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There were 71 Roman Emperors and one wonders why they bothered. [1] They had a few lavish parties and they threw their weight around awhile – after all it’s going being king – but it hardly seems worth it. None of them sounded very happy, and about 33 of them were murdered or executed. With that track record one would think job of Augustus would be a hard post to fill. Still, there were no lack of contestants wanting to try, according to a podcast I am listening to. One fellow named Didius Julianus basically bought the job shouting bribes outside a building along with another chappie doing the same thing. DJ got the job having the highest bid, and then when he couldn’t put out the enormous amounts promised, he was knocked off and serves him right. He lasted nine weeks.

I’m also listening to podcast on the popes. There were 260 of these fellows, many were well over four feet, and more than a few were not all they should be. [2] Being Pope doesn’t sound much better than being Emperor, what with all of Europe bitching at you, but at least you aren’t bumped off. They sometimes rivaled The Emperors in lunacy, bribery, and perversity, but unlike The Emperors they ought to have known better. Despite the headaches and health hazards of the job, there were no lack of clerics clamoring for the chair. It’s grim reading, all the shenanigans that went into making a pope, but admittedly it is jolly good fun intrigue. Often there were two of them at a time, and once there were three popes. It makes for a smashing film.

There are some similarities between these secular and religious rulers of the world, or what was consider the world at the time. [3] Both were promoted by their peers, both were often elected through ‘bigger army diplomacy”. Both types sometimes but not always lived in Rome, and both wore fabulous gowns. Emperors weren’t celibate but then again a lot of Popes weren’t either. A few of each sort were dumped in the Tiber after death. Often they had children but the offspring didn’t necessarily got the job after Daddy’s death.

Urs Truly has never been a competitive avarice type, lusting for power and adornment, so it bewilders me why men covert such especially if it produces ulcers, sleepless nights, and premature aging and death.[4] There were a few fellows who truly didn’t want to be pope or emperor who were thrusted onto the throne and told to get on with it. As a lot they didn’t do too bad, but I don’t remember reading any Yelp! reviews they thought it worthwhile. I know of one Emperor who actually retired (to grow cabbages of all things) and one Pope gave a papal decree saying it is OK if Popes step down and promptly did. His successor, smelling a rat, had that pope imprisoned and probably bumped off.

There are no more Roman Emperors last time I looked but there are still Popes, although I hear tell the current one didn’t want the job and many wish he would step down too. I think the next time they gather in Rome to elect a new one they should return to bidding like our friend Didius Julianus. This wouldn’t look good but at least The Papacy could get some much-needed cash to help pay for renovations to St. Peter’s.

[1] The actual number varies, depending if you count a few loud-mouths who insisted they were the proper Emperor not that other fellow.

[2] Excluding the ones who said they were popes but they don’t count in The Observer’s book of Popes.

[3] Thems living in North America, for example, didn’t care.

[4] It may also be because I am content to wear trousers.

It is warmer today than in the recent past,* enough to open the doors a bit and let in some fresh air. I am enjoying a glass of iced tea, which shines brilliant with the incoming sunshine. Harper is a-snoozing on the yet-to-be-made bed. It is rawther pleasant. Today I was going to write something ‘psychological’ or thoughtful but the clement weather seems to say just enjoy the day and think (and write) erudite thoughts later this week. Today’s entry therefore is of no real news or of great importance. Spo

Speaking of writing, I recently found an essay I wrote in 1981, in college for an English class for a final exam. I got a 96.5 rating and an A+. I probably kept is more for the simple closing comment the teacher wrote in red ink at the end:

A very nice, full, ordered answer [to the exam question]!

It is amazing how a little compliment can do so much good to one’s esteem. While I did not become a professor or a professional writer as I thought then I would, I continue to write and pride myself on my prose. Thank you Professor Brono.

This composition was located in a large brown envelope, the sort attorneys used to keep for filing cases. In it are pictures I drew and some report cards, and my admission letter to undergraduate school. I plan to go through it all, and remember. It will make a good blog entry too, I reckon, provided it isn’t too maudlin.

