Over Which I Have Influence

Tuesdays are inherently better than Mondays, if for no other reason than—on Tuesdays—a local liquor store sells an already-cheap wine that I like to drink at a further fifteen percent discount. That takes the price down from $5.99 to $5.09. The store’s implementation of a fee for credit card sales jacks the price up a bit, I discovered during my most recent trip to buy wine, but I can maintain the full fifteen percent discount if I pay cash. Which I will. I do not begrudge merchants charging a fee on credit card sales; but I do not appreciate learning about the fee only after I look at my receipt. A prominent sign would be appropriate. Of course, I may simply have missed the sign. At any rate, today is Tuesday, so today is the day I should visit the local liquor store and stock up on Jacob’s Creek Shiraz-Cabernet. If I lived in an area in which Total Wine & More stores were readily accessible, I could buy bottles of the Australian wine at an everyday price that is fifty cents lower than my local liquor store charges. Oh, well. The price of living in a semi-rural community off the beaten path of mainline commerce is that the costs of the good life can be a tad higher than in congested cities.

The question inevitably arises, when I mention my affinity for my cheap Australian wine, about whether I would rather drink a more expensive wine. And my answer is invariably, “Yes.” But when I weigh my preference for a more expensive bottle of a cabernet or a shiraz cabernet blend against the considerably lower cost of my go-to wine, I usually choose my go-to wine. It’s a purely rational cost-benefit assessment; the savings I enjoy by buying the cheaper wine (versus a wine that costs, say, an average of $16-$20 per bottle) can be plowed into other things I enjoy. Leg of lamb. Netflix. A nice day-trip to Petit Jean Mountain. A superbly-balanced pocket knife. And let’s be entirely above-board here: after the first glass or two, the taste of a $5.09 (on sale) wine is almost indistinguishable from a $17 wine made from the same varietals. At least that’s true of my palate. I’m sure others may have far more sophisticated and/or better trained palates than mine. That’s fine. Let them spend their money how they like. I’ll try to make mine go as far as I can. Oh, and I am happy to very occasionally spend $20 on a superb (to my palate) bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  (Though, generally, I try to stay with the lower priced SBs, as well, in keeping with my untrained palate.) I’ve found that some wines, both cheaper and more expensive than the ones I prefer, taste the way I imagine bottled loathing and bad attitude must smell. No matter what the most sophisticated sommelier or oenophile says, when I taste a monstrously expensive wine I find offensive, I do not beat myself up for my incredibly poor taste. I simply feel gratitude that my taste buds serve me and my bank account so well.


I slept better last night than I did the night before, but my bed partner was sleepless from around 1 a.m. to well after 3:30 and probably much later. Insomnia could be a byproduct of the mattress, I suppose, but my guess is that it arises from other sources that may or may not be within our control. It is, again, a cost-benefit situation; is the lack of sleep worth the enjoyment of spicy food or liquor or psychologically thrilling films or hysterically funny comedies? We all make our own choices. Sometimes, those choices infringe on others’ ability to enjoy life’s little pleasures: like sleep or raucous enjoyment of food and drink and entertainment. I’m not sure why I’m wandering down into this rabbit warren involving the effects of lifestyle on one’s sleep habits; it was not my intent. I intended only to document the fact that I slept reasonably well while my sweetheart did not. A good friend of mine regularly accuses herself of overthinking things; she could be describing my lifestyle, instead. In fact, perhaps her self-accusatory statements are intended to prompt me to look at my own world-view. I’ll have to ask her.


The demands of painting and otherwise devoting time to the newly-acquired house coupled with other demands on our time—over which we have little control—have severely interfered with our social life. Concerns about COVID-19, too, have curtailed our interactions with our friends, but the limitations can, by and large, be traced back to obligations that consume what otherwise would be free time. One must be careful not to allow other demands on one’s time to so completely consume one’s time as to eliminate social interactions, especially with friends. This is strictly an admonition to myself that we must carve out time for the people who are important to us, regardless of how difficult that carve-outs may be. Engaging with friends is—in the general scheme of life and one’s happiness in it—more important than painting walls or deciding on flooring or getting a haircut.

To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.

~ Leonard Bernstein ~


The stresses of yesterday have faded a bit, though their presence remains…just not so clearly in focus. Often, though detours or delays may seem preferable to the risk involved in high-speed freeway traffic, it is best to press hard on the accelerator and do one’s best to avoid sideswiping other vehicles or slamming into them head-on. With great care and intensity of focus, one can get through hideous traffic snarls and incidents of road rage to long stretches of empty highway. I think of Dallas and Houston and Chicago traffic as metaphors for difficult moments in one’s life. If one is not careful, it’s easy to get stuck behind a never-ending commute rush; but if entering the fray is the only way to make it back home, the risk and the difficulties are worth the effort.


A conversation yesterday between some other people and me remains on my mind this morning. That conversation centered on a person who has insulted or upset other people by being quick to make comments, either in anger or in asserting control. That person invariably recognizes and apologizes for the outburst; the apology clearly is heartfelt and deep. But one of the participants in the conversation expressed an unwillingness to be forgiving. “It’s not enough to apologize for an outburst. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place.” I countered by expressing an understanding of the flash of anger; no matter how much a person may want to “control” it, some of us have tried hard to accomplish that wished-for control and have repeatedly failed. My contention is that self-control in such incidents is simply an impossible dream for some people. The flash or anger or control is so quick to happen that the person has no time to reflect or to censor it. Because I am one of those people, I feel compassion for others in whom I see true regret after their flash of anger subsides. It doesn’t always have to be anger, either. It can be a statement of opinion as if it were fact; that can grate on people just as much as what some see as unjustifiable anger.

As I reflect on that conversation, I wonder whether my sense of understanding is simply my way of excusing my failure to exercise control. Perhaps the excuse—that the emotion is so quick to erupt that there’s no time to reflect and control it—is bogus. It is sometimes difficult to admit to the possibility that one’s failures may not be the result of uncontrollable forces but, instead, the outcome of inadequate efforts. Excuses. Excuses. How does one differentiate between legitimate explanations and illegitimate excuses? I am sure I could answer that question with what looks and feels like a reasonable argument; my answer could easily go either way. But bias would inevitably enter that argument and may well control it. We tend to justify/excuse our own behaviors because to admit to their impropriety would be embarrassing and, perhaps, would brand us as less than decent human beings. The sense of inadequacy is one of the most painful emotions, because it calls into question our value in comparison to those around us.


The day has begun. Today, my plan is to bring peace to those parts of the universe over which I have some influence.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Over Which I Have Influence

  1. Meg+Koziar says:

    Glad your day started better, and hope it continues to improve.

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