Random Autumn Thoughts 10/13/2020

Squirrel!

Tis my season to do nesting things. When the nights get longer and the days turn cold, I develop a specific kind of energy & focus. I move furniture, change light bulbs, finish assorted small repair projects I’ve ignored for months, get my flu shot & yearly physical, order clothes, do all the seasonal cleaning other people call “spring” cleaning, and basically Get Ready To Do Nothing At Home For Months.

My social batteries drain to zero between November and March. I do leave the house–for work, for emotional health, for fun–but it’s hard. It’s a physical strain. Knowing I am equipped to hide in the house if I just can’t cope with people– it keeps the stress below redline. Mostly.

Squirrel shopping is a major component of the prep. I pick up a little extra here and one more than I need there all autumn long, until my cabinets & closets are full.

(do not speak to me of “but restaurants deliver.” Ordering food is stressful. Drive-throughs are stressful. MENUS are stressful. A pantry stash requires zero interaction & minimizes decision paralysis.)

Stocking up always felt silly because it’s not like I can avoid shopping all winter like a hermit or a sleeping squirrel just by having extra boxed rice dinners or frozen green beans on hand. It’s not like I’m out in the wilderness where I might get snowed in for a month. FFS, there are six grocery stores minutes away from my home.

But the squirrel stashing feeds that emotional need for refuge-building, so I learned to indulge it. Coping mechanisms. They’re real.

Still, every year I wondered if it was an unhealthy emotional crutch and/or if I was allowing fears inspired by my post-apocalyptic fiction writing to affect my real life.

Until this spring.

I never worked down the pantry overstock the way I usually do in late winter. Pandemic news had me on edge by mid-January, and allowing the quirky desire to be Ready For Any Disaster free rein gave me a little relief from stress meltdowns.

By mid-March and the “stay home stay safe” phase of this dumpster fire year, my pantry was at peak November levels and more, since I’d impulsively grabbed extra cleaning supplies & personal care items on my February shopping expedition.

“Weird personal quirk” has turned into “reliable source of tiny indulgences that make involuntary isolation and fearful uncertainty more bearable.”

It stayed winter all summer long, as far as my nerves are concerned. I now catalog and inventory before shopping. (it IS possible to have too much boxed rice when the store keeps putting them on sale at 10 for $10.)

And now we’re heading into another winter, with who knows what kind of stresses and disasters await us all. My burrow is as ready as it can be, though, and that’s something.

A few things I learned this summer.

Milk gallons freeze just fine as long as you make sure the bottle has enough headspace; celery & carrots keep well and satisfy my greens cravings; commercial bread loaves and English muffins also freeze well; a watermelon keeps for a week on the counter if you don’t cut it open– and keeps for another week in the fridge if you rind & quarter it. Apples only freeze well if you peel & core them first & plan to use them for sauce or baking.

A things I hate but can’t help thinking about

We got a lucky break with COVID-19. Yes, I am aware how horrible and gross and coldhearted it is to say “lucky” when millions are dead and millions more are suffering and we aren’t anywhere close to being done with it. It’s AWFUL. I’m awful for typing it. I’m a sick monster.

What’s more awful is that it’s true.

SARS-CoV-2, the new-to-humans virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic, is deadly, but some viruses are 20 or 30 times more lethal. We’re lucky they don’t spread easily. Others spread more easily than SARS-CoV-2 but aren’t nearly as lethal and/or we can vaccinate against them. (There are also some truly terrifying viruses that haven’t jumped from animals to humans yet. Looking at you, hantavirus)

We would be thoroughly FUCKED right now if the first novel virus we faced had been like measles, and everyone who got it infected 8-10 others instead of 2-ish. Or if it was like hantavirus and killed 30% of its victims, not 1% like SARS-CoV-2. What if it was like measles and hantavirus at the same time?

Infectious disease scientists don’t have to imagine that. They can model it. As the global population grows, the arrival and global spread of unique new diseases is an inevitable development. One of them is bound to be a monster.

And in February 2020, none of those experts could be sure SARS-CoV-2 WASN’T a Big One. They were pretty sure they had a handle on the basics of it–and they knew it was BAD–but it was still too new and the data was still too raw to be sure it wasn’t even WORSE.

Cautious, careful governments locked down to prevent its spread (real lockdowns, not our nation’s sorta-kinda-half-assed-half-hearted version of a lockdown, but real shutdowns) because quarantining is the one tried & true way to shut down viral spread, no matter what it is.

We now know SARS-CoV-2 wasn’t the Big One. It’s horrific, it’s historic, it’s phenomenally deadly and permanently damaging…but it’s treatable and its spread can be defeated by simple, low-tech, public health measures.

We caught the lucky break. The first modern global pandemic is a disease that is ONLY 10 times more deadly than influenza, and one that ONLY spreads at a moderate rate.

The world is a cage fight tournament, humanity vs viruses ( sponsored by Climate Change!) and we drew a pussycat opponent in the first round. This was a lucky chance to fine-tune our fight strategies, build up public health muscle and improve our scientific skills, because as sure as rain falls, we’re going to catch a lion in one of our next match-ups.

