Sappho

Going through old journals, I found an entry from December of 2017. At that point my health was already quite poor, I was missing so many days of work, but I was still trying to hang on.

I wrote,

I feel like Sappho, only a few best fragments are left, everything else is burned.

Stress: When the Poison is the Addiction

A lot of my health problems are exacerbated by stress. For example, I’ve had chronic, recurring shingles for the past few years. It has gotten really bad lately — I’m probably one of those “rare” people with immune issues for whom the Covid vaccine triggered shingles. (I am still 100% glad I’m vaccinated, just for me it has been very inconvenient.)

Sugar also makes the shingles worse, and so for the last few months I have completely cut out chocolate, ice cream, and so on. But I have really struggled to cut out the other toxin, stress.

Part of it is, of course, the time we’re living in. I mean, my God. And a lot of things make it harder. Being in poor health means being stuck inside a lot. Being in poor health during a plague that’s also in the middle of wildfire season means 100% never leaving the house. It sucks. I get bored. I get lonely. I look at social media. Social media stresses me out. The stress makes me sicker.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

A couple weeks ago, I went on a social media / news / stressful stuff fast. If I did engage with the news, I did it only for a few minutes, and I tried to ask myself questions like,

  • Do I need to know this?
  • How will finding out more information change my behavior? My decisions? If it won’t affect my decisions, then why am I trying to get more information?

The fact of the matter is, my behavior was already set. I became fully vaccinated (plus 2 weeks) March 15th. But then I decided to remain in self-quarantine for 3-6 more months, until we had more concrete data about things. I had questions:

Can the vaccine prevent Long Covid? No, but it makes it less likely.

How well does the vaccine work against the Delta variant? It prevents symptomatic infection about 64% of the time, according to Israeli studies.

Does the vaccine keep you from catching Covid, or just from getting sick? You’re 1/3 as likely to catch it, and a lot less likely to be hospitalized if you do catch it.

If you are vaccinated with an asymptomatic case, can you still transmit to others? Yes, especially with the Delta variant.

For a while, when cases were low, there were possibilities of choices for me. But once we could see the hockey-stick charts of the Delta variant in the UK and India, I knew it was coming here, soon, very soon. And so I went back on lockdown, self-quarantine. Other people talked about how the pandemic was “over.” But it didn’t feel that way to me.

So about 10 days ago, I tried, as I say, to go on a “stressful media” fast. The first 2 days I felt very desperate to be back on Twitter. On about the 3rd day, I started to feel a shift — I felt more peaceful, and more present. I could think more clearly. I could start thinking about my own wants and plans and goals, rather than just be in a reactive state.

Day 4 was good. And then around Day 5, I started looking at the news “just a little.” And then by Day 6 or Day 7, I was 100% down the rabbit hole again. Like any addict, I can’t do this thing just a little bit. I need complete abstinence.

Always in the past, I’ve thought, “My isolation makes me crave connectivity, and so I take the poison of social media (emotional manipulation, empty non-relationships, distraction, stress) so I can get what I need (connection).

But this time, I started realizing that not only do I crave social media in spite of the stress it causes in me, but also because of it.

As a child, I was punished for not being anxious enough. If my mother was anxious about something, she would punish me for not mirroring her anxiety.

Thus the mere act of relaxing can be terrifying. It is a perfect crime against the psyche.

Be anxious, or else I’ll give you something to be anxious about.

I have slowly come to realize that, in the modern age, I am not only addicted to social media in spite of the constant drip of terror it creates, but also because of it. Just as people with food allergies often crave the food that makes them sick, I have a craving for stress.

My body has learned to run on the wrong kind of fuel. It runs on quick jolts of intermittent terror rather than….whatever it is other people feel. Trying to stop the infinite doomscroll means going through withdrawal, from a toxic cortisol fuel to a sense of dread to, finally, a sense that life is less “real” and more “boring” because I am not terrified all the time.

