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September 21, 2014

Dysfunctional Families: Witnessing
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:02 PM *

One of the customs of this community that I am particularly fond of is the practice of witnessing: the acknowledgment of the experiences (and reactions) of our fellow community members, even when there’s no advice to be given.

Witnessing avoids the weird mixed message of a Facebook “like” or a Twitter “favorite” for a description of things that are neither likeable nor our favorite experiences. But for anyone who has been gaslit, who has had their memories denied and their emotions steamrollered, the affirmation that that happened and I feel this way about it are valid comments, worthy of other peoples’ attention, is huge.

I was thinking about this the other day, just after dropping my daughter off at school.

There was another mother just pulling up on a bicycle as the bell rang. She lifted her daughter, who looked to be about six, off of the bike seat. The girl stood there, a little spaced, and her mother urged her to start walking toward class while she locked the bike. The child didn’t move and her mother’s voice developed an edge and some volume. “Go on! Start walking! Go on!

And suddenly I noticed that all of the adults in range had subtly, unconsciously aligned their bodies to the conflict. Those whose heads were free were looking, but even the one bent over tying her son’s shoes showed, by the set of her shoulders, that she was listening.

The mother noticed too, maybe. Her next comment was not a command, but a self-description. “I am just so mad at you right now,” she said, less sharply and less loudly. They walked off together, the mother talking herself down from that place of anger, the crowd still attentive.

Now, the mothers in that schoolyard are tough: gossipy, razor-edged enforcers of the norm, always watching, always judging. They scare me. But there’s not one of them that wouldn’t step in if they saw a child being hurt, and they de-escalated that situation by the very force of their attention. They said this is not OK without a single word, and that mother heard them.

We in DF can’t do that. We can’t go back and be the quelling force of sympathetic community in one another’s childhood. Time machines, after all, aren’t legitimate elements of the solution space.

But if the internet isn’t a time machine, it is, in its own way, a teleporter. We, or the memory of us and the promise of our future attention, are here for each other at need. Like virtual guardian angels, we sit on each other’s shoulders, encouraging, recording, and believing. And the mark of our presence is the word: witnessing.

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: Witnessing:
#1 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 04:01 PM:

I rarely have much to say here, but I do read everything.

#2 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 04:44 PM:

I don't post on the DF threads as much as I used to. When I have needed to post, having this space - this safe space - has been amazing.

I too read everything, even if I don't always respond.

Thank you abi, for this space - and thank you to everyone else who posts and/or reads here. Sometimes your posts, or your witnessing, has been hugely important to me.

#3 ::: Michael Johnston ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 05:42 PM:

I'm a newcomer to these threads, having only been coming to ML for a year or so now. But I see much in these discussions that dovetails with my own life. So, yes: Witnessing. It's powerful to see it in action, even when it isn't aimed my way.

#4 ::: Dia ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 06:29 PM:

I really hope that "the parent being mad at the kid is not OK" is not what is going on here.

First, that family is OK, that kid is fine. The kid is not far, far more delighted to go to school than she ever was to go home.

Anyplace is better than the place where you are abused. No child loved school more than me, even if I had no friends and was considered the weirdo. Just being the weirdo was nothing compared to what I had to face at home.

And, second, people do get angry, including parents at children. That's normal, but what's healthy is to acknowledge it. What's not healthy is to assume "good" children will never make their parents angry, so that if the parent is angry or unhappy in any way, the child is "bad" and therefore everything is the child's fault and therefore the child is some kind of wrong. The worst families are paradoxically the ones which depend the most upon the mere fact of family for their happiness, because if they're not happy that must be the fault of the children whose presence was supposed to guarantee happily ever after.

#5 ::: not petronius ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 06:29 PM:

Delurking to say: I hereby witness.

#6 ::: daughter of a great romance ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 06:38 PM:

I have been witnessing for a long time. While I've been witnessing, you all have inspired me to think. I've been thinking about families, and the ways they can work, and the ways they can not work. I've especially been thinking about the ways newcomers in families can seem to create trouble even though it's not the newcomers' fault. The fault lines have always been there, and the rest of us just know to walk carefully around them, so when a newcomer comes in and doesn't follow the unspoken rules, there's an earthquake.

Which is to say that there are problems I never used to notice in my loving, close-knit family, and my beloved partner, who was raised in a different (and differently dysfunctional) loving, close-knit family, keeps getting in trouble for bumping into those problems.

I don't know how to fix this, nor am I really seeking advice at the moment, but I can witness what you all have to say, and you all can witness for me.

#7 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 08:25 PM:

I don't know if the other parents would always step in if they saw a kid being hurt. Mine didn't.
(Role-playing character-The Kid Who Is Not Worth Sticking Up For.)
They had the perfect marriage--never got mad at each other, treated each other as equals--and whatever one of them did to me was just fine with the other. Hitting, yelling, stupid rules, and gouging up my skin with fingernails by one parent because of some supposed imperfection (normal teenage bad skin. The other parent was subjected to this also, but didn't care, but my protests at being violated thus went unheard. Year after year. And they never got the brainstorm of sending me to a real doctor.)
If that drunken lout that my aunt married ladled out verbal abuse on me when we visited, my parents would flutter their hands and say he shouldn't be like that--but they never said a word to him, even though they both could have taken him. They never found alternate lodgings when visiting my aunt. I never got an apology. I later found I wasn't his only victim--small help.
There was only one exception to the parade of not helping, and that was when the parent who hit the hardest but didn't gouge, but who liked to roughhouse at inopportune times, stuck their hand *inside* of* my* god* damn* pants*. I was 14. I wriggled free, but the second time, I told the other parent. Who must have said something to the offender, because that behavior stopped, but all the other abuses went on till I was 17 or 18 or so. And the molestation incident was swept under the rug. I think those two were so horny for each other that they stuck together even after this, as if the offender's promise not to do it again was enough. As if my safety was less important than having one's partner all to oneself. Me, I would never have left a kid alone with that individual again for 2 minutes, let alone 2 months next summer.
There wasn't anyone around who could help.
When I grew up, I eventually confronted both of them--it took multiple scenes--and they were sorry for the things they had done. But they still don't get it about sticking up for the kid when someone else is treating the kid wrong. It's like there's a big gap in their brains or something. I had read all this about how animal mothers fight savagely to protect their young, and I could not figure out why this instinct was missing here. Was I not worth defending? That was what it seemed like. Year after year after year. Now I live alone and want to stay that way.
When I grew up and fell on hard times, more than a decade later, and needed financial help, they provided it--but the parent that molested me started nagging me about my weight--despite that all adults had taught me not to talk like that when I was young. Breaking their own rules. And the other parent didn't lift a finger to stop this; such sympathy as was doled out was as faint as Uranus' rings. As if the shame of falling on hard times despite best efforts wasn't enough. I don't think a person in trouble should have to swallow insults with their meat. I don't dish that stuff out and that alone is reason enough I shouldn't have to take it.
The molester is dead, the survivor still going strong beyond normal lifespan. The situation is still not entirely resolved although otherwise we are close (both intelligent people with some shared interests.) The fat-shaming and the lack of sticking up for one's dependents, these are the remaining elephants in the room.
At least the aforesaid aunt now knows better than to treat me like a diseased and defective freak [introverted, more into things and ideas than people. This was after the drunken pig croaked.] I nailed her on that one but good and she did a fair imitation of an armadillo. But I wish I had an aunt who accepted me. (Role-playing character: Blanket-Hating Grandma or Homophobic Uncle.) Our family is sparse to begin with and I often feel like it's a good thing it is dying out.
All this is one of many reasons I chose not to breed. But I now realize I too don't know how to stick up for someone who might need it--even though I have come farther than my parents because I at least know I *should*.
And when I realize I was one of the lucky ones...

#8 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 10:19 PM:

daughter of a great romance & Angiportus...


#9 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 11:58 PM:

I've been too short of spoons to even read the DFD threads of late, but I read the title and entry posts, and witness that there is much activity in them, as visible by the entries that scroll by in the "last 1000 posts" list. This is a special place, I'll even call it sacred. I am glad that it is here, and thankful for it, and for all the care that y'all who do have spoons pour into it.

Though I can only witness at a remove, I do what I can. I care.

#10 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 04:26 AM:

Dia @4:

First, that family is OK, that kid is fine. The kid is not far, far more delighted to go to school than she ever was to go home.

You can't know that. You weren't there. I was.

There are plenty of parents who get snappish or impatient on the schoolyard. There are plenty of kids who are reluctant to go into class. But there was something different in this transaction, something that caught the attention of the community.

It was not so much that the girl was a little tharn—people of all ages freeze up from time to time. But the something in the mother's voice wasn't...right. She was out of control. This was the sound of a parent on the edge of hitting her kid. It rang like a bell through the tones of her voice, and that was what caught the attention of the parents all around.

(I hope that the next thing that happened was that one of the other parents there invited that mom over for a cup of coffee and a chat. I'm outside that world, but I know that the playground mothers do form a viable community.)

It sounds like this story mapped to something quite different in your childhood. You're absolutely right that kids should not be treated as the keepers of the family mood, but the mother's move from "you are bad" to "I am mad" sounded like a positive step, transitioning from an absolute judgment of the kid to an acknowledgement of her own affected perceptions. I didn't stay for the rest of the conversation, but what I did hear was de-escalation.

#11 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 04:52 AM:

I haven't ever commented in one of these threads as I do not come from this sort of background and have never had anything to say. (Well, I don't comment in many threads, but that's unrelated.)

I started reading these threads (sporadically) when I was trying to write a character from a troubled background, and I was glad to have any insight into a situation that I don't personally understand. There's a lot written on the topic that's extremely heavy and hard to understand, but not so much that's a conversation that lets someone in.

Anyways, what I'm saying is that, even for those who don't have that sort of background, it's nice that there's something that lets us try to understand a little better, whatever our reason for needing to understand. So, thank you to everyone who was willing to share, especially when it was difficult.

#12 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 05:29 AM:

daughter of a great romance, and Dia--witnessing.
I agree with abi that the scene described sounded like de-escalation.
As for what happened to me, I think that the parental units stayed together for money reasons as well as the chance for fulsome PDA's with each other. Also, in 1970, it seems everyone thought that it was always some stranger that molested kids. That was untrue of course but no one ever talked about it. So many parents didn't have a clue what to do to keep their partner from doing that, let alone what to do then.
And these were supposedly intelligent people. They could not come up with an intelligent defense for their actions when finally called to account. I now start to suspect that not knowing how to stick up for someone who for any reason can't protect themselves, is an endemic problem here. Whether it's against bullies in school, creeps on the street or at work, or abusers at home. But how to fix this, I don't know. I only know that I fear I might not be able to rise to the occasion either, and thus avoid entanglements.

#13 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 08:31 AM:

Angiportus, for me, don't get in trouble is a very strong motivator. I have failed to intervene-- not with kids and parents, but other things-- multiple times because I would get in trouble, and that is clearly the worst thing that can possibly happen.

I still read every post in these threads. I recommend them to others because I know that they are helpful.

You have said what you have gone through and are going through, and now I know. I pay attention.

#14 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 11:07 AM:

Thanks Angiportus: much difficult human experience there to unpack, consider and empathise with.

#15 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 11:59 AM:

Angiportus @12: Also, in 1970, it seems everyone thought that it was always some stranger that molested kids.

From my recollection, based on what I saw on prime time TV, as of '70 (I would have been 12-13), child "molestation," in the sense of sexual abuse, hadn't entered the public consciousness at all. Physical abuse, as in child-beating, was only just barely starting to get talked about. Also, that was right in the fever pitch of the "sexual revolution" so, if anything, the general thinking around sex was "more is better." It wasn't until the early '80s that the concept of "child sexual abuse" really started to gain currency (at least in the circles which I inhabited), when a bunch of people all sort of woke up together and said, "Hey, wait a minute!"

This is by no means a defense of offender parents or accessory parents. It's just to say that there was really no framework around which to have the conversation, which I suspect meant that a lot of people (kids) who raised objections got the "what dogs hear" reaction from "responsible adults." This, of course, on top of the standard shame-driven denial.

I now start to suspect that not knowing how to stick up for someone who for any reason can't protect themselves, is an endemic problem here.

I know for a fact that, in my specific case, it is. There were behaviors that I've been subjected to by "friends" in the past that I didn't like, and was uncomfortable with, that I tolerated, because I simply didn't have the framework from which to identify it as not okay, or the vocabulary with which to object to it.

I've been watching Jeeves and Wooster, and I generally find the story lines rather painful, because the whole plot would be entirely obviated simply by the use of the word "no." But apparently that wasn't in the toolkit for that particular culture at that particular time. (Hell, I remember a time when it very explicitly wasn't in my toolkit.)

There was a "friendship" that I eventually exited, in large part because I couldn't watch how she was dealing with her kid. (And I have dark suspicions about her husband, too, being the worst of those "friends" mentioned above.) I felt like I should have stuck around, if only to advocate for the kid, but I had no idea how. And besides, she made it very clear that the opinions of anyone who didn't have children of their own would have no credibility with her. So even if I had attempted to raise an objection, I'm pretty confident it would have simply been brushed aside. And there was nothing concrete I could have taken to civil authorities.

So...I left.

Years later, when I encountered that family again, the kid, who had been a happy, cheerful, bubbly baby, was now a dour, flattened, depressed young adult. I don't know that my suspicions were borne out. But....

But how to fix this, I don't know.

Well, for me, I can say that exposure to this community (and the kind folks over at Captain Awkward, but mostly here) has made a tremendous difference to me. I've got a coworker who is a little too interested in the particulars of how others conduct their lives. I've found myself, quite reflectively, giving her the side-eye when she goes over the line. I actually have words to bring to bear when I see something out of line.

Now, as to actually stepping up if I see, for example, someone behaving badly toward their kid—I'm not quite there yet. But at least I can tell that what they're doing isn't right.

#16 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 02:25 PM:

abi: That phrase "I am just so mad at you right now" suggests that the mother knows she has a problem and has been in therapy, or at least has been reading some books. That right there is a good sign. The fact that she actually de-escalated herself (and didn't just use "I am so mad right now" as a novel cussword) is a better one.

Everybody (including abi): I witness.

#17 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 03:33 PM:

For various reasons today's been a day of reflection. In catching up on ML reading, I got a sudden sense of how I've been becoming the future-me for which past-me was asking questions here on the DF threads. I get to use the tools which past-me didn't know existed, and which you all have been showing the uses of. Thank you.

#18 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 03:41 PM:

So, I'm off in a couple of days to my own next family gathering, Rosh Hashana in Brooklyn, with Dad's side of the family. Naturally, these things always make me think about our past. Dad's side was more obviously dysfunctional growing up, but my sisters got the worst of that. And... well, my sense is that things eventually got straightened out better on that side than my less obvious issues with Mom did. I've never been as close to my stepmother or stepbrothers as my sisters were, but nowadays we have a pretty good relationship.

#19 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 04:13 PM:

Asking for prayers, good wishes, and so forth for two kids who are already on my prayer list.

My friend's BIL and SIL moved in with SIL's mother, had two children, deliberately and avowedly named them after children who die horrible deaths in popular entertainment, and settled down to turn the ancestral homestead into a squalid dump. It's the kind of place where you spend some time picking off the insects before you go out in public. The last time Friend's Spouse visited Grandma, zie slept in the car. Dad hasn't washed in, like, ever, and complains that nobody will hire him for longer than a week; when it is pointed out to him that he stinks like death, he grumbles and huffs and puffs, but won't bathe. Mom does not pick up anything that falls below eye level, ever. Grandma will not listen to a word against either of them. Grandma's other kids are (1) too young to take on children, (2) reluctant to "disturb the sanctity of the family" by protecting Girl and Boy with Morbid Name from their situation, and (3) Friend's Spouse, who is the black sheep because zie moved away and no longer participates in their religious denomination.

Neither Mom nor Dad is employed; when asked how they plan to provide for their children, they say, "God will provide." This means that they combine government aid and free housing from Grandma with money and goods from family members who can't bear to see little Girl with Morbid Name and Boy with Morbid Name hungry and cold. I know who at least one of them would choose. When Friend's Spouse visited, Boy with Morbid Name came out to the car in the morning with a packed suitcase and asked when they were leaving!

The one spot of light in all of this is that both Boy and Girl with Morbid Name are now school age and thus surrounded by mandatory reporters. Friend's Spouse was the only one to report for ages, and was ignored. Sooner or later the calls will have to pile up high enough to prompt CPS to act. Oh, and also, when Grandma had to be hospitalized for a while, the three other sibs got together and actually talked about who would take the children when that happens. I know that Friend and Friend's Spouse would take them like a shot.

I'm praying that either the parents get off their duffs or the kids get to live with somebody who doesn't think that squalor is okay.

#20 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 04:45 PM:

I am deeply aggravated right now and have to vent to somebody. My stepfather just went into the hospital yesterday with some kind of infection. He's in his 70s, so it's always serious at that age, but my mother just found out about an hour ago that he has been...ah...glossing over what the doctors are telling him. He did not "have a rough night" he had freakin' pneumonia symptoms, his prostate is not "kinda enlarged" it's massively enlarged, he hadn't eaten for two days before going into the hospital and has apparently been having breathing problems for quite awhile (news to Mom!)

And the nurse was quite surprised to learn he was a smoker. He's smoked since he was thirteen, and lied to the doctor about it, after being admitted for breathing problems.

He is not a bad man, I love him dearly, but I swear to god, I am going to WALK to Michigan and yell at him! You don't lie to the doctor about this stuff! And I know that there's a real problem getting people of that generation to admit they're sick, but holy god, what a thing to spring on my mother.

I'm just so angry about it, but you can't be angry at sick people, but...gaaaaaah.

#21 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 06:31 PM:

UrsulaV #20 ::: I'm just so angry about it, but you can't aren't allowed to be angry at sick people, but...gaaaaaah.

FTFY... seriously, there's a reason for the common convention of taking it easy on someone who's sick. It's centered on the case where you're actually taking care of them... it's pretty frustrating to deal with disruption to your life, someone who can't do their "usual jobs", and who may be pretty out of sorts themself.

OK, it's not fair to actually take that out on them, or to blame them for getting sick, but you most certainly can be angry at them, and if you stuff that too far down it'll curdle your guts. It's also entirely fair to be mad at a supposedly responsible adult for potentially worsening their situation by lying to the doctors!

#22 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 06:40 PM:

I don't always have the spoons to read everything in these threads. I've read this entire thread so far!

Some of the things posted in DFD threads are deeply triggering for me, and some are enraging (never at the poster! at their abusers). So I reach a limit and have to leave it alone for a while. And I usually can't catch up afterwards.

But I do read, I am witnessing, it is real.

UrsulaV, I second David Goldfarb. You probably don't want to yell at your stepfather, but ranting here is fine, and certainly feeling the anger is OK.

Everyone else in this thread: witnessing.

#23 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 06:41 PM:

David Harmon, not David Goldfarb.

#24 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 06:42 PM:

Yes, I meant David Harmon. Sorry, both Davids!

#25 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 06:56 PM:

Something that has really been pissing me off lately: the tendency for websites that have pop-up "Subscribe to our newsletter for updates/sales/newsflashes!" boxes to put guilt-tripping text in the No box. The one that got me this morning was a site that I do buy things from occasionally, and for which I already get their e-mails, which is why I was looking at something on the site in the first place, having the options be "Yes, sign me up!" and "No, I don't like sales." (I've seen similar shit on political blogs, where the No box is labeled "No, I'd rather be uninformed.") I sent them a sharply-worded e-mail and (predictably) got back a boilerplate response, but at least it made me feel better.

The reason I'm posting this mini-rant here and not in the Open Thread is that something about the whole thing feels abusive/bullying to me, and I suspect it probably strikes other people the same way too. It's an absolutely blatant attempt at shaming the person looking at the pop-up box into clicking the Yes button.

My reaction to this is considerably stronger than the annoyance I get about most "none of the options they provide here actually apply" online-quiz questions. Let me have MY OWN REASONS for not signing up, goddammit!

UrsulaV, #20: David said pretty much everything I was going to say. It is absolutely okay for you to be angry about what your stepfather is doing, even though you love him. The minimal good that can be derived from the situation is that now your mother knows he's an unreliable narrator where health issues are concerned, and that she needs to talk to his doctor(s) directly.

#26 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 08:19 PM:

Thanks, guys. My husband phrased it as "It's fine to be angry WITH sick people, just not necessarily AT them," which has something to recommend it.

And "Unreliable narrator" says it well. I get that he doesn't want to be sick, but denial only goes so far when you've got a prostate the size of a small island. I feel like I'm in a Greek tragedy, and we can all see the bit where he refuses to listen to medical advice coming, but we can't do anything to stop it.

Which is maddening, not least because I do love him very much and the ARRRGH I SHOULD BE ABLE TO FIX THIS scripts are running.

I went out and put together a food basket with summer sausage and cheese straws and whatnot. There's something about sending food that at least feels like I'm doing SOMETHING, even if it's just providing snacks between hospital runs.

#27 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 08:47 PM:

#25, Lee: It's an absolutely blatant attempt at shaming the person looking at the pop-up box into clicking the Yes button.

Yup. In my eyes, it's exactly the same as "if you care about [issue that is nearly impossible to not care about on some level] then share this!" on facebook. Or the closely related "people who truly care about [issue ...] will post this as a status, only 1% of people actually care enough". Though those don't require you to click "no, I don't care"; you can just scroll past.

