Saturday, February 3, 2018

Re-Entry

This blog ended on a Wednesday, April 8 of 2015, with a post about collecting all previous posts in a booklet that I would go on to use to promote my graphic novel, my album and my mental health awareness endeavor, Outside Looking Out. These things make up my personal coat of arms. A lot has happened since then. You will have to follow this blog to find out more, if and when I refer to the time before my re-entry.

What do I mean by my re-entry? A satellite does not remain in orbit indefinitely. It gradually returns to Earth, passing through thicker and thicker layers of atmosphere. The compression and friction generates a tremendous amount of heat, which can melt or vaporize the satellite. You might say this describes a shooting star, which would make for a much lovelier metaphor for who I am or how I've lived my life. It does not, however, explain how I've lived my life or what that's done to people who have loved me. The good news is that some satellites do survive re-entry, because of specially designed shields. What you are about to read is about how my shield was built, who build it and the effect my re-entry has had or is having on my life.

This is the logo for Outside Looking Out. It features a nerdy looking fellow blissfully unconcerned with the world that he is circling on his satellite. Instead, he gazes out into the unknown. It's a bit of an exaggerated ideal that I wanted to present to kids who felt like they were on the outside. The world still characterizes them as being on the outside looking in, as if that is all that interests or defines a person. What about the great individuals who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetnessthe independence of solitude? Well, that was my intention. I played a few solo acoustic shows and raised a few hundred dollars for my good friends at Attitudes In Reverse. Now, I have a confession to make. The kid on the satellite is me. It has been for longer than I can remember. I have been broadcasting from a remote location. 
Is this a healthy way to live? Probably not. I guess it just felt safe. It gave me some sort of edge. I look at the world and don't want to be a part of it. Can you blame me? I don't like what you've done with the place. But I do live in the world. The boy on the satellite signifies my relationship to the world. It signifies my relationships, period. So what has kept me in orbit all these years? The simple answer is love but what kind of love? If love is fuel for this vessel, what sort of fuel are we talking about? How do I obtain this fuel without endangering the source? It depends on the source.
God. It has been said that we cry as we enter the world because we are leaving God, the womb, and being placed into the hands of man's world. You might say some leave kicking and screaming. I think I held onto God's leg and wouldn't let go. When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of seventeen, it was because I had had a sort of breakdown with suicidal impulses. I never attempted. I sought help instead. It never felt like a wish to die. It was more like I just didn't want to be here. In the hours of darkness that followed the Thorazine, I felt like I was facing a malevolent force, the Devil perhaps. It was like a negotiation room, with God as my only companion. But I did the negotiating. How was I going to live?

Born in December of 1978, I was adopted from a Catholic orphanage by Charles and JoAnn Wilkey, taken home in February of 1979. Who took care of me for those two months? One answer could be the nuns at the orphanage. In my heart, it was God, as if I had a little extra time with Him. One time I asked my grandmother, who was in the last year of her life, who her best friend was. I was expecting her to say the name of a friend she used to leave downstairs watching TV while she hung out with me and my parents. Her immediate answer was God. As a kid, I didn't care so much about going to Church or attending CCD, but I would get excited any time I heard stories about Jesus. Someone had given a name and face to this friend of mine. Once, I showed up at my best friend's birthday party at The Ground Round and proclaimed "Jesus is Our Brother!" Did it occur to me that my friend, her family and most of her friends were Jewish? No. Was it appropriate for a child's birthday party? Not at all. It just thrilled me to know I had this friend. That is one source. THE source, if you will. People have spoken the word 'love' for all of time, in some language or another, but God's love is unconditional, which humans may be capable of feeling, but will never understand. God cannot be hurt. Humans can. Enter the cause of a fear that could very well be the death of me.

Parents. They are the architects of my shield, commissioned by God. When I had my breakdown, I was in the grip of great fear. It felt like I had turned on myself. I had somehow skipped self-destruction all together and arrived right in the middle of an immediate need to cease to exist. What fear could be greater than that? I was told to explain this to my parents. For some reason, I didn't even look at my father when I was told this. Only my mother's face came into focus. I had never seen her cry. It's like watching cracks emerge in a dam. From that day on, there has been no moment I am not terrified of hurting someone I love, or who loves me. I will give humans all the love I have to give, as per my friendship with God. But I'm not coming down. I AM NOT COMING DOWN.

