STEPS / Main Page / Index / previous / next
July, 2006: 2 6 12 22 26 31

7/2/06-Sun.-To paraphrase Mark Twain, early yesterday morning Frances and I discovered that, happily, reports of the death of our amorous life had been greatly exaggerated.

My mother and a late-twenties niece, Diane, arrived that afternoon. We saw "HMS Pinafore" together while Fran performed in the orchestra. All had a great time.

I have enjoyed recently reading the novel, by Michael Cunningham, Specimen Days, particularly the last of its three parts, a story set in the future and involving a relationship between a young human male, an android dealing well with adult emotional and existential issues, and an alien female who looks like the Geico gecko, only much larger, but has a lot in common, in quite a positive way, with many earthly women.

My most recently remembered dreaming (from last night): I'm inside a dark house, then in dim, overcast areas outside, and every way is barricaded with natural or artificial obstructions or other virtually insoluble challenges, including charged electrical fencing, razor wire, extreme cold, etc. The dream is in color, but so dark it could almost be in black-and-white only. It is unknown what time of day it is, except that it is not night, for a little natural daylight, though with overcast sky, gets through. Some, at least, of the rooms in the old place are empty of all but frayed, dingy carpeting or faded, sheer drapes, and yellowed roll-down window shades, largely missing, with those windows bare. I am alone in this large abode, but there is a sense that I am competing with Matt, a no longer close friend who, like me, in the dream is needing work, but he is unwilling to do some things for it, as am I. However, my tolerance is a little greater than his for obnoxious tasks and settings, in order to make a living, so there is the impression I'll ultimately get by and even perhaps somewhat better than he, despite being several years his senior. At one point, I am leaving, or trying to, in order to be away from this ancient, hemmed in area. But I just get caught outside, over and over, and unable to extricate myself. As night approaches in one of these situations, I am very cold, but know of no possible remedy for it. Various situations occur that seem as overwhelming as the means by which an archetypal hero must win the hand of the king's beautiful maiden daughter or find and retrieve a precious prize. I climb a fairly tall tree and see I am in a thick forest, visible as such in all directions. Not only is the woods dark and evidently impassible, but the trees themselves, including this one, are filled with brambles, thorns, or other sharp places on the branches, which also grow so close together, and yet are so fragile too, that successfully negotiating them involves great hazard and effort. I try to get across one major obstruction after another, but am for my troubles electrically shocked, my hands painfully cut, hurt by falling out of another tree, etc. I awaken with still further frustrating, perilous options to try, but no real hope that any would lead to a way out of the isolation and impasse.

7/6/06-Thurs.-Up today at 7:30, after less than four hours' sleep. The situation is, like so many unfortunate developments, partly my doing and partly not. I kept finding interesting, necessary, or fun things to do until 3:30 or 4:00 this morning. Then, Frances got up a little after 7. Instead of taking the dog with her and closing the bedroom door, my signal that she is tending to the pooch's needs so I can sleep, she just started getting ready to go to one of the parks, where she volunteers each week, leaving it to me to make sure our less than ideally trained beast gets up and out before anointing the carpet.

Fran had previously agreed to take care of the dog's early routines if I were still resting, but evidently felt today was different, which makes me wonder if it will be appropriate to get her up to look after the canine's end-of-day necessary activities when she's gone to bed before me and Puff. Oh well. We'll work it out one way or another.

Yesterday, there was a surprising turn of events in my own volunteer work. After our regular manager had needed to go back to conventional job duties, following his son's brush with death and incurring extensive medical costs to keep him alive and recovering, one of the other volunteers has taken over much of the role as manager. But his manner is more autocratic and arbitrary. As volunteers, we have been used to putting in several hours but, since we are not on a clock but just doing this because we feel like it, being fairly relaxed about the schedule, arriving and departing as we wish and also taking occasional breaks when we feel like it. After I'd been working for over 2½ hours without a break on Wednesday, I spent 10-15 minutes looking for a book I needed to buy. But then our new manager officiously wanted to know where I had been, not accepting my explanation that I'd taken just a few minutes off following that long without a break.

