What follows is some stuff I typed into a chatroom today. I'm still in the same hour-by-hour crisis I've been in since Monday of last week. I'm in a coffee shop in Waterville as I type this with no clear idea where I'm sleeping tonight.
Things are dire here; nothing is stable until mom is safe in a home. I keep thinking they're stable and then something else blows up. (It's ricky half the time.)
I am shifting my stance to getting her moved the hell out and damn the cost.
I'll figure out how to pay for it later.
Today Ricky decided he doesn't want to drive the car anymore because he isn't insured. "I'll get arrested and go to jail!"
Yesterday it was the plumbing. Tomorrow it'll be Ricky's missed the bus or some other damn thing.
I feel better for having come to this decision
More background: I was under the misimpression that getting mom into a home on the dole would be a matter of waiting a few days for forms to process. This is true except for the "a few days" part.
I'm now being told this may take weeks or more to find a bed in a facility that accepts MaineCare (as opposed to private pay)
And I'm in continual crisis mode until mom's moved. Which is a huge drain on my money, my psyche, and my relationship hi amy.
So I can't stay in this mode; i was hoping as recently as this morning that we could tread water with ricky's help but that's a fantasy
also I straight-up can't work, or do anything else
except take care of a crazy old woman who literally cannot appreciate it
that's kind of a shit trade, for me
My parents' self-neglect is due less to despair and more due to dad being very sick and weak and mom sinking ever deeper into dementia, a condition that started to get serious when in winter 2011 they traded their big town-centric Fairfield apartment building for a drafty shack at the end of a dirt road in Oakland, miles from anything.
Why they did this is a mystery; I suspect that they got bilked by someone taking advantage of the fact that dad's energy level had finally dropped beneath the level required to keep mom's batty irrationality (a lifelong core personality trait) in check. I don't expect we'll ever quite know. But their moving into that awful space was the moment that their age -- over 80, by this time -- caught up with them.
Mom's mind began to drift in earnest, and is now permanently stuck in a state where, at best, she thinks they still own the apartment building and are just staying in the shack for a few days as a getaway. Or she thinks that they own all the other little summer shacks around the nearby lake, and refers to the people there as their tenants; there is a whole cast of other tenants she makes up stories about, sometimes involving noisy people who live on the second floor. (They do not have a second floor.)
At worst, she thinks dad is her stepfather and calls me for help to take her to a shelter for runaway girls. That was the state she was in the morning that we ran into the social workers by chance; my parents were hungry, dehydrated and filthy, which couldn't have helped. Mom wandered back into the present when I gave her some coffee, and we've since got folks to help with groceries and meal preparation and bathing and so on. APS is being kept at bay, but they're aware of the situation and prepared to intervene if we can't find a home-care situation that keeps my parents from being a danger to themselves and possibly to others. (Dad, weaker every day, keeps driving around, though he often falls down in the driveway and has to crawl back into the house. I'm not there to take the keys away. Ricky tried and got shouted down. The last time I visited, last week, mom locked the door while dad was outside and couldn't figure out how to unlock it; by chance I had the back door open. Neither of them are good at using their strange modern telephone, so one can't call them to check in.)
I'm paying for all this myself. I secured power of attorney last friday at an at-home meeting among my parents, a hospice social worker, and my parents' lawyer, who is also awesome. I am as I write this engaged full-time in trying to suss out their core financial information, then contacting various institutions and trying to convince them that I have authority to access all of my parents' stuff, and furthermore that time is of the essence -- I am trying my hardest to set mom up with the financial aid that will allow her to live in an assisted-living facility for the rest of her life the moment dad is gone, and there are only weeks-if-not-days left to do this. They are riding off my credit card for the nonce, and depending upon what I discover in their bank and credit-card accounts I might be able to reimburse myself, or even allow them to pay for their own care, but I'm not betting on much. But more to the point, a prerequisite to obtaining elder-care financial aid in Maine is knowledge of said elder's assets, and the lawyer knows exactly what legal-financial kung-fu to perform to tidy things up once I get those magic numbers.
The lawyer was very surprised and sad to hear of their rapid decline, starting with the ill-advised home sale, which was news to him. The last time he saw them, only a couple of years ago, they struck him as "young elders", to use his words. I would have agreed. They have fallen apart so fast since then, and I suppose that the undetected and untreated cancer sapping dad's strength, assertiveness, and ability to complement and counter mom's batshittery played a primary role here.