It's more than a false dichotomy, though it is that as well. It's a manipulative dichotomy. Present one option as obviously wrong and intolerable, and people will chose the other, even if it's not what they support.

Years back, there was a referendum in my province on how the government should approach issues (including poverty and unemployment) with the various native tribes. One option was something along the lines of "keep them on welfare forever" - the obviously wrong option. The other was something that superficially my racist uncle and I could both vote for, if it weren't for the fact that I knew the government who wrote the two options on the ballot would try for the more racist and damaging interpretation of it. Think "cut off welfare and tell them to work or starve", instead of "support education and employment training so they can get jobs and get off welfare" - both involve jobs instead of welfare cheques, but that's where the similarity ends. It was about that level of bad. (I don't remember the exact wording anymore, it was easily over a decade ago, but I sure remember the bad in it.)

At the time all I had was incoherent rage about it, and I think I ended up not voting because I COULD NOT vote the same way as my racist uncle. I just couldn't.

#28 ::: Another Quiet One ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 08:50 PM:

Bearing witness.

I have become an unreliable witness around here lately - Life has Happened. I pop by every few weeks and skim things, but I have probably not commented in a year or more. I still cherish knowing that this community continues and is a place I can come back to.

In the course of Life Happening, it turns out that the family I assumed was mostly functional most of the time was also deeply and destructively dysfunctional at least some of the time. Explains so very much. Now back to the task at hand, which is the imperfect mending of things long broken.

#29 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 09:03 PM:

Things have been going mostly well, I guess. Despite not going to the wedding (because Mom didn't want to stress me out, apparently), my parents (according to my awesome little brother) DO want to patch things up.

The problem is, we have such dramatically different paradigms and personalities that I can't effectively communicate with them. So, despite it being a MONTH since my bro urged me to talk to my parents...I haven't.

And this week, depression is striking with a vengeance. I don't want to do ANYTHING; I just want to sit around being a lump. Which isn't so bad when you're at home, but in the office? Yeah, I've had to get to work early just to print out the papers I SHOULD have printed instead of playing Angry Birds the day before. >.>

So, SO glad I'm seeing the shrink Friday. Something has to give here, and I need to do something before it gets Really Bad.

#30 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 09:04 PM:

Also, the "OMG I've Met That Writer!" part of the brain can't stop wondering whether the UrsulaV here is really that UrsulaV...Not that it matters.

#31 ::: Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 10:30 PM:


Harking back to the end of the last thread, about dysfunctional games: When I was in college, I played D&D sometimes, and on one occasion an otherwise decent friend who was DMing caused my character not only to be raped, but to enjoy it. That was the beginning of the end for me in role-playing games. Nothing happened except on paper and I'm still horrified about it.

#32 ::: mintchocolate ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 10:52 PM:

I haven't spoken to my parents in years. And I'm good with that. I feel a little sad about it, not because I miss them, but because I wish it could have been different. But this is the way it is, and they're never going to be a part of my life again.

My younger sister K, who still speaks to our mother (who doesn't realize how lucky she is that that's the case, of course) tells me our parents have finally separated. K doesn't care what Dad does, but she is currently trying to convince Mom to move out of the horrible falling-apart house where we grew up...I'm all for that; if someone else buys it they'll tear the place down, and good riddance.

I do feel bad about leaving my sister to deal with it alone - our brothers won't be much help. But I just...can't. It's not really that I feel bad about this situation in particular, but I'm more aware now that whatever else happens with Mom as she ages is probably going to fall squarely on K's shoulders to deal with, as she will be the only one willing and capable - and I'm sorry for that. Not because I care about Mom, but because I care about K. To give her credit, K doesn't blame me for not helping, or for planning not to help in future. She gets that my relationship with Mom is too broken to fix.

I think some of my guilt here is because I'm the oldest sister and have always fallen into more of a caretaker role...K thinks part of the reason she has a better relationship with Mom is that my older brother and I acted as a buffer and did a lot of the parenting of the younger two ourselves. (We kind of sucked at it, sigh. It would be unreasonable to expect good parenting skills from my teenage self, especially when I didn't exactly have good models, but I wish I'd been able to do better by my siblings.)

TL;DR: cutting my mother out of my life is not as simple as I thought it would be.

#33 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 11:28 PM:

Another Quiet One @ 28
Oh, yes, life happening. I completely sympathize! Good luck with your mending!

Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori @ 31
Ick. That is so not okay. I have dropped entire gaming networks because they perpetuated that sort of sickness.

#34 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 11:34 PM:

@30 An awkward thread to say hi, I grant you, but assuming you want the UrsulaV who does wombat stuff, that's me. Hi! And sympathetic noises on lump-dom. I've been there.

#35 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 11:42 PM:

I too have been very grateful for this space; even if I limit what of my own issues I discuss here, I'm grateful to be able to talk about some of the more mainstream ones. And I'm grateful for the opportunity to witness for others, and to be helpful to others on occasion. It's something small I can do for good.

#36 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 11:43 PM:

The_L @30: Well, seeing as UrsulaV has a link in her name to the website of Red Wombat Studios, I expect she probably won't mind me confirming that yes, she is that Ursula V.

#37 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 11:55 PM:

With luck it goes without saying that I posted my last without seeing Ursula's own post @34. (But here I am saying it anyway.)

#38 ::: Another Damned Medievalist ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 12:06 AM:

Wow. Just easing back into the blogosphere after Loncon3 (wish I'd seen some of you there), and wishing I'd known about this series -- and not, because this resonates so much with me, as does daughter of a great romance's first comment.

I'm glad that in this case, witnessing helped to bring the mother back down. When I was growing up, that was almost never true. That sort of reaction just antagonizes my mother, and until recently (and she's over 70 now) would set off a series of verbal attacks alternating with massive self-righteous justifications. Most of these ended up with people backing down, or away, or in the case of my sisters and friends, assurances that she was not being at all unreasonable (because hitting your adolescent daughter while screaming names and then grounding her for two weeks for not getting the dishes done on time is very reasonable), and then sitting around as if they were my mother's friends, and not mine.

Somehow, my mother managed to turn would-be witnesses to shamers.

But when witnessing doesn't deter the behaviour, at least it can help to keep the gaslights at bay. (metaphor, mixed). If there hadn't been key people here and there who checked in on me, and stood as witnesses to the reality and accuracy of my perceptions. They sometimes spoke in code. "Your mother," they'd say, "is a ... difficult person."


#39 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 02:41 AM:

Today in It's Not You, It's Them, my fiancee learned that the senator who went through her desk while she was home sick and unceremoniously fired her the next Monday... currently has three people covering their stuff.

One of them is used to covering for the president pro tem.

Senator still isn't satisfied, still is misreading the calendar, still is trying to do too much, still is under the impression they need to hear about every little problem in their district rather than let people be grateful the aide of the moment helped them solve it - still reminds my fiancee strongly of her mother, in short. (Senator also apparently said they wish someone had told them how legislative life rolls when they started... which my fiancee, and several other people, did.)

When a grand total of SIX people have covered your office needs before the end of your first two-year term, and none of them are living up to your standards, maybe the problem isn't with the aides. (My fiancee lasted the shortest time, so far, but I don't think Senator went through anyone else's desk in their absence.) That was a shot of validation she really needed today.

#40 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 05:56 AM:

J. @19: Thinking good thoughts for those kids.

David Harmon @18: Shana Tova, and I hope the visit goes as well as possible.

UrsulaV @20: Vent away! You absolutely -can- be angry, even if it's not socially acceptable (and probably not useful) to express that anger at the sick person.

Lee @25: I agree. I hate that sort of thing.

The_L @29: Sympathies. Hope Friday's visit is useful

Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori @31: I...I...what was that person thinking? They weren't, obviously. Ugh.

tamiki @39: Pleased to hear that your fiancee has had that validation.

Everyone: reading, witnessing.

#41 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 07:35 AM:

Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori #31: Yup, that was one of the entries on the classic Dragon "DMs from Hell List".

Unfortunately, I have to admit I was that DM once, but in my defense, I was 15 and socially delayed on top of that. I did learn better (largely because of the player's reactions), and adult gamemasters have no such excuse.

#42 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 07:37 AM:

(Actually, thinking about it and lining up timepoints, I had to be younger than 15. More likely 12 or 13.)

#43 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 08:23 AM:

I started a job. Then I proceeded to have at least three mini-breakdowns over the course of the two months I had the job. I tried to quit and they gave me a different job - we'll see if that is less stressful as advertised and meanwhile I suspect this is a fundamentally overburdened workplace. They don't understand why their writers are quitting (hint: "write 6000 words in two days AND complete secondary tasks" is the standard workflow and most of the writers are fresh out of college). So I'll be job-hunting. And moving out of my parents' house (this is taking a long time mostly because of job stress + sickness). And applying to grad schools. And applying for a Fulbright. *sigh*

Friday was my last day at the old set of tasks (although I had to finish my projects over the weekend, because...) I spent ten minutes crying at my desk, worked for another hour or so, left, went to the new apartment, and got good and drunk. It helped.

My mother has declared that it's only fair that if I go to a bar with my dad, after I've moved out, I must come spend time with her. Mind you, I don't like her; if we knew each other socially I would probably avoid her. I can't tell her this, of course, because Reasons. But I don't think she understands that when she is demonstratively affectionate it is distressing to me because I do not return her feelings and that it is fundamentally the same type of discomfort as someone I am not attracted to persisting in being lovey at me. ARGH not know what do :(

Witnessing, all

#44 ::: Forgotten pseudonym ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 09:23 AM:

Well, and here I've forgotten my pseudonym and my faux address - I think I need to post here more often. And I can't not pseudonym myself and faux-up my email addy since my mother has Google alerts on my unique name. I have made a note in a place where I believe she can't lurk.

I am bothered that while I know my family is dysfunctional, I don't have illustrative anecdotes I can tell myself or others. I just feel miserable and I feel I must bring it on myself, because if I were a better/stronger person, this wouldn't bother me. I'm trying to work this through with a therapist, but it's a slog.

It helps that spouse gets to see how "difficult" my mom is when she visits. But the difficulty is so damn hard to pin down. It's in a language of gestures and expressions that only occasionally bursts into actual words. (And ignoring the non-verbal language does tend to produce the words, which is a bit of a cheering observation.) And even if I successfully refuse to take the hints, the aftermath is that I'm left in a very dark place.

I think the thing that leaves me raw right now is that my boss is very similar to her, with extra dashes of paranoia and open contempt. Wow - writing that out makes me think that I really do need a different job, even though my employer is decent. Perhaps waiting and wishing for 2 years for another opening in a different group is a good indication that it ain't gonna happen?

Witnessing everyone else's own unique DF situations. Hearing other people's struggles makes me feel like part of the whole, which is a rare gift. I hope it helps others as well.

#45 ::: Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 09:59 AM:

I don't post often, but I read, appreciate, and witness.

#46 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 10:55 AM:

Some relevant humor from the Toast (in an I must laugh because otherwise I cry vein) :

#47 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 04:32 PM:

hope in disguise, #43: [W]hen [my mother] is demonstratively affectionate it is distressing to me because I do not return her feelings and ... it is fundamentally the same type of discomfort as someone I am not attracted to persisting in being lovey at me.

Pulling this out because I think it's an important concept that needs highlighting. At least for me, it was one of those "whoa, I never thought about that occurring within the family!" moments.

Bricklayer, #46: That's cute, but it would work better if the title were "People who want to be left alone". Because in several of those (including the very first one, which confused me), it's clearly the man who wants to get away.

#48 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 07:29 PM:

Lee @47, yes, it actually became much simpler to think about when I realized that! And somehow more frustrating.

Forgotten pseudonym @44: Perhaps waiting and wishing for 2 years for another opening in a different group is a good indication that it ain't gonna happen?
I would definitely call that a sign that a) you need out of your current group and b) yes, it is possibly not going to happen any time soon. :(

#49 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 10:48 PM:

Witnessing has become really valuable to me now that I know enough like-minded people I can trust which way the witnessing is likely to go.

But when people heard my mother scolding me for eating badly or hating team sports, and I could feel their disapproval, I felt like they disapproved of my fatness or the specific thing I was doing wrong that day, rather than (or more than) disapproving of how my mother was yelling at me. Even if a witness, or a group of witnesses, meant to take my side, I didn't notice. Lots of reasons for this, including my having very limited perspective at the time, and there being quite a bit of actual fat-shaming in the neighborhood.

When I was a kid (and a teenager, and a young adult), I might have perceived that scene Abi saw in the schoolyard very differently. The other parents are judgmental gossips, dedicated to making sure people behave properly. A kid who was behaving properly would get off the bike and walk into school on time, not just stand there like a lump, and especially not stand there when she was specifically told to go inside. That awareness that the community had noticed something was wrong, and disapproved of it, would have distressed me very badly when I was 6.

I don't know how the child on the spot perceived it--as supportive, or shaming, or if she wasn't paying attention to the audience at all. I suppose the most important thing is how her mother changed her behavior.

Reminding abusers about community standards (so they can change their behavior) is a different kind of thing than backing up abuse victims to say "yes, it happened," or "no, it wasn't trivial." Yes, they're all "witnessing," and they're all valuable. But I see them as working in different situations.

#50 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 02:40 AM:

Adrian: That's a very important point: which community notes will often resonate depends very heavily on which notes are already vibrating within one's own mind.

#51 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 09:56 AM:

Something that I need to work on is witnessing the positive, my own and others, both to myself and to others. This would include things like being proud of myself for making progress on the Portfolio of Doom at last, even if it is not done yet. (It had stalled for a long, long time, and hung over me in a black cloud of guilt.)

#52 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 11:27 AM:

I have a question about abuse patterns. My social group has, over the past two years, been witness to a very abusive marriage which has, finally, ended. It was two years of awful, some of it very public, but the divorce is final, the order for protection still has a year to run, and neither of them seem interested in getting back together. So that's all good.

For various reasons, some of them rather stupid, I continued to be in contact with the abusive partner. I'm pretty sure one of the reasons I couldn't leave well enough alone was because I was trying to win an argument with my father. This was never going to work; you never win an argument with this woman, and she's not my dad. So, a doomed proposition.

In my final email to her, I told her that I was going to stop talking to her because I was finding the temptation to be unkind too strong. Since I wasn't able to stop myself from being unkind to her, I was going to have to stop talking to her. This was all about me. I don't really care about her feelings or opinions, but I could tell that prosecuting unkindness against her was starting to damage me.

Predictably, she treated it as if it were all about her. No surprises, there. But then she went on to praise me for having said that I was being unkind. And it hit me with a weird one-two punch. If I had any real desire to have her approval, it would have been pretty intense. She was praising me, and making her approval and affection dependent upon negative self-talk. In brief conversations with her ex-husband and one of her grown children, it would appear that this is a pattern, for her. This is a new one, to me, and I was wondering if this is common with other abusers, linking affection and approval to negative self-image. It seems marvelously insidious and damaging.

#53 ::: Forgotten pseudonym ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 12:40 PM:

@52 Lydy Nickerson: Yes, I have seen this too. I have gotten "rewarded" for abasing myself. Long term, more and more abasement was requested, but with long enough time gaps in between that I would forget the mechanism.

The odd flip side is that people outside the relationship can react negatively when you start upsetting that dynamic. All of a sudden, the people who radiated pity at you when you were getting the positive strokes for abasing yourself get rather peeved when you awkwardly stand up for yourself. The standing up can stop the cycle with the abuser, but you can find yourself all alone without allies. The folks who do stand by you in the messy aftermath...they're gold and they are cherished.

#54 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 01:04 PM:

Lydy #52: Yes! It's something that comes up long before, or even without, overt abuse, as part of the manipulation that trains the victim to accept denigration and dominance. "How smart of you to recognize that you're the broken one here!"

#55 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 02:01 PM:

I've run into that dynamic with a (toxic, ex-) friend before, and certainly heard about it being common. It's sort of the flipside of the fairweather friend: instead, it's a friend who's deeply supportive and helpful and encouraging and sympathetic, so long as you're sufficiently broken by their standards.

When I was in the depths of depression, she was in many ways an excellent friend. She was remarkably non-judgmental and supportive and sympathetic and a good listener. So long as I kept on being the Sad Friend she could feel superior to. And, as I discovered, she was going around telling other people about all my problems I'd told her about in confidence, as a way of showing what a good person she was for being my friend.

I realized later, after the breakup, that she'd been doing this to other people too. She'd champion people who were scapegoats and social outcasts and awkward, and be friendly and encouraging and helpful, and if they started to get happy or popular or confident in the social circle, suddenly they were the source of all ills. It's maybe ironic that I started therapy because she suggested it, and spent a lot of time in therapy talking about the ways she'd messed with my head.

#56 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 02:16 PM:

#52 ::: Lydy Nickerson

You're the one dealing with the toxic person, so you've got more information than I do, but my first thought was that she could have been honestly grateful if she had a history of people being unkind to her but claiming they weren't.

#57 ::: Another Damned Medievalist ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 02:21 PM:

Wow to comments 52-54.

You have all just described real and horrible parts of my life. One of the reasons my life is a huge mess at the moment is that (I think), my dysfunctions and those of someone who has a lot of power over my life collided at a very stressful time. A lot of it, I've realized, has to do with falling into self-deprecation/flattery patterns. Part is also the part of me that feels powerless and invisible striking back by being overly friendly or nice. It's smoothing the waters on one level, but it's also my way of keeping myself from unleashing all of the repressed anger and frustration that, according to my upbringing and married life, makes me a bad and selfish person (although my therapist seems to think that a desire for agency and respect is a good thing...).

But imagine how fucked up things can get when one person is being solicitous and saying things to someone who has hurt them and has power over them, in order to remind herself of the good things about the person doing the hurting, and the person doing the hurting reacts by being both frustrated and trying to reassure the hurt person that really, they are friends. It's like ...

A universal dysfunction booster.

Like the universal translator in the TARDIS, or on Star Trek, except that instead of translating things into words and feelings another person can understand, it takes the expressions of one dysfunctional person's thoughts and feelings, puts them through the other person's filters, and then boosts them to exacerbate the disjuncture.

If anyone decides to use that in a story or other work of fiction, please give me credit. I'm thinking trickster-type thing, but maybe just one of those technological malfunction story-lines?

#58 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 02:57 PM:

@52 Lydy Nickerson: Now I'm going to have to review memories looking for "linking affection and approval to negative self-image." ...I can't imagine it *not* turning up somewhere in my history, given how good this would be at creating the habit of tearing oneself down.

@55 Fade Manley: the way that you put it -- "a friend who's deeply supportive and helpful and encouraging and sympathetic, so long as you're sufficiently broken by their standards" -- has twigged something. Maybe *this* is what Dragon was doing that made her appear to be a safe harbour. If so, it must have been complicated or changed by the becoming-housemates. Living with her plus a few other factors seems to have undone a substantial chunk of earlier progress. It's not clear if she was deliberately cultivating my backslide, or if she merely hit enough buttons.

(Dramatis personae note: Dragon was the hellish housemate that was many kinds of nasty and an expert manipulator. It's not clear if she was a knowing abuser choosing to target me, or just has a heavy public mask over a very unpleasant private self.)

#59 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 02:58 PM:

Nancy @ 56: The phrasing was such as to make that interpretation unlikely. She wasn't grateful. She was smug. And she was complimenting me on admitting this terrible fault, and giving me props for realizing what terrible person I was. If I had, in fact, thought I was a terrible person, or had I been generally inclined in that direction, it would have been a very intense reinforcement of that self-perception. If I had been, as her child or her husband were, desperately dependent upon her approval and affection, it would have been incredibly powerful. As it is, I am close enough to that mind-frame that I could perceive the intended endorphin hit without actually falling into the trap.

I'm familiar with the dynamic of only being a friend/lover/whatever if you're sufficiently broken that the person can enjoy being your support system. It's icky and toxic. This seemed to have an additional layer, adding a reward system to the negative self-image that was immediate and direct that I had not seen before. Gods know how my parents missed this particular trick, but it's not one I'd seen before. Thankfully, I'm far enough away from my own abuse history, and have gotten healthy enough that this exposure was not damaging, just startling and a bit upsetting.

#60 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 04:18 PM:

daughter of a great romance @6:
Witnessing. I've had it happen in my life, too. The best thing is when my partner looks at my family, with all its flaws, and says he still loves me.

Angiportus @7 & 12:
Sticking up for kids...I wanted to go back to this, because it's a big thing. One of the rules parents learn early on is "don't let the kids divide and conquer," because even quite young children can become adept at playing one parent off against another as a way of ignoring both of them.

The problem is that parenting doesn't really have rules, not like that. It has principles, like loving your kids and giving them more independence as they develop judgment. And it has guidelines, among which is the whole divide-and-conquer thing. Because it's really not uncommon that, for some reason, the path of justice or the cause of love will require precisely that: that a parent who's wrong gets called on it in front of the kid. I won't go into details about how it happened in our household, except to say that it made an enormous impression on both of mine.

I'm sorry that didn't happen to you. I don't have any answers about learning to intervene, because I'm terrible at it myself, but I hope you find a way that eases your mind.

J @19:
I've been haunted by the thought of these kids since the last time you brought them up. I was hoping the authorities had intervened already. I'm sorry that they haven't.

