Category Archives: Personal history

Love Unedited

One of the greatest epiphanies or transformations I ever experienced was about love.  Like everyone, right?

For no particular reason, with no context or situation, one day I realized:

I am free to love as much as I want.

I can love anyone I want.

And I love everyone.

 

This sounds silly, but it was a big deal for me.  I grew up in a family of deeply rural immigrant farmers, mostly older women — poor, devout, unfettered by society to a degree that bordered on Lord of the Flies, often mean, certainly teetotalling, absolutely insane.

Tightwads: my great-grandma and her family came to Minnesota through Canada about a hundred years ago.  They built a hotel in Minnesota that burned down.  They moved to Montana across the Dakotas and it was hard to cross the plains.  They settled on the far side of the Rockies on a free land parcel and set up a farm; hard labor even with a passel of kids.  Shortly after the number of kids went into the double digits, my great-grandfather died, leaving a widow under 30 with no money to farm, raise kids, and try not to die, during the Great Depression and with another war in the wings.

I’ve always said you can’t set a Man vs. Nature survival story in western Montana; if you are healthy and able-bodied, you can Boy Scout it (or MacGyver it) and live like a king, so long as you don’t lose your head.  That doesn’t make it easy, however — and being a recent widow with a slew of kids in the middle of nowhere does prime the pump for crazy.  But when your machine is set to Survive, you put emotions last.  Feelings don’t chop wood (although chopping wood does help blow off steam.) Feelings interfere with survival.

Variations on a saying from my childhood:  “If you need a psychiatrist, you’re not working hard enough.”  Says it all, doesn’t it?

After I left for college, my mother moved into my great-grandmother’s cottage, which was the center of a far-flung cluster of houses where her children lived on their own parcels of land.  When I came home one summer and told one of my many great-aunts that I was studying psychology, I got every song in the jukebox, from such classics as, “You Think You’re Better Than We Are Now, I Bet,” to strange laments such as, “You’re Just Going to Move Away and Never Come Back Now, Is That It,” and “Nobody Needs Psychology, They Just Need to Get Busy, When My Third Baby Died I Painted the Barn Five Times That Summer.”

I loved my Aunt Bea.  I’d walk up to her house in summer, and if she wasn’t out working the farm, she would fix up the player piano so I could pretend to play.  She gave me coffee in an antique tea cup with violets painted on, which I adored.  She showed me her root cellar and the rows of Ball jars of pickled beets and green beans and applesauce, shelves of cabbages, bins of potatoes.  Mom reminded me of a time when she was young, and the barn cat had kittens; Aunt Bea killed them cleanly, one by one, at laughed at Mom for crying.  Soft.

Work hard, and life is easy.  Go to church on Sunday, or rest and listen to Rex Humbard on the radio.  Coffee at all hours, and brother Lawrence’s boy brought a salmon; we’re all eating at Ma’s tonight, she’s making potet club now.  No friends, no books, no games, no music, no play, no socializing outside the family.  No hugs, nor other affection.  No “I love you”.  No.

But love there was.  A strange, miserly love from people who had to penny-pinch to qualify as poor.  Food was everywhere, but money was not, and love was weirdly the same.  People married into the family, and died, or left, or stayed silent for decades, like Bea’s husband.  The few married couples showed no signs of affection,  though they pulled very much as a team.  That was the love I observed.  How does one get from my growing young singlehood to that dull and fun-free partnership, and why in hell would I want it?

The instruction I was given in coming of age, compatible with local culture, included:

  1.  Virginity is all you have of honor and decency; protect it with your life.
  2.  Marriage is your first attainment of value, and lasts forever; step on any girl’s neck for the best catch and win him like a prizefighter.
  3.  Motherhood is the noblest achievement and also the minimum requirement to demonstrate that you are a woman.  You can’t be a woman if you don’t have babies.

Love never entered into it.

There were a lot of other rules, but that was the cornerstone of living.  Love / sex / romance / friendship / etc. were all hidden in the same vault, kept under lock and key, protected by the Coldstream Guards.  My mother and grandmother, who had both had spent time away from Montana, with good times in dating and bad luck in marriage, modified my training:  it’s okay to flirt, but not slut; it’s okay to show off, but not seek attention; and it’s very good to make boys jump through hoops to prove their love, because that proves your worth.  Humans do not have the love of 1 Corinthians 13:4; that love is the love that God had for us, I was told, but not the love we have for each other, pffft, that’s not the way it works.

Okay.  Love is jealous; love is mine; love is something precious that I keep locked in my heart (or my underwear) and only dole out in minute quantities to people who work hard and pay the price and let me own them forever in kind.  Love is finite.  If we love each other, there are no boundaries: I get to be mean to you, ignore you, expect things of you.  I give everything to you, but with no generosity; you own me, too, but you’d better not ask anything of me.  We are a single unit, held in tension.

Lifeboat love.

After realizing I did not agree with this, and also that I had no clue what I really did feel or think or believe about love, it took a lot of years of experimentation to figure out a few things.  Sometimes I got hurt, which was horrible; sometimes I hurt others, and my guts still churn to think of it.  (Sorry, my darlings, wherever you are.  We died on the altar of the science of love, martyrs to discovery, and now we know.)

Eventually I realized, through being loved, how love works.  How it should work, if you’re me.

1.  Love is a real and sincere feeling. You can’t fake it; don’t try.  Be honest with yourself!  Shut up all the you-should and the you-must thoughts that get in the way of hearing your heart’s honest truth.  KNOW HOW YOU FEEL. Test it for authenticity.  If any shoulds or have-tos creep in to your internal dialogue, put that feeling on probation until you can test it. Don’t love if you don’t feel it.  But love to the infinite power if you do.  It won’t cost you a nickel, and it won’t hurt a soul.  It can’t.  It’s love.

2.  Love is not necessarily a limited resource.  It’s like water:  no less valuable for being everywhere.  If you can connect with the real love you feel, it’s not something coerced into existence that dies outside the germ-free protective vault you created for it.  It flows out of you; you don’t run out.

3.  And what if you did?  What if you stopped feeling love, for someone or something?  Then so be it.  Don’t force it.  Don’t pretend it’s still felt.  Be honest.  Because…

4.  How you feel doesn’t dictate how you act.  Emotional honesty does not change the rules of engagement.  You no longer love someone?  Okay.  That doesn’t mean you should mistreat them; it doesn’t mean their feelings don’t matter; it doesn’t give you license to be a jerk.  Because…

5.  Boundaries are everyone’s best tool in interpersonal relations.  Check out these values statements it took me decades to find true:

  • I love you whether or not you love me.
  • I can’t force, demand, expect, or require you to love me.
  • My love for you does not materially change based on how you feel about me.