Satellites do not stay in orbit by themselves. They are managed by engineers on the ground. God is great but he clearly left all operations in our hands. Who is going to oversee me? The father and mother that conceived me were clearly not fit for the job and luckily they agreed. What a lucky break, right? I've had oodles of those, trust me. So, during my first two months with God, the orphanage had my parents fly from Queens to Buffalo so they could take tests and fill out paperwork but they had to return home without me. That was followed by the orphanage sending someone to inspect the home in Rosedale that my parents would be bringing me back to. This was 1979 Rosedale, not present day Rosedale. Timing is everything. God really chose well, being God after all. Still, God must have known I would need more.

Stories. Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie was released the month and year I was born. I would not know this until many years later but this fact signifies a great deal. Is it Jesus that's been there for me my whole life? Superman? Superheroes? Allegories aside, the world on the other side of the page and screen has comforted me for as long as I have had sight or could speak. How is that I can vividly remember hearing of a big-screen Batman movie on the evening news and waiting most of a decade to see it, fully making the connection between the two events? How did I get from the urge to write a comic book to self-publishing a graphic novel? Why have I spent upwards of $50 a week for the last 20 years on comic books? Why is the movie theater the first place I go to for solace in anxious times? Why did I apply to film school at the age of 39, after two college degrees and three careers?

Maggie. Just one name. No others. I have to write now while I still can. The burning of the re-entry. Who will survive it? God's fine. My parents will be hurt but I've hurt them before and they have proven almost as indestructible as God. The worst part? To love someone properly, you have to join the human race. That comes even before being happy or loving yourself. Up on my perch, I could see so much and know so much and judge so much. But for someone to love me the way Maggie did, she had to actually be on the satellite. Has anyone else been with me like that? Perhaps, but I kicked them off when I realized what it meant. That they'd be there with me when I finally came down. She was so good at understanding how I've been living. So much smarter than me or anyone else has ever given her credit for. And she loved me more than anyone else. She saw me on the ground, in outer space and most importantly, all the times I didn't see myself, which was a lot. Do you know what I did? I kicked her off the satellite. I stuck her in an escape pod and hit eject without so much as a warning.

She knew our relationship might not survive re-entry but was willing to see it through. I did not have that courage. I failed her.

SuccessIt took forty years to touch ground. It is hard to form a status report. That is what future posts will be about, among other things. I guess it makes some sort of sense that my health, especially my mental health, has been of primary concern. See, my body has been on Earth this whole time. Did I not make that clear? Operations are handled via satellite. I hope that clears things up a bit. I am not happy with the condition I have left my mind and body in. That alone is going to take a great deal of work. Have I hurt others in the process? I did. Mores o than I could have anticipated. It has been messy and I fucked up. But I landed. Keep reading to see what comes next. I will continue to live my story as I write it...or write my story as I live it. Something like that.

Epilogue A great deal of the above might be rehash but I felt it necessary to bridge between posts from three years ago and now. Could I have offered an actual recount of the events of the last three years? Of course, but that would not be me. Besides, I do have loads of experiences to share with you about the last three years.  There's been a band called The Infinite Vacation, with a forthcoming EP. Wait until I tell you about my friends from Silver Oaks. That will all somehow be woven into the seminal tales of my next forty years. I will be reporting to you, from the ground, for the first time in my life.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

ALL OF THE THINGS

The absence of profundity is always blocking me from writing. Yet, the chance to use the word 'profundity' has got the ball rolling this time around. Any profundity that may or may not have made its way into this blog has hopefully found its way into someone's life. This concludes my tryst with 'profundity'.

Thousands of dollars have been spent on my album and my graphic novel. Not a dime has gone into this blog. That is part of the reason why I have decided to collect my favorite entries and print a collection that I will give away. The rest of the reason why has to do with what the album and graphic novel have in common with this blog. Why not advertise my two investments in a free pamphlet when all three are about me? Ah,there it is. If you instantly judge me as self-centered or "all about me", you would not be the first. Let me set the record straight.