Trying to switch to another regular fuel source has been hard for me. I keep coming back for the terror that, quite frankly, I also hate. I keep coming back to the thing I despise. But I know how to run on that fuel. I don’t know how to run on normalcy and excruciating isolation and boredom.

But I’m trying to learn, I guess.

Idaho 2021: Spite and Paperwork

Reasons That My Husband’s Unemployment Benefits Have Been Delayed This Year in Idaho:

1. Because the state had a backlog processing initial claims

2. Because they shifted from Regular Unemployment to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

3. Because they shifted from PUA to PEUC

4. Because they shifted from PEUC to the Biden extension

5. Because there was a known computer glitch, but it was still our responsibility to fill out a form and fax it back to end the payments stoppage

6. Because they didn’t receive that form, so we had to call and email it again

7. Because the school where he would have been working had a three day weekend this one time, and it sent the state unemployment claims system into a freakout and stopped his claim

8. Because after a year had already gone by, he suddenly needed to fill out a bunch of paperwork to prove he was who he said he was

9. Because while he was looking for a full-time job, he was also working in part-time self-employment, which was fine with the unemployment office, until it wasn’t fine, and then after several months of hassle, it was deemed to be fine again

The state of Idaho has been mean-spiritedly stopping unemployment claims for the last year, deluging my husband with constant Kafkaesque “Gotcha!” paperwork in an effort to kick as many people off the rolls as possible. Just keeping up with the Paperwork of Spite has become its own part-time job in and of itself.

In our family, this time, we had other resources. I never suspected that my disability income would make me a “primary breadwinner.” But strange times lead to strange circumstances.

However, I have had plenty of times in my life where unemployment was the only thing I could rely on, and each time our claims got stopped for a month on some technicality, I thought of all the other folks who were going through the same thing, but with no Plan B.

As of next week, for better or worse, it’s over. Because our Governor decided that the best way to get people back to working with the public was by banning all vaccine requirements in government buildings. Like, say, schools. And *then* ending unemployment early. Because, you know, our teachers are so important that they should unnecessarily risk their lives for $30k a year.

I can only imagine the public school teachers here, and many other workers, will be retiring en masse.

The cruelty is the point.

Now We Can Teleport

A few years ago, I got into a conversation with my boss about teleportation. We were imagining what the world would be like if people could suddenly teleport, a la Star Trek.

He started imagining all sorts of utopian benefits, but as usual, I had a different take. He didn’t strike me as the type of man who’d ever been really poor, can’t-get-your-bad-teeth-pulled poor, and that never leaves you. It makes you cynical. New techology? As always, my first thought was, how would this be used to screw the poor?

Continuing on our thought experiment, I imagined that even if teleportation existed, it would be very expensive. Therefore, wealthy people could afford daily or even hourly access to it, while regular folks couldn’t. Perhaps normal travel would even get more expensive for regular folks, as teleportation bit into economies of scale for air and train travel.

So, I envisioned a world where the wealthy, no longer tied to jobs in big cities, would all move to the places with the most natural beauty. Places that used to be beautiful, but remote — and therefore affordable — would become expensive. By contrast, The Poors would be the only ones tied to physical jobs where you had to live nearby. Cities would be for the poor and mountain towns near Yellowstone would be for the rich.

Weirdly, this is exactly what has happened with Covid times. We don’t teleport our bodies to places where our minds need to be, but rather the reverse. And I see this trend continuing, at least for the upper echelons of society. Now that we’ve given the wealthy something special they couldn’t have before — year-round skiing and walks on the beach — they’re not likely to give it back. The rich aren’t into takesee-backsees. They only want more, ever more, not less.

For those poor schlubs who find themselves contained to the physical world of physical employment, I don’t know what the future holds. However, instinct says it’s grim. We have no reliable nationalized proof of vaccine. If you could just have scanners for your phones at store entrances, workers would be protected. Instead, we have the reverse. Governors (like mine) passing laws to outlaw vaccine requirements. The Death Cult continues.

