Sleeping on the Job

Last night, I joined three friends for an evening reminiscent of “the way things used to be.” We sat in a pub, eating tacos, drinking margaritas (one drank a beer, as she has a dangerous allergy to agave), telling and listening to stories, and laughing. Only after I got home did grief and guilt begin to infringe on my mood.  I overcame it for awhile by watching another episode of Bosch and opening a bottle of sauvignon blanc. Alcohol offers an easy, but temporary and potentially dangerous, solution to sadness; it can wash away pain, yet it can magnify it, too. In small doses, though, it can dull sharpness.

I returned home last night with a nice sampling of small-batch beers, products of the brewery owned by the son of one of my dinner partners; she brought them to me, knowing I would appreciate them. I wish my good friends and beer aficionados, Jim and Jim, lived nearby so I could share the beer with them. Alas, they live in Virginia and New Hampshire, respectively, and these beers probably would not survive the trip.

The chief problem with going out for an evening is the return to an empty house. After spending a couple of hours with three engaging women last night, I came home to quiet. After five months at home by myself while my wife was in the hospital and rehab facilities, I had adapted reasonably well to being alone. But it’s different now. I no longer can look forward to the day she returns. Enjoying an evening without her seems wrong. I know that is absurd. It doesn’t matter, though. It is what it is.

I suspect my posts are becoming repetitive, as if all I can write about is grief and sadness and guilt and feeling empty and lost and alone. I look forward to the time when those things comprise only a tiny fraction of what occupies my mind. Listening to the other participants in yesterday’s grief group, some of whom had lost loves ones many months ago, reinforced for me the fact that that lessening of grief is a long, long process.


I spent about twenty minutes this morning watching a fascinating YouTube video about primitive glass-making. The videographer and his associate collected all the materials, created clay kilns, and (after multiple tries) made just a few shards of glass. I think I’ll try to find the follow-up videos (the guy’s series is called How to Make Everything)  to see how (and whether) he progresses.

I’ve often wondered how modern glass, both sheet glass and bottle glass, is made. This morning’s video did not answer my curiosity about that, but it took me back to the earliest processes of attempted glass-making. I imagine I’ll find another video or two to see how it’s done in today’s modern glass factories, as well.


Today, a new President and Vice President of the United States take office. The demeanor of the people in those positions will be radically different from what we have become used to during the past four years. Only time will tell whether the results of their leadership will be radically different; I suspect the results will be different, provided Congress does not obstruct them.  I have hope, but I am something of a realist, too. The level of my excitement today is considerably lower than it was when Bill Clinton took office and when Barack Obama took office; wild-eyed enthusiasm is better suited to people with fewer years and disappointments behind them.


A few years ago, I dreamed up a series of make-believe how-to magazines geared toward various segments of the criminal population. I think I called them Home Invasion Today and Auto Theft Today; I may have had another one or two.  I designed covers for them, using Photoshop and a page layout program. It might be fun to resurrect those covers and create bogus content for the magazines, place them on shelves in the magazine section of a bookstore, and secretly film the reactions of people who come across them. Perhaps I’m too easily amused.


Death is mysterious because life is all we know. Everything we have ever learned, every emotion we have ever felt, every sensation we have ever experienced has required life. No matter how hard we try, we cannot imagine the experience of death. That is either because there is no experience to be had or because we cannot fathom experience without an association with life. I find it hard to put into words a concept I do not fully understand. But I feel the concept inside me, trying to break through the dullness and confusion.


I cannot keep my eyes open. I must get up, out of this chair, and make another cup of coffee. Otherwise, I will go to sleep where I sit and will awaken with a terrible crick in my neck.


About John Swinburn

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