Tag: The Black Hole
Annual DST whining
I've been in a bit of a mood for the last couple of weeks. I've written a bunch of posts over the years about my struggles with what I call The Black Hole, my particular form of clinical depression; I characterize it as a massive gravity well of paralysis and fatalism surrounded by a powerful band of insecurity. I'm stuck orbiting this thing and am continually working to stay as high above it as possible, having never been able to achieve escape velocity. Thankfully, my current medication works reasonably well and lets me maintain, for the most part, enough altitude in my orbit that I haven't sunken into a severe episode in quite a while. Thank you, modern pharmacology.
However, I do often slip into minor to moderate episodes. It takes a lot of energy to maintain a high orbit and gravity is relentless. This latest one was of the more gradual variety, happening slowly and really not dragging me down that far. Those episodes can be hard to recognize in the early stages, but over the years I've learned to identify secondary indications that the Black Hole is gaining in the perpetual tug-of-war—principally those signs are brain fog and irritability.
This time I've not experienced notable fogginess, but check that irritability box with big, bold sharpie. Many little things have set me off that are wholly unworthy of a snit. Work things with web projects, umpiring things, household things, Rob Manfred-related things, neighbor things (I'm on my HOA board and shit's about to go down).
I realized I was feeling the irritation of a sinking orbit while I was listening to a podcast that offhandedly mentioned our annual societal wacky tradition of advancing our clocks an hour and pretending high noon occurs at 1:00p.m. for nearly eight months of the year.
I hate Daylight Saving Time. I think it's pointless and dumb, if a fascinating example of social engineering and human psychology. I didn't grow up with it (Arizona doesn't participate in the charade) so it's always seemed kind of weird and goofy—it doesn't save energy, which is how the concept is justified; every time we move the clocks there are incidents and problems like increased traffic accidents and other hazards; and it doesn't do anything to, you know, alter the Earth's position on its axis, we all just pretend it does. But moreover, I am nocturnal by nature and I personally resent being commanded to do things earlier in the day.
It's a minor inconvenience, and yes, this annoys me every single year, but last week when the podcasters reminded me this was happening again the next Sunday (tomorrow, as I type this) I actually yelled out loud. "GODDAMN DAYLIGHT TIME. GODDAMN MORNING PEOPLE. WHY DO WE KEEP FUCKING DOING THIS." I was in my office, which has no shared walls with neighbors, so I likely didn't seem crazy to them, but I did scare Zephyr.
The part of my brain that was not busy trying to maintain orbit spoke up, "Ahem, yes, it sucks, but you know this happens every year and it isn't being done to annoy us personally. Maybe a frustrated sigh and shake of the head would be a more appropriate response than shouting and turning red in the face while our cat runs off in the way he does when we turn the vacuum on."
It's been several days since that incident and I'm on my way back to a stable high orbit. I'm less irritable in general. But I have a three-game ump shift tomorrow starting at noon, which is really eleven a.m., and that means getting up no later than 10:30, which is really 9:30, and despite attempts to adjust my circadian rhythms I still can't seem to fall asleep before 3 or 4 a.m., which is now going to be 4 or 5 a.m., and thus I will show up tomorrow groggy to officiate softball. Fortunately, being this early the players won't have started drinking yet.
Frak you, DST. Some of us like the night.No Comments yet
Hi, blog. Been a little while since the last post, hasn't it? It's not that there hasn't been anything to write about—I mean, the Republicans alone provide material for a ream of posts—I've just been a bit uninspired.
I'm a few days away from my birthday, you see, and as I get ready to advance another number on the odometer I've been gloomily thinking of unpleasant things like mortality. That sounds worse than it is; I'm not wallowing in a dark funk or anything, the Black Hole hasn't pulled me into a critical orbit. But I've been having dreams related to age and mortality—not my own, more that of surrounding beings and the passage of years culturally—and subtle prompts have sent my brain to remembering deaths of pets and such.
Now firmly ensconced in middle age, it's hard to keep up the optimism that there's plenty of time left for things to work out.
So, what to do about it?
Well, I've plunked down money for dating apps again. In the past, that's always been (with the lone exception of a woman I dated for a few months over a decade ago that I met though one of these things) a complete waste of time, money, and effort. But nothing ventured nothing gained, I guess, so once more unto the breech.
For another thing, I'm getting myself a new bicycle. If I want to get into better shape and be healthier I need more exercise, and a new toy is a good way to motivate myself. My current bike has become uncomfortable to ride, so I'm getting a more upright hybrid-style model. I'll actually procure the thing soon, I've been waiting for my sprained elbow to heal first (it's going to be a while longer before it's back to normal, but it's probably good enough for riding; I'm not using the sling or the wrap anymore). That'll be good.
