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.

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Check Yourself

Facebook has been too appalling lately.  I miss the sense of experience shared with distant friends, and I miss the news feeds and humor — but the humans are getting me down.  A guy who is friends with most of my friends came out as having unmanageable depression and asked for recommendations for therapists in his area.  Most of the reply posts are his actual friends giving him shit for being a crybaby wuss, for being self-indulgent, for whining.  I only saw his post because one of my actual friends made a snide post about depression being a fashionable bandwagon he’s missing out on.

 

Is it wrong for a mental health professional to beat the crap out of someone?  Answer: yes, because the friend in question has recognized his own severe depression and has chosen to eschew treatment on the grounds that “I’ve got a perfect wife, a big house, and a job that compensates me handsomely.  I have no grounds to bitch.”  My friend worships strength and has bought into all its fallacies.  In the past year, he moved away from all his friends, to a town he hates, and has chosen to stay with his infertile wife instead of moving toward a nameless other who could make his dream of having bio-kids come true.   He’s an asshole of the first water and my heart breaks for him.  He has a sharp intellect but only slightly more self-awareness than a collie pup.

 

The Book of Faces is also delivering horrible statements from women I love.  White girls spewing out stuff they don’t realize is racist AF.  Bernie fans coughing up a whole bunch of misogyny on Hillary (along with the offensive BS about voting for her simply because she has a vagina.)  Gay friends making outright yucky comments about trans folk. On and on it goes, and where it stops, I’ll never know, because I’m on a intermittent Facebook fast.  When I get tagged I do glance at it briefly, and then I have to leave before I choke on my own vomit.

 

Part of this is the idiotic pseudo-therapeutic “Purple Clover”-type posts.  These are mostly motivational blurbs designed to keep us (especially women) kicking ass and loving life and not letting the bad stuff get us down.  A lot of them are fun and nicely cheesy, along the lines of “Don’t Sweat The Petty Stuff, Just Pet The Sweaty Stuff.”  Fine and dandy.  But there is a regular thread of nastiness, whose effects can be seen in the waxy buildup of thumb-sucking in the comments.

 

“Share This If You No Longer Tolerate Bullshit” is a relevant example, since the commenters mostly sound like high-maintenance bitches who have zero tolerance for the foibles of others, but expect others to cater to their BS.  You don’t get to have zero bullshit tolerance and then post, “If They Can’t Handle You At Your Britney They Don’t Deserve Your Beyonce.”  If you can get past the hypocrisy, then wade through the entitlement, there is the booby prize of negatively comparing Britney to Beyonce — and likening yourself to either — especially after the posts about “Don’t Compare Me To Others — There Is Only One ‘Me’ And I’m Perfect At It.” Ugly comparisons are common:  “In A World Of Kardiashians, Be An Audrey.”  Oh, fuck you.  The list of why that’s inappropriate is too long to unpack.  And do you really think Audrey Hepburn would be pleased to have her likeness used to sneer at people who might be tacky, but who are essentially harmless?

 

(Side note:  please stop using “classy” unironically.  If you mean gracious, gallant, generous, genuine, or good, say so.  If you mean tasteful, discreet, responsible, refined, or luxurious, say so. “Classy” is a term used to describe “broads” from Jersey to Vegas who “dress real nice and don’t act too slutty.”   It’s a term owned by the Real Housewives of Wherethefuckever and people who don’t understand why the rest of us howl at Ron Burgundy.)

 

Also irksome are all the people, the throngs of deeply butt-hurt people, on FB or Pinterest or even Etsy, who go into great detail describing the behavior of their exes, behavior well within the normal limits for your garden variety asshole, and then building up this mountain of (what they believe is) evidence for that ex having a clinical disorder:  he’s an abusive narcissist.  He’s a sociopath.  He’s a psychopath. On and on.  I’m not saying it’s likely or unlikely, possible or impossible.  I’m saying that untrained non-clinicians (problem one) trying to diagnose (problem two) people with whom they have a personal relationship (problem three) for the purposes of justifying their perception of self as “Horribly Victimized” rather than self as “Having Been Rudely Treated By Someone Who Seemed Cool” (problem four) or even asking themselves why they have such horrible taste in partners (problems five through eighty-seven) is itself an indication that the Horrible Victim has a problem unrelated to the ex.

