My life is a very exciting novel. It seems like every time I’m set into a pattern and happily following my own plans, it takes another and weirder turn.
The happiest times of my life, even, involve massive change, like moving across the world or across the country, or having little ones that bring a surprise everyday.
The unhappiest too, are strewn with changes that leave me stranded, staring and going “What now?” as everything changes around me.
None of them compare to now.
No, nothing particularly bad is happening, but we just moved, and stress experts assure us that the stress — though obviously not the grief — of moving is the equivalent of losing a spouse. This seems to make sense, since it’s a profound disruption of your daily routines.
In my case, though I love the new place, there is an amount of grief too, because Denver was my homeland of the soul even before I was perfectly sure in what country it was in. Heaven only knows where these things come from. My religion doesn’t believe in the pre-existence of the soul. We believe body and soul are a unit and created to go together. (One wonders what is auto-immune of the soul, I wonder idly. Perhaps the nagging doubt and unbelief, the continuous testing. Who knows?) As such, though I joke about being meant to be born in America and only ending up in Portugal due to a massive cock up in Stork Central, I do know it’s not true.
But it is a mystery, anyway, that the first time I saw the city it felt like the home I’d long been looking for. I was not blind to its problems, mind. Considering I tend to hang out in ethnic diners and working class neighborhoods, I couldn’t be. But it just felt … like home.
And leaving home (again) is hard and induces some grief. Before you condole, this is mitigated by the knowledge the city I loved is no longer the same, that in many ways my love was not tenable any longer. And that the last two years put a knife through its heart. Kind of like I didn’t stop mourning for the village of my childhood, but I know the only way to return is in my mind and in increasingly fading memory, because it has become just a suburb of the large city, filled with stack a prole apartments. It doesn’t make me stop missing it. (The Portuguese elevate missing something or someone to an art form, and have a particular word for it: Saudade.) But it’s not serious and urgent grief.
The main problem right now, though, is shock. It probably is for most of us.
I have quibbles (not kibbles. My cats have that) with the book from Ace of Spades co-blogger title “The End of America, 100 days that shook the world” both because I doubt it is the end of America. I think the rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated. And inimical government –and we’re not the only ones to suffer from it in history– or even, dare we say it, inimical occupation doesn’t end a country. In fact, it can clarify things and bring it back much, much stronger. Will it? I believe so. The fundamentals of the country, the people, are all right. Not great, but after 100 years of indoctrination by the enemy, better than could be hoped for. And we have a great guideline. I believe there’s nothing wrong with us that a reversal of most of FDR’s “innovations” won’t cure. Though the cure will hurt and take a lot of time.
In other words, to quote grandma “We’re going to eat the bread the devil kneaded” and that when there’s bread at all, but I don’t think we’re done. We’ll continue, and resume being a city on the hill and a thorn on the side of the tyrants of the world.
And I think he’s wrong about 100 days. This has been going on, this sustained attack on what we are and what we stand for, for a good 100 years, accelerating for the last 20, even as the model imposed on us had obviously and spectacularly failed in the eyes of everyone. The 100 days was the culmination.
But he’s not wrong that for most people the last two years have been like hammer blows to the head. Yes, most people, of whatever political persuasion.
For us, we’re in shock, dismay and anger at the dismantling of free society, and the other side is in stunned disbelief that the majority of us isn’t falling into line, like the good widgets we’re supposed to be. They’re in shock we disbelieve the institutions more and more. They’re in shock what we have the nerve not to believe them. And for those still in touch with reality there is a nagging, gnawing difficulty with accepting that all their policies they’ve been told are good are causing so much misery. That part will increase. The other part? The other part is responsible for the witch hunts against “racism” and “white nationalism.” You see, they think the other side are cartoon depictions of opposition — which they always cast in those terms, perhaps because their philosophy being profoundly racist, they assume everyone’s is — and when we don’t fall in line with their plans, they think they are surrounded by these caricatures.
So I thought I’d give some pointers. You see I’ve been through this before. Both the upside down feeling and the sh*tty times (I don’t know if here will get worse than that. In Europe it will, and yes, I’m worried about my relatives there, though there isn’t a heck of a lot I can do and no one would believe me.)
There are things you can do to prep, and I suspect most of us are doing it, and Lord, I’m out of practice gardening, but I’m going to try. I’m going to try. I’ve been preparing and need to buy soil and build flower beds, and figure out how to get rid of the gopher without running spikes into him, because unless it’s directly threatening me, I can’t really kill an animal for being itself. And I’m patting myself on the back for having the foresight of buying a house with a well. (Need to get it serviced and made easier to access. Wonder if there are solar pumps.)