Anyway, point being I've been in kind of a shit mood without being in a bad depressive episode. Feeling a little lost and unfulfilled and generally blah despite things being generally good. I mean, I'm comfortable, not straddling the poverty line anymore, my cats are healthy (mostly—Raimei's going in for a dental procedure in a couple weeks) and happily attentive. Umpiring is mostly fun and gets me out of the house regularly, I'm working on a couple of client gigs, I've got friends around; all in all, I've got some nerve complaining about anything.
Except Republicans, of course. We should all be complaining about them, loudly and often.No Comments yet
Oh, hey, Internetizens. It's been a minute, as they say. I guess I just haven't had much of anything I felt was blog-worthy going on.
Plus, you know, holiday-times. Which in my case doesn't necessarily mean super-busy and overscheduled, but it does suggest bad moods—cloudy, overcast with a reasonable chance of black-hole episodes and brain fog. (Also, I sprained my arm pretty badly last week during our oh-my-god-it's-fucking-cold-out winter storm when I tried to take the trash out and slid on the ice-covered asphalt. It's considerably better now, but for the first few days I could basically do nothing with the left arm, including type. You ever try brushing your teeth or cutting food with your off-hand? It's more problematic than you might think, at least at first.)
I don't remember the last time I actually enjoyed Christmas. Not like I hate it now, or anything like that. It's not the Most Depressing Day of the Year, as I know it can be for a lot of folks. As a concept, I still like the whole thing, I want to do well by my friends and relations with appropriate giftage (budget permitting) and appreciate the festive trappings of the season and all. But let's face it, Christmas as we know it is not meant for single people.
The last several years I've either spent Christmas with one of my two also-single pretty good friends or gone to California to hang out at my sister's place with the remaining fam. No shade to the fam, but I don't enjoy those trips; holidays as the fifth wheel tend to reinforce the fact that I'm sick and goddamn tired of being the fifth wheel. Just low-key hanging out with a pal and watching movies while we eat pie was better. This year, my go-to single pal wasn't an option, she's fled the big city for a return to small-town Midwest life, and the other single pal has his own stuff happening. So on the 25th I just flew solo and read some comics and watched some Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a couple of romcoms. Which was fine, because I knew I had a delayed-Christmas dinner to attend with my favorite lady gays a couple nights later. I enjoyed that too, though the gifting portion of the evening was really the only thing to differentiate it from any other hang-out-with-K-&-E time. Which is not a complaint, because I love those times and I wish there were more of them.
Anyway, all of which is to say that I miss Christmas being something I looked forward to and/or something to be enjoyed. Not necessarily the kind of fun it is as a kid; that's neat and all, but I'm more thinking about how it has been, on rare occasion, an either romantic or otherwise meaningful bonding time with someone. Maybe it'll be that again someday, but I'm not counting on it. See above, re: overcast with black-hole episodes. Feeling a bit cynical right now.
Humbug.No Comments yet
Travel, the midterms, COVID, and the Black Hole
Still managing to escape infection
About a week ago, I got back from a trip to see my dad and Marty in Palm Springs. I was down there for just shy of two weeks and it was largely a nice time; there was plenty to do, which kept it from being too boring, but despite the tasks to perform it was still a rather sedentary time. Assembling furniture and repairing plumbing takes some effort, but there's not a lot of exercise happening. Plus, after I'd been there a while I started feeling less than 100%, like a cold might be coming on. It didn't progress, so I didn't worry about it too much.
The day after my return, that's when it felt like it was progressing. I'm up to date on my vaccinations, but still took a home COVID test just in case. It was negative. So again, didn't worry about it. Just a mild cold, really. But it wouldn't go away. My friends K & E canceled having me over for a tech support/dinner visit before their trip to the UK as they understandably didn't want my germs even if they weren't COVID germs before an overseas flight, and I was good with that because I was just tired. And, frankly, a little gloomy.
I did very little in the week since I've been back. Ran a couple errands, read some, watched some TV, gave the cats some intensive reunion playtime. Mostly slept, though.
Yesterday I still wasn't feeling great, but the gloomy was threatening to get worse. I've written about The Black Hole, as I call it, before; most effectively, I think, in a series of Cloud Five comic strips. (The C5 site has been neglected for years now; someday I may return to it, but for now forgive the sloppiness of the broken layout components. The strips in question are #75-89, the link goes to #75.) Having learned over the decades something of how my Black Hole episodes manifest, I summoned up enough energy to get outside and walk around the neighborhood for an hour or so. Did the same this afternoon. The lack of exercise while in California (and if I'm honest with myself, a paltry amount for some weeks before that) did me no favors and I feel better having put some miles on my lethargic limbs. But I'm still not feeling 100% with the cold.