It occurs to me that popular music covered these topics:  Howard Jones sang the first line, Bonnie Raitt sang, “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, and Louis Jordan sang, “It makes no difference what you feel about me / But it makes a whole lotta difference what I feel about you.”  For that matter, “Let your love flow” is more truth than I expected from a Bellamy Brothers song.  But for sheer powerful truth, here’s a quote from Still Life with Woodpecker that should be stitched on a sampler:

“Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words “make” and “stay” become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.”
Praise be to Tom Robbins for that, and for this:
“People who sacrifice beauty for efficiency get what they deserve.”
*   *   *   *   *

It was hard for me to feel rich.  Poor farmers don’t raise rich children, as a rule, and I was raised to scrimp and save and hoard my pennies, and my love.  Being loved, and trying to love others, taught me that I had big feelings in store.  When I started to realize that I didn’t HAVE to be miserly with love, I started to have some success in washing away the bullshit of my upbringing — the social striving, the bourgeois reverence for manners over morals, the harsh character judgments imposed as punishment for cosmetic irrelevancies and superficial traits.

The more of that BS I was able to let go, the more I was able to accept myself.  Radical acceptance with condemnation made me suicidal; radical acceptance with compassion — the knowledge that I always tried to do my best, the acknowledgement that I didn’t always have tools to do well, the realization that this is probably true for most people — struck me like a bolt.

I don’t have to deserve love to be loved.

I don’t have to deserve my love to love myself.

No one has to earn my love.

Maybe being loved will help them become lovable, just as being loved made me loving.  Maybe not.  And that’s fine, too.

“God bless the child who’s got his own.”

 

 

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Starving

I read a news item the other day that clamped my throat shut with rage tears and will not fade from my brain.

Did you see this article?

https://nypost.com/2018/04/19/mckayla-maroney-how-larry-nassar-manipulated-us-with-food/

“I think I would’ve starved at the Olympics if I didn’t have him bring me food,” Maroney said.

Nassar’s simple gestures shielded a disturbing ulterior motive. Maroney claims he would take advantage of the gymnasts’ insecurities, depicting himself as a savior of sorts, in the midst of competitions.

“[He would] buy me a loaf of bread,” she said

It’s not just how deeply fucked up it is to starve children, period; or to do so because they can jump higher when they’re skinny.  It’s not just the horrible culture of child athletes being broken like ponies, and worked harder than rented mules.  The anger about all of this is real, for me; immediate and deep.

 

But it pushed other buttons, stirred some deep pots in my basement hearth.

 

Food is involved.  A child in need of food.

 

An evil man disguised as kind…who won’t feed a child for nothing.  Coaxing trust with a trail of breadcrumbs. Betraying the real gratitude and abusing the trust.  Being a savior but also cutting a kid open, taking a pound of flesh from a kid who has none to spare.  A kid who is hardworking and hungry and trying so hard…cut up for his pleasure.  What kind of monster doesn’t take care of a kid?

 

I’m just so upset about this I can’t even describe it.

 

I never told Mom about the abuse.  For a lot of reasons, but foremost because we relied on Papa (and Grandma) for food and shelter.  We lived in their house and ate at their table; they watched us while Mom worked and commuted.  My step-grandfather was kind to me.  He taught me a lot of lessons in how to be a stand-up guy, so to speak; how to be loyal to friends, how to laugh off embarrassment, how to enjoy hard work.  He taught me how to dance in the tiny kitchen.  He taught me how to joke around, and pushed back against my grandma’s overprotection and fear for me, which taught me to be fearful.  He tried to teach me to be less afraid of bees and swimming and dead things, when I was very little, and he was the only person in the family who made statements of praise or appreciation — not only for me — but it was alien to the culture of my grandmother’s family, which he joined.
He always tried to take care of me.  One time, he was framing a porch addition and a piece of lumber slipped, cutting his head open, and you know how head wounds bleed.  He needed help and ran up to the door, shouting for my mother, and seeing me see him through the side window, turned his back and tried to modulate his voice to calmly convince me that I mustn’t look out the window but needed to get Mom right away, fast as you can.
He started molesting me when I was 8, almost 9.  I started having panic attacks.  I got my first bad grades…then overcompensated and never got a bad grade for years.  And I started eating to feel calm.  Pictures of me from that era show a healthy, smiling outdoor kid with long blond hair turning to a frowning brownette chub, over the course of a few months.  I cried a lot and acted out — sarcasm, tantrums, attention-seeking, other criminal acts in a Norwegian farm environment. Family decided I was envious of my baby sister, who had stopped being a wailing red grub and became a delightful cherub wreathed in golden curls, getting all the positive attention I used to receive.  An aunt gave me a kids’ book about transactional analysis (T. A. for Tots and Other Prinzes, by Alvyn M Freed, PhD) and I read it over and over, not understanding why it wasn’t helping.
What helped was eating.  Lots of reading, too, since I wasn’t sleeping anyway.  Eating was a sensory pleasure and made me calm, through digestive torpor rather than self-regulation. I felt hungry all the time — or what I thought was hunger; I was starved for calm.  I ate and ate and ate.  And I never spoke up.
So when I read about a man who bought a girl’s trust with a loaf of bread, I wanted to vomit my every excess, consumed over decades, ever since I was 8, almost 9.
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Consent

[Caveat lector: This is a small and rubbery slice of a large and tender topic. If you can’t courteously and thoughtfully stay on my topic, I totally understand — it’s a toughie — but I am invoking the Gitcher Own Damn Blog Rule in advance. ]

So:  lately I have seen a lot of women exhorting men to STOP if the woman you are pursuing is sending mixed signals, because it’s monstrous to be with someone who is checked out of her body and not care, and if she is scared and sad, it’s not okay to have sex with her.

On the face, I get it: pay attention to those mixed signals.  If things aren’t full speed ahead, don’t go there.  Some say, at this point, “It’s not fun or worthwhile for either of you,” some say, “that’s where rape begins — not with lack of consent, but lack of wholehearted consent.”

I hesitate to disagree as loudly and firmly as I would like, since I already feel alienated from young feminists and would like to strengthen those ties rather than weaken them.  But there are so many reasons I disagree with that line of thinking, or that it invalidates my own experiences.

1. Don’t Interpret Me.  Let Me Do That.

Telling a guy not to take me at face value, but to interpret me and think he knows better than I do, is insulting as hell.  Don’t train men to patronize us, please; there is too much of that already.

2. Don’t Expect Me To Be Of One Mind About ANYTHING

I was sexually abused as a child.  There was physical and emotional abuse in the same milieu.  In order to parse out my feelings and where I stood, to derive a sense of body ownership and control, to learn to enjoy sex and move independently of my trauma, I went through a long period of having sex with people I did not have relationships with, some of whom I barely knew.  It wasn’t always easy, fun, or pleasant, but it was always profound, important, educational — I learned from it and took it to heart.  The regrets and pangs and bittersweet moments were all learning opportunities.  Mostly it was a blast, to be honest.  What I learned could only have had the value it did in the context of broad experience and taking risks, choosing to have some dodgy sexual experiences (or having some sexual interactions with a higher ambivalence quotient) simply to have them.  For science, yes; but also to follow my inner demons down their rabbit hole, to test out the stuff they whispered in my ear.  I had to do it for myself.  But any dude going into that experience with me, had he listened to the modern feminist chorus, would have run screaming, and I would not have had those chances to work out my ya-yas, would not have had those chances to experience loving generosity with near strangers who may still have fond recall of a grinning girl, glad to be grabbed, with or without the shadow behind her eyes.

