It’s The Mood That I’m In

It seems like at this time of year one can think of nothing but how to do some sort of speculative “what the year was” and “what the year will be.”

This is not strictly true.  I thought of another theme for this post, then I took a shower and it washed right out of my hair.  It might help understand how my mind is — isn’t! — working that yesterday I forgot to comb my hair.  ALL day.  This morning I had knots…

So I’m going to go with the kind of year 2016 was.

It was a year of changes…

Everyone and their brothers keeps telling me “It’s just the baby boomers dying.”  This is nice.  Kind of.  Except it’s not, not really.

First of all, let’s discuss boomers and the fact my generation isn’t.  Not really.  We’re a good seven or eight years sandwiched between boomers and xers, not by demographic reasoning (though by my time the “boom” had been descending for five years) but by life experiences.  In the summer of sixty eight I learned to write (I could read before that) and in the fall I entered elementary.  I suspect I spent the rest of the year harassing cats and annoying my family, which was the description of my life at the time.  BUT though I had hair past my butt (didn’t get it cut till five years later, at 11.  And be fair, have had it that long again about ten years ago, because I FORGOT TO CUT MY HAIR.  I finally had it chopped when I realized what a pain it was to gather it all when I had to go to the bathroom in the night.  Yes, hair you can sit on is an hazard.) the “summer of love” means only that I got to cuddle all the cats.

Second, people my generation are joining the parade of death.

Yes, a ton of these people did hard drugs/sex/anything they could do.  But still.  It seems we’re simply not washing and wearing as well as the WWII hard smoking and drinking generation.  And given all the crazy in health studies in recent years, would any of us die of shock if we found out that the jump in longevity was BECAUSE of hard drinking and smoking?  Be honest now.

But beyond the parade of death (remember to watch all the exits until past midnight, because I suspect 2016 is lurking behind the door with a knife, silent movie style) the truth is that 2016 wasn’t so much a bad year as a year of changes.

For us perhaps most of all, caught between the last year (probably) in which we have at least one kid in the house, and hopefully getting kids off payroll two years from now, and because of a concatenation of circumstances, we moved TWICE to very different houses.

The thing is that we ended up where we wanted, even if it still needs work, but good LORD it’s been trouble.  Most of the year I squeezed out writing by the two hour a day or so, while giving my all, and all my energy to things that needed to be done.

Things are not so much starting to settle, as achieving a higher state of of equilibrium.  I.e. we are settled in the new house and things are starting to get organized here.  And Dan’s schedule and mine is shaking out, though we’re still more or less enmeshed with one kid for another six months and he eats with us often enough I can’t plan for just two.

This is not settled, but I can see it from here, and I’m trying to establish new habits that allow me to make the most of the new equilibrium.

Only…

Only I think for a lot of us the changes will continue.  I know what brought about my crazy year, but I swear everyone else is complaining of these macro changes and it makes no sense for everyone to be in this half-step-to-somewhere-else mode.  It’s enough to make you believe in astrology.

It’s enough to make you believe in astrology if you don’t understand the other stuff going on, that is.  It’s not that the planets are in turmoil, but that this planet is.  Sure, part of it was the misguided attempt to bring about an apotheosis of the progressive ideology here, while it failed everywhere, in the real world.  Yeah, sure.  Regulations and the crazy stupid health law are sending out economy into a spiral past the s bend.

But part of it is… well… to quote someone though I don’t remember whom, the fact that progressives take over institutions, skin them, gut them and then wear their skins demanding respect.

This has been going on a long time, in media, in publishing, in any art, and in the last few years in industry and science.

The industries that were taken over earlier would have died.  They would have.  But the free market is not a political position, but a law of nature.  It’s like blocking the path of a river.  The water doesn’t just disappear, it finds a new way (even if that involves a lake that then overflows.)

So we have indie publishing, indie music, indie journalism and I’m fairly sure from the feel of things, very soon real indie films with power.  After that the sky is the limit.  I mean, I once helped crowd fund a scientific study on the penis of ducks (What?  Like you wouldn’t!  It was called Duck Force.)

But as other industries get hit by change in ways I don’t even fully get because I’m not in them, that means changes hitting everywhere at once.

Judging by myself, even if changes are for the better, the result of a series of them in a quick succession is wanting to curl up and cry like a baby.

And I think we’re all for a lot of these over the next few years, besides a continuing parade of death, because yes, baby boomers, but also because one normal reaction to change is stress and stress kills.

So — what to do?

I can’t promise this will work, but I encourage you to see the best in things.  Spend a few hours every week where instead of focusing on what went wrong or how scared you are, you think of what is going right, and how you can take advantage of it.  It’s not perfect, but I try.