My friend Erik caught COVID recently. He had to extend a stay out of town because of it. My friend Dave likewise had it while traveling and had to stay in a hotel isolating for an extra week. Both wondered if they had it before their trips and it just hadn't manifested yet, and I was wondering if I'd gotten it while traveling too and, thanks to having had my shots, it just didn't feel like anything much and my test was a false neg. People are generally behaving like this is all over with, but it just isn't. So, since my throat is still balky even now, I took another test today. Still negative, thankfully. So I return to the presumption that this is just a typical, mildly annoying cold bug (that isn't really that intrusive) and that my blah week was more depression than infection.
One outside element that probably fueled my depressive slide was the midterms. The pre-midterms, I mean. The day K canceled our evening plans was the day before election day, and she signed off the phone call with "fell better!" and I replied, "well, we'll see what kind of hellscape we'll be living in after tomorrow."
The amount of stress and anxiety that was churning below my surface awareness about what the voters of America might do was, it turns out, huge. American journalism basically sucks, so all the stories I had read about polling and surveys, and the TV coverage reiterating the historical norm for the first midterm in a presidential term being a major shift in congressional power, and the sheer awfulness of some of the candidates running nationwide made for jumpy nerves. And, largely because, again, American journalism basically sucks, an astonishing number of voters in this country had proven themselves to be either nihilist or stupid enough to back autocrats out of ginned-up fear and racist manipulation (or just out of plain meanness).
Thankfully, things turned out pretty well. Not great, mind you, but pretty well under the circumstances.
The Democrats retained the Senate and will very likely get a real majority when Senator Warnock wins his runoff in a few weeks. That's a big deal, they won't have to deal with going halvesies in committees anymore with obstructionists. Most of the insurrectionists running lost, including the batshit-crazy governor candidates in Arizona, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. A huge, ginormous relief.
Not great, but oh so much better than it could have been
On the other hand, it looks like the Republicans will take the majority in the House. Only by a few seats, which is so, so much better than some predicted—and will provide some entertainment value when Kevin McCarthy or whomever else gets saddled with being the Speaker is unable to manage his caucus of crazies—but still means we're in for some real problems. The 1/6 committee will be stopped. Concocted-out-of-nothing investigations will be the order of the day, spurred on by a sense of hollow grievance and a desire for revenge. Economic hostage-taking will be very much on the table.
Florida slipped further into full-on nightmare territory with its idiot governor easily winning reelection, its idiot senator winning reelection, and a freshly (and illegally) gerrymandered map providing half a dozen or so Republican congresspeople. New York's redistricting cost a few Democratic seats, but that redraw wasn't on a partisan basis. Georgia was a bit of a shitshow; though I have confidence in Warnock winning his runoff, his race shouldn't have been so close, plus Stacey Abrams lost to that crook Kemp. Wisconsin reelected one of the worst senators in office. Texas kept being Texas. Iowans doubled down on guns being a right. Louisianans voted to continue allowing slavery and indentured servitude as possible punishments for criminals. Ohio thought it was worthwhile to spend a bunch of money to pass a measure reduntantly banning non-citizens from voting.
There are always pockets of insanity in US elections—I mean, I'll never understand why anyone votes for Ronny Jackson or Darrell Issa or Marjorie Taylor Greene—but this time sanity prevailed enough of the time for me to relax. Mostly.
Hopefully this means a bit less trouble for me to get back into a stable orbit around the Black Hole and life will feel OK again.
Especially if Lauren Boebert loses.No Comments yet
May We Live in Interesting Times
The past week has been, let's say, trying. I've not been doing well with it.
Those who have been readers of this irregularly updated site know of my struggles with what I refer to as the Black Hole; while in inapt metaphor in some ways, it serves my purposes. The gravity of depression is the worst thing about it—it pulls you into it and the deeper you go the more energy it requires to break free.
Except you can't ever break free of the Black Hole. It's always there, the best you can do is achieve a high, stable orbit. I manage this more often than not, thanks in large part to psychopharmacology, but not always.
Even when not in the grips of an episode, maintaining orbit requires a certain amount of energy. If you get sapped of that, you start losing altitude. Gradually at first, so slowly that it can be a week or three before you realize you've slipped and only notice when it gets to be closer to a free-fall.