 

Stitch it on a sampler:  CHECK YOURSELF.  That doesn’t mean “feast on self-doubt”, “second guess all your choices”, or “indulge in midnight reviews of mistakes and wonder if you’ll ever get your shit together.”  It means TEST YOUR LOGIC, against reality and perception.  It means IDENTIFY YOUR MOTIVATION, with honesty — and even if you can’t overcome your fears and self-rationalizations and defense mechanisms, you can learn to spot them and figure out why you need them — without despising yourself for that need.  It certainly means TEST YOUR VALUES, and if you don’t really know what your values are, you need to work on that before you make any judgments whatsoever.

 

 

 

 

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.

House Rules: Morning

  1.  Who gets up first makes the coffee.
  2. Who gets up last makes the bed.
  3. Exceptions:  if your other feels crummy or ill or had a bad day or hard night before, don’t ask — just do both.  No complaints.  This is caring for each other.
  4. Exceptions:  if you feel languid and enjoyably indifferent — ON OCCASION — to the social compact of bed-making, the other party can make the bed this once without shouting a bitch-storm.  After all, that person would be doing both if that person were living alone.
  5. Keeping in mind Rule 4:  some folks (such as yours truly) get antsy if the bed goes too long unmade, while others feel the rule has been appropriately observed if the bed gets made (a) before we leave the house, (b) before noon, or (c) during the clean-up-and-face-the-day process, whenever that might be.  If I can’t handle the bedmaker’s timeline for performance, I need to make the bed (without bitching) to soothe myself.
  6. Do not make the coffee until there is a reasonable expectation of wakefulness on the part of all parties, or someone will be punished for healthy sleep with old java.
  7. Exception:  what time is it?  If there is no arrangement to let the person sleep no later than X-hour, let the person sleep, and if the hour grows late, make coffee.  Make half the usual amount, if you need to, but the social compact is not designed to force you to live a caffeine-free existence while someone gets beauty sleep.
  8. Puttering vs. non-puttering (verbal and physical).  Respect each other.  If you jump out of bed like a nervous gazelle and need to get all your chores done before breakfast, that’s fine, but can you use earbuds?  If you live with someone whose waking process involves a time-lapse of human evolution, chances are good that Alley Oop doesn’t want “Walking On Sunshine” bouncing off his mental tentacle and won’t for some time.   But slow risers need to respect the early birds, the cheerful risers, the hard-working springbok pinballing around the house, for lo, they are the bitches who get shit done and have the rest of the day to chill.  Why make chores last longer than they have to?  If you’re that slow to wake, maybe stay in bed.  Chances are good that you will wake to a clean house, a special breakfast, a fun plan for the day, and something nice in the slow-cooker for later.
  9. And coffee.
  10. And all you have to do is make the damn bed.

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.)

More Bitching About Things That Don’t Matter

They really don’t matter.  But bitch-bitch-bitching provides a minor release of tension brought on by bigger things which are likewise unchangeable, but are unable to be relieved.  I nitpick the small things to survive the real problems.  Anyone who wants to bitch about my bitching is free to take to her own blog and paint the town red.

SLEEPING:  Jesus, Honey, the sheets!  No wonder I sleep like an innocent rock and you fidget like a whore in church.  When you are composing yourself for slumber, make sure the sheets / blankets / whatever is on top of you is evenly distributed over your surface mass.  If this sounds like ridiculous focus on trivialities, keep in mind the alternative:  when you have a huge pile of laundry on top of you, it creates excess warmth in some areas, light coverage in others, and breezy gaps where your body least expects them.  Even the differences in weight confuse your senses and put them on the alert.  This is the same principle applied to sauteeing vegetables:  regular knife cuts allow uniform distribution of heat and even cooking.  It’s the same damned thing.