3. Don’t Ask Me To Hide My Ambivalence & Mixed Feelings

Having to hide how I really feel in order to meet your excruciating consent standard isn’t just ironic, it’s absurd.

But there is also the fact that getting-to-know-you sex can be deliciously thrilling due to emotional exposure — honest needs and vulnerabilities, showing and trusting, being trusted with someone else’s raw fears and needs, feeling protected and protective, feeling that collaborative joy, or even feeling the delicate sense of exposure and discovery — including some fear / sadness / ambivalence, some acknowledgment of the same in the other person.  Just because you are a raging horndog doesn’t mean you run free from all shame, sadness, guilt, whatever.  But saying DON’T DO IT IF IT’S NOT FREE OF THOSE UNSIGHTLY EMOTIONS is to deny any sex that isn’t flawlessly perfect between flawlessly perfect people.  Which I am not, will never be, and do not wish to be.  Honest intimacy must admit imperfection.

You might think Barbie and Ken in their pink plastic Hilton represent the acme of human decadence, but the real juju comes from humping on a pile of our collective emotional baggage, and keeping each other safe as we go.

4.  Let Me Own My Mistakes; Don’t Take Consent Out Of My Hands By Making It All On Him

There is a profound difference between being raped and making a decision you regret:  consent.  If I go into sex with doubts and misgivings, and end up having regrets, I learn from that and act accordingly.  If I am taught that my dance of ambivalence ended in regret and that equals rape, then consent is out of my hands, and HE should have known better (known me better than I know myself!) and I have no agency.  Unless you are perfect, freedom means making mistakes and living with the results.

I know we all feel we *have* to be perfect — some quadrants of feminism (not my own, obviously) demand perfection, and that’s a pretty raw place — but I would argue that’s a holdover from the madonna-whore/pedestal-gutter dichotomy and should be discontinued.

5. This All Changes In Relationships

My many one-night stands were lovely.  No emotional demands, but some lovely emotional dividends; sincere effort; cheerful greed; and better or worse manners, noted and forgotten, with no lasting impact other than pleasant memories.  Consent in brief clashes is great collaboration, like splitting a bottle with the next table in a restaurant.  Consent in ongoing monogamous relationships has multiple layers.  There is the assumption that, because we are monogamous, we only have each other as a sexual outlet and must always or almost always say yes.  That if we say yes, it must be to everything.  That if I have reservations, you must feel their burden, or at least care about the burden I feel.  That sex has to happen with a certain frequency Or Else We Fail As A Couple.  On and on.

This topic is uncomfortable to me, and I don’t particularly want to talk about it.  But the fact is, I had a boyfriend in and after college who made me cry at least once per day, usually when we were having sex, which we did every day.  He later figured out he had a personality disorder that made him abusive and controlling, especially in sexual contexts, but that didn’t help when we were together.  He was also a serial cheater. But when I hear women exhorting men to stop pushing for sex if you see her struggling with guilt / shame / fear / sadness under the superficial acquiescence, I would rephrase it as a plea for empathy, as well as practical advice:

You Might Not Want To Make Her Hate Sex With You.

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11/14/2017 – morning thoughts, late for work

Working out and paying attention to fitness is reminding me of my timelines:  relationship to food, others, self.

I was a skinny, happy kid.  I liked being fancy AND I was a total tomboy.  The nature of kidness for me was minimally gendered and all about fun.

When my grandfather started molesting me, I started gaining weight.  (Family photos show a sudden transformation from a laughing, long-haired sprite to a bulky, short-haired brick with a frown and tired eyes.)  I had already been discovering sexual feelings on my own, thank goodness for that, but I was also being heavily gendered and sexualized by an adult who bought me my first pair of heels and thigh-highs when I was nine years old.  We lived in the country. I had precious little human context, so whatever I saw from people seemed like what it all must be.

Moving around made me the new kid, not fat but chubby.  My first defense mechanism was brains — staying in at recess, reading books all the time, making friends with teachers and getting their approval.  I played sports for a while, but not well.  My second defense mechanism was humor.  At that age, it was a withering sarcasm, suitable as shield AND sword, a habit it took a long time to outgrow.

Junior high unpopularity waxed and waned.  I was borderline hysterical, going from a school an hour away (where my aunt was a guidance counselor, hissing at me between classes about letting her down, she bragged about me, the teachers aren’t seeing it, I’m a laughingstock and it’s All Your Fault!) to a home that was terrifying.  We were back living with my grandparents, and I was sleeping on a cot at the foot of my grandfather’s bed, tired all the time, scared to use or leave the bathroom or be alone with him, trying and failing to do my algebra homework, crying in the shower, getting chewed out by my mother and grandmother, thinking about the night time to come.

The summer before high school, I determined to be thin, funny, vivacious, blithely indifferent to anyone’s regard for me, and keenly aware of the effects I had on others.  There was no secret hope that this would make me popular; only that I would be loved by all. (I used to think that’s what popularity was; now I know better.)  I did it.

Skinny waxed and waned in college, but morale was sunk by my first boyfriend being a churl, and second boyfriend being a charming abuser with a scorching case of borderline personality disorder.  My looks were a comfort to me, as was the admiring attention of strangers.  I loved the interim times when I could just have anonymous encounters with strangers — relief, reassurance, gallantry on both sides, a pleasant memory, without strings or feels or fuckups. Occasionally running into “silent partners” in grocery stores or social situations, with nothing but a secret smile or open chuckle of acknowledgement, a grin to the host and inside joke with a fellow guest. My hat is off to you all; you did me more good than that one night!

Weight waxed and waned with depression in my first marriage, which was a mistake, but we did the best we could until giving up in 2000.  I didn’t get TRULY fat, EXTREMELY fat, until my current relationship — which started gloriously and turned scary for me, moving to a new town, struggling during the cementing phase of the relationship, fighting a lot, having no support or resources or career — but having access to a bottomless well of beer and quality Mexican food.

Wash, rinse, repeat until 2010-2011.  Relationship happy and smooth; grief from leaving my beloved and profitable first career behind as it was no longer either; beginning grad school.

It’s 2017.  I’ve finished grad school and associateship and am now licensed.  Still very happily married, but lots of personal stuff put to the side over the years…nearly 18 years now.  Enough time to grow up and get my shit together, I hope.  But what a colossal mucking out I need.  What an enormous debt to work down.  What austerity awaits me during what should be the prime of my life.  So much starting over.

But I did my best, did what I had to to survive.  I always said I’d pay for it later, and later seems to be now.