Anyway, ever since President VonClownstick was declared the winner of the election four years ago, there's been an extra layer of tension in my psyche. Like many of us out there, I'm anxious. A kind of primed fight-or-flight response waiting to be triggered. My mind has been on a more-or-less constant Red Alert. This year it's only been ratcheted up. I mean, impeachment failed because the entire Republican party has become a corrupt anti-democratic scourge and then the pandemic hit. And that was met with such ignorance, disinterest, and astonishing levels of incompetence as to put the US Government effectively on the side of the coronavirus. It was already enough to drive one up the wall, and then RBG died, and we can't even give her the mourning she deserves because her death set off another round of nationwide anxiety attacks.
I hit the wall. Figuratively, I mean, I didn't actually punch my walls. But I was angry enough to. I was mad at pretty much everything for a while there. My Red Alert mind boiled over in frustrated rage at how our society put itself in an entirely predictable, entirely preventable, mostly self-inflicted catastrophic circumstance.
I've started to gain some altitude on the Black Hole. I'm not spewing anger at every turn any more. I'm a little more even-keeled. But the catastrophic circumstance we're living through is no better. After RBG died and we all set about fretting over how to prevent the VonClownstick brigade from further turning the Supreme Court into a fascistic rubber stamp for government by mobsters, the pre-election GOP propaganda and machinations to interfere and cheat went into overdrive.
I don't know how I'm going to keep up the necessary fight against the Black Hole over the next couple of months; I won't truly be able to relax and really climb to high orbit until this regime of criminal thugs is gone. But in the meantime, we've all got to do our part to make sure we actually get to that point.
That means, first and foremost, to ensure that everyone who is able to vote does vote in this election.
The Trumpsters are out there decrying voting isn't legitimate, that we need to "get rid of the ballots," that people shouldn't be allowed to participate unless they vow to support the incumbent. The president is on TV just about every day making such claims, railing against mail-in ballots, against early voting, against participation, basically. His claims are all bullshit, of course, but they have a purpose. The guy is by no means an intelligent person, but nor is he a total moron. There are one or two areas in which he has some competence, and manipulation is one of them.
The president is railing against voting by means other than in-person at polling places for two reasons. One, because he wants to lay the foundation for his inevitable "legal" challenges to the election when he loses; by squawking repeatedly for months about how mail ballots are fraudulent in advance of the election, before there could even be any evidence of what he wants us to believe, he hopes to make it seem reasonable to make that claim after the fact—he needs this advance primer because he knows his challenges will be baseless and wants to create a false basis in the minds of the public first. Two, and this is something I have yet to hear any media types give much attention to, because mail-in/absentee ballots leave a paper trail, and the more voters he can drive to in-person voting at polling stations, the more votes will be cast on machines that can be hacked and by methods that cannot be traced.
Donald Trump is the most obvious and most prolific practitioner of psychological projection anyone's ever seen on a national scale. When he accuses someone he considers to be an opponent of a certain behavior, you can bet it's because he himself is doing it. Be aware of that whenever you hear him accuse someone of something nefarious. He is accusing the Democratic party of dishonesty and thievery because he is dishonest and thieving. He may actually believe it; it is entirely possible that he cannot conceive of other people behaving in ways he does not, that he truly believes that everyone is as crooked and self-interested as he is because what else is there? He has no frame of reference for anything else.
Anyway, that's a whole 'nother tangent. The point right now is that we all have to vote. We have to turn out in unprecedented numbers, to cast an avalanche of votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris so large that it overwhelms the efforts of the VonClownstick faithful to cheat and sue and discredit their way to "victory." Everyone, if you're not yet registered to vote, do so now. Get an absentee ballot if you can. Cast it as soon as possible. Do everything you can to ensure your ballot is able to be counted on or before election day.
'Cause this is it. If this goes badly, this country is over and we're on our way to being Trumpistan. Donald Trump and the Republican party have declared war on the United States Constitution and on democracy itself, and if we allow them to win that war all bets are off. We have to beat them. Soundly and decisively. And then make sure this can't ever happen again.No Comments yet
Time Flies When You're Having No Fun at All
Gravity is winning of late
I have not been enjoying life of late. Firstly, this asshat has been making trouble again, and getting the rage and frustration over all that out of my head has been difficult to impossible. More rudimentary frustrations over computer failure, cold viruses, and cash flow happening concurrently don't help, but by themselves would be a lot more manageable. Anyway, for these reasons or none at all—it's tough to tell sometimes—the number of lost days I've been racking up has been troubling.
Holiday season is likely a contributor. Holidays are not the fun time they used to be once upon a time; I may not have really enjoyed a Christmas since the '80s. Hard to say, depends, I guess, on how generous you want to be with your terms.