I can see this management style as possibly in order for entry level slackers who have little pride in their own work and are being paid for their time, but found it of questionable validity in the current circumstances. I think Nikos simply wanted to assert his authority and try to show me who was boss. He should ask himself which is more important with volunteer help, to make it clear that one is top dog, but have fewer people there and for less hours, or to be more easygoing, have a happier and larger crew, and actually get more done. If I continue getting that kind of grief from him, in lieu of the genuine appreciation the former manager would often express, I'll be cutting my time there and looking for better volunteer opportunities.

This morning, I got an e-mail from my brother, Allen, notifying that for about the 6th time, after coordination had resulted in plans for a get-together between Mom, me, and he and his family, once again his wife, Nina, has nixed things this latest time, so she can attend an evangelical sermon at her church by one of her Ecuadorian countrymen. It's been a year or so since I've visited them in Fort Worth and I've seen them at Mom's only infrequently because Nina, over and over, trumps our mutual plans with last minute personal ones, and Allen simply goes along with almost whatever she wants, whenever she wants it.

Oh well. People, or rather involvements with them, are sometimes irritating (on both sides, I must not forget!), but I ought to consider the alternatives. I'd be unlikely to feel any more pleased with pre-programmed robots, with aliens from another planet, with intelligent wolves, dolphins, chimpanzees, parrots, squids, bees, or viruses with which to deal, or indeed, in total isolation, as in Tom Hank's compelling movie, "Castaway."

On more positive notes, as my anniversary gift, Frances will be helping me with some Excel applications useful for our investing research and records, and she is now getting so good at the self-taught taxonomy of insects, spiders, and species in general, that she has supposed professional experts in these fields consulting her and delighted with the speed, rationales, and accuracy of her findings and conclusions. Way to go, Fran!

I did some emergency grocery shopping for us at HEB this morning and later researched and prepared the next "Investor's Journal" entry.

7/12/06-Wed.-Up at a quarter to 8. The alarm had gone off 15 minutes earlier, but I'd been so tired I did not hear it for that long.

I took the dog for a morning walk, as usual, and Fran went off to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. Later, I shopped at Wal-Mart and HEB.

We are continuing our diverse volunteer activities. And both of us attended a supper get-together the other night at Threadgills, with my social club, but the food was not good and the prevailing noise level proved too high for conversation. Disappointing.

The difficulties with Nikos, at my library facility, are completely resolved. Probably we had both simply been having a bad day before the incident a week ago.

Have appreciated the most recent mysteries I've been reading: The Potter's Field; Heart Seizure; and With No One As Witness.

For other good reading, NPR has a web page that I can recommend for its recently featured report, "Books to Call in Sick For."

In dreaming lately, there have been a variety of intriguing themes:

I'm finally successful in completing a training and induction process and then being hired as an engineer. I'm being welcomed into my new position as a professional at the hiring company, everyone being very friendly.

It is not hard to see the immediate genesis of this dream, especially if one looks at the 7/6 entry for this journal. In the real world, there has not been much perceived respect for what I do and the level of competence with which (I think) it is generally done. The dream situation clearly would rectify that. I was, in fact, trained by the US Army as a safety engineer and worked in that capacity for four years. Although called an engineer, the job actually was more that of a safety inspector or manager. Other career positions I've held included work as an insurance risk rater, a disability caseworker, a psychological tester, and a vocational rehabilitation counselor. These days, I'm doing fairly well as an investor, with returns competitive with those of professional money managers. But in my library volunteer work there has been little opportunity to demonstrate these levels of accomplishment or be recognized for what I feel I have to offer. Nor are there usually many ways in ordinary day to day library routines to develop friendships with colleagues.

In another sequence of dreaming, there has been a typical central TX flood, such as often occurs on Shoal Creek, Bull Creek, or Barton Creek here in Austin. It is the next day or soon afterward otherwise, and the waters have receded, but the region around the now once more normally flowing stream has been affected. There are areas of bent over plants or trees, new sand bars, dug out areas where trees and banks have been undermined, new pools, exposed roots and rocks, stranded animals, a few small carcasses, etc. I am exploring the area and later telling others about and showing some of these interesting changes and the new and diverse features of the creek environs following the storms and the rising, then lowering waters.

That is interesting, but I do not know what to make of it.

