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David G. (the dear!) recently posted a thoughtful and erudite entry with the title

“What do I need more of in my life?”

Rather than giving him a short answer in the comment section, I am replying with an entry of my own. My first respond to the question was rather flippant. I responded with “a houseboy AND something I won’t write out lest my family be reading this”.  The entry could be comical or with gravitas.  I am going with the latter.

Yesterday I had plenty of time to contemplate this lofty question. I was busy around the house tidying up and tending to things that needed doing. I was quite happy to be alone and lost in my thoughts and activity – a true sign of introversion!

What do I need more? I need Time. I shall be cautious here, for Time can not be made or lost, only spent wisely or foolishly. Everyday (Lord willing) I wake up to 24 hours in which to do – what? Three things:

1 – Work. Like most folks my day is mostly consumed with my job and its needs. When I am not seeing patients, I am dictating note/charts, filling out forms and returning phone calls.

2 – The daily tasks of living, the mundane things like making meals and the bed, and taking care of the dog. There is always the ‘house problem de jour” that demands attention.

3 – Then there are the things I would ‘like to do”. These are legion. I started a list of them but it became as long as a line at Best Buy on Black Friday Best Buy. It made me shudder so.

#3 is what I want more of in my life. It sounds like the lyrics of a Jim Croce tune.

What I try to do each day is delegate some Time each for 3 and not  just 1 or 2 of time consumption. I might read, or work on my two books, or sew a shirt (many to do).  #3 type of Time is usually conducted in the portion of day formally known as Vespers. Alas I can’t do too much of #3 lest it eat into sleep.

So that’s your answer, David G. I want more Time, untainted with the demands of work and Life’s’ mundane maintenance. I suppose this makes my request to be a “Man of Leisure”.  How lovely that sounds.

PensiveOne of my favorite poems is Ithaka by C.B. Cavafy. This poem tells us it is not The End that matters but The Journey towards The End. However, one needs an end goal, something towards which you travel. It gives you the incentive to make The Journey.  Without an Ithaka one is likely merely ‘drift’ – or make no Journey at all.

Last weekend I did the usual there’s-work-to-be-done chores. I got through all the necessaries: paperwork, some exercise, and the laundry. I had a few niceties such as supper with the The Lovely Neighbor, and a show.  I cleaned the backyard so it is once more decent for sitting. It all felt good to do. It was a pleasant enough weekend.

Now it is Monday morning. I sit at my desk, preparing for another week without surprise or difference. They go by faster and faster in the spiral known as zenosyne.

I have a good life and job; I am not unhappy. Yet, there is something missing. I have no long term goals other than some half-baked Bucket list goals which never seem to transform into reality given all the daily doings demands. In short, I have no Ithaka.  And I want one.

Now, the opposite approach to Life is a sort-of ‘zen’ philosophy of living and loving Life’s contents allowing the years to go by without a worry where it all goes. It is a rudder-less boat you allow the wind to take where it wills. My parents never worried about ‘going somewhere’. They grew up, went to school, married, had and raised children, and retire to now make up their retirement days as they wish. They are very happy and content people. I wish I could be that way.  Alas, something else is in the recesses of my pumpkin that resonates with Mr. Cavafy’s poem. My psyche is not human but X-man that must find its Journey.

I suppose I would feel a bit more at ease if I had concrete tokens in place such as a will, a retirement vision and plan how to do my Bucket-list items. At the moment I have none of these – and the week’s demands will keep me busy enough to get to Friday as before.

I don’t know where this is going, which is the point. I am not content with The Cheshire Cat approach to Life.

I want an Ithaka, and soon.

journeys

too-much-web-ads

Like anyone who goes on Facebook or Youtube – or just goes poking about on the internet – I am inundated by advertising.  Even off the computer ads are everywhere. I pick up a magazine or medical journal and there they are. Last week a galvanic electronic sign – big as a house – was erected alonside Highway 101. It lights up the night like a carnival cruise ship; it can be seen from a mile away.

People are always trying to sell us things.

