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March, 2007: 1 2 5 6 12 24 25

3/1/07-Thurs.-Had a better night. Mary was taking care of coordinating with AAA and her dealer about the dysfunctional car and so made and received calls well before sun-up. Her vehicle had to be towed. Turned out the problem was not the battery but a bad fuel pump. She got help from a co-worker to pick the car up late this afternoon after expensive repairs.

Frances and I set off for the Houston museum district a little after 9 AM. Our dog was upset, angrily barking at us as we forced her into her kennel yet again today and departed.

I got bummed out by the bedlam and mayhem of hundreds or thousands of not so well behaved kids at both the natural history and fine arts museums, creating the opposite of a calm or fun experience for people into the wonders of art, new knowledge, or science.

I realized too, all at once, that I had been wrong for so long to have felt deprived about not having been a school teacher. It was too apparent that only under the most ideal (unreal) circumstances could I have found that vocation really enriching. Even as a parent, the actuality of the experience might well have driven out my in prospect enthusiasm for such a role. Or am I just a late-in-life misanthrope, but would have been better (than I now think) at it when much younger? Hard now, as I'm in a different energy and mental place, to know. But certainly there is no call to beat myself over the head either that I am among the one-third or so in our country who, by choice or happenstance, remain childless, or that I was never an elementary school instructor.

In fatigue, extra stress, or whatever, Fran and I were less than fully representative of light and sweetness together on our return this late afternoon to Mary's place.

Then I went for a walk with Puff and felt better before we went out with Mary to eat at Jason's Deli, during the meal finding interest in a discussion of the main features of the last several decades (for a party of Mary's at work).

The best period of my day, ironically, was not related to the hopes I'd had for people or the museums, or not directly so, but occurred when I had given up my higher expectations and settled down alone on a grassy area in the shade of a downtown building for a little peaceful picnic of coffee and a roll, savoring a few minutes of quiet respite under a beautiful, blue sky, amid flowering shrub and tree surroundings, chirping birds, and light, cool breezes.

Similarly, the most rewarding time I spent today in the natural history museum was the better part of an hour when I was by myself, merely meditating on the floor and against a wall in a neglected alcove of the 3rd floor Mayan exhibit.

Packed up for the return journey and went to bed earlier than usual tonight.

3/2/07-Fri.-We got underway about 8:30 this morning. We were back in Austin roughly by noon. I picked up our accumulated mail. All was well at home. Soon after unpacking the car, a nap was definitely in order.

3/5/07-Mon.-Stopped for lunch today at Madam Mam's. This turns out to be a quite popular eatery. What the establishment lacks in atmosphere, it makes up for in tasty, reasonably priced Thai cuisine, promptly served.

This AM I went to the bank and library. I also got a haircut.

Am rereading Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Kafka, by William Hubben. Am also reviewing The Great Stink, by Clare Clark. I'll be leading a discussion on it later this month.

Lately, the weather here is beautiful, the days sunny, with highs in the 60s or 70s (F), and the nights cool, in the 30s. But our drought persists. May need to begin watering soon.

My wrist is improved. If this trend continues, I should be able to resume most activities, including giving Frances her long massage, by next weekend or soon thereafter.

Now that (in our best of all possible suburbs) we have new neighbors across the street, we once more have problems with folks destroying our plants out near the street, plus their loudly playing ball in the road in front of our place. Oh well. One must take the positive with the not so wonderful.

3/6/07-Tues.-Got up about 7, after a not so great night.

It was laundry time again. One of the Laundromat machines broke after starting its cycle. Several of the dryers also did not operate. And a work table was covered with a sticky chemical. Joy.

The wrist has been very symptomatic again.

The stock market's been down, at least till today's trading. We've "lost" around $40,000 in the past few days.

Fran's going to Dallas next week, a trip comparable to the one we just finished to Houston, but without time spent with relatives. She's interested in the aquarium, zoo, and botanical garden there. One person's wine is another's vinegar. After the last experiences in a large city, I feel the need of a longer break before more urban vacationing. Too bad we cannot at the same time be more interested in scenic areas and parks. But Frances does not mind going by herself. I'm disappointed our preferences do not so frequently mesh. Still, all things considered, we seem to do alright.

Fran and I had a coupon and so went to try a new (to us) restaurant today for lunch, Nuevo Leon, but it was one of those best not repeated ventures. The establishment appeared to be doing well, but we guessed it was mainly because it was in an outskirts of town area where there were as yet few other eating places. Once they have real competition, this eatery will probably fail unless the atmosphere, service, and food quality are much improved over the interim. Or, our cook and waitperson may have been having bad days. The vittles samples served to us could have just been atypical. Someone else might have a quite different outcome.

