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April 23, 2014

Dysfunctional Families, the Role-Playing Game
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:08 PM *

They do say that the family that plays together, stays together. So here’s a game for the whole family. Do it thoroughly enough, and your kids will never really stop playing!

The object of the game is to control the stories the family tells about itself. Gameplay is broken up into Narratives. Each Narrative has a Viewpoint Character (VC), whose opinions are to be treated as fact for the entire Narrative. Note that two VCs can share a Narrative if they agree on all significant points.

The same real-world event (e.g. a holiday dinner) can be the subject of different Narratives from different VCs. Advanced players (like families with grown children) can play with different VCs at the same time for extra realtime conflict, but beginners should probably start with one Narrative per event. That’s all most VCs will allow, anyway.

Before the game starts, the VC will assign everyone (including themselves) a Role. These Roles will define their personalities and constrain their actions in the Narrative. Note that neither the Roles nor the events of the Narrative have to map to objective reality. Very experienced VCs can create a seamless Narrative that not only bears no resemblance to actual events, but supplants them in everyone’s memory.

Characters, including Viewpoint Characters, are defined in terms of six traits: a Role, three Attributes, a Tape tagline (in the VC’s voice), and a Destiny. The three attributes are Consistency (people who are “always” or “never” something have high consistency), Capability (is this person good at things?), and Charm. All of these are defined from the perspective of the VC and do not necessarily reflect reality.

Here are four characters for a family dinner, just to give you the feel of things:

Role: Mom the Martyr (VC)
Consistency: high (she’s reliable when everyone else lets her down)
Capability: high (she’s the only one who can do things right)
Charm: high (the VC always has high charm)
Tapes tagline: It’s a good thing I’m here or everything would be a disaster.
Destiny: Never to be appreciated for her hard work.

Role: Goofy Dad
Consistency: low (you never know whether he’ll get anything right)
Capability: low (totally impractical at every household task)
Charm: high (somehow he’s always talking his way out of things)
Tapes tagline: Oh, darling, what have you done this time?
Destiny: To bumble on forever

Role: The Loveable Screwup
Consistency: high (always getting into trouble!)
Capability: high (that’s what’s so frustrating!)
Charm: high (he can talk his way out of anything, just like his father)
Tapes tagline: You’re capable of so much more! I don’t know why you’re throwing your potential away.
Destiny: One day the consequences will catch up with him. (alternative: he’ll never amount to anything)

Role: The Smart One
Consistency: high (she always does so well at school!)
Capability: high (so bright)
Charm: low (it’s a shame she doesn’t have any friends)
Tapes tagline: She’s sure to succeed if she just puts her mind to it.
Destiny: To always succeed at everything and never get credit for it (alternative: to fail at something, and be blamed extra-hard for wasting her potential).

The object of the game is to prevent other people from becoming VCs, choosing their own Roles, or creating their own Narratives.

(Note that this is better done without outsiders. They never know their Roles, contradict the VC, question the Narrative, and generally mess things up.)

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, the Role-Playing Game:
#1 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2014, 06:15 PM:

Role: The Star (like The Smart One but with Leadership™)
Consistency: high (he masters everything he tries!)
Capability: high (so bright)
Charm: high (everyone wants to be like/near him)
Tapes tagline: If he didn't succeed, it's because the rules were wrong.
Destiny: To always succeed at everything, often on reputation alone. (Alternative: to fail at something, but get credit anyway: "But he's The Star! If he did it, it must be a win!")

Role: The Lost Child
Consistency: low (it's kind of sad, really)
Capability: low (constantly needs to be supervised/instructed)
Charm: low (really, what would she have to offer?)
Tapes tagline: If she wasn't supervised, she'd never accomplish anything.
Destiny: To stay out of the way and not trouble anyone.

#2 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2014, 07:12 PM:

Something a little more general-- it seems to me that dysfunctional families with a story (belief?) that they're happy screw children up surprisingly more than I'd expect. I mean, it just seems like a little piece of nonsense which I wouldn't expect to change very much, but maybe (if it's firmly enforced) it adds a huge amount of illusion.

My family had some serious emotional problems, but didn't have a belief that we were happy, or unhappy for that matter. We were us, and the question of comparing our happiness level to other people's just never came up.

#3 ::: zing ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2014, 07:28 PM:

My family's (really my mother's) attitude was that happiness was only allowed as a reward for toeing the line. Happiness outside of that context was crushed, repeatedly.

I think the mental aspect is the worst part of abuse, mainly because as a child you don't know who the crazy one is, the psychos fucking with you are your main role models. And if it's complex enough, the damage done is for life. 20 years after escaping those manipulative psychos, I realize I will never be happy. It's been squeezed out of me. I've been programmed not to be.

#4 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2014, 09:00 PM:
  • A1 - Chore Pits of the Underbasement
  • B3 - Bedroom of the Silver Princess
  • IM1 - The Immortal Storm
  • IM3 - The Best of Intentions
  • S1 - Thanksgiving Dinner of Horrors
#5 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2014, 10:30 PM:

Characters, including Viewpoint Characters, are defined in terms of five traits:

I see either four or six traits here, depending on whether the Attributes are ONE! or THREE! ;-) Is this a sneak demonstration on rewriting reality?

The scary thing is this is nearly playable, perhaps on the level of a storytelling game such as Machine of Death.

#6 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2014, 10:55 PM:

Role: The Wrong/Broken Child
Consistency: medium (But she could be doing so much better if she'd just put her mind to it!)
Capability: low (Why can't she just Do Right?)
Charm: low (Why is she so sulky all the time?)
Tapes tagline: If YOU'D just change, everything would be perfect.
Destiny: To constantly have people trying to fix her.

(I'm not totally happy with my descriptions for Consistency and Capability, but that's as close as I can get right now. I may repost later if I come up with better ones.)

#7 ::: Sherry M ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2014, 11:12 PM:

I'd kickstart it. Most of my close friends were only minimally or moderately screwed up by our families, but enough that we'd all recognize the macabre humor.

See also, card game Gloom.

#8 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 12:56 AM:

Role: The Dumb Dog
Consistency: high (Can always be counted on to be too chatty, too loud, too shy, or just inconveniently there.)
Capability: low (How can somebody who gets such good grades be so retarded everywhere else?)
Charm: low (Here she comes, get ready to wince and roll your eyes.)
Tapes tagline: How can you not get this? It's so simple! Nobody else reacts to these situations the way you do. Freak.
Destiny: To constantly walk a razor's edge between gut-churning social anxiety and soul-crushing loneliness.

#9 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 01:14 AM:

Rereading the Player's Handbook, I should rewrite the Destiny of the Dumb Dog to read: How should I know or care? I wish she would just go away. (Except when I need somebody to feel more put together than.)

#10 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 01:50 AM:

Dave Harmon @5:

Point. I'll fix it; when I started, Role Name wasn't nearly so communicative as it ended up being.

#11 ::: slow learner ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 02:01 AM:

Role: Baby With Matches
Consistency: low (dangerously unpredictable)
Capability: low (with a high chance of causing danger to self and inconvenience to others if they try to accomplish something independently)
Charm: high (so adorably helpless!)
Tapes tagline: Oh no, you'll hurt yourself! Here, let me.
Destiny: Don't you worry about that, let Mother provide for you. Forever. (Also to be blamed for being so incapable, yet never allowed to acquire skills, as this could lead to danger or inconvenience.)

#12 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 11:33 AM:

Avram @4: I don't speak game, so I don't know what the code would be, but:

  • [code] - Christmas the Festival of the Fights

J. @8: Which immediately suggests expansion packs for Work and School.

#13 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 11:35 AM:

Oh yeah and:

abi @0: I'm assuming that the VC also gets to change the rules and/or roles on a whim, if it suits him or her?

#14 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 12:25 PM:

Jacque #13: More "the rules have always been that way. It's - interesting, isn't it? - how it's always your memory of events that's wrong - do you make stuff up just to get a rise out of me?" I would think.

(Un)fortunately I can't phrase it right, as that particular dysfunction has never been in play in my games. Lots of straight up lying in "your word against mine to Authority", but not this.

#15 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 12:34 PM:

Mycroft W: do you make stuff up just to get a rise out of me?"

In my house it was: "If you don't remember it that way" (the way my mother remembered it) "then you must be having Problems." A not completely unreasonable concern, since she had an older sister that was in and out of psychiatric hospitals all her life. But as is the way of such things, she overgeneralized this concern to an obsessive degree.

I often wonder what she would have made of the modern research on the fallibility/plasticity of memory....

#16 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 12:56 PM:

Jacque @12 Christmas the Festival of the Fights

I don't speak game either. But this reminded me of Carolyn Hax's live chats on Each year around Thanksgiving-Christmas she does one with a theme of "Holiday Hootenanny of Horrors" where people can talk about the things family members inflict on each other in the name of holiday cheer.

#17 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 01:38 PM:

Role: The trophy son
Consistency: High (always does exactly what he's told)
Capability: High (so much higher than everyone else's trophy!)
Charm: Low / irrelevant (better that he's seen and not heard anyway, he might distract from my vicarious glory)
Tapes tagline: "I'm so proud of you for making me look good!"
Destiny: Keep being successful, to distract from / excuse everyone else being dysfunctional.

#18 ::: S L J ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 02:04 PM:

Role: The smart one
Consistency: High
Capability: High ("She's so smart!")
Charm: Low (See intellect vs emotions below)
Tapes tag line: "The more book smart you are the less common sense you have." Variation : "You function well on an intellectual level, we function well on an emotional level."
Destiny: To never forget that no matter how smart she is she's exactly equal to everyone else. For every achievement there must be something else she's missing ... how else can we make the game fair and keep other players from feeling bad?

#19 ::: Diana ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 04:37 PM:

what's the one for the alcoholic parent?

#20 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 05:33 PM:

Diana @19:

Depends on the alcoholic parent. I'd be interested to see how you'd express it, if you have the spoons to try.

#21 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 06:37 PM:

@Jacque no. 12: That would be a script that the players would use for improvisation (the VC's rule being final, however, and the VC also having the power to throw in unexpected events). In Olde Gamespeake, these were called modules. Avram @ no. 4 is punning on the old AD&D module titles and numbering system. I think they're called adventure paths now.

I would expand the B-series to:

B-1: In Search of the Unknown Conversational Gambit (players attempt to open a rational conversation with a VC who has at least one untreated personality disorder)

B-2: Keeping Off the Borderlands (players attempt to develop boundaries; VC plays against them)

per Avram, B-3: Bedroom of the Silver Princess (one player is designated the Favored Child?)

B-4: The Lost Childhood (solo play using pre-scripted "normal people" with whom the players must interact while holding to the roles handed out previously by the VC; optionally, VC may drop in and interject)

B-5: Horror on the Hill (growing up in a hoarded home; didn't even have to change the title!)

B-6: The Veiled Society (VC provides hours of elusive passive-aggressive subtextual conversation out of which players must attempt to elicit information they need in order to complete a task or make a vital decision--again, didn't even have to change the title!)

#22 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 06:40 PM:

*The old D&D Basic and AD&D module numbering system. I'll just go turn in my nerd card now.

#23 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 06:58 PM:

Diana @19, here's one take on my mother (8 or 9 years in AA?):

Role: Persecuted Mother in Recovery
Consistency: medium (but she's trying so hard, and has made so much progress already!)
Capability: high (when she's allowed to be right)
Charm: high
Tapes tagline: I think I deserve a little more respect!
Destiny: Never to be allowed to be right for once.

#24 ::: Type A toad ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2014, 07:22 PM:

Role: The Good Child
Consistency: high (always knows what you want before you have to be so gauche as to say anything about it)
Capability: high (we raised you to be independent)
Charm: none (I don't understand why you always come home from school in tears about having no friends)
Tapes Tagline: She's sooo maaatuuure for her age!
Destiny: Doesn't clue in that she allowed to want things for herself until well into adulthood and no has no idea what she might possibly want because she can't filter out what she wants from what others expect her to want.

#25 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2014, 01:48 AM:

@24: Ouch.

#26 ::: Aeronautic Simian ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2014, 05:18 PM:

Role: The Infallible Font of Experience (VC)

Consistency: High (History always supports his viewpoint)

Capability: High (He could do so much more, though, if more people would just get their heads out of their asses and see that he's right)

Charm: Volatile (If you like him, you absolutely want him to be right even when it doesn't make complete sense. If you don't like him, you become his enemy -- but that's okay, because you were a hypocrite and a traitor anyway)

Tapes tagline: I'm the one with the experience here, I know what I'm talking about.

Bonus tapes tagline: A man who has no enemies has no morals.

Destiny: To always be right about everything and to be agreed with by his loving family.


Role: The Absent-Minded Potential

Consistency: Low (Keeps getting distracted for some unknown, certainly not diagnosed when he was 7-years-old reason)

Capability: High (he's a genius -- he could do anything if he just set his mind to it)

Charm: Low (If he just paid attention to the other kids and tried to be more like them, though, he would make more friends)

Tapes tagline: You could be acing your classes... it's like you just want the negative attention.

Destiny: To forever slack off and bring disappointment.

#27 ::: Aeronautic Simian ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2014, 05:21 PM:

Aw, crud, used the wrong email address on that last post. My past posts should be linked with the email address I'm using with this post.

#28 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2014, 05:54 PM:

This is NOT my week. Mom fell walking her Yorkie and cracked two ribs, and I'm trying to keep her from over-doing. Oathsister's older Sheltie has a bladder problem and is eliminating everywhere. (He's been to the vet, is being medicated, and the meds haven't helped.)

I've been trying to find out what happened to my paralyzed Cousin's dog with little success. It took three days of calling various caregivers to shake loose the name and number of the shelter.

I've called the shelter the dog was surrendered to, but so far they haven't returned my call. Since Cocoa was a small dog, I suspect she's already been adopted. Cousin's caregiver swears she had Cousin's permission to surrender Cocoa.

I'd like to be able to call my Cousin and tell her that the dog is ok, even if we can't get her back...and every call to the shelter goes to voicemail, so I've yet to talk to a real human being there.

#29 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Speaker to Tall People ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2014, 06:00 PM:

Aeronautic Simian @26:

I've fixed it for you.

#30 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 12:57 AM:

Lori Coulson @28: Do you have an ambulatory acquaintance within driving distance of the shelter that could go over there and be a pest in person until info is forthcoming?

#31 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 09:34 AM:

A little slice of clarity and a vocabulary term that I thought deserved a shout-out these threads:

Abi @491 on "On the science-fiction world’s topic du jour":
I have a long-running aversion to spoon bandits: people who come up and demand that I spend a slice of my energy and my joy on their particular obsession, with no perceptible benefit to me. (Indeed, it's often a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose demand: come spend your energy or I will make you miserable.)

#32 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 09:41 AM:

PS- Still here, reading and witnessing. Still bailing a leaky boat with a cracked teacup, and a new hull breach hasn't left much in the way of posting spoons so far this year. :/

Wishing everyone spoons and cope to spare.

#33 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 10:28 AM:

eep @31:

Thanks...I wasn't sure anyone was reading that exposition.

#34 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 11:31 AM:

abi, #33: I saw it, and also thought it was an excellent formulation. I'm trying to avoid engaging much on that other thread, so I'm glad someone ported it over here.

#35 ::: thegoodlurker ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 02:59 PM:

Type A Toad @ 24: Nailed it so hard you got me out of lurkdom. I am 31 years old and newly married and *still* trying to figure out how to say what I want, about things as simple as "where should we go for dinner?" or "what do you want to do this evening?" Thank goodness Spouse appears to have infinite patience.

My family is loving and tries hard, but too many of us have Bad Things going on with the neurochemistry. I was always The One Who Had It Together, and it's kind of exhausting keeping that up.

#36 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 03:13 PM:

thegoodlurker @35:

Welcome to ex-lurkerdom!

Your email address is attached to one other comment on ML. Do you want to choose another one for DF, or are you content to carry that comment and name along with your history?

If the former, I can help - just pick another email address and make a post replying to this, and I'll change your comment at 35 to use it. Then you'll have two commenting histories, one with your ordinary name & email, one for your DF nick.

#37 ::: thegoodlurker ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 03:17 PM:

abi @36:

Oops. New email address on the way!

#38 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 03:21 PM:

thegoodlurker @37:


Also, do please keep disproving the last part of your name...I can tell even from your few comments that the middle bit is accurate.

In other words, be welcome.

#39 ::: staranise ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 03:55 PM:

I've spent forever and a day going, "Neat community, but I don't belong here." As it turns out, I belong here. I've just been barking up the wrong tree about which form of dysfunctional my family isn't.

But right now my dad is on suicide watch in hospital with a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and I guess my family's cover of "we're all pretty okay, thanks" is well and truly blown. I'm in a different province, trying to deal with the perceptions of my childhood that were blown all to bits.

Dad isn't a grandiose narcissist; instead he's that thing people with depression sometimes have nightmares about turning into, the covert narcissist. Which is what happens when a narcissist can't believe their own bullshit, and goes supernova and collapses in on itself. His tape was, "I'm the most awful worthless person on the world and have nothing to offer my family." And if we didn't get with the program, he'd remind us.

So I spent my childhood trying to draw him out and get him to pay attention and love me. And thought maybe if I were nicer/brighter/more cheerful, or simpler/less smart/less complicated/quieter, or not so weird/not so demanding/less needy/more grateful, maybe then I'd get the love that I wanted. I thought, maybe I just needed to be more understanding. He had low self esteem, a bad childhood, needed space, had problems with language...

So I've spent a while wrestling with the idea that maybe he didn't act like he loved me not because I was too difficult to love, but because he chose not to. Maintaining his self-image was more important to him than I was. And it wasn't my fault.

It's a real head trip.

#40 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 04:06 PM:

staranise @39:

BRB, going off to cross-stitch I've just been barking up the wrong tree about which form of dysfunctional my family isn't. and frame it. For, um, reasons.

It sounds to me like you're tackling the mess with clarity and grace. How long have your family had the diagnosis?

#41 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 04:33 PM:

Jacque @30: Oh, how I wish I could do that! The shelter is in Roanoke, Virginia and I'm in Columbus, Ohio. There is no living family member besides my cousin in the area and no remaining family friends. I did go to the shelter's Book of Face page this morning and left a message about the fact that I couldn't reach a real person.

Oathsister took sick Sheltie back to the vet this morn and he has been scheduled for an ultrasound on Monday. There is reason to believe there is blockage involved, unfortunately it may be cancer.

We have been trying for over three days to speak with paralyzed cousin, and she has been on the phone with someone else or on the ventilator every time we've called. Frustration is setting in, and we've begun to wonder if someone is trying to manipulate us and we can't see what that would gain them...

#42 ::: staranise ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 04:55 PM:

abi @ 40: I'm thinking about 36 hours right now. Dad's mental health problems became more apparent around November-December, and got really acute at the end of March.

#43 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 05:30 PM:

Only 36 hours? You're doing really well with that. It sounded like a couple of weeks' worth of processing there.

Be gentle with yourself if you get some rebound, then, mmmkay? And please check in even if you don't want to vent. This is inevitably going to be a tough time for you. We're here if you want us.

#44 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 05:50 PM:

staranise, #42: Ouch -- you must still be in shock at this point. Hearing and witnessing, and all sympathy to you.

Could I ask you to expand a little on this point in your initial post: that thing people with depression sometimes have nightmares about turning into, the covert narcissist? I understand the description you gave of the symptomology, but this is literally the first time I've heard of either the syndrome or its connection to depression, and that's what I'm asking about.

#45 ::: staranise ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 08:14 PM:

I've been processing my own issues with my dad since Christmas, and I'm trained as a therapist, so when my mom said, "So, your dad was diagnosed with NPD?" I had a brief disconnect, and then a moment of, "Oh, so THAT'S what that is."

Lee: One of the things I worried(worry?) about with depression, and I know a lot of people who did/do so also, is the idea that being depressed hurts the people around us. It's part of what keeps me from talking about it, especially to my friends. And most of the time, this worry is blown waaaay out of proportion. Basically all of the time, it is not something anyone feeling depressed can solve with the toolset provided by depression, eg. "hating yourself more". The way to ameliorate this worry is to spend time making sure you pay attention to the people around you and checking in with their concerns, needs, and wants.

Which my father basically never did. He paid attention to us and responded to us only if we reflected back what he wanted. He was so buried in a place of deep shame and self-loathing (or the attempt to escape from it) that he was almost totally closed off to the people around him.

The thing about narcissism isn't necessarily that a person has a particular view of themself--I can think I'm the Queen of North America, and I might be wrong or delusional, but that doesn't make me a narcissist. What distinguishes narcissism is the need for other people to validate one's self-opinion, and willingness to punish and manipulate people who don't get with the program. It's that other people only matter insofar as they agree with you about yourself.

(So, I grew up with a man who only really paid attention to me when I was useful to his battle with toxic shame. I grew up to be a therapist, and one of my real clinical strengths is helping people with toxic shame battles. It's like my vocation is nothing more than a neglected child trying to get her father's attention. This association is really new to me, and raw enough that it's hurtful on a lot of levels, since my job/identity is something I really love/d and have leant on as a source of strength for a long time.)

#46 ::: Neon Fox ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 09:33 PM:

The other day I opened up the five-thousand-or-so words of non-fanfic novel I've been trying to write, and read what I have. I liked it. Then I got to the last part, where it stops in the middle of a scene, and had a horrible realization.

See, the narrator's mother has just shown up. The narrator's mother being one of the Sidhe, my version of which is strongly influenced by the Dresden Files Sidhe. Thus, the lady is overbearing, perfectionist, condescending, and certain that her half-mortal child cannot possibly take care of herself.

I swear I didn't mean to make my mom a fairy, OK? I just thought it would be interesting for the non-mortal parent to be the mother for once!

Also, it's kind of creepy how taking Mum and turning her up to eleven makes her a spot-on Queen of Air and Darkness.

#47 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2014, 11:19 PM:

Lori Coulson @41: The shelter is in Roanoke

Do we have anybody within a handshake or two in the vacinity? Would it be worth sending up a flair on the open thread?

We have been trying for over three days to speak with paralyzed cousin, and she has been on the phone with someone else or on the ventilator every time we've called.

Who is your source on this? Might it be worth asking a few pointed questions, just you know, "for information"?

staranise @45: It's like my vocation is nothing more than a neglected child trying to get her father's attention. This association is really new to me, and raw enough that it's hurtful on a lot of levels, since my job/identity is something I really love/d and have leant on as a source of strength for a long time.

Well, flip it around: is it possible that your dad latched onto you for this specific form of support because you are especially gifted at it?

Neon Fox @46: it's kind of creepy how taking Mum and turning her up to eleven makes her a spot-on Queen of Air and Darkness.

"Welcome to Archetype! May I take your coat?"

#48 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2014, 04:27 AM:

Oooh, I love this thread! I'll have to think about whether I have anything I want to contribute in relation to the OP.

Lori @ 41
I think I would start to be concerned about possible caretaker abuse in that case, especially given your cousin's isolation from other family and loved ones. Do you think contacting the local police or nearby Department of Aging might shed some useful light?

#49 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2014, 12:29 PM:

Neon Fox #46: As I've noted before, those legends and stories came from somewhere.... The haughty or mischievous elves, sinister but enthralling vampires, even zombies abject or savage, those are all mirrors for facets of humanity.

#50 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2014, 04:42 PM:

Facets of humanity, and in the stories also presented with ways of dealing with those traits, suitable for the time they originated in? I remember reading that "Beauty and the Beast" could very easily be a lesson in how to live with an abusive spouse, in the days when divorce was not an option.

Appease the dangerously capricious who have power over you, seems to be a common theme. Avoid drawing their attention. Apologize if there's a difference. Appease, always.

#51 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2014, 08:52 PM:

KayTei and Jacque -- the paralyzed cousin is in a skilled nursing facility, we're in contact with a couple of my cousin's friends who have told us cousin is ignoring our phone calls. If it weren't for these friends, we wouldn't have found out cousin had a fall and broke her neck in the first place.*

We also know from the nurses that cousin HAS received the cards we sent her. She is not isolated or abused.

Cousin has always lived in her own little world, is not a reliable narrator, and for some reason unknown to us she's decided not to talk to us. (Maybe it's because we didn't swoop down and rescue her, something we don't have the resources to do.)

Color me totally frustrated! We're going to keep sending her mail, but now that we're certain she has our phone number we'll wait and see if she calls us.

*I am a horrible person -- sometimes I wish they hadn't told us...

#52 ::: slow learner ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2014, 05:48 AM:

staranise@45 wrote: This association is really new to me, and raw enough that it's hurtful on a lot of levels, since my job/identity is something I really love/d and have leant on as a source of strength for a long time.

How about this reframe: you started helping people with their toxic shame battles because your father only paid attention to you in the context of his toxic shame battle.

But you continued, not only because you're good at it, but because as a therapist you can make a difference, where as a prop in your father's drama you cannot. More than that, as a therapist you can draw appropriate boundaries, get paid for it, and go home at the end of the day and not do it off the clock.

You took a situation where you were powerless and relatively meaningless, and made it into something where you're strong and capable and useful, and where you have a choice about it.

#53 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2014, 06:47 AM:

Love the reframings @47 and @52 for staranise.

And also, remember: It's pretty common to get one's superpowers from falling in toxic goo.

#54 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2014, 07:45 AM:

Merricat #53: It's pretty common to get one's superpowers from falling in toxic goo.

LOL, and so true!

#55 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2014, 12:13 PM:

Lori Coulson @51: Cousin has always lived in her own little world, is not a reliable narrator, and for some reason unknown to us she's decided not to talk to us.

Well, that's a relief. In that case, I hope you are able, in all clear conscience, to sit back and relax.

I am a horrible person -- sometimes I wish they hadn't told us...


Hey, if cousin is going to be a Problem Child, I for one see no issue at all with letting her stew in her own juices.

#56 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2014, 02:49 PM:

Jacque, thanks for the editing. I needed that.

Turns out issue may be with the phones and not Cousin. One of her friends visited today and called us on her own cellphone so Cousin could speak with us.

Cousin's facility is talking about transferring her to another facility, it was clear she was hoping to transfer to something nearer to us, but I don't know that the Virginia Medicaid system would transfer her to Ohio.

Still no progress on determining the fate of Cousin's dog. We are now discussing getting Cousin a pay-go cellphone, which we could top-up as needed so she'd have another line of communication rather than depending on just snailmail.

Doing an examination of conscience each evening has not been easy this last week...

#57 ::: Type A Toad ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2014, 03:29 PM:

Lori: I have people in Roanoke. Well, in Blackburg/Christiansburg who commute to Roanoke for work and such. I can put a call out on the Book of Face for a volunteer if abi can connect our information.

#58 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2014, 03:33 PM:

Email me at my name at this domain. Back-channel connections a specialty. Accept no substitutes.

#59 ::: Type A Toad ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2014, 03:41 PM:

thegoodlurker @35: you have all my sympathies. I'm 35 and at one point I was having huge, emotionally laden, conversations with my partner where he kept asking me what I wanted out of my life and not only could I not answer him, I could only barely parse the question as something that could be applied to me. It was very frustrating for us both.

staranise @45 "It's like my vocation is nothing more than a neglected child trying to get her father's attention. This association is really new to me, and raw enough that it's hurtful on a lot of levels, since my job/identity is something I really love/d and have leant on as a source of strength for a long time." If you could maybe think of it as having a lifetime of emotional experience in dealing with that kind of situation that giving a deep compassion for others going through it, would that help?

#60 ::: Type A Toad ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2014, 03:46 PM:

abi: done

#61 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2014, 03:53 PM:

Bad news on the dog: I was able to speak with Roanoke Valley SPCA, they have had no dogs surrendered to them in the last month. I called the caregiver who supposedly surrendered the dog and was told a NEW story, dog was surrendered to Animal Control not RVSPCA.

So...I call Animal Control, and they have no dog matching Cocoa's description nor has one been surrendered under my cousin's name or the caregiver's name in the last month.

I guess we're going to have to call the police and report the dog stolen -- and see if this young lady wants to play games with them...sigh.

#62 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2014, 04:12 PM:

Lori, #61: That sounds as though maybe Cocoa got loose, possibly due to caregiver's carelessness, and that either (1) after an unsuccessful search or (2) after deciding that she didn't want to waste time looking, she just chose to lie about it and hope nobody would notice or care.

#63 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2014, 04:21 PM:

Lee, that's one of the things I've had nightmares about (from the viewpoint of the lost dog). The only good thing is that if Animal Control didn't have her, at least she hasn't been euthanized.

I'm waiting for the nice policewoman to call back, she was in the middle of taking another report.

#64 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2014, 05:34 PM:'s now in the hands of the Roanoke police. Nice policewoman gave me the report number and her phone number, and said they'll be back in touch as soon as they can, and seemed happy that Cocoa does have a microchip.

Lee, you'll be pleased to know that she agreed with your theory that the dog got away from caregiver. She was not happy that both Cousin, Mom and I have heard more than one story from caregiver as to Cocoa's fate.

#65 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2014, 09:53 PM:

I've been wanting to fill in those role descriptions, but they made me realize that I was assigned multiple roles. Among other effects, it meant I was usually playing the wrong one, or had failed to live up to one of them. So, another night.

Staranise @39 and 45: Oh. Oh... Yeah. Just like turning a kaleidoscope, isn't it?

I liked the reframings @47 and @52 for you. It makes a lot of sense to me that you ended up in that role because you're talented at it. It's not your fault that your first patient was the one that nobody could help, no matter how good they were or how hard they tried.

I hadn't heard of this variety of NPD. Is it possible to *partially* succumb to covert narcissism? Perhaps one internal faction succumbs out of several, or something along those lines? Because your dad sounds sort of like my mother.

"So I've spent a while wrestling with the idea that maybe he didn't act like he loved me not because I was too difficult to love, but because he chose not to. Maintaining his self-image was more important to him than I was. And it wasn't my fault. It's a real head trip."

I've been chewing over something similar. I have this list of lies my mother told me. The toxic waste she dumped in my head. I've been working with that and figured out some things recently. I guess the best way to explain it is this: my mother is at war with herself, and has been for a very long time. I'm collateral damage. As best we can figure out (me/shrink/sister), I got dropped into the war (picked to be a warzone?) when I was still a baby. A faction of my mother rejected me, *hard*, and picked me for her primary abuse target. Another faction of my mother continued to love me, but doesn't have much idea what loving parenting looks like, and rarely has any strong effect on actions compared to the rejection-and-abuse faction. I don't think it's multiple personalities; it's more like the angel and demon on your shoulders trope. They're both you but they analyze and react differently. My mom has the abusive, conformist person the world taught her to be, and the intellectual, kind, more loving person she ought to have been. Most of the time, the abusive conformist wins.

To relate this back to your situation and how it reminds me of me, Staranise, I've been wrestling with the idea that my mother simultaneously hates/rejects me and loves me, creating this toxic waste she poured into my head (and the conditions for me to really believe it), and that she's chosen to do it. Or perhaps it's that she can't choose to stop. She can't stop hating me; she can't stop loving me. Her internal war and the need to abuse are more important to her than her daughter. And it's not my fault, even though I was taught that everything was my fault.

#66 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2014, 10:15 PM:

Merricat @53 It's pretty common to get one's superpowers from falling in toxic goo.

I just wanted to admire this a little more.

#67 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 12:40 PM:

Bodhisvaha @ 65, that describes my mother to a T, as well. My brother (who I've always thought of as having been both the better-loved and the target of way more of the horrible shit, but I'm coming to understand that it probably wasn't better or worse, just different for each of us) describes her as being made up of Jekyll-mom & Hyde-mom. Jekyll-mom is intelligent, canny, empathetic, giving, loving, and kind. But Hyde-mom crops up with absolutely no warning, and Hyde-mom is the stuff of nightmares.

But that's not because of me, and it's not something I can fix--neither can I fix it in her, nor can I 'fix' me so that Hyde won't wake up and be cruel. I feel like I reached a point of satori (I mean, I seriously felt like I'd accomplished enlightenment, or something very near. It was a slog to get to it.) at which I really accepted that I could grieve both for the forces that made her as she is, and for the hurt she chose to hand out to me and my baby brother, while still recognizing that while her feelings and personality might not be something she can control, neither do they excuse her choices to be abusive and to rewrite reality so that she's never in the wrong.

She could have chosen differently, and that's on her.

#68 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 04:09 PM:

OK, so. I asked my cousin a couple months ago if she would consider being a bridesmaid at my wedding. Two weeks ago, she finally got back to me. Via email:

"Dear L,

I want to start out by telling you that you are an amazing person and I love you very much! The past few times we have talked we have not been able to finish the conversation because I seem to make you upset so I decided to write you. Please take your time in reading this e-mail. [her husband] and I have had long nights debating over the question of being your maid-of-honor. Many different points have been brought up and I would like to share some of them with you because you are my family and I want you to be happy FOREVER!
One of the main issues I have is the fact [fiance] has not in any way made any step forwards to fix the issues with your parents! No matter how ridiculous you both think they are being they are still your parents and love you more than anyone else will! Think about you and him having children and your parents not being involved in their lives or "daddy" not coming around because he doesn't like your parents! No child deserves that relationship or situation. [husband] and I are in this situation now with his parents. Marriage is hard enough without adding in all the extra pressure of parents and kids! If you and [fiance] are happy then that is great, but marriage takes having a support system like none other! My mother and I have defiantly [sic] had our issues in the past but over the years we have become extremely close due to the fact that she is my mother and stands by side! She also calls me out when I am making crazy decisions! That is what parents do! [husband] and I would be in so many binds if my parents did not support us through these crazy years...getting married, his parent issues, working like crazy, to having a beautiful baby girl! Through all that I'm proud to say that I'm closer to my parents now than I have ever been, but it is due to the support and love we get on a daily basis! That does not mean they have liked every decision we have made but as a team we work together to come to a compromise or solution!
With all being said, you and your mother have always been so close! Why in the world now do you think she is being so senseless? Has she not always been there for you through the good and bad? Why is time any different? If you need your parents at anytime...NOW IS IT!!!! I know you think I'm fussing at you and taking their side but this is real life and once a marriage happens there is no turning back! IT IS FOREVER! So instead of always blaming your parents because that is the easiest thing to do at the moment have you ever considered telling Jay to make it right? He needs to ask for your hand in marriage from [my dad]! Your father at least deserves that respect! I would start this process by no more lying. It gets you no where except feeling sorry for yourself and making every situation worse!
After all of this being said, I will have to decline your wish for me to be your maid-of-honor. When you sent me that text, I was stunned! It really hurt my feeling because I thought we were closer than that (to receive that question in a text). I have also never met [fiance] or been invited to meet him! How can I support something and not know anything about them! I wish the best for you and [fiance] but if you don't take anything away from this just know one day when you have your children you will know exactly how your parents feel and regret your decision in not making them apart of the most important time of your life. Weddings are a time for familys to get together to celebrate the beginning of a new family and OUR family needs to be more involved than just making an appereace. I have sympathy for you right now because I know you are hurting. The best way to get through it is to make it right, if [fiance] wants to be in this family then he needs to step up and be the man that will take of you and confront all the issues instead of hiding behind you! Just remember getting married does not make these issues go away! They will haunt you until you make it right! Getting married without solving all the issues will only make them worse! You can only pretend for so long that it is all your parents fault until you wake up one day and it is to late! Please take your time and think about what I have wrote to and hopefully at some point you will understand! This is the most important decision will ever make! Please handle it with care!

Love always,
[her name]"


#69 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 04:16 PM:

The_L @68:

I'm so sorry. Clearly she's swallowed your mother's narrative hook, line, and sinker. There's a whole bingo card of failure-to-get-dysfunction in there.

Virtual hugs, if you want 'em.

#70 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 04:18 PM:

Double-posting because there's no effin' way to fit anything else into that post. It took me a week, but I wrote this response:

[her name],
It's taken a while for me to decide what I was going to say about this but I have to respond to your email. I love you, and of course I respect your decision. But I feel like there's something that hasn't really gotten through.

[fiance] cannot "fix the issues with my parents" for several reasons. Setting aside the fact that they refuse to speak with him through any means, my parents' issues aren't with him so much as they are with me. This whole mess has been just another iteration of the pattern that's repeated all my life where they expect absolute perfection and total adherence to their mindset, then when I prove to be a human being who makes mistakes and has her own personality, they take all their anger out on me. They rarely ever praised me for anything; far more often, I was yelled and and told that I wasn't trying at all and that my efforts were "garbage." When we lived in NY, I specifically remember a long lecture about how terrible my grades were--I was making a 92!--and what a disappointment I was. And this was typical.

I was emotionally beaten-down by my parents so badly that I dated mostly losers in college. Remember the whole fiasco with [an ex she remembers all too well]? He didn't trust me; he wanted to isolate me and have me all to himself, ostensibly to protect me. And I didn't realize how completely twisted this was, because to me, that was what love was--a lack of trust and a need to "protect" me from myself and my interests. My parents couldn't even understand why I cared about him at all, and would yell at me for hours about it (I specifically remember my father calling me a whore). The fact that they'd always treated me the way he did, minus the sex, never once occured to them.

Yes, I've lied to my parents. I learned at an early age that they didn't trust me with anything, so I gave up trying to be trustworthy. I learned that they were harsh when I said anything they didn't want to hear, so I lied through omission throughout my teen years just to cut down on how often I was spanked, slapped in the face, and screamed at. I've been going to therapy for this. The therapist has said specifically that my parents, regardless of their intentions, abused me emotionally.

I have attached an exact copy of the note I left my parents when I left to move in with [fiance]*. I poured my heart into that note, trying to walk the tight rope between being completely open and honest with them, and not making them utterly furious. I failed.
Basically, when you talk about me and [fiance] patching things up with my parents, it feels about the way you would feel if someone told you that you and [her husband] needed to get close to [her biological father**] just because he donated some of his genetic material to make you. I don't know what my parents feel for me, but if that is what parental love is like then I want no part of it.

Through the last 2 years, [fiance] has been my rock. He has been my shoulder to cry on; he has supported me through everything, and we love each other deeply. He has made me happier than I've ever been in my life, simply for accepting and loving me for who I am instead of some nebulous ideal. I finally understand what it feels like to be with someone who genuinely loves you and wants the best for you, and it's something I waited 26 years to feel.

I understand why you don't want to be my maid of honor, and I accept that. I do hope that you do decide to come to my wedding, though, because I want to share the beginning of our new life with you.

Another week has passed, and I haven't gotten a response. This worries me, because we've known each other since we were 3, and she's always been a constant in my life. I feel like everything is crashing down around me. Dad's side of the family agrees that he's an asshole and totally supports me, but I have yet to hear anything constructive from Mom's side of the family, and I'm afraid to even make contact because they're likely to side with my parents by default ("honor thy father and thy mother" is taken to dangerous, sometimes-abusive extremes by Southerners). I feel like I'm losing half of the family I've known and loved all my life because I've decided not to roll over and take my parents' abuse anymore.

* I think I posted this in an earlier thread? It would have been around late August/early September.

** Cliff's Notes: Her parents got divorced when she was 4. Sperm Donor refused to pay any child support and basically pretended he'd never had any kids. She found out when she was 18 and finally got to talk to him on the phone that he'd never read any of the letters she'd sent to him throughout her childhood.

#71 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 04:41 PM:

The L @70: Stick to your guns, your life (sanity?) may depend on it. I think curtailing relations with those who do not accept you or your fiance is the way to go.

I'm from the South, too, and I've been an observer to my family's feuds. Trying to defuse them can be fatal to the person attempting bomb disposal.

#72 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 04:43 PM:

A beautifully-written letter, The_L. I hope all will be well, and offer virtual hugs if acceptable.

Your cousin sounds like the "family is everything" people who let Marilee's* no-good father into her house while she was in the hospital, because of course he was family and therefore could only possibly want what was best for Marilee, and of course he robbed her.

Some people just don't get it.

*Was it Marilee? I think it was.

#73 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 04:44 PM:

Yes, it was Marilee. (Whom I still do miss.)

#74 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 04:50 PM:

Me too. Very much.

#75 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 04:50 PM:

sending good thoughts and sympathy, The_L

#76 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 04:53 PM:

The_L, #68: He's supposed to ASK YOUR FATHER FOR YOUR HAND IN MARRIAGE? What the fuck century is she living in, anyhow? The rest of it is just standard "family uber alles" bullshit, but that bit is jaw-droppingly idiotic.

The part about being so, so terribly hurt that you asked her in a text (instead of what? FTF? Phone call?) strikes me as "looking for excuses" to do what she then goes ahead and does anyhow, which is subject you to emotional blackmail. "I won't do anything to stand by you if you don't reconcile with your parents" is not something you hear from a person who has your best interests at heart.

I think your response is very good, on-point without sounding angry or bitter, and using analogies that should make sense to her. Whether or not you get a response, and if so what kind, will be instructive.

I feel like I'm losing half of the family I've known and loved all my life because I've decided not to roll over and take my parents' abuse anymore.

That sucks like unto a Shop-Vac. If it's indeed true, then I think the question you need to ask yourself is, "Would it have been worth paying the price of staying in the abusive relationship to keep them?"

#77 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 05:01 PM:

The L, I'm sorry. Your cousin's recitation of the Things We Don't Say In These Threads is striking, and I hope she realizes that she's misread your situation.

#78 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 05:04 PM:

@Lee: TBH, the area of rural Alabama I'm from still treats Asking Her Daddy For Her Hand as the norm. It wasn't until I moved away from there that I realized this was no longer typical in the rest of the country.

And thanks, all, for helping me clarify my own thoughts. If she doesn't respond, or she gives a weird, hurtful response, then that tells me that she doesn't value reasonableness or her relationship with me nearly as much as I thought.

#79 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 07:07 PM:


Holy entrenched gender roles, Batman!

I suspect that her framing of the issue as your fiance needing to reconcile with your parents, rather than addressing any conflict *you* might have with them, is probably conflict avoidance. It reads like she doesn't want to tell you directly that she thinks you did something wrong, so she shifts the blame over to the fiance.

Either that, or it's more gender role stuff - as the putative Man of the House, it's your fiance's role to put on his diplomatic hat and right all your wrongs.

I wonder what she thinks the cause of the "issue" is?

#80 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 07:25 PM:

The_L, oof. Sympathies.

#81 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 08:27 PM:

Courtesy of a recent fever dream: dysfunctional families as huge ships.

The Titanic. Ballyhooed as a wonder (never enough lifeboats), sailed and sank a long time ago though people like The_L's non-bridesmaid apparently haven't yet gotten the telegrams.

Southern version: steamboat. Generations of paint on the pretty wedding-cake gingerbread covers dry rot. When racing their competition ("ouh-ah family uses only cubed chicken breast in luncheon sandwiches"), boilers blow up with mass death and destruction.

Ferries, such as up by Seattle (the ones long overdue for repair, much less replacement). Top-heavy. Unstable. A gust of crosswind when hitting a strong current can make them turn turtle.

All of the above: when the inevitable catastrophe strikes, no one can figure out what possibly went wrong. "Everything was fine for so long, everybody said so. Well, not [x], but we all know they're crazy."

If you are frantically paddling away in your little canoe and the crowd in the pilot house spots you, they will relentlessly run you down.

Shelter here from the hurricanes and undertows. You may not feel yourself a strong swimmer, but there are plenty of us willing to toss you life preservers.

I tried to squinch this into role-playing format, honest. Okay to delete if it's derailing the thread.

#82 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 09:09 PM:

Amen to Lee #76: She's basically saying that she won't support you and your life choices unless you do as she says, and specifically go back to being an abused child, throwing away all the progress you've made in life,

She may well be like "a member of the family", but as it turns out, that would be the dysfunctional family you escaped from.

#83 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 09:37 PM:

Jeanie #81: The Titanic also has a backstory which might fit into the DF pattern: The "unsinkable" claim was based on the original design, with the ship divided by bulkheads into watertight compartments. And then when they turned it into a cruise ship, they put a big spiral staircase running from top to near bottom, leaving huge gaps in those bulkheads....

#84 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2014, 10:40 PM:

My mother, the VC:

Role: The Martyred Mother
Consistency: high (she always sacrifices herself for everyone else, even when they don't deserve it)
Capability: high (she does EVERYTHING and works as hard as 2-3 ordinary men -- which are actually true)
Charm: high (the lady who holds the plant sales? she's so nice/normal!)
Tapes tagline: I do it all for you / Later you'll be glad to have a guilt complex.
Destiny: To slave away for her husband and children, who can't be troubled to do menial labour.

My father:

Role: The Absent-Minded Scientist/Engineer
Consistency: high (he's usually got his head in the clouds)
Capability: high (science/technology), low (everything else, especially household chores)
Charm: low (he needs so much care, just like a child, but she'll be a good wife even if it kills her)
Tapes tagline: Yes dear (hands over ears) / Why do you insist on hurting your mother?
Destiny: To be loving but barely present, ignoring earthly realities and problems (chores, money, dysfunction) to live in his world of ideas and technological toys.

My sister:

Role: The Good Child
Consistency: high (she always is helpful and polite)
Capability: high (not only does she do well in school, she helps around the house and works too)
Charm: high (but only so long as she keeps her head down about the bad stuff)
Tapes tagline: You're such a good child, a role model for your sister. (Unspoken: we know what happens to bad children here, don't we?)
Destiny: To be cherished and exemplified so long as she measures up. (But she's still the Better Child even when she does things worthy of maternal disapproval.)

The role I always somehow ended up in at home no matter what:

Role: The Problem Child
Consistency: high (she always causes trouble)
Capability: low (she always screws things up -- does it wrong, doesn't know how to do it, or breaks things)
Charm: low (why is she so difficult/disobedient?)
Tapes tagline: Why can't/won't you do/be what we want?
Destiny: To always do everything wrong no matter how hard she tries.

The role I was expected to play, and that nobody ever even hinted was impossible or unhealthy:

Role: The Perfect Daughter
Consistency: high (she always does the right thing, with virtually no mistakes)
Capability: high (she always knows what she's supposed to know/do/act like)
Charm: high (she's psychic, an extension of your own will -- how can that not be charming?)
Tapes tagline: You're such a good child, the daughter I always wanted.
Destiny: To be loved and approved of as her mother's perfect assistant and wish fulfillment device.

The role I had for everyone outside the home (yes, school was almost all the "outside the home" there was):

Role: The Teacher's Pet/The Bullied Outcast
Consistency: high (she's always so quick and clever/she's always such an unpopular dork and easy to torment)
Capability: high for teachers (she's good in every subject, always wants to learn more), low for classmates (she's so weird and can't make friends)
Charm: high for teachers (smart, interested, well-behaved, articulate), low for classmates (shy, nerdy, and awkward)
Tapes tagline: Your teachers must be talking about a different child! Why can't you be like that at home?
Destiny: To be really really good at intellectual things while not having any friends, and to use lots of big words out of books.

No wonder this was taking me a while, with 3 easily confused roles of mine for me to untangle. I'm noticing a theme of high consistency, high capability in favoured persons. This would include The Eccentric Aunt (not detailed). Unfavoured characters are high consistency and low capability according to the VC. I wonder how/if this relates to the machinery of the dysfunction.

#85 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2014, 05:49 AM:

#70 ::: The_L

I'm sorry you're (probably?) losing someone who's been important to you, but it's obvious that the ex-potential bridesmaid values formal structure over what's actually going on.

Something I've wondered about-- does the formal structure thing (the child should have contact with whichever relatives) ever work? It seems to me that once it's framed like that (rather than saying there's an actual relationship which is worth maintaining or at least a potential relationship that's worth starting), there's already a problem. Admittedly, it's possible that the structured approach permits good relationships to exist that might not be perceived by the person who's imposing the obligation.


I've been reading Nina Kiriki Hoffman's novels about the LaZelle family, and A Fistful of Sky registered with me a lot (the main character was powerless for a long time, and built an identity around harmlessness).

What's coming into my mind is that my mother thought she was right, and I'm unpacking it-- what she thought she was right about isn't quite clear, but it's something to do with me being inept, and some deeper defect I can't quite put a finger on under that.

The reason this is important is I'm getting a gut level realization that it was just her opinion.

#86 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2014, 08:46 AM:

@Nancy: You hit the nail on the head. The area I'm originally from is a hotbed of authoritarianism (rules uber alles) and high value is placed on appearances (because in a small town, a bad reputation can ruin you). My cousin and parents are both clinging to that simplistic, unhealthy mindset because it's what they grew up in.

However, I moved enough as a child to realize that what I'd been trained to think of as "normal," isn't.

#87 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2014, 06:25 PM:

The_L @ 68

I know others have said this more gracefully that I will.... Your cousin is drinking the abuse Kool-Aid.

#88 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2014, 08:44 PM:


All the other points and also a vague theme of "let others do your thinking for you", whether it be Mommy and Daddy, or That Nice Strong Man(tm) you're marrying. I can't point to a specific, just a feeling.

I wish for you a wealth of spoons, for both strength and calm, and a wish for a long and happy life with your chosen.

#89 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2014, 09:24 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 85: Hmm. The formal structure thing could work for a limited subset of the population—namely, those who do better with a well-defined structure in any area of human interaction. Of course, the first example that springs to mind is the neuroscientist who discovered he was a psychopath, which is not the most reassuring example, but if some people can take a formal structure and use it to be better people than they would be without one, that's a positive aspect to it. "This is how people in this position are supposed to act, therefore I shall act that way."

However, I am more on the side of most families should not have that formalization to them. It's far too easy to force someone into a role they're ill-equipped to fulfill.

#90 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2014, 10:56 AM:

I also suspect we're seeing a red/blue family split, here. The_L makes the very intelligent decision to act based on her own judgement and experience, to which people steeped red family thinking react with "Butbutbut! The world will end—!"

Because, you know, vertigo.

#91 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2014, 10:13 PM:


Remember Ex-friend from the previous thread? The one whom I failed financially because my life went to hell, and whom I'm trying to do right by now?

So, shortly after commenting about the situation originally, I received a Book of Face message informing me that future communications should take place through ex-friend's business profile rather than their personal one, because obviously why would zie want to communicate with ME using the same means zie uses to communicate with actual FRIENDS? (Not quite the terminology used, but definitely the gist.) So I trotted over to the business profile, sent a message about having set up an automatic check payment to the payee name and address zie had previously specified, and gave my recollection of what I owed and asked for correction as necessary.

And then I had to STOP myself obsessively checking my own business profile for a reply. It took some doing, frankly. But I checked today. And got blasted, again about the money, and was told nothing has arrived yet (which is partly worrying, since the money has definitely been deducted from my account...but on the other hand, they have complained in my hearing more than once about how their mail drop is sometimes less than efficient when it comes to getting the right thing in the right box). I was also informed there was $ X in debt prior to event Y which prompted the bit I was supposed to have worked off.

But the kicker is that all of this pales in the face of the fact that I SAT IN THEIR HOME AND DISRESPECTED THEIR OFFSPRING, and that's why I was never invited back.

And I'm like...what the everlovin' fuck? I can't even think of a time that could have happened, and it is, I guarantee, the very first time I have EVER been informed of this. I mean, hell they invited me to an extremely important milestone event in offspring's life, so it has to have happened after that. At least you'd think so, otherwise why invite me? But since I don't even recall now the year or season of said event, I'd only be guessing if I said it must have been somewhere between filing bankruptcy and winding up in the homeless shelter.

And I'm like, what the hell.

Spoons to all. Mad, glorious quantities of spoonage to all who wish, ditto virtual hugs as desired. And can I just say how much you all mean to me, and how grateful I am to ML in general, and to abi in particular among the mods and front-pagers, because I can come here and say things like this?

#92 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2014, 01:37 AM:

Syd: Case-making. Whatever bee they've got up they're butt, they're looking for reasons to be mad at you. "And this! And this! And thisandthisandthis!!"

Which says to me more clearly than anything else you've reported that it's not about you at all. You just happen to be a plausible target.*

I'd get images of the cancelled check (your bank ought to have a way to do this, though there might be a fee involved), and see what the endorsement looks like. Bottom line, though: the money has gone from you to somebody, and if it's not them, it is on them to sort it, since you can't really control what their post office or mail carrier is doing.

* I went through this with a now-former neighbor a summer or two back. Went along for a couple of years having what seemed like a very pleasant relationship. Then, one day, she invited me over to her house, cooked me dinner (without eating any herself, which seemed a little odd).

Then, later that evening, I found a note she'd slid under my door, blasting me for having disrespected her. It seems that my house keeping wasn't (all of a sudden; hadn't apparently been a problem previously) up to her standards, and then when she invited me over to her house, I had the temerity to sit on her furniture with my nasty, dirty behind. Ever after that, she was thoroughly frosty (except when she wasn't), and I concluded that she'd just gone crazy, and I happened to be a handy target.

So, yeah. Wiggins ahoy.

#93 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2014, 12:19 PM:

Awesome is the wrong word, but I really really like this piece by Sean Craven. It resonates with my experience; this is what "well-managed depression" looks like from inside.

#94 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2014, 12:24 PM:

Correcting my 93. This is one of the ways "well-manged depression" looks like from inside.

#95 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2014, 03:29 PM:

Well, looks like *I* won't be finding out what happened to Cocoa. I called the Roanoke police today to be told that my cousin didn't want me to have any information on this case. Apparently, the police spoke with the dog thief and the social worker at the skilled nursing facility, and are satisfied with whatever they were told.

To make things worse my cousin called this morning (before I spoke to the police) moaning about "where is my little dog, she's afraid of rain and it's been raining here..." So I followed up with the police department only to be told the above.

So I feel well and truly played. My first response was to wonder if I should just cut all contact. But Mom and I phoned the social worker and said if Cousin is serious about finding Cocoa, then Cousin can call the police. Social worker said she'd go talk to my Cousin right then...and that's where it rests.

I guess I'll just send Cousin a card each week wishing her well, and I'll pray for the dog's well-being.

#96 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2014, 05:21 PM:

Syd -

Another possibility is that your disrespecting the offspring never happened.

This has happened to me. When I confronted my accuser in the presence of the parent - "tell me what I did so I won't do it again" - it was clear that it was a power play by the kid, and that the parent didn't realize it (i.e. was able to pretend it wasn't happening) until the confrontation. Unfortunately, it only made the parent angrier and it was easier to direct that at me (I acted out less).

No way to know at this stage, and unimportant, actually. You can leave off trying to figure it out, though, if this helps.

#97 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2014, 12:15 AM:

Jacque @ 92, Jeanie @ 96, both your suggestions are possible. Although why offspring would have thrown me under the bus is something I'm having trouble contemplating. And also although the way ex-friend wrote the statement, there seemed to be an "and I saw you with MY OWN EYES" hovering in the background.

Either way, I'm...hell, I give up. I'll take care of the money end of it because it's the ethical thing to do--assuming ex-friend ever gets around to giving me their calculation of the amount owed, and if not, I'll stick with my calculation and call it done.

But when I first read the year-old Book of Face message that started this, I went back through my regular emails looking for something, ANYthing, to either confirm or refute what I was being told about why I was no longer worthy.

And the most recent communications I found were (1) my email to then-not-ex-friend and their spouse (written, as it happens, on my next-to-last night in the cold-weather shelter, a fact I chose not to mention) explaining why I was having to drop out of the organization to which we all belonged, and in which I wrote, Please know that I have not forgotten about the money you've loaned me; I can't quite see how yet, but it's my intention to repay you everything, even if it starts with a few dollars here and there... This isn't saying anything like everything I'd like it to. Sometimes words just fail...; (2) and not-then-ex-friend's reply a month later, APOLOGIZING TO ME for having let my heartfelt email slip past zir but zie was dealing with zir surviving parent's quickly failing health, acknowledging how hard it must have been for me to write my email, hoping that things would get better for all of us sooner rather than later.

Nothing about working off even a part of my debt. Nothing about "You horrible person for disresepcting our offspring in our own home." Just...nothing except compassion and friendship.

So I'm done carrying guilt for not being able to start repayment sooner, and I'm really REALLY done worrying about the disrespect bit. Intellectually, anyway; getting the emotional component on the same team may take a bit more effort. I'm incredibly sorry they're in foreclosure, because I know first-hand how hard that sucks, but even if my debt was twice what I think, and even if I had the wherewithal to repay every dime of it tomorrow, it's likely it would not have done more than delay things by a month, maybe two.

And it is not my fault. I wish them the best, but I'm not counting on rebuilding that bridge. I'm not even sure I want to...although we had some hilarious times. :)

#98 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2014, 01:15 AM:

Syd: Near as I can tell, you are doing exactly the wise, sane, intelligent, compassionate thing I would recommend if it were up to me.

Sometimes there's just a mushroom cloud in your life, and sometimes the best you can hope for is to stay upwind of the fallout.

#99 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2014, 02:07 AM:

Jacque @ 98: "mushroom cloud"...

Sorry, I LOLed. Because I thought, "Well, normally I like mushrooms..." Thank you. ***offers Jacque a raspberry Milano cookie because that's all that's in right now***

In other news, I have recently discovered that I find a guy at work...attractive. And found out yesterday in conversation with him that he's all of 29. ***SIGH***

#100 ::: Building New Pieces ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2014, 03:24 AM:

Delurking because I need to be heard by people who aren't involved in my current work situation. (Someday I want to go back through all the DF threads and comment on all the particularly insightful things in them. Today is not that day.) Advice is welcome.

Background: One of the many things my parents were and are terrible at is actually considering my viewpoints and reasoning when I disagree with them. Often this happened because I was accounting for the Unpleasant Consequences of Thing They Wanted Me To Do and they weren't. So they would tell me to do Thing, and depending on circumstances (including how many times they'd repeated this) I'd do assorted combinations of:
- telling them "No" explicitly,
- sincerely asking them why they wanted me to do Thing (so I could find out if there was anything useful to consider in their reasoning and hopefully find and propose a solution that accomplishes all the reasonable things they want out of Thing without having Unpleasant Consequences), and
- pointing out Unpleasant Consequences explicitly,
- trying to address the actual reason they wanted me to do Thing,

all while not doing Thing and trying to avoid Unpleasant Consequences. Sometimes they'd listen, but usually they'd just force me to do Thing, possibly after several repetitions. Even as a child, I tended to be right about Unpleasant Consequences, so this was not fun. (I've had both physical and mental health professionals boggle at the resulting medical history alone.)

They do love me and they don't want to see me unhappy, though, however bad they are at helping rather than hleping or making matters worse. And they do find it harder to ignore Unpleasant Consequences actually happening to me, as opposed to my pointing them out as consequences of Thing. (Often they'd ignore or dismiss those consequences anyway, but not always.) So for some long-term Things such that I could safely bear the Unpleasant Consequences for a short period, I developed the after-reasonable-discussion-fails impulse to (over)do Thing for a short period with extra emphasis on Unpleasant Consequences in the hopes that seeing Unpleasant Consequences would convince my parents where discussion failed. It often didn't work and it's really not functional, but in that environment it was worth a shot.

Current situation: I'm currently studying at University, which has a Program that lets students get medium-term full-time work positions (long enough to need time off from classes) while remaining enrolled as students. Through Program, I was hired by Company and started my work term almost a year ago. (Company has been hiring students through Program for years and years.) Company is small (less than 100 employees), the people are generally nice, and things tend to be done fairly informally. Good Friend, who is a major part of my support network, also went through Program with Company, now works there more permanently, and recommended Company to me.

So when the manual said explicitly that employees are allowed flexibility in when they come and leave so long as they put in 8 hour days and are around for "core hours" (which are not 8 hours long) and it became clear that employees there do actually use that, I started using the flexibility to shift my workday somewhat later and make my workday better fit my sleep cycle. (I have the supposedly-teenage late-shifted sleep cycle plus a longish commute on public transit.) This also gave me the opportunity to talk with Good Friend briefly on some mornings, which is really helpful because Good Friend is also a busy person and it can be difficult to talk frequently otherwise.

Cue months of Boss very slowly dropping gradually less subtle hints that I should go to work earlier and me being very confused (public transit delays were a confounder), until eventually a few months ago Boss told me explicitly that Company doesn't give that flexibility to student hires. (No mention of this was made in the manual and Company doesn't strongly separate student hires from other employees. I'm also not the most socially adept, so I find this sort of thing both frustrating for multiple reasons and needing explicit statements.) I brought this up with Good Friend outside work, who said that Boss's Boss indirectly insists that student hires come in early (control issues) and is insincere.

At that point I did start trying to push my sleep cycle earlier so that I could go to work at Company's required time without being tired at work, but not long afterwards I started having health problems that required and are requiring lots of appointments during business hours. Especially morning appointments, because that way I don't have to leave work extra early for transit delays and I'm not incurring the commute time penalty both ways. Company and Boss were understanding, and I switched to hourly pay with time logging.

I'm making up time on evenings and weekends, but they know (or at least really should know) that neither such making up time, the health problems themselves, nor the frequent appointments are conducive to sleep cycle shifts and not being tired. So Project Shift My Sleep Cycle was put on hold in favour of Project Get Health Problem(s?) Diagnosed and Treated While Holding Down Job Without Depleting My Spoons or Worsening My Mental Health, and I'm still clearly putting in time and effort at work. (And I have other ongoing Projects that I can't put on hold, such as Project Build and Maintain Boundaries with Very Stubborn Dysfunctional Family.)

Just over a couple of weeks ago, HR Person asked me to get a doctor's note from my family doctor that Company could put on file. This was the very first mention from anyone at Company that a doctor's note was needed, and HR Person knew full well that I was out of town (visiting Dysfunctional Family) for several days around Easter and that as a student I was probably using University's clinic (which doesn't provide doctor's notes without an appointment to get one, although usually those notes are for courses) instead of a more 'traditional' family doctor setup.

I knew that I would be seeing specialists for the next while and it would be some time before I saw "Family" Doctor again, so I asked "I won't be seeing my family doctor for quite a while; my upcoming appointments are with specialists. Is that okay?"

HR Person said "Yes, that's fine. Whenever you can get the note, let me know."

No further mention of the doctor's note was made until today, when Boss called me into a meeting with Boss's Boss and HR Person where Boss's Boss issued me a reprimand for absenteeism, mostly about the doctor's appointments and the rest admonishing me for putting Project Shift My Sleep Cycle on hold and saying I wasn't in the office enough despite the evenings and weekends.

I tried to politely say "I said earlier that the doctor's note would take a while to get and I probably need an appointment to get one. My next appointment with 'Family' Doctor is [about two weeks from now]; if that's not soon enough, let me know and I'll see if I can get the note earlier," but both Boss's Boss and HR Person kept talking over me.

(I did get to say that much later in the meeting; HR Person responded by telling me to call "Family" Doctor, as if I could actually call "Family" Doctor directly rather than having to leave short messages with University's clinic staff at best. I politely agreed to try, did try after the meeting, then emailed HR Person and Boss an update on my attempts.)

So they want Project Shift My Sleep Cycle done fast on top of Project Get Health Problem(s?) Diagnosed and Treated While Holding Down Job Without Depleting My Spoons or Worsening My Mental Health while also asking me to spend more time at work than I already am. And now I'm countering the impulse to (over)do Thing and emphasize the Unpleasant Consequences, because I know that's not going to help here even though the pattern matches. While also reminding myself that Company should see the Unpleasant Consequences within reason (such as arrive earlier -> leave earlier), I'm not obligated to slog through Unpleasant Consequences for the remaining four months of my work term if those Consequences get horrible and/or affect my health, and it's entirely reasonable to tell Boss "[situation] is causing me [problem making it difficult to work] which is bad for Company. Let's work something out that works for everyone."

I really should write up what I'm thinking is reasonable and unreasonable, but later when I'm not so tired.

The cherry on top is that Boss also told me not to chat at work, which really mostly means "don't talk to Good Friend at work," which cuts off a large chunk of my access to one of the pillars of my support system. (Good Friend doesn't get to work early enough to get around this by treating the time as before work hours. Plus getting to work at the time Boss's Boss wants means being there over an hour before Good Friend, with near-zero chances of being able to talk during the commute in. Our commutes out rarely match up due to my leaving for appointments and staying late to make up time.)

And to add sauce as well, another group of student hires, whom I'm supposed to help train and be a role model for, is joining shortly. Some of them start on Monday, and I'd like to not terribly confuse them by having subtly different behaviours from everyone else on account of all this.

Off topic: How does one make a less than sign show up here? I know this was covered on the DF threads at some point but I'm too tired to find it right now.

#101 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2014, 09:25 AM:

&lt; displays as <.

#102 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2014, 09:47 AM:

Building New Pieces, that sounds like a really complicated situation with a lot of unspoken expectations. I think you're doing the best you can with it; remaining the single person who communicates clearly and honestly can be frustrating, but it's about all you can do*. I hope your health issues and the company's assumptions settle down soon.

*Guard your honor, let your reputation fall where it will, et cetera.

#103 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2014, 11:18 AM:

Building New Pieces, #100: I don't think this is something you can fix on your own when it's You vs. Company. You need to talk to the people who admin Program at University and see if you can get them to back you. It's in their best interest that the students they send to Program not be subjected to this kind of mixed messages -- and that's one of the things you'll want to emphasize to them, that you are being told different things at different times.

It would help if you had records of this stuff, but as this is your first exposure to workplace abuse, you probably don't. You'll want to change this going forward; for example, if you have a discussion with HR Person and they tell you X, then you send them an e-mail afterwards using verbiage like, "This is to confirm our discussion on Y Date at Z Time, in which you told me X." And keep a copy for yourself in a location other than your Sent Mail folder.

#104 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2014, 12:13 PM:

Building New Pieces, I agree with Lee on documenting any interaction with HR or the Boss.

I've been through the "doctor's note" business when I got Fibromyalgia, and it wasn't until the Federal government put Fibro on their list of disabilities that that hassle ended.

You may want to ask HR to document that flexitime does not apply to student employees. Giving you the manual without that specification was poor management on their part.

#105 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2014, 12:45 PM:

Building New Pieces -

These comments are based on me, not you.

I've found that when I resent that people had the information to make informed decisions about me and didn't, I've set myself up for that fall.

As disheartening as it is to acknowledge, most people have no reason to care about much of my life, even when it's supposedly part of their job. When I give them important information, they may well miss it on the first pass even when they smile and nod or make agreeing noises.

If this had been my life (and it isn't):
HR Person knew full well that I was out of town (visiting Dysfunctional Family) for several days around Easter...

Why should HR person remember any of the plans of the dozens of their work staff? Most of us do well to remember our own.

...and that as a student I was probably using University's clinic...

Again, this assumes that they have enough of their own spoons to remember and work out these associations.

I find when I'm frantic to be heard I say too much, too often, which means people flip the switch in their heads that filters me out. This was lovingly (not) hard-wired in by my family, with a lot of script overlap with yours.

It took a long time to recognize when I was doing it (painful), then recognize when I was about to start doing it (as when I'm in it I can't fix it), then find a way to make simple, brief statements and shut myself up. I'll be working on that one the rest of my life.

Which brings me to point #2:
How long is this position going to run? If it's only another month or two, as wearing as it will be, you may be able to tough it out.

#106 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2014, 01:14 PM:

Jeanie, #105: I have a partial disagreement with some of this. If HR-person has to approve leave time, then yes, they should have known when someone was going to be out of town. And since they certainly know who their student interns are, they definitely should be aware that most students use Student Health rather than a family doctor who may be hours away.

Your basic point is valid, though. For example, when my father decided to have pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dessert, my first reaction was, "He knows very well that I don't like pumpkin pie." Only later did I stop to think that (1) he probably didn't remember that because nothing individual about me was important to him, and (2) it's the Traditional Dessert, so of course it was what he'd pick. When thinking about what someone does or doesn't remember about you, it's important to factor in why they might or might not care.

#107 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2014, 01:19 PM:

Building New Pieces #100: You may also want to chat with someone at $Program -- give them a copy of what you posted above (From "Current Situation:" onwards, natch), and explain that $Company is not backing up the work-time flexibility they offered, and that is becoming a problem. They may be able to arrange for a transfer of some sort.

#108 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2014, 02:06 PM:

Lee - you're right. In both those instances it was the HR person's responsibility to know. Unfortunately we can't tailor our lives to always deal with competent folks. We can, with work, maneuver the less competent into helping us.

Once I started noticing, I was shocked at how much energy I was putting into getting mad when people didn't pay (IMHO) enough attention to me. When I worked on my unrealistic expectations, focused on the places that they should help me (like HR) and trimmed my language, things got better.

#109 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2014, 04:18 PM:

Building New Pieces @100: Expanding on keeping copies for yourself: keep those copies somewhere offsite, like, BCC your personal email address.

Have TPTB (Boss, Boss's Boss, or HR Person) specified what constitutes "enough time" per week at your job? If not, get them to do so, in writing. Also, make them specify when time must be served. If this time conflicts with classes and/or medical appointment needs, require that they offer workable alternatives.

If the time-per-week exceeds 40 hours a week, remind them that they're required by Federal Law (in the US, anyway), to pay overtime.

Find out if receiving an email from your "Family" Doctor's office would adequately serve as "note." This might simplify the necessary choreography. If email isn't an option (many medical practices are nervious about it), ask if a FAX would do.