Tomorrow is our anniversary, which I just calculated as #25, for we met in 1997.** Patience above!. 31 January is a very inconvenient day of an anniversary, especially this year as it falls on Monday and covid19 running amok). I wonder if Someone will actually remember. Other than acknowledging it is, I daresay nothing will happen tomorrow; it will be ‘business as usual’. In a way, ‘business as usual’ isn’t a bad way to commemorate twenty-five years of being with somebody. You go about your day, nodding a bit, at the amazement it managed to happen at all.

I may take a nap today; when in doubt, get horizontal. The iced-tea I mentioned may mar that endeavor, so I may get out my Christmas prize I received from SIL #2 and see how it is played. It is called Hnefatafl (say that three times fast!), a chess-like game played by the Vikings. The goal of the game is one side is trying to get its king from the center to a safe-haven corner, while the opponent is trying to prevent just that. There are a few instructional videos on The Tube of Yous. The instructors all look like Vikings themselves. I’d ask The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections to teach me, but they tend to make up things as they go along and most of them are sore losers. They also tend to play for high stakes***, so I better be ready if ever I challenge one of them to a game. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Hnefatafl isn’t learned in a day neither. If any Spo-fans know how to play “H”, I would be glad to set up as virtual game board with you and give it a try.

*21C, for thems interested.

**We met while staying at the same resort, in Key West Fl, at the social hour, over wine and nibbles. That is happened that day and neither one of us was looking for such are the only two things for which there is agreement what happened. The details and chain of events of what happened afterwards is an example of “The Rashomon Effect’. Naturally, both of us believe our version is correct.

***Swords, cattle, body parts, and lately, Bitcoin.

This morning we are going to get covid19 tests – again. Someone texted me yesterday afternoon one of his usher minions has tested positive, which means he is obliged to get a test of his ow and either return to work ‘negative’ for more exospore or stay home ‘positive’. I’ve lost count how many times this has happened; I am getting quite used to it. Lately I’ve gone along for testing too, on the grounds if he is positive, likely I am too. Neither one of us has any symptoms. There is a part of me that sort of wishes to be positive and get the damned thing over with, but the better angels of my nature says sooner I’d eat rats at Tewkesbury than have covid. As he always comes back negative, our prudence is paying off.

Every day out of habit I wake at 5AM. Someone sleeps in on weekends, so I have two to three hours of ‘me time’ before he rises to great the dawn. I make something hot to drink and attend to the laundry. The cold morning hours are a good time to iron those trousers, shirts, cotton masks, and the napkins. I am one of those weirdo types that insists on cloth napkins at meals rather than paper ones, of which we have plenty. Whenever we order something to go we get enough brown and white paper napkins to mop up a major spill. I keep some in the car glove compartment, as I do spill a lot there. There is something nice about ironing and sipping tea while listening to podcasts on a dark cold morning prior to the real day happening. It’s almost a let down when I hear him up and time to get going.

On any given day I am forgetting where I put something, and today’s Lost Boy is my beige jacket. In January it’s chilly enough in the morning to require a coat to go out of doors. I’ve looked in all the closets and in the car but no such luck. I suspect The Cup Sprites are in cahoots with The Car Key Gnomes they have moved onto bigger and more irksome projects than the tea cups. I have another jacket, green one from Wisconsin of all places, but the zipper is broke, so it doesn’t close. Tt is better than nothing I suppose.

Speaking of rubbish objects, I am pleased as Punch to say it’s the end of January and I’ve kept my resolution to discard something every day. Here are some examples:

A ‘contemporary’ psychiatry textbook, published in 2008.

A control device for a TV we haven’t had since we moved to Arizona.

A box of cornmeal with a vague but menacing expiration date, either 2005 or 2015 it is hard to read.

Low-cut stretch-type undergarments, bought in Palm Springs, maybe ten years ago, kept on the vow ‘someday I will fit in them again”.

We are supposed to attend two operas today, but we may use the excuse of ‘exposed to covid’ to stay home to iron napkins and such. Someone despises not using bought tickets, along the line of the ‘Sunk-cost fallacy’ but I am not so timorous to count my losses and be done with it, as illustrated by those mentioned undergarments. I would like back the beige coat. I plan to speak severely with the household fairy-folk to knock it off and produce it pronto or they will be the next on the daily discard roster. I know Someone would like not being asked continually has he seen my X, Y, or Z. He might even get up at 5AM for that.