I hear you at exasperation at parents, lack of self-care, and hospitals. It's probably not a good idea for me to explain in detail just at the moment, but I do totally get it. I'm glad you have found a balance between your feelings of anger and affection.

Another Quiet One @28:
Witnessing, and strength to your mending.

The_L @29:
Oh, I do hope Friday's appointment does good things for you.

mintchocolate @32:
It sounds to me like your did your time, despite being unprepared and young. If K is willing to carry the load and you can't, then maybe you can help carry K? Disregard if hlepy, please!

ADM @38:
You were at LonCon3? Drat, I would have loved to meet up!

I'm witnessing your story — that's always a risk of peer pressure, that the miscreant doubles down. That's where the thing I suspect happened, but did not see, is also crucial: that one of her friends or peers came to her privately to talk things out afterward, and to see how to get her pointed in the right direction as a parent.

tamiki @39:
I'm glad your fiancee got that insight into the Senator. I hope she's growing back after the entire mess.

hope in disguise @43:
Witnessing, both about work and about your mother. And the applications, too.

Forgotten pseudonym @44:
Alas, your IP address doesn't have any other names attached to it; clearly it's wandered about since you last posted. If you reveal your rest of ML identity to me privately (abi at this domain), I can try to track it down with IP address matches from previous comments on the flipside. But it's also OK with me if you just stick with this nym.

I feel I must bring it on myself, because if I were a better/stronger person, this wouldn't bother me.

Hello, Tapes!

Adrian @49:
My read of the kid is that she wasn't paying any attention at all. This was, I think, an adult-level awareness. (Though I don't have a good shape of when other people notice what, sometimes.)

I'm sorry that your mother was abusive toward you, though. And I'm sorry if this story triggered you.

Lydy @52:
As others have said, yep, this is Totally a Thing.

Witnessing, always.

#61 ::: Coth ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 04:37 PM:

I found Making Light and started reading just a few weeks ago. I was also pointed at it during Loncon. I have learned a great deal of value from reading this kind of discussion, here and elsewhere.

My family has its own tensions and areas of disfunction that these discussions help me to understand and perhaps deal with. Thanks to all who contribute for the opportunity to witness.

#62 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 04:43 PM:

Welcome, Coth.

#63 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 04:44 PM:

Welcome, Coth.

#64 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 05:26 PM:

@Abi no. 60: At least the other sibs seem to have accepted that sooner or later Friend's BIL and SIL are going to lose custody, instead of doing what they used to, which was basically "Nope nope nope LA LA NOT LISTENINNNG."

#65 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 05:31 PM:

A few good thoughts my way too, if you will, because I have finally accepted that on top of everything else I am now a migraineuse. O joy unbounded. I've laid out my spoons for the day and I am going to go follow the damn spoon trail as far as I can.

I have kids and a job and volunteer stuff people are counting on me for, I DO NOT NEED THIS.

#66 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 05:47 PM:

Sympathies, J, and welcome, Coth.

#67 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 05:56 PM:

Fade, #55: I've heard that described as a "foul-weather friend". It occurs at several different levels of toxicity, the least damaging of which is that the person is "always there for you" when things are going badly, but drifts away when things are going well. At nastier levels, the person may actively sabotage your happier feelings. A friend of mine had to deal with her parents doing that -- whenever something went well for her at school or at work, they'd produce some kind of soul-killing drama to make her feel lousy again. The most toxic version is the one we're discussing here, where the other person's approval is tied directly to you being negative about yourself.

The root cause, in most cases, appears to be the desire to make themselves feel better/superior by comparison to someone who's in worse shape.

Coth, #61: Welcome, and I'm glad you're finding these discussions useful.

#68 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 06:08 PM:

A handful of replies, but first: Welcome, Coth! If you feel the need to share, know that this is a safe place. If you don't feel comfortable sharing, that's OK too. Pull up a chair, have a nice hot mug of your favorite beverage, and join the witnessing session. We're all here to help each other (and vent).

If I don't mention you in a reply, rest assured that I really am reading and witnessing.

@UrsulaV: Hi! I'm that one fan that awkwardly Tumblr- and LJ-stalks you (she said with tongue firmly in cheek). Thanks for the commiseration on lump-ness.

Oddly enough, Ed from Digger helped me a lot at one particularly low point. "No, ED!" could be heard through my condo walls when I read the final conflict. But for someone who started out in a fatalistic ball waiting to die, (rot13 for those who haven't read it) ur jrag qbja SVTUGVAT. Gung erfbangrq jvgu zr. "Vgf anzr vf RQ!!"

@Bricklayer, #46: These may be the best art captions I've ever seen. "what’s that, can’t hear you, arms are trees"

And...parents. Let me do a recap on the parents thing, since it's been several threads.

- Dad has been emotionally abusive my whole life (and possibly physically abusive, depending on where you draw the line on spanking). He doesn't consider this "real abuse" because "I was waiting for you to yell BACK" and "My father left bruises on me--that's REAL abuse!"

- My mother is a bit insecure, a bit of an enabler, and very much obsessed with What People Will Think. Somehow, the People she's worried about are never people I seem to come into contact with, as said People worry about all kinds of very silly things, and my people are pretty much all nerds of varying stripes. A very sweet woman, but also very busy adding fresh paving-stones on the Road To Hell (to paraphrase an old saying).

- As an academically-gifted child, I had ridiculously high expectations placed on me, which had nothing to do with normal child development rates, and everything to do with me being a Perfect Catholic Girl Who Graduated With a 4.0 GPA, Is a Rich Brain Surgeon, Always Acts Like a Lady, Marries a Rich Catholic Man, And Has Little Catholic Babies. My little brother had far less pressure placed on him, and is a really nice, well-adjusted young man. (Though I can't imagine what my parents thought when/if he mentioned that he recently bought a pet ferret. Neither one of them are too keen on "weird" pets.)

- When he was a mere boyfriend, my husband got a LOT of "sorry I'm crying right now, I was just remembering X Fucked-Up Thing from my childhood" and as a result is not too fond of my parents. The way they treated us last year when we got engaged (AFTER I told them my intentions of moving in with him) made things worse. He doesn't quite understand why I'd want to make peace with people who made me miserable, and "But I still love them!" doesn't cut the mustard as an explanation.

- My parents did not go to our wedding. My brother did. It was really a fantastic wedding. After the rehearsal dinner, we were walking him to his car when he mentioned that our parents had "come a long way" in the past year and that maybe it was time to talk to them and patch things up. It has been a month. I haven't been able to muster the courage to pick up the phone, even though my parents' house is still on speed-dial.

Not sure what to do. I feel like a total heel not talking to them at all, but at the same time the thought of even a civil conversation fills me with dread.

#69 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 07:47 PM:

The_L: For what it's worth, there's a difference between being willing to talk to your parents if they call, and wanting to talk to them enough to make that call.

UrsulaV: That is hard. I hope the set of people to whom I would tell the truth about medical stuff contains, at least, relevant medical staff and my partners. I suspect your stepfather may be lying to himself first, downplaying his symptoms and test results, or even forgetting what the doctors told him because it's scary.

#70 ::: sara_k ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 08:18 PM:

As a child I felt that the people who loved me would take care of me and watch out for me. After all they said they were doing that when they spanked me or told on me or kept me out of special occasions. One of my older sisters came to visit a few weeks ago and the reverberations keep moving through my little pond. We only see her every few years which is fine with me; she is difficult.

When I was little, she was mean. What we called big sister mean even though our oldest sister didn't pinch or pull hair. She did things to me which altered how people treated me and how I felt about myself...she put a bead in my ear when I was 3 and then joined in the family upset and decades of 'remember that time you put a bead in your ear and didn't even remember you did it? How could anybody be that dumb?' I didn't know she had put it in and I was baffled on how it got there (and needed surgical removal). She admitted it out of the blue to my parents some 30 years after the fact and laughed at how funny it was. She did not apologize to me. She doesn't see anything wrong in what she did; I can see that it might be an accident but then to not tell for so long that I feel is wrong.

She also would pretend she had been bitten by a poisonous snake or spider, she would collapse and ask me to lift her onto a bed, call piteously for water or a cool washcloth, but forbid me from leaving her alone to go get help from a parent (she didn't want to die alone). I believed her and would cry and try to lift her but she would slide down over and over. At some point she would "remember" that some sweet or prayer or sacrifice from me would cure her. I would sacrifice whatever it was, she would rise up, be to weak to do her chores, and beg me not to tell my parents since there wasn't anything they could after the fact. Again, I believed her. She actually used this scenario several times. I reminded her of it last time I saw her and she said she had forgotten but boy was I gullible and dumb. What an idiot! I wanted an apology but her response was that I shouldn't have been so stupid and there was nothing really wrong in what she did. She asked in exasperation what I wanted and laughed when I said an apology.

I don't think I was wrong to trust her. I don't think that is a fault. I believed that she would be honest and I expected that from someone who was in my family and said they loved me. That was what I expected from myself in relation to them.

She is difficult to get along with. Judgemental, nosy, giving me marriage advice and parenting advice when she doesn't really know me anymore. I don't care what she thinks of my parenting and her marital advice is meaningless to me. She persists in following lines of discussion when told to stop and asked to stop. We almost left her in a interstate restroom on one trip because she had my sister in tears and still followed her idea of what she wanted to say and have us hear and take as change for our lives.

Several of us have complained to our mother and sometimes she will intervene but often she says "S had a rough life" or "she doesn't see you often and wants to be part of your lives". So what; we all have had hard lives and we don't make others suffer for it.

I'm angry that she insists that the fault is with those who trust and love and not with the abuser. I am not willing to get into a closer relationship with her. I don't trust her.

A few more months and she'll be gone again for a couple of years. A lot of exhaustion around dealing with her over the holidays...sort of like when we had a flea infestation.

#71 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 08:43 PM:

Sara_K: IANA trauma counselor, but that sounds suspiciously like psychological abuse to me. :(

#72 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 09:02 PM:

The_L, #68: After the saga of what your parents put you thru over your partner, your engagement, etc., I would say that you are well within your rights to want more evidence of change than your brother saying they've "come a long way" before opening what might prove to be a can of worms. Since he seems to be willing to be a conduit, would it be feasible to suggest, via him, that you'd be more open to resuming contact if you got an apology for the way they behaved about your relationship?

It's also perfectly okay to say that you need some time to settle into your new life first, and that you'd be open to resuming contact... say, about this time next year? Far enough in advance of the holidays that you'd be able to evaluate whether or not you want to do holiday visits.

sara_k, #70: That is definitely abuse, both physical (the bead) and psychological, and your sister is still doing it. She's just changed methods since she no longer has physical access to you on a regular basis (and you have legal rights as an adult). And your parents were/are enablers.

IYDMMA, what benefit do you get out of putting up with her visiting even "a few months every couple of years"? Is there anything you could arrange now to do around the holidays that would take you away from having to deal with her -- a vacation, travel for work, etc?

#73 ::: iliad slightly awry ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 03:18 AM:

An update: I will be moving on or around the second week of November. I am ultimately moving into just the financial situation I don't want to be, but my parents have offered to cover the move. New Beau (who should probably be just Beau now; I've introduced him to my parents and everything) is immensely supportive, and I'm sure being with him will be good for my mental health... I just worry about the financial angle. I have a few leads on jobs in his area and am following them up aggressively. Complicating all this is moving much closer to Current Political Unrest, which is worrisome, though brings hope I could do some good.

#74 ::: Melanie the Tongueless ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 05:15 AM:

Tangental to #31 and Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori's fantasy role-play experiences...

Long story, possibly triggery. Or possibly boring, because I'm trying mostly to lay out the conclusions I reached, rather than give a full history. And it definitely is asking more than giving witness, for which I feel conflicted.

"The Saga of the Gamer Gang" started about 18 months ago; a fantasy role-play referee - newly minted and with something of a fasciation with "breaking" characters - tried very hard to get me to play one such.

He discovered the hard way that he'd picked the wrong woman to try that with.

But instead of accepting with good grace that I was not going to play "broken" on his command, he stormed off and then later put about that I'd become hysterical and shouted at him in a public space.

And in a process that could have been scripted - so smoothly it ran - everyone was suddenly concerned with "not choosing sides" while effectively branding me as the one who had done something wrong; despite none of them having been present, Original Perp's version - that I must have shouted at him - was taken as truth. The fact that he had tried to take over my character against my expressed objections was remarkably unimportant to them. (Despite the fact that, within the materials of the RPG rules of this particular game, it is explicitly stated that coercion scenarios where PLAYER characters are involved must be negotiated in good faith with the player, and alternatives found where the scenario is not acceptable to the player.)

After the original incident, I found and started reading a lot of websites detailing the abuses leveled at women, especially those in gaming, and also reading about abusers, narcissists, and their modus operandi. In effect, this provided the validation of my experiences where witnessing had been (largely) absent in my direct environment. That and the online chats with Xopher, and other friends (Go, Team Me!!) - one of whom acquainted me with the lovely verb, "to minion-fy". Another *click* as the validation slid into place.

(I'm convinced that everyone has so much less trouble at this kind of psychological recovery than I do; I think some of my difficulties stem from an oft-used bit of the parental tool-kit, "You're making me look bad in front of ______." At least good self-care regarding boundaries makes that one stick much less...)

I learned to recognize how things like Social Geek Fallacies(1) and minimizing strategies were manifesting in this saga, and watched how my now former friends' eyes glazed over as I reminded them of things like "duty of care", when they tried to respond with "It's only a game!"

It got worse: "Okay, so don't apologize, just come back and play in the group. Surely things will just blow over..." or "Well, yes, we promised we wouldn't invite you both to the same event, but (Original Perp) just whined at us so much that we had to give in."

Uhm, no.

They discovered, much like OP before them, that if they were not prepared to own their own parts in this, and if they were prepared to prioritize their Geek Social Fallacy vision over respect for my boundaries, health and safety, I would use the one thing I had left: my power to curtail my interactions with them.

Since the final break, I've also been watching a lot more carefully how they speak to me about absent third parties: during the "honeymoon" phase of the Enabling Girlfriend's boyfriend's arrival to our group (someone who tried long-distance to involve me in a verbal conflict because in all the above I was somehow responsible for having hurt Enabling Girlfriend...), he uttered a number of statements that raised major red flags with me: first mentioning another person of the Gamer Gang, and then saying, "I don't trust him," or of someone else "Yeah, he's got those great prescription sunglasses - waste of money, if you ask me." And more in that vein, while simultaneously and repeatedly telling me just what good friends he'd become with all the other members of the Gamer Gang. After witnessing this a couple of times, I schooled myself to giving clear boundary demarcations, and reminding myself that if EGBoyfriend was going to say such things to me, I could pretty much guess what he was saying about me when I wasn't around to witness it.

I suppose, in a way, the Gamer Gang are learning the effects of doing the opposite to witnessing: I'm putting far more of my time into people who are not relying on me to embrace a negative self-image for the purposes of remaining in their good graces.

I'm not even allowing "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". A recent gambit of Enabling Girlfriend, who wanted me to empathize with her over her failure to retrieve an item she'd lent to Original Perp. She tried to say, "We see now he was a manipulative bastard," I responded with, "It's good that you can see that; but however manipulative he was, it's also a fact that he had ALLIES." Yay for my reading on the internet, for the conceptual tools necessary to deal with this continuing crap...

One thing I've had to be more assiduous about cultivating: regarding this all as a force of nature, rather than anything personal. Well, it's doesn't take away the pain of it having happened to me - but apart from that, it frees me from having to "prove" I'm right, and frees me from the hope that they might actually understand what they really did. It also takes the pressure off of me if I can't stay entirely within my "script". I run across them socially and am coolly cordial; but of my current circumstances, I give nothing of consequence.

(1) Precis of SGF - families-of-choice are also capable of dysfunction.

#75 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 10:29 AM:

I attended a lecture at my daughter's school intended to help parents learn about the neurology of executive function and tips and tricks we can use in our parenting to help our kids grow strong, flexible brains.

I am greatly disillusioned.

I do not doubt that the same speaker, working one on one and at length with the teaching staff, has given them useful stuff to keep in their toolboxes for helping kids straighten out and greatly improve their performance.

But in the course of 1.5 hours, she spent the first hour rambling at length at a very basic and story-filled level while going through approximately 1/4 of her PowerPoint deck, then rushed reasonably quickly through a further third (generally talking about one item from each slide's bullet points), then flipped through all the rest so fast I almost couldn't register what was on most of them, and declared the talk a success.

Her main theme was that helping kids learn to get and stay organized is really important.

Um. Yeah. That.

Also, they were some of the worst "my slide has too much text and an animated gif" craptastic PowerPoint slides I've seen presented by anyone over the age of 19.

There was a small amount of information I found good and useful, but most of her time was spent on trying to make neuroscience non-threatening and non-geeky, and the recurrent twin drumbeat of "electronics BAAAAD! No screen time! Take away their PHOOOONES and FAAAACEBOOK!" and "All productive workspaces look like hermetically sealed sterile dystopias!" really distracted me from finding the nuggets of actual applicability.

Frustrating as hell. I admit I may not be the audience she was aiming the talk at. So. But hearing that her instinctive, "compassionate parenting" response to a teen saying "I can't lock my phone in a drawer when I do homework. My phone is like air. If I can't find it, I can't breathe" was that obviously you should remove all use of the phone for at least a week? I nearly got triggered into a panic attack right there at the prospect. Do not take someone's main stimming and coping strategy away cold turkey!!! Aaagh.

I need to figure out how to distill my dissatisfaction with the talk into feedback for the principal. I'd really LIKE to hear the other two hours of the talk that go with the slides she skipped and involve actual concrete examples of things to try when encountering common parenting dilemmas that boil down to needing to nurture executive function in my child. But she skipped that talk entirely.

#76 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 10:47 AM:

Bricklayer #75: sounds like she needs a couple of talks of her own -- first on compassion and adapting to students with atypical neurologies, and then on the neurology of adult education....

#77 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 11:30 AM:

My apologies for the many posts I’m missing, but I just wanted to highlight Bodhisvaha’s comment @51: Something that I need to work on is witnessing the positive, my own and others, both to myself and to others.

Amen to this. Especially when you’re dealing with a lot of crap in your own life, it’s hard to see good things. Along those lines, congratulations! Progress on the Portfolio of Doom!!!

One thing I found helped me was to focus on something really easy to spot. Appearance (in other people) (in part because both my parents were so constantly critical and judgemental of the appearance of everyone around them) was my starting place. Notice a particularly lovely skirt. Or a shirt of a gorgeous colour. Or striking hair. Then on to someone who made an awesome observation. Or was witty without being unkind. And onward. I’ve found that although I still am very critical of myself, I have been slowly developing a habit of even noticing nice things about me. :) Also, it’s a lot of fun surprising people by commenting on awesome things that they were wearing/had said/had done thought nobody had noticed. :)

As always, YMMV, but I think it’s something really important, and it does kind of tie in to the discussion that started at comment #52 - be there for the happy things as well as the bad things.

#78 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 01:19 PM:

Chickadee, #77: That sounds like a more-general version of something I do when I'm driving, which is to consciously note when another driver does something well/safely that could have been done poorly/dangerously. I find it to be a valuable check against the tendency to see only the idiots and assholes on the road.

#79 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 08:52 PM:

J @ #65, I turned up with migraines as an adult but they turned out to be related to work. I worked at a veterinary product manufacturing plant, was part of QA, and started tracking when I'd get the migraines. I already knew I was allergic to one of the raw materials used in only a few of our products, my migraines sync'd with the production schedule.

You might try to see if that is a trigger for them. At the time I got mine, the available drugs were pretty crude compared to today. But those f-king headaches are so awful that before I figured it out I wanted to cut my head off. Haven't had a one since I quit that job.

#80 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 09:56 PM:

Diatryma, #13: "Not getting in trouble" doesn't seem to have been the excuse for either parent's failure to protect me, against each other or against the piece of crap my aunt married. Just doesn't ring true in this case. Neither of them feared the other; the hot-tempered one seemed to worship the cold-blooded one, whose inner state was/is often obscure but I suspect the fondness was reciprocated on a smaller scale. Now, I am careful to stay out of DV cases but call the cops. What sort of interventions can be helpful in other cases, that seems to be a very nascent science.
abi, #60: Kids need to see the defenders in action. Saying you did something, if you actually did, is not enough. When young, we are all from Missouri; you have to SHOW us. I was shown precious little.
Adrian, #49: "hearing the wrong things" sounds familiar, and I wonder how much I missed because of the bad remarks and so on that got in the way, that lingered in the mind. That people who told me I was smart all sounded utterly phoney, that didn't help. (They still do, and their turning right around and treating me like an idiot is only part of the reason.)
Witnessing and sympathizing, all.

#81 ::: sara_k ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 10:11 PM:

Lee at #72

She isn't with me for several months. Whew! She is in the US for a few months every couple of years. It is easy to think it was "not that bad" after a year or two. Writing and speaking to others should help me remember for next time. I did limit her to 3.5 days this visit as she had just entered the country and my family (spouse and children) helped to develop a plan that did not leave any of us alone with her for more than a few hours. My parents do keep forgiving her...she just wants to be involved, she is so isolated...Younger sister and I have had a good talk since I posted about big sister being an abuser. She has suggested that maybe big sister was physically abused. Sometimes it takes writing out my anger and the circumstances to see it clearly and not as sibling rivalry or imagination. We are making a plan for Christmas to limit big sisters' impact. She will be at my parents and we all want to be there as my dad has alzheimers and is going down pretty quickly. Little sister and I are planning to sleep elsewhere in a shared borrowed housing. We are working with my mother to plan around big sister and her need for control.

