Saturday, August 14, 2021

Whither dicipline?

Strap in. This is gonna be goofy.

I began this post a while back. It's been a busy time. Cattle stuff, moving into my new house, family stuff. Busy. Crazy busy. Which is fantastic.

As I write this on the morning of August 14 I'm emerging from a whirlwind of viral illness. It began on Monday and worsened steadily. Cough, sore throat, congestion, fever and chills, myalgia and arthralgia, the works. By Thursday I was very ill and had to take the day completely off. Yesterday I was improving but still quite ill. I also had more back imaging scheduled in Scottsbluff and I didn't want to have to reschedule. So I power slammed aspirin and tylenol to tamp down the fever, and when I went through the boolsheet federal jobs program of wuhandromeda screening I denied all. And passed the screening. I doubt the screeners can actually work their thermometer ray guns, and I doubt the thermometer ray guns work to begin with.

The CT scan and full spine x-rays went quickly and perfectly, executed by well trained, professional, and cheerful staff. It's important for me to remember that there's a difference between professional medical staff and bureaucratic staff.

It's also important for me to listen to my body and use my brain when I'm ill. I hear all the wuhandromeda terrorism too, and I'm no different than any other ape-lizard when it comes to fear of the unknown. What if I really have it? What if all the terrorism is true? What if I die from this? I feel so sick and weak and vulnerable, why don't I just go to the ER for some reassurance and hand holding? Just to make sure?

At the same time I know my body, I know how viral illness works, and I realize that as sick as I am, it's clear that my body is fighting hard and winning. It needs real support, not bureaucratic hand holding. Fluids. Fuel. Hot baths. Aspirin and tylenol. Mucalytics and cough suppressants. Rest.

It takes discipline to do the right stuff in the face of fear. Spitting in the eye of bureaucratic terrorism provides just the spark of rage required to get me over the hump. I will not allow those people to drag me into their bucket of terror. I have a mind and I'm a real, live, ape-lizard, not a herd monkey.

I win because I have the tools and the discipline of the ape-lizard. It helps enormously that I've put in the work to learn and know medicine and to become physically fit. My pulmonary/cardio-vascular system is in tip-top shape. Were this not the case such a viral illness could be bad business for me. It's a reality of life. I made the choice to get fit and I've done the hard work required. I win. This round anyway. When I reach the end of the road I reach the end of the road and there's nothing I can do about that. In the mean time though, I can be tough and disciplined and enjoy the freedom and wonder of livin', rather than existin'.

On this lovely Saturday morning I'm well on the mend. I'm still recovering, but it's time to get back in the game of livin'.

I am blessed.

And that's a fact. 


Last month. July 18.

At the park with the kids, I enjoyed watching the littlest try to catch birds. She was going for Robbins and Brewers Blackbirds.

She seems to be certain that she'll succeed in catching one, and if she persists she probably will, though it'll probably play out somewhat differently than she imagines.

Later she hopped on the merry-go-round with some newfound park friends, another three year old and a seven year old, both girls. They were having loads of fun, spinning round and round, laughing and shrieking. Then she got quiet and the color drained from her face. Her gyro had tumbled as her eyes and inner ears argued over exactly how her body was navigating the universe.

I stopped the ride and picked her up. It might be more accurate to say that she launched herself into my arms. She likes to spin around and play with wobbling dizziness -- that's fun! But this was something new, different, and unpleasant. Motion sickness.

She clung to me tightly, holding on for dear life with her eyes closed. I murmured reassurances and stroked her little back. After a minute or so she relaxed a bit and I imagined she was beginning to feel better. Then she retched a bit.

"It's okay to throw up," I said.

So she did.

As I was holding her and her face was pressed against my chest, you can imagine where the effluent ended up.

Perhaps I'm different than most (perhaps?!?), but my reaction to being puked on was not what you might think. The important thing was to comfort the little one and make sure she knew without question that I loved her unconditionally. It's a little hard to describe, because that kind of love doesn't translate to words. It's too big and too important for words.