Back when the PHX office was on Camelback, I had a pokey little office with a modest-sized desk. It was a basic metal type of thing, with a few small drawers and not much of a top for the screen and the keyboard. When we moved to the new place on Indian School Rd, the office I got was triple in size, which seemed to shout ‘get a real proper desk, no rubbish!” I did some research as to the one I might get, but this careful study was made redundant when I discovered the previous occupant of the office, the chief attorney of a departing law firm, had left behind his/her desk – so I inherited it. It is a king-sized-titanic-unsinkable-Molly Brown entity, as wide as a boat. It makes me feel quite butch and masterful to sit beside it (insert bad Freudian-type joke here). On the negative, the two chairs for patients on the other side of are a tad too far away. The patient and I would have to stand up and lean forward to shake hands if people did that sort of thing anymore. There should be some space between therapist and patient but not this much. All the same I like its ‘feel’, for it is made of proper wood and not out of some sort of plastic with a veneer of ersatz wood that peels in time.*

Nowadays most folks don’t have ‘desks’ but ‘workplaces’, an extension of a cubicle, with just enough tabletop for a computer monitor, a keyboard, some speakers, and one or two knickknacks to give it a personal touch. More’s the pity, as most of us spend a lot of time at work, sitting at desk, which is an extension of ourselves. At your desk you feel the captain of a proverbial ship as it were.

The previous owner of said desk had it face outwards that sitting allowed me to look out at the mountains, but I found this distracting from work, so I steered the boat around so it faces the opposite direction. Now the patients look past me out the window. Much better! This also allows the patient to get up and out without having to go through me first. One of the basic rules of interviewing people (especially patients) is never put yourself between them and the door out, lest they feel trapped and need to go through you on the way out.

If the The Overlords ever decide to be rid of me, I will leave the S.S. Spo behind for the next Joe to make it his or her own. Another ‘plus’ of the thing is it has a ‘full front’ which allows me to take my shoes off without being seen by the others across the desk. Oh the embarrassment.

*That type of desk resides in my MESA office. It’s pseudo-wood covering is peeling and makes it look cheap. ‘Should have bought German’, as Spos like to say to something going to pot.

Note: The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections were puzzled by this one, and almost didn’t let it through. I don’t blame them, I am not sure what I am saying here either. I thought writing my thoughts out would solidify things but it didn’t work. Spo

Earlier this week at work I met the newly hired RN (nurse practitioner). I am told via office-gossip there is another one making his debut next month. Last autumn there were vague ‘someday’ speeches from The Bosses one or more would arrive some day, and here they are. I don’t know yet what capacity they will be working. These things are not told to me. Over the 17 years at this job I have seen several nurse practitioners come and go and they never stay long; let’s see how long these two last.

I have mixed feelings about nurse practitioners. On the positive, having anyone with a working pager and access to a prescription pad allows me to go away to conferences or on holiday, covered person. Imagine a vacation without having daily to call into work! With a MD and a RN on-board, the patients have a choice of two types of providers. The nurses, usually female, are often preferred by female patients, especially ones with trauma or PTSD issues.* In my experience, nurses are better than doctors, and females are better than males, at providing support and nurturance in counsel, which are so important when dealing with folks with mental illness.

On the negative, the nurses (so far) have come with the attitude ‘I am just as good at this job, buddy”. In my experience this is not so. They boasted their abilities, but quickly bailed when encountering difficult cases. “Oh, I’m just the nurse” they tell these patients, and send them to me. If you are going to claim you are just as good as a doctor, don’t pull this ‘I’m only a nurse” on your patients. On the whole I do a good job, thank you very much, so I often look brilliant in comparison.

Another issue: they don’t stick around, they retire or find other jobs. When they go, which is often sudden, they leave patients in a lurch and I get them – many are not happy about the sudden departure of their provider, and several very unhappy and uncomfortable about seeing the big bad male doctor, member of the patriarchy, and all he represents.**

The pay for two nurses is probably less than the salary of one psychiatrist and the clinic gets more work out of them. If I were a paranoid, I would worry my post is now jeopardy and I will be sacked by The Overlords, as less lucrative.

