Back to previous post: Discussing Specific Changes to the Hugo Nomination Election: A Post Not By Bruce Schneier

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Open thread 205

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

May 15, 2015

Dysfunctional Families: Boundaries
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:59 AM *

A lot of the conversations we’ve been having in recent Dysfunctional Families threads have been around a closely-linked set of very important concepts: boundaries, consent, and bodily autonomy.

In popular (internet) culture, we discuss these mostly in the context of sexual contact, and that does make sense. Sex and sexual relationships are where most adults are really vulnerable, and are the means of the most harm when things go wrong. But the issue is more widespread than that. There’s a huge subculture of touching pregnant women’s bellies without their consent, and almost all of the people of color I’ve asked about it have hair-touching stories (quite creepy ones, too).

I tend to picture boundaries and consent as two balanced concepts, in that my consent should be required before someone crosses my boundaries. And these are not just physical boundaries (the extent of my skin, my personal space), but social and emotional ones too (questions I need not answer or even be asked, opinions and feelings that I can describe and be believed to truly have, the act of being heard out and not interrupted or talked over, being believed when I state facts).

(In this context, bodily autonomy is a subset of boundaries. But I do think it’s also wider than that, in that it encompasses the ability to actively choose for one’s own body as well as the right to tell other people to respect one’s boundaries with regard to it.)

We as a society are talking about this more and more, and it’s increasingly clear that some people feel that boundaries are a privilege rather than a right. More powerful people should, in their view, be able to override the consent of less powerful people. That’s the argument behind much authoritarian parenting, but it’s also the foundation of the defense of street heckling and the shaming of the poor. It’s the unstated reason that boys are taught that it’s OK to talk over girls, and that women are assumed to lie more often than men.

The complexity of family life is that small children do not have the judgment to effectively manage boundaries. This occurs both in the negative (holding hands while we’re crossing the road is not optional) and the positive (it’s a nice puppy, but let’s not have it lick your face just now). As a parent, I find it a perpetual challenge to figure out when each child’s judgment has grown enough to allow them consent and control over another aspect of their lives. More than any other transition, this is the difficult one: giving my children power, acknowledging that they will become my equals.

Unfortunately, many families don’t get this balance right. And that not only hurts the children at the time, but it sets them up for more trouble later. Potential rapists and abusers look for people with weak boundary control, people who are unused to having their consent or lack of it respected. And worse, unless we retrain ourselves, the relationships we learn as “normal” when we are children are the ones we seek to reproduce as adults.

We can learn to do better when we’re grown, but oh, is it hard work.

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: Boundaries:
#1 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2015, 07:03 AM:

Forgive me, my friends, for posting most of this behind the cut and dropping an Open Thread immediately on top of it. Usually, I prefer to give the DF thread a while at the top of the page, because this community matters.

But we're getting a lot of very new visitors just at the moment, and although we needed a new thread, I'm happier for it to be just a little more hidden right now.

I will, of course, be moderating with care and attention. Because love.

#2 ::: A bystander this time ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2015, 08:12 AM:

I've not posted on these for a while and I will say that's partly I've been much more comfortable with the whole thing since my father died, despite the intimations that I'd be sorry I hadn't done more (I'm not).

But Abi's post today ties in with something that's been upsetting me recently. A friend who I know as a very good mother and caring person is having arguments with her young boys to do with computer time, homework, general normal stuff. She was telling me how she the 8-year-old kicked off, pushing limits, and then muttered at her under his breath after she closed the discussion, so she sent him to his room. He refused to go, so she bodily picked him up and carried him there and dumped him on his bed.

I was horrified and unsure what to say. It seemed in appropriate to show my horror in regards to her parenting techniques. I carefully commented that from a discipline point of view, this seemed like a short-term solution as her son would soon be too heavy to do this to.

So there's this boundary of judgement ("I don't like the way you are parenting your child") which is about her effectively making her child powerless (which maybe isn't a big deal on its own in a one-off battle of wills? But jesus, to me, it's nuclear).

Days like this, I don't even know what normal looks like from the outside.

#3 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2015, 08:24 AM:

My reaction is that I can't tell from this story what's appropriate and what's not. It's substantially to do with a maturity of judgment that comes to each of us at different times. And some kids are looking for boundaries to be enforced, testing for safety, while others are trying to genuinely protest.

It's complex and contextual.

I've used the difference in physical strength on an 8-ish year old when they were not demonstrating sufficient self-control. (Very similar: removed to bedroom, but for physical behavior, not verbal.) I've also let younger children go their angry, angry length when I judged that they were demonstrating responsibility and thought for consequences.

It's true that the physical differential goes away over time. By that time, a parent has to have given them the toolkit to control their own bodies. But when they achieve that...varies enormously.

(It's also true that I'm not a perfect parent. It's all but impossible to strike the right balance throughout the process of transforming someone from entirely an entirely dependent creature who doesn't recognize the separation between mother and baby to a fully boundary-recognizing adult.)

#4 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2015, 08:34 AM:

Yes, yes, yes.

Boundaries are hard because, good or bad, they become the water we swim in. It's like putting on underwear, whether it's a pair of panties or a full set of whalebone and stockings. Both people would agree that not wearing underwear is bad, I mean, you wear something, don't you, but neither would like the other's definition. Wearing underwear, however you are taught to do it, is just What You Do.

#5 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2015, 08:39 AM:

bystander @2, not knowing what normal looks like from the outside has always been one of the biggest problems that my Asperger's has caused me.

Although actually, I have an even bigger problem knowing what normal looks like from the inside. I am constantly driving myself crazy wondering if this or that is "normal", and what I ought to tolerate vs. what I would be better served to kick about.

#6 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2015, 11:16 AM:

Ah, yes - boundaries. Growing up enmeshed, I struggled to define what was "me" versus what was "Mom," an uphill battle given that she didn't see a distinction between the two. Everything I did reflected on her, and she took credit/blame for everything I achieved/failed at.

It was such a strange and wonderful moment when I went to visit my parents (within the last six months, this happened) and saw them as *people* - separate, individual people as opposed to "parents" with all of the implications I'd soaked in growing up. It was simultaneously bizarre and liberating. (I'm in my late thirties, and I've spent good amounts of my married life in therapy, as I didn't move out until I got married, and I wasn't allowed to develop genuine autonomy until I was no longer under their roof)

#7 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2015, 11:24 AM:

This seems like a topic that people from non-dysfunctional families might be able to contribute to as well, at least the "teaching small children about boundaries, when we can't always respect theirs" portion of it, which is something I'm noticing and wrestling with with my own toddler. But I don't want to step where I'm not welcome, so I'm asking first.

#8 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2015, 11:32 AM:

A while back (and multiple times) I saw a recommendation for the book "Jerk Radar". I finally got my hands on it and finished a first read through last week.

One of the things I noticed, and what I will be doing a second read-through for while taking notes, is that virtually all of the "jerk tests" the author proposes doing at the end of each chapter consist of asserting your boundaries. People who try to push past those boundaries are the "jerks" of the title and should not be dated. (The book is not about families, focussing instead on filtering out jerks when looking for a romantic relationship.)

More to the point, it's basically a list of boundaries that are completely reasonable to have and enforce, with examples.

This is hugely important for me because I don't really have a sense of what is a reasonable boundary and what is me being either a doormat or selfish. So yeah. Taking lots of notes before I return the book to the library.

Count this as another recommendation for the book Jerk Radar by Stephen McCrea!

#9 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2015, 12:15 PM:

lorax @7:

I appreciate you asking. I think in this case it would be a difficult and edgy conversation to have in the context of dysfunctional families; I think it could get mighty triggery mighty fast.

I would be fine with such a conversation bouncing off of this one into the Open Thread, or perhaps starting another thread on the topic in a week or two.

#10 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2015, 12:37 PM:

I would enjoy such a conversation in the open thread or its own separate thread. Prompted by various ML comments, I was puzzling over another parenting tightrope not too long ago: how do you balance teaching kids to trust their gut feelings with respect to others (e.g. "Gift of Fear" territory) with teaching them not to fear or ostracize others who are different in some way.

#11 ::: Have forgotten my nym ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2015, 12:45 PM:

One very important thing I think for those of us who came up dysfunctional & are trying not to repeat things with our own kids is remembering we will make mistakes, esp. with boundaries as kids age, and that after you make a mistake & realize it (or are called on it, by your kids and others) apologizing to your kid and talking at an age appropriate level about how things should maybe work going forward is a thing that can be done. I've had to do this with my children; I'm not sure it's what normal people do but I know it's not what happens in at least some dysfunctional families, and having it happen appears to better than not having it happen.

#12 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2015, 02:19 PM:

"I'm not sure it's what normal people do,"

Well, maybe it *should* be.

#13 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2015, 02:29 PM:

My son has experienced both a profoundly dysfunctional family, with his birth mom (my ex's niece) and a more functional family, with us. His early life experiences did have an impact on his psychological well-being, which we have had to deal with for years, and I suspect we will always have some effects to keep in consideration.

With respect to making decisions, one thing that I've learned over the years to keep in mind is that the decision I make at the moment is the right one for that moment. If I decide afterwards that the decision-making process was flawed or based on flawed information, then I learn from that mistake and fix the process for the next time.

I know I startled my young son when I apologized to him for making mistakes towards him or around him. I thought -- and still do -- that demonstrating ownership of my errors would also help him learn. My parents apologized to me whenever they'd made a mistake, and I always appreciated it.

My ex and I battled over how much to monitor him and how to set boundaries for him, versus letting him define boundaries. She felt I was too loose, and I felt she was too restrictive. She still fusses at me about being too permissive, but in my opinion, he's 19 going on 20, and needs primarily to know that mistakes can be made without the world ending. I want him to be confident in his ability to negotiate the world, without monitoring him closely for the "correct" behavior. Only time will tell if I'm succeeding.

#14 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2015, 02:45 PM:

Have forgotten, #11: YES. There are, unfortunately, several very popular modes of parenting which insist that the parent should never, ever apologize to their child for anything, and the amount of damage that does to a child ranges from minimal to debilitating depending on circumstances.

An apology is a demonstration of respect. The parenting modes which forbid parent-to-child apologies also tend to be those which assume (or bluntly state) that respect only flows one way in the parent/child relationship.

But respect is another way of saying, "You matter." A child who gets no respect from their parents is a child who is being taught that they don't matter -- that they are not really people, and (in many cases) that their boundaries can be arbitrarily violated by a parent... and often, by extension, by any authority figure.

The potential for seriously-damaging abuse in this model should be obvious. And as that child gets older, they also become prime targets for other types of abusers; one of the ways in which many abusers select their victims is to see who is vulnerable to having their boundaries pushed aside. A firmly-held boundary (such as, "No thanks, I don't want a drink.") indicates that this one is a waste of the abuser's time.

Conversely, a child who does get respect from their parents is learning that they do matter, that people aren't allowed to just run over them roughshod at whim with no consequences. As they mature, they will be more resistant to all sorts of boundary-testing.

#15 ::: Delurker ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2015, 08:20 PM:

@11, @12, @14: Yes plus a million.

I am hoping that trying to always keep talking and apologizing as required will make the relationship I and my wife have with my kids resilient even in the face of our many failings ...

#16 ::: Melanie the Tongueless ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2015, 02:07 AM:

The language of boundaries has been THE concept of my adult years - thank you, abi, for your choice of post topic.

My own most-recent experience due to the various players in the Gamer Gang Saga is my current touchstone for boundaries, as in their lack-of-respect for my own. I'm not sure yet what I want to share, but something is brewing, I can feel it.

The theme boundaries also illuminates Five Geek Social Fallacies in new and interesting ways, I think.

Continuing thinking. And reading - thanks to everyone here for their own experiences, and your generosity in supporting others.

#17 ::: Jillian ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2015, 01:08 AM:

Ginger @ 13 your situation resonates strongly with me.

Boundaries and descisions loom large in our family these days.

Our son came to us 6 years ago. He was a dysfunctional, devastated child with no idea of boundaries or limits. He had suffered through a prolonged period of abuse and neglect and it had warped his concepts of self and where his boundaries were. He still has difficulty perceiving his body and that of others, but he is slowly getting better.

My wife and I have tried to instill in him a sense of where he ends and others begin. Deciding how to approach discipline is a constant struggle. Every consequence has to be appropriate and proportional so that e understands that his early experiences were not the real way things work.

#18 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2015, 03:44 PM:

Does anyone know when people first started talking about relationships in terms of "boundaries"? The earliest I recall hearing the term is from a teacher in the late 1970s talking about how it could be difficult to be close friends with someone you work with, and maintaining boundaries was part of keeping both the friendship and the work relationship healthy. But I think that may well have been a slightly different usage, akin to "giving people space." Even so it was an enlightening concept to me.

#19 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2015, 10:42 AM:

HelenS: My encounter with the term is much more recent than that, probably the early '90s. If I had to guess, I'd speculate it's an outgrowth of the Recovery movement. (AA, et al.)

#20 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2015, 01:49 PM:

I found an overview focusing specifically on therapist/patient boundaries -- apparently in that restricted sense the concept goes back at least to Freud.

#21 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2015, 03:13 PM:

Jillian @17: best of luck with your son. Early childhood damage is insidious, although with gentle, persistent and patient care, kids can recuperate. One of the bits of helpful information that my son got, during his worst months (from a social worker in the psych ward), was that he was not the only kid to feel and think this way. It's quite common for children with early neglect and/or abuse to have depression and formless anger, as well as difficulty managing emotions.

Being ADHD and bipolar on top of that was just the extra toppings on his particular cake. Since then, he's done much better, and is developing into a mature young adult, with good friends and even a brand-new job. (Yay for gainful employment!)

#22 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2015, 05:06 PM:

HelenS @ 18, although the word boundary was not used, the sentiment was expressed in 1914 by Robert Frost in Mending Wall. Not just "Good fences make good neighbors," although boundaries certainly do make for better relationships.

But also on the setting of boundaries:
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'

#23 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2015, 09:25 PM:

Because of my own history, I am Strongly Averse to saying to my child anything that boils down to "You don't feel what you feel, you feel what I say you feel."

She is quite emotionally labile (even for her age), and many things are THE WORST THING EVER and all pains are I AM ABOUT TO DIE and so on.

One script I trained myself in early, to avoid my frustration leading to erasure of her autonomy, and to hopefully build life skills, was, "You're not wrong."

"Yes, sweetie, it's boring standing in this long line at immigration between the exciting "getting off the plane" and the calming "finally in our car going home". You're not wrong. It's boring and very frustrating. But the rule is that we have to wait, and do our best not to be loud or upset anyone else who has to wait. They all think it's boring too." At this point usually an older waiting-near-us person will smile and nod seriously in agreement, because dang it's boring.

"I know, sweetie, it tastes nasty, but that's how it tastes, I'm afraid. We need to get this medicine into you to help with (whatever the problem is, usually fever or pain or excessive snot). If we can't do that, it's just going to keep (problem)ing. You're not wrong, though, it's not pleasant. What can we do to help get happy again afterwards? Should I get you your swirly-straw cup with ice water so you can rinse out right away after the medicine?"

"Yes, I agree, that's really frustrating that (completely unavoidable and sudden disappointment happened). That's sad. And I'm kind of angry, a little, too."

#24 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 04:59 AM:

Bricklayer @23: that's awesome, and I wish my own parents had done it. They're fine now; they're very supportive and I get on with them very well. When I was a child, however, they were over-authoritative, and they were always telling me how I was supposed to feel and what I was supposed to like.

For instance, I really hate tea. Not only was I constantly made to drink it (because "that's what people drink"), but I was almost always informed that it was "lovely", despite the fact that I was making it perfectly clear that I hated the stuff. The same went for custard. (The problem in both cases turned out to be that I can't stand milk, which I knew, but which didn't cause the same difficulties because I wasn't forced to drink that. I'm all right with something like Earl Grey, which is drunk without milk.) These days I'd call that erasure, but in those days I just called it incredibly frustrating.

Then there were all the times I was taken out to "choose" something. I'd choose X, then be told I didn't really want X because of course I'd rather have Y, so I would end up with Y even if I hated it. (The wallpaper with the blue roses sticks in my mind as the definitive example of this. I don't even like blue.)

And then there was the blackberrying incident. There was a programme I used to like to listen to on the radio every week, but on this particular occasion I wanted to go blackberrying instead, so I asked if I could go. I was told "no, you want to listen to your programme."

"No," I said. "I don't want to listen to it this week. I want to go blackberrying."

"No, you don't. You want to listen to your programme."

I went away and tried again a few minutes later. This time I got what I thought was a "yes", so I hared off before I could be told what I wanted again, and spent a very happy couple of hours picking blackberries. When I returned, I was asked where I'd been.

"Blackberrying," I replied. "You said I could go."

"No, I didn't!"

"Yes, you did! I asked, and you said yes."

"Oh. I must have said yes to something else because I was distracted, then. You've missed your programme."

"I know. I wanted to go blackberrying. I had a lovely time."

"Oh. Er. Oh."

To my astonishment, I didn't get into any trouble for that.

tl;dr: All new parents probably ought to be given an engraved plaque that reads CHILDREN ARE PEOPLE.

#25 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 09:28 AM:

I would like to register a complaint with the management of the universe.

It is deeply unfair that Important Object can be tripped over ALL WEEK until the MORNING that you actually NEED it, at which point it has buggered off to God-knows-where and refuses to be found at all.



Of course, the real reason this has happened is because not only has my spoon supply broken down badly, it has BEEN broken down badly for so long that I haven't even had enough spoons to cling to my organizational reflexes, the ones that keep me faking 'together' reasonably well.

Ordinarily, when Important Object comes back in the house after use, it has a place where it lives and is put there. I can then safely forget it exists until I need it again, at which point, I look where it lives, and there we go. If I happen across such a thing being not-where-it-lives in the course of an ordinary week, I rescue it and stick it where it lives, on my way to do whatever else I was doing. I have entire networks of nearly-obsessive habits of this sort, whose entire purpose is to make sure that even when I have so few spoons I'm basically not making short term memories at all, my posessions don't just suddenly fall off the face of the planet.

However, for the past week or so, almost any bag that enters this house immediately becomes invisible (because my Peril-Tinted Sunglasses have decided that the internal PUT IT AWAY YOU SLOB pressure is toooooo perilous and I oughtn't to be let to worry my sweet little head about it).

I am now taking lots of deep breaths and emptying every bag I CAN find, and hanging the empty bags Where Bags Go, in the hopes that this will turn up the one with Important Object in it.

Which I need to find within the next hour or have financial consequences. Not catastrophic ones, but "pay it now and in a hurry instead of in a month or two". Sigh.



Thanks for the venting space. :->

#26 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 10:21 AM:

Bricklayer @25: YES. *Thank you*.

On one hand, there is the Jerkbrain / Goddamned Tapes / various other names. On the other, there are the Peril-Sensitive Sunglasses of the mind. The sunglasses exist mostly to protect me from the jerkbrain. However, *both* of them are very good at getting in the way of actually accomplishing anything. The jerkbrain likes to send me into emotional feedback loops, so that I'll be too upset to accomplish anything important. The sunglasses, however, seem to consist of getting distracted by relaxing or slightly productive things, to avoid the overly alarming and/or overly productive things. (There seems to be a LOT of overlap between alarming things and productive things.) So to avoid having the upsetting thing drive me into a tizzy which will require a lie-down, I pre-emptively go read the internet or watch a show. Neither is good at accomplishing the thing.

How do I know when to say screw it, I should do the frightening thing, then lie down?

#27 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 10:30 AM:

Bricklayer: If I happen across such a thing being not-where-it-lives in the course of an ordinary week, I rescue it and stick it where it lives, on my way to do whatever else I was doing.

I think it was you I got this from, and I've found it incredibly useful. At this point, it's still a "strategy" I have to invoke; it hasn't yet streamlined into "habit." Meaning I have lowgrade rotating Heaps scattered about the house. (Mostly because the items therein either don't have or have lost their "homes". Either that, or clearing the pile is an irreducible Project.) (I did actually finally resolutely kill a heap last weekend, and it is a glorious thing.)

I have entire networks of nearly-obsessive habits of this sort

I would be fascinated to hear as many of these, in as much detail, as you care to relate (presuming a sufficiency of spoons for such effort).

Because, you know, heaps.

#28 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 10:34 AM:

Bodhisvaha: Peril-Sensitive Sunglasses

Can you say more about the kinds of things that invoke PSSes? I wonder if I have these....

#29 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 10:39 AM:

Jacque @27: The learning-the-habit method involves an intermediary step, which needs (to keep it from being too cluttery) a container or basket to be kept in each region of your home.

You see Oscar the Object. Oscar is not where Oscar lives. Oscar is, in fact, in a precarious or about-to-be-lost place. (crucially, Oscar HAS a place where Oscar lives; if not, see below) You don't have the spoons or time to actually take him all the way home right this second. What do you do?

You put him in the "going upstairs" basket. Exact basket names vary based upon your geography, but we have often had a "put in the bathroom" basket, a "put in the basement" basket, a "goes upstairs" basket, and a "take out to the car" basket. Plus, since Beka, a "kid's room" basket.

If you can get it in the bin, and then -- crucially -- regularly empty out the basket, by building a 10-minute window for "taking baskets where they go and emptying them" once a week or so, then that really helps build the infrastructure.

Some Oscars, however, have no home. They are homeless Oscars that sit in the middle of your stuff and say I AM IMPORTANT BUT ALSO HOMELESS SO I MUST REMAIN AS VISIBLE AS POSSIBLE SO I AM NOT LOST.

That's a toughie, because at least for me, building Oscar-homes is incredibly spoon-intensive. But it's amenable to single-day spates of intense work, especially if you have a friend or spotter available for the Project, whereas the everyday drip-drip-drip of returning Oscars to their homes is NOT amenable to once-a-month-or-fewer project labor.

#30 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 12:49 PM:

Mongoose, #24: That is absolutely horrible. I remember one or two such instances from my own childhood, which stick in my brain precisely because they are such a betrayal. To have had it happen over and over again... you are a much better person than I if you can actually have any kind of adult relationship with your parents at all after that. I would have left as soon as I could and never looked back.

Jacque, #27: I do that too, although I think I invented it independently of Bricklayer. I call it "generating an interrupt," by analogy to the way a computer will suspend Task A when something generates Interrupt B that's more important. I have interrupts for Putting Things Where They Live and for Throwing Dead Pens Away, and probably a few more than I'm not thinking of at the moment.

#31 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 01:24 PM:

Oh, yes, validating children's feelings! My son was often not very verbal when he was upset, so I learned to verbalize what I saw, and give him the words he could use for himself -- for example, I would say "You look very upset and angry" and he would then say "Yes, I am very upset about [thing]". All too often he would initially think he was just "stupid", but once I'd given him other words, he'd use those because they reflected his actual feelings. We made it into a family routine, of "translating", especially when he was a less-talkative teen and communicated in grumbles or noises; I would "translate" as "You said "argh" and what I hear is "Thank you, Ema!"", and so on.

As for finding places for stuff, I also stage the movement around the house -- I like the basket idea; I have spots for Things to go in the Basement, Things to go Upstairs; Things to go Someplace TBD, and so on. Part of my problem is the Ex leaving things behind, and having never put them away in the first place, so it was all higgeldy-piggeldy to begin with, and I spent four years eliminating all her Stuff into Recycle, Trash, and Keep. Now I'm doing this with my Stuff, and reorganizing as I go along. Batteries are now all collecting in a single, easy-to-remember location! Storage plastics in another! Books -- well, books are everywhere. They're important.

#32 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 01:33 PM:

Yes! I have to leave things out, or I won't do The Right Thing with them. Then this attitude slops over into things that should just be put away ... somewhere.

Last year, I hit on the idea of building a file labeled "Where Is It", and started recording where I put each thingie. So far, this has been useful.

And I've even updated it.

#33 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 01:57 PM:

Re lost things, one thing that helps me and my husband is a tip I got from an organizing book or website somewhere - no longer remember where. If I'm holding something that doesn't have a "home," I ask myself (or my husband, if it's his or falls in his domain) "If you were looking for this, where would you look first?" Then I put it there. That seems to be more effective than tucking it away in some corner and being unable to find it again.

Bricklayer, hope you found your missing Thing.

#34 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 05:45 PM:

Bricklayer @29: Ah yes. I use variants of that to varying degrees in varying places. (Probably part of my problem.) And I am quite unreasonably tickled to be able to say that, part of my problem is that it's Homeless Oscars All The Way Down.

Which is not, strictly speaking, entirely true. But had to be said anyway. =:o)

building Oscar-homes is incredibly spoon-intensive.

Word. And is of a piece with the general principle that procrastination happens because Decisions Need To Be Made. And I figured out a long time ago, that Decisions are huge spoon-sucks. Like, logarithmically worse than a comparable action for which a Decision has already been made. And if the decisions domino (i.e., if I have to move Mary to make room for Bartholomew, in order for Oscar to fit), well, there's the weekend, or maybe it's just time for the Peril-Sensitive Sunglasses.

whereas the everyday drip-drip-drip of returning Oscars to their homes is NOT amenable to once-a-month-or-fewer project labor.

And if you're deluded enough to think it is (O hai!), you get Oscar-reefs. ::sigh::

Pfusand & OtterB: Yes, I commonly use variants of both those strategies, which generally work pretty well. What kills me is that, given the least spoon shortage, instead of putting things "away," I tend to put them "down."

Hence: heaps.

#35 ::: SorchaRei ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 06:25 PM:

We are in the middle of dehoarding. I realized while we were working on Phase 1 (of 3) last weekend that in the 19 years we have lived in this house, I have never had a place where my clothes belong. Never. The dressers and three closets are filled with my husband's clothes, most of which he hasn't worn in a decade. But my clothes have always hung out in laundry baskets, dirty clothes hampers, and piles as neat as I could make them on tabes and chairs. This is likely to be one reason this place has never felt like home to me.

So I added to the Very Long spreadsheet of dehoarding tasks are "Get rid of all clothes husband doesn't wear" and "Find a permanent home for my clothes" and "Populate clothes home with my clothes".

I'm stealing "Oscars all the way down" because that describes my clothes perfectly. Thank you.

#36 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 06:49 PM:

That gives a whole new meaning to "What did you wear to the Oscars?"

#37 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 08:40 PM:

SorchaRei, #35: Yes, that would definitely account for the feeling that where you live isn't "home". Is there any area in the house, even a work-table, that's entirely yours? If not, or if you only have odd corners here and there, consider making this a topic for negotiation. Everybody needs territory of some kind!

My partner and I have problems in that area because we both have more clothing than there's room for, but at least our problems are evenly distributed.

#38 ::: SorchaRei ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 09:30 PM:

@Lee #37

It seems to have been a thing that happened while neither of us was paying attantion, and we already agreed that part of moving forward on this project is fixing that. We also discovered that while we each had a space of our own when we moved in here in 1996, I have since deceloped medical issues that make my space less than ideal for me, and it gradually morphed into generic storage. This, too, is being addressed in the overarching process. In a way, none of it was news to me, just a matter of putting pieces together (no place for clothes, never felt at home here, no longer able easily to access my designated space, feel cramped in an 1800 sq ft house).

Fixing it is happening. The discoveries are enlightening, to say the least.

#39 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 11:03 PM:

Just in the department of labeling my sources for proper attribution: I swiped the concept of Peril-Tinted Sunglasses from Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where they are an actual physical device you wear on your eyes that goes gradually darker if there are dangerous things near you.

I read that, and years later in therapy realized that it maps reasonably well to one of the ways my brain has learned to dissociate in self-defense over Things Being Too Much To Take.

There are things that, when I encounter them, trigger Goddamned Tapes or other negative, exhausting emotions in me. The spoonless-er I am, the more likely their presence is to trigger the Peril-Tinted Sunglasses: At some level either just above or just below where I can consciously register it is happening, there's a "Hey, look, a SQUIRREL!" that occurs and I just ... find myself thinking about something else.

In extreme cases it can be extremely sfnal (in a dystopian, creepy, unhelpful way), because I can literally examine the entire kitchen counter and NOT FIND THE NOODLE POT, which it turns out when I get someone else to look is front and center with nothing concealing it. My Peril-Tinted Sunglasses somehow edit my visual feed on the software end when my self-defense subroutines believe strongly enough that I Need To Not Know About That Because It Would Hurt Too Much.

This morning's Important Object did not turn up and has not helpfully turned up the minute I come in the door with the replacement, either. Sigh.

On the plus side, the financial consequences were $15, not the ~$40 I was expecting. Dayenu. Unto each day, the gratitude it is due.

#40 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 11:34 PM:

Bricklayer, Jacque, on Oscar the stray Object: I have been trying to get an Oscar transportation network in place, but it is hard. You know how UFYH says that laundry and dishes have 3 steps, "wash, dry, PUT IT AWAY, GODDAMMIT"? So does Oscar-transporting.

1. Put stray Oscar the Object in bin of other Oscars.
2. Take bin where it belongs.

I keep failing step 3. This is partly laziness, but there are other, worse reasons. For example, the thing the Oscars should go in or on is a (big) mess, and I am not ready to deal with it. Or the Oscars are homeless, either in the sense that I know which room they belong in, but they don't have a home IN it, or that I just plain don't know where to put them. Perhaps it is time to be ruthless?

I find it most rewarding to completely clean entire surfaces or rooms at once, rather than several things partway.

Pfusand @32 and OtterB @33: why have I never thought of a where-is-it file? I do the other thing, of where-would-I-look-for-it, but that's no good for the things that do not suggest their proper homes, or where the obvious place has run out of room. Another edge case is stuff of Partner's, which HE needs to put away. Otherwise his excessively spatial memory has no clue where it went.

Ginger @31: so much empathy. Historically Partner left trails of things strewn behind him, then whined or got mad when they were eventually whisked away, since he was totally unwilling/unable to sort and put away said things. You can imagine how much yelling there has been.

Eventually I had a revelation, that while Partner was certainly being difficult, that he really truly did not know what tidy looked like, after growing up in a house that had 2 working parents, 4 children, and 1000 sq ft. Neither had he been taught how to organize anything intelligently -- boys mowed lawns and shovelled snow, while girls or adults put things away. Remedial education in organization and Chore-O-Vision began, and is ongoing. That helped, but it wasn't the light on the road to Damascus. The light blinded him when simultaneously, we lived somewhere big enough that he got to see what tidy looked like, AND that our roommate Dragon was a slob. Finally someone else was doing to him what he had done to me all those years, and he did not like it one bit! Since then, Partner actually tries to be tidier.

#41 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2015, 11:52 PM:

Bricklayer @39, and Jacque @28:

I devoured the Hitchhikers series at roughly 12, so I was kind of hitting myself on the head for not having applied the image that way myself. My mental sunglasses don't interfere with my visual feed. It's possible that they mess with the audio. Not the hearing it in the first place, but with the ability to remember exactly what was said. I'm not sure if this is even happening -- did I always have this much trouble remembering what people said to get me so upset when there is an argument that falls into certain patterns? It seems to happen more now, once I realize someone has pushed "play" on one of the Goddamned Tapes, that the details of what they're actually saying or doing go fuzzy. This makes it much harder to be specific when telling them to STOP doing/saying certain kinds of things.

Mostly the sunglasses mess with my ability to DO things. The more that it is a Big Project That I Ought To Do, or (even worse) Career Stuff, the more they kick in. Getting too tired, too distracted, just not able to get something off the ground… I mean to do something, but it just doesn't happen, or takes longer than it really should, or is far more work than it really ought to be. Instead I tend to end up doing something semi-productive, that was meant to be a lead-in to the Real Work, whatever it was.

#42 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2015, 02:09 AM:

Bricklayer @39: which it turns out when I get someone else to look is front and center with nothing concealing it.

I actually watched a friend of mine (not incidentally, an ADHD sufferer) do this: searched high and low, every room of the house for the key to the storage locker. Finally called the assistant, "Where's the key?" While doing so, absently pulled open the drawer where the key lives and, lo and behold, there it had been all along, in the middle, on top.

(I have jokingly theorized that ADHD sufferers are actually incompletely-evolved teleports: the pressure of their attention pushes the target item through a 'brane into a nearby universe. It's not until they stop looking for it that the pressure lets up and the item pops back into this universe.)

Bodhisvaha @40: I keep failing step 3.

I've been playing with dripping (per Bricklayer's @29) away at this, my variant being that, if I don't have the capacity to actually put it away, I at least move it closer to its destination. (As it happens, I actually dissolved a heap this evening!)

I find it most rewarding to completely clean entire surfaces or rooms at once, rather than several things partway.

I, also, but this can also turn into a big enough Project that it just never gets done. (The heap on my desk being one example; I've got it down to a mono-layer, but it's persisted in one form or another for several years now. I'm far more successful (less unsuccessful?) in getting (most of) my kitchen counters cleared off on occassion.)


Please to say more about this phenomenon of which you speak...?

& @41: the details of what they're actually saying or doing go fuzzy.

Gahh. The Infinite Lectures of Wrongness my mother subjected me to. I only have one recording, because I was on the brink of Getting Out, and she was being so stupidly unreasonable (and simultaneously accusing me of being unreasonably stupid). But there are years of Lectures that I know happened, but which I absolutely failed to record because to do so would have let them into my brain, which in turn would have threatened my very existence, mentally.

I mean to do something, but it just doesn't happen

Please to note the time-stamp on this entry. This is me, getting to bed "on time." :-\ I'd actually begun to get a bit of a grip on this, but our current Month From Hell at work has meant that I've been desperate to paint when I get home, and can't get loose in less than four or five hours.

Appropos of which....

#43 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2015, 05:32 AM:

Re the peril-tinted glasses. I recently ran across mention of a book called Scarcity: Why having too little means so much by Mullainaithan and Shafir. Haven't read it yet, so can't vouch for it, but I'm planning to get it the next time I go to the library. The recommenders wrote their own excellent book on motivation (Switch) so I'm inclined to think it will be interesting.

The premise is that a lot of dysfunctional behavior (time management by very busy people, money management by poor people, friend management by lonely people, eating habits of dieters, etc.) are the result of predictable reactions to scarcity of something important. The Publisher's Weekly starred review concludes: "Mullainaithan and Shafir present an insightful, humane alternative to character-based accounts of dysfunctional behavior, one that shifts the spotlight from personal failings to the involuntary psychic disabilities that chronic scarcity inflicts on everyone."

I'm wondering if some of the dysfunctional family fallout we discuss here fits their pattern, as the results of a long-term scarcity of -- call it autonomy, or perhaps respect -- while in the dysfunctional situation.

#44 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2015, 08:25 AM:

Regarding housework, Hanne Blank is running a project here which includes cooking and housework. I really like her writing on domestic techniques.

#45 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2015, 09:10 AM:

Jacque @42 (how fortunate) (also incomplete): Chore-O-Vision is the targeting computer for the chores waiting to be done. You look around the room and SEE all the things that need cleaning up, as if they had glowing outlines. They don't, but that's how we'd show it to the TV audience. It starts with basic principles such as "horizontal surfaces are supposed to be clear for use" and "floors are for furniture legs and feet, not other things" and "things want to be put in their cupboard/drawer/box when not in use." Eventually tidiness standards plus such basic principles coalesce into Chore-O-Vision. It's quite useful, but I wish it had an easily-reached power switch.