Like most people I try to ignore them all and I like to feel I am impervious to their siren songs.[1] Or am I? Advertisers, no fools, are becoming more and more surreptitious in their wily ways to get into our psyches. When they are not making up weasel ways to get me to buy their products, they are trying to wear me out through attrition.[2]

Perhaps I am living in a fool’s paradise thinking I am not influenced by the continual conga-line of company ads. I like to laugh at Mr. Z with his FB ads for I don’t remember any of them, let alone buy anything via FB. No doubt he has the last laugh; I’m certain he’s selling my data to all sorts of villains who hope to put up in front of me bright shiny objects of my liking. [3]

Like King Cnut, I may not be capable to hold back the sea of ads but I can be conscious and skeptical to the contents of ads. It helps from time to time to turn off and tune out from dastardly devices and read a book. It reminds me of the traveling door to door salesman. If the doorbell should ring we didn’t have to answer it.

 

 

[1] Having humming-bird brains is helpful. I am easily distracted by ads but I hardly pay any attention to them. By the time I have suppressed the pop-ups or have looked the other way I’ve already forgotten what it was. ADHD has its attributes.

[2] Most of the time this backfires viz. repetitive ads. By the fifth time I’ve been obliged to see/hear it, I make a vow I’d rather eat rats at Tewkesbury than buy the product. On the other hand every podcast has been flogging Blue Apron, and I’ve bought it.

[3] They must still be in the planning phase for personalized ads for I haven’t seen any for housekeepers, handsome hombres, and nasty chips.

The Lovely Neighbor is getting rid of all her things in preparation for her house sale and a move to Virginia. I am sad to see her go. When her mother Merle died last month I knew TLN would not stay alone in that big house when all her kin are back east. If she had her way she would give us her entire household.  “Take something, anything!” she said today as I visited her to see how she was doing.  I told her what I really wanted was a recipe. Merle made an oyster dip which she served at every party and dinner. That is what I wished to take to remember her.

Whenever someone dies or goes away for good I want a souvenir of them. This is never something large or precious, nor is it merely a photograph. What I want is a recipe. Food is my means to recall someone I love and miss. Friends and family get associated with a dish or cookie or even a cocktail. One bite or sip brings them back to me.

I learned today The Lovely Neighbor’s late mother’s recipe is neither complicated nor haute cuisine. It consists of two tins of oysters, diced, combined with some diced tomatoes (also tinned) and a few dashes or tabasco. That’s it. The dip is served with Ritz crackers. It is not ‘gourmet’ but it works. Its aroma and taste brings back Merle. I miss her. I surmise whenever I have oyster dip I will remember her. This beats all the photographs in the album book.

I have many such food-memories associations. Most of them are simple fare. None were consciously set up to do the job; they merely happened. I have a cup of coffee, I think of Lena. One cup of tea and I hear my grandmother. I nibble some edam cheese and I Grandfather is alive again. “I smell olives” conjures loving memories of The Cajun.

I suppose this is another argument for lots of home cooking and haggaes. I don’t care too deeply for inheriting Grandmother’s furniture. Her recipe for Russian Chicken*, handwritten on an index card in large cursive penmanship, is something I really cherish.

Spo-fans are invited to share if they have a dish associated with a loved one.

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*Russian Chicken

10 ounces of preserves: apricot, pineapple, or peach. 

I package of Lipton onion soup mix.

1 bottle of Russian dressing (or make your own).

Mix the three ingredients together and pour over 4-6 chicken breasts.   Cover and bake x 90 minutes at 350F.

David G. (the dear!) recently blogged how he goes about finding topics for a blog entry. He asked his readers how do they do theirs. My response is this entry. I have several roads for inspiration.

The first route is to sit on a tripod stool over an opening in the earth. I inhale vapors and go into a trance, allowing Apollo (or the Electrician, or someone like him) to possess my spirit. The cryptic babble is then written out in long hand. I don’t do this one much anymore as it gives me over-the-top wisdom hangovers.

The second is a surreptitious route: I go around my favorite blogs and steal their ideas upon which, such as how I decide to blog from David G.

