Musings on the construction of A Dead Guy Walks Into a Bar...
Some time ago, someone asked me to write a guide to the symbols and the terminology of my personal mythology, which is rooted in Rancho Nuevo, and this I believe to be my unconscious realm. This essentially means it is the dream layer, the place where our mind goes when the conscious brain shuts down during sleep, death, and the point of orgasm (La petite mort). I would imagine you could include coma and deep meditation and through other means, intentional or otherwise.
In Chapter One, I needed to resolve one of my biggest problem with writing something novel-length rather than a concise short piece. No matter how I felt about the rest of the work, chapter one was always a dead zone. There was too much background, too little action, and the story never really took off until chapter two. So, I decided to make what was chapter one into chapter two. Chapter One reads like the beginning of an epic fantasy novel or a mythological tale because it is set completely in Rancho Nuevo during the time of my depression and suicide in 1994. This is put together from dream fragments and through my "coloring it in" with a narrative that speaks the same language as the "dreamscape." When I worked on learning lucid dreaming techniques so that I could interact more freely within what were very intense dreams that caused me years of insomnia, one of the main reasons I worked on doing this was so I could communicate and figure out what the hell these dreams were trying to tell me with some seriously vague ass messages. How do I find this woman in my dreams who says I need to find her so she could give me the answer? "Go where there is no snow." Twenty-five years of doing that has enabled me to understand the narrative behind the dreams is a reflection of my existence in the waking world.
In Rancho Nuevo, the time of my depression and suicide is known as The Great War. What happens there is a reflection of my waking life and the realm is basically the core of my being, the unfiltered self. It was a war to save the realm before the board could be cleared by the red riders. My suicide is represented by much of the realm being reduced to a wasteland. It needs to be rebuilt. "The clearing of the board" is basically the end of a life. If the board is cleared, you are dead in this life, and what happens next is a complex matter of your true belief system and your self-evaluation. I believe that what we truly believe unfiltered by how we want to appear to others, when evaluated by the core of the self, determines what happens next. The core of the self is a single judge. You judge yourself through those two things, basically the law as you have truly established it, and an evaluation where no lawyer is needed because lying is impossible. You cannot lie to the all-knowing one, because at your core you know all the shit you've done. This is one of the foundations of my belief system.
Chapters two and three are the waking world version of the events in chapter one, and the end of chapter three is the same as the ending of chapter one. In death, I come face to face wit a man sitting on a folding chair. In chapter one, I reconstruct the origin story of the man with the folding chair. His journey with the chair to the wasteland is what ends chapter one. Chapter three ends with me crossing through the light and meeting this fellow. He represents an older version of myself, and without words he manages to convey something to me through his eyes. You could more or less think of it as It's a Wonderful Life happening in a split second without anything other than our eyes meeting and that causing me to turn around and go back. For years I couldn't understand why, when he asked me, "Do you want to go on?" it caused me to turn around and walk back. I had just decided to end my life because I believed it wasn't worth living. That single question combined with our eyes meeting changed everything. I didn't figure it out until I worked in the psych field and patients would say I didn't understand what they were going through and I would tell them, "Look into my eyes and tell me that," and they never could.
Much of the next half dozen chapters are a collection of origin stories, basically, and I learned through allowing someone who is a key figure in the story to read the draft that I was minimizing the people who played key roles along the way because I was driving straight through to the primary storyline. It became necessary to go into more of the story of Chris, who was a fellow survivor of what she considered, like me, an effort no one could survive. She sought me out and became a guide early on in my journey, and her part of the story is important. She was the one who had the iron ankhmade for me that I always wear so that I would not forget the things she told me. She was the founder of the Sisterhood of the Golden Sky, the first Sister.
These "origin stories" are love letters to those who have played key roles in my journey. The Sisters are the Rancho Nuevo interpretation of the true friends I made along the course of my journey, who are all female. There were key dudes, but the dynamic is different as is the energy. Part of my journey involved finding patterns and resolving them so I was no longer trapped by them. Chris opened up a new chapter for me because she understood who I was and why I needed to take this journey. What she really conveyed underneath it all is that returned suicides had a penance they need to do for what are essentially "crimes against the realm," or in the waking world "crimes against the self." It is something of a capital crime. If I am talking about the core of the self judging the actions of the waking world self, it makes sense. The penance is due to the self. You are essentially "avenging" yourself because your journey will in large part be about proving to yourself that your reasons for the crime against the self were not valid. How else do you justify going on living? When I looked at it after almost twenty-five years on the path, I realized I'd been proving my suicide thesis wrong on all of its key points.
