A Fine Line

Before I memorialize the unpleasantness of yesterday, I’ll wax philosophical about the future. The future does not simply happen. It arises from what came before it. The future emerges from what we did yesterday, what we do today, and the actions in pursuit of the future. Even if our actions in the past were anathema to what we’d like to see in the future, our behaviors today can rectify, at least in part, the path we take toward tomorrow.

Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.

~ Malcolm X ~

Admittedly, the future we wish for may be unachievable, given the preceding preparation which was necessary—but which we failed to make—to achieve it. But that failed opportunity should trigger changes in our dreams that are, in fact, achievable in the time we have left to achieve them. And changes in our dreams necessarily require changes in our efforts to achieve them; and real, dedicated, intense actions on our part.

None of this is to say that “you can accomplish anything,” because that aphorism is utter nonsense, based on a simplistic view of an incredibly complex world. But realistic planning, disciplined actions, and a willingness to change both one’s efforts and one’s objectives can dramatically increase the likelihood of a future laced with successful accomplishments and the benefits they provide to us. Every step one takes—or fails to take—has a measurable impact on the future. That fact bears serious consideration and close attention. And a passionate allegiance to reaching goals that matter.

Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.

~ Simone de Beauvoir ~

With all the words I’ve thus far written in mind it is important—vitally important—that the future we seek is truly the future we desire with every ounce of our being. We must be certain we are thoroughly devoted to that future, lest we find ourselves having accomplished a goal that serves a future we really did not want or value. For example, one might identify the desire to own a mansion on a huge estate as a desired future and, thanks to his actions taken along the way, he may achieve that dream. But, once there, he may discover that a mansion on a huge estate does not deliver the happiness he was after. Instead, he may realize that it wasn’t a mansion and an estate he was after, it was a modest home of his own on a few acres of rich, fertile soil, close to friends and family. Hence the admonition: “Be careful what you wish for.” Know what you really want before striving to achieve it. Even late in life, it’s not too late to alter what makes one happy.


Yesterday started out as a moderately acceptable day. But it descended, quickly, onto a path toward the bowels of Hell. Ach, I exaggerate. Not by much, though. My gut, which had bothered me a tad overnight, switched into high gear, making an earnest effort to make me quite uncomfortable. After posting to my blog, I sat in a recliner and fell into a troubled and broken sleep; awake for a while, asleep for a while; and stuck in the middle for long stretches in which I was neither completely conscious nor truly napping. My IC sent me a text message from bed, which I did not hear, asking me to take the dog out for its morning poop/walk. When I did not respond, she got up and took the grateful beast out herself. I remained semi-unconscious, with a troubled gut, until after she returned. Aside from a scheduled telephone conversation with an accountant regarding my tax filing, I slept most of the rest of the morning and, indeed, most of the rest of the day. I felt almost human for an hour or so at a time, punctuated by longer periods when I felt like I should have been taken in for an autopsy. I never completely recovered yesterday, but I improved enough that, when my IC offered to make dinner for me, I gratefully accepted. I ate penne pasta with commercial pasta sauce, followed by two bananas, spaced an hour or two apart. Aside from a cup of coffee and some glasses of water, that was the only food I had all day.

Needless to say—besides the conversation with the accountant—I got nothing accomplished yesterday. No visit to the collision/body shop repair people. No visit to the post office. Zip. However, I did exchange some interesting email and text messages with friends, so all was not lost. Friends are becoming more and more vital to my mental well-being, I think. Today, I hope to rectify my torpid thoughts and behaviors. I can’t quite determine yet whether my gut and my fatigue, both of completely unknown etiology, have completely disappeared, but if they have I will take some actions today that will improve my state of mind and help erase some things off my to-do list.


I am thinking of friends this morning. Travelers, artists, exposition managers, pottery-makers, poets, people still working, people happily retired. Since I retired at 58, nearly ten years ago, I have come to the conclusion that an even earlier retirement would have been nice; I should have made it happen. But I know I cannot change the past.

I can admonish my friends who have not yet retired, though, to think carefully about what they want in retirement (not what others [or society in general] expect you to want, but what YOU really want). And think whether it’s possible to achieve that dream earlier than you thought possible. A little more frugality today and a little less grandiose the dreams of the future could merge into a reality that accomplishes retirement sooner than you have thought.

For my friends who have retired, I offer some of the same unsolicited advice: do what you want, not what others expect you to want. If what you really want is to sit on the shore drinking margaritas from noon until nightfall, pursue that (knowing that your future might be shortened a tad by your behavior). As for me, I’ve been advised for  years that I really should go on a cruise. After hearing what’s involved on a cruise, I would have absolutely no interest unless I could find one that quite different from those described to me (I have found once such cruise, thanks to my IC).

My point is this: listen to your innermost thoughts and pay them heed. Don’t put it off any longer than you must. You can never know when life as you know it is completely derailed, utterly demolishing your plans. Your years of retirement may be cut far shorter than you hoped or you may find yourself or your partner requiring care that’s both mentally straining and financially exhausting. There’s a fine line between following your dreams and waiting too long to start the voyage. That, my friends, is a line only you can identify for yourself. I hope you find it before it finds you.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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3 Responses to A Fine Line

  1. Thanks, Deanna. You’ve hit on a key issue, I think. Society encourages us, from an early age, to identify ourselves by our vocations, not by what drives us; nor by our avocations. Yep, I remember the song, too. And it strikes a chord with me.

  2. Deanna says:


  3. Deanna says:

    Wise words today, John. In my younger days, I don’t recall ever being asked, “What do you want?” It was always, “What do you want to be?” Two entirely different questions. But I don’t think it’s ever too late to try to pursue the answer to either of them. I can’t remember the name of the band but this line from a song goes through my head a lot: “And I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…”

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