#82 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 11:57 PM:

My stepfather is home and taking his meds, although apparently lack of nicotine had him turning into Mr. Hyde for a bit there. But at least he's out of the hospital.

@68 I'm so glad Ed could help in some small way!

And It is totally sensible to be taking time on the parent front. I had a relative, now deceased, and there was a weird moment in time where I could have gotten back in contact with her...and I realized that the absolute best case scenario was "it's horribly awkward and then I never have to see her again."

Odds of getting to that scenario, very slim. Odds of long, drawn out drain on my energy for much worse scenario, very high. I passed on renewing contact. It should have been a super easy decision, but I still mulled it over for longer than I care to recall--and it sounds like you have much less cut and dried definitely-awful scenarios, so a month is not at all an unreasonable length of time to be mulling it over!

#83 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 01:35 PM:

Lydy #52 and Melanie the Tongueless @ 74 and The_L @ 68 Witnesseing. It's hard to stand up for yourself, but it's worth it.

Lydy, yes, it is a thing. A very real and very dangerous thing. It's usually an insidious thing, too, because I most often hear it couched in positive language. You're built up only to be torn down farther.

Melanie the Tongueless, been there, done that, wound up writing a poem about it. (my version of getting the T-shirt) Stick to your guns. Evil DM will do his best to get you back in his game via mutual acquaintances.

The_L it can be a good thing to not be the one to make the first move, despite what little brother reports. That much disapproval is like having your abdomen cut open. Every move post surgery is painful and it takes a really long time and a whole lot of physical therapy to get those muscles back in shape. If the thought of contacting them is too painful, you aren't done healing.

#84 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 12:13 PM:

For anybody who had been looking at my "daily interesting thing" photos, I'm trying out 500px. We'll see how it goes. They square off the photos for the thumbnail page which isn't ideal, but whatever. Not having a place to post the photos has meant that several times I've forgotten about taking the photos for several days in a row, so I decided to pick something and try it out just to have a place to post every day.

I found a couple of places to apply to for a job, but have been stuck for weeks on the cover letter. It's been really hard to say why I'd be great for the position. I seem to have fallen into a hole of blah again. May or may not be related to the lack of going out to take photos.

Plus I've been fighting with my brain. Right now I'm saying to myself, "staying single for a while, at minimum until I get some solid coping strategies on some of the anxiety I have around relationships, and if that takes the rest of my life then that's fine, I know how to be single." My brain has been saying, "this guy!!! he asked you out for coffee!!! must date him and maybe it's perfect and maybe forever and and and" -- this after I'd met him exactly once, at an event where I met several new people and literally could not remember which of the newly-met people I'd talked to he was or which of the conversations I'd participated in had included him. (I've since met him a couple more times -- new friends group, seeing how I fit in with them -- and he seems like a pretty good guy. And my stupid brain is insisting that I should be dating him.)

Looking back, I think this is the first person who has asked me on a date who I have turned down. Ever. That probably explains some of my crappy experiences with boyfriends who weren't right for me; I didn't even know there was a difference between "I'm attracted to this person" and "this person is paying attention to me" until recently. So, I don't know yet if stupid brain is reacting to the attention or if I'm actually attracted to him. I think I may have to figure out how to tell the difference before I can let myself start dating again. Right now I'm seeing my brain as a neglected puppy who gets so excited if you scratch her ears for a few seconds that she pees on your shoes. Needs to be fixed with love and patience, not with punishment.

#85 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 02:03 PM:

#84 the invisible one

You may not be able to figure out a well-written cover letter, but your description of your current dating dilemma is intelligent, witty and poignant.

John McPhee had good advice for this kind of block: he wrote a whiny letter to his mother (who you hypothetically write to is up to you).

Yours might go along these lines:
"[whine, whine, whine] ...I'm seeing my brain as a neglected puppy who gets so excited if you scratch her ears for a few seconds that she pees on your shoes. Where is that vivid imagery to tell my prospective employer how creatively I can see problems and find comparisons that co-workers can empathize and agree with...?"

After you've stream-of-consciousness-ed this mess, you edit it ruthlessly and redirect it.

#86 ::: one in a billion ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 02:25 PM:

@44 "Controlling" and "passiv-aggressive" come to mind, if you are still looking for words.

#87 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 02:48 PM:

#85, Jeanie: I have heard the suggestion to write a letter to your friend saying how excited you are about a position, then edit out the bits that aren't professional. Which, when I tried, I actually had to explicitly write out the stuff one doesn't say in a cover letter (such as "the company looks more stable than the previous one" and "I need a job before my unemployment cheques stop coming") before I could move on to other, more socially acceptable reasons I want to work for them. I have a couple of bits, but no cover letter yet.

I'm somewhat reluctant to deliberately write something whiny and negative, because of past experience with unfiltered freewriting -- which is to say, once negative thoughts make it onto paper, if I'm not using a filter and thinking about what those words mean for me, it spirals down into beating myself up and feeling like useless crap for the rest of the day.

And speaking of not repeating too much negativity, I should probably stop calling it "stupid brain". "Jerkbrain" doesn't fit when it's acting like the neglected puppy, only when it's telling me how awful I am, even though it's just as wrong. Maybe I'll call it "puppy brain" instead.

#88 ::: Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 02:50 PM:

I like puppy brain. I think that's really useful.

#89 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 02:51 PM:

invisible one:

Yeah, I understand about not falling into the Whiny Pit.

I like "puppy brain".

#90 ::: Stefan S ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 09:48 PM:

Witnessing, thinking. These threads make me think about history I have and behavior I've seen in such a close way; somebody will describe something, a few others will turn it this way and that, ask respectful questions, and a flash of mind: oh, so that's probably what was happening that time! It starts to make sense! A little. Humans are darn complicated.

I was upset at my brother, who I love dearly; he works at Successful Company doing Challenging Things and is raising lovely kids, and he thinks so highly of me that my current survival-level job, the rare use of skills and talents, the old directionless crawl seems to him less than my best, which he says not unkindly but kind of... mystified. And I agree! But at my optimistic times I measure not against my potential but against where I have been low. I am not standing at the railing, longing to fall. I am not looking in the woods, hoping to vanish. I speak to people, I pay my rent. What is the right measure? How do I get from surviving to enjoying? How can my family help with that?

I have been feeling so poor and small and broken lately that I could probably write a poor, small, broken book about it. It doesn't seem to get through my own head that I'm healthy, able, some little skills, that I know this feeling will pass; it persists. So I'm seeing a therapist, finally. These threads teach me that most messes are survivable, that I can scale or dismantle walls, or at least find a door. Every direction doesn't seem quite like bullshit when there are people like you all. So: thanks.

witness backspace
shrink, and falter
witness things redacted, altered
for recovering families
a little magic: lights and keys
some few spoons if spoons abound
and people such as you around

#91 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 04:31 PM:

So, just got back from wandering Coney Island with my high school buds. On the one hand, they've mostly got way more dysfunctional families than mine ever was... On the other hand, hanging out with these brothers-of-choice were highlighted how our relationship is far more friendly and cooperative than my relationship with my family, as highlighted by yesterday's expedition to the Statue of Liberty. Sigh... (My brothers-in-law do provide some relief there too. I need to start hanging out with my local BiL more often...)

#92 ::: Broken Pottery ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 09:54 PM:

I've found these threads useful both in seeing reflections of my experiences through other eyes and the recognition that all of the other different ways families can be broken mean that it isn't my fault (and I've mostly got past the 'well that other persons life is so much worse than mine so I should stop whining'). Even though I haven't been an active participant here for a long time I just want to say that I witness for you and value you all in the struggles we are going through together and yet apart.

The last year and a half has been the both the worst and the best thing in my life. Prison was impossibly hard but (for me) it was what I had always believed the justice system should be (but never thought it was). A forcible timeout from society to clearly show what you did was wrong and an opportunity to learn and change to do better and live as a better person. Now I'm healthier, both physically and mentally, and equipped with all sorts of basic social skills that I always thought other people magically had and I was defective for lacking.

I'm moving back in with my parents at 32, which fills me with a certain shame and fear but the way I've been able to change our relationship (with their help and participation) over this time also hopeful. I've assertively addressed how their raising me left me feeling broken inside, worthless, and dependent and we've started a new relationship that while it doesn't hide the past's existence also doesn't seem beholden to continue it. They say that you can never go home but now I am and while it isn't a chance to do over, maybe it is a chance to do different.

#93 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 05:11 AM:

sara_k, #81: It is easy to think it was "not that bad" after a year or two.

Ah. Like the way every few years I get a craving for White Castle sliders... and then I eat some, and I remember why I don't. Although come to think of it, I notice that after 4 or 5 cycles of that, I'm not getting the cravings any more.

#94 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 11:41 AM:

@Broken Pottery: "while it isn't a chance to do over, maybe it is a chance to do different."

I like this.

#95 ::: sara_k ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 09:11 PM:

Lee at #93 Exactly like that. I hope the length between cycles lengthens as I consciously remember.

#96 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 10:18 PM:

Sometimes things look different to different witnesses.

Tonight I pushed the last dregs of my spoon supply to get some of the dirty dishes into the dishwasher, the rest restacked and rinsed. Realized as I ran into sputtering zilchness that (a) the bowl of sorted-out-to-be-loaded silverware scared the SHIT out of me just now, and (b) I'd actually successfully loaded the dishwasher to more than 3/4 full. So if the flatware could get in, and a few more assorted items onto the top shelf, it could be run. I couldn't do it.

So I asked John fairly hesitantly if he could do silverware and whatever else looked like it'd fit, and went to sit down and breathe deeply. He did, but exclaimed in a frustrated/angry sotto voce meant to carry out to where I could hear it, "I don't understand WHY you can't ever FINISH this, from either end!" (I sometimes run out of steam on emptying when there are still 5-6 random items, clean, in there, which then stare at me and prevent loading it afresh with new dirty)

I've told him why. It's because something in the situation triggers fear and shame in me hard enough that I am unable to look at it or stand too close to it when it's in that state.

But he doesn't get it. Sometimes I think he disbelieves that I even feel it, because he never feels anything remotely like that sensation.


At least tonight I could push past the never-ask-for-help shame and actually get him to finish it for me. Small steps.

#97 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 11:26 PM:

Witnessing. And sometimes, that's all I have to say.

#98 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 12:05 AM:

6 years ago, my middle sister killed herself. We has known about a bout of depression, 10 years earlier in grad school, when she (and her entire lab) was overworked and under appreciated. What we didn't realize was that the depression had continued or resurfaced.

She lived alone, in a big city, apparently successful by most measures, except for the jerkbrain's. On Friday, she made a small mistake at work, by Sunday she had killed herself with something that she had kept around since grad school.

My family still can't talk freely about mental illness, all the instances of it and the wider effects. Depression and bipolar are tough to handle. I don't know why. We know that they're real, but even then, something stops us.

#99 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 03:39 AM:

eric, that's rough. GoodThoughts for you and your family.

#100 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 10:15 AM:

All: Witnessed.

I don't comment here much, because my family's mostly functional so I don't have the perspective. But I do read everything, and witness (mostly silently). And I have learned a lot from these threads, which I hope makes me a better friend and colleague to those who do struggle with this stuff. So thank you, to everyone who posts here. Know that it does make a difference.

#101 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 11:17 AM:


It's not just you. I don't unload silverware. I don't know why, but the act of sorting out the various pieces actively distresses me. (This is super-odd as one of my calming mechanisms is sorting things.) If pressed, I can get to "Dump all the eatingware in this drawer and all the serving/cooking stuff in this other drawer" but that's as far as I go. Knowing there are other people out there who share this quirk is actually reassuring to me.

#102 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 11:51 AM:

When I had a dishwasher, I got around the horror of sticking my hand into pointy bits by pulling the basket from the dishwasher and sliding everything in it out on the counter.

Easy to sort. Non-traumatic. No touching the tines or bowls, which has bothered several of my family when they saw me do it. Heaven forfend that they take over themselves.

#103 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 11:59 AM:

cyllan @101: hence these threads!

#104 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 01:21 PM:

Mostly I'm doing really well. To the point where I can visit with Mom and not have her self-centeredness bother me. Still need to decompress with Awesome Spouse after, but I can enjoy the visit. :P

But Friday night was scary. I had a major, full-on anxiety attack - stomach hurt so bad I couldn't stand upright, fear and self-loathing so strong I could barely speak to express them. Part of me says "Shock and amazement, it was body image." The rest of me is saying "But I thought I disabled all of the mother-installed tapes!"

You see, Mom is obsessed with appearances, physical and otherwise, and is irrationally terrified of getting fat. Since I'm an extension of her (in her mind), she's always been terrified of her (borderline underweight) daughter getting fat, too.

In the last year or so, my physical activity level has dropped significantly, and for the first time in my life I have a "normal" female amount of body fat. Dealing with the resulting self-loathing has not been fun. :( Witnessing, sympathies and suggestions all appreciated.

#105 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 01:51 PM:

@Chickadee: I can definitely relate to body-image talk, since I've had issues with that myself.

I was underweight until about age 22, when I went off my ADHD meds. Surprise--I'd never learned how to really tell when I was or wasn't hungry! Over the past year, I've gone from "normal weight" to "a bit pudgy" (and I'm 5'2", so those extra 20 lb REALLY show), and suddenly my dad has jumped on the fat-shaming bandwagon. To the point that when I last saw them on Father's Day, Dad asked me if I was pregnant.

#106 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 03:16 PM:

Bricklayer @96: the bowl of sorted-out-to-be-loaded silverware scared the SHIT out of me just now

This sounds like a full-blown phobia, on a par with those people have of heights or snakes or suchlike. Try using that word with him. (From what you've said, sadly, I don't know how much difference that will make, even if he does get it.) If John has any phobias, you might have some success comparing it to that.

And, no, you can't just will yourself out of or through a phobia; that's not how they work. It's your hindbrain seeing [trigger] and going "OMG TIGERS!!eleventy!!"

There are ways to "cure" phobias, some more effective than others, but the one thing the various techniques have in common is you want a highly competent practitioner at the steering wheel. J. Random Spousal Imperative ain't gonna do the job.

eric @98: I just watched Stephen Fry's special on manic depression, and found it very interesting and useful, not least the discussion of how hard it is to have that conversation.

everyone else: Witnessing. I'm short on spoons these days, so I've been speaking up less. But I'm here.

#107 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 03:42 PM:

Broken Pottery @92, I'm glad to hear you're getting the chance to do different, since do over is never in the cards.

Others: witnessing, always. Not much to say at this point.

#108 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 03:45 PM:

Chickadee @ 104 and The_L @ 105


Here's my coping mechanism, and I've been overweight all my life. How much you weigh does not matter as long as you're healthy. Period. Plus, being too thin is just as much of a health strain as being too fat. The body needs some fat stores to operate properly. Keep that in mind at all times. It can be used to fend off fat shamers - mostly by taking all weapons away from them except the image-related kind.

People try to fat shame me all the time. It's especially funny for me when it comes to medical health professionals^. At my day job, we have health fairs. At every single one, I walk away amused at the frustrations of the counselor that gets me as the advisee. The second they see me, they get the canned "you're too fat, and it's affecting your health*" spiel queued up and ready to go. Then they start down the blood panels and end up soundlessly working their jaws, frustration mounting at every item on the list. I can see they really, really, REALLY want to shame me, but can't. It does wonderful things for my ego.

^ I'd like to call them "professional fat shamers", but I know I'm being unfair and very unkind to the good ones who listen to their patients and pay attention and don't operate on assumptions.

* Diabetes is something I know I will be getting because my genetics are against me. So I'm proactive about managing things that affect my blood glucose (i.e. diet and exercise). This has a bonus of warding off other "obesity based chronic illnesses". I may look like a walking heart attack, but I'm usually healthier than the person trying to foist their opinions and biases off onto me.

#109 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 04:33 PM:

Broken Pottery @92: Good luck with the chance to do different.

eric @98: Sympathies. That's hard.

All: Witnessing. Apologies, but I'm short on spoons at the moment, trying not to keep falling into the downward spiral.

#110 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 09:38 AM:

I saw a comic on Tumblr today that I think will resonate with a lot of people. Link:

It's funny, but only because the ignorant person saying "You're doing it WRONG because it's not the way I do it!!" is a child and has no real power to change the boy's behavior. I was struck by that. (Granted, the preschool teacher clearly wasn't amused.) How many horrible behaviors do we allow to slide because "boys will be boys" or "she's only 3?" Why do so many adults still not know that this is not a nice way to behave?

If I ever make a child feel "wrong" just for doing things a little bit differently, I will have betrayed myself and broken my promise to NOT become my parents.

#111 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 11:01 AM:

The_L, #110: What really strikes me about that comic is that the boy just walks into the bathroom and starts urinating while the girl is at the sink. Was HE called out for that behavior, I wonder? At what age do we start teaching that bathrooms carry some expectation of privacy?

#112 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 12:25 PM:

Victoria @108: I cheered you on when I read soundlessly working their jaws, frustration mounting at every item on the list. Hopefully maybe they'll start to rethink?

I agree - health is far, far more important than weight. Heck, BMI doesn't take into account muscle vs. body fat or bone size, or even height! (wildly inaccurate for very short or very tall people), and perceptions of "one right size" have done horrible things to our collective image of health.

I've been using the "weight doesn't matter as long as you're healthy" since not long after I moved out and started to truly define myself as a person separate from my mom. Especially when she was flipping out over how "fat" I was (she only cares about the BMI or the clothing size) and I was freaking ripped. (cycling to work + working in a bulk section at a grocery store = major muscle development)

My tapes just answer "yeah, that was then - you're lazy now and getting fat." :( Working on answering them. Can answer them most of the time. But not always, sadly.

Relatedly, I don't know if this is more of an open thread thing, but you mentioned diabetes risk - have you heard the latest research about artificial sweeteners? The authors emphasize that this is the first study of its sort, and it needs to be confirmed, but their research (from a Faculty of Medicine prof interviewed on CKUA) is really solid, and they don't make any leaps of logic. Covers everything from mice to humans.

Here's where I heard about it (has links to the original article and some news stories), and here's a good news story for the general public.

The gist: sugar substitutes (specifically saccharine, sucralose and aspartame) make you more likely to get obese/diabetes/sugar intolerance by changing your gut bacterial population.

#113 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 01:04 PM:

the invisible one @84: I found a couple of places to apply to for a job, but have been stuck for weeks on the cover letter. It's been really hard to say why I'd be great for the position.

Liz Ryan actually has a non-puke-inducing answer to that question: Personal Branding & Your Job Search

Part of your job-search branding statement may be “I love to sort out thorny customer service and billing issues.” Notice that you’re not praising yourself as you say that. You’re telling the reader (of your resume or LinkedIn profile, or perhaps a cover letter) what you love to do. If you love to do something, are you likely to be good at it? We would tend to think so.

Her whole emphasis is to avoid HR- and resume-ese (actually, the whole HR "black hole" entirely), and talk like an actual human.

Here's another good ebook about her approach. She recommends identifying what she calls the "business pain," that is, the problem the business is trying to solve by hiring you, and calling that out explicitly in your introductory letter.

Chickadee @112: The gist: sugar substitutes (specifically saccharine, sucralose and aspartame) make you more likely to get obese/diabetes/sugar intolerance by changing your gut bacterial population.

I also recall hearing, some while ago, that artificial sweetners derange the body's calibration of the relationship between taste and calorie content, so this finding above makes tremendous sense.

#114 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 04:08 PM:

#113, Jacque: Apart from twitching every time she used the phrase "personal brand", a lot of what's in those links looks pretty sensible, especially defining what you like and want to focus on. (Some people have told me I've narrowed my search too much and I should go for "anything", but ... it comes down to which parts of my field I would be happy working in.)

She contradicts the advice given in "ask a manager", who says if there's a system, follow it, because good hiring managers don't want to be interrupted by candidates who think the rules don't apply to them. (Unless there's a personal networking contact.) Maybe AAM appeals to my own sense of orderliness so I'm biased to believe her advice; I know one of the things that makes me the most incoherently hating on a person is when they act like the rules don't apply to them.

Anyhow, a couple of days ago I rolled back to an older cover letter and modified it, rather than trying to create a new and amazing one: new and amazing wasn't getting written, so decent but already written will put me farther ahead.

#115 ::: Jeremy Leader got an Internal Server Error ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 05:17 PM:

Regarding following the rules or not, in my experience it depends on what the organization you're trying to join is like. In particular, is the manager who makes the rules a major driver of the hiring process, or do the hiring managers mostly see HR rules and bureaucracy as an impediment to actually filling positions? I've worked at and interviewed at both kinds of companies. If you can easily follow the rules, that's probably your best chance overall; on the other hand, if the rules mean you can't get hired (e.g. if they claim to have a strict requirement that you don't meet), then the worst that can happen when you break the rules is that you don't get hired, so maybe it's worth breaking the rules. Of course, if you really can't do the job, then you're wasting your time and theirs by breaking the rules.

I guess I would distinguish between procedural rules that are relatively easy to comply with (what format they want your resume in, how soon you should expect to get a response (and the implied "don't bug us until then"), etc.) and whose violation may help avoid getting your resume tossed aside without a second glance, and rules that you can convincingly argue are filtering out good candidates such as yourself.

