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November 24, 2013

Dysfunctional Families: Books on Tape
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:02 AM *

I’ve been thinking a lot about internal narratives lately.

They’re a tool that we humans often use make sense of the world. We take individual occurrences from the past and string them together into connected events, then project that line into the future. On a very deep level, narratives are how I know, or think I know, what to expect next. They’re how I end up fearing what I fear.

Milan Kundera extends this point in The Unbeararable Lightness of Being, discussing Anna Karenina:

Early in the novel, Anna meets Vronsky in curious circumstances: they are at the railway station when someone is run over by a train. At the end of the novel, Anna throws herself under a train. This symmetrical composition — the same motif appears at the beginning and the end — may seem quite “novelistic” to you, and I am willing to agree, but only on condition that you refrain from reading such notions as “fictive,” “fabricated,” and “untrue to life” into the word “novelistic.” Because human lives are composed in precisely such a fashion. They are composed like music. Guided by his sense of beauty, an individual transforms a fortuitous occurrence (Beethoven’s music, death under a train) into a motif, which then assumes a permanent place in the composition of the individual’s life. Anna could have chosen another way to take her life. But the motif of death and the railway station, unforgettably bound to the birth of love, enticed her in her hour of despair with its dark beauty.

In other words, there is a tendency not only to perceive one’s life in narrative terms, but to guide it that way too. I know that I’m prone to this to an almost ridiculous degree. And when I get myself into an emotional hole, it’s often useful to ask myself what story I’m telling myself, whether it’s a true story, and if there’s another narrative that I can create from the situation. If I change the plot, can I open up more alternatives?

I’m thinking of the movie Galaxy Quest here, where one character has himself pegged as the disposable extra. Changing the narrative changes the choices he makes.

Guy Fleegman: I’m just a glorified extra, Fred. I’m a dead man anyway. If I’m gonna die, I’d rather go out a hero than a coward.
Fred Kwan: Guy, Guy… maybe you’re the plucky comic relief. You ever think about that?

We’ve talked about Tapes here, which are basically the negative narratives we’ve had imposed on us. We’ve talked about the roles we get cast into (the Difficult Kid, the Good Kid, etc.) and how those create and control expectations. Both of these are examples of narrative control, but there’s a third one that I, at least, wrestle with a lot: story arc.

Am I the tragic character who falls into the same trap over and over again because of her Sophoclean flaw? Am I the princess in the tower waiting to be rescued? Or am I the protagonist who gradually improves her circumstances and rescues herself from peril?

Mind you, I have to choose the new story arc carefully. A narrative of helplessness may paralyze me, but an overly-heroic one leaves me open to sudden collapses of confidence. I need one that works within my own symbolic set, and the things I have done and been before. It has to be tellable in my voice. In other words, I need to stick to my own personal canon. Mary Sue plots don’t work for me.

Is this just me? (It might be, in which case, just carry on the existing conversation!) If not, what are your stories and how would you like to change them?

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: Books on Tape:
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 08:52 AM:

I've often thought that I couldn't sell something this implausible to Hollywood -- similar, although not quite the same.

#2 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 09:08 AM:

Following on the conversation at the end of the previous thread where the invisible one said I don't really see the point in an email that says only "hi how's it going?" or similar, however, and have a really hard time with the idea that somebody would be interested in hearing what I'm up to.

My comment on this comes from the perspective of working with my daughter with special needs. She has very little speech, and has been using a voice-output augmentative communication device for years. These used to be dedicated devices, now more often apps. Anyway, there was a process of figuring out what kind of vocabulary needs to be on her device, because if it's not available to her, she can't say it. And one of the points I remember in my reading on the subject is that people focus on concrete, practical things like "I'm hungry" or "I want to ---," and that those are important, but that a lot of communication is not really about the subject of communication, it's about establishing or renewing a relationship, a connection. So her vocabulary needs to let her say things like, "Wow, what a lot of snow," or "How about those $sports-team" or "What did you do over the weekend?" because those are the conversations that weave us into our social fabric.

#3 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 09:23 AM:

Regarding the internal narratives: Definitely important to me. I've talked about questioning Mom's narrative of her own past, but for my internal narrative, I've gradually changed mine from "the good daughter" (with a strong thread of mom's copy 'doing the things she couldn't' or 'reproducing the good parts of her life') to "chasing the dream." Right now, I'm working at a job that doesn't pay terribly much and has no benefits and no job security, but it's what I *love*. And the more I ditch the tapes Mom planted in me, the more satisfaction my job brings me. (also, the more I separate myself from the need to be the Model Daughter of the original narrative - the example to point other people's kids to saying "why can't you be more like Chickadee?")

Regarding "hi how's it going," it's important to me because I care how it's going. I want to know the day to day minutiae of your life because they're interesting to me, and I've found that the more I share such things with my friends, the more likely we are to share the deeper things. To some degree, the simple act of "keeping in contact" helps us to form the deeper relationship.

This is not always the case - I have a few very special friends who I can contact out of the blue with deep issues and problems, but for most of my friendships (good friends but not DFD thread problem discussion level), this really does enhance and deepen our contact.

The times when I have a problem with "how are you" or equivalent is when they're bastardized into a rote social dance, where there are expected answers - "fine, how are you?" and the questions become utterly meaningless. Correct me if I'm wrong, but is this the sort of thing you're reacting to, invisible one? (in addition to not seeing how anyone could be genuinely interested in the answer, which I totally get)

#4 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 09:36 AM:

re: last post: I feel like apologizing for abuse of the poor, overused quotation mark... :P Blame posting before breakfast! *g*

#5 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 09:39 AM:

I'd fallen so far behind on the other thread that the thought of reading up to current was daunting enough as to make me flee it as Too Perilous, needing too many spoons from me in a period when I am in massive spoon-deficit almost every day.

Which is unfair of me, and probably inaccurate, but I also didn't want to do a "haven't read the posts but I have to say something" drive-by, so it's lucky for me there's a whole new thread. :->

My kid is on what is now (we're geeks in this house -- what, you mean every parent doesn't build datasets to help with their parenting?) an almost 90-day stretch of not sleeping through the night.

Which means I've had my sleep interrupted at least once every one of those nights, plus stress from my sleep schedule trying to 'learn' my new 'job wakeup pattern' and doing things like keeping me from being sleepy till 3AM, even though the kid's going to be up and my problem at 7:30 regardless of when I got to bed ...

We have resorted to a half-dose of Benadryl (she's also got snifflies from dust in the radiators and the start of heating season) at bedtime for her. It has not gotten her to sleep through the night yet, but it seems to help her get down again faster (and only wake up once), so it has improved my life a bit. I've gotten at least six solid straight hours each of the last four nights, which was a rarity for me before. We're hoping she grows out of it or we can retrain her sleep; meanwhile I've been a zombie all day and haven't been able to volunteer at her school as much as I wanted (or keep up with, well, anything else in my life at all).

That said, everything else is going reasonably well in our lives ...

In college, someone asked me the "If your life were a novel, what kind of novel would it be?" question and I realized I'm not actually the protagonist of a novel, I'm a side character in a bunch of different ones. I'm the interested, inquisitive grandkid who (in a fictional universe where other rules apply) dug into my grandfather's Secret World War II history (which is actually secret, but not greatly discoverable by me now anymore) and served as the viewpoint character for a series of flashbacks-and-present that made sense of his life. I'm the fairly-straightedge-and-humorously-so side character in my mom's wacky biopic. Nowadays I have other roles, but still not really a protagonist's, IMHO.

I do plucky comic relief pretty well. It's one of my favorites. :->

#6 ::: curiously alive ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 10:00 AM:

This reminds me of one of the songs from the new musical Matilda, Naughty:(

Which has been helpful for me lately as I brood and wonder how to rewrite the story I seem to have ended up in, while hurting the fewest people possible, but actually making it center around me instead of being a supporting character in other people's stories.

I wonder if this internal monologue thing is more prevalent in people with dysfunctional families as we tended to be children who read a lot to escape.

I recently reread Matilda, thanks to this musical, and man, I had forgotten how rotten her story was and how magical the ending.. Which probably didn't help me as a kid, as no teacher was suddenly going to sweep down and take me away to live with them!

#7 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 12:25 PM:

Re internal narratives. There is a book called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, by Donald Miller. Miller had written a previous memoir, and was working with two screenwriters on a movie from that book. And he is somewhat bemused to discover that his life has to be rewritten to make a coherent story in a movie, and that leads him to think about how he might write a better story going forward. He says that a satisfying story has four qualities: (1) An interesting character (2) who wants something and (3) overcomes conflict (4) to get it.

Part of me finds this idea really magnetic, that I can write a better story for my life by thinking about who I am, what I want, and how I can face conflicts to achieve it. And another part of me is concerned because I think that writing a better story at depth is a good thing, but I also think that it's easy for this to slide into self-presentation and spin. I don't have to actually be a better parent, or spouse, or employee, I just have to look like one. That path leads to another fork in the road, where one branch is the "fake it to make it" branch and in doing my best to look like I have a better story, I actually create one. The other branch, though, leads to gaslighting and other dysfunctional strategies where nobody can be permitted to question my narrative, or to a place where I end up suppressing who I really am in the process of trying to look like who I think I should be.

#8 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 12:58 PM:

the invisible one/PT, OtterB #2: Specifically, such interchanges underlie the "games" and "pastimes" of Transactional Psychology. Yes, it's time for my other semi-annual book recommendation, Games People Play, by Eric Berne.

#9 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 01:21 PM:

I remind myself that what I say about myself becomes true. Saying it fixes it in place, so I can solve its problems, but it also enhances it and builds it into the rest of me. So 'sweetheart and thoughtful' 'God of Subs and Queen of Data' 'coward' and 'disordered eating' become different aspects of me in a way they weren't always.

OtterB, one of my students writes an email to his mother every week. We prompt him to write things-- they all boil down to, "Hi Mom! How are you? I'm going to (work site) today. We're going to (field trip) this week. I like (thing). Love, (name)." That's a really good one, actually, with lots of support from us. We've also helped a student memorize/dictate Facebook statuses, the ones she always posts, like 'hey' and 'sup', because that's what she needs.

I often think of the scripted social interactions as warmups or checks-- you say certain things to make sure there's time for a conversation and to make sure that everything is still okay.

#10 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 03:35 PM:

Bricklayer, @5: Some years ago I became possessed by a similar question, but it was: "If your life were in a novel, who would be the protagonist?" I was asking everybody, because I was sure I would be in the novel about my mother. There were a few other people, mostly women, who weren't the protagonists of the novels their lives were in. I don't remember, but I think that there were a few others who were characters in their mothers' novels, like me.

I think I was in my thirties when I felt like that, and I think my mother was still alive.

#11 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 03:46 PM:

The invisible one, from one thread back: I wanted to mention my experience with best friends and friends and relationships. I also wanted to say that I'm sorry that you've hit this bump in your relationship with New Interest. It's always hard when you have that interaction. But the fact that you had that interaction - instead of some other kind, or just *none* - is a good sign in my book. I know you're trying not to be overly optimistic, but investing energy in discussing problems is work, and that New Interest is willing to do work is good in general. I personally have had multiple relationships, friends, etc. just bail completely instead of having one slightly hard convo.

In my experience, finding best friends who will help you discuss and process your issues is rare and amazing. Finding a significant other who will do that is equally rare, but also dependent on your selection process. You do get to decide whether that's important to you in an s.o. For some, it's vital; for others, not at all. Depends on the person.

I've found that most of the problems I've had with friendships have involved a misinterpretation or miscalculation of what friendship really means to each of the involved parties. Kind of like the inherent problem with the golden rule: If you treat others the way you'd want to be treated, that doesn't mean they get what they actually wanted. My definition of friendship may not be the same as someone else's. I have presumed loyalty and keeping of secrets where the other person had no such values or beliefs about our relationship.

As an example, I was once "best friends" with a women who had a terribly complicated life. I was there for her through a number of different struggles, and she talked to me about all of her problems with other friends we shared. I presumed that she talked only to me about other people, that I was her safe space, and that she was the same to me (though my troubles, oddly enough, rarely eclipsed hers). Later, I found out that she talked about me to other shared friends as well. Our values were not aligned, and we did not have the same expectations of each other.

If you can test the waters with a shallow friendship and try talking about some deeper issues, you can see how the person reacts and move forward accordingly. Sometimes it will work, sometimes not. But then you know, and can choose how often you want to interact with someone. The How are You/Fine exchange can be annoying, to be sure. But that dance soothes people. It's almost a toll bridge that has to be fed to dodge the trolls underneath.

I know you're skittish of therapy, and I validate that feeling. It's a scary thing. One thing I would encourage that hopefully won't sound scary: Check out websites. A lot of people have a web presence these days, and I was able to make an appointment with my therapist solely based on what I read on her website, and from the email interaction we had before we even met. Every practitioner has different priorities, and they will talk about them. You can start by asking yourself if you like how they talk about themselves. Do you think you would be comfortable talking to this person? Some have pictures and will tell you who they generally treat. It might be the most non-threatening way to see who they say they are.

#12 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 06:26 PM:

I would like to be better at keeping in contact with people - but am worried that I will not have anything to say that is worth hearing, or that they won't care enough about me, or or or. And then I struggle with actually listening to my friends and knowing how to respond appropriately to their conversation and their problems, so that everything is not about me all the time. I don't know. There are several questions lurking in there, none well-verbalized.

I did do something that may count as progress recently. When I was feeling really awful on was-it-Thursday, I called the Man I'm Not Dating in hopes he would help me feel better, and proceeded to be truly, spectacularly awful at listening and at conversing. And what do you know, the conversation didn't help at all. But I noticed almost immediately upon hanging up what I'd been doing wrong, and apologized the next day (and asked for clarification on something I'd thought I'd heard in the muddle). A step forward against the "Bad At People" Tape, perhaps.

#13 ::: Hiding a little ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 08:26 PM:

Re the personal narratives: When I left my husband, I was the heroine rescuing myself. It felt good. I was leaving an abusive relationship, and I was proud of myself for finally, finally, finally getting free while it wasn't too late. BUT -- it was only a few months later that he was engaged to another woman, and I couldn't help suspecting that he had been seeing her/been planning this. Making me the woman cheated upon, which upset my whole internal narrative. I did NOT want to be seen as the victim, by him, by myself, by anyone looking at this from the outside. Much as I was glad to get rid of him (and glad to no longer have any responsibility for his emotional well-being), it knocked me off balance and it took a while to get my equilibrium back.

#14 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 08:41 PM:

I don’t have time at the moment to write more than a few words, but just wanted to make two observations that this thread has suggested to me:

  1. When I came out as gay, I changed the genre of my novel from tragedy to a coming-of-age story.

  2. The protagonist of Alexei Panshin’s more-feminist-than-Heinlein, coming-of-age novel Rite of Passage was taught that nobody is a spear-carrier. She shouldn’t think of others as supporting characters in her story, because they all have their own stories.

#16 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 10:13 PM:

A relevant article about How We Teach Our Kids That Women Are Liars by Soraya Chemaly.

#17 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2013, 12:09 AM:

Bricklayer@5 - I had that reaction to pretty much exactly that question. I'm not the protagonist of my novel. Actually I don't think I'm in a novel. Rather I'm the recurring character of "supportive confidant" in about three simultaneously, non-overlapping soap operas. Once I realized that, I've had some interesting results by trying to imagine what sort of life a character like that would have in between her stints in the narratives in other people's lives.

I don't think it's coincidence that since I had that realization, and started thinking seriously about it, the level of leak over soap opera in my life has decreased significantly.

#18 ::: dcb sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2013, 03:00 AM:

Boring spam.

#19 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2013, 11:06 AM:

Just wanted to say thanks for another reminder about why Galaxy Quest is one of the most moving films I've ever seen, which is something I generally have trouble explaining to people outside of fandom.

#20 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2013, 11:07 AM:

Forgiveness/#928, Jeremy Leader: I am not in the US, but I will look at it. I don't really consider myself low-income, but current (temporary) situation has a very tight budget that makes it difficult.

Forgiveness/#933, Jacque: I'm with you on connecting with somebody just to have that connection. That actually seems to hit me in about the same place as the "how are you"-only contacts with friends -- contact for the sake of contact. Why waste their time? is part of how I see it, though probably not all.

On the other hand, I somehow managed to get a friend to introduce me to a complete stranger and I sent him a question about job-related stuff, and that probably counts as networking because he answered and we had a short chat and it was job related. Thing is, I had one very specific question, and he was the expert in that particular question. (The question was not "will you hire me".) I just didn't know who he was, only that there had to be *somebody* with that knowledge where my friend worked. So this wasn't contact for the sake of contact style networking.

#2, OtterB: I'm not sure if I'm missing what you're trying to say, but it looks to me as if you are describing connection for the sake of connection, and the different things one can say to do that.

#3, Chickadee: There's definitely a certain amount of not understanding how anybody would be interested in what I'm up to. (There's a reason I chose the pseudonym I did.) Maybe it's also because a lot of the time the people who ask the questions do it in a context where I'm not comfortable giving anything other than the rote answer, whether they are truly interested or not -- whether that's location or persons present, or whatever. Maybe it's because sometimes when somebody says "hi how are you?" and I say only "ok" they reply with "I'm fine, thanks" and I wonder if they would have heard anything other than the expected no matter what I said, so long as it was short enough.

#6, curiously alive: I doubt it's unique to DF kids. Humans have a strong narrative bias; it's why urban legends stick in memory way better than true data does.

Also there was a nasty little article going around facebook and I'm sure other social media a little while back lambasting people of "generation Y" for being the protagonists of their own story. I'm not going to link to it but you can probably guess some google keywords from my description if you really want to subject yourself to it.

#8, Dave Harmon: I dug up a copy last time "Games People Play" was mentioned. Apart from the basic concepts of transactions, is there anything in the book you wanted to draw attention to that *wasn't* some kind of sick game? I found nearly all of the "games" described repellent.

#9, Diatryma: Ha, that reminds me of a grade 7 school trip. Mom told me to phone home after however many days. I phoned as directed, and said something along the lines of, "ok, I phoned, now what?" and had no idea what one said when phoning a parent from a school trip.

#11, knitcrazybooknut: I agree, better to have had that discussion than the alternatives. But right now, I can't let myself hope that he'll come back, because that makes every day that he doesn't contact me that much harder. I don't know what he has to work out inside his own head, and I don't know how long that'll take. All I know is, he probably is the sort of person who will tell me if he decides not to continue with the relationship. So he won't leave me hanging.

I found the first bad-for-me counsellor through her website. I thought she sounded good. I have started looking for counsellors near me, through the online directories. Some have sales-y profiles, some don't, but I don't feel those tell me about how the person will be in a session. I fear it will take energy and money that I don't currently have to get a couple of sessions and evaluate how they operate. That and I don't quite know what to ask to find this information out! I'll also have to work hard to keep the balance of control of what we're doing so I get what I'm looking for, and letting the pro use their expertise because that's what I'm paying for too. (I have a demonstrated habit of letting "the pro" completely take over, then not getting what I wanted out of the pro help that I was paying for. All the way to spending most of a private ski lesson doing really basic stuff on a green circle run when I actually wanted to do some black diamond skill building. I was not happy about that. Silly me, I thought putting a skill level on the signup form that said I was comfortable on blue squares and working into black diamonds would be enough, and I trusted the instructor to have at least glanced at that, so I trusted that he knew what he was doing when he led me to the green circle run.)

#12, hope in disguise: yup, that is also my worry, which stops me from reaching out.

#21 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2013, 12:02 PM:

the invisible one #20: Apart from the basic concepts of transactions, is there anything in the book you wanted to draw attention to that *wasn't* some kind of sick game? I found nearly all of the "games" described repellent.

I don't have a copy to hand (and it's been a while since I read the book), but, from memory: yeah, many of the "games proper" are things to watch out for and avoid, but it's worth knowing what's going on when one of those comes out of the toybox. Others are cooperative games (note: I think Berne predates "games theory", nowadays we'd contrast zero/negative/positive-sum games), and the neutral "pastimes" are also important to know about and recognize. In later books I recall he deals with more variety of interchanges, and extends his discussion to "scripts", which are the larger-scale version that represent the course of people's life-stages and entire lives.

#22 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2013, 02:35 PM:

Other people have already said things I might say, on the topic of phatic communication.

I remember hearing about an experiment in long-distance communication that found something that worked surprisingly well for "I'm thinking about you"-type contact: two people who like each other have buttons and lights set up. When Person A hits her button, a light near person B comes to life, then the glow slowly fades. And same vice-versa. The message is simply "I thought about you."

The other day it was rainy and cold where I was, so I SMS'd a few acquaintances and friends who live in other cities to tell them: "NYC is grey and drizzly today, cosplaying San Francisco. Wish I were drinking hot chocolate and talking about books with you!"

Some of them are people I hadn't had any contact with in months. A few of them replied happily that that sounded nice, mentioning what books they'd just picked up, or what the weather was like and what they were up to.

I feel good about this because:
* My goal was to let these people know that I was thinking of them and enjoy hanging out with them, and to amuse them a little, and I succeeded
* I didn't make any of them feel obligated, to respond or do anything else - there was no question for them to answer and I wasn't telling them that I needed something from them

There's an onramp for intimacy and it often passes through the superficial and the rote, in my experience. (Other people have said more eloquent and insightful things than I about social media or physical co-location and ambient intimacy.)

When I am asking or answering "how are you?" with the handshake when I meet someone for the first time, yes, I'm less thorough in my answer; it's the "we're ok and can communicate" acknowledgment. But in an email, or in a phone call with a friend, or once the acquaintance and I have sat down together, I do literally mean "how are you doing?". How you are doing is a part of who you are, and I want to know.

Does this make sense?

#23 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2013, 05:20 PM:

Dave Harmon@21: Game theory goes back to von Neumann and Morgenstern in the forties; Berne is the 60s, so he definitely doesn't predate game theory.

#24 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2013, 05:41 PM:

Tom Whitmore #23: Yeah, but game theory started with DoD, has it been popularized yet? Frankly, I don't know, and I might well be wrong on that bit. In any case, game-theory thinking certainly applies to Transactional Psychology.

#25 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2013, 05:52 PM:

has->had it been popularized. Bad day for typos....

#26 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2013, 06:22 PM:

I've started this post a couple times, trying to think how to say what I really want to say.

The thing that, in retrospect, irritates me is this: When my daughter was born, I was emphatic that she not be assigned narratives that would limit who she could be. The people around me respect those limits, and everyone contributes to developing explanations that fit the situation and give her credit for acting in good faith.

I was the bad kid the entire time my mom was alive.

Honestly, how hard would it have been for her to just refuse to establish that narrative, or refuse to encourage it, or change it later?

I can't even begin...

#27 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2013, 07:51 PM:

Strategy in Poker, Business and War (edited by a different John D. MacDonald) is copyright 1950, and that was a pretty definite popularization that got reprinted several times. Berne is 1964.

Game theory was pretty well known when Berne popularized things, at least according to my memory -- I knew about it before Berne's book, and (though I was the son of someone who actually knew von Neumann), I was only 11.

#28 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2013, 09:01 PM:

It's taken some time for me to convince New Beau that when I ask how he is or how his day went, I want to know. In detail! Maybe with graphs. I like graphs.

Bricklayer @16: Thank you for that article. I have sent the link to more or less everyone, and it's been a troubling thing for me lately, that idea. I'm glad to see it presented so cleanly.

#29 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2013, 09:22 PM:

the invisible one @20 it looks to me as if you are describing connection for the sake of connection

My intent was to portray seemingly-trivial rote social interchanges as, in fact, having a significant purpose because they nurture connection.

But I like the way Sumana Harihareswara @22 put it: There's an onramp for intimacy and it often passes through the superficial and the rote, in my experience.

#30 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2013, 09:39 PM:

I like the on-ramp metaphor, Sumana.

I suspect the reason so many people (from my own experience, and what I hear from others) have a hard time making friends after college is that college, for a lot of people, is one of those intense experiences where people end up hopping very quickly into deep conversations about things. Science fiction conventions can be like that too. Outside of that kind of atmosphere... sometimes I stay at superficial niceties, and stay at superficial niceties, out of a fear of being too weird, and I didn't even realize that my coworker at my last job was into SF until we were about to part ways.

#31 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2013, 10:57 PM:

AARRGGHH! Today's Housemate post-game review: 13 to 18 con, 2.5 pro.

Pro (2): she has been accepted by her new building and will be moving out during January!

Pro (.5): she gave us a ride to a more distant grocery store. Lost half a point for changing her mind repeatedly about where to go. Interesting note: in a small crowded store she was NOT as usual talking about "urge to kill rising". Perhaps she was too busy actually shopping, for a change?

Con (1): She lectured ALL the way there and back, past the point of being educational and well into being a patronizing bore.

Con (1): In her notice to the landlord, she implied that could she afford our current place on her own, she would have stayed here, and we would have done...something unclear. Was she planning to throw us out if she could, or manipulate us into throwing ourselves out? I don't think a fellow tenant can throw you out, let alone in winter, unless she can drive you into insolvency...let's throw that idea into the "if I were being paranoid" pile, shall we? And assume for now she was too busy making nice with the landlord to notice the implications?

Con (at least 5 -- maybe 10?): Housemate had been expecting to use the last 3 common eggs this morning to make work lunches for herself. Fine. This morning she could not find them in the fridge, so she charged upstairs, hammered on our door, and started yelling about WHERE WERE THE EGGS!?! SHE hadn't used them so WE must have! We were not up and dressed yet. She would not believe us that we had not eaten or hidden the eggs. She insisted someone come downstairs and find them for her. Partner threw on a robe and did so. Someone -- not me, Partner thinks not him, so probably Housemate -- had left them out on the counter overnight and Housemate had been too enraged to notice them. Housemate did NOT apologize to Partner for this production until given a nasty look.

Con (1): Housemate didn't want to apologize to me for the egg incident and was insulted that she would be asked to by Partner, because that "devalues" the apology. I think we're rather beyond devaluing here. Instead what we have is proof positive that Housemate is a raving barbarian.

Con (1): When I accepted her apology, I went on to say that I hoped another such would not be necessary. She bristled, a lot, so I pacified a bit with the statement that I don't want *either* side to be making errors that necessitate such an apology. This is true, but I wish I could successfully tear a strip off her for the egg incident, which is what she deserves.

Con (3): Calmness and reason at the finances conversation was a passing fad. Housemate was unhappy today because I insisted on collecting for current utility bills. Next she tried to gaslight me that I should have asked before now, or wait til her next paycheck. I explained that I would have approached her last Friday as she had requested previously, but neither of us were in the house at the same time, so it's happening now. Then she gave me a postdated cheque that might not clear in time to put in the bill payment if the bank is slow. She thinks it will, but she may be thinking in terms of depositing it with a teller during business hours -- a luxury I usually do not have. This time I'll pay the whole thing myself and then pay myself back with her cheque, to avoid lateness, possible NSF fees and general aggravation. I'm going to have to be faster and less forgiving in demanding money in future.

Con (1): when going up to bed she complained that lately she is not sleeping well due to stress. Source of stress not clarified, but does anyone really think it's NOT me and Partner, given the context? I did not point out that she woke up Partner, subjected us to much stress, and that I've been having nightmares for several weeks now about her getting enraged and not stopping before something horrible happens. Luckily, I'm pretty good at waking up before the something horrible.

I think I had better find out from a women's shelter or the like, at what point may one sensibly call the police to take away dangerous persons, in case another incident like this morning's should occur. Yes, it would make her flip her lid, but at least the police would be there to watch.

#32 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 01:04 AM:

Moonlit Night @31, argh indeed! I dearly hope you get out of this without needing to call the police, and that if you do have to call, it balances out better for you. :( Sending virtual hugs and good energy, if wanted.

Sumana Harihareswara @22, that was a useful comment. Grateful noises. :)

I untangled another bit of "horrible ex was far more horrible than I realized at the time" today. He used to change his opinion of people very rapidly, for what I thought were very small offenses, and the only two ways back into his good graces were 1) time (at the duration of which one had to guess) or 2) abject apologies. Today's lightbulb moment was when I realized that when I have committed some small offense (or so I think) against M, Whom I Am Not Dating, I apologize and wait for him to respond. ... but he's kind of a spacecase, so he isn't necessarily going to respond unless I ping him when he's online. In other words, I'm getting twitchy based on Horrible Ex's behavior and I really don't need to, AND it's actively counterproductive with M. That's good to figure out.

#33 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 02:31 AM:

#16 ::: Bricklayer

There's a large cultural narrative about women lying. I don't think there's a comparable narrative about men lying, even though men also lie.

#34 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 03:20 AM:

Should I willing to allow my father to move in with me, if it was the only way my mother would give me permission to move out?

#35 ::: Emma in Sydney ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 04:26 AM:

Codemonkey @34, you don't need your mother's permission to move out. You are an adult. I have had three children move out, away, to different cities and even different countries, following their dreams. It hurt to begin with, and I miss them, but I have no right even to question their decisions, because they are adults. A healthy parent is glad to see their children grow up and make their own lives, find their own places in the world and come back with stories. That's how it is meant to work. Now there are partners and even a grandson to add to the mix.

My kids left home at 18 and 19, by the way. This year, they'll all be home for Christmas. It's going to be so wonderful to see them all together. I'm pretty sure they are looking forward to it too.

#36 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 06:20 AM:

Codemonkey @34: I agree you don't need your mother's permission to move out. I also remember you pointing out you are not cut out to be a full-time carer, and that's what your father seems to require. I, too, think you should go, with or without your mother's permission. My parents certainly didn't want me to move three thousand miles when I did -- but they didn't require me to ask permission. You can help your mother get the aid she needs for dealing with your father and sister from outside the house, and you'll be in a better position to do so. Being away from the influence of your mother will help you get a better view of what your father and sister need, as well as what you need.

Moonlit Night @31: I am kind of in awe of how directly and how well you are handling your terrible roommate. I know it's awful to go through, but from here you look amazingly together about it!

#37 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 06:41 AM:

Tom Whitmore #27: OK, I stand corrected.

#38 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 06:55 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz #33: I suspect the corresponding "lying males" stories are mostly hidden behind putatively unmarked states: Politicians (and increasingly, executives), lawyers, salesmen¹/PR/Marketing, and so on.

There is the classic theme of "guys will say anything to get into a girl's pants", but somehow that doesn't stick to the males involved, it just drifts off with an "of course they will"....

¹ Used-car salesmen are iconic, but other sorts often have bad reputations as well.

#39 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 07:08 AM:

Me #38: And mentioning that last makes me realize that the "always false rape accusation" thing has a hefty dose of male projection included.

#40 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 07:22 AM:

Dave Harmon @38:
I suspect the corresponding "lying males" stories are mostly hidden behind putatively unmarked states: Politicians (and increasingly, executives), lawyers, salesmen¹/PR/Marketing, and so on.

I'd call those marked states...just not marked by gender. They're said to be lying because they're politicians, lawyers, salesmen, etc, not because they're men. And their untruthfulness doesn't splash all men; one doesn't doubt the word of a male actuary because used-car salesmen are known to lie.

Sometimes there isn't a correspondence. Sometimes things really, genuinely aren't fair, or balanced, or equivalent.

#41 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 07:44 AM:

abi #40: But IME those are all roles which are stereotypically (and demographically) overrepresented as male, even down to language -- salesmen, etc, and even in Clinton's wake, female politicians still get noted as such (why yes, you do see what i did there).

My point of suspicion, is that even without the paired specifically sexual cases, the "liar/untrustworthy" tag adheres to "women" as a class, but when tagging occupations, somehow it never comes up that for many of those roles, one's mostly taking about men -- and IMHO, talking about the very same stereotypically-male, grossly instrumentalist, attitude that underlies "say anything to get into her pants". (The epilogue to that yields Teresa's "remembrances of louts past".)

There's just some nasty chunks of asymmetry there. (Also a rant about gender parity in hiring and likely effects on corporate culture. But I need to get moving in the Big Room.)

#42 ::: Dave Harmon has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 08:03 AM:

On consideration, I think I'm in violent agreement with Abi.

#43 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 08:28 AM:

Sumana @22: My preferred "I am thinking of you but there is no obligation on your part to communicate" is "Hello, here's a book / song / article / picture / link I found recently that I think you might like. Cheers!"

I think of these low-grade interactions as ... feeding JUST enough material to a fire to keep it alive, even though I may not have the ability/resources to pump it up into roaring at the moment. I have a bunch of casual friends on the opposite side of the country from me, and it's not really possible, on either side, for us to build a really intimate friendship ... but if I ever moved out there (and I'm very likely to move there for a few months this summer, for work-related reasons), I just have to throw some bigger logs on the fire and voila, roaring friendships.

Codemonkey @34: Yes, to what other people said. The issue isn't that you need mam's permission; the issue is that you want a good relationship with her and you are afraid moving out would damage that relationship.

Given that fear of hurting your relationship has kept you pretty paralyzed, I don't think that taking your father with you is the worst idea, AS LONG AS you can hire a full-time carer for whatever needs he has and you're not taking that burden on yourself. And I would build in some kind of reassessment date, like, "I will let Dad stay with me for 6 months and then if this is not working for me he's going to move back in with you, or into a care facility", and get it in writing from everyone concerned.

Also ... do you like him? You don't talk about your dad much, so I'm a little vague on the ways in which he's disabled and what kind of relationship you have with him.

#44 ::: Merricat, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 08:31 AM:

I can offer the gnomes peanut butter crackers and a wide variety of ice cream, which are my current no-spoons foods.

(Cooking is usually a thing that restores my spoons, but the thing that is most stressing me out these days is also making it difficult/uncomfortable to access my kitchen ... so double whammy, there.)

#45 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 08:43 AM:

I read this post; then I read this piece by Velveteen Rabbi, and said, "Two people talking about very similar things."

Reading; witnessing; my sympathies to Bricklayer--a child who won't sleep soundly is incredibly wearing.

#46 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 08:57 AM:

Moonlit Night: Oh hon. Hon. That sucks a lot. That is a terrible situation and a terrible housemate. I'm so sorry you have to deal with her and I'm glad she'll be moving out soon. I hope you can recover from her abuse.

Codemonkey: I think Merricat has the right of what you want. You're an adult, your mother is an adult, and if you decide to move out tonight, anything she does to stop you is ridiculous to illegal. Preserving the relationship is important, but I wouldn't take your father with you. Even without the trouble he would bring with him, your mother is a profoundly unhappy person, and I think it would be worse to leave her with only your sister to act as a sink for that.

#47 ::: john, who is incognito and definitely not at work ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 09:09 AM:

Moonlit Night @ 31: that sounds horrible, but it sounds like you're dealing with it very well (certainly better than I would be). I hope you and Roommate can part ways soon.

#48 ::: john, who is incognito and definitely not at work ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 09:12 AM:

Housemate, rather. Not your partner. ^__^

#49 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 10:34 AM:

hope in disguise @32: Not as horrible as your realization, but I think it rhymes ...

I got together with He Who is Now My Husband lo these two decades ago now. He was my second 'steady boyfriend'. He was a virgin when I got him. It was over eight years into the relationship, when he hesitantly, wistfully asked if I might try Thing X in bed, that I realized my compulsive avoidance of accidentally Thing X'ing him was because First BF heartily disliked it, and I'd just filed that in 'nobody likes it' instead of flushing my partner-preference buffers when I changed partners.

Oops. :-> It did make me more sensitive to "Am I not doing it because nobody likes it, or because I've been trained not to do it?" in multiple realms, even and especially in emotionally dysfunctional situations.

#50 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 11:08 AM:

Well, I was right about New Interest not leaving me hanging.

Unfortunately, what he told me yesterday is that he's out, he can't continue the relationship.

I'll have to come back to the discussion of light contact later, I think just going grocery shopping may be pushing my abilities for today, and my fridge is seriously bare. I don't even know what I'm going to have for breakfast.

#51 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 11:13 AM:

the invisible one @49, sorry to hear it. Wishing you strength to get through this.

#52 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 11:32 AM:

Right now I'm in the process of trying to build a new narrative, because the old one didn't work.

The old narrative, the one I was brought up with, went like this. It said that if you did well at school, if you stayed out of trouble, if you generally Did The Right Thing, society would reward you with a good job. It also said that even if things went wrong, you would at least be able to get by. You wouldn't starve. That was the main narrative, so let's call that Narrative A.

However, there was also Narrative B, which contradicted Narrative A to some extent. Narrative A was general, whereas Narrative B seemed to be peculiar to me. Narrative B was why I always had less pocket money than anyone else in my class; was sent to bed earlier; had to have parental permission for anything I bought; would be taken out to "choose" things (such as clothes or bed linen) and end up having to accept whatever my parents decided, which was then called my choice; not being allowed to decide what to wear until I was well into my teens; not meriting a knock on the door before one of my parents walked into my room, because it wasn't my room, it was their house; and generally not being allowed whatever privileges were allowed to children my own age until a few years later. Narrative B, from my point of view, crystallised to "I am an inferior being, and nice things are for other people." I'm pretty sure that wasn't how my parents, who are decent people, intended it; they were terrified of "spoiling" me, and went too far in the other direction. They're gradually acknowledging that this wasn't sensible, and caused damage.

I've been fighting Narrative B for years, and it's now mostly gone, but there are still echoes of it left. I still sometimes find myself dismissing certain things with a mental "well, of course that's far too good for me". Unfortunately, the influence of Narrative B meant it took much longer than it need have done to understand that Narrative A is broken.

I've never had a good job. I've been unemployed for quite a lot of my adult life, and even when I have had a job, I've never made the national average wage. That's now my dream. To make the national average wage. I just want to be average rather than below average.

They lied to us. Don't get me wrong, I'd have done well at school even if I'd known, because I was and still am a massively enthusiastic learner for the sake of it. But they lied, and I don't like being lied to. The powers-that-be don't care how well you did at school. In fact, doing too well at school can be positively prejudicial to your employment prospects, because apparently what is mainly wanted is unquestioning grunts. As for staying out of trouble... well, in jail you don't starve. Outside it, there's no guarantee of that.

I am currently interviewing potential new narratives for credibility and resilience.

#53 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 11:33 AM:

the invisible one @ 49: ouch. Really sorry to hear this. *sends hugs, if wanted*

#54 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 11:38 AM:

the invisible one @20 said there was a nasty little article going around facebook and I'm sure other social media a little while back lambasting people of "generation Y" for being the protagonists of their own story

Comparing that to bricklayer @5 I realized I'm not actually the protagonist of a novel, I'm a side character in a bunch of different ones. and Lucy Kemnitzer @10 "If your life were in a novel, who would be the protagonist?" I was asking everybody, because I was sure I would be in the novel about my mother. There were a few other people, mostly women, who weren't the protagonists of the novels their lives were in.

I was thinking about this some more and connecting it back to the Donald Miller book I mentioned @7, that the protagonist of a story is someone who wants something and overcomes obstacles to achieve it.

I glanced at the piece the invisible one mentioned (have no particular desire to read it in detail) and it is, I think, confusing being the protagonist of your own story (as in, wanting something and striving to achieve it, which I believe is a good thing for anyone) with relegating everyone you come in contact with to the role of cardboard secondary characters who exist only to support your awesomeness (which is narcissistic in the extreme, like the Mary Sue plots abi chose not to follow in the OP, and what too many people here have suffered from parents or significant others). You get a shot at writing the story, but you only get to write your own script, not everyone else's.

Perhaps an alternative is to think of yourself as a player in an ensemble cast. Sometimes the primary story arc is yours; sometimes it's another character's and you have supporting bits. There may be a larger story arc for the group as a whole, but it's secondary to the ensemble's internal relationships and the shorter term challenges each faces.

#55 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 12:03 PM:

the invisible one @49: Sympathies. Hugs if wanted.

Bricklayer: I really hope she starts sleeping well soon!!! So exhausting for you, and so hard to deal with in such a long term!

Moonlit Night @31: Yikes!!! Congratulations on dealing with it so well and so rationally! What a horrible situation! Hugs if wanted!

Mongoose @51: Sympathies, and much luck. I'm glad at least your parents are starting to acknowledge the damage they did. Do post any interim thoughts on Narrative C that you come up with.

OtterB @53: I love the idea of an ensemble cast. :) What an excellent way to describe life. :)

#56 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 12:55 PM:

Moonlit Night: Yikes! The good news is, she'll be gone in a bit over a month. Hopefully things won't get too scary before then. I agree with everyone else, though; you seem to be handling this really well.

Codemonkey: You don't need your mother's permission to move out, and I doubt she'd grant it even if you did take your father with you. (Which I think would be a bad idea if only because you've said before you're not cut out to be a caregiver; your father may be more self-sufficient than your sister, but he still needs a LOT of support, from what you've said.) I also think Diatryma has an excellent point about that leaving only your sister to absorb your mother's crap. Your father at least knows how to deflect it, but your sister may not have the tools to do so.

If, after you've set up shop in your own space and find you're willing to try having your father over every now and then to give him a break from your mother/your mother a break from him, it may be worth looking into. But I wouldn't make it the expectation from the outset.

the invisible one: Ouch. Hugs if you want them. (As noted, at least you have a definite answer on where things stand.)

#57 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 12:57 PM:

the invisible one, I am so sorry. Hugs if you can handle them.

Moonlit Night, I must agree that you are doing a great job of handling the Housemate (have you added "From Hell" to that name yet? Just checking.).

I had a narrative running for the last two weeks, and it said, Hey! I set down boundaries at one job, and was fired, got unemployment to help us get through, and was picky about choosing my next job, and it paid off in a great job that I love now.

Unfortunately, this narrator was unreliable. (Or just unable to predict the future accurately.)

After two days at the new job, I knew it wasn't a good fit. In fact, it was a horrible fit. They are using a 30 year old dos based system that involves repetitive data entry and, for example, four different screens just to gather information for one line entry of data. It's archaic, repetitive, and nothing I can handle. I wish I were the type of person who could do a job just for benefits and money and not go crazy if I'm not challenged. I'm just not that person.

I have a feeling this is another lesson of setting boundaries. I was not willing to just take this and do what I could. And part of me was thinking, "There is someone out there who really wants this job and would do great here!"

So now I get to choose which narrative: I'm an idiot for not taking any job I can find, or I am a smart person for knowing what I can and can't handle. I have choices.

Luckily, I have a husband and a best friend who both agreed with my decision and support me 100%. But it is very easy to fall into the messages I received from my entire family during my growing up years: I am being too sensitive, too emotional, too stupid and too picky. I don't think any of those things are true. But they lurk, like dark lurking things.

#58 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 01:23 PM:

the invisible one @49: hugs and sympathy for you. That really sucks.

Everyone agreeing that Housemate is a nightmare: Thanks everyone for the hugs and support. It really helps!

It also helps to keep in mind how very unreasonable Housemate is being by her own standards. The Egg Incident is special, even for her, but it's a perfect demonstration of her hypocrisy. (Oh ho. *That's* what it is, no wonder it rubs me wrong.) Had the Egg Incident happened to someone else by someone else, she would be so calm and kind and supportive! She'd be incredulous and disapproving of the bad behaviour, and advising the threatened person on how to take this person down some pegs, and in case of future problems, their legal rights and how to start eviction proceedings or suchlike. And it would be sincere.

I am not together about this, at least until very recently and even then it's iffy. It was much harder while labouring under the delusion that there was no gap between presented-self and her hair-down-self. I'm just muddling along the best I can, with the guidelines of maintaining maximum civility while taking minimum crap. Most of my resistance is passive, because it is the least dangerous path I can see. I'd really like to toss her out the door and go gibber in a corner, but I just don't have the luxury.

On the upside, it's getting easier to do containment and damage control now that I know to plan for the lazy selfish bitch and raving barbarian aspects, and know some of the soft spots for hitting her in the identity (wonderful phrase!). I survived my mother, so I can get through this, now that I know what it is. Besides, only 2 months left!

#59 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 01:24 PM:

Dave H., #39: The "false rape accusation" thing also gets a hefty boost from the pressure that is put on women who do report rape to drop the charges. Any woman who can be browbeaten, bullied, or threatened into not going forward with the case becomes a "false accusation" in support of the myth, which is then used as further leverage for bullying women who have been raped into not pressing charges. It's a nice little racket, each side feeding into the other to keep it ticking along.

the invisible one, #49: Ouch, that sucks. Take care of yourself -- you're going to be very raw for a while.

OtterB, #53: That confusion-of-narrative also slots in nicely with the way that women are pushed to be secondary characters in their own stories, supporting a protagonist who is usually male (but sometimes a parent or child). Wanting something -- anything! -- for yourself, by that measure, becomes incredibly selfish. That's not what secondary characters are supposed to do.

I am working on responses to some of the things from the last thread and the beginning of this one, but that may take a while -- it definitely took more spoons than I had available yesterday after a weekend on the road. In the meantime, hearing and witnessing.

#60 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 01:38 PM:

I certainly got trained that wanting things isn't really okay, and that it's less okay the more important the thing I might want is. Ties into Hawk's comment in "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones": "If I expected it, it wouldn't happen." Because of that, I also tend not to think of myself as a protagonist in my own story -- but I've certainly gotten to be a helper to all sorts of interesting people, and ended up in a lot of interesting situations.

#61 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 01:44 PM:

Codemonkey: I think everyone else is offering good advice here. In your situation, I would move out ASAP. I'd do it because I deserve to have my own place, my own life, and a decent shot at finding a life partner, and I wouldn't have any of that while living there. I would like Mam's blessing but I would not need her permission or co-operation in any practical or legal sense. My goal is to make myself happier and healthier while causing minimum damage to the family. Helping myself *and* my family is a best-case possibility, and I'll be looking for how to do that. But any option that does not actually help me fails the most important selection criteria, and will not be pursued. Based on what you have told us, I could wait forever for permission from Mam to leave, and never have it, even if I offered to take Dad with me as a bargaining chip. If that offer *did* work, I'd then be effectively giving Mam permission to dictate where I moved, what my new place was like, my schedule, and so on, and have to work two full-time jobs, unless I can afford to hire a carer for Dad at least part-time, or will allow Mam to be continually in and out of my place. In that situation, moving is not a net improvement to me, and possibly not to anybody.

Moving out alone is the option most likely to fulfill my goals. So I would retrieve or replace my bank and ID documents, move my money to new accounts with only my name on them, get a lease, and hire the movers. Then I'd tell the family the news with solid dates and no negotiation. Then I'd wait, unmoved, through the storm. The storm that you clearly expect and want to avoid is exactly why I'd do it this way, and I'll explain why next paragraph. I would be as calm, helpful, and completely immovable as I could in the face of the storm and ongoing squalls. Then I would go on being calm, helpful, and immovable from my new place. I'd visit at regular intervals, or invite the family over, whichever *I* found more comfortable. I would do my utmost before and after moving to research and source the help my family needed for their daily lives. I would be cautious of making any major purchases or subsidies for them anytime soon, because it might be more an attempt to buy myself out of guilt, than a fully considered expenditure, and then it would be a foolish purchase.

As I've been forced to learn, with unreasonable, manipulative, or self-centered people, it is unwise and unsafe to be too giving. If I mostly give, rarely resist effectively, and rarely take, they'll squeeze for more, endlessly, until I'm the shape they want, whether or not it gives me bruises and breaks my bones. Let's assume that I have already tested whether or not just telling them to stop will make them stop, and it won't. If I can imagine having a raw conversation where I tell them how they have wronged me and they apologize and don't do it again (or at least only rarely and by accident), they're probably not a squeezer. But if I have accumulated evidence that they know better and will not stop squeezing -- I have talked to them and results were inadequate; they demonstrate the emotional skills to read people enough that they can read me; they do one thing to me and say another thing to other people or in other situations -- then probably we have a squeezer. Then I have to use other methods, direct or indirect, to prevent being squeezed. Two of the best yet are to dodge the incoming squeeze, or to put on heavy armour, preferably spiked, and let them hurt their hands trying.

Your Mam's a squeezer, whatever her reasons and motivations and history, which there surely are plenty of. But she's still a squeezer. If she weren't, you wouldn't be here asking us how to move out peaceably; she would be scrubbing the cupboards in your new place or teaching you how to cook your favourite dishes on your new stove. Much like if my mother hadn't been a squeezer, I wouldn't have let Housemate walk all over me for months and be $1400 accidentally poorer; she would have been told to shape up or be kicked out. If Housemate weren't a squeezer, Housemate would not have made me $1400 poorer, would not fly into a rage over three eggs, and would not gaslight me about when I should ask her to pay the utility bills. We might still squabble over when to do the vacuuming, but it would never get this bad, if she was fundamentally willing to treat me about as well as she treats herself. And then I would have been able to afford a vacation somewhere exotic soon, for the first time EVER.

Sometimes, reality really sucks. And you can't change past reality. But you can change future reality, so charge ahead and do it.

#62 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 03:21 PM:

Moonlit Night @ 60: I second that enthusiastically, and am going to adopt "squeezer" as a Useful New Word. Does that make those of us in this thread the "squeezees"? I think it probably should.

Learning how not to be a squeezee is tough, especially when you've been trained to be one from an early age.

#63 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 04:55 PM:

This might be a double comment; there was a server error on the first attempt.

Mongoose, thanks. Abuse is such a strong and loaded word that we could use something that covers the same qualitative idea, but over a broader range of quantity or degree. Maybe "squeezer" will be it. Something that can cover not just the big life-wrecking stuff, but also the petty daily stuff and the in-between.

Let's see if I can further improve and elaborate the definition and diagnostic criteria. So, take this as a first draft.

A fair and reasonable person won't habitually mistreat you, which is to say they won't habitually put you in unreasonable and unfair situations, which it is somehow your job to avoid or mitigate. Instead, you don't end up there in the first place, or if it does happen, it tends to be an accident of some kind, and the same accident doesn't repeat frequently. If it was a failure of vision or compassion -- for example, they assumed you would like what they like, but you have different preferences -- they will, upon understanding the situation from your point of view, feel empathy and then apologize/make amends, and make an effort to prevent it happening again. They change their behaviour for the better, if that was the cause, or maybe go the extra mile to keep external circumstances from hurting you.

If someone appears to be a fair and reasonable person in one context, but is frequently not so to you, then several things could be happening, maybe in combination:
(1) They are too different in personality from you to consistently guess right, *and* unskilled in reading others.
(2) They could be having trouble empathizing with you for other correctable reasons -- for example, privilege such as "was never poor" or "born male" -- and that translates into them squeezing you without even realizing it.
(3) Their worldview may rank you as lower status than them, and so they feel they don't have to treat you the way they would want to be treated themselves. Full-on racism and sexism come to mind here.
(4) They could have a serious disorder, such as sociopathy or narcissism, that reduces or removes their capacity to be a fair and reasonable person. So again, they don't respect others as fellows, and when convenient, they squeeze.

I'm not sure where lesser levels of dysfunction, especially dysfunction by people damaged by dysfunction or abuse, fits into this structure of causation. Maybe there's a point (5)? Or maybe there's a (2a) for privilege, and a (2b) for the results of being chronically mistreated? I'm not sure.

Hmm. We also need a shorthand for "fair and reasonable person".

#64 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 06:14 PM:

the invisible one @50: I'm so sorry. That's really tough {{{{{hug}}}}} from me again, for whatever good that might do. Look after yourself.

I want to reply to others as well - but will have to wait until tomorrow.

#65 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 08:19 PM:

Bricklayer @16, Nancy Lebovitz @33, Dave Harmon @38, abi @40 re: lying women and lying men.

It seems to me that this is just one aspect of the larger trend where, in the social narrative established by the Dominant Class, the Dominant Class is divided into subgroups (see: "doctors", "lawyers", "used car salesmen", etc), while other classes are treated as monolithic (see: "women", "illegals", and in older versions of the story, "the Irishman", "the Jew"¹, etc.). Thus, malfeasance by a member of the Dominant Class is seen as reflecting only on his subgroup, while the faults of anyone else are seen as faults of their entire class.

¹ One of the minor bits of progress we've made on this issue is that (in my experience, at least) it is no longer common to use the definite article and a singular noun to refer to entire groups of people.

#66 ::: Chris has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 08:23 PM:

Probably for using a Word of Power. I think I know which one it is, and I believe that in this context ('mention', rather than 'use') it is appropriate.

#67 ::: notrace ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2013, 09:57 PM:

Codemonkey @ 34

Codemonkey, please move out of your mam’s home. I say that very specifically worded, as it does not sound like the house is there for you or for the family, it is her kingdom. Been there and living there, although my details vary wildly from yours. Wish I could say more, but I have one hell of time posting to these DFD threads because it makes me cry very, very hard to know how much I belong here in this thread.

Reading, witnessing.

#68 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 01:16 AM:

the invisible one @50: I'm so, so sorry. *hugs* if you would like them.

#69 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 02:10 AM:

Comments from the previous thread...

Chickadee, #894: It's excellent that you're working on figuring out what you want, and also that you know breaking off contact is not an option on your menu, even though that makes things harder. This is all part of deciding where your lines are going to be drawn.

Jacque, #895: Yay for finding out that the financial bite may not be so big and nasty after all!

OtterB, #897: I like your suggestion that Chickadee offer her mother some choices about communication levels. Giving people a range of acceptable options is more likely to get them to feel invested in sticking with the option they pick -- because hey, it was their choice, not something foisted on them willy-nilly. (Yes, you're still not giving them a choice about staying within the listed options; this is mostly a psychological tactic that is likely to be perceived as being less harsh and one-sided.)

And yes, there are definite similarities between the behavior Chickadee is describing and that of a headstrong pre-schooler. Funny how often young-child-parenting techniques translate well to dealing with parents who are acting like children. :-)

the invisible one, #905: I want to weigh in on the "stuff women talk to their girlfriends about" thing, but I'm not sure what to say. I think he may have been conflating "heavy emotional discussions" with "things women do among themselves because men don't do that kind of thing" -- but really, that isn't a gendered thing except by cultural assumption. Obviously he does it, at least up to a point! And it's not completely out of band to expect one's SO to handle a higher level of emotional intimacy than an average friend would. I think you've successfully identified the real issue as being that you were asking him to substitute for a therapist, and that is a strain on any relationship. I hate to use the dreaded phrase "learning experience," but this is a mistake you won't make again, ne?

tamiki, #911: Outstanding! You and your fiancee handled a potentially-fraught situation like reasonable adults instead of letting it fester until it blew up. You have every right to feel accomplished.

the invisible one, #925: I think even the deepest, most intimate relationships have a surface level of the little small-talk stuff -- if only because you can't have Deep Conversations all the time! Perhaps more to the point, maintaining that surface layer can make it easier to reach the space where the Deep Conversations are possible. So yeah, asking people how they're doing -- and being willing to listen to the answer -- has value beyond the small-talk factor.

There are times when I think of certain aspects of interaction as being "friendship transactions". For example, I have a local friend who has just lost one of her old friends to cancer. I am planning to schedule an evening with her just to listen and make soothing noises. This is not something that comes naturally to me; I have to consciously think, "She's going to need a sympathetic ear," and take the time to do it. I didn't know the person who died, and I think in some regards that makes it better for my friend -- she can blubber and bawl and not have to worry about sending me into a grief-spiral. This is the sort of thing I think of as "friendship maintenance". I know a lot of people would do it without having to think about it, but I don't believe it's of any less worth because I have to consciously make the decision.

Jacque, #933: Yeah, networking. For some reason, I have real problems with this. (1) I strongly resist trying to establish connections with people for the purpose of networking; it seems like using them, and I really hate that. And (2) putting the word out to friends that I'm looking for a different job (a) feels too much like self-promotion, which I can't do and (b) never works, anyway.

Re your first point: trying to establish connections of people primarily for the purpose of networking is the wrong way to go about it. You make connections with people for any of the reasons that you'd normally do it, and then when you've got a problem for which they may have a solution, they already know you. There's something I've discovered about my jewelry-making: the bar is always lower with people who know you. I sell more jewelry to friends and/or repeat customers than I do to strangers. Same/same here -- someone who already knows you from other conversations is more likely to respond favorably to being approached with a question or a request.

Re your second point: I tell you three times, it is not self-promotion to mention to your friends that you're looking for a different job! (Self-promotion would be handing them copies of your resume or something like that.) It's the sort of thing that's likely to come up in casual conversation, and what it really does is try to harness the serendipity factor. So one of your friends hears another person she knows mention that his company is looking for someone to do X, and she thinks, "Hey, Jacque does X," and she mentions to you that you might want to apply at her friend's company. It's also not something you do in the expectation that anything will come of it, because a lot of times it doesn't. But if your friend doesn't know you're looking, that second step won't ever happen. AKA "C'mon, Harvey, work with me here. Buy a ticket!" :-)

#70 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 03:33 AM:

Jacque @ 933, prior thread

Also, re: putting the word out to friends - I love being able to connect people I like with opportunities. There's a running trend in my flist where those of us with connections we can't use (especially the entry-level sort) promote opportunities as we become aware of them. It works out for everyone, because eventually we're all going to want to do something different, and in the meantime, everyone I know has at least a handful of friends who are presently job searching. So I wouldn't feel awkward about just letting people know - it's part of where you are right now and you don't have to ask anyone to do anything special; if they want to help, folks'll typically put themselves forward.

I just love being helpful to people, so I've reviewed my share of resumes and counseled my share of dispirited job-seekers and all that sort of stuff. One thing I've noticed is that one can sometimes get a stronger response if one puts the concept forward in the context of "How's it going?" "Well, I'm still job searching. [Casual mention of recent positive progress, such as submitting apps or updating resume.]" Admirable or not, it's my experience that people are often more willing to help someone who is visibly already doing what they can to help themselves...

#71 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 05:59 AM:

Bricklayer @49, oh yes, that rhymes indeed.

the invisible one @50, my deep sympathies. Wishing you strength and offering virtual comfort if desired. :(

Mongoose @51: Seconding Chickadee @55's request for thoughts on Narrative C that might turn up.

knitcrazybooknut@57, I am so sorry that the job was a horrible fit. Allow me, perhaps, to add my voice to those in support of leaving.

Mongoose @62: Learning how not to be a squeezee is tough, especially when you've been trained to be one from an early age.
Most of my personal development/recovery/growth has been about noticing the finger marks in my molding and figuring out how to hammer myself back into a more functional/more myself sort of shape. This is a very useful concept. :)

notrace @67, I would like to offer virtual hugs, if you wish to accept them.

#72 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 07:48 AM:

Hullo. I've fallen hopelessly behind again, but I wanted to at least wish those to whom it applies an extra dose of cope for the intersection of DF+Thanksgiving, and spoons and good thoughts to all in general.

#73 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 10:37 AM:

Thanks to everybody who offered hugs. I appreciate the sentiment even if I 'm generally not comfortable with actual hugs with touching... outside of an intimate relationship. I'm only going to get cat cuddles for a long while, I think. Fortunately I have a cat who likes to sit on or next to me. Unfortunately what I really want is a hug from New Interest, but I can't let myself ask for that.

[Shared interest] is tonight. There will be a small exchange of loaned items that need to be returned. I hope I can manage it without crying, because I really don't want to cry in front of other people. (Or at all, but especially in front of other people, because I don't want anybody asking me what's wrong, that just makes it harder to not cry.) I'm probably going to have to do my best to avoid him the whole class other than the item exchange.

As with before the update, my brain keeps popping up with "what if he comes back" scenarios. I wish I knew how to make it stop, because every time it does that to me, it just hurts more and I start crying again. There's a very very small chance that all he needs is time to recover from the burnout and then he'll be interested again, but I can't count on it. I can't even think about it because it'll just prolong the process of moving on. But that's what my brain keeps digging up and trying to hold on to.

I still love him. I can't just turn that off, so this isn't going to be easy.

#74 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 10:58 AM:

My sympathies, the invisible one.

A friend of mine wrote a two-part "how to interact with me" guide that some people here might find interesting: "here are some notes on the ideal situation for getting me to open up," he writes. Reading those helped me become a better friend, and helped me understand what obscurely bothers me in some friend interactions.

#75 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 02:48 PM:

the invisible one @73: "But that's what my brain keeps digging up and trying to hold on to. I still love him. I can't just turn that off, so this isn't going to be easy."

No, it's not going to be easy, I'm not going to lie and say it will. I really sympathise and I wish I could make it easier on you. All I can say is that you have every right to feel like this, to feel this sense of loss for what-might-have-been, for what you wanted the relationship to be, to turn into.

#76 ::: Jenavira ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 03:23 PM:

Tom Whitmore@60:
I certainly got trained that wanting things isn't really okay, and that it's less okay the more important the thing I might want is.

This reminded me very strongly of a childhood belief I had almost forgotten, that if I wished for something in particular it could never happen, because I'd already imagined it and everyone knows that you never get exactly what you want. I wonder where that came from. (I still wished for things, of course, but I was always miserable afterwards because I knew that wishing for it meant it wasn't going to happen.)

It's only been in the past couple of years that I've broken this habit and started making progress toward wishing for something and then doing things to get there. Somehow that intervening step - working toward the things that you want - was never something I learned as a child.

#77 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 03:29 PM:

Jenavira @ 76: that is entirely understandable, because it's common for childhood to be set up for you in such a way that you can't work towards the things you want. If it is decided that you can't have something, then you can't have it, even if you've been saving your pocket money for weeks until you have enough to buy it for yourself.

#79 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 05:13 PM:

Glenn Hauman at 78: I read and liked that article a few weeks ago. It's been all over my friends' media online. I'm surprised by two things:

--This is news? I thought everybody did the thing of subconsciously turning into characters they strongly identified with. If I see myself in someone, I practically see their face in the mirror for a few days after the reading experience is at its most intense; I see my actions in terms of theirs, worry that my faults are like theirs, and rejoice at their victories and flinch at their defeats almost as if they were my own.

--It's been presented as a bad thing by various other friends of mine, and I'm not sure why. People just seem to be more appalled by the negative possibilities than pleased by the positive ones.

I only see it as good. If, for example, I identify hard with Boromir, it isn't actually going to make me go and try and mug my housemate for his jewelry. It is definitely going to make me examine my motivations good and hard when I do questionable things, though, even when they're for the greater good. (The Greater Goooooood...)

#80 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 06:38 PM:

I want to officially state my support and thoughts for those of you who will be having holiday meals with your blood relatives in the days to come, especially if your blood relatives have not been positive influences in your lives. I've been there, and I know how hard it is. Take deep breaths. Take good care of yourselves. Do what you need to do, and know that you are worth taking care of.

Witnessing, thinking of you, and wishing you only the best.

#81 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 06:50 PM:

I don't have any Thanksgiving plans beyond maybe getting a restaurant meal.

Would anyone be interested in a phone call? I'm on East Coast standard time, and I have unlimited long distance for the US.

#82 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 07:19 PM:

Didn't really manage to step back into the last thread, maybe I can contribute a bit more this time around.
Right now I'm just, well, done I guess. Done with the family bullshittery and the non-existent communication, the way boundaries get treated as "offensive", as a willful attempt to win some kind of imaginary power struggle. It makes me weary and sad and I'm left wondering why I make any effort at all. The latest mess is the result of my attempt to meet up with an older family member. I mentioned when I would be free, which general time of the day I would like to meet and a venue. Without waiting for any other input or offering me any kind of choice at all I was presented with a time (which was outside the time of day I mentioned) and a different venue where they had placed a reservation already plus a strong suggestion when we should meet for this plan of theirs. They only needed my agreement at this point. Which they didn't get btw. but I'd rather not go into the whole back and forth that followed.
Other stuff went down since then and I really wonder whether they actually would like to see me at all because their behavior suggests otherwise at this point.
I will most likely go forward with the meeting for a set of specific reasons. My preparations incluce a set end-point for me, a bunch of scripts and a couple of plans for afterwards to take care of myself.
It would be nice to be able to trust that I can get some backup during difficult times from them, but interacting with most of my family means just more work on top of the stuff I'm already handling. It is what it is and I'm sad about it.

#83 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 07:52 PM:

somewhere_else: witnessing.

Has anyone heard from Ross recently? Ross, in case you're reading: I'm at Hacker School, and there are dozens of people here who have a bunch of the same interests you mentioned. Like, there are several people here who love Haskell or Scala or the Lisps and what-have-you, and several who like to write interactive fiction or other games. (A couple of us competed in Ectocomp this year; I wrote my first Ren'Py game!) You mentioned that you'd like to learn from people in a community - this is a place like that. Applications are open right now and I think you'd like it.

Everyone - not just programmers - might like the part of our user manual that has our social rules:

* No feigning surprise
* No well-actually's
* No back-seat driving
* No subtle sexism

It's possible to set up environments to make it a lot easier for the people in those environments to feel safe, to learn, and to grow. I wish all our environments were that safe. :/

#84 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 08:34 PM:

the invisible one, #73: No, it's not going to be easy. I've been there, when my now-ex decided he wanted to leave, and you're right -- you can't just turn it off, it has to fade of its own accord. But it will fade, I can tell you that.

I can actually measure how long it took for me; now mind you, this was after 10 years of marriage plus 3 years that we'd been together before the wedding. But at a particular event I went to right after he left, I was (figuratively) weeping on a friend's shoulder, and he happened to ask me, "If he wanted to come back, would you take him back?" My answer then was, "In a heartbeat," which sounds like where you are now. By the next year at that same event, I posed the same question to myself, and the answer was, "...I'm not sure, I'd have to think about it." By the following year at the same event, the answer to that question was a definite, "No." And I wasn't seeing anyone else, either; but I had moved on. You will move on too, at your own time and pace.

In the meantime, the middle of the night is always hardest; I was very grateful more than once for a couple of friends who worked graveyard shift and were available to talk when I was spiraling downward. Paying it forward: if you need someone to talk to in the middle of the night, my number is frira-bar-guerr fvk-rvtug-guerr bar-fvk-frira-rvtug, and I am usually up until 2 or 3 AM Central time. The phone is at the other end of the house from the bedroom, so if I happen to have crashed early, you won't wake anyone up.

Little John, #79: I submit that not everyone has this happen in the same way. I know, for example, that if I've been mainlining Georgette Heyer for a few days, it can change some of the ways I react to things (and it will definitely affect my speech patterns!), but I don't experience it as "becoming the character" so much as "living in the character's world". And also, some people are more self-aware than others and therefore may be more conscious of it happening at all.

To everyone dealing with US Thanksgiving: May your holiday be as stress-free as possible. You will be in my thoughts.

#85 ::: Stenopos ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2013, 09:14 PM:

Some of these "narratives" are stories that take a sentence or a paragraph to play out in your memory, and some are shorter, just bits of data. Or so it seems to me.
A couple of syndromes or patterns I've noticed. 1st, the thing from the hacker school about feigning surprise--that sounded very familiar, because one thing that really grinds my gears is when someone acts more surprised at something I innocently said than they logically should. Whether it's feigned or not. They all of a sudden treat me like I've grown an extra head or something, when I chance to reveal something no more outlandish than, say, not knowing some programming minutia. It seems to me that if someone tells you something a bit startling, you can learn to conceal your astonishment until you have figured out whether showing it would be timely or kind. They might not need to be made to feel more unusual than they already do (or if they don't, why harsh their mellow?)
Naturally it is hard to pull up an example right now, but I have at times been tempted to say that if you really think I am that unusual I am going to start charging for the thrill of looking at me.
It's related to how, when one is a child, one truthfully answers an adult's question only to be met by a gale of laughter, when one isn't even trying to be funny. Sometimes a person can't help but be amused, but they can tone down the laughter a little, and/or apologize. Even to a child.
And I suppose this is related to the way many of my relatives titter at things that aren't funny. Anything unfair or tragic comes up in a discussion, next thing you know they are sounding like a whole pack of subordinate hyenas. It drives me nuts. It seems to undo the very meaning of laughter. I tell myself it is just a nervous reaction of theirs, but you'd think they'd know to disclaim it by now, if they can't stop it in time. I just haven't got quite enough RAM to process that out of my mental inbox while the things I am trying to listen to are coming in, and it grates like anything. And it isn't quite like I was stupid either. I suppose I can't claim the right to dictate what is or isn't funny for the world, but some things are just too nasty to be funny, they hit too close to home, or something.
I've got to gird up my lions--I know it's supposed to be loins but lions might come in handier--and face the relatives tomorrow. I take comfort in knowing that many others face the same struggle. I wish the best for all of us.

#86 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2013, 12:19 AM:

jenavira @76: Yes. There kept being steps left out in what my parents taught (like working for things). Another example -- we didn't have a dishwasher, so we washed the dishes each night. Generally my father washed them -- and he told us that it was the person drying the dishes' fault if something wasn't clean. And he never said that the dryer should hand the unclean piece back to the washer to get it clean!

It took me years to figure out that part. Because, after all, he was the father, so of course he had to be doing it right.

#87 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2013, 12:44 AM:

Nancy @81: If you feel like having someone to talk to after around 2PM East Coast time, I'd be happy to chat - I've been buying your buttons since the mid-1980s. I'm only spending the day with my immediate household, including kid-home-from-college, and I did the complicated parts of the cooking today. You can email me at my name here at gmail for the phone number, or email me yours and a time to call.

Everyone: I've been reading and witnessing the housemate discussion, and not chiming in, because while my current housemate situation isn't as distressing as Moonlit Night's, it's...less than perfect, when I thought it was going to be really good. Combine a Geek Relationship Fallacy problem with Habits You Don't Find Out Until You Actually Live With Someone and two very conflicting styles of social interaction and...I really shouldn't have suggested combining households. But until I can pull more of my financial share in hard cash (rather than in labor value, of which I am doing lots and it's acknowledged all around), I can't afford to go back to living just with Original BFF Housemate, as BFF would prefer, because BFF and New Housemate are NOT getting along. I can get along with one of them at a time. And I got along much better with New Housemate before we were actually living together 24/7 - and it is 24/7, as she works from home and I'm currently unemployed. :(

I have been trying to define the social-interaction discomfort and name it aloud and ask for what I want. It really is a style thing - New Housemate was clearly drilled to acknowledge anyone any time they enter or leave a room, and BFF is far more like a cat who prefers to be ignored and finds those acknowledgements an active irritant, and while I can adapt to either, I've been living with BFF for seven years, and I'm used to the lower level. But it's difficult for me to figure out how to ask for that lower level without seeming hideously rude, as those sorts of interactions are generally thought of as courtesies.

