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September 21, 2013

Dysfunctional Families: Forgiveness
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 08:00 AM *

It’s that time again. The seasons are changing. Family holidays lurk on the calendar like, well lurking things. But on the upside, today is the fifth Dysfunctional Families Day. I’m awed and humbled at what these conversations and this community have done in that time.

In addition to continuing our current conversations (which I do read and witness, even when I haven’t the wherewithal to post), I wanted to open up a topic we’ve dealt with in the threads over time, but never really tackled head-on: forgiveness.

So often, the social expectation is that someone who suffers harm will forgive the perpetrator. One is supposed to work toward forgiveness, choose to forgive, be forgiving. If the sufferer doesn’t forgive fast enough, this lack can become a stick to beat them with. Holding grudges. Unforgiving. Hard. Bitter. Angry, with a subtext of unjustifiably. Indeed, sometimes the topic becomes a way to blame the sufferer and make the perpetrator the victim: why haven’t you forgiven them? How can you do that to them?

Forgiveness can be prescribed like a medicine. If you forgive, you’ll be able to heal. Then a failure to heal becomes the fault of a sufferer who is “refusing to forgive”. (That feels like a Catch:22 to me, because pressuring someone to forgive too quickly shuts down the necessary process of figuring out what actually happened.)

As a society, we have a pretty muddy view of how to actually forgive someone. Some people expect the emotional transformation of forgiveness to just happen, perhaps after the sufferer says, “I forgive you” or lets some time pass. Others have a vending-machine model, where the perpetrator puts their apology in and forgiveness pops out.*‡ Some people expect that forgiveness comes hand in hand with forgetfulness, and suggest that the sufferer should, rather than learning from their experiences, pretend that they did not happen.

Those models really don’t match my reality.

From what I have seen and experienced, forgiveness is a product and symptom of the healing process. It’s one (but, note, not the only) possible outcome of moving beyond the hurt: a way to close the accounts**. It may involve trusting or interacting with the person again, or it may be a separate peace. In either case, it’s a recognition that the incident is now (primarily) in the past, notwithstanding any ongoing repercussions.

Given that, it seems to me that asking whether someone has forgiven yet is like asking them if their bleeding wound has scabbed over yet. Telling them to forgive is as effective as urging them to grow a scab.†

What’s the consensus? Is my mental model of these things useful? Are there better analogies? Do people have other experiences and models, whether they’re compatible with what I’ve written or not?

ETA: For additional perspectives on the topic, pease do read the comment thread. That’s always implicit, but I think I’d like to make it explicit here. Really, do, especially if none of the above works for you.

* Please note that I am not denigrating apologies. They matter a lot. But they’re part of the process of apportioning blame justly, which, while often a step toward healing, is not a guarantee of forgiveness
‡ Also, a taxonomy of related communications, in my vocabulary: an apology is an acknowledgment of blame by the perpetrator to the sufferer and an expression of sorrow for it. An explanation is a setting-out of the reasons behind an action, and may or may not include an apportionment of blame. An excuse is a setting-out of the reasons that the perpetrator is not to blame. Feel free to disagree, correct, or compare your own taxonomies.
** Christianity urges its followers to forgive as we wish to be forgiven. I take that to be a command to strive to do those things that will allow me to heal to the point where forgiveness happens. Alas, it’s still neither quick nor easy.
† Mind you, it is perfectly possible to keep picking at an injury, and it’s perfectly possible to choose to hold onto hurts. People vary widely. But the accusation of refusing to heal from emotional damage is, in my experience, far more common than an actual choice to do so.

This is part of the sequence of Dysfunctional Families discussions. We have a few special rules, specific to the needs and nature of the conversations we have here.

  1. If you want to participate but don’t want your posts linked to your contributions to the rest of Making Light, feel free to choose a pseudonym. But please keep it consistent within these threads, because people do care. You can create a separate (view all by) history for your pseudonym by changing your email address. And if you blow it and cross identities, give me a shout and I’ll come along and tidy it up.
  2. On a related note, please respect the people’s choice to use a pseudonym, unless they make it clear that they are willing to let the identities bleed over in people’s minds.
  3. If you’re not from a dysfunctional background, be aware that your realities and base expectations are not the default in this conversation. In particular, please don’t do the “they’re the only family you have” thing. Black is white, up is down, and your addressee’s mother may very well be their nemesis.
  4. Be even more careful, charitable, and gentle than you would elsewhere on Making Light. Try to avoid “helpiness”/”hlepiness” (those comments which look helpful, but don’t take account of the addressee’s situation and agency). Apologize readily and sincerely if you tread on toes, even unintentionally. This kind of conversation only works because people have their defenses down.
  5. Never underestimate the value of a good witness. If you want to be supportive but don’t have anything specific to say, people do value knowing that they are heard.

Previous posts (note that comments are closed on them to keep the conversation in one place):

Comments on Dysfunctional Families: Forgiveness:
#1 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 10:36 AM:

Sounds good to me.

The problem for me is, it's hard to move past everything into the forgiveness stage, because my parents are still in the "We had good intentions, and your brother wasn't damaged by HIS upbringing, so clearly we are in the right" mindset.

Since I can't change people's minds for them, and my parents seriously do not seem to understand that:

1. Accidentally causing enduring emotional/psychological harm is just as possible as accidentally breaking a physical object;

2. Some people are very emotionally sensitive and are genuinely hurt by things that a more resilient person (like my brother) can more or less just shrug off;

3. For an adult to still fear her father is a sign that something he has said or done must have been very harmful;

I'm not sure I'll be ready to forgive any time soon.

TW: physical violence and abuse

I also would like to know how on earth people can simultaneously hold the mindset that for one adult to slap another in the face is a gross insult and causes deep psychological harm, but for an adult to slap a child in the face for "backtalk" isn't. I was not struck with objects until I was 12 years old, and even then it was "only" a belt to the buttocks, but the memory of those slaps is as painful and horrible to me as being beaten with a broomstick would have been. It wasn't until I was 18 that my father finally realized that hitting your daughter in the face is a bad idea even if it is "just" an open hand.

#2 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 10:40 AM:

The_L @1:
I'm not sure I'll be ready to forgive any time soon.

Then don't, and don't worry about not having done so. Seriously. If there's one thing I believe about forgiveness, and wanted to say in the OP, it's that it doesn't happen until you're ready for it to happen.

And that's perfectly OK.

#3 ::: dimwit ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 11:38 AM:

The_L: I agree. Similar situation with my parents, and even though one is now imprisoned for his acts, I don't think it'll ever be possible for my mother to realize the damage he did.

In her case, I think that she can't reconcile said damage with her self image.

Forgiveness? It's been 20+ years and I've not done so. I am moved to read that others feel the same way, as it really is the assumption that either you've forgiven or its you that's at fault.

Seriously, WTF? Some actions are unacceptable, and forgiving them says the opposite. I will not do so.

#4 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 12:08 PM:

I really like the post topic but I have to deal with something else first, because it needs doing and a body can only take so much “how could you be so stupid”/“thank god you’re okay”.

I totalled my bike on the way home from work yesterday, on a wooded trail. I was going down a hill and around a set of curves too fast, I didn’t brake enough, and when I realized I was going out of control I didn’t have the bandwidth to brake much *and* pick the softest available landing. Options were bush, concrete, and a tree. I took the bush. It didn’t cross my mind to try and stay on the road but in the wrong lane because I could hit someone.

I’m okay. I had a helmet, no knocks to the head or blackouts. I got up and pulled myself out of the bushes, and then started extracting the bike and when I got near the front wheel I knew something was wrong. The *frame* was bent, right after the head tube, and the front wheel can’t turn much because it hits the downtime. A couple other cyclists stopped to help and advise. They made sure I had a way home, and we agreed that I wasn’t bleeding or broken, and was in fact in remarkably good shape for the situation. They also told me that this is an accident-prone corner because it’s a curve at the bottom of a hill, people tend to whip round it at speed. In fact, they urged me to take myself and the bike back into the patch with the concrete picnic tables, so that I would be out of the crash zone if anyone else made the same mistake.

My bike is dead, just a carcass to be stripped for parts. And I killed it. It was a Japanese bike, a Nishiki Rally from I believe the mid to late 1980s. It was a road bike of the old-fashioned kind, lugged steel mixte frame, 27” wheel rims, drop bars, side-pull brakes. Slender, elegant tubes (from Toshiba) and a raked fork — why don’t they rake forks anymore? It was a little beat up and I had spent several hundred dollars this summer getting it tuned up and having parts replaced (especially wheels) after almost 10 years in storage. Tuesday it had been about to get another $200 of new handlebars and brake levers. Basically, not very many bike enthusiasts and probably no bike thieves would think it was anything special, but it WAS. It was my second bike, but in most important ways it was the first, and it was my lovely bike, my only bike, for over 20 years, and over half my life. When I was a kid I had a clunky Raleigh one-speed with a coaster brake, and I lusted after my older sister’s beautiful twelve-speed. (This is back when that was a lot of speeds and $400 was too much to spend on a teenage daughter’s bike.) Later, because she wasn’t using it, and there was no question of parents buying me a new bike when one was mouldering in the shed, I saved my allowance for months and months on end to buy it from her.

That bike was my freedom, or at least as much as I could get of it, and I loved it dearly. I couldn’t do more than ~20km in one leg, but I regularly rode 10km in any direction to visit people or get out of my hometown. I was taught carefully by my dad how to clean and oil it, but never had to learn how to change a flat or replace important parts because nothing ever broke or even got misaligned. I rode the tread off the tires and never got a flat. The shifting system was lovely. Most people now would scoff at it because it had friction shifters (stem-mounted levers, at that), but I’ve test-ridden a bunch of bikes with indexed shifters, and the mountain bikes can keep them. Even good indexed shifters make lots of clunks and clacks and abrupt motions that make me think my drivetrain is breaking. This is because a well-tuned friction shifter will be smooth as butter and nearly silent. The noises indexed shifters make as a matter of course, are the noises friction shifters make only when you have been mean to your derailleur or your drivetrain just broke. The Rally only came equipped with mid-market derailleurs — imagine how smooth the top-flight components would have been!

I am so sorry and I wish my bike could forgive me. Last night my partner and I drank dry a bottle of sake toasting it, and the funeral feast of sushi is upcoming. It is accurate though over-emotional to say my noble steed died valiantly in battle to save its lady. An aluminum frame would have fared no better, and a carbon fiber frame probably would have shattered and impaled me somewhere. But my lovely steel bike bent, not broke, to soak up the force, and I only have some bruises and slivers. It was a very Japanese thing to do. The best I can do is to appreciate the honour, and perhaps reuse some bike parts in its memory. I am retroactively naming it Jiyuu (Japanese for freedom), and I’m glad I had snapped a few pictures before this happened.

Now I am going to have to make some lists and go to the bike shop to explain that I am not sure what to do now with the handlebars, brake levers, and stem that I they have any suggestions given that I would want the same gear on a new bike in the spring?

#5 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 12:22 PM:

I think there are some things that are not forgiven, at least in life. What comes after, I leave to the theologians.

#6 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 12:31 PM:

Moonlit Night, #4: I'm glad you're all right, but that's a terrible loss.

#7 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 12:34 PM:

Moonlit Night @4:

Wow! What a stressful thing to have happen. I'm so glad you're unhurt.

I'm not going to try to get bossy about you calling yourself "stupid" in that first line, but I'd point out that no one else you've mentioned in the situation did so. The other bikers, in particular, said that that hill is an accident blackspot, right? Please don't beat yourself up or feel guilty for being one of many people to have a problem there.

May the memory of Jiyuu be long.

#8 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 12:50 PM:

I think forgiveness is one of those words for which everyone has a slightly different definition, which is what muddies the issue. Before I share mine, I'd like to talk about three things I believe it is not. I think it is not reconciliation, and it is not healing, though it is an essential step in both processes. It is also, most importantly, not excusing.

It's not reconciliation because forgiveness takes only one person. Reconciliation takes two. You can forgive someone who didn't ask to be forgiven, but you can't be reconciled with someone who doesn't want to be reconciled with you. Even if they do want to be reconciled, it's not safe to take them up on it if you're aware that they will only hurt you again. You can still forgive them, but that's your business, not theirs.

It's not healing, because you can forgive someone and still need to spend time recovering from the consequences of their actions. When you forgive someone, you make a conscious decision to release any grudge you hold or any obligation you consider they have towards you, but that doesn't have to mean you stop acknowledging that they caused you harm in the first place.

Most of all, it's not making excuses for the other person. I think it was C S Lewis who defined forgiveness as what you do when there are no more excuses left; if something can be excused, it doesn't need to be forgiven. I've suffered a great deal of hurt personally from someone who has a condition which I used as an excuse for a long time. It was actually very liberating when the penny dropped and I thought, "Actually, most people with Condition X don't behave like jerks because of it, or, if they do, they apologise and try to do better next time. This person is not a jerk because they have Condition X. This person is just a jerk, and that needs forgiving, not excusing."

So, what is forgiveness? I think it's the simple act of deciding that this person no longer owes you anything. It's like cancelling a debt. You're getting rid of all the expectations you have towards the person who hurt you. And I absolutely agree with Abi that that can't be forced, but when it does happen, it's liberating. With the expectations gone, you're now free either to reconcile with the other person (if that's on the table), or be at peace without them and never feel you need to think about them again. (I hope I've phrased that carefully enough, as I'm aware that it's often difficult to avoid thinking about someone who has hurt you, especially if they may do it again. But I hope you understand what I mean.)

Also, Moonlit Night @ 4: I am so sorry about your bike. I used to do a lot of distance cycling when I was able to, and I understand exactly how a passionate cyclist relates to a bike, because I've been there myself. Very much sympathy, and may it rest in peace.

#9 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 01:16 PM:

Moonlit Night @4: My condolences on your loss; Jiyuu was a noble steed.

Forgiveness has been on my mind ever since my Ex became well and truly "ex" for me. I'm not in a place of forgiveness towards her, not yet -- and perhaps never - but I have achieved a peace within myself for now. The difference is, I've gradually moved out of the overtly angry phase, although I'm still quite angry with how she treated me; I have put my anger and loathing into a box which resides in the back of my brain. If I take it out, I'll be fully engaged in the anger; if I leave it in there, I can interact with her in a pleasant albeit superficial way. It's important that I do so, because we have a son who needs proper attention from us both, and he outweighs my anger.

In time, I will forget about her, but I think forgiveness will never arise in me, and I'm ok with that.

#10 ::: Dysecdesis ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 01:35 PM:

Can you forgive someone who is still in a position to hurt you? And likely to do so, I guess, is the second component.

Forgiveness baffles me sometimes. My family doesn't forgive. They don't know what it means. They hold grudges for years, every argument brings up every past argument for lo these twenty years. Until I left them I didn't know there was another way to be.

Then I made friends who love each other and care for each other and sometimes hurt each other, and when they do, you can trust that it wasn't on purpose, and the apology is sincere, and then it can be *over*. It isn't a weapon any more. It took me years to learn that and I'm still not great at it but it's really beautiful when it works.

But for my family - I don't know. Forgiveness feels like a moot point. They don't think they did anything wrong, or at least they would never admit it or apologize. If they ever have the least iota of control over me again, we will fall right back into the same patterns and they will again hurt me. It hurts that they did that, that they want control over me more than they want my happiness, but it's not an active hurt, it's just a scar as long as I don't see them often.

Can you forgive an ongoing injury (or one you expect will likely happen again?). How does that work?

#11 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 02:07 PM:

Mongoose @8: Thank you for this. It really captures the way I view forgiveness as well. When I figured out that forgiveness and reconciliation were two different things, and that it was fine not to ever want to see or hear about someone again, things got a lot better.

There are a number of people I don't want to have anything to do with, either because contact with them is damaging to both of us, or because they have deeply hurt me or people I love Some I've forgiven; others I may forgive someday or never will. And that's OK.

#12 ::: Pendrift has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 02:09 PM:

I may have been too polite for their lownesses. Dark chocolate?

#13 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 02:12 PM:

My heartspace only has room for remembering at the moment. Having run from a situation where forgiveness was demanded but no restitution, or repair, or even admission that harm was done has created an accretion around the word that scrapes against my days. It's been many months since I escaped a terrible situation with my genetic donors, and now I am cycling into this wanting to return because it's the devil I know versus the devil I don't know.

My current host has been emphasizing that she expects me to move on soon because according to her, if I have *this condition diagnosed* ergo my genetic donors will then magically change and accept that I need their help and transform into caring, supportive people. It's all very convenient a fiction. I am terrified because I have no idea how to physically move out with all the things I have accumulated over the past months, a store of food in the pantry, a pot here, a pan there, books, clothes. My health isn't that great, and I need to face facts that I need a safe and private place to live.

I'm in contact via email and my host's landline to the abusive folks I ran away from. Genetic donors suddenly offered to connect me with a distant cousin who happens to live in the same city where I am---they sent an email and sent me a copy of the email, but didn't directly connect me to said cousin. I see why: the email described me as if this whole trip away from them was a pleasure trip, and described my medical problem as trivial, and even misreported my educational background, telling the cousin I had an art degree. I was angry and wrote them to say I didn't appreciate the errors in that letter. They wrote back to say I had insulted them and that I would be on my own then. No cousin to help me then. Well, tough, I wasn't about to lie about being beaten up, gaslit, lied to and prevented from accessing my own medical records.

I'm torn though, part of me wants to return because I miss certain people, and part wants to dispose of the loose ends I left behind, the clothes, the books, the slender hope that maybe they will give me the space and support I need if and when I return with a diagnosis they cannot argue with. Then I remember that I already DID have a diagnosis posited THREE years ago and I was told that they didn't want me to start on any medications because they were too expensive---then they went ahead and bought a new car, made payments on new gadgets and paid for vacations for other relatives.

Another thing I cannot forgive? Finding out that said host has allied herself with my parents, assuming that I will return the apologetic prodigal, or rather, assuming that the rift is reparable and there is hope for forgiveness and respect. I am not so sure of that, even if I dearly wish it, I don't think my abusers will ever really admit to what they did, and more importantly, I have no faith that I will not be hurt again, physically or psychologically.

#14 ::: Spiny Norman ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 02:18 PM:

Two days before mom's birthday. Perfect. I'll put on the Joe Strummer/Johnny Cash cover of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song."

#15 ::: Plorg ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 02:45 PM:

For me there are two ways to move out of the angry mindspace. Forgiveness is one, but it must be earned, at the very least, by a sincere apology, and hopefully by restitution or by some kind of penance or amend.

The other is to think about the hurt and why and how it happened over and over again until I am bored with the whole thing, at which point the painful incident loses power.

I've succeeded in becoming bored a couple times. Nobody has ever apologized.

#16 ::: canisfelicis ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 02:46 PM:

I haven't seen my mother in ten years. Nor four of my five siblings. The baby was six, and she'll be seventeen; my youngest brother was a foot and some shorter than I, and now he's a foot and a half taller (if the photos I can find online of him standing next to my mother are as I'm judging them).

I send emails, sometimes. Hand-written letters that my mother might intercept (never once in years and years, when I was still in contact with her, did she share the content of my emails with my siblings--though she said she did). My eldest little sister is in her mid-twenties now, and she managed to get out of Mom's house; I emailed her and for the first time in many, many years received a response.

It said "Why don't you come home for Thanksgiving?"

It's been a third of my life since I've seen them, with the exception of one brother. I've missed them like a limb, the beautiful machine; things get better, things get better, but the lack of the people that *really* get me has been like a hemorrhaging wound.

And then my sister writes me back, and says offhand "You should come."

I've been disowned. There's no surety that my mother would let me through the door; and if she did, well, then I'd get to sit there for a couple of days in the company of the woman who laughed when I lost a pregnancy, who when I was a teen would shout "YOU NEED THERAPY!" to end arguments about church or sexuality but who went quiet and still as a stone when I said "You know, I think you're right, and I don't know how to get it on my own."

So cue, immediately, vicious nightmares. I already have a tendency to wake shouting ten or fifteen times a month; that's been true since toddlerhood and I don't see it changing anytime soon. But this is worse than usual--nightmares about carrying my own long braid (cut off years ago) and being unable to find a place to put it down, nightmares about my ex-fiance throwing my kendo gear (most prized possession and habit) on filthy ground and telling me I couldn't carry it anymore. I woke the other night to my partner saying "What do you mean, 'if you were a stone?'" and my own tired voice already replying "then nothing would hurt, all covered with leaves."

I don't think I can go home. I miss my siblings so terribly. But I don't think I can go home.

My partner and I have been together for around six months. Almost no time at all, though things have been bizarrely good from the beginning (and he is so kind that I don't know what to do with it), but already he says "You should come with me to meet my parents at Christmas." His family is Taiwanese-American, and I speak no Mandarin, though I'm trying hard to learn; I'm increasingly worried about the meeting, and he just smiles and doesn't understand at all. "My mother is very kind!" he says. "My father saw your picture, and said you were 'bonita.'" His brothers, brother's wife and child, cousins, all will be there, and I want it and fear it in equal measure. I thought He is so kind to want me to meet them already, when (previous partner) never wanted me to in four years of dating... and then if I were equally kind, he would never meet mine.

Forgiveness is an interesting concept. I might settle for escape.

#17 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 03:12 PM:

Moonlit Night @4: I am so sorry that you lost Jiyuu, and so glad that you are safe. May your next bicycle serve you as faithfully.

On the post topic: I do not think that I can forgive my mother until I feel that she understands that she wronged me, and that demanding physical affection in exchange for trying to stop doing the things that upset me is continuing to wrong me. That she is not entitled to my affection. That she is not entitled to my gratitude.

I wish I could let go of the hurt, but the thought of it scares me, as if, by doing so, I would be giving up a vital and structural part of the independent self I have built over the last decade even as I lived under the shadow of her addiction and recovery.

#18 ::: Stenopos ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 03:48 PM:

Abi and Mongoose have done a fine job of definition/explanation.
One relative apologized for some very bad things they did and I still don't find it in me to forgive. Said relative died last year and I was quiet. Another is in the process of cluing up, but a third hasn't shown any sign of getting it, and, being 99, might not have much time left.
Seems to me that forgiveness, if it exists at all, will happen after everything else has come right. Don't know if it will be in my lifetime.
I am so glad to have friends. So far we haven't done anything to each other that needs repair.
Praise to the memory of Jiyuu, and may quick retorts be found if ever needed, for anyone who might think they have a right to belittle grief for anything not human, gendered or animate.

#19 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 04:06 PM:

Someone, in one of the early DFD threads, someone (I don't recall who) suggested that the business model of "forgiving bad debts" might be useful when thinking about this. You acknowledge that something is still owed to you, while accepting that you are never going to get it. This corresponds roughly to what some people call "not letting the assholes rent space in your head."

Forgiveness, to me, does not imply pretending that the hurt never happened. You can decide that the incident was trivial and can be forgotten; you can decide that the incident was a warning sign to be taken into consideration in future dealings with that person; you can decide that the incident was severe enough to warrant limiting or terminating contact with that person. But here's the thing -- NO ONE ELSE is qualified to make that decision for you. And anyone who says they are, no matter who they are or on what basis they make that claim, (1) is either lying or in denial and (2) does not have your best interests in mind.

The_L, #1: My flip response to your parents would be, "Good intentions pave the road to Hell, and people are not all the same."

More seriously, while they may be convinced that they raised you and your brother exactly the same way, there were almost certainly differences. ISTR that you are female, so one primary source of differences would be gender expectations.

Also, I believe very strongly that hitting any child who is mature enough to understand language-based communication (which, loosely, means any child old enough to be in school) is counter-productive at best and actively damaging at worst.

Moonlit Night, #4: Man, that sucks, and you have my sympathy. Is there any chance that you might be able to find another bike of the same model on eBay for a price you could afford? My partner has sometimes had amazing luck looking for obsolete items there.

canisfelicis, #15: Sometimes escape is the best you can do. And there's nothing wrong with that.

#20 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 04:28 PM:

My experience of people telling me to forgive is that they conflate the letting go of anger with the cancelling of obligations. I can even understand, to an extent, why--being around someone who is angry is uncomfortable. Having to contemplate that someone you know is perhaps not the person you thought they were is uncomfortable. Having one's worldview challenged is uncomfortable. And so, the defensive measure is to encourage a return to the status quo, couched in the mantle of "forgiveness".

I've often felt the expectation that it is the responsibility of the sufferer to forgive. Yet to my mind, there exists the equal responsibility for the perpetrator to make it right. Nor does forgiveness entail that the forgiver put themselves in the position to allow the perpetrator to repeat the action requiring forgiveness. In my mind, quite the opposite: forgiveness on my part requires, at the very least, an acknowledgement on the perpetrator's part that they did wrong, and the intent to make amends and, most importantly, not to do the thing that hurt again.

I can't choose to forgive, can't handwave away all the wrongs, all the harm, all the abuse. And even if I could, I'm not sure that I would. My anger is part of me. Knowing that I have the right to be angry, that what was done to me was wrong and deserves anger, is part of my own healing process. I can put the anger aside, I can choose not to allow it to run my life, but to me, that's not forgiveness, that's acceptance.

Another way to look at it: I am owed a debt. For the moment, I choose not to attempt to collect upon it; but that doesn't imply that the debt is cancelled. I simply don't feel that the effort required would be a useful expenditure of time and energy. Maybe someday the debt won't matter to me. In the meantime, my parents remain out of my life.

The_L #1: I still fear my father, and I'm 39. I know that the emotional balance I've gained over the past decade is very fragile, and my reactions to him are worn deeply enough that, if I were exposed to him again, I'd backslide badly. It's been hard enough when my sister displays similar behaviors.

Moonlit Night #4: I'm so glad you're not hurt! And I offer a heartfelt toast to the memory of your valiant Jiyuu. I did something similar some years ago, when I was rear-ended in stop-and-go traffic; my poor Neon was totaled, but Husband and I walked away with a few bruises and scrapes.

#21 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 05:54 PM:

Jennifer Baughman @20: but to me, that's not forgiveness, that's acceptance.

Seeing the distinction between the two was a recent breakthrough. I've come to believe that acceptance and forgiveness are independent and interdependent: the former can exist outside of situations that would call for the latter, but the former is also a prerequisite for the latter.

I've known (of) a lot of heartache owing to the inability to accept people totally. For relationships in whatever form to be viable in the long term, I think there has to be an effort, at the very least, to accept people as they are and not just the convenient bits (and this becomes really hard when an inconvenient bit makes itself known at a later time). This has to be reciprocal. And there has to be a shared desire to find workarounds to problem areas.

But total acceptance includes the self and one's needs—which in turn implies that "no relationship" is an acceptable outcome when those needs turn out to be clearly incompatible with the needs or desires of someone else. When "no relationship" or "not the sort of relationship I want" is an unacceptable outcome, the only options left are to compromise the self or to hope (or push hard) for the other person to change. Funnily enough, neither approach ever worked out well for me.

#22 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 07:25 PM:

"Down tube", not "down time."

#23 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 07:49 PM:

I have explained Abi's forgiveness metaphor to others as a scar. You cannot scar while you are still bleeding, and you retain a mark of what happened. You can prevent a scar from forming by harming yourself, picking at the wound, whatever its source, and you can cause one to form more quickly by treating the wound appropriately. The injury still happened, the process cannot be rushed beyond its own pace, and it takes place on one person, not involving the offender.

It's also one-sided, and I'm not sure where I put 'understanding' relative to 'forgiveness'.

As always, I am reading.

#24 ::: Diana ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 08:14 PM:

Amen to Plorg at #15, amen to canisfelicis at #16: "Forgiveness is an interesting concept. I might settle for escape."

Forgiveness is not what I would consider a way to cancel a debt. Forgiveness to me implies somehow some exchange of value, even though what may be given in exchange may not be a value to you (the origin of the word itself is 'give'). You forgive someone who didn't mean to hurt you, or who has made genuine restitution in some form, or who is at least now sorry that they did ever mean to hurt you.

Writing off a debt cancels a debt. You do not forgive the debt, you simply acknowledge that it is uncollectible and recalibrate your assets and liabilities accordingly. The loss is still there in the form of the permanent reduction of assets on the balance sheet.

#25 ::: topaz ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 08:26 PM:

I have forgiven the harm that was done. I will never trust the person who harmed me, nor will I give them the opportunity to harm me or anyone I love again.

I forgave because I needed to let go of my anger -- not because the perpetrator needed forgiveness.

#26 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 08:51 PM:

Thank you all for the kind wishes. They are helping. The crash was yesterday, and today we feasted on sushi and brought home Jiyuu's wreck -- it was raining so I got rather wet. Jiyuu could not be rolled along smoothly, but had to have the front wheel reset every few feet, and it was a kilometer or two to the car.

I also went to the bike store that was getting the new handlebars etc. -- the handlebars were special order so I took them home for the next bike. For those who wish to geek with me briefly, they are a Nitto "North Road" bend from Japan, and I will pair them with inverse brake levers. The stem and brake levers were all normal enough stock that it's no trouble to the store to have an extra on hand. The upside of all this is that I have an excellent reason now to get a frame that fits me better than the old one, especially when pausing at stoplights. (Jiyuu was a few inches too tall.) I am going to be demanding -- it must be light, responsive, and fun to ride. I want the handlebars and brake levers I want, and a quill stem. I also will insist on good friction shifters, because indexed gear shifters sound like broken bike. Properly adjusted friction shifters don't make those noises unless you have jammed the drivetrain, or nearly did, while indexed shifters clunk and clack every time. On a similar note, I wouldn't want to buy a road bike with modern brifters. Those make me think my brake levers have broken!

May I do a good job on picking a next bike that will be as lovely and fun and safe as Jiyuu was, but easier to perch on at stoplights, and may many of Jiyuu's components be useful again.

#27 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 08:54 PM:

Mongoose @ 8 gives the same definitions I would.

I also like the sidebar comment here, that "Forgiveness is giving up on the possibility of a better past."

Moonlit Night @ 4

I am sorry. A good bike, that you have lived with and ridden much, is a joy-giving companion and a freedom-giving steed.

If you can bear to do so, I would take the bike to your bike shop and have them strip the parts; the frame is ruined, but the wheels and cranks and derailleurs and shifters may well be fine--and frames are easier to find and match than those parts.

#28 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 09:27 PM:

Dropping in to say I'm still alive. School and living and taking care of myself are kind of messing me up but I'm not dead. Haven't really got the spoons to catch up on the last thread or read this one, sorry. Thanks for the new thread, hope everyone's okay.

#29 ::: Stabbity ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 09:37 PM:

@20 "I can put the anger aside, I can choose not to allow it to run my life, but to me, that's not forgiveness, that's acceptance."

I like that. Personally, I absolutely despise the word "forgive". When people say "You should forgive for your own good" I hear "You should stop being angry because I'm uncomfortable with it, and my comfort is more important than both the wrong you've been done and your completely justified rage." I feel like there's this expectation that after you somehow magically "forgive" everything is okay. NO. If people want things to be "okay", they need to do the work of making amends. Forgiveness is not something I can manufacture in a vacuum, for me it can only happen in the context of admission of wrongdoing and sincere, meaningful, and above all successful efforts to make things right. I'll admit this gets complicated when the wound is so deep that real amends can never be made (using my own life as an example, nothing is ever going to make it "okay" that when I was a kid I woke up every morning and wondered if today was the day my mother would start hitting me too). However, it is not my job to give my mother absolution. As the wronged party here, I don't owe her shit. If she wants forgiveness she can find the religious representative of her choice and leave me out of it.

Actually, I just had a thought. The things that makes me angriest about "forgiveness" is that it makes me feel like I don't even have the right to be angry about the way I was wronged. If every dumb jerk who had said "you should forgive" had instead said "your anger is absolutely justified, go ahead and be mad until you're good and done", I would have healed years earlier.

Acceptance, on the other hand, I actually find useful. I think of it as "this thing that happened was awful, and was not remotely okay and never will be, but it's over and I can't change the past." Possibly the most important part of that is "it's over". My life is good now, but I certainly couldn't have even considered acceptance when I was still reeling from years of abuse.

I really wish we as a culture talked more about exactly how to heal from abuse/trauma/all the misery people go through. Saying shit like "just let go" is the opposite of helpful. If I could I would have already. It's not fun to be angry all the time, but I didn't know how to stop. I spent years trying to stuff it down, but that just made me angrier.

@24 "You do not forgive the debt, you simply acknowledge that it is uncollectible and recalibrate your assets and liabilities accordingly. The loss is still there in the form of the permanent reduction of assets on the balance sheet."

Yes! I read somewhere that in the context of a debt, "forgiveness" is only meaningful if you have the ability to collect on the debt but choose not to. I do not have the means to collect the admission of wrongdoing, apology, and amends that I deserve, so I can't "forgive" so much as accept the fact that there's not a lot of point to wishing for something that's never going to happen.

#30 ::: Clinging on by my fingertips ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 10:29 PM:

Bear with me please, I should probably be in bed already but I wanted to put this here.

The basics: Grew up in a large household (6 adults and 3 kids, plus visitors that were counted as family). Half of the grown-ups move out when I'm 10 or 11, I move in with them at 12 or 13, a year later I told Dad, Auntie Mouse, and Morgan that Ebon had been raping me since I was 9.

Custody issues, flying accusations, Mommy Dearest deciding that her second husband was more important than her eldest child, blah blah blah, that whole steaming mess can wait for a later post. I wrote it out at one point.

No, it's Mommy Dearest's genetic donors that pop to mind when someone starts spouting off to me about forgiveness. See, an effect of the custody issues and the accusations was the custody judge not knowing who to believe. He decided to take the kids away from all involved. Unfortunately, he didn't do a very good job.

My sister and I were told to pack some clothes and say goodbye to Daddy about an hour, maybe two, before we were effectively dragged out the door and driven to our grandparents house.

Cue them calling their daughter on speaker phone, refusing to do the same with Dad, refusing to do anything that might make our stay easier. At the time, my bipolar disorder was un-diagnosed, as was my depression, I was stressed out of my mind, furious beyond reason, and just wanted to go home.

They dropped my at the police station not 2 weeks later. While my sister was at swim practice.

They sent me a letter around my 18th birthday that held tones of "someday you'll understand why we did what we did." Yeah right. Someday I'll forgive you, too.

I have forgiven them in the sense that I don't expect anything from them--not reparation, not an apology, not even the decency to leave me and mine alone. But I can't see anyway I'll ever truly forgive them, and I'll never, ever forget. Not without losing a large chunk of myself at the same time.

I try not to think about them or their daughter or her husband outside of certain settings like my therapists office. I don't like being this angry. But the poison has to go somewhere. Might as well be here where I won't get it poured back on me three-fold.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Mom's friend for pointing me here.

#31 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 11:02 PM:

I'm somewhere betwixt and between with the forgiveness project. I can forgive my parents for not being emotionally available for me when I was growing up - it genuinely wasn't their fault for being raised by parents who weren't emotionally available and who therefore couldn't give them role models for appropriate behaviour, and depression is a horrible thing to have to carry. I can't forgive my mother for being convinced that if she'd just hit me more when I was a kid, I wouldn't be depressed myself.

I should probably explain that last sentence. Apparently, when I was about two or so, I tried to throw a temper tantrum, and Mum hit me hard enough to have me hitting a kitchen cabinet on the rebound. It shocked me out of the tantrum, and I never tried to throw a tantrum again. So clearly, if she'd just been allowed to hit me more when I was little, I wouldn't have grown up depressed.

Now, I have to admit, Mum told me this one when I was at a low point myself (April this year was not a pleasant time for me) and when she was at a low point too (her sister-in-law had just died from a brain tumour at the same time as all hell was breaking loose in the lives of myself and my partner). But hearing that comment from her hurt so much, because it implied she thought, and still thinks, my very real mental illness is just another form of childish acting out.

I stayed with my parents for about a week back in April, and I think I realised then that we really aren't good for each other. I love them a lot, but if I live with them.... well, I wound up caught up in this tangle of expectations, and I can never be enough. I've put off admitting to myself that they'll never really be proud of me, no matter what I achieve - I'll always be told I could have done better, I could have been quicker, I could have done it sooner. There will always be something I did wrong, something that wasn't sufficient.

(My brain is now playing "Perfect" by Alanis Morissette on infinite loop. I suppose it's part of the DFD playlist).

#32 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 01:20 AM:

Clinging, #30: That sucks. GoodThoughts being sent for you and your heart-family.

Megpie, #31: Coming to that realization is always difficult, and it can take a long time to stop feeling bitter about it.

I like the idea of the DFD playlist, though. I'll contribute Simon & Garfunkel's "I Am A Rock", which got me thru the worst of junior high.

#33 ::: Farah ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 03:38 AM:

Forgiveness is what allows *me* to move on. It means I can laugh about it. Forget? That's just masochistic.

But one thing I realised a long time ago is that the *need* to forgive implies an emotional connection I have no desire to feel. It's a tie in itself.

#34 ::: Battle Cat ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 04:49 AM:

I like the financial analog. Picking US terminology:
My relationship to my mother went chapter 11, and continues in a distant but cordial way.
The one to my father went chapter 7 about 20 years ago.

Over time (and when I'm in a sufficiently good general mood), I have developed charity ... I mostly understand why my parents acted the way they did, and am sad for them. From a safe distance.

Is that forgiveness? If you require amends for forgiveness, there's really no way for them to -fix- the peculiarities, nor to undo the bad habits I acquired. The latter, unlearning bad habits and attitudes, is something only I can do.

I met the DFD threads somewhere in the middle a while ago, went to start at the beginning and am now at "Fish Hooks". It's been rather illuminating, thanks to all who have contributed to it. I may write more about myself when I'm caught up. In the meantime: may you all be safe, and recover where needed.

#35 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 11:55 AM:

WRT gender expectations, it was uber-weird. My dad expected me to be the 50's male archetype of the Strong, Silent Man, while Mom put pressure on me to be ladylike. So...all emotional expression was bottled up and forced to the sidelines. No belly laughs. No crying. No yelling. Nothing whatsoever until the pressure got to be too much and I'd burst. Then people would ask "Why are you crying?" and I never knew how to answer.

My brother actually had it easier in a lot of ways. His IQ is on the higher end of normal (i.e., smart but not Doogie-Howser-smart). Mine is in the "extremely gifted" range, which drives me bonkers because intellectual knowledge isn't AT ALL helpful with social skills, but a lot of people assume that because I'm a "genius" I can do anything with ease. I was punished for not getting all 100s. I was told that a 92 in 9th grade (at age 11!) was "garbage" and that I must not even be trying.

I was expected to be perfect, the golden child, the good Catholic woman who changes the world and marries a wealthy doctor and raises good little Catholic children and maybe cures cancer or something. I was never allowed to really be me, and it's only been as an adult that I've been able to explore what I want and what kind of a person I really am.

The only thing my brother went through while we were both living "at home" that was as bad or worse than what I went through was the 3 weeks that Dad put a splint on his left hand to try to force him to be right-handed. (This didn't work at all.)

He moved out on his own a year after I did, and his description of it was, "After you left, it's like suddenly there was all this pressure on me, and I couldn't take it anymore." The golden girl had left the nest, so they were putting pressure on the baby of the family.

As for hitting...I was spanked until age 16. My parents, having tried other punishments when I was 3, had come to the conclusion that this was the only form of punishment that would ever work on me. Meanwhile, my brother actually got age-appropriate punishments like having his video games taken away, or not being able to go to a school event he was looking forward to. It wasn't until I was 18 years old that my father realized he probably should stop slapping me.

The worst part is, the more I think about my upbringing, the more abusive it looks. But my parents refuse to believe that any abuse went on, because they both loved us and everybody knows that abuse is when they beat you with objects, or bruise you up, or break bones, or burn you with cigarettes. We don't fit the Hollywood picture of the abused child, so clearly no harm was done.

Even worse: judging by Dad's description, he was beaten by his parents. (I have trouble reconciling the image of the kindly grandparents I knew with the sort of person who would do this to a kid, but given Dad's attitudes and behaviors, I can believe it.) So to him, anything less than that isn't abuse.

@Jennifer, #20: I did backslide during the month I spent at my parents' house recently. It was horrible; I felt like a teenager again in all the worst ways. I wanted, not to die, but not to be in my life anymore. I wanted to trade places with someone--ANYONE--who wasn't living there. My fiance and I were both miserable because it was hurting me so badly. He felt totally powerless to help me, and knowing that just made it worse. I am SO glad that nightmare is over.

Playlist suggestions:
I can't remember the artist (Jun, I think?), but a song called "A Brighter Day" was on a recent DDR game, and it helps me a lot.
When I'm in an angry mood, I like the Orgy cover of "Blue Monday," and a Disturbed song called "Just Stop."
Korn's "Dead Bodies Everywhere" would probably be more helpful if I didn't have such strong depression-memories of Korn music. ("If you really want me to be a good son, why do you make me feel like no one?")

#36 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 12:18 PM:

Witnessing. Listening. Wondering how people can do such things in the name of love...

For the playlist, I've found the pair of songs Parabol/Parabola by Tool to be particularly appropriate.

#37 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 12:53 PM:

Clinging, that situation sucks. I am stunned but not surprised that your mother's parents were so completely unprepared to work with you and so hurtful in how they abandoned you. I wish you strength.

The L, it's hard to see one's siblings' experiences sometimes. It's why my own is-it-isn't-it situation (it's back in one of the older threads*) was so stressful. Perhaps your parents will realize that abuse can be (is usually?) well-meant. If they don't, remember it for them.

*Summary: sister accused mother of abuse while I was in college, everything got tense or absolutely normal, sister told me a couple years ago that this was how she failed to cope with a lot of adolescent shit going on. No abuse, never spoken of.

#38 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 01:42 PM:

I can't really read through the rest of the comments without releasing some of my own pressure on the topic of forgiveness.

First, please put your kindest censor box around this: "Forgiveness? No, NO and F*CK NO!!!"

Okay, that was just venting; now for a first attempt to come to grips with this...

Main experiences have either been as:

• recipient of the faux-compassionate "I forgive you!" when I have done nothing wrong by my own lights, but the other party has decided that anything authentic from me was a dire wound to him/herself.

• recipient of huge pressure to express forgiveness to someone else - which has (in those portions I managed to read so far) been very well covered here.

My problem might be I'm currently in a sticky interpersonal situation (socially, outside our house), and the only reason the others no longer opine (where I can hear) that I should have already forgiven Original Perp, is that they know I'll start asking pointed questions of what exactly has Original Perp repented? Nothing? Well, the little darlings, they have their answer then.

Funny enough, the forgiveness-after-a-prior-repentance connection is something I learned at a Catholic church Pascal vigil service. I spent pretty much the rest of the time, after hearing the priest conduct that part of the service, struck dumb in my seat with the thought, "Why did no one ever tell me about THIS?!" Forgiveness finally made some sort of sense to me.

Unlike some other posters' experiences, the "forgiveness of debts" metaphor just doesn't connect for me. If I must go on without the other party repenting the original injury, I don't forgive - I treat the other party as a natural phenomenon, to be worked around and otherwise cut away from anything tender and vulnerable.

I have to apologize for being so irascible, at least I feel myself so in confrontation with the more airy-fairy and victim-blaming aspects of forgiveness (as I have received them in past communication on the topic). I am afraid those inner voices are too loud for me to deal well with the conversation here; still, I don't quite have the heart to tidy this all away to spare you, the other readers here.

Shorter me: here, let me bring my crappy, grumpy self to the table; love me?

Crazy(but resolved to try better next time)Soph

#39 ::: Oil-upon-the-waters ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 03:45 PM:

@crazysoph #38: "Shorter me: here, let me bring my crappy, grumpy self to the table; love me?"

Yes. Not speaking for anybody else, but yes. I look forward to your comments and I delight in your signatures, every time.

#40 ::: diana ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 05:58 PM:

"Main experiences have either been as:

"• recipient of the faux-compassionate "I forgive you!" when I have done nothing wrong by my own lights, but the other party has decided that anything authentic from me was a dire wound to him/herself.

"• recipient of huge pressure to express forgiveness to someone else - which has (in those portions I managed to read so far) been very well covered here."

amen to this. So much of abuse involves gas-lighting that any concept which can invoke anything saccharine -- and forgiveness can be very saccharine -- lends itself more to being a mechanism of abuse than to being a way to heal.

That said, as I read these comments I'm getting a sense there seems to be a distinct meaning to forgiveness in Catholic doctrine which doesn't seem to be on all fours with the common English understanding of the term.

#41 ::: Bam ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 09:06 PM:

The bad debt metaphor works for me, wonderfully so. The thing I want is human compassion, and until I get some back from them I can't offer any to my folks.

@35 I hear what you say, the old canard about it not being abuse if it's not what they suffered. For many years that was my mother's rod. That and 'You'll understand when you're older/have kids/have a mortgage'. The day I realized this meant I was excluded from having an opinion about the abuse until I was (in effect) either of my abusers was a very difficult day. Those measuring games. They're insidious.

#42 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 10:01 PM:

Bam, #41: That and 'You'll understand when you're older/have kids/have a mortgage'. The day I realized this meant I was excluded from having an opinion about the abuse until I was (in effect) either of my abusers was a very difficult day.

QFT (and emphasis mine), because I think you're onto something very important there.

My parents used to pull that "You'll understand when you're older" shit on me too; well, now I am older, and I can say with absolute certainty that I still don't agree with them about anything they used that line for. However, when my parents said it, the argument was generally just about differences of opinion (aka things I thought were stupid then, and still do). I think it becomes qualitatively different when it's used to justify abuse.

#43 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 11:26 PM:

@Stabbity no. 29: Actually, writing off an uncollectible debt is also forgiveness.

#44 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 11:53 PM:

To expand: My primary abuser died when I was still a child, which probably saved my life, but I will never in this life be able to face him and demand a reckoning. I did not enter therapy with forgiveness as a goal, but after the PTSD had ebbed somewhat, I found that forgiveness was both possible and desirable. This point came after the liberating feeling of being able to hate him palled, which came after the fear associated with even thinking of him had been overcome.

#45 ::: staranise ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 12:26 AM:

After years of therapy, my mother decided to forgive her mom for the abuse she suffered just so she didn't have to carry that weight of resentment anymore. That was a few years ago. Now, since my grandmother's heart attack last spring, she has started to apologize to my mom for a number of petty slights and cruelties. "Why didn't we ever get you hiking boots that fit? Here we were, dragging you up and down mountains in shoes two sizes two big for you, telling you that you'd grow into them. We could have just bought new ones when your feet grew. Why didn't we?"

The apologies, I gather, are less satisfying than they ought to be, because it's an exercise in patience and forgiveness for her to accept the apology instead of using Gran's new awareness to enlighten her on just how bad Mom's childhood felt.

I feel like when we talk about forgiveness as a society, people confuse "revenge" and "restitution". Promoting forgiveness to prevent revenge is socially useful; it helps keep the damage from spiralling out of control. But if you prohibit people from vengeance, you have to offer them restitution. If someone has been denied something they deserve--like safety, or love, or the freedom to define themselves--then they deserve to have that thing restored to them.

But the beautiful thing about restitution is that it isn't about the wrongdoer, it's about the victim, so the victim doesn't just have to receive it from their abuser. Often, restitution can be something you make for yourself, once you've decided that you're entitled to it.

If you fuck up parenting your child, I think that sometimes losing out on the chance for a relationship with them as an adult is the price you pay for that mistake. Many abusive parents don't realize that this is the transaction that's being written across their ledger (if they did, the might not have been abusive) but it is. They "deserve" a loving child, but their child "deserved" safe and loving parents, so this is just balancing the equation.

I'm sometimes glad my mom was adopted and didn't "attach" well to her adoptive family. It hurt her as a child, hurts her still, but it did give her the autonomy to decide that if these people were never going to give her what she needed, she was going to leave and find it on her own. Her brother, a biological child who was enormously fond of both his parents, suffered far more in the long run.

#46 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 01:21 AM:

Lee @ 32:

I discovered S&G's "I am a rock" when I was 19 or 20, and oh did I internalize that one for a while.

crazysoph @ 38:

Your comments don't didn't seem remotely out of line to me. (Oh, and those signatures of yours? inspired.)


A year or two ago, I came up with the idea of substituting "release" for "forgive". Works for me, because it helps me let go of/stop carrying the *weight* of whatever-it-was, no need for anything from the other person. I've always had a lot of trouble with the concept of forgiveness; as I learned it, it came wrapped up in the whole "forgive and forget" thing, and didn't require the person who'd done the harm to even acknowledge that harm had occurred. Also, there was all that baggage of the victim not being a Good Person(TM) if they didn't forgive, no matter the circumstances, no matter if it was an ongoing thing.

#47 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 01:49 AM:

staranise, #45: "Why didn't we ever get you hiking boots that fit? Here we were, dragging you up and down mountains in shoes two sizes two big for you, telling you that you'd grow into them. We could have just bought new ones when your feet grew. Why didn't we?"

If I wanted to engage with that person, my first response would be to say, "That's a good question. Why didn't you?" Not in a hostile or accusatory way, but the way a therapist might ask for elaboration on something. Get them actually thinking about what was going thru their heads at the time, and see if time has brought wisdom, or the willingness to seek wisdom.

Unfortunately, on the few occasions when I tried to bring up hurtful things my parents had said or done and ask them why they did so, the answer I always got was some variation on, "I don't remember that," which is not even remotely helpful. I never did figure out whether they actually didn't remember, or if they just didn't want to talk about it (because it might have meant admitting they were wrong) and were pulling a Reagan.

If you fuck up parenting your child, I think that sometimes losing out on the chance for a relationship with them as an adult is the price you pay for that mistake. Many abusive parents don't realize that this is the transaction that's being written across their ledger (if they did, the might not have been abusive) but it is. They "deserve" a loving child, but their child "deserved" safe and loving parents, so this is just balancing the equation.

"And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me -- he'd grown up just like me." - Harry Chapin

Of course, this only works if the parents have enough self-awareness to figure out that what they're doing is hurting their child. Again in the case of my parents, that awareness was just... absent. Everything they did was (1) completely normal and (2) because they loved me and wanted me to be happy. They just couldn't understand why they were saddled with such an ungrateful and defiant child, after everything they had done for me. They had no idea what was wrong with me, but they kept trying to fix me as long as they lived.

#48 ::: canisfelicis ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 02:34 AM:

Not sure if this comment'll get held back for posting a link, but--a video of my favorite poem on the subject of forgiveness.

#49 ::: staranise ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 04:06 AM:

Lee @ 47: Some peoples' minds calcify until they're so rigid and brittle they can't accept amendment without breaking. Gran, on the other hand, has a lot more life experience than she did in 1956, and decades of her church pushing her to be more compassionate and aware of social issues. She's learned that punishment doesn't work, it only discourages. So she can see now that her childrearing revolved around the need for prestige and terror of scarcity.

That is; she's still awful, and I spend a lot of time reassuring Mom that she isn't misremembering and Gran really is that rude and judgmental. But from a distance, the woman seems (at the age of 85, with her daughter in her 50s) to finally be getting it.

It's something I keep in mind, as a therapist, with my clients. Sometimes the pressure to "forgive" and stop raising such a ruckus is overwhelming, when it's really the dysfunctional family saying, "Throw off those stupid coping mechanisms and boundaries, and come back and be a punching bag like you used to be!" When it's a family promising reconciliation and Everything Better At Last at the low, low price of sublimating your needs... well, those were visits with Gran when I was a child.

So often when the topic of forgiveness comes up, it's my client saying that if they just forgave and let go everything would be so much better, and me on the other end saying, "Yes--they might someday realize they were wrong and apologize. But is 'someday' likely to mean 'by Christmas', or shall we assume that they'll be like they were last Yule and get to planning your support system to get you through the holidays?"

#50 ::: Battle Cat ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 06:49 AM:

staranise @45: If someone has been denied something they deserve--like safety, or love, or the freedom to define themselves--then they deserve to have that thing restored to them.

I have issues with including love in that list. It supposes that you can make yourself love somebody, and I don't think that's true.

There's this fairy tale that goes "when your unwanted child is born you'll love it anyway". I know it's a fairy tale since I was the child (not that my mother would have been legally able to end her pregnancy; she couldn't even legally get contraception). She'd messed up, there I was and she was responsible for me. She did her duty by me, I was fed, housed, clothed, taught to speak etc, all that a parent who's honest with themselves can make themselves do. Just not loved. And I don't think I can blame her.

Blaming the people who think it's a good idea to "generate" unwanted children, OTOH ..

#51 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 08:16 AM:

It's difficult to forgive, in any sense of the word, when I'm the one who is often blamed for the things that have gone wrong.

This morning my mother phoned and asked me to phone my father because, she said, he's been told he has bowel cancer and my refusal to speak to him is causing him stress, which has apparently contributed to the cancer.

Except that I've not been refusing to speak to him, I've just been really busy and haven't phoned my parents in the past week; and according to my sister, our father hasn't got bowel cancer, he's been referred to a consultant at the hospital because he's had problems with frequent constipation.

My mother has told my sister that Dad's illness has been caused by my behavior when I visited them last month. For two days. Apparently I was "just cruel" to them both. Neither of them have mentioned this to me, of course; but they have told my sister all about it. She reports back that I spent all my time on my laptop, refused to speak to mom at all, and have been keeping unspecified secrets from her. I'm not sure what I'm meant to have done to my father. Perhaps if either of them had talked to me about how they were feeling I'd have been able to do something about it, or let them know that they were mistaken, or, or, or... Except that I know from long experience it doesn't matter what I say to them, I am the one to blame for their unhappiness and they won't even consider that maybe they might need to take responsibility for their own behavior.

I try very hard to be thoughtful and kind in my dealings with everyone. I've worked very hard to give my own children a happier upbringing than I had, and I have a lovely husband who works hard at that too. But every now and then I recognize something in myself which comes from one of my parents and it makes me shiver. I know I make mistakes; but please don't let them be the same ones they've made, and please don't let my behavior affect my children in the same ways that my parents' behaviors have affected me.

#52 ::: Bam ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 09:55 AM:

@51 That sounds like a deeply unpleasant role for a compassionate person to be shoehorned into. Reading and witnessing.

#53 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 11:23 AM:

@ Lee #47

Unfortunately, on the few occasions when I tried to bring up hurtful things my parents had said or done and ask them why they did so, the answer I always got was some variation on, "I don't remember that," which is not even remotely helpful. I never did figure out whether they actually didn't remember, or if they just didn't want to talk about it (because it might have meant admitting they were wrong) and were pulling a Reagan.

Yeah, this. Except in my case, it's all my mom. Papa understands - we used to be each other's reality check in some ways. (not that he doesn't have his problems, mind - he used to drink away his troubles, and only stopped a few years ago because he got caught driving drunk) But Mom - I am gradually recognizing that we simply will not make progress and there will not be a healthy relationship. Because on a good day I can get her to acknowledge that I'm not making shit up and not lying to her and she really did say that horrible thing to her. But most of the time, I'm lying or misremembering or just making up stories like I 'always have' because she would never have said such a thing.

One thing that's helping me let go of the anger is recognizing that this is her coping mechanism for what I am increasingly sure was an abusive childhood - abusive by her parents and her siblings all.

Doesn't mean I'm putting myself in harm's way. I'm not seeing or talking to them until Christmas, and even then it's going to be a few hours visit (instead of the two day extravaganza it has been for most of my life), but at least understanding means I can put it in a box and label it, instead of flailing in confusion and hurt. I think this is part of forgiveness - allowing the hurt to wash through without denying or shaming it, and letting the scar grow over the wound.

My mom's coping mechanism for growing up with an abusive family was to rewrite history so she, in her black-and-white (good or evil) view can still respect and love her siblings and parents. This doesn't mean that I have to let her hurt me or tell me I'm the one rewriting history.

staranise @49, for this:
So often when the topic of forgiveness comes up, it's my client saying that if they just forgave and let go everything would be so much better, and me on the other end saying, "Yes--they might someday realize they were wrong and apologize. But is 'someday' likely to mean 'by Christmas', or shall we assume that they'll be like they were last Yule and get to planning your support system to get you through the holidays?"
thank you for helping me to remember that (and reinforce it). Because it's really hard to remember that when Mom so clearly wants to do better, and apologizes for hurting me - without having any sense of what *she* did to hurt me, which means she *can't* change. Because when we get too close to her scars, she gets defensive and lashes out, but if we're farther away, she's loving and reminds me how she's the one who taught me how to apologize sincerely in the first place. It's so confusing, and I want so desperately to have a "normal" relationship - but I still need that support system. :P

#54 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 11:26 AM:

Oh, and crazysoph? Definitely love you. :) Want you hear, want to hear what you have to say, and always enjoy your sign-off.

And I hear you about the twisted ideas of forgiveness that are just a way to get the victim to shut up. I'm so glad you're able to stick to your guns wrt Original Perp. And I hope that the people around you come to understand what's wrong with their attitude!

For now and for then, though, I'm glad you're here.

#55 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 11:28 AM:

ack. I even previewed it!

In 53, second paragraph: "she really did say that horrible thing to me" not to her.

#56 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 01:36 PM:

I also very much like the "writing off bad debts" description of forgiveness. It's not "what you did was okay," or "I'm going to pretend you didn't do that stuff," but rather "I accept that you did what you did and I don't need any further recompense or revenge or apologies--the matter is done." For me, it feels like this is connected to phrases (usually not spoken) like "I've come to understand that this is just how you are, and I'll plan accordingly in the future" or "I think that was a spectacularly awful one-off, and I'm not really worried you'll repeat it."

I also very much like the distinction between reconciliation and forgiveness. Forgiveness is internal, reconciliation is between people. I can forgive a dead man or a stranger I'll never see again or an unrepentant person who screwed me over, but I can't really be reconciled with them. Reconciliation is necessary to keep a good relationship after someone hurts you, and since any nontrivial relationship is going to involve some occasional hurts, it's a constant part of keeping a relationship going. I've said really mean things to my wife and kids on occasion, and I've worked at reconciling things with them--starting with an apology, and working from there. They've similarly said mean things to me and gone through the same process. Part of reconciliation is forgiveness--accepting that this matter is done and doesn't need to be dealt with anymore. But that's far from the only thing that has to happen. And reconciliation only really makes sense, it seems to me, if we intend to maintain a relationship when we're done.

Forgiveness is a change in your internal mental and emotional state, and can no more be demanded or commanded than can any other change. Demands that you forgive me don't work for the same reason that demands that you love me don't work.

#57 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 02:49 PM:

Rosa, #51: Yeesh. I gather from what you've said that your sister doesn't buy into your mother's state of altered reality. What about your father? Is he an active participant, or is he just letting your mother define things for him because it's easier than arguing with her?

In any event, this is a really difficult trap for your sister to be caught in, trying to mediate between you and them; in some ways that's going to be even harder for her than it is for you, because you can walk away if you choose.

albatross, #56: Using your definitions, there are a lot of people who conflate forgiveness and reconciliation; that's where much of the pressure to "forgive and forget" and pretend that the bad thing(s) never happened comes from.

There are 3 people in my life who did me what feels like a great wrong. Having brought it up with them (individually) at the time and discovered that they see absolutely nothing wrong with what they did... well, I still like them enough to count them as friends, but not as close friends any more -- I'll never trust any of them with sensitive information again.

And then there's the former-friend-now-acquaintance who went crazy* and scared the shit out of me; he's apparently back to normal now, but he has no memory of doing any of the things that frightened me. In this case, I believe him -- but it makes it impossible to deal with him on anything beyond the most superficial level, because we can't talk about the reasons why I pushed him out of my life.

In both cases, no reconciliation, and that has made a permanent difference.

* Not an exaggeration -- he was exhibiting most of the signs of paranoid schizophrenia, including hallucinations and hearing voices. There is some likelihood that a physically-toxic environment was involved; there was a "cursed house" that seemed to negatively affect a whole string of people I knew who lived there, more than chance or coincidence can explain.

#58 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 03:32 PM:

crazysoph @38: hoo, yes, I can definitely relate.

albatross @56, Lee @57:

Part of reconciliation is forgiveness--accepting that this matter is done and doesn't need to be dealt with anymore. But that's far from the only thing that has to happen. And reconciliation only really makes sense, it seems to me, if we intend to maintain a relationship when we're done.

Lee's examples made me realize that there are a number of people with whom I maintain contact despite forgiveness without reconciliation—and that this only became possible when I came to terms with the idea that the relationship I wanted to have with them was no longer a viable option, but would necessarily take another form: less intimate, more guarded, with no great warmth. We may remain civil, even friendly, but we are not friends.

And forgiveness? Not going to happen if damage is still being done, to me or the people I care about. I can manage to be civil if I can't avoid interaction because of mutual involvement with someone, but I'm not going to cut them any slack. With them, the cost of being "nice" beyond the call of duty is not one I'm willing to pay.

#59 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 03:48 PM:

Lee at #57, my sister and I each get a share of my mother's attentions, and our father is just as bad in different ways: he blames us when our mother gets upset (which she does often, for all sorts of unpredictable reasons), won't consider that she's not always truthful, and when any of us--my mother included--refuse to do what he wants us to, he gets verbally abusive. It was worse when we were all younger but now he's elderly at least he's not frightening any more: he's just hurtful.

#60 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 04:03 PM:

Clinging #30: I am so sorry for the way you were mistreated, and that those who should have supported you instead abandoned you. Talk away, and I hope you find peace in your own way and in your own time.

The_L #35:

I wanted, not to die, but not to be in my life anymore.

I have periods when I have semi-suicidal ideations; over the years I've come to realize that I'm not truly suicidal. It's just my soul telling me that I want all of the crap to stop, and I don't see any other way out. It's not that I want to die, just that I'm completely out of cope.

Also, amen to the "I suffered worse, so what I did to you wasn't abuse." I got that pretty much verbatim from my father, upon the death of my grandfather, when I finally snapped from said father treating me like a three-year-old idiot instead of a married adult woman.

crazysoph #38: Oh, no, don't go; I always love your comments and signatures!

Bam #41: As if your opinion wasn't valued because you weren't like them?. That seems to be a common trait among many abusers.

Rosa Hughes #51: I don't think you should be expected to forgive a harm that is still ongoing.

albatross #56, Lee #57, Pendrift #58: I like the way you've couched forgiveness and reconciliation in the context of the potential relationship that might remain with the other person. I think one of the more difficult parts of the healing process--and the part often ignored by those who counsel forgiveness for the wrong reasons--is the need for the sufferer to evaluate the relationship they have with the perpetrator, and to change or abandon the relationship if needed for the their safety.

#61 ::: Jennifer Baughman is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 04:03 PM:

Possibly spaces?

#62 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 04:34 PM:

Another thing to consider about the 'forgiveness of debt' financial model: a debt can be written off for different reasons. Maybe it's more trouble to collect than it's worth. Maybe you know the debtor is bankrupt and there are others owed money who have larger claims that will wipe out the assets. Maybe you've decided to let it go as an act of kindness to someone who's struggling a lot. It can be done for a range of reasons, with a lot of different attitudes behind it. The thing is, you know you won't get reimbursed.

Of course, having written off a debt, you are not required to consider that person a good credit risk in the future. Maybe their circumstnaces have changed. Maybe they haven't. You don't have to take that chance if you don't want to.

#63 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 04:59 PM:

Forgiveness, in my mind, has turned into a word of abuse. Whether the word is used directly or not. Forgiveness seems to allow the perp to "be forgiven and forget", to go blithely on doing whatever it was that caused the forgiveness to need to happen. "Oops sorry" followed by "it's ok". No. It's not ok. And I won't say it is when it's not.

I don't forgive people their actions unless they learn from them. Unless they change their ways. I've said so once or twice. "If you change your behavior so you don't need to ask for forgiveness, then there is no need to ask for forgiveness. If you continue to be a *bleep*, then my forgiving you is both useless and moot."

Forgiveness? That word really has no meaning for me. What does it do for me? What does it do for the other person? What teachings does it impart? Most times, people don't want forgiveness as defined above. They want absolution. They want permission to forget they ever did what they did. They want to go on doing whatever it was/is without feeling the guilt of the many times they did it before.

I will grant you no absolution. You will learn, and thus not need it, or I will not waste my personal energy granting you something that you will misuse.

I have found that with understanding comes peace. I no longer hate the person who abused me, verbally tortured me. I understand that he only knew those ways to communicate. He's also dead and I don't have to face him and his words any more. Time and space grant peace. To me. If this is what "forgiveness" really is, it comes when it is ready.

#64 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 05:05 PM:

Jennifer Baughman @60
It's not that I want to die, just that I'm completely out of cope.

Yes. That. The last time I felt suicidal, death was the only place I knew I could run away to and not be dragged back. An interesting result of being identified as "depressed" and put on antidepressants was that everybody left me alone. Not after the drugs worked, but even before I got them. It was as if having an official medical label stuck to me meant that my feelings were real. That "leave me alone" had meaning, and was honored.

#65 ::: Bam ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 05:58 PM:

Jennifer Baughman @60: "As if your opinion wasn't valued because you weren't like them?"

Exactly that. It seems such a little thing, but actually it's breathtaking. It's shorthand for: I would understand their actions if I had lived through what they lived through, but since I didn't I don't, so when I say "abuse", it's really just "parenting". That of course implies I don't know what's good for me. And can never know, because I'm not my parents.

When I started to break away from my folks I spent a year dealing with emails all on the theme of how I was being duped (literally by a 'confidante' with an 'agenda'). About the same time I made the "I'll never be them and that means they'll never see me as a full human" connection, I realized they actually, genuinely think I'm stupid and someone (actually, my poor sister, who has always been the scapegoat) has their meat-hooks in me. They honestly seem to believe that I (an object) am being taken away from them by an evildoer.

"...That seems to be a common trait among many abusers."

This is what I'm discovering. In fact, the more I read and talk, the more I find abuse follows a pattern. Like a fairytale or a bluegrass song, you kinda get a feel for what's coming next.

Someone up-thread said (and sorry, I can't seem to find it) something to the effect of 'if parents knew abuse on one side of the ledger meant no children later on in life, maybe fewer would do it'. That might be true in some cases, but not in mine. I don't think my parents understand, or ever will. Reconciliation is, alas, not very likely. But I do feel like our relationship is a bit of a bad debt. I've all ready cut my losses and walked away.

Phew. Oh, yikes. I'm sorry about the diversion there. Thank you for the space to exhale.

#66 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 06:53 PM:

Reading. Witnessing. Wishing for peace.

If the sufferer doesn’t forgive fast enough, this lack can become a stick to beat them with. Holding grudges. Unforgiving. Hard. Bitter. Angry, with a subtext of unjustifiably.

"Holding grudges" is an especially terrible phrase for me - even triggering. The phrase immediately flashes me back to this:

I'm probably in high school, maybe middle school, and I am just realizing this about myself:

1) Remembering an experience can be entirely involuntary. A memory can pop up suddenly, like the way an itch arises for no known reason or a fly dives out of nowhere and smacks into one's shoulder.

2) The memory of a painful experience is often as powerful as the experience itself: to remember is to relive.

I was trying to put the combination of these two things into words, I think because I was at the time dealing with the involuntary reappearance and subsequent reliving of the memory of some very unfair thing that my parents had done. I don't think I was even bringing it up in order to criticize my parents for having done it - I think I was just trying to understand how my brain worked.

But my Dad's immediate response was to chuckle in that horrible, ridiculing way he has, and to say "Boy, you sure can hold a grudge. You must just love being angry."

So that's where my brain goes with the phrase "hold a grudge." My Dad, hearing me try to verbalize a painful and involuntary mental/emotional/psychological phenomenon, and thoughtlessly reclassifying it as something stupid that I was doing deliberately and thus deserved to be laughed at about.

What Dad called "You sure can hold a grudge," I am these days trying to give myself permission to call PTSD. I have a hard time giving myself that permission; to my ears, PTSD is something suffered by people who have experienced "genuinely" abusive backgrounds, not something that me with my relatively "normal" childhood (that nevertheless contains disconnected elements here and there that uncomfortably resemble in miniature some of the things related in DFD threads) should aggrandize myself by claiming to have. Still, I don't know what else to call it when memory (even of fairly mundane hurts) acts like an unhealed wound, leaping in to my conscious brain without asking permission, taking up mental space as though it were the day after it happened, and refusing to get out of my head without a hell of a lot of distraction.

I wish I knew how to "release", "let go," "stop renting them space in your head." I guess for the people who give this advice, it must be an easy thing to do. It's beyond "not easy" for me - I don't know how to go about it. As well ask me to wiggle my ear or raise a single eyebrow. Some people can do that, but I can't even identify the muscle group that would make it happen.

#67 ::: Megan ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 07:09 PM:

I was pressured to forgive some people a few years ago and spent a summer reading up on forgiveness. Nearly everything I could find came with a lot of pressure to forgive. The book that finally helped me a lot wasn't any of those. It is a classroom textbook on forgiveness and reconciliation, by Worthington, a Stanford professor. (He also has popular texts on why everyone should forgive.) But his textbook talked about forgiveness in the third person and explained a lot of stuff that gets mixed-up with forgiveness.

Some examples that I remember:
Forebearance is if you don't get pissed in the first place; forgiveness is if you get pissed but let it go.

Mercy is earned forgiveness; grace is unearned forgiveness.

But the thing that stuck with me the most was a list of seven conditions under which people were likely to forgive. I don't remember them all, but they included an apology and repentence on the part of the wrongdoer. Empathy for the wrongdoer made the list. The two that made a big impression on me is if there has been "an intervening justice event", people will forgive. The seventh item was that people don't forgive betrayal much.

That list helped me understand why I wasn't forgiving and had no intention to. I also found a couple essays on how not-forgiving is a moral stand that indicates disgust for the wrong-doing. That was all I needed to settle the question of whether I'd forgive. I haven't and I'm comfortable with that now.

#68 ::: Clinging with my fingertips ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 09:44 PM:

Thanks to everyone for reading/commenting.

Crazysoph, your words make me smile, and I love your sign-offs. Love you? Definitely.

I have something rattling around in my head, but it doesn't want to come to the front yet--I'll let it say hi when it wants to.

#69 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 09:50 PM:

Quietly Learning, #63: I think what you say here connects to a phenomenon that gets described in cases of sexual harassment. Example, from the Readercon case: the next morning, after several different people had explained to the perp how badly he'd fucked up, he kept insisting on trying to get back up in her face to "apologize", even though that was freaking her out as badly as what he'd been doing the night before.

That is not an apology. That is someone wanting to force you to say, "It's okay," so they can go on feeling good about themselves and not have to make any changes. And unfortunately, there's a strong cultural meme that says if someone tries to apologize and you won't accept it, won't give them the "It's okay" that they're demanding, then you are now at fault.