The Christians are Wearing Me Out

Sorry, Coach.  I have tried and tried to come to common ground with my former flock, and time and time again, they have made me regret it.  They get to say whatever they feel:  that God either acts or permits action; that God is Great and is In Charge; that anything not done by God is allowed by God.

They are literally on the topic of personal crime — violence against vulnerable others — and talking about how God allows it.  For Reasons.

And *I* am the bad guy for simply saying that anyone who could stop violence against the vulnerable, and does not stop it, is terrible, horrible, no-good, and definitely not worth worship.  For some reason God gets worshiped despite behavior you would not accept from an antisocial thug.

Many people I love are believers.  I used to be one myself.  When I did believe in God, it cut me *to the bone* to know that my God — the omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent — saw what was happening to my early-grade-school-self and did nothing.  I broke up with God over that.  But I am unable and unwilling to break up with my family…despite the fact that they know all this and worship Him anyway.  It’s as if His need to be worshiped is more important than a child’s pain.  In their understanding of the universe, He watched what was happening to me and did nothing.  I do not give two shits what His ineffable rationale might have been; it could not possibly be good enough.

And if it sounds selfish for me to say that:  think, thou, on a neighbor kid…a grandma…your dad, your mom, your favorite person in the world…watching a child get assaulted…and staying glued to the peephole without intervening, without calling for help, without lifting a finger.  Would it not change your view of that person?  If so, why does it not change your view of your God?

And if it does not change your view of that person, why do you think that person’s inaction was okay?  Serious answers only, people.  Trusting that someone had a good enough reason, if you’re an adult, means you have an idea of what that reason might look like.  And if you are going to try to explain how an omnipotent being had to allow a child to get hurt for some reason, you don’t understand what “omnipotent” means.

Life taught me that people get to mistreat me with impunity, so I don’t ask that you explain why bad things happened to me.  Just explain why it happened to the other kids.  Why they deserved it.  Or why you worship someone who believes in harming kids who *don’t* deserve it.

226.6

I’ve been depressed for a while now. It didn’t seem like depression because it was a process, an extenuation and worsening of the negative side of normal. I would have caught it sooner, I think, if it hadn’t been for my inner Pollyanna and her relentless cheerleading. She works hard to keep me going, but part of her snappy patter is refusing to believe things are That Bad. Well, sometimes they are, and finding the upside of a crummy situation results in continuing the crummy situation rather than saying WHOA, this is fucked up, time to start changing things. It dovetails nicely with the Puritan farmer mentality I grew up with – but unfortunately, both of those are geared to help you ENDURE hard times rather than solve the problem. In short, it helps you put up with shit rather than fix it.

My attempts to get back on track have all failed. This is probably due to not addressing the cause of the problem. Pressuring myself to do better is just adding pressure if there is zero motivation for change. Add shame to the mix. Sometimes I would have a balanced moment and acknowledge that I wasn’t trying to change right now but that I recognized the need to take better care of myself. But most of the time, all I could do was chide myself and hate myself and concoct schemes to jump start my motivation. Unfortunately, false starts and dead ends and restarts get me down – way down. Failure might light a fire under some fannies, but not mine. It drains me of motivation and makes me hate myself more when I try and fail and try again and fail again, despite the well-known quote from Samuel Beckett, as seen in a thousand earnest tattoos.

Over the holidays it got worse – more food, more drink, more escapism. I got fatter, and that made me sad, even though I had applied myself so diligently to those activities that make me fat. After the new year, the depression didn’t get worse, but things happened that made me turn to my recently cultivated Bad Habits™ to cope. Alan Rickman died, David Bowie died. My favorite patient, the person I’ve worked with longest, died, as did another patient a few days later. These things did not help. One of my aunts is still dying, and that’s sad enough without factoring in the effects on her brother and childhood best friend, who happens to be my father. The three-year mark passed since my husband had a job. My own work stress accrued. A new boss started at my work, and the change stressed me. She seems very nice, but there are perhaps a dozen reasons why I can’t stand her. The capper: because I have Teacher’s Pet Syndrome, I need to please her and I can’t seem to, ever (only another Teacher’s Pet will understand how vexing this is.) And then there is the SCA. Stopped playing before Thanksgiving, so no breaks, no socializing, no dressing up, no letting off steam. It’s for the best, given the local crowd, but like work, it’s one more coping tool that’s not working for me, while food and beer and Netflix are.

And then there was the PMS. And the perimenopause. And the hideous problems that come from stuffing myself like a Strasbourg goose: constipation, skin breakouts, lower libido, snoring loud enough to wake the neighbors, hormone changes, headaches, poor sleep, and other effects from clogging my system with excess matter. I have been eating so much that it has overwhelmed my magical machine for processing and filtering and fueling and eliminating. Poor old wagon, overloaded, and trying so hard to keep me going.

My house is dirty. This says more than anything else. And I’m hairy: hairy pits, hairy legs, unpolished toes and fingernails. These are all signs, for those who know me. And Honey knows me better than anyone, but he accepts me wholly and without judgment. If I want hairy legs, he supports me in that. The problem is that I don’t – but I have zero motivation to shave. All I can do is lie here, hating myself, and occasionally wondering what that rustling-leaves sensation is between my calves when I walk. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I realized it was the fluffy leggings I grew myself. I have known gorgeous brunette girls with dark, straight body hair that looks sleek and strong and which lies flat against the legs. Mine is sparse and nearly invisible and sticks straight out every which way. My legs look downy, like a baby bald eagle’s. Now I can laugh, but there was great disappointment in myself when I realized that this was yet another one of the ten thousand things I was neglecting, wrecking, or half-assing.

Sunday was my iron wedding anniversary with my darling man, and this summer will mark 15 years together. All in all, this is delightful, although my pleasure was dampened severely by my feeling more and more certain that I am a worthless sack of shit as a human being. On Sunday I called home to talk to Mom — it had been longer than usual, maybe a lot longer — and after chatting a bit, I asked if she was feeling well because she sounded kind of croaky. Mom said that was a little bit of news: she was done fasting.

DONE FASTING!

Ten years ago January, my grandmother died, after a long and painful deterioration. Her birthday is coming up in a few days, and I always try to be extra supportive of Mom from Jan to March. When Grandma was dying, I had no idea what was happening. Long distance bills were still a thing and I was earning too little to call. And Mom was too busy to talk. She was working with Grandma’s husband in shifts to perform personal care during her final weeks. Round the clock feeding and cleaning and soothing and medicating, and the emotional attrition wore them both down, and out. They would have qualified for respite care if they had put her in a home, but they sacrificed their time and health and well-being to help Grandma die at home. This is everything to me, since I remember my Great-Grandma begging to die at home and her children not allowing it. I like to think they were hoping for a miracle, but she knew, and I am still horrified to think of her dying in a sterile ward instead of in the home she and her brothers built by hand just after World War I.

