Pensive

It is Sunday evening and I am staring at the bright white screen that is Mac Pages and nothing is forthcoming. I feel like I’ve not had anything worthwhile to write for a week. There is nothing erudite or witty upon which to compose. My mind’s a blank. I feel I should just go to bed.

This worries me viz. running out of ideas upon which to blog. Perhaps it portends Spo-Reflections is coming to its close. I find I am writing more out of obligation than passion to do so. Maybe I just need a hiatus. Even writers need their rest now and then, don’t they?

Rather than going into lamentations and hysterics perhaps I should just sit back and wait. I am hoping my public announcement of a possible closure is enough for The Muses, The Graces, The Fates (or any group of goddesses) to overhear this jeremiad and send me something right away.

Perhaps I am merely impatient. This Thursday I fly to New Orleans for a medical conference. I am certain to learn some interesting tidbits to turn into entries. The city alone should have something for an entry.

Being tired doesn’t help. Work demands coupled with all I try to do makes for long days and not enough sleep. Neither state of being makes for quiet times for inspiration.

So with that saidI will retire early. I will turn off the The Great Courses and all the podcasts and go read a book. After all, reading often inspires writing. Perhaps Spo-fans could leave me some suggestions upon which I may expand.  Any tidbits are appreciated.

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I am conducting an experiment on myself. I am seeing how long I can go between cellphone use. On my iphone is an app that records the length of time I am on the phone and how many pickups have occurred. The preliminary data is ominous:

  1. A lot of my time is spent looking at the thing – 6-8 hours per day.
  2. I have so many pickups I qualify as a babysitter a disconsolate two year old.

Oh the embarrassment.

I like to imagine myself cognizant and clever but my cellphone consumption makes me feel a chump. I’m ready for my “You are not so smart” podcast interview.

So I have it off or dark; it sits next to me at work. I see the phone lying there, taunting me to come look at it. Don’t you want to see the latest Trump-shenanigan? Facebook has some new posts, come see come see!   It reminds me of the poem  “Goblin Market”  :

“Morning and evening

Maids heard the goblins cry:

“Come buy our orchard fruits,

Come buy, come buy!”

The phone periodically sends out pings and other siren-song noises to alert me ‘something is here” hoping I will drop everything (as is my wont)to find out what just arrived.  It makes me aware how I have let technology train me to jump when called.   Well I am onto it and will resist and abjure. I am allowing myself an every two hour check in to make sure the world is spinning despite my absence.

I don’t do drugs but I sense my uncomfortable awareness and longing for a look is no different than someone trying to give up smoking or such. The suspense is killing me; I wonder how long it will last.

In theory if I limit my use and not check continually this freed-up time will make me a better person and be less stressed and live longer and the whales will all be saved -or so I hope. Mostly I want to be in control of it and not the other way around.

After I achieve this virtuous goal I think I will eliminate some of the phone apps, starting with the app that records the length of time I am on the phone and how many pickups have occurred.  There is some delicious irony to that, no?

Quick – is there a poet in the house? I am driven to distraction trying to remember the name of the author and/or title of a certain poem. I have only one line to connect me to it, something about mother telling me what matters at a funeral not what you said but that you showed – but I doubt I have the words right.  Oh the pain.  Using The Google isn’t any help for it is a case or garbage in gets garbage out.  Typing in the words “Poem” and “Mother taught me” generates a myriad of close-enough-no-cigar poems (most of poor quality, written on Mother’s day). I suppose I should let it go so when I least expect it the actual poet/title/lines will suddenly pop into my Gulliver.

My memory lapse also happens with bits of lyrics to songs, but this is usually not a problem for long. Someone easily identifies song bits for me, sometimes coming up with the title of the tune even as I struggle to explain what it is I am trying to remember. Opera arias and show tunes are conveniently covered by a coterie of consultants (curiously, most are named Will). Alas, I don’t know of any Spo-fans who are expertise in poetry.

