As If Never Written

I wrote recently of the odd turn in my life of late in which my tendency toward self-diagnosed ADHD transformed into laser-focused fixation. Though not resolved, I’m able these days to direct my attention outside myself and to exclude cancer from every thought. (Yes, I know, but it only appears like I’ve just exposed myself as a pathological liar.)

The reason I know this to be true is that I’ve written posts with nary a mention of the beast and a few other ruminations with only a hint.  My mind has wandered down strange lanes strewn with the detritus from military parades and raucous celebrations of art in the clouds. Some of it, admittedly, was forced. Like the lengthy and badly written poem with which I attempted to put a round peg in a long, thin saw kerf one fifth the peg’s diameter. But, forced or not, my mind has drifted. That’s what I’m used to. I’m used to paying superficial attention to everything around me so that I know something is happening but I don’t know what. My state of mind is usually best described in the lyrics to a song:

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear…

And I don’t know whether I ought to pay closer attention. Would doing so transform me into a person whose knowledge is extensive and useful? Or would it make me into a monster whose head is so cluttered with irrelevant data that the only way to describe it would be:  extreme chaos? Well, I’m not apt to pay closer attention unless something mysterious and beautiful happens to my brain, so I’ll have to settle for lesser chaos.


For the record, I woke up yesterday morning at just a few minutes before 5:00 a.m. My wife was already up. She was getting ready to drive to Little Rock with me for my appointment. I had no coffee, no water, did not take my “morning pills.” I simply got dressed and we drove away. On the way, before we’d even reached the edge of the Village, we’d seen eight deer (five just down from our house) and a red fox (I watched it streak across the vast parking lot of one of the largest United Methodist Churches in the Village.) This morning, I’m in the process of trying to force down the remainder of a cup of cold coffee. It was hot when I started typing, but I tend to get wrapped up in what I’m writing and I let my coffee get cold. That’s just wrong. Coffee should be consumed when it’s at least moderately hot. Cold coffee has its place, but its place is in the company of ice cubes later in the day. For the record.


I seem to be developing a greater affinity for sugar than I’ve had in the sixty-four years preceding this one. I’m not crazy for the stuff, but on occasion I find myself wanting something sugary. This morning, I’m in the mood for a cinnamon roll or a piece of French toast. I’ll have neither, of course, because those are not things we eat around this house. At least not often. And I do not have the ingredients nor, more importantly, the inclination to make either one of them. I’d have to learn the ingredients first. I tend to learn by experimentation, so there’s really not enough time to experiment if I want to eat breakfast before my sixty-sixth birthday.

I noticed my increasing willingness to consume sugar when I brined a pork loin recently. Usually, I include only about a fourth of the sugar that the recipe calls for. This time, I used almost the entire amount. I noticed a difference in the flavor of the finished product, too. It was a little too sweet for my taste, but I could tell that if I’d used half of what the recipe called for, I would have hit the sweet spot. Groan.


Costumes are not required but are encouraged for tonight’s mystery dinner. My wife borrowed her sister’s cat outfit, consisting of  tail, a pair of cat ears (neither are real…don’t worry), and some makeup with which to paint whiskers and a black nose. I will try to find the revolting red makeup and paste-on gaping wound, turning myself into…what?…an injured person. I also have a mask I could wear, but it would hide the injuries and make me cranky because I can’t breathe while wearing the mask. I get cranky when I can’t breathe. I wish I’d given more than passing thought to this before now. Last year was the first time in memory that I went to a dress-up Halloween party. We won’t go to a party thrown by the same people ever again because, quite frankly, they are annoying and stupid in the extreme. But they removed the curse of dress-up, so they have that as a redeeming value. Absolutely the ONLY redeeming value. I’d rather like to learn they are moving away, perhaps to a little underwater retreat where they’ll try to learn to get by on the oxygen they get from the water with which they fill their lungs. Okay, I’ll stop. I shouldn’t wish such things on people, even mean-spirited dim-wits whose behavior suggests an affinity for an orange-haired tyrant. Okay, I’ll stop. No, really. We’ll see what I look like when it’s party time. Maybe I’ll post a photo tomorrow. Maybe. Probably not. Because it will look embarrassingly similar to the way I look without makeup. And there’s nothing attractive about me without makeup.


I wish Hemingway hadn’t used the title The Old Man and the Sea, because it’s the title I want for a book I may one day write. I blame the fact that the title already has been used for my inability to get started on my book. The title would have fit so perfectly with my book, which would feature Kolbjørn Landvik, a man about whom I’ve written several times before. I think I may have placed him in different times and in different roles, but the one for which I think he’s best suited is the one in which he sets out in his little boat and slips into the sea off the coast of Norway. Unlike Hemingway, I’m not going to use my character as a testament to male hormones (maybe I’m being a little harsh). Instead, I’m going to delve deep into his mind, where I’ll learn whether I’m right in believing the behavioral attributes we assign to maleness and femaleness are purely social constructs and have very little to do with our body chemistry, our DNA, or our core beings in any real sense. But Kolbjørn Landvik won’t be consciously pursuing the answer to that question. He’ll just be living as an actual human being.  I think he’ll have a granddaughter, though she is not a granddaughter by blood. She is the daughter of his adopted daughter, though he never really adopted his “daughter” nor does his “daughter” consider herself to be his child. She is, instead, in love with Kolbjørn Landvik, but he doesn’t know it. Nor does she, not consciously. It’s apt to be an impossible-to-tell story set in a place and time I’ve never been, exploring emotional ties I’ve never had. They say “write what you know.” And you should. But not always. Sometimes it is best to break the rules and dream. Only by the reactions of readers will the writer know whether he succeeded or not. My job, now, is to tame my ADHD and get down to writing this story so I can share it with someone willing to read it and give me feedback. I will do that. But I’ll have to wait until I’m a bit older before I do.


Some mornings, and this is one, I wish I had someone who shared my odd early-morning hours and with whom I could share my odd sense of what would make interesting conversation. Instead, I write fleeting, unconnected thoughts that few people read and fewer still read completely. Unfinished would-be conversations between me and someone who doesn’t exist. That’s what these expansive diatribes are. They serve as my journal of sorts. My moods, put down in the uncertainly unreliability of “the cloud.” One day, maybe I’ll back all this up again onto my external hard drive. Which will then be ruined when cold coffee is spilled on it. And all of my words will simply vanish forever, as if they were never written.

About John Swinburn

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