Self Quarantine: March 31 2020

Last day of March as I write this.  I haven’t been outside in two weeks.  The only time I leave my apartment is to pick up deliveries.  Had a pizza delivery this afternoon.  I was ready for a day without cooking.

I been reading more online articles.  Been watching some youtube videos.  Some of my favorite channels are the best of reddit videos.  Haven’t been binge watching amazon prime yet.  I may start that in a few days.

I slept most of yesterday afternoon.  So I was awake most of last night.  It was eerie how quiet everything was in the overnight hours.  Things are much quieter now than normal even in daylight hours.

Oddly I haven’t been feeling much stress or anxiety lately.  Maybe that was from getting my supplies earlier than most people.  It helps I don’t have to run out to the stores every time I need something.  Been getting home delivery for groceries and medications for three years.  I was used to it before it became vital.  And since my paranoia sometimes made me isolate for days at a time, being on self quarantine hasn’t been overly disruptive for me.

As of right now, I’m not running short on anything.  I did have problems getting Lysol spray.  I was lucky enough to find I had a spare can I forgot about under my sink.  I didn’t horde hand sanitizer as I don’t normally go out in public for long periods of time.  I definitely didn’t horde toilet paper.

Started drinking tea and coffee again.  I usually have a cup of coffee with breakfast and a cup of tea in the afternoons.  I have found that drinking just a plain cup of hot water often settles my guts.  My grandma did this for years.  Said it helped settle her stomach.

I talk to friends at least once a day.  I call my neighbors every afternoon.  I call my parents every morning.  Some of the videos I watch on youtube are along the theme of tech advances that will come due to coronavirus.  I also watch comedy shows too.  Saw a couple Monty Python movies last week.  Saw a couple George Carlin and Bill Hicks shows too.  I’m thinking trying to find some old Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor later this week.  Thinking of finding some old Jeff Foxworthy too.

Been dressing pretty comfortable too.  Most days I just were t-shirts and sweat pants.  I do wear sandals when I have to venture out to pick up deliveries.  I still take hot baths every morning.  Those help loosen my joints and I think the humid air helps too.  I don’t have any visitors other than my neighbor helping me with my laundry every Wednesday and my cleaner arriving every Thursday.  Since I got my new hard flooring, I no longer need to have it vacuumed.  I did buy a new broom and lots of Pine Sol.  Seems to be less dust in my place now that I don’t have carpet for it to get caught in.

The days are getting longer and the weather is starting to warm.  I usually run my furnace only in the overnight hours.  I usually run the fan during the days.  I’ve had my windows open a few times to let some breeze in.  We’ve had quite a bit of rain the last several days.  But the trees are starting to bud and the grass is starting to green.  Spring is here.

January 21 2020

Been an uneventful week so far.  Too cold to really go outside for long.  So I’ve been staying home and catching up on reading.  I’m now a third of the way through ‘Wealth of Nations’ and halfway through ‘The Prince.’  I’ve also watched some educational videos on youtube the last few days.

I’ve found myself being a little more easily irritable for a couple days.  So I cut back on caffeine and forced myself to nap a little more during the day.  It’s beginning to work.  Talked to my parents for over an hour last night.  Watched some football on Sunday.  As far as the Super Bowl goes, I guess it really doesn’t matter to me who wins.  I just want to see an exciting game. And I talk with friends on facebook a little every day.  I sometimes forget it wasn’t always this easy to keep in touch with friends and family.  I don’t participate much in my groups these days as I mostly use facebook to talk to old friends and extended family.  I don’t watch news anymore.  I guess I don’t know many people under age 50 who do watch news on a regular basis anymore.

As far as tv watching goes, I watch mostly youtube anymore.  I did watch a couple superhero movies on my amazon account over the last several days.  I saw the first Iron Man and Man of Steel over the last few weeks.  Saw Black Panther a couple months ago.  Saw Avatar a few weeks ago.