When I was a boy it was considered clever if not high-class to have a handful of poems memorized for sudden recitals (upon request) but these requests never came and I’ve lost the key to safety deposit box in my brain labelled “Poems: memorized”. Even the poetry books on the office shelf are a challenge to remember what poems are in which tome.

I should start writing down Spo-poems and favorites in some sort of work document for easy retrieval. This exercise may jostle my memory to recall how to recite a few of them – other than Mr. Eliot’s Guide to Practical Cats poems.  Spo-fans are welcome to leave in the comment his or her ‘favorite poem’ title(s) for me to look up and read. Who knows, maybe someone knows the poem about “what mother taught me” (author begins with a “B”).

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I am bereft of anything worthwhile on which to compose, so here are three random thoughts. I hope they amuse you. I look forward to something more substantial showing up soon. 

 

insanity My parents soon celebrate their 57th wedding anniversary. It amazes me how can two people stay together for any length of time let alone sixty years. I’m supposed to be an expert in relationship dynamics (having gone to shrink school) but it still bewilders me how on earth anyone pulls it off. Perhaps by mostly staying out of each other’s way.  On the other hand Someone hasn’t booted me out after twenty years so there it is. I must be doing something right.

 

insanity I came to work today to discover my once capacious office now has a dry wall cutting the room down to 2/3 its original size. The original wall hasn’t been demolished so the 1/3 remains open. The bosses hired a nurse practioner who starts next week; they are turning my office and its neighbor into three offices so she has some space of her own. I dislike her already. I shouldn’t be too shocked or surprised about my incredible shrinking office. I was told on Day #1 this was the plan, but after two years it sort of slipped my mind.  A few bold patients asked me what is going to happen to the long narrow third part of my office . I told it is being transformed into an oubliette for difficult patients who don’t take the medicines properly or pay their bills.

insanity Spo-fans know Urs Truly has a long time fascination for storms especially hurricanes. I know Hurricane Irma is no good, but my inner 6 year old is squealing with anticipation of where she may land and the destruction it will bring.  When were were  growing up all my brothers took delight in making cities out of LEGO or building blocks only to release the giant mutant gerbils onto the suspecting Fisher-Price people population or bomb them to smithereens with airplanes filled with Lincoln logs. All little boys seem keen on death and destruction. I don’t know if little girls feel similar about blowing things up. Meanwhile I hear all of Florida is trying to move north into Georgia, poor souls.  I read Mr. Limbaugh feels Irma is just a ‘liberal hoax’. I hope she plows smack-dap into his house and takes away his roof. This is not nice of me to imagine I know but there it is.

The Board of Directors sent a terse text telling me not to write any more entries about dead animals, fancy words, or ‘work’. This doesn’t leave me much to write about. I am in a xeriscape – oops! – better write I am in dry period.  Sometimes is it best just to stare at the blank Mac “Pages” on your laptop and hope something happens.

A Spo-fan asked recently how goes the great recipe collection project. There seems to be no end in sight. Every time I think Part I is complete* I discover more magazines waiting to be structinized. I grab a few each time there is a car trip. It’s still too hot to cook much, but I am looking forward to cooler days when I can make some autumn soups and stews. Apples are good this time of year, as are the grapes. I would cook some squash but there is only the two of us. Last time I made squash I had enough left over to feed the neighborhood. Neither one of us enjoy leftover squash and I feel great compunction to put it all down the swanny so perhaps not.

I’m purposely going through the October and November issues hoping to find some interesting recipes for the pending holidays. They are easy to spot for every one of them has a turkey on its cover; everyone has imperial varieties on how to do Thanksgiving with panache. It is “Thanksgiving in Santa Fe” in Bon Appetit while Gourmet does “Thanksgiving in Virginia”. Mostly this means altering the stuffing ingredients and the basting herbs, and you put chiles or greens in the side dishes (respectively).  I grew up in the Midwest; our Thanksgivings were noteworthy for no variation and no flavor. Our fine herbs and spices consisted of salt and pepper – and enough squash to feed a the neighborhood.