Or there's the bit about my cooking. I'm a good cook. I used to do it for a living. Both New Housemate and BFF are happy to be fed by me, and I am more than willing to feed them. But here is the thing: it turns out I'm really uncomfortable being thanked for it, like unto the gnomes in their distrust. I'm also uncomfortable being praised for it, especially if it's not the first time I've made a dish. I think maybe my thought process goes "yes, it's good, why wouldn't it be good, did you think I was going to screw it up?" And, in part, it may be a result of seven years cooking for BFF, whose sensory issues make her a notoriously picky eater, and even longer cooking for the offspring, who is ALSO picky. So I've gotten used to "if I don't hear complaints, then I know it's good."

Yesterday I was able to say that I preferred not to be thanked too much for my cooking, and that if I wanted a fuss made over a particular thing, I'd make it clear when I was serving it.

It's probably not fair to expect to get along as easily with New Housemate as I do with BFF, no matter how much time I spent at New Housemate's place before we moved in here. BFF and I have developed ritual courtesies of our own, and they're quirky ones. For example, BFF does praise my food fairly regularly, but the ritual phrase goes, "Oh $FOOD, you were so delicious, and now you are gone." That one gets past my own brain's gnomes. And we have a couple of oddball ways of acknowledging sneezes - and I had no idea that "Gesundheit!" several times a day would grate as much as it turns out it does.

But how the hell do you tell someone "Quit being nice?"

#88 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2013, 05:00 AM:

By the way, sympathy and strength to everyone for whom US Thanksgiving is difficult.

(I live in a Thanksgivingless land, and I miss it, but I know how difficult this time is for many people.)

#89 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2013, 05:42 AM:

It looks at the last minute like I will be spending the holiday not cooking and alone (or, as I refer to it, with the roommates I like best: the fuzzy ones) so I am likewise available for calling if anyone wants to hear another human. My number is svir-fvk-gjb frira-gjb-fvk sbhe-fvk-sbhe-frira and I'm in Pacific time. I'll probably sleep in a bit, but will be up late.

the invisible one, I understand where you are and note that while the offer is open to all tomorrow, my offer will -- like Lee's -- stay open for you. Also if you prefer online communication, remove the "slightly," mash everything into one word, and continue with an at symbol and then I am located at Google's extremely popular mail service.

#90 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2013, 06:07 AM:

Rikibeth @87: New Beau was very surprised when I admonished him not to die the first time he sneezed around me. It's a verbal habit that came from an examination of sneezing traditions and their natural evolution with a very good friend of mine; while I manage not to tell anyone else to go to hell (that's actually what she and I say to each other when there's sneezing, and it's about the opposite of venomous, we usually dissolve in giggles despite being in our mid-30s) I've never gotten in the habit of saying something normal.

Like you, I am cooking for my housemates; also like you, I have some problems with the way I am thanked. Boy Roommate says "Thank you for cooking dinner" in the same bored tone every night when I announce dinner is ready like it's the payment he must tender before eating -- and then proceeds to not behave in any fashion like he cares about the food waiting for him, usually letting it get cold so he can pay attention to anything but me, including television. Girl Roommate either doesn't mention that dinner is available or asks obvious questions because she "do[es]n't want to be a bother" -- "Do I get a chicken breast?" (Yes, I cooked chicken.) "Should I take greens?" (Do you want greens?) "Does all this go with dinner?" (No, the dish in the middle is a decoy and if you take some you'll be shot; there's a man in a hunting blind on the balcony.) She will at times come in late from work and wake me up to ask me these things. So she's not a bother. Wake me up. I don't understand.

ANYWAY. What I'm saying is I understand the pain of "You're not appreciating me correctly!" and I wish I had suggestions for what to do about it. The enthusiasm New Beau showed for my cooking when I visited seemed much more genuine and spontaneous, which apparently made me blush -- and made me understand that I absorb praise from actions as much as from words. Perhaps the same is true for you? (Or perhaps not!) I'm very interested in your journey as you find out.

#91 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2013, 07:20 AM:

Rikibeth and iliad, thanks very much.

#92 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2013, 07:33 AM:

I, too, am in a Thanksgivingless land (not that we don't give thanks here; we just don't eat a lot of turkey about it), and am available online should anyone need a sympathetic virtual ear. If you click my name above the post, it will take you to my website, where there's a contact e-mail.

#93 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2013, 10:10 AM:

Mongoose (92): I love this phrasing: not that we don't give thanks here; we just don't eat a lot of turkey about it.

everyone: Reading and witnessing.

#94 ::: Stenopos ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2013, 10:10 AM:

Related to the unexpected praise and so on mentioned by Rikibeth and Iliad is what happened to me recently. After a recent gathering, two close relatives older than me spent some time going on about how I had socially evolved recently, "opening up" and so on--rather than just the glad-to-have-you one would expect, and instead of making me feel good now, it made me feel like they thought I had been some sort of tongue-tied freak before, when I had not. Really got on my nerves, but how do you complain when they are (supposedly) trying to be nice? I just changed the subject.
Manners are an ongoing journey for many of us, but even with the Robbie Burns factor (hard to see ourselves as others see us), I can't believe I've changed much recently. I haven't been tongue-tied with that bunch for 40 years. Although it is still sometimes hard to tell one of them to knock it off when they get (occasionally) on my case about something they don't need to. I've been advised to just ignore it, but that isn't enough.
But I can't stand when someone says something about me that isn't true, even if it is flattering.

#95 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2013, 12:08 PM:

#75, dcb:

All I can say is that you have every right to feel like this, to feel this sense of loss for what-might-have-been, for what you wanted the relationship to be, to turn into.

Yeah, I know. Right now I don't want to feel anything. I'm trying to keep that door shut. Every time I start to think about him, I have to make myself stop, and I tell myself it's over and done and there's no point in thinking about what might have been. Because when I do think about it, I feel the pain even more.

Locking it up may not be the healthiest thing to do, but right now it's how I don't cry all day.

#84, Lee:

You will move on too, at your own time and pace.

I know. This relationship didn't even last a year, so I don't expect it will take years to get over the loss. But it was easily the best one I've had to date.

I haven't been having problems with the middle of the night, but thanks for the offer. I've been having problems with the day. The time of day when I used to get a "good morning" text message from him every morning, especially.

#89, iliad slightly awry:

Thanks to you also for the offer.

I don't know if I'd be able to make the transition from talking here to talking to a specific person who I don't know well. This place fits in a kind of oddly-shaped space in my mind, and manages to avoid some of my mental blocks around interrupting other people, nobody wants to hear it, making the conversation all about me, and only being able to talk to a person I have a certain level of trust for. I find how it avoids the last one kind of bizarre, actually, since this is a public place and anybody who happens by can see what I post.

Also, I don't like the phone, and my phone plan doesn't include long distance to the US.

#96 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2013, 04:31 PM:

iliad slightly awry: BFF and I also use "Don't die" for sneezes! The other ones are "you asploded" (because our Language Spoken At Home is not so much English as Internet) or, for a flurry, "Are you done yet?" And we generally only acknowledge them when we're in the same room. New Housemate will call out if she hears you sneeze from across the house. I find it disconcerting.

Eh. Tonight's Thanksgiving dinner is potato soup, roasted winter vegetables, and polenta. And six pies, but I made the pies yesterday with the specific intent that the apple and pumpkin, at the very least, were Thanksgiving breakfast and food thereafter. I need to go see if the polenta is chilled enough now to cut it and grill it, and then we can eat.

#97 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2013, 06:00 PM:

I've been thinking some more about the matter of personal narratives, specifically those belonging to Awful Lodger.

Awful Lodger wasn't invariably awful, so I started thinking about when he was and when he wasn't, and a pattern soon became apparent. When he was able to be either the Boss or the Hero, he was fine. I had no problem when I was working for him (in which situation he could, of course, legitimately be the Boss), and he was always very good if someone was in difficulty and there was something he could do to help. When I injured my arm trying to get back to the station after a visit to my parents, he drove all the way up to collect me, since I couldn't possibly have managed my luggage on the train with only one functioning arm. This was not atypical behaviour, either.

Getting a proper handle on someone's hurtful behaviour is often a valuable step forward in recovering from the hurt. I think the problem he had, the one that made him Awful Lodger rather than At-Least-Tolerable Lodger, was that he had to be in at least one of those two roles, and he didn't function at all well if circumstances prevented that. Worse still, he couldn't tolerate the idea of ever having to take either of the complementary roles of Subordinate and Villain. So he couldn't get a regular job because he was psychologically unable to take orders from anyone else (and considered that to be a virtue); he thought I was "controlling" because I kept trying to set boundaries in my own house, which he consistently pushed or outright bulldozed; and he always had all kinds of reasons why he was right to shove me around emotionally in various ways.

This business of narratives shows up very clearly when I look at how he dealt with me when I was under a lot of stress. If the stress was caused by some external factor such as work, he would notice very quickly that something was wrong and be as kind and thoughtful as he knew how to be. But if he was causing the stress, he generally wouldn't notice at all until something drastic happened. On one occasion I lost about two and a half stone in weight because of the stress his TV set was causing me. (When he first moved in, he insisted that the only possible place for the wretched thing was in my living room, right next to where I usually sit at the computer. I said I wouldn't be comfortable with it there and I would rather he put it in his bedroom, where I didn't have to see it. He shouted at me and accused me of being unreasonable until I miserably gave in; then, when I found some of his viewing material disturbing, I was simply informed that I shouldn't. Only when he noticed that I'd lost a huge amount of weight - which he knows is something I do under stress - did the penny finally drop; at this point, he suddenly and magically thought of a place where the TV could go in his bedroom.)

He is now married, and his wife - who's a lovely woman - has a rather literal view of certain verses of Scripture regarding marriage, so he can now permanently stay in the Boss role. It's not my interpretation of those verses (not going to get into major exegesis here; just going to say "context"), but they're both perfectly happy with it. There is no question that she's extremely good for him, and he does listen to her a lot more than he would to other people, because he wants to be a Good Boss. I suppose accepting him in that role is the price she pays for being listened to, and she is clearly quite happy to do that, so... well, I don't think that kind of arrangement is generally healthy, but in this particular case it may be the healthiest one of an array of even less healthy alternatives.

Special thanks to Abi for a) pointing out that he was actually abusive, which did a great deal to crystallise things, and b) getting me thinking about personal narratives. Now I think I have a good working idea how his narratives functioned, I have a place to stand and start properly fixing the psychological damage caused by getting dragged into them.

#98 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2013, 06:14 PM:

the invisible one @95: I understand -- and I agree, this space is special and strange in that way. But also I'm glad to listen should you change your mind. (And I understand about the phone thing.)

Rikibeth @96: I would also find being yelled at from across the house because I sneezed disconcerting. Your dinner sounds delicious, though.

#99 ::: TrishB ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2013, 09:28 PM:

Not sure if this relates to dysfunctional families for this thread, but I've just come back from the emergency vet clinic after putting my (almost) 13 year old puppy to sleep. Pepper was my best little girl, an (almost) perfectly behaved* mini schnauzer. She's been the definition of tough for the last four years, since her original diabetes diagnosis and all that followed from that - Cushing's, cataracts, glaucoma, and gall bladder disease. Today she went into a full Addisonian crisis that may/not have been treatable. It was time.

I'm raw and I hurt and I am glad that Pepper won't be suffering, but that isn't making it easier.

*The perfectly behaved part is all through Pep's own powers of observation. She figured out everything going on around her very quickly as a puppy and then later when she went blind.

#100 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2013, 10:42 PM:

the invisible one, #95: No problem. I hadn't realized (or had forgotten) that you were overseas. And I know that a number of people are generally uncomfortable with phone conversations.

Mongoose, #97: I suppose accepting him in that role is the price she pays for being listened to, and she is clearly quite happy to do that, so... well, I don't think that kind of arrangement is generally healthy, but in this particular case it may be the healthiest one of an array of even less healthy alternatives.

That's pretty much exactly the way I feel about my parents' marriage, though for entirely different reasons. It was not what I consider a healthy relationship, nor one I would ever want for myself, but it suited both of them down to the ground.

(Side note: this may be why I don't get as squicked out by the relationship in Andy Capp as a lot of people do. Flo isn't a battered wife, she gives as good as she gets, and they both seem to be quite comfortable with the arrangement. Again, not healthy, but...)

TrishB, #99: My condolences on your loss. It's never easy; all you can do is console yourself that you did the right thing.

#101 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2013, 11:34 PM:

So. Thanksgiving with the effectively-in-laws.

That... went really damn well, actually. My fiancee said her parents both relaxed quite a bit by the end of the day (I think we all did, really); there was really only one contentious moment, which they brought up and had nothing to do with our relationship. Her parents also used to live in the area I grew up in (nowhere near the same time), which gave us a starting place for the conversation.

They brought me a small gift as well as her. They hugged me. I made a point of thanking them for inviting me along, since goodness knows they didn't have to, and her dad said it was no problem. We're having breakfast with them tomorrow morning before they head out.

(I also got a looooot of perspective on why my fiancee finds visiting her parents so stressful. Since I was there, she was at least spared the contortions of not talking about a huge part of her life, but there was a lot of doubling back and looking in shop windows, which apparently would have been 'go in and dawdle in the shops for a long time' if anything had been open. My brain was pretty full by the end of the night; I can see very easily where my fiancee overclocks.)

I suspect part of why they came up is that her dad got a job in [significantly farther-away state]. Depending on when they fully move out there, this may be the last time they can reliably visit/she can see them.

In any case, it went well, and I'm thankful for that. Hoping everyone else had a good day, however you marked/didn't mark it.

#102 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 04:50 AM:

TrishB @ 99: much sympathy. It's always hard to lose a beloved pet.

#103 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 07:02 AM:

Jacque seems to be running in Verbose Mode, tonight.

iliad slightly awry @90: "Does all this go with dinner?" (No, the dish in the middle is a decoy and if you take some you'll be shot; there's a man in a hunting blind on the balcony.)

You are so grateful I wasn't in the middle of swallowing my mouthful of salad when I read that. Really. ;-)

Mongoose @97: I suspect that something has changed for you at a very deep level about this, because the language you use to lay out your thoughts in this comment is much clearer, more articulate, and precise than it has been in your previous mentions of Lodger. The way you talk about it feels different, if you see what I mean.

iliad slightly awry @98: I would also find being yelled at from across the house

It's a testament to how delicate is the fabric of which relationship is made: coupla friends of mine, some weeks after moving into a bigger apartment, found their relationship unaccountably deteriorating.

At first they'd chalked it up to the stress of the move, but when things didn't improve after they'd unpacked, they each independently started worrying that Something Was Wrong. The whole thing was so vague and formless that they eventually(!) sat down and had a talk.

They finally worked out that it was the new apartment that was at issue: in the old one, they could easily hear each other between any two rooms.

In the new place, they had to shout to be heard if they weren't in the same room. Each of them was subconsciously interpreting this as the other being angry, and also were themselves getting angry because the need to shout made them feel that the other was ignoring them. Once they figured this out, they retuned their expectations, and went back to getting along famously.

TrishB @99: Oh, that's hard. Even when it's clearly time, it's still hard. But you kept her going while you could, and let her go when she needed it. You done good.

tamiki @101: Yay! Oh, that is good news. I also predict that having the opportunity to observe them+fiance "in the wild" will give you all sorts of useful intelligence with which to grow your future good connection with fiance.

me: Well, as discussed elsewhere,* I had a really great Thanksgiving—full of all sorts of giving of thanks, even.

The Five(ish) Doctors plus the 50th was especially joyous. I am not ashamed to call it Great Art. I feel weird, anyplace but here, talking about on how deep a level this stuff touches me. I can't find it, but not too long ago, I think abi posted a discussion about how we each individually experience the Numinous: this is where it gets me.

I was feeling kind of grumpy the beginning of last week, having a touch of "I don' wanna" and "What's the point?" Monday night. When I finally got to bed, it occurred to me that I hadn't prayed in a while. I forget to do that. So I did. Nothing much, just "Hi, how are ya? Whatcha been up to? I miss you."

Today reminded me dramatically that the Numinous doesn't care what you call it. Just so long as, once in a while, you know, you call. (And won't impose itself on you—well, me—if you don't ask.)

By the time I finally finished "The Day of the Doctor," I was pretty high on sleep-dep** and coffee Häagen-Dazs. I was watching the ep on iTunes, and after the closing credits—

Without a pause, I was segued straight into Enya's "Memory of Trees" (which was just perfect), running iTunes' Jelly Visualizer. (I'd heard about this thing from Spider Robinson, but I'd never actually managed to find it. So it caught me completely by surprise.)

JEEZ-us. I mean, right between the cerebral hemispheres. I had the sudden, very powerful feeling that I was staring straight into—in direct communion with—the numinous. (Not that I wasn't deliberately reaching for that sensation. But I mean, wasn't much of a reach.)

"O hai!"

Well, I did finally manage to pull myself away and get the pigs their dinner. Even cleaned Yeti, Rabbit's, and Gustav's cages.

But, um, well. Yeah. Thank you. And thank you. You-all.

* See, children? This is what you can look forward to when you get done with arguing with your parents in your head. You get to start arguing with your children in your head. Um. I mean your artwork. (No, that doesn't sound any better, does it?)

** Cheapest psycho-active drug there is, I'm tellin' ya.

#104 ::: Jacque, visiting the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 07:06 AM:

Stopping by to wish their lownesses a happy Thanksgiving and share a double-armload of really pretty links.

#105 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 07:57 AM:

Narratives and compliments that create discomfort in the person being complimented...

Much as I loved princess stories as a kid, I always was more attracted to the protagonists that were going out and doing things. Even if they scared me sometimes. Perhaps particularly if they scared me, especially when they did things involving reclaiming agency from abusive or even merely restrictive authorities...

There was a moment in our household that made me seriously unhappy enough as a small child that I literally made my "wish upon a star" a wish to the faeries to Take Me Away. I couldn't understand why I wanted it so badly, back then; I do now, and when my heart aches for that little girl, I go back (because, yeah, narratives include Time Travel!) and appreciate her for all that she had to endure, especially in the name of conforming to "reality" as decreed by the local authority.

I suppose that my "faeries" have turned out to be the folks in fandom/gaming, etc. Although certain of those relationships have not been without their problems, I certainly gained so much that I quite cheerfully tell people that I was raised to adulthood by fandom. (And imagine that if my parents are hurt by that, well, sucks to be them, I guess.)

I don't think I have yet an overarching arc, but neither do I feel I've become a side-character in someone else's story. (I might occasionally be such, but with the understanding that I definitely have more than one narrative going at a time.) I try to remember to not fall for my own press releases, even as I sometimes like to add some spices to my current narrative (being nearly the eldest in some of my social circuits means occasionally, without really meaning to, I turn into Wise Woman of Oral History - I'm still amazed that people half or even a third my approximately 50 years not only listen but can sometimes seem enthralled by the details of my earliest decades. Heady, heady stuff.)

The narratives are patchwork-y and intermittent. A semi-recent favorite starts with a bit of family history: some friend of one of my parents had been praised in my hearing as being really smart because she could speak all kinds of languages. I didn't know at the time (I was maybe 5 or so?) what a different language entailed, but no one present could really make a good demonstration of what something that wasn't English was like, and why. That frustrated me deeply, and the notion of something different to what I had previously moved through the way a fish moved through water stuck with me hard. (1)

Fast forward many years, and getting the basics of Italian, German, Dutch and Japanese (with smatterings of a few others along the way). I love language, although my narrative has yet to escape the event-horizon of counting that a success only if one is working professionally with them. But, one night, not terribly long ago, I had been to a party in Brussels, via one of my friends in Japanese Studies. The household was a very mixed type, and so there were folks not only from nearby universities, but there were also dance students and business and diplomatic interns.

At a certain point, I was in The Zone, beloved of sports people. Someone at my elbow couldn't speak in Dutch, I tried a bit and found out they had a serviceable Italian. After the necessary apologies (it's very unloved and rusty at the moment, alas), we had a nice little chat about what we all liked about Belgium. Next conversation was with one of my host's business contacts, who was happy to speak English, but was equally happy to let me mangle his native Japanese for awhile. (2) Later on, a bit of a chat auf Deutsch, and messing around with trying to describe the sensual differences between speaking German, Dutch and English...

I wasn't the only one using public transport, so had company when it was time to leave - actually, they were happy to be with me, because I had among our little group what counted as the native's knowledge about which bus/tram etc was good for our various destinations. (3) And one of the... er, "kids" (*wince*) asked me how I got to know so many languages.

The narrative mentioned above - "not being a success unless, etc. etc." kicked in for two seconds, then I kicked it out of the conversation (by mentioning it, and then saying, "But I'm not going to allow that to make me unhappy right now;" my listeners were in happy agreement; the stance seemed to suit not just their mood but their ideals as well.) Then I groped for a new explanation, then realized that I could tell them not only how I loved languages but how I got that way - ending my story (just as we arrived at our stopping point!) with, "Gosh, and now I realize, I have become that woman. Isn't that funny?"

On compliments that make one uncomfortable: I had thought that I liked getting compliments, but someone observed that when I get them in person, I'm over-effusive in my thanking the complimenter, as if I'm trying to not allow them any more room to communicate. I realized the truth of that statement: I was trying to barricade myself, perhaps something was feeling too exposed and too vulnerable?

And that's distinguished from those compliments that feel somehow back-handed or implying we'd fallen short of the mark previously. Sometimes, just a small smile and shrug, if someone says "You're so giving," because, really, I give when I want, not when someone has buttered me up preparatory to trying to push a boundary farther than I want it to go. Sometimes, if a dash of snark is needed, I might add, "Well, glad it's worked out (for you) then." That's actually adapted from some slightly snarky advice from a Japanese-import retailer, who would defend against a veritable tsunami of "Goodness, you have a lot of skill using chopsticks!" with the words, "O-kage-sama de" - literally translated as "thanks to you!"

Sometimes compliments come from a genuine spot to which I've been blind. After struggling with a few conditions, and then finally getting medical help for them, I say things like, "I'm so lucky I have these medicines now! I can do so much more that previously," to which the dear hubby always replies, "Don't sell yourself short; you are making hard decisions and following through with them. That's not just the drugs, that's you, being engaged, brave, and conscientious." Sure, that makes me uncomfortable, but probably because dear hubby is reminding me that I have yet to learn how to own some important aspects of my own existence and humanity.

I don't know if this helps, but it's been great fun to type it all out. I'm sorry I haven't been keeping up with individual stories (invisible one and Codemonkey stand out in my mind at the moment, but they're not the only ones!), because they're not only all important, but have been moving me during some of our own times of trouble. (4)

/T/h/a/n/k/s/ Words of gratitude for listening. I'll see if I need to get something tasty for the gnomes, after this wall-o-text.

Crazy(but somehow, having learned to love it, wouldn't be any other way)Soph

1. I seemed to have had this neophile stance for a lot of things - these days, kids seem to be seen more as natural experimenters, but no one I knew, for instance, ever changed around how they held their tableware on the basis of having heard that was how it was done someplace else - I tried what my family described as the "European" way, and never looked back. Perhaps more familiar to this parish - do you remember the first time you were told about "other planets besides Earth," with contexts like "in Our Solar System"? Whoa nellie, how I did not become an instant fan at that age was only because there were no age-appropriate sf books in the house. At least my parents were science-friendly enough that I got lots of books on junior astronomy, though they had their own problems - e.g. "he" as the default for the questing young explorer of the night skies...

2. Japanese have always been super encouraging to me about attempting their language, but sometimes they go the extra distance - nothing so blunt as outright correction, but this friend took the effort a couple of times to lead the conversation so that I could hear a properly constructed version of what I'd tried to say earlier.

3. It's just bragging to talk about always having a local map on me, and loving to just stare at them. Especially as I am certain of being in good company on this trait here.

4. The nutshell version of our year: stupid role-player abuse followed by stupid role-player abuse-enabling politics; job loss; own rental property tied up by inspections - no selling to fund the unemployment, until it's been passed (possibly costing us a chunk of the retirement savings, OTOH swings and roundabouts means another part of our retirement patchwork might actually perform enough beyond expectation to make up for that...); lost a beloved cat to diabetes - she was diagnosed very late and we never could get her stabilized; same week as having to euthanize her, my own hospital visit for planned surgery, followed by a six-week recovery period. We seem to be sort of on top of it all at the moment, but dear God in heaven, it can stop. Any. Time. Please. No more crises, just let us put out these fires and catch our collective breath, okay?

#106 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 11:11 AM:

Note to self: be *very* careful about who you tell what about the toxic waste storage inside your head.

So, I had a doctor's appointment yesterday, that I made a week ago when things were still fine. Now that they aren't, the reason for that appointment is no longer relevant. I did have another thing to talk about with doc so I did that instead. Then I told her about why I was freshly single and previous reason for the appointment was no longer relevant. And oh boy was that a mistake.

I mean, her comments about finding a therapist were reasonable. And I have been looking at the listings. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to pick one that will be helpful instead of harmful to me. For comparison, I looked at the former counsellor who backed up the BS that Crappy Ex was feeding me, and on her website she looked just as good as all the new counsellor websites I had been looking at. Some of them offer a free half-hour initial phone thing to see if you'll be able to work with them, but I have no idea what to say or ask or listen for in that half hour to be able to figure that out.

The problem came in when doc wouldn't stop giving me hlepy advice. Oh, she broke up with her now-husband 5 times before they got married. I can't count on that, I said. No, of course not, she agreed. (So why did you bring it up? I wondered.) Then she told about a friend she had to un-friend because said former friend was a major drama queen, after I told her I had told New Interest too much about the toxic waste. Also that men just can't handle that sort of stuff, because men just don't talk about their emotions. (Um, he was ok with talking about emotional stuff, I just put too much on him. Also can we say sexist?!) Then, when I tried to tell her that her suggestion of writing the sad/toxic thoughts on a piece of paper and burning it doesn't actually make the problem go away (because I tried that when former counsellor told me to try it), I have to deal with the problem and resolve it first and I do that by writing out and thinking about what the problem actually is, she started going on and on about neuroplasticity and how thinking about the same problem reinforces those pathways in the brain, and I (implied 'just') had to use new ways of thinking to set up and reinforce new patterns...

I walked out on her, mid-sentence. I couldn't make her stop talking long enough for me to explain that I had some success with examining and identifying the problems as a first step in getting rid of them, so I said "I have to leave now" and grabbed my coat and left. I did hear her say "I'm sorry" as I walked out the door, but I don't know if that's just sorry for me being upset or actually realizing how unhelpful she was being.

And what's been preying on my mind since then is her comment about her ex-friend the drama queen. I feel like there's a difference between somebody being a drama queen and somebody having toxic waste in their head and talking it out (too much), but I can't articulate it right now, and even the beginnings of thinking about it sound to me as if I'm being defensive and trying to hide drama-queen tendencies instead of actually demonstrating a difference between the two.

I'm also very surprised I didn't cry this morning on waking up and realizing that my extremely vivid dream about New Interest was just a dream. I dreamed he came back and we were together again, and so happy. I even asked him what caused him to come back, in the dream, but the answer didn't make sense, even in dreamland. (Also, I need a new pseud for him. He is, sadly, now an ex, not a new interest. Even though I'm still very interested in him.)

#107 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 11:17 AM:

tamiki @101: *Happy dance* that this went well for you!


I attempted to iron out a compromise for Thanksgiving this year. I was responsible for all the food, but not nine yards of traditional Thanksgiving fare. Still, this included taking on travel and using an unfamiliar kitchen, and shopping in an unfamiliar store the day before. With extremely limited resources. Negotiating several very large last minute curve balls.

Partner assures me that I kicked ass. I want to believe him, and I DO believe him, on a rational level, despite all the pressure and guilt trips to do more. I made lists, I moved mountains, I did All The Things. But I don't feel like I kicked ass, nearly so much as I feel like I've had my ass kicked. With a bonus side of feeling bad for feeling bad.

Thank you for this safe space to be less-than-perfect, and deal with it less-than-perfectly.

#108 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 11:35 AM:

the invisible one @106: Ugh, I'm so sorry you had all that hlep dumped on you, on top of everything! FWIW, I think you're entirely justified in your reaction to her lecturing, especially the "drama queen" bit.

#109 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 12:03 PM:

the invisible one @106:

Wow, it sounds like that doctor has serious boundary issues. That kind of oversharing really leaves the listener no space to be her own self, with her own narrative and her own nuances.

I hope the doctor finds a better way to sort her head out than by pouring them all over anyone whose story vaugely reminds her of her own life. It would be inappropriate even if she hadn't done it to someone who's feeling so very raw.


#110 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 12:30 PM:

the invisible one @ 106: ouch. That's the last thing you need right now.

In the hope that you may find at least some of this that resonates, here is my definition of the difference between a drama queen and someone with toxic waste in their head. Drama queens attempt to make mountains out of molehills, and get a kick out of the results. People with toxic waste in their heads are usually more likely to try to make molehills out of mountains, because they've normally had other people trivialising the toxicity (or even denying the very existence) of the waste, and after a while that tends to get internalised to a greater or lesser extent.

Related to this, if you have toxic waste in your head, you talk about it only because you're trying to deal with it, and generally you do that, so eventually you talk about it less and less. But if you're a drama queen, the drama never gets any less, because you keep finding new things to be dramatic about.

That doesn't mean that people can't be both, of course. Sometimes, you meet a person who's being a drama queen to distract themselves from the fact that they've got a head full of toxic waste. Hence it doesn't tend to be the toxic waste that they dramatise about.

#111 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 12:35 PM:

the invisible one @ 106: let me join my voice to others in saying that I'm sorry that doctor happened to you.

There's one thing I want to remark on, though. You got up and walked out when you couldn't stand it anymore. I think that's exactly the right reaction, but there are not a lot of people who could have done it. I probably couldn't have done it. I would have sat there and meekly nodded till she was through. So, er, I know this isn't really what you were concerned about, but I admire you for that and I think it showed great strength of character.

#112 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 01:03 PM:

invisible one @106: My first reaction to your doctor was "holy cow, unprofessional behaviour!" My second reaction was "I didn't realize Mom had a clone who's a doctor..." Oversharing, minimalizing/trivializing your experience, inability to recognize that other people's situations are not hers, making it All About Her! yep. I'm with Little John in admiring your strength of character in being able to get up and walk out on her.

I was going to try to describe my thoughts on toxic waste vs. Drama Queen, but Mongoose @110 beat me to it and did a fantastic job - much better than I would have!

Regarding finding a therapist: I have a few thoughts from my own experiences. As always, ignore if hlepy.

For initial searching: Do you have anyone in your area (or is anyone on this thread in your area) who you could ask for recommendations? This can backfire, badly. But this is how I found both a) a really, really terrible therapist and b) three excellent therapists.

(terrible: You're not depressed! And you're a smart woman with a Ph.D. therefore you must follow my designated career path for smart women with Ph.Ds. Follow your dream? But that makes you less money and doesn't increase the prestige of Women! You must follow *my* plan for your career!) (oh, and she gave me a copy of The Secret. In all seriousness.)

The other thing: for screening therapists: Can you make a list of scenarios where Bad Therapist reinforced Crappy Ex? And then ask potential therapists "If presented with this scenario, how would you counsel the patient?" If they give advice like Bad Therapist did (or that rhymes with that bad advice), then at least you've eliminated a bad choice from your list.

#113 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 01:03 PM:

Actually, can I ask a question of the room? Given that most people assembled here have some slightly-to-very painful family issue, how much do you discuss that with your significant others?

I worry about things like this. I'm youngish and female and haven't had many boyfriends or even dates as yet. For various reasons I don't want to go into right now, it is hard for me to deal with my parents. They think we have a wonderful relationship. I have to psych myself up before a visit home and feel intense relief when I leave. I would really like to talk all this out with a therapist one day. (When I can afford one, when I have the time, when I find one I can trust.)

But I would like to be able to discuss my problems with a significant other sometimes, too. This is all theoretical right now, since I have a hard time starting and maintaining relationships. When I do fall in love, however, I would like to be able to talk about my problems with Theoretical Future Partner. I wouldn't want to make him be my therapist or listen to me all the time, but I would want him to listen and discuss my problems with me sometimes.

The problem is that I don't know how much of that is appropriate. No, really the problem is that I've come to believe men don't have emotions, and that they'll be put off by my goopy female feeelings. Now, I know that can't be universally true, but my confirmation bias is making it seem true. I once told a male friend that I had issues with my parents but that I would try to avoid talking about them, and he rolled his eyes and put his wrist against his forehead in order to mock me for being melodramatic.

And I'm like, if even this tiny little admission gets such a reaction out of a guy, what can I expect if I ever need to talk about my actual problems with a guy? Not to drag the invisible one's recent experiences into this too much, but the offhand remark about this being something to discuss "with your girlfriends" was very worrying to me.

What's it like for all of you? Not just other women. Anybody of any gender who's in a relationship with anybody else. Do you ever talk about your family issues with your partner? Are there things you can't say?

#114 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 02:22 PM:

Jacque, #103: All the links in your "Jelly Visualizer" lead to 403-Forbidden. That may be why you ended up in Gnomeland.

crazysoph, #105: To almost-monolingual me*, it certainly seems that if you have enough of a language to carry on a conversation in it at a party, you've learned it successfully!

I give when I want, not when someone has buttered me up preparatory to trying to push a boundary farther than I want it to go.

Pulling this out for closer inspection, because that's another common emotional-abuse tactic that people may not be consciously aware of -- the use of compliments as a form of transaction that has to be paid for by some concession on the part of the person being complimented.

the invisible one, #106: I feel like there's a difference between somebody being a drama queen and somebody having toxic waste in their head and talking it out (too much), but I can't articulate it right now

I've known drama queens (of several genders), and IMO the difference is that they aren't trying to get rid of the toxic waste, they just use it for an excuse. (See again, letting yourself be defined forever by what happened to you in the past.) They also have a hard time acknowledging that anything they've done actually hurt someone else -- there's always some reason why they were right and the person who was hurt is being unreasonable. The XRFH almost literally could not say the words "I'm sorry", even when admitting that he'd screwed something up. (I remember one occasion when he said, "I don't know what to say; 'I'm sorry' doesn't even cover it," and I was thinking, "No, but it would be a nice start.")

Also, I agree with Little John that you showed both emotional strength and mental health by recognizing that the doctor was Doin It Rong and walking out. Sometimes it's hard to realize that you are no longer required to sit there and listen to someone putting you down!

Re finding a new therapist, my go-to suggestion is always the Kink-Aware Professionals list. Not because you need them for the stated reason, but because they have already demonstrated a willingness to think outside the box marked "socially-assumed", which is likely to bleed over into other areas.

One thing to watch out for in interviewing therapists is Hammer Syndrome, aka "when your only tool is a hammer, it's amazing how many things look like nails." You want someone with more than one tool in their toolbox. Also, Chickadee's advice is good here.

* I still have enough of my school French to exchange stilted pleasantries with someone who speaks the language, or to get the sense of a popular song. But I'm nowhere near fluent.

#115 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 03:33 PM:

Mongoose @97: great that you've managed to work some of that out, mentally.

TrishB @99: Sympathies. She sounds like she was a really lovely dog. It's good that we're able to spare our beloved pets from pain and suffering at the end of their lives, but it doesn't make it easy, nor mean that we don't mourn. {{{{{hug}}}}} if you can use one.

tamiki @101: Really pleased to hear that Thanksgiving with the effectively in-laws went so well.

crazysoph, #105: Language envy! I have un petit peu de francais and that's all. As for "The nutshell version of our year": sympathies.

the invisible one @106: Well, that's not a very good doctor! And echoing Little John @111, well done for getting up and walking out.

eep @107: well done you! But I don't feel like I kicked ass, nearly so much as I feel like I've had my ass kicked. With a bonus side of feeling bad for feeling bad. Yeah, I know how that goes. Sympathies. Listen to your partner!

Little John @113: I discuss my family stuff (particularly re. my mother) with my wonderful husband. Have done for a long time (e.g. preparing him for how she was likely to grill him when they met, because she's very nosy). Also e.g. work stuff. He's fantastic, lets me go over and over things if necessary. And I listen to him when he's angry or fed up about something. That's what partnership is about. At the moment he's having to do a lot of listening about various stuff, unfortunately (mostly not family, but still stuff).

#116 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 04:14 PM:

Little John: I have an excellent partner, and we discuss family and personal stuff a lot. Previous ones -- varied widely. They've mostly wanted to be able to vent about family stuff, but not all of them have wanted to listen to mine. And finding someone where it's reciprocal -- that's really what's made it work for me. YMMV.

#117 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 04:55 PM:

I didn't think it was right; thanks for confirming it. She had been quite a nice doc until now, so as long as I can stick to topics of physical ailments only, it'll probably be ok. I don't want to have to start searching for a new doctor again. So few are taking new patients.

#110, Mongoose and #114, Lee:

Yes, the distinction between trying to deal with it and put it to rest vs. blowing stuff all over for non-dealing-with-it reasons. I think that's what I was trying to get straightened out as explanation. Unfortunately if the stuff being sorted out takes a long time (as it does) then to somebody who sees only the problem and not the progress can easily misread it as being a drama queen. And I've noticed in myself that progress inside the head happens before progress visible outside, because sometimes the big progress is in identifying the problem and changing the behaviour is (relatively) easier once that's done. Relatively.

The other problem, at least in my case, is that I seem to have a set of mental landmines. So, always something new and exciting when I least expected it, and New Interest was the only person who I trusted enough to let close enough to be in a position to set them off. Probably also easily mistaken for drama queen. I really should have been more careful about filtering, but the only filter I'd had to that point was "tell nothing!!!"

I'm also not sure how much drama my telling New Interest counted as. Yeah, once I trusted him enough the stuff I talked through with him got more intense and emotional and in the earlier stages of working it out, when it's less clear that that's what's happening. It could probably be perceived as drama.

#111, Little John, #112, Chickadee, and #114, Lee:

Me five years ago probably wouldn't have been able to walk out of there until she'd finished her lecture and let me go. With luck and hard work, me five years hence may be able to say "that's not appropriate" before walking out, and do so earlier. That's what progress looks like I guess. Slow, but visible over years.

#112, Chickadee and #114, Lee:

I don't have anybody to ask for recommendations. I have very few friends to whom I would even consider telling about my collection of toxic waste, of those one has experience with getting counselling, and she lives over an hour's drive from me -- when traffic is nonexistant. The other does not. So I'm going to have to go with the screening idea. (Which I would have to anyway.)

I'll have to try to remember what I was saying to unhelpful counsellor at the time, not what I've learned since then. But I think that first meeting will definitely need a script, both for what I will say and what answers to watch out for.

#113, Little John:

The "talking about this with your girlfriends" thing I suspect is a mismatch between different values of "everything".

By which I mean, popular media and the way people without toxic waste stored in their head can, with some level of accuracy, say that women talk to their girlfriends about "everything", where "everything" includes, dunno, how their date went in excessive detail, details on drama here and there, and so on. (I personally find this level of "everything" to be way way way TMI and don't have this sort of relationship with any of my female friends.)

For people who do have toxic waste stored in their head, dysfunction in their background, and so on, "everything" means something entirely different. For us, even if there is somebody we trust enough to talk about "everything" with, well, sometimes it's too much no matter how much they care.

I have a feeling that New Interest classified the "everything" I had been telling him in the non-toxic-waste version of "everything" by mistake, and thought that it was the sort of "everything" one could share with the girlfriends when really it was therapist level stuff. But I doubt I'll have a chance to find out if that's the case.

#118 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 09:28 PM:

So, Therapist agrees with me that Housemate is an unsafe person to be around, so thank goodness she's moving soon. He also agrees with many people here that I'm handling it well. Myself, I'm just tired. Really tired. Half or more of my energy going down a black hole of Housemate + Work + Life, probably.

In case anyone hanging around here knows Latin, I have a question. What's "moonlit night" in Latin? Online translation suggested "nox lucente". (The mix of Latin and English in my email address is finally getting to me, so maybe I'll fix it.)

I wish the popular-girl coworker who is the same rank as me, with a year or two more seniority, but about 10 years younger than me, would stop doing the annoying things she does. One, she talks far too much to people who are near me but not me, so there's no quiet for concentrating. Two, when she's stressed she broadcasts and needs other people to seem stressed. Because otherwise, three, she will start attempting to dump work on them, when she has no right to, because they don't look stressed so they can't be busy or working hard! The actual help requested is often reasonable, and the request is apparently polite, so it's very hard to set boundaries without looking like a jerk. And four, she does #2 and #3 subtly enough that she may not be aware of it, and it would be difficult to call her on it, or bring it up with a supervisor, without appearing to overreact. Five, she's technically inept, to an extent that I have trouble excusing. We went to the same design school, so I know what she was taught, and she's in her mid-twenties, so she has to have grown up around computers. I admit I'm technically ept, but I am trying to compensate for that bias, and she *still* reads as inept.

#119 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 09:59 PM:

Moonlit Night, 118: On boundary-setting--does she stand over you until you do it? If not, maybe it would be possible to say, "Oh, I'd love to help you! Just let me finish [my real work] and I'll be right over!" And then, gosh, [your real work] takes you right up to quitting time, you're so sorry, how did that happen.

#120 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 10:13 PM:

@118 Moonlit Night
One, she talks far too much to people who are near me but not me, so there's no quiet for concentrating.

I realise it's not possible in every workplace, but would it help/are you allowed to wear headphones? Or would music also count as distracting/non-quiet to you?

It ended up being my solution to chattering co-workers at an old job of mine, is why I'm suggesting it.

#121 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2013, 02:07 AM:

Moonlit Night: Online English-to-Latin translations are generally awful, please avoid them. As far as I've been able to tell in a quick search Latin didn't have any short form of our "moonlit", so you'd need to go with "night lit by the moon", which would be "nox lucenda luna". Note that you can move the words around however you like there, "luna lucenda nox" would work as well and has to my ear a better rhythm.

("Nox lucente" leaves out the moon entirely, and gets the form of the second word wrong in a couple of different ways.)

#122 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2013, 06:46 AM:

I'm going to respond to this one (1) comment, and then I'm Going To Bed. (Right.)

the invisible one @106: I said "I have to leave now"

FWIW, I think you were kind. I would have just gotten up and walked out without a word. See also: what Little John & Chickadee said.

I feel like there's a difference between somebody being a drama queen and somebody having toxic waste in their head and talking it out (too much), but I can't articulate it right now

Here's the difference as I see it: what you're doing is sharing what you're dealing with, in an effort to clarify your own thinking and experience in your mind, and maybe also to get some help and (entirely appropriate) sympathy.

A drama queen "shares," often without getting consent from hir witnesses, and does so because zie gets off on the sturm and drang produced thereby. Zie's in it for the reaction. Not unlike your garden-variety troll.

Mongoose @110: But if you're a drama queen, the drama never gets any less, because you keep finding looking for new things to be dramatic about.

FTFY. :-)

Little John @113: I would like to be able to talk about my problems with Theoretical Future Partner. I wouldn't want to make him be my therapist or listen to me all the time, but I would want him to listen and discuss my problems with me sometimes.

From my perspective, I think you've got this back-to-front. In my case, I have made this a success criterion for any prospective Relationship. If possible partner is averse to having conversations like this with me, then they're not a candidate.

And to your implied question: yes, there are guys out there who will tolerate—enjoy, even—Deep and Meaningful conversation, including discussions of difficult history.

Lee @114: All the links in your "Jelly Visualizer" lead to 403-Forbidden. That may be why you ended up in Gnomeland.

That's weird. I just went back and tried them, and they work just fine for me. What OS are you on? Anybody else run into this? (And my understanding is that the gnomes impose a limit of seven links per comment, so I actually anticipated stopping by their place.)

Okay. Stopping NOW.

#123 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2013, 06:46 AM:

Well, hi there! Want some of my coffee ice cream?

#124 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2013, 07:54 AM:

Jacque, 122: I had the same problem with your links. I suspect it's because you're the account owner and we're not. Have you tried logging out, or using a different browser?

#125 ::: slow learner ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2013, 08:26 AM:

I found an Onion article that I thought belonged here: Man Who Got Shit Together 5 Years Ago Still Viewed As Lovable Fuckup By Friends, Family.

#126 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2013, 09:04 AM:

slow learner @125:

Ouch. Right on target.

#127 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2013, 10:42 AM:

Little John, #113: I'm with Jacque here. If a guy isn't willing to discuss personal issues, including stress-making family stuff, that's a deal-breaker. I know plenty of men who have no trouble with this. (Note here the distinction I am making between "guys" and "men".) I have no interest in cosseting a Special Snowflake who's going to be that level of high-maintenance -- and I view it this way because guys who are that invested in keeping their Guy Card validated do tend to take a lot of propping-up. The stereotype of "masculinity" is an extremely fragile thing.

Also, I once told a male friend that I had issues with my parents but that I would try to avoid talking about them, and he rolled his eyes and put his wrist against his forehead in order to mock me for being melodramatic.

What is this guy, twelve? That would be an immediate downgrade from "friend" to "casual acquaintance, not suitable for discussing anything of importance with". CWAA.

#128 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2013, 02:21 PM:

@122: That site blocks direct links to images. They're still in your browser cache, so they'll show up for you.

Here's the page with the images on it.

#129 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2013, 05:44 PM:

TexAnne @119: That is a clever idea, but I just don’t want to handle it that way. It doesn’t feel like the right thing to do in this case — like it might escalate things, not de-escalate. Possibly because I’m breaking my passive-aggressive habits in general. Possibly because this approach might be taken to mean that her requests are legitimate or that I might ever get around to it.

Cheryl @120: Headphone time helps a lot, but I have to do that enough that I’m getting listening fatigue often and very slowly cranking up the maximum volume on the player. I already have decent quality sealing headphones, so either I need much better noise-cancellation ones, or I need actual quiet. I have thought about putting in a request to move desks, but the quieter area I’d want to be in is full. It would also be an upgrade, not just a move, making it even less likely for the manager to approve it.

David Goldfarb @121: thanks! Machine translations were coming back obviously wrong. I’ve never learned Latin, but picked up enough to know that a phrase needs to be translated as a phrase, to have correct grammar. I figured there might be some classicists hanging around here, can’t think why… ;)

Little John @113: for any serious long-term partnership, I’d want to be able to talk about my psychological baggage and brokenness. If I can’t, either this relationship can’t get that serious, or it can’t last. I spend enough time hiding my scars in the many situations where it’s none of their business and might invoke prejudice if I revealed them, to do it in what should be an intimate and supportive situation. That said, I wouldn’t throw new dates into the shark tank head-first. I’d get a therapist — that’s probably much more doable than it might sound. I don’t have any advice on finding a good one. A friend with somewhat similar baggage badgered hers into putting me on his client list, and he’s working out pretty well for me. I went without for too many years because nobody addressed the three things stopping me. One was that I had no idea how much it would help, because I was too good at coping! Another was a formless distrust of the unknown. But the toughest delay was that nobody told me about the ways that I could get therapy affordably, so that it could be an ongoing thing instead of an expensive luxury that I could talk myself out of, or have to sacrifice when money got tight as it often did. Therapy isn’t an epiphany; it’s a practice — like going to the gym, or housecleaning, but for your mind. Sometimes it includes epiphanies, but most of it seems to be the regular slog of opening up and digging things out and trying to understand and change them.

My salvation back in my teens was finding a weird, bookish, crowd with compatible interests, a little rainbow slice of geekdom with a mix of SFF fans, gamers, computer geeks, artsy types, and religiously open/flexible people, especially budding pagans. Most of us were at least two of the above. Being big readers made us all weird, but also practiced our imagination and empathy. We’d all been bullied, and had interests, opinions, and talents the popular kids didn’t like or dismissed, so we all had reason to be open-minded and accepting of difference in general. Some of us had our own trauma baggage, or weren’t quite neurotypical, or were gay/bi/genderqueer. Or some other variety of “not vanilla, straight, and monogamous.” So we all had plenty of weirdness and baggage to talk to each other about, and it was generally a fair trade. Virtually every boyfriend I’ve had — and most of them have been good or at least okay — is somehow connected with that crowd, and I have rarely if ever had one of them give me guff for having feelings and baggage. Most of my friends either started out in that crowd, or meshed well with it once introduced, so it keeps growing. So keep an eye out for the people that will be home and comfort.

#130 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2013, 06:55 PM:

Alan Hamilton @128: Thank you! Caching didn't even occur to me as an issue. And, of course, I clean forgot about the page I got them from. (Sleep deprivation. Uh, yeah. Let's go with that.)

Moonlit Night @129: Headphone time helps a lot, but I have to do that enough that I’m getting listening fatigue often and very slowly cranking up the maximum volume on the player.

Trick I learned with noisy neighbors: white noise. Or, more accurately, steady, regular, ignorable sound that has enough similar frequency spectrum that it "fills in" around the conversation or whatever, thus making it effectively inaudible. Maybe try one of those "nature sounds" CDs? Chirpity birds might provide enough signal-free auditory clutter to obscure the nearby conversations without inducing listening fatigue.

Another point: I find that my sensitivity to this sort of background audio disruption is directly proportional to the quality of my relationship with the responsible party. I can happily (mostly) ignore music and conversation from my current neighbors' units that would have sent me right up the flue with previous neighbors. This is because I know and like both sets (upstairs and downstairs), and I know that if I go ask them to turn it down, they will, without argument. Not that this insight helps you, other than to point out that the coworker's attitude toward you is doubtless compounding the effect of her insensitivity to you. (Which doesn't sound like nearly as big an insight as it did in my head. Um. :-> )

for any serious long-term partnership, I’d want to be able to talk about my psychological baggage and brokenness.

Indeed, there are those that argue that this is one of the purposes of serious long-term partnership.

Little John: Over the years, I've dealt with a lot of therapists and I, personally, have found them to be of equivocal value.

What I will fully endorse, however, is the value of regular journalling. (It helps that I also enjoy it for its own sake.) There's something about setting an issue down on paper, describing it in detail, that sorts things out and clarifies them in a way that just having them rattling around in your head doesn't approach. Additionally, it gives you a concrete record, which is often useful when you go back and read old entries. It's also CHEAP. Cost of pen, paper, and time. If you've any crafty inclinations, it can also be a satisfying creative outlet. I've often added illuminations and illustrations to mine, over the years. Also, if you find a pen whose action works well for you, it can be a very soothing physical sensation, which has value in its own right.

See also what Moonlit Night says about the value of finding Your People.

BTW, ML (Hah! You have the same inits as our lovely Fluorospherian Meet Space!): I made this years ago, but it clearly points at you.

#131 ::: Jacque, gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2013, 06:56 PM:

Wow. I must be bringing popular treats this week!

#132 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2013, 07:00 PM:

BTW, read in the frame of this thread's theme, this week's Virgo horoscope is just perfect:

VIRGO AUG. 23-SEPT. 22: The BBC reported on an expert who combs Switzerland’s Risoud Forest to find the spruce trees whose wood can be made into the highest quality violins. After years of experience, Lorenzo Pellegrini knows which few trees will produce instruments with the most resonant tones. They grow slowly and have few knots. They need to have had enough water to grow strong, but not so much water that they’re mushy. Your task in the coming weeks, Virgo, has a certain resemblance to the master tree-picker’s work. It’s time for you to start selecting and gathering the raw materials you will use to craft your own lyrical story in 2014.

(Whatever your feelings about astrology, this guy does The Best Horoscopes.)

#133 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2013, 09:24 PM:

I'm reading. I don't have the energy to respond individually, but I'm reading, and I wish strength to all of you who need it.

Narratives. I've mentioned that I'm allergic to working on my relationship with my mother. I worked out one explanation for why: when she entered in-patient treatment 11 years ago, it felt like the narrative of the entire family became about her and her alcoholism. It still feels like the only way for me to be a protagonist instead of a minor player in her story is to repudiate her. Which is a little difficult, because I do care about her and also I like my father... But yeah. If I don't think about her except when she intrudes on my life, I get to write my own story. Until she confronts me in tears demanding confirmation that I dislike her. Argh. And then I feel horrible and like a bad child because she's apologizing for being the wrong mother for me.

#134 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 01:33 PM:

hope in disguise @133: Sympathies.

#135 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 01:35 PM:

@ the invisible one: I don't know if CZ Edwards is still around, but zie was really, really helpful to me when I was having therapist troubles.

related: has anyone heard from CZ Edwards in a while?

#136 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 02:05 PM:

#122, Jacque:

FWIW, I think you were kind. I would have just gotten up and walked out without a word.

I'm not entirely sure but hindsight suggests that the words may have been for my own benefit, to propel me out of the room.

Here's the difference as I see it: what you're doing is sharing what you're dealing with, in an effort to clarify your own thinking and experience in your mind, and maybe also to get some help and (entirely appropriate) sympathy.

Yes, clarifying.

Unfortunately, part of clarifying was explaining why I often reacted with suspicion to an otherwise perfectly normal thing, and one of the things New Interest said bothered him was the way everything he did in good faith was met with some degree of suspicion. (I won't quibble about "everything": it may not have been literally everything but it was a pattern with a lot of examples.)

Because, you know, when you find out after 5 years of marriage that the guy you thought you loved was, in his own words, not able to keep acting like the perfect guy for you anymore, it really throws all the nice things he did early in the relationship into doubt. (He was *acting*?!?! For *years*?!?! What was genuine? Was *anything* genuine?) Then having that followed with a guy who was interested and enthusiastic about doing all the stuff you did until moving in then wanted only to be left alone to play video games all day, and the stuff that he had been so enthusiastic about was waaaay too much trouble and not that great anyway.

So yeah, I was really suspicious of expressions of interest. And I can understand how that would get upsetting when it was a long standing pattern. And explaining all of them to him instead of recognizing and acknowledging them in my own head without telling him about every one was probably not the best approach.

#130, Jacque:

What I will fully endorse, however, is the value of regular journalling. (It helps that I also enjoy it for its own sake.) There's something about setting an issue down on paper, describing it in detail, that sorts things out and clarifies them in a way that just having them rattling around in your head doesn't approach. Additionally, it gives you a concrete record, which is often useful when you go back and read old entries.

While I quite like handwriting, I've actually found keeping my journal electronically to be even more useful, even if less physically pleasant. That habit actually started from making posts here. What I found was that when writing on paper, things went onto paper in the same order they came up in my head, which was often highly disorganized. By having it electronic, when a new thought came up for a given subject, I could go back and add that thought to the section where I was already talking about that issue. Then reading the other notes for the same issue all together would give me a better idea of the shape of the problem than having them physically separated and needing to search for and jump around to them would.

#137 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 02:06 PM:

Chickadee @135: a cursory search finds hir last post here was on Open Thread 182, last March, but the blog linked from hir name has a post dated October.

#138 ::: the invisible one was gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 02:07 PM:

Hi gnomes! Not sure which word of power I used this time...

#139 ::: Type A Toad ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 02:30 PM:

ARRGG!! Brushed some lint off my track pad and closed the window I was typing in!!

Sumana Harihareswara: I talk to Ross all the time over email and he's doing well. Like me, he reads DFD threads a bunch at a time but doesn't feel he has much to say.

Little John, the invisible one: I am a cis-bodied, heterosexual, female, and my closest confidantes are both male. Specifically, they're my partner and Ross. I tend not to have 'girlfriends' because I've been burnt too badly and too many times by women I trusted to really feel comfortable putting much effort into trying again. Also, just because Ross and I live most of a continent apart doesn't mean that we can't have deep conversations. We just don't have the stereotypical 'drinks and girl-talk' thing that media portrays as necessary for strong friendships.

the invisible one: if you'd like to talk to someone about picking therapists, I can pass my info to Abi to pass to you. I've had a few and I'm happy to talk to you about my experiences in both the US and Canada. I can't promise that I'm great about picking therapists, but I can talk to you about what did and didn't work for me.

HLN: area woman fails major national exam again, mother makes troubles worse. Background: I moved to Canada a few years ago with my partner and have been trying to pass a national certification exam to get back into the field I was working in in the States. I failed it for the second time this week (I get one more try, but it's expensive and I don't know if I even want to be in this field anymore). When I called my parents, in tears, to give them the news, my mother started in on 'well, you should just come home'. I give myself credit for not hanging up on her right then and there. I also give myself credit for telling her that I didn't want to talk about that right now. Needless to say, I'll be avoiding her phone calls for the next few weeks.

#140 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 02:35 PM:

Type A Toad, thanks for the update! Best wishes.

#141 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 04:18 PM:

Chickadee @135: has anyone heard from CZ Edwards in a while?

It's getting on solstice, and memory suggests that she tends to be Deeply Occupied during the winter. If the pattern holds, she may emerge spontaneously in the spring.

I'll poke her anyway, 'cause I was having that same thought, my own self.


#142 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 04:39 PM:

the invisible one @136: While I quite like handwriting, I've actually found keeping my journal electronically to be even more useful, even if less physically pleasant.

We're actually getting to the point where it's not in-feasible to do both. As only one option, Carol Kimball has a nifty little pen-computer dealy that records what you write down. (I'm presuming it has the capacity to convert handwriting to digital text as well. Carol?)

The hazard there for me would be the overpowering temptation to make highly produced, like, Productions out of my journalling. Yet another rabbit hold to fall down, I do not need. :-)

Then reading the other notes for the same issue all together would give me a better idea of the shape of the problem than having them physically separated and needing to search for and jump around to them would.

This is true, too. To a degree, I actually find the need to jump around a feature, because I stumble across other, interesting stuff that I may have forgotten about. This is another potential yawning rabbit hole. But grepable journal entries are also a glorious thing.

Type A Toad @139: I can't promise that I'm great about picking therapists, but I can talk to you about what did and didn't work for me.

To the degree that you're willing to share in an open forum, I'd be interested to hear this, too.

I failed it for the second time this week (I get one more try

This may or may not be helpful but: Son of an old friend of mine is a lawyer. But he has a very interesting specialty: he tutors people for the California Bar Exam. But he has very strict requirements for who he'll teach: you have to have failed at least five times.

See, the problem is, really good lawyers, who like to, you know, think about what they're doing, and are prone to coming at the law with creatively and insight, are the ones most prone to fail the exam repeatedly. They become great lawyers, once they pass, but the exam is stacked against them.

This is because the exam is designed to test very rote, memorized learning. If you drift even a little outside of the Right, True Way, you will be dinged on your answers.

So I'm assuming the five-tries requirement is to confirm that they're really committed to being a lawyer. Then what he does is that he takes these potentially-great proto-lawyers, and schools them in the robotic knowledge and framework necessary to pass the exam, which they can then discard and go on to do their greatness in their own way.

I wonder if there isn't something local to your province in your field that might be similar? If you want help exploring this, my Google-fu is reasonably strong, and I can be reached at the email address at the botton of my page, linked to my name above.

#143 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 05:52 PM:

the invisible one, #136: Re your crappy ex, a thought which you are free to ignore if not useful: is it possible that he was lying about the acting part and not about the lack of interest? IOW, could he have been genuinely interested in the things you liked at first, and possibly for several years thereafter, and then when he started to lose interest phrased it (whether deliberately or not) in a way that made it sound like he'd never been interested at all? Because IME most people have real trouble playing a part like that IRL for years and years; it seems to me much more likely that this is him being an unreliable narrator.

WRT the crappy ex-BF, though, I think you're spot-on. That was him playing a part until he'd found a place to park his dick, and then not wanting to put in the effort any more.

Type A Toad, #139: My sympathies on failing the exam. That really sucks.

I also give myself credit for telling her that I didn't want to talk about that right now. Needless to say, I'll be avoiding her phone calls for the next few weeks.

For some reason I hear this as your mother calling you up repeatedly with, "Can we talk about it now? Now? How about now?" like a kid in the back seat of a car. Which is doubtless way funnier in the abstract than it is when you're having to deal with it!

#144 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 06:23 PM:

December 1 (and accidentally the first of Advent :) so we're putting up the tree. :) I was happy, bouncing, excited about it. :) Then we started, and the toxic waste of Christmas Past started to stir...

Thank heavens for Awesome Spouse who's helping me to deal with it, move on (for a moment at a time), and still enjoy what should be a fun activity.

For context, one of the things I came to dread about Christmas was putting up the tree. Mom's a control freak with huge issues around traditions and my dad's clumsiness and family activities and... Add to that how nothing I ever do is good enough (and they wondered why I never thought my marks would be good enough, even though that's one of the few things they consistently praised me for) and so even a small problem with arranging the strings of lights makes me cry. So it's been a healing process to do our own damn tree our own damn way.

We've been married for seven years already (!!!! :) :) :) :) :) and I still have to deal with this garbage! :( But awesome spouse, and you guys to vent to, and it's good despite that. :)

As always, thanks for listening. :) And back at 'er!

#145 ::: Gerald Fnord ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 06:25 PM:

Every narrative I have identified has misled me about the world---perhaps I only notice that there were a narrative when it fails to be accurate, but regardless, it makes me wish to be beyond all narratives...I'd rather just know what I'd like to happen, estimate probabilities of its happening given different possible courses of action, the costs of those courses, and on that basis decide what to do.

I enjoy stories, but don't wish to have an accurate assessment of probabilities distorted by caring whether these assessments fit into a pre-existing narrative.

Religious experiences an acid trips seem to be ways in which people have quickly rid themselves of extant tapes, but they seem to immediately or rapidly find new ones.

#146 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 07:37 PM:

Things your abuser will never tell you.
Trigger warning for the obvious reason -- this is the Goddamn Tapes given voice. Feel free to add your own as needed.

Chickadee, #144: Yeah, I'm not surprised. Holiday Traditions get wrapped up (pun intentional) with a whole lot of family baggage, and then you have to deal with sorting it out once the family is no longer there to reinforce it. But yay for Awesome Spouse, and yay for creating your own non-toxic traditions!

#147 ::: CZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 07:54 PM:

@ the invisible one: Hi, I'm here, having been summoned. I really need a Space-Time telegraph.

You're welcome. /turns pink.

Now, to go read and catch up. (The really short explanation for my absence? Job changed. More hours, more responsibility, same pitiful amount of cash in my greedy hand. I'll probably have my piled higher and deeper by end of 2014 -- assuming I can't wiggle out of writing the fershugenler thing -- but since I'm not planning for anything like tenure track or whatever other use there is for sheepskin, it's feeling pretty hollow. (Insert recalcitrant two year old me here, stamping feet and yelling I don't wanna!) About the same time, a health thing in my household meant a 180 on diet and entirely relearning to cook because I'm the one in my household with a sense of smell. Which is a ginormous skill set. And far more difficult to learn given previous neural pathways. And family grr-argh that is in the process of being resolved, but may result in breaking one of my personal rules (rule 4 subset A: I will not live within 1000 miles of any person within 5 degrees of relation by blood or marriage). I also had a huge breakthrough in both of my arts, and it had to be chased, which took up the few hours that family, ancient Timex Kitty, and work left me. And yes, that IS the short version.)

Please be assured -- when I go dark, it's all me and my utterly screwy and totally random allotment of interpersonal spoons.

#148 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 08:38 PM:

Lee @146: Actually, reading those feels *good*, at this point. And I’ve got some to add to them, sometime. It hurt a lot at first to recognize them as truth, because that truth SUCKS, like pulling a sword out of a wound. But that truth is also LIBERATING. Now you can use that sword to defend yourself, and the wound can heal.

Once you know it is mistreatment beyond the bounds of what can be accepted or made amends for, and that it's not going to stop for anything you do, the shackles come off. There is no point in holding back, in handwaving away the harm by extending too much benefit of the doubt. The situation is always complicated, but one level of it can become very simple (though not easy!), and very clear. When someone hurts you, are you going to stay still for them to do it more? Or are you going to move? It’s up to you if you will dodge or parry, and exactly how, but that’s secondary. The primary question is, are you staying still and taking it (and if so, why?), or are you going to defend yourself?

Ooh. I think connections just got made. Somebody in DFD-land recommended books about the somatic approach to healing trauma, so I read a couple of them. You freeze in situations where your hindbrain thinks you can’t successfully fight or flee, as a last-ditch survival tactic. Trauma is what you get when a freeze never ends. To recover from trauma, the freeze must break, and your biochemistry reset to normal. The emotional journey above is analogous to that. So, does finding and recognizing the truth and nature of the emotional danger break the freeze, even if bit by bit? And from there, can you move through fight or flight, and back to normalcy?

#149 ::: Blue ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 10:33 PM:

Moonlit Night @148 - These books about the somatic approach to healing trauma, is there a list somewhere? I'd be interested in reading some of them.

#150 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 10:42 PM:

#139, Type A Toad: um, maybe? I've just started digging up some of the stuff the unhelpful counsellor told me and putting it in a list, so I'm not quite ready to start thinking about contacting new ones. Also, current temporary financial squeeze makes me feel like there's no sense in contacting them until the squeeze is over, because I can't do anything about it anyway.

#142, Jacque: What do you mean "getting to the point" where we can do both? I still have my tablet computer with a stylus and very good handwriting recognition, which I bought in 1998. :)

#143, Lee: There was other corroborating evidence. One piece was an old friend of his who visited while in town and couldn't figure out what on earth we were doing together, this didn't fit the person she had known. (And while I know that people do change, and especially they change *a lot* while in university, this was again, one piece of many.) Another was that he actually said to me, can't remember when exactly, that if he'd known up front it would take so long before we started having sex he wouldn't have hung around. (It was at least 5 years. Think maybe my lack of interest was a clue that he wasn't the right guy for me?)

Looking back, his acting had started breaking down quite a while before he said it, but I didn't notice it until much later. Or refused to. Or refused to take what I noticed seriously, more likely: as mentioned before, he latched onto the "you're overreacting" hooks my mother had installed when I was little and used them to great effect.

#147, CZEdwards: It was actually Chickadee who called you.

#151 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 11:41 PM:

Blue @149: They're by Peter A. Levine, whose site is . The two I bought were:

Healing Trauma -- the layperson's workbook, for trying to heal trauma through Somatic Experiencing on your own. I haven't had the spoons to really try this out, what with being re-traumatized by Housemate. (GRR!) Once life has calmed down enough to give this a real go, I am likely to report back, but that will probably be a few months from now.

In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness -- this is fairly technical. Seems to collect his previous work into one volume for medical staff to get up to speed on the topic. About an inch thick trade paperback and took some work to digest as a layperson.

#152 ::: the invisible one sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 12:24 AM:

parkas on a mission?

#153 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 12:43 AM:

(faint wheezy whimpering sound)

#154 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 06:44 AM:

TrishB @99: I am so, so sorry and you will be in my thoughts.

tamiki @101: I'm glad both that things went well and that you gained perspective that may be helpful going forward.

Jacque @103 et al: I am grateful! And also glad to have brought someone joy. I also enjoyed the Day of the Doctor to the point that it got some stuff in my eyes. Apparently Who has some sort of dust cannons that fire when I watch it. Your egg, incidentally, is quite lovely. That feeling of communion is one I miss; it has been sometime for me. Also, I did quite like that horoscope -- it was an entertaining read.

crazysoph @105: I am in awe of your linguistic mastery (I learned a smattering of Latin and a tiny amount of ancient Greek), and I greatly admire your reframing of your narrative.

the invisible one @106 et al: Someone needs to remind your doctor of the contents of her oath. You did the strong thing by walking out, and I hope that knowledge is helpful in fighting the toxic waste in your head. There is, indeed, a difference between being a drama queen and dealing with the toxic waste in your head, as Mongoose said in 110 more concisely and clearly than I could. (I am at a severe handicap writing online: you can't see my illustrative hand gestures.)

I think you are probably right about the different values of "everything" and how they were mistaken. I also think that while you may have made some missteps, you changing your behavior without knowing it was bothersome was not the only thing that could have gone differently.

eep @107: Unfamiliar kitchens are difficult at the best of times. With little planning time, curveballs, and resource limits, the effort can be titanic. I suspect Partner is quite right.

Mongoose @110: Yes, this!

Chickadee @112 et al: That last tip in 112 is one I am totally going to use in screening therapists. I am glad you are getting to enjoy Christmas, one clawed handful at a time.

Little John @113: I talk about family issues with New Beau. Actually, it's one of the important things for me in a relationship -- I need to be able to talk about what's going on in my head. If they can't handle that, they aren't right for me. I also enjoy listening to people work through things, so I'd imagine there's give and take. (Hell, I've left a couple of relationships because the people I was dating wouldn't talk to me about what was going on with them, and expressed disinterest in ever being able to do so.) The joy and wonder of relationships is that you get to define the dealbreakers for you!

Moonlit Night @118: I am glad Therapist is being sensible about this. And I like TexAnne's suggestion, though I also see you saying it won't work for you! Perhaps some variation on it that's more direct ("I have to do the work I'm responsible for before considering helping others"?)

slow learner @125: In that article I see my future.

Type A Toad @139: I'm sorry about your mother's reaction! Isn't that an awful thing to hear? The implied lack of faith is terrible.

CZEdwards @147: Good to hear from you!

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @153: Thank you!

HLN: Local Woman Survives Thanksgiving, None Harmed in Aftermath. With many thanks to the community here, I made it through a rather lonely Thanksgiving and spending the day after in the kitchen with Boy Roommate (we do not share kitchens well). There has been some conflict in intervening days (the parking situation came up again) but I am still standing.

#155 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 10:12 AM:

The Important Thing About Yelling. (Content note -- discusses verbal abuse, although it doesn't contain explicit quotations of verbal abuse.)

This essay actually made me cry -- not in a triggery way, but in a "recognizing real hurt" way. I glossed it for other friends as "I recognized myself in the mom and felt guilty," and there's truth to that, as I've talked about here before.

But the real reason I cried was that I recognized myself in the child. I recognized my own childhood terror that any sort of conflict -- mistakes, disagreements -- would cause a frightening, emotionally devastating bout of yelling. I wish so hard that my mother had been able to do what this mother did.

I know she saw that the yelling hurt me, and felt guilty. She had a yellowed newspaper clipping taped to her mirror throughout my childhood -- an ad from an anti-abuse organization that read, in a childish scrawl, "Words can hurt." But she didn't stop yelling.

I think she wasn't able to. Mental illness is a thing, and I've experienced it too -- the waves of emotion are so strong, overwhelming, and it feels like a physical need to scream and cry.