Haven’t talked to my neighbors for a few days.  I am probably going to call them this afternoon and see how they are doing.  One of my neighbors had surgery a month ago and has been more or less house bound since.  His wife occasionally makes dinner for me, usually a couple times a week.  Haven’t been outside the complex for awhile.  Just too cold to be out.  Even though I live within walking distance of a couple restaurants, I don’t eat much fast food anymore.  I haven’t even eaten at McDonald’s in over a year.

I still lift weights three to four times a week.  As I get stronger, I add new exercises and more reps.  While I may not be losing weight, I know I am getting stronger.  I still get winded sometimes but I recover much faster now than a year ago.  I may not leave my apartment every day, but I do make a point of getting up and walking around at least once an hour.  About the only time I have aches and pains anymore is when I wake up or have eaten too much sugar and caffeine.

I guess I’ve fully entered my winter routines.  I don’t mind the cold weather, especially since I no longer have to drive in ice and snow anymore.  And sleeping under fleece blankets feels so good.

Updates and Random Philosophy on Living

Haven’t had a great deal to report the last few days.  We’ve had lots of snow and it’s been quite cold.  Too cold and snowy to go anywhere unless necessary.  So I’ve been staying home, catching up on my reading, and taking long naps in the afternoon.  I’ve been sleeping a little more during the days, but mostly to pass the long drawn out cold days.  I still go to bed around 10pm and am usually awake for good by 5 or 6am.  My apartment is feeling quite like a regular home now rather than just the monk’s chamber I let it become the last couple years.  It helps that I put a few pieces of art done by an old friend and have a regular cleaning person come in once a week and help me keep on top of things.  Still have a few unresolved maintenance issues, but those will be knocked down before too long.  Rome wasn’t built in one day and I won’t be pulling out of my depression and anxiety induced exile and isolation all at once either.  It is coming along though.

One of my fellow tenants had a birthday party the other day.  About ten of us went to her party.  It felt good to be socializing again when people weren’t being irritable and rude to each other.  It just seems that most people I meet in person anymore are more short tempered and on edge than usual lately.  I was talking with an old friend of mine who lives here and he’s noticed the same thing.  So I’m not the only one noticing the subtle and not so subtle changes.  One of the reasons I don’t socialize much in person anymore is precisely because so many people I meet are in irritable and short tempered moods.  The fact that almost no one I know in person shares my interests in science, history, philosophy, and literature makes things even tougher.

It is true that social media and my smart phone are the bulk of my socializing now.  I know most people will think this is sad but I actually love social media and communications tech.  They have given me access to people with similar interests and concerns that I wouldn’t have had in high school.  My teenage years, other than a handful of confidants I could tell even my darkest secrets to, were quite lonely.  As an adult now near age 40, I have more social interaction than at any point in my life besides my college years.  And it is exactly because of social media, internet, and communication tech.  I know many people condemn what social media can be used for and think we would be better off without it.  I call their bluff on that.  I call the bluff on all nostalgics who are fearful of change and want to go back to the past.

I know many people, especially in my USA, are nostalgic about the past when only one income could support a family in a house in the suburbs.  Yet you don’t hear the same people decry the lack of opportunities for women, high taxes on rich people and large businesses, lack of variety in entertainment and fashion, Jim Crow laws, Cold War paranoias, cost of even long distance phone calls. I ran up long distance bills over $100 two months in a row as recently as 1999 because my two best confidants lived in other towns.  My parents were not amused by that.  Yet, here it is in 2019 and I talk to far more out of town people, and even out of country people, then I could have ever imagined even my wildest Star Trek optimist fantasy.  And twenty years isn’t that long.  It’s just enough time to get a newborn baby to adulthood.  The world has changed that much.

