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Bad Thoughts for Bad People

Everybody believes he is a good person and that what he does in life is done, most of the time, with honor, purpose, and noble conviction; this belief is true of almost all people, the good and the bad, the saints and even the psychopaths, because evil people don’t know they’re evil, their motivations and the things they do, in their minds, have reason and relevance. I, however, know I am not a good person. So, am I a bad person? I hope not. I put a genuine effort into not being one. I want to believe I’m simply like most people: neither good nor bad, just somewhere in between, equally balanced.

Sometimes I congratulate myself when I have a genuinely “good” thought. For example when that 16-year-old girl that was sailing solo around the world (I still wonder what parent would allow his 16-year-old daughter to sail around the world, through Somalia pirate infested waters or, for that matter, anywhere near the African coast—by herself! It really seemed as if the parents craved the prestige more than the girl did) was lost at sea but found alive and safe the following day. Thank God, I thought. Thank God that poor girl was found unharmed. And then I immodestly thought about how good and unselfish my preceding thought had been. What a good thought, Quill, a distant and smarmy voice that I knew was my own echoed. A very good thought indeed. Perhaps you are an admirable person after all.

But, of course, I knew differently.

I have a friend, Sammy, who, at 16 years old, was hit by a drunk driver as he walked innocently down the street one night. At the time, drunk drivers were probably the furthest things from his mind. After he was struck, he lay in a coma for months. Eventually he came out of it, but at a severe cost. He is now blind, with virtually no recall beyond the first 16 years of his life. His condition occurs constantly. When conversing with him, he usually forgets a great deal of what was just said and has to be continually reminded of current circumstances to ensure that the conversation moves along as smoothly as possible. As the stream of time moves onward, it’s as if Sammy were a small stick caught in a whirlpool, spinning and spinning and never moving as time and life continues to rush by. In spite of this, Sammy is glad to be alive and still manages to maintain an optimistic view of his years still to come.

Since the accident, I’ve probably seen Sammy about a dozen times in my life and not at all in several years. I am essentially choosing to ignore Sammy. He used to live with his mother, but she probably isn’t even alive anymore. I don’t know where Sammy is now and even if I did I’d probably create reasons not to visit him. The few times Sammy and I did get together, I (selfishly) found it frustrating to habitually remind him of recently stated facts and redirect our conversation as it progressed, or, more accurately, did not progress. But the whole thing was mostly sad, and then I felt guilty for pitying Sammy.

While he was in his early twenties, Sammy held a job folding cardboard take-out boxes at a Pizza Hut. Since I haven’t stayed in touch with him, I don’t know if he still has this job or if he’s moved on. It couldn’t have been a very satisfying occupation, but it undoubtedly fulfilled a fundamental human desire in Sammy to feel needed and to actively participate in society. With Sammy’s limited cognitive capacities, box folding may have been as good as it was going to get as far as holding down a job was concerned—I hope not, but I’m being objective.

So the question remains, is bringing Sammy happiness by my visiting him more important than the discomfort I feel being in Sammy’s presence? It goes without saying that the former is more important. In recognizing this, I did visit Sammy when I really didn’t feel like it. Ultimately, however, I did just allow Sammy to drift out of my life.

I believe in many, maybe even in most cases, when a newly handicapped friend or relative is introduced into any one of our lives, our lives, basically, continue on at a relatively normal pace and progression. The handicapped person’s life, on the other hand, is dramatically changed forever. He is now, relatively speaking, dependent with new and different goals in life, and he must rely on others, to some extent or another, for assistance. Newly brain damaged people, the blind, paraplegics, quadriplegics, amputees, and other handicapped individuals can, of course, find purpose and independence, but things are never the same, for them or for us.

I sometimes think about what it would be like if the proverbial shoe were on the other foot. What if I were the newly handicapped individual? How would I like to be the one that hoped my old companions in life would sometimes think of me? I would daydream that when they got together they would periodically mention my name and even consider visiting me just for old time’s sake. I would fall asleep each night praying that this would come true, and when it did—because my friends are fine people, I would be happy, ecstatic, really, but at the same time I would envy them for their normal lives as they, for this single day, showered me with attention and euphemistic sympathy. I would love them for being my friends, but silently I would resent them because I would know that after they had left my house, they would all go to their own homes to be with their own families, and I would also know that my lovely friends would then tell their wives how glad they were that they had never suffered injuries similar to mine, and if they had, they would rather be dead than face a pointless destiny like Quill’s. And then, alone again, I would be absolutely assured that their next visit would be very, very far in the future, and perhaps it would not occur at all, because, let’s be honest, I am now a real downer.

