A Proper Start

Sources of energy and  inspiration—shafts of bright light piercing absolute darkness—emerge from unexpected places.  They may arise from comments uttered by a close friend who expresses his care or from words sent by someone known only by name and her written words. Darkness amplifies the experience of light. A thin beam of light in an utterly dark world is far brighter than a floodlight on a densely overcast afternoon. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

I wish I could see the future, if only to know whether I want to be there when it arrives. I might as well wish I could have lived during the Holocaust to know whether I would have survived it. The present should command the majority of our attention; not the future, nor the past. We must pay heed to lessons from the past, of course, and we must attempt to create circumstances conducive to a future we can enthusiastically embrace; but the bulk of our energy should be for and in the here and now. Regardless of the dimness of the past or the hazy image of the future we imagine, we should seek that pinpoint of light amid the unknown darkness in every instant.

I wonder whether—a month or a year or a decade from now—I will remember the message I was sending to myself when I wrote those two preceding paragraphs? I sometimes write messages to myself in cryptic codes that, later, make no sense. Usually, though, I can decipher what I meant. Others reading my words, thought, even freshly written words, often cannot. I would not expect them to read my thoughts, especially the ones I opt to keep locked in my head.


Just one more episode of Bordertown last night; I went to bed early after checking on my wife at 8:30, knowing I would need to check on her again at 11:30, 2:30, and 5:30. I wanted to watch another episode, but I thought better of it. If I had stayed up later, I would have been approximately worthless throughout the night. The positive aspect of watching just one episode is the fact that I have more left to watch in the coming days and weeks. Too much television, even good television, probably is not good for one’s mental health. The tension and violence of Finnish police dramas might meld with the tension and unease of real life, producing a dangerous mix of tense self-injurious moodiness. Probably not. But possible. So, best to keep television viewing to a minimum. I do my best to justify decisions for which I have no real justifications.


Yesterday’s telemedicine appointment with my wife’s primary care physician got off to a rocky start when the doctor attempted to connect on my wife’s cell phone, instead of mine. The previous afternoon, I told her nurse to have the doctor call my cell; the message did not get through. Despite the glitch, we connected an hour after the original appointment time. The doctor told us my wife’s congestive heart failure (a condition she has had since she was in her early twenties, if not before) is progressing, which the doctor believes is the cause of my wife’s weakness. There is no going back, the doctor said; it will not get better. The doctor said some of my wife’s other symptoms could be related to an intestinal infection; we may find out more with lab work early in the week. In the meantime, my wife’s diet should be relatively bland and relatively soft food. My wife is not eating much (not enough); I will have no trouble with the doctor’s orders. The planned meals from the “meal train” that friends have begun all should be fine, I think; unless my wife’s appetite improves, she won’t be eating much of what is delivered, but she will appreciate and enjoy what little she eats.


When the sky began to brighten this morning, the southeastern horizon behind our house glowed with such beautiful red-orange hues that I had to stop for a moment and stare. The distinction between the sky and the earth was so crystal clear; glowing embers above a wrinkled purple and black terrestrial blanket, the hills in sharp contrast against the sky. Sometimes I catch myself holding my breath when I view such scenes, as if breathing will cause them to dissolve into a more mundane daylight vision.


It is well past daylight now and time for me to prepare my wife’s morning pills. A helper will arrive in a quarter of an hour; I want to be ready to start my wife’s day properly.

About John Swinburn

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