Now that I've identified this dynamic (which I've had used on me as well, but I didn't realize what was going on at the time), I have the option of bringing it out into the open. I can say something to the effect of, "Don't try to get me to tell you it's okay, because it's NOT okay. You need to prove that you've learned something from this, and that you're not going to do it again to me or anyone else, and then I might forgive you."

Bam, #65: Wow, projection much? It's like they can't imagine any other way to have a relationship, so they accuse your sister of doing to you the same thing that they did.

Nicole, #66: That certainly sounds like PTSD flashbacks to me! And if you're having them, then obviously something about your experiences was "bad enough", because they don't just happen without cause.

And no, it is not easy getting to the stage of "not letting them rent space in your head". For me, pretty much the only thing that has ever worked long-term is time + being out of the situation -- and from the sound of it, I have never had flashbacks as bad as yours are.

In the shorter term when I get locked into a negative-feedback mental loop, I find that I can generally disrupt it by falling into a book that I find absorbing; after I've been reading for a while, my mental state will have changed while I wasn't noticing. But, again, I think you're dealing with a stronger level of feedback loop, so what works for me may not work for you.

#70 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 09:51 PM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @ 66:

to my ears, PTSD is something suffered by people who have experienced "genuinely" abusive backgrounds, not something that me with my relatively "normal" childhood (that nevertheless contains disconnected elements here and there that uncomfortably resemble in miniature some of the things related in DFD threads) should aggrandize myself by claiming to have. Still, I don't know what else to call it when memory (even of fairly mundane hurts) acts like an unhealed wound, leaping in to my conscious brain without asking permission, taking up mental space as though it were the day after it happened, and refusing to get out of my head without a hell of a lot of distraction.

It's taken me years to get past comparing pain, where I should be fine because someone else is worse off. According to my therapist, PTSD can result from emotional abuse, as well as physical abuse, single instances of violence, or the emotional horrors of combat. Vivid, involuntary memories popping up like that are called flashbulb memory. (I've had EMDR treatment for it; I get incoherent when trying to describe how much it has helped, and don't want to come across as proselytizing. What worked for me might not for someone else, YMMV, other disclaimers apply...)

It's beyond "not easy" for me - I don't know how to go about it. As well ask me to wiggle my ear or raise a single eyebrow. Some people can do that, but I can't even identify the muscle group that would make it happen.

Terminology can carry sooooo much baggage. "Forgiveness", to me, has all those implications we've been mentioning, and it gets used like a bludgeon on the victim.

"Release" was a good verbal reframing for me, because it got me away from the things that I associate with forgiving, but it wasn't an easy thing to actually do. It took years, and a damned good therapist.

#71 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 10:56 PM:

Forgiveness is something I've been wrestling with this year. I've managed, I think, to forgive any number of people whom I feel wronged me or put me in a bad position or whatever else, even where the results have been long-lasting scars upon my life. In most of these situations, I think this may be due to the fact that I've finally claimed some culpability of my own, given that I made a choice to interact with these individuals. I willingly let them into my life.

No, that doesn't mean they were right to do whatever it was they did, but by taking some of the initial responsibility upon myself, I've been able to forgive myself for that mistake, and to forgive the others for their actions.

So who is it I'm having trouble forgiving, still?

Much as I've hated admitting this to myself, the answer is: My parents.

Now, I know intellectually, and on a level that for years I didn't quite realize, that in many ways they were trying to do their best, and they at least thought they were acting out of love. But dear gods, did they have to be so entirely cack-handed at it? So immune to seeing what the choices they made for me might bring forth, years down the line? Ironically (or perhaps not) they did these things in the name of thinking about my future when they felt I was not doing so, but in looking at it from my angle both then and now, so much appeared and appears to have been the product of a desire to control my life, to decide where and how and under what circumstances I lived it.

And their choices restricted the choices I was subsequently able to make for myself, by restricting the options available to me. Now, I'm not going to claim that I couldn't have made better choices in some of these cases than the ones I made, but given that my available options were the product of someone else's choices, I still find myself going back and thinking, "If only Mom hadn't... " or "If only Dad had... " and we're off to the blame races.

I'd like to get off that particular horse, and stay off. What makes it even harder to deal with, I think, is that both of my parents are deceased. Mom died 20 years ago, and Dad over a year ago. You'd really think I would've moved beyond all this by now, wouldn't you? And so did I... yet I regularly find myself going over and over the same old ground in my head, revisiting things that happened a quarter-century ago or more and how those events have affected all subsequent choices and actions to bring me to where I am today.

I keep thinking that I only feel this way because my life right now bears so little resemblance to the life I want or even to the life I might reasonably have hoped I would have at this point in time. And being less than a year away from the half-century milestone certainly doesn't help, I'm sure. I think that maybe if my life were closer to my ideal -- or WHEN it is -- then these feelings wouldn't/won't plague me the way they do at present.

But I just don't know. And that's what's so maddening. I mean, I know that wasting time and energy on a past that can't be changed robs me of putting that time and that energy into building the future I want. But it's such a hard habit to break.

Thanks for reading.

#72 ::: Lanthala ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 04:07 AM:

I'm relatively allergic to the word "forgiveness", but my favorite take on the concept is Dessa's Mineshaft II; I offer it as a contribution to the DFD playlist:

Then you did what he asked you to do
You opened your heart up right there on a napkin on the carpet
And part of it was frostbit, but you've always been a smart kid
Could still distinguish the blood black as pitch

Valves have gone stiff, veins and scar tissue
Four chambers, just a standard issue
But none had room, forgiveness is huge
And you had two full of ice water, one full of salt

#73 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 09:38 AM:

My brother is still talking to me! He wants to help me out and even volunteered to get the mail from before I changed over my address!

Plus, since he missed my birthday (his roommate is at sea most of the year, and he knew she'd be back in September, but not exactly when, and she arrived right on my birthday) he wants to buy me dinner some time soon to make up for it.

It is so relieving and wonderful to know that I haven't lost my brother too.

#74 ::: Amber Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 09:55 AM:

I didn't forgive my mother until several years after she died. In all honesty, I've only just stopped having dreams where she's there, doing the same old stuff, and I realize she's dead, and just have this profound sense of RELIEF. (In fact, I strongly suspect those dreams, and that revelation within those dreams of her death, has been therapeutic for me. Just the act of telling my figment of her "You know you aren't alive anymore," helped me to heal.)

With that distance, I've been able to be more charitable, and really look at what her life was like, and how generational cycles of abuse played out, and how hard she genuinely tried to be a good mother, even as she struggled with her own mental health issues, drug dependencies, and emotional needs.

I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have had the safety and the distance to examine that relationship, and come to forgive her, if she was still alive.

I never say that, because I would be considered cruel/cold/ungrateful/a terrible daughter by a lot of my acquaintances/family. Not all - my father understands as much as he can. But a lot of people, even within my profession, tout that the 'optimal' resolution to an abusive parent/child relationship is for the child to 'grow up' enough to understand what their parent was going through to raise them, and reconcile. Which is, IMO, a terrible and hurtful thing to expect.

#75 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 10:29 AM:

Amber, sometimes folks are refreshingly understanding.

A conversation from my workplace recently:

Coworker 1: Have you considered going to one of those family-counseling sessions?

Coworker 2: The problem is, how would she even get her parents to go?

Me: They're not even talking to me anymore.

CW1: Well, that's a sign right there that there's a problem.

Me: As far as they're concerned, I'm out of the picture, so problem solved.

CW2: CW1, they probably do see L as being the problem here.

CW1: And they're not likely to come around if you talk this through?

Me: The kind of man who spanks a preschooler for spilling juice isn't likely to admit to being wrong about anything.

(At this point, I was expecting something along the lines of, "That's not really a spanking offense." Instead, this happened.)

CW1 (shocked and appalled): Your father hit you?

Me: Until I was 18.

CW1: And you never reported it?

CW2 then pointed out that this sort of thing is depressingly common among military officers. He said he had some abusive military uncles (WW2 vets, to give you an idea of the time period) who never understood why their kids didn't want anything to do with them.

But yes, it is beautiful and unexpected when someone else agrees with you that Something Wasn't Right.

#76 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 10:56 AM:

The_L @72 and 74, you have a caring brother, and you have understanding coworkers! For the win!

#77 ::: john, who is incognito and definitely not at work ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 11:03 AM:

My parents were both abusive, my father mostly physically and sexually (I was spared; others were not), my mother physically and emotionally. Dad went to prison for child molestation and I doubt I will ever forget, or forgive, just how little time he spent there; it's something that becomes even more enraging as time goes by, as I see just how long-lasting the effects of his crimes are. From prison he'd write these tiresome letters filled with self-pity and evangelism. I was raised a fundamentalist Christian--a Nazarene--and was a Christian still at the time. My church's teachings were really hurtful in ways both obvious and not: I'm queer and was in denial, and there's a certain je ne sais quoi about being told constantly that you're going to Hell, and then constructing desperate pretzel logic about why it's not true. I can joke about it now, however feebly: "Imagine you're a Southern Baptist. Now imagine you wake up one morning and realize you're just disgustingly liberal and accepting. What do you do? You become a Nazarene."

I think I was in middle school when my mother adopted her most hurtful refrain: when I'd do something selfish or angry or say something self-pitying, she'd tell me I was just like my father. She knew I knew what he'd done--not just knocking her down and breaking her collarbone, not just the cat he killed by kicking it into a tree, not just the kittens he drowned in a sack, but also the years of child molestation. I remember her expression saying it: vicious contempt laced with sadism: it hurt me to hear it, and she was glad.

As a child and teen, and well into adulthood, I was stressed out, judgmental, spiteful, and depressive, prone to angry outbursts, including violence against others.

In retrospect I'm amazed I've never spent a night in jail, equally amazed that for over twenty years I was obsessed with suicide and never killed myself.

My feelings about my parents have run the gamut: love, hate, rage, resentment ... they seem to have settled into a dull sort of baffled resignation. I'm an atheist-leaning agnostic, no longer in the closet, and I try to be polite and courteous but the rage really comes through under stress, especially in traffic. The depression's manageable, provided I don't forget my meds; if I'm having a particularly weepy day I invariably return home and find that I forgot to take them.

Dad died of cancer 18 years ago. He thought it was God's judgment. I thought that even that conclusion was narcissistic; why should God smite him when so many evil people live on? Mom's still alive, not in great health. We're superficially friendly.

When I got a scholarship, I chose a college based on which one I could afford which was the farthest away. I never bought a car, in part so I have an excuse not to visit much--it's so expensive, you see.

I'm single. I will probably die single. It's probably for the best. I will never have kids, even if the state would allow it.

Forgiveness is a long time away and may not ever arrive. I'm okay with that.

#78 ::: Alphabet Soup ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 01:14 PM:

I first posted this on Disfunctional Families Day in 2011. I'm posting it again for my own benefit, if nothing else. It's good to reread at least once a year.


If I'd been braver, I could have stopped it.

Other people had it worse, so my pain doesn't count.

My pain doesn't matter anyway.

Those other people? They don't like me, really. They're just putting up with me for some reason.

Everyone is staring at my scars and thinking that I'm nuts.

I'm really an impostor, pretending to be normal.

I'm just trying to get attention.

If I were stronger, it wouldn't bother me.

I don't deserve any better.

If I hurt myself enough, maybe nobody else will hurt me more. (courtesy of ebear)

This list is entirely bullshit.


Only one of these things is true.

#79 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 01:34 PM:

Amber, #74: Note that "optimal" is not even remotely the same thing as "realistic". It would be optimal to live in a world where nobody ever went hungry or died from lack of access to medical care, too -- but we have to work with the world we have. Similarly, people have to work with the relationships they have, not the ones your professional acquaintances think they should have.

The_L, #75: Even if you could talk your parents into going to family counseling, your experience would very likely end up the same way mine did. When they found out that the counselor wouldn't rubber-stamp their opinions, they quit; the threat to their worldview was more than they could handle.

Also, on the "you never reported it?" thing -- can you explain that reporting "spanking" doesn't get taken seriously? Because even though that is NOT what your father did, that's how way too many people are going to think of it.

john, #77: There are huge issues around forgiveness in the Evangelical culture, which are not likely to change because of the way they're baked in.
But it's really hard to set your own boundaries to protect yourself when an entire community and theology of forgiveness demands that your boundaries do not matter.

#80 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 04:56 PM:

Lee and glinda, thanks for the confirmation. I guess I've always felt, since beginning to think about the label, that calling it PTSD would be in some way comparing my relived memories to - oh, a war veteran's flashbacks, for instance. I didn't want to be dismissive of others great pain by using the same word to describe my much smaller ones. But I'm beginning to realize that I can describe what I experience as being of the same type if not on the same scale.

And thank you glinda for the phrase "flashbulb memory". I never knew it applied here.

To be clear, when I say "relived" I don't mean to the extent that I actually experience being there all over again. It's not a "flashback" in that sense. But the memory of the incident is very detailed, the emotions are almost as strong as the day the thing happened, and I find myself thinking thoughts very like the ones I thought right after the incident. It's like the experience cuts a channel that mental processes follow faithfully every time memory of the experience comes up - which, like I said, it does at odd moments without being voluntarily called up. (And then sometimes attaches itself to whatever I'm doing when it comes up, such that next time I'm doing that thing, it comes up again. Argh. And this is what my Dad decides to call "Holding a grudge." Doubleplus bad argh.)

The VNV Nation lyric "I cannot turn my feelings down / Beyond my means to turn my thoughts around" applies. Like Lee, I also find a lot of relief in burying myself in a book. It helps turn my thoughts around in a particularly immersive way. It just seems so unfair that it takes so much work to turn my thoughts away from the bad memory, when it takes no effort or even any logical connection to turn them towards the bad memory. Argh.

#81 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 05:52 PM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little #80: To be clear, when I say "relived" I don't mean to the extent that I actually experience being there all over again. It's not a "flashback" in that sense.

My impression is that outside of dreams or SFnal contexts, that's what "reliving a memory" normally means. Much as with drug hallucinations, simplicity of explanation has put a dent in public understanding. ;-)

It's like the experience cuts a channel that mental processes follow faithfully every time memory of the experience comes up

Unfortunately, that's about right. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, NLP, and EMDR (? the eye-movement thingy) represent different approaches to trying to disrupt that cycle. There are likely others.

#82 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 08:44 PM:

21 comics that capture the frustrations of depression.

I'd seen some of these before, but others are new to me, and it's nice to have them all collected in one place.

#83 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 10:29 PM:

Dave Harmon @ 81:

Yes, EMDR is the eye-movement thing - though there are other techniques that can be used, in addition to the eye movement. In my case, because I'm always migraining and the eye movement *hurt*, she stood behind me and alternated very softly tapping on each shoulder. Apparently there are other techniques that can be used, as well. All I know is that, despite how utterly woo-woo it sounds, for me, it worked - and I went into it with a sort of open-minded cynicism.

#84 ::: Finny ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 12:00 AM:

My mother's birthday was the 18th of this month. She died January 20th, 2012. She, and my father, were abusive to me. I cut them out of my life. Eventually I let her in, some. Never could tell her the truth about my "psychotic break" when I left in the middle of the night to escape from her after she held me and my car keys hostage and threatened to take food back to the store leaving me to go hungry if I did not write her a check to cover the one she wrote that would bounce (she only knew I had money because she opened my mail). And now I never can. When I tried she laughed. I do not know how to feel.

#85 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 12:25 AM:

all: reading. witnessing.

#86 ::: Battle Cat ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 02:27 AM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @ 66:

how to "release"..
I am by no means an expert. But as a (mostly) thinking human being, I surmise the first thing you'd need is to feel safe.

#87 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 09:03 AM:

Finny @84, witnessing. Hugs, if wanted.

#88 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 12:13 PM:

Playing catch-up. I guess I hit a particularly bad patch of brain weather for the past couple months. It's hard to say. But I've sort of gotten the impression that what constitutes "regular" brain-weather for me is... not so much. Depression tests tend to go all screechy at me if I just give them my matter-of-fact, this-is-how-it's-felt-since-grade-school answers.

Anyways, somewhere in the middle of the summer, things slid further. Trouble finding the motivation to even get my teeth brushed. I used to wake up at three in the morning, and now I wake up and it's not even midnight yet, and if I manage to stay asleep for four whole hours straight, it's a win.

There are signs that maybe it's letting up a little... I've been able to get interested in and actually follow through on a small kitchen project or two. Objectively, last summer was much worse, in terms of actual bad stuff that happened. But brain weather isn't exactly objective, is it?

Thank you, Lee, for the link. I'd seen some but not all of those also, and yes, it is nice to have them all collected in one place.

Also, Crazy(I'm glad you're here, and your signatures make me smile)Soph @38, Thank you for saying this, and putting it better than I could have.

#89 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 12:42 PM:

All: reading, witnessing.

#90 ::: Jennifer Baughman is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 03:57 PM:

Bam #65:

I'm sorry about the diversion there. Thank you for the space to exhale.

I wouldn't call it a diversion; another thread in the tapestry, rather? This is a space to exhale, and to cry, and to laugh, and to grieve, and to rant, and most of all, to be heard in speech and in silence.

SummerStorms #71: It's so hard, looking back and seeing all the places where you could have gone left, rather than right, if only someone hadn't broken the steering wheel? Some people get closure when their parents die; others feel the weight of everything left unsaid and unfinished. You're not wrong for feeling the way you do.

Believe me, there are days I wish my player would restore to a previous save.

The_L #73 & #75: Good on your brother! And I'm glad you have coworkers that understand, too!

As far as the abusive military fathers go, my father was a Vietnam vet; his father was a survivor of the Louisiana orphanage system pre-WWII (and had three ships shot out from under him while in the merchant marine during the war). And my mother's father was in the Army Air Corps during WWII. I wonder if the combination of violence and authoritarianism, especially during wartime, encourages abusive behaviors outside the military structure?

Nicole #80: I have memories like that, and that lyric from 'Arena' describes that feeling very, very well.

Finny #84: hugs, if you want them, and witnessing.

And another contribution to the DFD playlist:

Damaged, Assemblage 23

I am merely the product
Of the life that I've lived
An amalgam of sorrows
And the wisdom they give
But the weight has grown heavy
And its dragging me down
It's so hard not to sink now
But I don't want to drown

#91 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 03:59 PM:

Not gnomed; the form auto-filled incorrectly. Sorry!

#92 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 05:03 PM:

@Jennifer B., #90

It's so hard, looking back and seeing all the places where you could have gone left, rather than right, if only someone hadn't broken the steering wheel?

I try to think of it in terms of the Doctor Who episode, "Turn Left" (synopsis here). The Doctor's companion at the time, Donna, is asked to send her past in a different direction. Instead of turning left to get to the interview that led to the job at which she met the Doctor, she turns right. And everything changes--but because she saved the Doctor's life when she met him, it changes for the worse. Dramatically so, because of all the times that the Doctor's saved the Earth (to say nothing of the threats to England specifically) while she's known him. Plus, she isn't the same person as "Right-Turn Donna" as she is as the Doctor's companion, because her adventures have strengthened her as a person. (Later when* ure zrzbel vf jvcrq, fur'f onpx gb ure byq frys ntnva. Gur gvzr jura fur geniryrq jvgu gur Qbpgbe naq jnf, sbe n juvyr, gur zbfg vzcbegnag crefba va gur havirefr, vf nyy sbetbggra, naq gb oevat gubfr zrzbevrf onpx jbhyq xvyy ure. Her grandfather, who also knows the Doctor, is none too happy about it, but knows nothing can be done.)

In the same way, I probably could have made a lot of different choices. But then I wouldn't be the person I am now. And for all the minor neuroses, I'm glad to be the person I am, with the friends I've surrounded myself with over the years. (And I consider that to include all of you at DF, too.)

In re: military dads, my dad was a Vietnam vet too. Green Beret; Tet Offensive. If our assumptions are correct, that just made things worse.

* The rest of this sentence is ROT-13'd. As River would say, Spoilers!

#93 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 06:49 PM:

Reading, witnessing.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @ 66: I wish I knew how to "release", "let go," "stop renting them space in your head." We're back to the "fishhooks" again, aren't we? It's so annoying when people are saying "just let go" while the barbs are biting deep.

Hopefully I'll have the time for more replies tomorrow.

#94 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 07:56 PM:

The_L @92: As River would say, Spoilers!

Wait, which? :-)

(Can you say, "too much genre"?)

#95 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 08:34 PM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @66
I wish I knew how to "release", "let go," "stop renting them space in your head." I guess for the people who give this advice, it must be an easy thing to do.

There's a line from Bujold's "A Civil Campain" that sprang to mind after I read your post. "Miles, are you one-upping my dead?" It sounds to me like your parents are "One-downing your dead" to render your feelings moot because they have no other way to elevate their context above yours.

I consider it a form of abuse, telling someone "your feelings don't matter" or "No, you don't have PTSD because your just being childish and holding a petty grudge. (Where "petty" more or less means carried over from childhood.)

And flashback to something in the then-and-there that causes you mental distress in the here-and-now does count as PTSD.

I've never found "letting go" to be easy. The most I can do is to come to a point where I can think a la Bujold"You have no mass and cannot move me." (Personally, it comes out as "I have passed the point of I don't give a fuck.") However, I only reach that point after mental and emotional exhaustion and examine my load and ask myself "does this matter to me? and why?" followed by "Is it worth keeping? and why?" and ending with "does it matter to who I want to be now and in the near future?" I find that if I ask those questions enough, it files off the pointy bits and I'm left with memory sans pain. But then, I keep reinventing myself. So my tools may not work for you.

#96 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 08:34 PM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little@80: But I'm beginning to realize that I can describe what I experience as being of the same type if not on the same scale.
The more and more reading I've done about brain stuff, the more I feel like there are lots of things besides autism that make better sense to me when viewed as a spectrum.

On the burying oneself in a book: when my brain-static gets as bad as it has been recently, I lose the ability to focus enough even to read or play a video game (my other go-to form of relief). However, with this most recent episode, I found that curling up and listening to an audiobook was a tremendous comfort and relief when other distractions were failing me.

And, speaking of comfort, this Cat Fox Wolf comic, Disquiet, particularly resonates for me. The artist, Quidditas, has made it available as a .pdf, also. (And if the pages were paper, mine would be dog-eared.) There's a certain feel of chosen family to the Cat Fox Wolf comics that made me think that others here might like it, too.

For the DFD playlist, may I nominate James McMurtry's Lights of Cheyenne?

#97 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 08:35 PM:

I think I have offended the gnomes by either swearing or excessive use of quotation marks. Will peach cobbler buy me forgiveness?

#98 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 08:48 PM:

@Jacques, #94:

Depending on how coherent Miss Tam is at the moment, probably both.

#99 ::: john, who is incognito and definitely not at work ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 10:28 PM:

Jennifer @ 90, The_L @ 92: My Dad was also a Viet Nam vet, also served in the Tet offensive.

#100 ::: Hiding for now ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 06:03 AM:

(reverting to my DFD-specific 'nym to protect the privacy of others involved)

I'm seeking opinions, please. Wall o'text follows.

A person I am involved with (hereafter referred to as Person) has been seeing their therapist for some 8 years now, five more than I've known them. Though I was convinced early on that said therapist was at best unhelpful and at worst actively damaging, I have always, very carefully, refrained from expressing my opinion; it is not my role to do so and I thought it inappropriate—especially since my relationship with Person is something they discuss. I never had contact with said therapist at any point, only some of the details Person shared with me.

A few weeks ago, while looking for information on centers conducting formal personality testing and related stuff, I found one that was not only located nearby, but was also about to start a series of free, small informal info-conferences on their course offerings. So I decided to check out a couple on evenings I would be free. One of two speakers at a conference I signed up for had the same first name as Person's therapist (whose last name I didn't know); I mentioned it in passing and they said "oh yes, that's my therapist." Interesting, didn't think much of it, life went on.

A week later Person tells me that they'd mentioned to therapist that I'd be at the conference, upon which therapist started, then proceeded to lecture Person about ethics and how I couldn't do that because it would violate the therapeutic space and that if I did then they wouldn't be able to continue therapy, asked for my full name (!!!!) and that I wasn't in the target audience anyway because it was for people who actually intended to sign up for the course, and if all I wanted to know was theory there were plenty of books out there, to which I replied "huh?" (Again, I didn't know therapist, conference was unrelated, it was a free and open event, and I was going for work-related stuff; signing up was not out of the question if the course seemed useful enough.) Person said they were surprised at the vehemence of the reaction too, I said "ok, weird, but I'm not going there to discuss your therapy, I'm going there for, y'know, the topic." Shrugged, moved to other things. I found therapist's reaction wholly inappropriate and unfounded, but refrained from saying so. I discussed it with several friends who deal with ethical issues regularly, and all agreed that there was no ethical barrier to my participation.

And the week after that, over dinner, Person says "My therapist has formally asked me to request you to cancel your registration for the conference because it would make them uncomfortable, it violates the therapeutic space because you and I have a relationship, it is unethical, and you are not the target audience anyway, and has also provided a list of references you can consult should you be interested in the topic. I said I would pass on the message but could not guarantee the outcome." What. The. Everloving. Fuck. This time I said that I didn't see where the ethical barriers were, that discomfort and ethics are not the same thing, that I was there for info, that I didn't even know therapist, nor did I intend at any point to bring up their therapy (hello, boundaries?), and that I would keep the request in mind but could not give an answer as to what I would decide to do on the day itself.

I went last Thursday. It was an info-session. I asked questions. As it turns out, I had one of the best-fit profiles and some of the most relevant reasons for being there (the course addresses the sorts of work issues I run across all the time.) Therapist gave me dagger looks and managed to get a dig in ("for instance, we do not accept individuals who have close relationships with our patients in these courses"), but all in all, uneventful. It was, in fact, potentially interesting.

And Person has just informed me that last night they asked Therapist to dinner. And Therapist accepted. And that Person states that it was "not premeditated, and undoubtedly not unrelated to the [training center] episode where someone I care about was not afforded much respect."

There is not enough palm for my face at the moment.

Therapist is clearly threatened by me (it was evident from the initial unguarded reaction), has found all sorts of fancy rationalizations to justify this behavior, is not protecting Person by dragging them into a conflict that is not their doing and forcing them to take sides or play arbiter, has recklessly breached the boundaries of the therapist-patient relationship while insisting that they are doing their utmost to protect them, and is being egregiously unprofessional and inappropriate. I could go on , except my brain is still too busy trying to wrap itself around the concept of "therapist crying 'ethics' from the rooftops accepted a dinner date from a patient?!?!?!!!" So my opinion of therapist has shifted from "unhelpful" to "actively harmful"; they are far too enmeshed. Person has enormous problems with setting boundaries, and therapist really should know better.

Which brings me to the seeking of opinions now: what to do?
I am considering writing to Person about the specific episode of the conference, from when I signed up to last night, breaking it down into events and pointing out where I saw conflicts of interest, disrespect, and inappropriate behavior towards Person and myself, and to strongly suggest that a third-party, unrelated therapist be consulted for their opinion here. And I am also prepared for the relationship with Person to end over this, though I would really prefer not to do that. (It would suck mightily—take it as a given that I love Person to bits, it has considerable effort for us to achieve a functional, sustainable relationship despite enormous obstacles, and that therapist has undoubtedly heard many of the details—but this kind of dynamic would end up harming me in the long run, and I'm the only one I can save in this scenario.)

#101 ::: Hiding for now has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 06:04 AM:

for giant wall o'text containing suspicious words?

#102 ::: Possibly a part of valor ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 07:13 AM:

There was a link about prejudice against asexuals over at the supporting trans people thread.

Well, yes. I'm kind of surprised it took a study to notice it, but people generally don't notice things unless they're own personal toes get stepped on.

I'm not sure whether I'm strictly speaking asexual-- it seems more likely that I run at a low desire level and had some early abuse which made the idea of sex and romance too frightening to be worth pursuing.

However, the prejudice against lack of interest in sex has been affecting me for a long time. Sometimes I've wondered if I'd have been a happier person in a more sex-negative society. It would have been hard on a lot of other people, of course.

One related prejudice which seems to be less in play (or less publicly so) is prejudice against virgins. If I never hear another "let's throw the virgins in the volcano-- heh, heh, no virgins here" joke, it will be too soon.

I'd read pro-sexual minority authors, and eventually they'd do a core dump about how awful people who don't like sex are. Disappointing, but I guess it makes sense. After all, they were people with strong sex drives who were being attacked for them.

I'd collect bits from sf which were relatively kind. There's the section in Sturgeon's "The [Widget], the [Wadget], and Boff" about a man who isn't heteronormative enough and is suicidal over it. He's reassured by being told that everyone is part of the human race making their own contribution to what "normal" is, and also the suggestion that there's so much advertising for sex, which suggests that people don't really like it as much as they say.

I'm still hauling around an insane amount of shame over my failure to be normal. It's better than it was, but it's still pretty intense.

I have a notion that people might be most vulnerable to shame in the parts of their lives where they have the weakest instincts for what they need. Almost sounds like a tautology when I put it that way, but I'm not sure I'm right.

There's a mention in Stranger in a Strange Land that religious leaders tend to have either very high or very low sex drives. It's incredibly rare for people with low sex drives to be mentioned as part of the human race.

And the female main character in Spinrad's Child of Fortune, who loses interest in sex for a while after being raped.

That's about it. Sherlock Holmes is usually counted as asexual, but I don't like the stories enough for that to mean much to me.

For whatever reason, the way Ayn Rand's villains just engage in sex while having very little enthusiasm for it doesn't especially bother me-- maybe because they didn't have enough sense to not do it if they didn't like it. Most writers (especially from that era) would have villains who were gay and/or sadistic.

I'm not sure whether prejudice against asexuals has it's roots in fear of being attacked for liking sex, or whether it's just general human meanness.

#103 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 07:28 AM:

Hiding @ 100: that sounds like a truly horrible situation. I can't make sense of Therapist at all, and hope you and Person find an effective way to resolve this issue with your relationship intact.

Possibly @ 102: I suspect that the prejudice against people who aren't interested in sex, whether or not they are strictly asexual, comes from nothing more than a fear of the Different. This would explain why people who are homophobic and/or transphobic are also more inclined to be prejudiced against asexual people, as the article illustrates. Prejudices cluster, so I don't think people are actually prejudiced because of Reasons. I think people who are prejudiced first and then make up the Reasons later.

I have a piece of test evidence for this, though it will take more to establish the theory firmly. I came out as asexual to someone who was very homophobic and transphobic, and had a whole slew of reasons to justify being so. I figured that if I was right that the reasons had been manufactured later to justify the prejudices, this person would react in a prejudiced way without being able to give any reasons for it. And that, sadly, was exactly what happened.

#104 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 07:31 AM:

Apologies. My grammar got knotted at the end of the second paragraph. *sigh*

#105 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 01:04 PM:

Victoria @95: I've never found "letting go" to be easy.

"Letting go" is approximately as easy as removing a brain tumor, and for similar reasons.

#106 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 02:43 PM:

Hiding for now, #100: Oy. I don't see any way to get out of this mess unscathed. At this point, my first suggestion is to lay out the details of the situation as you have done for us, not to Person, but to the supervisor of Therapist, because the behavior of Therapist is pinging strongly at my predator warnings.

Do you have any idea why Therapist perceives you as a threat? I believe, given your account here, that you are correct about it not being based on either you being the partner of one of their patients or on ethical issues; those are smoke-screens. Finding out what's going on with that might be important. Is it possible that it's a gender-based issue?

I should also mention that if Person has been discussing their relationship with you to Therapist and Therapist thinks of you as a threat, it is quite possible that Therapist has been working toward getting Person to break up with you for some time now, and that taking the step of actively pressuring Person to choose between you and Therapist has been one of the goals all along. That, too, pings my predator warning. And I think that getting Person out of reach of a possibly-predatory relationship may be more important at this point than salvaging your own relationship -- although managing to do both would be the optimum outcome. (See what I said over on the trans* thread about "optimum" not being the same thing as "realistic".)

Possibly, #102: Hearing and witnessing, although I have nothing constructive to say.

#107 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 02:56 PM:

Possibly @102, I suspect some of the prejudice against asexuals is a backlash against slut-shaming. Some of the rest is just humans pouncing on any difference, no matter how irrelevant, to pick on others.

You might connect with Michelle Sagara's Chronicles of Elantra. The first book is Cast in Shadow. At the beginning of the series it reads, in a low-key way, as though there will be a long-running romance or romantic triangle subplot, but as it evolves it becomes clear that the heroine, Kaylin, just really has no particular interest in going there.

#108 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 03:58 PM:

Hiding @100: Are therapists licensed in your polity? If so, I'd go have me a little conversation with the [polity] licensing board. What Therapist is doing definitely sounds WTF to me.

Possibly @102: Given that prejudice and other-hatred seems so deeply entrenched in the human psyche, I've been speculating for a while now that it goes all the way back to the days when Homo Sap and Neandertal were duking it out for possession of the planet, and maybe even farther than that, given how many Homo variants have come and gone. Sort of like the tendancy of many male mammals to kill offspring sired by other males.

No clue how one would go about testing that hypothesis, however.

#109 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 04:32 PM:

About people getting angry at asexuals: I've had people get angry at me when I told them I don't drink (beer, wine, mixed drinks) because I don't like the taste of alcohol. I wonder if there's something of "how dare you judge my choices and disagree with me" in it? Even though I'm not actually judging them, and would be happy for them to have a glass of wine or a beer or whatever, there's an amazing amount of sudden defensiveness that sometimes shows up.

#110 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 05:21 PM:

Cally Soukup @109 I can see that defensiveness (for both the sexuality and the alcohol) being rooted in a societal/cultural shame. You *know* that there's nothing wrong with having a drink, but there's still enough moral condemnation around (even if it's muted) that someone who says they don't drink seems to be implying that they're superior to you for not succumbing to your vice.

I am always afraid of getting that reaction, as I don't drink either (from dislike of the taste, not moral disapprobation).

Certainly, I've seen it from saying I don't like going to the casino - in that case it was quite explicitly "How dare you judge me!"

I think it extends to sexuality because issues around sexuality are so heated and so polarized and tend to attract so much condemnation.

#111 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 06:04 PM:

109/110: Count me in as another person who dislikes the taste of alcohol, and can taste it in ridiculously low concentrations, and who has gotten hostile reactions about this. (Not so much any more; I've gotten much better at surrounding myself with people who don't consider alcohol to be an indispensable part of any social occasion, whether they themselves drink or not.) I had some things to say about this, in the context of a book review, here.

Re casinos... I've been to one of the smaller ones along the Gulf Coast, but it was for a concert. I certainly wouldn't go just for the gambling, in part because you couldn't pay me enough to go into the room where all the slot machines are -- the rest of the casino is non-smoking, but the game room isn't, and you can see the thick miasma of smoke thru the glass walls. And the small casinos tend to be built where there is nothing else around to lure the patrons away from the gambling. I can see a young couple using one as a honeymoon destination, when they're likely to be spending most of their time in the hotel room anyhow. :-) But ye ghods, I'd be bored stiff!

#112 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 10:12 PM:

Lee, the Hard Rock casino in the Ft Lauderdale area has a no-smoking slots room for precisely that reason. :)

Plus, the ceilings in Vegas casinos are deliberately high enough that the smoke doesn't get to be much of a problem unless you are VERY sensitive to it.

#113 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 11:19 PM:

There's both the "how dare you judge me" and the milder, less personally offended version of assuming that I object to or don't do something for some moral reason when mostly I'm just not interested (in alcohol, gambling, dressing in short skirts, putting on makeup, watching TV) but it's a subject that does get moralized about by some people. (In my case, tastes bad, boring and expensive, drafty and rides up to show more than I intend, can't be bothered, and lost interest a few years back, respectively - no moral reasons.)

Yeah, even TV. I've seen people say they don't own a TV as if it's a point of pride and they're so much more high-brow than those slobs with TVs. That sort also tend to bring it up regularly.

Even New Interest showed a bit of that, assuming that I would be opposed to going to a pub with some mutual friends. I explained to him that while I don't particularly like being around people who are plastered, I have no problem with being around people having a couple of drinks. I just go for something without alcohol in those situations.

(For alcohol's bad taste specifically, I found out recently that there's a genetic variant, similar in concept to "supertaster" people, who find that anything alcohol tastes horribly bitter. The article also listed coffee and grapefruit, and I find those horribly bitter as well. So... for some people, it really is just the way they are, and there's no unconscious moral judgement at its core.)

#114 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 02:50 AM:

the invisible one: ...Interesting. I have no real preference on grapefruit, but count me in the 'alcohol and coffee are way bitter, get them away' club.

#115 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 03:25 AM:

Datapointing. Alcohol and coffee are both very bitter and nasty to me, and until a couple of years ago I'd have said the same thing about grapefruit. Also, while I liked dark chocolate, anything over about 70% was too bitter for my taste.

But since I've cut way back on my sugar intake, grapefruit doesn't taste nearly as nasty as it used to; there are several grapefruit drinks I've gotten to like, and others that I can drink even though I can tell that 5 years ago they'd have made me go "Yuck!" And my preferred dark chocolate now is Ghirardelli 86%, which I would formerly have relegated to "baking chocolate". So apparently even some of the genetically-related stuff is subject to retraining, although I have no desire to try about either coffee or alcohol.

#116 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 04:06 AM:

I've wondered whether grapefruit has been getting bred to be sweeter/less bitter.

#117 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 08:00 AM:

Another datapoint: Coffee and alcohol and dark chocolate all super-bitter (although I can do dark chocolate in extreme moderation because CHOCOLATE).

Also, dark green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, anything in the cabbage family) deeply unappetizing; I think it's related but I'm honestly not sure.


#118 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 08:09 AM:

Me, above: "extreme moderation." <blink> Is that an oxymoron? I know what I *meant*....

#119 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 09:09 AM:

An update.

After I posted here, and read everyone else's accounts, I felt stronger and less alone. So thank you, all of you, for sharing and witnessing and not judging. While I recognize that my parents aren't going to change and I can't fix them, I do feel better for having spoken up here. Clearer, and less alone. It's good.

I was too optimistic, though: I emailed my father, and told him about the conversation I'd had with my mother and how sad I was that she blamed me for his illness; and I told him I hoped he'd find out what was the matter and get better very soon. He just replied to me.

"I found your email so full of hate, venom, innuendo, half truths and downright lies that it left me almost speechless.

"I remember you coming in to my room on an earlier visit and us talking about Mom and me dying sooner rather than later. You said that you would be in pieces when I die. I’m beginning to think that one of your pieces will be singing and dancing happily on my grave."

I guess that's me told!

It's sad that this is the best that he can do. But I'm working hard on remembering that his anger is his problem, and just as I'm not responsible for his "cancer", I'm not responsible for his meanness, either.

#120 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 09:11 AM:

Cassy B: As best I can tell, while coffee, dark chocolate, and dark green vegetables are all bitter, they're not all bitter from exactly the same compounds, and there are separate genetic controllers for them. The reaction to the compounds in brassicas/cruciferous vegetables is definitely genetically controlled - there's a cool exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science with tasting strips to see if you go "yuck".

And my housemate, who has a very sensitive palate and cannot handle coffee or dark chocolate at all, nevertheless enjoys brassicas a LOT. When I make roasted winter vegetables I have to make sure that there are extra Brussels sprouts and cauliflower to make sure she gets enough, and cauliflower gratin is a big treat. She didn't make the Coffee Shudder at the exhibit's tasting strips, either.

I have to take it on faith that some people perceive alcohol as bitter, just as I have to take it on faith that some people think cilantro tastes like soap - I lack the genetic traits to perceive either of those. Coffee, chocolate, brassicas, and grapefruit are all things where I can perceive bitterness - I just happen to LIKE the level of bitterness I experience in them, which is where my housemate is on brassicas, but not on coffee or dark chocolate.

In exchange for not having the cilantro-soap trait, I seem to be stuck with the one where I detect something in mangoes that tastes like turpentine, and so mangoes are Yuck to me.

#121 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 09:29 AM:

Another food datapoint:

I love chocolate, and I can handle mild alcoholic drinks now, but coffee, peppers of any variety, and grapefruit all taste very bitter to me.

#122 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 09:55 AM:

I don't like coffee or dark chocolate; they are bitter, the latter with a strong, unpleasant acidic component. Alcohol tastes sour, and slightly rotten. I'm quite fond of milk chocolate and grapefruit, and while I'm not a big fan of brassicas it's not because they're bitter; it's because they're boring.

#123 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 10:04 AM:

Rosa Hughes, sorry to hear you had such an unpleasant email exchange with your dad while trying to do the right thing.

#124 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 11:14 AM:

Another datapoint on food sensitivities:
Alcohol just tasted straight-up medicinal to me for most of my life, but I've come to appreciate some mild (mostly sweet and/or fruity) forms (homemade mead=win).

Coffee, otoh, is still a no-go; a hint of coffee flavor in a dessert is enough to be off-putting to me. Strangely, I like the smell of coffee, although in general, smell is my biggest hypersensitivity (and I've read more than once that taste is in some ways dependent on smell). I can tell when certain customers walk in the door because of the perfume/pot/incense they smell of, even though I am a (pretty large) room away.

As far as hostile reactions, I'm enough of a hermit not to encounter too much directly anymore, though I've seen it at a distance. My coffee-abstinence has gotten me treated as a curiosity more than once, but there wasn't any anger to it.

Oh, and I used to like only milk chocolate, but have developed a strong preference for dark--go figure.

I remember seeing an article that adults lose some sensitivity to certain ranges of flavor as we age. So I guess in addition to our inherent, individual differences in perception, there are those sorts of general trends thrown in.

#125 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 12:41 PM:

Hey, found it: Are kids' taste buds different from adults'?

On a more DFD-related note, Chickadee @110:
I can see that defensiveness (for both the sexuality and the alcohol) being rooted in a societal/cultural shame. You *know* that there's nothing wrong with having a drink, but there's still enough moral condemnation around (even if it's muted) that someone who says they don't drink seems to be implying that they're superior to you for not succumbing to your vice.
Yes. I can actually "watch" both sides of this play out in real-time in my own head (yes, that's as unpleasant as it sounds). I was raised by fearful, controlling, sex-negative, body-negative, teetotaling* people, and I've spent most of my life trying (with limited success) to develop a sense of self. My first efforts were more or less of the "if they hate it, I like it" variety. But I actually don't like alcohol very much, and I'm more and more suspecting that I'm asexual, or maybe Vulcan. So.

The recipe: Isolate a small, dependent sentient being, add layers and layers of programming and marinate thoroughly in fear/anxiety. Allow to simmer for approx. half a lifetime.

Now, take this adult person, who believes--rationally, and with all her heart--that these are personal choices, and wants for all consenting adults to be able to make these choices for themselves, without shaming or prejudice. Drop in an unexpected confrontation with something that EITHER threatens OR reinforces the programming. Watch her inner demons tear each other to bits in her hindbrain while her reason sobs uncontrollably in the corner.

In my defense, I think I do keep the demons pretty well internalized. This doesn't stop the guilt.

*I recently came to the realization (thread or two back) that one of them is, in fact an alcoholic. But my "reality" growing up was We Don't Do That.

#126 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 01:25 PM:

I remember the smell of a vinegar-based dip being intolerably strong to me, when I was about eleven. And a Chinese ginger chicken dish was overwhelming. Such things are tasty in my middle age.

Like several folks who have already spoken, I have a low tolerance for bitter things -- I don't drink coffee or beer. Although I once tried a paper-strip test for "bitter supertaster", and it *wasn't* unusually bitter. I think there's some kind of accumulation effect, rather than a simple overdrive. The first sip of beer is interesting, the third is too bitter, and the fifth makes me gag.

(Bitter-sweet is fine, though. Dark chocolate? No problem. Bitter lemon soda, sure. I just made this chocolate beer cookie recipe: -- recommended.)

#127 ::: Variations on a Lime ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 02:08 PM:

Rosa Hughes,
Minus the email, which they didn't learn to use, I could just about hear that message in my df family member's voice. I remember that usually the harshest and prickliest statements came when I'd obviously done some research or gotten both sides of a story, and wasn't just accepting the original story at face value.

Here it sounds like you'd been told that the problem was cancer, therefore you must react with all the sympathy, guilt, and "let me drop everything and help" (or similarly strong reaction) that hearing "cancer" should cause.

Instead, you reacted to the reality, not to the lines they gave you for a staged play.

I read his reaction as that he didn't get you to use his first script, so he goes to a completely different type of script for you to follow. If you didn't read from that script there'd be yet another provocative script, all contradicting each other (and nothing to do with actual events).

If he's doing what my df person did, then his words are unrelated and will be unrelated to anything you wrote or said. Your writing to him sounds like a useful action that you did for yourself. You're writing a sympathetic reality-based letter as you'd choose to do for anyone else: you're not reading his script.

#128 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 02:21 PM:

Rosa Hughes @119: Sympathies. Congratulations on the realisation expressed in your last paragraph.

Cally Soukup, @109, the invisible one @113 etc. re. people thinking you're judging them by not liking alcohol, gambling, make up or whatever: my mother, I worked out several years ago, saw my not wearing make up, maintaining a simple hair style (wash, towel, brush back, done), mostly not wearing skirts etc. etc. as a rejection of her. Particularly since in most of those things I was more in tune with my stepmother's way of doing things. But I wasn't rejecting -her-; I just had (and have) different tastes.

The_L @112: I've not been into a casino in Las Vegas, but I can't imagine that high ceilings would be sufficient to make them -not- smell of smoke. It gets into all fabrics etc. We had someone who smoked staying with us for a few weeks. He always went outside to actually smoke, but after he left it still took nearly two months to get the stink out of the spare room.

#129 ::: Variation on a Lime has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 02:34 PM:

One freestone peach, each slice capturing a summer's week of sun with hints of rose?

#130 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 03:17 PM:

dcb: Surprisingly, Vegas casinos smell very little of smoke, and I am pretty sensitive to it. I think they have smoke-zappers in the (fairly aggressive) ventilation systems--either that or they just don't allow smoking on the gaming floors anymore. I do not recall seeing anyone smoking on any of my trips through a casino, though it has all been walking through on my way to somewhere else.

#131 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 03:22 PM:

Oo! Never had that happen before - I ended up with this thread open in two windows and in the one I've had open a while my comment is #127 and in the other, because of de-gnoming of Variation on a Lime's comment, it's #128. Mild cognitive dissonance until I worked out what had happened.

Variation on a Lime: I love your offering to the gnomes @129. I also think that your analysis @127 is fascinating - and probably correct.

Amongst the things I've learned on the DF threads over the years:
- Patterns of dysfunctionality repeat in different people's lives.
- Reading about dysfunctionality in somebody else's life which intersects with what's happening in your own can be really really illuminating, because (a) "it's not just me!" (b) it's easier to see/acknowledge how awful the other party is being when it's someone else's parent or other important-to-you person, not your own; (c) that means you can acknowledge the dysfunctional behaviour without feeling guity (because you're not judging your own parent/other important-to-you person); (d) that can then make it so much easier to analyse (and accept the analysis of) what's going on in your own dysfunctional relationship...
- Even just knowing other people are reading and witnessing, that is, being heard, can be incredibly important.

#132 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 04:00 PM:

OtterB and dcb, thank you.

Variations on a Lime, at #127: that's spot on. Thank you. I could swear a bell rang as I read it. It doesn't matter how carefully I explain myself to my parents, I always (in their eyes) get it wrong, and that is somehow offensive to them.

Writing everything out, clarifying it, cutting away the emotions: that's helped me. It makes things simpler, and more obvious; and it shows their reactions to it all to be ludicrous and unfair.

It would be nice if they too could recognize these things. It's sad that they won't ever be able to. But that can't be my problem any more.

#133 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 05:51 PM:

dcb #131: Yeah, there are a limited number of "failure modes" (compared to engaged interaction and negotiation) available to dysfunctional relators, and so each one tends to teach us about all of them.

Rosa Hughes #132: But that can't be my problem any more.

Good for you!

#134 ::: Aeronautic Simian ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 06:45 PM:

Long time lurker in these threads. First time poster.

I wasn't abused as a kid in any way I could perceive at the time, but I was damaged. And I desperately want to let go of the anger and blame, because I'm not sure my father was entirely responsible for his actions.

My parents divorced when I was in grade school and I went to live with my dad. I would've been better off with my mother, but Dad would've scorched and salted the earth in a custody battle and not even realized he was doing it.

See, I'm pretty sure my father is a functioning narcissist. He lives in this bubble world where he is the hero of his epic life. He defines himself by how others see him: Admired for his Work, Respected in his Community, Caring Husband, Good Father. This would make most people very uncertain, but Dad has a way of shifting his own perception, history, and truth so that all of these corners are covered. Anyone who doesn't see him in those contexts becomes unworthy of his attention or, worse, an enemy. In this world, he never lies and he's always right.

He's also one of the more charismatic people I know. Especially as a kid, it was hard to argue with him, because he was so assured and his assurance and rightness always seemed so reasonable.

Now, imagine that you're being raised by this man and that you have ADHD. My ADHD was diagnosed when I was in third grade. I didn't find this out until I was 25, because my Dad decided it was crap (I think -- I've never heard Dad's side because there isn't one anymore, for reasons I'll get into). I was never told and I was never treated.

One of the problems that can come with ADHD is that you have trouble maintaining chains of information. You don't know how you know a thing, you just know it. You're constantly unsure of your own memory and knowledge, because it's a jumble. I worked hard to maintain an internal autobiography of life events to compensate.

Anyway, mixing together someone with an absolute knowledge of who they are, what they stand for, and what their reality is with a kid who is still figuring the first two out and has specific neurochemical trouble with the third -- it's a bad mix.

When Dad told stories about our past, they sometimes changed, not only from my own memories of the events, but from previous retellings. Questioning him would lead to a patient explanation of why you were wrong, but it's okay, because your memories will match up with his going forward.

It was especially bad when Dad's versions clashed with Mom's, because Mom's versions didn't change and I trusted hers more. In the presence of Dad's charismatic certainty, I would eventually wear down and "admit" that Mom had it wrong or, worse, was lying.

I was never allowed to be disappointed or express disapproval with Dad, because I couldn't recall the specific evidence to back up my statements. If I did remember something, I was holding a grudge (getting to the topic of the post). A guy can't slip up one time? Geez.

If you want a short version of the problem -- living in a house with someone who was always right meant somebody had to be wrong. It was usually me.

I became obsessed with movies at a very young age. I think originally it was simply out of fascination, but eventually it became a coping mechanism. Movies had specific release years, they had specific casts and directors to remember, and histories that were printed (and recent enough to not be in any great amount of contention). It was something that I knew and my father didn't.

Which brings me to the example of my childhood that burns in my brain. We were watching television and had flipped to the middle of a movie with Billy Bob Thornton, Patrick Swayze, and another woman. I instantly pinged on this being "Waking Up in Reno" -- I'd never seen it, but I must have read an article about it in one of my movie magazines. That made the woman Natasha Richardson. Dad looked at the screen and said, "Emma Thompson!" And I said, "No, Natasha Richardson." And he fought me. Tooth and nail. Told me that he'd seen plenty of Emma Thompson movies, that I was confused, that it had to be Emma Thompson. Finally, I ran up to my computer, looked up the movie on the IMDb and printed out the cast list. I wanted to be right once, just once in my childhood.

When I got back to the room, with proof in hand, he said, "You know what? It might not be Emma Thompson. I don't know why you're getting so worked up about it, though."

He was a master of using extremes to get information out of me. He was interrogating me about my friendship with my mother and I clammed up on him because I just didn't want to talk about it with him. I weakly offered the defense, "It's a special relationship and I don't want to discuss it." My mistake. He immediately said, with all due horror, "Are you having SEX with her?" What? No! And immediately I start backtracking and describing to him, in detail, the friendship I have with my mother. This was at a time when they were at odds and I knew later that I'd just given him ammo and I felt ashamed.

Here's the thing -- I believe Dad is sick. I think he has a brain problem where he simply can't operate any other way. I believe that his constantly changing-to-suit-him reality really does change for him.

For example, a few years ago, I was preparing to confront Dad about the fact that I'd be diagnosed with ADHD in grade school and was never told or treated. We were sitting in the car, driving to his house, and when we got home, I was going to have it out with him. Suddenly, without prompting, he told me that he wished they could've figured out the ADHD thing sooner, but there wasn't a word for it when I was a kid.

I didn't fight him, because he wasn't lying. What he said, he said with the utmost honesty. In his mind, that was the absolute truth of the matter. There had never been a diagnosis. ADHD was something I couldn't have even *been* diagnosed with as a kid. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia and always allied with Eurasia.

So that's my struggle. So much of my uncertainty and depression and low self-image stems from that childhood, from that man. In my head, I know he's also a victim of his own mental illness... he never keeps friends for very long, he keeps changing jobs (even though he's always self-employed and relatively successful), and my sister and I spent years not talking to him.

In my heart (or emotion parts of my brain), I still hold him accountable and I am still so angry at him. And I don't know how to get over that. 33% of all of my dreams feature him and some are nightmares. I haven't lived under his roof in 12 years and at this point, I do feel like I'm holding a grudge... but maybe that's because that's what he always told me I was doing.

#135 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 10:42 PM:

Wow. Far more people here voicing a dislike of alcohol-flavour than I usually ever see. Like Lee I can usually taste quite small quantities, and most anything that started as a grass is vile. What few people I know who don't like alcohol-taste do not have the exact same root cause for the dislike, because we all found different drinks more or less yucky. I noticed a substantial uptick in social acceptability, from consuming no alcohol because it tastes yucky, to having even one drink I enjoyed, even if most things I liked were unavailable specialties.

I also only like coffee when it's transformed into liquid dessert, have an upper limit of chocolate darkness (modulated by quality and variety). Cruciform vegetables (broccoli, cabbage etc.), olives (so far anyway) and carbonated drinks are icky. So if Wikipedia is accurate, I guess I'm a supertaster.

#136 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 11:10 PM:

Moonlit Night @135, oddly, I like olives. A lot. I perceive them as "sour" not "bitter", and I enjoy sour flavors in moderation. But there is no level of coffee I can tolerate (when I'm feeling ill, even the smell is awful), and wine sauces are problematic; usually they're cooked down far enough that the remaining alcohol is dilute enough not to matter, but some chefs (darn them! Darn them to heck!) add a splash of whatever to the sauce right before it's served, and it becomes inedible. I eat cruciform vegetables when they are served to me because I am an Adult and I will eat Icky Things if they are good for me. But I won't volunteer to put them on my plate, and I'll look for alternatives.

#137 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 12:15 AM:

#125, eep: mine is not nearly as extreme, but I do sometimes struggle with feeling both sides of the 'sexy' thing. In my case it was parents who just didn't talk about it EVER, no friends close enough to talk about it with, then crappy ex who pushed me to do things I wasn't comfortable with even after I asked him to stop, then most recently reading a bunch of feminist things and learning a lot. So I end up simultaneously asking what's shameful about spending the night with your boyfriend/girlfriend and wanting to hide that I'd just done that, or simultaneously hating the way people go around slut-shaming women who dress sexy and hating how all the women's costumes for hallowe'en sometimes seem to be basically "slutty X". Conflicted much? I try to tell myself I'm private it's none of their business, and that I wish there were more options (not "instead of", but "as well as"), respectively, but I can't always convince myself of that.

Although thinking about it further, my mom was kind of body negative in some ways but not in others. She thought nothing of leaving the bathroom door open while she was having a bath, but the one time I tried sleeping naked as a teenager and she walked into my room to wake me up then reacted with horror and disgust when she saw me...

#135, Moonlit Night: maybe because here of all places, we don't get the "how dare you judge me" for our likes and dislikes and associated choices, so it's safer to say it?

#138 ::: mea ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 12:19 AM:

Aeronautic Simian, you were not PHYSICALLY abused, but wow, you are a survivor. Just writing to say "listening" and that dealing with mental illness and its reverberations (whether that mental illness is diagnosed or not) is particularly difficult and living with a parent who is the center of a vortex is so very, very unique that just describing the situation is challenging.

That is one value of this thread, where I learned the term gas lighting.

And when I read your sentence "Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia and always allied with Eurasia." -- I nodded my head, and smiled, thinking "hey, Aeronautic Simian has already found the words to perfectly convey what was going on - and to cope"

Because my coping mechanism is to find the words to turn it into a story. Here are the stories I've collected, and when I find the truth in the story and repeat it and repeat it, then I am the storyteller (a position of power) and that thing that made me feel powerless and out of control? Ive NAMED it, I've DESCRIBED it, so I am now in control.

Doesnt mean the anger necessarily goes away. But if it helps, I am twenty years away from the situations that made me angry and most of the time there is no need to be angry anymore. But boy, did it help to name, describe and give myself permission to be angry.

And I also had that moment of "oh, I can't have this fight with my parent. Parent would never understand" -- which means that the nature of our relationship is different than if I could have had taht fight. I was angry for a long time about that, but I told the story a few times to people who understood, and it got better.

sending you good thoughts

#139 ::: mea has been gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 12:20 AM:

dried figs for the duty gnome?

#140 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 12:54 AM:

Wall of text time! This is an even more relevant and helpful thread than usual. Forgiveness has been something I've been chewing over lately with not much progress. It was prompted by Housemate deciding that the best ways to get my mother out of my head were to either (1) confront her, or (2) forgive her. Confronting does not seem helpful to me, and both Therapist and people here have backed up my reasoning, but Housemate is super-confident that coming out as abused and outing my abusers to themselves will heal me, and that this variety of healing is exclusive, no other supplier. Housemate is a trans* lesbian, who had to come out to heal herself, so perhaps she sees a nail and therefore wants to apply her known good hammer.

So, onto forgiving. It is *so good* to read many other people saying -- as I have always felt -- that the wrongdoer needs to repent and make amends to earn forgiveness leading to reconciliation. And that the other likely situations -- absolution or writing off an uncollectable debt -- ought be spoken of with more specific terms.

"Forgiving" has lots of baggage for me, and most or all of the other terms I've run across trigger it as well, like "acceptance" and "letting go". Why is it always *my* job to do? In absolution-style "forgiving", it's my job to continually take whatever was dished out, and tell them it tasted good. In "acceptance", it's much the same except that I may admit to myself that it tasted horrible. In "letting go", I'm supposed to stop caring that I was wronged because it's past and unchangeable. Every option I've got boils down to letting them get away with hurting me, at least what's already done. But they wronged me so they should damned well do some work!

None of the options involves the other party repenting, changing, or making amends. (But neither does confronting, in many cases.) If there's any restitution I have to make it myself. I'm just supposed to be all saintly or get so worn out that I'll stop caring. Since the point of the exercise is less emotional/mental labour for me, by getting figments out of my head, *there should be a way that is less work.* Me having to do all/most of the work is one of the most reliable hallmarks of being abused, in my experience. In friendships, there is equality, not too many hurts, and mostly by accident, so forgiving and forgetting mostly works. Unfortunately, that still leaves a lot of life to get hurt in. At least this thread is clarifying why the baggage exists and how this trigger keeps getting pulled:

The wrongdoer often has power over me, so any conflict is slanted against me. If I don't give in, I am somehow endangered, and the danger is at least partly real and significant. Sometimes the wrongdoer knows this and uses it against me, usually covertly. Also, the wrongdoer is usually a long-term figure in my life. I will have difficulty getting equal, getting superior, or even just getting away permanently.

The effect is that when hurt, I typically can't collect on debts, but can be hurt again and again by people who are somewhere between "able and willing", and "able and clumsy". So I am unsafe and can't make myself safe without drastic measures, and high costs/uncertain consequences.

#141 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 01:41 AM:

Continuing from #140. I want things to get better such that there is less hurt to forgive, and more of it happens in the optimal situation.

I have a LOT of trouble finding/creating safety and I seem to feel it's all up to me. In childhood I couldn't make safety but it looked like I could if I tried hard enough. At the same time that I knew deep down I wasn't safe, my parents pretended they provided all the safety I needed/deserved, and I must have tried hard to believe them because I had no good alternative. I certainly have a lot of deep-down cognitive dissonance and get paralyzed because every choice can be/is wrong. This programming is strong enough that I can have trouble requiring others to be fair and kind when we're equals, let alone with a power imbalance.

As an adult, with family, my lack of safety is "my fault" for staying loosely connected to my family, but cutting my mother off could well cause more drama and hurt than mostly ignoring her. No clearly safer choice.

Bosses, colleagues, and acquaintances tend to be unaware of what they're doing that hurts me and why/how much. I end up feeling oversensitive and giving them too much slack because it is accidental, or my feelings are inappropriate or too strong. It does not help my professional image to explain my abusive childhood, and too personal for me to want to. But I don't know how to discuss matters in less personally revealing ways, yet with enough force to change the patterns.

With partners and roommates, even mildly hurtful things can happen so often as to amplify and be triggering. Worse, safety/comfort and harm come from the same source -- as per childhood but *these* people are not supposed to do that and this isn't supposed to happen anymore. Three layers of dissonance is tiring. I also take quite a while to realize I'm being wronged, if it's less than blatant. It takes time to collect and analyze behaviour for patterns, then to realize bad stuff might not be all my fault. Even then internal voices tell me it still might be. Plus, emotionally and financially, I cannot just order partners/roommates to go away if a problem is not temporary.

This next applies especially with partners and roommates, but covers every sphere. My stating an opinion, setting a boundary, or discussing a hurt or inequity often won't get taken seriously until I get really angry, distressed, or passive-aggressive. My calmer attempts may seem to be heard, but will be ignored in decision-making. Then when I get hurt or loud enough that people finally pay attention, they are confused or angry at me because I should have spoken up before. When I bring up specifics of the previous attempts to communicate politely, gently, calmly, and reasonably, they tend to agree that they happened. They can't explain how/why they ignored or overrode me. They often don't apologize for ignoring me or pushing me around until it was "suffer or pick a fight."

This happens often enough that when I do get heard at a conversational volume, tone, and calmness, I may have trouble believing it's true. So then I routinely annoy people by wanting confirmation that my message is received, things will improve, and there are no hurt feelings for me asking for fairness and kindness. Which is tedious for them and further reinforces them not wanting to really listen to me. Yes, this does degenerate into me getting repetitive *because* others won't listen to me because I'm repetitive. I've been through it enough to insist on getting responses, because just speaking and trusting they absorbed the message definitely isn't reliable.

I can't help fretting that I'm somehow causing other people's tendency to ignore me or push me around. Being gentle and polite is no good. Being assertive often transforms into "too gentle and polite" in the airspace between my mouth and their ears. Being loud, hurt, passive-aggressive, or rude is bad for the relationship and my reputation, but is often the only reliable way to be heard. What the hell am I supposed to do?

#142 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 01:56 AM:

Aeronautic Simian, #134: I'm not surprised that you're still dealing with a lot of rage. Your father systematically gaslighted you for 20-odd years, and that's going to have done a lot of damage whether or not he talked himself into believing the lies he told. There is nothing wrong with being angry about actual damage that was done to you, especially when you're still having to deal with the fallout. And one of the hardest things to deal with is knowing that for him, reality really is that flexible, and so he can never be brought to book for what he did to you.

Cassy, #136: I eat cruciform vegetables when they are served to me because I am an Adult and I will eat Icky Things if they are good for me.

Heh. My version of this is, "I am an adult, and I have the right to leave something on my plate if I don't want to eat it." But like you, given a choice I'll select something else in the first place -- why waste food?

But not all cruciforms are created equal. I won't touch anything cabbage-y; I can handle small amounts of broccoli (e.g. broccoli-cheese soup, or a bit that stuck to the zucchini piece I'm eating); but I'll eat tons of cauliflower as long as (1) it's completely cooked and (2) I have butter to put on it. My mouth apparently processes cooked cauliflower into the same slot with mashed potatoes, and I get annoyed with places that serve half-cooked steamed vegetables that include cauliflower, because I simply can't eat it like that.

Re Halloween costumes, because it's getting to be that time of year: if you want to find non-sexy female costumes, don't bother with the discount stores -- go online, or to one of the big Halloween specialty stores, or to a professional costume shop. I've noticed that these tend to have both sexy and non-sexy versions of a lot of the popular female costumes.

Or come up with your own -- which, admittedly, is easier if you've got half a closet full of costume-y odds and ends that you can mix and match. :-) A full-length, long-sleeved black dress can be the base for many costume options.

Or check out Take Back Halloween, which provides a good selection of female costumes, most of them non-sexy (and the few that are get it from historical context) plus guidelines for making them on a budget.

#143 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 04:45 AM:

Aeronautic Simian @ 134: ouch. This resonates strongly. I have spent several years of my life dealing at close quarters with two separate people who were both, in different ways, like your father; thankfully neither of them was a parent. You have my absolute admiration for handling the situation as well as you clearly have done.

#144 ::: Aeronautic Simian ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 05:31 AM:

mea @ 138 -- 1984 is one of my favorite books of all time. I'm only now realizing why it resonated with me so much. Difference being that I don't have to confess that 2 + 2 = 5 anymore.

#145 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 10:09 AM:

Andrew Plotkin #126: I believe you have confused two different taste-related characteristics.

The paper-strip test would probably have been for the ability to taste PTC, which is closely correlated to tasting various bitter compounds in those cruciform vegetables. (I had originally thought that PTC was the bitter compound itself, but looking around I see it's actually a synthetic which happens to correlate.)

A "supertaster" has heightened taste sensitivity in general -- but they're so sensitive that in practice, such people tend to avoid all those flavorful veggies, spices, and so on, preferring a diet that most folks would consider bland.

Neither trait is a binary on/off thing, and especially there are varying levels of the "supertaster" thing.

#146 ::: Vrdolyak ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 12:20 PM:

Moonlit Night @141:

My stating an opinion, setting a boundary, or discussing a hurt or inequity often won't get taken seriously until I get really angry, distressed, or passive-aggressive. My calmer attempts may seem to be heard, but will be ignored in decision-making. Then when I get hurt or loud enough that people finally pay attention, they are confused or angry at me because I should have spoken up before.
Ah. Resonant. So resonant. (Not a steady-drip pattern, but something that seems to happen at such long intervals that previous encounters are forgotten.)

Still reading and witnessing.

#147 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 12:39 PM:

"You need to be afraid!"
Sat down to untangle some thoughts, emotions and stuff, because I've been so stressed out for the last couple of days. That's what I found among other things. The thought was quite urgent, doom awaits me if I were to ignore it I'm assured. Interesting, really.
I'm not quite sure how to deal with not-fear and not-worry, because I must be deluding myself when I'm not constantly afraid, right? Missing something. And it's not like there are not things legitimately to be afraid of, but the question is: is it helping me? Is it helping me to worry myself five minutes before going to bed? Is it helping me to berate myself for not starting on something weeks ago even though I blatantly did not have the energy or time for it at that point?
Nicole @66 among others spoke about the difficulties they had with letting things go. And it's so, so hard. And it remains hard even when you start to have some success see above: I worry about not worrying now I managed to shut down some of the unneccessary commentary.

Letting go - the "it's a lot of hard work for me, here's how I do it" edition (just because it worked for me doesn't mean others will find it help- or useful, ymmv and so on). Dealing with anxiety and depression means an awareness and good control of my thoughts and emotions is something I strive for. Both need lots and lots of practice and patience. Awareness I mainly do by "making space for the thing I expect to be there". I know that I'm dealing with way more anxiety than I perceive, so I try to tune in to it now and again. In the beginning it was only for short stretches of time, because it needs quite some attention and it can be hard for me to maintain focus for long. After a while it gets easier and it becomes habit though I still have to regularly ask myself: are we having emotions here I didn't notice until now that influence the level of energy it takes for me to do stuff and impacts my level of lucidity? Oftentimes the answer is yes.
Dealing with what I find includes as I've mentioned before I think, lots of kindness and patience with myself. When I want to shut something down I usually have some images handy like booting an unpleasent (and unwanted guest) out of the door or something similar. They are not paying rent, the behave atrociously and I don't like them much. I get to kick them out. At times I have to do that several times per minute. Some days that takes waaaay more energy than I have so I don't bother, on others it feels like rolling a boulder uphill and there is no way to let go of it, because that thing will crush me if I do. I do it anyway, because the hill might seem endless, but after a while it becomes easier, the hill is less steep perhaps or I feel stronger that particular day.
Hope this makes some sense, my concentration is still shot to hell, so I'm not quite sure how comprehensible my ramblings are.

Regarding forgiveness, I also got what several people described here already, confusion why I just couldn't let a thing go, people urging me to forgive without any amends (or even apologies) made, telling me how it would be better for me. Looking back I can see how my instincts were usually right, but there still is a part of me that worries how I could have been so cruel and self-absorbed to not forgive immediatly upon request (or pointed silence in my general direction) even while I try to reassure myself that I did the right thing. I mean how could I go around feeling sorry for myself after being broken up with or having a relationship fall apart and not think first about the other party and trying to comfort them! Because I'm not crying non-stop means of course I'm handling it just fine, right? It's not like I could be reserved or too numb to know how to deal right away? And people wonder why I don't open up easily.

#148 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 12:43 PM:

Ugh, my thoughts are really a mess. I want to say more and connect the dots better, but I fear what I posted is as good as it gets at the moment.

#149 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 12:57 PM:

Moonlit Night @141: I so hear you on this issue! I'm currently trying to build something like a baseline (for behaviour, my responses, emotions and so on), because I noticed as well how instinctively I adjust to not-good-for-me situations. It's a nifty survival skill, but it always comes back to bite me in the ass. Currently I try to make peace with the fact that I will get the reaction wrong a lot of the time, either reacting too strongly or not strongly enough. The urge to minimize (the display of my anger, my tone, the space I take up in every sense of the word) is strong and people tell me already that I'm rude, opinionated and out-spoken.
But if I am why get my needs and boundaries disregarded so often? Why do people even feel comfortable telling me outright that I won't be getting an apology, that amends won't be happening, that anything I ask for is unrealistic and too much?
With relationships (of any kind) that have been established years ago I think part is that I suddenly don't fit my role anymore. People get upset because I don't function the way they used to. Then there is legit social pressure on me to be accomodating beyond what is good and safe for me and I'm seen as the one in the wrong if I demand more than that.
I have no clue how to move forward with it, but I will cling to the hope that there are people out there for whom honest communication and respect and good boundaries are a perk and not a deterrent (or an incentive to try to break me).

#150 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 01:48 PM:

Mea, #138 and Aeronautic Simian, #134:

Yes. This. Reading, witnessing and thinking, "So it wasn't just me?!"