Too bad we blew it big time here in the USA. We are fucking up our gimmee game beyond all recognition. I wish I thought that we’d learned our lesson, that we’ll do better when the curtain inevitably goes up on the Big One.

But I don’t think that.

I see to many people spouting bullshit like “There’s no point in making kids wear masks–the labels say they aren’t medical, so they’re useless!” Which is so staggeringly wrong it’s hard to know where to start. And an empathy-fail trophy goes to those who insist that the virus isn’ dangerous because no one they know has died of it. Runners-up in the ignorance sweepstakes are “It’s all a government hoax,” and “If we didn’t test so much, it wouldn’t be as bad.”

Oof. When the big one does come (or when we fail to contain this pussycat and it goes rabid) when there aren’t enough healthy people left to keep the lights on or the water running, no one to make or transport supplies, or to staff hospitals and stores and laboratories…well.

Hi. I write post-apocalyptic fiction for so very many reasons.

And a few bright personal threads

I am fully 2/3 of the way through Sharp Edge revisions and ready to send off the next section to my alpha readers for feedback. That’s very exciting.

I have a Bookshop.org presence now, where you can buy my paperback books AND ALSO support your local independent bookseller:

Thanks to the completed exterior house renovations, my office now has modern windows, so the blinds don’t sway whenever the wind kicks up. This makes me unreasonably happy.

I have put my ebooks up on Ingram for distribution, so brick & mortar store that sell ebooks should be able to order you mine now. I admit I haven’t figured out how that part works, exactly, but the channel is open.

AND! AND! I’m working up my courage to approach a professional narrator and get more of my books on audio. If you read audios and have a favorite narrator you would like to nominate, please, PLEASE share the name.

You have reached the end of this post!

That’s all the all I have until later. Thanks for reading.

Photo by Valeriia Miller on Pexels.com

Have a nice picture of autumn beverages to go on with.

Random Thoughts Roundup

Winter is coming.

Autumn is already here, seasonally speaking. The calendar will catch up soon. And I fear winter’s going to cut down on opportunities to safely spend time with other people, what with the pandemic & all. I wish that wasn’t true.

Some of my favorite memories are cold weather ones: campfire parties with bunches of Girl Scouts, all sitting on logs bundled up, hot drinks in mittened hands and marshmallows blazing over the fire; comet watching with Spouseman, lying on the warm hood of the car, staring up at stars on a back road in a forest preserve; all alone on a sunset walk through the neighborhood, ice crunching under my boots, ice forming on my eyelashes, ice making the bare tree branches creak in the -40 degree wind chill.

Gonna pause here to note that I was rarely cold out on any of those occasions. Did I did mention I hate feeling cold? Yeah. No cold toesies for me once I was old enough to buy my own boots.

I hate being cold, but I’m willing to keep having outdoor hangouts all winter long, if I can find other people to hang with me. It’s partly about having the right gear, and all about the good company.

MURICA AMIRITE?

I am a citizen of a country whose federal government throws people into concentration camps, keeps them in wire cages, starves them, experiments on them, & sterilizes them. I’m a citizen of a country where local and state police forces promote violence and consort with thugs, neither serving nor protect the communities that provide them with budgets dwarfing the ones funds given to public aid and education. I live in a country where the haves are unforgivably selfish and dangerously blind, and the have-nots are willfully ignorant. Where far too many people have no idea how their own government works, and are so secure in their willful ignorance that no narrative truth can reach them.

It’s painful, that’s what it is. I’m not helpless, and I am not a bystander, but it’s hard, not being able to do more without breaking myself. I don’t do as much as others, but I give, and I speak up, and I support where and when I can. Not everyone is built for battle. Not everyone is strong enough to hold up themselves, much less others. It ain’t fun being fragile, is what I’m saying.

FFS All opinions were NOT created equal.

When did the absurdity of “We can agree to disagree, but it’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it,” become an acceptable conversation topper? It isn’t true, it isn’t right, and it’s responsible for a lot of evil in the world. That’s my opinion. And if you disagree with me, you’re wrong. Period. So there.

Vote Dammit.

I have voted in nearly every election since I turned 18. That’s a lot of elections, and a LOT of disappointments. I have known all my life the system was rigged and broken and the only chance we had to fix it was to vote in people who were willing to change it.

I’ve preached about the importance of voting so often my friends who think it doesn’t matter get annoyed and edge away from me every time it comes up. (YOU WERE FOOLS AND NOW LOOK WHAT IT’S COME TO) Ahem. Sorry. Not helpful, but GD*#$#)$&^#@ it’s frustrating.

And this year…oof. This year I am feeling very gloomy about the outcome but still hoping I am wrong. We’ve got this one last chance to steer away from the precipice. Maybe. But by golly, whatever happens after the election, I’m gonna go down knowing I did everything I could to make a better future out of this mess I grew up in.

HAHAHA-OOOPS.

Last week started off more cheerful than it wrapped up, can you tell by the way the entries deteriorated into rants? SORRY. In writing news, things are going okay. I’m grinding through the end of the 3rd of 6 sections in Sharp Edge. I’ve hit a plot point that doesn’t want to polish up, but things will work out.