And yet. Why didn't she see the fear and pain in her child's eyes and decide "This has to stop. I don't know how, but I can't do this anymore. I have to get some kind of help" and do it? Why didn't she get any kind of treatment until I was almost a legal adult?

Clearly I have a lot of processing left to do about this.

#156 ::: Vrdolyak ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 01:40 PM:

Anon4Now @ 155: Oh, yeah.

I also recognized myself in that child.

I was, you see, a Mitten Loser. Even with alligator clips, I was a Mitten Loser. When I was 9 or so (we were living someplace with serious snow), I managed to lose a mitten, and I was terrified; I may have had to have been persuaded to go home.

But no. Maybe it was obvious how scared I was, but I was not yelled at. I was hugged.

Maybe I didn't get yelled at as much afterward. I'm still deeply conflict-averse, though.

#157 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 01:44 PM:

In re Anon4Now's link ... what I get out of that mother's description is wondering where in the everloving world a parent is supposed to find the wells of spoonage to stop having emotional reactions to things that massively complicate/destroy/despoon their day. Always. Because the way it's written, it's never ok for a parent to ever genuinely have an outward reaction to a lot of things that, if they happen in our house, hit me with internal brickbats of MESS! and FAILURE! and OH MY GOD I NOW HAVE ANOTHER 20MIN OF WORK AND WE WERE ALREADY LATE.

I agree, it's ideal and beautiful to be calm and supportive of one's child in these situations, I just don't know how it's even vaguely possible. :-/

#158 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 01:55 PM:

Thank you, everybody who responded to my worries. Thank you particularly to Moonlit Night at #129 and Jacque at #130 for the discussion of therapists and finding one's own people. I'm still working on that last one.

Keeping a journal has served me well over the years, but I believe I should at least try to find a therapist. There's only so much I can do by reflecting myself back to myself; I need an outside listener, so I can go, "Well, I screwed up this thing yet again, what am I not seeing here?" and hopefully have a useful discussion. Hell, even if I only get to talk to the therapist as a human complaints department, that would do me some good.

I've been avoiding looking for a therapist for the basic reasons--lack of money and time, a fear of the unknown, and the tendency to tell myself, "Other people have it worse than you, don't be a wimp." You know all those thousands of crappy New Yorker cartoons, where some self-pitying jerk lies on his shrink's couch and cries about how his mother never loved him? I didn't want to be that jerk.

There's also... Well, therapists are supposed to have moved on from authoritarian Freudian dickishness, but deep in my heart I'm afraid that if I go to a shrink, he (always he) will tell me I write poetry because I lack a penis, and then forbid me to read or watch SF and fantasy.

And then there was my father. Years ago, back when I still lived with my parents as a very unhappy adult, I was having a hard time and suffering from intrusive thoughts. I didn't know what was wrong with me and I was worried I was going crazy, so I asked my parents if I could go to a psychiatrist. My father flipped his shit. He made big tragic eyes at me and said that he supposed he could call up his own old psychiatrist from thirty years earlier and get a recommendation, but that he was filled with despair at the idea, because that would mean he'd failed. That would mean his own time in therapy had been useless, he had been a terrible father, and I was broken and damaged and he had ruined me and it had all been for naught. Pretty much in those words.

Long afterward, I told a friend about this moment.

"Can I use the a-word of your father?" she said.

"Asshole?" I said.

"Abusive," she said. "Well, that too."

So it's been long enough--and I've been reading these DFD threads and talking with friends about my past often enough--that I have some perspective and know that I'm not broken/damaged/a failed experiment. In my head, I know that. But there's a tiny voice deep down that does say going to a therapist will be an admission that I'm a failure.

After the whole YOUR GETTING HELP WILL REFLECT BADLY ON ME incident, I resorted to keeping an extensive journal and talking to my mother in private as if she were my therapist. This was reassuring for a while but ultimately didn't help at all--neither my mother nor the pages of my journal could do anything but reflect me back to me. Here we are back where I started this post: I think I've gotten all the therapy I can out of journaling. So Mom was a champion enabler, but the only thing that actually helped was my eventually getting out of there.

If I may be silly for a moment.

In the AGAINST THERAPY column:
--Means I'm weak
--Do I want to be a New Yorker idiot cartoon cliche? Hell no
--Costs moneys, unknown how much
--Therapist possibly may be Freudian blowhard
--Therapist would try to make me take medication, and I don't want medication, no offense to those of you who are on it, but all I want is someone to listen to me, discuss my problems, offer coping strategies and long term solutions, and possibly reassure me as well
--Narcissist Dad would disapprove
--Costs some free time
--And peace of mind, e.g. crying in front of people
--Doing just fine on own in denial
--Random people on the internet say talk therapy doesn't work
--Woody Allen famously has spent decades in therapy, is still a jerk

In the FOR THERAPY column:
--Someone to talk to who has to listen to me
--There's always room for improvement
--Being told, "You're not a freak, other people go through this" is immensely valuable
--If I do turn out to be broken/weird/a freak, better that I become aware now and fix it than live with it any longer
--Narcissist Dad need never know
--Who cares about Woody Allen? Not me
--Maybe the therapist would be an OK person
--The Internet could be wrong, how shocking
--Someone to listen to me, someone to listen to me, someone to listen to me

#159 ::: Vrdolyak ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 01:57 PM:

Bricklayer @ 157: Recognizing some of that woman's descriptions in me, too.

It is for the best that I did not spawn.

#160 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 03:15 PM:

the invisible one, #150: Ouch. WRT not hearing, or not paying attention to what you do hear, BTDT. My now-ex tried several times to tell me that he was unhappy with how things were going, and it went right past me until I thought back about it later, after the divorce. Which, needless to say, didn't make me feel any better.

Bricklayer, #157: As I read it, what she did was to eliminate a lot of other spoon-draining Stuff from her life, so that she would have the internal resources to not break down and lash out at her children. In fact, she says that fairly explicitly.

I also remember how, when I was working the Job From Hell, little frustrations at home would send me into fits of screaming hysteria because I had nothing left to deal with them -- I was using all my Cope up at the office. When I got out of that job, my home life became infinitely better.

Little John, #158: I am seriously Not Impressed with the New Yorker's ideas about people who need therapy. Portraying anyone who needs help as either weak and worthless or a complete jerk is shallow, disrespectful, and abusive.

Also, Woody Allen's "therapy" thing is part of his Schtick, and should not be taken seriously.

Narcissist Dad... so help me, I'd tell him about it and shame him, after what he did to you the last time. Yes, he WAS a terrible father who obviously didn't learn anything from his own therapy, and took it out on you. He kept you from seeking help years ago, and that IS his fault.

You can fire a therapist if they insist that you take drugs, or try to tell you that it's all your own fault and if you just give up your non-mainstream interests you'll be fine.

I am glad that you seem to be aware that most of the items in your "Against" list are Jerkbrain raising specious objections.

#161 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 03:47 PM:

Okay, following on my post @forgiveness/791: The HOA budget has finally hit. They are not doing an assessment. (Thank Ghu!) (But they don't promise that they won't.) But they are increasing the HOA dues by $53/month.

I'm close enough to the line now that this is really starting to pinch. (I realize that it's only pinching. I'm still okay. Just.)

I need a new job.

But first I think I'll just quietly have an anxiety attack.

#162 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 04:02 PM:

Check that. Let's go with "panic attack."

Gustav is losing weight, and has been yelling at me every hour for food, and then doesn't eat what I give her.

Snowflake is losing the use of her hind legs.

If I take them to the vet, it's gonna have to come out of savings. I can't burst into tears, because I'm at work.

#163 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 04:13 PM:

A quick comment re getting over internal blocks against seeking out psychotherapy/counseling.

A couple of books have become my friends on this front; reading them felt very helpful while I was first trying to come to grips with my immediate problems, and the other was helpful in giving me information on depression that, while not immediately relevant to my specific situation, did serve to help draw in a bit more of the map of the country I was about to embark more fully than before:

The Depression Book: or depression as an opportunity for spiritual practice


Noonday Demon: an atlas of depression

Neither book led me to a therapist per se but did give me a way to cope until I could make that decision.

Crazy(and sorry for such a lightning visit with so little engagement)Soph

#164 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 04:37 PM:

Deep breaths, Jacque. You can deal with this. Just take things one at a time.

#165 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 04:47 PM:

Sumana @ 83: Hi! Sorry, I catch up on this thread every few days. Yeah, what Type A Toad says is true, I didn't post anything on the last one because I just haven't had much to say.

Still no contact at all with my parents. I'm expecting the usual boundary-testing email on Christmas but that's it.

I've been having problems lately dealing with a narcissistic, micromanaging boss at work. I may end up leaving although I don't really want to.

That has me not really wanting to write any code when I'm at home. I've been putting off writing a couple pages of christmas present firmware for weeks, and I'm going to have to actually do that pretty soon. Instead what I've been doing is playing Kerbal Space Program and reading this, and another support forum on the same sort of thing.

Another thing is that my therapist is having me write my life story. I got up to age nine and I just can't make myself go any further. It's not happy to think about.

#166 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 04:50 PM:

Jacque: Wow, sympathies. I think, for me anyway, having a creature who depends on you not do well feels so much worse than being in a bad place yourself.

#167 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 06:01 PM:

Empathic people are natural targets for sociopaths.

101-level discussion of sociopathic abusers, with illustrations, so the usual trigger warnings.

#168 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 06:06 PM:

Jacque: *hugs*, and I hope both the piggies' health issues sort themselves out without expensive assistance from the vet.

#169 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 06:27 PM:

Jacque @162:: Double sympathies. No, let's make that triple: once each for Gustav and Snowflake, and once for you.

#170 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 06:28 PM:

Ross: Yes, definitely. And the next few years are going to be Real Challenging, because some folks are already at the beginning of the error bar for life-span, and the rest will be crossing that threshhold over the next year. But, you know, I knew that when I signed up.

abi: Yes. Thank you. :-)

#171 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 06:30 PM:

Mongoose & dcb: Thank you as well. Deep breaths.

#172 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 09:21 PM:

Jacque, good wishes for the guinea pigs. I admit, with sympathy rather than empathy. Allergies have always and probably will always prevent me from having a cute furry critter.

Little John @158:
Reading books (fiction and non-fiction) is also very good for making solo progress, while you’re broke or searching for people. They can still provide outside perspective and therefore insight. If a therapist advises (against) something because you’re female or your harmless interests are not mainstream, that’s probably a good sign to get up, get your money back, and leave. Same for someone who *pressures* you to take drugs, as opposed to having an intelligent discussion and making a suggestion/offer.

Wow, did your father ever do a good job of demonstrating that he cared more about his self-esteem than your health. I make no general claims, but I sure hope that’s not a representative sample. My own avoidance of therapists may have sprung from the unspoken therefore important rule that we don’t air the family dirty laundry with outsiders. Plus, people who are okay don’t need therapists, and We’re All Just Fine Aren’t We. If this cover-up routine sounds too familiar to you, I suggest that dirty laundry is for washing. If self-examination is hot water, then therapy is soap. Dirty things get so much cleaner with hot water *and* soap, don’t they?

Habitually telling yourself “other people have it worse than me” may also be a bad sign. It was for me. I’m still suspicious of gratitude. It served to disguise many wrongs I was only halfway aware of. When I complained about about things I didn’t have, it was often punished by enforced gratitude for not suffering as much as someone else distant in space and time. It was implied that someone else was a better and more deserving child. The variety of someone elses used for the exercise clearly indicated that all children both now and in all ages past were better and more deserving than me. You might think that would exclude contemporary North America, but no. To make enforced gratitude more relevant, there were many Parent’s Friend’s Child or Relative's Child examples. That’s a lot of people to be inferior to.

--Narcissist Dad would disapprove
--Doing just fine on own in denial
--Random people on the internet say talk therapy doesn't work

*snerk* I can’t figure out which of these I like best. I’m pretty sure my mother would agree with #2, which means it must be wrong.

--And peace of mind, e.g. crying in front of people
Yeah, that part is really strange for a while, but you don’t break down *all* the time, and doing it with carefully selected others creates more peace of mind in the longer term. Also, I find occasionally breaking down in front of one selected person to be easier on the nerves than the main alternatives. There's trying not to break down in front of people I need to impress or be professional with. There's breaking down in front of them anyway. And there's breaking down repeatedly in front of a group of near-strangers, as in the early stages of group therapy.

--Means I'm weak
Therapy isn’t what makes you weak. Nor is needing therapy. Emotional injury, inflicted by the abusive or the inconsiderate, is what makes you weak. In the same way as leaving broken bones unset to reknit any which way makes people lame.

--If I do turn out to be broken/weird/a freak, better that I become aware now and fix it than live with it any longer
We’re all freaks! Be weird and be proud! The greater granola welcomes you! (“Greater granola” is more inclusive, funnier, and harder for random bystanders to decode than our group’s original shorthand of bi-poly-pagan-gamer-geek. ;)

--Narcissist Dad need never know
--The Internet could be wrong, how shocking

*snerk* He’ll notice, at least in the long run. Because you’ll stop taking garbage from him because he’s Narcissist Dad.

#173 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 10:45 PM:

Jacque: I once semi-seriously considered getting a turtle, because I hate watching pets die, and a turtle I figured would probably outlive me.

Turtles really require a lot of space though. You need, like, a section of backyard devoted to turtle-habitat. They don't like the same environments we do, like cats.

#174 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 11:40 PM:

Bricklayer @ 157

Haven't read the article, as I'm fighting off stomach flu and at low spoon. But I do want to say, hopefully avoiding hlepiness, that for me, the major breakthrough was realizing that I didn't have to be perfectly perfect to still be amazing. Looking out for our daughter and trying to give her what I didn't have force me to consciously adapt to changing plans and unexpected turns of events; the calming mantra at our house is "age appropriate behavior," usually followed by a smile or a hug. Our daughter isn't responsible for my healing - it's her only job to grow up into the best person she can - but she has certainly contributed her own light and perspective to how I engage on questions such as timeliness and perfectionism.

#175 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 12:20 AM:

#103 ::: Jacque

Even worse at my end, if I have to raise my voice to be heard, there's a risk that I'll start getting angry.

#146 ::: Lee
The ten things your abuser will never tell you has been updated to twenty.

Effects of being abused by a narcissist-- I'm not sure how much of this is specific to being abused by a narcissist, but the parts about confusion are very vivid.

#176 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 02:26 AM:

Bricklayer @ 157, Anon4Now @ 155 et al - the article linked is one of a crazy-making species that combine to the suggestion that no, parents in general and mothers in particular are not, ever, permitted to allow their children to be upset. On certain parenting boards, the extreme versions of this play out as (usually) mothers set no boundaries whatsoever, and then begin to find their children unbearable. There's a spectrum of yelling, ranging from unpredictable terrifying outbursts to predictable, proportional response to uninformative silence. A sustainable place in the middle is better then swinging from one extreme to the other.

What I take away from that article is that Hands Free Mama was rotten at putting her breakables out of reach, didn't close up the rice properly, and freaked out way tons about spills, and is now being sanctimonious. In almost every one of the situations in which she yelled at the children, I wonder why she didn't control what was controllable (lid on the rice jar, clamp on the bag, pour the cereal yourself when you're in a hurry) instead of hoping for the best from chaotic children. By the end, she has evidently trained her children to offer her adult levels of emotional support. And tech support. Fascinating.

What you can take away from me is that no parenting narrative ever is free from some evidence of horrifying dysfunction.

Has anyone read the latest Bridget Jones novel? It's like a Valentine's card to parents.

#177 ::: Blue ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 02:59 AM:

Moonlit Night @151 - Thanks! I'll check into them.

#178 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 06:02 AM:

Jacque, sympathy, and hopeful thoughts for the pigs and job options.

#179 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 06:16 AM:

dcb @115 and iliad slightly awry @154: Thank you for the reinforcement of Partner's assurances. :)

By sunday night my mood had percolated from :( to grr.

We had a small vent session, in which we were both able to articulate some of the things that made us mad about the way our efforts were received, and the way things were handled from the other end in general. Felt much better after.

Once I had less of that simmering in my head, I was able to realize yesterday that a large chunk of my depressed, hugefail feelings were because I had an acute awareness (without her even saying anything) of all the ways I was, in my mother's book, Doing It Rong. I may not have the spoons to follow all The Rules, but I still carry a precise copy of The Rulebook around in my head, and failing, in her presence, to follow The Rules to the letter is anxiety-inducing. I can feel each instance reinforcing her opinion that I am incapable of... competence? adulthood? anything? She would never come out and say it, mind you, but it's always been there in the way she treats me.

Helps to have recognized it for what it was, and I would never have been able to do so without the awareness gained from reading these threads. Thank you! *attaches small bag of candied citrus to the exclamation point*
(I know the gnomes are enjoying a well-earned chance to put their feet up, but I suspect I will always think of them fondly whenever expressing gratitude.)

#180 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 07:10 AM:

RiceVermicelli @176 parents in general and mothers in particular are not, ever, permitted to allow their children to be upset.
(snip) I thought you were going to say, never permitted to allow themselves to become upset with their children.
In almost every one of the situations in which she yelled at the children, I wonder why she didn't control what was controllable

You may not have intended to imply this, but I read your post as saying that in any case where a child does something that annoys the parent, it is the parent's fault for not properly controlling either the environment or the child, and I disagree. Yes, children need to be taught limits in some age-appropriate way. And yes, the parent can reduce conflicts by avoiding an "attractive nuisance" (e.g. shiny breakables within reach of a toddler) or re-engineering around a regular point of contention (every child has his/her own, but this would include things like picking out clothes the night before or setting the alarm 10 minutes earlier).

But stuff happens. There are mishaps. People have bad days, kids as well as parents. And then the parent has to deal. I would say that managing the unexpected is one of the strongest requirements of parents.

Bricklayer, this may sound sarcastic, but it is sincere. I find that one of the things that helps me let go of anger is the headspace of "I feel so much better since I gave up all hope." It applies to things like getting somewhere on time. After enough interference, it is no longer possible to be on time. (Action plans requiring the use of a time machine must be reconsidered.) Since it isn't possible to be there on time, I can quit stressing about how to be on time. We can either be late and frazzled and angry, or we can be late and ruefully apologetic. I try to opt for ruefully apologetic.

As my youngest is now 19, I'm no longer following the parenting boards, thank $deity. I agree they can often be crazy-making in their smugness.

#181 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 10:07 AM:

Here's another one which turns out to be by the same author. It's been on my mind-- a friend linked to it because he didn't like it, but I was one of those kids who was generally being told to hurry up, and I've recently been working to undo the assumption that doing things right included doing thing faster than I can pay attention to them.

What would a reasonable middle ground for dealing with children look like?

#182 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 11:05 AM:

Jacque @130: I have not ever tried white noise tracks for daytime. I have a few sleep/ambient stations on the internet radio near the bed, though, which does help me slide into sleep despite random house noises. I shall have to go looking for downloadable white noise, several days worth, then make up two playlists: white noise only, and everything else. Or a generator app, or both. Work IT has done a good job of blocking internet radio, so I can't use that. (I forgive them; it's federal government. I bet they buy connectivity in bulk based on real use,. At the scale of the public service, even a small percentage of habitual radio-listeners might use enough bandwidth to drive up costs.)

I had figured out that relationship quality at least partly predicts annoyingness of noises. But there's at least one other variable, which is probably to do with spoons left or amount of time spent lately in an overly noisy environment, translating into a need for rest. Rest tends to mean some combination of peace, quiet, sleep, alone time, story time, and cuddles. I run out of oomph for things involving work and decision-making, like running the household, and even fun ones, like side projects and games. That was all stuff I knew, but had never fully connected the dots on. Moving then Housemate has been a major drain, by that measure, because all my projects, even fun things, have been so very stalled. The same may apply to Partner, at least somewhat, because *his* recent amusements have been the lower-effort things, compared to what he meant to be doing. This may be partly because we have to do some serious cleaning and unpacking to make craft space first, but still...

Universe, we need some rest and recovery. Keep the bills low, give us some energy to get ready to rent out rooms, send us a *good* housemate or two (and no more lousy ones!), and have the good ones stick around.

#183 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 11:58 AM:

Moonlit Night @172: (“Greater granola” is more inclusive, funnier, and harder for random bystanders to decode than our group’s original shorthand of bi-poly-pagan-gamer-geek. ;)
That is simply delightful; may I steal it?

Jacque: My sympathies. :( *sends internet heals to Gustav and Snowflake*

All, everyone: strength to them as need it. Hugs to them as want it.

#184 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 12:08 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @181, honestly, I think the answer is "it depends." I think that all kids should have time in which they are not hurried. I think that, as much as it's structurally possible, a parent should not plan a schedule that they know requires routinely hustling kids from one time-dependent thing to the next. But I also think kids need to learn to be time-sensitive - which is actually probably easier if they are sometimes asked to hurry, but not always required to.

On the other hand, kids also need to learn that (a) time spent dawdling is time not available for other things, so if it takes you half an hour to get your coat on and get out the door for the playground, there will be less time to spend at the playground, (b) your use of time affects other people, so complying with expectations that you will be on time is part of learning to live cooperatively, and (c) some schedules have less flex than others; the airplane is not going to wait for you.

My view on this is colored by my experience with my younger daughter with special needs; she's now 19 but functions as younger. And I have become more and more aware that, as with a need for time machines, any plan that requires asking her to hurry is a bad plan. It will result in meltdowns. It also creates a kid who constantly looks at her watch and asks if we're going to be late but doesn't actually move any faster.

#185 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 12:14 PM:

Ricevermicelli, #176: Yes and no. You may be right about her not doing enough child-proofing, but IMO the entire point of that story is that she did change what was controllable -- her own actions. And one of the ways she did that was by backing out of the rat race as much as she could, so that she would have more spoons for coping with the inevitable disasters that come with having small children instead of taking her own frustrations out on them.

One definition of insanity is "continuing to do the same thing while expecting different results". She chose to do something different. It may not have been the same "different" that someone else would have chosen, but at least she did manage to change her behavior. After dealing with my parents -- who never did manage to catch a clue about their own behavior -- for so many years, I have to view that as admirable.

Nancy, #181: One thing I can't stress enough about reasonable child-rearing is be able to apologize to your child. Every parent is going to screw up now and then. What's important is that, when you recognize that you've screwed up, you give your child the respect due another person and apologize for the screwup. It seems like such a small thing, but there are so many parental-advice sources out there which say that a parent should never apologize to their child, and I can't think of any better way to teach a child that they and their feelings don't matter -- worse, that they deserve to be treated badly.

#186 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 12:27 PM:

Lee @185: I agree about the apologies. For all Mom's faults, she always apologized when she realized she'd hurt me. And although she might not have understood why I was hurt, she apologized. And this in turn taught me how to apologize, and to do so sincerely.

That is one thing I am forever grateful to her for. And it drives me batty when an Authority says you should never apologize. Like you say - how to raise a squeezee.

#187 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 12:55 PM:

#185 ::: Lee

I've noticed that I'm most impatient after I've been procrastinating. I'm pretty sure that's a separate factor from how objectively frustrating the current situation is.

#188 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 12:57 PM:

When people solve a personal problem, they're very apt to overestimate how much their solution will apply to other people.

#189 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 02:39 PM:

OtterB @ 180, Lee @ 185, I think the reason I got to "control what's controllable" is because I think the author was so far from that point. Children aren't all that controllable, but ordinary child clumsiness (which dominates the examples) is quite predictable, and putting a good lid on the rice jar is an easier solution then the one the author proposes, which appears to be "gently mama, just stop earning all that stressful money and be a better person."

Getting commitments out of one's life is hard (they became commitments for a reason). Stepping in and taking a child off a high stool is usually less hard. Ceasing all yelling involves a bunch of practical steps like examining the roots of your reactions, and getting help. Children do need to learn appropriate behavior and boundaries, but they don't necessarily need to practice on things that make their parents cry.

(My kids are 4 and 6. I yell sometimes, but generally I find my kids really entertaining.)

#190 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 03:05 PM:

RiceVermicelli @189, I'm amused by your "just stop earning all that stressful money" summary. That's certainly a subtext in many of its genre, and if I follow too far down that road, remembering the smug self-satisfaction of parenting boards when I used to read them, it will raise my blood pressure even though my youngest is now 19.

I was, I think, reading into your post an implication of "well, if you were an adequate parent you'd do a better job of childproofing the environment and and you wouldn't have these problems." Which was not what you said.

I don't think I'm alone in finding that I am highly sensitive to anything I can remotely interpret as U R RONG JUST DO IT MY WAY on the topic of parenting. Which, I suppose, is what Bricklayer was saying in the first place.

#191 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 05:37 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @175: Effects of being abused by a narcissist

Avoidance - of places, sounds, tastes, and songs that remind them of their abuser or the abuse. Intense feelings of anxiety even in anticipation of having to revisit the memories.


As I think I've mentioned elsewhere I've got a lot of capital-I Issues around work and jobhunting. Reading the above, I suddenly flashed on this.

Apparently the family nothing-to-sneeze-at fortune got tangled up in this mess, and when the whole thing collapsed, we were obliged to leave town in somewhat of a hurry. I'm told that my mother actually came close to divorcing my father over this. I would have been three or four at the time.

I can't help but wonder if this is the root of my terror of the whole World Of Work thing.

#192 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 07:19 PM:

Some therapists are not licensed to prescribe drugs. I suppose one could avoid psychiatrists with an M.D. degree if that is a concern.

If I ever go for therapy, I would filter in the opposite direction. I'd want an M.D. even if I didn't expect to need medication, because my attorney says that professional confidentiality is better established for medical doctors than it is for non-medical counselors.

#193 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 07:45 PM:

Lee, thank you for your remarks at #160 particularly. It's easy for me to imagine that if I start going to a therapist, I'd have to do what the therapist said, accept his/her opinions as fact, and take orders. File this under Fear of the Unknown--or Fear of the Partly Known.

New Yorker cartoons about seeing the shrink are bullshit. You all know what I'm talking about, right? The kind of cartoon where some poor schmoe is lying on a couch and whining, while a shrink who looks like Sigmund Freud acts jaded and sick of the whole thing. The net effect of seeing a lot of this sort of cartoon over the years has encouraged me to think that other people will judge me/laugh/think I'm a self-indulgent whiner for going to a therapist. I don't actually think it does mean those things, but I do worry what other people will think of me.

The only seeing-the-shrink cartoon I've ever liked is the old Far Side cartoon where a patient is rambling to his psychiatrist, and you see the doctor writing down on a notepad: Just plain NUTS!!! Yeah, I know it's the same kind of thing, but the difference is that I feel that it's on my side--the cartoonist is like me, worried about his own therapist coming to the same conclusion.

Talking about internalized narratives. I'm a big fan of monster movies and supernatural and monster-centered horror. Ever since early childhood, I've loved it. And I have long since noticed that the therapist is always the villain in supernatural horror movies. Always, always, always, therapists either are nonexistent or they're useless/evil and you'll wind up in a worse situation than you started. The psychiatrist in Cat People goes from being a creeper to an attempted rapist, the one in The Wolf Man futzes around telling the hero he's overtired and needs to catch up on his sleep, when really the problem is the hero is a goddamn werewolf. The psychiatrist-like Dr. Gogol from Mad Love gaslights, stalks, and attempts to murder his patient. The therapist seen by the hero in The House That Dripped Blood tells him it's all in his head, when the real problem is that there's a creepy guy stalking him. The list goes on and on. My point is that other people out there have the same deep emotional connection to the truths in horror movies that I do. And since we tend to identify with the monster, all these evil therapist characters are sending us a potent message: don't try that avenue of escape, you'll just make things worse for yourself. I hadn't thought all this out till just now.

#194 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 08:06 PM:

#192 ::: Allan Beatty

There are therapists who are Licensed Social Workers-- my previous therapist was LSW and an RN.

My current therapist is has various massage trainings and does Somatic Experiencing (Peter Levine's system for learning the path out of stuck traumatic reactions).

#195 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2013, 10:35 PM:

Ok, I think I have the mental space to go way way back to that discussion about the small interactions.

First is that I'm generally fine with in-person chit-chat, once the conversation gets started, so my objection isn't that the words aren't deep and meaningful.

I definitely see "hi how are you" as rote in nearly all circumstances, just a formula to speak to people as the day goes by, usually ignorable because it's ritual not meaningful. I dislike the part about saying "fine" when I'm not (it's *lying*!!) but I don't want to get into detail either with the person asking, the people in earshot, the location, or some other reason, so I say it anyway. Or, more usually, "I'm ok."

But both of those are for in-person interactions. The bulk of my friends group tends to be people I see in person regularly for whatever reason other than that we're friends. Mostly "group friends", who I enjoy chatting with at the events but never see outside of the group context.

The part I have the real problem with is in reaching out and starting some of these small interactions with somebody I don't see regularly. As hope in disguise said in #12, worried that I will not have anything to say that is worth hearing, or that they won't care enough about me, or or or. I have even found myself starting an email then deleting it, asking myself why they would care about what I'm telling them, and not being able to come up with an answer. And so, I don't talk to a good friend for years, because our paths no longer cross in the normal course of our days. Until I need to ask her a favour, then I feel guilty for coming out of nowhere only to ask for something.

So I guess you could say (despite how I phrased it at first) that I know that these small interactions weave relationships together, but I can't see where my thread belongs. Or that I don't feel it really belongs anywhere, so why try to weave something that isn't connected?

Which comes down to: what's the point [they won't be interested].

#22, Sumana Harihareswara: I remember hearing about an experiment in long-distance communication that found something that worked surprisingly well for "I'm thinking about you"-type contact: two people who like each other have buttons and lights set up. When Person A hits her button, a light near person B comes to life, then the glow slowly fades. And same vice-versa. The message is simply "I thought about you."

Why does that make me think of FB "pokes"? I find those annoying and ignore them. Maybe those lights were set up differently, and less obnoxiously.

* My goal was to let these people know that I was thinking of them and enjoy hanging out with them, and to amuse them a little, and I succeeded
* I didn't make any of them feel obligated, to respond or do anything else - there was no question for them to answer and I wasn't telling them that I needed something from them

That really hits my "why bother" reaction. Again, for the reason that I can't figure out why somebody would want to hear about some boring thing that I'm doing. Why should somebody care what the weather is like where I am?

I'm not trying to be negative or say that any of these descriptions are wrong, they just don't ping anything in me that I recognize, and I'm trying to parse out why.

The only explanation I've come up with so far is that I believe that nobody is actually all that interested in what I'm doing, because I'm boring and invisible. Despite the way that people seem to be happy to hear from me when I do find a reason to contact them that gets past my "why would they care?" barrier. (I am always sincerely surprised when people remember me.)

#196 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2013, 12:36 AM:

a drive-by

a friend of myself - i have mentioned him here before - is so devoid of hope, feels so hopeless, that he says he won't hurt himself because he would probably screw it up. but he doesn't want to exist. i just spent two hours ish talking/hugging/lullabying and am now in the long, slow, freefall descent. i got him to tomorrow. but what next? how long? what if something happens when i'm home for the holidays? i'm the only person he trusts enough to talk about what's really wrong.

#197 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2013, 12:44 AM:

the invisible one @195, the things you are saying make a lot of sense to me, resonate, rhyme. i am figuring out that some people think i am important, but the ones i do not contact regularly, and who do not contact me spontaneously... their pleasure to talk to me is always strange.

#198 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2013, 08:32 AM:

hope in disguise @183: of course you may steal "greater granola". I stole it from a friend, and it's unclear if he invented it or stole it himself. He travels enough that he may have stolen it and forgotten to tell me the origin story, but he also has the right sense of humour to have invented it.

#199 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2013, 12:43 PM:

hope in disguise: My sympathies. That's a hell of a load to bear.

You got him to tomorrow, possibly more than once from the sound of it; that's an accomplishment. It won't be easy, but you can get him to the next day, too. As for the holidays, make sure he has your phone number and knows he can call you if he needs it.

The phone system my fiancee and I used while we were still long-distance was that if one of us called, got voicemail, and immediately called again, the other should call back as soon as possible. Something like that could save you having to break off a realspace conversation immediately but still let you make the time to talk to him.

My fiancee was and is prone to some truly nasty bouts of bad brain weather, so I very much know the feel. It's not easy work, helping someone hold it together until tomorrow, but it's worthwhile.

#200 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2013, 05:42 PM:

@198, in re greater granola; a term we use in this household to describe our parenting philosophy is "evidence-based crunchy." We're not out on the no-proof-available ends of the spectrum, but we do some attachment parenting things (because of developmental psych findings) and did baby-led weaning and extended BFing, and suchlike. We're not quite crunchy-granola parents by my mother's old standards (I should note that a lot of my mom's friends when I was little, who had kids my age, were aging hippies who took their crunchiness SERIOUSLY), but kind of in that direction.

#201 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2013, 07:25 PM:

Bricklayer: Elaborate, when you have the spoons, please? This sounds potentially interesting.

#202 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2013, 07:38 PM:

Jacque: If you participate in parenting boards online (something I would not unconditionally recommend), there are often Two Opinions About Things. One is the 'mainstream' or 'conventional' opinion (what's recommended in big-name parenting books like What To Expect; what the massive parenting-stuff industry would like to sell you stuff to facilitate) and one is the 'crunchy' or 'alternative' opinion (broadly speaking, think of what a hippie would do. And sometimes go eight steps further nature-goddess than that).

I find either approach to be an equally bad fit for our family. For one thing, the actual good evidence from well-organized studies sometimes comes down on the 'conventional' side and sometimes on the 'crunchy' side. Because I was raised recycling and being nature-conscious, my default assumption is reasonably crunchy, but there are Canonically Crunchy opinions I do not hold -- for example, my child consumes refined sugar in moderation; we vaccinate early and often in this household; we don't cloth-diaper.

I would call myself crunchy in in-person parent interactions to sort of signify that we're not all about Brands and Princess Culture and cheetos in our house, but it feels icky to me to do so because of some of the wackadoodles that also call themselves Crunchy, and the prevailing cultural norms on parenting boards along the No True Scotsman kind of lines.

So we're science crunchy, or evidence-based crunchy in the formulation I'm most comfortable with. There's a lot of 'crunchy' parenting practices that DO have lots of good datasets backing up their effectiveness, and I am willing to be persuaded (for or against) if new evidence turns up.

Any given parenting board is often primarily on one side or the other of this division, and people expressing contrary opinions can get dogpiled upon in a really horrific way. I am very glad to have found several online havens full of diverse parents who don't shame each other for making different parenting choices -- "Your Kink Is Not My Kink But Your Kink Is OK" tolerance.

#203 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2013, 08:06 PM:

Refined sugar in moderation is probably a very good idea.

There was a "readers write" section in The Sun about sugar, and no sugar in the house had a high corelation with bingeing.

#204 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2013, 08:34 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @203: That was my experience as a child watching the behavior of kids from the aforementioned crunchy-granola households headed by my mom's hippie-er friends ... whereas my kid has more than once turned down ice cream in favor of more main-course, because -- for one reason probably among many -- I have let her consume sweets to excess and get a stomachache from it, then explained to her what happened, so she can learn to listen to her body's hunger signals.

We also don't call non-desserts 'real food' in our house like some families I know. Instead, I tell her that snacky sweety crunchy salty yum type foods "won't make you not hungry", and suggest that we eat some more filling foods "that will give you good energy and help you grow" first and have the tasty-but-insubstantial foods after, and not instead.

I try like the dickens to not have very many Absolutely Completely Forbidden At All Times prohibitiony-sorts of policies, because prohibitions only make bootleggers.

#205 ::: Bricklayer needs a nym rescue ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2013, 08:36 PM:

Since participating under two names in one thread is a really bad idea, though nothing in @204 needs to be anonymized from my main view-all-by.

#206 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2013, 08:55 PM:

Hope in disguise: you have done a good thing and I am glad you did. At this point, I think that both you and your friend would be well served to look for resources to help him-- you can get him to tomorrow by psychological force, but you will wear out or be unavailable at some point. This is not a one-person job.

The best thing you can do for him may be to point him toward the Suicide Prevention Hotline or similar resources. It's not abandoning him or ignoring your responsibility to suggest that he needs more help than you can provide.

#207 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 12:10 AM:

@Hope in disguise no. 196: This may be relevant to his experience.

It may also be relevant to yours. The bystanders in Allie Brosh's comic all seem to be relentlessly hlepy doofi, but the most helpful bystander in the world still can't do as much as a doctor can. Please tell any guilt that is knocking on your heart that it is basically demanding that the plumber in Row 30G magically know how to land the plane.

#208 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 01:17 AM:

Bricklayer @205:


#209 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 02:26 AM:

hope in disguise, an addendum: My advice was in no way meant to make you feel like you should carry the weight of your friend's problems on your own (which I realise now it kinda does). But it is possible to be there for him and pull him back from the brink even when you're not physically there. I wanted to offer a way to get through the holidays, and to keep helping him until he finds someone else to turn to/when that person may not be available.

#210 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 02:40 AM:

The saga of Fiancee's Parents: She called her mother tonight to let her know a package they'd sent got here, and came away feeling rather flat. She also noted that her father sounds more comfortable with me-in-the-picture things overall, and wondered if he told her mother they were re-establishing contact and including me without giving her a chance to nix it. Her mother, she says, doesn't like challenges to her worldview, and here's me being a big one - I'm neither a stereotypical lesbian nor a Terrible Person! Film at eleven!

But her father is willing to be challenged, and my best guess is he realised either he was wrong, or that fighting this particular battle would cost him his daughter and that cost wasn't worth it.

They may drive up for a Christmas visit as well; that's still up in the air, and I have no idea what we'd do for food in that case (they have seen our apartment, and that we can neither effectively host nor cook anything large-scale). But it at least sounds like they won't try to whisk her away to their house for another open-ended Christmas visit.

Good. I'd like to start having our holiday traditions one of these years.

In other news: I think we've finally conquered the hydra of our downstairs neighbor. Eight months into our lease, she suddenly took issue with us daring to make noise over her head (like... accidentally dropping things and walking around on ~100-year-old hardwood floors). Management's on our side in this battle - she's successfully driven people out of this unit before - and after her banging on her ceiling with her cane three times this past weekend and me mentioning that when I took the rent in, I'm daring to hope she finally got the message.

#211 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 03:41 AM:

Welp, I just had a relentlessly cheerful conversation with Girl Roommate about the shower battles -- we're in a 1.5-bath house with limited hot water, and she showers before work, and when it's below 70 she also showers after work. Except she schedules so tightly that Boy Roommate and I have taken to showering at night so that we won't be in her way if she is running late in the morning (or afternoon, her shifts change). So her second shower empties the hot water heater when it's at its heaviest load. I asked politely (via IM, so she can't yell or throw things, which I find triggering) that she either finish before 10 so Boy Roommate and I have water to shower around 11 and midnight respectively, or if she needs to shower later that she ask to make sure we had gotten our one shower a day first.

She said she'd just never shower at night ever again and I can hear her crying through the wall. I replied to the effect of "Okay, if you think that's best! Thanks!" and look forward to a hot shower before 3AM going forward. I am beginning to suspect I have lost all my sympathy for her.

#212 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 05:57 AM:

iliad slightly awry @211:

Rule of thumb: people who are cold are more emotionally fragile than people who are warm. (Also, people who are emotionally fragile feel the cold more. Humans. We're weird.)

This is probably exacerbating the quarrel. Which is not to say that you're anything other than completely in the right to insist on being able to take a warm-enough shower at least once a day. Quite the reverse. But it's probably a contributing factor to the emotional load on the topic.

Maybe you should give her a hot water bottle for Christmas?

#213 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 07:29 AM:

Iliad @211: I found myself feeling a distinct lack of sympathy at the point where you were having to communicate with your roommate via IM because that way she can't yell and throw things.

Unusual requirements, tight scheduling, shared living space: pick two at most.

Shared living space, default negotiation style involves yelling and throwing things: pick zero.

And if a polite request that she either (1.) finish showering by a set time, or (2.) check to see whether her roomies have gotten their showers, is an occasion for overblown renunciations and sobbing in her room, she really isn't fit for shared housing arrangements.

#214 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 07:40 AM:

iliad, slightly awry @211:

She said she'd just never shower at night ever again and I can hear her crying through the wall.

Holy overreaction, Batman. Yikes.

tamiki @210: Triple-huzzah for progress! I am trying to work up the nerve to have the "I Am In An Unconventional Relationship" conversation with my dad at some point over the holiday season, but have not successfully managed it yet.

hope in disguise @196: Thoughts, for both you and your friend. I don't think there is any way to give advice that's not hlepy, but I have been on both sides of that interaction before, and I know how valuable you are to him right now and how exhausting this is for you. Do not forget your own oxygen mask.

invisible @195: YMMV; here are the ways I keep lines of communication open with people who I don't see every day. Most of my dear-but-far friends, I have on some kind of Social Network, so I am vaguely aware of things going on in their lives, and therefore will drop them occasional notes of "I saw on the internet that X good thing happened in your life, and I'm really happy for you!" (or, alternatively, "I saw X bad thing happened, and I'm saddened for you. Let me know if I can do anything.")

Most of my dear-but-far friends are also in the same career field/ hobby, and therefore I write a lot of "Dear ABC, my friend XYZ is going to be at [Professional Event], same as you, and I think you'd get along very well; go on and say hi to each other" sort of notes.

And, the last, is that when I find a musician or a book or even a cool website that reminds me of one of my dear-but-far friends, I write them and say "Have you discovered X yet? I think you'd really like it."

For me, these don't ping my "why bother" meter the same way that Facebook pokes do ... possibly because it's not generic in the same way. There's a lot of similarities amongst my friends, but when I recommend a book or introduce two people, it's because there is something specific that will appeal to YOU, my dear friend, and I would not recommend that book to anyone else for that reason. It's not just thinking of the other person, it's thinking of them with some degree of care and, hopefully, accuracy.

#215 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 09:00 AM:

hope in disguise @ 197

That is a good and important thing you are doing for your friend.

Let me tell a story.

My years in college were really bad years, for a lot of reasons. I am completely sober and serious in saying that if it wasn't for the kindness of one particular friend, I would be unlikely to have graduated reasonably sane and functional. She was and is one of the kindest people I know. She talked to me when most people found me uneasy-making; she pointed me toward resources that she knew of and some of them helped quite a lot; she helped me have enough light to keep going. (Note that we never dated--she was "only" a friend.)

She had spent most of her high school years feeling like your friend does.

#216 ::: slow learner ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 10:44 AM:

iliad @211, what I like about how you handled that is that it works whether she's trying to manipulate you or if she's just too emotionally volatile for you to reasonably accommodate.

If she burst out sobbing because she can't control her emotions, then you did her a favor by leaving her alone to get under control by herself.

If she was sobbing loudly deliberately so you could hear her and rush to comfort her and apologize for setting a perfectly appropriate boundary, then you didn't enable her but you still weren't unnecessarily mean. By not acknowledging the crying and by cheerfully telling her to skip the shower if she thought that was best, you gave her the option of a graceful retreat.

Either way, you maintained both your boundary and the high ground.

#217 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 01:01 PM:

Piggy update: Well, Snowflake isn't exactly what you call "spry," but after several days of having meals served on the lower floor that she tends to inhabit, she actually turned up at the top of the ramp, waiting for dinner last night, which I take as an improvement. I speculate that her issue is some kind of injury, which has improved with rest. I've locked her and her two housemates into the upper floor, partly because it's warmer up there (I think), and partly because it's easier for me to get at them if I need to. So: rest continues, but I'm hoping this will be sufficient.

Gustav now has a wee heater in her bed, and has been yelling at me much less stridently. I bought copious wheat grass, and have been giving her a handful every time she pipes up. (I forgot to see if she ate her dinner from last night, drat it.) So I think she's doing better, too. (And about damn time; her little ribs are showing quite alarmingly.)

So I canceled the vet appointment we had scheduled for tomorrow (after verifying that she's on over the weekend), and we're going to motor along and hope for the best for a few days. (BTW, a vet that has weekend office hours is a pearl beyond price.)

So, tentatively, whew?

Bricklayer @202: There's a lot of 'crunchy' parenting practices that DO have lots of good datasets backing up their effectiveness


Any given parenting board is often primarily on one side or the other of this division, and people expressing contrary opinions can get dogpiled upon in a really horrific way.

Interestingly, this pattern seems to hold for pet fora, as well. Some years ago, I posted about having pulled JJ back from an ailment that had killed any predecessor that had it, and immediately got landed on in the strongest terms for "OMG breeding guinea pigs!!!" Which, in principle, I understand, as there are a lot of gps who meet bad ends because of overpopulation. But he was born in my house and will stay in my house, so we're not adding to the orphan population. Not good enough: my breeding pigs means I'm not adopting pigs that need homes! (Ignoring the fact that I wouldn't be adopting those pigs, anyway. ::sigh::)

204: prohibitions only make bootleggers.

Heh. Deep insight, here. One could wish it were more universally recognized.

Diatryma @206: to Hope in disguise The best thing you can do for him may be to point him toward the Suicide Prevention Hotline or similar resources.

Or, if you have the spoons, call them yourself and ask if they have specific recommendations for a "friend of," as well as recommendations for him directly.

tamiki @210: But her father is willing to be challenged, and my best guess is he realised either he was wrong, or that fighting this particular battle would cost him his daughter and that cost wasn't worth it.

Good on her father! And extra points to him for standing firm against her mother!

In other news: I think we've finally conquered the hydra of our downstairs neighbor. Eight months into our lease, she suddenly took issue with us daring to make noise over her head (like... accidentally dropping things and walking around on ~100-year-old hardwood floors).

Heh. 'Minds me of a downstairs neighbor we had when I was in Minneapolis. Constantly filing complaints about us "doing karate in the middle of the night."

Which was puzzling because, while I did do some karate practice (!), it was never after 10pm, and I never did any moves that made any noise on the floor at all.

After some few go-rounds, I finally sussed out a few things: (1) this was evidently a couple who found themselves unexpectedly living in an apartment after having had their own house for years. Something in their demeanor suggested strongly this was not a voluntary change. (2) Mr. Downstairs Neighbor was an alcoholic (whether it was a pre-existing condition was impossible to say), which did nothing to his reasonableness or diplomacy. And (3) the "karate" he was hearing was actually the newspaper carrier, galloping madly up and down the hallways of the building, at 3am-ish. Which I hadn't even noticed until I was wondering what Mr. DSN was on about.

Oh yeah: and the other thing this guy objected to? Us walking on our floor. :-\

Merricat @214: Holy overreaction, Batman. Yikes.

Not to disagree, but I'm far to well acquainted with that head-space. Where Any Little Thing will tip me over into a tantrum. I agree with abi, it's good to be mindful of where she's coming from. But I also agree with Teresa, that it's really good to not get that all over the people around you.

#218 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 02:37 PM:

Jacque: We've been resisting the urge to either take up Stompy Exercise or throw a DDR party (though we'd be within our rights to do either); the thing that's gotten us the whole time is that everyone else in the building finds us super-quiet! This past weekend also included the first time she's fussed when we were rather noisier than usual - we had company over and nowhere to set up dice-rolling shenanigans except on the living room floor.

The couple of times the lady confronted us directly she made a fuss about how she goes to church. Which... first, is no guarantee of overall character, and second, so do we (it also turned out her service starts later than ours!). We'd had enough of that by July and talked to management then; since then she hasn't directly talked to us, just banged on her ceiling hard enough we feel the vibrations for every perceived slight.

But we have a right to obey the laws of physics in our apartment without being harassed for it.

#219 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 02:44 PM:

#214, Merricat:

Some of those would make it past my "but why would they care?" filter, some wouldn't. If they post about something on a social media thing that I am also on, if I reply, I will reply there.

(And FB "pokes" don't trigger my "why bother", they trigger my "that's really obnoxious I don't want to see them".)

#212, abi:

(Also, people who are emotionally fragile feel the cold more. Humans. We're weird.)

I've noticed that. The thermometer says exactly the same thing, but the times when I'm most hurting and emotionally raw are the times I need a sweater or a blanket, and sometimes even start shivering. Which has been off and on the last two weeks. Normally I'm tolerant enough of the cold that multiple people have commented on it, wondering aloud how I'm not cold in whatever situation.

Last night I really noticed it. Had another [shared interest] class, didn't manage to avoid him and ended up partnered for a few minutes. Discovered that I can't yet handle normal interactions with him -- because or despite the fact that he was acting exactly the same as he always had, before we started dating and while we were. Smiling, helpful, and all the stuff that makes him a good partner in class.

I got home and lay on the floor and cried on my cat for a while. At least I made it home before crying. And then I had to put on a sweater for the rest of the evening.

#220 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 03:16 PM:

tamiki: she made a fuss about how she goes to church.

Probably not one of the "holy roller" types. :-)

the invisible one: Coupla points on "feeling the cold:"

Apparently direct infrared sensing by the skin accounts for something like 30% of our perception of ambient temperature. This is why a fireplace or space heater provides a disproportionate sense of warmth, even if it doesn't raise the room temperature noticeably. (For myself, my bed doesn't start feeling "warm" until my body heat has warmed it enough that it starts reflecting back IR.)

The other is that stress (emotional, physical, etc.) tends to cause peripheral blood-flow to shut down, and will increase the sensation of cold.

Both of these are from memory, but others here with more formal training in physiology can probably follow up with actual facts.

So yeah: emotional upset makes me cold, too. (Which reminds me, I keep meaning to pull out my space blanket.)

#221 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 03:43 PM:

iliad, #211: Joining the chorus to say you handled that well. Whether it was intended as emotional blackmail or not, this is behavior you don't want to encourage by giving it attention.

I must admit that I was mightily confused by the "she showers after work if it's below 70" thing; I could see feeling hot and sticky after work and needing an extra shower in hot weather, but not in cold. abi's #212 cleared that up ("Oh, she wants a hot shower because she's cold"), but now I'm confused for a different reason. Hot showers simply do not work as a warming-up device for me; first, I have to undress in the cold air to get into it, and then there's that whole evaporative-cooling thing, which pretty well counteracts any warmth benefit I could have gotten from the shower as soon as I get out! If I'm cold, what I desperately want is either a jet of warm air, or more layers, or both. And the warmest layer I've ever found is a fleece blanket or throw.* They drape well enough to seal off cold-air leakage around the edges and provide excellent insulation. And you can get a fleece throw very cheaply by looking for a couple of yards of remnant at the fabric store, because fleece doesn't ravel at the edges.

Merricat, #214: Facebook "pokes" get the same response from me as my father's long whiny "why haven't you CALLED me?" messages on the answering machine used to: IGNORE, because this is behavior I do not want to encourage. It's juvenile and rude, like the bully who sits behind you in class and keeps poking you in the shoulder. (Even calling it a "poke" is an acknowledgement of this IMO.)

Unlike some of my friends, I do not live on Facebook, nor is it my primary online community. I go days at a time without logging in -- and I don't keep a Facebook tab open when I'm not logged in, because of their security/privacy issues. It's a useful tool, and when I am logged in, I do tend to scan down the page and respond to things, but it is not my life.

Jacque, #217: If your annoying neighbors had only recently relocated to an apartment after having lived in a single-story house, they may well have forgotten what it's like to have people upstairs. But still, they should have caught a clue fairly quickly; it is unreasonable to expect the same level of silence in a multi-story dwelling that you get in a single-story one.

tamiki, #218: She GOES TO CHURCH, and that therefore makes her a Special Snowflake who has to be coddled in every way? That's the only way I can see that statement as being relevant to the topic. And if she were banging on MY floor, I'd be sorely tempted to bang right back at her. (Not suggesting that you do this -- it's escalation, which I know you don't want.)

* Actually, that's not quite true. A down quilt is warmer than a fleece blanket -- but it also costs the earth, whereas fleece can be had for a reasonable price.

#222 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 04:18 PM:

Lee, #221, my initial interpretation of a "fleece blanked" was a sheepskin, which I would agree would be quite warm, but not inexpensive. I'm not sure which would be more warm and comfortable, a sheepskin blanket a down quilt. Both sound lovely-warm.

Fleece, the cotton fabric, doesn't work as well for keeping me warm. I tend to suffer from overheating, so I often use just a sheet or a thin blanket mainly for keeping the wind off my skin. If I'm cold despite that, a thick blanket, or down comforter, works well and I can burrow in it.

#223 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 04:29 PM:

Lee @221: ("Oh, she wants a hot shower because she's cold"), but now I'm confused for a different reason. Hot showers simply do not work as a warming-up device for me

Do you live in a dry climate? Or one that's dry in the winter? That really does exacerbate the post-shower chill (speaking as one who's indoor air moisture is stuck all over the windows, right now). But I'll wager iliad's roommate is using the shower to kick-start her peripheral blood flow. The corollary is that she may also be using it to de-stress (see above re the interactions of feeling cold with feeling stressed).

Actually, that's not quite true. A down quilt is warmer than a fleece blanket -- but it also costs the earth, whereas fleece can be had for a reasonable price.

I lucked into a Thing: the latest comforter I bought (on sale at Ross, not renown for their selection) is some sort of faux-down synthetic fiber-fill, and I swear to Ghu you could bake cookies with the damn thing. It's wonderful for those bitingly cold winter nights. It's also splendidly light and floofy.

they may well have forgotten what it's like to have people upstairs

Or may never have known.

it is unreasonable to expect the same level of silence

Well, that would seem obvious, wouldn't it? But I got the very strong sense that "reasonable" was not at the top of this guy's agenda. What little dealings I had with him, he struck me as the sort who was at war with the world. Which I strongly suspect accounts for why he was living there in the first place.

#224 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 04:39 PM:

Lee lives in Houston, Texas, which is on the same continent as some places that have dry climates but that's about all you can say in those terms besides "".

#225 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 04:46 PM:

@David Goldfarb: You mean like where I live? Where we got about a foot of snow in the last week, and it's 20% humidity inside (we have a device that measures these things :) but we can't turn the humidifier on because what little humidity we have is already frosting the windows shut? ;)

#226 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 04:46 PM:

Related to that: give me the fuzzy blankets. ALL the warm, fuzzy blankets... *g*

#227 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 04:49 PM:

Lee: That's the best we've got, unless it's 'two women living together can't possibly go to church.' But either way, it doesn't have much to do with the situation. (Her first complaint was on a Sunday and involved some mystery noise in the night, but otherwise? Not a thing that might have to do with church-going.)

We have been sorely tempted to make noise right back at her (and one day I did in fact get something out of an under-bed storage box, partly because I needed to and mostly because she'd just banged at us) - but that much escalation would just be unnecessary fuel on the fire.

#228 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 05:33 PM:

Ugh, apartment noise issues. I currently have the misfortune of living underneath a "happy toddler who loves to dance" and whose parents refuse to believe that a toddler's footsteps are in fact louder than an adults footsteps, or that a toddler jumping does in fact make things in my apartment rattle, and also think that teaching "inside games" vs. "outside games" is the same as banishing the child to a blanket in the corner like a dog. (And a lot of those are their words.)

I wouldn't be surprised if they think I'm some kind of horrible under-the-stairs troll, like the one in the For Better of For Worse comic.

I can handle hearing people walking around, opening and closing drawers, running water, and so on. It's an old-ish building with no soundproofing, I knew I'd be dealing with that coming in.

They, of course, live on the top floor and probably don't realize that it is in fact possible to hear every single step they take in their unit and I'm not exaggerating, because they don't have any sounds coming through their ceiling.

#229 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 06:00 PM:

I live in a terrace, and the walls of these houses are pretty thin, which means that one can hear any noise going on in either of the adjacent houses. This is not normally a problem these days, but it has been in the past. I'm second from the end of the row, and there used to be a couple on the end who fought all the time. Let's just say that I used to refer to them to other people as "Karen and Swearie-Word" because I didn't know the name of the male half of the couple, but I did know what she called him!

#230 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 06:06 PM:

Moonlit Night @ 182: I like SimplyNoise for white noise generation (available as a web-based thing, and as an app on iDevices and Android devices). You get a choice of true white noise, pink noise (more power at low frequencies), or brown noise (Brownian noise, which has the most power at low frequencies). You can try out each one and see which you like best.

Regarding responses to the "Important Thing About Yelling" article, Bricklayer @ 157 and RiceVermicelli @ 176 and following:

I didn't read it at all as trying to tell parents to always be perfectly patient and saintly and not entitled to feelings of frustration, irritation, anger. I'm not a parent and therefore don't have the context of having things of that sort preached at me from all sides. I may well have read it differently in that context. But I really don't think it's crazymaking perfectionist sanctimommy-ness not to blow up at your children every day.

Frankly, I feel a bit like both of you are telling me that I shouldn't have posted that article, that I shouldn't have felt any resonance with it. That I don't have the right to wish my mother hadn't yelled at me all the time. I feel like I'm being told that living with that amount of daily meltdowns from a parent was just normal after all. Or that, being a child who sometimes made mistakes and did troublesome, frustrating things, I deserved the yelling.

I don't really think either of you intend these things, but when I post about something that deeply affected me and the main reaction is effectively "What bullshit, no one should take this seriously" -- well, that hurts.

Frankly, there is a difference between having the right to have emotions and having the right to explode those emotions all over at other people. Even if those people are children, even if they are children who are tapdancing on your very last nerve. There is a difference between expressing to your child that you are angry or frustrated with their behavior, and aiming an angry explosion at their face.

My mother had no sense of the difference when I was a child, and neither did I for a long time. I'm still very much learning how to feel and express anger without exploding or tipping over into verbal abuse. But I know it's possible.

I used to say that my partner was in the wrong, was denying me my right to have emotions, when he acted like my verbal explosions were unacceptable. But I was wrong. They were unacceptable. Having those feelings wasn't wrong, but expressing them in that way was wrong.

And frankly, yes, I do believe that also applies to parents, and I don't think this is a case of "You're not a parent so you don't get to have an opinion." Verbally nuking someone all the time is just objectively not okay.

#231 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 06:53 PM:

Jacque @217: Glad to hear that Gustav and Snowflake seem to be improving! :) *Hopes for continuing trend*

the invisible one @219: Lots of sympathy, that's a really difficult situation to be in.

Lee @221: Hot showers don't work as a way of warming up for me either, and for exactly the reasons you cited. Partner, otoh, often can only get warm enough to get to sleep in the winter by taking one directly before bed (he's from Texas, and misses it desperately).

#232 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 06:57 PM:

Anon4now @230, I was one of the ones following up on the article you posted by saying that I thought it was too unrealistic for parents. My apologies - it was not at all my intention to say that you were unrealistic to wish that your mother had not yelled or wish that she had taken steps to stop doing so.

You said Verbally nuking someone all the time is just objectively not okay, and you are right. And the article was correct that reducing parental stress helps avoid that.

[text attempting to justify or at least explain my reaction to the article deleted here, because that's not the point at the moment]

#233 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 08:26 PM:

Buddha Buck, #222: Wrapping up in a sheepskin blanket fleece-side-in does sound cozy. But I got to sleep with a friend's down comforter once (I was visiting during a cold snap) and it is like the warmest, snuggliest full-body hug you've ever had, only softer. If the climate here justified it, I would have saved up the money and bought one for us after that trip.

David G., #224: Pbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbth!
Actually, it does dry out in Houston during the winter. How can you tell? Because your fabric car seats* build up static with your clothing, and then when you get out and go to shut the car door, it goes KZZZAP! and you go "OW!" **

the invisible one, #228: Ouch. Sympathies.
The people upstairs all practice ballet;
Their living room is a bowling alley.
Their bedroom is full of conducted tours;
Their radio is louder than yours.
They celebrate weekends all the week;
When they take a shower, your ceilings leak.
They try to get their parties to mix
By supplying their guests with pogo sticks,
And when the orgy at last abates,
They go to the bathroom on roller skates.
I might love the people upstairs wondrous
If, instead of above us, they just lived undrous.

- Ogden Nash, "The People Upstairs"

* And you really, really want those fabric car seats during the 9 months of Goddamn It's Hot. Also a fabric cover for your steering wheel, so that you can actually drive without waiting 5 minutes for the A/C to cool it down to something below stove-burner level.

** There is actually a way to avoid this. If you make sure that you are touching something metal on the outside of the car before your foot hits the ground, the static buildup will ground without sparking. I don't remember where I learned about this, but holy cow it works.

#234 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 09:11 PM:

Tentative interpretation of what the downstairs neighbor might mean when she says she goes to church: She is a good person, and therefore her complaint can only be reasonable.

#235 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 10:02 PM:

Ah, the warmingness of a shower.

Yup, the getting undressed and waiting for the water to get hot is still miserably cold and unpleasant. But! When the shower ends, I wring out my facecloth (one of two reasons I use a facecloth rather than a poufy scrunchy thing), and wipe off my entire body while I'm still in the shower with the steam and warmth.

That takes care of an amazing amount of evaporative cooling. (I also snake out a hand, grab a towel, and wrap up my wet hair before I leave the steam and warmth.)

#236 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 10:17 PM:

When I was a kid spending summers at the New Jersey shore, I used to stay in the water as long as I could, until my lips turned blue with imminent hypothermia. If it wasn't sunny enough to warm back up on the beach, or if it was lunch time, I'd walk a couple blocks back home, and take a looong hot shower until my body temperature was back to normal. My parent's house had a furnace that provided hot water for both recirculating heating and plumbing purposes, so there was no problem of "running out of hot water" for the next person using the shower (though I probably cost my folks a fortune in heating oil!).

So while I haven't done it in decades, I totally understand the idea of showering to warm up. Of course, this was in a situation where I was already damp, so the evaporative cooling was already in play.

#237 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2013, 11:40 PM:

#233, Lee: Another trick for the car ZAP -- before touching the car to close the door, give any metal part a sharp rap with your knuckles. Discharges the static and doesn't hurt because you're already expecting a shock there and they're built for it (or, more so than sensitive finger pads).

#238 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 12:14 AM:

Lee@233: Houston remains damper than the SF Bay Area even when it gets colder. I can feel it: temperatures in the forties and lower feel noticeably colder than equivalent ones did when I was living in Oakland; the cold air has a dampness that gets in next to the skin.

#239 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 04:08 AM:

For my part, I had two separate reactions to the article.

On the one hand, I did recognize a transition that I myself had to make as a parent, moving from letting things get in the way of my parenting to valuing the job of being a mother equally with all the other things I was doing. I have to make it over and over again, too—it's so easy to lose focus.

Mind you, it is amazing how much small practical adjustments like setting everyone's alarm 10 minutes earlier can do for stress points like mornings. Parents certainly can engineer around some conflicts, and then those spoons are available for other purposes. But it's also necessary to get my head straight: to murmur "age-appropriate behavior", like KayTei suggests; to accept that things break and spill; to remind myself that raising healthy, happy kids is a long-term goal that requires short-term sacrifices of this appointment or that plan.

I have to remember to love, and show that love. Many of the people here didn't get enough of that, and suggesting solving the problem by moving breakables higher doesn't address that gap. It can even feel like that gap is being discounted.

On the other hand, the author is very much a prescriptivist, and a self-congratulating one at that. There's a whole tone to it that I found grating: I have found the answer! It worked for me so you must all go out and do it! Yay me! I'm sufficiently allergic to it that I don't read parenting blogs, where it's kind of ubiquitous.

Thing is, if a person doesn't trigger on that particular tone, then the sincere expression of desire to slow down and put the kids first, and the sincere delight that kindly-treated children mirror that behavior back at their parents, is a powerful thing. Particularly for people whose parents didn't manage it, like Anon4now's.

But if a person does trigger there, then everything else in the post is drowned out. Then comes the bouncing back hard, and in bouncing back, the possibility of denying the powerful thing to people who need to hear it.

This happens, sometimes. We all have our own triggers and weak spots, particularly here; what's healing for one person can be damaging for another. This community (and all communities that last) exists in the grace that lies between the speaker and the listener. I appreciate the courage, honesty and kindness that goes into maximizing that grace.

#240 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 06:06 AM:

Anon4Now @155: Interesting. It feels like a piece is missing -- my mom got mad and yelled occasionally, and I was never scared of her. It was my father I was scared of -- he yelled habitually, and I think that made a real difference.

eep @179: That is a freeing realization, and I hope it helps more in the future too.

hope in disguise @196: That is so hard, and I admire your willingness to help -- but I agree with others, you are likely not able to help alone, not because of who you are but because no one person can do all that helping. Strength to you.

abi @212: I had the conversation with her after she had showered, so if that warms her up, she was as warm as can be expected. And I've already gotten her something, though I've talked to Boy Roommate about getting her an electric throw or electric blanket. (She mentioned wanting a heater, but this is the person who can't park her car considerately or be relied upon to lock the door when she comes in -- I suspect a fire would happen with a heater sooner rather than later. He more or less agrees with me.) He got her a blanket a few years ago, though, and she declines to use it, so I'm not sure how much good it will do. I appreciate the heads-up very much, though, and will note this for future instances. And thank you for the sanity check on the boundary.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @213: She's used to living with Boy Roommate, who has gone out of his way to make things easier for her for more than a decade, from what I can tell. She's not used to making space for someone else; with regards to her, he provides financial support but makes few requests. She doesn't accept correction or live up to responsibilities very well (her chores around the house are to clean the half bath and the tub in the main bath, and to sweep two of the four balconies; she's swept the balconies once since 2010, cleaned the half bath three or four times, and manages to spray chemicals on the shower once every two or three months, though it is in no way clean when she's done with it). While I agree that shared living arrangements are perhaps not ideal for her, I also don't know how well she would do without someone around to provide for her.

Merricat @214: Overreacting is one of her methods of having conflicts resolved in her favor. I'm trying not to participate.

SamChevre @215: That "only" is an awful word that undermines the importance of friendships, and I'd like to kick it, too.

slow learner @216: *blush!* That's what I was aiming for, but I certainly didn't feel that successful. I do look forward to tonight's shower, though.

Jacque @217: I'm glad the piggies seem to be improving! The cats and I have been sending good wishes and ray-gun noises.

tamiki @218: I would have been very tempted to take up tap dancing for fitness purposes and constantly augment my height with giant platforms. Maybe, if I was supremely graceful, both at once.

the invisible one @219: I know all too well how difficult is is to deal with an ex for whom one still has a great many feelings with equanimity. Few things make me as miserable. You did a wonderful job, and I wish there was something I could do to make this less hard for you.

Lee @221: I find them comforting when my extremities are extremely cold, to the point that they can't generate heat of their own easily. And when my cold is primarily emotional. And there is likely an emotional component in her showers, which usually exceed 30 minutes. I have no problems with her taking them -- just not at the expense of Boy Roommate and me being able to shower at a reasonable hour.

the invisible one @228: I have heard the noises my ~9-lb cats can make. You know. Cats. We have teased them about getting them some little fog feet, since the fog clearly must be quieter. A toddler would be a nightmare. (We're in a townhouse -- sometimes there's noise from above, but save when the complex workers are on the roof, it's someone I can ask WTF they were doing.)

#241 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 06:35 AM:

Incidentally, my favorite method for getting warm is to curl up under a blanket. Aside from the obvious warming properties of the blanket, the covering magically turns me from "hoomin, lots of limbs, bad for sitting on" to "cromulent napping surface" in the eyes of my cat, and she is brilliant at generating warmth.

#242 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 06:54 AM:

About parenting.

For me, and slightly less so for my sisters (twins, and younger than I am), childhood was a constant exercise in manoeuvring to ensure that you didn't accidentally misbehave. This was difficult, since the criteria for misbehaviour tended to change, sometimes abruptly. I recall one day being suddenly informed that I should now call my parents "Mum and Dad" rather than "Mummy and Daddy", and I would be punished if I did otherwise. This was an extreme example, but the spirit of it was not atypical.

My mother used to boast to her friends about how well-behaved we were. I'd think, well, of course we are - anyone's going to be well-behaved if they're scared. She'd send my sisters, aged maybe two or three, out to play in the front garden, knowing that they wouldn't dream of going out into the street. She proudly told people that it was as if there were an invisible fence at the bottom of the drive.

There was.

To my relief, both sisters have grown up to be excellent parents who understand about age-appropriate behaviour and have managed to raise happy children, all well-behaved for their age and ability, without frightening them in the process. I don't know how I would have done if I'd had to be a parent; less well, I suspect.

My parents are good people. It just took them until they had grandchildren to get to understand children at all well.

#243 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 09:20 AM:

iliad slightly awry @ 240

I suspect a fire would happen with a heater sooner rather than later

I would look at an "electric oil-filled radiator" (like this); we use those in the children's rooms, because they do not get hot enough to burn someone quickly or start things smoldering, but put out quite a lot of heat.

(If you are my 5-year-old daughter, you can use them to melt crayons to dye the scarf you cut out of your blanket, but that's about all.)

#244 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 10:47 AM:

CZEdwards @147: Welcome back! Sounds like one heck of a year. Hugs, if welcome!

SamChevre @243: I am torn between laughter, sympathy, and awe at your daughter's creativity. (I was not that kid...) I must ask, being a woman in a STEM field, if you are planning to encourage her in that direction...? *g* (science, technology, engineering and math)

If I may whine (jokingly - I chose to live here after all!), when I woke up it was, including wind chill, -39 C at the airport. Now granted, there's a lot of wind at the airport, but it's been (without windchill) a steady -18 C lately. This doesn't usually happen until February! (or January, in the year of our wedding. :P The bridesmaids were very gracious about the *one* outdoor picture I asked for!)

For those who don't read Celsius, that's -38 F and -0.4 F, respectively.

#245 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 11:51 AM:

#240, iliad slightly awry:

Thanks, I guess... I'm not sure how making it home before I start to cry equates to doing a wonderful job though.

I was going to apologize when I got back my one last thing from him, that he said he'd bring. Only I didn't ask about the one last thing. Next week I guess.

Part of the apology is because I feel like I have to apologize in person for treating him like a therapist. I see what I did wrong, and I don't want him to think he did anything wrong (because he apologized for not being strong enough!). And partly because it wouldn't surprise me if he thought I was mad at him or hated him, the way I've been avoiding him at [shared interest], and neither of those is true.