COMPASSION:  I’m a social worker.  I do not want to hear from shitty social workers who say things such as, “Oh, I know what they want to hear on the test, and it’s bullshit!  You just have to tell them what they want to hear and do your own thing anyway.  That twelve year old girl who is sleeping with that 25 year old guy down the block?  You don’t need to earn her trust.  You just need to tell that little slut to go do her homework.”  I am ashamed of people who think this ass-hattery is professionally appropriate “tough love”.  Some ways teenish girls act out when it comes to control issues:  shoplifting; starving themselves; sex.  Yeah, I’m sure she’s not getting enough judgment at home.

JUDGMENT:  my boundaries are weird because my SW values are real and my personal history is real, too.  I am stridently anti-IPV/DV, but I saw my grandmother goad my (drunk) grandfather mercilessly on enough occasions to make me wonder if she wasn’t doing it to feel even more self-righteous when, after an hour of being screamed at and put down, he hit her.  He was in the wrong all the way, no question — but she was not stupid and her actions seemed deliberate.  Even though she was the wage earner, she felt powerless because her father, whom she adored, died when she was a young teenager.  She never believed a man would stay.  Are we all trapped, or what?

TRAPPED:  getting over the death of the old friend’s husband has been wracking me.  A part of me is laying low and thinking Hey, at least this is some sort of stress inoculation for when some other friend’s spouse dies…but that’s no good either.  For now, it’s just the DEATH reaction — eat too much, drink too much, sleep too little, worry about the unlikely disaster with fresh energy due to the highly unlikely having happened to him.  To Them.  So better to race to the grave, which I dug with my teeth, because that is a certain outcome.  And death is the one thing we all have in common; the one thing that awaits the healthy and unhealthy, the rich and the poor, the stupid and smart, the prudent and foolish.  Living healthy might buy me some time, but it doesn’t get me off the hook.

ON THE HOOK WITH MORE JUDGY JUDGY:  I would never say this to my friends, for the main reason that anyone’s opinion other than your own doesn’t matter two hoots in a thunderstorm.  But I still feel lip-curling disdain and sickness at the tum when I see certain things, and I get to condemn them here (or generally holler WhatTheFuck?! to the high heavens) because It’s My Goddamn Blog After All.  That caveat in mind:  a friend…not a real friend, but a Lovely Associate In A Different Town, one I could feel really close to given opportunity but am staunchly in favor of as a human, has done one of the things that makes me gnash my teeth. After her joyous union to the person of her dreams, her partner, her soulmate:  she changed her name to hyphenate hers to theirs…and he didn’t change his name at all.

I get ladies who take their husbands’ names, absolutely, but hyphenation puts me on alert to see if both spouses made the change.  When the answer is no, I get really bitch-snarly.  There are a lot of reasons to cater to tradition and take your husband’s name:  sentimentality, superstition, enjoyment of tradition itself, convenience in dealing with insurance, schools, property ownership, hospital care, banks, and inheritance.  There are very strong reasons to keep your birth name, your so-called maiden name:  a woman is not a man’s property, and her birth name should not be erased.  The marriage of two individuals shouldn’t require each to change…

…or it should require both to change.  And therein lies the itch.  The reasons to hyphenate a birth name with a partner’s name are very good.  It shows partnership, equality, commitment of both parties.  And when a woman hyphenates and her husband does not, I get the strong message that she wants an equal partner…and he is not as committed.  Or perhaps he is a weak suck who thinks “men don’t change their names when they get married!” or even the classic pathological Butthurt that she didn’t take his name (as a Real Wife™ would do). To give the anonymous guy credit:  for all I know, he argued that she should not change her name at all, but she insisted. I am not holding the husband accountable for the wife’s decision.  I’m just saying that it sucks, that’s all.  “I’m joining with you!  I’m taking your name even if I’m keeping my own, too!  And you’re…letting me do it!  Without making any changes of your own!  This will be a 100% equal partnership, I’m SURE of it!”  Sigh.  Cool, old chum; do your thing.  I will try to keep my blush, my cringe, and my snarl to myself.