Social media, like all other tech changes, is a tool that can be used to go great good or great harm.  Nuclear energy provides a significant source of power to civilization with relatively quite few facilities.  Yet the same tech can be used in weapons that can end all life on our planet.  Mass media can spread the ideas of personal freedom, self responsibility, civic duty, and show our similarities to billions of people quite easily.  It also empowered some truly sick and depraved monstrous people just in the last one hundred years.  Religion can give people hope, a connection to something beyond ourselves and our surroundings, and a sense of taking care of others in even the darkest times humanity ever faced.  It can also justify some truly evil actions.  Even farming led to humanity going from only a relatively few people who managed to survive the ice ages in isolated bands to being the masses we are now making plots to travel off world and settle other planets.  It has also led to the extinction of many other species, the decline of biodiversity, war, easily transferable diseases, and a loss of connection of most people to the natural world.  And yet, I wouldn’t give up any of these advances among any others.  Even the same chemicals that make the fertilizer for our food crops can be used as deadly poisons and weapons of mass terror and destruction.

Changes are a constant of human existence.  Changes even in nature are constant too.  With human existence, change will continue to come.  In fact, they will come even faster and be more disruptive than at any point in history in the lifetimes of all but the oldest people in our civilizations.  These changes can be delayed but they will come whether we are as individuals or nations are preparing or not.  We no longer live in a world where only one nation or race has the monopoly on knowledge and progress, as if we ever did.  The old ways of doing things, the ancient appeals to religious, gender, racial, national, socioeconomic, ageist differences and discriminations are losing the effectiveness they had in the past.  Even homeless people in our largest cities and farmers in the poorest countries in the world have smart phones and access to the collective knowledge gathered through the trials, bloodshed, tears, and revolutions of history.  This is a level of computing power that not even the U.S. Department of Defense had as recently as 1980, the year I was born.

Yes, information tech has greatly advanced just in my lifetime.  Some will scoff and say, this hasn’t translated into any other aspect of life.  I can’t afford my rent even on two jobs but I’m supposed to be happy with having access to Google and Facebook.  Give it time.  Other aspects of our lives will catch up eventually.  It is tragic that many people go homeless in my country while thousands of houses and apartments sit vacant and idle waiting for someone to call such places a home just because of the prices.  Individual workers are more productive now than ever yet wages have barely budged in my country in terms of inflation since at least the 1970s.  My critics will say even with communication tech advancing as well as the social progress we’ve made, our standard of living has actually gone down.

For many this is true, at least in USA.  Our standard of living hasn’t caught up with our efficiency, tech, medical, and social advances.  At least not yet.  We are still in the process of a great change, one that is even more chaotic and impacting than the Industrial Revolution was two hundred years ago.  In short, we have science fiction like technology, industrial era education, renaissance era governing, legal, and business institutions, Bronze Age spirituality, and Stone Age bodies and psychology.  Of course there are going to be conflicts.  We will work these out, it just won’t happen nearly as fast as many people want.  Changes like we are going through took centuries during the start of farming, generations during the renaissance and industrial ages, and now on the scope of only years.  No wonder people are stressed.  We are not experiencing the death of our species or our civilization no matter how much some people fear or even want.  We are in transition.  And I welcome this transition and it’s highs and lows.  Stay tuned.  Things are only going to get more interesting and chaotic, yet full of opportunities too.

How I Learned to Relax and Fall in Love With the Internet

We are still in the middle of winter in my hometown.  Got a couple inches of snow on top of the glaze of ice a couple days ago.  Haven’t really gone anywhere since the snow.  Driving on ice kind of makes me afraid these days, more so than in the past.  I guess since my car accident I have been more afraid to drive.  I think that wreck messed me up more than I cared to admit, especially at first.  Fortunately I don’t have to drive much if I don’t want to anymore.  Most of what I  need I can get here in town in less than a fifteen minute drive or even have it delivered to my house.  I usually get my groceries delivered twice a month.  I still sometimes run to the store if there is something I forgot.  I admit that it’s been over a year since I set foot in a Wal Mart or Target.  If I need something from those places bad enough, I usually order through Amazon or any other service.  I usually special order my clothing via a big and tall men’s online store.  Since I am a large man, sometimes finding a wide variety can be tough.  The store where I previously bought most of my shirts and pants here in town closed a little over a year ago.  In short, I can buy almost everything I need online anymore besides fuel for my car.  The only time I write checks is when I pay my rent at the beginning of the month.