As to new students: train them as appropriate. Ignore the issue of Modeling Proper Employee for them. You've got enough on your plate, and you might actually be doing them a service to let them observe the hoops you're having to jump through.

Also, recommendation for longer-term employment management: Note down the things that give you trouble, and what your optimal solutions are. Keep these in a file as criteria for desired employment characteristics in the future. :-)

Jeanie @105: make simple, brief statements, then stop.

As a result of my own Saga, I finally worked out that with strangers on the street, you get about five words of free attention. After that, more words will often just annoy them if they register at all.

With bosses and other known people who "should" be paying attention, the threshhold seems to be about ten words. Even with my boss, when I'm emailing her about something she requested, I've learned to put all the crucial information (including any requests) into the first sentence of the email. Anything after that more often than not seems to go into the bit bucket.

#110 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2014, 04:55 PM:

came home last night to standing water in 1/2 the sink that had been there since midday thursday when I stopped home for literally two minutes to grab some clothes (i'd been sleeping on campus since monday night).

woke up this afternoon to find it still there, and more dishes piled up making the sink usable but obnoxiously so. the sink also smells of mildew.

asked the one housemate in evidence if she could do a bit of cleanup. she pulled sketchy leftovers out of the fridge and added those dishes to the sink without cleaning any already there.

found the sink now unusable, even to empty and rinse my tea strainer. complained to same housemate, still around; i think she put a few dishes in the dishwasher. (by the way, we have a dishwasher)

the mess in the house is actively interfering with my ability to study for my very last set of finals ever. to clean it myself would fill me with resentful rage and a desire to break things.

would it be too cruel to send an email to the house list saying "we have a dishwasher. did you know?" and nothing else?

#111 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2014, 07:23 PM:

hope in disguise @110, thank you; your comment spurred me to load my own dishwasher. Sometimes an outside reminder helps... <wry>

#112 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2014, 09:41 PM:

happy to have helped, Cassy! :->

#113 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2014, 10:33 AM:

So, um. Communication Fail that seems illustrative of something, but I can't see what ...

There are three parts.

0. Earlier this week, I cleared some counter space and sorted the dirty dishes that were there, putting the things that needed it to soak and doing hot-rinse to others. I put a bunch of those into the top-shelf of the dishwasher in a scheme that seemed reasonably efficient to me (fitting lots of items in, while making sure each have their Dirty Side facing the water jets so they'll actually get clean). I did not finish loading it full both because of distracting kid-care and because it lacked a total volume of 'big' dirty stuff to sufficiently fill the bottom, and the soak-stuff needed to soak off.

1. This morning, Himself was rinsing out his coffee pots (YAAAY! I hate dealing with wet used coffee grounds, it's A Thing) because all of them were dirty and they definitely needed to be in a load run today, because Coffee is Necessary on Mondays. So he passive-aggressived at me, when I arrived in the kitchen (zombielike and seeking caffeine, with no blood sugar to speak of) to the effect "The dishwasher NEEDS to be RUN toDAY, and I can't do it without taking everything out because you loaded it your weird broken way I can't deal with." Note: I have no idea what about how I load the dishwasher triggers his nuclear UR DOIN IT RONNNNNG reflex, but it reliably does. So I take a deep breath, nod, look at the available strewn-about dirty dishes, and start loading the dishwasher. I actually finish the top shelf and start loading the bottom.

2. While he's dealing with his new backup coffee solution, he drops coffee grounds ALL OVER the silverware-sorter part of the dishwasher. Yours may vary, but for ours if there is even one speck of coffee grounds loose on any dish in the dishwasher, it ends up PLASTERED over every dish in the cycle and most of them need to be rewashed. Already spoon-low and not with it, I start to have a freakout at the Waste Of My Effort And It Is Ruined Now, then take a breath, step back in my mind, and say, "Ok, I'll get it off the dishes and you can clean it out after that. He goes off for a dustpan (some got on the floor too). I get a cup of water and start carefully rinsing particulate off the bottom-shelf dishwasher stuff, to be caught in the (horizontal) dishwasher door so we can clean it out of there and segregate it from the ACTUAL stuff-not-to-get-icky.

3. He FLIPS HIS LID when he sees me pouring water, and says angrily, "THANKS, now I can't just sweep it up out of the door. Great. Eighty times harder." I apologize, but it's already started so I finish (no time machine available). I turn my back to get more water and HE CLOSES THE DISHWASHER DOOR, tipping the grounds and water mix into the bottom of the dishwasher AND INTO ITS WORKINGS, which to my way of thinking was exactly the entire thing I was trying to avoid in the first place.

I yelled. He yelled. I'm mad at him for RUININ MY WURK. He's mad at me for SCREWING UP FIRST. Neither of us is blaming anyone for the initial spill of grounds, it was a freak thing that just happens sometimes.

I left the kitchen. He's done something in there (I don't know what) that he purports to have solved the problem and now he wants me to keep loading the dishwasher. I'm hot and cold all over my skin (I've had half a can of Coke in the meanwhile) and so nauseated I can't think about what to have for breakfast.

There's a pattern here but I don't know what.

Aside from each of us being utterly certain we have logically-sound reasons for thinking our ways of loading the dishwasher are perfectly fine (but he thinks mine is poisonous and harmful in ways he can't explain).

#114 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2014, 12:29 PM:

Wow. What a huge amount of anger in that kitchen. The one thing I'm sure of is that unless this is an isolated incident caused by unusual blood sugar levels, sleep deprivation, etc. the problem doesn't lie with dish cleaning techniques.

Passive-aggressive behavior comes from the frustration of not being able to safely express anger. The pettier the excuses for acting out, the more major the core problem.

When my spouse started consistently pulling crap like this*, it helped** for me to address my own issues and find ways to discuss them, as he was able (to a point) to mirror that behavior.

Sadly for us, we hit a level where he stubbornly decided our dysfunction was up to me to change. I did, by leaving him.

It sounds like you're quite a ways from that point.

*a certain amount of p-a behavior is normal
**although it wasn't at all fun

#115 ::: Building New Pieces ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2014, 08:09 PM:

Neutrino @101; Diatryma @102: Thanks.

Lee @103:

Re: talking to Program Admin, I strongly suspect that they would indeed back me. When it first became clear that Health Problems would require more than two or three appointments during business hours, I sought advice from Program staff and was immediately put in contact with Program Admin. The conversation we had went like this: (paraphrased and summarized)

Me: "I'm on my Program term and I'm having currently undiagnosed health problems that are requiring appointments during business hours. What are my obligations, what are my employer's obligations, and what else do I need to know for this situation?"

Program Admin: "Your first obligation, above your job, is to your own health (and safety). Do what you need to to figure out what your health problems are. Once you know that, come back and we can talk about how to manage treatment and work. Your employer's obligation is to accommodate your health problems. They are legally required to do so."

Program did also tell all students entering work terms through Program to come to them (not to their employers' HR departments) in case of mistreatment in the workplace on Program terms. Part of the goal of Program is to teach students how to navigate the workplace on their own, but "talk to Program Admin" is definitely a reserve option I'm strongly considering in case of further dysfunctional Company behaviour. (Including pressuring me about duration, timing, or amount of working hours.)

Re: documentation, I have some pieces of documentation but not complete records. That script for documenting verbal discussions should be very useful, thanks.

Lori Coulson @104:

Any suggestions on how to get HR Person or Boss to document in writing that the flextime rules in Company's manual do not apply to student employees? An email script or similar would be helpful.

Company has given me a copy of my employment contract, which does state the non-Health-Problem-accommodating working hours rules that Company is now trying to enforce on me to the letter, but the contract makes no reference to Company's manual. Boss has verbally told me that the rules in my employment contract are what actually apply to all student employees, but I can clearly see that Company is not actually enforcing these rules to the letter on other student employees.

Jeanie @105, Lee @106:

Lee is correct that HR Person has to approve leave time and knows who the student employees are. In fact, HR Person is also aware that my family, and therefore my 'traditional' family doctor, is a multi-hour flight away from the city University and Company are in. HR Person does not appear spoon-deprived or inattentive towards me, but we know appearances can be deceiving so I won't assume on that basis. When it comes to caring though... one of the kickers here is that HR Person (and Company in general, except for Boss's Boss) were acting like they cared, so I thought they would make connections like that.

But failure to make those connections is really just a minor point of frustration on top of the fact that "whenever" changed to "by some arbitrary point we won't mention to you, and we'll punish you if you don't give us the note by then" with no warning. Because if Person A asks Person B for $Thing by "whenever" and is then concerned about not having $Thing yet, the functional adult thing for Person A to do is to follow up with Person B about $Thing. With clear words, and the explicit setting of a date/time by which to get $Thing if Person A wants a timeframe.

Jeanie, your general point is something for me to chew on though. I don't think that's quite what happened with my family (story for later) or at work (because I was not frantic or making particularly long/complex statements), but definitely something to watch for and consider.

As for point #2, the position ends in four months. The trouble with toughing it out is that my depression is triggered by having too much unpleasant stress in my life*, thus the "Without Depleting My Spoons or Worsening My Mental Health" in my Project. My pre-reprimand work situation + Health Problems + Dysfunctional Family + some other Projects I can't put on hold was already enough to give me warning symptoms**. And my major symptom clusters are (fatigue/sleeping more and later/trouble falling asleep) and (motivation problems/trouble concentrating due to fatigue), which do not play well with work in general or with Project Shift My Sleep Cycle.

Dave Harmon @107:

I agree that talking to someone at Program is a good option; see my reply to Lee @103 in this comment.

Getting a transfer out of Company may be difficult, though, since much of the appeal of Program (to employers more so than employees) comes from the length of the work term, which is at least a year by Program rules. Getting a transfer within Company wouldn't help, since Boss's Boss is the main source of dysfunction (in my assessment and Good Friend's) and at the top of the org chart. Boss is actually one of the best 'shield' managers in Company, but is currently heavily constrained by Boss's Boss.

Jacque @109:

I'm already keeping copies offsite, but thanks for the reminder.

TPTB == The Powers That Be?

Company has specified in writing their non-Health-Problem-accommodating rules for working hours, including when those working hours are to happen. The time-per-week rules say 40 hours a week, but the when-to-work rules only add up to 40 hours a week if one takes the full 1 hour lunch break (which I don't for a multitude of reasons); otherwise the when-to-work rules can push time-per-week over 40 hours. Other student employees have been allowed flexibility on the when-to-work rules to keep hours-per-week at 40 hours, but I don't think I'm going to get that at this point.

HR Person has indicated that the doctor's note can be emailed (as a PDF attachment) or faxed. I do not have that in writing directly, but I do have written references to that which I'm planning to copy offsite. I expect that doctor's note choreography will be mostly due to University's clinic rules.

As to new students, letting them see the hoops I'm having to jump through is one thing, and it's nice to know that I can ignore Modeling Proper Employee. The other part is trying not to catch them in the crossfire. (I'm also considering if there are any good, non-adversarial ways to warn them about the hitch in the working time rules and/or advise them to make a copy of the manual like I did.)

One of the things that gives me trouble? Unclear rules and unclear hints as to said rules. Optimal solution? Get the actual rules, as opposed to the official but not necessarily enforced rules, stated clearly.

As for other people's attention spans, ten words strikes me as low but unfortunately accurate in some cases. This is part of the catch-22 often encountered when explaining anything with a high inferential distance; put the conclusion in front and one's interlocutor finds it implausible (and tunes one out), put the necessary background knowledge first and one's interlocutor stops paying attention (and tunes one out).


It's frustrating that I can no longer treat my workplace as functional largely because of one person. Boss's only real contribution to the dysfunction was trying to drop hints rather than stating the rules clearly, and I suspect that HR Person is also being constrained by Boss's Boss (although they probably got some warning before the reprimand stage in which they could have followed up with me). But I'm not treating my workplace as functional anymore.

* When I was first diagnosed, I still had to look around for a therapist due to circumstances. Diagnosing Professional recommended the CBT workbook Mind Over Mood to me since I could use it alone or with therapy. By the time I found a therapist, I had done the early belief-examining exercises and they consistently indicated that my beliefs did indeed line up with the evidence. I discussed those results (including several examples) with Therapist, we agreed that my beliefs were fine and my stressful situation was the problem, and we worked on fixing the situation (by reducing some stressors, developing better coping skills for others, and figuring out my self-care needs). And, lo and behold, this worked.

** Which I responded to by getting "Family" Doctor to refer me to University's student mental health services so I can get help before it gets worse. I'm on their treatment waitlist, the staff there have told me that I should get a treatment spot sometime this month (since many students are away from University for the summer), and I'm doing as much self-care as I can in the meantime.

#116 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2014, 09:38 PM:

Cookie Theory, written by a friend of mine elseNet and linked here by permission. I thought people might find it useful.

#117 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2014, 10:46 PM:

Building New Pieces @115: Program Admin: "Your first obligation, above your job, is to your own health (and safety). Do what you need to to figure out what your health problems are. Once you know that, come back and we can talk about how to manage treatment and work. Your employer's obligation is to accommodate your health problems. They are legally required to do so."

This is very good news. This indicates that Program Admin is sane, on the ball, and has your back.

Any suggestions on how to get HR Person or Boss to document in writing that the flextime rules in Company's manual do not apply to student employees? An email script or similar would be helpful.

--begin email--

CC: HR Person

Dear Boss,

Since there seems to be some places where the flextime rules in Company's manual do not apply to student employees, and as we have encountered some confusion around this point, could you please provide to me in writing the specific points where the flextime rules in Company's manual do not apply to student employees? This would help me be sure that I am fully complying with Company policy on these matters.

Thank you very much for your assistance on this.


--end email--

Optional addendum: "If is possible to do so, I wonder if Company would find it worthwhile to amend Company's manual to cover these points, or provide a supplemental document? It might save Company, as well as students, some time and confusion in the future. Also, again to avoid future confusion, it might be beneficial if Company could add a line to the student contract referring to the relevant section of Company manual."

(Occassionally (i.e., surprisingly often), it just doesn't occur to people to make this stuff explicit. More often than not, it's because pieces evolve independently, and the cross-reference just doesn't happen until something goes wrong.)

I can clearly see that Company is not actually enforcing these rules to the letter on other student employees.

This is potentially treacherous territory, but: if you can call out specific instances of non-enforcement, and inquire as to what the difference is between you and other student employee, that might at least wake Boss up to the need for consistency, or at the very least, documentable justification. I'd hold this one in reserve, though, as it's really hard to pull off in a non-adversarial fashion.

Out-of-the-blue idea: It occurs to me that you could do worse (especially as you are at the beginning of your career), than starting a "lab notebook" of questions, issues, references, and answers about this stuff. Looking back on my own work path, it would have been really useful to have some kind of record of this sort of thing in my work history. At the very least, it would be a handy way to keep track of potential Pooh Traps, and also a way to work out in your mind what you feel is reasonable and what you're willing to put up with, versus what seems to be dysfunctional nonsense. If such is the kind of thing you would find helpful, at any rate. Just a thought to be ignored if not helpful/useful.

one of the kickers here is that HR Person (and Company in general, except for Boss's Boss) were acting like they cared, so I thought they would make connections like that.

Well, this may be like the old farm mule: she'll work hard and do right by you; you just have to get her attention first.

"whenever" changed to "by some arbitrary point we won't mention to you, and we'll punish you if you don't give us the note by then" with no warning.

Another argument for having as much of this conversation in writing as possible, or at the very least, sending confirmation emails after verbal conversations.

And you can head off a lot of this kind of nonsense by getting in the habit of proactively asking, "What is my deadline on this?" If they come back with "whenever," you set your own deadline, and tell them what it is (in writing). Then if they suddenly shift the goalposts on you, you can point to your email and say, "As previously mentioned in my email of [date], I will have this to you by [date]." This is a polite and fairly unassailable way of saying, "No." With the implicit subtext of "and you don't get to arbitrarily jerk me around like this." All very polite and diplomatic, though. Oh yeah, and: on emails like that, there's also the option to include a request for receipt acknowledgement, to make sure they've at least opened the relevant communication.

TPTB == The Powers That Be?


Other student employees have been allowed flexibility on the when-to-work rules to keep hours-per-week at 40 hours, but I don't think I'm going to get that at this point.

Um, if I'm reading you correctly, you're saying that the special "discipline" they're requiring of you is causing you to have to work more than 40 hours per week? If this is correct, I believe this is actually illegal (in the US) unless they're paying you overtime (unless you're Full Time Exempt). If I'm hearing you right, this is definitely something to bring to the attention of Program Admin. If you are FTE, it's still unfair if you are being singled out.

I'm also considering if there are any good, non-adversarial ways to warn them about the hitch in the working time rules and/or advise them to make a copy of the manual like I did.

Two obvious (and entirely appropriate in your capacity of modelling How To Do Employee) things you can do: give them (or have them get) copies of the Company manual, and tell them to get copies of their contracts, and tell them to read both carefully. This is something many people don't do, but is a very good habit to get into under any circumstances.

Get the actual rules, as opposed to the official but not necessarily enforced rules, stated clearly.

YES, with bells on.

put the conclusion in front and one's interlocutor finds it implausible (and tunes one out), put the necessary background knowledge first and one's interlocutor stops paying attention (and tunes one out)

The hack I use for this one is the old, ever-popular narrative hook. The skill lies in crafting the hook for one's particular audience.

Boss's only real contribution to the dysfunction was trying to drop hints rather than stating the rules clearly

This is good news. This suggests that it might be worthwhile to ask Boss explicitly to, wherever possible, state the rules rather than imply them. If zie seems open to it, it might be worthwhile to point hir to the Ask vs Guess culture idea. (abi, is this an item that should be added to the Toolbox?)

I'm not treating my workplace as functional anymore.

I just want to toss in here that it looks to me like you're handling all of this exceedingly well: thoughtfully, mindfully, with awareness and consciousness, both for what's going on within you and what's going on around you. What you're struggling with is that you're suddenly faced with a bunch of co-founding factors that you haven't previously experienced. You're doing the intelligent thing of thinking over carefully what you're dealing with, and reaching out for help and wisdom from multiple sources. And, for extra Functional on top, you're doing so without vilifying any of the parties that are giving you trouble. Which is a lot better adulting than I usually manage.

Just sayin'.

#118 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2014, 11:05 PM:

Building: Follow up thought: there's a non-zero probability that Company is suffering discomfort from the implicit vs explicit issue, too, and that they're just not Awake enough to be aware of it. This is (IMHO) more likely in a smaller company, where there are fewer edges to crash together than there are in a larger company, which perforce gets this stuff debugged sooner. From that standpoint, you are doing them a favor by training them to be more explicit in their interactions with their employees, and for damn sure reducing the grief future employees will face.

#119 ::: Building New Pieces ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2014, 11:09 PM:

Jacque @117: I'll get to the rest of your post later, and thank you for all the advice, but one quick point on the manual before I go to bed: What happened on my first day is that HR Person gave me a paper copy of Company's manual and told me to take it home, read it, and then give it back. I did give it back, but not before making a PDF copy at home. At the time I mostly wanted the copy for the statutory holidays list and vacation rules, but it may now come in handy as documentation and it occurs to me that the new student employees may need such documentation too.

#120 ::: Type A Toad ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2014, 06:40 PM:

Lori Coulson @95: Well, damn, I'm so sorry to hear that about Cocoa. :( Would it be possible to get Cousin to directly ask Social Worker and have Social Worker tell Cousin to call the police? Instead of going through Caretaker?

#121 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2014, 06:53 PM:

Building New Pieces @115 - although you appear to agree that bringing in Program Admin might be a good idea, you seem to be holding that option in reserve for some reason. I would strongly suggest that you update them on the situation as soon as possible. If they know what is going on, they may be able to provide useful advice or intervention before things come to a head. If you don't get them in the loop early, then at the very least they may get surprised by a call from Company and be unhappy that they didn't know about the situation earlier when they could have intervened. I speak from some experience: I've definitely had times in my life when I should have told someone that I was having a problem much earlier, rather than letting it come to a head.

Bricklayer @113: My sympathies. All I know is that dishwasher loading can be a major point of contention even among normally sane people.

#122 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2014, 11:47 PM:

Building: If they required you to give the manual back, you may also want to suggest that *they* should email PDFs to new employees, so that employees may have copies on hand. It's really hard to follow rules if you have to try and remember them verbatim.

And yes, I agree that small companies may have issues with "debugging" their manuals. One of my college classes dealt with business communications, and one of the assignments was to audit an organization that you were a part of. So I did a survey of a group I was in, identified major communication issues, and suggested a brief handbook with no more than eight pages or so. Of course, the head of the group then went crazy and came up with a forty-page handbook full of cruft and "inspirational quotes", so I went around and apologized to everyone the next year.

#123 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 06:24 AM:

Condensed version of events here.

Last August I visited my parents with my husband and children and during that visit my mother took offense at something I did or said. She didn't tell me what it was, or even that she was offended: instead, she told my father who had been in another room at the time.

He then told me I could at least try to be nice to my mother.

I said I refused to be blamed for things I didn't know about, but he wouldn't tell me what I'd done to upset her.

It was my birthday: we'd planned a takeaway, because my parents don't like eating out. After my father had taken me to task my mother went upstairs to bed because she wasn't up to dinner, apparently; then after my husband had gone to get the food my father said he wasn't going to eat with us. So we ate our takeaway (which we only arranged because it was what my parents wanted: my husband, children and I would have preferred to go out), and before we'd even started eating my father came in and asked for our dishes, so he could wash up.

I said that that we'd take care of the dishes when we'd finished eating.

Five minutes later he came in and asked for them again. At this point I was still standing at the table dishing up for everyone.

Another five minutes later I had sat down and was eating. My father came in again and barked, “Dishes!” at us, and stood there glaring at us. I said, yet again, not to worry, and that we'd do the dishes.

This happened FOUR MORE TIMES with various variations in the time it took for me to eat one plateful of food. I'm a slow eater, but even so.


When I finished eating I took my plate to the kitchen and found my thirteen year old son washing dishes, in tears. He told me he was scared by his grandfather, and worried about what would happen if the dishes weren't done.

We left the next day and as we drove away, my son told me he never wanted to go there again. (I know that feeling.)

A couple of weeks after that my mother phoned to tell me that my father had bowel cancer, which had been caused by the stress of my behaviour. I told her I was not responsible for my father's health, and that it was ridiculous to say cancer could be caused by the behaviour of one person. She then denied having told me that, and called me a few names. This phone conversation lasted over an hour.

(I've since discovered that not only does my father not have bowel cancer, at this point he hadn't even been to the doctor; it turns out he was constipated.)

I then emailed my father, and asked what on earth was going on; and told him how upset my youngest son had been, and suggested he send him an email apologising and making amends.

He replied by calling me names, and was angry with me for suggesting he'd traumatised my son.

I left things alone for a while and then emailed them to ask for Mum to tell me what I'd done to upset her; and I asked Dad to apologise for spoiling my birthday, upsetting my son, and calling me names in his email.

Since then I've not heard from them.

My mother has told my sister two wildly differing accounts of what I did to upset her; and she's apparently talked to my father about it too. But she has steadfastly refused to tell me what it was, despite my requests.

(Mum has told my sister at various times that she was upset because I was talking to my husband about a website she didn't know about, and I'm obviously keeping secrets from her; that we ignored her—we run our own business, and were catching up with our emails for a time; and that she was upset because my sister had visited and had just left, and that my father misunderstood and it's all his fault.)

My father isn't talking to anyone; but when my sister sees him (she lives close to them; I live a hundred miles away) he tells her how badly I've behaved and how disappointed they are in me.

I want them to tell me precisely what I've done wrong.

I want them to acknowledge that they've treated me unfairly.

And I want them to apologise to me.

I know they won't do any of those things because all that ever happens when I ask for things like this is they get angry with me and blame me for even more stuff. But still. It would be nice if they could.

And I want to fix it, but don't know how to. Because even though they are difficult, angry and often unpleasant people they are my parents and they're both 80 now, and in not-such-great health, and they won't be around for ever. But the only way I can think of to fix it is to apologise to them for stuff I don't know I did, or for stuff I know I didn't do, and neither of those options seems reasonable or even doable to me right now.

On much reading I've come to the conclusion that my parents both have Cluster B personality disorders: my mother is more of a narcissist, while my father his tends to be histrionic. This isn't a diagnosis by any means, but reading the descriptions that I have has been very eye-opening for me.

I'm sorry for this big chunk of text. I would much appreciate it if you'd tell me where I've been unreasonable, and if you'd suggest ways I could move this forward because right now I can't see a way round this ridiculous situation and it's really bothering me.

#124 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 09:16 AM:

Rosa -

It's not you.

You can't fix it because they'll continue breaking it several steps ahead of you.

If you could get things "back to normal" (for their definition of normal), you'd only be more miserable by accepting blame for what isn't your doing on top of their abuse.

Were it I, I'd focus (as you have been) on supporting your son. As heart-rending as the experience was for him, a great gift will be to give him the example of how to set boundaries around impossible people*, with the parallel lesson that you can have a worthwhile life with those who'll love and support you. I can't imagine what an awful place your parents make for each other when they don't have someone else to torment.**

*I had to avoid any but the most cautious, buffered contact with my mother for decades. When she hit her mid-to-late 80s, she decided to put energy into mending fences. I thought it worthwhile to work on some of my own knee-jerk reactions, resulting in a carefully-bounded space where we can be pleasant with each other. Not to say it will happen with you. But deciding to gently close that door means you won't wake up each morning dreading the day.

**If the family dynamic has selected you as the difficult, crazy person, and you take yourself out of the equation, someone else will get selected. Won't they be surprised to find that maybe it hadn't been you all these years? This happened to my sister when I went away to college.

#125 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 10:29 AM:

Rosa--I'm sorry to say it (because it's a bleak answer, not because I dislike agreeing with her) but Jeanie is right.

You can't fix it, beacuse you can't fix them. The only thing you can do when people have irrational tantrums is to placate them or vacate the area, and too often the more they are placated the more they demand--because placating them helps to affirm their belief they are in the right.

#126 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 10:47 AM:

Rosa Hughes @123: What Jeanie said.

Also, sympathies from someone else whose parents are getting on in years (only in their seventies, but their health has taken a sharp downturn in the last couple of years) who is struggling.

In my case, it was enmeshment rather than... whatever is wrong with your parents. I only really started to recognize my enmeshment with my mother a few years ago, and really try to separate myself. Lots of counselling. Thing is, Mom is also somewhat narcissistic, and completely unable to comprehend things she hasn't personally experienced, so from her view I'm rejecting *her* not the unhealthy relationship, so she just holds on harder. Coming up to Mother's Day, I feel utterly trapped.

That said, she's a champion blame-transferrer, which is where I think our experiences coincide. I was under her control for so long, and the most convenient target for so long, that it's really hard for me to not feel guilty when she feels bad - to not think I've done something wrong.

From that perspective, *you've done absolutely nothing wrong*. *You* haven't been at all unreasonable; honestly, you've done more than most people to try to make things right. *They're* the ones who are being unreasonable.

The best thing you can do at this point is to protect your son from further pain, protect yourself from their abuse, and try to set boundaries. At least it sounds like your sister hasn't swallowed their stories?

Because at this point, you reaching out to them will only give them further opportunities to hurt you. It feels really horrible, especially when you can see the clock ticking, but it's the best thing you can do for your family (by which I mean you, your husband, and your son).

Hugs, if wanted.

#127 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 11:12 AM:

@Rosa: Chiming in to affirm that you are in no way being unreasonable and you have done nothing wrong. To use the terminology of the OP, one or both of your parents set themselves up as VC and decided that you were going to play Dinner Table of the Script Lords, a module in which you suddenly realize that you have no idea where you are, how you got there, or which way is out, and must make your way out of a maze defined by the VCs without using your arsenal of reason- and reality-based items, because those were confiscated before the adventure began. You don't have to play through a sucky module like this. And if this kind of module is all that's on offer, you don't have to stick around in this gaming group.

Have they done this kind of thing before?

#128 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 11:15 AM:

Sorry--"module" is IRL gamespeak. You were plunged into a Narrative. Have you been stuck in this game long enough to know the parameters of your Role, or does it change all the time?

#129 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 11:18 AM:

Rewriting history with the MotherUnit -

I serendipitously ran across a 60s (?) photo taken in our living room and cropped it down to my mother wearing the dress we'd talked about that morning on Skype.

She patently wanted to enlist me in changing what we could see. "I don't remember that (couch) at all". "I can't imagine why we would ever have put [x] in [position y]". Etc. All her statements were followed by an expectant pause and intent look at me, as if by force of her will I'd agree that we never had a couch like that? Or parked that stuff where it was?

I got her onto histories of other objects - the belt on her dress, the table my dad had made. We were able to nail the time of year by deciding that the little blob in the background was a glass with lilies of the valley, but couldn't manage the year.

It was surreal.

I used to spend hours with my paternal grandmother looking through her albums and can recall names from her high school class where I've forgotten those from my own. One of the few cordial meeting spaces with my mother-in-law was going through boxes of their snapshots.

Alas, this never floated with my mother, who would become irritable at the gentlest of leading questions: "I don't have any idea where that was." What I have was rescued at some peril from her purges.

She was initially pleased to see herself in the dress.

In the original, she and her mother-in-law were looking at photos, politeness pasted all over them.

#130 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 01:51 PM:

Rosa, #123: Joining the chorus here. You can't fix this, because the problem isn't you. What it looks like you're dealing with here is an Assigned Role; there's way too much WTF in that for it to have been the first time something like this has happened.

Which leads to practical questions. It sounds as if your sister isn't buying what they're selling; is that true? Is there anyone else in the family who has bought into their narrative? How far can they escalate this with other people if you stop playing the game?

The "they're the only parents you have and they won't be around much longer" argument... are you absolutely sure that this is something you feel, and not something you've internalized because that's how everyone else says you're supposed to feel? If it's genuinely your own feeling, then you have a very difficult choice to make. You can continue to have contact with your parents, on their terms, or you can establish a boundary for yourself and your children, and probably lose contact with your parents and anyone else in the family who will buy their story. At this point there is probably not enough time for you to enforce a change and make it stick.

You've got Mother's Day coming up. I suggest that you make plans with your own family for something that will take up the entire day, and just not even try to visit your parents. Call your mother in the morning to wish her a happy day -- a call you'll have to cut short because it's time to leave for whatever your family is doing. That minimizes her chances of being able to spoil your entire day.

#131 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 02:08 PM:

Type A Toad: Social Worker and Cousin are at the skilled care facility. Caregiver (dog thief) is a home health aide who came to Cousin's apartment before the accident. That's how she had access to Cocoa and the furnishings of my Cousin's apartment.

Social Worker apparently sees herself as Gatekeeper to Cousin, and AFAICT Cousin is ok with this. SW has shut down the only avenue I had to get info on Cocoa, and made Mom and I look like liars for filing the report with the police. So I'm done.

One of Cousin's friends is staying in contact with us (she's another of Cousin's home health aides) and has told us that the nurses are not monitoring Cousin's fluid intake and output...with the result that Cousin is retaining fluids. Sigh. Mom the RN says this is a sure-fire path to congestive heart failure.

I don't know how I feel about this...

#132 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 03:04 PM:

Thank you, so many of you, for your kind and thoughtful comments. I can't tell you how much it means to me to read them.

General responses: my sister and I both are aware of our parents' destructive behaviours. My sister is the older, and she's been cast into the role of Mother's Little Helper; I'm the younger one, and have been cast as Troublemaker and Scapegoat. Neither one of us are happy with these roles. A couple of years ago our parents fought with my sister. They kept that disagreement going for at least eighteen months. It's now my turn, I guess.

Our parents have always played these games: they bring the very worst out in each other and seem to flourish in times of crisis, in the worst possible way. It's only as I've got older that I've realised how very complex and unpleasant this all is: as a child I thought it was just how things were, and I spent a lot of my time doubting my own abilities as a result.

Some highlights from my life: when I was told I had cancer in my mid twenties, I was single and lived alone, and had just moved into a new apartment which didn't yet have a phone installed. I asked my mother to come and stay for a night or two, so that I'd have someone on hand when I got home after surgery: she agreed, but on the morning of my surgery changed her mind because she might be needed in the family business, which my parents ran. They had staff who they could call on, but that wasn't good enough, apparently.

Then there was the time I got my MA as a mature student, and invited my parents to the graduation. They phoned me on the morning of the ceremony to ask if it was the following week, and got angry with me for not reminding them when it was. (My betting is they knew it was that week, they just couldn't be bothered to come.)

And then there was the time I told my mother that our family doctor was sexually abusing me. She told me I was very lucky because he was such an attractive man. I was twelve. When I told my father, he shouted at me for making things up. After that they both decided I was old enough to visit the doctor without them present.

Yep, they've been playing these games for a while now. They're old hands at it.

I'll be sad when they die because we do only get one set of parents, and they are the ones I have. But I am sad now because we only get one set of parents, and they are the parents I have. I long to have the happy, trusting and healthy relationship with them that my husband has with his parents. I can't manage that: so instead I'll make sure my children have it, which is a very good compromise.

#133 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 03:16 PM:

Rosa @123: I also agree with Jeanie. It sounds like they're just tormenting you because they need to for some reason. The more you ask what you did to upset your mother, the more power it gives her (at least in her mind).

It's possible you said something that upset her at the time, but that now would be too obviously trivial. (This is not to say you actually said or did anything wrong; I'm sure you didn't.) She may not be willing to let go of her new ability to keep you emailing and imploring her to tell you what you did wrong.

So it may actually help to stop doing that.

Your mother also sounds like her narrative is even further from the consensual reality than most. From what you've said, she doesn't seem to track well with the world other people experience, or even form a consistent narrative herself. And telling you your father had bowel cancer when he didn't outweighs anything you could have done to offend her, unless you just forgot that you poked her in the eye with a sharp stick!

In addition to what everyone else has said, if they DO make the initial approach, meet them first in a public place and don't bring your son. These are normal precautions for meeting with dangerous people or strangers.

#134 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 03:28 PM:

Oh, dear. Rosa, you posted that while I was writing mine.

It now sounds like your parents are viciously abusive and have been for your entire life. This isn't some kind of late-in-life mental deterioration; it's their basic nature. Nothing you can do will fix it; all you can do is protect yourself.

Actually there's one other thing you can do. You can't protect your 12-year-old self from the abusive doctor, but you CAN protect your son from his abusive grandparents. Luckily he has another set who are sane and reasonable.

#135 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 06:00 PM:

Rosa, one of the heartbreaking things about mortality is that it means monsters can't learn better any more. Right up until then, there's always that hope that they'll realize how much and in what ways they've screwed up.

I think concentrating on your close family, the one that works with you rather than against you, is a good idea. After all, you are the only you you have and you're also getting on in years. Do you really want to spend your last years with yourself hanging out with toxic people? Or even the fiftieth-to-last?

#136 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 06:04 PM:

@Jeanie: I wonder--and this is pure wondering on my part, because I would never in a million years actually do this if I were in a relationship with such a person--what would happen if you said off her expectant look, "So are you implying that that isn't you in the picture, or that somebody faked the picture, or what?"

I suspect that, barring a physical issue that damages recall, the real answer is "I feel comfortable when I can prove to myself that others are willing to agree with everything I say, and I crave this comfort to the point of flat-out making stuff up for them to agree with." But, again, if I were in a relationship with such a person, I would never, ever test this.


You owe them bupkiss. Protect yourself, protect your family, and if that means leaving these two to the care of others, so be it. If guilt bites deep, here's my advice as a Christian; we know from guilt. As a Christian, I believe in honoring one's parents--which includes not being around them if one's mere presence triggers their ingrained compulsion to sin against one. IOW, if the only relationship they can imagine with you involves you being the object of their monstrous cruelty, then the most loving option available may be denying them that opportunity.

And if they have succeeded in killing your love for them and all you have left is grief, then by all means let yourself mourn now. I mourned my mother for more than a year before she died, and I was the only sibling in my large family who was not paralyzed by her death.

#137 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 06:45 PM:

@ J.

I suspect that...the real answer is "I feel comfortable when I can prove to myself that others are willing to agree with everything I say, and I crave this comfort to the point of flat-out making stuff up for them to agree with."

Not this bad most of the time, but boy, howdy, a long way down that road.

But, again, if I were in a relationship with such a person, I would never, ever test this.

You are so right!

It wasn't until I felt the freedom to write this here that how truly non-standard her behavior was bubbled up. It makes me test assumptions like "her peer group doesn't think she's weird." How do I know that? She's always said they don't.

Huh. We're back to her-as-VC's "big enough lie = believable".

Fortunately, our level of interaction is shallow enough, in brief enough segments, for me to not pull the lid off of this can of worms.

#138 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 08:04 PM:

J. @136: As a Christian, I believe in honoring one's parents--which includes not being around them if one's mere presence triggers their ingrained compulsion to sin against one. IOW, if the only relationship they can imagine with you involves you being the object of their monstrous cruelty, then the most loving option available may be denying them that opportunity.

Well, I'll be (if you'll pardon the expression) damned. That actually...makes sense.

It's a kindness to remove from them the opportunity to be cruel.

I can affirm this from my secular, animistic perspective: the way I treated my pets as a kid haunts me to this day. And my mother didn't step in and teach me better.

Thank you for this.

#139 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 08:36 PM:


LOL! I'm going to have to remember that line....
And Rosa, I have to agree with the others: Just from the things you describe... they're not on your side. If anything, they're on your neck!

I also agree with them that it's time to start mourning -- not just for your parents' impending deaths, but for the parents you ought to have had, people who would have protected and nurtured you instead of screwing with your head.

#140 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2014, 10:16 PM:

@Dave Harmon no. 139: Borrowed from Toothpaste for Dinner, here:

#141 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 06:24 AM:

There's so much wisdom and clarity here. It's helpful. Hugely helpful. Thank you, all of you.

@ #136 J. wrote,


This made me laugh, properly laugh. It was very welcome. Thank you!

#142 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 08:36 AM:

J. #140: You added a new context...

#143 ::: Michael Johnston ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 11:14 AM:

This game explains so much of my family it's insane. It's also why my adopted siblings and I haven't spoken in twenty years; I wasn't willing to go along with their narratives and deny my childhood happened as it did.

#144 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 02:06 PM:

Role: Dad the Bully (VC)
Consistency: low (depends on his mood)
Capability: high (and so are his standards)
Charm: high (he's a great bullshitter)
Tapes tagline: I'm just tough on you because I have to be. You don't know what real abuse is.
Destiny: Never to be appreciated for all the things he does "for your own good".

#145 ::: obsidian ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 02:34 PM:

I had a conversation with my mother last night that went along these lines:

Me: Mom, you seem to be unhappy about something. Can you tell me what it is?

Her: No, not really. I mean, I could, but then you'd just get upset. (Said as she is heading to the door to leave)

Me: Wow; that was a shit move, mom.

She did come back, and say a few more things, but she never actually articulated what was bothering her in any resolvable fashion.

Of course, I know why she's upset. There's a fundamental problem; she wants me to want her actively involved in my life - to want to spend lots of time with her, and have her come to my stuff, and participate in things with me, and...I don't. Because I am generally saner and less stressed out if I don't have to interact with my mother on a solid, meaningful fashion. She, rightfully, sees my efforts to manage those interactions as distancing techniques. She is, possibly rightfully, hurt by that. But I also flinch when I have to deal with her because she drives me crazy, and she's 76 years old and isn't likely to change her ways.

I don't know if there's much to do here. I'll try and be a little more responsive; I'll do coffee sometime next month with her. But...mostly I'm just venting because I don't see a resolution here. She's not so awful that I can justify cutting her out of my life. I can't see a time when I will be able to tell her how our interactions hurt me. So...I sit and wait and try and avoid as much collateral damage as a I can. And it sucks.

(Side note to abi: if you don't mind going through and doing some cleanup on my various nyms, I'd muchly appreciate it. Usual posting is under the name in the email address attached to this post. Let me know if this doesn't make sense.)

#146 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 03:17 PM:


Would it be worthwhile to unpack your mother's motives more? What would she gain by welding herself to your side? What would you gain? What would you give up?

Some of these are close to mutually-exclusive, with others there may be extensive overlap. In no particular order, off the top of my head:

She's lonely.

She wants to pretend she's your age.

She wants to exercise parental control over you.

She wants to exercise control over you among your peer group, and get their validation and subservience as well. More a teacher/mentor than the parent, above.

She feels the best years of her life have slipped away and wants you to remember them with her.

She wants you to help her deny the past (major projecting from me here).

She feels incompetent, unprotected, wants comfort and reassurance.

She wants to use you as an example to other family.

She wants to brag about you to her friends and wants more data.

When you do spend time together, you amuse/entertain her.

She's afraid that without a strong, well-maintained attachment you'll abandon her.

#147 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 03:50 PM:

@Obsidian: If, in your opinion, this relationship is not actively toxic, and of course if your mother is the type of person to keep a calendar, it might reduce your stress level to announce that you are scheduling a regular coffee date, so we can catch up on my busy independent adult life, Mom. You don't have to tell her that the dates are at intervals that you can psych yourself up for/recover from, scheduled a tolerable amount of time before appointments that you can't break, must dash!, and at a location that is not personal to you.

But of course this presumes that your mother is a bundle of exasperating habits in her relationship to you, instead of actively trying to devour her offspring. You know her best.

#148 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 04:49 PM:

obsidian @145:

You can check the two (view all by) records, but I think I have them straight now.

#149 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 06:17 PM:

Obsidian @145: Wow, that sounds like me with my mom... Down to the age.

Without going into motives (though several from Jeanie's list fit, plus wanting me to support her narrative of us being "best friends"), I've found that setting regular dates with her (spaced to *my* schedule, not hers) takes away a lot of the stress. Also, though, being very firm about boundaries in between so it doesn't turn into "give an inch, take a mile."

We also share the problem of not ever being able to talk to the mom about the problem. :( Sucks to be there, but do you at least have someone outside the family to vent to? (plus here, of course :)

Hugs, if welcome. Also, sympathies.

#150 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 06:17 PM:

obsidian, #145: That was a good comeback! You called her on what she was doing, and clearly you got her attention, because she changed her original plan at least to some extent.

At this point I would say that the ball is in her court. You've indicated a willingness to talk about whatever is upsetting her. If she's playing a passive-aggressive game, what she's likely to want is for you to keep asking so that she can keep guilt-tripping you about it. You refuse this gambit by making her be the next one to bring it up -- at which point you reiterate your willingness to talk about it, but only if she can actually tell you what's wrong instead of expecting you to read her mind.

You might also point out, if/when it comes up, that by saying "it will only make you upset" she's denying your agency and your right to make your own decisions about what does and doesn't upset you. In effect, she's having a conversation with a fantasy-you inside her head and isn't willing to give you the chance not to be that fantasy-you. This may be because she's afraid of what the real you might say, or it may be because she finds her conversation with the fantasy-you more satisfying... or it may be that she realizes that she's in the wrong and is quite right that it would upset you, and hence would rather play mind-games instead. Any of these is a problem, but they're different problems.

Side note: It sometimes amazes me how frequently, when listening to people here relating these conversations, I want advise them to borrow a phrase from my ex the day-care teacher: "You need to use your words." The mind-reading thing is just fucking ubiquitous.

#151 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 06:50 PM:

Lee, #150:

The mind-reading thing is just fucking ubiquitous.

And pernicious. I have a bad habit of expecting Husband to read my mind; I get better about it when I think about it, but I definitely revert under stress. Who would have thought that reminding Niece to "use her words" would remind me, too?

obsidian #145:

Sympathies! I hate the "I want you to want to do X"--it's an attempt to deny the validity of your actual wants and desires. In my experience, the people that do that aren't interested in doing things (being less abusive, being nicer, etc.) that will naturally make someone want to spend more time with them. They just want the result.

#152 ::: hologram ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 08:26 PM:

I am just about out of cope.

I live in the suburbs with Roommate, who is also a coworker, who is also a friend from college. I hate the suburbs, which is not really relevant but is kind of part of the low-level background misery of my life. I don't hate Roommate, but she is not easy to live with. I knew this when I moved in with her, but neither of us had much choice; we both work full-time-but-part-time (32 hours a week, treated like we're full time, but without full time benefits like health insurance) at the same library, and neither of us can really afford even a studio apartment of our own, although both of us are solitary types who would rather live alone. We also have vastly different opinions about things like cleanliness standards (I want dishes done immediately, she wants dusting done every day), temperature (I want to run the HVAC system as little as possible, she wants it to be exactly 70 degrees wherever she is no matter what the weather is like outside), and bedtimes (she doesn't go to bed before one; I need to be asleep by 11 to be functional). Last year we had a large townhouse that made this workable, but then our landlord decided not to extend our lease for reasons which were never explained and now we're in a much smaller apartment and the problems are much more...visible.

Roommate has recurring health issues, partly tied to food sensitivities that are hard enough to manage that sometimes she'll give up trying, get really sick, and then have to start all over again. I have recurring mental health issues, diagnosed and medicated and fairly well-managed IF I can do things like, oh, get enough sleep. (See differences of opinion previously mentioned.) Roommate also probably has some mental health issues, undiagnosed, unmedicated, and unmanaged. To put it bluntly, she has no coping skills. She reacts extremely to everything that happens, and for the past couple of years, most of what's happened has been bad. Her dad spent a week in the hospital. Her health problems come and go. Her sister is having a baby and being a diva about it. And she hates her job.
Not entirely without merit - the work situation is moderately dysfunctional, as one of our friends is happy to tell us whenever she hears our stories. I tend to cope by admitting that this is how it's going to be, doing my best to keep my head down, and looking for another job when I can squeeze it in. Roommate copes by getting passive-aggressive at work and just plain aggressive at home, spending an hour or more every evening yelling about the various dysfunctions going on at work.

I do not come from a family where people yell. I do not like it when people yell, because in my experience, when people yell, there is a serious problem, relationships are breaking down, and the world is about to end. My stress levels have gone up immeasurably since moving in with Roommate. I knew this would happen. I've been mostly coping. But Roommate also takes any attempt on my part to understand the other party's point of view (which I usually have a halfway-decent view of, on account of working at the same place) as an attack on her. I've adapted to this situation by basically getting angry a lot myself, joining her in her rants. It saves on personal arguments, but it does make me unhappier than I know I would be otherwise.

So that's the background unhappiness. A couple of weeks ago it all started to fall apart.

I injured myself - I don't know how, which is one of the frustrating things about it, the only thing I did differently was decide to walk to work, about a mile in nice weather. Two days later I could hardly walk. I had surgery on that foot about six years ago and it was a miserable experience, I had a bad reaction to the anesthesia, and I was practically immobile for a month and of limited mobility for six. I do not want to have to do this again. I toughed it out for two weeks before admitting to myself that this was not just the strain of over-working muscles that hadn't been used much before the winter and went to the doctor. They ordered a CT scan. (I haven't got the bill for it yet - and my health insurance is a high enough deductible that I'm going to have to pay quite a bit for it.) Then they called me back and said yep, looks like the same kind of injury you had last time. They sent me to an orthopedist, who said well, it doesn't look critical, but it's not good. Wear a walking cast for a couple of weeks and we'll check it again. The follow-up is on Monday.

Around the same time Roommate started having trouble breathing. She assumed it was a cold, and maybe some of her food sensitivities acting up. I thought she ought to see a doctor, and told her so. She was sure it was a cold. Finally last week she admitted it wasn't a cold and went in to the Walgreens clinic, where they sent her straight on to urgent care. Urgent care said at least it wasn't pneumonia (which was my concern), but clearly part of it was stress and maybe there was something else going on, we'll schedule some tests. She came home that night and called work to say she wouldn't be there for a couple of days, then went to stay with her dad.

This afternoon, just as I was getting ready to head off to the evening shift at work, I discovered a voicemail from Roommate's stepmom on my phone, saying they'd sent Roommate to the ER and she was worried about the electric bill, could I take care of that. I called back to say of course I'd pay the electric bill, and also what the heck is going on and can I help, but got voicemail myself and have had no response since then.

(Did I mention that when I went in to have my foot checked they gave me one of those mental health check-in sheets and made worried faces at me when I filled it out honestly, and badgered me so much about was I thinking about hurting myself that I told them no over and over again until they'd leave me alone because I can only deal with one crisis at a time? And I'm not, not really, it's just that I cope with depression a lot better than I cope with anxiety, and the first time I had a panic attack I thought to myself, "Okay, self, what can we do to make this better," and the only thing I could think of was suicide because my depression coping skills are all about overcoming inertia and that does jack shit for anxiety. Fortunately I am extremely squeamish and also extremely stubborn about Getting Better, Dammit, so it was more that I scared myself than actually thought about killing myself, but I knew that if I said that to the doctor I'd set off some kind of chain reaction that I just did not want to deal with right then.)

(And let's not forget that they just announced a couple of weeks ago at work that they're doing a major reorganization which has promised not to eliminate any jobs but which may substantially change job titles and responsibilities. Whether that also means changing hours and pay and full time/part time status has not been explained. Everyone's worried, no one's happy, and administration isn't explaining anything. See: dysfunctional work situation. Not helping.)

My boss asked me how I was doing and I said, "Check back in a week, maybe I'll know then." I told her about Roommate (which I'm not sure I should have done, as she's obviously not in contact with anyone at work, but I'd just found out about it less than half an hour before and was still reeling a little) and oh, I needed to adjust my schedule again because they decided to change the time of my follow-up appointment with the orthopedist, and, I added, I'm still desperately hoping I'll be able to keep my trip to WisCon at the end of the month. "Oh," Boss said, "Is that what you're really upset about?" Of course. Because I couldn't possibly be upset about my thirty-year-old friend being in the hospital with heart trouble, or the possibility that I might have to have a painful, expensive, extremely inconvenient surgical procedure. No, it must be that all this might get in the way of my vacation. And then I started crying when another one of my coworkers asked if I was doing okay. I hate crying in public.

So here I am, sitting in this toxic stew of shoulda-coulda-woulda, having to seriously re-evaluate my plan from this winter which was to tell Roommate that I love her but I think I'd love her more if we didn't live together any more, with literally no idea what the next six months of my life are going to look like and hanging on to holding it together by my fingernails. And I can't take any time off work to regenerate spoons, because the last of my paid time off is going to WisCon, dammit. I'm on my lunch break right now, hiding at my desk and crying instead of eating dinner because I got too caught up in Crisis to find something that I could bring with me to eat, which means dinner will be at 9:30 at night and probably consist of McDonalds, which will throw off my meds schedule, which will not make anything better but it's too late to do anything about it now.

I hate to dump this giant wall of text on you, being a lurker in these threads and generally entirely too functional to have anything to post, but I literally have no other outlet right now and I just do not know how I'm going to keep it together for two more hours until I get to go home, never mind after that.

#153 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 08:38 PM:

Hologram: listening and sympathizing. Good luck.

#154 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 08:56 PM:

Hologram: also listening and sympathizing. Do what you can to take care of yourself. Not just the medical care, but more general self-nurturing. Is there anything you can think of that's low cost or free and doesn't require time off that helps you re-spoon? Comfort reading, a favorite food, a friend you especially like to talk to, rewatching an old favorite movie, sitting outside under a tree... whatever works for you.

#155 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 10:20 PM:

hologram, oh my goodness, that sounds so hard. :( *offers jedi hugs, sympathy, strength, a virtual shoulder to cry on*

#156 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 11:18 PM:

Hologram: Also hearing and witnessing, and truly don't apologize for the wall of text. We're glad to be here (also hear :P ) for you.

#157 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2014, 11:50 PM:

Hologram, that sucks. That sucks a lot. I have a roommate I don't click with-- and one I do, which is great-- and it's so anxiety-inducing sometimes not knowing how we'll miscommunicate next. It sounds like you're doing what you can to take care of yourself and your roommate, but she may not be returning the favor.

Strength. Wiscon will come.

#158 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 12:05 AM:

hologram, reading and witnessing with enormous sympathy.

Things are potentially looking up around here: Offspring has been accepted as a transfer student at what was originally their first-choice school, after not being accepted for freshman year. If the financial aid package makes it possible, it looks like the most reasonable living situation would be a condo in the City of My Heart, bought and paid for by my parents, with the understanding that Offspring and I would both work to cover food, utilities, and spending money. Remarkably, Offspring actively wants to live with me, which boggles my mind, as at Offspring's age I desired nothing more than to live apart from parental supervision.

Glorious effect: I would get away from Homeowner.

Drawback: BFF Housemate probably wouldn't come with us. Not with her job and her dojang both where we presently are. (She just got her black belt.) She'd probably choose to live solo. I would miss her.

Offspring already did preliminary real estate scouting and found a place with strong potential.

I might yet get out of this corner I painted myself into.

#159 ::: Building New Pieces ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 01:12 AM:

For the sake of clearer discussion of what's going on with my working hours, here's the (anonymized) working hours rules I have in writing.

From Company's manual: (emphasis original)

--begin excerpt--

Working Hours

Company's business hours are 9 AM to 6 PM, Monday to Friday. Full time employees work a 40-hour week, which excludes meal breaks even when such meal breaks are taken at the Company office. Specific hours are determined by your Flex Time agreement with your manager. Unless prior arrangements have been made with your manager, we expect all employees to be present during the core office hours of 10 AM to 4 PM.

At the discretion of your manager, you may make arrangements to work in a manner other than that described as Regular Hours. For example, you may need to be out of the office for an appointment and will make the time up before or after the appointment. Or you may choose to work four 10-hour days per week.

--end excerpt--

From my contract: (emphasis original)

--begin excerpt--

1. You agree to
a) perform [my work duties] at Company’s offices on business days from 9 AM to 6 PM (excluding 1 hour for lunch) for a 40 hour work week,
b) devote your full time (which shall not be less than 40 hours per week) and attention, and
c) use your best efforts to promote the interests of Company.

2. As a full time employee, your work hours may on some occasions be irregular or vary because those hours would be required [for my work duties]. You agree to work such hours as required.

--end excerpt--

With that out of the way, a quick status update: Heavy documentation has commenced on my end. New student employees are not starting to come in until next Monday according to Boss, which gives me a bit more time to figure out exactly how I want to handle them and Company's manual. I sent the doctor's note to HR Person but HR Person has not responded.

Jacque @117:

Thank you for the email script. Here's one I've been considering that touches on the treatment differences between me and the other student employees; suggestions for improvement are welcome and appreciated.

--begin email--

CC: HR Person

Dear Boss,

I am writing this email to request some clarification on the work hours rules for student employees so that I may better promote the interests of Company.

More specifically, some of the medical service providers that I encounter in dealing with my health problems offer early morning and/or evening appointments. Depending on the details of Company's work hours policy as it currently applies to me, I may be able to schedule some of these appointments so that I do not have to request Flex Time to go to them. Even if that is not possible, a clear understanding of the aforementioned policy details will help me schedule my appointments so as to minimize disruption to my work schedule, which would be in the best interests of Company. To that end, please answer in writing the following clarification questions:

1. As per my contract, clause 1 a), I am expected to be at Company's offices "on business days from 9 AM to 6 PM (excluding 1 hour for lunch)". Without arranging Flex Time, am I permitted to use part of my allotted lunch break to leave work before 6 PM? If so, are there any other conditions I am required to meet? For example, on some days I have seen Other Student Employee arrive at Company's offices at 9 AM, take a nominal lunch break, and leave a few minutes after 5 PM.

2. Conversely, from previous meetings it seems to me that I am not permitted to arrive at work after 9 AM without arranging Flex Time, not even by a few minutes (due to public transit delays, etc.) and not even if I use part of my allotted lunch break to do so. However, on some days I have seen Other Student Employee and Other Student Employee 2 arrive at Company's offices at or slightly after 9:15 AM, take short or nominal lunch breaks, and leave before or around 6 PM. Is it indeed the case that I am not permitted to arrive at work after 9 AM at all without arranging Flex Time?
a) If this is not the case, what exactly is Company policy for student employee arrival times when the student employee does not have a Flex Time arrangement superseding Regular Hours? Is there a limit to how much of my allotted lunch break can be applied to arrival after 9 AM on a given day? What is the hard limit on arrival time within student employees' Regular Hours?
b) Is there a particular planned arrival time of day (at or before the hard limit within student employees' Regular Hours) at or beyond which you would like to have advance notice that I have an appointment in case I experience common minor delays? For example, I might have a scheduled appointment such that I would theoretically arrive at work at 9:15 AM, but minor clinic and transit delays could cause me to arrive at 9:30 AM.

Thank you very much for your assistance on this.


--end email--

It's not general-purpose, but I think in my case it might get me a clear written description of what's actually expected of me, which would really help.

The "lab notebook" idea is something to consider. Pooh Trap == heffalump trap, the kind that ends up catching the trap-setter?

Another argument for having as much of this conversation in writing as possible, or at the very least, sending confirmation emails after verbal conversations.

Indeed. I was also wondering if preemptively setting my own deadlines to replace "whenever" was a good idea, so I'm happy to see it suggested.

Um, if I'm reading you correctly, you're saying that the special "discipline" they're requiring of you is causing you to have to work more than 40 hours per week?

That hasn't been explicitly required, but I suspect Boss's Boss would also complain about me leaving the office before 6 PM. What's actually required of me is something I want to clear up with the email I've drafted above. I also have a backlog of hours off for appointments to make up, so I may get something along the lines of "we don't require you to work more than 40 hours a week, but since you have time to make up you really should stay from 9 AM to 6 PM each business day even though you only take a nominal lunch break."

Depending on how things go, the backlog may or may not be cleared with time to spare before the end of my work term. If it does, I'll have a much stronger case for constraining my work hours to 40 hours a week.

The hack I use for this one is the old, ever-popular narrative hook. The skill lies in crafting the hook for one's particular audience.

That's the reason I said "often encountered". And sometimes crafting the hook is very hard.

it might be worthwhile to ask Boss explicitly to, wherever possible, state the rules rather than imply them

That's another thing I've been thinking about, but I'm not sure how best to do so. Boss is currently heavily constrained by Boss's Boss, and I suspect Boss's Boss wants the rules underspecified to continue targeting me with them.

it looks to me like you're handling all of this exceedingly well

Thank you, but I'm a bit confused here. When I said "I'm not treating my workplace as functional anymore", I meant "I'm no longer assuming that my workplace is functional, so I'm now learning how to treat it as dysfunctional and doing the best I can while I learn." Is that the meaning you read it as when you were replying?

Jacque @118: I'm almost certain this is the case, if not directly then through the implicit vs. explicit issue enabling Boss's Boss to target others.

B. Durbin @122: I could try making the suggestion, but I don't think they have an up-to-date PDF version or the desire to make one. The manual has been amended more than once simply by writing in the margins of the paper copy (with no amendment date, even).

Rosa Hughes @123, 132 and 141: Agreeing with the chorus here: it's not you, it's them. But you can give your family of choice (your husband and children) the healthy family relationships you never had with your parents. (And a great way to show respecting your children's wishes: your son said "he never wanted to go [to your parents' place] again." Tell him that he doesn't have to go there ever again, and that your father's behaviour wasn't at all appropriate. (Then back it up, of course.) Being heard in that way means a lot.)

hologram @152: Sympathies from one person with health and work stress to another. No need to apologize for the wall of text.

protecting others' privacy @158: That's great! I hope things keep looking up for you and Offspring.


Sympathies to all in need of them.

Also, please give me a sanity check here: My parents are telling me not to go documenting more than I previously was and not to send anything resembling the email drafted above, saying that doing so would "escalate and accelerate" things getting worse. They also say I'll "need my fighting skills for worse things", as if getting good documentation (and practicing handling dysfunctional workplaces in the process) would make me worse at defending myself against workplace abuse rather than better. Is there any grain of truth in their advice or is it just terrible? I'm thinking it's just terrible.

#160 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 09:43 AM:

Building New Pieces #159: Indeed, your parent's advice is terrible. This is not a situation for "go along to get along".

You seem to suspect that Boss's Boss is specifically targeting you. If so, I doubt this is a salvageable situation -- if you really do think so, then go for the transfer ASAP, because the only way things will get better is elsewhere.

#161 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 09:54 AM:

Building New Pieces @159--speaking as a supervisor, documentation is always good. You should keep it, but you may never need to use it. Not keeping it is a mistake; but it's important to be careful about when and where and with whom you deploy it. But not having something in writing (or pixels, like an answered e-mail) makes it your word versus theirs. On the other hand, just because you have it doesn't mean you are walking around with a tattoo on your forehead that says "TROUBLEMAKING NOTE-TAKER" with a snake threaded through the letters.

One thing I would say about your proposed e-mail--I'd be careful about making references to other people and what they seem to be getting away with. It's possible that some of them have in fact made specific arrangements to do what they are doing. Suggesting that they are getting away with something you're not allowed to do is always a tactical error. It's possible that other workers are getting away with things; it's possible they've worked out an arrangement in advance, it's possible someone is playing favorites. Poking that antheap is never a good plan. The best answer you can get is "We aren't talking about other people; we are talking about you."

(In this next section, "boss" may need to be HR Officer--your office is not my office, and all that.)
You do need (and are entitled to) clarification of how much time you have to make up, and to work out a schedule you can all agree on for making those hours up. If this means making up a schedule with your boss for each week as it comes, with make-up time and appointments and alll the rest in writing, this can't hurt. You then have something to show should you be asked. Offering to do that shows willing. It may well be something that will make your boss's life easier as well.

If you run into transit problems, the argument I'm used to hearing (amazing how often it's said by people who do not rely on public transportation!) is that one should leave home earlier just in case of problems. However, letting your boss know immediately if there is a problem and you are going to be late, and asking about makeups shows willing--if you know there's a problem you've dealt with it at once, and are not trying to "get away with" anything. Prompt reporting makes you look conscientious.

As far as making variations in your hours to accomodate appointments, I don't know if you have been making these with your boss for every single appointment. I do know that in my office, you must do so every single time, and this is not me as a supervisor requiring this, or my boss, or my boss's boss. It's the way things are, as formal policy. If someone is having to be out for a lot of appointments, I might ask for a letter from their doctor to go into their file, explaining the basics of the situation (within the limits of medical confidentiality), in case someone above me was going to make a fuss. Because then I could point to the letter and go: "They aren't slacking and sliding out to go sit in the park." I would also see if they can get the doctor's office to fax a note when they come in for every appointment, and for a copy of their advance appointment paperwork--even if it's just a photocopy of the little card with the date and time. That sounds like a lot, but it does make it very hard for someone looking for trouble to get far. As your boss, I have seen to it that you're covered, and so am I.

I want to say that lunch periods are something that cannot, by law, be used to make up time--the reason being that even if you were willing to do it a time or two for your own convenience, an employer could also use it to get more hours out of people without allowing them the breaks necessary to health, safety, and sanity. As a result, there's a steel wall around things like breaks and lunch periods. Depending on where you live, YMMV, but not allowing you to use lunch for anything but lunch can be more than just an employer being a PITA.

On the other hand, the lunch period can be used to create some space in other ways. Let us say it's possible to take lunch, as in my office, any time between 11 and 2, so long as you don't start before 11 and are done by 2. Employee A normally works 7-4. She has a doctor's appointment at 1PM. She could leave at 12:30 (the doctor is close by), get back by 2:30, and using her lunch hour for part of that time, only have to make up 1 hour if she didn't have leave to use. I wouldn't know whether she also used that time to get food or not! But we'd need to sort that out in advance, when she asked for the time off, just as we'd need to talk in advance is she was leaving early or coming in late.

As for boss's boss, it is true that there are people who like to have some ambiguity in the system in order to maneuver--and they are not necessarily going to be using that wiggling room for good. Whether boss's boss is evil incarnate or just ticked because they feel you've abused what they see as flexible hours and lax oversight and you see as a massive case of fail when it comes to explaining the rules in advance (or both, it could be both, because evil incarnate can and does get ticked off a lot, and then takes steps to convey its ticked-offness) you probably aren't going to get much traction asking them to make policy clearer overall--they have no issues with the existing confucion, because it doesn't inconvenience them, after all. You may have to settle for making policy WRT your situation clearer, and make it through the next few months walking the narrow line.

#162 ::: obsidian ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 10:19 AM:

Hologram: Reading and witnessing, and appreciative of the support. I'm about to unload with my own wall of text because these emotions clearly need to go somewhere. I'm grateful for the understanding audience, and I admire your courage in setting out things clearly.

Building New Pieces: There's a grain of truth to what your parents are saying, but it's a small grain. It's also the grain that leads to "Just ignore them and they're go away" responses to bullies.

If what you're dealing with is a time-limited situation where you are going to brush off the dust of this place in 2 weeks and never deal with them again, it is possible that dealing with the documentation and the escalation will eat more cope than it will save. If you're grimly hanging onto a job in the hopes of getting an interview and getting out of there, energy spent fighting the workplace may be better spent getting out. However, it's all very super-situational. If you have the available cope to handle documenting everything, I think it's a good idea even if you never do anything with it. As for the email, it seems reasonable to me, but I have been in work place scenarios where such an email would turn a slightly-miserable-but-I-can-cope situation into worst-nightmare-ever situation. I've been in the opposite where sending that email cleared everything up. It's a tricky judgement call, and all I can tell you is that general thrust of your email is reasonable. If you have someone you trust to do so, I would recommend getting some 'diplomacy' wordsmithing. I am not the person to do that, and I can't tell you how diplomatic the email is or is not. (My spouse does this for me.)

J@147 & Chickadee@149: Scheduling a regular coffee date every other month or so is probably workable for me and at least gives the illusion of involvement in a neutral setting where we can chat about gardening and cute kids without getting into dangerous waters.

Lee@150: One of the single best Marriage Decisions my spouse and I ever settled on was our agreement to take each other's words at face value and, at the same time, to be honest in the words that we use with each other. It doesn't completely eliminate the problem because we're human and aren't perfect, but having that as a bedrock for our conversations eliminates so much pain.

Jeanie@146: There's a whole toxic stew of motivations that support the dynamic between my mother and me. She's lonely and depressed (for a variety of reasons) and has probably suffered from that depression for a long time. After my father died, she poured her heart and soul into Doing The Right Thing For her Daughter, and she sacrificed a great deal to give me "all of the advantages". (The biggest fight we ever had came about when I called her 'my mother, the martyr' in response to something she said. She lost her ever-loving mind, and I suspect it was because my comment hit a lot closer to home than she was comfortable with.) In response to all of her sacrifice, I Failed To Live Up To Expectations by failing out of college due to my own crippling depression. (Northern winters are super-bad for me, and I never knew this until I moved north.)

So, she wants me to Do Things that validate her sacrifice and effort. As part of this, everything that I do must be Amazing because if it's Amazing, it makes her efforts Worthwhile. This makes me feel extremely pressured which, in turn, sucks all of the joy out of any activity that I'm participating in. (It's hard to have fun playing if you know that your play is being evaluated on a "Is this worthwhile" scale and not "Are you having fun?") As such, I react like a scalded cat to praise of the "You were so amazing!" variety.

So, she's lonely. She is getting old and she's scared she's going to lose her independence. She's got a level of anxiety about New Things, so she has a hard time adapting to change. She raised me solo, and she's puzzled by how I manage my life. She sees some of my parenting choices as a clear rejection of what she did for me (which...they are) and so she's hurt by that. She never had a spouse to lean on, so the dynamic I share with my spouse confuses her. ("What do you mean you don't know X thing?" "Well, that's Spouses' role; not mine." "But I just don't see how you can't know that?") I suspect she's jealous of the fact that I *have* a spouse, and she didn't.

So, yeah. Toxic stew.

#163 ::: nCnC ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 10:49 AM:


This'll be interesting. I'm chronically late for work. I'd managed to train my boss to deal with this, in part by arranging a later "on time" time.

During our month from Hell (this month) mandatory early start time. So: I was late yesterday (exhausted, could not get up). But every other day, I was three minutes or less late. (The timeclock doesn't even count this as late.)

Does my boss notice this and say, "Good job, nCnC!" No. Instead, I get a nastygram: "I notice you're not obeying [time]. Please get here on time!"

I took a chance and responded: "Yes, I was late yesterday. But [previous days during Month from Hell] and today I was less than five minutes late. Thanks for noticing."

We'll see what happens.

This is especially irksome because I had a magically productive morning, and still was only a minute late.

Sheesh. You just can't win, you know?

I probably shouldn't order a copy of Shamu to be delivered to her desk.

#164 ::: nCnC ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 11:06 AM:

So I just went in and said, "Do we need to talk?"

"About what?" :\

Short version: zie had just noticed me being late yesterday. When I pointed out my successes the other days, zie said, "Well, we do have a history." "Which is why," I said, keeping my temper, "I was upset at my successes not being noticed."

"Well," zie said, "Keep up the good work." Rather pro-forma, but I'll take it. I did take the opportunity to "strongly" recommend Shamu.

I do know that people have preferred modes: either noticing matches, or mismatches, and the mismatch crowd is by far in the majority. So I understand where this is coming from. But it still pisses me off.