My own tendency is not to want to look like a pushy entitled jerk, so I tend to err on the side of following the rules; on the other hand, for some positions maybe they want someone who will push their way past obstacles and achieve their goal no matter what.

As far as contacting the hiring manager directly, when I was a hiring manager (at a company with ~100 employees), if someone contacted me, I generally responded to them saying I was forwarding their info to HR to be fed into the hiring process. So contacting me wasn't a way to totally avoid that, but it also didn't hurt their chances. In fact, it probably helped a little bit, because it meant I'd looked at their resume, and would recognize their name when it came up later, and if HR lost their application, I'd probably eventually ask "what happened to so-and-so who I forwarded to you?".

#116 ::: Jeremy Leader didn't get an Internal Server Error ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 05:20 PM:

Ugh, stupid auto-fill, I need to figure out how to purge that (without purging all the other usefull auto-fill data I've accumulated over the years)! Either that, or I have to get in the habit of always checking my name field before posting.

#117 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 07:12 PM:

The_L #110, Lee #111: The thing is, small children are naturally ignorant (little life experience), and can be remarkably inflexible, precisely because they're still learning not only "the rules", but the meta-rules by which those get arbitrated, including the social constraints thereof. A lot of the effort and time spent taking care of small children includes both teaching them the rules of society and the world, and trying to keep them from picking up spurious rules. But that does not mean holding them to adult standards of behavior or rationality.

5 years old is barely out of "toddler" stage, and well before the "age of reason". At that point, they're still "collecting" rules, and figuring out how they fit together. As the pertinent example, at that age, kids commonly don't have much sense of modesty, and often find clothes annoying -- I've heard the phrase "small kids are natural nudists". Of course there are counterforces to that; they'll receive varying amounts of emphasis (accumulating over time and increasing with age) for the rule that "people wear clothes in public", and they'll likely have fun with the idea of clothes as "display". (Concepts such as style or even color-coordination are... a little more advanced. :-) )

#118 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 07:18 PM:

Me #117: Hmm, dropped a concept there. The first paragraph should continue: "At any given age, there will be concepts they simply can't understand or can't implement, and punishing them for their incapacities is not likely to give good results."

#119 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 07:21 PM:

Jeremy Leader #116: In my browser (Firefox/Ubuntu), the auto-fill lists can be "dropped down" from their field with the down arrow. Having highlighted a target value in the list, you can remove it with Control-Delete.

#120 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 07:33 PM:

Victoria, #108: I can see they really, really, REALLY want to shame me, but can't.

That's the point at which I'd be sorely tempted to use a little psychological judo. "I can tell that you're really upset about not being able to give me your 'fat=bad' spiel. Why? You're a medical professional; you should be happy that I'm healthy, even if I don't look the way you think I should look. Instead, you're upset and frustrated. Maybe this isn't about health issues at all, but about enforcing body-shape compliance? You might want to do some hard thinking about it, and maybe see a therapist."

Or something to that effect. What you're describing is a chink in the armor of their prejudice, where you can insert a lever and push.

#121 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 02:26 AM:

I'm too tired right now to do this properly, but thanks to stupid government cutbacks, I need to job hunt. That means that I need to figure out the polite codes for alluding to certain bad situations, and for questioning what things are like at their company. After all, I'm pretty sure that the blunt versions will not go over well. Such as, "is this place run by a popular clique?", "I am sick of being a second-class citizen", and "my previous manager sucked, will this one?" will not go over well. But there have got to be polite codes for extracting some of this information in advance...

#122 ::: one in a billion ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 05:22 AM:

@121: Are you aware of the Job Search Red Flags article over at Captain Awkward? Maybe you'll find an answer in the comments

#123 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 11:03 AM:

Mother trauma of the day (I did it, and I'm proud of it):

My mom is a good friend. She would be a good friend to you (seriously). One of the people she visits regularly has serious brain damage and impaired motor function, though he has a wheelchair and gets out to church, etc. There's a good support community that shops for him and takes care of his transport.

He has an elderly dog whose hind legs are paralyzed. He puts her in a little trolley and gets them both out for walks.

My mother cannot stand the dog. She is vocal about how her friend should have it put down.

I've regularly responded "It's not your decision, better to stay off it" with no effect.

Mom got on a tear this morning, and I finally interrupted and said, "when you talk about his dog, everybody thinks you're talking about him."

"No, no, I'm certainly not."
"That's what they think."

Stunned silence. Wow, was she mad. She didn't attack me (bonus points, mom!) and we did our customary "see you tomorrow" and disengaged.
Personal update: I had thought my health and my money were going to run out next year. Neither appears to be the case. After a summer of tests, and to the astonishment of my medical support team, most of my physical damage is old. I successfully reversed it at the time. My prognosis continues to be ongoing deterioration, but at a less drastic rate than everyone assumed.

I found financial leverage with my ex.

#124 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 11:06 AM:

#121, Bodhisvaha:

Ask A Manager also covers topics like that. Here's one: how to spot a bad boss before you take the job.

Both AAM and CA have excellent advice posts and excellent comment sections with further suggestions in them.

#125 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 11:14 AM:

Jeanie @123, go you with Mom. (And, as you say, points to Mom for not attacking back.)

Also, that's great on the personal health and finance front.

#126 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 11:30 AM:

Thank you, OtterB. The support here has had a huge impact on my willingness to work with my mom.

Oh, the dog in question apparently isn't in pain.

I've transitioned from smugness to remembering with gratitude that I couldn't have gotten to this point on my own.

#127 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 12:52 PM:

So I want to report something that is probably depressing from another perspective, but I liked it. I had a really nice dream. This is the second dream in my life that I can remember that was just nice--and I keep a dream diary. I wasn't anxious, frustrated, angry, hateful, ashamed, afraid, or even in the grip of dissociative fog. In the dream--which felt very real while I was in it--I was somewhere where I would have to rely exclusively on my own abilities and the hope that a safety system that I had not personally experienced also applied to me, and I could and it did. I was offered kindness by a stranger and there were no strings and I didn't do anything offputting. I experienced several talking-to-people situations that would have left me paralyzed with terror or embarrassment IRL years ago (they would have given me retroactive shakes now) and sailed through them. I had to exert adult presence and authority in the correct way in order to defuse a potentially bad situation, and I succeeded. I was alone in a strange place and had to sleep, and I wasn't afraid.

Before I got glasses, I used to dream that I could see perfectly. Is this a spectrum-person's/PTSD survivor's dream of social capability?

#128 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 04:20 PM:

Jeanie, #123: Go you! Your mother wasn't responding to one type of argument, so you found another one with more leverage. And it had more leverage because it focused on her image instead of her behavior, and she doesn't see anything wrong with her behavior but she does care what other people think about her. That will be a useful thing to remember for the future.

#129 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 05:04 PM:

David Harmon @119 Thank you, that's very useful to know! (and coincidentally, that's my preferred OS & browser part of the time, too)

#130 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 10:41 PM:

And hopping links from the Red Flags page, I found some entertaining advice from Anton LaVey¹: Not All Vampires Suck Blood! Note that I wouldn't advise actually following his method for dealing with the vamps. Not only would pulling it off be tough for most of us, but the response will be nasty. He doesn't use the term "narcissistic rage", but he describes it well.

¹ He founded the Church of Satanism², but eventually abandoned it in frustration after most of the people who showed up just wanted to dress in black and look sinister, rather than actually seeking self-empowerment.
² Back in college, I read The Satanic Bible the same week as Robert Ringer's Looking Out for #1, and laughed my head off when I realized they were pitching essentially the same advice with different decorations.

#131 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 03:26 PM:

Today has been a somewhat trying day.

A couple days ago, my car's battery went out. Hubby got a jump, and I figured it would last until we could head to the Big C to get a new battery.

It's Yom Kippur, which my husband observes. He went to services this morning with no problems, and when he got home, I went to the 3-letter pharmacy to pick up my meds. I didn't figure I'd be gone long, so I neglected to get my cell phone.

My car didn't start.

I called Hubby. His car is old and broken down, and he only really keeps it because on rare occasions, he likes to go out while I'm at work. His car wouldn't start either. An old couple noticed me sitting there, dejected, and offered to drive me home. (I don't know how I manage to keep running into really sweet elderly people. I guess I must have a knack.)

But man, if that isn't the WORST fucking time to have an anxiety disorder. :/ Part of me wanted to call the folks while I was stranded, since their number is one I have memorized, but I didn't want to be humiliated for leaving my cell at home, nor did I want to hear them disparaging my husband.

My uncle-in-law is with Hubby giving my car another jump so he can bring the car to GET A BATTERY.

#132 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 10:35 PM:

Much as Mary Aileen has said, I keep reading these posts in the hope that it will help me to be a better person to those friends of mine who deal with these situations IRL. I just wish my friends didn't have to deal with these sorts of things to begin with, though lately it's been interactions with bureaucracies, not families... (same rules sometimes apply, though.)

#133 ::: slow learner ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 08:05 AM:

Still reading, still witnessing.

Saw this quoted elsewhere and had a complicated reaction to reading it, and thought of this thread:

John Darnielle: I hate to say this, because, I don't want to wish death on anybody, but.. it's wonderful when your abuser dies. It's wonderful. It's like nothing in the world. It's like, you are free. There's a feeling that you will never be free of what you were. You know, there's that. But there is this, you know, even though my stepfather was helpless at the end of his life, but to know that the person who used to hurt you no longer can. It's very, very, very deep. It's unbelievable.
Interviewer: Do you forgive him?
John Darnielle: No.

#134 ::: Stenopos ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 07:33 PM:

Chickadee, #112, and anyone else who can help:
I have a couple of bad knees that keep me from wanting to walk more than a half mile or so with Naproxen, or standing very long. Thing is, doctors won't touch me because they say I am too fat.
This body I am trapped in is a lot fatter than I want, though not really huge, and has gotten so gradually over some 30 years. And, no sooner did it start to bloat up than my parents--who were supporting me then--began to comment on it, despite they had taught me early on to not talk about other folks' bodies. When I asked them not to, they got all pissy. One is now dead but the other one still thinks that this body is something I can just up and fix. Last visit, I had had enough and said that until science finds a cure, knock it off. That worked...for now. I got a book on Health at Every Size and some more books on how obesity is over-demonized, and began to try and eat healthier food (NOT starve myself.)I like to ride my bike but I have never been into the self-martyrdom known as dieting, and it begins to look like that was a good choice.
When the injections didn't work on the knees, the doctor who did them said to come back when I was ready to talk about surgery. I showed up in his office this spring and all of a sudden he was all "You're too fat, I won't risk operating because of increased risk of infection." and he wouldn't see it any different. It's not like he hadn't known I was fat when he had seen me before. He referred me to another outfit that was supposed to be better at such challenges, but the doctor they sent me to--after I waited all summer--just started in with the same line. He wants me to look into getting my guts jigsawed, which does not appeal much. (The original doctor's office emailed me a questionnaire asking for feedback. They got it.)
I know infection is a risk for any surgery, but I would have thought they were getting a handle on it now. I never dreamed I would wind up facing immobility because of someone's prejudice. I don't know if or how I can lose "enough" weight by the target date of next summer and still retain what's left of my metabolism.
Family history, medical or otherwise, is quite sparse. Anyone know of joint surgeons in Seattle area that know how to keep fat people safe and take Medicare?

#135 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 09:51 PM:

Stenopos @134: Sadly, I don't know a whole lot about diet and nutrition - sessional instructor of biology, with an interest in gut flora.

Best I can do is tell you what my MiL did before she got her walker. She got a membership at the local YMCA so she could swim regularly (water buoyancy supports the weight, keeps the pressure off the joints) and spent a lot of time in places with shopping carts. Basically, she used the shopping carts as glorified walkers, and she said they made a truly remarkable difference - she quit gaining weight for a while (inactivity due to crippling arthritis) because she was able to walk!

I do remember when I screwed up my knees the physiotherapist said to bike as much as possible...

Also, I'm really glad you're focussing on eating healthy rather than dieting. Diets suck, and are usually counterproductive (i.e. train your body to hoard the fat for the starving times so it's even harder to lose weight).

All the best with your efforts to find a sensible joint surgeon!!!

PS: I don't know if this is practical for you, but one way I've found to force myself to eat more veggies is to sign up for a CSA box. [community supported agriculture] In my area, you can get different sizes, so it's not a family size or nothing. And it makes you get *really* creative with using stuff you're not used to eating. (and real carrots! Tasty, sweet, delicious fresh carrots!!!!!)

#136 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 01:34 PM:

Stenopos @134: I have a couple of bad knees

I had tremendous success with this brand of Pilates, back when I messed up my neck. As a byproduct, I also fixed all the issues I'd been having with all my other joints.

Downsides: they're almost certainly expensive, they may or may not take insurance, and the bulk of the clientele are those hyper-athletic dancerly types. On the plus side, our practice here in Boulder explicitly does physical therapy, and also does private sessions (thus avoiding the side-eye at us not-dancerly types). So it might be worth a call, at least.

#137 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 08:52 AM:

Thanks everyone for the links on finding managers that do not suck -- still frantically making marketing materials against massive resistance. After all, I won't get to the stage of knowing if they suck if I don't finish the resume...

#138 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 09:07 AM:

Bodhisvaha @137, good luck with it.

#139 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 11:44 AM:

#137, Bodhisvaha: I hear you. I finally broke through a month of being blocked on cover letters and got a couple out yesterday, even though I wasn't entirely happy with them. This is not the first time I've lost an entire month or more to not being able to face job hunting.

Guilting myself into doing it doesn't work, either; it just makes the resistance stronger. After all, how can I write about how awesome I am when I'm telling myself I suck for not writing about how awesome I am? And talking about the job hunt with people I know locally is also a problem because then they want to give unsuitable advice. Different types of jobs take different approaches...

#140 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 12:48 PM:

the invisible one @139, different jobs definitely take different approaches. I mentioned on the open thread that my husband was laid off last week. He is an experienced engineer and the standard advice about resume length means that much of his technical details would be omitted. But especially in cases where software rather than human beings will be making the first pass, he really needs that detail to be recognized as a good fit. And he tries to network, but online ads really do seem the best source of leads.

Disregard if helpy, but here's a template that I've found to work well for cover letters when responding to a specific job posting. Because it allows you to tout yourself as a good fit for their specific needs, rather than as an overall awesome human being, it helps me sidestep the tapes about tooting your own horn.

"I am responding to your listing for [job title] which I saw in [source]. My full resume is attached for your consideration, but I'd like to highlight some aspects of my background that are particularly relevant.

[pick 3-5 things from the job posting that made you want to respond to it, e.g. skills or experience that you have that line up with what they want, and for each say, you asked for x, and in position ABC I did x, (with these results, if there are any, e.g. cut costs by this % or increased customer satisfaction or got an award).]

If you can honestly say something about a passion for the job, e.g., "you want someone at the intersection of research and development, and my most productive and satisfying work has been done there," then do so. But I'd advise not faking this one; you need to be believable.

Close by saying you look forward to discussing this with them.

#141 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 01:09 PM:

Ha, specific job postings to reply to. I wish.

Maybe seven or eight in the past year? That includes the ones I applied to which were above and below my experience level, because apparently companies are looking for juniors (3-5 years) or seniors (10+ years) and I have 8 years experience. The rest of my applications have been to a company I'd like to work for, without a posted opening.

#142 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 01:10 PM:

the invisible one @139: same problem over here, but rarely articulated as clearly as that. I'm about at my limit of what being mean to myself can accomplish anyway, and being mean is the wrong tool for this job in any case.

I have been trying to believe (as opposed to know) that I am in a better position than usual. Historically, I have had slightly-above-survival jobs where I am one of many many qualified interchangeable cogs, like level one call center tech support. This time around I have experience and a degree in my primary field (artsy), a second non-irrevelant degree (different artsy), a useful-and-rare secondary field (tech), plus other moderately common but useful skills (writing, presenting).

I still don't know what's going to happen and I am afraid to set my hopes too high. That said, though, I should be attacking it like this:
- plan A: same or better professional spot in my field, matching or better pay.
- plan B: step sideways into a related field temporarily and/or accept slightly lower pay, while acquiring/strengthening skills useful in Plan A jobs.
- plan C: do something low-paid but in-field, so that I'll be broke but doing/learning something relevant.
- plan D: the best paycheck I can get if none of the above pan out.

My dysfunctional mother meant well, but when reminded my contract is ending soon, immediately counselled me to start applying for the Christmas rush retail jobs now. In other words, she said go straight to Plan C or D, and didn't even realize there *ought* to be Plan A or B. She can't keep her mental grip on the idea of me being a competent, well-paid professional, let alone that my having a personality and style should be a selling point.

#143 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 01:31 PM:

Ugh, yeah. Totally the wrong advice due to simply not understanding the situation. My parents have told me a few times that I might have to move to get a job, not realizing that in (very specific engineering subfield) there are basically three cities in the entire country that have more than one company in my subfield. I already live in one of them.

Your plans A & B sound like what I'm working on right now. (Plus, "without having to move". I own my place. I don't want to sell. I just painted!) One of the applications I sent out yesterday was a "B" application, although I'd never tell them that. It was to a big engineering firm. It would be good experience, even if not quite the amazing subfield I want to continue in.

Then there's well-meaning friends and acquaintances who don't get it, like the high school kid getting work experience at the non-profit I volunteer for, who asked me how many job applications I'd sent out that week. Sorry kid, while I don't want to come across as if I'm better than you, getting an entry level job in or just out of high school, and getting an 8-years-experience engineering job are not comparable. I know she meant well, but argh. That's exactly why I don't like talking about my job hunt.

#144 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 01:46 PM:

the invisible one @143, no posted positions, ugh. That's really hard.

who asked me how many job applications I'd sent out that week

yeah, that one.

As a hiring manager I've been on the receiving end of broadside job applications, as opposed to those who have paid attention to what my organization is and what we want. The difference is apparent.

In previous hunts (the job that just vanished was my husband's 7th since 2000, so we have become unfortunately expert at this) he didn't send all that many resumes, but his rate of at least phone interviews was high. It really does make a difference to target things.

And Bodhisvaha, your plans A-D make sense to me.

#145 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 02:31 PM:

I'm not even getting much in the way of phone interviews. Last one I had was in the spring. They were enthusiastic but it was one of the 10+ years experience positions and ultimately I was missing an important skill that they needed. I was told they might be hiring for my skill set this winter... which is coming up soon, so I'm keeping an eye out for that. (The one I applied for would be, maybe, the boss of the position I'm qualified for? Something like that. I didn't expect to get that specific job, but wanted to work for that company.)

I've considered asking somebody to look over my resume, but: who? AAM charges $$ and only does it occasionally, somebody not in my field (as she isn't) may not know what is exceptional or even interesting in terms of content, and somebody in my field (such as the former boss who commented on my resume a few years ago) may still recommend things like "objective" sections, which are apparently not a good thing to have and make me wonder what else in their advice is less than useful.

I swear I'm not trying to talk myself out of doing anything or be a stream of negativity but it's so frustrating and I don't know what I can do that I'm not already doing. And then I fall into one of those holes and can't apply for anything and sometimes can't even check the job boards for a while. Having just climbed back out of one, I really need to stop venting or I might just knock myself back in.

#146 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 06:40 PM:

the invisible one, at least in the various parts of the software field I've wandered through, I wouldn't take "years of experience" specifications too seriously.
I remember seeing job postings back in the late 90s looking for 10 years of experience programming in Java, when the language had only been in existence for 5 years or so. Even if the job requirements accurately describe what they want, "years of experience" is a pretty fuzzy metric; one person might learn in 5 years what takes others 20 years to learn (or some people might never learn).

Maybe someone on Making Light could review your resume? I'd volunteer, but I don't know whether I'd know enough about whatever field you're in (I'm in software, with a little knowledge of various engineering fields). I've been a hiring manager a couple times, and assisted with resume reading or interviewing for probably dozens of other positions over the years, but I'm certainly not an HR expert. If that sounds at all useful, you can reach me by sticking together my first and last names above at gmail. (and the same offer stands for anyone else here who thinks such a review would benefit them).

#147 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 06:44 PM:

the invisible one #143: acquaintances who don't get it, like the high school kid getting work experience at the non-profit I volunteer for, who asked me how many job applications I'd sent out that week. Sorry kid, while I don't want to come across as if I'm better than you...

I'd say a reasonable response to something like that is, "that's not how it works at my level and field." Their response to that may also help you separate the merely ignorant from the determinedly helpy. ;-)

#148 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 05:24 AM:

I am up far, far, too late, but the main and agency editions of the resume are done, as is the splash page. (Which was BIG and far more work than you might think one page on a platform builder could be. Argh...)

Still a little of the portfolio to do. Recommendations to solicit. Business cards to print. Hopelessly pedantic government version of resume to do also. I will be tempted to make it less pedantic which may be a bad thing.

#149 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 01:38 PM:

#146, Jeremy Leader: I'm in a field that's been around rather longer than software. I haven't seen or heard of job posts in my field that ask for impossible experience, even when people are griping about everything else wrong with the job posts. I can stretch a couple of years; with my 8 I am ok to apply for a 10, but a 12+ not likely and a 15+ definitely no; likewise if I apply for a 5, I'll have to explain why I'm applying so far down, because 5 means "just barely out of legally-must-be-supervised territory".

