I Wish I Would Always First Choose Reflection

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

~ Confucius ~


When I woke, over five hours ago, I glanced at the clock and thought it was a bit after 3:30 in the morning. No, in reality it was only a few minutes after 1:20. But, thanks to my semi-blind glance at the clock, I behaved as if it were much later. I got up, pulled on sweat pants and a sweatshirt, and wandered into the kitchen. Before I made coffee, though, I realized my mistake. All the clocks I consulted assured me it was WAY too early to get up. But I was already up and semi-dressed. So, I decided to slide into the study, sit in the recliner, and try to go back to sleep. That worked, off and on, until about 3:00, when I decided to give up. I shed the sweat-clothes and returned to bed. I was able to get to sleep pretty quickly. I slept until just a shade after 5:30. This is not terribly unusual. But it’s extremely annoying. How I can mistake 1:20 for 3:30 is beyond me. I can do it, though; and do it well.


Last night’s dinner, salmon chowder, was extraordinarily good. I helped with dinner, as sous chef and entremetier, peeling and chopping vegetables and cutting salmon filets into cubes. My IC planned and orchestrated the undertaking, leading ultimately to a big, orange, bubbling Le Creuset Dutch oven full of overwhelmingly magnificent flavor and texture. I was proud of my self-discipline when, after consuming only one rather large bowl of the stuff, I stopped eating. I could have gone through the entire batch without assistance, I think. My only addition, once at the table, constituted a few shakes from the spice jar of white pepper; for some reason, I find white pepper an almost indispensable pairing for salmon.

I promised my IC that, one day before long, I will prepare for her another of my favorite salmon dishes: creamed salmon. Though my salmon dish, which my late wife used to make occasionally, uses canned fish, it is a gloriously flavorful comfort food especially well-suited for winter weather. And, for me, it almost requires white pepper to attain its status as  comfort food. Creamed salmon is a food for fortunate paupers. Salmon chowder, on the other hand, constitutes a meal fit for royalty. My IC suggested that, one day, we should invite friends over for a celebratory holiday meal of sorts and should serve both her creamed salmon and her beef stew. That event would make for a happy and fortunate gathering.


Still no definitive progress on resurrecting the closing on our new house. Not that I expected any such news at this early date; but a phone conversation with the seller a couple of days ago offered a glimmer of hope that progress is being made. We shall see. In the interim, we go about our lives and assume we will not be in a position to move and put my house on the market until after the first of the year. Though I try to shed the tension associated with such massive life changes as house selling and purchasing, I am not especially successful in that regard. I feel like the skeleton beneath my skin is crystalizing, becoming increasingly brittle and subject to fracture simply by my body’s exposure to a stiff breeze. The idea of installing a hot tub, once we finally complete the move, continues to grow highly appealing. I can imagine the stress and strain and pressure and pain melting away as heated jets of water caress my body. Of course, the cost of purchasing, installing, and operating a hot tub would probably cause me to choke. We shall see. Eventually.


Every day, I play Words with Friends with my IC, my sister-in-law, and another friend or two. That daily routine is becoming monotonous; dull and predictable, whether I win or lose. Perhaps the increasing likelihood that I will lose the games is what is causing the tedium. Whatever the reason, I’m thinking of a taking a break from that game. I may suggest to my IC that we play a Luddite alternative that I remember playing as a teen (or even earlier) with my mother. We called it the 5-Letter Word Game. It involved each of two players using only a pencil and a piece of paper. Each player would pick a 5-letter “secret” word that the other player would attempt to guess by announcing other 5-letter words as clues; the opponent would say how many letters the “clue” word were shared with his or her “secret” word. The players then attempted to deduce which letters were in the secret words of their opponents and guess the opponent’s secret word by stringing those letters together. It’s a simple little game, but I remember spending hours honing my knowledge of 5-letter words that way. Maybe word games, nor any “game” pastimes, are not the solution to my monotony. Maybe I truly need to engage in a hobby. Perhaps returning to working with clay or learning to make stained glass or carving wood or painting. The problem, of course, is my lack of talent and skill. I become terribly frustrated with myself when I find I do not possess the requisite abilities to translate what I see in my mind into a physical representation that looks even remotely like my vision. I talk about this with myself far too often and do nothing about it with similar frequency. Self-discipline? Hah! If breathing were not an automatic physical function, I doubt I would have enough self-discipline to keep doing it, even to save my life.

But simple games can calm the mind and clear one’s own clutter. Perhaps they can lead to the realization that self-discipline is far easier than self-recrimination.


I could become a raving an antigovernment lunatic, if given half a chance. And I’ve been given more than half a chance on many occasions. I believe in government, if only because I often think the majority of people needs to be prompted to behave with decency, humility, honor, and compassion. But when government insists on becoming intrusive, unnecessarily demanding, and demonstrates highly-developed incompetence, I draw the line. That’s when I lean toward anarchy as a form of self-regulation. That’s when I think I understand the motives behind horrific acts of domestic terror, though I find appalling and utterly unacceptable the “collateral damage” done to innocent people under the guise of “securing our freedoms from tyranny” I am of the opinion (at least at this very moment on this very morning) that all branches of government should be subject to dramatic periodic overhaul at the hands of extremely bright efficiency experts. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. Focus on the objective, clearing away all the underbrush blocking the way to achieving it. Incorporate compassion into the process; but not to the extent that every boo-boo, no matter how small or incidental, is allowed to interfere with accomplishment. I’m not focused exclusively on the IRS, but at the moment that’s where my fury is directed. And at local taxing authorities. And school districts. And elected officials. And judges with lifetime appointments. And motor vehicle licensing offices. And so on.

Now, John: ignore this imbecilic rage and get on with your life. It is not worth losing your serenity.



About John Swinburn

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