None of this would have been possible when I was in high school back in the 1990s.  I didn’t even have an email address until I was a senior in high school, much to the shock of my nephews and niece.  I rather enjoy shopping online I admit.  Since I am much more  a visual learner than auditorial, it is far easier for me to see the selection presented in an online format or even an old catalog than hearing about the specials over the phone or even talking to sales people in person.  I used to work in sales when I was in my twenties.  It used to be frustrating to me to lose sales because we didn’t have what my clients wanted in stock or it was the wrong color or style.  We were only beginning the special orders online back in the early 2000s.  Now I would feel almost naked in public without these options.  Yet, as much as I enjoy shopping and interacting online, I do understand why some people lament the loss of going shopping, socializing, etc. in person.  I used to do all my banking in person for years.  But, as simple as my finances are, I can easily do every online now.  The only reason I would need to set foot in my local bank is to buy quarters for my coin operated laundry machines in my complex.  And I imagine it won’t be too many years before we go to the scan cards or something similar.  I usually don’t buy much with folding money anymore, which makes me kind of strange in my family and in the small town I live in.  I know some people in big cities have gone all digital money in most cases anymore.  Even my cleaning lady accepts PayPal for her services.

I still read as much as I did in years past.  It’s just now it’s more online articles, ebooks, and audiobooks now.  Currently working on a couple audiobooks and a couple ebooks.  I’m currently reading an English translation of the Quran and the Epic of Gilgamesh.  I have read the King James Bible cover to cover when I was in college as well as some of the works of Sun Tzu and Confucious.  I guess I have recently gotten more interested in foreign cultures than even previously.  I have seen a few documentaries on ancient Egypt and Sumeria as well as some on Native American civilizations before the arrival of the Europeans.  I have always loved learning and reading.  I understand why some things aren’t covered in traditional school, sometimes because there just isn’t enough time to cover everything that could be enlightening and beneficial.  If I were to die an unexpected premature death, I would hope to be found with a book in my hand or in front of a computer with a scientific article on the screen.

I admit to loving learning, sometimes just for my own enlightenment.  Some may consider this intellectual vanity, I don’t know.  But I will say that having easy access to the collected knowledge and wisdom of human civilization via the Internet has helped keep me occupied during my years with mental illness.  Even though I can’t hold a forty hour a week job anymore, I try to make up for it through self directed study and sharing this wisdom with whoever wishes to hear it.  The internet has been a godsend for me with my geeky and scholarly interests.

How Facebook Saved My Social Life

 

I have to admit that I am grateful for social media outlets like facebook and even twitter. Made some new friends through these even if I will never meet these people in person.  For the first few years of being active on social media, I felt some sadness in finding out that there were lots of people scattered all over the world who shared my passions, interests, and mental pursuits but none of them lived within driving distance of me.  My closest friends to me now live in Omaha.  Most of my really good confidants live out of state.  And many of my newer friends live in other countries.  It is bittersweet in knowing that I am not as abnormal or damaged as I feared in my younger years.  Besides the few years I was in college, I have never fit in with the people I lived near.  There’s nothing bad or good in that either way, it just is a fact.  It has caused me much grief over the years knowing that I would never have the same interests or pursuits as most people nearing in my hometown or even my own family.  I didn’t have many friends as a kid, but that forced me to develop my own interests and ways of keeping myself occupied.  Had I been Mr. Popular in my teenage years, I may have never developed my mental muscles to the extent that I did.  I certainly wouldn’t be as self reliant or resourceful or resilient.  All of these attributes have helped me immensely in my life as a mentally ill man.

As an adult, I have been able to expand my social circles even though I don’t have a regular job.  This is because of facebook and twitter.  Sure I have had to deal with jerks and irritable people online.  But at least online, I have the unfollow and block buttons.  I don’t have such near God like powers in person.  If I have nosy neighbors or annoying people I see everyday, I just have to deal with it and smile.  If someone is giving me static online, I send them to the unfollow and block list.  It’s my personal version of digital purgatory I suppose.  Facebook has actually made me more social than I was as a child before internet.  It has also shown me that I am not the only person out there who feels isolated and alone because he/she doesn’t conform to the norms of his location.  And now that I have filtered out the garbage that can come through social media, it is a social bonanza for me that I have never experienced in the real world.  It’s rather amazing.