I wasn't a bit surprised, but I never expected to find that being puked on is a transcendent, precious moment.

We got ourselves cleaned up and got a little bit of water down her neck, then we went home. It was supper time and the (almost!) five year old boy and his 11 year old brothers were ravenous. The littlest continued to cling to me as we sat at the table, and within only a few minutes collapsed into a hard, hard sleep. She had played hard -- three year old hard -- and then experienced a brand new life lesson. Her body needed the restorative power of sleep, and sleep she did.

Sitting there at that table with Grandma MeMe and the boys and a three year old snuggled safely in my lap was, again, an experience impossible to put into words.

Sublime comes close.
Summer Day In The Garden, by Littlest.

Littlest reacts to a critical review of her work.


I hope the title doesn't scare anyone away; readers who might imagine this missive will be a ranting screed (or screeding rant) against the manifest indiscipline of my fellow ape lizards!

For this is not about that.

What this is about -- at least initially and in part -- is the curious nature of my own indiscipline.

How, I wonder, is it that I can exercise iron discipline in realms which make many of my peers shudder to even consider, while in other areas I drop the ball completely? With such ball-dropping areas being realms where my heretofore shuddering peers operate at the master level of discipline?

I suppose some examples are in order.

I can exercise when it hurts. I can endure severe pain and drive on. I can work hard and well and execute jobs and tasks properly in the face of adversity and the perversity of foolish and vindictive people. I can deal with disappointment and the deep hurt of grief and loss without sinking into victimhood or morose childishness. I can give my time when it's the last thing I want to do but is the right and proper and principled thing to do.

I can and do strive to live up to Kipling's immortal pathway to being a man.

On the other hand, I can be slovenly and slothful and gluttonous at the drop of a hat. I can think deeply evil thoughts and hold resentments and invented fears close to my heart. I can slack off when slacking off is not the proper thing to do at all. I can push at edges and boundaries just because I want to, and not because it serves any but my own selfish purposes.

It's easy to be selfish. It's hard to drive on through egocentrism and arrive on the plane of proper being.

But that place, the plane of proper being, the plane of true livin', is the place for me to be. I need to be centered to properly live; one foot in chaos and one foot in order.

Perhaps that's why the indiscipline remains even when I wish it wouldn't.

With a foot in chaos and a foot in order there can be no stasis, only constant movement. I imagine it as a kind of Brownian motion, vibrating, vibrating, vibrating -- back and forth all over the place. Unlike molecular Brownian motion, however, an ape-lizard has the capacity to chart a course and steer this improbable contradictory/complimentary contraption of life. For certain values of steer, of course. Life, the Universe, and Everything gets a vote too.

It seems to me that at one level and in one sense, a fundamental choice facing all of us ape-lizards is whether and how we conn our individual ships of life. If we let the Brownian motion of the chaos-order dichotomy decide where the ship goes, we live a life of existence. If we purposefully decide to plant our feet in the sweet spots of chaos and order, and then do the hard work and heavy lifting of steering, then we are livin'.

The second option is where discipline comes in. Discipline and all the other hard stuff that makes livin' -- as opposed to existing -- possible.

Whither discipline? A vital question, methinks.

The options are whither discipline or wither discipline.

It's a choice. The good news is that so long as we draw breath we have the option.

It's always good to have options. In the present delightful times, with the Zeitgeist being overwhelmingly one of self-indulgent victimhood, the options look like this: I can let the Brownian motion drive the boat while I moan about "everbuddy pickin' on me," or I can suck it up, grab the tiller, and do what I can based on doing what I should according to a solid set of principles.

It's good to have the choice, although even recognizing that the choice exists takes away a great deal of the deliciousness of supping from the self-pity pot.

Does any of that make sense?

Was it a screed? A rant?  