Door #3 resembles Beethoven’s notebook. He would walk about always with a notepad. If a little ditty popped into his mind, he would pull out his notebook and write it down. Later he used it in his composition. The difference between Herr B.and Urs Truly is he used paper and quill and I use my iPhone. The other difference is he is dead and I’m not.

Most of the time I rely on #4, which is to sit in front of a blank screen and stare at it with a vacuous expression and wonder again what on earth am I going to write or should I finally give it a rest for Pete’s sake I’ve written on everything there is and there is nothing I haven’t dragged on stage from my life past or present and besides who reads this rubbish anyway and yes I said yes I will Yes.  Sitting and looking idiotic isn’t pretty or pleasant but it leaves the door open for members of Goddess-Groups Inc. to drop by for tea and inspiration.  Spo-fans know the Drama Personae:

The Fates

The Muses

The Norns

The Graces

The Furies

and

The Skanks *

One of these lovely lady-groups puts a kernel of creativity into the recesses of my pumpkin. Sometimes they take the Carol Kane approach “Sometimes you have to slap people in the face to get their attention”.

Once in a while, in a pinch, the bellicose Board sends me something upon to write, especially if they are in a swivet over drops in the number of comments. Their suggestions are either benign albeit useless “Hey, green is a nice color. Why don’t you write about something green” (which isn’t easy) or sardonic “Oh, for Thor’s sake anything but another “Walking the Dog” entry !”

It is amazing how I compose anything at all given these noisy Archetypes flitting about my Psyche like angry bats, but I manage somehow.

 

*Once – lord love us ! – The Archies paid a visit. The Board of Directors Here At Spo-reflections dumped them and their sottish entry into the Glomma. It was quite tactless but they were very angry.

I woke this morning to the sound of rain and the smell of petrichor; I was immediately transported into a good mood. Inclement weather does this to me. I feel at ease and happy on rainy cloudy cool days. They call for staying indoors and think introverted thoughts. It is on such days my Psyche turns inward to the Collective Unconscious for a visit with Qi. It would be a delight to sit with The Sage all day, without moving or saying a word, taking in an amalgam of  smells and sensations, waiting for wisdom to creep in like fire smoke.

I am at work at the Mesa Office. Today’s appointment book is solid from 8 to 5. This will not be a day of sitting quiet. I will be quite active, listening to patients and deducing what’s to be done. Many of them will require me to be “on my toes” as it were. This is hardly the quiet day I envisioned for Wisdom to sneak in an insight.

Or is it? We err in our belief The Numinous enters only when we are quiet and focused, or in a religious-like situation (whether formal or substance-induced). Wisdom constantly knocks at our noggins, seeking permission to enter. It is possible to receive such even when very busy or doing the mundane. It is like a quiet ostinato in the loud orchestra of daily doings. It is easily missed if you are distracted by the mundane melodies of the day.

By the end of the day I will have my usual fatigue having seen over two dozen patients and a handful of phone calls and crisis. The weather report says it will clear and it will be perpetual sunshine. The day will have had some Wisdom as well, if only I am aware enough to receive it.

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Pensive

LEAR

“My wits begin to turn.— 
Come on, my boy. How dost, my boy? Art cold?
I am cold myself. Where is this straw, my fellow?
The art of our necessities is strange
That can make vile things precious. Come, your 
   hovel.— 
Poor Fool and knave, I have one part in my heart
That’s sorry yet for thee.”

Spo-fans know these are troublesome times in history, especially in the USA. There is a lot anger, hurt, anxiety, and paranoia. This is accomplished by ill-will, poor manners, and downright nastiness. What to do? It is tempting to withdrawal and isolate oneself; it is easy to succumb to the dark side and join them.

Out of all of Shakespeare’s play King Lear is the most bleak. The villains get the upper-hand and there is no redemption. There is no sense justice or right has been accomplished . What keeps the tragedy from being utterly despairing is throughout there are small acts of kindness, like little drops in a bucket full of ditchwater. They are hardly noticed among the misery. Lear, The Fool, “Poor Tom” – all down and out – comfort each other. Only one stands out: during the blinding of Gloucester , an unnamed servant suddenly speaks out to say this is wrong. There is no apparent benefit. He is promptly killed and the blinding continues. Some see this as another example of the play’s futility but I see it as a loud blatant call to the audience to ponder doing something yourself.

