Raft

One of the worst things about anxiety–well, it’s all bad, but some things are more awful than others–is the persistent suspicion that you’re doing it to yourself.

This suspicion is not merely confined to strangers. Friends, loved ones, and even your own rat-tailed brain will hold that glimmer, far back and way down. Exquisitely sensitive to any breath of disapproval, your own brain chemistry will chase that glimmer into the swamp, and you’ll be a few feet deep and sinking fast in quicksand before you realize what the fuck’s going on, scratching the itches of why can’t you just be normal until your skin breaks.

Then the things living in the swamp–anxiety’s giant grey toothy brothers–will smell the blood.

It’s not your loved ones’ fault. It’s not even yours. It’s nobody’s fault, really, when you have brain chemistry that does its best to maim or kill you. But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re bleeding in quicksand and carnivorous things are hunting you.

So you spread your weight carefully. You grab a rope, a vine, a stick, and start working for solid ground. You breathe deeply, you take your meds so the grey things are chained if not docile. Slow them down, and focus on one slow swim-stroke at a time. As soon as you make it out of the quicksand and your loved ones try to help you up, the internal bleeding sets in–the guilt about letting them help you, when you were the idiot who ran into quicksand in the first place. The swamp can turn into a sea at a moment’s notice, and it often does.

Deep breathing. Remind yourself that it’s okay to let other people care about–and care for–you. Check in with the people you know are worried. Wrap yourself in something soft, and keep taking your meds. Remind yourself, once again, that you’ve felt this bad before, and it passed like an ocean wave. When you get tired of swimming you can float for a while. The salt stings, and you’re tired, but there are things to cling to.

You’ve made it before. You will again.

Here. Share my raft. I know it’s small–it’s okay, we’ll make it work. Climb up. Or just cling to the side if you have to. I’m right here, I’ll hold on, and when you have the strength I’ll help you clamber up.

What? Me? Oh, yeah. I’ve been out here before too, lots of times. That’s right, I’ll steady you. The raft’s stronger than it looks…Huh? Oh, a little while ago I was drowning again, too. But then I saw you, and it’s kind of strange…yeah, there you go. It’s all right. We’ll pick up anyone else we can, and head for shore.

I was going to say, it’s kind of strange, isn’t it?

Helping someone else makes the raft bigger.

Upham on Salem

Witch Board, Occultism, Necromancy
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I fell asleep last night reading Charles Wentworth Upham on the Salem witch trials. First published in 1867, the work is prey to racism common at the time, though Upham seems rather uneasy at the genocide of the Native Americans. He also doesn’t mention chattel slavery in the colonial period more than glancingly–of course, with the Civil War reaching its final bloody conclusion two years earlier, he may have thought it indelicate to refer to. There’s also a regrettable lack of women in his text–they’re wives or daughters, rarely even rating their own name. It will be interesting to see how he approaches the actual trial events themselves.

Right now (well, a good 200 pages in) he’s carefully laying out all the property disputes that set the stage for the witchcraft fury, untangling the resentments that no doubt gave it dry fuel. Surprisingly, for a man who no doubt had several Confederate sympathies, he seems to be trying to be…fair and even-handed? Kind of? At least, he has the idea that we cannot point out a mote of dust in historical eyes without dealing with the beams in our own to some extent.

“They did not understand the great truth which Hugh Peters preached to Parliament, “Why,” said he, “cannot Christians differ, and yet be friends? All children should be fed, though they have different faces and shapes: unity, not uniformity, is the Christian word.” They admitted no such notion as this. They thought uniformity the only basis of unity. They meant to make and to keep this a country after their own pattern, a Congregational, Puritan, Cambridge-Platform-man’s country. The time has not yet come when we can lift up clean hands against them. Two successive chief-magistrates of the United States have opened the door and signified to one-eighth part of our whole people, that it will be best for them to walk out. So long as the doctrine is maintained that this is the white man’s country, or any man’s, or any class or kind of men’s country, it becomes us to close our lips against denunciation of the Fathers of New England because they tried to keep the country to themselves.” Excerpt From: Charles Wentworth Upham. “Salem Witchcraft, Volumes I and II.” iBooks.