My neatnik family taught Chore-O-Vision. (My aunt sorts and labels even the junk in her basement and garage.) Most women seem to have learned Chore-O-Vision. Partner, and many others of the male persuasion, either were not taught or did not learn Chore-O-Vision. Slobs either do not have Chore-O-Vision, or can't be bothered to actually clean up.

#46 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2015, 09:39 AM:

Chore-O-Vision interacts with the Sending Oscars Home game.

The earliest version of the latter starts with teaching a kid to look at a room full of mess and be able to answer the question, "What's in here that belongs somewhere else?"

So you start cleaning the living room (trashed in the aftermath of an amazingly fun three-kid sleepover -- not a hypothetical, sigh) by taking everything that Definitely Has A Home That Is Not Here and putting it at least partway towards its home. So all the shoes get plucked out and lined up in the shoe-place. All the dishes get put in the kitchen, or at least on a tray/in a bin to go kitchenward the next time someone's walking that way. The stuff-with-the-TV (we have a computer monitor on the wall to watch Netflix and play various games on) gets tidied off the sofa and all available surfaces into the caddy under the TV. Chairs go back into the dining room, after being de-forted. The sheets and such that were part of the forts go into the laundry bin.

At this point, you have a chance in hell of being able to look at the remaining mixed mess and continue grabbing categories (which may or may not belong in this room). Pick up all the books, and stick them on bookcases. Gather up the loose jigsaw puzzle pieces and put them in the 'unsorted pieces' bin (yes, we have one. Sigh) to be gone through when we can't stand stooping and cleaning any more today. Put the pencils-and-pens-and-art-supplies on the kid easel.


There are ways that inculcating a constant low-level Chore-O-Vision and integrating it with a Rehoming Oscars reflex can really help keep things from going from "messy" to "OH MY GOD GET THE FLAMETHROWER."

When i come downstairs to put the dogs out in the morning, my path takes me past the table where we mostly eat. I have trained myself to glance across it and pick up two full hands of whatever dishes may be present, to deposit in or near the sink on my way to let the dogs out. Because a lot of tidying is trip-chained with things I was doing already for other reasons, it doesn't end up adding (as much) to the "needs to be dug out in a big production number" cleaning piles.

That said, I also obsessively adjust my behavior to avoid MAKING messes in the first place, because I know I'm bad at staying on top of cleaning them up. What Lazarus Long called "applied laziness."

#47 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2015, 11:25 AM:

Bodhisvaha @45: You look around the room and SEE all the things that need cleaning up

So what do you do when Chore-O-Vision encounters Oscars All The Way Down, and launches Peril-Tinted Sunglasses? (Which seems to be the eternal state of my life.)

Bricklayer @46: a lot of tidying is trip-chained

This is the one I've been having the most success with, lately. (Got three Oscars rehomed (or nearly so) on my way to brush my teeth, last night.) The weekend days when I've actually managed to get housework done in a timely manner, it's because I do this-on-the-way-to-that, which is on-the-way-to-there, and I can get most of my basic chores at least launched on my way to going to the kitchen to get breakfast.

The tricky part is keeping my spoons stocked such that the Challenge For The Day isn't simply getting out of bed. (Staying adequately spooned most specifically seems to be a function of getting enough greens into my diet; my current hack, which seems to be working pretty well, is to have a fruit smoothie for breakfast, and include greens therein. Now if I could just jigger the smoothie-building process so that the greens fibers don't gum up the blender blade.) this now has me thinking about ways to trip-chain Oscar-home building....

Suggestions, anyone?

I also obsessively adjust my behavior to avoid MAKING messes in the first place

I'd like to hear more about this, too.

What Lazarus Long called "applied laziness."


#48 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2015, 11:47 AM:

So, as of yesterday I've been doing my photo a day project for a full year. (Link is on my username.) Many thanks to Lee & Diatryma for pointing me in that direction on 19 May of last year.

In the past year I have posted 263 photos. Because numbers and stats can be made to say nearly anything, I will use them to say stuff that makes me feel better: 263/52 = 5.057 so that means I averaged very slightly more than 5 photos a week. People with full time jobs work 5 days a week! This is an excellent rate.

I discovered that viewing stats, likes, favourites, etc. causes me to fret over the numbers in ways that do not make me happy, so I only put the metadata on a few photos that causes them to be featured on the site's category pages -- then stopped when I saw what it was doing to me.

I also discovered that I like taking pictures of very small things. There are lots of flowers and bugs and drops of water in the collection. Bees are pretty.

I posted the photos with only a date and no other comment or description because the temptation to point out all the ways in which the photo was not quite what I was hoping for was too strong, and I decided negative talk was not allowed on that photo album because that would make me feel bad. So, I posted nothing but the date. Whenever I look back through my photos I can't remember anymore what I was hoping for, so that was a good choice. I think most of the photos are pretty, and those that aren't are at least interesting, and that was my goal for the album: a daily interesting thing, and an activity that makes me happy.

#49 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2015, 12:13 PM:

the invisible one @48, Go, you!

And please try not to feel bad about not liking everything about every photo. My husband is a photographer; his work is sometimes exhibited in galleries. He's taken hundreds of thousands of photos. And he tells me that he has NEVER taken a photo that he's completely happy with. If he ever does take a Perfect Photo, he tells me he'll hang up his camera for good. He learns from every photo he takes.

He also has told me that he never judges a photo until at least a week has passed since he took it. If he looks at it too soon, he remembers how much fun it was to take, or how difficult it was to set up, or whatever... and that memory colors his impression of the work. If he gives it a little time, he can judge the work on its own merits, rather than thinking he HAS to like it because it was SO HARD to get that shot...

Hope this helps; ignore if hlepy.

#50 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2015, 12:35 PM:

the invisible one, #48: Very nice photos! You've got some really interesting things in there, well beyond just "pretty".

I put up a lot of photos on Flickr. I have a friend who puts his up on Picasa. One time I said to him that he seemed to be a much better photographer than I was, and I'll never forget his response: "That's because you never see the stuff I delete." Which, when I thought about it, was also true for me -- I cull out anything I consider unacceptable before I post the pictures. The real difference between his photos and mine is that he's much more of a perfectionist -- my level of "acceptable" is considerably broader.

Not making any real point here, just noodling about the picture-taking process.

#51 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2015, 12:52 PM:

#49, Cassy B.: That is exactly why I am not posting descriptions of the photos, and set as my goal a photo a day instead of a good photo a day. That also leaves lots of room for experiments, goofing off, finding the limits of what my camera is capable of, and crappy photos of nifty things, like the photo of the hummingbird I took through my window screen mesh. (Shooting through window screen mesh is a terrible thing to do to a photo. I posted it anyway.) If I have taken multiple photos in a day, I choose the one that I like the best of the set, which usually consists of the one with the best focus or exposure. My digital camera is a little point & shoot; I have minimal control over both of those and sometimes it takes a few tries to get it decent, especially when I'm pushing my camera's limitations.

#50, Lee: Thanks :) And yes, even pro photographers take more photos than they publish/sell. It's the nature of the game.

#52 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2015, 02:00 PM:

the invisible one @51, And yes, even pro photographers take more photos than they publish/sell. It's the nature of the game.


My-husband-the-photographer is very pleased if he gets ONE portfolio-quality photo in a two-hour shooting session. That's something rather less than a 1% "hit" rate. When he was shooting sports professionally, he'd submit perhaps ten photos to the newspaper out of maybe two hundred he shot of one game. The paper typically printed about five.

Granted, professional photographers (in my experience, anyway) are hyper-critical of their own work. For that matter, pretty much all of the professional artists, of all sorts, that I've met are hyper-critical of their own work...

#53 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2015, 02:27 PM:

I am pleased to report that I am now going to bed an hour and a half late, or less, most nights per week, in an irregular way. This is an improvement over my previous pattern of staying up until stupid o'clock, then cranking my go-to-bed time back 15 minutes per night by force of will until I was going to bed at actual bedtime, after which I would feel peppy and vigorous and stay up until stupid o'clock again. This pattern was itself an improvement on an earlier pattern of being terrified to lie down and surrender consciousness. So basically I've been sleep deprived for most of my life.

I don't expect that this new phase will last forever without backsliding, but right now it feels pretty good. I would feel even better if I were getting 7 1/2 hours per night on the regular, though.

#54 ::: Torrilin ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2015, 04:14 PM:

@the invisible one: Yup, the take a damn picture or draw something or knit a few stitches or spin a few makes trick is how I get anywhere on artistic pursuits. It doesn't have to be good. In fact a lot of the time my goal is make one terrible thing. Just make the thing. Also, you have a picture of a snake! Yay snakes!

(I love snakes, but I almost never see a live snake around here that is not hurrying somewhere faster than I can manage the camera)

There's also nothing wrong with a "crappy" point and shoot. I used mine hard for years, and learned tons about photography from it. You can make them do amazing things. And a lot of the limitations are put in for very good reason. A fancier camera will let you do all manner of things, but just because it will let you do it does not mean you'll actually get a picture. I'd often imagine the software on my point and shoot as being a couple wise photographers saying "that's maybe not a good idea" or "yes yes this is good". So I tried to learn the rules they were using, and it taught me loads. (it helped immensely that there are rules, and about 90% of the stuff the software would grump about had solid physics reasons behind it)

Also very relevant to boundaries... "Do you like it?" is a super important question when you're setting boundaries. My family wasn't necessarily all that great at function, but my art teachers always encouraged me to find the things I did right in whatever kind of art I did, not just the stuff I did wrong. They might see different right things. And another person would see other right things. But I was the only one who could judge for me. I think it's probably about the most important overall lesson that I learned from teachers. (and I was lucky enough to have that from a lot of different mostly art teachers)

#55 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2015, 04:16 PM:

the invisible one @48, lovely photos! Congratulations on keeping it up for an entire year so far. :)

J @53: hurrah for improvements in sleep schedule :)

I have managed to get the closest thing I've ever had to a consistent and healthy sleep schedule by setting an alarm at 9:30 every night to take melatonin, which then knocks me out. The trick, of course, is taking the melatonin when the alarm goes off, and then actually moving towards bed over the next hour or so. But I think the stuff takes long enough to make me sleepy that I don't have the immediate "noooo i want to keep doing things" response.

(Doing this for a couple of months more or less confirmed my suspicion that my intermittent depressiveness is primarily mediated by sleep deprivation.)

Re: the topic of the thread, I struggle with appropriate boundaries from both sides: setting good ones, and respecting others'. With the latter I am mainly concerned that I will accidentally violate a boundary that I didn't know about, and if I do and am asked to please not do Thing again, I immediately feel terrible and like a terrible person. :/ (Or rejected, and like an unwanted person.) How do I accept boundary-setting gracefully without letting jerkbrain decide that I'm a terrible person for not reading someone else's mind?

#56 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2015, 12:21 AM:

J @53: hurrah indeed! My bedtime/leaving-the-house-time/both also like to creep later and later. No one thing works reliably long-term, so I have to keep switching tactics. (Now, if I could only try out being bribed into bedtime with backrubs as a routine thing...)

Jacque @47: "So what do you do when Chore-O-Vision encounters Oscars All The Way Down, and launches Peril-Tinted Sunglasses? (Which seems to be the eternal state of my life.)"


Combination of nose to the grindstone, and breaking it into smaller pieces. This is the worst-case scenario of what Bricklayer described in #46. Even where you cannot clean the mess now, you can make progress by assessing *why* this mess is here, with enough detail to develop and write down a plan of action.

- Timed chunks, e.g. 15-20 min. Work alternating with break/reward
- Permission to make something else dead-easy, such as ordering take-out

Triage the things:

  1. Does anything here actually have a home? --> Take it there. Even if that is merely moving it to another mess for now.

  2. Do I want/need to keep this? Why?

    1. No, I can trash/recycle it --> dispose of

    2. No, I can donate it --> put in donation box

    3. Yes…

I'm keeping these; now what?

  1. Kept because there is an action attached; once the action is done I can toss it

    1. Do the action and toss

    2. Put aside in "To Do" container

    3. Stick a highly-visible flag on it *with a note on its next action*

  2. Kept because it needs to be returned to its rightful owner --> put in "Borrowings to Return" container

  3. It was homeless BUT now I know where it wants to live

    1. If possible, take it there and put it away!

    2. Are there other similar items it could be stashed with temporarily?

    3. Is it homeless because I have not found/made/bought the appropriate storage container? --> acquire container, or figure out how to make do for now

  4. It is homeless AND I still have no idea where to put it

    1. Am I *sure* I should keep it?

    2. Are there any similar items that it wants to live with? (assembling category piles of homeless items might suggest a home and/or handling policy.)

    3. Where do I use it? Is there enough/appropriate storage to keep it there? --> acquire storage or figure out how to make do for now

    4. Fine, it's not picky about where it lives. Where do I have space? --> find a correctly sized place to stow it, and add an entry in your "Where I Put the X" file

#57 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2015, 02:07 AM:

I'm the homemaker in this family, but I rarely have time to just dig in and clean. The house is saved from utter disaster by some habits I've practiced until they become automatic:

1. When I'm at home between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., I wear an apron with capacious pockets. I have multiple aprons.

2. Whenever I go from one room to another, something goes with me. Trash, a dirty dish, a forgotten book, a dropped mitten, a phone that needs to go on the charger, whatever. Same on the way back.

3. Whenever I leave the house, something goes with me. Trash. Recycling. Mail. Library books. Donation items. Something. It all lives on a table next to the door and I grab something off the pile as I go.

4. I check the answering machine right after I take off my shoes when I come home. With practice, this has become automatic.

5. Every morning, I assign 15 minutes, no more, to going through my e-mail. If it's super important and I didn't get to it in 15 minutes, they'll find another way to contact me.

6. Mail is read next to a trash can as soon as it comes in the door. Otherwise I WILL lose it for a month! Anything that isn't scratch paper is immediately put where it needs to go.

7. I keep trying to maintain a task list, but it just does not seem to stick in my brain that I need to look at the thing. So I use a combination of as many task reminders as will fit on the calendar I use for scheduling, so that they're right there when I check it in the morning, and a stack of pending items next to my elbow. After my 15 minutes of e-mail I do 15 minutes of stack sorting.

8. I can do quite a lot of kitchen cleanup if I do it in 1- to 20-minute bursts while the microwave is running or I'm waiting for something to boil or bake.

9. Oh hai look I spilled some water on the counter or stove. If I wipe it around before I wipe it up, I can clean up that stain over there...

#58 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2015, 06:35 AM:

hope in disguise How do I accept boundary-setting gracefully without letting jerkbrain decide that I'm a terrible person for not reading someone else's mind?

Think about how you'd like people to respond to your boundary-setting. You don't want them to ignore you or be mad at you, but you probably also don't want them to beat themselves up or grovel. You'd probably like a matter-of-fact "Oh, sorry, I won't do it again." Or, discussion if there are two sides of the issue or if you don't understand. But, in any case, mostly you don't think it means they're an awful person. So does it help to apply those standards to yourself?

#59 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2015, 07:25 AM:

For dealing with to-do piles, my big suggestion is index cards with notes. These can be placed in the room (ideally replacing piles of items), or collected in a central stack (desk, purse, refrigerator, etc.) Keeping a stack also makes it easier to "pick a task, any task", by drawing a card.

If you have a pile of items which could be stored out-of-sight except that they have tasks attached, then write their tasks on an index card, put the items away, and let the index card stand for them -- either in the items' visible place, or in your stack.

#60 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2015, 08:29 AM:

Sympathies to everyone else lacking the spoons to get their places tidied and sorted.

One of the problems with the fact that my new job involves going into an office every day, rather than working from home, is that I've lost the use of those short times while the kettle boils*, etc. (otherwise not useful for much), to do bits of tidying. Add to that the fact that for the first couple of months the sudden increase in cycling (from c. 10 miles a week to c. 70 miles a week) and the long hours (50-hour weeks to hit deadline, at first) and stuff has got away from me big time. Now, when I'm home (late evenings, weekends) I either do some tidying and resent that I'm not getting time to relax, or read and relax and then continue being frustrated because there's still all the tidying to be done.

I'm really resenting this situation and don't see how to solve it.

We do the "put it at the bottom of the stairs to go up, then carry it when you're going up anyway" and vice versa, etc., but we've not managed to complete the "a place for everything" part, which makes it hard to progress to "and everything in its place".

*If I go back to my desk to work while it boils, I just forget to use the water.

#61 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2015, 09:12 AM:

dcb @60 Now, when I'm home (late evenings, weekends) I either do some tidying and resent that I'm not getting time to relax, or read and relax and then continue being frustrated because there's still all the tidying to be done.

This seems tailor-made for the strategy Bodisvaha suggested @56- Timed chunks, e.g. 15-20 min. Work alternating with break/reward

Set a timer, tidy for 15 minutes, then sit down to read/relax guilt-free. Repeat later for another round if you wish.

I don't use this as consistently as I would like to, but when I do, it really works for me. It's getting out of my chair to get started that's the sticking point.

Flylady (whose dogmatic approach drives many people nuts, but who still has some good strategies) suggests 15 minutes work to 45 minutes "free time" for normal usage. If you're in panic mode (guests coming tomorrow), do a rotation of 15 minutes in room/area 1, 15 minutes in room 2, 15 minutes in room 3, 15 minutes off, then repeat. Moving from area to area gives you a change of pace and lets you take care of the now-most-obvious things in each area on each pass. But don't skip the time off; it's a recipe for burnout.

#62 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2015, 09:12 AM:

I want to name another messcritter (to go with Oscar). This one shows up when you're deep underwater on spoons and everything is so messy it's triggering your Peril-Tinted Sunglasses and the Chore-O-Vision is on the fritz.

Meet Terry! Terry is a fairly bulky and obvious thing that is trash (or recycling, or possibly give-away-to-thrift-store: zir Forever Home is somewhere outside your house and no longer your problem).

If you have a sea of AAAAAAGH in your living room (also not a hypothetical, sigh), see if you can squint out your nearly-ebon glasses and spot an Terrys. Something that really, truly doesn't belong there.

A discarded piece of mail/magazine/newspaper. A fluffy patch of pet hair. A wrapper or piece of packaging, taunting you by just SITTING THERE in the middle of everything making your mess so much more upsetting to try to deal with. For bonus points, haul a small trash can over with you so you can just pop Terrys into it as you traverse the room.

Some days my anxiety is bad enough that I have to basically let my Peril-Tinted Sunglasses block EVERYTHING but Terrys and an occasional Oscar that isn't too upsetting in itself (a shoe, a dish). And if all you manage to do in a given 5-minute stretch is remove the obvious Terrys and send two Oscars to their moving-onward bins, that's still a win.

I find that if I do a Terry pass and then go sit down somewhere with food and hyperventilation and a 5min cute YouTube video that the Peril-Tinting will have receded slightly, allowing further categories to be discerned.

Then, instead of a second Oscar pass (unless there's one just siiiiiiitting there begging at me), what I do is see if I can define three categories of mess that exist in the morass. In my living room right now, those categories might be called "stray toys", "dirty laundry on the floor" and "loose books". There is more mess than that, but those are the three most-visible categories to me, the ones that are least triggering. So I can either get three bins and drag them with me (I sit on a kid-chair while pulling things off the floor, because back problems; I skid the chair around from area to area as I clear what my arm can reach, and pull my bins with me), or if I really really need to self-defend my spoons, one bin at a time.

These bins will not yet be Oscar Bins when I'm done with them, because they will contain mixed individuals of their category. But if I have to stack the bins in the corner for a week and a half before I can handle sorting them out, that's still better than all over the floor covered in dog hair and acting as caltrops.

Usually after the first three-categories pass I can see some more Oscars that have well-defined homes. If not, once I can't define any more categories to pull, and it's just entirely made of AAAAAAAAAH, I get a broom. I sweep everything remaining on the living room floor into the archway to the dining room, moving the couches to sweep beneath them, etc. Ideally there will be FLOORBOARDS, furniture, and bins in there when I'm done.

And a huge pile of upsetting mess in the archway, but at least if it's all in one place I can do concentrated Terry-picking again. If all I can handle is to take out the obvious Terrys, then all other swept-up objects go into a bin stacked with the others for later sorting. Voila! Clean living room floor! Be sure to segregate out the dust and detritus when going from "swept pile" to "bin of leftovers", especially if you're dust-allergic like I am. Having a slightly-damp rag handy for all these processes to wipe down what you're binning is useful.

Well, some assembly required, given the bins, but sometimes I can outsource handling-one-bin to other members of the household, especially if the category is mostly "theirs" to start with. I can also keep an eye on my spoon supply and think, "Wait, I can deal with a bin this morning before I (whatever)."

The bins also make good Oscar hunting-grounds, because their contents are more defined and less completely random and upsetting.

I've discovered over the years that Totally Random Muddles of Crap are really hard for me to resolve when my spoon supply is low. This makes putting away laundry challenging if I haven't had time to sort it clearly before it goes into the machines.

#63 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2015, 10:56 AM:

"Oscars" and "Terrys"... this is awesome, and helpful. Thank you so much!

#64 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2015, 11:02 AM:

Bodhisvaha @56: 2. Put aside in "To Do" container

Now it's "To Do" containers, all the way down. :-)

I'll bet you would enjoy (and have maybe read) Getting Things Done by Edwin Bliss, and Speed Cleaning by Jeff Campbell.

The essential piece to your strategy is to keep up with it, which is the part where I trip up, if I'm the least bit despooned. Working on that. The other place I get into trouble is ongoing projects, because they're kind of clutter by definition. It's a two-edged sword, though: keeping it out and visible means it's handy to keep working on...until a new, more interesting project attracts my attention. I need a strategy for keeping old, "pending" projects tidied. Which means having places for them, and having a signal that it's time to put them there. Hm. ::thinks about this::

David Harmon @59: let the index card stand for them

I would instantly run into trouble with this because (a) it adds an extra step between the item to be done and the doing of it, and (b) the stack of index cards would give me Yet Another Thing to learn to not see.

dcb @: I'm really resenting this situation and don't see how to solve it.

Guh. I remember a period when I worked full time (I've usually managed 3/4-ish time), and it drove me nuts, because I had no time for anything else.

but we've not managed to complete the "a place for everything" part

Maybe designate a "place" for "things that have no place," and at least consolidate that category?

One thing I've found myself doing which is helpful is mentally reviewing heaps during those otherwise useless idle moments, and spotting in my minds eye, things that can be dealth with and/or figuring out what to do with them. Then, it becomes a simpler matter to just transport that item to that destination the next time I'm going that way.

If I go back to my desk to work while it boils, I just forget to use the water.

Egg timer?

Bricklayer @62: There is something about your descriptions that makes me just itch to go tidy. This is a useful thing. :-)

I've discovered over the years that Totally Random Muddles of Crap are really hard for me to resolve when my spoon supply is low.

For me, that's because they invoke the Decisions spoon-suck. My hack for that is to make sorting the Muddle a creditable Step, which, when done, is grounds for rest, a snack, and a Feeling Of Accomplishment.

#65 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2015, 06:10 PM:

Jacque @64: Re. kettle, an egg timer wouldn't assist. I hear the kettle click off* when it boils, it's just that by the time that happens, I'm in the middle of something and I'll just finish this and then go to the kitchen and make that mug of tea... And then its 15 or 20 minutes or more later and I have to boil the kettle again. And while it's heating, I'll just wander back to the computer... (lather, rinse, repeat).

Re. tidying in 15-minute chunks, I suppose I have to try to stick to it for a week or two and see if it gets me anywhere. Because this evening the 15 minutes turned into 30, despite which, although I know intellectually that I threw some stuff away and put some stuff where it should go, it still doesn't look like I did anything, so I don't get any sense of satisfaction.

(And I don't mind working full time, but working from home had a number of advantages and so far I'm not really seeing any plus side to going into the office each day, and I'm being hit by lots of disadvantages.)

*I'm in the UK, so an electric kettle, of course, which turns itself off when it boils.

#66 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2015, 11:35 PM:

I am a good teacher *despite* my mom. I would never have gone into teaching *anything* without being required to by my university, because from her example I thought teaching was a nightmare career for the self-care impaired.

I am a good wife *despite* my mom. I treat my husband with a HELL of a lot more respect than she treats my dad (or anyone else). As with the teaching, to become so I had to unlearn a great many lessons that she explicitly taught me.

I am a good human being *despite* my mom. I respect people. I hear what they're saying and listen and respond to *them*, not some image of them. I understand that my view of the universe is not always correct.

I am a good gardener *despite* my mom. I loathed gardening with a deep and abiding passion until I moved out and had a chance to play in real dirt and not be told what I should think about gardening.

I am a good learner of new skills. I was afraid to try new things until I moved out and had a chance to explore in her absence, and in the absence of constant correction and Ur Doin It Rong, alternating with sincere-but-false-sounding praise, of the sort that well-meaning elderly ladies heap upon small children.

And it makes me so very, very angry when Mom tries to take credit for all of the above.

#67 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2015, 12:25 AM:

Chickadee @66, witnessing. (Is it terribly wrong of me to suddenly want to call you LBJ, because of the birding thread...? We have lots of chickadees in our yard around the bird feeder... <grin> )

#68 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2015, 01:11 AM:

Cassy B. @67: *giggle* Not bad at all. *g*

We, too, have many LBJs. Also many larger birds. About 9 species in total at the feeder, at last count (thought some seasonal, like the juncos) And they bring me joy. :)

#69 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2015, 03:35 AM:

#54, Torrilin: I never said it was a crappy point and shoot, I said it was limited. Within its limits it performs very well and is quite a good little camera. Not all of its limits are things which enforce better photography, though some of them are if you assume typical photography patterns of somebody with zero experience. For example, it has a fixed aperture, and the chosen aperture is one which gives it a huge depth of field (= more stuff is in focus, for the non-photographers among us). Shutter speed and effective ISO is then controlled by the light meter. So within the limits of taking general pictures of people in scenery with uniform light levels (sunshine on everything) it's great, because inexperienced people aren't going to have blurry photos of their friends; outside its limits, it's not so great. Some of those limits I've learned to work around or with to get the photos I want. Getting the exposure right in a high-contrast scene always takes a few tries, for example, because I can't adjust the controls directly: I have to pre-focus on something with the right proportions of light levels in the metering-and-focus spot then get the composition that I want, and the picture shown on the screen when it's prefocused doesn't always match the picture it takes in terms of exposure.

Also, yay snakes! That one and its buddies were sunning themselves after a stretch of cool wet days, right beside the road.

Oh the cleaning discussion. I did most of my decluttering a few years ago, which is a very good thing because right now I'm barely staying on top of the mess made by one person living alone, cooking meals and not doing a whole lot outside of work. (Which, I am working now, just not in my field; I'm also getting overtime which is helping pay the bills but is hindering the whole business of staying on top of both adulting and self-care.)

I don't have a lot to contribute to the discussion of boundaries right now. I'm still kind of in the vague formless flailing of knowing they're good things to have but whaaaa? Going over the book Jerk Radar again for that starter list of reasonable boundaries I mentioned earlier keeps getting put off because of not having enough mental capacity to handle it.


#70 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2015, 12:00 PM:

The Toastmasters group I joined had executive elections yesterday. I have ended up as secretary, on my second "real" meeting as a full member. Eek, responsibility!

Bricklayer @46: I have to say how wonderful it is that you are actually teaching your kids not just TO tidy, but HOW to tidy, with analysis and optimization. This is going to serve them well, and probably not just in their living space. Thinking ahead more than a few years, at some point later, this should be built upon to make them vastly more employable or able to run a business. The tidying skills that apply to the living room apply to non-physical messes, such as organizing information. The optimizing skills that helped you and them set up household routines apply to innumerable business processes. If they get the hang of organizing and optimizing, but especially how to apply it to ANYTHING, they will have some serious organization-fu skills that are very transferrable and very desirable. May I also suggest some portfolio projects that demonstrate them, to show to employers, when the time comes?

This complex of skills (organize, optimize, problem-solve, design/engineer) is effectively my family's family business. None of us work together, but we all earn livings applying those same skills to different fields.

Jacque @64: Unfortunately, at some point you must either suck it up and Do The Things, or decide you will not do some of the things and let go of their objects. May I suggest triage followed by small chunks, rewards, and a Done list? All that applies to me too: my next round of evil landlord retribution, banking (ugh), and my entire paper-filing system in general (double ugh), so you are not alone.

Ongoing projects...perhaps the key is to set number and space limits for ongoing projects. As in, all the project stuff lives in this bookshelf with N shelves and on that table. That means I have a maximum of N or N+1 projects. (My brain is saying this has something to do with a kanban system, but I'm not sure what.)

dcb @65: I likewise forget to go back for the kettle at work. I decided that I wasted less time by simply getting breakfast / washing dishes / reading a book / internetting while waiting *in the kitchen* for the kettle to boil, and have done it that way since.

Chickadee @66: go you! :)

#71 ::: daughter of a great romance ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2015, 12:32 PM:

The wedding approaches too rapidly.

My loving parents and loving fiancee want entirely different things.

I can't make choices that don't upset some or all of the people around me.

I have to be the person translating, and discussing, and arguing, and keeping one side from offending the other side (which is ... just not possible), and protecting. Because I am protecting both sides, both sides are using me as the intermediary, so everyone ends up screaming at me instead of at each other.

I feel like I'm losing my self somewhere in the middle of all this.

#72 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2015, 12:50 PM:

daughter of a great romance @71:

Alas, weddings are often like that. More often than not.

I can remember some spectacular screaming battles with my mother before mine. She threw the half-completed dress at me once, pins and all. Pretty much every couple I know who didn't just elope seriously considered it at least once.

But...I've been married nearly 22 years now, and I have a pretty good relationship with everyone I had all those battles with. We were all scared, because change is terrifying, and because hope is even more so.

I'm hoping it will be like that for you. Feel free to vent here if it helps.

#73 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2015, 06:19 PM:

daughter of a great romance @71. Sympathies. My wedding turned into my mother's social occasion on the event of my marriage. We seriously considered eloping, but decided our real friends (including some family members) would be upset. I also nearly didn't talk to my mother again. She apparently thinks she gave me a lovely wedding, just what I really wanted (even if I'd stated repeatedly that x, y, and z were NOT what I wanted, obviously they must have been. Argh!).

Remember: you and your now-fiancee will share your wedding day with your family (and friends) - really that's what it's for; it's a public announcement of what's already a (private) commitment. But then the two of you get to be (longer term) married: and that's between the two of you. (Hope that came over properly).

#74 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2015, 06:23 PM:

Chickadee @66: Well done you, and sympathies re. your mother trying to take the credit for YOUR achievements.

Bodhisvaha @70: Exactly, but now I don't get to use those kettle-boiling times for anything: I've lost all those micro-times for tidying etc.

#75 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2015, 09:34 PM:

dcb @74: I get it. I happen to do the same pattern, but at work -- our office has real dishes but no dishwasher. Nobody has objected to the micro-breaks, since they're not excessive.

#76 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2015, 04:44 PM:

Bodhisvaha @75: Ah, the office kitchen. For me that's another daily annoyance. Everyone is supposed to: wash up the mugs/crockery/cutlery they use, or place it in the dishwasher; clean the surface if they spill/drop anything on it; separate out simple recyclables: paper, plastic containers (rinsed and with the film, if any, removed), cartons (rinsed), tins (rinsed). The recycling bins are clearly labelled. There are notices about what's to go where, and reminder emails about cleaning up after yourself. It's not rocket science. And the people I work with on a daily basis mostly fail to follow any of these. They leave their mess on the counter. They chuck banana skins, plastic bags and dirty food containers into the recycling bins, and put 4-litre plastic milk containers in the rubbish. They leave dirty mugs around at the end of the day for maintenance staff to sort out.

So, I get to know that the people I work with mostly fail to share my values of consideration for others and for the environment. And I have my face rubbed into this multiple times daily.

Another way in which working in an office eats my spoons wholesale.

#77 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2015, 07:24 PM:

dcb @65:

"I know intellectually that I threw some stuff away and put some stuff where it should go, it still doesn't look like I did anything, so I don't get any sense of satisfaction."

I have identified the Top Things that make rooms look dirty to me (unmade bed, clothes on floor, crap on counters, dishes scattered about), and if I do not have time or energy for anything else I will at least do those things. I've discovered that I care less about things being put away properly or being actually clean (dishes/clothes) and much, much more about having clear flat surfaces.

#78 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2015, 01:01 AM:

Why must self-care turn into a "should"? Argh.

I mean, maybe part of it is that I'm still working out what things I can do that are most beneficial, and part of it is that I'm still learning to give myself permission to put any kind of priority on it, but I found myself dragging my feet when it came to doing what was supposed to be a relaxing and pleasant thing today, because I felt like it was a thing I should do and I was failing at self-care.

(Then I was unable to even do the thing once I got moving because technical issues, then I went to the library instead and serendipitously had my mood improved by discovering a flower bush full of fuzzy busy bees along the way, which I spent a bunch of time trying to take pictures of. So it sort of worked out in the end.)

#79 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2015, 02:23 PM:

daughter of a great romance: Honestly, every wedding has a point where someone should seriously threaten to elope, just to get the nitpickers off one's back.

It seems as though that point has been reached. Being the intermediary is NOT your role; your role should be "I'm getting married, yay!" Sounds like you've got some strong opinions coming at you from too many directions.

P.S. If you can't make choices that don't upset some people, understand and accept that. With any luck, you can explain to the people that you're in between a rock and a hard place, and you have to make the choice that will save your sanity.

#80 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2015, 11:32 PM:

I fantasize about the following: designate someone (who's preferably large, diplomatic, glacially patient, and implacable) as The Couple's Hand.* When disputes between sides come up, the couple's response in all cases is, "Talk to the Hand."

The Hand (being well versed in the the couple's preferences) then negotiates a compromise, makes an executive decision, strategically threatens elopement, or brings it to the couple for adjudication, "Which do you prefer, A or B?" without reference to the disputants. It is then the Hand's task to sell/enforce the couple's preference.

Say, I could see this as being an actual profession, like a subcontractor to the wedding planner. Hm....

* Heh. The GoT pin even works.

#81 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2015, 02:08 PM:

So over in Hugo IV #680, Abi just did a nice snarky filk off Frost's Mending Wall.

That got me to look up and reread the original... and oddly, I found myself sympathizing with the neighbor, who seems happy enough to have a wall between him and that weird poet who's his neighbor. Since this is certainly a boundaries issue, I'm bringing the thought over here:

Some folks, even if they're not hostile, are just a lot of effort to be around. With such folks, it's important to keep up your boundaries... and equally if you are "such folks", it's important to respect other's boundaries, and give other people their space.

This message brought you you by the Frost Center for Shallow Epiphanies. :-)

#82 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2015, 03:15 PM:

David Harmon @81:

Amusingly enough, there was this tweet today as well, because of unrelated reasons:

studentactivism: Frost keeps wondering what his neighbor is trying to keep out with the fence. Bob, it's YOU. The fence is to keep YOU out. @Lollardfish

I love the poem, but "spring is the mischief in me" is basically early twentieth century New England dialect for "trololol". His neighbor is completely in his rights to have a wall between their properties.