#150 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2014, 08:20 PM:

Last night was thinking "I have a sad."

Then thought, no, "the sad has me."

#151 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2014, 08:42 AM:

Wishing hope and comfort to hope in disguise. It's really rough when the sad has you. :(

This tumblr link is well-referenced about ADHD, including how the symptoms show up differently in women. The part that really stuck with me:
"most girls/women who have ADHD are inattentive type. they tend to be introverted, disorganized and daydreamers.
girls will internalize these as personal failings and teenage girls have a much higher rate of suicide and self harm because of it.
ADHD is often comorbid with anxiety and depression, both of which are caused by the failings from having ADHD"

That is precisely me. Combine that with parents like mine, and it's no wonder that things went so horribly wrong in my psyche.

#152 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2014, 12:03 PM:

The_L, thank you. Though last night (when I posted) I think I had the sad rather than the sad having me - as I complained to a friend who finally paid attention when I started crying on his arm, "I turned in the most high-stakes application of my life today and immediately went to a memorial service for a man I haven't yet properly mourned and then I came back here and nobody was paying attention to me!"

He sensibly pointed out, while also holding me and offering tissues, that nobody had known I needed attention... which hopefully means if there is a next time it will be better. :/

Then I bought a candle and made hot cinnamon whiskey cider, and held a small backyard ceremony in which I offered some hot drink to the ghost and had some myself, thereby repairing the one clause in the above complaint about which I could do something. It felt correct.

#153 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2014, 02:01 PM:

The_L, #151: There was a link in the comments below that Tumblr post, which went to this article. I read the article, and my immediate thought was that while it doesn't describe me, it sure does seem to describe a fair number of women I know -- particularly in the pagan and artist groups where I hang out. Now I'm wondering how much of what I tend to think of (privately!) as "she's nice, but my ghod what a flake" is undiagnosed ADHD.

#154 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2014, 02:21 AM:

Hm, okay, so I'm curious to hear people's thoughts about this:

End of the day, I'm at my desk, fiddling around, packing up my stuff, getting ready to head home. "Fred," the custodial staffer, is making the rounds, emptying people's recycling bins. He makes his way around to my cube, small talk is exchanged (he has a fairly strong accent; Bosian, I think, but I'm not sure*) as I'm shutting down my computer, something about watching animals on the internet. (He occasionally comes by when I'm killing the last few minutes of the day with Cute Overload.) He turns, as if to move away, and holds out his hand. I interpret this to be an offer of a fist-bump, so I touch my knuckles to his. Quick, he grasps my wrist lightly—then instantly lets go. (I stiffen, having had just enough time to think, "Er—") He heads on his way, I collect my stuff, and go.

Downstairs, I'm in the bathroom, and I hear his cart making its way down the first floor hall. I conclude my business, head outside, and am unlocking my bike when he comes around the building to the bike rack, pushing his cart. "Please, person," he kind of mumbles, "I just wanted to say I'm sorry…." Winding my cable up and locking it to my bike, I say something along the lines of "Mafm waffle," and then he inquires, "How long your ride home? Ten minutes?" I shrug. "More like a half an hour." "Oh," he says, "that's good! Okay, goodnight," and he wanders off with his cart.

…Leaving me thinking, "Um, er…?"

* There's the possibility of cross-cultural miscommunication.

#155 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2014, 07:14 AM:

Jacque, that's...I'm not sure exactly what that is, but it's definitely inappropriate. Srsly, who GRABS another person's HAND like that?!

#156 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2014, 07:44 AM:

Jacque @154, if you don't get a creepy vibe in general from him, then I think I'd chalk it up to a misunderstanding of some kind. Maybe the fist bump wasn't what he intended and triggered something for him?

#157 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2014, 08:56 AM:

Jacque @154, from your description, it sounds like a cross-cultural misunderstanding, almost instantly recognized as inappropriate and regretted. But obviously I wasn't there to see body language.

Assuming you don't get "creepy" vibes from the guy, and assuming it doesn't repeat, I'd chalk it up to miscommunication and let it go. But ignore if hlepy...


#158 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2014, 01:16 PM:

Interesting range of reactions, all of which match mine. All of them.

I ran this past a friend on the way home, and she said she got chill.

Contrariwise, I just ran it past the woman (early-mid 20s, with the most righteous blue hair I've ever seen) at the pizza place accross the street—weird thing to talk to a relative stranger about, right? But she gave me some very Captain Awkward-esque advice: Before I call it out to HR, talk to him directly. Use My Words, and tell him that what he did made me uncomfortable and, while his apology was well intended, his following me after startling me unexpectedly like that made me nervous.

Then watch his reaction: if he gets angry or defensive, then it's a conversation for HR.

What's interesting to me about my reaction to this is that, even a year or two ago, I wouldn't have been conscious of my discomfort, or had the vocabulary to express it.

#159 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2014, 02:24 PM:

Jacque, #158: My response is that the initial incident would have made me very uneasy; the apology would have moved it into Cassy's interpretation; the asking about your trip home, at that point, would have landed in "awkward attempt at changing the subject".

Rather than bringing it up to him or anyone else, I would be inclined at this point to let it ride; if nothing else happened to make me nervous, I'd chalk it up to a one-time misunderstanding, the same way I treat an unrepeatable computer glitch.

If he did anything else that gave me the weirds, then I would follow the "talk to him first, and if that doesn't help then go to HR" advice.

#160 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2014, 06:11 PM:

Like others here, I'm thinking "cross-cultural misunderstanding."

#161 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2014, 09:57 PM:

Jacque #158: I'm also inclined to "cross-cultural misunderstanding", mostly because of the "grasped lightly and immediately let go". The other thing it reminds me of is a canine thing -- both wolves and wolf-dog mixes will greet a human or fellow-wolf by lightly gripping their wrist or foreleg. (This is a "tell" for wolf blood in a dog. I have no idea how normal dogs react to this, but AIUI, they're pretty wary of even hybrids just from smell.)

But now I want to know what the reference is, that is what context that was supposed to represent....
(Googling "bosnian body language" was not immediately helpful, and I'm not up to further search just now.)

#162 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2014, 03:38 AM:

The wrist grasp was so quick, it did feel reflexive on his part. Wouldn't have the first clue how to go about looking that up, though.

#163 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2014, 08:50 AM:

It might be something as simply as, "When my friends and I fistbump, we do a longer version." Cultural units can be pretty small.

#164 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2014, 03:07 PM:

Some of you might remember how my parents are a bit, well, difficult, and how when I visited them in August of last year I did something which caused them both great offense, and which my mother described to my sister as "cruel"; but that they wouldn't tell me what it was I'd done which was so cruel, which made it just a bit difficult to do anything to rectify my alleged cruelty.

Because of this they've not spoken to me in over a year, and my father has threatened to disinherit me and has sent me several abusive emails, one of which I shared in the previous Dysfunctional Families thread.

My mother emailed me a couple of days ago and told me what it was I did which was so awful.

I said I wasn't interested in a Facebook page she told me about.

Yep, that's right: all this unpleasantness because I said I wasn't interested in a Facebook page.

Only that doesn't give the full context of what I actually said: my mother told me about a Facebook page which her cousin's son had set up for a band he had just formed. He's nearly sixty, not a gifted musician, single, unemployed, and lives with his mother: I've met him perhaps three times in my life. When my mother told me about the Facebook page I offered to find it so she could see it, but failed. I looked again; failed again. She knew this.

She told me she wasn't interested in seeing it, but that I had to look at it.

She was still talking about it a day later. She brought up that bloody Facebook page more than twenty times in three hours. I stopped counting after that.

When I tried to get some work done (because one of our clients was suddenly facing jail, and we had the information which could keep him out of that place) she brought it up again, and at that point I said I wasn't interested.

And THAT's how I was cruel to her.

I understand: I understand that what's really going on here is she doesn't think I give her enough attention, and she doesn't like it when I work when we visit her instead of talking to her, and she doesn't like it when anyone other than her is my priority. I understand all that. But understanding it doesn't mean I think it's acceptable; and understanding it doesn't mean I know how to make it better. Because I don't think this CAN be made better, to be honest. Not unless my parents both have extreme personality makeovers and become reasonable. And that's just not going to happen.

#165 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2014, 04:28 PM:

Rosa Hughes @164, that is ... wow.

she doesn't like it when anyone other than her is my priority. Exactly.

If you had any lingering doubts that you might actually have done something wrong or that there might be two ways to look at the situation, this should relieve them.


#166 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2014, 08:45 AM:

Rosa Hughes @164: Aiyiyi. That is most definitely a steaming, stinking heap of overreaction from your mother. I can see some more reasonable potential causes for offense squashed somewhere underneath it, but the scale and duration of the overreaction grinds them to powder.

It's reasonable to want the whole family to be supportive of Cousin's new band -- at least by saying nice things, perhaps even listening to it -- but threatening to disinherit? If it was genuinely all about supporting Cousin, you wishing him well would have done, or her finding the page to see on her own, or any of several other substitutes. It's likewise reasonable to want visitors to be present instead of tuned out, but helping someone avoid jail is a good reason to cut a visit short or tune out temporarily.

#167 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2014, 11:18 AM:

Rosa Hughes #164: Wow. Just, wow.

I understand: I understand that what's really going on here is she doesn't think I give her enough attention...

Um, no. You're What's really going on here is that your mother is unable to accept that you are not an extension of her. From the story you tell, your initial "offense" was failing to show sufficient enthusiasm for something she had presented to you. You then compounded it by claiming that anything else (such as keeping a client out of jail, or even making a living) might possibly be more important than her whim of the moment.

Adding in the classic narcissistic-rage campaign, It looks very much to me like your mother has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Unfortunately, that's not curable, basically because the patient sees no reason why they should change, when it's obviously everyone else who's broken.

#168 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2014, 04:25 PM:

Rosa Hughes @164:

I have no words... witnessing...

#169 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2014, 04:50 PM:

If it was genuinely all about supporting Cousin, you wishing him well would have done, or her finding the page to see on her own, or any of several other substitutes.


I did wish him well, and my mother and I talked about it a lot the day before. My mother thought it ridiculous that a man of his age had started a band, and put in on Facebook, and had been scathing about his living with his mother, and not supporting himself.

And she'd told me a few times that she wasn't interested in looking at that Facebook page herself, so I really couldn't see why she was so determined to make me look at it.

With hindsight I can see it was a control issue which had nothing to do with my cousin or his band or his Facebook page. And I didn't play the game, which is why we now have this huge fall-out.

It's likewise reasonable to want visitors to be present instead of tuned out, but helping someone avoid jail is a good reason to cut a visit short or tune out temporarily.

I agree. When we visit we make an effort to chat: but she is only ever interested in listening to me if I tell her personal things, which I won't because she gossips with everyone she meets, and uses the things I tell her to belittle and criticise me with. So our chats are very lopsided, and I know she finds that distressing: but I've learned over the years that I can't trust her to respect my feelings or privacy, and so that's the best that I can do.

For that visit we stayed a few nights; it wasn't as though we ignored her the whole time we were there, or didn't explain to her why we had to work. We were working for two hours, tops. (And yes, we did keep our client out of jail, and yes, I am pleased about that: he was very foolish, but not criminal, in my opinion.)

Adding in the classic narcissistic-rage campaign, It looks very much to me like your mother has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Unfortunately, that's not curable, basically because the patient sees no reason why they should change, when it's obviously everyone else who's broken.

I'm reluctant to play psychologist, but even so I think you're spot-on. She's not been diagnosed, but from all the reading my sister and I have done our mother is typical for NPD. Our father has his own set of traits which mesh very nicely with our mother's probable-NPD: they cover all bases between them, and bring the worst out in each other.

It was confusing and distressing and difficult growing up with them in charge. I just hope I'm not making the same mistakes--or even similar ones--with my children.

#170 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2014, 05:26 PM:

Rosa Hughes @169: formal or not, I agree with your strategy of leaving bad enough alone. Any way that you can safeguard yourself, you should. As for avoiding repeats in the next generation...perhaps the best thing to do is explain to your kids some of the things that grandma and grandpa do (anonymised, perhaps), and ask them, if you or their father ever does this, to please say so? Maybe arrange a signal where everyone has to back down, cool off, and try again later?

#171 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2014, 06:19 PM:

Rosa Hughes: Today's Captain Awkward seems relevant.

#172 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2014, 06:27 PM:

Rosa Hughes @164: Witnessing. Sympathies. And agreement that no, you didn't do anything nasty and cruel. But sympathies for having to deal with this stuff.

#173 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2014, 06:31 PM:

Rosa Huges @164 and 169
I just hope I'm not making the same mistakes--or even similar ones--with my children.
In earlier threads you'd written how you're mindful of boundaries with your child's room and how you left your parents' house when you saw your child become stressed by their behavior- all very cofunctional [symfunctional?].

If it's not hlepy to mention similar discoveries I've gone through-- times when I got photographic evidence of their gaslighting, so so speak -- it'll generally feel good over the next week to have confirmation of how really, truly this is them not you.

However, for me there was/is always an hour or day in the process where I'd have a sudden sense of unfairness that this confirmation and evidence only helps me move forward, it wasn't something I could take back to them or talk back to them. It repairs your road and smooths the journey forward, it likely can't be used to bridge the river between you and them, given that they don't admit there's water. Sympathy in advance if you get that hour.

#174 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2014, 01:24 AM:

It has become clear to me that my previous definition for feeling "grounded" is actually something more akin to feeling "ground down."


Now I get to try to convince my brain that "light-headed and slightly out of control" is actually mixed-up code for "slightly intoxicated with freedom and possibility." And that it does not need to react to this state by immediately doing everything in its power to shut that shit down.

Oh yay, an adventure.

#175 ::: Just Driving By ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2014, 08:03 PM:

I forget which ML thread pointed me to Depression Comix, but seems to describe a large fraction of my experience this year. (Yeah, work rather than school, and haven't hit the end of year performance review that substitutes for the test in the comic, and there's been a lot of other stuff going on, but still.) And of course I found it by reading through most of the Depression Comix tumblr today instead of actually, y'know, working. Or planning vacation. Or other high-pressure tasks.

#176 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2014, 10:07 PM:

KayTei: Oh wow. Trying to re-write your reactions will be an adventure. Just remember that when you go cliff-jumping, the trick is not to pause long enough to have second thoughts, because that's when you stumble and stumbling is a bad thing.

Rosa: Just confirming that is messed up. Witnessing.

#177 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2014, 11:23 PM:

B. Durbin @ 176

Ha, not planning, from the woman "even [whose] spontaneity is planned." I am not entirely sure my brain is even physically capable of pulling a Miles Vorkosigan, but I will sleep on it. Probably, I will have to wait until the concussion stops slowing me down to really implement any approach like that. I am, with ill grace, suffering a long-delayed lesson in pacing myself, at the moment.

#178 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 02:22 AM:

@KayTei: Oh hell yes. Assorted Stuff makes just going to bed extremely difficult for me. I experience vigorous, clearheaded, and energetic days so rarely that my brain views them as abnormal and I reflexively sabotage myself!

Recently I have been attempting to acquire a new habit of self-care, getting to bed by X hour every night. Theoretically if I get to bed by that time and fall asleep at my usual rate, I will wake up with plenty of time to Get Stuff Done in the morning. This is actually an observable fact. It's also an observable fact that I will feel a compulsion to stay up until fuck-this-what-the-hell-do-I-think-I'm-even-doing-o'clock for at least one night after that super-productive day. Then I have to slowly crank my schedule backward to where I am going to bed at the proper time again. I'm in the crank-back phase now, getting to bed 60-90 minutes late instead of 3-4 hours late.

Just now I get one reasonable bedtime about every two weeks. It used to be one every month; I'm getting better.

I've been running on near-perpetual sleep debt since high school. It's the background radiation of my life; I don't recall even considering it worth mentioning to a doctor--ever!

#179 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 11:42 AM:

J.: compulsion to stay up until fuck-this-what-the-hell-do-I-think-I'm-even-doing-o'clock

Story of my freakin' life. What is up with that?? My nominal getting-up time is 8am. Monday and Tuesday nights, I was in bed by 1:30. Last night it was 3:30. I'm feeling a trifle fried, right now. (I too-often compensate by sleeping all weekend.)

I've mentioned it to my doctor, but she's no help: none of the sleeping advice I've found (and I've researched it a lot) addresses this issue.

#180 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 12:28 PM:

Jacque and J., with respect to disruptions in the sleep-wake cycle: (and ignore if hlepy) a lot of sleep is hormonally-regulated. Women going through menopause, as I am, can get mild to moderate disruptions where sleep just fails to happen. In those situations, I find it useful to give up even trying -- and recognizing that this is happening is half the battle, because the sooner I stop trying to sleep, the sooner I can do something else. What I do that works for me is to get out of bed, and go do something else. Cleaning. Laundry. Playing with kittens. Playing computer games with the room lights on (that is, not sitting in a dark room with only the glow of the computer or kindle bathing my face with blue light). Having a cup of tea, maybe a piece of toast. Something mild, non-stressful, useful even, so I can get a small glow of accomplishment. Then, when I start to feel sleepy again, I go back to bed. There are nights when this works the first time, and then there are nights when I only fall asleep an hour before I need to get up. In those times, I only roll my eyes at my body's intransigence, sleep for an hour, and get up at the usual time. It's important for me to keep the waking time about the same every day; not so much the bedtime, and to keep the bedtime rituals as routine as possible.

#181 ::: Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 01:51 PM:

Ginger, that's good advice for people who can't fall asleep, and I have used it. But my usual problem, and I think the one being referenced, is refusing to go to sleep. I do it, too. In my case it often causes migraines and loss of work days. Not good.

#182 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 02:35 PM:

@jonesnori no. 181: Exactly. For assorted Reasons caused by Stuff, the act of lying down and closing my eyes is often extremely difficult. I know I am not in any danger, but refusing sleep is a deep-seated reflex.

#183 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 02:44 PM:

Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori: refusing to go to  sleep  bed, in my case. Getting to sleep is generally only an issue in the aftermath of coffee Häagen Dazs.

#184 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 03:42 PM:

Jacque, I'm trying to understand. Is it the bed specifically that's a problem? Can you fool yourself into sleeping on a couch or futon or other non-bed? (Obviously, ignore if hlepy or if I've completely misunderstood the nature of the problem...)

#185 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 04:15 PM:

No, the bed isn't the issue; I can sleep on damn near anything, given motivation.

No, it's going to bed. E.g., stopping [artwork/TV/reading/pig snuggling/&c], getting up, performing ablutions, and going to bed.

#186 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 04:17 PM:

Jacque @185, ah; yes, I understand now. I wish I had a suggestion for you. Witnessing.

#187 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 04:27 PM:

Cassy: I do too. :-)

#188 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 04:29 PM:

In re: staying up until fuck-this-what-the-hell-do-I-think-I'm-even-doing-o'clock, does anyone know of a service that allows you to set "dead" times when you are unable to access the Internet on your computer? I think it would help me immensely, as my self-control tends to erode rapidly every time I think I've gotten my web-surfing habits back under control.

I've tried to find something like this, but the results I've found basically allow you to set a "dead" time from right then until X minutes later. If I could GTFO the computer at the time I intend to, I wouldn't need an app!

#189 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 04:43 PM:

The_L at 188: I know of a few options that sound like what you're looking for. Leechblock (for Firefox) and StayFocusd (for Chrome) and Waste No Time (for Safari) are all browser plugins that will allow you to block browser access to the internet for specific times/sites. My Amazing Girlfriend has used them to force herself to write, rather than browsing the internet.

#190 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 04:48 PM:

The_L, #188: My partner has de-installed all games on his computer because he found that he spent too much time playing games instead of working when he had them available. This is an incomplete fix, because it means that if I'm not sitting at my computer, he's likely to sit down and start playing games there instead!

#191 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 04:57 PM:

The_L: I've had good luck with Leechblock/Nanny (windows, looks like "Freedom" is the equivalent for Mac). You have to set it up in both browsers (or in however many you have) so you can't just switch browsers. With LB you can give yourself either/both of "so many minutes in this block of time" or "not at all in this block of time." The latter is what you're looking for.

On sleep- a hlepy discovery I had (hlepy because it requires access to a certain type of doctor) was that possessing a functional sleeping med was sometimes just as good as using it. My doctor who didn't like writing a months' prescription* was ok with writing one for just a few of them. For me knowing that I could take one removed the need to take one, for if I got meta-insomnia.

* fear of tolerance/addiction, I think, which most prescriptions in this family (other than perhaps trazadone) can cause, or it's believed they can cause.

#192 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 05:32 PM:

Jacque @179: You already know about the itty-bitty helper of changing the color temperature on your computer, right?

A program like f.lux (on everything except Android) or Twilight (on Android) will shift all the colors on your screen from blueish to amberish whenever sunset hits. Blue-toned light reminds your brain that it's supposed to be awake, so reducing exposure to it means that you won't be fighting sleep quite as hard.

Honestly, I think everyone should use those programs. Even if you don't have problems getting to sleep, the warmer colors are less likely to give you headaches or eyestrain in the dark.

#193 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 05:41 PM:

Jacque @187, actually, I just thought of something that helps me get my butt up to bed when I'm perseverating; don't know if it'd work for you or not.