LAST: vaguebooking.  ENOUGH of that shit.  We all think non sequiturs all day long.  If you feel the need to publish those random phrases, those symbols without referents, you are either pathologically needy or secretly invested in punishing those friends not catering to your passive-aggressive demands for attention.  The most generous response to vaguebooking is to ignore it and move on; any related response is begging for more information, and that is codependency of the purest ray serene.  The least generous but still non-negative response is to reply with another non sequitur, just as mysterious — after all, it matches the post — but it can be taken as a hostile act by the person who thought a post saying “THANKS A LOT UNIVERSE I REALLY NEEDED THAT RIGHT NOW” would be appropriate to share with friends rather than keep private.

And I do understand that some people are helped by vaguebooking, by throwing things out to the ether in a way visible to all but pointed at none.  I get it; I do.  But this is where I share my irks, and it irks me.  As we say at social work happy hour:

“I am a therapist.  I am not YOUR therapist.”

(We’re usually saying it to each other.)

Tagged

When You Like a Flower….

“When you like a flower, you pluck it.  When you love a flower, you water it.”

The past (many) weeks have been hard for me.

My teacher looked peaked the last time we met.  A week or so later, I learned she had stage IV cancer which was spreading aggressively.  She didn’t make it to work the following Monday, or since, due to having a baseball sized tumor removed from her brain and aggressive rad/chemo a few weeks later.

A patient died on my unit.  Some of the nurses had been treating him for decades, on and off, and I want you to picture for a minute what a nurse does:  a nurse takes care of a patient the way a mother cares for a child.  Are you warm? Fed?  Clothed for the weather?  Hydrated?  Insightfully amused yet aware of reality and its threats?  A little more able to do for yourself what yesterday you demanded of others?  Transfer, feeding, ambulation, bathing, and all the parts of daily living.

The beloved, adored, best-friend of a husband of what is actually my oldest friend has died.  For nearly two weeks, there has been a coordinated S&R team and oodles of volunteers.  I have no idea what the cause of death might have been; only that the person who shared my suffering in seventh grade found a man who adored her and became her best friend and took care of her and suddenly was gone.  For days I’ve been glued for news, but not this time.

My best friend (one of a small constellation of superlatives, absolutes and fully unique or sui generis) had an oldest child go off to college.  How can this be?

The Log Lady died.

I mean, there is a lot.

People who hate me will still teach me.

Teachers don’t have to like you!  I seriously thought they did.  My positive relationships with teachers were a much-needed supplement to my single-working-parent family.  And kids in class who hated school didn’t seem to learn as much as those of us who loved it.  My brain assumed the relationship was the key factor.

(Digression:  the friends from intact nuclear families who would pity me or patronize me, or admit to thanking their stars for being so lucky as to have two parents, a permanent house, no couch surfing, etc., are generally correct:  these protective factors tend to improve school performance, general health, and professional attainment.  That said, many of them experienced horrible things that were as rotten, more or less, as my childhood burdens, but without acquiring the resilience that is learned from getting the hell out of marriage.  It shouldn’t be shocking to hear that changing your situation and learning how to survive independently can be better for some kids than being locked in an inescapable situation due to parents who can’t imagine Who Gets The House and What Will Our Families Think.  Walking away from some things is a good ability to have, as is learning the confidence to leave an abusive spouse, on and on.  But there are a lot of people who believe — actually outright state — that it’s better for their children to be in a home with abuse and addiction and horrible behavior simply so they can live in a nice neighborhood and a large house.  They are not kidding.  But they are wrong.  Guess what?  You can be afraid of change, and you can be enamored of your tax advantages, and you can wonder and worry and fret about how it would go if you left.  It’s scary and it’s hard.  But children who witness abuse tolerate it and perpetrate it — it’s normal to them.  You can tell them it’s wrong, and they can tell you they’ll never allow it to be part of their lives, but you have modeled it and they will repeat it.  If you think that living in a nice house with an abusive relationship is better for your children than living in an apartment with no abuse, you need to keep working on that logic problem for at least one more minute.)

