Create Journal Thrive

Gratitude in a Pointlessly Stressful Year

This has been a pointlessly stressful week, in a pointlessly stressful month, in a pointlessly stressful year. I remain committed to being positive in this space if nowhere else, or at least trying to, so I won’t give you a rundown of all of the rude, cruel, and willfully ignorant things I’ve had to deal with. None of which had to happen. All of which were the result of a choice on someone’s part. What I’m trying to do is refocus on what’s within my control, and the things that I remain grateful for.

It’s one thing to manage my spoons. I know how much work I can do at a run before I run low. My schedule allows me ample opportunity to replenish them. In situations where I’m not aware of all of the variables, or can’t control them, I arrange to do less and rest more. I sort of expect that in certain situations I will be losing spoons due to anxiety. Borrowing spoons from the next day is factored in.

What I can’t account for is people just coming up unexpectedly, grabbing my spoons, and running off with them. People wonder why I’m a hermit. They still don’t get why I’m off social media. It’s often the only way to manage the randomness of human behavior and the draining effect it has. So, I guess I can account for it to some degree.

Anyway, I’m grateful that I have the degree of control over my spoons that I do. I am especially grateful that none of this has been hitting my executive dysfunction so far, so I can continue to be productive. Though all of this I’ve been getting more confident about expressing my needs, and holding firm against bullying, gaslighting, and irrtional nonsense.

A Pointlessly Stressful Year

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Journal Thrive

The Elephant in the Room

It’s time to address the elephant in the room. I’m not sure if this should ultimately be a series of posts, one exceedingly long post, or a zine-length essay, but we’re going to start here. The reason I’ve kept quiet is because I don’t want to sound as if I need to be fitted for a tin-foil hat. I need to say this publicly, and we can tease apart all of the ramifications from there.

The Elephant in the Room

Our residence in Finland is coming up for renewal, and I am absolutely terrified that we’ll be sent back to the United States. If we do have to go back, I am convinced that I will be dead before the end of the year. You can agree with my logic or chalk this up to paranoia sparked by my anxiety disorders, but this is my sincerely held belief. What follows is my train of thought, and the supporting evidence.

I Am High Risk

I have chronic respiratory issues. Since 1989 I have had pneumonia 14 times. There is a large fibroid scar in my left lung. It’s why, even here in central Finland where things are reasonably under control, I don’t leave the apartment unless I absolutely, positively have to.

Taking a train to the airport and spending hours on a plane is a terrifying prospect for me. Things in America are not under control, and my risk of exposure increases exponentially. Thinking about it puts me on the verge of a panic attack. If the virus doesn’t get me, a heart attack from the stress and terror might.

The Facts Support Me

According to the University of Oxford, the death rate in the United States is doubling every 15 days as of this writing. This is good news. It’s slowing down. There are promising treatments, and several vaccines in trials. But, the ultra-capitalists are hell-bent on “opening the country up” in spite of medicl experts advising caution. Other places, notably Japan, have seen a resurgence after easing restrictions.

If it sticks to the 15-day rate, with an official death toll of 63,000 as of this writing, we’re looking at a quarter of a million dead by the end of May. Over a million dead by the 4th of July. Maybe it will continue to slow down, maybe it will speed up, but it’s not just going to miraculously go away just because people are fed up and want this to be over with.

I Don’t Want to Get Shot

America is likely to turn violent. People showing up to protest stay-at-home orders with assault rifles is not a good sign. You don’t do that unless you’re itching for a fight. I have no desire to get shot by someone mad at me because I support facts, scientific evidence, and objective reality and not their pet conspiracy theory. Yes, I do understand that I’m saying this as a person convinced he’s going to die, but there’s at least some evidence to justify my outrageous beliefs.

States are banding together to form regional coalitions because the Federal government has failed them. The Western States Pact (California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Colorado) has an official name, for God’s sake. “Pact” sounds pretty heavy. The Multi-State Council (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Massachusetts) doesn’t sound like a group about to secede from the union, but it serves the same function as the Pact. It’s not an active civil war, but it’s certainly a Cold Civil War.

The governor of Maryland, who is a Republican, has called in the National Guard to protect coronavirus tests the state purchased from South Korea. Who are they protecting the tests from? The Federal government, which has been seizing medical supplies from states for weeks now. That’s potential an open act of sedition, especially if FEMA does show up and armed soldiers stand against them. Does this end well? No, it does not.

Recognizing My Privilege

I understand that there are people in far more dire situations. It is a blessing that I am able to work from home, pay my bills, and still shelter in place. I am living in a place that has, overall, had a sane and measured response to the crisis. This is why I haven’t talked about my fears and insecurities. Who am I to complain?

But the fact that my pain isn’t as severe as someone else’s doesn’t mean that I’m not suffering. My feelings still count, and my issues still need to be addressed. Even if you don’t think I’m going to die, the fact that I’m terrified about it deserves some consideration, doesn’t it?


First, thanks for listening. If you’ve come with me this far, I appreciate you. Allowing me to vent publicly, rather than just to my wife or into my journal, has been helpful.

I don’t want anything more than anyone else right now: the ability to feel safe. For me, that’s as simple as being able to stay put. To not have go through a massive upheaval and move to another continent in the middle of a pandemic. I’m not asking for people to support a lavish lifestyle, or to give me things I haven’t earned. Support my business, so I can support myself. That’s it.

