Before I try to find sleep again, I must relieve the shaman in my head of his responsibilities. I have to explain to him that he is not real, he is only an idea born of fantasy and fiction; a child of an imagination gone awry. First, I have to excavate my brain in an attempt to uncover intellectual and emotional treasures. Those riches can be found only by digging through the rubble of ideas that sprang into being, only to be crushed by the weight of worry. I went to bed after 1:00 a.m., only to awake to a cough at 4:00 a.m. I worry that I may not be able to sleep again this morning, which could translate into exhaustion by early afternoon. I have things to do today. I cannot capitulate to fatigue.

I awoke around 4:00 a.m. to a stopped-up-sinus-induced-cough that worsened by the time I reached the bathroom. Five minutes of convulsive coughing woke my IC, who offered water and comfort. I declined the former but appreciated the latter. Finally, after blowing my nose and cursing the need for empty cavities in my head—cavities that seem to fill with concrete—the coughing subsided. But I was up for the duration by then. So here I am, breathing easily through my nose once again and wishing I could see my way clear to returning to bed and to sleep. But that is not to be, at least not immediately, though I am extraordinarily tired.


At least my short sleep followed an invigorating evening. Friends invited us over to watch Hamilton. Despite my IC’s laudatory comments about the musical, I did not expect a two-hour, forty-minute program to hold my attention. It did. I found it fascinating and informative, despite knowing in advance that some of the information it presented deviated from history, thanks to poetic license. I was enthralled by the story and was predictably moved by several scenes that caused tears to form (but not fall). I now understand why some people (including my IC) relish watching it multiple times. Our hosts, for example, have watched it innumerable times while hosting “watch events” with other friends. The male component of our host couple, an acknowledged expert in American music, calls the musical the Great American Opera. And I do not doubt he’s right.


Yesterday, my handyman told me he had reconsidered the ease with which the cabinet above the refrigerator could be removed to make room for my IC’s beloved refrigerator. After more thought, he said he would not want to take on the job, fearing he could splinter crown molding that would be nearly impossible to replace. He suggested a professional cabinet-maker might do the job. I appreciated his consideration and acknowledgement that the task might be beyond his skill level. We’ve decided not to worry with it. We have enough to concern us for now. But, still… Oh, well. Life goes on.


Time alone in the wee hours prompts me to think, a dangerous enterprise. I think, again, about tearing myself away from this cocoon. This time, though, I want to travel with my IC to a place where the cocoon is surrounded by walkable amenities like coffee shops and restaurants and theatres and music venues. Maybe Little Rock is the place. But maybe not. We must examine options that might produce in us bolts of energy and sparks of excitement. Damn! I wish we could engage our friends in this pursuit—this desire for diversity and tolerance and enlightenment and cohesiveness that could provide everlasting refuge from a world that grows more frightening and less friendly every day. I realize, of course, that creating a community can take a lifetime. I realize most of my lifetime has been spent, or misspent, on a treadmill in a cage where the destination has been “retirement,” not “happiness.” But, still, there’s time to start something. There may be time to experience closeness in both mental state and proximity. Where, though? Little Rock? Fort Smith? Fayetteville? Ajijic? Small cities in Iowa or Kansas or Mississippi or Tennessee or Oklahoma or Washington state?

When I watch people leave the Village to go to their families in far-away places or seek happiness in places of refuge a thousand miles away, I realize utopia does not exist here in Hot Springs Village. Maybe it does not exist anywhere. But, still, I want to look for it. I want to find places it can grow and flourish. Perhaps not now, but in a hundred years?  I am torn between where I am and where I wish I were. I need the future, but I wish I had the past.


It’s almost 6:00 a.m. I’ve wasted another couple of hours fantasizing with my fingers. I once started writing a story set in the future—but have never finished it—in which a well-to-do lawyer learned he had a terminal disease. In this future, certain well-off people could purchase more life by parting with both their fortunes and their pasts. My protagonist had to choose between spending several months dying in the presence of his family, who would remember him after his death, or disappearing from the memory of everyone who ever knew him by taking on a new identity and forfeiting his hard-earned wealth and comfort for an unknown future. If he chose the latter, though, his memories of his past would stay with him; everyone he loved, though, would have no recollection of him at all.  I feel a little like my protagonist this morning. When choices are stark and painful, how does one choose? My choices are not nearly as difficult, but they are not easy. Not in the least. And now I am not alone in making choices. That’s gratifying, but it also adds a dimension that makes choosing even more difficult. Yet, regardless, one makes one’s choices and moves on. It has always been so.

About John Swinburn

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