All this recipe research is probably for naught as Someone is going to work Thanksgiving day leaving me home alone. Preparing a gourmet dinner for just two people is hard work and we will probably still be dieting anyway. I may merely open a tin of soup and call it supper.

So why on earth am I accumulating all these fabulous sybarite recipes if I ain’t gonna make any of them? A fair question. There is an element of hope someday I may have time/energy, enough for a dinner party, and a waistline small enough to make some. If so, I want the “Thanksgiving in New England” which seems to have oysters and lobster in it. This beats The Midwest menu by a country mile.

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“Thanksgiving with The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections.” 

 

Part I :  Take all the magazines and rip out the recipes that give an initial impression of sounding good to try.

Part II : Go through them to eliminate the redundant ones and the ones not looking as good as first thought.

Part III: Start making them, one a time, say 1-2/week.

Part IV : Keep the ones worth repeating. Discard the ones that were page 71.

“Always do what you are afraid to do” – Emerson. 

A Spo-fan recently asked me what sort of patient is ‘the hardest’ type for me to deal with. The usual guess is someone who has schizophrenia or a borderline personality. It is the patient with anxiety who challenges me the most.

At the base of all anxiety is discomfort. When we worry or experience anxiety*  it makes us uncomfortable. We are wired to be on the lookout and ever vigilant for threats to our well-being. Alas, the lizard-parts of our brains do not discriminate between a scorpion and a deadline.  Anxiety only becomes a ‘disorder’ when it is too frequent and intense – and problematic.  Anxiety makes a good servant but a lousy boss. Treatment is geared towards reversing the role.

Over the years of treating anxiety I’ve seen a shift in thems with anxiety -and it is not good. The real treatment for anxiety is a gradual exposure and rethinking of the anxious person towards the realization the anxiety is over-rated and unfounded. One learns to lower the level of discomfort and/or live easier with your worries. “Yes, I am still uncomfortable, but it isn’t as intense, and I can deal with it”.  That is a good outcome.

What a lot of anxious people want nowadays is the unrealistic goal of NO anxiety. Any little amount is seen as overwhelming and unacceptable. In summary, people are finding it harder to manage discomfort.  It is human nature to want to avoid things that cause anxiety and discomfort.  But by going into it rather than away paradoxically deals with anxiety. In the cave you most fear to enter lies the treasure you seek.

Urs Truly tries to lead by example. Often when The Timorous Tim within me says ‘No, go, turn around” I pause and proceed. Here is a simple example. Yesterday at the gym The Personal Trainer wants me to do ‘lunges’ something I do not like (as it causes intense physical discomfort) and they make me anxious, so I often quit long before the assigned length.  I took the approach a) Yes I will feel short-winded and b) I will probably fall over but both are not the end of the world nor as bad as I imagine them to do be. So I did them. I did not fall and I yes I was quite exhausted. I felt exhilarated. I had faced my fears and done well enough. I still don’t like doing lunges, but I am going to continue doing them.

I try (not very successfully I might add) to get patients to practice doing  what makes them anxious, whether it is making eye contact or going back to visit the place where they felt anxiety.  What they want of course, is Valium to simply lower their anxiety.

This week I have made a little list of things I’ve avoided doing or confronting out of avoidance of anxious discomfort. Like The Mighty Hercules I will address them one by one and be victorious, realizing these labors weren’t that laborious – or scary – as they claimed to be.

 

*”Worry” is technically the anxiety we imagine while ‘anxiety’ is the physiological elements of the condition. I worry about my mother; in my anxiety I have palpitations and shortness of breath and pacing. This is straw splitting; most of the time the words are interchangeable.

There is a dead pigeon outside my office. The wall against the patio is all glass; the bird must have flown into it. I hope its death was quick and painless. The sad-looking corpse lies within eye sight to remind me of the ephemeral. It acts like an aviary Psychopomp. I should probably have this Arizonian Norwegian Blue removed before I become too melancholy about it but I am timorous to touch it. I suppose I could gingerly kick the corpse onto a newspaper and lob it over the patio wall, but I am afraid it would land on a passerby three floors below. There is nothing quite so sad as to have one’s pate struck by a dead decaying pigeon.  The scientist in me is curious to let it be to watch how long it decays away but this is morbid.