And the wishful thinking part of my brain that I'm trying to keep safely locked up keeps saying that he smiled at me when we were partnered in class and that means he wants me back and and and... that's one big reason why it's so hard to interact with him right now. But the wishful thinking part of my brain is also saying that maybe he does want me back now that he's had some time to recover and just thinks I'm mad at him and/or hate him for needing that time and if I apologize then he'll let me know he wants me back. Which I have to very firmly stomp on and remind myself that he said it was over, don't expect anything from the apology. Which is also making me second-guess my reasons for making that apology in the first place.

#246 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 12:02 PM:

Jacque @ 223

Do you happen to remember any details about the comforter you bought at Ross? I've been vaguely thinking about such things, as it has to be more washable than my old down one.

the invisible one @228

I am extremely glad that the board game nights I go to a couple times a week at a friend's apartment are on the bottom floor of the apartment building. I would feel extremely noise-conscious otherwise, because we have to move chairs and tables around, not to mention stomping around our own selves, and we're often up and moving around until 3 or 4 in the morning. Not that I think we'd be making inappropriate amounts of noise even if we were on the top floor, but this way I don't trigger the inappropriate-guiltmonster.

iliad slightly awry @240

My family says "The fog comes in on little cat feet: GALLUMPH GALLUMPH GALLUMPH", so I hear you. I think I'll steal the line about little fog feet....

#247 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 01:11 PM:

Chickadee @ 244

We are definitely encouraging our daughter to pursue the STEM-ish things she's interested in (she likes math and bodies, especially bones); the scarf project was on her "I like pretty stuff" side, though.

She is a child with clear ideas; she's been clear on her career goals since she was before she was 3 (she's now almost 6). She wants to be a doctor who works on arms and legs. (And when we took her to the doctor to get a deeply-embedded piece of glass out of her foot, she was completely pleased by the X-ray; "Look, I can see my tarsals and my metatarsals.)

#248 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 03:02 PM:

tamiki@199, 209: That sounds like a good phone system. And yeah. He has my number, and he has me on Facebook, and he has other people too, even if he doesn't know it always. And enough people have been trying to convince me that he isn't my job that I didn't even notice the potential "you must carry all the weight" implication.

Diatryma @206, and others concerned about my friend: :) My school has a thing where you can file a report saying you're concerned about a student (including yourself) and a sympathetic/kind cross-section of The Powers That Be will start keeping an eye on them and checking in by email and so on. I filed one of these reports. I hope it will have the intended effect. Also, as suspected/hoped, he came out of the bad spell into better weather, at least for the time being. He's even talking about doing something creative. So I am relieved. He's also talking about maybe seeking medicine.

J. @207: I'll ask if he's seen them.

Merricat @214: Thank you. I spent all of Wednesday in "oxygen mask" mode, and fortunately came up at the end refreshed and functional (moreso than I expected, at any rate). Good experience knowing that I have a wide enough support network to lean on when something like this happens. Additionally, regarding dear-but-far friends, that sounds like an excellent collection of communique-types.

SamChevre @215: I am glad your friend was there for you. I can only hope that things turn out nearly as well for mine (and continue to be kindness and strength for him, when I can).

tamiki @210: best of luck with Fiancee's parents, and also with downstairs neighbor.

iliad slightly awry @211: Wow. That is really something. Good luck with getting those hot showers.

Jacque @217: May the piggies continue to improve.

Nancy Lebovitz @203: There was a "readers write" section in The Sun about sugar, and no sugar in the house had a high corelation with bingeing.

Bricklayer @204: As a non-parent, I like that approach to food.

Chickadee @226: Fuzzy blankets are basically my favorite kind of blanket. They're warm and also comforting.

the invisible one @245: Wishing strength to you.

#249 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 03:05 PM:

SamChevre @247: So she already has a decent anatomy book? If not, get her one. Seriously, it's a LOT easier to learn stuff like that at a young age (remembering how easy I found it to learn the points of the horse and stuff as a kid, and contrasting with how hard it was to rote-learn anatomy at veterinary school).

#250 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 06:31 PM:

dcb and SamChevre -- particularly nice, at that age, might be The Anatomy Coloring Book (by Kapit and Elson) -- we used it at my massage school, and it's really pretty amazing. $29 new, used copies can be very cheap (but get one without prior coloring anyway). Highly recommended for anyone who wants to study anatomy, at any age.

#251 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 06:47 PM:

dcb, #249: You too? I was horse-crazy as a kid, and devoured every care-and-feeding-of book I could find at the library as well as all the standard YA fiction series. As a result, horsy details are something I've "known forever", and sometimes I forget that other people don't!

#252 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 08:06 PM:

Jacque re: a nifty little pen-computer dealy

Haven't been keeping up with the DF threads for a while, am nerving myself to get back into them for the support.

That's a LiveScribe pen & notebook. Not sure if it'll convert handwriting to text.

It records audio, too. I got mine several years ago from Costco for about $100.00. They've certainly gone up, but what it does for the price is fabulous.

#253 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 08:48 PM:

Possibly useful:

#254 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 10:19 PM:

About a year and a half ago I got my mother into Skyping with me weekday mornings. When we began, her voice was faint and husky and she constantly coughed and complained. She had lost a dangerous amount of weight. My sister (about 3 hours out) and I (a state away) would get calls from friends and neighbors that she'd been taken to the ER. After the third time, realizing how much time I was fretting, I talked her into these visits.

We stuck it out. Now we both look forward to exchanges, however brief, as a cheerful way to start the day. "Hi, I'm fine! Are you fine? I'm glad you're fine..."


She was desperately unhappy in her marriage and abused me for it, primarily emotionally but also physically. Her father controlled her with the same abuse pattern (+ sexual) by taking away anything she dared want. She has cited "examples" of how anyone she loved or cared about has died horribly. In addition to falling back into our old patterns at the rare family gatherings I'd opt into, building good scripts got hamstrung when she'd notice she was feeling happy and loving and would instantly transform into the stuff of myths. I survived by refusing contact under any but the most guarded, limited circumstances.


Short sessions daily with minimal content proved to her that we could joke together and I'd be okay the next morning. I could see how she looked, particularly how she moved. "Hang on, Mom, I'm going to refill my mug" "Okay, I will too". I'd mention I'd had a nice walk the afternoon before, then she'd happen to think of taking one. She's gained weight. Her color is good.

An important hidden agenda has been to get her to internalize that she's going to outlive me. My dad and a cousin with my genetic deficiency have shuffled off, my cousin after five years of misery greater than I could bear. I've got maybe a year, year and a half before quality drops too far to keep with it.

My cranial-sacral/multidisciplinary therapist of twenty-odd years agrees I'm sustaining a level of serenity far beyond anything in my past, despite my physical decline.

Cuing Mom in a step at a time has worked.

Three weeks ago we met at my sister's for several days. I figured this would buy me off for the indefinite future. I was prepared to go lie down when things started to get toxic. I did nap (as did Mom) but we didn't trigger each other. My sister sniped several times but couldn't get traction. Conversation stayed ordinary.

This loving, mutually supportive family time still seems like a hallucination.

#255 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2013, 11:15 PM:

Oh my, Jeanie. That's quite an accomplishment.

#256 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 12:26 AM:

I've been crying off and on (discovering face wet, not rough gasps) since writing. Feels sad. Feels good. Sad is winning out right now.

#257 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 01:05 AM:

Oh, Jeanie. The amount of work in the background there-- the foundation for your serenity, the compassion for all involved, the active caring-- is staggering. The way you describe it is beautiful.

#258 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 02:10 AM:

A poem about how habits of thought and action are transmitted across generations.
Trigger warning for discussion of dysfunctional (but not directly abusive) family patterns of behavior.

The line that really jumped out at me: "I asked 5 questions in sociology class today, and every one of them started with the word 'Sorry'."

#259 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 03:09 AM:

Jeanie @254, 256: Oh gosh. What B. Durbin said, and Diatryma.

Highlights from today (some sarcastic, some sincere; rot13'd content carries a trigger warning for probably-suicidal thinking): Friend ibyhagrrevat gur vasbezngvba gung ur'q orra gbyq gur ebbs jnf bsgra npprffvoyr. Friend later saying "V qba'g xabj jung V'z tbvat gb qb abj. V pna'g raq vg nyy, V pna'g qb zl ubzrjbex, V pna'g gnyx gb nalbar..." Finding out that telling T "Friend is crashing" on my way out the door meant that Friend has had people with him the entire time since, thank goodness. Dead Poets Society with friends. Dr Pepper with tea-and-elderflower vodka. Warm blankets.

#260 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 03:13 AM:

Oh, and the other important good/bad combo: getting a text from the man I'm Not Dating beginning "hi dear," which is a new piece of affection, but containing the fact that he's going to be offline and out of contact all weekend so he can be fully present for houseguests (he doesn't know about crisis with Friend yet). I am beginning to think that I was correct when I decided that the most I'd want to pursue would be a secondary-type relationship; is it reasonable to want a primary partner to be available to me in a crisis, however briefly? I think so...

#261 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 03:25 AM:

hope in disguise: It is reasonable to want a primary partner who can at least check in during a crisis. But I do think the fact that he doesn't know there is a crisis is also a factor. If he refused any sort of contact after knowing you're in a sticky spot and may want to flail about it sometime after Social Hours With Houseguests were over, that'd be another story entirely. If it's still bugging you after the weekend, it may be worth sitting him down and talking about it.

But he can't act on what he doesn't know.

I'm glad you have some other people helping keep an eye on your friend.

#262 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 03:53 AM:

Jeanie, #254: Hearing and witnessing.

hope in disguise, #260: What tamiki said; also, the fact that he specifically let you know he was going to be out of pocket for the weekend is a very positive thing, and indicates that he didn't want you to be distressed if you couldn't reach him.

#263 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 04:16 AM:

Cally Soukup @246: Do you happen to remember any details about the comforter you bought at Ross? I've been vaguely thinking about such things, as it has to be more washable than my old down one.

Tags may be viewed here.

Though it claims to be washable, I would do so with extreme caution. I expect that the microfibre would be less inclined to lump than down, I image that would still be an issue.

My family says "The fog comes in on little cat feet: GALLUMPH GALLUMPH GALLUMPH", so I hear you. I think I'll steal the line about little fog feet....

Hearing a guinea pig do that is particularly hilarious. My biggest ones run to 1.1 kilo, and their feets are about the size of my little finger.

SamChevre @247: And when we took her to the doctor to get a deeply-embedded piece of glass out of her foot, she was completely pleased by the X-ray; "Look, I can see my tarsals and my metatarsals.)

Did you get her a copy of the X-ray? In this digital age, that's pretty easy to do.

dcb @249: So she already has a decent anatomy book? If not, get her one. Seriously, it's a LOT easier to learn stuff like that at a young age

See also: retaining medical/anatomical jargon will be much easier if she can learn Latin at some point. (Greek's not a bad thing to have, also.)

#264 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 10:23 AM:

Lee @251: Yes, I have that problem with horsey stuff (had my own wonderful pony for many years - never outgrew him thankfully) and later with general zoology/non-domestic animal husbandry stuff (what do you mean most people don't know what a taxon is, or what aviculture is, or what psittacines are or...?)

Jacque @263: Yes; I suffered through three years of Latin at school (age 11-13) and was never any good at it; nevertheless it has subconsciously helped with the Latin origin of names etc., I think. Never did any Greek. Always been an unfortunately poor linguist, managed O-Level French (sorry, not sure how to translate "O-Level" into American), never did any German, which is a problem when I'm trying to get info from a German paper, translating it word for word using with a German-English dictionary and a medical/veterinary German-English dictionary, and not finding some words in the dictionaries because I have no feel for German and don't know when, in all those compound words, one stops and the next starts, or the prefix finishes and the word I'm trying to look up begins. - although Google Translate is getting much better and can actually be useful nowadays.

#265 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 11:00 AM:

Lee @258: Oh! Yes, that really hit me. Particularly re. the apologies, because I do that as well. We're taught to, aren't we: to consider other people first, to suffer in silence when our feelings are hurt rather than risking hurting someone else? I don't know when it's appropriate to apologise and when to simply make a statement of fact, when to be apologetic in asking a question and when to simply ask.

Jeanie @254: That's amazing. Whatever you're doing, you're obviously doing it right. And sympathies for the genetic problem.

hope in disguise @259: You're doing very well for/with your friend; glad there's a wider support system becoming evident.

And Jacque again: glad to hear some progress with the guinea pigs.

As for cats, yes, when we had two we'd hear them chasing each other around on the floor above us, sounding like a whole HERD of cows. Just the one remaining can still sound very loud sometimes.

#266 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 11:41 AM:

Scripts associated with names?

Don't worry about being hlepy, I'm asking for advice.

I use "Mom" most often when visiting with her. She knows I call her [HerGivenName] with others, as when I cc her email. She has a hard time accepting herself as a valid person - A + B's Daughter, C's sister, D's wife, [my sister & I]'s Mother. When I use [HerGivenName] directly, it's been an attempt to honor her in an adult/adult interaction, but though she tolerates it she doesn't like it. I noticed myself using it when talking her through setting up Skype (which she largely did herself). We both also read it as channeling my dad, which I think of as good but with reverberations for her of Strong Male Genius and Weak Stupid Handmaiden. I remind her periodically that she's technologically ept, more gentle re-scripting.

Mom (actually, Mommie) was the loving, nourishing mother I had for the first three or four years of my life. Then she had my sister, the family polarized, and things went to hell. We were both surprised when I signed off once with "I love you, Mommie". She occasionally tells me she loves me (after almost sixty years!) at closing, more rarely I tell her. I HATE the empty "I love you" "I love YOU".

What she'd prefer, vastly, the way she refers to and signs herself, is Mother. This reinforces her rewritten history of herslef (ha, I see what I did there) as a good nurturing parent, a role she was spectacularly unsuited for. Typing that word literally has me cringing, expecting the monster to come at me from behind.

I worked on myself for a while, experimenting with calling her that, reminding myself that she'd see it as validating her script, and even so it didn't seem healthy for her. I can't get at if that's true or if I'm being a bitch. I've given myself permission to let my feelings out when I need to, but vindictiveness is a morass.

After posting last night, I was terrified - finally fetched up in the fetal position under the warm blankies and was able to drop off around 3. I can't get at what was frightening me. That the Family Police will show up? This is a safe place. This is a safe place.* I am so grateful for you being here.

The scare is easing off.

*Does it have to be three times to be true? This is a sage place. Again will let the typo stand - is there a science for self-assessment via miskeying?

#267 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 01:13 PM:

tamiki @261: Ironically, I hadn't told him there was a crisis because I didn't want to take too much of his attention away from Real Life (by which I mean people and tasks not 430 miles away), since we aren't actually officially anything at the moment.

Lee @262: True! although I would have preferred he let me know before the last possible minute (also he didn't say he was going to be incommunicado over Thanksgiving, but then again, I didn't ask what his plans were). I am filing all this under "stuff I will have to deal with in any kind of ongoing contact; designate as Space Case, learn to ask for what I need"

Jeanie @266: I don't know. Names are hard. :( But I am glad that the scare is going.

#268 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 01:22 PM:

Jeanie, I am witnessing and I find your thoughtfulness, wit, and care -- for yourself and for others -- inspiring. Thank you.

(My typo there was "inspirint" which I think means either that I find you intelligent -- true! -- or that I think you are an integer, which is not as true.)

#269 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 01:31 PM:

dcb @ 265 ... sympathies for the genetic problem

None of us get out of this alive.

I've known academically since my mid-teens, when my dad explained dispassionately his own diagnosis (he was a doctor, running my blood work would have been easy). I worked through the classic stages not all that long before re-engaging with my mother.

It's possible I'll outlive a lot of you, particularly if there's a Zombie Apocalypse, as I'm small and sneaky.

Oh, wait.

This group largely self-selects for protective coloration.

Never mind.

#270 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 01:33 PM:

Shit, Abi.
Help, help.

#271 ::: Cally Soukup calls for the Gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 01:48 PM:

Jeanie needs help @ 269

#273 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 01:54 PM:

Thank you, Callie and Abi.

#274 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 01:57 PM:

Idumea @272

Here, have a large plate of assorted Christmas cookies to share with your fellow Lownesses. Sugar, choc. chip, thumbprint, spritzes, snickerdoodles, peanut butter, rum balls, lebkuchen, and those weird Scandinavian ammonia-baked ones whose name I can never recall. Happy day after St. Nicholas Day!

#275 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 01:59 PM:

Thank you, Cally. I'm always glad to be able to help. You should have one, too.

[And I'm doing my own nym rescue!]

#276 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 01:59 PM:

You're welcome, Jeanie. I find it's best to mention the gnomes in the address line when you find you need them; it's faster that way. Have a cookie?

#277 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2013, 02:24 PM:

Actually, in this case, it was that Jeanie emailed me. But I do check the recent posts pretty frequently when I can.

(I can be reached at abi at this domain.)

#278 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2013, 08:20 PM:

Was poking at the random exhibition title generator in the open thread and this popped up: "Remixing (Im)Possibilities: Cheating Dysfunction"

Which seems like a pretty perfect description of much of what we do here

#279 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2013, 08:34 PM:

And another resonant one: "An Overwhelming Illusion: The Dysfunction of Change"

#280 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2013, 03:57 PM:

HLN: Local woman is happy to report that reactive depression, particularly deep last week, appears to be in abeyance for the moment. Local woman is not sure why, although she suspects that wonderful husband's supportive attitude including "well, yes, you have every reason to be depressed" (rather than "just get over it") helped, alongside efforts to get more sleep, more light* and more exercise of the varieties presently allowed.

*Thanks, abi, for assistance there.

#281 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2013, 05:28 PM:

dcb @280: Yay! So glad to hear that it's in abeyance! May it stay there!

#282 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2013, 05:58 PM:

Hi! I am fine. I hope you are fine. Are you fine?

All of you, but particularly hope in disguise.

#283 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2013, 06:20 PM:

Jeanie, I am glad you are fine. I am also fine. :)

Seconding the hopes that others are as well

#284 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2013, 10:58 PM:

I am surprisingly fine, on current grading scale (which means, realistically, struggling with spoon-management but not actively gasping for air at the top of the flooded cave).

Last night my child slept through the night and so did I, something that has happened about 3 times in the past 110 days. HOSANNA, HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST. Now to hope it's not a fluke.

I have also made concerted, effortful steps towards keeping an eye on my self-care: I saw a doctor about my Worrying Elbow Thing, and am pursuing reasonable amelioration (while I wait for my neurologist appointment and a less provisional diagnosis) with assistive devices -- ok, fine, padded elbow socks -- purchased off the internet. My goal is to try my best not to bork it worse before the neurologist sees me. I get to do this through international holiday travel (JOY), but will have an MD in-house in the form of my MiL in case something Very Worrying occurs, to give me sanity checks.

Likewise, I purchased a knee brace to wear on my Wonky Knee, which has been Out for weeks. I know I own at least two other braces, and that they're somewhere in this house, but they refused to turn up and refused to turn up so I 'splurged' and got a new one. Which I am wearing. And it helps.

I have mail ordered (from a site I quite recommend -- great customer service and cheerful packaging, plus quite cheap per-pound prices for good quality stuff) a variety of Very Nutritious, shelf-stable things to mix into muffins or whatever else, so my everyday 'easy to grab and snarf' foods contain more vitamins etc etc than, um, say, Spaghetti-Os do. To pick a random example. *shiftyeyes* Stuff like dried fruit, ground flaxseed, sunflower hearts, and amaranth.

It feels really weird to be actually doing self-care again instead of thinking absently from the bottom of a deep well that things might be better if I could magically make self-care happen. :-> See also: posting in this thread, which is known to be a thing that helps me.

#285 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 12:02 AM:

Wonderful news!

#286 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 12:43 AM:

Bricklayer, I'm glad to hear it! Self-care, w00t w00t. Sleeping, hoorah.

In the realm of long-term dietary self-care, today I ate an egg. A whole egg. Over-easy. On a bagel with cream cheese and sriracha, and I sort of gagged while eating the yolk, but this is a massive victory. For the longest time, my litany when complaining about diet has been "I don't like eggs, beans, nuts, tofu, ground beef, chicken, or pork either at all or in adequate quantities to feed me protein on a daily basis." I have been working on the egg thing. The egg thing is working! *does a victory dance*

(Also I fried an egg cleanly and well on my first try, ever, using a technique borrowed from The Splendid Table, which makes me proud of my cooking skills and my learning skills.)

#287 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 06:02 AM:

hope in disguise @ 286: that's impressive. I'm another egg-hater, and I think I'd do more than gag if I tried that. With me, though, it's the white; something about the texture trips a lever in my brain that really shouldn't be tripped.

Everyone else: reading and witnessing. I'm still here, just not well spooned at the moment.

#288 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 10:04 AM:

Two 'of course' Murphy's-Law addendums to my last:

- John came downstairs last night carrying my good (pre-existing) knee brace, which was in a horribly obvious place that neither of us could find it in before I bought the new (cheaper, less good) one. So now I have my good knee brace. Why does buying a replacement always turn up a lost object? Was it lonely?

- The kid slept through the night perfectly well last night. I didn't, because I was congested with snot and kept waking up from Not Breathing. Argh. If I'd taken meds at 4PM when I started running like a faucet I'd have been fine (I can't take either diphenhydramine OR pseudoephedrine after about 6:30PM without badly impacting my awakeness ... in opposite directions, of course), but it "clearly wasn't bad enough" to take drugs for and by the time I realized it wasn't going away ... yeah. I have drugged myself thoroughly upon awaking and now I feel better and I will KEEP drugged in a way that will enable both breathing and sleep.

Because both breathing and sleep are good things. And it is normal to take needed meds when they are needed, despite my upbringing ... a combination of badly-underinsured-and-poor and being raised by a strongly-recovering alcoholic means I double- and triple-think the use of any needed pharmaceutical. Which I should do less of. As, y'know, self-care. Sigh.

Self-care is HARD (in that horribly offensive Barbie "Math is HARD!" chirpy voice)

#289 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 11:39 AM:

Great news on the kid sleeping! Hope this trend continues for, say, seventeen years?

Ditto finding good brace. At least the new one that produced the old one was cheaper. And hope in disguise's improved diet, and to hear Mongoose is lurking with support (for self and to us).

My major accomplishment was the transition to Obamacare. I almost maxed out my phone minutes, and though they've been refilled the phone keeps yammering at me with text messages, which I'm not signed up to receive so cannot figure out how to disengage. Not as bad as a kid screaming by a long chalk, but it's been forty-five minutes and the store with the helpful clerk won't be open for another half hour.

This is the worst of my current problems.

#290 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 11:55 AM:

Mongoose & hope in disguise:

Regarding eggs, if it's a texture thing for eggs by themselves, or one part of the eggs specifically, have you tried other ways of preparing them? I thought I hated eggs for the longest time because my dad always had a boiled egg for breakfast. Turns out I don't like boiled eggs, but I do like them just about every other way. (Also I like the taste more if they're free-range with the intensely orange yolks instead of the pale yellow yolks from caged hens, but free-range costs substantially more and isn't an option for many people.)

Scrambled eggs, for example (mix thoroughly with some milk and optionally spice to taste before putting in the hot frying pan) have a completely different texture. (Which, I admit, many people also don't like -- but it's different from fried, boiled, or poached.)

#291 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 12:41 PM:

the invisible one: Last time I tried hard-boiled eggs was, oh, four years ago or so; I took a tiny nibble, went "yuck!" and threw it out. This year I'd been making vegetables with scrambled egg just coating them, to sneak it past my internal sensors, and had successfully eaten scrambled eggs with various flavorings added. But it seems a different thing to be able to eat a whole darn egg, by itself, not all stirred up. Also I'd wanted an excuse to try that egg-making technique, having seen one of my friends get very frustrated.

The texture thing does extend to most kinds of egg I think, though; I can only sort of deal with them in fried rice, for instance. But the slow gentle cooking I did on this one meant that it wasn't rubbery and tough, but soft and barely there, except for the runny yolk. (It probably helped, also, that I had farm-fresh free-range eggs. I have never liked either the taste or the texture.)

#292 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 12:51 PM:

Bricklayer @284: self-care

Hosanna, indeed. Adequate sleep: Hosanna2!

I have actually (knock on wood) gotten to work on time (or even a little early) the last four work-days in a row. Two secrets: Anon4Now's @155 helped give me some insight into what was keeping me up too late (once I get moving at Time To Go To Bed, things I need/want to do tend to multiply) (though it's not a complete insight; even if I have my act together, I find I still need to stay up later than my nominal bed time because I'm hungry for [artwork/reading/sittin'-and-staring]).

Getting up has been aided by allocating a half an hour to actually wake up, which is started by having finally found a viable alarm option: clock radio set to local classical music station. Using the alarm alarm is too, um, alarming, and results in not using the alarm to avoid being alarmed. KVOD is a far more copacetic stimulant.

hope in disguise @286: Yay egg achievement. You do know that there are completely respectable dietary practices that eschew the yolk entirely, right? That's where most of the fat/cholesterol lives. The white carries the lion's-share of the protein.

Further preening, with egg: I actually got up early enough this morning (though it took me forty-five minutes to do it) that I had an actual breakfast, comprised of actual food (including an egg with cheese) before I left the house.

Yay, us!

Bricklayer @288: Why does buying a replacement always turn up a lost object?

Summoning spell?

Self-care is HARD

No sh*t. Compounded by diametrically-opposing needs, such as day-job vs. awake-when-functional.

#293 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 01:35 PM:

Jacque @292: I am fully capable of sleeping through my actual alarm for the full hour it will go off. This means that music alarms are, ah, only functional for a week at best, until I get used to them. The solution that has mostly worked this semester is trying to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, which my workload is light enough to allow, hoorah.

Huzzah for breakfast! *food high-five*

Friend is now insisting that he can't accomplish self-care because he's lazy and stupid. I have thrown up my hands in exasperation and wandered off muttering "have you tried NOT having the flu?*" (Actually I attempted to explain to him that this is probably mostly not true and then asked if it would help if I complained about my life - to which the answer was yes - he was feeling bad about always 'whining' about the same things. listening feels Helpful I guess)

*quoted from one-or-many internet comics about how mental illness is a disease one cannot just get over,just like 'normal' illness

#294 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 01:38 PM:

Mongoose, #287: I grok that. I like eggs, and I still occasionally have problems with the texture of hard-boiled egg whites. I also have occasional problems with the texture of Jello (dessert gelatin), and it's the same kind of problem.

Jacque, #292: I have very idiosyncratic reactions to certain kinds of alarm tones. Most bells or beeps don't bother me, but the tone my partner has selected for his phone alarm (a sort of wooden rat-a-tat) never fails to jerk me awake with my heart pounding. Most clock radios do the same thing, no matter what the station.

#295 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 01:39 PM:

This week I finally got around to take care of some official stuff I've been putting off due to a complete lack of energy and annoying amounts of anxiety. Which are interconnected. Which makes it harder to get to a point where I can look at paper work without wanting to crawl into bed again right away.
On a personal level I still seem to be in the midst of change though I feel more on top of things at the moment. It's more reminders to employ useful new tools I have and less grief, the emotional turmoil more a case of necessary adjustments to the new situation and less of a need to rehash the old. I no longer feel so much as if I had stupidly tried to take a leap into thin air. Well, I'm not so sure about the last part yet, but maybe I'll find solid ground under my feet when I land.

Everyone else: I'm reading and witnessing. I hope to get back to some interesting posts at a later point, I just don't have that much energy (yet).

#296 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 02:22 PM:

hope in disguise @293: I am fully capable of sleeping through my actual alarm for the full hour it will go off.

SHHHHHHHshshshhhhh!! SHH! ::looks around hastily:: :-)

I do tend to drift off after a bit of music, but the announcer has (so far) tended to pop me awake again.

The solution that has mostly worked this semester is trying to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night

Yes, well.

Lee @294: Most clock radios do the same thing, no matter what the station.

Oddly, the disk spinning up when I tried one with a CD option had that effect. I find the radio more tolerable (less intolerable?), though I'm grateful I finally had the spoons to find CPR the other morning. The first station I'd landed on was all "Sports, sports sports sports. And, you know, sports, but because sports, sports, and sports. And, well, sports." I can deal with a spot of Vivaldi.

#297 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 02:30 PM:

Lee: Most alarms will jerk me awake, though radios set to music are less troublesome than beeps and bells, but radios with talking (like, say, NPR) are a different problem. If I've slept anything like appropriately, I'm in REM sleep right before my waking time, and apparently I'm really good at incorporating outside auditory stimuli into my dreams. I once woke up to realize that the involved political argument I'd been having with my friend David was actually the previous ten minutes of Morning Edition.

I also readily incorporate tactile stimuli into dreams. The results are remarkably unpleasant.

#298 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 02:40 PM:

A further Good Thing about today!

Last night, while looking for something that has not turned up, John found a couple of abandoned squeaky dog toys, and drew the attention of our dog-who-likes-squeakies to them. Lateish this morning, said dog found one and squeaked it excitedly, then presented it to me in a Request For Play. The kid galloped over (as she often does) to commandeer it; I expected the dog to humor her somewhat ill-naturedly for a few tosses then bring it to me, and eventually give up on playing altogether if she wouldn't quit it -- he has not in past been impressed with her as a play partner.

But today! Today the two of them ran around the house mostly consensually for nearly a whole hour. HALLELUJAH, we may have reached the beginnings of the "kid and dogs can tire each other out while we watch and sip mint juleps" period! Instead of adult energy being required to tire out each group of dependents separately, as well as keeping them off each other.

A guy can dream ...

This brings the total pieces of "his warm winter outerwear" that are missing to three, making us think there was a Helpful Attempt to do something with them when the last batch of warm seasons started, as opposed to them being individually lost in various spots. This is good-ish, as it means they'll likely all be found together in a friendly clump, but bad as we've already now looked everywhere we can think of that we might have PUT such a category of things.

The other dog is unimpressed with squeakies, and mostly won't play with humans at all. He prefers chase-me-chase-me, which his brother largely disdains in favor of either playing with toys with humans, or wanting to wrestle. They have a fraught relationship. :-> The squeaky-liking dog seems to stim-bask in the frantic squeaking caused by quickly chewing such a toy spasmodically in his jaws, possibly because it sounds like a dying rodent? Whatever, it calms him amazingly. He is little and broken, but still good; yes, still good.

#299 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 03:22 PM:

Bricklayer -
What a slug of joy!

#300 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 03:37 PM:

I'm OK with eggs as long as they are either in something else (cakes, for preference!), or omeletted with plenty of other ingredients. Fairly recently I encountered the mediaeval concept of the sweet omelette, which has unaccountably fallen out of favour in modern times. I can recommend it. I have a mediaeval recipe for "Orange Omelette for Pimps and Harlots", and can assure you that it is a perfectly cromulent recipe even for introverted asexuals. (Having said that, I do adapt it a bit. I like a drop of orange oil in it as well as the actual oranges, just to disguise the egginess.) Taking this idea forward, I developed a chocolate omelette which also turned out to be very good.

Breakfast is awesome. I can't function without breakfast. Neither can my best friend, but I have to remind him of that when I visit him, because otherwise - as we have both discovered the hard way - he tends to conk out in the middle of Waitrose. Since he's about three times my size, I can hardly sling him over my shoulder and carry him back to his car. *grin*

I wish I had an answer to the alarm clock question. Mine beeps. It beeps reliably at 7.30 every morning, and I almost always fall straight back to sleep at the moment. (The doctor thinks it's my medication. She could well be right.) On the bright side, I do then get some interesting dreams; my dream brain likes playing with words just as much as my conscious brain, so when I do wake up properly, it tends to be with some really interesting stuff in my head.

somewhere else @ 295: I hear you. Oh, how I hear you. If it's any consolation, you're probably doing better than I am at the moment.

#301 ::: charming quark ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 03:52 PM:

rikibeth @297: That Morning Edition story made my day!

Alarms: I have been loving the Philips Wake-Up Light that I received as a requested birthday present. It simulates sunrise by gradually brightening from zero to whatever light level you set, starting 1/2 an hour before the alarm time you set. The audio alarm choices are radio, beep, or simulated birdsong. I have it on birdsong, and it's been doing a good job so far of waking me up without being jarring. There have been some times when I've slept right on through it, or turned it off and went right back to sleep, but I think I am doing that LESS with this one than other alarms.

#302 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 03:57 PM:

re: sweet omelets

I once dumped sugar in eggs I was scrambling and found I'd reinvented custard.

Diet, generally: if you need it and find a way to make it tolerable, you're doing it right.

#303 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 04:11 PM:

In re eating stuff you find distasteful: the Black Magic muffin recipe has taught me that if I put enough cinnamon in something (esp. if it also has the Toasty Bread flavor) I will eat massive amounts of it cheerfully, even if it's full of contents I would usually abhor.

I'll have to try it with granola next time, it would be convenient if I liked granola.

#304 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 04:24 PM:

My wake-up light alarm has been less effective for me than I hoped it would be, but it does help some. It has a bunch of different sound settings for the alarm, and at first I put it on birdsong. Then I found myself feeling resentment when I heard similar birdsongs out in the real world. So I set it to "babbling brook".

#305 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 04:36 PM:

I've found wake-up lights helpful when I've had to get up significantly in advance of sunrise, but the first one I had broke, and the one I got to replace it didn't have the feature I liked best about the first, which was the sunset dimmer - a really marvelous thing for someone who's read herself to sleep since age five.

This is why I like doing my bedtime reading on my Kindle phone app now: it turns off the light for me and holds my place.

#306 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 04:53 PM:

Chickadee @281: Thank you. I'm glad as well!

Bricklayer @284: Glad to hear your good news re. child sleeping and you one night of whole sleep. @ 288, Sympathies re. the knee brace - yes, that's typical. @298: Here's hoping you get more of that (dog and kid tiring each other out).

hope in disguise @286: I used not to like lentils - texture mainly, I think. Spent a year making myself eat them; now I really like them.

charming quark @301/David Goldfarb@304/Rikibeth@305. I really love wake-up lights; I find they wake me up in such a way that I'm really ready to open my eyes and get up when the noise bit comes on. Unfortunately, my husband is over-sensitive to them, as in, it wakes him up the moment it comes on, making him not-happy. So far we have failed to find a solution to this.

#307 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 05:13 PM:

Yargh. Just finished two (2) pieces of chocolate cake left over from the Function upstairs. ::checks time:: need to remember to ingest some protein in a couple of hours, so I don't auger-in on the way home.

Bricklayer @298: "kid and dogs can tire each other out while we watch and sip mint juleps"

I'm currently down half my "tire them out" capacity, with the Cliff Palace girls locked upstairs (to accomodate Snowflake's injury). Yeti and Woofie know what the deal is when I let them into the Palace's downstairs (run around and squeal about all the good girl sniffies, go up the ramp and stare wistfuly through the gate), but Donkey hasn't experienced this, since the girls are usually still downstairs when he's out. When I went to collect him the other night, I think he thought I was trying to keeeeel him, poor boy.

charming quark @301: I tried a sunrise alarm clock, but given that my optimal sleeping time is 4am to noon, and I can easily sleep the clock around just because, it ... didn't make a dent.

#308 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 09:39 PM:

Food poisoning sucks. New prescription for Tylenol 3 does not suck.

Those with alarm clock trouble or just complex schedules might like to check out the clocks at Oregon Scientific. I can't find its current incarnation, but the 7 day dual alarm with customizations was a godsend for college. I had 2 alarms each weekday morning, set to gently increase volume, and disabled snooze. Was actually worth the $100 it cost, before I could afford a smartphone.

#309 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2013, 11:00 PM:

Someone else saying something similar to my comment about not letting the past define your future:

I started [this fic] partly because I was tired of the fics where Jim's crappy childhood is his defining focus, so I thought I'd write a story where even though it makes him what he is, it's not WHO he is. I really think that's important: that things that happen to someone are not all that define them. Shit happens, you know? But you're not the shit that happens to you. So you've got to live, you've got to go on, and even if you have to accept help from other people that's okay. Hell is other people, yes, but sometimes the only way out of hell is someone reaching out over the edge to you.

- from the end-of-story author's comments on this fic, which is an absolutely amazing New!Trek take on Kirk's childhood and Academy days, integrating his experience on Tarsus IV. (Although how that would actually fit into the reboot timeline I have no idea -- I think it must be an AU to the reboot AU, because in the movie he seems to have spent his entire childhood with the bad-tempered uncle. But read the fic anyhow, because it is awesome.)

#310 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 01:42 AM:

I've found that lavender is sweet enough to make a sweet omelette without adding sugar.

And if you'll tolerate really ugly gray scrambled eggs, adding some red wine instead of milk to the eggs results in something very tasty. I haven't tried white wine. I'd expect it to leave the eggs a normal yellow, but not taste as good.

#311 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 08:42 AM:

Strong agree on using red wine in scrambled eggs. Too bad it's not common to have breakfast by dim candlelight.

Same tradeoffs for quiche. I usually have one in the fridge to alternate with other meals, though have been known to eat it straight through.

When energy surges hit I use my crockpot/pressure cooker to prep bases* that go in my small chest freezer. It's far less trouble to throw together something healthy, like quiche, or just nuke some soup with liquid of choice sloshed in. Everything is packed with minimal liquid.

*for quiche: packets of caramelized onions, spinach, mushrooms, crisp crumbled bacon, Costco pre-shredded cheese, frozen veggies.

An oven-load of baked potatoes, mashed (for mashed potatoes, duh, or potato chowder). Cooked rice. Chunked cooked wienies. Chunked chicken, shredded pork, frozen shrimp and fish.

Many soup bases.

Preserved lemons, shredded ginger, mellowed garlic so a small quantity is always in the fridge.

When I can't handle batch prep by myself, I'll invite folks in, letting them cart me to shop or off-loading that to them. If I've got more freezer space than they do, I could store for them, which would mean periodic joyful contact.

I can think of several friends who'd love to do this now. Huh.

#312 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 02:11 PM:

I don't know if making that apology was a mistake or not.

Well, he said I had nothing to apologize for, even though I dumped way too much on him when I should have filtered more of it here. That was a choice I made and it was the wrong one. And he said that he wasn't the right guy, he said earlier that he wasn't strong enough but really, is anybody? (Oh what could have been. If I'd had more appropriate filters, so we could talk about stuff without me dumping everything on him... what could have been. I think he could have been the right guy, if I hadn't poisoned the relationship with my toxic waste. I think he is an amazing person.) He's gone. He's done. Why can't I be, too? And I want to talk to him so bad but I can't, because he's done, and what would it accomplish?

Three people at [shared interest] noticed that something was wrong, two of them instructors. I don't know what they think is wrong. I didn't tell them.

And then I went home and cried, for I don't know how long. I held back the tears while I was on transit with the book I had packed for the ride, but couldn't stop them while I was walking. An hour maybe? I got home a bit after 7PM. And then after the tears dried up I lay on the couch and did nothing, I can't even remember whether I was thinking anything or not until I heard my computer announce that it was 9PM. Then I thought, wow, it's 9PM. Then I don't remember thinking anything more until my computer announced that it was 10PM. I don't think I was sleeping, I was just lying on the couch feeling empty. When I finally managed to get up off the couch to go to bed it was 11PM. I was just lying in the dark staring at the wall.

Now it's about 11AM and I haven't eaten anything since lunch yesterday. I'm only just starting to feel a bit hungry and I've been awake since before 7. Normally I eat 3-5 times per day. Normally I'm hungry as soon as I wake up, even if I ate a big dinner the night before.

One thing I was thinking last night was that I didn't know if I could face going to [shared interest] again next week if this crying and not eating thing was going to continue. Did it last week too, and I think the only reason I didn't the week before is because I went to a NaNo event immediately after and managed to distract myself. But I decided to leave that decision until Wednesday and see how I felt then.

Still feeling kind of empty, lots of sad.

I am not handling this well. I am feeling even more broken now. Too broken for even a wonderful understanding man to handle. He is the first person I was ever attracted to, I didn't even know what feelings I had been missing until I met him. He was somebody who I could talk to about stuff without him running away or counterattacking or telling me I was overreacting. The only man like that so far in my 35 years. I am feeling like if it took that long to find the first one, what are the odds of ever finding another? And will I be able to trust myself to not screw it up again if I do one day find another? He said early on that he wasn't even sure if I was interested, and I think that could have been because I was too scared at first to open up and trust him with how much I was interested. How much harder would it be to try that again?

I miss him so much and I'm going to see him every week at [shared interest] and I don't know how to handle that. I think I'm going to have to skip the christmas party. That was where we first had a chance to talk outside of class, that was where we were flirting and following each other around, that was where I gave him my phone number.

I don't even want to go to my parents place for the holidays. Normally I go and get my once-a-year visit in with my sister, and go skiing a few times at their local ski hill which is way better than mine, but I can't afford to disappear for a few days into skiing this year and I need to have some away time when I'm visiting my parents and I don't know where else to go that doesn't cost anything. I don't want to face any questions, because the reason he had to leave was the toxic waste in my head and I haven't told my parents about that and I don't intend to. All I told them so far is that it didn't work out and I don't want to talk about it. She's only pushed twice, once right away with "I respect your privacy BUT" which I cut off, then later with an email asking if talking meant voice only and were emails ok. And then to my surprise, silence about it. I was not expecting that. But I still fear that when I'm at their place she'll talk about him. Even her saying he was nice is going to hurt.

And now I have to try to write a resume that talks about how awesome I am when I feel completely worthless.

I knew how to be happy single, once. I'll find it again some day. I'll stop hurting, some day.

#313 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 02:44 PM:

the invisible one @ 312: *offers hugs*

So, so sorry. As one who also tends to do the not-eating thing when under major stress, can I recommend Complan (or equivalent?). I'm not sure where you are and what brands are available, but you should be able to get something like it from a pharmacist. Basically it's a kind of super-fortified milkshake dealie which has enough nutrition in it to replace a light meal, but if you're feeling awful and have no appetite, you can kid yourself you're just having a drink.

It may possibly have saved my life a couple of times.

#314 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 02:59 PM:

the invisible one @312, so sorry.

Everything else I'm thinking of to say seems likely to be helpy, so I'm not saying it.

Except, be gentle with yourself. It is early days still, and you have a right to grieve. Do little things to take care of yourself. When in doubt, think what kind of advice you would offer a good friend in a similar situation.

Wishing you healing. Likewise, wishing spoons to all the others who need them.

#315 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 03:02 PM:

In the US, the equivalent "fortified milkshake" thing would be Ensure. It was a big help when I was having chemotherapy and had no appetite.

#316 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 03:10 PM:

the invisible one @312: First of all, sympathies and a virtual {{{{{hug}}}}}.

Second: eat. Even if you don't feel like it. Make something that takes minimal every both in preparing and eating. Have just a dessert. Whatever, but do eat something. Star with an instant soup mix?

Third, re. "I am feeling like if it took that long to find the first one, what are the odds of ever finding another? And will I be able to trust myself to not screw it up again if I do one day find another?" let me tell you a story: There was a girl who was at an all-girls school and didn't really meet any boys during her teen years - and wasn't really interested anyway - too busy with other stuff. Then she went away to university and it was great, and she made good friends and was really attracted to one boy but didn't go out with him because... because religious differences, and not really being ready, and... Then they met when they were both doing their PhDs (at locations 3 hours journey apart) and they both still really liked each other and she thought that this second chance meant the relationship was Meant To Be (TM). And the times they were together were great. But the times they were apart were not so great, and she wondered why he was okay at email communication, but never phoned, and seemed to be just as interested in meeting other various friends at weekends, rather than her, when she was supposed to be his girlfriend*. Then he announced he was moving to another continent and while she was working out how to get over there several times a year he finally said that he loved her, but wanted a "looser relationship"... so it all broke down. It took this girl some time to get over this boy, particularly because she felt like he hadn't been honest with her (the "I love you" bits were in conflict with the "want a looser relationship" bits). So, meanwhile there was a very nice guy she met at work, and they were just good friends. But then he asked her out. She said no, because she was seeing the other boy, but she was honest about it - including about the messed up parts of the relationship. And she found him really easy to talk with and... Well it took a while, because she was really worried she'd be hurt again, and that she'd mess it up and lose him again, and she was scared to try. But eventually she stopped hurting so much, and eventually she decided to trust this guy not to hurt her, and they did go out, and (five years later) "Reader, she married him". Several years on, and we're still very happy together.

So, (TL/DR version): just because it's taken you this long to find someone doesn't mean it will take you that long to find someone else. I know several people who have had only one or two meaningful relationships in their lives. Some of us just seem to be like that. And (in my experience) it hurts less eventually. But yes, in the mean time, you'll cry a lot, and waste time staring at nothing and... That's normal, so please, don't beat yourself up about it. And we're here, whenever you need us.

*And that's a whole 'nother story.

#317 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 03:16 PM:

the invisible one -

I used to spend huge amounts of energy fretting that I'd never have the courage/be strong enough to manage [whatever] again.

A major "aha" was to realize I'd already done it. I may not have done it right, but at least it was known space now. If something worked, do it again, if it didn't, tweak some variables.

Going to a Christmas party and flirting - not this year. But you already know that. You. Already. Know. That.

Please pay attention to everything you're doing right. Cherish those baby steps: not that you cried on the walk, but that you figured out how to keep it together on the bus. You didn't lose those hours completely - you tuned in when you heard the clock (and fetching up on the couch meant letting go in a safe place). Not denying anything. Shifting emphasis.

I had to back away hard from following the noticing with feeling "therefore I must do so and so". No, we don't.

Even if I pulled a wry face, I made myself say "yay, me." It helped me.

#318 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 03:56 PM:

I had a bowl of oatmeal. It's calories.

The only packaged meal replacement or equivalent things I've ever tried tasted vile to me. I'm kind of not inclined to try any more. And normally I enjoy cooking, and I'm healthy enough that not eating for a day isn't going to hurt me. I'll be fine on the food thing. I'll probably have leftovers tonight, there's half a baked squash in my fridge from Tuesday.

I've never gone looking for relationships. Always just accepted whatever attention came my way, and it was rare enough that I'd just about date anybody who asked. At university (crappy ex), at writing group (next ex), at [shared interest]. I am not particularly social, I don't often put myself into situations where I meet people and rarely make the jump from "group friends" to people I actually talk to outside of the context in which I met them. But yeah. Happened before. May happen again. Probably not at [shared interest] though; apart from the head instructor, New Interest and I were probably the oldest people there. Right now the only regular in-person human interaction I have is writing group, [shared interest], grocery shopping, and the gym. And I don't really chat with anybody at the latter two.

And I don't want to think about a new relationship right now. I need time to get my feet under me again and learn to stop thinking about the one I broke, so why am I worrying about new ones?

#319 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 04:08 PM:

the invisible one, #312: Ouch. I know it probably doesn't help to say that the first breakup is always the most painful thing in the world, but I'm going to say it anyhow because it is. And I can only imagine how much worse it is to be facing it with adult-level emotions; I was only 14 and we hadn't been dating very long, and I was absolutely devastated. I can only reiterate that it does get better, but the only cure is time.

I was 30 years old when I married my now-ex. I'd dated a lot of men, but he was the first one I was willing to think of as more than "Mr. Right Now". We were married for 10 years, and then he left me. I was sure I would never find anyone else; first off, my potential mate pool is relatively small because I want someone who shares my interests, and secondly... I'm not the easiest person to live with. And I was 40 years old, which is about when women start becoming invisible.

And yet now here I am, coming up on 15 years with my partner, and it's a better relationship in many ways than the one I had with the now-ex. Which is to say, it's never hopeless. There is no such thing as the One And Only True Love for any given person -- it's all about being in the right place at the right time, and being open to the possibilities life tosses you.

#320 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 05:16 PM:

If you're going to subsist on just a couple foods, oatmeal is a surprisingly good one to pick. Oatmeal plus a source of dairy and occasional green things (or vitamin pills) will hold you for a while, and unlike a lot of poor-folks-food, it'll keep your lower GI fairly happy, too, with the fiber ...

#321 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 05:49 PM:

the invisible one @312: Coupla points:

That sitting-on-the-couch doing nothing is healing time. Your psychic body is processing and reconfiguring to deal with the hole where he used to be in your mental landscape. This is as real an injury as losing a chunk of flesh. It's entirely appropriate and sensible to allocate time and energy to the healing, in the same way you would while recovering from a bad fall.

I've found smoothies to be a good, stealthy source of calories and nutrition when I'm feeling inappetitic. (Of course, this presumes ingredients on hand and spoons for construction.)

You didn't break the relationship: he did. He's the one who chose to opt out. Note he did not recalibrate with you about the amount of personal struggle being shared before it became a deal-breaker for him. He didn't give you a chance to chose a different way to be in the relationship. He just bailed. This is a flexibility/responsibility down-check for him, in my book.

One breakthrough I had during a relationship that subsequently went bad: 80% of what I "loved about him" was the effect that "being in love" had on me and how I was in the world. I deduced and later verified that I could be this way even in the absence of a love relationship. Mine. Mine! All mine!!

#322 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 07:12 PM:

the invisible one @312: Oof, all sympathies.

I would like to second what Jacque said, that he didn't let you know before it became a deal-breaker, is a shortcoming on his end. You *were* going about things with due care, imho. And your grief at such an abrupt about-face (especially combined with continued exposure, and his acting like nbd) is an entirely natural reaction.

#323 ::: charming quark ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 07:25 PM:

invisible one at #312: Witnessing your pain, and sending you (((((gentle hugs))))). I want to reiterate both DCB’s and Jacque’s comments that what you are experiencing right now, the crying, sitting and staring, etc., is both normal and necessary. You have just been through an emotional car wreck, and you are wounded and traumatized, and you need as much time as you need to recover. And as someone with somewhat more relationship experience, and from my own observations, there is no diet in the world more effective than the post-“boyfriend broke up with me” loss of appetite diet.

**Please ignore what comes next if too hlepy**

invisible one, I want you to go back and read abi’s post that started this thread. This from your post is a Goddamn Tape™: “the reason he had to leave was the toxic waste in my head”. NO. NO IT IS NOT. He left because that was the response he chose. Your toxic waste did not hold a gun to his head, or leave him on a lonely highway out on the edge of town. He chose it. Maybe in response to his own GT™, but he chose it himself.

#324 ::: TrishB ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 07:51 PM:

For invisible one @ 312
Please listen to the other folks here regarding nutrition. Get some Ensure and Gatorade/Vitamin Water. When my ex announced he wanted a divorce, I couldn't keep anything in my system for over 3 days and my brain and emotions started to malfunction beyond just the initial shock. It was amazing to me how much brain power came back after the first gatorade that stayed down, and then the next, and then a nutrition shake. The previous few days, all food had left my system very quickly, but the this method allowed it to stay and be absorbed.

It was truly stunning to move off the couch to a friends house for the afternoon, when I was sure I'd never move again.

Do you have a friend or acquaintance to call to help you? Sorry if helpy, but sometimes even decent neighbors or buddies can help in this kind of situation.

#325 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 09:01 PM:

First: I'm ok for nutrition. I wasn't hungry for a day, that's not enough to harm me. There's very little that disturbs my appetite, and what does, doesn't do it for long. You can stop worrying on that count. I mentioned it because it was highly unusual for me, as much so as lying on the couch with no thoughts at all for 3 hours.

Second: I was *not* proceeding with due care. I was treating him like a free therapist and dumping everything on him. I should have worked a lot of that stuff out either here or in my journal before letting him know what was up, instead of sorting through the raw stuff with him all the time. Toxic waste is toxic; exposing it to sunlight and sorting through what it means is good, but dumping it all on one person is not.

His acting like everything is normal may or may not be driven by the same thing as my attempts at acting the same way: at [shared interest], we're in public and that is not the place to deal with these things because it's a class.

As for breaking it off, yeah, maybe trying again slower with less dumping on him may have worked. And maybe not. Sometimes you don't realize there's a boundary until somebody hits it, and the way I was dumping stuff on him (via long emails, mainly) meant that there's a good chance I didn't just hit that boundary but blew so far past it he couldn't handle it anymore, all without realizing it. So maybe he bailed inappropriately. And maybe he was denying to himself that there was a problem until he couldn't do that anymore. And maybe I threw so much at him so fast he found one day that he couldn't deal with it anymore. I don't know. All I know is that treating somebody like a free therapist is not appropriate and not something you do to a person.

Third: all the comments about relationship stuff. I'm sure they are true for you. They may be true for me too. I am not in a place to hear them right now.

Finally, #323, charming quark: not everybody wants to lose weight. Comments on loss of appetite being a convenient diet are not appropriate.

#326 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 09:51 PM:

the invisible one, #325: I'm sorry if anything I said made matters worse for you. Sometimes I'm clumsy and step on toes without realizing it, and if I did that I apologize.

Hearing and witnessing.

#327 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2013, 11:11 PM:

#326, Lee: It's not so much making it worse as not something I'm in a place to hear right now. Like I said, they may also be true for me. One day. After I've finished mourning.

Now all those FB shares about what true love really is, those hurt. (Just saw another a few minutes ago.) Those hurt even when I was in this relationship or when I was happily single before that, because they often quite explicitly say things like how I'm a failure because I have a divorce in my past. (Vile things. I don't need any more help in feeling like a failure, TYVM.)

What you said? I'm just not ready to think about that yet.

#328 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2013, 12:07 AM:

the invisible one @312: lots of hugs and holding on offer from me too.

On a totally different note, insight from recently-consumed media: firm boundaries plus less than extreme politeness = perceived rudeness, at least according to the person wishing you to go squish. The precise effect varies depending on the exact combination of ingredients. Firm boundaries + lack of malice + politeness = confusion over why are you being so hard on someone (especially when the transgression is accidental). While firm boundaries + dislike or malice + rudeness = coming across as a strong-willed jerk. Holding boundaries THAT firmly felt almost violent in both the book and the show where I saw it recently. The characters doing it were in effect, emotionally/socially, letting their opponents crack their heads open running into stone walls. We're clearly meant to see it that way in both works. That made me think: the effect of firm boundaries is *so* strong that even when done with extreme politeness, it shows up most often in fiction as the villain's comeuppance.

How much are we trained to avoid conflict, to give into social/emotional aggressors? How do we decide when to give in, and why? To what extent does society really depend on being able to push one another around? If it does, why?

#329 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2013, 08:56 AM:

Mongoose @300: A cautious thanks! Of course I'd love even more for both of us (and the rest of the commenters here) to do well! I have to say that I'm currently at the point where it pays off to be somewhat cautious so as not to be tripped up badly by old habits. At least that's what it feels like.
In that vein I'm very consciously pushing myself to go ahead where only that final little push is needed to get something unpleasant but ultimately necessary done. At the same time I try to keep self-care at the forefront of my mind, because few things would destroy the recent development more thoroughly than the fruitless attempt to make up for everything at once.

Moonlit Night @61: A really good description of this behaviour, and squeezers is a very apt way to put it. I hate how I still feel bad most of the time for resisting such behaviour, because of course giving is a good thing to do and who am I to refuse them? That means I'm selfish in return, right? Ugh. I love (as in hate) that the original offence (their overly demanding behaviour) is seen as ok, but any attempt to resist is somehow "making trouble".
@328 touches that as well. See my first post here, boundaries are currently on my mind.

@waking up: Recently I've started to go to bed either 7:30 or 9h before I'm about to be up so that my waking time coincides with the end of a sleep cycle. It does help with the brain fog I'm dealing with in the morning.

#330 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2013, 09:02 AM:

the invisible one, hugs on offer. Remembering past relationship grief/loss, and wishing you a bearable healing process.

#331 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2013, 10:16 AM:

Moonlit Night @328 How do we decide when to give in, and why? To what extent does society really depend on being able to push one another around? If it does, why?

Society doesn't depend on being able to push one another around, but it does depend on mutual give and take. In theory, we each acknowledge that we are not the center of the universe, and give a little in order to make everyone's lives better. We let red and green lights tell us when we can cross an intersection; we let consideration for our neighbor codified as noise ordinances restrain our ability to host raucous parties or run power tools at 3 am.

In relationships, the closer we are, the more give we have a right to expect from each other; I can ask more of my husband than of a neighbor, more of the neighbor or coworker than of a random stranger. In theory there's a reciprocity and a connection; I ask more of them, but I freely give more to them too. I think this is one of the hallmarks of true community.

I think people rigidly maintain boundaries for one of two reasons. The media you've been consuming think it's because the person doesn't want mutual give-and-take because they are greedy and want ALL THE THINGS FOR ME or because they are afraid of the vulnerability that's inherent in the back-and-forth and need to get past that fear. In those cases, making the boundaries more permeable can be a good thing. Scrooge learns better; the independent loner enters relationships.

But storytelling media look less often at the other case where people rigidly maintain boundaries: because they have consistently been pushed, because the people who should offer give-and-take are only offering take-and-take, where the intimacy of a relationship with mutual respect is replaced by a kind of emotional slavery where one person has all the right to demand and the other has no right to refuse. A positive view of boundary-maintenance does show up in books/movies occasionally: the reader/viewer cheers when the protagonist stands up to the person who has made her a doormat. Usually this is a lying, cheating ex. I can think of one case (in Nora Robert's Bride Quartet) where it's an exploitive and intrusive parent.

You can't voluntarily give of yourself unless you're allowed to HAVE an independent self, and the essence of an independent self is that you maintain your boundaries and YOU choose when to lower them.

#332 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2013, 01:15 PM:

Did responsible stuff in a mostly well-organized manner, am currently freaking out. I'm not impressed. Maybe this is some kind of extinction burst. I'd really like to be less jumpy and wound up though.

#333 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2013, 02:06 PM:

#321, Jacque: One breakthrough I had during a relationship that subsequently went bad: 80% of what I "loved about him" was the effect that "being in love" had on me and how I was in the world. I deduced and later verified that I could be this way even in the absence of a love relationship. Mine. Mine! All mine!!

To roll back in the conversation a little, I was wondering if you would be willing to expand on this a bit?

I could probably describe my relationship with Crappy Ex similarly; it wasn't that I loved him so much as I liked the attention he gave me (at first) and that other people perceived me as part of a happy couple who were perfect for each other, and not knowing what actual attraction felt like, I thought I was in love with him. (And then later I was trapped "because nobody else would be able to put up with me" and I didn't really have anything outside of the relationship and my job.)

Since then, I've learned to be happy while single and just being myself. I learned that I didn't need a guy's attention to be happy, and that I could have my own hobbies without sharing them with anybody or getting anybody's approval or waiting for anybody to join me, I could just go do what I wanted, when I wanted. (Well, subject to adult responsibilities like holding down a job and stuff. But otherwise.)

I'm wondering if those things about those past relationships were similar for you, or if you had other things.

This relationship, I found that I did not define myself by the relationship, but I very much enjoyed spending time with him. I really appreciated that he would listen to my insecurities and fears without getting defensive, or telling me I was overreacting, or any of the things that every other person but one that I've met face to face had done. (I learned to stop telling people. So maybe I do have other friends who would be similarly great at listening, but I don't know because I don't want to risk telling anyone anymore.) We had our separate hobbies, we had our shared hobbies, we had our work, we had our time together. It was good while it lasted, and he definitely raised the bar for what I'm willing to accept in a guy in the future. Now that I know such things as listening instead of counterattacking and knowing how to cook more than one thing are possible!

#334 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2013, 05:31 PM:

somewhere_else @332: Did responsible stuff in a mostly well-organized manner, am currently freaking out. Ah, but well done for the "did responsible stuff" part BEFORE the freaking out part. (And sympathies for the freaking out part).

#335 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2013, 05:42 PM:

Finally got the casserole made today (which is a major undertaking, as it's about ten helpings); I was pretty spoonless, but needed to do it before the vegetables started going funny.

I am now even more spoonless. But I am at least spoonless with ten days' worth of casserole cooling down on the stove, so tomorrow I am expecting to go "yay".

#336 ::: charming quark ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2013, 06:23 PM:

The invisible one, I am truly sorry for offending you with the diet comment. I do tend to have a flip tongue sometimes, and this is one of my own boundary issues that needs constant work and attention.

Your framing of the situation at #325 seems to me to strike a better balance – responsibility taken on both sides. I do think that too much spilling out of you upon getting to know someone you got on so well with and who had indicated a willingness to listen to and discuss your insecurities and fears , while maybe not appropriate, is nevertheless an understandable and human reaction.

I do understand about not being in the place to hear things yet. Hearing and witnessing, and wishing everyone a couple of extra spoons today.

#337 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 12:14 AM:

somewhere_else @332: Did responsible stuff in a mostly well-organized manner, am currently freaking out. I'm not impressed. Maybe this is some kind of extinction burst. I'd really like to be less jumpy and wound up though.

Hee hee.

On the few occassions when I've managed to get my act together sufficiently to get all my chores done, I often find myself feeling all anxious and out-of-sorts. I have a couple of theories: 1) "OMG, The The Stuff is done!? Eeek! Feels different! Wrong!" and/or 2) That the unanchored free-floating anxiety is exposed for what it is, without having some low-grade guilt trip to blame it on. I'm not more anxious, I don't have my usual "excuse," so it feels worse, sort of like a candle seems brighter in a dark room than it does in the sunlight.

the invisible one @333: One breakthrough I had during a relationship that subsequently went bad: 80% of what I "loved about him" was the effect that "being in love" had on me and how I was in the world." ... I'm wondering if those things about those past relationships were similar for you, or if you had other things.

For me, it was (is) much less about what the other person gives me, and how people perceive me, than it is about how I approach the world. When I'm in a relationship, my attention is focused outward: I enjoy looking at the guy, savoring his appearance. I pay muich more attention to tactile sensation. I feel loving and appreciative. Also, I'm more considerate; doing stuff for the other person, enjoying the doing of it, because it's an excuse to feel that warm bloom of affection in my middle. Also, I'm running a model of how that other person might feel about me, which makes it easier for me to see and feel the things about myself which I like, like my wit in cleverness and generosity. I just like myself better when I'm being open and loving.

So, while the attention a lover gives me is wonderful and I like it a lot, what makes the bigger difference is how I behave, and what I see about myself.

The big breakthrough came when I realized I was free to behave that way, and feel that way about myself, irrespective of whether there was an "other" to love me, or not.

This has two additional beneficial effects: 1) it makes me easier to get along with and more fun to be around (and thus more attractive!), and 2) it makes me a lot less vulnerable to the seismic effects of any relationship, because I'm not depending on the presence or conduct of anyone else to determine how I choose to be with myself and in the world.

Does that clarify?

(Also, if I'm generally in the habit of being/feeling loving, then it's easier to tap that frame of mind where others are involved, too. Which makes it easier to love others, again not dependent on how they feel about me.)

#338 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 12:37 AM:

#332 ::: somewhere_else, #337 ::: Jacque

I think we have a theme here. I did a calligraphy commission which was more ambitious than my usual (a long paragraph with some lines above and below, to a set size, suitable for framing). After considerable procrastination and anxiety, not to mention thrashing, I got it mailed in time, the customer is pleased, and it's paid for.

And I feel like crap. It's not that the calligraphy was merely adequate-- my energy mostly went into getting a good layout and fighting with tools which weren't quite right to get everything squared up.

I'm feeling a little better just writing about it. It's hard to be in the normal world where you're supposed to feel better when things go well, but you just don't.

No wonder I'm not more ambitious. If this is the punishment for a very modest success, being told to feel the fear and do it anyway doesn't exactly help.

Anyone know what, if anything, helps with this stuff? If possible, some solution which doesn't add up to try harder and suffer more.

#339 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 02:23 AM:

dcb @334: *laughs* Certainly, I also did some freaking out the day before, but it was, as I described, somehow worse after. There is a part that could partly relax after yesterday, because what I did was something necessary and important and it will help me in the long run. So, yay!

Mongoose @335: Yay for future self care and hopefully a soon restorage of the spoons!

Jacque @337: I experienced 2) as well as described (I think) a couple of posts back, but yesterday I had the impression that it didn't account for the whole of it. Feels wrong seems to be certainly a part of it and on some level I think I try to make up for things going wrong because of the decisions I made by freaking out pre-emptively, since I get to feel more in control that way.

Nancy Lebovitz @338: That account sounds very, very familiar. I've been experimenting with ways to "motivate" myself for that very reason, because any kind of "deceit" will make me drag my feet even harder. Deadlines help me to get stuff done and might be better than open-ended projects, but they don't reduce stress significantly. I might be able to develop better discipline in the long run, but anything involving I'm going to sit down as long as it takes to get this done won't work.
I wrote some time ago how I'm trying to take the judgement out of the way I think about tasks done or half-done and in the last couple of weeks I went even further. Currently none of that is allowed. I put down some ground rules such as three meals a day, one warm and enough sleep, those are non-negotiable. If I do have the energy to do something on top, I'll go ahead, but basic self-care will come first. I think of it as aggressively looking out for myself so that I can have my own back against Well, I haven't done anything in days, let's skip this meal and go ahead. This approach won't serve me the same way it didn't work in the past. As for the times I do work on something, I'll also try to include some time for calming down from the start.
I know that task X will freak me out, so I will take some minor breaks while I do it and as soon as fear spikes I have permission to put everything aside and sooth my fears as best as possible. I deserve to not be nervous all the damn time. I do my best to keep my own promises, even the smallest and most simple ones, because that way, the small freaked out part of myself that cannot be reasoned with will believe me when I say That's truly it for today, we are done. One of those promises is not to put pressure on myself, another one that taking small steps is okay and I won't be angry with myself for only getting one small thing done today. I start to believe it. Hope that makes some sense, I just got up, but I really wanted to answer this.

#340 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 02:37 AM:

This morning my mother, cranky and out of sorts, bit me hard. Traumatic brain chatter has been creeping back up on me all day, though it's not a patch on old history.

The surprise has been the nasty relief: I know how to cope with her doing this.

Altering my script feels like it takes more energy and attention. Wrong. It's not long-term loss vs. short-term win, it's a short-term loss too.

#341 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 04:28 AM:

Sympathy, Jeanie.

And I am reading, and witnessing, as I always do. This family-intensive time is a tough one for so many people here, and this community is often in my thoughts.

#342 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 09:01 AM:

#339 ::: somewhere_else

Thanks, but I didn't overwork myself-- the problem is something else.

In fact, I did one piece of self-care I'm kind of proud of-- I did a some raising my arms and lowering them (think minimal tai chi) to relax before I started the final lettering, and after a somewhat stressful phone call happened in the middle (dammit, I meant to leave the phone off the hook), I did some more minimal tai chi.

Even if a lot of my reaction was to be unhappy to find out how tense I was, it was still a good idea to relax some.

I'm telling you, I get a bad emotional reaction to success. It might have been more painful if I'd been satisfied with the calligraphy.

I'm feeling better after a night's sleep, but the general pattern is a bad problem.

#343 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 11:08 AM:

#337, Jacque: Thank you, that does clarify what you meant. It is not a difference I have noticed in myself. I tended to become more passive/subordinate and waited for the guy to agree before I could do anything, which is a habit I tried very hard to *break*.

#344 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 11:38 AM:

re: Abi's comment on the OT -

I came without the wiring for social interactions. I learned to fake it by treating gatherings with people I didn't know (when I was on panels or worse, an Artist GOH) by creating a theater role:

Go to the con suite. Put self in area accessible to traffic flow. Stand still. Don't hunch. Lift chin, relax jaw (don't drool*). Smile.
If someone makes eye contact, say "hi" with smile and nod.
If they give more than a brief return glance, ask "how's it going?" Smile, nod.

Walk to table, pick up plate and a few munchies - stage prop to occupy hands. Smile and nod at the fresh group of people. If a conversation starts, shut up and listen (I slip into instructing mode easily).

If there's alcohol, make sure there's also a big glass of water, and alternate three sips of that with any booze.

Respond to any conversation with exact matches for subject/depth.**

I didn't get integrated enough to venture out without a virtual 30-page script until my late 40s.

*Monitor self - if starting to tense up, check for drooling. If not, congratulate self and award points. If yes, wipe chin, smile, quietly leave.
**This is how I learned to structure interactions when I found (and was ready to work with) a good therapist. Toxic brain stuff is less apt to flood out.

#345 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 12:02 PM:

Well, things were going well, then THIS happened.

My fiance's parents are coming to town this week, and they made my parents a present. They wanted to meet up so they could give my parents the gift and hopefully talk things out. I texted my mother about this about 15 minutes ago. Her response was, "No. I don't have a relationship with you."

I want to scream. I want to claw at them until they're ragged and bloody. I want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them. This is just what they do. When somebody does something they don't like, they discard them. They sold the family dog when I was little, not once but twice. They tried to force my brother to be right-handed. They beat down my individuality enough that I had to move out just to discover the kind of person I want to be. And now, they casually tear my heart out and stomp on it? Fuck them.

It looks like passive-aggression is the only means of contact I have left. "Merry Christmas from the person who doesn't exist." "Happy birthday from the person who doesn't exist." "Happy Easter from the person who doesn't exist." I don't want parents anymore if this is how they're going to treat me; I just want to hurt them back. I made a therapist appointment but it's not until January because of the holidays. I know I don't want to die, but living hurts. It feels like there's a hole in me.

#346 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 12:09 PM:

Re: social interaction subthread:

Last night was the company party for the spouse's job. For logistical reasons, we came separately, and I arrived first. And as it was absolutely freezing outside, I went ahead into the room at the restaurant reserved for the party instead of waiting for the spouse outside.

Which suddenly left me in a large decorated room lightly populated by people I had never met before, as the spouse only started working at this company in October. And oh that moment of complete social panic, because everyone was dressed a bit better than I was, most of them were older than me, most of them were noticeably more...professional. I felt like a teenager in a room full of adults all over again.

So I got a beer from the open bar, and chatted with a waiter about the big space heaters set up, and sort of smiled blankly into space while trying repeatedly to call the spouse to show up and introduce me please oh god I am a stranger among strangers help.

I think if I were more socially adept, I might've introduced myself, or looked less awkward. But I also know that ten years ago--hell, probably five years ago--I would have been so amazingly flustered by the situation that I would've gone and hid in the bathroom and cried out of sheer anxiety. And I did not. So. That's a social skill I've learned, right there. Faking comfort in an awkward social situation, at least well enough that no one was giving me concerned looks, for fifteen minutes or so until someone arrived to alleviate the stress. It's very nice to know that I can learn these sorts of skills, over time. Even if most other people seem to have come with them installed by the age of twelve... It is still an achievement to get it installed in myself at the age of thirty-two.