Odd one out in kindergarten. Bored to tears half the time because I was ready to move on to the next concept, but the teacher was still teaching the previous one despite the fact that I'd grasped it already. Fade to imagination, staring out the window, fidgeting, total loss of focus, mind effectively elsewhere. Testing... loads and loads of tests, just me and a kind lady who was the school psychologist. Advanced placement in reading, lots of coaxing to focus in others. Still bored.

Fast-forward: I'm perhaps twelve. During one of her ongoing litanies about the vagaries of life with me and with my father, Mom casually tells me, "Well, when you were in kindergarten they tried to tell us you had a learning disability but I didn't buy it because they also told us you had an IQ of ____. I don't understand how those things can even go together." Meanwhile, I've spent years being the scapegoat kid, the outcast kid, and the kid who is rarely fully engaged in the classroom. And I've recently been psychologically and physically abused by a couple of teachers over it. I still have no idea what ADD or ADHD are (data points: this is 1977 or thereabout, and I have never been on Ritalin or any other psychoactive drug or stimulant.)

Mom and Dad have their own constant issues, and as their only child I am frequently called upon to serve as one or the other's sounding-board and confidante. I have become increasingly convinced that this is not the proper role for a child, and as I approach my teens, I begin to resent it. But my mother's revelation about my mystery diagnosis (for she never actually names the condition involved) stays with me. Oddly enough, I do not ever bring this up in my weekly sessions with the school psychologist (a different one now) which have recently begun. Life goes on, with my parents rarely ever right in each other's eyes and me receiving a constant onslaught of mixed and conflicting signals, to which I rarely respond "correctly".

Fast-forward again, this time to early middle age. I have several adult friends with firm diagnoses for everything from Asperger's to ADD/ADHD, so I am familiar with the concepts. I have been through several abusive relationships, lost my mother to cancer, temporarily lost my father to estrangement (voluntary on my part, post-abuse) but have since become his caregiver because his physical and mental health failed and I am an only child. I decide to take a self-evaluation for adult ADD. To no one's surprise, it seems I have it. I certainly have most of the characteristics, and it explains quite well any number of patterns that have persisted throughout my childhood and adulthood. Besides, there is that tale in the family lore that says I was diagnosed with something at the age of five, and as Asperger's (of which I also suspect I could have the mildest touch) was not to my knowledge in use as a diagnosis in 1969-1970, that leaves ADD/ADHD (it should be noted I don't recall ever really having a strong hyperactivity component; I just spaced out a lot and maybe tapped my feet or hummed softly to give myself something on which to focus).

Fast-forward to now. I am aware and have accepted that my parents were obviously focused someplace other than on me, and while I'm perfectly happy NOT to have been medicated (and hey, I did manage to graduate near the top of my high school class and go on to college), whatever interventions were being taken with me might well have served me better had I been equipped with the knowledge of what exactly they were FOR. Because it is much easier as an adult to respect myself knowing that isn't just some failure on my part to do the smart thing, the right thing, the normal thing, etc. Rather, I have a thing that has a name and plenty of other people have it too, so life becomes a way of working with rather than against it, and accepting it just as I accept other aspects of myself.

I am still, as noted in my earlier post, having issues with other choices my parents made for me, some in my young adulthood, that Did Not Help and in fact Quite Possibly Hindered me. I work my way through these with the help of my own internal narrative, because Telling My Story is, I think, the path to Taking Control.

As for a parent's or partner's internally-perceived reality and history changing to match whatever that person finds convenient to claim at the moment, gods yes. I've been through that one as well, and it sucketh mightily. I actually found I could get along much better with the person involved once I realized this isn't something he does out of deliberate malice, but because it is a component of what is most likely a psychological disorder. A small victory: I am still this person's friend, and have recently managed to convince him to seek professional diagnosis and treatment.

#151 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 03:14 PM:

Reading, witnessing.

Aeronautic simian: welcome, and well done for having survived a clearly dysfunctional parent. Having a "my way or the wrong way" parent is bad enough...

Moonlit Night @141; Vrdolyak @146; somewhere_else @149: Re. assertiveness and being heard: I too still have problems with this. Real problem at work at the moment compounded by my line manager telling me "the last thing you need is an assertiveness workshop - you're too aggressive already".*

I've come so far in the last few years and there's still so far to go. I'm now pretty good in situations with strangers, but people like afore-mentioned line manager, who has power over me and doesn't want to hear** facts if they disagree with her opinions? Still have problems dealing with that.

Re. forgiveness, the only version I can accept that's a sort of letting go is that forgiveness is accepting that the other person isn't ever going to acknowledge the hurt they've done you (because they don't see that they've done anything wrong), and isn't going to change( because they don't see anything wrong to change from), then drawing a line under that and carrying on from there.*** I put it better in a previous DF thread, I think, but I can't find it now.

* I couldn't respond to that. Where to start? Saying (again) and being contradicted (again) that I'm not aggressive, merely defensive in trying to hold my own against her aggression? Explaining the difference between "aggression"and "assertiveness"? Asking her how she got to a managerial position without knowing the difference between those, or whether she's wilfully ignoring the difference?...

** She has repeatedly interrupted me when I've tried to state facts contradicting with her opinions and has even responded to a fact (presented calmly as such) with "ridiculous!"

*** Which doesn't mean it won't still hurt, or you won't still be angry about it. But I've found myself able to come to some acceptance which has been helpful, while still taking steps to protect myself, if possible, from further hurt.

#152 ::: dcb has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 03:15 PM:

Probably punctuation. I apologise and offer roasted squash and mushrooms.

#153 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 04:32 PM:

dcb @ 151: I can't help but wonder if you have the same line manager I used to have. She not only called me aggressive, but when I protested that she was the only person who had ever said that about me in my entire life, she explained that she was the only person who was honest enough to tell me! I relayed this information to my mother, who is nothing if not honest, and she snorted. I'm rather sorry Mum never got to meet that manager in person, because it would have been... interesting.

She also did the same thing with regard to not listening to facts when they contradicted her opinions, and she could get very defensive if she didn't know something and I had to explain it to her. This, apparently, was not how the world was supposed to work. Moreover, I had to be very careful what I said. She once told me off soundly for observing that a colleague was very intelligent. I wasn't supposed to say that, because in her eyes it implied that other people were stupid. I couldn't see how she got from A to B on that one. I mean, it's not as though there's always a certain amount of intelligence that has to be distributed among a given number of people.

She meant well, and that was paradoxically why it was so hard to deal with her. She had no idea of the hurt she was causing (and I was by no means the only one). She thought she was always being totally reasonable. Perhaps that's what's happening with yours; I offer it as a possible explanation.

I struggled along for as long as I could, probably a bit longer, and then had a massive stress burnout and ended up leaving. So, unfortunately, I can offer no useful advice on coping, but I can offer a huge amount of empathy. Having a boss who is incapable of listening is a terrible thing, especially since it's so chancy to leave a job at the moment.

#154 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 06:07 PM:

Just had two awful days (as if things weren't bad enough)!

On Friday my dad accidentally pulled one of the downstairs radiators off the wall. A man from the council had to be called to fix it back on, and although this was done it seems that the downstairs heating no longer works. My mam was cheesed off enough that she refused to play games with me that night (a nasty punishment, given that she knows that one of the main reasons I play games with her is to assuage my guilt over her loneliness...)

Today was far worse -- my mam took my sister out for a couple of hours on the bus, and she heard from one of the neighbours that it won't be just the heating system and the kitchen that will be replaced, but also the electrical wiring, requiring that everything must be removed from the walls. It's also estimated the work will be six weeks duration minimum (so no way I could take the time off work to help them out).

I had previously been discouraged from looking at houses to buy my family (due to the fact mam had rejected everything offered) but this upping of the stakes convinced me to try again. I printed off details for one in the next village that was rather more expensive than I had previously been willing to consider, but again she rejected it on the grounds that it had patio doors (meaning one lounge wall unusable for furniture) and that it's lounge was too narrow.

I said to my dad that maybe she had her heart set on that house over the road (it's been reduced recently but it's still outside my price range) and wouldn't consider anything else, but she said that while she had her heart set on it about 10 years ago when dad was healthy, it would be no good now, and that they could really do with a bungalow given their condition! She also said that dad couldn't even keep our current house clean, so what was the sense in getting a bigger house? And this after I offered her 60 houses last year in town only to have them all rejected as "too small" -- I mentioned this, and she responded "YOU offered us them?! It's OUR money!" (IIRC this is the first time she's explicitly claimed the money I inherited from my grandmother was really hers.)

Maybe she's terrified of the coming renovation work but also scared of moving house (maybe because dad wouldn't be able to do the work associated with moving due to his post-stroke disablements)? Buying our current house may be a way out, but apparently it takes up to 4 weeks to get permission and up to another 8 to get an offer, which may not be enough time before the work is scheduled. :(


Oh, and another issue which I don't think I've mentioned before (but which actually seems minor compared to everything else now) is that my dad has slept downstairs for many years now, because he has a serious snoring problem -- my sister sometimes calls him "the monster" because of the noise he makes while sleeping...

#155 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 06:16 PM:

the invisible one: simultaneously hating the way people go around slut-shaming women who dress sexy and hating how all the women's costumes for hallowe'en sometimes seem to be basically "slutty X".

I don't see this in particular as conflicted. Sexy costumes are great! For the people who want to wear them. What the bulk of the industry seems to miss is that not everyone wants to wear them.

#156 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 06:21 PM:

Codemonkey: Another potential problem with your parents buying the house is that all repairs that needed done would then be up to them.

It sounds to me like your mother's pulling Unreliable Narration again, if not outright gaslighting you. And it is your money, left to or earned by you. Meaning you have the choice of what to do with it.

#157 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 07:55 PM:

#155, tamiki:

Note that I called the costumes "slutty X", not "sexy X". That was deliberate.

I agree that if people want to dress sexy they should be able to, and not if they don't want to. The conflicted part comes in the way I react to the "sexy" costumes, despite this.

#142, Lee:

Oh wow. Those are amazing costume ideas. And easy, too!

#158 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 12:26 AM:

Codemonkey @154:Oh, ugh! I hope things get better soon. I am sorry that your mam responds so badly to your gallant attempt to make her happy. I've been there and done that -- don't beat your brains out trying to please her. She really cannot be pleased. All you can do make yourself unhappy, and waste your money and time trying. So make sure to take care of your own welfare and happiness too.

"It won't be just the heating system and the kitchen that will be replaced, but also the electrical wiring, requiring that everything must be removed from the walls." The renovations are going to be a huge disruption, no doubt. That's the cost. The benefit is *three* *major* home renovations that will permanently improve all of your health, safety, and quality of life, all done for *free*. That's probably worth $50,000 here -- a decent yearly salary. In addition it will be project managed by someone with more experience and skill than anyone in the family is likely to have.

Elaborating on Tamiki's point, it would be an extremely bad decision to buy the house to prevent the improvements. Say you buy it and then need to do the improvements soon anyway. It's still very disruptive, and now you have to pay for it too. Or say you buy it, and somehow avoid renovating until you're ready to sell the place. What happens then? Surely a home inspection or council records will show that the heating, wiring, and kitchen need replacing immediately. No-one is going to buy such a house at full price -- they will either go elsewhere or expect a steep discount, because *they* will have to do all these renovations immediately.

I did a quick pricing search on buying and renting in Peterlee, which you've mentioned is somewhere in your area. I'd save the house-buying money (perhaps £200,000) and apply £2000 - £3000 of it to making the renovations easier on yourselves. What about renting a house or large flat (around £500/month) for 2-3 months to live in while the work is done, and putting anything in the way of the builders in storage? Hire some of the local strong young things to help with the moving. Yes, you still have to move stuff, but you'll all be in a comfortable, functioning, quiet home or flat, instead of breathing plaster dust, listening to heavy machinery, and washing dishes in the bathroom sink. And you get to come home to safe new wiring, lower heating bills, and a shiny new kitchen.

#159 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 02:59 AM:

Moonlit Night @158: I am sorry that your mam responds so badly to your gallant attempt to make her happy. I've been there and done that -- don't beat your brains out trying to please her. She really cannot be pleased. All you can do make yourself unhappy, and waste your money and time trying. So make sure to take care of your own welfare and happiness too.

To put it bluntly, the only major reason I'm still living with my parents is because I'm convinced my mam would commit suicide if I move out (maybe things will change once she no longer has the renovations Sword of Damocles hanging over her). I've got an old book which listed danger signs of suicide (and specified that anyone showing two or more needs immediate professional help) -- I counted at least four and possibly six which apply to my mam!

1. Depression. The individual is withdrawn and cannot relate to others.
2. A family history of suicide.
3. An earlier suicide attempt.
4. The person has a definite idea of how the suicide will be committed. He or she may be tidying up their affairs in readiness, and giving away treasure possessions.
5. Anxiety, as well as depression, is present.
6. The person suffers from a painful physical illness, chronic pain or severe disablement. (Not true of my mam, but she cares for two people with serious mental disabilities.)
7. He or she is dependent on alcohol, illegal drugs or prescribed drugs.
8. There is a feeling of uselessness. In the elderly, there may be a lack of acceptance of retirement.
9. Social isolation, loneliness or uprooting. There is the possibility of having to live with few human contacts.
10. Severe insomnia. (My mam certainly has insomnia, but I'm unsure if it's "severe" or not.)
11. Financial worries.
12. No philosophy of life to help them cope, such as a comforting religion.
13. Recovery from depression. When a person appears to be getting better, he or she may at last have enough energy to commit suicide.

Elaborating on Tamiki's point, it would be an extremely bad decision to buy the house to prevent the improvements. Say you buy it and then need to do the improvements soon anyway. It's still very disruptive, and now you have to pay for it too. Or say you buy it, and somehow avoid renovating until you're ready to sell the place. What happens then? Surely a home inspection or council records will show that the heating, wiring, and kitchen need replacing immediately. No-one is going to buy such a house at full price -- they will either go elsewhere or expect a steep discount, because *they* will have to do all these renovations immediately.

If I did go down the route of buying our current house, I'd probably replace the kitchen anyway (as mam is always complaining about its condition, and it would be the least disruptive of the improvements, being confined to a single room).

I'd save the house-buying money (perhaps £200,000) and apply £2000 - £3000 of it to making the renovations easier on yourselves. What about renting a house or large flat (around £500/month) for 2-3 months to live in while the work is done, and putting anything in the way of the builders in storage? Hire some of the local strong young things to help with the moving. Yes, you still have to move stuff, but you'll all be in a comfortable, functioning, quiet home or flat, instead of breathing plaster dust, listening to heavy machinery, and washing dishes in the bathroom sink. And you get to come home to safe new wiring, lower heating bills, and a shiny new kitchen.

My budget for a house would be more like £150,000, and I think a private-rented house large enough for the family would be more like £600-700/month, but that's just nitpicking!

A bigger concern is whether social housing tenancies would permit me to temporarily move my family into another property, and whether it would even possibly to get such a short-term let (I thought the minimum was 6 months). Also, why are you suggesting putting stuff into storage rather than moving it to the temporary rental? (Especially my sister's thousands of CDs, which I don't think she'd want to be without...)

#160 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 03:05 AM:

tamiki @156: And it is your money, left to or earned by you. Meaning you have the choice of what to do with it.

As far as my mam is concerned, it's really her money (except for the £20k or so in the account in which my salary is paid). It's only in my bank accounts so as not to make them ineligible to claim various welfare benefits...

#161 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 03:53 AM:

Codemonkey: No matter what your mother thinks, that is YOUR money. It was left to YOU. She has no claim on it except whatever she can browbeat you into accepting. If you want to use some of it toward making her life better, that's your decision to make, but you do not owe her this.

A side thought about all your sister's CDs -- have you considered getting her an iPod or other mp3 player and letting her rip them in? (Or do it yourself; iTunes will import a CD in less than a minute, and you could just change them out while doing other things.) You can fit an amazing amount of music into a packet the size of a cigarette pack! And that would let you get rid of the physical CDs, which take up space, and get some money for them at the used-music store.

#162 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 04:12 AM:

Lee @161: I think my mam tried to get my sister listening to MP3s a few years back, and my sister just cried her eyes out because she didn't have a clue how to operate the MP3 player! (I think my dad got it in the end...)

Remember I said my sister pretty much had the mind of a six-year old...

#163 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 04:25 AM:

Here's a coredump about advice. I have no idea how much this is a bad mood talking and how much it's developing an ability to set boundaries. Maybe both.

I ran across this. It's not a bad example of the genre-- seems sensible, not overtly abusive.

But then I thought, "What are his qualifications? That he screwed himself up following some other advice? What if he's making some new subtle error?"

Of course (and I'm talking about the advice I give myself) you can't have better sense than you've got-- you can learn, you can improve your filters, but you're going to start with a point of view that's got blind spots and errors. Just writing this actually makes me feel better, oddly enough-- I think I've been living with some grandiosity about my ability to get things right.

What follows is a rant about Geneen Roth which is probably only of interest to people who are into self-help books.

She wrote a book about food and losing weight-- her idea was to pay lots of attention to what you wanted to eat, and then eat the least of it you could tolerate. I tried it and found I didn't feel fed long enough, so I dropped the scheme in favor of mostly eating with some attention to how my food made me feel over the next few hours or days.

However, Roth was normal thin, and life was good for her, until she got a yeast infection which could only be cured with an extremely restrictive diet. She had trouble dealing with that (binged on nut butters and gained weight), and didn't seem to notice that her previous diet didn't give her warning that she shouldn't eat the foods that fed the yeast.

That's alright, she came up with some high-emotional stress method of learning to regulate how you eat, and did workshops.

She made money, and lost it all to Bernie Madoff, and wrote a book about figuring out that it happened because she hadn't wanted to pay attention to what she was doing with her money.

I decided she just didn't have good judgement, and I haven't read any more of her books.

#164 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 06:23 AM:

Codemonkey @162:

You said your sister has an iPad. She could play her music through that very easily, and its touch-screen interface, with pictures of the album covers, would make it very easy to work with.

(Of course, feel free to ignore if this isnt' helpful -- if you've already thought of it and rejected it, or tried it and it didn't work, or whatever.)

#165 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 08:07 AM:

the invisible one @137: Although thinking about it further, my mom was kind of body negative in some ways but not in others.
Mixed signals, yeah. By the time I was in middle/high school, I was pretty privacy-obsessed, thanks to all the body-shame programming, and then I specifically remember being snapped at for getting upset about being walked in on in the bathroom--suddenly it shouldn't be such a big deal.

Moonlit Night @141:
I can't help fretting that I'm somehow causing other people's tendency to ignore me or push me around. Being gentle and polite is no good. Being assertive often transforms into "too gentle and polite" in the airspace between my mouth and their ears. Being loud, hurt, passive-aggressive, or rude is bad for the relationship and my reputation, but is often the only reliable way to be heard. What the hell am I supposed to do?
Add me to the list of people for whom this resonates, strongly.

Nancy Lebovitz @163:
This piece on survivorship bias is something I think of every time I see someone saying the equivalent of "I did this, and so can you!": "...those who fail rarely get paid for advice on how not to fail, which is too bad because despite how it may seem, success boils down to serially avoiding catastrophic failure while routinely absorbing manageable damage."

Since reading this, I find myself noticing and paying attention more to how the parameters for "manageable damage" can vary, and how many ways one's ability to absorb it can be eroded.

One more small funny thing about taste stuff:
The aversion to bitter doesn't carry over into sour at all for me; quite the opposite. Don't give me a lemon wedge for a garnish if you will be scandalized when I stuff it in my mouth. :P

#166 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 01:12 PM:

The aversion to bitter doesn't carry over into sour at all for me; quite the opposite. Don't give me a lemon wedge for a garnish if you will be scandalized when I stuff it in my mouth.

Me! I love eating lemons and limes. I will also peel a grapefruit and eat it by section. Weirdly, grapefruit juice is OF A WRONGNESS AND MUST DIE^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H (sorry) horribly bitter to me.

#167 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 01:30 PM:

Cheryl, 166: Not weirdly, if it's commercial grapefruit juice--AIUI they just squeeze the fruit without worrying about pith and membranes.

Back to the topic at hand--Codemonkey, nothing you do will ever make your mother happy. Save yourself before you break your heart trying. I admire you for not giving up, but nothing you've tried so far has worked, has it? Move your family out, get the renovations done, move them back in and keep the temporary place for yourself.

#168 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 01:52 PM:

Texanne, #167: Ooh, now THAT'S an idea! Simple and brilliant. Can also be combined with "put the worst of the clutter into a storage unit" to make it easier for the family to fit into a place that won't overwhelm Codemonkey to live in on his own.

#169 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 02:03 PM:

Codemonkey, I think you've fallen into another mamtrap. There isn't anything your mother will accept, possibly not from you, possibly from anyone. She may have internalized my own habit that if something is easily fixed, I am a worthless person for not fixing it sooner. Whatever her reasons are-- because they matter to her but can't matter to you-- it is not your job to make her happy.

Who can you talk to about your mother's possible suicidal tendencies? You were so close to moving out before and I think you'll be much happier once you're out of the toxic and dysfunctional situation.

#170 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 05:06 PM:

Codemonkey, we had to have one of our radiators replaced recently and when we put the heating on afterwards, none of the radiators on that same circuit worked at all. It turned out a valve hadn't been opened properly so the hot water couldn't circulate through the system, and that there were air locks in the system too. Once we opened all the valves and bled the radiators it was fine and it wasn't difficult to do--I did it myself and I'm not very good at that sort of stuff.

And has your father spoken to his GP about his snoring? There are things that can be done which might help him.

I hope everything gets better for you soon, whatever you decide to do.

#171 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 05:31 PM:

Codemonkey @159: With regard to the potential of suicide, you staying there is *at best* maintaining a bad equilibrium. If you are seriously worried that your mam will hurt or kill herself, call in professional help. For her mental health to significantly improve, *she* needs to decide to change, and put in the hard, slow, ongoing work of actually changing. Preferably with the help of a professional therapist of some type, because having a kind, knowledgeable, and confidential outside confidant really helps.

That said, your mam is tough! This is an unqualified and unprofessional opinion, but I don't think your mam would ever commit suicide. A woman who got through the history you've told us about, and has the daily reality that she does, is someone who knows how to endure and run on fumes, and by god will keep running. This is not a person who gives up and dies, or gives up and runs away. If she was, she probably would have done it already.

I did mean for your family to take some but not all their things to the temporary rental. Anything that's used routinely should follow you. Anything that can be lived without for a few months stays behind or goes into storage. I don't know about rental terms in the UK; I've never lived there. The £500/month rentals included some 3 bedroom houses, though I didn't investigate further.

It is a good question whether the social housing programs will allow you to get temporary housing during the renovations. I say find out, because it would be a such a good solution to soften the disruption, and the social worker could advocate for you, explain how it will benefit your sister, perhaps? The council might be willing to work with you too, because it will be easier and faster to work on a house that's uninhabited and not fully furnished. That should make it cheaper for them. Perhaps there's an empty council house that they could loan you while the work is done?

I hope things get better and easier soon. If you're the hugging type, feel free to have some hugs from me.

#172 ::: Old enough to know better but still learning ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2013, 07:40 AM:

Reading and witnessing.

One of the things I hate is being told to "get over it".

People who say that (maybe even explicitly) mean *Don't learn from the experience* and *Allow myself to be bullied again*. And yes, blaming the victim for not forgiving.

"I Am a Rock" was my sister's favorite.

My soundtrack right now is "Hit the Road, Jack" - the Helen Reddy version.

#173 ::: Amber Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2013, 08:08 AM:

Very late, but to #100: it sounds like the therapist is abusing the concept of avoiding dual relationships (which is, yes, an ethical standard for therapists, but usually means not entering into business/romantic/friendships with clients or their families, not simply being at the same event, especially when there's no specific, personal relationship expected) to exert power inappropriately in the relationship. Likewise, going to dinner with a client is...odd and, while not necessarily unethical within a specific therapeutic context, not something I, personally, would be comfortable with.

You can file ethical complaints against therapists, but you'd need to know what professional organizations they belong to in order to do so. Then, there's usually an ethics hotline you can call to speak to someone. I'm honestly not sure how much traction you'd get when you're not the patient, though.

#174 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2013, 10:11 AM:

I have a special hatred for "People should be over their mother problems by the time they're 25".

#175 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2013, 12:24 PM:

Nancy, #174: Agreed. Good grief; for some of us, the issues were still ongoing when we were 25. And older.

#176 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2013, 01:21 PM:

Late to joining in on the @100 comment (I occasionally miss things, but mostly read here): I would say also that the therapist is demonstrating inappropriate boundaries. If s/he can't tell the difference between Person and "a friend of Person", there's a problem.

Back when I was studying Hakomi, I was in a relationship with one of the people who would be teaching the year-long second level course. After I signed up for it, I mentioned to her that we'd have to be putting the relationship on hold for the year while we did the work. Her comment was "I wondered how I was going to bring that up."

I also recommend checking with the local board around this, or another therapist who works in the same variety of therapy. It pings all sorts of bells with me. And while I've made mis-steps with clients, neither of the things you mention seem at all reasonable to me (without knowing more of the circumstances).

#177 ::: Hiding for now ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2013, 04:04 PM:

Thank you for your comments, and for reading and witnessing.

An update: My account @100 still stands, up to the dinner part; it turns out that Person did not in fact dine with Therapist, but had succumbed to the temptation to lead me to believe so, with plausible deniability, because they were angry that I had gone to the conference.

Lee @106: I believe Therapist perceives me as a threat or rival because the therapy appears to have been stagnant until I showed up in Person's life. (I reached the conclusion that Therapist was at best unhelpful when, three months into the relationship, Person recounted that Therapist said "Ever since you met [me], you've started talking about your feelings for the first time since we began our sessions." Goodness knows what they were talking about for 5 years, in that case, and I would like to think a competent therapist would recommend a colleague instead if therapy was proving fruitless with any given patient.) I also know that Person frequently quotes me at Therapist, sometimes to report my take on a matter that (unbeknownst to me) was something that came up during therapy, and for which Therapist had expressed an opinion. This would be likely to get under the latter's skin. There may be a gender-based or counter-transference aspect, in that Person is extremely charming, extremely intelligent, and extremely loaded with destructive reflexes from a dysfunctional background. (I had those reflexes in spades too. Takes one to know one, in this case.)

Amber Baughman @173, Tom Whitmore @176: That's also how I read the situation, and that the abuse of the "no dual relationship" rule is the manifestation of Therapist's inability to set appropriate boundaries. Moreover, while I can very much relate to "this person's presence makes me uncomfortable", it's more than a bit of a stretch to go "this person—who signed up for the conference not knowing I was the speaker—is committing a breach of ethics because my knowledge of their identity makes me uncomfortable, so I shall tell my patient to talk them out of going." I'm not sure about the existence of an ethics hotline (this is outside the US), but I do know the names of the different professional associations here and they may be able to provide guidance. If this episode isn't me-specific and Therapist is doing this with other patients, that's even greater cause for concern.

Person and I had a long, difficult, and constructive discussion last week to thrash these things out. That they hadn't actually dined with Therapist simplified things. I know that from Person's POV I'd gone against a boundary they had tried to set (and this explains their initial reaction) so it was important to explain why and how Therapist and Person had both breached my boundaries in the first place.

And—since Therapist does not seem able or willing to protect Person's interests, and has no qualms about interfering with my private life (which includes Person) at the expense of Person's well-being by placing them in the middle of a conflict with third-party unrelated me—I drew the line myself and said that if such a thing ever occurred again, I would seriously consider filing a complaint for breach of ethics with all the professional associations listed by Therapist, so could Person kindly refrain from passing on any requests or comments made by Therapist regarding me, in the interests of greater peace and harmony in the universe and because I am a cranky old git who is not nice when people I care about (and that includes myself) are taking unnecessary damage.

While some of their past actions have hurt me, I am certain that Person would never set out to cause me deliberate harm. Whatever their faults, malice, cruelty and spite are not among them. And we have both worked damned hard to reach our current level of trust.

ISTM that a) Therapist is unable to set boundaries and abuses the therapist-patient relationship and b) Person was unconsciously playing Therapist and me against each other as well. This is the best way I can see out of that dynamic. Other suggestions are welcome.

#178 ::: Hiding for now ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2013, 04:15 PM:

Added to clarify: the "they" in the first paragraph (regarding the non-dinner) refers to Person alone.

#179 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2013, 09:09 PM:

Hiding for now, #177: Person and I had a long, difficult, and constructive discussion last week to thrash these things out.

Congratulations to both of you! I refer to those as "uncomfortable but necessary" -- and they're hard even when you don't have a mutually-reinforcing set of prickles adding to the mix.

But on the subject of "uncomfortable", and on the basis of this update, I think this question needs to be asked: Are you reasonably sure that Person is a reliable narrator about this issue? The bit where they lied to you about the dinner because they were mad at you is what's pinging me here.

#180 ::: Hiding for now ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2013, 02:27 AM:

Lee @179: Yes. I'm more than reasonably sure, in fact—Person has a bad habit of phrasing things ambiguously for plausible deniability when they're on the defensive, but they do not outright lie. Point of fact: the events and statement that led me to conclude the two of them dined together could have been interpreted in at least two other ways. I posted the last part of my 100 prematurely; I hadn't had the chance at the time to ask point-blank if they had dined with Therapist, but had jumped to that conclusion. Person came to our meetup last week thinking I was furious at them and expecting to be attacked—wrongly—for it, and primed to deflect. When I said "just so you know, I'm no longer mad at you," they explained their evasiveness without prompting, and we clarified a host of other details.

They are an unreliable narrator in different ways. A great deal of the work in getting this relationship to something resembling functional consisted of parsing Person's statements and reactions to figure out which areas were reliable and which ones weren't, and to get them to take responsibility for their actions and own their choices. And we've certainly made progress: the first time a similar conflict came up, it took months to resolve. The second one took weeks; this one took days. We're turning out to be a pretty good team now. That wouldn't have been possible without these threads.

#181 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2013, 03:32 AM:


I phoned the housing association yesterday with the intention of learning some information which I hoped would ease my mam's fears regarding the renovation work, but I ended up losing my nerve when the time came to tell mam! Perhaps it's because she looked even more pensive than usual last night (despite no obvious proximate reason to be unhappy yesterday...)

(What I actually found out btw was that the work would most likely be some time between February and March next year, that our home wouldn't necessarily need rewiring -- as each house is surveyed individually -- and there'll be a meeting 8 weeks before the work starts where we could select a kitchen and/or bathroom design. I think I lost my nerve because when I told dad he suggested mam would have rather had the work over with ASAP.)

I wonder if the "mam rejects every house I offer" issue is because she herself is deeply, deeply conflicted. She's unhappy with the current state of our house, but also doubts she'd be able to manage moving -- she recounted that at least when we last moved back in 2000, dad was semi-competent with DIY (he walled off part of the lounge to make a computer room for me, as my bedroom was too small to accommodate it), plus we had two cars to move stuff (I think in the end the only things that actually moved with the removal van were wardrobes and other big items of furniture that wouldn't fit in our cars).

In addition, she is deeply ashamed of the current state of our house, viewing it as my father's fault. Back when the council man came on Friday to reattach the passageway radiator to the wall (I get the impression that the radiator's plumbing had remained intact, and it was only the wall joint that failed) he had to go in the passageway cupboard to get a brush and dustpan to clean up the mess he'd made on the floor. Mam said she never in her life felt as ashamed as she did when the council worker saw how dirty the cupboard was and how haphazardly the things had been put into it -- especially considering how many hours I spent trying to tidy that cupboard last year when he was in hospital (I think it was roughly 7 pm to half-past-midnight).

Maybe she doesn't really want me buying them a house (no matter how much she claims otherwise in order to guilt me) because she's convinced that within short order my dad would have reduced it to the same dilapidated condition as our current house? She's said on more than one occasion that "a gypsy caravan would be too good for him". But if so, why does she claim the money in my bank accounts is really rightfully hers? It's not as if we could go on holiday with it (who'd look after my sister? And we certainly couldn't fly anywhere, both because mam's scared of flying and because dad's medical conditions would preclude it now), and it would also be pointless them getting a nicer car as I'm the only person in my family that could drive it.

What would be the best way I could make my mam if not happy, then at least less fearful to the extent that she could make rational decisions on how to advance both her own interests and mine?

#182 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2013, 04:46 AM:

Imagine a comforting situation, whatever suits you best: walking in a public park, sitting over coffee, side by side on a bench overlooking a beach. Here I am, in that place with you, telling you this:

You can't make her happy or less fearful.

You can't make her happy or less fearful.

No, there is no way at all. You can't make her happy or less fearful.

Even if she says you can.

If you succeed in placating her through this situation, something will come along that makes her unhappy or fearful again, and it is likely to be just as irrational as what's going on right now. Then what?

Did you hesitate to relay the results of your phone call because her expected negative reaction was going to feel like physical pain? That's how it felt for me when I was enmeshed.

#183 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2013, 08:57 AM:

Codemonkey @181--I am afraid that J. is right. There are small things that you can help with, things you can mitigate to some extent. But you can't fix things so as to make your mother happy.

She needs professional help to get her to sit down and take a look at her life and herself, and to start taking constructive steps to sort things out better so she can be happier. The only person who can make her happy is she, herself.

Her apparent unwillingness to reconsider the old arrangement, where your father cleaned house and she looked after your sister, in view of your father's deteriorating health, is a bad sign. When someone clings, grimly and rigidly, to something and won't make any effort to change their expectations and adapt to new circumstances, it's not likely that they'll come over all sunshine and flowers and puppies and kittens just because their loved ones try and make them happy. They're a thousand miles past happy, and they need a real roadmap back to that lovely clime, because they aren't going to get there on their own.

At this point, your mother does not know how to be happy, and you aren't going to fix that for her.

#184 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2013, 01:04 PM:

Codemonkey, until you let her hit bottom on her own there will be no change.

It is possible (not likely) that your moving out would inspire her to seek help for herself.

You can't change her, or anyone else but yourself, attempts to change someone do nothing but make BOTH parties unhappy.

For Ghod's sake, save yourself.

#185 ::: inametaphor ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2013, 01:10 PM:

Unexpectedlu needed a Dysfunctional Families thread today, and I'm so glad that you're all here. I'm 36 years old, and freed myself at 18, but it still sometimes blindsides me that, no, I didn't grow up in the life you think I did.

The setup: My wife tells me I really, really need to listen to the new (to us) Taylor Swift album, because it's got a really cute song to her parents on it. (It's "The Best Day," from "Fearless," and don't listen if you don't have the spoons.)

So I finally sit down to listen to this album, and it gets to this song, and I'm ... cold. Music has a very powerful emotional component for me, and I sat there feeling nothing, just having chills. It's like she was speaking in an entirely different language. Even less so, because all words were clearly words they just ... didn't make sense. I'm listening to this idyllic song about playing in the snow, and having "Mom" take you shopping, and having your parents believe in you even when you're wrong, and I finally start to feel something.

I feel anger. Anger that there is apparently this thing out there, this closeness, that I never got to have. I was nearly shaking with rage and frustration that apparently, there is a world out there where parents and children are HAPPY together, and I've never gotten to see it.

And my wife, who is magnificent in nearly every other way, has no more of a way to reach out to understand the way I view the world than I have to reach out to her world.

In the end, I simply boiled it down to "it's everything I don't understand about Mothers' Day, wrapped into one song."

Just needed to vent in the direction of people who might "get it."

#186 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2013, 01:48 PM:

inametaphor @185: What prompted your wife to suggest you listen to the song? Does your wife get that you see the world differently, even if she doesn't understand how it's different?

#187 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2013, 01:54 PM:

inametaphor, #185: Ouch. One more reason for me not to like Taylor Swift. I can definitely see how that would come across as a punch in the gut; my reaction is more along the lines of, "Nice work if you can get it," but yeah. Ugh.

One of my filker friends has a song about watching herself come to resemble her mother as she grows older, both in appearance and in the idioms of parenting. I keep having to remind myself that for her it's a loving tribute, because I hear it as a horror song. And I monitor myself very closely to make sure that my interactions with my partner don't start to mirror the way my mother treated my father.

#188 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2013, 02:04 PM:

Codemonkey: I'm afraid I can only add to the chorus. You can't help your mother to be happy if she's not ready to allow the possibility of being happy. You still need to get out. Buying even the best house/bungalow in the world, of the right size and right in the most appropriate place wouldn't make her happy. And if you all moved into it together the same dynamics would continue and you'd have no chance to make your own life better. And you'd be stuck without even the money to move out yourself. It -is- your money - that's why your grandmother left it to you. And you -do- have a right to a better life, even if that can't help your mother (although it may do so, given time).

inametaphor@185: Oh, that's difficult. Sympathies. And yes, I think quite a few of us here can "get it".

#189 ::: inametaphor ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2013, 03:02 PM:

Jacque @86 She understands, as much as someone who came from a loving family can understand, I think. We sat down and discussed it, and she mentioned that she thought it was cute, and that I would appreciate it, because even though I didn't have a happy family, I had seen them.

I'm not sure how to express to her, though, that my very first thought (before my rational brain cycles up) is to assume that other people are faking it. And things I see in movies and television don't count because, well, TV and movies.

I absolutely do not believe there was any malice on her part. But even after seven years of being together, there are the small things that make me sit up and realize that I view the world very, very differently.

Thankfully, I can not turn into my stepmother, unless she turns into a lesbian suddenly, and I refuse to have children. But Lee @ 187 I completely get you on the fear that you'll model the behaviors that you've seen. In a lot of ways, being in a healthy relationship has been a struggle against imposter syndrome writ large: hoping against hope that I'm modelling Appropriate Responsible Behavior properly.

#190 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2013, 05:30 PM:

Got around to telling my mam about the phone call to the housing association -- I felt I had to because she mentioned that Sharon (my sister's social worker, for those who haven't been following my posts) was coming for the first time in several months (she'd been off work in order to visit her dying mother in hospital), and didn't want my mam to pass on incorrect information.

She disapproved of the fact that I'd made the call on my own initiative, and was also annoyed that I hadn't told her the previous day (because if I had, the radiator problem could have been fixed today as they never left the house), but at least when my sister started playing up, my mam did tell her that I'd had good intentions, seeking to keep her from worrying.

And no, I'm not out to "make her happy" as many people here seem to think (is that even possible short of a lottery win, given her situation?), just to reduce her anxiety level (both to reduce her controlling behaviour towards me, and so she can see where her real interests lie), as she's no longer being made stupid by fear (thanks Graydon).

How do I expand my mam's choice space as much as possible consistent with my having a life of my own?

(Maybe I feel the way I do about her because (unlike many of the posters here) my childhood was functional and loving, and things only went to pot family-wise from my teens onward? Who else on these DFD threads has had situations somewhat similar to my own?)

#191 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2013, 08:50 PM:

Codemonkey, reducing her anxiety is also not something you have much influence over. It also might not be something *she* has much influence over. It may seem like she chooses to be anxious, but it can be something that just happens to her. She could be fighting it, knowing it’s irrational and self-defeating, but not able to just make it stop. There's no telling from outside. Let me explain about what my anxiety feels like from the inside. As disorders go it’s probably medium strength. My therapist gave me medication to take when it gets bad, but I’m not supposed to use it constantly.

The anxiety has different modes. Sometimes I’ll feel bored or distracted, but it’s actually my avoiding something that scares me. (Often a lot more than it deserves.) I’ll do anything but the things I know I ought to do. Other times my brain decides, without any conscious wish of mine, that it’s going to fret over SOMETHING, ANYTHING. And all conscious-me can do is hang on, perhaps take my medicine, and ride it out. (With the drug, it’s a bit like closing a door on music in the next room — I might still be able to hear some of it, but it’s less pressing.) An attack over something, anything is like walking around in a cloud of worry and fear. It usually starts with worries that are at bottom reasonable but are exaggerated or hopeless-looking right now. I can reassure myself, or be reassured, about a given topic if it’s not too pressing. But when I do, I find out the worry-cloud is made of glue and grabs onto the next passing thing to worry about. After several rounds the topics and anxieties have gotten so ridiculous that I knew something was up long before I knew what the anxiety attacks actually were. However, I’ll still be worried about something until the mood passes, and often go back to some topic that is at least legitimate, or distract myself as well as possible. At least now I know it’s a temporary exaggeration, not reality.

Probably the most productive thing you can do, would be to get your mam to a therapist and make sure that therapist takes some kind of action, such as insisting she go to therapy sessions regularly and perhaps start taking anti-depressants and/or anti-anxiety medication. Of course, this would work much better if your mam had come to recognize that things could be better and something could be done about it. Which is not a change you can force, though you could encourage it a bit. But nothing will work more than a little until she wants to change *and* believes that it really can get better. (And that it might be worth taking strange pills for.)

That's why we keep telling you to take care of yourself by moving out, and then trying to help. Seeing someone overcome, flourish and be happy proves it can happen, and she needs to believe it can happen. Mohammed can't move the mountain just by calling. Going to the mountain won't make it move either. Instead the mountain has to willingly come to Mohammed. And so first the mountain has to believe it *can* move.

#192 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2013, 12:36 AM:

Codemonkey, this is still an oxygen-mask situation. You can't make your mother happy or less fearful or less anxious or more able to make good decisions. You can move out and create a space where you can grow and thrive, then use that strong, safe base to help the family. You can demonstrate that change is okay. You can model appropriate adult behavior and give your mother space to be a peer and not simply your and your sister's mam.

At some point, as Moonlight Night said, therapy and possibly medication may help. But these are second steps. The first step is to put yourself in a secure place where you can help yourself and your family without worrying about your mother's reactions.

There are many possible causes for your mother's misery and we've discussed your family in the context of several of them. But none of them will be fixed by you staying home. If you stay there, everything continues as it has.

Move out for a year. If it's a bad idea, you can move back in.

Inametaphor, I'm sorry the song was so terrible for you. Have you read the earlier threads? There's quite a bit about the cluelessness of us happily-familied and I hope you know that you are not alone.

#193 ::: Froth ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2013, 09:06 AM:

I need out. Out out out.

The cumulative effects of living with my mother (since May(!)) are getting to me. I can feel myself sliding back down the mental health hill. I'm anxious - I'm literally twitchy - and impatient and increasingly unpleasant to interact with and I can't change any of that because first I need to get out.

I am in the process of renting a flat. Application and fees have been sent in, the agency is proceeding with referencing. It's a very sweet little flat and it's not in the same town as my mother and moving really can't happen too soon.

At present she is alternating between telling me I should move out, getting weepy about it, and bringing up petty reasons why I shouldn't move out, while denying that she means them as reasons not to move out, but how else am I to hear "I just worry that you won't be able to get up in the mornings" than as a reason to keep hold of me? I think Dad may actually be collaborating to get me out, though. In the working behind enemy lines sense. Mum is like that.

#194 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2013, 10:07 AM:

Froth, <hugs> if welcome.
And alarm clocks work fine, and are cheap. Even if you require two or three of them. <wry grin>

#195 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2013, 11:59 AM:

Froth: And I, for one, found not-being-monitored-constantly to be a splendid energy booster.

#196 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2013, 02:36 PM:

Froth @193: Sympathies. {{{{{hugs}}}}} from me as well, if acceptable.

Grit your teeth; it sounds like you'll be out soon, if not soon enough.

#197 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2013, 04:31 PM:

Froth, #193: Are you eating enough? ISTR that your parents have Issues around you and food, such that you have frequently had to go hungry and/or stash food like a famine victim.

#198 ::: Variations on a Lime ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2013, 08:22 PM:

Froth @193,
on getting up-- if her statements are bothering you because it has been difficult for you, then I'd think of all the ways that make it easier to get up:plenty of hope for us non-morning-people. Some of these I read in threads on ML. For example:

1. multiple alarm clocks, including ones that move around. Alarm clock radios in another room that are tuned to an interesting station.
2. lights on timers, from single bulbs to multibulbs 100 LED lights made for seasonal affective disorder
3. light from a window if location makes it feasible (I can't because of a streetlight)
4. having a glass of tea or water by the alarm clock so that biology and/or caffeine kick in 15 minutes after you drink it
5. having a morning person who'll call you
6. having rewards in another room- snacks, the newspaper, news on your phone... just not by your bed

I've been thinking about adding these back to my routine because I'm starting to feel October and the early sunsets.

I empathize with how inherently stressful it is to be stopped right before exiting a stressful place. Still, it's such a gift you're giving future-you.

#199 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 04:12 AM:

My family is no more dysfunctional than most, but it's telling that we have had a 5hr drive to visit my brother and his kids arranged for several weeks and are fine with it, but my dad's decision to add himself to the trip (a day before we're leaving) makes things 100 times more complicated.

My mum added herself a couple of weeks ago and we just thought "cool, the kids get to see granny". But my dad is someone who's willing to travel only if everybody else leans over backwards to keep to exactly the routine he has at home - meal times, type of food, even down to him going to a pub at his normal time. Of course, we can refuse to cater to him, but that will just make my mum miserable as she's the one he'll complain to (he would never complain directly or say what he wants in advance). He will have a timetable in his head of how things should go, but not communicate this to anyone and become upset (at my mum) if it doesn't occur.

Trivial in some ways I know (I haven't lived with my parents for 22yrs and can get along fine from a distance), but thank you for providing this space for me to vent.

#200 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 08:18 AM:

Russ @199: Vent away! Hope it helps. The situation you describe is enough to try anyone's patience.

My mother and stepfather keep trying to get us to stay with them. But they're only 10 minutes away from my step-mother's house, which is where I lived with my father and stepmother until I left home, and is still "home" (in addition to the home my husband and I (and cat) have together). My mother and step-father's house was never "home". We can't relax there in the same way. We are too different from them in interests and values, and I still expect my mother to (not intentionally) hurt me if we're left alone together for any length of time (although she actually praised something I did recently, for pretty much the first time). So we keep not saying yes, even though my stapfather says "she'd like it so mcuh if just once you'd" - because if we went once, they's expect us to stay with them every time we visited the area, or at least 50% of the times. And we're not prepared to do that.

#201 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 01:08 PM:

Russ #199: Can you confront him beforehand?

"Look, we are going on a trip. I'm okay with you coming along, but for your part, you need to recognize that you are not at home, and your usual routine is a home thing -- when you're travelling, you need to adapt to where you are and what's happening around you. Without taking it out on Mom."

Obviously, that depends on a certain minimal acquiescence on his part -- but you're driving, and he's invited himself onto your trip.

#202 ::: charming quark ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 05:30 PM:

Summer Storms @ 150:

You might want to do a little research specifically on inattentive-type ADHD.


Reading and witnessing.

#203 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 06:41 PM:

Charming Quark: Oh, I have, and yeah, that's pretty much me. Back in the days of my childhood (and for some time afterward) you heard about ADD and not so much ADHD, which is why I look at the terminology the way I do.

I also have the related aspect of being able to completely hyper-focus on things that do, in fact strongly capture my attention. I once spent eleven hours making alterations to my website, including implementation of a particular piece of Javascript when I did not, in fact, truly understand much about Javascript (so it was also an exercise in autodidacticism). I was so caught up in the challenge of Making Things Work that when I finally achieved success and came up for air, it felt as though only three hours had gone by... until I looked at a clock and suddenly realized why my stomach was grumbling and it was getting dark outside.

#204 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2013, 05:36 PM:

If you want to understand why my mother is so worried about the coming renovation work, you'd do well to look at the photos I've taken of the rooms inside our house. (Although my sister's bedroom -- which I didn't get a chance to photograph -- is even more overloaded than these...)

#205 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2013, 06:58 PM:

I've been in rooms like those, Codemonkey. It looks like the work to clear them out will be substantial but manageable if you have the spoons for it.

#206 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2013, 09:04 PM:

@Codemonkey @ 204 - there is certainly a lot of stuff in those rooms, but they seem quite tidy to me, given their comparatively high burden. For example, it appears that key pots are stored on the stove top (an adaptation that I've also sometimes had to make due to insufficient cupboard space), but those pots are shiny clean. The dishrack appears to hold recently used plates that are still drying (as opposed to mine, which has those and random tupperware that no one is sure where to put away). The furniture is dusted and polished. Your mother's bedroom is quite crowded, but everything appears to have a place, and to be in it - my own space is plagued by things like baskets of unfolded laundry, and it is notable to me that I don't see those things.

I bring this up for a few reasons:
1. To point out that your mam's viewpoint on the house (that it's shamefully untidy) is distorted.
2. To point out that whoever is doing the housework is attaining quite a reasonable standard of cleanliness and organization in less then ideal circumstances that include insufficient storage capacity and considerable hectoring.
3. To suggest that some of your mother's reactions about the state of the house may well be attributable to anxiety, and not to actual identifiable problems.
4. To suggest that the reason it takes 4.5 hours to attempt to tidy a single cupboard in that house may be, not that the cupboard is a disaster, but that the target condition for the cupboard may be unattainable. In my house, the standard for cleanliness is "clean enough not to bother us" and while the exact details of that vary, that's basically what most people are aiming for in day to day life. There may be no condition that is clean enough not to bother your mam, either because she suffers from a level of clinical anxiety that expresses itself in concerns about tidiness, but doesn't ever actually go away, or because tidiness, cleanliness, etc. is a means for her to exert control over her family. Or some combination of those things.

#207 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2013, 10:47 PM:

Codemonkey #204: Just chiming in to agree with RiceVermicelli #206: That's a tidy house, and a clean one! I've got piles of books all over the place, and mail, papers, and clutter heaped on table and desk. And never mind the dog fur! I need to have a housekeeper in monthly just to keep me from descending into total filth.

#208 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2013, 11:22 PM:

Codemonkey, I wish MY house were as tidy and organized as yours appears to be.

#209 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2013, 12:13 AM:

Codemonkey, the typical definition of mess involves a whole lot more dirt and sloppiness, especially piles that turn into avalanches when an object is removed, dirty laundry heaps, and bags or bins of miscellaneous stuff. To illustrate please see the before and after section of the UFYH tumblr. My place currently has several corners of shame, and two entire rooms of shame.

What you've got there is "sparkling clean and carefully tidied but really full of stuff". A place with too much stuff is frustrating and draining even when it is relentlessly tidied, because it *has* to be relentlessly tidied. I've been there and done that -- that's why we moved someplace bigger!

What your house is short of isn't cleanliness -- it's calm, empty space to rest your eyes, and spread out on at a moment's notice. To get that requires some combination of reclaiming space (via ruthless decluttering and better storage), and adding more space.

#210 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2013, 01:04 AM:

Codemonkey, just to reinforce:

We had a much more cluttered house (with much less excuse) and none of the people who had to come help us when we were dealing with crises said anything about it. It isn't a thing that's on most of their radar levels, unless stuff is extensively in the way of their ability to do their job (or creating a health crisis).

Have there been problems with unreasonable people in the past that might explain your mom's reaction, or have you dealt with the people in question and do they seem reasonably kind?

#211 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2013, 01:26 AM:

Codemonkey, adding my voice here: your house is tidy—far, far tidier than the one I lived in growing up. It has a lot of stuff, but it's not a mess.

#212 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2013, 08:42 AM:

Codemonkey: Adding to the chorus. That's far cleaner, tidier and less cluttered than our house (which is larger than yours and occupied only by two humans and a cat) and while we do try to tidy up if we're having visitors it probably still looks messier than yours even afterwards! We're presently trying to de-clutter, one room at a time, which involves going through stuff, deciding on throw/charity shop/keep, and placing "keep" stuff into appropriate storage. We're lucky however that we do have both the storage room and enough room space that we can spread things out while we're making the decisions.

Upthread it was suggested that you hire a storage place for a few weeks. I think that would be a really good idea. You can either buy cardboard storage boxes that you'd be okay with throwing away later (hint: get ones of a size that a single person can carry), or plastic storage crates (reasonable prices e.g. at Argos) if you think you could make use of them for longer-term storage at home.

#213 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2013, 09:15 AM:

RiceVermicelli @206: there is certainly a lot of stuff in those rooms, but they seem quite tidy to me, given their comparatively high burden. For example, it appears that key pots are stored on the stove top (an adaptation that I've also sometimes had to make due to insufficient cupboard space), but those pots are shiny clean. The dishrack appears to hold recently used plates that are still drying (as opposed to mine, which has those and random tupperware that no one is sure where to put away). The furniture is dusted and polished. Your mother's bedroom is quite crowded, but everything appears to have a place, and to be in it - my own space is plagued by things like baskets of unfolded laundry, and it is notable to me that I don't see those things.

What made my mother feel so ashamed was not the state of the rooms (although there is a fair bit of dust and damage which isn't easily apparent in the photos I uploaded) but the state of the kitchen and passage cupboards -- those weren't in my original photo set, but I've just added some photos of them this morning (along with photos of my sister's bedroom -- which is my mam's biggest worry re the renovations).

To suggest that the reason it takes 4.5 hours to attempt to tidy a single cupboard in that house may be, not that the cupboard is a disaster, but that the target condition for the cupboard may be unattainable.

How could you say that when you didn't know what that cupboard was like? And besides, it was far more overloaded then than it is now (including with some food that had been left to go rotten).

Moonlit Night @209: What you've got there is "sparkling clean and carefully tidied but really full of stuff". A place with too much stuff is frustrating and draining even when it is relentlessly tidied, because it *has* to be relentlessly tidied. I've been there and done that -- that's why we moved someplace bigger!

As I mentioned before, the issue is not the current state of the house w.r.t. tidiness/cleanliness, but the worries over "where are we going to put all this furniture when the renovation men need access to the radiators", as well as "won't the men have to cut up our carpets because we can't take them up ourselves, and how would we ever get the furniture out of the way to refit the carpets?" Admittedly, the bedroom fitted carpets at least are badly worn, which is why they've been covered with mats in most places...

That's one reason why mam has sometimes suggested that I ought to buy them another house in order to escape the renovation work. Once when my mam recently tried to blame me for the current situation I said "how is it my fault, when you rejected every house I offered?" to which she replied "you haven't exactly offered me anything, when all the houses where you printed details are even littler than this one! You know how stowed off* this house is!"

Given this choosiness, I'm increasingly unenthusiastic about the idea (to be brutally honest, I can't be bothered to look through houses for sale any more), and other people here seem to think that buying our current house pre-emptively to stop the work would be a bad idea. (Yes, the purchase price would be lower than it would be post-renovations, but not by the full cost of the work if I paid for it myself.)

* "stowed off" is local dialect for "full to bursting" -- "stowed" rhymes with "loud" (not "load").

#214 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2013, 10:35 AM:


Ahem. That is not a "cupboard." That is a "pantry," as in "I cleaned out and tidied the entire pantry in only four-and-a-half hours." So you found a dried-up banana. (No, I do not want to hear the real details; they're not actually relevant.) I'll bet at least one of the workmen went home to worse.

Yes, you have a high stuff-to-storage ratio, but so do many of us. Instead, think of this in terms of "When I move out, there will be so much more space in which to store our stuff!"

One thing you might do, to alleviate your mam's anxiety about the renovations: Promise her that you will replace all of the damaged carpets with new ones -- and that even if her bedroom carpeting somehow remains intact, you will replace it because it is worn[, and she's your mam, and deserves nice things].

#215 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2013, 10:52 AM:

Codemonkey: What they said about the tidyness. If you move to your own apartment before the renovations, they'll have another whole room in which to put things, which will make it easier on everyone. The easiest and fastest way to give your Mam a bigger house is to get yourself out of it; her house will instantly become at least a whole room bigger.

#216 ::: ricevermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2013, 11:39 AM:

Codemonkey @213, two things:
No, I have no idea what the original state of the cupboard was, or of the source of the hold up. That's why I carefully said "may be" and not "is."

However, I've occasionally cleaned professionally, and been a visiting home help to people with health problems. I have a good sense of how long it takes to clean a broom closet. The key vvariable is not the starting condition of the space or the desired ending condition - those are trivial compared to the fussiness of the closet owner. If you're left alone to empty out a closet that's a health and safety hazard,and you don't give a damn about the content and no one is bothering you, most people can get it to walls and floorboards in under half an hour. If someone hovers and frets about how it all looks and what a mess it is and why haven't we got a better place for grandmother's china, a reasonably tidy broom cupboard can take all day. If you are the person who would hover and fret, it can take you all day.

I understand being anxious about getting through a major disruption like a renovation. Anyone would be. If it's just ordinary anxiety about how this will work, it can be effectively fought with specifics. Get the council to say exactly what work will be done. Get the workmen to come look and say what they'll need, and when they'll need it. Sit down with a calendar and mark things off - when will the kitchen be out of commission, when are they opening the bedroom wall, when are they closing it back up. Ask the council what help they provide in terms of storage, or hotel rooms for the worst of the work. Etcetera. It's a vast bog of detail and a great deal of work, but it's a solvable problem.

The issue is, you're not dealing with ordinary, rational anxiety. At some point, it becomes necessary to simply attack the practical problems and let the emotional ones be.

Moving out does solve some practical problems. It gives your family a room and change to use as swap space during the reno. It gets you some breathing room. It will upset your mother, but she seems upset regardless.

#217 ::: ricevermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2013, 11:43 AM:

I was gnomed, I suspect because I'm prone to typos when posting from smartphone.

I have nothing to offer the powers that be. I'm making cookies with the kids later - would a handful of chocolate chips salvaged from the wreckage get me anything?

#218 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2013, 12:53 PM:


I suspect the kerfuffle over what is a "cupboard" and what is a "pantry" is a matter of terminology variance from one side of a rather large pond to the other. In any case, none of the ones you've shown us looks at all out-of-the-ordinary in those photos. Yes, storage space is full of stuff. That's what it's for.

I'll second (third? fourth? Infinify? (not a typo)) the idea of making your parents' house bigger by moving out of it. With you absent, they'd suddenly have an additional room that could be fitted out as dedicated storage and also used as a staging area for items that must be moved in order for other rooms to undergo renovation.

Even your sister's room, while packed entirely too full of stuff for my comfort level if I had to live in it, is tidy and not at all out of the ordinary in any truly noticeable way, other than the aforementioned amount-of-stuff.

I've been up against real nightmares of a messy house, overflowing storage, and renovations and/or relocation. I come from a family of pack rats, and I am an only child of an only child. (The preceding statement should strike terror into the stoutest of hearts.) Until you've inherited Every Single Thing left behind by your parents plus your father's parents and grandparents, at least one great-aunt and a great-uncle along with the more normal amount of stuff left by your mother's parents via your mother herself, you haven't really Dealt With Stuff. After my dad's health failed and the job of dealing with his house and his things fell to me, there really were days I was tempted to just chuck a lit match into the mess and walk away. That I would also have had to chuck lit matches into at least two storage units in addition to the house made it all seem a bit too complicated, so on each occasion I had a drink to calm my nerves and went once more unto the breach. I expect the twitching to ease up any day now.

All this is in aid of saying that even that seemingly insurmountable job turned out to be manageable, although I doubt I could've done it without the help of friends. At present my apartment is still a mess of stored stuff and currently-used items, but I'm paring it away as I go and I'm not in the rush I was in when things first became my job. My father's house -- which was at least a three-hour drive away -- was in such awful shape that in the end I sold it to a neighbor who was in the business of rehabbing and reselling homes in the area, just to get out from under. If I'd still lived in the area where my father lived, I might well have opted to hang onto it and renovate. The main difference is that at least I wouldn't have had to live in it while this was going on, but if you can figure out a way for your parents and sister to manage amid the renovation, possibly with the help of the council sending them to temporary digs during the worst of it, your best bet would be to get your own place before it all starts and that way they at least have your room in which to put things.

And if you've got your own place, be it a flat or a house, you might even be able to offer your parents and sister space in which to stay for a few days. That could solve some of the trouble right there.

#219 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2013, 01:13 PM:

Codemonkey: The logic on the target state of the cupboard being unattainable has nothing to do with what it looks like now and everything to do with whether your mother's approaching it expecting perfection. Going into a cleaning project expecting perfection is a pretty surefire way to make sure nothing actually gets cleaned, even after hours of work.

It's much like how your mother isn't happy with anything you've offered her, despite your numerous attempts to come up with something she would like. You've done more than you needed to to try to please her, and it's not your fault she didn't like any of it.

Get yourself out of there, and you may find yourself better able to help the rest of your family. (And, as others have noted, they'll have a whole other room to put things in as hey need to.)

#220 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2013, 03:11 PM:

The fact that I did make steps towards moving out in the spring when I heard about the renovation work, only to run into hysterical opposition from my mother, suggests that the emotional support given by my presence is more important to her than having an extra room to play with.

#221 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2013, 03:44 PM:

Codemonkey: "The fact that I did make steps towards moving out in the spring when I heard about the renovation work, only to run into hysterical opposition from my mother, suggests that the emotional support given by my presence is more important to her than having an extra room to play with."

You know what it suggests to me? That your mother is going to have a fit no matter what you do, and that you need to do what is best for YOU regardless. It also suggests to me that she isn't really getting emotional support from you, but rather that she feels you are the only element of her life that she can control, so she is looking to control you.

And that isn't good for either of you.

You'll be better served by getting out on your own, and your mother will be better served by having to look elsewhere for elements of her life over which she can exert control.

I went through this myself, a couple of decades ago, and getting out was the best thing I could have done for any of us. Staying out would've been even better, as I was later drawn back in, to no one's benefit.

Save yourself. After all, you are the only one you CAN save, and if you absolutely find that you need to move back in for some reason in future, it isn't as though you can't. My prediction is that with you no longer living under the same roof, you mother will discover other ways in which to take charge of things in her life and her surroundings. Right now you're making it entirely to easy for her to avoid that... which, again, is ultimately no favor to anyone, least of all her.

#222 ::: slow learner ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2013, 04:10 PM:

Codemonkey, here's some recommended reading for you: Kafka's Metamorphosis.

Here follows ROT13, in case you haven't read it (it's novella length, and widely available.)

Jura ur gheaf vagb n tvnag vafrpg, uvf snzvyl cvpxf hc gur fynpx naq pbcrf svar. Orggre guna gurl jrer orsber. Ohg ur qbrfa'g, orpnhfr ur'f n tvnag vafrpg naq riraghnyyl vf xvyyrq.

Don't be Gregor Samsa. Get out. Get out before you wake up one day as n tvnag vafrpg.

#223 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2013, 08:03 PM:

Codemonkey @220
"the emotional support given by my presence is more important to her than having an extra room to play with."

I think the question you need to ask yourself is, do you believe that your mam is self-aware enough to be able to accurately assess her own needs, and predict how change will affect her?

A few years ago, I wanted to buy my dad a computer chair for Christmas. He was sitting in an old dining room chair, it wasn't padded, it was awkward to move in and out; I thought he'd be a lot happier with something nicer. He sort of rolled his eyes at me and said something along the lines of "the chair I have now is perfectly fine and I don't need another one, but sure, it's your money, go for it." So I get it.

Fast forward to July or August, and one night he turns to me and says "this chair is the best present I've ever gotten. I didn't realize it, but the old chair was actually hurting my back and causing me a lot of pain that I don't have anymore."

It is really, really hard for people to accurately predict how a change in their life is going to affect them, especially changes in their physical environment. Your mam may want the emotional support way more than she wants the extra space, but that may not actually be the best thing for her, and she may not be able to realize that. Not because there's anything wrong with her, but just because people are bad at predicting the future.

I think it's also important to ask what's the best thing for YOU.

#224 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2013, 09:54 PM:

Codemonkey @ 220, one thing that's been pretty easy to see in your comments about your mam is how deeply she craves control. That's why she wants your bank cards, for example.

I can readily believe that she pitched giant fits at the notion of you moving out, but I am less certain then you that what she wants is your continued emotional support. It would be very possible for your mam to continue to enjoy your emotional and practical assistance even if you lived many miles away.

#225 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2013, 04:00 AM:

Dave Harmon@201

Just got back. Actually, my wife did almost exactly that - pointed out before we set off that we had already set the schedule, and if he wanted to join us he was joining the whole thing. He was surprisingly well behaved, minor sniping at mum aside (which is basically background radiation in their relationship). I think everyone will be less apprehensive next time - a definite win.

#226 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2013, 05:19 AM:

Codemonkey, I don't think your mother's hysterics when you actually tried to move out were about "emotional support" at all. I think they were about control. I think that right now, you are the only thing in her life over which she has any control at all. She can't do anything about your father's health or your sister's condition. She can't do anything about the council-mandated renovations. She can't do anything about the state of the house (by herself, and she won't accept outside help). The only thing she can control is YOU -- and if you move out, she loses even that. Of course she's desperate to maintain that control over you!

I'm going to ask you a tough question: what are you getting out of your current situation which makes you so reluctant to leave it? IME, most of the time when people say they're looking for a solution to a problem and then do as much yes-butting as you've been doing to every solution that's proposed, it means that they are actually getting some benefit (physical, emotional, or both) out of the problem situation which they have not yet acknowledged.

We have a number of people in this community who are desperate to get out of toxic situations but lack the means to do so. You have the means -- a stable job, money in the bank, good health, physical freedom of motion -- and yet you keep drawing back from the idea of actually getting yourself out. Why? Answering that question may make your decision easier.

#227 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2013, 06:29 AM:

Russ #225: Kewl....

Lee #226: It can be surprisingly hard to leave the safety of a cage.

#228 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2013, 08:36 AM:

Lee @226: I think you're very perceptive on my mother's craving for control.

What am I getting out of my current situation? Mainly the knowledge that my mother is unlikely to commit suicide (and thus saddle me with responsibility for my sister) as long as I'm still there.

I certainly know that I'd have suicidal thoughts if placed in my mother's shoes!!

#229 ::: john, who is incognito and definitely not at work ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2013, 09:32 AM:

Codemonkey: It seems like your mother is not doing you any favors, and is in fact actively hindering you in a number of ways. I admire your concern for her, but would like to reiterate Diatryma's comment @ 192: this is an oxygen-mask situation, and I think you'd probably have a better chance of helping your mother if you weren't also struggling to survive. I don't think you're on a plane, though, or in a burning building; it's more a very slow carbon monoxide leak, and your mother's gotten a bit sleepy and is refusing to leave. Luckily there are trained people who could be there to help shortly, if only they knew about the problem.

#230 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2013, 01:13 PM:

Lee @226: Thank you. I've been noticing the "yes but" game, too.

#231 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2013, 01:28 PM:

Codemonkey: If you're that worried about your mother committing suicide after you move out, call professionals. She needs help from someone who's better equipped to give it far more than she needs maintenance of the status quo.

#232 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2013, 02:27 PM:

Codemonkey, has your mother ever talked about suicide or threatened to kill herself?

If not, then whether you would commit suicide in her shoes is immaterial. (I suspect you actually would not, in any case.)

I too have noticed all of the "yes-butting", and I agree with the others on that. But I think you are getting something out of the situation: the feeling/illusion of being necessary. Your mother gets to exert control over you, and you get to tell yourself that you're the only thing keeping her alive.

You're both wrong, and here's why: Your mother has no right to control you, and if she really, truly WERE in control of you, then you wouldn't be here complaining about it. You'd be brainwashed into agreeing with her on everything. You would never even have thought about moving out and living your own life. But you are here, you are complaining, you have thought about moving out, and it's plain to see that on some level you really want to... only you don't want to lose the illusion of being the linchpin holding everything and everyone together.

It's hard to face something like that, I'll agree.

But you're wrong in thinking that you really ARE that linchpin, that necessary center on which all else depends. I suspect that your mother is stronger than you know, and furthermore that she is stronger than even she herself knows.

If she really wanted to commit suicide, your living in that house would not prevent her from doing so. You aren't home 24/7, after all. You go and do things, you work, you spend time outside the home. And yet you have never come home to find your mother dead. In fact, I suspect that (assuming she were suicidal or borderline suicidal at all) she would be potentially more likely to do it knowing you lived at home because with her gone there would still be you to keep the household together. If you move out, she will realize that she has to keep it together for the sake of your father and sister. It's not even outside the realm of possibility that this is part of what scares her.

As others before me have said, get out of there and give yourself the life you deserve. Move down the street or across town; you will still be available to help your mother when she genuinely requires assistance with things, but you will also have the mental, physical, and yes, emotional distance you need for the sake of your own long-term health and well-being.

I would trade places with you in a heartbeat. Both of my parents are dead and gone, I've no siblings and for that matter no close family at all. No one is dependent on me in any way, shape or form except my cats and a couple of friends I help with matters I could easily help them with even if I lived hundreds of miles away. I live in a place I am very tired of living in and where the job market is crap and the economic future (both mine and this area's) is dismal on the best of days. But I'm stuck for the moment because I haven't the funds that would allow me to relocate, despite knowing that I will have to do so in order to survive, let alone thrive.

You may feel responsible for the welfare of your family, but you at least have the means at your disposal to look after your own needs AND to look after theirs from a safe distance. If I had to choose between our situations -- and bear in mind that I come from a history of dealing with parental illnesses both mental and physical before both of them passed on -- I'd take yours over mine because at least you have the means to improve your situation.

So do it. If nothing else, do it in the name of those of us who cannot easily do so at present.

#233 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2013, 05:23 PM:

Codemonkey, I'm not going to go into the emotional difficulties between you and your mother, because others are doing that better than I can.

In re the renovations: find a way to get them done. If you don't, what's going to happen is that the infrastructure of the house is going to fail catastrophically at the worst possible time: the pipes will burst at 3 in the morning. The toilet tank will fall off the wall. Ghu forfend, the wiring will catch fire.

Which would be one way of getting rid of the clutter, but probably not the way you want.

My mum recently had her kitchen and bathroom redone. It was a small nightmare while it was happening, but now that it's done, it's so much better. Her sink is no longer in danger of collapsing through the counter, and her wall no longer has mould growing inside it.

It really is non-optional.

#234 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 10:56 AM:

CodeMonkey @ 228 - the question of what you would do if you wound up responsible for your sister's full-time care looms a little, because it seems that, long-term, that's highly likely to happen. Your parents are not going to live forever. What plans have been made for your sister after their deaths? What resources are available?

Whatever the answer is to those questions, the situation is not improved by you immuring yourself in your mother's house, or by your sister being immured there. Ideally, you'd have a social network that could help you. Ideally, your sister would have a social network too.

My family rather badly fucked up the work of caring for a developmentally disabled adult after his primary caregiver died (I was a teenager, and then a college student, while this was happening). If your only plan for what to do when you are responsible for your sister's care is "kill me now," things are going to go very bad, but you can make better plans. It may involve more of those calls to the appropriate resource offices that get your mam so annoyed.

Having your own place to live might well be part of that better plan. It seems unlikely that the council would let you and your sister remain in a house intended for four when you don't meet the income or asset guidelines for council housing, so you'd very likely have to move regardless. One way to make that easier is to get yourself a place with a spare bedroom now, and have your sister to visit overnight every now and then.

