The Challenge of Balance

I ate too much last night. The evening’s leftovers remain in the refrigerator, begging to be eaten. But I refuse to be manipulated by what was advertised as potato “skins” that, in reality, are whole potatoes, cut in half lengthwise, baked, scooped out, and refilled with the highly-processed remnants mixed with God knows what. I thought I was buying an appetizer for the table; no one else at the table partook. I might as well have bought a full meal for three. And that was on top of my brisket dinner. Others at the table knew better; they all ordered only appetizers or dessert. I should have been the last one to order. Instead, I was among the first. In addition to the food, I shared two pitchers of beer, Skullcrusher IPA, with the other male at the table. I could have done well to have stopped at one.

The food and drink fest was prompted by a gathering of friends at the Beehive, the purpose of which was to play Trivia. I was the inept addition to the team; I knew the answers to only a fraction of the questions. That notwithstanding, I had a lot of fun. It was nice to get out with a group and kick back for a bit. I think the group has, in the past, gathered regularly on Thursday evenings for Trivia. Now that we’re all doubly vaccinated, we can do it again. But I suspect there’s a limit on the number who can participate per team. I think some “regulars” were missing from last night’s gathering, so if I am involved in the future, it will depend on available slots. Which suits me; regular commitments, even enjoyable ones, can seem confining to me. But, even in my ineptitude, I could come to enjoy playing the game. Of course, it’s not the game that’s so enjoyable; it’s being with the people.


If nothing else, writing forces me to think. It requires a measure of critical thinking, which demands that I attempt to look at points of view that might differ pointedly from my own. Even when, internally, I successfully refute viewpoints at odds with my positions, I tend to become less strident in defending their opinionated stance than I was before. The reason, I think, is that others’ attitudes can seem more reasonable upon careful inspection. That is not to say I agree with them; only that often they can represent plausible considerations of the issues at hand. This emphasizes to me that my way of looking at the world is not necessarily the right way. Nor is it necessarily the wrong way. It may simply be another way, a different way, that leads to conclusions that differ from others’.

My tendency to attempt to balance viewpoints often makes me seem indecisive or hesitant to commit. So be it. Speeding toward a bad conclusion is worse than expanding time to reach a good one. That having been said, giving matters plenty of time to roll around in one’s head does not always lead to the right decision or position. I have plenty of experience thinking long and hard before reaching what, in hindsight, was a bad decision. But simply allowing myself to think about matters from different perspectives gives me the sense that open-mindedness is preferable to prejudice. Interestingly enough, though, there are those who argue forcefully that “overthinking” is akin to promoting weakness. That is, one can be too open-minded, too willing to consider other points of view, too forgiving of opposing positions. I see ruptures occur in the social fabric when, for lack of better terms, self-preserving bias confronts excessive tolerance. It’s then that the characteristics that help mold viewpoints become the points of contention, rather than the viewpoints themselves. This entire discussion rests on my untrained psychological assessment; that does not mean it is invalid, only that it has no credentials. 😉


Yesterday, I exchanged emails with one of my brothers, who waxed philosophical about the pleasures of Lockhart, Texas: barbecue, courthouse and church architecture, etc. His comments triggered my memory of a one-day road trip, almost eleven years ago, on which  two friends of mine and I embarked. We left the Dallas/Fort Worth area early in the morning and drove non-stop to Lexington, Texas, where we stopped at Snow’s for a morning taste of barbecue. We then drove to Lockhart, where we sampled the fare at three more well-known smokehouse BBQ joints. Finally, we tasted BBQ at a place in Llano, Texas that was always among my favorites, before returning to D/FW. One of my friends later had some beer cozies made to commemorate the trip: 558 miles to visit 5 BBQ smokehouses in 15 hours. We promised we would do another trip to check out some other places. But we haven’t yet. One of the guys moved to Iowa, the other moved to Virginia, and I moved to Arkansas. Still, the allure of the road trip is strong.


Every day, memories of my wife occupy a considerable amount of my time. Some times, the memories are sweet and comforting. Other times, they fill me with guilt and regret; little things that could have been and should have been different. I have been able to successfully (for the most part) tuck many of the memories into places in my psyche that allow me to go about my day-to-day activities without intrusion. Some, though, continue to slice me like a scalpel, sparking sadness that seems deeper than the stars are distant. Her death was only just a bit more than four months ago. But, before that, she was in the hospital or rehab for more than five months. So, it has been more than nine months since she was comfortably at home and we enjoyed “normalcy” at home, to the extent that normalcy was possible during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic (so far). I am far more needy than I ever knew. Or admitted. I miss the comfort of companionship, the reassuring presence that makes me feel I am not alone, even in my most hermit-like moods.


How is it that people can balance pleasure and pain and remain relatively sane? As I contemplate pleasure and pain, it seems they can be reactions to one another; pleasure is a means of overcoming pain and pain is a moderating force that controls unchecked pleasure. But is that true? Are the two sensations opposites? Or do they exist along different spectra that may occasionally intersect, but do not necessarily relate to one another. This importance of this topic (as well as the interest in it), among so many others, can be amplified by getting high, I think. But I don’t need to get high to wonder about such things. It’s too early in the morning to even think about such things.

I have things to do. Get ready for the woman who comes every few weeks to deliver me from sloth by vacuuming and mopping the floors, etc. And I need to shower, shave, and get dressed in time to go meet someone for lunch. So, enough of this rambling for now. More rambling next time I ramble.

About John Swinburn

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