Last month again. July 24. The four year old turns five (two days early so that the celebration can be on a Saturday and more family can attend). At age five two days early is cool. Next year he'll have a year of formal learnin' under his belt and he may be more inclined to hew to the calendar. We'll see. At any rate, he had a nice celebration with lots of love and presents (CARS!!!) and a humongous cake.

The cake says "Zeke is 5" and represents a work of love if not a work of art. Two "funfetti" cake mixes and about two pounds of real live buttercream frosting. Z-man is a frosting dude, and he wanted blue and yellow, so that's what he got. With cars! Cars are important.
What's behind that shared glance? Only the kids know. But it's awesome!

And now the grownups wanna take pictures!

I wish I had the words to properly describe the wonder of the day. It was epic.


Still later in July. The last day of the month, July 31.

Nona greeted me first thing in the morning, then lay down beside me and proceeded to die. The process took about thirty minutes. It looked peaceful from my perspective and she didn't appear to suffer. It was a blow. I was there when she was born on July 13, 2011, and I was there when she expired. She brought an indescribable quantity of love into the world and shared it. I buried her in the doggie graveyard at the ranch. It was hard digging but worth the effort. The next morning an old, dead elm tree had fallen directly across her grave. Kind of makes you wonder. Nona's little "brother" Tommie, a dog Alex rescued, has done reasonably well. He paced the yard for a few days, perhaps searching for Nona. He's been a bit more, I don't know, touchy? Clingy? He's still full of happy enthusiasm and loves to chase around and nip my heels. So he's doing fine and we're coping.


Tuesday marked a year.

Something I've figured out but haven't really written about. In my life Alexzandra is an Angel. What do I mean by Angel? It's a very interesting thing. Her presence is with me always. Most of the time it feels like she's in the next room, and she's paying attention to what I'm doing and how I'm doing. It's a very loving, reassuring feeling.

And then sometimes she offers up suggestions, or points out options, or something like that. Let me give you an example.

Last month the Jewelers from whence we purchased her engagement ring sent me a letter reminding me that I still had the wedding band on lay away. I had utterly forgotten. When I explained the circumstance to the clerk and apologized for not coming in sooner, she quickly told me I could have store credit for what I'd put down on the ring. But I wanted the ring, so I paid the outstanding balance and took it away. My plan was to thread it on my dog tag chain with another of her rings and some other baubles. It was a good plan, but it didn't feel quite right for some reason. As I drove home it occurred to me that the proper custodians for the ring are Alex's sister and her mom. That felt right, and that's what we did.

Alex and I did that. The proper solution came from Alex. And from me, enthusiastically, because it was the right thing to do. But I'd have never arrived at the solution without my Angel's loving guidance.

She steers me in the proper direction whenever I need the assist, which is not infrequently.

How does all this Angel stuff work? I have no idea. But I do know that God does for me what I cannot do for myself, and I'm convinced that He employs Alexzandra in the role of primary adviser and ass-kicker.

The me that can love the way I love today -- that dude ain't me. Not without God and Alexzandra it's not.

That's what I know. It's ground truth even though I can't answer the why or the how. It just is, and that's good enough for me.

I am blessed.


There are many more things to write about, and I will, but for the moment I've run out of free cycles. There is more moving to do, with lots of lifting and carrying and good, purposeful, physical labor. Every bit of it is a labor of love, and I do none of it alone. When Uncle and Auntie and MeMe and the kids help, which they do a lot of, we don't do it alone either.

We are blessed, and it feels right and proper that we are blessed.


A year ago I read in comments at another blog -- regarding the tragedy I had suffered, you understand -- that a commenter disagreed with the old saw that it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved. The commenter was rather vociferous in their disagreement.

I have a different take. It is infinitely better to have loved and to continue to love.

Perhaps this is the most beautiful truth I've found in my journey. And I almost missed it!

Maybe the most important words I can ever share with my fellow ape-lizards are these. Turn that heart loose and love unconditionally. Don't sweat the details. They'll work out as they are supposed to. Just love. Yeah, just love.


Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.