The other thing is: Forgive yourself.  When things are changing quickly and unexpectedly, you can’t expect to always make the right decision.  So, forgive yourself when you don’t.  And keep trying.  You’re not defeated so long as you are still in the ring, or above ground.

Keep going.  At the end of this there’s pie in the sky by and by, but you have to get there.  The only way forward is through.

Keep an eye on the changing road, and walk on.

In the end we win, but it’s not all easy or simple.  You have to get there first.

63 responses to “It’s The Mood That I’m In

  1. You have to get there first.

    And if you can’t get there from here, that means you must go somewhere else first.

  2. WWII was a significant stressor in many ways, even for those not directly involved in the fighting. Perhaps what we see as general good health of that generation is a “survivor effect” – those not so fit died earlier already.

    • And the fact that the generation that fought WWII grew up during Roosevelt’s Depression. A major driving force behind federal school lunch programs was the fact that a significant number of recruits and draftees were rejected because of malnutrition. There are some recent studies indicating that starvation can actually prolong life and improve health.

    • Epigenetics is an option, too– I know that my mom’s mom did the “lettuce and cottage cheese” type diets while pregnant because the cutting edge theory was to not gain any weight at all while preggers, and for that matter there was a big push for all kids to be on the “scientific” baby formulas, too.

      Not sure if the from-conception-on health of their parents would be involved or not, much less the adult health of their parents.

      Just realized something… my dad’s mom would probably have shoved the cottage cheese jar down the throat of anyone who tried to get her to do that, and was likewise cynical about doctor type experts, and NONE of her children have weight issues; mom and her sister both have issues, and their area got a new doctor shortly before the elder’s birth. Older siblings don’t have weight issues. Even accounting for build differences between the families… yeah, glad I’m not doing the heavy dieting thing to my kids. :/

      • Even though my weight only went nuts after Robert’s birth, it occurred to me that my weight issues might have something to do with mom’s issues. Mom has now taken to telling me, in the mall “Look how fat she is!” about perfectly normal people. I was bombarded with this growing up and was severely underweight till I got married. If I gained ten pounds, she’d freak.

  3. many of the high-profile people we are currently losing were known to have a habit for a certain illegal powder in the early 80s, ijs…

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Yeah. Some risk factors can’t be helped, but some can. Many in entertainment chose poorly.

      • Another factor is that obituary news is a component of the celebrity culture zeitgeist which currently dominates. Back before ubiquitous television and radio talk shows there were few celebrities and those mostly had long faded into obscurity ere they passed away. Now? We make celebrities out of the basest reality-tv clay and obituaries are easy filler for the nightly news (and Tweetcasts, FB-memorial pages and other fora for displaying our “caring.”)

        Add in the fact that we only tend to acquire an affinity for the well-crafted obituary once we sense the impending limits of our own mortality — you have the perfect storm of Boomer narcissism.*

        It isn’t so much the rate of passing as it is our awareness of the passing parade and recognition of so many of the marchers in it. Also, death is now much less common; used to, not so long ago, hardly anyone reached adulthood without one or two comrades falling along the way.

        *You realize that this is likely the last Boomer president? How feckless that generation when compared to the WWII generation: Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush ’41 vs Clinton, Bush ’43, Obama and now Trump.

        • The Democrat boomer politicians will not go quietly. the Bamster has been destroying his generation of Democrats.

          Ya know, it’s easier to be outstanding in your field if all the others have been weeded out.

  4. Well, 2016 is when you met me in person for the first time, at TVIW and LibertyCon. That was probably quite the stressor. 🙂 I do have to quibble about the whole “boomers dying” thing, though. Just because we were born during a certain period doesn’t automatically make us all the same (goes for Xers, Millenials, etc. too). I was born in ’52, did my time in the army, and never asked or expected to be taken care of by the government or anybody else.

    But you’re definitely right about the “what to do?” question. And the answer is the same as it always has been–roll up your sleeves and work to fix the things that are broken, and to protect the things that aren’t. Try to understand the views of people who disagree with you. You don’t have to accept them, but understanding them will always help in deciding how to proceed. And don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go the way you want them to. Take a deep breath, maybe say to yourself, “Well, that sucked,” and then start back to work trying to fix whatever broke.

  5. I’m a pre-boomer who got drafted into the “deter the BOOMing” business and stayed with it as long as I could. Still here in my underground non-launch control center (except for comments here and there and there and over there…) and doin’ OK.

  6. The past three days or so I’ve been immersed in academic articles about periods of cultural shifts caused by [insert complicated list of push/pull/who-in-the-heck-knows-after-5000-years]. Fast change means 100 years from sedentary to 50% or more nomadic pastoralist, and no one knows quite why the shift, although climate change and increased humidity with lower evaporation may have been a major driver. We think things are changing quickly for our culture, but to look at a place and think about a settled farming society that had been doing pretty well for, oh, 2000 years and realize that in three generations everyone had up sticks and turned into horse nomads . . . wow. That’s a h-ll of a shift.