One problem I'm having right now is that I don't know how to articulate the line between making friends and crossing boundaries. It seems to me sometimes that the way we make friends is to cross other people's boundaries and see if they say "stop". I've been struggling with this on both sides of late: as someone finding herself unable to deal with having her boundaries tested in that way, and as someone who can't figure out how to say, "Can we be friends?" without poking the other person's boundaries. Which I am loath to do.

These are different people, for the record. And all conversations have been respectful, all clear requests have been gracefully honored, and everyone is behaving enormously functionally and kindly. But still. Is this just me? Is there some skillset I'm missing?

#83 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2015, 04:26 PM:

abi #82: One problem I'm having right now is that I don't know how to articulate the line between making friends and crossing boundaries. It seems to me sometimes that the way we make friends is to cross other people's boundaries and see if they say "stop".

This is something I've been struggling with for a long time. The thing is, AFAICT, that summary is almost right, but for "normal" people, that test-and-check is operating well below the conversational level, in a realm of social signals which I have great difficulty interpreting. Where "great difficulty" generally means "not in realtime". Not to mention trying to send appropriate signals from the "receiving end" of that. I don't have a solution for this.... :-(

#84 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2015, 06:09 PM:

the invisible one @48: "part of it is that I'm still learning to give myself permission to put any kind of priority on it." Oh. That struck a chord. What I keep telling myself (with variable success, admittedly) is that if I don't do the self care, then I can't do any of the other things properly...

Merricat @77: Thanks something to think about. Part of the problem is that the Oscars, in the form of paperwork, journals and magazines, keep arriving faster than I can allocate the time to sort them out and put them away. I got lots of things done over the long weekend (it was a Bank Holiday today in the UK); the lawns look vaguely like lawns, the patio is less cluttered, a number of tomato plants have been re-potted; we've taken stuff to the tip etc. (so there's less stuff in the hall, for example) - but the pile of printed matter on the dining room table and the "to be sorted" box next to it hasn't been touched yet. Maybe on Thursday evening or next weekend I can have another* go at that...

*It's not like I haven't tackled it, or tried to, previously.

#85 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2015, 09:00 PM:

Bodhisvaha @70: Unfortunately, at some point you must either suck it up and Do The Things, or decide you will not do some of the things and let go of their objects.

Heh. Unfortunately, this phraseology turns out to be a nearly note-perfect imitation of my Ghoddamned Tapes and as a consequence is, um, counterproductive. :-)

abi @82: I don't know how to articulate the line between making friends and crossing boundaries.

Does it help any to consider that boundary crossing can be consensual? E.g., gates.

Also, boundaries are complex, concentric, fractal things. I visualize it as follows: coworkers I enjoy get to cross boundaries that J. Random Coworker is required to respect. Friends get to cross boundaries not allowed to coworkers. Close friends are allowed even farther in. Lovers, &c.

So (for me) the act of declaring someone "friend" is to say, "You are invited/allowed to [cross this class of my boundaries]." I then keep watch on what boundaries they wish to maintain, or allow me to cross.

The obverse is true, too. I've got one coworker who will never (as currently configured) be more than "congenial coworker" because she shows just a leeetle too much interest and investment in how I run my brain. She crosses boundaries she hasn't been given clearance for, and then gets defensive when I don't soften up and reciprocate. This is a Red Flag.

dcb @84: if I don't do the self care, then I can't do any of the other things properly...

Guh. Sing it, sibling! Last couple of weeks especially, I wound up chronically short on sleep due to work-stress induced compulsion to paint and inability to stop in a timely manner. Consequence: I've slept through two-three days of my long weekend, and still don't feel especially alert/spry. The useful/necessary things that didn't get done as a consequence, let me ennumerate them for you....

The place where I really get tangled up is when "fun" self-care conflicts with "necessary-but-tedious" self-care.

& 84: paperwork, journals and magazines

My solution for that* is to have Oscar homes for stuff like that that also serve as "in-boxes." Incoming stuff just goes straight from the mailbox to the Oscar home. The box under my hall tree gets magazines, which is where they live until they get read.** The box in my desk gets bills and invoices.*** It helps a lot that only a few items require action, so for the most part, they can just be filed unopened. I only do a more refined sort if I have to dig something out for reference.

Then, at the end of the year, the "inbox" just gets filed wholesale into storage, at the back of that stream. (Or recycled, as the case may be.)

* Which may or may not be helpful to you, as I'll wager you're dealing with a much higher volume than I am.

** Hm. It just occurred to me that I could cut out a step by putting the magazines in their final resting place, but with some sort of bookmark to indicate how far I've read....

*** I finally figured out that these things, by difinition, arrive in chronological order, so if I just put the newest item at the near side of the box, voilà: chron sorting achieved.

#86 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2015, 09:00 PM:

Would Internal Server Error like a cookie?

#87 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2015, 09:32 PM:

Jacque @85:
My solution for that* is to have Oscar homes for stuff like that that also serve as "in-boxes."

This is how I finally solved the OMG KID SCHOOLWORK problem. When we do the mandatory school shopping run at the beginning of the year, I also buy a shiny expand-a-folder that I stick in the mud-room. Incoming Kid Foo - papers, homework, whatever -- goes into the folder (after a required skim for time-sensitive materials) and then at the end of the year the folder either goes into storage or, if I have the spoons, gets a culling and then goes into storage. At some point, I will make the kid sort through them, keep anything she wants to keep, and will trash the rest. Until then, it keeps the "I am a bad parent if I don't keep at least some mementos of my child's school years" tapes (do other people have these? I finally managed to stomp the one that said "But you should have a scrap-book! With stuff and pictures and things" into the dirt) at bay with minimal effort.

#88 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2015, 11:09 PM:

Jacque @85: That too is unfortunate. ;) A frustrating thing about the Goddamned Tapes is that once in a while a piece of them will be right. Stopped clocks and all that. Makes them harder to ignore through all the wrong o'clocks, doesn't it?

#89 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 01:20 AM:

Bodhisvaha: Boy, howdy. I think I've related elsewhere that one of the things that messed me up worst until I untangled it was my mother's ambition that I "be independent," against which I, of course, rebelled. Except that, I finally worked out, it was also my ambition to "be independent." Boy, talk about stripping your gears....

#90 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 02:42 AM:

Jacque @85:

Yes, but how does one get to the position of knowing that boundary-crossing is OK? That the gates are open? And how does one signal that to another person without it being terrible and awkward for all concerned?

#91 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 03:12 AM:

abi @90: It's difficult. I still cringe when I remember an occasion when I thought someone had crossed a boundary into closer-friend and I teased them gently in a way that my closer friends and I had always done with each other... and she got really huffy and offended, and I didn't know how to respond. But then I'm the one who, age about 14, had to set out to develop some friends at school pretty much by the "how to tame wild animals" method.

Jacque @85: Time for self-care. That. For the first months of this year (after starting my new job) I had time to either do things I needed to do to recharge, such as running and reading books and reading/commenting here, OR to get enough sleep. Not both.

Re. the papers/printed matter, they actually have places to go, most of them, it's just that they've got so far behind that there are piles and piles to be sorted and put into those places (and new places made for new categories) before I can get back to sorting as things come in. There are too many of them to have all of them have super-convenient storage places. When I'm on top of them I do have close-to-hand category-sorting magazine files and then I can sort from those into final categories. But at the moment those are full to overflowing/

#92 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 07:34 AM:

abi @90 I don't have an answer for how one negotiates the transition into closer friendship either. I've been noticing that some of the younger staff around the office having passing conversations that indicate that they are friends as well as colleagues. Which is all perfectly fine. Except I would like to be more friendly with them, but am struggling with the tension between "friends know things about each other's lives" and "asking about a colleague's personal life is nosy and intrusive."

I didn't have this problem when I was younger, so in my case it may be that I have become more inward-focused and that's made it harder.

#93 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 07:41 AM:

Part of it is that normal people manage more levels of friendship, and there are distinctions among those. I'm great with strong long-term relationships, the trouble I have is forming and maintaining the lighter friendships that seem to be normal society's stock in trade.

#94 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 07:43 AM:

On Boundaries and Friendships, actual and hypothetical

Given my own background (depression with both probable physical causes and definitely social ones, coupled with an unacknowledged ADHD problem), the boundaries theme has been the work of my adulthood. Thanks to the parents' rather porous notions of boundaries ("you're making me look bad!"), getting what I needed was always fraught - the least I would hear is, "Oh, you only just want X, you don't really need it." Worse would be, "You're too needy, go away!"(1)

So, weirdly, my adult self-work had to first relearn how to act up/out, as a way of reclaiming my own territory. Daring to admit I wanted something, dreamed about something, daring despite it making me feel like a target. I got reminders, very helpful ones, that it wasn't my responsibility if someone else was taking aim at those stated vulnerabilities. (Current go-to image: "You're right. They're jerks.")

Of course, there were legitimate claims, as well as the illegitimate legacy ones, that I wasn't respecting boundaries. But, again, that is part of the work, navigating those shoals. Hopefully, I'm learning ever better how to distinguish between genuinely motivated requests and those wishing for me to cater someone else's passive dependent attitudes.

It's a tough line, sometimes. Occasionally I even need a brick wall put in front of me - ouch! Other times, I'm the one building the brick wall, because some people don't have the good sense to ask politely - they just try to repay any perceived boundary violation with interest. ("If you were really fair, you'd do X. Because you already made me suffer Y.") And every place I've ever lived (a small selection of Western European countries, as well as the US) pitches the general defaults slightly differently. Still, I've found the notion of my being allowed my own boundaries, and also allowing the other their own personally experienced boundary, to be a good standard.

All in all, I have no real wisdom in how to make friends. I try to let it be known I'm available, if someone appeals to my spidey-sense, and back-off if I'm given a clear request to do so.

Tending my own garden (metaphorically) seems to contribute positively to how others perceive my friendship potential, although that can be sensitive to circumstances. (Like people sometimes will be more ready to put one on a pedestal for being crafty, interested in language, etc., rather than taking a risk and seeing if learning with might be fun. Or, sometimes only a simple mismatch of time/opportunity/specialized interests not really sparking anything.) Perceived neediness does raise red flags, and having my own "garden" of delights seems to give green flags to others, as well as helping me self-care. Particularly at moments when some risk-taking/boundary testing in search of a friendship hasn't gone as well as I'd hoped.

Crazy(and maundering, perhaps too interiorly? Hoping it's a contribution, anyway)Soph

(1) Or even worse, but not in the main body because my point was already made - "How dare you let your needs get in the way of mine?!"

#95 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 11:02 AM:

abi @90: Yes, but how does one get to the position of knowing that boundary-crossing is OK?

Heh. I'm probably not an authority on which you want to rely heavily, but basic tit-for-tat seems to be a reasonable starting point. It's handy in that it also scales. Apologies if the following is excessively words-of-one-syllable.

In the break room, if I say a cheery hello, and get one back, this will encourage me to ask how the other person is doing. If they say, "Fine," but don't elaborate, I file them as "casual acquaintance, approach with caution." Then I wait to see if they offer any more at any point.

If, however, they respond with "Fine, you?" Then I eye them, and try a short funny annecdote, and see how they respond. If they respond in kind, great. If they respond with polite disinterest, I back off.

There are a number of levels to making overtures, from saying hi in the lunchroom to asking people out to coffee or a movie to all-night conversations.

Do you have a specific example you'd be comfortable using as a test case?

#96 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 11:17 AM:

Something interesting happened at the feedback session for WisCon.

This year, the con provided on a table near Registration, adjacent to the boxes of "use these to clip your badge to your person" doohickeys, an assortment of pre-printed pronoun stickers (so people conversing with you can know what pronoun to use without asking) and red/yellow/green/neutral "This is the kind of social interaction boundaries I would like you to respect" cards to stick into one's badgeholder, again for casual knowledge on the part of everyone looking at your badge.

The people who desperately wanted them, because they are commonly misgendered or know in detail how it feels to want to control how others approach you, glommed onto them and used them enthusiastically.

The people adjacent to Group 1 -- we can call them allies, or possibly just aware -- also took and used both tools, in solidarity so that it wasn't just "those people" using them. If only the most-needing-it people use a visible piece of infrastructure, then use of it could come off as stigmatizing, yes?

The interesting thing was the feedback from people whose first encounter with the concepts "Someone might want me to check my assumption about what pronoun I should use when speaking to them" or "Different people have different preferences about how they should be approached socially" was seeing the infrastructure sitting on the table waiting for use.

There was bafflement and some anxiety, based at least in some cases on suddenly realizing they'd been acting inappropriately (or, at minimum, in ways other people felt unwelcome) for quite some time through ignorance.

Thankfully, due at least in part to the ground-rule assumptions of the feedback session and how the moderator was shaping discussion, nobody did the classic privileged-person-talking-to-disprivileged-people thing and jumped reflexively to "The presence of this thing made me feel uncomfortable and therefore it should not exist." I think as knowledge of how to use visual cues like this for social situations rises, WisCon will become a place that people who often have to armor up for big social occasions can feel more comfortable, and can save their spoons for things BESIDES pounding into armor.

This digression brought to you by realizing that what Jacque said in @90 basically echos what was said in the feedback session when someone said, baffledly and a little worried, "I didn't know what to do if someone didn't HAVE a card in their badge."

The answer is, of course, "Whatever you'd do in the mundane world every time," but the fact that some people WERE opting in to visible ground-rules for being approached suddenly weirded the societal default case in ways I found fascinating.

(Pronoun stickers included grammatical inflections for each option and I saw he, she, singular they, plural they, it, zie, ey, an explicitly printed "no preferred pronoun". Plus the people who didn't use one, of course)

#97 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 11:34 AM:

#84, dcb: What I keep telling myself (with variable success, admittedly) is that if I don't do the self care, then I can't do any of the other things properly...

Yeah, and that's what led directly into me feeling like the self-care is a "should" and I was failing at it.

I've closed the browser that contains fb for now because when I'm feeling crappy then it sucks time and enjoyment out of my life and I can't stop reading it if it's open. That has the side-effect of isolating me from what friends and acquaintances I do have because it seems that most communication goes through that site, but when I'm feeling crappy I'm probably not very good company anyway, even on a site where my public persona is virtually always cheerful. (I don't post often, so it's easy to maintain that appearance.)

Regarding friendship as boundary adjustment/crossing/testing - that's an interesting way of looking at it. I'm also one who doesn't really know how to go from "friendly acquaintance who I have pleasant chats with at event or activity in common" to "actual friend that I talk to outside of activity in common". Though in my case it's less about them crossing my boundaries (I'm still trying to figure out where they are) and more about me not believing that the other person could possibly want to be friends with me so I shouldn't impose. (By, you know, inviting them to a thing, or reaching out to say hi outside of the activity I know them from. Such an imposition. Insert eyeroll directed at Jerkbrain here.)

Actually, (sudden realization here) the boundary testing description seems about the same as the "friendship levels" description that was posted on the Captain Awkward forums. To move to deeper friendship levels, first you test the levels (boundaries) and listen for the response, and to do it "right" you only test one level deeper at a time (one small boundary at a time) and only stay at the tested level if the person responds at that new level (accepts the boundary crossing). If they respond at the old level (refuse the boundary crossing) you back up and stay there. If two people are at different friend levels with each other, it's uncomfortable and unbalanced and not sustainable because one person is crossing boundaries they don't have permission for. The discussion also included example responses to "how was your weekend?" for 5 friendship levels. (Friends of Captain Awkward forums are locked behind a login screen, but if you're a member, the thread title is "How do I keep my proto-friends?")

#98 ::: daughter of a great romance ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 11:49 AM:

Hello, community.

Thank you for your support, abi, dcb, B. Durbin, Jacque, and community in general. Jacque, I love the suggestion to talk to the Hand!

Things continue, stressfully, but also occasionally joyously. I appreciate you all very much -- the voice that says all the things I can't say to the people around me has to go somewhere. Strength to all of you.

#99 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 12:39 PM:

the invisible one: Yes, the CA description of "friendship levels" is a better articulation of what I was groping for.

Also: I've consistently observed that my success in connecting with people, especially strangers, is also closely related to my mood and energy levels. See also Randy Pausch on Tigger vs Eeyore. (Which is why I don't do Seattle conventions anymore, because I always get deeply depressed when I go to Seattle.)

#100 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 12:48 PM:

Daughter of a great romance @98, continued good vibes being beamed your way. I'm glad there are some moments of joy amid the stress, and hope the balance shifts more and more that direction.

I offer you the mantra I used during the run-up to my wedding (which involved no extraordinary family challenges at all, just the usual people-with-different-assumptions-doing-stuff-together challenges): "At the end we'll be married and that's what matters."

#101 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 02:52 PM:

Hm, thinking further about "friendship levels" testing vs. boundary testing, I think the testing is not (or maybe should not be, when done respectfully) about crossing the other person's boundary as a test then backing off, but about offering an opening in your own boundary at that level and seeing if they reciprocate, as the test.

The example of "how was your weekend" went through "I did X activity with Y person" as a step up from "fine, how was yours" to offer discussion of something marginally more personal -- but does not press the other person for that level of detail. It offers the willingness to talk on that level of detail, then checks to see if the other person wants to move to that level.

#102 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 04:09 PM:

Jacque @95:

It's hard to describe the situation without getting too detailed. It's also heavily tied up in not one but two complex cultures, neither of which I parse gracefully or at speed. So probably not easy to use examples.

the invisible one @101:

The thing is that for me, leaving an opening in my own boundaries can feel like an imposition on others. Like I'm being vulnerable at them. In the case of weekend activities, it would feel like I was talking about myself too much...

I think crazysoph @94 has the right of it: whatever happens, ya gotta make the place inside your boundaries a good place, a place that builds you up and brings you joy.

#103 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 04:32 PM:

David Harmon @93 (et passim): It bothers me that you seem to consider your behavior as "not normal", and I just wanted you to know that should you later decide that you are indeed normal, I would enthusiastically support that conclusion.

In general, regarding social interactions: one of the things that I mind is the difference between introvert and extrovert. I am a gregarious introvert; I can -- and do -- interact well with large groups of strangers, but a lot of this is learned from trial and error, as well as from watching extroverts at play. In contrast, my Ex was a socially-nervous extrovert. Her anxiety made it difficult in some social situations, so I would have to do the breaking of ice, after which she would follow and make connections, and charm all the people. As an introvert, I don't mind meeting all the people, but what I really want to do is curl up by myself and a good book, or with my family over a nice dinner. Larger groups or strangers are tolerable in short periods of time, but extroverts like my ex need those social interactions, or they get grumpy. (And yes, that was an issue for us, because I would come home from a long day filled with interactions, exhausted, and wanted no conversations, while she --after a day spent talking to hardly anyone, alone in her office, wanted desperately to have a lengthy chat about everything. It was not a good combination in the long run.)

Some people are really good at being bridges between folks of various social abilities. I was lucky to find one of those when I was a resident, and made a lot of friends there. Doing the bridging myself is sometimes very exhausting, so I tend to do it slowly. I start somewhat like Jacque does, with a socially-acceptable greeting or comment in a shared environment, to generate a camaraderie. It's shallow to begin with, but over time, I add layers of interactions and build trust as well as connections. It is a slow process most of the time. There are some situations where I feel a instant like -- as when I met my partner -- or an instant dislike, and I've learned to just let those feelings guide me.

Ultimately, I think, all human interactions are fraught with potential. I've tried to teach myself not to feel bad when a connection goes bad, despite my best attempts. It's a big world, and we're only humans, we are allowed to be mistaken. I've gotten better over the years, which is one reason why I hate for anyone to think they're not "normal". I cannot help being different, being born with hearing loss that affects my ability to be social in noisy environments, and that probably colors my perceptions of others to a greater degree.

#104 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 05:03 PM:

abi @102: I was talking about myself too much...

I find that, with people who are not intimates or established friends, one gets about five words of free attention. In cases where I'm wanting to open the gates to someone, I give a five-word response to the standard "how was your weekend?" question, and then eye them to see if they're satisfied, or are interested in more, and then proceed accordingly. Does that help any?

Also, gently asking interested (but not nosey) questions is generally a good approach, and I find myself using this more and more as I get older.

#105 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 05:30 PM:

Hi, abi.
Sympathies; I've been dealing with issues around this area also this past year.

I wouldn't usually do this, but I'm going to re-post here something I originally posted on Facebook, because I think maybe it gets to the kind of feelings and dilemma you're discussing:

"A lot of the time I feel I basically have no clue what is socially acceptable and what is not. Particularly when I'm enthusiastic or excited about something, I never know if I am crossing some invisible line that I won't learn about until much later. That can make life feel really difficult.

(This isn't prompted by anything too recent - but it got hellaciously amplified by some events last year, where I learned how my behavior came across much much too late to correct or apologize.)"

Is it this, at least approximately? (Where "enthusiastic or excited about something" particularly includes really wanting to make friends with someone you like?)

#106 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 05:47 PM:

Clifton @105:

Yes, that's what I'm afraid of doing.

It goes doubly so across cultures, by the way; I've yet to form an actual friendship with a Dutch person outside of my polycultural work environment. I send the wrong signals, or don't send the right ones, or something.

The fact that I'm also really un-coolly lit up and excited about the subculture I have in common with this particular person doesn't help.

#107 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 06:05 PM:

I'm not good at reading cues from folks in a conversation, unless they start looking away while I'm still talking. Also, I'm not sure what cues I send out to others just by being there.

#108 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 06:12 PM:

daughter, #71: Ouch. That "being stuck in the middle with both sides yelling at you" thing is really hard. From the experience of planning my own wedding, I have a few maxims that may or may not be useful to you:

1) If either side wants something that the other side is not firmly opposed to (or impossible for other reasons, such as financial ones), let them have it. People who have gotten some concessions are generally less likely to turn everything else into a power struggle.

2) Remember that, going forward, you're going to be spending a lot more of your life with your future spouse than you are with your parents!

3) When push comes to shove, it's YOUR wedding, and you have the final say. (Where "you" means you and your fiancee jointly.) I made that point very firmly to my parents early on, and it headed off several potential issues at the pass.

abi, #82: IME, making friends is something you don't generally set out to do, it just happens. You fall into conversation with someone, you find that you have common interests and a similar approach to life, you decide to start hanging out together. Or you meet someone online, get to know each other there, and the relationship transfers to meatspace. I know, this is probably not very helpful for your situation, and I'm sorry.

OtterB, #92: When I had a day job, it was vanishingly rare for any of my co-workers to become out-of-office friends, and on the few occasions when it started to happen it generally didn't end well. My conclusion was that work life and personal life were best kept separate (except that my one Really Good Boss got an invitation to my annual Chocolate Decadence party). OTOH, it was also true that I had an active social life outside the office -- fandom, SCA, contradancing -- which many people these days don't seem to do, hence (I think) the impulse to merge the two.

If you'd like to get to know some of your co-workers better, my suggestion would be to ask an open-ended question such as, "Did you do anything fun over the weekend?" and then see how they respond. Someone who wants to keep their private life private will give a brief and detail-free answer; accept that as a boundary. If they tell you all about the movie they saw and their kids' activities, they're more open to further discussion in those areas. Basically, anything someone volunteers to you in response to a non-specific question is potentially a topic for future more-specific questions such as "Are you planning to see Movie X?" or "So how is your daughter's soccer team doing?"

#109 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2015, 06:17 PM:

Jacque @89: I'm sure I step into that trap sometimes too. The one I remember more, though, is the time that I didn't. I had the option of attending either the local highschool or the gifted program highschool. I considered going to the local highschool to spite my parents and not copy my older sister. Sanity prevailed: I thought about the prospect of spending another 5 years locked in a box with the same people who had tormented me for 8 already, and decided to take the clean slate, even if it *was* under orders. And that was the beginning of making real friends and therefore of getting out.

Inner rebels are just as capable of bad decisions as the rest of our psyches. Sometimes more so. And people who are generally bad decision-makers will get it right some of the time. It takes serious work to mess up *everything*. I know -- I watched someone do it solely to spite his parents. He never regretted spiting his parents, but he did later regret choosing that methodology.

Maybe the question to ask yourself is, "what decision would I make if I didn't have this unwanted baggage in the way?"

abi @90: I'm not all that good at making friends either, but what springs to mind is, "leave the door ajar." Not locked, not shut tight, not hanging wide open. Just ajar. After all, when you see a door that's ajar, if you push it gently and say "hello?", usually the person inside wouldn't mind a bit of company, and they have a chance to say otherwise, before you intrude. It's the same thing as everyone else has been saying, just more visual, that's all.

Normal folks are more skilled at telling if the metaphorical door is ajar, or putting their own doors in the right position to convey the desired message. They practice through teen angst, among other things. I'm still getting the hang of it, myself, and the more the people resemble previous dangerous people, or the more social allergy there is (see below), the harder it is to judge rightly.

Maybe it is time to bluntly ask a kind Dutch person for help in judging and signalling when doors are ajar. It's surprising how well such requests can go over, compared to guessing and getting it wrong repeatedly.

(Suddenly I am reminded of how I noticed that my friends who didn't date in their teens went through the same awkward stages as those who did, only it took longer, the stakes were higher, and they felt worse about it because they were behind. Same thing here, and I'm in the same boat -- we'll just have to keep practicing to get through the dip where we suck at this. Eventually we come out the other side.)

Of course, there are special cases. At work, there's a little clique of mean girls. They're socially allergic to me (geek!), and me to them. We will never ever like each other and we have little common ground. I've stayed at professionally polite and observed them long enough to be confident about this. Trying to make friends would just make me vulnerable and not work. I would be extremely wary if one of them tried to befriend me -- either she would want something, or she would be too good an actor for emotional safety.

#110 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2015, 02:43 AM:

abi @ 106

For what it's worth... my experience with long-term living with the Dutch is that, by and large, they could teach the British a thing or three about social reserve.

In other words, it's not you. (IMHO)

Yeah, sure, the Dutch can be forthright and blunt in conversations, and I'd thought (when first living with Dear Hubby) that would mean better quality contacts/friendships. After all, we were all getting/giving good data on which to build, right?

Well, my own experiences let me know I wasn't correct.

My sf contacts then were the most reliable for getting the kind of social buzz I had remembered from my US days. Neighbors, on the other hand... well, let's just say them and my current Belgian neighbors make a fine example of some of the stereotypes of both.(1) Another data-point: a local friend from the dojo, who's also trained with Dutch clubs, says she had a similar problem with contact when living in NL; in contrast, the camaraderie I've found in Belgian dojos overall is very enjoyable. After every training and many events you can be sure a substantial rump will have remained to enjoy a drink at the bar. (Which many local sports centers come equipped with - and if they don't, at least one in my experience uses an honor system for their modest supply of drinkables, not just soft drinks but also the justly famous Belgian beers.)

Hmm, where was I again? Ah, yes - it's not you, this I believe. I was sorely vexed by the "wavelength" problem of communicating friendship needs, in the Netherlands. How much of that was not down to me was made clear when we moved to Ireland. It wasn't just the language (although that helped). Ireland comes with its own special set of problems for friendships, boundaries and crossing same. My interactions were frequently warm and empathetic, but sometimes my contacts relied on "I know you're upset, but what did you expect?" more than was good for me. I found it a lot harder to cry foul, sometimes, because my contact might have been so nice just 5 minutes previously.

Another possible data point: in the 10+ years since we've been regular inhabitants of those places, we continue to have groups of friends in Ireland, and only a couple of deep-contacts (all from the sf community there) in the Netherlands. It's not a criticism, more an observation on style.

Thinking about this, I fear I've put 3 countries on a kind of single axis continuum labeled "reserve", but I actually need a graph, only I don't know what to label that 2nd axis. My Belgian experiences illuminated another kind of reserve, one that started to melt away as people we knew started to realize that we weren't just blow-ins for a year or two. But their "gezelligheid" ("companion-ability"?) wavelength is different again from the Irish, although viewing the respective political scenes shows some surprising similarities. (Reference things like "an Irish solution for an Irish problem" for an impressionistic way of understanding that.)

I'm going to cut off this grand opus (*cough* wall-o-text *cough*) before I try to also start factoring in the aspects relating to aging - both changes to internal chemistry/role of acquired knowledge and to external factors like others' choices of friends/not based on age differences. Because, like others, believe it or not I also get nervous that I've talked too much about myself, too many personal anecdotes in trying to illustrate principles...

Crazy(but, apparently not so nervous that I delete this whole thing)Soph

(1) Cute story: next door neighbor wanted to drop off her absentee ballot for an election; she nearly passed away peacefully (2) when we had to inform her we weren't allowed, because neither of us were actually citizens. She was so sure that we were, you see...

(2) Uhm, yeah - an Irish expression, I've left it in as a "darling".

#111 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2015, 03:09 AM:

Bodhisvaha @ 109: Normal folks are more skilled at telling if the metaphorical door is ajar...

I don't know that that's actually so. I think this may be one of those things where most people assume everybody else has no problems with it, but in fact most people do (including "normal" people, whatever that is.)

There are certainly some people who breeze through these sorts of challenging interactions and situations, but I think it's a small percent of the population who have a special knack for it. With some of them, it also may be that they don't care as much what other people think, and so don't feel like it's a big deal if they inadvertently push too far, and rely on being able to charm their way out of it again. I don't know.

#112 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2015, 08:09 AM:

Clifton #111: I don't know that that's actually so. I think this may be one of those things where most people assume everybody else has no problems with it, but in fact most people do (including "normal" people, whatever that is.)

My response to that is "nope, your blues ain't like mine". People with normal low-level social abilities (that is, neurotypicals for this context) take such interactions for granted. They do so because that's what those social abilities are for, to provide automatic processing below the conscious level.

Not having that low-level processing -- having to fill in that stuff on a conscious and abstract level, plus compensate for mistakes -- that takes time and energy. Having to do so every time you interact with your fellow human beings, is, literally, a handicap, ranging up to disability.

#113 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2015, 08:20 AM:

Clarifying a bit: My quoted phrase wasn't specifically aimed at Clifton himself, but at his trying to dismiss the difference between normal and spectrum social experiences.

It's one thing to be wondering "did I make a good impression", it's another to be dealing, not occasionally, but continuously, with issues such as "are they finished talking?", "what does that expression mean?", and "is my speech tone appropriate for this conversation?" (inter pluribus alia)

#114 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2015, 01:22 PM:

crazysoph @110:

Sigh. You're probably right.

I've sent an email with an interesting but non-urgent question. (It's important that it's clearly not urgent, because for Reasons, if I need them, they have to respond). So if they answer, then maybe; if not, not.

#115 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2015, 02:32 PM:

David @110:

I think the problem here is that you're using "normal" to mean "neurotypical" (i.e., not on the autistic spectrum), and at least some neurotypical people are using it to mean something closer to "average." A person can be neurotypical but not have learned chunks of this as a child for other reasons, some but not all of which fall under the "dysfunctional families" umbrella.

Neither of these usages are wrong, but the overlap can be confusing.

#116 ::: daughter of a great romance ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2015, 02:42 PM:

I had a post started about an incident this morning where my mother was perceiving me as too jumpy and hair-trigger around wedding planning, and saying that I was getting upset for no reason, and that it was my partner's fault for passing the getting upset for no reason onto me. Meanwhile I was perceiving my mother as delivering constant micro-nags, constantly (but subtly) undercutting me and my choices, and therefore I was getting upset. But my mother was just talking, right? It's just the way she is, she wants the best for me, we can do better for ourselves, &c. Anyway, I was going to write about that, and about the way my mother's always been a micro-nagger whose voice just gets into my head and stays there, telling me where I screwed up, but it never bothered me until the partner pointed it out, and now I see and feel it and it hurts...

and then my mother and I talked for an hour about what's wrong with the partner's clothing choices and now I just want to crawl into a cave and hide for a few days instead of psychoanalyzing my relationship with my mother or finding wedding clothes for the partner.

I feel like I end most of my posts under this pseudonym with "Aargh," and I should probably stop, but I need to say aargh again. Aargh.

#117 ::: daughter of a great romance ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2015, 02:44 PM:

Shorter me @#116: I was worried about micronags, and then I received a macronag and now I just can't cope with anything.

#118 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2015, 02:54 PM:

daughter of a great romance @116:

Deep breaths. If your partner and you turn up in frickin'painters' overalls and go through the ceremony, you're still married. And a step removed from the people who are driving you nuts right now.

I was going to write about that, and about the way my mother's always been a micro-nagger whose voice just gets into my head and stays there, telling me where I screwed up, but it never bothered me until the partner pointed it out, and now I see and feel it and it hurts...

You learned to taste the poison, and now you know it's in every bite. This is a tough time. But you can build a life away from that poison, learn to get the voice out of your head, and walk your own path.

my mother and I talked for an hour about what's wrong with the partner's clothing choices

Would it help to tell us here what's right about your partner's clothing choices? Or something else wonderful and awesome about your partner? It sounds to me like you've had a heavy dose of negativity. Maybe some positivity will balance it out?

#119 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2015, 03:02 PM:

daughter of a great romance: I should probably stop

You should stop only if doing so would improve your well-being. If continuing improves your well-being, that's what you should do. See also: crawling into a cave.

As to your mother's micronagging, she should stop. I don't suppose you have a handy gunny-sack you could stuff her into...? :-)

#120 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2015, 03:03 PM:

daughter of a great romance @116
my mother and I talked for an hour talked at me for an hour about what's wrong with the partner's clothing choices

I agree with abi, you're getting bombarded with negativity, and perhaps reminding yourself of the good things would help.

I don't recall if you've said - how would your mother react if you said something like "Mom, this really isn't helping right now. Right now I'd like to talk about (some piece of wedding planning that needs a decision but isn't contentious, or something you're looking forward to)" Will it divert the conversation into paths that are even less helpful, or might she back off?

#121 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2015, 04:50 PM:

David Harmon @ 110: What Vicki said @ 115 matches my intent and understanding; I think "normal" is being used in some completely different ways within this conversation.

I follow and agree with your point about autism spectrum folks being in a completely different place with regard to these kinds of issues, and I absolutely wasn't referring to that. Yes, people on the autism spectrum* have unique challenges in this area, and I don't dismiss that. I'm reminded of my .net friend Seebs, who is a brilliant guy and who has noted that he finds it utterly impossible to recognize if somebody is smiling or not; there's some of it in my own extended family, too.

However I think some other people here are using it simply to mean "people who had a more adaptive family/upbringing" or just the mythical "average person". It's the latter couple of meanings I was addressing.

I'll try to be more careful myself to qualify the term when using in the future.

[*] I'd like to note also that the autism spectrum is not the only "spectrum" in play between neurotypical and not, so I also try to be careful throwing "spectrum" around without qualification. The dissociative spectrum is another real thing which I have some personal experience with, and with relating to others who are considerably further along it.

#122 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2015, 06:35 PM:

daughter of a great romance @116: Sympathies. That's hard to cope with. If venting here helps then I, for one, urge you to continue doing so.

It's YOUR wedding. Your mother does not have to wear your partner's clothing choice - your partner does. Really, if you and partner are happy with said clothing choice, that should be end of discussion. Anyone else, if offended by such garments, can shut their eyes or otherwise avoid looking at them.