Ricky, disappointingly, presents another obstacle, one active as I write this. For years he's been frequently busing between his home in Bangor and my parents' place to help them out, a few days at a time, even though he and our mother get along with one another so poorly. (I didn't realize until Amy pointed out only yesterday that they possess very similar forms of crazy. By god, it's true, and no wonder they can't stand each other.) Dad would always give him rides to and from the bus station. But now dad can't drive very well any more, so when Ricky (due to a miscommunication) raced to the shack on Saturday, he found himself stuck there. He's not very good at communicating with the taxi service, and refuses rides from the home health-care folk in the house, whom he views with distrust. He also refuses my suggestion to solve two problems at once by driving dad's car to Bangor and keeping it there. (He asked mom if he could. She said no. So that's that.)
In the meantime, he's stuck in a one-room house with my mother, bored and angry. I received complaints yesterday that he's been frightening the home-care workers and even sending them home. (When I ask him about this, he blames mom.) I'm not sure what to do about this, especially given that even if I make the three-hour drive up to Oakland to give him the one-hour ride to Bangor -- which I am seriously, deliriously considering -- there's no practical way to prevent him from just busing back and getting stuck again the next time he feels it necessary.
I've apologized to the home-care folks for Ricky and they've insisted that I've nothing to apologize for, but his appearance is the latest in a one-thing-after-another litany of obstacles that keeps APS present, waiting to intervene and just take my parents away anyway. I've made in clear in writing that if the hospice decides that this last resort becomes the best option for all involved, then so be it.
I'm horrified at the thought of the funeral, mainly because I literally cannot imagine how mom will even manage to dress herself for it, let alone how she'll act at the actual service; she tells me over the phone that dad's got a real bad cold, you know, from the move, but he's getting better. Ricky's going to end up forever furious at me for not burying dad with full (expensive, tacky, and disrespectful) military honors, which Ricky's been insisting on, and I've been quietly ignoring. (Dad served in the Air Force for a few years as a kid, but it's not part of his identity or personality in any significant way, unlike Ricky's deeply self-ingrained army service.) Don't even ask me about Peter.
I'm not very close to my parents. I've only relatively recently come to compare notes with my grown-up friends and realize that my childhood-thorugh-young-adulthood was really quite fucked up in some fairly unique ways, and I have a lot of unpacking yet to do. That they are making all this difficult to the very last is really quite in character. (Don't tell me they can't help it. Dad is very much of sound mind, knows damn well what's going on, and still resisted giving me power of attorney, to say nothing of the idea of moving them out of the house and into a place that could actually care for them better.) I am not very sad that my father is dying, and that my mother rather is as well. I am upset in the sense that this is a process filled with one frustration after another, and carry self-loathing that I didn't do anything sooner, which could have made this much easier for everyone.
This leads to the question of why I choose to take up this burden, which has caused me to all but stop working for now, and almost certainly take up a large financial debt, and possibly miss a June vacation in Austin that I was quite looking forward to. I could just cut everyone off and let APS handle it, and that might still end up happening anyway. The answer, I think, is that I'm doing this for myself. I don't want to live out my own life feeling that I cruelly just cut off my parents undeservedly at the end, that I turned my back on them. I mean, here I am right? They couldn't have done that badly for me, and they deserve some attention back when they need it.
I'm interested in doing the right thing, and making sacrifices towards that. But I suppose too I ought to set an upper limit.
UPDATE: I very much appreciate and am touched by everyone's kind and understanding responses, here and elsewhere. Thank you.
Only a few hours after posting this the social worker told me that the home hospice attempt was all but ready to wave the white flag. Dad's strength is inexorably fading by the day, and with nobody dependable in the house at all times, the program just can't work. Home hospice assumes the round-the-clock presence of a family member who can do simple tasks and keep an eye on things, I learned. They initially thought mom could provide this role, and after a few days saw how that clearly wasn't true. Then Ricky volunteered, and that also fell apart quickly. The folks I hired to show up daily for a few hours don't cut it, since apparently they're not legally allowed to administer medicine. (A detail that strikes me as odd, as I type, but that's what she said, twice.) So it fell back to me, she said. Could I come over right away and stay in the house for a few days, while they looked for a hospital for dad?