    TL;DR: A lot changed in 2016, some on the surface, more below. But in the Big Historical Pattern, it was nothin’. (Which doesn’t make out changes any easier, just slightly less scary, at least for me. And Posner is a moron and international long-distance calls are still a PITA).

    • But in the Big Historical Pattern, it was nothin’.

      We are holding a magnifying glass to History and gasping at how large and swift moving things thus appear when the real issue is our lack of perspective.

      • On the flip side, folks who responded to my dislike of 100* and 100% humidity in Florida by telling me that record highs were higher were likely to face violence if they timed it wrong.

        Ditto when it’s 100* in the office in Death Valley and they’re telling me that the flight line thermometer just broke. Too hot is too hot.

        It doesn’t matter if it’s zero or twenty below, my kids aren’t going out in it.

        • And then I realize there’s a shorter way to say it:

          Perspective matters, but it doesn’t over-rule practical application.

          • That is the principle underlying my rule of the universal applicability of the number two:

            It’s too hot.
            It’s too cold.
            It’s too big.
            It’s too little.
            It’s too far.
            It’s too near.

            Details not really relevant, and prone to producing an illusion of helpful knowledge.

        • Yes. If we don’t like the local environment, we make our own.

  7. And the generations are getting mixed up – I went to college the year you started kindergarten, but we both have the last child on the way out the door.

    You’re so right about forgiving yourself: it wastes so much of your energy to carry a grudge against yourself, instead of doing what you can if amends are necessary, forgiving (and planning not to repeat), and moving on.

    I am an optimist by choice. When you’re chronically ill, it’s the only choice. Really. The other ‘choice’ is to drive your family crazy.

    I use my enforced extra rest time – to do yoga breathing (great for singing). I’ve made an appointment with a cardiologist because there is a slightly uncomfortable shortness of breath lately, and I’m not going to die stupidly of something preventable.

    I dump stress. I don’t accept it, or I write it out, or I rant somewhere (gently – no adrenaline allowed by illness), but I agree with you: stress kills. I get rid of it as quickly as it comes, or I’d be drowning in it.

    You choose your mood. Sometimes that’s, as Elie Weisel said, the only thing you CAN choose. Excepting the exceptions, it’s a learned habit, and a good one to acquire. The other responses to stress, which include hard drugs, cigarettes, excessive alcohol, and promiscuous sex (note modifiers), all have well known bad side effects: choose the behavior, and you have signed on for the consequences. Stuff keeps happening to all of us, and we have to choose our moods from a limited palette – whatever the mood store carries today – but we still make a choice.

    What burns me most about the bad choices is that the money spent on them, if spent more wisely, would solve many of the very problems the bad choices are meant to whiteout for a while. That stuff’s EXPENSIVE. And has a very short lifetime.

    • My husband was a surprise baby, and we had kids comparatively late. So my son has a “cousin” who is ten days older—and a whole generation down.

      Hmm. If you’ve read Eli Weisel, have you ever read Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning? He’s someone who *found* his faith after being imprisoned in a concentration camp, and he’s also someone who talks about the choices you have when you don’t think there are any choices.

    • The money spent on bad choices… Oh, have you met pilots? The standard joke on the airfield is “Flying! Because cocaine’s too cheap and easy to kick!”

      *grins, ducks, and runs*

    • Generations have been mixed up a long time. My first recorded ancestor on this continent was 11 generations back — but I can go back 13 generations if you go by another branch, to someone who actually got off the boat later.

  8. It’s not so much the Boomers dying as the population curve approaching that steep upswing. Basically you take this live birth chart, shift it rightwards about 75 years, and you’ll get a rough approximation of the number of deaths you’ll have in a given year. There’s a little bobble about now, and in a year or two the number of deaths will seem to explode (while actually remaining constant, barring a SMOD event.)

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Some dude on twitter made the argument that media consumption is also a factor. I think I linked to part of the series some time in the last week here. Apparently during the eighties there was some sort of statistical peak in media, and the people who were visible then are mostly of the cohort that is starting to die now.

  9. Focusing on what went right: yeah, in the end, we’re still eating our salad from the leaves down, not the roots up, you know? We’re still here, and so are our spouses, and we both have a house!

    And hey, 2017 is going to start at a point that will let the rest of the year be an improvement. (Otherwise known as: we’ll schedule work on the kidney stone as soon as everybody comes back from vacation. If you want faster healing, pick a different time of year to have a problem…)

  10. Got to thinking about the “hard drinking hard living” thing, and that got me to thinking about long-term damage…and that got me to thinking about “that which does not kill you”…..