Most of us think of heroes as the people who do dramatic actions like saving the world while the soundtrack swells and the nation applauds. I say real heroism is seen in the everyday deeds of good and simple folk. Their actions are hardly noticed. If they are they usually dismissed as insignificant. Power has a paradox: what looks to have power does not and what looks powerless holds power. I may never be called on to save a regiment but I can assist a person in need.

In light of Hair Furor and his minions turning people into faceless stereotypes I am doing something inspired from King Lear.  “Illegals” “Muslims” “Liberals” are labels which allow people to hate others as something nameless. When I meet a homeless person asking for money, or faced with a person at odds with me politically, I ask them their name. I tell them mine. This deflates the dynamic of seeing a person from a faceless nonentity into an individual. It’s easy to hate ‘them” but not so one person. Then I say “John, it won’t change until we talk” or “John, here’s a quarter. I wish it were more. I am sorry for your plight”.

Perhaps like Lear, these small deeds will not stop the tragedy. Maybe my attempts at standing up for the Gloucesters of the world will only get me clobbered.  Objecting to autocrats and refusing to turn others into nameless “Thems” may be all the heroism I can be. I hope it makes a difference in these trying times.

King-Lear_HARRY-MELLING_FRANK-LANGELLA_STEVEN-PACEY-_PC-Richard-Termine.jpg

This blog entry is inspired by the death of Roger, at 3rd and long.

“And I, brother John Clyn, a monk from Kilkenny, have written in this book the notable events which happened in my time, for I saw for myself, or have learned them from men who deserve to be believed.  So that these notable events should not be lost from the memory of future generations, I, seeing these bad things, and die whole world surrounded by evil, wrote down what I heard and investigated; and I leave parchment for my work to be continued, in case any man can escape this pestilence and continue the work I began.”

This quotation is from the time of The Great Mortality, commonly called “The Black Plague” of 1347-352.  This monk saw the world he knew literally dying.  Whole villages were dropping dead and civilization was coming to its end.  He writes with the resignation death would soon come for him. At the end of his entry, he leaves room on the page. I like he is thoughtful so about his readers. I also like the sand-grain-size hope perhaps someone will live to carry on the journal.  This grim bit of history has always fascinated me; perhaps I am haunted by him. How responsible is it for the living to carry on the work of the dead? 

In the decade-plus years of blogging I have seen the end of countless blogs. Most times the authors seem to simply lose interest and stop writing. They do this without word of warning or explanation. I drop by from time to time in hope but I usually stop after six months when I recognize they are not coming back.  Once in a while I know the reason is the author has died. Someone (usually a relative) comes on to write a note to tell the readers the author has died.

Most of the time when I realize a blog is kaput I stop going and these are forgotten. Sometimes while editing my old entries I see a comment that makes me recall an old blogger. I press on the link and I am back to a place I haven’t visited or remembered in years.  There it is, sitting there like a souvenir of a holiday long ago forgotten.

However there are some defunct blogs I have bookmarked for me to revisit from time to time.  These are more like virtual gravestones. I can drop by and read an old entry.  They remind me of saved old letters written by deceased aunts and grandmothers. 

I wonder what would become of Spo-reflections if I were to suddenly die. I fret Spo-fans would be in a lurch as to what happened. I plan to prepare for such an event, for I don’t want people wondering where did I go all of a sudden. The late Roger and his quick demise prompts me to finish my editing. I want my blog published on paper lest I croak or WordPress suddenly pulls up stakes etc.

I don’t plan on dying anytime soon; I hope for years if not decades of scribblings to come. But you never can tell.

 

“Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”

untitled

 

Is better to have a short life with heroism and passion or is it better to live a long and comfortable life? To other modern man the question seems a silly one. The vast majority of us want the latter: a long and prosperous life of self-care, without drama or relevance to others. We hope to live to 90 and die without leaving a mark.

