Thursday, May 30, 2013

Were I God

If the title of this blog entry caused a sharply in-drawn breath and a muttered "Sacrilege!" you probably won't be reading this. Too bad. It is not intended as disrespect to Whoever holds the post now, but merely a few observations on how I might run things had I the opportunity.

I got to thinking about the prospect when I was looking, once again, with dismay and anger at my Spam inbox and plotting what I would love to do to those who prey upon the gullible. Gullibility, like so many human traits, can be charming in moderation and dangerous in excess. We all want things we do not and probably can never have. We all want to feel that we are, somehow, wise and admired and somehow special. And too often we are tricked by predators into assuming that what we are told is the truth.

There is nothing more loathsome or utterly beneath contempt than those who knowingly, deliberately, and consistently take advantage of others. They are loathsome creatures who exist only, and tragically, because we allow them to. Those who do not want to bother with thinking for themselves willingly allow others to think for them.

Were I God, I would of course be a beneficent deity and resist the strong temptation to submerge these sub-humans slowly in boiling oil. No, I'd simply have every one of them, after a full and rewarding day of scheming, cheating, lying, and debasing others, simply go peacefully to sleep and never wake up.

I would strictly enforce the Golden Rule. I'm sure the current title holder is as utterly flummoxed as I as to how people simply don't get it. It's the ultimate "What part of 'no' don't you understand?"

Bigots would be forced to spend six months as a member of the group against whom their hatred is directed. If six months is not enough, the sentence would repeated once more and then become permanent.

Everyone in possession of more than $500,000 they did not earn through their own labor would be temporarily stripped of all their possessions and forced to live on the equivalent of the average social security check for the period of one year. Depending on the circumstances, some would be denied even that small financial assistance and be given a cardboard box and pointed to the nearest freeway underpass.

I would rather strongly consider reinstating the "an eye for an eye" principle of criminal justice, except for sadomasochists.

Those who deny common courtesy to others would be assigned a constant robot companion carrying a frying pan. At every transgression of basic courtesy, the robot would tap them on the head with the frying pan. The force of the tap would increase with every violation until the offender either sees the error of his/her ways, or is admitted to the emergency room. (Upon release therefrom, the robot would again appear at their side.)

Those who discriminate against others solely on the basis of looks or physical disability will, after each transgression, be struck blind for a period of ten minutes for the first event, and longer with each succeeding one.

Anyone who presumed to speak for me in my role of God would be stricken mute. Anyone who sought personal financial gain by invoking my name would be forced to return every penny, stripped of all their remaining worldly goods and sent into permanent exile in Somalia, Ethiopia, or Darfur.

And what of those many people who already live by the Golden Rule, who are courteous and considerate of others, and realize the world is far larger than themselves? Don't they deserve some sot of reward? The fact is that they already have it. They are already members of a very small and exclusive club: true human beings, and the current supreme being is proud of them. As, if I may be so bold, am I.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Monday, May 27, 2013


ant-sy: adjective. agitated, impatient, or restless

Many of my blogs deal with my inability to really understand what's going on, or how things work the way they do, or how people react the way they do. Not infrequently, this lack of understanding includes myself. I am unaccountably antsy today for no apparent reason. It may have something to do with the weather, which itself doesn't quite seem to know what it's doing or wants to do. Lately we have been fluctuating wildly from almost hot one day to heavy jackets the next.

Part of it may be due to there being so much going on that I'm not sure what I should do next. Part of it may be due to the fact that while I drank my morning coffee with no problem, every other time I have tried to swallow any kind of liquid it has immediately run out my nose.

Having, a week or so ago discovered a bedbug in my old fleece-lined bedroom slippers, I threw the slippers away immediately, notified the building management, and slept on my sofa-bed while waiting a week for an army of bedbug inspectors to descend on my apartment only to find nothing. The point being that I have been padding around either barefoot or in socks and need to buy a new pair of slippers.

I quickly discovered that buying a new pair of slippers is, for me at any rate, very much like buying any other piece of clothing: I can look at 4,000 of whatever it is I want to buy and not find a single one I like. After running around town looking for slippers (Payless Shoes had one...count 'em, ONE...pair, Target had none—though their website shows several), I concentrated on looking on line. While I've had some success with online shopping, when it comes to buying anything where a size has to be specified, it's iffy at best. So I don't yet have a pair of slippers.