I'm away from home and attempting to call long distance, as if to make a request or explain my whereabouts, using some other peoples' phone, in their home, with operator assistance. The lady of the house is sort of trying to help me with info needed for the operator but is doing it in a rather confused and disorganized fashion, which is causing irritation and frustration on my part, so that, while she is dithering, I am apologizing to the operator (who, despite all, remains very professional) for the delays and inability to readily provide the needed information. The operator, for instance, asks for the number I am calling from, three digit prefix first (instead of "area code" she calls it something else, that apparently has meaning here locally), and even this I do not know and so must explain that I am not calling from my home but while away on a trip and so am needing to get the info from my hostess, at the same time communicating to the lady whose phone it is that I need the area code (or local three digit prefix, whatever it is called there), but that lady is seemingly not understanding what I need or else unwilling or unable to provide it promptly, but meanwhile I see three numbers, "313" I believe, on a pamphlet or pad in front of me near the phone and hope that is it, and I ask the operator if that could be it. It apparently is, but then, when she asks for the rest of the number, I find it is not located anywhere on or near the phone, so again I must ask the scatter-brained host woman. She gives me part of it but then starts on a tangent about their not always using the regular number because sometimes one of the dialed numbers does not work, no matter how often it is tried, so what must be done when getting to that number is to insert as asterisk (*) in place of the correct number. I've no idea why she even notices the problem, for presumably she would not normally be calling her own number, but this seems to be one of the dream paradoxes for which there need be no explanation. But all I want, instead of this elaborate explanation about the use of an asterisk rather than the right number (and a request by the hostess that I report this problem to the phone company while I now have them on the line), is the correct number to be able to give the operator so I can then complete the bureaucratic early part of my conversation with the operator and so finally get on with making my operator assisted call to another person, presumably in my home town, perhaps even at my home there. Once again, the host woman gives me all sorts of unwanted info instead of what was called for, and, particularly as I am getting very frustrated, I can sense the operator must be getting highly doubtful of this call as well and may be ready to just hang up on me, but then I'd have to start over from scratch. So I mention that I would understand if she, the operator, were getting irritated with us, and I apologized once again for how long this was taking, after confirming, following some silence on the operator's part, that she was still there, but, trying to seem reasonable, I said although this one call was taking an inordinately long time, I understood that on average calls the operator must deal with would just take about four minutes, and certainly this single call, though unfortunately long, at least would not be long enough to change that average figure! Nonetheless, at some point in here, while I was feeling mounting anxiety that the call would be ended early by the operator and increasing frustration or anger that the host lady could not just give me the info I needed, and quite simply and promptly, the dream ended.

In another complicated dream, that seemed to have preceded the one just related above, I am out of town, much seems to have happened in the dream before (that is not recalled), and I'm needing to attend a formal event, but for some reason have only one suit, however it is looking very worn, disheveled, and dirty in places, even with burrs and other vegetable matter, as well as mud or dust, on several parts of it. I am trying to pick the debris off, but it is clear that this outfit really just won't do for the imminent occasion, so that I am quite concerned about getting to a store or cleaners or having some help from others here about remedying the situation in some definite, positive manner. However, there seems to be no way to do all that is required or desirable in the time remaining.

Those last two segments perhaps have existential meanings, with concerns over loss of mental function, of life itself, or the capacity, given these factors, to get done all that is important in what little of existence may remain.

Tonight, Frances and I are meeting Matt and Glenda for one of our birthday dinner celebrations, this time at a favorite eatery of theirs, Thai Passion.

Night before last, there was a full moon. During a four-mile walk last evening with Puff, enough of the moon's fullness remained, as it appeared close to the horizon in the night sky, for it to look beautiful and much nearer Earth than usual.

And speaking of things being nearer than normal, we recently had a close encounter of the asteroid kind. On July 3, a very large space rock passed by about the same distance from Earth as is the moon. If astronomers' estimates of its trajectory had been a little off and it were to have collided with our planet, the impact would likely have been sufficient to destroy a small country or, through tsunami action, many low sea level areas. Had the impact been on land, that would have been one Independence Day Weekend fireworks display to remember!