I’d be more impressed if he wasn’t the guy who got Hawthorne dismissed from the Salem customs-house, or if he hadn’t gotten Jones Very institutionalized. I’d be truly impressed if he went the extra step and denounced genocide and chattel slavery in America as the cancer it was, and remains. Still, the book is public domain, and it remains a good and careful tracing of a seminal event in American history.

One of the side effects of reading about the Puritans is a distressing feeling of having sinned just by breathing. (This was particularly marked when I read Cotton Mather and watched The Witch in short order; Puritanism is somewhat of a virus, and its infection of the American body politic is insidious.) This morning’s coffee felt like a stolen pleasure, hence all the more intensely enjoyable. I’m going to need a palate cleanser after going from Serge’s Russia: Twenty Years After straight to Upham. Maybe that latest Bernie Gunther novel.

*wanders away, muttering about the Colonial Era*

Validation

I spent the weekend putting together alternatives to Patreon for my lovely subscribers. I could have been doing so many other things, but oh well. I also had the heaving frustration of my site basically choking every time I tried to upload an image, that was fun. Fortunately, this morning I got in the queue for a service chat with my hosting provider, and we figured out the problem. Ugh, double ugh, I could have been doing something else with THAT time, too, but now it’s solved (for the moment, we’ll see if the solution holds) and I can breathe a little easier.

I am also relieved that the problem was something I couldn’t have fixed on my own. It’s so nice when someone else says, “Oh yeah, it’s X, let’s see if this works.” I wasn’t just imagining things! I mean, I knew I wasn’t, but the validation is still pleasant indeed.

So I’m shivering in my chair, my coffee has grown tepid, and as hard as I tried this morning I could not get out the door for a run at a reasonable time. That means it will have to be unreasonable, and I’m already behind. There’s four scenes to get an acceptable zero draft of Combine Shadow, a weekend’s worth of wordcount to get back on top of, more Beast of Wonder to feel my way around, under, towards…oh, I’m sure there’s more on the list, including setting up workflows and choosing this week’s subscription offerings. And, and, and. I should just get over myself, slather on some sunscreen, and get going. Maybe the endorphins and some vitamin D will make me feel a little less frazzled and more, well, human.

Maybe once I finish my run I’ll turn the heat on and drink some tea. It’s a good thing I work ahead on so many projects, it means I have a cushion for just such weekends as the last one. The only trouble is, once that cushion starts to get thin I get anxious, thinking I’m behind when really I’m slightly ahead or just on time. If I’m not early, I feel late.

Anxiety is fun.

That’s my Monday, chickadees. The perennial feeling of needing a weekend to recover from the weekend is getting awful familiar…

Russia’s Pockets

So, just in the past few years, Russia has poured a lot of resources not only into bankrolling the Syrian war but also into fucking with elections and social media in other countries. Ukraine, France, Britain, and yes, the US. (At this point, anyone who still thinks the Mango Mussolini and his merry nepotist crew weren’t funded and prodded by the Kremlin is simply refusing to see the obvious and proven.) Servers aren’t cheap, neither is the time spent finding ways around various defenses or deciding whom to sic the dogs of harassment upon.

This is a massive outlay. Where is the money to fund it coming from? The oligarchs, the perennial dependence on a tax on spirits, gas pipelines, certainly. Also, during the period of openness, the economy exploded in a good way, and that leap forward is still being cannibalized by the oligarchs. Still…that’s a lot of effort and cash going basically down foreign holes.

One of the reasons the Soviet bloc fell apart was the USSR’s propping up of various regimes. Frex, North Korea playing the USSR and China against each other to extract the most from both, or aid to Cuba, various rebuilding programs in Iron Curtain countries, aid to nascent Communist China once Stalin (and his rivalry with Mao) was safely dead continuing into a significant drain of rubles all through Kruschev’s and later regimes, Kalashnikovs shipped to insurrections–I could go on, but you get the idea.

