RW218 - Between Realities

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to John being able to move into his house, but not doing it quite yet, meaning he is between the two realities of his future and his present.

John moving into his new house (RW218)

John having back pain for carrying heavy boxes

It is going pretty darn good, but John has a bit of a back problem because he stressed it a little bit, he was moving some rocks, he was doing some heavy raking which made him ache, he was sleeping in a bed that was too soft, and he was moving a lot of heavy boxes with books and didn't give the ache a chance to recover and now it hurts. His sister swears by Epsom baths and he took two of those. It doesn't feel like a disc or anything, it just feels pulled. He has been laying on a heating pad for the last couple of days, but Dan thinks that is the problem right there.

They talked about Dan’s prior back issues before and the cool guy who chronicles everything John ever said can tell where they talked about that, probably in relation to the time when John’s daughter jumped and kneed on his back, which is when he slipped his disc. The one thing that all of the different doctors said was that although a heating pad feels good and it does have its uses and can be good for increasing circulation and things like that typically, but you want to do cold, not hot because what you actually are trying to do in the acute stage of a back injury or any kind of injury is to reduce inflammation and the best way to do that is with ice and the ice also has a numbing effect and will reduce the pain as well.

John’s back injury is mild and ongoing. He likes a really stiff mattress. His dad used to put a piece of plywood between the box spring and the mattress and John got these lovely Caspar mattresses because they have been so generous (as a previous sponsor) and and they are very firm, so he can’t wait to get back to his good old bed.

Living with his daughter’s mother

The million dollar question is now how exactly the rollout of John moving to his house is going to happen. He could be 100% completely living in his new house. It is not done, there is tons of work to do, there would be constant work going on, always a ladder in the living room, there is carpet going to be installed in the next couple of weeks in a couple of rooms, but: Are the bathrooms ready? Yes! Is there a bed in the master bedroom? Yes! Does his daughter have a bed? Yes! Couch in the living room? Yes!

If these were normal circumstances and John were a normal person who really wanted to get started living in their new house, for the last two weeks he could have been staying there every night. It has been very difficult because his little family at the house one mile away is reluctant for him to go and they are not incentivizing it. For a long time it felt like when his house was ready his little family would incentivize it by saying: ”Why don't you get out and live at your house now?” His daughter many times over the last year said: ”I can't wait for you to move into your house!”

She is really excited about having a second bedroom, as any daughter would, because she will be able to correct all the decorating mistakes that she made in the first bedroom. She can use all purple whereas in the first bedroom her favorite color wasn't purple yet and some decisions were made that can't be unmade. Also she tends to be a little brusque or brutally candid and she wants uninterrupted mom-time because her mother is more lenient and they will curl up on the couch and watch Clone Wars, whereas dad is always saying: ”Why don't we go hit a baseball?” John is just a pain in the neck to her a lot of the time.

But in the last couple of weeks when the move became more and more real, she started to pull back a little bit on the enthusiasm for John to go and he can feel the two of them fretting. More important even than that is that John never used to want other people around, he is somebody who fights habit, he didn't have any habits, he didn't ever eat a meal at the same time, he didn't really ever do anything from one day to the next. If he were sitting and looking at the ingredients of a dinner at the same time than the day before he would almost certainly not intentionally, but subconsciously get distracted by some BB stacking exercise. There aren't enough hours in the day that it makes sense that someone would never eat dinner at the same time unless there was something happening in his brain.

Here at this house they still don't eat dinner at the exact same time every day, but there is at least a dinner. That is the other thing: Living alone there were many times where there wasn't ever a dinner, there was not even any food that day because John was an untreated bipolar person and sometimes he would forget to eat and sometimes all he would do in a day was eat. It is a lot harder to live that way with other people around, especially a child.

Trying to find incentives to do something, not go on patterns alone

John thinks about incentives a lot in his interactions with other people because a lot of people in the world, their habits and interactions with other people are foregone conclusion. They graduate from college and they start a job and there doesn't appear to be a third option besides looking for a job and not find one, or the rare kid that moves back in with their parents and plays video games, or the rich kid that does a grand tour of Europe, but there is not the option for most people of: Don't graduate from college and start a band!

It is true in relationships, too, particularly if you are married. Marriage comes with so many built-in features and some of them seem like features, but they are really bugs, but you don't have to think about it, which is where a lot of marriages go wrong: People don't communicate with each other because they assume that the marriage will take care of it, that the conditions of the marriage are so well-established that there couldn't be any misunderstanding and of course there is always misunderstanding about what the conditions and those words even mean.