Scientists are tracking about 200 asteroids that potentially could hit earth with this large an effect or greater, but many more such monsters that are not monitored are estimated to be in our vicinity, any one of which could hit us with little warning at some point over the next century. Indeed, on average about one of them per century does hit Earth. Fortunately, despite our burgeoning population centers, none in recorded times have been struck by these massive speeding space bullets. We just have so much "empty" areas of land and ocean that usually the impacts are little remarked. One dramatically hit Siberia in the early part of the last century.

The last truly major impact of this type occurred about 40,000 years ago. That one caused such vast tsunami devastation that only a comparative handful of coastal humans are thought to have survived. It may be this incident that gave rise to the myths (for instance, the story of Noah in our Bible), common in most ancient cultures, of overwhelming global floods.

7/22/06-Sat.-Did my library shift this morning. Fran went with one of her men friends for a specimen collecting field trip, followed by lunch. She had said she would be back by noon, but, though she knows how I feel about her spending so much time with others at the expense of our own relationship, they decided to go out to eat together instead.

The situation is not atypical. She thinks it is no big deal to spend whatever time she chooses at the moment with particularly this male, but sometimes as well with other friends, exclusively hers, not shared between us, to the extent that, though we are retired, we have hardly any more (and perhaps less) "quality time" with each other now than when both were working full-time.

When we are under the same roof, she often stays for hours on end in the room we have designated as hers, seldom venturing out, and then being social mainly in passing. Of course, she complacently ignores my suggestion that we move to a more pleasant clime or at least vacation in one.

The circumstances are rather distant from either what I'd had in mind for a marriage or my expectations in the retirement years.

For these and a variety of other reasons, she feels quite content with the current arrangement, while I am feeling we are estranged, that she tends to take too much for granted, and perhaps the time has come for us to not just informally but legally go our separate ways.

Although Fran has said she has discussed with some of her friends that an older spouse would not get a divorce, presumably being too insecure at an advanced ripeness of years, I have heard of a number of couples who had been together for quite awhile who nonetheless did divorce, notwithstanding elderly status. It is true in my view that, if one is going to do it, the sooner (after realizing things have become so serious) the better.

Frances no doubt considers the current difficulties at most a teapot tempest, while for me they warrant a major review of whatever this is that we still have together. There seem to be a few options: 1. simply carry on as we always have through the "rough waters," with neither of us granting that the other's positions are valid, yet not taking the disagreements to a more decisive step either; 2. going into marriage counseling, and one or both sincerely trying to benefit from it in favor of a satisfactory involvement for both of us; 3. one of us trying to make the relationship better without counseling, even if there is little willingness by the other to make changes; 4. just literally going our separate ways, without bothering about a divorce; 5. having a "trial separation;" or just going ahead, formally, for good, and "breaking up."

I know I am no particular prize and likely would not find a mate if we were to split up, or at least not for quite awhile. Indeed, it may well be that Frances and my not having all that much in common (other than our 21 years together), and she believing I do not add enough of interest, youth, or intelligence to her life, are reasons she feels free, even that it is essential, that she "do her own thing" with others, though it may mean allowing our marriage to die on the vine.

There are times now, though, when I would prefer to make the hard adjustments to living on my own again than continue to merely put up with more of the same, as circumstances exist. Perhaps, if it comes to that, I would deal with the isolation at first with short visits to some of my siblings. Or maybe I would start afresh in the Pacific Northwest (Portland, OR, for instance, an area where we had always talked about going once we retired, before Fran's unilateral decision that we would forget all that and merely remain in a bad Austin neighborhood instead) and jump in with both feet on the way to building a new social community, at the same time I am adapting to being once again more completely self-reliant.

One practical factor is that, with Fran's much greater computer savvy, I would miss being able to just step into another part of the house from time to time for advice on a problem with the PC. But I suppose that, if one were paying a liberal enough service fee (as to Best Buy) and had gotten a new computer system from a more reliable company than Dell has turned out to be, there should be fairly prompt assistance available, if all has gone to hell digitally as well as matrimonially.

Money could be a problem for both of us at first, but hopefully not an insurmountable one.

Meanwhile, assuming we are not going to file for divorce immediately, life goes on. We put together and published yet another issue of our family newsletter this just past week. We both also continued our various volunteer activities.

