Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Archive for January, 2024

Sunday Musings…1/28/2024

1 Vituperative. Abusive, bitter, sarcastic. One guess who the subject of the article was when I read that word.

2 Calumniating. Synonym for vituperative. Imagine you found this one first and the definition was “vituperative”. Webster’s rathole.

3 Contumelious. Oh why not…one more in the family tree. I’ll be grading the pundits that are offering pundications about you know who on the quality of their adjectives.

4 Yellow. “The big yellow one is the sun!” –Brian Reagan

We fled to Florida in pursuit of Hero, Beth’s loyal steed, and stumbled upon “the big yellow one” when we arrived. I sat down to write under its magnificent glow only to have it disappear behind the clouds that have begin to lubricate my laptop from above.

Cleveland has followed us to the locale formerly known as “The Sunshine State”.

5 Pill. My friends Brett and Lynne reached out a couple of days ago to invite me and Beth to visit their home in the mountains. Brett, like most of the surgeons I know (and if I’m honest, much of the time me as well), is quietly convinced that he is a true polymath, with enough innate smarts and acquired “data” to offer educated and perspicacious commentary of most of what he encounters in life.

Including, in this case, last week’s “Sunday musings…” LOL!

Brett thinks that I left out the most important part of the longevity formula, the plan to increase the quantity and quality of your lifespan. Again, like many (most?) of us in the club, he jumps the gun a bit, offering to give me the “secret sauce” before I finished the “cookbook”! No worries of course. I previewed what’s on the way while letting him know that we would get back to him and Lynne about their generous invite.

For the last several years I’ve done a little thought experiment in January. I’d run across an article on WSJ.com in which a fascinating hypothetical was proposed: If you could stop the aging process at a particular point in time, at what age would you do that? At what age do you feel that you are close enough to your physical peak that you are comfortable balancing that against your intellectual capacities and maturity? Great question, that.

My physical fitness has been slipping for at least several years. Despite this, until the months just before my first hip replacement in 2019 I remained generally stronger than I was at any time other than my years as a college football player. When did I peak? At what time was my overall physical fitness, when my capabilities across the 10 general characteristics of fitness CrossFitters chase at its highest level? Although I didn’t know it at the time I probably peaked somewhere in medical school. My buddies and I managed to cram in marathon hoops sessions, round robin squash fests, and an admittedly conflict of interest laden exploration of 1980’s aerobics classes (most of my friends were single) while we finished up school. I supplemented this with pretty standard issue weight training (Beth liked lifting, even back then). Make that peak age 25 or 26.

Believe it or not, from there the slow age and career inflicted decline began in earnest. Had it not been for that Men’s Journal article in December 2005 I’d likely be a typical 64 year old desk jockey, broken by my job and the various and sundry weekend warrior injuries I would have doubtless suffered. Ah, but this CrossFit thing not only saved me from that but also gave me another peak somewhere around age 48. To be truthful I’m back on the descent now, especially following the 18 month ordeal of my second hip replacement, but at least summited another (slightly lower) peak before starting the slide.

How about the other half of the equation? The part where you have a certain amount of intelligence, experience, and maturity? Well, for sure I was whip smart at 26. Every doctor (like me and my buddy Brett) is simply brilliant on med school graduation day; we have no idea what we don’t know, and no idea how to actually be a doctor, but hey, we just crammed for 4 straight years and our brains are busting at the seems with, you know, smart stuff.

You know where this part is going, of course. At 26 I’d yet to acquire the maturity and experience that is necessary to create what I’d like to call “actionable intellect”. Such a thing could also be called “judgment”, and in short the ingredients you add to the mix are mileage and the accumulated humility that one acquires “on the road”. Like every other 26 year old I was pretty sure I knew it all already we finished up school,but we all know how much longer the story is at that point, don’t we.