When I do find some piece of clothing I like, I tend to buy three or four of them and rotate wearing them until they completely fall apart. While I still lived in Northern Wisconsin (it's been seven years, now) I found a pair of blue casual pants I liked. I ended up with six pair of them, and three of them are still wearable. But seeing the handwriting on the wall, as it were, I've been keeping my eye out for their replacement. And do you know what? They don't make blue pants anymore. Not the kind I like. There are 471 shades of black pants and olive-colored pants and a couple other shades of whatever, but no the-shade-of-blue I want.

According to the old saying, the only two things sure in life are death and taxes. I've expanded that short list considerably, including my fruitless search for anything I need to buy. And without question, frustration (which often accompanies being antsy). I find myself so busy trying to promote my books to people who might not have read them that I have very little time to write.

On the writing front, I've been really trying to get back to work on my latest work in progress only to be sidetracked by...well, just about anything. It isn't that I have a short attention span, just that I don't seem to have the time to develop a long one.

As you may have noticed, I sort of wandered off in several different directions from the original point of this blog...being antsy. Well, fear not, dear friend, for you see this is exactly the kind of thing I do when I am antsy. So there.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Two Worlds

I live in two worlds: mine and everyone else's. I vastly prefer mine, thank you. I live in everyone else's world of inescapable necessity, in mine through choice. Everyone else's world is a deafening cacophony of things which really have little or no direct impact on my day to day existence, yet they're there, clamoring for attention even though I could do little about them even if I had any interest in doing so.

As a result, I found that constructing my own world to be a viable alternative. Submerging myself in books from early childhood gave me all the tools I needed to build my own world, the job made easier by the combination of not feeling accepted in the world of “everyone else” and, from what I saw of it, not really wanting to belong.

I found early on that the vast majority of things over which people concern and with which they absorb themselves have little or no actual effect on their individual lives, either. So I cut out the middle man, as it were. If something doesn't effect me directly—Charlie Studmuffin's paparazzi-slathered breakup with Veronica Vacuous, for example—every melodramatic detail of which is followed with mesmerized fascination by millions, I can spare myself the shared agony by simply ignoring it. Were I to depend on Charlie or Veronica, personally, for my livelihood or physical wellbeing—were they paying my rent, for example—it would undoubtedly be of interest to me. But since I have never met them, am unlikely to ever meet them, and even less likely for them to play any part whatsoever in my day-to-day life, I can simply sail through their stormy seas like the Flying Dutchman, totally unaffected.

Thinking it over, I believe I have by now managed to largely ignore eight-tenths of what goes on outside the perimeter of interests I have carefully established for myself.

It is not as though I have totally disassociated myself from the world in which I physically live, or from people. I am truly touched and saddened by the real troubles of others and would of course do my best to assist someone on a one-to-one basis. But I have learned that to get too worked up over those things over which I can have absolutely no impact no matter what I do is an exercise in misery.

While I easily grow fond of those people I encounter regularly and with whom I share history or interests, I am simply neutral to just about everyone else. I have no interest whatsoever in engaging in the gossip and speculation and rumors that so many people seem to find so titillating. Other people's lives are their lives and I do not concern myself with them any more than they should concern themselves with mine. The almost universal fascination with “celebrities,” touched on above, utterly escapes me. I can admire artists and actors greatly for their work, but I have absolutely no investment or interest in their daily lives, their emotional entanglements, or their trips to drug rehab centers.

I treasure my friends and perhaps oddly consider you, since you are kind enough to read what I write, to be one of them. I expand the perimeters of my personal world to encompass those people whose absence I would feel.

And as hard as I may try to shut out the world's negativity, it is almost impossible to do so without becoming a hermit. The despicably inhuman and inhumane words and actions of those utterly devoid of compassion, tolerance, logic, or understanding—those who believe that the only way to raise themselves up is by stepping on others—affect me deeply, if I allow them to. Therefore I choose not to, whenever possible. Since I, personally, can do nothing to change their opinions, to fret and stew about it is a monumental waste of time. If I thought for one moment that I could change them, I would. So my alternatives are either to be constantly frustrated and heartsick or to simply ignore them. I choose the latter. It is next to impossible to escape the F-6 tornados of hatred and stupidity and pure, true evil which seem to be sweeping across the land with increasing strength for the past several years. It is utterly incomprehensible to me and, were I dwell on it, it could be enough to all but crush hope. I will not allow my hope to be crushed. So until the storms pass, you can find me inside my little perimeter of life-as-it-should-be.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Monday, May 20, 2013

You and Me

There are many times more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the deserts and beaches of the earth. And sometimes I suspect there must be nearly as many blogs on the internet as there are grains of sand in a sandbox.

