Curling Up Like Smoke

Several hours ago, my wonderful neighbors treated my IC and me to a wonderful dinner consisting of a marvelous salad, steamed snow crabs, and rice pilaf. That was accompanied by a delightful sparkling white wine, Amrita Cuvée, from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. To say the dinner was good would be a gross understatement; it was truly outstanding. Before dinner, my IC and I were given the grand tour of the neighbors’ house, including their unmatched collection of artwork. The artist in the house, creator of dozens of spectacular pieces of art (mostly oils, but several encaustic paintings, as well) showed his work, which I find quite remarkable. His talent, mostly released after he retired from a career in producing dental material, must be at least partly genetic in origin. The quality of his father’s pen and ink drawings are incredible; they are so well-done and so creatively unique that I cannot help but think they could well be worth literally millions of dollars to art collectors. I left their house last night with one of my neighbor’s paintings, which he agreed to exchange for one of my masks. He has yet to select a mask, but he will do it soon. I will not limit his selection; he is free to select any one of the masks I have on my walls or sitting, unhung, around the house. I am fortunate, in that his paintings represent highly-developed skill and creativity, while my masks represent only an under-developed interest in making art. But he likes my masks, so I take that as a great compliment to me.


But food and masks should not be top-of-mind this morning. As the clock approaches 4:00 a.m., I wish my clogged sinuses would cooperate with me and let me sleep. I wished the same before 3:00 a.m., when I awoke to a condition I call “nasal compaction exacerbated by headache, surly mood, and lack of oxygen in the lungs, which causes all manner of other maladies and complaints.” “The condition,” which is easier to repeat, is not news. It began, so much did, when I was younger and stronger and better looking. I cannot remember a time when I did not suffer sinus issues. But doctors have assured me that my only allergy is to German cockroach urine. B.S. I must have an allergy to something else that causes sinus issues. Maybe I’ll find out one day.


In spite of the joyous dinner last night, this morning I feel the loss of my wife in an especially keen way. I have no idea why grief suddenly grips me by the throat and chokes me until I feel I cannot breathe, but it does. I am sure it has nothing to do with my relationship with a woman who I have grown to love intensely; my wife would have wished that for me, I am sure. But it must be triggered by something in my day-by-day life. I feel at once overjoyed with my new relationship and utterly devastated by the one I can no longer have. I want never to forget my wife and my life with her, but I want to be able to leave the pain behind me so I can devote my emotion to my IC. I feel a new sense of freedom and curiosity and interest and intrigue, while simultaneously shackled to a past I cannot have. I do not want my memories to intrude on my future, but I feel guilty for a desire to seal the past away in a box I open only rarely. I suppose I’ll get over and through this; but, for now, it is almost as painful as anything I’ve felt. It is what it is; just soldier on; keep a stiff upper lip. Bullshit advice; in the wise words of Leonard Cohen, “there ain’t no cure for love.”


Some days, I feel like embracing fifty percent of the people I encounter to express my deep appreciation for having them in my life. The remaining fifty percent could be eliminated from the face of the Earth without me shedding a tear. (In fact, I just might celebrate their departure with a toast to Karma and a benevolent universe.) Other days, I feel more compassion for the beasts I might happily send to their demise. I know those people, too, have struggles with which I can never be familiar and, quite possibly, their offensive behaviors result from those awful challenges. I try to make those days more the rule than the exception, but too often I do not succeed. I wish, so deeply, I were a better person from my very core to the surface. Why is it, when people know what kind of person they should be, we stumble through life as though we were mindlessly unsympathetic, uncaring, intolerant, unkind, monsters? Perhaps it’s just so much easier to be cruel and inhumane. Perhaps we take the easy road, rather than invest the time and energy necessary to be decent, warmhearted, merciful human beings. If only we could and would recognize, on the fly, when our behavior is so damned malevolent. Again giving Leonard Cohen his due, if only I could recognize my own inhumanity when it is “curling up like smoke above his shoulder.” But he was referring to a highway, not to inhumanity. Maybe they are somehow related.


It’s after 4:30 a.m. I think I’ll try to go slip back into bed and complete my interrupted sleep. I have no inflexible obligations today, so if I sleep in, I’ll try not to feel like a slug.

About John Swinburn

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