#165 ::: hologram ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 11:32 AM:

Thanks to everyone for the words of support. I did indeed get through the rest of my shift last night without breaking down (although with a mindblowing stress headache), came home, watched some comforting TV, and managed to get some sleep. (This morning I was woken up at 6:30, three full hours before I'd meant to get up, by the sounds of kitchen renovations being done in the apartment above mine. Apparently it's going to be like that.) Still no news on Roommate, anxiety levels still insanely high, but I think I might be able to get through today, so long as nobody asks me how I'm doing.

I feel like a terrible person, because I'm worried about her but I'm also worried about what's going to happen to me and how I'm going to cope with whatever happens next, and I also can't get over the fact that she's been driving me crazy for months and it's kind of nice to have some peace and quiet for once. Well, peace and quiet and construction noises.

Apparently my response to stress is to run away, because I keep fantasizing about quitting my job and moving back to the city I left to take this job and living in a little studio apartment with a cat and making my living on freelance writing. This is not a good plan, I know this is not a good plan, but I can't stop thinking about it anyway.

Building New Pieces: why, that sounds exactly like the advice my mom gives my sister every time she ends up in a dysfunctional job! Note that my mother worked in the same dysfunctional job for fifteen years before quitting for health reasons, so I'm not sure she's really a reliable source of good advice. I agree with the other posters here; keeping documentation can only be good. There is always the chance that if you do try to address the problems then Company will react unfairly and make your life harder, but there is that chance with pretty much any interaction in life, so you might as well do your best to protect yourself and give them the opportunity to work things out like reasonable adults.

#166 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 11:51 AM:

Building New Pieces,

The phrase your parents were looking for is Heinlein's "leave bad enough alone!" (Number of the Beast, yes?). In principle, things are clear: you aren't being treated well, and either it should stop or you should leave for something better. In practice? Your situation could be the result of a comedy of errors, or deliberate malice, or a hodge-podge. Your parents are half-right, half-wrong, and understandably worried. It's easy, in a situation like this, to misjudge your approach and (further) piss off someone. The devil is in the details so don't rush into confrontation.

I have a somewhat similar situation (schedule preferences, no medical complications) where my manager is being enough of a jerk to really upset me, but not enough to have much chance of fighting it. People often do not realize how much of a burden and a threat it is to be told come in at this time exactly, work this many hours or else. Why is work allowed to take over such a fundamental autonomy, of choosing when to eat and sleep and how good or bad we feel thanks to circadian rhythms? Some people have flexible or convenient circadian rhythms, and when they also have better transportation, they just don't get it. One leg of my commute is a permanent problem: there are 2 different routes, neither of which is dependable. Runs should be 20 minutes apart, and are often only 10 minutes apart, these routes are so erratically early and late! (They each do both, unpredictably.) Plus there is a street crossing before I can run for the stop, so just missing the crossing light (30 seconds) often means being 15 minutes late. Or more. Or less. The same thing happens all the time on the homeward direction too, so I often waste 30-90 minutes of my personal time on this horrible bus system. On a stellar day I waste 30 minutes or less. I have been leaving bad enough alone because if my boss were going to be reasonable, he probably wouldn't have been doing the stuff he's already done. So long-term I ought to leave. When I have an offer that I would be okay with, it might be a good idea to try negotiating *then*, when I have some leverage.

Load the dice before taking this any further. Document and rehearse presenting the data so that you aren't making digs at anyone, just stating facts. Do your venting elsewhere safe. Talk to your school program rep and ask for backup. Explain that if this goes on as it is, or goes sour after best efforts to resolve it, that you will have to transfer companies to avoid damaging your health further. What do they recommend you do, and precisely how? Can they write you a letter or come to a meeting? Having backup from the program rep may tip the scales with Company, because the program rep controls a useful ongoing relationship and has to be taken seriously.

When you talk to the powers that be, focusing on "please clarify the rules" and "in my situation what would you do to solve this?" is probably a good idea. This nonconfrontational approach might force them to notice/deal with inconsistencies or difficulties they were previously glossing over. Having someone else there who needs to be explained to, like the program rep, could improve the odds of this happening. Focusing on "Boss has it in for me", or "Person gets special treatment", is a bad idea *even if these things are true*. It gives them power by signalling that either they don't have to take you seriously (because you're being paranoid/petty), or that we're slinging mud already. When dealing with difficult people or systems, let someone else be the first one to sling mud. Be a gentleperson and keep things as above-board, calm/neutral, ethical, and courteous as possible. Bring witnesses if you can. Radiate calm certainty that we're all adults on the same team who treat each other well, and make clear efforts to do the right thing and work with them. Those present will notice, and it may push a jerk into treating you decently because it's less trouble than messing up their PR.

#167 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 12:04 PM:


The Mother Dynamics are stirring up all kinds of stuff for me, major overlap. When we next Skype, I'm going to make a point of saying:

"I've been feeling grateful to you."

"You gave up much of your life doing what society expected of a wife/mother. It wasn't fair."

"You gave me chances that no one gave you." (multiple agendas!!!)

"You gave me the freedom to pursue a lifestyle/vocation that makes me happy."

"In my relationships, I've been able to insist that they pick up their own damned dirty socks."

"Your mother preempted many decisions that should have been yours" (her wedding china) "and you were careful not to lay that on me."
With luck, this will lead to her complaining about how she was oppressed*, and give me the chance for active listening. Default: "that wasn't fair." If she brings up how her parents forced her into music, I'll respond how a magical part of my childhood was falling asleep listening to her play - not that they were right, but that she took it to a place of beauty and joy.

Reminder to self: I will not make suggestions about how she might pick any of this up now. If she mentions later that she's done it herself, I'll give her a big grin and a thumbs up, being careful not to overdo it. Softee-softee-catchee-monkey.

This may not help you, obsidian, but it's helped me. Thank you.

*not used ironically

#168 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 12:13 PM:

fidelio @ 161

...walking around with a tattoo on your forehead that says "TROUBLEMAKING NOTE-TAKER" with a snake threaded through the letters .

This tickled me when I read it, and it's still amusing me. It came with a clear visual of the tints on the snake.

#169 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 01:27 PM:

Building New Pieces, you should definitely involve your university program people.

As I understand it, this is a time-limited work assignment as part of your school program. As such, IMO it takes a different approach than a regular job where you would be trying to decide between living with this for the foreseeable future and looking for another job. For that reason, I would focus your email more tightly on what is expected of you; I agree with fidelio that you're better off not bringing in what you've observed other people doing. Again, if we were talking about the long term, I would agree that unfairness should be dealt with and not lived with, but given that you're only talking about a few months, I would recommend not fighting that battle.

Keep focused on your goals. You want to maintain your health. You want to complete your work term successfully. Probably you'd like your employer to be sufficiently satisfied in the end that they will provide good references when you begin looking for a "real" job. You want your university to be satisfied with the way you handle the situation. Anything beyond that, e.g. getting an acknowledgement that Company has been inconsistent or raising the banner for students to come, seems like gravy to me.

protecting others' privacy @158 The move with offspring sounds like it may be a reasonable exit from the untenable situation. I hope it works for you. And congratulations to offspring for getting into school-of-choice.

obsidian I feel like a terrible person, because I'm worried about her but I'm also worried about what's going to happen to me This seems perfectly natural to me.

I keep fantasizing about quitting my job and moving back to the city I left to take this job and living in a little studio apartment with a cat and making my living on freelance writing. This is not a good plan, I know this is not a good plan, but I can't stop thinking about it anyway.

This also I think is near-universal. In fact, it made me smile as I took a short mental trip into my own escapist fantasies.

Some years ago now my husband and I took a vacation trip to the mountains of North Georgia, where we went hiking and generally had a great time. We spend some time talking to a couple who were running a roadside food stand, and ever since then, our shorthand for "this is too much" is that we're going to go sell jelly biscuits by the side of the road.

I had a friend whose husband worked setting up business phone systems. His fantasy was that he was going to open a sock store with absolutely no choices. He would sell one-size-fits-all white athletic socks and nothing else. You want that? Great, here it is. You want something else, sorry, we're not the place.

For that matter, my younger daughter who has cognitive and speech disabilities will sometimes sign "old house." She doesn't really want to move back to the house we left 14 years ago and hundreds of miles away; it's her shorthand for something simpler and less frustrating.

#170 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 01:27 PM:

Building New Pieces, you should definitely involve your university program people.

As I understand it, this is a time-limited work assignment as part of your school program. As such, IMO it takes a different approach than a regular job where you would be trying to decide between living with this for the foreseeable future and looking for another job. For that reason, I would focus your email more tightly on what is expected of you; I agree with fidelio that you're better off not bringing in what you've observed other people doing. Again, if we were talking about the long term, I would agree that unfairness should be dealt with and not lived with, but given that you're only talking about a few months, I would recommend not fighting that battle.

Keep focused on your goals. You want to maintain your health. You want to complete your work term successfully. Probably you'd like your employer to be sufficiently satisfied in the end that they will provide good references when you begin looking for a "real" job. You want your university to be satisfied with the way you handle the situation. Anything beyond that, e.g. getting an acknowledgement that Company has been inconsistent or raising the banner for students to come, seems like gravy to me.

protecting others' privacy @158 The move with offspring sounds like it may be a reasonable exit from the untenable situation. I hope it works for you. And congratulations to offspring for getting into school-of-choice.

obsidian I feel like a terrible person, because I'm worried about her but I'm also worried about what's going to happen to me This seems perfectly natural to me.

I keep fantasizing about quitting my job and moving back to the city I left to take this job and living in a little studio apartment with a cat and making my living on freelance writing. This is not a good plan, I know this is not a good plan, but I can't stop thinking about it anyway.

This also I think is near-universal. In fact, it made me smile as I took a short mental trip into my own escapist fantasies.

Some years ago now my husband and I took a vacation trip to the mountains of North Georgia, where we went hiking and generally had a great time. We spend some time talking to a couple who were running a roadside food stand, and ever since then, our shorthand for "this is too much" is that we're going to go sell jelly biscuits by the side of the road.

I had a friend whose husband worked setting up business phone systems. His fantasy was that he was going to open a sock store with absolutely no choices. He would sell one-size-fits-all white athletic socks and nothing else. You want that? Great, here it is. You want something else, sorry, we're not the place.

For that matter, my younger daughter who has cognitive and speech disabilities will sometimes sign "old house." She doesn't really want to move back to the house we left 14 years ago and hundreds of miles away; it's her shorthand for something simpler and less frustrating.

#171 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 01:28 PM:

apologies for double post, not sure how that happened.

#172 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 01:42 PM:

I fantasize about Publisher's Clearinghouse knocking on my door (I enter, but I don't expect to win--it's just my little thing to do). Their prizes generally amount to a comfortable income for life. I daydream about living by the weather and the tides, and adding a second bathroom and a deck. My SO has the same fantasy, and "winning Publisher's Clearinghouse" is our shorthand for wanting an easier life.

Sometimes I dream up robinsonades instead--like, looking at one of the offlying islands near my house and imagining it being really offlying and then being shipwrecked there. The attraction of these daydreams, I think, is everything nonessential being pared away, with the only concerns being immediate concerns.

#173 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 01:44 PM:

OtterB, your daughter's "old house" sign struck me; over the past weeks, while we were still waiting to hear about Offspring's transfer application and before I had any idea that my parents would suggest a condo, I was having dreams - random dreams, with varying plotlines - that all had me living in the house I grew up in. I suspect I wanted that comfort of "home."

And the strongest place Offspring found on a search looks remarkably like the place in which they spent the first year of their life, architecturally. I doubt Offspring can even remember it, but it appealed to me.

#174 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 03:17 PM:

Coworker just introduced me to the expression "keeping the wheels on." :-)

hologram @152: Gah! Time to maybe go postal with a nerf bat? Okay, maybe not. :-)

As others have said: interesting/important wall of text is interesting/important.

Building New Pieces @159: Excellent email. I especially like your emphasis of "promoting Company's interest." It belatedly occurs to me that you might want to CC your Program Admin on this, as well.

heffalump trap, the kind that ends up catching the trap-setter?

Oh. Yeah. I forgot about that part. Okay, maybe not the best metaphor. :-)

sometimes crafting the hook is very hard.

Indeed. Especially if you're dealing with somebody who's determined to be unhookable.

I'm now learning how to treat it as dysfunctional and doing the best I can while I learn." Is that the meaning you read it as when you were replying?

Yes, indeed. Recognizing the dysfunction and (learning to) calculate for it is Advanced Adult. I remain impressed.

Is there any grain of truth in their advice or is it just terrible? I'm thinking it's just terrible.

Yes, it's terrible, but I suspect it's also from a Different Generation™, where the Company Is Mother And Father. Concerns about escalating are not completely out of line, but are, I think, exaggerated.

fidelio @161: "TROUBLEMAKING NOTE-TAKER" with a snake threaded through the letters

::GRIN:: I want that t-shirt!

hologram @165: quitting my job and moving back to the city I left to take this job and living in a little studio apartment with a cat and making my living on freelance writing. This is not a good plan, I know this is not a good plan today.

FTFY. I think it's a perfectly reasonable plan for someday.

Bodhisvaha @166: When you talk to the powers that be...

Wow. That's an excellent synopsis. Thank you!

Jeanie @167: Softee-softee-catchee-monkey.


Old house jelly stands: I'm remarkably close to my ideal. If I could just sort the job part.

#175 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 03:19 PM:

stopping by briefly to swear at my own procrastinatory habits - I seem to have worked myself into a stupor over the last three days. I have about three hours to write 3000 words. I can do it, if I can only *focus*. What's the overdose level for caffeine, again...?

#176 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 04:59 PM:

Building New Pieces and Jacque @174: thank *you*, Jacque. At least I have been learning something useful?

So long as the enemy still wants to salvage some image in present eyes (yours or witnesses), the we're-all-civil trick may work. I did it a few times to our nightmare roommate Dragon, and recouped about $900 that otherwise would have disappeared with her at move-out. (Still missing the last $20-30 from disinclination to chase.) I don't have a valid statistical sample of its reliability, but if it worked on a master manipulator like her, it has a shot of working on many people.

I am forever trying to convince my partner that being confrontational and angry rarely helps, at least when you're going to be working with these people in the future. That lesson has been building a long time, since I worked on a helpdesk. The corresponding lessons about how to politely but effectively stand up for yourself and get what you want have been much more difficult, and I'm not that far in. Giving in and throwing tantrums are both so much simpler, conceptually.

One way to get what you want out of a dispute where you have enough right on your side, is a combo move: do the we're-all-civil thing, and present several options for the next step. Use positioning and laziness: tailor the options so that the easiest thing for them also suits you. I have a degree because I did this when the college administration was being stupid: I presented my case with 3 options, all within my rights by their own policies, but progressively worse for them. (Option 3 was re-run an entire semester of discontinued classes for just me.) They picked the one I wanted them to.

#177 ::: a bit tired ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 07:35 PM:

So a phone conversation with my mother and sister led me to go and test myself for Covert Narcissist Syndrome. I was very honest, and scored surprisingly low, possibly because I don't have the sort of imagination that tends towards jealousy.

The phone-call left me feeling like there must be something quite selfish and narcissistic wrong with me. It's a familiar feeling, and usually I process it by thinking that people just have different perspectives on things. But this time they want me to go to an engagement party for my sister's primary school best friend, and I'm in a play. "But you're a big part of her childhood... Of course I'm not trying to pressure you into coming, but they'll be devastated if you don't." (I wasn't, and they won't. I've chatted to her about it & apologised already.)
It's a PLAY, y'know, with a performance date and an audience. And yet I ended up wondering if I was being a self-pitying narcissist for inconveniencing my family. Gah!

#178 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 09:47 PM:

a bit tired @177: Your life is expected to revolve around events important to them, and they're willing to rewrite reality/lie to you to guilt you into abandoning things important to you, and *you're* narcissistic?

Also, I love the way you put that - It's a PLAY, y'know, with a performance date and an audience.

The problem with narcissists is that if they're convincing enough (or if they're the VC and have convinced enough people around them to play in their RPG), they mess with your mind. I speak as someone who used to think she was horribly selfish and a terrible snob. (guess who really is...)

Sympathies. Glad you've got enough distance to recognize that there's something wrong with their narrative. Affirmations available any time. :)

#179 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 10:43 PM:

@177 a bit tired
It's a PLAY, y'know, with a performance date and an audience.

What do your mother and sister think the other actors are going to do, just act around the empty space you are going leave? Your family are OK with you abandoning your responsibilities to your fellow troupe members, as long as your sister's old friend gets what (they think) she wants?

Plays take months to rehearse; I'm sure you've had this date noted for quite a long time. What your mother and sister are doing is not OK.

#180 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2014, 11:05 PM:

There is a point past which somebody can be legally sane and still deeply reality challenged. My own mother, when the blender broke, said this, and I am not kidding: "I'm going to leave it on the counter for a few weeks and see if it gets better." She wasn't using this as a euphemism for "we don't have the money." She just plain opened up her mouth and produced those words. And she followed up on them too.

@ a bit tired no. 177: If their approval of you is conditional on your playing along--well, to use the language in the OP, if the VC constructs a Narrative that sucky, nothing obliges an adult player to stick to their assigned Role. There are always better games to play.

#181 ::: a bit tired ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 08:44 AM:

Thanks. It's surprising how much it means to hear people say that. I seem to have worked myself into a mentality where I assume that if I complain, people will just respond as my mother would, and tell me that yes, you're wrong and you're being selfish. Not logical, but mind-games are powerful...

Well, I'm feeling grrrr and a bit clearer in the head, so I may as well enjoy it:

Role: Mum the Free-spirited Survivor (VC)
Consistency: Medium (reactions can be unpredictable, veering between martyred adoration and vicious character assassination).
Tapes Tagline: I love you more than you can possibly imagine, even though you’re incredibly selfish and I don’t know what I did to deserve an ungrateful b*tch like you.
Charm: Incredibly high. She learnt her skills from growing up in a highly abusive family herself, and is the charming, innocent, rogueish life & soul of the party.
Destiny: To gain everyone’s pity for her terrible childhood and unworthy children.

#182 ::: obsidian ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 09:25 AM:

But this time they want me to go to an engagement party for my sister's primary school best friend, and I'm in a play.

Just adding my voice to the reassurance chorus. Play trumps sister's primary school bestie. It also trumps sister's college best friend, sister's current best friend, and any of your own personal friends and family ties. It's a play. If the relationship between you and the feted friend is sufficiently important that friend will be devastated if you don't [come], then the party would either not be scheduled on top of the play or the friend would understand that the play requires your presence and that you'll make up missing the party in some other fashion.

#183 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 09:28 AM:

update I didn't manage to get the paper done. and it's fighting me every step of the way. feels like self-dysfunction. probably just exhausted. don't know what to do. D:

#184 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 09:48 AM:

#180 ::: J.

This reminds me of a previous DF thread (probably Sitting and Rising)-- someone suggested that keeping broken appliances around with no plans to actually get them fixed is a marker for dysfunctional families.

#181 ::: a bit tired

My mother had a talent for giving the impression that her emotions and standards represented how the whole human race saw things.

#185 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 10:43 AM:

re: Mom's response to validation from me

Suspicious, guarded, then accepting (when I didn't go on to push another/deeper agenda) and a simple "thank you" with eye-contact, which may be a Personal Best for her.

What was weird was how hard it was to get started. My tongue literally clave to the roof of my mouth.* The entry turned out to be the dirty socks (that I felt free to insist on not picking up anyone else's). She got my point immediately so there was no need to run the laundry list.

My Personal Best was not trying to make my fantasized "and then she'll [complain blah blah blah], and then I'll [validate blah blah blah]" happen.

We moved on to standard stuff.

#184 Nancy Lebovitz
My mother had a talent for giving the impression that her emotions and standards represented how the whole human race saw things.

Oh, sing it, sister.

*how very King James of the morning, ironically tied to "honor thy ... mother", Orson Welles narrating.

#186 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 10:44 AM:

hope in disguise, my sympathies. Suggestions: email professor with a very plain note saying "I have not yet finished the paper, may I have an extension?" without going into vast detail. Then eat, shower, and sleep; I would have to know your situation better to suggest the optimal order for these three things, but any order is better than not doing them. Any further action can be assessed after you're fed, clean, and have had a rest.

#187 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 11:08 AM:

J @180 "I'm going to leave it on the counter for a few weeks and see if it gets better."

and Nancy Lebovitz @184 reminding us about the discussion of leaving broken appliances being a marker for dysfunction.

I wonder if this is tied to a passive-aggressive approach to life? I announce my dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, and the universe is supposed to take care of it without me actually having to do something or explicitly request someone else to do something.

#188 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 11:15 AM:

#185 ::: Jeanie

In re fear of giving praise-- I've got some of that, and I think (considering the type of fear), that some of it based in Jewish superstition that praise brings bad luck to the person praised, even though my family was not closely attached to traditional culture. I think those emotional habits can take generations to fade.

On the explicit side, my mother thought praise was patronizing. Of course, it can be, but it doesn't have to be.

#189 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 11:42 AM:

#188 ::: Nancy Lebovitz

More the unpredictability of poking her with what might be a very sharp stick in mucking around in our past. What un-numbed my mouth (literally) was reminding myself that she couldn't come at me through the screen. Well, physically, at any rate.

She tolerates ordinary praise if brief and casual.

You're right about it possibly coming across as patronizing. My sister is hair-trigger here.

#190 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 12:24 PM:

Rikibeth @186, thanks. I had already emailed the professor last night and he has not yet responded; what eventually got me at least somewhat back on track was talking to two other professors, both of whom reminded me that the best paper is the one that is finished, and one of whom actually helped me work out what I am trying to argue. Crossing my fingers that it's good enough.

Also, it was somewhat educational to realize what the infinite reassurances from my really good friends were doing wrong: they were all saying "you are smart! you can do it! I belieeeeeve in you!" and nobody seemed to at all believe me that it felt hard, and impossible. Some validation of that might have been nice.

Admittedly, I apparently have crises of "can't do it! nope! never gonna get done!" *every* finals week. Hm. Maybe I should reconsider grad school... (as in, consider not doing it. I have a year to decide, anyway)

#191 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 12:56 PM:

#188, Nancy Lebovitz, and #189, Jeanie:

Praise is really difficult sometimes. (I may have a hair trigger on that as well. I have a hard time figuring out what's a normal reaction, however.)

I've had people offer praise because they want me to do something.

I've had people offer praise that was built on toxic assumptions. ("wow, you're good at [thing]", where my skill level is not exceptional but I am a member of a group that is assumed to not know [thing], for example.)

I've had praise that has nothing to do with anything that I did. Depending on what the something is, this is anything from puzzling to amusing to annoying. (After snapping at my mom that the only comments she ever made about my appearance were negative, she started offering compliments about ... my clothes. Which I have told her several times that I bribe a friend to pick out for me. I'm kind of notorious in certain circles for my intense dislike of clothes shopping.)

I've also had people offer praise just because they appreciate or like what I did, but after the above, it's hard to not look behind what's presented and try to figure out what the catch is.

#190, hope in disguise:

"of course you can do it, you're smart" when you're struggling is the opposite of helpful, I've found. It dismisses the trouble you're having, while being disguised as a compliment.

#192 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 02:15 PM:

@OtterB no. 187: Or a lack of motivation due to depression, or the inability to square things away that appears to be at the root of hoarder syndrome.

But, yes, my mother seems to me to have been interested in her comfort above all else, for a certain very narrow and peculiar definition of comfort that involved putting her children in a rented trailer that was literally rotting around our ears when she could afford to buy a small house with working plumbing and everything. She had her routine and her amusements, and anything that broke the flow was to be ignored.

#193 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 02:16 PM:

Forgot the last sentence: Her identifying the issue and then not talking about it ever again may well have been her pointed hint to the universe that something was amiss or out of place.

#194 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 06:55 PM:

abi, writing as me here rather than nym, because a lot of people in real life know this story. I have vented about it many times.

With regards to record keeping
I had a boss, sniveling, back stabbing, empire building, toadying, head game playing, reality twisting *your* reality by changing verbal rules when it best suited him, saving up all your mistakes and serving them on your annual review, two-faced, cretin of a boss. I never understood that description that read "he chewed someone out for 15 minutes without repeating himself" thing until I got this boss and found myself doing it.

So after requisite training period, I got my first real assignment. A baby one, not surprisingly. Boss gave me verbal instructions in line with my training. After turning it in, boss calls me in to tell me I've done it wrong. I realized very quickly that this was a he said she said thing, and I was going to lose. Suck it up and move on. So when I got assigned the next project, I came in to his space with a pad of paper and pencil. He was terrified. If I didn't know better, I'd think he thought I was carrying a scorpion.

Boss, harsh and frightened: What's that?
Me: Obviously I didn't remember your instructions correctly, so I'm writing them down.

Which I did, for every assignment from that point on. And so did everybody else who worked for him.

So he tried other methods to put me wrong. I developed a bad memory. A very bad memory. So bad that any set of instructions had to be given in email, or I would follow up with an email to confirm. "Did you send it in email? You know I won't remember if I don't have it in email." It was not uncommon for me to send his original email instructions back to him, showing that my "wrong" was by his instructions. He never learned to check his own instructions, or possibly even keep them, in all the years we worked together.

One of the amusing things that came out of the email thing was when boss, now fellow manager as I had been promoted, tried showing to others just how awful my work was. He'd CC relevant and often irrelevant people when he pointed out my errors. I'd reply, CCing same, pointing out that his report, or management memo, or whatever, refuted his complaint. Then I started doing a "reply all" and adding one. He would send the next complaint to a larger group (who mostly ignored him). It finally got to the point that the only person I could add was the president. So I did. A short time later, maybe the next day, the president wandered by my cube and asked what that email was about. A thousand explanations ran thru my head, then I decided if he wanted to know, he'd ask. "Pissing contest," I said. "Do I need to do anything?" asked he. "Nope," said I. "Ok," and he walked off. The miserable cretin stopped CCing the universe after that. Mostly.

I loved that job. For the first time, the higher-ups knew who I was and valued me very much. Company was bought by other company and broken up and disbursed. *sigh*

And pardon uncorrected typos. The tablet I'm using won't scroll text in an input box, so it's not easy to fix stuff.

#195 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 09:51 PM:

well, I told BFF about the probable move, and she is - understandably, justifiably, and extremely - upset.

It has probably killed the friendship.

I was worried that might happen.

But there isn't a lot I can do about it.

#196 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 10:06 PM:

#195 ::: protecting others' privacy
...It has probably killed the friendship.

As Jim Macdonald reminds us in his medical/emergency posts, the first rule, ALWAYS, is get yourself to safety.

Drowning with your friend in that sea of toxicity wouldn't help her. It's been clear that you'd help her escape with you if you possibly could.

#197 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 10:41 PM:

protecting others' privacy @195, I'm sorry. I hope it won't be a permanent rift, but even so, it doesn't seem like you could do anything else.

#198 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 10:53 PM:

protecting others' privacy, #195: That sucks. But I agree that the most important thing at this point is to get yourself to safety.

Completely off on a tangent, I was glancing back thru your VAB and spotted this: I'm minded of a (possibly apocryphal) Texas bumper sticker: "Oh, Lord, give us one more oil boom; I promise I won't piss this one away."

I asked my partner, who was living in Houston just after the oil crash of the 1980s, and he says that's not apocryphal at all, and he saw a bunch of them back then.

#199 ::: claustrophile ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 10:55 PM:

@191 the invisible one: "
"of course you can do it, you're smart" when you're struggling is the opposite of helpful, I've found. It dismisses the trouble you're having, while being disguised as a compliment."

This. A thousand times this. I just wanted to quote it so that I can pull it out more easily if need be, and maaaaybeee one day send it to my mother.

@ everyone else: Am lurking and witnessing, but don't feel like I have much of anything to add.

On my own front: Am slowly crawling out of my end-of-semester cave to start having a life again. Simultaneously waiting to find out whether I'm about to be kicked out of grad school or not, since even with my best efforts this time around I still didn't finish all the things I was supposed to.

#200 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 10:59 PM:

Jeanie: You (and Jim) are right. My friend KNOWS I'd take her with me; she won't consider going. Yes, she'll likely move out of Homeowner's house, but her ideal would be for me to find work here and be able to afford to move out with her. We've been all-but-married for the eight years we've lived together, and she'd like that to continue. Hell, so would I, mostly.

But we're not married, and Friend is an employed adult who can support herself financially, and my kid is only 18, and I... well, I am not self-supporting and haven't been for a number of years now. My parents, bless them, have been helping - and this plan for the condo essentially gives them real estate equity in return for the money they spend on me every damn month anyway.

There's only so much I can do.

If I felt like I could actually pull my own weight as a roommate, I might try to work out another situation for my kid (housemates in the condo?) and stay with Friend.

But my kid? Has the same mental health issues I do. And though Kid actually has meds right now and is in better shape than I am, Kid really could use a resident Mom instead of just having housemates, as a safety net in college.

I didn't have a diagnosis or a safety net in college, and I flunked out. More than once. (I still think my parents made a huge mistake refusing to allow me to live at Fenway House. I think those housemates would have been much more of a safety net than I had at Senior House, and might have encouraged me to get to classes and maybe noticed the mental health stuff enough to poke me to seek help and maybe I'd have a brass rat today. But that's 25 years ago now.) I owe it to my kid not to let that happen, if at all possible.

And I'm being offered the means to DO that, and in the process have a safety net of my OWN, and much as I value Friend and everything she's been to me... if she won't come with me, I still have to go.

I AM sad. I DO feel guilty. But I know this is something I have to do.

#201 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2014, 11:22 PM:

OtterB, thanks. I'm hoping it won't be permanent either, but that's exactly it; I can't really do anything else, or, well, I COULD, but none of the other things I could do would be better for me or for my kid.

Lee, yes, it does suck. But hopefully it'll balance out better (I'm actually fairly sure it will) even if the friendship is the price I pay. And thanks for confirming the bumper sticker! I thought I remembered hearing about it from a Texas native, but I couldn't be sure.

#202 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2014, 04:10 AM:

claustrophile, #199: The other place where that line is Massively Helpy is when you know that you have neither the desire nor the aptitude to do X and somebody flings "But of course you could do X, you're so SMART!" at you. No. No, I really couldn't*, and it had absolutely nothing to do with my intelligence.

*In my case it was "go to law school", which I considered a fate worse than death. Med school I might have thought about, though I'd have been more likely to consider a straight research doctorate. But law school? No, no, a thousand times no, I'd rather see my life's blood spillin'...

#203 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2014, 10:25 PM:

"Smart" has no relationship to "cope".
Or being able to convince the brain to move in a forward direction rather than in circles, spirals, and random zigzags.

#204 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2014, 02:16 AM:

13 things no estranged child needs to hear on Mother's Day (or any other day either).

In the meantime, for those who need or want it, happy NOT Mother's Day.

For all those who have chosen, for their own good reasons, not to walk this path -- or who have wanted but been unable to bear children -- only to be told every year that they are worthless because they have not reproduced, no matter how much good they have done in the world...

For all those who have suffered under the myth that "of course ALL mothers LOVE their children" -- in the teeth of direct evidence that your mother did not love you, or should not have had children at all...

For all those whose mothers have been sources of pain rather than joy, denigration rather than support, relentless criticism rather than caring...

For all those whose relationships with their mothers are fraught, and are sick and tired of being told that you MUST "love and honor" a person who brings nothing but drama and anguish to your life...

For all those who find this day more of a burden than a blessing...

You are not forgotten. And you are not alone.

If there is a woman who has had a positive impact on your life, and who is going to be ignored and/or treated as a second-class citizen today because she hasn't procreated, this would be an outstanding time to tell her that you appreciate what she's done for you.

#205 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2014, 09:41 AM:

Beautifully put, Lee.

My mother loved (and loves) me. She didn't like me, actively hated me for years, and punished me for not bringing the joy she'd been promised. I loved, hated, and disliked her right back.

She could see herself hurting me and couldn't make herself stop. She wanted to protect me (as her family had not protected her) and she turned into the monsters they had been.

That must have been a special kind of hell.

The amount of energy that woman has had to spend to hide her motivations and actions from herself is jaw-dropping.

The cycle stopped when I pulled myself out of it.

I found the part of me that loves her when I told her the other day that I appreciated how much she'd given up for me.

That's going to have to do it for Mother's Day crap.

She's going to think I was clever to do a preemptive strike. That serendipity wouldn't have happened without hanging out and being supported here.

#206 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2014, 11:12 AM:

Me @852/Toolbox: I wrote up a version of that analysis to send to the academic whose essay I was using as a springboard. Got an email in my inbox from him this morning saying, "you should write something!" Exclamation point and everything :D

Got an email from my father last night (I think CC'd to my brother as well) saying "Mother's Day is tomorrow. Don't forget to call yours." Which I guess I'm thankful that we're on ok enough terms that that isn't a horrible wrenching demand. But my sympathy goes out to everyone for whom it would be.

#207 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2014, 12:16 PM:

I won this year's Mother's Day: I figured out something I was willing to offer (go out for food we both like), and called her to ask about. My mother had not quite realized it was *that* weekend, and preferred to stay home and garden -- she really doesn't like crowded, slow restaurants -- but she appreciated the offer. It sounded genuine, too. Offer stands for some other day, and is a good plan, because tasty food and reasonable time limits.

She gets to do something she enjoys for Mother's Day, I covered my obligations for minimal distress to me. This actually worked out!

#208 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2014, 01:02 PM:

The universe wants me to grow and thinks the correct incentive is to turn up my difficulty level. Great.

I just got 2 bombshells in the last three days:
(1) work said they're not sure they will have the budget to hire me back after this contract, so start looking and I'm highly recommended.
(2) our landlord just told us that he'll be taking over our house for his own use come August, which in our area means legally we *will* have to move. I talked him into offering an extension if needed, because of student housing turnover for September.

...At least now we will be able to see if we can find the right amount of house/rent for our needs, and hopefully move back to our old neighbourhood, which I miss. I really desperately hope so. This area is too damn yuppie and expensive to look much here.

I really hope this is all going to work out. I had wanted to try working somewhere else; I had missed my old stomping grounds. But I'm still scared.

#209 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2014, 05:09 PM:

Bodhisvaha @208 & 209: Well done re. Mother's Day. Sympathies for the bombshells - particularly in combination and coincidence of timing. Good luck with both job and dwelling place hunting.

#210 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2014, 06:12 PM:

Bodhisvaha, good luck.

BFF Housemate may move with us after all. I forgot how badly she reacts to change and instability when I told her about the move, and took her initial reaction for an unchanging one.

We had our big emotional conversation of "you are abandoning me" "I would take you with me but you won't go, and I can't stay just for you" over text message, which helped. Her next stage was"will you help me find an apartment?" I said I would help her find one, help her move, teach her to cook the things she likes most, and fill her freezer with soup.

After a bit of apartment-scouting online (in which she discovered that one single management company handles pretty much all the apartments in the first target neighborhood) she noticed that the financials of living alone, even in a studio apartment, were not terrific. She started to come around to the idea of moving with us. I still owe her money and my parents say that amount could be free ride on rent for her until it was used up, which would give her a cushion of time for job-hunting, and there are, after all, places to study tae kwon do in City of My Heart; BFF is friends with a TKD black belt there, though their schools teach different styles.

BFF isn't unfamiliar with City, either. She went to college there, the same one that Kid will be attending. (My mother is an alumna as well. The changes in college life since the early 1960s are a topic for much discussion.) BFF is a little becroggled at how the neighborhoods that were sketchy-as-hell ten years ago are now gentrifying to the point of my parents considering condos there a) a good investment and b) safe enough for their grandchild.

The place I looked at yesterday, that would have been ideal for Me Plus Kid, won't work very well for the three of us, because it's a two-bedroom, but there are at least two three-bedroom places that I wasn't able to view that are comparable in price and could work, and the offer hasn't gone in yet on yesterday's place.

So things might work out after all. Either way, BFF isn't going to hate me for it.

#211 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2014, 07:19 PM:

protecting others' privacy, hope all works out, but in any case, good news that there's not long-term anger.

Bodhisvaha, good luck on shaping the changes into what you want them to be.

Congrats to both Bodhisvaha and Jeanie on navigating the Mother's Day minefield.

hope in disguise, that's great that the academic that sparked the idea thought it was worth pursuing.

Re the discussion on "You can do X, you're so smart." As with so many dysfunctional interactions, this is in some ways just a twist off from a functional piece of parenting. One of the things I see recommended to encourage kids' independence and avoid helicopter parenting is to refrain from trying to solve all the kid's problems for them. Sometimes you step back and tell them that you're confident they can find a solution. My guess is that this becomes toxic when (a) it's coupled with the "you're so smart!" which is known to make kids afraid of failing, and (b) when it's abdicating when they really do need your help.

#212 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2014, 11:43 PM:

Adding to OtterB @211:

It's also, I think, the context in which failure is going to be received. If failing is The End of The World, *and* the kid is given a problem too difficult to solve without help, *and* the kid believes that innate abilities such as intelligence dictate whether or not they'll be able to solve the problem, then it is super toxic.

#213 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2014, 11:43 PM:

Bodhisvaha, #208: Geez louise. I have to admit that from here, it rather looks like "the Universe is opening a door and booting you thru it by the seat of the pants" -- but I'm sure it appears rather less positive from there. Best of luck in sorting it all out!

protecting others' privacy, #210: That's good news all around! Here's hoping that the three of you can find a place that works. Your parents are being very understanding and helpful as well, which is a Good Thing.

OtterB, #211: More specifically, the "you can do it, you're so SMART!" thing becomes toxic when "smart" is defined as the only factor that has any bearing on the situation -- interest, aptitude, opportunity, and luck are all completely irrelevant, if in fact they are even noticed. At root, it's a denial of agency for the person being so "encouraged". Worse yet, it's a setup for a follow-up attack, when the target refuses to do X, of "you just don't WANT to make your life any better".

#214 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2014, 10:47 AM:

Just wanted to add a few cents on the "You can do it, you're so SMART" concept: I agree with OtterB on the enabling of our offspring, with "You can do it", and I agree with with Lee on the toxicity of the "SMART" aspect. Enabling people means leaving room for requests of assistance, room for errors and re-doing things, and so on. One of the ways I have tried to instill some independence in my son is to give him new tasks -- put together this chair, by following the directions, for example -- and letting him know that I am available in another room for assistance. In general, he begins by saying he can't do [Thing], but I point to the directions and say "Follow these first, let me know if you get to a sticking point, and we'll walk through it". When he makes a mistake, it's either something we can un-do and correct, or it's livable as is. Both of these conditions are teachable moments, especially as he -- like the Ex -- is a fearful perfectionist. He doesn't want to fail or make mistakes, and I have to give him the space in which to comfortably fail/make the mistake. Along those lines, I have made sure never to tell him he can do [Thing] because he's smart (he's smart because he has learned things along the way); I tell him he can do [Thing] because it's the way to become smarter, by trying, following the instructions, Doing it Rong, and thus getting better at [Thing].

I know my Ex never got this kind of training; her mother was toxic and every error was AWFUL and the kids were BAD for making mistakes, and she would be very angry about it all. Sadly, she continues that kind of behavior, although I do hope she's moderating it by now. (Has it really been more than 4 years? Time flies..)

#215 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2014, 11:47 AM:

One of the guys in my drawing group quoted a college teacher of his: "Fail faster." I.e., more tries faster, the usual percentage fulfilling Sturgeon's Law. "Damn," says my friend. "I wish somebody had told me that much earlier in life."

#216 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2014, 07:54 PM:

Is that like fail better?

Failing both better and faster sounds like a good way to go.

#217 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2014, 07:54 PM:

server error?

#218 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2014, 08:08 PM:

Ginger, #214: It sounds as if your son could benefit from the Engineer Mantra: "If you can't make a mistake, you can't make anything." Making mistakes is the way we learn how not to make mistakes.

#219 ::: staranise ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2014, 08:35 PM:

Merricat @ 53: I've been hugging It's pretty common to get one's superpowers from falling in toxic goo to my chest for the last two weeks now. Thank you (and to everyone else who pitched in a reframe!)

#220 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2014, 10:36 PM:

Eeeeeeeh feeling wobbly but kind of proud of myself? In that way that tells me I'm feeling-but-suppressing the Goddamn Tape that says "How dare you ......" where ..... adds up to actually standing up for myself and setting boundaries?

On the Book of Face, I shared an image related to the abortion debate and my position in it. My dad replied with several sentences starting "I think your morality is greatly lacking if you".

I replied to his philosophical point, and then in a separate reply, said:

Also, future comments on things in my own feed starting with accusations that my "morality is greatly lacking" are subject to instant deletion. I don't have to put up with that, face to face or otherwise. Engage productively and respectfully or, as they say, "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all," please.

Now I just need to stick to my guns and insta-delete things insufficiently polite.

Shaking. Kinda proud. Kinda ashamed, but I think the ashamed is old programming and should not be listened to.

Thought the whole set of sensations was very DFD-thread relevant. :->

#221 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2014, 10:53 PM:

Bricklayer, #220: Well done! As you note, the hard part will be making the boundary stick now that you've established it, but you're absolutely right that your page is YOUR space and you have the right to request that other people be respectful in it.

*walks off muttering about the number of times I've abandoned an argument thru reluctance to start a flamewar on someone else's page*

#222 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2014, 10:58 PM:

You go, Bricklayer! Good for you.

I've deleted comments on FB too. Sometimes with guilt, sometimes with joy, sometimes with exasperation (when someone was using a comment thread to talk to his own agenda, which wasn't visibly related to the comment thread at all).

#223 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2014, 12:08 AM:

Go, Bricklayer! Not surprised you're feeling shaky. It took courage!

Told Homeowner about the impending move today. She took it rather well; her main request is for me to leave instructions/recipes for some of my regular dishes. because she's lost a great deal of excess weight since I moved in, and while some amount of the weight loss is more likely due to retaining less fluid after an infection was controlled, some of it certainly is that Homeowner was suddenly eating more-balanced meals of less-processed food. I said of course I would, and that I'd take her out to acquire at least a mini food processor to make it easy for her to chop onions and things. I also pointed out that she'd probably want to call a handyman service in the fall to put the insulating plastic on her windows again (I took it down today, and dropped the screens so we could have fresh air in the warm weather) and suggested that she get herself a new A/C unit for the living room that would eat less electricity than the working-but-ancient one she has. She's also amenable to a certain swapping/selling/giving of furniture and household implements. I told her straight out I'd buy the oval gratin dish - it's enameled cast iron and I don't want to give it up, and, as she's not much of a cook, she had no objection. I shudder to think what it'd cost to replace it.

Apparently Homeowner never noticed how much I'd come to dislike her, or somehow managed not to resent it. Go figure.

#224 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2014, 01:47 AM:

Bricklayer: Wheeee!! I'll be fascinated to hear how he reacts.

protecting: Or maybe you unconsciously followed the old premise, "What I think of you is need-to-know, and you don't need to know." I.e., you minded your manners and behaved respectfully, despite your frustrations?

#225 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2014, 03:18 AM:

staranise@219, Merricat@53: It's pretty common to get one's superpowers from falling in toxic goo

Yeah, that's still resonating really well with me. And if you don't have toxic goo around, radioactive spiders are another popular way to get them.

#226 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2014, 09:56 AM:

I was rereading in this thread and wanted to comment for Type A Toad @24 and thegoodlurker @35, on the subject of not being able to say what you want because you don't know what you want.

The reasons were different from dysfunctional family training, but I had a similar issue about 10 years ago. (I was coming out of a stretch where I was coping with a more-or-less full time job and two young children, one of whom had special needs and lots of therapy sessions, while my husband had extensive business travel. What do I want? What difference does that make?) I started climbing out of the rut by taking a "mom's mental health" long weekend. I stayed in a little studio apartment in the mountains, and I spent several days deciding what to do next by asking myself, "What do I want to do right now?" Read, go for a drive, sit and look at the river, go for a hike. Eat out, get carry-out and bring it back to the room, buy something simple and cook for myself, have cheese and crackers. Really. My choice. I would have to ask the "what do I want?" question and listen hard for the answer that floated up, because I had lost the habit of listening for that voice.

IOW, don't start with the hard stuff like what you want to do with your life. Start with stuff like what you want to do for the next hour, or with this unexpected free afternoon due to a cancelled meeting.

#227 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2014, 11:03 AM:

#226 ::: OtterB re: what do I want?

Great suggestions!

And if you're really, truly too blocked for something as simple as "what would taste good right now?", go for what you're sure you would NOT want to eat. Or fix - "Thanksgiving dinner for several dozen hlepy people who show up late and break things".

The sillier the better.

Our brains appreciate playful when they've dealt with too much heavy stuff.

#228 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2014, 11:10 AM:

Also, don't underestimate the power of a useful fantasy:

After writing the above post, I want a can of cranberry jelly all to myself (I loved it so much that I was forbidden all but the smallest spoonful, and there was never extra left), eaten right out of the can (you can guess what my mother thought of that). In front of my great-aunts and grandmothers with the gravy-covered serving spoon!

The key is to work past "they'd be so disapproving" to "they'd be so jealous! No one would ever have let them do that!"

#229 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2014, 08:29 PM:

@Lee, #204:

Thank you so much. I've felt guilty over Mother's Day this year, and I needed the reality check. :)

I ended up sending her a silly Mother's Day card (because the sappy kind felt like a huge, ugly lie), and a souvenir magnet from Valley Forge (it has Snoopy on it, which seemed appropriate since we bonded over Peanuts when I was little).

#230 ::: Building New Pieces ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2014, 10:49 PM:

Just stopping by to share something that's helped me. Ignore if hlepy, YMMV, the usual.

Jeanie @228: Have you considered fulfilling that fantasy in a space you're comfortable in and with no one to discourage you?

In my childhood I was also forbidden to eat / restricted to very small portions of many foods. When I moved away from my family, I started eating whatever I felt like in whatever portions I felt like regardless of what my family would have said. I even kept some of the previously forbidden / restricted foods readily available. Over time, I found that eating the previously forbidden / restricted foods whenever I wanted to helped me claim both the space I'd moved into and my relationships with those foods for myself. Sometimes it also helped me mourn the childhood I should have had.

I've also heard the saying "being an adult is being able to have ice cream for dinner" and I think it's related.

#231 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2014, 12:19 AM:

Erk. Finances may force the issue of whether Beloved Housemate is able to come with us at all. Parents' original suggestion of price ranges of places to look at? Overly optimistic. In a way that takes most 3br units right off our plate.

I may lose Beloved Housemate's friendship after all. She was giving me a lot of guilt tonight about having put her in this situation, & not caring enough about her to not put her in it. I didn't rise to the bait, or try to use Kid's needs as a defense, nor did I point out that her temperament of being content with only one close friend (me) and barely reaching out to anyone else EVER had contributed significantly to the situation.

Yes, it is nice to have someone to come home to, someone to rely on. But I've learned I can't manage with JUST that. (I told her that in the emotional conversation-by-text, & that here may have her but City has EVERYONE ELSE and just-her *isn't* enough for me.)

I can't sacrifice myself to save her. I couldn't even if Kid weren't part of the equation.

On the bright side, the 2br place I saw Saturday is still gorgeous and making my heart sing, and is within my parents' reach.

On the not-so-bright side, I'd forgotten what Kid can be like in dramallama moments, and today had its share of them. I really, really hope that if I wind up with Just Kid (which Kid expresses a preference for), that I won't drown Kid in a BUCKET (as Bear liked to say about annoying characters on Criminal Minds).

Fingers still crossed.

#232 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2014, 08:10 AM:

#230 ::: Building New Pieces

You're absolutely right. I binged on it (and related stuff) thoroughly in grad school, and that disengaged the craving.

It was funny to write about it and have it resurface. It's been a decade at least since I kept a can or two in the pantry, just in case.

One of my great aunts (the family eccentric) would order dessert when out to tea luncheons and insist that it be brought first. Then eat it. The scandalized horror from her sisters (they "punished" her by not inviting her along, which was fine with her) was over half envy.

#233 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2014, 09:08 AM:

Jeannie @232, I think I love your Great Aunt. One of my pet sayings is "Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first." --but I've never actually had the guts to DO it. Not in public.

#234 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2014, 10:00 AM:

AND under the eyes of the roomful of Ladies who Lunch, all in their flowered hats with little veils and dressy dresses!

I was once taken to this tea room as a special treat. On my best manners, and wrapped in polite sophistication, I ordered creamed sweetbreads on toast points.

As we were finishing, my mother asked me how it was. "Quite good" says I. At which point one of the great aunts says in disbelief and awe, "I'd never have had the nerve to order that!"

#235 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2014, 10:00 AM:

AND under the eyes of the roomful of Ladies who Lunch, all in their flowered hats with little veils and dressy dresses!

I was once taken to this tea room as a special treat. On my best manners, and wrapped in polite sophistication, I ordered creamed sweetbreads on toast points.

As we were finishing, my mother asked me how it was. "Quite good" says I. At which point one of the great aunts says in disbelief and awe, "I'd never have had the nerve to order that!"

#236 ::: Jeanie double posts! ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2014, 10:03 AM:

With the exciting 404 server error!

#237 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2014, 11:18 AM:

Jeannie, you and your great aunt are both awesome. :)

#238 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2014, 11:46 AM:

Aww, happy tears! Thank you.

#239 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2014, 10:37 PM:

Whoa. Unexpected, very strong reaction today.

I was doing some work for the martial arts school I attend, and while doing data entry on new student forms I ran across Crappy Ex's name. (And it was him, not somebody else with the same name; he has a distinctive phone number.)

I... don't know what my face looked like, but I had a pretty serious physical "oh crap" reaction going on as I sat at the computer. It didn't stop until I gave in and searched the member database to find out he's not a student there, he was only the emergency contact for another student, and it's highly unlikely I'll see him walk in.

Which is just argh. I haven't seen him in six years. Why did I react like that?

#240 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2014, 12:36 AM:

the invisible one, #239: That's a PTSD-type reaction, and they can be triggered unpredictably for a surprisingly long time after you're out of the situation. You got Crappy Ex more or less thrown in your face completely without warning; your reaction is not by any means out of band. Checking to see whether or not he was a current student was exactly the right thing to do. Now you know what level of potential risk to assign to it.

#241 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2014, 01:28 AM:

#240, Lee:

Huh. Didn't know a physical reaction like that could happen even when one wasn't in physical danger during the origin/cause events. (I was never physically threatened by Crappy Ex. I was always better at martial arts than he was and we both knew it.)

Elevated heart rate and breathing and tense muscles and all I can say is, body very clearly gearing up for fight or flight. Because of a certain pattern of letters on a computer screen. (I'm really, really glad he isn't a student. Because if he was, I'd have found myself trying to figure out if I should stay or leave, even though I'm there two days a week and they run classes six days a week and there are loads of students that I've never even met.)

(And feeling a lower level of the same stress now, wondering how I would have reacted if he were a student. He's not. Calm down, body.)

#242 ::: staranise ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2014, 03:50 AM:

the invisible one @ 241: Ever heard people talk about "triggers"? That's what the term refers to in its purest form.

FWIW, it's quite possible to file the sharp edges off that response by repeated pairing of the unpleasant-but-safe name with a pleasant, soothing experience that helps you return to calm. Some people write trigger-relevant words on cards to carry in their wallets and take them out during times that they do feel safe and relaxed and can quell the fear at their leisure, as a way of retraining their nervous systems.

#243 ::: Hiding for now ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2014, 09:51 AM:

Reverting to DFD-specific nym rather than the usual one that recalls the drifting of a writing implement so that this doesn't float up in a web search.

Very mixed feelings right now. Tomorrow is the 55th anniversary of An Awfully Big Mistake, aka my parents' wedding. My father was basically a good and decent man whom I genuinely liked, but he's dead now. His widow is a horrid person who's spent the last half-century resenting him for what she "gave up to marry him" and being generally nasty, and I limit our communications to birthday and Christmas/New Year greetings. (Whenever I'm subjected to the only-mother-you-got chorus on repeat—despite requests not to discuss the topic—I pull out the ham story, and the singing stops: she once tried to snabble hams out of Christmas gift baskets intended for housekeeping staff "because those poor people wouldn't know how to appreciate it anyway." Such contempt. So very wow.)

A friend once remarked that I talked a lot about my siblings but never talked about my parents, saying they recognized the shape of that silence. What is there to say, really? The decent one's dead, the one left behind is an asshole, and they were both horribly incompetent parents. Who had six kids, most of whom are very messed up in different ways; I think I only managed to untangle many of my own messes because I moved half a world away and was safe enough to rebuild myself and become a more mindful person. These threads were instrumental to that as well. Over the past four years, I've moved from being very unhappy in my skin with little self-esteem to a good space where I have a sense of self-worth, and that wouldn't have been possible without this community.

I know there are people who are glad I exist. I'm glad I've had some really amazing experiences and that I have relationships with people I cherish. I know at least one of my siblings is held in great respect by the professional community they belong to, and adored by the people they work with. But we were also very damaged by our upbringing and our current family dynamics remain so unhealthy and are already bleeding over into the next generation that the occasional slight twinge of guilt I feel for having left is rapidly replaced by immense relief and gratitude that I managed to escape. And despite the fact that I'm happy with my life now, and that I don't know if it would have been better or worse in an alternate universe, I can't help but think at this time of year that when my parents got together and had us, they increased the net level of unhappiness in the world.

Reading and witnessing, as always.

#244 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2014, 10:33 AM:

An owie of the morning.

I've been working on several linked projects since last fall that are finally coming to fruition. I asked my mother on Skype this morning if she'd watch a clip about three minutes long. Her editing skills are awesome, blah blah blah.

She wandered out to her kitchen partway through.

When she got back, she asked what had happened to it. I said I'd shut it off, we'd talk again tomorrow, and disconnected. I aimed for a sad/resigned tone. I don't think I gave her the Gorgon face. Who knows. My hindbrain was driving.

Snarled into all this is that I'm going through a rough patch physically. My must-dos today are to go pick up meds and drop off a referral sheet at my doctor's for them to fax to the Amazing Big Lung Hospital and see if anyone can do anything for me at this stage. My decent health insurance now might cover some of it.

It distresses my mother to see me in pain she can't do anything about. I'll bet a good part of this is just not knowing how to deal with me right now.

But, bitch, that hurt.


I was wondering if it was wise to let that "bitch" out. There was a physical snap (?) when I typed it, so maybe so.

Although I should be around for some time, please remember that anonymity will continue to be important when both my personae are no longer here. I don't write anything I'm not willing for family to read, but there's no point in hurting them needlessly (I'd hurt my Mother right now if there were the proverbial snowball's chance it would do any good).

My sister will almost certainly wade through all the VAB directly connected with my nym.


Reading & witnessing for you.

#245 ::: nerfmobile ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2014, 01:15 PM:

Hiding for now @243: my sympathies.

I know very much what it is like to have the wrong parent be dead. My mother had her problems (including some form of depression/bipolarness that went undiagnosed/untreated until her mid-40s), but she was the reasonable, non-abusive parent and me and my siblings always hoped and expected that she would live longer (good family history, and she had fewer health issues than my father). Alas, she passed away 4 or so years ago in her late 60s (cancer), and my father (the abusive, narcissistic one) is still going strong - given his family history, he may well live for another 20 years. It really doesn't seem fair.

(this is a new DFD nym for me; I haven't used one on these threads in quite a while and can't remember what I did use in the past.)

#246 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2014, 01:33 PM:

#242, staranise: I have, I've just never personally experienced one that was quite so sudden and physical and fearful. The others were maybe more anxiety triggers rather than PTSD-type triggers, I guess.

I'm not sure I want to carry around a reminder of him. I've been trying to only think about him at all in the context of acknowledge what he did, now how do I get past it.

#244, Jeanie: ouch.

It distresses my mother to see me in pain she can't do anything about.

And yet she has no problem causing you pain when she can so easily not cause it?


#247 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2014, 01:56 PM:

Hiding for Now @243:

Well, I'm certainly glad you exist.

Jeanie @244:

I'll be careful to keep things distinct.

nerfmobile @245:

Your former DF identity was ikucu. I'd like to unify the (view all by) records; do you recall that email address, can I send it to you at your more ordinary identity, or do you want me to synch to this nym's email address?

#248 ::: nerfmobile ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2014, 03:03 PM:

abi @247 - thanks. email sent with syncing notes.

#249 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2014, 06:09 PM:

Jeanie @232/234: thanks for sharing that!

the invisible one @239; Hiding for now @243; Jeanie @244: Sympathies. Reading, witnessing.

I've not been posting here much this thread around, but I've been reading. Life has been better at my end: since the redundancy came through I've started being able to sleep properly again, stopped flinching every time the 'phone rang in case it was work-related, I'm not getting a tense & acid stomach any more. I have a really positive project to work on AND my tendon is sufficiently better that I'm running again. Other things... are still a work in progress.

#250 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2014, 09:58 AM:

#246: the invisible one

And yet she has no problem causing you pain when she can so easily not cause it?

Sadly, it doesn't work like that for her. She wakes up each morning with fewer spoons than most of us, spending her energy maintaining fictions of who she really is and how people really see her.

From her POV, she's put energy into finding a safe way to buy into the minimal relationship that I allow, and now she's frequently reminded by the webcam that I'm going to be flouncing off. What a waste of her effort! Better do a preliminary strike and write me off.

That was yesterday. This morning we touched base briefly. She'd found her loving place for me, all smiles and affection.

I'm sure she'd live there more if she had a clue as to how.

#251 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2014, 10:49 AM:

#250, Jeanie:

Ah. From your description in #244 I saw only that she caused you pain then seemed to not notice at all that she'd done anything wrong.

#252 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2014, 11:09 AM:

251: the invisible one

She was fleeing the area, responding to a trigger.

That's the weird thing about triggers. We can tell when they've happened, can learn to watch where they're apt to sandbag us, can guess where others' are...but.

Speaking of which, how's it going for you?

#253 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2014, 02:34 PM:

Re: my upcoming eviction @208:

I took the landlord's notice to the tenant advocacy agency because it looked...odd. The landlord has gone back on his word of giving us til September, and plans to take over the utilities July 31st, move in August 1st and charge us $20/head/night to stay because he thinks we will magically transform into B&B customers. This idea turns out to be not only extremely stupid but very laughably illegal.

There are many things wrong with this, even at first glance. One, he's going back on his word. Two, this is extremely weird and worded unclearly. Three, he will only make $1000 from me and Partner this way, while having to pay up to $300 of utilities for the month even if we don't intentionally abuse the showers, laundry, and A/C. Four, it says nothing about which room and bathroom he intends to use, whether we can use the kitchen, what happens to our possessions, etc. Five, he doesn't seem to realize that landlords and tenants do NOT share kitchens and bathrooms, so it would remove all *his* legal protections from *us*.

So I took it to the tenant advocates who nearly bust a gut laughing at it, and said:

(1) Don't tell him until you have to, but this notice isn't legally valid. Nowhere near. Here is a copy of the form that he needed to use or mimic. The key point to avoid telling him is that he needed to include a list of your legal rights, because that is required but most landlords forget to include it.

(2) If you want to, fight it. If he takes this to the Landlord and Tenant Board they may laugh him out of the room. There is also the question of what he intends to do with the property and how soon. Is this going to be a fully licensed B&B? Is he likely to try and rent the place out for many hundreds more a month than you are paying in short order? (Myself, I think it would be an underground AirBnB setup, and that after a while he might realize that he's still not making enough money but could get $our_rent +$xxx / month, and do that, without realizing that legally we can get him in deep shit for it, see point 7.) If we could afford the place and were willing to cope with the landlord long-term, we surely would fight it, because it's a nice house in a nice neighbourhood at a good price, but we don't want to rely on a roommate anymore if we can find a place that fits us.

(3) If you want to move (we do, once we find a good place and not during the school year, now that the landlord has swung, because oh god would *you* want to deal with this creep?), then keep quiet as long as possible. Ideally, hand *him* proper legal notice before he knows anything is wrong, explain his notice is not valid so he will have to start over and legally we can stay until ____, but we will be happy to move out by ____ instead if he pays for the movers to pack and truck everything. And oh by the way about our deposit…

(4) Make sure that we get all of our last month's rent deposit + legally required interest properly applied or repaid to us. Hand him a copy of the law and the calculations involved.

(5) If we took this to the board and they ruled in our favour (reasonably likely), we might get away with only 10 days notice to leave instead of 60, because the landlord wants to evict us but screwed up his paperwork. This could cause him financial havoc where we have kept cover by paying for a full month and can demand part or all of the money back, because he will have received both deposit and rent, which legally cannot be used for anything but last month's rent and its allowable increase over time.

(6) If it gets down to the wire, and the landlord tries to move in, he will have screwed up *massively*. He can't just give notice -- if I understand this correctly, he has to file with the Board, swear an affidavit, wait for a hearing, get a favourable result, and THEN he would get an eviction order. The only person allowed to force us out or change the locks is the Sheriff, and that requires going through the whole rigamarole with the Board. The landlord cannot recover possession while we are still legally tenants, and tenancy renews automatically unless *validly* terminated. If the landlord enters except under a very few circumstances, none of which resemble him attempting to occupy, it is a violation of the local tenant law and the tenancy agreement. I should consult again on this one once we know our own status better, but probably the best thing to do is in the second half of July, give the landlord a letter saying that we have consulted with ____ and according to them his notice of termination is invalid, we do NOT consent to his entering our unit, entry except as outlined in Tenant Law Clauses ____ is a violation of our due privacy under Tenant Law, any attempt at occupation while we retain tenancy is a violation of Tenant Law Clauses ____, and that if he violates our tenancy we will notify the Board. Hopefully we could combine this with points 3 and 4 where he has to be grateful to us -- superficially at least -- that we helped him avoid breaking the law instead of failing to stop him doing it and then nailing him for it, and to get rid of us dangerously knowledgeable people sooner he would pay our moving costs or give us a free month or something. I have no idea why the landlord is changing terms like this, but if it is because he plans to rent out the basement apartment he's currently living in, well, too bad you twit for not doing your research, have fun couch-surfing.

(7) If up to 1 year after move-out we discover we were forced out so that he could get new tenants in order to jack up the rent, that's illegal too, and we can take it to the Board. This I think he might do primarily by accident, but if it comes before the Board I *will* discuss how he has been concerned since early on that he was not charging us enough rent, was continually coming up with new ideas for how to generate more income from the property, and while he may have not violated the law deliberately, that he certainly did intend to generate more income after having made a bad decision about the rent he was willing to accept, and we were not able to feel secure as tenants during our tenancy.

Now to do something fun: call powdercoating companies and buy phosphoric acid.

#254 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2014, 07:58 PM:

#252, Jeanie:

I don't know. I've been thinking off an on all day about your question, because "I'm fine" is the public answer, always, but this isn't really a place for that sort of answer, is it?

Usually I only post when there's something I feel the need to talk through and maybe be heard about. I don't have anything like that right now.

So, um. Periodically thinking through how it would play out if Crappy Ex showed up at the martial arts school, then trying to shut that down as soon as I notice it winding me up. Because he's not a student. He's not going to walk in, therefore I don't need to practice responses to it. Otherwise, slogging through a case of "what's the point" that's going on about two weeks long now. The people at my martial arts classes and volunteer thing probably haven't noticed; I have enough energy to keep up appearances there. One person in the writing group noticed that I seemed tired and not my usual cheerful self earlier this week. I let them think their assumption was correct and I was tired.

I guess the answer is, I'm slogging.

#255 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2014, 08:39 PM:

invisible one -

There's a lot to be said for slogging. It gives you quiet time to process while moving you forward.

Put your head down and keep at it (as appropriate).

And thanks for the update.

#256 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2014, 09:04 PM:

I don't feel like I'm moving forward. (Especially with not looking at the job boards at all this week.) Not sure what will break the inertia. Maybe slogging is the wrong word. Mired?

#257 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2014, 10:52 PM:

I need a second opinion.

A couple of things came to my attention today, both on depression. One was a list of symptoms, most of which I have. I've been on antidepressants before and didn't want to be on them again, because they not only take away the lows but also the highs. Except I've come to realize, I don't have any highs right now. I have no energy, I'm in constant low grade pain, and I'm finding myself getting more and more pessimistic about everything. I can't stay focused. I'm not meeting my commitments. There are things I will very much regret if I don't get them done. It's gotten worse in the last few days. And when visiting some of my favorite people doesn't give me the usual fizzy highs, I think it's time to throw meds at this.

#258 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2014, 11:50 PM:

Quietly Learning To Be Loud, I'd say, yes, when the highs are gone, you may well need something to haul you out of your lows. You know your medical history better than I do, but I'll mention that, for me, Wellbutrin does not shut off the highs. It's not an SSRI - it works on norepinephrine instead, and it's noted for stimulant effects.

I'm bipolar. I actually can't take it unless it's in conjunction with mood stabilizers, But it's certainly worth asking about.

Speaking of neurotransmitters, does anyone have information to share on the link between them and intestinal health? The first doctor's appointment I was able to get is for June 4. With the HUGE LIFELINE my parents are providing of the Condo Where I Belong, my depression has lifted from "crippling" to merely "brainweasels" (trying not to flip over to hypomania with the SO MANY DETAILS involved in moving), but my gut has been acting like it's made of pure evil. I had that over the winter, too. It eased up for a while, but it's back. It's not exactly conducive to getting things done.

The emotional situation with BFF is pretty good, though. A few hours after her initial angry reaction to the news that we were going with the 2br place (offer accepted! inspection probably this week!) she texted me, "For the record, I don't hate you. But I'm very, very angry at you. And I may be angry for a while." I told her I kind of expected her to be angry and I'd be angry in her place. But once she said that, we were fine to talk about the disposition of the microwave, and a/c units, and no, really, the pint glass from Free Comic Book Day is mine because I bought a Sandman trade on purpose to get the pint glass but pretty much all the other ones are yours. Also we're still planning road trips and excursions together - we might not get to King's Dominion this summer, but we are definitely planning on going to the servant-themed tour at the Newport mansions.

And she said "hey, maybe in a few years, Kid will move out and I might move in."

So it's much, much better than it was.

Meanwhile I signed up for a digital subscription to the local paper (NEWSPAPER OF MY CHILDHOOD), and have been poking around the website for local community activism, through which I've discovered some fantastic resources.

My parents realize what a freaking mess I am, and they're HELPING. In a way that's genuinely helpful, not hlepy.

I'm beyond grateful.

#259 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 12:13 AM:

invisible one @ 256

"Rutting?" (I'm hellping!)

I feel much the same. Winter always knocks me down and I don't really realize how much until spring hits and I have my energy back and start getting things done. Yay for early heat waves!

Do you know what replenishes you? Can you bask in that for a while, secure in the guilt-free knowledge that it will make you more effective when you do get around to Doing Productivity?

#260 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 12:13 AM:

Quietly Learning to be Loud: it does sound like it's time to hit it with the big guns. :( I completely understand the desire to not be on antidepressants; I took myself off them the first time (before I started seeing my psychiatrist) because I so detested the idea of being on them. But they're a lifeline when your brain chemistry is refusing to cooperate with the demands of, say, being able to enjoy any aspect of life. My two cents is 'if you're asking the question, the answer is yes.' (my mantra when I'm debating taking my migraine meds)

Regarding antidepressants, my own experience is that Cipralex (brand name, not generic) and Effexor (generic) help me manage the lows without taking away the highs. YMMV, of course. Though Cipralex (brand name) is frickin' expensive, not to mention not covered by my medical plan. (which is why I was *so* grateful when my psychiatrist switched me to Effexor and it worked...) I specify brand name because when I tried a generic it gave me hallucinations. :( Not fun. :(

protecting others privacy: So glad things are looking up. And SO glad your parents are being genuinely helpful!!!

the invisible one: Hearing and witnessing. Sympathies.

#261 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 12:45 AM:

dcb @249, hurrah for those things that are better :)

Bodhisvaha @253, wow, that is fantastically complex. Haha your landlord ha, is kind of how I feel.

protecting others' privacy @258, :)

Today I was at a grocery store with the parents and I grabbed some fancy chocolate bars for a gift for my aunt, and one for myself. I asked my parents if it seemed like an ok gift (they were like yeah, sure? it did in fact go over very well, so that's not a problem) and THEN my mom asked if I was getting some to share with everyone else. And I was like …?! What?! No! I am *buying a gift for someone* and also a treat for myself and what?! But then I also asked, what is this trigger that I have hit? and apparently it's a food scarcity thing? And the thing for me to have done would have been to bring an extra chocolate bar and say "mama, do you want to put this in your cart to buy for yourself?" and she would say "yes, thank you" and put it in her cart. But initially it came across as though I were expected to buy chocolate for everyone outright. Or for her outright.

There is a related thing from the past: she expects me to make enough food to share when I am cooking in the house with ingredients that the family paid for. If I were simply a guest in the house this would make sense I *guess*, but this started before I was 18 and the house felt like, well, *my* house too.

It's possible that I am being somewhat insufficiently considerate of her but also it feels like she's being amazingly super entitled.

#262 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 01:35 AM:

#259, KayTei:

The weird thing is, the past two weeks the weather has been gorgeous. I can't blame bad weather, it's been sunny and warm for the most part.