#123 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2015, 09:36 PM:

Clifton #121: the autism spectrum is not the only "spectrum" in play between neurotypical and not

Indeed -- in #112 I was careful not to define "neurotypical" as "not autistic"... but then I proceeded to muff that in #113. I was trying to consider "neurotypical" pretty much as "the folks who can take normal social interactions for granted". (Or if not, it isn't for neurological reasons -- there's all kindsa blues....)

And yes, I'm sure that some upbringings, and/or other developmental issues besides autism, can also give their victims damaged low-level social skills, or other social handicaps. Most such folks probably qualify as neurovariant, regardless of the exact origin of their handicap.

#124 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2015, 01:51 AM:

Clifton @121 and others on the meaning of normal: I wasn't entirely sure which kind of normal myself. Also, I did want to be broad, because while the causes are different the effects are similar: missing cues because of dysfunctional upbringing, (sub)culture mismatch, or non-neurotypicality is still missing cues.

"Normal" is the word that my baggage attached itself to. I think I've got a couple main layers of meaning. One is small-n normal, which is local, in relation to the group that I'm in (a.k.a. how we do it around here, whatever that is). The opposite of it is small-w weird, which is that we all have different personalities and interests, no two exactly alike, and that's fine.

This is about to get messy/personal while I dredge up and try to unpack the relevant game mechanic in my brain's core rulebook to explain the other layer.

The Normal ---- ________ ---- Weird alignment continuum
Everyone knows, at least during highschool, that there isn't just small-n normal, there is also capital-N Normal. The Platonic ideal of Normality that emanates from the Members of the In-Group. (And yes, it's mythical, but that doesn't stop people from trying to embody it perfectly!) The telling characteristic of Normal-aligned people is that they care about fitting in AND can successfully fit into an in-group which is about fitting in. Advanced practitioners of Normality enforce conformity and shun the outliers. (Peripheral characteristics include popularity, trendiness, fashionable clothes, sports, gossip, and partying.)

I never did and never will measure up to their standards. Simultaneously, I desperately wanted to, and desperately wanted something else entirely. There's a distressingly large section of my mental gearing devoted to going around in fruitless little circles over this problem to this day, every time I end up in an environment that has such an in-group. It is a gigantic relief to be in environments that don't enforce Normality.

The relief from oppressive levels of Normality is to find a tribe where we are happy being capital-W Weird together. (There are many unhappy and lonely Weird people who have not yet found their tribe, and so are trying and failing endlessly to be Normal by imitating and sucking up. It doesn't work.) The telling characteristic of Weird alignment is that most any kind of weird is happily accepted to at least some degree, so long as they're willing to be proud of being Weird. Protective camouflage or invisibility is okay when outnumbered by Normals, so long as you don't start sucking up to them too much. Usually clusters form around mutual interests, and most Weird people have at least one greater granola marker (gamer, geek, fan, scientist, artist, not dominant local religion, not straight/hetero/cisgender/monogamous…pick several).

I think there's also quite a lot of middle in the spectrum, since many people *can* fit into an in-group without a whole lot of work, and sometimes do, but Being Normal isn't a huge motivation for them. (What the heck should we call them? I don't know.) Syncing up with a crowd is a real ability. I don't know how much of it is nature, how much nurture, and how much skill, but it's real. I can't stay in harmony with people who are too Normal, and vice versa -- it goes off-key regularly -- but I sync up easily with other Weird people. Both Normal and Weird people can sync up with the middling folk.

I think we are set up by circumstances and personality to land in a certain window on the continuum, but that our choices dictate exactly where we end up. It's kind of like hair: you have to work with the hair you have, not the hair you wish you had. You have to work with the Normal/Weird alignment that you got; you can't convert wholesale from one end to the other except in edge cases of being Very Cool.

#125 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2015, 03:57 AM:

Bodisvaha @124:

Advanced practitioners of Normality enforce conformity and shun the outliers.

This, absolutely. These are the people who make your life hell for the crime of not being like them. I've never seen Weird people do this to Normal people; we might becroggle them somewhat, or in the worst case look down on them ("muggles" and so on), but I have never seen any Weird person put pressure on a Normal person to be more Weird.

My last boss was actively, aggressively Normal. I'm still recovering.

#126 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2015, 08:49 AM:

Bodhisvaha #124: What you're describing as Normal is... yeah, a myth of sorts, but I prefer to think of it as a stable resonance within society -- a result of the social feedback within groups.

The key thing about Weird groups is specifically, relaxed social tests. Any given group has tests for "who belongs here", and those tests start at first glance. But a lot of the fast & cheap tests used by most groups are for core-group membership. Any group based on something that's automatically not core-group has two choices:

The "Weird" option is to open themselves to "all of <this>" -- that is, an inclusive group. An inclusive group is not going to get much mileage out of the core-group tests, but they will also have at least some tests of their own. Notably, some of those will be of the form "can you deal with difference without losing your shit".

For completeness, the other option is to restrict themselves to "core-group in everything except <this>" (e.g. "Trembling before G-d"). Likely to be a small group....

#127 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2015, 11:56 AM:

#125, Mongoose: I have never seen any Weird person put pressure on a Normal person to be more Weird.

I have.

The clearest example I have of this was this one poly person who was going on and on about how monogamous people needed to loosen up and do poly because it was *obviously* the one true way to have relationships. None of the other poly folks in that (mixed) group expressed that kind of pressure, but none of them spoke against it either. I didn't return to that group; there was too strong of a "you don't belong with us" feel.

Not that I consider myself Normal nor is being Normal something I strive for, but in many aspects I seem to either pass for it or be invisible and unnoticed, up until I say or do something that makes the people I'm interacting with stare at me like I've suddenly revealed my alien tentacles or something. I prefer invisibility, even if it leads those who do notice my presence think I'm a boring sheeple.

I've heard people in various subcultures (usually fandom or geek as those are the subcultures whose peripheries I am vaguely close to) say they saw a marker on a stranger and knew immediately that "this is one of my people!", but I've also met enough jerks who show the markers of Weird subcultures that seeing such a marker tells me nothing about whether I will get along with that person. It tells me only that there is one topic of conversation that we might have in common -- or that might get me scorned because I don't obsess as much as they do about it.

#128 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2015, 12:05 PM:

Sadly, the invisible one speaks true. By which I mean, it's sad that such a thing is true.

I've seen a fair bit of "If you're not as Weird as we are, you must hate us, so we'll preemptively pressure and/or shun you!", in college and college-aged people especially. I suspect I did a bit of it myself, back in the day. Fortunately, most of us learn better.

#129 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2015, 02:04 PM:

the invisible one @127: so familiar with the tentacular alien moments. That is why much of the time I end up pretending that I don't have a sense of humour.

Re Normal/Weird: ooh, problems of scope.
- Small-letter normal/weird is about specific interests.
- Capital-letter Normal/Weird is about how groups handle difference and conformity.
- Group interests that are normal or weird often, but not always, correlate to Normal or Weird group dynamics, but reality is complicated.

Separating the layers is tricky but useful. (Teasing this out has been setting off sparks elsewhere in my head.)

The geek/poly people that were getting all One True Way and exclusive have a weird interest by the standards of their surrounding culture. However, their group dynamic is more Normal. As THE in-group for topic X, they started creating and enforcing a local Normality for themselves. Maybe the chance to have social power went to their heads. That situation would create some really mixed signals for someone who shares that group's weird interest, and expects it to come with Weird group dynamics, then finds the dynamics are more Normal.

Dynamics for weird/Weird folks can get especially strange because often we define ourselves more by what we are NOT, than by what we are. The results are sub-optimal. Look at the Geek Social Fallacies. Many of them are more detailed versions of the question, "if we start behaving like normal people on one front, are we going to turn normal and conformist? Then everything will be ruined!" Then they end up being super-permissive about [thing] to avoid getting infected and being put down. That's a dysfunctional version of Weird. Or they can end up being more rigid, by insisting on doing what everyone else is not. That's covert Normal: refusing to follow rules is just as confining as always following them.

Going your own way, and accepting difference in others, takes confidence and an open mind, and that is the hallmark of Weird. That's why most of us get Weirder as we get older, even if we don't get weirder.

#130 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2015, 07:25 AM:

Bodhisvaha #129: Many good points there!

What you're calling "covert Normal", I'd interpret a little differently. Such people have found a group and formed it into a little tribe, but they're still copying their own in-group/out-group behavior from the surrounding society. That lets them be "the top dogs", and enjoy the pleasures of judging others (claiming power over them), but it also means that their "Tribe Of Their Own", is "Just Another Tribe".

The other path¹ is to try and claim and form up "The Tribe of the Outsiders". Clumsy attempts lead to the sort of "what we are not" definition you mention, but there's another way to do it:

A group defined as "we are the people who are excluded from the mainstream because X". It's still referring somewhat to mainstream society, but more by way of the members' shared experience. And more importantly, that definition lets groups can band together with related groups, such as "the people who are excluded because Y". That's where you get a heterogenous but larger group, which has the potential to become Weird.

If they can also band together with "people who are also X but haven't suffered that much for it", then they can furthermore make connections through those to the larger society, and eventually gain a place at the mainstream table as a recognized tribe. But of course, that loses their original impetus of exclusion, which provided a strong boundary around their group. (That's where SFFfandom is now.)

The other side of a group being based on "we are the outsiders", is they will discover that some of those outsiders got excluded from the mainstream for good reasons, which this group actually agrees with. The obvious example is kink/BDSM groups finding rapists in their midst², but any group that tries to "accept everybody" will eventually find that there are indeed people they don't want to accept.

¹ I keep wanting to call it "the new thing", but of course it's nothing of the sort -- even as an explicit idea, I'd bet it goes back to Ancient Greece at least.

² Note that my example highlights the worst of mainstream "othering": From the outside "mainstream" perspective, the rapist is just another "sexual outlaw", and cops etc. may be disinclined to make distinctions between them and the other group members.³ At this point, a group really needs to set standards, if not find a positive identity -- because really, they're discovering that not all attacks come from outside the group.

³ Also consider the recent police tactic against the Occupy camps, of delivering to them all the homeless, drunk/stoned, or mentally-ill folks they can find.

#131 ::: daughter of a great romance ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2015, 12:39 PM:

Hi, all.

I've drafted and deleted a few posts for this community over the last week. Your comforting thoughts were all helpful. I've also been thinking about the normal/weird dichotomies you all have been discussing. I'm pretty sure that a lot of the judgment coming from our families of origin is about how we appear differently "weird" and how our families are trying to make us fit into "normal" boxes. Since the constructions of normality in our two families are incompatibly different, and because we don't fit into either definition of normal, we have to figure out our own way from here.

You all asked about my partner. I told her all the things I loved about her last night, and that really helped. I won't post them here, I think.

I just told my mother that the conversation summarized in #116 had consequences and that I wasn't going to let her have what she wanted. Mom was shocked and upset, and also very surprised. I don't think she had any idea how far over the line she went. To come back to the original topic of the thread, I am establishing boundaries now in ways I don't think I ever had before. I don't know whether I'm strong enough to hold those boundaries (or, I suppose, whether holding those boundaries is the right thing to do), but I am going to try.

#132 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2015, 01:00 PM:

daughter of a great romance:
I don't know whether I'm strong enough to hold those boundaries

The first confrontation is the hardest, and when done in best form produces exactly the result you got: surprise, shock. We all tend to interact on automatic pilot, and without a smack to the head, how do we know we're overstepping?

It's rare to keep those fences up perfectly, but as we recognize where they need to be, we get better at it. You'll certainly be happier, and maybe your relationship with your mother will improve, too. BTDT.

Your telling your partner what you love about her is really, really lovely.

#133 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2015, 02:23 PM:

daughter of a great romance @131, much more important to tell your partner what you love about her than to tell us. :-)

Go, you, re boundaries with mom.

If it helps, especially in deciding whether holding the boundaries is the right thing to do - if you find, over time, that your mother respects the new boundaries, you may be able to relax them . It is easier to set them tightly and then relax if that seems feasible, than it is to repeatedly tighten if you find you didn't go far enough. But you'll need to hold them for a while first; otherwise she'll revert back to expecting you to do things her way.

When is the wedding?

#134 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2015, 02:24 PM:

daughter of a great romance @131:

Well done, twice over.

I don't know whether I'm strong enough to hold those boundaries (or, I suppose, whether holding those boundaries is the right thing to do), but I am going to try.

You're going to have help. That's the point of the whole exercise: you're building up your own family of choice, who will have your back against whomever you need your back had against.

#135 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2015, 03:23 PM:

One boundary I need to learn to set and hold with my family is to identify and avoid certain conversation topics before they lead to me feeling frustrated and belittled. In larger family gatherings, finding a different group to talk to is a thing I have been practicing, but when it's just a few people, that's hard to do because there is only one group.

This weekend there was a foray into workplace sexism and how women actually do have to fight to be taken seriously when working in fields coded as male. One of my stories of being treated as if I couldn't do a thing because I was (one of) the only women on a job site was explained away from many angles (by my mom who works in a "man's" job!) until I said the magic words that "this was part of a pattern". Oh then, in that case, my assessment of this EXAMPLE that I LIVED THROUGH and am describing as an example of a thing might actually be right and their assessment of the thing that they only heard my summary of might not be the Correct and True interpretation.

Oh and also it's all on the girls to step up and insist on doing all the things and totally not influenced by the society we live in; when her dad is trying to teach her something coded male and she says she'll get a husband to do that so clearly she's getting support from her family and why is she being sucky it's all her fault... but when I asked if said girl's mom ever did the thing she was refusing to learn from her dad, they couldn't answer with a yes. In that family, said task was in fact the husband's job.

Sorry for the incoherent venting. Just argh, my family sometimes. I really need to learn to identify conversations before they get to that point, and redirect them. They are very friendly and helpful and loving and welcoming and sometimes they are holy crap so othering in various ways.

#131, daughter of a great romance, and #132, Jeanie: Sometimes the first boundary setting is the hardest. Sometimes it will get harder for a while, or easier then surprise! harder, because of the extinction burst. (The primary example at the link is a self-imposed weight loss diet and the associated self-flagellation after an extinction burst of eating way more treats than planned, but it also discusses other people's temper tantrums on not getting what they want from you.)

#136 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2015, 03:23 AM:

Oh maghod. Work's Month From Hell concluded today (though I'm sure there'll be reverberations for a couple of weeks to come).

I got through the whole day with my diplomacy intact, without pointing out to $Client, in strenuous terms, that $Rate_Increase ≠ "rape."

#137 ::: daughter of a great romance ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2015, 10:29 PM:

"Don't play [name of song] while you're walking down the aisle. It's a happy song that reminds me of good moments with my parents. Playing it while you're walking down the aisle would ruin it, and it would never be the same again." -Her mother, apparently.


#138 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2015, 10:50 PM:

daughter, #137: Oy, what a piece of work. Was she even thinking about using that song in the first place, or was this just a bit of gratuitous nastiness that came out of nowhere?

#139 ::: daughter of a great romance ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2015, 11:00 PM:

Lee, partner was indeed thinking of using that song. It's an extremely common choice for the bride's processional - as another family member said recently, it's our religion's equivalent to Wagner's Wedding March. So saying that my partner can't use it to walk down the aisle is also saying that she isn't going to count as a bride.

#140 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2015, 11:18 PM:

Oh for heaven's sake. My functional family's wedding music rules are that no one plays 'Sunrise, Sunset' (who knows why anyone would want to) and that no one can be as awesome as the friend who rickrolled her wedding with a string quartet.

"This music reminds me of my happy family, and hearing it at your wedding would ruin my happiness," is ridiculous. Pfeh.

#141 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2015, 11:25 PM:

daughter, #139

Well - this is definitely not cool. Her mother can either sit and listen to the song (and keep her mouth shut going forward on the topic) or not attend then - if she does not accept her as a bride, she may as well skip the wedding. I know it sounds harsh but being guilted into not using something that is important for you by one's mother is a reason enough to tell the mother to find someone else to torment... If her seeing her daughter going down the isle is a bad occasion (otherwise why call it ruining the song), she should reconsider going to the wedding.

So sorry that your wedding plans are getting marred by such... nonsense. :)

#142 ::: daughter of a great romance ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2015, 11:40 PM:

Thanks for the sympathy, all. We don't even need that song. We can come up with other songs. It's not a big deal, except for what it signifies, which is just obnoxious.

#143 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2015, 12:01 AM:

daughter, #139: Oh FFS. This is the point at which I would pointedly say something along the lines of, "It's OUR wedding. If you don't like our choice of music, nobody is going to force you to attend."

My mother gave me so much shit about wanting hot spiced cider at the reception (for an October wedding) that I actually planted a few ringers -- asked various friends who she didn't know well to mention something complimentary about the cider to her, just to rub her nose in it. I don't think there's any couple who doesn't have at least one of the mothers go irrationally apeshit about something during the wedding plans.

#144 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2015, 01:17 AM:

Sorry, Lee, I'm afraid I'm going to have to give you the lie on that one. It helped that Katie and I were in Houston, the wedding was in Berkeley, and her mother was in Maryland -- my mother pretty much did everything. By all accounts (including my own), she did a splendid job.

#145 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2015, 01:23 AM:

I do realize that's not very helpful for daughter's stress. Daughter, I sympathize, and in your place I would be very tempted to insist on having that song precisely because of the mother's irrationality. (It might or might not happen, but the temptation would be there.)

#146 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2015, 09:52 AM:

daughter of a great romance #137: Please remember that the fact that you can go WTF on that means you're already ahead of her game. The trouble is, you're somewhere between "don't let the turkeys get you down" and "don't argue with a crazy person, onlookers might not know the difference".

#147 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2015, 01:47 PM:

#137, daughter of a great romance:

Wow. If she finds the idea of her daughter marrying so horrible that its association with a favourite song will ruin the song forever, why is she coming to and participating in the wedding at all?

#148 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2015, 09:32 AM:

Ahhh I've had this sitting in a text file for several days now...

OtterB @58: System 2 believes that's a reasonable heuristic. Of course, something like half my issues here are derived from growing up with alcoholic mother and then having emotionally abusive first partner, during both of which I was required to be responsible for their feelings, and their responses to boundary-setting were approximately ignoring me, invalidating me, or being mad at me... :) (My mother has since gotten somewhat better in this regard. Abusive ex I don't plan on ever speaking to again so that's fine. He got married recently, eek. I hope for her sake he's changed...)

daughter of a great romance, I am sorry that you and your partner's mothers are having these reactions to wedding planning. :( Well done setting boundaries, though.

Jacque @ 136, hurrah for Month From Hell having ended!

#149 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2015, 09:41 AM:

Daughter, just keep repeating to yourself. "It's our wedding, and we're doing it our way. Everyone else can just pound sand."

#150 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2015, 12:03 PM:

daughter of a great romance: Yeah, that particular phrasing by future MiL is undiplomatic at best. One can hope that she backs off a bit on the commentary.

#151 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 02:23 AM:

I am still getting caught up on the past, oh, seven months of comments, but I wanted to let anyone who may be worried know -- I moved, started working at one job the day after I got here, have two jobs now. I don't get enough days off (1-2 a month, looks like), but I'm getting married soon, and though my depression is digging its teeth in quite frequently and my jobs are uninspiring, in all things are orders of magnitude better than they were. I also got to bring my cat, who Beau agreed to tolerate for the sake of having me here; Beau and Cat are currently exploring the vagaries of the laser pointer and its cunning and they generally adore one another.

It's good.

I will be reading and witnessing over the next few days. My thoughts have been with you all, but my laptop died a day or two after I arrived here.

#152 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2015, 04:30 PM:

Iliad: Hurray! So glad to hear from you! So glad you're out of that awful roommate situation you were in!!!

Also, cats have a way of converting the confessed cat haters, don't they. ;) Laser pointers are the bomb. :)

Congrats on getting married!!!

Also, all the best with the job situation - may you get more days off soon!

#153 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2015, 04:47 PM:

iliad slightly awry @151: Slightly belatedly (it's been that sort of a week) - it's great to hear from you and to hear that life is good in several ways, even if not great of the two-jobs-and-not-much-time-off sphere. Here's hoping for further good developments (although good Beau - cat relationship and impending marriage are great news).

#154 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 03:19 PM:

Was it here that somebody mentioned job posting "requirements" aren't always? I was just gearing up to apply to one that sounded like a small stretch but reasonable, until I re-read the posting and it lists a post-graduate degree as well as a bachelor's in [my field] as a requirement. Two separate line items. Big deflation. Now I'm trying to figure out if it's worth applying or not... keeping in mind that I think this is the first post this month I've seen that had been close to my field. And this after not looking at the job boards for two weeks because I hit another period of just not being able to face the vast emptiness that is job postings in [my field]. Is a requirement for a post-graduate degree with a thesis in a specific area likely to be a hard requirement?

I should probably apply anyway. If they send me a form letter rejection then that'll join my collection. It's just so discouraging, especially when my past experience has been that employers have reservations at hire time (contract then maybe full time, asking me to be contract at the beginning but I held out for direct hire/full time, temp agency) followed by stellar reviews (the first two had most excellent annual reviews and healthy raises after the first year, the temp job turned into a direct hire and a raise and a promotion and *they* chased *me* to get that; I turned them down the first time they asked because I'm job hunting) and dammit if I can just get an interview and get hired I'll probably get stellar reviews again but I just can't get a response to my resume and haven't had so much as a phone screen in over a year and it's just so depressing. I don't know what's so wrong with my resume and cover letter that I get no response for ages until suddenly I get hired after my one and only interview in the whole time being unemployed, which is what happened with both my jobs in the field. Clearly I interview better than my resume comes across, and just as clearly I work better than I interview.

Life has sucked more often than not lately. The longer I'm out of [my field] the harder it will be to get back in, too, and the harder it is to build up the enthusiasm to even write a cover letter.

And as much as I hate to say it, I wonder if I should switch to using my first initial instead of my first name on my materials. Not sure how that would interact with the online application systems that specifically ask for full names. Also I would need to sort out an email that uses my initial.

#155 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 03:28 PM:

Yeah. Wail & flail is about where I'm at right now.

#156 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 03:39 PM:

the invisible one @154:

I'm recruiting right now, and let me tell you: apply.

Decide on the rest...first initial vs name, resume advice, all that. But apply. The worst thing that could happen is no answer (which is horrible, don't get me wrong.)

I'm wishing you luck.

#157 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 04:00 PM:

the invisible one @ 154

My current job had a requirement for a degree which I did not have at the time (and still do not). I still got the job (and 10 years later I am still at the same company). Worst case - an HR will not even pass the resume up because of the lack of the requirement covering. In my experience, if it is even a remotely qualified and not so usual position (so they are not looking for an office manager or something like that where there will be 1000 resumes coming in), that does not happen and things get passed up based on an internal list of "things that may be missing" - and degrees are one of those things very often, especially if you already have one of the degrees on the list or experience.

It depends on the field of course - but these days a lot of people do not have the appropriate degrees for one reason or another.

So I would say - go ahead and apply. As for names - do whatever feels more comfortable. Some interviewer will use your first name and if you are usually called by the initial, go ahead and use that.

Good luck!

#158 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 04:57 PM:

#154 ::: the invisible one @154: Apply. As abi says, worst case is no response (and I agree with abi, that's horrible). Good luck!

#159 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2015, 11:00 PM:

iliad slightly awry #151: Congratulations! Glad things are going well!

Chickadee #152: Also, cats have a way of converting the confessed cat haters, don't they.

It's called T. gondii :-)

#160 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 11:35 AM:

I know, you miss 100% of the opportunities you don't try for. I'll put together a cover letter, and try to be positive for the duration. I've vastly improved (I think) my resume over the past year based on advice from Ask A Manager, but it hasn't made a difference in what responses I see. Whether it makes a difference in how high my resume gets before they decide to not interview me, I'll never find out.

#157, Annie Y: It is definitely a "qualified" and "not so usual" thing that I'm looking for. Fairly specialized in many ways, in fact. The comment about using my initial on my application package isn't about my comfort level or what I'm usually called, it's about me being female in a male-dominated field. I don't know if it'll make a difference; it's possible there have been better qualified candidates every time, and I understand from others in my field that I've talked to that there are a lot of qualified candidates also looking. But I also don't know if subconscious sexism is affecting it, because it does happen, and how it happens is female candidates with identical resumes are rated as less qualified than male candidates. There are studies and everything. :(

#159, David Harmon: because of course it couldn't possibly be because cats are charming and sweet once they get to know you. Nope, has to be some parasite, because nobody could like them otherwise.

#161 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 01:27 PM:

the invisible one #160: Hey, I had one for 15 years, and my next pet will probably be another... (It occurs to me to wonder if T. gondii could be the second time this has happened to humanity...)

#162 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 01:46 PM:

Every other time I've seen reference to T.g in the context of liking cats, it's either said by an unabashed cat-hater who believes it, or it has been accompanied by some variant and combination of "it's just a joke, good grief you're so serious, don't you have a sense of humour" and/or "of course you would deny that the behaviour-altering (in rats) parasite has altered your opinion."

#163 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2015, 04:22 PM:

the invisible one #162: My viewpoint is in some ways "colder", but it has bennies: AIUI, T. gondii doesn't just affect attitudes toward cats -- it seems to generically boost psychological features that are key to cooperation, group living, and coexistence with other species as well. In short, it's making us more civilized, and I for one am cheering it on.

As I alluded to before, there are some hints that reaching our "historical"¹ level of "self-domestication" may have been tied in to our coevolution with dogs. It's entirely possible that a similar microorganism was involved there, and has since worked its way from parasite through symbiote to incorporation.

¹ Not our current level, as we've clearly continued in that direction ofver the past few millennia.

#164 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2015, 08:52 PM:

I'm going to take my kid to see my dad tomorrow. We're going to go to a movie and then lunch.

If you are so minded, I would welcome prayers for my soul, and for patience, because while I endeavor to send happy positive expectations into the world, I have forebodings that he's going to, well, be the walking troll-bingo-card bigoted narcissist that he often proves to be in practice.


#165 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2015, 09:22 PM:

Bricklayer: It probably wouldn't be at all helpful/useful to take along an actual troll bingo card, would it? =;o) No, probably not.

#166 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2015, 09:49 PM:

Bricklayer @164, happy father's day (fathers' day?) to you, and best wishes that your own father behaves like a civilized person tomorrow.

#167 ::: daughter of a great romance ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2015, 10:49 PM:

Good luck, Bricklayer!

Reporting back in: I am married. No doom whatsoever occurred on the day of the wedding. Everyone behaved themselves. The wedding was beautiful. Thank God I do not have to plan my wedding ever again.

#168 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2015, 11:02 PM:

The thing about cat haters who won't stoop to violence against a smaller weaker creature is that they tend to ostentatiously ignore the cat. Cats love that! Unlike most dogs, most cats are acutely aware of their relative tininess and fragility. When presented with somebody who does not make loud noises in their direction, somebody with the good manners not to grab and the almost feline insistence on not doing that weird eye thing--oh, lovely, a human who knows the ropes! Bet they'd love a knee warmer of their very own.

#169 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2015, 11:07 PM:

daughter of a great romance @167, hurray for a wedding with No Drama! (And, sincere congratulations!)

#170 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2015, 12:59 AM:

daughter@167: I'm glad it went well.

#171 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2015, 07:03 AM:

daughter of a great romance #167: Congratulations!

#172 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2015, 07:06 AM:

daughter @167 Congratulations!

Bricklayer, prayers headed your way.

#173 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2015, 07:27 AM:

Bricklayer @164:

Crossing all crossables.

daughter of a great romance @167:

Yay! Congratulations to both you and Spouse!

#174 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2015, 07:58 AM:

Just muttering to myself in the corner here.

A parental unit of the XY variety is admittedly struggling with some of his challenges. But... when presented with evidence of a certain artistic/linguistic endeavor, of which he has not really known I was doing, instead of writing back with questions for me indicating interest or curiosity, what does he do?

He gets an "appraisal" (near as I can tell) from someone at a university of the involved language, so he can tell me it's "succinct" and hence, correct.

Crazy(someone once described my father as being in possession of "a tin ear" - yep, proved it, once again)Soph

#175 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2015, 12:27 PM:

daughter of a great romance #167: Congratulations! Really pleased to head that your wedding went well. Re "Thank God I do not have to plan my wedding ever again" I remember thinking similarly, nearly 10 years ago!

Bricklayer@164: Been thinking about you; hope it's gone as well as possible.

crazysoph@174: sympathies.

#176 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2015, 01:15 PM:

Excuse a wall-o-text, but my query needs context:

As indicated in the OT, nine days ago I slipped, fell and injured my ankle. Eight days ago I discovered I had a distal fibular fracture. Seven days ago I was told it was displaced and surgical repair would be needed. Three days ago I had the operation. I'm on crutches, feeling pretty helpless. I'm presently in a cast (technically a "back slab"), with moderate problems of my toes swelling and changing colour whenever I don't have my leg elevated, and particularly if bend it 90 degrees and hold it there (e.g. while going upstairs, or wanting to kneel it on a chair so I can do some washing up and feel a bit less helpless).

The leg will be non-weightbearing for six weeks, followed by another six weeks of basic rehab before I can start trying to run again, and I know it will take 6-9 months (if I'm lucky and my ankle mobilises okay) to work back up the distances again, so I've basically lost the best part of a year of running.

Prior to the injury I was running 40 miles a week, including training runs the length of a marathon (plus cycling about 70 miles a week just to transport myself to and from work, etc.). I had finally, in the last couple of months, got my running back to where it had been before tearing an ankle tendon in a cycling accident at the end of September 2013. I had a 30-mile (running) race planned for early July and a 50-miler for September (plus some other, shorter races quite special to me, some of which won't be held again in the future). My husband and I were going to return to the Canadian Rockies, where we had our honeymoon, for our 10th wedding anniversary in August - when I'll be barely half way through the rehab period.

I have lost: my main form of exercise AND my secondary form of exercise; my main hobby; half my social life; my main form of stress relief; my main method of mental/psychological/emotional recharge (re-spooning). Additionally, every specific event I was looking forward to over the remainder of the year has been wiped out.

And people (my mother, one of the nursing staff in the day surgery unit, some of my husband's family, various others) keep telling me that I shouldn't be so upset. That nobody has died, that I haven't got a fatal illness. That I should be grateful, that "it could be worse!" [TM] that I should "think positively and count my blessings!"[TM]. When I reply that what they are saying is not helpful to me, that, while I recognise that "it could be worse" I do, nevertheless, feel pretty miserable and fed up at this situation, they tell me how wrong and bad I am to feel that way. And when I then get upset, they attack me even more and tell me off for being upset, and they are cross with me for being upset when they "mean well and are only trying to help"[TM].

Why? Why do people consider that they have the right to determine my feelings and to pronounce judgement on whether or not those feelings are legitimate? Why do they feel the need to attack me for feeling somewhat depressed, eight days after fracturing a bone and three days after further surgical insult to my physiological system, and looking at a three-month immediate repair/rehabilitation period and probably a year to get back (again) to fitness - just after I'd finally made it after my previous injury - and with the loss of all the things I was looking forward to. And why is their "meaning well" supposed to count for much more than the fact that they have made me feel more miserable?

#177 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2015, 05:09 PM:

I'm outraged on my father's behalf.

My little brother is a drug addict and alcoholic. Everyone who isn't my mother who spends any time around him knows this.

He's also narcissistic, bipolar and borderline, and on top of that, he's an asshole. He made my childhood hell by being a manipulative little jerk. Because he's also incredibly charming, in that borderline way, it took until he was in his 30's for my father and stepmother to see through him. My mother still hasn't. He has my mother wrapped around his finger to this day.

(I tried to tell my mother he was using again several years ago and she proceeded to tell me she asked him, he denied it, and I was just 'trying to get him in trouble' ... nevermind that I had pretty damned good proof. He later lost his job because he was 'sick all the time' and she let him move in. The deal was that he'd go back to college, but he was 'too sick' so as far as I can tell, he's just lying around her house all day. And she wants to move now because people keep 'breaking in and stealing stuff' ... denial, my mother's always been extra talented at it.)

Today's Father's Day.

Out of the complete blue, after years of no contact, my brother both messaged my father on Facebook and left him vicious voice mails blaming him for everything that's gone wrong in his life. And furious that my father had 'told other people about him.'

My father hasn't actually seen my brother in several years, and not for lack of trying on my father's part. My brother will not actually meet with him or talk to him.

And now, out of the blue, after years of no contact, he contacted my father on FATHER's DAY to blame my father for everything wrong in his life.

My father, of course, is justifiably upset. He's so upset we've cancelled planned Father's Day stuff with me and my stepmother.

(Which is classic -- my brother was always very good at ruining any event where he wasn't the complete center of attention. This time, he managed to do it without even being present.)

I'm beyond furious at the little shit. Yes, I know he's mentally ill, but ... who the hell does that on Father's Day, or even remotely thinks it's okay? There's mentally ill and then there's self-absorbed asshole. I think this falls firmly in the asshole category.

#178 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2015, 05:49 PM:

Venty Vent Vent @177: Sympathies. There's no excuse for your brother's behaviour.

#179 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2015, 06:06 PM:

dcb--my sympathies. "I was just trying to help" might be forgivable if they hadn't doubled down and made it about their intentions rather than the fact that they were hurting you and expecting you to be grateful.

#180 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2015, 10:41 PM:

dcb: No help to you, but I long ago discounted "good intentions" as a valid excuse. If the party in question actually hears my objection, and demonstrably adjusts their behavior to be less harmful, then I will credit them with actually intending me good.

However, with people like you describe, who just double down, it's pretty obvious that how they feel about themselves trumps their actual concern for your lived well-being. They feel bad when you feel bad. They don't want to feel bad, so they want you to feel good, and they resent it when you don't. See also: aggressive cluelessness. They don't have the capacity to own their own state of mind, so they demand that you fix it for them, by feeling what they think you should feel. Which is not your job, whatever your state of being is. Which is a sad and horrid state of affairs.

#181 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 01:32 AM:

daughter, #167: Go you! And best wishes for a long and happy future together.

dcb, #176: Were they raised by wolves? There is NO EXCUSE for what they are doing to you. NONE.

If you'd like a suggestion... print out the following on a set of business cards, and hand them out to everyone who is being helpy:

"I have lost: my main form of exercise AND my secondary form of exercise; my main hobby; half my social life; my main form of stress relief; my main method of mental/psychological/emotional recharge. Additionally, every specific event I was looking forward to for the remainder of the year has been wiped out. DO NOT tell me how much worse it could have been. It's bad enough, and you are NOT HELPING. No, I don't care how good your intentions are, you are NOT HELPING. Just. Shut. Up."

Hand them one every single time they start up with this shit, until they get the fucking message.

Venty, #177: There's mentally ill, and then there's pretending to be mentally ill and using it as an excuse to be a shit. I think I know which side of the line your brother falls on.

Your mother cannot be helped until she sees the problem for herself. But at this point I think it's time to give your father the same advice I'd give a child who was being treated this way by a toxic parent: stop trying. Block them on Facebook, on your e-mail, on your phone. Stop wrecking your life waiting for someone else's miracle to happen. Stop being a toy for their amusement.