A lot of John’s interactions with people, romantic and otherwise, aren't governed by laws of any kind or habits other than mutual interest and: ”Is this better than not?” and ”Does this seem fruitful?” He is not somebody that thinks about the future, which has been a lifelong quality. He doesn’t think about the future or plan for the future until just recently when I realized he was 52 and there is some necessity in planning for the future unless he wants to be 92 years old and still talking to Dan once a week about his personal problems, which will be hilarious. When you are 92 and you are talking to someone else who is very old: ”I just can't seem to get my girlfriend to give me any space!”

It would be nice to get to a certain age and not have to hustle. The thing about not thinking about the future, not planning for it, and just not imagining it… John thinks about the past all the time and he thinks about the present, but even the immediate future, even later today, he only has the very vaguest sketch of how it is going to go, what he is going to do, where he is going to be.

John never getting bored, preferring solitude over relationships if there is no incentive

What ends up happening is that he thinks about present and future relationship decisions in terms of incentive, like: ”Here we are, we have a choice: We go out tonight or do we not? Do we choose to have a fight instead of watching TV? What are we fighting about? What is the project today and what are the incentives?” As someone who never feared being alone… if he has a superpower it is that he doesn’t get bored… everything in addition to being alone and just entertaining himself with his imagination there has to be a compelling reason to do it.

It doesn't have to be an incredibly compelling reason because sitting and entertaining himself with his imagination is not the end all be all, but John likes to dance, he wants to eat food that somebody else made, it is not hard to get him in motion, but it has to be better than his baseline, which is: ”Fine!” This creates problems because a lot of people do things as part of their daily or weekly routine that they have no incentive to do. It is not fun, it is not what they want, and a lot of times it characterizes their entire relationship: ”I don't really want to be in this relationship, but I am in it. I signed a contract or we own a house or we have kids or this is what is expected or if I broke off this relationship my family and my culture and my church and my town would turn against me, or it never occurred to me to stop being in this relationship because I never thought about it!”

The question: ”What is my incentive?” to do anything, to move in any direction, doesn't come up as often for a lot of people because the routine and the expectations paper over the question of: ”Why would I do this?” John is on the bleeding edge a lot of times of needing to ask and answer that question: ”Why would I do this? Is this better than not doing it?” and he phrases that question to himself a lot, which becomes a problem in romantic relationships because romantic relationships have a lot of busy work and difficulty in them that a lot of people endure because they are thinking about the future and they want a relationship in the future, they know they do. They don't want to be alone, they want love, they want hugs and kisses, they want a partner, they want somebody sitting there when they get home and John never had that need and he doesn’t know whether it is nature or nurture.

Both of John’s grandfathers lived alone when they could and his father's mother raised her children by herself and his mother's mother died at a young age, and his mother lives alone and his father lived alone and when his mother and father divorced in 1971 neither got remarried and he can count his mother's boyfriends on one hand from 1971 to the present, and his dad's girlfriends that they knew about he can count on three fingers. He had relationships that they didn't know about, but that in and of itself is telling, it is a family tradition in a way. His sister never married, is 50 now, not in a relationship, and she seems unburdened by it.

A lot of people don't look for short term incentives because they are picturing long term incentives and ultimately the longest term incentive is: ”I don't want to be alone, so the difficulty I am having with this person, the lack of agreement, the negotiations, the bickering,… it is all going to work out in the long run because in the hazy distance I can picture a time when we will have figured all this out because how hard can it be? We will get to our our paradise and it will just be like the final scene in Raising Arizona, the dream of the future sequence!”

The dream of the future sequence is a big part of a lot of people's lives because a lot of the problems that you feel like we are having right now but are not going to have in our dream of the future are not problems that go away. They aren't simple solutions. Marriage doesn't solve them, time doesn't solve them, and John learned that lesson with his mental illness, his chronic depression, his neuro-atypicality: All through his 20s and 30s he thought that it couldn't possibly not cure itself. A lot of people feel this about their alcoholism: ”Oh, I drank like that in my 20s, but I can't possibly keep drinking like that in my 40s! and then they are 39.5 and they are like: ”Wow, it has only gotten worse, but it can't possibly keep getting worse!” and it does.

The lack of any version of that dream of the future in him, and it is not that he has one and is pressing it down, but he just never had one, and it is part of why he spent so many years living where the day took him. John never characterized it as ”living in the moment” because he spent a lot of time living in the past, so he is not some Zen hippity hop who goes from lily pad to lily pad and has no sadness, but he spends a lot of time brooding and in dark places, but he never future-fucks himself, saying: ”This isn't going to work!” He definitely says: ”This song is garbage!” and he is going to stop working on it. He stops himself often, but in the moment.

