Repairing a Shattered Mirror

My wife’s illness and then her death shattered both our dreams. I don’t even remember what they were, now. But they were grand. We were going to escape from the nightmare of COVID-19 and live the lives we had planned. We would go places. See people. But, mostly, we would nurture what had been growing for more than forty years. Not so suddenly, all of that disappeared. For five months, she suffered through confinement in hospitals and rehab facilities. And then she died. And I have spent the last five months trying to recover from what seemed like a sudden and catastrophic rupture in everything that was good in my life. I miss her so much that every day I experience at least a brief moment in which I feel like I can’t go on and don’t want to.  But then I come out of the worst of it and I think about how fortunate I am to be who and where I am in the moment. And then I slip back a step, then take another step forward.  At the moment, I’m wondering whether it’s too early for me to think about the future, perhaps with another woman. Just writing those words is difficult and seems crass and unkind and hard-hearted. But at some point, and maybe that moment is soon, I will need to decide whether to settle in to the life we had—but without her—or to create a new one that could, coincidentally, create a new me. As for another woman; I wouldn’t have the faintest idea where to look. And the idea of “looking” for another woman seems ugly and chauvinistic. And, of course, I wonder whether my wife would approve or be hurt that I could even think of such a thing. Ach! I just don’t know. I feel like I’m attempting to replace a shattered mirror, when what perhaps I should be doing is trying to piece the shards of glass back together.

I’ve had two realtors look at my house. One has suggested an asking price that seems to me much higher than I think I could get and the other has yet to get back to me with a figure. But she, too, says the house would sell quickly and for a premium price. I said I would take a year, but it’s been ten months since my wife’s illness took hold. I’m sure I’ve written this before, maybe recently. Or maybe I’ve just thought it. Ach. I’m confused and feel a little like I need help. A friend offered a recommendation about a counselor who might help. I’ve set up an appointment next month. Maybe a session with her can shake me into some sense of decisiveness or, at least, can help me decide on a direction.


“I am who I am.” I hear that, or some facsimile thereof, from people who also say they are not swayed by what people think of them. A day or two ago, I came upon a statement to that effect, made by a woman who, apparently, went to high school with me. She said, in essence, she used to worry about how other people perceived her. Now, she posted (to a Facebook group dedicated to members of my 1972 high school graduating class), “…I don’t give a rat’s ass what people think…I am who I am.” I am thinking of attending the 50th reunion in 2022 (assuming one is held). I have never attended one, though I planned to on a couple of occasions. Something came up. I do not remember what.

As much as I’d sometimes like others’ perceptions of me to bounce off of me like hail off a marble walkway, that’s rarely the case. And I suspect my sensitivity to what people think may contribute to my tendency to “be” a different person in different contexts. I am far different when I am in the presence of someone with whom I am casually comfortable from who I am in a formal environment where I know few people, if anyone. I am not frightened of well-dressed strangers, but I am cautious. I don’t reveal much about myself in those circumstances. In fact, I don’t reveal a hell of a lot about myself even in the company of casual acquaintances in a party atmosphere. I suppose the variations in my behavior arise from efforts at self-protection, whether conscious or not.

The wide variance in my personalities (such as they are) from circumstance to circumstance no doubt influences the way I perceive others. My assumption about others—their statements to the contrary notwithstanding—always is that I am seeing only one of many personalities. I assume they, too, constitute different people depending on context.  It usually takes me quite a while to feel confident I “know” the various people who live inside another individual. Sometimes, that never happens. So I remain cautious about exposing too much.  Except, of course, when I write.

It’s as if I know no one will read what I reveal, though it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to believe that, in that a number of people I know visit this blog, at least occasionally. So they can see evidence of the different people who live inside my head and who reveal themselves only when circumstances warrant. Trying to think of how others might perceive me, as they read evidence of my situational behavior, I imagine they might think I really have different and quite distinct personalities. I think I would be extremely  tense around someone who I believed suffered from dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities). And so would they. Maybe. Or maybe they just recognize contextually-derived social behaviors as natural responses to one’s environment. A woman who was following my blog for several months, and with whom I traded emails fairly regularly, told me a month or so ago that she was getting away from social media for a while. I haven’t heard from her since and I’m wondering whether she tired of my tendency to be different people in my writing. It’s one of a million “what if” situations that I could dwell on until the end of time.

I could ramble on about this all week. I won’t. Or, at least, I’ll try not to.


Last night, I participated in the third consecutive Thursday-night trivia event at a local pub. There were only six people at our table, but the sound level in the pub was sufficiently loud that I found it a bit difficult to hear conversation. I’ve been in the same pub when live music was playing; it’s then just far too loud for my comfort. I like a reasonably quiet environment; an acoustic jazz trio, perhaps, at the far end of the room and people speaking in low tones so the folks at nearby tables cannot eavesdrop. But not always. I’m up for loud, raucous, energetic vibes, too. But, seldom.

Day before yesterday, I spent a few hours over lunch with a friend who suddenly left the church we both attended. He was in a senior leadership role until he announced his and his wife’s immediate departure from the church. I do not know all the details of his decision to leave; that’s his business. I am glad, though, that he still considers us friends and that the church is not necessarily the glue that binds us. I was stunned to learn that he is turning 86 years old very soon! He looks considerably younger and he behaves like a much younger man. He spoke wistfully of his days taking his family on road trips and camping trips in their RV. Hearing people like him, and another friend who’s currently on the road in her RV, talk about the way an RV lifestyle gives them a sense of freedom prolongs my thinking process about RVs. One day, I’ll decide something. Yes or No. Or Maybe. And then the next day I’ll change my mind. Over and over and over again. That’s my M.O. But not always. I can be dangerously decisive. I can hold on to the rectitude of the correctness of my decision long after it has been obvious to everyone around me it was a bad, bad decision. Hmm.


My writing has become one of the very few “conversational” outlets I have to enable me to engage in serious conversations that last more than a few minutes. For that reason, if no other, I  must continue to write. No one else should feel compelled to read my indecisive drivel. I’m just thinking out loud, without the sound. I try to keep these daily ruminations short, but I just don’t seem to be able to do it. Someday, perhaps.

About John Swinburn

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