(Conversely, I seldom have trouble chatting with strangers at conventions. Not anymore! But at a convention it feels like there's a general topic of conversation everyone there is interested in. At a company party for a company I don't work for... "So, how's that programming stuff y'all do going for you?" seemed like a bad lead-in.)

#347 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 12:15 PM:

The_L @345: Oh, ouch. How exactly calculated to exact the greatest amount of pain. Sympathies, hugs if they're welcome, certainly hearing and witnessing. I wish there was something more I could say.

#348 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 12:43 PM:

The_L #345:

I am so, so sorry they did that to you.

Something similar happened to me, which makes me feel the need to respond to you. You don't deserve their discarding behavior, because they have no right to discard you. They're the ones being unworthy of a relationship with you.

FWIW I think that not wanting parents anymore if that's how they're going to treat you is 100% the right response. I am going to go out on a limb here and predict that if you ignore your parents entirely, they will pop back up fairly soon pretending nothing was ever wrong. At least, that's how my parents behave when they pull this crap, and I understand similar patterns are common.

I remember the hurt. You seem like a cool person and I hate to see you going through it.

#349 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 01:41 PM:

The_L & Little John's response -

Exactly my experience. I had to emotionally and physically divorce my mother - no contact. When I felt strong enough, I'd go back for the odd family occasion. If there were outsiders present, she'd keep it together, too. As soon as she started to turn toxic, even if it had been a drive of several hours and we were twenty minutes in, I'd leave. The trick was figuring when she was well in the chute but I could still say calmly, "Sorry*, I need to go". She'd stuff the monster back down but couldn't maintain it - if I started for my coat, I couldn't let her fake me out. As with Little John, such incidents were immediately erased.

When email became an option, I guardedly picked that up with her. This was our mode for thirty years.

If she pulls this again on Skype, I'll say, "Oops, got to go." and go. Give it another shot the next morning when I can come in calm and cheerful. She has managed major reprogramming of herself, but no way I'm going to let this get traction. She was physically and emotionally distressed yesterday, but she has to find a way to keep it together for me or I won't stay.

*Because I hadn't worked past giving up that part of the script. Everyone agreed that it was me provoking her - what they did didn't set her off. My sister used to yammer at me about how it really would be easy for us to get along if I'd only try, until I went away to college and she suddenly lost the knack.

#350 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 03:18 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @342: I'm sorry and you're right, rereading what I wrote I see I completely failed to address your point. I apologize for that.

#351 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 08:56 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @338: I'm reminded of a commission I did for illustrations for a video game manual, way back in the '80s. I did it, and I did it on time, and I got paid, but I was entirely less than thrilled with the result, and the whole experience left a nasty taste in my mouth. The conclusion I finally came to was that doing stuff to other people's specs somehow short-circuits all the "fun" stuff about doing artwork. This is consistent with my experience of the few other times I've done commission work. Never tried it again after this one. Came to the conclusion that I will never be an effective commercial artist for this reason. Unless it's my thing for my reasons, it's worse than "work," somehow.

Anyone know what, if anything, helps with this stuff?

To the degree that I've gotten any kind of grip on it, practice. And confining the services I offer to activities that I don't have a lot of emotional investment in. Which, sadly, for me means Not Artwork.

Tangentially, I was not expecting the experience I had prepping for the MileHiCon art show. It consumed the whole of my free time and attention for a solid six months beforehand, and I managed to work up a vicious case of anxiety hives* during the month or so beforehand. I kept having the thought, "Wait, isn't this supposed to be fun?. Huh. Okay, maybe not." At least I didn't have the big post-show let-down that I was anticipating.

* Which was puzzling. It's not like I've never entered stuff in an artshow before. And it's not like I've never been to a con before. So what the hell?

somewhere_else @339: I put down some ground rules such as three meals a day, one warm and enough sleep, those are non-negotiable.

Boy, I wish I could implement something like that. I do okay with getting fed enough, though I could benefit from reliably getting some green vegetation in my diet. The sleep thing.... Sleep is a very high priority for me. But not as high, some days, as artwork. There are times, sadly fairly frequently, when I must do artwork, irrespective of the smoking crater it leaves in my schedule. (I keep having to remind myself that this is a fairly new phenomenon, and is, on balance, a good thing, so to cut myself some slack about integrating it into my life. This doesn't help on those days when I get into work two hours late because I was up until 3am. ::sigh::)

I know that task X will freak me out

If you're comfortable doing so, can you expand on this a bit?

Nancy Lebovitz @342: I'm telling you, I get a bad emotional reaction to success.

It's not obvious to me: do you have this reaction to doing calligraphy for yourself? (Assuming you do do calligraphy for yourself.) If not, is that a reaction you can compare and contrast?

It also occurs to me to ask: can you describe the reaction you would have expected to have to success? And can you quantify the difference between the two?

the invisible one @343: I tended to become more passive/subordinate and waited for the guy to agree before I could do anything, which is a habit I tried very hard to *break*.

Yeah, that whole "waiting for permission" thing.... Another big breakthrough for me was the day I actually noticed the following pattern:* I'd invent a fix for some problem (in this particular instance, coming up with a quick-release connector for guinea pig fencing, I think), and I'd be pleased with how clever this little solution was. Then I'd run a mental model of how (say) my brother would react if I showed it to him. He wouldn't be impressed. He would say it was obvious, and somebody else probably invented it first. And I'd feel a let-down, because my clever idea really wasn't all that clever at all.

But this particular day, I did kind of a double-take. Hey. My brother isn't here. He'll probably never even see this little widget I've come up with. Even if he would pooh-pooh it, I am tickled with it, and think it's clever. And, you know? That's damn well good enough. It's okay if I am tickled with my ideas and inventions. It doesn't matter whether other people are impressed or not. (Well, at least not until other people are actually around to voice an opinion.)

At the time, this insight didn't feel like all that big a deal, but in retrospect, I kinda think it was. Because I gave myself permission to respect my own insights and opinions. How other people feel about them is an entirely separate matter.

I claimed ownership of my own evaluations. This breakthrough is a big reason why I've been willing to comment at all in this thread, for example. And I've been pleasantly surprised at how often other people seem to find some value in what I have to say. (There are times when my Big Insights aren't of value to others, but that's okay, too. Doesn't obviate the value I find in them.)

* Which harks back nicely to the theme of this thread's opening post.

Jeanie @344: Wow. That's a really beautiful role-assuming algorithm! ::steps back to admire::

The_L @345: Her response was, "No. I don't have a relationship with you."

In your place, I would be really, sorely commented to respond with the following question: "So is the hurt you've caused with this comment accidental, or deliberate? Just want to know if it's abuse or not."

For the record, I don't believe this would be either passive, or aggressive, and IMnpHO, you are entirely within your rights to call your mother out on her intentions. (Although I get that it may be rather more in-your-face than you would prefer.)

Fade Manley @346: Even if most other people seem to have come with them installed by the age of twelve... It is still an achievement to get it installed in myself at the age of thirty-two.

I think I've made mention that I'm a mis-incarnated Martian? I've had to manually retrofit all of what social skills I can claim, and I'm still working on it.

Wise friend of mine once offered this generic social-opening gambit: after you've exchanged names and are ready for "small talk" (signal-matching handshake, in telecom parlance), the question she suggests is: "So, what do you like to do?" This is sufficiently open-ended that almost any answer will serve, but has the advantage that it aims at where people want to live, which is nearly always more interesting (to them) than the more prosaic (and common) "So, what do you do?"

The_L: What Little John said. I summarily divorced my mother for far less.

#352 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 10:00 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @342, tossing this out in case it resonates on the "fear of success". Did you have occasions when you were younger when succeeding at something you'd been working at got a reaction of, "Well, now that you can do it, you'd better do it that well all the time." IOW, the reward for a job well done is not only another job, but a harder job with higher expectations?

#353 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 10:20 PM:

OtterB @352: ObBujold ... you mean Ivan Vorpatril Syndrome?

#354 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 10:28 PM:

Bricklayer @353, yes, although I remember either Gregor or Simon doing it to Miles before it became an issue with Ivan.

#355 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2013, 11:20 PM:

Yes, but Miles took the pressure and surfed it; Ivan internalized it very early and ended up with his whole life built around not standing out and doing just what he had to to get by. I'm rereading Miles Errant and just hit the part where Aral remarks that Ivan's been like that since he was 5. Which sounds a lot like, um, his upbringing molding him in ways that are nonoptimal to his own personal requirements ...

#356 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2013, 07:39 AM:

Bricklayer, good point.

#357 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2013, 09:00 AM:

Regarding being a wreck after the "big job" is done, how about simple exhaustion, likely knocking down your compensations?

Last week I had to empty out my kitchen (and move out for a few days) for a big rebuild¹. On a weekend's notice, with the office closed and an ice storm bearing on.²

My Mom was congratulating me on how well I was managing, but it didn't feel like that to me. Once it was done and I was in the loaner apartment, I spent my non-work day basically napping.

¹ The work turned out pretty well, but these guys (the development's managing office) really need to work on communication.

² Which turned out to be a wash, but I didn't know that over the weekend.

#358 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2013, 02:01 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @338: Sympathies. I don't feel quite like you do, I think, but I have tended to feel rather drained and a sense of being "let down" each time after I've finished a big project in the past few years - while I used to feel happy and buoyed up by having finished - I seem to have lost that sense of achievement I used to have.

In my case I think it's been a lot to do with (through circumstances beyond my control) running behind for the last several years, so finishing one project has never meant a break but just going straight on to the next project, with no time to celebrate and knowing that I'm already behind when I'm starting. Also lack of someone else to double-check on the final checks, so worrying that something is wrong which I won't have noticed.

Dave Harmon @357: Well done you - for not only managing the packing up and temporary move etc. but also handling it so well - even if you felt a wreck on the inside.

#359 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2013, 04:01 PM:

Nancy, I definitely feel where you're coming from. I've self-sabotaged before just to avoid the pressure of success--even though it means the unpleasantness of failure.

Thanks for the comments, all. Now that the initial shock and pain have had time to settle, I feel free. I never have to care about what my parents say, do, or think again for the rest of my life. The weight of their expectations is off my shoulders. I don't have to sleep in a Procrustean bed ever again.

#360 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2013, 04:27 PM:

The_L, #345: You know this already, but it never hurts to hear it from someone else: your parents are behaving unacceptably, in a manner which indicates that they were raised by wolves. My reaction leans toward a raised eyebrow and the comment, "How ill-bred of them," in a dismissive tone of voice.

Bricklayer, #353: Not exactly, because ISTR that at least when Ivan succeeded at something he got a modicum of recognition for it before he got hit with the next thing. Whereas with what OtterB said, I hear a subtext of, "And what the hell took you so long, anyhow?" That's toxic.

#361 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2013, 05:26 PM:

Lee: My maternal grandmother is a lot nicer than you'd expect. I'm not sure where either of her daughters went wrong. My ex-father recently informed me that he was beaten; this explains rather a lot. My ex-mother is, and has always been, an enabler; I'm not sure how much of this is her and how much is her husband, but I don't think it really matters.

#362 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2013, 05:46 PM:

The_L @359: Really pleased that you're feeling lighter.

#363 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2013, 06:41 PM:

Fade Manley at # 346: At a company party for a company I don't work for... "So, how's that programming stuff y'all do going for you?" seemed like a bad lead-in.

Oh, I don't know. A lot of programmers would respond eagerly about what they have been doing. With insider jargon and incomprehensible levels of technical detail.... So you're right, that would be a bad lead-in.

#364 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2013, 02:23 AM:

The_L, #359: I feel free. I never have to care about what my parents say, do, or think again for the rest of my life.

BTDT. That was exactly how I felt after my father died. It's not supposed to feel that way, but reality trumps theory every damn time.

#365 ::: blind wisdom ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2013, 01:08 PM:

so he's apparently in a depressive phase. he was talking last night about how when people say, "you shouldn't commit suicide - think of all the people who would miss you!" his response is to think, "well obviously i should first sever all connections with people so none of them will miss me." his own goddamn tape, i guess.

there's some up and some down, though not in that order. after i tried to convince him that he was doing wrong thinking, he went to sleep. he gets annoyed if i go to bed without telling him that i'm doing so, so i tried to wake him up an hour or so later. (i also wasn't sure if he really wanted to spend the night on the couch.) i got him to the point where he'd say "uh huh. uh huh." when i asked him questions, but couldn't actually wake him.

some time later, the cat did her late-night yowling thing, and he woke up. when he came upstairs, he said, "did you not HEAR the cat?" i said, "yeah, i heard her. i guess she did a better job of waking you up than i did!" ...and he stormed off in a huff.

when he came back, i told him i wasn't sure whether i should wake him up or not, and was relieved when the cat took the decision out of my hands. i apologized for not committing to either waking him up or letting him sleep. he continued to be in a huff.

then he said, "this sort of thing is what i was talking about earlier about people not caring enough about me." WTF? hell no. you don't get to put that on me. i said "so because i didn't wake you up, you want to kill yourself?!" he tried to bullshit his way around it, but the point remained that he felt depressed and was trying to tell me it was my fault for not living up to his expectations.

so that's the bad. but the good was that this morning when he woke up, he actually apologized! he doesn't often admit to being wrong, and when he does, he rarely actually says "i'm sorry." but he did this time! either he's changing and trying to be more open to the possibility that he makes mistakes and should atone for them, or he just realized that what he said last night was particularly egregious. either way, win!

#366 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2013, 03:49 PM:

Before my age got past single-digits, my parents wired in the following, and came down on me with scorn and shame (from slightly different directions) for infringement.

From my father:
I expect you to be intelligent, constantly gaining in wisdom, and applying that knowledge to making the world a better place (per my example). You must never display knowledge of your capabilities. You must apologize, downplay your contributions, and disparage yourself, slightly surprised, when anyone notices. This is the Right Way to Live (he succeeded). Also, you can sneak all kinds of stuff quietly by that will otherwise engender endless turf wars.

From my mother:
Women must constantly apologize, downplay their contributions, and disparage themselves, slightly surprised, when anyone notices capability. It is dangerous to live otherwise, and it's worse if you're smart. You're allowed to resent this and we'll [cis-women] encourage and give points for clever passive-aggression. I will also use this as an excuse to punish you when you succeed where I couldn't ("pick up your own damn dirty socks, significant other").

I was terrified when I started posting on this thread. The responses I knew were coming were "Jeez Louise, Jeanie, bragging a little? You think you're hot stuff, huh? Why do we care what worked for you?".

When instead I got praise, it was all I could do not to apologize and gravel (ha, abase myself in the dirt?). A related script was toxic brain chatter and wasting huge amounts of energy as Validation-Whore-Persona kept wanting more, more, more.

Let's try it this way:
Thank you for your reassurance and validation, people. You mean the world to me. Though I'm still afraid my door will burst open and The Adults will clobber me, less so all the time.

#367 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2013, 03:53 PM:

I'm fighting physical crap this morning. I knew that as soon as we started Skype my mother would pick up on this.
"Bad woman! Rong to raise an ailing daughter! Mother must instruct how to live right & get well."
On the gripping hand, she loves and aches for me.

"Mom, I've got a bear of a day ahead, with important business meetings. It helps me so much to cheerfully start the day together." This has the advantage of being true.

Guess what? Mom turned into Mommie, who (virtually) loved and hugged three-year-old me.

I'm carefully not crying on my keyboard.

#368 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2013, 09:12 PM:

Oh goodness, that's toxic. There's enough generic "Don't brag" in our culture as it is; bringing down to the specific level of "Downplay your contributions and abase yourself" is pretty awful.

Side note: One of the big risk factors for eating disorders is for a girl to be reaching a higher level of academic achievement than her mother. It's entirely because of that kind of behavior, the "crabs in a bucket" thing adding that extra-special stress in.

#369 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 10:22 AM:

Well, foo.

My parents usually have another couple over for Christmas (old family friends - I grew up calling them Auntie and Uncle). This year, they can't make it. So it was just going to be the four of us, which would have facilitated ending the evening early.

Let me back up here. We normally stay there overnight (because previously, they drove us to the airport so we could fly to the city where Spouse's parents live for Christmas Day). Our tradition, because Mom *absolutely* could not, even for a single year, have Christmas without me, was to have Christmas Eve with my parents, and Christmas Day with the husband's. So, we'd have supper with whatever guests, go to Mass, have reveillon (with delicious homemade tourtiere), open gifts, and go to bed around three in the morning. This often resulted in me missing Christmas Day supper because of a stress/exhaustion migraine. :( But this was Tradition and Not To Be Changed.

This year, thanks to a year and a bit of therapy plus the contact moratorium, I'm in a headspace to make changes.

We're gathering in [other city] where Spouse's brothers live, which is driving distance from here. So no flight.

We're not going to church with my parents. We're going to church at our own church, with our community and our friends, where it'll feel special and ... more *real*, somehow. Christmas morning Mass.

So when Mom said the old family friends weren't coming, I thought "Great! So there will be no awkwardness waiting for company to leave so we can open presents and go!" Also, I was looking forward to it just being the four of us; Mom could relax and not fuss so much about the niceties of a formal dinner party and having everything Just So, and we would have had a better time.

I just got an e-mail from Mom, saying "We just invited the neighbours over for Christmas Eve. Do you mind?" (note: this is a long-standing pattern with her. She's not actually asking if I mind, but it's polite to ask so she does. It's highly impolite for me to say yes I mind, and daring to say yes I mind has led to serious guilt-tripping about how awkward I'm making it for her, etc.)

I don't *mind* these neighbours, as they're nice enough people, but I don't really want to spend Christmas Eve with them.

So I wrote back no I don't mind, but also chose this point to tell her about the revised plans. I'd been meaning to tell her at some point; this just brought it to urgency. I leave her to deal with the consequences.

#370 ::: nCnC ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 11:13 AM:

Oh, peachy. My boss appears to be going crazy again. And here I thought I'd gotten that demon under control. I really need to find a different job.

#371 ::: nCnC ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 11:39 AM:

Oh dear. I appear to have forgotten the email "address" I used in my last comments under this nym.

#372 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 01:26 PM:

Chickadee, #369: You probably already know this, but I'm going to make it explicit anyhow: if she was really asking whether you minded, she would do it BEFORE issuing the invitation to the neighbors. Presenting you with a fait accompli while pretending to offer you a choice in the matter is extremely rude, not of you, but of her.

OTOH, you now also have the option of telling her, when she tries to guilt-trip you, how pleased you are that she did invite the neighbors, because that means that when you and your spouse leave early for the drive to [other city] she won't be left alone for the rest of the evening. [VBEG]

#373 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 02:38 PM:

Lee @372: VBEG?

#374 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 02:45 PM:

VBEG = Very Big Evil Grin, I believe.

#375 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 06:17 PM:

Downstairs neighbor has backed off since I last reported, but hasn't quite given up the ghost. We're still mostly not sure what she's objecting to.

However, a wild data point appeared yesterday, in the form of her husband talking to my fiancee about the situation. Seems they've associated us laughing about things completely unrelated to us moving around with us moving around, and thought we were deliberately trolling them. My fiancee made sure to tell him we're not, and said he was very polite about the whole thing.

We'll see if that explanation stops her going forward, but at the very least, it's a useful insight.

#376 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 06:30 PM:

#351, Jacque: what you said has been tickling something in my brain ever since I read it, but I haven't yet been able to pinpoint what that something is. I keep going back to read it over to see if I can figure it out.

#366, Jeanie: I'm not sure where I got it from, but I seem to have something similar installed regarding not bragging. It probably doesn't help that one of the things I tend to not retain in memory is when or where I learned something, to the point where at midterm season in university I found myself wondering what we could be tested on in this highly technical course, as we hadn't really learned anything in the 6 weeks prior. (Turned out, quite a lot.) I tend to start with the assumption that anything I can do isn't special, and anybody else could do it too, unless faced with evidence to the contrary.

Since then I've started to get some outside evaluation of how different my skills actually are, which helps on those days I manage to think about them without the simultaneous "don't brag" drowning it out. And so I learn that my combination of skills, while probably not unique, is unusual enough for people to notice -- on those occasions that I let them know what I can do.

Which just reminded me of another thing the unhelpful counsellor said once. I had told her about sometimes realizing that I was actually smarter than average (based on stuff like how fast I pick up something new, or connections I make between separate facts that the people around me don't connect, or whatever) and I was trying to balance the business of knowing I'm smart and knowing there's a lot I don't know and not getting a big head because hey, lots of people are smart... and she commented that even worrying about that was rather arrogant. I never did follow up to find out what she thought would be a better way to handle it, but it could well have been to never show or even dare to think that I have more skill than someone else. (Excuse me while I write this down in my "things to watch out for while searching for a new therapist" file.)

#370, nCnC: Ouch. Job hunting is hard, but there's a good chance that once you find something better suited to you, you'll be able to relax a whole lot more. (So says the one procrastinating job-hunting, with Ask a Manager blog right now... though that site *does* have a lot of good advice on how to do resumes and cover letters, as well as how to deal with difficult co-workers and bosses.)

"Don't brag", says a good chunk of the world. But to make a good resume, you have to do a little bit of bragging... yuck.

#377 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 06:48 PM:

the invisible one @376:
I was trying to balance the business of knowing I'm smart and knowing there's a lot I don't know and not getting a big head because hey, lots of people are smart... and she commented that even worrying about that was rather arrogant. I never did follow up to find out what she thought would be a better way to handle it, but it could well have been to never show or even dare to think that I have more skill than someone else.
This is very, very familiar. Husband comments that it's one of the tapes my mom installed very firmly in me. I might add, while also expecting me to still excel in school and apply for management-type positions (because those were the only appropriate positions for someone of my intelligence and skills... *whiplash*)

The number of times I got told off for sounding arrogant or snobbish for talking about something that it turned out other people in the group didn't know about - even when it was "hey, listen to this! isn't it cool?"

Good luck on the job hunting! And remember you *do* have those skills, and telling people about them is a good thing! (trying to reinforce your *new* internal narrative!)

#378 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 06:50 PM:

tamiki @375: Because it's all about her? (which is why any time you make any noise, or laugh, it's because you're trying to annoy her)

#379 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 08:18 PM:

As long as we are talking about job-hunting...

nCnC and the invisible one, I have a lot of fellow feeling for you right now. I am job-hunting, and it is hard.

I just quit my job. I've been working at a coffee chain I'll call Barstucks. I lasted about two weeks. It was bad. I can't seem to describe to people why it was so bad.

My manager and one of the co-workers training me are horrendous. I asked what I thought was a polite question of my manager, and got taken in the back room and ripped a new one for being disrespectful. Then a co-worker was put in charge of me who clipped a timer to my apron to make me work faster. She would tell me to do a huge, messy task I couldn't get done in a minute, and then set the timer for a minute. Then it went off when I was halfway through the task, and she would come over and criticize me for not working fast or efficiently enough, and set the timer again and make me rush through another thing. It went on for hours. Every single minute, with the exception of one ten-minute break, she found fault with me.

The worst part is that this is what my father did to me as a child. When he was unhappy, he would take it out on me by making me do a chore (nothing wrong with that) and then standing over me finding fault and telling me I was doing a shitty job (lots of things wrong with that).

I don't want to turn into one of those people who goes, "I have this trauma in my childhood, certain things trigger it, THEREFORE I can be irresponsible forever." There's a difference between that and, "I can recognize shitty behavior because it's been done to me before, and I don't have to put up with it again." But I can't tell which option I took.

Anyway, I've been dreading having to go back there, to the point where I had trouble sleeping, had trouble concentrating, and thought about it all the time. Yesterday night, I decided, "I'd much rather go back to busking in the subways for a living than go back to Barstucks," and this morning I still felt that way, so I quit.

(My manager was foul, right up to the end. Blustering at me that I "needed to be respectful." Respect in her mind is a one-way street.)

And now I have all kinds of bad feelings. Yes, I'm glad never to have to go back there except to return my stinking green aprons. And yes, it was too much shit to stand for less than nine dollars an hour. But you can probably imagine my overhanging anxieties: What if this means I'm lazy? What if I'm a bad person for not buckling down and learning to do the job like they told me? Shouldn't I have a thicker skin? What am I, too good for a hard day's work?

Well, tomorrow I'm going to be up bright and early to play my heart out in the subway, so I don't think I am lazy. And I spent the day today frantically filling out job applications.

But people will judge me. My parents, I sadly know, will judge me, because the one other time something like this happened, they decided I was lazy and self-sabotaging, and set about me with concerned questions that implied I was a wimp and a slacker, in the most delicate way, without ever saying anything like that. That was nearly two years ago now, and I remember it because I started fantasizing about killing myself and that lasted for a couple of weeks.

Unfortunately, I can't sever ties with my parents or stay away from them for as long as I wish, because, see above, I keep on getting into situations like this, where I have to ask them for money. Which makes me feel exactly as much like a rotten dirty rat as you might imagine. All I can do is make sure they don't hear any more about my situation than they absolutely need to know.

Ah damn. I feel badly about coming to you guys for virtual hugs, but I need them. I guess I'm really fishing for someone to tell me that my life won't always be this bad, I won't be poor forever, I'll be able to find a job without letting my employers crush my spirit and turn me into a lackey. Please, someone, tell me I'll be better than this someday? I'm trying to tell myself as much, and it's not working.

#380 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 08:32 PM:

Little John @379: You might be poor forever. But if you keep a good head about you and watch for people doing abusive crap that transgresses your boundaries, at least you won't be ground down, miserable AND poor?

And you might well not be poor forever TOO, how glorious might that be ...

Personally I'm trying not to hyperventilate about the fact that I'm 37 and nearly 10 years unemployed. If, as, and when I actually decide (I have spoons and ability) to put myself back out there in the job market, I'll have already far surpassed my 'peak earning years'. Social security keeps sending me statements about what I can expect to get to retire on, based on my lifetime SS-eligible earnings to date, and HA HA HA HA *sob*. :-/

Right now there's no way I could get a job that would pay for the childcare hours we'd have to put Beka into. Plus we keep insisting we're trying to have another kid ... if she'd ever let me SLEEP enough to be out of enough systemic stress to have a faint chance of catching. Next fall she starts public school 'all day', probably at a school with good, affordable after-school care to keep her till 6:30ish, which would make employment possible for me. Of course, we were supposed to have a 2-year-old around already in addition to her, by now. Heck, if we had a 2-year-old already I could start making firm plans to go on testosterone in a year or so and WOULDN'T THAT BE NICE, to have an actual timing for that?

If we still haven't caught by, say, next summer, I have the sense that there might be pressure on me/us to just skip the second kid entirely and get on with our lives, and that wasn't the plan. :-/

It sounds childish to be upset about, I guess, especially with [REDACTED because of DFD-thread house rule about not saying I have it better than people who have it demonstrably worse]. But if our second kid doesn't come out till the first one is dam'near 6 years old, that's a really weird family spacing? Or so it seems to me (the only child). Plus it would mean I have aNOTHER 3-6 years of complete unemployability ...

#381 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 08:38 PM:

Little John @379: No, you are not lazy and I'm with your interpretation of "been here, recognize the shittiness sooner now". Take care and perhaps find some way to decompress and process, because with lost sleep and all this experience has clearly taken its toll.

Jacque @351: I'll get back to that, but I have to think a bit more about it first.

#382 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 08:54 PM:

Bricklayer #380: thanks. Good point.

About the whole earning/employability thing, goodness knows I have similar worries to yours. FWIW, though, I've also heard it said "Your twenties are to burn, your thirties to learn and your forties to earn." In fact, I think that's from one of these very threads. I find that reassuring and I think it's true in general.

#383 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 09:22 PM:

#377, Chickadee:

And remember you *do* have those skills, and telling people about them is a good thing!

Thanks :)

And if I have trouble with that, I'm going to try the AAM suggestion -- tell a friend about the best stuff you did at work, then turn what you said to the friend into bullet points for the resume.

I think for me, part of it is not knowing what's an unremarkable and expected skill and what is an actual marketable skill; every skill I develop seems to end up in the "unremarkable and expected" category unless a colleague or a boss tells me otherwise. Should I, or should I not, expect someone with the same degree and license as me to have this skill as a baseline? Because being more than a baseline skill is what should get something played up on the resume.

The number of times I got told off for sounding arrogant or snobbish for talking about something that it turned out other people in the group didn't know about - even when it was "hey, listen to this! isn't it cool?"

I got that for vocabulary, from classmates, when I was in elementary school. I didn't have many friends as a kid. Not entirely sure if that was because they thought I was a snob and avoided me, or I thought they were mean and avoided them, or both. (Probably both.)

Crappy Ex would tell me nobody was interested when it looked to me as if they were, when I was explaining something awesome that I had discovered. Much later I realized that if he had already heard it then he wasn't interested in hearing it a second time, and therefore nobody else was interested in hearing it (for the first time).

I don't remember *overtly* getting it from my parents, but it's possible one or both of them had that on a subconscious level. Though it is possible I got the initial dose from my classmates. I did spend almost half my waking hours with them, even if I normally had my nose in a book.

#379, Little John:

Yikes. That manager and co-worker sound horrendous.

Two weeks into any job and you're still in training. You should be shown how to do your tasks, and more efficient ways to do your tasks, not lambasted for not automatically knowing how to do them with perfect skill and peak efficiency. That is not something that even needs a "my dad did that to me when I was a kid" trigger to make it completely reasonable to run away. (I also make it a point to be patient with slow service when somebody with a "trainee" badge is doing some customer service thing for me. Because trainees take longer to do the same thing, that's an inherent part of training. They'll speed up as they get familiar with where everything is.)

PS: Don't put this 2-week job on your resume, just leave it off entirely. A morning "shift" subway busking would look better, because a potential employer would see that you can be up and happy (or at least appearing so) and smiling and working energetically while most people are sluggishly commuting their way to work, clutching their coffees and blinking the sleep out of their eyes.

#384 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 11:28 PM:

the invisible one, #376: My take on that issue has always been, "it's not bragging if it's (1) true and (2) appropriate in context". Making up a resume or being in a job interview definitely counts as both of those; the people looking/listening want to know what you can do, without any false modesty.

Bragging? That's the dealer at a recent con who would not shut up about how much money her husband makes, and how she's actually had to cut back her business because the income from that was going to push them into a higher tax bracket, and how many media stars she's seen naked (something about the job she used to have before she married the guy with all the moola). Which may all indeed have been true, but there was no earthly reason for her to be telling everyone who came by about it.

Chickadee, #377: The number of times I got told off for sounding arrogant or snobbish for talking about something that it turned out other people in the group didn't know about - even when it was "hey, listen to this! isn't it cool?"

That, believe it or not, is a reasonably common fannish experience. One of the things which separates fen from non-fen, apparently, is that desire to share New! Cool! Stuff! with other people -- who, if they are not themselves fannish, are likely not to appreciate it.

Little John, #379: That was absolutely not a typical new-employee experience, and yes, it was very toxic. I'll bet they have about the same turnover rate as the average hotel. (Which, if you didn't know this, is very high -- most hotels will completely turn over their non-managerial staff a couple of times a year.) It is not right for the manager to expect you, at the start of a learning curve, to work at the same speed she has achieved after years of practice. Kudos to you for recognizing an abusive pattern and getting yourself the hell out of Dodge.

Bricklayer, #380: FYI, the people I know who have children say that the difficulty/stress increase factor with each additional child is not linear, but exponential.

#385 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2013, 12:19 AM:

Fen and New!Cool!Stuff reminds me of Mris Lingen's "Happy Smart Kid" and "Sad Smart Kid":

The Sad Smart Kid thing: "I am the smartest person in this room! I'm not? Well, I bet I am the second-smartest! Let's compare and find out! I must know whether I am the 2nd, 3rd, or 27th smartest person in this room!"

The Happy Smart Kid: "Hey, I know this cool thing about orchids?" "You do? I made cheese puffs!" "I would love to have a cheese puff! I brought a shiny!" "I like your shiny! I know this cool thing about shinies!" "What a cool thing about shinies! I am glad to know it! I know this other cool thing about Latvians!" "How interesting, I never knew that about Latvians!"

This applies whether you are using "smart" or "creative" or "famous" or "beautiful" or "spiritually advanced" as your adjective in question. Everybody is much better off if you look at the shiny and find out about orchids and Latvians instead.

Fandom seems to have many more HSK's than the culture at large.
#386 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2013, 12:38 AM:

Little John @379: But I can't tell which option I took.

I can: you took the intelligent, self-respecting option.

I can reassure you from direct, personal experience that this experience means none of the things you're afraid it means. What it does mean is that your manager was Doin It Rong, in a manner that was pretty much guaranteed to cause precisely the effect that it did. (Somewhere in the depths of the DFD is a link to a page that describes the fairly predictable, negative effects of being constantly criticized in realtime when one is trying to accomplish a task. Don't have the spoons to look it up at the moment.)

Last time a manager tried to run that one on me, I surprised the crap out of both of us by (fairly politely I thought, under the circumstances) handing her her head.

Blustering at me that I "needed to be respectful." was supposed to cringe." FTFY.

Ah damn. I feel badly about coming to you guys for virtual hugs, but I need them.

Please accept all virtual with a clear conscience. I, for one, have really depressed all day, and it's really nice to have the opportunity to reassure someone else.

I guess I'm really fishing for someone to tell me that my life won't always be this bad, I won't be poor forever

Can't speak to the latter, as I am currently poor, though not anything like as poor as I've been. IME, it comes and goes. Even if you're "well off," it still comes and goes. But as to being this bad, this I can reassure you on: as I've slowly learned how to operate myself, and gained wisdom about how the world works and what is important to me, my life has steadily improved. I can hardly remember how bad it was to be me, the first few years away from my parents. Only that it was really bad. The whole trick lies in figuring out what you want, what's important to you, and what you like. Unfortunately, it can take throwing a lot of stuff up against the wall to figure that out.

There are some books that I've found helpful: Work With Passion, by Nancy Anderson. Anything by Barbara Sher, but in particular, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was. I'm sure other folks have suggestions.

For my part, I wish I could come up with a more useful response to the whole job thing than just seizing up, eating a pint of coffee Haagen Dazs, and then sleeping the clock around.

#387 ::: Variations on a Lime ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2013, 03:31 AM:

Little John @ 379,
You started a job, you detected that something was off, you confirmed that it was rotten, you walked away. Being able to recognize and name a situation like you've just done is good, choosing a reaction that best protects yourself is good. Virtual hugs.

Mirroring Jacque, as time goes on I've found additional skills (through practice) at assessing a situation and finding multiple ways of dealing with it. I can better trust (not completely, but moving in the right direction) my ability to make choices and to ask for help because I'm seeing a need to ask for help.

#388 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2013, 08:02 AM:

@Little John, #379: You're not lazy, or weak, or any of the other things you describe. I wouldn't even put up for it for the 2 weeks that you did! Your manager and co-worker are completely in the wrong. Busking may not be the most lucrative job in the world, but at least you get to express yourself with your music, and a lot of people don't have that option.

I'm also a big fan of the Bedlam's Bard series, in which the Bard spends some of his years in NYC busking in the subways, so I may be a bit less anti-busking than mainstream society. :) (My parents always refused to let me give any money to buskers and beggars. Not a single cent. I always figured if a person was going humble zirself enough to ask strangers for money, zie deserved that money.)

*big hugs* And frankly, I remember the bard in those novels ending up very well-off financially in the end. You won't have elves to help you with that, but that doesn't mean things won't get better. :) You probably won't end up rich, but that's not the same thing as being not-poor at all.

#389 ::: Mongoose spies spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2013, 09:39 AM:

Little John @ 379: what everyone else is saying, basically, with the addition of "and very well done for getting out as soon as you realised you were in a toxic environment". I stayed in my previous toxic job for far too long, out of fear. That is not a mistake I will ever make again.

#390 ::: Mongoose has got it wrong again ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2013, 09:40 AM:

...aaargh, Mongoose does not spy spam. That was from yesterday. Sorry!

#391 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2013, 11:48 AM:

I had a bad experience at a job; soon afterwards, I did some ag labor via Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms and found that

* if everything else goes to shit, I could be a tolerable ag worker -- reassuring!
* if I'm around coworkers and bosses who respect me and give me clear goals, I'm a good worker and often a leader -- an unexpected and welcome reminder

It really drove home how much thriving is a function of a person times their environment... a grumpy but straightforward boss with clear rules and clear feedback was better for me than certain flavors of empowerment were.

I hope your next work environment is a lot more nurturing.

#392 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2013, 02:11 PM:

Sumana Harihareswara @391: I hope your next work environment is a lot more nurturing.

And this is a reminder that one can pre-select, to a degree. Remember that, when you are interviewing for a new job, you are interviewing them as well. If a prospective employer shows discomfort at being interviewed, that's a big red flag: run away!

Little John, in your particular case, some new questions you get to add to your kit for your next interview:

  • Please describe for me how you train new employees.
  • How soon are trainees expected to be up to speed on standard proceedures?
  • If I need clarification on some point, how do I ask these questions?

Run a thought experiment of asking these questions of your last manager; I expect the results will be illuminating.

#393 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2013, 04:17 PM:

Sumana Harihareswara @391 It really drove home how much thriving is a function of a person times their environment... a grumpy but straightforward boss with clear rules and clear feedback was better for me than certain flavors of empowerment were.

For long term success and satisfaction, clearly there's a component of person-environment fit. There are some environments that nobody will be happy with, and some people who won't be happy with anything - but in the middle is a vast range of possibilities. My "clear direction" may be your "micromanaging," while my "left to flounder" is your "space to be creative." Likewise with issues of quiet/solitary vs. noisy/lively, amount of customer contact, etc., etc.

Of course this presupposes some degree of choice. Sometimes the answer to "what do you want most from a job" is "a paycheck." But the more you're aware of your own preferences, the better your chance of finding or tweaking something into fit.

#394 ::: slow learner ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2013, 09:56 AM:

I've been fretting about employment a lot too.

the invisible one @383 talked about the distinction between "baseline skills" and "more than baseline skills".

My problem is, I have a lot of "more than baseline" skills (depending where the baseline is) but huge gaps in the baseline (wherever you draw it.) So I have lots of unexpected skills, and lack a lot of the skills that "everyone has", the ones without which no employer would employ someone.

In D&D terms, my character sheet is very lopsided, and I have much higher level skills in some stats, and much lower level skills in others.

The worst part is how even if I make a really heroic effort at the tasks I'm worst at, that effort is invisible. No effort, a moderate effort, and trying my heart out, all look equally like "not trying at all" to an outside observer. Any progress is also invisible.

It seems like my choices are:
a) apply for jobs no higher than my minimum stats, with the result that I'll be competing against everyone else on that level, many of whom have much better work histories, and my best skills aren't any advantage at all. And doing work that I'm bad at, in an environment in which no one can see the things I'm good at, is really painful.
b) apply for jobs for which my best skills are an advantage and my deficits don't matter. Except that I'm not sure those jobs exist. Or if they do, they're for people whose best skills are SO desirable and rare and brilliant that they outweigh nearly any disadvantage. And I'm not that good.

(Or c), even out my stats by leveling up the worst areas. And I'm trying to do that, but I think the best I can hope for is some improvement, not normality. Which brings me back to a.)

#395 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2013, 10:34 AM:

Slow Learner: Are the "less-than-baseline skills" social-related, by any chance? Because I have trouble with that sometimes too. I've found that Captain Awkward helps for those social skills that "everyone has." (Ignore if hlepy.)

#396 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2013, 05:40 PM:

From (so full of swearing and more than a little triggery for language and imagery in spots), 5 Stupid Habits You Develop Growing Up in a Broken Home. Most of which will seem familiar to people in this thread, methinks.

[Nym changed—Idumea Arbacoochee, Duty Gnome]

#397 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 08:55 AM:

Goodness. I just managed to work myself up for a phone call I've dreaded quite a bit and I did it! Shaking quite a bit right now, but also somewhat proud and relieved. Okay, I'm off to cry now.

#398 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 09:22 AM:

somewhere_else (397): Good for you!

#399 ::: slow learner ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 10:29 AM:

The_L @395: Thanks for the suggestion. I have Asperger's, so yes, I have social skill deficits, but unfortunately mostly not of the sort that Captain Awkward helps with, since she doesn't teach body language or speech fluency or social pragmatics or how to function in a group when more people equals more input, and more input equals reduced functioning, plus you don't trust easily and feel unsafe anywhere there are people you don't trust, and you relate to authority basically like Miles Vorkosigan does, only without the competence and brilliance to back up the attitude. (So his career path isn't going to work for me!) Not all of that is Asperger's, some is family stuff and some is just me.

But not all the missing baseline is social. A lot of it is executive function, including being aware of time passing, estimating how much time things take, prioritisation, punctuality, reliability, forming routines, moving between activities/zones, auditory memory, focus, organisation, and handwriting.

I'm much better online (at least in non-real-time fora) because you can't see if I pause in mid-sentence or mid-word because I just got distracted by a thought or didn't know what came next.

To bring this back to DF, I didn't get the diagnosis until adulthood, although it had been suggested by authorities back when I was in preschool.

And my parents kind of gave up: if teaching me to do something (like brushing my teeth) was too difficult, either because I was resistant or because it took longer than they wanted it to, then they just gave up on it. In the case of tooth-brushing, checking every night if I'd brushed was too difficult, so they gave up on that when I was four, maybe younger. They almost never helped me with my homework because I was 'too smart' to need help, but I got in a lot of trouble for not doing the homework because I couldn't self-motivate or even remember it was there.

Any conversations I try to have with my mother about my childhood always seem to circle around to my consoling her about how difficult I was to parent, and how she just couldn't do any better with me because I was such a hard job.

And I know I am difficult. I'm very difficult. I keep trying not to be, but it doesn't work.

Before someone asks: I'm in therapy. And I've seen a speech therapist and an OT. The OT's given me all the help she could, and the speech therapist is chasing down a speech therapy group I can join for help with the social stuff.

#400 ::: slow learner ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 10:37 AM:

Bricklayer @396: that article was the place where I learned in the first place that functional parents help their kids with their homework, or at least supervise them to make sure they do it. Up until I read that last year, I didn't know that was a widespread practice. I still kind of wonder if it really is.

[Nym attribution fixed—Idumea Arbacoochee, Duty Gnome]

#401 ::: Chickadee pings the mods ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 10:38 AM:

Nothing particularly personal in there, but I think #396 could use a 'nym rescue.

#402 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 10:55 AM:

the invisible one @383, Lee @384: I'm sure there was some bullying regarding that at school. I was socially underdeveloped, with a huge vocabulary for my age. And bullied *fiercely* in part because the ringleaders didn't want anyone around who'd admit to being smarter than them, and I was too oblivious or too stubborn to sabotage my marks for the sake of fitting in. (and my parents' opinion of me meant a LOT more to me than theirs)

That said, most of the accusations of snobbery (and tone policing) came from Mom. I grew up convinced I couldn't control my tone if my life depended on it, and was *grateful* for the bullying because if I was such a horrible snot with the bullying, imagine how bad I would have been without it! I shudder at that thought now. It took meeting my husband (i.e. having a reliable external witness) to recognize that she was *afraid* I sounded snobbish, and if she’s afraid of something it’s real, and she is completely conversationally tone-deaf. I subsequently did a couple of tone-experiments - said “oh no, I messed that one up” in the most relaxed, dismissive tone I could manage, and got told off for overreacting and sounding too upset. Yep, I’m the tone-deaf one.

Any cases outside of those two when I've mentioned snobbery, anyone I've talked to has looked at me like I've grown a third head and said "you? snobby? WHAT?"

Related to the socially underdeveloped: I read this in a homeschooling-recovery blog, but if a child relates better to adults than kids their age, that's not a sign of maturity, that's a sign of a problem. (i.e. improper socialization) I read this a couple of years ago, and it was a revelation. Mom had this idea that age-appropriate behaviours like silliness (or joining the fan club of a musician I liked, though that one my dad was pretty down on too) were "immature" and disapproved them out of me whenever they appeared, to the point of sabotaging my first *genuine* friendship (as opposed to the toxic user she insisted I stay “friends” with despite everything). So I didn’t actually comfortably relate to anyone my age until I hit high school (and spent most of my time with the college students), and even then it was a fairly steep learning curve.

#403 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 11:08 AM:

We had friends over last night. Good friends, who’ve been ‘round the block and who also have family/parent problems. Talked for hours. :) (not just about problems - there was lots of laughter!)

One thing that came up that I didn’t expect was an explanation for something I hadn’t even realized had changed. The change: I used to really enjoy road trips. Went on long ones with my best friend to SCA events. (here in the Great White North, the closest major city is three hours away, and it’s common to travel 4-7 hours to get to an event)

When I got married, I HATED road trips. Even the three hours to [next major city] to visit Spouse’s brothers had to be broken up by a stop for tea halfway there. I avoided driving long distances like the plague. The change had been a slow enough process that I didn’t recognize that it *was* a change.

Last night, we got talking about traumatic road trips. Not unpleasant ones - thetype that you come out of saying “I will never get into a car with that person again for any reason” variety.

Without thinking too hard, I could count three massively traumatic road trips with my parents, two of them in recent memory. One of those was from just after Spouse and I were married (just my parents and me, and the one time in my entire life when my dad has been nasty to me, and this after a really hellish "holiday"), one of them a couple of years later (all four of us, and thanks to my parents it took literally twice as long as it should have - close to 10 hours in the end). Recognizing the source of the aversion has helped me. I know that I will never again go somewhere hours away in a car with my parents, and driving places with Spouse is awesome and fun. This is already making life easier. I'm sad, because it's yet another thing on the (very long) list of things I will never do with my parents again because they've made it horrible, but it is such a relief to have that block lifted.

#404 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 11:27 AM:

I could never really understand or relate to people 'my own age' until 'my own age' became early thirties. I was always, always the youngest person in any friend-group I was in (and usually, the others were my mother's age or older) until I was 28, at which point I was gobsmacked and taken aback to find that one of the other people in my SCA sewing guild was 2 years YOUNGER than me ...

We always figured, when I was younger, that it was because so many of my interests were, um, appropriate for people of greater age. Which is demonstrably not true, now that I think about it. Lots and lots of geeky kids get into the same stuff I was. But I was totally uninterested in a lot of the popstar-personal-lives drama stuff that the other girls my age were into in middle school, and by middle school the boys had shut me out of their circle (because GURRRRLS don't belong) and the one solid male friend I had in grade school moved away never to be seen again. Then in high school I just never clicked with anyone, ever, despite joining clubs compulsively and putting myself into social situations because, cargo-cult-like, if I did things that socially adept people did, clearly I would get friends? Sigh.

I might be a little less active for a few weeks, we're going out of town tomorrow afternoon to the inlaws'. I'm mostly set, just need to take the last few items thrown on top of the suitcases and pack them in with as little air left as possible (plus the stuff that can only be done morning-of).

After I drop the kid at school today I get to come home and transfer all the putting-dogs-at-our-friends'-house supplies into the car. Then I get to pick the kid up from school WITH the dogs already in the car so we can drive out to said friends' house (we have Friday night dinner with them almost every week), which should be oodles of monkey-barrels' worth of fun. Here's hoping the kid and dogs calm each other down so there's not an hour and a half (could be 45min, in good traffic) of screaming AND baying going on back there behind me while I try to hold it together and drive. :->

Gah. I'm still freaking out about packing. I know I'm mostly there. I'm tired and I know I'm forgetting things. But I made lists! It doesn't help that my DH guilt-tripped me last night when I came to bed (at nearly 1AM) with comments to the effect, "Yeah, but you're not done packing so I thought you wouldn't be up yet." Screw you too, I am less than 20min of work from being packed AND I spent weeks accumulating supplies to keep the dogs happy in boarding AND the kid happy on the airplane, too. Plus the house is reasonably under control (for our house) because I've been cranking the handle on the laundry and the dishes in this past week. SO SCREW YOU I am so packed.

... almost.

Now I just need to find time to return the (already slightly overdue) library books. I should put them in the car when I take the kid to school and return them on the backswing of that, between her school and home.

#405 ::: Cassy B. flags down the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 11:30 AM:

396 and the internal attribution in 400 need a nym rescue...

Would the gnomes care for some chocolate truffles? They have rum in them....

#406 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 11:38 AM:

I personally find it calming, when packing to drive up to, say, Minnesota (which I do once or twice a year), to say to myself "Because they don't have stores in Minnesota!", which is something my husband said once to me when I was obsessing about not having the Right Number of Socks or some such thing. In other words, there are very few things I can Forget To Pack which will cause actual harm or real disruption to the trip. I do understand that with a small child, Things can be rather less interchangeable.

#407 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 11:43 AM:

Cally @406: Yeah, that's been going on a lot down here, too. :-> We need the Particular Toothbrush for the kid, because she's attached (and it doesn't take much room), but a lot of consumable toiletries will just be gotten there.

Also Giftmas presents, because why buy something, find volume for it, pack it, bring it up, wrap it THERE, and THEN take it home? One exception was buying spices from Penzey's for the in-laws, because shipping to Canada was going to be an extra $60, at which point PUT THAT IN MY SUITCASE RIGHT NOW.

For two weeks we've packed a nominal 8 days of clothes, because they have washing machines in Canada too. Of course, for the kid 8 days of clothes means something like 10 outfits, because BOB HELP ME if she doesn't have enough to choose from on any given morning. :->

#408 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 11:44 AM:

#396 ::: Bricklayer

I'm amazed at the claim that functional families give children a lot of help with projects. Is this true?

I was pretty much left to myself except for one or two instances of late homework projects.

This might actually be relevant-- I find it much easier to work if I can talk with someone on the phone, so maybe feeling isolated is part of the problem.

Meanwhile, I'm having a very hard time getting some work done, and I really need to do it today.

This might not be too surprising, considering how bad I felt after finishing a good-sized project.

And I didn't want to do replies to the people who commented, not because there was something wrong with the comments, but because introspecting at that point felt like pressing on a bruise. And now I don't think I can remember exactly how I felt.

#351 ::: Jacque

I don't think it was a creativity issue. Having a set format made it harder, but I don't think there was anything obviously interesting to do with the layout. It's possible I could have made it better if I'd had a free hand and put a lot of thought into it, but I didn't feel frustrated that I couldn't. (See Sheila Waters, _The Foundations of Calligraphy_ if you want a look at the process.)

I haven't been doing calligraphy for myself-- there's just nothing that occurs to me that I want. This does feel like a sore spot of some sort.

I have a clear sense of rightness which guides my calligraphy, and I don't have access to something like that for most areas of my life.

I want to feel good (type not specified) or at least neutral when I finish a task.

A few months ago, I finished a stack of calligraphy for buttons, and I was cheerful and I put them down with a flourish. It was like a miracle. It hasn't repeated.

#352 ::: OtterB

I'm not sure that when I was a kid, accomplishments were responded to by my being given more/harder work. At the moment, I'm feeling like nothing I did when I was a kid counted at all. That's the sort of general memory where counterexamples may turn up later.

I would say it's true on the average. There was a time when I brought home (if memory serves) a report card with a bunch of A's and one D. Guess what got *all* the attention. I remember thinking "then I just don't care" (approximately-- it may have been "then I just won't bother) at the time.

Sidetrack: I think one of the things that goes wrong (and not with me in my family) is that everything becomes a power struggle. There was no real world outside me vs. my parents.

I have the habit now of when I think about doing something, it leads to a bunch of other things I think I need to do.

[Nym attribution fixed—Idumea Arbacoochee, Duty Gnome]

#409 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 12:01 PM:

#402, Chickadee:

if a child relates better to adults than kids their age, that's not a sign of maturity, that's a sign of a problem. (i.e. improper socialization)

Hm. I hadn't heard that before. It wasn't until I got to university that I found people my age that I had something in common with. I was better friends with my teachers than with my classmates for the most part (and better friends with my books than either). But not only did I get along better with people a lot older than me, I also got along better with people a lot younger than me -- when I was a teenager and babysitting, the kids and I would have great fun playing games and stuff.

My sister, on the other hand, got along great with people in her class. So it wasn't fundamental to the way we were both raised. I always figured it was because I was introverted and preferred my books, and read way above my grade level.

The odd thing is, apparently I was "normally" sociable until about grade 3, and then something changed. I don't remember this myself, this is something my mom told me. Apparently at some point in grade 3 I withdrew a lot, including I stopped bringing completed & marked school assignments home. I wish I could go back in time and observe, find out what happened in grade 3 to cause this change. The only difference I remember is that earlier I would be out playing in the playground at break, and later I would be sitting in a corner (or better, in the library) with a book.

#410 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 12:22 PM:

the invisible one @409: That does still sound like a problem. You had trouble associating with your peers - okay, it wasn't from how you were being raised, but it still wasn't healthy. And you identify that something happened in Grade 3 to change you - to cause that difficulty.

Here's the blog entry in question. It is quite specific to homeschoolers (I was not homeschooled), but given the codependence/enmeshment in my upbringing, and my parents' screwed up ideas about age-appropriate behaviour, I found it surprisingly relatable. If you're interested, of course.

For the record, I could have found friends of equally bookish/geeky tendencies, but (as I said earlier) the first time I did so after Grade 3 (Grade 8) Mom actively sabotaged the friendship. Completely unintentionally, I'm sure, but she did nonetheless.

#411 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 01:02 PM:

Chickadee at #410, plus various other people's comments.

This line of reasoning is getting on my nerves:

You had trouble associating with your peers - okay, it wasn't from how you were being raised, but it still wasn't healthy.

I object to framing it in those terms. I was one of the kids who related better to grown-ups or to much-younger children than to adults. Yes, I'm being defensive, but I think this point is worth defending: whatever caused me to be like this, I don't consider the end result an unhealthy trait, and I don't like seeing it pathologized.

It's easy for me to come across as smug/a special snowflake when I try to talk about my reasoning for being the kid who got along well with grown-ups, but here goes anyway. Insofar as I remember my reasons at the time, it was because (some) grown-ups were intelligent enough to interest me and wise enough to be people I wanted to emulate, while being mature enough not to try and bully me or use me or battle me for social dominance.

#412 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 01:57 PM:

It was hard for me to relate to many of my peer group, but this was partly because I went to a magnet school, so none of the kids lived near me, and my neighborhood was going through one of those low points in the kids my age, so I didn't have a lot of options to play with kids unless there was driving involved. I'm the youngest child, there were limited cars and teenagers who wanted them, and you can figure out that I didn't get a whole lot of socialization.

I've also realized, as an adult, that if the schools in my neighborhood were ever fenced off, there wouldn't be park space for miles. Design needs have changed over the decades, for sure.

P.S. Yes, kids in healthy family dynamics get help with homework and projects—but it shouldn't be to the point of all but doing it for them, because that's not healthy either.

#413 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 02:29 PM:

Cally, #406: Yeah, we frequently end up re-buying stuff at the destination when we figure out we forgot to pack it. With some things, that's not such a big deal. When it's something major (like the pop-up lid that didn't get packed for Austin Celtic), it can end up being both an unnecessary expense and a "now we have something else we have to find a place to put".

My partner recently did a cull on his jackets -- over half of which were acquired hastily at a Goodwill when we discovered that even though it was mid-July and therefore we hadn't packed outerwear, the dealer room was cold enough to hang meat in. He kept the best ones and recycled the rest back to Goodwill, but this is a recurring issue.

Chickadee, #410: That article really pinged my "One True Way" alarm. She seems to be madly generalizing from her own reactions to the universe as a whole. I would say that if reading it helped you, that's a good thing, but I certainly wouldn't expect it to help everybody.

I generally got along better with adults than with people my own age up until college, but that was mostly because adults didn't have the dysfunctional social structure that most schools have, not because there was something wrong with ME. When I wasn't having to deal with status jockeying based on how you dressed or how smart you were or who was willing to associate with you or how much money your parents had, I did just fine.

#414 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 02:54 PM:

#410, Chickadee:

The main thing in that article that I could relate to was the comment that interactions between kids and adults are fairly formalized. In interactions with peers, I've done better where people have specific roles, because then I know how to behave in the situation, because I have a role. When I did peer tutoring, the girl I tutored was the same age as me and in the same grade as me and we really had nothing in common and barely saw each other outside of the tutoring room, but we got along quite well when we did interact. Roles.

Otherwise I'm with Little John on this one. The vast majority of kids my age were not interested in the things I was, while adults more often were. Especially teachers. Especially, for me, science teachers.

Now if instead of "not healthy" you had said "not typical", sure, I wasn't typical. I'll fully agree with that.

I didn't even qualify as a "typical" geek or fan; while I read extensively, I wasn't into gaming, either video, card, or role-play, I wasn't interested in what the geek crowd did in general, and I wasn't interested in obsessing over the books I read to the point of arguing canon or studying the ST technical manual or writing fanfic or whatever, I just wanted to read them. When I got to university, I still wasn't interested in what the geek crowd did, but the program I was in was heavily selected for people who were interested in and good at science and math, so even people outside the geek crowd could and would talk about science with reasonable competence. And only then did I start to find people my age who I could talk to, because those were my main interests. (Other than writing SF/F; I still hadn't found "my people" in that area at that point.)

So yeah, I probably wasn't socialized the same way the other kids in my class were, and that has made some things less comfortable for me.

I have no idea what happened in grade 3. For all I know it was the beginning of my beginner phase, when my perception of what was good outstripped my ability to produce something good. I do know that I hated all of my writing when I looked at it a week later, all the way through high school. Every assignment, every story that I wrote on my own, as soon as I finished it and looked back at it, I saw only flaws. That would be consistent with refusing to bring my marked assignments home so Mom could see them. It didn't matter that I got good marks on them, they were terrible. Grade 12 was the first time I wrote something that I still liked a week later. That doesn't explain withdrawing, but it could explain why I stopped bringing assignments home. (I don't remember what I thought of my assignments before I stopped bringing them home, so I don't know if this is the case or not. It seems plausible to me.)

#413, Lee:

Status jockeying, yeah. I sort of opted out of that. I worked in the library as soon as the librarians would let me so I didn't have to deal with other students apart from as the "librarian" role, and in class I didn't compare my test results with the other students. I knew what I had done on a given test, I didn't care what anybody else had done.

#415 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 04:05 PM:

I'm with Little John, too. There was a very good reason why I didn't relate easily to my peers at school; I was an early reader, and, once I started, I didn't stop. By the time I arrived at school, I was already devouring not only an eclectic selection of fiction, but also a lot of non-fiction and poetry. What was more, we didn't have a television, whereas everyone else in the class did.

So they'd want to know if I'd watched X the day before, and I'd say, no, have you read Y? Which of course they hadn't, because they were still struggling with Janet and John. Cue mutual becrogglement.

I did develop a few friends my own age as I got older, but it can't have been easy for them, because it took me a very long time to realise that it is not the case that anyone can understand anything so long as it is satisfactorily explained. I was always fine with younger children because I didn't expect so much of them, but I objected to the idea of treating children my own age as stupid. So, when I heard the basics of relativity theory at the age of eleven and got all excited about it, I just had to explain it to my friends because I thought they'd think it was awesome too.

Anyone ever read the Professor Branestawm books by Norman Hunter? Anyone remember the Professor's friend Colonel Dedshott, whose head used to go round and round when the Professor explained things to him? I knew a lot of Colonel Dedshotts.

(And then there was the whole bullying thing as well, of course, to which my reaction was basically "your behaviour is illogical and your social hierarchy is invalid", but that was another matter. I'm talking here about how I related to children my own age who weren't bullies.)

#416 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 07:41 PM:

the invisible one @383: regarding figuring out what's baseline, or how to describe your accomplishments, I've noticed that LinkedIn (for all its flaws) is a way of looking at lots of other peoples' resumes, something that previously only hiring managers and HR people normally got to do. You might try looking for people with experience or skills similar to yours, and see how they describe themselves. One caveat is that LinkedIn will report that you viewed someone's resume, if you're logged in (though I think there's a privacy setting to turn that off).

#417 ::: LGB ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 08:51 PM:

I very rarely post here, but I’m having a hard time dealing with a dysfunctional relationship situation of my own and I hope it’s ok to talk about it here. Apologies for the wall of text.

I left my husband this last summer. We’ve been together 13 years and married for 10, which is basically my entire adult life, but I finally had to leave because I didn’t feel safe and I was afraid I was going crazy. I had known there were problems in our relationship for several years, but—well, all relationships have their problems, right? And the problems I had were confusing and difficult to pin down. Maybe I was overreacting.

I started noticing that I couldn’t seem to do much of anything right. About the best I could do, on my good days, was “cute”, so I redoubled my efforts to try to accomplish something worth paying attention to. Only it seemed like every time I accomplished something good and told him about it, it went wrong: “Dear! My clients were so impressed with my work today that they asked me to do another job for them!” “That’s good, dear. By the way, you misused this word.” “What? No, that’s the term used by the experts I was just working with.” And then I’d be treated to an angry lecture about the incompetence, low professional standards and very poor judgment of such experts. (The ones who thought I was great.) Or I’d come home from the gym happy about a new personal record and he'd say, “Good job, dear.” But a little later he’d find a completely unrelated reason to talk about how useless and unimportant lifting weights is, and he couldn’t imagine why any reasonable person would care about something so silly. Eventually a mere, “Dear, are you making a mess over there?” could make me feel utterly incompetent. “No, I was just emptying the trash...well, yes, I dropped some paper but I was about to pick it up...I wasn’t finished yet...” And I couldn’t really get upset over a little thing like that. After all, he’d be smiling when he said it—it was only a little joke, right?

It wasn’t actually ok for me to become visibly upset over much of anything, because that was evidence that I was placing undue importance on whatever I was upset about and not thinking clearly and rationally about it. Besides, if I raised my voice at all, he’d shout over me until I stopped my “unreasonable overreaction”. (I very rarely get upset enough to shout, and it became even rarer because when someone shouts at me I get shaky and can't breathe.) Sometimes after screaming at me and calling me names, he’d stop and tell me perfectly calmly that he hadn’t actually been angry; he just wanted to make a point and that was the only way to do it.

When I had a problem that had to be addressed, I tried to bring it up in exactly the right way—calmly, rationally, at a convenient time of day—but somehow it was always wrong. He was always happy to help me understand whatever thing I must have misperceived or misinterpreted, of course. He explained that I was just bad at communicating. We’d have long conversations about things that upset me and somehow by the end I’d end up apologizing to him without being quite sure how we’d gotten there from where the conversation started. By the summer, I had started writing down particularly confusing conversations as proof to myself that they had really happened—no matter how many times he said, “I never said that”. I wrote at least one panicky email to a friend asking her if I remembered things that never happened. I didn’t trust my memory and I wasn’t sure anymore whether I was just very stupid or crazy or both.

I also (TMI warning) felt completely rejected physically and sexually. To be fair, I think he had a problem with the concept of people having bodies in general, not with me specifically. But it was very important to him to tell me that of course it wasn’t that he didn’t want to have sex with me! He just wanted me to understand perfectly clearly that sex was less worthwhile and satisfying than taking a nice dump. (It would have been extremely clear even if he’d only said it once, trust me. It’s not something you forget.) Sex with a (consenting!) partner who acts like it's a vaguely icky chore and a waste of his valuable time and attention destroys my self esteem like few other things, so I tried to ignore my own sex drive until it went away. Spoiler alert: that doesn’t actually work. In the meantime, he assured me that he knew we had a problem there and we’d definitely solve it...sometime in the future. Not right now, because work is too stressful, or not having enough work is too stressful, or there are other things that are more important, but definitely sometime later. (There were a lot of things in that category.)

He was rough with our cat and I had asked him a number of times not to yell at her when she (for example) climbed on top of the piano where she could oversee the kitchen counters. He’d shout, “NO! BAD KITTY!” and throw her to the floor. His response to my objections was usually an annoyed explanation that “she has to learn”. He also didn’t like the cat to wake him up at night. One night when she jumped up on the bed, he woke up annoyed and threw her over the foot of the bed and she hit one of the bookshelves and injured a hind leg. I told him how upset I was the next morning and not only was he not upset about hurting the cat, he turned the conversation into how I spoiled her and let her get away with misbehaving instead of enforcing appropriate boundaries (like not meowing?!) and that’s also, by the way, why I’d be a terrible mother to our hypothetical future children. He further explained that the cat’s mere physical safety was unimportant compared to her being well-behaved, that I should readjust my priorities, and that I was ridiculous to imagine I could protect her from every single risk to her safety, so why try?

That was the last straw: I knew my cat wasn’t safe living with him (and that I couldn’t protect her adequately) and I didn’t know whether I was safe or not, so that afternoon I paid a deposit and signed the lease on my own apartment. I told my husband before I left, but I moved while he was out of town and didn’t give him my new address. (My awesome little brother drove 6 hours to help me move all my things, in the middle of the night, in a thunderstorm, then turned around and drove 6 hours home to take his finals the following day.)

When I moved out I wasn’t necessarily intending for us to be over forever, but I needed space and time to figure out what had happened. Nothing has improved since then. He returned some misdelivered mail to me—opened—and found my new address that way. He (electronically) signed my name to documents and kept doing so after I told him to stop. AND when I called him on it he tried to gaslight me about it by saying I had given him permission in a previous conversation, and it wasn’t like it was anything *important* and how could I be so mean anyway? He completely failed to comprehend why I was so upset about his repeatedly violating my boundaries, privacy, and stated wishes, although he did ask me once—condescendingly—“Are you working on ‘boundaries’?” He found a marriage counselor he wanted us to see—I told him when I left that I’d only be willing to talk things through with a mediator present—in late October, after I had left in August. (Shows me how important and urgent fixing things was to him. Ouch.) It seems clear that he barely recognizes the concept of “boundaries”, much less my right to set boundaries and have them be respected. He is either unable or unwilling to do his share of the work to maintain a relationship. I can’t even trust him, because what he says (“I love you! You’re wonderful!”) doesn’t match his actions. I can’t go back to that.

And now I’m at a loss. The story I thought I was in (to tie this back to the OP) has completely unraveled and I think I need to write myself a new narrative. I wasn’t expecting to be here. I’m not sure which direction to go now. I feel as though my whole life has been turned upside down and shaken hard, and I also feel as though I have no right to feel as traumatized as I do. But the fact is, I am having a very hard time and it is taking a long time to figure out how to be ok again.

Some things in particular that I’m finding it very hard to deal with:
• I feel betrayed. By my expectations? By reality? By my husband, for failing to live up to the agreement I thought we had? I’m not sure. All those possible futures I hoped for and worked toward and might have reached someday have vanished. How do you mourn possibilities, plans, things that didn’t even exist yet?
• How can I know what’s true anymore? The relationship I thought I had doesn’t exist. Did it ever, or was I fooled all along? My judgment clearly has some problems; how do I make decisions? And who do I trust, if current data suggest that I’ve made bad choices about that so far?
• Well-meaning people give me hlepy and utterly confidence-destroying advice. I appreciate their kind intent, but it’s hard to take. “Have you tried talking with him?” Yes of course, endlessly, but then my Goddamn Tapes tell me: maybe I should try harder, maybe there’s some perfect thing I haven’t said yet that could make a difference. “Are you willing to reconcile and forgive?” Well, I used to be. Tapes: Possibly if I were a better person I still would be. People have said I’m cold and heartless; maybe it’s true after all. “Why don’t you just stand up for yourself?” Yes, why don’t I just. WHY DON’T I JUST.
• I have nobody to touch. I hugged some friends last weekend and that’s the last human contact I had. It seems ridiculous, but what I really want is a friend to come over sometimes and share space in person. Maybe we could sit on the couch and read and kinda lean our shoulders against each other a little. I’d feel so much better. I didn’t know this was a thing I needed, but apparently it is.

On the positive side, I have a pretty good support system. The friends I can talk to about everything have been wonderful. I worry that I’m boring or overwhelming them with the Crisis That Ate My Brain, though, which is why I’m seeking support from you lovely internet people too. I’m also making a living! I haven’t lived on my own since I was in college and I wasn’t sure I’d manage it. Every month I’ve expected to run out of money and need to ask my parents to bail me out, and every month so far I’ve managed to pay my bills. My cat’s happier too.

I don’t know where I go from here. I imagine I’ll find a new direction sooner or later but as long as I’m stalled, I might as well spend the time coming up with an especially good story arc for...whatever happens next. Suggestions welcome.

Writing out my story-so-far has already helped me clarify my thoughts and direction. Thank you all for being here and reading. I’m really glad this community exists.

#418 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 09:13 PM:

LGB @ 417, witnessing.

#419 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 09:21 PM:

#417, LGB:

Ouch. That's a hard time you just rescued yourself from. My details were different, but oh how I recognized the minimization and discouragement. Now, that is, from my position of safety several years after my divorce. At the time I thought it was a reasonable thing for Crappy Ex to say to me.

The only advice I can offer is to give yourself time to figure out who you are, before trying to build a new story for yourself, and don't beat yourself up if it takes a whole year, or longer.

Oh, and the other advice is that the people who are trying to help but are doing the opposite: they don't get to hear about your problems anymore. It's ok to have some topics off-limits with some people, even friends. "I don't want to talk about it" is a reasonable thing to say. (Yes! Boundaries! Boundaries are excellent things to have.)

#420 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 09:33 PM:

LGB, witnessing. It sounds like you have done a good job of getting yourself out of 10 years of having your self put down. It's to be expected that it will take some time to reconnect with yourself. Have you looked into individual counseling?

Also, re his electronically signing your name after you told him to stop, you might want to consult a lawyer.

#421 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 09:55 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @408: I don't think it was a creativity issue. Having a set format made it harder, but I don't think there was anything obviously interesting to do with the layout. It's possible I could have made it better if I'd had a free hand and put a lot of thought into it, but I didn't feel frustrated that I couldn't.

(The following is meant mainly to clarify my own thinking; if it resonates for your—or not—I am interested to know, but that's not my chief point, here.) The issue I run into in "doing stuff for others" is less about creativity than it is about, um, "ownership?" For lack of a better word. I do stuff for me because it wants doing. If I do stuff for others, that innate current isn't there. The core motivating force is different. It feels like trying to run a power drill with no electricity. Or trying to wiggle the fingers on a severed hand. Or something. There's a dissociation that somehow cuts off the emotional investment in the work and the outcome. Whether or not I'm satisfied with the product is kinda beside the point.

