Routines

Yesterday, I left so much unwritten. I had so much more to say. But today I struggle to write anything. It’s not that I have writer’s block, it’s simply that I cannot summon the intellectual energy to search my mind for anything worth recording.

One month ago, my wife died. The time has simultaneously dragged by at the speed of ice-cold syrup flowing on a flat surface and flown past at twice the speed of light.  Perhaps that’s it. An artificial milepost I see in the rearview mirror, just as I slam into it in front of me.

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During my most recent CT scan, last month, the radiologic technician gave up after two tries. Blood vessels on the inside of my elbow were uncooperative. My reaction to each jab—an overt expression of discomfort bordering on outright pain—convinced him that the normally more painful route, a needle jabbed into a vein on the top of my right hand, was the better option. It turned out to be the least painful one, as well.

Every time a get a CT scan, I feel the odd warmth caused by injected fluid coursing through my body. Each time, before they inject the fluid, I’m warned I may feel warmth in my throat and I may also feel like I am peeing. And I do. I sense warm urine spreading throughout my nether regions. Fortunately, it’s only an artificial sensation; not the real thing.

I never worry that the results of the CT scan of my chest will reveal lung cancer has returned. Until I hear otherwise, I will assume cancer has been permanently eradicated from my body. There’s no sense in worrying about something over which I have no control. I wish I could transfer that very healthy attitude about worry for my health to every other aspect of my life. Far less consequential things torment me. It’s just the cancer that I’ve learned to ignore.

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“I have a book in me.” I hear or read those words occasionally from people who want to write a book. I do not often speak those words, though, because I think my book has been written. It just hasn’t been organized, edited, and published. Within the nearly 3500 posts I’ve written for this blog—coupled with the hundreds or thousands I’ve written on blogs I’ve abandoned and the other material I have written but kept to myself—there’s enough to cobble together a book. These thoughts are not new. I’ve probably written them down for this blog more than once before. What’s missing is not the material, it’s the discipline to go through everything and to discard the vast amount of irrelevant drivel in favor of a few gems. There may be one or two hundred pages worth weaving together into something of emotional or intellectual value. “Value.” That’s the key issue. Would enough value remain after all the effort to warrant going to all the work? There’s only one way to find out. Thus far, I’ve been unwilling to expend the energy to risk learning it wasn’t worth my time. Still, maybe one day.

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Yesterday, I put on sweats and flip-flops when I got up. I did not shower, shave, or otherwise prepare for a “normal” day all day long. I never changed clothes. So far today, I am following the same pattern. Same sweats, same flip-flops. The idea of showering and shaving does not appeal to me in the least again today; there’s too much effort involved. But I must drag myself out of the doldrums. I need to get things done. While I do not necessarily have to get out of the house, I might feel better if I do. And I always feel better after showering and shaving, even though it involves “work.” After I shower and before I dry myself off, I use a squeegee to wipe the shower walls and the glass wall and door “dry.” And I use a soft cloth to wipe the remaining droplets of water off the glass and the chrome fixtures to avoid the formation of water spots

I sometimes ponder what a typical day was like for people in the mid-1800s. How did it begin? How often did people bathe back then? What were their morning routines? What time did the “average” person get up and how often did they bathe? I suspect my routine is quite different. I wash my hair every time I shower; how often did my great grandparents shower/bathe and did they wash their hair every time? I do not remember ever reading a book that took me through a day in the life of someone in enough detail so that I could truly envision how their lives unfolded, day by day. I remain curious about that, even now in geezerhood. I wonder whether other people have similar curiosity? It would be interesting (to me), to listen to ten people each describe their typical early mornings in great detail. Would there be a discernible pattern, or are we radically different creatures?

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I’ve already had coffee this morning. I think I’ll start tomorrow with tea, instead. It will make me feel a little closer to my wife. She was not a coffee drinker. She enjoyed her hot tea in the morning. As a rule, neither of us added anything to our morning beverages, though on extremely rare occasion when she opted to brew a special tea she used a bit of cream or milk. My wife bought tea in quantity. She bought tea bags, usually decaf tea from Kroger. She liked it as much as she liked any other tea. She rarely used loose tea and an infuser; the bagged teas were quicker, simpler, and just as satisfying to her. The little things like morning routines can be excruciatingly painful to think about sometimes.

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I do need to shower today. And so I will. And wash my hair and shave and take my regular medications and, probably, have something for breakfast.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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