For me, however, it might be a little different. I love my family and friends, but for the entirety of my life I’ve been very comfortable with my own company, often times preferring it over socializing. So being alone is nothing new. Maybe the tragic accident that handicapped me won’t be so bad after all, maybe it’s even better that it happened to me than to someone else who wouldn’t be able to mange it as well. Not to say that if I were suddenly blind, brain damaged, or left without the use of my limbs that I would accept it with no reservations at all. I wouldn’t … and, who knows, hypothetically, if I were allowed to think too long about my unfortunate new situation in life, which, of course, I would be, the outcome would probably not be a favorable one. I tend to overanalyze things and then dwell on them to a neurotic level. And without the freedom to do what I want when I want, and then to be burdened with the crushing knowledge that not only am I forced to rely on others, but that I am now the subject of whispers behind closed doors, I‘d feel dreadfully sorry for myself, maybe even on a much more profound level than others. I might possibly allow the inevitable values and oversights that complicate the tapestry of our lives to entangle and irreversibly shackle me, ultimately dragging me down to the bottomless pit of utter self-sorrow and desperation.

Understanding the eventual outcome of my nonexistent social life, I might become prematurely bitter and shun my visitors, knowing that, as they put on cheerful faces to view my broken body and humbled spirit, they were only there to fulfill their own moral obligations that will gradually taper off and then one day vanish entirely. It will happen, I know it will, and, deep down, so do they, although at the infancy of this awkward ballet they are unable to fathom the final results, and maybe even years later when I am little more than a distant memory, the reality of our lives, theirs and mine, may only exist in the emotionally sterile and seldom visited vaults of their subconscious where guilt is unable to gain purchase on the smooth incline of detachment and apathy.

All of this, of course, is under the assumption that I would still have my intellect. If an accident left me mentally and emotionally reduced, perhaps severely, then, I suppose, everything that I previously proposed would be entirely academic. I would then be that stick in the whirlpool, spinning and spinning, waiting for life to begin, every day, just waiting, hopefully waiting, but as it passed me by I would be blissfully unaware that each uneventful waking day in my life would bring me closer to its end, the clouds moving overhead, the discolored autumn leaves brushing against me in the wet vortex, all of it the sum of my life.

I think my present relationship with Sammy, my general understanding of how life works, and my rigorous unwillingness to change it for the better indubitably clarifies to me and to society whether I am a good person or not.

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Everybody believes he is a good person and that what he does in life is done, most of the time, with honor, purpose, and noble conviction; this belief is true of almost all people, the good and the bad, the saints and even the psychopaths, because evil people don’t know they’re evil, their motivations and the things they do, in their minds, have reason and relevance. I, however, know I am not a good person. So, am I a bad person? I hope not. I put a genuine effort into not being one. I want to believe I’m simply like most people: neither good nor bad, just somewhere in between, equally balanced.

Sometimes I congratulate myself when I have a genuinely “good” thought. For example when that 16-year-old girl that was sailing solo around the world (I still wonder what parent would allow his 16-year-old daughter to sail around the world, through Somalia pirate infested waters or, for that matter, anywhere near the African coast—by herself! It really seemed as if the parents craved the prestige more than the girl did) was lost at sea but found alive and safe the following day. Thank God, I thought. Thank God that poor girl was found unharmed. And then I immodestly thought about how good and unselfish my preceding thought had been. What a good thought, Quill, a distant and smarmy voice that I knew was my own echoed. A very good thought indeed. Perhaps you are an admirable person after all.

But, of course, I knew differently.

I have a friend, Sammy, who, at 16 years old, was hit by a drunk driver as he walked innocently down the street one night. At the time, drunk drivers were probably the furthest things from his mind. After he was struck, he lay in a coma for months. Eventually he came out of it, but at a severe cost. He is now blind, with virtually no recall beyond the first 16 years of his life. His condition occurs constantly. When conversing with him, he usually forgets a great deal of what was just said and has to be continually reminded of current circumstances to ensure that the conversation moves along as smoothly as possible. As the stream of time moves onward, it’s as if Sammy were a small stick caught in a whirlpool, spinning and spinning and never moving as time and life continues to rush by. In spite of this, Sammy is glad to be alive and still manages to maintain an optimistic view of his years still to come.

