My wife was not a fan of the aroma of incense. I am and have been for years. I used to sit outdoors, alone, on the little patio of our house in Dallas, enjoying the scent of burning cones of incense. The flavor of bourbon or wine went well with the scent of incense; I sat for hours, listening to the sounds of crickets and birds, drinking in my celebration of the senses. I imagined my wife sitting with me, but she did not appreciate the outdoors the way I did. Later, or the next morning, I tried to entice her with descriptions of how my experience with the sounds and the smells and the tastes enriched me. But she rarely took the bait. On those rare occasions she did, I think she was disappointed that she did not find the experience as delightful as did I. She wanted to, but it just wasn’t as appealing to her as it was to me. Of course, she had other experiences that enriched her life that I did not find as appealing. Despite our differences, we meshed well, as if each of us represented a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that fit with the other to complete a finished form. She tolerated my many flaws, more so than she should have had to live with. I doubt anyone else on Earth would be willing to accept me the way she did. She deserved far better, but she was satisfied with the assortment of my broken pieces.

Because the smell of incense bothered my wife, I burned it outdoors or, since we moved to Arkansas, in the shop area behind the garage. Since her death, though, I have burned cones of incense in the house a few times. I have mixed feelings about that. I feel guilty for doing it, knowing my wife would find the odor offensive. But, since she is no longer here, I know it no longer has the capacity to bother her and the scent helps me relax. For some reason it helps me feel her presences, as if she finally has developed an appreciation for the odor of patchouli incense. I think her objection may not have been to the smell but that the odors might have clung to her clothes. But I do not know. I cannot ask her.


Last night, I continued my pattern of watching Bad Blood. But I paused it several times so I could sit and think about things that popped into my mind. That way, I ensured that I would not lose the plot while I ignored it in favor of a mental detour.

I wondered whether I might one day decide I simply cannot continue fighting to overcome or to tolerate the emotional pain I feel on a regular basis. How could I quietly slip away from it, never to feel it again? After I had my lung cancer surgery, I was given a significant number of oxycodone pills that I rarely used for pain. I kept them, thinking one day I might need them to erase pain of one kind or another. But I do not think they are particularly potent. I told a friend some time ago I was collecting such stuff to ensure that, if confronted with a prognosis of a painful death, I could end my life on my own terms.  I am a firm believer in giving individuals the options of making the decision to end their lives on their own terms. As much as I hate learning of suicides brought about by emotional states that could have been corrected, I think the choice of euthanasia should be entirely personal.

This section has gone completely haywire and badly awry. I intended to explore the oddities that emerge from watching emotions play out on television dramas. The control I have over my own emotions is sometimes taken over, replaced by emotions written into screenplays by talented screenwriters. And sometimes it’s just the opposite.

Last night, I made the mistake of pouring, and consuming, two whiskeys and then, later, switching to wine. I made it half way through the glass of wine before deciding that had been a bad decision. Half a glass of red wine awaits me in the refrigerator; it will wait at least until the end of the day, maybe longer. I don’t know whether it was the combination or the size of my two whiskey pours—or maybe something else—that caused my fierce headache this morning. Here’s hoping the coffee will tame the beast.


I did not begin 2021 with resolutions. But I may may some commitments to myself within the next few days. Among them could be assurances that I will try to eliminate some of the excess weight I accumulated over the past several months—years. I spent some time yesterday looking at a ledger of meals I ate during the first three-plus months of 2017. I keep returning to that list because the meals I prepared were low calorie and completely satisfying. But sticking to the types of meals I ate for long enough that the routine would become a lifestyle would have taken longer than three and a half months; my discipline apparently failed before my lifestyle changed completely. I seem to have gone badly off-course; rather than simply reeling myself in and correcting my deviance, I adopted gustatory deviance as my mantra. My problem, I think, is that I ran out of radishes. Radishes tend to keep me in line. Radishes and tomatoes. Let that be a lesson to me.


A church friend mentioned to me last week (was it last week?) that her financial advisor has been very helpful to her. Given that my wife was my financial advisor, I decided to call my friend’s advisor to get some help with my transition to financial widowhood. I have an appointment with her late next week. Between now and then, I will assemble financial records and compile a list of questions to ask; assuming she knows about Social Security matters and tax treatment of retirement accounts, I expect I will have plenty of questions to ask. Fortunately, my wife kept meticulous records. And, during the last six months, I kept records just as meticulously. My wife taught me so much about so many things.


On this date last year, I wrote about poverty, particularly food poverty, in Mexico and other impoverished countries. And I compared U.S. income levels with income levels in Mexico. My diatribe effectively constituted a condemnation of the immorality of our individual and collective failures to do something about the problems; I argued that we have within our power the ability to address these matters. Here, a year later, what have I done? Precious little. I complain about hypocrisy, yet I am a practicing hypocrite. Throwing a few dollars a month, through my church, at domestic issues just does not seem adequate to assuage my guilt. On the other hand, should I ask my financial advisor to help me redirect forty percent of my wealth toward the elimination of poverty and hunger? Would I do that if I would be the odd man out by not doing it? As I mull this over, I also consider whether we are leaders of ourselves or followers of others. Ach! I will continue to turn things over in my head until I grind them into soft mush. Perhaps incense will help clarify my thoughts.

About John Swinburn

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