I have lists for that running in the back of my head all the time (which, yes, I know, adds to the stress) and I’ve just realized I should keep them on paper.
But this post is about dealing with the stress. You have to realize even if you’re not one of the 75% of my close friends who relocated across country in the last few months, that you’re under massive stress.
You might not be moving, but your country is moving. Things are changing too fast to process. You’re having to change your thought patterns to adapt.
For instance, I’m of the “Save and buy things a little at a time” but faced with the erosion of the currency, I’m looking at “Well, maybe buy now, because the money is vanishing as we look. At least as to value.” Which is what occasioned the mad building of shelves (which needs to happen again, this time in the living room.)
And I’d just convinced myself to throw away clothes that didn’t fit quite well, or blankets that were worn out, but I’m now looking at it as “how can this be redone and repurposed?”
Those are habits of mind and that’s hard as heck to change. (Or why most traditional writing professionals are floundering on the transition and mostly defaulting to teaching. [And yes, I’d like to teach also, partly because prepping is expensive, partly because I want to pass it on, but I need to re-establish the WRITING habit first, or it will stop it. Trust me, I’ve seen it.])
And then there’s the everyday things. Something needs replacement or fixing and suddenly it’s “it’s not available, and we don’t know when it will be” or you go to the grocery store, and the things you’ve bought for years aren’t there.
Yeah, I know, it’s not a terrible thing yet (though don’t ask my cats, okay?They have ONE brand of kibble they’ll eat and not throw up all over.) But it’s getting worse, and it disrupts your routine.
And to make things worse, our employment situation is changing for everyone. For some work is going away and not coming back (not for most skilled people. There’s tons of jobs open, but they really are what’s considered “unskilled” labor (It’s not really. Having waited at tables, and having friends in retail, I can tell you that it has its own set of skills. It’s just that the skills can be picked up without classroom preparation.))
As gas reaches $5 it becomes impossible for truckers to break even. If you wonder why they’re one of the segments getting really upset, it’s because of that. They’re being put out of work. When that unspeakable idiot, Obama, talked about the price of gas necessarily skyrocketing? We’re seeing that in his third term. The problem is that he, like other bien pensant idiots, can’t understand why gas prices here aren’t the same as in Europe, and thinks it would be salutary for us to be thus humbled and “learn to do with less.” And the problem is that these bizarrely mal-educated babblers never look past what they were taught. Yeah, yeah, global warming is not likely to be our problem (Curse you, John Ringo, for giving the Author ideas! Though I suppose Jerry did it first.) But beyond that, these idiots never look at the reality on the ground. The US is not and cannot be Europe, because we’re a continent-sized nation (blah, blah, the EU, but trust me, it’s not the same) and very interconnected in supply and demand. It is impossible for us to subsist without trucking, without widespread manufacturing. And given our climate and farming methods, we can’t subsist with fuel at crazy prices either.
So there’s another big shock coming, and it will be scary, no matter how well prepared you are.
Once you make sure you’re physically safe-ish and as comfortable as you can, you still have to deal with shock and stress. Particularly since it’s of the “Waiting for the other shoe” kind.
Shock and stress can make even normal people act like ADD. It will make you touchy. It will tire you out.
(I know I’m still under massive amounts of both because everything I’m reading is popcorn books (At least no longer true crime, eh?) and I’m still baking up a storm, despite the fact the house sold. Also, lately, I’ve taken to grinding my teeth till all of them hurt. Yes, I have an appliance, somewhere. But it didn’t work super well.)
The ways to combat it have a lot to do with babying yourself. Carve time to do things you enjoy. Keep your daily environment in some sort of order. Keep a routine, if you can.
Keep unpleasant stuff and unpleasant chores to a minimum. You can’t avoid them all, but do try to minimize them.
And while eating is comfort (oh, dear, I’m highly food motivated) do try to indulge a minimum, and try to keep it to “foods I love” but not an excess. And do exercise, it does help with stress, though it doesn’t seem to. If nothing else, it will help you sleep. One of the issues we’ll have coming up is catch as catch can medical care for a while, and some of us — near sixty or those who are past — need to be particularly careful.
Above all, be kind to yourselves and each other. If you can. Remember that the entire country is under massive stress.