Since the accident, I’ve probably seen Sammy about a dozen times in my life and not at all in several years. I am essentially choosing to ignore Sammy. He used to live with his mother, but she probably isn’t even alive anymore. I don’t know where Sammy is now and even if I did I’d probably create reasons not to visit him. The few times Sammy and I did get together, I (selfishly) found it frustrating to habitually remind him of recently stated facts and redirect our conversation as it progressed, or, more accurately, did not progress. But the whole thing was mostly sad, and then I felt guilty for pitying Sammy.

While he was in his early twenties, Sammy held a job folding cardboard take-out boxes at a Pizza Hut. Since I haven’t stayed in touch with him, I don’t know if he still has this job or if he’s moved on. It couldn’t have been a very satisfying occupation, but it undoubtedly fulfilled a fundamental human desire in Sammy to feel needed and to actively participate in society. With Sammy’s limited cognitive capacities, box folding may have been as good as it was going to get as far as holding down a job was concerned—I hope not, but I’m being objective.

So the question remains, is bringing Sammy happiness by my visiting him more important than the discomfort I feel being in Sammy’s presence? It goes without saying that the former is more important. In recognizing this, I did visit Sammy when I really didn’t feel like it. Ultimately, however, I did just allow Sammy to drift out of my life.

I believe in many, maybe even in most cases, when a newly handicapped friend or relative is introduced into any one of our lives, our lives, basically, continue on at a relatively normal pace and progression. The handicapped person’s life, on the other hand, is dramatically changed forever. He is now, relatively speaking, dependent with new and different goals in life, and he must rely on others, to some extent or another, for assistance. Newly brain damaged people, the blind, paraplegics, quadriplegics, amputees, and other handicapped individuals can, of course, find purpose and independence, but things are never the same, for them or for us.

I sometimes think about what it would be like if the proverbial shoe were on the other foot. What if I were the newly handicapped individual? How would I like to be the one that hoped my old companions in life would sometimes think of me? I would daydream that when they got together they would periodically mention my name and even consider visiting me just for old time’s sake. I would fall asleep each night praying that this would come true, and when it did—because my friends are fine people, I would be happy, ecstatic, really, but at the same time I would envy them for their normal lives as they, for this single day, showered me with attention and euphemistic sympathy. I would love them for being my friends, but silently I would resent them because I would know that after they had left my house, they would all go to their own homes to be with their own families, and I would also know that my lovely friends would then tell their wives how glad they were that they had never suffered injuries similar to mine, and if they had, they would rather be dead than face a pointless destiny like Quill’s. And then, alone again, I would be absolutely assured that their next visit would be very, very far in the future, and perhaps it would not occur at all, because, let’s be honest, I am now a real downer.

For me, however, it might be a little different. I love my family and friends, but for the entirety of my life I’ve been very comfortable with my own company, often times preferring it over socializing. So being alone is nothing new. Maybe the tragic accident that handicapped me won’t be so bad after all, maybe it’s even better that it happened to me than to someone else who wouldn’t be able to mange it as well. Not to say that if I were suddenly blind, brain damaged, or left without the use of my limbs that I would accept it with no reservations at all. I wouldn’t … and, who knows, hypothetically, if I were allowed to think too long about my unfortunate new situation in life, which, of course, I would be, the outcome would probably not be a favorable one. I tend to overanalyze things and then dwell on them to a neurotic level. And without the freedom to do what I want when I want, and then to be burdened with the crushing knowledge that not only am I forced to rely on others, but that I am now the subject of whispers behind closed doors, I‘d feel dreadfully sorry for myself, maybe even on a much more profound level than others. I might possibly allow the inevitable values and oversights that complicate the tapestry of our lives to entangle and irreversibly shackle me, ultimately dragging me down to the bottomless pit of utter self-sorrow and desperation.

Understanding the eventual outcome of my nonexistent social life, I might become prematurely bitter and shun my visitors, knowing that, as they put on cheerful faces to view my broken body and humbled spirit, they were only there to fulfill their own moral obligations that will gradually taper off and then one day vanish entirely. It will happen, I know it will, and, deep down, so do they, although at the infancy of this awkward ballet they are unable to fathom the final results, and maybe even years later when I am little more than a distant memory, the reality of our lives, theirs and mine, may only exist in the emotionally sterile and seldom visited vaults of their subconscious where guilt is unable to gain purchase on the smooth incline of detachment and apathy.