You may have heard someone say that we are the universe observing or experiencing itself. No? How about the Garden of Eden? Let's go there...well, not literally. First, we're one with God. Next thing you know, we're self-aware. Might these two concepts be related? Since I think about this stuff a lot, I asked someone what you would call it if someone studied it and that person said it's called 'Comparative Religion'. That sounds exhausting and potentially dangerous. So how does "me" come out in this context?

Zen master Yasutani Roshi said "The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there".  Believe me, when I listen to my songs or read what I write, the notion that I am qualified to offer advice strikes me as preposterous. I immediately ask myself what I was thinking. Roshi's quote and the logic of the preceding paragraph are what straightens it all out for me. Trying to figure yourself out is no different than trying to figure us all out. Helping yourself in this way can be done and the results shared in the interest of helping others.

So let me share this booklet with you. When I was in a middle school, my class took a trip to our nation's capital and when we stopped at a rest stop in Baltimore, we were confronted by a man who had his own little booklets with smiley faces on them. He proceeded to tell us that it had been thirty years since Jesus first appeared to him on the wall of his prison cell. Then, he closed his eyes in prayer and asked us to do the same while we were whisked away by our principal, who was a nun at that. I'm not that guy, I assure you. Although, the smiley faces were not a bad idea. All I ask is that you take a look at my experiences and observations. Read about my book. Listen to my album.  Keep or buy what you like. Dismiss what you don't. 

Love and peace or else,

John Wilkey

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Stigma AKA Anonymous Letter Printed With Permission From The Author.

Dear YOU,

My identity remains anonymous because there is a stigma attached to mental illness in this country. The purpose of this letter is to address that stigma. The irony is not lost on me. However, neither is the double threat of silence and its evil twin, ignorance. No advocacy group or watchdog organization seems to have had any effect on rampant media speculation. As a result, public discourse recklessly associates precise medical terminology with all sorts of aberrant..., often criminal behavior. How can anyone expect you to feel comfortable asking for the help you need when this is the case?

The stigma is a farce because the term ‘mental illness’ is a misnomer. There is nothing wrong with your mind. The problem is your brain. You need your brain in order to function so I do not mean to put this lightly. Yet, regardless of your personal beliefs, the combined neurological and sensory data your brain produces does result in something more, something you might call perception using something you might call a mind. We’re talking about YOU. There is nothing wrong with YOU.
This should not even be about YOU. This is about your brain. Medically speaking, the information you regard as YOU is only to be interpreted by a professional as data used to diagnose and treat a disorder, an illness affecting an organ in your body. This should be strictly the role of a psychiatrist while therapy allows you to participate in your own treatment, on your own terms. Psychiatrists like to participate as well but quite frankly, all healthcare professionals should be concerned with your overall wellbeing. Now does that sound realistic to you?

As far as YOU are concerned, YOU are the sole expert, the lone advocate and the only qualified professional. Others may love you. Doctors may provide and act on data but it all comes down to you. You have to do the work. You must be your own advocate. With this in mind, trust your own judgment when you decide who to share information with and bear in mind that that is all you are sharing. No one can judge YOU because you are not giving them access to that. You are merely allowing them whatever data you deem necessary for them to assist you. If you all end up risking is breaking the silence and wasting time on the ignorant, this is not your problem.
Continue to do the work. Take care of yourself. There won’t be any certificate or medal. Don’t get hung up on the notion of others understanding YOU. Just demand their respect and attention. One day, you may find yourself wishing to share your success with others and write a letter just like this one. Who knows? Maybe you will even sign your name at the end.

Love,

ME

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Air Quotes

 
 
Dr. Evil on Mental Health Awareness
 
ADD or ADHD "Short attention span"
OCD "Anal" or "Meticulous"  
Bipolar Disorder  "Crazy" or "Moody"
Anxiety "The Jitters"
Depression "The blues"


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Stoic Irony

STOIC IRONY



SCENE: A therapist's office. The session is just wrapping up.

Doctor: So it sounds like you're still doing a great job of keeping your symptoms under control.

Patient: Yup.

Doctor: So what would you say is your biggest problem?

Patient: Getting anyone to believe I have a problem.