This is when these thoughts of upper limits immediately applied themselves. I discussed it with Amy, and called the social worker back with a frank assessment that, as she probably has observed, ours is a dysfunctional family. I wanted to do right by my family and I wanted to see that the end of their lives came with peace and dignity, and having me stay in their shack with nothing to do but build up resentment and bitterness towards each other would be a rather poor way to achieve this goal.
And being an awesome professional, which she is, she understood exactly where I was going as soon as I started talking (but let me air it all out anyway), so we agreed on an alternative: I'm going to go on up to Waterville for a week, staying in a hotel that's only a few minutes away from their house, rather than a few hours, and will plan to drop in often, and otherwise be on-call, while the professionals continue to work things out. I'm going up tonight, accompanied (for a few days) by Amy. Enterprise Rent-A-Car, who is also awesome, gave me a nice rate on a nice car and said that I could just drop it at any Enterprise in Maine… so that provides an opportunity to commandeer dad's car out of danger, at least. (Among the things that Power of Attorney allows me, thankfully.)
I've been open about my distaste for zombie fiction and its mainstream popularity for some time. I've usually expressed it as boredom at this trope in particular, or disgust at most fantasies about human civilization ending in general. But I have avoided examining the fact that sometimes it makes me furious, zero-to-sixty, like a demonic possession. After this evening's incident, and after the apologies, I resolved to work out where that came from. I came to an answer surprisingly quickly, and I want to get this into writing.
This problem only arises with passive visual media that involve "fast zombies" -- the more athletic, sprinting and snarling variety that have enjoyed prominence since 28 Days Later, versus the lurching, moaning creatures of older pictures like Night of the Living Dead. Twenty-first-century zombies are less like animated corpses and more like living people so completely consumed with rage that all they can do is run around screaming wordlessly, clawing and biting at everything they see.
And the root of the problem is that there is a tiny but undeniable part of me that completely identifies and sympathizes with these zombies. It sees an immediate, realistic depiction of a completely enraged person running down the street, an anger elemental, nothing but screaming and howling and tearing and biting, and it says Yeah, yeah, that's what we want to do, that is EXACTLY what we want to do. Let's do that. Let's do that right now.
I do not do that, because this is such a small, sad part of me, too small to ever get its way. But when it gets aroused, it is loud and sudden with its passion, and these are the times I get confused, and I chew on my knuckle so hard I leave bruises, or I make snarling utterances I immediately regret to nearby loved ones. That's as bad as it gets, and it's bad enough.
It does not happen with video games, because any zombie-themed videogame I've played strongly binds my identity to my player-character, leaving the zombies safely othered. It does not happen with print media, because when I have more control of how I visualize the monsters, I don't make them align so well with my poisonous little homunculus's fantasy. But with film, I am at the complete mercy of the created depiction.
Heretofore, I did not realize that I saw myself in the monsters, and that the intensely negative emotions I experienced watching their rampage was not disgust but sympathy. I wanted to run around as much as I pleased with such total freedom, too! Those people up on the screen had really figured it out, all right. An inspiration.
Amy, who was very kind to sit and listen while I untangled all this out loud, still thinks the whole thing sounds pretty broken. But I'll tell you what I feel a quite a bit demystified and relieved about it all.
(An examination as to the origins of this feeling, and a comparison of my reaction with others', is outside the scope of this blog post.)
Basically: Travelling to the past forks the universe at whatever point you re-enter. For this to work, we must assume that the many-worlds interpretation is essentially true. Since that theory is at least as plausible as the notion that you can send something as big and complex as a living human to a particular point in the past, I have no problem starting with this assumption.
Let's say I'm standing beside you in your lab, as you prepare to press the button that will send you back in time 100 years. You have an agenda in mind, and when it's complete you will use another miraculous device to bring you back into the lab. You press the button and you vanish. From my point of view, you never return. As far as I am (and the rest of the world is) concerned, you simply disintegrated.
I cannot pick up a textbook to discover that, say, World War II never happened, nor will my memories get overwritten to match reality however you intended monkey around with it. The world objectively remains exactly as you left it. Soon enough we must reluctantly come to accept you as dead, and life goes on for the rest of us.