Mom, in the process of caring for Grandma, neglected herself; and having no time to prepare her own food, relied on nutritional supplements for all those skipped meals. Then Grandma died. Mom still couldn’t eat more than supplements, couldn’t sleep more than an hour at a time. Mom had to put Grandma’s house in order, make all the funeral arrangements, deal with the insurance and banking and paperwork and wills and deeds and titles and taxes. Weeks passed and still no solid food. I came for the funeral and stayed a month – but I had to retreat to my aunt’s house for part of the visit. I don’t know if it was dust or stress or pet dander or constantly being choked up, but I literally could not breathe. I had never had an asthma attack or shortness of breath and it was terrifying.

Mom took this personally and wanted to fight about it all the time. She accused me of everything from giving place to demons to hating her so much that I couldn’t stand to be around her. Every word hurt like hell, but I was too busy gasping for breath to fight or defend. In retrospect I feel it might have been Mom blaming herself for Grandma dying, Mom taking her grieving anger out on me, but I know my gasping scared her and my moving out wounded her and made her feel abandoned all over again. By the time I returned to my own home in February, Mom still hadn’t resumed eating food — she would drink coffee but nothing else hot. No solid food. No broth or real food liquefied, either. The Lord told her not to; the Lord told her to fast. The Lord told her to rely on nothing other than the little jars of nutritional supplements she had been living on since Christmas.

At one point, some months later, my sister called me outside of Mom’s hearing, to talk about the fights they had about it. There were even larger fights in following years. My sister and I spoke with a different aunt about an intervention, even calling the county to do a wellness check. It never came to pass. Eventually we just accepted it.

Last week Mom asked the Lord what to do about this cold that’s been plaguing her, and asked a peer to pray for her. Her throat was so bad that she couldn’t swallow her nutritional supplements and she was getting weaker. The peer told Mom out of the blue that God told her that Mom’s fast would be done when she could no longer drink “those things”, but she didn’t know what that meant. Mom did. She started with a little chicken soup and the next day she had a poached egg on toast. She said it was the most delicious thing she’d ever eaten.

Just writing this makes me weepy, and I was choked up on the phone. This didn’t last long, of course, because our joyful chatter turned into a bigger argument than we’ve had in months (catharsis?) and a period of banal conversation to normalize things afterward. I was still upset and stayed upset for many hours, taking refuge as I usually do, in eating too much, drinking too much, and planting ass firmly in cushion. I figured I felt terrible because of the argument, and the physical symptoms of my PMS. It didn’t occur to me to consider that I might be getting sick, too. But I was freezing and aching and my throat was sore, and my weeping was also mucky eyes. Not exactly typical for Hormone Hell Week.

Woke up at three a.m. drenched in sweat, but weirdly euphoric. I took a shower and tried to rally for work, but still felt another wave of miseries coming on and breaking over me. Between the continued symptoms (especially the fever) and the VERY short night, I felt justified in calling in. But despite the physical horridness, I still felt peaceful, even cheerful; as if a burden had been lifted. I felt free to make good choices because I actually wanted the better choice and wanted the better outcome for myself, rather than knowing the right answer and not wanting it but choosing right out of guilt or shame or “should”.

I felt like I wanted to take care of myself again, not because I had to (and *need* to — I have neglected myself for ages, really given up) but because I felt, deep in my bones, that I was worth caring for and doing maintenance on and even nurturing. I can’t tell you the last time I felt that way. And I didn’t feel hungry! Didn’t feel the desperate urge to go fill myself with food. I can’t tell you the last time I felt that way, either. For ages now, I’ve been an insatiable glutton, all binge and no purge. And it’s not that I don’t have a larder full of tasty treats. It’s just that I didn’t feel that anxious and urgent need to eat myself tranquil.

Other strange feelings: I wanted to take out my earrings. Three steel hoops in each ear, and I’ve not taken them out since having them pierced four years ago, almost to the day. I didn’t, but I keep feeling the urge. I would do it right now, but I don’t have a place to put them to keep them separate, keep them safe. (If I didn’t organize them properly, I’d never be able to put them back in due to screw direction and so forth. But once I find the wee bags, out they go.) One thing I did really want to do was cut my hair. So I took off over 12 inches of it. I weighed myself and have hit a record high that I recognize as needing to be addressed sometime, like remembering to take an old suit to the cleaners. I feel light as a feather.

The reason why Honey and I chose 3/20 as our wedding date was because it’s Nowruz, Persian New Year, as well as the first day of spring. Fresh start. I will celebrate any new year designated on the calendar and deeply feel that every day is a new opportunity to change. But this morning I didn’t wake up thinking I needed to change. I woke up feeling that I already had.

I am just doing what I feel supports the change. I don’t want that feeling to go away.

A Bad Day

Tuesday was the anniversary of Grandma dying.  It was a hard day for me, but it’s the worst day of the year for Mom.  I called home with the determination to be calm, soothing, cheerful, and untouched by her dangerous tendency to pick fights when she is feeling vulnerable.
Sure enough, Sister was there, and doubtless she had put in hard time supporting Mom all day to that point, and it’s a very hard day for her, too.  But in the cause of “let’s support Mom by egging on her worst tendencies”, Sister told a story (this is all on speakerphone, which I hate) about a gay cowboy who was a judge on America’s Next Top Model who was from home.  She and Grandma used to “see that little fruit selling his shirts”, etc.
At this point, Mom laughs at the language and they both pause, waiting for me to jump in with what I’m thinking, which is JESUS FUCK, you people, I love you and you know I’m not just PC, I’m bisexual, and it really hurts my feelings when you pull shit like that. I know you’re quoting Grandma, but there’s a reason you’re telling this particular story, at this particular time.
But I know that if I say anything, it will incite them to Drama — a chance to be horrified that I would be so ridiculously hypersensitive, deeply offended that I would accuse them of bigotry, and artificially enraged that I would take Grandma’s name in vain over taking exception at her favorite slur for gay men.  “Grandma loved gay men!  You know that!”
The real purpose is to provoke a catharsis, to put the burden on me to provide them the opportunity to vent their feelings, which we desperately need and which we are culturally prohibited from expressing assertively.  No feels, please; we’re Norwegian farmers.
And finally, it would give them a path to follow for future carefully engineered interactions:  them bringing up or referring to homosexuality using ponderously artificial non-offensive language to cater to my perceived hypersensitivity, with or without complaint (“I don’t know if I’m saying that correctly”, “– or whatever those people are insisting we call them these days”, “But I’m sure you’ll inform me immediately if I’m not doing exactly what those people would prefer”, etc., etc.)  I always ignore this and move on, and then they bitch about it together behind my back.
This process provides an opportunity for them to bond by excluding someone else, and this time around, the outsider happens to be me.  I’ve been included in this process many times over the years, on both ends, and as an observer.  It’s common in our passive-aggressive, non-assertive, “Minnesota Nice” community.  I know it well.  It’s one of the reasons I moved away.
I live far enough away and see them so infrequently that I’m now a safe target rather than a safe confidant.  I wasn’t a target for a long time, because they knew it would just keep me away longer, and because I would, without fanfare, take a vacation from our communication until I could do so with a clear mind and a whole heart.  I am a sufficiently terrible correspondent under normal circumstances that this is not necessarily taken as the cold shoulder.  I go without writing people I would love to be in touch with as well as the ones I kind of can’t stand, so there is no way to be sure.
Then Mom goes into a story about Jim Nabors being treated for liver cancer at the hospital where she used to work, at the beginning of the AIDS awareness period, and sowing all these shitty comments about how “THEY” kept thinking it was “prejudicial” for us to use masks to clean their meal trays,  “prejudicial” to make them use disposable silverware, “prejudicial” not to go in their rooms without face shields and gowns.  “I mean, how in the world could anyone think it would be prejudicial not to want to catch AIDS?”
And since it is what it is, I flatly said, “Because that’s not how you catch AIDS.  HIV can’t be transmitted that way.”  We both had to repeat the interaction twice, verbatim.  Mom couldn’t find a way to pick a fight and eventually headed back to her point, gamely but lamely tying it to the “brush with celebrities” topic that got them talking about gays in bigoted ways, and I got back on track with my mission:  giving Mom supportive attention on her hardest day of the year.
I said I missed home, and snow, and everyone — all true — and that I wished I could bring Honey home on the train — he’s never been on a train — and see the beautiful countryside.  Mom jumped on this, hard, and with great feeling.  She said that would be wonderful and she’d pay and oh please oh please and I said I would try to get time off and we’ll see.  This went on for some time.  I didn’t give her a fight, and I’m glad, but I feel terrible for making her miss me, and especially terrible for throwing a possible visit out there when I felt so hurt by her and Sister’s ugly words.  I wasn’t trying to turn the tables.
And all day I felt sick with grief because any time I spend there will be too long, and not enough.  My guts are churning to think about going there, and churning about the heartbreak of leaving.
I hate posting fresh blood.  But oh my aching spleen, oh my bile-flooded heart.
I’m going to go overeat, perchance to sleep, and pray that Friday follows Thursday.