(Yes, it's been a long and wearing weekend, and my tolerance for assholism is running very thin. I still stand by my comments.)

#182 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 04:04 AM:

dcb@176: I'm sorry. That sucks. I hope your recovery is as fast and complete as it can be.

#183 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 07:41 AM:

Lee #181: Venty, #177: There's mentally ill, and then there's pretending to be mentally ill and using it as an excuse to be a shit. I think I know which side of the line your brother falls on.

Sorry, I need to kick back on this one. There's a lot of different kinds of mental illness, with different effects. Some of those are "sympathetic" to varying degrees¹: "Oh, they're sad all the time, that's terrible". Even hallucinations and violent outbursts are something where someone who's reasonably empathetic can usually connect it with their own experiences.

But, what you were saying there amounts to a No True Scotsman on behalf of the mentally ill -- "we're really sick, those guys are just using it as an excuse". And that doesn't fly, because the range of mental dysfunctions includes the disruption of almost any mental faculty... including the moral faculties, and the capacities those depend on.

Conditions like the Narcissistic or Borderline personality disorders, or active sociopathy², are indeed mental illnesses. They're just cases where the result is someone who's downright unsafe to be around, and who will not cooperate with attempts at cures. Essentially, they're the ones that go beyond our moral event horizons. Even so, we need to remember that they too are human. Their real tragedy is this: Where a depressive or schizophrenic can at least recognize that they have a problem (and try to do something about it), the worst mental illnesses are the ones that strip a person of the ability to recognize that they have a problem.

¹ Even if its often false empathy, but that's a different rant.

² It turns out that strong "traditional" religion has an apparent purpose -- it can take a kid whose brain has the makings of a sociopath, and turn out a respectable citizen instead. Of course, it's not clear how reliable that is, and I doubt that it works too well if you miss the formative years.

#184 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 08:15 AM:

daughter @ 167: Congratulations!
dcb @ 176: My sympathies on both your injury and your unhelpful interactions. I hope you heal fast, and have better luck with the rest of the people around you.

venty: listening to you.

#185 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 08:35 AM:

Vicki, Jacque, Lee, Russ, Ginger: Thank you. I AM trying to be positive - but I find the exhortations to "look on the bright side" worse than useless. To be fair to my mother, she has quit with that since my sister and my aunt each independently pointed out to her that I -am- devastated by the situation and that my reaction is understandable.

Lee@181: I might just print out some cards saying something like that. :-)

Jacque @180: When I'm not feeling so down, I can recognise that they are people who are very "solution oriented" and my situation makes them frustrated because they can't come up with a solution. But I wish they wouldn't then take out their frustration on me.

#186 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 09:33 AM:

Venty @177:

Witnessing. Can you start planning occasions with your family that don't include him, either by "happenstance" or straight-up saying, "I just want it to be the three of us" (or whatever)? Divorce your interactions with the family from him?

dcb @185:
I can recognise that they are people who are very "solution oriented" and my situation makes them frustrated because they can't come up with a solution. But I wish they wouldn't then take out their frustration on me.

The essence of hlepiness, expressed in two sentences.

#187 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 11:03 AM:

Daughter @167: Congratulations! Much joy in your future!

Bricklayer @164: I hope it went better than you feared. You were in my thoughts yesterday.

Venty: Sympathies. Mental illness is no excuse for also being an asshole. :(

dcb: My first thought was "That's a bingo card of Things You Do Not Say To Sick People." My second thought was "Are they channelling my mom?" As abi says, a beautifully succinct description of hlepy. :( Sympathies, and yes, you have every right to be devastated.

#188 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 11:08 AM:

#185, dcb: They may be solution oriented but what they're missing is that you already have the only real solution available in progress: the surgery, the cast, and the upcoming physical therapy.

And that solution is one that will improve your situation in the long run but the current situation still sucks. There is no magic quick fix.

#189 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 12:05 PM:

Re: My brother -- I haven't seen him in years. I would have last Christmas, but my mother told me that they didn't have enough chairs in the house for everyone to sit in, so I was disinvited to Christmas. (AFAIK, I hadn't done anything offensive.) I think the real truth is she's just about as mentally ill as he is, in different but complimentary ways with his own dysfunction. It's an ugly dynamic.

This is, of course, the entire pattern of our lives. I'm 40, he's 35. I'd say from the time I was about thirteen or fourteen, he's been actively and deliberately triangulating people, using people, and generally being a dick. He was a difficult child even before that, but he became very calculating in his teens.

My father, my stepmother, and I refuse to have anything to do with him unless he agrees to family counseling. I'm not holding my breath that will happen.

Counseling has been tried before and he maintains I am out to get him, even when the reality is that I just refuse to be a doormat. When my mother tried family counseling in an effort to get me and my brother to get along maybe twenty years ago, he succeeded in getting the counselor to believe him that I was the entire problem. That's what the counselor told my mother. And my mother was all too happy to believe that.

Some of his issues are mental illness, but my mother has always spoiled him rotten. Even before I was born my mother considered me a problem child. When he came along, he was the angel child.

He had no chores, no responsibility, and no rules, growing up. If he broke something of mine (deliberately, in many cases) he was never made to replace it. If he was rude, his behavior was excused or I was told I caused it. If he ruined an event of some kind, it was excused with one reason or another by my mother. He always told truth; every word that came out of my mouth was a lie. According to my mother.

You bet he took advantage of this and framed me for crap.

If we got in an argument, my mother would tell me that "you two need to work it out yourselves" -- but it's completely impossible to work something out with someone who refuses to compromise and will resort to physical violence if they don't get their way. I used to have to lock myself in the bathroom to get away from him. At some point, my mother would usually intervene, blame me for the argument, and side with my brother. Didn't matter if I was locked in the bathroom and he was pounding on the door and MY stuff was broken, I'd started the argument.

(I wasn't allowed a lock on my bedroom door, so he'd barge into my bedroom and start destroying things both when I was there and when I wasn't. He wasn't even made to pick up the mess he made, I had to do that.)

My mother was always convinced I was the problem, to the point where she'd tell stories about my misbehavior to friends and relatives, and stories about my brother's angelic behavior, in front of both of us. (Many of her stories were about us as very small children. Curiously, she never had any stories tabout us past my brother's toddler years ...) She always insisted he was the "responsible, forgiving, kind, giving, empathetic" one ... which is how he can present himself when he wants something ... when he gets want he wants, he drops the act, and if he doesn't get what he wants, he turns vicious.

She generally gives him what he wants, and he has incentive to show his nice face to her, so she keeps right on believing he's the angel and I'm the problem child.

He functions in society because he can be so very charming and people have a hard time believing such a charming, handsome, man could be such a jerk ... so they excuse his behavior for a good long while. He only really shows his ugly face to (former) friends and those relatives who don't cater to his every whim, like me and my father and stepmother.

My stepmother is genuinely afraid of him. She's very good at reading people. She worries about him showing up here with a gun, to rob us or worse, if my mother -- or more likely, my mother's husband -- ever kick him out. He blames us for all his mental health problems and everything that's gone wrong in his life, a viewpoint my mother encourages.

I can't say her worries are misplaced. He has a history of being violent towards me when I've denied him something that he wants, even something as simple as telling him, no, he may not change the TV channel when I'm watching the last five minutes of a movie.

So if he shows up here looking for money or a place to stay and we say no ... well.

(I live with them. They're retired, I'm physically disabled and occasionally need help with household chores and the like. It works out.)

#190 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 01:26 PM:

David H., #183: You're right, and I apologize for my phrasing.

It turns out that strong "traditional" religion has an apparent purpose -- it can take a kid whose brain has the makings of a sociopath, and turn out a respectable citizen instead.

Unfortunately, it can also take a kid who has the capacity to grow up to be a decent human being and turn out a sociopath instead, as witness any number of news stories over the last decade. And a lot of those sociopaths are now in the upper echelons of our government and our religious organizations.

#191 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 01:30 PM:

Venty -- get a restraining order against him, stat. You can also let your local police station know that he MAY be a problem, and they'll have their patrols drive by the house several times a day.

If you don't have one, and you can afford to do so, get a security system installed as soon as possible.

Good vibes being sent your way.

#192 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 01:39 PM:

dcb @ 176: I have been going "aaagh locked in a BOX" quite a lot for oh, six months? Getting out on the bike is one of the only things that has been helping, because it is FUN that also GOES someplace and DOES something. As a person who never liked exercise I'm finding this cabin fever very strange indeed. The bike used to be the means to go someplace, and now it's more of an end: I want to go OUT and RIDE even if there's no destination. I'm even putting up with sunburns, which I hate since they throw my skin into a tizzy for at least a week.

A year is a long time while you are living it. So I'm picturing you going "AAAGH LOCKED IN A BOX for almost a YEAR, AND losing progress, AND missing out on bloody well everything, just after I had finally gotten BETTER from the LAST ONE!" The people surrounding you are being so dense about this that it's downright cruel. If they could recognize that this is a massively disappointing setback, then you could probably meet them halfway. Especially if they then had enough sense not to poke at it.

daughter @ 167: Congratulations! On both the being wed, and the lack of drama!

Hugs and sympathy to Bricklayer and Venty as well...I hope everyone's horrible people learn to behave better.

#193 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 02:10 PM:

Bodhisvaha: "AAAGH LOCKED IN A BOX for almost a YEAR, AND losing progress, AND missing out on bloody well everything, just after I had finally gotten BETTER from the LAST ONE!" Yes, that pretty much sums up how I'm feeling. (And I'm really pleased to hear you're getting so much enjoyment from the cycling.)

Everyone: These responses have been really helpful, so thank you. Funnily enough, having people acknowledge that yes, my situation is crappy (rather than being told no it's not really, it's just my attitude that's wrong), actually helps me to try to move on from here.

I do want to get to feeling more cheerful and more accepting of where I'm at (since I patently can't change it). I've got as far as recognising that I need a new goal to replace all the pleasurable goals I had and that have now been made unobtainable - some for this year, others forever (e.g. the trail race which isn't being held again after this year). But it has to be a real goal, one I'm genuinely interested in working towards.

Venty Vent Vent @189: It does sound like flagging this up with the police, getting a restraining order or whatever would be sensible, if it's possible to do this. Sympathies again; it's a nasty situation to be in.

#194 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 02:17 PM:

dcb @193:

Would you want a goal that was orthagonal to fitness? Like getting back involved with AVP training? Maybe training to be a trainer?

If it's fitness, clearly you'd need to pick another sport, and for that, your physio is a good first step...?

(Discard if hlepy, of course!)

#195 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 03:16 PM:

We live waaaaay out in the country. There's one sheriff's deputy for a few hundred square miles. It can take half a day for the deputy, singular, to show up, even in an emergency. We're expected to be self sufficient.

On the bright side, we have my brother's AK-47 locked up in the gun safe upstairs with our hunting rifles and shotguns -- my father made him sign it over when my father agreed to pay for rehab for him -- so at least we can shoot back. (Gotta laugh or you'll cry, you know.) He could certainly have picked up a new weapon. I know for a fact my stepfather has a .357, which is not kept locked up.

My brother's childhood mental health diagnosis was bipolar and narcissism. And substance abuse, starting from a very, very, young age -- in junior high, he was toking up.

The borderline is a very educated guess.

Those are his childhood diagnoses. I have no idea what, if anything, he has been diagnosed with as an adult. I assume he saw a shrink when he was in rehab, but obviously, we have no access to those records. Nor is he likely "sick enough" for his gun rights to be taking away -- not by a long shot.

He's charming. I cannot emphasize how charming he is, or how good he is at the "poor pitiful me" act. complete with crocodile tears, or how good he is at shifting the blame onto others without ACTUALLY blaming other people, just by careful inference and subtle comments. I'm convinced it's completely calculated! He can play people like a fiddle.

He walked out of rehab without completing it, and has since gotten into hard drugs, according to the grapevine.

Our security system has teeth, and barks, and has a proven track record. We also have webcams around the property that record any motion, so if anything goes missing we have proof. And we're in a nosy neighborhood where everyone knows everyone, and most of the neighbors do know who my brother is, so if he shows up here, there will be witnesses who can ID him.

Won't stop him if he gets violent, but ...

(The webcams are handy for keeping an eye on a remote property, period, and also for determining if that was a range cow or a bear that went bump in the night, because they have night vision. They were not put in only due to my brother.)

There are no actual grounds for a restraining order, unfortunately. He's been obnoxious and rude but he hasn't been violent to me in about fifteen years (most likely because I avoid him except for family functions and he's not likely to assault me if there are witnesses who are his "allies" because that would make him look bad), nor does he have an (official) record of violence, period, nor has he made any actual threats. So no grounds. Just a sick feeling ...

My father is, however, sending a certified/signature required letter demanding no further contact. If my mother doesn't intercept it and make it disappear, at least my brother will be on notice that he is not to contact us. And if he continues, we can get him for stalking.

(My mother has a habit of concealing things from my brother that might upset him, so if she gets the letter, she may make it disappear. Sigh. At least by sending it signature required, we'll know who signed for it.)

#196 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 03:17 PM:

We live waaaaay out in the country. There's one sheriff's deputy for a few hundred square miles. It can take half a day for the deputy, singular, to show up, even in an emergency. We're expected to be self sufficient.

On the bright side, we have my brother's AK-47 locked up in the gun safe upstairs with our hunting rifles and shotguns -- my father made him sign it over when my father agreed to pay for rehab for him -- so at least we can shoot back. (Gotta laugh or you'll cry, you know.) He could certainly have picked up a new weapon. I know for a fact my stepfather has a .357, which is not kept locked up.

My brother's childhood mental health diagnosis was bipolar and narcissism. And substance abuse, starting from a very, very, young age -- in junior high, he was toking up.

The borderline is a very educated guess.

Those are his childhood diagnoses. I have no idea what, if anything, he has been diagnosed with as an adult. I assume he saw a shrink when he was in rehab, but obviously, we have no access to those records. Nor is he likely "sick enough" for his gun rights to be taking away -- not by a long shot.

He's charming. I cannot emphasize how charming he is, or how good he is at the "poor pitiful me" act. complete with crocodile tears, or how good he is at shifting the blame onto others without ACTUALLY blaming other people, just by careful inference and subtle comments. I'm convinced it's completely calculated! He can play people like a fiddle.

He walked out of rehab without completing it, and has since gotten into hard drugs, according to the grapevine.

Our security system has teeth, and barks, and has a proven track record. We also have webcams around the property that record any motion, so if anything goes missing we have proof. And we're in a nosy neighborhood where everyone knows everyone, and most of the neighbors do know who my brother is, so if he shows up here, there will be witnesses who can ID him.

Won't stop him if he gets violent, but ...

(The webcams are handy for keeping an eye on a remote property, period, and also for determining if that was a range cow or a bear that went bump in the night, because they have night vision. They were not put in only due to my brother.)

There are no actual grounds for a restraining order, unfortunately. He's been obnoxious and rude but he hasn't been violent to me in about fifteen years (most likely because I avoid him except for family functions and he's not likely to assault me if there are witnesses who are his "allies" because that would make him look bad), nor does he have an (official) record of violence, period, nor has he made any actual threats. So no grounds. Just a sick feeling ...

My father is, however, sending a certified/signature required letter demanding no further contact. If my mother doesn't intercept it and make it disappear, at least my brother will be on notice that he is not to contact us. And if he continues, we can get him for stalking.

(My mother has a habit of concealing things from my brother that might upset him, so if she gets the letter, she may make it disappear. Sigh. At least by sending it signature required, we'll know who signed for it.)

#197 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 03:32 PM:

abi @194: Not hlepy, but AVP won't work because it requires committing to quite a few weekends, and I'm much too involved with my local parkrun (I'm Event Director and Volunteer Coordinator), which is on every Saturday, 9am, to want to take that many weekends away from it. Also, I do want to go back to the long-distance running as soon as I physically can - I just need a goal to fill up the next six months or so. I couldn't honestly go and get the training to be an AVP facilitator if I wasn't intending to stick at actually being a facilitator for a reasonable length of time.

I have been considering writing a book about the collection of animals my father had during and after my teenage years, so I might see if I can get anywhere with that.

#198 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 03:44 PM:

dcb, my first thought continues to be the pullup machine, but that's because I think it's magic. It is not an appropriate solution to every problem. I hope you find replacement strategies for everything you've lost, however temporarily.

With regard to the acknowledgement that it's a sucky situation, yes. That matters. I have found that I want, "Good job," and, "Wow, that's a really good thing you're doing for that person," much more often than I actually get them.

Venty, holy shit, that is dysfunctional as hell, and I'm glad you have people around who recognize it and can help you handle it.

#199 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 03:53 PM:

dcb, your situation sucks. I'm afraid I'm one of those "Well, it could be worse!" kinds of people. I'll have to keep an eye on that for myself.

If not hlepy - depending on what your rehab person says, could you do deep water running sooner than actual weight-bearing running?

And I'm interested in your book. :-)

Venty - yuck to the whole situation, and especially for dumping that on your dad on Father's Day.

#200 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 04:37 PM:

dcb, #193: Being told that your feelings are wrong and invalid almost never helps anyone. Reframing a bad situation into something more positive can help, but it's something you have to do for yourself; no one else can make you do it.

Venty, #195: I have no useful suggestions to offer, but much sympathy. It sounds as though your brother is much more careful about his behavior than many such people are, and has selected you and your father as his only long-standing "targets". Otherwise he'd be leaving a string of disillusioned people behind him the way my XRFH did.

#201 ::: Vrdolyak ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 05:15 PM:

Venty Vent Vent @ 195/196: If your father hasn't already sent the letter, certified mail (for an extra fee) has a restricted delivery option where it must not only be signed for, it must be signed by the addressee.

If he has already dropped it off at the PO, then yes, you will at least have a record of who signed it. And unlike certain legal documents, at least he won't have to nail it to the door.

Continuing to read, witness, and sympathize.

#202 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 05:24 PM:

dcb @193: I try not to geek out about bikes excessively over here, but I seem to have metastasized into a classic/vintage bike geek. I contracted it somewhere around the age of 12, and it has been lying dormant most of the time. It revved back into action when I needed a bike, and could not buy what I wanted off the shelf anywhere near my budget. What I want is something like this: . Learning how to remodel the second-hand ten-speed beater into a good approximation has been satisfyingly mechanical. There probably won't be much of the original bike left on it by the time I'm done tweaking, depending on luck scrounging brakes and wheels.

#203 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 05:55 PM:

Aaugh. I must vent. I am trying to do the blasted paperwork to file the new complaint against the crazy landlord from almost a year ago. We have to file it Really Soon, or forever hold our peace. It seemed utterly insane at the time, and it still does. I tried to give someone the one-paragraph summary at dinner last night, and he me. When I explained this was the literal truth, no embroidery, his look got even stranger.

Here is what happened: the landlord installed a spy as our roommate, gave us all notice, and started harassing us when we didn't move out immediately. When we realized that they were in cahoots, we tried to throw out the roommate. She and the landlord forged a lease so that the police would refuse to remove her as a trespasser. The police wouldn't do ANYTHING once they saw it, even when we showed them the original and her signed roommate agreement. The landlord entered illegally to lock us out of her room. We couldn't legally and safely do ANYTHING to keep the bitch out of our home or our belongings for the rest of our tenancy. (We figured that if we changed the locks to lock her out, that soon WE would be locked out instead.) They also tried to use her unpaid July rent to coerce us. It gets crazier yet when you factor in the Airbnb scheme, and the way that the roommate brought home her beloved mother for her eviction night.

That was the very, very short version. The detailed version with evidence occupies a full 2" binder.

What is truly amazing is that every time the landlord did something shady, he would document it for us in writing: text messages, official notices, putatively legal documents, lying in his evidence filings, or posting it on the public internet. He was awe-inspiringly bad at being a crook. We used to photocopy his latest output, go over it with a red pen, and file it straightaway as part of our evidence. I felt so very sorry for his almost-ex-wife, for putting up with this twit long enough to raise a family.

What I did not understand then, and still do not understand now, and desperately want to know, is WHY. Why on earth did he DO it this way? Was he insane? Was he on drugs? Was he in debt to the Mob? He clearly was desperate to make a lot of money fast, even though he's got a decently paid full-time job. He broke the Airbnb terms of service multiple ways, by advertising a property he didn't legally have access to, and he used pictures of his wife's beautiful house instead of the actual house, so the listing was false on multiple fronts. He broke quite a few different clauses of rental law harassing us, and probably committed forgery in order to interfere with the police carrying out their duty -- which as criminal offenses, could lose him his security clearance and therefore his job, if caught -- and for what? We didn't move out any sooner. If his goal was to make an Airbnb love-nest with the yoga teacher, why didn't he just give us proper legal notice and WAIT QUIETLY for two months? That's all he had to do, to be legally untouchable, and have given us too little hassle to either notice his wrongdoings, or to go after him for them.

Similarly, WHY did the yoga teacher do it? At first things looked fine, but once it started going bad, why hang around? She claimed that we were driving her around the bend. (It would only be fair...) But she could have left. At the hearing just before the tenancy ended, she was told point-blank by the judge that she had no legal protections in that situation at all, and that we should have been able to remove her whenever we wanted. After going through a month or two of hell because the idiot landlord doesn't know his legalities, why would she stay for him to make more stupid mistakes? Didn't she realize that by staying there and letting him move in with her, she still had no legal rights? She's sharing a kitchen with the landlord, and therefore has no legal rights as a tenant, but can be thrown out on his say-so.

The other reading of their legal situation would create a real Mexican standoff. Here's how: by staying past the termination date, the roommate inherited the lease with all its terms if the landlord didn't object and evict her in time. Therefore the landlord could pursue her for nearly $20000 of rent, minus whatever she actually paid him. The converse is that landlord has then broken the law by moving into an occupied rental unit, for almost a year now. That ought to bring down a removal and a heavy fine from the authorities, if anyone tells them about it. (It's not clear who has to complain, though.)

No matter how it's looked at, I don't think either of them has any idea of what a mess they could be in if their relationship goes sour. Oh, and did I mention, this pair is living literally next door to the landlord's newly-ex-wife? It's a semidetached with a shared backyard.

One day, I'm going to write this up as a soap opera/screwball comedy where the landlord's in debt to the Mob, the yoga teacher is milking him -- or maybe she's his pusher/babysitter -- and there's some kind of triumphant happy ending where they both get their just desserts.

#204 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 07:43 PM:

Lee: There are a string of others who are temporary friends and then dump him, pissed, but I don't think he's particularly invested in them, so he just moves on to new friends. Well, he moves on after he threatens suicide to family members, screams, cries, and there's drama, drama, drama, but he does move on when a new "girlfriend" shows up.

I know mostly about his friend dramas from social media where he vents to relatives, and gossip from the relatives he does speak to. He likely doesn't realize I lurk and/or that they talk to me.

(The last time he tried the "I'm going to commit suicide" tactic with me, he was about fifteen and I was twenty. I was going to our cousin's wedding on the other side of the country -- he didn't want to go, but he also didn't want to be left behind. I called his bluff and told him to kill himself it right away so that we could get the funeral over with before the wedding. He wasn't real happy with me, and his reaction was screaming fury and tears, and my mother was horrified and nearly kicked me out of the house, but he hasn't tried to manipulate me that way again. By that point, I was SO done with the "I'm going to kill myself" threats from him that I refused to feed the behavior by taking him seriously. By the time I was 20, but before I was truly "the enemy" on a full time basis to him, I'd "talked him down" from "suicide" at least a dozen times and had finally figured out he was using it as a tactic to disrupt family outings. He never wanted to do things with family, but he also didn't want us leaving him behind because then he couldn't be the center of attention and/or he was afraid we'd talk about him behind his back.)

He has a couple childhood friends who have major dysfunctions of their own (a drug buddy, and a friend with benefits), but that's about it for long term friends. And he has an on-again off-again relationship with both of them, with lots of drama, and has since he was in his early teens.

He has that BPD viewpoinr that you're either his VERY BEST FRIEND AND EVERYTHING IS PERFECT or you're his mortal enemy and you're out to get him. We, of course, are his mortal enemies because we do not have a "perfect" relationship with him.

He's also very careful to keep parts of his life compartmentalized -- his friends are separate from his family, which are separate from work (he WAS fired with cause from his last job, for drinking on the job), which are separate from his gaming buddies, etc. He gets quite upset when people "talk about him behind his back" and he doesn't like when his worlds meet.

One of his online WOW gaming buddies found my father on facebook by last name (unusual last name) and she contacted my father because she was worried about my brother. When my brother found out, he apparently cut off all contact with her after ripping her a new one for "crossing the line" by finding his family to determine if he was still alive (apparently, is WOW buddies appointed her to do the detective work!)

She told my father about this, with some real concern about his mental health ... she seemed like a fairly well grounded person who was shocked to run into Teh Crazy without warning. We were not surprised, though, by his reaction.

To my knowledge, my father didn't say anything uncomplimentary about him to her, just that he was "busy," and he'd told my brother she was worried about him, but my brother flipped out anyway.

(The reason he was missing from World of Warcraft was that he had lost his job due to drinking on the job. As a reaction to losing his job, he was just drinking himself into a stupor instead of staying up and playing WOW and drinking to 5 AM. My father says he and his stepmother took several pickup loads of beer cans and bottles out of his apartment, plus drugs, after they checked him into rehab, and neither of them are prone to exaggeration.) ... *sigh*

By keeping strict lines of separation between groups of people (and I'm certain this is deliberate) he can play the "woe is me" sympathy card about how terrible his family/friends/etc. are without people being able to compare notes.

He gets absolutely enraged when people "talk about him behind his back" and seems to have an unreasonable expectation that friends/family/etc. will NEVER gossip about him, period. He doesn't even like it if it's something benign like "oh, he got a new car" or "I saw him at the store."

My mother, by the way, does the same thing -- she keeps her friends separate from family and does not want them to mingle. She gets extremely upset if anyone gossips about her (even benign gossip) and considers it a major personal betrayal.

I was actually an adult before I realized this was not a normal attitude.

My brother, by contrast, seems to think this is a normal, acceptable, and ideal way to handle personal relationships, and if anyone from one group meets someone from another group, his world will end because they might talk to each other about him.

#205 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 09:30 PM:

Lee #190: Apology accepted.

Venty #204: I agree with you that your mother is probably mentally ill in her own right, likely NPD or similar, and is bound up dysfunctionally with your brother. A thought: Have you read Scott Peck's People of the Lie? I think he overstates his case when he coins "Evil Personality Disorder", but the complex he describes rings true as a too-common pattern of malignant dysfunction. Among other points, "always there are two"....

#206 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2015, 10:13 PM:

Venty, #204: Probably too late now, but I had a thought: could your father record those nasty voicemails? At the very least, it would be evidence for any kind of legal action; if he really wanted to fight back, he could post the audio to YouTube and send links to the people your brother is fooling.

I'm trying to think of some unexceptionable way for you and your father to encourage the intermingling of his carefully-compartmentalized groups, but not coming up with anything useful.

#207 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2015, 12:27 AM:

David, she's diagnosed bipolar. I suspect she has more diagnoses than that, but she isn't about to tell anyone her medical history -- even someone like me, her daughter, who has a real need to know.

#208 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2015, 02:13 PM:

Did I seriously just hear my boss (a man) "joke": "Problem is, if you put a woman on a dollar bill, it's only worth 70 cents." ... !? And a male coworker laughs....

And now: do I speak up? Or just let is slide?

#209 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2015, 02:58 PM:

Whew! After conferring with a coworker, I worked up my courage and went and asked about it, and he meant in the darkly ironic sense, as in women get paid $.78 for every $1 paid to a man, and expressing his support of pay equity.

Sure took me aback, though.

#210 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2015, 03:01 PM:

And now: do I speak up? Or just let is slide?

If you're right there and you've got the energy for it, speak up. If not, let it slide; maybe see if there are other, better times.

I can't say much. I'm now in the delightful position of working with someone who physically manhandled me to try and move me away from a door so he could hold it open for me. I chose not to speak up about this because I was so blindingly furious that I didn't trust myself to be able to say anything calmly enough at the time, and then it was a week and too late. And it sucks.

So, if you can speak up, do. But if you Just Can't, know that you aren't letting anyone down or failing some sort of test. Some days, we're just too done to deal.

#211 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2015, 03:14 PM:

cyllan: someone who physically manhandled me to try and move me away from a door so he could hold it open for me.

::boggle:: What the eff was he thinking!?

#212 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2015, 03:26 PM:

Jacque: I wish I knew. I wish I could have figured out a way to sit down and explain to him that his behavior was egregiously wrong -- and threatening -- without yelling.

I did get him to knock off calling me Miss Cyllan, so there's that. And I will be making it a point to hold open every single door that I can find if he's anywhere near it. He's probably clueless instead of actually dangerous. Probably. However, he clearly does not understand boundaries at all.

#213 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2015, 03:27 PM:

Jacque @209, I wondered if it might be something like that. I thought it was funny and could imagine myself saying it if I'd thought of it. So I'm glad to hear that irony was the intention.

cyllan @210 WTF?

#214 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2015, 04:48 PM:


I'd be more apt to go with an incredulous "Do. NOT. Touch. Me. INAPPROPRIATE!" at moderate volume.

A guy this clueless is apt to take your opening doors for him as the start of some kind of game.

#215 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2015, 10:23 PM:

I believe I will be going with "What the FUCK are you doing?" should this ever crop up again and at full bellow. Given the advance warning, I will be a little better in control of my reactions. I think the door opening thing is more confrontational than game-playing for this particular instance, but you're right in thinking that it could be perceived as game-playing. Caution is advised.

Although this incident is hardly the first time something like this has happened to me, it is the first where I was so flabbergasted and furious that I couldn't deal with it. As such, it makes an excellent antidote and anecdote to pull out when someone asks "Well, but why not just do X logical thing like report him/leave them/fight back." Because sometimes our hind brains get overwhelmed and that just isn't an option.

#216 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2015, 02:00 AM:

cyllan: Yeah, that action read as very controlling to me. He moved you so he could open the door "for" you. "Door opening—Ur Doin' It Rong."

This is someone of whom I think I would be very careful to stay out of arm's reach.

#217 ::: charming.quark ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2015, 02:16 PM:

dcb- Ignore this also if too heply - but have you considered Pilates reformer classes for exercise? I started them a couple of months ago, and am experiencing the zeal of the newly converted myself. I chose to try it out specifically because I have neck, back and foot issues that I did not want to make any worse through poor exercise form. I know that a lot of professional athletes use it for both conditioning and injury rehabilitation. Pilates focuses on strengthening your core muscles, and many of the reformer exercises are non-weight bearing.

I am sorry you are having to go through a new injury, especially when you had just gotten back up to speed from a previous one. Sometimes when things like that happen to me, I feel like it would make more sense to JUST STAY DOWN, rather than keep getting knocked down again. People who want you to cheer up are less than no help at all. I've had to deal with that kind of thing too, and it shouldn't be made your problem that you are not happy enough to suit them.

#218 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2015, 05:33 PM:

charming.quark @217: I used to do Pilates, but the class was changed to a new time (less convenient), new place (further away, longer to get to), new teacher (much less good) so I quit. I'd do some Pilates now if the cast wasn't so painful (not the broken leg, you understand, but the cast/bandage). It will be a while before I'll be able to try to do any I think. Reformer classes I've not tried, but thanks for the info.

#219 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2015, 06:45 PM:

Another reference article on how to recognize when you're being gaslighted.

I figure this kind of thing is always useful to post.

#220 ::: Jenavira ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2015, 08:30 PM:

Does anybody have any advice for how to dig yourself out of a self-hate spiral that started with someone else being mad at you? I'm able to tune out a lot of awful brain noise, but "someone's mad at me and I apologized and they still won't talk to me" is...harder.

#221 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2015, 11:54 PM:

*kicks server inquisitively*

#222 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2015, 11:56 PM:

Jenavira @220, I know that feeling. :( For me it depends on how important that person is. If they are just an acquaintance, or a non-inner-circle friend, or something, maybe try spending time interacting with someone closer to you who cares about you, and maybe who can offer perspective on the situation? If they are someone really close to you... I dunno. This is where I get into really awful spirals myself, but maybe this might help: Try to tell yourself that they will come around when they cool down, that if they don't things will eventually be okay* anyway, and try to center your thoughts around something else?

Some ways I do that: feed my brain tasty (light, funny, "junk") content, feed my body junk food, wear myself out exercising and then take a bath or shower, read a really good book, do a mindless chore that will make my space more habitable, go to a store and walk around looking at things but not buying them...

"Curl up and cry until you are cried out" is also an option; I try to follow it up with something soothing and non-taxing, like wrapping myself up in a fuzzy blanket and reading funny stories.

My sympathies. I hope the situation improves in some way!

*To make myself personally feel better, I define this very loosely: 'eventually' is 'within my lifetime, probably sooner than that' and 'okay' means 'I am functional and not actively unhappy mostly,' and I am pretty sure that I will definitely be, eventually, okay. If you do not find this comforting, please discard and I apologize. :)

#223 ::: icebear ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2015, 12:26 AM:

I've been hovering around these discussions in general for a while (posted before actually, not sure if I matched the emails) and around this topic particularly. One of the things that has been on my mind lately is that I've struggled to name and define just what the problem is even though I've recognized that one exists for a while -- the sort of events marked as definitively beyond the pale aren't present (though you could argue that I get to that conclusion through a trained minimization of emotional mistreatment), the events that can be pointed to as being distinctly out of line are relatively scattered, and the things that occur regularly that cause me misgivings are hard to distinguish from what is considered normal (though I think that the mainstream definition of "normal" includes some unfortunate content). And yet I still flinch when my mother suddenly calls my name, and I have a calculation running of how many and what kinds of things I can safely say no to before tensions start rising.

The thing that ties these together, I think, is precisely the matter of boundaries.

Among my friends, I note, if I were to find that I don't want to discuss a given thing, I have only to tell them so and they'll drop the subject and (subject to the limits of memory) refrain from bringing it up again. I've actually had to learn to use this superpower wisely, as there have been times where I've said "no" further in advance than I necessarily wanted, expecting to negotiate a little in the ensuing debate, and found to my surprise that my initial statement was immediately taken as gospel. My friends even seem to anticipate things that I might not want to talk about, and avoid bringing them up or ask permission in advance before mentioning it.

This is not how it works with my parents.

In a recent conversation with my folks, my mother basically shifted the discussion over to my career without the use of the clutch. I've recently been answering the question of "what's been going on at work?" with variations on "nothing much" partly because my work is the sort of thing (software QA) that requires a lot of thought to get a story out of and the resulting story is not usually very entertaining even when it describes a very satisfying event, and partly because the subject of "career" is sometimes a light one and sometimes not and I don't always have the spoons to navigate all the pitfalls (particularly after having just gone through a round of "make my social life sound extraverted and normative given that I am intensely introverted and possibly on the spectrum, without outright lying or outing myself as trans, and while minimizing mention of two of my closest friends who are heavily involved in my social life"). Not that, really, I need a reason to do the cocktail party pass on that subject. And yet.

