Reinvention and Anger

Reinventing oneself is not only possible, it is necessary. Reclaiming the fresh components of one’s ability to contribute to the world around us—those intellectual structures that led to the earliest evidence of our uniqueness—is vital. Reinvention need not involve trips to the gym or sprints on the treadmill or daily jogs on city streets or country roads; it can constitute, instead, a complete reordering of the manner in which one’s brain cell’s interact with one another and with the world at large. Reinvention does not require a transformation of the physical body—although that may well be a component of one’s plan for understanding and expressing ourselves anew—but it does demand a reordering of the brain’s processes. It necessitates a rebirth of the way in which we perceive ourselves, the space and time in which we live, and how we engage with the world around us. In short, reinvention compels us to shatter the old formulae that drive us and to emerge, newly-formed, from the dust of those broken pieces.

Without periodic renewal, we don’t simply mature. We decay.

Too often, discussions of “reinvention” conjure trite motivational platitudes. Real reinvention strips away the banality of platitude and replaces it with flesh borne of experience and deep aspiration. Reinvention recognizes the danger of stagnation. And it strives to balance heart-pounding risk with almost unimaginable emotional comfort. Reinvention both protects us from decomposition and rot and promises a salve to relieve the wounds caused by fighting battles with life and its warriors.

Reinvention does not always announce itself in advance, it often expresses itself after the fact. It “suddenly” appears, like a new sun rising with its sister in the morning; or another moon pairing with its brother, brightening the night sky. Reinvention reminds me of the way snakes shed their skin, leaving the remnants of a tired, worn existence as evidence that the shackles of time can be released and left behind.

One day, I hope to have the courage and the stamina to reorder the way my mind works. I hope to change myself enough so that I can see a new man within my body and my brain. I hope to see myself in a new way, clearly understanding the time and opportunities left to me in this unforgiving world. I have never been satisfied with myself during this first iteration of who I am and who I have been. If ever I have the wherewithal to make my reinvention take place, I expect it to smash the already broken pieces into dust—the ones that clash with the twists and bends of their environment—and to remold them into something shaped more like the smooth curves of the world.


The other evening, after I got the phone call from my doctor’s APRN telling me to go to the ER right away, it occurred to me that I have yet to update my Directive to Physicians. The reason I thought about that is that the nurse expressed to me that, if I had a pulmonary embolism (which she thought possible), I could die suddenly and without warning. It occurred to me that I had not formally gone on notice to the world at large that, in the event I ever were sick or injured in a way that required heroic life-saving measures to keep me alive, I would not want to be kept alive by artificial means. So, just in case, I sent an email to my siblings, expressing my wishes (though I feel sure they already knew).

This morning, as I was looking through the contents of the bowels of my billfold, I found a little card with the following words printed on it:

To My Family, My Physician and Any Hospital (Living Will)

If there is no reasonable expectation of my recovery from extreme physical or mental disability…

I direct that I be allowed to die and not be kept alive by artificial means and heroic measures. I ask that medication be mercifully administered to me for terminal suffering even though this may shorten my remaining life.

I hope that you who care for me will feel morally bound to act in accordance with this urgent request.

The card bears my signature and the signatures of two witnesses. On the back of the card is a space for an emergency contact to be identified; it is blank. I suppose I should fill it in. It’s been six years since I signed that little card.

Such little formalities can make life much easier on people faced with gut-wrenching decisions.


I remain angry with Western Civilization. My anger, at the moment, rests on the fact that men who carry purses are looked on with derision. They are laughed at, thought of as “pansies” (to use an old phrase that’s probably still in use among some groups),  their masculinity is questioned, and they are otherwise treated with no respect. I am too weak to go against the grain; otherwise, I would carry a bag (I probably wouldn’t call it a purse for reasons unrelated to masculinity considerations). I envision a cross-shoulder strap with a hook or connector of some kind to which a small pouch could be connected. Inside the pouch (if I were to carry one) would be my billfold, cell phone, car keys, pocket knife, small notepad, breath mints, and any other small odds and ends I might regularly need or want to have with me. Restaurants and cafes would install at every seat a small, unobtrusive hook from which the pouch (or purse) could be hung to keep it out of the way and safe from bag-snatchers.

But our society does not encourage or endorse this. And that angers me. And it angers me even more than I allow myself to be swayed by idiotic societal practices that preclude me from carrying a bag. One day, I may well reinvent myself into someone who relishes the idea of shattering stupid social norms into a thousand pieces and crushing them under my heels.


Enough of this. I am hungry. It’s a weekend. I may celebrate by having a breakfast not suited to normal “workday” consumption.

About John Swinburn

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