I'll need to find something that reliably replenishes when I'm feeling particularly down. Normally, getting out of the house and doing my exercise is enough to give me momentum for more things, but right now it's barely enough to keep me able to continue to do my exercise and no more. I'm doing my weekly volunteer commitment and my martial arts classes and running, but outside of those things there isn't much happening. Entire weeks disappear. Even a project that a month ago I was enthusiastic about, I'm lucky if I look at it once a week right now, and it's so close to being finished. I want to finish it so I can enjoy what I made, and so I can go to the next project and enjoy that too...

"What's the point" stops me from doing stuff that might possibly help. I can go for my run because the point is that I'm trying to run faster and farther. I haven't gone for a walk in any of the lovely parks around where I live because what's the point? Then even if I think maybe I should go anyway, next thing I know it's almost dinnertime. I'll ride my bike over an hour each way to get to a volunteer thing, even one I decided that morning to do just to get myself out of the house, but I won't walk two blocks to a park. (sigh.)

And both of my casual volunteer things don't have anything to sign up for this weekend, because it's a holiday weekend and everybody except me has plans.

#263 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 02:59 AM:

invisible one @ 262

Yeah, I meant the sun thing as an example of something that replenishes me (my reptilian genes insist on excessive warmth for most types of advanced functioning). Individual mileage legitimately varies.

Without wanting to tell you how to be, I do want to note that that kind of pattern is one of the things that reliably drives me to the doctor to get my depression objectively assessed and under control. Not a diagnosis, just an observation based on my own experience.

Anyway, I hear how frustrating that is. I hope it clears up for you soon.

#264 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 07:23 AM:

For the AD subthread, I'll point out that if the antidepressants are taking away highs as well as lows, that is a problem with the medication, where it's having only a partial effect. Most likely it just needs a change in dosage, but if you can't find a working dose between the various "not working" conditions (depression unaffected, numb affect as above, unacceptable side effects, etc.), then you try another drug.

Any competent psychopharmacologist will recognize problems of this sort, and can work with you to find a regimen that does work. The catch is that trying a series of different dosages and medications can range from uncomfortable to hellish -- partly because "they're not working yet", partly because side-effects are worst when changing the meds.

Expanding on that last: My experience was that for all the meds I tried -- mostly SSRIs or semi-SSRIs -- the severity of side effects was directly proportional to the inferred changes in blood levels of the drug. That includes the normal variation between doses: Prozac (very slow drug metabolism) had the least side-effects after I'd reached a stable blood level, but I had to give up almost immediately on Zoloft (very quick drug metabolism, what stable blood level?).

#265 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 10:18 AM:

The invisible one, my gmail is my username. If you would like an assignment, please go to a pretty park and take six pictures, one for each color of the rainbow. If you would not like an assignment, you need do nothing. I do the same thing with walking and needing a reason-- everything needs a reason except doing nothing.

#266 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 10:49 AM:

Update re: Mother Unit operant conditioning

Casually slipped into other chitchat in an email from her:

I was expecting yesterday morning to see the rest of your video you started Thursday when I had slipped out to the kitchen to get my hot drink and was coming right back (like we both often do when Skyping) but you had stopped the video. I hope to see the rest of it when you have time.

Yes, we do move around, but we ALWAYS let the other know, at minimum with "hang on a sec".

This is as close to an apology as she gets. I'll accept it as such.


I love having the rainbow photo agenda for the walk in the park. Even if I would get there and think, "nah, I'd rather focus (ha) on the ducks" it's gotten me out the door.

#267 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 12:43 PM:

#263, KayTei: Needing sun is common. You're not the first to mention that to me. I've actually wondered a couple of times if not getting out to enjoy the nice weather makes me feel *worse*. It's sunny, why am I not out doing something instead of hiding in my cave-with-huge-windows looking out at the blue sky?

That and not getting out when I'm perfectly capable of it (evidence being the volunteer and exercise that I do manage to get out and do) leads to me feeling like I'm just not trying. Cue the scripts about not trying, not wanting to feel better, doing it to myself, lazy, etc.

If I had a doctor I could trust with the subject, speaking with them would probably be a good idea. I don't currently have a therapist and can't afford the multiple appointments it would take to determine whether I can trust them, and my GP demonstrated back in November that I can't trust her with that subject. (And finding a new GP is hard, most aren't taking new patients, so I'm staying with her for physical problems.)

#265, Diatryma:

Um, wow. I think I'll have to try that. Because before I'd even finished reading your assignment I was crying. Not entirely sure why. "Finally, something to do!" is a candidate, but that doesn't make sense to me because I have lots of things to do, many of which are things I normally enjoy and which I want to do.

#268 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 01:06 PM:

#267 ::: the invisible one

Please ignore if helpy, but I find that beating up on myself for symptoms of depression does not help.

I have trouble getting out the door, too. It isn't agoraphobia-- I don't have problems with being out of doors. It's some combination of disorganization and inertia.

I mentioned it to my therapist, who said that a lot of people have trouble getting out the door. This is mildly reassuring, but I'm concerned that both my ability to get out the door and my willingness to travel even fairly short distances have declined.


#269 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 02:38 PM:

#268, Nancy Lebovitz: I know beating myself up doesn't help. Jerkbrain does it anyway. I try to cut it off; sometimes that works, sometimes not.

Inertia is part of it. Sometimes inertia dominates and no matter how much I enjoy something I just can't seem to get started on it. One of the things I've seen multiple times for running advice for people who can't seem to work up the motivation to actually do the runs is for them to get dressed in their running clothes, lace up their sneakers, and go stand just outside their closed front door -- with permission to turn around and go back inside once they've done that. Apparently a lot of people get to the front step and figure, well, I'm here already, might as well run. It's funny and strange how sometimes something silly like that works.

I have some fabric pinned together; running it through the sewing machine would take a minute, tops. It's been sitting there for days, waiting for me to sit down and turn the sewing machine on.

How far I'm willing to travel is highly variable... for some things, over an hour is no problem, for others, 20 minutes is "too far". I think it depends on what's on the other end of the travel.

#270 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 05:41 PM:

The invisible one, I hope the assignment helps. The emotional reaction might be relief, might be that oh hey someone is helping, I don't know. But I really understand the inertia. I have trained myself to evaluate the amount of time things will take and to try to 'just' do whatever small task I am thinking of if it will take less time than going to the bathroom, but that's training. Things like HabitRPG give me a bit of guilt-motivation and accountability and have been working well for me, but they're not for everyone.

It's okay. You're okay. You can change your habits; it will take work because it always takes work. You don't have to do the work if you don't want to. You're okay.

#271 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 06:01 PM:

I don't know if it'll help break the inertia, but it did get me to take a walk in the park while paying attention to what was around me, and that was nice. I also spent some time standing still listening to the creek and at least four different bird calls (though the only one I could name was the crow). And now I have some pictures of flowers, plus one early berry for "red".

#272 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 07:06 PM:

Thanks for the reassurance on antidepressants. I figured the answer was yes, but I needed to hear it. I was having an attack of "I'm not that bad off", which is not my normal convincer strategy. I'm more of a "I'm not alone in this" person. But when I found myself not taking a bath for three days, because inertia, my relative "badness" became irrelevant. I needed to hear I am not alone. And I did. Thank you.

Brain chemistry out of balance is making it more difficult to deal with other things I'm trying to improve in my life. So brain chemistry gets outside support, I get other things going, then address balancing brain chemistry again.

I've used wellbutrin and I like it, in part because it acts immediately. I've just been reluctant to use it all the time because I read that long term use is hard on the liver. Then again, depression probably isn't so good on the liver either.

Dave Harmon @264
I'm a highly sensitive person (, and in talking with other hspersons, the losing of the really high highs is not uncommon.

#273 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 07:29 PM:

Quietly Learning To Be Loud, I can't speak to long-term liver damage, but it sounds like you're taking a reasonable cost/benefit approach.

I'm also highly-sensitive (probably; reading Raising Your Spirited Child was like reading about myself) and for me, losing the highest highs is a feature, because bipolar. Generally I've had euphoric hypomania, not the rage-y or seriously delusional kind, but even that kind is subject to the "It seemed like a good idea at the time" epic incidents of Bad Decision Theater.

#274 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 08:15 PM:

Quietly Learning To Be Loud: For another data point, I'm an HSP as well, and somehow have avoided the high-depleting side effect of antidepressants.

So glad you're able to convince yourself to get brain-chemistry help.

#275 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 08:20 PM:

the invisible one: I love your sense of composition, especially in yellow and purple. :) (park photos)

#276 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 09:17 PM:

Quietly Learning to be Loud @ 257

A bit late, but I have that reaction to most antidepressants - the first time I went on, I went back in a few months later because I realized I was having trouble paying bills ("I mean, because yeah, everything will get done eventually, maybe... I should probably get around to that someday, it's probably important").

Two points - one is, I now go on antidepressants when the depression is worse than the consequences. Once I'm better, I go back off, so I can be sharp and attentive. I warn them that this is my intent up front when I go on the medication and because I have tended to cycle between major depressive episodes and am stable the rest of the time, my doctors are generally supportive of this approach.

Two is, I've been through a number of medications. Some had scary side effects, some evened my emotions out into an impenetrable blandness, and the last one seems to have worked remarkably well, though again, when I went off it I was more productive and better able to correct some of the negative situations I'm in. (I need to get a new job. My managers have become unacceptably punitive, which is ironic as they originally were intended to replace the manager who was so unacceptably punitive that her entire staff whistleblew through as many different avenues as were available.)

#277 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 09:37 PM:

Going back to the "I don't know what I want" subthread, it occurred to me that one thing that's always been helpful to me is to think of some place that makes me feel good. I'm a mountain person—I worked four summers at a summer camp, and when I visited there last summer it was one of those days that just made me happy, because the mountains make me happy. (I'm a mom of small kids; it's sometimes hard to think in terms of "I want" as well.)

So—sometimes, I just want a day in the mountains. And that's something I can do. And then I don't have to worry about what I want for a while.

#278 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 09:51 PM:

#275, Chickadee: thanks :)

#279 ::: Green Ink ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 10:56 PM:

Quietly Learning to Be Loud: I've been on wellbutrin for seven or eight years (at the 300 mg/day highest standard dose), and my liver is doing fine so far. I don't think this is just optimism: my doctor does periodic blood tests.

[New pseudonymous handle, thanks Abi.]

#280 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 11:48 PM:

The invisible one, I hope the park helped. I really like the early berry-- it looks so babyish!

#281 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2014, 07:58 AM:

@Quietly Learning: Definitely find out what works for you. Zoloft did nothing for me, but Effexxor makes me feel like I imagine normal people do. (I can be calm without being numb! For really real!)

This took me a long time to accept, but "better living through chemistry" is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. After all, if I had diabetes, I wouldn't be "weak" for needing insulin shots--how is this any different?

@hope in disguise: I'd go for "entitled parents" moreso than "insufficiently considerate." But that may just be because my parents kept pulling the "you should be grateful" card.

I am glad to see that other people are also treating Jerkbrain as "somebody else" in the sense that this isn't the way YOU want to act. I've caught myself telling my brain, out loud, not to do something. Especially when it does this:
"Scumbag Brain" image

It's nice to know I'm not the only one. :)

#282 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2014, 08:07 PM:

It continues to astonish me how NOT-dysfunctional my parents are acting, in contrast to what I keep dreading and fearing whenever we interact.

Of course, this probably has a lot to do with me cooperating in their grand-scheme plan instead of balking. I'm being a Good and Grateful Daughter Who's Accepting Their Well-Intentioned Help instead of Acting Against My Better Interests. But as I really DO need the help, and their grand-scheme plan actually takes into account things that are important to me, this is a bargain I can live with and a role I can accept.

But on the surprisingly-functional front: so, it was acknowledged from the start that Kid and I would need household startup funds from them, for furniture and household whatnots and moving expenses and all. My dad is by habit kind of tight with a buck. Not in a terrible way, usually, but sometimes he gets hung up on proportionally small amounts and balks at what is in truth a reasonable outlay. My mother is a counterweighting force on that who will say "quit dithering over $AMOUNT, just GET it already."

On a macro scale I was afraid for a few hours that this might lose us the condo. My dad offered the amount under the asking price that our realtor (buyer's agent) suggested, and was told to make a second offer. So he raised it but still under asking. My mom told me that he was making noises like that was his final offer, and I panicked a little, because asking price was still under the cap they'd told me and basically everywhere else I'd looked at was More Expensive And Farther From The T, so aack, why not go to asking price if they wanted a third offer? My mother agreed with me but said "your dad's being stubborn." Luckily it was moot, and the second offer was accepted.

Which brought us back to the furniture budget. We'd gone over in general the sorts of things needed - sofa (last one I owned was fairly decrepit by the time I discarded it in the last move), TV (have been using BFF's for years), new bedroom stuff for Kid (who wants to go back to a twin bed & ditch the current vintage double, for space reasons), miscellaneous shelving and equipment, you get the idea. I had also outlined things we *wouldn't* need to buy because we already had them. My folks said "work up a budget." My mom said "I think we ought to give you the difference between our offer and the asking price but I don't know if your dad is on board with that."

Working in consultation with Kid, I mucked around the IKEA and Target websites and started running the numbers. I cautioned Kid not to go nuts, and pointed out that if we kept the numbers lower it'd be easier to make a much-coveted dress form part of the deal. I was pretty proud of myself for bringing in the numbers at about half my mom's suggestion. I was prepared to pull it back, too, and willing to take my chances with Craigslist and Freecycle, but I also know my mother feels sketchier about secondhand stuff than I do.

So I send off a breakdown. Not fully itemized - I know that there's such a thing as Too Much Detail, and I knew if I started getting down to the level of "$8.49 to replace Baby Whisk which belongs to BFF but which I've discovered I can't live without," their heads would explode. But links to the large IKEA pieces, and categories.

My dad comes back with "Could you use a 20" tube TV? We have a spare."

My panic reaction is "oh god he's going to refuse to pay for a new TV after all even though we talked about it." I came back saying "no, not really, Kid wants to connect it to laptop via HDMI, and a 32" LED TV is only $AMOUNT, so if it's that much of a problem I can trim the Incidentals by $AMOUNT, but I don't want a CRT TV even if someone else is carrying it up the stairs."

Amazingly, the answer I got was not stubbornness of We Have A Perfectly Functional TV Here And You Will Take It, but "Just thought I'd check," and a mention of how he'd scored some nearly-new window AC units from a friend who'd converted to central air, so that was one expense off the list. And a second answer from my mother reassuring me that I was *not* being extravagant and that my budget seemed very reasonable.

Side note: my parents share an email account too. While they're both over 70, I cannot blame this on technophobia, as my dad's been working in computers since about 1962. And it's a gmail account, so it's not like having another would be a problem. They have a second email account under their own domain name which has something to do with how their ISP works at their not-vacation house, I don't know the details. Both accounts use my dad's name, but at least half the time it's my mom writing. And neither of them consistently signs their messages. I have to guess from context and tone, or sometimes in the middle of a disagreement I'll get a message that says "This is Other Parent and I think Disagreeing Parent is being unreasonable and I'll try to argue your case, but no guarantees." It is WEIRD AS FUCK and I have no idea why they don't just use one account each and cc each other. It's like being on the phone with them and not knowing if they're each on an extension or one of them has gone off to do something else. Which is also a thing that happens.

I guess we're on the same part of the functional/dysfunctional continuum as an older car, where it pretty much starts every day and gets you from point A to point B, but a lot of the accessory gadgets have quit working, and occasionally some vital part will need fixing. It's not Missing Stair territory yet - you can drive a car perfectly reasonably even if the interior trunk-release button has quit and you have to manually unlock the trunk when you want it, and it's not *dangerous* like a Missing Stair - but someone who's used to a working trunk release would be within their rights to mutter and grumble about a simple and useful feature not working right.

But mostly right now I'm super grateful that they've signed off on my proposed budget and that I'll get to have Nice Things.

BFF has decided to stay at Homeowner's at least for the time being, for financial advantage and also because Homeowner's house is a more conducive environment than a studio apartment to adopting a trainee guide dog puppy, which is a thing BFF has long desired to do. The murals that BFF painted in her room also probably figured in - they're based on the graphic design of the current Hawkeye comic, and Matt Fraction is aware of them and has spread the pictures through HIS social media. Homeowner and BFF actually discussed finances for the continued cohabitation in a civil and agreeable fashion today. Yay. And Homeowner is being generous about letting me waltz off with various bits of furniture, which is also helpful. We're operating on the principle of "even if it started as mine, if you're the one currently using it, you might as well keep using it, and it'll even itself out." So Homeowner gets to keep some of my bookshelves that went into common areas or her bedroom, and I get to nab a vintage trunk to use as a coffee table, and a bentwood coat tree to make up for my impending lack of coat closet, and so on.

BFF was pleased to hear that the only food I really intended to take with me was my baking supplies and spice collection, and that I also planned to acquire and fill replacement canisters for all-purpose flour, bread flour, and sugar. BFF doesn't bake to the extent that I do, so she won't miss the less-common ingredients. We're mostly avoiding acrimony over Whose Thing Is Whose - a lot of this is because I'm willing to say, "Well, I paid for it initially, but you use it more, so keep it," but she's meeting me halfway. Like the Chinese rice bowls. They're our favorite size, and at this point we've each bought some, and each broken some and replaced them, and she's not contesting my title as long as some more come into the house, where she and Homeowner will probably split the costs.

This may sound like a braindump over minutiae, but it's just such a relief to be AGREEING on things like "yeah, I was figuring I'd leave the over-the-toilet shelf unit here for you even though I bought it, but I'm taking the wire shower caddy rack, because all of the stuff on it is mine anyway," instead of getting attitude like "anything that you bought FOR here needs to STAY here."

#283 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2014, 08:35 PM:

the invisible one, #267: Pretty flowers indeed! If you like the idea of having an "assignment" to get you out of the house and walking in the pretty weather, here's one that's a little more open-ended. Every day (or every day that the weather is nice), take a picture of something interesting in your neighborhood. It can be a flower in the park, or a house with unusual architecture, or an art car parked on the street, or a poster for a band performance, or, well, anything! Post them as a set, so that other people can see what's interesting in your area.

Quietly Learning, #272: Funny you should mention inertia and baths. I was the kid who hated baths growing up, and I've never totally lost that feeling. Switching to showers helped a lot, but even now I have a lot of inertia about actually getting ready to take a shower. Once I'm in the shower it's no problem, but I can procrastinate for hours about getting undressed, my hair clipped up, and my shower cap on. (I don't need to wash my hair every day, and I don't like getting it wet if it doesn't need washing.)

#284 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2014, 11:23 PM:

protecting others' privacy: Yeah, it's weird when all of the opposition vanishes, like losing your balance in a tug of war when the other side just falls over. I hope your condo adventure continues smoothly.

#285 ::: Type A Toad ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2014, 11:40 PM:

Quietly Learning To Be Loud": I have so much inertia that I will continue to poke randomly about the internet for hours after I realize that I have to go pee. It's not like the internet won't be there when I get back and I wasn't even focused on doing anything specific. It's just that I was sitting down and it would take effort to get up and go to the bathroom and I just couldn't be bothered or work up the energy to go.

Lee @283: Oh man, the showers thing. My parents used to have the worst time getting me into the shower and then once I was in there, they had the worst time getting me to come out. I eventually had to be put on a timer for how long I was allowed to stay in the shower so other people would have hot water left.

I'm at my parent's place for a few days of visit and I'm beginning to be able to put descriptions to specific things in our relationship that drive me nuts. One is that I feel like I'm not allowed to be myself around them: not allowed to express opinions or have preferences or even to refuse a blanket if I'm not cold. I mean, there's the illusion of choice - they'll ask where I want to go out to dinner or what I'd like to do, but I have the strong unspoken understanding that I'm supposed to say 'oh, whatever you want is fine with me' and I can't seem to break myself of that. And yes, I did state outright that I didn't want the damn blanket about three times and still ended up with it over my feet.

The second is that they don't do introversion. I'm probably HSP and my dad has the TV on All The Time. My mother doesn't understand that nose-in-book means that I'm not actually interested in a conversation so she will just sit down and talk at me. If she's in proximity with someone (not just me), she's having a conversation with or at them. I suspect that in general they don't have much ability to gauge the mood of anyone outside themselves and I overcompensate by constantly paying attention to what other people want to the exclusion of what I might want.

Also, my brother and his girlfriend have just moved out of my parent's place into a place of their own and they have basically nothing, it being their first place together. My parents keep offering them things and they keep refusing and I can see something oh-so-similar to that dynamic that I have too. And there again, refusal doesn't work - it's just easier to take the stuff and use (or hide, or get rid of) the things given because they will continue to be offered until accepted. This isn't an 'offer a few times out of politeness until refused'. This is 'field the offer time and time and time again because their interest in giving you this thing outweighs whether or not you actually want the thing'.

All in all, being able to name and describe some of the dysfunctional dynamics is helping turn a general stress-fest into more of an anthropological exploration - things don't drive me as quiet as crazy if part of me is standing outside going 'huh, ok, that's really actually a pretty shitty dynamic, oh look at me talking to myself in adverbs again'. My therapist (a new one! that I really like!) and I are going to have a great deal of discussion coming soon.

#286 ::: Anon Amos ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2014, 01:20 AM:

GAAAAHHHH BATHS. What the hell is up with that? There are times when I'm well into "fans you don't want to get too close to" territory, and I can't figure out how to shift it.

#287 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2014, 10:41 AM:

Type A Toad @285: Wow, your mom's even worse than mine! I finally managed to start enforcing the "no I don't want it you don't get to make me take it" boundary a few years after I moved out. And getting her to acknowledge she's doing unwanted things (sometimes) when I visit. And the TV thing - that drives me UP THE WALL. With my parents it's the radio, so there's at least not the visual stimulation, but - blessed silence in my own home!!! (I'm also also HSP) Also: Glad you found a therapist you like!!! So important.

Unrelated happy thing: GARDEN!!! :):):):):)

I've discovered that for me at least, gardening is one of those things that, given a sufficient baseline level of spoons, is incredibly spoon-regenerating. We're fortunate to have landlords who encourage people to plant right in the ground - we live in a ground-level suite in a three-storey building, in a large complex of three-storey buildings - and even have a contest each summer for the tenant with the best garden! I'm not gunning for the prize, mind you. Just my own joy. :)

Last year, I grew a butternut squash big enough that we nicknamed it Audrey (Little Shop of Horrors), and our neighbour posted a Day of the Triffids movie poster next to it. *g* Yes, I'm still incredibly proud of it. :)

But, yeah - garden. Makes me so very, very happy. :) I told one of my parish priests (the gardener of the group) that I was "ridiculously happy" about having a garden, and he looked at me with his trademark Look and said "Of course you're happy! It's *life!*" Suddenly it made so much sense to me. Life and growth and joy all in one place. :)

Forgive the babbling. I just got the last of it in yesterday (and I'm far enough north that I was living dangerously in starting before the May long weekend...) and I'm still bouncing around telling everyone. :)

#288 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2014, 11:40 AM:

#280, Diatryma: thanks, both for the comment and for the suggestion to go to the park. It remains to be seen if it's actually shaken me loose of the inertia, but I did get some stuff done yesterday that had been stuck. Between the rainbow photo assignment and talking about being mired, I seem to have upgraded from "mired in quicksand" to "slogging through mud".

#281, The_L: finding out you're not the only one is one of the strengths of this community, along with finding out that thing that you thought made you a freak is an actual Thing, with a Name, and there are ways to deal with it.

#283, Lee: That would probably be a good idea. I'll likely not do much in the way of posters due to anonymity not being compatible with printed venue names, but "interesting things", yeah. I'll just have to remind myself that it only has to be interesting to me. (That's the hardest part, I find; I often won't show or tell something because I don't think anybody else will be interested. Sometimes that extends to even taking pictures at all. I went to a different park yesterday, but took exactly zero pictures.)

#287, Chickadee: Oh, gardens. On the one hand I wish I had more than a (large, but still) balcony, because I like having growing things. On the other hand, baseline level of spoons. My garden is still a mess from last year, in which I grew a few climbing beans, some lettuce, and two tomato plants, and left my other planter boxes unplanted. I remain doubtful about my ability to actually maintain a yard, when I struggle with maintaining a balcony. I bought a pair of tomato plants from the farm market this weekend, which means I have to at minimum clean out my tomato planter of last year's dead plants some time soon, or I'll have wasted $10. I think I need to replace the landscape fabric before I can plant new tomato plants though (time) and I probably need to buy new planter box soil for it as well (time, money). Last year's tomato plants didn't do well, and the garden centre said they were overwatered, so I think the landscape fabric lining the planter got blinded and isn't letting the water drain.

#289 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2014, 01:57 PM:

Type A Toad, #285: Gah. The "TV on all the time" thing drives me nuts too, and I'm not (AFAICT) HSP. But for me, the TV is only on if I'm actively watching something -- if I want background noise, I put on music. Someone once explained this as being (for the people who do it) the equivalent of having a fire in the fireplace, which makes it a little easier for me to understand but not to endure. And I still have to fight against my own perception that having the TV on when you have company over (unless it's something you're watching together) is rude, and indicates that you'd rather be watching the goddamn idiot box than talking to the people who are right there in the same room with you.

My reaction to the blanket thing would be to let them do it and then kick it off after they left the room. But this is a general tactic I only figured out about 10 years ago, when I finally realized that for some people, the offering of food and drink to a guest is a Serious Obligation, and it didn't do me any harm to accept a glass of water and nurse it along, or even just have it sitting on the table next to me. The important thing was that I had it, so they could stop fretting over whether they'd done their hostly duty.

WRT your brother's situation, I would have one of two responses depending on how much fuss I was willing to put into it.

Approach 1: refuse twice; accept it the third time but with the intention of evaluating it as useful or not, and if not, it goes directly to Goodwill and I don't hesitate to tell them that if they ask about it. "Keeping unwanted gifts" is one of the habits that leads to high clutter levels. "We weren't going to use it, and it was just cluttering up the house, so we gave it to charity (or to someone who wanted it)" is a difficult response to argue against.

Approach 2: Treat each new instance of the offer as if it was the first one, and cheerfully refuse, using the exact same words each time. The object here is to make them be the ones to lose their tempers and start arguing about it. This in turn allows you to be the one asking, "Why are you being so UNREASONABLE about this?" :-)

It's also good that being able to step back and analyze the situational dynamics works to reduce the stress load for you. That's a tool which will continue to be useful going forward.

Chickadee, #287: I think I like your neighbor. :-)

#290 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2014, 07:53 PM:

the invisible one @288: (That's the hardest part, I find; I often won't show or tell something because I don't think anybody else will be interested. Sometimes that extends to even taking pictures at all. I went to a different park yesterday, but took exactly zero pictures.)

Here's a back-door mind-judo hack I use for that: assign yourself to take (say, three) pictures that are uninteresting. :-) (You get to decide if aiming the camera at the pavement counts.)

#291 ::: Type A Toad ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2014, 08:59 PM:

Chickadee @287: Your gardening enthusiasm is contagious! Now I want to go out and buy tomato and pepper starts, even knowing perfectly well that I can't even maintain the two pots of herbs on my porch. I love the idea of gardening, but I can't seem to put in the actual work it takes. I've killed so many poor tomato plants over the years.

Lee @289: I have this thing where if there is a TV in my viewing range, I can't not watch it. Not even if I actively dislike what's on. I have an undying hate of televisions in restaurants. I have to pay attention to the moving object at the edge of my vision.

This is the approach I usually take: accept and then do whatever it is I was going to do anyway after their back is turned. I suspect that for my brother, much like myself, it actually has little to do with the desire or lack thereof for the object. It's got something to do with trying desperately to be independent of parental influence. I'm still trying to work it out.

#292 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2014, 09:10 PM:

Type A Toad #291: I have this thing where if there is a TV in my viewing range, I can't not watch it. Not even if I actively dislike what's on. I have an undying hate of televisions in restaurants. I have to pay attention to the moving object at the edge of my vision.

Oh yeah, I'm with you on that.

#293 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2014, 11:17 PM:

#290, Jacque: Uninteresting *to whom*? ;-)

I'll try "interesting to me" for a while, see how that goes. After all, it's not as if I'm trying to gain an audience for this, only a set of reasons to get out of the house and go for a walk. It doesn't have to be interesting to anybody else. Today's photo is raindrops on a flower. It rained this morning and was sunny this afternoon.

#291, Type A Toad: argh, background TV is awful. And restaurants make it so it's impossible to find a seat that doesn't have at least one TV in line of sight. I'm another who can't ignore moving flashing stuff like TVs. (I have turned off a TV in a hotel breakfast area, but I was the only person there at the time.)

#294 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2014, 09:21 AM:

the invisible one @293: Uninteresting *to whom*? ;-)

Yes, exactly! :o)

One of my favorite breakthroughs was when I [did something clever], and thought, "My, that was clever." Then I caught myself having the thought, "Yeah, but [Authority Figure] wouldn't be impressed." I did a double-take, glared at The Thought, and thought to myself, "You know, if I think it's clever, that's damn well good enough. [Authority Figure] isn't even here to render an opinion, and anyway, my opinion carries sufficient authority on what I think is clever. So there!"

It was only after that that I started making any real progress on my artwork.

So yeah!. Like, neener, right?

#295 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2014, 10:27 AM:

My mother and I had a frank discussion today on my health, mutually acknowledging where I am (she started with one feeble attempt at denial). This has been an agenda for almost two years, and today we got there.

Both of us are carrying sorrow. I also have a transcendent peace.

protecting others' privacy -
Beautiful handling of and reporting on dynamics.

I was going to make more individual comments. You're going to have to pull them from the aether, other than a catch-all:

It's a bear to catch ourselves putting more energy into avoiding doing something than just doing it.

I'm a big fan of "pay attention to what you want", "if you can't think what you want, flip it - you'll either be okay with it or what you'd rather do will float up", and "notice and reward yourself for any achievements, however small".

Very much yay, guys.

I'm loving the photos' stuff. How about "take at least one photo of the weather as demonstrated at one remove"? Sparked, obviously, by the invisible one's raindrops on a flower.

#296 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2014, 11:41 AM:

Jeanie, #295: putting more energy into avoiding doing something than just doing it

Oh ghod yes. I struggle with this constantly. At least I've gotten better about bill-paying since I can do most of it online. But with other things I'm supposed to do, I can spend hours... days... weeks... thinking about them and deciding not to do them until later/tomorrow/when I'm feeling better/etc. And then they bite me in the ass.

#297 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2014, 09:58 PM:

I have returned from a successful visit to doctor, prescription in hand for bupropion (wellbutrin generic). I have just return from a finally successful trip getting it filled. It seems my regular pharmacy has it on backorder, with a reply from their shipping department of "we'll get it to you when it comes in." My pharmacist called around and found some at their competitors. When I picked it up, I found that my insurance info had also been transferred so I didn't have to spend time while they typed it all in. Walgreen's. Yay.

Green Ink @279
Good to know

The_L @281
I don't have any issues with better living thru chemistry. I have issues with trying new meds-with-scary-stories-of-scary-side-effects when I'm already short of spoons. Since I have used wellbutrin successfully before, my doctor and I are trying that first. I see her again in three weeks to see how things are going.

protecting others privacy @282
How marvelous. Here's hoping that contines.

Baths: I am usually cat-like in my need for being clean. So lack of bath is a sign of much wrongness. With the warmer weather here, I'm starting to go barefoot. I find I can't get in bed with dirty feet. Even tho I normally take my shower in the morning, I will wash my feet before getting in bed.

Type A Toad @285
I'm that way when trying to get to sleep. Just read one more comment on ML and then I'll set the pad down. Really.

#298 ::: Dash ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2014, 12:19 AM:

It's... been a while.
I've been neglecting to comment here for a variety of reasons. One is inertia- once I stopped coming, I just didn't start up again. Another is that I've found anything referring to the issues causing my depression tends to trigger it. Another is that I feel like nothing's changed, and therefore checking in would be useless- why bother posting an update that's just "my life still sucks, i'm still depressed, see you all in a few days"?
Which is still pretty much the essence of what I'm going to post. But.
I graduated from college on Saturday. I guess I'm supposed to be excited about that, but I've pretty much been in a state of perpetual depression since that evening. Because graduating means living with my mother, with no end in sight. And my school friends aren't around to cheer me up.
And I don't know what to do. I want to leave, but I don't know how. I don't have the skills needed to go get and keep an apartment, getting a job is near-impossible, I don't have a car for transportation, and even without those obstacles I'd still be scared to death of doing anything at all.
I... don't really know what I'm expecting to get out of posting this, except for a few sympathetic ears. But therapy and meds can't stand up to my mother. Nothing can, it seems.
Also, my mother specifically admitted, when my father brought it up sarcastically, that she sees herself as being a martyr for being with my father and myself, because we're so self-centered and she always has to cater to us.
What prompted this? We chose to go to a restaurant we always go to on the trip back home rather than going elsewhere as my mother suggested because we had one mediocre meal there and she didn't want to risk it, and when told there was a 40-45 minute wait, we both expressed a preference for staying and waiting rather than leaving and eating at the few chain restaurants nearby. At which point my mother went berserk because she was STARVING (when she hadn't complained about being particularly hungry once before) and the food would probably be HORRIBLE (it wasn't) and we could've gone to that other place for Mother's Day (which wasn't brought up before and seems like a rather arbitrary connection to make). Yet when we offered to go elsewhere to appease her, she said that no, she'd wait with us, because that's what WE wanted and she always has to do what WE want and then at least TWO of us would be happy.
Yeah, Mom, I'm sure the self-harm wounds and hour-long crying session are just proof that I'm REALLY HAPPY about that decision.
Oh yeah, and there are the minor matters of her yelling at me for not being polite when in the middle of a breakdown, claiming that she'd leave the restaurant because I kept crying (but I thought you were STARVING?), exaggerating the wait time...
My father agreed that she was being ridiculous, at least. Though he found my reaction ridiculous as well.
Dunno what role my father or I play (possibly the same one, we seem to be a group more often than not- "you and your father are so self-centered"), but my mother is definitely Mom the Martyr from the OP.

#299 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2014, 08:06 AM:

Dash @298, reading. Witnessing.

#300 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2014, 08:30 AM:

Dash, that sounds really rough.

#301 ::: Oil-upon-the-waters ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2014, 10:52 AM:


I hope you don't mind if I note something you just mentioned: you graduated on Saturday. Congratulations! Mazel tov!

You know the song "the bear went over mountain"? I know that sometimes I am so exhausted from the climb, that all I can see is the long slog back down and up the next expletive deleted mountain. I forget to admire the view and appreciate just how far I have come. (This is literally as well as figuratively true. Made it to the top of Mt. Whitney and was too tired to even look at the view.) College is a big mountain, and you made it to the summit. And I, random person on the internet, am proud of you.

#302 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2014, 11:38 AM:

The_L @281, apparently my father also thought my mother was being mind-bogglingly entitled and self-centered, and was quite impressed that I asked both "what am I triggering?" and "what is actually wrong with purchasing a *birthday gift* for *another person* and also a treat for myself?" So that makes me feel better!

On treating Jerkbrain as 'somebody else': I've pretty much started treating everything my brain does without consulting my conscious mind as somebody else ("my brain is having feelings and I don't know what to do with them!" [about someone I have a crush on]).

protecting others' privacy @282: huzzah for, among other things, having Nice Things :) and agreeing! and functioning things functioning!

Type A Toad @285: I have so much inertia that I will continue to poke randomly about the internet for hours after I realize that I have to go pee.
I do this as well. I am gradually working up the ability to finish this round of checking for new posts and *close the laptop*.

Also, turning the dysfunction into an anthropological investigation making it more bearable sounds brilliant, if it works for you.

Chickadee @287, garden garden yay! \o/ I've never gotten a chance to do gardening that wasn't on behalf of my mother (ick) but I imagine I would enjoy it a lot.

the invisible one @293: Today's photo is raindrops on a flower. It rained this morning and was sunny this afternoon.
oh that sounds pretty :D

Dash, that sounds awful :( I'm so sorry. I also just graduated from college and am doubtful that I will be able to get a job in order to move out of my parents' house any time soon; my heart goes out to you.

#303 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2014, 12:09 PM:

Quick note (procrastinating! I'm supposed to be marking (ick))

hope in disguise @302: I used to think I *hated* gardening - because I'd only ever been exposed to my parents garden and done gardening on their behalf. Didn't help that their idea of making a garden was stripping of the sod and rototilling the clay underneath. :( But once you do get on your own (can you maybe have a pot of plant(s) for yourself at a friend's house?), don't be surprised if the gardening bug bites. :)

Dash @298: That sounds like an awful situation to be stuck in. :( If you don't mind, though, congratulations on graduating! Given what you've gone through to get that far, that's huge! And finishing a degree is no small accomplishment on its own! - says the sessional (contract university teacher) Hugs if welcome, and sympathies, and please do keep reading and posting. We want to hear from you.

#304 ::: nCnC ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2014, 05:34 PM:

Okay, my turn. I've been sick this week. I mean, brains dibbling out my nose, sick. Took Monday and Tuesday off work, which was fine, because I had leave to cover it.

But then I took today off, too. I'm actually feeling marginally better; the pets got their breakfast in a timely(ish) manner, and a couple of the boys got out to play.

But I'm still running a fever, and I would really really like to take tomorrow off work, too.

If I go into work tomorrow (and survive), then at least there's maybe the option of working Friday (which I usually have off) to make up for it. Though I got scolded the last time I tried to do that.

What's really piling on the anxiety, though, is that I haven't heard boo back from my boss—well, at least nothing after zie got stern with me that if I don't hear back within fifteen minutes, I'm supposed to notify some other supervisor.

So I emailed in this morning about fifteen minutes after the start of the work day, CCing another supervisor, just in case. And it was an hour and a half before that other supervisor got back to me. I didn't follow up within fifteen minutes because, well, I couldn't stay awake that long.

I went and looked at my boss's online calendar, thinking zie might be out at a conference or something that would explain the radio silence. But, no. Nearly as I can tell, zie has a normal schedule in the office this week.

This anxiety is making it much harder to just relax and get well. I don't need this nonsense right now.

#305 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2014, 06:04 PM:

"Gah. The "TV on all the time" thing drives me nuts too, and I'm not (AFAICT) HSP. But for me, the TV is only on if I'm actively watching something -- if I want background noise, I put on music."

I have the same thing going on. If the TV is on, I am pretty much guaranteed to focus on it at least enough to know what's going on at any given time. Music allows me to actually DO things that require concentration, but not TV. My fiance occasionally forgets this, and turns the TV on for me, "for background noise," and then leaves the room. At which point, instead of turning it off like a normal person, I suffer through for hours, which makes whatever I was doing take 3x as long. Why? Because I keep thinking he'll come back in.

#306 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2014, 01:10 PM:

OMG the landlord is driving me mad. He's been texting over and over because he found out about a house down the block for rent that we could have NOW he will loan us his wheelbarrow for moving can we come see it NOW. (Yes, really though he was wordier than that.) I know he wants to be helpful in a way that makes his life easier but oh my god I feel pressured!

The house down the block seems nice from the ad but the agent said the owner plans to tear it down for a new build in a year or two (trendy neighbourhood), and while the rent is less than here, the upper edge of what we can afford, the ad says the utilities are really bloody high. We cannot afford the total and do not want to move somewhere that will require a roommate or strained finances, and get another eviction notice relatively soon, just to make the current landlord's life convenient because his ex-wife wants to get him out of her basement. Even though this move would then be cheap, if we assume $1000-2000 for movers, moving to this expensive prospect would spend the same in extra expenses in 2-6 months unless we got the rent reduced many hundreds a month.

And now that I have explained about the cost problem to the current landlord, he's texting again that they might take a lower offer for the place so I should negotiate.


Oh, and my project bike is not going well and I don't know which thing is wrong.

#307 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2014, 01:53 PM:

Bodhisvaha: You know that thing we were talking about before, with the warning signs for bad roommates? Yeah? Well, I'm seeing five, ten, of them. (Can you say, "whole left side of the status board, lit up red with alerts"?) This is not somebody I would want to share quarters with. Whatever he's running on his ex, you can bet he'd start running on you, too.

In your place, my response would be an unambiguous "no." Might have to dress it up some: "There are various reasons why that won't work for us." Just, really, no. "That's simply not possible." "I'm sorry, we already have plans." (Never mind that the plan is to make any other plan....) See also: I need to wash my fish.

my project bike is not going well and I don't know which thing is wrong.

Describez symptoms, s'il vous plait? I'll bet somebody here (or in the Open Thread) will know the answer.

#308 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2014, 02:09 PM:

Bodhisvaha: Any way you could tactfully suggest to him he find a suite hotel for the balance of the time you are in the place? Because seriously, dude, the landlord's personal problems are not the problems of the tenants. Deal with them on your own time, without harassing the tenants.

#309 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2014, 03:18 PM:

The_L, #305: I have, on a few occasions, turned off a DVD that had been left running unattended (only if my partner was obviously Doing Other Things in the computer room or the garage). If asked why, I shrug and say, "Nobody was watching it." IMO, if it's been more than 5 minutes, go ahead and shut it off; at that point, he clearly hasn't just gone to the restroom.

Jacque, #307: OMG, that thread! Reading it reminds me of one of my ex's supervisors at the day-care center, who had a real Thing about scheduling mandatory staff meetings on weekends. Now, at that time we were very active in 3 different hobbies that tended to have weekend gatherings around the region -- cons, SCA events, and contradance weekends -- averaging around 2 weekends a month among them, and most of them were scheduled and paid for well in advance. So, over the course of about 6 months, my ex and his supervisor had the following series of conversations:

Boss: We're having a staff meeting this Saturday.
Ex: Sorry, I'm going to be out of town.

Boss: Can you be at a staff meeting a week from Saturday?
Ex: Sorry, I'm going to be out of town.

Boss: Can you make a staff meeting the first Saturday of next month?
Ex: Sorry, I'm going to be out of town.

Boss: I'm scheduling an all-staff weekend seminar, and I'm telling you about it a whole year in advance. You can't possibly have plans to be out of town that weekend.
Ex: You're probably right. When's it going to be?
Boss: Labor Day weekend.
Ex: I hate to say this, but...

(Labor Day weekend, of course, being Worldcon, which was scheduled and paid for three years in advance.)

After a while the boss got the idea that this was really not a good thing to do to your employees.

#310 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2014, 03:39 PM:

My DAD, ladies and gentlemen.

This is not a distress call. This is more of a wry observation.

Remember the TV I wanted?

So we had the home inspection yesterday (which went basically fine, there are a number of small fiddly issues of the sort you'd expect in a place originally built in 1905 and renovated by imperfect humans, but nothing that's a horrid dealbreaker) and I mentioned that the folding table Kid and I wanted as a sewing cutting table was on sale at Ocean State Job Lot this week for half the price I'd seen (and budgeted) it at Target, so I was going to use the card that billed to him to get it now, and he said "yes good"; then I mentioned that the price I'd quoted for the TV was a sale price, and thus might go up, and rather than use his card could he transfer me the $PRICE so I could buy it with my Target debit card that gave an extra 5% off? He was amenable in principle, but wanted to know more about the TV. So I get an email this morning saying "which TV is it?" I tell him the brand (it is in fact an off-brand, Element) and mention that Homeowner bought one of the same make and hasn't had a problem with it (once she sorted which remote controlled what). I also point out that I'm not super-discerning about fine points and unless the reviews say "broke as soon as we got it home" I wouldn't know the difference between Terrific and Mediocre quality.

He sends me back the Amazon reviews of that model (mixed, and the one in the worst review did break fairly quickly) and says "Let's look for another one."

This is where I wish that my mother had a separate email account, so I could email her and commiserate over how my dad has to read ten thousand reviews of every technological gadget and can never settle on one because nothing is ever perfect. Because this is a known thing with him, going back decades. Is that Optimizer vs. Satisficer?

Anyway, I emailed him back, saying "You have more opinions on this than I do. I want something about that size and LCD. You decide what you're willing to spend. If you haven't picked one by the time we move (I KNOW you) then I'm buying a cheapie."

I just don't have the mental cycles to chase down every single model of TV and debate it with him. If it matters that much to him? I'll let him pick.

It's reminding me of an email exchange I had with my dad last summer.

"How do you keep eggs from sticking to a stainless steel pan?"
"What if the eggs go past the butter and stick?"
I was really tempted to just send back "More butter."
Instead, I questioned a little further, and discovered that he was trying to cook a single fried egg in a 10" pan (only stainless one they had, he doesn't like nonstick, I don't either) and trying to only cover PART of the pan with melted butter. "How do you keep the egg on the butter?" he asked. I told him he had three choices: use a retaining ring for the egg, butter the whole pan, or get a smaller pan (and butter all of that). I also tried to proselytize for cast iron, but he wasn't sold.


He did, however, after my mother pointed out that my logic was solid, go out and buy a smaller pan.

In lovely news, the dress form has been authorized, and is being categorized as Kid's (September) birthday present. "We never know what to get you," they said. Perfect.

In less lovely news, I doubt my mother will ever learn to use Kid's preferred pronouns (singular they/them/their). She was constantly using the one she was accustomed to, despite Kid and I both correcting. Or, rather, I corrected once, to clarify the pronouns for the new downstairs neighbor (who is pretty awesome), and Kid did the polite-repeated-interjection-corrections, which were COMPLETELY IGNORED. It doesn't seem to be malice so much as utter failure to understand that a) it's a legitimate concern and b) it matters to Kid.

I screw up sometimes (and Kid has been known to elbow me) but I do make the effort. Kid says it's appreciated, and that my backing them up is even more so.

#311 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2014, 05:13 PM:

I need to wash my fish.

I had a department head, not mine, come by my cube the Wednesday before Westercon. He said all vacations were cancelled because we had to do the annual budget thing. I was pretty sure that this wasn't the case and he was trying to get me upset. I looked up from my work and said, "Then I quit." And went right on working. He stood there for a couple of minutes. He finally said, "I think in your case, we'll make an exception." I looked up from my work, said "good" and went back to working. He didn't do that again.

#312 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2014, 06:46 PM:

protecting, #310: Re your dad having to look at EVERY REVIEW EVER, what that pings for me is classic MBTI "Perceiving" behavior. People who register strongly P on the J/P axis sometimes have a hard time actually making a decision because they keep thinking that they might encounter further data which would make them change their mind. And some people are more P about some things than about others.

#313 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2014, 07:34 PM:

Lee, you may be on to something there. I've never tried to guess my dad's type, but that describes the hell out of him. Drives my mother batty - I can remember her fretting that he was taking so long to decide on The Ideal Camera that he would have no camera at all to take on a notable vacation.

I come down in the middle of P/J, and while I'm willing to comparison shop on some things (especially if I've noticed that there's a significant difference among brands in the category - VACUUMS leap out as an example) other times I just want the Thing, as long as it performs the basic expected functions of Thing, and I don't want to spend weeks figuring out what the Best Thing is. This is why I gave my dad that time limit.

#314 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2014, 09:33 PM:

Bodhisvaha @306, gah :( my former housemates are dealing with a lot of really just *fantastic* landlord drama and I am very glad I can activate the Somebody Else's Problem Field (as they're now 425 miles away approx)

Jacque @307, that 'wash the fish' thing is fantastic. I am reminded of (I undoubtedly saw it linked off here) the "tell a long, boring story" piece of verbal self-defense.

Lee @309, baha! Excellent.

I noticed that my brain is doing the thing where it has an inconveniently strong crush on someone and I have to consciously rein it in so as to not worry about Crossing Lines. I realize that the answer to "is there a solution to the problem" is probably "if I knew that I'd write a self-help book and make a fortune" but I figure asking/complaining can't hurt much. I have an intellectual crush on my favorite professor, who is now 430 miles away, and I don't know how much contact is appropriate or how to get more satisfying interaction. We have played internet Go and he accepted my FB friend request and has been responding to the usual proportion of emails. But everything I do seems more unreasonable when I am actively crushing, plus I find the usual proportion of email responses to be unsatisfying.

#315 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2014, 10:35 PM:

@314: I had a similar issue. Can you imagine yourself describing your current interactions with your pen pal to someone near and dear to you without upset on anybody's part? Then you're probably OK. (I tried this thought experiment and I discovered that I was on the verge of emotional adultery.)

#316 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2014, 11:32 PM:

Chickadee: "Didn't help that their idea of making a garden was stripping of the sod and rototilling the clay underneath."

You pinged my gardening radar. There's actually a really lovely solution to that one (which I know by total accident, having misunderstood a gardening technique entirely.) You dig up or rototill the clay, and mix or bury a straw bale in there (strings cut, naturally.) A layer of compost on the top and plant straight in, and the next year you have the MOST lovely soil.

Unfortunately, the bermuda grass loves it too. Bermuda grass is forever, though I'm going to do my best to kill it dead without chemicals. (No garden this summer because I'm being drought-conscious and letting the lawn die off. Lawn paint is on the way for the front yard... yup, paint.)

Gardens are a happy thing for me too.

#317 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 01:14 AM:

Landlord stuff:

Jacque @307: we did try to tell him no. A short while after he sent the text about negotiating. I was pretty firm about it and giving the "but way too much money" reason which seemed more likely to work than "no, because I said so." As for the eviction, the landlord wanting to move into his own property is a legally valid reason to evict. However, there are still procedures that he has to go through and he may not have done them correctly. I need to try and talk to the Landlord and Tenant Board tomorrow to find out what I can about what he has done, what he should do, what can we do, and file a packet of documentation with them against the future. In the written notice, the landlord has described a plan that is very probably illegal, which I hope will render that notice invalid. (That is what the tenant advocates thought would happen. I want to check with the Board too.) Legally we have a number of rights and him moving in while we are still tenants does not resemble any normal, legal, landlordish behaviour. I'm not intending for us to try and stay long-term; that would be stupid.

What we'd *like* to do is buy enough time to find a place we want to move to, and squeeze our moving costs from him as a sweetener. "Dear Landlord, we checked with the Board and your notice is invalid and your plan to move in on Date is illegal according to clauses X Y and Z of Tenant Law. If you do that we would be within our rights to _____. If you give us notice again now, our termination date will then be Date2. [Date2 would greatly reduce his B&B income for the year and make his ex-wife want to strangle him for lurking in the basement.] We are looking for a new place that suits our needs, and there will be many more places available for Date2. It would be advantageous for us to wait, choose more carefully and remove our property more slowly by ourselves with a U-Haul, and we would have every right to do so. We could take up even more of the tourist season by forcing you to take it to the tribunal for a hearing and get an eviction order. You cannot legally evict us without one. But if we find a place we like that is available earlier, we could be persuaded to move out earlier. For example, we could book movers mid-month and we could pay only 1/2 rent that month and you would cover the mover's bill."

Chickadee @308: that suite hotel idea might be fun to suggest when I have my feet under me better than today. He might squirm entertainingly or say something that would give us a small opening to shove the shoe on the other foot.

#318 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 01:56 AM:

Bike stuff, Jacque @307: I'm a crazy person who likes steel frames and friction shifting, and since a high-quality frame plus a few bits showed up in my size for $20, I was trying to get a $2000+ quality bike for under $500 by salvaging most of it. The frame is from an 80s Japanese-built Bianchi sport tourer with cantilever brakes, sparkly red paint, and chrome socks. It originally had 700c wheels but I didn't know that when I bought it; the co-op told me it was a 27" wheel frame.

My crashed Nishiki (27" wheels) has now been stripped and scrapped. Between them, I have most of a bike of used bits, mostly 80s vintage, but some newer. A friend has a donor bike I can pick over too. I am willing to spend up to $500 on parts and labour for the base bike. If you want to see pictures I can send you some.

The refit had seemed to be going tolerably but now the wheels are not sitting quite right in the frame and it's not clear why. Things it could be:
- is the frame/fork bent? I don't have any known good wheels to test with. The frame had measured straight in the past, but could not be fully tested with wheels.
- Are my wheels hopeless? I had expected to pay for wheel truing but would rather not have to replace the wheels. I could do it, though.
- Can the brakes work with the 27" wheels I have? The original cantilever brake shoes are frozen in their current adjustment. I need to borrow a vise to persuade the nuts to move, or determine that they just won't. New brakes are a possibility, but I'm told this frame is tricksy.
- Is the wheel misalignment something simple/cheap? Maybe it wasn't placed in the dropout right, or the quick-release is adjusted wrong, or the dropout adjuster screw needs tweaking, or the QR skewer got bent but the rest of the wheels are ok.

Good Bikeshop T -- they thought perhaps the frame or wheels were bent, but weren't willing to spend much time looking at it without booking a service visit. I might go back there for accessories as I have had good experiences in the past with them when obviously buying something. (They found me my sexy special-order Nitto North Road handlebars.)

Good Bikeshop C -- I'm impressed by their bedside manner. The boss spent considerable time looking at the disassembled remains though he had been about to run out on an errand. He thought nothing serious was wrong but said he would need to see the whole lot of parts together to play with it and see if it would work, but would be happy to do it, and pretty soon. He did not try and talk me into buying more new parts versus going potluck, and another mechanic approved of my desire for a friction shifting drivetrain, instead of looking at me funny as they usually do. The boss talked about spreading the stays in the *good* casual manner that suggests it's routine for them, and said no more than 7 rear cogs, which also suggests competence, based on the other best advice I got. He was friendly and nice and did not talk down to me or tell me that my desired bike configuration was a bad choice. Several other bikes of similar type and vintage to what I want were leaning against the wall waiting for their service timeslots, all obviously much-used.

I think once I have the parts off my friend's donor bike that I will take the kit and caboodle down to shop C and ask for an estimate on how much to put it all together, fill in missing bits, and let's go through these right now and figure out which are the best of the duplicates. Now give me the scenario for if we need new _____, what's the approximate total. I just want to get the whole thing DONE at this point; I mostly want to be messing with cleaning and polishing. There is rust that ought to get removed or stabilized with naval jelly, and I'd like to make the whole thing shine. I'll have to get some car detailer goo. I'm debating about whether to go to the trouble of trying to touch up the paint or stabilize the flaking, torn-up sections over the chrome. It seems like a lot of work and it's not clear how best to do it.

...Why yes, my current obsessions are my bike and my upcoming eviction; why do you ask? ;)

#319 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 03:21 AM:

Bodhisvaha @317: My apologies, I expressed myself badly. I am clear that you don't want to take on sharing quarters with this guy, for the innumerable stated reasons. I was simply pointing out that this is a Type and, while extreme, might be worth cataloguing for your taxonomy of (Potential) Roommates From Hell.

In the meantime, you hope is to keep peeling him off while you find ways to make up a plan that works for you which (no ifs, ands, or buts) in no wise includes him.

As to looping in the Board and the advocates, and seems to me you're aligning all appropriate armament, and your script for landlord looks great, selling him on the notion that it's in his best interest to not be stupid and/or creepy and/or illegal.

Sad to say, luv, but it looks like you're getting much too good at this stuff. {:-)

& 318: In what wise do the wheels not sit right? A (very) quick Google suggests that 72" and 700c are nearly the same, and that any issue might be in the alignment of the brakes and/or the derailleur, by which I assume they mean distance from the hub. If the wheel is riding closer to one side of the fork than the other (and I apologize here, this is the "is it plugged in? Is it turned on? level of question to establish a baseline) that says to me that it's not seated square in the whatchacallit axle notches ("drop outs"? that's a dumb name) in the fork. There are some frames that have a bit of a lip around the outside of that "C" which you have to get your axle nuts past. (Are you using quick releases? This can complicate that maneuver.)

The way to tell if the wheel is true (to the best of my unschooled experience) is to prop the bike up so that the wheel can spin freely, and see if it runs the same distance from the frame, or if the distance varies. If it varies, then it's out of true, and a spoke wrench can cure that. If it doesn't vary, that means ya gotta hold your mouth right when seating the axle in the whatchacallit Cs. It doesn't seem like it should be hard, but it requires a remarkable amount of coordination.

Brakes I've had in the past have a long slot that the brake shoe's bolt fits through that allows it to be adjusted in the axle/rim dimension. Dunno if mine is the type of brake you're dealing with, but you can see the elongaged slot beneath the shoe bolt.

Yes, pictures would clarify the question.

FWIW, I've dealt with both friction and (what I assume I have now) indexed shifting, and can see the merits of both. Also, some disadvantages. My front derailleur will occassionally decide that my chain guard is my 3rd front sprocket, which is just remarkably inneffictive, and infuriating because I have to get off and look to tell why I suddenly have no drive in my drive train. With friction shifting, this would not be an issue. There are, of course, compensating issues with friction shifting, like having to look to know conclusively which gear you're in. (Took me forever to suss out that I could trust the little numbers on the levers.)

Before turning a vice on the brake shoes, I'd apply plenty of Liquid Wrench (any light machine oil may work, actually) plus some gentle tapping, plus maybe some way to apply gentle heat to the mount to expand it. If that doesn't work on the first try, soak it in oil and let it sit overnight and then try tapping/gentle heat again. (The idea is to let the oil work in between the shoe bolt and its mounting.) If that doesn't work, then it's time to try the vice. If they're actually rusted together, I think a new brake assembly is your safest bet.

As to paint-and-chrome, you're on your own. As stated before, I go for High Scruffy. :-)

With a nod to @285, I am going to bed now, dammit.

#320 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 08:06 AM:

Bike stuff, Bodhisvaha @318: If I had to place a bet sight unseen, I’d stick a crisp fiver on it being out-of-true wheels. Is it both wheels or just the rear? Are the chain, cassette and rear mech currently fitted, because those can make seating the rear wheel a royal pain for those of us who don't possess three hands?

Quickest way to check the wheels for trueness is to turn the bike upside down, stick a wheel in the front fork, and either eyeball the rim’s closeness to the brake pads as it spins, or tape a pair of pencils to the fork to use as feeler gauges.

If the QR skewers are bent, then AFAIK that should be obvious as they'll come out of the wheels with difficulty or not at all.

If the frame itself isn’t straight then, as Jacque says, the wheel’s misalignment should remain constant as it spins. I’m pretty sure this isn’t a catastrophe – if Bikeshop C are unfazed by respacing the rear end then they will probably be equally unfazed by retracking it.

(And if this is too much off-topic bike stuff I am happy to take this to an open thread or email…)

#321 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 08:50 AM:

Bike stuff, Bodhisvaha @318

In addition to the good points above, one possibility--if it's the rear wheel--is that it's dished for a different bike; that's easy for a bike shop to fix, but not a do-it-yourself fix. (Key indicator: with the rear hub square in the dropout, the rear rim is not in the right side-to-side position.)

I got my bikeshop to put a bike together out of parts and odds and ends in December; it cost about $300.

#322 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 10:38 AM:

J. @315, everyone who's given me feedback thinks my behavior is basically reasonable but 'everyone who's given me feedback' doesn't include him. He has set boundaries, gently and respectfully, in the past ("I am not actually a therapist" and "I do not actually use the cell phone") so I am probably worrying for mostly nothing but if he had to set a boundary around modes of internet communication I would feel as though I had failed some test or other. I guess really I'm concerned because if he has any reservations about the nature of my interest in his friendship (which he needn't, I think; it's totally platonic) he hasn't said anything. And I'm worried because I have learned my current sense of 'reasonable boundaries' by finding out that previous senses were unreasonable.

#323 ::: Hiding for now ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 10:41 AM:

Ugh. I just wrote something elseweb, and it made me realize just how angry I am at how badly I was treated two years ago by someone who pretended to like me, but who seems to have been motivated more by curiosity and the desire to be seen as a Bigger Person than anything else. I'm certain it wasn't malicious, but dammit, I trusted them with my heart, and they were unkind and threw back in my face and blamed the fuckup on me.

#324 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 11:16 AM:

And now for Panic Mode: Kid got the financial aid letter from Transfer College. It's not enough. The first year of tuition after aid will empty the college savings fund and still leave a gap of about $7K.

Yes, my parents will be covering our shelter costs. I think I'll be able to cover our food/utilities/transportation costs. I don't know if Kid can make up that $7K working at Starbucks, or where the hell it's going to come from otherwise, or what happens for junior and senior years.

I'm a little too panicky to deal with Practical Advice right now; I'm sure I'll feel more up for it in a couple of days, so perhaps, if any of you feel inclined to give it, abi could collect it via email and forward it?

One thing that's leaping out at me for the first year is a strong incentive to SELL CAR. We need transit passes whether or not I sell it, and then I could divert the $200/month that car insurance costs me to the tuition fund, minus ZipCar usage. And local transit is in the middle of a pilot program for late-night service, which is helpful as well, and of course there's whatever cash infusion from selling the car.

I'm debating whether I can cut cable TV out of the loop. We'll have Netflix, and I can usually cope with waiting a day to see the shows I follow on the Net, but...ballgames. (Though My Team is having a terrible season and I'm not sure how much pleasure watching will give me.)

It's just SCARY.

#325 ::: hologram ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 11:22 AM:

Now that I finally have some spoons, an update:

I do not have to have foot surgery. Thank god. In related news, I have yet to have a good experience with an orthopedist. As in, I can't get one to hold still for five minutes at a time to answer questions. Are they unusually busy, or am I just unusually unlucky?

Roommate has been home from the hospital for about a week. Diagnosis remains "heart failure, uncertain cause," which is kind of terrifying in a thirty-year-old woman, but at least she hasn't had a heart attack. Unfortunately now it's got to the point where she's doing well enough that they're talking to her about health insurance. (She's been without insurance for six years, and is counting down the days until her car loan is paid off, and so figured that one more year wouldn't hurt. A reasonable decision at the time, if unfortunate in retrospect. Alas, the hospital is not clear on the concept that advice requiring a time machine is not helpful.) The apartment is an unpleasantly stressful place right now, and I'm trying to be supportive, but Roommate continues to react to pretty mmuch everything in her usual extreme way. (See: an entire 24 hours of actual shouting about idiotic insurance companies and how Obama has screwed her over.)

(By the way, did you know that the provision of the Affordable Care Act that says they can't deny you coverage due to a pre-existing condition is only in effect when the Marketplace is open, which it won't be again until November?)

I'd been telling myself this all winter, but it's come back in force: I want to live on my own. I really, really, really do. And I can afford it - but Roommate can't. Couldn't before all this happened, really. Our lease is up in September, so I have that long - but I don't even know how to begin to have this conversation. She's going to be angry at me for a long time if I move out, but I think, for my own mental health and happiness, I really need to.

And to make me feel like an even more terrible friend - I've gone to visit another friend this weekend, and I am going to have to draw a line with her, too. Her apartment is filthy. Her defense is that she hates cleaning and is too stressed out and busy to keep up with anything, but this is well beyond reasonable. The kitchen is a layer deep in dishes. There's dust and dirt and hair and cat hair everywhere. We will not even discuss the bathroom. It's been bad for a while (last year I offered to buy her a deep-clean from a cleaning service for a Christmas gift, and she got really offended), but I've hit the point where I just can't cope any more. Apparently nothing I say will convince her to do anything about it, but that doesn't mean I have to stay there.

Fortunately we'd already planned a hotel for the rest of the weekend, so it won't be an issue this trip. But the next time she wants me to visit we're going to have to have an unpleasant conversation.

I've always been bad at boundaries. And I'm afraid I'm about to become that person who loses all their friends because they finally start drawing some boundaries.

#326 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 11:33 AM:

Bike stuff, Jacque @319, James E @320, Sam Chevre @321:

Jacque, I have the same type of brake but a much older version with fewer adjustments. I'll mail you a few pictures. If new brakes solve problems and are easy to re-shoe, then new brakes it is. I could try to find them salvaged, but I wouldn't be able to be certain they are fully functional or have all their bits. The old brakes have had their fasteners marinating in machine oil. I will try a double-boiler and some tapping with a wrench before the vice.

When I measured the frame in the winter, and tested the front wheel, at that time they both seemed straight. I could not test the rear wheel then because I didn't have the know-how or tools to adjust the nut that allowed it to spring the frame the extra 5mm. More recently, the front wheel at least sometimes looks tilted when set in the drop-outs.
- If either wheel is crash-damaged, it would probably be the front wheel.
- I have not tried taking the QR skewers out.
- My hope and expectation is that something simple/fixable is wrong with the wheels and their fit to the frame -- not seated right, truing, dishing, bad skewer.
- I do not think anything has gotten a hard enough knock in my care to take real damage. Shop C didn't think anything was bent on visual inspection.

Currently it does not have any drivetrain at all on it and what it will get is uncertain. I'm going to harvest the second donor bike and bring both sets to the shop, I think.

#327 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 11:38 AM:

protecting others' privacy @324, eek! much sympathy. wishes luck :(

hologram @325, oh wow. that sounds really hard.

Bodhisvaha, all this bike talk is really fascinating

#328 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 11:48 AM:

Bodhisvaha @326: if you're talking about putting brand-new canti brakes on an older frame, then fair warning: at some point in the mid-late 90s increased the standard spacing between the brake bosses, and brake arms changed to match, so newer canti and V-brakes are often a tight fit or won't fit at all on older frames. I have no idea how using a 27" wheel in a 700C frame affects this but if it were me I would certainly ask Friendly Helpful Bike Shop for advice before buying a new set of brakes.

#329 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 11:55 AM:

Here is the word "manufacturers". Using your skill and judgement, please insert it into the first sentence of my post @328 in order to render it less nonsensical.

#330 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 12:51 PM:

Sorry about the high quantity of posts but I ran across this and I wanted to put this somewhere, because oof:
Because there’s a difference between someone looking up at you and saying I need everything and I’m mostly okay, but could you do this one thing?

#331 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 07:23 PM:

B. Durbin @316: Oooh - that's a useful suggestion should I end up in a garden rescue. :) I had to look up Bermuda grass, though. :P

I've been using this stuff called Sea Soil to enrich. Holds water really, really well. (important - although we're relatively far north, it's dry as a bone and HOT in the summer here so drought tolerance and water maintenance are important)

In more DFD-related news, I spent yesterday and today busy with running around (I'd call it "normal-people busy"), and I'm tired but I'm not spoonless. :) I haven't been able to maintain this level of activity in *forever.* Yay healing, and conscious burnout recovery! Also conscious rejection of Mom's screwed-up work ethic (if you're not working harder than anyone else you know, you're not working hard enough). Now to see if I can handle the farmer's market tomorrow - big crowds, and decisions to make, and NOT introvert friendly, but I WANT FRESH PRODUCE that's not trucked in from hundreds of miles away!!!

#332 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 09:20 PM:

#290, Jacque: Oddly enough, the day after you mentioned it, I did take a picture of the pavement.

Well, a paving stone. With an inscription.

I considered posting it to facebook, but then I realized that a) what caused it to be interesting to me is WAY too personal for me to reveal to facebook, no way was I explaining it if asked, and I don't do vaguebooking, and b) some part of me wanted new ex to see it, and just no. Not going to try to tell him what's going on with me, since that's what he said was what he couldn't handle, in the end. Not going to try to get him back, since I've come to the conclusion that it wouldn't have worked, there were a few problematic things he said that are dealbreakers for me. (Never mind that maybe maybe if he hadn't dumped me they could have been discussed and maybe resolved. As they stood at the time he dumped me, they were dealbreakers. End of story. Shut up about it already, brain.) He said he was done, I have to believe him.

(If for some reason anybody wants to see my daily interesting thing, I've put the link on my name in the comment header and plan to do so henceforth.)

#305, The_L:

At which point, instead of turning it off like a normal person, I suffer through for hours, which makes whatever I was doing take 3x as long. Why? Because I keep thinking he'll come back in.

Not exactly the same situation, but similar: sometimes I will not take a step to make a situation or environment better for myself when it might maybe change something that another person had set up a certain way maybe for a reason! Never mind that changing it to suit me would not inconvenience the other person much, especially if they're not even there at the time, but not changing it inconveniences me quite a lot.

#325, hologram:

I've always been bad at boundaries. And I'm afraid I'm about to become that person who loses all their friends because they finally start drawing some boundaries.

You just reminded me of a comment on Captain Awkward that I clipped and saved some time ago because it's very very important for people like me (and, it sounds like, you):

"If standing up for yourself ruins a relationship, the relationship was already ruined. You just slapped a ‘condemned’ sticker on it and evicted a squatter is all."

#331, Chickadee: yay farmer's market for delicious fresh, local, seasonal produce; boo farmer's market for being crowded, especially crowded with yuppies who hit a lot of my pet peeves (and especially^2 the "natural is always best" types who don't realize that carrots and tomatoes and other veggies of multiple non-standard-at-the-supermarket colours are not GMOs but pre-date industrial agriculture ARGH.)

#333 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 10:58 PM:

"and especially^2 the "natural is always best" types who don't realize that carrots and tomatoes and other veggies of multiple non-standard-at-the-supermarket colours are not GMOs but pre-date industrial agriculture ARGH."

FWIW, multicolored carrots are tasty and have a variety of flavors while still being recognizably "carrot." (Not even as extreme as the different styles of tomatoes, but a similar concept.)