It happens in relationships a lot where people make a presumption that they can see into the future. like: ”You are going to do this if I don't do that, or if we don't establish this now, then you are going to do this!” - ”You have no idea what I am going to do!” John doesn’t have that confidence that you can predict what is going to happen.

Those questions of: ”Why would I?” He understands: ”Hey, I want you to go with me to my sister's wedding!” Of course he doesn’t want to, but that is a responsibility when you are in a relationship with somebody and maybe he finds an incentive that he doesn't share: ”I will go see your weird sister's freaky and totally messed up wedding! I want to do this because this is better than television.!” He wouldn't say that, and he would have to care about someone very little to not try to accommodate all of their needs that they are generous enough to share with him.

It is situations like: ”We are in a relationship, I really like you, but we fight constantly and you don't seem to share my view of the world and I don't have very much confidence that we can bridge the gap. It seems like we are on a path to fight all the time and I have seen it happen enough and I worked hard to come up with strategies, but it seems like fighting all the time is our baseline. What is my incentive to keep going in this relationship?” It basically comes down to: ”I really like aspects of our relationship…” and it sounds cold, but you shouldn't click in or lock into a lasting pattern that isn't better than nothing.

John being both a particle and a wave

John’s home is finally close to done and capable of sustaining life. He has Internet installed, most of the lights work, there are beds and the furniture that is necessary, but he doesn’t feel the incredible incentive to be alone, he feels much more incentive to let it ride, but letting it ride is a Heisenberg state and a lot of his life has been characterized by a Heisenbergian lack of interest in declaring whether he is a particle or a wave and as long as he doesn’t declare it it is not a situation where the the act of someone else viewing it establishes it. When other people look at him they think they see either a particle or a wave, but that doesn't fundamentally establish John’s nature. Only when he is the observer his nature coalesces.

John is in that state where he has yet to be observed by the Grand Observer and his family here is really observing him and they do want him to become a particle and so often he has been a particle in the last year that it feels like the nature is established, but that is not necessarily true. A month from now when the house is utterly inhabitable, not just capable of sustaining life, but it is all there the question becomes: ”Do you now rent out your furnished home to Alaska Airlines to be a retreat for high ranking pilots?” Once the House is done it will be a nice place. It has an acre of ravine that John has been gradually transforming into not quite a parklike setting yet, but it is interesting to look at. The House will be fun, it finally has fun tile and it has a fun vintage-y vibe and and it is a manageable size.

Is there a scenario where in observing himself John would say: ”Rather than move into this house what you have purpose-built for yourself, there is a room in the basement next to the bomb shelter which is already soundproofed by its very construction to be a recording studio where you have all the gear, you have it all in mind, where you are going to go down there and really start digging into this back catalog of music that you haven't had a basement for…” John’s musical interior life always needed a basement and the farm didn't have a basement and it was very hard for him to ever get comfortable playing loud music in an aboveground room. Music always felt like a thing that you played in the deepest room in the house with all the doors locked.

That has been true of every band practice space he ever had. They were all made of cinder block. They all had at most a window somewhere that you could reach eventually. The Long Winters practice space had zero windows, but you could go through two doors and be outside, and that was true of The Bun Family Players and The Western State Hurricanes practice space: There was one window that didn't open and you had to go through two doors to get outside and they were all made of cement.

Now John has a house that has that feature exactly: A room made of cement in the deepest corner and he is so excited to get in there and set up his equipment and be able to be loud and leave the microphones up and not have that room also have to function as a daytime room.

Is John really going to coalesce into a particle that sleeps in the spare bedroom of his daughter's mother's house where every time he kicks off his shoes in the living room, somebody goes: ”Your shoes are in the living room!” with a house with a recording studio in the basement that is a mile away? No, John is not going to do that! That would be Science Fiction. It isn’t really possible to move in over there and continue to walk over here every day and have dinner at the same time and watch an hour of episodic television and then go home. It might be the pattern for a while because it will be something that feels very familiar, but eventually and probably soon a day will come where he will say: ”Oh, it is pizza night. Well, you guys have fun!”

It is going to be the end of the quarantine where these two girls here will have more opportunity to go do things. They will have the opportunity to go have dinner with friends, they will have the opportunity to go to the movies, and part of what has made John such a particle over the last year is that we all have become that and is at liberty. But in this moment, in this intermediate time and place, John doesn’t feel a ton of incentive to fill up the refrigerator over there with mustard and then say: ”It is Taco Tuesday! You guys have fun! I am just going to sit here in this house by myself and eat a frozen pizza on the floor!” because he doesn’t have a dining room.

