In a world unencumbered by human pettiness, knowing what to call the days of the week would be utterly pointless. That world would not have words for Monday or Thursday or Saturday; what possible need could there be? Only when humans concern themselves with irrelevance must we cope with unnecessary complexities like naming days of the week, months of the year, etc. Would it be possible for us to survive in the absence of words like Wednesday or September? Of course it would. We could get along quite nicely, too, without 1959 or 2024 or 1976. Those words/numbers are simply artificial expressions of periods of time; we could just as easily call them, respectively, Cynthia, sausage, and jewelry. Or, better yet, we could opt not to name them at all. While on the subject of unnecessary terms, what is the point of access to a vocabulary that includes both aware and cognizant? Is the purpose, I wonder, to separate the chaff from the wheat, as it were? That is, to differentiate between regular people and word snobs? Speaking of human pettiness…


When I returned home yesterday afternoon from a function, I was told my behavior was a bit out of the ordinary. I was asked, more than once, “Are you high?” I responded in the negative, of course, because I had not knowingly consumed anything that would have altered my mental state in a way that would have made me seem “high.” Knowingly. Hmm. This morning, it occurred to me that, at the function, I ate two cookies. They could have been laced with a special ingredient; those cookies could have influenced my behavior. But I doubt it.


Over time, I have become pretty good at hiding emotional distress behind a façade of silly humor. Not perfect, but pretty good. Even when I am in the midst of a near-perfectly disguised emotional meltdown, my state of mind might be unknown by those around me. Sometimes, though, I teeter on the edge of abandoning the charade and revealing the emotional shipwreck beneath the waves. I protect the real emotions from prying eyes and minds, though, because the complexities of thought that might explain my state of mind would not be apparent to onlookers/witnesses. I might be judged mentally unhinged, or worse.  So I cover the obvious signs of damage with absurdity. No one is the wiser.


The demands of home ownership—requiring ongoing expenditures of both time and money—are no longer as satisfying as they once were. There was a time when I enjoyed putting my handyman skills to the test: sweating copper pipes to repair water lines; caulking; painting; yardwork; patching sheetrock; replacing broken window panes; and on and on and on. I no longer equate my masculinity in any way, shape, manner, or form to my capabilities to perform home repair and maintenance. And the unpredictable nature of when and how much I will need to spend to have someone else do the work is not even remotely appealing to me. I would much rather be able to simply make a call to report a need for repair; and it would be done. As for maintenance, I would rather someone else track the need for routine upkeep and handle it without a need for my intervention. Other home-related chores have lost their luster, too. I would like to cook only on those increasingly rare occasions when I’m in the mood. And I value a dust-free, well-ordered, and otherwise sparkling clean house. But I have no interest in handling the cleaning; I would rather engage someone younger and more agile and more energetic to do the work, Yet I do not want to be responsible for hiring and firing; I just want the work to be arranged and completed without any appreciable need for my intervention. In other words, the concept of assisted living is becoming far more appealing to me. Yet I think I want more control over my day-to-day experiences than I suspect would be available in most assisted living situations. Perhaps the solution would be to engage a property management company (like an organization one might hire to look after one’s rental properties) that would be willing to take on responsibilities for employing a personal chef/shopper. I suspect money would take on a much larger part of the challenges of such arrangements, though. Like so many other solutions to problems and challenges facing us in our lives, the fix may be easy: limitless wealth. Of course, I could be wrong. Money may not be the answer. I’m willing to give it a try, though. Any assistance anyone may be willing to provide in that regard will be deeply and eternally appreciated.


Until my niece sent an email yesterday evening, advising that she and her husband were okay, I did not know about yesterday’s fierce storms in and around Houston. The storms left much of Harris County and surrounding areas without power and otherwise suffering from wind and water damage. My niece said their house had some minor damage, but nothing catastrophic. Recent floods, windstorms, and other dangerous weather phenomena around southeast Texas may or may not have been caused by a rapidly-warming climate; but I suspect that cause is as likely as any other.


Tiny wooden splinters can irritate the skin. Larger splinters, resembling sharpened dowels, can play havoc with one’s mind. Massive posts, the kind used for telephone poles, can keep live wires from causing horrible ends to otherwise good days.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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3 Responses to Splinters

  1. You are right, Colleen; I meant to refer to Independent Living. Meg, an ongoing successful (and massive) fund-raising effort could solve the problem; I’m afraid it would have required us to begin the process before our respective tenth birthdays, though.

  2. Meg says:

    I share your frustration with home ownership. It is very frustrating to have to find someone, let alone pay someone, to do what I used to be able to do myself. However, the alternatives are neither attractive, nor affordable.

  3. Colleen Boardman says:

    Umm, I think (hope) that you mean Independent Living, not Assisted Living.

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