Smile at strangers. Help people get things from high shelves. Don’t get upset at minor slights. Learn to laugh at crazy strangers. Love your family, and do nice things for them when you can. I’m here to tell you that the old saw about giving being more blessed than receiving is right. I’ve always felt great satisfaction in practicing semi-random kindness. Remember the Heinlein instruction on gifts: not so expensive the receiver is upset, but something they want but wouldn’t buy for themselves. This is also true for doing/making things for people. Again, the best Christmas gift my husband ever gave me was a little glass owl. Because he took time off work at a time they weren’t letting him and went to a store to get it, and spent his lunch money on it. Look around. Look at what people around you need or want and what you can do without hurting yourself or your family.
Look, it’s the looking away from your own mounting anxiety that helps. The additional fact that you’ll be putting out stuff into the world to counter the unrelenting depression and negativity also helps. You and others.
The other thing is dealing with what is going on with our countrymen.
A lot of you — eh, you! — have been on the edge for years, and wondering why we haven’t yet “started stacking bodies.”
Well, part of it is that you and I, my sad friends, are political addicts. Even though I suspect most of us don’t like politics, we keep an eye on it, as most sane people would keep an eye on a rabid feral dog. For reasons.
We keep a rock in one hand, and keep saying “nice doggy” but are aware we might need to hit it hard with a rock.
But most people don’t know the signs and think of politics as “involved and boring.” I know because I lived with one of those people till very recent years, and even now he’s likely to find out about something outrageous two or three months after I got mad about it.
So there’s that. There’s a lag. Most people don’t even realize that the inflation and shortages are now permanent as long as we’re on this path/occupied. They’re starting to realize, but you have to give them time.
(And also stacking bodies might not be the best solution to it. Like Sargent Mom over at Chicago Boyz, I’m whispering “Aristo, aristo a la lanterne” but still praying — oh, a lot –that this cup will pass us by. Because that kind of firestorm is not discriminating. It takes the good with the bad, and it leaves scars in the soul of a country. France is still suffering from it, at some level. Yes, yes, it might be needed, but again, I hope this cup passes us by.)
And realize that a lot of people are numb or depressed. The feeling of wrongness, the feeling that it will get worse, worse, worse, and there’s nothing we can do twists people inside, and many will be numb and seem impassive. Or unreachable.
There isn’t a lot you can do, except be nice to them. And make sure they’re not doing something stupid.
But remember in many people — ah! — extreme depression is a way to dampen suicidal and/or murderous urges. It is one of the mechanisms we berserkers learn early. Not a helpful one, but one nonetheless.
It’s not that hey don’t see and don’t know. They’re just holding with ragged fingernails to the edge of normalcy before they explode and take friend and foe alike. And it’s important to remember that, too.
Berserker fury isn’t rational. I’ve learned to dampen it, because when it activates my size, strength and health don’t matter. And it’s not a “righteous” fury. It’s one that will have the strength of mom-that-pulls-Volkswagen off kid, and indiscriminately go after anything that catches attention. For most of twenty twenty, I was afraid of blowing up at the first masked Karen who glared at me in the grocery store. Because it would do nothing, but more evil. And probably end up — optimistically — with me in orange. I look terrible in orange.
In a way I feel like the entire nation is about to fall into this berserker fit. It’s part of what has me on edge.
And it might happen, but it’s not something to desire.
What’s to be hoped for is a calm and methodical dismantling of unhelpful/no longer helpful mechanisms and institutions, and their replacement.
Is it possible? I don’t know. I can’t say I’ve seen it in the history of the world, but America is different.
The fury…. well, it bays and screams in the corridors of the mind. And it’s warranted. Oh, it’s warranted. But it will only destroy us.
Remember, the berserkers of old were celebrated and feared both, and often killed friends and loved ones along with the enemy. On a nation-wide level that’s less than to be desired for.
Remember everyone around you — everyone, even those in the thrall of the puppet masters — are suffering from shock and stress. Do what you can to minimize it.
I feel like we’re about to tumble into much graver peril, into great turmoil. I hope it’s a deception of the baying beast. But it might not be.
Forwarned is forearmed. Prepare, prepare, prepare, physically and psychologically.
And be kind to yourself and those around you. Heaven knows it might not be for very long.
Be not afraid. Fear adds to the stress. At this point, the juggernaut has gone so far most of it is out of our hands. Perhaps it was from the moment we were born.
Reinforce the good. Combat the bad. Don’t panic.
In the end we win, they lose, and it’s important to remember that, because there will be days (and nights. Oh, heck the nights) of raw and unblinking despair.
But the only way out is through. Keep going.