#334 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2014, 11:03 PM:

protecting others' privacy @324: There's nothing quite so mind-voiding as having that whistling abyss of Insufficient Funds open up in front of one. But you seem to be handling this whole transistion very intelligently, and the transport solutions you mention seem to be particularly sweet low-hanging fruit. Courage! I've put in a Request to the Universe to offer up some appealing Solutions for you.

hologram: Sad, and difficult. I totally endorse living by oneself. Fair warning though: I had a friend who I hesitated to visit because of housekeeping issues like you describe for Another Friend—and then, after I finally got my own place (well, it did take twenty years for the slide to really begin), I became that person. My current "housekeeping" is really kind of terrifying. All of which is no help to you. WRT moving out and leaving housemate behind, think of it as an age-phase thing. Kids grow up and move away from their natal home, adults grow up and move away from shared housing into their own spaces. It Just That Time for you. Do you think it would mitigate things any if you offered to help find a new roomie for Housemate?

As to Problematic Housekeeper, I don't know of any way to broach that subject when it regards her turf. That's kind of the definition of boundaries. My solution in the past for this issue has been to either: Suck It Up And Deal when I'm staying over, or come up with some plausible excuse to use a hotel for sleeping quarters. I can't think of any way to ask her to change her housekeeping for your benefit that isn't going to cause Issues.

Bodhisvaha @326: W00t. Looks like James E and Sam Chevre know what they're about! If you haven't already, Google: community cycles [yourcity].

They can often provide a good source of (even vintage, sometimes!) bits at low or no cost, as well as free, friendly advice and assistance, plus use of oddball tools.

::brake shoe neepery sent via email::

Chickadee @331: if you're not working harder than anyone else you know, you're not working hard enough

<Whinge> My variation seems to be "if you haven't spent every last single spoon you have, and maybe even gone into deficit, you're not working hard enough. Which means that I'm perpetually struggling to recover. I'm trying really hard to walk this back. Go to bed on time, even if I'm not tired. Get 8 hours of sleep every night. Make sure I eat proper food (which of course take extra spoons to get/store/prepare/eat, and falls right off my radar when I'm stressed), every day.

I remember a time when I was in shape, and I'd be tired after doing some big thing. But I'd have something to eat, sit and rest for a bit, and damn, after a bit I'd be ready to go back at it again. Ghods, I'd like to get back to that.

And then, of course, I get hit with this bug, which knocked me flat this week. I had two leave days to cover it, but not leave for the other two days, and I was just too damn sick to go to work. (And besides, did they really want me in there, sharing this shit around?) And this is now going to cause ginormous, size Large, Issues at work, which I am not looking forward to. (At least it looks like I will have a job to go back to. Which worry turns out not to have been me just hysterically catastrophizing, but an actual concern. Yeep!)

And why did I have only two days of leave? Because that's all I get per month (yeah, I know, cry me a river). But the problem is, my baseline mismanagement is bad enough that I end up using those, every month. So I have no margin for error.

My plan (yar har) going forward is to double down on the time/sleep management and the diet, so I can at least maybe get my spoons baseline back up to something at least neutral. Get enspooned enough that I can build up at least a week's worth of accrued leave. And build in more margin in the morning so I can consistently get my ass in to work early. (Punctuality is my other favorite failure mode.)

Of course, I've been singing variations on this song ever since I started this job six years ago. This plan leaves no time during the week for artwork, and I get so desperately (addictive withdrawal-ly?) hungry for Flow that it pushes ever other consideration out of the way, and I blow my targets again.

And meanwhile, drumming along underneath all this, is the chorus, "Everyone else can figure this stuff out. Everyone else gets to work on time. They work their full weeks. When they get sick, they've accrued leave to cover it. They consistently get their asses to work on time. Pretty piss-poor Adulting, that you can't figure this shit out. And you're like, over fifty. Don't you think it's time to grow up? Yes, you think you're a special snowflake. But you know what? Nobody cares." (This is also the thought-balloon I hallucinate over my boss's head.)

Most times I'm pretty good at dismissing that GDTape. But this week in particular, it's been bad. And the job anxiety (terror?) has not aided at all in dealing with this bug.</whinge>

Sorry. That's been building for a while. Witnessing, thoughts, and perspectives solicited. (I've also been feeling very alone this week.)

the invisible one @:332 Oddly enough, the day after you mentioned it, I did take a picture of the pavement.

My psychical intuitions, they are strong. :-)

BTW, I failed to mention that I really like the lighting on your 17 May "Purple."

And 23 May's sapling against the thunderhead made me catch my breath. Ya gotcha quite a good eye there, if I do say so.

multiple non-standard-at-the-supermarket colours

Fortunately, most of the yuppies around here run to the scientist/engineer type, so they understand about things like that. In fact a lot of the supermarkets have "heirloom" displays in the produce section. But this is the People's Republic of Boulder, after all. And we have our share of wack-a-doodles. Boulder County is a hot spot for pertussis, ::SIGH::

#335 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2014, 12:44 AM:

#334, Jacque: thanks for your kind words. I like photography a lot; I'm sad that I can't afford to run my film cameras right now. I tend to run into the problem of not taking pictures often because who would I show them to, and not showing pictures to photography groups (of which I'm a silent member of a couple on because of a combination of not being pro-level, not looking for beginner-level tips, and being invisible and therefore not getting comments at all. (What do I want from people seeing my photos? I don't know that either.)

Regarding getting your schedule under control, while I sometimes have the opposite problem (I am all responsible and punctual and stuff and get my expected duties done, then often find that I have no time for my writing and photography and other enjoyable things that I want to do for myself because what I want is low priority) my first question to myself when trying to set aside time for certain things was, what absolutely must be done, how long does it take, and what hours need to be set aside for that. I never understood how people could go out after work for hours and hours until I realized that a lot of them didn't cook fresh dinner from scratch those evenings, for example. (No value judgments intended to anybody else; I like cooking, I like fresh, and I don't have a strong drive to go out with friends after work. So, I choose to stay in a lot. For some people, cooking dinner at home every night is not in the "absolutely must be done" category, and other things sometimes take priority.)

There are only so many hours in a day. I need this many hours for sleeping (including time from lights out to actually falling asleep on an average day), I need this many hours for being at work, this long for commuting, meals, and so on.

I'm an engineer; I do lists. This probably won't work for everyone. But blocking out time for playing guitar and writing and especially for relaxing in my schedule, time when I'm not allowed to do chores and other responsible-adult things, helped me actually do those things I like doing. And having a defined end time to the relaxation helped me stop worrying about losing the entire day to relaxation, so I could enjoy it more.

(I should try to get back into that system. I find it a lot harder to keep it going when I don't have work stealing a big chunk of the day, when I don't have to be mindful of my time in order to get stuff done. Instead, I have all the time in the world and it vanishes.)

#336 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2014, 01:48 AM:

hologram, #325: I'm afraid I'm about to become that person who loses all their friends because they finally start drawing some boundaries.

IF that happens -- and it may not -- it will say much more about the quality of your "friends" than it will about you. If the only reason they hang out with you is that you're willing to let them walk all over you, then what you need (besides firmer boundaries) is a better class of friends. People who care about you as a person won't abandon you just because you decide that enough is enough and politely draw a line.

Heh, and I see that the invisible one beat me to it with that Captain Awkward reference, which says it more cleverly to boot.

Jacque, #334: You've said, more times than I can count offhand, that you need a different job. I submit that a lot of what your body is doing to you is TELLING you that you need to find another job. I also submit that in a better working environment, you'd very likely find it easier to get there on time (being "unable to drag myself out of bed" has always been one of my indicators that I was burned out and needed to look for something better) and easier to keep up the self-care that would allow you not to use up your sick time as fast as you accrue it. The craving for artwork may very well be a craving for Something You Can Control in a situation where you feel that the rest of your life is out of control.

If you're waiting for the rest of your life to get better before doing something about your job situation, you may very well have things in the wrong order, and need to do something about your job in order for the rest of your life to get better.

#337 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2014, 02:09 AM:

Re: stupid landlord and upcoming eviction.

I spent a lot of time today talking to the landlord and tenant board. That's 3 experts now who all think the landlord is trying something illegal/dubious. The specialist in the Investigations and Enforcement unit did not believe his ears at first, when I explained that Landlord's written termination notice included plans/terms set without our consent that violate both our lease and local tenant law. Specialist commented this was getting interesting about 1/3 through, was sniggering audibly by 2/3 through, and distinctly bubbling with laughter by the end. He was happily contributing suggestions for the appropriate complaint forms with which to channel our wrath, and how to tie the landlord up in extra notice and/or tribunal. When we wrapped up he said to please call back if we needed more advice, and sounded like he meant it.

I sympathize with Landlord's ex-wife's desire to remove him from her basement. When things are more settled I should drop off a note offering some colour-selection advice as a friendly gesture. I wonder if I would dare to also ask, " this sort of thing why Landlord needs a new address?"

I have the feeling that if Landlord backs off, that we should soften our vengeance by letting him dangle a while longer, inform him gently of how much over a barrel he is if he proceeds according to his plans, and then use an earlier departure and/or NOT nailing him thoroughly as leverage to extract moving costs, but without doing him any serious damage. If he goes on being a *@#^*& then we could file a complaint/let him do something *really* stupid such as attempting illegal entry then file a complaint.

I am starting to feel that we owe something of a duty to his future tenants to put some documentation in the system. Example harebrained idea of Landlord's that could endanger tenants: this house has an open U-shaped stairwell with carpeted stairs running through all 3 floors. Landlord thought it would be adequate to subdivide the upper floors from the basement by putting a set of locking patio doors on the stair somewhere. Now say there is a fire in one unit: can flames and smoke (nylon carpet = toxic plasticky smoke) still go right up and down the open banister despite the patio door, to endanger the other unit? Yes, yes they can! Perhaps we should do so by sending in a packet saying we dispute this funny-looking notice of termination because A B C D E F G, and here is background material on other worrisome stuff.

#338 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2014, 03:42 AM:

James E @328: I had heard something similar on Bike Forums. I think I'm going to let shop C of the good bedside manner tickle the lot into alignment so long as I can afford them. Seeing as I've spent $100 max of my $700 budget for bike, labour, and accessories, I probably can.

I have been offered a second free donor bike with a 3x7 Shimano Deore drivetrain and Avid cantilever brakes, so that ups the chances that something will work acceptably for free/new pads. The Deore is also substantially better quality than what I saw in the salvage co-op's bins, though I did not paw through every last one. (I saw a Shimano Eagle or Lark in there, a testament to their durability. I'm keeping my pair of Suntours in case I build a go-fast bike later!)

If I do need to have new brakes, would the Tektro CR720 perhaps be a good candidate? Both Velo Orange and Rivendell sell vintage-style frames, and they both carry and recommend it as being easy to set up. Pictures here suggest that it may have enough vertical range of adjustment for my situation. (The original brakes were only off by about 1/8" to 1/4" vertically, with heavily worn pads and at the wrong extreme of adjustment, hence the "Hmm it might work".)

#339 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2014, 07:50 AM:

Bodhisvaha #337: More like 3 experts who consider the landlord's behavior not merely dubious, but literally laughable!

Unfortunately, there's a flipside here: The landlord appears so way out of touch with the laws governing his rental business, that it's pinging a different alarm bell for me, labeled "hubris":

Is there any chance that he might go over another set of lines, perhaps by sending scary friends over to "persuade" you, or by waiting until you're at work to dump your possessions onto the street? Yes, that would end with him arrested, but if he's stupid+crazy enough to do it anyway, he could screw you pretty badly in the meantime.

You might want to mention earlier rather than later, that at least two public agencies (plus various people elsewhere) already have an eye on him.

#340 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2014, 11:25 AM:

Dave Harmon @339: I don't *think* he would...but I've been wrong that importantly before and recently.

Landlord just tried to insist on entry for urgent-for-him-but-long-neglected renovations again, but backed down a bit.

We're pulling our documentation package together shortly and will either send it off to the landlord and tenant board after that, or let him have one more minor screwup. Officially the 60 days notice period has not even started yet, and already he's harrassed us 2-3 times...

#341 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2014, 12:35 PM:

Bodhisvaha #340: His "screwups" so far amount to screwing up his attempts to shove you out regardless of your wishes, prior agreements, or applicable laws. In other words, ineffectual malice... but you should not rely on his malice staying ineffectual. I'd strongly advise filing whatever you can, ASAP.

#342 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2014, 02:19 PM:

Jacque, reading and witnessing.

#343 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2014, 08:56 PM:

#334, Jacque, #335, me, and #336, Lee:

I realized after reading Lee's comment that my suggestion only works for me if I already have sufficient spoons to implement it. So it is not itself a spoon-generating suggestion, and thus probably not relevant to your question. (Though it does help maintain a positive balance once I get to the point of actually having such a thing.)

#344 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2014, 11:29 PM:

Reading, witnessing.

Update on current mental state:
Damn it's good to be back.
Yeah, wellbutrin is working nicely. I tackled the huge pile of receipts and magazines and newspapers. I found I had a desk under there. Tomorrow I get to tackle the box of same. It doesn't intimidate me into staying in bed any more.

#345 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2014, 12:36 AM:

Quietly Learning To Be Loud @344: CONGRATULATIONS!!! So glad to hear it. :) :) :)

#346 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2014, 01:32 AM:

Landlord stuff, Dave Harmon @341: actually, there *is* a reason to wait a few days: it could buy us at least a month.

Moving sooner saves us money -- we're trying to rightsize. The old apartment *was* too cramped, but we do not need this expensive 2000 sq.ft. + basement + yard. But space quality being otherwise similar, 1200-1500 sq.ft. aboveground with amenities like a basement, garage, or outdoor space would be worth the top end of our budget, while a 1000 sq.ft. apartment without those bonuses is worth the middle budget. Anything we consider will be thousands per year cheaper than this place sans roommates. I made a spreadsheet to ballpark monthly costs into yearly costs, and we can use that to decide which places to jump at.

See, a lot of the dispute is that Landlord wants to kick us out ASAP but the earliest legal date is August 1st. Since the owner moving back in is an ironclad reason to terminate a tenancy, we'd rather move while there's lots of selection. Being able to look at September occupancies would increase selection, because any neighbourhood we want to be in is student-heavy. So Landlord is bitching over the possibility of getting paid for an extra month, because the longer *we* pay him, the more of tourist season he misses profiting from and the longer he lurks in the ex-wife's basement.

Here, the notice period only goes into effect at the end of the rental period. Say we file a complaint before end of May. If the Board processed it quickly, Landlord might, conceivably, file a valid notice for August 1st before end of May. But if we file in June, our termination date might suddenly become September 1 or later. It would be much better to find a place for August or before, of course, because then we could stop dealing with this creep sooner rather than later, yet scare the hell out of him and hold him accountable. But we want to find somewhere good to go TO, not just be going FROM.

New idea to avoid strife if merited: if the August date stuck but the perfect, irreplaceable place was for September, we could put our stuff in storage for a month, and stay with friends or in a hostel or something out of a few suitcases, and probably not lose that *much* money compared to another month's rent and utilities here. I hadn't thought of that before.

We could tie up the property even longer by playing hardball: Landlord can't file for an eviction order before the notice period expires, and before any eviction can be ordered, there has to be a hearing with the Board tribunal, and it would have to be decided in Landlord's favour, which might not go so well for him when we have filed a copy of his original incompetent notice that violates the law and the lease, documentation of badgering us before the official 60 days notice begins, and various other nonsense he's trying to get away with. I think it would be smart to settle semi-amicably through mediation, in case landlords can search your history with the Board to see if you're a trouble-maker. (Hm, I should ask them about can landlords do that.)

#347 ::: PAula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2014, 04:23 AM:

Y'all are giving me more reasons not to ever rent. Even though we need to sell the house we live in (or get a contract going) before we can buy a new one. F-k mortgage bankers, because we got screwed on the financing of the perfect house we found. it has been sold to someone else in the meantime and we are all pissed about it).

#348 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2014, 10:19 AM:

Bodhisvaha #346: Sounds like you're balancing a lot of issues, and obviously it's your call -- after all, you're the ones on the scene. So, just be careful, and keep an eye peeled for any escalation on his part.

#349 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2014, 09:13 PM:

I figured out part of what makes it hard for me to live with my mother. I treat living space like a workbench; it isn't the neatest, but I know where everything is and the things I actually use are where I can get at them for use. My mother... does not treat living space like this. Rather, she must have it neat and clean and devoid of all clutter, particularly clutter which is not hers (which is where the resentment comes in). But my books on the table are *not* clutter, I uselessly protest; they are there because if I put them away I will not remember to read them!

#350 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2014, 10:54 PM:

Jacque: Oh goodness. Spoon replacement is definitely the #1 priority. This sort of thing is why I sometimes tell my husband that he's having ice cream for dinner. (I find ice cream to be a perfectly valid prescription, and you don't need a pharmacist to give it.)

#351 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2014, 12:48 PM:

I'm in mourning today for a friendship of about a year and a half, which I torpedoed yesterday with one long ill-conceived email. (She might have misread what I was trying to say, but it doesn't matter - I shouldn't have tried to say most of it and it clearly caused a lot of pain.) Her reply was very clear and specific that she is creeped out and wants no further contact with me whatsoever. I didn't sleep well last night; this will sting for quite a while.

I don't want to share any details or allocate blame, I just need a place I can express my sorrow without involving anybody else in this stupid situation.

#352 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2014, 01:01 PM:

Clifton @351:

Witnessing, with much sympathy.

#353 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2014, 04:20 PM:

Clifton @351: Listening. Sympathies.

#354 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2014, 04:38 PM:

sympathies and witnessing to Clifton.

Also, belatedly, to Dash @298, nCnC @304, Jacque @334 and to Bodhisvaha on the ongoing landlord-fail plus job uncertainty

And congrats to Jeanie @295 on successfully holding a difficult conversation with your mother, and chickadee @331 and Quietly Learning to Be Loud @344, and to protecting others' privacy on continuing to work through major change (sending good vibes your way on the finances).

Reading regularly, just don't seem to have much to say.

#355 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2014, 09:32 PM:

Thanks all.

#356 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2014, 09:47 PM:

Clifton, sympathies.

#357 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2014, 09:53 PM:

Clifton #351: Witnessing, with sympathy. Been there myself....

#358 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2014, 11:17 PM:

Clifton, sympathies

#359 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2014, 10:18 AM:

I've realized I have a worse problem with procrastination than I thought. And it seems to be a case of "these tasks feel so much bigger than they are, and it's intimidating." I'm already on medication, which helps with my other issues, but for some reason, something as quick and mundane as emptying the dishwasher or putting away the laundry makes me cast around for something, anything, to do instead.

UFYH helped a bit, by breaking things down into 20/10s, but now I've reached the point where sometimes getting up and setting the damn timer doesn't even happen. Any tips to force myself to start things? Because that's the real hurdle I seem to be hitting.

#360 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2014, 10:53 AM:

The_L @359, that happens to me a lot, especially with quick and mundane stuff. Something that's been working well for me is keeping track: either the number of times I catch myself thinking "ugh, I need to do X" and start doing X when the count hits 3 (or when I've done 3 other things instead of X), or the time I spend on self-castigation and start doing X once I've gone past the 10-minute mark.

I've used it in situations where X equals "set the timer so I can do other mundane thing" and over time (several months, in my case) it's gotten easier to start things. Nowadays I'm equally likely to just do X as to procrastinate.

#361 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2014, 10:54 AM:

Trying to shake loose an Internal Server Error

#362 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2014, 06:44 PM:

Clifton, sympathies, even if a touch belated.

Reading and witnessing, everyone.

Tomorrow my parents should hear back on the p&s they submitted today, and, if it's accepted, closing should be on 6/30. Fingers crossed, and any and all good wishes gratefully accepted.

Kid has landed a job at a Starbucks near the school. Slightly awkward for public transit on days when Kid is expected to open, but we have a solution for that: Kid's tax refund will more than cover a motor scooter AND suitable protective gear.

I have my first project from the freelance-writing gig and will start working on it tomorrow.

It's very exciting but VERY stressful.

#363 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2014, 12:17 AM:

Well, we came home tonight to find a note in our mailbox about the landlord insisting on kicking us out for August 1st. He has helpfully explained in writing that he already has bookings for his bed and breakfast so we have to be gone for his convenience. How helpful of him to give us a written signed statement that this is a conversion of the building's use, not a simple owner occupancy!

This *should* mean that legally he has to give us double the notice! and perhaps 3 months rent, which is over $5000. On top of the potential to get moving costs out of him. We should trawl AirBnB for the listing! Plus we had better look up if there are any permits or licenses or health inspections required to operate a B&B around here, and suggest that proof of them be produced to show this is a conversion in good faith. This could let him in for rather a lot of pain and expense.

If the tribunal took this seriously, his legal courses of action would probably narrow down and be much less profitable. (1) Open a proper legal B&B, which might cost more and be regulated more, and give us 2+ more months of notice! maybe plus rent or other considerations. (2) Switch back to a owner occupancy, probably have to re-file notice, and hopefully lose all extra income opportunities, if there was some watch or restriction on bad behaviour like underground rentals or evicting in bad faith. (3) Either way we should argue that he pay our moving costs and/or provide other incentives for us to leave.

He wants to play hardball? We'll fling back a ball made of solid rock as hard as we can.

#364 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2014, 12:18 AM:

Well, we came home tonight to find a note in our mailbox about the landlord insisting on kicking us out for August 1st. He has helpfully explained in writing that he already has bookings for his bed and breakfast so we have to be gone for his convenience. How helpful of him to give us a written signed statement that this is a conversion of the building's use, not a simple owner occupancy!

This *should* mean that legally he has to give us double the notice! and perhaps 3 months rent, which is over $5000. On top of the potential to get moving costs out of him. We should trawl AirBnB for the listing! Plus we had better look up if there are any permits or licenses or health inspections required to operate a B&B around here, and suggest that proof of them be produced to show this is a conversion in good faith. This could let him in for rather a lot of pain and expense.

If the tribunal took this seriously, his legal courses of action would probably narrow down and be much less profitable. (1) Open a proper legal B&B, which might cost more and be regulated more, and give us 2+ more months of notice! maybe plus rent or other considerations. (2) Switch back to a owner occupancy, probably have to re-file notice, and hopefully lose all extra income opportunities, if there was some watch or restriction on bad behaviour like underground rentals or evicting in bad faith. (3) Either way we should argue that he pay our moving costs and/or provide other incentives for us to leave.

He wants to play hardball? We'll fling back a ball made of solid rock as hard as we can.

#365 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2014, 12:20 AM:

Sorry about the double comment. Not used to posting on iPad. Feel free to delete the extra.

#366 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2014, 03:11 AM:

Bodhisvaha, #363: Oh, my word. This guy really is special (and not in the good way), isn't he? But how nice for you that he's building up your case for you like this. At the rate he's going, you'll be able to take ownership of the house yourselves, right out from under him!

#367 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2014, 07:58 AM:

Lee @366: oh my indeed. Something has got to be wrong. The least deficient but most malevolent would be him knowing the law but expecting everyone else not to. Not likely as there is too much risk via incompetence here for him. It's not clear which screw(s) he has loose, but the degree of risk to him says there must be.

He could just be that ignorant of the laws involved. Me? I got high nineties in my building code class and still have my copy. I've been reading our local tenant law and will be able to list his violations and obligations by clause. I can plow through legalese better than many non-lawyers, and I plan to find out if he plans to run something with the code requirements of a hotel. (If so, our filing will mention that his enterprise may count as a ____ with extra regulations on fire safety, occupancy limits, commercial kitchen food safety...)

It could be greed making him stupid. He mentioned bookings so we looked for the AirBnB listing and found it. $86/night double occupancy, 4 bedrooms total. In a good month that's an obscene amount of money for not much work. No wonder he wants us out ASAP. We can probably spike his guns by suggesting to the tribunal that he have to do everything proper and legal including filing appropriate taxes and incorporation or whatever to be allowed to proceed.

It could be crisis making him stupid -- the whole getting kicked out of ex-wife's basement. That's not good enough though? This has to be the stupid harebrained offspring of an unholy union of ignorance, greed, and crisis. We want him to learn to set the rent high enough or not screw over his tenants in future.

#368 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2014, 08:11 AM:

Go, Bodhisvata! You can't possibly lose your case if the man's being this hilariously incompetent.

#369 ::: Inquisitive Raven ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2014, 10:02 AM:

Lee@366: When using "special" as an insult, I believe that the preferred spelling is "speshul." The intentional misspelling is a comment on whatever the insultee is using for brains.

#370 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2014, 10:03 AM:

Bodhisvata: Wow! I'm really glad he's basically making your case for you - signed documents and all - but at the same time my sympathies for having to go through it all!

Scariest part for me is that the more you talk, the more I think the landlords at the house we were at just before our current place could have been like that, given the right circumstances... Thank goodness we're out of there (and the severe mold problem which they categorically denied) and into a place with the best landlords I've ever experienced!

All the best, and I hope you get the best possible result out of the mess!!!

#371 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2014, 04:28 PM:

I can barely believe this. The AirBnB listing is using pictures of his wife's side of the property, for the interior and deck shots, while using the exterior shot that is more of our half. There is no precise address on the listing, so it's unclear exactly what's happening. The ex-wife has beautiful decor with several rooms of very distinctive Chinoiserie furniture, a custom paint job, window treatments... They would have to work like demons to have our side looking like that in time for a booking in August, on top of renovating 2 entire basement rooms and 1 ceiling. It also assumes the ex-wife would agree to him taking all her gorgeous furnishings.

Is Landlord just stupid enough to blatantly lie to all his future customers and hopes they won't complain? Or is something creepier going on here, where the ex-wife gives up her home for a B&B, while Landlord moves in here? If so where is she going? No matter what's actually happening, Landlord has been creepy and dishonest.

#372 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2014, 04:49 PM:

Let's back off of the term "special" as an insult here OK?

Given that it's part of the names of things like "special education" and "Special Olympics", I'm not much more comfortable using it to describe Bodhisvaha's landlord than I would be saying he was a "retard".

I don't think it's quite that bad, used offhandedly, but by the time we're discussing how to sharpen it up and spell it to be most cutting...ugh.

#373 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2014, 05:02 PM:

Thank you, Abi.

#374 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2014, 05:02 PM:

Thank you, Abi.

#375 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2014, 06:36 PM:

My apologies. I should have taken the time to choose a better word.

Bodhisvaha, #371: Here's another angle: is there an association in charge of regulating B&Bs that you could report him to, explaining that the pictures he's using on his advertising are not pictures of the actual property he plans to be renting? That's just flat-out fraud.

#376 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2014, 09:29 PM:

Lee @375: I don't know -- we could perhaps report him to the AirBnB management. A friend had a clever idea: recruit someone to inquire about a booking for out-of-town relatives deeply enough to get the street address and try to get a live viewing. That might clarify what kind of bait-and-switch is involved.

#377 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2014, 11:11 PM:

Bodhisvaha @376: IANAL, but wouldn't that itself constitute fraud and misrepresentation? I want the guy to be hung out to dry as badly as anyone, but I don't want you guys to end up in trouble too.

#378 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 01:29 AM:

Bodhisvaha@ 376

I agree with Chickadee. Print everything out (so it can't be deleted if he gets wise). Then work with your housing advisors (My guess is they'll recommend you turn copies of everything over to the tribunal and let them know that he appears to be acting in a pattern of bad faith on all levels). Keep the originals in a safe place, just in case you need them.

Good luck! (What a jerk! I hope he gets what's coming to him.)

#379 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 02:22 AM:

@TheL no. 359: I also experience decision paralysis and inertia, but not as much as that except when I'm very tired. For what it's worth, here is what has helped me for the larger things that get me when I'm not so tired, such as "Oh hell this house looks like crap, where do I even start." I work on habits that run like this: "I'm already _____, so I'll also ______."


*I am already going from this room to that one, so I'll glance around on the way for something that is in this room that is supposed to be in that one. Something small enough to carry in one hand or stick in my apron pocket. (I have kids; there's always something!)

*I'm already making this towel/cloth in need of a wash because I used it on my glasses/hair/body, so I'll stick it under the faucet if needed and throw it on that stuck-on dried cereal on the table/wipe a couple square feet of the shower stall with it.

*I'm already in the kitchen because something is on the stove that I shouldn't walk away from, so I'll do a couple dishes/run fresh water into that crusty casserole/throw the sink sponge into the microwave for 30 seconds/put some dishes away.

*I'm already at my computer, so I'm going to pick 4 or 3 or some small doable number of e-mail messages that I point at randomly and either junk them or read them. If I only have a small number of unread messages, I'll just take care of the ones at the top until I don't have a scroll bar on the side anymore, and then stop. If something further down in the queue is urgent--hey, I'll probably get another message on the same topic tomorrow, and hey presto, it'll be at the top!

It's little stuff, but carefully building up one habit at a time has helped me keep a cleaner house and a cleaner desktop even when I cannot make myself look at my task list for, like, days.

#380 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 03:04 AM:

Kaytei @378: I now have full-length screenshots of all the relevant views of the AirBnB ad -- details, pricing, photos, amenities, calendar from now into September, and a lousy set of paper prints -- enough to show it's the same ad. We also captured his profile page with his "joined" date of May 2014. I have just realized that he's started advertising my home for bookings before the notice of termination has even legally taken effect. The August booking in his letter is probably a lie. Early August is marked unavailable, but there are no bookings yet after. The timing suggests a week of intense cleaning, renovation, and move-in to get the place ready for guests.

The more I investigate the stupider Landlord's harebrained plan gets.

This property is zoned such that a B&B is legal as a residential use with up to 3 guest rooms. Landlord is advertising 4. (This place has 4 bedrooms after the obvious renovation plan. Hm, just where is Landlord planning to live if he rents all 4?) City Hall today said that he hasn't filed a building permit. This would be required for the basement renovation, any serious work on the deck -- mentioned by Landlord as on his to-do list -- and for changing the use of the building. At the municipal level, a hotel appears to be a non-residential use (more notice for us if so!) and is not permitted in this zone. In the provincial building code, a hotel is defined as having 4 or more guest suites for recreational use or the travelling public. So we can argue that Landlord is converting this house to a hotel, which will invoke many building code provisions. The short version is increased fire safety, exiting, provision of at least one barrier-free (handicap accessible) suite and path of travel to it, and -- my favourite -- a much higher STC rating for the construction than most houses would have, even a well-built one. Fixing all this would mean lots of expensive renovations. The basement is a walk-out, but the basement bathroom-to-be is nowhere near accessible, while the rest of the house is not easily rendered accessible. Improving the STC rating (increasing sound privacy to the legally required level) would require at minimum ripping off all the drywall and installing a new wall system that uses more and more expensive materials. He might have to do the floors and ceilings too. We could insist that proof of such permits, work plans, etc. be produced to demonstrate notice in good faith of conversion.

#381 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 06:41 AM:

Bodhisvaha and others

I'm increasingly uncomfortable with the landlord-related/house-related discussion. I strongly recommend going back, thinking through your goals, and trying to see what's the lowest-conflict way of meeting them. You want to move; the landlord wants you to move; you're arguing over at most 2 months difference in timing. That should be a resolvable difference.

In general, using others' unfamiliarity with the intricacies of some obscure-to-them body of law as a weapon against them violates the Golden Rule/comes back very hard. (I think of those as two statements of the same thing.) This is particularly the case when what they are trying to accomplish could be accomplished legally if they knew how to do the paperwork, and also particularly true when they're somewhat desperate--both of which seem to be the case here.

#382 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 01:04 PM:

SamChevre @381: I'm sorry I'm making you uncomfortable. I guess I will try to stop venting about the issue here. My primary desire is to have somewhere that I wish to move *to*, not just a place to move away from. But my notes about that are elsewhere and we haven't yet seen one we're really excited about that we can afford. My secondary desire is to not be mistreated and taken advantage of. Landlord is not obliged to go on renting his house to me forever; he can change his mind. But I am not obliged to be maximally convenient for him.

I do not think the issue can be resolved amicably. Landlord has only become more firm on the date because he has realized how much more money he can make this way. He is lying to me and wants to cheat me because he was foolish and set the rent too low. He seems ignorant of the correct legal eviction process and my rights as a tenant. Instead he is harassing me and demanding to use our paid space for his own purposes, and intending to defraud someone, possibly several someones, and violate a variety of laws. So I see no reason to just move and keep silent given this behaviour.

I see every reason to move somewhere I want to go *to*, and bring the attention of the authorities to Landlord's plans. If no-one reports bad landlords they will keep doing bad things, and by doing it I may get my moving costs covered and/or other compensation. I have already lost thousands of dollars this past year and a half to the horrible ex-roommate Dragon, and there was no way to recoup more of those costs than we did. I am not willing to just lie down and take it this time around.

#383 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 01:43 PM:


I'm on your side in this one, and I want to hear how it all works out, so keep posting.

Samchevre -- Ignorance of the law is no excuse for misbehavior. This landlord is taking actions which are illegal and so deserves to have the law bite him in the ass. Bodhisvaha is doing what any good citizen should do -- reporting a lawbreaker to the board that has control over these situations.

All it requires for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.

#384 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 02:16 PM:

This is not really an issue with sides. On one hand, we have someone whose bad situation has turned out to be less bad and in a comeuppance way, and on the other, we have someone who does not like to see cheerful trainwreck-watching turn into spiteful gloating. These can coexist. I think that by explaining the basic issue of a somewhat fraudulent landlord, you have gone a ways toward reconciling the two.

#385 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 02:39 PM:

Furthermore, I feel that Bodhisvaha is bringing a duty of care to this community by chronicalling a clearly abusive situation that might make others who find themselves in similar situations in the future mindful of certain classes of pitfall.

If someone is acting as a landlord and/or proposing to operate a business in which the safety of people in their charge is potentially at risk, they damn well should become familiar with the relevant laws, even if obscure.* If they want to do this in the process of running full tilt, Wiley Coyote-style, off a cliff of their own making, I think it's entirely within Bodhisvaha's kharmic purview to step aside and decline to be hit by the incompletely thought-through Acme slingshot/rocket/roller skates contraption.

I had a landlord try to pull a stunt like that on me, and one that was not nearly so yielding of potential collateral damage. I had someone stand up and alert me to the danger. I am deeply grateful that I did.

* And it's not like this stuff is a state secret; if Bodhisvaha can do the relevant research, surely the information is likewise available to Landlord.

#386 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 02:46 PM:

Lori #383:

Arguably Bodhisvaha is doing more than just reporting a lawbreaker to the board, he/she (and we, I will admit) are taking pleasure in watching this slow-motion train-wreck of an eviction process happening, now that (a) it is evident that the illegality of it puts Bodhisvaha in a much safer position than was originally though when it started, and (b) the landlord just keeps doing more to sharpen the bite when it actually happens.

I suspect it's not Bodhisvaha's evidence-gathering actions which are bothering SamChevre, but rather the... anticipatory schadenfreude... some members of this forum are exhibiting waiting for the landlord to look up from his hole digging and see how much over his head he really is.

#387 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 03:19 PM:

I think I didn't clarify that I see two distinct issues.

If the landlord had known what form to file, and what to say/not say, he could have given legal-form notice a month ago. If he had, Bodhisvaha would have to move by August 1 unless some other agreement was reached. It's attempting to take full advantage of the fact that he clearly didn't know what form to use and still hasn't figured out what to say/not say that bothers me.

The harassment/trying to get access before the end of the possible notice date? That's a problem; I have no issues with being fairly aggressive about getting that to stop.

(I've been screwed over, twice, by professional landlords who did exactly what they legally could in unreasonable ways. Once by letting my lease roll to month to month, and giving me a month's notice to move out in midwinter; once by keeping me paying on a lease for six months and ignoring all inquiries about the property when I had to move mid-lease.)

Please--I'm not unsympathetic; the landlord, the room-mate, and the bike all sound incredibly stressful, expensive, and frustrating. But only one of those things is the landlord's fault.

#388 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 03:20 PM:

Well if it's wrong to root for a wrong-doer to get their comeuppance, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Our local paper did an expose on area slum lords last year, so I don't have a lot of sympathy for the fastbuck freddies that show little care for the law. Especially when their neglect and violation of building code results in the death of their tenants.

Yes, Bodhisvaha's circumstances are not life-threatening, but if the landlord doesn't know the legal form for evicting tenants, can he be counted on to know the safety regulations he has to meet in order to rent said property?

(Just out of curiosity, Bodhisvaha, does your dwelling have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms?)

#389 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 03:26 PM:

I should have said this clearly above.

Bodhisvaha, this is a good place to vent and to get advice. I am not bothered by that at all. I'm bothered by the tone of some of the advice, not by your venting. Don't stop (unless you want to for some other reason).

#390 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 03:54 PM:

My own town has recently noticed the AirBnB phenomenon, and that many of the hosts are neither complying with various regulations, nor paying rental tax.

Anyone who wants to run an AirBnB, please check your local rules first....

#391 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 05:32 PM:

SamChevre, Jacque, and others:

I got started on the "is this legal" track by Landlord originally agreeing to the month extension I wanted, then backing out via the unilateral statement that he was going to move in like it or not August 1 and change the payment arrangements in a way that was not discussed or agreed to. This was so obviously weird and bad that I started researching. None of the above is even remotely legal under tenant law. All the law involved is available online for free (and probably libraries) and there are free advice resources for landlords and tenants too. In this jurisdiction, Landlord is legally required to inform us of our rights and responsibilities as tenants, which he surely is not doing. Landlord should have either said yes or no flat-up to the extra month, and we would have gone on thinking he was an okay guy and done our best to move out on time without complicating his life that much. Now, with all the weaseling, actual current and likely future legal violations, potential life safety risks, and the question of is he defrauding his wife or customers as well as us? I want some revenge. And I am enjoying some schadenfreude, about half of which is for the stuff I will be too kind and generous to actually do, but could do.

I want to be out of here before October, probably for July, August or September. I want this dolt to pay for the move, minimum, and hopefully some other compensation. I want to dangle him over the very deep hole he dug all by himself, with him wearing the noose he knotted for himself and stuck his head into, and let him see how far down it goes. But let me count the ways that I could screw him over harder and longer *after* he jumps into the hole willingly with his noose. I could keep quiet, still be here August 1st, and call the police when he trespasses, and press charges or whatever, and let him find out that there's an actual legal process for evictions, and that he might not win the hearing. I could then tie him up in the eviction process for a long, long time -- the tenant advocate thought it could take a year or more, easy, with this material. I could let him get rid of me, move somewhere more expensive, then apply for redress for being terminated in bad faith, and sock him not only for moving costs but for the rent increase too. I could let him move in, watch his AirBnB listing, then report him to the city, during a booking, for running a B&B too large for zoning and to check for a permit, food safety inspection, and music license. I could report him to whoever handles building code violations for running and advertising what is by building code a hotel, but that does not meet many code requirements. I could report him to AirBnB for fraudulent photos and advertising a property before he is certain it will be legally available. I could tip off the taxman next year that he probably has untaxed income in need of auditing.

Instead I'm just going to tell the Board about what he's attempting and ask for some kind of reasonable mediated settlement, and insist the authorities do what they can to make him follow the law in his future disposition of the property. Landlord is clearly attempting to turn over tenants to increase income (even if he has found a loophole), which is completely against the spirit of the tenant law, and most methods are against the letter. And we'll do this soon, soon enough that he can gracefully cancel any bookings he might have, begin to reorganize his finances, and find a new pad before his wife puts him and his stuff on the curb. And then when the dust is starting to settle, I'll drop his wife a note about did she know her house was in his B&B photos (with copies of the ad, naturally), and let nature take its course.

#392 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 05:46 PM:

I, too, think that glee in anticipating the sufferings of others is not a good thing. In particular, I think that it is not a fruitful tone for this sub-community to take. It doesn't lead to the kind of thoughtful, careful writing that these threads require.

I think the "special" thing is a canary of a kind of carelessness that we should not get into the habit of here.

And it's not really on-topic. The landlord is being unpleasant and breaking the law, but he is not (to my knowledge) an abusive parent. When we turn the fierce protectiveness with which we help people to process familial dysfunction onto more ordinary opponents, we turn it into mere tribalism, and blunt its utility thereby.

I think I'd suggest that landlord-type troubles and bike reconstruction might be better in another thread, given that neither seems to be substantially involved with familial dysfunction or the damage that it does. If I'm wrong—if Bodhisavha's ways of dealing with this situation are materially affected by that dysfunction—then perhaps it should stay here but focus a little more clearly on that.

If these are the slings and arrows of more ordinary outrageous fortune, though, let's move the conversation. (But still, cut down on the glee in others' coming misfortunes, though.)

#393 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 05:59 PM:

Buddha Buck @386: Just to be clear: I'm not feeling any "anticipatory schadenfreude" (although I will concede to a certain becrogglement at Landlord's remarkable imitation of cartoon physics).

I do, however, positively revel in watching Bodhisvaha competently, comprehensively, and intelligently (and with more mercy than I would likely muster) prepare to defend herself against what sure looks from here like a clear and present threat, possibly even to the extent of physical danger, (cf. @337.)

The potential fire code violations, in particular, scare the bejeebers out of me. I've seen a building burn, literally to the ground, as a direct result of gross stupidity of this nature. Two people died in that fire. Two neighbors of mine were refugees from that fire, and got out only with their pets and the clothes on their backs.

The idea that some joker is even theoretically threatening someone I've come to care about with that kind of incompetence leaves me...less than generously disposed, shall we say.

And that's probably enough. I'm wound a little too tightly today anyway so.... Yeah.

#394 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2014, 09:17 PM:

protecting others' privacy: I hope that the condo situation and all continues favorably.

#395 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2014, 09:40 AM:

Victory on two counts today. :)

I'm just leaving to teach my very first spring session class - three hours of lecture a day, for three weeks. A week a day, in terms of content! I'm nervous, but it's because it's something I've never done before, not because I'll Never Be Good Enough (lesson learned by example from my parents, which their words were never enough to counteract).

Second victory: I'm wearing a skirt *because I want to.* Background here: Mom thinks the only appropriate professional wear for a female teacher of any sort must involve a skirt or a blouse, and makeup. Pants and a nice knit top with no makeup (my standard teaching wear) are right out. It's taken me years to be able to wear skirts (which I enjoy) without feeling like I'm selling out. Now, I wear what I choose, when I choose. It may seem minor, but celebrate every victory, right?

Anyone else have small victories to celebrate?

#396 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2014, 11:21 AM:

Congratulations, Chickadee!

I was about to say, "I don't have anything big to report, but I want to check back in because I made a lot of emotional, distressed posts from Dec. 2013 through March 2014, and now haven't said anything for a while."

But I find I do have a series of small victories to report.

I'm working a job I like for the summer and I've just found another part-time job I can work in with it and continue when the summer is over. After this post I have to go mail the paperwork for them to do a background check.

I found a therapist. He's someone I can work with: extraordinarily kind and patient, and a good listener. Therapy is having its teething troubles for me, but I'm pretty sure that will all be better once I'm more used to it. It's benefiting me already to know that I have Therapist on my side.

I've paid my rent on time for four months. I've planned ahead and avoided late fees on my phone bill and car insurance. At the end of June I'll be switching to a phone plan that's a third of the monthly cost of the one I've got now. After that I'm hoping to save up for a new laptop that I can actually take places with me (this one's broken).

I've begun to be able to go out in the evenings and I've been having people over a lot. I may be seeing someone but I'm not sure yet. All the part of depression that made me hide up in my room--that's receded. Mind you, I am still terrified that at the end of this summer I will become sad and numb and frightened again, and spend the winter afraid to do anything because it feels like everything I do is wrong. But if that happens again it will be different. I'll have a job, even if it's only part-time. I'll be on food stamps (supposed to last a year), so I won't have to eat beans and rice for days at a time. I'll have Therapist on my side, to help me find solutions.

My relationship with my parents is tenuously OK. I went back for my mother's birthday, then my father's. I'll be seeing them at a music festival in a couple weeks. They've been very careful to acknowledge when I do something nice for them; my father phoned after our last visit to say that he liked spending time with me and was glad I had come out to [Hometown]. In other words, They're Trying, Bless Them.

I am still conflicted as hell about them. When I visit with them I have a good time, too. However, Dad conscientiously trying to have A Good Relationship With His Daughter doesn't make me forget that at Christmas he turned on me or that later he denied anything in his behavior had been amiss and indicated that it had been my fault if I was hurt. So I don't trust them, it's always a little painful to go see them even if I also enjoy it, and whenever I see them I am waiting for them both to try to tear me down in some new and different way.

It helps me that now I can own my anger and say, yes, I'm still angry at them and it's OK to be angry. I don't trust them, and it's reasonable under the circumstances that I don't trust them.

But most important to me: I want to never, ever have to depend on them for anything again. I want to be independent in all possible ways, so that I know I can feel how I please towards my parents without having to ever ask them for a favor or rely on their good will or patience (they only have these qualities sometimes).

When I get the second job, I'm going to work my ass off all summer and save money. I'm going to get a better job in the fall. I'm going to get my feet under me and make a steady income, for all kinds of other good reasons, but also because it will give me the peace of mind I need to make good decisions.

#397 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2014, 11:54 AM:

So, I'm back from my aunt's 70th birthday party, and this report's pretty much a unicorn chaser for this crowd. There was a little bit of the old patterns visible, mostly from my sister¹, but I managed to cut off "the reason you get that reaction..." with "I don't get that reaction outside my [immediate] family". And then fend off the next salvo with "you know, I'm not interested in arguing over dinner".

Mostly, it was just fun, with that whole side of the extended family gathered around Aunt Anita (we were missing my local BiL who had stayed home with the dogs), and 9 kids ranging from 8 on up.

This was at Woodloch Pines in Pennsylvania, which is definitely a 5-star place, "would recommend, would go again". It is run by another extended family, which turns out to have sprouted from the town where Mom worked (next town over from where we lived. Really, a chain just can't fake that kind of commitment. Or manage as much corniness without looking stupid: The owner was working the dining hall, and the first night, he was wearing a yellow suit with bananas on his tie and "minions" decorating his pants. He managed to rock it.... (Also, I'd thought that crowd looked familiar!)

The only real flaw was that all meals were in a huge common dining room. The acoustics were actually pretty darn good considering the sheer number of people in there, but even so, it made the mealtime conversation exhausting.

Aunt Anita got suitably verklempt over all the tributes, and my presents went over well (also for my sister, whose birthday had been a couple of days before). I got specifically complimented on my color choices for the jewelry, which I'd been agonizing over. Uncle Hiro toasted her with "to the anchor of the family"; she responded with "an anchor's nothing without a ship over it, and I got the best ship going!"

¹ To be fair, she was pretty stressed, having driven 8 hours. Also, she was juggling 3 kids of her own (without her husband, see above) and sometimes extras.

#398 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2014, 11:57 AM:

Little John -

Lots of good stuff here! Congratulations!

"However, Dad conscientiously trying to have A Good Relationship With His Daughter doesn't make me forget that at Christmas he turned on me or that later he denied anything in his behavior had been amiss and indicated that it had been my fault if I was hurt. So I don't trust them..."

Your Dad got the wake-up call about his behavior at Christmas, but he can't do anything now to change what he did. It's human to want to pretend screw-ups never happened.

It's useful to let bad interactions slip away. You're right that it's got to be without them hearing "hey, you played nice and it's all better, so you can go back to the controlling role".

Active denial is a huge waste of effort. If your Dad can feel you're not going to confront him, you can both relax and work on building better interactions from here forward. It sounds like you're keeping that good dynamic going.

Overall, wonderful news!

#399 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2014, 11:59 AM:

Chickadee @395: It may seem minor, but celebrate every victory, right?

No, not minor at all. Those hauntings have real power, and it's really something when you can set them aside and act on your own desires. Especially when that desire happens to match the imperative of the haunting.

Little John @396: Go, you! That's quite a laundry list of victories, some not so small.

I particularly like that you're appreciating your parents' efforts to treat you well, while being conscious that you still don't trust them. Very wise and intelligent, to have those in your mind simultaneously.

And: yay jobs because choices! I like this too.

#400 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2014, 12:17 PM:

Chickadee, Little John, Dave H. -- yay for small victories!

Chickadee, being able to wear a skirt without feeling like you're giving in is rather more than a small victory. As long as you had that feeling, your mother was still controlling you as much as if she was standing there forcing you to wear skirts. Indifference (which this is a step towards) means you're shedding her control.

Little John, if you think you have a tendency toward SAD, perhaps you could suggest to your parents that an appropriate Christmas gift (or birthday gift, if your birthday falls between now and then) would be a light-therapy unit. You'll probably have to do some research and find the information to convince them that SAD is a real thing. The downside of that is the risk that your father may then decide that all that was wrong with you last Christmas was being depressed, and then you might have to fight that battle again.

Dave, yay for successfully pushing back against the old patterns!

#401 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2014, 11:54 PM:

I actually have a question on my mind. My life has been pleasant enough lately that I've tried to think things through while I'm in a good mood. This is the question that keeps arising. Two questions, actually.

How does one forgive oneself for making poor choices in early life? How does one forgive oneself for being an inexperienced and sometimes ignorant adult?

I've been struggling with this lately. I have a lot of regrets about my youth and young adulthood. I'm talking about the kind of poor choices that I made when I cooperated with my parents in various messed-up and misguided ideas.

As we've said before, any advice that requires the use of a time machine is not good advice. But I still can't help thinking about it, and being sad when I do. From sadness, I get angry at myself for not having known better.

I lived with my parents till I was 29, from a combination of bad planning, learned helplessness, and actual helplessness on my part, and manipulation on their part. My regrets include a wish to go back in time and shout at my former self, "MOVE OUT AT AGE EIGHTEEN, YOU IDIOT!"

There are other things I regret, but that's a good example. I feel frustration and anger at my younger self, for not getting out sooner, and for a laundry list of other things.

During the three+ years since I moved out, and especially in the months since the giant fight with my parents, I've been making up for lost time. I've been ramming years' worth of experience and growth and scariness and mistake-making into days or weeks, sometimes. It's been a learning period; it's also been a period of making a ton of new mistakes, and spending a lot of time feeling stupid and incapable.

I have a sense of inferiority about being immature and ignorant for my age (which is 32). I'd like to get over it. Yes, it's unhelpful to compare myself to other people, but hey, sometimes I need to do that; I would never have tried to change for the better if I couldn't look around me at other people and say, I want to do what they're doing.

Sometimes I worry that I'll never get there. "There" is a state of being where my life is rich enough, and my options are broad enough, that I'm able to feel I've achieved a reasonably good life regardless of my background. I have some very specific markers that I haven't yet reached. A stable job, relationships where we are intimate enough to exchange love and care, a place to live that's a step up from where I am now... things like that. I think that those are reasonable goals and that when I achieve them I'll have more peace of mind.

I've talked elsewhere about having a lot of anger towards my parents. I know exactly when I'll be able to start moving past that anger. It'll be when I have enough autonomy and security in my own life that I never need to be afraid of them again. But I don't know when I'll be able to stop kicking myself for managing my earlier life badly, and for being kind of ignorant and "young for my age" now. It doesn't help when people tell me, "Stop beating yourself up." The problem is that I don't know how to stop. I have intrusive thoughts about my many mistakes and all the time I've wasted.

One of my friends just blogged the quote, "I'm ashamed of myself because I should be better and I have no idea how to get there." It was uncomfortably on-the-nose.

Forgiving myself is hard as hell. If it was a matter of being wronged by another person, and then they came to me and said "I'm sorry, I was wrong, what can I do to make it better?" I would feel so much better that I'd forgive them. But I can't seem to say that or do that for myself. After all, I'm the one who makes the mistakes and also the one who has to live with the consequences of all these mistakes.

It's all very well for Little John to be sorry she did something that made life hard for Little John, but Little John has to fix Little John's goddamn mistakes all the time while knowing that Little John is just going to go out and screw up again, and again... (If you see what I mean.)

I guess what I am looking for here is fellow-feeling. Does anyone else go through this specific regret and self-reproach, for not being "a real grown-up"?

#402 ::: LGB ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 01:06 AM:

Little John @401 *raises hand*

I don't know what to do about stopping feeling that way, but I know the feeling and thought process you're describing. I feel the same way when I think about my soon-to-be-ex. Why did I stick around as long as I did? Why did I fall for so many BS arguments? Why am I still upset whenever I have to deal with anything that has to do with him? (Like the documents from my attorney I currently need to review and correct, ughhhhhhh.) I feel like I'm currently learning a lot but that I really should've learned more, earlier. It's frustrating.

#403 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 08:26 AM:

As has frequently been said, one may safely discount any advice that requires the use of a time machine.

This includes your own advice to your younger self.

You made the decisions that seemed good to you at the time--or at least the best of a bad lot.

#404 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 08:32 AM:

Little John, I know that feel. I know that feel a lot.

What has helped me is to remind myself that Past Me made the best decisions she could. Were they always the right decisions? Nope. Were they always explicable to Present Me or even other Past Mes? Nope. But they were the best decisions to be made... because those are the ones she made. For a while, I did my best to remember the circumstances. Why did I go to this college instead of that college when everything pointed to that one? Well, because I was so fried from the entire process that ending it seemed like the logical thing to do, I didn't know how to get off the waitlist, and this college looked completely fine given the criteria I knew to follow. And this other college gave a bad tour. Doesn't matter what I learned later. I made the best decision I could back then.

So moving out? Now, you know you could have. Back then, you didn't. Why not? What specifically held you back? You gave us a brief rundown; take your reasons seriously yourself.

You may benefit from hanging out with eighteen-year-olds. It will probably hurt for a while as they plan their lives so much better than you did, but eventually, I learned that I am not eighteen. I am past that. Not as dramatic as learning I no longer give any shits what thirteen-year-olds think of me, but still helpful.

And, and this is an idea I shamelessly stole from Ursula Vernon, assign yourself penance. If there's a particular decision that haunts you, find a way to pay it off. Ten bucks to the animal shelter for freezing and not reporting that obscene phone call freshman year. Ten bucks to the local women's clinic for the entire summer spent hiding at home. This works best for little things, true, but little things haunt out of proportion.

#405 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 08:39 AM:

Little John #401: I very much know what you mean. There's all kinds of issues here... some of it is adolescent imprinting, as discussed in the article I already put in the open thread (Why You Truly Never Leave High School), and current dysfunctions don't go away just because you know about them.

The best I can offer is that in a very real sense, I'm not the same person I was back then. And that's not just "can't step in the same river twice"... I do have continuity of memory (mostly), and I can see some of the seeds for my current self ("the child is father to the man"). But I was far more helpless and adrift back then, I simply wasn't equipped to deal with the basic issues I had, and really, much of my current personality simply hadn't formed then. A lot of the tools I use to deal with life I picked up in college or soon afterwards, many from various communities I'd fallen in with. Of course, I've also taken more damage as well: Both external traumas, and the fallout from the errors of a young, undiagnosed spectrumite.

I don't think there is a "general solution" to this sort of thing -- the problems of regret, recovery, and redemption are literally ancient. And yet I'm still here, and still trying to muddle through as best I can.

#406 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 09:32 AM:

Thank you for the solidarity, my friends.

Diatryma @ 404:

You may benefit from hanging out with eighteen-year-olds. It will probably hurt for a while as they plan their lives so much better than you did, but eventually, I learned that I am not eighteen. I am past that. Not as dramatic as learning I no longer give any shits what thirteen-year-olds think of me, but still helpful.

I have managed to do this! And it was pretty much the experience you're describing here. From age 27 through 29, I was finishing off my college degree (still living with my parents, but hey, baby steps), and so I was constantly surrounded by 18-to-21 students. It was painful sometimes, yes. It made me feel old and past-it, even though I was like 28. But it also did two things: it let me go back and have a do-over and get in a lot of experiences I'd wanted to have and couldn't when I was younger, and it showed me that I wasn't the only person out there who had ever been young and clueless and made bad decisions.

In 2009 I did a one-semester exchange program with a bunch of other undergraduates. Same deal. One mixed blessing: I found I was more widely read and more confident in a lot of ways than the other students. I think they resented the hell out of me for that. I couldn't tone myself down--hide my knowledge, stop asking questions in class and taking ego-risks that they were all too young and self-conscious to take--and I think they all decided I was a know-it-all show-off. But, hey. I never had the opportunity to be shunned by a peer group before. O_O It wasn't all bad; they warmed up to me after what felt like forever, and we had some nice times together. I've never talked much about this because I feel conflicted about it. There's nothing like an expensive adventure you're supposed to enjoy but which is painful and lonely a lot of the time.

Right now, one of my good friends is like 20. We hang out every couple of weeks for some movies and really intense conversation about our creative work. She's brilliant and well-read and good at what she does, and she's a better writer than I am, and she's soaking up knowledge like crazy at her appropriately-chosen school, AND she has a good head for business and is planning her future career like a champ. I admire her. And sometimes I cry on the inside because I wish I could go back and order my life as well as she's ordering hers, and I resent her for saying, "Oh my GOD, I'm so OLD! I meant to achieve so much by now!"

But there are things that I have now, that she doesn't have. Confidence? The ability to not give a crap what people think of me? Adventurousness? Perspective? I don't know quite what to call them, but they're qualities I know I didn't have when I was her age, and I do now. That actually does make me feel a bit better about being myself.

#407 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 10:31 AM:

A couple of things: I've been wondering whether one of things which makes healing more difficult is the feeling that one will have unmanageable obligations if one has more capabilities.

This definitely happened to me. I found that I felt that if I was in better emotional shape (not well defined) I would have to spend time with my mother. Even though I realized this didn't make sense, I couldn't get past it, so I waited for her to die. (I was not part of any decisions related to her care. I left that up to my brother and sister.) And after she died, a couple of my friends said I was visibly in better shape.

The other thing: I just found out that one of my older relatives had been defending me to my mother for years. I'm thinking about what I want to say to her-- I wish I'd known, but I still feel better for finding out that she was doing it.

I've done something of the sort myself-- trying to tell a couple of parents that they were unfairly negative about their child. None of it registered as far as I can tell, and I didn't have the nerve to talk to the child.

#408 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 11:29 AM:

Little John: I managed to get out by age 20, but, yeah: that. (I'd been dreaming of my escape since I was eight.) The way I've gotten past the regrets of past decisions is by going back and relentlessly reviewing those decisions and recognizing that, with the tools, options, and capabilities I had at the time, I couldn't really have done any different. A different outcome would have required different resources, and that is what I resent the hell out of. (Particularly because my brother did get a lot of those resources.)

Diatryma @404: this college looked completely fine given the criteria I knew to follow.

The time-machine thing goes in both directions. Sometimes it's hard not to, but one can't castigate oneself for not acting on information one only acquired later.

Nancy Lebovitz @407: one will have unmanageable obligations if one has more capabilities.

This is particularly true if one is "no" impaired. I made a lot of decisions in my early life by making sure I was incapable of taking the path I did not want to follow. There was very little I was sure of when I graduated high school, but one thing I was clear on: I did not want to go to college. (Four more years of this? Oh, hell no.) So I graduated with honors, but I carefully avoided taking prerequisites for college.

I now regret that decision; it would be really lovely to have had the option. But looking back: it was the right decision for the time.

And you might appreciate this anecdote: One afternoon during my last couple of years there, my parents were wrangling about something or other (future plans, disposition of their estate, whatever). My recording starts when my dad says to my mother, "But what will you do if I die before you do?"

And my mother says, all blithe innocence, "Oh, Jacque will take care of me!"

And I thinks to myself, "Oh, hell no, she won't either!" But I just kept my mouth shut, and faded out of the room. I was well gone from that family by the time she finally passed. My brother, who thought she was just the bees knees, got that duty.

#409 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 12:24 PM:

Little John @401 (and others)--
Rumination is so totally a Thing the psychologists have a word for it, which is good to know in a sort of Misery-loves-company sort of way, which is to says it's helpful but not cheering, exactly.

Were I good at .gifs and were Making Light to sort of place where those got used a lot, I'd insert one here of that classic "It's a trap!" line. Because that's the other important thing, besides knowing other people also do it and have trouble cutting it off: it's a trap. It will pull you down into the Sucking Bog of Miserable Introspection, where you will slowly be subsumed into the Peat of Despairing Self-Condemnation*, like a bog body in real peat, except that they won't dig you up a couple of thousand years later or so, and discover Interesting Things About People in Olden Times as a result. So it's a double loss.

There's a time for looking over things you've done and how they turned out: "Say, Self, this guy does that thing that is a lot like that thing the Ex-from-Hell did. Hmmmmm..." or "Remember how things at Job Y started going after Incident Q? Yeah...keep moving, send out resumes, work your connections."

That time is not late at night when you ask yourself what is wrong with your life and there is no one there to jog your elbow and say "You don't wear enough paisley, that's what's wrong with your life."

There are times you do need to consider what's going on now in the light of what went on before. Sometimes a quick retrospective can save you from a mess. But Rumination can trap you on a Giant Treadmill of Self-Loathing, and so you should avoid climbing on the wheel, and if you're on it, you need to jump off, even if you land head-first in the gravy boat.

The burns from the hot gravy will fade, they make laundry products that will get the grease out of the tablecloth, and you can always buy another gravy boat.

I know because I've replaced several.

*I am available, for a modest fee, to any game designer who needs names for things. I can do your comical, I can do your tragical, I can do your ironical, I can do your romantical, I can do your melodramatical.

#410 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 12:33 PM:

Fidelio, this has made my day.

I love the way you write (solid content + humor + irony +++ etc.).

#411 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 01:31 PM:

Following up on Fidelio @409 on rumination. It's not a quick fix, but over the long haul a meditation practice may help with some letting go. If you spend (whatever time you spend) daily letting go of thoughts in search of interior silence, then guess what? You get better at recognizing thoughts, naming them ("oh, look, here's Self-Loathing and his buddy Futile Regret again"), and then gently disengaging and letting go of them.

#412 ::: john, who is incognito and definitely not at work ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 01:41 PM:

fidelio @ 409: Thank you for that term. I realized only recently (about a month ago) that I fell into that trap. Since then I have been trying to refocus my attention every time I fall into it-- from "wow, that was horrible" to "what have I learned as a result?"

It's intermittently successful, which is much better than the success rate of Rumination (which, for me, was zero or right next to it).

#413 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 01:42 PM:

Little John: You may find it useful to consider this as well: not all of your past bad decisions were completely under your control. Your parents did a lot of deliberate sabotage on your life -- not necessarily malicious, but it's no less deliberate if they think they're doing it for your own good because they LOVE you and want you to be HAPPY. Don't take blame onto yourself for what they did, or for not seeing thru it as fast as someone else might have. You're not someone else.

Also, allow me to introduce you to the term "late bloomer". The flowers of late summer and autumn are no less beautiful than the flowers that bloom in the spring; it just takes them longer to get there.

fidelio, #409: And if you call for a song of the sea, we'll heave the capstan round...?

#414 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 03:11 PM:

To everybody about "rumination"--I was delighted, in a rather grim way, when I ran across the term in a medical handbook. I knew it at once, the way you recognize the first few notes of a song you really hate. I hope others will find it helpful to know that it's not just them. A known hazard can be easier to avoid, and think this one deserves the "Here Be Dragons" marker.

Lee @413: My object all sublime...
Although I think that was more Stoppard than G&S.

Jeanie @410: D'aawww. *digs toe in dirt*

John @412 OtterB @411: I won't say "Any way out is a good way", despite my remarks about the gravy boat, but you're right: you need to have a workable strategy for getting past the Big Hole because it's too damn easy to fall in and not have a way to get out. I think it gets easier with practice, too, even if it's not always a 100% sure escape. But setting out the Road Hazard warnings is an important first step. (Anybody else remember the little iron smudge pots they used to set out at night, before the blinky-light signs got to be cheap enough for even the most rural county highway department to use them instead? Or am I just that old and from that much of a backwater?)

#415 ::: Type A Toad ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 03:28 PM:

Little John: One thing that has really helped me get over beating myself about the things I 'should' have done differently is to see that the person I was then was perfectly unable to make different choices, given my upbringing and parental programming.

Would it have been better for me to take a year off after high school and maybe have gone on be an engineer of some kind? Quite probably. But the me I was then only knew the next step of 'go to college and by the way you hate math'. Those were the options I had.

I know better now and it's often hard not to beat myself up or mourn for that potential other me, but realistically it never occurred to me that there were other options because that's the way I was taught to think about myself.

#416 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 03:40 PM:

Witnessing, reading all, not going to ever catch up so giving myself comment amnesty.

Wall of text follows:

little john at 401:

*raises hand* (The mistakes were different, but they were there. Oh, were they there.)

What has helped me, that I've mostly learned in the last decade or so (and I'm 64, and I'd had to consciously use the "you did the best you knew how to at the time" mantra so, so often) is, instead of comparing myself to others and berating myself for not making the choices I should have, asking myself how I'd treat a close friend who had done what I did. And I'd never ever be as hard on anyone I care about as I have been - and still am - on myself.

Disability, coping with it, coping with all the things I ought - or just want - to be doing/have and can't ever do again or have again, is another issue. Working on it. Viewing myself as a work in progress helps some.

Dave Harmon @ 405:
I don't think there is a "general solution" to this sort of thing -- the problems of regret, recovery, and redemption are literally ancient. And yet I'm still here, and still trying to muddle through as best I can.

Am adding that to my quote file, because oh dear ghods does that resonate with me. Thank you.

Fidelio @ 409

That? All that you said there? Thank you. Many many many thank yous.

(And if it's the your grandmother's lace tablecloth, not easily laundered, and even the dry cleaners couldn't get the stain out, but the stain is near the center? Put a placemat and a centerpiece over it. I've been doing that for - gosh, over 40 years now.) (The gravy boat, surprisingly, didn't break...)

#417 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 04:05 PM:

fidelio@409: Thank you. That is excellent.

#418 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 04:33 PM:

Little John @401:

Lots of good stuff for you already (including but not limited to fidelio @409), but can I add one thing?

Sometimes I worry that I'll never get there. "There" is a state of being where my life is rich enough, and my options are broad enough, that I'm able to feel I've achieved a reasonably good life regardless of my background. I have some very specific markers that I haven't yet reached. A stable job, relationships where we are intimate enough to exchange love and care, a place to live that's a step up from where I am now... things like that. I think that those are reasonable goals and that when I achieve them I'll have more peace of mind.

You won't get there all at once. So the thing to do is to be proud of progress toward those goals. Paying your rent on time every month, moving toward job stability and even enjoyment, defending your boundaries with your parents, building a community of your peers...those are significant steps. None of them were free. You should totally pat yourself on the back for achieving them.

#419 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 05:39 PM:

I thank you all. The Society for the Prevention of Gravy Boat Misuse may be sending me a stern note, but knowing someone got a useful meme out of it will make that bearable.

#420 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 06:07 PM:

Little John @401: You're far from being alone. I cannot remember how often I've asked myself what I might have done with my life if I had been more self-confident, if I hadn't let the experiences of my childhood and school days shape me like they did. But... if things HAD gone differently, I wouldn't have my present husband and cat, and I wouldn't want to be without them, so in a way I can't wish things had gone differently... And yet...

And I have to try to remind myself that if this was a good friend, I would be sympathetic, and not blame them, and try to be supportive and help them to grow, positively, from here and now. So surely I should try to do the same for myself? And so should you, for yourself.

#421 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 06:12 PM:

abi @418 So the thing to do is to be proud of progress toward those goals.

What I tell you three times is true.

The other two places I have run across this reminder recently are:

A book called The Practicing Mind by Sterner, which advocates learning to enjoy the process of learning, and

Commander Chris Hadfield's book An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, in which he talks about deciding he wanted to be an astronaut, and deliberately taking steps toward that goal, but yet knowing that the odds were deeply stacked against him and that therefore he needed to build a life that he enjoyed whether or not the astronaut part ever happened.

#422 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 07:11 PM:

Little John @401:

Many good things have been said. Here's one more:

In college and the first few years out of it, I was mostly focused on surviving my own brain. I didn't have energy for social life or hobbies or even just going out and doing stuff and living, and for a long time I felt really inadequate compared to all the people who WERE able to do these things. I felt like I had wasted a bunch of time and was starting from zero in so many ways.

Then I started hanging out with a bunch of people (most of them much older than me) who were all like "holy crap, your emotional intelligence / metacognition / ability to communicate / self-care are AMAZING, it took me years to build those skills and you're still better at it than me, how'd you learn all this?"

And at that point, I went: Oh. I guess I wasn't accomplishing the same things as everyone else, but I *was* doing something valuable.

#423 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 07:45 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz #407: I've been wondering whether one of things which makes healing more difficult is the feeling that one will have unmanageable obligations if one has more capabilities.

Oh, yeah... getting railroaded into Harvard kinda burned that one in for me.

fidelio #409: I am available, for a modest fee, to any game designer who needs names for things.

Also, metaphors mixed while you wait! :-) (A treadmill/wheel over a gravy boat... are you perhaps identifying with Teresa's hamsters?)

Type A Toad #415: Oh yeah... I'm not sure when I realized that I didn't seem to have as much "free will" as the people around me. When I learned about the autistic spectrum, I attributed it to that ("ego weakness"). But it was only recently, and in fact here on the DFTs, that I realized my seriously overbearing mother also had something to do with it! (Not really "controlling" -- no complex manipulation -- but certainly overbearing.)

glinda #416: You're welcome.