As the saying goes, It’s not enough that you succeed; others must fail. Schadenfreude has now reached its apotheosis and become enshrined into public policy. It’s not enough that people are kicked off unemployment early and forced to work shit jobs; they must also be terrified. Nobody who has to work with the public gets to have any sort of choice about whether they remain safe from a deadly illness. And nobody who is immune-compromised gets to have any sort of choices at all.

By contrast, I bet places like Catalina Island and Fisher Island and other wealthy gated communities will institute their own laws, enforced not by police (the rich don’t care about police) but by the threat of expulsion from the in-group (the rich care very much about the in-group). Everyone in certain communities will need incontrovertible proof of vaccination. Thus the rich will attempt to create a new kind of gated community; inside the gate, life can continue as it did before, based on an enforced social contract that leaves infection rates vanishingly low. Inside the gate, it’s safe.

It’s not enough that I be safe; you must be unsafe.

Outside the gate, the propaganda virus is allowed to spread. “Vaccine passports mean I’m not free,” etc. etc. This causes the virus-virus to spread. The bottom 90% live in a world with endemic Covid, where daily life is just riskier than before, where at any moment you can get sick with a virus that can kill you — or worse, cripple you for life. Meanwhile, the rich jet from safe haven to safe haven, protected, above the rest of us.

The only real hope normal folks have in this dynamic is that vaccines end up being effective enough that one’s own individual choices can keep one safe, or safe enough. Because right now, the powers that be have made it clear that they’ll sabotage any group efforts to keep us safe and protected. Because group solidarity leads inexorably to more group solidarity! If we privilege the group to keep folks from dying of Covid, next thing you know, you’ll see people striking for better working conditions! So best to nip all sense of communality in the bud.

Best to put forth the lie of individual freedom as we brazenly and wantonly murder an entire set of individuals with neglect. Best that any problems that require communal responses just…remain problems. Whatever could we do? Change? Don’t be ridiculous.

Of course, everything about this is merely a dry run for the communal response needed to address climate change. Or rather, a dry run for trying to kill the communal response that’s needed, because it would mess up the stock portfolios that makes Catalina Island and Fisher Island possible.

With climate change, the calculus will be the same. The wealthy will seek out those little geographical pockets that are less affected. The Pacific Northwest, which will slowly turn into a mediterranean climate. Buffalo, NY, which will still have plentiful fresh water. Second homes in Canada will be the newest status symbol.

Or, if natural disasters get to be too intense to avoid, then the wealthy lifestyle will become nomadic — California in the winter, Canada in the summer. The rich will live everywhere, while only the poor will be tied to one location, and forced to endure annual catastrophes: tornadoes in OK, floods in FL, hurricanes in LA, wildfires in OR….

Escaping the seasonal catastrophes, the wealthy will turn into migrants. Not migrant workers, but migrant un-workers, migrant resort-goers, migrant parasites. Leeches-to-go. To get to their seasonally, intermittently-safe resting places, they’ll contribute to the problem — with low-mileage Winnebagos and high-carbon jets. Escaping the problem they themselves created, they’ll contribute even more to the problem in the meantime. Calls for reduction of carbon footprints will fall on deaf planes.

And the rest of us? Poverty will mean staying in one place, having a fixed address, and being forced to endure.

Idaho: Welcome to the New Klux Klan

Today on the steps of the Capitol in Boise, there was a small Black Lives Matter rally to mark the one-year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s murder.

In the park across the street, there was a group of white people dressed in full military garb, carrying confederate flags and huge guns, blasting racist music with the N-word.

In disagreements between the BLM folks and the confederate flag folks, the police appeared to be taking the side of the confederacy.

I’m tired of Idaho.

When I moved here 6 years ago, I thought I’d found my place. Affordable, good weather, four seasons. Sure there was a gun-nut contingent. Sure there were crazy militia people holed up near the border to Canada. And the locals certainly seemed extremely….homogenous. I’m white, and I still felt completely overwhelmed with the sheer whiteness of it all.