And do be a bit pushy on things like getting your sister's CDs ripped to iTunes and out of the house. She is likely to be resistant to change, but once a new status quo (like music on an iPad, and shelf space for other things) is in place, she'll deal with it fine. The tantrums in transition may be epic, especially if they've worked in the past, and they can only sometimes be sidestepped by mild bribery (of the "do this, and then you'll have shelf space for these things that otherwise have to be in storage" variety). Epic tantrums are best at home, on a day when you have time. Be sympathetic, but stand your ground.

#235 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 03:55 PM:

Merricat @223: I think something similar to what you described happened on Mother's Day this year. I bought her some DVD box sets because we'd enjoyed watching the series on TV, but she'd said before that she didn't think they were worth the money. I was worried that I'd made a bad decision, but later on she said they were the best Mother's Day present she'd ever had (perhaps the fact that they were something we could watch together was part of it, though).

This afternoon while at work I was thinking of what I'd do in my mam's position -- in her shoes I'd want to learn how to use a computer (and be willing to ask for help from my(her) son in order to learn), and I'd also seize upon into any possible opportunity for socializing during the day while my(her) daughter wasn't at home. I also wouldn't be shy about asking my(her) son for more money if it were necessary to pay for these social activities.

What are your thoughts on how what I'd do in my mother's situation is very different to the way she's actually behaving (probably because her anxiety and/or depression are paralyzing her actions, or maybe because she feels she needs to be there to make my dad do the stuff around the house he's supposed to)?

I've been thinking that once we get the renovation work out of the way, I'll confront her about her anxiety and depression and suggest she goes to the doctor about it (after all, my sister had been on medication for depression in the past). I wouldn't be willing to do so now though, as my mother would probably be resistant: "I have a good right to be worried given what's going to be happening to the house!"

On a positive note, there was nothing wrong with the heating (as mentioned @154) after all -- the only reason it didn't come on was because mam had absent-mindedly turned the thermostat to its minimum setting. ;)

RiceVermicelli @234: Even if I could find an easy-to-use MP3 player with sufficient storage space (the normal 16 or 32 GB probably wouldn't be enough), how would I find the time to rip over a thousand CDs?

#236 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 04:25 PM:

Codemonkey: Rip a few at a time! My parents have a huge CD collection as well; when they decided to put the whole thing on their computer they did it in stacks of 10 or 15 at a time, while they were on the computer doing other things.

A gradual process may also help your sister adjust to the idea that the CDs are going and she'll have that space to do other things, rather than her entire collection disappearing at once.

#237 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 05:39 PM:

CodeMonkey, on ripping CDs, you've got options.

Most MP3 players are very easy to use, and you're describing someone capable of using an iPad, which can hold a fair bit of music and play it back. If iPad is possible, iPod should not be an obstacle.

So, on getting it done:
- You can make her do it. First on the list for so many reasons. Walk her through the process of starting up iTunes, putting disc in computer, pressing okay, and repeating. It's her music, it can be her project.
- You can spend a day around the house, slapping CDs on the tray and hitting OK yourself. Put a movie on, or find a good book, take a stack of discs, keep one eye half on the computer screen and swap them out as needed. Maybe this is something you do more then once, but it gets done within a month or so.
- Do it a little at a time. 3 discs a day is under fifteen minutes, and it takes maybe all year, but you're always making progress.

#238 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 06:03 PM:

Codemonkey, #235: That "16 or 32 gig" number you mention is for "pocket" MP3 players. My iPod, which is several generations old, has 80 gigs; the current iPod Classic has 160 gigs, and the largest iPod Touch has 64 gigs. These are not cheap (although you can get a better price by looking for a refurbished one thru the Apple Store website), but I think it would be worth a couple hundred pounds to get your sister's CD collection under control.

Re how to rip so many of them -- yes, you do it a few at a time. The only reason I have so many unripped CDs right now is that I pretty well have to listen to every one of them before I rip them; I no longer have the encyclopedic knowledge of every CD in my collection (the way I used to) to know what songs I want to put in which playlists, or if there are some that I just don't want to rip at all. But you're not going to worry about that -- just drop one in, let iTunes rip it in, then change out to another one. It takes about 1-2 minutes per CD at the settings I use. You could easily do 100 CDs in an evening, in between doing other things.

(That's when I do use iTunes to rip. Normally I use CDex, which is a freeware ripper I got a few years ago. It's slower than iTunes, but I like it better for arcane personal reasons.)

#239 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 09:10 PM:

Codemonkey @235:

"What are your thoughts on how what I'd do in my mother's situation is very different to the way she's actually behaving (probably because her anxiety and/or depression are paralyzing her actions, or maybe because she feels she needs to be there to make my dad do the stuff around the house he's supposed to)?"

There could be a lot of different reasons! It could be anxiety/depression paralyzing her. It could be feeling like she needs to keep an eye on your dad. It could be some cultural message in her upbringing that she believes -- it's not polite to ask for money, women are supposed to stay home and do housework all day, she's not smart enough to use a computer, could be ANYTHING. It could even just be a personality difference, where the things that would make you feel happy and safe and less isolated are not the same as the things that make her feel happy and safe and less isolated.

I've never met your mam, so I don't know what her story is. You probably have a better guess than I do. The important thing to remember is that you might also have a better guess than SHE does. She may not really be aware of what she needs, or she may not be able to articulate it.

#240 ::: Variations on a Lime ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 05:45 PM:

area-person discovers an allergy today to a person who sounds just like AP's family member sounded years ago.
"There's this tone of voice mixed with arrogance: I started getting stress hives and took an anti-histamine. At least I now know that this is a trigger," AP commented.

#241 ::: Variations on a Lime ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 02:07 AM:

Codemonkey at 235,
Your situation isn't exactly like what I'd experienced earlier in my life. However, my family situation combined with very recent lessons on stress might be relevant.

I grew up with an anxious parent with OCD- way too much stuff. The anxiety they had was attached to, or sometimes caused by, the stuff. However, once they had the anxiety from OCD it would stay around "free floating" and they'd mentally attach it to anything they were recently thinking about. Our minds are good at correlation = causation.

What I read from you reminds me of this, where you are working hard to help with her anxiety connected to her specific difficulties. However, when you talk with her, if she happens to feel anxious right then she'll connect your conversation's topic to "being a cause of my anxiety". And because it is your mom you want to help. So perhaps you give an alternative idea... but she again links the new suggestion with anxiety, so it doesn't seem to be what she wants. It is like you are doing a set of hypothesis tests, and all the results come back negative. And then not being able to help is itself a cause of anxiety.

For myself back then in my family, it took distance for me to be able to look over the situation and understand what they really wanted. By not living at home I could imagine saying things and how they'd react, knowing that I'm not going to actually see them that day. The urgency of trying to say things right turned into a longer term plan for how to say things comfortably. The more comfortable I was, the better I could listen.

Physical distance isn't the only way to get some mental space to help practice how you work with your mom. Writing here, and being mindful, those are all good. (It is an attitude, perhaps, more than anything else.)

Maybe this is a variation of noting "your own oxygen mask first," and also that many times you can't tell right away what is an oxygen mask.

#242 ::: Variations on a Lime is gnomed alas ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 02:10 AM:

Some cheese crumbs sprinkled on tiny yellow tomatoes from the market two weeks ago?

#243 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 06:48 AM:

In the previous thread, #77 the invisible one: I might need that favor. Genetic donors have withdrawn support after a few days of promising to help me stay in current city. I'm very suspicious at he current radio silence from them, previously I had regular messages from them.

A friend says can host but city needs plane ticket to get there by 15th.

Please let me know if offer's still good? thanks.

#244 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 09:29 AM:

ma larkey: sure thing.

Shall we connect via email to abi?

#245 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 09:39 AM:

Email forwarded. Thank you, invisible one.

#246 ::: slow learner ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 10:59 AM:

Codemonkey, re the CDs: I ripped my entire CD collection in two days. I wouldn't recommend that, but it was possible. I have about 400 CDs. I did the same for my parents' collection, as a present to them for Christmas. They have more like 1000. It took longer, but not exponentially longer.

Also: I kept my CDs after ripping everything, for backup. I discarded the cases, and put the CDs themselves in a very large CD book, and the liner booklets in a little storage box. It's less convenient for sorting (re-alphabetising when you get a new CD is a huge pain) but it takes up a whole lot less space and is portable.

Re your mother: you know how you don't like it when she decides what you're capable of and makes decisions according to that? You're doing the same thing to her.

You CAN live your own life without her controlling it and constraining all your choices down to zero, but you won't be able to do that until you free up your hands by letting go of HER life.

#247 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 11:56 AM:

Codemonkey -- One thing that I noticed with iTunes is that it will queue up rips across multiple CDs if you have more than one drive. When I was ripping in bulk, I had an internal drive and an external dvd writer, and it felt like the throughput was nearly doubled over when I was just using one. The done, spin down, eject, fumble disks and put the new one in and let it spin up and check cddb sequence takes a significant chunk of time compared to the time to actually rip a disk. It might even be worth picking up a cheap cdrom drive if you've got space in a tower for it.

I think when I did it, it was a couple of days of swapping disks while I was using my computer for other work.

(of course now, a few years on, there are some cds that I know I missed. And a couple that have started to get a bit of bitrot. so I've got to dig the originals out of the garage and find the ones I need.)

#248 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 12:12 PM:

ma larkey: Best of luck.

#249 ::: Finny ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2013, 02:21 AM:

Does anyone know how I can get several thousand dollars fairly quickly? I am trying to get out of a debt hole, but on only one income it is not working. I need about $5000, but I do not have credit, so I cannot get a loan ( I have tried), and I do not have any relatives willing to help or and friends with the resources to do so (though they are willing). So I am rather out of ideas.


#250 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2013, 04:36 AM:

Finny @ #249

I am not a financial counselor, but... I wouldn't know what tack to take without first knowing the nature of the debt. Would it have anything to do with the loan you'd mentioned earlier this year in this comment about the aftermath of your mother's passing?

I couldn't really say much (hlepy or helpful!) before I knew, but my general focus would be to whom and to how many is this debt owed? How open are they to negotiating terms of repayment, and against what kind of price?

Presuming it's the family situation you describe, I wonder, too, if the intentions of the main players are to get you to pay them back by increasing your pain as a way to motivate you, or if (at least) one of them isn't perhaps more interested in simply trying to hurt you, full stop. Such understandings could lead you to consider a wider range of options - not only trying to consolidate the loan away from such people by shifting it to something like a bank loan or credit card (neither of which Is an option, I know. I'm just being complete here) but also other tactics, like turning around the dynamic: holding out on repayment until the others lower the temperature of their interaction, for instance. After all, you may be in debt to someone, but they did not buy away your human dignity with that sum.

I'm sorry you have to go through this; I hope some of my maunderings have helped.

Crazy(and thank you for sharing this - rereading your contributions here specifically helped me feel less alone, as myself and dear hubby are having a year filled with sh*t-sandwiches)soph

#251 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2013, 04:43 AM:

Finny: Sympathies.

Re. not having credit, apologies if totally hlepy, but my cousin was in that situation a long time ago when he first wanted to get a credit card. The solution was, as I recall: borrow $100 from the bank for a month. Pay it back. Now you have a credit rating... Don't know if that's do-able or appropriate in this case. Again, apologies if totally hlepy.

#252 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2013, 12:59 PM:

Yes, if you suddenly have just a few days to come up with $5,000, my first question is, "Sez who?"

I would research my alternatives before giving them a single dollar.

As for acquiring a credit rating, I am not on the mortgage for my own house (per community property laws) because when we got a mortgage I had none. Not a bad credit rating, just no credit rating. So I borrowed $500 from my husband and used it to get a secured credit card from the credit union. After a few years, I opted to turn the secured credit card into an unsecured credit card and gave my husband back the $500 plus the interest it had earned while sitting around playing security deposit. This doesn't look like an option for you now, but it may be possible in the future depending on local credit unions.

#253 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2013, 07:27 PM:

To all: witnessing. Especially ma larkey, because I hope that better things go your way, and I don't think that's said enough.

#254 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2013, 08:03 PM:

Seconding B. Durbin's good wishes for ma larkey.

Speaking of regulars we worry about, has Syd been around lately?

#255 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2013, 10:09 PM:

"View All By" shows her latest post as being in June. I hope she's okay, too.

#256 ::: Variations on a Lime ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 02:13 AM:

On a sideways note, anyone else here caught by a 'late with a project,' 'being late makes you stressed,' 'stress slows you down,' 'now you're more late,' 'staying up too late slows you down'... cycle? I could blame the df for the seeds of this habit, but I've been watering it over the years :(

#257 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 02:26 AM:

All. The. Time.

#258 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 03:30 AM:

Variations @256: Oh, yes. Story of my life.

#259 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 06:40 AM:

@256: that would be my current predicament as well. Trying my best to slowly break the cycle, but not sure if successful.

#260 ::: somewhere_gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 06:42 AM:

(I think I messed up the spaces again.)

#261 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 06:47 AM:


If anyone wants to weigh in on low spoon count and food options I'd be happy to hear about it. I'm currently rather sick of pizza or pasta.

#262 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 07:16 AM:

somewhere_else @261:

A British suggestion: bake a great big potato for an hour until it's cooked. Split it open and put stuff on/in it: butter, cheese, tuna, etc.

Google term: "jacket potato"

#263 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 07:47 AM:

While reading over this incarnation of the thread I had at least two "current song playing matches this" moments. One for a song by a band named Oroboros, from Cleveland OH, which I'll be very startled if anyone here has ever heard of; the lyrics don't seem to be online anywhere but they're about growing and baptism day and "Why must we roam from shore to shore? (I can't stay in Egypt land) Why don't you love me any more? (I can't stay in Egypt land) I look in your eyes / and still I don't see / I swear some day / we will be free"...

The other came while reading Codemonkey's re-entry to the thread, and was Billy Joel's _James_. "You've been well-behaved / you've been working hard / but will you always stay / someone else's dream of who you are? / Do what's good for you / or you're not good for anybody ..."

In any case - agreeing with the chorus that the sooner you disentangle yourself from the daily life inside that home, Codemonkey, the better. Benefits: an extra room's worth of space, as noted, to prepare for the renovation in; MULTIPLE benefits to you - we've noted many of them, but once they actually start happening TO you they'll all suddenly make sense and free you up mightily; you'll be able to make phone calls, look up information, and make plans WITHOUT anyone else (*cough*MOTHER*cough*) listening in, counter-planning, and breaking in at appropriately bad moments with more distracting noises about how This Here Needs To be Done and We Can't Do It Now Alas and No, I Don't Want _That_ It's Not Quite Right and How Dare You Call The Social Worker Without Me Listening In? and ceterae. You'll quite possibly be able to get things arranged and the right people notified and involved MUCH more easily than if you were still back there. AND you'll get practice, if nothing else, in moving stuff around, in preparation for the renovations which you've noted are still at least 4 months away (!) and for which you can have a retreat-place planned for the three of them with plenty of time.

AND all the stuff in your new place will be YOURS. Not theirs, not something they can threaten to take away at any moment, not somewhere where your sister Has To Be Allowed To Visit You Have No Choice. YOUR place. You're in dire need of this, though it might not seem so from inside.

[[Note: DO NOT, _whatever_ anyone (*c*M*c*) says or how loudly or guiltily she says it, allow said retreat-place to be "with you in your new apartment, we'll be no trouble, you'll never know we're there". It must be somewhere OTHER than where you have moved out to. I cannot stress this strongly enough. Once you move out, your new place is YOUR place, not theirs ... but only as long as you defend it vigorously against attempts to take it over and make it theirs-with-you-happening-to-pay-the-rent...]]

And I had something else ... oh yes. I -saw- (we all did but I'm the one typing here) your yes-but about "I'll confront Mom about these things _after_ the renovations are done". That's at least six months away. DON'T get that tied in your mind to "I can't move out before I do that", please. Move out _first_, get settled in your new place, deal with the echoing reverb from family about it (which, I can virtually guarantee you, will NOT include "Mom commits suicide" - that's a _classic_ parental-control tactic, "Oh! You're going to KILL me if you keep doing that! No no, my doctor says I don't have more than (N) months to live anyway [a claim repeated over the last twenty years or so]. Of course baby, you go on and do what you must, I'll just sit here and succumb to angina/psoriasis/creeping dandruff/etc.". Made more insidious in this case because SHE'S not threatening to do it - YOU'RE putting words in her mouth and acting -as though- she'll be doing this. [And as others have noted, if you _really_ think that? The best thing for you to do, _right away_ not tomorrow or next week but NOW NOW NOW, is to get in touch through the social worker with someone who can HELP her if this turns out to be the case (and who can diagnose it in the first place - you're not actually qualified to do so, you know)]).

tl;dr: In this order - get someone to diagnose and help Mom for the suicide suspicions, if you actually think that's a danger. Get moved out of there NOW. Start listing and planning what else needs to be done - ongoing social worker stuff for Mom and for sister AND for father, they ALL need more help than you can give, don't let them refuse; setting up a temporary place for them while the renovations are going on (and not listening to any 'oh we couldn't possibly live THERE [list of objections]'); coordinating with the Council on getting the renovations done; get them moved back in; then, possibly with the help of said social-work people, dig into why Mom is acting all this way and stuff. Sounds like a lot, but break it into steps and it'll be easier. (And much easier in your own space than in the house there with interference every 47.22 minutes in different ways...) - And I'm saying for you to be the one to do this because? From what you've been saying, nobody else there is GOING to. Yes, you're the functioning one in the bunch - but you need to put distance between them and you to stay that way, and to get BETTER able to function, so you can help them.

Whew. That's a wall of text. Let's see how the gnomes handle multiply-nested clauses and braces... and, er, more styles of emphasis than most conversations can handle, apologies.

#264 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 10:13 AM:

somewhere_else @ 261

The fast or dorm version of abi's 261; poke holes in a potato with a fork, microwave for 5-10 minutes.

Slightly more work, but one of my favorites; tear up some bread, mix in an egg and some milk, fry in a pan with oil, sprinkle with sugar. (It's a fast, easy version of French toast.)

#265 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 12:07 PM:

@261: Microwaved potato split with stuff is definitely good. Also here is a fast hot cheap filling meal if you have the gadgets:

1. Make whole-grain toast. 2 or 4 slices.

2. While the toast is toasting, cut some slices of cheese, and maybe some slices of pickle, or dig out some leftover bagged salad, or peel off a couple slices of ham from the package, or . . .

3. Lay the cheese on 1 slice of toast and microwave until molten.

4. Spread any condiments on the other slice of toast and lay the cold sandwich fillings, if any, on top.

5. Put together and eat. Fast cheap filling hot meal. And if you use a paper towel for a plate, you only have to wash a cutting board and a knife or two. If you have a spare food wrapper or empty cereal box lying around, use that for a disposable cutting board.

#266 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 12:10 PM:

Variations on a Lime @256: anyone else here caught by a 'late with a project,'

::raises hand:: Can't blame my df (except insofar as general coping is suboptimal) because I didn't generally have that problem when I was living with them. I think it's more that I just have trouble priortizing stuff that has to get done over stuff I want to do.

Also, I get sideswiped by dumb stuff like: the pigs are fed, the house is buttoned up, I could go to bed now and be on time. But I wind up staying awake for another [five hours] doing [thing]. And [thing] may not even be something that's particularly important to me.

It's really irritating, and I'd love to learn how to be more choiceful in getting stuff handled in a timely fashion.

And then, of course, there's the factor that there's just too damn much stuff to do. I've got this convention coming up this weekend, and artwork is nearly ready (minor—we hope—touch up on a few pieces, plus logistical stuff like getting my phone activated and packing), and I'm feeling COMPLETELY STRESSED.

somewhere_else @261: If anyone wants to weigh in on low spoon count and food options I'd be happy to hear about it.

Dark leafy greens. We hates them, we does, Precious, but by damn, if I manage to eat some every day, I consistently do noticeably better, energy-wise.

#267 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 12:13 PM:

@Codemonkey: Oh, Lord, yes, threatening suicide is a classic control mechanism.

I can't find it on this thread, so I suspect it was in another forum where somebody suggested: If your parent/spouse/other adult talks about committing suicide, immediately call emergency services. Yes, they are almost certainly bluffing. If they are, they will quit doing that. If they aren't, somebody not you who is qualified through training not you and has a whole other support system not you will help them.

#268 ::: Variations on a Lime ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 12:17 PM:

somewhere_else, GlendaP, SummerStorms:
I hope we all can build new habits, but in the meantime, thanks for making me feel less alone (at 2am, a week past deadline, and tapes)

#269 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 02:54 PM:

Here's another one for when you have spoons some days but not others:

1. Presoak some brown rice and cook it for the maximum time on the package; this should make it fluffy, tender, and sweet. Make enough for 3 satisfying meals.

2. At the same time, put about 6 cups total water, canned/homemade/rehydrated broth, and/or cooking liquid saved from vegetables in a large saucepan. Add a slivered onion. Bring to a rolling boil. Put some miso (I like white, pick your favorite) in a mug, spoon in some boiling water, stir until smooth, take the pan off the heat, and pour in the miso puree. If you have the ingredients for classical miso soup, make that instead, but I usually don't. Use less water if you don't like a big bowl of soup.

3. Hard-cook half a dozen eggs before the miso soup or the day before even. If you salt the water, the eggs will be pre-seasoned.

This involves about an hour's work every three days or so. The other two days, you just reheat some rice, stir up the miso soup and dip some out to reheat, and peel two eggs. You can dump a spoonful of leftover cooked veggies into the miso soup or eat some pickles, fruit, or salad on the side if you like. This is a big, hearty meal that is pretty cheap.

#270 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 03:38 PM:

When I have few spoons, and can't stare at another sandwich, I'll make a couple slices of buttered toast, poach a couple-three eggs (break eggs into a cup, boil some water with a splash of vinegar in it, when water is boiling dump in the eggs for 3 minutes for runny yolk), and either have the eggs directly on the toast, or chop up the buttered toast into chunks, put in a biggish bowl, dump the poached eggs on top, and stir vigorously into an eggy mess. The disadvantage of the second is that now you have a bowl and fork or spoon to wash along with your pot, cup, and slotted spoon (for removing the eggs from the boiling water). The advantage is that you can throw in veggies or cheese (or veggies AND cheese!)

A tip I learned from Julia Child, I think it was, is that if you swirl the vinegared water into a whirlpool before dumping the eggs in, the whites stay together better. If you don't have vinegar, you don't need to use it, but it also helps keep the whites together.

When I have no spoons at all, I'll eat a handful of peanuts. But I like peanuts.

When I have negative spoons, I'll eat cheese puffs. This is not recommended....

#271 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 03:58 PM:

Apropos of nothing in particular except conversations elsenet, but it seems like this might be a good place to post it:

Any piece of advice that begins "Why don't you just" is not worth the time it takes to listen to it.

#272 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 04:18 PM:

Carrie S @271, I've learned from bitter experience that any directive from my boss that starts with "I just need you to..." will take hours of fiddling with and may not be possible to do at all.

That "just" is a killer.

#273 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 05:00 PM:

If you can stand washing out a bowl or large mug, there are a lot of canned chunky soups that aren't bad for prepackaged food. I look for the ones that contain barley, brown rice, whole-grain noodles, or dark green vegetables, so they are more filling. They tend to be salty, so I drink a lot of water or milk with them. When I have a cold, I go for the spicy ones instead--they seem to help.

I don't want to sound like a spammer to the gnomes, so let's just call the ones I typically buy Ampbells-cay. One can is supposed to be two servings, but IME it's a hearty meal for one. The beef with barley is super salty, but they also sell a chicken with brown rice, one with white and wild rice, and one with tiny meatballs and a huge amount of spinach.

#274 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 05:16 PM:

Thanks for all the recipes! Some are a really good reminder (french toast, of course!), others a nice inspirations, especially the step-by-step is helpful! As I'm neither from the US nor the UK I'm not sure what the brand names refer to, but since I'm hardly the only one with this problem others might find it useful.
Regardings circumstances, I don't own a microwave (just stove + oven), I'm mostly vegetarian and my spoonage issue when it comes to food mainly manifests in the inability to imagine foods I might wanna eat (so your suggestions are really helpful here: Of course! Potatoes with stuff on them is a thing I can eat!) and having a hard time making decisions or otherwise known as decision fatigue.

#275 ::: Carrie S ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 05:26 PM:

I've been doing something all summer I refer to as cut-rate potato salad: Boil cut-up potatoes until cooked, make dressing with olive oil, lemon juice and brown mustard (+salt if you feel the need), pour latter over former, nom. I peel the potatoes first about half the time, and I tend to prefer it if I let the potatoes cool before putting the dressing on them, but YMMV.

It's all about the starch, of course, but I imagine you could add some kind of bean for protein and have it be tasty.

#276 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 06:14 PM:

If you have the spoons some days but not others, big-pot meals are a great way to go. On your good days, make up a big pot of chili, soup, stew, beans & rice, pasta & sauce, whatever; portion it out into individual-sized containers and freeze. On the days when you don't feel like doing anything, pull out one or two containers and reheat in the microwave. You can portion out a serving of frozen veggies straight from the bag. Add a slice of bread with butter, and maybe a piece of fresh fruit for dessert, and you've got a meal that's as fast as a TV dinner and much more nutritious.

If you like stuff-over-rice, note that cooked rice also freezes well. 1 individual portion of rice + 1 individual portion of soup or stew makes a large and filling bowl of yummy.

Ramen, of course, is the canonical easy meal -- just pour boiling water over it in a bowl and wait a few minutes. As we have an electric kettle, this is for me even easier than microwave meals.

Also, it should be noted that an already-baked potato doesn't take any longer to thaw out than a raw one does to cook, and the baked ones keep very well in the freezer.

#277 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 07:52 PM:

We pre-make breakfast here a lot. I boil a dozen to sixteen eggs at a time (boiling approach: put eggs in large pot of cold water, add a teabag or a bit of onion skin to make the boiled eggs look different from the unboiled ones: heat to boiling, turn off heat and leave overnight). A small number of eggs burst in the boiling -- my partner only likes the yolks, so I give her those.

Boiled eggs in hand: it's really easy to make them a little more pleasant to eat. I personally like a drop of Worchesthershire sauce, about as much mayo as the yolk-volume, and dill -- my partner likes salt, pepper, and a bit of curry powder. I also (when I have the spoons) play with the condiments on her egg: a tiny bit of cheddar cheese, mustard, half-a-raisin, a bit of leftover chicken.

The phrase which describes what I'm trying to do is "egg salad in your mouth." If a particular one doesn't work -- it's not a huge thing to discard and try again. Getting feedback on what works is really useful -- personally, I like the same thing as a predictable treat, where my partner likes variety as an expression of how I'm thinking creatively about caring for her. Both are useful models.

Another thing I did a lot when I was drinking far too much -- ramen noodles are relatively cheap, and the spice packets are what have the serious amounts of sodium and other bad chemicals. Boil the noodles with a little bit of meat/green onion/carrot; add your own spicing, and eat. If you've got a market nearby that has bulk spices -- they're a lot cheaper than buying prepackaged ones.

Crockpot beans with a hamhock, or crockpot chicken thighs with onion and potatoes -- they're another step up. Beans and rice can be very good friends (together, they make up a pretty complete protein-base for survival).

#278 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 08:25 PM:

somewherelse @ 261

We started pre-chopping peppers, onions and tomatoes at the beginning of the week and buying minced garlic and crumbled cheeses (feta, blue, etc). They simplify a wide range of recipes, from nachos to egg scrambles to freezer pizza to meatloaf to salad to stirfry...

Also, any recipe I can put in the oven at 250 and walk away for an indefinite period of time while I do something else. Kale chips, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes and squash all come to mind. (Put the squash in enough water to steam it. And remember that baby potatoes don't need cutting or peeling, just washed. Baby carrots don't even need washing.)

If you do Tom's ramen trick, remember to add the pasta last or your noodles can get really gluteny. But I loved that trick in college too.

My mom's stroganoff was hamburger, dry onion soup and cream of soup over noodles or bread. But I've been meaning to see if I can create a spinoff with tofu or black beans or something.

We often fall back on veggie patties for rough nights. Or peanut butter sandwiches.

#279 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 08:30 PM:

Oh, drat. "Starchy," I think I meant, not "gluteny." Or "a gooey mess." Whichever you prefer.

Also, I have just realized that to me, "pasta" is Italian pasta, so ramen and stroganoff just slid right past my radar. Whoops!

#280 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 08:57 PM:

I realize that bread from scratch doesn't sound like a low-spoon endeavor, but the recipe I posted back in the Fast Cheap Good (Food Edition) thread (#204), has been one of the few things I've been able to accomplish reliably in the past few years, and which also reliably brings me joy. It's no-knead, there's not much clean-up, only a little hands-on time, and it's simple enough that I can remember without having to consult a recipe each time. But I think the single biggest thing that makes it easy even on the worst days is that it can be broken down into baby steps. I can tell myself that all I have to do right now is mix these four ingredients in a pitcher and put it in the fridge. Once that's accomplished, the dough can wait around for as long as a week* for me to have the spoons/time to turn it into bread, so it's something that I can keep on hand as an option. Then, all I have to do later is scrape the dough onto/into a greased pan, let it rise and bake. And having the house smell like baking bread is a boost to my spirits. :)

Things that I have with it include jam, hummus, peanut butter, cheese, tuna/chicken salad, depending on availability and spoons. Tearing up a slice into a baking cup with an egg and a little milk, salt and pepper is a comfort breakfast. (10 min. covered; 5 uncovered at 350F, give or take, depending on how done you like it.)

*During which time it will gradually develop more sourdough flavor.

#281 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 10:52 PM:

eep #280: For some people, baking bread from scratch is spoon-restoring -- I've gone back and forth over time about that. In any case, even the risen version amounts to perhaps a half-hour's effort, in two or three chunks over a two to four hours, with flexible timing.

Also, what foods are "easy" depends on what your "atomic operations" are -- the things you can do without thinking much about them. For me, dicing vegetables is pretty much atomic, so I tend to a lot of soups on the theme "chop it all up and throw it in the pot". Spices to taste or whim, but I usually stick with a bit of hot and/or black pepper, perhaps some celery seeds. My basic soup veggies are the mirepoix group (carrots, mushroom, celery) plus onions, maybe garlic, and sometimes even chopped-up potato. (Then toss in whatever leftovers come to hand.)

I rarely cook meat in those, rather I toss in already-cooked meat at the end. Those supermarket chickens are easily ransacked, the heat-and-eat meat trays are even easier (moderately costly, but no bones or prep!) and for that matter I'm not too proud to put sliced hot dogs in.

I also have a couple of recipes from Mom (split-pea, mushroom-barley) that make big batches, which I freeze in pints and quarts (zip-lock freezer baggies, lay them flat in the freezer). (I can post the recipes if there's interest.)

I used to make my own stock from scraps (tip: freeze it in ice-cube trays, switch to pint baggies when you get annoyed with that), and that does greatly improve the soups, but I got so far ahead of myself that now I'm using up year-old stock from the freezer! :-~

Pardon me, I need to go restock my parentheses....

#282 ::: Dave Harmon has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 10:53 PM:

Several food thoughts within....

#283 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 11:06 PM:

One of my friends who suffers from depression has sardines as survival food-- canned sardines keep indefinitely and don't require any decisions or preparation.

#284 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 12:22 AM:

TexAnne @254: She's been posting off and on to her own blog; coincidentally the most recent post, last week, mentioned that she'd just had her 1-year review at her (relatively) new job, contrasted her current situation with a rather bleak DFD post from two years ago, and then concluded "Overall, though? LOTS better."

#285 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 12:36 AM:

David DeLaney @263: *much applause* It is so damn hard to think clearly about how and why people are dysfunctioning at one -- and how one is in turn dysfunctioning -- when they are *right there doing it*, and doubly so when lacking counter-experience. Once one can see what's happening clearly, and hopefully has a reliable escape, it's much easier to derail it. For example, the girl at the next desk at work has a couple years' seniority over me, but is almost 10 years younger than me. She has no authority over me, but when she gets stressed, she wants to boss other people around, especially people who look relaxed. Unfortunately she never does this to anyone in charge of her, and it's not overt enough to call her on. However, it's easier to endure, deflect, and laugh at when I realize early that, oh, it's ______ vomiting stress on me again.

As for food...I don't do a lot of low-spoons cooking. Either I forage or I do something that takes several hours, like risotto or curry or onion soup. Luckily my partner cooks most nights. Tonight I made a big pile of Thai yellow curry (Gaeng Karee Gai) which is incredibly delicious, flavourful, spicy but not too spicy, an amazing winter comfort food, and makes something sublime of humble potatoes. My mother is anti-spice, anti-ethnic-food, and anti-flavour: she believes garlic is inedible, eschews almost all seasonings such as herbs, spices, or cheeses, and thanks to my dad's diabetes, must not use more than a touch of salt, fat or sugar, which eliminates sauces. (No wonder food is a chore in their house.) Therefore, I love to tweak her nose by eating and serving delicious food that is outside her comfort zone. So I need to make yellow curry for an upcoming family dinner, and explain to her that it's a kind of chicken and potato stew. (I'm also going to do risotto and some kind of salad, so there will be something less exotic. Maybe we'll do a quiche too?)

#286 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 07:10 AM:

I'm not sure how helpful my low spoons food ideas will be, but here goes.

People here have already covered the "spoons investment" tactics, where you make chili, soup, meatloaf, or something else that freezes well and squirrel it away. So here are some options I use when I'm just going to stagger home, eat, and collapse. These are not so much recipes as food combinations, but I usually keep at least one of these in the house at all times.

1. Sausage and Veg
I recently bought a giant bag of mixed frozen organic vegetables at Costco: peas, carrots, green beans, corn, and edamame. Combine this with low-fat sausage to get my new default "no spoons" meal. I heat up a couple low-fat breakfast sausages and a side of frozen veggies in the microwave, and that's it. Protein and vegetables, probably healthier than what I eat normally, and it's easy to just have these things the freezer until you need 'em.

2. Keilbasa and Brown Bread
I recommend lower-fat part-turkey Keilbasa, dijon mustard, brown bread, and butter. Cut a hunk of the Keilbasa, heat it up (either in the microwave or in a skillet, if you do the microwave, poke holes like you would for any sausage), add mustard, enjoy. Steam some veggies or make some cabbage if you feel like it.

3. Grilled Pierogies
I accidentally discovered a method for cooking frozen pierogies that I quite like, and that is much quicker than doing it properly. Remove pierogies from package. Spray or brush with olive oil. Pan fry or cook on a Foreman-style grill until golden-brown. If you cook them this way, they'll be crispier than you're used to (if you're used to pierogies), but they're still good with sour cream.

4. Microwave Omlet
Grease or butter a small bowl or coffee cup (if you somehow have ramekins, they work great). Toss in some cheese, veggies, meat, whatever. Add either 1-2 eggs, lightly beaten, or an equivalent quantity of egg-whites-inna-carton. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 1 min. Stir if you can. If it's not done, put it back in the microwave for 30-60 second bursts until it looks right.

5. Peanut Butter Celery
There is a reason this is a classic. Delicious and borderline healthy, it doesn't even require a heat source. Add some raisins if you want to be really old-school. Something about the low-key prep process for this is perfect when I'm incredibly stressed... I feel like I've made a meal, but it also only took me five minutes.

6. Carrots and Pita with Hummus.
Slice a pita up into a few pieces. If you microwave it for about 5 seconds it will get soft and even more delicious. Dip pita and carrots into hummus.

I'm sure most of these won't appeal to every palate, and some of them are awfully Polish, but they've served me well in low-spoon times.

#287 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 07:23 AM:

Carrie S. @271 & Cassy B. @272:

Re "just": if I, as a mod, intervene in a quarrel and either party starts an explanation of their behavior with "I was just..." or "I was only...", I usually find that the rest of the sentence is a careful minimization of some degree of inflammatory behavior or outright trolling. Pretty much always, in fact.

Likewise for quarrels between underaged siblings.

#288 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 08:26 AM:

abi #287: Isn't that why they call it "justification?

#289 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 08:46 AM:

One value of these threads for me is that I see all the ways my behavior is similar to dysfunctional behavior. When tutoring, I try (and announce that I'm trying) not to say 'just' because I've been doing this kind of math for more than a decade and I find it soothing. The same with suggestions and advice. Any advice that includes 'just' is probably bullshit.

#290 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 09:03 AM:

This is also relevant to the conversation about "just" doing things.

#291 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 09:14 AM:

Re "just," I noticed myself writing it in an email this morning and stopped to reread because of these comments. I think my use was okay - I was asking someone whether they were going to take choice A or choice B of something and saying I "just" needed to know which so that I could head off a potential problem. It's still a minimizer, but the intent was to minimize the significance of the decision (didn't want them going, "OMG, I have to get this right and I should have done it already!") because either choice really was fine with me and trivial for them. I just needed to know.

I've been rereading some of the "In Death" books and I notice that often when Eve Dallas is questioning someone and soothes them by saying "It's just routine," what that really means is, "I'm highly suspicious of you but I'm not ready to put you on your guard by saying so."

It's an interesting little word, at least a yellow flag if not a red one.

#292 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 09:35 AM:

Another recipe: Scramble however many eggs you intend to eat. Add them to a seasoned rice or rice and bean mix in a rice cooker. Let the rice cooker decide when it's finished.

This is one less pot to clean as compared to my previous approach of cooking the rice in the rice cooker, then transfer it to a pan for cooking the eggs with the rice, and I think I like the texture better.

In terms of lowering cooking effort, a rice cooker is a treasure.

#293 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 11:55 AM:

Slow cookers are also huge spoon savers, in two ways:

1. Extremely simple recipes, as in: Put chicken in cooker; dump BBQ sauce on top; turn cooker on and cover; walk away.

2. Recipes that require sauteing, pre-cooking pasta, etc., but you can do that at the beginning of the day when you have more spoons to spare (if that is generally how it goes for you) and come home to a dinner that you just have to ladle out and eat.

#294 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 12:09 PM:

OtterB @ 291: I understand your use of "just" in that example, and might well have used it myself in the same situation. One thought: In that context, an even less-likely-to-inflame word to replace "just" might be "only": I only need to know so I can head off potential problems... "

#295 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 12:35 PM:

OtterB, #291: That's a good way to look at it. We're all conditioned to use the word "just" as a minimizer, and sometimes that's okay and sometimes it isn't. Being aware of it when you do use it means you can catch the ones that aren't okay and substitute something else.

#296 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 02:03 PM:

Re "just": the worst part of my boss asking me to "just" do [whatever] is that not only does it minimize the effort I'll need to accomplish the task, but specifically it minimizes it *in his own head*. By trying to tell me the task is easy (whether it is or not), he's de facto telling HIMSELF it is easy. And so I don't get credit for accomplishing a difficult task.


#297 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 02:13 PM:

Easy filling winter dish: jook/juk/congee. Best if you have a slow cooker.

1c rice (my fave is jasmine, but whatever you like) and 8-9c water. Put on lowest heat and go away until it's all mush. The End.

You can cook meat scraps in it for flavoring, but I never do. It's intensely comforting with a runny fried egg on top. When I had swine flu, this was pretty much all I could face, both for cooking and eating.

#298 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 02:37 PM:


I'm afraid that most of my low-spoons foods involve eggs, and I don't know if you're the kind of vegetarian who is willing to eat them. But another one that works well for me is hard winter squash: acorn or butternut squash around here. I bet it would work with small pumpkins, too. The hardest part is slicing it in half lengthwise; a cleaver is helpful here. Those guys are hard.

Once you've got it in half, though, scoop at least most of the seeds out (the last ones are annoyingly clingy, but shouldn't effect the baking time much) and place cut side down in a few centimeters of water in a baking dish. Cook until fork tender, about an hour or so, at about 375 degrees F (Not hot-hot-hot, but still above medium hot). Nothing here is exact, as squashes vary a lot, but it's hard to burn a squash, especially when it's sitting in a water bath. The outer skin might get a little burnt, but the flesh should mostly be fine.

When it's done, pull it out, spread butter or other nicely flavored oil on it, and maybe a little cinnamon and brown sugar if you want it sweet and comforting, or any other favorite spices you have, and munch. The other half of the squash you can either cook at the same time and reheat tomorrow, or put in the fridge with some plastic wrap on the cut side; it should keep for a few days.

Prep time about 5 minutes, cook time an hour to an hour and a half or so with no real urgency to get to it just exactly at the right moment.

#299 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 02:50 PM:

OtterB @ 291

One thing to keep in mind in that situation is whether that "just" minimizes your importance and the importance of your work. You don't have to apologize for doing your job, or minimize the significance of your contribution.

It's a thing I try to stay aware of; I've noticed that the more I take those kinds of qualifiers out of my work e-mails, the more positive response I get from my peers. When I demonstrate that I take myself seriously, they're more likely to take me seriously too.

#300 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 03:00 PM:

A good several-meals option is spaghetti squash:
Chop it in half, scoop out the seeds, fill the hollows with butter and salt/pepper/herbs/spices to taste - I usually put in thyme.
Cover with plastic wrap and microwave 10-15 minutes or so until the strands come free when you fork them.
Serve with grated cheese stirred in, refrigerate the extra.

If you have a rice cooker, a good way to make plain rice less boring is to add broth instead of water.
Or make couscous instead - equal quantities of couscous and boiling liquid, remove from heat and cover for 5 minutes or so, and you're done.

My "I have no spoons and I must eat" food is either a packet of peanut butter crackers (usually enough to stave off the low blood sugar and get me to the point where I can actually make decisions again, and small and inoffensive enough that I don't balk at it when I don't like the idea of food) or two packets of ezmac (made entirely out of plastic, sure, but it's comfort food for me).

#301 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 03:53 PM:


Am I correct in assuming that ezmac is some sort of quick preparation macaroni-and-cheese product?

#302 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 04:08 PM:

shadowsong #300: two packets of ezmac

Hmm, the closest I could find for that was "EZ-Mac", which referred to macaroni and cheese. Maybe the pre-cooked version comes in packets; I usually get the boxed sort where only the cheese powder is a packet. I do find that quite flexible, mostly on the basis of "hey, if you're tossing in 2-4 tablespoons of butter, how about frying some stuff in it?" Depending on what I have around, "some stuff" can be up to three of mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, celery, sausage/hotdogs or bacon (bacon replaces the butter entirely). Other modifications include tossing in stuff at the end: canned veggies or beans, canned tuna, canned or supermarket-rotisserie chicken, spices, salsa, and so on.

#303 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 04:17 PM:

My favorite no spoons whatsoever meal is turkey hot dogs chopped up in a can of baked beans. If I get truly desperate for substance before I can make even that, I grab a Trio bar - made of nuts and evaporated cane juice and dried fruit. That will usually sustain me until I can cook something else. Or I will just grab a spoon and the jar of almond butter and enjoy!

#304 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 04:21 PM:

Michael I at #301: Exactly. Single serving pouch of pasta, pouch of cheese powder. Microwave pasta with water for 3 minutes, stir in cheese powder. Sometimes I add other spices to make it more interesting, or tuna, or whatever.

#305 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 05:53 PM:

Dave H., #302: You can get Kraft EZ-Mac in single-serving packet size (usually about 10 packets to a box, with a cheese packet for each macaroni packet). One of those is really not what I consider a "serving", but 2 is. When I make it, I sprinkle Cajun spice on the macaroni after cooking but before adding the sauce mix, and toss to distribute. If you try adding it to the final product, it doesn't mix in worth a damn.

#306 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 06:07 PM:

Another low-spoons option: Couple handfuls of cous cous into a bowl or mug. Pour boiling water on (about twice as much water as cous cous, or a bit more). Cover (e.g. with a plate). Leave it for 10 minutes. Add a bit more water if it's stil to hard, pour off the extra water if you daded too much. Add cream cheese or grated cheese, mix in, eat. You don't even need to chew...

I sometimes add a teaspoon of Marmite but that might not be to your taste! Or a spoonful of miso would work. Could chop a salad onion in if you had one.

#307 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 06:40 PM:

For really low-spoon days:

Instant oatmeal. Add sliced banana and a teaspoon of olive oil or flax seed oil (some healthy fats).

Sliced luncheon meat and rolls. Edamame beans.

And, if you have the budget, there is nothing wrong with purchased prepared food, restaurant or deli or frozen meals or whatever. Sometimes I find it easier to just go buy something rather than make it, even if the apparent energy/time budget is similar.

#308 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 07:03 PM:

I need advice.

I declared an unofficial in-person contact moratorium with my mom in September (i.e. no phone or visits, but e-mail's fine). Made it official (i.e. told her I was doing it) a few weeks ago - during (Canadian) Thanksgiving planning. She responded remarkably well.

Since then, there's been a steady (~1/week) stream of offers of home-made pie and other assorted goodies. They could even drop them off on their way to [thing]! The latest was an invitation to come over for coffee.

There's no bloody way I'd accept the offer to come over for coffee. My stress levels have been so much better since declaring the moratorium, and I've been so much happier.

But I'm feeling really guilty about this. Gifts are her primary love language, so I don't think she's (consciously) trying to buy my love, but I can't help but feel guilty for "rejecting" her. (because she's always taught me through her actions that to reject a gift is to reject the person)

Add to this, it turns out she had a papilloma on her tongue. She knew about it last time we saw each other face to face, but just sort of not really showed me her tongue and said she was seeing a doctor soon. Wouldn't actually answer questions and made it sound like it was cosmetic. Then the other day I get an e-mail "Thank God it was benign!" And all I can feel is irritation that she wouldn't tell me earlier... I feel guilty about that, too.

So, help? Unpacking the situation, advice for dealing with it, how I should respond to her repeated offers of in-person contact thinly veiled as cookie delivery?

#309 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 08:54 PM:

Chickadee @ 308: This is where your mom's story ends, and your own begins. I remember reading some of your other posts. You've been thinking about doing this for a while. What I've learned from the last almost-year of no contact is this: Going no contact allows you the space, time, and energy to construct your *own* version of reality, your own definitions of things, your own world. You're basically going dungeonmaster (D&D) and building a world. It's frightening and confusing and hard work, but it's your own world you're building, not someone else's.

All that to say: Guilt. Gifts. Boundaries. These are all things that you now get to decide what they mean to you, truly. You get to decide if guilt works on you, or if you say, piffle, I see right through you, and that manipulation isn't going to work on me anymore. You get to decide if rejecting a gift is the same as rejecting the person. You get to decide if you want to see your mom and eat her pastries.

For dealing with guilt, and I've worked my way through a mountain, my street cred is plentiful, I would suggest just a simple thought switch. What makes you purely happy? For me, it's the thought of one of my cats on my lap, purring with the motorboat engine sound. When you start going down the spiral of guilt, stop and think of whatever makes you happy, immediately, right there in the moment. Make it a habit and you will notice a real difference. It's like digging your way out of a ditch. You know the ditch of guilt is there, and if there's no other thought pattern around, you fall into the ditch. But if you slowly dig another trench, you've got choices, and you can control where your thoughts go, every moment.

If I were in your shoes and had drawn your boundaries, and I was receiving the once a week cookie drop by requests, I would be kind but firm. I would say something like, We already discussed this, and I don't want to see you in person. I was clear about what I need, and you need to respect that.

Something like that. Your mileage, it may vary and all that.

But I'll say what I'm really thinking: She's pushing your boundaries so that you will cave. Two months after I cut contact with my mom, she sent me a birthday card. I sent it back and felt HORRIBLE for quite some time. But it's actually not a birthday card. It's a demand that I change my boundaries, my self, my personness to suit her whims. So I've reframed the instance, and I feel good about what I did. I stood up for myself and held fast to my boundaries and what I want in my life. Someone who actually loved and respected me would be happy about it. They wouldn't be trying to get me to do exactly what they wanted.

#310 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 09:31 PM:

Chickadee, #308: This is an instance of a very well-known pattern. When Person A decides that their relationship with Person B needs to change, and changes their own behavior to work toward that goal, it is absolutely common for Person B to ramp up the pressure to 11 to try to convince Person A to go back to doing things the old way. It's also quite common for Person B to enlist the assistance of other family members to harangue Person A about how "unreasonable" they're being, so don't be surprised if that happens as well. This is not unknown territory by any means. And the only way out is through -- don't let them make you cave, hold onto your decision and your determination, and eventually they will have no option but to acquiesce if they ever want to have any relationship with you at all.

Codemonkey, a lot of what I said there applies to your situation as well.

#311 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 09:34 PM:

Chickadee, you said your mom responded "remarkably well" to your being explicit about an in-person contact moratorium. Then you say that about once a week she's attempting to break that moratorium with an offer of cake, coffee, etc. This made me wonder, does "remarkably well" mean "didn't go ballistic"? Because it doesn't seem to mean "observed the boundaries you set."

You know whether your mom would be likely to react positively to this, but when she makes another offer of goodies, could you say "I appreciate the offer, but really, the best gift you can give me right now is some time and space."

#312 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2013, 09:45 PM:

Chickadee #308: You have set up a boundary, which she is trying to breach. You yourself have said that keeping her at a distance is saving you a lot of stress -- but now she's trying to deliver the stress baked into pies. Do you think that's likely to make it more digestible? I don't. I'd say stick to your guns.

The papilloma thing may or may not be terribly significant, aside from demonstrating dubious lines of communication. In my family, we'd be discussing the doctors she's seeing and the operation details, but families vary, and for something like that, I can empathize with not wanting to discuss it until she knew more.

#313 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2013, 01:02 AM:

knitcrazybooknut @309: Constructing my own worldview. Utterly appropriate. Because Mom definitely contructs her world - and modifies it as she feels necessary. And it's been a long, slow process learning to separate that world from the consensus reality.

I will add the purring cat to my list of soothing mind-places. :) My current favourite is the feeding scene from the video game Okami. (beautiful game, if anyone has a Wii) I grew up with cats, and look forward to someday owning some.

Lee @310: She hasn't involved my dad yet, but thanks for the heads up.

OtterB @311: yes, "remarkably well" meant "didn't go ballistic"... as well as an acknowledgement that she did something that hurt me... though apparently her world-building has that turned into something temporary that she can now safely ignore. :( Though she does have a lifelong pattern of offering over...and over... and over... until someone snaps at her then she's all hurt and offended and "I was just trying to make sure..."

Dave Harmon @312: but now she's trying to deliver the stress baked into pies. I'm going to remember this line. :) It is awesome. :)

In reply to all: I sent Mom an e-mail in reply to her latest. The offer to come over for coffee was an escalation from previous e-mails. And it's amazing how hearing someone tell you something you already (on some level, at least) knew will make it clearer. She's pushing the boundaries, hard. I need to reinforce them. I basically said "thanks but no, and please respect the boundary I set" (in words that she'd understand - I learned about the very concept of boundaries in therapy, years after I moved out)

Thank you.

#314 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2013, 01:07 AM:

Update: Mom is apparently online. She's already responded to the e-mail (where I asked her to respect the original boundary). In reply to her "please let me know when you're ready to see us again" I'm going to re-state the original time frame - Christmas. I doubt it'll sink in, but I'll feel better.

Oh, and she's invoked the "your dad misses you" guilt. I plan to deal with that by e-mailing him separately to chat. I'm quite sure Mom intended me to phone. :P

#315 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2013, 05:03 AM:

Chickadee @308 : I can really relate to this. Sympathies and (reading subsequent posts) well done for continuing to insist on your boundaries.

knitcrazybooknut @309: Thank you for that suggestion re. dealing with guilt - I'm going to try it. Might stop that old downward spiral.

#316 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2013, 07:18 AM:

Chickadee #313: Thanks! My own mom isn't nearly so bad (even if I could, she doesn't half warrant cutting off contact), but she still tries to dump her anxieties on me, and occasionally gets sneaky about it. Of course, me having to be watchful for such things doesn't help, but at least she's way more self-aware than your mom seems to be.

#317 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2013, 09:05 AM:

Tentatively offered: Dianna Wynne Jones' fiction might be useful. She was very clear about the difference between relationships that are good for people and relationships that just serve one side.

#318 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2013, 11:24 AM:

Dave Harmon @281 For some people, baking bread from scratch is spoon-restoring
Oh, definitely. My grandmother was a severely depressed and anxiety-ridden person, and of a time that didn't recognize such things, and I think baking was the closest thing she had to therapy. For me, it's not the process, but the result, that is therapeutic, which is why that no-knead recipe is such a boon. It costs me far less spoons than the more complicated (and mess-generating) recipes that I've tried in the past (including my grandmother's), but I still get a sense of accomplishment and worth from the result.

Chickadee: Much sympathy. My mother wields gifts and especially food as a means of control, and it is so hard coping with the guilt. I wish you lots of strength in holding your boundaries in place.

On "just": might I submit "Just be yourself", and "Just don't think about it" as a couple of pieces of advice that have "just" never worked for me.

#319 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2013, 11:29 AM:

Another voice in the baking bread from scratch being spoon restoring. :) I have gradually been learning the joy of baking bread from scratch - moving from a breadmaker to a Bosch kitchen machine (which I still use for large bread batches) to single loaf kneaded-by-hand recipes. The kneading is incredibly therapeutic to me. :) (as well as being a darn good abs workout!)

And one thing that I inherited that I actually thank my mom for is the joy of sharing food that you prepared with your own hands. :)

#320 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2013, 11:32 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @317: I love Diana Wynne Jones. Own The Dark Lord of Derkholm and sequel, plus the Rough Guide to Fantasy (brilliant satire). Must go re-read some of her other stuff - it's been long enough that I only have foggy memories of the books. Thank you for the reminder. :)

#321 ::: Ellen ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2013, 11:19 PM:

+100 on the restorative aspects of baking bread (or soup, or a nice meal). While I realize that for many people cooking is a spoon-consuming activity, I find the act of creating something nourishing and soothing and edible is very therapeutic on one of THOSE DAYS. For me it's a self-care activity - I boot the sprogs and spouse out of the kitchen, turn on some music appropriate to the mood, and make something yummy that *I* want to eat because I deserve to treat myself nicely when the rest of the world seems to be conspiring against me.

Those who are trepidatious about bread that requires a lot of effort may find this take on the no-knead bread helpful (minimal effort, great results, can make a few loaves over a couple of days instead of just one at a team).

Sending warm thoughts and fresh bread smells out to those who need some good vibes (in particularly ma larkey and Finny)

#322 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 12:35 AM:

Because I sometimes need to hear it:

Even though the low-on-spoons food Making Light tends to come up with is probably good, there is absolutely nothing wrong with your (or my, in this case) low-on-spoons food being peanut butter on English muffins. Or Pop-Tarts. Or making the same lunch every day so you never have to think about it. Or staring at the week to come and thinking, "No, I cannot do this," and buying two packages of golden chocolate Oreos because you can eat them while you read and that's two birds with one stone. Or chocolate milk. Or a bagel with cream cheese every night for a week.

The only wrong way to feed yourself (myself) is 'inadequately'. Get enough calories and nutrients into your body, and you are all right.

A lot of 'easy, no-stress' meals I see, particularly from people who love and appreciate food, are what I would make for a special occasion.

#323 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 12:51 AM:

Dysfunctional families, multi-generational edition:

My paternal grandfather had some sort of falling-out with his family long before I was born, possibly before my father was born. As a result, I knew very few of my relatives on his portion of the family tree, and knew none of them well with the exception of Grandpa himself.

I was poking around in the "Other" inbox on my Facebook account this evening. If you've never looked in yours, do yourself a favor and go through it -- this is where any private message sent to you on Facebook by someone who is not already one of your FB friends will land. I found some crap in there, but I also found some very kind compliments on comments I'd added to discussions months ago, and a message from someone who was looking for relatives of a particular list of people. On that list was my grandfather's name, his sister's name, and others. So I wrote back.

I've now made the acquaintance, via Facebook, with two relatives I didn't know I had. We spent a couple of hours or more in chat, going over the genealogy, and trying to figure out why the family rift occurred. I now know my great-grandfather's and great-grandmother's names, where and when they were born, and have confirmed the existence of several people I probably bumped into several times a year in my youth without ever knowing we were related.

All in all, a productive evening. Weird, but productive.

#324 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 08:39 AM:

Diatryma @322,

Even though the low-on-spoons food Making Light tends to come up with is probably good, there is absolutely nothing wrong with your (or my, in this case) low-on-spoons food being peanut butter on English muffins. Or Pop-Tarts. Or making the same lunch every day so you never have to think about it. Or staring at the week to come and thinking, "No, I cannot do this," and buying two packages of golden chocolate Oreos because you can eat them while you read and that's two birds with one stone. Or chocolate milk. Or a bagel with cream cheese every night for a week.

Repost for emphasis. Naturally, you want to aim, overall, for something approaching balance.... but a week of peanut-butter-toast or Pop Tarts isn't going to give you scurvy.

#325 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 09:17 AM:

Diatryma @ 322: Thirding for emphasis. When I was a veterinary student (and under a great deal of stress), I ate bread, cheese, and pickles. Sometimes I added ham. Naturally, doing this for a long time will give anyone deficiencies -- I ended up being mildly to moderately anemic until I added a multivitamin to my breakfast tea -- but it was very low-spoon feeding for me.

#326 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 09:31 AM:

Diatryma #322: Well, peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches need no excuse, especially if you use whole-wheat bread. Ditto beans/lentils.

Long term, yeah, you do need vitamins, but that takes a while to become urgent, and as Ginger notes, a multivitamin pill can cover that fairly well.

The big hazard here is that sugaring up too much, or even edging into vitamin deficiency, can itself mess with your mood and energy levels, which becomes a vicious cycle. If you're feeling lousy from not eating well, getting around a decent salad can help.

#327 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 12:31 PM:

Dave Harmon @ 326: You've hit on exactly the problem I have with low-spoon nutrition. My system is a bit carb-sensitive and gluten-sensitive, so 90% of what's been listed here would actually give me more problems if I kept it up for more than two days.

As a result, my solution has been to make big batches of chili and other low-carb, low-or-no-gluten things (anybody want a recipe for pasta-free lasagna that also uses up spare zucchini lying around?) when I am in a cooking mood, and then freezing portions for those times when I'm not.

And oh yeah, definitely with you on the vitamin pills.

#328 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 12:32 PM:

(I should probably have said "wheat-sensitive" rather than "gluten sensitive" since my main problem there does seem to be mostly centered around wheat itself.)

#329 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 02:08 PM:

SummerStorms @327: "anybody want a recipe for pasta-free lasagna that also uses up spare zucchini lying around?" Yes please!

I'm another who does make 4-6 meal portions when I've got the time and energy, eat one portion that day, one another day that week and freeze the rest for later to use when I don't have time/energy to cook.

#330 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 03:28 PM:

For me, the "freeze and reheat" approach takes up more spoons than I sometimes have. Everybody's different, and I applaud those who find it works for them!

#331 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 04:19 PM:

On food and spoons -

Man, I have the longest digression here about food and cancer treatment, but I'm shelving it unless it's wanted. It's very much along the "just eat" lines put forth in 322 and sequelae.

These days, I cook huge lots of food to be fridged and reheated, and hollow-legged children and long-distance running husband generally consume it fast enough that I wind up back at the stove, grousing that I cooked just the other day. Before I had kids to deal with, I did sometimes get by on corn chips and breakfast cereal. This made the husband tear his hair and prophesy terrible nutritional doom, but I did survive it.

Eat what you can. Throw a multi-vitamin in there if it seems to scant you on vitamins.

#332 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 06:12 PM:

Well, there's always frozen mixed vegetables. Nuke, add butter or some other seasoning you like. I'm a fan of this, but I'm sure you can find your own favourite.

#333 ::: Cheryl has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 06:14 PM:

It's the link.

Microwaved frozen veg, anyone?

#334 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 07:42 PM:

The zucchini lasagna I make is loosely based upon this recipe. Be sure to make the sauce a bit on the thick side so if there is any residual extra liquid in the zucchini, it will just blend with the sauce during the baking process and won't adversely affect the consistency of the finished product. I also often keep some of the seasoned meat aside rather than adding all of it into the sauce, and use it to create a meat layer.

This turns out really tasty, and I make it on a regular basis.

#335 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 08:00 PM:

The relationship between food and spoons varies a lot from person to person. I only figured out mine recently, and I'm still working to break a cycle that involved just eating whatever was on hand too often.

I learned that I need coffee every day, and meat most days. This is not to imply that low-spoons vegetarians should eat meat - I think most people probably don't need to eat meat, or eat too much. I was actually cutting down on meat when I noticed my own biological tendencies. For a while, on low-spoons weekends I would eat nothing but cereal, nuts, and vegetables. I started noticing a pattern: on days when I had no animal protein at all, I would feel listless. If I skipped two days in a row, I'd be basically useless on that second day. If my normal daily allotment is 100 spoons, on a day when I don't eat meat i'm at a -20. No coffee puts me at -40. On weekend days when I don't have either, it's even worse... maybe -75. Interesting thing is, it doesn't have to be a lot of meat: a small breakfast sausage or two is plenty, or the chicken in a can of chicken soup. And it can be during any meal - if it's 8pm and I've eaten dinner but no meat, I can heat up a 4oz serving of chili or cook two strips of bacon, and I'll get those 20 extra spoons within an hour or two of eating. It's uncanny.

It took me a long time to figure this out. For years, I lived with people who shared cooking duties, or with a roommate who wanted to get brunch almost every saturday. When I moved out on my own (and later, moved in with a roommate who ate almost nothing but carbs), I suddenly and mysteriously found that I was getting a lot less done on weekends. When my coffee maker got misplaced during a move, things got much worse - I was spending every weekend lying in bed or surfing the internet at my desk.

This is a problem I'm still struggling to solve. I bought a cold-brew coffee maker, and I've taken to freezing cold-brew coffee into ice cubes. A few months ago I hit upon the idea of always having two packages of sausage in the freezer (the open one and the unopened one) for emergencies. But on a no-coffee day I'm more likely to forget all the other rules, and things spiral out of control. Still, I'm getting better. Recently, Trader Joe's started selling cold-brewed coffee in a bottle, and that's become a lifesaver. I really couldn't justify going to a coffee shop whenever I forgot to make or get coffee, even though I knew I needed it to function, but $7 for 8-10 days worth of coffee is easy to justify.

The spoon metaphor helps. It helped me realize that spoons can come from somewhere, and many things affect how many I get. I'm a game designer, so I started looking at resource management, and paying attention to things that give me spoons.

As an extrovert, I get +30 spoons every day that I have a positive social interaction, and -10 cumulative for every day that I have no real social interaction (so if I don't see any friends for five days, I'm operating at a -50). This is another potential source of introvert/extrovert misunderstanding: I had an extrovert friend whose partner wanted him to stay in together every weekend. Not going out and seeing people had such a profound effect, he was half-convinced he was dying of some mysterious illness before he figured out what was wrong. They eventually reached a compromise, but the "It's not that I don't want to spend time with you, I literally need social interaction to function," conversation was difficult.

Spoon management is always going to be challenging, because many spoon-granting or spoon-restoring activities require spoons to set up or plan. It only takes a single spoon to make coffee and breakfast if I have all the ingredients, but it takes an investment of 2-5 to go to the cafe or store. As a night owl, I start the day with only about 5 spoons, and the rest are doled out slowly, with ~20 suddenly manifesting at 3pm, 6pm, and 9pm. So it's much more likely that I'm going to have the spare spoons to go shopping at night than in the morning. People would often recommend I "just* do it in the morning," and I took that to heart for a while before realizing that I simply didn't function that way.

While I agree that you shouldn't punish yourself or feel ashamed if you can't meet society's standard for "proper food", it can be valuable to pay attention to how your body responds to different diets and make it as easy as possible to get the things that grant you extra spoons. Last weekend I forgot or neglected most of my spoon-granting things, but it just makes me want to try harder and plan better this weekend.

*There it is again.

#336 ::: Leah Miller has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 08:09 PM:

Talking about food again. I have some nice chocolate from Trader Joe's here, which is a completely acceptable breakfast.

#337 ::: Biscuit ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 09:13 PM:

Easy tasty food: English muffin pizzas. Take half as many English muffins as you want pizzas and split. Put on baking sheet. Put a big spoonful of jarred pasta sauce (or plain tomato sauce, if that's what you've got--might want to sprinkle it with oregano/basil/marjoram) on each half. Sprinkle with grated cheese of your choice (or use those individually wrapped process cheese food thingies, one per half). Put in oven at 400 until cheese is bubbly (about 20 minutes or so, but I like mine crunchy on the bottom and browned on the top.) Eat.

If you're feeling ambitious or veggie starved, you can chop an onion and/or a bell pepper and pile some on each half before you add the cheese. You can also, of course, get much more elaborate in your toppings, but mostly I make 'em plain cheese or onion. They're cheap, easy, fast, and, if you use whole grain muffins, pasta sauce without a bunch of added sugar, and keep your cheese amounts reasonable (about a Tbs per muffin works for me) not drastically unhealthy. You can also use plain slices of bread as bases if you don't have English muffins.

#338 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2013, 12:06 AM:

Leah Miller @ 335: Regarding meat, coffee (or at least caffeine in some form), spoons and nocturnalism... I am beginning to wonder if we were separated at birth. What you have described is very nearly something I could've written.

#339 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2013, 12:58 AM:

Diatryma, #322: I routinely eat the same thing for lunch 4 or 5 times a week, because it's easy and I like it. (2 slices of bologna and 2 slices of cheese, perhaps with some fresh fruit.)

RiceVermicelli, #331: I have read that if you're on chemotherapy treatment for cancer, it's a good idea to fast for 2 days prior to each treatment. Reason: normal cells go into semi-shutdown under fasting conditions; cancer cells don't. So the chemo will be preferentially picked up by the cells it's supposed to kill, and less so by the ones it's not.

#340 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2013, 01:56 AM:

Any background on where you read that chemotherapy note, Lee? I'm curious!

#341 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2013, 03:33 AM:

RiceVermicelli @ 331

I, for one, am super curious about your digression.

Tangentially, it was only when I was nursing my mother through chemotherapy that I realized that my own food patterns had been dramatically affected by learning to cook while my father was going through chemotherapy. Things I'd always taken for granted that turned out to be specialized advice for that specific situation. It explained a lot about why I was uncomfortable with my husband's food habits though! (There's a whole nother digression about the food dysfunction handed down through my mom's side, but it's a rather more common story, I'm told...)

#342 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2013, 07:55 AM:

#337 ::: Biscuit

That made me realize that waiting for the oven to heat up counts as work for me in a way that chopping and stir-frying doesn't.

Cheese and hard salami get lots of points from me for keeping nicely and requiring no preparation.

#343 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2013, 07:20 PM:

TexAnne @ 254: Speaking of regulars we worry about, has Syd been around lately?

Stopping reading to wave at TexAnne. ***wave*** I appear to have taken a break from ML, not intentionally but one of those it-just-sort-of-happened things. Part of it is having fallen rather far down the Sherlock rabbit hole at AO3; part of it is having taken myself up to Reno in mid-August for a few days to catch my friends in a couple of shows and finding that the blog I want to write about it (which will also mix in my overnight to San Francisco back in June for similar show-going purposes) keeps veering off into self-flagellation for a couple of instances of Inner Brat-becoming-visible-to-the-public behavior--and at least two people I've mentioned this roadblock to have said if I concentrate on dissing myself, they'll be put out. :)

But...yes, been doing a lot of reading outside of ML (not just the DF threads, either, but all of ML), and when I'd come back here I'd either feel unable to connect or as if I had nothing useful to contribute, so I'd go away again. In retrospect, I have the idea I was doing some major respooning, because a lot of what we discuss here is (a) hard to write about, (b) hard to read sometimes, and (c) August & September last year were a weird combo of hope and hopelessness that culminated in a job offer, and there's still some fallout in my head about it.

I've also been reading over some of the posts I wrote two years ago (the run-up to losing the house and the immediate aftermath) because I do still think it might make a book...and I found myself, not being thrilled with the positive changes in my life since then, but almost drowning in that hopelessness.

I take that as a sign that this is perhaps not the best time to start pulling together my ML posts to start a book. ***rolls eyes***

On the other hand, I did spend a few days in Reno (the landlady took care of my cats for me)--rented a car and everything! And the shows were awesome, and there are currently two video clips from the pending DVD of said show on the Tube of You, to which I will not link at this time in deference to Their Lownesses' efficiencies re: that site, but if anyone's interested I'll gladly post the URLs as non-links. And I got to go tubing on the upper Truckee River, which was loads of fun!

The job is still going well. The gal who trained me is now out on maternity leave, and there was one week where it felt like everything was going to hell on a buttered slide, but I survived and a week later got my one-year review (YIPPEE!) and that went VERY well: my department head is the CFO, and he said they are REALLY glad to have me.

So, overall, things are still good. But even though I haven't been visible, I've still been reading, witnessing, and sending Internet hugs and good mojo to them as would like it.

#344 ::: not the usual name ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2013, 07:37 PM:

Tom at 340,
Look up the scientist Valter Longo's work.

As he noted in a 2012 interview, it will take several years before clinical trials are done. That said, all the preliminary studies are promising, and the underlying premise-- fasting makes ordinary cells absorb less chemotherapy agent-- has good evidence.

#345 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2013, 07:59 PM:

Having now caught up, thank you, Jeremy Leader @ 284, for giving TexAnne an update about me. Also, thank you for reading. :)

And to anyone else who might have been wondering where I hared off to, thank you for caring. I apologize if I caused worry.

#346 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2013, 08:43 PM:

Syd, good to hear from you! Virtual hugs on still addressing the fallout in your head. Glad to hear that job and the cats and the road trip to see your friends perform.

#347 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2013, 09:58 PM:

Diatryma, you don't even have to be running a spoon deficit to choose to minimize the effort you put into food and have it be okay. It's completely legit to decide you want to invest your time and energy into other things.

My housemate eats exactly the same breakfasts and lunches every working day. Breakfast is instant oats-and-flax oatmeal and a glass of either orange juice or chocolate soymilk; lunch is peanut butter on saltines, baby carrots, Sun Chips, and a banana. There are also workday snacks of Greek yogurt (either raspberry or vanilla) and raw almonds. As for dinner? She delegates it to me. I have, over seven years, worked up a repertoire of things to cook that she's willing to eat. The only time her work lunches vary? Is if I've made lasagna, cottage pie, or pasta salad, which pack easily in place of the peanut butter crackers.

On the days when I'm not prepared to cook dinner, or her schedule doesn't mesh sufficiently with mine, she is reconciled to her dinner being cereal or a veggie burger. When I go away for the weekend? There's a very specific Trader Joe's frozen item we've come to call the Gnocchi of Desolation - one of those put-in-a-skillet, just-add-water deals.