3/12/07-Mon.-Still on the earlier time (the new "savings time" having begun yesterday), I both got to bed late last night and got up late today.

In the wee hours of morning, the dog had been driving me crazy, needing to go out to pee about every five minutes, then getting drenched while too scared by the thunder (having our first good rain storm in a couple months) to do much of anything. I would dry her off, and then the routine would start all over again. Still, we received about two inches of rain. Alright!

Talked by phone with my mom last night. She had a visit over the weekend from my now almost deaf nephew, Joel. He had come for the stay with a hearing friend who knows sign language and so was able to help Joel and Mom communicate better than they can normally these days, but she said at times it was obvious that Joel, whose hearing has been dramatically going downhill, so that he can no longer be effective enough in his job as a teacher, was feeling miserably left out as his friend and Mom were conversing freely, and he was getting none or almost none of it. I experience loneliness at times, but it must be nothing comparable to this. A terrible shame.

Nonetheless, Mom and the young men had a good time, overall. In fact, she treated them to shrimp dinners at a local restaurant, they helped her with some chores for which strong muscles and backs were in order, and she also joined them at the zoo, managing to enjoy going around the entire circuit there with them. Now of how many 84-year-olds might the same be said!?

As usual, I did a couple library shifts last week.

One never knows when, out of the blue seemingly, something else will occur which puts new constraints on the life which is subsequently available.

I am thinking of a colleague and friend, another volunteer at the library, doing excellently over the many months I've known her, till a few weeks ago when she suddenly became mentally "frail." She had been highly competent and confident, retired, living on her own after a divorce from an abusive husband, and with two grown children off living their lives. A former broker, she easily was managing a dozen rental real estate holdings to maintain her liberal income. She is quite literate, often recommending to me new books to read.

But something happened a month or so ago, and since then she has been terribly anxious and no longer able to feel OK about things. Now, when ordinary, minor challenges occur, she cannot cope and goes into an emotional tailspin.

This past week, tenants in one of her properties moved out, and she cannot seem to get it together to do what she's done many times before: get the place cleaned up, advertised, and rented out again.

Similarly, a daughter had a minor injury a few days ago, and this has thrown her into a tizzy. I suspect either a change in her metabolism or a small stroke accounts for this major shift in her level of functioning. It is tragic and sad. I hope she may snap back to her old self, but am not optimistic.

The same thing could, of course, occur for any of us from one day to the next.

My wrist problems still quite symptomatic, I saw my doctor on Friday. He ordered x-rays, checked the joint's flexibility, noted any sensitivities, and diagnosed tendonitis. Gave me a new splint. He advised I should take 9 Ibuprofen (3x3 times) a day! He said this is prescription strength. I'm allergic to another anti-inflammatory, Naproxin (spelling?).

Began my search for a new and improved lawnmower today. Fruitless so far. One establishment sold what it called "good used mowers" but only ones with the same deficiencies as our last specimen. Another place had already sold its last mower (except for a couple reel types, non-motorized push mowers). Wal-Mart was selling mostly more junk, such as I had been messing with over the past year or two. A fellow in the neighborhood was selling one cheaply, but it was in even worse shape than the one we had just gotten rid of.

While at Wal-Mart, I did a bunch of other needed shopping.

Did our weekly investment analysis and bought some shares. Last Thursday, Fran and I completed the initial phase of our tax records preparation. Then I took the thick compilation of them over to our CPA. Just since then, I have now received a corrected form from one of our brokerages. So it must be copied and delivered to our accountant as well.

Frances was off playing duets with a friend this AM, then cleaning fallen live oak leaves out of our ponds in the early PM. As mentioned previously, she departs tomorrow for a few days in Dallas.

I'm as yet at times bummed that we are not in a more northerly clime and scenic area, we must travel so long and far to reach most such attractive locations for comfortable vacationing, Fran is not interested in trips we might take to the gorgeous places we'd once planned to retire in, and yet she likes going off on her own trips around here or to see relatives, etc. Inevitably, then, I'll have to go alone on very lengthy distant vacations or simply do without the experience of such regions. Inevitably too, I'll have times when Frances is away having fun and I'm minding the home fires, or else the "vacations" we take together are dominated by more or less obligatory visits in WI or FL, to spend time with her relatives.