From your point of view, you pop successfully into whatever place you wanted to occupy 100 years ago: success! (Let us handwave away how you're able to appear on the surface of wherever the Earth was located within the cosmos 100 years ago, with your personal velocity adjusted to match the planet's rotation and movement through space and all that stuff, to say nothing of how you can push aside your volume of matter as you arrive without disaster. These magics are all part of the unfathomable-science package that allows you to travel in the first place.) You are now free to do whatever you want, without worry of "temporal paradox". Kill your grandfather! Bribe the art academy to let young Adolf enroll after all! Go nuts tearing up as much of the early 20th century as you can, and observe as reality doesn't fall apart, nor does the family portrait in your pocket fade away one sibling at a time, or anything like that.
This is all possible because at the moment you blinked into existence here, the universe split in two -- just as, according to our basic assumption, it probably does all the time anyway. The "trunk" of this split leads to a future where you, 100 years later, press the button in your lab. The "branch" contains a different set of futures entirely, all which account for whatever mischief you have in mind. No matter what you do, your actions are forever sealed off in the reality-sandbox you created through your travel. You cannot in any way effect the "trunk" timeline that I inhabit and observe.
And woe be unto you if you are so foolish to actually flip that switch on your utility belt to bring you back to the lab! While your adventures did not destroy the future I inhabit, they almost certainly did change the future from your new perspective, and who knows what will exist at the space-time vector that you departed from? Perhaps it'll be your lab, with me waiting there -- this would require both you and I and most of the people we know to be born exactly as happened back in the "trunk", and then follow the same intersecting life-paths, note for note, until the moment you pressed the button. But given all the trouble you caused, that seems unlikely to me. More likely is that you won't recognize the place you pop back into, nor any of the people there, and that's assuming that the spot of your original vanishing in the "trunk" isn't occupied by a thick concrete slab or something in your new future -- ouch.
It's an open question whether the nigh-magic involved in future-directional time travel just blindly bumps you down one path of the branching future, like a ball dropped down a pinboard, or whether it causes an identical iteration of you to emerge into 100 years' worth of branched futures simultaneously. Either way, I don't think you-or-y'all will be in for a good time.
Let's take this another way: you have a more benign experiment in mind. You'll press the button and travel only 10 minutes into the past, and your destination will be the middle of the Sahara. Nothing you can do there can possibly affect the course of human civilization at all, especially in such a short amount of time. Again, you vanish, and again, from my point of view, you are gone forever. From your point of view, you pop open a bottle of water and pass the time, admiring the desolation. Then you flip your belt-switch.
Pop! Here you are back at the lab, with me still rubbing my dazzled eyes from your departure. But that iteration of me is a wholly different one than the one in the time-branch that you left behind. You're still in the separate time-branch that you entered the moment you appeared in the desert. But in that branch, back in your lab, I was helping you fasten your wondrous time-belt apparatus, ten minutes before you pressed the button, and nothing you could do in the Sahara could prevent that future from playing out.
So what happened to the you in your new side-branch? Well, they also zapped themselves into the Sahara, creating another branch. Which will create another, and… yes, a whole lot of recursive side-branching happens there. It goes quite deep, but not infinitely; eventually, along the line, something happens -- perhaps a disaster, perhaps merely a change of mind -- that causes a you-iteration to not travel to the desert. And in that world, a time-traveler iteration of you still appears in the lab, water bottle in hand, and if that means that world now has two of you in the same room, goggling at one another, so be it. There's still no "time paradoxes" at any point in the process.
Interestingly, in this latter experiment, from most of my perspective your time-travel jaunt is a complete success, just like in the movies. I see you vanish, and just as quickly re-appear with a pailful of Sahara sand as proof of your travel. But for that one version of me in the "trunk" timeline where you "first" pressed the button, you vanished for good.
I have spoken to them, asking why they stayed in Maine, and they answered honestly and immediately: they wanted to stay close to their family. Well, I can't deny that.
I haven't been personal-blogging anywhere. I have a lot to write about, and it would be good if I did. I still haven't let go of LJ as my one personal blogging platform (modulo Twitter); the few times I post, I follow up with a tweet pointing at my post, and that seems to work just fine, really.
Contrary to agreed-on plans to sell their apartment house at a fair value and move permanently to Florida, they dumped it and bought another house. Both they and the new house look awful, and I begin to worry for their well-being. I have no knowledge or experience in caring for elderly but willful parents. Any thoughts or advice would be most welcome.