Russia’s pockets are deep but not endless. I’m wondering how sustainable Russia’s meddling is in the long term, and how the looming Vodka Politics demographic disaster will affect funding for it, and also wondering what shape the inevitable collapse will take. Of course Putin and his crew will escape offshore with their looted billions if they’re quick enough to get out before the instability reaches critical mass. But if there’s one thing about iron-fisted oligarch kleptocrats, it’s that they’re addicted to stealing more and more–a gambler’s addiction, forgetting that the house always wins.

These are things I think about when I should be writing, apparently. Hrm.

Uh, whoops…

Yeah, so, yesterday I changed a single tag on some SquirrelTerror posts and WordPress decided to vomit them ALL up as new posts, everywhere. Sorry about that. :/ (I am told Mercury is retrograde, so that’s what I’m blaming.)

Yesterday I could barely settle to a damn thing until around 3pm, when I’d achieved enough caffeine to impersonate a satellite launch. Fortunately, after that things were much easier; Beast of Wonder, Pocalypse Road, and Combine’s Shadow all lined up for work and were attended to in order. I think spending most of the day on Mastodon instead of Twitter improved my productivity tenfold. Twitter is a garbage fire of harassment, even though I have a truly robust block list. The effort of swimming through that toxicity is gargantuan; still, though, I have to retain a presence there because I’m a mid-list author. Having to hold one’s nose and do something is full adulthood, my friends.

So today: wordcount, revisions, Latin, Greek, piano practice. A full docket, and I have to get out the door for some speed work. I’m not sure I’ll take Miss B–she’s not fond of intervals. They probably interfere too much with her trying-to-kill-me rhythm.

So, I’m sorry about yesterday’s email blizzard, blog subscribers. Next time I change a tag…well, maybe I just won’t, because oh my God who needs that kind of hassle? Forgive me.

*zooms away into the sunshine*

Egg-Carton Treatment

The thing I find most interesting about this is the amount of resources allotted to shepherding a relatively small number of white supremacists to “safety”.

The main group was escorted several blocks to the Farragut West Metro station, which was then temporarily closed to allow the neo-Nazis and white supremacists time to escape. Spencer, meanwhile, was hustled into a waiting SUV. (ThinkProgress)

Can you imagine the same egg-carton treatment given to, say, a small number of BLM protestors? Or a tiny group of Planned Parenthood supporters? I mean, I can imagine the police allowing, say, an SUV driven by a racist misogynist to plow into a group of either and inflict a casualty. But the white glove treatment for either? Clearing a whole Metro station? Something other than pepper spray, truncheons, and zip ties?

I can’t see that at all.

Too Quiet

Hear that?

Do you? No? Well, that’s it precisely.

It’s quiet.

Too quiet.

Even the squirrels are hushed.

The kids are back in school. That means, once again, there is silence and solitude during the day. Productivity will skyrocket–once I get over the persistent feeling that the quiet is too thick and something is wrong, wrong, wrong.

A great deal of creative work happens in tension, in-between. Wanting solitude and having to concentrate without it, or suddenly having the necessary solitude and being uncomfortable because you’re so used to blocking out distractions. It’s not quite that I pursue discomfort, it’s just that it makes me acutely aware of the writing process.

So today is for working on Season 3 of Roadtrip Z. The immune start to die from secondary causes, and survivors start banding together in larger groups. These two things are possibly related. Teasing out the implications of a zombie apocalypse is the closest to fun I’ve had in a while. Falling into that world will keep me occupied.

Still, every twenty minutes or so, I’ll be jolted by a sudden wave of something’s not right, what’s going on? It will take me a few seconds to think oh, right, school’s in again. The concomitant anxiety, even though low-grade, is fuel.

I can’t wait for the kids to come home.