Poor thing. Before its eyes imploded it had a disconsolate look on its face, as if the pigeon had realized just before death how little it had done in life. While it is a doleful reminder about our brief time it probably isn’t the best thing for depressed and suicidal patients to see while telling me their woes.

I think I will ask the custodian if he would mind to come sweep it up for me. Perhaps by Wednesday when I return it will have been spirited away somehow or burned up in the not PHX sun.

I don’t know why a sad-looking dead bird evokes such sadness. Death happens. Pigeons don’t last long even under the best of circumstances. Perhaps evolution is at hand screening out the ones who can’t deduce glass from air.  In general I hate seeing animals suffer.  Seeing Texans lament their losses in the recent flood didn’t evoke emotions so much as seeing the stray cats and dogs – that made me want to donate my dollars.

I wonder too what awaits me, what encounter might do me in if I fail to see the fateful glass in front of me.  Perhaps all too soon I too will suddenly drop suddenly dead and someone must haul me away to the rubbish bin along with the other dead birds.  Dear me; contemplating on a dead pigeon is rather depressing.  I think I better go watch some Bugs Bunny cartoons in order to cheer up. Watching Daffy Duck getting continually shot by Elmer Fudd is a near-guarantee to do so.

Verschlimmbesserung (n.) German: An intended improvement that actually ends up making something worse. 

Oh those zany Germans! They have the most marvelous words! Leaving well enough alone is like not pressing the already lit elevator button. One just can’t resist. I suppose it is human nature* to not leave things alone but to tinker and poke about hoping to improve on the original only to make a mess of things.  For your edification and entertainment, here’s a few examples of Spo-verschlimmbesserungen.

The Dry Martini.  This classy cocktail consists of gin, vermouth (no rubbish please) and a cocktail onion or olive. There. That’s it. It is simple, eloquent, and tasty – like my men – or was, until people figured it had to be ‘improved upon’.  Alas, one can’t readily go to a bar and ask for proper martini with the assumption the bartender knows what they are doing. Alas, alas, you are asked do you want gin, vodka, or some other spirit. Then there are an array of colorful add-ons that have no business being there. Dry Manhattans are not too close behind in my catalog of complaints about corrupted cocktails.

Opera preludes.  This music was made to evoke a mood state in the listener prior to the curtain going up. The audience is to sit and use their imaginations to set the tone in time for the first scene.  “Never stage the overture” was a sensible rule until modern producers figured the audience would be either bored sitting there without something to see or they needed ‘help’ to understand what the music is about. More often than not one sees a dreadful tableau or an assortment of shenanigans that merely distract from listening to the music. This is the last thing Verdi, Mozart, and that crowd were trying to accomplish in the prelude. Sometimes I just sit there and close my eyes. Sometimes I actually wake to see the opera.

Hotel clocks. The average hotel patron wants three things from a clock: tell the time; play some music; wake me up at a time of my choice. A few simple on/off knobs etc. did nicely.  Last time I was in a hotel room the clock had more options on it than seen in a 747 cockpit. I could not even figure out how to correct the time. I ended up just using my watch.

Coffee. I don’t often buy any but when I do I cringe at the order counter as I view the myriad of options. My eyes cross when I overhear regular patrons of SB ask for a triple, venti, soy, no foam latte or something of that ilk. Urs Truly when he orders is looked upon as an object of suspicion.  Imagine the following:

Yes sir can I help you?

Yes I want a cup of coffee

(Long pause as if I just asked for a dead rat) What sort of coffee?

Just a cup of coffee… er… small.

(Another pregnant pause as the barista contemplates if they should call the manager)  Do you want that tall? 

No, just a plain small cup please

Nothing in it?

(Sensing we are recreating Monty Python’s Cheese shop sketch) No, I am fine with a plain cup.

Which coffee do you want plain?