So it must be age 48 then. Another physical peak achieved. lost of miles under my belt including the humility of a struggling business and the grounding effect of nearly losing a child. Must be 48, right? Well, to be quite honest, I would really love to return to age 48 in a physical sense. My 64 year old bones are more than weary, at least the ones that have carried me for all 64 years, and I’ll admit right now that I’m slow-rolling writing this because I’m dreading the thought of ruining a perfectly good lazy Sunday with a workout that’s gonna happen sometime after I finish this. A funny thing happened again on the way to my “final answer” though: just like my first answer at age 58 I realized that my non-physical growth over the last 6 years has been extraordinary.

This weekend, in the company of quite a few men and women who like me quite a lot, and a couple who truly love me, I discovered the “second flaw” in the thought experiment I first came across 6 years ago: there are THREE essential characteristics that can grow, or atrophy, over the course of a lifetime, not two. Yes, the two noted in the WSJ, physical and mental prowess, are both the obvious and arguably the more important, at least on the surface. If we look solely at these two metrics, and if I was truly forced to take the pill one day or another, I might very well have taken it on my 59th birthday. Especially if I’d known what my hips had in store for me going forward. If I’m being brutally honest, I have likely plateaued intellectually, too.

Can you continue to gather wisdom if you’ve hit your intellectual peak?

Ah, well, the answer to that (and the next lesson in bullet-proofing your brain against dementia) is also the response to Brett’s observation that I’d missed the key to both the quality and quantity of your lifespan. You see, the third measure, the third aspect of our being that can grow over time, is our emotional health. How we are able to both feel emotionally, and how we are able to respond to the emotions of those around us. The answer, the third leg of the stool for all of this is our ability to be emotionally open to close friendships, and our willingness to simultaneously seek more close friendships while we deepen those we are already blessed to have.

My weekend began with a bit of a detour on my way to connect with Hero in Florida. My professional side gig as a consultant and educator sent me to Dallas and the company of colleagues both old and newly met. Among them were those folks who like me, and the couple of very good friends who would say that I am a friend they love. It was so very, very nice to be there. Like being in the warmest topical pool imaginable, and realizing that you’ve become a much better swimmer than you’d ever been in your life. In the company of my friends I was just better at being their friend. Like learning a new swimming stroke, in the company of people I’d never met it was just easier to meet them, find that which we shared, and start a new journey toward friendship.

So yes, Brett, I hadn’t gotten to close friendships yet but they are key to living both longer and living better and happier. And yes to my friend who is so very concerned about the risk for dementia after watching a close family member succumb, the quantity and quality of your close friendships also helps to inoculate you against the scourge of dementia. Emotional growth might be the third pillar, the missing load bearing element in the classic WSJ thought experiment. Physical and mental prowess only? Maybe I’d have taken the pill on my birthday in 2019. Does your EQ, the emotional equivalent of your IQ also diminish as part of the aging process? No idea. But I’m better at the whole of things with 5 more years of gains in my EQ, and with that prowess that much better at the core of my friendships.

So I will head back to the gym. I’ll continue my pursuit of another language, deeper knowledge about wine, and perhaps an intellectually challenging game to learn and play with my Man Cub and his sibs and cousins. In April I’ll be off to the mountains to give a wonderful friendship fuel to grow.

And if our EQ is part of the equation, and if mine is still increasing, well then I shall leave the pill on the counter for at least one more year.

I’ll see you next week…

Sunday musings…1/21/2024

1 Zebra. I might as well be sitting at a window in Ice Station Zebra. While I can’t walk to Canada, from where I’m sitting it does look like all I’d need to do is pull a little row boat behind me to scoot across the open areas in the ice that spans out before me further than I can see without binoculars.

Kinda reminds me of the famous novel (and inevitable movie) Ice Station Zebra from the 1970’s. You young’uns have no memory of this, of course, but the 1970’s were awash with end-of-times tales of a world plunged back into another Ice Age after the relatively warm and placid climate of the early 20th Century. That’s right, with all of the industrial growth in the mid-20th Century the climate cooled and people called for science to save humanity from the incipient frost.

