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Sunday, 03 May 2020


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99% of the things we worry about never happen.


I recently watched/listened to an episode of Joe Rogans podcast where he had an ex-Navy Seal on named Andy Stumpf, and when asked about how people make it through hell week of their BUDS training he said the trick is to “keep your world small”. Only focus on making it to lunch, then to dinner, etc... Now while that may be a bit extreme for the current situation I think the concept applied and may help. Seems very similar to addiction management (congrats btw).


I'm rather like you, a serious catastrophizer (if there is such a word). I can't count the times I've assured myself of my own doom, and I'm in my mid 70's. I've become obsessed, according to my spouse, with people avoidance and mask wearing. The news depresses me beyond belief. How can people be soooo stupid? Those in charge at the top seem to be uniquely blind to the risks they encourage others to take, even to the terrible example set by our own VP. Sorry to be political, but this virus can't tell a republican from a democrat from a communist to a fascist. The rich are fiscally able to enjoy more luxury than the poor when socially isolated but while we're not all in the same boat, some are a lot nicer than others, we're all in the same ocean. We catastrophizers probably would benefit from that the Car Guys called a "dope slap." But it seems like it's a part of our basic world outlook. I believe George Will once said, "The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised."

My wife and I go back and forth on this. She is the family worrier. I once threatened to write a book entitled, "One Thousand and One Things that Might Happen (but Won't)" She was not amused.

I wasn't treated to bound volumes of New Yorker cartoons when visiting my grandparents but I did get to read Fortune Magazine -- I liked the ads.

And when our school had its annual magazine subscription sales drive, I got my grandfather's Fortune order -- the most expensive one on the order form. Life was much simpler then.

An appropriate level of worry is healthy. It keeps one from doing foolish, potentially life-threatening activities, like taking photos on train tracks, or flying a helicopter in zero visibility conditions. On the other hand, worrying about things that you have no control over is wasteful and nonproductive.

“For all those finding it difficult: the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away”

Captain Tom Moore, 100

My new hero


Well I understand that Anxiety is a real thing and the pain it can cause for some folks is just as real. My dear wife has that tendency as well, and I have watched her deal with it for many years. Notice I didn't say helped, because though I have tried, it turns out, the help comes from within. Her best antidote is to be busy, she cleans , organizes, gardens, re-arranges, and polishes. We recently removed every book from every shelf, and cleaned my Library.
I'm amazed by her. Productivity is her antidote. Not a total one I am sure, but I admire her greatly for how she deals with a difficult thing.
Our youngest daughter is 2 weeks away from childbirth, which she will have to do in a hospital , so there is real reason for concern, I'm just doing my best to try to be helpful.
I on the other hand, while certainly not immune from worry, or empathy for those who need help, was born believing things will be ok--especially if you work at it.
Find a project, make space in the barn for your Pool Table, even if is useable only 8-9 months a year..... that would be worth it, don't you think?

A tall order indeed. In these times I vacillate between happiness and worry. I do not like this but, in retrospect, we do this constantly in our normal lives. The chasm is much wider now and that alone is unpleasant. Suicide is the coward's way out. Great post.

"I discovered a large lump under my armpit. My mind immediately leapt to one word—cancer!—a word which was even more of a death sentence then than it is now."

In the USA, the five year survival rate is currently about 70%. As someone who has seen, biopsied, diagnosed, many cancers, your chances are pretty good. (Unless it is pancreas, etc.) Although the lockdown is devastating in denying early diagnosis and treatments at present.

Thank you for that, may you live to 120.

I always thought that the double suicide pact was a shocking act of selfishness on his behalf. I suspect she didn’t feel as strongly about the situation as he did.

He was mourning the loss of old Europe, for want of a better expression. What would his wife know about this? His autobiography is full of elegiac grieving for a world that may or may not have existed. I found it a bit rich and gave up on it.

Joseph Roth felt much the same, as Zweig, and drank himself to death.

Also, I thought the thing that tipped Zweig over the edge was hearing the news of the suicide of his friend Toller (sp) in New York. However, I’m struggling to find a reference to this.

I’m only interested in him as a subject because he wrote the story that Letter from an Unknown Woman is based on, one of my all-time favourite movies.

Lovely piece, Mike. And I can relate. I also had the lump-under-the-arm experience in my 20s. I was in nursing school at the time,
learning the full panoply of deadly afflictions, which predisposes one to a special kind of hypochondria. Additionally, I was acutely aware that my dad had died in his early 30s of Hodgkin's Disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes then largely untreatable. The cause of my lump was finally traced to the use of antiperspirants, but I had some uneasy weeks. I have heard catrastophizing called "awfulizing"--same idea. "it's awful, it's awful, it's awful."

Hi, Mike add this: an old Australian bush poem to brighten your day http://www.cattlefacts.com.au/Poem%20Said%20Hanrahan.asp

Seneca had something to say about needless worry.

With best regards.