Those above mentioned facts may as well be accepted. No point resenting that things are not the way I idealistically feel they are supposed to be. Whether through more grieving, dream work, meditation, and/or finding ways I can enjoy Canada, CA, WA, NY, New England, etc., without Frances, it is time I moved on, instead of continuing to negatively dwell on the same issues. I "did my own thing" for many years as a bachelor, only marrying fairly late. And I then linked my life with a woman I knew to be independent and self-sufficient. There is no surprise now that it is best I be relatively self-reliant as well. Besides, since we both retired reasonably early, we shall, willy-nilly, be spending plenty of time, more than most have probably, in abundant togetherness. So, let us appreciate our times in one another's company, and our opportunities for being apart as well! (Far better than being married to a "smotheringly" dependant lass.)

My meditation has continued. At times it feels very pleasant, including for awhile last night. Yet we are often reminded that it is not about pleasure or the lack thereof. And, indeed, there have also been many times when I am terribly depressed, when the long periods of sitting or whatever lead to my just feeling more crushingly unhappy. Neither emotional response is reliable or represents the underlying reality.

It must instead be about merely peeling the onion, sheer layer by layer, having faith that, once it is all, or much more, peeled away, the experience will become further refined, giving greater understanding and meaning to the time while sitting as well as the remainder of this existence. Some believe there is another life as well. Much as I would like to have that assurance, I certainly do not. Yet, chances are, an enhanced present is worthwhile in itself!

3/24/07-Sat.-"On the road again." Have stopped for lunch on the way to Waco for another visit with relations there. First, this morning I did a volunteer shift at the library.

Am still thinking about my dream of Dallas traffic and feeling extremely vulnerable on foot there with a dog under each arm. In keeping with the dream interpretation lesson, that I need to reduce the large amount of "busy-ness" and the many deadlines in my life, I'm seeking ways to simplify without giving up anything essential. I find that two ideas are helpful: 1. Supposing I were diagnosed with terminal cancer, what in my remaining life then would be most important, so long as I still had the capacity?; and 2. Supposing I were a monk in a meditation monastery, how might the daily agenda and setting be reduced more to the basic essentials?

Of course, we never know when death may come. Mine could be today or, in any case, well before it might be expected even for someone with incurable cancer. So, such a values clarification exercise is reasonable and useful.

Having a more monastic lifestyle was an idea directly from that dream.

Some tentative modifications to consider:

  • In general, cut down on the "multi-tasking" (i.e. generally not watching TV and eating or fixing a meal, etc., at the same time).

  • Keep things quieter.

  • Having a somewhat more reliable daily and weekly schedule (i.e. generally getting up at 7:30 and getting ready for bed around midnight or soon after.

  • Giving the very highest priority to doing at least 2½ hrs. daily of meditation, in a maximum of 5 separate sessions.

  • Also placing importance on getting sufficient rest, generally at least 6-7 hours a day.

3/25/07-Sun.-Yesterday morning, I woke up remembering a bizarre dream, like some of the surreal repeated identity robot sequences in the movie, "The Matrix." It left me wondering about my sanity.

At both my last Tuesday and Wednesday night book group meetings, something set me off and I started laughing uncontrollably. In other ways, some of my responses lately have seemed unusual. Intellectually, I sense that my own "matrix" is being challenged by a variety of things, the meditation I've been doing, lack of sleep, and the dream work, for instance. I used to put lots of hair styling stuff on after a shampoo, feeling the need for that control. Now sometimes I just don't bother or I use only a little. And now I do without the golf club I've used for years to ward off unleashed or stray dogs on my and Puff's walks.

Am I still me if I am changing so much I do not know from one day to the next how I'll react? Is this good, bad, indifferent? Could I stop it if I wished to?

I'd like there to be something safe, sure, and cosmic to hold onto. But I am an atheist, if god is defined as both all powerful and intimately personal, involved with, caring about, and potentially intervening in each particular sentient being's existence. I am an agnostic, if god is defined as simply some intelligent basis for That Which Is. Or as a highest state of consciousness, so advanced beyond the lowest states of awareness as to be god-like by comparison.

Lacking any codified religion to give comfort in a chaotic, alienating, and perhaps ultimately meaningless world, I find reassurance in a perhaps unlikely source: the value investing teachings of pioneer equity analyst, Benjamin Graham. They are reliable. One may depend on their truth and on the power of their prophecy. Stocks bought when Ben Graham would have agreed they represent good value reward exceptionally well the efforts at careful selection of the dedicated investor. Thus sayeth the Ben! A really lousy time, in some ways, here in Woodway today. But I am confident tomorrow will be better. If for no other reason, I'll then be buying a stock chosen in the manner of my sage mentor. So be it! Amen.

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