So why do I write blogs, and how can I possibly expect you select mine from all the others, let alone to care what I have to say? There are times when I am totally overwhelmed by the awareness that I am simply one grain of sand in that sandbox, and truly grateful that of all those grains of sand, you are, however it came about, looking at this one. What can I hope to put in here that might keep you from just tossing it back in with the others?

Well, I truly think that one of the things that sets this blog apart is the simple fact that I am always acutely aware that you are there, reading it. I sometimes feel like those SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) scientists, beaming signals into outer space in hopes someone, somewhere, some day may hear. I have said countless times, using a more earth-bound if mixed metaphor, that without readers, a writer is like the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no one to hear. Just putting words into a computer or on a piece of paper is pointless if they're just going to sit there, unread. So odd as it may sound, you are, in effect, the most important person in my life, even though we probably have never met, and probably never will meet, face-to-face.

I've always been excruciatingly shy when it comes to presenting myself to other people, which is one of the major reasons I became a writer. I am far more comfortable with the written word than with the spoken. For one thing, a word or sentence once spoken cannot be taken back, changed, polished. It is received and interpreted exactly as it strikes the ears and is filtered to the brain. Writing affords me far more confidence than talking. If I don't like the way a sentence looks, I can redo it until it is the way I want it. This is a tremendous advantage in keeping me from looking like a fool (though I fear this happens not infrequently even in writing).

I have little problem laying myself out before you in words, and I quite probably tell you, at times, things you did not particularly want to know. But honesty and frankness are rare commodities in our world. And though they are also subjective—what is the “truth” for me may not be the truth for you—most people keep themselves to themselves. While this is an often practical method of self-protection, as a result they may lose track of the fact that they, their experiences, their reactions, their fears, hopes, and dreams are not really all that different from other people's. So I spread myself out, like butter on a warm English muffin, in hopes that you will recognize some of me in yourself.

Having to all but plead with potential readers to try my books is, on the one hand, rather sad. But I justify it by the knowledge that I'm not asking something for nothing. My books are meant to entertain you, to allow you to step away for a couple of hours from your own life and it's attendant problems and pressures, and to immerse yourself in a world not your own, of people and experiences not encountered in your normal daily life.

Never underestimate the benefits of occasionally stepping away from reality. I often say how reality and I are barely on speaking terms. I may spend far more time away from it than you, but I don't think I'm alone in appreciating being somewhere outside myself. And come to think of it, those five words—“I don't think I'm alone”—are a pretty good summation of exactly why I write and why, I hope, you read.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Family and Friends

Recently I had the chance to spend a day with my cousin—technically my second cousin—Tom, who had come into Chicago with his wife Cindy. While Cindy was at a day-long business meeting, Tom and I took a boat tour on the Chicago river in 46 degree weather with a strong, cold wind which kept me looking for icebergs in the water. Toward the end of the cruise, a gust of wind tossed Tom's hat into the water, leaving his head exposed to the elements. Luckily our next stop was Navy Pier, where he bought a new one...and a hooded sweatshirt to wear under his jacket. We then came back to my apartment and, joined by my best friend Gary, we just sat and talked for a couple of hours. (Are you old enough to remember when people simply sat and talked?)

So what was particularly special about all this? Nothing, other than it was the longest single time I'd spent with just Tom in memory, and it reminded me of just how important, necessary, and wonderful family and friends are, and how lost without them we would be. Every human lives every instant of his or her life within the prison/cage of the body...the “self.” We can be in a vast crowd of other humans and yet feel—and in reality be—utterly alone. But there are invisible bridges...links,if you will...between ourselves and a limited number of other humans which reassure us that we are not totally alone. Our family and our friends shield us from the icy winds of “aloneness.”

Of our family/friends links, those to family are probably strongest simply because they are the longest. It's impossible to fully describe these links. Blood and DNA, certainly, but also a commonality of history, experience, and people—of proximity—which creates an indefinable, indescribable bonding. For the majority of people, family is the foundation upon which their lives are built. Those without strong or positive family ties are deprived of one of the basic supports of life and often are invisibly but significantly scarred for life by their absence.

It's a cliché that while we can't pick our family, we can pick our friends, and whereas we have no say regarding to which family we are born into, our friendships are almost always a choice. The bonds of friendship are usually deliberately woven from common interests, outlooks, and attitudes. It could be said we are bound to family with instinctual glue, to friends with threads of interests and intellect.

