides deaths, cartoon characters such as the the Berenstein Bears are remembered in place of the Berenstain Bears, and product labels are misidentified with various alterations (the Monopoly Man is remembered with and without a monocle, and the color scheme from the Chevron sign to the Pepsi logo are recalled in various sequences). When the current president remembered thousands of Muslims celebrating in the streets when the Twin Towers were attacked in 2001, no news footage could be found of such a celebration, yet many people do remember this event in New Jersey (I, myself, recall a handful of Muslim women dancing in joy when the Towers fell, as I saw it on the news). 

The Mandela Effect took the Millennial Teens (2010-2019) by storm. It wasn't just a question of "misremembering" history; people believed that there IS a time and place where the OTHER memory occurred, but that in this time and place, a different version of the event took place. I want to look at this Effect in two ways: First, the event is not being misremembered; it is being remembered just as the person perceived it. It's not a question of dimensions; it's a question of perception. 

Let's take the case of the KTLA Entertainment Reporter's interview with Samuel L. Jackson. Here's the video:

Note in the comments for this video that viewers joke about Jackson being mistaken for Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, AND Nelson Mandela. Did the newsman slip into our dimension by accident or did he misremember? For some, it's more fun to believe that in an alternate reality, Laurence Fishburne does do the Capital One commercial. For us in this reality, the newsman put his foot in his mouth and Jackson did not let the poor guy off the hook.

But what about the case off Nelson Mandela, the namesake of the Effect. I'm confident that what people are remembering in the death of Steve Biko, another great Anti-Apartheid activist. Here is the heading noting his death:

Steve Biko/Died

September 12, 1977, Pretoria, South Africa

While in police custody in Port Elizabeth, Biko was brutally beaten and then driven 700 miles to Pretoria, where he was thrown into a cell. On September 12, 1977, he died naked and shackled on the filthy floor of a police hospital.

Just as Samuel L. Jackson was mistaken for Laurence Fishburne, Nelson Mandela was mistaken for Steve Biko. Is it really that much easier to think people are slipping between dimensions rather than face the fact that these faces in the news mistakenly all look alike?! Rhetorical question. Let's move on.

Chinese Whispers is a communication game that exposes the shortcomings of passing along information. I am sure that this game explains the Mandela Effect much better than dimension tripping. But what do I know?? In either case, let's discuss its metaphoric relation to misinformation.

Although some people know the game as "Telephone", the original name, Chinese Whispers, is more apropos. The game is played by forming a line of three to ten people shoulder to shoulder. The first person in line receives a piece of paper with a message on it, and only this person can see the message in its original form. After reading the message, the first person whispers the message to the second person in line; the second person whispers the message to the third person, and so on, until the last person in line receives the whispered message. The last person then tells the whole group what the message was that he was told, and the message is compared to the original message on the piece of paper. In every instance of this game, the difference between the original message and the final message is astoundingly unalike. A phrase as simple as "the sky is blue" can become "heaven is good".

Why does this shift in the accuracy of the message alter so much? Some say that because the message is whispered that the listener must reconstruct the misheard meaning. Others say that they clarified the intent of the message for convenience. Still others say they deliberately altered the meaning for humorous effect. Either way, the original message never matches the final one. Ignore the game for a second and apply this three possible answers for the change in message to the daily news, social media posts, or potential rumors, and what we have is Gossip. Remember in the Clint Eastwood movie where the three gunmen hear the news that a prostitute was beaten, and by the time the three men are on the road to avenge the woman and collect the reward, they are describing the mutilation of woman as horrific and animalistic. The original version of the attack on the woman they heard about changes more and more as they retell the story over and over and as they grow nearer to the location of the attack. So, in addition to our three possible reasons for the original version changing on the final version, we can add: 1. the number of times the story gets told; 2. the importance of the story to the listener; and 3. the proximity of the listener to the location of the actual location of the original event or story.

The Mandela Effect similarly conjures up these possible explanations for the dualistic memories of the layman and PTSD victim. Something as simple as the little baron from the Monopoly game wearing a monocle has been converted to the existence of alternate realities. A misremembered monocle can be reconstructed as a reality where there exists a version of the Monopoly game with a monocled baron. Or someone can deliberately "add" a monocle to the original version because "all barons wear monocles, don't they?" And those others are having a laugh at our expense by deliberately altering the original version where the little man in the suit had no monocle. As the "all barons have monocles" theory gets repeated and repeated, the new version begins to take hold and take on a life off its own. Of course, as the news tells of Quantum Mechanics theory describing possible alternate dimensions at the sub-molecular level, our little monocled man is reaching a proximity to a valid news article, thus validating the potential for a reality where this Monopoly baron indeed wears an eye-piece. So, if a trauma sufferer believes a bomb may land on his apartment while he sleeps, the belief too gets validated by virtue of the belief itself. How could such a tragedy exist unless it was a real possibility? It, therefore, must be real, no matter what the therapist says.

And round and round it goes. Every therapist must deal with these vicious cycles, must get the patient to see the cycle before they can hope to break the cycle. I cannot exclude myself from this vicious circle. I don't remember certain events from 2018. But the more glimpses I get from those events, the more my mind shields itself in alternate realities. My sarcasm has become a wall around these realities. That's why I loathe the Mandela Effect AND attach myself to it like a barnacle to a ship at sea. It's easy to dismiss the ridiculousness of such an Effect, especially when it deals with something tangible like the Samuel L. Jackson and Laurence Fishburne misidentification, but not so easy when we turn to Chinese Whispers for answers. The original message never matches the final message. But that's when there are usually several people involved in the game of passing along the message. For a trauma victim such as me, I'm the original messenger and the final messenger. And what scares the hell out of me is that the two messages DO match.