Plus, it just sneaked up on me. The weeks in between the World Series and December seem to have passed in a blink, suddenly we're in the middle of all these Christmasy trappings and people are holiday overscheduled and oh crap, I should hurry up and make a Christmas list before there are no more shopping days, and you know what frak Christmas anyway. I'm feeling a bit like the gang in the recent Thanksgiving episode of "The Flash."
Anyway, I thought I'd post a little grumpiness as a way of giving myself a kick in the butt to put some extra oomph into the struggle to gain orbital altitude on The Black Hole. And to get back to having days with activity besides internal-monologue-screaming-matches-with-someone-I'll-never-speak-to-again more than four times a week.
Grumble. Humbug.No Comments yet
I'm still sad, but this movie was a good salve
I've been pretty dang depressed this last week. Losing Pixel has been hard, and when things start to level off into a sense of "normal," I'll run across a clump of her fur between couch cushions or something, or just realize that my big new condo feels really empty without my lovely ball of fur and attitude running around it. It's kind of refreshing in its way, because being depressed when there's a clear, external reason to be depressed is a kind of novelty for people like me that take medication to keep the personal black hole that follows them around at bay. But I am working my way through it. Still procrastinating on some things, but starting to get other things done and putting my mind to positive things. Intermittently.
One coping mechanism this week has been one part lazy/one part distraction/one part mood-enhancer, and that's movies. I've watched a few movies this week. Erik suggested one, People, Places, and Things, about a cartoonist with a fucked-up love life. He thought I'd relate. He was right. It's a nice little movie. I also watched Irreplaceable You, which is about a character dying, which I thought might be good perspective but just turned out to be sad (though Christopher Walken has a fun curmudgeonly supporting role). Also Laggies, about a directionless 30-ish woman who backslides into adolescent habits, which I rather enjoyed. But also some good old reliable "comfort food" movies: Spider-Man Homecoming (as fun as I remembered), Thor: Ragnarok (funnier than I remembered), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (fun, but too dumb/shallow for repeat viewing and more violent than necessary), and tonight, Star Trek Beyond.
I'd watched Beyond once before since it left theaters, and liked it well enough but maybe not as much as I did when I first saw it. This time I give it a lot more credit. Simon Pegg and his writing partner (whose name escapes me at the moment) pulled off something really impressive: They made a movie that has the modern-studio-mandated action set pieces and spectacle that also has a solid Star Trek story. It is much better than the 2009 J.J. Abrams Star Trek and a billion times better than the idiotic mess that was Star Trek Into Darkness. Granted, that's a low bar.
Still, it's a really enjoyable movie. It has its issues—Captain Kirk is really stupid in one critical point, something that could have been avoided with a few lines of dialogue to propel the story/action without making him an idiot—and the Villainous Plot™ has a MacGuffin (two, actually) that doesn't have enough explanation to make any sense. (Oh, and a motorcycle? That's 100+ years old and runs great and has fuel in it? Really? OK, I'll let that one go.) But the villain at his core has a nice backstory (not well-developed enough, but points anyway given the need for ACTION SPECTACLE), the story flows well, our heroes are handled (for the most part) well. And the in-jokes/callbacks/homages are organic and serve the story (unlike in Into Darkness, where whole sections of the movie are poorly done callbacks/recreations there for no reason except to be callbacks). And they're funny. Simon Pegg does subtly funny really well.
It's a shame it didn't do the box office business its immediate predecessors did. But as Erik has pointed out time and again, a sequel's ticket-selling success is largely based on the quality of the previous movie, not its own. And STID, let's be generous here, sucked. But there may not be a follow-up to this one. Which might be OK. Star Trek is not nearly its best when treated as an action franchise, and that's what Paramount Studios seems to think these movies need to be, and the rumor mill has a possible sequel written or co-written by Quintin Tarantino, of all people. Hard. Pass.
Anyway, Beyond is a fun movie. I liked it (again). And it picked me up a little bit.No Comments yet
Now What? New Year's Goals, Predictions, and Semi-Resolutions
Congratulations. If you're reading this, you've survived the unwelcome boil and ambitious killing spree that was 2016. I know, I know, it wasn't all bad; it only seems like it thanks to the plethora of public-figure and closer-to-home death and the election of a narcissistic marshmallow turd. But there were moments of good here and there sprinkled among the nightmares.
But all that's over now and it's time to engage in that cultural ritual of promising to be better at X, Y, and Z—the "New Year's Resolution"—and to show off our awesome precognitive powers and predict events of the coming Solar orbit, knowing full well that we will most likely not succeed in either resolving or predicting.