And because we largely chose our friends, our links to them tend to be far more flexible than family ties. Family is the group of people with whom we share DNA and that cannot be changed. And while friends may ebb and flow throughout our lives, with new ones relatively (no pun intended) easy to add, the “supply” of those in our core family—the people to whom we are directly genetically linked—is largely set at our birth. We can, with a little effort, make any number of friends, but the number of brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles in our core family varies little if at all. There may be a few additions while we're quite young, but for the most part, the “supply” is set. One's number of friends can always be replenished...not so the number of one's family.

With age, human lifespans being what they are, our core, genetically-linked family begins to shrink. Yes, nieces and nephews and cousins go on to produce more people with the same general genetic makeup, but with each succeeding generation the bonds loosen.

Since each core family has two sides, maternal and paternal, it's not uncommon to feel closer to one side than the other. In my case, it was my mom's. While my dad had a half-sister who in turn had two kids, I never felt really close to them. I consider my mother's side to be my core family, and I entered it with a grandfather, an aunt, an uncle, and three cousins. Probably because my three cousins had six children—technically my “second cousins”—I while I was still quite young, I never differentiated “first” from “second.”

And now my parents, grandfather, aunt and uncle, two of my first cousins and one second cousin are gone. Of the eight people in “my generation” of the family, only my cousin Jack and I remain.

I think they call this sort of thing “life.”

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Monday, May 13, 2013

Missed Boats

The wonderful singer-songwriter-satirist-cum-mathematician, Tom Lehrer, has a number of songs which are on my all-time favorites list, but the one I most strongly identify with is "I'll Be Standin' on the Dock Passin' Out Donuts When They Send the Boys 'Over There.'"

It seems at times that my life has been a succession of missed boats and, on honest reflection, I'm not totally unhappy. I missed the Titanic, for example, and the Lusitania...I like to think only because I'd not been born yet. Had I been around I suspect I'd have found some way to be standing at the foot of the gangplank, one-way ticket clutched in my hot little hand. I missed the Andrea Doria, too, though I had a brief fling with someone who had been aboard.

I've told the story in a previous blog of, while in second grade, schlepping through the neighborhood with my mother, peddling packets of flower and vegetable seeds as part of a school project to buy an then-state-of-the-art 8mm movie projector. The sale was in the spring, of course, shortly before school recessed for the summer. I hated selling seeds. I have always hated approaching people and asking them to buy something. But, with my mom's support and encouragement, I did it and the school was able to order its movie camera, with delivery at the start of the next school term. We moved before the camera arrived, and I never even got to see it.

I've missed the boat on any number of financial opportunities ("Invest in what? What's a computer? And who the hell is Bill Gates? Never heard of him. No thanks. I'm putting all my money into typewriter ribbons.") And the number of possible Mr. Rights I did not hook up with in my cruising days is...well, I don't even want to think of it. All because I couldn't screw up the courage to walk across the bar and strike up a conversation.

I have a magic knack for if not missing a boat, leaping at it, catching its stern with my fingernails and being dragged through the water while the rest of the passengers and crew enjoy champagne and lobster in the main dining salon. I have owned and sold five houses in my life, the decision to put up a "for sale" sign impeccably tailored to coincide with some sort of housing crisis. When I decided to sell my last home in L.A. preparatory to moving back to the midwest, within days of listing it with a realtor, interest rates for prospective buyers shot up to 22 percent, meaning that, in 1983, in order to buy a home offered at $110,000, the prospective buyer had to have a minimum income of $150,000. Needless to say, it did not sell rapidly.

My move to Northern Wisconsin was something of a double-edged sword when it came to missing the boat ("Awesome mixed metaphor, Man! Really kewl!" I know, I know....that metaphor isn't mixed, it's pureed, but, hey, I just write 'em, I don't try to understand what swords and boats have to do with one another except that pirates carried swords and they rode around in boats. Let's go with that.). I bought a 12 room house in an economically devastated area for $7,500, which was wonderful when I bought it. I then proceeded to put nearly $40,000 into it. But it wasn't so wonderful when I went to sell it and expected to get my $47,500 back. (Admittedly, I did do much better with my second, much smaller house there. Bought it for $10,000 and doubled my money in six years. But doubling $10,000 isn't exactly breaking the bank in Vegas.)