Just another reminder me Droogies that cold kills.

2 Brain Health. Part 2: sleep. Turns out that both duration and quality of sleep is a key factor in protecting your squash from rotting. Sleep in mid-life plays an important role in preserving the health of your brain and lowering your risk of developing, or the severity of the dementia that you develop.

Let’s start with a little bit of the basics of sleep. Humans sleep in cycles that last approximately 90 minutes, plus or minus a little bit. Each cycle contains 4 discrete sections broken down into Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-REM sections of which there are 3. NR-1 is very light sleep during which you are still partly aware of your surroundings; this is the stage in which we are most wakeful and from which we most naturally awaken spontaneously. N-2 is when we truly fall asleep and is the longest stage. Delta waves begin to appear on our EEG and both our heart rate and respiratory rates slow down. N-3 is deep sleep, the stage from which it is most difficult to awaken. REM sleep is when the most vivid dreams occur. The N-3 and REM stages each last about 25% of a cycle.

Our best, healthiest sleep occurs when we sleep for X complete cycles, awakening just after REM sleep and before N-1 is over. This is a bit counter intuitive. For instance, if you do the math you will have a higher quality night of sleep if you awaken after 6 hours (4 90-minute cycles) than if you wake up or are awakened after 7 hours, right in the middle of N-3 or deep sleep. In general we also tend to function better in the long term if we retire at night and awaken in the morning at roughly the same time each day. Limiting exposure to bright light, especially blue or violet light, makes it easier to fall asleep (transition from N-1 to N-2). Following on last week’s thoughts on alcohol, a drink close to bedtime will move you from N-1 to N-2 more quickly, but alcohol disrupts the completion of cycles; we often fail to enter REM sleep before returning to N-1.

Bottom line? Quality sleep including a healthy REM stage, with the quantity of sleep driven by how many CYCLES, not hours, that you have slept, is an important tool to help prevent or delay the onset of dementia. Next week: autonomic nervous system and exercise.

3 Sports Illustrated. One entire wall of the bedroom I shared with my brother growing up was papered with classic full-page illustrations from Sports Illustrated.

This week the sports world was greeted with the news that Sports Illustrated, the venerable magazine that transformed the world of sports reporting from an essentially local endeavor into one of national interest, was soon to be no more. For reasons that frankly aren’t all that well explained, something financial has caused the group that has been publishing SI to “lose its license”. The news that we all heard was that this group would lay-off either most or all of the what remains of SI’s staff, both on the publishing (business) and editorial (writing/photography) sides. Those of you who have loved SI, like me, remember the halcyon days pre-private equity buy-out and the post-sale initial purge that jettisoned most of what remained of the star-studded roster of writers.

Internet wags have been all about how this was inevitable, not because of the finances that resulted in the private equity group’s pillaging of SI’s assets but because of the annual SI Swimsuit Issue. I found it interesting that a super-majority of folks in high dungeon over this referenced the swimsuit issue as “one of the 12 annual issues”, labeling themselves immediately as Johhny/Janey-come-latelies with no real emotional skin in the game; until 2020 or so SI was published weekly beginning in the 1950’s, and the swimsuit issue was not published as a separate, stand-alone issue until the 1990’s or so (there was reporting on the previous week’s significant sporting events in the first half of the issue).

No, it was the cold-hearted stripping of assets coupled with a complete tone-deafness by the financial cowboys that did in what had become a cultural landmark in our sports-obsessed country. SI was an icon that drove conversation across almost all divides in our society, at least among sports fans. To be sure, the opera-obsessed or the high fashion followers were as likely to read SI as an Alabama football fan was to pick up The New Yorker, but if you read SI you had strong opinions about all kinds of stuff sports related, and equally strong opinions about SI and its reporting. Seriously, the letters to the editor after an article on chess or bowling were almost as fun to read as the ones 2 weeks after the swimsuit issue.