Anyway, my mother had taken note of this and said very nearly verbatim "I notice you haven't been talking about work lately. I get the impression that you don't want to talk about work. So what IS going on at work? Is everything all right? You haven't been talking about your career plans. What are your career plans? Are you thinking of becoming a manager?" In other words, "I notice you do not want any X and therefore here is a WHOLE LOT of X -- in a context where it is established that declining an X that I am invested in will likely produce a poutfest and/or concern spiral that is your fault for being unreasonably uncommunicative."

And that conversation is not atypical of what I'd call "a good conversation" in that relationship. Not "I enjoyed it", which is the default for my friends and sometimes happens with my parents, but "I got through it without incident".

It's trying. I feel like something needs to change in this situation, but it seems like a really difficult road to start on when I run the "say no to everything I'd reasonably rather not get into (most of which my friends would never make it necessary to refuse)" through the refusal calculator and it comes up "conversation explodes within 15 minutes".

#224 ::: icebear ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2015, 01:24 AM:

I think when I came here last it was while I was considering coming out to my parents, and the update on how that (eventually) went kind of illustrates the sort of outcomes I'm looking to avoid.

If I'd updated immediately after I'd come out (specifically, as bi; I've not gotten into the gender question very directly) or even after that year's holiday season was done, I would have said "I got all worked up over nothing." My parents' immediate reaction was, considering the circumstances (they're distinctly conservative on social issues) fairly supportive. Lots of "of course this doesn't change anything", "we kind of thought so", that sort of deal. So I felt like -- wow, I really misjudged that.

Still, I figured -- don't count your supportive chickens until the holiday season is over. Holidays generally have a couple modes of potential trouble -- either I'm physically present with my parents and not around extended family, which is prime time for telling me Important Things You Don't Want To Hear But They're Important We're Concerned, or we're around extended family and appearances are important, which precludes outright lectures but also means that departing from the script (and not being heterosexual and gender-conforming definitely departs) is a potential source of trouble. That year, even with plenty of opportunity, nothing at all went wrong aside from that I didn't enjoy the season much at all what with keeping an eye out for incipient trouble and holding my exit strategy in mind.

So, I think, clearly I have a problem here in that I thought there was going to be a bunch of trouble with my folks but they were actually totally accepting. I really need to get over that, yes?

Next year, I go into the holiday season thinking "This year I can just enjoy the holiday without waiting for the other shoe to fall." Show up to my parents' house, and pretty soon after I arrive the subject of husbands comes up. Just casually, you know. Husbands, they are a good thing? Indeed, partners are a good thing. At least for some people. Little later it happens again. You know, it's nice to have a man around the house, it makes things so much easier. Indeed, I notice from having a roommate that having another person around can be really handy. And a little later, so have you given any thought to the benefits of a husband to you personally? Well, yeah, at some point I'd probably like to pursue the question of a partner, but I'm in no great hurry. I think at some point I may have said something to the effect of "There's at least some chance that any marriage I'm involved in will have a husband in it." The implication was not received.

Eventually, as often happens with this sort of pattern, my mother gets irritated with my failure to receive and accept the point she's driving indirectly, and breaks out with it: She does not mean "partner", she definitely means "husband", as in my getting heterosexually married to one. She thinks that I am "confused" about my sexuality because of "that stuff you read on the Internet" and because a friend of mine who I tried to date mistreated me and spoiled me on men (which is a separate established point of contention; my version of events is very different, and I've previously set the boundary that I don't care to have my friends slagged on). Not thrown crockery -- but me being the thing that's treated like a broken pot isn't pleasant.

The rest of that visit and the later Christmas visit didn't have any more open incidents, but were seasoned with remarks that deniably insinuated or didn't make much sense without the assumption that I was essentially a cardboard cutout of a Rush-style man hating feminazi.

So, basically, a really uncomfortable social situation (and one of the things that plays in here is that for whatever reason I'm not great at processing complex social interactions in the moment, particularly if there's a degree of indirectness involved) and not the sort of thing that you'd do to an adult and peer that you were trying to be a good host to, but positioned such that if I call it out I'm being the bad guy and soooooo sensitive we just can't talk to you about anything are you having your period?

The good thing, in a sense, about the other shoe dropping here is that I can trust my judgment again -- I finally have an example of why just because things are going "nice" right now doesn't mean that nothing is lurking. But it also means that there's always a limit to how much I can enjoy interactions that are going well -- even if 95% of the time things are good, all of that 95% is ruined by the possibility that the conversation is going to take a turn into bad territory.

At which point it comes back into boundaries again, because -- going back to the friend comparison -- if a friend of mine had an impulse to pursue a line of conversation that made me uncomfortable, I can still be comfortable because I can say "Let's not discuss that" and then we'll go back to the territory that is mutually fun.

With that function impaired, it's harder to stop the slide -- the impulse to do an annoying thing means the annoying thing will happen (and if it's merely annoying, do I want to have a to-do over it?), the impulse to pry means that prying will happen, the impulse to invalidate means that invalidating will happen. So I do need to get the "no" back on the table, but I suspect doing so is not going to be fun.

#225 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2015, 09:56 AM:

icebear: Your mom is certainly being obtuse and overbearing! At the same time, you do seem to be pretty well on top of the situation so far: You've identified there's a problem, set up some defenses against your mom, and you've got a handle on their tactics.

You don't say how you responded to your mother's topic rodeo. If you've already got a handle on verbal defense in the moment... well, you might be ready to escalate to "renegotiating your relationship" with your mother.

#226 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2015, 11:03 AM:

Icebear, wow. That change of topics to career stuff... I mean wow. Plus the rest. Seriously.

#227 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2015, 01:15 PM:

Icebear, it sounds to me that your mom consistently exerts subtle pressure, and occasionally whips out a clue-by-four when the subtle pressure doesn't seem to be working. To give your mom her due, it is normal and legit for family to ask how your life is going -- both work and social -- and radio silence is often a genuine sign of trouble, so keeping quiet as a main strategy is suboptimal. But your mom also seems to have an unhealthy desire to mold and direct you. She stirs them together really well, then hands you this cocktail of orange juice and drain cleaner.

If it were me, and I were not dependent on family (it doesn't sound like you are), then I would experiment with less pretending, harder boundaries, and feedback. You have already been doing some of this, and it has been working. Being unassailably yourself should work with your strengths -- no fancy emotional footwork required.

LESS PRETENDING: why waste energy apologizing for or hiding the totally unobjectionable parts of who you are? Save it for the parts worth keeping to yourself. "How are things going at work?" "Great, I fixed N bugs this week and one of them was elusive!" Or "Slow but steady -- I'm running tests to eliminate possible trigger conditions for a bug." Social: "Have you been going out lately?" "John and Mary and I had a good night last week playing boardgames." Or "I've been reading a really good book. Have you heard about [Author]?" If pressed, "I like having a smaller, closer circle of friends" or "I value my quiet time".

HARDER BOUNDARIES: does your family value good manners and a smooth surface? Then try this. When family tries to mold or direct you on matters that are none of their business, be unfailingly polite and calmly oblivious to their pressure. I emphasize being calm and pleasant, because doing that in the face of pressure and rudeness destabilizes bullies. When they break out the clue-by-fours, let them shatter upon your granite boundaries. Either they will learn to knock it off, or they will be rude enough for you to be more direct. One option is to change the subject. If it refuses to stay changed, reduce your participation: don't answer nosy questions, maybe go for a walk? If they are very rude indeed, call them out on it and disengage. You will be pleasant so long as they are, and if they won't be pleasant, you will withdraw. Do not return fire.

You did a great job with your mom on the topic of partners: you gently and steadfastly included the possibility of non-male partners. If your mother insists on a husband again, you can ignore it. Or you could say that you will marry a person you love when you are ready, and that is what matters. To embarrass her in return, oh-so-calmly ask what exactly a husband can provide that a wife can't, and factually rebut every point. When she gets around to the obvious one: "Mom, there are marital aids for that now. You've probably seen ads for them on the internet."

FEEDBACK: the key is to consistently discourage undesirable comments and behaviour, while consistently encouraging desirable comments and behaviour. In my case it boils down to I won't allow my mother to go on hurting me, but neither will I go on hurting her for its own sake. (During the years where she made me into a cornered animal, I bit and clawed plenty. When you can't escape your tormentor, you retaliate.)

Undesirable things should bounce off my scaly hide. I ignore the attempts to push me around and either don't respond, or say what *I* plan to do. I try not to snipe back when sniped at -- I want to be a granite fortress on the moral high ground of genuine politeness, not down in the mud wrestling and slinging. Insincere apologies get a cold reception. If she says things that are rude/bigoted by modern standards, I gently point that out at least some of the time.

Desirable things get a warm reception. Apologies are accepted graciously for their full sincerity value, even if she rammed both feet down her own throat getting it out. If I'm feeling generous, I might help extract the feet. Gifts I want are accepted graciously. If she wants to tell me about her life, I actually listen and extend sympathy or compliments or good advice as appropriate. If she says a pro-equality thing with dated terms, I take it at full value instead of bristling. (I know which terms were polite when she was young, and try to update her vocabulary.)

#228 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2015, 09:31 AM:

Icebear, that refusal calculator sounds like an awesome skill to have. Or maybe not, if it usually delivers bad news.

#229 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2015, 05:46 PM:

Jenivra: I don't have any good advice on derailing the spiral. Witnessing.

#230 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2015, 03:05 PM:

Jenavira @220: If I ever find a reliable way to get out of a downward spiral, I will certainly post about it here. In the mean time, sympathies.

icebear @223/224: Sympathies. My mother also has boundary issues and does that sort of thing. Then gets "why are you so defensive?" "I didn't say anything that warranted that sort of reaction!" "You're so sensitive!" when I get upset/frustrated/angry over the latest iteration of whatever subject (oh, and apparently the fact that I expect a request to stop a topic to be accepted rather than ignored means that it's not a request, it's an order - because, presumably, in her eyes it's good behaviour to just ignore such a request).

So I do need to get the "no" back on the table, but I suspect doing so is not going to be fun. I don't think it's going to be fun for you either. Wish I could help, but all I can do is say I'm here, listening and witnessing.

Bodhisvaha @227: To give your mom her due, it is normal and legit for family to ask how your life is going -- both work and social -- and radio silence is often a genuine sign of trouble, so keeping quiet as a main strategy is suboptimal. Unfortunately, if icebear's mother is anything like mine, giving any information* in response to a query only leads to further and more intrusive questions followed by giving of (unwanted and unhelpful) advice, followed by pressure for you to give a verbal reassurance (preferably a promise) that you will follow that advice and keep her informed about that, in detail. It's a no-win situation.

I admire your ability to be a granite fortress. I'm working on something similar, but I've got a way to go yet.

*The responses you suggest can sometimes work for some queries, but it depends on the query "what exactly is the situation between you and X (boyfriend)" doesn't lead itself to easy evasive answers when "fine" is a dishonest answer.

#231 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2015, 01:24 PM:

dcb @230: it was worth considering whether a little safe information was a better bet than silence. Icebear knows their family best.

As for me and mine, my sister and I were expected to be extensions of my mother while under her roof, but once we moved out we were officially independent beings in her mind. She still sometimes clearly *wants* to run our lives, but while she might stick her toes over the line by advising hard, she won't outright step over it. She has a history of getting away from her overbearing family that I think gave us this escape hatch.

The granite fortress is still a work in progress. I only committed to the "I am a rock" strategy just under 2 years ago, after a lot of thought. Before I was in this halfway state where I had moved out over a decade ago, and was trying to be my own person, but I still cared far too much for my own good what my parents thought of me and my actions. I kept getting treated like half an adult, too. I was sick of being vulnerable to them when I knew that it was mostly going to hurt me. And since there was no sense in expecting them to turn into good parents, or to appreciate the daughter they got, the best available option was to stop caring. Trying to please them was fruitless, so why not try something new?

So I tried my best to stop caring whether they approved of me and my choices. Detaching also meant being less needy and approval-seeking at them. The bizarre thing is that once I committed to this, my parents significantly improved. Not only have they been treating me more as a genuine adult, they are even starting to behave a bit like real parents. I don't know if it's approaching middle age, or changing my behaviour, or them mellowing, or some of everything, but it's real. So I don't have to be nearly as hard-ass about it as one might have expected.

#232 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2015, 02:17 PM:

Bodhisvaha @231: it was worth considering whether a little safe information was a better bet than silence. Icebear knows their family best. I agree, I think that your suggestion can work in some circumstances/some dynamics, and I apologise for writing in a way that suggested I knew better that you did. It hit a tender spot for me.

Really pleased to hear that your parents have behaved better in response to your acting as an autonomous adult.

#233 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2015, 04:20 PM:

icebear, #223/224: Yeah, you seem to have changed e-mails, so your current VAB includes just these 2 posts. However, ISTR that when you were posting last, one of the Issues involved was your mother's constantly intrusive comments about your complexion. Has there been any progress on that front?

About the current Issue, I agree that your ability to both recognize that there's a problem and put a name to it is a good start. Unfortunately, I don't have any useful advice to offer, since my response to my parents doing similar things was (1) to simply stop telling them anything important (my mantra at the time was that it was better and easier to keep having one meaningless fight about "You never TELL us anything about your life!" than to suffer the Death of a Thousand Cuts which resulted whenever I let something slip), and (2) to largely exclude my parents from my life, period. If you want advice on how to do that, I can offer it, but it doesn't sound as though that's your preferred option at this point.

#234 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2015, 12:46 AM:

dcb, it's ok, you didn't hurt my feelings. Icebear knows better than either of us which approach will suit, and it never hurts to have one more idea in the toolkit.

dcb, icebear: I forgot to mention that I don't talk to my family often -- I live in the same city, but mostly we only meet or even talk on birthdays and major holidays. Skipping the remaining events would be a red neon sign reading "I am rejecting you." I have not wanted to flat-out cut off my parents because it would be a big effing deal, and if I changed my mind later, I might never be allowed to forget how I had wounded them all by severing ties. Plus I want to preserve what positive relationship I have with them and my maternal-side aunt, who is more pleasant to spend time with, but also very loyal to my mother. I had to get creative and figure out another approach. I am as surprised as anybody at how well it has worked. So well that I frankly think there has to be more to it, like the parents mellowing with age.

One thing that was in my favour since forever is that my mother has a history of having escaped her own dysfunctional-or-worse family. This meant that while under her roof, the children were expected to be extensions of the parents, but once we moved out for good, we crossed a line into safer territory. And while my mother will push her toes across that line by advising us really hard, she will not step over it by actually wresting control of our lives. She wasn't willing to be *that* much of a hypocrite or traitor to her younger self.

It makes me wonder, if I had a time machine, went back, pushed my younger self into therapy and self-assertion ten or more years earlier, what would have happened? I'd still be messed up, but would I be more or less recovered? Would I be a substantially different person, or would I just have cooler experiences? (One of the things I would have told myself was "go travel! you can teach english to fund it!")

#235 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2015, 11:28 AM:

Ah, the things we could tell our younger selves....

I was actually pondering this on the way to work this morning.

Any "advanced wisdom" I could offer my younger self would have been severely constrained by my younger self's inability to learn—amounting to a nearly physical disability.

It wasn't until I started "learning how to learn" (beginning in about 1980, three years after I'd Gotten Out) that I had even the beginnings of the capacity to take in information like that.

#236 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2015, 06:43 AM:

We talked here a while ago about the word "just" and how it tried to minimize people's experiences (as when someone says "I just meant..." or "You just need to...")

I was interested to see this article on how the word can damage credibility. It says that in a business context, using it implies that you're seeking permission or putting yourself in a subordinate position (e.g. "I just wanted to check on the schedule..." instead of "I need to know when...") and that women are far more likely to use it than men.

So that's a different, but similar take on the word, also saying that it puts people in a childlike position.

#237 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2015, 08:21 AM:

OtterB @236, I have a bad work relationship with "just". One of my bosses consistently uses it (not just (oops) to me, to all his employees) and it makes me, and others (I've checked) irritable.

"Could you just..." "I just need you to...." The assignments are valid, but the "just" implies that they won't take hours of fiddly effort. I, and the others I've talked to about this, would really prefer him to just say, "I need you to..." or "Do this...." The word "just" implicitly devalues the work.

I honestly think that he picked up this verbal tick trying to be a nice guy, rather than an authoritarian. But it's lemon juice on a papercut.

#238 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2015, 02:15 PM:

Cassy, #237: Maybe you should send your boss a link to that article! If he reads it and develops a personal stake in taking the word out of his vocabulary, then you won't have to worry about whether or not to try to explain why it bugs you.

#239 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2015, 10:49 PM:

So I was just a relentlessly enthusiastic cue-blind boundary-crossing dumbshit at somebody whose respect I value highly, in public no less. Anybody got links to pictures of cute kittens or happy ponies?

#240 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2015, 11:45 PM:

J @239: Sympathies. :(

Also, check out any of the daily paintings by Cryptid-Creations on DeviantArt. In particular, this one might make you smile. :) Or maybe the pirate parrot-gryphon. :)

#241 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2015, 02:37 AM:

J @239: Perhaps Neil and the Bear?

#242 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2015, 10:52 AM:

Today is a day for throwing over your obligations and going out riding in the sun and woods by the lake and beach.

I, of course, am locked in a concrete box full of obligations.

#243 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2015, 03:56 PM:

J @239: Sympathies.

Jacque @241: Thank you for that - I kind of need rainbow chasers at the moment. It's going to be a LONG four weeks until my next check-up, after which hopefully I'll be allowed to start rehab and partial weightbearing.

#244 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2015, 11:12 PM:

dcb: BTW, I am reminded of when my dad broke his wrist falling on ice. Went to the hospital duly fitted with a cast (this was mid '70s; old-style plaster)—which lasted a couple of days. He was sufficiently annoyed by it that, my dad being my dad, he went out into the shop and cut it off using the moto tool. That way, he could let his wrist loose when he was just sitting, and then wrap the cast up closed again with an ace bandage when he needed to be up and around.

I can only imagine the doctor's face when my dad's first checkup came along. Nevertheless, the doctor bowed to the innevitable and issued him a velcro wrist brace in place of the, um, compromised cast.

#245 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2015, 10:25 AM:

Jacque @244: I have a LOT of sympathy for your Dad's attitude/action, whatever the reason for it in his case. In my case, I've been reading everywhere about the huge problem of itching under a cast. What itching problem? What about the pain problem? You know, from the cast pressing on you? Not a mention. It's evident that most people (lucky them) do not get pain due to constant pressure on their ankle bones or Achilles' tendon or top of foot. I do. Lucky me (not). The fiberglass cast put on by the tech after the first post-op backslab cast caused serious pain, he split (about an inch taken out in a strip all up the front), which allowed me to lever it apart slightly when (despite extra padding over these areas) the allodynia pain hit - useful for the ankle bones, less use when it was the Achilles' tendon complaining. The Aircast boot is slightly narrow on the ankle so still puts pressure on my ankle bones, unfortunately, triggering the allodynia periodically, but I'm hoping that a little further reduction in swelling of the ankle will make that less of an issue. And at least I can take it off for a while if I'm sitting/lying with my leg up and supported. The down side is that the leg feels very vulnerable when it's not in the boot and I worry that I'll manage to do something stupid that will interfere with healing.

#246 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2015, 12:47 AM:

dcb: Is it just me, or doesn't it seem like casts shouldn't, you know, hurt? I thought the whole idea is that they are, like, form-fitted.

#247 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2015, 08:16 AM:

Jacque @246: For most people I think they don't, given the absence of any mention of such in my searches online.

Unfortunately I suffer from a (localised, so far) problem known as static mechanical allodynia. That is, pressure on certain areas, including my inner and outer ankle bones, the bony bits on the top of my foot, and my Achilles' tendon, is translated by my nervous system into pain. I woke from the anaesthetic after the op and within seconds had tears rolling down my face from pressure on my Achilles' tendon - oral tr*mad*l and IV paracetamol damped it down. I asked for (and got) extra padding over the areas I knew would be problematic, despite which I had bouts of pain, as indicated previously. It is still being a problem with the Aircast boot. I should probably have asked for a Medium rather than a Small, just for some extra room side-to-side at the ankle, but I think it would have been too long in the foot, and I'm having enough problems hauling the thing around as it is. The allodynia is a real problem in this situation.

It was a problem with my previous injury, when I had to wear an Aircast posterior tibial tendon brace for five months, as well - but I could take that off when I wasn't walking, and I spent an extra £50 on a second one, one size up, (a) to facilitate showering and going to/from the swimming pool (one wet, one dry brace); (b) so I could put the larger one on with extra padding when the pressure got painful.

I have also previously had allodynia from the normal, very light friction of the back of my running shoe brushing against the skin over my Achilles' tendon (dynamic mechanical allodynia). That one, I honestly thought I had a problem with the tendon, as it hurt badly while I was running, and went to the physio to get it checked out. She tried everything to make the tendon hurt. Nothing. Then just as she was giving up, suddenly she did something that hurt and I said "that!" It turned out it was her finger gently stroking up the skin over the tendon. My solution was to tape a donut-shaped pad over the Achilles' tendon so that the shoe couldn't touch it.

Problem with a cast is that if it's loose enough not to press on the ankle bones and tendon, it's loose enough to slip down and cut off circulation. And if it's firm enough not to slip, the pressure causes pain. Noxious pain.

I'm presently hoping that if the swelling goes down just a bit more, there will be enough room inside the boot that the pressure will be off the ankle bones (at the moment it's okay first thing in the morning and gradually triggers more and more during the day).

Note that some people with e.g. fibromyalgia get much worse static mechanical allodynia, to the point that e.g. seams on clothing or even just a lightweight shirt cause pain.

#248 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2015, 10:23 PM:

dcb: When I was FINALLY diagnosed with Fibro, the doctor advised me to choose clothing that didn't bind -- it was amazing how much improvement I experienced, just by changing what I was wearing.

One of my other triggers is drafts. A flow of cold air on my back at shoulder level will cause a knot of pain between my shoulder blade and spine. The way you describe the ankle/tendon pain reminds me of this.

#249 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2015, 01:02 PM:

Lori Coulson @248: Sympathies; that reaction to a cold draft sounds really unpleasant. Interestingly, allodynia can be a component of migraine - so that for example lightly brushing the sufferer's hair hurts. Pain mechanisms, and the ways in which the signals for what should be other sensations (static or dynamic touch, cold, heat) can be transmuted into pain, are fascinating to study. But allodynia is a real pain (pun intended) to live with.

One thing I am glad about is that the cast technician took the time to ask me about it and I was able to explain it to him - because the next person with allodynia to walk in there may very well never have heard of allodynia and have absolutely no idea why their cast is hurting them. The fact that I'm qualified* to explain it means that poor person is more likely to believed when they state that it hurts - even though there's no sign of any bruise or developing pressure sore under the cast.

*I'm a veterinarian, therefore more likely to be believed by medical personnel when I start talking about this stuff, and a few years ago I collated a whole load of information on pain management in ruminants (cattle, sheep, deer etc.), one section of which was on the neurophysiology of pain, so I do actually know about it academically as well as from personal experience.

#250 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2015, 01:41 PM:

I'm glad the tech listened. I'm sure you can imagine the conversations I had with various doctors before I got fed up and went to a rheumatologist on my own dime.

#251 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2015, 02:29 PM:

Lori Coulson @250: Oh yes I can well imagine it. My mother, a (thankfully) retired GP, still doesn't believe there's anything "real" about ME/CFS or fibromyalgia. I've been doing some research and there's an increasing body of (measurable) evidence of both peripheral nociception abnormalitis and central pathway sensitisation in individuals with fibromyalgia. And of immune system dysfuctions in ME/CFS. One of these days I'm going to hit her with the evidence.

#252 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2015, 06:25 PM:

dcb: I would love to be a fly on the wall to hear that conversation.

There were times when I wondered if I was going insane -- being told "it's all in your head" DOES nasty things to your ability to judge.

I came close to crying when the rheumatologist said, "I'm not sure if you have RA, but I'm certain you have Fibromyalgia," and he went through a list of symptoms, and actually had a little audio-visual presentation on coping with it! (That flare-up presented like the onset of RA, including red hot swollen joints and rapidly dropping weight.)

I've done very well with medication, and having learned my limits, I can get a flare-up under control much faster. I retired from my job at the beginning of 2012, and I haven't had a migraine since then either.

#253 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 01:51 PM:

I saw a happy thing on the weekend.

Spouse's little brother and family were in town, and we spent an afternoon with them. I've been really impressed with how they've raised their kids (now ~2 and ~5) and how they've done so many things right that my parents did wrong. (side note: they have no problem with the little boy wearing his older sister's skirts, as long as the older sister is okay with him borrowing her clothes)

The latest thing just about made me cry. The girl (older) was happy and hyper and trying to give her little brother hugs. He liked it for a bit, then had had enough, and she wouldn't stop. SiL told her to stop, and part of the conversation was "Hugging is a two-person event" (in response to "[Brother] doesn't want to give you a hug right now" and the response "That's okay, I'll just give *him* one!") and "no one has to have a hug if they don't want one." Another time "[Brother] doesn't want you touching him. You need to stop." This was part of a pattern of implicitly and explicitly teaching *consent* as a key part of interacting with other people. I've been seeing this pattern every single time I've seen them. :) Also, when we arrived, they asked the kids if they wanted "to give Auntie Chickadee a hug?" but didn't force the issue or shame the kids for being "shy" for not instantly warming up to part-strangers who they see maybe twice a year.

The number of (to me) complete strangers I was required to hug and kiss as a small child...

Spouse and his little brother are awesome. :) I married into a good family. :)

#254 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 01:55 PM:

Lori Coulson @252: Being taken seriously after having been dismissed does have that effect sometimes.

I'm not sure my mother would have believed me about the allodynia except that I could point to evidence such as me yelping with pain when the physio did something to my Achilles' tendon, when I couldn't see what she was doing (I was lying on my stomach) and it turning out to be her finger stroking along the skin, gently, as I indicated @247. My sister has fibro, and is tired all the time and has muscular pain all the time and lots of headaches - and our mother thinks she's making it all up...

Hopefully I'll soon be able to point to enough studies that she will be forced to accept the weight of scientific evidence - given that "there's no proof of anything being physically wrong" appears to be her sole justification for claiming that it's all in the mind. (By the way, I was interested to discover that diagnosing ME/CFS, as a diagnosis of exclusion includes ruling out a psychiatric cause for the symptoms...

#255 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 03:07 PM:

All in my head. All. In. My. Head. The list so far stands at:

Osgood-Schlatter ("No pain, no gain;" said the gym teacher scornfully; I was diagnosed about 20 years later)
Sinus headaches (accepted as real after I developed an infection)
Migraines (juuust missed the generation in which this was a silly lady idea)
Depression ("SNAP OUT OF IT!" said the therapist I visited exactly once)
PTSD (so glad that therapist didn't attempt to snap me out of that one)
Non-neurotypicality (somewhere on the spectrum and no, I can't wish myself all better, kthx)
A red-brown mole on my chest that shot ice-cold stabbing pain into my flesh, which I reported when I was 8 and the doctor just sort of looked blank; I still have it and it still occasionally hurts

#256 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 03:56 PM:

My brother once asked me, in all seriousness, if it was just possible that menstrual cramps were "all in my head."

I don't even remember wtf brought this question on. In restrospect, I'm sorry I didn't ask him to stand up, put his feet wide apart, and let me show him just how "imaginary" the pain was.

#257 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 04:53 PM:

My standard retort to anything being "all in my head" is, "my head is where I live."

#258 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 05:06 PM:

Menstrual cramp pain is all too real. When a non-sufferer doesn't believe in it, it's tempting to feed them whatever will give them horrid indigestion, wait a while, and explain that it's a lot like that, but in a slightly different bit of your belly.

Or you could have them try on this dingus:

#259 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 05:33 PM:

abi @257: Well, yes. Which is why "pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is" should be the basis on which medical personnel treat pain. Alas, this is not always honoured.

J @255: Wow. Just wow (in a bad way). Particularly the therapist!

#260 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 07:45 PM:

J @255: That reminds me of the first two therapists I saw for depression; neither of them believed that I was depressed, and the second gave me equally inappropriate advice. And she'd been practicing for 30 years! :( One wonders how many patients they've harmed. :(

Unrelatedly, I just read Captain Awkward, and thought in shock "This was me, not even a year ago! Heck, I still struggle with the gut-wrenching guilt when I refuse to let Mom run my life. (though she is getting better about actually *asking* instead of "So on Wednesday we'll be expecting you at 5 o'clock...")

I figured it might resonate with a number of people here, or perhaps be helpful to those a little earlier in the adult-recognition process.

#261 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 09:46 PM:

Chickadee, #260: Go you! Doesn't it feel great to realize how much progress you've made?

#262 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 10:27 PM:

Lee @261: At this point, it's really scary to realize how recently I made the discovery that I don't *actually* have to do every social obligation she commits me to.

#263 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2015, 11:51 AM:

#262, Chickadee: there are a lot of things that I have learned recently where I try not to think about the timeline. Things that I "should" have learned as a kid, as a teen, as a young adult.

I try to focus on the benefits of knowing instead of how I learned it too late to prevent past problems. (Solutions requiring time machines and all that.) Sometimes keeping that focus is harder when, for example, I'm learning stuff from Scarleteen, which is explicitly teen-focussed and I'm somewhere between double and triple that age range. Sometimes keeping that focus is harder when I also remember that it's a thing my parents should have taught me but either didn't, or taught me the opposite.

I know the feeling though: "I'm only just learning this *now*? Argh!"

#264 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2015, 02:00 PM:

Speaking as someone for whom virtually all functionality has been retrofitted in adulthood:

1. Rage against the upbringing is totally a Thing. How prone I am to it seems to be inversely proportional to how resilient I feel in the moment. Say it with me: get enough sleep, eat a good diet....

2. I totally PWN all those things I had to figure out I needed, found or built, and installed.

And it proves that I can. Repeatedly.

#265 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2015, 05:37 PM:

For me, knowing I'm not the only one still struggling with parent-related issues and other stuff, this late in life, is comforting (It's not just me!). Thank you all, for sharing (and listening). It really does help.

#266 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2015, 11:21 AM:

I just finished a book - "Blood and Circuses" by Kerry Greenwood (a Phryne Fisher novel). I was wondering if anyone else has read it, and what they think of the placement of the sexual minority characters. (trying not to be too spoilery: there's an intersex person and a trans man)

I have my thoughts, but I'm coming from a place of cis/het privilege.

Also, feel free to ignore/delete if this isn't thread-relevant.

#267 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2015, 08:15 AM:

I have a new "acting normal after bad news" problem I want to ask about. I've been doing a long-term consulting project, and I've been informed that the contract stops in 3 weeks instead of 4 months-- the new manager just isn't into me.

I'm quite bothered by this news now, and am wondering how I'm expected to act normal, to not be in tears, to have a meeting with a third party next week. In my imagination I should take this bad news and motivate myself to do tremendous work... but that's a movie scene, and my reality is that stress defocuses me.

A friend tells me that "this happens all the time- you get laid off with a two week notice and you still have to work. Of course it doesn't feel good but you just do it."

Is there an expectation that most people can be told bad news about their job loss and still power their way through the work of the last days, as if everything is fine? I don't see myself doing that very well.

#268 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2015, 08:15 AM:

I have a new "acting normal after bad news" problem I want to ask about. I've been doing a long-term consulting project, and I've been informed that the contract stops in 3 weeks instead of 4 months-- the new manager just isn't into me.

I'm quite bothered by this news now, and am wondering how I'm expected to act normal, to not be in tears, to have a meeting with a third party next week. In my imagination I should take this bad news and motivate myself to do tremendous work... but that's a movie scene, and my reality is that stress defocuses me.

A friend tells me that "this happens all the time- you get laid off with a two week notice and you still have to work. Of course it doesn't feel good but you just do it."

Is there an expectation that most people can be told bad news about their job loss and still power their way through the work of the last days, as if everything is fine? I don't see myself doing that very well.

#269 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2015, 09:12 AM:

variations on a lime @267

In many of the places I've worked over the years, it's been understood (at least by non-managers) that most people who are working their last couple of weeks will not be putting in their best work. Sometimes I've seen this lead to resentment and sometimes I haven't, but it does seem to be understood.

#270 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2015, 09:18 AM:

variatons on a lime @267, it's called "short-timer's disease". Since it has a name, it's obviously not just you. Short-timer's disease can be caused by impending retirement, or by impending layoffs, but it causes a drastic drop in productivity regardless. Anyone who expects hyper-productivity from an employee who knows they won't be an employee shortly is living in pie-in-the-sky land.

#271 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2015, 10:45 AM:

variations on a lime @267, as others have said, it's not just you having trouble under the circumstances. My advice would be to focus on leaving professionally, for your own satisfaction in knowing you did the right thing and for your professional reputation, if it's the kind of field where word gets around. Vent somewhere outside the office (like to us, or to friends). Disengage, emotionally, from moving things forward. If you have a few tasks you can finish up, then do, but more important - - document, document, document. Make lists. Sort files. Make sure your coworkers and/or successor can find things and know where projects stand.

Ignore if helpy, but consider that the 3-week notice is in some ways a vote of confidence - sometimes people get walked to the door as soon as they're given notice.

And good luck with the imminent job hunt. Those are never any fun.

#272 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2015, 12:31 PM:

variations, #267: Your primary concerns at this point are (1) not leaving the project in such a state that whoever works on it next will have to spend their first month figuring out what's going on, and (2) looking for a new position. The first is basic professionalism, but won't be onerous if you've been keeping decent documentation. The second is what is to be expected of someone who's just been given notice.

Also, start getting anything that belongs to you out of the office immediately. This is a precaution against things going pear-shaped between now and your official last day.

#273 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2015, 01:51 PM:

variations on a lime @267: That sucks. As others have said, for your own satisfaction you may want to do you work to the best of your ability. BUT being expected to show no signs outwardly? I've never managed that, and I think it's unreasonable to expect it. Keeping things together during that meeting with the third party? Yes. Acting like life is rosy? No, you're not the the only one to find that pretty much impossible.

#274 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2015, 07:06 PM:

Everyone @269-273
Much appreciated-- two days after I'm feeling a little less stressed. It's helpful knowing it isn't just me finding this to be a tough situation.

I'm also thinking about my reactions and resilience, where it ties into what I learned growing up.

This is bad news I've gotten, but it's only happening once. It's not like the people there will continue to deliver bad news every day. In contrast, growing up, if the dysparent delivered "bad news" (being angry and argumentative) it went on for days, often getting worse over time. This difference might be part of why the advice I got sounds strange to me, and my worries strange to people who have less experience of ongoing bad news.

#275 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2015, 12:09 AM:

From the department of wow-those-Tapes-run-deep: I was having a conversation with myself today about my struggles with adulting and sitting at the computer wasting time* instead of doing adulting stuff, and even though today I worked overtime and showed up on time and did all the work things I had to do, arranged nutritious meals, tidied up the kitchen *and* the living room a bit, and even spent an hour or so on my novel which I haven't done in ages, I was still telling myself that wasn't "real" adulting, there was so much other stuff that I hadn't done yet and even the stuff I did do should have been done a couple of weeks ago so it didn't count...