But, there were good things. There were liberals here in my area. We had a proud history of welcoming refugees from all over the world. There was a nice amount of Basque history. I thought this place was All Right.

Then Covid came, and shot it all to hell.

For the past year, I’ve watched this state turn into a cesspool of ignorance, arrogance, and straight-up eugenics. Do you know what it feels like to be severely disabled, severely at-risk, and watch your Governor reopen before we should? Refuse to declare a mask mandate? What it’s like to see angry right-wing protesters scare an elected official for daring to consider more stringent public health measures?

What about going to the doctor, only to find the staff there aren’t wearing masks? What about having to call multiple doctors’ offices just to find one who actually complies with health guidelines?

What about seeing a vocal pro-mask business get vandalized and robbed? The Capitol attacked, and no one seems to be punished for it? Legislators pushing conspiracy theories?

Seeing vaccine priority lists that completely fail to prioritize any disabled people, no matter how dire their circumstances?

I just…I can’t! Anymore! I can’t.

I suppose I could have been in any number of states that ended up being run by lunatics. Is it fair to blame this one state? Will it be better somewhere else? But then again, if you’ve been extremely vulnerable, and spent a year having your state government make it ABUNDANTLY CLEAR they don’t care whether you live or die…it’s hard to just be like, “That’s ok, I forgive you for that Great Unpleasantness.”

I know a lot of people are moving to Idaho right now. I don’t get why. “We want to move someplace with a faction of right-wing people who are training to be terrorists?” “We want a governor whose death rate from Covid is twice that of his neighboring states?” I just don’t understand.

I think…I think it’s time to leave this place.

Our Children’s True Education

Everyone is talking about how kids are now behind in their education. But compared to today’s adults, in many ways they are ahead.

Here are the lessons they’ve learned thoroughly, that will seed their decisions for the rest of their lives, and possibly help them save humanity’s future:

1. If we want to conquer big problems in the world, we’re going to have to work together

2. Listen to science, or a lot of people will suffer and die

3. Pandemics spread if even a minority of people lack adequate healthcare

4. Pandemics spread if even a minority of people lack adequate housing

5. In short, building up wealth while ignoring the poor is woefully short-sighted — like building your mansion on top of a toxic waste dump

6. If even one country is run by a maniac, it can threaten the entire world*

7. In short, today’s youth have learned in their material lives what most previous generations only learned as vague spiritual niceties:

  • No One Will Be Free Until All of Us Are Free
  • No One Will Be Safe Until All of Us Are Safe
  • No One Will Be Healthy Until All of Us Are Healthy

I think instead of worrying about what the kids have lost, we should ask what we adults should incorporate from the foundational lessons our children are learning.

After all, it’s kind of unfair to ask our kids to save the world, when maybe we could learn these lessons, too.

Theoretically, we’re smarter and more mature than children.


*Right now, one rogue nation can cause unchecked viral spread and subsequent resistant mutations. In the future, the threat might be C02 emissions, nuclear fallout, cyber-terrorism, or some as-yet-unknown threat. The point is that it’s asymmetrical — you can’t just ignore a Trump or Bolsonaro and expect to be ok in your own distant country. Not anymore.

Dark Futures

Just read this article on long-term Covid effects. There are plenty of other similar articles.

I think when it all shakes out, we’ll realize that not only is Covid not “just the flu,” but its impact on society is more like polio. Kills some, disables many. I wish the disability aspect of it were publicized more, I think it would help encourage the more reckless to mask up. (I also wish they’d talk more about how it may cause infertility and painful testicular swelling in men. A lot of young guys feel invincible but if you say “this will mess up your ability to get laid” they might actually listen.)