I attended some book groups recently and now am happily reading new works: Little Girl Lost, by Richard Aleas, and Indecision, by Benjamin Kunkel.

7/26/06-Wed.-I have a dream group meeting tonight. Here is the segment I'll be taking for the occasion:

I'm in a very big, multiple levels and rooms house with a few other people, including my shy younger brother, Allen, and a lady who is reminiscent of Kathy Bates, the actress, whose roles I've liked, as in "Fried Green Tomatoes" and a more recent television movie, "Ambulance Girl," in which she plays an anxious, depressed, middle-aged woman in a troubled marriage (and with no kids) who makes a positive and fresh start after she "gets a life" through becoming an EMT trainee, successfully overcoming her hang-ups to complete the course, and then actually working as an EMT, acquiring new friends and meaning in the process. In the dream, Allen and I are not just brothers but also both members of an esoteric meditation group, as, indeed, was the case about 30 years ago. There is an issue about my forgetting the Kathy Bates' character's name (which is Liz) and calling her someone else, then being embarrassed over it. In fact, a couple years ago I did feel embarrassed after calling a woman named Liz, a horse handler and boarder who is also a close fried of a family of in-laws of mine living on a big farm in WI, by the wrong name. In the dream, I seem to already know the Liz lady, though our relationship is unclear. There is the sense we may have slept together, but also that she is an intuitive and I may have consulted her for a psychic reading. At some point during the night, I go looking for the lavatory and become lost in the unfamiliar surroundings. In the morning, the others seem to know I called Liz by another name. There are also generally accepted rumors, among those of us there, that she and I have been having sex. The group Allen and I are in is somewhat straight-laced and, though I have not actually been sharing Liz's bed, I can tell Allen thinks I have, and that he regards this as both interesting and even warranting of a little respect, for my boldness, good fortune, or whatever, despite the group's moralistic constraints. The idea kind of appeals to me too, and I wonder what it would be like if Liz and I were lovers, or lovers again.

Consciously, I have little or no desire for sex with someone like Kathy Bates. My admiration of her is of a different kind.

Fran and I seem to be going the routes of numbers 1, 2, and 3 (depending on the specific issues and circumstances) in my above entry listing of our relationship options. It does not appear we shall be separating or breaking up anytime soon. In fact, part of the Imago Therapy approach we'll probably be using to help us get through this involves a "no exit" commitment (a promise to ourselves and each other not to leave via homicide, suicide, physically vacating the common premises, spending too much time away from one's partner [to avoid serious or frustrating stuff], divorce, going "crazy," or even, in so far as this can be controlled, a serious accident or disease).

7/31/06-Mon.-During a nap a couple afternoons ago, I had this dream:

I'm at sea with others on a ship. We notice a great upwelling of material from the ocean floor, so much so that in places the waters are roiling and our ship is violently wrenched over, but it does not capsize. Nonetheless, at least a couple of us fall overboard from the deck. Some of the debris has risen even above the ocean's surface, remaining there, and forming small islands. Elsewhere, whirlpools are created. It is thought that there is no way those who fell overboard could survive. Already they have disappeared from view by observers still on deck. Yet, in another segment, it seems I am one of those who fell and, though alone (not so much as a bird around) and out of sight of the ship or any source of help, for now I am alright, but adrift and swept this way and that in the turbulent currents. I hope to at least get to some land. There is a new rocky-upwelling-created island not far away. Maybe I can reach it. There is also a place nearby where violent forces are blasting hot air, magma, or both with huge power up out of the water, with such energy it is as though the air or matter is hurtled heavenward, at least to the upper atmosphere. (Both segments occur apparently in the middle of the day and under a vast sunlit sky, but then the natural violence creates a smoky overcast. The dream seems to have been in color. It might be titled: "At the Mercy of [a] Violent Nature.")