(Sensing madness coming on) Oh, the house blend.

Shall I leave room for cream or sugar?

(Biting my tongue not to be snarky about the sottish sugar)

No, that will not be necessary. 

Oh OK then.

Small wonder I drink tea.

I could give some other examples of simple things bloated or altered to the point of Kabelsalat but it just depresses me.

Spo-fans are invited to leave in the comment section their personal favorite Verschlimmbesserung – provided you don’t mention medical insurance forms. 

 

*Especially if you are a Virgo.

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I very much enjoy the podcast “Hello from the Magic Tavern”, which is a jolly good fun.  Think of a combination of Firesign Theatre and Dungeons and Dragons. One of the podcast’s charms is its zany spin on the Archetype “Stranger in a Strange Land”. Arnie, a man from Chicago, has fallen through a magic portal (located in a Burger King) into the magical land of Foon. He is trying to make sense of it all while trying to fit in as best he can.

The Stranger is often put there not on his or her free will but by fate or accident. Alice falls down the rabbit hole; Dorothy is whisked away to the Land of Oz.  Joe Gillis makes a wrong turn and ends up in the world of Norma Desmond.  Stranger in a Strange Land isn’t just found in fiction. History is full of such types.

Once in the Strange Land The Stranger has to come to terms with the natives, who often don’t understand or trust The Stranger “Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?” Choiceless, The Stranger has a choice to assimilate or figure out how to get home.  Lawrence of Arabia does the former;  Dorothy of Kansas does the latter.  Oliver Wendell Douglas is a comic spin on the archetype. He doesn’t try to leave but wants Hooverville to assimilate to his ways. Oh the pain.

We are in touch with this archetype whenever we enter a situation where there are people we don’t know.  When we start a new job or join a club or church the archetype is evoked.  I felt such when I traveled last week to Charleston and Savannah; I was a stranger in a strange land.

The archetype reminds us The Stranger and The Strange Land need each other.  The Stranger won’t survive or get home without help from The Strange Land. The Strange Land is always touched and altered by the Stranger. We can’t grow staying at home; we only grow when we enter The Strange Land.  It is scary and uncomfortable and even hazardous but necessary.

cropped-peninmouth.jpgSpo-reflections has had a brief hiatus, mostly due to my lack of time, having come back from a week’s holiday. Another reason for the lack of entries is The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections went away on their annual trek too, but they are not back. They are on a cruise to Oslo; they don’t know how to operate the internet, so I am not getting threats to put out as it were. I also lack an idea upon which to write. Apparently The Muses went on the same cruise.

So what is a blogger to do under these circumstances? When in doubt, get horizontal. Despite having a list of ‘to dos’ as long as my arm I may out of spite do nothing at all and merely go to bed. One exception: I should satiate the Spo-fans with a few imperial tidbits lest they become tetchy.

I returned to work to find my wall hadn’t been knocked down and the office divided into two. The Boss-man has been meaning to do so for years and there were hints that during my week away it would be a good time to make good on his threat. I wonder what happened -probably his ‘mañana’ approach surpassed action. I wonder where he means to put the nurse whom the recently hired.  In the end it is not my problem.

The Personal Trainer wants me to start counting calories and weigh myself daily. This is a lot of extra work and fuss, especially to weigh out everything that goes into my pie-hole. There may be method to this madness: rather than get out the scales and log my food log I just skip eating to avoid the hassle. Works for me.

Summer is almost over and good riddance to it. This summer seemed unseasonably hot, perhaps from global warming or maybe I am just growing intolerant to the heat. I was hoping this weekend to tidy up the yard but if the temperatures remain above 40C I may delay – again. I think it quite sensible of The Muses and The Board to have high-tailed it out of town to latitudes more cool. I hope it cools down soon and they return quickly, bringing with them fabulous souvenir ideas for me to write. I have my fingers crossed. I can count on The Muses but not on The Board. Last time they went a-viking to the Land of the Fjords they brought me back a Grandiosa Pizzas.  You try justifying that one to The Personal Trainer.

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