There's ONE thing that she does the meal prep for: homemade pizza. I make the dough (though, in an emergency, she COULD, as I've showed her how to work the KitchenAid and what it's supposed to look like), but she stretches it and applies the sauce and cheese. Every Sunday is Pizza Night. We look forward to it.

She has lived on her own and been responsible for feeding herself in the past, before we moved in together. I tried to give her coaching - I helped her pick out basic knives, and gave her a cookbook, and suggested things - but mostly, she did frozen foods, or scrambled eggs, or canned soup and toast.

She has a number of sensory issues. FOOD stresses her out, and cooking more so. I'm glad that she's arrived at breakfasts and lunches that she no longer has to put active thought into, and I'm more than willing to take over the dinner thing.

This summer, when I was putting in 12-16 hour days doing renovation work on the friend's house we just moved into, NOBODY had spoons left for managing dinner. Whole Foods takeout sushi (cucumber avocado for her, varied for me) was a staple.

As long as you're getting calories and nutrients (and, yeah, a multivitamin is probably cheap insurance on nutrients), you're good.

#348 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2013, 11:02 PM:

Seconding what everyone has said about spoons and food...

My food choices have narrowed over the years. I used to be able to eat anything and everything and as much of it as I wanted. My choices have narrowed. I avoid sugar (my mother was an insulin-taking diabetic) and saturated fat (I have heart disease, and am exceedingly reactive to saturated fat) and have recently discovered that I am gluten-sensitive, and somewhat lactose-intolerant. (No yogurt, no cheese.) I also need some meat: I tried to go vegetarian, and while my lipid numbers were terrific for 6 months, I had insufficient energy and I slept badly. *waves at Leah Miller* I eat some chicken (no skin), some fish, lots and lots of vegetables, fruit, tofu, brown rice, and mung bean and various other kinds of non-wheat noodles. (I dislike quinoa. Don't talk to me about quinoa.) I'm learning to like and prepare bean dishes. I cook very simply, and I tend to eat the same foods daily: steel-cut oats with raisins for breakfast five out of seven mornings a week seems just fine to me. I try not to eat prepared or processed foods, but I make an exception for Trader Joe's Quick Steel Cut Oats. And I drink my morning coffee with real half and half. I've tried every cream substitute I can find -- yech.

I suspect that most people would find my food choices boring, or frustrating, or unbearably repetitive. I do myself, sometimes, and that's when I hunt for a new dish to add to my list. (I recently found a yummy dish with collard greens and white beans which I think is going to become a seasonal staple.)

Food is so complex. My mother and I had a lot of unhappiness in our relationship, and it often manifested around cooking and food. Cooking was a painful mystery to me for much of my early adulthood. I still dislike cooking for other people: I feel too judged. Having fewer choices of what to eat, therefore what to cook, is actually pretty comfortable compared to the expectations I used to have of myself. Maybe someday I will be able to forgive myself for not being at home in the kitchen, for not being able to cook delicious, complicated meals: for not, in the kitchen at least, being my mother.

Ah, well...

#349 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2013, 01:26 AM:

On the general thread of spoons and food:

I've noticed that when I'm stressed/depressed I need to focus special energy on making sure I get enough protein. My seriously low-spoon foods are all high-carb, low everything else (popcorn, cereal), so I keep a few freezer dinners stocked just in case and I make myself drag them out when I start feeling sluggish. I can cook better food later if I have energy then, but it gets me through the short term a little more functional.

#350 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2013, 04:07 AM:

I've talked about this on ML before, but it's still pertinent. My kitchen and my shopping have long included a category called Opportunity Food, locally defined as "food I can make when I can't stand up that long." Opportunity food does not come with a side serving of guilt, because the last thing I need on a day I can't stand up that long, whether the reasons are post-surgical or nausea-and-vertigo or severe pain or whatever, is a side serving of guilt. Opportunity food, on the days I need to resort to it, is evidence of Coping With Difficult stuff and is celebrated, not least because not eating and/or eating with side servings of guilt can be actively dangerous for recovering anorexics.

It took a long time to realize that doing things that made it easier and less painful could be not only permissible but could be an important form of self-care. Suffering was virtue, where I came from, and doing things the most laborious way possible was the Right Way -- and by those rules, anyone with my medical issues who could and did choose frozen/prepared food was pretty much going to be looked at as a drain on the resources of the family and of society, and an object of scorn and pity.

I say the hell with that. And I say it through a mouthful of microwaved broccoli with cheese. Or microwaved cheeseburger, if that's what my choice happened to be that day.

#351 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2013, 04:23 AM:

I have said for a long time that food guilt is one of the most toxic things one can swallow.

I used to work in an academic health research unit. The head of our section was fond of saying, "There's no such thing as unhealthy food - only an unhealthy diet." I couldn't agree more. If your food choices are making you unhealthy (and it's not stressed often enough that the food choices that will do that vary quite considerably from person to person), then you need to change them. But if you're getting the best possible health state from your diet, and within "best possible" I obviously include mental health, then you're eating what is right for you.

#352 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2013, 05:46 AM:

Syd, 343, 345: HI! It's good to see you. I'll make a note of your URL this time...

#353 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2013, 08:48 AM:

Leah Miller @335
Better awareness of my own spoon management is something that I'm still struggling with. Seeing this brilliant break-down gives me a much better sense of where I'd like to be, and the analogy to game resource management is an awesome new bridge for getting there. Thank you.

elise @350 Suffering was virtue, where I came from, and doing things the most laborious way possible was the Right Way
Oh my. This right here accounts for like 90% of The Rules that went into my Programming. I've made some headway in allowing myself to find easier routes, less so in getting rid of the accompanying sense that I am "cheating" when I do.

#354 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2013, 10:15 AM:

Lee @ 339 - I have not heard the advice about fasting prior to chemotherapy. It would be interesting to see where it came from, and I suspect it's applicability would be variable. There are a few reasons I would hesitate to recommend it. Some chemo cycles are quite short, so fasting two days prior to infusion would mean not eating about a third of the time for, potentially, several months. Plus, it won't be exactly easy to eat after most infusions - they give you steroid therapy and so on to prevent you puking your guts out, but it's uncomfortable. There's also a bloodwork series typically done before chemotherapy, in which they check everything in the damn universe about your blood chemistry, and if anything is too far out of range, they cancel the infusion. Fasting is one way to potentially screw with that chemistry. Not getting an infusion is probably higher consequence then a decrease in the effectiveness of the infusion.

KayTei @ 341 - That would be a tough time to learn to cook. I don't know when your dad when through chemo. Times have changed pretty significantly in the last 5-10 or so years (the steroid therapy, mostly), and that means that dietary advice has also changed a ton. Don't overapply what I'm saying, because if your dad had cancer in the 90s, there really was more to worry about, foodwise.

My digression is thus:

There are a lot of suggestions floating around the internet for how people with cancer should eat - organics, dark, leafy greens, lentils, and turmeric are common recommendations because people believe that these things either help treat cancer or fail to cause more of it. When people cook for friends and family with cancer, they tend to feature these items. When people complain about nutritional advice from oncologists (which they do all the time) they tend to mention that doctors "don't know" about the benefits of, oh, cumin. Or whatever.

In my opinion, it's irrelevant whether the doctors know. Oncologists have seen a lot of cancer patients, and they've mostly noticed that cancer patients are almost guaranteed to be uncomfortable. Almost all chemotherapy damages the intestinal lining. Cancer patients have reflux that can make eating painful, and they have diarrhea that chaps their butts. Their immune systems are fragile, and stress and exhaustion can push them into fevers that have to be evaluated in hospital. An assault like plate of brussels sprouts can land you in hospital if you're having the wrong kind of digestive problems.

Furthermore, a lot of chemotherapy causes neuropathy (loss of nerve function) at the extremities, which makes cooking dangerous. My chemo was discontinued after 10 out of 12 planned infusions because I didn't notice when I dipped my hand in boiling water while making spaghetti. Oncologists care about that kind of thing a lot.

So when oncologists give nutritional advice to cancer patients, they don't give a damn what the cancer patients eat, really. If what you can keep down is mashed potatoes and your mother's gravy, they want your mother to move in with you and make you mashed potatoes and gravy as often as you want. The perfect food for a cancer patient is sufficient calories, in a form that can be swallowed, digested, and excreted with a minimum of suffering, delivered to the patient already cut into bite sized pieces for consumption by spoon.

We can get very excited about food's ability to heal, but the perfect food is not necessarily the food that can heal you, it's the food you can get, that you're able to eat.

#355 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2013, 03:43 PM:

RiceVermicelli @ 354

Well, exactly, in the 90s. I've spent a fair amount of time since then deprogramming myself, but it's just funny to realize how many odd habits blended into the atmosphere without my noticing. Odd to think that I've spent half my life, now, cooking for terminal cancer patients.

It was different and not really different, when my mom was going through chemo a few years ago. Part of that was the difference between being an adult and not a teenager. The more striking bit for me was trying to convince my mother that extra calories and gaining a little weight had become a positive, survival-oriented thing, not something she should worry about correcting.

#356 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2013, 03:22 AM:

Hmmm. Hope we hear back from Codemonkey soon. (And that whatever he's dealing with isn't involving doctors, police, or lawyers...)

[I worried for a bit that my Big Emphatic Post might have scared him, but then checking dates showed he'd already been away for a week or so. Whew. Did not mean to trigger anyone, or make this a less pleasant thread, in the process of offering advice.]

Comfort food / can't cope food: Well, there are days when I don't even want to take the time to microwave something out of a box. Cereal & milk, bologna and cheese sandwiches, chips and dip, can of soup _from_ the can, can of spaghettiOs or ravioli - all are good for Bleah Time. (I never got into the habit of making large batches and freezing some, partly because my fridge's freezer, on average, hasn't been defrosted for a couple of years and so has less capacity than normal. Currently nicely ice-free thanks!) I also am apparently happier with canned vegetables or fruit than many folks. Everyone's Caloric Mileage May Vary of course.

#357 ::: not the usual name ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2013, 07:55 AM:

RiceVermicelli @354,
With fasting causing normal cells to stop absorbing anything -- including the agent -- the studies so far found people having a regular appetite the day after chemotherapy. The cancer cells still absorbed the agent.

"Up to 48 hours"-- that may have been with the mice iirc. People did 24 hours, but I don't have the studies at hand.

In his first study Longo gave rodents a LD50 of some agent- none of the fasting ones died. That's fairly powerful results.

#358 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2013, 09:47 AM:

Am proud of myself. Managed to deal with the recent lack of spoons mostly with kindness and taking things slowly and here I am with somewhat more spoons. It's not much (yet), but it proofs again that it's easier to get things done by adding instead of taking away (meal times, sleep and so on).
elise @350: Suffering as a virtue is a really difficult concept to overcome and it comes in so many forms and is unfortunately endorsed by many.
KayTei @349: My experience exactly. Eating anything at all is of course better than starving, but getting enough protein is often a challenge for me and something I actively need to plan for.

#359 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2013, 11:14 AM:

@357, I'd really love to see the studies. I'm not surprised that appetite was normal post-chemo - the steroids would guarantee that. My point on the difficulty of eating is not that cancer patients won't want to eat, it's that the gastrointestinal discomforts of chemo are nasty as is. The day before chemo is the point when you are least likely to regret eating later.

I'm also very concerned about the effect of fasting on blood chemistry. If you wind up canceling chemo over and over because your potassium level is out of whack, fasting is a bad plan.

#360 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2013, 12:52 PM:

@359 RiceVermicelli

While I have no opinion on fasting before treatment, the statement that steroids "guarantee" a normal appetite post-chemo really doesn't work for me. Within the last five years I've had two friends and one relative who went through cancer treatment. Both friends had violent nausea. My aunt did not have nausea, per se, but she had no appetite at all. Looking at food seemed to trigger a really firm "Do Not WANT" response.

So, maybe steroids help some people a lot, which is good. They are not a guarantee.

#361 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2013, 01:30 PM:

Cheryl @ 360 - fair enough. I'm sorry for speaking absolutely.

I do feel that normal appetite after chemo, in the presence of steroid therapy, is not a meaningful clinical finding, as one of the known side effects of steroids is increased appetite.

#362 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2013, 02:06 PM:

Addendum: I'm pretty comfortable with a technical and scientific discussion of cancer and treatment, even if it makes occasional inroads into more personal territory. However, this thread in particular is intended to be a safe space for more personal and emotional discussions, and comfort levels with the personal/technical overlap vary. Perhaps this discussion should be elsewhere?

#363 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2013, 05:23 PM:

All this talk of food has gotten me thinking of hospitality and its relationship with food.

Mom wants very much to be a perfect hostess, but she's so incapable of putting herself in her guests' heads that she ends up making everyone uncomfortable in the name of making them welcome. (think excessive fluttering, offering food to the point where you take some just to not offend her, not because you want some, passing dishes around the table often enough to disrupt conversation, etc.) (or in the case of my cousin who stayed with my parents during her radiation therapy for cancer - insisting on entertaining her every waking moment so she didn't have time to rest and read a book, or just shut down for a while and *be* - even though she was exhausted)

So despite Mom's emphasis on being a good hostess, I've ironically learned hospitality by negative example, for the most part.

Another way food and hospitality intersect with dysfunction is best illustrated by my best friend's mom, who's constantly nagging her about being overweight - then piles food on her plate at meal times and nags her to eat it all. Because feeding people is showing love, and she just doesn't see the disconnect.

It's taken the process of dissociating myself from my mom (and dismantling the co-dependent relationship) for me to start to learn *true* hospitality - making people feel comfortable and welcome. Still working on it.

This was also prompted by part of what Lizzy L said @348 -
Food is so complex. My mother and I had a lot of unhappiness in our relationship, and it often manifested around cooking and food. Cooking was a painful mystery to me for much of my early adulthood. I still dislike cooking for other people: I feel too judged. Having fewer choices of what to eat, therefore what to cook, is actually pretty comfortable compared to the expectations I used to have of myself. Maybe someday I will be able to forgive myself for not being at home in the kitchen, for not being able to cook delicious, complicated meals: for not, in the kitchen at least, being my mother.

I'm slowly learning that my friends don't expect me to turn out Martha Stewart meals - but it still feels really wrong to not have stress explosions (implosions?) on a day when we have company coming! And they don't expect the house to be perfectly clean, or my appearance to be suitable for the cover of Vogue, or...

Is anyone else interested in discussing how their family dysfunctions (around food in particular) have affected their ability to host or offer hospitality?

#364 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2013, 05:30 PM:

RiceVermicelli @359: I've not looked at the studies in detail, but the cells lining the gut normally have very rapid turnover, which is why they are so sensitive to chemo. Logically, if fasting means less damage to normal cells, then the gastrointestinal tract would be better able to process food on the day after the chemo, and less uncomfortable in doing that.

Fasting putting the blood chemistry out is a different issue, but I could see that if some decent studies were done and they found that a 24-hour fast really helped, the studies should also be able to provide data on blood chemistry, or a system would be developed whereby the bloods were taken just before fasting started.

#365 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2013, 06:33 PM:

Is anyone else interested in discussing how their family dysfunctions (around food in particular) have affected their ability to host or offer hospitality?

Yes. But I don't want to hijack the thread.

#366 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2013, 06:54 PM:

I don't exactly have a case of food is love, but I do have a streak of "if people eat what I brought, it means I got the food right" which can lead to a little pushiness.

#367 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2013, 11:15 PM:

Lizzy @ 365

I don't think that's off topic at all. And if there's one thing we've demonstrated here, it's the ability to maintain multiple overlapping threads of discussion...

#368 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 02:52 AM:

Tom, #340: This is the item I read. It's 5 years out of date at this point, so maybe there's better information out there somewhere.

somewhere_else, #358: One of the major places where "suffering as a virtue" gets used in a toxic way is in the (mis)use of religion to guilt people who are being mistreated into accepting their lot rather than working to improve it. This has happened, historically, across a spectrum ranging from slavery to abusive relationships to current politics.

#369 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 04:07 AM:

Lizzy @365:

It sounds pretty on-topic to me, actually. And I'd certainly be interested to read the consequent discussion.

But I don't want to pressure you (or anyone) if you don't want to talk about it.

#370 ::: slow learner ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 12:54 PM:

"Is anyone else interested in discussing how their family dysfunctions (around food in particular) have affected their ability to host or offer hospitality?"

Yes! When my parents were hosts, I had to perform. I don't actually remember them telling me I had to, I just somehow knew that I was required to be precocious and polite and unobtrusively funny and, above all, not need anything (like to go to the toilet or be tired before my bedtime or be restless or have nightmares after my bedtime) while they had adult guests who weren't regular visitors. It was like sitting an exam. Also, the day before would be an ordeal of cleaning and food preparation. And the day after, my parents would be exhausted and cranky and peopled-out because they're introverts too.

As a result, I hated dinner parties and couldn't imagine why anyone would want to invite their friends over for dinner.

After I turned thirty, I finally saw the point. I did not have a formal dinner party, but I asked a few close friends around to watch TV and eat takeaway food and chat. And it was so nice. I could be in my territory and have the people I liked there. With my cat! Who is very social, and I always feel guilty about not supplying her with more people. And my books! And at the end of the night I didn't have to drive home, I could just say goodnight to everyone and already be home.

#371 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 03:29 PM:

Not food, but... A while ago my mother and stepfather came to stay with me and my husband for a couple of nights. Seemed to go okay. Until, just before they left, my mother said what a pity it was that I hadn't offered them any wardrobe/drawer space in the spare room and they had had to cope with the inconvenience of living out of their suitcases for the whole stay. Now, nearly half the hanging space in the wardrobe in that room was empty and one drawer was empty - I just hadn't explicitly shown them the space and told them they could use it. But my mother hadn't asked when they arrived, when the information would have been useful - she left it until they were leaving and then told me in a manner designed to make me feel guilty and impress it on me that I'd failed, been a bad hostess. Now I'm fighting against being paranoid about it: I've just realised that in my anxiety to be a good hostess I'm now offering that wardrobe space to guests practically before they're in through the front door. And most of them* don't even want it, particularly not if they're only there a night or two and haven't got "good" clothes with them...

And she wonders why we won't go and stay with them but rather keep staying with my stepmother, just a couple of miles away, when we're in that geographical area: in a house where we can relax, and leave our clothes on our bedroom floor if we want to, and not worry all the time whether we're being good, polite guests.

*We don't get that many, but living 35 mins by train from central London we are a useful "free hotel" for various relatives and friends.

#372 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 03:46 PM:

Leah Miller @335: Friends of mine with ADHD report that they self-medicate with caffeine, and are essentially non-functional without it. I struggle with the idea of going meatless; I'd like to, for a variety of reasons, but meat is one of the very few things that I reliably have an appetite for. I went through a period before and after I found my current job when, for the first time in my life, I wound up with anxiety-induced anorexia. I'd often fantasized (as people who struggle with their weight often do) about being anorexic, as a way to control my weight. Well, my weight did go down, but "control" is not the right word for it. And, strangely enough, I discovered that if I don't eat (I mean, like, at all), I don't feel well and don't have the energy to do anything. It was the only time in my life when I found I had to force myself to eat. Not fun.

I'll get those 20 extra spoons within an hour or two of eating.

For the first forty or so years of my life, I strugged with the seeming randomness of the availablity of energy to Do Stuff. In the last fifteen-twenty years, I finally worked out that that impulse would (somewhat reliably) show up a half an hour or so after eating. Blood sugar, FTW! And, at last! I could actually plan around it!

"It's not that I don't want to spend time with you, I literally need social interaction to function," conversation was difficult.

The flip side of that, when dealing with introverts, is also a challenge. I was involved with an introvert for a while, and we managed to make it work, but that was before I had that whole "gains/loses energy from socializing" model to refer to, which would have made the explanation go a lot faster.

It only takes a single spoon to make coffee and breakfast if I have all the ingredients, but it takes an investment of 2-5 to go to the cafe or store.

This is the chief reason I've gotten into the "1-back" habit: I always keep a container of X in the pantry, so when the X in the cupboard runs out, I just refill from the pantry, and put X on the shopping list, with no loss of continuity. Doesn't work for things like fresh vegetables, though, which is a HUGE reason I have trouble keeping vegs in my diet. Frozen vegs are fine in a pinch, but don't taste good enough for me to want to eat, so they're more like medicine than food, and never mind comfort food.

So it's much more likely that I'm going to have the spare spoons to go shopping at night than in the morning

I am blessed such that my geography allows me to shop on my way home from work. Grocs get Mondays and Thursdays, and everything else gets Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Going out "cold" takes at least four times as many spoons (and twice the time) as hitting the stores on the way home.

And I long since gave up worrying about eating different stuff every day. I tend to converge quickly on the stuff that I like, and generally only vary my diet when that stops being satisfying.

Besides which, buying for eating something different every day is a real challenge if you, like me, are cooking only for yourself, since grocery store quantities tend to assume a family of (at least) four.

#373 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 03:50 PM:

Syd!! Hi hi hi! Yes, we were wondering where you'd got off to. Go to know things are going well!

Say, best friend, ol' buddy, ol' pal, would you please email me at wnpdhrz ng cnavk qbg pbz, pretty please?

#374 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 03:59 PM:

Jacque @ 372: Chalk me up as another datapoint in the whole ADHD and self-medication by caffeine thing. It's the only med I've ever used for it, and it does seem to help. Frex, just this morning I was so completely scattered and overwhelmed by Stuff To Think About, Remember and Do that I very nearly sat down on the floor rocking and whining. Instead, I forced myself to gulp down the rather large mug of coffee I had made, and just wait for a few minutes until it kicked in. I then found myself able to think straight and tackle the aforementioned Stuff.

I'm augmenting with a second, smaller mug now, so that I can get through the rest of the day and early evening. I've no shortage of physical spoons without caffeine, but the mental ones seem to be forged out of it as a pure element.

#375 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 04:24 PM:

Lizzy L @348: Cooking was a painful mystery to me for much of my early adulthood.

I got really lucky around food and prep, I think. I got a modicum of basic training from my mom growing up, and could function well enough based on the "mystic incantation" approach to recipes (and early on got myself a copy of The Joy of Cooking, which was my mom's go-to manual).

But then, after a year out on my own, I met Jon Singer. It just so happens that I can copy other people's superpowers, so after having observed Jon cooking a few times, I was able to suss out some basic principles (high heat burns the outside without cooking the inside was the biggest insight), I "got" it, and can now usually achieve what I'm shooting for without too much struggle. I'm not a gourmet, by any stretch, so my flavorings tend to the "one of its legs is both the same." But I can feed me, and at need, feed others, without too much stress.

I forget to be grateful for that.

#376 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 04:32 PM:

I don't have SAD, I don't think, but I do find tht light helps me to really wake up, and I tried one of those "sunrise" clocks and really liked it - problem is that if I put it to start coming on gradually, say 20 or 30 minutes before wake-up time, while doing wonders for me it wakes my husband up. Immediately. And getting 30 minutes less sleep doen't do much good for his mood. So now I don't use it and I'm trying back to trying to force my eyes to open and strugglng to get myself out of bed when the alarm goes off. Frustrating.

[As an aside: I found out that coffee gives me headaches. Not caffeine withdrawal, but drinking coffee. No coffee, almost no headaches. Coffee, headaches 3-5 times a week... Just a data point in case anyone else needs to try it.]

#377 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 04:54 PM:

dcb @376 (in relation to your aside) -- I've found that caffeine makes it significantly easier for me to get angry. In a not-very-good, get-in-the-way-of-actually-getting-results kind of way. So I gave up caffeine (long ago), after several years of six-months-on six-months-off. I really don't miss it.

#378 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 05:41 PM:

Tom Whitmore @377: Interesting. In my case it's not the caffeine - I can drink strong tea with no problem - so it's something else in the coffee. And I can have e.g. coffee flavoured cake without problems - which is good 'cos I like that more than I ever liked coffee anyway.

Syd: Forgot to say - good to hear from you. I went and got caught up on your blog. Really glad that the job is going well and the cats are settled in. Have you had good-sounding rain on the roof of the RV yet?

#379 ::: dcb is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 05:43 PM:

Probably for excess spaces. I can offer pureed apple and pear with honeyed Greek-style biolive yoghurt, but we finished the pale ale.

#380 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 06:01 PM:

Jacque #372: Friends of mine with ADHD report that they self-medicate with caffeine, and are essentially non-functional without it.

Not only do I resemble that remark, but you just reminded me about the pot of water I'd set to boil for coffee. :-)

the "1-back" habit: ... Doesn't work for things like fresh vegetables, though, which is a HUGE reason I have trouble keeping vegs in my diet

Amen to both. Happily, potatoes and onions keep well in the fridge, as do carrots and celery. (Mushrooms, not so much. :-( ) Unfortunately, none of those are "dark leafy greens".

I eventually learned to recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar, but that does lead to some "confusion of drives", which has occasionally aggravated my paunch.

#381 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 06:21 PM:

For some time I did not remember that my surviving parent had been sexually abusive to me. Yes, repressed memories do exist; nobody prompted me to remember something on command; when I felt safe, the memories came boiling back up. Anyway, I looked to that parent as my source of love and direction, and I longed for the day when I would finally be big enough to help her cook. But by then the alcoholism was eating away at her brain. Some things she just couldn't do anymore, and the other things she would not teach me because what she really wanted to do was get the cooking done and then go get drunk. She kept a big tumbler of whiskey by the sink as she did dishes. Occasionally she sipped from the glass she was washing instead. I thought it was funny, then. Later I was dealing with the horrors of PTSD augmented by my restored memories, now in nauseating living color, and I ate whatever I could get down. And then I started dieting.

My girls are learning how to cook tasty, nourishing, diet-free food. But it's a funny thing. I remember missing my mother's wonderful pies, and I can't find pre-made pie crust without artificial food coloring in it anymore, but actually learning how to make that pie crust seems like an insurmountable mountain. Maybe that's because the realization that Mom hadn't made pie in years was one of the cracks in my assumption that my mother getting drunk every night was normal. I think I may just have to roll up my sleeves and make pie crust while crying for a while until I get it out of my system.

#382 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 07:02 PM:

J.: Here's a hack: have your girls teach themselves how to make pie-crusts (with the explicit understanding that Failure Happens, and that's part of the process). Hang out with them and [drink wine / your comfort comestible of choice] while they do, and then once they've got it down, then let them teach you how to make pie crust. Learning-how-to-learn opportunity for them, long-way-round reentry for you. Maybe?

#383 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 07:24 PM:

Tom Whitmore: I have that problem if I have a lot of caffeine and don't eat to take the edge off. If I get past about two glasses/cans of soda and haven't eaten in a few hours, I get extremely irritable, but eating settles me back out again. (Sugary foods obviously aren't ideal in this situation, but if it's a doughnut or nothing I'll have the doughnut.)

#384 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 11:35 PM:

Jacque @ 373, you have an email at the specified address. I've put "Syd from ML" in the subject line, should it wind up in a processed-meat trap...

#385 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 11:38 PM:

Another low-spoons food, if you have a toaster oven: melts. Nice bread, toppings of your choice, cheese, turn toaster on a low setting, eat warm food. A favorite of mine is sourdough, dijon mustard, tomato, and cheddar.

Also apples and cheese—Fuji apples and cheddar go together particularly well, and the protein in the cheese helps balance the sugars of the fruit.

#386 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2013, 12:27 AM:

Ah, food and hospitality. Most of my hospitality trouble relates to wanting high cleanliness, and the subtle persistent feeling that asking people to visit me would be a bother to them.

It took a long time to learn that if I was ditzy, spacy, irritable, anxious, or just feeling mysteriously bad, that drinking some water and eating some food would probably help. Especially savoury food with protein and fat, not just starch and sugar. This shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was thanks to my mother. She only approves of *extremely* plain food -- no garlic, herbs, spices, seasonings, cheese, or sauces, and minimal salt, fat, and sugar. We did not eat out. Desserts and candy, though, were expected and allowed to taste good. Of course I spent about 20 years mostly preferring sugary things, with a persistent, background fear/certainty of getting diabetes early like my father. I only discovered how wonderful savoury, healthy food could be once I was regularly eating food cooked by people who believed in flavour. After that the wider a range I ate, the better I felt, and the more I enjoyed it and sought it out. I still have a sweet tooth, but it’s now in reasonable proportion to the rest of my diet.

The result of this is that I like feeding “strange” food to my parents. Strange here means tasty food that my mother would never eat, let alone cook, left to herself. Soon I plan to host a family dinner consisting entirely of “strange” food -- fancy salad, risotto, quiche, and yellow Thai curry -- and I dearly hope my mother will like most of it so that I can watch her get a divide-by-zero error when I tell her about the garlic, cheese, and many delicious seasonings that went into it.

#387 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2013, 01:53 AM:

Dave H., #380: FYI, baked potatoes don't take any longer to re-heat than raw potatoes do to cook, and unlike raw potatoes they keep really well in the freezer. (I think I said this somewhere up-thread, but it bears repeating here.)

B. Durbin, #385: More comfort food, and low-spoons for me though perhaps not for everyone -- 1 can of Vienna sausages, 7 saltines, 2 pre-packaged slices of Velveeta or equivalent. Cut each sausage in half lengthwise and put the halves flat-sides-down on a saltine. Divide the cheese slices into quarters (gentle folding will do it, you don't have to be exact) and put one quarter on top of each cracker; eat the last quarter yourself. Arrange crackers on the metal tray of the toaster oven and broil, watching, until the cheese is just melting (should take 3 minutes or less). Remove from toaster oven, transfer to a plate that isn't hot (or wait for the metal tray to cool down enough to handle), and eat. For the really low-spoons version, omit the Vienna sausage.

Moonlit Night, #386: My mother grew up in the Deep South, where the only regularly-used seasonings are salt, black pepper, and grease. Then she married a man from rural Iowa, who hated strongly-flavored anything. And I was an opinionated little kid who didn't like things to be different. You can imagine how long it took for me to discover spices, or how to flavor anything that wasn't processed food with flavoring included. It wasn't pathological the way your mother seems to have been, but it was still a hurdle for me. Fortunately, once I discovered how to use flavorings, I never had any trouble remembering to do so!

Oh, and then my parents jumped on the no-fat-no-salt bandwagon in their declining years. I still remember the travesty of a meal that was the last Thanksgiving dinner I ate with them, when they had stopped using the only things that ever gave their food any flavor at all.

Please do report back on the results of your "feeding strange food to Mother" experiment. *VBEG*

#388 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2013, 09:53 AM:

Moonlit Night, 386: I have to ask, and please forgive me if this is an intrusion, but if your father had diabetes, and your mother decreed that only candy and desserts were allowed to taste good while other food had to be bland and unpleasant... do you suppose she was trying on some level to punish your father for being diabetic?

#389 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2013, 05:30 PM:

Lee @387 - I was reading through your Vienna sausage etc. receipe, and kept wondering where the sardines fit in. I had to read back through the ingredient list three times before I realized that you had called for 7 saltine crackers, not sardine fishies.

Ob Dysfunctional Families comment: My mother's birthday is tomorrow. She passed away four years ago, and it's still a difficult day for me. My father was the truely dysfunctional parent, and what I deeply regret is that I let his dysfunctionality get in the way of some of the good of the relationship I had with her. I wish I had done more for her during her final illness, but it was too hard to reach past him to get to her in a good way until the very end.

#390 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2013, 07:03 PM:

I have a kind of a disfunctional family problem. Basically I'm unemployed and have virally induced chronic fatigue, which makes it even harder to find work and also means I can't really do the usual 37.5hr working week. I am however quite high function, can walk several miles in a day, talk intelligently etc.
Getting the fatigue across to my dad, however, seems to be impossible. "You'll just have to exert yourself" for instance is one reply. I know he means well, but seems to find it impossible to actually listen to what I'm saying. It's an old family problem in fact, not being able to communicate, with its roots in the old ideal of the quiet man who keeps his feelings to himself.
It's just so frustrating, that someone who has learnt and taught themselves lots of things over the years finds it impossible to understand or adjust to the new information that my cells are broken so I get tired easily therefore I can't do the stuff he expects me to.

#391 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2013, 07:30 PM:

SummerStorms @388: The patterns of my mother’s cooking were set at least a decade before my dad developed diabetes, so I don’t think that’s it. Trying to hlep him to eat right is an ongoing frustration for her ever since, though. I don’t have enough evidence to draw firm conclusions, but what I do have suggests something rather different. It is possible that my mother truly believes her cooking is the apex of food, but many shreds of evidence contradict that idea.

My mother’s mother was a truly terrible cook according to oral history, so in her childhood (1940s-50s) her father did most of the cooking, and my mother didn't really learn how. (Maybe neither parent could cook.) Fast-forward: one of my mother’s first jobs was as a housekeeper for a rich family, and they assumed she knew how to cook...I don’t know exactly what happened next, but the implication was that she tried to learn in a hurry but didn't succeed. Whatever happened, it was bad enough to not talk about. I think she grew an avoidance of deliberately improving her cooking or liking “strange” food. I'm not sure how she manages to keep it up. She’s been cooking 2+ meals a day for the family as her job for her adult life, so you’d hope she’d overcome this out of self-preservation, or even sheer practice, but she hasn't and probably never will.

P.S. I suspect there was also a traumatic incident with garlic. Even people who don’t like it don’t usually handle it as if it were a week-old dead rat.

#392 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2013, 08:12 PM:

@Guthrie no. 390: Does he respond well to stories? Would "Spoon Theory" perhaps help? If I link I will get gnomed, but if you search on those two words, it should be right at the top of the results.

#393 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2013, 12:46 AM:

Lee @ 387

Your post reminded me of one of my own idiosyncratic comfort foods - take one big shredded wheat cereal log, spread butter on top, salt to taste, and microwave for one minute.

It's delicious, but my husband is absolutely revolted by it. My grandmother used to make them, though I am given to understand that the first time, it was a desperation ploy, having run out of milk...

#394 ::: Kay Tei is gnome more.... ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2013, 12:48 AM:

Reheated freezer pizza? Chocolate milk? Juice boxes? Apples?

#395 ::: not the usual name ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2013, 02:25 AM:

RiceVermicelli, Cheryl @359-362
we can move the thread elsewhere, but I'd note no study I read used steroids (iirc), only fasting. If appetite was normal post-chemo it was via less damage to normal cells.

#396 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2013, 09:00 AM:

Yup, another person here who has food/hospitality issues. Not going into it right now, but +1.

#397 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2013, 04:18 PM:

eep @165 posted a link to survivorship bias which got me reading the You Are Not So Smart website, and then I went to the library and signed out the related book. It was very interesting reading. (I am fascinated by *how* humans think, so I was predisposed to find it interesting. I just got the sequel, "you are now less dumb" from the library; the cover claims it teaches workarounds for the stuff our brain does to us, so I look forward to seeing what tricks I can play on myself to get a result I want. Such as my "roomba is a person, clean up while roomba is cleaning up" trick that I figured out a while back.)

Anyhow, in the section on the extinction burst I noticed that all of the examples are about stopping or changing an active behaviour, something you DO either by choice or habit, because it got you results you liked (even if only in the short term, like sweet treats are yummy in the dieting example). It only briefly mentioned that if you do something and get a result you don't like, you learn to stop doing it, as part of its introduction to what conditioning is.

So I wonder. Would that suppressive, rather than active, behaviour (for lack of a better term) also be subject to an extinction burst when you try to change it, and *start* doing something that had previously got you bad results?

An example from my situation:

With crappy ex, if I tried to tell him about something he was doing that upset me, he would either tell me I was overreacting/hormonal/whatever and dismiss it, or he would get all the drama on about how I was making him feel like a horrible person and I'd end up both feeling worse and apologizing.

So, I learned to suppress the action of speaking up when something bothered me, because it never ended well.

Now, with New Interest, I have dared to tell him about a few things that bothered me (in many cases with advice/encouragement/scripts from DFD, thank you all), and he was totally ok with discussing it, and didn't get all the drama going, or any of that. And so I dared to tell him a little more, noting (in one case explicitly to New Interest in almost exactly these words) that if Jerkbrain is telling me I shouldn't say this, I probably should. And then one day Jerkbrain picks up and says to me "NO NO NO you can't tell him that it'll all go HORRIBLY WRONG because REASONS and you're BROKEN and and and" and a whole huge pile of stuff custom-designed to make me suppress this action I'm trying to learn to stop suppressing and actually DO. And it's extra-strong this time, with Reasons that make me hesitant to say to myself, "well, Jerkbrain says I shouldn't so I probably should." One of them being that a voice that sounded like Jerkbrain does now warned me about crappy ex and I ignored it only to find out it was right all along, and how can I be sure that Jerkbrain isn't right this time?

Similar things have happened to me repeatedly this year, for a number of things similar but just different enough that Jerkbrain claims it's totally different. I have now tentatively identified it as an extinction burst, which means I have to ride it out and hope New Interest remains consistent and doesn't do what Jerkbrain predicts, but above all I have to speak up, especially when Jerkbrain is being at its most effective at scaring me into silence. And I'm finding that *hard* and sometimes it takes me a while before I can say anything, which means the suppression is winning at that time. And they keep happening, for something slightly different each time, but always "NONONO you can't tell him that/do that because REASONS" and argh when are these things going to stop already. I think I've got past some of them but it seems like there's always another one lined up right behind it.

Has anybody else experienced this? If I'm right, it could be very common.

#398 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2013, 05:28 PM:

guthrie @390: Getting the fatigue across to my dad, however, seems to be impossible.

Change rep systems. Make yourself a sign to hold up, the next time the topic arises:

Dear Dad,

I have a physical illness. I CAN NOT DO the things you expect me to be able to do. (Do I have to bring you a freakin' doctor's note?)

I recommend at least 120pt type. At the very least, it might startle him into paying attention.

the invisible one @397: It's fascinating to me that Crappy Ex managed to get so completely under your skin. This argues that he hooked into something much Older and Deeper in your history...?

#399 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2013, 05:35 PM:

That kind of thing is surprisingly, and depressingly, common. Controlling, manipulative people don't necessarily need anything to hook onto other than their victim's own good nature. I'm no shrinking violet, but I still know exactly what it is to be bulldozed by someone with nothing more than a Teflon-coated sense of his own universal rightness and an expectation that I, being a Good Person (TM), will do what he wants. And this wasn't even someone I was in a relationship with.

He did ask at one point. Normally I let people down gently, but I already knew this person had no concept of a subtle hint. Therefore, on this occasion, my reply was: "No. No, no, and again no. Do not even allow the possibility to entertain the idea of crossing your mind. Understood?"

Well, it worked...

#400 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2013, 06:18 PM:

#398, Jacque: Oh, yes. I've mentioned before my mother's long-standing habit of telling me I'm overreacting if something bothers me that doesn't bother her. I already believed that part of it, so crappy ex had plenty of places to grab hold and move it to how I was overreacting all the time, and also I was wrong if we ever disagreed.

#401 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2013, 07:48 PM:

KayTei @393: Tiny bowl; blob of butter; salt; spices to taste, such as garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper. Nuke until butter melts. Dip in bite-sized shredded wheat.

#402 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2013, 08:06 PM:

the invisible one @397 -- I think you've hit on something important there, so I'm restating it:

extinction bursts happen around passive behaviors as well as around active ones.

I think you're right; I can say, without going into details, that I've experienced something similar; and I don't want that point to get lost. It's worth paying attention to.

#403 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2013, 08:06 AM:

J #392 - ah, the spoons! I've already filed that away as a good metaphor. I just didn't think of trying it on him, although it's quite a practical one so should work. (we are talking someone who hasn't read a fictional work since his early 20's, as far as I have heard)
Jacque - that's also a good idea, a more in your face approach.
thanks to you both.

#404 ::: dirtyWater ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2013, 10:02 AM:

I did something very impulsive last month. I saw my last remaining grandparent was alive and now on Facebook. My father's mother. The one grandparent out of four who was never outright cruel to me. So I sent her a friend request along with a picture of my one year old daughter. Her great grand daughter. Nothing happened so far, and probably nothing will. She's 94, and hasn't done anything on Facebook since June.

If my father finds out he will be furious. (Paternity lawsuit. Dragged on for years with his stalling tactics.) So remember boys, wrap that rascal. Bastard sons can blight your lives for decades. And they're like puppies. Abuse doesn't drive them away.

#405 ::: dirtyWater ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2013, 01:50 PM:

Some of the context is all too pertinent for this iteration of DFD. When he ran out of ways to stall the lawsuit, and it was drawing to a close, my father had a change of heart that I think was sincere. So he decided he wanted to have a "relationship" with his eldest son, and went so far as to introduce me to my 3 younger siblings.


He had one rule, which was that he would have nothing to apologize for. I stupidly agreed to it at the outset.

It's one thing to ask someone who's hurt for forgiveness. It's one thing to judge that person for not granting it. It's another thing entirely to demand that someone you've hurt drop any expectation for an apology. Needless to say, this "relationship" did not work out. It resulted in him playing head games with me in my last year of college, which threw my career sideways for several years. And naturally no contact afterwards.

I came to loathe completely the word "relationship" after that, because it's so amoral it denies there might be a moral angle to something. A "relationship" means everything's negotiable. Failed completely in your paternal duty? No problem. Renegotiate the "relationship" to demand that gets papered over.

#406 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2013, 02:48 PM:

dirtyWater: hearing, witnessing

#407 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2013, 11:43 AM:

Regarding hosting/hospitality: I just read this and had a strong moment of whiplash - celebration of the awesomeness of Athena Scalzi who at 14 is hosting a 4 course dinner party, and mixed negative emotions at the thought of what would have happened had I tried the same at that age.

I was so used to Mom helicoptering me that I was functionally helpless - I couldn't do anything by myself that she tended to interfere with because I'd never been allowed to. Followed by anger that she did it "for me" and still won't acknowledge how much it harmed me.

I am proud to say that I can now host a dinner party without panic and tears. :) But it took a lot of practice (and Spouse helping me through the panic and tears) and a lot of meals that were served dish-by-dish - not because they were supposed to be, but because I couldn't coordinate a meal to save my soul!

I've been wondering - how have other people dealt with their hospitality issues? Not hosting? Only hosting chips-and-pizza events? Dulling the pain by sheer repetition? Helpful spouse or friend?

#408 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2013, 11:58 AM:

Chickadee @ 407: I got quite a bit of that. I also got, at intervals of several months:

"No, you can't do that. You're not old enough."
"No, you can't do that. You're not old enough."
"No, you can't do that. You're not old enough."
*stops asking*
"Why on earth aren't you doing that?"
*Thinks: because you never told me I was now allowed to do it because I was suddenly old enough.*

#409 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2013, 12:27 PM:

*reading the previous couple of posts and nodding sagely*

My family was like that. There was a very odd mixture of things I was permitted or even encouraged to do that might be perceived as having been above my age-bracket, while others were verboten despite not only being perfectly normal for my age, but likely beneficial to myself and my parents had I been permitted to do them.

I did learn to cook simple meals at an early age, in part because my mother's health was sometimes fragile and my father's culinary skills extended no farther than tomato soup-from-a-can and grilled cheese sandwiches. Teaching me too cook was partly a normal mother-daughter activity, and partly an exercise in family survival. As long as I could at least throw together a pot of chili, stew or goulash and prepare a salad, we had enhanced nutritional security, which was deemed a Good Thing.

On the other hand, while my father insisted I give up a class period to take Driver Education in school at the age of sixteen (not that I really needed much encouragement), once I completed the course -- with an "A", no less -- he informed me that I was forbidden to actually get my license until I could afford to buy myself a car. This was problematic for a couple of reasons: we lived in the countryside, several miles from any place of business where I might find employment; and for the sake of enhanced academics (among other things) I attended school in a neighboring district rather than the one in which we lived which necessitated my parents -- usually my mother -- driving me to and from school and its related activities. Mom was tired of chauffeuring me hither and yon, especially as it interfered with her own work schedule. They argued over this repeatedly, while I spent my junior and senior years of high school, along with my first semester of community college, attempting to find someplace that was willing to hire a girl who lived in a rural neighborhood and did not drive and who would thus be dependent upon her mother to get her to and from work.

At one point my paternal grandfather gave me a car, but my father insisted to me that it required about $1,000 worth of work to make it roadworthy (something I now strongly doubt, given that my grandfather is unlikely to have bestowed a vehicle upon me that could not have been safely driven) and that I would have to come up with that money before getting my license. I eventually took up with a young man from school who turned out to be extremely bad for me, but I remained in an abusive relationship with him for more than three years in part because he was my ride to and from things like class and my job.

#410 ::: Bam ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2013, 01:38 PM:

slow learner @370

That thing about being on display at dinner parties, I've experienced that too. I worked hard for those parties. I cleaned house and shopped with my mother, prepped food, served, then helped with the clean up afterward. Even as a child I understood I was engaging in a sort of ritual magic - if I could make others believe my family was functional, it would be so. God I worked hard.

Fast forward to a couple years ago, as I was looking at my life (why am I still working for minimum wage in cafes? How come I don't know what I need to do to get a better job?) and I realized it was partly because I had been trained my whole life to serve people food and smile at them and I literally didn't have certain other skills like, for example, talking up my good qualities.

Chickadee @407:

I find hosting parties all so stressful, probably because when I was little so much was riding on a good performance. I threw a surprise party for my husband last year and it was agony.

I think if I had a bigger place I'd be the kind of person who might host a pot luck pig roast once every two or three years, and leave the sit-down dinner parties to others who find them less scary.

As for comfort food, for the whole of the 80s and into the 90s my parents drank hard and we ate, frankly, a lot of crap. My mother's signature dish was ground beef with potatoes sliced in, and a can of creamed corn or beans poured over. That dish would reappear again and again all week until we'd eaten every last grey and yellow scrap from the casserole dish. Just thinking of it turns my stomach.

Staying with my gran, on the other hand, was like foodie heaven and I learned to cook from her. Her remedy for bad times was a cup of very strong, very sweet tea. For seriously bad times, she would make Earl Grey. And once, when everything was going to hell, she provided fourteen year old me with a very sweet Manhattan that was probably mostly water and maraschino juice and made one for herself and we talked, quite frankly, about what was going on at home. I almost never saw her drink (except the cream sherry when she was making Christmas cakes).

When she died and I moved west, I took her cookbooks with me and I made a concerted effort to learn to cook. It's been a while since I produced anything completely inedible (we used to call it "food art" - looks like food but it's best not to eat it). I often think of gran when I'm cooking, and any food well prepared is comfort food of a sort, but strong sweet tea remains my personal panacea.

#411 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2013, 02:47 PM:

"I don't like shredded wheat, and I'm glad I don't like it, because if I liked it, I'd eat it, and I just hate it!" -- Clarence Darrow (at least according to Hal Holbrook), who does not speak my mind in this matter.

#412 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2013, 05:42 PM:

Chickadee, #407: There was a certain amount of "Hey, now I have my own place and I can HAVE a party if I want!" involved because my parents hated entertaining in general and never hosted anything -- when I begged to have a graduation party at the end of high school, I was told that I could invite no more than 7 other people in total, presumably because that was how many people could sit in the living room at one time.*

Beyond that, it just never occurred to me that I couldn't. I'm not a great cook and would fight shy of hosting a formal dinner for people I don't know well, but for some years my now-ex and I had an "orphans dinner" at Thanksgiving and Christmas for a few of our friends who were estranged from their families, and I managed well enough with those.**

These days our primary entertainment is the annual Chocolate Decadence party, which is a much more casual affair and partly a pot-luck as well.

* Actual reason given: "Because our house isn't big enough to have a party larger than that." In addition to the living room, we had a large family room, and the garage had been finished into a den -- but it wasn't big enough for a party of more than 8 people. Right. Ten years later, I had 40 people at a Halloween party in my 1-bedroom apartment.

** Well, except for the time I managed to put the Pyrex roasting dish on the hot burner and ended up with glass and gravy all over the floor. After which my friends gently but firmly shooed me out of the kitchen, cleaned things up, and finished the cooking themselves.***

*** Apropos of nothing much, be aware that the cookware now marketed as "Pyrex" is not really Pyrex. True Pyrex is borosilicate glass; what you get these days is soda-lime glass. They have rather different characteristics, including that the borosilicate was much tougher than the new stuff, and hence harder to break. If you're looking for Pyrex dishes, you're better off hunting in thrift stores for vintage ones.

#413 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 12:21 AM:

@412 Lee
I believe Pyrex in the EU/UK is still borosilicate, which this website seems to confirm. A quote from the FAQ says:

"What is Pyrex glass made of?

Pyrex is made out of borosilicate glass: a special blend of sand, boron and other 'ingredients'."

Whether one can go to the bother/expense of having one's bakeware shipped from overseas is, of course, a different story.

#414 ::: Cheryl has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 12:22 AM:

For the link.

Leftover roasted chicken, stuffing and gravy?

#415 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 06:29 AM:

Re. Pyrex, certainly the stuff I've bought here in the UK for use in various alchemical evaporations and the like has behaved rather like pyrex, i.e. not shattering when I use it over a fire then take it off. You can still break it if you heat it to 400C and then drop some water on it, but there's limits as to what any sort of glass can take.

#416 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 07:22 AM:

Apologies; I have commented once before in these threads, I seem to remember, but thorough googling isn't finding it for me. This post is unrelated, in any case.

I have never had the capacity for hospitality. When I lived with my family, before and after college, it was their house where I merely stayed for the time being, and my mother was always fluttering about because it was never clean enough; now that I've finally gotten out, I live with roommates, and we have no dining space and any attempts to obtain one are thwarted. It goes a long way toward highlighting the feeling I've had since moving here* that it's not really my home here, either. I may be able to stop people from coming over without notice sometimes, but I've only wanted to have people over twice, and neither time was it allowed. I've been here more than four years.

I cook -- I love to cook, I've cooked for my family since I was fourteen or fifteen. It's a pleasure, not a chore I mind at all. My mother isn't a great cook, and she hates it. Back with the family, my repertoire was extremely limited by my father's palate, as he's quite conservative. (My mother had the same conservative upbringing, but has proven quite adventurous, which means going out to eat with her is fun. So far, we've enjoyed foods from across Asia and Latin America.) Here, it's limited by Girl Roommate's palate; she's just very picky, and it's deeply frustrating to me that she keeps eliminating foods so that I'm being forced into a tiny cycle of repeating dishes, just like I was back with the fam. They're different dishes than I used to cook, which is what she answers when I mention that I'd like to cook a forbidden food (most veggies, anything "too rich" for which she has an idiosynchratic and inconsistent definition, eggs, potatoes, cured meats, beef less than Very Well Done...), but... well, let's say I take great refuge in cooking for Boy Roommate, who is only moderately picky, and to whom I actually feel some obligation**. I'm out of work and have limited dish washing spoons, so I can't do as much bake-and-mail as I'd like to either.

The end result is that I have a good way to express love*** but no real way to DO that. Roommates are at best indifferent about food; they don't seem to care when things are ready. Boy Roommate does thank me for cooking, but it's more like "insert thanks, get dinner" than any meaningful emotional transaction. And maybe I should just shut up and be grateful for that? I don't know, sometimes. I just want to curl in a ball and sleep until I can leave, but of course if I sleep I'll never be able to go.

I have a new beau who wants me to come live with him (halfway across the country, which is actually fine by me except for the landlocked-midwest thing he has going; I'm an ocean creature), but I can't start another relationship throwing myself on someone's mercy. I need to do this with my feet under me, but I don't know how to get them there.

Well, that ambled from food-as-hospitality into something else entirely. To get back to the original topic, new beau has very limited food experience and I'm looking forward to broadening his horizons. He seems to be looking forward to it too, which is a refreshing change.

* I moved in with the then-boyfriend and his ex in what was supposed to be a temporary arrangement. I learned after the fact that she had never intended her presence to be temporary. We continue as roommates because I am looking for work that will allow me to move. Things have only gotten more awkward****.

** I think this thread is the appropriate place to go into this, but this subthread is not so much. Suffice it to say that I absolutely do more work around here and arguably cost less money for Boy Roommate than Girl Roommate does.

*** Which I hope I'm doing right, actively considering people's preferences and feedback, but I'm not even certain of that because it hasn't been modeled well in a lot of ways.

**** That's the nicest possible way to put it.

#417 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 08:43 AM:

Another low effort food possibility: I just had dried figs with taleggio cheese, and it was very nice. All it took was microwaving it for 25 seconds to make the cheese slump.

That's a slightly fancy version, but I expect that any reasonable cheese/dried fruit combination would work, like cream cheese and raisins.

#418 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 10:38 AM:

iliad slightly awry @416: Sympathies; that sounds like a very awkward position to be in. Good luck in getting to a better place/position.

#419 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 01:10 PM:

Iliad, that sounds *incredibly* awkward. I hope things improve for you soon and that you can have as many people over as you like.

There's also no reason not to change a subthread here. What fits is what needs to fit.

#420 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 01:40 PM:

iliad, #416: I've only wanted to have people over twice, and neither time was it allowed.

You're correct in thinking that this is badly wrong. Anyone who lives in a space -- adult or child -- should be allowed to have a friend over if they like, barring an actual emergency situation. Your roommates are not treating you like a person. I would hope that by now the boyfriend is an ex-boyfriend, or at the very least will be so as soon as you have your own place.

Also, I'm having a certain amount of "the person doing the cooking should have input over what's made" here. If you can't cook food that you like, they're treating you like a slave.

#421 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 02:54 PM:

Lee @ 420: Anyone who lives in a space -- adult or child -- should be allowed to have a friend over if they like, barring an actual emergency situation.

Adult or child? Seriously?

I thought it was normal that children weren't allowed to have friends over, at least when I was growing up. You just didn't do that, because it wasn't your house. It belonged to the adults.

#422 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 03:34 PM:

iliad, 416: If that's where you sleep, it's your apartment too, especially if you're still on the lease. They have no right to control your life like that.

Have you tried cooking what *you* like, and letting Miss Picky Selfishness fend for herself?

Can your new beau move to your city?

#423 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 04:18 PM:

Mongoose @421: "Adult or child? Seriously?" Yes, seriously.

#424 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 05:40 PM:

Mongoose, #421: Yes, seriously. Parents refusing to let their children have a friend over to visit are a major warning sign of dysfunctionality.* Children who are afraid or ashamed to invite their friends over, equally so. The house belongs to the family -- to ALL the people who live there. Even my parents, as messed-up as they were about so many things, considered it normal for me to visit back and forth with my friends. Where were you allowed to play with your friends?

* Barring a temporary situation like "your sister has the measles". If the situation is "your mother may go on a rampage" or "your father is passed out on the sofa", that's obviously dysfunctional. But "the house doesn't belong to you and you have no rights here" is equally so.

#425 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 06:49 PM:

I was always told off if I accidentally said "my house". I'd get "It's not your house! You didn't pay for it!"

Basically, we played with our friends anywhere else but our house. That was just how it was.

#426 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 07:33 PM:

So you could go to your friends' houses, but you weren't allowed to bring them to yours. Didn't that suggest to you that something was wrong? If everyone else's parents were okay with their kids having friends over, but yours weren't?

#427 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 07:51 PM:

Mongoose @ 425: Did your parents seriously not understand that "my house" is kidspeak for "the place where I live"?

What term did they want you to use instead, when talking to your friends?

#428 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 09:02 PM:

I should clarify -- I was allowed to invite friends over as a kid. Oddly, it was when I became an adult it was an issue. (I rarely did in high school because there wasn't a good spot for us to hang out without constant parental interference in my house, whereas there were such spots in many of my friends' houses -- but that's kind of a different animal.) And back home I could also negotiate to have out of town friends stay over, it was just too much of a hassle to deal with for in-town friends because there were alternatives.

Here... well, first of all, yes, he's been an ex for some time. Part of the arrangement is that I cook for everyone most days, though, since I'm not paying rent on account of lack of work outside the house. As such I'm not entirely comfortable saying she can fend for herself. (I do push at boundaries from time to time, though, especially since she hates cheap food types and I'm working on a budget.) She's said from time to time that generally what I make is good, even when it's things she doesn't usually like, but still refuses any pushback on the actual boundaries.

The biggest problem here is that I live with people who seem pathologically unable to communicate. They share a car; if Boy Roommate needs to use it he will send Girl Roommate a text, such as: "When do you get off work?" which she will answer with a time. He will not mention that he needs the car; she will not mention that she's staying with friends and won't be home until Godawful Late. She also can't manage to put things on the grocery list (there's a board on the fridge, a shared list via a list app, and also I live here and people can say, "Hey [iliad], we need eggs" and then I can add them to the list) and tends to eat the ingredients for dinner(the menu is up on the fridge, on my blog and emailed out every week). As a bonus, she lies about me to their therapist (I've gone a couple times to try and get household issues straightened out). They both seem to idealize Japanese culture and manners to the degree that they refuse to give information plainly. While I'm a Southerner by birth with a broad and deep respect for manners of all sorts, I think their general purpose is to make people more comfortable, not to make people miserable -- and the twenty minute conversational dance necessary to determine where one of them moved something in the kitchen just makes me miserable.

I'm very solution-oriented. For me to be concerned about blame there needs to be a pretty clear wrong: if you hit me out of the blue, for example, there will be blame; if your behavior chafes me and I ask you to change it, however, I'm asking for a favor so we can both get along better, not trying to say you're a bad person because you do the hula in the kitchen while I'm trying to cook. Both of them take any mention of inconvenience, discomfort or wrongdoing as an accusation. (It's a habit I have myself from time to time, but one of the ways I've learned to counteract is by regularly asking for feedback when I'm prepared for it. That means there are times when no one is accusing me but everyone can state their opinion. I've been having more success lately at applying this more broadly, but things are still far from perfect.) Boy Roommate in particular gets very angry with himself, which he expresses by being short with people around him, but which somehow never leads to longer term behavior change. (Actually, Girl Roommate may do this too; I just don't care very much, because she and I were never close.) The other major problem is that they only want me to bring up non-egregious behaviors when they become patterns, but when I comply with that request they deal with them as individual events (e.g. we share the two-car garage, and Girl Roommate tends to park carelessly because she's absentminded. I already park so I can't access the passenger side of my car, so it's extra bonus inconvenient when she parks so I can't get in through the driver's side either. I have mentioned this to her and to Boy Roommate, and they both tend to excuse it with "[Girl Roommate] was really tired last night." Which, hey, if it happened once or twice, sure. When it happens 2-3 times a week, I'm less sympathetic, and JUST LET ME HANG UP A GODDAMN TENNIS BALL FOR HER TO AIM FOR, but apparently that would be impugning her ability to park. Except, well, me crawling my interview-dressed ass in through the boot of my tiny car says she can't park to begin with.

So. That's the relatively impersonal version of my living situation. The new beau could, in theory, move here -- but his family is there, and so is his career, which is in a field that's doing better there than here. Also I don't really like it here (I'm in the LA sprawl) and want to move -- the only question is when I'll be able to. While Beau's Town is not my first (or second, or twenty-third) choice based on location, it's Not Here, and that's good enough to try for a while.

#429 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 09:23 PM:

Iliad @428, I sometimes park too far over in the garage, simply from tiredness or absent-mindedness. I finally put down masking tape on the floor of the garage at the absolute outer edge of where I can park without making it difficult for my husband to get into his car. If my wheels go over the line, I back out and repark, just like in a store parking lot. I don't know if Girl Roommate would be amenable to tape parking lines, however...

#430 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 10:56 PM:

Cassy B. @429: That's the goal of the tennis ball (basically, you hang it on a string from the ceiling so it's touching the windshield right in front of the driver's face when they're parked right) -- I don't think the mechanism makes any difference, just that daring to make the implication that her instincts and behavior aren't perfect already is deeply insulting. Like I apparently didn't say, a lot of this stuff on its own would be completely dealable! It's that I can't really address it that's causing me to tear my hair out. I don't mean to make her a grave insult. I just want to be able to get into my car almost all the time, especially since I'm leaving her more of the garage space so she'll have an easier time parking to begin with. *flails!*

#431 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 11:08 PM:

iliad, I totally understand why you say you don't want to move and throw yourself on your new beau's mercy. However... realistically, how likely is it that you're going to be able to (1) find a job where you are (2) that allows you to save up any money (3) over a reasonably short period of time (say, less than a year) so that you could move? Especially since I'm pretty sure that as soon as you actually had a job, your roommates would be pressuring you to pay rent in addition to doing everything else that you do now.

Against that, how likely is it that you'd be able to find a job in your beau's area within a fairly short time (say, 3 months)? If the odds of this are better than the odds where you are now, I would say it's time to take the leap and damn the consequences. You honestly do not realize how draining it is to live in an unsupportive environment until you've been out of it for a while.

Your roommates are not giving you any opportunity to make yourself more productive. I suspect that your beau would.

#432 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2013, 11:30 PM:

I can't say anything better right now than to second what Lee said above. Make the move. Where in the Midwest does your beau live?

#433 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 12:32 AM:

Bike geekery update: The local bike recycling co-op turned up a vintage frameset in my size for $20. If the alignment is good I will try to rebuild it over the winter with parts off the crashed bike. It’s a lugged steel Bianchi with very few parts left on it. This will be a rebuild not a restoration, but I am curious about which model and vintage it is. I may price getting it properly refinished in future, if it works out well — it’s been roughly treated but must have been a beaut, with cherry-red paint and chromed fork tips and stay ends. Apparently Bianchis with celeste (blue-green) paint are higher-end, but if I get an enjoyable steel vintage bike for $20 I'm still coming out ahead.

Lee @ 387: The dinner party went about as well as could be expected, logistically. It wasn’t as dramatic as I kind of wanted, but my dinner menu certainly got reactions. My mother seemed leery of everything served, yet all of her portions disappeared and she took seconds of some, *even after learning they contained garlic*. Turns out my mother likes quiche. I had had no idea. My aunt enjoyed the non-dairy dishes quite a lot — we abstracted some risotto for her before stirring in the parmesan. My father was curious about what gave the yellow curry its flavour, and made the extra sauteed mushrooms disappear. I gathered from byplay that he really likes mushrooms and never gets to have them. Maybe my mother doesn’t like them?

My mother came right out and said that I must find her cooking very dull. I couldn’t say anything polite in reply and she came to the logical conclusion. She then tried to use tradition as a defense for why people shouldn’t cook as Fiance and I had, and I replied that everything on the table was traditional. My father laughed and my mother changed topic. During one of several rounds of my mother lamenting that my father only likes sweets, he spoke up and said that he liked the savoury dishes tonight! Mother did not respond to that opening. So I offered for him to come visit and be taught to cook them. He recoiled from that idea and the subject dropped.

Talk over the course of the evening would make me worry about my dad’s eating habits except that worry is fruitless. I already know there is virtually nothing I can do beyond what I have. My mother gave the impression that he is committing slow suicide by sugar rush. This is probably a bit exaggerated but fundamentally correct, unless she’s lying or misreporting more than I expect she is. He’s been diabetic about three decades, and always snuck candy, but apparently now he’s mainlining sugar and carbs when hungry unless his wife/jailer is around to make him eat vegetables instead. My mother realizes that something is horribly wrong if my dad will risk his health to drink corn syrup in the wee hours of the morning, but has no idea what to do. (Corn syrup? Really? That stuff tastes terrible. We live in maple syrup country; he should have the taste to mainline that instead.) I don’t know what my father thinks — is he actually doing that? If so, is he doing it on purpose? Does he think it’s not that serious? Something else?

I had hoped that my father would take me up on the cooking lessons. I know my mother’s not likely to change, but I thought he might try. He seems to have given up on life in a lot of ways and it makes me sad and angry, because he won’t let anything I say or do change it.

#434 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 12:55 AM:

My guess is that with your mother's bland cooking, your father may well be eating things that are bad for him if they're also the only things around with any flavor. If your mother is truly worried about your father's eating habits and health, and he's made her aware now that he actually LIKES the savory dishes you and Fiancee made, then your mother should be willing to learn to cook them for your father's sake, and if she is unwilling to eat them herself on a regular basis then she can cook bland food for her own meals.

I hope you can find a way to impress this upon your mother.

Also, I don't know whether your father is insulin-dependent or not, nor what his A1C levels and whatnot are like, but some diabetics actually can manage to include limited amounts of sweets in their diet without too much ill effect. It all depends on how their individual body chemistries respond, and in the case of those who take insulin, how they handle that as well. Not that I'm saying it's necessarily a good idea for a diabetic or anyone else to eat a lot of sweets, but many of them can handle some.

#435 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 08:30 AM:

Iliad @430, I was thinking the tape line "parking line" on the garage floor would be less "in your face" (literally) than a tennis ball. It's such a standard thing, and therefore non-threatening, thing; almost everywhere one parks there are lines on the pavement. Also, it gives the illusion of equality ("this will also make sure I don't park too far over on your side).

However, I completely understand if it's a non-starter. You have to choose your battles.

#436 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 09:37 AM:

Lee @ 426, SummerStorms @ 427: well, it was part of a larger concept, which was that being a child was really only tolerated because it wasn't something you could help. The idea seemed to be that you should grow up as fast as possible, ideally without causing any inconvenience or embarrassment to real people. And you would be reminded at every turn that you weren't quite a real person, or at any rate weren't entitled to any of the consideration that you were expected to give to others.

It took a long time to work through that, especially since nobody ever troubled to tell me when I qualified for reality. I suspect it wasn't until a couple of years back, when one of my parents tried to forbid me to do something, and I replied, "Er. I'm in my late forties. You don't actually have authority to do that."

Oddly enough, I've got on much better with them since...

#437 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 12:34 PM:

Mongoose @ 436: Okay, I can relate to some of that myself.

My father, when irritated with me, was fond of admonishing me thusly: "I am an adult. You are a child. You have no rights except for the ones I give you." Alternatively, sometimes it was, "You are a junior member of this family, so it doesn't matter what you think." He continued this all through my teens and into my twenties, including trying to spank me when I was about twenty-seven or so and was once again living with my parents in part due to my mother's cancer. Mom, meanwhile, was convinced that she could keep me a teenager for as long as she wasn't prepared to have an adult child.

Dad tried the spanking thing again when I was thirty -- after my mother died and I was still there because, well, Dad had lost his full-time job and was working intermittently as an engineering consultant, and I was helping to pay the bills. Suffice it to say that in the course of my carrying out perfectly normal adult duties, Dad got angry and decided he was going to turn me over his knee. Maybe that's okay with a three-year-old or even a thirteen-year-old, but when you do it to a thirty-year-old, it's assault. He wouldn't back off, and turned it into a full frontal attack. I wound up cornered in an upstairs bedroom, behind a locked door. I had a phone, and called the police. Dad went to jail, and I moved out for the final time.

We did make our peace by the time his health failed enough for him to need care, and I was his caregiver for several years. I am glad we reached equilibrium, but it was a difficult road.

#438 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 12:41 PM:

Mongoose, I think you have still not quite understood what we're asking -- or else we have not understood something that's much worse than we think it is. Did all of your friends' parents have that attitude about their children, or was it just yours? Because one of the things that made me aware that My Parents Were Weird was observing that their behavior was not in fact how other parents acted.

If you could go to your friends' houses (and if they could say "my house" without being scolded) but not the reverse, then that was a clear sign that something wasn't right with your parents. If, OTOH, all of your friends' parents treated their children the same way, then yes, it would have seemed normal to you, but that only means that the pathology was cultural rather than individual.

#439 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 01:25 PM:

SummerStorms @434: My dad measures his own insulin before meals, and can evidently tolerate more sugar than he's supposed to have as a diabetic, given that he's been doing so successfully for at least 30 years. I agree with you about my father eating too many sweets because they're tasty. That's precisely what worries me most about it. My dad has always been an enthusiast/snob about his chocolate and candy. He should be sneaking out to Stubbe's and mail-ordering Valhrona in brown paper parcels. Corn syrup should be beneath him. It's another piece in the jigsaw that depicts him giving up on life.

Thank you for the confirmation that if my mother knows what he likes, and is worried about his diet, she should make more effort to come to a compromise about menus. My mother has known a long time that he likes more exciting food than she cooks, but has never been willing to do much about it. Recently she has allowed them to start eating out moderately often, which is a major concession. She is genuinely worried about his nutrition and has worked hard for decades to feed him a balanced diet via many boiled vegetables. She needs to make the leap of seeing "strange" food as an efficient nutrient delivery system. I'm not sure she can. Right now, I think she mostly sees it as a scary thing involving a lot of extra work. I wish I could enlist his GP or nutrition specialist to help in this.

I don't think things are going to improve until someone gives in on a major point, whether it's my mother changing cooking styles, or my dad learning to cook. I'm not sure what it would take to make that happen. Maybe a heart attack or repeated collapses? I did at least try inviting him to learn to cook at my place...

#440 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 01:32 PM:

Lee @ 438: I think it was just my parents. When I complained that other children were allowed various things that I wasn't, I was invariably told that they were "spoilt". This puzzled me, because I had been given to understand that being "spoilt" caused children to behave badly. While other children weren't actually scared of behaving badly (something I was never able to understand), as far as I could see they didn't behave significantly worse than one would expect. I mean, they were mainly bullies, but that wasn't counted as bad behaviour. (It would have been if I'd done it, but that was another matter.)

To cut a long story short, my childhood basically didn't make a lot of sense. This wasn't an easy thing to deal with, because I was a terrifyingly logical child, and I always had trouble coping when logic broke down.

#441 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 02:00 PM:

Mongoose @399: Controlling, manipulative people don't necessarily need anything to hook onto other than their victim's own good nature

True enough; I've told you about the joker who managed to persuade me not to kick him out for a good five months before he finally pushed me completely over threshhold. (The takeaway from which, for me, I decided that I'm Too Generous. But, you know, as gravestone epitaphs go, that's one I can, er, live with.)

But what struck me about the invisible one's reports is how completely crappy ex seemed to have her(?) conditioned. That speaks to an older, much more deeply entrenched, reflexes.

the invisible one @400: I've mentioned before my mother's long-standing habit of telling me I'm overreacting if something bothers me that doesn't bother her.

So, basically, crappy ex just spotted your prior conditioning and expanded on it?

also I was wrong if we ever disagreed.

My family installed this one in me, too. Fortunately, somewhere along the line, I managed to crawl out from under that one, but it took some considerable doing.

Chickadee @407: I couldn't do anything by myself that she tended to interfere with because I'd never been allowed to.

I believe the technical term for that is "learned helplessness."

how have other people dealt with their hospitality issues

Anymore, if so moved, I'm confident that I could host a multi-course dinner party. Including the escape clause that if I burnt the turkey, we'd be calling out for pizza. I'm equally confident that it would entail lots of sturm and drang on my part, which is the main reason I don't. That, and not having a proper venue. And realizing I'm not comfortable in groups of more than three people. But I could do it if sufficiently motivated.