So: teachers were my friends.  No matter where we moved, teachers were impressed.  A lot of them seemed to feast on having one kid in the room who wanted to learn and was a high performer.  Pleasing them earned me praise and confidence.  My Single Working Mom (SWM) would come home from work and hang out with me, making up extra homework and cracking the textbooks from her year of college to keep challenging me and make learning fun.  For me, learning means teacher praise, fascinating subjects, Mom time, the adventure of expanding mental horizons.  Wonder and more wonder.  And supportive personal connections, that pearl of great price.

It took me a long time to realize that learning basically stops in the grown up world, and most of the things I have a chance to learn through my daily occupation are forms and formalities, policies and procedures.  It’s still learning.  But a lot of the people who are in a position to teach me are assholes.  I’ve been avoiding them, because assholes are not my favorite thing, and because I’ve always assumed that holy bond between teacher and student, guru and chela, would have to exist for the simpatico chemical reaction of teaching to occur.

Turns out not.  Paying respectful attention to assholes and asking them to share knowledge does not make them likeable and it does not make them like you.  But people who know stuff seem incapable of withholding it if approached politely.  There might be some habitual behaviors and secondary gain motives (ego boosting, etc.,) but people who have knowledge seem to want to share it if they can, and if they are asked nicely.  This might save humanity.  But only if we who want this knowledge can put up with the sometimes petty personalities of the wise.  It would be stupid not to, right?

Pinterest Commenters: Yeesh

The most repinned post on any of my Pinterest boards is an infographic on the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It’s also the one with the most comment-conversations by far.  Normally I don’t engage in comment battles — if I have something I absolutely must contribute, I usually shut off notifications of further comments — but when it’s my post (my board, my thought, my backyard) I will keep ploughing ahead.  I also reserve the right to have the last word, under the Get Your Own Damned Blog ruling of 2002 (cf. Twisty Faster).

A summary of interactions:

1.  “Other people have the right not to want gay marriage”:  yes, and they are free to express that opinion.  My adding that it should include the explicit right never to marry seemed to heal the breach.  Verdict:  fist bumps.

2.  Random frothing from a lady who conflated the declaration with “not working for what you get” and determining that it’s “BS” because the US Constitution only guarantees the PURSUIT of happiness, not free abortions, and PS you probly are for gun control: explaining the difference between the US and the UN, that the US Constitution doesn’t apply worldwide, that I am pro-gun, and that thinking a blob of cells should have more rights than the woman pumping them full of blood, etc., etc.  (When their rebuttals are limited to 500 characters, anti-choice folks don’t get to indulge their rant-over-facts technique to end conversations and pretend they won the argument.)  Verdict: random frother tires of presenting balloons for my pin; bails.

3.  Anti-PC snark stating that if you can’t be racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., then there is no freedom of speech:  sorry, wrong number, since you have the freedom to be as bigoted as you want, but free speech doesn’t imply freedom from repercussion.  Everyone is free to have an opinion; whining because your opinion is disgusting doesn’t take away your right to speak it.  Verdict:  sincere offer to explain why it is logical to be intolerant of intolerance and still be tolerant was met with silence.  (I hope she works out the math and comes back; I was looking forward to that.)