It's like trying to run somebody else's mind, for the duration of the project. And given that I had to be someone else for the duration of my childhood, in order to evade my mother's scorn and correction, this frame of mind is deeply painful to me.

Hah! The sensation is not unlike trying to make myself stand there, during my last mammography, and hold still and wait while this joker crushed my right nipple for half a minute. Yeah. Huh. Never put that together before.

A few months ago, I finished a stack of calligraphy for buttons, and I was cheerful and I put them down with a flourish.

Keep an eye out: this is an important data point. I predict that you will find that you feel a spectrum of satisfaction with various projects. This was how I finally tracked down the approach to art that I'm playing with now, and has resulted in a ten(hundred?)-fold increase in my productivity. I finally worked out that trying to do "traditional" artwork (book cover type stuff) was just frustrating. Not least because I didn't have the skill to carry off what I wanted to do without a great deal of difficulty, but mostly because it was boring. I noticed I had far more fun playing with the paints on the palette. So I dumped the illustration and started focusing on just messing about with paint. Even when the final product is unsatisfying, the process is orders of magnitude more fun—to the point of being addictive. So it's much easier to maintain a level of output where, even if the keepers are only one-in-four, if I'm generating eight a month, that still means two keepers in that month. Before, if I was lucky, I'd manage maybe one keeper every few years.

Sorry. Thinking out loud, here. I'm still struggling to sort this stuff out.

It was like a miracle. It hasn't repeated.

Take heart: this doesn't mean it's not repeatable. It took me until I was in my fifties to make the connection I discuss above. And it wasn't until I'd made that connection that I started seeing how the pattern played out in my history.

There was a time when I brought home (if memory serves) a report card with a bunch of A's and one D. Guess what got *all* the attention. I remember thinking "then I just don't care" (approximately-- it may have been "then I just won't bother) at the time.

And this, right here, is the perfect illustration of why the coworker training Little John reported in @379 was such a massive fail.

I have the habit now of when I think about doing something, it leads to a bunch of other things I think I need to do.

This echoes.... Can you give a specific example?

Also, I wonder if there's a connection here:

@338: I did a calligraphy commission which was more ambitious than my usual .... After considerable procrastination and anxiety, not to mention thrashing, I got it mailed in time, the customer is pleased, and it's paid for. And I feel like crap.

And then @408: I brought home (if memory serves) a report card with a bunch of A's and one D. Guess what got *all* the attention. [*] I remember thinking "then I just don't care" (approximately-- it may have been "then I just won't bother) at the time.

I wonder if something happened within you at the point marked [*]? Were it me, before I gave up, I would have been massively hurt and confused (and offended!) that my success (the majority) was entirely disregarded, and my one failure focused on. I mean, seriously, WTF? But I can also see where, if this was a recurring pattern, that WTF would be streamlined into unconscious, and would simply fail to get recorded in the memory stream. Which is its own tragedy.

#422 ::: Teka Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 10:24 PM:

@417: What a horrible bunch of things for him to do to you. I'm so glad you and the cat got out of there.

His signing documents in your name is fraud, pure and simple. Do you have any way to get legal assistance? (Caveat: I am not a lawyer myself.)

#423 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 10:34 PM:

LGB, #417: Holy crap, that was a bad situation to be in, and you have done very well in recognizing it and getting yourself out of it.

Thoughts, more or less at random:
1) It is awesome that even though you were so completely gaslighted that you couldn't recognize your own peril, you were able to take steps when someone you loved (the cat) was threatened. This is a strong indicator that if/when you do decide to have a child, you will be a good parent.

2) Yes, you were absolutely betrayed by your husband. Loving husbands do not act the way he acted. His words of love were lies to trap and trick you; what he did showed his true heart.

3) Were you fooled all along? Very possibly. What you've described here is not a beginner-level abuser, but a professional with lots and lots of practice and many previous victims. These predators are very good at identifying "marks" who will be easy to manipulate and control. There is no shame to you in having been taken in by what amounts to a professional con man. It's what they do.

4) How do you know what's true any more? Your judgment will return as you spend more time away from him. It will take a while, and having friends to give you reality checks will help. This didn't happen to you overnight, and you can't expect to get over it that way either. But get over it you will, at your own pace and with the freedom to see what's really there instead of what he told you to see.

5) "Have you tried talking with him?" Yes, until you were blue in the face, and it had no effect. The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing while expecting different results, so you did something different.
"Are you willing to reconcile and forgive?" If you had gotten out of a burning house, would they be telling you to go back in? No? Then why are they telling you to go back into a toxic relationship that was destroying you? Because he loves you and wants you back? Boy, they really don't care about you at all, do they? He's the only one who matters to them. How selfish they are!
"Why don't you just stand up for yourself?" That's what you DID. You got the hell out of there before you ended up institutionalized or dead. If that's not standing up for yourself, I don't know what to call it.

6) On needing touch, I do have some concrete advice: dancing. Either look for a studio that offers dance classes (and doesn't require that you show up with a partner), or see if you can find a contradance group in your area. Contradancing is very beginner-friendly, and you don't need to bring a partner; most groups will offer some beginner instruction at the start of the evening, and all dances are walked thru before being danced.

Congratulations on the beginning of the rest of your life! New beginnings are always promising.

#424 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2013, 10:43 PM:

LGB @417: Let me just say, Sweet Bleeding Creation! Good on you for getting out of there!! That you stuck it out as long as you did says to me that you have superhuman patience and generosity.

Wow. I mean: wow.

Let me see if I can sum up his attitude here: He Is Important. If something is important, worthy, interesting to you, it is, by definition, Unimportant. Because, you know, Not Him. Pathological narcissism, much? Jeez.

And, yeah, gaslighting. He sounds like a pro.

Good on you for getting out of there! And not a moment too soon, from the sound of it. It's generally recognized that cruelty to pets is often a precursor to cruelty to humans. From your description, I could easily see him beating the crap out of you, and explaining, with all due compassion, why it was you deserved it and brought it on yourself.

I also feel as though I have no right to feel as traumatized as I do.

I think you have every right to feel traumatized. And violated. I think how you are feeling is exactly right for the situation you find yourself in.

How do you mourn possibilities, plans, things that didn’t even exist yet?

FWIW, I think that's exactly what mourning is. When one of my friends dies, that's what I lose. I've had conversations with them, jokes, fun times. What hurts is that I will no longer have them, in the future.

It may be early days yet to think about this, but: you still have possibilities. You can still make plans. It just seems like you'll be better off thinking of possibilities and making plans that don't include him.

My judgment clearly has some problems; how do I make decisions?

Beware that much of this anxiety is the Goddamn Tapes he's installed in your head. But please notice also: you knew to doubt the story he was feeding you. You judged yourself to be in a bad situation. You decided to get out. All of which look like highly intelligent and well-considered decisions from here. I think you may be much better off in this respect than you worry you are. You just need an opportunity to wash the doubts he's installed out of your mind.

who do I trust, if current data suggest that I’ve made bad choices about that so far?

I suggest you trust, to start with, yourself. You got it right. Recognized bad patterns. You got out. To the extent that you made any errors that got you to this place, they were in taking him at his word. But we do that with people we love, and who purport to love us. It's not you to be blamed if he turned out to by lying (which is what happened). It's him. Now, if you have questions about your choices and trust for the future, I would say that you just want to add more questions to your thinking, and bring in more layers of data: Does this person's actions line up with what he says? If he says he wants me to be well, how does that actually compare with how I feel when I interact with him?

Like I say: you're Doin It Right; you just got suckered by a pro. If anything, you need to give your instincts more credence. Think about what you would say to a friend who had been mugged and robbed. Or someone who's pension had been gutted by a fraudster.

I don’t know where I go from here.

FWIW, I think you are doing exceedingly well. You've identified danger you were in, you've removed yourself from it. You're thinking hard about how you got into the situation in the first place, so as to prevent a recurrence. You're building and maintaining resources to keep yourself (and your cat: "Hi, Kitty!!") well and safe. (You did not have kids with this guy; think of what a nightmare that would have been!) You're reaching out for help. You're identifying help that, um, isn't helping, and setting it aside. (The only recommendation I would give here is to look dourly over your glasses at what the Ghoddamn Tapes are telling you, and file that in the same rubbish bin as this guy you've left.)

Suggestions welcome.

Continue writing; you say this helps. This will also give you a referent for the future, so you can come back, see how far you've come, and identify achievements you've made and goals you reached. Also, when you're in a mood to, dust off all those possibilities and plans, and consider reengineering them with the idea of having healthy companionship to do them with. Or just do them yourself!

Find more ways to get companionable touch. Google search: cuddle party

From where I sit, you are doing very well. You've got nothing to be ashamed of, and much to be proud of.

#425 ::: blind wisdom ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 12:46 AM:

So, Christmas is tricky.

I've been with my husband for the past ten years. Every year, either we go to his family for Christmas Eve and I/we go to my grandmother's for Christmas Day, or I fly back to see my parents for the whole Christmas season. Every year.

I say "I/we" because he doesn't always go to my grandmother's with me. In fact, he rarely goes, once every three years or so. This is because her house is an hour and a half away, and with that much travel time invested I feel like we should at least spend several hours there. He, on the other hand, wants to spend 3, maybe 4 hours max.

He gets uncomfortable in family situations and sometimes needs to leave Right Now and Go Home. Taking a walk, taking a nap downstairs, reading in the car - not good enough. Must get home as soon as possible.

I understand this, I really do. And my family is really good at saying, "No, stay just a little longer," until it's 9pm and you've been there all day. So my solution is to tell him that everyone would love to have him there but he doesn't need to feel obligated to go.

Problem solved, right? Wrong. "Go for what might be a long time" and "I'll go, you stay home" are not the options he's looking for. He wants "go for two hours" and "both of us stay home". And I sympathize, but...

We live 20 minutes away from most of his family, except for the one who lives in a different country. My brother and cousin are 30 minutes away, but my grandmother and aunts are an hour and a half, and my parents are on the other coast. He can see his parents any time he wants (which is not very often), but I see my parents only the one or two times a year they're in town (which is marginally less than I'd like to). If I were to skip the Christmas visit, I'd see them way less than I'd like to.

So that's the situation. What really gets me about it is that every year the situation is the same, and every year I approach it gingerly trying to keep him from feeling pressured (to go) or abandoned (by not going), and every year he feels both pressured AND abandoned AND surprised that I've already decided to go, and I feel like he's emotionally blackmailing me into not seeing my family.

His specific complaint this year was that when I make decisions without him, he feels powerless. I made him feel sick by not having brought it up earlier, like before I talked with my family about it.

(Except that my family's been talking about it for the past few months, and if I brought it up then he wouldn't have wanted to deal with it. And even if he had wanted to deal with it, he would have still felt powerless and sick because he did not have the ability to choose one of the options that I feel are keeping me away from my family.)

And again, this happens EVERY YEAR. The same events, the same options for how to handle it, the same surprise that I want to see my family.

#426 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 01:28 AM:

#425 ::: blind wisdom

...His specific complaint this year was that when I make decisions without him, he feels powerless.

Whoa, major disconnect.

Each of you makes the decision(s) for yourself. You decide whether you stay or go. He decides whether he stays or goes.
It's not up to you to decide for him, and you've assured him that the choice is his and that you're fine with whichever he chooses. He totally has power here. Your handling of this is strong and healthy.

He wants to decide for you as well as himself, and lays a guilt trip on you for not letting him. That's manipulative.

Your wisdom isn't blind, o blind wisdom, however it feels. You're doing fine.

#427 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 01:52 AM:

blind wisdom: In addition to Jeanie's very good assessment, you're not "making" him feel anything. That's him feeling how he feels, about the choice he winds up making, for his reasons.

#428 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 02:24 AM:

#425, blind wisdom:

I feel like he's emotionally blackmailing me into not seeing my family. [...] because he did not have the ability to choose one of the options that I feel are keeping me away from my family. [...] EVERY YEAR. The same events, the same options for how to handle it, the same surprise that I want to see my family

So, um, I pulled those three quotes and put them side by side because that looks to me like a toxic pattern, possibly intended to isolate you from your family.

What would you say to a friend who told you those things about their relationship?

#429 ::: LGB ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 02:55 AM:

the invisible one @ 419 Thanks. I’m sorry found it so familiar, but ::fistbump::. I guess we’re in the same club. It's a sucky club, but there are cool people in it.

OtterB @ 420 and Teka Lynn @ 422 Yes, and I have emails documenting everything in case I need them later. The docs he signed with my name were part of a larger transaction that has since worked out the way I wanted. That doesn’t make it ok that he used my signature without authorization, but it’s not an issue I have to pursue right this second.

Lee @ 423 Thanks. I failed to protect the cat from being hurt in the first place, but at least I got us out of there afterwards. (She seems to be fine now, by the way.)

If you had gotten out of a burning house, would they be telling you to go back in? I’m saving this metaphor for the next time I need it.

I like the idea of dance classes. I’ll look around here and see what I can find.

Jacque @ 424 He is very good at explaining in a way that sounds perfectly reasonable at the moment why he had no choice but to do whatever he did, and why it was the only reasonable way to respond to whatever I had said or done to deserve it. :-/

About trusting people and making decisions: I have a few people who have been reliable about red-flagging things they see, supporting and validating my perceptions, providing help I actually need when I need it, not telling me what I should do (or worse—what I should have done), and leaving me feeling more competent after interacting with them than I felt before. Those are the people I’m currently trusting. I’ve found more support than I expected, which has been a very nice kind of surprise. But at one level I keep waiting for their sudden-but-inevitable-betrayal. It’s probably unfair to my friends, but I expect that piece of brain-software is going to be hard to uninstall.

Everyone, I appreciate the encouragement and witnessing.

It’s almost Christmas and I don’t feel particularly Christmasy this year. I might spend a few days with my family. I’m having trouble mustering any enthusiasm about doing anything. However! Tomorrow’s the Solstice, aka More Light Day, and surely things will begin to look brighter again. (Right? Somebody agree with me here.)

I hope everyone here navigates the holidays—with all their attendant complications and expectations—with as much joy and as little pain as possible. ::hugs:: to anyone who’d like them.

#430 ::: blind wisdom ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 02:58 AM:

Thanks for the reassurance, Jeanie and Jacque.

the invisible one @428: I would remind them that an attempt to isolate someone from their friends or family is one of the big markers for abuse.
But when it's happening to me, I tell myself that because I don't let him convince me not to see my family, it's not actually a problem. I picked the name because I know the answer, and yet I try to be blind to it.

#431 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 03:10 AM:

LGB @417, I am so glad that you got out, and that your little brother was there to help you move (that was seriously awesome of him, and I can only hope that I can be there for friends and family half so well). Wishing you strength for what comes next, and supporting what others have said: you did the right thing.

blind wisdom @425, witnessing.

#432 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 03:13 AM:

LGB @429, yes! More light is coming to this northern half of the planet; may it carry more light into our lives as well.

#433 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 03:20 AM:

We can make informed guesses (and that's all they can be, guesses) about someone in blind wisdom's position:

When she is with her family, she receives love and attention and is pleased and happy.
She is interacting with them instead of her husband.
They are distracting her from paying attention to him.
Presumably his failed attempts to pull her focus back to him are what determine when the stay becomes intolerable.

Of course he's going to feel threatened.
Of course he's going to go to great lengths to either keep her from seeing her family or severely limit their stay (which would show her family, herself, and most of all, himself, that he's in control).

She must be spending a great deal of energy supporting her husband. That's her call, and I'm in no position to criticize it.

If she feels she deserves time (off!) with her family, she has a right to her decision. I will absolutely support her in this.

Dollars to donuts the same dynamic applies to any activity that does not primarily focus on the significant other - social gatherings with work associates, hobbies (how many of those have been self-shut-down?), the s.o.'s insistence on sitting and watch mind-numbing TV "together" without our friend's being allowed anything else to distract or entertain.

There need to be significant compensations in the relationship to balance this. Maybe there are.

Being able to look clearly at the tradeoffs is a huge plus, regardless of what (if anything) changes.

Hang in there, all you blind wisdoms.

#434 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 03:28 AM:

428 :: LGB
But at one level I keep waiting for their sudden-but-inevitable-betrayal. It’s probably unfair to my friends, but I expect that piece of brain-software is going to be hard to uninstall.

Emotional triggers this deep-set may be there for the rest of our lives. We never really get over them, but we can get past constantly being bitten by them. What's worked for me is (as you are doing) noticing every time something works, every time someone is supportive, every time you are strong. Even if the tiniest of steps.

Yes, yes, to the returning of the light.

#435 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 09:12 AM:

Mary Aileen @398: Thank you!

LGB @417: What Jacque and Lee and all the others said. You did a wonderful job of protecting your cat and yourself in a very difficult and confusing situation. You did trust your gut instinct and it turned out to be completely right. Here is to recovery!

Jacque @scary tasks: I'm currently trying to break a lot of old patterns and with difficult tasks ahead I have to combine several new skills. It's a delicate process, but so far it seems to work the way I want it to.
Problems in the past: I didn't acknowledge that something was indeed scary and/or difficult for me. I didn't consider how I could make the process a bit easier for myself. That was cheating and a waste of time and besides, it's such a simple thing! Berating myself, judging myself for not getting it done earlier once I managed to complete the given task.
I'm working on all of those with different levels of success and currently the fear aspect is at the forefront.
Re: task that'll freak me out, I've come to accept that certain things will freak me out, e.g. writing a message or calling someone about something important (usually involves bills or work I should be doing). That's just how it is right now and I try to go from there. Somehow framing it as "how can I make it easier to do this task" helps a lot. It not only includes concrete steps like writing down a phone number or looking up a necessary piece of information relevant to the task, it means that breaks, gentle encouragement, praise and the like become a natural part of the process. As they should.
It's incremental change and lessons learned put into practice.

Holidays: I have some plans already how to spend Christmas and not as many fucks to give about the disapproval of family members as before. Even though I feel more comfortable in the knowledge that boundaries are an okay thing to have I'm often stumped how to figure out which ones would help, how to communicate them and keep them up. It gets a bit more difficult, since several people in my family are very got at simply not hearing stuff. It doesn't make communication difficult, but outright useless at times and is immensely frustrating to experience.

I hope that everyone here gets to have the kind of holidays they want to have and share it with the people they want to see!

#436 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 10:12 AM:

blind wisdom:

My husband is also a hermit, but he doesn't try to emotionally blackmail me into not going places or seeing people. He simply doesn't go if he's not feeling up to dealing with people. If he does go somewhere with me, and starts to feel over-peopled, he finds somewhere to retreat to (and yes, does give me meaningful/pleading looks sometimes "can we GO yet?" but that's understandable. The only time he's ever out-and-out asked me to please let's go home was when he came down with a headache). I can't think of a single time that he's asked me NOT to go somewhere I really wanted to go (well, we did have a budget discussion about a particular convention), even if it ends up being without him. He knows he's welcome to family gatherings, and my family knows that he's a hermit and might show up 20% of the time.

One thing surprises me: your husband can't spend a single day without you? My hermit is perfectly happy to spend an entire day All By Himself. I suspect it's valuable Introvert Time. I know the holidays are emotionally fraught and all, but really, one pre-planned day alone is that big a deal?

But mostly I agree with the others; he's supposed to be a grownup. He knows that you're going to choose to go, even though it's for emotional reasons that don't make much sense to him. He doesn't have equally-important plans that must be scheduled on that day that he wants/needs you along for. He can either choose to come along, or choose to stay home. It's not a fault in you that you wish to see your family once or twice a year; it's a perfectly reasonable wish.

If you were spending the family budget to fly halfway around the world once or twice a year that would be one thing, but the total budget you're asking for here from his point of view is 1 full day alone out of the year, and 1 tank of gas. That's not unreasonable. Even super-social people, much less hermits, occasionally spend one day alone. And it's not even unexpected; he can even make plans. Or he can come along, bring a book, and retreat to another room/the car/the library/a coffeeshop when it all gets too much.

#437 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 10:33 AM:

blind wisdom, #425: It sounds to me as though he wants to be the one making unilateral decisions without consulting you.* And frankly, I have very little sympathy for him. You've given him the perfectly reasonable alternative of "you don't have to go", and that's not good enough? That's not your problem, it's HIS problem, and it's up to HIM to deal with it.

The two of you might well be able to benefit from counseling about this issue. But I'll bet that's another thing it would be absolutely unwilling to consider, because that might mean someone else backing you up. And I agree that this sounds like a toxic pattern of attempted isolation from anyone who could give you a reality check. Have you abandoned hobbies, interests, friends, socialization because of his demands for the exclusive use of your time?

* Actually, part of what it sounds like is something I went thru with my parents. He doesn't want to fight with you; he wants you to want what he wants for you, voluntarily, because obviously that's the best thing. And if you stubbornly refuse to want what he wants you to want, then you're broken and need to be fixed, even if that means him suffering thru the distasteful obligation of fighting with you about it.

#438 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 11:16 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @408:
I'm amazed at the claim that functional families give children a lot of help with projects. Is this true?

Help? Sometimes. But not too much, because taking over the project isn't actually a good idea. Often what matters more is attentive praise and tactful suggestions for what to do next/how to fix problems the child perceives (as opposed to problems the parent perceives).

Last-minute homework is another matter, of course. Then it's about (a) getting the assignment done, and (b) showing the child how to work effectively under pressure: what to cut, what to focus on, how to maximize return for time available.

LGB @417:
My first reaction is that you were married to Tien Vorsoisson (from the Miles Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bjuold, if you're not familiar with them). All those ways of belittling and diminishing you. I'm so impressed that you lasted so well in such repressive circumstances.

I want to talk about this one thing especially:

How can I know what’s true anymore? The relationship I thought I had doesn’t exist. Did it ever, or was I fooled all along? My judgment clearly has some problems; how do I make decisions? And who do I trust, if current data suggest that I’ve made bad choices about that so far?

Obviously, I don't know if the relationship you thought you had ever existed. I know that my own marriage has grown and changed enormously in the twenty years it's lasted so far. I think it's entirely possible that yours has as well, in directions that you simply didn't perceive as possible when you started.

But in either case, I think it's only fair to ding yourself for "bad" judgment if you will also give yourself credit for the series of very good judgment calls you've made this last six months. Recognizing the problem, arranging the apartment, getting out, untangling from the tentacles of his manipulation, naming and understanding the marriage as dysfunctional, gaslighting and abusive.

That takes some good judgment. Also, courage, intelligence, determination, and maturity. All that stuff he said you didn't have. It's his word and your Tapes against hard, concrete evidence. I think we can call him a liar and your Tapes false.

Also, I think Jacque @424 has a good point. It's not at all inconceivable that he could have gone from verbal contempt to physical violence, if he was already hurting the cat. I don't know him, of course, and can't say for sure, but it's a known progression.

blind wisdom @425:
I'm in agreement with the others—if your husband doesn't want to go to see your family in the manner you want to, he should just not go. But he doesn't get the right to dictate whether or not you go.

LGB @429:
Tomorrow’s the Solstice, aka More Light Day, and surely things will begin to look brighter again. (Right? Somebody agree with me here.)

Totally agreed. It'll take a little while to be perceptible, but things get lighter from here.

Reading. Witnessing. Feeling, as always, grateful for this community, which is one of the lights of my life, even (especially!) in the dark season of the year.

#439 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 11:25 AM:

Lee @437 He doesn't want to fight with you; he wants you to want what he wants for you, voluntarily, because obviously that's the best thing. And if you stubbornly refuse to want what he wants you to want, then you're broken and need to be fixed, even if that means him suffering thru the distasteful obligation of fighting with you about it.

This. "I want you to do what you want! All you have to do is want the right things!"

Also, earlier discussion about helping with homework. I think it's possible to be dysfunctional on both ends of this spectrum. Ideally kids get support in terms of a functional space in which to do homework, help with materials if needed (i.e. a trip to the store for posterboard), transportation to the library if needed, encouragement to do the work and monitoring of assignments (backing off as the child gets older and more able to manage that for themselves), perhaps brainstorming help on an idea for a big project or paper. Depending on the knowledge base of the parents and the personality mix, perhaps actual content help. Some teachers were fine with parents helping by proofreading a paper or checking math problems for correctness; others wanted to see the child's unassisted work so that they knew what continuing difficulties to address in class. In my upper-middle-class, achievement-oriented neighborhood, nobody thinks the parent should do the homework, but everybody seems to know someone (not them, of course), who does. So, dysfunctional one way: no help, no support, no interest. Dysfunctional the other: doing the work for the child, or constant micromanaging (oh, you don't want to write a story about a zombie! Make it about a cute fluffy bunny!)

I spent a lot of daughter-the-elder's high school years feeling guilty that I wasn't pushing her hard enough. She didn't get as good of grades in high school as she could have because of assignments that were late or sloppy. On the other hand, she does seem to have hit college able to manage her own workload with things turned in on time and only the occasional all-nighter, so I guess it came out okay.

#440 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 01:58 PM:

#429, LGB:

This is the kind of place where somebody is likely to find a given sort of pain familiar. It makes it easier to talk, I find.

One thing that I thought of on reading back over your earlier post, was the marriage counsellor. You said he found one, and nothing about how those discussions went. If you aren't ready to talk about that then that's fine, I'm not pressing for it. I bring it up because of my experience with couples counselling.

What I found was that the counsellor I saw supported what Crappy Ex was saying about me. That I was overreacting and how to control my reactions, not that Crappy Ex was treating me badly and I had every right to be upset, for example.

A while ago, some time after I started posting here and after I had discovered Captain Awkward and long after I was divorced and had dropped the counsellor, I ran across a comment at CA: My understanding is that emotionally abusive, manipulative people generally end up applying their standard MO to their therapist, too, particularly if they don’t *really* want to change. For example, couples’ counseling is frequently not recommended in abusive relationships because it is quite easy for the abusive partner to use the counseling as a weapon. [...] It’s a fairly rare therapist who’s going to be skilled enough to detect that and work through it.

That was the first bit of wisdom that started a text file I kept locally of things that kicked me in the gut -- in the sense of explaining so many things all at once.

So... I don't know. Be wary, I guess; I don't know if couples counsellors are supposed to call somebody on their shit if they're behaving badly or not, but if they don't, it might be worth wondering if they're buying his line. If all of their advice is centred on how you can change, they may well be. Maybe also find a separate therapist who can help you separately, who doesn't have contact with him, if you have the resources (mental and financial) for it?

#441 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 02:27 PM:

LGB: Reading and witnessing.

Re: needing touch -- Have you considered getting a therapeutic massage? If there is a therapeutic massage school in your area, their students often give massages at a discount.

Re: making decisions. You may need help relearning the shape inside your skin. Counseling may help, also learning to meditate. Many Buddhist temples teach meditation free of charge.

Keeping a journal may be a good idea as well. You are strong, getting yourself and the cat out of a potentially fatal situation demonstrates that -- hugs and healing energy headed your way.

#442 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 02:58 PM:

Reading, witnessing, and cheering on all those who are moving onwards and upwards, or trying to.

#443 ::: blind wisdom ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 10:50 PM:

It turns out that he was actually expecting that he'd end up going with me. That was a surprise - and I probably should have actually asked HIM rather than assuming that he would want to stay home.

One of the main things he gets upset with me for is "not being on his side". When he wants to leave someplace, I tell people who ask that he wanted to leave, instead of lying about why we're going. When he gets in a discussion with someone, instead of defending his position to the other person, I try to explain one person's opinion to the person who seems to be not understanding - usually that means explaining the other person's side to my husband. He seems to think that my job as his wife is to make him look good to other people.

Jeanie @433: He's normally an introvert, but he seems to be able to flip a switch that makes him excited about interacting with people. Unfortunately, that same switch also makes him crave attention. I can definitely see our relationship in the examples you give.

(And yes, I have given up hobbies that involved socializing with other people, mostly because my own laziness and introversion were compounded by his digs at the hobby - something that he doesn't remember doing.)

Cally Soukup @436: He does seem to be surprisingly unhappy about spending a whole day without me. Now that I think about it, he has a pattern of being subtly down on the idea of me spending a whole day or more away. This surprises me because it's not like we necessarily interact all that much when we're at home together - we're each on our own computer, most of the time.

What really gets me is that none of the retreat options I offer are acceptable to him - he could take a nap in the spare bedroom, or go downstairs by himself, or sit out in the car and read, or we could even take separate cars so he could leave whenever he wanted.

But we never offered those options, or if we did there were people downstairs when he went down there, or bringing a separate car would make him feel bad (?).

Lee @437: We would definitely benefit from counseling. Not yet, though, because he's just started with a new therapist and they're still in discovery mode - I'd want to wait until he's figured out more of how he relates to himself before we try to work on how we relate to each other.

A lot of my friends started off as his friends, but I'm not very close to them. Mostly this is because we don't go to social events very often, which is because he doesn't like going. He used to like going, but he also used to be a confrontational jackass. Now people either don't want him around, or bring up things he did in the past, which makes him feel like a bad person and then he wants to leave.

Today he told me that he doesn't appreciate being made the villain in the situation. He is mad at me for being scared to tell him things, because me being scared of him makes him feel like a bad person. I refrained from telling him that he should consider that maybe he's acting like a bad person, because he doesn't like it when I suggest that he should be the one to change instead of me.

#444 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 11:40 PM:

#443, blind wisdom:

So, "being on his side" means lying to other people about what he's doing and defending a position built on him not understanding another person. It also means not calling him out for bad behaviour because his hurt feelings at feeling like a bad person are more important than your (reasonable, it sounds like) fear of him reacting badly. Did I get that about right?

I know that you know this stuff already. I don't mean to pick on you. It's itching part of my brain and I don't want to see this sort of hurt grow further into anybody else's life. Your descriptions are making me all protective right now. I'll stop if you prefer.

Here's a little story from my past. When Crappy Ex would be out of town over a weekend for work or whatever (rare) and I was home alone, I would get all *kinds* of things done, and have fun too; stuff that I never seemed to manage when he was home despite the same number of hours in the day. I enjoyed those weekends a lot more, and actually relaxed and recharged.

How are your days when your partner is not around and you don't feel you have to worry about his happiness?

#445 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 11:45 PM:

Actually, since saying "please stop" is something most people are socialized against doing, I think I will say instead: I will stop now, unless you prefer that I continue.

#446 ::: blind wisdom ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2013, 11:55 PM:

the invisible one @444-5, not in that order: Please, continue. I find it reassuring when it is pointed out that his behavior is not necessarily reasonable.

Correct, and correct - although he has also asked me to point out after the fact when he makes me scared, so that he can avoid that behavior in the future. However, I suspect that what will actually happen is that a) he will claim that my reaction and not his behavior is at fault, and b) it will restart whatever argument we were having originally.

I LOVE being home alone. Luckily, I'm going to get almost a week of it until I go back to work after New Years. I can do nothing without getting crap for it, or I can do chores without either him guilting me for not doing it earlier, or him thinking I'm trying to guilt him for not doing it earlier.

#447 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2013, 12:19 AM:

#446, blind wisdom:

I think "not necessarily reasonable" is putting it mildly. But then, I only know the problems you have described. I'm sure there's a lot more to the story, including good things that keep you with him as well, which haven't been mentioned.

The thing is, the stuff you've described paints a picture of a level of toxic that's often hard to call abusive because there's no one specific thing you can point to, only patterns, relatively small things that by themselves are not really a big deal, but add up. That's a picture I recognize.

Random irrelevant thought: Hm, if you're blind, I guess it doesn't matter that I'm invisible... :)

#448 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2013, 01:56 AM:

the invisible one @447:

Hm, if you're blind, I guess it doesn't matter that I'm invisible...

What? I just wanted to look at it again.

#449 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2013, 03:47 AM:

blind wisdom, #443: He used to like going, but he also used to be a confrontational jackass. Now people either don't want him around, or bring up things he did in the past, which makes him feel like a bad person and then he wants to leave.

Has he ever tried saying something along the lines of, "Yeah, that was dumb and I'm sorry and I'm trying to do better now"? Sometimes it's amazing what a simple acknowledgement of having been in the wrong will accomplish. OTOH, also sometimes other people just aren't willing to let it go. It might be useful to find out which category his (former?) friends are in.

I am now being reminded of someone I used to know in Nashville, who for a long time was married to... the only way I can describe him is "a well-meaning jerk with no learning curve". I remember thinking, a couple of years before she finally left him, that it must be really stressful to be married to someone who's always being referenced as the bad example.

#450 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2013, 04:46 AM:

the invisible one to blind wisdom: Random irrelevant thought: Hm, if you're blind, I guess it doesn't matter that I'm invisible... :)


#451 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2013, 07:51 AM:

Invisible one... ever seen "mystery men", in which one of the superheroes had the power of turning invisible as long as nobody was looking at him?

#452 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2013, 10:05 AM:

I've occasionally been given an apology for a partner's bad behavior, and I never accept that sort of apology. Does this seem like a reasonable policy?

#453 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2013, 11:15 AM:

#452 ::: Nancy Lebovitz
...never accept that sort of apology. Does this seem like a reasonable policy?


Sadly, even with the strongest possible incentive, change only happens when the alternative is perceived by our hindbrains as far more painful.

I agree strongly with abi that we can alter our own knee-jerk behavior (over time) by looking hard at our scripts and the tradeoffs.

Blackmailing someone with "you've got to change or I'll leave" is a loser's game. If their behavior isn't acceptable, we have to protect ourselves and get out.

Lord. Short version:
I was married for over forty years, thirty-five of them very happily, to a wonderful guy. He became emotionally and then physically abusive. To go all Jungian on you, he had no connection with the demon who'd come out and hurt me, and the loving accessible guy was very, very good to me.

I stuck it out for about five years, partly in denial, but mostly because I was sure if I were strong and supportive enough for him, he'd change. He had been being loving and supporting all those years while badly-damaged me worked past socially-incompetent wiring and toxic brain crap. Yes, I do see that could have been explained by different scripts ("plucky comic relief", indeed).

I left when my business (self-employed) and health had almost tanked. I lived in a friend's basement while rebuilding, fortunately successfully.

We finally found a good therapist (rather than the string of those that lectured me on not recognizing what a great guy he was). After a year, he was able to acknowledge that he had been, and was, capable of hurting me. It was too painful for him to sustain. By the next session he'd have no memory of the breakthrough and we'd have to start again, back a furlong or two of steps.

At that point I looked at my expected years and the years it'd take him to make any significant change and called it quits. Better to make a clean break and let both of us get on with our lives.

Lost: constant physical hugs/reassurance. That almost killed me. Staying with him would have (suicide).

Happy ending. He's picked up a social life again and is highly regarded (correctly) by his peer group.

I am warm, and safe, and content. I've got strong, supportive relationships (many of them from here), good clients, and that gobsmacking astonishing reconnection with my mother - on my terms.

My favorite change metaphor comes from when we were trying to break the sound barrier (cue The Right Stuff). The planes would hit increasing turbulence and in some cases shake themselves apart. The pilots, even when they knew they couldn't pull out, kept transmitting what they could see and feel, scientists and engineers kept what worked and changed what didn't - and eventually we broke through Mach 1 into clear, clean sky and smooth sailing.

My most sincere compliments of the season to you.

#454 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2013, 12:17 PM:

#451, Serge Broom: I have not. Could he *stay* invisible if somebody looked toward him after he'd become invisible? Because suddenly vanishing would draw attention to the invisibility.

#452, Nancy Lebovitz: Seems like a reasonable policy. The one who did wrong should be the one to apologize.

#455 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2013, 12:55 PM:

"Compliments of the season" was lifted from Mongoose, who suggests its revival.

#456 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2013, 06:23 PM:

Wow. Seen In the Wild, for the First Time:

These questions are what I've been groping for all these years, trying to articulate how my mother could have treated me that would have resulted in me being, oh, I dunno, functional?

  • How are you?
  • How is the new place?
  • How is your job?
  • It sounds like you are enjoying ______! What do you like most about it?
  • How did you get interested in _______?
  • You and (girlfriend) seem pretty serious. What’s your favorite thing about her?
  • Is living together what you thought it would be like? I know when your dad and I moved in together, we had x hilarious problem going on.


  • When are you going to get a “real” job?
  • How long exactly do you plan to do x (drink, smoke pot, live with this harpy)?
  • Do you think that’s really a long-term plan?
  • Your friend told us x, y, and z about you. Is that true?
  • Have you tried ___? Have you tried _____? Well, if you want my advice, you’ll ______.

If my mom had been capable of / willing to use the "good" set of questions, instead of the "bad".... Oh, how different things could have been. I don't even remember what it was that I was interrogated about, for all those hours I spent, sitting on her footstool, staring at the floor, tears leaking down my nose, feeling her grinding me down. What I do remember:

"You'd better just...." And: "Well?" (After she'd heard about "active listening.") "What did I just say?" Which, of course, I could never report back to her (a) because I wasn't listening, because I was trying very hard to maintain my internal equilibrium and (b) because reading it back to her would have been tantamount to capitulation.

Strangely enough, the "good" set describes pretty well the tone of that last conversation I had with my dad, a few months before he died. For so many years, I avoided both of them, primarily because of the way my mother treated me. They were the undifferentiated block of "my parents." Though he was a problematic parent in his own right—he was openly alcoholic, to the point of being falling-down drunk some evenings. But I now truly grieve that I didn't get to know him as an adult. I think we would have been great friends.

It's a very odd thing, seeing something you've been trying to articulate for years, crystalized for your outside of your own head.

#457 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2013, 06:56 PM:

Witnessing. LGB in particular, recognizing a toxic relationship and getting out is a really good step. It may take some time to get past the gaslighting, but it's something you can document for reinforcement that you aren't imagining things.

Oh, and you are entitled to your reactions. No matter what they are, your emotions are real and should not be denied. So many toxic people rely on social conditioning to repress the validity of another person's feelings.

#458 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2013, 08:37 PM:

Jacque -

Your mother seems so caught in her own hell that she dumped it on you. Good for you for getting clear (both meanings).

I'm glad that the last conversation you had with your dad was reinforcing and memorable.

#459 ::: blind wisdom ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2013, 08:44 PM:

the invisible one @447: I am fond of understatement, it is true. And there are good things, to be sure, but when things aren't going so well it's hard to think of them. It's definitely death by a thousand cuts, though, rather than outright abuse.

Lee @449: He's tried his equivalent of that, which may or may not be recognizable. He's not so good at straightforward apologies.

Today's issue: I brought home the nicely printed photos I'll be giving to my grandmother, and showed them to my husband when he asked. The photo of my brother and I together? "His arm is covering up too much of you." The photo of my brother? "You blew it up too much, it's all grainy." And the photo of me: "GOD, why can't you just smile like a normal person?"

#460 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2013, 08:51 PM:

#446 ::: blind wisdom [...] - although he has also asked me to point out after the fact when he makes me scared, so that he can avoid that behavior in the future. However, I suspect that what will actually happen is that a) he will claim that my reaction and not his behavior is at fault [...]

It feels to me like you've nailed it. If you'd only change your reaction then everything would be fine.

Spouse with a Demon (SwaD) wanted me me change whatever I had to so that we could be happy again. Imagine his surprise when the best way for me to be happy was to leave. I am not presuming to tell you that this would be your solution. I am supporting you working out what takes care of you. If it helps him, great. If not, at least you're in better shape.

#461 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2013, 09:03 PM:

#459 ::: blind wisdom re: criticism of photos

FWIW: Back in the bad old days, I responded to my mother doing this (hi, Jacque) by going Miss Manners on her:

"Why, thank you!"

It didn't matter that I was obviously insincere. She was absolutely dumbfounded. As she was telling herself that she was trying to give me Helpful(y) Instruction, she had no traction to continue.

If you try this, it's important to smile, SHUT UP, and leave at least the area if possible (don't you need to wrap those? what a shame the scissors and tape are in the other room).

The short term result is a major fail, as they'll only come back with increased fury. Long term, though - you're changing the pattern, and shown you're trying out the response of leaving when abused.

#462 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2013, 10:08 PM:

Blind wisdom @ 459

"It's definitely death by a thousand cuts, though, rather than outright abuse."

Sometimes there isn't much difference. What you're describing to me does not sound like the supportive, fulfilling, embettering relationship that every human deserves.

#463 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 12:16 AM:

blind wisdom @443: Today he told me that he doesn't appreciate being made the villain in the situation. He is mad at me for being scared to tell him things, because me being scared of him makes him feel like a bad person.
Ouch. I just wanted to put that there because it resonated upon multiple dysfunctions in my life. The last conversation I had with Horrible Ex, he said that his most recent girlfriend had said that she was scared of him, and told me this in a way clearly meant to make me feel bad for him because she was hurting his feelings. It had the opposite effect; it reminded me that I am scared of him.

@446: I can do chores without either him guilting me for not doing it earlier, or him thinking I'm trying to guilt him for not doing it earlier.
So you're damned if you do and damned if you don't? I imagine that might make it hard to get chores done, to say the least. This is not a reasonable set of reactions on his part.

B. Durbin @457: Oh, and you are entitled to your reactions. No matter what they are, your emotions are real and should not be denied.
Last night I was Hungry, Lonely, and Tired, three of the four HALT signs that make someone emotionally vulnerable (used in the addiction recovery community, but vulnerable is vulnerable). My dad was going to get takeout. When he came back it turned out that my food was not there. I curled up in my chair and glared, having achieved Angry, the fourth thing. Conversation ensued:
Mother: Oh, don't cry!
Me: *growling* I wasn't going to! *thinks* But why not? What's wrong with me crying?
Mother: Well, I guess that it makes people uncomfortable. … so fine! Cry all you want! [kind of passive-aggressively annoyed]

Later, after he had gotten my food and I had eaten some:
Mother: Have other people been telling you not to cry?
Me: I dunno, but there were all those times nine years ago that you told me it wasn't okay to show the emotions I was in fact feeling. That might have something to do with it.
Mother: ... I guess the phrase is a Southern thing, and by "don't cry!" I actually mean "I'm sorry you're upset."
Me: Well, can you try to express that in a way that doesn't make me feel as though I'm not allowed to have my emotions?

Small victories. *tiny fist-pump*

#464 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 12:19 AM:

#446, blind wisdom & #460, Jeanie:

Yup. Crappy Ex was all about what I had to change so we could be happy again too. It was all my reactions and not at all his behaviours. Not even suggesting that maybe both of us played a part, it was all my reactions.

#459, blind wisdom:

What are the good things about him that carry you through the bad times? (You don't have to answer here if you don't want to, but something to think about.)

For myself: at one point, I tried to make a list of the good and the bad about Crappy Ex. This may have been at the counsellor's request, I don't remember why anymore. My list of the bad was extensive, and I drew a blank on what was good. I remembered what *had been* good, but couldn't name anything recent. Of course I felt terrible for being such a negative person, clearly I was destroying the relationship with my inability to see the positive. It wasn't until a friend tossed a few things that I'd said back at me, then asked what I would tell a friend who described their relationship that way, that I realized that what I was dealing with was emotional abuse.

Not trying to say that's what's happening to you; that's what my story looked like. The only "good" things I could come up with around that time were BS: he was willing to put up with oh-so-difficult me, etc.

#465 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 12:59 AM:

Ugh, sorting out holiday plans. Partner has not been able to reach his parents to discuss plans, which really matter as they have not yet told us when Christmas dinner starts, or given us the street address it is being held at. They *always* forget we don't have a car. His parents live in a distant suburb, and his extended family in a small rural town with no bus service at all, and none of them plan ahead to give us rides, but they want us to be there.

My aunt and my sister's partner are/will be helpful within reason. "Within reason" will not cover getting to Partner's parents' house at the time they will want, though it might cover rides to the rural town as it is the next town over from my parents' house. However, I didn't reach my aunt or my sister's partner today, not that asking them for rides to and from an uncertain address at an unknown time on top of rides to and from my parents' house makes much sense.

My mother's approach can be summarized as she gets to tell me what to do, and tells me to do what makes Partner's mother happy, without making things difficult for anyone else. As in, we shouldn't "demand" that Partner's family pick us up because they have at least one car and three licensed drivers. Instead we should pack up all the gifts and schlep them to the distant suburb on the bus on the day of the year with the worst service, then walk through the snow with it all for another kilometer or two, because there is no service near their house. Or we can take the even less frequent and longer bus ride to my mother's house, shovel her driveway early Christmas morning, and have her drive us back into Partner's suburb!

I would like throw most of the relatives off a balcony. And even if we were willing to pay to rent a car, it's rather too late to do so at a reasonable cost. And of course, we're expected to do all the chasing after people to arrange things too! As a result, our default Christmas itinerary will be the one with the most feasible transportation. Households that fail to provide location, time, and transportation for us to attend their celebrations will have to accept our absence with an unvarnished explanation of the cause.

Maybe next year it would be less stress to try hosting Christmas for up to two dozen people instead, so that *they* will have the transportation headaches, and we'll just cook like demons for two days?

OtterB @331: one item exemplified "the independent loner enters relationships", only the loner was such because he had been abandoned and rejected by a parent. So it showed both why you need boundaries and why sometimes you need to pull them down and be vulnerable. The other example had the main character avoiding ending up the victim/doormat when her husband divorces her and goes on expecting the compliance of a wife from her. He got re-educated, quickly and forcefully.

Jacque @337: I rarely if ever get All The Things Done, but I *do* have occasions where the free-floating anxiety gets exposed. Sometimes, if I rationally debate anxiety item 1, the anxiety will find a new item to attach to, and then I take that one down, and so on with the apparent causes getting sillier and sillier. Nowadays when this pattern happens I know that the guiltmonster needs me to be scared and worried about SOMETHING no matter how silly and stupid.

The_L @345: that was a horrible thing for your mother to do. I'm glad to see in your later comment that the upside, such as it is, is revealing itself -- you're done, and no more pretending! I can't figure out whether I would rather that *I* was done with my toxic people, or to go on getting what little I can out of the relationships. I do seem to at least be making progress on not craving their love and approval, which reduces their power over me.

Jeanie @366: ooh, yes, getting praised and actually letting it happen full-strength is strange and difficult. Desperately wanted, but somehow wrong according to very old, deep programming. And I also have random bouts of expecting punishment to descend from on high for my sins, even when I'm not entirely sure what the sins *are*, just that surely I must be doing something wrong.

Little John @379: ugh, that sounds like a terrible boss! Thankfully the one time I had a horrible boss, I was very good at the job, and he was so much better than my parents, that it all rolled right off. I realized many years later that the summer job opening had existed because this boss' bad behaviour led the previous person to quit from mistreatment. However, "good at working for abusive jerks" is not something I want to put on my resume, nor something I want to keep improving at.

Jacque @392: can I please get you to help me come up with interviewing-the-employer questions, when I get the spoons to deal with such possibilities? I have never been able to figure out how to diplomatically suss out most of the things I'd want to know about the boss and company culture before signing on...partly because I'm not even sure what I need to know, let alone how to test for it without either being insulting or flagging my weak points for convenient exploitation or rejection.

#466 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 01:07 AM:

446/460/464, about you having to change so that everything will be okay -- that was my parents, from about my early teens until... well, basically until I moved out; it didn't stop then, but I stopped having to listen to it. It was always, "There's nothing wrong with US, if YOU would just change, everything would be fine."

And the one time that I did manage to talk them into going to family counseling, it didn't last long. They had confidently expected the counselor to rubber-stamp everything they said, and when she didn't... well, it didn't go over well. But it did give me the valuable concept of "enmeshment", which is psych-speak for "they have no idea where they stop and you start". Which in turn explained a lot about all the boundary issues.

#467 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 01:31 AM:

Hi, all. I've been in reading mode over at AO3 again, and so have been rather behind here at ML. Catching up, though--LGB, you did a very hard, very wise thing, and I wish you strength and peace and the ability to progress in your best direction, even if it takes a while...which it might. To everyone, reading/witnessing, and the same wish for all for whom it's welcome.

For myself, I've been doing some looking backward as well as some tentative looking forward. Two years ago, I wasn't doing anything on the winter solstice except hunkering down and surviving having left my house for the last time only two days before. About the only stable things in my life were my friends in meatspace (who couldn't have solved my problems for me even if they'd wanted to--and most of them said outright they wished they could) and the community here, the DFD threads in particular but really, ML as a whole. I could spill my guts here at two in the morning of I felt the need, and it helped.

It helped a lot. I do not know if I will ever be able to fully express my gratitude.

This year, however, I spent Solstice night at a performance I'd bought a ticket for only the night before--and that based solely on two friends' comments on the Book of Face about having seen the troupe at Burning Man this year. So I poked around the Web a bit, decided I liked what I saw, and got myself a ticket to see the Lucent Dossier Experience in Hollywood last night.

Because I can afford to do that now. Because spur-of-the-moment no longer equates in my mind to "putting off something more important so I don't have to think about it". Because, while nothing is ever 100% safe, I feel a whole lot closer to that now.

Oh, and you may have noticed I've dropped the "somewhat disguised" from my nym. Considering my employers hired me even after finding out how many "strikes" I had against me (bankruptcy, foreclosure, homelessness), I don't think I need to hide anymore. I may still keep this email address for view-all-by purposes, though, with abi's permission.

Things are better.

Light returns, indeed.

#468 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 01:40 AM:

Syd, so glad to hear from you!

I was wondering how you were doing this afternoon, thinking it had been quite some time since you'd been around here.

Lovely news!

#469 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 01:50 AM:

A little more about the third party apologies that I don't accept-- this hasn't happened that often, but as I recall, it's always a harried-looking woman apologizing for a man. It's not just that I'm not getting the apology from the person who should be making it, it's that I don't want to encourage the wrong person to be making apologies.

#443 ::: blind wisdom

Today he told me that he doesn't appreciate being made the villain in the situation. He is mad at me for being scared to tell him things, because me being scared of him makes him feel like a bad person. I refrained from telling him that he should consider that maybe he's acting like a bad person, because he doesn't like it when I suggest that he should be the one to change instead of me.

I find myself with some sympathy for him because he's gotten himself into a mess where it's going to take inspiration for him to get out. This doesn't mean you or anyone else has the job of helping him.

I join the contingent which is impressed that you've pried yourself loose.

A little inspiration at my end: I've been beating myself up because I don't seem to be meeting various standards that people keep giving advice (to people in general) about-- I don't have enough gusto or courage or generosity or ambition.

I'd been treating this as proof that I'm not meeting minimal human standards, and then it occurred to me that the advice is evidence that most people are *not* living lives of notable gusto etc.

I'm still not sure why self-hatred can have such a strong attraction for me or a good many other people. This doesn't have to be solved, but I'm still curious about it.

And I realized that one of the things that's been haunting me-- a gut-level belief that I'm too fucked up for relationships-- should be treated as a sort of generic anxiety. The thing is, there may be people who are too fucked up for relationships (see above about the man who's making communication impossible), but my belief on the subject has no content that I can see about what my problems might be, it's just fear and hurt. It's presumably stuff about my mother-- not things she said, but some kind of background assumption (on my part? on hers?) that if I couldn't get things right with her (make her happy about me) then I couldn't get things right with anyone.

The thing is, I've gotten at least a little distance on it, instead of feeling as though having that feeling (see above about advice-- there's a lot of advice to just keep trying even though you've been hurt and frightened. Just feel optimism you haven't got!

Ignore what makes sense to you! And if the result is a disaster, it's not the fault of people who told you to take chances.

Anyway, I've still got some problems, but I'm getting past attacking myself for having them.

#470 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 02:06 AM:

465, Moonlit Night: I hope no one minds me jumping in. I have a list of questions in the back pocket of my mind.

I feel compelled to mention that in my last interviewing experience, I had most of these questions written down as something I wanted to ask. But - and this is where everything went horribly wrong - I talked myself out of asking the questions.

If an interviewer is acting impatient and rude with you, that's a good indication of what the company may be like, and that's a valid reason to not ask all of your questions. But don't talk yourself out of asking them before you begin. That was my big huge mistake. I thought I knew the answers, and I did not. People will tell you exactly who they are. You just have to listen. This goes for companies as well.

It's usually best if you have at least googled the company, checked out their website, and familiarized yourself with what their company's image claims to be. When you do that, see if anything pings positively or negatively for you. Do you see anything odd or contradictory? Do they say they value innovation but haven't done anything new in years? Those can be your first questions, and will leave the interviewer with a positive impression of you. I cannot count the times I've interviewed someone for a position who had no idea what the company actually did, and we had a decent web presence, and were a major employer in a small city.

Credit for some of these should go to Alison at the Ask A Manager blog, which is amazing.

1. What is the company culture like?

There's a lot of interviewing that is just intuitive. You learn to read expressions and emotions without realizing it. When you ask this question, if someone starts fidgeting, or they have no idea how to answer, why is that? Do they say it's a relaxed place to work, but their desk is slammed and they keep getting interrupted? If that's the case, do they explain that it's a busy week, or have any awareness of the mixed message they're sending?

2. Is this a new position? If yes, then what led to the creation of the position? If no, why did the person who previously held this position leave?

New positions are great, but if they don't have a logical reason for creating the job, they might not have a reason to keep it. If the CEO decided they needed an SEO person and forced the Marketing Director to hire one, you may face some resentment later down the line.

If the person who held this job was promoted or transferred to another position in the company, that can be a really good sign that there is upward mobility. See how comfortable the interview is talking about it. If they're excited for the person, that's great. If not, there may have been other factors.

3. What qualities would someone possess to be successful in this position?

This helps you match perception to reality. Does the idea of this job in your head match what the job is? Was it described well in the job posting? And do you have the qualities they are looking for? Would you be happy using these skills, day in and day out?

4. What do you like best about working for the company? (Addressing the interviewer)

If someone's excited about their job, it usually shows, especially in the outgoing personalities you may find in recruiters and HR. If they aren't excited about their job, you will see it in the answer to this question.

5. Can you tell me what a typical day in this position would be like?

When you hear this description, do you Kermit-flail your arms in happiness? Or do you think to yourself, I need a job and this will help me survive. (Both valid responses.)

Alternately, do they describe a 25 hour work day with no breaks in sight? If they're unrealistic about how much can be accomplished, this is good information to have.

6. Somebody up-thread suggested asking about the duration of training time, and when you could expect to be fully trained. That's a great idea, and can give you an idea of their expectations, how realistic they are, and whether they even have a training plan.

Even asking one of these questions is a great idea. It's hard to do, because we see a job interview as a power-lopsided situation, *submitting* our applications and trying to get people to like us. But I've always been happy to answer any questions, and asking any questions at all will *always* put you head and shoulders above anyone who is just applying to get any job they can. Interviewers get bored, too, and they really do love it when you ask questions.

One last thought: If the company has a receptionist, and it's appropriate, you can ask them what they like about their job. Or just start a conversation (as long as you're not interrupting) and see where it leads. At one of my positions, we consulted our receptionist every time we interviewed someone and weren't quite sure about them. She was often the deciding vote on a new hire, because she observed them when they didn't think they were "on". We often gave feedback to executives about people who were perfect in the interview, but were rude to the receptionist because they didn't think she had any power in the company. Not a good idea.

I also want anyone who has to go to a job interview to google Amy Cuddy and body language and watch her Ted Talk. Amazing, and it has worked for me in a number of situations, personal and work-related.

#471 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 02:21 AM:

On a less advice-driven level, I wanted to say that I've been reading, witnessing, and feeling empathy and compassion and recognition for all of you who are going through tough things.

I remember my Mom not leaving me alone to have my own opinion about anything, or when I expressed an opinion, disdained it and told me it was wrong and I was stupid.

I remember being in a glorious relationship with a man who slowly taught me (by denigrating his ex-wife's behavior and telling me how unlike her I was) exactly what I could and could not do, and made fun of the things and people I liked until I could barely breathe. I remember the shouting and the fights and being forced to stay awake "because we have to resolve this problem" when it was really to tire me out for my important day at work the next day. I remember him cutting off the long-distance so I couldn't talk to my friends anymore, and him turning everything I complained about into a personal problem of mine.

I remember leaving that jerk, and a year later when I finally felt safe and could play whatever music I wanted, whenever I chose.

I remember believing I was the worst person in the world, and that I didn't deserve to be happy or healthy, and having no idea what to do with my life.

I remember all of the mistakes I ever made, and I remember how much I used to hate myself for just. being. human.

I remember every small kind thing that anyone ever did for me, and how little it took for them to give, and how meaningful it was for me to receive.

I remember the huge gestures of friendship and love that have pushed me to keep trying, keep living, keep being myself.

I am absurdly grateful for this world, and especially those who have helped me continue to inhabit it in my own special way.

Your stories, all together, are part of this. Thank you for helping me find my way.

#472 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 03:18 AM:

Nancy, #469: When you say you don't accept apologies from a third party, what kind of phrasing do you use? I think it's a good idea, but I can't figure out how I would go about saying it.

#473 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 03:29 AM:

knitcrazybooknut, :)

#474 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 04:08 AM:

#472 ::: Lee

It's been a while, but I don't think I said much of anything.

I don't know what I'd do now. Back then, I think it was more of a "this is an impossible social situation where I don't know what to say" sort of quiet freakout.

Back to the more general subjects.... it occurred to me recently that people (including me) are most vulnerable to bad advice and bad examples in the parts of life where they have the fewest instincts, whether because of initial incapacity or trauma.

I find this terrifying, and I'm probably going to lose all patience with "look at the stupid people" superiority dances.

#475 ::: LGB ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 04:27 AM:

I’ve been having a bit of a Christmas meltdown all day today. I usually enjoy the presents and the baking and the preparation and plans, but this year I just. can’t. do it. I baked a gift for one brother and bought a gift for another and that’s all I have prepared. This afternoon I tried to make arrangements to go spend Christmas with my parents and siblings and I ended up in tears over bus schedules, of all things.

I live alone with a cat, you see, and I’d been intending to take her to my parents’ house with me so I wouldn’t have to worry about her. Today I checked all available modes of transportation and I can’t take her on a bus or a train, even in her carrier. This wouldn’t have been a problem before, but when I left my husband I also left the car. I do very well with public transportation, but sometimes it’s a HUGE HASSLE and just one more thing that I have to figure out and deal with. Argh. I even considered calling my husband and asking to use the car this week (it’s half mine, after all), but no. I don’t want to ask him for any favors and I don’t want to give him any reason to think I can’t handle life on my own after all. Not to mention I’ve spent the last few months getting untangled from him!

There’s a friend who would probably be willing to stop in and feed Kitty, but I feel guilty asking him to cat-sit again. (He’s done it twice since I left my husband.) He and my husband also live together and I don’t want to put my friend in the middle of our relationship problems, so it’s fairly awkward. I’ll probably end up asking him anyway...and if he can’t check on Kitty I’ll just come home early, I guess.

I don’t have enough energy for extensive celebrating this Christmas. I don’t really have gifts and I can’t seem to muster any excitement about...well, anything. I thought about cancelling Christmas altogether and spending this week quietly at home, but I already did that on my birthday this year and I’m stubbornly refusing to let any more fun things be ruined! (For my birthday, I gave myself a safe place for Kitty and me to live. It was a great present and exactly what I wanted. But it meant I spent my birthday home alone this year because I still hardly knew which way was up by then.) So I’ve bought a bus ticket and I’m looking forward to hanging out with my family and dreading it juuuuust a little bit as well. I’m braced for a certain amount of hlepiness and failure to grok what’s happening in my life, but I really want to go spend a few days—hopefully not overscheduled, expectation-filled days!—with people who like me.

I feel bad about not taking gifts or baked goods (which is my usual fallback when I don’t have gift-gifts). I feel like I’ve failed to hold up my end of all kinds of relationships lately. I sort of fell off the planet a year or so ago, and I haven’t been able to reciprocate in the way I normally would. I promised to send my brother some zucchini bread months ago (and I’ve let 4 bags of zucchini bought for that purpose go moldy in my fridge since), I’ve failed to respond to several people I correspond with, my friends have been picking up way more than their share of restaurant/coffee/snack checks, my parents paid for me to go on a trip... The people looking out for me are wonderful and generous but I feel like a freeloader. It’s not that I don’t want to pull my weight; I’ve just felt like I’ve been underwater and I haven’t been able to catch my breath yet. And I’ve been pretty broke, which doesn’t help.

abi @438 Yep, I’ve practically read the print off the pages of my copy of Komarr and it’s funny that it’s not only me who thought ol’ Tien sounded familiar. Too bad I’m no Ekaterin. Although—I’m definitely experiencing what she described (and my book fell open to the correct page): “It feels as though I had been steeling myself to batter down some unscaleable wall. And then, when I finally took a deep breath and put my head down and charged, it just...fell, all in a heap, like that. And now I’m stumbling around in the dust and the bricks, blinking. I feel very unbalanced. Where am I now? Who am I now?” I’ve moved out. And I’ve settled into my new home and I seem to have gotten through the panicky fleeing bits ok. And now...what? Why am I falling apart now, after the fact? How is it that I can keep it together to fight back against something—or run away, as the case may be—but I feel at such a loss when there’s nothing to fight? Where’s a gang of terrorists with an evil plot to foil when I need one??

the invisible one @440 About the marriage counselor, I didn’t go. I left the task of finding one up to him, because I wanted to see what he’d do. After I left and stopped doing everything I was doing to try to make our relationship work, would he notice and pick up the slack? If he knew no conversation was possible until he found a counselor, how would he react? Well, I found out: he waited 2 1/2 months and then googled somebody. He told he he’d found a person he liked and about a week later he got around to emailing me the guy’s info. I read his website and I didn’t like him. Something about him rubbed me the wrong way, especially the way he wrote several times about how he specialized in counseling men and had experience in helping men with men’s problems. I got the impression that I’d be stuck in a conversation where I’d have two people not listening to me and I told my husband I didn’t want to see that counselor.

There’ll have to be a separate conversation about how I don’t much feel like seeing any marriage counselor anymore. The time to convince me I’d made a terrible mistake and show me all the reasons I should move back was months ago. I think that ship has sailed.

I am seeing a counselor myself, and I like her a lot. She’s very sharp and she seems to listen extremely carefully to what I say...and what I don’t say. She gives me absolutely terrifying “homework” assignments that make me reexamine all kinds of things. I think that’s probably a good thing.

Everyone, I’m reading and witnessing and wishing you the best.

#476 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 05:01 AM:

Syd @467 :) :) :)

Nancy Lebovitz @469: A little more about the third party apologies that I don't accept-- this hasn't happened that often, but as I recall, it's always a harried-looking woman apologizing for a man.

My mother uses this sort of apology as a passive-aggressive form of criticism. She will apologize profusely to someone (often me) about something (often that didn't really warrant an apology, or not that level of one) that she disapproves of. In the presence of the person (usually my dad) on whose behalf she is "apologizing". This drives me crazier. One of the biggest stress-making features of the Weekly Family Dinners™ that left me drained for days after, was the inevitable "I'm SO SORRY that the [dish] isn't [done to my specifications], but your father [complicated story of how, in some convoluted way, it was ALL HIS FAULT]" that peppered the whole meal.

Here's wishing everyone the best That Time Of Year possible, and a copeful New Year.

#477 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 10:18 AM:

Moonlit Night #465: Households that fail to provide location, time, and transportation for us to attend their celebrations will have to accept our absence with an unvarnished explanation of the cause.

knitcrazybooknut #471, Syd #467:

Go you! And everyone else who's been making great strides over the years!

#478 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 10:43 AM:

LGB: All honour to you, for recognizing the situation and getting yourself (and your cat) to safety! Also, what everyone else has been saying. :) @475: Hearing and witnessing. Also, if you can, be gentle with yourself. As you say, you’re underwater. Your friends are being there for you; in time, once you’ve healed, you’ll be able to be there for them. Also, know that you are being heard here. Where’s a gang of terrorists with an evil plot to foil when I need one?? *giggle* You’re awesome. :) Also, about the marriage counsellor: you sound very wise.

Moonlit Night @465: Regarding holiday plans, it seems to me entirely appropriate for the two of you to say (well in advance) that you need transportation, and if it isn’t arranged by (date useful for you, not your relatives - maybe Dec. 20?) then sorry but you’ll be having (peaceful, happy, stress-free) Christmas by yourselves. They’re not respecting you, your mom is not proposing reasonable solutions, and maybe having that big a consequence will wake them up? Ignore if hlepy, of course.

Lee @466: But it did give me the valuable concept of "enmeshment", which is psych-speak for "they have no idea where they stop and you start”. I love that summary of enmeshment! It so perfectly describes my mom!

Syd @467: Wonderful news!

Nancy Lebovitz @469: Hearing and witnessing.

knitcrazybooknut @471: Beautifully written.

Wishing spoons to everyone, and lots of cope, and as stress-free a holiday as possible!

#479 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 10:59 AM:

@LGB: One other thing, which I mention because it's something I have trouble with, and am hoping it will help you. You are worthy of that help. You are *worthy* of that support.

If it helps, the sheer fact that those friends are there to help you means that you've paid in advance (so to speak) by being the sort of friend who *makes* those sorts of friends. Does this make any sense? If you can be judged by your friends, then you are a wonderful, generous person! I know that academically knowing something doesn't make it any easier emotionally, but thought I'd put it out there in case it helps any.

#480 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 11:42 AM:

Moonlit Night, #465: Households that fail to provide location, time, and transportation for us to attend their celebrations will have to accept our absence with an unvarnished explanation of the cause.

This sounds eminently reasonable to me. (Consider discussion of "enabling" inserted here.) If you want the script to change, you will have to change it yourself, because why should they change something that's working for them?

LGB, #475: A single cat can do just fine on her own for a few days if you leave out extra (dry) food and water. Cats are not like dogs, who will eat as long as there's food visible and then go hungry. My now-ex and I used to leave our two on their own for a weekend while we went to a con with no problem. (It's less practical when you have 8, because then you really can't leave out enough food for all of them; fortunately, we have a friend who lives right down the street and doesn't mind cat-sitting, and we do reciprocal favors for her.)

I've moved out. And I've settled into my new home and I seem to have gotten through the panicky fleeing bits ok. And now...what? Why am I falling apart now, after the fact? How is it that I can keep it together to fight back against something—or run away, as the case may be—but I feel at such a loss when there's nothing to fight?

This is the less-extreme version of an adrenaline crash. As long as you had an emergency situation and a goal to work toward, you just kept barreling on -- but now that you've made it out okay, the determination and anger/fear that kept you moving has dissipated and you find yourself drifting. THIS IS NORMAL, and will pass in due time as you settle into your new life. And "feeling like I've been underwater" is a very apt metaphor.

Also, you're grieving -- even though the marriage had fallen apart and you desperately wanted out, it's normal to mourn for what it could have been, for the future you've lost. Give yourself time to get over this, too.

The time to convince me I'd made a terrible mistake and show me all the reasons I should move back was months ago. I think that ship has sailed.

Yes, this. My now-ex and I put off seeing a counselor for financial reasons, even though we could both tell that something was amiss. By the time things got desperate enough to see one anyhow, it was really just a gesture on his part; he was already involved with the woman he left me for, and all he wanted was out. And we had an amicable split, in the sense that I knew I couldn't keep him if he didn't want to stay, and so I didn't fight it. Letting your soon-to-be-ex have one more try at sucking you back into that hellhole? Not a good idea, and you don't need to feel guilty about not making that gesture.

eep, #476: Oh, ick. You do realize that this is emotional abuse of your father by your mother, right?

May everyone have a holiday as free of stress and drama as can be arranged.

#481 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 12:18 PM:

#469, Nancy Lebovitz:

And I realized that one of the things that's been haunting me-- a gut-level belief that I'm too fucked up for relationships-- should be treated as a sort of generic anxiety.

Hm. Does this apply even though Jerkbrain keeps suggesting specific reasons? I wonder if that might make it easier to manage.

Just feel optimism you haven't got!

Yeahhhh, that. That's one reason I'm getting less and less interested in FB lately, the "inspirational" quotes seem to be taking over.

#474, Nancy Lebovitz:

I'm probably going to lose all patience with "look at the stupid people" superiority dances.

I've finally started learning that I can find something else to do when discussions turn to "those people". At the last family gathering I attended, it meant that I spent a fair bit of time at the kids table listening to 11-year-olds talking about soccer. WAY more interesting. "Oh look, I need to refill my drink" is very useful. There's no need for me to remain in a group talking about something that I don't enjoy!

#475, LGB:

I’m stubbornly refusing to let any more fun things be ruined!

What ruins a holiday or not is entirely up to you. Overwhelming stress to maintain a tradition, to me, would "ruin" things more than staying home and relaxing instead of partying. It's one reason my family visit will be shorter this year than normal.

For your kitty, do you have a neighbour who could look in on her instead of friend-who-lives-with-ex?

The people looking out for me are wonderful and generous but I feel like a freeloader. It’s not that I don’t want to pull my weight; I’ve just felt like I’ve been underwater and I haven’t been able to catch my breath yet. And I’ve been pretty broke, which doesn’t help.

The beautiful thing about good friends is that they don't count that sort of stuff closely. You're going through a rough time, and I'm sure they know it. Once you get yourself un-broke and not struggling to keep your head above water, then you can treat them. Maybe next year, and that's fine. (And they may even say you don't have to pay them back, because friends support each other. And that's cool too, you can go back to the usual pattern of treating each other, or whatever you did before.)

I got the impression that I’d be stuck in a conversation where I’d have two people not listening to me

Yeah, good call on not going there. I mean, there's a chance this guy's "men's problems" approach means he also knows how to call a guy out and be listened to, but not necessarily.

#482 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 12:25 PM:

Fiancee's parents are indeed coming up to visit again. I'm not sure where exactly we'll end up having Christmas dinner (could be here, could be at their hotel - probably here as we have a stove), but they're bringing food up with them.

There was a bit of an awkward moment when they were trying to insist on bringing us a microwave (apparently my fiancee's mother has a hard time imagining life without one; so did I until we moved here) that we don't need or particularly want. Nor do we have the room for it, even if they got us something to set it on.

Fortunately, we managed to turn that offer of furniture into 'what we really could use is a bookcase,' and they really liked that suggestion. I'm looking forward to not having to root through a giant bag every time I want to read or watch something.

#483 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 12:26 PM:

LGB @ 475 (And other places): Reading and witnessing, and cheering you on from the sidelines.

