All the Good that Goes Undone

Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.

~ Voltaire ~

My exercise yesterday involved transforming the roadway of the little circle on our cul-de-sac. I changed, by using an electric-powered blower to remove from the roadway an enormous coating of pine needles, oak leaves, dirt, dust, and other forest. If I had considerably more energy, I would remove the remaining layers of dirt. And I would fill the circle of ground in the middle with lush plants. And I would put park benches all around, turning what amounts to an abandoned patch of forgotten soil into an oasis. Dreams. They keep me going.


Next month, around Thanksgiving, will mark five years since my surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from my body—along with the lower lobe of my right lung. I have not been quite the same since. In a number of ways. I may have begun to soften, emotionally, about that time, accelerated or exacerbated during a five-month period late in the year—two years later—when my wife’s heart failure took a dramatic turn for the worse. She died six days before Christmas. My lung cancer was hard on me in some ways, emotionally, but my wife’s illness in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic was much harder. The guilt I felt, and feel, about my lung cancer, for disregarding warnings about smoking, was amplified during the pandemic, when everything was just too hard to deal with. Marking painful anniversaries is not a particularly healthy or easy or comfortable practice; I may make an effort to minimize my tendency to focus so intently on them.


People can disappear if you don’t keep an eye on them. While you’re looking at a shiny distraction, your attention absorbed by the silver reflection from its polished surface, people can quietly slide out of your life. They are the ones who won’t tell you of their plans to go missing in advance. That being the case, you can say you probably weren’t that close to one another, anyway. But you assumed they would have the decency to let you know if they planned to disappear into the vapor. Without a word. Yet you should not be surprised. You did not even enjoy being in one another’s presence. You, a hard-left-leaning dreamer, versus a self-absorbed MAGA-lover. Certain people can disappear and when their absence is noticed, they are missed, but not in a sentimental way.  They are missed in the same way a can of beer is missed from what has become a five-pack. I realize, of course, that the attitude conveyed in the words above not one about which one should be proud to have written. They reflect reality, not aspiration. We all need more aspiration.


What does this day want from me? And what do I hope to get from this day? If we answer those questions early, the day might become more productive. Well, not so much the day…more the we.

About John Swinburn

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