If it was a skill I didn't have but was motivated to learn, I'd start out by having one (1) friend over for dinner, with the explicit caveat that I might very well blow it all over the wall, in which case we'd be calling out for pizza. Then work my way up from there.

SummerStorms @409: I was forbidden to actually get my license

Por qua? Was it anything beyond simply wanting to control you by hamstringing you?

iliad @428: Purchase a cinder block. Paint it Bright! Orange! Keep it in your trunk (boot). When you park in the garage, place the cinderblock, oriented perpendicular to the length of your car, next to the back wheel.

If you get any lip about it, profess innocence: "Oh? My cinderblock is in your way? Sorry, I must have set it there and then forgot about it...."

SummerStorms @432: I can't say anything better right now than to second what Lee said above. Make the move.

Nnnnnnggggg.... I have to say, I'm with iliad on this one. A new relationship is fraught, under the best of circumstances. Loading onto that "I'm coming to live with you" PLUS "I'm dependent on you until I find a job"—BTDT, and even then not quite as cut-and-dried—I think that's really asking for trouble. More accurately; I've been through a couple of variants of that, and it's not a bet I would take again, not if I had any hope of making a real go of it with new beau.

If new beau can provide contacts to help in the job search, and/or help find cheap digs to rent for a while, that would make tremendous sense.

Mongoose @436: "Er. I'm in my late forties. You don't actually have authority to do that."

What was their reaction? (Yes, my interest is entirely unseemly. Why do you ask?)

#442 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 02:19 PM:

Jacque @ 441: I love the cinder block idea!

What was their reaction? Well, I think it can be best described as quite a lot of revving in neutral. Nothing has been said about that incident since, but the parent involved now makes a sort of joke of pretending to order the other parent around when I'm listening. The other parent, of course, takes no notice.

#443 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 02:56 PM:

Re: hosting and hospitality issue.

This wasn't actually an issue for me growing up, and I'm pretty confident when it comes to throwing a party for one to a hundred should the need arise. However, for those who aren't so confident and who want the ability to practice, may I suggest a variant on Experimental Dinner Nights.

Basically, I pick a brand-new-to-me recipe and tell a group of friends (for this to work, you need at least 5 other people attending the dinner) that I'm hosting an Experimental Dinner Night. Everyone is asked to bring something brand-new-to-them that they've never tried to cook before with the explicit permission for it to be terrible. What's great about this for people uncertain about their hosting skills is that it comes with the freedom to fail. It's new! Everyone knows it's new, so maybe it won't work, and that's okay. If you have enough people, there will be sufficient successful food for everyone to eat, and if it's a small crowd, then you can afford to order pizza to feed everyone when you burn the main course/discover that you hate it. Food shows up with your guests, so you don't have to worry about getting everything finished in time, and it's generally been a huge success for our crowd. Dishes have ranged from the astonishingly complicated to the exceedingly basic, and no one judges anyone. The few failures have been received well and kindly, and nothing has been inedible.

Now, this isn't a Miss Manner's approved method of hosting a dinner party, but it's great practice for easing oneself into that role. (I disagree with Miss Manner's on this particular issue; throwing a pot-luck party is totally okay.) It has been a lot of fun. If you're willing to risk it, I highly recommend it. The permission to fail takes a lot of my stress away over worrying that everything will be perfect and generally gives a more casual atmosphere to the gathering. It's also a fairly deliberate break from Traditional Party Hostings which may help with stress.

It's also okay to not want to have lots of people over. Some people don't like large crowds of people invading their space. Some people don't have the spoons to make their space available to others, and that's okay too.

#444 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 03:08 PM:

Mongoose, #440: I was also an extremely logical child, but it seems to have expressed in me somewhat differently. Yes, my parents told me over and over again that Everyone Does This and it was perfectly normal and if I didn't like it that meant there was something wrong with me -- but in the presence of external, real-world evidence that Not Everyone Does This, my conclusion was that there was something wrong with them, and furthermore that they were not reliable narrators in the area of "family behavior". (Not that I had the actual term "unreliable narrator" to use back then, but I certainly had the concept.)

BTW, I asked my partner about this, since his parents had their own set of issues and came from a completely different culture than mine did. He said that of course it was okay for him to have someone over (on the rare occasions that the opportunity presented itself -- he didn't have many friends as a child), and he was never scolded for saying "my house," and in fact was appalled by the very concept. So I repeat, that's some seriously fucked-up shit there. You can't change it now, but you can at least recognize that what they did to you was WRONG WRONG WRONG.

#445 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 03:44 PM:

Lee @ 444: yes, a lot of what happened when I was a child was WRONG WRONG WRONG. It was very well-intentioned WRONG, but that didn't stop it being WRONG.

I do wonder if there was a rule book somewhere that my parents were trying to follow in an effort to get everything right. If there was, I never found it, but that meant nothing; it could have been hidden, along with that book which mysteriously disappeared after I'd asked if I could read it and been told no. (Looking back, I suspect the said book was mildly salacious, and I would either not have understood it or not have enjoyed it if I had been allowed to read it. I'm asexual. Salacious is kind of lost on me.)

But, whether or not there was an actual rule book, I do know that my parents were very anxious about doing the right thing, especially since I was their first child. This manifested itself in all kinds of restrictions aimed at ensuring that I behaved in as adult as possible a way, as soon as possible. (My sisters got off rather more lightly, since they were younger, but I do recall my mother once boasting to a friend about how well-behaved they were at the age of two or three. Our house had a drive which gave directly onto the footpath adjoining the road; there was no gate. She boasted about how they never went out into the street when they played on the drive. It was as though there was an invisible fence at the end. And I, overhearing, thought "well, duh, of course they daren't leave the drive, they've been told to stay there, and they know if they disobey an instruction they'll get smacked... but I don't suppose you want to admit to your friend that you smack your children." Even at that age, I thought smacking children was something adults ought to be embarrassed about. My views on that subject have not changed. Obviously everyone wants well-behaved children, but getting them to the point where they're afraid to misbehave is, in my opinion, too high a price.

Oh, and there was bedtime. The rule book, or whatever they had, said that children should be put to bed at a certain time according to their age, and not according to how much sleep they naturally needed. Now I've had a more or less adult sleeping pattern since I was quite young. This meant that I would be made to go to bed at, say, eight, and then not fall asleep until ten or half past. I had to stay in bed, and I wasn't allowed to do anything that required a light, such as reading. My parents both knew perfectly well that I wouldn't fall asleep for at least two hours, and that I would still have no difficulty in getting up at the appropriate time in the morning; in fact, Dad would always look in on me and say goodnight again when he went to turn on the electric blanket at about a quarter past ten. I regularly protested about this treatment, and the only response I ever got was that children should go to bed at such a time. It wasn't even as if I was in their way; I took great care not to be a nuisance, staying in my own room as much as possible so I wouldn't be under anyone's feet.

That was how I became so good at both writing and mental arithmetic. In order to keep myself sane during these lengthy periods of enforced inactivity, I would create ongoing stories in my head or do mental arithmetic. One night I calculated the approximate length of the groove on a 33 rpm gramophone record in my head. I told Dad when he came through to put the electric blanket on.

If there ever was an actual rule book, and I ever find the damned thing, I'm going to burn it ceremonially.

#446 ::: Mongoose is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 03:46 PM:

...for rather long, rather upset post. I hope I haven't upset the gnomes in turn.

Pitta bread, Emmental cheese and miso?

#447 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 04:23 PM:

#441, Jacque:

So, basically, crappy ex just spotted your prior conditioning and expanded on it?


You know, in the time that I've been here, reading others' experiences and unpacking my own, one of many things I've learned is that the question of why people stay in an abusive relationship has nothing to do with weakness, or lack of intelligence, or any number of victim-blamey explanations. It's because they've been taught that that's how relationships *are*. (Movie "romance" mostly makes me twitchy, and now I know why. It's not outright abusive, but some of the "romantic" ideals are just ugh.)

Even my mom, who taught me that if something upset me I was just overreacting, wondered why I didn't dump crappy ex when he was treating me poorly and making me upset, even though she said she could tell I was not happy in that relationship and I was smarter than that. (She told me this some time after crappy ex was gone.) She doesn't seem to have made the connection between "you're overreacting" which she still tells me, and "you're overreacting/hormonal/etc" that crappy ex would tell me. Although, I'm not sure he ever did that in front of her, in those words. But, I was not standing up to things that made me upset, just like she taught me, and she wondered why not.

also I was wrong if we ever disagreed.

My family installed this one in me, too. Fortunately, somewhere along the line, I managed to crawl out from under that one, but it took some considerable doing.

I may have had the beginnings of this installed when I was a kid too. My dad is a great guy and knows a lot of stuff and when I ask him for advice he's amazing about offering something useful -- but he also offers unwanted advice (to *everybody*, not just me, and not just family) and sometimes I felt like no matter what I was doing he had a better way to do it. (He also didn't push, just made his suggestion and let me do it my way if that's what I wanted, but he still always seemed to have a "better" way. Looking back, that seems like a great way to kill any pride at having figured out how to do something on my own. I'm willing to try out new things but only in two situations -- if I have instruction, or if nobody is watching.) Mom and I have started working on him to think before offering unsolicited advice, especially about whether it will work for the person he's offering it to or will only work for him. (As a tall white male, he's never had anybody roll their eyes, mutter "bitch", and ignore him, for example.) Preliminary results are promising, even if he does sometimes need to be reminded.

It's a tough one to break. I tend to fold easily at work too, although if it's a technical question and I'm sure of my answer I'm more likely to stand my ground, at least until somebody senior to me in my field disagrees.

#448 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 04:50 PM:

Jacque @ 441: In regard to my not being permitted to get my license, I think it was a combination of things. A desire to control me was certainly one of them. There may have also been a desire to avoid having their car insurance rates rise as is common when one's teenager begins to drive, despite the fact that I would surely have qualified for any "good student" discount that was available as I was an honor student. There was also tradition, as my father had been subjected to the same restriction by his father, although as both my mother and I pointed out, it was hardly fair to place me under the same expectation given that Dad had grown up in town and was able to easily get to work on foot, his bicycle or via streetcar from the age of fourteen whereas we lived out in the countryside where I had no such option.

Additionally, there was an element of my being used as a pawn. This was fairly routine in my family; my parents had issues with each other and as their only child I was frequently caught in the middle. Dad had given up his sports car when I was born, and he really wanted one again. He basically told me that if he could find a little two-seater MG or something similar and come up with the money to buy it for me, and could manage to talk my mother into letting him do so, he would allow me to get my license and make the MG "my" car provided I was willing to let him drive it anytime he wanted. I agreed, but he never managed to find his dream sportster, so I languished in automotive Purgatory in case one did turn up and I could be put to use as the lever to acquiring it.

Well, we are talking about dysfunctional families here.

In regard to iliad's potentially moving to be with New Beau: I realize it isn't ideal, but it appears far less Not Ideal than the current situation. Long-distance relationships carry their own special hazards and difficulties, one of which is simply the distance involved. It doesn't appear that living in Iliad's present circumstances is doing much good, nor that it will allow easily for the finding and holding of a job and the saving of money to relocate (as Boy and Girl Roommates are likely to begin asking for rent as soon as there is a steady paycheck in Iliad's possession). Sometimes it's worth the risk to just uproot and move to where one is wanted, and this might be one of those times. I would imagine that should Iliad find a job in the new city and not wish to remain living with Beau, it would be easier to make more suitable arrangements starting from that platform than from the current one. Besides which, the situation as it exists at present strongly resembles a sort of slavery to my mind, which causes me to recoil.

#449 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 05:22 PM:

On food and family dysfunction:

My partner's parents are exhibiting a lot of issues surrounding food and control and caretaking.

My partner's dad (call him Fred) was extremely obese for many years and had Type II diabetes. He went on and off various fad diets to try and lose weight, but never had much success. He eventually had bariatric surgery, the kind that shrinks your stomach and means you can no longer eat large portions. That succeeded --- he lost the weight and kept it off.

His blood sugar is now under control. However, a couple of years after losing weight, his kidneys failed. He's now on dialysis and on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.

Fred is supposed to be on a renal diet, but isn't especially strict about following it. From talking to him, this is because the nutritionist on staff at the dialysis center either can't or won't explain why he's not supposed to eat certain things, so he doesn't really trust or believe her diet instructions. My analysis is that he feels like this is another externally-imposed bunch of diet rules, like the fad diets he used to go on and off. Moreover, I also think he feels insulted and condescended to, like the nutritionist is treating him like he's not capable of understanding the "why" --- which leads to a sense of "Screw you, you don't get to order me around like I'm stupid."

My partner's mother (call her Martha) exhibits this weird bifurcation in her behavior about Fred's diet. She'll buy him things he likes but isn't supposed to have, I guess because she feels sorry for him, but she'll then scold him and complain to us when he eats "too much of them." She's also not willing to change anything about the way she eats to make it easier for Fred --- she still buys cases of cola because she only likes to drink cola, for example, even though cola is really not kidney-friendly. I guess she just expects Fred to "resist temptation" and "use willpower."

This frustrates me because I know changing the dietary habits of a lifetime isn't something you just do with "willpower." Fred needs a lot more support, both from his nutritionist and from Martha, if he's going to succeed in changing the way he eats. But Martha only seems interested in cataloguing his failures.

Most recently, Martha was supposed to call the transplant social worker in order to confirm that she was still willing and able to be Fred's primary caregiver in the event that he got a transplant. If she didn't call, Fred would be made inactive on the list, which would mean he couldn't get a transplant if one came available. She dragged her heels for a week, and finally when Fred asked her for the fifth time to call, she exploded and told him that she thought he would just "waste" a donor kidney by eating badly. Actually, what she said was "waste that too" -- I'm not clear on what else she thinks he's "wasted". (Fred eventually convinced her to call and discuss her concerns with the social worker.)

Much like Moonlit Night's mother, Martha only cooks very bland food, except for desserts. Fred can cook (and likes to cook), and likes more flavorful food, but we're still talking about things like fried chicken with garlic and spices in the coating or beef-and-cheese lasagna, not vegetable curry or quiche. (Again, we're talking dietary habits of a lifetime here.) Martha complains about anything Fred makes that isn't something she would make, which tends to discourage him from cooking.

Honestly, I can't think of the last time Martha said anything about Fred, or to Fred, in my hearing that wasn't pure criticism in tones of disgust. It really bothers me when I go and visit them.

I suspect that Martha is burned out on caregiving --- Fred's had various illnesses and disabilities for a very long time, has been unable to work for years, and has been unable to drive for the past few years (in a car-centric suburb where there's little to no public transportation). She's held a full-time job, done almost all of the housework, yardwork, and home maintenance, and done all the errand-running, for a long time. I'd be exhausted and burned out too.

But Martha hates to look weak so very much that she won't ask for help. We live nearby and would be happy to pick up groceries, take the dog to the vet, rake the yard, etc. --- but we don't know what Martha needs us to do unless she tells us. We've said "Please tell us what we can do that would help you," but she refuses to ask us for anything. The only way she'll accept help is if we jump in, do it, and present her with a fait accompli. And when we can figure out what's needed, we do so --- for example, we've started driving Fred to his most-frequent regular medical appointment, once we figured out that it existed.

But for most of the household work, it would be a boundary violation for one of us to just show up and do it without asking first. But if we ask "Is it okay if I come and help do some cleaning," the answer will always be no. Not because she wouldn't actually like some help doing the cleaning, but because she doesn't want to be seen as needing help.

I'd be happy to just let it go --- her problem, you can't make people accept help, etc. --- except that Fred is catching the fallout from Martha being overworked and burned out. He walks on eggshells around her, to avoid being scolded. In a conversation about electric kettles recently, he said to me "I don't know how much time it takes for our electric kettle to boil when it's full, because Martha yells at me if I boil the full kettle, because she thinks it wastes energy." That's just an example of the myriad little things Martha scolds him for doing "wrong," so he tries to be careful not to set her off.

Anyway, so I think food is just an arena to play out a bunch of underlying issues of resentment, frustration, control, rebellion against authority, etc. for both Fred and Martha.

Actually, writing this out, I realize: I truly think Martha has become verbally/emotionally abusive to Fred. I was going to sigh and say that I didn't have any idea what to do to help the situation --- but when I frame it as abuse, I do have an idea what to do. That is, to gently point out to Fred that the way Martha is treating him is not really normal or okay, and not something he should be expected to just deal with --- and to offer him validation and support as I can.

And maybe make offers of household help to Fred instead of to Martha. Fred might actually accept them, and Martha won't scold him for letting us pitch in around the house. (I don't think she will, anyway.)

As for supporting Fred with his diet --- I did suggest to him that he might call the transplant office and ask them if they could refer him to a good nutritionist who specializes in renal diets, and make a proper nutritionist appointment where he could ask all the questions he wanted --- and mention that he should expect a good nutritionist to be willing to explain things to him, rather than just make commandments.

#450 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 05:54 PM:

SummerStorms, #448: WRT iliad, yes, this exactly. Neither situation is ideal, but IMO the current one is less likely to produce a good outcome over the long run. I absolutely agree that the roommates are likely to start demanding rent as soon as iliad has money coming in (and quite possibly "arrears" against the time when no rent was being paid as well) -- and I strongly suspect that they will also continue to demand that iliad keep up hir current duties at the same time (the "second shift" problem, since iliad is basically fulfilling the role of the Unpaid Maid at the moment).

Moving to a place where you don't know you have a job is stressful in a different way, but having a home base from which to look for one (and, presumably, one supportive roommate instead of two abusive ones) seems far more likely to me to end well than staying in a situation that you already know is bad and just hoping that you can do something to make it better.

And iliad, now I feel as though we're talking around you as if you weren't there, which is disrespectful. What do you think about what SummerStorms and I are saying?

Anon4Now, #449: Yeah, that's an abusive pattern all right, and you're probably correct about the cause. I'm glad that thinking of it that way has given you some ideas about what you can do to help, and I hope they work out.

#451 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 07:49 PM:

The INvisible ONe # 447 - re. people taught that's how relationships are - I was thinking earlier today, I can't remember why, that all these books people read or films we see or TV series which hardly ever include people in a functioning relationship. Almost everyone seems to be divorced, single, in therapy or whatever. I wonder how much of an effect that has as it accumulates over the years.

#452 ::: silence ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 11:17 PM:

guthrie I think most fiction characters start of single and have the 'achievement' of a relationship be the ending of the story. Showing an ongoing relationship tends to negate the illusion that once 'happy ever after' is found it solves everything / requires no more work to continue.

#453 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 02:05 AM:

iliad @428, please forgive me if you've tried this, but I wonder if you could park in such a way that guarantees you plentiful access to the driver's side of your car?

If you're using a standard two car garage, and parking side by side, could you back into the parking space, and leave yourself plenty of room to get in and out? Say you're using the right-hand parking spot. If you back the car into the garage, you'll be putting the driver's side up against the wall, and you'll control how much space there is.

Just wanted to offer it as a possibility. I spent my day today playing chauffeur while my husband ran some errands, so I spent a lot of time rearranging within parking spots so the sun wouldn't be in my eyes!

#454 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 04:35 AM:

The mentions of parents who'd say things like "As long as I'm paying for the house, you're following my rules"* reminds me of a theory (sorry, no cite) that one of the things children need is the feeling that they're welcome-- a place has been made for them.

*My parents never said anything like that to me. It doesn't just seem cruel, it seems crass. I'll see if I can get that unpacked.

#455 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 07:48 AM:

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, but I've just been finding it maddingly hard to string my thoughts together into words...

iliad slightly awry @416: I've only wanted to have people over twice, and neither time was it allowed.

I can remember when I was a child I sometimes had classmates over in our house, but my mam was never keen because in her view they only wanted to play with my toys and weren't actually interested in me. That may have been true to some extent (my Asperger's did mean I had a lot of trouble mixing, and I never really felt lonely until my mid-twenties) but it may also been about her distrust of other people living in the area (as I referenced back at S&S603 with her "80% raff, 10% snobs" comment). Maybe she just felt it was better that I spend my time inside, especially as she had the insight to realize that I would have to get excellent academic qualifications to compensate for my impaired people skills. (She said bad things about any local parent she knew who bought their child a bike for Xmas, insinuating that they "only want to get them out of the way because they don't want to spend any time with them -- people like that shouldn't have children!")

Incidentally I think I've found out how my grandparents were able to leave me so much money -- my grandfather was receiving not just his basic miner's pension but also an additional income he received as compensation after being seriously injured in a rockfall in 1977 (his injuries also forced him into early retirement three years later -- the same year I was born). He could alternatively have received the compensation in the form of a cash lump sum, but he clearly made the correct choice by choosing the income instead as he lived to 89.

Incidentally, my mam heard more stuff to lower her opinion of her brother even more, back on the 19th when she took my sister into town on the bus. She heard (from other bus passengers) that he'd been lying about the origin of his disability, claiming that that it was from a work accident like my grandfather. In fact it was the result of a motorcycle accident during a non-work-related journey. My mam always strictly forbade me from buying a motorcycle for this reason (not that it matters as I never desired one anyway, but she's nervous enough about me going out in a car). She still can't understand how he managed to buy a house with no job (admittedly it was a prefabricated bungalow, of the type built just after WWII and only then considered to be temporary) -- now she suspects that he was able to exploit his wife's epilepsy to make money via no-win no-fee lawyers.

She also told me about how my cousin's abusive upbringing -- he was beaten just for getting his clothes dirty, he hardly got any presents for Xmas or birthdays (when he went to sixth-form college, the college had to lend him a laptop as he was the only student without a computer of his own) and when they lived in Peterlee (he was about 16 then) he wasn't even allowed to walk on his own to the town centre! The subtext being "no wonder he wanted to leave home!" (But at least his parents didn't stop him leaving, because he didn't have a mother suffering the caregiver's equivalent of thousand yard stare...)

#456 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 08:08 AM:

Codemonkey @455, unpacking your last paragraph, it appears that your mam is doubling down on the guilt thing. "The only reason an adult child might wish to leave home is because his parents are abusive, and I never beat you..."

She's wrong, of course. Adult children leave home routinely. It's very, very rare in my culture (Midwestern US, suburban, moderately-affluent but not rich) for adult children NOT to leave home, unless that adult child is the caretaker for an invalid parent.

For what it's worth.

#457 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 09:22 AM:

I forgot to bring up another issue that is coming up -- Christmas of course.

My mam told me she now hates Christmas, mainly because she can't stop thinking about what kind of presents my sister would been getting had she not been autistic -- stuff like mobile phones, clothes for nights out or even a car. She currently hasn't got a clue what to buy for her (almost anything that my sister would be able to use, she already has one now), and is barely better off when it comes to deciding what she should buy for me.

The only thing I could think of that I'd like would be a tablet computer, but she still feels a bit peeved about how I have only occasionally used my main Christmas present from last year (a Nintendo 3DS). She accused me of being greedy and said that at least anything she buys my sister gets well-used!

On a less unhappy note, what would people suggest re tablet computers? My sister has an iPad but I now have an Android smartphone, so there are arguments for going either way...

#458 ::: Mongoose is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 09:42 AM:

Nancy @ 454: I've been thinking about that this morning.

There's no doubt that it would have greatly benefited me if I had felt welcome; if I had felt that I belonged there and was allowed to grow up at my own speed, rather than being a permanent potential nuisance/embarrassment. Nonetheless, I'd still hesitate to call that a need. After all, I did survive without it, and eventually turn into a reasonably well-adjusted human being, barring depression and anxiety. (I no longer suffer from depression at all. The anxiety is another matter.)

My experience did have one positive effect - not that that in any way justifies it. It has made me extremely sensitive and compassionate to anyone else who doesn't feel welcome. Most of the time I am gentle, easy-going and fairly quiet, but if I see anyone being unjustly excluded or put down, I will stand up for them, and I can be quite fierce about that if I have to. Part of it, I'm sure, is that I always wanted someone who would do that for me.

This did occasionally happen. I am for ever grateful to my Latin teacher for stepping up to the plate and confronting my mother about my rapidly deteriorating eyesight. I had been complaining about being unable to make out distant objects, and in particular being unable to read the digital clock outside the shoe factory on the way into town. My mother decided that I must be imagining things, on the grounds that there was "no short sight in the family" (apparently her two brothers didn't count). Thankfully, my Latin teacher thought I should be able to see the blackboard without being obliged to sit right at the front of the class, and threatened to take me to the optician if my mother didn't. My mother consequently did, and I came out with a new pair of glasses, to her enormous surprise.

I felt pretty insulted, to be honest. I felt I ought to know whether or not I could see something better than my mother could. But you weren't supposed to say things like that.

#460 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 10:59 AM:

#455, Codemonkey:

(She said bad things about any local parent she knew who bought their child a bike for Xmas, insinuating that they "only want to get them out of the way because they don't want to spend any time with them -- people like that shouldn't have children!")

I don't know exactly how your mam meant it, but the way I read and unpacked that statement is that she is trying to say that children should not have any kind of independence, and that a parent encouraging age-appropriate independence is neglectful.

When children are small, the parents should be around when the little ones are riding their bikes, and they're supervised and close to home as they learn not only balance and control, but later, the rules of the road. As the children get older, they *should* have more freedom to come and go and develop independence and confidence. It's not a matter of the parents wanting to get the kids out of the way; a bike is the only independent transportation a child too young to have a drivers license can have, unless the area has a good public transit system -- and public transit costs money each time, riding a bike doesn't.

(Or at least, that's how it should work. There are parents who can't let go and let their kids gain some independence, and there are parents who really don't want to spend any time with their kids. But: buying a bike isn't a sure sign of the latter.)

#461 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 12:02 PM:

the invisible one @397 I think the extinction burst definitely works both ways. Seconding Tom Whitmore @402 that it's an idea worth highlighting. I've experienced my jerkbrain getting screechier like you describe. Also, I swear depression and anxiety have their own sorts of extinction bursts (or something like), where if I have a good day, then it's often followed by a backlash.

Chickadee @407 There is so much that I never learned in a timely fashion (food-related and otherwise), because it was all done for me, with bonus anxiety heaped onto the idea of trying to do it myself. I managed somehow to come out with a love of cooking (and sometimes entertaining) intact, but even so, tears and panic can be a side effect. Recent example: making meatloaf for the first time ever. It was often on the menu (and a favorite dish), but I never learned to make it because OMG RAW MEAT YOU COULD DIE!! It only recently occurred to me that This Is A Thing I Could Do Now, but I was practically in tears the whole time--not because anything went badly, but just from fighting against the pre-programmed anxiety. But I won. And it was a tasty meatloaf. :)

Mongoose @408 "No, you can't do that. You're not old enough."
Arg. This.

#462 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 12:19 PM:

the invisible one @400: One thing I've been dealing with recently is realizing that part of my aversion to conflict is a conviction that if I disagree, I must be wrong. I'm realizing that a lot of this came from Mom. She's very authority-driven - if an authority says it's true, it must be (whether that authority is a newscaster or a friend who sent on one of those horrible forwards about heart attacks or drinking water). For most of my life, she was the authority, so she must be right.

One thing I think I've successfully dealt with :) is her training that if I'm bothered by something that doesn't bother her, I'm overreacting. But I understand the tapes there - just somehow they didn't get as deeply embedded in me. I think part of that is her typical overreaction to most things, so me reacting more than her didn't happen so often. :P

Jacque @441: Learned helplessness, exactly. But the way I first learned the term blamed the helpless person for not, somehow, just unlearning the helplessness and "just doing it." (that word again!) It's damned hard to unlearn helplessness, believe me. Especially when it comes with a side order of perceived incompetence. (why else would she have taken things out of my hands constantly to do them for me, often with a sigh of impatience for my clumsiness/slowness?)

eep @461: My first experience making pie dough was kinda like that. Except Mom was around and just flat out refused to help. Which was shocking, given her normal behaviour pattern...

I get the impression that her learning pie dough was a bit traumatic. Her mom had five daughters, in a farming culture where a woman's worth was measured by her cooking ability, and only bothered to teach two of them how to cook. Mom was the youngest, and learned pie dough when she was in high school, after they'd moved into town and left the farm to my second-oldest uncle (though she was still not taught how to cook...). A phrase that came up *very* emphatically during my dating/engagement: "[Spouse] will want pie. And you'd *better* be able to make it for him!" (to which modern me says "WTF?!?")

#463 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 12:22 PM:

An addendum to the last: Telling someone they're wrong is judging them and telling them they're a horrible, worthless person.

Yes, both parents and both sides of my extended family were highly judgemental, why do you ask?

So, during a conflict, either I tell someone else they're a horrible, worthless person (i.e. wrong), or I believe that I am. I always default to me being that, though I'm catching myself more often. It's only the last year or so that I've gotten rid of my default internal response to feeling rotten - to call myself a freak...

#464 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 12:23 PM:

(in case it's not clear, yes I know that the wrong = worthless is complete garbage, but those are my tapes)

#465 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 01:07 PM:

Codemonkey @457 - regarding Christmas presents. I have found that at a certain point in life, assuming that you have reasonable financial resources, there really isn't anything that most adults really need or want as a Christmas present. If there are things they want in the normal course of life, they will buy them at the appropriate time rather than waiting to receive it as a gift. This of course makes the question of what then to get them for Christmas rather challenging.

I had to deal with this for a good many years because my mother had a pretty fixed idea of how much money she wanted to spend on Christmas gifts for her children (3 of us), and she NEEDED to spend equal amounts on each of us. Even when I was 35. So we had to be able to offer suggestions of gifts of varying dollar values so she could make her math work out right. It could be very frustrating.

So.... a tablet computer is a fine gift, if that's what you really want. But an alternate approach is to start thinking of gifts as small, light, fun, (optionally consumable) treats and little luxuries. Or an upgrade to a utility item that you already own. Such as: fancy chocolate, cashmere gloves, a fun-colored case for your phone, a fancy windshield ice scraper with extra gizmos, fuzzy socks in fun colors, high-end bath products, etc. Books also always worked for presents for me. Anyway, the point is that presents don't have to be grand, they just have to be something enjoyable.

#466 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 01:24 PM:

Mongoose, #445: Well-intentioned WRONG is the worst kind to have to deal with, because it leads to so much cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, you can't avoid being angry because you were ill-treated; on the other, there's so much pressure not to be angry, because they love you and they meant well and FAMILY! (And here we get back to the theme of this chapter of the DFD conversation.)

guthrie/silence: I've been ranting for years that almost all romance plots, be they book or movie (and ESPECIALLY the comedic ones) put a lot of time and effort into grooming young women to view skanky and abusive behavior as "romantic and thrilling". Then we wonder why it's so hard for many women to recognize real-life abuse when it's happening to them.

James Marsters won my respect some years ago by telling an entire roomful of Buffy fans at a con how appalling he found it that anyone could consider Spike a desirable romantic partner. He actually came flat out and said, "If a man is mean to other people, eventually he'll be mean to you." We need more men like him.

Nancy, #454: My parents made the "as long as you're living under our roof, you'll abide by our rules" argument -- but only once I was out of college, and specifically in the area of sexual activity. As such, I found it logical and reasonable, and if I wanted to canoodle with somebody, we found another place to do it.

Codemonkey, #454: My take-away from what you're saying is, "So your mother was unreasonable, hyper-critical, and capricious even when you were a kid." Also, that criticizing other parents for encouraging independence in their children (in the form of learning to handle themselves on a bike and use it for transportation to places they wanted to go) fits right in with her determination not to let you off her apron strings. But then, you've said before that she seems to believe it's abnormal for an unmarried adult child to live independently, which is absolutely not the case.

In your shoes, I'd be sorely tempted to tell her not to bother buying me anything for Christmas, since she'll only complain about me not appreciating it later, and I'd rather not have the present than have the complaining. [/tart]

Chickadee, #462: Off on a slight tangent here -- I have never been able to understand the almost-religious reverence that surrounds pie. Yeah, I'll eat it if it's offered to me, but it's never been my first choice as a dessert item, and it's definitely a "take it or leave it" thing overall. But to hear a lot of people talk, you'd think it was the apotheosis of desserts! And that just doesn't make sense to me.

#467 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 02:07 PM:

Codemonkey @457, I have some sympathy for your mam in finding it discouraging to buy presents for your sister when it's hard to figure out what to get, and it highlights that she's not age-typical. I have the same issues with my younger daughter.

The thing is, a lot of the things that are painful about parenting a child with disabilities have to be separated into "things that are painful for the child" and "things that are painful for the parent." They overlap but they are not the same, and they need to be handled differently. If the child cares whether they have the same kind of presents as everyone else, that's one thing. If the child is perfectly happy with something small and/or practical as long as there are things wrapped under the tree, then driving yourself nuts about finding something appropriate is a waste of energy.

I was going to skip posting this since it's sort of a tangent, but in the context of DFD, I think it's important. IMO one of the rules of successful parenting is separating your needs from the child's needs. It's not that your needs as a parent don't matter - they do. But it's wrong to insist that the child behave in some way or have some experience that meets YOUR needs while simultaneously insisting that it's all about the child.

I think oliviacw @465 has a good suggestion on thinking of little, fun things that could be presents. I had similar problems for years with my MIL who would insist on present suggestions, then say that whatever I'd asked for was too hard to find. I wish I'd thought of something like this.

#468 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 02:09 PM:

#462, Chickadee:

One thing I think I've successfully dealt with :) is her training that if I'm bothered by something that doesn't bother her, I'm overreacting. But I understand the tapes there - just somehow they didn't get as deeply embedded in me. I think part of that is her typical overreaction to most things, so me reacting more than her didn't happen so often. :P

Yeah, I hardly ever saw my mom get upset, so it was pretty easy for her to say that any of my reactions was an overreaction, and pretty hard for me to deny it. After all, I was reacting more than she was. (Not to say she didn't get upset, just that I hardly ever saw it.)

And it sure didn't help when the couples counsellor I saw with crappy ex kept saying I was "overly" something and focussed her efforts on making me react less instead of noticing that the things I was reacting to were not good. But at that point it was already deeply embedded, and I don't know how hard it would have been for me to believe her had she noticed and told me DTMFA.

#469 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 02:16 PM:

Lee @466: I have never been able to understand the almost-religious reverence that surrounds pie. Yeah, I'll eat it if it's offered to me, but it's never been my first choice as a dessert item, and it's definitely a "take it or leave it" thing overall. But to hear a lot of people talk, you'd think it was the apotheosis of desserts! And that just doesn't make sense to me.

Taditionally, pie-making denotes a certain level of accomplishment for a baker: you can produce an adequate pie crust. On the other hand, you can put almost anything in as the filling, and you can make it in advance, so it has a fair degree of convenience for the housewife as well. In addition, unlike a cake, no additional decoration is required. The crust could be made with lard, and eggs weren't going to be needed*, so if you were bartering your butter and eggs to the store for credit, you weren't using up a scarce resource. Pies didn't need refrigeration, in many of their iterations, which was also an advantage. This rural world view carried over when people stopped being farmers and moved to town. Once you've got the crust-making down, it's not a hard dessert, and doesn't have to take a long time. But it's a little fancier than a dish of cooked apples or other fruit.

You can eat the leftovers for breakfast, too, in many cases.

My great-grandmother once counted up and found she'd made 90 pies in a month. Of course, it was harvest, and there were extra people at almost every meal. But that rate of pie consumption is enough to fix it in the collective unconscious as The Dessert.

This has been your latest update of fidelio's complicated answers to simple questions...

*Cream and custard and nut and chess pies are an exception, of course, but these are often seen as Extra-special Pie, in the field of Traditional Pie Taxonomy. Don't ask me where soda cracker pie falls...

#470 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 02:43 PM:

Mongoose @445--That's not ringing any bells as far as a specific book, but there was a trend in child-rearing advice, which I think starts around the era between the World Wars, when more and more Professional Advice was being given to parents, and more and more people were finding that they couldn't hire someone to raise their children for them. There was a lot of emphasis on schedules, keeping to a routine, remembering who is supposed to be in charge, not letting yourself be overwhelmed by whining and tantrums, and other things--but a lot of it was written with little indication that, Your Mileage May Vary, or that what works for one child may not for another, and so on. There ware a great many assumptions, starting with the idea that all children are alike, being basically unformed lumps that needed to be shaped and baked into Real People. Perceptive parents who had the confidence to trust their own judgment were probably able to apply this advice sensibly; others--well, some people don't get that the Pirates' Code isn't a set of rules, it's more of a guideline*, and for others, rigidity isn't a bug, it's a feature, and one that makes them very happy.

There were books which advised that children needed 12 hours of continuous sleep a day, books which said you had to feed a new baby every 2 hours, books that gave parents the idea that explaining anything to the child was a sign of wekaness which would fatally undermine their authority over their children, and so on and so forth. Very small children may need 12 hours of sleep (total) in a day; small babies need regular meals, more frequently than adults; sometimes, especially with younger children, you have to be prepared to say "Because I am your parent, and I said so". But all children are different, and they all get older and start needing different things--and a lot of these books were focused on the very young child, intentionally or not (older children would go to school and be someone else's problem...) and don't cover how to handle older children.

*Thank you for that explication, Captain Barbossa.

#471 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 03:25 PM:

fidelio @ 470: yes, that makes a lot of sense.

My mother, bless her, learned rather late in life that Mileage Varies, but once she did, she took it to heart. The other day she ended up asking me to define "genderqueer", which I obligingly did, and I'm pretty sure she got the idea that that is what I am. If I'd realised that, and come out, in my teens, she'd have told me not to be silly. These days? Oh, Mileage Varies. I'm exceedingly happy that Mileage can now safely Vary in her presence.

#472 ::: Diana ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 08:59 PM:

apologies if anyone has already posted this, but found a link to a story that, in fact, does perfectly express my sentiments toward forgiveness:

#473 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2013, 05:46 AM:

Lee @431/450 and Summer Storms @432: Actually, one arena in which Boy Roommate has been impeccably awesome is money. While he would, indeed, request rent going forward, it would be ridiculously low, i.e. I could not successfully rent a cardboard box in this area on the amount he is requesting, so I could save up money reasonably quickly. He also has the financial wherewithal to manage this, whereas New Beau does not (his field is notoriously low-paying, but he is doing what he loves!). Boy Roommate has also stated aloud with words on many occasions that he expects a redistribution of chore tasks when I am working. Since he pays almost all of the household bills, I don't really feel it's Girl Roommate's place to ask me for a darn cent unless it's for something specific that we agreed to split beforehand, and I will continue to do any financial negotiating with Boy Roommate. Currently it's pretty explicitly arranged with him that doing the cooking and cleaning is what I'm doing in lieu of paying actual money for rent.

If I left now, I would have to leave most of my things. I have downsized on cars since moving here (well, my old economy car was stolen and my parents replaced it with a subcompact, which I love and enjoy driving but will hold fewer things. I am immensely grateful that they did this, but that does not give Nigel the Mini more storage space). I already pared down a lot to move out here, so I would have to leave prized possessions behind, and I don't trust my roommates to get them to me. I will also be leaving my cats for at least some time -- when Boy Roommate and I were dating, we acquired a pair of feline siblings, and the female and I have bonded such that she is My Cat while the male is His Cat and we refuse to separate them, so we're just going to have to share custody, and that will be annoying and expensive (and, IMO, totally worthwhile). I don't want to leave when I have no idea how I would manage that. Very little idea is fine, but not NO idea.

There's also no guarantee I would find a job in New Beau's area; the market isn't different enough that the problems I'm encountering here would be absent there. I graduated from college and immediately embarked on a career of "on and off shitty jobs while taking care of an ailing parent" followed by a few years of "look for work after moving while the economy pulls a really amazing black hole impression" and my resume is not, overall, great. I know I could do most anything* if I could get a foot in the door, but my foot-getting-in skills are apparently lacking. I have yet to find an effective way to put "can do the impossible and also takes abuse really well" on a resume that doesn't make it look like I WANT to do those things, just that they are skills I have for when the chips are down.

Also, I did not intend to obscure my gender; I am a lady human and fine with lady pronouns.

Moonlit Night @433: Hooray for the new bike frame!

Cassy B @435: That may be a good idea, and I'll talk to Boy Roommate about it. My experience is that she's not the best with actual parking lot lines either, though, so I'm not sure what will help sometimes! I keep saying that 18 months after I move out, I am going to have this whole trove of hilarious stories, because that's when I'll be able to tell them without a mouthful of venom infecting them.

Jacque @441: That is where I am. He's fine letting me use his address to apply for jobs in his area (and I am looking there, sometimes by doing that and sometimes using my address but mentioning in the cover letter that I am actively looking to move there), and that's about all I'm comfortable doing. Though he and I have known each other casually for a while, we haven't even hit the 6-month mark yet as Relationship-Having People and that's a bit fast for me.

I've also done this dance before (with the relationship that brought me here, in fact) and I know just how much it makes me hate myself to be dependent like that. I don't want to start something new with that kind of baggage hanging over it; it's not fair to me, and in the end it's not fair to him. He's doing a lot of (really amazing, difficult) stuff to make this work and to make this something doable for him, and adding to that (particularly adding something that triggers my depression, which is already a big roary monster instead of the more quiet sleeping monster I can sometimes make it behave like) seems like a bad bet. Among other more personal reasons, he hasn't lived with anyone else as an adult, so I want to be able to point to definite advantages such as "reduced rent" when I'm also saying things like "we need to declutter".

I LOVE the cinder block idea, though. I may try that.

cyllan @443: I'm a mannerly Southerner who loves to cook, and I adore the crap out of a potluck.

guthrie @451: The most functional television couple I know of (and my favorite) is Gomez and Morticia Addams.

knitcrazybooknut @453: I have tried and... well, because of angle and incline oddities it is one of those things that is technically possible but so obscenely inconvenient (and that annoys my clutch so much) that parking the way I do is likely a better choice overall. (Basically, I have the less convenient space in the garage -- makes sense, I also have a smaller car and am a much better driver -- but end up making a less-than-90-degree right turn turn up a crooked hill in the single tightest spot in our small complex to get into the garage. Doing that backwards is kind of a nightmare, especially since reverse is my least favorite gear.)

codemonkey @455: My folks were actually pretty cool about me having people over when I was a kid! They liked most of my friends and their families, so visits happened frequently. It was only after we moved (a long way, into a place slightly too small for our stuff) and my mom started working too that it became an issue, and part of that was the design of the house, and it just kind of spiraled from there, exacerbated by my problems adjusting to the move... my parents have moved again since I left, actually, and it seems like they're enjoying having people over again, which I'm super happy about.

Cripes, I have written a novel here. Away to the land of posting! And thank you all for the thoughts and attention. It's... you know, I have a couple of friends who have said "that is strange and bad" regarding things that go on here, but it's SO freeing to have relative strangers not blinded by their fondness for me say the same things.

*Obvious exceptions such as surgery apply. Your mileage may vary. Not valid in all states. Dilute, dilute, ok!

#474 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2013, 09:56 AM:

iliad: novels R us! Glad to see you here and posting. :)

Sounds like you've got a good handle on what's happening in your place, and also why you don't want to move just yet. It sucks (it really does!) but for what it's worth I agree that moving in with New Interest wouldn't be a good idea just yet... I only wish that you could find a better situation in town. :(

One of the best things I've found about this community is having total strangers (who are not invested in making you feel good or maintaining a relationship) say "Hey! That's not right!" and validating your sense of a situation. Or even pointing out other parts that exacerbate the situation that you hadn't noticed, being right in the situation. So glad you're here. :)

#475 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2013, 01:17 AM:

Lee @ 466

Continuing the piegression... I'll just note that while I can take or leave storebought pie, I treasure our family's annual tradition of homemade pies with homemade crust and homemade suitably-alcoholic fruit compote... They mean family and warmth and deliciousness and love. They remind me of Christmases at my grandparents' house, back when we were a whole family without any missing pieces. Also, lately, they have ninja cutouts on top, which is awesome.

#476 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2013, 03:13 AM:

iliad, #473: Thank you for the elaboration. This makes your position much more understandable; your situation is in fact not nearly as bad as it initially sounded, although it's not good.

If/when you get to the point of actually making the move, I suggest loading the largest and heaviest of your possessions into the car and shipping the remainder. That neatly sidesteps the whole "will the roommates get my stuff to me" question. FedEx Ground tends to be the cheapest way to ship for most things. (We ship a LOT of stuff, including 50-lb boxes of T-shirts, so we pay attention to costs.)

Another alternative: install a hitch and rent a U-Haul trailer. Sounds bizarre, but I had a trailer hitch on my little Hyundai Excel and it would pull a 4x6-foot mini-trailer with no trouble at all. Didn't have to go over the Rockies with it, but Tennessee has some respectable hills and it was okay with those.

#477 ::: slow learner ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2013, 10:58 PM:

OtterB @467 wrote: IMO one of the rules of successful parenting is separating your needs from the child's needs. It's not that your needs as a parent don't matter - they do. But it's wrong to insist that the child behave in some way or have some experience that meets YOUR needs while simultaneously insisting that it's all about the child.

Quoted for truth. This is amazingly important, and quite hard to sort out both from the child's perspective and the parent's.

#478 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2013, 06:38 AM:

Chickadee @474: I've been catching up on DFD threads after I stopped reading some time ago, and that certainly does seem to be a valuable thing. I know it is for me!

KayTei @475: I am myself a cake creature, but I don't come from a family with cooking traditions. I suspect that's why -- growing up on storebought pie has made me less than fond of pie crust.

Lee @476: It's not unlivable, by any means; I'm not in any danger of consequences worse than emotional. (That is a legitimate danger, but it's one I can live with for the time being.) My moving plans include either renting a U-Haul big enough to pull my tiny car (I've acquired a bed since moving here, among other things, and it doesn't hurt my back, making it worth its weight in gold) or have movers take some/most things if I can afford it. I've moved a few times and while I understand the business of hiring movers is fraught, most everyone I know who's done it says it's the best money they've ever spent. In any case, New Beau will be here to help me move as long as he's not working (and he knows when that will be far in advance, so scheduling should not be an issue).

#479 ::: Rymenhild ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2013, 10:17 AM:


I'm dropping in to note one cheaper way to ship possessions in the United States than FedEx Ground: Amtrak Express. If you can get your stuff to one (preferably large) Amtrak station near your starting point, and collect it at an Amtrak station near your destination, shipping costs become quite low. You can't send food or furniture or a few other classes of object, and there are some weight and size limits. You also don't get door-to-door service. But if you can work around these issues, Amtrak Express is a terrific way to move stuff on a budget.

#480 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2013, 10:26 AM:

Regarding the cake/pie thing: I love all baked goods. Pie, I used to be indifferent to (again, crappy store-bought crust). But since Mom finally started to actually *make* the pie crust she'd been bragging about for years, I LOVE pie. Even if it's still a bit emotionally difficult for me to make pie dough...

And I loathe most store bought cakes. But then, I bake a lot myself (and am damn good at it, if I may say so myself - being able to say so myself is progress!) so store bought cakes are not usually an issue.

Oh, and regarding potluck with all new dishes: One of my friends pointed out that our favourite gatherings have typically been such beasts. :) Just not officially so. It is good. :)

#481 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2013, 07:40 PM:

Tonight's breakthrough: I'm used to ignoring when I'm not doing well emotionally (which I haven't been, today; we think the car's having a spark plug issue and it's kicked off an anxiety adventure), and have a hard time letting myself say 'you know what, things suck right now,' because since about high school I'm used to 'things suck right now' only coming up in the context of shouting matches with my parents.

My fiancee doesn't do this, thank goodness (though I have a spectacular knack for having my worst days in sync with hers). But we still sorted that much out.

I'm not sure I would've been able to put a name to it without these threads. Thanks, guys.

#482 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2013, 10:56 PM:

Since I was a teenager, I thought it would be fun to dye my hair a bright color. A few years ago I tentatively brought it up with my mom and she basically said, with sadness, "please, don't do that, why would you do that to your hair?" It's already bad enough that I love to keep my hair super short, you see.

A few months ago I decided, it's my hair, I'm going to do a harmless little thing that makes me happy. So I got it dyed bright blue. I eventually told my mom on the phone, and she sort of sighed and accepted it, since it made me happy.

I hadn't done this thing for more than a decade of my adult life, because I'd just been reflexively averse to making my mom unhappy. And it turns out that it went fine, really, in the end. I wish I could root out all the other kudzu too.

#483 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2013, 11:11 PM:

iliad slightly awry @473

"I keep saying that 18 months after I move out, I am going to have this whole trove of hilarious stories, because that's when I'll be able to tell them without a mouthful of venom infecting them."

I have used that coping mechanism to splendid effect. The trick is to recognize when the final limit has been reached. In my case, it was a few months short of making the full term of a few limited term jobs. But now that I have a decade between me and those situations, yes, good stories now.

"Dilute, dilute, ok!"

Thanks for that belly laugh. For anyone reading along who isn't familiar with Doctor Bronner's Soap, the labels are a tour de force, and that quote is the punch line.

#484 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 02:19 PM:

Thinking about teenagers and trick or treating, but this was seeming a bit heavy for an open thread...

I remember not having costumes after I got to be twelve or so. Couldn't spend my job money on them, because that went to support the family. Tried to do crafty and free, but more often ended up stopped at free... some years, those costumes were pretty weak.

When I see teenagers who don't have costumes, I wonder what's going on in their lives. For me, costuming signifies a level of privilege. It's a nice perk on Halloween (I love costumes and the little kids are always so adorable!), but it's not why I give people candy.

#485 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 03:26 PM:

Halloween: I have always had problems putting together costumes for Halloween. This year, it became pretty clear why.

I was hurriedly packing for a road trip for a Halloween celebration, and trying to put together a costume from leftovers. I ended up in a complete meltdown. After growing up in a house where I was told exactly who to be and how to look for decades, I bristle and bridle at dressing as ANYONE besides my own damn self.

It's not logical, but boy the emotional stuff there runs deep and angry. In everyday life, I'm working through a lot of body issues, so this was pretty close to the surface anyway. But whoa.

On that topic, if anyone has suggestions for learning to love the body you have, I am open to any suggestions. My mom taught me from a very young age that I was ugly as hell, and I'm struggling with changing that, and owning my physical self. My tactic back in the day was complete rebellion and utter rejection of any societal standards for appearance. But the underlying "fact" of my own ugliness has never left me. I need to rebuild it and learn to do physical workout type things for my own self, nobody else.

#486 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 03:36 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @ 485

I love that realization and the strength of self it implies.

On the question of being happy with the body you have, one thing I've found is that as I start doing strength training (specifically), my body is starting to let me do things I thought were impossible for it. I don't know if it's part of your Thing, but for me, when even my body is enforcing my helplessness, it's hard to like it much. The things I can do to improve my own agency help me like my body better, even though I don't look any different.

My sister in law has a similar relationship to yoga. A friend found it in soccer. I think it's just finding a pattern of movement that enriches who you can be, without worrying about how you look.

#487 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 04:20 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @485: I need to rebuild it and learn to do physical workout type things for my own self, nobody else. (Ignore if hlepy, obviously): I suggest choosing a physical activity goal, then working towards it, then rewarding yourself in some way when you reach it?

That might be running a particular distance (start with 5K - there are some simple programs to get you to that), lifting a certain weight, swimming X number of lengths, cycling X distance, whatever. Then go for it! When you reach that goal, pick another one (same activity if you liked it, or a different one) and go for that. If you were in the UK, Australia or New Zealand I would recommend parkrun (fun, friendly, free, all ages, all abilities), but I think you're in the US where there are still only three parkrun events, so less helpful.

#488 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 04:26 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @485 you might look at Hanne Blank's writing, especially her book on The Unapologetic Fat Girl's Guide to Exercise . Even if body size is not part of your issues with your physical self, you may find something helpful in her non-nonsense approach to exercising for your own health and wellbeing and not for what other people think or expect of you.

#489 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 05:37 PM:

Ragen Chastain got good results by cultivating gratitude for all the things her body does for her. I think she was already an athlete at that point.

#490 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 05:39 PM:

I second the suggestion of Hanne Blank. I have never been let down by anything she's written.

A friend once suggested that I do something fun with my body in a way that doesn't stress me out as most things do*. She suggested tubing. It's physical, but not something that requires skill beyond a certain amount of holding on. Is there anything you can do with your body that would give you that joy? It might be anything from digging a new garden bed to geocaching around town to writing and running a scavenger hunt with kids to going on a really, really long walk and standing for a moment at the end of the trail to listen to the wind in the corn.

You may also have some success catching yourself being good-- "Hey, I am totally carrying this bucket of cat litter to the spare room! I kick ass! Go, physical body!"

*Learn awesome skill, be talented beginner, discover that I suck at it just as I suck at everything having to do with physical activity, cry. I stopped aikido before the crying step because I want to go back to it someday.

#491 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 07:43 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @485: I found a book called Lessons From the Fat-O-Sphere really helped me. However, I am actually fat. That said, my mother isn't, and she's learned a lot from it too. I also like reading Lesley Kinzel (one of its authors) and Marianne Kirby, who are both writing for XOJane these days. (Some of XOJane is terrible. They are good.) Also, finding physical activity I loved helped. I miss kung fu classes.

#492 ::: iliad slightly gnomed! ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 07:44 PM:

I included two links, mostly because where they go is not entirely intuitive from the main site. I just went grocery shopping! Would the gnomes like a butternut squash?

#493 ::: blind wisdom ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 07:51 PM:

my husband yells at me for appearing to be afraid of him.

he hates going out to parties because they remind him that he has no friends because he drove them all away by being an asshole to them. and somehow this is *their* fault. i think he thinks he's no longer an asshole.

#494 ::: blind wisdom has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 07:52 PM:

my post got gnomed for no reason i could see.

[Not capitalizing the pronoun "I" does it. -- JDM]

#495 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 10:11 PM:

For the bike geeks around here: amazingly, the Bianchi frame is straight. It looks like it was left at the dump and someone set fire to the brake hoods, but the tubes are straight and even the drop-out spacings are dead-on. If all the rust turns out to be surface-level, then it's very much worth rebuilding.

Nobody can pin down the model, but it seems to be from 1983 or 1984 going by the decals and date code on the brakes. I'm told Canadian models still had front and rear chrome socks then, which explains that. The touring design details suggest it's a Randonneur, but the tubing type and paint better match the Limited. I'll have to name it whatever the best Japanese translation of "mystery" is.

#496 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 10:45 PM:

I'm just going to link this here because it seems appropriate: Trying to set boundaries with judgmental parents

I've been reading some of the (early) comments there, and was reminded of this thread.

#497 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 11:41 PM:

Moonlit Night @492: I named my cat Nazoko (謎子), after the word for enigma, puzzle, or mystery (nazo) with the feminine name ending -ko.

#498 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 11:48 PM:

My fiancee's parents invited me to Thanksgiving dinner.

We're not sure what brought on this sudden change of heart; they've emailed her a couple of times since Christmas and made eventually-canceled plans to come up here toward the end of the summer, but that's it. Without further input from them, our best guess is they realised having her means I'm going to be in the picture in some form or other.

She trusts them to be polite in person, so there's that. They're coming to our turf, dinner will be on neutral territory, we may be stuck with them for transit but at least I'll be there if she starts overclocking. Beyond that, we're still trying to sort out the logistics.

This is a positively stunning turn of events, and we're hoping it's a good one.

(Recap for new people: Her parents are very religious-conservative. Their main objection to me is Teh Gay. She was trying to just not mention it in the name of not rubbing things in their faces. We think they cottoned on that I'm living with her when they took it upon themselves to drive her back from Christmas last year instead of just letting her use the damn train ticket they'd bought her. So, sure, the email said 'you and your friend,' but that's a lot more acknowledgement than they've given me before.)

#499 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 12:24 AM:

Um, cautious hooray on the Thanksgiving thing?

#500 ::: slow learner ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 05:19 AM:

I read someone's Tumblr reblog of a quotation from Lundy Buncroft's Why Does He Do That? about abuse. The quotation was about how abusers don't have a problem with their anger, they have a problem with yours. Only they are allowed to lose their tempers.

It reminded me of the jokes my parents made about my anger when I lived with them. Like when I wanted fencing lessons, and they allowed that, but they also made these just-kidding-only-serious remarks about how they shouldn't be letting me, the last thing anyone needed was me armed with a sword.

When I was learning German, they asked what I'd learned that day, and I said "We're doing accusative case," and they joked about how I didn't need to be taught to be accusative, I did that already.

Even while I type this, I'm thinking "I'm doing that right now. I'm proving their point about how accusatory and angry I am. They were just joking."

But when did I get to be appropriately angry with them for things they did, without it being evidence that I was too angry? When did I get to calmly discuss things they were doing that hurt me, without it being SL being accusatory again?

#501 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 07:38 AM:

tamiki @495, echoing B Durbin's cautious hooray for Thanksgiving. Your turf, check, neutral territory for dinner, check, explicit inclusion of you in the invitation, check. Here's hoping for the best for it.

#502 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 08:11 AM:

slow learner @ 497: we weren't allowed to be angry as children either, but I always thought that was just because we were children. It seemed to be general, not specific to my family.

#503 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 08:40 AM:

Moonlit Night @492: *makes the special bike-geek sign*

That should build up into a lovely bike, and worth a professional respray if the pennies stretch. One thing, though (and you may be ahead of me on this): if it is a Randonneur then check to make sure it's not the model with a defective fork.

#504 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 10:35 AM:

tamiki: cautious hurray from here too! (and on your turf - that helps!)

OtterB: I've gotten The Unapologetic Fat Girl's Guide to Exercise from the library. Thank you for posting that. I've always been skinny (borderline underweight for a lot of my life) and simultaneously convinced I'm fat because a) my mom has serious issues with weight (and has transferred them to me in some part by fussing over how this shirt "makes you look fat") and b) I've always had very muscular thighs from biking (i.e. "fat, disgusting thighs"). I've been dealing with the issues, but I'm hoping that will help, too. :)

On a happier note, progress! The pie subthread made me crave apple pie... a lot... so I made apple pie yesterday. The crust DID NOT want to roll out properly (I have ideas what I did wrong), but I didn't lose it, or even get stressed! I just pieced it together in the pie plate and enjoyed the delicious, shortbread-textured pie crust and perfect filling. :) No trauma, no tears - separating myself from Mom has had unexpected benefits. :) I'm really looking forward to making pie more often now. :)

#505 ::: Chickadee has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 10:36 AM:

May I offer freshly baked apple pie? :)

#506 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 12:13 PM:

B. Durbin and OtterB: Thanks. Cautious hurray is very much where we are right now, doubly so since this apparently came out of nowhere.

But this is a huge step, and we're trying to take it at face value.

#507 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 12:36 PM:

@497 slow learner

Yes, this. I'm not allowed to be angry, ever. I'm also not allowed to be upset, sad, or happy.

Apparently the only demeanor permitted (for me anyway) is some sort of Stepford calm.

#508 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 01:52 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @485: After growing up in a house where I was told exactly who to be and how to look for decades, I bristle and bridle at dressing as ANYONE besides my own damn self.

This articulates quite well my Issues around "dressing up" for work. I haven't found a fashion "idiom" that both presents as "business-like" and expresses me-who-I-really-am. (That, and I don't have the extra time/energy/money to put into resolving the question, anyway.) So I've basically defaulted to minimal "it's clean, comfortable, and doesn't have holes, so get off my back."

It's not logical, but boy the emotional stuff there runs deep and angry.

Boy, howdie. It's been a long time since I've been "out" as Myself, so most of that rage has burnt down to smouldering embers. But it still consumes quite a bit of attention. It's complicated by the fact that my former solution for "pants" (nice corduroy jeans) no longer works for me since I've put on weight, and after having gone through a period of illness that has left me very sensitive to pressure around my abdomen. I had a nice pair of yoga pants that looked dressy-ish, but they quit making those. :-(

On that topic, if anyone has suggestions for learning to love the body you have, I am open to any suggestions.

I'll be listening in on this, too. The best I've ever managed has been to not angst about my body, but I've never been "okay" with it. Can't blame this one on my mother, except for the total squick I have about my female parts. I think it comes more from the Madison Avenue-driven body dysmorphia. Sad part is that, even back when I was in pretty good shape, I always felt like I look like a potato.

My mom taught me from a very young age that I was ugly as hell

If it's not too triggery, did she have any particular complaints? Or was it just a general disapproval? And based on what?

Sometimes, attitudes like that come, less out of poor comparison against a clear metric, than a weird sort of psychological competition. For some reason, she may find you (and/or the idea that you might be attractive, or—ghods forfend—more attractive than she was (felt herself to be)) threatening.

Interestingly, the times when I've actually liked what I've seen in the mirror, I finally noticed, tend to correlate with the times when I'm happy. Most conspicuously, when I've been enjoying being in a relationship.

Which tells me that most of what I've disliked about my appearance had to do, not with how my body is configured, but rather with how I was wearing it.

dcb @487: When you reach that goal, pick another one

There's a trap hidden in this one, though, which is that "okay-ness" or "happiness" or whatever it is is contingent on something in the future, and only briefly attainable. At which point, it again becomes contingent on the next goal. The times I've gotten into that cycle, I've actually found it to be counterproductive.

What I've found more reliable has been to hang my state of okayness on what I'm doing now, or what I've accomplished this morning. For example, I finally found a pair of shoes (at McGuckin Hardware, of all places) that allow me to walk comfortably for long distances; I walked most of the way to, and home from work end of last week, and walked partway to work this morning. In addition to being a habit I've been wanting to install for a while, it's also giving me warm glowies as I sit here, feeling the pleasantly-excercised muscles in my legs and butt.

One of my hacks for getting around the school phys-ed-installed MASSIVE AVERSION to "exercise" has been to look for forms of exercise that are "weird," as well as being pleasant (to me). Finding ways to be more comfortable in my body has always had the beneficial side effect of helping me be more comfortable with my body.

slow learner @497 & Cheryl @503: Count me as another one who was never allowed to be angry. My brother, now, he and my dad would get into knock-down drag-outs. But me? If I ever so much as raised my voice, it was made clear that this was Not Appropriate.

Took me a solid twenty years of continuous rage for me to finally convince myself that I was able to and free to be angry, and could finally let that go as a state of being, and begin enjoying other states, as well.

#509 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 01:54 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @485: After growing up in a house where I was told exactly who to be and how to look for decades, I bristle and bridle at dressing as ANYONE besides my own damn self.

This articulates quite well my Issues around "dressing up" for work. I haven't found a fashion "idiom" that both presents as "business-like" and expresses me-who-I-really-am. (That, and I don't have the extra time/energy/money to put into resolving the question, anyway.) So I've basically defaulted to a minimal "it's clean, comfortable, and doesn't have holes, so get off my back" ensemble.

It's not logical, but boy the emotional stuff there runs deep and angry.

Boy, howdie. It's been a long time since I've been "out" as Myself, so most of that rage has burnt down to smouldering embers. But it still consumes quite a bit of attention. It's complicated by the fact that my former solution for "pants" (nice corduroy jeans) no longer works for me since I've put on weight, and after having gone through a period of illness that has left me very sensitive to pressure around my abdomen. I had a nice pair of yoga pants that looked dressy-ish, but they quit making those. :-(

On that topic, if anyone has suggestions for learning to love the body you have, I am open to any suggestions.

I'll be listening in on this, too. The best I've ever managed has been to not angst about my body, but I've never been "okay" with it. Can't blame this one on my mother, except for the total squick I have about my female parts. I think it comes more from the Madison Avenue-driven body dysmorphia. Sad part is that, even back when I was in pretty good shape, I always felt like I look like a potato.

My mom taught me from a very young age that I was ugly as hell

If it's not too triggery, did she have any particular complaints? Or was it just a general disapproval? And based on what?

Sometimes, attitudes like that come, less out of poor comparison against a clear metric, than a weird sort of psychological competition. For some reason, she may find you (and/or the idea that you might be attractive, or—ghods forfend—more attractive than she was (felt herself to be)) threatening.

Interestingly, the times when I've actually liked what I've seen in the mirror, I finally noticed, tend to correlate with the times when I'm happy. Most conspicuously, when I've been enjoying being in a relationship.

Which tells me that most of what I've disliked about my appearance had to do, not with how my body is configured, but rather with how I was wearing it.

dcb @487: When you reach that goal, pick another one

There's a trap hidden in this one, though, which is that "okay-ness" or "happiness" or whatever it is is contingent on something in the future, and only briefly attainable. At which point, it again becomes contingent on the next goal. The times I've gotten into that cycle, I've actually found it to be counterproductive.

What I've found more reliable has been to hang my state of okayness on what I'm doing now, or what I've accomplished this morning. For example, I finally found a pair of shoes (at McGuckin Hardware, of all places) that allow me to walk comfortably for long distances; I walked most of the way to, and home from work end of last week, and walked partway to work this morning. In addition to being a habit I've been wanting to install for a while, it's also giving me warm glowies as I sit here, feeling the pleasantly-excercised muscles in my legs and butt.

One of my hacks for getting around the school phys-ed-installed MASSIVE AVERSION to "exercise" has been to look for forms of exercise that are "weird," as well as being pleasant (to me). Finding ways to be more comfortable in my body has always had the beneficial side effect of helping me be more comfortable with my body.

slow learner @497 & Cheryl @503: Count me as another one who was never allowed to be angry. My brother, now, he and my dad would get into knock-down drag-outs. But me? If I ever so much as raised my voice, it was made clear that this was Not Appropriate.

Took me a solid twenty years of continuous rage for me to finally convince myself that I was able to and free to be angry, and could finally let that go as a state of being, and begin enjoying other states, as well.

#510 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 01:56 PM:

Yo, Duty Gnomes: I just got the "Internal Server Error Ate My Homework" error. I looked through my comment, and found one case of a paragraph ending in straight quotes. I added a word after the close-quote, and the comment went through just fine. FYI.

#511 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 01:58 PM:

Argh. Except that my comment apparently did post, the first time. Sorry for the dupe, folks.

#512 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 02:12 PM:

iliad @491: Could you repost? It looks like your comment got eaten. (mine @501 has now been released by Their Lownesses, and I still can't find yours...)

#513 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 03:18 PM:

Sumana, #482: Good for you! I see a lot of women of all ages who have dyed their hair some bright color or other. The answer to "Why would you want to do X to your hair?" is almost always "Because it's MY hair, and I want to." (This expands to most other body/dress issues as well, and also to a fair number of behavioral ones. Billy Joel said it well in "My Life".)

KayTei, #484: FWIW, I think that would be worth bringing up in the open thread. The person who posted about laughing and chiding kids without costumes to "do better next time" bothered me; some attitude adjustment there might be a good thing.

knitcrazybooknut, #485: Hearing and witnessing. I have no concrete advice to give, but figuring out something like that is always the first step in dealing with it, so good for you!

Hmmm... after reading Jacque @505, I do in fact have a concrete suggestion. If you live in an area where there is a contradance group, you might want to try doing that. Contradance is a very beginner-friendly culture, and you don't have to have a partner to go; people will dance with you, and it's perfectly acceptable for you to ask someone to dance as well. As you gain skill, you'll also encounter the "dancer's high" that comes with being part of a group of people all doing something fun together. And learning to do something physical and graceful with your body is very helpful in learning to accept your physical self.

tamiki, #495: I hope it goes well for all of you!

slow learner, #497: That's not "just joking". That's abuse hiding under the "It was just a JOKE, where's your sense of HUMOR?" cloak. To use a metaphor that's been popular here, that was them poking you on the shoulder in the same place over and over again, until you have a bruise there, and then refusing to understand that when they poke you there, it HURTS, and saying the equivalent of, "But it was just one little poke, what are you getting so upset about?" (And there's that word "just" again...) And good for you for beginning to recognize this pattern and the ways in which you've internalized it.

"You accused them of treating you badly because they were treating you badly" is a perfectly acceptable mode of behavior.

Chickadee, #501: Go you! That sounds to me as though merely being around your mother was stressful enough to be soaking up all your "cope", so that you had none left over to deal with anything else that went wrong, so even the least little thing would send you into a meltdown. I had that issue once when I was working the Job From Hell, so I know how it feels both to be in that position and to realize that you're recovering from it.

#514 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 03:20 PM:

I've been really busy, but I'm still reading. It's good to see that other people share similar experiences, and if my game metaphor helps other people find out their sources of spoons, I'm really glad.

Just wanted to chime in with a single datapoint of positivity. Last weekend, I woke up and ate a convenient carb-thing to get myself going. Then, when I was looking in the fridge for the next convenient thing, I remembered this thread, and went straight for the sausage and frozen veggies... which powered me up enough to do a bunch of chores, and also acquire more food and caffeine for the next day. Hurray for good habits, and little reminders.

#515 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 03:32 PM:

Jacque #505 For some reason, she may find you (and/or the idea that you might be attractive, or—ghods forfend—more attractive than she was (felt herself to be)) threatening.

"Mirror, mirror on the wall..."

#516 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 07:27 PM:

Lee, 510: IIRC, "do better" was aimed at TEENAGERS, who are old enough to find a costume if they want some free candy.

#517 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 07:41 PM:

James E @ 500: It would likely need new chrome as well as paint, which I hear is really expensive. I'll just have to shine it up and ride it for some time. After that I'll know if I like it enough to invest in new-but-authentic livery. It's guaranteed to be a frankenbike, though, unless I find out exactly what it is and then get obsessive. Consensus is that it's a Canadian market bike, but it could be any of several models: Randonneur, San Remo, or Limited. It doesn't quite match any of them, but nobody so far has any old Canadian catalogues to compare it to.

It's unclear if the recall applies to it, between the uncertain model, it being Canadian market, and the differences in printing between copies of the recall. (The newspaper copies archived online contradict the one you linked to.) It's the right time period and has no fork crown pantographs/cutouts, but it sure looks like it has been ridden enough that it would have broken already if it were going to break. Paint doesn't scrape itself up. It would help if the recall listed serial numbers or tubesets -- this one is Ishiwata 022 CrMo rather than Magny. I suppose this is an excellent excuse to harass Bianchi or a dealer for more information about my serial number?

#518 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 09:51 PM:

Before I launch into the book length discussion of body and mom stuff, I wanted to say this: slow learner, I've experienced that behavior before, where they pick up what you might want to do and pull it out from under you. I call it pre-emptive co-opting. They are deducing what a reasonable response might be from you, based on things they've done or said, and making a joke out of it, thereby rendering you powerless to have that reasonable response. My folks used to normalize the bad behavior by saying things like, "Oh, you're so abused! You've got such a tough life here!" They effectively pin you down. They've taken away your escape route. Either you agree with them and laugh it off, or you're the unreasonable one, because "everyone knows" that the opposite is true. You're not abused! The idea is laughable! When reality is quite the opposite, and you're completely justified in feeling angry and downtrodden.