Spleenvent

One of my favorite patients died recently and I’m feeling raw. Lots of things are getting under my skin lately and I would rather vent them here than put a lot of hot sauce on my conversations with people I love. I’m sure I irritate the bejaysus out of them too, and I’m grateful that they don’t try to shame, shun, or change me – so by venting here, I’m returning the favor. Besides, this is a well-traveled road that I just need to revisit. Once I’ve stomped up and down a few times, and visited my Shrieking Tree, I will return, refreshed, to society.

Begone from me ye demons:

COWORKER:

The new cube-neighbor at work who keeps getting enraged by any critical comment I make about our government-agency employer. When I say something like, “It bothers me that I’ve been here nearly two years and I still don’t know who our safety officer is and haven’t had a fire drill,” she gets the bit in her teeth and is furious when she can’t change my mind. Badgering me with irrelevancies such as how they did it in her previous cube farm does not even address my problem, much less refute my complaint that training here is terrible. Even if she had the right answer, hearing it from a peer, at this late date, does not change my contempt for the lack of safety and orientation given new employees. Then my lack of change based on her input infuriates her. I don’t get fuffed but I don’t give in, and she digs herself a fit and falls into it. This has happened about once per week since she moved in and it’s exhausting.

WALLOWING:

Speaking of narcissistic rage, I’m FED fucking UP with people who wallow in ersatz righteous anger. They post things that are disgusting in order to feed their judgmental righteousness – and I am not talking about real-world news that should properly generate action or motivation to change. I am talking about made-up anecdotes about ancient disabled veterans being denied restaurant discounts by snotty managers who Never Even Served Their Country, LIKE AND SHARE IF YOU AGREE!!!! Or cute little kids who say the perfect thing to turn the tables on the evil librul teacher trying to force the THEORY of evolution on her innocent classmates. Or, god help me, the social justice warriors, who not only disgust the people they are trying to “protect”, but who give the right wing nutjobs an excuse to hate civil progress even more. At least the Left tries to rein in their idiots. The Right just keeps making their extremist idiots leaders.

SPEAKING LIKE A CHILD:

Also hateful: being told by a manager at work that my direct use of language is intimidating. I can’t be sorry for something I worked hard to achieve. Growing up with the passive-aggressive, self-effacing “Minnesota Nice” was crippling. I am diplomatic in my speech, and the content is not the problem – I asked for clarification on this. But because I no longer couch all my statements in passive corkscrew ways, because I don’t upholster my ideas in fluff such as, “well, I don’t know, I mean, maybe, but then again, and I could be wrong – well, I probably AM wrong, just tell me what you think – it seems that we might do a leeetle bit better by trying an ever-so-slightly different approach….” Apparently it’s not cool to say, “Hey, what do you guys think about X? Here’s why I think it might work.” Would she voice this complaint to a male worker? I just can’t picture it.

It also seems incredibly disrespectful of the audience.  It assumes that the person being communicated with has a childish ego, one so frail that any difference of opinion is painful, offensive, and a personal attack.  Unless any difference is couched as lovingly as a kiss, it’s intolerable.  Courtesy and tact are critical, but driving ten miles out of town so you can surprise someone by coming at things from a different direction assumes the  person is Joffrey Fucking Baratheon or that spoiled-witless prince from the Aerie.

AGAIN WITH THE SELFIES:

Another thing that’s getting under my skin: relentless self-promotion. I have no problem with giving oneself a pat on the back in public. Share those victories! I am not talking about celebration of things done. Run three miles?  Way to go!  Make some cookies? Go You! Lose a few pounds, get a raise, sell a painting?  Tell the world and let’s all cheer, hooray!  I love the folks who share, even trivial stuff, because it lets me feel in touch with their world — the highs, the lows, the creamy middles, the sacred and the mundane.

What irritates me is the endless – constant – chronic bragging from those who are a 24-hour channel called How Awesome I Am.  NB: these are not the folks who frequently post Hey I Did The Thing, which is looking for motivation and support and self-accountability.  It is not the same as the people who continually post and repost My Boobs, My Ass, My Nails, My Immaculate Coif, My Flawless Toilette.  As I have mentioned, I have some lovable friends that post so many selfies, especially of their derrieres, that I imagine the same results if you gave a camera to a baboon at the zoo. Hey! My Butt! Check It Out! My Butt! SOME BUTT, HUH! BUTT!BUTT!BUTT! Jesus, people. What would Freud say?  Also, I’ve seen your cooch more than your gynecologist, and we’re not even dating.  It’s not so interesting, perhaps, as you think.

