Catastrophist \ kə-ˈta-strə-fist \ noun
One who imagines the worst-case scenario as something so completely horrific that it borders on the absurd. A catastrophist usually starts by asking, “Yeah, but what if?”* Also see: Anderson Cooper, Lisa Anselmo
I once heard Anderson Cooper describe himself as a “catastrophist” in an interview about his life with his mother Gloria Vanderbilt, who, despite her young life drama, was quite the opposite. He explained (and I’m paraphrasing) that he always imagines the worst possible outcome or problems of every scenario, and therefore is always prepared for the catastrophe that, in his head, will inevitably befall us all.
Thank God, my sickness has a name! I thought as I listened. I was no longer a freak. Well, no longer the only freak. I view life the exact same way.
Anderson was only 10 years old when he lost his father from a heart attack, and 20, when his older brother committed suicide. This shapes a person.
I grew up, like Anderson, in a loving home, but there were some issues that likewise shaped me, made me a fixer. To create what my young mind thought was stability, I learned to see all the possible pitfalls and mastered how to avoid them. Being a catastrophist made Anderson an agile war correspondent. And it made me a damn good creative director. But being a catastrophist in daily life? Not so happy-making.
You know what I’m going to say, right? I saw this coming a mile away. Well, not this exactly, but something global that would crush the economy and shut borders, possibly erasing the lifestyles we’re accustomed to. But being always prepared for the end of the world, like some goth boy scout, I had started to stock up my pantry over a week ago. I was telling my friends to do likewise, and to stop going to cafés, stay off the Métro, work from home. “Take this seriously,” I said. “Now.”
I promise I won’t say, “I told you so.”
Of course, the catastrophist suffers because of how we think. We sit and wait for disaster, and that can make us more fragile, emotionally. This notion that we can make ourselves immune from pain or loss by planning for it, is completely bogus. There is no panacea for life.
This notion that we can make ourselves immune from pain or loss by planning for it, is completely bogus.
Just because I see possible catastrophe does not mean I am any more prepared emotionally than those of you who are still blithely going about your lives, posting funny Coronavirus memes on Facebook (though wake up a little, huh?). The difference is, people like me might suffer more because we are more likely to see only doom, whereas someone who is more mentally strong might weather this better. They might even heal faster if they become sick.
We who seek disaster will always find it. And the world will hand us plenty. I feared something would destroy everything I worked so hard for, and if that’s how I want to see the world, then my mind will find the catastrophe it seeks.
This is not lost on me, and I’m working to address this. Because how we think is how we are. We create our world with our minds, write our stories with every thought, gesture, and word. What is the story you are writing for yourself in these times? If you want to see the end of the world, you will. Even if it’s not.
Start from the beginning
Read Day 3
Tip for today: Take control of your mental health
Limit your time on social media to 30 minutes a day to create a more peaceful you. Being inside your friends’ heads all day will make you crazy, so take charge of your mind—what you feed it, and what you put out there to others.
Yes, get the facts, and yes, take them seriously. But beware of rumors and unfounded advice, articles that are designed to seed fear and panic (they might be planted by bots), and general fear-mongering within your circle. Before you read or post an article, ask yourself: 1) does this pertain to my immediate community/country?; 2) is it useful or helpful?; 3) can I do something about this? If you answer “no” to any one of these, move along.
Listen, if you’re desperately poking around on Facebook all day searching for some news or facts to make you feel better, you’re using social media as a means to control this thing. We can’t control it, so don’t try to. We just have to live it, and do our best to take care of ourselves and others. Listen to the mandates to stay home and be responsible. That’s all you can do. We’re in for a long ride. How do you want to spend this time?
Books are Better!
*Courtesy of UrbanDictionary.com
I’m following along from San Francisco. We’re on the same schedule as Paris … Day 2 of everyone staying home. My wife and I lived and worked in Paris (17th) from 2016-2018, and I subscribed to your blog somewhere along the way. So I appreciate your updates on our second city. Hoping to move back when we’re closer to retirement, or spend half the year there and half here in California. Keep up the good work, and thanks for the blog!
Thank you. And stay well. I love San Francisco and hope to visit again.
Thanks for the very rational, thought-provoking post. I am in a self-isolation situation right now, which could help prepare me emotionally for a state imposed lockdown. I told myself every day I will do at least one thing for myself (outside of the basics), and one thing to improve my home.
Not a bad idea. Take care of yourself. Now is the ideal time.
I LOVE your posts and perspective in this difficult time! I am wondering if you would consider amending the title to remove the word “Lockdown”? It is certainly real and appropriate to the situation and I don’t take actual offense at its use. It is just so loaded and triggering. Am I being insensitive? I hope not and I NEVER intentionally criticize anyone who posts online. I intend to continue to read your posts regardless. Maybe it is I who needs to desensitize a bit. We are creeping toward the same extreme isolation here in the States. Thank you for what you do and how you do it and for allowing me in….
