Part 56

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on F.I.R.E.  This week I talk a little about my beliefs and my approach to life. 

Quote of the Week

I was sent this quote and asked for my thoughts.  It’s one of those quotes that seems positive at first but is not going to be helpful for all people, in all situations.  With the pandemic having ravaged the world for a year or so, many people are struggling with their mental health.  This is being exacerbated by some people boasting about all the things they’ve been able to do in lockdown, such as learning new skills or getting fit.  There are a lot of people with mental health struggles, which has been made even more difficult because of the social isolation that comes with lockdown.  For those people, simply getting by from one day to the next is a victory.  The additional pressure of expectation, be it expectation of learning another language or training for a marathon, is not helpful.  Sometimes, apparently motivational phrases can be demotivating. 

The point I’m making was alluded to in an audiobook I’ve just finished, Everything is Fucked by Mark Manson, where the author explains how people make a commitment to change but then fall down under the weight of expectation.  They then set a new goal, and the cycle repeats, all which combines to hammer the self-esteem of many people.  Sometimes goals have to be broken down into the smallest of chunks to encourage people to achieve them, but even then the slightest stumble on the way to achieving that goal can destroy a person’s self-esteem.  

It can be argued that there is another interpretation to the above quote, and that surviving from one day to the next could be the “where you want to be tomorrow”, but that would be quite a charitable interpretation, I think.  Every person is different, with their own unique struggles and circumstances.  I’m not saying that people should not strive for change, but we can’t judge all people by the same set of criteria.

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Weekly Update

It’s been a horrible week with much of it anchored around my hospital visit on Tuesday, which I’ll come on to in more detail in the health section.  There have been a couple of other frustrations though, with my coffee machine and dishwasher both developing faults.  A few weeks ago I spent several hundred pounds on a new Nespresso machine that makes a wide range of drinks from espresso to latte.  I noticed that the machine was leaking water and after contacting Nespresso they arranged to pick the machine up the following day and provide me with a loan machine.  The problem is that the loan machine has not been cleaned since the last person used it, and the water coming out of this loan machine is filthy.  I’ve run water through it several times and it’s no better, so I don’t feel comfortable using it.  I’ve since contacted Nespresso again and explained that I want my machine repaired urgently.  I’m not too happy at it needing repair after just a few weeks of use anyway.  

The second frustration comes from our dishwasher not closing properly.  It’s an integrated machine that was here when we bought the apartment eight-years ago, so it’s had a decent amount of use.  I’ve tried repairing it without success, so I’ve now had to spend money on buying a replacement and for it to be installed, with the old machine being disposed of.  When I look at replacing equipment like this, I look at the cost compared to the life of the previous machine.  It cost £400 for the new dishwasher, with £110 for installation and removal of the old machine.  That works out at £63.75 per year for the old machine, or just over £1 per week.  That’s not too bad, I think. 

On a completely unrelated note, I did put together a Star Trek meme that has amassed over 2,000 likes and upvotes between Facebook and Reddit.  I’m quite proud of that effort, if I do say so myself.  In order to fully appreciate it, you need some familiarity with Deep Space Nine and with memes in general:

Health Update

For a number of years I’ve suffered with IBS-type symptoms and have had to endure some rather unpleasant tests.  I recently saw my gastroenterologist who advised I have a pillcam procedure, which is where you swallow a camera inside a pill.  The camera then moves through your body taking several images each second.  You then pass the pillcam, retrieve it and return it to the hospital for the results to be analysed.  There were several things about having to do this that I was dreading.  The first part was taking the Moviprep drink that flushes your body of all food waste.  I trust I don’t need to go into too much detail regarding the mechanics, but the taste of the drink is horrible.  The last time I had to take this drink, I vomited shortly after and had a migraine for a few days after.  It was not quite as bad this time, but I did not finish the full dose as I was dry-heaving after a while.  

The second part of this process involved retrieving the pill.  This involved a kit that the hospital supplied, including a sieve, plastic cup and magnetic wand.  I will leave it up to your imagination as to how this works, but as someone with OCD regarding cleanliness you can probably imagine the stress this caused.  Fortunately, I passed the pill just thirty-six hours after swallowing it and I’m now waiting on the results.  

My last round of tests with the consultant a couple of years ago suggested I may be in the early stages of developing Crohn’s disease.  It’s not something I know much about, and so far I’ve managed to avoid consulting Doctor Google.  

All of the stress associated with this procedure has left me with a headache that’s lasted from Monday through to Saturday, as I write this.  In some ways my mental health has been a little better, but in some ways I’m just as bad, if not worse than the last couple of weeks.  I imagine my mental health as a series of scales for things like depression, anxiety, stress, frustration and so on.  It’s possible for me to move up and down the different scales independently of each other.  Mental health is so complicated and it’s difficult to explain one’s own feelings as some meaning is always lost once you try to put those feelings into words.

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Financial Update

Premium Bonds: £20,700 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £16,125.52 (up £444.10 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £325.00 (up £150.00 from last update).

Property Value: £187,554 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £224,704.52 (up £594.10 from last update).

Credit Card: £112.46 (down £67.46 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £142,099.37 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £142,211.83 (down £67.46 from last update).