We’re going to be left with hundreds of thousands of disabled people due to this disease, and I’m not sure the world is going to be up for this challenge. In particular I worry about the lung damage. There are lots of illnesses and problems that you can ignore for part of your day. Breathing though…when you can’t breathe, that’s all you can think about.

The science fiction / dystopian part of my brain says that there will be a massive criminal enterprise where, due to the ravages of Covid, gangs of marauders will kidnap people and harvest their lungs and other organs for wealthy post-Covid sufferers. Or the Uighurs stuck in China’s concentration camps will become the new “lung donors.”

Grim.

 

OCD

Having severe OCD during a plague is a little hard.

On the other hand, it’s giving me great insight into why OCD has stayed in the gene pool.

I have to admit that, before the plague, I was a little confused about that last point. Up to now, I was always like, “Why, God? What possible good does it serve for me to be like this?!?”

But now I see that being hyper-hyper-vigilant about contamination can really serve folks well during disease outbreaks. And most of human history has been “during disease outbreaks.”

Note that “serve folks well” = “keeping people from death.” It does not mean “make people happy.” Nope. Uh-uh. Hypervigilance is not the key to emotional success. But (I guess?) you live another day, and in that future day…you can go to therapy.

Weird Nostalgia

I’m cleaning out all the irritating little receipts from my wallet today, and it’s weird what’s making me nostalgic.

“Two steak tacos” says one receipt. Now, part of the nostalgia is because the receipt is from TacoDeli, a place that is ½ restaurant and ½ religion for me. But the real pang was just…oh look. A restaurant. Remember when I could go to restaurants?

I continue on through each crumpled piece of paper: unremarkable chains like Costa Vida, special occasion dinners at Lucky Fins, overpriced hippie shit at Wild Root. Each one is a marker of a thing I was able to do. I was disabled then too, but even so I could occasionally go out. My life was so limited even before. But at least my fears were only about me. “If I walk downtown, will I have such a bad energy crash I won’t be able to make it back? If I commit to a dinner, will I have to cancel?” Now I’m afraid of everything.

You would think that well, at least this time I have company. Before, I was sick and nobody cared. Now everybody’s sick and everybody cares — except the people who have the power to do something about it.

Is it better? No, not really, it is not better.

The last few days I’ve been totally freaking out. We had a flood in our kitchen that overflowed into the living room. Normally this would be really irritating and inconvenient. But now? It’s a choice between keeping the wet carpet, that might develop mold and mildew and make me sick — or having maintenance in to fix it, and risking catching Covid-19. So a bad night with a little bad luck becomes a crisis.

Last week Wil’s car died. He had to have AAA come to the garage to jump it. We aired out the garage, but I still didn’t go down there for days. Too afraid.

Today we were in the garage with the door open. I heard a neighbor talking outside nearby. How far is she? I wondered. I can’t see her. Is she 10 feet? 20 feet? Is she upwind? Is she wearing a mask? 

I just panicked and left.

My husband doesn’t understand. Rationally, he said, we’re safe. But then he panics in other ways, that seem irrational to me.

I just want to deal with the stresses of me being disabled and my spouse being unemployed without also knowing that at least 5% of Boise is actively infected with a deadly virus, right now. I feel like disability and job-searching are enough, thanks, but hey maybe that’s just me.

Back when we had it under control in Idaho, I could almost handle it. But now that the plan seems to be, “Let them all die and let God sort it out,” I just can’t. There is no plan. There is no strategy. Insane protesters show up without masks at health board meetings. We’re just supposed to let the state burn.

I don’t think people know what it’s like to get sick from something, and just never get better. You don’t die all at once, but a little at a time, over years. There’s the year I realized I was never going to be well enough to have children. There’s the year I had to give up my music career. There’s the year I have to give up being able to function consistently enough to hold any job. And so many other daily disappointments and heartbreaks, until you think you just can’t bear it anymore.

People don’t understand that death isn’t what they need to be afraid of. Sure, the death rate is low. But it’s causing strokes, lung fibrosis, kidney failure, and so much more.