I wish I was working with another physician. This is said out of professional loneliness. For awhile there was ‘The Other Doctor’ but he went away to do a small pay-out-of-pocket set up***. We didn’t have much in common and we didn’t interact much but it was nice to have a colleague next door to bounce ideas off of him and consult on psychiatry stuff. Finding a proper psychiatrist to work here is near impossible. I sense the clinic is hiring nurses as doctors are not to be found for love or money. The few shrinks looking for work are heavily sought after and they can choose from far more lucrative offers than our humble abode.

I learned the nurse I met will work with children and adolescents , which is more rare than unemployed psychiatrists, so she fills a much-needed demand. I hope she stays. The fellow showing up in February is a wait and see sort whether he will be full time or a part time person is he an RN, a MD, or some other alphabet combination, and is he well over four feet.

Do you see a RN or a MD for your health care? Are you satisfied?

In your experience, are RN practitioners as good/better/worse than the doctor?

*There is a paradox to this. In general, female patients do better with female practitioners, but you don’t say to a female patient “because you are female, you are being assigned to the female nurse, and not the doctor.” Not nice.

**On the other hand, some patients are glad to have a ‘proper doctor’ now, having seen the nurse when I wasn’t available.

***It turns out a lot of shrinks in PHX work only for cash. How they manage to pull this off I don’t know.

What’s top of my mind: my health insurance. I am sorry to report this is still not settled. Every time I think ‘it’s done and going” something comes up. The latest matter: getting a prior-authorization for my usual meds under the new insurance. The Good Doctor may not be willing or able to do so with the new insurance. If he can’t/won’t do/get a PA, or I have to scramble to find a new GP ASAP…..

Where I’ve been: The neighborhood. As I am not going to the gym these days, for exercise I do a daily walk around the neighborhood after dinner. First part is a 5-10 minute long leisurely staccato dog-walk. Then I drop her off and I go off on my own a fast trot for a total of 20-30 minutes. At this time of year there isn’t really anything to see. It is also twilight so I stay to the main roads lest I am attacked by javelinas or coyotes (it could happen).

Where I’m going: The Opera. Someone reminds me this weekend we have not one but two operas. The one in the morning is “Rigoletto”* “Live from the Met HD” seen at the AMC . That evening, we see the local production of “Carmen”.** I am dubious to sit through either. The latter requires vaccination cards and masks are obligatory. I plan to bolt if there are any shenanigans – or if the singers are less than stellar. It’s one thing to get covid, but it’s another thing to get covid while suffering through a bad production of ‘Carmen’. I’ve heard both operas countless times and I know every note, every stop along the way. As the singers go at it I compare what I hear to previous productions and recordings in my mind. This is why I prefer going to ‘new’ operas or infrequently performed ones so I have no previous expectations.

What I’m watching: History Matters. There is a clever chap on The Tube of Yous who does 5-10 minute-long cartoon bits answering the questions of history. Sometime they are a bit hard to follow as he talks quickly and the cartoon figures often have humorous contents so it is difficult to focus on the visuals and what’s being said. Here’s a typical one. Spo-fans of the Canadian persuasion can tell me in the comments if it is spot-on or not.

What I’m reading: ‘Witches abroad’. Terry Pratchett, whom you may know by his “Good Omens’ they turned into a TV series, wrote a series of fantasy spoof books called “The Discworld series”. It has a few subsets, one titled ‘The Witches” series. I am reading one now. Here’s a taste of his style and wit:

‘It was one of the weak spots of Granny Weatherwax’s otherwise well-developed character that she’d never bothered to get the hand of steering things. It was alien in her nature. She took the view that it was her job to move and the rest of the world to arrange itself so that she arrived at her destination.’

What I’m listening to: Dean Martin. At Christmas I got a sets of CDs of his music, for I was curious to know more about him after hearing a podcast on his life. “That’s amore’ I recognized right away (and thought of Cher) but that was it; the rest of the songs were new to me. Fascinating! My emotional reaction is these are they sound ‘dated’ and ‘quaint’; they are tunes my grandparents would have enjoyed. Mr. Martin had a nice voice and the songs are done well, but not to contemporary tastes, or at least to mine. There are too many violins for my taste. Curious too to consider singers who were ‘great’ in their day but have sort of faded into one-hit wonders, like “That’s amore”.