Total Wealth Figure: £82,492.69 (up £661.56 from last update). 

Investment Income in 2020: £164.90 (up £0.09 from last update) (target £2,000).

A good week of gains in the stock market, and with a further investment made into my Fuck It Fund.  I would have invested more into my Premium Bonds but it looks like the BTL purchase is nearing completion, so I’ve kept £300 on one side in a separate pot which means when I cash in my bonds, I will not have to cash in quite as much.  I suspect that once we are ready to complete on the BTL, I will need to cash in approximately £18,000 of those bonds, which will leave me with roughly £3,000 to start saving from again.  We are hoping to secure a second BTL late Q1/early Q2 of 2021, and will be using stocks to supplement the deposit needed.  This is one reason why I’m now eager for the stock market to rise so as to maximise the value of each unit I’ll need to sell.  

E + R = O

Event plus reaction equals outcome.  Or, in the words of Viktor Frankl, between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

How would you describe yourself in three words?  It’s one of those questions that is thrown around in interviews or ice breakers.  My answer to that question over the years has generally been made up, and the answers have never sat well with me.  How do you describe yourself?  Do you look at behaviours and habits? Physical characteristics? Mental illnesses?  

I remember sitting alone on New Years Eve of 2015 knowing that my life was about to change.  It had to change.  I had a similar epiphany but for different reasons just a few months ago, which has led to my current mental health crisis.  I’ve not found much, if any, help from counselling or therapy, but instead I’ve found a lot of wisdom and solace in Stoicism.  The writings of Marcus Aurelius in particular have been a great help.  It’s incredible to think that his thoughts are being read almost two-thousand years later.  I would argue that the world would be a better place if more people took lessons from Stoicism than from the texts of the world’s major religions.  

The first word I would use to describe myself now, would be a Stoic.  There’s not a point at which you are, or are not, a Stoic though.  There’s not a badge or certificate, or test to be passed.  Stoicism is as much a process as a philosophy and no one can be perfectly stoic as it runs contrary to human emotion.  What is Stoicism?  According to Wikipedia; 


“Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. It is a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world. According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to eudaimonia (happiness, or blessedness) is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or by the fear of pain, by using one’s mind to understand the world and to do one’s part in nature’s plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.”

It is said that Stoicism derives its name from ‘stoa”, the name given to covered walkways in Ancient Greece where philosophers would lecture between the iconic stone pillars.

There are some parts of that definition that I don’t fully agree with, such as being part of “nature’s plan”.  However, the idea of acting logically, fairly, justly and trying to avoid irrational reactions to what fate befalls me is appealing.  Writing in more detail about Stoicism would take hundreds of pages, and is beyond the scope of this blog.  However, should you want to read more about it, I would suggest Meditations by Marcus Aurelius as a good place to start.

The second word that comes to mind is Nihilist, defined by Google as:

“A person who believes that life is meaningless and rejects all religious and moral principles.”

The universe as we understand it will die a heat death in billions of years, or possibly in a “big crunch”.  Or maybe this is all a simulation.  Maybe our three-dimensional bodies are just shadows cast by our four-dimensional selves, or maybe we are just figments of a superior being’s daydream.  In any event, reality has existed for billions of years before I was aware, and will no doubt continue for billions of years after me.  Now, before anyone jumps in I will just point out that it’s also possible that the universe begins and ends with my birth and death, much like the thought experiment with the tree and no one hearing it fall; does the universe exist if I’m not around to perceive it?  

Yes, I also blame the fish.

So, what’s the point in anything?  In a century or two, it’s highly probable that everyone currently alive will be dead.  Nothing that I do now matters in the grand scale of the universe.  In a hundred years, it’s probable I’ll be dead.  In two-hundred years, it’s likely no one will remember my name.  Life is just a series of moments until death, and we’re all just keeping ourselves busy until that moment when our flame is extinguished.  

If you’re read this far, then you’ll know that I would think of myself as a Stoic, and a Nihilist.  The third word may seem somewhat contrary; Humanist, defined on Wikipedia as:

“Humanism is a philosophical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively.”

How do I reconcile humanism with nihilism?  Through stoicism.  

We exist and because of that, we need to deal with the fact we exist.  Pain and suffering are as real as joy and contentment.  As such, it makes sense to promote peace and prosperity as much as possible.  Some of you who know me will be familiar with a phrase I use, “it takes more effort to be an asshole.”  It’s a short life and we may as well do the best we can with it.  In a break with the normal format of this blog, I’ll end the discussion with a second Quote of the Week:

A Quick Request

I know there is a small group of people that read this blog regularly and I enjoy the engagement I have with those readers through email and social media.  I would love for this blog to take off and grow through 2021.  Gaining readers is the hardest thing for any blogger to achieve.  I enjoy writing this blog and want it to grow, so if you are enjoying this content, please take a moment to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Whatsapp or any other social media.  Shares are the ultimate sign of success for any blogger.  If you have any feedback, comments or questions whether positive or negative, please leave a comment below.  

My Instagram is @david_scothern and my Twitter is @nowwelive01. You can also email me at mortgageadvisoronfire@gmail.com.

Also, please check out my cat’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat

Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s blog at darrenscothern.com.

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