Be Safe. Be Well.
On Wed, Mar 18, 2020 at 7:30 AM My (Parttime) Paris Life wrote:
> Lisa Anselmo posted: ” Catastrophist \ kə-ˈta-strə-fist \ noun One who > imagines the worst-case scenario as something so completely horrific that > it borders on the absurd. A catastrophist usually starts by asking, “Yeah, > but what if?”* Also see: Anderson Cooper, Lisa Anselm” >
Tell me what about it upsets you, Melanie.
This isn’t Melanie – but I totally agree with her. My daughter (38) has cystic fibrosis and, of course, is at increased risk and is self-isolated, along with her family.
HOWEVER – my husband and I live in a Chicago suburb – and I think the media – ALL the media – has hyped this to an unbelievable degree – 24/7 coverage – when the “normal” flu has killed in the many thousands!!! Where was the “complete” coverage on this.
When my daughter was diagnosed with CF at age 4 – I could not be a castrophlist – I could not – not for myself – or certainly for my daughter. We were told she would live to age 12 – if she was lucky. She is now 38. AND, a brand new drug she just started has been life-changing – her words.
For God’s sake – show some sense – we WILL get through this – as much as I LOVE this blog – and I do – the cynical pessimism is tedious. Ah, well – only my opinion, to be sure.
Hi Judy. Thank you for your comment. I’m not really sure where to begin. I’m here in Europe where the situation is much more dire. You cannot compare this to the flu. Based on the RO scale, it is 3-4 times more contagious. And we are only in March whereas flu death totals are based on an entire year. I’m not downplaying the flu. I know it’s deadly and it’s why I get a vaccine each year; I have asthma. And it’s precisely why I take this seriously. There is no vaccine for this—yet. China and Italy waited too long to act and have suffered greatly. Italy had 427 new deaths in one day. So let’s not go down that road. I’m glad you are self-isolating and you and your family are taking this seriously. I agree the press is loving this as they do ALL major dramatic events. It’s for this I don’t spend too much time on social media. But do not discount the press’ “enthusiasm” shall we say, as over-exaggeration, or “hype.” I believe I am showing a great deal of sense, as you suggest. My posts are not sensationalist at all. They are in fact, calm, inspirational, clear, and balanced. And will continue to be so. My aim is to inform and inspire—and yes to make you laugh from time to time. “Lockdown” is the term widely used. I have taken a poll on Facebook (because I took Melanie’s comment to heart), and overwhelmingly the response was positive. It’s the term being used because we are literally confined to our homes, not able to go out unless we have our papers. In Italy, people who violate confinement face prison time. That’s where we are. That is not hype. I’ve never served up sugar-coated anything on this blog nor in my book; I am frank, open, and true to who I am. I hope you can appreciate that, and I hope you stick with me here in this space. Stay well and safe, dear Judy. Thank you for your support. XO L
Thanks for your insightful post. I would LOVE to be able to self isolate but work in Healthcare. So mentally have to gear up for a stressful situation each time I walk through the hospital doors. Appreciate the reminder for ways to adjust our mental health. Will be following your daily journey in Paris and hope to be back there once this crisis has resolved.
Take care, Lynn H
Oh, Lynn, stay safe. And thank you for your selflessness. Bon courage, as they say in French: Be strong.
Thank you for day 1 and 2 lockdown in Paris
We are all locked down some where
I would highly recommend your book My Partime Paris life infact I might possibly read it again. It’s been a while and I am sure I will get another experience from it.
All the Best…pamela 🇨🇦 🇫🇷
Thank you! So sweet. Stay well.
Thank you for you honest and insightful posts. I can totally relate to this one.
I’ll be following along every day.
The work Lockdown is not insensitive or giving in to hype – it’s reality right now and every damn person on this planet better get serious about this situation – this is not the ‘normal flu’.
Please do not change anything about the way you write about your experience.
I’m in Michigan and in self imposed isolation and lockdown right now because I want to be a responsible citizen of this planet.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and I wish you and everyone else good health.
Thank you so much. Stay well.
Thank you for your posts about COVID-19. They have been informative and uplifting. If the worst this pandemic is capable of does not come to pass, it will only be because people have heeded the pleas/orders of public sector and medical leaders to shelter in place. Here in the U.S., we do not even have any idea of the current scope of COVID-19 infections, because so few tests for the virus have been made available…still!
They are not doing widespread testing in France either. Our numbers are very conservative. Stay well Leslie.
Thank you Lisa for your thought provoking post today. I started preparing my pantry and freezer 3 weeks ago. I also have plenty for my brother who depends on me. I am a worrier about most things and that can be good and bad. I hope to be in Patis once this is all over. In the meantime, take care, be safe, be well and again, thank you.