Pondering Unrelated Things

Prolonged periods of stress—even low-level, seemingly insignificant stress—can wear a person down to the point of catastrophic collapse. The stress can be as inconsequential as a wart on one’s toe or the annoying music drifting in—night after night—from parties on the beach, eight blocks or eight miles away. When stress goes on day after day after day, a person’s defenses against it can suddenly shatter. Some people suddenly retreat into themselves, blocking off all human contact long enough for the pressure to subside. Others explode, as if a powerful mental grenade suddenly sends shards of white-hot rage in every direction, ripping into everyone and everything in their proximity. Still others simply cope, though their coping mechanisms may be unable to adequately handle the catastrophic collapse of their mental stability. If we could accurately predict who will react how, we might be able to avert personal meltdowns and/or disasters affecting people unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity of the overly-stressed person. But we cannot, at least not with any degree of precision. We can guess, but we cannot know. The worst eruptions, such as situations in which the white-hot rage pairs with semi-automatic weapons and endless access to ammunition, often bring out the armchair quarterbacks in people who say, “I just knew he was a ticking time bomb.” If they knew, of course, they should have done…something. But what do you do when you have only an inkling that someone is capable of inflicting mass casualties on innocent bystanders…or co-workers or employers or others who the bad actor identifies as the cause of his stress? “The authorities” cannot legitimately act on a “hunch.” Perhaps the only realistic action one can take is to avoid the potential ticking bomb and to advise others to do the same. Yet that simply shifts the potential damage to more unsuspecting innocents. This is on my mind because I see so much evidence of extreme stress in people who have diametrically opposed political opinions and who fear that their philosophical opponents may overwhelm them. Even people who seem to have relatively low-level stresses could be hiding mental brittleness that could easily snap at the slightest provocation. Paranoia is everywhere. One might read what I have written and assume the writer is paranoid about the potential for stress-related rage. I would like to think that is not the case, but we cannot always understand our own levels of stress, nor how we might react if that stress becomes unmanageable. We have reason to fear everyone. 😉 Now THAT is paranoia.


I woke at 3 this morning, but stayed in bed until after 5. During those two hours, I closed my eyes and attempted to sleep, but I do not think I was entirely successful. Phaedra’s yowling periodically interrupted my attempts to return to a comfortable sleep state—I slept soundly from 10 to 3, though disturbing dreams punctuated those hours of sleep. Six hours usually is enough for me, though lately I have been getting more; especially when I nap in the afternoon. I used to disdain napping. No longer. I cannot with certainty say why I once loathed the idea of napping, but I think it is related to the reason I hate waking up after sunrise; I feel like I’m missing a part of the day that could spell the difference between success and failure. Hmm. That attitude may be in need of adjustment.


I have tried to make amends with someone I upset when I reacted in anger to something this person said that offended and upset me. My apology and subsequent efforts to repair the relationship failed. There was a time when I would have let that failure gnaw at me, allowing myself to think the failure was somehow my fault. But I no longer assign blame to myself for another person’s failure to forgive, especially when I have long since forgiven the behavior that triggered my reaction. I know that allowing others’ emotional shortcomings to invade my attempts at achieving serenity is wasteful. So I moved on. Yet I realize my reaction to the very offensive slight was unnecessary; I should not have let my anger shape my response. Lesson learned, I hope.


Mi novia is recovering from a sore throat, caused by a virus of some sort (not flu or Covid, her doctor’s office says). Illness, even a mild illness, can disrupt one’s life for a bit. She has responded well to the disruption, though; far better than I do when I am sick. I admire her ability to take it in stride. I tend to whine, I think, and pity myself when I am ill.


By now, I should have arranged to get groceries, having been away for ten days and more. But I put it off. This morning, it shall be my mission. We should eat a diet healthier than pizza and BLTs.  So, I’m off to make a grocery list.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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