The light next to the chair I habitually sit in is set on a light timer; it goes on and off at the same time every day. (The light is visible from the street; this was originally set up as a sort of security measure for when we're out of town at a convention or something.) When the light turns off, it's almost an hour past my bedtime; it serves as a pretty big reminder that I should go to bed NOW. And it's something of a pain to reach the timer to bypass the "off" setting, so it's just easier to go to bed....

#194 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 06:48 PM:

The_L: I'm not absolutely sure, but I think Mac has a native feature that fits that definition. Probably under "Control Panel" under "Parental Controls", or something like that. It would surprise me a great deal if the later Windows versions don't have something similar, accessed similarly. (Yes, I've tried that one, too. Lasted about 30 seconds.)

variations on a lime @191: possessing a functional sleeping med was sometimes just as good as using it.

I keep Benedryl on hand, primarily for this reason, for if I really need to club myself over the head. (Downside: I'm usually drowsy through the following day, too.) Also: catnip, for tea.

Actually, I am reminded of one spot of progress on this front. I have at least (for the moment) gotten out of the habit of pounding myself to dust on the weekends to the extent that I need three [OTC painkiller] PLUS a [quasi-narcotic painkiller]* to un-hurt enough to get to sleep on Sunday nights. I so don't miss that.

* Downside of a high pain tolerance: by the time muscle and joint aches are bad enough to notice, they take the above cocktail to knock down.

shadowsong @192: f.lux is primarily aimed at turning your brain down to ease getting to sleep once you go to bed. I tried using it as a time-check, and it just annoyed me.

Blue-toned light reminds your brain that it's supposed to be awake

Well, here we get into the differences between night-owls and morning-larks. AIUI, the latter key off of time plus light level/color. The former key off of one of those (I forget which) plus activity, and it takes very little activity to override the other cue. For me, personally, if I've got an interesting project in front of me (or if I walk past one), I can go until I'm "done."

The irony is that I love sleeping. Once I start, it can be as hard to stop as any other interesting project.

Cassy B. @193: light timer

Tried that one, too. See above about parental controls and f.lux.

Basically, my inability to let go of a project to get to bed on time is so intransigent that I suspect some variant of OCD, except that it's less a fear-based obsession than a fascination-based one. If that makes any sense.

I just want to pursue that next idea, or see what happens next. "Just one more." It's closely linked to the Flow state (to which I will readily concede I am addicted). I also suspect a positive feedback loop; I suspect it's generally worse when I'm lower on spoons.

One would think that things which interrupt me would be effective cues to shift gears, but the annoyance makes it less likely I'll stop and go to bed.

I'm curious how this compares to J. & Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori's experience.

#195 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 08:32 PM:

Jacque @194:
I'm not absolutely sure, but I think Mac has a native feature that fits that definition. Probably under "Control Panel" under "Parental Controls", or something like that.

Parental Controls has the "Bedtime" option, which prevents access to the computer during specified hours. It has limited options (limits can be set separately for "school nights" and "weekends", but not specific days), is all-or-nothing (can't just limit internet access), and can't be applied to admin accounts.

#196 ::: Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2014, 10:59 PM:

Jacque, I will stay up late when working on a project, too, or when reading an interesting book, but I will also stay up late with much less excuse. It's a resistance thing. Or procrastination. I think I don't like the idle time period involved in going to sleep. Something about stopping mental activity makes me anxious. And I have the same unwillingness to get up that you have. And once I am up, I dont want to stop playing with my phone, or whatever, long enough to go to work.


#197 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2014, 12:58 AM:

Lenore@ 196

I found that I was avoiding mental downtime as a leftover defensive mechanism from back when my depression was under poor control. Better to be fully occupied every second than to have time to listen to my brain telling me what a terrible person I was (or worse). One of my ongoing projects, when I can remember it, is trying to break some of those habits, because those times are also when I have some really cool thoughts if I can just make myself let my brain wander...

#198 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2014, 02:58 AM:

I've found hypnotherapy and CBT very helpful in improving my sleep habits, and in making me more likely to put the book/computer down and go to bed. I now do the whole tooth-brushing/putting on PJs thing an hour at least before I'm likely to feel sleepy so that it happens before I reach that desperate stage, and going to bed involves just that: going to bed, which is one of the things CBT helped with. But it still takes a while for me to actually get to sleep, and the hypnotherapy is really useful there. It's given me techniques to use to go to sleep without anxiety, which is great. And the CBT has helped me stop that endless dwelling on stuff, and overthinking, and trying to work out how I could FIX everything, which has also proved to be really helpful for me.

These things might not help you, but they have really helped me. And they're relatively quick, too, which is really good.

Thanks to Jacque for the direction to Captain Awkward, by the way. I've been doing a LOT of reading there over the past couple of days and I have light-bulbs going off all over the place. It's good stuff.

#199 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2014, 08:31 AM:

Rosa Hughes @198: "And the CBT has helped me stop that endless dwelling on stuff, and overthinking." Now this I could really do with. Any pointers?

#200 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2014, 08:53 AM:

Rosa Hughes @198: Yes, care to elaborate?

#201 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2014, 10:28 AM:

I'm on Windows 8. Worried that LeechBlock won't be as effective for me--when I run out of social-networking sites, I start reading blogs. When I run out of blogs, I start looking at pictures of dolls. I'm a hardcore Internet junkie. :(

I need something that blocks the entire Internet. It doesn't have to be free.

#202 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2014, 10:35 AM:

Further info: Windows 8's parental controls won't work. My admin account is the only one. Looks like I'll have to buy a program from a 3rd party. Anyone have any luck with paid programs?

#203 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2014, 11:11 AM:

#201, The_L: Have you looked into whether your router can block or allow based on time of day? Mine can, though I've never set it up to do so.

#204 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2014, 12:48 PM:

I'm not qualified as a CBT counsellor so am reluctant to offer help: but after just one session (one session! really! it was brilliant!) with my lovely counsellor, and a couple of worksheets she asked me to fill in, I've just about stopped that awful looping "if I just say this then they might listen, and then they/he/she will realise, and, and, and..." thing that I am prone to doing.

It was really obvious and simple, and EASY. I've got this through the NHS in the UK, by asking my GP to refer me: it's worth trying to get it if you can.

The basic principle is that through a few simple exercises (worksheets, that sort of thing) you work out what this pattern of thought gets you (nothing), how effective it is (not at all), and how it makes you feel (awful!) and then you work out what would be more effective (not doing it!) and bingo. You're there.

I'm very surprised by how quick and easy it was. I'll see if I can find any books or resources to share but really, you need someone qualified to work with. CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) has been shown to be both quick and very effective, so if you do end up having to pay for it, it shouldn't end up costing a horrible amount.

#205 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2014, 03:41 PM:

Regarding "actually getting up and going to bed": I always describe it as having a high activation energy requirement. (Activation energy is a chemistry term, referring to the amount of energy that must be input into a system to catalyze a chemical reaction.) I'm usually pretty good at continuing whatever I'm doing, but changing state requires additional energy that I don't always have.

#206 ::: Inquisitive Raven ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2014, 04:01 PM:
Basically, my inability to let go of a project to get to bed on time is so intransigent that I suspect some variant of OCD, except that it's less a fear-based obsession than a fascination-based one. If that makes any sense.

How about ADD/ADHD? Hyperfocus is the flip side of the better known distractibility. The distractibility means that the project gets your attention; the hyperfocus keeps you from pulling away when you should. Don't know if it applies to you, but ADD is known to be frequently co-morbid with Aspergers.

#207 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2014, 05:10 PM:

Rosa Hughes @204: My GP has referred me and recommended CBT. I now have to wait for my assessment and see what I actually get...

#208 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2014, 09:44 PM:

@Rosa Hughes: Yes, a good therapist can use CBT to show you something that you might think was as plain as the nose on your face in retrospect--except that you can't actually see your own nose very well at all; CBT is somebody holding up a mirror for you. Or that's how my therapist explained it.

#209 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2014, 06:29 AM:

Shadowsong at #205 wrote,

I'm usually pretty good at continuing whatever I'm doing, but changing state requires additional energy that I don't always have.

Me too. It took me ages to work that out, and even longer to work out that going to bed was problematical for me, and so I had to do the hard work of it well in advance so that when I was too tired, I didn't just avoid it.

Brushing my teeth etc before I'm actually tired has made going to bed significantly easier for me. And I'm working on breaking the "just one more page" cycle too. I'll get there, I hope.

dcb at #207: good luck. I hope your CBT happens soon, and goes well.

J. at #208:

Yes, a good therapist can use CBT to show you something that you might think was as plain as the nose on your face in retrospect--except that you can't actually see your own nose very well at all; CBT is somebody holding up a mirror for you. Or that's how my therapist explained it.

Exactly. It is SO obvious and simple now I've gone through the process; but without my CBT counsellor even though I could see it, I didn't believe it fully. Even though I'd read about useful patterns of thought and so on on my own.

Sometimes we need that external validation to bolster our own understanding or trust or belief. Especially when our understanding is tenuous, or has been undermined by the behaviours of those around us.

On Facebook the other day, a friend commented about the Honey Boo Boo family revelation that one of the mothers on the show (I don't watch it, I don't know who) had been dating a man who abused one of her daughters. My friend said, "When your child is abused, you leave that person far behind". It's obvious, isn't it? It's what I'd thought was reasonable; and yet for years my mother not only flirted with my abuser and complimented him, she ridiculed me for disliking him, and for hoping she would behave differently.

Seeing my friend say, indirectly, how inappropriate that was of her gave me a jolt of recognition. I recognised how very awful my mother's behaviour was, and that good people would agree with me there. And that made me feel somewhat better.

My friend was witnessing for me and didn't--doesn't--even realise it. Which underlined for me how important it is for us to witness and where possible challenge these things, and not let bad behaviour simply slip by.

Phew. I've gone on a bit there. I hope I've not rambled too much. I am aware that my thought processes are a little cloudy today (fibromyalgia is not a good thing), so please forgive me if I wasn't clear.

#210 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2014, 12:59 PM:

Further to the sleep discussion:

I have a hard time getting to bed at a time that will let me get enough sleep for the next day. Like others here, it's not a case of insomnia. When I do lay my head down, I usually go to sleep right away.

I know where it comes from, too. From my early teens through my late twenties, staying up late was a coping mechanism and a power play. I lived in a tiny little apartment with my parents, and they usually went to bed by midnight.

Staying up late meant I had a solid two-hour space in which to do whatever I wanted without fear of interruption. They couldn't tell me what to do, require my help, or get nosy, so those were my hours for fandom, really interesting reading, art, writing, and I'm sure I don't have to paint you a picture of all the things a teenager wants to do when given some privacy.

It also gave me a sense of self--"Don't tell ME what to do!" is a very rewarding thing to say, however you say it. There was always a power struggle, between me and my parents. They wanted to make me go to sleep at the same time they did, and so they'd order me to bed, they'd ask me nicely to go to bed, they'd complain and whine and rant about my bad habits and set arbitrary early times for me to get up in the morning in order to force me to get to sleep early. It never worked. They couldn't enforce it, because they weren't fascist enough to, like, lock me in my bedroom and cut off the electricity at bedtime, which is what it would have taken to make me go to sleep when they wanted me asleep. And so they failed and I won, and it was a good feeling for me there as well.

Now I'm an adult, living on my own, and just starting a job that has me up at 7:00 most mornings. And it's damn hard to make myself get to sleep by midnight or even one a.m. This habit is hard to break. For many years, it was a functional habit: I got things I needed and wanted by staying up late. Now it's a harmful habit, and I'm working on breaking it. I'm not having a lot of success. To be honest, it's been a problem for the last few years, whenever I've been working a job with regular morning hours, but it's particularly noticeable as a problem now.

The CBT approaches described here would not work for me at all. In fact, I think they'd make my habits worse and make me resentful. I mean no offense to anyone here who is being helped by CBT--more power to you. But the procedure would not help me. Having to make a list of the dysfunctional things I did and they ways in which I (fail to benefit) from them? It's just gonna make me mad. It sounds to me like being forced to write letters of apology or being scolded for being a bad girl. I know that this thing I do is dysfunctional--I figured out that it makes me feel terrible and that I should no longer do it. I do not need my nose rubbed in how much my behavior is wrong.

Sigh. Sorry to go off on you all. I am more apt than other people to be angry when I see something as insulting my intelligence.

But the fact remains that I have a problem, I can see pretty clearly how I got the problem, and I don't have a good idea yet of how to fix it. The methods described so far are anathema to me, but I appreciate this about them: they seem like efforts to talk/think your way around the problem.

My inner angry self just gets resentful around this whole discussion and I feel it saying, "YEAH? Well, I'm gonna stay up even LATER tonight and YOU CAN'T STOP ME!" That is the inner self that I have to make a deal with; I have to find a way to make things OK for my angry inner self so that she gets what she wants out of my life too.

There was this awesome video that Jacque linked to, about seven or eight months ago, with a man talking about the nature of resentment and personal need for control as it related to being chronically late. I'm in a cafe so I can't search videos at the moment, but I really liked that one, and it's useful to my problem now.

The gist of it was that people form habits of chronic lateness, because childhood involves parents pushing down onto their kids trying to make them obey--even in the gentlest homes, a kid is an unpaid employee/slave in some respects--and the kid responds by fighting for SOME control over their own life by resisting the orders. "Take out the trash!" "Yeah, I'll do it in a bit!" (an hour passes) "I SAID take out the DAMN TRASH you LAZY CHILD!" "I SAID I'd do it in a bit!"

The guy in the video was refreshingly humane. He acknowledged that it's reasonable and healthy that children resist orders, because it gives them a sense of personhood and self-respect. Yes, it certainly always did for me.

He didn't have a lot of solutions to the problem of carrying these habits into adulthood. His best idea was to say to yourself, "Look, I don't HAVE to do anything at all if I don't want to!" and then examine the consequences if you did vs. if you didn't do the thing. (E.g. you don't HAVE to go to the dentist ever again if you don't want to, and also this might leave you with bad teeth and horrible pain.)

Which all sounds kinda like the CBT thing of making a list of bad consequences, but the difference here is important to me. He's pointing out to the audience "We're adults now, we're powerful, we could resist anything anytime we wanted to, but we do the difficult thing anyway because there will be good consequences if we do." The only thing that really seems to help me change my habits is having my power and autonomy acknowledged and finding ways to solve my problems that have a positive incentive (good thing will happen if I do this) rather than a negative incentive (bad things will be avoided if I do this).

#211 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2014, 03:49 PM:

Little John, ignore this if not helpful, but maybe it would help to put in some time appreciating how much privacy and control you have in your own place. You don't have to wait for midnight to not be interrupted.

#212 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2014, 04:46 PM:

@Little John: Ignore if hlepy please. I have to do the nighttime parenting because economics, so I can't try this in my own life, so I have no idea if it would really empower.

Can you, with your own obligations, say (even if just to yourself), "For the last 2 hours before bedtime, I am not talking to anybody except on my own terms?" Turn off all ways to contact you, leave posts at your favorite sites and then go "Waahaaaa!" and skate on outta there if you don't have the spoons for a follow-up conversation just yet, and basically decide that you will not accept an obligation to talk to anybody unless they are at your doorstep bleeding and on fire? Maybe identify a set of clothes as your "No, I am not even opening the door" clothes and put them on when you start your 2 hours of You Time? I do something similar when I'm ill, to remind me that I am taking care of myself first. One of my relatives has Go Away Tea, that is, a giant mug of her favorite herbal tea which she prepares and sips slowly, and while she is sipping it, everybody and everything can just go away.

My husband does Thbbbt, You Dishes. See dishes, hate doing dishes with a purple passion, fill sink with hot soapy water, put dishes in sink, walk out of kitchen, do them tomorrow, watch movie instead.

#213 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2014, 08:28 PM:

Rosa Hughes, #209: Surviving parent recently claimed to never have forgiven molesting parent for molesting me, and says that it "colored" the rest of the relationship. Well [and I believe I said as much] you could have @#$%^&! fooled me. It just got swept under the rug. And they were always all over each other in front of whoever. When I was young, anyway. They stayed together until the offender died--which was a big relief for all, said offender being an irascible tyrant in old age. I don't know how much of a factor were the economic benefits of staying together, but those might have been obtainable after separation.
What is it about lust that makes some people's brains fall out? I decided long ago that if I ever did anything sexual, I'd make darn sure no innocent bystanders were harmed.

#214 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2014, 03:36 AM:

At #210 Little John wrote,

The CBT approaches described here would not work for me at all. In fact, I think they'd make my habits worse and make me resentful. I mean no offense to anyone here who is being helped by CBT--more power to you. But the procedure would not help me. Having to make a list of the dysfunctional things I did and they ways in which I (fail to benefit) from them? It's just gonna make me mad. It sounds to me like being forced to write letters of apology or being scolded for being a bad girl. I know that this thing I do is dysfunctional--I figured out that it makes me feel terrible and that I should no longer do it. I do not need my nose rubbed in how much my behavior is wrong.

I think I probably described CBT badly: I've not found it to be anything like as punitive and scoldy as you describe, but I can see how I've made it sound that way in my previous descriptions. Sorry for that. It's been subtle and gentle and supportive and encouraging, which has surprised me: I expected it to be harder work, and far more uncomfortable than it has been. And there's no list-making involved: just recognition, and acknowledgement, and working out ways to move on in ways that have made me actually do it, instead of just thinking about it and then not bothering.

However, it's not for everyone and it might not be for you.

Angiportus at #213: I know lots of people who manage to retain control of their Reasonable Factor while in the throes of lust. It's just great how they do it. All that self control! All that respect they show for others! Functional relationships! I look at people with families like that and it's like looking at a foreign land. One in a really good book which I want to read over and over again.

#215 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2014, 06:32 AM:

Something to contribute to the "sleep" discussion…

It took me a good 18 years to even sort of be in the habit of brushing my teeth nightly. I attribute this largely to my mother repeatedly seeming to expect and/or demand that I go from brushing them maybe once a month to brushing them morning-and-night-like-clockwork instantaneously, and my absolute unwillingness to give in to any of her demands that I change myself for her comfort or convenience.

I seem to have not lost this resistance to doing things that I "should" do, even if the person saying I "should" is myself. Also have a resistance to forming routine habits. This was, I think, a way to declare my autonomy in the face of dysfunctionality, but is now actively harming my autonomy and ability to live the life I want to be living.

I don't necessarily get noticeably stubborn about the idea of getting off the computer or going to bed or cleaning my room or what have you; I simply fail to do that thing. Sometimes I fail spectacularly: I stayed up until six AM the other day reading a fanfic, and consequently slept through my alarm until two hours after I was supposed to be at work - thank goodness I was working half days last week and they weren't too fussed about exactly when I showed up.

Sometimes failing to go offline makes me feel desperately unable, a slave to the compulsion to finish reading my feed. This feeling does not make it any easier to go offline, mind you.

My total inability to deliberately form positive daily habits and routines is, I think, a very subtle form of self-sabotage. I have, however, gotten a lot of mileage out of "some Thing is better than no Thing!"

#216 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2014, 10:49 AM:

Re: CBT and self help and stuff. One of the things I've prepared for if I do get referred is a "this approach is doomed to failure, please don't try it with me" list. Two things on the list to give to the therapist. (1) Don't start with a "you can choose to be happier!" approach - because this reads to me as blaming the person who is unhappy for being unhappy - they have evidently chosen to be unhappy and could have simply chosen to be happy at any time!* (2) Don't use a "standing up to the bully" metaphor. I saw one of these on a self-help CBT course. It suggested that learning not to give in to the internal negative thoughts was similar to learning to be assertive towards or simply ignore bullies in the school playground - it would stop the bullying (or at least stop the bully from choosing -you- to bully). Yeah, right. Not. That poor example throws me right out of the whole self-help course and makes me wonder what else they got wrong.

* To me, this is very different from saying "You can learn to change your reactions", which -is- helpful, if combined with assistance to do so.

#217 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2014, 01:49 PM:

dcb, #216: I agree with you that "you can choose to be happier" is victim-blaming -- it pings the same reaction for me as telling someone with clinical depression to "just snap out of it".

I think what makes the "you can learn to change your reactions" formulation better is that it acknowledges that you can't make those changes yet, because you don't know how.

The first formulation assumes both innate ability and willful choice on the part of the person being addressed. The second one assumes lack of a learnable skill, which can be corrected and isn't their fault.

#218 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2014, 04:44 PM:

Lee @217: Exactly. I've noted similar victim-blaming forms of words repeatedly in publications (printed and online) on self-esteem and assertiveness as well as on depression. SO not-helpful.

#219 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2014, 05:23 PM:

Little John @ 210:

The stuff you're talking about reminds me a lot of the Fat Nutritionist's essay Eat Food. Stuff you like. As much as you want. I don't know if it has any useful advice on how to move forward, but it is totally valid that first you need to establish an understanding that you are free before you can start choosing "good" habits.

#220 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2014, 05:33 PM:

There are other shapes of CBT. I did a little last spring, and one of the techniques I came away with was to displace the stressful or unreasonably self-critical thought.

Example: I waited for a few minutes at the wrong bus stop (northbound instead of southbound). I caught the error, went to the correct stop, and started to blame myself for not having known immediately which bus stop I needed. I replaced that with "I have plenty of time" (and I did get to my appointment on time).

My therapist didn't tell me that I was being foolish or self-destructive to worry. She pointed out that once I had solved that sort of problem (as I had), I didn't need to dwell on having gotten into it. I could think about other things, remind myself that it was solved, or even give myself credit for having spotted it and fixed it without help.