What I’m eating: Chili and grapefruit. Last weekend I made a crockpot of chili; it was fair. It had basic ingredients and it wasn’t ‘bad’, just uninteresting. Unfortunately there is a lot of the stuff, so I am looking for clever ways to get rid of it. If anyone knows a very good no-rubbish recipe for chili I would be grateful to hear from you the recipe. As for le pamplemousse, it’s that time of year: everyone’s citrus trees put out tons of fruit and all at once. The house across the street every January they harvest a dozen plastic bags-worth of large yellow grapefruit, which they put out at curbside, for anyone who wants them. I got me a bag, and I eat one each day for small chocolate cone. Alas, the others are already taken, so my ten freebies is all I get this year.

Who needs a good slap: Customer Service. I am dealing with various health insurance matters; the staff at work are trying to renew prior-authorizations for the new year; Someone is trying to get tax forms on one of his pensions. We are all dealing with long holds and when we finally get someone, they often tell us to call someone else, which is repeated and nothing gets accomplished. I try to remember many people are calling at this time of year for the same reasons, and the representatives must but short-staffed and haggard. This empathy isn’t enough (alas) to keep cool and not become frustrated if not cross.

On a 1-5 rating scale, I give Customer Service at Cox 4 slaps and thems at CIGNA 3. On the positive, Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, MI continues to have a 5-star customer service rating for response, help, and genuine cheerfulness. Sometimes I wonder if I order things just to have a positive customer service experience.

What I’m planning: A medical conference. I’ve decided to put in for time off and put down a deposit for my first conference since 2019. It is in June in Lost Vegas. This has the advantage it is within driving distance, allowing me to any funny business with the airlines. Someone says he will go too, of which I am glad, for I hate being alone in hotels. The conference takes place at some dive called Caesar’s Palace, not that I will see much of it, but Someone has to be entertained while I sit in a conference learning the latest on the treatment of addictions like gambling and shopping. Fingers crossed it will be safe enough to do. I am not a fan of Lost Vegas, for I am not a gambler, but they have some nice eats there and it’s amusing to watch people doing all sorts of shenanigans for a Hershey bar.

What’s making me smile: The humidifier. My state is sad one that ‘what makes me smile’ is an appliance, but there it is. I have a new one that replaces the old one that cracked when I dropped it (oh the horror). It combines the best of the senses: the fine steam that emanates from the top looks like a tea kettle, making billows of moisture that cascade down and disappear into the air. It has a fountain-like gurgle to it, just loud enough to soothe but not too loud to disrupt sleep. The tank has a pale blue nightlight, that I can watch (if I want to) the waterfall. I don’t know if it does any good viz. adding moisture for better breathing, but it is a comfort to have it, and fall asleep to its sonorous sound.

Not quite mine but close to it.

*It ends badly

**It also ends badly.

Consider going down at work to four days a week.

The writer of this tells this tidbit is based on taxes, not one’s well-being. I know lots of folks who would gladly drop from five four days a week of work – but their bosses won’t let them. It seems the opposite is happening: people are working every day to some degree, thanks to the so-called ‘time saving devices’ of email, cellphones, and the internet.*

I’ve been at my work-station since 2005 and I’ve seen many part-time employees come and go for Medicine is not a part-time job. The patients, calling on Friday for refills and crisis matters, don’t like being told their doctor or nurse works only Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and every other Thursday and the message will have to wait until then. Is my memory right on this one?: itt wasn’t too long ago if you were told your attorney, doctor, therapist, etc. were away for some reason, you had to wait, and while it was tedious, we did OK. It was a tradition in Psychiatry to take the entire month of August off, and patients had to muddle-through somehow until Labor Day. Now, the paging service starts calling me in alarm if I don’t respond to their text to call, sometimes calling me in less than five minutes, why I haven’t called.**

Americans in my opinion (this may apply to Canadians too) are anxious and suspicious about not working. The world may not spin if they aren’t at the helm; they fear they will miss out on something, or they will be seen as lazy do-little loafers not worthy of a job. That last point is worth looking at. I think a lot of my patients are wary of working less (even when they know they should) lest they be seen in a negative light by their taskmasters. Asking for a four day work week (let alone no work on weekends) is the 21st-century of Oliver Twist asking for more gruel. Oh the horror.