Missing boats is just a part of life, I guess. And it really isn't so much about the boats you miss as the ones you catch. I may have missed the Queen Mary several times, but the S.S. Minnow isn't really all that uncomfortable.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Little Things

Why do I let little things get to me so? I was, having no choice in the matter, listening to Bruce Springsteen singing "Born in the U.S.A.", the total lyrics of which appear to be the words "I was born in the U.S.A." repeated no fewer than 312 times. Okay, Bruce, I get it. But where were you born, again? For some reason totally incomprehensible to me, this song seems to have established itself as contender to become our national anthem.

Perhaps it is because people do not have the time to pay attention to or grasp the intricacies of complex sentences. Call me old fashioned, but I'll take "God Bless America"....the lyrics of— which incorporate not only complete sentences but actual thought....any day of the week.

I'm not sure where popular music began it's decline from songs with actual stories (inane as some of them indeed were) to Bruce's "Born in the U.S.A." and Cher's "Do You Believe in Love?"—a question asked 618 times in succession in the course of the...I really can't call it a song...musical notes strung together.

There are few things worse than people of a certain age—that is, anyone 20 years older than you—ranting and cursing and carrying on about "when I was a kid" but the fact is that the claim has a great deal of merit, especially on a social level. Those who were born after WWII can't comprehend how different our society was then. Despite it's enormous flaws and inexcusable behavior in the area of civil rights, it was a cohesive society in that we all knew we were in something huge and hugely threatening, and that to survive we had to cling together. Our world today, for all it's technology, is increasingly fragmented on a human-to-human level.

But back to little things. "Press 'one' for English" sends me into apoplexy. It doesn't seem to bother anyone else, but lava flows out of my ears whenever I hear it, and I never, ever, press "one" for English. I don't care if my call never goes through, I'm not going to do it.

When in a situation where the Pledge of Allegiance is said, I go along with it right up through "one nation" and then shut up for the next two words. I will NOT say "Under God." "Under God" was not in the original, and was shoe-horned in by those despicable creatures who presume to know what is best for the rest of us, and who far too often presume to speak for God. I strongly believe we are indeed "one nation, indivisible" but to drag God into it is utterly unnecessary.

Being told that I must, if I wish to attract more readers to my books, belong to Twitter and Facebook and MySpace and 72 of the 73 offshoots of something called Ning is, to me, the equivalent of chewing aluminum foil. I want to write books, and I want people to read them, and I cannot write if I'm spending 26 hours a day Twittering and Tweeting (phrases which make my skin crawl). Other writers do it without batting an eye. Why should it upset me so?

And it all boils down to a point which is woven through probably the majority of the blogs that I write, and I hope occasionally finds its way into my books: if something displeases you, don't just sit there or roll over and play dead. Do something! If only to complain loudly over the phone, or send an email (which major corporations make next to impossible to do).

My cable bill rose $10 from last month to this month. No explanation. I'm sure the company felt none was necessary. What, after all, can anyone do if they don't like it? Switch to another cable company with the same high ethical standards? Riiiight. I called the company to complain and spoke to someone who is as powerless to do anything about it as I. But I had the comfort of knowing that someone other than me was aware of my unhappiness, and that if the other 19 million people who were as unhappy with something as I actually emailed or phoned, something might...just done.

And though I may have no more power to change things than one of those little "no-see-ems" that haunt forested areas, have you ever been in a swarm of them? We are all individual no-see-ems, but come on, people...SWARM!

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Monday, May 06, 2013


Won•der (noun): a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable

Life is the soul's all-too-brief vacation from the eternity from which we emerged and to which we return. Wonder is our reaction to the awareness of that fact.

The capacity for wonder is part of the human condition, though it too often becomes buried beneath heavy layers of details of realities and requirements of daily life. While no one could spend every moment aware of the wonder of life—we could never accomplish anything substantive if we did—it can be as close to the surface of our consciousness as we allow it to be.

I can and do find wonder in almost anything I look at or think of—all I have to do is to open my mind to it. The key to the door to wonder is the simple question “why?” Why are things the way they are rather than some other way? What would it be like if those things were different from what they are? What would the world be like? What would you be like? What would I be like?

How can one walk on a beach and not wonder which are more numerous: the grains of sand on the beach or the stars in the sky? To wonder is to knock over the first domino in an endless chain of on-end dominos. How many of those stars have planets with life? How many have civilizations like our own? How many astonishingly wonderful things are out there of which we are totally unaware? How can anyone possibly ever be bored when there are are an infinite number of things to wonder about?