This wasn’t always so. There are some who still choose a life of heroism. Often these lives are cut short yet these names live on in history as people who made a difference. Joan of Arc, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Tecumseh come to my mind.

The Jungian archetype of the struggle between contentment and passion is The Achilles Archetype. For those who don’t remember“The Iliad”, Achilles is the son of a mortal man and a goddess. We see the dichotomy of the question in his make-up. He is told he has two paths from which to choose: he can stay home, grow old, and have a happy marriage with children, be prosperous, and then die in obscurity. The other choice: he can have a heroic meaningful life full of honor and glory but die young. He chooses the latter, and he dies in battle. By today’s standards it looks to be a useless and senseless death. Yet his name lives on in our collective consciousness as The Warrior. His story is known throughout time.

The opening quotation is from Joyce’s “The Dead”; it is a reference to a Michael Furey, who died at 17 for the love of a woman. He is in contrast to the woman’s long time nondescript spouse Gabriel Conroy. Their marriage is pleasant and stable but in her heart is the passion for the boy who loved her so.

I am one of many who choose the stay home/be quiet and try to live a long, prosperous, and uneventful life. Every once in a while, when I read the stories of such men as Achilles or Michael Furey, I too feel the pang of lack of passion. Can I have some passion in my life, although it means (but the very definition of the word) some suffering?

In this new chapter of US History the times seem to call for men and women of passion to rise up and not choose creature comforts. Even if it hurts, even if it shakes up our lives, the times call for us to get more in touch with Achilles, come out of our tent and fight even if it means some loss. Am I brave enough to do so? Are you?

iPhone-email-group.jpg

I just finished listening to a podcast on how to manage email. Apparently normal people are continuously inundated with the wretched stuff to the point it becomes a time-sucking entity in desperate need of containment. The teacher gave tips on how to write email to better communicate the ‘gist’ of the neutral words; she also gave ways to prevent endless emails from going back and forth like a pingpong ball. It was all most fascinating especially because none of was applicable to me as I don’t get any.

There is email at work but the staff never uses it. Like Charlie Brown hoping for a letter I look for something, anything in my inbox but I get nothing. The bosses seldom need to communicate with me, and when they do they use the EHR or call me. If I want to communicate to The Wonder Receptionist I only have to walk next door and speak with her. The therapists were told not to put patient matters into not-secure email; since this is the only reason really they would want to talk to me, none bother.

My personal email box gets maybe a dozen a day. Most of my time on email is to delete not read. Most of it is medical news, of which I read the headlines and into the rubbish with it. Spam is surprisingly minimal. A proper email from an actual person with real content are as rare as ravens.  I guess I am lonely; I want a letter telling me your news.  I get such but it arrives in texts or FB announcements rather. Email is becoming more and more just a nuisance.

Getting back to the topic of work email, what is blatantly missing is patient email. In Medicine (psychiatry no exception) patients are all for it while their doctors would sooner eat rats at Tewkesbury than have it. Imagine the daily email from hundreds of patients, many with poor boundaries and/or with the patience of a boiling kettle! Besides becoming the time sucking vampire mentioned in the podcast, there is the security factor:patient information zipping through the internet without security. * Then there is the tedium of making sure all email gets into the charts.

A colleague recently tried email with patients but soon abandoned the experiment. His made it quite clear email was not for emergencies or to renew prescriptions or for billing/scheduling purposes. Of course this is exactly what patients wanted and they ended up doing anyway. Patients become irate ‘they had emailed about needing valium and/or thinking of killing themselves’ and the doctor didn’t get back to them immediately. Apparently he checked his email box 2-3/week at scheduled times. He soon scraped the system and stated he doesn’t look back.

This week I will send some email to some long time chums whom I haven’t heard from in awhile. I have to think of something to say. I lead a dull life.

I am curious to hear from Spo-fans if they use much email at work or at home or do you not bother but still call people or write letters.

I am told this can be fixed somehow, but the bosses are not willing to shell out the money for such.

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