THE END

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Break On Through Despite The Sign


                Working as a concierge has reminded me of how much doors can teach us about human nature. Oh, and I don’t mean that in the sense that led to Jim Morrison to name his band. I mean actual, physical doors and modern man’s ongoing struggle with their use and the various stages of ‘open’ or ‘closed’. A locked door with a security alarm can destroy whatever is left of one’s faith in humanity. Try sitting in a Barnes and Noble with a good view of such a door and watch customers walk directly at the sign warning them of the alarm with zero hesitation as they plough into it. Ever been just slightly out of someone’s field of vision and still know that person might bump into you because their inability to see an object means they stand no chance of avoiding it? Or perhaps you’ve wanted to discuss the basic concept of free will with another human being? Just be prepared for the conversation to end at “I come and go as I please.”  So, doors! Step through one with me. It’s metaphorical.

                One of my job requirements as a concierge is to press a button that opens a locked door. If anyone tries to open said door otherwise, an alarm will go off. This is called security. In case this concept is lost on some, there are signs on either side of the door that not only explain it but they indicate a special button that, when pressed, alerts me to their need to pass through the door. Despite this, there is never a moment that I am not using all of my sensory awareness to anticipate a human being seemingly attempting to crash through the entrance like one of the zombies they most likely can’t wait to watch on television later that day.

                Most people open doors as if there were no possibility that anyone could be on the other side. Meanwhile, I never approach a door directly, but from an angle. Guess which type of person is perceived as the strange one. Yet, I have a theory that may explain this aspect of humans and their relationship to doors. People are not born with the ability to understand something developmental psychologists refer to as object permanence. This means that when they can no longer see something, it ceases to exist to them. The game, ‘peek-a-boo’, originated as a way to teach object permanence to infants. It really isn’t hard to argue that human beings continue to cling to that which they can see. So, next time you pass by a door, think of the likelihood that someone might be on the other side and have no idea you exist! It will improve your reflexes.

                Freedom! If you’re William Wallace and you’ve just seen your dead lover walking through the crowd, it’s something you yell before getting your head lopped off. If you’re someone on the wrong end of a locked door that someone else controls, it is something that, on some level, you feel you no longer have. Don’t believe me? Ask a nursing home resident, a mental patient or a resident in a rehab facility. The fact that they are currently guests in a controlled environment to which they either agreed to be a part of or currently are in no condition to be in any other environment no longer registers with them. Being on the other side of that door makes them a “prisoner”, in their own words. Yes, each of them is Andy Dufresne in Shawshank State Prison, only none of them will be likely to concoct a genius escape plan involving a rock hammer, a Raquel Welch poster and a crawl through a sewage pipe.

                Before I was a concierge, I was a high school English teacher. The image of a young man violently pulling on a locked door leading to a classroom that he did not even belong in still resonates with me, mainly because it still makes me smile. Reminding him that he was not only yanking on a locked door but no reason existed for him to be admitted entrance required a verbal exchange that I enjoyed for its absurdity. The profane response I received was even better. Jim Morrison may have been a deep fellow with a talent for lyrics but when it comes to doors, I find that watching a man literally trying to break through to the other side while staring at a sign explaining why he cannot is a good time all by itself.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Edge Of Groundhog Day

When I created this blog, I was determined that it not become a diary. Each entry would at least have a driving theme or topic. That has worked well for me but you know what? It has been a long time since there has been any acknowledgment of anything I write here. That is not an indictment of those who have subscribed or anyone else that might have happened upon this page. It is merely an observation that brings me to the conclusion that it is not unlike a diary after all. Now that I am in a sharing mode, the last year has seen the recording and release of an album of songs written by yours truly, not to mention a graphic novel a decade in the making. Compared to the magnitude of self that was invested in those creations, there has been very little return to date. That is not to say I do not appreciate those who have remained at my side throughout. I have been broadcasting from a remote location all of my life and I am simply counting on collecting. Right now, I am conscious of a great deal of anger deep within from constant repression of the need for that signal to be heard. This anger can not and will not destroy me nor will it be allowed to manifest itself in any sort unhealthy outward expression.

If that is where I am, where am I going? I have always said that I've never been much for the past. Believe me, I want nothing more than to take a step forward in the direction I have fought so long to discover. So, this must be that idea of looking to the past to understand my future? Is that that the expression? I've never been good at these. Hold on. Oh, okay. It goes like this: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." That is a modification George Santayana made to Edmund Burke's "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it."  There, do you like that better? I added quotations and two names you probably never heard before. Ok, where was I? Oh yes, the past.