...and I realized that my own brain was moving the goalposts on me and dismissing everything I had actually accomplished, to tell me that I'll never be good enough.

Screw you, Jerkbrain. I've done enough adulting today. I'm baking cookies. And licking the raw cookie dough off the beaters, too. :p

(Step 1 is recognition. I haven't beat them yet, but I recognized them today.)

* I'm not even sure if wasting time is the right description. I am at the computer a lot. I do a lot of reading at the computer. Reading, while not explicitly a "waste of time" when I was a kid, was always interruptible and there was usually something else I could/should be doing instead, so it was implicitly a waste of time I guess. Over the last few years my reading has included a lot of feminist stuff and anxiety/depression/abuse stuff, so not only "interruptible" because it's reading, but also topics I don't feel up to talking with my parents about, and Mom frequently opens her phone calls by asking me if I've done anything interesting lately. My reading is interesting to me, but I'm not about to tell her about it, so I say nope nothing interesting. Which then reinforces that reading is "nothing".

#276 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2015, 12:59 AM:

Step 1 is recognition. I haven't beat them yet, but I recognized them today.

I'm not sure we ever beat the tapes. We sure can get faster at recognizing them, ducking, and rewarding ourselves with licking cookie dough off beaters.

Important milestone!

Yay, you!

#277 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2015, 01:33 AM:

I'm not sure we ever beat the tapes.

Oh. :(

Learning how to manage them, then? Step 1 is still recognition, though.

#278 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2015, 08:24 AM:

Step 1 is absolutely recognition.

I've got a new name for some variations of the tapes, aka jerkbrain, the ones that try to suck you back down when you're feeling pleased with yourself. When you're happy with something you've accomplished, it tells you about all the other things you haven't done. When you're enthusiastic about something you're going to do, it tells you that you'll never succeed. After the wave of positive emotion comes this sucking negativity. It's the Undertoad!

(Wish I could remember where I got the term from - years ago I remember a writer saying that was what he thought his parents were saying at the beach when they warned him about the undertow.)

I find having named it makes it easier to (a) recognize, and (b) dismiss. "Oh, that's the Undertoad" -- and let go.

#279 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2015, 08:32 AM:

Also, I was rereading the original post about boundaries and consent, and it made me think of Ursula Vernon's recent middle grade novel, Castle Hangnail. The issue there is not with family or with a sexual/romantic relationship, it's with a manipulative pseudo-friend, but it's quite clear about things that are and are not in your best interest.

Plus the book's a lot of fun. Getting free of the exploitive friendship is by no means the whole plot, but it's part of the emotional core that makes it more than just a light fantasy.

#280 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2015, 01:42 PM:

I had thought that "under toad" was from Stephen King, but googling it reveals that it was actually John Irving's The World According to Garp.

#281 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2015, 01:45 PM:

The Under Toad is from John Irving's The World According to Garp

Good name, particularly if illustrated by Gahan Williams.

#282 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2015, 04:44 PM:

particularly if illustrated by Gahan Williams.

Exactly. The Under Toad should definitely be illustrated by Gahan Williams.

Thanks to Jeanie and David Goldfarb for identifying the original source.

#283 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2015, 05:18 PM:

the invisible one @275: I was still telling myself that wasn't "real" adulting, there was so much other stuff that I hadn't done yet and even the stuff I did do should have been done a couple of weeks ago so it didn't count... Oh!!! Thank you. That's happened to me a number of times in the past when I've started on e.g. tidying. As so often on these DFD threads, hearing about it happening to someone else is very illuminating.

#284 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2015, 05:31 PM:

Mr. Undertoad is is a too-familiar presence in my life. A variant is when I solve a problem and feel pleased with my cleverness, Mr. Undertoad oozes up and points out, "You know, [authority figure] wouldn't find that very clever. Really, it's kind of lame and stupid, when you think about it. And you're pathetic for thinking it's clever."

Then one day, I realized that [authority figure] was mostly my brother because, Ghu knows why, he was the one I was always trying to impress as a kid.

And by that day, I'd actually had numerous experiences of my "clever" solutions having actually worked, and pleased and impressed people in my current life whose opinions actually, you know, did matter to me.

So I says to Mr. Undertoad, "Well, what you say may be true. [Authority figure] probably wouldn't be impressed. But, you know, I am, and that's damn well good enough."

Since that day, I occassionally catch glimpses of Mr. Undertoad out of the corner of my eye, but as soon as I do, he sort of flinches and slinks away.

So it is doable.

#285 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2015, 06:59 PM:

Gahan Wilson?

#286 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2015, 07:17 PM:

OtterB @ 278: Undertoad, that's a really helpful name. I'd read Garp years ago and that analogy is a good one.

Everyone- how do you keep yourself from recording new tapes? Tapes which are scripts? How do you stop the jouska, as the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows smartly labels it?

In the past days I'm mostly accepting this situation: there are benefits, healthy benefits, to stopping this month, rather than the gig taking up all my time until November. However, I have a problem when I contemplate anything I"d like to say to people there. It could be making a provably factual point to the manager ("because they're wrong"), imagining speaking to the colleagues I want to stay in touch with ("because they're nice"), but I can feel my chest tightening up, I can feel the flush of stress, and I start scriptwriting.

Driving in on Friday, I probably spent 40 of 45 minutes thinking about imaginary conversations or going over the bad news conversation, when I wanted to think about a real-script, a plan, for the client meeting this week. I probably thought through the same scripts 10 times, not even 10 different imaginary conversations.

The same with today- I went to pick up some hardware and documents for the meeting, and instead of thinking about the whole meeting, I'm scripting an unimportant and unlikely conversation with the one attendee who was the main person giving the bad news last week. When I tell myself "I can't have this conversation, it would sound bad and look bad, it'd be pointless" then when in scriptwriting mode I fall into a "well then, what could I say that would make me sound good and look good" loop.

My "storytelling brain" is creative, relaxed, confident, clever, fast, a train-of-thought that goes anywhere, and it's what I like - it feels like "me." My "script brain" is repetitive, stressed, repetitive, slow, a train-of-thought on a circular track. It takes over storytelling -- it even tells me it is storytelling -- and it stops storytelling.

Even to post now, writing with my script-brain in full swing after my supplies run, I'm imagining what I'll write, rereading/rethinking what I've written, rather than just plain writing.

Often I stop the scriptwriting by reading a book (pretty much any negative emotion goes away with some reading, including the stress of procrastination), but I'd like to stop it by not starting it, and by going back to storytelling me.

#287 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2015, 07:26 PM:

OtterB @ 278: Undertoad, that's a really helpful name. I'd read Garp years ago and that analogy is a good one.

Everyone- how do you keep yourself from recording new tapes? Tapes which are scripts? How do you stop the jouska, as the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows smartly labels it?

In the past days I'm mostly accepting this situation: there are benefits, healthy benefits, to stopping this month, rather than the gig taking up all my time until November. However, I have a problem when I contemplate anything I"d like to say to people there. It could be making a provably factual point to the manager ("because they're wrong"), imagining speaking to the colleagues I want to stay in touch with ("because they're nice"), but I can feel my chest tightening up, I can feel the flush of stress, and I start scriptwriting.

Driving in on Friday, I probably spent 40 of 45 minutes thinking about imaginary conversations or going over the bad news conversation, when I wanted to think about a real-script, a plan, for the client meeting this week. I probably thought through the same scripts 10 times, not even 10 different imaginary conversations.

The same with today- I went to pick up some hardware and documents for the meeting, and instead of thinking about the whole meeting, I'm scripting an unimportant and unlikely conversation with the one attendee who was the main person giving the bad news last week. When I tell myself "I can't have this conversation, it would sound bad and look bad, it'd be pointless" then when in scriptwriting mode I fall into a "well then, what could I say that would make me sound good and look good" loop.

My "storytelling brain" is creative, relaxed, confident, clever, fast, a train-of-thought that goes anywhere, and it's what I like - it feels like "me." My "script brain" is repetitive, stressed, repetitive, slow, a train-of-thought on a circular track. It takes over storytelling -- it even tells me it is storytelling -- and it stops storytelling.

Even to post now, writing with my script-brain in full swing after my supplies run, I'm imagining what I'll write, rereading/rethinking what I've written, rather than just plain writing.

Often I stop the scriptwriting by reading a book (pretty much any negative emotion goes away with some reading, including the stress of procrastination), but I'd like to stop it by not starting it, and by going back to storytelling me.

#288 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2015, 07:45 PM:

WILSON. Gahan Wilson. We had him as a GOH at MileHiCon - what a lovely man.

Thanks, Bruce H.

#289 ::: variations on a lime accidentally double posted ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2015, 02:30 PM:

I'd gotten a "too many recen tposts /can't post this" error message.

#290 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2015, 08:14 AM:

variations on a lime 286: sympathies. I get that "script brain" thing as well. If I ever find out a way to stop it dead, I'll share with you! I wanted some CBT to help with that and the related "downward spiral of doom", and was assessed and told I qualified, but by the time they got around to offering me anything, I'd started a new job, working from an office not from home, and since I was being offered free treatment only during normal working hours, I ended up not getting anything.

#291 ::: LGB ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2015, 11:19 PM:

Hello again, y'all!

I've been reading a MetaFilter thread about emotional labor--maintaining friendships, remembering birthdays, anticipating people's needs, etc.--and the ways in which that work is undervalued or ignored or flatly declared nonexistent. It's giving me so many insights into past relationships, especially the dysfunctional ones. You know that thing where someone finally puts a thing into words so you have a place to grip the concept enough to think about it? That's how this feels to me.

I thought some of you might find it interesting or useful as well, so here is a link to the thread.

#292 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2015, 08:30 PM:

thanks! In the past three days I've had much less of it, helped by the epiphany of how much of my own voice I'm putting into the script. It isn't just a script, but a spiral of a narrator narrating the making of the script.

I came up with one useful rule: if I'm falling into that pattern, I insist I use the passive voice, a Spock-Robot answer mode from the Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense. A set of factual assertions isn't my voice and doesn't make a good script.

#293 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2015, 08:43 PM:

if I'm falling into that pattern, I insist I use the passive voice,

Wow. That's a fabulous idea. I'm going to try it at beddy-bye time tonight.

Thank you.

#294 ::: one in a billion ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2015, 08:41 AM:

As it has been mentioned before several times: How do you do proper documentation so future people will know what's up with your position? Do you just write down what you do every day, or…?

#295 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2015, 09:14 AM:

one in a billion @294

I was thinking in terms of projects rather than day-to-day work, but both matter. What's in your head that nobody else knows or that you had to work to figure out?

For projects, a concise history and the status of pieces.

For day-to-day, the supervisor can and probably should tell them what the tasks are. You can help with any non-obvious pitfalls.

Contact information for important people outside your organization, especially things that don't come up very often. (E.g. You need to renew the license on software X annually in July, salesperson's name, phone, and email are such-and-such.)

Wishing you well through the transition.

#296 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2015, 07:23 PM:

So the Brother Drama continues. In our last installment, he attacked my father on Father's Day.

So my mother is now in the hospital.

Brother has my phone number, email, contact information. Always has. He's used it a few times to ask for money (with zero success, I don't give loans to addicts) over the years. I'm also not hard to find -- see: directory assistance.

He chose to text my FATHER to tell ME that my mother was in the hospital. Any sensible, normal, brother would call their sister to tell them their mother was in the hospital in this situation. (Our mother and father have been divorced for well over twenty years.)

He said she had "stomach and chest pains and a headache" -- note that she is probably at risk of an aortic aneurysm due to a genetic disorder and she has a congenital heart defect that puts her at risk for blood clots. Not. Good. News.

Then Crazy!Brother proceeded to attack my father with text messages, and my father responded in kind. My father's responses (I read some of them) were pretty restrained, all things considered, but he's got a temper and he replied with a few pointed comments.

My brother, notably, claimed that my father wouldn't even tell ME about my mother because my FATHER doesn't care about my MOTHER. (Which, A, isn't precisely true, and B, even if he didn't care he'd have still told me because he cares about ME, and C, if Crazy Brother thought my father wouldn't tell me, why the hell didn't he just contact me directly?)

Brother also said he "didn't think he'd be getting a birthday present this year" and then complained that the check he got from my father last year was made out with his nickname rather than his full name. (He still cashed it, so being unable to cash it wasn't the problem. For whatever reason, he was offended that the check just had his nickname on it.)

So anyway, I called my brother to try to, you know, find out how my mother is doing. With teeth gritted, I was polite and to the point: How's mom? (Do not engage the crazy.) "How's mom?" (Do not engage the crazy.) "How's mom? I just want to know how mom is."

He said he was upset at my father, and then claimed he'd just cut himself cooking breakfast and had to go because he needed to clean up the blood. (There was no yelp, no sucked-in-breath, no pause in conversation, like you'd expect if somebody just sliced their finger.)

So I called my mother's cell phone, at least partly to verify she was actually in the hospital and Crazy Brother hadn't just fabricated the whole thing to breed drama.

She's in the hospital. I got out of her that "they" thought she'd had a heart attack, but she didn't think so, and she sounded incredibly drugged and mumbled a lot of incoherent things. "I didn't have a heart attack, but the doctors think I did," from someone who is highly drugged up and possibly hallucinating is not really reassuring.

So I texted my brother to ask him to please tell me how she's doing. And where she's at.

(Note that I do not know what hospital she's in, and there's a dozen different possibilities in a large and geographically sprawling city that is a four hour drive from my home.)

My brother responds that he's too pissed at my father to tell me where my mother is or how she's doing.

My response was pretty impolite and probably not productive. I snapped, a bit. Because he's mad at my father, he won't tell ME anything about OUR MOTHER, not even what hospital she's in. I can't believe he won't tell me what hospital my mother is in, and now (eight hours later) her cell phone is rolling to voice mail. Batteries are probably dead. I don't want to bug her if she's in the hospital, but if she's, like, dying or something, I'm four hours away ... I need to get on the road now.

I've also left a message with my stepfather, and emailed him, and he hasn't answered. I hope he isn't dealing with brother!drama too ... or my brother is lying about what I said to block me from getting any information from my stepfather.

My brother JUST texted me a response to my last, "Please tell me how mom is doing?" message with, "Who are you?"

He only has one sibling ... and he's been texting back and forth with me.


I bet she could die and he still wouldn't tell me anything.

Should I start watching the obits to find out if she's alive or dead?

(Oh, and as a side note, my smart phone won't let me cuss in text messages. Very annoying. I wanted to call him an ass and it wouldn't let me.)

And ... he just texted me again saying, "WHo is this?"

Just for giggles, I answered with my name. Now he can't pretend to be mystified by who the person is who is demanding to know how "our Mom" is (when he only has one sibling.)

#297 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2015, 07:34 PM:

His whole attitude is, "I'm too upset to talk because I got in a fight with my father, so I'm not going to tell you about our mother. I'm too upset to talk. I'm SO UPSET! SO FUCKING UPSET!"

(And what about mom? C'mon, put your big boy pants on, suck it up for two seconds, and spit out a few sentences explaining how she is.)

Next will come the suicide threats usually phrased in terms of, "I can't do anything right," or "You all hate me," or "the world is out to get me" ... without ever answering the question. I guarantee it. He won't try the suicide threats with me because that doesn't work with me, but he'll probably try it with my father or, worse, my mother.

(I'd worry about what he might say to my mother, who may have just had a heart attack, except that he will create drama either way. Hopefully, if he gets too dramatic, the hospital will kick him out. She's not as bad as he is, but she has her own special flavor of dysfunction, too, so who knows what she'll believe about me and my father if Crazy!Brother talks to her about this conversation.)

He hasn't texted me back since I provided my name ...

#298 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2015, 07:54 PM:

Yeaaaaaaah ... and now my idiot brother says my stepfather will be contacting me to "Set me straight" about the "Way I've been talking to him."

(How have I been talking to him? Mostly just, "How's mom?" Repeat, repeat, repeat, refuse to engage. Though I did tell him that the reason our father's angry with him was that he attacked him on fathers day, and he used THIS as an excuse to attackj my father, and he's been an all-around ass, and gee, what was he expecting? I shouldn't have engaged, I know betterm, but I was seeing red.)

And ... update ... my stepfather JUST texted me. Apparently, my mother has told the hospital no visitors, no information to anyone, including him and us.

Reading between the lines, I'm guessing my brother was causing drama and she doesn't want to deal with ANY of us.

None of us know how she's doing now, though my stepfather said that she has a horrendous headache and that no pain meds they gave her was helping it for more than a few minutes. (I'm worried about an aneurysm or blood clot ...)

#299 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2015, 08:01 PM:

Venty Vent Vent: <hugs> if welcome.

#300 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2015, 08:05 PM:

And ... he says she had a fever, chills, neuro symptoms, splitting uncontrollable headache.


Oh, and NEITHER of them will tell me what hospital she's in. Stepfather said, "I don't want you calling and bothering her." (After I said, specifically, I wouldn't contact her until they let me know she was feeling better.)

Primarily, I want to know what hospital she's in so that if it's crazy!brother who calls me to say she's dying, I know where to go. I would not be surprised (and this is not an exaggeration) if he called to say that my mother was dying, and then refused to tell me where she was because he was "too upset" to talk or "he doesn't remember" and my stepfather is never the easiest person to get on the phone.

Crazy!brother just texted me asking if I was "satisfied" that my stepfather had told me what was going on.

#301 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2015, 08:14 PM:

Venty Vent Vent: Witnessing. ::hugs:: if welcome.

#302 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2015, 08:34 PM:

I know it's the crazy talking, but sometimes he's so damned hard to deal with.

My stepfather's given me more information. She's apparently got some sort of systemic infection of unknown origin, by the sounds of it.

Neither of them will tell me what hospital she's in.

(I don't know about you, but when I tell someone that a relative is in the hospital, one of the first things I say is, "... and they're in XYZ Hospital.")

Am I crazy? Am I?

I have zero history of calling sick people and bothering them inappropriately. In fact, the last time I was sick and in the hospital, I texted her with a note to call me WHEN SHE FELT BETTER because I didn't want to bug her if she didn't want calls, and I got flack from her for that.

She's a difficult woman, but she is my mother, and I do care about her. Damnit.

#303 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2015, 08:48 PM:

Venty: {hugs} if you want them. And for what it's worth, when I tell someone that X is in the hospital, I'll say "and they're in room ABC at hospital Q if you want to send a card". So no, it's not wrong to expect that sort of information. I might not give that information to someone with a known history of showing up and upsetting everyone, but since that's not your schtick, then yes, they're being unreasonable.
And I don't care who they are or how they behave, after telling someone their mother is in the hospital, it's the height of dickishness to refuse to answer the question "how's mom", even if the answer is just "I don't know yet".

#304 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2015, 08:53 PM:

You are not crazy in wanting to know what hospital your mother is in.

#305 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2015, 12:40 PM:

Venty Vent Vent: No, wanting to know what hospital your mother is in is NOT unreasonable. At this point, if I were you, I would call all eight hospitals and ask if she is there. Sympathies.

variations on a lime @292: You're welcome. I'll have to try your suggestion next time, see if it helps.

#306 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2015, 01:47 PM:

Update: She has an infection, still of unknown origin. Sounds like she's septic. She texted me last night, and this morning, and I've texted back and forth with my stepfather a few times.

Sorry for the spazzerific posting yesterday. I have absolutely no one to vent to IRL.

(And now I'm getting delirious texts from my mother. She says she's talking to people who aren't really there, basically, and then said she didn't realize she was texting me. I have no idea if the hospital knows that she's delirious or not. I told my stepfather, so hopefully he'll call the hospital and then go down and watch her. I still don't know what hospital she is in and she doesn't know so I can't just call them and say, hey, check on the woman in room 123, she may need a minder.)

#307 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2015, 01:59 PM:

(And to clarify above, it was my brother who said he didn't want me calling and bothering her, not my stepfather. I confused who was saying what last night, though my stepfather's also ignored my requests to know what hospital she is in. Likely, my brother has insisted to my stepfather that I will call and bug her so my stepfather isn't giving me the information for that reason. Anyway.)

#308 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2015, 02:43 PM:

re: your spazzerific posting yesterday

Yes, it was. It was milder than I could have managed.

My overall reaction was to be glad you felt safe to come here and scrape some of the anxiety off getting reassurance that you're right to want to know which hospital.

Eight isn't too many to call. Chances are you wouldn't have to work through the whole list, and it would be something positive to do.

I'm grateful for your updates, dire though they be. You sound better.

Witnessing, and as strong a shoulder of virtual support as possible.

#309 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2015, 03:18 PM:

Yep, she's delirious. She wants me to come and take her cat home (from her hospital room) because he won't let her sleep.

I find it strange that I also hallucinated my cat was there when I was loopy on morphine.

I asked what hospital she is in. I can't come get the cat if I don't know where she is, right?

Sigh. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

(My stepfather is aware she's delirious but I don't know if he's there right now. I also asked if there was anyone there with her, though even if she answers in the affirmative who knows if there's really someone sitting with her, or if she's hallucinating them.)

#310 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2015, 03:31 PM:

Venty Vent Vent: sympathies; you're in an awful situation and I have absolutely no advice to help. <hugs> if welcome.

#311 ::: Sibling Communicator ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2015, 03:48 PM:

So, here I am minding my own business when Siblings B & C inform me that Parental Unit X is in deep, erm, doo-doo.

This is complicated by the fact that Parental Unit X is in Country 1, I am in Country 2, and Sibs B & C are in Country 3, each of which has a different currency. Basic care is dealt with, but Parental Unit needs more and it costs a lot. In fact, the total estimated cost per month is 1.5 times my monthly net salary.

Sib C proposes that we share the costs equally. Sib B indicates the capacity to bear between 10-15 percent of the costs. I indicate a like capacity. Sib C immediately tears into us for the shamefulness and paucity of the amounts we are proferring. I point out that my income is thus-and-so and my medical expenses are such-and-such which is not acknowledged.

Sib C then says that all transfers must be in cash and in the currency of Country 3 as the largest contributions will be falling upon Sib C's shoulders and Sib C will be making the payments in person and does not want to pay currency conversion fees twice. This means that I have to pay both currency conversion fees and high postal rates to get the paper currency to Sib C quickly, thus reducing further the amount I send. I point out that electronic transfer would be quicker, easier, and result in more money getting to Sib C, and I am berated by return of message.

I reply stating that it is not fair to be yelled at for making what seems to be a reasonable point and am told that I am not being yelled at since there has not been a verbal exchange. At this point I feel like wringing Sib C's neck.

Now, Sib C has been ill. Suffering, in fact, from calculi. But so have I, though I am not going to put my notalgia up against Sib C's kidney stones, still pain hurts. So, what in fuck's name do I do? Other than shoot myself in the head?

#312 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2015, 05:52 PM:

Sibling Communicator @ #311:

Realizing that you know your family much better than I, a complete stranger, would, a demand for cash in the currency of Sib C's choosing and an unwillingness to entertain other means of getting said cash screams 'this is hinky' to me. I would not do it.

If Parental Unit needs help, there are (probably) a number of ways to arrange this assistance without funneling cash through your sibling. I say probably because there are countries where this could get tricker, but in general, it should be doable.

I would talk to a lawyer about legal options if you can, or call up place where Parental Unit is getting care directly and see what is needed.

#313 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2015, 07:25 PM:

Venty Vent Vent, so many sympathies. My FIL spent a long time in that kind of delirium and it is upsetting to witness. I imagine it is even more upsetting to witness it remotely, via text, without knowing where your mother is or how she's being taken care of.

I hope this isn't hlepy, but I tend to agree with dcb and Jeanie on calling hospitals. I once had to call a couple of hospitals to locate and check on a friend; it was a relatively quick process. I have anxiety about phone calls that don't follow a familiar script, but to the people on the other end of the phone, my saying "I'm calling to check on a friend of mine. Her name is [name]. Is she a patient there?" seemed to fit into a script they understood.

#314 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 12:38 AM:

Anon4now, and others -- the reason I'm not calling around to locate her is that if it gets out that I did that (after they refused to give me her location) I will be confirming (in their minds) that I am a troublemaker who behaves inappropriately. At this point, I simply need to respect that they don't want me to have that information, even if I'm worried sick.

#315 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 01:11 AM:

Venty, #314: Brainstorming here, ignore if not practical. Do you know who your mother's primary care physician is? At this point, I think you would be within your rights to call them and ask where your mother is. Emphasize that you only want to know in case things get suddenly bad, and you don't have to waste time trying to get this information if there's a serious emergency.

#316 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 09:08 AM:

Venty Vent Vent @314, if you called the hospitals to find your mother... how would your brother and/or father find out? Would they interrogate every reception desk at every hospital? If you called asking if a "friend" was admitted, how can they know that you're you, even if they wiretapped the reception desk? Hospital receptionists are not in the habit of saying, "Say, so-and-so called asking about your mother/wife..."

Honestly, I don't think this is a risk.

#317 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 10:54 AM:

Venty Vent Vent: Any chance either your mother's or you step-father's phones have that tracky "Where are you?" feature?

And, yes, cats are known to slide back and forth across The Veil.

#318 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 11:05 AM:

Sibling Communicator @311:

I concur with cyllan in whiffing "hinkiness." But on the chance that everything's on the up-and-up:

In your place, I would tell Sibling C what I am going to do (i.e., the electronic transfer, given the clear advantages). Then just squint and comb my hair back into place after the outburst is over. Since there's most certainly going to be an outburst, no matter what you're going to do, it would make sense to do what you think is reasonable.

Have you been in direct communication with Parental Unit X? That might be a productive step, as well.

As for shooting yourself in the head, don't get my wrong, I totally get the appeal, but perhaps save that option for later...? ::wince:: ;-)

#319 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 12:37 PM:

Sibling Communicator: Also, mailing cash is never a good idea, but it's particularly not a good idea if you are going to send the package through customs. It's way too likely to go missing. It's also flat out illegal in many countries to send cash without properly declaring it, and filling out reams of paperwork, and paying large fees. If they catch it, they may confiscate it, for whatever value of "confiscate" applies to that particular inspector's level of integrity.

CassyB @ 316: Yeah, unlikely, I'll admit. OTOH, I've gotten in trouble other times when I thought "there's no possible way they'll find out about this" so I tend to get a bit twitchy. I don't want them to cut off contact entirely.

In other paranoid-thinking news, I now have reason to believe my brother's reading my mother and stepfather's emails and deleting anything he doesn't like. Sigh. They'd never believe it if I told them, and it would be used as evidence that I am the crazy one, so I'm not even going to bother.

When we lived together, when he was in his late teens and I was in my early twenties, almost twenty years ago, he used to go through my emails and read stuff and then use what he read against me -- I noticed many of my emails were read at times when I wasn't home and when I had certainly not read them. He'd sneak up and look over my shoulder to get my passwords. He would also sneak up to read what I was saying to people in IRC or newsgroups and then mock me or use it against me later. Putting a mirror up on the wall behind the computer put a stop to that, but these days, he could be using a keylogger or they could simply be leaving their computers unlocked.

(That was twenty years ago. Now, in the current day, I've recently had to lock down all my social media and unfriend every single person I don't personally know for absolute sure is Not Crazy Brother. Which, see fandom, sucks bigtime. I had a lot of followers/friends that I had to boot, particularly from Livejournal, where I post fanfic and fannish musings. Apparently, he was stalking me online, was jealous of some of the good things in my life, and has mentioned them to my father in the context of being crazy-jealous that I have Good Things Happening and he doesn't. My father's worried he could try to sabotage things and also seeing anything about me that he thinks is a Good Thing for me sets him off, so it's best if he doesn't know what is going on in my life at all. I really do NOT want to have to establish a new fannish identity as I've had the pseud for twenty plus years but it may come to that. He's evidently figured it out, possibly by asking my friends on facebook as one of them just mentioned he was talking to them about me negatively ... *sigh*)

I hate that every time I interact with him, I end up thinking in crazy paranoid ways. I'm not the paranoid one. I'm not the crazy one. I don't think so, anyway ...

I haven't even seen the little bastard face-to-face in several years.

#320 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 12:41 PM:

This sentence:

Putting a mirror up on the wall behind the computer put a stop to that, but these days, he could be using a keylogger or they could simply be leaving their computers unlocked.

Should read:

"Putting a mirror up on the walk behind the computer put a stop to that then, for me. These days, he could still be reading over their shoulders, using a keylogger, or they could be leaving their computers unlocked."

#321 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 01:02 PM:

Sibling Communicator @ 311,

Why don't you ask Sibling C for their bank account and just send them the money there? This way whatever conversions need to happen will happen before they even see the money - so they do not need to worry about it... Plus if they want to pay cash, they can get the money out when the get their own?

Depending on the countries involved, sending paper money via the mail (regular mail or a courier) may be illegal and grounds for confiscating said money. So... careful about that.

Alternatively - talk to the doctors/institution where the Parental Unit is... and arrange to send the money directly there.

In any case - good luck and a lot of patience.

#322 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 04:50 PM:

Venty Vent Vent, can you have an opposite-gendered friend make the calls for you? Just "Hi, I understand my friend $your-mom's-name has been admitted to your hospital. Can you tell me what room she's in...?"

No data there for your family to track. Someone who is Demonstrably Not You and doesn't identify themselves anyway....

(Ignore if hlepy.)

#323 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 07:10 PM:

Seconding Lee's suggestion to Venty Vent Vent. problem.

I recently got a FitBit (Costco was having a sale), so I've been using it to track my eating and drinking habits, my physical activity, and my sleep habits. It's not perfect (exercise that isn't of the walking or running varieties won't track and has to be input manually on the website), but it's good enough for people like me who want to keep up my health without manually tracking a million different things.

And it turns out that while I spend plenty of time in bed, it's not all being spent asleep. ADHD means that I pretty much have to go to bed an hour or so early and read a bit, to help my brain get into "sleep mode." Unfortunately, even if the "sleep log" has a total length of 8+ hours, about an hour of it is tossing and turning, or waking up to go to the bathroom.

Any tips (other than melatonin; it basically works right up until suddenly it doesn't) for helping me sleep a bit more soundly? I've had sleep trouble for as far back as I can remember, even now WITH drugs that have "drowsiness" as a side-effect, so I'm out of ideas atm.

#324 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 08:28 PM:

The_L (323): Have you ever been tested for sleep apnea? Waking up and going to the bathroom multiple times in the night can be a symptom of that.

#325 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 11:49 PM:

Other symptoms of sleep apnea: daytime drowsiness even if you've gotten "enough" sleep; nighttime heartburn. (As someone who's been dramatically helped by a breathing machine, I'm strongly in favor of people getting tested if they have any reason to think they might have apnea.)

#326 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 12:35 AM:

So my mom is out of the hospital now -- apparently she was hallucinating due to the morphine. She had an UTI. Sounds like she'll be fine.

Crazy!brother and my father got into it in texts, brother thinks my I'm the favored child yadda yadda yadda and that my father's being extremely unfair. (Brother is not welcome here. He brings drama and he's just far too toxic.)

My father apparently explained, in blunt terms, why my brother is not welcome here and why I am. We'll see what comes out of that -- I'm somewhat worried that my brother may try to escalate things out of jealousy. My stepmother and father have laid it out that the ONLY way he'll ever be allowed back in our lives is if he agrees to counseling and psychiatric treatment, and family counseling for all of us.

My brother thinks this is very unfair. Of course he does. I think there's zero chance of him agreeing to counseling, and even less chance of it succeeding, but at least it's a line in the sand that everyone can agree on.

(Well, I'm willing to give counseling a chance, but only for my father's sake. And I'm staying out of the whole fight because my presence will just make things worse.)

#327 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 06:40 AM:

@Mary Aileen: No, but the heartburn's never happened. Also, to prevent my chronic migraines from returning, I drink water nigh-constantly all day, often a bit too close to bedtime. Since I only tend to have 1 bathroom trip per night, I'm guessing that it may just be that.

On the plus side, now that my schedule's more-or-less stabilized, I only had 38 minutes of restlessness last night. So, better?

#328 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 09:17 AM:

Venty Vent Vent, so glad to hear that your mother's out of danger.

#329 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 05:54 PM:

Venty Vent Vent @326: Glad to hear your mother is out of the hospital (whichever one it was!). Mental confusion is surprisingly common with a UTI, particularly in older people, even without opiates.

Sympathies for ongoing problems with your brother.

#330 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 01:33 PM:

I really, really hate it when it seems that one unplanned emergency early in the day kills my entire motivation and ability to achieve for the rest of the day, sending jangling reverberations through my mood and ability to cope.

But maybe today was always going to be a pile of depressive crap, and it's just random that this is a morning I was hauled out of my boot sequence for a perplexing emergency I couldn't solve, and then my main plans for the day fell through with absolutely no notice and no way to contact anyone else involved.


Which came first, the brain weather chicken or the interrupting egg?

#331 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 06:38 PM:

There are those of us who don't require interrupting eggs for there to be brainweather chickens; let me introduce you: me, this week.

#332 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 10:15 PM:

So I spoke to my mother today. My 40th birthday is tomorrow. She texted me; I assumed she wanted to, you know, wish my happy birthday.


It was mostly about my brother, though very passive-aggressive. She didn't want to talk about it, but she did keep bringing it up.

I found out that he was seeing a psychiatrist and the medication "makes him paranoid." At least he's seeing a psychiatrist, though somehow, I don't think the paranoia has much to do with the meds. I think she's just seeing it more because he's gotten worse. He's always been paranoid. (See: Acts to make sure people don't talk to each other about him, reads other people's emails, etc.)

She blames all his issues on my father, as a reflex. He's supposedly messed up because my parents got divorced when he was fifteen and, also, he "saw a murder" when he was about the same age and his "best friend died in his arms" after a automobile accident. (I saw a kid murdered on the playground when I was nine. And I did CPR on a friend who was thrown off a quad and died a rather gruesomely bloody death in my late teens. I'm sane and responsible and not crazy. Woulda preferred not to see it, and sometimes I see those scenes in my nightmares, but I got over it. tl;dr he -- and she -- use the divorce and the murder and death he saw as excuses for his behavior.)

She thinks my father started the recent fights. Uh. My brother contacted him on FATHER'S DAY to tell him what a terrible father he was. And then this fiasco with my mother in the hospital.

She seemed to think his refusal to tell me anything about her because he was "too upset with my father" was my fault, because he "couldn't reach you." I pointed out that he could have messaged me on facebook or contacted me on google (he was on both my facebook and my google plus at that time) and she said it wasn't "appropriate" to contact me that way, that it needed to be a call. I also pointed out that I am NOT HARD to find, see: directory assistance.

(Nevermind he sent a text, not a phone call, to my father. tl;dr -- rather than choosing to contact me, he contacted my father, and chose to pick a fight with my father, when the appropriate thing to do would have been to call me.)

And the kicker is that she forgot that tomorrow is my birthday. I'd give her a pass for this, on account of being in the hospital, but she remembered my brother's birthday is in a few days because she asked if I'd be sending him anything ... then she said, "Oh, shoot, yours is coming up, isn't it?"


#333 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 11:29 PM:

Venty Vent Vent @ 332

It is tomorrow in some part of the world (unless if it is 1 am your time and you are saying tomorrow as in "after 23 hours") so happy birthday! :) May you have a LOT calmer year and all your dreams to come true (then you need new dreams but that's the easy part...)