If I had a choice between working only four days a week or working M-F with no work before 8AM and none after 5PM, I would choose the latter. Going to 4 days a week would not slightly improve my life – not unless my job or society changes.

Do you work 4 days a week?

Do you think you could?

Do you think Americans are working ourselves to death? (or, if you are from a more civilized country, one with universal healthcare, for example) do you have four day work weeks?

*Have you ever gone to a place that doesn’t have ‘time-saving devices’ only to discover you have plenty of time?

** My turned-off phone for attending the theatre, meals at home or in restaurants, for taking a nap apparently borders on malpractice these days.

Mondays are actually my slower days at work, compared to the other ones. There is the usual Monday morning Rx renewals that come in all at once from pharmacies, sent over the weekend, and there are a few frantic calls, but these are predictable and soon addressed. This Monday will be more ‘exciting’ that I will be calling to renew my own prescriptions to test if my medical coverage is indeed up and running. Over the weekend a basic prescription was filled at Uncle Albertsons without fuss, so there is hope. Still, I’m not counting my chickens.

On the this week’s agenda items not typical is meeting with a nurse that got hired, which is news to me. There’s been rumors of such for some time, but no official word was given until I saw her on my schedule I am supposed to train her on using the EHR and I have an hour to do so. Fat chance of that. By the way, the last time I heard of it, The Overlords were hiring a nurse of the male-type, but the one on the schedule sounds definitely female. I wonder what happened to him.

Another Monday matter: possibly paying for a medical convention that is scheduled for June; the early bird deadline is this Wednesday. If I go, it will be the first in-person medical conference since 2019. I miss these shindings, not only for the chance to get out of Dodge but to pow-wow with my fellow wizards and earn credits in a lecture hall rather than via recorded lectures heard sitting at home. Do I dare take the chance by June it will be safe enough to travel? My license expires this July and (in theory) the State of Arizona could ask for proof of Continuing Medical Eduction credits, not just asking for every three year pound of flesh costing me 800 dollars.* Stirges.

I’ve decided this week to throw out all my journals that sit on the shelves in my office. Not once in my decades of shrinking heads have I ever pulled one down to consult them. All the latest news and updates are on line and on apps, so the paper journals mostly for something to put on the shelves so I look smart. Admittedly without the the shelves will look a little bleak, and I don’t know what else to put there. I suppose some tasteful objects d’art or clever knickknacks might be jolly, although come to think of it, the zoom appointments (still the majority of my cases) see only Urs Truly sitting in his chair. I suppose if I stare at the empty spaces long enough something will come to mind.

Otherwise it looks like another typical work week. I hope it is peaceful enough to allow some quiet time for The Muses or someone like them to enter in with more clever notions for writing than this one.

*In theory they ask for CME every time I renew my license but they never do. I need forty done by July; as of this week I have thirty. If I go to that conference I could earn 15 credits but what if the conference falls through?

After a time-suck work week I got around to reading my blogger buddies and I was saddened to read many are down in the doldrums or dealing with problems of work, money, covid, or just having a nonstop barrage of stress. I’ve a felt similar. Writing is my means of finding meaning and exploring myself – hey, the blog is about ‘reflections” is it not? – I thought I would try to write out my thoughts on this. Spo

At times it is hard to keep going. One gets discouraged by the woes of the world, and more how little good it seems one can do about anything. Every day has its digs, large and little, and unexpected events are the norm, not the exception. Doing ‘The Right Thing’ always gets a smart slap for doing so.* It touches on our desire for fairness: if we are good, we shouldn’t suffer for it. We see The Yahoos and The Gogans getting away with things, having themselves a ball, and wonder what’s the point. I managed to get to near sixty years old despite near-impossible odds yet rather than feeling a miraculous victory I wonder was it really worth it – at least at times when I too am down in the doldrums.

The month has been a roller coaster of emotions getting finances and health coverage figured out, and while it looks OK now, I’ve lost track how many times I have felt this way, only to have the rug pulled out from under me. Just as things settled at work, I got presented with a fresh hell from left field to contend with. As The Onion News likes to say: “This sh-t never ends”.