I've already blown one semi-resolution, which was to avoid "lost days" in 2017. I know revise the goal to be "keep lost days to less than 5%." A "lost day" is a manifestation of the screwed-up brain chemistry that prompts me to be gloomy and lethargic and generally wallowy (better known as clinical depression and colloquially referred to in these parts as The Black Hole), one that results in literally staying in bed all day rather than get up and engage in some facet of actual life. I've had a number of these lost days in the weeks since the election, both for the macro reasons of the impending Trumpification of America and micro reasons of personal discontent (of course, ascribing reasons to them so casually is a gross oversimplification, but I think one has to be "one of us" to really get that). Once in a while I suppose they can be helpful in riding out a Black Hole episode, but they can also be self-feeding parasites if too frequent.
Other goals for the year may include:
- Put more effort into strengthening/maintaining my social circle. It's taken some pretty big hits over the last several years and I prefer it doesn't take any more; the kind of efforts I'm thinking of wouldn't necessarily have made a lick of difference in those hits, but that's no reason not to try solidifying some other areas.
- Spend more money. I don't mean spend recklessly or frivolously, I just mean override my well-honed instinct for thrift every now and again. It's (somewhat) less necessary than it used to be, and though it still pays to be smart about it, indulge in a dinner out and don't worry about making up for it later...occasionally.
- Enjoy where I live more. I'm in this spectacular city/region and I don't get out in it often enough.(Related to "lost days.")
- Blog more frequently — say, weekly on average. There's certainly enough going on in the world that warrants attention, and I consume tons of pop-culture to opine on. Like, this week I read the first volume of the Brian K. Vaughan/Cliff Chiang comic Paper Girls, which is fantastic. Also the first volume of They're Not Like Us, which I didn't really care for.
- Keep up with the sketching. Fill, let's say, two sketchbooks this year.
- Build the cabinets I spoke of last month. Four modular units of three drawers each, and if those go smoothly and relatively quickly and don't run into unforeseen expense, make two or four more for expansion.
- Assuming the estate issues I've been dealing with for the last 15 months proceed at a reasonable pace and the means thus become available, upgrade my housing security. Market permitting, of course.
- Go somewhere that isn't southern California. For fun. Vancouver, maybe, or DC if the stink of orange marshmallow turd is out of town. (I'd say Tokyo, but I'm not affording that this year.)
As for my powers of prognostication, let's see...
- Fully half of the Trump cabinet will get confirmed even though they're completely unqualified, and before the end of the year Republican congressional leaders will be criticizing them for ineptitude and/or corruption without irony.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming will be terrific. Justice League will suck. Wonder Woman and Star Wars will both be OK.
- The Seattle Mariners will cruise to a division title on the strength of Rookie of the Year Mitch Haniger and slugging 1B Dan Vogelbach.
- OR The Seattle Mariners will wallow in mediocrity for another season thanks to the inexperience and poor showing from their entire outfield.
I'm afraid to make more political prognostications except to say it's gonna be a shitstorm full of lawsuits, corruption charges, and diplomatic damage-control.
How about everyone else? Goals? Predictions?No Comments yet
At the risk of stating the obvious, I've not been good about maintaining this blog. Many topics have been worthy of jotting a few sentences about, and yet... Well, I'm here now. So, some flotsam and jetsam from my head as I wait for my car to be serviced in advance of my next rip to SoCal:
- My mood hasn't been great lately. No particular reason, at least none on top of the stresses and bummerific context of my being a Trustee of my mom's estate. Last month there was an incident that triggered an eruption of buried/suppressed rage that was surprisingly powerful and not especially useful. Even when it seems justified, anger of that degree gets in the way of, you know, addressing the problem. But that was then; more recently I've just been in a foggy sort of stasis, for lack of a better term. I'm no stranger to dour moods, and this isn't a severe example by a long shot, but in some ways this sort is more frustrating. I always want to make sense of things, and when staying focused on anything is an elusive task it's impossible to feel like things make any sense. If that makes sense. Which it probably doesn't. Because I'm all over the place in my head right now.
- So, let's talk about baseball, since that is something I can make sense of. Having the playoffs on during this time of foggy ennui is a good thing, it's helpful, but what isn't helpful is the Toronto Blue Jay offense. I really want to like the Jays. I have a great affinity for Canada, for one thing, and they're the only north-of-the-border team in the bigs; they also have a few individual players I like a lot, from ex-Mariner Michael Suanders to Troy Tulowitzki to J.A. Happ, and I have tended to enjoy the company of Blue Jay fans when they come to Seattle to see the Jays play the M's. Sadly, they are built around a one-dimensional offense dependent on the home run, which is so not my style. Also, not good enough to beat the Cleveland Native American Caricatures. Toronto's down 0-3 to the Clevelanders, and while there is Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor to appreciate I just can't find anything redeeming about Cleveland winning the American League championship. Bleh. Come on, Blue Jays, be the second team ever to rebound from 0-3! Meanwhile, the Cubs/Dodgers clash in the National League Championship Series has been outstanding -- Javier Baez even stole home! -- and I await the inevitable freak occurrence that prevents the Cubs from winning a pennant. They're clearly the better team, but if they are to maintain their essential Cubness, they must not win. With a pennant, they would cease to be the Cubs.