PS: Ignore the family for a day. I know it is hard but they do not deserve you to be miserable on your birthday. And hugs and/or good thoughts your way for all those issues (whatever you feel comfortable with).

#334 ::: Venty Vent Vent ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 12:07 AM:

Anniey -- thanks. I'm actually planning on going out tomorrow with my stepmother (who is wonderful) and we're going to have a nice dinner tonight.

I wrote a couple chapters of bad fanfic tonight. That's my stress release, LOL.

#335 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 07:42 AM:

Venty Vent Vent, may you have a delightful and drama-free birthday.

#336 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 07:58 AM:

Happy birthday, Venty Vent Vent. May it be totally free of family drama. :)

#337 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 10:58 AM:

Happy birthday, Venty Vent Vent! May the coming year see more successes and fewer exasperations.

#338 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 01:22 PM:

Happy birthday to Venty Vent Vent! Wishing you a day of pleasant company and free of drama.

#339 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 02:14 PM:

Happy Birthday to Venty Vent Vent!

#340 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 04:05 PM:

Happy birthday, Venty Vent Vent :)

Good choice of stress release activity, IMO

#341 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 09:50 PM:

Happy Birthday, Venty! Good luck with lack of family drama in the next year!

#342 ::: jonesnori/Lenore Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 10:56 PM:

Happy birthday, Venty!

I don't usually have much to say, but I am listening to you (and everyone else).

#344 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2015, 10:35 AM:

Venty Vent Vent and Sibling Communicator: sympathies, hugs as welcomed, and happy birthday!

#345 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2015, 05:05 PM:

I was pointed to this the other day, from another blog I follow. It really clarifies a lot of the dysfunctional stuff I've seen in my relationship with Mom, and with other relationships I've seen.

To quote: "I have come to feel that love is a neutral thing, not an automatic good thing as most seem to assume. It is in and of itself neither good nor bad. There is a selfish love, there is a smothering love, there is a love that seeks to control, a love that does not let go. This is not a good love, it is not a kind love, it is an abusive love. And so I find that I care less about whether someone “loves” another person than I do about how they treat them."
(italics original)

Selfish, smothering, controlling, refusing to let go - check all of the above. At least, now, I have support, and I have tools to deal with it.

#346 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2015, 10:07 PM:

Chickadee #345: Agreed. My current definition of love is "a biologically supported commitment to the welfare of another creature". That "biologically supported" bit... we have this implemented in our wetware, a prepared system with roots that stretch back to long before we were human. It's operating below our conscious awareness, and so hardly answers to rational reflection.

And its priorities are not those of our modern self-awareness, because it's not part of the modern developments. And in particular, that "commitment to the welfare" part isn't necessarily interpreted from the other party's point of view, or even our own rational opinions on the matter.

I'd go so far as to say that we don't fall in love as humans per se, we do so as mammals, subtype primates, and our heightened intelligence just gets dragged along for the ride.

#347 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2015, 10:22 PM:

Chickadee: That blog post is a pretty good description of the failure mode of my mother's attitude toward me. You are not alone. Also why "good intentions" cut very little ice with me without corresponding attention to results.

#348 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2015, 05:43 AM:

Chickadee @345; Jacque @347: Yeah, me/my mother too. :-(

#349 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2015, 11:42 AM:

David Harmon @346: I love this line. :)
"I'd go so far as to say that we don't fall in love as humans per se, we do so as mammals, subtype primates, and our heightened intelligence just gets dragged along for the ride."

I figured the blog post would resonate with a lot of people here. And we're so conditioned to see love as an unconditional good that it helps to have it said that it's not - love itself can be toxic. It's not that they don't really love you (which contradicts what you know), it's just that their love is not healthy or good.

#350 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2015, 01:41 PM:

Chickadee #349: Thanks! I'll note that overvaluing love isn't just conditioning, it's part of the "program" itself. As they say, we all come from a very long line of progenitors...

And also, from a fairly long line of parents who mostly were trying to keep their kids alive under often-dangerous circumstances. Parental overcontrol, and putting up with it, dates back to before we tamed the world, back when lethal mistakes were much easier to come by, every birth was chancy... and a defiant or runaway kid probably wouldn't be passing on their genes.

Nowadays, our instincts are trying to catch up with a world where we've utterly beaten our old predators, and now we're working on the Four Horsemen.

#351 ::: Murmuration ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2015, 05:20 PM:

(I usually comment in my own name, but I have abi's permission to go anon for this topic)

There's a thing I've hit, the way a wall gets hit.

I was sexually abused as a child. I've mostly worked through it and found a livable balance.

My daughter is on the verge of starting to menstruate. When I passed menarche, I just used a tampon, so I bought some tampons and some pads and suggested she familiarize herself with them ahead of time. In subsequent discussions with her, I realized that she probably still had a hymen. Her description of her own anatomy made me fairly sure. After some alone time with a mirror, Wikipedia, and the search terms I suggested, she confirmed this. It's not going to stop the flow, but it changes her range of options.

That just...stops me. Every time. It's like it just shuts my entire emotional life down and I have to reboot it.

She knows I was abused, but I haven't discussed it in the context of a hymen. Nor will I; I want her menarche to be its own thing in all dimensions, not a chapter in my story.

I don't need any advice or anything. I just need some witnessing.

#352 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2015, 05:24 PM:

Murmuration, witnessing.

If it helps, as a data point, I was not sexually abused and therefore when I started using tampons I had an intact hymen; from my own experience I can tell you that it's possible for your daughter to use tampons. It may not be comfortable, however.

#353 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2015, 05:24 PM:

Murmuration, heard and witnessed, and zen hugs if you want/need them.

#354 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2015, 05:37 PM:

Murmuration, witnessing.

#355 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2015, 06:37 PM:


#356 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2015, 06:43 PM:

Witnessing, Murmeration.

#357 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2015, 07:29 PM:

Murmuration: witnessing.

If I may, I wanted to also express my admiration for the relationship you've clearly built with your daughter. The onset of menstruation is a *really* awkward time, and you have such a clear and useful line of communication open; I would have had such an easier time if I'd been able to talk about things like hymens and tampons with my mom. Not sure how to say it exactly, but I wanted to say how impressed I was by that.

#358 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2015, 07:50 PM:

Witnessing, Murmuration. You're taking care of your daughter, on all levels, and placing her well-being first, as is right. I grieve that it wasn't so for you.

#359 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2015, 07:52 PM:

WItnessing for Murmuration again, and noting that it might (or might not) help to contemplate that there are many reasons besides abuse that one might make it to menarche without a hymen.

Nobody's quite sure where mine went. It was probably flimsy to start with. Humans are variable, and I didn't go looking for it until after there wasn't one anymore.

#360 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2015, 03:44 AM:

murmuration, witnessing.

Another data point; it never occurred to me I wouldn't be able to use tampons just because I had an intact hymen. I used them from the start.

#361 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2015, 07:57 AM:

Murmuration: witnessing.

Also, since the hymen generally has a small opening in it (since it's really just a thicker part of the vaginal wall near the opening, not the "freshness seal" that a lot of people think of), your daughter may not have any trouble with tampon insertion.

Scarleteen has a good description of the hymen and why it's not necessarily the way we expect it to be. (There are diagrams of genitals, so NSFW.)

#362 ::: Murmuration ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2015, 08:43 AM:

Thank you for the witnesses. It's such a strange feeling to have one's whole emotional life go all-stop like that. It's almost not painful at all, if you see what I mean.

As for the hymen, the understanding is completely the other way. She reported to me that a tampon wasn't going to go in, and then I figured out the most probable reason, suggested it, and had her go check. I didn't start with the assumption that she would have one or it would be a problem. It didn't even occur to me.

I think that's one reason it hit me so hard. I was blindsided. Totally blindsided.

#363 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2015, 09:32 AM:

Murmuration, I'm glad you and your daughter have a good relationship around this. You're not doing any of the ridiculous things I have experienced or heard about, and that's big even without the context of past abuse.

#364 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2015, 09:38 AM:

Murmuration, witnessing and admiring.

#365 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2015, 03:58 PM:

Murmuration @362: interesting. Agreeing with others; I think what you've written indicates a very good relationship & communication with your daughter. Well done you.

#366 ::: Murmuration ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2015, 05:09 PM:

Thank you, everyone. I just needed to be able to say this somewhere where I could be heard, but where it wouldn't get back to my daughter. Because Philip Larkin was wrong, or at least not necessarily right.

(*leans forehead agains the community, eyes closed, for a moment*)

#367 ::: Murmuration ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 04:08 AM:

Yesterday, I was explaining dissociation to a friend who could use to have the concept in his emotional vocabulary. Today, I realized that it's the word for my reaction to this whole thing.


#368 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 09:37 PM:

So this isn't some huge trauma, but it's annoying.

I have PTSD. I've had it explained to me that basically there's a part of my physical memory system that normally lets memories slide through over and over, gradually wearing down the rough edges, but mine? Is sticky. I've been to therapy; I know how to prep for an expected trigger situation and get myself out of a flashback.


Aaaaaand the other night I unwittingly stepped on a slug that was on a concrete floor while I was in my socks, and it popped like a grape (with sound effects) and out shot its guts, and while I went to get a dryer sheet to pick it up with IT KEPT MOVING.

It was nasty, I feel guilty, and now the smell, sound, and feel keep going through my attention like a particularly nauseating clip from the feelies. Because PTSD.

Mini-flashbacks about a popping slug! Thanks, brain!

I have to cook dinner and all I can smell is THAT! Thanks, brain!

TL;DR: PTSD isn't only for things that might make a gripping plot. Mundane gross crap trips it too.

#369 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 10:40 PM:

J, sympathies.

#370 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2015, 11:59 PM:

I've been having a lot of boundary issues of late; related to kilt wearing. I don't know if I'm getting more sensitive/cranky, or if people are being pushier.

But I've had more cases of people being aggressive about wanting to talk to me about it: not quite to the point of pulling my earbuds out, but definitely to the point of invading my space to make me pay attention to them, not my book/iPad/phone and music.

Right down to the dude in Brooklyn I thought I was going to have to slug because he decided my telling him it was none of his business was me being rude to him, and pursuing me into a shop when I clearly didn't want to speak to him.

#371 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 01:30 AM:

J, #368: Ouch, sympathies!

If it helps at all, I would very likely be having flashbacks too over that; your description is enough to let me envision it very clearly, and if it had been a real-world experience... ugh.

#372 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 12:05 PM:

J, that's horrid and I'm terribly sorry. Here's hoping that memory wears down quickly. (I did a similar thing once, though at least I was wearing shoes.)

#373 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 12:37 PM:

J @368: Mundane gross crap trips it too.

IME, it's the mundane triggers that are the hardest to deal with because them come seemingly out of nowhere, from things that should be safe, innocuous experiences.

Stupid idea: burn a candle and pray to the spirit of the slug for forgiveness?

Terry: I'd say a punch sounds entirely reasonable, were it not for the negative legal consequences. Or, at the very least, a good, stern Talking To.

#374 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 12:46 PM:

Jacque: It was an odd (and disturbing) interaction, which was of a sort I'm all to familiar with, and then went really south.

When I didn't give the answers he expected he got testy, then he started trying to gender police me. I never really wanted to hit him, but I was getting close to wanting him to swing so I could take him to the ground.

Put me off my feed for the rest of the day.

And it was icing on a cake of that sort of thing seeming more common this summer than last. It's as if being out of the norm means one is not allowed to be private, in any way.

#375 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 01:41 PM:

Terry, I have the awful feeling that this is due to the popularity of the Starz series Outlander.

My apologies for my-less-than-sterling fellow fans.

#376 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 03:58 PM:

Lori: No worries, I much doubt that the random people accosting me in the streets of New Jersey/NYC are fans of that show.

Not least because the nature of intrusion/abuse I get is pretty consistent on a very few axes.

#377 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 04:28 PM:

Terry Karney: sympathies for your having to deal with idiots in general and that idiot in particular.

J.: Ugh. Here's hoping that your brain will let that one go sooner rather than later.

#378 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 05:43 PM:

Terry Karney @374: he started trying to gender police me.

:-\ Seriously? In NYC? In 2015?? ::heavy sigh::

#379 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2015, 07:08 PM:

Jacque: it happens all the time.

#380 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2015, 08:36 AM:

I have to say that I think Caitlyn Jenner's sudden visibility is definitely having an effect on random gender-policing by strangers. The words I hear said during the incidents have shifted noticeably from, say, a year ago to today.

#381 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2015, 10:16 AM:

In ways positive, negative or both, Elliot Mason?

I was interested to note when I went to DragonCon this year that the number of genderbent characters was up considerably. More indefinable was the vibe. In past years, genderbent cosplay was very much a Look at Me! Look at Me! This year felt much more like people said "Yeah; that's a cool character. I'll play that one." The gender match of the character and cosplayer was less of an issue. I don't know if that was just my interpretation, but it felt very different than in years past.

#382 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2015, 10:18 AM:

cyllan @381: In the mundane world? Deeply negative. Very "point at the freaks" and police everyone into normativity.

I've heard "it" on the street used to refer to androgynous-appearing people more in the past four months than in my entire previous life.

#383 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2015, 11:12 AM:

Elliott Mason (382): Is it possible that they are using 'it' because English lacks any other singular neuter pronouns? None of the new ones that have been proposed* have widespread acceptance; a lot of people aren't even aware that they exist.

Or maybe the people using 'it' are just gender-policing jerks; I'm not discounting that possibility at all.

*such as 'xie'

#384 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2015, 04:39 PM:

It's pretty obvious what pronoun is appropriate for the gender presentation in question, the person saying "it" just doesn't want to go so far as "she" for a person in skirts and makeup and earrings whose face looks 'too male' for their lofty standards.

#385 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2015, 04:46 PM:

Elliott Mason (384): I stand corrected. I apologize for any offense.

#386 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2015, 05:28 PM:

Elliot Mason: That sucks. I'm sorry you have to be subjected to that.

#387 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2015, 05:39 PM:

"It" is definitely uncalled for when talking about a person.

#388 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 12:23 AM:

Well, I try to do what I can:

The other day, I encountered someone in the bathroom that made me do a double-take. Tall, muscular, clearly early in transition, and when she turned around as I came in, she looked like she was kinda hiding under her hair. I made eye contact, smiled, and just said "hi", as I headed for a stall. She smiled, back; I hope that was a successful encounter.

#389 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 03:18 AM:

Terry: Pardon my prurient curiosity, but what form did this guy's gender policing take? (I ask, because I confess I have trouble visualizing what someone could say about this to a stranger and maintain any claim to be well-mannered grown-up, which I imagine this guy fancies himself to be. Yes, I live a sheltered life; I freely admit it.)

#390 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 09:30 AM:

He told me that if I was going to be "a tough guy" and tell people to leave off, I needed to do more push-ups, work out some: look the part.

#391 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 12:05 PM:

Last night found out some unpleasant things about MiL. Basically, as she's getting older and more crippled, she's letting her tendency to be passive-aggressive nasty come out more and more. :( (or losing control over it. Either way, she's badly hurting her husband and adult children)

Now fighting the sinner/saint complex Mom installed in me. It's how she lives/sees other people who she doesn't interact with on a daily basis. Either you're up on a pedestal and amazing and special and wonderful and can do no wrong, or you're an awful, horrible person who deserves no respect. Black and white for the lose.

#392 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 12:06 PM:

Terry Carney @390: Gah. So sorry you have to put up with that.

#393 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2015, 02:21 PM:

Terry Karney @390: look the part.

::rolls eyes:: How this is wrong, let me count the ways. ::sigh::

Well, I'm glad you weren't forced to demonstrate how wrong he was.

Chickadee @391: Black and white for the lose.

It's so sad when this is the fall-back because someone doesn't have the capacity to deal with gray scales and edge cases. Here's wishing the immediate family the ability to Deal.

#394 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2015, 07:33 PM:

Wow. From the cavalry riding to the rescue department. Amazing how diplomatic the dog is being.

#395 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2015, 09:43 PM:

me, above: Oh yeah: that should have a Trigger Warning for domestic abuse.

#396 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2015, 10:22 PM:

Jacque #394/#395: The commenters appear to think that the woman and child are actually training the dogs to defend the kid. I could at least see where the woman was hitting the couch with the shoe. This would also explain the "cameraman problem" (that is, who was filming this, and why would they post it).

#397 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2015, 12:10 PM:

Yeah, I was wondering about that, too. But, hey! The dogs are still adorable.

#398 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2015, 01:43 PM:

(Warning about domestic abuse continued from #394)

In the film where the dogs appear to be protecting the child, if I was the child in that scene, I would certainly FEEL threatened. (I mean, if it had not been explained to me that we were just pretending.) Being shouted at, and having somebody hit just in front of your face, is scary.

Given the prevalence of hidden cameras these days, there may not have been a person holding the camera at all. If they were training the dogs, you stop and praise them when they intervene. If it's a nannycam, the camera operator doesn't know there's a problem until hours later.

#399 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2015, 06:05 PM:

On trigger warnings, and teaching.

Lucia Lorenzi did a Twitter essay on the concept of trauma, and how to deal with potentially triggering material in the classroom. Refers to bell hooks for some excellent advice for dealing with such in the classroom, without letting students use "I'm triggered" as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

I found it really useful (and some of what she said refers to other things, like depression), and thought that this community would be interested as well.

#400 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2015, 03:52 PM:

For Jacque (and anyone else who likes hamsters): adorable hamster pictures to make your day a bit better.

#401 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2015, 11:33 PM:

Chickadee @399: Pertient; I ran across an editorial somewhere last week decrying the rise of trigger warnings and their (perceived) use as, as you say, get-out-of-jail-free cards.

My understanding of the optimal use of trigger warnings is not to cause people to not read/watch/see the triggering material, but rather to give them a choice about whether or not to explose themselves to it, and to give them a chance to brace for it, rather than just crashing into it without warning and then having to climb down off of the hind-brain reaction in order to respond usefully. Sort of a shorthand for "This presentation contains content some viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised."

The operative word here being "discretion."

& @400: Yes, I saw those the other day. The cuteness! It burns!!

Teresa might enjoy them, too, if she hasn't already seen them.

#402 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2015, 11:50 PM:

@Jacque 401 & Chickadee 399: Yes, that's what they're for. I have PTSD. Somebody told me I ought to pre-screen stuff for trigger warnings myself. Um. No. Being surprised by triggering material is what makes my brain go all ABORT REBOOT REWIND BZZT HEY YOU GET TO SPEND THE NEXT HOUR TO TEN HOURS CLEANING UP AFTER AN EPISODE YOU'RE WELCOME. But if somebody tells me that, for example, this highly acclaimed movie has a rape scene, I can decide whether the reviews are high enough for me to do the advance prep necessary to not have an episode, and then watch it. If I were in college, I could decide, for example, to go to the Cliff's Notes for that one chapter with the triggering material in it, and assess my resources and academic standing to see whether it would be better to skip the class session dealing with that chapter or prepare myself and attend. But I couldn't take those steps in order to keep my brain weasels out of my class time if I hadn't been forewarned.

#403 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2015, 03:56 AM:

Ah, here it is. (Apologies: the following is imcomplete and disorganized.)

At a political level, I think the conflict around trigger warnings is about consent and privilege. People want the opportunity to choose if, how, and when they encounter upsetting material. Versus people who want to do or say whatever they want without worrying about the impact on the people around them.

Those who have the luxury of not being upset by [say, sexual assault] think it's "too much trouble" to provide trigger warnings. They don't understand why they would even be necessary.

The money quote is here: "Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke."

Sound like anyone we know? (Somebody needs schooling on "the failure mode of clever.")

The writers of the article seem to have the idea that people want trigger warnings so that they can "avoid" upsetting material. Which smells to me like a privilege.

I think J's comment above is right on the money: It's not about avoiding the material; it's about avoiding taking damage from the material.

#404 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2015, 06:33 AM:

Jacque #403: At a political level, I think the conflict around trigger warnings is about consent and privilege. People want the opportunity to choose if, how, and when they encounter upsetting material. Versus people who want to do or say whatever they want without worrying about the impact on the people around them.

I think you are too generous to the serious offenders. The people who "don't want to worry" about what they say are the secondary offenders, the ones who are merely blinkered by their privilege. Most of these will shape up fast if you can convince them that they are actually hurting people.

But the drivers behind the merely insensitive, are the trolls and bullies using them for cover. Those are the people who enjoy using their words to hurt other people. Those get mad when you take away their fun, and they'll lash out at anyone who tries. That's where you get the range from "they're just too sensitive" clear up to "U MAD, BRO?".

#405 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2015, 06:38 AM:

Correction: "They're just too sensitive" can still be a defensive response from when insensitive folks get told off. The bullies are the ones who exploit that and take it further.

#406 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2015, 09:00 AM:

I also think it's possible that the "they're too sensitive" crowd have genuinely run into people using "that's triggering" when what they mean is "I don't like it." It's similar to people who say they are allergic to a food when they mean "I don't like it," not "eating it will give me hives, gastric distress, and possibly anaphylactic shock." Or people who want to bring their poorly-trained Snookums along as a service animal.

None of this denies the validity of or need for consideration for service animals, allergies, or triggers. But it can make the people who need to make the accommodations less sympathetic to the real thing than they should be.

#407 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2015, 01:02 PM:

@Jacque no. 403: Yes. While I've used allergen labels as an analogy before, it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. But think of traffic signs: 10% GRADE, BUMP, etc. They're there so that people don't run into them without warning and strip their gears or spill hot coffee on themselves. If I know that there's a bump ahead, I can slow down and exercise due caution. I'm going along the street with the bump in it because that is the street I need to be on. I'm not going to turn around when I see the bump and I'm not going to ask somebody to remove it for me. I just need to know it's ahead.

#408 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2015, 02:45 PM:

I think curb cuts are a better analogy than allergies, though: once the warning is there, everyone can see and possibly benefit from it, whether or not they have PTSD. I don't use a wheelchair, but when I was healing a sore ankle I was glad to be able to use curb cuts, and lots of people use them when managing wheeled suitcases, baby strollers, and shopping carts.

Putting a warning on something once doesn't an ongoing effort to make substitutions or keep an eye on ingredients, as there can be with dealing with allergies (is there peanut oil in any of the prepared food? Did someone drop mushrooms in the sliced tomato bin at the pizza place?) because once the warning is there, it stays there. If it's to do with a class, put something in the syllabus, like "the third week's lecture may be triggering for some students." A good teacher doesn't read the same lecture year after year, but they do plan the course, at least broadly. Yes, events may lead to last-minute changes, but an instructor can say "I know most of you have heard about X news story. I will be discussing it in today's lecture" and at least give people a little time to prepare or, if necessary, quietly leave.

It's not a lot of effort to add a note that a show "may be disturbing for sensitive viewers" at the beginning of the broadcast. I understand why some people at AO3 will say "author chose not to warn," but a claim that thinking about the question is too much trouble feels dismissive in a way that someone saying they don't use warnings for artistic reasons doesn't.

(I suspect that a lot of the people who think it's "too much trouble" to warn also think it's too much bother for them to type "here's a cool video about giraffes" or "Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock," let alone "graphic video of a shooting," rather than an entirely unidentified to YouTube.)

#409 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2015, 04:14 PM:

Vicki @408: And "Choose Not To Warn" is itself a type of warning, which is why it's so useful in a fiction archive. It might contain nothing that falls under the standard warnings, and it might not, and it's a sign that if you want to steer clear of such things, it's best not to risk that story.

#410 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2015, 06:58 PM:

Jacque: The political conflict about trigger warnings isn't about trigger warnings: it's about who gets to place them, about what, and why.

I'm going to list some trigger warnings which are all but sacrosanct; some of which people think are mandated by law. Trigger warnings which are so ingrained that not having them costs companies money.




And the same people pretending that telling people what's coming is the same as, "you can't talk about things" and equivocating that to censorship, are the same people (by and large) who think calling the US Civil War a civil war, is bad; or that talking about racism in the present day is "inflammatory".

It is political, but it's the politics of the status quo. Trying to pretend that saying, "we're going to talk about 'x' it might make you uncomfortable, so prepare yourself" is the same as coddling people, well it's bullshit. That not having trigger warnings means people on the side of the spectrum they aren't on get smacked upside the endorphins is a feature, not a bug. Getting to call them weak-minded suppressors of free-speech is an extra. Being able to make that the narrative... is a bonus.

#411 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2015, 02:09 AM:

I think I'll leave this thread open to continue the trigger warnings discussion in, but there's a new thread open in honor of the day.

Because it's that day.

#412 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2015, 12:15 PM:

An awful lot of these things boil down to operating in good faith, and treating people, as Neil Gaiman says, "with respect."

Which too many people in this world think is the job of all those other people.

#413 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2015, 02:23 PM:

I had a thought about trigger warnings, which I think might be useful in the specific context of academic curricula. You know how when the doctor is giving you a shot, she'll say "There's going to be a little sting"? That's so that you can brace yourself for it, so it doesn't sneak up on you. TWs in the syllabus serve the same purpose. They're to let you know that this material will be discussed, and you should be prepared for it.

Putting this out here for discussion purposes -- if there are any real problems with it, I'd like to know before I use it anywhere else.

#414 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2015, 03:29 PM:

Lee: Yeah, that's my thinking, as well. Fair warning, as a courtesy. The ultimate responsibility, though, lies with the student(/viewer/reader) (per J's @402) to decide how much/if/how to expose themselves the to material in question.

See also: if a (frex) professor doesn't feel that trigger warnings are an appropriate use of his/her time, a "This course will not provide trigger warnings, enter at your own risk" would be parallel to fanfic writers "choosing not to warn," per Vicki's @408.

Heh. Terry @410: I hadn't connected trigger warnings with movie ratings, but you're exactly right. I wonder how those complaining that we're "coddling our youth" would respond to that comparison?

#415 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2015, 04:05 PM:

Fade Manley (409): I can see deliberately using "Chose Not to Warn" because, if you *do* warn and miss something, someone might be upset. If you explicitly mark the fic as not having any warnings, that risk isn't there. (Other risks, sure, but not that one.)

I'm not saying that this is the right choice. But I can see a certain logic in it.

#416 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2015, 06:42 PM:

The objection to trigger warnings always seemed manufactured to me - do these people also object to "viewer discretion advised" notices before traumatic news stories, or is it just that the "trigger warning" phrasing is used by people they disdain?

Even when I sneered at "discretion advised" warnings, it was at the idea that I might not be able to handle it, not the entire concept.

#417 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2015, 09:07 PM:

Shadowsong, #416: I had the thought earlier today that the entire concept of trigger warnings AFAIK comes out of the fanfic community, and to some extent also the Tumblr and Twitter fan communities. (I could be wrong about this, and am happy to be corrected if so.) And who are the primary members of those groups? Women and young people. So yes, I think it's very plausible that at least one factor in the "trigger warnings are bad and lead to coddling" thing is a variation on Not Invented Here, and that the Wrong People were the ones to come up with and popularize it.

#418 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2015, 09:20 PM:

One of the things I've been seeing in the culture is an absolute terror of being too kind to people.

#419 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2015, 07:32 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz #418: Possibly because they might come to expect to be treated so? I see a thread leading back to the idea of "spoiling" a child¹. After all, if you regularly treat children justly, then when they grow up, they might come to expect just treatment from their superiors and even their government!

¹ Or, in not-so-olden times, a woman -- IIRC, back in high school this came up in my class's discussion of Death of a Salesman.

#420 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2015, 12:02 PM:

Lee @417: the Wrong People were the ones to come up with and popularize it.

In some sense, it feels to me of a piece with the resistance to harrassment policies, and the whole Gamergate psychology, and the resistance to #BlackLivesMatter.

Formerly marginalized populations are now finding the power and the voice to stand up and object to being treated badly. The people who have traditionally done so with impunity are vigorously ojbecting to having their "freedom" "restricted."

Nancy Lebovitz @418: One of the things I've been seeing in the culture is an absolute terror of being too kind to people.

'struth. I'd suggest a button, if it weren't just so sad.

#421 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2015, 12:25 PM:

An additional advantage of warnings on college courses, not available to bloggers and so on, is that, because classes usually have a well-defined student list known in advance, if a student has a specific, specialized trigger (teddy bears, say), a good accommodations office can ask their professors "Are you willing to let this student know if there will be teddy bears featured prominently in any of the texts or movies in this course?" Of course the professor could Choose Not To Warn, but a good professor will be able to give that student much better warnings than they would get really anywhere else.

#422 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2015, 02:27 PM:

#420 ::: Jacque

Milder versions are possible:

How dangerous is it to be kind?

Try kindness. It might be safer than you think.

Of course, there are risks to kindness to people who have vampiric tendencies-- that what a lot of the comments at the Dysfunctional Family threads are about.

#423 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2015, 02:31 PM:

I like both. Also:

Take a risk: be kind!

#424 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 12:27 PM:

Most of the talk that I've seen (mostly on fb because ugh, fb; I would clean out my friends list but some of the worst offenders are family) against trigger warnings in college classes seems to be centred on how "kids these days" can't handle having their ideas challenged and don't acknowledge the existence of trauma triggers at all.

#425 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 01:01 PM:

the invisible one @424:

You may already know this, but you can unfollow people on Facebook without unfriending them. You can do this via the dropdown on the "following" button at the top of their profile, or via the dropdown at the top right corner of one of their posts in your feed.

This won't help if they're commenting on your posts, of course, but it will keep their posts out of your feed.

#426 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2015, 01:28 PM:

Good point. I should do another sweep of the friends list with that in mind. I can theoretically keep them off my posts with the post privacy settings, too; set up "all fb friends" and "not family" groups or something. (Not that I actually trust fb with anything privacy-related.) My habit right now is to post barely anything and what I do post is basically things that I'm ok with everybody including the problematic parts of the family seeing.

#427 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2016, 12:09 PM:

Back, after ages. *pokes the apparently-dead thread* Love, Joy, Feminism absorbed me into its commentariat, and I'd been so active there that a lot of my other online haunts have been more-or-less abandoned. :/

It seems that I have brought the dysfunction full-circle and am now in a dysfunctional marriage, and it feels like all my fault.

Part of the problem is I have the Unholy Trinity of ADHD, clinical depression, and general anxiety disorder. This makes it really hard for me to get things done. Which in turn makes me a very difficult person to live with, especially on days when I just Want To Cat.

But another huge chunk of the problem is that due to my lifelong struggle against being stereotypically "girly," I am now horrible at emotional labor. Which means Hubby ends up having to pick up the slack for that AND executive functioning.

I feel horrible, lazy, broken, and just plain Not A Good Wife. Every time I get something housework-related done, it's days before I manage to do it again (even when it's a daily thing like wiping down the kitchen counters). And when Hubby's used to doing it a different way, he complains about the way I'm doing it. ("Don't use a cloth to clean off the counters! Use a sponge!" "Sponges have deeper pockets for bacteria to multiply in. Cloths are also easier to wash and sanitize." "My mother's a nurse, and she always used a sponge!" "I'm not your mother. I'm allowed to do some things the way I'm used to!")

My past has also made it so that I feel guilty any time I spend money, so if I buy things for myself that aren't necessary, I tend to try to hide it. (I know how terrible an idea this is.) Then when there are things I need, like new work clothes, I feel like I shouldn't put that financial burden on us, even though Hubby has no problem replacing worn-out clothes when he needs to.

Communication is also very hard. When you're used to being watched all the time, you learn to hide, not to share. His family's always been very open about their feelings, to the point that they yell at each other when my in-laws' visits start to get a little too long. So he shares easily, whereas I feel like I shouldn't burden him with my problems. (That's right: my twisted emotional upbringing has taught me that not communicating is a thoughtful way to behave toward people you love. So hard to break these mental chains!)

So it feels like our marriage is basically him constantly prodding me to do the usual Adult Things and to communicate, and me grudgingly accepting and occasionally doing something nice for him spontaneously. So that I feel like even more of a burden, and yet also, paradoxically, like a slave (even though I'm doing LESS housework than I was before I moved in with him).


#428 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2016, 11:27 PM:

The_L, I sincerely wish I could help, but alas, all I can do is witness. I hope someone here has some useful advice. <hugs> if welcome.

#429 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 05:30 AM:

@The_L no. 427: Oh, man, I see a lot of my marriage in yours. The good news is that dysfunction is resolvable.

One way to begin is to disentangle learned dysfunction from the droppings of your brain weasels from standard-issue marriage squabbles. Each requires a different approach.

For example, "But that's not the way my mom did it" is a standard-issue marriage squabble and can be solved by agreeing to disagree. Getting around to wiping the counter in the first place is a weasel dropping, and requires a weasel-workaround with a big dose of self-forgiveness. I finally looked up the list of "This is basic daily habitat-unfucking stuff OK" in a Good Housekeeping handbook and made a little chart for the wall. If I can color in more than half of the boxes in the chart, that's a good day. Finally, not communicating is learned dysfunction and needs a therapy toolset, either self-administered or handled by a pro.

I would work on a categorized list, paper or pixel, of the Stuff. Work slowly, to avoid exciting the brain weasels. A bit at a time and you'll do it. Then pick one thing, just one thing, and work on that. "I must fix all the things because all the things must be fixed" is a classic anxiety-weasel dropping. If you start with one thing, however, eventually you'll do another thing, and then in the end all the things will be fixed. Keep telling yourself that. Also let yourself know that it's OK to work on the easy stuff first or save a whole category for last.

Or I could be recommending something that just doesn't work in your situation.

(It was/is social anxiety, for me. Really screwed up my ability to hold down a job.)

On a completely different topic, I am having my first serious bout of not-sleeping in quite some time. The good news is that I have finally convinced my own brain weasels that taking time for self-care is not being lazy or spoiled. I have been paying attention to my autism-spectrum needs. I finally pitched the last of my uncomfortable bras, which produced the "correct" silhouette, and bought enough "unflattering" but super-comfortable bras to last a week. How did I put up with those torture devices for all these years!? I also now own several sets of coordinated fuzzy sweats for use at home, and I have given myself permission to wear thick ugly-comfy wool socks and fancy glass bead necklaces every day when not at work because they both just feel so good. Plus I have asserted myself and required the TV, which drives me fricking bonkers, to be OFF during the afternoon so it isn't blathering in my ear and jerking around in the corner of my eye while I'm trying to get stuff done.

#430 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 09:41 AM:


"Work slowly, to avoid exciting the brain weasels."

This is excellent.

Do you might if I quote it? In the interests of some vague level of privacy, I'm willing to credit it as "something I saw somewhere".

#431 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 12:47 PM:

Sure, quote away! I'm flattered.

Oh, and I miscategorized something. Not practicing self-care is a Goddamn Tape for me. As my children grow past the ages at which I suffered various types of abuse and neglect, Stuff is coming back up. I am grappling with the true extend to which I was neglected and systematically denied anything that could improve my lot, while simultaneously being told that I was spoiled. I internalized that so much that I let people walk all over me and did not fight for my basic physical needs later in life, to prove that I wasn't spoiled. Luckily I need never talk to my surviving abusers again.

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.