Caveman Days

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A not too uncommon conversation that I have with my patients, goes something like this.

Me: So has anything else been bothering you?

Male patient: No

Male patient’s wife: Why don’t you tell the doctor about how whenever you lie down flat you can’t breathe?

Male patient: (Looks to me and rolls his eyes)

Me: You know, it’s a well-known fact that married men live longer then unmarried men…

And I mention this finding not because it’s a fact that I read somewhere in a book but because I know it to be true from personal experience.

You see, once per year we go as a family to visit my wife’s family in Japan. Only since I can’t take so much time off work , either I come back early or I leave late.

Which means for a couple of weeks I live the bachelor lifestyle.

And this is a lifestyle that is not without benefits.

Specifically for me there are exactly 2 benefits

  1. Whenever I have free time I can play golf.
  2. I have much more free time for other selfish pursuits (reading, surfing the web etc.)

But overall overall I experience these two weeks each year as a rapid devolution to caveman status.

The classic proof of this concept happened three or four years ago, when about a week after my family had left for Japan, I found myself sitting in front of my computer in my boxer shorts and tee. On my lap was a bowl of excessively spicy lamb, pork, and beef chili that I had made in my pressure cooker about four days before and had slightly burnt. There was a reddish grease stain on my tee shirt from an earlier bite.  And on the computer screen in front of me was a bootlegged download of mixed martial artists pommeling each other in a steel cage match.
And I’m not speaking nostalgically of a tendency in my past.

Here are some fun facts about my life the past two weeks.

  • I have played four rounds of golf (Mainly because I’ve been on call so much that I’ve only had four evenings where I reasonably could.)
  • I have done exactly one half load of laundry
  • I have re-worn dirty socks on two occasions.
  • I’ve eaten dinners comprised largely of smoked meats on three separate occasions. ***
  • I have watched 20 episodes of House Of Cards on Netflix, often knocking out five or six episodes in one sitting.
  • I’ve taken out the trash twice. On both occasions I was reminded to do so by the smell of rotting protein.
  • I’ve purchased exactly one vegetable. It was a head of cabbage. It’s still in my fridge.
  • I have cooked for myself twice. Both times they were large pressure cooker concoctions that I subsequently reheated and ate over the next 3 to 4 days.
  • I have fallen asleep on my couch and woken up at 3 AM or later on three separate occasions.

And while there is a certain amount of selfish contentment in such a lifestyle, I would not call it true happiness. And after about five or six days of it I’m generally quite sick of my own shallow and predictable lifestyle.

These are the days when my big fuzzy pure bred Siberian cat Jupie really earns his pay.

I used to think this was because he would come and sit on my lap and purr and make me feel not so alone. (And it is that,) but it is also that I feed him every night and clean his cat box. These are if the weeks when I can clearly see how important it is to feel needed and that you are providing for someone(thing) other than yourself.

jup

I’m tempted to take Jupie with me to Japan….

An always surprising finding during my bachelor days is how incredibly unproductive I can be with so much free time.

I am always suspicious that the reason why I don’t write more or read more, or produce more is because I do not have enough time. But these caveman days make me wonder if I don’t have it exactly backwards.

There’s that old expression: “if you want something to get done, ask a busy person,” and I think there’s a lot of truth to this. So much of creativity and progress and productivity it’s simply a question of inertia. Out of action comes more action and out of nothingness more time frittered away.

These days It seems that the more free time I have, the less productive my time becomes.

And this observation raises some disturbing implications for my own early retirement plan.

If, when I hit my number, I stop working as a doctor will I wile away my hours of free time surfing the net, watching Netflix originals, and sleeping in? And if I do so, couldn’t I become paradoxically unhappy?

Seen in this light, one could argue that self enslavement isn’t all that bad. It keeps us moving forward. It holds our feet to the fire. It helps us to fulfill our own potential.

But in the end I can’t help but feel that these doubts are mere symptoms of this temporary and isolated lifestyle. For there is no law that says when I reach early retirement I will have to stop working. I can always continue working if I find that working is a key to my own happiness.

And until I reach my number, working will always be a compulsion, rather than a choice.

The central lesson of my bachelorhood is of course the simplest one. And it is that I am not an island. The meaning of my life and my happiness are completely dependent upon my wife, Mrs. Dividend, and our three Dividendian children.

And since happiness is what I’m after, that is an important lesson to remind myself of each and every year.

*** actually four times, I started writing this post last night and tonight come dinner time I was consumed by a desire to eat smoked meat so strong that I had to drive across town to Podnah’s smokehouse to get a bowl of Texas red. This is a velvety pepper spiked spicy smoked beef chili concoction served with a decadent piece of cornbread. Great stuff.

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5 Responses to “Caveman Days”

  1. Kat August 17, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

    Thanks for the smiles and the out-loud chuckles. And when ever it is that I get to Portland, I’m going to ask for you to remember this restaurant (smoked chili and velvety it the same sentence– F O O D I E!!)again and probably I’ll ask for your pick of golf courses :)

    Happy Vacation in all its forms!

    K

    • Miles Dividend M.D. August 17, 2014 at 11:36 pm #

      Kat,

      From your comments I can only assume that I am uniquely qualified to guide your next tour of Portland.

      The restaurant is called Podnahs, and it is the best barbecue that I’ve had the pleasure of eating.

      When you go you should have a cup of the Texas red, and or the Frito pie. But do not deprive yourself of the chance to eat their brisket. It is divine.you should google it.

      As for golf courses, my favorite muni is heron lakes blue course, A linksy Robert Trent Jones Junior course. If old-school target golf is your thing Eastmoreland has a certain charm.

      AZ

      • Kat August 18, 2014 at 2:07 am #

        Thanks – Alexi,

        I’ve saved the info.

        I’ve also passed in on to my friends that truly appreciate that kind of info too.

        Cheers,
        K

  2. G-dog August 29, 2014 at 6:12 am #

    Mmmmmm, smoked meat goodness! When I take a day to two off from work, I fall into this trap too. But I think it is partly a reaction to being so tired and burned out from work.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. September 3, 2014 at 11:44 pm #

      Nothin wrong with smoked meat.

      As a cardiologist it is undoubtedly helping to fund my kids college!

      AZ

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