Being able to granularly compartmentalize decisions

Not looking very far into the future or being able to tell it, John cannot tell you what the other side of this borderland is. It will probably be a gradual transition, it already feels much more graduated than he expected. He has been saying for months and months: ”Well, when I am living in my house, X will happen!” and there are people in his life who are looking at their watch: ”When is X going to happen again? Because you have been talking about it for a long time!” - ”When I move into my house X is going to happen!” and someone said the other day: ”If you wanted X to happen you could have moved into your house!”, so John is beginning to doubt that X is going to happen.

John’s incentive to make X happen isn’t great enough to overpower the inertia to turn his potential energy into kinetic energy. It is not that he doesn't expect X to happen, it is not that he doesn't even want X to happen, but the idea of X happening is not a sufficient kinetic energy to get him in motion, and that is troublesome for people who want X to happen, but it is also to people that John is able to compartmentalize decisions at such a granular level. Because it often feels to them like: ”The whole thing hangs in the balance, whether X happens or not!” - ”I don't think it does! X is its own thing and you can make decisions around it, whether X is a particle or a wave doesn't need to be determined for you to work out the physics of whatever your future dream state is!”

Sleeping at his new house

John is absolutely right now between as between realities as he has been in a very long time and in the past when he was between realities like this there were no clear boundaries on either side, but it was truly: ”Well, I might walk out of the house today and meet the woman I am going to marry, or I might walk out of the house today and not sleep again until I am in Budapest!”, but now it is: ”I am pretty sure that tonight I intend to stay the night at my new house!”, but he has not announced that yet. He has spent a couple of nights there, but those couple of nights did not immediately light the use and set the move in motion.

John has been moving out of a shipping container. His stuff was all in storage in a pod and the pod got delivered and he moved out of the pod and they came and got the pod. Now John got is a bunch of books in boxes marked: ”Books”, none of which he particularly needs right now. His copy of The Sun Also Rises can sit in that box for a little while longer, but there are books that he would sure like to have access to. Unfortunately they are all in boxes undifferentiated marked ”Books!” In the process of pulling stuff out of those boxes he has put probably eight full boxes and two garbage bags worth of stuff in a big corner of the garage called: ”Going to the thrift store!”

John is culling, which was always part of the plan, but none of it is burning with a white hot fire, none of it dislodges him. Part of the materialism of all this he has not yet opened a box and the ghosts pour out and he thought: ”Well, this is it! Now that this box is open I can't leave this stuff and go one mile away to have Indian food with my family. No, no, no, now that this box marked ”Pink Wingtips” is open I see what I have been missing: To walk around the world in pink wingtips!”

None of that is an incentive and the only incentives are that he wants to return to a place where he has complete space and quietude and the 24 hour clock goes back to being a 28 hour clock, which is how the clock really works for him. He can't have a 28 hour clock in a house with other people, particularly when they are going to school and they have work. There is no 28 hour oscillation, but that is where his own nature is. What the son is doing has never been less relevant to a person. When the guitars are little maids all in a row and the podcast microphones are moved and at the ready, when his job decamps…

If John doesn’t stand there guarding his podcast table it becomes a LEGO table and then it becomes a craft table, but the LEGO stayed there and then it becomes an American Girl doll table, but the crafts and LEGO also stayed there and there is no room for anything. His guitars are pushed into a corner next to some Calico Critters and a Barbie RV that if it were up to him would be deep in a landfill by now, but it is not up to him. There is also a Playmobil Castle, all while John is allowed to have two guitars there. If John had a room where all this stuff had a place, that may be the thing where it is just like: ”I have to go to my house because that is where I work and by necessity that is where where I be!”

John’s relationship to loneliness, becoming inured or comforted by the other people around him

John has never experienced loneliness before. He felt loneliness as a child a lot, but he and his sister called it The Empty Feeling, which was those times when you are laying in bed at night and you feel that there is a bottomless chasm. Dan thinks back to an earlier episode where they were talking about this and John said that he either doesn’t feel loneliness, or if he feels it it is not an unpleasant feeling. Does John feel it now because he has become acclimated to having people around you because he had no choice, almost like a Stockholm syndrome kind of thing that he is now so used to these people being with him that he feels that he needs to somehow perpetuate that?

In some ways it is the opposite of Stockholm syndrome in that he has not become inured to the noise that a child makes every minute of every day, especially his Frankenstein-booted child who stomps around and weighs 100 pounds, but sounds like she weighs 7000 pounds and she is a screamer and a yeller and just the sounds of people around him that would have irritated him, that would have intruded and woken him up… he is sensitive to his environment, the feeling of: ”Come on! Enough! You have been in the kitchen for 40 minutes. How long does it take to make a peanut butter sandwich?”