All of this, of course, is under the assumption that I would still have my intellect. If an accident left me mentally and emotionally reduced, perhaps severely, then, I suppose, everything that I previously proposed would be entirely academic. I would then be that stick in the whirlpool, spinning and spinning, waiting for life to begin, every day, just waiting, hopefully waiting, but as it passed me by I would be blissfully unaware that each uneventful waking day in my life would bring me closer to its end, the clouds moving overhead, the discolored autumn leaves brushing against me in the wet vortex, all of it the sum of my life.

I think my present relationship with Sammy, my general understanding of how life works, and my rigorous unwillingness to change it for the better indubitably clarifies to me and to society whether I am a good person or not.

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Comments
32

DG...ur a woman after my own heart...lolol...ditto Mindy...give this woman some money

finally humor has returned to the Reader!!!! /;=S

er...um...where was that co-op again??? :)

July 11, 2011

Q - very interesting piece- thank you !

And early on you mention saints and psychopaths-i would say you are closer to the former while i much closer to the latter -

Jan. 13, 2012

You are both Princes in my eyes. QP, thanks for posting, finally.you write wonderfully! More please.

Jan. 13, 2012

a bastard poet RZ???

i think not u coffee drinkin' donut eaten critter!!!

ur sweetness and ennui pour out thru all ur poem and that's what i partake of

Jan. 14, 2012

ennui is a good thing ?

Jan. 14, 2012

the Irish do relish a bit of melancholy from time to time Quill...hahahahaha

Jan. 14, 2012

Thanks, Rich. And if you are a psychopath, you seem to be a gracious one, one who wouldn't kick my cat while you were robbing me blind.

Jan. 13, 2012

pretty close - haha I would feed your cat while robbing you blind -

Jan. 14, 2012

Thanks, Mindy. You're right, regarding dog rescue, and everything else for that matter, at some point you just feel as if you've done all you can do, and you're just tired. And thanks, Roody, I'll try to post more, but I always have to get motivated first.

Jan. 13, 2012

stay motivated mighty Quill

u r aptly named

those r some mighty risky and self revealatory keystrokes up there in this blog

it's hard to stay connected when so much about a person has change...i find it very hard to stay connected with my sis because of her mental illness

i had a very disjointed conversation with her daughter about ignoring her mom at Christmas...on the one hand i said i understood...on the other hand i felt she should have taken the opportunity to struggle thru just one more holiday with a snippet of caring 4 her as she is relatively clear of late

my sis and i were basically abandoned to a harsh state system as little children and i find myself acutely sorrowing 4 her from time 2 time

i took care of a quadriplegic for 14 years in Oregon...a lovely man in every way...i was honored to know and care 4 him...but when my daughter was killed in an accident he said..."you wouldn't have wanted her to live and be like me would you Nan"....and truthfully i had to agree i wouldn't

everyday i work to reconnect with Bobby...try to be patient when he's angry and says he hasn't said something that he doesn't remember he said...he doesn't hold happiness as close as Sammy does

i remember when our communication was so elegant...when his words drip like honey and i was enthralled

when he doesn't remember me anymore my soul will be at peace

and i hope my vibrancy doesn't fail me before then

Jan. 14, 2012

i guess i'm bad 2 Quill :(

Jan. 14, 2012

i seek beauty because i fortunately found it little by little many years ago and chose to honor the light it ignited in me....

i met a man...hahahahahahaha..who taught me many things including there are nuggets of gold in any bucket of coal...so watch 4 them...

a kindness uncalled 4 but given anyway..thank u Universe!!

my niece has the right of her own opinions and i honor them...she lived with me 4 about 7 years along with her sis to save her from the peril of her mums volatile behavior...so i'm totally familiar with the possibilities from my own mother's and my sisters schizophrenia...she doesn't hate her mother...she, like Quil, doesn't see any worthwhile aspect of being around her and fears her behavior might ruin a special occasion

i would advocate removing oneself from the toxic people who abound in our lives but be ever watchful of the gold the have inside...because most people do have goodness inside and properly nurtured it can flourish and change them

we all have truths...truths that cannot be denied...and when we speak them we show our authentic selves...and our authentic selves can change others in microseconds

at least that'as what i've found

Jan. 16, 2012

Interesting dialogue here. Don't know that I agree with you Mindy on this statement--generally speaking: "Parents will probably get the response from their kids that they deserve." Or this one: "I think when a person stays away from their parent, their instincts are telling them something." From what I've seen and experienced, this isn't always the case, just like criminals don't always get what they deserve and just like sometimes the innocent suffer. The toxicity in some folks isn't always visible--its a shady, shady dance with some made even more precarious given our own wounded inner children reacting rather than responding. Psychic melding can do both wonderful and horrifying things. It's a tough situation to be in for anyone and regardless of the number of toxic people I've met in my day I still don't feel qualified to advise anyone about how they should handle a given situation--their path; their choice, you know? In the end, perhaps compassion is the key because it detaches us from caretaking and enabling but keeps us in "the love", which at least in my case, is the ONLY place I care to be. Not my place to condemn another for what I view to be their faults, weakness or mistakes nor is it theirs to spend time worried about my conscience. Nope. Not given how much time I spend on my knees begging for absolution at any rate. Just how I see it.

