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:
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.
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.)
“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.
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?
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?
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.
Since noon Friday, thanks to my plague-bearing peers who “can’t miss any more work”, I have had a nasty-mean cold rolling over me. My throat/neck hasn’t hurt this much since I had mumps at age 29, and no drugs have been able to tame the sweats, chills, head pain, body aches, sinus flares, and swelling in my glands and canals. Normally I go years without catching the crud in a major way, but I am at a new job with a large population of transient patients and norovirus and megalo-tons of stress and coworkers with little ones and things. The extremely high stress is just a carnival barker handing out free tickets for disease to invade my bod with impunity but it makes a big difference, I think.
When I moved into this new apartment a few months ago, I decided that no pantry = no excess food. This plan fails when illness joins the party. Takeout and delivery has been an ungodly expense offering no nutritional support to fight the sickness and enough sodium to wreak havoc on my systolic. This no-backup food plan will change as soon as I can crawl out from under this blanket and death march my way to the store. Saltines, canned soup, frozen vegetables, a backup shaker of Vitamin C…heaven is where you find it. Oh, and OTC cold meds that aren’t from the Crimean War. Those would be lovely too.
And tomorrow I have to go to work. Jesus god no. But missing work on a Monday is a major red flag here, and I’m still in my probationary period, and I am hating life. (Self-care: we are required to preach it but we are constrained not to practice it.) Weird life preserver: working for the gubmint means I get Tuesday off to recover. Hooray? The balance is that, as a gubmint employee, I will also have to haul my ashes to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving. ARE YOU SHITTING ME, GUBMINT?
Break it down:
1. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, in terms of personal preference, but it’s also always been my #1 work holiday since it creates a natural four-day weekend. Historically, this has made up for being denied days off around so-called “family” holidays because I’m usually one of the only people without children or grandchildren. Fine, okay — but don’t deny me my goddamn Thanksgiving!
2. Black Friday? NO WAY. I do not don a cute matching mitten-and-hat set to hit the malls and enjoy the crush of humanity taking advantage of retail specials. Those people (my close family and friends among them) are nuts. Rage-inducing noise levels, gropers, long lines at Starbucks, rude bitches throwing elbows in the sweater department, young parents using strollers as war chariots? This is hell on earth. I like to stay home, nosh on leftovers, sip coffee, and rinse work agita out of my system by reading and napping and pretending the office will be closed for a month. That snowed-in, bacon-for-breakfast feeling. But this year I’ll be dodging crazed drivers on their way to Early Bird Sales and hating a day at the office sandwiched between days off. I know that hospitals and hotels never close, but I bet the patients are tired of me, too. We could all use a break from each other.
3. But I’m so very tired generally. NaNoWriMo has fizzled (got off to a marvelous start, but was derailed by two days crying after discharging a very old person who was heartbroken to be kicked out of The Only Home, bargaining like an eight-year old whose parents are getting a divorce). I need to clean. Honey does a lot but if there is something only I care about, then only I can be expected to do it. Most disappointingly, my diet has fizzled (stress at work: check, low-carb food delivery: no check), and I know the only cure is to get back on the horse. But the horse is, like, 19 hands high and my short little legs match my T-Rex arms and can’t I just cut myself some slack for once? I don’t want to *be* slack, I just want not to hate myself for failure. I know the difference between guilt and shame, and this is hundred-proof shame, straight no chaser.
4. The diet also fizzled because my morale took a gut punch. Mom sent me some very cute, very expensive outfits that are waaay too small for me. The conversation we had about it was really painful. She was pissed that I was fat, she was pissed that I wasn’t thrilled to get a bunch of clothes I couldn’t wear, she was pissed that I had nowhere to wear them (I wear jeans and tennies in the workplace that involves bodily fluids and physical aggression; I wear shorts and Keds in real life. I no longer have a life suited to good woolens and delicate blouses and ballet flats); she was pissed that I wasn’t butt-kissingly grateful that she spent a ton of money on clothes that don’t fit my bod or my life even though (a) she knew better and (b) I have been begging her SINCE JUNIOR HIGH not to buy clothes for me. Unlike her, I am a hard size to fit, and I *hate* exchanging clothes; this is a conversation we have had for more than three decades. She was pissed, full stop, and wanted to fight. I denied her that pleasure as well. But I did not relent and change heart and tell her what she wanted to hear.