 

Finding The Positives of Social Media With A Mental Illness

Been staying close to home for the last few days.  I still really don’t want to socialize much in person.  Yet I still socialize online via facebook and youtube comments all the time.  I have found that I’m having more pleasant and enriching conversations with people that have common interests than even people I see on a day to day basis.  I’m beginning to think that connecting people from all over the world with similar interests but will never meet face to face is probably social media’s greatest contribution to humanity.  I guess I find myself alienated from many people I’ve known for years, including some of my own family, simply because we don’t share similar interests.  Kind of sad but at the same time I’m grateful that I can connect with people who share my enthusiasm for science, tech, and living overall.  I can’t imagine how bad it must have been for future thinkers and optimists in previous eras or even when my grandparents were teenagers.  I know that had I lived in Medieval times, I’d probably be under house arrest, burned at the stake, or just a serf farming someone else’s land.  None of those seem worthy of my nostalgia.

I suppose as it is I will be happy that I have a means to connect with similar minded people even if they are on the other side of the world.  I doubt I’ll live old enough to see a Virtual Reality setup where people with similar interests can form their own virtual towns or even virtual nations.  But I guess I am honored to see in platforms like facebook, twitter, snap chat, etc. the crude beginnings of such virtual communities.  Of course some will abuse it and get trapped in echo chambers.  But if I’m going to be in an echo chamber, I just as well be in an optimistic one that either attempts to solve problems or even just serve as cheerleaders for those solving problems in the physical world.  I never had the math scores to be an engineer nor the science scores to be a doctor, but I guess since I can’t be among those making the positives a reality, I’ll be among the ones who appreciate what they do and cheer them on.

Socializing In Person and Online

Even though I haven’t been socializing much in person lately, I still make a point of calling friends and family often.  I visited my parents in person a couple times already this summer.  I saw my nephews and niece on my birthday last month.  I call home at least twice a week.  And I try to contact old college friends a couple times a month.  Even though the last time I saw some of my college friends was three years ago, I still pick up with them like I never left off.  And I’m getting better about dropping in on friends on facebook more often.  I had been avoiding socializing over facebook for a year or two because of how contentious things could get even among friends.  But I think people are starting to adapt and use more caution and tactfulness when online now.  But two or three years ago, it was practically a nasty free for all that I wanted little to do with.  I wound up unfollowing most of my friends and family (and unwisely ended a few friendships too) just because I was tired of all the divisions and fighting.

Originally facebook was a godsend for someone like me who wanted to stay in contact with people but wasn’t exactly sure how to do it.  I readily admit I don’t have great social skills.  I never really have.  But I do get lonely at times, even when I don’t show it.  Sometimes the best thing a person can do with someone who struggles with mental illness and socializing is to make the first move and just ask us how are things going.  I am convinced that much of the stress of modern living is due to us not having as strong as personal social bonds as even our grandparents had.  Life may have been shorter and more physically demanding during the Depression, the World Wars, and definitely during the frontier days, but they were made bearable because people had living and breathing friends they could count on for things as mundane as playing a game of cards or having dinner together after a long day in the fields.  I think if we ever rediscovered the joy of having nearby friends in our neighborhoods and communities, we would see fewer cases of suicide, violent crimes, and drug addictions.  I am convinced that much of these happen because some people don’t have that sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.

Even though I haven’t been to church services regularly or been part of civic organizations for a few years, I understand why things like church, local sports teams, neighborhood associations, and civic clubs like the Elks Lodge or the Masonic Lodge are popular among those who participate; they give a sense of belonging and community.  I guess I get my sense of community from shared interests in a few of the science groups I’m part of via facebook and through my blog.  I used to be a member of a local writers’ guild.  It’s too bad that group kind of faded away after a few of our members moved away.  A sense of community is important for people.  We are by nature social animals, have been long before recored history.  Even the most introverted humans are more social than many animals in the wild.