Bursting with Unrelated Things

As I begin today’s blog post, it’s almost 1:30 a.m. I’m awake because I haven’t been to bed yet. Going to bed late is not always the result of some external influence. Nor is it always a symptom of some kind of psychological trauma. Sometimes, it’s “just because.” Maybe something good happened and you’re wired up and cannot imagine going to sleep yet. Or perhaps something is troubling your mind and you feel a need to sort out the issue before trying to sleep. Whatever the genesis of the matter, wakefulness in the wee hours is not necessarily the result of insomnia.

Insomnia, incidentally, is from the Latin insomnia (yes, the same word), which owes its genesis to another Latin word, insomnis, the combination of the Latin words in (not) and somnus (sleep).  Odd, that. The fact that a word we use today is the same word in Latin. So, when we speak of insomnia, we literally are speaking Latin.

To reiterate, though. I was awake at 1:30, not from insomnia, but from a different affliction. Affliction may be the wrong word; state of mind is probably better; longer than a single word, but more descriptive. My state of mind was and is one involving a sense of heightened awareness. As if my brain is receptive to every stimulus that comes its way. The sound of my breath. The way the air feels as it enters my lungs. The way the light emanating from beneath a lamp shade seems sharper, somehow, than the light from above. The way my fingers feel as they touch the keyboard. And my brain’s receptivity extends to emotions, as well. Every emotion that can arise in my brain has done so. During the last several hours, my positive emotions have reach a zenith, then scrambled to climb down that peak in an effort to avoid falling off of it. And that resulted in stumbles. Mental mistakes I associate with distraction.


A little time in bed, but then actual insomnia takes over. I’m up again, but now it’s 3:00 a.m. I can’t sleep. My mind is racing. What’s my hurry in deciding whether or not to sell my house? How important is it for me to drive off to see Decorah, Iowa? Is it necessary for me to explore Guttenberg, Iowa, after all? Can a new me emerge right here in the forest? Can I be thinner, more active, more engaged, and a better person over all without changing houses and without leaving friends for the unknown? Are my attachments here real or are they wishful thinking?

It’s off subject, but it’s one of the thoughts vying for space in my brain at this hour; loneliness. After a while, loneliness begins to feel, if not comfortable, somewhat normal. That tender pain—the one that feels a little like the intense sadness of abandonment—weakens over time and becomes more tolerable. Loneliness starts to fit like it was tailor made. Like a bespoke garment. Bespoke is a British term that means custom-made or tailor-made. I picked it up years ago, probably from a novel, and I liked it. It somehow seems more direct and certain than “customized” or other such words.

Anyway, back to the off-topic of loneliness. When it is interrupted and replaced by its opposite—something akin to a loving embrace—it stays just under the surface, ready to emerge in an instant. When that occurs in full force, even temporarily, a person feels that awful raw pain again. I think loneliness causes wounds to the psyche that never fully heal. Scars may cover them and make them less visible, but the wounds are there. And a person becomes increasingly susceptible to a sense that loneliness could be thrust upon him at any moment, so he better be ready for it. But he never is.


I tried sleeping again and it worked. For reasons that make me question my sanity, I set my alarm clock for 6:45 before I went back to bed. I was sound asleep when the noise roused me out of bed. Immediately, I realized I had not taken in the hummingbird feeders last night. I looked outside and saw that one of them was in place. Where the other should have been, only the hanger remained. The bloody raccoons came back! When I feel so inclined, I will climb down the steep hillside in an attempt to retrieve the feeder, hoping it is not broken.

The bird feeder I purchased yesterday remains where I hung it. I have seen no evidence of birds around it yet, but I’m growing in patience, so I’ll wait. It may just take time. A friend recommended a specific birdseed that has been treated with herbs or spices that make the seeds seem too hot to forest animals but that do not impact bird behavior. We’ll see.


My calendar today is relatively free. I need only to go buy a bottle of cabernet sauvignon to take to a gathering of wine aficionados on Friday. And I need to decide what I’ll make for hors d’oeuvres to accompany the wine. Everyone (or every couple) will bring a bottle of wine and something tasty; everyone will share. It’s a relatively small group, but a comfortable one. I look forward to that.

In addition to wine shopping, I should do any number of things that need doing around the house. Whether I do any of them remains to be seen. My mood shifts from elated to deflated and back again this morning. Perhaps it’s the lack of sleep. I am not sure what time I went back to bed, but I suspect it was around 4:00 or 4:30.  And it’s only just after 8:00 now. Well, I had slivers of sleep that, together, add up to a reasonable amount, I think. I slid off my calendar again, didn’t I? Evidence of a need for sleep. But I will not nap. Because I might get a phone call from someone I’m eager to speak with. Or American Express National Bank my return my call from last Friday. Or something else might occur that I might miss if I were napping. So I will not nap. I’ll save that for the wee hours of tomorrow morning.


It is not too early for me to “date” or “court” or “go out with” women again. Though it has been less than six months since her death, my wife was kept away from me for most of the preceding five months. So it’s more like just under eleven months now that she has been inaccessible or gone from me.  Soon, it will be a year. That’s a long time. But I’m not the only one “out there” who’s lonely. Others cope with being alone far better than I. There’s a difference, of course, between being alone and being lonely. I can handle being alone pretty damn well. Loneliness, though, is much harder. Because just as that empty space that causes loneliness can get filled, it can be emptied. That very fact puts one on guard.

Cripes! I can’t keep on topic long enough to finish a paragraph! Back to my wandering thoughts. It’s not too early for me; other opinions to the contrary be damned. I’ll explore the world at my pace, on my timeline. It could take me years to find someone, or I could make a connection right away. In fact, I might already have met that connection. Who knows? Time will tell.


Looking at next week’s calendar, I see all manner of appointments and commitments. I start the week with a PET scan, followed by an office visit with my oncologist. When I get home from that, a representative of the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record will come by to deliver an iPad. My subscription to the newspaper makes me eligible to get an iPad from which I can read the newspaper. Though I only signed up for a month (or six?), they want me to get used to it and to feel compelled to re-subscribe so I can keep the iPad. I already have an iPad. Though it’s well over ten years old, it still works. The following day I have an appointment to have my teeth cleaned. It seems I’m there almost monthly; my teeth should sparkle like diamonds. They should be as white as…something or other. The following day, I have an appointment to see a counselor; I decided I might need a little professional assistance in working through some emotional things before they become unmanageable. I have other commitments the rest of the week. And I have various appointments, etc. the following week. Ach! The week of July 4 looks like the first week that’s entirely open (except for some things I can easily change or ignore).

When a person really want to, though, he can change his schedule. He can empty his schedule for good reason or no reason at all. Self determination. That’s it. If a meritorious reason presents itself, I can change my schedule or tear it up completely. Freedom. That’s such a fortunate state to be in.


How can it be 9:00 a.m. already? That’s what one gets when one stay up late and doesn’t get but three hours or so of sleep. I could easily fall asleep at this desk, but I would curse myself later for the pains in my neck, back, and so forth. Enough writing for now.

About John Swinburn

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