augusta free press news

Jim Bishop: January brain freeze-time to chill out

I sat at my computer and in a few seconds came up with a title for this treatise without having the slightest idea what would follow (and in reading this, you’ll probably think that’s still the case).

I thought such an exercise would help prod my mental neurons which seem in a state of general lethargy. Maybe it’s the bitter cold, uninspiring weather that seems to have occupied a stationary front over the central Shenandoah Valley. Maybe it’s the reality of having more month than money; a recurring problem for this financial wizard who should cut his ATM card into pieces and return to a weekly allowance system that his thrifty spouse has already threatened will be the pattern come retirement.

Plus, for the first time in ages, I’m fighting a cold while juggling several deadlines and other commitments, attended two funerals of local acquaintances in a two-week period, already realize how much I miss not doing my weekly “Friday Night Jukebox” radio programs and went ‘round and ‘round in trying to get some straight answers on some health insurance coverage questions – these can combine to foment a despondent mood, if I allow it.

And, I continue to pull one dumb stunt after another – dumping a packet of photos along with my trash in the receptacle at the fast food restaurant, forgetting where I parked my Miata in the shopping center lot and then realizing I’m driving my back-up Neon, repeatedly leaving my cell phone in public places (no one would want my obsolete model).

Which brings me around to asking: why even write about these issues which probably sound petty? Will doing so either jumpstart my sluggish physical vehicle or accelerate a descent into the slough of despondency?

Let’s find out together.

At least we’ve managed to dodge the predicted snow bullet once again even as plummeting temperatures don’t help my standoff battle with the flu bug. And, I’m slowly making headway on projects at work and feel energized by those satisfactorily completed.

Meanwhile, both wife Anna and I find ourselves eyeing the living room sofa and the bedroom divan these days with much yearning, not as a spot for romantic encounters but as an inviting space for taking things lying down.

“I’ll just take a cat nap,” I think to myself, and next thing I know, I awaken to loud purring and a warm, hairy body scrunched up alongside my head, purring loudly, resident feline Avery’s way of welcoming me back to the land of the living.

“But I didn’t intend to zone out for an hour or more,” I complain aloud to my unsympathetic wife who spent that same block of time doing lesson plans, ironing or trying to figure out why the checkbook won’t balance (something to do with missing debit slips).

The biting night air doesn’t particularly invite my venturing out to walk the streets of our development for some much-needed exercise even as the treadmill in our guest room beckons. There is no reasonable excuse not to program a routine and start working off those extra pounds acquired over the Christmas-New Year’s holidays.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” the late John Lennon observes in his song, “Beautiful Boy.”

How much of life should be carefully planned and executed, exercising caution in exploring the unknown and taking risks?

I ask myself that as I reflect back on nearly 44 years of sowing word pictures in the journalism field. I never expected to do all that’s come to pass, but wouldn’t go back and trade it for anything, except, perhaps, to pursue additional opportunities in radio that didn’t materialize. Perhaps those weren’t meant to be.

I need to keep working at massaging my brain. Dance is good for that, especially line dancing that requires memorizing patterns and sequences, drawing on the support of fellow high-steppers. I’m contemplating taking piano lessons again, resurrecting a talent that I regrettably allowed to go dormant years ago.

In order to defrost in the dead of winter, I need to read more, watch TV and play on the computer less; exercise more, eat less; empathize and affirm more, criticize less; and pray and meditate more, worry less.

That’s my desire, more or less . . .

Jim Bishop is public information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. He can be contacted at