I like the image of gold nuggets beneath the pile of coal, Nan. There really is almost always something we can find to smile at in nearly everyone, even those we've been hurt by, even those who can be most beastly. If we bother.

Jan. 17, 2012

sure Mindy...it's all good 4 different people..do what's best in each individual situation...alcoholics r a pet peeve of mine and i don't interact with them well when they're drunk

alcohol is ether 4 the brain...so interacting with them when drunk 4 the most part is a waste

but some people r so self absorbed and narcissistic that their behavior toward others falls far short of healthy socialization...often they have little or no reason to treat other dismissively...and do so because they r dysfunctional in social situations

Jan. 17, 2012

Good article, Quill--very thought-provoking!

Jan. 14, 2012

Wow. What a special piece, Quill.

And FWIW, I think you are a "good" person, whether you like it or not.

Jan. 14, 2012

damn straight Pattykins!!

Jan. 14, 2012

Thanks, bo and a.k., and, nan, I'm sorry about your daughter ... I think I knew this, but I honestly can't remember ... and you'll always be vibrant and beautiful on the inside as well the outside.

Jan. 14, 2012

Very authentic, thoughtful. As I season, I often seem to forget things, or they hide from me just behind the conversation until a later time when they roar into view. I make jokes that I know I forget things but they aren't things that are really important, or life-threatening- at this point. I think everyone has had these thoughts at one time or another, about if we are a good person or a bad person, and then continued being who we are or made a decision to be someone else or something else. I hope that when my time to fade appears that I will finally smile sweetly and look angelic- and nod to my own music- unaware of the gossip, the whispers, the judgement of others (and myself).

Jan. 21, 2012

Our son is in the moderate range of autism and his care is difficult much of the time. If you've ever done any baby-sitting you probably remember how it feels when the child's behavior is challenging but at least you know the parents will be home eventually and you can resume your regular life. Autism parenting can feel at times like that baby-sitting job you'd like to leave, except you are the parent and all you've got to give will likely never be enough to make it feel like an easy situation. But you have the tremendous motivation of knowing that it's either institutional care or parents' best efforts, so you keep doing the best you can and you get some ideas on how to handle it from people who've been there and done that. Of course it's not easy to hang out with this friend, but you can learn the skills if you need to do so. Maybe you two weren't close enough in the first place for you to believe that hanging out with him is imperative after his accident. I appreciate this honest exploration of how you responded to your friend's accident and of how others often respond to people with cognitive impairments.

Feb. 9, 2012

"We have only two choices, really. We can have an 'I beat you down, you beat me down, I beat you down' society, or we can have an I lift you up, you lift me up, I lift you up' society." --Kenneth Boulding

Books to check out:

"Horse Boy" (Also a film.)

"The Outermost House"

"Animals Make Us Human"

"The Invisible Pyramid"

But most of all, "Take Courage!" (a billboard for beer blaring atop a London factory some years back). Do not expect. Know that your unique genius will not only not be appreciated, it might get you burned at the stake. "Lonely Are the Brave." "Valuing the Self." You ARE in good company!

Feb. 9, 2012

hey ...u won a prize...i'm so not surprised Quill....congrats hun!!

Feb. 12, 2012

Clap, clap, clap!!!!!!

Feb. 13, 2012

Thanks, y'all, as Miley Cyrus would say.

Feb. 14, 2012

I just love your posts, Quill. They always make me ponder things I take for granted, or look at life through your lens. Congrats on the win!

Feb. 22, 2012

No. I don't know where he is or even if he's still alive. And now the guilt is settling uncomfortably over me anew. Sigh.

April 14, 2012

don't be sad hunnyshorts...all is well on a Sunday cleaned by rain....

April 15, 2012

It is a beautiful day, isn't it, nan? Thanks for the perspective.

April 15, 2012

Y/W darlin'

April 16, 2012

Amen.

May 6, 2012

OMG grantie ...the is precious...but then cats r eh ♥

May 12, 2012

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