- John Oliver has been the saving grace of this year's presidential campaign, and this week he tackled the problem of otherwise thoughtful people choosing to vote for protest candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson. I say problem because the people I've personally encountered that are supporting one of those two maintain that their choice is principled and Stein/Johnson is actually the best person running. I call bullshit on that, and so does John Oliver, who points out in glorious fashion that both Stein and Johnson are totally incompetent.
Cosmically speaking, it was just a regular ol' 365.25-day circuit. Not so much down on the ground.
Labor Day weekend again. That was fast.
Also, man, what a long year it's been.
Today would have been my grandfather's 95th birthday. It's also two days shy of the first anniversary of my mom's death. Makes for a depressing occasion. I miss both of 'em, in different ways and for different reasons. And the same reasons. It's kind of muddled. But this is the closing hours of the year 1 After Mom, so that's where my head's at. I watched "The Visitor" entry of DS9 last night and found myself bawling my eyes out at the end. Because, hey, it's a touching episode on its own, but it takes on a different significance for me now than it did every other time I've seen it.
The past 12 months have been an education in the ways of bureaucracy, in cultural collisions, in frustration with society, and many other things, but mostly it's been a blur of grief. Both overtly expressed and buried under anger and frustration.
My mom died from completely preventable causes, and that makes me mad. It was her own fault, which makes me madder. At the same time, it kind of wasn't really her fault, which confuses me. And it's taken most of a year to get to a point where I can just feel sad without the rest of it.
"The Visitor" has a different edge to it now
She also left me in charge of things, which I have had mixed feelings about. (My step-father was still around at that point, but he had Alzheimer's, so I got put in charge of him too, at least so far as money and practicalities were concerned; he died eight months later, which if I'm being honest is a mixed bag. It's sad and I'm sorry to not get to see him again, but it spared him living with the end stages of Alzheimer's, which would have been hell.) I had no idea a year ago what it meant to be left in charge, what I would be tasked with in any real way. Nor did I have a clue as to the logistical hurdles society had erected in place for people in my position, or the closer-to-home internecine warring that would occur with extended family. I learned a lot. Not all of it positive, but learning is learning. And it's not done with, either, some of those hurdles are elaborate and arbitrary and exist to make people in my position tear their hair out and scream at functionaries that have no power over the situation while they place more and more creative obstacles in their paths.
Meanwhile, the Earth turned and went about its merry way orbiting the sun, and more happened. I learned that another long-term association wasn't what I thought it was, my cat got sick again, and yet more dental trauma hit my jaw and my wallet, all of which was well in keeping with the mood of the orbit. On the other hand, my dad had heart surgery, which you might not think of as a plus, but the result has been exceptionally positive, so score one for the forces of good. And perhaps as important as anything else, I was able to reconnect with someone whom I'd been close to but had drifted away, and with luck and effort will keep her in my personal orbit better than before. So, not all bad, to be sure.
Still, it's not a year I'd care to repeat. If Al and Ziggy Quantum Leaped me back to September 2015 I would be very displeased. No, I prefer to turn that page. Move on to another turn 'round old Sol, and see what the next orbit brings my way. Hopefully things I'd like to revisit, should I someday find myself by an Atavachron.No Comments yet
Ever since my mom died last September, my life has been pretty much consumed by unpleasant things. Sure, with occasional bits of light among the dark here and there, but overall, the general state of things has been ... un-fun. It has been, I think, the most sustained period of negativity and anti-good-mood mojo from outside sources I’ve ever endured, and the sheer variety of emotions involved is quite remarkable. I have not been particularly good at managing these so-called negative emotions—my inner Vulcan has gone AWOL—and this past week I have found myself in a place I have never been before, not with all my mental health and depressive issues that go back at least 30+ years if not my whole life.
I have never been suicidal, and I am not now; I have always held onto enough optimism to keep on keeping on no matter how low my orbit around The Black Hole. But I had a stray thought as I pulled into my garage the other night: if I just left the car running, I wouldn’t have to deal with this shit anymore.
It was just a stray thought, not at all something to be actually considered, but I did find it interesting to note the thought. This experience has driven me somewhere having my heart wrenched out, shredded, chewed up, spat out, and thrown back at me never did; that being unjustly fired from a job by incompetents who failed upward never did; that grief over losses of people and pets never did; that fear of poverty and destitution never did; that betrayal from dearly-important-ex-friends never did.
