Time to Breathe (I'm Back)

Time to Breathe (I'm Back)

Patrick Stewart grew up with no indoor toilet, no hot water, and no central heat. He shared a bed with his brother. His family had bath night once a week. It's sort of ironic that he wound up playing a character who can basically snap his fingers and go anywhere in the known universe, or tell a computer to make him hot tea any time of day or night. A piece in The Guardian refers to all of that as childhood trauma. It got me thinking. It's interesting how one person's trauma looks like another person's Tuesday afternoon. It's also interesting how millions of spoiled Americans would consider Captain Picard's childhood a rather dystopian existence. And of course, they'll do anything to avoid living like that, even if it means invading other countries and stealing everything they own while excusing it as "defending democracy." Hence the mess we're in.

Hi, I'm back.

It's been an interesting couple of months. My family got a little taste of Picard's childhood trauma in January when our (brand new and very expensive) water heater crapped out during a winter storm. Then our refrigerator crapped out. Then our wise old cat started puking three times a day and lost half her body weight. (We had to put her down.) Then my spouse had a cancer scare. All the while, we spent about one night a week hiding from a tornado in the bathroom, because we don't have a basement or garage.

Patrick Stewart had family bath night.

We have twister night.

Poor me, right?

The interesting thing about this newsletter is that I deal with the exact same garbage as everyone else. I just make it sound better.

For the last several weeks, I haven't had much disposable time. I've been figuring out yet another side hustle, and this one requires serious computer skills. It was time for me to branch out anyway.

We're gearing up for real home school in about a month. Our current school is shutting down. It was an outdoor school that went year-round, not unlike the kind of schools you find in Europe where kids spend most of their time outside and a little bit of time inside on formal education. We looked hard for a Covid safe outdoor school and came up empty. We did find a couple of places where kids can go once or twice a week. It's basically a homeschool supplement.

I did go on a couple of school tours. Even the nicest, most progressive schools that "still care about Covid" aren't doing masks. They've made a modest attempt to improve their air quality, or they're planning on it. The school directors and teachers say things like, "It's completely okay if your child wears a mask. We won't judge you. We're very open-minded."

Wow, thanks.

Turns out, the American socio-economic landscape makes it almost impossible to run a school like the one we've been attending. They're shutting down because they're riddled with debt, and the nonprofit that supports them has run out of money. A handful of parents tried to save it and couldn't come up with a viable plan. The director has already left for another job. In a few weeks, this wonderful school will be no more.

Yeah, it's sad.

As for my family, we're moving.

We have a house. We're selling the old one. We're packing boxes. We can't really afford to move. And yet, we can't afford to stay here either. We've had more close calls with tornadoes in the last year than the entire time I lived in the middle of tornado alley. In the summer, the heat index soars into the upper 100s and above. It's literally not safe for my kid to play outside. Thanks to Covid, outside was the one place where she wasn't in imminent danger.

We're managing.

Social media remains a hellscape. Bluesky is growing, and maybe it offers everyone a reprieve from the daily onslaught of Covid denial, climate denial, and the general dull ache of dealing with assholes.

Like many others, I needed a break. Not from the doom. From the denial. The denial was getting to me. I needed to go a few days without hearing about the latest demonstration of egregious, oblivious privilege by a celebrity or an influencer.

I especially needed a break from politics.

Don't you?

On that front, we get it. Trump has the Republican party in his pocket. He stands a good chance of winning. Nobody will dare slap cuffs on him before the election. They're scared it will start a civil war. They're also scared of all the crazies who will come after them with guns.

They're not wrong.

We face a pretty awful choice. We can go with Biden and keep the train on the tracks, but the tracks are heading toward industrial collapse within a decade. Or we can go with Trump and derail completely. And honestly, fine. I would rather keep the train on the tracks. At least Biden is predictable. The irony is that we could reject this choice at any time, but the majority won't do it because they're scared of what everyone else will do.

While this circus of an election unfolds, my attention has been consumed by immediate needs.

On a related note:

My university initially rejected my request for a remote job. Then they came back and said they would think about it if I did more work for less money. So I've been doing that. I've written three different proposals for my new position. And... they've spent the last six weeks jerking me around.

So... I don't know if I'll have a job in six weeks. Hence me putting extra time into a new side hustle and trying to rest myself before a possible plunge into a dreadful job market that thinks Covid is over.

Moving forward, I'll keep this newsletter going. I'll update it once or twice a week for the rest of this year, then we'll see what happens. I'll continue commenting on the circus and sharing my insights. That said, it's become pretty clear to me that this thing will remain a side hustle. Trying to turn it into a main source of income was making me miserable. If you signed up, you didn't waste your cash and you didn't get "cheated." Look at all the essays I've written. Most of those are evergreen, even if they reference current events. Also, consider that I still have to pay to keep this site itself going. So if anyone was under the impression that I was on a cruise sipping margaritas...


To remind everyone, I didn't ask for this. I was happy at Medium (my original platform). They, however, decided to do everything within their power to ensure doomers like me felt unwelcome. So I moved to Substack, only to watch them start a pointless turf war with Elon Musk while bankrolling Nazis. Ghost isn't exactly cheap for someone with 20,000 free email subscribers, but I think we're all tired of migrating from one platform to the next.

I'll continue to produce work, just not at the insane breakneck pace that many people took for granted. I can't stay up all night updating Covid reading lists all the time, not anymore. I can't spend 8 hours researching and writing a piece on something like self-triggering if it's going to land with a thud on readers. As I realized lately, that was taking a lot of energy to maintain.

For writers: I'll update this on the site, but here's the deal. I can't afford to pay anyone anymore. I actually couldn't afford it while I was paying people, but now I really can't afford it. So if you want to publish here, you can for free. It's up to you.

So, there's a takeaway here for everyone:

You're allowed to take a break. It doesn't diminish the important work you've done. It doesn't mean you're lazy or apathetic. It doesn't mean you have to stop wearing an effective mask or cleaning the air. It doesn't mean you need to start buying cheap plastic for fun.

You can just live.

Recently, it has become painfully clear to me what a waste of time it is to argue with people on your phone about any of this. If you want to make it, then you have to do what we're doing. Circle your wagons. Make whatever community you can. If you possibly can, move away from places that are already dealing with the worst impacts of climate change (like us). You can't really escape the collapse, but you can defer your doom for a while.

Most importantly:

Do things you enjoy. Nobody knows how much time we have left. There's plenty of fun, relaxing, fulfilling things to do that don't require flying halfway around the world on a jet or producing piles of trash. Play with your kids. Take a nap. Read a book. Listen to music. Make some music.

Draw something. Sculpt something.


Don't you deserve it?

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