Merricat #422: "Compensation" can yield amazing and useful abilities, the hard part is to recognize them as such.

OtterB #421: Hadfield's book sounds pretty interesting. Probably one to read and then pass on to my nephews....

#424 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2014, 11:51 PM:

@Merricat no. 422: Indeed. I got used to creating decision trees for all social encounters because for various reasons I have posted about in previous threads I have zero social grease in my mental makeup. I started doing it with my kids also. Then people started telling me, "Gosh, you're unflappable! Wow, I've never seen you visibly upset or off balance! How do you do it?"

Inside I'm going "Crap, crappity crap crap, option B is out, try C . . . flip ahead to D and it may be time to create an option E from available materials," but it doesn't show, you see.

#425 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 11:05 AM:

J.: It's truly amazing how many problems in life can be, if not solved, at least slid past with a solid poker face. Thanks, mom....

#426 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 01:15 PM:

Internal server error on last attempt. I am not fussed as I saved a draft. If it hasn't shown up some hours from now I will try again.

#427 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Speaker to Tall People ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 02:42 PM:

Bodhisvaha @426:

Nothing on the back end. I think it's gone. Repost?

#428 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 03:39 PM:

Abi @392: the degree and nature of my housing threat freak-out sure is DFD-related, though I agree the relevance of the minutia of proceedings is debatable. (Bike stuff likewise on both points to a lesser but unknown degree.) So I have been trying to cut down on the "still not king". Given how distinctive both situations are, I don't think swapping IDs and threads would be a comfortable solution this particular time. I'm sure it's a great party with great folks the next door over, but I don't know most of them well enough yet to happily say so much, even though I know there's some shared cast.

Analyzing the landlord's AirBnB listing for case documentation brought on stupid emotional rollercoastering. The property is a mirrored semi-detached so except for close-ups, it's easy to determine which unit a photo is of. At first I didn't look past the existence of the listing at all. Next I noticed most of the photos were of their unit. Then I realized a day or three later that the bathroom photo was taken on our side, and my case of invaded-privacy paranoia got overwhelming, probably because Landlord is just trying that hard generally to squeeze us. I finally realized, just this morning, that the listing photos could be middle-aged. (Our new housemate's bathroom setup has a substantially different feel from the one photographed.) That might make the photos not creepy when originally taken, though the use case is still slightly to very creepy. I will still be discussing them in the report to the rental tribunal, because they bring up the question of which property is involved and since the photos include both units, the property for hire is being knowingly misrepresented, whatever side it really is. The landlord's wife doesn't deserve to get tangled up in any accusations the listing might draw, unless she's actually in cahoots with him. So I will recommend there be clarification about the origin, permissions for, and accuracy of those photos, including a documented assessment by the wife, and that AirBnB management be advised of the misrepresentation, and privacy violations if applicable. I hope the result will be poetic.

The question of possible and appropriate justice for the landlord's mistreatment of us occupies me greatly. It is rare for me to have...well, anything...on my side when someone does me wrong. To be confident of and able to use the force of the law on my own behalf like this, and in time to be usefully compensated? Completely new. Normally when people mistreat me they are very well positioned to get away with it, and do, and have done over and over. So, oh, how I want to defend myself, so successfully that he will never, ever want or be able to try anything even remotely like it again to anyone! I want it for me and all my history, of course, and I want it for everyone else that needed, needs, or will need it. My jurisdiction's rental law appears to have an AirBnB-shaped loophole in it still, so I'll be offering up my case as a possible precedent-setter. (It would be a pity not to, because the landlord has made it iron-clad against himself on so many fronts.) All of that is why I'm trying hard to strike a balance between justice and vengefulness. ...I may never have had to make that decision before, on anything close to this size.

I even deleted another third of this post that was devolving back into "still not king."

#429 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 04:31 PM:

Bodhisvaha, may I inject some caution in your chicken-counting from that fragile basket of eggs?

Having the law on your side is a good thing.

Actually getting damages is extremely unlikely.

Let's posit that all kinds of judgements land on this guy. He's not going to bend his considerable weaselly energy to figuring out how to compensate you. It's going to be up to you to go after him to collect.

You can engage a lawyer to take him to civil court. I have personal knowledge (myself, a sister-in-law, several friends) of how much trouble and expense it is, how long it'll spin out, and how many more spoons you will daily lose pursuing it.

If he had any assets or potential income stream, would he be screwing around with this silly B&B scheme? It doesn't matter how dead you have him to rights if he doesn't have anything to attach.

Were it me, I'd concentrate (as you have been) on keeping him from illegally dispossessing you, finding a better place asap, and getting on with your life.

My continuing sympathies.

#430 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 04:35 PM:

I blew it.

I really blew the freelance writing gig.

Interview went great, writing samples approved, I got the test assignment, and... I couldn't do it. I thought I could, but I couldn't focus enough to complete it, and I had to withdraw.

I am fairly certain this is an artifact of Me Not Being On My Meds, because I know what the brain-slippage in question feels like, but I still blew it.

I went to my primary care doctor today. I asked about getting back on my meds. She agrees I need them but doesn't feel comfortable writing the prescription for big-time mood stabilizers - out of her experience level as a generalist. At her suggestion, I called the outpatient psychiatry practice I used to see. The human receptionist said that since it's been nearly a year since I've been there, I would have to go through intake again. She transferred me, and I left voicemail.

After a couple MORE tries of just-getting-voicemail, I went for the human again, and asked if there was a way to get to the intake person directly. No, she works off her voicemail, and ought to get back to me in 2-3 days. ACK. I asked "what if I pressed the 5-for-psychiatric-emergency button, what happens then," and the answer was "ambulance." Nope, not going through the ER with no insurance, I gritted my teeth through a month of waiting for an appointment with my PCP, I'll grit my teeth and wait for the damned intake person to call me back.

I really, really wish Lamictal didn't have to have that careful titrating-up period to avoid the Scary Rash of Doom reaction. Less worried about the dizziness effects from bringing up the dosage on the Trileptal - I know now to take that stuff at bedtime.


and I want a couple of red and green foil stars for making the phone calls, even if I totally blew what would have been an excellent job opportunity and the resulting gold star from THAT by trying it when I wasn't well enough to do it.

I could also use a couple of choruses of "it's an illness, not a character flaw." Because it really feels like I just suck too hard at everything.

#431 ::: protecting others' privacy needs a nym rescue ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 04:38 PM:

This is what happens when the laptop-with-no-battery's cord gets pulled out halfway through a post - it remembered most of what I typed but it didn't save my nym change in the fields.

[Done. And I'm sorry about the writing gig and the medical hassles. Have some stars, and a comet or two I had lying around. — Idumea Arbacoochee, Rescuer of Nyms]

#432 ::: Cassy B ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 04:42 PM:

protecting others' privacy @430, Sorry to hear about your bad brain weather; hope you got a doctor's appointment, and meds, soon.

[Changed the nym you used to address this comment. Hope that's OK. — Idumea Arbacoochee, Rescuer of Nyms]

#433 ::: SamChevre flags nym ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 04:48 PM:

Nym rescue needed in post 432, text

#434 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Rescuer of Nyms ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 04:49 PM:

All over it, SamChevre. Thanks for your care in flagging it.

#435 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 05:10 PM:

Thanks for the swift nym rescue, the stars and comet, and the good wishes, everyone.

In positive news, the P&S has been signed, the appraiser has been, and we'll know the results from that by the week, my folks say.

In other positive news: not only did I make the lasagna that BFF requested for tonight, I wrote down the procedure in a Google doc so BFF (and possibly even Homeowner, I shared it with her too) can continue making it in my absence. AND I determined that it'll fit in a baking pan of Homeowner's, so my taking away the Corningware I've been using to contain it won't derail lasagna-making.

And furthermore, I admitted to myself that I was utterly sick of eating this lasagna, and bought myself a Lunchables turkey-cheese-crackers kit at the store when I was out buying the ricotta. So I have had a meal despite being thoroughly sick of the subset of my cooking that BFF likes to eat.

Kid eats a different collection of foods from BFF. We were discussing things-I-might-cook-once-we-move, the other day. I'm kind of looking forward to the change.

#436 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 06:30 PM:

protecting others' privacy @430: It's an illness, not a character flaw. Picture me cross-stitching this with flowers/animals/viney border of your choice, and framing it for your wall. :)

Willing lots of patience and spoons your way, as you wait through the system's slowness!!!

Oh, and the frame for the cross-stitch is decorated with red, green, gold AND blue stars. :) Just 'cause!

Also, happy cooking of new stuff!

#437 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 06:41 PM:

So. My husband, he is wise.

My brain has been going nuts the past week or so. I know this in part because I had a *wicked* tension headache over more than one day (despite meds), which meant I had something I wasn't dealing with. But I couldn't for the life of me figure it out.

The situation (for background): We're both sessional instructors, which means no job security and highly variable incomes. We married while we were both in grad school, and for our entire time together our incomes have either been comparable (grad student salaries) or he was making considerably more than me (find teaching work? hahahaha) (he wasn't so burned out as I was, and was able to take a post-doc - research position)

This coming academic year, he's got next to nothing. This past year I was full-time equivalent. At a higher-paying institution. And as of Monday, I was very likely to get more of the same. So I'd be the primary income earner.

Monday morning, Spouse looked at me and said "I am not your dad."


No, he isn't. And this means that he isn't terribly insecure of his manhood and worth and value, and he wasn't brought up in a toxic family with Views on who should "wear the pants" in the family, and he has no problem with a competent wife or with sharing the load of paying the bills. Now my parents' job-related problems went WAAAY deeper than that, starting with Mom's not actually respecting my dad's competence in anything, but there was a LOT of bitterness/depression/dysfunction around my mom being the breadwinner.

I immediately felt lighter and happier, and the tension headache that had been getting worse for two days just... melted away.

Awesome spouse is awesome.

And now I can unreservedly celebrate the news that I just got today - that once again next year I'll have enough course-load to be full-time equivalent. :) YAY BENEFITS!!!

#438 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 07:08 PM:

Idumea Arbacoochee, thank you for rescuing the nym in my post! and Hurray, Chickadee and Chickadee's Awesome Husband.

#439 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 07:51 PM:

Also, though I am not especially proud of myself for the months of near-radio-silence that worried my parents, I think it's had a positive outcome: my mother now sends her questions in nice short bullet points, without loads of extra verbiage about how worried she is, or what I ought to be doing, and she accepts fairly short answers.

It's still stressful knowing how far short I've fallen of what they expected of me/believed I could accomplish, but I can cope at the level of bullet points, and don't need to hide quite so completely.

#440 ::: daughter of a great romance ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 08:10 PM:

Hi, all.

I've been lurking in these posts for years. I used to think that I had an enviably functional family, but now I think I have a, er, mostly functional family with hidden pockets of dysfunction. These hidden dysfunctions become visible in the interaction between me, my family, my partner, and my partner's family. The way the partner engages with her family seems highly dysfunctional to me... and the way I engage with my family also seems dysfunctional to my partner. I am beginning to suspect that either (1) we're both right and both families have dysfunctional setups, or (2) the behaviors Partner developed to compensate with her family are maladaptive when brought into contact with my family. Or, probably most likely of all, both of our individual behaviors for dealing with family work for our families but are maladaptive with each other's families.

And then there's my grandparents' half-century marriage, which is... mostly calm, and sometimes quiet, and never gets violent, and yet is the reason for my new nym, from Dar Williams, "After All:" "Sometimes the truth is like a second chance / I am the daughter of a great romance / And they are the children of the war."

I don't know what to do about this except type it up here.

I leave you all with a Captain Awkward post that had me going "Huh" a lot, and thinking both about my partner's mother and my own: The Worry Wyvern and the Dragon of Disappointment.

#441 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 08:22 PM:

daughter of a great romance, I think you hit it on the head with the last one: you and your partner have each developed strategies that work with your family-of-origin but are maladaptive for each other's families. Even families that function well don't always manage that in the same way.

And that most recent Captain Awkward hit home for me too. Especially since I am not, at present, capable of being financially independent from my parents, and have to walk that tightrope of accepting that their support comes with their wanting me to Be A Certain Way.

And it's not even as though what they want for me is terrible. They aren't making religious demands, or relationship-oriented demands; mostly what they want is for me to be self-supporting. Which I also want. I just sometimes have doubts whether I'll manage it along the path they've suggested.

#442 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 08:26 PM:

Chickadee #437: Wow. That's awesome.

#443 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 10:19 PM:

Jeanie @429: All good advice. We are looking and we are remembering what we can afford without windfalls! My feet are blistered all over from many hours hunting signs on foot in at least 3 sets of not-quite-good-enough-shoes. I see rental ads in my sleep, and I made a cheat-sheet for figuring out how the monthly cost translates into yearly cost. It told me to not take the one I really really wanted.

We're in Canada, so there might be differences in the processes and feel of the law. We can ask the tenant advocate about the process, to figure out when to cut our losses.

#444 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 10:36 PM:

Bodhisvaha @443: We're in Alberta, and two years ago had to go through the Landlord/Tenant board. It was PIA, they were entirely too generous to the landlord (he didn't actually ever serve us with his list of "repairs" the place needed, so the judge just set a second date for the hearing while we had a chance to look at the document he brought to the hearing, and the departure walk-through listed everything as fine - except for the things that were listed as both fine and needing repair - which of course is why they tried to keep our entire damage deposit), and to collect all of it (instead of the portion the landlords decided they felt like paying) we would have had to go to a debt collector. Decided it just wasn't worth it, cut our losses, and made rude noises whenever we drove near the place for a while afterwards.

Granted, what your landlord is trying is a *lot* more serious, but don't be surprised if things go not as well as they should for you.

Though granted, he's doing stuff that's not *just* landlord/tenant, it involves other laws, so they might take it more seriously...

Apologies for the non-DFD diversion.

(Also note that Mom thought I was being entirely unreasonable because I was questioning my landlord's competence. Not that she's rented in forty years, and not that she had much clue when she did. She also defended my senile (word used advisedly, she was a *very* old woman who told me to talk to the power company about my phone hookup, in all seriousness) building manager from a few years earlier. Basically, if it's An Authority, it Must Not Be Criticized.) (*thppppppt*)

#445 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 11:36 PM:

abi: Regarding my last post, feel free to delete - I know you asked for that thread to redirect to things specifically related to DFD, and most of it isn't.

In a purely DFD note, though, this subthread is bringing up all kinds of unpleasant memories for me, of a time when I was vulnerable (in a really bad landlord situation, sick all the time because of the mold problem, and severely, chronically underemployed and with depression flaring as a result), and Mom's idea of "support" and "help" was to tell me I was Doin It Rong and that rocking the boat in any way (be it asking the landlords to deal with the air quality issues that they refused to admit, blogging about how Harper was harming science and education, or complaining about any authority generally) was going to result in me not ever being able to get a job anywhere, because apparently if you criticize the government you get put on a job blacklist, and if you criticize your landlord no one will ever want to rent to you again.

It made the Landlord/Tenant Board situation *extra* stressful, y'know?

So I am going to try to focus on the present - awesome current landlords, garden, FTE employment for another year (yay!), wise spouse, generally good life right now.

But surely, my full sympathies to Bodhisvata and everyone else who's *currently* going through shitty situations.

Oh, and daughter of a great romance @440: I read that, it resonated, and I realized I'd hit the f***-it zone a year or so ago. Not a happy place wrt Mom, but so much better than where I was. And it's truly allowed me to expand into myself, and enjoy my friends, job, life. From that perspective, cool. :)

#446 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 12:26 AM:

daughter, #440: Boy howdy, the answer from that Captain Awkward column really resonated with me! My parents weren't exactly like hers, but they rhymed pretty well, so to speak. The same behavior, just slightly differently expressed. This is why my mantra became "What THEY don't know won't hurt ME" for so many years. I was choosing my ground -- it was much easier to keep having one meaningless fight about "but you never TELL us anything about your life!" than the Death of a Thousand Cuts that happened whenever I let slip something important. Because no matter what I did, it was never right and never enough, and if I made an effort to do what they wanted about one thing, immediately something else that I wasn't doing became top priority. That's no way to live, and I refused to play.

Just to summarize what I think is the meat of the Captain Awkward article: When you are having problems in your life, it's normal for your parents to worry about you. It is NOT, however, either normal or acceptable for them to seize your problem and make it All About Them, and then to expect YOU to support and comfort THEM as they worry about you.

#447 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 06:59 AM:

daughter of a great romance #440: Whoa, that Captain Awkward article was another "RandallCaptain Awkward, get out of my head!" moment.

My Mom isn't nearly that aggressive, but I've had to tell her more than once, "no, you do not get to unload your anxiety onto me". And I've made it clear to my family that even if I have to move out of my apartment for a while (would be for repairs, my living situation is pretty stable) staying at her house is Not an Option.¹ Still working on cleaning up the business about her worries/concern displacing and undercutting my own....

¹ Happily, I also have a local sister who has extra space. Also, as it turned out, my development has loaner apartments.

#448 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 08:22 AM:

Landlord stuff/still not king: perhaps the best solution is that those enjoying such updates could volunteer to be put in contact with me. Jacque, I know you're about to say me, me!

#449 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 10:32 AM:

I've been feeling smug about things going down here recently - i.e. "I don't do that any more."

Oh, yeah? Is there denial hiding under that? Almost always.

Why have I been so upset about a classmate's death? I didn't know her well. Many folks are commenting on what a good friend she was, how warm, how smart, how funny (her distinctive laugh). Her "sweet mother", several times. Major cognitive dissonance. Her mother was my third-grade teacher and openly bullied me in class. I realize now that that was the year she was going through a public and painful divorce. I don't damn care. I don't want to think about her justification for lashing out. I want that daughter's childhood, her friends.

I'm okay with not dying to get it - oh.

What do I need? I want to throw myself on the floor and scream and kick my heels "it's not fair" (can't remember ever, ever doing this).

Apparently what I'm asking for here, now, is permission to throw a tantrum. Allow the rage out. Let you soothe me - "you're right, none of it was fair, none of it IS fair".

Okay, crying. Broke past the denial.

"My mother pulled my feathers out and shoved me into a barnyard full of her enemies, including that teacher".

My role (see OP) was to be the victim it was safe for everyone to shun, if not actively pick on.

Why do I think my classmate's family scripts were any easier than mine? I don't care.

It wasn't fair. It isn't fair.

Please help me.

#450 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 10:36 AM:

Jeanie #449: Witnessing. I've been there often, I don't really know how to deal with it myself.

#451 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 10:45 AM:

Jeannie: Yes, it isn't fair. [hugs if you want them]

#452 ::: Cassy B ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 10:55 AM:

Jeanie @449, it WASN'T fair, it ISN'T fair, and I give you full permission to have a screaming, crying, tantrum. And you have my permission NOT to mourn that woman; she was not your friend or your ally. Others will mourn her, and that is as it should be. She does not require YOUR mourning. <hugs> if welcome.

#453 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 11:00 AM:

Jeanie @449
It wasn't fair that you had the childhood you did.
It's okay to be angry about that, to recognize and name your anger. You will eventually have to choose what to do with it - use it as a prod to action, or consciously let it go - but I suggest, if not helpy, that you not rush through the "really pissed off" stage. Have your tantrum.

#454 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 11:15 AM:

Dave, Callie, Cassie, OtterB

You guys are the greatest. I appreciate the sympathy & hugs. I do deserve that tantrum.

OtterB, you're right, eventually I'll let it go, but better to let it run its course first. I'll go for drumming my heels in bed rather than on the hardwood floor. I'm enjoying a rich fantasy. We'll see if I need to go do it. Amazing how easing this is.

Cassie B - she was not your friend or your ally

Interesting insight - she would have been if she could have. My classmates would have given me their friendship if there had been any way to do it. I know now that I deserved it. That's hard - I keep wanting to qualify that "even though I was so awful then". Doesn't matter. Too many barriers, and none of us as kids had coping mechanisms to get past them.

Again, heartfelt thanks. Good tears now.

#455 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 11:31 AM:

Chickadee @437: Awesome spouse is awesome.

We need an "Oh, so this is what functional looks like!" merit badge.

#456 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 11:44 AM:

Bodhisvaha @448: Landlord stuff/still not king

abi's final word is, of course, final. But I would make the case that landlord dysfunction stuff fits here in the same way that boss/employment dysfunction does, in that it also often echoes family dysfunction.

Also, I value having the opportunity to learn from the struggles others go through, and see those struggles worked through to final success, in the same way that we got to watch Syd finally triumph in her struggles.

Watching others succeed is, for me, at least as important as having a place to report my struggles, and witness those of others.

My 2¢.

#457 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 11:45 AM:

But meanwhile, Bodhisvaha, I wink at you. ;-)

#458 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 11:56 AM:

Jeanie, #454: Are you saying that your classmate would have been your friend, but her mother (your teacher) wouldn't allow it? That the teacher abused her position of authority to prevent other students from befriending you? That's terrible.

Also, divorce or not, what did that have to do with you, or with any of her students for that matter? I don't care what her personal life was like, she had no right and no business to take it out on a defenseless child.

Reference note: My third-grade teacher didn't bully me exactly, but she did single me out for treatment that none of the other girls in the class got -- there was definitely some gender discrimination against the boys that I can see now looking back, but couldn't see then. I didn't tell my parents about it because what would have been the use? In any disagreement between me and an authority figure, they could be relied on not to be on my side. They found out about it at the end of the year, from my former second-grade teacher (and why didn't she say something earlier?), and they were all, "But why didn't you TELL us?" Yeah, right.

#459 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 12:01 PM:

I don't know. Can we discuss it without taking over the thread? I note that when I asked for the conversation to stop focusing quite so much on those matters, we had more people come in and talk about their familial dysfunction.

I don't want to be inhospitable or unwelcoming, but no conversation can be all things to all people. This is a place for dealing with one particular set of issues. I try to keep a wide door, but when an unrelated matter seems to be shutting out the heart of the community, I have to draw a line.

I think there's a distinction to be drawn between I am having trouble with this landlord stuff and I am having trouble with this landlord stuff. I think Bodhisvaha is doing a good job of making that distinction and talking about the things that are appropriate here (you'll note that does include some landlord stuff). I'm grateful for the effort that takes.

If you want to discuss things in further depth than works here, I am happy to connect people to one another in email. It's also possible for Jacque, for instance, to host that conversation in some other space if the rest of Making Light does not suit as an alternative.

#460 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 12:13 PM:

abi: For the record, it's the I part that interests me, more than the landlord stuff, so I think we are in agreement, here.

#461 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 03:19 PM:

Lee @458 - thank you.

The daughter went to another school. I brought my victim script from home fresh every day. That teacher saw the wagon going by and hopped aboard.

The bullying from my peer group became so bad that the PTB transferred me to another track in 9th grade.

One of the new set asked me home with her for lunch. My parents were furious - "we can afford to buy your food". Now I can see that they were responding to finding out that I had been sneaking off to an unfrequented washroom and crying. I closed down, hard, and certainly didn't extend any reciprocal invitations.

I have had several good cries, safely went shopping, bought myself a couple treats and am going to coast for as long as it takes, guided by what feels right.

I am so grateful for the support here. I have a terrible time asking for help - let me tell you, the immediate validation works spectacularly.

#462 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 04:57 PM:

protecting others' privacy @ 430:

Shiny foil stars in every imaginable color for persevering with all the phone/medical stuff. I know how hard it can be.

And it's very much an illness and equally very much not a character flaw.

#463 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 05:05 PM:

People have been doing really kind things for me. Several people. I have the best friends ever.

And, relevant to DFD: there've been a few little twinges of "but I don't deserve this!", but Every. Single. Time. I've managed to make them go away, because somehow I've become - or maybe always was but couldn't see it - a person deserving of kindness.

Is... strange. Strange in a good way, but still, the strangeness is very much there. And I don't think seeing *that*, the strangeness, is a bad thing.

#464 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2014, 09:42 PM:

Well. Tonight's second viewing went well, thank goodness. We wants it, we does. It's pretty clear at this point that our budget doesn't quite run to an actual full house worth living in in the parts of town we insist on living in. We cannot throw enough money at the problem to solve it except by finding a happy anomaly in the market, and we don't have time and security to watch patiently for a happy anomaly.

So yeah, a 2 bedroom ground floor apartment that looks like it can fit most of our stuff, with laundry and the whole damn basement for us alone, at the low end of the budget? Yes please. The aboveground is a tad small and awkward, but probably good enough, and *most* places in our preferred neighbourhoods often have more or less the same small and awkward bits.

We need to draw up a floor plan -- yes, good enough that we did a sketch with measurements! -- test fit the furniture, fill in the application form and review the example lease...

#465 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2014, 06:00 AM:

What's not fair to me this moment is that we/I don't get to say "it's not fair" to other people in the very cases where people's behavior is a root cause of unequal fairness. We can complain out loud about bad weather just on one side of the city, or a power outage that's just on one street. Not really a case of "not fair," but folks may sympathize.

In comparison, here's my evening's "not fair": I discovered at my job that the "small gathering of people tomorrow is for project x, it's just one team invited so don't worry if you're not invited" event a coworker is hosting has at least 60% of coworkers going. I'm not invited. That's not fair, but who could I tell it to?

Feels like I'm in 5th grade again, which should be decades gone (the feeling). Not fair. The noticing of "I'm on the outside, everyone else is inside" makes me freeze and then want to cry. I've stopped crying now because I've written this down, in a place where my feeling of "not fair that I can't mention an act as being unfair" is understood.

I could leave early tomorrow so that I don't see the groups leaving for the event, but then I'll be hoping to get an invite all day. I don't know how to not care --- noticing status within a group is an ancient skill my monkey-brain won't stop doing. I'd try to use sour grapes, but my coworkers are neat/fun people (and it's said to be career helpful if people see a bit of you outside of the normal office context).

#466 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2014, 06:45 AM:

variations on a lime #465: Feels like I'm in 5th grade again, which should be decades gone (the feeling).

I don't think that ever really goes away, but you learn coping skills you didn't have back in 5th grade. Like saving it until you can cry in private, or sharing with people who understand.

Or even becoming able to withstand and process it... having learned as an adult that despite the feels, it's just part of social ebb and flow, and you're not actually being ostracized.

#467 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2014, 08:25 AM:

Variations on a lime, that is indeed unfair and I completely understand your reactions to it. I'm sorry.

#468 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2014, 09:17 AM:

Another "not fair" - I run out of energy far too fast.

You're there for me, and then I can't manage to tell you I'm there for you.

I am, though. I owe it to you to find a way to be better at this.

#469 ::: Anon re work ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2014, 09:46 AM:

I'm nyming up for this, because, well. I love my new job. But it falls deeply into the category of Not Fair, and I can't tell anyone about the Not Fair because

a. I have a job, and it's a pretty good one, all told
b. I like a lot of the aspects of this job
c. Some of the not fairness will probably change as I become more familiar
d. Some of the not fairness is seasonal
e. I can see in the future changes that I will make, once I have traction and rep and knowledge.

It's very frustrating, drinking from this particular fire hose. I can see that I could either do A, B, or C successfully for eight hours each day and call any one of those achievements successes. Or I could do D, which is all encompassing and backed up beyond all belief right now. But I can't do them all. And doing all of them is the expectation.

My boss is mostly unavailable right now, and is part of the frustration for me. I am just a few weeks in with some random varied training, and it's demoralizing as hell to be this backlogged. But it is what it is. There's no changing the facts. So I've decided my strategy is to go in today and concentrate wholly on D (after a few dribs and drabs) and do my best to complete as much as I can without totally screwing things up too badly, and just focus.

It's Not Fair. And in the past, my instinct would have told me get out. But I don't think this is that job over again. This is a struggle, but it's a struggle I'm going to get through.

Thanks variations on a lime for letting me express this. It's really annoying when Not Fair is unexpressable. This has helped me immensely.

#470 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2014, 11:05 AM:

#469 ::: Anon re work

Good decision on what you can do today!

#471 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2014, 01:47 PM:

Anon re work@269,
I'll think a few "it's not fair for a.r.w." thoughts your way, while you're working on D.

there's a definite time component to this. I trust myself of the future to pay it forward, I've stopped expecting myself to feel helpful during times when I ask for help. (I'd like to be, but on low spoons days I'll feel guilty for asking too much, and that guilt consumes a spoon too.)

Dave and Dyamtrya: thanks!

#472 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2014, 01:48 PM:

variations, #465: That is indeed not fair, and it sounds as though somebody wasn't being entirely straight with you as well. Is it feasible for you to ask directly, "What exactly were the qualifications for being invited to this event?" Because if there were genuine work-related qualifications that you don't have, knowing that would probably make you feel better. And if someone really was BSing you and the "qualification" was more along the lines of "I'm only inviting the people I like," then that someone deserves to be made to squirm about it.

Jeanie, #468: I think this is part of the reason that people sometimes just post "Hearing and witnessing." Because sometimes that really is all you have the spoons for... but it still helps.

Anon re work, #469: May I make a suggestion? Once you can get your boss' ear for a few minutes, tell hir just what you've told us, and ask for some assistance with determining what needs to be the highest priority until you're caught up with everything. This is part of your boss' job. You're too low on the food chain right now to be making prioritization decisions.

In one of my old jobs, I was the only programmer for 4 project managers. This worked fine for 3/4 of the year -- but during the busy season, there was a tendency for all of them to start dumping work on me until I had stuff that was going to take me 3 days to finish, all supposed to be done by end-of-day TODAY. My solution was to go to the department supervisor (who was also one of the project managers) and say, "I need your help. I don't have the authority to tell these people NO, and there's more work here than the computer and I can physically handle in the time-frame they want it handled. I need to have a priority list." The boss, being a good boss, not only helped me with that particular list, but he also established a policy that work for me had to be submitted thru him, which was a permanent solution. But the key was that I approached it by recognizing what I did and didn't have the authority to do, and who did.

#473 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2014, 02:12 PM:

Following on Lee @472 about going to the boss for help prioritizing -

the DFD angle on that is that it is NOT the case that you could get it all done if you just tried harder. IOW, it's not your fault you're overloaded. When I am the boss, I want to know asap if there's a problem like this. I don't want to get to a deadline and learn then that someone had too much on their plate, tried to do it all anyway, and (predictably) hasn't gotten it all done.

#474 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2014, 02:14 PM:

#471 ::: variations on a lime
#472 ::: Lee

Thanks, this helps. Pay it forward, I can do.

Both of you, excellent comments to others. Agree!

#475 ::: anon for work ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2014, 11:31 PM:

OtterB and Lee, you're absolutely right. But I don't have enough rapport with my boss yet to understand her seemingly random ebbs and flows of mood and expectations. I'm not sure if I'm being shoved out to sea or just led slowly into the deep end.

The interview had a LOT of discussion of "what would you do if you were overloaded with no hope and relief in sight", in multiple questions. My boss is herself overloaded and only days away from finishing an advanced degree program besides her multi-layered full time gig. And this is just a busy time for this particular job.

So I worked mostly on D. And I made progress and learned things. It's patently Not Fair that the amount of training available is pretty small and the documentation is outdated or not found. But they specifically requested those skills when hiring for this position. They know the holes are there. I just have to get through this busy patch and learn while doing. Then I can make it allllll better.

I'm very pleased that I haven't fallen into the "Ahhhh this is all my fault for not being good enough" hole that my stupid parents dug for me. It's Not About Me. It's the situation. And approaching it with that attitude is keeping me stable and fairly well balanced. Yay!

#476 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2014, 12:32 AM:

Anon for work: Yes, that attitude is what a lot of people are working towards. Congratulations on holding to that!

#477 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2014, 01:42 AM:

Anon for work @475
Sounds like you did exactly what any non=miraculous person would do (also that the place itself is in need of whatever you'd call cognitive behavioral therapy for companies. They're aware enough to know their practices aren't normal, but not yet able to solve the root cause)

Lee @472: groups A and B are clearly defined and the invite only went to A, so technically maybe? However, all but one of the B's are in other offices/other time zones. I can imagine entirely innocent motivations by the A organizers, but it still feels thoughtless.

#478 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2014, 04:38 PM:

I've been really struggling the last week and a half with the situation I mentioned earlier in this thread. Without giving too much detail, it's not really about the email I sent, but of some of my actions and of a long and deep misunderstanding between us, which I think I'm responsible for.

I have been talking with my Zen teacher about the matter, and how I've kept thinking obsessively about what I could or should have done. He wrote me this observation which bears directly on the recent topic of "rumination" and obsessive thinking:

"That many old "old drearies" have been triggered by this painful situation is not too surprising. That sort of triggering is pretty mechanical and though all those morbid thoughts may proclaim some sort of accurate assessment of what has happened, they are really just the thought component of the pain itself, just more pain."

I had never thought of expressing it that way, but wow, yes. That seems so exactly on the mark - the family of thoughts around a painful topic are simply another form and expression of the emotional pain, not something else.

He continues:

"They offer no overview or perspective. The perspective comes from continuing your zazen, walking the dog in the morning, the tradewind breezes, and your own deep wish and purpose to not harm others. Take refuge there."

Again, the only answer is to get off the treadmill: engage myself (or yourself) in something that's fundamentally different and wholesome, and fundamentally real in a way that the same old thoughts are not. A different flavor of answer, but the same spirit that Fidelio suggests.

#479 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2014, 06:49 PM:

Either my parents are being ridiculously subtle in grooming me, or they're actually coming around.

Mom has said that she never meant to intimidate me into not speaking my mind; she's sorry (an apology! For reals!) that it turned out happening that way. Also, Dad is starting to come around on the whole me-marrying-a-Jew thing after visiting a cousin of his on the occasion of her wedding--to a Muslim man. (Again: Dad is changing his mind about something. CUE THE FLYING PIGS!)

So, yeah. I don't want to give them any control over the wedding planning, but I'd like to let them know how it's going more. I also might be willing to let them pay for a 2-3 day cruise (Fiance won't go for a longer one) for our honeymoon, since money will likely be...gone.

#480 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2014, 09:40 PM:

Clifton #478: Yeah... I'm finding that the older I get, the more skeptical I get about intellect and its powers, and the more I begin to feel that emotion is the true core of the human mind.

#481 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2014, 11:27 PM:

I could use good housing wishes. We didn't go forward yet with the previous best prospect because their paperwork was frightening, and it's about half a room to a room short, functionally speaking, and would involve buying a couple thousand dollars of furniture etc., to get it up to fully functional in some key spots, especially the kitchen.

So today we did another viewing, largely because it was already booked and had a better kitchen and bathroom in the photo. (Both are weak in the previous prospect.) It looks like today's viewing is the happy market anomaly I was hoping for and had almost given up on! It is priced closer to the high end of our budget, but not the highest, and is excellent value. It has a pretty good amount of space, lots of features/amenities we care about, and is available on time. (Why is it this affordable? I think because it does *not* have good second/third bedrooms or car parking.)

There is bleah old carpet upstairs, but the ground floor at least is all wood. It also happens to have a pretty covered deck and backyard, and to mostly be painted wild, cheerful colours that are generally stronger tones of something I might have picked for myself *for that room*. It is a bit uncanny. I had been planning a blue kitchen and green living room for months now, and there they are, only brighter.

We went past effusive into "we'll take it when can you tell us whether it's ours?" My being almost ridiculously prepared made a really good impression -- tape measure, tenant resumes, paystubs, costing spreadsheet, written recommendation from previous landlord... The application is sent, and remarkably unintrusive. The sample lease needs to arrive and be reviewed.

Please let the lease not be stupid and the landlady willing to go ahead. We might have this settled tomorrow or Monday.

#482 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2014, 12:04 AM:

Best of luck to you, Bodhisvaha!

#483 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2014, 12:06 AM:

Bodhisvaha, sending the good-housing-outcome mojo your way!

#484 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2014, 01:42 AM:

Sending good thoughts your way, Bodhisvaha!

#485 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2014, 05:30 AM:

Bodhisvaha: Crossing appendages!

#486 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2014, 06:59 AM:

Jeannie @ 449:

It isn't fair. I'd say that, whatever throwing a tantrum looks like for you, right now, go for it if it's at all possible.

"you're right, none of it was fair, none of it IS fair"

quoted for truth.

Why do I think my classmate's family scripts were any easier than mine? I don't care.

The ease or difficulty of your classmate's family scripts doesn't matter - you're not dealing with the effects of theirs, you're dealing with yours.

It really isn't fair.

#487 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2014, 07:01 AM:

Attempting to kick loose a post that got the dreaded Internal Server Error message...

#488 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2014, 07:02 AM:

Bodhisvaha @ 481::

Fingers crossed, GoodThoughts sent.

#489 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2014, 07:11 AM:

Jeanie @ 468:

I could have written those exact words.

I read, I intend to comment, and I get run over by the "there are no spoons for you in the entire universe" bulldozer. And by the time the fibroflare eases, it's many days later and the conversations have moved on.

I feel guilty for not responding, which is... not useful. I've no answers at all for this one.

#490 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2014, 12:23 PM:

Fingers crossed for you all, Bodhisvaha.

#491 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2014, 04:17 PM:

Jeannie— You can certainly have that tantrum, and you don’t need to tell the world you’re mourning when you’re not. Walk away, or say something like “Yes, it’s so sad for her family” or “We were never close, but I feel sorry for her good friends” and give the other person a chance to say something.

#492 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2014, 07:37 PM:

All good housing thoughts sent your way, Bodhisvaha!

Still not-quite-finished on my own housing situation, as my parents are Doing Things to make the finances work out most advantageously for them, which is right and proper, but involves input from more sources. The uncertainty is making my mother very anxious. Unfortunately she and I manage our anxiety/impatience in opposite ways: I want to talk about paint colors and whether she'll give me a division of her irises (which are descendants of the ones from the house I grew up in), because concrete things give me a sense of control, and she feels like it's tempting fate to talk about that. Though she says I can certainly have some of the irises.

The 50th-wedding-anniversary gathering with my brother, his wife, their kids, and my parents and Kid went remarkably calmly. My mother continues to resist using Kid's preferred pronoun, despite my advocating for it, but Kid didn't kick up a big fuss about it, and nobody asked me the sort of questions that make me feel like a failure. If seeing my brother was always this calm, & didn't involve driving out to Long Island (the LIE is made of traffic evil), I'd be inclined to do it more often.

#493 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2014, 11:00 PM:

We have been offered the lease (via email) on the better place, signing tomorrow night! Yay! I think a round of hallelujahs and yummy dinner is about right. (The new landlady lives in our local Little Italy, which is now also acquiring Japanese/Korean places, so we'll have our pick.)

One of the only positive things (versus "lessons learned") that we can salvage from the current housing situation is to have somewhere we want to move TO, so I am very grateful about this.

Also, when I stopped by there today to check the water pressure as invited, the current tenants stopped in for something and confirmed that the utilities are the same or lower than expected, and that they would be willing to try and move out a week or two early. That part is not certain yet, but they like the idea of an excuse for a week at the cottage or something.

#494 ::: Building New Pieces ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2014, 11:40 PM:

Oops, I missed a reply last time. It's been a while, so I'll hopefully stick my advice-giving in a separate post.

Status update:

New Student Employees have started and seem to be settling in well. Most of them showed up for their first day before Boss got to the office, so I let them in and gave them an office tour. They asked about working hours, so I told them "Company's rules about Core Hours in the official manual do not apply to student employees; what's in your contract applies and Flex Time has to be arranged for anything outside that, even if it would be permitted under the rules in the manual. Unfortunately, neither of the two documents mentions this." Traps, the convenience of having a copy of the manual when vacation planning, and the value of preemptive documentation have also been discreetly mentioned.

At least one of Boss's Boss and HR Person is complaining about the length of my lunches and trying to force me to log them as longer on my timesheets. After not bringing that up at all during the months that I have been filing timesheets for. Or during my entire work term, for that matter, since my lunch break pattern hasn't changed since I started. So clearly the actual length of my lunch break is not the problem. I suspect a (possibly unconscious) ploy to keep me from making up my official backlog before the end of my work term so that they can keep holding it over my head, especially since this started coming up only after they started seeing the hours on my timesheet that result from the working hours they asked for.

I am getting multiple vibes from Company: one that at least one of Boss's Boss and HR Person doesn't want me to fully make up my backlog by the end of my work term (so they can continue holding it over my head, as mentioned above); one that HR Person doesn't like me; and one that Boss is supportive but constrained and a bit unused to how much work gets done when I'm making up hours. I might elaborate more on the relevant events later.

Lately I have also been ill, enough so that I needed a sick day. I preemptively asked for a doctor's note, which I will receive from University's health services soon and have informed HR Person of my preemptively set timeline for in writing. (Official Company policy doesn't require or even suggest one for such short sick leave, but this way Boss's Boss has no ground to stand on if they attempt to cry absenteeism.) Through carefully crafted emails I also got HR Person to put in writing both how the sick day would be treated (paid leave, as is Company policy for the general case and the result I wanted) and the "whenever" for this doctor's note. (Offsite copies of these emails have been made.) Hooray for documentation!

I started seeing (New and) Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist through University's mental health services. (Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist is aware of Dysfunctional Family.) In my first session we started by discussing what I wanted to work on, and I explicitly said that I want to work on coping skills for the parts of my work situation I don't know how to deal with yet, since not having those skills is the source of a big chunk of my work-related stress (and the part most amenable to improvement through therapy). But Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist kept giving responses that boil down to "you can leave, try to change the situation, or tolerate the situation." (I suspect my difficulty immediately saying "Yes, I'm aware of that, thank you, could we please work on actual strategies for the parts of this situation I don't know how to deal with yet?" has to do with my Dysfunctional Family's lack of responsiveness to redirection.)

Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist also asked if one of my finely honed coping skills (which applies to dealing with both my parents and my work situation, so I've had years of practice) was stressful. This question is not unreasonable in itself (the skill is stressful at first, but becomes less so with practice) and Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist initially seemed to respect my answer that "it's fine, the alternatives are worse, it really doesn't stress me out more than a very tiny bit because I've had years of practice at it, this is not a thing I have trouble with." But then, at the end of the first session, Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist said they wanted to talk about it again in the next session and I replied that that wasn't necessary. Not respecting "this is fine and not what I want to discuss" == red flag. (And also "thing my Dysfunctional Family members do".) I decided to give Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist one more shot and see if they behaved better or worse after a reminder of what I wanted to work on.

At the start of the second session, I said "I'm aware of my general choices here, thank you, could we please work on some more concrete coping strategies for things I don't know how to deal with yet?" Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist asked for examples, which I provided, but directed me to University's Career Advising for some of my questions on grounds of "this is not my area of expertise." Not a problem, examples are understandably important and I'd rather hear "I'm not an expert on this, try this other resource" than attempting to give strategies anyway when a person isn't comfortable doing so.

Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist also said they were more concerned about my emotional health, which is fine in itself but a yellow flag in retrospect when combined with their other behavior since I had made it clear in the first session that the way to fix my emotional health is to fix my situation (as with my previous time in therapy, learning better coping skills counts towards fixing my situation). Further conversation led to a second incident of Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist picking at a coping skill that I am already good at and a similar, but more assertive, response from me. There was also more of "you can leave, try to change the situation, or tolerate the situation." More red flags.

The final straw was when Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist said "We're out of time, but I think you're in denial about what's causing you stress. You say that you're stressed, but when I ask about your particular behaviors you say they're not stressful." When I tried to reiterate that those particular behaviors are existing skills and not a source of my problem, Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist refused to listen with "We're out of time. It might be uncomfortable, but you should think about this. Therapy won't help you if you're not willing to change." (We were not that badly out of time; Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist initiated a non-urgent logistical discussion with me after this, yet didn't want to listen to a few seconds of "as I've explained, those are skills I've had years of practice with and not the source of my problem; my problem is with the parts I don't know how to cope with yet, and that's why I'm here".)

Question to the community: Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist's behavior, especially in the preceding paragraph, strikes me as very inappropriate for a therapist; does anyone else feel the same way? If so (and if you have the spoons), please help me name the problems with it. So far I have:
- Refusing to focus on what the client wants to work on, even after being asked explicitly;
- Refusing to stop attempting to work on things the client does not want to work on, even after being told explicitly; (and in this case attempting to dismantle important and actually functional coping skills!)
- Refusing to accept and respect the client's understanding of their own mind;
- Setting up a Catch-22 against the client's understanding of their own mind; (the "in denial" part)
- Refusing to allow the client to explain when the client feels there has been some misunderstanding; and
- Waiting until the end of the session to make the client uncomfortable. (From what I understand, such intentional discomforts are supposed to be resolved by the end of the session, not deliberately introduced then!)

(It occurs to me that the above list is also a list of red flags, and its inversion a list of behaviors that are both green flags and things that should be expected from a therapist.)

At that point I was thinking "I've thought about this on my own, the results indicate that the skills Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist is picking at are fine, and I'm not putting up with any more of this because clearly the point has not gotten across. How do I best switch therapists?" So when Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist asked to book the next session, I said my schedule was uncertain and asked how to book later (while still thinking about options for switching therapists). Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist said I could book by calling the reception for University's mental health services; I have resolved to call them to switch (or at least investigate the switching process) rather than to rebook.

One gem of a conversation that came out of this:
Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist: "You know, I shouldn't say this, but you're dealing with this much like you deal with Dysfunctional Family."
Me: "Yes, in some senses I am. That's the only way I know to deal with people in positions of power over me who put me in unreasonable situations that I cannot immediately get out of."
Not verbalized at the time: "...and I am trying very hard to deal with this the best I can, some of which does involve using coping skills I learned dealing with Dysfunctional Family. I already recognize that not all my impulses from Dysfunctional Family are appropriate for this case and that the skills I learned there aren't sufficient right now. That's why I'm here."

oliviacw @121: You are correct that I am currently holding this option in reserve. I'm still considering it, though, especially given recent behavior.

Dave Harmon @160: Thanks for confirming my intuitions.

I don't just suspect that Boss's Boss is targeting me, I've had it confirmed by both Good Friend and my own observations of what every other person in Company is allowed to do.

fidelio @161: Supervisors' perspectives are very helpful here; thanks.

I'd be careful about making references to other people and what they seem to be getting away with.

What I'm aiming for with the references to other student employees' behavior isn't "Other Student Employee is getting away with X", it's "X appears to be both permitted by Company policy and standard behavior for student employees" (which would hopefully also prompt the recipient to justify any cases of applying stricter rules to me). When I was writing that draft there were only 3 other student employees in comparable positions, 1 of whom had a sufficiently shifted prearranged schedule as to not be a useful example. This left me with 2 other student employees to refer to to establish standard behavior, so that's what I tried to do.

Now that New Student Employees have started estabishing behavior patterns of their own, I have more possible examples and a larger group to refer to. Would "several other student employees" be a good replacement for naming specific people? (With tweaks to the rest of the draft as needed.)

Re: schedule arrangements:

So far Boss has asked that they be notified of every appointment and that I log all my hours for tracking how much I've worked and how much time I've made up. The time logs have been in writing the whole time; since the reprimand I have also been doing all my appointment notifications in writing. (As in "these are the times I have appointments coming up next week", with a rough idea of when I'll be leaving early / arriving late. I've been calling Boss to let them know about the occasional sudden same-day appointment (for cases when a doctor tells me that I need to see a particular specialist the same day) but now I'm planning to follow up with an email in case I have any more of those.)

Arriving late due to public transportation is currently just being noted in my time logs and made up through that; I usually get to Company's office before Boss even if I face delays, so Boss is generally not around for me to immediately report the delay to (by calling ahead or when I get there).

AFAICT, Company policy is that absence documentation, such as doctor's notes, is always to be sent to HR Person and not to one's supervisor. (I did get Boss CC'd on HR Person's email confirming that HR Person received my doctor's note, so Boss can point to that if necessary.) So far, no documents have been requested to prove that I was actually at an appointment for every such absence I notify Boss of, but I have been asking my health service providers how to get such documents if I need them (now or in future jobs).

Depending on where you live, YMMV, but not allowing you to use lunch for anything but lunch can be more than just an employer being a PITA.

This is definitely good to know for future jobs.

At Company, I (and all the other employees) have been allowed to take nominal lunch breaks, so clearly there is no law being enforced requiring everyone to have a full lunch break used only for lunch. However, two things have happened regarding my lunch breaks (as briefly mentioned in the status update):
- (Context: Every week or so Company provides a group lunch for all employees where employees are expected to sit together and eat as a group. There is an implicit understanding that most employees take a longer than normal lunch break those days and do not have to strictly time their lunch and working hours. Before this came up I had been estimating how much time I spent at lunch on those days and put that estimate down for every such day on my timesheets.) When I handed in my first timesheet after the reprimand, Boss told me that the time I was putting down for those lunch breaks was insufficient. I very politely pointed out that I had been using the same estimate for over 2 months and all my previous timesheets had been approved. Boss replied that this problem "had come up in conversation" and I would have to either put down a substantially longer estimate or time my lunch on those days. (This is the sort of thing I would like to know about before it becomes an actual complaint. Also, I chose the timed lunch break option and discovered that, while my earlier estimate was a little short for the way I used to treat those breaks, I can go from leaving my desk for lunch to returning after lunch in my originally estimated time if I know I have to time it and treat it accordingly.)
- A few days ago Boss said "I have been told that you should have longer lunch breaks." Unstated: "... and that these longer lunch breaks should go on your timesheet." I very politely mentioned that I'd had the same length and type of lunch break for nearly a year now (and had been reporting it on my timesheets for over 3 months), then asked why this was only coming up now. Unstated: "... and why this is only coming up for me, since I've seen plenty of other employees (including both other student employees and Boss) take nominal lunch breaks over my whole work term too." Boss said "I don't know, HR Person told me, I've informed you, I guess you're free to ignore it and my next step is to ask for clarification." (I strongly suspect that ignoring it will have consequences, because otherwise HR Person would have just told me "You know, you do have the option of taking longer lunch breaks if you want" and there would be no rigamarole of HR Person going through Boss and Boss having to inform me. I also really don't want to take longer breaks, since I have multiple good reasons to prefer the short ones after experience with both.)

So clearly Company is attacking my lunch breaks and trying to keep my backlog over my head. (My lunch breaks trade off against time spent working, not my free time.) Advice? (This goes for anyone who wishes to give advice.)

You may have to settle for making policy WRT your situation clearer, and make it through the next few months walking the narrow line.

Figures. That's what I'm currently trying to do, and hopefully it will have the side-effect of clarifying overall policy.

obsidian @162: Thanks for your points about parents, my email draft, and the situational dependence of "spend energy on fighting or leaving?"

If you have the available cope to handle documenting everything, I think it's a good idea even if you never do anything with it.

*nodnod* At the very least, it will be good practice with documenting everything. Especially since I might well be doing so for the rest of my career(s).

hologram @165: Thanks for the perspective from your mother's behavior!

give them the opportunity to work things out like reasonable adults

Yes, and hope they take it. I've already had quite enough of feeling like the only adult in the situation with Dysfunctional Family. (And getting that feeling at 6 years old really says something.)

Bodhisvaha @166: Useful tactical points, thanks.

I've been avoiding any mention of people out to get me and special treatment at work in favor of "please clarify the rules so I can better follow Company policy and promote Company's best interests." "In my situation what would you do to solve this?" is a good one to add.

Making backup from Program Admin visible to Company is definitely an option to consider, but also one that is very powerful in the eyes of Company (and Boss's Boss) since Program is one of Company's major hiring sources (and Boss's Boss' favorite source of people to pick on). I would not put it past Boss's Boss to use ambiguous rules and the like to try discrediting me in the eyes of Program Admin in that situation.

OtterB @169: All good points, thanks. What do you think of the modified email wording I proposed in my reply to fidelio? Do you have any particular suggestions for focusing that email (and other rule clarification emails) more on what's expected of me?

General: I'm stopping my replies here for now. I'll continue replying when I have the spoons and time.

#495 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 02:01 AM:

Building New Pieces, #494: Your account of StbXT's behavior brings up the following responses for me:

1) This person has already made up their mind about what your problem is and is unwilling to consider either that they might be wrong, or that a "temporary shoring-up" approach, which is what you're asking for, might be more effective for your current situation than a "fix everything from the ground up". This bit right here: "You say that you're stressed, but when I ask about your particular behaviors you say they're not stressful." is a very specific Huge Red Warning Flag to me; it indicates that the therapist is absolutely convinced that you're lying, and that you cannot be helped until you have been FORCED to accept their version of the situation. Denial? They're so deep in it that it's a wonder their eyes aren't green.

(And yes, you've caught the most important thing about the "in denial" accusation: that it cannot be refuted, because any attempt to argue against it is taken as proof that it's correct. The phrase itself is one that IMO no ethical therapist should ever employ; it does no good and only sets up an adversarial relationship between therapist and client.)

2) This is almost certainly related to MDeity Syndrome. Is StbXT of a higher privilege group than you -- male/female, white/PoC, economic class background? That may also be feeding into it.

3) There is value to the idea of fixing the ways in which you deal with your abusive family situation in general. However, this process is likely to take quite a long time -- and right now, you're just worried about surviving to the end of your work term. There's an old line about "when you're up to your ass in alligators, it's hard to remember that your original objective was to drain the swamp". You are perfectly within your rights to just want to deal with the goddamn alligators right now!

4) WRT "you can leave, change the situation, or accept the situation" -- my take on that is that changing the situation is what you're trying to do, but you want some advice on coping skills to use while you're doing so. Also, that ultimately you intend to leave, but again, you need extra coping skills in the meantime. This is not a difficult thing to understand, and I have to wonder why StbXT is so resolutely determined NOT to understand it.

Bottom line: I believe that StbXT has given you an Assigned Role, which does not fit the current narrative of your life, and is trying to force you to perform it willy-nilly. You need to fire this one and find another who will deal more honestly with you.

#496 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 02:16 AM:

Back we go to the original premise!

Role: The (Un)Grateful Patient
Consistency: high (I keep trying to tell them what is wrong in their lives and they keep going off point)
Capability: low (don't seem to realize what they really think/need/feel/experience, so I have to enlighten them)
Charm: low (So in need of a fix-up. Alternatively, so stubborn. Possibly both.)
Tapes tagline: [quotes Building New Pieces, quoting STBX-therapist]
Destiny: To live a capable and well-adjusted life, after s/he finally adjusts his/her narrative to a more realistic pattern and stops talking about irrelevant issues such as situations I have never encountered before. Alternatively, to be miserable and ill-adjusted because s/he would not be a cooperative patient.

--Character design by P. Crustes

#497 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 08:48 AM:

BNP @494--I don't know that I would refer even to "several other student workers" at all. Becausethey may well tell you it's apples to oranges: that these are Good Student Workers, while you are a Bad Student Worker, or They are in That Section and You are in This Section and Things Are Different.

WRT lunch periods: I'm a little confused. Are they saying the time you enter doesn't match the time you clock as gone from your work station for lunch? This may be a bad communication thing, and might call for such annoying passive-aggressive tricks as e-mailing your boss when you leave and return. If this is a "Law/Policy requires you take at least X for lunch" the argument that other people (even including your boss, let alone other workers) take short lunches to stay caught up on work will not sell.

Also, yeah, I'd kick STBXT to the curb myself. It's like having a plumber try and sell you on remodeling the bathroom with giant soaking tub and rain shower when you wanted a couple of leaky taps and a new toilet flapper valve installed.

Maybe you would benefit from some more, long-term in-depth work at some point. (Maybe it would be nice to remodel the bathroom, and if you cut up that tiny fourth bedroom you could also get a walk-in closet out of the deal!) But when you're trying to fix the immediate issues that are making your spoon supply vanish and lead you into the land of Chronic Collapse (quit having a water bill that looks like Serbia's WWI war debt) you're not going to want that upsell.

One of the scarier things a psychologist I work with ever said was that too many of his colleagues went into the business trying to fix their own issues--and never caught on to the fact their issues were theirs, not the patient's.

#498 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 09:50 AM:

Building New Pieces, #494 -
Lee said it superbly at 495. Your StbXT and you are not even close to a working match. Good for you for the "tbX".

J.'s "model" @ 496 (particularly the "author") is a hoot.

And fidelio gives an elegant analogy with plumbing.

I hope the above are helping you - they gave me a lift for the morning.

#499 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 11:50 AM:

@fidelio no. 497: It's been observed before that accredited nutritionists tend to have eccentric opinions regarding food and eating, or even full-blown identifiable disorders.

#500 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 11:58 AM:

Building New Pieces @494: please help me name the problems with it.

From where I sit, you are right on the money in your assessment of Therapist. Names? Boundary-crashing and Not Listening are the topmost two. The business of "setting hooks" just as the client is out the door is of a piece with mothers who lob a "but you hated pickes when you were twelve!" (as others have reported here) grenade as you're leaving after an otherwise pleasant evening.

You're list of red flags is one ginormous bright blinking red laser warning light with sirens.

The overall vibe I get is that Therapist is not supporting you in your improved functioning, but rather trying to undermine your self-evaluation, possibly for the purpose of cultivating dependency and, ahem, prolonged use of hir services. Job-security, like.

This is a known failure mode. (Remember, therapists, like anything else, are subject to Sturgeon's Law, too.) This is one reason Richard Bandler (of NLP fame) will often pronounce the term "therapist" by adding a space in front of the "r".

A correct response from a therapist would be: "You know, a given coping strategy may be suboptimal, but it works. Let's please not break what is working, but rather focus on coming up with better strategies in addition."

I think your decision to switch therapists is highly intelligent, and a smarter/more aware response than I've ever managed when dealing with these folks.

Advice? wrt lunch breaks:

"Please tell me, in writing, exactly what amount of time I am supposed to take for lunch." And then stick to that like glue. Broken-record until they specify an amount of time. Any guesses why HR Person and Boss's Boss seem to have it in for you? Are you too, like, competent or something?

J. @496: --Character design by P. Crustes


#501 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 12:38 PM:

Building New Pieces:

It sounds to me like StbXT has shoehorned you in to a certain role in their own mind. And the reason StbXT can't give you coping strategies is that HE doesn't have any to suggest, because you're not following the pattern that he's decided you should.

Also, the lunch hour run-around? At my place of work you couldn't go out for a sit-down lunch and get back in the available time, so I either packed one or ran out to a fast food place and brought it back to my desk to finish. That way I was there to take care of any issue that might come up during that time. It's probably one of the reasons I was totally burned out by the time I retired.

The only thing I can suggest is going to HR Person and asking for them to give you the lunch hour times in writing because what you're being told is too vague and VERY confusing. (And I was a timekeeper!)

#502 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 01:51 PM:

Is it possible to take your lunch breaks at the end of the day? That's what we do at work when we have to work through lunch ('work' here means 'help students at a restaurant and eat our own food in a casual social setting').

#503 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 02:25 PM:

Bodhisvaha @492, hurrah!

Building New Pieces @494, that therapist experience pretty effectively sums up why I have found most of mine unhelpful. Augh. Mine, I think, were basically somewhat incompetent; yours sounds at minimum as though they think they Know Better than you, when actually their job should be to listen to what you want and need.

That work situation sounds really stressful and I wish I had advice. But I am reading, and witnessing.

Lee @495: a "temporary shoring-up" approach, which is what you're asking for, might be more effective for your current situation than a "fix everything from the ground up".
This is something I asked for from a counseling service provided by my school. The lady was very insistent that I would have to work on the underlying problems eventually and it may as well be now. I decided she was too pushy and just never contacted her again. :/

MDeity Syndrome
That took me a minute, but *giggles*

J. @496: P. Crustes? *quizzical head-tilt*

#504 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 02:50 PM:

Re: P. Crustes

Classical allusion -- Procrutes' Bed, whereupon he either cut his guests down to size or stretched them to fit it.

IIRC, Theseus put a permanent end to the problem.

#505 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 02:52 PM:

And in the oh-no moment I realize I've mis-spelt Procrustes. AUGH!

#506 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 02:54 PM:

Lori: Procrutes was his Roman cousin.

#507 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 03:33 PM:

Fidelio @ 497: "One of the scarier things a psychologist I work with ever said was that too many of his colleagues went into the business trying to fix their own issues--and never caught on to the fact their issues were theirs, not the patient's."

I think the first part is well recognized in psychology as the norm for people drawn to the "helping professions" - most of them are drawn to it because they're unconsciously or semi-consciously trying to work out their own problems. (Says the husband of a psychologist.) Many of them do figure it out along the way and manage to separate them.

I've heard one of the main jobs of a university's psychology degree program is to identify the students whose problems are so serious they aren't able to sort that out, and either fail them out of the program or route them into an area like research where they will never do any clinical work. All the others who are headed into clinical practice are supposed to go through enough therapy themselves to sort out their own problems from their clients' problems, and are supposed to have clinical supervision to help identify when that isn't happening. I think standards of practice say you're also supposed to recognize and recuse yourself from any cases where the issues are too close to your own; for example, (rot13-ed for MAJOR triggers) in most cases n gurencvfg jub unq orra frkhnyyl nohfrq ol ure sngure jbhyq or rkcrpgrq gb ersre gb nabgure gurencvfg n cngvrag jub pnzr va jvgu gur fnzr uvfgbel, gb nibvq trggvat ure bja vffhrf ragnatyrq jvgu ure cngvrag'f vffhrf. However, that doesn't necessarily happen or work. (I think of one of my friends from my 20s here - she's a licensed psychologist, but many of her friends still shake their heads in disbelief at the idea, especially following her long-term relationship with an abusive husband and her lack of boundaries with her daughter.)

I suspect counseling degree programs do a worse job of filtering, as typically they are not nearly as long or rigorous as a Masters or Ph.D. program in Psychology.

#508 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 03:55 PM:

Clifton @507--Good points. And yet I must add that there are a lot of good people in the field, trained and working at different levels, because effective therapy can be such a godsend to someone having difficulties.

But it can be a real challenge finding a good fit at the start, especially if you aren't sure exactly what you need or what to expect from the experience.

#509 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 07:28 PM:

Generally, hearing and witnessing - I've been following all the threads with interest (yay for awesome-sounding rental place! and Procrustean RPG design! and sympathies for bad work/therapist situations! :( and hopes for condo offer acceptance!)

One specific note: The_L @479: Miracles do happen, once in a while. :P And once in a while genetic mad science does produce a successful avian/porcine hybrid. *g* Though I think you're wise in not letting them have *control* (i.e. over the wedding planning), but rewarding the good behaviour with greater involvement-via-being-aware. Hurray!

I have a new literary hero. :) Mary Robinette Kowal has been writing beautifully about *gasp* a married couple! And their real-sounding marriage - complete with difficulties. In the latest book, Valour and Vanity, we even see Vincent dealing with deep, black depression - and Jane being the primary income earner for a while. There's this one section in the middle of the book that just... it rang so very, very true, except that while Vincent took it every bit as hard as my dad did, and they had the fight that my parents so often had ("Why are you complaining? It's *my* money, *I* earned it!"), but then they resolved it in such a mature, healthy manner.

Forgive all the rot13, but I don't want to spoil more of the book.
Naq Wnar'f fb njner gung vg'f abg *ernyyl* nobhg gur fbnc, vg'f nobhg uvz srryvat vanqrdhngr naq hfryrff, naq snvyvat gb or n zna ol gur fgnaqneqf bs gurve fbpvrgl. Fb jura fur tbrf vagb uvf uvqvat cynpr, vg'f abg na vainfvba (yvxr zl zbz punfvat qbja zl qnq vagb uvf uvqvat-onfrzrag), vg'f cneg bs gur urnyvat. Naq gur yvar jurer fur fnlf "Vf lbhe sngure zber vzcbegnag guna V nz?" "Gura jul qb lbh crefvfg va ubyqvat uvf bcvavba uvture guna zvar?" -ubyl fuvg, gung pbhyq unir orra Fcbhfr gnyxvat gb zr nobhg zl zbgure-vafgnyyrq gncrf. Naq xabjvat whfg nf shyyl gung vg'f fb zhpu zber guna gung, ohg vg chgf fhpu n arj crefcrpgvir ba guvatf. Naq gura, "Fur unq arire gubhtug gung ynhtugre pbhyq oernx ure urneg."

Oh, and on top of that - it's a fantastic, funny, witty heist book with the best nuns you hope never to get on the wrong side of. *G*

Had to share. :)

#510 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 08:30 PM:

fidelio #497: One of the scarier things a psychologist I work with ever said was that too many of his colleagues went into the business trying to fix their own issues--and never caught on to the fact their issues were theirs, not the patient's.

I've also seen a couple of "children of divorce" set out to be marriage counselors. "PhysicianPsychologist, heal thyself".

#511 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 08:55 PM:

BNP, as I was reading what you wrote about your ex-therapist, this possibility came to mind. When you go in for your appointment, this person is trying to treat a different patient's problems. They may very well have had clients in the past who put up a lot of resistance and denial around the issues they needed to work on. And this therapist may have decided, on very slim evidence, that you fit this pattern. So they are shoving you into that role.

Basically, what Lee and the others have said.

#512 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 09:54 PM:

Shiny new lease acquired! Thank you all for good wishes. We also went and had a fabulous dinner and got fancy dessert to have for breakfast, as I am about to zonk right out.

Still lots of hard parts, but between stress relief, delicious food, a cocktail, and Benadryl, I feel all nice and floaty. (I only realized the mistake well after ordering the cocktail, and thought, if I eat before drinking most of it, I have the body mass to soak this up. I seem to be right, but am still as tipsy as alcohol-disliking me has ever gotten. The general impression is "oh, so *this* would be just the right point to stop drinking, while it feels nice...")

#513 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 10:11 PM:

Internal server error on first attempt. Sorry if this turns out to be a double post, but I need to go fall down in a happy puddle.

Shiny new lease acquired! Thank you all for good wishes. We also went and had a fabulous dinner and got fancy dessert to have for breakfast, as I am about to zonk right out.

Still lots of hard parts, but between stress relief, delicious food, a cocktail, and Benadryl, I feel all nice and floaty. (I only realized the mistake well after ordering the cocktail, and thought, if I eat before drinking most of it, I have the body mass to soak this up. I seem to be right, but am still as tipsy as alcohol-disliking me has ever gotten. The general impression is "oh, so *this* would be just the right point to stop drinking, while it feels nice...")

#514 ::: Building New Pieces ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 10:30 PM:

Continuing my replies from the previous post:

Jacque @174:

WRT email draft: I'm glad you like the emphasis on promoting Company's interests. I like it because it a) shows a nonconfrontational, non-accusatory, and true motivation for my sending the email; b) strongly encourages an actually helpful answer; and c) makes it much harder for HR Person and Boss's Boss to pretend to be helpful and contributing to a functional workplace while also keeping the rules ambiguous for their gain. CCing Program Admin is also something to consider, thanks.

Recognizing the dysfunction and (learning to) calculate for it is Advanced Adult. I remain impressed.

#515 ::: Building New Pieces ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 10:32 PM:

Continuing my replies from the previous post:

Jacque @174:

WRT email draft: I'm glad you like the emphasis on promoting Company's interests. I like it because it a) shows a nonconfrontational, non-accusatory, and true motivation for my sending the email; b) strongly encourages an actually helpful answer; and c) makes it much harder for HR Person and Boss's Boss to pretend to be helpful and contributing to a functional workplace while also keeping the rules ambiguous for their gain. CCing Program Admin is also something to consider, thanks.

Recognizing the dysfunction and (learning to) calculate for it is Advanced Adult. I remain impressed.

Huh. I figured it wasn't Normal Childhood Skill, but to me it's Necessary Childhood Survival Skill. Thanks! :)

General:Stopping here, may have accidentally hit post early - please ignore any partial posts of this.

#516 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2014, 10:39 PM:

Yes! I'm not meaning at all to discount the value of a good therapist. A really good therapist - who is a good fit for you - can do wonders. It's the ones who aren't a good fit, and don't realize it, who can be a real problem. I've had some of each.

#517 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 12:17 PM:


Parental Unit: I'm feeling out of sorts.
Gun-shy Daughter: Whoa, I'm outta here.

She barely unsheathed her claws and hadn't touched me yet, much less broken skin, so my stress was minimal. Today she's back on track.

She has no mechanism to access when she goes off the rails - I'm not sure any of us does. Everyone I know rewrites history. I catch myself having done it, gasp.

She will modify her behavior when I am firm. The relaxed, friendly conversations almost all mornings are worth the energy to maintain a sleeper program (will anyone suggest a better term?) that pops up and says, "cut this off at the knees NOW".

My healthiest script with her starts fresh every morning: Are we going to be pleasant today? Yes, let's be pleasant today.

Say "Yay!" for me?

#518 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 12:30 PM:

Jeanie: Yay!

All: Reading and witnessing, and cheering good news and progress.

#519 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 12:52 PM:

Thank you, Mary Aileen!

I'd have been better to have said, changes happen when I'm firm about modifying my OWN scripts.

I strongly recommend asking for specific validation. It's magical!

#520 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 12:56 PM:

Jeanie: You are systematically conditioning both your mother and yourself to be functional/respectful with each other. This is a marvelous thing to watch.

