It is 4:57 AM on Tuesday October 22nd. When I wake up this early I take a moment to look up at the stars. Orion is prominent in the autumn night sky and I can clearly make out his belt as well as the surrounding stars. It is only in that patch of sky that I can really see a number of stars, with the rest of the sky only showing a handful of them. This morning the temperature is already a warm 54 degrees. When the weather is comfortable this early in the morning and a jacket is unneeded you know it will be a hot (for Pacifica) day.
I always wake up early after getting a lot of exercise. Yesterday it wasn’t the gym or karate but gardening that made my body work. The lavender plants in the front of the house require trimming 3-4 times a year and the last time I trimmed was back in July. They will grow tall even though we do not get rain for the better part of the year. As we do not get rain it was also time to give the plants a good watering as they were extremely parched and we’re in for some hot weather.
The hot weather combined with lack of rain makes the environment ripe for wildfires and this year our electricity company – PG&E – has decided they will simply cut the power during hot, windy days. For the first time since I’ve lived in California we could have had a power cut lasting days. Looking at the expected power cut map we were just outside the border and so looked to be OK but those maps are rarely accurate and PG&E isn’t a very diligent company.
Well, with this new hot weather expected, PG&E is threatening power cuts again. This time however, it should only be the North Bay that is threatened but again, we’re talking about PG&E here, so anything is pos
Why is this happening? Well, the answers are simple and in line with what America has become. There is climate change which is giving us much hotter weather than before. This is the same climate change our leaders like to emphatically ignore. The second reason is greed. PG&E has been a cash cow for short term profits at the expense of the safety of Californians. It is through this greed and subsequent neglect that people have been killed. By killed, I don’t mean some dubious stretch where PG&E might just have a small part to play. I mean PG&E’s neglect sparked a wild fire and through their greed they actually burned people alive. Taking money over the safety of others, while knowing the lines need maintenance is only one step away from throwing a lit match into a dry forest themselves in my opinion.
But this is America and we know what takes precedence in this country. Profit and money is built into the fiber and DNA of the USA. We are capitalist and it is the pursuit of profits above everything else that is the main engine here. That is all well and good, I’m just bitter that I was led to believe this wasn’t the case for the majority of my life. Through my education a picture was painted for me that we’re all on the same team, we’re the good guys, leaders of the free world in-fact! Just a few years ago President Obama told us we are “exceptional.” We aren’t. To prove the point home just look at who was elected President after Obama. Look at the absurdity of what he does and look at a good portion of America cheering him on. When Obama used the word “exceptional” it meant something good, a point of light in the world. But instead, we’re going to need to pay close attention to the noun that follows it. With the election of President Trump these descriptions would be more appropriate:
- Exceptionally ridiculous – Support of Trump with their stupid red hats. Trump could beat Melania in the oval office and all the evangelicals would cheer.
- Exceptionally greedy – Short term profits at all costs.
- Exceptionally ignorant – Anti-vaccine
- Exceptionally selfish – No healthcare
OK, enough about that. Let’s get to my mental state. I would say that at age 42 my dominant mental state is one of dull anxiety. Here is why:
- Money – There is always a big bill on the horizon. Property tax is $12K divided into two payments. There is insurance for about $3K per year. There is the Japan trip which is about $7K. There are miscellaneous charges such as car and house maintenance and so on. There is also the anxiety of where to invest and how the stock market/world economy is doing. This is something I pay attention to everyday as I need to ensure we reach our savings goals.
- Work – I love my job. However, it is one where I can never just forget about it and relax. The revenue must always go up. I must always engage with corporate customers, go through negotiations with procurement people and ensure I’m on track to hit goal.
- Politics / News – Trump is the President. He is an idiot and dragging the USA through the mud. We’ve reached new lows. What is worse is that many of my old acquaintances support him. I thought they were smarter than that. It isn’t even original idiocy they’re posting but propaganda they are just copying from another page!
- Climate change – We’re ruining an entire planet and we’re too stupid as a species to do much about it. I don’t have faith in any of our leaders or systems. The planet is going to change drastically and humans will do what they’ve always done: bumble through it in much of the same way that wars have been started and fought. We’ll bumble our way to the crisis, many will die, but unlike war it doesn’t just end. Humans will need to adapt to a new climate unless technology or perhaps a new renaissance of enlightenment takes hold. Right now idiots are electing idiots to lead and we really deserve just to blink out as a species the way things are going.
- Kids – I worry for my kids, what parent doesn’t? All of the above form the basis for my anxiety for my kids. I want them to have a wonderful life and I’ll do everything I can to make that happen. Aside from the existential factors above, I worry about bullying, how they are doing in school, their safety and so on. It is no longer just my own stress and emotional well being that I feel, I absorb the feelings and emotions of my kids as well. Their successes are my successes, their failures are my failures and it is a lot to take on combined with everything I mentioned above.
All of this worry make me miss the days of being a kid when I didn’t think about any of these things. In fact, I didn’t even know they existed. I simply wanted to play and the joy of life came naturally. At 42, that joy no longer exists. I’m loaded down with constant anxiety and worry, so much so that any joy is severely constrained.
Now that I think about it a good part of the anxiety/stress could come from simply living in the Bay Area. Everything here is expensive and everyplace is crowded. Going anywhere involves traffic and difficulty in finding a parking space. This also creates stress and so perhaps high stress is simply inherent to living here? Maybe I would be able to relax more if we lived in Idaho?
Even when I do something relaxing like watching a sunset, the relaxation doesn’t come. I appreciate the beauty but that background anxiety and stress is always there. I used to enjoy Friday and the weekends but now there are always activities we have to go to such as karate. I like doing karate but we never get a break and the wife will complain if I say we should skip a class. So I no longer enjoy Friday or the weekend: they are two stress filled days which are even busier and less relaxing than the workday! In fact, I now appreciate the work day more than I do the weekend.
And so to deal with all of this I’ve turned to mindfulness and meditation. I need to take time to slow down, appreciate being alive and be thankful for my family. Without meditation and mindfulness I think I might go absolutely insane.
The time is now 6:00 AM and the silence of the early morning is now broken by a steady stream of cars passing by the house as well as the garbage truck coming down the street. It is late October so it is still very dark at this time with the sun holding us all in suspense just a little longer.