Which may have been what prompted her to take it to the next level. She started telling me about how I desperately need a style change and a haircut and so on. She said that she talked about it with my sister quite a bit. One recent conversation was about what hair style would suit me, really be good for me. The answer they came up with? The local weather girl.
I thought this might be interesting, but then I looked her up. And was floored. Is this a joke? She wears one of those bland, lifeless, Sunday-school-teacher style-free cuts that harried young moms get when they give up on looking good. Lank, limp, lame — it’s an insult to say that ANYONE should wear her hair that way. It’s like suggesting a brown paper bag over your head as step toward much-needed beautification. But honestly, step back for a minute. Sitting around and dissecting the style of someone who is not in the room and then advising her on it? That is some grade-A Mean Girls shit right there.
Besides, I don’t have money to spend on self-0rnamentation, period. Even when I was earning a lot more money, I wasn’t spending it on that stuff. It seemed like a huge waste to blow a couple hundred bucks a month on cosmetic resurfacing when it could go to things like books or gin or rent or retirement. I used to, but that was a looong time ago, when I still had a quality stylist who would cut, color, and perm my hair for the cost of materials and I used to go dancing every weekend and needed something to wear. My sister has fake hair, teeth, nails, and boobs, and comes home from her long and challenging job to run on the treadmill so she can look good in tight clothes. I am cool with her doing that and loudly proclaim that she needs no one’s validation to make those choices. But that’s not the life for me. It was when I was young, and still craving male approval, still hustling for female envy, still desperate for influence over the men who had so much power over me, and was still cultivating an eating disorder so that I could have control over at least one goddamned part of my life.
It’s true: I miss looking good in cute clothes. I miss getting approval for my looks. And it’s true that I get snarly about being overlooked and put down for my current weight and appearance. But is catering to shallow people really the answer to my self-esteem issues? Uhhh, no, not really. No one’s gaze (‘cept maybe my honey’s) should matter to me, I think, and it really hasn’t for a long time. But was I ever gutted to hear about my mom and my sis trying to salvage That Ugly Trainwreck, me.
I use Google for research and for entertainment. There are algorithms, I’m told, that rifle past searches and offer you choice selections in future searches and your news feed based on preferences you created by previous searches. I could have this wrong, but it seems to follow.
But the search results are so OFF, and so INSISTENT, and so UNCHANGING. It’s like being in a foreign country where some dutiful waiter keeps bringing you platter after platter of something you inquired about strictly from idle curiosity, no matter how often you ask for something else.
Picture yourself saying, “What in hell is haggis?” with a deeply felt HELL NO response. You then look up something delicious, such as murgh makhani, and the waiter says, “Did you mean haggis?” — You can say NO, and hit “search” again, but the Google waiter will still bring you a platter of stuff that is 40% haggis. Then you try searching for “butter chicken” instead of “murgh makhani” and it STILL sneaks a percentage of haggis in there. YOU LIKE…?
And for weeks your news feed will have what seem to be stalker-y adverts and pseudo-articles: “Canned Haggis Sale at Amazon”, “Get Haggis Delivered to Your Door for Burns Night”, “Low-Fat Vegan Gluten-Free Haggis Recipes”. Seriously.
The results were ghastliest when I was researching abnormal psych for my MSW — mostly necro-pr0n [sic] pseudojournalism for people who get sick jollies off ugly news articles, with a thick sediment of right wing accoutrements and fake-news outlets. What in hell is The Blaze doing in the sidebar of a bleeding heart left wing liberal progressive? Is this Franklin Mint statuette of an eagle wearing an American flag as a cape and using the flag stand as a spear a real thing, or strictly a parody? (Answer: both.)
At least there wasn’t a sidebar of special deals on mouth-sized individual duct tape dispensers or ergonomic daggers with fingerprint-resistant hilts. But it would not have surprised me to see them there.