In C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” a senior devil writes his junior to never mind spectacular wickedness, just wear people down over time:

“But, if only he can be kept alive, you have time itself for your ally. The long, dull monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere. The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it — all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition.”

It is all rather discouraging. I know of many people in my life (bloggers included) going through hardships, and like all sane and emphatetic people I want to ‘do something’, fix things, assuage their sorrow. I confront this day long at work too: patients in pain (physical and mental) in what looks like impossible situations and somehow come up with something to help them.

I’ve had more slumps and Armageddons than I have teeth; I recognize one when it happens to me. I’ve learned not to listen to my inner-Mrs. Danvers [the b-tch] telling me ‘You’ve nothing to live for, really’. Instead I turn to my tools for troubled time:

Persevere. This sounds trite but it true. Situations and mood states pass in time, somehow. Stoicism reminds me Life is a series of obstacles: that don’t get in the way, they are the way. I will muddle through somehow.

Don’t lose sight of the positive. The brain has an ugly habit of reinforcing negative thinking but it also does the opposite. By focusing on the positive this helps the brain see more of it, and not lose perspective. A good exercise to enhance positivity is every morning before reading the email, I will email someone I know a thank you for you being in my life. This helps both sender and the recipient. Do this every morning x 3 weeks. It does the brain good.

Extract meaning and learning from the situation. Pain and sorrow by itself is meaningless. Somehow can find a lesson from it and grow in some way. It’s no surprise in “The phantom tollbooth” Milo escapes The Doldrums not by fighting, but by thinking.

Keep in touch. Call, text, zoom, whatever. We are in this together. The deeds done by common folk keep us going and light our spirits. They comfort us; the stiffen our spines.

Despite it all, Do the right thing.

In “The Plague” by Camus the main character says:

‘It may seem a ridiculous idea, but the only way to fight the plague is with decency’

When he is asked what decency may be, he replies:

“In general I can’t say, but in my case I know it is doing my job.’

Whether with friends, patients, or myself, it isn’t about ‘fixing things’ but being there. This doesn’t feel like much. Regardless, it is something and often a powerful something to deal with The Doldrums and the daily doings.

*Sometimes I know I am doing The Right Thing as it sucks.

First of all I wanted to say to my blogging colleagues I haven’t had time this week to read my usuals. I feel bad about this; it was a strenuous work week. I plan to catch up this weekend. Spo.

Patience above! The bean-counters at WordPress shows for years Spo-reflections has a steady daily drop-by of ~ 200 readers, many well over four feet. On Thursday, this surged to 3,000 viewers and yesterday Friday saw 6,000. It turns out someone was sending the same rubbish comment consisting of word salad which was posting on every entry I’ve written for the past decade. I finally blocked the b-stard but the comments kept showing up in the trash. There were thousands of them. I played a morbid game of ping-pong deleting them in batches as soon as the villain posted them. It seems to have stopped, but I remain on guard for a counter-attack. Hanging out with The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections has taught me a thing or two about vigilance against invaders.

The Christmas tree is finally down and packed away. We had to slowly cut off the tightly-twined strands of lights and that was some job. We clipped away at it whenever we found time to do so. On the positive, next Christmas we can put up any type of lights we fancy and if they go kaput, they are easily replaced. I want colored lights after a decade of white ones.

Mr. R—-, the pool man, sent a bombshell of a text message informing us the pool pump has died, and the sand filter needs to be replaced as well. There are a few other matters to attend to, all to the tune of ~ 5K. Oh the pain. The usual mode of operation when something goes kaput at La Casa de Spo is to learn to live without, but this one can’t be ignored lest the cement pond grows stagnant to resemble the Orinoco. At least we have the funds, thanks to Father Spo’s Christmas check.

It was a hell of a week at work which included more insurance matters; every time I think this is done there is another glitch to imply it isn’t a go. I think the last of the impediments are cleared but I’ve thought that 4-5x so far. I feel quite drained.

That’s about all the news for now, other than I weighed in at 76.5 kilos today. On 1 January I was 78 kilos. Let’s hear it for non-living.

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January 2022

Spo-Reflections 2006-2018