    A lot of people would have been unlikely to survive just a decade earlier.

    This CDC page has a chart of infant mortality– and it may actually be under-counting mortality before either social security numbers or hospital births being normal.
    https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4838a2.htm

    Basically, it dropped like a rock between the 20s and mid-50s; maternal mortality also dropped like a rock post-war. (“Mom is alive” being a pretty big determination of if an older kid survives random illnesses, too.)

  11. Oh, I’m remiss!

    I almost missed a chance to link Confessions of Red Meat Survivors!!!
    http://www.rangemagazine.com/archives/fall2004/confessions.htm

    It’s a regular feature. 😀

    • I’ve been a subscriber to _Range_ for over a decade now. It’s great, depressing as h-ll at times, but great stuff.

      • You want depressing, look at some of their stuff from back during Clinton…. They’ve got a lot of the articles up online, although not with pictures.
        http://www.rangemagazine.com/issues/index.htm
        The spring of ’98 article about twenty-one years on one stream is especially depressing when you realize it’s a twenty year old article, and the “nature” nazis are still hell-bent on removing cattle from everything and using the resulting negatives as evidence cows are horrible.

  12. Many changes for me– but it actually started in 2014 when my husband died. I still haven’t made it to stable ground. Some folks around me have given me a lift or two that has kept me from sliding back to the bottom.

    • When my wife died, I was zombie-like for a couple weeks. I don’t say that life will get better, but it will get less worse. I noticed the day of the month that it happened for about 3 years, and then less frequently. I liken it to an old war wound that slowly scabs over and eventually seems to go away, only to stab or twinge for no reason, and slowly recede to the oddly infrequent twinge. And you forget about it until the next one. I’m working on the third decade, now.

  13. The other thing is: Forgive yourself.

    I wish I knew how.

    • Me too. One thing that’s a little easier is to stop kicking yourself. Stopping seeing yourself as the worst person you is also good. Unfortunately that’s harder to do.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Well, one thing that I’ve seen since November is that I’m not the stupidest person around. 😈 😈 😈 😈

      • It takes me forever to see things that I’m a part of, so it”s only been in the past few years that I realized that I was making things worse by letting myself dwell on bad decisions when I remember them. Since then, I’ve been trying to lessen the reinforcement by actively shifting my focus. Hopefully that will help, over the course of the next 10-15 years.

    • One thing that helped was to ask if I’d say something to my best friend that I was saying to myself. You can fight with best friends, be honest and have tough love but at the end of the day, the relationship is important to you so you’ll be gentle when it matters. Or at least try to be. It makes it easier to look for solutions and let go.

  14. This was a good thing for me to read tonight. Thank you.

  15. Liminal time.

    When I went home the Friday before Christmas, my calendar at work came down. Next year’s calendar is sitting serenely in the hallway, waiting for next Tuesday. . . the interregnum between two calendars. 0:)

  16. Odd turn-up of The Beautiful but Evil Space Princess. Bill Whittle’s Right Angle vidcast did a year in review and one of the commenters “best moment” was Sarah coming over on election night to raise a glass in celebration.

    • Stephen Green. Yes. We live about an hour away, which in Colorado means we’re neighbors. We spend a lot of time “just dropping by” on each other. As in, if he comes to Denver with his family to the museums, or if Dan and I go down to the Springs to see younger son.

  17. I’m ready to move on to bigger and better things. This last year has been fixin’ to get ready to do things and I think I’m being moved other places. We’ve been meaning to move for years and I think somebody is sending me the message that it’s time. Could have used something softer than a whiskey bottle but hey, sometimes it takes a bit to get me moving because I’m lazy.

    I also have no idea what I’m doing, where I’m going or what comes next but hey, problems for the future, no?

  18. ERB gave John Carter a pretty good motto. “I still live”. Everything else can be fought, the game is over only after you die.

  19. Nah. For me, personally, 2016 sucked hard vacuum.

    But yeah, all the political, economic, social stuff was mostly change and reaction to same. Mostly.

    Some of it sucked for reals, too.

  20. My remedy for stress is to pass it on to someone else. Like giving my students homework assignments via Twitter (ain’t that fun!).

  21. Sarah, I lost your email addy. Send me one, please, so I can update my address book.

  22. I once helped crowd fund a scientific study on the penis of ducks

    Back in, I guess 6th Grade, I had so completely devoured the classroom library that I resorted to selecting a book titled Answers To 1,001 Questions About Birds — likely because ubtil sighting that book I’d scarcely had one question about birds, let alone one thousand and one. In a segment toward the end of the book I found this question and answer which have remained in my memory with a clarity remarkable half a century on:

    Q: Do ducks have penises?
    A: OF COURSE ducks have penises!

    Apparently, even after all this time, some additional research is felt needed.