MORE SHITTY COWORKERS:

The work performance of others is not my business or my problem.  I know this.  But when I see people come in an hour late, take a two hour lunch, fuck around on their devices and surf the web and do laps of the cubicles to schmooze and have loud, long, non-work phone calls…and leave early…after slapping out some work that is incomplete, incorrect, and filled with typos…it makes me homicidal. I just despise them, is all.  This shit would never fly in a non-public-sector job without major family connections to the owner, and then, hey, it’s their money!  Working for the government, however, means it’s MY money.  As a coworker I try to mind my own business, but as a taxpayer, I want to fire some of these lazy-assed bitches.

SINCE I’M RANTING:  LIKE, SHARE, REPOST!

Self-serving crap. Whether it’s religionists posting smugly about that terrible person who prayed for the tornado to move down the road (demanding God kill her neighbors instead, I guess) or the anti-theists posting rabidly about the Gospel of Barnabas PROVING that Christ was never crucified (using one piece of fanfic to disprove another, I guess), it’s all terrible. The sole purpose is to make an insecure person feel a little safer. For that reason, I suppose, I shouldn’t worry about it, but the things that we used to read about in the paper at lunch, tell our friends over drinks, and forget about the next day, now go on record and get passed to morons worldwide via the Web. Put something in writing (ahem) and it becomes a historical document.

LAST FOR NOW:  AWKWARD SOCIAL SITUATIONS

We have friends that we adore. We planned to stay with them next weekend. They just let us know they will be hosting a completely foul human at the same time. That person is much admired, has substantial social rank, and is much loved by many. That person, when we met, spoke at length in a way that denigrated the poor. Another person and I both mentioned that we grew up poor, and tried to temper the conversation in a different direction, but no dice; this person instead went on at length, adding bonus slurs to the exposition about Untermenschen.  I could not share my weekend with this person and backed out of the plans.  I suspect that my vague excuses will make me look like a churl, but I didn’t want to say, “You know the story.  Have a blast.  But I’m not going to break bread with someone who has referred to me as ‘trailer trash’.”

(For the record, anyone who thinks there is no difference between hard working, bill-paying farmers and shiftless, improvident sister-fornicators living in filth…simply because they both live in trailer homes and lack educational attainment…can’t see past her own resume.  Replace the praying farmers in Millet’s L’Angelus with screamers from Jerry Springer and you’ll get the picture.  That said, the chain-smoking wig-rippers are as human, and should be accorded the same respect as anyone else — but for all we’re equal, we’re not the same.  The respect I require for myself I would expect for all.)

(Next time:  On How To Cultivate Empathy For Privileged Idiots, And Why To Try.)

AFFRONT: the gripe so large it deserved its own post.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  if I ever got knuckle tattoos, which is less likely than winning the lottery I don’t play, they would read C-A-P-S   L-O-C-K.

My winner of all things irksome right now:  POMPOUS INDIGNATION AND HORRIFIED MORAL AFFRONT.

This one is special to me because three of my exes specialized in it.  But overexposure to it permanently altered my immune system and lowered my tolerance for it.  In the ex-husband, it manifested as I AM SHOCKED AND APPALLED THAT YOU WOULD EVEN THINK SUCH A THING.  Picture him drawing himself up to his full 74 inches in height, eyes widening, chin receding into his neck as he recoiled in horror, no different from a proper matron in a Victorian drawing room.  In the long-term boyfriend it took the tone of YOU HAVE ASSAULTED MY UPRIGHT MORALS AND OFFENDED ME DEEPLY, MADAME!  This ass was a 66 inch tall pile of jutting jaw and flared nostrils, ready to challenge someone to a duel on the spot.  In the deeply manipulative sometime girlfriend it was closer to WELL!  I NEVER!, and while she always tuned it to the audience, the root was deeply self-entitled narcissism of the DAR / Scarlett O’Hara variety.

Folks who display this attitude are prone to calling out others but rarely check their own bullshit.

There’s another kind I know too well but would never date:  the inane ingenue.  With them I try to be compassionate, because the sincere ones have a rigid standard for their own behavior and either grew up without compassion or never learned that human frailty is not the end of the world.  But it’s hard, since after a lengthy high-toned rant about the moral failures of others, the sincere ones tend to boo-hoo about how everyone is so cruel and hypocritical.  No, honey, you have that exactly backward:  you are expecting generosity from people who have received only judgment from you.  You’ll be fine once you learn to cut yourself some slack and extend the same courtesy to others.  But the one who dishes out harshness and expects worshipful respect if not candy coated adoration (HOW DID WE NOT SEE THAT YOU WERE RIGHT ALL ALONG? PLEASE FORGIVE US FOR NOT RECOGNIZING YOUR MORAL SUPERIORITY EARLIER!  PROMISE YOU’LL BE MY MORAL GUIDE FOREVER) is the sort of ass who gets abandoned by even close friends until the next step in growing up occurs.

Of course, not everyone is earnest and naive.  For most I think it’s just an idealized self-image, an exalted and tender amour propre.  I would say my ex-husband’s case was most self-damaging.  Even though he was the nicest guy of the three, his view of the world was skewed by his protective cloud of huffing and puffing, maladaptive defenses against his shame at failure.  Don’t torture yourself, amigo — just try harder.  You’ll need to protect yourself less when you are confident that you have done everything you could do, and have not conned yourself into thinking it was your best work when you simply quit after getting tired, chickening out, or losing your nerve.  You never got support and encouragement growing up and your batteries get drained fast.  Sometimes the critics are right, and listening to them can help you — especially if the topic is too painful for you to consider.   Wherever you are, I hope you are being honest with yourself and doing better in life.

The long-term boyfriend was very different.  He had two layers:  the first was conscious cover for his chronic cheating (“your suspicion hurts me and implies that YOU are the one who is cheating since you are trying to deflect the focus from yourself; I will now proceed to make this all about you.”)  The second layer was his core self, which had lofty, deeply felt values at odds with his own actions, but a perception of himself based on the values rather than the deeds.  Being publicly called on those actions was deeply upsetting to his core self, and he avoided that pain by blaming his girlfriends or distracting himself with a new side piece — anything to feel good about himself.  He was completely toxic to females as a young man but he got his act together through work with a professional friend.  I’m glad for him and relieved for women at large and generally hopeful for us all.  If he can improve himself, miracles are possible.  Good on ‘im.

As for the sometime girlfriend, who knows?  Any display of emotion on her part might have been to manipulate others or as normal-person camouflage (see The Mask of Sanity by Cleckley) or something else, but it was always purposeful.  Her affront was sometimes the only thing about her that seemed honest, but again — who knows?  You can’t trust a liar.  She was mercurial and calculating and damaging to anyone close to her — but she was also always witty, funny, passionate, and game for the ballroom or the pool room.  I miss her company and our extemporaneous sister act.  But she is (by self admission) the person least likely to change herself or accept the criticism of others.  In her terms, “who listens to the lowing of cattle?”

The problems begin when you despise the cattle for being what they are, but expect their adoration anyway.  It wouldn’t hurt to see yourself as others see you, *especially* even when the image is unflattering.  It’s the only way you find out that your dress is tucked into the back of your pantyhose.  If you don’t accept criticism from your friends, your adversaries are the only ones you can trust.