ANYway. It’s Monday night, so this is going out now. Until later!

Hibernation Alert

tabby cat peeking out from beneath a blue and white woven blanket

I’m indulging myself with a post on a topic I like to call, “Weird things about me it’s useful to know.” I’ve been clicking “follow” and “friend request” on social media quite a bit of late, so it might be relevant.

Today’s topic: seasonal hibernation.

From mid-November through mid-March-ish I become a sleepy, grumpy cat who lacks the strength needed to maintain a Public Face and handle Other People. I don’t actually sleep more, but I have to warn y’all, I do pull away from the everyday world.

A similar retreat predictably happens in early summer, so it isn’t a light-related thing. Nor is it a bad thing. It’s simply a cycle I’ve noticed. I have energy phases. Not ups & downs so much as shifts between outward-tolerance and inward focus.

This inward phase starts around Halloween, and I’m in full retreat-to-the-den mode now.

This is blog-worthy for two reasons.

1. Buffering.  I never want friends to feel neglected, but my emotional tank drains and freezes. Simple activities that come more easily during other months (never easily, let’s face it, I’m profoundly introverted and let’s not even mention the anxiety) take me ten times longer to accomplish and take ALL my energy.

I’m talking little things like reaching out and making phone calls or sending messages. Things like responding to emails, texts, or social media. Important, adulting, professional things. Necessary-to-modern life things. Yeah.

Conservation gets me through. I limit or put off outside obligations until the season turns and I come ’round face to the world again, about the time crocuses open to greet the returning sun. This allows me to devote my small energies to stuff like washing, dressing, creative projects and research. I do my best research in January. ADHD hyperfocus FTW.

Also I ramp up activities like baking (SO MUCH BAKING) blogging like this, decorating my space with sparkly brightnesss & color & coziness, and so on. Nesting, denning, hibernating things. Wrapped-up-in-me things.

Is it selfish of me to go dark in The Giving & Socializing Season? Yeah, I’ll cop to that, but self-care isn’t only a buzzword.  Gotta put on my oxygen mask if I’m to be any good to others…

…because the OTHER thing I’ve noticed is that if I fight this deep-rooted need for quiet downtime, if I pour energy into Pretending Normal and Performing Enjoyment through the gray of winter, an emotional crash-and-burn of epic proportions WILL follow.

NO THANK YOU.

Which brings us to the second reason I’m bothering writing about this:

2. Boundaries. Guilt trips do not motivate me, but every so often someone treats clearly-defined requests for space as a challenge to be overcome with shaming, or they interpret low enthusiasm for their <insert personal topic here> as a value judgment or a failure to care enough about them. Friendship bridges have burned over this.

I’m hoping this forthright admission now will prevent misconceptions later. So.  If you didn’t know this about me, now you do.

Important caveats:

A. My online presence may appear to contradict what I’m saying here. That’s not ideal, but that’s a professional obligation as well as a personal pleasure, so I ALWAYS scrape up new posts and (nearly always) manage to reply to direct contact. (NOT FB Messenger. Sorrynotsorry.)  I lean hard on memes, GIFS, and my habit of sharing random sock & lunch pics. (BECAUSE WHY NOT? I LIKE FUN SOX.)

B. Needing to be quiet and unsocial is NOT the same as wanting to be alone.  Even when I am a sleepy, grumpy cat, I love being around people doing things.  From a corner. Watching.

Having good friends in my Nice Quiet Space, hanging out doing their own Nice Quiet Things. (Or Nice Loud Things, as long as I don’t have to be loud too) is the absolute BEST. I mean, then I can feed people, and that energizes me. Super-best is when they invite themselves over so I don’t have to spend energy to reach out.

But I will invite as much as I can, and I will NEVER be hurt by declined invitations. I grok needing bubble time.  Second best is when I get invited to other spaces by people who make it explicitly clear it’s okay for me to lurk in corners and not stay long.

C. Communication is the most stressful part. I do a fairly good job of faking people skills, but it’s ALWAYS an exhausting job that requires constant mental processing and accessing memorized talking templates while monitoring a bunch of verbal and non-verbal feedback loops to assess efficacy. Example below:

 “Did I react appropriately to that exchange of information, why did they shake their head at what I said, what does that expression mean, they said a nice thing but the tone doesn’t match,  why is that posture vibe scraping my nerves, was that a rude comment, was I too loud, too abrupt, what does that smile mean in this situation…aaaggghhh!!!”

Yes, that is what conversations are like for me. Yes, every conversation. Even ones I enjoy with people I love. Multiple channels running all the time, and a lot of saved verbal scripts used. So I guess that’s a whole ‘nother Weird Karen Thing. Point is, it’s never an easy haul, and in the cold midwinter I don’t have the mental muscle to power through much of it.

ANYway.

That’s all there is for now. Next post will be about baking again. Or maybe about more weird stuff. Time will tell.

Happy hibernation, everyone.

tabby cat peeking out from beneath a blue and white woven blanket
Image by Melanie von Gunten from Pixabay