Chris showing me why I needed to talk about my experience led to me sharing it with people I trusted and felt I could confide it. This foreshadows another major turning point in the narrative, which is related to this website. While I told the story to those I trusted, it wasn't until after the death of Hermetic in 2001, followed by the reaction of those who were part of this site, that I began to tell it openly and publicly. This led to a lot of people over the years since sending me messages in one way or another telling me that what I wrote about and shared made a difference in their lives, with some telling me I helped them change their mind about wanting to die. This is an example of how we take steps along the path of our journey, like dipping your toe in the water before you jump in. With each step forward we see another piece of the puzzle that is our life here. Who am I? What purpose do I serve? What does my life mean?
When I truly tell the stories about what these people meant to me, something almost magical started to unfold. Everything that happens years later was foreshadowed during the first five years following my suicide. My heart was broken after my split with my third fiancee and it had nothing to do with her, it had to do with her daughter. I'd made a terrible mistake letting her get used to me being around and she was a seven-year-old girl with big dreams and no father figure who was worth more than a doorstop. My third fiancee basically weaponized her to keep me around. Ten years later I'm working with at-risk teenage girls in residential care, most of whom had been abused in various ways by different adult men. I knew their pain already, because I'd seen it in the eyes of that little girl as she watched me drive away for the last time. Throw in that two of the Queens, who had tragic events prevent them from realizing their dreams, both sought to work with kids because one had grown up an orphan and the other spent her formative years as the wig-wearing "cancer kid" everyone laughed at. How did I learn the true value of pain and suffering? Mostly from the two of them. What you go through makes it possible for you to help others cross a similar bridge because you've been on the bridge yourself.
I never before got into the origin story of what people I worked with professionally sometimes called the "creepy calm." In a crisis situation before my suicide my response was to freeze and do nothing and then run away at the first opportunity. After my suicide, my response was radically different. Some refer to it as my "superpower." In a crisis situation, time slows down for me and it slows down a lot. I go into evaluation and processing mode, sort of like the scene in The Terminator when he's fixing his eye. It is as if screens come up and I turn into a computer, and during this I become extremely calm and relaxed. I had two people who know me ask me recently when a video of a cop smoking a cigarette during a robbery was one of my relatives. I would sit and eat a piece of birthday cake while someone was threatening to kill me. "This is quite good, would you care for some?" The first time it happened was in 1995, when I was with a group of people at a club and one of my friends' ex-husband came in. He was angry, ranting, making threats, and was thrown out of the club. My first reaction was to follow him outside. There was something in his body language and the emphasis he put on certain words in what he said led me to believe this wasn't going to end there. I followed him outside and saw him open his trunk and take a tire iron out, so I lit a cigarette and walked over to him calmly and spoke to him in a conversational tone as I calmly asked him what he expected to achieve if he want inside with that tire iron. He eventually tossed it back in the trunk and drove off, all before I finished the cigarette. Then I went inside as if nothing had happened. No one needed to know that something terrible might have happened that was averted. Afterwards, when I thought about it, I could not explain how I reacted that way instead of how I used to react to such situations: step back and stay out of it. I was compelled to act.
Going into the details of how the original Sisterhood was formed in the mid to late 1990s helped me repair the biggest problem with past version of the book, which was my own character arc. Other versions are filled with rationalizations for my sometimes unsavory actions. There is now a more honest appraisal, which corrects my character arc in Act I, where I begin as a confused and lost fledgling, find my footing, take flight, and then my ego begins to get out of control, I become cocky and certain that I am invincible, leading to the summer of 1999 where everything goes wrong in Biblical fashion and I become Clark Kent in the diner in Superman II getting my ass kicked by truckers because I no longer have superpowers, but in my version, more truckers keep coming into the diner in waves. My first destruction may have come from self-hatred, but my second was dealt out mercilessly by hubris.
Talk about reversing the polarity...