With respect to your cat, Lee @480 is correct. Cats -- especially single ones -- can do well with a large container of water and a large container of dry food, plus some wet food (if you use it) for the first day. I've left my cats (n=4 at that time) for up to 4 days, and as long as one cat didn't eat all the dry food At Once, they were all fine.

Also, what Lee said about the post-adrenaline crash; now is the time to be extra-special kind to yourself.

Everyone else: best wishes for a safe holiday season, whether with yourselves or with loved ones.

#484 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 12:36 PM:

blind wisdom @459: "His arm is covering up too much of you." The photo of my brother? "You blew it up too much, it's all grainy." And the photo of me: "GOD, why can't you just smile like a normal person?"

Hm. My response would be to stop showing him stuff. If asked why, I would say, "Well, you didn't seem to find any merit in [Christmas picutres], so I decided not to trouble you further." It would be hard to keep the tone of voice non-snide, though.

I actually fired a friend over this. Superficially sweet and supportive. Was "there" whenever I came to her with a problem. But after I dug myself out of the mess I'd been in for the previous year, I'd come home from visits with her feeling vaguely angry and unsettled. I finally worked out that the minute I started sharing my successes with her, her response was not any variation of "Go, you!" Instead, I'd get weird, nonsensical "criticisms" of what I had done. It seemed very out of character for her. But after the third or fourth instance in a row, I decided this was one of those "Life is too short" things, and quit going to visit her.

hope in disguise @463: Me: Well, can you try to express that in a way that doesn't make me feel as though I'm not allowed to have my emotions?

Nicely done! And good on you for having a coherent response on tap. Getting robbed of my dinner, especially if I'm already spoon-deprived, is one of those things that will send me right over the edge.

Moonlit Night @465: I can't figure out whether I would rather that *I* was done with my toxic people, or to go on getting what little I can out of the relationships.

Just curious: what positives do you get out of those relationships?

can I please get you to help me come up with interviewing-the-employer questions

Surely. I have a set of links on my home computer.

I have never been able to figure out how to diplomatically suss out most of the things I'd want to know about the boss and company culture before signing on...partly because I'm not even sure what I need to know, let alone how to test for it without either being insulting or flagging my weak points for convenient exploitation or rejection.

I invite you to post what you can articulate here. We can help expand the list of questions, as well as rephrase any problematic ones to shift from weakness for exploitation to reasonable requirements for respect...? This would also potentially add more questions for my list, as well.

Syd @467: ::APPLAUSE!!!::

Syd, I hope you recognize that you are now one of our Most Valuable Players here: Someone who not only Survived, but went on to Thrive. I can't tell you how valuable that is as an existence proof, for those dark nights when everything seems to have gone straight down the tubes, and there's no solution in sight.

Nancy Lebovitz @469: Barbara Sher, on positive thinking.

LGB @475: Lee has already said everything I have to offer, but I'll reiterate. First: consider that your best present to the people who care about you is you, healthy and free.

If driving is an option, you might check to see if there's a local car share outfit near you. (It might be too late to get one, but might be worth a check.)

Why am I falling apart now, after the fact?

Because now you have time, you're free, and it's safe to do so. This is actually not an unusual thing. As long as you have a specific threat, your energy and attention are focused. Now...not so much.

Where’s a gang of terrorists with an evil plot to foil when I need one??

:-) :-)

BTW, a good metric I've heard is to plan to grieve one month for every year of the relationship you've lost. In your place, I wouldn't plan on being anything but minimally functional for at least a year. Also, the holidays immediately after the break or loss of a significant other are, I understand, known to be especially stressful. Please cut yourself extra slack.

And: I like the sound of your counselor.

#485 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 01:40 PM:

LGB @475: Why am I falling apart now, after the fact?
I think this is a coping mechanism, and happens a lot around big stressful situations. A person's body/mind ramps up in a bad spot to do whatever's necessary to get through, but it takes a toll, and once the crisis has been met and there is (relative) safety, then out come all the things that had to be suppressed at the time. Kind of like getting over being really ill, but still being flat-out exhausted for a good while after.

Lee @480: Oh, ick. You do realize that this is emotional abuse of your father by your mother, right?
I am gradually getting better at recognizing things as such. Not so much at figuring out how to handle it (beyond doing my best to not reward her behavior). I spent a lot of years, growing up, as the person she would complain to about all the ways my father disappointed her. At the time, my father was still the big, scary one in my recent memory, and I never questioned being "on her side".

#486 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 04:09 PM:

tamiki @482, this sounds good with the fiance's parents. The thing about wanting to give you a microwave actually sounds quite accepting of the two of you as a household (even if you didn't want the microwave), and switching over to a bookshelf instead seems like a lovely win-win. All the best for continued harmony there.

Syd, great to hear from you!

#487 ::: blind wisdom ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2013, 10:44 PM:

Jacque @484: I wasn't planning on showing him the pictures, but he asked. Him dissing on things I show him because I think they're neat is actually a big problem. I share a lot less with him than I used to because of it, but I still slip sometimes. Either I think he'll like it, or I want the sort of immediate feedback that I don't get from posting it on a social network.

But yeah, "I just need to not tell you things" is something I think quite often.

#488 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2013, 01:12 AM:

LGB @475: Why am I falling apart now, after the fact?
This is how I react to helping friends through suicide scares, and finishing very hard projects, and saying terrifying things in front of a crowd. It's like my body and mind go "oh! It's over! Now we have time to bleed" and the wounds just open up.

tamiki @482: Fortunately, we managed to turn that offer of furniture into 'what we really could use is a bookcase,' and they really liked that suggestion.

Everyone, reading and witnessing and wishing strength and light to those who need it.

#489 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2013, 02:24 AM:

LGB @ 475

Have you caught the discussions around here about spoon theory? Sometimes you have to prioritize things, even when it seems like what you want to do should be easy. It's frustrating and confusing, because I (at least) have a strong baseline for what is normal for me, and when I can't achieve that (even for good reason) it drives me screaming up a wall.

I ask, because it sounds to me like you're describing a low-spoon problem, which is understandable if you've been under a lot of stress. And in fact, one thing I discovered in the middle of my own crisis is that not only do decent, caring people not count coup against you when you're in trouble, they will often go out of their way to help and be kind to you, even when there's not much hope of immediate return. Because giving isn't all about getting back - sometimes it's about having the opportunity to take care of people we love, giving back a small part of the value we've gotten from the relationship over time. For me, it's also a way to give back indirectly to all the people who supported me when I was down and out of it... I think paying it forward is a bit overdone, but it's a bit like that concept, yeah, except that I feel far more indebted and grateful than paying forward generally seems to recognize.

#490 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2013, 07:26 AM:

KayTei #489: I've recently started to talk about that in RPG terms, as an extra fatigue stat/meter.

#491 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2013, 08:34 AM:

Witnessing, and wishing all of you vast quantities of whatever you need.

LGB: I too left an awful ex because he mistreated the cat. My reaction after I got out was the same as yours. Improvement was gradual I am, a different self but one I'm pleased with. (Abi has my email if you want to talk more.)

#492 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2013, 09:52 AM:

One of the greatest gifts we can give is to let people help us.

Asking for help, or accepting offered help, was something I had no wiring for.

I read that how to change the dynamic with a (snarky coworker?) was to ask them for assistance. You are deliberately putting yourself under an obligation to them.

It works even better with those who love and care about us. Saying, "No! I don't need your help!" pushes them away when we need them most.

When we're desperately gooed up in damaging relationships, it feels like the last thing we need is more emotional obligations.

What we need is to make the transition to healthier connections, not get rid of them altogether. It was scary for me to have people be nice to me because they liked me rather than because I could buy their tolerance by doing things for them.

People like you.
People love you.
If it feels safe, when they offer help, let them.

I still don't do this very well, but it makes a world of difference.

#493 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2013, 01:18 PM:

Moonlit Night @465: can I please get you to help me come up with interviewing-the-employer questions?

Here's my bookmark file on the topic of interview questions.

If you don't find enough useful grist there, bat it back to me and we can refine what you need.

#494 ::: Jacque, visits the gnomes! ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2013, 01:18 PM:

With purple oatmeal on offer.

#495 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2013, 02:44 PM:

@Jeanie #492: I had the exact same problem for AGES. What snapped me out of it was, of all things, a My Little Pony cartoon.

The episode in full.

Summary for people who don't like technicolor ponies and/or don't have 30 minutes to watch a video:

Applejack, against her injured brother's recommendation, tries to harvest all the apples from the family orchard by herself. She turns down help from all her pony friends, but the work is too much for her. Applejack starts suffering from sleep deprivation, and hilarious hijinks ensue before her friends finally convince her that it's OK to ask for help when you need it.

As a gifted kid, I somehow got the idea that help was for other people. "Tutoring? Nah, that's for stupid people, or at least for normal people. I'm a genius, so I should be able to figure everything out myself. If I can't, I'm too lazy."

You'd think failing several college courses would have knocked me off my high horse, but it didn't.

#496 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2013, 05:25 PM:

In the late 70s-early 80s, Oil of Olay promoted "Beautiful Lotion for Beautiful Women". I was in my friendly neighborhood drugstore and asked everybodys'-favorite-uncle pharmacist to recommend a good moisturizer.

He said what you're guessing. In perfect Brave New World hypno-advertising mode, I came back with, "oh, no, that's for beautiful women." From earliest adolescence through my fifties (Bob bless menopause) I had wicked bad acne.

After a stunned silence, he made a good recovery along the lines of "I think you'd be happy with it."

I bought it, and I have been. I've occasionally pondered how to spin that slogan to "if you're ugly* it'll make you beautiful" or even "if you're ugly it won't hurt" rather than "if you're beautiful it'll help keep you that way."

*Other than the wretched first impression I made, I don't now think I was all that ugly. At least the good friends made then and current now thought I was worth it, though it took me decades to see it.

#497 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2013, 10:24 PM:

I've seen reasonable people (for example, you folks, and the team at Captain Awkward) suggest that it's OK to turn around and leave if relatives keep judging/badgering/finding fault with you after being asked to stop. I agree with that statement. But I never thought I could apply it to my own life.

Yesterday I went home to my parents' house, a two-hour drive. We had a lovely late dinner, then played cards and sang Christmas carols. Singing and card games are among the few things my parents and I enjoy to the same extent, so we can do them without fighting.

Last thing at night, Dad questions me about the new job. (By the way, thank you, everybody who helped to talk me through the process of moving on from that job.) I tell him a few tiny details. In fact, trying to protect myself, I lie by omission--I say that it's an unpleasant job and I don't like my co-workers, but I don't admit that I've already quit and am making a decent living as a busking musician.

Dad disapproved even the few details I did tell him. This morning at breakfast he told me that we had to go for a walk. Just the two of us. He gave me an aggressive stare and I felt my heart sink. But I put my boots and coat on and we went out. My instincts were 100% right. Well, they'd have to be highly trained after all these years of knowing Dad. He did indeed intend to take me out for a walk and tell me off. This was the first hundred yards of our stroll:

"I'm worried about you, and I want to have a serious talk with you. You have to decide what you're doing with your future, even though it seems you don't want to talk with me about it." ("I don't," I said, and was ignored.) "You're not serious about wanting to have a real career, and I don't think you know or have thought about your goals and aims and what you're DOING with your life, because your employment history lately has just been," shakes head, "you're good at getting jobs but you're not good at KEEPING them. It's like you're not serious. And here you've got a real career that now you're thinking about just throwing away. Right? Isn't that what you're thinking?"

[all this is coming from my having told him that Barstucks was a miserable experience and I needed to find a better job]

His words may sound comparatively mild, but the thing is that I have heard this script before. He must have done it to me dozens of times, and always before, I've gritted my teeth and let him cross-examine me, grill me, pick me to pieces, find fault with me, question my abilities and maturity and discipline. It can go on for hours. Usually both he and Mom do it to me, wringing their hands in despair over how poor my life choices have been. There was this one such grilling session, nearly two years ago, when I came away wanting to kill myself. I've never told him, and I've rarely discussed it with anybody. Today, I couldn't take it anymore. I was suddenly, totally fed up. I turned around and told him something like, "No. I'm not doing this. I wanted to go out for a walk with you, and you turn it into a fault-finding session. No. No more. Stop criticizing my career choices." I probably sounded a lot less grand and more mean-spirited, but that's the sense of what I said.

Dad said something resentful, and I, lightheaded with the power rush of having stood up to him for the first time in years, said that I'd come because I loved him and Mom and wanted to have a good time with them, but that if he or she started finding fault with me again, I would turn around and go home.

It was all downhill from there. Dad gave me the silent treatment, canceled the fun thing we had been planning, and went back to bed. Mom reproached me and played good cop and asked me to explain myself. (Note Dad's technique: he got me alone to tell me off, so he could pretty much say whatever he wanted, with no witnesses and total deniability.)

Anyone who has parents who play good cop and bad cop can make this conversation up for themselves. I repeated what Dad and I had said, including the threat that I would leave if they kept it up. She explained that Dad only did it because he loved me, and then launched into her own critique. I asked her to stop. She told me, "We have feelings too," and kept at it. I asked her to stop. She asked me to Go In to Dad and make up with him. I refused. She kept it up.

Somewhere in here came the realization that I had better make good on that threat, since the terms I had set were long since passed. It was painful but not unpleasant. The decision took forever, though. You're not seeing the long awful pauses, the tearful stares, my mother making sad puppy faces at me, or my cringing and hanging my head and stuttering.

So eventually, I put my stuff in my car, bade my furious, miserable mother goodbye, and drove back to my current home. Dad didn't even come out of his bedroom. Now I'm home with my feet up. And you know what? Mostly I feel good about the situation. Part of me is flipping out, because now I can never ask them for money again in an emergency, and part of me feels like a horrible rat, but most of me is just flat-out relieved. Who knew, eh? I sure didn't, till now.

#498 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2013, 11:00 PM:

Little John!!!

Wild applause!!!

It's always a tradeoff ("never again ask for money in an emergency"), but putting up with abuse for that hidden agenda had its own drawbacks. Personal resources float up when that safety net is walked away from.

It takes a huge amount of energy to do what you just did - give yourself some time, quiet and rest. This is a good time for (limited!) indulgences.

I am so happy for you!!!

#499 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2013, 11:04 PM:

That Olay stuff was responding to this:

#495 ::: The_L

...that's for [...] normal people.

#500 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2013, 11:06 PM:

Little John, #497: Good for you. You drew a boundary and you made it stick, even though it was hard and scary. Now relax and do something fun and enjoy the peaceful, pleasant Christmas you've earned for yourself.

#501 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2013, 11:30 PM:

Little John: cautionary note -

If this had been my ex-husband's parents, the next step would be a panicked call at 3 this morning from the mother unit that dad had been taken to the ER after a collapse.

If anything like this happens, it's a sign of their increasing desperation to get the choke chain back around your neck. It was not your fault.

They set themselves up for it over the years.

I'm hoping not. If so, it confirms how very much your stepping away for your own health was needed.

#502 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 02:27 AM:

Little John @497:

Wow! Brilliant! WILD APPLAUSE!

Have a delightful Christmas. And maybe screen your calls. At the very least, be willing to hang up the phone. It's easier than driving two hours, after all.

If you bounce into a low patch (it's not unknown in this context), we're here.

#503 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 02:52 AM:

Good point, Jeanie. I wouldn't put it past my parents. Something of the sort may happen.

For right now, I feel strangely peaceful and happy. Earlier I drank eggnog and watched BBC shows with my only nice housemate, who even built us a fire in the fireplace. It's been about the most pleasant, cozy Christmas Eve I could wish for, under the circumstances. Tomorrow there are plans for dim sum at midday with one group of friends and dinner in the evening with another, so I won't feel lonely or left out.

The real downside is that I was going to go to a music festival in two weeks' time, and Dad's Christmas present was going to be gas-and-lodging money for the trip. There's no way I'd ask him for it now. I'm taking this moment to scowl and snarl and mourn the fact that I don't get to go do the fun thing, see friends, take the road trip, etc.

Still? In the grand scheme of things, it seems like a perfectly reasonable sacrifice. And hopefully one of these friggin' years, I'll have enough money to take a week-long trip on my own resources.

On that note... if there's anybody out there who has dysfunctional-to-abusive parents, yet has to ask them for money regularly, well, let me offer you my sympathy. It's a crappy situation to be in, and it doesn't leave you pleased with yourself.

#504 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 09:18 AM:

Little John @497: YAAAAYAYYYYAYAYAY1!!!!!!11eleventy!!!!

You did exactly right. Go, you!

& 503: if there's anybody out there who has dysfunctional-to-abusive parents, yet has to ask them for money regularly, well, let me offer you my sympathy. It's a crappy situation to be in, and it doesn't leave you pleased with yourself.

When I finally got away, I managed to do it pretty much cold (though I was still in phone touch with them intermittently for a couple of years after, as I couldn't figure out how to make a clean break while still living in the same town). I actually quit my first crappy job—at my mother's suggestion, though I'm sure she'd never admit it. But I stuck with the second, not-quite-absolutely-intolerable job, because I would wake up from literal nightmares of never having gotten out. (I still get those, thirty-five years later, when I'm feeling financially anxious.)

But, oh! to have the busking as a back-up! That's a back door that most of us can only fantasize about.

I don't recall that you've mentioned explicitly how old you are, but I get the impression that you're fairly recently out of the nest. If this is the case, and if "you're good at getting jobs," as your father says, you're already way far ahead of the game.

And your father's response to your laying down boundaries? He's acting like a petulant child. If he has the sense the ghods gave a doorknob, he will have spent the time, while he took to his bed in a sulk, coming to terms with the fact that he's now dealing with an adult, not a kid he can push around anymore.

Oh yeah and: be braced. This will not be the last time you have to lay down these boundaries.

If he's really truly sincerely interested in actually helping you identify a career path, I think maybe we can come up with some more useful scripts for him than Ur Doin It Rong.

But in the meantime, I'm doing a little Snoopy dance, happily imagining you having a thoroughly lovely Christmas!

#505 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 09:52 AM:

Little John: congratulations! Also, I can't get past the part where your dad thinks "barista at Sbux" is a real career. If you ever feel yourself wavering, hold on to that.

#506 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 10:02 AM:

Jeanie @ 496... "...I now don't think I was all that ugly..."

It also took me a long time to reach that conlusion about myself. And my true friends seem ok with what I look like and with who I am.

#507 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 10:33 AM:

Little John: Go you!!!!! Joining in the applause of the crowd!!!

Christmas, Part I was actually... pretty good. The three month moratorium did absolute wonders. Mom was mostly well behaved! (we spend Christmas Eve with my parents, in pseudo-Polish tradition, and Christmas Day with Spouse's parents. Mom has never been willing to alternate years.)

The first part was a bit rocky at times - I felt very badly behaved, because Mom was setting off a bunch of triggers. Fortunately, Spouse confirmed that she was behaving badly, and it wasn't me "being childish" (my terms, not anyone else's). And once the neighbours arrived, I was able to stay and socialize with them instead of helping Mom in her last-minute frenzy - without repercussions! She asked, I ignored, she went back to the completely-under-control prep and lived with the fact that I wasn't going to spend that particular time with her.

During supper was the worst. She feels quite free to interrupt conversations if she thinks she needs to do hostessy things - like passing more food when we're already busy with the dishes we have. But she didn't randomly change the topic we were all interested in because she was bored. And I *gasp* actually enjoyed myself! And gift opening after supper was fun! Genuinely fun!

The most shocking part for me was after supper when I was loading the dishwasher, she saw how I loaded it - and *didn't unload it while telling me I was Doin It Rong*!!! I was "who are you and what did you do with Mom?" but at the same time very grateful.

So, overall, I am greatly relieved. Still going to limit contact to what I can handle, but for the first time in many visits, I actually enjoyed a trip to my parents' house. :) :) :)

#508 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 10:57 AM:

Glad to hear, Chickadee.

#509 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 11:41 AM:

TexAnne, #505: Yeah, that was a surreal bit for me as well. He thinks that's a career?!

Many, many years ago, when I was (1) not long out of college, (2) temporarily out of work, and (3) doing temp jobs to keep some money coming in, I had the following conversation with my father:

"We paid for you to graduate from Vanderbilt[1], and now you're stuffing envelopes?"

"It's honest work. I could make more money on the street, but I choose not to." [2]

What I didn't say at the time, and have rather wished that I had ever since: "You're a great one to talk about that. You have a master's degree in education, and what have YOU ever done with it?"

[1] This was an exaggeration. I got quite a bit of scholarship money, put my own savings into the pot, and left school with student loans to pay off. Also, my Rich Uncle paid for some of it. All of that, of course, was conveniently forgotten in the interest of scoring a point.

[2] This was true, but it was also calculated to make him sputter and shut up, and it worked. My parents were amazingly crazy on the topic of sex, in a lot of different ways. When I went into my long-delayed teenage rebellion (which didn't happen until I was in college), the WORST thing I could do to them was to have sex and enjoy it. Much worse than drugs.

Chickadee, #507: Hooray for small victories!

#510 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 12:16 PM:

507 :: Chickadee
...Still going to limit contact to what I can handle, but for the first time in many visits, I actually enjoyed a trip to my parents' house.

Limiting contact is the Beeg Sekrit, and we have to do it for the rest of our lives. But look! enjoyed yourself at your parents! Yay you!

I would never plan more than a few days with my mother, and Spouse with a Demon will never get inside my apartment. I have established a loving relationship with my mother, a safe one with SwaD*, have many relationships of various depths with mutual appreciation, and can look in the mirror in the morning without flinching (at least after I brush my teeth - why should that matter?).

* After I'd left, while in couples counseling, I also saw a good therapist. We were discussing what SwaD and I could do safely. She suggested meeting in public for a meal or a movie. Me, wryly: "So we can date?" and she shot back with "Yes, but no sleepovers!"

[Serge] I continue surprised that non-cis-females have issues with their appearance. Writing it out makes that perspective look shallow and stupid (I'm not calling myself stupid). Is there anyone who grew up thinking they were attractive? Oddly, several times in the past few years I've been complimented on my beautiful skin. The first couple, I actually looked behind me to see who they were talking to. I doubt that Olay would find that mutually lucrative.

I continue to grin at TexAnne's comment on Little John's dad concept of a career path, and running kindergarten scenarios:
"I want to be a smoke jumper!"
"I want to be an Olympic archer!"
"I want to be a barista at minimum wage with a boss and co-workers who'll know I can get out and they won't, and who'll make my life hell!"

#511 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 01:38 PM:

Mixed feelings, and spending as much time as possible doing solo stuff. *sigh*

Mom has mostly respected my statement of "I don't want to talk about it" which I said at the same time as telling her New Interest was no longer in the picture. I only had to cut her off twice and since one was phone and one was email within a day of telling her that, it was relatively painless. But more recently there were comments about stewing/overthinking instead of talking, and the card that says "relax and have a good christmas" inside. (Loooong history of her telling me to relax when something is bothering me; just another version of telling me I'm overreacting... not sure if the card was a deliberate comment or a particularly tone-deaf selection, because the front of the card is pretty funny but once I read the inside I didn't like the front anymore. But I don't want to tell her why it bothered me because that seems like a perfect cue for her to tell me I'm oversensitive.)

Currently sitting in the guest room with the door closed, getting myself some alone time. Did a bunch of writing last night, again in the guest room, while my parents were watching a movie. At least I have plans that will take me out of the house for the majority of the day tomorrow, and new years plans with friends so I can leave by the weekend instead of spending over a week here.

#512 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 04:40 PM:

TexAnne @ #505, and others:

Yeah. "I wanna be a minimum-wage coffee minion when I grow up!" said no one, ever. I'm sure there are people out there who do enjoy being baristas, but they probably haven't worked at this one place I was at.

There are all kinds of replies to Dad's line of attack. Not least, Lee's comments at #509. In my father's case, he's a fine one to talk; he hasn't had a job that required regular hours, early rising, physical labor, or cooperating with anybody he didn't want to deal with, for years.

Really, though, Your Career is just a stick to beat me with. If I didn't have a job, he would question whether I was really trying and wonder what I was doing wrong. If I did have a job and liked it, he would ask if that was what I really wanted to do in the long term. And if I have a job and don't like it, well, you've seen the result. You see how it goes: there's always a way to tell me I'm not good enough. Basically he and Mom sometimes want an emotional punching bag, and use me.

Jacque @ #504: I'm thirty-two. I look young for my age, having a slightly childish face, so I can pass myself off for a graduate student, which helps with the fact that I don't have a long or impressive resume. I graduated from college in 2011, so when I put that on a job application, potential employers tend to think I'm in my early twenties. More to the point, I am awfully young for my age. I lived with my parents till I was 29, due to my stupidly trying to have a career as a writer that never went anywhere. Eventually, I just couldn't even write anymore, and a couple of years after THAT decision, I finally managed to move out of their house. December 22 was the third anniversary of my escape.

I hope I'm good at getting jobs. There were a couple of years when I was living with my parents, trying to get An Ordinary Day Job, and was seemingly unemployable. That scarred me. Whenever I'm between jobs, I start panicking and freaking out and a voice deep in my soul says, "You'll never be hired anywhere again. You'll lose everything and be faced with the choice of a homeless shelter or moving back in with your parents FOREVER AND EVER." I've been hearing that voice off and on during the last few months of patchy/unpredictable employment. Hopefully it's bullshit.

Mostly, though, I still feel pretty good. I'm surprised by how little I feel guilty for walking out on my parents. Well, they raised me to have an enormous ego, and that helps. You can imagine the drill--supposedly I was self-respecting and confident and never put up with bullshit. EXCEPT that when they wanted to emotionally tear me down to shreds, I was supposed to hang my head like a dog and submit to whatever they said.

Man oh man. In the event that I ever manage to form a relationship and have kids, I'm going to make these threads into a book and reread them from start to finish fairly often. My parents have become unbearable; their own parents were neglectful and physically abusive (leading to a spectacular use of the logic that goes, "How dare you complain of my parenting, MY mother used to beat me!") and I'm sure that my great-grandparents were their own shade of messed up in yet another way. I want to have kids, and I worry that I would be yet another generation to give my kids crap. It is so difficult to be a good person.

#513 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 05:25 PM:

Jeanie @ 510... I think most of us want to feel attractive to someone, whether or not we're male or female, heterosexual or homosexual. As for people who grow up knowing they're attractive... I am reminded of Kim Novak's melancholy comment in "Picnic".

"The ones we love are always pretty. The ones who are pretty to begin with... Everyone loves them."

#514 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 08:29 PM:

Little John: As a data point, you're my fiancee's age, and she also has a spotty school/employment record. But she landed her dream job last year, after years of little to nothing. It's definitely possible to get there. Good luck, and congrats on walking out of the toxic situation.

#515 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 08:33 PM:

the invisible one, #511: Re "oversensitive" -- you may have heard this analogy already, but it does no harm to repeat it. Imagine if someone you saw a lot of (parent, sibling, friend, co-worker, etc.) had a habit of coming up and poking you in the shoulder. Not necessarily hard, but they do it a LOT and always in the same place. After a while you'd have a pretty nasty bruise there, and when they went to poke you again, you'd flinch away and maybe ask them not to do that. And then they say, "What's wrong with you? It's just a friendly little poke! Why are you being so oversensitive?"

A lot of what gets called "oversensitive" is the direct result of being repeatedly poked on a place (physical or emotional) that's already sore from previous pokes.

If/when you ever want to have this conversation with your mother, the only way to do so with even the remotest chance of success is to have several years' worth of records about occasions when you were legitimately upset about something and she told you that you were "overreacting" and just needed to "relax". Because to her, every incident is an individual instance, completely unconnected to any other, and certainly not part of a repeating toxic pattern. She may not even realize that she does this at all; it's quite possible that by the time the next occasion comes up, she's completely forgotten the one(s) that went before.

#516 ::: slow learner ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 08:36 PM:

Little John: brava! That was brave and awesome and self-loving.

the invisible one: good job with the boundaries. I really like that you got to spend some time writing.

Everyone: I'm reading and witnessing.

My Christmas: I have dietary needs I know my parents weren't going to meet at the big family Christmas meal, although they do know about them. So I brought a dish with me. My mother took it away and put it in the fridge and never brought it out. So there was literally nothing I could eat. I sat there sipping a cup of black tea for hours.

She thanked me for having provided the next meal for the people who were staying on, and reminded me that I could stay too and eat the food I had unwittingly provided for them. (I'd already told her I would not be staying.) I told her she was welcome, and politely declined the invitation to stay.

She emailed me later and explained that she hadn't thought the dish I provided was appropriate for the meal in question (I made that particular food it because it was) and also she forgot.

#517 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 09:29 PM:

slow learner, #516: What would have happened if you had reminded her that you'd brought food because of your dietary issues, and asked that it be served? Also, I'm becroggled that nobody else thought to ask why you weren't eating anything. I would have taken the food back home with me, since it clearly wasn't appreciated. As to your mother's non-apology... oy.

And in the spirit of Dysfunctional Family Holidays, have an Obnoxious Relative Bingo card!

#518 ::: Neon Fox ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 09:45 PM:

We were so close to getting through the entirety of the evening without my mother doing anything to make me crazy, and then, literally two minutes before I walked out the door, she asked how I liked the pork roast.

I said it was great, because it was.

"Well you know, Neon, that has onions in it."

I had a thing about onions when I was a kid. I still don't like them in big chunks, because I have weird issues about the texture of my food and onion, especially cooked, is not like anything else. But for God's sake, we had exactly the same conversation at Thanksgiving, down to her mentioning the onions after the meal like a frigging gotcha.

It's not even that I was all that picky as a kid; I just had the misfortune of disliking a small number of things that happen to be very common. And I am thirty-seven goddamn years old, can we stop making fun of my food preferences?

#519 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2013, 10:41 PM:

tamiki, #514: thank you. I do find that comforting to know.

Thank you also for your encouraging words, everybody. As per abi's kind suggestion at #502, I will check in again if a low point hits, and I'm sure it will. But that will pass too.

Right now, I've got to e-mail the friend I would have been road-tripping with next week and explain why I have to cancel. It sucks, but the sooner I do it, the sooner it will be over.

Neon Fox #518: ehhh yeah. It's amazing how far they'll go to do what they think is scoring points off of us. Points of I don't know what. Being Rite, I guess.

#520 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 01:38 AM:

Neon Fox, #518: This sounds like the place for Constructive Concern Trolling. The next time it happens (and it will happen, since it's apparently important to her to rub your nose in it), look at her and say in a voice of sincere, deep concern, "We had this same conversation last Thanksgiving, and again last Christmas. Are you starting to have memory problems? Should you be seeing a doctor about this?" That should at least give you enough breathing space to get out the door.

What I suspect this is really all about is proving that you were LYING ALL ALONG when you said you didn't like onions, because everybody likes onions. And the only way it's ever going to stop is if you say that, and probably not even then (so don't bother). It's a version of "See, I didn't tell you there were onions in it, so you didn't KNOW you weren't supposed to like it."

Just be grateful that it's not an actual allergy, so you don't have to worry about her trying to poison you because she doesn't believe in it.

#521 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 02:20 AM:

Dave @ 490

Yeah, exactly. And that is strongly affected by the various penalties and bonuses you rack up in the course of living your life.

#522 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 02:34 AM:

#515, Lee:

Yeah, I have heard that one. I've been debating with myself ever since I heard it whether I'd have the guts and persistence to actually physically poke repeatedly until she gets mad, or if I should just tell her about it as an analogy. (I probably won't actually do it. I probably will continue to imagine doing it.) Earlier today I had reason to tell her that just because something hasn't happened to her, doesn't mean it doesn't happen (community mailbox breakins and theft of the christmas gifts inside, in this case) because she was saying how stupid it was that it was being reported when she saw it on the news, and they'd never had that problem *here*, and and and. She replied to me saying of course she knew that but. So, not entirely convinced an analogy will work, but it might if it's direct enough.

As far as "legitimate" reasons to be unhappy, I have one which I've mentioned here, but where instead of her telling me I was overreacting she commented on me underreacting because I'd already told myself I shouldn't be overreacting. (The power tools story I told a while back. Putting my arm in harm's way when I should have refused and knew it, but talked myself into doing it anyway, in short.) Everything else she's told me I'm overreacting about, well, I'm not sure how I can convince her I was upset but not overreacting about something she's already convinced I'm overreacting about, even with a pattern. Because oh hey, that could also be read as a pattern of me consistently overreacting.

I think the only time (that I can remember) she didn't tell me I was overreacting or that I should relax when I was upset was when Crappy Ex dumped me. I guess getting dumped is the only legit reason for me to be upset, for her?

I think she means well but is blind to her behaviour in this area. This summer I happened to have a particularly dark scab on my arm and for about the first day of the visit I'd managed to stay mostly on one side of her so that she couldn't see it. When she did see it she commented on how awful it looked, exactly as I expected, and I kind of snapped at her before she got into telling me I was overreacting that her criticisms would be easier to take if she ever said anything nice about my appearance. She looked shocked, and the next half dozen things she said about my appearance over several subsequent visits were compliments. Mostly about the clothes I was wearing. Felt really weird and awkward to me, but I think she was trying.

#512, Little John:

Not knowing anything about what degree you have, or what you envision as your dream job, have you tried a temp agency? Temping sucks and it's not a long term solution, but it is non-minimum-wage jobs to build up your resume with. Also, grad 2011? Right into a recession. It's *hard* to get a first job after graduating in that sort of situation. I graduated 2002, into a different recession, and it took me 3 years to find something in my field. (3 years of Crappy Ex griping about me "holding out for the perfect job", no less, when I was unable to get anything more than a form rejection back from sending out resumes.)

Also, awesome you for walking away from your parents and their complaints. Those sounded toxic.

#516, slow learner:

I can happily lose hours in my writing. I've usually got a couple of things in progress.

I am astounded at how inhospitable your parents were, knowing about your dietary restrictions and reassigning the dish you brought to a different event.

#517, Lee:

That bingo card looks heavily weighted toward the "US religious right". I bet I could make one suitable for certain members of my family, though.

I also heard mention (can't remember if it was here or Captain Awkward) of writing down the perpetual complaints on red and yellow cards, and handing them to the offender without a word when they are spoken aloud. That would be the version where you let the person know you're not impressed.

#518, Neon Fox:

Sadly, I don't think it ever stops unless the person doing it learns to stop. (And I like Lee's suggested constructive concern trolling as a possible way to teach them!) My mom does that sort of thing to my dad a lot, and he's over 60. He is a picky eater, but still: not appropriate.

#523 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 05:30 AM:

On "over-reacting"/"under-reacting" within the same personal interaction (or sometimes even the very same conversation):

this equals "moving goal posts" to me. For the convenience of the one making such judgements on my reactions. For what it's worth to other readers, when I spot this kind of internal contradiction, I give myself full permission to conclude that it's not my reacting that is the problem...

Crazy(easier said than done, of course, making the notion that it's the other's problem... but the main thing is to keep trying)Soph

#524 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 09:14 AM:

Neon Fox @518 "Well you know, Neon, that has onions in it."

Lee @520 What I suspect this is really all about is proving that you were LYING ALL ALONG when you said you didn't like onions, because everybody likes onions.

It depends on the rest of the interaction, but it could be more like the annoying but less toxic tendency to slot adult children back into their childhood roles. In which case a cheery response of, "Well, then it's a good thing I outgrew my dislike of onions x years ago, because that was delicious" might eventually sink in.

#525 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 10:21 AM:

#523, crazysoph: In my case with the over- / under-reacting thing and the story I mentioned, I had so internalized the "you're over-reacting" in general that I told it to myself in that specific case and ended up under-reacting, which is what mom commented on. That conversation she never said I was over-reacting.

It could possibly be described as the same way that kids are often taught that they have to allow strangers-to-them who are relatives to hug and kiss them, but strangers who are not relatives they're supposed to refuse. It makes it hard to know what an appropriate response is, because you're not allowed to listen to your gut, only your parents, and your gut feeling has been overridden so many times you end up not refusing something inappropriate or dangerous even if you're uncomfortable with the situation.

#526 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 11:10 AM:

#513 ::: Serge Broom

[...] "The ones we love are always pretty. The ones who are pretty to begin with... Everyone loves them."

But does anyone ever really trust that they're pretty? Every culture slots some folks into "attractive" and they have an easier ride in some ways, up to celebrity-hood, but they come across as at least as insecure as the rest of us (often in the "doth protest too much" personal aggrandizement).

#524 ::: OtterB [response to Neon Fox] "Well, then it's a good thing I outgrew my dislike of onions x years ago, because that was delicious"

Great response on several levels.


Somewhere upstream, on "you need to relax" (can't find OP) - this has pushed a number of buttons.

I was hammered with this for decades from many directions. Though it's a front-runner for "least helpful suggestion", it's usually well-meant.

Interactions are balls of different agendas, which is why it's so hard to respond appropriately. Little John's parents undoubtedly do want to see him well-employed and happy. They pile that with toxic baggage.

My mother is a master of "I will say horrible things in a nice manner, how dare you react to what my tone of voice/body language are really conveying?"

Let's go back to ["relax"].
Let's assume there is a need.
Also that there's a desire to do so. Okay so far.
Being told and being able to achieve aren't remotely in the same universe.

A major component of toxic brain chatter is the feedback spiral. We feel bad/angry/guilty at direct provocation and then catch another layer for our normal reaction.

All "You can decide not to feel bad" does is engage another level of guilt.

I do not agree that we can decide what feelings to have. If someone whacks me on the leg with a stick, I can't decide it isn't going to hurt. If someone I have deep bonds with attacks me emotionally, I can't decide it isn't going to make me upset.

What I can do is recognize furious people trundling around with baseball bats, and remember that if they whacked me in the past there's a good chance they'll do it again. I can stay away from them altogether, or if I must interact, go in padded like the Michelin Stay-Puff Snowman, and get the hell out when their red dot appears on my forehead.

I agree with Eleanor Roosevelt's "no one can make you feel inferior without your permission". But that's a learned reaction, not the initial response.

#527 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 11:45 AM:

#526 ::: Jeanie

I think the current culture makes everyone (especially but not limited to women) insecure about their looks, but I'm not convinced this happens in all times and places. On the other hand, I'm not sure what would be evidence that there's been a change.

#528 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 01:45 PM:

Me, #520: Just to be clear -- Neon Fox, my last sentence there wasn't meaning to imply that what's happening to you isn't bad just because it could be nastier/more physically dangerous. It's a different kind of bad, but still bad.

the invisible one, #522: Yeah. My partner went back to school for a degree in computer science/IT, and graduated JUST as the gas crisis hit and all the oil companies were drastically downsizing their IT departments. So there he was, competing for entry-level positions with people who had 20 years of experience. He has never had a job in that field except for the year he got hired for the 2000 census.

Oh, and your crappy ex's behavior sounds a lot like my father's when I was job-hunting. He would send me want ads about jobs for which I was impossibly unqualified (as in, the requirements include 5 years of experience in something I've never worked with), and then scold me for "not REALLY wanting to find a job" when I didn't apply for them.

and @525: the same way that kids are often taught that they have to allow strangers-to-them who are relatives to hug and kiss them, but strangers who are not relatives they're supposed to refuse. It makes it hard to know what an appropriate response is, because you're not allowed to listen to your gut, only your parents, and your gut feeling has been overridden so many times you end up not refusing something inappropriate or dangerous even if you're uncomfortable with the situation.

AKA "grooming your children for acquaintance rape". Most parents who do this would be shocked and angry if it was pointed out to them, but that is exactly what they're doing by teaching their children that they have no control over their own bodies and that their feelings are not valid.

#529 ::: Neon Fox ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 02:33 PM:

Lee, no worries, I didn't think you were implying anything.

I have no allergies and I'm exceedingly grateful for that fact--though to be clear (and fair), my mother wouldn't do the disbelieve-the-allergy thing; she's very good about anything medical. She does not, for example, doubt me when I tell her that caffeine for more than a few days in a row makes me ill.

I love my mom, and most of the time I even like her, but she treats everyone (including her own mother) like they're about 14--old enough that you can trust 'em not to burn the house down if you go out for a few hours, but not to be relied on to run their own lives. It's worse for me because I actually am her child, of course.

#530 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 03:29 PM:

Chickadee @507: Yaaayyyyy!!! This suggests, if nothing else, that your mother is at least educable. I also (strongly) suspect that the contact moratorium has been good for you, in that you felt freer to decline to react in the conditioned fashion, as with her wanting you for the last minute "frenzy." "Success! The best Christmas present of all!!"

Lee @515: If/when you ever want to have this conversation with your mother, the only way to do so with even the remotest chance of success is to have several years' worth of records about occasions when you were legitimately upset about something and she told you that you were "overreacting"

The catch, of course, is that this still lays the burden of proof on the invisible one to back up her "claim."

Values are, by nature, axiomatic. So my approach, though it's a lot harder, is that when someone hands me the "you're being too ______," my response is, "Too ______ for whom? Based on what?" Because ______ is a value and is, by definition, subjective, and not susceptible to proof. This lays the burden on the accuser: "Demonstrate to me how it is that my reaction is excessive. According to what criteria? And how is it that those criteria apply to me?"

slow learner @516: She emailed me later and explained that she hadn't thought the dish I provided was appropriate for the meal in question (I made that particular food it because it was) and also she forgot.

This fills me with weeping rage. I ... just .... I mean, clueless, or what? I suppose it's possible she wasn't being deliberately clueless, but that doesn't make what she did any less cruel. In your case, I would be hard pressed not to let her have it upside the head with a large, heavy, blunt object. Nothing sends me off like being robbed of my meal—by whatever means.

And: I'm with Lee: Also, I'm becroggled that nobody else thought to ask why you weren't eating anything. Yeah. WTF was up with that!?

Lee @520 Oof! ::evil, toothy grin::

the invisible one @522: I'm not sure how I can convince her I was upset but not overreacting about something she's already convinced I'm overreacting about, even with a pattern. Because oh hey, that could also be read as a pattern of me consistently overreacting.

Thing is, it's not up to you to "convince" her. (See above.) (I'm not sure she's convinceable(?) anyway, as it seems she simply doesn't believe in other people's experience.) It's that she doesn't get to pass judgement on your reaction, whether she believes it over- or under-. It's your reaction. Period. End. Full stop.

I kind of snapped at her before she got into telling me I was overreacting that her criticisms would be easier to take if she ever said anything nice about my appearance. She looked shocked, and the next half dozen things she said about my appearance over several subsequent visits were compliments.

Well, this is good news! This argues that she is educable. You just have to find the response that she will actually notice, and is capable of parsing. Go, you!

To Little John: Not knowing anything about what degree you have, or what you envision as your dream job, have you tried a temp agency? Temping sucks and it's not a long term solution, but it is non-minimum-wage jobs to build up your resume with.

I've done temping, and it's definitely useful. Be braced: if you do it, the first few jobs will be crappy, while the agency confirms that you're not a flake who will fail to show up and/or are capable of taking simple instruction. But as you build a history with an agency, IME, the jobs do get better. It's also an excellent way to get a sampling of corporate cultures and management styles, maybe build up a library in your mind of what you're looking for. Some agencies will also hire temp-to-perm, if that's what you're looking for. Also, temp agencies vary in quality and in focus. If you do sign up, don't be bashful about signing up with more than one. And it's a great strategy if you want to be able to take bits of time off between gigs.

writing down the perpetual complaints on red and yellow cards, and handing them to the offender without a word when they are spoken aloud.

::WHEEZE:: ::cough:: ::choke::

Maybe make up a set for your mum? "Dear, you're overreacting!" Hee hee. I wonder how she'd react to, like, the third one. Hee hee hee. I can think of any number of perpetrators reported here on which this could be used. Hee hee hee....

crazysoph @523: For what it's worth to other readers, when I spot this kind of internal contradiction, I give myself full permission to conclude that it's not my reacting that is the problem...


Jeanie @526: Being told [to relax] and being able to achieve aren't remotely in the same universe.

Not to mention: if the telling is unwelcome/unsolicited, it's pure hleppy boundary violation.

I do not agree that we can decide what feelings to have.

As it happens, I have had a number of experiences where I decided that I wanted to have different feelings about something. However: this is after feeling, acknowledging and considering carefully the feelings I was having, and registering them as correct and appropriate. Only then do I think about the frame in which those feelings are felt, and making a conscious choice about how I want to shift the frame, so that how I feel changes. Please note: this does not deny or supress the initial feelings I had about the situation.

But it took me decades of getting good with my innate, natural feelings before I even began to feel safe to take this approach. It is not something I would suggest for someone who is struggling to reclaim their own feelings and their right to them.

It's just to say that it is possible to do, and to do healthfully. And it's never something I do because somebody else tells me to.

I agree with Eleanor Roosevelt's "no one can make you feel inferior without your permission". But that's a learned reaction, not the initial response.

And takes quite a lot of skill, as well as personal strength.

#531 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 03:37 PM:

In another thread, Paul A linked to a Yuletide fanfic about Disney princesses living in a college dorm. He linked to it because it gets narcolepsy right, but I Parheliated it because it does a pretty good job of covering familial dysfunction. In particular, watching Mulan, the viewpoint character, come to understand that things really can be that bad was very convincing.

Worth a read, if it's your cup of tea.

#532 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 04:40 PM:

Jacque, #530: Good point. I was coming at it from the "how to prove workplace harassment" angle, but your approach is certainly also valid.

#533 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 05:23 PM:

Lee: Documentation never hurts, it's true. That could be a layer added to the note-card approach. Just put an instance-number in one corner. ::evil grin::

#534 ::: blind wisdom ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 06:18 PM:

I made a mistake: I brought up the possibility of revising our Christmas plans, the night before. I'm still getting the silent treatment.

What I said was, "Would you be okay with leaving at 10 instead of noon?" I expected him to say no, and then I'd drop it. Instead what he said was, "I know I'm going to lose, so FINE," and then he was so upset about it that he couldn't sleep at all that night.

What I should have done was asked him what time we said we were going to leave: if he remembered it was noon, then we'd go with that. If he didn't remember, then I'd ask him if 10 was okay. Of course, he probably would have seen asking THAT as an aggression and blown up at me as well.

I wish gingerly worded questions weren't interpreted as attacks and retaliated against accordingly.

Unfortunately, I think I'm at least partially on the wrong side on this one - in going through his reactions and my responses, I can see echoes of other people's DFD posts where they are the ones appearing to overreact and their aggressors are the ones baffled by how such an innocuous statement could have produced such a vehement response.

Obviously I've been doing something akin to poking him in the same spot until it bruises. But I can't help but feel that maybe he just has old man skin that bruises at the slightest touch.

#535 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 07:44 PM:

#534 ::: blind wisdom [...]

Obviously I've been doing something akin to poking him in the same spot until it bruises.

ISTM you're reading this exactly backward. He's the one running passive-aggressive plays on you. There's no possible way you can win (my mother used to run these double-binds on me all the time).

It takes a huge amount of energy to constantly run through all the options you've tried and the ones you might to see what might work the next time. Short reply: none of them will. He's the one poking the bruise.

#536 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 08:38 PM:

#526, Jeanie: Though ["relax" is] a front-runner for "least helpful suggestion", it's usually well-meant.

I think it's "well meant" in terms of a mixture of "don't point out what's wrong and we won't have to deal with it and can pretend everything is happy" and "I want you to be haaaaapppyyyy!!!!" regardless of whether the situation warrants being happy.

#528, Lee: He would send me want ads about jobs for which I was impossibly unqualified (as in, the requirements include 5 years of experience in something I've never worked with), and then scold me for "not REALLY wanting to find a job" when I didn't apply for them.

Crappy Ex wouldn't find want ads (there were none in my field at the time. Literally. None. Every single application I sent went in cold.) Instead, he would suggest that I get a job as a waitress.

Not to say anything against waitressing as a job, but I should have taken that as a major clue that he had no idea what my personality *actually* was. A minimum wage job that would suit my personality better would be, for example, general labour on a construction site. (I did that for free as a kid, even. Move that pile of lumber from where the truck unloaded it to that room in that building where it's going to be used. Clean up scraps and offcuts for the bonfire. Sweep up electrician's wire trimmings. It's boring and hard work and doesn't pay well but I could do it easier than waitressing.) I was getting to the point of considering putting my steel toes on and offering construction sites one day labour for free in exchange for honest consideration of hiring at the end of the day. (Being female I'd have to prove that I was up for the work, hence the one free day.)

#530, Jacque: Thing is, it's not up to you to "convince" her.

What you said here is making more sense to me. Also:

it seems she simply doesn't believe in other people's experience

I think this may be the core of it. Way back when I was getting married to Crappy Ex, she met his sister for the first time, and afterward told me that she'd always dismissed people's complaints about somebody looking down on them because of their job -- but his sister had given her a big dose of feeling like she was lesser, for her job. She was quite shocked at how hurtful it was, as I recall. It wasn't real until it happened to her. (This was over a decade ago, no idea if she still remembers it.)

Since I think I sort of got through to her on the appearance comments, at least for a while, I may try to to take a similar approach to the other things. Not arguing whether or not I'm overreacting, but go straight to her judging comments and whether that is an appropriate or reasonable thing for her to do.

And since you didn't seem to have heard the pre-printed red & yellow card strategy before, I must have read it on Captain Awkward instead of here :)

#534, blind wisdom:

I'm with Jeanie on this one -- some people have been victimized and have the scars and bruises from it, and some people play the victim in order to manipulate others.

Asking somebody if they're ok with leaving earlier and getting a sulky "oh FINE" is a reasonable question with an unreasonable answer.

Asking somebody if they will be able to get out of bed on time to leave earlier, getting a reply along the lines of "of course I can, I'm a grownup now", then telling them they're overreacting because they sound a little annoyed about having their responsibility questioned, is a crappy question (and probably poking on a bruise, since questioning responsibility is usually a long-standing pattern when it's a family member) with an exasperated but ultimately reasonable answer.

#537 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 09:35 PM:

#536 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 08:38 PM:

#526, Jeanie: Though ["relax" is] a front-runner for "least helpful suggestion", it's usually well-meant.

I think it's "well meant" in terms of a mixture of "don't point out what's wrong and we won't have to deal with it and can pretend everything is happy" and "I want you to be haaaaapppyyyy!!!!" regardless of whether the situation warrants being happy.

You're right. Thank you.

#538 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 09:47 PM:

blind wisdom @534: What I should have done

Nope. What you should have done was exactly what you did.

What he should have done was responded with, "No, I'd rather we went at noon, as we'd planned." With extra points for, "Is there a particular reason you'd like to leave earlier?"

What I would say, were I in your position, would be, "Um, excuse me. If you want me to consult with you on your preferences, how is snarling at me when I do going to make me want to do it again, please?" He's presuming an aggression where none is present, and is reacting to his presumption, instead of the actual case. FAIL.

Then, if you manage to wake him up with that, that's the time to ask, "Something seems to be bothering you. Would you like to tell me, and maybe we can figure out a solution together?"

#539 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 10:11 PM:

Blind wisdom, I think it's worth considering when we are being part of the problem-- we being you, we being us, we being me. Some of this community's advice, particularly Jacque's more satisfying lines of dialogue, is given with the assumption that the speaker is functional rather than dys-; this advice can be turned around pretty easily to promote dysfunction. Dysfunction is a case-by-case thing, rather than a simple all-the-same one. I imagine our advice as being similar to that for driving in snow-- people complain about those who drive too fast and recklessly and those who drive too slowly and carefully, and sometimes it's the two groups complaining about each other, sometimes it's a single moderate person complaining about both groups, sometimes it's both groups complaining about the moderate person. You're the one driving your snow-covered street, though, and we can't tell you if you're too fast, too slow, or just right, nor if anyone else in your family is.

Some people here are bothered by relatives driving too fast down the street as if there's no ice around the corner. Some are bothered by relatives insisting that everyone drive five miles an hour when the roads have been plowed, sanded, and dry for a week.

The important thing is 'dysfunctional'. Your situation as you have described it does not function. It does not work for either of you. It sounds like you have been trying to solve this problem in good faith for quite some time with no help from your partner. It's good to see ways you can improve how you communicate, like not poking a particular bruise, but there are two people in this discussion and that may not solve your problems.

Anyway. I think that looking at your situation from your partner's point of view is useful as long as you remember that it still doesn't work. It is easy to cast yourself as a domineering ogre in his eyes, but that doesn't get you to your family's house for a day. The point is to make the holidays work again. Really, if your partner is being so snarly right now, what's your incentive *not* to be an ogre?

#540 ::: blind wisdom ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2013, 10:46 PM:

Apparently one of the ways my husband gaslights me is by convincing me that I'm the abusive one in the relationship.

One problem that I've had is with my reaction to him revealing some soul-baring truth: my instinct is to reciprocate and reveal something of my own. This is usually because his truth is about how my actions have hurt him, and my response is to explain the roots of my actions.

What he says he really wants in response is for me to listen to him instead of making it all about me. The problem is that in practice this means that I accept all the guilt for the situation, say "I'm sorry" multiple times hoping he'll believe me, and offer no defense of my actions.

In some ways, hearing "I don't believe you" is a relief - if you don't believe me, then there's no point in continuing to talk, is there? I have no interest in jumping through hoops to prove my sincerity. "I don't believe you" is the signal that says I don't have to participate in this conversation any more.

Another problem is that he has anger-creep and doesn't tell me. He initially got mad when I asked him if he'd be okay leaving at a different time, so I assumed that's what he was still mad about. When I said "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought up the time change idea," he seemed confused, and said that wasn't the problem. Would it have killed him to tell me that yesterday? I might have actually come up with a solution rather than going down blind alleys, if he told me what the problem was.

And of course, instead of telling me what the problem actually WAS, he was vague about it - he said something to the effect of "the problem is the way you act," and elaborated by saying that when he told me he didn't think he could trust himself to stay home alone, my response was to change the plan in ways that were less favorable to him. First of all, I don't remember it like that. He told me he wasn't doing well several days ago, and I have been keeping that in mind and trying to offer him options rather than telling him how things go. Secondly, he didn't say that he didn't trust himself to stay home alone until we were on the way BACK. In no way was my time change comment a response to him explaining how he was feeling.

I remind myself all the time that he is not the same person as the husband I have conversations with inside my head. I think he needs to be aware of that on his part as well. I am not privy to the conversations you have with yourself. If you want me to know something and take it into consideration, you have to tell me rather than expecting me to intuit it. The big problem is that I think he honestly believes that events happen the way he tells me they did.

It's really frustrating. We both have our personal and interpersonal problems, but the way he appears to see it, his personal problems are worse than mine and therefore have precedence, and his interpersonal problems are all with other people and don't affect the way the two of us interact, whereas my personal problems are that I'm selfish and don't listen.

I don't know if his med prescriber is incompetent, moving in ways mysterious to me, or just doesn't understand the severity of the situation. My husband went to my family Christmas with me not because he wanted to, but because he was scared about what he might do to himself if he was alone all day. Should I call up his med prescriber or something? "Hi, I know you agreed that he should stay off his medications for a while because they didn't seem to be helping, but he's actively talking about hurting himself and I think you might want to take some action regarding that." But I don't even know the guy's name, let alone if it's appropriate for a spouse to contact him.

#541 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2013, 12:55 AM:

Checking in after Christmas to say that the worst thing that happened to me this year is that I have chills, fever, and aches today and I had Stuff To Do, Dammit.

Directed the Christmas Eve pageant at church and as usual we didn't have a Joseph or any sheep until the last few minutes, literally the last few minutes, and as usual the pageant was a hit anyway. (The secret is to have the congregation sing a carol after every paragraph of the Christmas story, so they are concentrating on their hymnbooks instead of staring at the kids and making them nervous, plus the older kids can surreptitiously herd the younger ones/tempt them with treats.)

Christmas morning, we had a relaxed time at home even though my husband points the camera at us every single year and I hate that. We only had one major gift for the kids, and it won't come for weeks due to things we couldn't control, but they already knew this and didn't flip out. Then we joined up with the extended fam, as usual, and as usual we had an awesome dinner where the homeowners did the Roasted Beast, everybody else brought their best tasty thing, and the non-cook did the drinks. After present-opening, we split up into the Let's Watch a Popcorn Movie party, the Let's Play With This Cool Helicopter party, and the Let's Play This Game We All Enjoy party, and all three parties had a great time. Also I learned exactly why it's extended family tradition to shoot the Christmas tree with a hunting rifle instead of chopping it down with an ax. (A long but funny story.) And then we all went home with plates of delicious leftovers.

I feel like something being digested in a python's innards just now, and I had Stuff To Do, Dammit, but by and large I had a relaxed and definitely non-dysfunctional Christmas, and fifteen years ago Christmas made my stomach hurt.

So I guess I'm saying, yeah, life can get better, y'all.

#542 ::: LGB ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2013, 02:38 AM:

blind wisdom, I wish I had some useful advice or insight to offer you. I hear you and I recognize the patterns you're describing. Boy, do I--especially "anger creep"! Yes, that! What a perfect description.

Anyway, I wanted to let you know that I'm witnessing what you're saying and sending support in your direction.

#543 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2013, 03:31 AM:

blindwisdom @540: It's really frustrating. We both have our personal and interpersonal problems, but the way he appears to see it, his personal problems are worse than mine and therefore have precedence, and his interpersonal problems are all with other people and don't affect the way the two of us interact, whereas my personal problems are that I'm selfish and don't listen.

This jumped out at me. I cut someone I thought was a friend out of my life recently for this very reason—when it became clear that they expected to be granted great leeway for shortcomings and errors because I knew and empathized with what they had been through in past relationships, but were unwilling to give me even half of what they were demanding. I was supposed to behave in an irreproachable manner and they got to decide what they were willing to forgive me for (but only after I had made abject apologies and provided explanations that they deemed satisfactory, of course). Nope. Doesn't work that way. They don't get to agree with the golden rule but expect a free pass when it comes to them.

Their mistake was in assuming that "end of relationship"—any relationship—was not an acceptable outcome for me, so I'd bend over backwards to accommodate them, at great personal cost. But I know what price I'm ready to pay, and taking hits while they worked through their issues was too high.

It took me years to realize that if I wasn't willing to see an unhealthy, unsatisfactory relationship end because one person wasn't willing to pull their weight, the only way to keep things running would be to sacrifice my own needs or push the other person hard into doing what I wanted them to do (and getting upset when they didn't). Usually both. I ended up hating myself and them, every single time. I didn't want to hate people I once loved, and I didn't want to hate myself anymore. It just wasn't worth it. In some cases, ending the relationship (romantic, platonic, familial, whatever) was the only way to achieve that. Some former romances made a successful transition into friendship. The shape of some friendships changed drastically. Some blood family became chosen family too. And with other people, it was just safer to stay far, far away.

Where the relationships had to end, the people weren't necessarily bad people, but putting two decent people together does not systematically translate into a good relationship. It's terribly hard to end or transition relationships with people who are fundamentally terrific, except we're just not good to, for, or with each other.

#544 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2013, 04:33 AM:

I also add that the clincher with the person I described in my post above was the heavy guilt trip when they started telling me what I shoud and shouldn't have thought or done, and what I had to think (!!!!) and do in the future, without any recognition or acknowledgement of their own behavior. Nobody but nobody has earned the right to police me that way. I'm extremely protective of my boundaries nowadays.

#545 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2013, 06:20 AM:

blind wisdom, #840: ObXKCD (with explanation, just in case). Sound familiar?

#546 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2013, 06:21 AM:

@525 from the invisible one

Ah, sorry for conflating those conversations into one and/or projecting my own experience - perhaps my words are still useful as an alert that there are people who *will* cheerfully do a 180 degree like that, if it serves their purposes.

And I think you have an excellent insight into how forcing a child to discount their own feelings and reactions dismantles the safeties that would protect them from more physical abuse from blood relations. This is part of the same continuum, not something popping out of nothing.

#540 blindwisdom
Apparently one of the ways my husband gaslights me is by convincing me that I'm the abusive one in the relationship.

For truly abusive people, they know one of their best defenses is a "good offense", so bringing up how much hurt you put them through is like a tactical inoculation against having to later accept their own abusive behavior as such.

A friendship in the past turned out to be not a friendship at all, and after things wound down to their painful, messy end, I encountered on the internet some items that looked suspiciously like a few of the things my former friend had subjected me to: things like "negging", or asking the question (during the glowing, happy phase of a relationship) "What are you afraid of?", only to have that thrown back at oneself at a moment calculated to thrown one off balance. (In my case, I had been extremely lucky in that my former friend picked his moment badly, so all he got for his supposed ace-in-the-hole was a raised eyebrow and, "I already know that - nice try.")

You probably don't want to have to research pick-up artist sites because those are not for when one is feeling fragile. But it was useful to know that it's A Thing: some men resorting consciously to tactics intended to tear down the self-confidence of a woman.

On the other hand, I found an okay work-around by reading sites dealing with the fallout - among them, information on dealing with sociopaths and narcissists, replete with reminders that this stuff is not YOUR fault, no really NOT.

Captain Awkward's website has also been mentioned, and I can also recommend Paging Dr. Nerdlove, as a way to triangulate on the problem of a (proto?)abusive partner: Dr. Nerdlove is writing for the other demographic, i.e. those men who find themselves wondering why their lady friend is so mean. What he has to tell them comes from the point of view of a former PUA, and it is probably stern medicine for a lot of them, because he's not compromising at all when it comes to respecting women: "do it, or else", in a nutshell.

John Scalzi (of this parish, maybe?) has posted the occasional thing about the way someone can unbalance the interaction by pushing their unjustified entitlement at you. I think "Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is" got into the Particles here, but some others have also helped me sort my boundaries vis a vis not just former friend but also subsequent situations. (I think I found a lot of these after he boosted the signal of a first person report on harassment at conventions.)

(I apologize if it feels weird to be introducing heavy, heavy labels and/or too-tangental seeming topics: however, sometimes, if I "read around" a topic, like I had for my own difficult interactions, I find ways to better articulate my needs coming from some surprising sources.)

"An Incomplete Guide to Not Creeping" also assists the creeped-upon, by articulating what boundaries an aspirant non-creeper should be aware of and respect.

"A Tangential Personal Note on Creepers and Me" goes through some specifics unique to the author's situation - enlightening for its acknowledgement of what infrastructure is sometimes necessary to police boundaries (and acknowledging that access to that infrastructure is NOT universal).

"You Never Know Just How You Look Through Other People’s Eyes" highlights the gem that has been my personal touchstone as of late: Advice to the potential creeper - "Acknowledge that you don’t get to define other people’s comfort level with you." Turning this around to when one feels one's own boundaries being overridden - it is ON THE OTHER and not me, when I feel my comfort and safety are being ignored in favor of that other's agenda. The reason the author highlights it, by the way, is to... uhm, respond to folks putting forth the opinion that this was somehow being unfair to them. Scalzi makes entertaining work of this, and also explains on which side of the "how you want to present yourself" vs "how you are actually received" equation he stands.(1)

"Apologies: What, When and How" might be hard to read, depending on how painfully installed Tapes gear up while reading it. On the other hand, it was useful for reminding myself what I could consider as my genuine entitlement in the face of half-apologies/backtracks etc.

Goodness, this has turned into major wall-o-text. Thanks for wading through and the patience used for this accomplishment!

Crazy(and avoiding actual links in the hope of not making a visit to the gnomes, because she can't carry treats while using crutches at the moment... ;) )Soph

(1) That's a tangental reference to someone's problem with their partner complaining about being made out as the villain... I'm conflating several different threads at this moment, without the means to untangle.

#547 ::: Lee is not really time-traveling ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2013, 06:22 AM:

... but it's late, and obviously I should stop reading fanfic and go to bed.

#548 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2013, 10:13 AM:

Talked to my brother last night. Apparently, my mother felt like I was pushing her away in August (I was stressed-out and this made me snippy, plus she was constantly using a tone that I read as very accusatory) so she'd kick me out or something, and that the way I left was very deceitful and harmful.

So all she really wants is an apology for the way I left, and for how I acted in August, and she'd be willing to resume our previous relationship, with or without Dad.

She also isn't sure why fiance's mom is getting involved, as "it's between me and L."

I'm starting to suspect gaslighting, but this isn't something my mother has ever engaged in before. Thoughts?

#549 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2013, 04:12 PM:

The_L, #548: Having looked back thru your VAB, I think I would call it less "gaslighting" and more "rewriting reality". Gaslighters generally know perfectly well what they're doing and are trying to fool you, but your mother seems to be fooling herself.

You said at the time that you were worried about "sneaking away like a thief in the night", and that does indeed seem to be how your mother has taken it; but IIRC, you did that because you were afraid that they would physically prevent you from leaving if you let them know in advance that you were going to do so. IMO you handled it the right way, but this is probably contributing to your stress and confusion right now.

Your fiance's parents wanted to give your parents a Christmas present. How exactly is this "getting involved in a matter that's between me and L"?

How much are you interested in mending fences with your mother? Is it worth the effort of extending an apology for having left so abruptly? I would not recommend apologizing for the way you were acting in August, because IMO you had damn good reason to act that way; but in view of your own expressed uncertainty about moving out while they were out of town, that might be a worthwhile peace offering... if you genuinely want to be back in contact with them.

Bear in mind that right now, you are free; you never have to worry about them stabbing you in the back ever again. If you re-establish contact, you risk going thru this kind of drama again, without warning, at any time in the future. I know what my decision would be, but I can't make that decision for you.

(Also, in all honesty, it took me far longer to reach that decision for myself than it should have -- I gave my father chance after chance, long after most people would have given up and moved on. So some of this is 20/20 hindsight speaking.)

#550 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2013, 04:44 PM:

I miss my mother. She may be insecure and have trouble dealing with "weird" people like me, but she means well and never caused me any harm before all this blew up. I don't want her to hurt anymore.

My father is dead to me. I could easily go without seeing him again.

So, I guess I'm pretty conflicted. I want to have the nice friendly relationship with my mom that I've had for the last couple of years, but...Dad just keeps seeming more and more off to me. Wrong. I think it's telling that when my brother talks to me, he only mentions Mom, never Dad.

#551 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2013, 05:02 PM:

The_L @548: Talked to my brother last night. Apparently, my mother felt

I would be extremely cautious about responding to second-hand reports. The Telephone Game is an ever-popular phenomenon, and the opportunities for distortion go up exponentially when communications are fraught. (Especially in cases of, as Lee suggests, people who are inclined to re-remember things in ways that they prefer.)

That said, I think it would be entirely reasonable to express regret for how your method of departure made your mother feel. "I'm sorry you felt hurt by that." I would not, in your place, apologize for the action itself as, as Lee also points out, you had good and compelling reasons for doing things the way you did.

What I might offer would be an explanation of my reasons for handling things that way. However, I would not actually explain until your mother expressed an interest in and willingness to hear you out. (And you are confident that you will actually be heard.) She is not without responsibility in this situation. It's not unreasonable to require that she cop to it.

But I also second Lee's caution. Consider carefully: what do you want? What is the risk? As a starter proposition, I would offer that you might require that your mother treat you with dignity and respect. It might be a good idea to have a clear image in your mind of what that would look like before reopening relations.

But before you do anything, it might be a good idea to ask if your brother can convey to you your mother's position in her words, so that you are getting it unfiltered.

#552 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2013, 12:11 AM:

The_L, a secondary thought: This also isn't necessarily an either-or situation. It might be useful to consider the potential benefits of allowing the current state of affairs to stand for a couple of years, and then offering an olive branch to your mother. This would have the advantage of giving you some time to get your feet under you and find your own balance as an independent person, no longer subject to constantly being kept in a one-down position, which would likely make you less vulnerable to their tricks if and when you do try to re-establish contact.

Tertiary note: this approach would also test the depth of your mother's desire/resolve to hurt you. If she's still stinging and lashing out from her own pain, it might well be that after not having any contact from you for a year or two, she would reconsider her ultimatum.

#553 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2013, 12:34 AM:

#540, blind wisdom:

I don't know if his med prescriber is incompetent, moving in ways mysterious to me, or just doesn't understand the severity of the situation. My husband went to my family Christmas with me not because he wanted to, but because he was scared about what he might do to himself if he was alone all day. Should I call up his med prescriber or something? "Hi, I know you agreed that he should stay off his medications for a while because they didn't seem to be helping, but he's actively talking about hurting himself and I think you might want to take some action regarding that." But I don't even know the guy's name, let alone if it's appropriate for a spouse to contact him.

This worried me. Speaking as someone who has never had a partner with similar health issues, I *do* think it would be appropriate to voice your concern to his doctor/therapist/prescriber/whoever is appropriate. Because if he truly is in danger of harming himself, I think the doctor should know about this.

There is a chance it's a threat and an attempt to keep you in line, but since you said he's on a hiatus from his medication, I wouldn't want to assume that. (And if it is a threat, you probably wouldn't be responding as intended if you notify his doctor.)

#546, crazysoph:

I have no doubt there are people capable of that sort of reversal: I've been reading DFD for a few years now. I don't think my mom is doing any gaslighting. I think Jacque has pinpointed it, that she doesn't believe in other peoples' experience.

On re-reading, I see that you were addressing the topic, not my post specifically, and I replied as if you had. So, a miscommunication, perhaps.

#554 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2013, 12:53 AM:

Yes, blind wisdom, I agree with the invisible one on this. On a side note, if you don't know who to contact, I'd suggest calling a suicide hotline and describing your worries to see if that raises red flags in the eyes of an expert. It sounds weird, because you're not the one suggesting that you hurt yourself, but I'm sure that they would know more about the situation.

#555 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2013, 01:14 AM:

B. Durbin: And it would surprise me a great deal if suicide hotlines don't field questions from concerned loved ones on a fairly regular basis. I predict that there will be proceedures for this, and is therefore a good idea.

#556 ::: Silence ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2013, 07:01 AM:

#540, blind wisdom:
There was a post on captain awkward not too long ago with the gist being that if someone mentions self harm that getting them medical help is really advised. Either his doc or the emergency number.

#557 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2013, 10:29 AM:

Re: suicide by someone close, with the added potential of having them commit it at you

Studies (didn't have the spoons to dig the links) have found that a significant number of the kids who move home to take care of parents then predecease their folks. It's horrendously stressful to constantly knuckle under to terms dictated by someone in physical/emotional decline.

"Being strong" when my spouse's tough situation had degenerated into abuse almost took me out.