As far as I knew, my parents' plan for a goodly while involved selling their apartment building in Fairfield, Maine, where they have landlorded since 2000, and then permanently retiring to Florida. I actively helped insofar as I connected them with a local realtor, and helped them assemble a collection of property photographs. That this was their last adventure in cold New England was never in doubt.
But then, over the winter holidays, they decided essentially overnight to dump the house for a pittance, and immediately buy another, tiny house in nearby Oakland. By the time I learned about this, everything was already in motion, and I felt more resigned about it than moved to somehow intervene. They moved at the start of this month.
Amy and I visited them last weekend. It's pretty awful. The house lies on a lakeshore and the view is nice, but to get there one must barge through a hilly, unpaved road, the valleys of which were filled with tire-slogging mud that day even though it hadn't rained lately. The building itself is a mess; a cottage, basically, stuffed haphazardly with their things, boxes stacked high, inside and out. One bathroom wall doesn't quite reach the ceiling. The house has no basement, and one corner of the building's exterior rests atop on a wooden stilt which itself stands without any apparent fixture on a concrete slab.
My parents don't look well. Amy and I found their appearance and behavior shocking, as if they'd aged ten years or more since we last saw them. During our visit my mom never put pants on over her long johns, and I was sad to see that her dentures were falling apart, giving her several prominently missing (false) teeth. My dad didn't even bother putting in his own teeth, and despite being genuinely overjoyed to see us, fell asleep partway into our short stay. The lunch mom served us took the form of plates of gray meat and stale bread, with condiments ranging from flavored applesauce to shrink-wrapped fajita vegetables. The plates were full of water. Nobody knew why.
It did rain as we sped back home on I-95 the next day. This put Amy into the mind of wondering what that road's like now, and how able my father is to navigate it; he's had one car accident so far earlier this year, before the move, and mom doesn't drive.
I haven't thought about it much because they're far away, and caring for the elderly had never ranked large on my family's priorities. I had only one grandparent whose lifetime overlapped with my own, and to the best of my knowledge she simply lived in her own house until she died one day; however that happened, it was 20 years ago, and my parents didn't seem especially involved. Similarly, while my parents have set up legal structures to give me power of attorney in the event of their own passing, the only plans they had for their sunset years amounted to "go someplace warm". I was willing to trust them to see that through, because of their love for Florida, which they do still manage to visit annually. But here now they've messed it up.
They get along because their will still burns so brightly, and they have no problem finding people to help them; their little property was littered with tools and equipment from whatever dudes they have over during the week to fix things up. But I think they may have gone too far this time. This location's terrain is poor to the point of treacherous, and makes me worry about what sort of property they intend to buy in Florida, to say nothing of them undertaking the whole adventure of house-hunting all the way down there.
Before this visit, I was of a mind that their life is their own, no matter how old and, alas, age-infirm they are. There are few activities they love more than buying and selling houses — this has been true my whole life — and if that's how they want to spend all their days to the very last, maybe I should let them. But this last visit really broke my heart away from hardening like this, especially with Amy there to provide an objective view about how quite dreadful the whole situation looked.
So here I am, honestly unsure what, if anything, I ought to do. Ricky and Peter and Janice all exist, but they all carry burdens of their own and can't help in any ways other than the most short-term; none can assist with deeper plans or ideas. With my dad mostly tuned out, mom's gregarious battiness drives my parents' path, and it kind of stinks, but it's what they've chosen. I don't wish to treat them like children, or something. And otherwise I don't have much sense for what's appropriate, since lack of grandparents or extended family means that this just isn't something I've been exposed to before.
I would deeply appreciate any thoughts or insight from those wiser than me on this matter.
I have never been one to say "Good riddance" at midnight on the 31st — it's not like some magic curtain qualitatively separates one second from its successor just because one happens to flips a calendar page in between. But I won't be able to escape the feeling this year.
• I paid, very literally, for some poor business decisions I made in 2010. (Yes, last year. These things have tend to have inertia.) I sank fairly deep into debt again, filling my credit card back up almost to the brim once more. Thankfully this started to turn around before the year ended, and I'm on a good trajectory again; I socked four grand into my card this week, and hope to do it again next month.
But I still haven't put one penny into savings since I went independent over six years ago, and that's not awesome. I feel very self-conscious about being behind schedule here.