I’m a contrarian, can’t help it. So, my thinking is more like “if this thing is so bad, why are only three million people out of six billion infected?” Of course, I’m not stupid and I do follow the lockdown and protect myself. Still, despite my lack of outright anxiety, which I’m normally quite capable of, I must admit that I find myself not driving as fast as I usually do and less interested in some things I’m usually interested in. It took me three weeks to pick up a book again that I was reading quite happily until I went into self-isolation. So, I do know something is bugging me on a deeper level, despite my relativism. It being Spring definitely helps, though. Can’t imagine this happening as the weather turns dark and nasty. Also helps to have grown up during the Cold War, with instant demise constantly hovering over us. We learned to live with that...

As I understand it, humans are the only high order animal that can plan for future events in order to survive. With age, we apply more of our experience to possible outcomes and set parameters to lessen mistakes. In hyper-projecting, one can lose the effects that the tools of experience provide. I think it was Lao Tzu who said, “one must fumble with error to separate it from the truth. It is long as you don’t choose error hungrily because of it’s pleasanter taste.”

You're the only other person I've ever heard of who had cat scratch fever. I had it in 1957 when I was 7 years old. I was kept in the hospital for a few days at Mass General where I was poked and pricked and prodded and tested and I couldn't go ice-skating that winter because of the swollen gland in my groin.
As for worrying, my mother used to say think of all the things you ever worried about. Did they ever come true? And no, most of them did not. But still, we worry.

There is needless worry, but sometimes it's worse to try and do something to avoid what wories you.
In 455 BC, Aeschylus, the playwright known as the Father of Greek Tragedy, had been staying outdoors as much as he could on account of worrying about a prophecy that he would be killed by some sort of a falling object. He was said to have been killed by a tortoise which was dropped by an eagle.

I suppose Mike, that it is possible that we could pay more attention to the old aphorism:

"Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves."

In other words, by not consuming scant local resources merely because one can, the future will be more secure for our descendents.

Thar's gold in them thar hills, but maybe we should leave some for later.


At the moment I am reading David Quammen’s page turner Spillover. About all you need to know about zoonoses, the diseases that jump from animals to humans. Did not read anything about cat scratch fever but there is a lot to worry about. Most worrying is that we don’t know what to worry about. First published in 2013, but the most recent print contains a chapter on SARS-CoV-2.

Seems like calling it catastrophizing already puts a negative value on thinking about this rationally. If we had pondered (and by we, I mean he) had pondered the worst case scenarios initially as suggested, we would be in a radically better situation.

But we are still looking optimistically at something that doesn't have any good outcomes.

I should say for the most part I'm having a decent time. I have food and shelter and time to practice music. I'm a ER nurse but ironically jobs are scarce. Hospitals emptied out and I am between contracts. But for the most part I am calm.

But it's a catastrophy. So I'm not sure that judging catastrophizing as being somehow not appropriate makes sense.

It's like trying to look on the bright side of being in Poland during World War II. And the thing is, I'm sure there were plenty of bright sides and things to be happy about. And likewise, I value every positive human interaction I have these days. But I'm also aware of how fragile everything is right now.

Don't watch, listen to, or read any news.
Their business seems to be catastrophizing EVERYTHING.

A collary to catastrophizing is "awfulizing" (as we call it in our family). It happens when you wake up in the middle of the night and start thinking about a worrisome issue and then toss and turn until dawn, building it into the ultimate catastrophe in your mind. Only to fall asleep and wake up at your usual time and wonder what all the fuss was about. Sleep lost for nothing!

The remedy for awfulizing is to recognize when you wake up at 3 AM, that the trap is there, that things are REALLY not as bad as they appear at that moment in the dark, and that you can just roll over and go back to sleep. It works for me.... most of the time.

In case of emergency, try this: https://miguelmarquezoutside.com/post/172822466253/in-case-of-emergency

But then, after realizing that it really is too late, go full bore and join the "End of the World Rehearsal Club" (all welcome). https://miguelmarquezoutside.com/post/171008271973/end-of-the-world-rehearsal-club

“The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one'.... (The man who first said that) was probably a coward.... He knew a great deal about cowards but nothing about the brave. The brave dies perhaps two thousand deaths if he's intelligent. He simply doesn't mention them.” ― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

I let data provide me with insight about actions I need to take in these situations.

Michael J. Fox, who has had his own battle with early-onset Parkinson's Disease for many years, has a great philosophy about worrying. I'm paraphrasing here, but it goes something like this: He says he never worries about what might happen ahead of time. He figures if something bad is going to happen, he'll worry about it when it's a reality. This way he saves himself from the possible stress of worrying about it twice (both before and during.)

And a favorite line of mine, from a song by one of the great poets of our time, Tom Petty: "Most things I worry about never happen anyway."

There might be some truth to what you write about Zweig, but he did take his own life in 1942, before the world came to know the detailed fate of millions of European Jews, Romani and other so-called 'non-Aryans'. He was 60 when he died, and it is doubtful he would have lived until 1990s, when he would have been nearly 100 years old, when Germany did indeed emerge from its memory of the war as well as its (and Europe's) prospect of a nuclear holocaust. So I don't know if the collective sadness would have left him, perhaps even would have hurt him more than it did when he had ended his life.

Gone through it once in 2003 (SARS) and this is the second round. Given the northern country way of governance, I would expect a third times before I kick the can if I were lucky.

Really this a crucial moment as a product photographer I'm upset. Thanks for sharing it

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