This, Too

Perhaps we just needed a little urging to embark on a road trip. The road trip I’ve been wanting to take ever since we moved to Arkansas 5+ years ago.  Whether the trip materializes remains to be seen, but at least its outline appears to be taking shape in our plans.  Yeah. That’s happened before, though.

Upon our return from Mexico (we’re driving to Dallas, leaving our car there, then flying back from Guadaljara), we’ll spend a day or two in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. We may then head up to Fort Smith for a day or two to visit with friends there. But a look at our calendar this morning asserts that the term “road trip” clearly cannot apply to this brief journey; I have a delayed propane service scheduled during the week I had hoped to be “on the road.” And, the following day, an appointment with my oncologist screams at me. So, the best case is a very brief visit in Dallas and a very brief visit in Fort Smith and a quick drive home to get back in the habit of allowing our lives to be ruled by the calendar.

We’ve escaped the calendar before, though. We spent seventeen days in Europe last month. And we’ve demanded a seven-day release from calendar duties for the Mexico trip. So we know it can be done. We just have to commit to doing it. I can make that commitment. I can change appointments or cancel and reschedule them. I can treat the calendar like a suggestion, not like an unbending master who controls me as if I were a slave. But the calendar isn’t the only issue. I’ll leave it at that.

I’m growing increasingly frustrated with artificial obligations. That is, unnecessary commitments that purport to own my time. These demands on my time sometimes remind me of bad jokes, enhanced in the extreme: “Oh, I would so love to get together with you for lunch, but I have an appointment that day to have the lower half of my left ear lobe photographed. And you know how hard it is to get on the ear-photographer’s schedule.” Some of the demands on my time/our time seem to be just as critical as having an ear-picture done.

Yet some of the obligations, once made, deserve to be met, without complaint. I agreed to the appointments with Dr. Chen and Dr. Chu; even though I don’t like the time they take, I agreed to them, so that’s that. And I readily agreed to be the feature poet for Wednesday Night Poetry at the end of the month; for several reasons, I need to fulfill that obligation. And there are more. Not all mine, personally, but obligations that involve me in some form or another.

Carving a week or two or, God forbid, an entire month out of our schedule seems damn near an impossible task.  Maybe, though, I can find a way to carve a week or two for myself, alone. I am, after all, the one who seems to be going stark-raving mad in the face of servitude to the almighty calendar. Is it outside the realm of reason to free myself from the clutches of the calendar for just a week? Would I be forgiven for breaking the shackles of bondage and escaping just long enough to breathe free for a time?

But I don’t know whether I’m suited to solo road trippery. Though I am a loner through and through, I need company. That’s odd, I think. I prefer my own company most of the time and am perfectly happy to avoid crowds and even to stay away from small groups of likable people; but I need human contact. And not just any human contact. I need contact that permits me to be the misanthropic geezer, with allowances for intermittent periods of intense humanitarianism. I am, without a doubt, a hard person to be around. A hard person to like. Maybe even an impossible person to like. I know I couldn’t stand being around someone like me; at least not for long. Fortunately, I don’t have to listen to myself talk. I don’t have to put up with endless rants and complaints about the faults of humans as a species.

Looking at myself from a distance, as a dispassionate observer, I see someone who resembles a nickel. One side of the nickel is hard and sharp. When it hits the hard surface of a concrete street, it makes a loud, metallic sound that hurts the ears of everyone in close proximity. That side of the nickel preens itself to maintain that hard, dangerous, appearance; it grooms itself to look and sound dangerous. To warn people away from getting too close.

The other side of the nickel has spent its lifetime intentionally wearing its hard surface to a soft patina that’s pleasing to the touch. Where the other side of the coin is sharp dangerous, this side is worn and welcoming. This side is tattered by time and exposure to the rough edges of the world; its satiny sheen offers a warm, emotional embrace to those who need to escape a hard world.

My mood this morning is, in a word or two, sour and sad. I have no business recording all this angst and anger for the world to see, except that it will serve, later, as a reminder of just how bitter and upset and angry I can feel; even when I can’t put my finger on anything specific that causes those emotions to well up. Fortunately, this sort of mood is relatively rare and short-lived; at least it has been until now. I can only hope this, too, shall pass.


About John Swinburn

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