And so it goes, one thing leading to another until we, with conscious effort, pull ourselves back to daily existence. So, for however enthralling wondering is, for some people—me, for one—wonder is like an eager puppy on a leash running in circles around our feet while we're trying to walk, distracting us from the demands of daily reality. This has been the case with me for most of my life. It is undoubtedly why I became a writer...the search for answers and alternatives to “why.”

But for all the beauty to be found in wonder, there is a darker side to it, taking the form of sometimes an almost debilitating incomprehension, which also distracts me from just living my life. There is so very much I sincerely do not and cannot, no matter how hard I try, comprehend. How can so many people be so intolerant and hateful of others? What do they use for logic? Why, if given the choice between positive and negative, do they always choose the negative? Why, when given the choice of building up or tearing down, do they choose tearing down? Why do they seem utterly devoid of compassion, of a true awareness of the needs of others; especially those less fortunate than themselves? I may (and do) strongly think that my beliefs and opinions are those by which, if everyone else lived, the world would become a better place. But I would never, ever, insist that you think and believe the same. So by what right do others insist that I conform to their thoughts and beliefs?

Whether you believe in God or in an afterlife or the existence of the soul, the gift of wonder, like the gift of life itself, is, well, infinitely priceless. To ignore or be unaware of either one is the ultimate form of ingratitude.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Pity Pool

As I'm sure you probably have noticed by now, I am infinitely fascinated by me, partly because of my self-perceived isolation from the rest of the world and partly because my thoughts, experiences, and reactions are the only ones of which I can speak with any degree of confidence.

Somewhere, in the dark forest of every human mind, there is a pool of self-pity where the wild regrets and yearnings for lost things come to renew themselves when they suspect we may be forgetting about them. The nice thing about the pity pool is that it provides the comforting reassurance that nothing that happens to us is our fault or our responsibility....that all our woes are visited upon us by anyone and anything other than ourselves. And there is a certain nobility in the self-assurance that we are terribly brave to face such adversity alone. ("Alone" is a key word in all contemplation of the pity pool.)

My personal pity pool is actually more of a lake, the full extent of which is hidden by thick foliage of reality along the shore. But I while I really do tend to avoid it, I catch an occasional glimpse every now and then and, in the heat of emotion, have been known to take a dip in its murky waters.

My trips to the pool are most frequently occasioned by reminders of what I could once, so casually and without a single thought, do that I can no longer do. (Yesterday I found it necessary to use a straw to empty a half-pint carton of milk since I was unable to tilt my head back far enough to drink it normally.) These little reminders of the difference between who I was until ten years ago—can it have been ten years already?—and who I am now are impossible for me to accept. We are two different people, me then and me now. Totally different, and yet still the same. I can't fully grasp it, and quite probably never will.

And because there are so many reminders, the temptation to take a dip in the pity pool is irritatingly frequent. Some friends meet every Friday evening for drinks. I know I would be welcome to join them, but I do not: it's too close to the pity pool. For years, I had a routine of having two Manhattans before dinner. I truly enjoyed them. But now any alcohol burns my mouth. I can't even use mouthwash that contains alcohol. Occasionally, when out for dinner—no more than, I'd guess, three ounces of solid food—I will have a Kahlúa and cream....heavy on the cream, light on the Kahlúa. It still burns, but I do it. (Did I mention the nobility of bravery?)

And one reminder triggers a domino-effect of others. Carbonated beverages of any kind also burn, but in a different, hard-to-explain way, as do things like orange juice, lemonade, or anything citrus based. When I was at Mayo and took all my nourishment through a stomach tube, I used to literally dream of chug-a-lugging a tall glass of orange juice, or a big mug of root beer. But when I was finally able to try, I found the carbonation of the root beer and the acidity of the orange juice limited me to a few small sips at a time. And a flashing neon arrow over the words "This Way to the Pity Pool" comes on in my mind.

Why I'm laying all these things out here now is not, I assure you, a bid for sympathy: far too many people have had it much, much rougher than I, and I realize it and am embarrassingly grateful that I have had it so relatively easy compared to others. No, I do it in the hopes that you might do what I never did before the problem arose...take a moment at least once every hour to realize just how very lucky you are.

And I excuse myself for this Rubenesque self portrait of "Roger at the Pity Pool" on the grounds that none of us is fully aware or appreciative of what we have until we no longer have it, and by then it is too late.

An occasional dip in our own private pity pool is perfectly normal, and probably even healthy. The key lies in not staying too long before getting out, drying off, and getting on with our lives.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (