I have a new routine. I get into bed every night at nine. Nine on the dot. I take a book and read until I am sleepy. That may be fifteen minutes, it may be two hours. It doesn't matter. Eventually, though, my eyes begin to get heavy, and I put the book on the bedside table and turn off the light. What I am finding is that my dreams are more pleasant. Again, last night and this morning, I woke up smiling. I think I'll not read dark or heavy books before bed. I'll save them for earlier. Bedtime reading will be about happy adventures, personalities. . . whatever the old people read. I think they read a lot of biographies. There are plenty of books that will make me happy, I'm certain.
I'll leave the nihilists and existentialists for other times. It is not that they don't make me happy. I love to know that other people see life in a similar, if more articulate, way. That never depresses me. But the lighter stuff seems to make for better dreaming.
Lighter music, too. I wouldn't want to listen to Tchaikovsky or Chopin or parts of Mozart or Beethoven before sleeping.
You may, however, prefer the dreams invoked by Bach or the Brothers Mann. Each to his own. For once, I'm choosing the path most travelled.
There are other life modifications I will be making, too. Hacks? Isn't that the popular term? Life hacks? I'm not sure. I avoid popular idioms preferring the language from the "way back." My father's language and the language of my grandparents. And sometimes "groovy" and "far out," but only in a mocking tone.
People keep asking me if I feel different being alcohol free. I always tell them, "I'm bored." And that is true. Physiologically, I may have lost a couple pounds, but I have mostly countered that with an uptake in sweets. I've noticed, however, that my arms have become more vascular during workouts, so there is that. Mostly, though, I'd say I've become a tad less sardonic and a bit more sublime. I may be more thoughtful in my reaction to things and less likely to say the first thing that comes to mind. I was going to say I felt like I was channeling some inner Norm MacDonald--you know, the performative one, slow and goofy--so I Googled it. All the things I looked at say his personality type is INTP, so I looked that up, too.
Which is a good segue into "Stutz." Upon recommendation, I started watching that last night. If you don't know about the film, it is something akin to a documentary Jonah Hill made about his psychoanalyst Phil Stutz. Johan Hill is as irritating as he can be in the film. Intellectually and emotionally shallow. . . well, the fellow needs a writer and a script. Stutz, himself, is fairly fascinating to watch. He is a colorful character with a thoughtful and irreverent demeanor. I have only watched half of the film so far, for when it turned nine, I had to turn it off as is my new wont, so any opinions I express here are not final. Stutz got his residency and first practice as a psychiatrist at Riker's Island. That was not mentioned in the film, at least so far. I had to look it up. I was actually trying to find out if Stutz had been Woody Allen's shrink, for what they say about life have incredible parallels. Allen's, I think, are more palatable to me because he relies less on cloudy metaphors. Stutz is obviously used to working with a less thoughtful or intellectual audience, or so it seems to me. He draws cartoons and diagrams on 3x5 cards as he talks and gives them as visual representation to his patients for guidance and inspiration. He realizes, I think, will eventually get lost in his metaphors and symbology. I'm not sure where the doc is going. There seems to be a bit of mysticism in some of the things he says, just enough to make him a bit of a cultish figure if not the leader of a cult. He uses terms like "The X Factor" to reference what can easily called negative thinking. But, it seems, he likes figures and images. Perhaps it is easier for a certain clientele to "get" a fairytale version of the psyche, but then again, such notions were the difference between Freud and Jung, I think (in my Cliff Notes understanding of these things).
If you have seen the doc already, think "The String of Pearls" theory in which every pearl contains a turd. It only made me wonder what the turd contained and if he would explain that later, or perhaps how it came to be there, or why, indeed, he seemed to be mixing his metaphors. At that point, I was reminded of Tom Cruise and Scientology.
He tells us that he was born a therapist, that since he was a child, people came to him to tell him their troubles, grown ups looking for advice. He admits that ideas just come to him as if by divinity. Much of what he does and says breaks with standard practices, so I read, above all maintaining a professional distance between himself and the client.
And yet, I liked watching this crazy character. He's funny and charismatic. And he is, as I say, in accordance with The Cosmos According to Woody Allen.
Again, I haven't seen all of it yet. Maybe Hill turns out better than he begins. Perhaps he has a big breakthrough. I hope so.
In a nutshell, let me see if I can summarize all of art, literature, philosophy, and religion. Life is absurd. We try to find meaning. We despair when we realize there is suffering and death and that we can not put an end to that. To counter our despair, we try to find distraction. Some revel in cheap abstractions like drink, drugs, and popular entertainment. Others try to be more productive and throw themselves into their work. Sometimes, however, we are overwhelmed and seek help whether fantastically mystical or stoically practical. Some seek guidance in religious texts, some from artists and philosophers, and some from talk show hosts. Some, of course, combine two or maybe all of three of these things. In the end, however, all we are left with is the absurdity of our fate and how we choose to face it.
Fluffy clouds, angels with harps, and streets of gold, or an eternity of dirt and nonexistence. It really doesn't matter what you believe. It is how you act, or, as Charles Bukowski says, "What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire."
Maybe, though, by the end of "Stutz," I will have changed my mind.
All that to say. . . I'm reading happier things before bed, and it is helps me dream better dreams. Try to reduce your screen time. Avoid social media. Don't read about yourself and what others think about you and your work. Do what you believe in and try to avoid regret. Stay away from negative people, and remember that, by and large, Cindi Lauper was right--people just want to have fun.
If you need help, advice, or guidance, you can always call. I'll throw the bones, read the tea leaves. . . . My services are not cheap, but, you know. . . being a Life Coach is a lot of work.
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