The young just don’t get it. So they’re cavalier.

I was cavalier once, too.

Not anymore.

Summer of 2020: The Pot Boils Over

Here, now, in the middle of a sunny summer and heading into fall, is where the darkest days and the truth will out.

I know I’ve said this before, and I know it is hard to grasp, but Trump et. al. are not simply slow, venal, corrupt and incompetent. They are actively trying to kill us. 

“Why would Trump hold a mask-free rally in a state where there’s a rise in cases?”

→ He’s actively trying to kill us

“Why wouldn’t Trump use the Defense Production Act to increase mask manufacture? Why would he use it to force high-density meatpacking plants to stay open?”

→ He’s actively trying to kill us

“What’s with Trump hating masks?”

→ He’s actively trying to kill us

“Why is Trump pressuring the CDC to change its school reopening guidelines?”

→ He’s actively trying to kill us

See?

The folks asking those questions are on the right track — his actions do indeed make No Sense — unless — work with me here — he’s actively trying to kill us.


~ Here beginneth the Question-and-Answer Portion of this essay, posted in red and green, like Atreyu and Bastian in The Never-Ending Story.

Because if any year feels Never-Ending, it’s fucking 2020 ~

Q: But Sofia, we know he’s bad, but he’s not like, bad-bad, right?

A: As has been thoroughly documented elsewhere, he’s a pedophile rapist who hangs out with international mafiosi. He’s bad-bad.

Q: Ok, but even if he’s a bad guy, even “bad” guys don’t just kill people for the heck of it.

A: Hitler did. Stalin did. Lots of other bad guys did. He has the same personality type.* 

Q: Oh, but I don’t believe he’s as bad as Hitler!** Sure, over 130,000 Americans have died so far, but he did it…by…accident?

He didn’t mean to. He’s just inexperienced.

I bet he’ll stop accidentally killing people sometime soon?

A: Look. I’m sorry. I feel for you. It’s hard when your entire innocent worldview comes crashing around down your ears. It’s hard recognizing that there are super evil people in the world, and it’s harder when you realize you are potential collateral damage to their dreams of empire. Ok. 

I will humor your reasoning. He’s not as bad as Hitler, he’s a better person than Hitler, he would only murder people by neglect if he had a very good reason. 

Ok. So here’s your reason: 

Trump is the Chaos Bringer. His method of getting out of trouble is to insert so much chaos into situations that only he, a man whose elemental self is pure chaotic evil, will be able to navigate the chaos and win. 

Trump’s poll numbers are plummeting. The American people despise him. If we get COVID under control by November, that means a lot of people who hate Trump will safely leave their houses, go to the polls, and vote him out of office. Sure Putin can attack our voting machines, but his methods are not foolproof. Otherwise, why did the Dem’s take the house in 2018?

Putin may be able to hack a close election but not a landslide.

So: how to attack the election?

Letting the virus run amok is the attack on the election.

Because what happens if the virus runs amok? Polling places are shut down. High-risk folks — including many Democrats — stay home. Voting by mail gets denied in Republican strongholds. Mail-in ballots are “lost.”

The whole. Voting. System. Breaks. Down. 

Donald Trump wins again. 

And if a few hundred thousand Americans have to die to get him there, well, that’s just a happy accident as far as he is concerned. 

You know how folks have been protesting in the streets against state-sponsored murder?

We need to do more of it.

I can’t do anything as I’m too disabled. I can only write these essays where I scream into the void.

But you can do something. You can leave your home. You can wear a mask. You can protest. You can demand better action.

Protest. Shout. Rage. YOU ARE BEING MURDERED. SPEAK UP NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.

The election depends on you. 

 


* The psych term for it is “malignant narcisissm.”

**According to his first wife Ivanka, he kept a copy of Hitler’s speeches by his bedside. This, from a guy who struggles to read, so it must have been very important to him. But sure, ok. He’s totally not into Hitler.