My ability to stay in Finland, like just about everything else in the world, comes down to money. I’m not hitting you up for a handout. Just asking you to maybe buy one of my books. Grab a zine on Gumroad or a roleplaying supplement from DriveThruRPG. Share links to where my books can be purchased on social media, or just write nice reviews to help people discover them.

Create Journal Thrive

One Wish Granted Today

Would you rather have one wish granted today, or three wishes granted in 10 years? I’m pushing 60 years old. I’ll take the one wish today, thank you. Hopefully my age brings wisdom, so one well-placed wish will suffice.

One Wish Granted Today

All I really want is some financial stability. There are no problems in my life that could not be solved by the proper application of money. A comfortable house, a dog or two, a steady business. Travel, when that becomes a possibility again, to visit great museums, zoos, and restaurants. Health care, a new wardrobe, and a wall full of books. Just hit me with enough money that, after taxes, I can live a modest life without having to worry about financial hardship.

The Merry Writer is a writer’s game on Twitter run by Ari Meghlen (@arimeghlen) and Rachel Poli (@RPoli3). Each day there’s a new question, and each month there’s a new theme. In these posts I expand upon the answers that I’ve posted on my Twitter.

A Request

If you get anything out of these blog posts, consider buying me a coffee. The money goes toward rent and groceries, to offset the time spent blogging instead of doing paying writing work. And please, leave comments, share with other people on social media, and help to spread the world.

Journal Simplify Thrive

Let’s Talk About Toilet Paper

Seriously, let’s talk about toilet paper. There’s been a shortage in the United States since the pandemic began. We’ve all heard the jokes. The assumption is that people are still hoarding. Which is weird, right, because presumably people should start running out of space to store it. There’s something else going on that people are overlooking. It’s the simplest, and actual,explanation.

When you stay at home, you use more toilet paper.

Seriously, you’re not going to work, or school, or out to restaurants. You’re doing all of your persona business at home. That means you’re using more toilet paper, which leads to buying more, which results in empty shelves at the store.

From toilet paper manufacturer Georgia-Pacific’s FAQ on COVID-19:

“Based on IRI (Information Resources Inc., a retailm marketing research group) panel data, along with the US Census, the average U.S. household (2.6 people) uses 409 equivalized regular rolls per year. Using our own calculations, staying at home 24-7 would result in 40% increase vs. average daily usage.”

Let’s Talk About Toilet Paper

How long it will take for the supply to catch up to the new demand is another question. Retail corporations no doubt has standing orders, based on historical sales data. The manufacturers make enough to cover those orders, and maybe a bit more since it’s not perishable. They in turn only ordered at much material — wood pulp, recycled paper, whatever — to fill those order. The supplies of the raw material need to do whatever they do. Add in that a lot of these jobs are going to be considered non-essential, travel restrictions interrupting the supply chain, and everything else going on.

There’s also the issue of when demand will go down. If they increase production and suddenly “the country is open” again, will they end up with a surplus? If they do, will it lead to a drop in price? How would that affect their bottom line? I’m not saying that it’s not a bit warped, but that’s how businesses think. They need to protect their long-term profitability, and that makes seemingly simple things complicated.

tl; dr It’s likely going to be a while before there’s enough toilet paper.

Journal Thrive

Interlude: Working Around It

This post is being written in the throes of an executive dysfunction episode. Please run any word salad or odd transitions through that filter. I normally medicate with caffeine, which keeps me focused. The stress of the current world situation is triggering my anxiety, which makes my cognitive issues worse. It also sets my digestive issues in motion, which leads to a lack of sleep, which leads to further difficulties staying focused. The stomach issues require me to cut back on coffee (and eat a bland diet) for several days, which means I’m not getting as much caffeine, so I’m essentially screwed until my gut settles down a bit. I’ve had to find ways of working around it.

Basically my attention span is about 10 minutes, max. It’s hard for me to read, watch a television show, or write. I need to set timers when I cook, so I don’t wander off and forget what I’m doing and set the kitchen on fire. When I walk into the bedroom to fold laundry I see the bed, and decided to take a quick nap. As soon as I lay down I remember something that I need to do, and get up to write it down. Walking to my desk to grab my bullet journal I see there are a few dishes to be done, so I decide to do that. And so on, and so on, and the laundry is still not folded, no nap has been taken, the idea was never written down, and the dishes aren’t done. I just keep walking in circles.

Working Around It

I had to set aside the writing project that I was working on. My brain has decided that it doesn’t want to do that. Not for 10 minutes, not for a one-page word sprint, not for anything. It’s like trying to get a fussy baby to eat their peas. They just keep turning their face away and throwing a fit. Which is distressing, because if I don’t constantly release new content, I can’t pay the bills.

Fortunately, my fickle brain has latched onto something. There’s an old project that I set aside years ago because I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. About a week ago I had a flash of inspiration. Everything fell into place. Now it’s the only thing my brain wants to work on. Eat? Sleep? Shower? Nah, just work on this project. In the past 3 days I’ve written 92 pages. At this rate it’ll be ready for release next week.

I’m not going to argue. While I’m not moving forward in the direction I’d planned, I’m getting something done. If this is what my brain wants to do, that’s what I’m going to do. I think it’s going to sell well. The fact that I can work without caffeine and allow my gut to heal is a bonus. That it keeps me distracted from the news is a balm for my nerves. I’ve accepted that this is what I need to be doing right now.