When I was seventeen years old, I had myself admitted to a psychiatric clinic because of what I could only assume were suicidal thoughts?  You could say I had a breakdown caused by exhaustion. However, I can tell you that I never wanted to die. I just did not want to be here. That may have just caused you a headache but you would be surprised at how effective that headache is when it comes to saving a life, namely my own.

Currently, I am 35 years old or 18,653,852 minutes old. Thank to www.mathcats.com for giving me a chance to impress my lady friends who love cats, the ones who love math and the ones who love both. I just returned from seeing the movie Edge Of  Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. It is based on a graphic novel entitled "All You Need Is Kill", which is a much better title. No need to cite that reference because it came from me. I have considerable geek cred. Where am I going with this? The movie just happened to be about discovering the ability to relive the same day and attempt to learn from it. That theme has already famously been explored in Groundhog Day, one of my favorite films of all time. The major difference is that Groundhog Day did not star Emily Blunt. So, one way or another, I was viewing this motion picture differently, with a certain scrutiny if you will. Tom Cruise, on the other hand, is an actor I feel has finally come into his own. That may sound cheeky but he has achieved a certain grit and gravitas since passing the big 5-0. Where was I? The past? How did I get here? Whoa.

I do not want to be here. I have been here many, many times in the last eighteen years. Around this time, back then, I was newly medicated and graduating high school with honors and accolades. You see, a psychiatric in-patient ward is kind of designed to be a pit stop in relation to, well, here. Few seem to get this but you learn that your life can come to an abrupt stop and yet you still live. You don't have to be committed to find this out. What can I say? I have a thick head. The only thing going on in that thick head at the time was a battle not unlike the ones Cruise's character, Bill Cage, wages a billion times against the aliens that wield the power to affect time. Every time Cage wakes up again, he faces the same challenge with a new level of experience. So, if I still don't want to be here but know full well that the world isn't going to end, what do I do? You may have something to say about movies just being movies. You'd be correct but your implication is not. I seem to remember questions asked of me by a doctor in that hospital about whether or not songs or movies speak to me. Their implication was not much different than yours but you're hypothetical and that doctor was very real. I was scared to say yes because it would make me "crazy". You know what? I may be but I don't give a shit. When I hear a song or watch a movie, the stories and messages don't just speak to me. In my way, I speak back. There is an exchange. I don't care what you call it but I call it my calling. 

Now, I know what I have to do but first, one more visit to the past. When I was reinserted back into the world, I suddenly found myself a college student and soon after that, member of a band with my three best friends. We had an unspoken agreement. Our musical group would run its course and each of us would go our separate ways. To varying degrees, that was precisely what happened. For some reasons, the others may have seen me as ahead of them but I was only a front man. I was right where I needed to be, in a band. It wouldn't be long before I began to fall further and further behind the others. One is lost to me. Another loves me like a brother but has the strongest sense of duty I have ever seen aside from my father. Both don't talk to me a whole lot. That leaves the one who has always known I was right where I was supposed to be. It seems he and anyone else like him have suffered the most over the years, watching me figure it out for myself.  He might tell you that he felt as directionless as me at one point but he never tried to be something he is not. He still doesn't. What separated me? What put me off course? This is the mystery I am working on as I write this. 

Believe me, when I first arrived at the conclusion that I have been off course, I immediately wanted to simply get back on course. It has not been that simple. Hence, we have this digging back so I can crawl forward routine. Who knows how long or how many times I have been at this? Some who know me would be rolling their eyes in a major way right now....if they were reading this. 

So how did things turn out for Bill Cage or Phil Connor at the end of their repetitive adventures? In both cases, all they ever wanted and what they end up with is that one person who remains a constant in a world that seems to reset itself.  It occurs to me how wonderful it would be if more of these Hollywood lessons and fairy tales featured people of various lifestyles but you know what? I'm a straight dude so I would love me an Emily Blunt. Andi Macdowell is never hard to look at either but the point is that I have to be worthy of that constant. I am not entitled to it. No matter how old I may feel or how daunting the past may be, each day is still a new day. All I have to do is face it like someone who has truly lived all of the ones before it.