#521 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 02:37 PM:

Thank you, Jacque.

#522 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 05:26 PM:

So there's a storyline of "person feels like (or is treated like) an imposter, so they ignore the feeling, act as if they are fully qualified, ignore the perceived slight, get things done, and their work speaks for itself." Instead, my "just give up, you're behind schedule anyways" tapes are going into heavy-duty rotation.

Several days later is several days too long to be still bothered by that "didn't get invited to an event all the folks around me went to" event. I've got a book on not overthinking things: while I read it I agree with the book, but the moment I'm in the office the feelings return. That I'm more susceptible to stress at the time I need to shield against it: not fair.

#523 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 06:38 PM:

#522 ::: variations on a lime


Are you up for commendation that you recognize that those tapes are running (huge step), and agreement that it's not fair?

I'm with you for both.

#524 ::: Anon for work ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 10:16 PM:

Just for the record, a lot of job stress has been alleviated. There's still a whole boatload of work, but boss lady acknowledged today that this is the stupidest time of year to hire someone for my particular job, and the dumbest way to train someone. Events just happened this way, and no one is holding me responsible for any of that.

Hearing all that actually stated lifted a huge load off my shoulders. As did cutting my Big Huge Important task in half through completely dedicating hours of focus and attention to it (and figuring out how it works way better than before).

SO much better. Thanks to all for support and suggestions!

#525 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 10:32 PM:

I wasn't sure whether to start this with "I feel *so* much better" or "Dance, puppet. Dance!" Both seem appropriate.

Last time I saw my parents (a week and a half ago), Mom cornered me with two social engagements I had no interest in. I've been stressed and grumpy ever since. (sorry, Spouse!) Finally today my husband got me talking - first about other things (like the ...impressive psychologist I saw a couple of years ago - helped lots, but also harmed lots. At the same time, yet.) then, gradually, rounding to more recent events. Wound the conversation around toward issues of control and responsibility - how Mom will *never* take responsibility for her own actions, ever. Even in the silliest things. And how she at the same time as she feels powerless must be in control of everything around her. And thus to her controlling me.

I've worked very, very hard over the years to break that control, but two Fridays ago she managed to find one of the strings I hadn't found to cut and yanked it hard. So I agreed to a) her taking us out to celebrate Father's Day (which honestly, who does that once their kids are old enough to choose their own gifts?!?) and b) her informing me that I would be attending my dad's birthday party which she's hosting. It's the latter that's had me particularly stressed, and feeling like a fox in a leg-hold trap.

I made up a list of reasons to go (Mom will get flak from my dad's family if I don't, Mom expects me to go, etc.) and reasons not to go (it's a party full of people I've explicitly decided I want nothing more to do with, I'm fantasizing about getting a migraine on the day so I'll have a Mom-acceptable excuse not to go...hence the fox analogy) Really convincing, right?

Worst part: when I finally realized 'I am an independent adult, and if the idea of going makes me ill than I can decide not to go,' I was mentally writing up a note to Mom. Not my dad, who the party is nominally about. I am ashamed, but I think this also reflects my programming quite clearly. :(

Tell me I don't suck for falling into these traps? And that I don't suck for not thinking first of my dad, when saying "no, I won't be going after all?" 'Cause right now I'm feeling enormously relieved, but also like a failure at being an independent adult and considerate human being.

#526 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 10:41 PM:

Jeanie@523: thanks!
I was able to wait until I got home a few hours ago before saying "not fair" out loud- not saying it at the office? win!

Next step, only letting myself think about this office stuff if I'm physically moving home stuff. (If I worry about work when spring cleaning, and worry about the depth of cleaning needed* when I'm at the office, then the tapes get muddled.)

*DF: grew up with hoarding, so while I don't quite have it, there's a tide and an ebb and flow to visible stuff which isn't good at high tide.

#527 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 10:58 PM:

Bodhisvaha, congrats on finding a good place to live.

Anon for work, yay for bosses who get it.

Jeanie, yay for gently managing boundary testing.

Building New Pieces @494, re email wording, I'm going to defer to your program advisory people at school, since it sounds like you have advice that's on your side and more knowledgeable about local conditions than I am.

Chickadee, you don't suck for falling into those traps. At least you recognize them. And as far as thinking about excusing yourself to your mom instead of your dad about not going to his party, I am reminded of Bilbo's thought in The Hobbit, "It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him." Or her. If your mother is the primary flame risk, then it makes sense you're thinking of her.

Can you tell your dad you're sorry you can't make the party, but you'd like to get together with him soon to do X?

Is it all feasible for you to stop in to the party briefly but not stay long? Or would that be more contentious than not going at all?

#528 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 11:04 PM:

#525 ::: Chickadee

No, you don't suck for falling into your mother's traps. She installed them when you were young and has kept them oiled and sharp.

As for your father - it's probably easier on him that you don't have to chew off your leg on his behalf by getting a migraine, or worse, stay helpless and caught.

I understand your feeling like a failure at being an independent adult and considerate human being but that isn't the way you're coming across.

#526 ::: variations on a lime
You're welcome!

I was astonished when I had nominally been an adult for some time to realize that there is not one code for all occasions. Behavior not optimal at work can be perfectly acceptable (even healthy!) in your own space.

I am enjoying the image of you peeking out from behind the high tide.

#529 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 11:07 PM:

#524 ::: Anon for work
Excellent news!!! Good for you!

#530 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 11:19 PM:

OtterB, Jeanie, thanks for the really fast replies!

OtterB: We just finished re-reading The Hobbit. Awesome quote choice! The current plan is to write my dad (just him, not Mom) and let him know that I won't be coming, but phrase it as 'it would mean so much more to me to see just you and Mom, rather than socializing in a big group' or words to that effect. He's the most pinned introvert I've ever met, so I think he'll appreciate that... And stopping by briefly a) would likely result in more acrimony, sadly and b) would result in me being guilted intensely to stay longer (to be guilted more, perhaps?) Given my druthers, I'd be in another city on the day. Hmmm... I have a friend in a town about an hour's drive away... ;)

Jeanie: Thanks for the reassurance. It helps. Especially that I'm not coming across that way. Because of tapes. (longish explanation snipped)

variations on a lime @526: Sympathies. My parents weren't hoarders, though some of their siblings emphatically were, but I still wasn't allowed to throw anything away without a darn good reason. It was a while learning that things not used for several years didn't need to be kept - and that things not good enough to give away could be disposed of! Good luck with the cleaning! (also, come here to celebrate what you *have* managed, if you feel discouraged at the amount left!)

#531 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 01:08 AM:

Anon for work, #524: It really is amazing how much difference it makes when your situation is acknowledged! Glad things are going better for you.

Chickadee, #525: she managed to find one of the strings I hadn't found to cut and yanked it hard

That right there tells you whose fault it is, and it ain't yours. Your mother worked hard to install all these backdoors to your programming, and debugging yourself is as much work, and as likely to be fraught with as-yet-unidentified traps, as debugging a security-compromised computer.

Also, the issue with the party isn't about your father, it's about your mother's control over you. She's using him as a convenient piece of bait, that's all. You have correctly identified the place where your attention should be going first.

There's no reason that you can't both decide, "I'm a functional adult, and I don't have to go to this party if I don't want to," AND become conveniently ill this time, because it'll be easier on you than having that fight with your mother after she already conned you into agreeing. Save the statement of independence for the next time this issue comes up, and I would suggest not a migraine, but a bad case of food poisoning or a 24-hour GI bug that has you "going at both ends". The latter is probably your best bet, because you can plausibly claim not only that you're not well enough to be there, but that you don't want to expose everyone else at the party to whatever you've got, and your mother can't argue with that without making herself into the unreasonable one.

Variations, #526: Are you on DreamWidth by any chance? If so, I recommend the community bitesizedcleaning as a good support group for people who feel overwhelmed by Stuff.

#532 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 10:26 AM:

::WAIL:: My peeps are gone! ::WAIL::

Having grown up thinking I was an introvert, I tended to avoid the company of other people (because the vast majority were toxic to some degree). Then, as the quality of the people around me has improved over the years, I gradually worked out that I am, in fact, an extrovert (who nevertheless does require a certain amount of Alone Time).

During my current job, it's become clear to me that I benefit from having a lot of (functional, or at least neutral) people around me, even if I don't interact with them directly. What I hadn't realized was the degree to which I'd come to depend on the presence of "my peeps."

Well, today, one of my main peeps starts his paternity leave. My other main peep is in the middle of a vacation in Africa.

::WAIL:: My peeps are gone! ::WAIL::

I'm depending heavily, for my sanity, on knowing you-all are here.

#533 ::: nCnC ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 10:50 AM:

And in addition to the absence of my Usual Suspects, my boss is being a micromanaging PITA.


#534 ::: Chickadee sees a 'nym rescue ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 10:53 AM:

Two things:

First, and more importantly: nCnC: We are here! Online, yet! And supporting you!

Second: 'nym rescue for 532?

#535 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Speaker to Tall People ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 11:07 AM:

That person is often in these threads under this name. Unless/until I get a more direct request, I think I'll leave it.

(I, by the way, am an introvert, but even introverts get lonely. And I now have no team members closer than 1,000 kilometers away from me. I'm sitting all on my own in a set of empty desks. Sometimes I go whole workdays without talking to anyone face to face.

It's driving me nuts.)

#536 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 11:09 AM:

I wonder what's dragging me down and keeping me down.

I don't know if it's environmental or internal or both. If environmental, then the mess and lack of paint in the living room is probably a large part of it. Still no colour chosen for the living room, the last room that needs a colour choice. (Bedroom will get the same colour.) There's a good chance that getting the living room painted, the old blinds gone instead of sitting in a pile on the floor, and the camping gear put away after this weekend's trip will go a long way toward not feeling like I live in a disaster zone.

Which I actually don't.

There was stuff going on in the building that involved unit doors being open for an extended period yesterday, and glances in other units while I walked past plus chatting with a neighbour at her door and seeing inside let me know that most people have a lot more stuff in their places than I do, and they're not cleaner than mine either, and *their* places aren't horrible disaster zones.

I don't know how clean and empty my place will have to be to not trigger my "dirty disaster zone, not appropriate for guests" feeling, but right now anything out of place does it, anything not currently in use but on the table, any excess stuff even if it's put away but still visible... an unrealistically clean place, basically. And I don't know if it's a moving target, either; it could well be something that I can never satisfy.

The daily interesting thing photo has been making sure I get out of the house nearly every day, which helps. Even if it's not a special photo walk but bringing the camera with me while doing other things.

And yet... I still seem to be stuck on procrastinating things I NEED to do, but by doing things other than those things I WANT to do. Then the day disappears and I end up getting neither needs nor wants satisfied. Outside commitments - classes, volunteer activities, anything where other people are expecting me at a set time, I can get out to and do on time. Inside commitments? I might slog another inch closer on a given day. I moved a few things away from walls that will be painted, but most things that need to be moved haven't been. Even if I haven't picked a colour, priming the wall back to white would be an improvement and I've been trying to tell myself to at least get that done while I think about colours.

Or it might be internal, and fixing the environmental stuff might not help. Or it might be the continued lack of a job. Or all of those.

On the plus side, two resumes sent in two weeks. I haven't been seeing anything I can apply to for a while, so that's very unusually good. On the other hand, fathers day weekend family stuff coming up -- I think I will have to pre-emptively declare that I'm taking the weekend off from job hunting and I absolutely don't want to talk about the subject at all. Otherwise I will get lots and lots of unsolicited inappropriate advice from family, because that's what they do.

Anyhow. More slogging forward.

#531, Lee: thanks for the link to bitesizedcleaning. I think some archive-reading is in my future; the little bit I've read so far seems as if it could be helpful to me in important ways that UFYH distinctly does not work for me. Regular maintenance is definitely an issue for me. Why can't things just stay clean? :(

#537 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 12:05 PM:

Jacque @532, wah! I am here

the invisible one @536, sympathies. :(

this is probably going to totally blow any claim to wall-between-normal-nym-and-here that I had but whatever as long as nobody like *writes it down* or anything

a friend in CollegeTown died last tuesday night. my undergraduate major advisor died monday. i found out four and a half hours after I arrived back in HomeTown. *swears a lot*

selfish me: but I just got home! D:
selfish practical me: but who will be my third letter of rec writer? D:

i called former-professor-current-friend to talk about it a little. friend studies the country late-advisor was from. but he had no idea they shared that interest until i told him a couple months ago, even though their offices were a floor apart in the same building. friend expressed regret that he'd never talked to advisor, to which my only response was to quote, "regret, by definition, comes too late. say what you mean. bear witness. iterate." because that says it all really.

talking about this here because i feel like talking about it in the open thread would be weird and attention-grabby and selfish. which is me being dysfunctional yay.

#538 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 12:43 PM:

Chickadee: Thanks for watching my back, but I think it's sufficiently cryptic. I'm pretty sure only regular readers will "get it."


Idumea Arbacoochee: It's driving me nuts.

EEK. Yeah, that would be hard. Were it me, and my concentration not hopelessly blown by verbal noise, I'd be tempted to stream a movie in the background, just to minimize the post-apocalyptic vibe.

the invisible one @536: procrastinating

That's a pretty accurate description of my pattern. For me, it's partly a spoons issue. If I make sure to get enough sleep, and am eating properly and taking my meds, that helps some. But...yeah.

hope in disguise: Yeah. The hardest (and, strangely, weirdest) thing about death is how...irreversible it is. Anything else, there's almost always some way to weasel around it.

#539 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 01:51 PM:

Jacque, #532: We are here! We are here! We are here! We are here!

the invisible one, #536: Ouch. But at least you're identifying some of the problems instead of just being overwhelmed by them without being able to put a finger on what's wrong, and that's a start. I don't know what to say about establishing a baseline for "acceptable level of not-neat" that you can feel in your gut, but you have my sympathies.

hope in disguise, #537: Just in case you need to hear it, you are NOT a Bad Selfish Person for thinking about how your colleagues' deaths are going to affect you and your career path. It's a normal response for anyone in your situation. My sympathies to you as well.

In general: If anyone wants to add me over on DreamWidth, I'm stardreamer there. And I won't out you in either place (even if I figure out the connection, which I probably won't) unless you identify yourself first and say it's okay.

#540 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 02:28 PM:

Little John @ 396: congratulations! that is a lot of good stuff to have accomplished and to be planning!

You are not alone in your feelings about your parents. My feelings are pretty similar. I seem to be doing a lot of wanting and grieving the parents I should have had. You know, the people my parents could have reasonably been who would have been better parents, thereby stacking the odds for mutual happiness, instead of mutual unhappiness. It's sadder but easier now that I can admit that they never were and probably never will be the parents I should have had, but that sometimes they try to be them for a while. It's not acceptance/peace about it, just a recognition of reality. The trying is worth something in the account book, while I have my safety and independence.

#541 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 04:09 PM:

Lee @539, *waves*. Was surprised to realize, I recognize you from other people's comment sections

#542 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 02:11 AM:

#538, Jacque: It may be a spoons thing here, I don't know. Something isn't right, anyway: I haven't been doing any fiction writing lately.

#539, Lee: I may have to frame it as "my standards of neatness" instead of as "acceptable levels of not-neat", to get to a gut level acceptance. I don't know.

After posting this morning, at some point in the day I realized that I don't actually have any memory of my parents saying anything nice about my place. Or my appearance, for that matter. I mean, it's not all bad; mom has said good things about my cooking, and that she's very proud of me and thinks I'm smart and stuff for the way my schooling and jobs have worked out in general.

But never having said anything positive about my place? The place that I chose, and live in, and maintain, and have my life in? It seems to be an article of faith with them that I'm a lazy slob when it comes to housework. I admit that I don't like it and I do have trouble with motivation for housework. I know how to do it, and I'm capable of staying on top if it. (Well, I usually can when I'm not down in the hole of blah -- not as deep as the pit of despair because I can still do some things, but still a problem.)

So whenever they come over I stress about cleaning things up to their standards. I don't know how or if the chores schedule when I was a kid plays into this; areas of the house were rotated on a schedule between siblings, and to make sure one kid didn't inherit another's mess, our designated areas had to be cleaned to pass inspection before they could be handed over. Which was fair, but I wonder if "inspection-ready" got ingrained as my standard of "clean" -- to which I'm always falling short. No, not just "inspection-ready", but a frustrated kid's perception of it never being quite clean enough for the inspector even when to my eyes it looks just fine.

On top of that, the least-disparaging thing that was said about my choice of wall colour was "whoa". (I count making unsolicited suggestions for how one could go about toning down a wall colour as disparaging, because I was never asked if I even wanted to change those colours, it was just assumed that they were so bad that obviously they had to be changed.) So I still haven't told them about my sunny yellow dining room even though I painted it 2 months ago.

Unfortunately at this point I don't even want them to start saying nice things about my place, because it'll feel just as awkward and fake (and depending on what is said, possibly also sarcastic and/or "compared to how it used to be, ugh") as it did after I told mom off for only ever pointing out bad things about my appearance. She started offering things like telling me I was wearing a nice shirt, to counterbalance her prior comments about "that scab looks horrible" (did she think I hadn't noticed?) or "aren't you going to brush your hair?" (immediately after I did).

One disadvantage to learning about boundaries and healthy vs. toxic interaction patterns is that long before getting confident in maintaining boundaries and redirecting toxic interactions, all the toxic stuff gets really visible due to having learned to identify it. Even though my parents weren't abusive, there are some interactions that I want to stop or change that require varying degrees of boundaries, and at the moment the only boundary I've managed to enforce (and at that, not all the time) is to not answer my phone and listen to the message later. So I'm seeing all these things that I wasn't seeing before, and I get so frustrated because I don't know how to change it.

Does anybody have any tips for actually breaking out of a conversation the others are having at you that you don't want to have? I seem to compulsively answer/address what the other person said even if that takes the conversation in a direction I don't want to go. It is extraordinarily frustrating that all the wonderful scripts I learned here and at CA vanish right when I need them. "Just say [script]" isn't helpful to me at this point, because I am stumbling on the steps prior to that. Which, as lovely as CA is, I don't recall seeing them acknowledge/recognize that those steps are there.

#543 ::: cantabrigian poet, formerly known as backyard stargazer ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 09:41 AM:

#542, if you already have appropriate scripts to use, can you practice them out loud with someone? Role playing can feel ridiculous, but it is easier to say something you've practiced saying out loud. Even if you don't want to invite another person, you can play both roles. You're imagining the ways your parents will react inside your head already. Say them out loud and respond. Talk to your voicemail. At least for me, something I've practiced saying inside my head isn't nearly as much on the tip of my tongue as things I've said outside of it.

#544 ::: cantabridgian poet, formerly known as backyard stargazer ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 09:53 AM:

Abi, I see that I actually already have two nyms in play on Making Light attached to this email. Oops. Could you retrofit my comments to my original, cantabridgian poet?

[Done, sort of ;-) — Idumea Arbacoochee, Rescuer of Nyms (cute fuzzy little nyms)]

#545 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 10:02 AM:

the invisible one @542: I don't know if this will help at all, but I found having someone else there with me during the toxic conversation to be invaluable. Even if the scripts fled and I reflexively responded, either a) the other person (Spouse in my case, maybe a trusted friend in yours?) could redirect things, even if it was a blatant "Hey, check out that local sports team!" or b) could at least help me to not hate myself afterward. The latter doesn't seem like it's relevant to the moment of saying stuff, but turning around that self-loathing was one of the things that ended up being really important in changing the pattern of interaction.

Another thing that I found helped (now this was when I was further along than I think you are, but still) was to declare a contact moratorium. Not complete block, but e-mail only. So I was guaranteed to have a chance of going away, calming down, and responding with my scripts instead of my reflexes/compulsions. If you do this, be prepared for a full-on frontal assault on your boundaries. Mom never baked/called/invited so much as during those three months. It was so frustrating!!! And infuriating!!! But it made such a difference, in the end.

Whether the above is helpful or hlepy, know that you have my sympathies. It's an awful, deeply frustrating place to be.

#546 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 10:45 AM:

So, Landlord has earned new, extra-special Golden Slimeball points. I'm just floored. I'd already promised a writer friend an anonymized copy of all this, for her truth-stranger-than-fiction plotline file, and now this. My home life has been turned into conspiracy theory live theatre AGAIN for the second time in a year. The writers for my life clearly want it to be a soap opera. I had been wondering if it was at a mid-season cliff-hanger or a season finale again so soon. I'm voting for multi-episode extravaganza season finale, because there is no way in hell, after three disasters in a row, that I am letting another new person stay in my home more than a few days anymore, until they have been vetted to my satisfaction. At this point, my satisfaction could take years.

So, remember how Landlord and Current Yoga Teacher Roommate were discovered chatting in our house without permission from a tenant on the lease? (Or if not, now you know.) Well, now we have a better idea what that conversation might have been about. The latest edition of the Airbnb ad is still in the entire homes section and only there, but it now features a section on how at a B&B you can expect to see other people and only certain rooms are available for use. The listing mentions the bedroom count several times; one count is now down from 4 bedrooms to 3 available. So, there is now a private, permanently used bedroom. And later, there is what I believe is new text, about the provision of breakfast, and it being run as a yoga/wellness retreat with meditation and yoga studio space, with private lessons available. Yoga Teacher Roommate has not been packing much, has not been talking about housing search, and seems so very serene. I wonder if there is a simple explanation for this. I have a feeling the simple explanation involves Slimeball Landlord saying that she could skip all the hassle and just stay here as the housekeeper/yoga teacher, only she'll pay him not me because I won't be there anymore. Oh, and it's still not clear where the supposed owner-occupier Landlord/B&B owner will live. I wonder if there will be one bed or two needed when they are both staying at my former home, since there is only one private bedroom saved from bookings.

On the upside, this puts another massive spike in whatever case the landlord may attempt to bring, if he is in fact tossing the 2 legal tenants out while keeping the convenient occupant that he likes. Bonus spike: he's violating Airbnb policies in an exciting new way.

So let's be clear about it, here where I can say this without being instantly told it can't be true or can't be that bad. I'm being driven out of my home by a profiteering slimeball, who has planted and is actively using a spy in my home, that he asked me to take in on trust and kindness: she needed a home and we needed to go back to paying 2 of 3 shares of rent + utilities instead of 3 of 3 shares. I'm not sure whether or not I can legally throw her out ASAP, especially since it will tip my hand a bit early. Slimeball landlord is setting up an illegal, unregulated, untaxed, and minimally insured business in tourist accommodations, and is likely to provide lodgings that do not comply with local laws, and could potentially be downright unsafe, depending on how stupid his renovations and house rules are. In pursuit of this he is either defrauding and violating the privacy of his soon-to-be-ex-wife (with the bonus chance of implicating her in fraud), or she is in cahoots with him in his harebrained schemes. While he evidently went to Creep University, he must have flunked "Being a Crook 101", because he puts his illegal plans into signed and dated official letters, and public material on the internet, without breaking trail with any of the documentation he would have if he were doing things according to the law. And no matter how you slice it, Landlord/They are happy to invade my home and my privacy, and violate our security and rights as tenants, because their comfort and profit matter far more than our rights and security. Have I missed anything?

#547 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 01:09 PM:

hope in disguise, #541: Heh, likewise. But that's really not all that surprising; my online communities tend to be a set of partially-overlapping Venn diagrams, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. And some of the overlaps go so far back that I've had moments recently (especially on Facebook) where I was surprised to see Person X commenting on Person Y's post, only to realize a moment later, "Oh, that's because we all used to be in Community Z."

the invisible one, #542: I think your analysis of how and why the cleanliness tapes got installed is likely to be spot-on. And yes, if that's the case, reframing as "MY standards of cleanliness" is likely to be a fruitful direction to go.

Yes, unsolicited suggestions about how to "improve" your decor are disparaging. (I am now flinching, remembering how I once edited a friend's poem to improve the rhymes and scansion without asking first. These days I would know better, but that was a long time ago.)

"aren't you going to brush your hair?" (immediately after I did)
If she can't tell when you've brushed your hair, she is clearly unqualified to make ANY comments about your appearance. I mean, that's pretty basic and hard to miss!

long before getting confident in maintaining boundaries and redirecting toxic interactions, all the toxic stuff gets really visible due to having learned to identify it
This is common when learning anything new. In particular, I've heard a lot of writers say that they could recognize their own writing errors long before they became able to avoid said errors. Which is to say, this is a normal (though yes, frustrating!) part of the learning curve.

I seem to compulsively answer/address what the other person said even if that takes the conversation in a direction I don't want to go.
This sounds like yet another tape/backdoor access issue. Your parents have conditioned you to avoid redirecting conversations away from whatever criticism of you they want to make, and it carries over to your interactions with other people. I have no useful suggestions here except to endorse the idea of role-playing; things you've rehearsed doing are likely to become easier to do when actually called for.

#548 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 01:17 PM:

Bodisvaha @546, I believe the correct term for your landlord is "a piece of work." When do you move to your new place? From which you can pop popcorn and watch the drama unfold, should you choose to do so.

#549 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 01:49 PM:

Bodhisvaha, that is mind-blowing.

I can see why your writer friend wants notes; when your landlord has Bad Ideas, he apparently has them on the scale of an Elmore Leonard character.

I'm glad you're going to be safely out of there, and will hope you end up with some sort of recompense for all this aggravation and he ends up with an appropriate comeuppance (to revive the old word.)

#550 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 02:33 PM:

the invisible one @542: all the wonderful scripts I learned here and at CA vanish right when I need them.

It's hard to change responses to stressful situations in the moment that they're happening. It's much more effective to systematically train for those situations in one's own time. It's a lot like learning a language. Practice, practice, practice.

Since you're a CA reader, you've got the vocabulary. It sounds like you mostly need conversational practice, to get the appropriate responses you already have in your toolkit loaded "into your ear." Thirding the role-playing suggestion.

To customize the scripts and make it easier to "own" the desired responses, would it be workable to write out the conversations you did have, and then go back and "rescript" them with appropriate, boundary-maintaining responses?

And also be conscious that (as demonstrated by others here) it takes time and repetition to shift the dynamic away from what's currently working for your parents. Chickadee speaks much wisdom.

Also: I accidentally discovered, much to my surprise, after listening to music while drawing portraits for a couple of hours every evening for several months, that this "meditation" actually blew the cotton out of my brain so that when I got called in by my boss about some "infractions," I had access to my own experience and values, and was able to respond choicefully, rather than just sitting there panicking as I usually did.

#551 ::: Chickadee sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 07:23 PM:

Highly entertaining spam, yet.

#552 ::: Clifton sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 07:24 PM:

Begone, creature of marketing!

#553 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 07:27 PM:

I just discovered that you can ask for a webpage to be added to It might be a good idea to add that ever-changing airbnb listing...

#554 ::: B. Durbin spots spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 07:37 PM:

Whack-a-mole time!

#555 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 07:38 PM:

Bodhisvaha: I agree that the name is "a piece of work." I hope your move goes smoothly and the popcorn is nice and fresh.

#556 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2014, 01:43 AM:

#545, Chickadee: Good thought, if I could find such a person. I haven't identified anybody in the family who sees the problems I do (which may be because they don't exist, and may be because they do as I do, and keep silent at the problematic things). I generally don't have friends with me at family events. And I'm single, so no SO to get backup from.

I did cut off contact for a month or two toward the start of the relationship with New Ex, because she was being overly nosy about him and didn't seem capable of toning it down when I merely asked. That didn't get assault-style pushback; it got through to her that I was serious, and she finally toned it down (a bit) after that.

#543, cantabrigian poet; #547, Lee; #550, Jacque: Role playing. Ugh.

Maybe rehearsing saying the scripts out loud, but I don't know who I could ask to do a role play type thing with, even if I could stand the thought of it. So it would have to be done alone. (Or with my cat.)

#547, Lee: If she can't tell when you've brushed your hair, she is clearly unqualified to make ANY comments about your appearance. I mean, that's pretty basic and hard to miss!

For somebody who doesn't know me, maybe not. I brush and braid my hair and I *start* with a 1" frizz halo. It just gets wilder from there. But my parents don't have that excuse.

Your parents have conditioned you to avoid redirecting conversations away from whatever criticism of you they want to make, and it carries over to your interactions with other people.

I'm not sure where I picked that up, actually. When I was a teenager I was apparently a master of changing the subject, or so mom mentioned to me a few times. My memory is that I was pretty good at it, and on some subjects I can still do it. It may have been a combination of things, possibly including Crappy Ex being crappy, my dad's explaining gene (which I definitely got), the sense that refusing to listen to criticism is just denial (Crappy Ex and/or Unhelpful Counsellor? not sure) so I must address suggestions no matter how useless, and telling people outright that they don't know enough to make suggestions is mean so I can't possibly do that and I must justify why I'm not trying everything they suggest even if it's something that was proved definitively ages ago to not actually work that way. And so I get super-generic or decades out of date bad job-hunting advice from people who don't know anything about my field or about job-hunting in the past two decades or both, or wildly incorrect chemistry advice from people who didn't take chemistry past grade 10, and I can't tell them to just stop please, I have to address every point. Oh, and then I become the person who asks for help then rejects every piece of it, which is also a bad thing. Even if I didn't ask for help.

The spot I see to break out of it is pretty much limited to stopping myself from responding then changing the subject, but the "denial" and "rejecting help", as well as "not refuting means they're right" things are pretty powerful. So powerful that I don't consciously notice them in the moment.

#550, Jacque: I'll see if I can try rescripting past conversations - on paper/computer, so my brain doesn't go round and round and round. (I already do that in my head. It hasn't helped any.) That will be dependent on getting to a place to write things down quickly enough after the conversation that I can write a reasonably accurate transcription of it.

#557 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2014, 01:41 PM:

@544: cute fuzzy little nyms

(Okay, fine, it's a tribble with a face.)


#558 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2014, 01:54 PM:

the invisible one @556: Maybe rehearsing saying the scripts out loud, but I don't know who I could ask to do a role play type thing with, even if I could stand the thought of it. So it would have to be done alone.

Does your computer have the capability to record audio? (Which leads me to evil thoughts about recording her if your cellphone has the ability, which would probably be all kinds of Wrong....) Then you could role-play against yourself...?

That will be dependent on getting to a place to write things down quickly enough after the conversation that I can write a reasonably accurate transcription of it.

Not sure if this would be viable for you, but it would certainly change the dynamic: could you conspicuously transcribe the conversation as you're having it?

Three possible advantages of this approach:

  1. It implies "Yes, I'm taking your suggestions seriously," and thus might move them to take some of the pressure off.

  2. Relieves you of the need to try to remember the exchange.
  3. And, most sneaky of all, will pull your attention away from your reflexive responses, and thus might even allow you to dissociate a bit and thus be less sucked-in to the interaction.

Oddly, I learned this trick from my mother who (after I left, anyway) would use it when she started to feel overwhelmed in a fraught exchange.

This also gives you the excuse to say, "Wait, I'm writing this down," which is another sneaky way for you to take some control in the conversation.

#559 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2014, 03:04 AM:

The writer of my housing soap opera must be on some really good drugs. Boggled, flabbergasted, becroggled...I can't believe this is real though I was right there.

We came down to breakfast to find the landlord removing our furniture from our deck, which is 1 floor up just outside the living room and the living room has no shades. No notice, no consent, no nothing. Partner started asking him what the hell. Landlord started taking a crowbar to the deck railing. I started taking verbatim notes and told Partner get video, photos. Partner did and started taking photos with an iPad and then recording the conversation with his cellphone, though he didn't get all the good bits. Landlord continues moving stuff and demolishing the railing *while his tenant is visibly recording him engaging in illegal acts, complete with time-stamp.* Doesn't stop, doesn't try to grab either device, doesn't tell us to stop recording this dammit. This is not the behaviour of a rational person.

Instead he insults Partner, half-threatens us, makes outrageous claims about this being essential maintenance. This deck was hit by a falling tree last summer or fall, and he told us then to go on using as it was safe. Partner mentions that fact too. Landlord next spouts off ultimatums about us letting him work on the basement, and blatant lies about the lease and its terms, including pretending that the demising door he installed and gave us keys for himself is not in fact a demising door. Landlord clearly delusional.

So, since he's obviously not stopping for *anything*, we go back inside for breakfast, showers and a panic attack, some of which we tape documentary-style. We leave some windows open to keep an ear on things, and for hours we overhear construction noises mixed with Landlord badmouthing us to at least two different neighbours. (He bitched about other things too, like someone's shoddy construction quality.)

I think perhaps tomorrow I should call the police and ask if this happens to be a crime even though it's his property, and report it if it is.

I have also been listing his offences under local rental law for more convenient reporting soon, and while getting citations hit the motherlode: in our jurisdiction, knowingly attempting to commit an offense out of sections X Y Z is *in itself an offense.* It might be time to get the popcorn ready: I've got a mental trailer looping of Wile E. Coyote hovering over a deep canyon while decapitating himself with an Acme chainsaw, and mounting the head on an Acme self-propelled pike contraption that lands quivering at our feet, and we all know the next step should be for the gravity to come back on.

#560 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2014, 04:21 AM:

@Bodisvaha: It might be time for you to contemplate whether you might have handled this surreal experience differently 5, 10, or 15 years ago. Personally, I can *remember* being paralyzed with terror when an old superior started threatening to withhold my paycheck, and I can *remember* the literally heart-pounding fear of going over her head, but putting myself now in that situation then? Without the old tapes of "Authority over you has no boundaries, Authority is the power to inflict anguish, submit to Authority's whims or things will only get worse," the situation would have been resolved within minutes instead of a day of paralyzed fear on my part before I finally went to our mutual boss and discovered that (of course) my superior was spouting BS. Perhaps you can trace a similar path in your own life.

#561 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2014, 02:02 PM:

J. @ 560: oh, as it was happening it did not occur to me to call the police, as it might have to a normal person. I did think of the police about 12 hours later. That's progress, I agree. But in the moment I was very busy being flabbergasted and taking notes because my god this has *got* to be captured for the authorities does he not realize how much of a screwup it is to let us take recordings like this?

I heard construction noises again this morning below my bedroom window and heard his voice again, but I hadn't *seen* him at work yet. It turned out there was nothing going on (no notice, no work either), but I'm still climbing down from the panic attack tree despite taking my use-only-when-needed meds for it.

I think that we'll call the police's non-urgent line with a polite inquiry such as "I'm not sure if this is a crime, could you tell me if it is and what I should do next time?"

#562 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2014, 09:52 PM:

Update: It's official. My parents got the financing sorted out in the way most advantageous to them, and the closing will proceed as scheduled on the 30th. I am really, truly moving to Boston to a dwelling I love, and away from crazy-making Homeowner.

In further good news, I am back on my meds. And, after just under a week, my appetite is back, and I wrote my first new piece of fiction in a YEAR. (Bless you, Penny Dreadful, for being such a cracktastic, fic-inspiring show.)

Not solved yet: gainful employment. But the next two weeks are going to be all about PACKING, so I'm trying to cut myself slack there, even though I have to deal with my mother's (justified) anxiety.

I am so relieved.

#563 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2014, 10:20 PM:

protecting others' privacy @562, go you!

#564 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2014, 10:55 PM:

protecting others' privacy -

#565 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2014, 11:04 PM:

I recognize something there that looks a little familiar from my own life, which you might also want to think about.

One time a few years ago, I noticed somebody walking around in the back of our property and went out there to see what the hell was going on. It turned out to be a guy who identified himself as our neighbor from the property on the other side of the block, adjoining ours in back, who had come over there, he said, because that edge of our property was so overgrown and he wanted to cut it back a bit. I was mildly steamed and told him firmly, politely, and repeatedly, that if he wanted to trim some of the overgrowth there, I wouldn't object but he needed to ask me before coming onto the property. He huffed and puffed and waved his arms and made a point about the property line not being the wall, it was one foot this side of the wall (which he was well past) but in the end he deflated and left.

It wasn't until a few weeks later that it struck me: "Oh. He was waving a big machete around expansively the whole time he was talking. I suppose he was probably trying to intimidate me." At the time I didn't even think of it as a potential threat, which probably both unsettled him and irked him if he did mean it as one.

It strikes me that smashing up your deck with a crowbar while talking to you could well be a clumsily implied and non-specific threat, and if you talk to the police you might want to mention that aspect of it too.

#566 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2014, 11:40 PM:

Clifton @565: yeah, I see what you mean. You get used to being threatened and not having help available.

Sadly the local police can't/won't do anything until someone gets hit, or perhaps if some property gets smashed. If something like the deck incident happens again I think we ought to just call the emergency line (one step below 911). If the result is that we get told we are wasting their time, the answer is something like "officer, there is an angry man, whose behaviour has been getting steadily more threatening and less predictable, invading my private space against the law, and he's holding a potential weapon. Who exactly *should* I be calling for help? Or should we be letting him threaten us?"

We have been working diligently on getting the mess into file-able form for the tenant law board. (The form does not anticipate complex problems, which means that we need to have a really good summary, and the situation keeps *changing* in ways that change the whole thing...)

To add insult to injury, the last time we called the board's investigation and enforcement people, we got a dolt who tried to pretend that a Monday-to-Friday 9-5 call center with a 20 minute hold time was only able to take reports about offenses happening *in the moment*. Yes, I'm sure the landlord will freeze right there with the crowbar for 20 minutes until I've made it through the queue...

#567 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2014, 12:25 AM:

@Bodhisvaha: A potential add-on if the officer objects that it's "just" a large metal tool and he isn't actually brandishing it *at* you might be, "[Time period] ago I wouldn't have believed him capable of any of a long string of incidents that have become increasingly bizarre and divorced from reality. There is only one way to know for certain whether he would actually decide to use that thing on me in his present state of mind, and I don't want to find out!"

#568 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2014, 04:14 PM:

J @ 567: that is exactly it! the longer it goes on the worse his mood gets and the more incredibly stupid things he does. There is no telling anymore where he will stop, because we are long past where a rational person -- or even most crude approximations of one -- would have stopped offending.

I have no idea what financial demon is driving him, but it seems probable there is one. An expensive habit? A crushing debt to organized crime? There should be something to explain why someone with no dependents and a well-paid full time permanent job could be going so broke that they would think THIS was a good idea. I have the feeling he must need money NOW.

If he could wait a few months for extra money to materialize, he had many less illegal yet profitable options, like selling the house, waiting for us to go broke and move out then getting richer tenants, or even a plain old (but better executed) termination in bad faith. What I don't understand is why he thought *this* plan would generate money faster, because he still has to expect to wait 2-3 months.

#569 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2014, 11:02 AM:

protecting others' privacy: If you'd like me to put you in touch with a good friend of mine who lives in Boston, contact me at the email address at the bottom of the web page linked from my name.

He's not as plugged in to the local fannish social scene as he once was, but I think he can get you started, if you like.

#570 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2014, 12:38 PM:

How the heck do I extricate myself from this quandary?

My mother makes what I feel are unreasonably picky demands about dining room table unclutteredness. I respond by being sullenly unwilling to clean up because *I* am NOT just silently, blindly obedient, gods darn it all. But of course this means that I am allowing her to control me just as surely as if I *did* clean up like she asked.

I do not have enough power to disengage myself from the power structure; I do not have the status for magnanimity to be read as other than obedience. It is so frustrating. HOW do I disengage? Besides moving out, which is not currently an option since my job applying was derailed by people dying. :/

#571 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2014, 01:17 PM:

Jacque, that's very kind of you. I actually have a large social circle in Boston, who I've kept up with despite living two hours away for TWENTY YEARS. I'm finally moving back.

That said, I'd welcome being put in touch with your friend; I can always stand to meet more cool people!

#572 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2014, 01:25 PM:

hope in disguise: Ouch. Sympathies. I recognize your frustration from myself a few years ago.

Although I can't offer any helpful suggestions from my experience (I got married and moved out...almost literally in that order because Mom wouldn't let me (emotional pressure/entanglement/power structure) move out any earlier than I did), I have some ideas. Ignore if hlepy.

Is there an area of the house you can safely declare yours? (i.e. that your mom would actually respect as yours) Would it help to focus all of your (completely reasonable) need to control your own habitat on that space? And think of the dining room table as - well, almost public space. So you're not caving to your mom, you're declaring the battle moved elsewhere. And the table isn't "hers" - it's public space (in your mind), which you're choosing not to leave your stuff on.

Sympathies. It really, really sucks to be trapped. Hugs if welcome.

#573 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2014, 01:35 PM:

hope in disguise @ 570

You're living in her house, it's her dining table. She gets to make the rules.

For the time being, graciously accede. When you have your own place, she won't get to tell you that you have to keep it "uncluttered".

Rather, she will (boy, my mother tried!), but you can reset your patterns to whatever level you'd like. A useful interim fantasy is planning your future structure.

You might see about negotiating a work space for you that you can close a door on?

#574 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2014, 01:41 PM:

Clifton: And here's the non-dysfunctional version for comparison's sake. A couple of years back, my neighbor was cutting branches from a tree of ours that was drooping over the fence and he miscalculated; one ended up falling into our yard. When he came over, apologetic, I told him that he could not only get the branch, but since we'd planned to remove the tree anyway, he could go to town on the sucker from our side if he wanted. Which he did.

Because that's how sane people act.

I also want to put a note to ma larkey and Codemonkey, because we have not heard from them in a while. I do not know if you are reading and too stressed to post, or will only get back after current craziness, but I am wishing good things to come your way and hope your current silences are because of good things in process.

#575 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2014, 01:48 PM:

Revisiting what I just posted, tempered by Chickadee's comments.

Depends on how much space there is. If the only area for you is that table, then it's reasonable to negotiate how much of it you can use/leave your stuff on.

It's wearing to have to spend setup/breakdown time instead of using your energy to get things done.

Is there another area (could be emotional instead of physical) she feels strongly about that you could "give in" to her on? Or favors you could do to help with her spoons level? Such as errands of hers you could add to a trip you're already making?

Get from a turf war to "how can we help each other?".

Good wishes. This is tough.

#576 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2014, 02:43 PM:

Chickadee @572: I have a bedroom. It comes complete with fully-respected privacy. But it's full of my mothers things that there's no room for anywhere else in the house. My pile of resentment, it is high. "It's no fair! She's the only one allowed to leave her crap all over everything!" (Because that's how it feels.)

Jeanie @573, she actually gave up on policing the clutter level of my space about a decade ago, but as mentioned above, my space physically cannot become uncluttered, because it is filled with her clutter. Sigh sigh.

Jeanie @575, the dining room table is the only available flat surface in the house that's large enough to do things on except for the desk in my room, which is surrounded by mess and clutter for aforementioned reason. And the table in the basement, I suppose, which comes with a (small but too) high probability of centipedes, and is covered in my dad's clutter.

Honestly, half the reason I like the dining room table is that I can keep internetting while I get food without having to move the power cord (this laptop being fairly old and not having a battery life to speak of) :P

I can think about other areas to give in to her on, but honestly it sometimes feels like… like we are never going to stop clashing because in order to take ground I have to give ground and I never feel as though I have a safe margin to do that with. Maybe I should play more Go.

Echoing B. Durbin's good-thoughts note to ma larkey and Codemonkey

#577 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2014, 02:43 PM:

hope in disguise, #570: Ouch, that's a tough one. Is it possible to be a little more explicit about the nature of the conflict -- exactly what it is that she wants you to "clean up" that comes across as unreasonable? I might have some further thoughts, but I need a better idea of the shape of the beast before I try to put a handle on it.

protecting, #571: I also have a friend in Boston who I think you'd like if you don't already know her, which you might. In case you haven't figured this out yet, I'm the one who recced your fic; drop me a line over there and I'll tell you how to find her.

#578 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2014, 02:54 PM:

protecting others' privacy @571: Yay for moving back! (I was astonished at how homesick I got when I was out there for three days at this friend's wedding.)

hope in disguise: One possible tactic might be to point out that you'd be less likely to use up the dining room table if she moved her  crap  stuff out of your room. Diplomatically phrased, of course.

#579 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2014, 03:49 PM:

Lee @577: She wants my things (books, part-time crafting job, papers, computer) to be stacked in neat piles or sequestered out of sight when not directly in use, and yesterday there may have been six empty water glasses on the table.

What comes across as unreasonable is several things: me reacting unreasonably to the perceived imbalance of permission to have things lying around, a serious difference in "acceptable time scale for cleaning things up" (her: the instant I'm done using it; me: when I need that space for something else), the fact that my minimum acceptable standards deteriorated while living in a cooperative with nine other people who made clutter constantly, the fact that she will clean up my dishes while I am sitting at the table on my computer… (I could, theoretically, ask her to please not do this on the grounds that it makes me feel like a child. I anticipate her responding "but you'll never clean them up, and I want the table to be clean!" And then if I prove her wrong she'll thank me/praise me/otherwise make me feel super-uncomfortable.)

I've basically diagnosed the problem as "I am being totally childish, though she's not helping..."

Jacque @578, that is something to consider.

protecting others' privacy, hurrah for moving to Boston and all that! :)

#580 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2014, 04:24 PM:

hope in disguise, #576/579: Hmmm. Okay, just noodling here, feel free to discard anything that's helpy.

1) Jacque has a point -- perhaps this is something you can use as grounds for negotiation? "I don't have anywhere else to work because your stuff is all over my desk. If you cleaned it off, then I could work there." Can your mother's "junk that there's nowhere else to put" be shoved into boxes and stacked against the wall, or is it already that way (sub-question: are you dealing with someone who has hoarder tendencies?), or can it be gone thru and some of it discarded to make more space for you?

2) You are absolutely not being either unreasonable or childish about thinking that the way your mother is approaching this is unfair and unbalanced. "It's her house, she gets to make the rules" must be tempered by "you live there too, and you get some rights as a person". Even very young children have some rights in their parents' space.

3) Six empty water glasses (at the same time?) on the table does seem a bit excessive. Can you develop the habit of either re-using the same glass, or allowing that to generate an interrupt of the form "I have to get up to get a new glass anyhow, I can take the old one back to the kitchen at the same time"? (This is how I handle the tendency for empty soft-drink cans to pile up next to my computer desk.) Same/same for empty food dishes; letting them wait until you get to a break point is one thing, but they really should get back to the kitchen fairly soon after you're done.

4) Cleaning up your dishes while you're sitting there -- is it possible to reframe this to yourself as "being the servant/waitstaff" instead of "treating me like a child"? Thank her politely and keep working on whatever you're doing. If she makes a fuss, your response is words to the effect of, "I'd do it when I'm done here, but if it's so important to you that it be done RIGHT NOW I don't mind you doing it."

5) The more I think about it, the more I think that the real root of the problem is her junk in space that's supposed to be yours. Giving someone territory in name only, with them having no control over it, is a really good way to foster resentment and conflict.

#581 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2014, 05:35 PM:

Lee @ 580
"Even very young children have some rights in their parents' space."

Quoted because although I tend to believe this is true in well-functioning families, it is one thing that can go badly wrong in dysfunctional ones. (For myself, I grew up knowing that everything up to and including our house was bought by my parents, with the money they had earned, and it was granted to me to use it as a privilege conditional on my continuing good behavior. The kind of thinking you describe still does not come naturally or confidently.)

#582 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2014, 05:38 PM:

hope in disguise @576: So in other words, your mother has granted you permission to sleep on a bed in her storage unit. /sarcasm

This is not a fair situation, and you have every right to be resentful. I suggest if at all possible that you use Jacque @578's suggestion. (couldn't think of any way to improve the phrasing. ;)

#583 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2014, 10:35 PM:

Lee @580:

1) My room contains of mine: a bookcase, a dresser, a bed, a lofted bed over the bed, a closet, a desk; and of hers: a table, a cabinet, a sewing box, and a sort of book-case wall-of-cubbies thing (which also holds some of my stuff). These two sets of furniture each take up about half the available perimeter. The room is also full of boxes full of my stuff from college. So is the living room. I don't believe she has hoarder tendencies; instead, the stuff is all in the nature of things for doing crafts or hobbies that she hasn't used in, like, ever. She's been saying she'll go through and move some of it and… hasn't. I could bug her some more.

2) Thank you for the reminder.

3) I think some of the water glasses were not mine, but yes, that is a habit I ought to cultivate. I do half the time anyway.

4) Hm. Again with the power imbalance; maybe I should start pretending I have more power than I feel like I do.

5) Yes, that sounds like about the shape of it.

KayTei @581: My mother tried to use that on me and I didn't believe her. I think she may have started too late.

Chickadee @582: *snickers*

#584 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2014, 10:51 PM:

hope in disguise @583: A thought... When my mom found out that her parish has a quilting group that makes quilts for the homeless, she was delighted to find a home for a bunch of fabric she hadn't used in 20-odd years. (she used to sew some of her own clothing) Would it help to find a charity or equivalent (or even local crafting group) that could use that type of crafting stuff? Would your mom be interested in donating it?

#585 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2014, 12:09 AM:

Lee, did you rec me on tumblr, or on a different platform? I know your DW and LJ names, but was unaware of any tumblr identities for you. In any case, drop ME a line, and I'll answer -- it's now midnight, so my post limit should reset, right?

er, yeah. I'm in the NRE stage of a new fandom & I went a little overboard.

Also I brought my laptop into the kitchen today while I did the first cooking I've wanted to do in WEEKS. Well, almost. Yesterday I made a pasta salad. With four people in the house, it was entirely gone today, when usually I'm used to 3-4 days from that size batch. So I made another batch, and then I put together four other salads (chicken, tuna bowtie with peas, black bean and corn, and red bliss potato) and some deviled eggs. This took all afternoon, but I ran all the episodes of Penny Dreadful while I was working - letting it be background most of the time, but taking a break to watch whenever Dorian Gray was on screen. I LOVE what they're doing with his character - a deviation from the book, playing down the narcissim/cruelty and playing up the Downside of Immortality aspect. There Will Be Fic.

There are some well and truly messed up family dynamics on Penny Dreadful. I would be interested to read commentary along those lines.

#586 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2014, 12:18 AM:

protecting others' privacy @585: So THAT'S where I found the Penny Dreadful fic. I will read it next month when I have a chance to see the series. SO EXCITE.

All: reading and witnessing.

#587 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2014, 12:54 AM:

iliad slightly awry, can't wait to hear what you think of the series! It's utterly idtastic for me, and I'm flailing all over tumblr. Also looking forward to hearing what you think about my fic. :)

#588 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2014, 08:03 AM:

This whole saga is so totally DFD stuff, just overwhelming by any measuring stick.

Our live-in spy now wants to have houseguests, and is having trouble with the idea of no. Thankfully she went about telling/asking by text message -- documentation! We will keep on saying no, and remove *our* spare bed on which she probably intends for them to sleep. If we come home to find houseguests being installed, we are going to tell *them* no, and if that does not work we will call the police to ask for them to be removed.

We have no idea if these will be actual innocent houseguests or people checking out the future B&B or what, so let's multiply that "NO" a few times, shall we?

#589 ::: Cassy B. sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2014, 12:36 PM:

Attention gnomes; half a dozen iterations of spam here and elsewhere....

<handing out chocolate truffles to hard-working gnomes>

#590 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2014, 01:04 PM:

Why has the colour space in the vicinity of burgundy and garnet gotten into my head for my living room walls? I told myself I didn't want to put a red next to my dark green accent wall.

(But it's such a pretty colour...)

(But red and green screams christmas and it'll be weird the rest of the year...)

#591 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2014, 01:31 PM:

the invisible one, #591: The red and green that say "Christmas" to me are much brighter than what you're describing. Dark green and garnet/burgundy would be closer to bloodstone IMO.

What I would worry about with that combination is that it would make the room VERY DARK. Perhaps a lighter shade for the other walls and then some burgundy accents instead? Dark green, burgundy, and cream is a common combination in Victorian-style decor.

#592 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2014, 03:51 PM:

the invisible one @590 - think Jewel Tones, not Christmas shades for your red and green, and I think you'll be good. If you work some amethyst and sapphire into your decorating scheme instead of more red and green I think it will help too. And I agree with Lee @591, making sure you have lighter shades in the room as well - maybe cream-colored curtains or something.

We have a red accent wall in our living room - it's somewhere close to watermelon, so somewhat lighter than a true red. It works well with the other walls, which are a creamy-pale-yellow with just a hint of peach.

#593 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2014, 03:52 PM:

invisible one @590: Christmassy-ness totally depends on the exact shades and the balance, plus the rest of the room, much as Lee suggested. Mostly deep reds, greens, and dark wood will not only make the room dark, but could go all gentlemans-library on you. (Oh, the fun I could have doing an eclectic postmodern gentleman's library that mixed traditional dark wood and ultra-modern airiness!)

If you want advice I would have fun helping. But you'll need to work with actual samples. Monitors, printers, lighting -- they all mess with colour rendition and perception. The very best way to pick colours is to be in the space under the appropriate light, at all different times and lights you'll use the room in. Then make some *big* samples of your top contenders on cheap foamcore board, and stick those up on the wall for a week or two. Leave space to write some notes or add a yellow sticky with notes.

Is your existing dark green a true green, or more yellowy or bluey? What are the other colours and patterns, including the wood tones?

The two ways I know right off the bat to make red+green not too Christmassy are both about shifting the balance and expectations. One, you can shift one or both shades a little, so the combination doesn't look like classic Christmas. Example: light leafy/yellowy greens with slightly-pink strawberry reds and pinks is likely to look very fresh and summery, especially with lots of the right white. Two, you can have plenty of a pale neutral: white, cream, off-white/linen sorts of colours. It's easier to pick neutrals to respond to your colour colours than the other way round.

#594 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2014, 03:53 PM:

Lee: well, I have huge windows and I would probably be looking more in the saturated range rather than the dark range, like I did with the blue in my (windowless) bathroom. (I went with the CIL colour "wind tick" there, if you're curious. Though it doesn't look the same on my monitor as it does on the wall.)

The biggest unbroken piece of wall in the living room (other than the green wall) is about 7-ish feet long and maybe a bit over 1/3 of the wall it's in - the window takes up nearly half the length of that wall. (Yay pre-70s-oil-crisis designs. Lots of huge windows.)

I'm going to sit with the idea for a while, and spread out the relevant colour chips to look at in different lights before I actually paint anything. But this is how I picked my other colours... a colour got into my head.

#595 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2014, 04:33 PM:

oliviacw: white trim, and probably light curtains. I haven't decided on those yet, but they have to be white (or off-white, or cream, or something very light and neutral) on the outside (strata rules). I'm planning a two-layer curtain, with the outer layer white thin/privacy curtains and the inner layer something as yet undecided but thick enough to block streetlights.

amethyst and sapphire are pretty! I have a blue couch already (not sapphire jewel blue, but nice).

Bodhisvaha: yeah, I'm not using my computer to pick colours, it's not calibrated. I have a massive spread of colour chips taking up my entire living room table right now, so I can look at the colours in the relevant light. My existing green is slightly to blue when compared with other greens, but still definitely a dark green. It's CIL "tall evergreen" and it's on the same card as a teal, though a lot darker. Other colours are: the blue couch; living room is open at one end to the dining room, which is bright yellow; the carpet is old and beige, when eventually replaced it will be something light and neutral. I have one light oak piece as far as wood goes in this room, but it's not a huge piece of furniture. (I have alder visible from the living room, in the kitchen and dining room, which is also quite light.) Oh, living room coffee table is glass topped on a black frame.

Maybe the "christmas colours" comment is me trying to predict what my mom will say. After all, she called my lovely mountain-sky-blue "smurf blue".

(Though all that conversation modelling and script preparation? That's not where the conversations went last weekend, and I ended up answering questions about my job hunt because they were not questions I had prepared for, and it was not an angle that I felt right answering some variation on "I'm taking a break this weekend" to. Sigh. So whatever I do to prepare for comments about colour, it probably won't help because she'll say something different.)

#596 ::: tamiki sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2014, 07:07 PM:

This is one persistent spammer.

(As a check-in: Still reading, just not much to say. Seconding the good thoughts for ma larkey and Codemonkey.)

#597 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2014, 11:24 PM:

Also, forgot to mention: #531, Lee (again): wow, bite size cleaning. My kitchen has actually been staying reasonably clean since you posted that link.

I think the biggest single thing from bite size cleaning, for me, is that I don't have to make it all clean all at once. And that's allowed, and ok, and a bit at a time is just fine, and "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing properly" doesn't have to apply to every single thing I do because some things are *just fine* with a daily quick once-over.

I do feel some discomfort at relying on tips created specifically for folks with a disability or chronic illness, and I'm trying to not think about that discomfort right now because the "lazy and looking for excuses" tapes start up because oh hi, I'm the opposite of disabled, I'm stupidly healthy, I shouldn't need those sorts of tips. (These are definitely Tapes: I believe that one should use whatever tips and tricks work best for them regardless of source, but ... Tapes. That sort of acceptance applies to everybody except me, I should have a perfectly clean place.) I don't currently have a good strategy for dealing with/erasing/rewriting those Tapes, so I'm just trying to make sure they don't start up by not thinking about it too much. Because hey, if I can get myself used to keeping stuff clean to my standard without the Tapes constantly kicking me, maybe they'll start to decay from lack of use. Maybe? (And I realize that by typing this whole paragraph out I am thinking about it, but I also pointed out to myself that I don't hold other people to that standard which I hadn't thought of until I started typing, so net positive I think.) (Ok now I'm just rambling. Off to do something else.)

#598 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2014, 01:39 AM:

This weekend's realization: If I am irritated by something, I cannot tease about it. I must own my irritation. I can stay silent. I can grouse to others later. I can say something. But I cannot joke or poke fun at the situation because I am actually angry and it's not fair to anyone to pretend I'm not while expressing that I am.

#599 ::: Xopher Halftongue sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2014, 01:43 AM:

No, not Diatryma's comment. The one before, but after the invisible one.

#600 ::: one in a billion ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2014, 06:51 AM:

the invisible one @542: Hopefully I'm not repeating what someone else said, but I think it would be helpful to train hearing and answering the presuppositions (real meaning).

I.e. Your mom: "What a …bright color."
Meaning: "I am not satisfied with your choices concerning the color."
You: [cheerfully] I really like it! [Change of subject]

Your mom: "Don't you want to brush your hair?"
Meaning: "I don't like your hair style/I am stressed out and making it your problem/My go-to is putting you down."
You: "My hair is just fine. Let's go do thing/how about that sensible topic/…"

As long as you're answering what's *said* and not what's *meant*, you can go in circles forever, trying to prove them wrong and them coming back with another nasty under-handed attack. I also find that it's easier to stick to scripts if you know what you're actually answering.

#601 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2014, 07:25 AM:

one in a billion: I wonder if it's time to bring out TheGentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense again.

Surfing therein, I ran across this, and was reminded of an unfortunate exchange I observed at the bagel shop today. Dad comes in with his three-ish daughter. Daughter is working up steadily to a meltdown. Dad sounds like he needs his nap, too, or at the very least needs his lunch. Daughter is frustrated, and Dad is persistently trying various tactics to get her to do what he wants her to (or at the very least, get her to settle down long enough so he could eat).

Dad's efforts consistently fail, and they both get progressively more upset. He starts out trying to change her mood ("We've had a nice outing. We even went and bought you some new shoes!"), then tries persuasion ("Well, if you don't want to eat yours, here, eat some of mine. Okay, don't eat at all, just give me a minute so I can eat."), and eventually falls back on punishment. ("Well, okay, then. We're leaving. And I think we're going to go take your shoes back to the store.")

Absolutely everything but acknowledging her frustration. Or maybe, you know, just listening. On the one hand, I felt for him, because he was trying to use adult reasoning. (On a three year old. Right.) But on the other, it was painful to listen to, and I found myself sadly anticipating Daughter's future membership in this community.

#602 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2014, 10:22 AM:

Hmmm. On the art of defusing a toxic interaction, I'm reminded of one time I "won" an exchange with my father. We were driving somewhere, and I was at the wheel.

Him: "Don't you think you're going a little FAST there?"
Subtext: "I think you're incompetent, and if I can make you angry, then I win."
Me: (calmly) "No, why?"
Subtext: "Justify your statement, oh and you're not going to upset me with this ploy."
Him: (silence)

It was a rare and therefore treasured victory.

#603 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2014, 12:17 PM:

#600, one in a billion: I have heard it before, yes, but that's ok. I've identified two main things that I have trouble with in interactions like that: one is getting up the nerve to "overreact" by calling somebody on their BS and risking them getting mad at me, shaming me for having emotions that don't match theirs, or some other sort of criticism of my tone if it's anything other than agreeing with them, and the other is processing what they're saying and what they're meaning and what I think about that and how I want to reply to it fast enough to all happen in the same conversation. No joke, I sometimes take a day or two to figure out what I think about what somebody has said.

Anyhow, on the brushing my hair thing, what usually happened when I was living at home was something along the lines of mom: "did you brush your hair?" me: "yes" mom: silence.

I have no idea what the subtext was. Possibly "you don't look fit to go out as you are" or similar.

About a year or two ago, I was visiting my parents for a few days. It may have been christmas or something. I'd had a shower that morning and just let my hair air dry, unbrushed; it was messy. We were going somewhere in the afternoon, so just before leaving I changed into nicer clothes and brushed my hair, and my parents saw the before and after in the space of ten minutes or so. I can't remember the exact words said when I reappeared with my hair freshly brushed, but the meaning I recall was along the lines of "wait, that's what your hair looks like right after you brush it?!" me: "yes, always has been" parents: "I always thought you hadn't" me: silent and confused.

Then me, hours later: wait, my parents thought I was lying all these years? Either that or they thought I was such an incompetent hair brusher that I couldn't brush my hair correctly.

(The odd thing is, air-dried-unbrushed, my hair looks more like the photos on this naturally curly hair page since the hairs naturally clump into ringlets when wet, and dry-brushed it looks more like, well, the lady with the triangular hair on Dilbert -- one massive pouf of hair that, if left loose, can actually extend all the way out past my shoulders by sheer volume. This is why I normally braid my hair.)

On the wall colour, I tried to tell mom I didn't appreciate that she'd jumped straight to telling me to tone down my wall colour without asking whether or not I even wanted to, and she went straight into her well-worn "you're overreacting/oversensitive" scripts. (sigh)

#601, Jacque: I'm drawing a blank on what a parent could say to a three-year-old to acknowledge and resolve the kid's frustration. Having never had kids, all I know is that adult logic isn't really a reliable option, and when kids get tired they get cranky and refuse to nap which is what fixes the problem of being tired. (I don't know what the problem making her frustrated was, obviously.)

#604 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2014, 02:20 PM:

Jacque @601, I'm reminded of a brief exchange I heard between a frazzled mother and a perhaps-six-year-old in a grocery store. Both were at the end of their respective ropes. Mom snapped, "Stop being so childish!". Kid replied, "But I *am* a child." At that point I went out of earshot, so I honestly don't know how Mom reacted, but I felt a little "you go, girl!" for the kid...


#605 ::: one in a billion ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2014, 02:41 PM:

#603, the invisible one: I can see how you're afraid of tone policing when that's a thing with your parents. That's hard to overcome.
At this point, I can only echo other commenters that I think it would benefit you to rehearse with trusted friends (or even yourself, out loud – any of those works better than simply reading a script and thinking "oh yes, sounds reasonable).
Understanding presuppositions though is a thing that works in writing or your own head too.

#606 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2014, 06:43 PM:

invisible one @ 603

Can't speak for how Jacque does it, but we say things like "Yes, it's no fun when you feel hungry and tired. I feel like that too. I think you'll feel better if you eat and drink something. After we eat, we'll go home as soon as we can, so you can take a nap, so you'll feel better and have energy to play and have fun when you wake up!"

At the point where kiddo is melting down, it's a big "Fix it - I don't know what's wrong but I'm miserable" warning flag that has nothing to do with traditional concepts of "good" or "bad" behavior. So we tend to focus on stabilizing her, which means letting her know that we know there's a problem and are trying to fix it, then getting her food, drink, comfort blankie & cuddles (or running around and distractions, if it's a problem of wiggles instead of exhaustion).

#607 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2014, 08:34 PM:

Eek. The roommate-spy cannot believe that we might want veto over who's staying in our home. She is totally set on getting what she wants, and while having said a lot of "I hear your concerns" type dismissals, her rights are supposed to be more important than our rights, and our problems are not her problems; she's not supposed to be affected by us being stressed out and wanting privacy. She hasn't thought of apologizing and asking permission.

I think there is a legitimate underlayer here, that she really did not think we would mind, and that she behaved accordingly, and is shocked that we do mind, and that we mind enough to endanger her ability to spend time with her friend and mother. I sort of sympathize, until we get to the parts about "we mind because it's our home and we said no" and "she's the landlord's dupe/agent", I lose my sympathy.

We did give her notice during the argument, but I don't think she takes that seriously either. She doesn't think we can or should do anything to her.

Also, I had been collecting papers in need of sorting. I came back from a short errand to find they had been disturbed and put back the wrong way. Partner had not touched them. So, probably the roommate was leafing through them, but since it was mixed papers to sort, I'm not going to be able to tell what/if anything was stolen.

#608 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2014, 09:04 PM:

@invisible one no. 603: I was taught to treat children, basically, like congoers are supposed to treat themselves. That is, I should periodically assess their physical and to some extent emotional condition because they are too little to do it themselves. Are they tired, hungry, thirsty, getting sick, wearing uncomfortable clothes, being loomed over constantly, perhaps being rushed here and there? All of these can affect mood.

Speaking of rushing, young children typically don't handle sudden transitions well. A simple, non-threatening countdown, IME, helps to avert meltdowns. Get down where a small child can see and hear you and confirm that they do, because children can typically pay attention to only one thing at a time and they may not notice you in the midst of whatever they're doing unless you make an effort to get into their line of sight. Hold up (for example) 5 fingers, and explain that when there are no fingers it will be time to leave. The next time, make it 4 fingers, and so on. You can make the countdown as fast or as slow as you need it to be. Older children will respond to a simple, "Hey, we're at 5," and of course when they have their own timepieces you can tell them "We're going in 5 minutes, please set your alarm."

And in general, here are things in a book about child rearing that should be signals to run far, far away:

*There is only one way to do it and that's the author's way. Every other parenting method is indulgent or cruel or stupid or whatever.
*Dire predictions of delinquency, disorganization, etc., if you don't follow the directions in the book exactly.
*This is the tool the author advises you to use. It is the best tool in your toolbox. It is the only tool in your toolbox. It works on all children in all circumstances. If it doesn't work, ur doin it rong.
*Any intimation that children are born wanting to take away the parents' power and agency. Even worse, assertion that babies who call out for their parents when there is nothing physically wrong with them are attempting to initiate a power struggle.

Sorry for the rant, this is a hot-button issue.

#609 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2014, 09:41 PM:

the invisible one, your hair sounds like mine! I've been much happier with how it looks since giving up brushing it and letting the natural ringlets form - I just make sure all the tangles are out of it with a wide-toothed comb when it's wet, and let it air dry. A good conditioner helps with that, and if my hair seems particularly dry or the weather especially frizz-inducing, I comb through about a tablespoon of plain coconut oil as a combination leave-in conditioner and styling product.

It doesn't solve the problem of your mother not believing you're competent to manage basic grooming, but it might be a style change that makes you happy, if you want to try it.

#610 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2014, 10:14 PM:

Bodhisvaha #607: DO NOT leave any important papers around your house when you're not there. This means not only papers relating to your housing situation, but other important papers too. Keep them at work, keep them in your car, keep them in a big purse, etc., just don't leave them around for your soon to be ex roommate or STBX landlord to find and mess with. Keeping copies somewhere away from the originals might not be over cautious, either. I don't want to sound too paranoid, but it sounds like you're living with and dealing with some unpredictable wackos.

#611 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2014, 10:56 PM:

Tracie @610: anything to do with the current crisis mostly had been getting kept with us. Now that is getting upgraded to with us, "the locked filing cabinet she probably doesn't know we use", or (starting tomorrow) "somewhere else entirely." And yes, we will be keeping as much as possible from now on at "somewhere else entirely", including copies of stuff we need handy about the current nasty business.

And our computers have passwords. Though perhaps I ought to also be carrying mine around with me no matter what...

#612 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2014, 11:14 PM:

#604, Cassy B.: "But I *am* a child."

I really hope this made the mom stop and think about what she'd just said.

#606, KayTei and #608, J.: Thanks for the examples, they clarified a lot for me.

#607, Bodhisvaha: "I hear your concerns" type dismissals

I wonder if roommate had some sort of communications/conflict resolution training but misunderstood the scripts as being magical cheat codes to make the conflict go away, instead of as suggested scripts that go along with actual listening and consideration.

Sort of the way our cultural narrative says that a man buying flowers is a magical cheat code that makes a woman not mad at him anymore, without requiring them to address or resolve the problem, or even listen to each other long enough to learn what the problem is.

#609, Rikibeth: I've never heard of coconut oil as a useful styling aid before, that's interesting. I'll have to try it (if I can find an oil that doesn't smell like sunscreen), plus the wide-toothed comb. (Bonus: if I don't like how the oil feels on my hair, I can cook with it to use the rest up. Un-bonus: it's associated with a ton of woo and seems to be the Thing To Do right now for all kinds of silly reasons.) I have a strong dislike of leaving product in my hair because I don't like how spray or gel feels. My hair can be made to look smooth, but I'm not sure how many cans of hairspray it takes because the only time that happens is when a hairdresser does something fancy to me, and then it feels crunchy and ick.

