The Price of Inaction

I will ask my brothers and sister , who was I as a child and, later, as a teenager and, later still, a young adult? Was I always as emotionally fragile early on, as I was in my so-called “prime?” Were my emotions as delicate and fracturable as they are now that I am an old man? I learned, a few days ago, of a friend’s experience with COVID-19; he said it caused him to be highly emotional—easily becoming angry and crying with compassion in response to television commercials. The idea of commercials triggering tears is funny; except it is not funny. It suggests some sort of chemical imbalance in the brain may cause emotions that, otherwise, would be under a person’s control and not subject to random and unexpected display. I wonder whether my emotionality is the product of some sort of physiological aberration; a flaw in my brain that gives me less control over my emotions than most people have. I’ve always been more than a little embarrassed by my tendency to tear-up at the slightest emotional trigger; I’ve felt the shame of unwelcome hypersensitivity. And it occurs to me my embarrassment is a response to what I have always considered, subconsciously, a mental abnormality. So, in a nutshell, my reaction to my state of mind suggests discomfort with what may be akin to (and is) a mental illness. I would not be embarrassed to seek a diagnosis for a physical ailment; so, why would I feel embarrassment to consider seeking a diagnosis for an emotional flaw? That question is not mine alone; it was put to me directly by someone else.

It’s odd, though. While I am very uncomfortable to be the only person in the room with tears streaming down my cheeks, I simultaneously feel that my ability to feel extreme empathy and compassion is almost a gift. I think I would miss that ability, if it were to be “cured.” I just wish I could control the display of external evidence of that ability. Maybe I still have strands of the dreaded “macho” gene intertwined with my DNA. When I think THAT, I get angry with society for explicitly teaching males to control their emotions; to avoid crying at all costs. I get furious with a culture that intentionally curbs empathy and rewards indifference or hatred or emotionless reactions to circumstances that should shake us to our core. I could go on writing about my visceral reaction to what I consider this societally-engineered deviance; but I won’t. It’s pointless. Yet giving in to societal stupidity is the same as endorsing it. One should fight, hard, against mutant societal instructions, not give in to them. “Do not go gentle into that good night…” Maybe equating acquiescence to malignant social mores to death is a bit dramatic, but perhaps that’s exactly what is necessary to change the world. That, and a lot of energy. I’m lacking in that department at the moment.


Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

~ T. S. Eliot ~


The installation of new flooring in our new house began yesterday, but stopped early on when some flaws in the flooring became apparent. The installer saw the same flaws, discovering that they were prevalent throughout samples from both pallets of the materials. So, today, I understand the company owner will come take a look. And, from my understanding of the situation, a representative of the flooring distributor will take a look, as well. Maybe today. Maybe later. I don’t know. I just know I want the floor to look perfect, whenever it is installed. So, we will wait.

Before the flooring fiasco began, a plumber capped the pipes and drains from the old jetted tub we had removed, as well. And he will return one day, after the floors are laid, to install some other plumbing-related items.

And during the flooring discovery, new flooring was being installed in my “old” house’s workshop area behind the garage. During that endeavor, the installers discovered that the water lines for both the utility sink and the toilet are the inflexible-pipe style that, with the new flooring, would be too short to reconnect. So, they removed the sink and toilet, but those items cannot be reinstalled until a plumber comes to make the proper adjustments with new water-supply lines. I’m getting far too used to spending money with every breath I take. One day, all this “housework” will be complete. Life will return to some semblance of normal. Freedom to move about the planet will be mine.

This morning, I go in for an ultrasound of my bladder; a follow-up to a kidney stone episode of several weeks ago. During that episode, I experienced a small-scale equivalent to a “dark night of the soul” that made me have serious thoughts of suicide. I am sure it was the cocktail of drugs I was given during and after the procedure to remove the stone was responsible for that terrifying experience: anesthesia and post-procedure pain-killers. I will assume all is well with my bladder until and unless the doctors say otherwise. I do not want another experience like I had, associated with the kidney stone removal.

And today my girlfriend begins the unpleasant process of preparing for a routine medical test/procedure that requires one to stay home all day and drink enormous volumes of liquid. Her procedure is tomorrow. I will serve as chauffer and advocate.


I’ve always loved to write. I’ve always felt my writing has the potential of delivering profound ideas in beautiful language. But nothing I’ve written thus far has delivered on its promise. Although I probably have forgotten most of what I’ve written; so it’s possible there’s a gem hidden among the rubble I’ve left. I can hope for the relevance of the past; that’s probably the best chance for attainment. I think I have to hope because my writing seems to have weakened over time. It has become simple and stale and abysmally common. Perhaps that’s because I live a pretty damn common life. Write what you know, some self-professed experts have long said. I’ve never bought that, at least not entirely. Write what you dream; that would be a better admonishment.

Uninterrupted isolation. That is what I think I need to be able to write more meaningfully. A week or two or even more, cloistered in some hidden retreat in the woods or on a desolate coast. A place that will force me to empty my mind of the mundane and focus exclusively on the brilliantly obvious aspects of existence.


Too much thought and not enough action. Overthinking things tends to lead to stagnation. Knowledge without understanding is an unworthy burden.

The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.

~ Meister Eckhart ~


I must drink more water so I can have a full bladder for my ultrasound. They want me to need, desperately, to pee; but they want me to torture myself by avoiding that quite natural inclination to acquiesce to Mother Nature. Oh, well.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to The Price of Inaction

  1. Thanks for the good wishes, Debbie. The results of my ultrasound yesterday were “unremarkable,” which is what I was after. No discernable problems. I think you’re right; my sensitivity has been a lifelong blessing/curse. And if I did not have humor as a refuge, I would be a stark-raving madman! We will continue to seek the sunshine. You do the same!

  2. Debbie says:

    Hope both of your tests come out fine. There certainly are more tests now that we’re “elderly”. My guess is you’ve been sensitive your whole life. It is a blessing, but we know it can also be a curse. So much feeling and sometimes we just overthink ourselves into a bit of chaos. My first grade comments on my report card stated I was very sensitive. Humor has been an anchor for me. Along with other pleasures of mine. Be well you two. Find the sunshine.

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