Mentally Flossing the Morning

My friend, Deanna, left a comment on yesterday’s post that triggered recollections of many, many of my previous posts. Those posts reflect a theme I’ve lived with for my entire life, I think. And I suspect it’s a theme woven into the fabric of the lives of everyone who lives, or has lived, on the planet. At least most of us. Her comment sparked, most immediately, memory of a post I wrote in February last year. That post began with a search for the definition of the word, “brim.” The dictionary defined the word as “the upper edge of anything hollow.” For some reason, I was enamored of that definition. As I said in my post, reading it caused me to forget why I had looked up the word. And it caused my thoughts to wonder elsewhere, as these excerpts from that February post reveal:

I looked up brim for a reason, but once I got there and saw the words, the upper edge of anything hollow, I forgot my purpose. Not just my purpose in looking up the word, either. My purpose. My. Purpose. Why I am here. My reason for being. Ma raison d’être. No, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t forget. I’ve never known. None of us have. We make up stories, we create elaborate explanations for our existence. We pretend to know why we, of all creatures on Earth, are imbued with such advanced intellect and knowledge and skills and…all the rest. But we just don’t know. And we never will. We should be okay with that, but we’re not. At least most of us don’t seem to be okay with that imponderable question.

We’re seekers, though, searchers for answers that, we realize with some degree of certainty, do not exist. In that sense, we’re not especially smart. But we put a different spin on it. We say, instead, we are insatiably curious. That sounds more appealing, doesn’t it? More appealing than admitting we’re as crazy as a cat lady on the seventh Monday of February.

I’m like a broken record. I cannot seem to get past that place in my brain where a particular tune repeats over and over again. The needle just can’t skip to the next groove, allowing the song to play out to completion. For my entire life, I’ve pondered those imponderables. I feel an aching need to know why I’m here before I’m gone. But, like all the rest of us, of course, I won’t know.  Well, all the rest of us except those for whom “faith” and “belief” substitute for “knowledge” and “understanding.”

Maybe that’s why the idea of becoming an ascetic monk has always been oddly magnetic for me. Perhaps I should replace “ascetic” with “atheist.” I’m not especially attached to the idea of a life in which the worldly pleasures are withheld or avoided. So, perhaps, a lavish lifestyle undertaken in an isolated monastic environment dedicated to seeking answers to the unanswerable is the life for me. Not “farm livin,” as I’ve always dreamt. Obviously, I’ve slipped from serious to silly here. But I am serious about my lifelong ache to know more about who I am and why I am here. I fully understand it’s an ache that will never be resolved, but that does not stop me from wondering about it every day of my life.


My IC and I visited a collision repair shop in Benton yesterday. If all goes according to plan, I’ll take my car there next week and exchange it for a rental car for an as-yet-unknown period of time while the Subaru’s scratched and scraped driver’s side is repaired and made to look like new. After we left the place, we stopped for a very early dinner at a little place called Taqueria Azteca, about two blocks from the collision repair place. I had been there once or twice before with my late wife and we liked it (it’s not the best taqueria I’ve ever visited, by a long shot, but it’s good enough to merit repeat visits, in my book). I deeply appreciate my IC’s willingness to go into such places, places that some people would call “dives.” The food is good, the staff is friendly and accommodating, and the place is clean, if not new and sparkling. It looks old and worn, as I’m sure it is, but it’s a well-cared-for worn. And like almost every Mexican food place I’ve ever visited, its “Mexican rice” does not compare to the stuff I make at home, the recipe for which I adapted from my mother’s recipe, which she adapted from recipes common along the border between Texas and Tamaulipas. I may well visit Taqueria Azteca again next week when I drop my car off for tender loving care that will revive its beauty and newness.