If you were an SI reader you still remember what day yours came in the mail each week. Mine came every Thursday when I was young and had yet to fledge the nest. My folks gave each of us a subscription of our own when we headed off to college; mine still arrived in my mailbox on Thursday at school. It took me months to get used to the Friday delivery day here in Cleveland, my home for some 33 years now. You had a pattern, how you read each issue. Purists started by opening the front page and starting at the start. Others, like me, went directly to the last page and “Point After” by Rick Reilly. My only letter to SI was actually addressed to Reilly. Sadly, neither SI’s editors nor Rick considered my thoughts worthy or either publication or a reply.

At their peak it would have been hard to determine which end of the year award was more eagerly awaited and discussed, Time Magazine’s Man (now Person) of the Year or Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman (now Sportsperson) of the year. With all of the international upheaval these days including two wars and Artificial Intelligence’s 12 month Debutante Ball, this year Time named Taylor Swift Person of the Year, perhaps the least surprising and controversial choice in recent memory. Ah, but not Sports Illustrated. Nope, this year they went off the proverbial board and made the kind of nearly unfathomable choice that always made you sit on the edge of the throne waiting for the announcement: Deion Sanders, most recently head coach of the University of Colorado’s football team.

It almost seems like someone on the editorial side got tipped off about the coming bad news and decided to go out big.

Now please understand, I have nothing against either Mr. Sanders or the University of Colorado. But please, after a really fun first few weeks of the season in which the Buffaloes upset a couple of reasonably good teams, they cratered, finishing with a 4-8 record and a 6 game losing streak. Yes, sure, Coach Sanders brought in a huge amount of PR, raised the profile of a once-proud program, and was masterful at manipulating the new administrative landscape of big-time college football (transfer portals, NIL, etc.). But still, 4-8.

This is a magazine that once declared Mario Andretti SOTY after winning a single F1 Race. In a year in which Max Verstappen won 14 races and clinched the F1 title with 6 races yet to be run, we get Deion Sanders. Sports Illustrated has long made room for sports with a smaller footprint like tennis and golf. This year the Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund-backed LIV golf and its public face Greg Norman continued to upset the professional golf apple cart, while Novak Djokovic won 3 of the 4 tennis majors, coming within one set of the first calendar Grand Slam in modern tennis history; we get Deion Sanders. SI has arguably done as much as ABC Sports in building the Olympic Games into the behemoth they have become. In the year that multi-gold medal winning skier Micaela Shiffrin became the all-time leader in World Cup wins, we get Deion Sanders. Two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani is the unanimous winner of Major League Baseball and…

You get the picture.

Perhaps the saddest part of all of this is that we are talking about the tragedy of the travesty visited upon a cultural icon that once sat astride one of the intersections of American culture rather than yet another culture clashing cluster of a choice for its signature award. Where once I would have spent literally hours hashing out the editors’ decision to anoint Deion Sanders at SOTY in 2023, now we dissect the meaning of the cryptic droppings from the financial toilet bowl that owns SI. There really is a conversation to be had just about Deion Sanders for goodness sake. Lost in all of the gold chains and golden mirrored sunglasses is the fact that once upon a time he was a legit candidate for SOTY when he was an active professional athlete in both the NFL and MLB.

It’s a shame. All of it. The long, slow, painful decline of this once great publication, from weekly must-read to monthly curio, and now oblivion. We should have gnashing of teeth, beating of breasts and wailing. Tears should be shed by the proverbial Gatorade bucketful. Like the famous poem about an athlete dying young we should be imploring someone, anyone, to rage against the dying of SI’s light.

For all that is so very wrong, we should all plead for someone to keep the last Sportsperson of the Year from being a college football coach with a losing record.

I’ll see you next week…

Longer or Better? Sunday musings…1/14/24

1 Climate. 5 degrees Fahrenheit this AM in Cleveburg. Cities across the country are sending support people onto the streets seeking the undomiciled. This is your annual missive from my keyboard that it is COLD that kills.