Many of us lacking social wiring are terrified of disengaging from relationships where we've managed to connect. Positive benefits/love additionally obscure the abuse.

Margaret Mead, on a trip home from college, told her beloved grandmother of a woman in her dorm who was in deep distress. Her grandmother replied:
"She needs a good friend. It shouldn't be you."

Jim constantly reminds us that in dangerous situations the first step is not to put ourselves in harm's way. Running into a burning building to rescue [whatever] is newsworthy because most of the time it doesn't end well.

We're out there on the lake trying to reach the freezing/drowning person (people!), not realizing the ice is not only too thin out by them, but has eroded under us since we started out.

We must take care of ourselves first.

#558 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2013, 02:53 PM:

Jeannie @ 557

I agree. Also, the phrasing "committing suicide at you" is incredibly deft.

#559 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2013, 03:02 PM:

IIRC, "committing suicide at you" came from Gregory Bateson in the 70s.

If it happens to you, call in every possible support right away. It's horrendously damaging.

#560 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2013, 04:29 PM:

Committing suicide at someone is the most abusive thing possible.

#561 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2013, 04:46 PM:

I had a friend who had an acquaintance commit suicide at her. (She wouldn't dump her most excellent, supportive, sensible, long-term boyfriend in favor of him. Go figure.)

She didn't really understand why the only feeling I could muster about the guy was contempt.

#562 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2013, 06:14 PM:

#550, The_L: my sympathies. I'm in about the same state. It's no fun.

#563 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2013, 06:26 PM:

A question for the invisible one, Jacque, and others who have recommended temping agencies. Do you have any advice on how to make the agencies actually work for me?

Since I moved to this city about a year and a half ago, I've tried to sign up with three different agencies, all of whom are giving me the run-around. I don't think it can be the fault of my personality, as I'm always super polite when I approach these places, but none of them have followed up with me. It's always the same: I go in, they're friendly, and we have a nice conversation, and I show them my unimpressive resume. Then they say they'll be in touch and they ignore me from then on.

I take it back. One of them offered me really crappy night shifts at a call center, at a wage that wouldn't have made me able to pay the bills. I didn't take it, and they haven't been in touch since.

It drives me nuts--I would love to spend some months temping, as a way to gain experience in several different workplaces, but I can't get them to do anything for me. I've tried phoning them and been given the runaround. (Endless musical call-waiting, messages that are not returned. I can recognize the run-around because I've had jobs where I had to give it to other people. I suppose it's my turn this time.)

What can I do? Go to their offices in person and camp out in the lobby till someone gives me a straight answer? Anything? I'm frustrated.

#564 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2013, 06:43 PM:

Little John re: temp agencies

This was addressed uphill.

Take the first job they offer you (you've got a different priority than a living wage at this point). Show up on time, do your work, be pleasant. You're not doing it forever (it's TEMP, remember). You need to establish that you're reliable. If they can trust you with the bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, the next assignment will be better.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

#565 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2013, 07:38 PM:

#563, Little John:

I don't have a lot of experience with temp agencies, having not worked for one myself. But:

In addition to what Jeanie said, a friend of mine reported that waiting for them to call didn't work very well, but calling them about every week or so to ask if anything new had come up did get her more temp placements. Not asking for a lot, just if there was anything up for next week and if they say no, thank them for their time, hang up, and call the next temp agency you're signed up with. I don't know what you were asking when they were giving you the runaround; if you were doing what my friend described, then ouch, that sucks, and I don't know what else to suggest to keep yourself in their awareness.

Remember, the temp agency isn't working for you. They're working for the hiring companies; that's who pays them. (The same goes for recruiting agencies trying to fill permanent positions, which is one avenue I'm looking at.)

#566 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2013, 10:24 PM:

Little John @563: Do you have any advice on how to make the agencies actually work for me?

Yes: pester them. Daily, until you get something. 8am: "Hi! This is Little John. Just checking in to see what you've got for me!" All chirpy and enthusiastic, presupposing that they will have something for you. They'll probably say no. But then they may call you later in the day with something.

Also, don't be in the least bashful about signing up for more than one; I have yet to run into one that could keep me fully employed on a continual basis.

And: yeah, you have to deal with the first N posts until they determine that you are a) motivated, b) reliable, and c) not a flake. Skill optional. I've actually been sent on several gigs I was not actually qualified for. It's a panicky experience, but good for teaching yourself that you'll survive. But if they're calling you, and it's even remotely acceptable to you, take it. I've done envelope stuffing. I had one where I was on my feet at a copier for two freakin' weeks. (That was the week I got hit by a car. The night one of my guinea pigs died. Did I mention the fall of '07 was a crappy time for me?)

I have refused stuff: stuff I'm not willing to do, certain companies I'm not willing to work for, or companies that are located outside of my commute range. It's not fatal, but the more you can accept, the more they'll throw stuff your way.

And the minute you finish with the last one, call 'em up for the next one. And work your way through your list of agencies until you get a bite. If you keep after it, after a few weeks you may find yourself starting to turn stuff down because you're already booked.

Also, I was reminded this afternoon of a nice little brainless job I had for a while that was not nearly as nasty as some temp stuff I've done: folding newspapers. A lot of times, carriers have more papers than they can fold in a timely fashion. Papers will sometimes hire people to do additional folding to get the deliveries out the door on time. It's piecework, and the work starts at oh-dark:thirty. But when I was doing it, once I got up to speed, it actually worked out to about ten dollars an hour, which definitely beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, if you're strapped. It was also a loose enough commitment that I could bail some weeks and still have the option of going back other times.

#567 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2013, 11:00 PM:

Long catch up here, as I’ve been off internet the whole time we were off visiting Spouse’s family (by choice - internet holiday!)

Short version: It was awesome, once I got over the dealing-with-Mom-stress-exhaustion, and we have laid plans to spend *all* of next Christmas with Spouse’s family, no matter what Mom says.

Home now, and much relaxed from an awesome vacation with the in-laws, and bracing for house-and-cat sitting at my parents' house. I mean, they won't even be there, but it's still fraught. :( But also revelling in the "I don't have to tell her about stuff, even if she asks!" Yay for internalizing that boundaries are acceptable!

Oh, and also: It was really helpful to see the expression on the MiL's face when, in a heart to heart conversation about Mom one night, (yes, I am that close to my in-laws :) I told her about Mom's continuing to expect me to share every detail of my finances with her well after I was married. Really. She even acknowledged that it was none of her business but either concern trolled me or said "But I'm nosy so I'm asking anyway" as if that justified it! It's one thing to hear from your peers that such behaviour is unacceptable. It's quite another to hear from a woman of your mom's own generation. It helped to banish the last vestiges of guilt for refusing to let Mom interfere in our finances.

Jeanie @510: Limiting contact is amazing! And right now I’m at the stage of deciding exactly how much contact to allow.. But worth it if it allows enjoyable visits. :)

Neon Fox @518: Mom *still* uses broccoli the same way with me - and you and I are roughly the same age. *sigh* At leat I have Spouse around to deflect… Oh, and I (the most adventurous eater of my foodie-adventurous-eater friend group) am a “picky eater” because as a kid I didn’t like broccoli or brussels sprouts...

Lee @520: GBEG!!!

regarding the job hunting sub-thread: Mom, being a snob, considered most entry-level jobs beneath me. You should have *seen* her when I got a job in the bulk section at the local grocery store!* (though anything clerical, no matter how mind-numbing, was Appropriate Work, somehow. :( So she pushed me to apply for (i.e.) the supervisory position in the census, instead of the entry level one, even though I was REALLY uncomfortable with starting higher up in something I’d never done before. I didn’t get the supervisor position, and was incredibly grateful for it, because the Census was a bloody mess and at least I could kick my problems upward.

* and you should have heard her when I mentioned I’d gained thirty pounds and grown out of my pants. I’m fat! I need to lose weight and diet and buy a bathroom scale and.. I was bike commuting and lifting 20-40 lb weights all day and had a frigging sixpack. BMI be damned, I was NOT fat.

Neon Fox @529: Oh my, you are describing my mother! My mom’s excuse is that she taught elementary for 30 years and can’t help it. We don’t buy it, but it doesn’t stop her. :(

Jacque @530: Exactly!

I remember the pre-printed red-and-yellow card here, and I don’t read Captain Awkward..

blind wisdom (several): Hearing and witnessing.

J. @541: Hurray for having *fun* at Christmas!

#568 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2013, 12:12 AM:

#567, Chickadee:

"But I'm nosy so I'm asking anyway" as if that justified it!

Oh. I've heard that. Mom, of course.

Sometimes it's about perfectly normal things to ask about, and sometimes it's about things I find intrusive. I'm not entirely sure why she calls asking about normal things "nosy". I have a couple of mutually exclusive guesses, but at this point I don't really want to ask her to figure out why she does it.

anything clerical, no matter how mind-numbing, was Appropriate Work, somehow

Clean and not manual labour? Lots of people look down on manual labour.

#569 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2013, 12:38 AM:

Little John @ 563

Seconding Jacque @ 566: When I was temping, I called daily, as early as I could reach a live person. I registered with more than one temp agency, too. They consistently gave me temp jobs about two weeks out, so I knew I needed to start calling again about two weeks before each temp job expired. Some temp agencies have websites now, which help simplify that process.

(I was doing limited term, not temp-to-hire - word I get on temp-to-hire is that if you don't hire on full time after two or three tries they won't call you back, because that's where they make their bucks.)

#570 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2013, 12:30 PM:

Thank you, all who advised about temping agencies. I think what I haven't been doing is being persistent and following up with the agencies enough.

Also, I'm realizing that I sounded like a jerk @ 563: "I can't get them to do anything for me." To clarify, I realize that temping agencies are not required to serve me. I'm just frustrated to think that I'm doing something wrong.

#571 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2013, 12:38 PM:

Little John:
Your comment came across more as frustrated than jerky. Graceful clarification, thanks.

#572 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2013, 12:57 PM:

I'm arguing with myself about whether or not I should do something. Wondering if I could get some of your thoughts.

So, I'm still working on getting over the lost relationship. As long as I'm not thinking about him, I'm doing ok. I've moved past wanting him back no questions asked, but still mourning.

Anyhow. Shortly before christmas I emailed him to ask if he could send a couple of photos from one of the last events we did together, because I had forgotten to ask for them before everything fell apart, and emailed him when I remembered them. Should have waited until January, in hindsight; he sent the photos and wished me a merry christmas. Which could be something he writes in all his emails this time of year, could be a way of saying "no hard feelings, I wish you well", or who knows what. But to me, it hurt. No, I wasn't very merry, this year. (Though it didn't hurt when other people said it. Definitely specific to him.) I thanked him for finding the photos and to be polite included "have a good christmas". Then he replied to that with "have a great christmas!"

My best guess is that he's so over it that he's fine with friend-level interactions, and those comments are perfectly reasonable things to say to a friend. As far as getting over it so much faster than I did, well, he broke it off when he realized he wasn't in love anymore and I still haven't quite got to that point yet.

So in preparation for the next [shared interest] in a week and a half, I am considering emailing him to ask him to do me the favour of not being nice to me and co-operating in quietly avoiding each other at [shared interest]. I feel sure that if I ask he will do it.

Pros are that I will probably gain a bit of extra space to deal with stuff.

Cons are that I am reaching out and contacting him again when I'm not ready for normal interactions, and that some part of my brain is saying that I'm trying to guilt him, that I'm dumping my emotions on him again when that's what drove him away in the first place, that secretly I'm trying to get him back still, even though I know that if he does want to come back I have some things I need to talk to him about before I'll consider it.

I don't know how much of the second point against is real, and how much is Jerkbrain yanking me around and telling me I'm being a horrible and manipulative ex to ask for that boundary when I need the space I'm asking for.

I'm also not sure how much explanation of why I'm asking I should include if I do send it. Because "don't be nice to me" sounds like such a bizarre request.

#573 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2013, 01:50 PM:

Rather than email him (regardless of what you might say to him, it's not compatible with letting go), be clear with your body language at [shared interest].

When you first make eye contact, smile, nod, immediately look away. If he moves toward you, calmly maintain the distance. That gives him all the info he needs at the time he needs it.

It's going to be painful and awkward. You've already gotten past much worse.

What I'm getting from his Christmas stuff is generic good will, with a subtext of reassuring you that he does not think you're horrible/manipulative.

You're sounding so much better!

#574 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2013, 04:49 PM:

I'm going to disagree with Jeanie, here -- some people read nonverbal well, and others don't. I have no idea which category your ex falls into, invisible one -- you probably have some idea, but you're also calling your own judgment into question around this whole interaction.

A compromise between email and saying nothing: consider sending a letter. The primary advantage of a letter over an email is that it takes much more time and effort to respond (particularly if you're not wanting a response, this is a good thing).

If you don't explicitly ask for what you want, you have less of a chance of getting it. You know your ex better than anyone here -- and you know how he's likely to respond to each of the methods you have for asking. You sound like you have a clear idea of what will make the event work for you: if you use some explicit method of telling ex that, you're more likely to get it than if you try non-explicit methods.

I speak from my own experience on this. YMMV. Being explicit works much better for me.

#575 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2013, 04:58 PM:

You're right, Tom. I was speaking from my own experience, and everyone's mileage varies.

the invisible one's on-the-spot gut feeling is what she should go with.

#576 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2013, 05:20 PM:

the invisible one, #572: My reaction, in this kind of situation, would be honesty. I would say to him (either by e-mail or in person) some variation on, "I do want to stay friends with you, but I need a little space yet before I'm ready for that. Can we not interact much for a few months? Because right now that's making it harder for me to let go."

If he is interested in maintaining the friendship (and from the sound of it, he is), he will appreciate both a clear-cut request and having a rough timeline set.

#577 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2013, 07:54 PM:

Thanks for the thoughts.

Jeanie & Tom Whitmore: I'm not sure a body language message will work as intended. First, because I don't know I'd be able to pull off a smile and will probably look some degree of upset, so the message will probably look less like "friendly but not now" and more like "I'm still mad at you". (Even though I'm not mad at him.) Second, because somewhere between what I'm doing and what he's seeing, there isn't always a good connection. At one point in the first couple of months, he said he wasn't sure if I was even interested in him, and I was more interested in him than I'd ever been interested in a guy before.

A letter can easily be replied to with email; as easily as sending a new email. Also, he shares a mailbox with two other people. Right now I have no idea what he's said to those other people about the situation. I'm inclined to not send a letter.

I'm not sure I trust my gut feeling on this, or that I'll know how he'll react. He kept surprising me. Usually in a good way, sometimes in an unexpected way. He didn't often surprise me in a bad way.

Tom Whitmore & Lee: I am leaning toward a direct request because as you said, I'm more likely to get the message across accurately. I've also read enough CA that I do think that "don't assume they'll figure out what you want on their own" is good advice in general.

Lee: good thought on the timeline, though I have no idea how long it'll have to be. I've been crying more today than I did the whole past week, although that may be because I'm at home again and don't need to hide my red eyes from anyone so a week's worth is all coming out at once.

#578 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2013, 12:11 PM:

I'm trying to decide how to act towards my parents.

Context: they took advantage of my visit home to find fault with my career choices and lifestyle. That was on Christmas Eve. One gave me the silent treatment while the other wouldn't back off when I asked to end the conversation. Eventually I couldn't stand it anymore and went home. We've had no contact since then.

I'm surprisingly calm about it all. There's been a lot of practical stuff to distract me. A little bit of sadness/guilt is starting to creep in now. Wondering how they're doing, that sort of thing.

The thing is, I can guess precisely how they're doing, because this sort of thing has happened before. They're depressed over their cold-hearted, ungrateful daughter, who never gave them the respect and love they deserve. (I'm a woman, btw. Just chose a male handle because I like it.) That's their narrative of me: I'm a bad child, and they brought me up RONG.

The nice thing about not having to talk to them is that I don't have to listen to that nonsense. But I would also like to start having contact with them again, just in ways I can deal with.

The best possible outcome I can imagine to this situation is that they contact me in a month or so, nobody apologizes to anybody, and we make plans to see each other; but that everyone understands that finding fault/attacking my life choices will lead to a repeat of my walking out. (And I'd never attack their life choices--wouldn't dream of it--but they don't afford me the same respect they demand for themselves, and there's the problem.)

I'm thinking of writing them a letter, the gist of which is, "I miss you and would like to see you, but finding fault with my life choices is not acceptable anymore. I'd love to see you, if you still want to see me without finding fault with me. If that's not an option, it will be too bad and I will miss you." Couched in more polite language, but that general message.

What do you think? Does it follow my current line of behavior to send my parents a letter laying out my stance and future behavior? Sometimes I think it sounds too needy and I should just ignore them till they get in touch. (My parents can sulk for weeks or months at a time.) Sometimes I think it sounds too cold-hearted, and they'll fit it into their bullshit narrative of me as their evil Bad Seed daughter who doesn't love them. I know that's nonsense, but it still bothers me sometimes, regardless.

#579 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2013, 12:31 PM:

Little John: (I like your nym, too.) Let's change the context a little bit, and see how it changes your feelings. You've gotten a new job, and things are motoring along nicely. Someone you've known slightly and generally like moves into the apartment down the hall. "Cool!" you think. "A friend I can chat with on occasion." The following Saturday, the two of you go out for coffee. As you two settle down, your pal and new neighbor turns to you. "Little John. You know I'm your friend. You know I want the best for you. But what the heck are you doing at that stupid little job? I mean, this is obviously not going to lead to a meaningful career. Really, have you been thinking about what you're going to do with your life?"

How would you react to this?

#580 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2013, 12:34 PM:

Little John @ 578: The gist of the letter sounds perfectly fine to me. You make clear that you value contact with them and you state clearly how it is okay to treat you and what the consequences are if they don't manage that. Even better, since you walked out on Christmas they now know that you are capable of doing what is necessary to protect yourself.
What I could imagine happening: the boundary-pushing behaviour escalates for a bit in a test of your seriousness.

I wish you the very best for the next steps you choose to take! And don't forget, there is only so much you can do to influence how they receive your message (which is to say, not very much). It's really frustrating when you would like them to see you how you are and not automatically take any kind of boundary-setting behaviour as proof of the narrative they have built for you.
Perhaps a helpful question for the short-term might be: is it more important right now that they treat you in an acceptable manner or to get them to admit that they are wrong? Ideally you would get both of course.

Regarding my current situation: Older relative either got a clue after I made it clear that pestering me with numerous calls is not the way to contact me which would be the hopeful way to read it. However I think it's more likely that they are trying to safe face by not engaging at all right now even after I've met them, because even passively resisting attempts to make their story mine is "rude" and of course not to be done. Wonderful times.

#581 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2013, 12:41 PM:

*grumble* Posted the previous comment a bit too early.

The missing sentence reads: It is their (referring to all kinds of people who would rather we keep with the old script, no matter how bad it makes us feel) way of figuring out if we cannot be pressured to go back to our old behaviour. If they make it even more uncomfortable to assert ourselves surely we'll give in?

#582 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2013, 01:55 PM:

Jacque #579: Good point. I know exactly what I'd do. I'd go, "ExCUSE me?!" and if the new friend wouldn't back off, I'd get up soon and leave, going "nope nope nope" under my breath. And do my best to avoid new non-friend thereafter.

This seems to be pretty common behavior on the part of parents towards grown sons and daughters, and siblings towards one another for that matter. Older/more domineering relative says things to younger relative that no one would ever dare say to a friend or a workmate or anyone who could get up and leave. The assumption being, "You have to sit there and take it because we're family." I've been through years of that. No more.

#583 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2013, 04:58 PM:

Little John @578 In the normal course of things, when would you next expect to have contact with them? Is there a family birthday coming up, for example? Is the silence since you left on Christmas Eve uncharacteristic?

In general, I'm in favor of, as Lee suggested to the invisible one, being honest. But I also think that in your case, offering too much explanation may come across as protesting too much, as blaming them, or as admitting guilt yourself, none of which are what you want. If you haven't yet explicitly said to them that you will no longer sit still for constant criticism of your choices, then yes, you need to say it. But I wonder if it should wait for the natural opening the next time you make plans to get together, instead of a separate letter that may stir up more angry or angsty communication.

Your mileage may definitely vary - this is just to explore one possibility that may or may not apply in your situation.

#584 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2013, 07:20 PM:

Little John, #578: My gut instinct is to say nothing, do nothing. The ball is in their court -- how badly do they want to remain in contact with their daughter? Leave it that way.

Sadly, their narrative for you sounds a great deal like my parents' narrative for me, and I was never able to break that; the most I could do was walk away, limit contact with them, and that merely reinforced their belief that I was both ungrateful and broken. They had no concept of me as a different entity from them, and whenever I made a decision differently from the way they would have, they were angry and bewildered. What was wrong with me? Why wouldn't I just do things the right way? Could they talk me into getting the mental help I desperately needed?

I'm not going to say that this is necessarily the same outcome you're looking at, but I do think you need to be prepared for the possibility. For the outcome to be that no matter what you do for the rest of your life, it will always be the wrong thing and you'll be the ungrateful, unnatural daughter.

How much backup do they have for their narrative? Are there other family members or friends (especially friends from church) who buy into their story without question? That was part of my problem -- my mother's family, who were all nearby and all too willing to see me as the black sheep.

The other thing you need to work on is building up your own support network -- not just here, but in real life as well. Having friends who could see that I wasn't broken was part of what saved me.

and @582: Older/more domineering relative says things to younger relative that no one would ever dare say to a friend or a workmate or anyone who could get up and leave. The assumption being, "You have to sit there and take it because we're family."

Yes, exactly. Worse yet, you're supposed to be GRATEFUL that they don't feel any need to treat you with respect.

Heh. Let me give you an example. I have long hair. It used to be longer, reaching down to my waist. Adult women aren't "supposed" to have hair that long. So I'm at my parents' house one day, and my father starts sniping at me about "are you trying to let it grow down to your knees like that country singer?" (Crystal Gale)

I handled that attack pretty well. I didn't get upset, I just said, "Of course not. Haven't you heard about her back and neck problems from the weight of all that hair? I wouldn't do that to myself."

So five minutes later, he starts in about "aren't you going a little gray there?" At this point, I made a tactical error; I said, "Excuse me, would you say something like that to someone in your office?" Right idea, wrong choice of example -- my mother instantly jumps in with, "Oh, Lee, you know he can't say ANYTHING to Those People!" (Most of my father's co-workers were black. 'nuff said.) Point of question entirely lost. But there was definitely the undertext of "We don't HAVE to be polite to you, because you're FAMILY, and you're supposed to LIKE that."

Behind you 100% on Fuck That Shit.

#585 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2013, 08:38 PM:

A particular passage from C.S. Lewis's The Four Loves is right on point here (rather than give a lengthy quotation, I'll link a blog post -- not mine -- that gives it):

#586 ::: blind wisdom ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2013, 09:38 PM:

I continue to have issues. He must be going through a bad period - sometimes we can go months with no conflicts, and here I am posting at least weekly.

The prologue: He drinks a lot. I noticed that he was starting to slur his speech and get disproportionately excited about things, and thought, "Not good. I hope he's not going to get another drink."

He got another drink.

I didn't say anything, because he gets defensive when I imply/say that he's too drunk and making me uncomfortable. I just thought, "Must remember not to engage." On reflection, I should have just gone upstairs right then - it probably would have averted the whole thing.

Prologue over. So there was a Steam sale, but he already owned all the sale games he was interested in. He wanted to support the creators, though, so he decided to buy sale games for all of his friends who had them on their wishlists. This sounds like a great idea to me - we have the money for it, he might as well.

He kept giving me little updates - "I've already spent 100 bucks!" "I've spent $200" "I'm buying stuff so fast that Steam can't keep up - it still shows this game as not purchased!"

I was starting to get a little worried that he was still going on this, so at that last bit I said, "Maybe that's Steam's way of telling you that you should stop now." I don't remember what his response was, but I think it was basically giving me shit for being passive aggressive.

Fair enough, I was putting the blame on Steam instead of owning what I said. "Okay, then, I think you should stop now."
He says, "But I only bought three."
Huh? "Three what?" I say.
"I only bought three games. Or ten, or a hundred, or a thousand. I'm just trying to find your number." (I think by this he's referring to the "joke" with the punchline, "We've already established you're a whore, now we're just haggling about the price." Number=price. Even assuming he wasn't implying I was a whore, it would be completely reasonable for me to have a limit at which I thought he was buying too many games.)
I said, "But you just said you spent $200."
And he said, "You don't know that."
Are you implying that my decision making is faulty because I'm basing it on bad information because you might have been lying? What the actual fuck. I didn't come to terms with the implications of what he said until afterwards. The argument continued without me quite realizing that he was very much arguing in bad faith.

Things happened that I don't remember, then I went to get a cough drop. He said, "Thank you for moving away."
Uh, what? "You're welcome. Sorry, I didn't realize I was crowding you."
"Last time you promised you would never do that again."
"Wait, what? You mean last time when you were cringing into the wall until I moved around to the other side of the sofa? You never said anything. You didn't even confirm that me moving away was what you wanted. You gave me no sign until you started shrinking away from me."
"I told you! And you promised you'd never do it again!"
"That's not true, you didn't say anything about it!"

And that's when it fell apart. He went upstairs to be angry with me, then came back downstairs and said that he didn't want to be near me but he knew that I wanted to go to bed, so I could go upstairs. I said thank you, and as I was going upstairs he went to the garage to go sit in the car. Like he felt so violated that he couldn't even be in the house with me.

We haven't talked about it since then, but I'm pretty sure he's still convinced that he's in the right. After his last therapy session, he reported to me that his therapist agrees that I'm being unfair to him. I don't have any reason to doubt that he's telling the therapist what he thinks is true, but I would be very surprised if what he thinks is true resembles what I think is true in any way other than superficially.

#587 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2013, 10:52 PM:

#586, blind wisdom:

Ouch. That is not a good situation.

It looks as if you two have different versions of reality, and their intersection is not making either of you happy.

#588 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 01:22 AM:

blind wisdom -

I agree with the invisible one.

Look at this from his point of view. If you are, indeed, the horrible person he and his therapist (yeah, right, so he says) agree you are, and if you care about him at all, then the best possible thing you can do for him is to get yourself out of his life.

If you asked him if he wants you to leave, or he wants to move out, and he could tell you weren't bluffing, how would he react?


One of my difficulties in leaving Spouse with a Demon was that many assets that I'd be abandoning were mine. My own demon was hammering at my hindbrain: "You can't let him have all this stuff! It's your stuff!" Paralysis came from seeing no options between staying with him or moving under a bridge (after the temp women's shelter assist ran out), where despite some trollish assets I wouldn't have lasted long. Needing stuff was a contributing block to assessing my options.

Boy, it's hard to let go of stuff.

[rereads OP] Ha, ha.

#589 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 02:22 AM:

blind wisdom, #586: The more you tell us about this situation, the more alarm bells it's setting off for me. What you call, in this post, "arguing in bad faith" is getting awfully close to out-and-out... not exactly gaslighting, but sort of gaslighting turned inside out. Rather than making you doubt your senses and your memory, it sounds as though he wants to make you not be able to tell if anything he says is real or not. Which is a really, really good way of keeping you off-balance and unable to realistically evaluate your situation; it's an extremely hostile act.

Women get a double whammy about walking away from a man who has mental-health issues. First there's the whole "stand by your man" thing; no matter how bad the situation is, if you leave, there will always be people who are happy to tell you that you ran out on him. He may try to guilt-trip you by claiming that you left him just when he needed you most.

Secondly, this is reinforced by the "in sickness and in health, until death do us part" section of the Christian marriage vows. There are a lot of good, well-meaning people who will tell you, "Never give up on anyone -- miracles happen."

But my take on this is that if he's going to get better, he will do so whether you are there or not. Mental illness is not like physical illness. Mental illness and heavy drinking are a very bad combination. And at this point, I think it's time to ask yourself seriously, are you in danger -- physically OR mentally -- from remaining in the situation?

Is there any feasible way for you to temporarily remove yourself? A friend you could stay with, a studio apartment you could rent for a few months? Jeanie has a good idea about how to present this: he keeps saying that you treat him terribly, so you're going to give him some space to sort himself out without having you around to stress him. You'll still be reachable if he wants to talk, but not right there where it winds him up to the point where he has to go sit in the car to get away from you.

Be aware that sometimes people with mental problems cycle in and out of "normalcy". I went thru something like that with a friend about 20 years ago; it started out with one or two "episodes" a year, and over the course of about 5 years eventually progressed to something like a 2-week cycle, and shortly after that he hijacked a woman's car at knifepoint and went looking for a guy that he thought his girlfriend was cheating with. (No one was injured.) That was NOT FUN.

Hmmm. This is a weird question, but has anything major changed about your environment recently? Did you move, get new carpeting or a large piece of furniture, anything like that? I'm wondering why this is happening now, and if there might be something physical contributing. That former friend... he was the first, but I saw at least 3 more people go nuts who were living in that house (it was kind of a fannish commune for a while), and eventually I had to conclude that there was something toxic in the house itself, and some people were more susceptible to it than others.

#590 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 03:57 AM:

Little John @582: "ExCUSE me?!"

Exactly. This is your baseline. You can decide to cut them more slack because they're you're parents / you value their company / you love them / whatever you feel is appropriate. But it is up to you to decide how much slack is warranted.

Also: it will take iteration to get the idea across. It will take time for them to realize that they are dealing with an independent adult now, and that they have to interact with you on those terms if they want to be in your good graces. Or not, if you decide (for whatever reason, and to whatever degree, suits you) to tolerate this sort of behavior on their part.

I'm reminded of my buddy, who is one of the most enlightened, clued-in people I know, and has been so from an eerily early age. And his dad had to have a modicum of a clue, to have his parenting result in this level of cluefulnees. Nevertheless, it's my recollection that it took on the order of ten years for him to get it through his head that he was no longer in charge of Buddy's conduct. The final exchange in that negotiation that I recall hearing about went approximately as follows:

Dad: "I have some comments on your website. Would you like to hear them?"

Buddy: "If they are positive and supportive, sure!"

Dad: ...

End of discussion. And, so far as I understand, end of problem.

You'll know where you're there when you just expect respectful behavior from them, and their doing otherwise is cause for your eyebrow to be raised in bland amusement.

But I predict it's going to take some patient and consistent work on your part.

And I think Otter B's evaluation in this is right on the money. In my experience, snuffing out this kind of behavior works best when you can just state quietly, in the moment, "If you continue to pursue this conversation, I'm afraid I'm going to have to leave." Then, when they pursue it, you leave. No histrionics, no threats, no scene. Lather, rinse, repeat.

In training wild animals (and humans are the wildest of wild animals), you don't punish an unwanted behavior. It turns out that any response will tend to reinforce a behavior. The way you refrain from reinforcing the behavior is you refrain from reacting to it.

Lee @584: They had no concept of me as a different entity from them

This is just me being nosey, so please ignore if my curiosity is unwelcome, but: what's your best guess about where this comes from?

Thinking about it, comparing your reports of your parents to my experience with mine…. I think my dad most definitely got that I was a separate person. My mom, I think, did too. Problem in her case was that I was the wrong person. She didn't understand me. She also didn't seem to like me much. Since I wasn't who she wanted me to be, she just wasn't really interested, until I did something that tripped one of her "appropriateness" triggers, and then I needed fixing. Never occurred to her that I might be doing things my way for, you know, Reasons. Clearly I just didn't know any better, and needed to be corrected. But other than that, she just didn't really have any time for me. Unless I wanted to join her in one of her interests, of course.

The common denominator seems to be sorting for mismatch. Puts a whole different flavor on life if you sort for a match. "I like the way you're doing that!" "Say, when did you think of that? That's really smart!" Etc.

HelenS @585: cs-lewis-on-rudeness

I am reminded of a friend who was fond of asserting, "Your friends are the people you know you can insult with impunity."

Um, no. I have since fired this friend, after probably cutting him way too much slack.

blind wisdom @586: The prologue: He drinks a lot. I noticed that he was starting to slur his speech and get disproportionately excited about things, and thought, "Not good. I hope he's not going to get another drink." … He got another drink.

My whole board just lit up blinding bright red. I was (very) briefly involved with a guy who was an open alcoholic. I would suddenly find myself in fights that went from me trying to defend a position to—I don't know what the hell. This guy had a way of turning an argument schizoid that would have made any ju-jitsu master proud.

Having grown up in an alcoholic family, my one piece of advice comes straight from the Doctor: Run!

Expect no kind of sense or consistency as long as this is a factor. And it will continue to be a factor until and unless he decides he wants that to change. Until then, the only thing you can do is get out of range.

(Who me? Triggering much? Why do you ask?)

Because of my background, I have to put a lot of conscious attention into enforcing this limit but: where I come from (since I got away from my parents and took title to my life), substance abuse is a deal-breaker. Period. Full stop.

#591 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 05:16 AM:

He doesn't want to live any more.
He won't or can't get help.
He wishes he'd gone to see if the door to the roof was unlocked.
He's blaming the whole steaming pile of depression on one decision he made in what I thought was innocence, good faith, and hope, over the summer, for which he was then betrayed by the other party.
He doesn't seem to be an immediate danger to himself.
I don't know where he lives, to send people after him if he finds means in his home.
He doesn't see any hope for the future to get better.
He won't get help.
He doesn't want to lay this burden on me - but, gods, what if he didn't lay it on anyone?
He doesn't want to deal with the summer.
He fears the end of the semester.
He doesn't want to live any more.
I don't think I can do this any more, the way it is right now.
I don't think I could live with myself if he died.
One day at a time isn't helping any more.
*I* need help. But I don't know how to get it.

#592 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 09:50 AM:

Hope in disguise: shit. I'm sorry. This is a lot to have on you and none of it is easy.

I do not have experience with this kind of situation. In your place, I think it's best to call a suicide helpline and explain that this is not just for him but for yourself. Treat yourself first. If it's a hotline or going to see a therapist yourself, if it's resources for separating yourself from the situation or for getting him out of it, any of these are good. This is out of your pay grade.

I hope you and he get the support you need. I hope nothing turns horrible. Please, please know that his actions do not reflect on you; this is a situation bigger that both of you. This is discovering the car he's driving has iffy steering and no brakes. It is not up to you to park the car perfectly safely.

You'll be in my thoughts this new year. Everyone here will be.

#593 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 10:44 AM:

Diatryma, thank you. I tried calling a hotline and they were like "get him to call us" and I was like "not why I called you kthxbye" and then I went to sleep and sleeping helped.

I kind of lied, in the panic. One day at a time is the only thing that is helping, right now, pretty much. That and friends. So in that spirit: one more day brings us to a new year. May that year treat us more kindly than this. May we find strength and kindness in ourselves and each other.

Reading; witnessing. blind wisdom, I hope you are able to take care of yourself around whatever is going on with your husband. Alcohol does not make anything easier or better.

#594 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 01:27 PM:

blind wisdom: Given that alcohol is involved, I second the idea of getting out of the situation.

With your husband and his therapist involved in folie a deux, even if it's because hubby is feeding the doctor false information -- staying in the same residence is risky.

Wishing you strength and whatever else you need to deal with this.

#595 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 02:30 PM:

Jacque, #590: Re my parents not being able to tell where they stopped and I started, I have no idea why. They were the same way with each other, but that wasn't a problem because there were very few areas of disagreement. Perhaps they just thought that was how a family relationship was supposed to work? I never saw enough of either of them with their parents to tell, and wouldn't have known what to look for in any case.

Some of it was also "not the child I had in mind" syndrome, and them not being able to let go of the person I was supposed to have been.

Re rudeness-among-friends -- I'm not usually much of a fan of Lewis, but boy, he NAILS that one. A tone-deaf interpretation of mutually-understood affectionate chaffing is not at all the same thing as "friendly insult". I would have taken your former friend's motto as an immediate red-flag warning sign.

hope in disguise, #591: You cannot control him. If he does give up, it will be tragic, but IT WILL NOT BE YOUR FAULT. It is unfair and unkind of him to lay this guilt-trip on you; even if he is trying not to, that's the net result.

I am sorry (and somewhat surprised) that the hotline was unable to help you. Is there any other resource -- student health, company health plan, local mental-health clinic, etc. -- to which you have access?

#596 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 04:27 PM:

Little John @582: Oh yeah and: The brain does not get negation. In order to parse the sentence "Don't think of a blue horse," your brain immediately has to conjur up an image of, well, a blue horse.

So, once you've said, "Mom, if you continue to [quiz/berate/interrogate] me about X, I will have to leave." Immediately give her something else to think about. For example, if she likes to gossip: "So, what's Neighbor up to these days?" (And it's not a bad idea to role-play a few rounds of these exchanges, so you can unhook your triggers and be responding from a grounded state. That, as much as anything, will work to unseat the pattern.)

hope in disguise @591: *I* need help. But I don't know how to get it.

I just called my local crisis hotline, to see if this is an appropriate task for them, and she said yes, it very much is. Although it sounds your local one is less clueful. (These things are generally staffed by volunteers.) If you're of a mind, try again, but emphasize that they are now helping you, in your dealings with him. If they persist in being clueless, ask to speak to someone else who has more mojo to bring to bear. Though I understand entirely if you're Done with that idea. ::sigh::

Additionally, she said:

  • Your friend needs clinical help. He needs to get to a prescriber ASAP to get help.
  • You are not equipped to do this by yourself. You need help. (Which you just said above, so: go YOU!)
  • Keep pounding on him to call his hotline.
  • If he does do himself harm, IT IS NOT ON YOU. You are no more responsible for his actions than you can control the latest hurricane forming up in the Atlantic.

Depending on how desperate you are to nudge him into a different state, I think now is an entirely appropriate time to start laying a guilt trip on him. "Don't you dare hurt yourself! I would be devastated. And it would be ALL YOUR FAULT." And you are entirely within your rights to be angry.

Extra points if you can actually make him angry; anger is a much more resourceful state than depression.

Also, I ran across a couple of online, text-based crisis hotlines while looking for my local one. Google: suicide hotline should get you there.

Keep checking in here. Ur Doin It Rite.

#597 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 05:41 PM:

Jacque, I don't think that laying guilt on a suicidal person is a good idea. "All your fault" already describes everything bad in the world, and I don't think it will help to have any of it be verified.

#598 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 05:55 PM:

hope in disguise:
I'm with Diatryma. I'm not sure guilt is going to be anything other than another load on a severely depressed and despairing person.

I do think that you're entitled (encouraged!) to say that you can't carry this one on your own, and ask your friend to get in touch with someone with more resources and expertise than you have available.

I'd suggest, if you have the spoons for it, trying again with the suicide hotline in your area, and, as Jacque says, getting someone else if the first person who answers isnt' helping because you're not the person at risk.

blind wisdom:
I'd agree with the other people that, for whatever reason, that exchange that you detailed did not represent effective communication. Is it time to get some space? Can this community help somehow?

(Lee @598: reflecting my own biases, I'd wonder if it's not so much a new ingredient in the mix as the season, which kicks the legs out from under a lot of people, for various reasons.)

We're about to cross over into the new year here. I'm thinking of everyone in this community with affection and respect. May next year reinforce our strengths, so that we can deal with our challenges together. I'm proud to be part of this group, however little I belong in it.

#599 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 06:35 PM:

Too much going on for everyone for the holidays, it seems. I’m following the sagas and wish everyone well and lots of spoons. Later maybe I’ll have enough brain spare for commentary?

Meanwhile I’ve been trying to accomplish stuff over here. We survived Christmas, but the logistics stress was ridiculous considering the short distances. I have a nefarious plan that next year we offer to host and feed three dozen people because that can’t be more aggravating than the current arrangement! We could (a) put on a holiday party (date flexible, just NOT Dec. 25th) with food and gift exchange for Partner’s extended family, and (b) host Christmas day (requesting potluck extras) for immediate families. Partner’s family trends early and mine late, so his can have brunch and mine can have dinner, with presents as they fit in in the middle. I will have to get up earlier than I want, but that is true of the existing broken arrangements too.

The near-term to-do list, which is finally getting done! (many items have been sitting or brewing for months)
x new tenant insurance policy
- new internet service plan + installation (almost done!)
x acquisition of various IT equipment (hard drives, many cables, networking gear)
x setting up new backup system — my computer
- setting up new backup system — Partner’s computer
x copying files off her media server
- copying corrupted but readable backups off her media server (part of what the IT stuff is for!)
x new dining table and chairs
x new long coats for deep winter
- research new banking arrangements (almost no progress…)
x new cooking pot to replace broken one
- sorting and putting away Christmas presents

The new dining set is a very good find. Fine quality hardwood table with 2 leaves and 5 matching chairs, which we got for a song ($120). It goes from a 4 person square to a 10 person rectangle, so it’ll fit almost any house/dinner. We have enough chairs to manage until the set’s damaged chairs can be repaired. Eventually the table can be refinished to its proper glory, and more chairs acquired.

We are impressed with the new insurer’s approach, quote/sign-up process, and prices. The coverage options are flexible and show how it affects pricing, and they have options for being a tenant, having roommates, or living in a co-op. The new policy is more expensive than the existing, but good value going by other quotes. We found out why the price is different when we pulled out the policy documents. It was set up by Housemate through her employee discount, and it’s only for half the coverage I thought we agreed to. We also asked the company about whether policies extended coverage to housemates, as part of our quote, and they said “no, they need to get their own policy.” So if we had ever needed the insurance, we wouldn’t have been able to claim without her as liaison.

Should I be surprised that I also haven’t got as many details about the internet service and history as I need and want, because she handled it? Or that this too has “surprises”? I agreed to Incumbent Telco because she has the employee discount. But she had signed the household up for a contract, which I don’t remember hearing about or agreeing to. Thankfully it’s over in a month, but I would never have signed up on contract, even with her discount. (And she has been trying to control my next ISP choice too…)

Housemate should be gone in under 2 weeks. But of course, she thinks I should collect any January bills as they come in, even after she moves out. She’ll stop by for coffee and give me a cheque, she says. I would much rather make an estimate for anything that hasn’t come in yet, based on the last bill or two, and take a cheque for that *before* she goes, even if I lose a little bit of money this way. I also want to give back any loaned objects or be gifted them, so that I can cut her off with no loose ends after a courtesy visit or two.

Housemate keeps on turning out untrustworthy and unreliable in new ways. Partner and I have just concluded, based recent evidence above, that not only does Housemate speak untruths she believes, but that she deliberately lies to us. I’m not sure how much/often, but even allowing for ignorance of who is covered, the low insurance coverage is non-trivial and deliberate. No one mistreatment or untruth is terribly big, and often we don’t find out in time for it to be worth confronting her. So she gets a mockery of goodwill for a shield, until we either accuse her of patterns or can stop dealing with her. Is this more likely to be accident or pro-level manipulation?

#600 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 06:52 PM:

abi, Diatryma, fortunately for him I'm constitutionally incapable of presenting any front other than caring, persistent friend. Unfortunately I don't know any way to get him to get help (which I've said again and again he needs, and which he agrees he needs in his better moods) other than him being brought in against his will, since he's entirely unwilling (or unable) to talk to strangers about the serious problems. I am kind of afraid that if I tell him I can't handle the burden, he'll keep it all to himself and nobody will know if he needs crisis treatment. ... He might need crisis treatment anyway. Three conversations with clearly displayed suicidal feelings in one month mightpossibly count as a crisis. I dunno. :/

Lee, Jacque, abi, there are probably other people and resources who could help me. The problem I had run into last night was that there are zero text-based hotlines open at 5 am EST that I could discover. I don't like phones at the best of times so that's not really something I want to try again unless I really need it. Gods willing, I won't; odds betting, I will.

Moonlit Night, congratulations on getting things done! Best wishes for the rest of it

#601 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 07:06 PM:

#600, hope in disguise:

Three conversations with clearly displayed suicidal feelings in one month might possibly count as a crisis.

*One* conversation with clear suicidal feelings counts as a crisis.

#602 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 08:09 PM:

Diatryma & abi: I don't think that laying guilt on a suicidal person is a good idea.

Okay, yes, true. This is (ghods be thanked) not something I have much experience with. This was a failure of compassion on my part. I'm sorry.

Moonlit Night @599: I look forward to breathing a sigh of relief when Housemate is no longer a factor in your life. I image you do, as well. :-)

hope in disguise: Hm. I guess I skimmed too fast. Here's the top cut of what what I find with the Google phrase: crisis hotline online chat. (Disregard if you've already investigated these.)

Crisis Text Line:

NEED HELP? TEXT “CTL” TO 741741. CTL (Crisis Text Line) helps individuals in crisis by connecting them with a compassionate, trained listener through a toll-free texting service. CTL is available nationwide and 24/7.

There's also National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, though their "online" help seems more aimed at folks using social media, like Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

IMAlive has an online chat, though that seems to be running at capacity at the moment.

Lifeline Crisis Chat is also reporting "all operators are currently busy".

The problem I had run into last night was that there are zero text-based hotlines open at 5 am EST that I could discover.

It may be that they open at a later hour, since the nighttime tends to be the most difficult time for most people who are struggling with this stuff.

Maybe sit down with a cup of tea and a sandwich and try each one in turn until you get a live one?

#603 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 01:39 AM:

Lee #589: That former friend... he was the first, but I saw at least 3 more people go nuts who were living in that house (it was kind of a fannish commune for a while), and eventually I had to conclude that there was something toxic in the house itself, and some people were more susceptible to it than others.

For a "kind of fannish commune", that would make me think one of two things: The "hardware" option would be some sort of bad drugs. LSD only triggers psychotic breaks in a small fraction of people, (I would guess something like 1-3%), so that wouldn't cover multiple cases unless this was from a big group. But there are other drugs that do so more often -- and mislabled or badly made street drugs can end up containing almost anything. (I'll spare you the rant about the So-called Drug War.) Though considering that, it occurs to me that it's just a special case: There could indeed have been some literal poison involved (heavy metals?) but presumably not everyone was exposed, or I suspect you'd know about it by now.

The "software" option would be a key person or social pattern that's pulling in people with non-obvious "cracks" -- say, nascent schizophrenia or currently-inactive bipolar. Groups that specifically cater to "outsiders" would presumably be more vulnerable to this....

hope in disguise: I won't try to better the advice from others, but I'll repeat: You need to look out for yourself here. He may well be drowning in his troubles and/or mental illness. You may not be able to save him, and it certainly won't help him, to let him pull you under with him.

blind wisdom: Again, I'll just agree with the others that he is not dealing in good faith, and possibly not from a sane place. As with "hope", protect yourself.

Jacque: Thanks for the links -- I'm not currently in such a place but if I ever am... I really don't like phone conversations, for reasons that may get stronger, but probably not weaker.

#604 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 02:01 AM:

Also, HelenS #585: Yes, this. I'll call out another phrase from the Lewis passage, describing a routine we've all likely seen:

He knows that Affection takes liberties. He is taking liberties. Therefore (he concludes) he is being affectionate. Resent anything and he will say that the defect of love is on your side. He is hurt. He has been misunderstood."

The love-troll?

#605 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 04:07 AM:

Dave H., #603: I think I can rule out the "bad drugs" hypothesis. Nobody who lived there used anything harder than the occasional joint. I may have misled you by saying "commune" -- a better description would have been that there were originally 4 people (a poly group) and then one went nuts and ended up in jail, and then a second one went nuts and had to be evicted (hoarding issues and Crazy Cat Lady syndrome), and then the remaining couple brought in various other friends to help with the rent, and two of those (that I recall) went nuts too in different ways. And then the 3rd of the original 4 died (side effects of long-term diabetes), and the last one said there were just too many bad memories and sold the house and moved far away. #4 is fine, we're still in contact; and #1 seems to have returned to normal but has no memory of the shit he put us thru, so I don't talk to him much any more. It would be instructive to find out whether #2 or either of the interim roommates is back to normal, but I have no way to contact any of them and no interest in doing so.

#606 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 06:54 AM:

Lee: You sure the house wasn't just haunted? (HHO½K) It would also be instructive to poll subsequent residents, as well....

#607 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 08:24 AM:

Lee #605: That begins to sound more like the software option. IIUC, polyamorous life requires a fair bit of "radical acceptance". (Which is fairly common in the fannish community anyway, partly due to the Geek Fallacies.)

Unfortunately, radical acceptance tends to disable some of our long-term social defense mechanisms. When you get involved with enough oddballs, some of them turn out to be the reasons why normal people avoid oddballs.

And no, that's not necessarily a reason to give up on radical acceptance, but it is the flipside of "having an interesting life".

#608 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 09:51 AM:

Amazing how Mom eats my spoons. You'd think she had a silver deficiency or something!

I drove my parents to the bus day before yesterday. This involved a couple of hours with them, as I needed to see how the setup was for cat sitting (their cats and the neighbour's cat), plus driving in. Not very long, but the whole time I could feel the marshmallowy softness of the enmeshment rising above my head and swallowing me. Especially because Mom reverted right back to a whole bunch of old habits from before I moved out.

I've seen my parents twice in the last four months. Christmas Eve, and this. And that's enough to bring me back to a full depressive state - completely useless, self-hating and all. Fortunately it only lasted until about 6 pm last night, but it scares me.

On the up side, once I pick them up from the bus again (straight pick up/drop off, no visit this time) I can say "next visit at Easter" and hopefully not feel guilty about it. I'll have this to remind myself why I really can't afford more.

#609 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 11:14 AM:

Quoting a selection of chunks before I wade in (and understanding that the main advice faux pas has already been settled... but I did want to add something)

#596 Jacque to hope in disguise @591: ... Depending on how desperate you are to nudge him into a different state, I think now is an entirely appropriate time to start laying a guilt trip on him. "Don't you dare hurt yourself! I would be devastated. And it would be ALL YOUR FAULT."... Extra points if you can actually make him angry; anger is a much more resourceful state than depression.

Followed by

#597 Diatryma
I don't think that laying guilt on a suicidal person is a good idea. "All your fault" already describes everything bad in the world, and I don't think it will help to have any of it be verified.

#598 abi
I'm with Diatryma. I'm not sure guilt is going to be anything other than another load on a severely depressed and despairing person.

#600 hope in disguise answers abi, and Diatryma
...(F)ortunately for him I'm constitutionally incapable of presenting any front other than caring, persistent friend. Unfortunately I don't know any way to get him to get help... (my emphasis, explained below)


Indeed, while I share the general view that piling more blame and guilt onto an already in-crisis person is going to be counterproductive, I wanted to mention something about reminding an in-crisis person of their own agency even in the midst of their pain.

It's a daring tactic, I will admit that. Disclosure: I have been on the receiving end of it, once upon a very dark time long ago. The specific intervention was that someone very dear to me asked, quite seriously, if I was safe to leave at home by myself.

It takes a rather confrontational stance - but one not incongruent with "caring, persistent friend".

The question itself is not a blaming question, but it is utterly merciless in handing back to the person in crisis two things: the awareness of their own responsibility (to accurately report an answer about one's own safety) and trust in their word (because, if one answers "Yes, I'm okay" but then later commits an act of self-harm, one has also then broken an implicit promise made to the questioner.)

I offer this for what it's worth. For me, it broke a very bad log-jam and also became my way to distinguish what was really "blame-y" vs what felt like blame, but was in fact simply directing me to focus on what I could do, and how much of that I could change by remembering my "ability to respond" (a reframe from "responsibility", which had been poisoned as a concept by the ones installing Those Damned Tapes).

It was the hardest damn thing to finally get started with talking to the first stranger. But, thanks to that dear friend, I found out about myself that it was a lot harder to watch the pain that dear friend stood by to witness while I was doing the emotional equivalent of gnawing off a limb. It hurt, but it was an extremely effective reminder of my own role; whatever I did, it would have always been my choice, and no one else's.

hope in disguise, you are doing thankless and hard work standing by your friend in crisis, and you're the only one with direct knowledge of the situation. And, seconding the various comments here, getting care and support for yourself (as well as your friend) is more than okay, and I'm really, really sorry that those resources seem so thin on the ground at the moment.

Crazy(and people tell me, these days, I seem so happy - actually, I genuinely am, but it has been hard-won - I'm hoping for a positive outcome, based on that history...)Soph

#610 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 12:45 PM:

Chickadee @608: You'd think she had a silver deficiency or something!

Ew. Now I have mushy steak bits on my screen. Phleagh!

I can say "next visit at Easter" and hopefully not feel guilty about it.

Print this out and tape it to your dashboard as a reminder. Keep your eyes on it (well, that and the road) until they're delivered to their destination. Maybe have this playing softly during the drive. That ought to ward off any guilt. :-)

crazysoph @609: This is very good. And an angle that had entirely eluded me.* You're one sharp cookie, you know?

* On thinking about my @596, I've sort of pressed aside the snark and impatience, and uncovered a certain amount of panic about the topic. This suggests very strongly that I should STFU on the subject until my education has improved considerably. I am grateful to have achieved this realization here, rather than in the wild where my attitude could potentially have done some real harm.

This brings us back around to hope in disguise's core question: what are the mechanics of providing a supportive, attentive ear to someone entrenched in a dark place, and still maintaining one's grounding in one's own personal power.

#611 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 02:01 PM:

Chickadee, #608: You haven't been doing the limited-contact thing for very long. Eventually your cope reserves will develop so that being with your parents doesn't affect you as badly even over a longer period of time. Think of this as like having a well inside yourself, one that replenishes itself by having time away from your parents. They dish out buckets constantly, and right now they can still empty the well quickly. But as the well gets fuller, they won't be able to drain you all the way to the bottom.

You'll never be able to spend as much time with them as your mother wants, but sooner or later you'll be able to deal with them for a few hours without collapsing afterwards. Give yourself time.

#612 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 02:43 PM:

crazysoph @609: you just hit on exactly *why* Jacque had the faux pas in #596. I've seen that trope repeatedly in fiction, where the suicidal person gets shocked out of their funk enough by a relative or friend to *not* self-harm, but instead start getting help. Some examples are better than others about the process of changing mental tapes and getting help. I suspect that examples of shocking someone like this fade into examples of guilt tripping the suicidal person into life or death. I bet many of the fictional or anecdata examples had some shock and some guilt trip, such that the guilt trip was later forgiven as "what was needed to get through to me while I was in that state of mind."

All that said, I thankfully have trouble imagining being part of this from either position. For me abuse creates much broken mental wiring, but does not drive me to addictions, overt self-harming, or suicidal thoughts. My therapist occasionally says that many people would have ended up there, in my place. What *I* find just as amazing, in retrospect, is that I also never fell into seriously contemplating the three true things about my condition: that my parents were the source of all my problems, that the family home was stuffed with potential deadly weapons, and that the family home contained enough cash money and small valuables to make some start on a getaway. It's good that I was too self-effacing to go down that road at all, even if the reasons I was too self-effacing weren't good. I just knew, on some level, that it had to get better for much less risk than running away would entail, and endured until I could escape.

#613 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 02:44 PM:

Heh. This week's horoscope for Virgo:

“Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good,” says a character in John Steinbeck’s novel East of Eden. I suggest that you make this your rallying cry in 2014, Virgo. In fact, why not begin right now, wherever you are? Say “Now that I don’t have to be perfect, I can be good.” Free yourself of the pressure to be the polished, ultimate embodiment of everything you’d ever hoped you would be. That will allow you to relax into being more content with the intriguing creation you have already become. You may be surprised by how much mojo this affords you.
#614 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 03:04 PM:

Finally picking up this thread again, so I hope you will forgive my belated remarks.

LGB @ 475: I second what Lee @ 480 and Ginger @ 483 said about the cat. I put down extra food and water for Her Royal Furriness and leave her for anything up to five days. She's always fine; there are, of course, normally some consequences that need cleaning up afterwards (she's a somewhat vomitative little creature, though in all other respects perfectly healthy), but that is not her problem!

Everyone: reading, witnessing. I'm in a better mental state at the moment than I have been for some time, but unfortunately that's offset by the fact that I currently have a stinking cold which isn't sitting well with the asthma. I hope to be able to come in with some more constructive stuff once I can breathe properly again.

#615 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 03:24 PM:

Allowing myself to be distracted by the horoscopes, Jacque. Mine:

“We don’t accomplish our love in a single year as the flowers do,” says Rainer Maria Rilke in the Duino Elegies. Do you promise to take that truth into consideration in 2014, Sagittarius? Will you pledge to diligently devote yourself to creating the right conditions for love to flourish? In the past, you may not have been fully able to carry out this slowbuilding marvel; you may not have had quite enough wise perseverance. But you do now.

Makes my heart all sorts of hopeful achy, being as it is speaking exactly to a situation in which I find myself: slow build to I know not what, and the sort of thing I'd not have been able to do earlier in life.

crazysoph @609, thank you. I am adding that to the pile of Things That Might Help Possibly Ever.

Jacque @610: what are the mechanics of providing a supportive, attentive ear to someone entrenched in a dark place, and still maintaining one's grounding in one's own personal power
I like that phrasing of the question.

#616 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 03:58 PM:

Jacque @ 610
"This brings us back around to hope in disguise's core question: what are the mechanics of providing a supportive, attentive ear to someone entrenched in a dark place, and still maintaining one's grounding in one's own personal power."

I think the underlying problem is that this isn't a simple skill that can be boiled down to a couple talking points. This is something that is hard for even professional therapists. So I think the right thing, in this kind of situation, is to let the professionals do their job. All you can do is keep encouraging your friend, making it clear that they need to talk to a doctor to get help treating their specific medical condition, and that needing that kind of help does not reflect badly on your friend - it's perfectly normal to need medical help for a wide range of things over a lifetime.

You can be kind and compassionate without it being your obligation to fix someone else - in fact, you can't fix them, in the same way I can't defuse a bomb (and should leave that stuff to appropriate professionals).

#617 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 04:13 PM:

Chickadee, have you considered doing a "self-care" session after each time you have to interact with your parents?

Come home, have whatever food or drink that soothes you, play music that you enjoy, read your favorite comfort book, and so on.

#618 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 12:37 AM:

hope in disguise, I have never had to deal with a suicidal friend, so take this suggestion as coming from a completely clueless POV: What if the net time your friend starts a depressive conversation with you, you pull out your phone, dial the suicide hotline, and have him talk on it?

People who have dealt with this sort of situation, would this help? I mean, it's basically the equivalent of dragging someone into something, so I really can't tell if that would be good or bad.

#619 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 12:09 PM:

Jacque @610: I think I will have the Ghostbuster’s theme in my head from now until after they’re home. ;) I think I need to watch the movie again. :) Also, great idea. :)

Lee @611: Thank you for the image. It really works for me.

Lori Coulson @617: Y’know, I’d sort of thought about not planning too much for the next day if possible, but it had never occurred to me to plan actual *self care* after a visit. Spouse agrees that this is an excellent idea. And will probably do much to help avoid migraines/depressive episodes. Thank you.

Unrelated: I pulled a muscle shovelling snow. There’s been enough that you don’t just toss, you heave over the existing mountain. Deep breaths hurt now… *wry grin*

#620 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 03:13 PM:

hope in disguise @615: Makes my heart all sorts of hopeful achy, being as it is speaking exactly to a situation in which I find myself

KayTei @616: what are the mechanics" I think the underlying problem is that this isn't a simple skill that can be boiled down to a couple talking points.

I know the whole scammer trick of making vague generalizations anyone can apply to themselves, but this guy makes generalizations that are actually useful (and fun!) to apply to oneself. The best horoscopes EVAR.

I'm damn sure it's not. But I'm equally confident that there are specifically quantifiable components that can be identified, practiced, and installed.

For example: I've learned that when something someone ways makes me angry, the first reaction out of my mouth is rarely a useful one. So to respond in a more useful way, I: contain the urge to react, and talk myself down to where I can examine the situation, examine my reaction to the situation, figure out what I want, figure out where the other person is coming from, and compose a way to ask for what I want in a way that the other person can hear it.

So that's at least six major steps, each of which is itself requires a constellation of skills.

Here's a somewhat related example: a buddy of mine had a classmate in his Person Centered Theraphy class who worked crisis lines. Apparently a recurring phenomenon in these organizations are the "trolls" who call and insult the operator, with the simple objective of winding them up. Classmate not only tolerated these calls much better than his collegues, he actually relished them. I was sufficiently curious about this that I got clearance to call Classmate and quiz him about his approach. One piece that went into his response: he recognized (through his training, and his native empathy) that the abuse was not really the caller's objective. It was getting a reaction, generally because the caller had a severe deficit of getting positive reactions in their life. One of Classmate's hidden agenda was to give these callers the experience of non-punative, attentive response. Another piece was that he understood their thinking well enough to creep into the cracks and align with them enough to get them to see his point of view, and help them understand how being abusive was getting in the way of getting what they really wanted.

All of this came out of some specific understandings he had about where they were coming from, and from skills he had within himself that allowed him to maintain his own equilibrium in the face of their onslaught.

So I think the right thing, in this kind of situation, is to let the professionals do their job. All you can do is keep encouraging your friend

I'm not arguing otherwise. Where I'm coming from is that the whole topic kind of sets me on my ear, and I tend to respond with snark and dismissal, neither of which is going to do the friend any good. My attitude works for keeping me equilibriated, but I'm sure that there are better ways to do that, that also allow me to bring my compassion and attentiveness to bear. Actually, now that I think about it, while I can keep my equilibrium, I am not able to stay grounded, which is why I react the way I do.

It's that ability to stay grounded that I'm after.

You can be kind and compassionate

No, what I'm saying is that, as currently constituted, I am not able to be kind and compassionate. It's a skill that I would like to obtain.

#621 ::: claustrophile ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 03:15 PM:

Lurker on the DFD threads up till now, mostly here just to chime in on the suicidal friend situation, since I have some past experience from both sides:

hope in disguise, B. Durbin @ 618: That trick will only work once. People in that state instinctively avoid talking to anyone who might do something about it without their consent. A friend who pulls something like that would most likely be moved from the 'safe to talk to' camp to the 'likely to get authorities involved' camp. It isn't a coincidence that the person he's reaching out to doesn't know where he lives and is therefore extremely limited in what kind of actions they can take, although it probably isn't a conscious move on his part.

Unfortunately, I don't have a whole lot of suggestions on what will help. Being there for them is good, if you have the spoons for it. Making them build a bigger support network, which will help both of you because you won't have to shoulder it all yourself and they'll have more 'safe' people around. Self-care, again, will help both of you by making you less likely to burn out.

In my own DFD funtimes, I found out about a week ago that my sister has been technically anorexic for over a year now, and (of course) denies that there's a problem. I'm not dealing too well with it - prior to this she'd appeared to be making lots of positive progress on dealing with her anxiety and depression, and now it looks less like progress and more like redirection to a different channel.

#622 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 03:16 PM:

Ack! First paragraph in response to KayTei actually belongs to hope in disguise's quote above. Feh.

#623 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 03:26 PM:

claustrophile: Love the nym!

Yeah, eating disorders: ouch! I have a coworker who, about five years ago, went through a six-month shift during which she lost weight and got really fit. It was astonishing to watch. I tried to ask her a couple of times what her practice was, but she was—almost dismissively—unforthcoming about what she did. "Oh, you don't need me to tell you anything! You can do it! Just have faith in yourself!"

Um, well, yes. But that wasn't what I was asking.

Week or two back, I came into the women's restroom, and was greeting with a very strong digestive smell (though differnt than the usual bathroom smells). This coworker was over at the sink, washing her mouth out. Not just rinsing and spitting, either.

A day or so later, something went *click* in my mind, and I have a bad feeling that I now know what her "trick" was, and why she was so strangely reluctant to talk about it.

Eating disorders are the very bastard to treat. Not least because, in a lot of sufferers, a lot of it is about "control," so if they perceive anyone else trying to make them change their behavior, it tends to backfire badly.

#624 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 03:52 PM:

Chickadee, #619: One thing I forgot to mention in my "well" analogy is that as you spend more time away from your parents, the rate of replenishment is likely to increase as well. I have watched this happen with a friend of mine who finally got out of her parents' house, and who tends to rant about stuff on her LJ. She would be getting discouraged about things like work stress still getting to her, and I'd be pointing out that she'd gone from having complete emotional meltdowns to just feeling stressed, cranky, and out of sorts over the same kind of stimuli. She's been away from them for some years now, is married to a guy who's very supportive, and come to think of it, I haven't seen one of those rants in a while.

#625 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 04:02 PM:

I independently invented bulimia in junior high, with the rationale of "Why shouldn't I get to enjoy eating the thing and then not have to gain weight for it?" Fortunately it only took about half a day of the unpleasantness of vomiting before I decided the game wasn't worth the candle.

#626 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 05:24 PM:

Jacque @484, 493 and 602:

Yes, looking forward to Housemate being *gone*. Worried about what else might happen then, but oh god I want this piece of horrible to be over with. The movers are coming in 8 days, so we have to remove all our stuff from the staging area. (I don't want anything to wander off and need bringing back, thank you, even if it would be that easy.)

Not dealing with interview questions immediately, but I have dropped that comment into a saved tab for further work.

I'm not sure I'm ready to figure out all of what I get out of the relationships with toxic people. For one, they aren't all the same.

Originally Housemate behaved in healthy ways that I really wanted and needed, then changed gradually. So I wanted and expected the good behaviour originally shown/promised. Once I realized how reality compared, I started to withdraw and cut losses, though I didn't do anything risky but super-productive like attempting to throw her out. (Home being a cold war zone is bad enough. No need to make it hot.) Once I seriously stopped being a good host, she -- like any sensible parasite -- started seriously arranging for a new, more hospitable host.

My mother is a different and much more difficult case. I'm going to look at this through the lens of realistic-to-bad outcomes, not rosy optimism. Obviously I want the mother I should have had and what she would have given me, and I had been working hard since forever to reach her. Now that I understand that either that person is not home or is effectively locked in a dungeon, the jury is out on how much effort to keep expending. My current answer is "not much", but it's not yet "nothing at all".

One very important thing I can and do get from continued contact with my mother is access to and good relations with my father and aunt, who I actually like to spend time with. These days, my aunt can partially substitute for the mother I should have had, but with less depth of relationship. My father is who he always was, but diminished by being my mother's only remaining puppet. If I cut off my mother, I might not get to spend much enjoyable time with my father or aunt. At minimum things would be strained. Visits might stop, or become dominated by family politics and inquisitions for years. To gain their support in my rejecting my mother, I'd have to convince them of what my mother did and how bad it was and their part in enforcing it, whereas minimal-but-polite contact with my mother is accepted gracefully. For context, they have usually allowed or enabled my mother's bad treatment of me, but my adult self is allowed to disagree with or set boundaries against my mother, so long as I can keep it polite. Last item is that I'd get to keep my sister even if I cut off my mother and my dad and aunt went against me, but Sister is in a different city 5 hours away.

I would not be allowed to hit undo after such a cut-off -- either I should do it and stick with it, or I should work/subvert the system from within. Therefore, it has seemed more rewarding to me to keep the peace by having minimal contact with my mother, and get better at setting boundaries, asserting myself, and changing/avoiding topics. I think I might be able to get most of the benefit of cutting my mother off by having the resources and confidence to declare my own terms or present faits accompli, instead of asking what they want or needing help, and therefore being weak and easily pushed around. Of course, I still need several difficult-to-get things before being able to fully test this. Like a driver's license and a car and loads of self-confidence.

#627 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 06:06 PM:

Well, I've been to the therapist! It was cathartic, but so far it's at the painful, weepy stage.

My dad's siblings are ready to forcefully remove his head from his rectal cavity, because their niece is NOT going down the aisle without her father if they have anything to say about it. :) Plus, they've known him for 65 years, so they know how to get through to him better than I do and have more practice at it.

#628 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2014, 07:02 PM:

claustrophile @621: We actually go to the same school and the last two conversations were in person. The fact that I didn't do anything except file a report might have indicated that I probably won't turn him in, as it were. I am afraid of removing the only person he trusts but I'm also afraid he won't make it to the summer. I don't even know. There is a network that would care for him if he were willing to reach out but he just isn't, probably out of disbelief that they actually like him or care about him for any reason other than his tech skills.

My sympathies on your sister's situation :(

Thinking aloud: My Horrible Ex, the many-ways-abusive one, sent me a very innocent-seeming ask on tumblr, basically saying hi. Now the question becomes: what do I want between me and him? The answer is probably "nothing" but I come up against the wall of "but what if he gets mad at me for ignoring or explicitly rejecting him" since he has a pattern of deciding he hates people. What if he gets mad? Then either nothing happens but that I never talk to him again (which I am okay with) or he wields his 3000+ tumblr followers against me (which I am NOT okay with, given that I use the same 'nym everywhere online and have done so since I was 12 and am Not Willing to completely rewrite my history for the sake of an immature asshole). So I'm not sure.

#629 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2014, 02:06 AM:

Jacque @ 620

Sorry about that; wasn't trying to be hlepy, I think I just really misread where you were heading with that.

I mean, for me, those interactions do just boil down to repetitions and variations on "Yeah, dude, that really sucks. I feel for you. And you've already tried X? Yeah, when I was in the same situation, I went to a therapist which was what finally helped me get out of it." and "Yeah, I hear that. That really bites. You already know I'm going to recommend that you talk to someone professionally." Also, "dude, that totally sucks. I just... man, you know, I don't know what to advise you except to see a doctor about that. I mean, it's just like any other illness -- the person who can really help you is your doctor. I can listen, but that's some pretty heavy stuff you're carrying and I just don't know if I'm gonna have the right answers for you..."

If they start giving me reasons (almost always based on prior failures with other shrinks) I throw in things like "I hear it. I went through a bunch of therapists before I found the one who could really help me. But you know, my philosophy on therapists is like my philosophy on psychiatric meds: you usually go through at least a few of them before you find the one that works for you. It's just being patient and working the variables. Same way you'd [pick a lock, name a child, solve a puzzle]..."

So yeah, my general approach is to stay way laid back, keep it simple and honest, and throw in regular statements that affirm that I'm listening and sympathetic, but all roads pretty quickly lead back to therapy as soon as they start talking about how miserable they are. If they're actively averse to it, I'll bring it up once or twice, back off for a while to discuss other things, circle back if the conversation returns to topics of how rough their mental health is, lather, rinse, repeat, fold, spindle, mutilate.

It helps that I genuinely believe that therapy and meds are both awesome and that most people can find the balance they need if they're just willing to keep trying (there are probably exceptions but I always hope any