Jacque and some others had some specific questions, and I'm going to answer. Probably trigger warnings for body stuff are appropriate. There's a blog at retrospectivekaleidoscope dot blogspot dot com that may or may not discuss these issues as well (stealthy hinting).

I used to dodge societal expectations by wearing weird clothes - sixties floral print dresses, weird tights and ripped jeans, vintage dresses with converse hitops, etc. It was a really effective way of thumbing my nose at social conventions of how to dress. Plus it usually took me out of the "norm" and filtered out anyone I probably didn't want to talk to anyway. (If you go on vacation in summer and don't shave your legs (as a woman), it can have the same effect. Shaving stripes earns you bonus points!)

Over a lot of years and much hard psychological work, I developed a style that can blend into the workplace. It's my style, and I feel comfortable and me, but blending enough to be Workplace Appropriate. Colors are really important to me, but for the most part, I do treat work clothes as a uniform, not an expression of my inner self.

Jacque, you asked some really good questions. I'm empathic, and my parents have always been open books. Here's the truth about my mom:

1. She is deathly afraid of being judged.

2. She puts on a huge front of being perfect - hair, clothes, (facelift, recently), family, house, everything.

3. She views everything as a zero sum game - She wins, everybody else loses. Her childhood was hugely competitive.

4. She judges everyone very harshly and decides they are worth less than her.

5. Anyone who is not like everyone else is wrong and bad for being different. (They threaten her by existing.)

She was always relentless at finding flaws. Can't you just (there's that word again) stand up straight/brush your hair/put on a dress? Man, that tone of voice starts to raise the hairs on the back of my neck just thinking about it.

Particular complaints were not standing up straight, dressing wrong, not appreciating the clothes she got me (which were *her* favorite styles, not mine), wearing comfortable clothes instead of fitted clothes.

The irony is that everything that she criticized was set up by her to be a failure point. If I wore clothes that were fitted, she would poke at my stomach and tell me I needed to do sit-ups. If I wore baggy shirts, she'd tell me I needed to wear nicer clothes. If I sat up straight, she'd tell me my arms were too long, so I hunched and got crap for doing that. If I wore beat up clothes, I was reflecting badly on her as a mother, so she complained and complained. But she also complained about any money she EVER had to spend on me, including on clothing.

Yes. She was jealous. She was moving into her forties while I was a high school student and really skinny. She and my aunts would hover around me as I filled my third plate of food at Thanksgiving and tell me that when I got older I'd have to work out every day to eat that way and stay that skinny. Um, excuse me? Your assumptions are legion. But see the above numbered items to see exactly how she was programmed to respond to any threats in the vicinity.

In third grade, she decided that my long hair was making me competition (subconsciously, I'm fairly certain) and she gave me a bowl cut. In middle school, she gave me painful home perm after painful home perm, and I really think she was just trying to keep me as ugly as possible.

This is becoming a book, but I'm open if anyone has more questions. In the last five years, I've finally been able to go shopping for clothing without hearing her voice in my head the entire stressful horrible time. (I can thank my best friend for helping me learn how to shop for clothes happily.) There are a lot of things that I love about my body, but some of the inner core ideas were implanted around third grade and I am struggling with them now.

Boy. Another example of how telling these stories makes me feel ECSTATIC about never having to speak to her again! (Oh wait, did I say that out loud? GOOD.) ;-) It's been nearly a year, and I am stronger every day, and thankful for it.

#519 ::: knitcrazybooknut got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 09:53 PM:

I am sincerely not surprised at all, given the length. I would be pleased if kaleidoscope ended up being a word of power, though!

I do have some leftover chocolate for their lowlessnesses, if they would care to partake.

#520 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 11:40 PM:

TexAnne, #513: Yes -- IOW, exactly as KayTei described herself, unable to afford a costume "after 12 or thereabouts" because the money she earned was going to support her family, and not being very good at coming up with makeshifts.

#521 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 11:42 PM:

TexAnne @ 513

Sure. But when I was a teenager I was in school, working part time, my Dad was dying of cancer, I was dealing with a serious disability and I didn't have any pocket money because everything I earned went to support my family. I'm just saying, it's not always easy, in terms of spoons, free time, limited wardrobes, lack of money... It's easy to assume people could do better, but how can I tell from who lands on my doorstep, whether they're "deserving" or not?

#522 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 11:45 PM:

One of my students was given ten dollars by a teacher so she could go to the Best Buddies Halloween parties this year. Ten dollars and someone to drive you to the secondhand shop can make a lot of difference.

#523 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 06:27 AM:

OK, cultural differences. In my neighborhood, you didn't trick or treat past 5th grade.

#524 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 08:25 AM:

I've been making some progress on self-hatred-- it's much less frequent generally, much less intense, and doesn't last as long.

A little more detail about how Ragen Chastain learned to accept her body-- she worked on being grateful for everything her body does for her, like blinking. breathing, smiling.....

#525 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 11:16 AM:

TexAnne @ 523

I can see that. Where I grew up, teenagers waited until 9:00 to start unless they were shepherding younger kids, so anyone who only wanted to give candy to kids under a certain age turned out the lights at 8:30 or 9pm. Anyone who left their lights on after that or left candy on the doorstep was signalling that they were okay with the older crowd dropping in...

#526 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 02:33 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @518: She was always relentless at finding flaws. ... Yes. She was jealous.

Jeez. No sh*t. Did she make any pretense of loving you? Because, I mean, you only do that kind of crap to sworn enemies. And for the record: it's obvious that there is literally nothing you could have done to earn her praise, as it's clear that it was your job to be Less Than to her More. Heads, she wins, tails, you lose.

Did she ever tell you why she had you? What did she say about how she felt about having a daughter?

It probably won't help enough to consider that all that "ugliness" she accused you have having resided inside of her eyeballs. Further, that all of the flaws she picked at in you were flaws she herself was afraid of having, although I'm 100% confident that she would be absolutely ignorant of this fact, and would deny it emphatically if it were ever brought to her notice.

I don't recall you saying: what was the reaction when you cut off contact with her?

#527 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 03:43 PM:

Jacque @ 526: First of all, thanks for the honest reaction. It always astounds me, after all of this time, how validating it is to hear what other people think of what I thought was normal. Being raised to not have any inconvenient feelings made it tough to know how I felt about anything hurtful, so other people's emotional reactions have been really helpful in the long run.

I'll bullet point the rest.

1. Did she make any pretense of loving you?

I'll use her voice: Of COURSE because mothers always love their DAUGHTERS. /mom voice. Honestly, I think she thinks she did and does. But surface is everything, and appearance and roles are paramount. It's an axiom that because I am her daughter, that I must love her, and because she's my mother, she must love me. She has stated many times that family is all you have when things go badly. Well, her definition of "love" does not require any specific affection-based behavior or even treating someone decently, and does not qualify in my world. In my twenties, during my first bout of therapy, I told her that I always thought she hated me. She was careful and asked me why and presented evidence, and by the end of the convo, I was convinced that she didn't hate me. (In other words, she argued me out of believing what I knew to be true.) But no. I can never be right, respected, loved, or relaxed in that family dynamic.

I once asked her why she hassled me so much about my clothes and what I wore in high school. Replaying that conversation in my head, I can see her working really hard to turn it around and make herself the good guy. Ready? "Well, I knew you were unhappy because you didn't have very many friends, so I thought that if you wore better clothes and looked better, you'd have more friends and be happier."

Feel free to pause here for your moment of cognitive dissonance. ;-) I'm very glad that, these days, I can see clearly through that transparent piece of tapdancing.

My mom had me to please her mother (see the trap? BTW, that did not work), and to create her own family that she could mostly control. She never said that she wanted me, and she always expressed how lucky I was that I was an only child (for a whole five years) which was HER dream childhood, not mine. Most of my babyhood stories are about me being an annoyance or "annoyingly myself", if that makes sense. Kind of "Well, that figures" stories, instead of, wow, look how much of an individual she was, even back then! Making it clear that my behavior has always been, if not unacceptable, then clearly out of the norm and to be barely tolerated at most.

You're right that I wasn't objectively "ugly". I met my best friend about twenty years ago, while hanging out with my friends (who either delighted in subverting social norms or had it thrust upon them), and she later told me that she couldn't figure out why someone so beautiful was hanging with this crowd. I told her that I saw myself as uglier than all of my friends, and always had. I trust her, so I trust her perspective. But it's a struggle. (And there's a whole discussion of "ugly" and "beautiful" and societal expectations entrenched therein, but for this purpose, I'll refrain.)

2. I don't recall you saying: what was the reaction when you cut off contact with her?

Drama! There are llamas! (Have I mentioned black humor as my favorite coping technique?) The llamas are legion! (Legionary Llamas will be my new cover band.)

About a month after I sent her The No Contact letter, I received a phone call from my dad, who does not like phones in the first place. He wanted to have lunch. Hopeful, I said okay. I was sorely disappointed. He told stories until the lunch was half over, then said that my mom was crying her eyes out every night because I "put a stake right in your mother's heart". He wanted me to pull out the stake because "it'll make my life a lot easier". I walked away at the end of the meal knowing I never had a father, and haven't talked to or seen him since.

Two months later, I got a birthday card in the mail with her damn handwriting all over it. I returned it to sender. (Awesome therapist said I should have kept it and any money. I just wanted that piece of garbage guilt out of my house.) I haven't heard from them since. Sometimes I want to move across the country, just to be further than an hour from them, but that lessens as the months pass and I don't see them. I don't have to go back to that house ever again! YAY!

Not once has anyone in my family asked me why I sent the letter. (Because they already know, really, but now the only game is to prove I deserved it.) Instead, my sister and her fiance blocked me on facebook as soon as I posted about changing my name. My brother is playing ALL the sides and pretending to be with me to my face, while still saying, I'm with you to my mom. It's circle the wagons time.

One last story to illustrate my family's dynamic, which I'll first describe. There is a Party Line, about everything and anything. Someone (usually mom) decide how We Will Feel about something ---- a relative, a political figure, an event --- and then anyone who has a dissenting view is shouted down, literally or just figuratively, and run out of town on a rail.

At a family dinner, the discussion was about Twitter. (Yep, a few years ago.) The Party Line, which bounced from sister to mom to brother, was that Twitter was a waste of time and useless and silly and frivolous. I tried to weigh in, three times, with my own opinion, and got run over three times. I reacted angrily, and said something like, If I could ever get a word in, and was immediately shouted down as overdramatic. I said something like, You're right, I overreacted. (shocked faces all around). I further said that I was frustrated and I was sorry, but I felt that Twitter could be used for social protests and etc. and continued my point. Twitter was immediately dropped from the convo like a hot rock. I think everyone was so shocked that I had civilly admitted to overreacting instead of flouncing off that they didn't know how to deal with it. (Not that flouncing was standard, but they still think I'm an overreactive overdramatic silly teenager, regardless of what friggin year it is. So, expectations.)

Growing up, I was the kid with the parents who weren't divorced. All of my friends were from "broken homes" and worse - those were the kids I could talk to, who understood me. I always felt broken, and my parents always made fun of my friends and couldn't understand why I liked them. It's really clear that I was just as broken as my friends; my parents may have been married, but I was growing up without any parents.

This turned into a book, but I will squelch any feelings of not deserving to take up space, and click Post anyway.

#528 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 04:30 PM:

blind wisdom @493, checking your "view all by" show that you last posted a couple of years ago. It's good to hear from you again. It sounds like nothing much has changed in your relationship with your husband. And, frankly, it still sounds pretty bad.

knitcrazybooknut @527, I admire how clearly you can see all this (and I know it's hard-won knowledge developed over time). I also love the Legionary Llama Drama. :-)

#529 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 05:03 PM:

#527 ::: knitcrazybooknut

My mother wasn't nearly as negative as yours, but her "I just want you to lose weight so you'll be happy" made me crazy.

I haven't sorted out what all the issues were, but I think there's a slew of boundary violations there.

#530 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 05:54 PM:

Jacque @509: re. me @487. I do see what you mean, but it doesn't have to be that way - the new goal could be to continue doing what you've achieved, but regularly, not just as a one-off, for example. And for many people the achievement becomes its own reward.

What I've seen at parkrun is people of all ages (six to 70+), and all sizes, discover that they can cover 5K (3.1 miles) under their own steam. Some of them have wanted to get fitter, some have wanted to lose weight, some are recovering from major operations, some of them were looking for something they could do physically in company with other people. Some were looking for running they could still do when they didn't have the time for longer stuff, or were getting older and the longer distances were now too long. Some of them are running with a dog, others while pushing a baby buggy. And some are really fit and fast runners. And they're all there together, and they can push themselves to get a PB, if they like, - or not, if they just want to jog round. And some may walk most of the way, or all the way. And that's fine, and the last people in get a big cheer... And some people go on to do local races, and some don't. And I accept that it's not for everyone, but I've seen it change people's lives (including mine), and grow communities.

knitcrazybooknut @518: Been reading (here and your blog. And I wanted you to know: I'm reading, I'm witnessing. A big {{{{hug}}}} if you're open to that, 'cos you deserve one.

#531 ::: dcb has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 05:55 PM:

Maybe excessive spaces? I can offer stewed pears and apples.

#532 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 06:21 PM:

Chickadee @512: I don't remember the whole comment, but the gist of it was as follows.

Fat or not, people with body confidence issues may benefit from reading Lessons From the Fat-O-Sphere, which I enjoyed a lot. (Disclaimer: I am fat. My not-fat mother also likes it.) I also read (that one is present tense) Lesley Kinzel and Marianne Kirby, both of whom write for xojane at the moment. I find their views on embodiment helpful.

#533 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 08:27 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @527: He told stories until the lunch was half over, then said that my mom was crying her eyes out every night because I "put a stake right in your mother's heart". He wanted me to pull out the stake because "it'll make my life a lot easier".

Oh right, now I remember.

Which puts me in mind of my own similar conversation: I disconnected by moving away with no forwarding address in 1980. Then, some years after I'd moved back (without aprising them of this), when I finally had my own place all to myself, I got tired of shelling out the extra $$ to keep my number unlisted. I don't know if they were trading shifts keeping watch, or what, but suddenly people started popping out of the woodwork, calling me. (Well, in retrospect, I think it was only two or three, but it still felt like an onslaught.)

Then my dad died.

Flashback: I'm in my late teens. I happen to be in the living room when my parents are having a conversation about Plans. The recording starts when my dad says, "But what will you do if I die first?" And my mother answers, with blithe confidence, "Oh, Jacque will take care of me." I didn't say anything at the time, just got the fuck out of the room.

So, I get word (I forget how) that my dad has died. I'm at home, doing whatever, and the phone rings. It's one of my dad's old coworkers, at my mom's house, and she wants me to know that my mom really needs me right now. Astonishingly, all the years of conditioning were strong enough to prevent my head from exploding on the spot. I was able to say, very civilly, "Um, you're putting me in a very awkward position." This apparently satisfies this person, who rings off.

I find it significant that it was not my mother who finally broke down and made the call. And that was the closest thing I ever got to an acknowledgement from her of my I divorcing them. I still don't quite know what to make of that.

#534 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 10:20 PM:

the invisible one @397: YES! That sounds like up to half my internal dialog. If this extinction burst idea is true, then either I have legions of behaviours to extinguish, or they are sneaky and defiant, or both. Like having squashed half a million mental bugs, and having the remaining half-million crawling towards's hard to see progress. Recently things have been mysteriously horrible. Low spirits, tired, overwhelmed, chronic internal resistance over anything and everything. My therapist doesn't think I'm depressed, but some days I wonder...

"I learned to suppress the action of speaking up when something bothered me, because it never ended well."

Me too, and it's so hard to shake because it gets reinforced randomly but regularly in my life. Right now it's being reinforced by Housemate. She was, before move-in, pretty much the opposite of now. She was calm, kind, soothing, nonjudgemental, and asked us what we wanted. The daily reality is that she's tempermental and bossy to me and Partner, and has been for months, gradually getting worse. When upset she is very loud and very nasty, even for what she considers mildly upset. She will often be angry about outside things, but take it out on us if we happen to say or do something she doesn't like, and rarely apologizes later for the friendly fire. She reads the resulting tension as her being forced to walk on eggshells in case she upsets us. And she's still operating on the idea that if she did anything to upset us that we'd feel safe telling her. This was true with her original behaviour, but not for a long time now, because it's not safe to tell her that it's not safe anymore!

The message I am taking from it is that she can be a safe and healing person for me when she wants to bother, but that most of the time I'm not worth the energy, to her. When she's not bothering, she is detrimental to my mental health, sometimes verging on abusive. My belief in this being miscommunication and her deserving benefit of the doubt is limited at this point. I know from experience that she can read people better than this when she wants to. If she was truly interested in treating us better, she would be already.

Housemate will be moving in with her girlfriend only some months from now (poor girlfriend), so my partner and I are trying to wait it out patiently. The goal is to have the maximum temporary peace without turning into doormats for her.

Because of housing expenses, we'll have to find a new housemate. Anyone got tips on (1) enduring and defending against current Housemate, and (2) finding a new housemate who won't walk all over us?

#535 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 11:06 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @ 597: Lots of hugs if you want them. My mother wasn't exactly the same, but there are a LOT of echoes in what you're saying for me.

I haven't had the guts to cut my mother off; instead I compromise with minimal contact. That's because I haven't been able to decide about whether breaking contact completely would have benefits worth the cost. The problem is not the mother of today, it's the mother of yesterday, especially the copy of her installed in my head. Breaking contact with the mother of today does not remove the mother of yesterday from my memories or my mental wiring.

Just as important, I can tell is that my mother is beginning to try to make amends. She's terrible at it, and still mostly believes her own propaganda, but her trying at all is notable progress that should not be discouraged. So while I won't accept any crap, I'm not going to reject or mock any sincere attempt to apologize, even the very awkward or belated ones. I try to build more positive history, by providing opportunities to do the right thing (listen to me and offer what I need), and be rewarded (with thank you), in non-threatening ways. It may even be working!

"Being raised to not have any inconvenient feelings made it tough to know how I felt about anything hurtful" -- yes, that's it. I had and have lots of hurt feelings and anger, but when it's made clear by an oppressor that my feelings are disliked, the feelings go into guerrilla camoflague mode, and then I can't find them either. Sometimes not even with a lot of work, until things are so bad that explosion is better/safer than suppression, or there is enough distance that they get declassified. There are not enough people/situations where hurt and anger are safe things to feel, for me to have really learnt new habits. Instead the new habits are all still in the fragile-seedlings stage, and get crushed from time to time.

#536 ::: Another Quiet One ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 12:17 AM:

Hullo, popping back in after an extended hiatus. I think I've missed most of the last two or three DFD threads. Maybe longer. Life got complicated a yearish ago and is much better now than it was then, or at least still complicated but in a more satisfying way. Capsule version: got religion, quit job, started grad school.

I admit that what's drawn me in today is the conversation ongoing about not having inconvenient feelings. That resonates so much with me also, and it's something I think I may be looking for professional help with going forward. It's pretty telling when a family visit that ends in a parental scolding for Doing It Wrong ends up being an affirmation that no, I was in fact not making all that shiat up. I have to laugh a bit; the alternative hurts too much.

And so it goes. I am so grateful this community exists, even if I'm not rooted here as much as I used to be. Take off your shoes, we walk on holy ground.

#537 ::: Another Quiet One, gnomed on re-entry ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 12:19 AM:

I've attracted the gnomes' attention again.

#538 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 02:08 AM:

#534, Moonlit Night:

If this extinction burst idea is true, then either I have legions of behaviours to extinguish, or they are sneaky and defiant, or both. Like having squashed half a million mental bugs, and having the remaining half-million crawling towards's hard to see progress.

I'm thinking both. Actually, I think I'd rather a sneaky Jerkbrain than a million mental bugs; it seems to be different presentations of the same few over and over again in my head, instead of lots and lots of things wrong with me. Only a few things wrong is kind of easier to imagine fixing. Even if they are big things, like being able to trust that a person I'm interested in is still interested in me the next day.

Recently things have been mysteriously horrible. Low spirits, tired, overwhelmed, chronic internal resistance over anything and everything. My therapist doesn't think I'm depressed, but some days I wonder...

I have never been diagnosed but sometimes I think I may have a very mild form. It's pretty easy for me to slip into "everything sucks, can't do anything, I'm useless, nobody loves me" mode, and once I get in it's hard to get out again. I hesitate to call it depression because I don't want to minimize what some people have, and whatever I have it's light enough that I can manage it through exercise and keeping active and doing stuff that I can look at later and say "I did that!" -- but bad enough that I *have* to manage it. A couple of pyjama days when I have more than a weekend of no work is enough to start the spiral, but getting out of the house and doing anything before lunch means that I can do other things after that and actually get stuff done and not feel like I'm useless. (Runs are great for that, for me. Out of the house *and* winding up my energy levels.)

it's so hard to shake because it gets reinforced randomly but regularly in my life.

Yup. Right now I think I'll be satisfied with being able to speak up to New Interest, and be confident that in that one context it will be safe to do so. There are so many people, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, whatever, who will try to squelch the "drama" of somebody saying "that's not cool". The rest of the world, well, I can't trust it to be safe. But I want to learn to trust New Interest. What I don't know is whether it's even possible to learn to speak up (or do anything, or especially trust) in one context when it's squashed randomly but regularly everywhere else.

#539 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 06:51 AM:

#538 ::: the invisible one

I hesitate to call it depression because I don't want to minimize what some people have, and whatever I have it's light enough that I can manage it through exercise and keeping active and doing stuff that I can look at later and say "I did that!" -- but bad enough that I *have* to manage it.

There's such a thing as mild-to-moderate depression as well as severe depression. It's possible that they shouldn't have the same name-- iirc, they don't respond to the same drugs-- but meanwhile, you aren't taking anything away from anyone if you say (as seems plausible to me) that you've got depression.

#540 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 07:14 AM:

Moonlit Night #434: Recently things have been mysteriously horrible. Low spirits, tired, overwhelmed, chronic internal resistance over anything and everything. My therapist doesn't think I'm depressed, but some days I wonder...

Two thoughts: (1) Just in case, have you checked for physical illness? (2) This may well be fatigue from the crud you're describing with your housemate. Keeping your shields up at home can be pretty exhausting.

#541 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 11:55 AM:

#539, Nancy Lebovitz:

I have heard of mild depression. I also hesitate to call it that because I have never been diagnosed, so I don't know if that's actually what it is. (Although the early stages of the hyperbole and a half comic on the subject were recognizable to me.)

I'm also reluctant to find a new therapist to figure out if this is what I have, after the mess of the last one where she was reinforcing the crap that crappy ex was feeding me. I'm not sure what benefit it would provide, since I've figured out my way of managing whatever it is my brain is doing to me, and that works for me, so I don't have a lot of drive to get diagnosed either.

So, inside my head I call it probably mild depression, and outside of my head I generally don't mention it. Here and to New Interest are the only times I've said anything so far.

#542 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 12:26 PM:

the invisible @541--There is a thing, which is sometimes called dysthymia, and sometimes persistent depressive disorder, which is not as severe and intense as major clinical depression (which is usually acute, even if a recurrent problem).

Even though it is not as severe and intense as major clinical depression is, it's still not a fun thing to cope with. The article about it (as Dysthymia) at Wikipedia appears to be in fairly good shape just now*, and the comments on therapy appear to be sensible, and may reflect what you are already working on doing for yourself

*This can change, of course. It's Wikipedia.

#543 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 01:37 PM:

#542, fidelio:

I didn't see much in that which reflected my day-to-day. I'm certainly not gloomy most of the time, nor do I have an inability to enjoy activities which I have previously found fun. It's mostly if I drop my activity level and do nothing for a couple of days that I slide in that direction. That is where I slide, though, when I slide.

So again, if that's what it is, it's mild enough that I can keep out of it with keeping active and feeling like I'm accomplishing something. (When there's not enough to do at work, I start to feel useless too.)

Maybe in the 2+ years between graduating university into a recession and finding my first job I could have qualified for that diagnosis. That was before I figured out how to manage it, and I did spend more days than not feeling useless. The next time I was unemployed, a few years ago (another recession) I successfully kept it at bay the majority of the time by going hiking and cycling most days, and that activity powered my job hunting.

I seem to have mostly trained myself that if I am getting that way, with a whole lot of "don't wanna" and feeling useless, I drop whatever it is I'm procrastinating and go for a walk, even if getting dressed is the last thing I want to do at that time and even if there are a million things that need to be done. Once I've done that, I can, say, play my guitar for a bit, or load/unload the dishwasher, or do something small that is still something, and that starts me climbing out of that hole. (I try to start with something I enjoy rather than chores, except that dirty kitchens make it hard to cook, and I enjoy cooking.)

#544 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 05:22 PM:

invisible one @543--You live in your head, and not me. I think mental health is a variable state for pretty much everyone; it's just that some have more variance than others, and some notice their changes more than others.

My take-away from that piece was less focused on severity of symptoms*, and more on these points: first of all dysthymia is a condition that is long-term and chronic, rather than having an acute onset, and that it was one which needed regular attention--mostly from the person living with it, which I think is called self-monitoring by some, although I've heard 'taking my mental temperature' used by a friend--and secondly, it was one that benefitted less from medication and more from behavior-based and cognitive therapies--in other words, behaviors that gave the person positive, constructive feelings about themselves, and that helped them stop classifying themselves as 'useless' or 'worthless', and finding different ways to look at their situation and accomplishments.

Sort of like having a big hole with multiple levels, but working on remembering that there are ladders, and you know how to climb them to get out--but that you have to remember where the ladders are and how to climb them, and that climbing up is allowed, and fighting the urge to stumble over the edge to the next level down, or climbing down a ladder.

*Partly because who knows how bad it really is? Objective measurements of happiness and unhappiness, joy and misery, are like objective measurements of pain--a myth.

#545 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 05:45 PM:

Moonlit Night #434; the invisible one @543: Just thnking about the time of year - marginal SAD? Ensuring you get outside in daylight in the middle of the day might help. Abi provided details a while back on how to make an inexpensive blue LED lamp, as I recall - worth thinking about?

#546 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 06:17 PM:

#544, fidelio:

Ok, that's not what I got out of the article, other than that it was chronic instead of acute episodes. But your description of holes and levels and ladders, sure. I have to do certain things to avoid falling down the hole, and the main consistently useful-to-me ladder I've found to get back up a level is exercise. (And unfiltered freewriting, so often promoted on writing websites, is like greasing the edges of the hole then tilting everything. Unfiltered freewriting is really bad for me.)

#545, dcb:

I doubt SAD in my case. If there's any seasonal link to my bad days my guess is that shorter days with worse weather mean it's less fun to go outside. Miserable dark rainy day where I still get out for a run leaves me with better brain weather (to use a term I've heard here) than gorgeous sunny day where I don't, even if I am right by a huge window and get lots of sunlight on me.

#547 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 06:21 PM:

the invisible one @546: Okay, just thought I'd mention it. Agree about the fantastic benefits of getting out for a run (and I'm injured and estimate from specialist is a year without running, which is going to drive me nuts).

#548 ::: EJ ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 06:26 PM:

fidelio @542: oh god thank you for posting that. I just read the WP piece on dysthymia thinking "yep... yep... yep, that's me... and that, too". The thing being that, after two bad bouts of depression 10+ years ago and some shitty personal stuff surrounding them, I'd more or less forgotten what I was like before it all. So it's only in the last couple of years I've started to realise there is something up with me that can't just be waved away as "introverted and a bit lazy".

Trying to do something about it, now, that's another matter. But it's a massive help to have confirmation this is a Thing and not just me being me.

#549 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 07:37 PM:

#547, dcb:

sorry to hear about the injury. I've had a variety through this past year. One stopped me from running but not everything else; one stopped me from running, long hiking, and weights but not cycling and short walks; the current one is stopping me from cycling and swimming and weights but not running or hiking. It's frustrating, and I'm just glad I haven't had any that stopped me from doing all of my activity things at the same time.

#550 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 07:39 PM:

invisible one @546: Everybody's mileage varies. So I'm not stunned we could see different things in the article.

I know quite a few people who say they have better brain weather when they get some daily vigorous exercise. It's like we were meant to use our bodies or something! :)

dcb @547: That stinks; I hope you can find a substitute of some kind.

EJ @548: I'm glad if that opened a door for you. Brain stuff is complicated, and "not major" doesn't mean "perfectly fine". I sometimes suspect we're trained to think if it's not killing us fast it can't really be a problem. An ingrown toenail isn't a broken leg but it still hurts and it still needs attention.

#551 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 10:01 PM:

the invisible one @ 538: I do get many many variations on the core Jerkbrain themes, which I can tell boils down to one symphonic emotional concentrate beyond words. So...a million mental bugs controlled by a hive-mind?

My sliding into despondency or being attacked by mysterious horribleness is nowhere near as predictable and manageable as yours. I haven't found anything that *reliably* brings up my energy. I do have coping mechanisms, but often they will merely keep anxiety at bay or relax me instead of energizing me. Getting stuff done is particularly unpredictable -- sometimes it's energizing, sometimes it's exhausting.

"whether it's even possible to learn to speak up (or do anything, or especially trust) in one context when it's squashed randomly but regularly everywhere else."

Human behaviour is very contextual, so I'm sure we can learn to speak up at home, if we *reliably* get good results from doing that. I have been working hard to change bad patterns and cultivate gut-level belief in reliable love and fairness and kindness and goodwill. To feel safe and listened to and loved and and warm in my own home. Partner has been pretty supportive, especially once he understood the point and we started getting enough results to get a virtuous cycle. (Not to say it's all been smooth sailing.) I think I am this pissed off at Current Bad Housemate and Previous Bad Housemate because they have sabotaged that effort, and made my home unsafe to boot. Example: this summer Partner was unemployed *and* Housemate was glowering and stomping most days, and Partner often was, without provocation, uncharacteristically nasty to me. Since school started again and his grants came in, and Housemate's work situation improved somewhat, Partner is back to his kind, easy-going self. In retrospect I see a pattern...

Dave Harmon @ 540: I think it's fatigue from crappy Housemate plus only-midddling self-care. I need more sleep, more exercise, and better food, but I'm not noticeably ill. It's hard to allow myself to take care of me, and the actual care can be a lot of work too. That means self-care doesn't produce a big net gain in energy. Maybe that will change in the future. Right now letting someone else take care of me is more restorative in the net, though in a restful way.

Wanting more energy from activity is probably why I'm so obsessed with having a functioning bike again for spring. Biking is fun! and good for me! and useful! This is a rare combination. Plus, I like pretty bikes. Go on, look at this one and tell me that is NOT a leggy supermodel of a bike. That's what Corbusier was talking about, the way that a stripped-down machine aesthetic can lead to visual poetry.

dcb @ 545: I agree SAD is probably at work, though it's not the whole problem. Unfortunately, getting more sun is a major scheduling hassle, now that it's coat-gloves-hat weather and staying that way til nearly April. I need to start taking vitamin D and acquire a blue light, and see how much it helps.

#552 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 10:40 PM:

There was this NPR article recently, which I doubt anyone here will find surprising; I mention it only to point to the questionnaire they allude to but don't link to: Finding your ACE Score. I read through that at work today, keeping count (19/20, but only because I woke up when I did), and sat crying quietly, grateful that the geography of the office meant that no one could see me. It's such a relief to hear an outside voice saying "no, really, this behavior is hurtful, and experiencing it causes lifelong difficulties."

#553 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 10:49 PM:

9/10, I mean. Good to find it again for the link, not bad to double check numbers. Eh.

And so to bed.

#554 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 12:09 AM:

First, I want to thank KayTei, dcb, OtterB, Nancy Lebovitz, Diatryma, iliad slightly awry, and Lee for your awesome body image suggestions. I've been studying Health At Every Size and reading a tumblr about thin privilege, and deconstructing my reactions to lots and lots of things. I will have another opportunity to work on this stuff, because on Saturday I will be shopping for bigger pairs of pants. (Luckily, it's with my awesome friend who loves shopping and verbally destroys the designers of clothing that doesn't fit me - basically, the opposite of my mom!) I also recommend Life Is Not A Dress Size (from the 90s but still a good book). Like most of my life's struggles, it's about the value that society places on something being diametrically opposed to the value that I place on it. I'm just getting down to the core issues, and working through them one slog at a time.

On a side note, I adore the xojane bloggers that someone suggested, but I can't think about Jane Pratt without remembering fondly the Daria episode with "Val".

Having the space to talk about Mom behavior was very enlightening. I'm slowly learning that the world will not end if I tell the truth about my family. And that people won't automatically discount what I say because it's just "crazy, exaggerating, overreacting, melodramatic" me who is telling the tale. It's amazing how entrenched that gets.

Jacque, your story rang some serious bells for me. W/R/T your mom not being the one to call you? I am fairly certain that my mom will never reach out, because she considers herself the victim and will never need to apologize. She likes complaining about me more than she wants a relationship with me. Also, I have a similar story about "taking care of" parentals. My mom has always said that it's my job to take care of my parents when they get older. Yet in everything they did when raising me, they hamstrung my ability to earn a living and be successful enough to afford to do that! (Talk about shooting the goose that lays the golden eggs.)

One specific story: My grandfather moved into a group home about seven years ago. It was a great facility, with small private rooms and a lot of common areas and a walkway around the entire place. Still, a senior home, but nice. I walked out after the visit next to my mom, who said, "Don't you ever put me in a place like this!" I looked at her, perplexed, and said, "You'll be lucky to have a place this nice!" I was not joking. I think she kind of was, and kind of wasn't.

Moonlit Night, minimal contact worked for me for a while, and I utterly respect anyone's choice to maintain contact. I was honestly suicidal for a lot of 2012, and it all came to a head by the end of the year. My awesome therapist asked me to write a letter to my mom - what I would say if she had to listen and not say anything back. I wrote six pages handwritten in about twenty minutes. I showed it to her and she asked me if I wanted to send it. I practically yelled, "I HAVE TO." Staying in touch with those folks was destroying my soul. And there had been no acknowledgement or admittance of anything they ever did wrong. I was so angry when my dad was diagnosed with PTSD and my mom mentioned it off-handedly one day. I will never understand how they can see me as the dramatic one when my father was clinically diagnosed as having a mental disorder. But *I'm* the problem. OMG lots of capital letters happening in my mind right now.

There's been a general discussion of various forms of depression and such lately, and I wanted to put in my two cents. I was clinically depressed for a lot of my twenties, and just thought that's the way things were. I didn't know this until many years later, because talking about how I felt never worked in my childhood ever. Anyway.

One of the benefits that I can see in being diagnosed as depressive or with any other disorder is that you may not need the diagnosis or help now. You may be coping just fine now. You may have all of the methods and work-arounds and hacks figured out just fine for your life right now.

But what happens if that changes? I think Nancy was talking about not being able to run for a year. Body chemistry changes, especially for women of a Certain Age (learned this one the hard way myself). Work situations flux, and people around us change. In my opinion, if you have a doctor you can trust, and your life is fairly manageable, it's a good idea to figure out what it is that you have, so you have the tools around if you need them. I'm sure the mileage varies all over the place, but that's my opinion.

#555 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 12:35 AM:

johnofjack, #552: Reading over that questionnaire, the most I would be able to answer yes to might be the very first question, and that only in a "well, sorta, sometimes" kind of way. And yet, it is very obvious both to me looking back and to other people that I talk to about my parents that they were dysfunctional and damaging.

Which is to say, that questionnaire is neither necessary nor sufficient to test whether there was family dysfunction going on. In your case, there clearly was, and I'm sorry you had to go thru it.

But there are a lot of people like me out here too, who would be unable to point to anything so overtly abusive and yet... we are damaged, and trying to deal with it. So someone who can't come up with much of a score on that questionnaire should not be misled thereby into thinking that nothing was wrong just because "well, it wasn't THAT bad".

#556 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 01:34 AM:

knitcrazybooknut: A question it only belatedly occurred to me to ask: how do you think your mother felt about you? I mean, we know how she thought she was supposed to feel about you, and how she though she should feel about you in order to be a "good mother". But, in her heart of hearts, how do you think she really feels? Does she have any awareness of her true feelings? (You'd already alluded to her being angry at aging, while simultaneously resenting you for being young.) How did/does she feel about being a parent?

Do you have any sense of her reaction to you as a person?

#557 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 06:23 AM:

Lee: that's a very good point; thanks for bringing it up.

#558 ::: Variations on a Lime ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 07:08 AM:

the invisible one @538
"I hesitate to call it depression because I don't want to minimize what some people have, and whatever I have it's light enough that I can manage it..."

A fever of 99.5 isn't the same as 101.5, but it is a fever: the "mental temperature" analogy is what sprung to mind too. I've got a set of CBT and mindfulness tools I use to note when I've got the equivalent of 99.5, to keep the analogy going. Sometimes I don't notice it is there, sometimes I think it is a just-a-99 when I'm already over 100.

#559 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 12:55 PM:

#550, fidelio:

It's like we were meant to use our bodies or something!

One would think so, wouldn't one?

#551, Moonlit Night:

I do get many many variations on the core Jerkbrain themes, which I can tell boils down to one symphonic emotional concentrate beyond words. So...a million mental bugs controlled by a hive-mind?

To extend that metaphor, if we could put words to, and defeat, the queen of the hive, that symphonic emotional concentrate, would the other mental bugs who are variations on that theme then scatter and die? Because that would be really helpful if it were possible.

Human behaviour is very contextual, so I'm sure we can learn to speak up at home, if we *reliably* get good results from doing that. I have been working hard to change bad patterns and cultivate gut-level belief in reliable love and fairness and kindness and goodwill.

Oh. That's exactly what I'm working on. Except I live alone, and I don't get to see New Interest every day, even when one of us isn't travelling for work. Every separation of more than about a week and Jerkbrain starts getting noisier than my ability to suppress it -- even though we talk (either sms or email depending on who is where) every day. But, there's no facial expressions or tone of voice or body language in email and sms. I guess I still have a gut-level belief that not being together is the same as growing apart. Since that happened with both previous exes. (Not that the separation caused the growing-apart, just that they were co-incident in time and thus got connected in my brain.)

#554, knitcrazybooknut:

One of the benefits that I can see in being diagnosed as depressive or with any other disorder is that you may not need the diagnosis or help now. You may be coping just fine now. You may have all of the methods and work-arounds and hacks figured out just fine for your life right now.

But what happens if that changes?

Excellent point. I will have to consider that. The "something changes" that immediately came to mind for me is having kids. New Interest has been up front that not having kids is a dealbreaker for him, so if this works out and becomes a permanent relationship, we'll be having kids. (There are many things that need to be discussed before things get that far, of course.) Having my doctor already aware that I slide into a pit fairly easily may help get the support needed to mostly stay out of it in that situation; I've heard of post-partum depression, and those who have had any kind of depression in the past are more likely to have that. And actually, that early discussion with New Interest about whether I was ok with having kids was where I first mentioned that I would have a severe problem with the stay-at-home-not-working situation because I *had* to get out and do stuff to stay out of the pit. (I know stay at home moms have a lot of work to do and child care is definitely work. That sort of work drains me instead of energizes me, so it will not help me stay out of the pit.)

I have a new doctor as of this spring, who seems to be better (and somebody I think I can trust more) than my old doctor, who I fired a couple of years ago for being a dumbass. (Seriously, "nobody knows why runners get hurt" and "just get on with it" to an ankle tendon problem?!)

#558, Variations on a Lime:

A fever of 99.5 isn't the same as 101.5, but it is a fever

Yeah. Different in degree but not in kind, and still something that needs to be dealt with.

I'm trying to resist my usual reaction to people telling me I really should do something I wasn't intending to do (namely, dig in my heels and get stubborn) because there are some excellent reasons and analogies and I'm starting to think it might be a good idea. I don't know how to find a counsellor who will be a good fit; I've only ever had one before and while I was seeing her regularly I thought she was helpful. After the fact, after I had some time away from crappy ex and some time talking with one of my best friends (who, perhaps relevant, has her own mental health issues which are controlled with medication) I found out that counsellor was the opposite of helpful. So, I don't really trust my judgement in this area. But, I am starting to consider how to go about this.

#560 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 01:55 PM:

the invisible one @549:, fidelio @550: Thanks. My problem is that running IS my main hobby/activity. I've spent the past year training for and running five 50-mile trail ultras. I've been cleared to swim, and to do Pilates "if it doesn't hurt" but while I vaguely enjoy both of them, and feel better for keeping physically active, they're really no substitute either for 1-1.5 hour runs with my running club or for 3-6 hour trail runs off by myself.

I -do- have another project to focus on, thankfully, but I only just saw the specialist so I'm still mourning the loss of my running and worrying about whether I'll be able to run properly even in a year from now (posterior tibial tendonitis, which I was managing, followed by cycling accident landing hard on the bad foot, leading to partial rupture of the tendon - not good).

#561 ::: dcb has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 01:56 PM:

Not sure why. Probably excess spaces again. We have some fresh fruit.

#562 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 01:58 PM:

Wow! That's rapid action! Thanks, gnomes.

#563 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 03:39 PM:

Jacque, @556: You ask a lot of good questions. Let's see.

How do you think your mother felt about you? ...In her heart of hearts, how do you think she really feels? Does she have any awareness of her true feelings? How did/does she feel about being a parent? Do you have any sense of her reaction to you as a person?

Her reaction to me always felt like puzzlement, leading to anger. She never understood me. As an adult, I could see her trying to understand me, but always coming up short. It was like she was trying to speak a foreign language without ever learning the vocabulary. I think my existence is a burr under her saddle that will never quite be right. I think before I cut off contact, she used me to reflect glory on herself wherever she could, and tolerated me when I was around. I don't think she's ever been aware of her true feelings, because of the short circuit.

1. I don't like this person! She challenges me and makes me fearful!
2. Fear makes me angry and I want to strike out.
3. This person is my daughter, and therefore I must love and appreciate her. I cannot strike out.

*short circuit occurs* *anger, flailing, lashing out* Basic does not compute action happens.

I don't actually think that she knows how she really feels about anything. She has never been introspective, or even taken the time to think about the words coming out of her mouth before she says them out loud. That's one of the things she hates about me, that I "think too much". Oh rilly.

She loves being a parent because of the cachet it lends her. She is a legitimate being because she has children, and they can reflect what a wonderful job she did as a mother.

Yeah. I've been thinking a lot about what her reaction has always been to me. Puzzlement, incomprehension, then pissed. It's been pretty damn consistent.

The hardest part about going no contact was admitting that I'd finally given up. I'm really good at teaching people how to do things, and I spent decades of my life trying to teach her who I was and get her to understand me. There were occasional glimmers of light, and of course there were times when she was actually nice to me (law of averages will do that!). But I would take one baby step forward, and then we'd go to The Family Home for a meal and she would pull some stupid power trip on me. Like the time she said food would be served at noon, and at two o'clock, I said I needed to eat, and she refused to let me eat anything. I walked away instead of arguing with her, and she served food two minutes later. Or at my uncle's memorial service (at The Family Home) where she told me me to sit closer to everyone else. I refused, did not move, and she ranted at me for five minutes in front of the entire family.

No thanks! I will be done now. And much happier for it!

#564 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 04:30 PM:

knitcrazybooknut: Yeah, your analysis matches up pretty well with what I would have deduced, based on your reports.

And further extrapolation strongly suggests that the reason she was "crying her eyes out" after you broke off contact is that she had lost a reflector-of-glory-onto-her, and reacted the way one would react to losing an appendage.

Further, I will wager that she has a strong (and completely unconscious) investment in not acknowledging you as a separate, independent individual, because to do so would require her to dissociate from you-as-an-extension-of-her. Which dissociation actually requires substantial skill, strength, and awareness. And motivation.

How does she interact with other people? Does she show any awareness of them as discrete individuals? Or does she mostly deal with them, too, in terms of what they mean to who she is in the world?

A big part of why I find this (perversely) fascinating is that my mom was like that, too, though perhaps not quite as severely. I think she did have a sense of me-as-a-discrete-individual, but that individual, to the degree that she could parse me at all was, you know, Rong. So her dealings with me were mostly geared to fixing that misalignment. Blessedly, she didn't (now that I think about it) scapegoat me in the way that your mother does to you. She just mostly didn't get me, and was made anxious by what she did get.

#565 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 04:33 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @563: she told me me to sit closer to everyone else. I refused, did not move, and she ranted at me for five minutes in front of the entire family.

Prurient interest again: what was the content of her rant? There were a couple of directons I could see it going, but I'm curious what she actually did. What was the rest of the family's reaction?

#566 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 06:12 PM:

#564 ::: Jacque

It could be the reflected glory thing, but I also think people can just get entangled with each other in ways that make loss painful, even if there wasn't actual love.

I didn't love my parents. My anger at my mother was probably the primary emotional fact in my life until I was forty or later. I became a noticeably happier person (my friends noticed it) after she died.

Still, I grieved for them. As far as I can tell, I wasn't grieving for what might have been. That's a separate emotional area that I have very little contact with.

A General Theory of Love is plausible about relationships affecting metabolic regulation. That's why human infants can die of loneliness, and why, after a relationship ends, people are apt to have problems with eating and sleeping.

This is not reliably connected with the quality of the relationship.

The book didn't address the question of why metabolic regulation isn't necessary reciprocal-- why sometimes A needs B to feel good, and B needs to be away from A to feel good.

#567 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 07:18 PM:

Jacque, I think the crying thing is a little more complicated. My mom doesn't do any emotional work, so when she feels bad, someone else needs to make her feel better. Her crying means, Pay attention to me and give me love so I feel better about myself. It's emotional blackmail to get what she wants. She is crying to get attention from the people who will do something about what ails her.

And further, losing her grasp on the achievement of good mother. "What kind of mother isn't in touch with her children?" I've heard her judge other people with that harsh ruler.

I don't think she's total narcissist, but she has some deep, deep streaks of that behavior. She has a lot of friends, but rolls through them every now and then, cycling through just when things could go a step deeper. That's anathema to her - no depth! Just surface comparisons!

The funny thing about the rant is that my sister was right there with me. It was a circle of family around the inner living room, and my sister and I were perched on the outer rim. (I'm semi-claustrophobic and did not want to be surrounded on all sides by anyone, let alone that group. Plus, being empathic makes group "emotions" too intense for me, and those kinds of family gatherings are all about feeling the way you're supposed to feel, by which I mean, how everyone else is feeling. Death doesn't make me sad, personally! And the oppression of "You're supposed to be sad now" just ticks me right off.)

Anyway, my sis and I, standing on the edge of the room. Mom said, "Come over and sit in these chairs, right here." I politely said something like, "Thanks for the offer, but I'm fine right here." My sister just shook her head. Then, for the next five minutes, my aunts and mom continued to state that it would be better and best and easier for us to sit where they wanted us to sit, and that we should sit there, now. Just on and on. We declined politely and more firmly. It was just typical.

#568 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 08:47 PM:

dcb, #560: I was just diagnosed with posterior tibial tendonitis myself last month, after suspecting for several weeks that's what was wrong with my right ankle.

I've never been a runner, but I do folk dance and musical theater, and I enjoy hiking. My doctor didn't restrict my activities (yes, I told him about my hobbies), but neither has he prescribed physical therapy. He was on the fence about an AFO, but when he suggested it, I pointed out that I might find it useful on really intense hikes or in similar conditions. So he did prescribe one. Actually, he prescribed them for both feet, since my feet are flat and both ankles are, in his words, "weak". Only the left one currently has a problem, though. I'll hold off on actually getting them until I have the money for my portion of the cost, as they aren't an urgent necessity.

He has also advised me to wear supportive shoes and use rigid arch supports (which I had already begun doing before my appointment, since they helped with the pain). So it's arches, ibuprofen and common sense right now.

I fractured the fibula on this same ankle back in early '08, and my latest x-ray shows what appears to be a dark area of lower-density in the bone, near but not exactly at what I remember as the line of the break. (This didn't appear in my x-rays at the time of the fracture.) He asked if I ever experience pain in that area, and I said "not much; just once in a while" but now of course I'm noticing every twinge and wondering exactly how strong the whole thing is.

I'm debating whether or not to seek a second opinion. I don't want surgery or anything (for either issue) if it's avoidable, but I keep thinking PT might be of use. I suppose I could look up the appropriate exercises and try doing them gently at home to see if they help any with strengthening the tendon, and as for the outside of the ankle where I broke it, I suppose that could be largely in my head since seeing my x-ray, but it's hard to say.


#569 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 09:06 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @567: we should sit there, now. Just on and on

So, basically, "This piece of the environment is supposed to be this way. Wait, it's not going there when I push it. I better push harder! Louder!" ??

It sounds like she doesn't have space in her brain for agency outside of the Correct Family Dynamic?

#570 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 09:07 PM:

Doubtless for creative punctuation.

Um, no food on hand, but I got lots of, uh, plastic bags?

#571 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 10:34 PM:

knitcrazybooknut, #567: She is crying to get attention from the people who will do something about what ails her.

Whoa. Did you notice, while writing that description, that it's exactly the same as why a baby cries? Except that a baby doesn't have any other way of asking for attention or letting the people around know that something is wrong.

I wouldn't have described that as a rant, just nagging -- to me, "rant" implies anger. And you didn't mention that your aunts had joined in, nor that your sister was also targeted. How did she react to this? Did she blame you for getting her caught in the splash zone?

#572 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 03:25 AM:

SummerStorms @568: Sympathies. If I were you I'd go to a physiotherapist and ask about appropriate exercises. From papers I've read, an intensive programme of the right exercises can be effective. I can also point you towards some websites which have good pictures/descriptions of appropriate exercises. The "starting" exercise in a paper I read (which had good results) was simply sitting with your heels touching and turning your feet inward so the soles touch - 25 repetitions, several times a day, working up to being able to do 300 reps at a time (in 3-5 minutes) with no or minimal discomfort. Then it went on to exercises with an exercise band and stuff.

I've had posterior tibial tendonosis for nearly a year, and I've been managing it (physio, exercises) while not giving up running, and it was improving (stopped hurting about 6 miles into my 50-miler in July and didn't hurt again for about 2-3 days afterwards, and during the one in September only hurt on the stoney downhill parts). I was all set, having done my "5 x 50-milers in 2013" to take October off from running, go for some more physio, do the exercises, get it really sorted. Then I came off the bike (three days after the last 50-miler) and the left ankle took the initial impact force. (The second thing to take the impact was my ribcage - one end of the handlebars in the road, the other end in my ribs - which cracked two ribs; this gives some indication of the impact force). So, if I'd got the tendonosis sorted earlier, the tendon might not have ruptured when I came off the bike. But if I hadn't come off the bike, I think I would have been able to get the tendon sorted without it tearing... It's not completely ruptured and the specialist is trying to keep it from doing so, hence the Aircast brace with the pump-up bit under the arch and the supports on the sides (which is irritating, and hurts where it causes pressure on my ankles).

You do NOT want surgery if you can avoid it. Well, cleaning up the tendon, maybe, but probably not by now (and if I'd realised how badly I'd injured it I might have been able to get surgical repair within days of the accident) but the "salvage" op involves using the tendon that normally flexes your minor toes and that changes the mechanics and everything.

As for orthotics, I run minimalist so I try to avoid those. I'm fine with using them as a temporary measure while I need to rest an injured tendon, but I'd rather build up muscle, tendon and ligament strength than use an orthotic long-term.

And since all my problems have been in my left foot/ankle, I think I need to get someone to look seriously at any left/ring imbalances I have (once the tendon is fixed, or maybe during the rehab process).

#573 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 10:30 AM:

I'd love to see those websites, dcb, and thanks in advance.

I don't really have the option of minimalism anymore, as my feet naturally have zero arch and that's a large part of what has stretched and stressed the tendon. All my life (I'm 49) I've walked around at home either in bare feet or wearing non-supportive footwear -- it's a different story when I'm out and about -- and this has apparently not been a Good Idea. Add in the fact that my right leg is also mildly twisted somehow, so that my right foot points outward several degrees off true, and the result is a level of pronation that over-stresses the inside of my foot and ankle right where the tendon comes down to support the "arch" I don't have.

If I put on supportive shoes, use arch supports, or even wear high heels, the pain goes away because my foot is forced into an arch and this takes the strain off the tendon. Interestingly, my left ankle doesn't bother me at all, despite my having no real arch to that foot, either. It's never been *quite* as flat as the right, and it points straight forward so that I get a mostly normal pronation with it and no unnatural strain on the ankle.

I inherited this whole mess from my mother, who wound up having surgery on her right ankle to fuse bones together when she was less than a decade older than I am currently. I disclosed this to my doctor as one of the reasons for my taking action early on, and he told me not to worry because it should never come to that. On the plus side, at least knowing my family history of orthopedic problems helps me to understand what's going on in my own feet and be proactive. But my days of walking around barefoot for long periods are either over or at least subject to limitation.

#574 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 10:50 AM:

Oh, and in keeping with the Dysfunctional Family theme:

When I was a young child, I had to wear special shoes with something called a "Thomas heel" to try and correct the pronation and supination of my flat feet, so that I'd wind up with a normal gait. These were effective, but I was only permitted to wear saddle shoes because apparently those were the only ones available with the modified heel, or some such. I grew to loathe them, and around second grade or so, my family doctor told my parents I could leave off with those and graduate to normal shoes, as any gait-retraining effect had likely been achieved.

However, I still walked with my right foot toed outward, especially when I was tired. My mother used to scold me for that constantly, and I would do my best to straighten the foot. I had to anyway when I was on roller skates or ice skates, as you really do need both feet pointed in the proper direction to get anywhere, and I skated for recreation. Likewise, I had to be aware of that right foot when I was marching in formation as a teen -- I was on my high school band's dance/drill team, and in competition there are points taken off for anyone who is not in *precisely* the correct position and configuration. Yes, even my slightly toed-out right foot had the potential to cost our 210-member organization points. So I was very careful.

I think I was 17 when I examined my own legs and realized that if my right foot was pointing "correctly" forward, my right knee was turned slightly inward compared to the left, meaning that if I bent my right knee forward, it went inward and crossed into the path of the opposite knee, whereas doing the same with my left knee produced a normal forward trajectory. No wonder the natural position of that foot was to angle outward!

I promptly went and showed this to my mother, who freaked out. Somehow, in all the fuss over my feet when I was little, neither she nor my father *nor even the doctor* had ever noticed that my entire LEG was apparently not put together quite right.

At least she stopped hassling me very often about turning that foot outward after that. Of course, by that time I'd internalized the reminder, and I won't even say it's a bad thing to be aware of because when I *do* make a conscious effort to point the foot straight ahead, my ankle tendon stops hurting, so...

#575 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 01:48 PM:

Summer Storms: I'll post the links but probably not until Sunday or Monday - I'm away and on mobile so-called broadband and haven't got all my files with me and...

I've actually grown quite a lot of muscle on my feet by running minimalist - got more arch than I did have. However, they've always pointed properly forwards, not like the problem you're describing (for which, my sympathies).

Oh well, I need to try to be patient (I need patience and I need it NOW). Maybe this would be a good time to learn to meditate.

#576 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 01:58 PM:

Thanks. In order to grow an arch, I'd first have to have one. Given my foot structure, that isn't going to happen, as the necessary elements simply aren't there. On the other hand, at least I've had a long time to get used to not having them!

Fortunately, I'm completely functional. I'd just like to improve on that function, and then maintain the improved state. I'll stay tuned for the links when you have time for them.

In the meantime, wishing you patience and peace!

#577 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 02:25 PM:

Today is a *horrible* brain-weather day and has been since waking up or thereabouts. Constant drizzle and gloom with random downpours. Taking my medicine has only helped a little. Next I will try as much good chocolate as I have on hand, and who cares what the dieting girls in the next desks think...

#578 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 02:28 PM:

Lee @571, it feels like you're questioning my story, and by implication, my reliability as a witness to my own life. I understand that we are communicating through typed characters on a page, and there may be something lost in translation. However, I have gotten enough of 'You don't have a grasp of reality' from my narcissistic mother to last me the rest of my life. I have always enjoyed your posts, but this last one really threw me for a loop.

I really don't want to cause trouble, but speaking up for myself is a long-term life lesson for me. I needed to give this feedback after thinking it through carefully. I'm going to take a break for a little while and process.

#579 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 02:29 PM:

Moonlit Night @577:

All the sympathies. I'm all but drowning in SAD myself right now, bright lights and careful mental discipline notwithstanding. I notice it because my hearing's going; it always does that when I'm sinking.

Can you get outside? Maybe take a walk, even under an umbrella? Might that help?

#580 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 02:36 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @578:

Hey, that was some good boundary work right there.

I'll leave Lee to answer as she does, but that was an extremely well-executed assertion of your own narrative and integrity.

#581 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 02:50 PM:

dcb @ 572 yes please on the websites for foot-care. Spoons are lacking for details but I'm going into surgery in just over 2 weeks for the one foot - no arch and (ref passim Dysfunctional Families) very little care/follow-up on it during my earliest years, and my feet are apparently wrecked without ever having done the usual suspects like high-heeled or too-narrow fashion shoes.

Crazy(and is also going through a period of mourning the enforced break - and possible complete cessation of - her belovéd aikido)Soph

#582 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 02:59 PM:

crazysoph @581:

Sympathy about the aikido. I had to quit because I was picking up shoulder injuries faster than I could heal them. I miss it.

Please keep us posted on the foot surgery.

(And sympathy to SummerStorms and dcb on their injuries, too. These things can be so disruptive, both emotionally and physically. Urgh.)

#583 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 03:09 PM:

SummerStorms @574 -- It might not be an anatomical problem in your leg, but one in your hip. What you describe sounds like the medial rotators being tight -- and if that's so, massage may correct it. The pointing of your toe outward is a way to tighten the lateral rotators to correct for that. Just a suggestion.

#584 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 03:14 PM:

Brain-weather also terrible over here, but then it has been for a while, and this hasn't been at all helped today by having a short-lived but nasty stomach upset overnight. Huge sympathy to all fellow sufferers. Moonlit Night @ 577: enthusiastic chocolate validation to you. If the dieting girls don't like it, they're welcome to depart in peace, or at least shut the heck up.

I've said many times, almost certainly including here, that the worst thing you can swallow is food guilt. Chocolate is good psychological medication!

#585 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 03:37 PM:

Tom Whitmore, #583: I'm having a hard time imagining that as a persistent, daily condition continuing from earliest childhood to middle age without some symptom other than foot positioning. Wouldn't I experience pain or discomfort in my hip or upper leg from something like that? I don't; in fact the only pain I have on that side is in my ankle and that's of recent origin.

When I turn the foot forward, I do feel a difference in my hip: Pointing the foot straight forward results in my hip feeling slightly tight and... well, off-kilter. If I leave the foot in its default position, my hip and leg muscles feel natural and relaxed. Should that be the expectation with what you've suggested?

Mind, there's still the matter of my knee's abnormal orientation relative to my lower leg. I don't know what effect a tight medial rotator would have on that.

#586 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 04:28 PM:

abi @579 and Mongoose @584: Chocolate is working as well, perhaps a little better, than the recommended dose of anti-anxiety meds. I think I will make sure to stop at the Euro imports shop and buy more bars... It might be different if I were specifically attacking high-anxiety tasks, but today it's just keep slogging through when the baseline is to want to curl up in a ball and cry and sleep somewhere warm and safe that is not-work and not-home.

It's not rainy out there, but going outside is not an improvement by now. It wouldn't have been that good even at high noon -- it's chill and gloomy today. I'm about 20-30 ft in from the windows, so my light is mixed -- the artificial lights are closer and more direct, but there is usually some daylight filling it out. And it's usually too damn bright in here -- there is nowhere comfortable and softly lit to go work in this place. (Our office is much better than your standard cube farm, but we do not have any substantial variety of environment, and there is nowhere different and pleasant nearby enough to go on break. No coffeeshops, cafes, etc.) The office is cold too. I need an extra sweater or shawl and don't have one here.

I wonder if there is a soothing place, like a garden or holy place or an inglenook, that will be within reach tonight. Having a good book or cuddle or hot drink somewhere like that is something that might help. Someplace that radiates safe-beautiful-peaceful and isn't cold. Someone I know once commented that people have elemental affinities. If so, I wonder if I am fire-aspected. My personality doesn't suggest it, but I find fires are restorative. I *love* soaking up the warmth by our fireplace at home.

#587 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 04:35 PM:

It is being a hard few weeks[1] for me; abi @ 579, I'm sorry it is being a hard time of year for you.

I ran across this piece on forgiveness, from a blogger I read occasionally (and always find thought-provoking.) It's from a very liberal Jewish perspective, but I found it helpful.

1) zl jvsr unq n zvfpneevntr, naq zl fba raqrq hc va gur ubfcvgny jvgu pebhc

#588 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 04:56 PM:

Moonlit Night @ 586: I have been having a seriously rotten time of late, and one thing I'm finding very helpful - not entirely sure how I first stumbled upon this one - is, when I am lying in bed, to imagine myself in some kind of warm, comfortable, enclosed space.

My current imaginary space is a kind of flying capsule. It's a more sophisticated development of the solo bubble car I always wanted when I was in my teens, to avoid getting bullied on the way home from school. I lie down in the capsule, drop in a pre-programmed instruction card, start the engine, and imagine it taking me wherever I want to go while I sleep. It has sophisticated heuristics to avoid bumping into trees, mountains, buildings and so on, since it doesn't go very high in order not to have to worry about civil aviation regulations.

There's something incredibly soothing about the idea of being so well looked after by your robotics that you can sleep in transit.

#589 ::: Mongoose is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 04:58 PM:

Not entirely sure why; discussion of rather SF way to create a safe space.

Would the gnomes like some dark chocolate?

["Stumbled upon", unfortunately. And thank you for the chocolate. —Idumea Arbacoochee, Duty Gnome.]

#590 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 05:03 PM:

Moonlit Night @586: perhaps you have a fire affinity, or perhaps you're just part cat. *g* (have you seen cats around warm things? Including, in my parents' cats' cases, fireplaces?)

Glad the chocolate is working, though. Chocolate is the universal panacea for me.

Hugs if welcome.

Caveat: GOOD chocolate. Has to be *good* chocolate.

#591 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 05:12 PM:

SamChevre @587:

That's an interesting perspective. I think there's at least one member of the wider ML community who knows the blogger personally; I've heard good things about her. So I'm not surprised she's come out with something smart and compassionate.

Nf sbe lbhe bja arjf, flzcngul naq pbaqbyraprf sbe gur sbezre. V unq bar va 2000, naq gur orfg V pna fnl vf gung vg vf nhguragvpnyyl cnvashy. Naq gur irel orfg jvfurf sbe gur ynggre.

#592 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 05:39 PM:

Sigh. My turn to do the Wall-o-Text braindump thing.

So... a couple of years ago, I got a dog, Gracie. I was figuring I'd have "someone" around for support, and a companion for the hikes I like to take occasionally. Trouble is, that is not how things are working out. I'm seriously considering giving her up, but I'm torn between berating myself for "letting myself be bullied by a dog", versus "not even being able to maintain a relationship with a dog".

First of all, Gracie combines neediness with a serious lack of awareness or responsiveness. She's always game to be petted, but shows no sign of noticing when I'm occupied, exhausted or even injured. She is prone to interrupting me at the computer, to the point of limiting what I can get done due to the frequent and irregular distractions.

We're not just talking at walk/meal times, for the past few weeks she's been demanding walks less than 2 hours after the last walk, and pestering me when I don't comply. (I've been to the vet about this, and they couldn't find any problems; they think it's "behavioral", I suspect it's seasonal.) And that's not even counting the times she just wants to be petted....

From the beginning, she wanted at least 3 20-minute walks a day. That dipped a bit while she was suffering from arthritis, but rebounded immediately once we got treatment working. Even so, I was game for that, and even to take her on the local nature trail at least once a week, and other trails more occasionally. Except:

When I'm walking with her around my development, my attention is completely occupied with either her trying to tow me faster, or my trying to keep her from eating Every Damn Piece of food and ex-food on the ground. (And there's a lot of slobs in my development.) Not to mention trying to dig up mice (and occasionally getting one). Forget about stopping for a conversation, because Gracie's either pulling on the leash, finding snacks, or acosting passersby who frequently don't want to be acosted. On the nature trails, there's less food (but still too much ex-food), but now she's continuously towing me down the trail... when she's not trying to tow me up a mountain, into a river, or on other non-trails. (BTW, I can't "train her to walk nice" because outdoors, she's too distracted to take a treat, and frankly, I am spending too much time recovering fom this to train her at home.)

I used to take photos on my hikes, and even around the development. Now, if I try to pause, she pulls on the line hard. If she does get the idea that I don't want to go that way ("not now" is beyond her comprehension), she tries to yank me in some other direction. I do not get to enjoy the scenery, I have enough trouble hanging on to her and minding my own footing.

So now I don't get to enjoy most of the time I spend outdoors — and if I do go off for a hike without her, that's on top of the hour-plus per day getting dragged around by her. She is blowing my time budget and both of my stamina budgets (physical and mental). And last year, I hurt my rotator cuff (shoulder) and developed tendonitis in my feet. Both problems were prolonged when acute, and continue to be occasionally aggravated, by walking her.

And then, there's the planning issues. I can't do anything downtown after work, because I have to go home to feed and walk Gracie. (If I wanted to do that and come back downtown, that would go: get off work, half an hour's bus ride home, another half-hour to feed and walk her, then another bus ride back (maybe a longer one if it's too late). Travelling at this point requires taking her to a kennel for $$$, as my parents aren't strong enough to handle her pulling on walks, and my sister is allergic to her. Combined with disrupting conversations I try to have on walks, she is at this point actively impairing my weak attempts at building a social life.

I don't like the idea of giving up on a rescue dog, especially one who, for all her faults, is very sweet and affectionate. But this isn't sustainable, and I don't think trying to retrain her behavior is practical. (Mom is full of advice on this. She hasn't owned a pet since I was 12 or so, and we had to give that one up for Reasons.)

#593 ::: Dave Harmon has been gnomed. ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 05:41 PM:

For a wall of text that might have any number of syntactic antigens.

Also, my sympathies to SamChevre.

#594 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 06:00 PM:

SamChevre @ 587

Yes. Forgiveness as a compassionate practice is very close to my experience. I've noticed too, that anger tends to be a sign that the other person is still controlling my reactions. It's a useful tool, as well as a diagnostic symptom, for trying to separate my chosen values from their imposed values. But once our psyches are disentangled, there's no value in continuing to hold on to that anger. If, at that point, you continue to hold on to your anger, then they are still controlling your actions in a different way.

The reason for practicing forgiveness tends to be elided into "because it feels better than holding a grudge." But I think that's an oversimplification - the reason I practice forgiveness in small things is so that when I encounter a situation where great harm has been done to me or mine, I will have the tools to let go of my anger when it is no longer useful, so that I can be truly done with the influence that that person's destructive ideas have had on my life.

#595 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 07:28 PM:

knitcrazybooknut, #578: Yikes. That wasn't my intent at all, and I offer my deepest apologies. Looking back on what I wrote, I can see how you might have gotten that impression. May I unpack my thought processes a bit more for you? I think I can rephrase what I was trying to say in a way that will be less disturbing. I'm usually better at this, and I'm very sorry.

Also, I agree with abi that your post was excellent. You described your feelings and reactions, and clearly stated why you felt that way, in a manner which was assertive without being aggressive. Good for you!

Mongoose, #584: the worst thing you can swallow is food guilt

QFT. I just wanted to pull that phrase out and admire its gem-like beauty.

Moonlit Night, #586: Being just a little bit chilled is far more misery-making than most people realize. I can't get anything done if there's a constant nagging in the back of my brain that my feet are cold, or that I need an extra layer of shirt. And I think the ability to accommodate to a wide temperature range is one of the things we start to lose with age; I notice that I'm more sensitive to cold now than I was when I first moved to Texas not-quite-15 years ago. The past couple of years, I've stopped trying to fight it (because it "shouldn't" be happening) and will just do something to fix it -- put on socks and shoes (or my mukluk bedroom slippers; my ankles have become surprisingly cold-sensitive!) or grab a sweater. If you've been caught without an extra sweater, can you make yourself any kind of hot drink? That can go a long way toward addressing "a bit chilly" issues.

SamChevre, #587: Sympathies.

Dave H., #592: That's a very difficult spot to be in. It's not Gracie's fault, and it's not yours, and it wasn't that way at first, but now you have a genuine mismatch of needs that is doing neither of you any good. Gracie needs someone who has the time and energy to deal with her (and perhaps to train her out of some of the bad habits she's acquired), and you need not to have one more severe drain on your already-limited time and energy.

You say she was a rescue dog; did you get her from an official rescue organization? Most such groups will take a dog back if the adopter is having a real problem. If she was a "pound special", it may be harder to find a rescue group that will take her, but I still suspect that's your best option. It is not fair to either one of you for you to continue to try to take care of her when doing so is actually causing you physical issues.

Your mother, if you will pardon the bad pun, doesn't have a dog in this fight, and her opinions are worth exactly what she charges for them.

Looking further ahead, it sounds to me as though with the exception of the "wanting a hiking companion" thing, you'd be much better off with a cat. Not a kitten, but an adult (from a rescue group or private shelter) whose personality has already developed; you want one that will be affectionate, not aloof. Cats are much lower-maintenance than dogs; dry food, water, and a litterbox, and they're fine even if you stay out late doing something after work. A little extra food and water, and they're fine for a weekend trip.

#596 ::: Lee, be-gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 07:29 PM:

Lots of text, lots of room for punctuation problems.

#597 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 07:37 PM:

Dave Harmon @ 592: Not everyone is a dog person, so if the relationship is not working for you I think it's ok to seek a reasonable exit, as long as you aren't just intending to dump your dog on the streets or at a pound or something. (Not to imply that you are; you're obviously giving a lot of time and energy to this). However, you mention not having the time or energy to train Gracie at home to walk nice; what's not clear to me is if you have tried to seek out professional dog training help to address her behaviors. Somebody with some solid experience in the matter could probably help you figure out what if anything could be done to address her behaviors in a quick and effective manner. If you have tried such help and this is just hlepy advice from me, my apologies.

#598 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 08:17 PM:

SummerStorms @574: This may or may not be useful to you, but your right leg configuration sounds like mine. I was actually able to make considerable improvement in the functioning of the whole business when I was doing the Ron Fletcher version of Pirates [where the r is an l]. Dropped a shoe size, as well, because it also tightened up my arches. FWIW.

#599 ::: Carrie S ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 08:33 PM:

Lee @#595: Being just a little bit chilled is far more misery-making than most people realize.

In the last year or so, I've discovered a general principle that has made a rule: if I'm cranky or anxious or sad when I don't have a good reason to be, I do something to get warmer. Nine times out of ten, that fixes me right up. It seems to hit me in the emotions most of the time.