2 Magic. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” –Arthur C. Clarke

Another day, another deluge of articles on AI in the newspapers. So advanced it seems like magic, eh? Still, one doesn’t need to invoke an all-powerful new entity with the potential to end life as we know it to be blown away by technology.

Heck, it’s still a bit magical every time I pull a hot bowl of formerly cold soup out of the microwave.

3 Chronicles. Not gonna lie, I kinda miss my CrossFit community. Especially during January, the month where I would post an explanation of each day’s WOD for the inevitable questions that would come up when CrossFit.com was inundated with New Year’s Resolutionaries. It was fun, and I felt useful.

More than that, though, was the sense of being part of a tribe, one with shared values and shared goals. At least in the earlier, less commercial days of the movement. The FRAT, Usual Suspects, and various other groups on the Main Page and Message Board became my gym mates, and several are still close friends.

Anything that lasts changes. Still, on Sundays, especially in January, I miss the CrossFit that was.

4 Longevity. Welp, I’ve finally gotten bummed enough about my love handles that I have made a major change in how I eat. 3 weeks ago I stopped eating breakfast and began doing time-regulated eating. Also known as intermittent fasting, I am now eating between the hours of 12:00 noon and 8:00 PM. Most days, of course, my last PM nutrition occurs earlier, but the no breakfast thing is my first significant, meaningful change since I embarked on many years of Zoning in January 2006.

Why? Why now? Not gonna lie, vanity is a big factor. My mid-life CrossFit bod, while not in any way impressive or noteworthy, was nonetheless not noteworthy for looking like a guy in mid-life. Plus, all of my clothes were the same size as they’d been for decades, and they all still fit. Since the 6 or 7 months prior to my first hip surgery in 2019 my ability to stick with any exercise program, never mind my preferred CrossFitty program, has been severely curtailed. To be sure it is my publicly stated intention to get back into a physical routine, but even with that, my apparently plummeting basal metabolism demands some changes in what passes through my pie-hole and when.

Why longevity as the marker for #3? 2022 was the year of my second hip surgery, and my “deep dive” topic while I was laid up was the science of longevity. While there is a ton of really cool stuff to learn and to know, every single author and expert I’ve listened to or read before or since begins their thesis with some sort of review of the effects of caloric restriction on lifespan. Depending on the severity of the restriction most research predicts anywhere between 10 (reasonable) and 20% (unlikely) longer life simply from caloric restriction. What is fascinating is that time-restricted eating produces an increased lifespan independent of any caloric restriction that might arise from that strategy.

So count me among the IF adherents. My weight is less a target than inches, not unlike my CF goals back in the day.

5 Mind. As in trying not to lose one’s mind. If one is going to make an effort to live longer, one should make an effort to be aware of what’s going on while you’re still around.

I had a brief, heartbreaking interaction with a friend who was in the office for a visit. They needed a very minor (to me) procedure to prevent a potentially cataclysmic problem that could occur. Diagnosing, discussing, and doing the treatment is literally a daily occurrence in our office. Once identified we very matter-of-factly move on to a procedure with >95% success preventing the cataclysm. The procedure itself is a nothingburger experience; thinking about it is 1000X worse than having it done. Most folks arrive for their post-procedure visit relaxed and ready to move on.

Not my friend, though. They were teary eyed from the get-go that next day, something we almost never see. Although younger than I, needing this procedure made them feel old. Made them terribly worried about getting older. When I noted how different their reaction was and asked them why they thought it might be, they told me about their mother. Once a strong, independent, vibrant woman, their mom had been laid low by dementia so severe that she no longer recognized her children. Everything about this terrifies my friend. Was this to be their fate? Despite everything they have done to remain healthy, is their destiny to outlive their consciousness?

It was truly heartbreaking to listen and to see how visceral their fear is.

