Ascetic Dreamer

I call it slow-motion impulse buying. It is a protracted process whereby an inevitable but utterly unnecessary purchase takes place following a period of weeks…months, sometimes…of ongoing self-persuasion and justification. So it was with my purchase of a 2010 year-old Honda Pilot, which I sold barely a year later. Several years afterward, the same process led to delivery of a pricey treadmill, its presence in my study coinciding with a recurrence of lung cancer and my inability to devote any appreciable effort to putting the device to use. If I were to devote enough thought to my history of slow-motion impulse buying, I am sure I could re-create a long list of embarrassing purchases that should have been avoided. For years, I have blamed my tendency to confuse want with need for my propensity to engage in such irrational behavior. But more recently I have begun to realize my desire to purchase an item is not strictly avarice or self-indulgence. It is not the acquisition of the item, itself, that prompts me to engage in a lengthy period of internal justification—it is my pipe-dream that the item will somehow allow me to change (or change certain aspects of me) into someone I would rather be. I take time to successfully delude myself into believing I will become a different person…if only I make this one purchase that will somehow transform me; either in my own eyes or in the eyes of others. But when the conversion fails to materialize, I look at myself in the mirror and see an unwelcome reflection; a weak and credulous sucker, an unsophisticated gullible mark who is too easily taken in by marketers who know how to appeal to people who buy into artificial images of who they could become. Of course, I also reckon I might be too hard on myself—I want that to be the case. But that self-forgiveness might be exactly the wrong response—self-pity tends to give rise more of the same. So, what is the solution? It’s obvious, isn’t it? Asceticism.


I have a growing dislike of squirrels. Despite our efforts to dissuade them from emptying our bird feeders, the furry rat-beasts devour pound after pound of seed. Even the “spicy” seeds that used to keep the monsters at bay seem to no longer be effective. The birds liked the spicy stuff; the squirrels avoided it like the plague. But, now, the rodents gorge themselves on hot and spicy birdseed. I am considering the possibility of getting an air rifle. I would sit outside, on the deck, and wait for the demons to attack the feeders. I would aim the rifle at the creatures and fire away. I realize such behavior is inexcusable. But 357-magnum pistols make too much noise. And flame-throwers would endanger both the house and the forest. Shotguns, too, are loud and tend to attract angry police officers. Frankly, I am surprised the birds have not joined in the efforts to keep the squirrels away. They are faster and better beings than squirrels, as we all know. But, since our avian friends seem to be unwilling to fight the gluttonous varmints, perhaps it’s time to pull out all the stops.  I plan to publish an online notice on NextNoxiousNeighbor, offering temporary quarters to feral cats, ravenous foxes, and squirrel-hating raptors. That might do the trick.


We began watching Killing Eve, the British spy thriller series,  last night. As usual, I made a very early night of it, but the beginning of season 1 was sufficiently interesting to make me want to continue watching…eventually. For some reason, I find it almost impossible to watch television (or films) during the day, so the times available for viewing are limited. I suspect my mother’s irrational addiction to daytime soap operas (which surprised me no end, inasmuch as she was a very intelligent woman) has something to do with my aversion to daytime TV. At any rate, Killing Eve is on my list of shows to eventually wade through. I have several dozen others of interest on my list, as well. At the rate I’m going, I may finish my list, in its present form, on my 137th birthday. We shall see.  Speaking of soap operas, The Resident is a nighttime soap opera. I laugh at its blatant disregard for reality (examples: doctors checking on emergency generators in the basement…presumably while janitorial staff fill in for them in operating rooms; first-year residents shouting at doctors that “this patient needs blood…NOW…or he could die!”). I do not watch the program with any regularity, but when I join mi novia on the loveseat while it’s on, I enjoy mocking its ridiculousness. But so many patients have ailments similar to mine…and those patients tend to die…that I think I may need to keep a copy of Merck Manual, Professional Edition readily available to consult in a pinch. For some reason, though, I seem to have lost interest in spending much time watching the big screen in the TV room.  I sleep, instead. And I dream. Last night, I dreamed I was planning on building a set of picnic tables and benches; the dream was set in a place like my Dallas backyard. My niece’s Paraguayan husband and I borrowed a pickup truck to search for lumber in an apartment complex under construction, where he stopped to teach some construction workers how to use markings on a tape measure. There was more. Much more. But it was too convoluted to attempt to document. There was coffee involved; different strengths for different members of my family. And a convenience store…where I accused the owner of overcharging for candy, clearly marked at 10¢ but for which he asked for 50¢ in payment. There may have been trouble brewing.


Damn. I am ready for another nap. But so pleased I wrote so much, even though it is largely irrelevant.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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3 Responses to Ascetic Dreamer

  1. bevwigney says:

    Your doctor is very right. People doing chemo usually have leukopenia – which is the reason they often give Neulasta shots. It isn’t just infections from other people either, but also such things as fungal infections from Aspergillus mould. It’s best to stay away from any place where there could be mould spores — like garden soil, decomposing leaves, mould in a building, etc..

  2. Bev, I did get a new prescription for antibiotics and it may well be helping…I hope so. My docs tell me I have to exercise special care to avoid easily-contracted infections, so I try to avoid going out where I’m apt to be in close proximity to large groups of people. I appreciate your comment about my return to my version of “normal” writing. 😉

  3. bevwigney says:

    I was thinking that you must be feeling better today as you wrote quite a bit and more in your usual style. Did you start new antibiotics – I think you said your doctor gave you a new script? You may find that you’ve had a low-grade infection of some kind that was knocking you down. It’s very easy to pick up infections of one kind or another when your immune system is battered – especially lung infections – and they often aren’t bad enough to make you discernibly ill, but enough to make you feel wiped out. And it’s possible to get infection in a CVC port. My mom had that happen a couple of times. Apparently a fairly common occurrence. It was very frustrating. Anyhow, your writing seems more like your usual self, so that seems like a good sign. Carry on!

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