One way or another, the situation will change. Whether it will change soon or down the line, in my favor or against, I’ve no way of knowing. But the status quo is untenable and will eat me alive. Enough is enough.No Comments yet
Fight the power
So, blog, we meet again. Been a while (as evidenced by all the maintenance this site still needs). Not a lot to write about, I suppose, at least not much positive. It's been a shit year, really.
And I don't really want to go into the various whys it's been a shit year, at least not at the moment. No, this exercise is more for therapeutic purposes than informative ones. Though I guess you could say those overlap. Anyway.
A few years ago I did a series of comic strips about my depression. I like them, I consider that sequence to be among the best ones I've done. OK, small sample size. Still. One reason I'm pleased with them is that they go some distance in communicating what it feels like to people that, thankfully, have never experienced it. It's one of those things that requires a common frame of reference to really get, which makes it very difficult to talk about.
This morning, as I continued to fight my way through this latest depressive episode, I had an imaginary “seminar,” I guess, trying to explain what it's like to normals. (Normal in this respect, anyway.) I used visual aids. Trying to articulate the experience seems to help withstand it; I'm explaining it to myself as much as anyone else. Better understanding trough self-psychoanalysis. Or something.
My preferred metaphor for my particular depression is a black hole. Imagine you are in the gravitational pull of a black hole. It follows you around and, though you can pull away from it, you can never fully escape its gravity. Your relative health, depression-wise, can be gauged by the altitude of your orbit around the black hole. The deeper you are in the gravity well of the black hole, the more it robs you of not only your energy, not only your metaphorical life-light, but your coherence, judgment, your basic ability to perceive the world. The farther down in it you are, the more distorted your view.
The higher your altitude, the clearer your perceptions are and the less energy is required to keep you in a stable orbit. But some energy is always required to maintain it — apply too little and you start spiraling down closer to the center of the black hole. If you've got a little extra, maybe you can move to a higher apogee, but you've used up some of your reserve to do it. Your energy “budget,” if you will, depends on how much you need to maintain position at any given time.
If you're doing well, you might be at a high orbital distance and can afford to devote maybe 10% of your budget to fighting gravity. If you get tired, slip a little, you can climb back up with only a smallish extra effort. You appear relatively stable, with only minor fluctuations. But that stability depends on you not getting tired, and on the black hole not gaining any mass. You could spiral down into a lower orbit if you put in too little energy, and since the gravitational force is stronger the lower you go, it takes more to climb up again. Or something from outside can add to the black hole's mass and strengthen its gravitational pull; suddenly 10% doesn't cut it any more. You need a lot more energy, maybe 30 or 40%, to stay where you've been, and it's got to come from somewhere. Conservation of energy and all that. Physics.
Spiraling down can happen suddenly, sharply, steeply. Or, it can happen so slowly as you gradually tire that you don't notice it until you look up one day and realize that the black hole is larger in your field of view than you thought it was.
Climbing out is a lot harder than falling in. Falling takes no effort at all. Meds can help. They're very effective at certain altitudes. Like booster rockets. Useful for moving from a middle altitude to a higher one, or for maintaining stability once you reach a manageable distance. At lower orbits, they just help slow the descent. The real power has to come from internal reserves you build up through conservation or from outside assistance.
Asking for outside assistance is dangerous. It means placing part of your burden on someone else, and that someone else may not want it. Or may not know what to do with it. A successful request for aid can give you a burst of needed energy and an extra helping from someone else, but a failed one adds mass to the black hole. Knowing who to ask and under what circumstances is tough enough when your perceptions aren't compromised by low altitude; when you are so compromised it amplifies the risk considerably. You might pick up the phone, for example, and between starting to dial a number and engaging the call go through an hour or more of debating the risk-reward ratio involved. Usually, you don't finish making the call. Too dangerous. If you don't handle it well, you gain no altitude, and if it goes badly — and you know it can — the black hole gets more massive.
I've had a lot of outside events adding extra mass to the black hole of late. I've done OK rebalancing my energy budget to maintain a middle orbit, but I've been tired. There hasn't been anything left for anything else. The black hole is bigger than it used to be. The booster rockets have been doing their thing to keep the spiraling down from getting much faster, but I've been conserving what I can for another go at gaining altitude.
I'm almost ready to hit the thrusters and climb. The reserves seem a bit restored. I'm just not sure how high they'll take me before they're depleted again. (This post cries out for illustrations. Maybe I'll spend some time doing that soon.)No Comments yet