Along with my deep dive into longevity there was no way to avoid the parallel discourse on brain health and the pursuit of a strategy to “bomb proof” your brain against dementia. This is an impossible task, of course, since at least part of the risk for dementia of all types is genetic. A tiny time bomb hidden in our genome that increases one’s risk for one or another of the various and sundry dementias. I promised my friend that I would share some resources with them over time, the books and blogs, podcasts and other productions I’d been looking at to help me understand both my risks and what types of risk mitigation I might engage to erect some walls to contain my own risk. In addition I thought I’d pretend that I was chatting with them, here, and share some of what I’ve discovered every now and again in “musings…”

Along with time-regulated eating the other nutritional change that I am going to try very hard to incorporate is a much stricter approach to alcohol in my diet. Now, anyone who has read any of my drivel over the years including my self-declared epic adventures “Drinking with John Starr” is aware that a carefully crafted cocktail or consciously curated cuvee are simple joys that bring me happiness. I adore everything about the process of drinking a cocktail or glass of wine. The research, repartee with fellow travelers, resource gathering and final rendering of the recipe into being. I love all of that.

The alcohol part? Like most folks I am deeply conflicted about the alcohol and its effects. Regardless of what it may be on any given night the first glass doesn’t contain enough alcohol to really move my needle up or down; it’s simply a part of the potion, if you will. No, it’s the subsequent ones where the alcohol is an issue, and to be honest, not a part of the experience I enjoy. Everything gets kinda duller, at least for me. On top of that there would be the worthless calories which we all know are gonna be deposited directly on top of those love handles I so despise.

But it’s the longevity, and more than that the task of bullet-proofing your brain so that you are present to enjoy your longevity that is the issue. All of the best research of the last 10 years comes to pretty much the same conclusion: the safest amount of alcohol is zero. What of the prior studies and the findings that a “modest” amount of alcohol led to greater longevity than both drinking to excess and not drinking at all? Honestly, I don’t know what to think about that. Each one of us probably has some sort of internal gauge we can’t see. Maybe a little is OK for a lot of folks. I kinda think so, or maybe just hope so. But if your main concern is to do everything you can possibly do to prevent the onset of dementia, like my friend, dramatically reducing your alcohol intake or forswearing it altogether is one obvious place to start.

For every Winston Churchill (Champagne at lunch, wine with dinner, whiskey or brandy at bedtime), arguably still as sharp as a tack at life’s end, there are probably 1000 Foster Grants stumbling through the endgame.

Over the next few weeks I will carry on this “conversation” with my friend here on “musings…”. I’ll try to touch on some of the other important things I’ve learned that any of us can do like get better quality sleep and enough of it, foster a healthy relationship with exercise, and think about the newest frontier, our microbiome. It turns out that I am fairly decent at taking huge gobs in information at distilling them down into digestible nuggets. Kinda like I used to do for the fitness newbies each January over on CrossFit.com.

I’d sure like my friend to rest easier.

I’ll see you next week…

When I’m 64: Sunday musings…1/7/2024

Well, that happened. Just like that I woke up and became part of a Beatles song. You know the one. Funny, I actually woke up with it playing in my head:

Will you still need me/will you still feed me/when I’m 64?

It’s a silly little song, really. A young man is playfully asking his mate if she will be around when he is old and “wasting away”. When you think about it, when John and Paul wrote it around, what, 1966, they were in their mid-20’s. 64 must have looked like 104 to them in the days when men had a life expectancy of around 68 and a strong majority of the men they’d grown up around had been laborers, worn away to the bone by their jobs. It’s a funny number even now, 64, at least in the U.S., the age just before one is eligible to join the Medicare crowd. Otherwise, 64 might as well be 34 or 84: nothing much going on from a milestone standpoint.