Prelude to a Prelude

Grad school:  completed.  Too much to say.  Careers and current events and curiosities will have to wait for another day, and they deserve a prelude of their own.  Right now, I am suffering PMS and perimenopause, another separate topic, but one related to this post’s irks and irritations (not including insomnia and a period that is irregular for the first time in my life).  This is just an incomplete list of the raft of things acting like a cheese grater on my nerves lately, some of them due to hormone transitions and Passages and ch-ch-ch-changes, if it’s not wrong to mix Gail Sheehy with David Bowie.  In no particular order:

BUFFALO HOT WINGS.  I love them when they’re good but they almost always suck.  First, a “drummette” isn’t a wing.  Second, if the meat is even slightly undercooked, my throat swells shut.  Third, soggy skin makes me want to have a frickin’ tantrum.  Fourth, the proper garnish is celery and carrot sticks, and that does not mean rusty celery and dried out so-called “baby” carrot knobs.  Fifth, blue cheese is normal and ranch is an option, but if you include that nasty eggy mayo in either, my throat swells shut per my second point.  Sixth and last and I cannot stress this enough: it is not a Buffalo wing if it does not come in a sauce that is a vinegar-based chili mixed with butter, such as Frank’s.  If you are ordering wings with sauces such as lemon pepper, BBQ, or Greek herbs, they are not Buffalo and they are not hot.  They are just wings.

TERMINOLOGY.  Eight million discussions of ideas on FB, particularly, have deteriorated before my very eyes in the past few weeks.  Today’s topic was meritocracy.  People get going on rants easily enough, but each person goes down his or her own rabbit hole and calls everyone else wrong.  It’s maddening.  Defining meritocracy (for example) is not the same as endorsing it.  Approving the idea is not approving the poor application of the idea.   Loathing the idea is not to presume there is something better — perhaps it’s something awful with no superior alternative.  It’s really a clash of imagined scenarios (best case, worst case, most common case, etc.,) the clash of realism and idealism, the clash of the just versus the kind.  And it always boils down to “I like it” or “I don’t like it”, for personal reasons — as most things do.

MY TESTIMONY MAY BE ANECDOTAL TO YOU BUT IT’S EVIDENCE TO ME.  What are you going to believe if statistics don’t support your body of experiences?  Some numbers on a page, which may or may not be correct or complete, or your own life?  The less first-hand knowledge people have, the more they seem to rely on statistics — when it comes to making other people do what they want.

CONTROL FREAKS.  Of course I am one.  And I am exceedingly stubborn.  But there is a huge difference between controlling my own self / life / environment and trying to control anyone else’s.  My life lately has a lot of people who are Very Very Disappointed in loved ones who are doing what they want to do rather than what my friends and family would like.  Example:  my mother is relatively young, for my family, but frail.  She relies heavily on one of my sisters and my brother-in-law for chores.  In exchange, they live rent-free on her property while they save for a house.  They both have demanding jobs and Mom also cooks a lot of their meals, takes care of their dogs, and runs interference.  Sister wants to move but feels Mom can’t survive without her.  Mom hates to see the kids go, but says “do what you need to do”.  Sis feels that this is passive aggression on Mom’s part; an attempt to guilt trip her into staying.  It isn’t.  It’s Sister feeling guilty for wanting to leave Mom and resenting it.  But she, as a control freak, is incapable of owning her feelings OR her decision.  Instead of copping to it and acting accordingly, she stays — and grouses — and blames Mom for the whole mess.

(Why won’t you do what I want you to?  Why are you keeping me from doing what I want to do?  — My dear, no one is stopping you.  Wash, rinse, repeat.)

CANDY CRUSH: level 275 is both boring and hateful, but if I don’t beat it, I can’t play new fun ones.  But playing a game I hate, for a purpose, seems like work.  Ugh.

PUSH NOTIFICATIONS SHOULD BE OPTIONAL.

BIG BANG THEORY:  ever since Howard and Bernadette married, things have gone horribly downhill.  The women are shrill jerks, the men are resentful whiners, there is drama where there should be fun, and the jokes are often cruel, nasty, sexist, misogynistic, and what they are not, unfortunately, is funny.  There are no more laughs whatsoever.  It’s a cringefest.  And it breaks my heart.

OTHER BANGS THEORY:  I rocked Bettie bangs for a while during my stay in the Bay Area, and they looked great…until my stylist magically forgot how to do them and gave me Cindy Brady bangs instead.  For the past year I have rocked self-inflicted bangs, and for the past few months I’ve been growing them out.  It seemed best, to allow the new stylist more options to even out the overcorrections and the general mangling.  But hair that is long enough to hang in my eyes but not long enough to put in the knot drives me up a wall and gives me terrible headaches.  My hair-around-the-house has been a style much like Zippy the Pinhead’s.  (Hairbands don’t work thanks to my perfectly cube-shaped head.)  It’s finally getting long enough to stay in the bun, and it occurred to me that I could just end the era of bangs in my life.  Cautious thrill, hopeful imagining, but no.  To borrow Tyra’s phrase, I don’t have forehead, I have fivehead — and instead of a flawless oval mug I have the front of the giant man-sized meat cube that passes for a head.   Wearing bangs in rain county, particularly when those bangs are stick-straight, clingy as lint, and subject to unflattering cowlicks and hairlines, is smart.  But not on this face.  Alas and alackaday.

THE LIST:  too much to do.  And I should be doing it while there is time.  But right now, puttering and not worrying about things, even things I really should worry about, is what I’m doing.  R&R is sometimes necessary, but it still doesn’t get the storage unit organized.

And I can feel a rant about work, licensure, school, experience, and all that jazz coming on, so I had better stop.  (I got a single B and the rest As and still didn’t make the Dean’s List.  Yeah, it makes me pouty.)  And there is a rant about aging, health, and my reservations concerning the “being fat is being healthy” crowd.  (Look, folks:  chubby girls can be lush and glamorous and attractive.  They should love themselves as much as anyone should and like anyone should not feel bad about their fat — it’s not a moral state, for crying out loud.  But I used to be a jock and I don’t like being out of shape and if one more person tries to tell me I have simply been brainwashed by a society that wants me to hate myself so it can sell me things, I will implode.  They tell me OF COURSE it’s healthy to weigh twice what I used to!, that it is not a strain on my joints, that it is not a stress on my internal organs, that fat is not the cause of illness — on and on.  It’s all I can do not to unleash a sternly worded, peer-reviewed-journal-citation-rich reply, along with a lesson in the difference between correlation and causation with regards to the assertion that body fat is unrelated to heart disease, cardiopulmonary disorders, or the family of cancers.  That is the sort of fact-skewing self-serving apologia functional alcoholics use to rationalize their overindulgence — after all, it’s not causing me to miss work, hock my watch, miss a rent payment, or beat my kids, so It’s Just Fine.  Maybe It’s Actually Better For You Even.)

But I digress.