Built-in silver lining: hey, at least my owed income tax for 2011 will probably be the smallest ever. And the cause for the debt was entirely self-directed; if I fall down this hard again, at least it won't be for this same reason.
• My teaching experience was hugely disillusioning. I was so ready for this to be the doorway to a whole new professional identity for me, and… well, it wasn't so simple as that. This particular implementation was doomed from the start, for reasons I've already described, and working through the semester despite the hardships soaked up nearly all my time and attention for three months.
• My teaching experience is hugely extant. Saying that I've taught a college course is probably as big a boost to my feeling of self-worth — and my objective, CV-based image — as saying that I co-authored some O'Reilly books. I have a feeling that, just as I did with the books, I'll use my experience as a lever into future interesting (and, I hope, more personally compatible) activities.
• Appleseed picked up a great new client, in the best possible way — initially referred by a colleague via Twitter, did a great job on a small but exciting project for them, and went ahead from there. I feel very hopeful about this relationship.
I still have the Icon of Steve pinned over my desk. He's going to stay there into the new year, asking me silently if I'm spending my limited time in the best way that I can. Under his gaze, I disengaged from the teaching job as gracefully as I could, and now it's all mine to decide what to do next. Here's hoping I do a better job this time.
And here's hoping for a successful, healthy and wealthy new year for you too.
Why this is cool: FunSpot (http://www.funspotnh.com/) is also the home of the American Classic Arcade Museum (http://www.classicarcademuseum.org/),
FunSpot also has a lot of pinball machines, which frankly are largely in crap condition, poor things; unlike the videogames, they have many moving parts that become increasingly irreplaceable as the years go by. But they're nice to see all plugged in and lit up anyway, even if their flippers aren't quite as strong they were in their youth.
And there's, like, bowling alleys and mini golf and an entire floor filled with skill games of the ticket-spewing variety, including a counter where a friendly person will eagerly exchange your won tickets for kewpie dolls and coffee mugs and Elbonian grey-market iPod knockoffs and so on. I'm not so much into these games but I live with at least one person who is, so there'll be that going on as well. And finally, there's a pizza parlor and a bar on-premesis, though I cannot speak to their quality since they were both closed for some reason the last time we were there.
Anyway, yeah. December 10.
I didn't decide overnight to back off the teaching gig. After sharing my concerns with the instructor who hired me, we redefined the role a bit and I decided to let it cruise in a probationary state before I made a final decision, remaining for the rest of the semester in any case. But then, within days of each other, two things happened that all but made my decision for me.
First, the excellent podcast Freakonomics Radio published the episode "The Upside of Quitting", about the solid but often obscure benefits of bailing as quickly as possible from a job (or career, or lifestyle) once it starts to fit badly. I remember exactly where I was walking once I heard the episode's topic, over my headphones; it meshed uncannily with my teaching situation, and gave me something to think about.
I was still thinking when Steve Jobs died. And all across my RSS feeds and my little corner of Twitter, countless very smart people eulogized him not merely by reflecting on his technological legacy, but by linking to his 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, and quoting in particular this excerpt:
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice.
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.Everything else is secondary.
(Full transcript of the address here.)
My outlook on life might be slightly less adversarial than Steve's was; I don't really see people actively trying to yoke me to their own dogmas, per se. But I do know of my own proclivity to enter into agreements and responsibilities that carry me away from what my heart knows is my right path, just because they're something new or — much worse — something less scary than what I ought to be doing. The quote resonated so deeply with me and my situation that its contemplation, with its great psychic weight from Jobs' own transformative death, brought me to tears.
That one photograph of Jobs — you know the one I'm talking about — is going to gel over the years into a real icon, and it won't represent Apple or iPads or whatnot so much as the attitude and philosophy that drove him, the most positive aspects of which he expressed in that address. Over time, you will see the photograph about as often as you'll see the photographs you think of when I say "Marilyn" or "Che", and it will carry the same level or power, the same amount of compressed symbolic payload.
The day of his passing, I pinned a printout of that photograph to the corkboard over my desk, and I expect it will stay there for a long time; perhaps one day I'll wish to replace it with something a little more permanent, more fitting for an object of meditation. I find the image's gaze and pose an irresistible invitation to consider what I'm doing, and weigh whether I'm really spending my limited time as well as I could be. And when the answer is "No", to find the courage to take the next step.
And, yes, it's happened once already.