I'll probably still braid my hair most of the time, mostly because that keeps it out of the way and partly because I have a lifetime of thinking those photos represent "messy" hair that must be fixed, since that's how my hair air-dries naturally when I don't brush it, and unbrushed hair is automatically messy. But I'll try it, so I have more options than braid + frizz halo, bushy ponytail + frizz halo, or bushy loose mass that tangles on everything + frizz halo. (I don't understand the concept of weather affecting frizz levels. The only weather that affects frizz levels for my head is a torrential downpour, which mostly flattens it if I go outside without an umbrella.)

If the oil keeps the frizz down, it *might* get mom to believe that I brushed my hair. Though loose curls might negate that :)

#613 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2014, 11:32 PM:

When my hair was long, I put some coconut oil on it and braided it. It still had the wet/oily look to it the next day when I unbraided it. It worked much better after I'd washed it; I tend to think of it as a decent pre-wash conditioner rather than a leave-in product. (Hair is currently in its shortest-ever state and I'm happier than I thought I could be with it.)

#614 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2014, 12:02 AM:

the invisible one, if you don't care for the scent of coconut oil, another one to try is shea butter. I find it's often more expensive, and I like the scent of coconut, so that influences my choice.

It absolutely keeps my frizz down, and it doesn't feel gluey to me the way that gel and spray do. If it still feels too heavy, you might try a liquid oil; olive oil is great. I have been known to use hand lotion if nothing else is available. But a solid-at-room-temp oil works best for me for controlling frizz and providing some structure to my ringlets without making my hair feel glued in place.

Another advantage is that coconut oil will wash out effectively with standard shampoo, if you don't like it, whereas bottled anti-frizz preparations usually contain silicone, which leaves a really stubborn residue. Look for conditioners without silicones (dimethicone is the most common) for best results, too.

Oh, and if you can ignore the woo, coconut oil is a perfectly useful solid vegetable shortening.

I just use the Whole Foods store brand because it's easy to get and not too pricey. I'm not kidding when I say it's changed my entire relationship to my hair.

#615 ::: Chickadee sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2014, 12:06 AM:

The spammers have been very busy lately.

(not Rikibeth's comment - the one above it)

#616 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2014, 12:22 AM:

Jacque @601: That was enlightening. (the language in emergency medicine link) Especially in the additional information where they said The short-term memory (also called working memory), which people use to keep track of incoming perceptions, has a limited capacity. It can only handle about seven chunks of information at one time; and anything that isn't processed within roughly thirty seconds goes straight into long-term memory unindexed -- meaning that it's not retrievable except by chance. This helps to understand (not feel less frustrated because she chooses not to change) my mom a little better, and also see how she can parrot back what I just said (within the last 30 seconds) without ever having processed it. It's her idea of "proving" she's been listening. :( Her idea of a conversation, for reference, is to plan what she's going to say next while waiting for you to finish talking. What she wants to say may or may not bear any relationship to what you're saying.

Regarding criticism of personal grooming, Mom would (until I was at least in my early twenties) see me not looking right by her definition and "fix" it. When I was in my teens this included everything from pulling out the foundation and fixing my zit-covering to (I kid you not) popping a zit exposed by my dress *at* the freaking grad banquet. (not at the table itself - outside in the waiting area. But still!!!)

Cassy @604 and invisible one @612: sadly, the more likely response (from my experience) is that the child got told off for being "lippy."

On the up side, after having a migraine yesterday from combination of end-of-[summer]-term stress and having to spend supper with my parents tomorrow, I was actually able to enjoy today. :) Had a relaxing, fun time with friends playing Magic. :) Reminders to self that a) I can leave when I need to and b) she's been behaving remarkably well lately have helped.

Unrelated, but I hope others here find this as entertaining as I did: I have a bird feeder just outside our living room window. Like, a foot away from the window. It's awesome for bird watching. :) I usually keep it filled with chopped sunflower seeds because that's what the local birds prefer. Our niece gave us a bag of her leftover seed mix (just having moved into a new place and not able to use it), so I filled the feeder with that.

It was... unpopular. Within less than a day, there was a giant heap of bird seed under the feeder (which I *never* see with my chopped sunflower seeds) and the feeder itself was completely empty. Oh, and the sparrows were pointedly tossing the seed on the ground further away.

The feeder is now refilled with chopped sunflower seed, and the pigeons are slowly cleaning up the mess. :P And the other birds are *much* happier. :)

#617 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2014, 08:39 AM:

Re cranky children. Acknowledging their feelings helps a lot. "I understand you don't want to leave," or, "I know, I'm tired of waiting in line too." Often best followed by distraction.

I learned the importance of acknowledgement with my nonverbal child. She had a tendency to escalate protests when we insisted on something she didn't want, in ways that looked like tantrums. But I realized that communicating her wants was a major challenge for her. She would try to communicate, I would fail to understand, she would keep trying, and sometimes I would figure it out and she would get what she wanted. There was a lot of behavioral improvement when I began making crystal clear the difference between "I do not understand what you want" (in which case persistence may indeed help) and "I understand that you want X, but you can't have it right now."

When you've hit bio-limits (exhausted, hungry, etc.) there's not much you can do. Not at the 3-year-old stage, but somewhat older - probably 7-11 - one of my kids had meltdowns that were almost certainly blood sugar related. She was generally pretty logical but would completely lose it on those occasions. I can remember telling her, "Eat something. We're not going to talk about [current source of stress or unhappiness] until after you've eaten something. Here's a Power Bar, or I can make you a peanut butter sandwich." And sure enough, 10 minutes later we'd be able to discuss.

#618 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2014, 01:05 PM:

the invisible one @612: yeah, I think she's using it for a magic formula. If she actually understood my feelings, she'd have made an actual apology for not asking in advance of making plans. We know this is not spur-of-the-moment; she said she had been planning these two visits for weeks or months. It should have occurred to her in all that time, "hey, I live with new people and there haven't been any houseguests yet. I should check how they feel about houseguests!" (She'd been pretty considerate about non-sleepover visitors, and we never minded, so maybe she got the impression we were copacetic about anything. However, they were not houseguests, and it was before we found out she's a mole to steal our home for an illegal B&B.) I hope so much the police will say that we can throw out her guests, her, and her stuff. I'm just so done with this.

My hair is not curly enough to require oiling, but when I was researching other hair stuff, I did get the impression that many curly-haired folk got good results from it. My own hair and skin certainly react better to mostly natural conconctions -- especially for anything involving moisturizing -- than they do to ones that are almost all mystery science.

#619 ::: Building New Pieces ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2014, 11:05 PM:

Continuing yet again:

Bodhisvaha @176:

The we're-all-civil trick is definitely part of what I've been doing so far and plan to keep doing (unless other tactics become warranted, which I'd like to avoid). (It's also implied by the "we're all working together to promote Company's interests" implication that I'm trying to use where reasonably possible.) I'm also trying to figure out who has what image concerns and in the eyes of whom for planning purposes.

being confrontational and angry rarely helps, at least when you're going to be working with these people in the future.... The corresponding lessons about how to politely but effectively stand up for yourself and get what you want have been much more difficult

*nodnod* Polite but effective is hard.

do the we're-all-civil thing, and present several options for the next step. Use positioning and laziness: tailor the options so that the easiest thing for them also suits you.

Oooh, thank you, that's a great suggestion! (I take it this also uses anchoring, such that the later options look especially bad for them in light of the first (and desired) one? Using that to help convince someone to pick an option that's actually better for them is an interesting twist on it.)

Lin Daniel @194: Thank you for sharing. Your story of documenting everything (and using it) to improve your work situation helps encourage me.

staranise @219, Merricat @53: It's pretty common to get one's superpowers from falling in toxic goo.

I've also been appreciating this (and all the reframes in this thread). Especially in light of Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist's behavior. (Just because I got something from falling in toxic goo doesn't mean it needs to go! There's a difference between washing the goo off and trying to make me unlearn powers that help me swim out of it. (Yes, this should be accompanied with warning sirens.))

Lee @495: Thanks.

Is StbXT of a higher privilege group than you -- male/female, white/PoC, economic class background?

Not in any of those, but I've seen age and education/employment status used as privilege groups by some people and Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist might be considering themself 'higher' in those. What's MDeity Syndrome?

Bottom line: I believe that StbXT has given you an Assigned Role, which does not fit the current narrative of your life, and is trying to force you to perform it willy-nilly. You need to fire this one and find another who will deal more honestly with you.

*nods* The official firing is on Monday, and this has been very helpful in gathering my explanations of why the firing is occurring.

J. @496: An Assigned Character description? For me? Thank you! (And yes, Procrustean bed indeed.)

fidelio @497:

WRT lunch periods: I'm a little confused. Are they saying the time you enter doesn't match the time you clock as gone from your work station for lunch?

There are two things going on with lunch periods. For the days with Company-provided lunches, they were saying "the time you enter doesn't match the time we clock as gone from your work station for lunch." Even though no one else in Company gets clocked that way for those lunches and they had never mentioned such clocking to me before.

For the other days, they were saying "we insist that you clock every single thing even remotely not work-related, such as bathroom breaks and not completely-business chats [even those initiated by Boss], as part of your lunch break." Even though a) no one else in Company has those clocked as non-working time and b) my primary job is to think, large parts of that thinking can be/is done unconsciously (similar to engineers' 'shower time'), and so I am effectively still mostly working during bathroom breaks and the like.

WRT Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist: If you don't mind me heavily extending your metaphor:

I noticed that the taps in one bathroom of my house are leaking and the toilet flapper valve in the same bathroom is broken. I called the local handyperson service, explained the problems, and asked them to send a plumber.

On the first visit the plumber asked what the problem was and for directions to the problem area; I'd prefer that they read the file given to them by the handyperson service but oh well. As I showed the plumber to the problem bathroom the subject of the view from the fifth floor loft of my house came up. The plumber said "aren't you going to hurt yourself getting a view like that?"

I replied "perhaps if I was swinging from a tree to do so, or while building the loft, but now that it's built I'm not in any danger from using it."

The plumber appeared to accept this reply and we continued to the bathroom. After getting there, the plumber seemed to be examining the problem taps and valve, but kept going on about "you can stop using this bathroom, try to change how water gets sent to it, or keep using it as it is." (While it's true that the local utilities are sending water at too high pressures, I still have leaking taps and a broken toilet flapper valve and I would like those fixed.) Eventually the plumber said that they had to leave for their next appointment, but "next time we should talk about that view again and get it fixed."

I reminded the plumber that that was not necessary and then they were off. On the second visit I told the plumber "I am aware of my general options with regards to this bathroom, thank you, but this time let's please focus on the leaking taps and broken toilet flapper valve."

The plumber again appeared to accept this reply and asked me to show them some situations in which the taps leaked. I obliged, but they said that for some of this I'd have to talk to people who give advice for dealing with the local utilities and kept straying from the point. They also again raised the subject of the view from my loft, which I again reminded them was fine and not a danger to me.

At the end of the second visit, the plumber marched up to the loft and said "I have to leave now, but this is dangerous and the source of your problems. You should stop swinging from this tree and tear it down including the roots!" and threw their wrench at a wall. (The wrench did nothing but leave a mark on the paint, but that's due to solid construction rather than any lack of force in the throw. It could easily have damaged a tree branch.) They also refused to listen to my attempts to show them that this is not a tree with "I have to leave now, but plumbing work can't help you unless you're willing to tear this down" but wanted to discuss construction logistics.

I consider this more than enough reason to call the local handyperson service and ask for a different plumber, which is effectively what I've done. I also really like this metaphor because it shows just how terribly Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist has been behaving. I might just take it to the official firing.

Maybe I could benefit from more in-depth work at some point. Some of it might even be related to the loft. (Maybe I could put in better insulation to make it more comfortable in particularly hot/cold weather, and since I used non-toxic insulation the first time I can do it in stages and still use the space!) But a) as you've mentioned, I don't want to do that when my spoons are being drained by my immediate problem; b) the actual skills that Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist keeps picking on are not problems at all, Previous Therapist even complimented them and was very impressed; and c) no way am I trusting work in that area to someone who has repeatedly refused redirection, wants to tear it down including foundations, and is ignoring that doing so would make a complete mess of the house and turn it into something no one should be living in.

Jeanie @498: They are helping me, thank you.

Jacque @500:

The overall vibe I get is that Therapist is not supporting you in your improved functioning, but rather trying to undermine your self-evaluation, possibly for the purpose of cultivating dependency and, ahem, prolonged use of hir services.

I'm getting that vibe too, which is odd because University's mental health services have rules stating that beyond a few sessions a patient is supposed to be referred out of University's mental health services to other therapists. (Also see the metaphor bits in my reply to fidelio @497 regarding loft vs. tree, thrown wrenches, and messing up the house.)

"Please tell me, in writing, exactly what amount of time I am supposed to take for lunch." And then stick to that like glue. Broken-record until they specify an amount of time.

I have managed to extract written amounts of time from them. With authorization to shorten it on days when I have long appointments, even, since they decided to be picky about bathroom breaks and the like.

Any guesses why HR Person and Boss's Boss seem to have it in for you? Are you too, like, competent or something?

The initial decision to target me seems to be a tendency of Boss's Boss; Good Friend has told me that Boss's Boss is controlling towards the student employees every year and tends to pick patricular targets if they see an opening. (Thus the sudden reprimand.)

The picking on lunch breaks afterward could be a variety of things. At least some of it is almost certainly Boss's Boss wanting to keep targeting me. It could also be competence, since after the reprimand they saw that the natural conseqences of that behavior in Company include me being there for more hours (which they have to pay me for) and Company running out of work for me to do. (Once, before they started with picking on the lunch breaks, I blew through both Boss's queue of work for me and two backup queues - to the point that I had to start suggesting my own tasks. I've done the same again since then.) Privilege groups might also be feeding into it, since Company (and the industry in general) is dominated by certain privilege groups which I'm not in; plus both Boss's Boss and HR Person are in at least some of them and are significantly older than me.

Lori Coulson @501, hope in disguise @503: *nodnod*

Diatryma @502: That's one of the things I was hoping to clarify with that email I was drafting, but it looks like the answer is "not all of it".

Allan Beatty @511: Quite possibly. I'm not going back to Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist to ask, though.

#620 ::: Building New Pieces ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2014, 11:06 PM:

And here is where I catch up on advice posting since earlier in this thread:

the invisible one @239:

I agree with Lee @240 and staranise @242 that that's a PTSD-type and trigger-type response. I also agree that gathering information on the level of risk of seeing Crappy Ex there (by checking if he was a student) is an excellent move on your part. As for retraining methods, imagining some form of exposure to a trigger (for example, going through that batch of new student forms again) can be substituted for taking out the cards in the method staranise described.

On the other hand, I'd like to say outright a general point I think is frequently taken as a baseline (in functional, supportive interactions) by people giving advice and so tends not to get said: it is always up to you (general) how you want to respond to something and no one should pressure you to respond otherwise. (Even if getting yourself to respond that way takes work.) This includes choosing to (fully or partly) keep triggers and/or trigger-like responses! (Of course, choosing otherwise is also perfectly valid.)

I have personally chosen to keep some trigger-like responses despite being largely out of the circumstances that generated them; in my case they still apply to real threats, just different ones, so by the time I was out of the generating circumstances I had good reasons to keep them. I accept reasonable questions about my decision, but strongly enforce the "no pressuring" boundary. I didn't even mention anything about them to Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist, since 1) they are irrelevant to work coping skills and 2) given Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist's behaviour I don't think they'd respect my boundaries on the non-issue.

hope in disguise @261: Ignore if hlepy, but your description reads to me like the Tape underlying the trigger is "whenever you provide food you must do so for the Family." (Note that cooking food and buying it are both forms of providing.)

[Insert addition to chorus along the lines of "yes, your mom was being super entitled; you were buying a gift and a treat for yourself" here.]

Type A Toad @285: Would an example conversation for enforcing "I don't want it and you don't get to make me take it" be helpful?

Dash @285: Even though your school friends aren't physically around you anymore, perhaps you could keep in contact with (some of) them? It sounds to me like you could really use some more support and they would be a good source of it.

Also, I very much agree with Oil-upon-the-waters @301 and Chickadee @303. Congratulations!

Jacque @334:

How long do your art sessions have to be to prevent Flow-hunger if you're getting regular art sessions? Would it be possible for you to make time for artwork during the week by moving other tasks around? (For example, setting aside every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday as no-chores days (cook in batches the day before if needed) reserved for art sessions after work.)

On the other hand, I also agree with Lee @336 that if "you're waiting for the rest of your life to get better before doing something about your job situation, you may very well have things in the wrong order, and need to do something about your job in order for the rest of your life to get better." (My depression goes away when my situation improves, so I am inclined to believe that similar things can occur in people other than me.)

Clifton @351: Sympathies. Based on your later comments, you may also be interested in my reply to Little John @401 below.

Bodhisvaha @367: If you don't mind my asking, how does one get into a building code class?

abi @392: Personally, I find Bodhisvaha's updates insightful because Landlord's behavior is dysfunctional and threatening (going back on whether the extra month would be OK, illegal entry, etc.) and Bodhisvaha is modelling dealing with that dysfunction and those threats. (Much like Jacque @456 and 460.)

Little John @401:

Ignore if hlepy and YMMV, but my experience is that intrusive thoughts of regret are part of how my brain emotionally processes the knowledge that led me to regret those decisions (so my emotions and habits will support me in making better decisions in the future). The past decisions feel bad to my current mind because I now know why they were bad, but thinking about them stops feeling unpleasant once my unconscious decision-making processes have integrated that understanding.

What I've found helps me is to acknowledge the message of the thought ("now I understand why Decision was bad and Other Option would have been better; I have learned something that I didn't know then") and let the feelings be; in my experience they do fade over time once acknowledged, even if that time is measured in years. Attempting to force them away does no good. If they're persisting and bothering you, though, don't let my advice stop you from seeking other help.

protecting others' privacy @430: Here's an entire choir of "it's an illness, not a character flaw", plus a gold star for recognizing You Not Being On Your Meds.

Clifton @478: Perhaps "old drearies" == "things that you now recognize as warning signs and can do something about earlier if they come up in the future"?

Dave Harmon @480: I think the trick is to get emotions and intellect working together.

Jeanie @517: Yay! And "sleeper program" is actually a pretty good term; I have some of those myself. (One of them even went off during the process of firing Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist.)

Jacque @532: We're here!

the invisible one @542: First off, you've noticed that there's a problem and looked for interacion scripts to solve it. Go you!

Since you've said you have no one to role play with, what about practising in front of a mirror? Or imagining yourself in those situations and responding with your chosen scripts? Or recording yourself playing one role and then practising with the recording? (Having another person to play the other roles and give you feedback is helpful, but by no means required.) The important part is to rehearse your desired response somehow.

the invisible one @556: Perhaps work on recognizing "the 'denial' and 'rejecting help', as well as 'not refuting means they're right' things" earlier and earlier until you can recognize them before you respond? (Start by shortening the delay after the conversation, and so on.)

OtterB @617:

Re cranky children. Acknowledging their feelings helps a lot. "I understand you don't want to leave," or, "I know, I'm tired of waiting in line too."

It occurs to me that such times can also be used to help teach children words for their emotions (and hopefully they'll start using those words to communicate what's wrong). Something like "I'm tired of waiting in line too. It makes me bored." or "We've been hiking for 2 hours now and it's late. I'm getting tired."

#621 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2014, 11:12 PM:

Bodhisvaha @ 618: I knew someone who allowed a guest to stay at their apartment temporarily, but then asked them to leave. The guest called the police. The police told the renter of the apartment that once someone has lived there for 7 days, it's their residence, and you're dealing with tenant's rights and eviction procedures. That was in Portland, Oregon, so YMMV. I'd definitely strive not to let anyone stay there, even if it's supposedly going to be brief.

#622 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2014, 11:19 PM:

Building New Pieces @619, 620:

What's MDeity Syndrome?
I believe it is the unfortunate phenomenon of an MD placing themselves in the position of Deity. :)

and Company running out of work for me to do

the Tape underlying the trigger is "whenever you provide food you must do so for the Family."
Actually I think the Tape might be a more general "as the woman who birthed and 'raised' you I am entitled by [subconsciously-present, consciously-elided] God's Will and the Natural Order to a certain amount of consideration and respect for my wishes" combined with "as a recovering alcoholic, a certain amount of I Need the Thing behavior is expected and fully excusable," which manifests more or less as treat-hoarding tendencies. The former Tape, of course, is the one that effects the astonishing entitlement issues.

What I've found helps me is to acknowledge the message of the thought ("now I understand why Decision was bad and Other Option would have been better; I have learned something that I didn't know then") and let the feelings be; in my experience they do fade over time once acknowledged, even if that time is measured in years.
Huh. I… wonder if that would work on my brain as well.

janetl @621, that sounds like an enormous can of worms o.0

#623 ::: Stefan Jones suspects spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2014, 12:46 AM:

#623 sounds like boilerplate. First message. Suspicious . . . apologies if not.

#624 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2014, 12:55 AM:

Building, #619: MDeity Syndrome is effectively "the doctor thinks they are God". Often used about doctors who refuse to answer patients' questions or who brush aside their concerns with an air of, "You haven't studied this, what do you know?" Definitely appropriate for one who has decided what your problem is and what you have to do to fix it, whether you want/need to or not.

janetl, #621: When my now-ex and I finally got fed up with the XRFH and threw him out, he also called the police -- and was told that if his name wasn't on the lease, he had no enforceable rights. And he'd been living with us for over a year. This was in Nashville, so obviously mileage does vary by locality.

#625 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2014, 01:41 AM:

Building New Pieces @ 619 and 620: why thank you. :) Seeing as the universe keeps throwing slimy garbage at me, I try to grow teflon coating. The way I learned about the building code was slow and expensive: I did an interior design bachelor degree and paid attention in my structure and building code related classes. For structural concepts, you could read Francis Ching books and for the code proper, it depends on your jurisdiction. Try talking to the building permit folks at city hall about options other than going to architecture school, or buying and reading a copy until your eyes bleed. Codes are written in legalese, and I could do a preliminary review in a few hours mainly because I have the training to know roughly what I was looking for, and what requirements were substantially different from the existing building. A scope of work report based on a site visit and proper code review would probably take a professional several working days. (That's why my case documentation says there should be one, if the landlord is doing this all right and tight.) My province posts the core of its building code online for free, but you have to pay a few hundred dollars for the nice printed version that fills two 3" binders and has an index and other helpful material for professionals.

Mostly I have just been angry enough -- and a fast enough reader -- to google for what laws apply, and read the damned things. No free lunch, but it's probably worth it. I found a gem of a catch-all offense in rental law, which makes it an offense to plan to offend. I also have yellow highlighter on the many ways he's violating the Airbnb terms of service, so I should be convincing when I write to tell them this listing should be taken down because it's got tenants, and the host is a legal disaster waiting to happen.

janetl @ 621: our jurisdiction won't be like that (she's not on the lease, and sharing kitchen or bathroom = not tenant), but we want to confirm exactly what it is like ASAP. We do *not* want this woman's guests staying. We don't want this woman staying either. Hopefully the police will be useful this time. (They didn't want to be when asked about the deck incident after the fact.) There is still the problem that she can find ways to gain access even if we can throw her out, because the landlord might help her and not care about the law.

#626 ::: one in a billion ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2014, 04:27 AM:

Is there a chance I stole someone's nym? I've got the feeling it has been used before, but I'm new (writing, not reading-wise), only the last two posts under this nym were by me.

#627 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2014, 12:58 PM:

Building New Pieces @619: Thanks for the anchoring reference. Very interesting. I had been aware of this only subliminally.

"we insist that you clock every single thing even remotely not work-related, such as bathroom breaks and not completely-business chats [even those initiated by Boss], as part of your lunch break."

::facepalm:: This is completely unreasonable. Even when I was working assembly, they weren't so anal about this, and they were pretty damn anal.

I blew through both Boss's queue of work for me and two backup queues

Does Boss, at least, appreciate your productivity? If so, one hack for this might be to blow through the tasks at your normal rate, but delay reporting completion until the nominal deadline.

It sounds like you've got a bad case of moving goalposts, though. My bet is, no matter how compliant you are, they're going to be looking for something to tag you on, no matter how ridiculous. Have you apprised Program Advisor of Company's behavior?

@620: I have personally chosen to keep some trigger-like responses despite being largely out of the circumstances that generated them; in my case they still apply to real threats, just different ones, so by the time I was out of the generating circumstances I had good reasons to keep them.

In this you actually replicate one of the steps in many NLP interventions: Are there negative consequences to removing a particular behavior? "Why, yes. It protects me from X, Y, and Z." Any competent therapist will say, "Good. Okay, for the circumstances where that behavior is less than optimal, let's design some additional behaviors, so you have options to choose from as well as having Original Behavior to fall back on."

given Soon-to-be-Ex-Therapist's behaviour I don't think they'd respect my boundaries on the non-issue.

Of course not! Because your are obviously In Denial™. ;-P

How long do your art sessions have to be to prevent Flow-hunger if you're getting regular art sessions?

Long Enough. :-) Which generally seems to mean a minimum of two-three hours. Given that I typically have one (1) spare hour in the evening, these days, this is a problem.

Would it be possible for you to make time for artwork during the week by moving other tasks around?

Unfortunately, the constraints on my weeknights are pretty irreducible. Pigs gotta get fed, teeth gotta get brushed, like that. And, too often, I'm making up chores that didn't get done over the weekend. The only thing that has much flex to it is sleep. :-(

I keep having to remind myself that the flow hunger is a good thing.* Just new, and as yet unintegrated.

I also agree with Lee @336

Yes, I never replied properly to that very cogent comment. (That was back around the week when I got taken out by a bad respiratory infection.)

The main hold-up with finding another job has been qualifications; I'm only in the last year or two finally feeling confident enough of my skillset again to feel qualified to apply. (And, yes, I'm aware that women tend to be less likely to apply if they don't feel fully qualified. I stand by that, because the feeling of panic that comes over me when I'm in over my head is—well, BTDT; not doing that again soon if I can help it.) Also: haven't seen any openings that I want. No, not waiting on the job situation to improve before working on other aspects of my life. Just eternally struggling with the "ten pounds of suger in a five pound sack" problem.

* On a related note, I've decided I want to be Drew Struzen when I grow up. In my copious spare time. (And this idea is waking up all sorts of Tapes about how That'll Never Happen.)

#628 ::: OtterB sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2014, 03:01 PM:


#629 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2014, 03:01 PM:

#614, Rikibeth: I don't want to derail this thread into hair care because that's not really on topic for DFD, but could you point out a good reference for how to actually use the oils? I've googled a bit and the results I've found are mostly describing elaborate rituals that take far longer than I'm willing to put into my hair. (My usual brush+braid takes under 10 minutes and I'm used to living with frizz, so a 30+ minute routine involving three different products and a blowdryer is not going to happen. Especially since I don't own a blowdryer and dislike hair gel and related products.) Also there are so many ways to use them... Before/after a shower? While wet/damp/dry? And that's after ignoring the whole pile of woo and magic and trying to read only the mechanics of how to.

There's enough different (and sometimes apparently contradictory) information out there that it makes me want to throw up my hands and just give up on the subject. And apparently some curly haired people have banned brushes from their routines, which is news to me.

Or maybe that's my particular dysfunction: I'm "just not good at" personal grooming beyond being clean, which goes along with how I'm "just not good at" fashion, or any number of other things, so I don't even try or give up at the first uncertainty.

The other is what I mentioned before (#612), that curls are labelled "messy" in my head. Even the glamour shots with models with shiny curls make me think "messy hair". So, even if I put in the time and effort to make my hair look like a model's, I'd still feel like I have messy hair. Um. That sounds very much like I'm inherently set up to fail.


On the other hand, typing out this started-out-offtopic post that I was hesitating about, rambles and all, has led me to realize that my relationship with my hair is dysfunctional too. My poor curly hair, can't do anything right, where "anything" is defined as "be straight hair". (My mom has straight hair.)

#630 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2014, 03:22 PM:

the invisible one @630: Glad you figured that out! First step to maybe coming to love your (beautiful, to be envied, naturally curly) hair?

I had a limited version of the opposite problem. My hair is straight - like, the hairdresser refused to try to perm it after a while because it was "just too healthy" (i.e. it was curly for three days after the perm, then so straight you'd never know I'd had it permed)

Mom spent most of her life from childhood on (see dysfunctional family of hers) with permed hair, so to her the only acceptable hair is "done." (i.e. curly, or fancy, or with that ineffable '80s word "height") My refusal to style my hair was an everlasting source of despair to her, and I envied girls with naturally curly hair...

I hope that some day you come to love your hair. In the mean time, I hope that you can at least come to peace with it.

#631 ::: Type A Toad ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2014, 03:44 PM:

Building New Pieces @620: I'm pretty certain that the only answer either of my parents will even hear is 'Oh thank you! I'd love to have X item'. Anything else just slides over their not-what-I-want-to-hear shield.

All: reading, witnessing.

So far this spring and summer are turning out to be very good for me. The longer sunny days do me a lot of good, and things in my life are finally straightening out. I have a job! That starts in August! Which means no more working evening and weekends at shitty retail jobs!

#632 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2014, 04:13 PM:

#631, Chickadee: ha, it sounds like we may have been hit with identical-opposite scripts. I'm not entirely sure where my script came from, because I don't recall ever seeing my maternal grandmother without "done" curly hair (with hot curlers and stuff, I have no idea what her hair does naturally) and my mother gave me a perm when I was a kid, so the "hair must be straight to be not messy" thing probably didn't come directly and exclusively from her. Or maybe only "done" curls or straight hair are allowed and natural curls are messy, I'm not sure. Still exploring this idea space.

I've had people compliment me on my hair. I never really understood that, probably because I can't see past the frizz and curls=messy. It probably didn't help that for one of my (very few) fancy hairstyles done by a pro, they straightened then re-curled my hair, which basically says that my hair is Doin It Rong.

#632, Type A Toad: congrats on the new job!

#633 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2014, 04:14 PM:

the invisible one, #630: My usual brush+braid takes under 10 minutes and I'm used to living with frizz, so a 30+ minute routine involving three different products and a blowdryer is not going to happen.

Just want to note that you're not alone. I read about hair-and-makeup routines that take an hour in front of the mirror, and my reaction is "REALLY poor ROI there". (Unless you're a TV celebrity, in which case you have people to do that for you.) Brushing my hair out takes about 2 minutes; if I wear makeup at all, it's generally just eyeliner and lipstick, application time under a minute. Anyone who thinks that isn't good enough* can go sit on a hot poker endwise.

More back to the topic, your hair issues sound like some of the ones commonly encountered by black women, wherein "natural" black hair is considered inferior to hair that's been heavily treated with chemicals to make it straight like white women's hair. Is there any chance that unconscious racism may have a bearing on your mother's attitudes about your hair, which you seem to have at least partly absorbed?

* For me, that is. What they do themselves is their own business.

Chickadee, #631: Heh. I grew up in the late 60s and early 70s, when the "ironed" look was in. My hair isn't exactly curly, but it's naturally wavy and has a lot of body. I was miserable because I couldn't get the stark-straight look all my classmates wore, and at one point I convinced my mother to pay for getting my hair straightened. It looked fabulous!... for about 3 days, and then it was right back to the way it always was. Even as a teenager, I considered that a failed experiment and a waste of money.

These days I love my luxuriant mane of hair, even though I don't do anything fancy with it.

#634 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2014, 04:28 PM:

Type A Toad, congratulations on the new job!

#635 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2014, 05:03 PM:

the invisible one, I like the book "Curly Girl", but let me describe how easy my hair care is: Shampoo (sometimes) and condition (always) in the shower, detangling with a wide-toothed comb when the conditioner is in. Dry hair somewhat by wrapping in a towel. Take a spoonful or so of coconut oil in the palm of my hand, squish it a little between palms, and apply to ends of hair. Rub the residual oil on my palms over the top of my head. Comb again and ignore, ponytail, or braid, as desired or convenient. Ignoring will cause hair to air dry into ringlets. That's IT.

The only reason I own a blow dryer is to heat-shrink insulating plastic to my windows in the winter. :)

#636 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2014, 05:32 PM:

#633, Lee: Is there any chance that unconscious racism may have a bearing on your mother's attitudes about your hair, which you seem to have at least partly absorbed?

That is possible, especially given that your question reminded me of a racist joke-comment my dad made about a (white) boyfriend I had in university and his dark, tightly curled hair. There's plenty of racism in my family. (All jokes, of course, you're *so* serious invisible one, sheesh.)

Oddly enough I don't find that black women with natural/untreated hair look messy. It could be that the tightness of the curls puts them with "done" curls and perms in my subconscious. After all, the only people I knew while growing up who had curls anywhere near that tight, had just had perms. (It is a rather pale town.)

#635, Rikibeth: oh, I like your hair care procedure. The only step above what I already do is adding a bit of oil. I already detangle in the shower while the conditioner is in - I finger-comb instead of having an actual comb. (Shampoo *sometimes*? I wonder if I'm over-shampooing my hair. Some of the stuff I read recently said that curly hair tends to be dry because scalp oils don't travel down the hairs as easily as on straight hair -- and shampoo, being soap, is good at removing oils.)

#637 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2014, 11:36 PM:

janetl @ 621, Lee @ 624: so, what it's like is in between those two cases. The tenant law authority says our spy isn't a tenant of anybody so they can't/won't touch it. The legal aid duty counsel says we have made our good faith effort to resolve things and the spy has only the rights we grant in this situation. The police are nervous about getting involved without an actual criminal thing happening, but suggested how to make one happen pretty fast: refuse to take her money for July, so that has to leave or transmute into a trespasser that they can do something about. In the meantime she can have houseguests in her room, sadly. (This is better response time for actually stopping any/some offenses than any other official response yet.)

Alas, we are screwed as regards to keys/physical security, for having trusted the landlord and anyone recommended by him were decent human beings. Our best course is to remove all our valuables to storage, any expenses for which we can at least attempt to put on the landlord's bill later.

I guess I ought to ask our tenant's insurance if they cover delusional landlords and roommates.

#638 ::: Lee sees a persistent spammer ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2014, 01:20 AM:

That's at least the 4th spam on this thread alone from the poster with the name in Middle Eastern script. I'd say it's time for a block.

#639 ::: P J Evans sees more spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2014, 02:02 AM:

Looks like Thai or maybe something from India.

#640 ::: Chickadee sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2014, 02:07 PM:

Same spammer!

#641 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2014, 02:55 PM:

Whatever the language is, it’s not the same name each time, or the same IP address. If it was, it’d be easy to block.

#642 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2014, 06:36 PM:

invisible one: "All jokes, of course, you're *so* serious invisible one, sheesh."

The thing about jokes is they're supposed to be funny...

#643 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2014, 08:30 PM:

#642, B. Durbin: Yup.

Have I mentioned that I long ago internalized that I have no sense of humour?

#644 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2014, 10:26 PM:

Racist jokes are NOT FUCKING FUNNY by definition. That's why decent people don't tell them.

You probably don't need to be reminded that, "But it's a JOKE, where's your sense of HUMOR?" is a bog-standard abuse trope. And it's no less abusive when you're supposed to be laughing at someone else who isn't there.

#645 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2014, 12:43 AM:

#644, Lee: I completely agree. When you're the only one not laughing though, and you don't know any different...

It took me a long time to get used to the idea that I actually *did* have a sense of humour. It just doesn't run to the racist, sexist, or other derogatory-stereotype sorts of jokes.

#646 ::: daughter of a great romance ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2014, 10:06 PM:

OMG family systems theory.

The emotional interdependence presumably evolved to promote the cohesiveness and cooperation families require to protect, shelter, and feed their members. Heightened tension, however, can intensify these processes that promote unity and teamwork, and this can lead to problems. When family members get anxious, the anxiety can escalate by spreading infectiously among them. As anxiety goes up, the emotional connectedness of family members becomes more stressful than comforting. Eventually, one or more members feel overwhelmed, isolated, or out of control.

These are the people who accommodate the most to reduce tension in others. It is a reciprocal interaction. For example, a person takes too much responsibility for the distress of others in relationship to their unrealistic expectations of him. The one accommodating the most literally "absorbs" anxiety and thus is the family member most vulnerable to problems such as depression, alcoholism, affairs, or physical illness.

This is my partner's family. This is my partner. It's a tightly enmeshed family which was hit by several different crises over the last five years. My partner is the one who wants to solve everything, fix everything, take care of everyone and ignore her own self-care to do so.

Meanwhile one family member broke away from the family unit, for reasons that are not clear to me (I was never close to this family member). The rest of the family blames that family member for abandonment and has developed a tendency towards extra-special-clinginess among the remaining family members to compensate.

And I'm like, you're all nice people in isolation, and I see you love each other, but do you guys have any idea how toxic your dynamic is when you're all together?

Partner tells me I'm wrong when I try to suggest that there's something toxic in her family unit. It's all the fault of Missing Family Member and five years of crisis. They all love each other. Everything's fine.

But am I wrong? I don't think I am.

#647 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2014, 01:18 AM:

daughter: Friend of mine who spent some time as a social worker reported visiting one family: whatever crisis was brewing at the moment was escalating; she said the subliminal tension was palpable. Until the youngest started acting out, and was punished by a parent. Then, suddenly, everyone relaxed.

#648 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2014, 06:34 AM:

daughter @646 and Jacque @647, you may appreciate/be interested in Maggie Sharp's book "Intimate Worlds: How Families Thrive and Why They Fail".

I think many people here would generally be interested in that, but I bring it up to you two because she discusses this concept of a "symptom-bearer", who is often a kid, who acts out in various ways in order to give the family a chance to vent whatever pressure is building up from bigger, scarier problems.

#649 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2014, 09:27 AM:

daughter @646: Speculating in the absence of facts here, of course, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if the family member that broke away recognized the dysfunction and realized that the only way to change the dynamic was to leave entirely.

I keep wondering how much I've gone from Supergirl (The Star! TM) to The Black Sheep in terms of my extended families (my parents' siblings - both sides) since I decided to start setting boundaries and separating myself from my blood family. Not cutting contact entirely, just strictly limiting it and not attending larger family events. I suspect not so much on Mom's side; her family's not local, and she's not as likely to gossip about me to them (oh the gossip...) but my dad's side is sort of local and they've noticed.

Yes, both sets of siblings have *highly* dysfunctional relationships. Enmeshed? Not sure. Certainly "us against all outsiders." (i.e. my dad's family's spouses: dead long ago, divorced and hated, divorced and hated, rejected but very recently sort of accepted (the last being Mom)).

But regardless, what you describe sounds highly unhealthy to me.

#650 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2014, 01:21 PM:

daughter @646 and Merricat @648: that doesn't sound fine to me, though it does sound like a group of people that love each other and have been through rough times. You've both given me more material for my reading list once I have spoons to read something heavier than fluff or Discworld. Discworld isn't fluff, but is comfort reading that grabs me and pulls me along. I realized yesterday that lately that I've been channelling a mix of Carrot and Vimes, while Partner is channelling...I'm not quite sure. He said Detritus, and I said no, maybe Angua? Someone sneaky and with teeth, anyway. Therefore I now want to find and re-read the whole Guard sub-series.

It seems the universe wants me to become a Person You Do Not Mess With, only the legal way, not the organized-crime way. I now have a letter from an M.D. attesting that the landlord has been causing significant adverse symptoms. After the most recent shenanigans with the roommate-spy, the police helpfully suggested, don't accept her July rent and we can come get her for trespassing if she sticks around. The other authorities consulted both said that either they weren't involved (as she's not a tenant), or that there's not much the roommate could do, legally. So we wrote a termination letter (very factual yet embarrassing to show to a lawyer or small-claims court) and stuck it to her door. We know she's picked it up, but aside from that it's not clear what's happening. I keep expecting someone or something to explode at me.

#651 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2014, 01:49 PM:

Bodhisvaha: Have you considered taking your VAB, dressing it up in SFF tropes, and submitting it to Tor? :-)

#652 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2014, 01:50 PM:

...or maybe Doctor Who fanfic...

#653 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2014, 02:18 PM:

daughter, #646: Three comments.

First, I don't think you're wrong either. When one family member who isn't even there is getting blamed for everything that goes wrong, that's not a healthy dynamic at all.

Second... you can't make someone else see the problem, especially not when they're mired in it. You might be able to bring some of it to light by asking the right questions, such as, "So if X were still here, you'd all be doing much better at handling the other crises? Why?" But even that much is iffy.

Third, you need to evaluate how much of a threat this toxic dynamic is to you -- both personally, and as it affects your relationship. If your partner has to choose between you and the family, who wins? Between their own health and the family, who wins? How much stress will it put on you and the relationship if the family is taking up everything your partner has to give? Will any effort on your part to detach your partner from the toxic part of the dynamic be taken as a threat by the family? Are there children who shouldn't be exposed to this without getting an outside perspective on it as well?

You don't need to answer these questions here -- just think about them, and about any others that might be suggested by them. You don't want to be blindsided if Shit Happens without warning.

#654 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2014, 02:44 PM:

daughter @646: OMG systems theory indeed! I'm reading that, and I'm Amy, and my parents swap out the roles of her parents. (i.e. Mom cultivated a super-unhealthy-close relationship with me, hovering, etc. but she was the hyper-competent one in the relationship who was over involved in work and scorned the partner for perceived laziness and other faults)

Granted, I didn't rebel - not really, anyhow - but I did feel that she chose my friends for me and allowed me no choice in things that really mattered. (the Tapes are saying "But she gave you everything you asked for!" Yeah, like Amy's parents gave her a car... It didn't mean they respected *me* as an individual)

And Mom was effectively raised by an older sibling who was really bossy and self-centred and probably allowed Mom about as much self determination as she allowed me... and she was the youngest child... So very many parallels.

Fascinating. Thank you for linking.

Another recommendation for reading: Brene Brown, "I thought it was just me: Women reclaiming power and courage in a culture of shame." It's a powerful read, and I think a lot of us here can relate to it. She starts out by defining shame (as a separate entity from embarrassment, guilt or humiliation) and explaining how we get trapped into it, then starts talking about how to deal with it (based on her extensive research with women from a broad range of demographics). I'm just starting the "shame resiliency" section. For those who prefer, she's also got a TED talk.

#655 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2014, 02:51 PM:

daughter: One last thing! (following up on Lee's comment at 653): One of the biggest sources of resentment and marital trouble in my family was that, until I was at least in my mid twenties, if my dad's family wanted something and it conflicted with commitments with Mom, his family won. Every. Single. Time.

It was one of the things that led to me not having really any respect for him for many years. He put his siblings consistently above his *wife.* (i.e. he spent Christmas with them every year, even though Mom wouldn't go because they treated her like shit) When he finally started putting her before their demands, well, you don't want to hear about that. :( It was not pretty. :(

With your case, it would be your partner's health rather than her presence - but like Lee says, how would her giving everything to her family including her health affect *your* relationship?

I don't know if my situation parallels yours, but again - something to think about when you're asking yourself those questions.

#656 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2014, 08:20 PM:

Jacque @651: or maybe for the people who do Chicks in Chainmail, if it's still running. I think my last 3 roommates-from-hell would make a nice set of short stories or a novella to build a "Roommates from Hell"-themed anthology on. I have also promised a plot outline to a aspiring writer friend so she can add it to her truth-stranger-than-fiction file.

Still, as a screwball comedy, it needs a better macguffin. What can one get by being the primary occupant of the specific house, that you don't get by owning it or living there? Or how can running the B&B make enough money to make the boodle worthwhile? Or what do they need money for that fast that they can't get otherwise? As a psychothriller it would need more creepiness, and possibly some *reason* to be trying to drive the main character insane.

#657 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2014, 09:54 PM:

Bodhisvaha @656: What if it was a time-sensitive money-laundering operation? Or if it was a "BnB" - except it was really a safe house for some criminal organization? (and they needed it yesterday, and the consequences for not providing it are dire)

On the silly end, he just found out about the buried treasure in the basement, and is terrified you'll find it in your move-out cleaning. ;)

#658 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2014, 12:30 AM:

Chickadee @657: those first two are good! (They could even be the real explanation, except that the landlord hasn't kept escalating fast and hard enough to convince me that Guido really is after his kneecaps.) The landlord has too-easy access for a buried treasure or similar plot crystal to work, unless we get all paranormal about the house knowing its current master, which is something to do with living there, not the legal paperwork. I don't think I'm sufficiently inspired to pull that one off.

Roommate has turned up in the flesh. She didn't seem at all affected by the whole eviction notice -- my suspicion is that she thinks if she ignores the notice it will go away, or that she can just not show up when we're home and not be much affected. I think in good faith we had better leave her/text her another notice tomorrow or the 29th, explaining that we will be calling the police if she's on the premises, getting her car towed (I got the license plate to prevent errors), finding out how to dispose of abandoned possessions...

I don't want to pay for changing the locks since we'll just have to give a set of keys to the landlord and he can/will then give her keys. Why waste my money? Instead I think the plan if she goes to ground is to ask Legal Aid and the police what must we do to retrieve these keys, and can they help?

#659 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2014, 07:53 AM:

I'm recommending Rubin's _Compassion and Self-Hate_ to go with Brene Brown-- Brown focuses more on women's issues, and Brown focuses more on men's.

#660 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2014, 12:49 PM:

the invisible one: Samantha Field at Defeating the Dragons sounds like she has your type of hair, and talks about her insecurities with it. Also, the comments section is full of people talking about both their insecurities and what they've done (or chosen not to do any more!) in dealing with them. In case you needed more "I'm not along in this."

#661 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2014, 04:21 PM:

Though we can now see the invisible one's photos by clicking her name above her posts, a while ago I put up some for her when she was being taken to task by her mother for painting her hall a saturated orange.

Her hair immediately reminded me of Sandro Botticelli's Birth of Venus: fine, light, fluffing into a wavy halo by default.

It's easy to see why Her-Mother-The-Control-Freak wants it slapped smooth, but any "objectionable messiness" is between her parental unit's ears. Were it me, the time and trouble to contain it artificially wouldn't be worth it. It looks perfectly fine to me.

In my old hippie days I had much the same fight with my mother, though my hair was less floaty. I often loosely tucked it up with a couple of combs to keep it out of my face, which mollified though did not satisfy her.

With combs, the invisible one's hair would look even more angelic than this.

#662 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2014, 12:18 PM:

#660, Chickadee: Thanks for the link. *Why* is this so prevalent??

#661, Carol Kimball:

I don't know that 'angelic' is a word I'd apply to myself, but thanks for saying my hair looks just fine and isn't actually Doin It Rong. I have no idea how to put a comb-as-fashion-accessory in and have it stay in place, though. One of the things I gave up on really early, since I "Just Wasn't Good At" fashion, being pretty, and having hair I could do anything with, so why bother?

#663 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2014, 01:52 PM:

invisible one re: curly hair

It depends on the kind of curly you have going on. I buy curl-defining cream and put it in after slightly dampening my hair. Even though my hair is thick and curly, the cream helps it hold together in a more intentional-looking pattern and limits the amount of flyaway (as long as I remember to keep my hands out of my hair when I'm thinking).

My sister has a stronger dose of the Irish kinky-curly hair gene combined with much finer hair than mine, and the only trick she's found that works is getting it wet, working the knots out, putting it up in a high tight ponytail and hairspraying the heck out of it. Even so, she gets a bit of stubborn flyaway. (I get a headache even thinking about it, so that has never been my solution, but I also don't have her hair - having helped her with it a time or two, I understand her desperation.)

#664 ::: Type A Toad ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2014, 03:08 PM:


Here's the coming situation: I've got myself what I hope will be a great job that starts in mid-August. My partner and I will be moving to a cheaper apartment closer to my work and then he will be either taking a leave of absence from his job or just quitting outright once we're settled in. He's burnt out and worn down and has been carrying us for the last three years and I am totally behind this plan.

Here's the problem: my parents will think this is The Worst Idea Ever (tm) and I need to tell them something about it, especially since they're coming to visit in mid-September and my partner may have started his time off by then. I'm pretty sure that nothing I say is going to make that visit or the months afterward be full of little poking questions and passive-aggressive comments and queries over and over and over and over and over about how they're not sure if I'm happy.

I've run into this before with other life questions: they still want me to move back to the east coast from Canada and ask me if/when I'm coming back every few weeks. My mother still bothers me about grandchildren even though I've been telling her no for going on three years now (Me: No. I dislike children. Her: I didn't either until I had my own kids, try it and you might like it! Me: bogglewha? oh hell no that's a bad idea.)

My general policy is to tell them as little about my life as possible. There's a certain life path they expect me to take and I'm getting some push back now that I'm of an age to have hit some of the expected milestones and not only have I not hit them, I'm not even headed in that general direction. It confuses and concerns them and while they couch it to me as confusion and concern, they also can't see that I'm making the decisions that make me happy. Yeah, they say 'as long as you're happy we're happy', but they keep questioning my decisions, sometimes for years on end, which tell me it's all lip service because that's what one is supposed to say.

I want to be able to say to them 'Partner is taking some time from work / quitting (depending on which one it is) and I think this is a good decision and we just wanted to keep you in the loop'. I want them to accept this or failing that, I want to be someone who can shut down the follow-up conversations, but I'm not there yet. I'm not comfortable telling them nothing and I'm not comfortable shunting responsibility off onto my partner (like we did for the move up here and I still feel guilty about that). This isn't something I feel like I can apply my usual avoidance tactics to and I don't know what to do.

Any scripts or suggestions to make this a little easier on me? I know there's no way this is going to go smoothly. I'm just hoping to make it go easier than the scenario I have built up in my head.

#665 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2014, 04:33 PM:

Type A Toad @664: That's a difficult situation. If I had a good answer I'd give it to you but I spent the last couple of years just not telling my mother about work-related problems, because it was easier that dealing with the constant queries I knew I'd get if I -did- tell her any of it. I hoped it would all get resolved before I had to tell her. Then I got made redundant and did have to tell her. She was actually better about it that I expected, but...

From what you've said, you're half way there already in that it appears you know what you want to say - just not how to make it stick.

If I think of any more concrete suggestions, I'll let you know.

Everyone: I've been reading and witnessing but not really participating. Hope to be able to do better in a couple of weeks.

#666 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2014, 04:53 PM:

Type A Toad, I don't think there's any magic script that will make your parents NOT react badly. I think the only way to manage it is to present it as "this is going to happen, the decision has been made" and then decide that whatever they say is so much noise pollution, and that they aren't entitled to a long discussion of your reasons; they get the information, they get "I appreciate/understand that you're concerned, but we've thought this through, and we're going to do it," and then "I can tell you're upset, but I'm not going to discuss it any more. Can we change the subject? Because if not, I'm hanging up."

This is advice drawn from Captain Awkward, who deals with stuff like this at greater length and with more supporting detail and encouragement, but the true insight is: you are not going to be able to control their reactions, no matter what you do.

#667 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2014, 04:54 PM:

Type A Toad (I loved that "Halp."):

First, don't burn more bridges than you have to. "He's been supporting us for years. Now that I'm bringing in money, he's taking some down time" is perfectly true, even if you've decided it's going to be permanent.

How to derail ongoing fussing

The first time it starts:

1. stop dead (count to three in your head if you have to)
2. give them a puzzled smile
3. say "thank you?" politely


This is easier in the planning than the execution. It's almost impossible not to get drawn into discussion.

Nonetheless, if you can manage to do it once, there will be a spectacular stunned silence. Getting there again won't be quite as much effort.

If you absolutely have to, expand to "thank you for telling us how you feel" or the variant "we appreciate your concern". Use the plural even if they've cornered you singly.

If you keep talking and get into how YOU feel or start justifying yourself, you've had it.

This useful (and a great deal of fun) to role-play. Don't let them split you up, so you can exchange supporting glances while endlessly repeating "thank you". Prepare topics ahead of time so you can trade off jumping in to change the subject, preferably ones reminding of shared good times with an underpinning of their knowledge and expertise.

"Hey, remember the time you took us out to that drive-in on [detail]? Is that still there? Is anyone making those chili dogs any more?"

"Remember when you [brought] Special Treat and [partner] hadn't ever seen it before?"

[Partner] "You explained to me once about [topic]. Would you go into more detail about [subtopic]?"

The scripts are along these lines:
Parental Units: we love you, we care about you, we want to run your lives so you'll be happy and we'll get power points"
Rebellious Youth: we don't want you, we don't need you, take your advice and the horse you rode in on and, get out of our lives.

PU:we love you, we care about you blah blah blah
RY: Thanks for caring. We remember how much we've learned from you, the good times we've had, and continue to value you.

#668 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2014, 05:54 PM:

Type a Toad: What everyone else has been saying. Good advice.

Also, if your parents do e-mail, consider sending them one that runs something like this:

"Dear [parents],

I really appreciate everything you've done for me. I especially appreciate [things]. And I know that you love me and want the best for me.

However, the way you express that love and concern is coming across as intrusive and disrespectful. My partner and I have made [decisions] about what we're doing [i.e. not having kids, not moving back "home"]. These decisions are not up for debate. Your insistence on constantly questioning our decisions hurts me and makes me not want to talk to you.

I love you both a lot, and I really want to continue our relationship, but you're making it very hard for me.


Does this sound reasonable to you? (to the rest of this community?)

I went through something similar with my mom, except she gave up on the kids by the time it would have been panic/crunch time. Thank goodness she's also given up (mostly) trying to run my life; the three month contact moratorium followed by my being willing (and able!) to cut her off when she tried did a lot to help that. It took me *many* years and much spousal and friend support, and counselling, to reach the point of not really caring what she criticized any more. She still drives me up the wall, but I don't give a shit if she doesn't approve of my choices.

So, I'm coming from the other end of a situation sort of like yours - it does get better, really! But in the mean time, it's a really tough situation to be in.

All the best, and congrats on setting your own way! (and kudos to your partner for supporting you, and to you for supporting him. :)

Oh, and regarding the "try it, you'll love it!" with the kids: WTF?!?!? No. Just, no.

#669 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2014, 06:37 PM:

Chickadee -

I've never found any way to make anyone read something that's attacking them (and however gentle and buffered this is, that's what your proposed email does), much less ponder its points in their hearts.

If you're face to face, or on the phone, they have some incentive to find a way to get you to listen to them, which is what they want (even if it's not their desired battle ground).

Back In The Day, I refused to argue with anyone via letters. Both sides have the added grievance of putting time into an effort that's immediately disregarded.

#670 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2014, 07:04 PM:

Remember that bit about my dad and the TV?

The closing is tomorrow. Kid and I are going up, and will be there for a week-ish to paint and get furniture delivered, and as much of the other administrivia as we can.

Which includes cable installation. Which I scheduled for Tuesday, so we can have internet ASAP.

GUESS WHO DIDN'T PICK A TV. And when I pressed him on it, he picked one that was an online-only offer & would have to get shipped, & they would bring the ABSOLUTELY DO NOT WANT CRT TV to use in the meantime. Which generally takes different installation stuff from a proper modern TV now.

I said "No. I told you. If you did not have something chosen and READY by the time we needed cable installed, I would buy Whatever Was On Sale, and take the risks. So that is what we will DO."

*headdesk headdesk headdesk*

I don't even care so much about having TV available - I chose the ten-channel package plus free bonus HBO and add-on Showtime - but we need our internet SOONEST.


#671 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2014, 08:31 PM:

Jeanie @669: I think we come from different family-types, then. Because when I send Mom e-mails like that, she reads them and her replies indicate she's actually processed them to the best of her ability. So it comes down to: is Type a Toad's family more like yours or mine?

I am eternally grateful that Mom does, for all her faults, read the letters I send her. Because there are so many things that are easier to say if you have the opportunity to consider your words.

#672 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2014, 08:52 PM:

Chickadee -

#673 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2014, 09:09 PM:

No snark there, BTW. I was forgetting that almost everyone has relationships (or occasional interactions) that are not dysfunctional.

#674 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2014, 09:36 PM:

Jeanie @673: No snark read, at all! And the funniest part is that my relationship with Mom is so dysfunctional in so many ways some days I think it would be a lot easier for me emotionally to just cut it off and not ever talk to her again. But for all that, she's the one who taught me how to apologize (genuinely, and mean it!) and she loves me beyond all reason. People are complicated.

#675 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2014, 10:58 PM:

Carol Kimball @661: the invisible one's hair would look even more angelic than this.

My 2¢: I had a boyfriend for a while that had even curlier hair than Botticelli's Venus. He kept it long enough to reach his shoulder blades. (Roughly 1.5cm circle if allowed to coil on a flat surface.) One of my favorite parts of our visits was brushing it out after a shower. Such lovely, shiny waves. When I wasn't around, he'd just do the conditioner and curly hair comb thing (which tended to colaminate the curls into ringlets), and it looked just fine.

#676 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2014, 11:22 PM:

Chickadee @668: I love you both a lot, and I really want to continue our relationship, but you're making it very hard for me.

Your whole note is very good. The only alteration I would offer would be: Make the second comma a period. Replace the following phrase with: "In order to do that, I need you to accept and respect our decisions. And that means stop challenging them. If that's not something you feel you can do, maybe we should put our relationship on hold until you feel more comfortable with that idea."

Then, after that, use the Captain Awkward algorithm of: 1st challenge: "Parents, we talked about this. Drop it please. Now: how about those [interest of theirs]. 2nd challenge: "Parents, I asked you to drop this. If you continue, I'll have to [hang up / leave]. Now: how about those [interest of theirs]. 3rd challenge: "I'm sorry. I'd so looked forward to having a lovely conversation / visit, but I have to leave / hang up now."

Captain Awkward has totally awesome boundaries scripts, for all occasions.

Oh, and regarding the "try it, you'll love it!" with the kids: WTF?!?!? No. Just, no.

One to play with, if only in one's head: "Sure, mom. I'll have kids and see if I like them. If I decide I don't want them, you'll be adopting them, right?"

#677 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2014, 01:31 AM:

Type A Toad, #664:

Yeowtch. I don't see any feasible way to address this except by using the old standard "this topic is not open for discussion" script. It goes like this:

Parents: [bring up unwanted topic]
You: "This topic is not open for discussion. You already know what we've decided, and it's not changing."
Parents: [try to continue discussing topic]
You: "Sorry, I have to go now." and HANG UP or LEAVE. If you hang up, turn your phone's ringer off for several hours so that they don't instantly call you back over and over again to harass you. Do not call them back for at least 3 days.

Eventually, they will figure out that when you say a topic isn't open for discussion and they try to push, they don't get to talk to you any more for a while.

Them coming to visit is a problem of a whole different order, and I don't have any good suggestions for that except DO NOT LET THEM STAY IN YOUR HOME. You need to be able to walk away from them when things get intolerable, and they will.

Overall, I also support the idea of just not telling them things. That's a mantra I lived by for decades: "What THEY don't know can't hurt ME." It's much easier to have one meaningless fight about, "Toad, you never TELL us anything about your life!" over and over again than the Death of a Thousand Cuts that happens when you try to be open with people who don't believe you can do anything right.

I don't think that trying to reassure them of your love is going to do any good, because I don't think it's about that at all. It's about control, pure and simple. It's about them wanting to own your life and run it their way.

protecting, #670: Yeah, at this point you have to do what you said you would do, or they'll never believe you again when you set a limit. And then he'll probably grumble about it for months, what's WRONG with you that you couldn't WAIT just a few DAYS to get the RIGHT one? And you'll have to keep repeating, "I gave you a deadline and told you what would happen if you missed it. Actions have consequences. You've forfeited your right to complain."

[reads back over responses] Yikes, I'm grumpy today! But I stand by what I said, no matter how pissily phrased.

#678 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2014, 03:27 AM:

Appropo to visits by parents that could turn bad due to poor boundary respect, with a small plea for patience, as this will look a bit de-railing...

Hyper-local news is that dear hubby managed to invest our home with a major case of FLEAS. (Vacuum cleaner had been loaned out to a place where we did not know they had them; so no control measures when the vacuum came back...)

Since then, I've had to explain why I'm not inviting people into the house for social gatherings. It's been lovely to see people being so understanding about my problem: not just a desire to avoid acquiring their own infestation, but also there's a fair amount of empathy - everyone seems to have their own little horror story of how long one has to keep up a fairly energetic cleaning regime until the life-cycle is completely broken.

I know that telling the truth is always the best policy, but if Type A Toad is feeling too torn between the jobs of policing boundaries of self and spouse vs the parents, and a felt obligation to provide actual lodging to the parents, a sudden flea-infestation might be a useful way to deflect them to a hotel and save one's personal space for actually living the way they like, and not the parents.

Depending on the level of real financial pain this creates for the parents, and/or the level of fuss they'll create for their grown-up offspring, of course. I was thinking of this by analog with the sudden illness one can get if being required to show up to the problematic Christmas dinner...

Crazy(sure, get my e-mail from our lovely hostess abi, and you can get loads of support detail, if you need...)Soph

#679 ::: Pfusand sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2014, 09:33 AM:

Looks like spam to me @679.

#680 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2014, 10:17 AM:

the invisible one @662: my hair is merely wavy, but here's how I put in combs around my temples. They usually have an arc (perpendicular to the tines) to lie flat against the skull.

(1) Flip the arc the wrong way compared to your skull in the final position.
(2) Set the tines in the hair, and slide away from your face, picking up hair, until the decorative edge is about the right place.
(3) Back off just enough that you can flip the comb full of hair to have the arc matching your skull, and drive it gently back into the hair you just picked up in it. This works even better when you drive it back in at a slightly different angle than you picked up with.

Depending on the exact combs and hair, that should last for a while. I found combs that had tines with bulges (like or wibbles held better.

I haven't needed these skills for some time (shorter hair now), but I had also noted certain types of bun-fixing pins/combs/etc. that worked much better than others, though those will not fix the general flyaway problem. Double french braids were my favourite for serious "keep it OUT of my WAY" days.

#681 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2014, 10:59 AM:

Addendum to my @675: Despite how much fun it was to brush, I think former boyfriend's hair actually looked better on days when he did his usual routine with it. FWIW.

Tangentially: there's a weird condition or mutation where one's hair is so tightly curled that it's effectively felted. Had a classmate in gradeschool with this. "Brushing? Okay, you can stop laughing hysterically now."

#682 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2014, 03:19 PM:

Type A Toad @664: To quote an old proverb, "Carry false coin for thieves."

Tell the parental units that spouse is "on sabbatical" from their job. The parental units don't have to know that spouse's employer doesn't give employees sabbaticals...

Wish I had a good script for the other questions, but I think you got great advice from the other posters.

#683 ::: Type A Toad ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2014, 06:44 PM:

Working down the comments and so, so many thanks to you all and your great suggestions.

dcb @ 665: Yeah, avoidance is usually the best policy. What they don't know about they can't pester me about. I apply this tactic very widely to all our interactions. They got the invitation to my wedding at the same time everyone else did. They're still upset about that, but I was willing for them to be a little disappointed to avoid months of 'help'.

protecting others' privacy @ 666: I'm totally not going to say anything about it to them until it's a done deal. Because they will try to talk me/us out of it. I know better than to try to ease them into it - that will just increase the amount of time they have to judge.

Jeanie @667: (I often get texts from my partner in the other room consisting of nothing but "HALP". It means he's buried in cats and wants to get up.) Thanks on the heads up about them trying to get at us separately. They've done it before and this time hopefully I'll remember to be aware of it in advance. I think keeping answers to a minimum is also a good tactic - explain once at the beginning and then not again. This is going to make me feel horribly guilty (because I'm not fully answering their 'questions'). I'm going to try to do it anyway.

Chickadee @668: Oh god, I wish my parents did email. It would make my life so much easier. Just two weeks ago my mother called to ask me for the pictures that I'd emailed an aunt because she 'didn't get them and I promised to send them'. I CCed her on all of them. Turns out you don't get the pictures in email if you don't bother to check your damn email. Ahem. Having gotten that out of my system, your scripts sound good and I'm going to try to hold onto the intent of it for when they're here in person. You give me a great deal of hope that one day I can navigate an adult relationship with my parents, that they will learn to deal once I learn to start standing up for myself.

Chickadee @668 & Jacque @676 re:children. Among the things I do not talk to my parents about are my mental/physical health, if I can help it. That includes: therapy, SSRIs, or the fact that I went and got myself neutered. There's a great deal of silent laughter going on when she asks me about kids because it's simply not biologically going to happen.

Lee @677:Them coming to visit is a problem of a whole different order, and I don't have any good suggestions for that except DO NOT LET THEM STAY IN YOUR HOME. You need to be able to walk away from them when things get intolerable, and they will. Don't I know it. The problems are that this is international travel and I live in a very expensive area and a)my parents don't and thus have sticker shock every time they come and b)they're cheap. Short of burning down my own apartment, I couldn't get them to stay anywhere else. Besides, they're coming to seeee meeeee!!!!, ugh. I've considered staying in a hotel myself and letting them have the apartment, but they'd just move into the hotel with me. But because I'm starting a new job around the time they're coming to visit, I have the convenient excuse of having to work and I've already told them there's no way I could time off for the whole week they're here so they're going to have to fend for themselves. I'm trying to talk them into renting a car and going to Victoria or Whistler or somewhere else other than my home, please god go away for a few days instead of hanging around my apartment the whole time.

I think they know I don't tell them much about my life, but the family dynamics make it impossible to call me on that. I'm fine with things that way. And yeah, it's not about love so much as it is about me doing what they expect me to. Totally agree with you on that one.

crazysoph @678 I had food poisoning or a stomach bug or something once and they came to visit me anyway, back when a visit was a three hour drive and not a long flight. I spent an hour on the toilet talking to them through the door before they gave up and drove back home rather than trying to take me to lunch. Like I said to Lee, nothing short of burning down my own apartment would convince them to stay anywhere else. Sigh.

Lori Coulson @682: My current plan is to tell the truth, but as little of it as possible. 'Partner is taking some time off work' or 'Partner has quit to look for something better' depending on what Partner decides to actually do. No mention that something better won't actually be looked for within 6 months or so. We lied to them about moving in the first place, telling them that Partner's employer sent him here rather than the truth which is that Partner pulled some amazing shenanigans and got himself sent here because we wanted to come. The fall out from that is going to make the coming conversation more difficult than it would have otherwise been because now that we no longer have the supposed motivation of 'employer wants him here', they're going to start on how we should 'come home'. (no thanks, I'm already home)

I can do this. I can survive this. I've done it before, and held off my break down until after they left. You all's advice is going to make this so much more manageable.

#684 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2014, 08:02 PM:

Type A Toad, #683: Jeezus H. Christ, were your parents raised by wolves?! They nagged you for an hour WHILE YOU WERE IN THE BATHROOM THROWING UP (or whatever) before they were willing to leave?!!! That is... rudeness of no ordinary magnitude.

I do have one other suggestion, which might be more trouble than it's worth to implement. You reserve the hotel room for them and pay for it, and simply tell them that this is where they're staying, no argument, full stop. (I would be ready to go to the next line of, "Because I already know I can't trust you to behave like civilized people if you're staying in my home, so you're not going to," but that's me and you probably don't want to take it that far.) It's probably worth the financial cost to you to keep your home inviolate, but the question is whether the intangible cost would be too high.

Come to think of it... this is NOMB and you don't have to answer if you don't want to, but did they invite themselves to visit?

I strongly endorse Lori's suggestion of "sabbatical", simply because it removes the possibility of "Well, now that he's not working for X any more, why don't you just come HOME?" You'll need to decide what he might be taking a sabbatical for, but that can be something equally vague like "to work on a private project" and "it's very technical, you wouldn't understand it, I barely do myself."

And seriously, any mention of "coming home" should be met with an icy, "This IS my home."

#685 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2014, 10:08 PM:

Type a Toad @683: Oh my. I can see why you'd want to live in an entirely far away city. Sympathies!

One thing to clarify: I do not (sadly) have an adult relationship with my parents. :( What I have is something manageable, where I can tolerate or even enjoy visits on the frequency that I have chosen (and enforced), and where Mom has (mostly) realized the futility of trying to arrange my life for me. Macro scale: she doesn't. (asks nosy questions, yes. Gives unwanted advice, not any more) Micro scale: *deep breath* today's lunch was an excellent reminder of why I don't see her more often. Without going into details, suffice it to say that she exhibited all of her worst social behaviours. (bossy, immature, selfish, inattentive, not grasping this whole concept that other people aren't interested in the details of your entire extended family's illnesses...)

So, you probably already know this, but don't expect your parents to actually change. Their behaviours toward you can be changed, though, which is where the hope lies!

Also, your parents sound like a more extreme version of my friend S's parents, who moved to another city to limit their access then learned how to redirect her mom's interference to things that don't matter deeply to her. Come to think of it, that might end up being a coping strategy for you in the long run.

#686 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2014, 11:25 AM:

Type A Toad @683: I went and got myself neutered. There's a great deal of silent laughter going on when she ask