With a birthday that falls within the Christmas/New Year’s season (today is the Feast of the Epiphany, the real 12th day of Christmas) one can’t help but ascribe a bit more significance to a birthday. Especially the New Year’s thing, right? Looking back and taking stock. Assessing the present, checking your own pulse, going through your pre-launch sequence as you prepare to lift-off for another orbit around the sun for you and everyone else on the Roman calendar. Whether you are a “Comma Guy” or a “full-stop, period on 12/31” kinda gal, the temptation to fold your birthday into the “new beginning” is a bit stronger for those of us who have holiday-adjacent days.

How about that song? Any insights? A bit of wisdom? I mean, the Beatles were kinda deep, especially Paul and John at the peak of their song smithing. It’s really pretty much about those special relationships, central relationships with the ones you love, right? Especially, if you are really lucky, that one most special person. All of the things that you will need to be happy and healthy when you are older. Like 64. Will you still need me? We all thrive when we have purpose. The singer is not so much describing how he might be useful as much as asking if it will ok if he is there to be of use. Will you still feed me? Will you be the one or ones who are there when I am the one in need? It’s scary to be getting older baseline; thinking about getting older without someone or someones who will be there when you need them is downright terrifying.

As young men John Lennon and Paul McCartney looked into the future and saw 64 as the definition of old. I sure don’t feel that way today. At least not about the number anyway. 64 is a made up milestone, conjured into existence by two young Liverpudlians wise beyond their years, yet incapable of looking too very far beyond them. I awakened today at Mile Marker 64 and took a long, slow look around at where I am today and realized, again, that the only “new beginning” I need is another sunrise. Filled with purpose, surrounded by people who need me. Fed in every way possible by those who love me. What I feel is gratitude for the wonderful gift of their simple being, here, today, “when I’m 64”.

And if I am very lucky they will all remain “mine, forever more.”

I’ll see you next week…

A Comma Guy

A piece from Random Thoughts on this day in 2014 as I think about this Sunday, my birthday, and the kinds of stuff I might be thinking about…

Tons of random stuff banging around between my ears, so much that it’s a little difficult to wade through and make sense of any of it. One little thing keeps bubbling up to the surface, long enough at least to be noticed: the lowly comma. Mathew McConaughy describes himself as a “comma person”. I get that.

What with all of the New Year’s resolution action, here and, well, everywhere, it can get to feeling like there really is a discreet finish to a year. A ‘period’. Full Stop. Does it seem like that to you? Everyone gets all in a rush to finish off a year, in this case 2013, so that they can get started on the next one. All kinds of retrospectives, writ large and small, come cascading down at the end of the year. As if it really was an end. Capped by a ‘period’, you know?

The thing is, though, that I don’t really feel all that different. It doesn’t really feel like anything was all that completed on December 31st. Or, for that matter, like there’s any huge new start, re-boot, or even a mulligan just after that ‘period’. Sure, there’s a really convenient opportunity to take stock, maybe make some adjustments or even re-route, but the longer I’ve been at this New Year thing the less it seems like anything is ever really at Full Stop.

More like a pause. That’s it. Not a ‘period’ so much as a ‘comma’ leading into whatever comes next.

A sentence, a paragraph, a chapter, or the whole darned story ends with a period. The year is over and the last box has been checked, but the story continues on New Year’s Day. Even the most severe pivot is still connected to the other side of the angle, the beginning of the line. The line, the sentence, the story and the life do not really stop at all; New Year, Birthday, whatever. We may pause, indeed we do pause, sometimes quite often. Full stop? Nah. Not us.

That’s what’s got me thinking about the comma. The story goes on and on, one big run-on sentence with an occasional pause but never a stop. It’s connected front to back, side to side, and start to finish by those pauses, by the lowly comma. I think I get what McConaughy is getting at. New Year’s Day is a comma place for sure, but neither time nor life hits a ‘period’ there, either. We just keep on going. The comma means there’s more to come.

I think I might be a “comma person”, too.

I’ll see you in a couple of days, this Sunday, my 64th birthday…

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