All of that he is not only inured to, but he likes it, it is the sounds of other people. He wouldn't go as far as to say he is comforted by it, but maybe this is the term and he is uncomfortable saying it because he never liked to admit that he needed comforting because that was part of how he survived his childhood: He never was comforted, so he didn't need it, but now it is: ”Oh yeah, there are people around and I know who they are, I know what they are doing!”, like you look over at the control panel and all the status lights are green.

When John is at his house by himself he is very comfortable because his house is very comfortable to him, he can sit in the living room and just watch the sun arc across the sky, which is how he spent so many of his days, he really enjoys that, but there is now a part of him that is even a little bit anxious in wondering: ”Are they okay? I wonder if they are okay right now!” When there is a bump in the night John is the one that gets up and he definitely doesn’t go outside in a bathrobe with a sword anymore because he doesn't has any swords here or even a bathrobe. This morning there was some 7am bumping and there were some landscapers wandering around and no-one else is getting up because they know that he is going to get up when there is a bump.

He is worried that a bump is ever going to be anything bad, but they will worry about bumps as soon as he is not here all the time and he worries about their worry. All this is very new to John. He has had a lot of experiences in the last few years, when he was struggling with anxiety he had a lot of fresh understanding of how anxiety affects people and how debilitating it can be and how many people in his life have talked about anxiety for years and he didn't understand what they were talking about and was wondering: ”Is this one of those things where you bring a pet on an airplane because you have anxiety and it is just a made up thing?” and then he had it and realized that this is an incredibly debilitating condition and he can only imagine what it would be like for someone that even had it 2% worse than he does, and his does not seem to be a terrible or chronic case of it.

Understanding anxiety

John is having anxiety related to airplanes, which is the most common one. He sat next to his friend Jesse Sykes, the musician who had a terrible fear of airplanes. They were on tour and they were going to somewhere together and she was absolutely having an attack sitting in the seat next to him and at the time he just couldn't understand what was happening. He talked her through take off by explaining what all the sounds were and it calmed her down, but he could not understand what was happening to her, but now he does. Every one of these events in recent years has increased his understanding and empathy for people in the world and he has now this new experience of: ”Oh, I get why you would put up with a lot of bullshit from other people in exchange for feeling comforted!”

What is John’s incentive there? He was never above being comforted, the first time a girl petted his hair he was sitting at a table in a squat and a girl reached over and started massaging his hand. She was a massage therapist, which was one of the 30 jobs that you could have when you were a 24 year old pot dealer and she was massaging his hand and nobody had ever touched his hand, certainly not so intimately. They were just sitting at a table in the middle of the party and she was just massaging his hand absently, she was not trying to seduce him, but she had these skills and she liked him and he was sitting there and she started to do this as part of having a conversation. John had never felt more beloved and part of the world. It was such a simple gesture!

John’s daughter has experienced so much human touch that none of it will be alien to her. There is never going to be a moment in her life, unless it is with her first boyfriend, where she will feel like she wasn't touched enough.

One time at a very small party, they were baked out of their minds, John’s friend Louis reached over while they were talking and he pulled on his earlobes in a gentle way and made them pop. Dan doesn’t like this story, it is horrible! It was wonderful because it felt so human, he had given him an experience that he never had that was just incredibly human. How many times does someone unstick your ear canal from the sides of your head?

Can people change? Can John change?

The question: ”Can people change?” is something we all ask ourselves all the time, and the cynics say: ”No!” and the optimistic say: ”Yes!” In his own life John has watched people close to him change for the better and the worse and profoundly, not just have a bad day, but go down or come up, but in the main he has not seen most people change. The people that he has known for 30 years are still themselves and approach the world the same way and have not at any point said: ”I don't feel or think or act like I once did!”, even in siloed ways.

John has known some people who lost their religion and lost their framework, which is a profound change, but so much of the change is just: ”I no longer go to this building and I no longer read aloud from this book!” as opposed to somebody really having reflected on their core selves and decided at some point: ”If you believe in a karmic cycle, if you believe that each life you are here to address some thing and then the next time you come back and you either have to repeat that step or you go on to the next!”

The number of people who in the course of their own life said: ”I am going to make that evolution to the next level here presently, visibly, and not have it be a deathbed reckoning, but have it be a thing I can watch transpire!” are so few. Most people are here to learn a lesson and they double down on it. They spend their lives grinding away at that lesson. It is not always a bad lesson, a lot of people spend their lives feathering their bed. Is John capable of profound change in this life?


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