#600 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 08:37 PM:

Jacque, #598: Hmmm. Looked up fletcherpilates on the Tube-of-You, and the top videoscreen (a bit over six minutes long) has a sequence going on around 1:45 that looks like it might have some effect on leg alignment. Is that the sort of thing you're talking about?

I do know that whole overall system (generically, not just the Fletcher style) is supposed to be great for core strength, and occurs to me that learning and doing something in that vein would be a Good Thing given that my core strength really leaves much to be desired and always has. I don't have the money or schedule for a class at present, but if I can figure out a way to do it at home and get my hands on the necessary instructional materials, I may give it a go. Surely I'll get some benefit from it regardless of exactly what form that benefit takes.

Thanks for the suggestion.

#601 ::: SummerStorms, begnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 08:39 PM:

Apparently there was no way to write that cleanly enough. I can offer homemade turkey chili spicy enough to actually need the cheese and sour cream I add on top.

#602 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 08:44 PM:

Moonlit Night @586: I *love* soaking up the warmth by our fireplace at home.

Here's a wee fireplace for your desktop. Draw in some stone walls, then draw in some wood walls, put in a couple of air emitters, and then hit it with a fireball. Then add some particles for flavor. Its default state is quite pyrotechnic, but if you turn the oxygen off and configure your wood walls right, you get quite a nice little cozy-fireplace simulation. The night I discovered this, I got so thoroughly entranced that I wound up burning (if you'll pardon the expression) about five hours, playing with it. There are some other lovely fluid toys on that site, as well.

#603 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 08:47 PM:

#585 ::: SummerStorms

I'm pretty sure it's possible to be very numb about muscle tension.

Possibly of interest: Running with the Whole Body by Jack Heggie. It's a Feldenkrais book (repeated gentle movements done with attention so as to develop kinesthesia and coordination).

The material applies to walking as well as running.

I found the first chapter too hard, but there's a chapter in the middle about the hip/foot relationship which gave me arches for a while-- I should get back to it.

#604 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 09:30 PM:

Lee #595: Being just a little bit chilled is far more misery-making than most people realize. [...] And I think the ability to accommodate to a wide temperature range is one of the things we start to lose with age;

Yeah... Oddly, this evening was the first night this fall I really had my back clench up on me, walking back from a restaurant. I was wearing a light jacket to suit the mild coolness I was feeling on face and even hands, but putting on gloves helped immediately. Upgrading to a heavy coat for Gracie's new evening walk stopped the clench completely.

You say she was a rescue dog; did you get her from an official rescue organization? [...] you'd be much better off with a cat.

Yup, local SPCA, which is big around here. My previous pet was a cat, who I had for 16 years in three homes. (She was barely out of kittenhood when I got her... I've told that story before on ML, and it's not very relevant here.)

and oliviacw #597: Not everyone is a dog person, ... what's not clear to me is if you have tried to seek out professional dog training help to address her behaviors.

Oddly, I had thought I was a dog person who hadn't previously had space/resources to keep one. (Certainly I'm pretty good meeting other peoples' dogs.) I think, mostly, I seriously underestimated her energy level, and took a long time to realize how the various issues were accumulating.

I haven't gone to a professional trainer yet, but I'm hoping to have a talk with one tomorrow.

The main issue with training is, AIUI it takes a level of consistency over time which is beyond my ability to manage. Until fairly recently, even the basic energy input would have been clearly beyond me too (though just now I'm not sure). And I'm not sure which of the basic issues training could help with, especially for a dog of her age (at least 7-8 years old).

The recent tipping point was actually that I realized lately I've been having better moods than I had in years. Then it occurred to me to wonder why I wasn't doing more stuff -- hiking, going to local arts fests and concerts, even reading -- which led to realizing just how much my behavior was limited in multiple ways by having Gracie.

#605 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 10:52 PM:

Lee and abi, thanks so much for your kind responses. This is apparently The Year of Setting Boundaries for me, and while the latest iterance here wasn't nearly as life-changing as some others that happened this year, it's still a tremulous process for me. Thank you for understanding and respecting me.

Lee specifically, I think I understand your questions, so I'll describe the situation a little more carefully and and try to tell the tale more clearly.

The memorial took place in my parents' living room, with all aunts (more than a half dozen) including my mother sitting on folding chairs in a circle. There were probably twenty or so total people sitting on chairs. The feeling I always got in those situations was that my mom was holding court, and that has always been her demeanor as well.

My sister and I were standing up, on the periphery of the room, leaning against walls. The memorial was about to begin when my mom told us to come and sit closer. I said, No thank you, I'm fine. She then told my sister to sit closer, and my sister politely declined.

A friend of mine recently pointed out that, since we are from Scandinavian heritage, a pursed lip and a furrowed brow may hold more anger than a shout for other folks. I'll try to be specific: At this point, my mother started getting really angry. She loudly stated that we needed to move to a chair, and the tension and anger in her voice was clear. I did not move, nor did my sister. A couple of my aunts decided that as usual, they also knew what was best for the situation, and told us to come closer and sit down. We just continued to say no, even as the tension brewed higher. All in all, they probably spent a good five minutes ordering us to sit down, as though we had no right to decline, as though we were objects ourselves, and if we would just go to our proper positions on the mantel, the scene would be perfect.

They finally let us be, but it was just another example of not recognizing us as beings with agency. We were just decorations that needed to be properly positioned. We were wrong for not wanting to do exactly what they told us to do. I thought about it later, and I knew my reasons for not wanting to sit in the circle. I could have stated them clearly in front of the entire group. But from harsh experience, I have learned that doing so will not change their minds about what they think I should be doing. It's like that saying, that No is a full sentence. If I give any reasons, they're just going to pick them apart and tell me I'm wrong and the reasons are stupid and I'm being ridiculous.

I'm fairly certain that it ended there because it wasn't just me, my sister was standing outside the circle as well. I have witnessed many deflations of my mom's anger at me when she realized there was another sibling involved in some way. My sister was in her own world at the time, and didn't really respond to my mom's orders. She has a really hard time with change and death and anything sentimental, so she was a little wrapped up in her own feelings at that event.

And Jacque, you're spot on about the Correct Family Dynamic, but it's even deeper than that. It's the Correct Family Appearance - here's where this person sits, here's where this person sits, etc. We had a party at the Family Home one summer day, and there were folks wandering around the yards and all over the property. My cousin and I were sitting on the back deck, talking. Mom decided that everybody should be on the side lawn, because....? That's where the barbecue grill was, maybe? I have no idea, but she decided, and came to the back deck and told me to move to the side yard, now. For the record, she did not tell anyone else they needed to relocate. Just me. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, IMO.

#606 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 02:16 AM:

I learned something in therapy years ago that may sound very twee, but I have found it quite helpful. It's called the Teddy Bears' Picnic. The therapist who explained it to me said that sometimes people go through their entire lives longing for the reassurance and security they didn't get as children, which can result in lingering resentment and neediness being unloaded on people who didn't do anything, as well as increasing our load of psychic pain. The hurts of childhood tend to be the biggest hurts, he said, precisely because they are inflicted when we are so small and new to the world. The conventional wisdom is that now that we are adults, we are supposed to put away childish things, but that's hard to do when part of one's psyche is still stuck in that childhood moment when nobody came to shoo away the monster under the bed. And part of therapy is learning to understand our reactions as we are, not as we think we should be.

The solution, he said, is to be the grown-up you needed back then. Give yourself permission to be childish, and then take care of your childish needs. You'll know when you don't need those rituals anymore.

So for years I read myself to sleep with "kiddie" books. I took Ted Bear out of storage and tucked myself in with him. When I was alone, I sang my favorite children's songs--including "The Teddy Bears' Picnic." These were things that my mother used to do, before the alcohol took her too far away from me to replace them with rituals for older children (and before I remembered what I had had to forget). And I did feel better. Eventually, on a timescale that suited me, I found that I no longer needed these rituals and that others more suited to my calendar age had taken their place. But, you know, if they never had, so what?

#607 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 02:51 AM:

SummerStorms @585 -- I'd have to see you in person to be able to answer those questions for sure. I do know that people have persistent, unnoticed tightness for decades, and that it can be corrected by the right massage work, because I've had reports from people I worked with of decades-old problems clearing up with some of my work. And other problems -- not so much. The tightness you report when you straighten your foot sounds exactly right for this kind of problem.

And Pilates might work very well for this sort of problem -- particularly if you have a good trainer who knows about this sort of problem. Ask around.

I can come up with at least three sets of muscles that would cause the knee problem -- there's more flexibility in odd ways in most joints than most people (even most doctors!) think.

#608 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 11:18 AM:

587 ::: SamChevre @587: "Velveteen Rabbi"

Oh, dear. Mary Aileen: Mary Aileen to the white courtesy chutney phone.

#609 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 12:30 PM:

Dave Harmon @592: I know some folks have issues with Ceasar Millan's approach, but it makes tremendous sense to me. (He has shows streaming on Netflix at the moment.)

The following is written with the presumption that you have the investment and spoons to put into rehabilitating your relationship with her. If this is not the case, it might just be hleppy.

In Gracie's case, I wonder if upping her exertion level would help calm her down (tire her out). Three 20-minute walks a day is about the lower end of what Millan recommends for a minimum exercise budget for an energetic dog.

There are ways to do that without upping your exertion level. One trick is to get a doggie backpack, and load it down with some weights, like bottles of water or small sandbags or something. Another is to take her out with you using wheels; roller blades or a bicycle. Another trick is to get a little wagon for her to pull. Then you can weight her down with arbitrarily large loads, which might tire her out. Maybe even be the load, yourself! :-)

Does she like to play fetch? They make atl-atls for throwing tennis balls for dogs; depending on how good your arm is, you can put a few miles on her while you stand still. If your shoulder's not up to it, maybe a wrist-rocket slingshot would do? (Those are actually commercially available.) even has a mechanical launcher; all you have to do is load it up and turn it on.

Training her to "walk nice" is a skill, and Millan goes into that in some detail in his shows. It has to do with keeping the dog's attention focused on you, and reminding the dog that you're the one leading the pack.

Another hack: are there any energetic kids in the neighborhood that could be pressed into service as servant monkeys to wear her out?

#610 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 12:35 PM:

So, I told Mom what I was thinking. I'd been expecting her to be resistant, but I forgot... she's been divorced twice, and initiated both of them. She was very supportive, and noted that she'd also seen how having Gracie was limiting my options. We decided to skip seeing the trainer at PETCO, because now it seems rather beside the point. She suggested trying to place her with a family ourselves, rather than just taking her back to the SPCA. We tried getting a new picture of Gracie for an ad, but had the usual problems getting her to stand still long enough to frame a photo.

Feeling very sad.

#611 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 01:39 PM:

knitcrazybooknut, #605: Thank you for providing a more-detailed description. That does indeed answer my questions, including clearing up my confusion over whether your mother was actually angry. (I should point out that my mother prided herself on "never raising her voice*" and was quite capable of nagging me to death without ever once expressing actual anger, and this seems to have been what I was envisioning after your earlier post.)

You are absolutely right that both your mother and your aunts were treating you and your sister like objects to be arranged for display. That sucks.

* And yes, sometimes that did lead to the classic comedy-routine bit of her insisting that "I'M NOT RAISING MY VOICE!" Not that she would admit it if called on it. Properly-Raised Southern Women Don't Do That.

#612 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 03:27 PM:

Jacque #609: Unfortunately, tiring me out is normally the least of the problems I'm having with her, it's just that the spiking demands for walks brought things to a head. The longer-term issues of having to plan around her, too many "can't do that, 'cause of the dog", and too many interruptions in my home time, are really what's tipping the balance here. Up above I said "I had thought I was a dog person who hadn't previously had space/resources to keep one." It's becoming clearer now that really, I still don't have the resources, it's just that the limiting resources aren't the ones I was thinking of.

Just to address your ideas for the record:

In terms of upping her exertion level, basically the only one of those that might work would be the doggie backpack. She doesn't do fetch, and wheels don't go well with the fields and nature trails she prefers. (Most of the local roads are highways, and I don't trust her there for more than quick transits on a short leash.)

Half the problem is that she isn't trained to "come" "stay", etc., and given her distractability, even if I'd managed to train her on them, I doubt I'd be able to count on them when it mattered. So, no off-leash stuff, which probably rules out letting neighborhood kids romp with her. (Also, most of her fans are kids small enough that she could pull them over. She's surprisingly strong for a 35# dog....) For that matter, I don't really "know" these kids that well, I don't even know most of their names -- part of that is my own limited social skills, aggravated by canine distraction, hearing loss, and language issues.¹ Part of it is really not wanting to be "that middle-aged guy, lives alone, comes off a little weird [spectrum], who's making friends with all the little kids"....

What Gracie really needs is an actual family with a big fenced yard....

¹ A lot of the families around here are refugees, from different countries every few months.

#613 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 04:26 PM:

Consent issues aren't limited to sex.

This article is framed as a discussion of rape culture (and the standard trigger warnings apply), but it also contains some things about boundaries and the testing/pressuring thereof that I thought might be interesting and/or useful to people here.

#614 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 07:43 PM:

I've got a friend who's a serious dog person, and there was *still* a dog that she couldn't handle-- too strong, stubborn, and energetic. Fortunately, she eventually found another home for him.

#615 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 08:59 PM:

Life yesterday got much better after leaving work, and then going out to have *really good* sushi and watch a movie.

Of course, today -- ugh, finances. The kindest thing I can say is that Partner and I had a system that works (underspend and rarely if ever budget), and Housemate has a system that works (budget every dollar and sometimes use overdraft), but they are not compatible. Unfortunately, in the hopeful days of move-in we all three set up common spending for rent, utilities, food, and occasional household items. The problem is there is no convenient way to prevent overspending, or to enforce collection of the full monthly bill, when someone doesn't want to pay, and nobody wants to budget every grocery run. No serious abuse has taken place. I think it's just months of bills and groceries being mildly but continually beyond expected, plus finance charges from that. Soon I will know for sure if that's right.

Back in April when I wanted Housemate to pay her share of the overspending, she put me off and shamed me for "pressuring" her when occasionally I asked about when would she be ready over the summer. I would also sometimes say that I didn't like the way we could never fully pay off the household credit. (Once or twice a month, when paying the bills.) Now that Housemate wants to move out this spring, she's pressuring me to do the books, and she's not willing to be put off. I see a double standard here...

My intention is to get everything paid and disentangled soon, and set up a new system with minimum entanglement and delay for the remaining time. After all, the household credit is in my and Partner's name, not Housemate's. I don't think she's precisely *planning* to screw us over, but I think it could happen if we allow *her* to exert the pressure without exerting enough back.

Mongoose @588: Being warm and safe and snuggled in bed is a rather important routine at the moment.

Chickadee @590: Hugs *are* welcome. I do like meowing at people, but I haven't got to watch a cat near a fireplace. I know people with working fireplaces, and ones with cats, but no-one with both. I have a fireplace but can't have a cat -- allergies. Not just the histamine reaction, but after a day I start getting migraines. I refuse to get and fall in love with a cat only to admit some weeks or months later that I must re-home the cat.

Lee @595: My body's temperature sensores seem to live in my feet and my shoulders. I had better buy a nice neutral pashmina that I can leave at work.

#616 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 09:18 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @554: I have a confused body image myself. I weigh a lot for my height...and I don't look anywhere near it. My "ideal" weight according to BMI is laughable compared to my real weight, both current and historical. I'm sure I weigh more than I should, but I'm equally sure a lot of it *must* be lean mass. I should try a good body fat scale.

I also know what you mean about parents expecting care and having shot the golden goose. I can't afford to care for them thanks to how they screwed up my early adulthood, and I doubt I will ever be able to, while still taking care of myself.

I wrote a letter to my mother too, but mine was not sent. Instead, it got ritually ripped to shreds and thrown in a sacred pond. I just could not see how sending it was going to help anyone *including* me, and I could see lots of ways for sending it to hurt me. Just writing the letter asserted that these things they did to me were real and they hurt, which was the important part. It was a frightening letter. Parts of it looked like they were written by a madwoman.

knitcrazybooknut @554:

"To extend that metaphor, if we could put words to, and defeat, the queen of the hive, that symphonic emotional concentrate, would the other mental bugs who are variations on that theme then scatter and die? Because that would be really helpful if it were possible."

Um...I have been trying to express that in words, and it does help. But I'm not sure it's possible to roll it all up into one and thereby defeat the queen of the hive. The existing version is about 4 letter pages in my writing, you see. It may be a repetition thing -- for a while I was regularly writing out that list of lies and its counter-list of truths, and it seemed to be helping. Then I fell off the wagon because the routine takes a substantial amount of time. I should try to write a shorter but still accurate version, and start doing it again.

I live with my partner, so I have an advantage in learning to believe in reliable love. But it's still not easy. Our particular weakness seems to be letting people who turn out to be toxic into our life and not throwing them out before a lot of damage is done. Now, if this next time around we can learn to (a) pick a better housemate, and (b) notice and throw out the bad ones sooner...

#617 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 09:50 PM:

Moonlit Night, #615: If my torso is warm and my feet are not bare, I'll be pretty comfortable overall even if my arms and legs are inadequately covered. So I hear you about the body temp sensors.

Re household finances, that sucks. I've always been too paranoid to completely combine finances; when I was married, we had a yours-mine-and-ours system under which each of us deposited a set amount into the account from which mortgage, utilities, etc. was paid, and the remainder of our respective paychecks were ours to spend as we chose. As we had somewhat different spending habits, this prevented a LOT of fights. OTOH, neither of us was comfortable with "sometimes use overdrafts" (and that must work VERY differently where you are, because around here the fees would eat everything in the account very quickly!), so that wasn't an issue either.

#618 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 11:17 PM:

Jacque (608): You can't catch me that way!

Everyone: reading and witnessing.

#619 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 11:45 PM:

Lee @617: recent experience with last 2 housemates suggests that paranoia is justified. With current bad Housemate, we *had* been doing mine/yours/ours, so we hadn't been extremely stupid, but "ours" should have been handled differently.

I am mostly done the accounts, and it really is that the groceries and bills were, most months, higher than expected, but not by so much as to sound an alarm and force a resolution despite glowering Housemate. It does not help that the bills are so crazy different every month. Gas, hydro, water, and internet all have different cycle lengths, so one month we can have $600 due and less than $100 the next. The next step is to figure out everyone's share of the overage, and how to pay it off.

#620 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 12:08 AM:

Moonlit night, #619: Gas, hydro, water, and internet all have different cycle lengths

Wait, what? How does that work? (And what's the difference between water and hydro?) All of our utilities are paid by the month -- they come at different points during the month, is all. Electricity and gas are billed toward the start of the month, water/sewer and Internet access toward the end. We just changed cellphone providers, and I think that's moved that bill closer to the start of the month. If we had cable, it would be bundled with our Internet because they're from the same provider, but we don't. The credit card that I use for travel expenses is actually billed a bit past the middle of the month, but I don't pay it until the start of the next month. Being able to set up a payment online that won't be processed until *I* want it to be has been extremely useful for this, because it means I won't forget to pay things if we're going to be on an extended road trip early in the month.

How does anybody have a budget if you don't know from one month to the next roughly what your utilities are going to be?!

#621 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 12:16 AM:

Lee @ 620: Not all bills are monthly. My water bill, for example, comes once a quarter. The amount of a bill can also vary a great deal over the course of a year. My natural gas bill is high in a cold January, and negligible in summer. Once you've got a year's worth of bills, if you keep good records and plan carefully, you can budget a typical monthly amount for bills—but if a household can do that, they wouldn't be posting to this thread about it.

#622 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 12:45 AM:

Lee, 620: "Hydro" is a term commonly used in some places for the electric bill. Why? Well, it's short for "hydroelectric" -- that is, in places where the electricity is generated by water flow it isn't an uncommon term.

Niagara Falls, for instance, is a source of much of the electricity used in southern Ontario and western New York, and I've heard my Canadian friends who live in the region thus served refer to their electricity bills as "hydro" bills. Oddly, most of us on the US side of the border just called them "electric bills".

#623 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 02:49 AM:

@620 & 622

Since the company that provides my electricity is called Hydro Quebec, my electric bill is my Hydro bill.

Hydro, as well as Gaz Metro (my natural gas supplier), both offer an Equal Payment Plan; that is, they add up the use for entire previous year and then divide that amount by 12, and that's what I get billed every month. At the end of the year, they analyse my usage and either apply a credit or bill me the difference. This makes it much more straightforward to plan my monthly budget.

Do utility companies outside of Quebec not do this sort of thing?

#624 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 03:31 AM:

Cheryl @623:

Utility companies in Scotland certainly do this sort of thing. One year we got hit with a heck of a bill because they'd done it...and miscalculated our actual usage (swapped night rate and day rate, and our heating was night storage*). Took us a long, axious while to sort out.

* Night storage heaters: well-insulated boxes full of bricks, basically. Heat the bricks up at night, when electricity is cheap, and let them give off heat during the day. Control heat output by opening a vent in the top. Easy to install, so they end up in low-income houses, and they work...OK. Ish.

I loathe 'em to this day.

#625 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 03:55 AM:

Cheryl @ 623: They offer it here in Ohio as well, but some people choose not to use it, preferring to have really low bills for heating in the summertime. Yes, I know that's offset by the horrendously high ones in winter, but people are people. *shrug*

Of course, in some instances, you can't even get on budget billing until the utility for that address has been in your name (rather than a previous owner or tenant's) for a year. It depends on the utility company.

#626 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 04:46 AM:

I had really serious problems trying to work out a household budget with my lodger about. Before I start, I ought to explain that I took him in reluctantly, knowing he was likely to be trouble, and only because his business had failed and he'd had to sell his house. I told him at the start that I expected him to stay for no more than about six months, while he looked for somewhere more suitable. When he overstayed (and overstayed, and overstayed; eventually he was here six years), I ended up in a bind, because I knew if I threw him out he'd be on the streets, and I can't do that to a person. Problem was, he knew that. This man is directly responsible for a lot of my current mental health issues.

Initially, it worked reasonably well. Since he had no money other than the proceeds from his house, we agreed that he would do DIY for me in lieu of rent, and he would also pay the electricity bill. My house needed quite a lot of improvement, and I'm disabled and can't do that myself, so it was reasonable. I was working at the time, and he pressed me to borrow a substantial sum of money from him to fund the improvements because "you'll never sell the house otherwise". In particular, he insisted I should put in a shower. I resisted this idea strongly; I don't like showers. I'm very much a bath person. But he wore me down ("oh, no, you can't sell a house without a shower these days"), and finally I gave in and let him install the wretched thing. Once it was in the process of installation, he told me it had been very selfish of me to object to the idea, given that he "needed" to use a shower. (He didn't. Up till that point, he'd been having baths perfectly well.)

Since he was out of work, and very probably unemployable at that (he was extremely intelligent, but he couldn't bear anyone telling him what to do, and that's a pretty unfortunate quality in an employee), I asked him to claim state benefits in order to make the financial situation easier. If he at least claimed housing benefit, I could then charge him a small rent, which would offset the fact that I had to pay council tax for him (which, of course, he wasn't paying; he said I shouldn't have declared that there was anyone else living in the house, but that would have been illegal, so as far as he was concerned I was paying council tax for him through my own stupidity). But he refused to claim any kind of benefits because that would make him part of the System, and the System was Evil. Granted, the System is fairly Evil, but I don't see how claiming benefits makes you a part of it. Anyway, he wouldn't, and he got very angry when I suggested it.

After a while, he wanted the money back that he'd loaned me. I'd been paying him back by installments, but now he suddenly told me he needed the balance all at once, because he had to live on it and it wasn't reasonable that I'd just been on a short trip to Paris on his money. (Actually, that was my money. The money I earned. Which he wasn't doing.) I said I could continue to pay by installments, but I couldn't manage the whole lot at once unless I went to a loan shark. He told me to go and do that. He didn't care how I got the money, just so long as I got it and paid it off. Incidentally, I think he'd stopped doing DIY for me by this point. The work he did was pretty good, especially the kitchen; but he left a great deal of work half-finished, even after having bludgeoned me into buying the materials because he needed to do it NOW. He'd also stopped paying the electricity bill because he "just couldn't afford it any more".

Eventually my dad, bless him for ever, stepped in and lent me the money to pay off this awful bully, which I did. I thought perhaps the said awful bully might now start paying for the electricity again, since he'd got all his money back, but no. Oh, and he had to run his car. That was absolutely essential, apparently. Never mind the fact that I've never felt I needed one, since I live a hop and a skip from the nearest tram stop.

So I said, right, you now owe me for the electricity, and I will expect you to pay for it when you have the money. He agreed quite cheerfully to this, since by this point he'd had Enormous Idea (TM) by which he thought he was going to make millions. He told me how he was going to buy his own island and I could come and work for him there. Er, no. Really. Thanks for the offer and all.

Well, there was no money, there still is no money, and when he eventually left (for America, in a hurry, for reasons surprisingly unconnected with his debts) he grandly told me I could have his furniture - which in any case he couldn't take with him - and trusted I would accept that in complete settlement of his debts to me. (Insert foul and abusive language of your choice here.) Again, he knew very well I couldn't do to him what he had done to me. I'm too damned ethical.

I took the furniture, having no other choice, and danced the jig of freedom the moment he'd gone. Oh, and did I mention that in all the time he was here he never once looked for somewhere else to live, despite my frequent reminders? If he'd lived anywhere else, he'd have had to claim benefit. And been thrown out if he'd tried to dominate, bully or otherwise disrespect his landlord. (Oh, and he told me I was "controlling" because I attempted to enforce house rules. Silly me. I should have accepted that my house had to be run entirely by his standards and for his benefit.)

There was more - there always is - but it was all pretty much of that nature. Lodger takes advantage of the fact that Mongoose is kind and accommodating, and bullies them into doing what Lodger thinks they ought to be doing. Mongoose is now truly and deeply thankful that Lodger is three thousand miles away and not coming back.

Mongoose is also still recovering.

#627 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 06:29 AM:

Something that occurred to me recently. I've been listening to the "Welcome to Night Vale" podcasts, and really, for a lot of us, what happened to us is we grew up in our own personal Night Vales and Desert Bluffs. Things were normal... right up until they weren't. It could be as blatant as the Dog Park (and the hooded figures therein). It could be as otherworldly as the angels living with Old Woman Josie (out near the Car Lot), and the way we're not supposed to believe in them by order of the City Council. It could be something like the Night Vale Harbour and Waterfront Recreation Area (a brilliant bit of construction, which only has the slight drawback of being located in the middle of a desert. But it should be great if you visit it during a flash flood) - right down to the later denials of it ever having existed.

But while there's all the trappings of normality - there's the Ralphs, and the Arbys, and the Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex, the Elementary School, the Boy Scouts, the PTA and so on - there's the little indications that things aren't right. Like the way the kids at the Elementary School are all armed by a mysterious shadow government agency. Like the mysterious underground city below the pin retrieval area in lane five of the bowling alley. Like the lights above the Arbys, and the dog park near the Ralphs. Everything's slightly skew-iff.

But like the kids who grow up taking weapons to school (and using them to fight off the packs of feral dogs which can't possibly have escaped from the Dog Park, or the pteranodons which turned up at the PTA meeting, or even the Librarians during the Summer Reading Program) we learn how to protect ourselves from the weird around us, because for us, it's normal. You live, you learn, you cast your votes correctly so your family members are returned from the Old Mine Shaft as soon as possible, and you maintain your ignorance of the celestial hierarchy and the tiered heavens at the same time as you're greeting one of the Erikas when they're out shopping with Old Woman Josie. You adapt to your personal Night Vale.

Then you escape out to the rest of the world, and discover most of the adaptations you have which make you able to survive Night Vale just make you weird out there.

#628 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 08:10 AM:

Moonlit Night @616 & 619:
That's a tough one. Witnessing, and hoping you can find a way to get all of the tentacles of that dysfunction back into their box until spring.

Mongoose @626:
Wow. That's straight-up abusive. Strength to your arm in untangling the emotional mess he left behind, and three cheers to your father for lending you the money.

Megpie71 @627:
I've often wondered if the popularity of young adult portal fantasy is about that point when you discover that your household culture really is not the household culture of the rest of the world, for good or for ill.

#629 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 01:05 PM:

For everyone in the housemates/lodgers/utility sub-thread: we're in Ontario, so "hydro" is the electricity bill. Water is either bimonthly or quarterly, hydro has been bimonthly but is switching to monthly in the future, and I think gas is monthly. This is our first house with a furnace and air-conditioning, so we don't have the gut-level expectation for the peak billing that comes with the different seasons. Some of the companies do have that equal billing feature, but I didn't want to sign up yet. Partly to get a baseline, and partly because I've heard a horror story or two about it, from a family that was paying too much in advance and couldn't get their money back.

So between that and the food being high and variable, no wonder I haven't been able to figure out what was happening until looking at all 8 or 9 months of data at once. I am not familiar with budgets, but I'm very good at managing money without them -- Partner and I ran a household for over 10 years with no paperwork beyond keeping bills and taxes, and never went broke, and rarely even got close, despite several periods of unstable or nonexistent employment. But I was voluntold into being the household accountant, expected to do it in Housemate's entirely different way, and nobody has been doing enough other chores to make up for me being shoehorned into it either.

I hate that I was enticed into moving out of our cheap good apartment (we had outgrown it, but it still had many advantages) and into an expensive house with Housemate. This is a lovely house and I like the house. I hate that now I don't know if we will be best off finding a new housemate or two, or looking for a new place ourselves. I'm not ready to move again soon; I want to be picky. I wish I could make Jerkbrain STOP saying that I should have known better and that I did this to myself, that I invited Housemate to take advantage of us. It's not true.

#630 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 01:50 PM:

@624 abi
Utility companies in Scotland certainly do this sort of thing. One year we got hit with a heck of a bill because they'd done it...and miscalculated our actual usage (swapped night rate and day rate, and our heating was night storage*). Took us a long, axious while to sort out.

I've never heard of night storage heating. A quick Google suggests that they are uncommon in Canada and expensive to buy.

@629 Moonlit Night

Some of the companies do have that equal billing feature, but I didn't want to sign up yet. Partly to get a baseline, and partly because I've heard a horror story or two about it, from a family that was paying too much in advance and couldn't get their money back.

There are always the stories of when it doesn't work. I can only tell you that pretty much everyone I know does it this way, and it works pretty much as advertised.

Regarding the part where you say you are not familiar with budgets, I'm guessing you mean you don't normally have an actual list of the income and expenses?

Would that help? I mean, ignore me of I'm being hlepy, but would having an actual spreadsheet, in Excel maybe, listing all the normal expenses for a month and posting it somewhere visible so that everyone can see be helpful to you both in organising the thing, and in showing your roomies exactly what's due when?

I wish I could make Jerkbrain STOP saying that I should have known better and that I did this to myself, that I invited Housemate to take advantage of us. It's not true.

Thomas Edison would say you haven't failed, you have successfully found a way that doesn't work.

#631 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 04:54 PM:

Partial catching up only:

SummerStorms @573, crazysoph @581: Okay here are a couple of sites with good posterior tibial tendon exercises.

This is one good one, I think

This is the other one: - click on the two pictures to get them decent size.

Moonlit Night @577: Sympathies.

Abi: sympathies to you as well.

crazysoph @581: I can certainly understand the mouring. Hope it's only a temporary break from the aikido.

SamChevre @587: Sincere sympathies to you and your family.

#632 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 06:22 PM:

Moonlit Night, #629: It is emphatically not the case that you did this to yourself. People like that are extremely good at pulling the wool over your eyes. My now-ex and I had one like that for a while ourselves; he has been known as the XRFH ever since. My ex was nearly out a CAR because of him; he drove it to Atlanta after having been repeatedly told that it was only reliable for around-town driving, and of course it cratered there. It says something about the relationship that we seriously considered the option of telling him "sorry, you're on your own" and packing his stuff up to ship, rather than sending him the money to get the car and himself back to Nashville. In hindsight, I wish we had.

Cheryl, #630: Yes, failure can be a form of success. I always tell people to remember that Michelson and Morley did an experiment which failed so spectacularly that it won them a Nobel Prize.

#633 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 08:10 PM:

Reading and witnessing, all.

On the housemate thread. I'm living in a housing co-operative, so we all pay rent into a pool, and have common food money and common food, and theoretically equitably split the work of the household... but lately (read: the entire time I've lived here) it feels like we're all talk and no follow-through, no accountability, no anything. Pretty much the only thing that reliably gets done is dinner, and most people usually do morning kitchen cleanup, which are both assigned for specific days to specific people.

Chores are theoretically assigned to specific people but it's not posted anywhere physical (which itself might be the main problem) and they don't get done by the people who signed up for them, mostly. We say we'll do things in meeting and then we never do - maybe we need to post up a weekly list of who's committed to do what somewhere in the house?

We have at least one housemate who has been to maybe three (weekly) house meetings in the last three months (because she works too much and at the wrong times). We have a few other housemates where it feels like all they do is schoolwork and occasionally making dinner and are never around (I might be included in this category). We have one housemate who is unemployed and it *feels like* he sits on the porch smoking all day and never does anything for the house. I think he's actually looking for jobs, but also I don't ever see him do anything for the house.

Half of them also drive me crazy half the time and I don't know what to do about it, but now I have to go, uh, eat dinner and have weekly meeting and suggest things to fix the chore and accountability problem and all around feel like I'm yelling into a void that will resent me for trying to order it around.

#634 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 08:26 PM:

Lee #613: That was a very enlightening article -- even though I knew about each of the individual issues described, I hadn't realized how they tied together.

Mongoose, Moonlit Night: Ouch... this is the sort of thing that makes me glad I've lived alone (pets excepted) since graduating college.

My & Gracie: I'm settling into the decision, and it's already freeing up energy. Tonight I actually cooked myself a nice fish dinner -- looked up a couple of recipes, abstracted the basic ideas (mahi-mahi goes well with strong flavors, this recipe steamed it over veggies with a garlic/mustard/chicken-stock sauce) -- and then totally winged it. ;-)

Also, at the fish store getting the fish, I saw labels dated August '10 (that is, 2010). The elderly proprietor said he'd lost the manual for his labeler, and didn't know how to set the date. I didn't hang around long enough to train him (late in the day, and I'd just gotten out of Overload Supermarket), but I did set the date for him. Which turned out to put today's date in the "sell by" field, but hey, it's better than 2010. (I might swing by sometime long enough to get the model number, and try to round up a manual for him on the Internet.)

#635 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 09:16 PM:

dcb @ #631: Thanks for those links. I'll give the exercises a try and see if they help. I imagine they will.

#636 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 02:39 AM:

Cheryl @630, the spreadsheet might have helped back in the beginning had we had accurate data to base it on, workable controls on spending, and Housemate more willing to deal with expenses being higher than she expected. Partner and I had no useful historical data, so Housemate was the one who did the initial estimates for monthly food and utilities allowance. Based on that everyone pays $x per head per month. Housemate pushed for common money for food, common cooking, and for food to be bought on a credit card. That last meant there were no built-in spending limits on food or utilities. I wasn't comfortable with it, but gave in, because it was a rewards card and I had no idea that when the bills came that she would push for letting the balance ride and rack up interest. But that's what she did, repeatedly.

Early on there were a number of one-time capital purchases unaccounted for in the budget. So a couple months in, when the credit bill was higher than we could pay from budget, it could be attributed to that. Housemate didn't like hearing it was that high; Partner and I paid off our share of the overage. I kept watching: bills continued to be high, but no serious anomalies. I pushed for eating out less, and concluded that we must be spending a lot on groceries and utilities. Housemate complied with eating in but would not look at paying off the overage and figuring out the cause. I wasn't sure what to do given how she gets angry about things -- frankly, I was having trouble believing this was happening! Before move-in, Housemate had seemed competent with money, and to believe in paying bills promptly.

In retrospect, I can't come up with any good and easy ideas for spending controls. Everything I can think of would have been burdensome, and the burden would have been dumped on me. I was having enough trouble dealing with the increased accounting as it was; I was not up to also tracking every damn grocery purchase and saying "we only have $x left". Housemate never did anything to track the grocery budget or reduce grocery costs. She may have assumed it was our job, but she never told us so. She just says we need more butter or bacon or meat. We DO get lectures from her about do we realize how much money she's spending buying lunches out because there weren't enough leftovers for her to take to work. She doesn't help cook those work lunches either.

All that together is why I fervently want to stop sharing food and collect utility payments immediately as they come in. Then Partner and I can go back to our totally functional non-system. Maybe he and I can find a finance app we like to announce upcoming bills and gather some historical data without too much work, and have the best of both worlds.

Lee @632, thank you for the reassurance. I'm not convinced that Housemate is abusive full-stop, though I wonder some days. I am totally convinced that her personality and baggage are such that she is detrimental *for me*, unless she is making a substantial effort to be safe and considerate. (Which she doesn't wanna!) I do feel that I was bait-and-switched -- I'm just not sure if it was on purpose or by accident. I have no way to confirm with her prior housemates if this has happened before.

Partner and I had good talks today with a couple friends about Housemate and how to deal with current and upcoming housing situations. Happily, nobody felt we were putting them in the middle, which I had worried I might seeing as they both know Housemate. Second friend had some particularly good ideas about how/why things have been going south. Friend has clearly heard some venting from Housemate, and gently presented some of Housemate's comments/perspective for comparison, while still listening really well and making useful suggestions.

I explained about how I felt that Housemate changed from being someone safe and protective, into someone who's increasingly unpleasant and unsafe. Friend thinks that Housemate had a lot of ideas/expectations of how I should run my life and resolve my issues, and put pressure on me to do it her way. I used some ideas, and turned down others. As I kept on rejecting the guidance that Housemate felt would definitely solve my problems, the less effort Housemate put into being a safe and caring person towards me. Downward spiral ensued. I think it's a useful analysis, though not complete. It certainly matches the timing better than anything I had come up with, and presents an understandable reason for Housemate to change the way she did. (Not a good one, just understandable.)

Friend was also helpful as an outside opinion that nobody is handling this as well as they could or should, but that Housemate is aware and capable enough to deserve a fair share of responsibility for the current mess. Being unhappy is not an excuse to be unsafe and badly behaved. (We talked a bunch about how Housemate is lacking in self-awareness and emotional control/maturity in some areas, causing bad behaviour, and how that helps explain the discrepancies between how we feel and how Housemate feels.) Friend understands that since Housemate is being domineering and most of my efforts to change things have either not helped or made it worse, that I'm not risking telling Housemate any more about where my buttons and levers are, because she could use it to dominate and manipulate me. Friend also understands why I'd like to salvage the friendship in the long run, because Housemate was pretty enjoyable as a friend, back when she didn't feel entitled to run my life.

#637 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 03:18 AM:

Lee @595: Being just a little bit chilled is far more misery-making than most people realize.

There's a reason the bottom-most side of the Maslow needs hierarchy is "warm, dry, full."

SummerStorms @600: Hmmm. Looked up fletcherpilates on the Tube-of-You, and the top videoscreen (a bit over six minutes long) has a sequence going on around 1:45 that looks like it might have some effect on leg alignment. Is that the sort of thing you're talking about?

I think I'm getting served a different selection than you are; can you post a direct link? If they are the exercises I'm thinking of, I'd love to have the reference. If they're not, then I may want to add them to my list.

great for core strength

The other thing I found incredibly helpful was the emphasis on symetry. Due to various subtle gait irregularities, I'm constantly ripping stuff up in the course of normal usage. The downside is that it really is useful shading into necessary to have a mirror to work to. I haven't managed this at home, which has limited my ability to keep up with this stuff.

Nancy Lebovitz @603: I'm pretty sure it's possible to be very numb about muscle tension.

I can testify to this one. When I do manage to get regular exercise, it's astonishing how much better I feel. Why I haven't been able to use this to motivate the cultivation of a habit is a mystery to me.

knitcrazybooknut @605: All in all, they probably spent a good five minutes ordering us to sit down, as though we had no right to decline, as though we were objects ourselves, and if we would just go to our proper positions on the mantel, the scene would be perfect.

I think your assessment of their perspective is spot on. I will further wager that the particular form of your refusal, No thank you, I'm fine, was especially aggravating to her (as well as being deeply insightful on your part*), because you were responding specifically to the implication of your position as inanimate chess pieces by demonstrating your sentience and agency. Running a model of your mother's head in my mind, I expect this would have especially hacked her off. Much like pushing the mute botton on the remote and having the noise on the TV ad continue. The ensuing "rant," I'll wager, was the functional equivalent of repeatedly mashing the mute button until it penetrates that this isn't changing the outcome.**

If I give any reasons, they're just going to pick them apart and tell me I'm wrong and the reasons are stupid and I'm being ridiculous.

It's like my friend Matt (who is really kind of supernaturally insightful) says: giving explanation seems to invite argument. And besides, Miss Manners is very clear on the topic from the standpoint of formal etiquette: "No" is sufficient. She agrees that adding explanation will tend to provoke further attempts at persuasion.

Correct Family Appearance - here's where this person sits, here's where this person sits, etc.

Is it really evil of me that I take great delight in thwarting people who try stuff like that?

Your mother missed her calling: she should have been an event planner for the Foreign Service. There, they actually appreciate that kind of sensitivity to rank and appearance.

she decided, and came to the back deck and told me to move to the side yard, now. For the record, she did not tell anyone else they needed to relocate. Just me.

Boy, she really just doesn't get that you're an individual person and not her prop, tool, or appendage, does she? ::shudder:: It would be really fascinating (in a horrid, nightmare-inducing kind of way) to see you from inside her head. You have to wonder how people can filter their experience like that, to maintain that viewpoint.

My mom was bad, but I think she gave me credit for being sentient. Didn't like it much, mind you, but I think she at least acknowledged it.

* From what little I've read of Elgin's Art of Verbal Self Defense, this is exactly what she's talking about: responding to the assumption implicit in the attack, rather than reacting to the surface rationale it's wrapped in.

** "If it doesn't work, do it harder."

J. @606: I did feel better. Eventually, on a timescale that suited me, I found that I no longer needed these rituals and that others more suited to my calendar age had taken their place.

This is brilliant, and very wise. I won't mention how old I was when I finally noticed that I had stopped sucking my thumb. But let's just say, it was significantly later than my parents would have preferred. By an order of magnitude, or so. On some level, even as kid, I realized that thumb sucking was necessary for me and, aside from asserting my agency, I think it also gave me the armor against genetics and family dynamics, and allowed me to side-step a number of much more toxic addictions, such as substance abuse.

Dave Harmon @610: trying to place her with a family ourselves

Sad as it is (I remember how heartbroken I've been the times I've had to give up a pig for adoption), I think this is a great idea. A family with kids would probably be heaven for Gracie; lots of people with energy levels to match her own. Just make sure that it's not a family like I grew up in, where nobody had the time to pay attention to anybody else, kids included. Don't know how you'd test for that, though.

@612: My apologies; I hadn't gotten to this post when I'd posted my @609.

"I had thought I was a dog person who hadn't previously had space/resources to keep one." It's becoming clearer now that really, I still don't have the resources

I've had breakthroughs like that; it's very disconcerting when it happens. But it sounds like you're handling it with insight and good sense, and I'm confident the outcome will result in improvement for all concerned.

Maybe what you need is a ferret: somebody to drive you crazy for two hours, twice a day, and then sleep the rest of the time. Hm. Not good hiking companions though, it's true. ;-)

Moonlit Night @615: My sympathies. Talk about a recipe designed to produce anxiety! None of this is likely to help you, but I'm the offspring of bookkeepers, and have done both the "underspend and rarely if ever budget" and "budget every penny" (I tend to do the latter only when I'm in dire straits), but one thing I have been very firm about when dealing with roomates: I'm the one in charge of household finances, and any wiggle room has to happen on housemates' own time. Knock on wood, I've always managed to set this up in such a way that arguments just never happened. So, like I said, no help to you at all. :-(

I haven't got to watch a cat near a fireplace.

My cat Squeaky would sleep in the fireplace, not quite on top of still-burning embers. When my dad finally installed the glass fire doors, he would sleep cozied up against them, with a coal fire roaring away inside. (We went a fire grate about once a year; they'd just sag, after a while.) The tips of his (rather spectacular white) whiskers always had little curls on the ends, where they'd brushed up against the glass.

616: I have a confused body image myself. I weigh a lot for my height...and I don't look anywhere near it. My "ideal" weight according to BMI is laughable compared to my real weight, both current and historical. I'm sure I weigh more than I should, but I'm equally sure a lot of it *must* be lean mass.

Back when I was doing karate, this was true of me, too. People would consistently estimate my weight about 20lbs low, based on my appearance. (Which was weird, because, as far as I could tell, I never looked particularly lean.)

I should try a good body fat scale.

In the meantime, a quick-and-dirty estimate can be obtained thusly: go to your neighborhood pool. Jump in and to the 4-5 foot depth. Exhale all the way, and pick your feet up off the bottom. If you sink, even slowly (or even if you just don't float), your lean/fat ratio is just fine, and anyone who gives you crap about your weight should go for a high colonic.

But I'm not sure it's possible to roll it all up into one and thereby defeat the queen of the hive.

Sadly, I'm pretty sure it's not possible, because the pernicious part of the bugs is that they're stored in muscle memory, which means that they're scattered all over the nooks and crannies of one's memory and experience, coded as triggers. I think it is possible to resolve Issues at higher logical levels, such that sometimes when one runs across triggers, one can look at the resulting reaction and laugh wisely, pat it on the head, and send it on its way. But I sadly suspect that one has to process each and every bug individually before they go away. And even then maybe not, because each bug has multiple aspects. I would be ecstatic to be proven wrong about this, though.

Mary Aileen @618: You can't catch me that way!

But it was fun to try! :-) (It should be obvious from the link that I, myself, was chutneyed. Chutnied? 8-> )

Moonlit Night @619: TL;DR, possibly hleppy: In this instance, here's what I would do:

"Zero" in the household-expenses account equals the six-month average of all communal household expenses, plus half of the largest overdraft you've ever seen. (If you're feeling paranoid and can afford it, adding 25% or 50% of a month's expenses to your "zero" is never a bad idea.) (it can be handy to keep that surplus in a separate account, that way, "zero" looks like zero, and has the corresponding psychological motivating effect. The downside is that if overdrafts do happen, then a transfer has to be made manually (in time) to cover it, which requires attention. Unless your bank is smart enough to set up an overdraft transfer scheme that doesn't have a fee associated with it.)

New deposits go in on top of that "zero" baseline. This does two things: makes sure you're always covered, and covers any unexpected overdrafts, thus obviating any overdraft fees. (It might take you and Partner some pinching and scraping to save up that much financial surplus; trust me, it's worth it.) It also obviates the non-synchronous nature of the various utility bills you're dealing with.

Then, when new Housemate comes on line, they buy in with first, last, and security (which is always a good idea), plus one month's average Housemate-share of household expenses (which might vary between Housemates; take the average). Each month's rent includes that month's billed Housemate-expenses-share. This is non-negotiable. Failure to pay a month's expenses automatically starts the eviction clock. (In my case, failure to pay is defined as functionally equivalent to a month's notice-of-departure. If it comes to this, the last&household they paid when they moved in covers the missed payment, and they also forfeit their security deposit.)† If you decide to make and exception, make it explicit that it is an exception. And make sure you define repayment timeline and consequences for failure to pay. In writing.

Then, should Housemate eventually depart in good standing, they get their last month and household expenses free, and get their security deposit (less that month's overages and damages, if any) returned, as appropriate.

All of the above is in writing, and signed by all parties. (How you and Partner negotiate your portions of the communal expenses is up to you, and none of Housemate's business. The only thing you need to be strict about is that the household expenses account is topped up as appropriate, and that the baseline is sufficient to cover regular expenses and reasonable contingencies.)

This can feel harsh, but making it all automatic and clinical actually eliminates most anxiety and disputes. This also provides a handy filter; any prospective roomates who can cover that kind of money up front is likely to be managing their finances in such a way as to be a better tennant, anyway.††

In terms of a testimonial, while I don't have housemates to deal with these days, I run my personal finances like this. Where I work, we get paid once a month. I often overhear my coworkers angsting about money towards the end of the month. Despite the fact that I my current income is just a little bit more than my expenses, I rarely even notice with the end of the month rolls around, because I know that everything's covered. (Which reminds me.... ::trots off to move some money around::)

And I'm totally in love with automatic payments. (Though this makes keeping the faux zero topped up even more crucial.)

All of the above can be pretty overwhelming to calculate. Like I said, I have accounting in my genes; if you need any help, please feel free to drop me a note at my email (at the bottom of my homepage linked above). Really: I actually have way too much fun setting up spreadsheets and such.

† Localities often have particular legislation regarding renter/landlord relationships and obligations, and this includes financial constraints on both parts. If you're not already, it's a good idea to be up on these.

†† Another good way to refine your filter is to ask others who have lodgers about their experiences, and in particular if you know someone who consistently finds good lodgers, ask them for their sorting criteria. Google might be a good place to look for a list of requirements, too.

Lee @620: Gas, hydro, water, and internet all have different cycle lengths" Wait, what? How does that work?

I've run into this; Comcast and (phone company du joir) in particular tend to slide around. I have Dark Suspicions that they use this to hide shady billing, but the discrepencies have never been enough to motivate me to look into it more closely (which I really should).

Mongoose @626: Mongoose is also still recovering.

Jacque has deep sympathy for Mongoose. I had one of those for a while. Not nearly as bad, and I'm enough my parents' daughter (a good thing, in this case) that I had the sense to never lend him money, and made him buy is own food. But even so, it took me six months to pry him out of what was initially intended to last one or two months at most. At that, I did better than a lot of people from whom he'd wheedled lodging.

There is such a thing as being Too Nice. I think your Lodger (or at least his karma, and almost certainly his sense) would have benefitted from some time on the street.

Moonlit Night @629: voluntold

Hahahahaha!!! I love it! That one's going straight into my kit.

equal billing feature, but I didn't want to sign up yet. Partly to get a baseline,

If you use the faux "zero" above, you can actually do much of this yourself, obviating the need for the company-run version. Again, financial flexibility plays into it, but it can be a handy fall-back.

I wish I could make Jerkbrain STOP saying that I should have known better

Please point out to Jerkbrain that this is the function of Experience, and if Jerkbrain doesn't STFU about it, you'll tell me, and I will look over my glasses and shake my finger sternly at it.

Cheryl @630: Thomas Edison would say you haven't failed, you have successfully found a way that doesn't work.

:-) :-) :-)

Moonlit Night @636: Housemate pushed for common money for food, common cooking, and for food to be bought on a credit card.

Um, why!?

she would push for letting the balance ride and rack up interest.

This is just plain dumb, and makes no sense, unless she's getting kick-backs from the credit card company on the interest payments. IMnpHO, since this is her idea, it would make perfect sense for her to be the one on the hook for the interest.

All that together is why I fervently want to stop sharing food and collect utility payments immediately as they come in.

This makes tremendous sense, and is how I've always managed financial relationships with roomates. The system I suggest above would apply if I were bringing on a new roommate, and felt that sharing food was a good option. In neither case do I ever give a roommate or a lodger any voice in how the finances are managed; only that they provide their part on time, in full, and without argument. It's a business relationship. They need to regard it as such. Especially where the parties concerned are or were friends.

Maybe he and I can find a finance app we like

My credit union actually has a money managing app in its online manifestation that I'm growing to like. If your bank has a similar thing, it might be worthwhile to explore it. I'll wager they even have some sort of tutorials/user support that is probably free.

I like Friend. Sounds like he/she has given you excellent listening and perspective, and you can tell him/her I said so. :-)

#638 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 03:19 AM:

Some lovely brownies left over from the art show, Friday?

#639 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 04:06 AM:

Moonlit Night @ 636

"Friend thinks that Housemate had a lot of ideas/expectations of how I should run my life and resolve my issues, and put pressure on me to do it her way. ... As I kept on rejecting the guidance that Housemate felt would definitely solve my problems, the less effort Housemate put into being a safe and caring person towards me."

Jeez. Doesn't that make you want to kick your heels and yell "You are not the boss of me!!!"? (Alternatively, "I am not a number! I am a free person!" But I digress...)

Your housemate needs to get a grip. Personally, I'd move. This is not a person who respects you as an independent equal, they aren't particularly self-aware, and they're not likely to get better, because adults generally cannot be changed from without.

Once you're no longer housemates, then worry about whether you can or want to salvage the friendship. But if they aren't invested in you, I'm not sure it's worth you continuing to invest in them. Sometimes awesome friendships just end badly. It sucks, but both people have to want to stay friends for it to work. Your friend's behavior tells me they're more interested in being right than in being your friend.

#640 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 08:02 AM:

#637 ::: Jacque

Feeling better isn't the same (at least for me) as more complete kinesthesia.

I've found that remembering how I feel better from exercise helps at least a little with getting me to do it.


After having made progress against depression, I've tried talking about it. One friend was definitely interested, I can't remember whether another was, and people generally have shut down that part of the conversation as quickly as possible.

I think people in my social circle (I don't know how typical they are) have a higher tolerance for hearing about depression than hearing about psychological methods for getting better from it.

#641 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 09:53 AM:

This is a really good list of repeated messages (including the contradictory ones)

Trigger warning for constantly being told to do something other than what you're doing.

#642 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 10:42 AM:

On not hurrying children

One of the things I've been working on undoing is the idea that doing things right is identically equal to my moving faster than I can keep track of.

#643 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 11:16 AM:

I found this linked from Rachel Held Evans. It helped me to understand the paradox of my mom, and I thought it might help others here.

"But fear can be even more elusive than this. Sometimes it can have no face at all. If it is successfully avoided, it leaves almost no trace of its presence. And so those of us who are good at avoiding our sources of fear may come to conclude that fear has no part in our story."
[my mom would emphatically deny that fear is her motivation for anything, and be deeply insulted by the idea that she is a fearful person - or when confronted with specific behaviours, say that her fear in that specific circumstance is *entirely* justified - haven't you watched the news lately?]

"Fearful people live within restrictive boundaries...They also tend to be highly vigilant, ever guarding against life’s moving out of the bounds within which they feel most comfortable."
[change? Mom? Never! Change is bad! - though she criticizes people for being "rigid" and "stuffy" if they don't let her do things her way]

"Because of this, fear breeds control. People who live in fear feel compelled to remain in control. They attempt to control themselves and they attempt to control their world. Often despite their best intentions, this spills over into efforts to control others. Life beyond control is unimaginable, even though their efforts at control have only very limited success. Fear also blocks responsiveness to others. The fearful person may appear deeply loving, but fear always interferes with the impulse toward love. Energy invested in maintaining safety and comfort always depletes energy available for love of others."
[highly controlling - that's my mom. Also deeply loving. But not loving in a sense that allows deviation from her expectations - not truly.]

(italics mine, and all text in square brackets)

#644 ::: Chickadee has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 11:17 AM:

probably for a really strange-looking link.

May I offer home-made pizza?

#645 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 11:22 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @642: I could cry reading that. I was always too clumsy, too slow, not efficient enough... And Mom's a type A controller who's got to get everything done NOW.

That said, we did still have explicit times for stopping to smell the roses. We went for walks together in the neighbourhood at least a couple of times a week. Those are what saved me, I think. Just day-to-day-life was "hurry up." (though that was enough)

#646 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 11:54 AM:

Jacque @637: go to your neighborhood pool. Jump in and to the 4-5 foot depth. Exhale all the way, and pick your feet up off the bottom. If you sink, even slowly (or even if you just don't float), your lean/fat ratio is just fine, and anyone who gives you crap about your weight should go for a high colonic.

Much gratitude. My mom needles me 1-3 times per year about how if I don't pay close attention to my weight I will gain All The Weight and Be Fat and it will be Bad (probably because I managed to gain 30 lbs in like six years* and also because projecting her own bodily unhappiness). But I sink like a stone in pools. So this makes me feel substantially better. :) (And also like maybe I should have made that connection before)

* almost all muscle, as it happens, not that she believes me

My deep sympathies to those whose parents and surroundings are even harsher on their comfort with embodiment.

#647 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 12:46 PM:

Jacque @637: I will work on understanding and processing the mathematics later. Since Housemate may move out at an unpredictable date, I am not going to try to set up anything elaborate (to me, anyway) right now. Better to think that through before next housemate, and start fresh.

What I wanted to ask was, it sounds suspiciously like my non-system of "high income, low expenses, spend semi-impulsively" is a legitimate money-handling system good enough for an accountant? Not a mark of disorganization? Partner is naturally terrible with paperwork, and I'm capable of it but not fond. It just grew and we find it easy to keep up. But when I tell others about it, they either boggle, because they think they couldn't do it, or scoff at me because I "ought" to have a planned budget and track things.

#648 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 01:09 PM:

Moonlit Night @647: Not speaking as an accountant, and speaking as someone with a moderate (and highly variable - contract work) income, we don't formally budget. Once a year, when we get our contracts for the next couple of semesters, we go through our anticipated income, figure out how much we need to sock away to pay ourselves over the summer, and that's the end of things. The rest goes by fairly gut-level planning and keeping an eye on the monthly credit card bill.

I'm the daughter of an accountant, and for a while tried my dad's way of keeping track of every. penny. spent. and I just about went mad.

FWIW, instinctive budgeting works for us, too.

#649 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 01:54 PM:

Moonlit Night, #647: Our primary form of budgeting (since our income is erratic) is "keep an eye on what's in the account, and adjust behavior accordingly". I haven't balanced my checkbook in over a decade -- it's not important any more now that I can look at my account history online! (And also because I almost never write checks any more; most of my payments are made online, too. So there are many fewer opportunities for math errors.)

One thing I forgot to mention about the XRFH is that by the time we'd finally had enough and kicked him out, he was into us for somewhere around $2,000. That wasn't enough to break us, but it stung.

#650 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 02:20 PM:

Moonlit Night @ 647

What I wanted to ask was, [is] my non-system of "high income, low expenses, spend semi-impulsively" a legitimate money-handling system good enough for an accountant? Not a mark of disorganization?

I'm an actuary (we're the people who think accountants are really not careful enough about details), and it's good enough for me--anything that gets the bills paid and keeps you unstressed is IMO a good system--noting, though, the dependence on high income.

The system I have used since my income was very low is to spend cash, in fixed amounts weekly, with those fixed amounts budgeted. That lets me spend "impulsively", but within bounds. (So I used to get $60 per week in cash--that covered food, any recreational activities, etc--if I spent $50 on books, I got to eat rice and eggs for the rest of the week--but a week wasn't so long that it was a challenge to my self-discipline.)

#651 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 02:30 PM:

Jacque @ 637: The video I referenced is the top one on this page.

Also, right there with you in regard to gait, balance, etc.

#652 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 03:56 PM:

Moonlit Night (#636) It has been my firm rule for some years that it is better to make friends with someone with whom you do business than it is to try to do business with a friend. Sooner or later, most of these relationships will slide into abusiveness because one of the friends will assume that something is "okay because we're friends" when it is very much not okay.

Sharing a house is definitely doing business. I agree with Jacque that everything should be written down and agreed to by all parties, in writing, and all changes to the original agreement should be handled the same way.

It is so easy to let things slip, because after all you are friends, and your friend needs your help and so on. But the end result is often the end of the friendship. Moonlit Night, you say you would like to come out of this situation as friends. You should be aware that it may not be possible.

#653 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 05:04 PM:

hope in disguise @646: Much gratitude.


My mom needles me 1-3 times per year about how if I don't pay close attention to my weight I will gain All The Weight and Be Fat and it will be Bad

This is how we install eating disorders.

Next time she pulls this, trot out the following info: From the Swim Teach page:

Your ability to float is determined by your body composition. In other words if you are lean and muscular and have a low or even normal body fat percentage, you will more than likely sink. If you have a higher body fat percentage then you will more than likely float.

because I managed to gain 30 lbs in like six years*

You do realize this works out to about four soda crackers (call it 58 calories) a day, right?

and also because projecting her own bodily unhappiness).

"Me cold/you sweater."

Next time she gives you any lip, lay this data out for her, and then ask her for the numbers that support her concerns about your weight. Then call her on it. Tell her straight up that if she's worried about weight, maybe it's her weight that concerns her, because the numbers don't support concern about your weight. Period. If she argues, tell her to make an appointment with a doctor to get you tanked, so you can put an actual number on your lean/fat ratio. At her expense. But she has to get tanked, too, or you won't go.

If she responds with any variation of "Mafm-waffle," then it's clear she doesn't want to actually think about this. Point this out to her. Then announce the end of the discussion. For All Time.

I know, I know, this is how I would handle it (somewhat more diplomatically, I would hope), and as such is entirely hleppy. But the bottom line is that she has no basis for worrying about your weight, and needs to knock it the f*ck off.

But I sink like a stone in pools. So this makes me feel substantially better. :)

Good! And there's actually a non-zero possibility that you're not carrying enough fat for optimal health. Not that I would worry about it, if you otherwise feel healthy.

(And also like maybe I should have made that connection before)

Only if you've studied up on the subject. I didn't make that connection until years after I'd gotten into the habit of reading about health and fitness. So you don't get to bludgeon yourself about that, either. Jacque sez so! :-)

Moonlit Night @647: Better to think that through before next housemate, and start fresh.

This makes perfect sense. The one alteration to your current arrangement I would (strongly) advocate:

@636: Housemate pushed for common money for food, common cooking, and for food to be bought on a credit card. That last meant there were no built-in spending limits on food or utilities.

If Housemate wants to keep this arrangement, then the credit card in question should be in HOUSEMATE'S name, solely and only. It is then HOUSEMATE's responsibility to bill you and Partner for (a detailed, written invoice of) your portion of the expenses, less interest and overdraft fees. These latter are solely HOUSEMATE's to cover. No argument, ifs, ands, or buts. If Housemate wants constraint-free spending, then it's damn well Housemate's credit that should be on the line. (This will have the salutory side-effect of taking the account-keeping burden off your shoulders, as well.)

If the credit card currently being used is in your and/or Partner's name, shut it down now and pay it off. Period. If it's in all three of your names, insist on being taken off of the account.

What I wanted to ask was, it sounds suspiciously like my non-system of "high income, low expenses, spend semi-impulsively" is a legitimate money-handling system good enough for an accountant?

I doubt any accountant would formally endorse that system (I know my mother would probably have had kittens at the idea). But you're not an accountant. BUT: As long as you're keeping complete records in some form (bank statements in a box in a drawer, something), the data can be reassembled at need, and that's entirely adequate, as long as your bottom line says you consistently spend within your limits. (The only argument in favor of keeping complete records on an ongoing basis is that, if you do have to assemble the data, it's a lot easier, partly because you've already got it organized in an accessible fashion, and partly because you already have the data in your head, to some extent. This would be one of the reasons I really love computers. Removes 99% of the manual labor involved in bookkeeping.)

That's basically what I do these days. The only time I get anal about it is when my income/outgo numbers are too close to each other, and even then, I just tend to spot-check. I work out what my weekly average "Food &c" budget is, and then keep an eye on that number when I'm at the grocery store. When my margin is wider, I don't worry about it at all.

The secret to this, of course, is to have a wide enough margin that I can overspend without incurring overdraft fees and such (as would have happened this last month with the convention in October, had I not made damn sure my baseline was up to snuff).

Not a mark of disorganization?

It's a mark of intelligent laziness. By which I mean, you're priority is on living your life, not spending your weekends crunching numbers. (And, believe me, taken to the OCD extreme, you can spend days lost in these calculations. You can probably guess why I know that.)

Now I will say, it's useful to do the whole "balancing the checkbook" dance, at least to reassure yourself that you can.

But as a Way Of Life? I would advocate that only if you get particular joy from doing arithmetic and building spreadsheets. (Don't laugh; I Know People. Mostly Virgoes.)

The one case where I would advocate being anal about exact amounts is when you have a third party in the mix, for the same reason you want an itemized invoice from a contractor. But even then, from your side, you probably only need to know the absolute totals you and Partner need to contribute to the household budgets. It's Housemate's numbers that need to be tracked specifically, simply to avoid argument. Done right, Numbers Don't Lie.

Referring back to your @636 again: I was not up to also tracking every damn grocery purchase

Here's my hack for that: keep <Elliott Mason>All The Receipts EVAR</EM>. Have a bull-dog clip hanging in a strategic location in the kitchen. When you're unloading groceries, clip that trip's receipt to the back of that month's receipt bundle. (In a house with multiple residents, I'd also hang a pen from the clip, and whoever made that shopping trip initials the receipt.) At the end of the month, staple the bundle together, write the month and year on the first receipt, and put it at the back of the running receipt collection in [drawer]. If an orphan receipt is found from a previous month, clip it to the back of the current bundle, sticking out sideways.

That way, there's a record of all purchases, with minimal effort. Then, if you need to track down a particular (say) credit card charge, you just go refer to that date in the receipt collection. (If a receipt for a date is missing, you check subsequent bundles for orphans.) If Housemate doesn't comply with receipt collection proceedure, any purchases not accounted for in the receipts are by default charged to Housemate. Make this explicit. Accept no argument.

It's not perfect, because receipts get lost, people forget to collect them, and sometimes the ribbon has run out and they're illegible. But if you're 90% dilligent, this will cover most contingencies.

(This also has the handy side-effect of having receipts on tap if store returns need to be made. Just take the month's bundle in to the store, make them deal with it in the bundle (which I've never gotten argument about) and tack the return-receipt into the bundle on the original.)

But when I tell others about it, they either boggle, because they think they couldn't do it, or scoff at me because I "ought" to have a planned budget and track things.

::shrug:: I've used it at various times in my life. I know of at least one friend who uses it. (He does keep a checkbook to the extent of marking purchases, rounded up to the nearest dollar, and deposits rounded down to the nearest ten.) Now you, so that's three. Chickadee makes four. Lee makes five. I think that's well into Causal Connection territory. Again: if the bottom line works out, what's the worry?

As to "ought," it might be entertaining to enquire as to why they feel that way. If it's specific, you might collect some good tips. If it's vague, you can nod and say noncommitally, "Yeah, I could see how you might feel that way." For people who don't understand/aren't comfortable with/don't trust numbers, I could see where this could be a source of free-floating anxiety. Acknowledge the anxiety they express. Doesn't mean you have to buy into it.

* Totalling up your expenses, totalling up your income, and making damn sure, down to the penny,** that they add up and agree with the surplus/deficit you see in your checkbook[equivalent].

** My mother was emphatic about chasing down each and every error, because "even a penny error can hide a larger discrepancy." I regret that she probably never got to read Cliff Stoll's Cuckoo's Egg. It would have made her laugh and laugh....

SamChevre @650: I'm an actuary (we're the people who think accountants are really not careful enough about details)

You made me LOL and scare the guinea pigs. :-)

noting, though, the dependence on high income.

Er: the dependence is on income >= expense. I'm running about a $300/month surplus these days. The key is in the margins. Keep a month's expense-plus baseline ("zero") in your checking account, keep at least that much in savings, and keep an eye out for unusual/unexpected expenses, and it's all good. Would be better with a high income; no argument there! :-)

The rest of what you say matches what I do, with $75/mo for Food &c. But that's also a calculation based on what I do spend; what I've found to be a comfortable minimum.

SummerStorms @651: Grazie!!

#654 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 05:05 PM:

More brownies?

["Grazie!!" was the trigger for the gnomes' list. "Thank you" is a dirty word in other languages too.... -- JDM]

#655 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 06:07 PM:

abi @ 628: Wow. That's straight-up abusive. Strength to your arm in untangling the emotional mess he left behind, and three cheers to your father for lending you the money.

*expresses gratitude in gnome-avoiding fashion*

I haven't replied to this before because I've been pondering it and letting it sink in. Many people have said "this man is selfish/unpleasant/potentially dangerous/whatever", but you're the first person who's said that what he was doing was abuse. And it was, no doubt about it. It was just that I hadn't really made the connection before.

He had other tactics for getting his way. You've already seen that he was capable of bullying and threats. At other times he would just shout me down. The dishwasher was a very good example of that. He brought his dishwasher with him when he moved in, which was a bottom-of-the-range model that I feared would damage my crockery. (His crockery was all built pretty much to withstand a bullet, since he wasn't the most careful person, so in his case it didn't matter.) He then told me I should use the dishwasher because it would save me so much time washing up.

I said, no, thank you, I don't want to use the dishwasher, because my crockery is not as substantial as yours and I'm afraid it will cause damage. Any reasonable person would have taken that for an answer. But reason wasn't his forte, and so he started bludgeoning me about how the dishwasher was perfectly safe and wouldn't damage anything and I should just use it. When I tried to press my point, he started shouting and telling me I was stupid and couldn't see what was good for me. In the end, extremely upset, I agreed to use the damned thing just to shut him up. Of course it did damage the finish on most of my mugs.

That was the problem. He always had to be right, whether or not he actually was, and he apparently had no empathy whatsoever. He couldn't get inside anyone else's head. He was highly intelligent in some very specific and restricted ways, and absolutely stupid in others, but he was also very hung up on his IQ, which he kept reminding everyone was higher than that of anyone else he knew, and that obviously meant he didn't have a natural peer group. Never mind the fact that it's rather moot what IQ tests actually measure, and that, whatever it is, you're not going to get a very accurate figure at the extreme ends of the spectrum. His IQ, if I remember rightly, had once been measured at 172. Well, mine's been measured at 165 and that of a mutual friend at 169, and both of us are infinitely more savvy about basic practical things than he is; but, on the strength of a handful of IQ points' difference between him and his friends (not that I'm exactly his friend any more), he's always portrayed himself as this lonely genius who is far beyond everyone else's understanding.

And on this basis, he also frequently tended to arrogate to himself the right to decide what was good for other people, such as the dishwasher incident. It was definitely a case of "Because I am so much more intelligent than Mongoose, I can see quite clearly what they need while they are still groping in the dark."

I am pretty certain that he did this on at least two other occasions without my knowledge or consent, and both of these were quite significant. The one for which I have definite evidence, rather than a very strong suspicion based on his subsequent behaviour, was the disappearance of my friend's ashes from the house. My best friend died at the age of 33, and I was given a small container of his ashes by his mother. At some point during Lodger's lodgement, the ashes disappeared from the container, although it took me a long time to notice, since I wasn't in the habit of opening it.

Why would he do something like that? Simple. He firmly believed that demons are attracted to anything dead, so one should not have remains lying about the house. I never quite had the courage to enquire whether or not that applied to his freezer full of meat and fish.

Believe me, the other incident was even worse than that, but without sufficient evidence I'm not going to recount it here. Suffice it to say that calling it abuse has made a lot of things in my mind click into place. He was not only