The dream group meeting last week was both interesting and rewarding. Four others were there, some of whom have been involved in this association for eight years! All seemed intelligent, competent, and generally friendly. We discussed three people's dreams that evening, including mine (in the 7/26 entry). Among other things, the mainly Jungian interpretation included that I am seeking, or at least needing, greater integration, expression, and pursuit of genuine personal interests. It was felt that I have a good inner relationship with my "shadow" self, but not with my anima, or emotional center, with which I should now come to better terms. I have concerns, per the dream, over a potential advent of early Alzheimer's or senility, which I thought might be indicated by sometimes not recalling and saying a name or word correctly, and that, as an older person now, I have naturally a more limited amount of remaining life, at most perhaps another two or three decades or so. The new experiences or challenges involved in this final phase are seen as unfamiliar territory within which it is certainly possible to get lost or go astray.

Over the last few days, Fran and I were successful in completing the right concept, and then implementing it, for spreadsheets that allow regular figuring of the compound annualized returns on my tracked investment portfolios. Frances' help with this was crucial, though a couple inspirations of my own greatly simplified the process. This is a significant accomplishment for us and will permit better monitoring of financial approaches with much less time required for the calculations.

The ongoing drought and heat wave here, as elsewhere in the country, are taking their toll on our lawn and trees. There are now many dead or dying patches in the yard. Some of even our biggest and oldest trees are showing signs of severe stress from either the high temperatures or the lack of moisture. We are, accordingly, spending time each day watering using sprinklers or a hand-held hose. Concern over the health of our vegetation has taken precedence over my otherwise strong yen to be off to a cooler clime for an extended vacation, before Fran must return to a more intensive schedule as the new opera season begins.

She is currently going to rehearsals or performances, that last about another week, for a children's musical at one of the Jewish community centers, but then she has little "on her plate" after that till November. So, if the weather cooperates and we finally have abundant rains, we still might go on a nice trip, assuming both feel so inclined during that interim. Meanwhile, we are taking yard care as well as our own relationship issues one day at a time, and trying to keep long-term expectations lower.

I had been asked to teach a new volunteer some of the procedures at our library facility this just past Saturday morning. The regular coordinator was on a several week vacation herself, and she had apparently neglected before leaving to mention, to the lady taking her place for awhile, an arrangement for a group of about a dozen (teenage girls, their moms, and a couple other women) to come get trained to do sorting and shelving for us that day. They showed up even before the fellow I was to teach, and, as nobody else was available to do it, I wound up showing everyone the ropes. It was fun, but a little nerve-wracking.

I did not make too many mistakes, though, and everyone seemed to have a good time, except for a couple of the young ladies who seemed to have already known each other and got into a bit of a fuss, with hurt, angry feelings. I decided to stay out of this and let them or their mom's sort it out, which is what happened soon afterward. I suppose such minor flare-ups are common. Nikos and I have continued to get along well since the incident a few weeks ago. In fact, he was most appreciative of my help on Saturday.

One of my nephews, Chris, and his wife, Helen, have recently moved, leaving for and arriving in Los Vegas just in the last few days, after he had gotten the new assignment by a company for whom he is an up and comer manager. It is the first time he has been permanently so far away since I knew him as an infant in the early 1980s. Although we are no longer really close, we have had many good times over the years, and I'll miss seeing him with more regularity.

My nephew, Jim, however, my deceased brother, Ralph's (and Mary's) son, having completed a degree at Juilliard this past May and then having spent a few weeks in Berlin on another related project, plus some time with his mom in Houston, is due to begin a graduate program here at UT in late August. He expects to arrive in a couple weeks to arrange for his housing and get settled in. It is likely, then, that we'll be seeing more of each other during the next couple or three years.

How much we get together, though, I'll leave mainly to him. I can recall all too well when his age the desire to be more on my own if in locates close to relatives, though quite aware they would have been all too eager to see me more frequently. I had felt their expectations as constraints, but hope to avoid putting Jim under any similar sense of obligation.

There was a time, as he was growing up without Ralph, when I saw him pretty routinely, and he may even have regarded me as in some ways a substitute, however inadequately, for his dad. He made clear at the end of his high school days, however, that if that were my idea as well, he wanted none of it. Since then, I have tended to keep my distance and let him have whatever space (or closeness) he needed or wanted. In fact, he and Fran by now have developed as good a rapport, or better, than any I had forged with him while he was younger.

I'm leaving in a few days for a short visit with my mom, in Waco. Fran, busy with the Jewish center children's concert, won't be going this time.

STEPS / Main Page / Index / previous / next