4.  Crypto-pseudo-Libertarian coyly asserting that it can’t be a “right” if it places a burden upon others: delicious fun spanking the monkey ass of someone who cherishes license more than liberty and thinks public health is an unnecessary luxury that poor folks don’t deserve.  No inherent rights?  I agree!  It’s shorthand for the idea that no one person or group inherently deserves less respect or fair treatment than any other individual or group.  No burden upon others?  Easy!  The word “burden” can mean any responsibility, no matter how slight, as well as mean a problematic responsibility that exhausts resources.  A main purpose of society is to do useful things the individual can’t; putting a slight burden on everyone for a significantly useful common purpose (roads, schools, and — whisper it — public health) is not the oppressive type of burden but an obligation that does good for all and harm to none — like a “Good Sam” road rule.  Verdict:   NOT TODAY, SATAN!

5.  Fastidiously polite Saudi man thinks that democracy isn’t All That, that Westerners have a distorted notion of royalty, that a king who owns a country should not have to bend to the will of the people any more than a shop owner should consult the factory schlubs on how to run his business; and that people who have different ways should just be left alone because “they are happy the way they are”.  Agreed that democracy has major problems and that the US has “No More Kings” printed on its DNA from its history with England (and secretly longs to indulge its shameful urge to adore royalty in filial piety).  That said, a nation is its people, unownable, and it is shameful and unjust to govern without consent of the governed.  PS:  “leave them alone, they are happy the way they are” has been used to justify non-interference with all manner of abuse, from domestic violence (“she’d leave if she didn’t like it; it’s not our business to interfere”) to slavery (“look at how happy they were back then, with all their meals and things provided”), so use that idea with care here in the West.  Verdict:  royal subject still thinks kings are awesome if they treat their people well yet does not mind that kings are not obliged to be awesome.

What next, seriously?  I did not expect one do-gooder infographic to inspire so much resistance.  How many Americans think individual freedoms are actually a horrible idea and highly suspect?  I get the Saudi guy, who is a paragon of intersectional privilege, but garden variety poor Americans?  To paraphrase Professor Kirke, what ARE they teaching in schools these days?

Also for the record (Facebook Edition)

I am damned tired of:

Vaguebooking.  Do you want attention or don’t you?  Do you have something to say or not?  This coy bullshit is not clickbait, it’s hate-bait.

Anti-posters.  Pissing all over stuff other people enjoy and hold dear, when that stuff does no direct harm or is not in your personal path, is the mark of a low person.  Feel free to voice your negative-as-hell opinions of Valentine’s Day, religious faith, people who say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, or what have you, but maybe save it until people are not in the thick of their happy moment.  It is your right to be churlish, but it shouldn’t be a goal.

Competitive righteousness.  How dare people get upset about stray pets / ebola / whatever when VETERANS (children / stray pets / whatever) are DYING EVERY DAY?  — Look, folks, it’s not a race.  All those things are bad.  People do as much as they can, when they can, for whatever touches their hearts.  It is not unjust or immoral for people not to sit down and rank all the misery in the sick, sad world so they can save it.  You do your part.  Fire up folks for your cause all day.  But don’t piss on people for not having a fit about exactly what you want and when you want it.  Jesus.

Relentless self promotion.  Yeah, it’s still driving me nuts.  Friends with charities and Kickstarters and GoFundMes and all that, sure, fine; I can do it or not.  But boy howdy am I tired of seeing certain folks’ non-stop – – – non – fucking – stop – – – stream of Check Out My Awesome Self.  Looking at your own ass in the mirror all day long and posting about it is what a baboon would do if you gave her a smartphone.  That is a lovely hiney, for sure, but I already got the first hundred memos and more are not needed.  I don’t mind blocking you but I feel guilty ignoring what is so clearly a cry for help.

Relentless bitching.  Again, really non-stop.  And it’s so often bitching about other people.  This is particularly poignant for the folks who spend all day on FB snarling and hissing and then add regular entries about how they can’t find love.  So often the answer is right there in front of you.  Maybe if you weren’t busy staring at your own tush you could see it.