Speaking of my IC, she will abandon me for lunch today in favor of a friend from church who I believe shares my birthday. I think this woman and I share not just the month and day, but the year, of birth. I’ve met only a couple of other people who share my birth day and month; no one else who shares all three temporal elements. For that reason, I have to believe this woman and I have a special connection, despite the fact that we know one another only very casually. (I think we’ve had all of a dozen brief conversations since we’ve known one another, including one that lasted a few hours while she and I and one other person drove to and from a church event at a Heifer International farm.) A “special connection?” Well, not really. Only a birthday. I’ve probably thought about starting (and maybe even initiated) conversations with her, based solely on our shared birthdays. But that seems likely to be viewed as a creepy come-on. That’s the problem with my tendency to be more attracted to friendships with women than with me. Overtures with women, I think, tend to be seen as sexual come-ons as opposed to genuine interest in friendship. It takes time and effort to get past the understandable caution. And, from my perspective, that investment of time often is not worth the effort because the hoped-for “chemistry” turns out to be missing. Interestingly, overtures of friendship with men similarly have obstacles and take time; and they, too, frequently amount to time wasted.

As I read what I’ve written above, it may seem to the casual (or even more intimate) reader that I am more than a little arrogant. I hope that’s not the case. I just want to avoid spending my time (and others’ time) on relationships that have little chance of successfully taking hold. Yet, without the investment of time, one cannot know whether the investment would pay off. I am arguing against myself here, but I’m not sure who’s winning the debate.


My IC and I are friends with a couple with whom our attachment seems to be growing closer by the day. Every time we spend time with them, my IC and I remark to one another how much we enjoy their company and how much we learn from them just by being in their presence. For whatever reason, though, it’s awkward for me to express my appreciation vocally. I think the reason is that my vocal appreciation would provoke a visible and vocal emotional reaction in me. Despite telling myself it’s okay to be overtly emotional, I can’t seem to get over my embarrassment at my tendency to shed tears at things as moving as television commercials. Maybe next time we have them over, I’ll be able to get past the awkwardness and say out loud how much they mean to me. They both read my blog (the only couple I know with certainty who do), so maybe they’ll steel themselves to my emotional outburst before the visit.

As I consider this issue, it occurs to me that I should express my appreciation and my love to each of my friends. I try to do that, but I think too often I just assume my friends know. It’s time I become a bit more assertive in my emotional awkwardness.


After a couple of CT scans this morning and a church board meeting this afternoon, the day will belong to me. What I do with it remains to be seen.  I cannot have anything to drink or eat until after my CT scans (I had half a cup of coffee before the 6:00 a.m. deadline for allowing consumption of food and beverage). That restriction, of course, has caused an insatiable hunger and thirst to well up in me. I could drink a gallon of coffee and eat a pound of cinnamon rolls (or eggs or bacon or cereal or pancakes or waffles or corned beef hash or…). Going without food for a few hours or a few months would not hurt, actually. But I do love food. With all my heart and soul. It doesn’t always love me, but usually the feeling is mutual.


Okay. I’ll stop. I’m just filling time with my fingers at this point. I should probably shower and shave before my CT scan. Whether I do also remains to be seen.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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4 Responses to Mentally Flossing the Morning

  1. Mick, you make a valuable and valid point. Thanks for pointing out what I sometimes seem to miss in the fray of emotion!

  2. Patsy, thanks for reading my blog and for taking the time to comment. I greatly appreciate it. I use “IC” to my “intimate companion,” though I like the way you think! “Irritating concubine” has a nice ring to it, for example! Thanks again for reading!

  3. Patsy Slezak says:

    John, I have been reading your blog for several weeks now and as I suspected there is a lot that lies beneath the surface. It is quite couragous to say what you are truly thinking & allow all of us to read it. I’ve been trying to guess what “my IC” means—irrepressable Colleen? Irreverent cutie? Irritating concubine? Perhaps you could enlighten me. Keep writing. I’ll keep reading?

  4. Mick says:

    Pondering your “emotional awkwardness”…know that actions do speak louder than words. Just your involvement with others may be all that’s needed.

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