(I am nothing like an expert on CBT, but thought I would offer this example.)

#221 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2014, 10:04 PM:

In regards to sleep, I've seen a couple of articles lately that talk about a different sleep pattern (prior to artificial light) where people would have two sleep blocks with a period of wakefulness in between (which would explain some old stories that always puzzled me, where someone is walking home in the dark at Midsummer, for instance.) Would it be useful to anyone to have a nap after getting home, and then treating the rest of the day as you've been doing? You'd still have the late-night time that registers as productive/private, but you'd maybe get more rest.

NB: This is a totally wild idea inspired by memories of getting up in the middle of the night to finish homework in seventh grade (due to brain-fry at bedtime.) So no problem if you think it sounds weird and unworkable.

#222 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2014, 11:25 PM:

@B. Durbin: Yes! If you want the pre-electricity sleep pattern to kick in, though, you have to really reduce the amount of light you get in the last few hours before bedtime. In particular, no screens. :/

#223 ::: bartle ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2014, 02:28 AM:

I've also been reading Making Light (and these threads) for a long time, but this is my first comment. Whenever I read DF threads I'm always torn between "that sounds like my family" and "you are doing the family dynamics version of hypochondria". I don't know how to choose between the two. I'm glad these threads exist.

#224 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2014, 07:32 AM:

bartle @223, welcome.

Re the family dynamics version of hypochondria - David Harmon said, way back in one of the earlier DFD threads, "In a healthy environment, most people don’t need to convince themselves they’re not being abused." Or that their family is not dysfunctional.

So I would say, if something here sounds like your family, don't try to convince yourself otherwise. IMO dysfunctionality is something of a continuum. Some dynamics that get discussed here are absolutely toxic in any amount at all. But others might be the weak spot of a mixed bag, or a quirk in a family that is otherwise pretty functional. Ask yourself what it means to you that you recognize your family here - is it an interaction pattern you'd like to change, or an explanation for something that puzzled you, or what?

#225 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2014, 08:32 AM:

OtterB #224: Dysfunctionality is certainly a continuum, and there are echoes across different levels. It's often helpful to see examples from more, or less, extreme situations than your own.

My own Mom is often overbearing, but she does respond to input once I stand up to her. Actually standing up to her is difficult for me because of my own issues, but I learned how largely by listening to the stories of how people here were dealing with much more aggressive dominators, and more subtle ones. And the perspective helps me put up with Mom's "little ways"....

And on the flip side... reading here, I can see this and other problems with my family, but I can also see that despite its faults, my own family is fundamentally healthy, a place where Mom and everyone else "have my back" on a basic level. Even if I occasionally have to explain "I'm facing this way!" ;-) And I can be grateful for that, because not everyone's so lucky.

#226 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2014, 01:20 PM:

OtterB, #223: IIRC, the exact format of David's statement was, "If you keep having to tell yourself it's not that bad... it IS that bad." And what you said is the reason that's true.

A lot of people are carefully trained (either by their families or by society, sometimes both) to ignore the gut instincts which tell them, "something here isn't right". Sometimes the results are nasty and/or tragic.

One of the purposes of these threads is to allow people to recognize, in other people's stories, patterns that resonate with their own lives. You can't answer a question that you don't know how to ask, or that you don't realize should be asked.

#227 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2014, 01:39 PM:

shadowsong @205: I always describe it as having a high activation energy requirement. ... I'm usually pretty good at continuing whatever I'm doing, but changing state requires additional energy that I don't always have.

Yes!! That's it! That's it exactly!!

Rosa Hughes @209: It is SO obvious and simple now I've gone through the process

If you can, would you be willing to describe your Before and After states?

Little John @210: From my early teens through my late twenties, staying up late was a coping mechanism and a power play.

Oh, so this. During the day, my mom was always around. Late at night, I could relax and be who I was, and not have to worry about her trying to "fix" me.

They wanted to make me go to sleep at the same time they did

Mercifully, I didn't have this struggle, but in your case, this sounds like a consent issue. Telling you how to manage your own body. Defying them was, IMnpHO, an entirely appropriate response.

This habit is hard to break.

Compounding the problem for me is that it's also an issue of identity. In addition to a strong physiological tendency, it's also about who I am. Which means that my boss's insistence on my being in early triggers all those old conflicts with my mom.

video that Jacque linked to

"Demand resistance" is the search term. Is this video the one you're thinking of?

Merricat @219: it is totally valid that first you need to establish an understanding that you are free before you can start choosing "good" habits.

It wasn't until I'd established to my own satisfaction that I was free to be angry, and had the capability of doing so, that I was able to let go of that and start working on taking a happier approach to life.

I, uh—hm. ::holds this template up against the going-to-bed thing:: Hm.

B. Durbin @221: Would it be useful to anyone to have a nap after getting home, and then treating the rest of the day as you've been doing?

I actually gave this a try, remembering back to high school when I'd sleep after school and then stay up late, referenced above. Didn't take; I think if I had a six hour day, it might work, but the eight hour workday seems to leave too little margin for this to be effective.

everyone: huge thanks to everyone who's chiming in; not only is hearing other perspectives helping me unpack my issue, but it also helps me feel so much less alone.

#228 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2014, 05:45 PM:

Lee 226: My original comment.

Which reminds me that my history here is somewhat erratically split among at least two E-mail addresses: The one this comment is attached to is my current "preferred address", which I apparently used occasionally in 2011 and 2012 before switching over somewhat erratically the course of 2013. That linked message is attached to my older address, which has several years more history (5000 comments back to 2007, my how time flies). I switched over a while ago; seeing a few recent comments in that VAB, I infer that I may need to smack the autofill for one of my iThings.

I'm wondering if it would be worthwhile for the gnomes to tidy up the outliers, or if it's best to try and root out the old autofills and leave it as is.

#229 ::: bartle ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2014, 09:03 PM:


I don't think it's possible to change. My parents are divorced now and don't speak. I don't see anything productive coming from, e.g. trying to get my dad to apologize for all the times he called me fat in front of my family/friends. I doubt he sees anything wrong with it and anyway it wouldn't change the fact that it happened. Maybe I am after an explanation, I'm not sure.

It's a strange coincidence you used that example. I was trying to think of examples in response to OtterB's post and then I read yours, and I thought about a lot of times where I was having problems with landlords or something and my mom would spend an hour shouting at me in the car about "why won't you stand up for yourself!!!". I thought that my parents "had my back" but there are a lot of things I feel just aren't worth trying to talk to them about or go to them for support with.

#230 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2014, 09:49 PM:

#229, bartle: my mom would spend an hour shouting at me in the car about "why won't you stand up for yourself!!!"

That doesn't sound like somebody who has your back. That sounds like somebody who teaches you to cower then wonders why you cower.

So, today I was prompted to find out if LinkedIn allows you to block users. (It does, in case anybody else was interested.) Why? Crappy Ex showed up in my "people who looked at your profile" notification list. Fortunately I didn't panic like the last time I saw his name; him looking at my LI profile (why would he do that? he hasn't done that before) doesn't immediately hint that he might show up some place that I enjoy.

I'm debating leaving it unless he tries to contact me (and seeing his name every time I get a notification until it scrolls off the list, which will be a long time) or just blocking him now. If I do the latter and he checks again, he'll know I've blocked him. I have no idea if that will prompt him to try to contact me, or not. Hoping not.

#231 ::: Inquisitive Raven ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2014, 11:59 PM:

The Invisible One: If you're concerned about Crappy Ex getting stalkery, I'd recommend a) archiving the email notification if you got one, and b) getting a screencap of the notification list on LinkIn's website before taking any other action. Basically, document, document, document, and when you've done that, document some more in case you ever need to go to the cops about it.

#232 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2014, 12:17 AM:

Re sleep, especially for Little John @210 and Jacque @227:

I have related difficulties -- persistent if a bit less dramatic. I am the first to admit that I got night owl genes. My father, sister, and maternal aunt and I will all, left to ourselves, fall into a stable rhythm of waking late morning/noonish and winding down around midnight to the wee hours. I also work better when my surroundings are peaceful and quiet, so that I can choose my own soundtrack, if any. I get a *lot* done in the 2-3 hours between when half the office has gone home and when I do. Evenings and nights at home can be even better quiet alone time. I often get into a really productive state between 9-11pm. I'll finally be feeling *good*, often for the first time that day. Then I have to abruptly shut it down to go to bed to go to work or school. Without that constraint, I'd have another several hours of deep productive flow. I like flow and accomplishment very much. No wonder I get pissed off at myself for denying it to myself. Jacque, I bet you have a similar dilemma.

Mornings? Most mornings are bleah. Bad mornings are like swimming through molasses, often with a headache, and everything takes 3-4x longer than it will in 3 hours. The earlier you get me up, the thicker and longer-lasting the molasses. I do *have* other issues with sleep/wake patterns, but the foundation is that mornings honestly do suck. Surely it's a legitimate, rational question to ask, what am *I* going to get out of all this extra morninging you want out of me, that justifies the effort and lost pleasure? Is there some other arrangement we could make that gets you what you want, with less morning? My current bosses have partly acclimated: they often hand me a task early enough that I can review a draft with them before they leave, then send them a final copy as I wrap up, and they review or send it out at ungodly-o'clock the next morning.

Sleep patterns, for me, are linked up with issues of control, and of appearance versus reality. I don't like being told what to do -- with good reason -- and I like it even less when it is for the sake of appearances rather than realities. The more anyone, especially bosses and people I live with, try to interfere with my sleep patterns in such ways, the more difficult I will get…including my body versus my brain. The reality is that so long as I have sufficient overlap with colleagues and suppliers, my keeping later hours and having a quiet workspace makes me happy and productive, which should make bosses happy. Bosses pressuring me to come in earlier for looks/their hangups is all about them and appearances, at the cost of realities. Slashing my most productive time at the office and putting me at war with my body is all bad for everyone.

Working with the grain of my sleep patterns is much more productive. It really helps when I pack my lunch and bag and pick my clothes the night before, or have help putting together breakfast. (What takes me 30-60 minutes, a morning person can do in 5-15.) I have trouble instituting these running-on-rails kinds of habits, though, and *that's* where analyzing the cause of the resistance would be useful.

#233 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2014, 12:44 AM:

#231, Inquisitive Raven: I am not at this time worried about him being stalkery. But I will be watching.

#234 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2014, 12:55 AM:

Bodhisvaha @232: No wonder I get pissed off at myself for denying it to myself. Jacque, I bet you have a similar dilemma.

Virtually none of this nonsense would be an issue if I didn't have to be at work by Morning Lark O'Clock.

Pretty much everything you said. One difference: the arrival time boss's hangup is apparently severely reinforced by HR.* I have at least conditioned my boss to expect me no earlier than 9am. But that seems to be all the flexibility I'm going to be able to extract from the system.

I'm not generally pissed at myself. I'm pissed at them. For all the good it does me.

* And speaking of dysfunctional systems, I've been hearing some disturbing things about our HR department over the last year or so....

#235 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2014, 12:47 PM:

Re sleep, Jacque @234: I know we both hate job-hunting, but should I point out that finding work elsewhere might lead to scheduling improvements or flexibility? If you're doing semi-solitary knowledge/tech work, it's a concession that costs the company virtually nothing, yet is very valuable to you. A smart manager or HR person would notice that and smell employee retention. Such an offer could also be used to extract concessions from the current company.

So much easier to say than do, I know. But it's a worthy bargaining point, and could be a useful carrot to talk yourself into looking at all.

Stuff that I'd like, which would be disproportionately cheap to offer:
- later hours
- flexible hours (even just at the level of "ran 30 min late, will stay 30 min later")
- longer lunch and/or breaks such that I can go out on a walk or something
- a desk somewhere quiet, preferably with natural light
- more vacation
- able to take some vacation by taking a regular workday off once or twice a month (playing hooky feels so good)
- able to work remotely some of the time, so that I could work from home, or have working vacations
- a health plan that covers extras like massage and other stress-relief care that I would benefit from.

All that is adding up to having control of my time, using my time well (results over appearances), a pleasant environment, and not feeling trapped in a routine. Hmmm...

#236 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2014, 01:38 PM:

Rosa Hughes, #214: When I read or hear of people whose parents/elders actually stuck up for them, that too seems to me like some utopian book... If they try to do it later or behind the scenes, or say they did, that isn't enough. Kids are all from Missouri, you have to *show* them.

#237 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2014, 10:51 AM:

Something really strange happened yesterday. I sat down to write a cover letter and actually managed to write nice things about myself.

So anyway. That's going out to the company some time this morning.

#238 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2014, 11:03 AM:

the invisible one @237 <applause!>

#239 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2014, 11:08 AM:

the invisible one @237: Well done you!

#240 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2014, 12:19 PM:


#241 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2014, 10:09 PM:

Well, crap. I sent off that great application this morning, had a great day, then checked my mail to find a notice that I had run out of unemployment benefits. I completely misunderstood how long they were going to last and thought I still had a few months to go.

So, I'm living on savings now. I have a couple months worth, then I'm out of money completely. Time to start looking at temp agencies or something that can keep me afloat until I find an actual job.

Crap crap crap.

#242 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2014, 10:15 PM:

invisible one:

Ah, but look at the timing. You got that great application out before getting the notice that would have made it difficult, if not impossible, to write.

Still scary, but in terms of cosmic harmony you're at the right level.

#243 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2014, 10:28 PM:

I'd rather not have to worry about paying for food an housing before worrying about "cosmic harmony".

I am glad I got that application written while my brain was co-operating though. Here's hoping brainweasels stay snoozing for a while so I can get more out there.

#244 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2014, 11:22 PM:

You know what, after an hour away, I'm even less impressed with the idea of "cosmic harmony" as you stated it. I hope you didn't intend it this way, but reading again:

in terms of cosmic harmony you're at the right level

What does that mean, really? Does it mean that if I get a good job, something else has to go to shit to keep me at the "right" level of cosmic harmony?

This is related to why I despise platitudes like everything happens for a reason, or what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, or god only asks of you what you can handle.

All of those imply to me that the shit that gets thrown into someone's life is deserved, or that they needed it, and what does it say about people who break or die because of the shit thrown at them? That they simply didn't try hard enough or weren't worthy?

I take comfort in the knowledge that life isn't fair and the universe doesn't care about me, because it acknowledges that sometimes bad things happen to good people, that it can get better but it can also get worse and neither of those are things that determine whether a person is deserving of any of it.

So you know what? It was a happy coincidence that I got the bad news after taking care of the thing that needed a good mood. I'm glad it happened.

But now I'm angry.

#245 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2014, 12:16 AM:

I'm sorry what I wrote upset you.

I do NOT believe life is a zero sum game, that someone has to lose for someone else to win.

I believe life is terribly unfair, as I've posted (heavily) in the past. Sometimes we catch breaks. You caught a break. I was (and am) happy for you.

#246 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2014, 01:05 AM:

The invisible one, I sometimes think of two Universes, one large and unfair and made up of what happens, and one small and harried, Committee Universe. Committee Universe is a short woman with dark hair up in pencils wearing a skirt and a purple sweater. She is constantly watching for bad things coming up and finding ways to ameliorate them. She can't stop an alternator from going out, but she can make it happen close to home and a few days *before* moving. That sort of thing.

I don't think of this as a Pollyanna thing, nor as a cosmic balance. It's just someone in my idea of the world whose job it is to make things suck less.

Besides, cover letter that makes you happy and clearly demonstrates your skills! That is a seriously good thing, and I hope you wake tomorrow thinking of a conquered task.

(it's midnight and I had coffee four hours ago. I am perhaps a bit more dramatic than usual. Committee Universe arranged for a pair of replacement knitting needles this morning, and, and, and....)

#247 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2014, 08:28 AM:

Diatryma, Commitee Universe was the concept I was ineptly trying to get across.

What a delightful term! What a great concept!

#248 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2014, 11:11 AM:

Jeanie: I didn't think you meant that you believed it the way I expanded it out, that's why I started with "I hope you didn't intend it this way". What I wrote is how I read things like that, and I suspect most people who offer those sorts of phrasings as positive thoughts, support, and reassurance haven't thought about what they imply if things go the other way. (Any story -- usually an urban legend -- that ends with any variant of "then she was saved by a miracle because she didn't deserve to die" really gets my back up -- because the people who do die in the sort of situation described in the story also don't deserve to die, but that phrasing sure implies that they do.)

I think I had some angry already and your comment gave it something to shape itself around.

I know I'm not the only one who considers side-effects because I've seen other people comment on this sort of thing before, but I think it's really uncommon. Maybe it's because I'm an engineer and one of the steps in design is to ask "what happens if this stops? what happens if this flows backwards?" and those sorts of questions get adapted to non-design topics in my head. I don't know.

I read an SF book where there is an entire profession devoted to studying laws before they are voted in, specifically to evaluate its side effects. Who is likely to benefit from this? Who is likely to be harmed by this? Is there a disproportionate effect on one group? Who can take advantage of this to harm others? (The "no sleeping in parks" laws on paper apply to everyone, but in effect only apply to the homeless because hardly anyone else tries to sleep in parks due to having homes to sleep in, for one simple example.) That profession really appealed to me and I wished more than a few times that such a thing could be implemented in our world.

Anyhow, I think today I'm going to try a new recipe that I found on the internet. It will take all day, but you know, I have nothing but time right now, and the most expensive ingredient in it is butter.

#249 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2014, 11:44 AM:

In the future I will be careful to use Diatryma's construct.

Good reminder: that what I use to comfort myself may engage triggers for others.

#250 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2014, 12:57 PM:

B. Durbin @221: That's the same thing I learned, and what I had hoped to reference, way back at (scrolls up...scrolls back) #180. My apologies for not saying it effectively, and implying that falling asleep was the only issue.

#251 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2014, 02:26 PM:

Diatryma #246: The thing is, there is something like that "Committee Universe"... not some single person, "whose job it is", and definitely not perfect, but still something you can actually see all around you.

That would be called "society". Someone here pointed out once that "the whole point of society is to be more forgiving than the natural world". And yes, that, and more. Human society is something we've built inside the natural world, to serve as shelter and support, and to face down threats with the power of a group rather than whoever happens to get the "short straw". And yes, also a base from which to work wonders, in this age of thaumaturgy. But for all the wonders of technology and science, what came first was people looking out for each other.

But the thing is, that's not "somebody's job", some god or angel watching from above. It's our job, all of ours, to look out for each other and help where we can. That's a big part of what Making Light is about, our (not-so-)little room in the larger house which is Humanity. And for all its failures, it's still something stands on it's own, far beyond the life of the beasts. Yes, there are places where it breaks down or fails, but still, there are large swathes of the world where death in childbirth, from disease, even from violence, are rare enough to be seen as intrusions, problems to be solved. There was a time when they were routine, everywhere. That's living in the future. And if it's not as far in the future as we imagined... the road lies before us.

(And i can't resist... "for that is what we are doing". ;-) )

#252 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2014, 02:56 PM:

Diatryma @246 and David Harmon @251, is it okay if I excerpt your comments and post them on my social networks? You have expressed wonderful sentiments in those two comments, and I would love to share them with my friends.

#253 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2014, 03:49 PM:

shadowsong #252: It's fine by me!

#254 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2014, 04:15 PM:

Why dysfunctional families stay that way.

Possibly a useful reference to show to well-meaning people who say, "But why can't you just...?"

#255 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2014, 02:31 PM:

No advice that begins with the phrase "But why don't you just" is worth the time it takes to listen to it.

#256 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2014, 02:53 PM:

Go right ahead, Shadowsong.

David Harmon, the difference between Committee Universe and society, in my head, is that Committee Universe is invisible and nonparticipatory. Society is something you do. Society is the neighbors helping to push my car further into the driveway; Committee Universe is my alternator going on Wednesday before I moved so I'd have time to fix it rather than on the day of or after, when I wouldn't have made it home or had a plug for the car charger.

#257 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2014, 05:03 PM:

@Diatryma: Committee Universe! Yes! And whether or not Committee Universe is operating in one's behalf can depend so much on one's own perception. A survivor whose blog I follow told this story to explain what it was like to grow up with her abusive parent even when he wasn't directly abusing her: Once he had $200 fall into his lap unanticipated and completely free of budgetary strings. The next day he broke his glasses, without which he could not drive. The cost of the repairs: $200.

Now, he could have said, "Thanks, Committee Universe! It's like getting my glasses repaired for free!" Instead, he ranted and raved and pissed and moaned, for years, about the monstrous unfairness of a universe that would steal $200 from him just like that.

#258 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2014, 02:43 PM:

My niece just characterized her grandpa, my father, as "a great father [and] a great husband," among other, truer things.

She's 13. I'll wait about ten years before I tell her the truth.

#259 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2014, 02:50 PM:

At #227 Jacque asked me, with regard to CBT,

"If you can, would you be willing to describe your Before and After states?"

I'll have a go.

My CBT counsellor and I talked about the things I found most difficult and the one thing which kept on coming up was my habit of dwelling on stuff. I'd think about conversations I'd had, and create alternative versions of those conversations where I'd made all the points I should have made, and Won The Day; or I'd think about conversations I could have, or emails I could send, and try to work out the One Clever Way I could make things right, make people see things my way, and I'd spend hours--HOURS--trying to find that secret solution.

Which of course, doesn't exist.

I knew on several levels that it didn't exist but I'd still search for it.

Since CBT I now recognise when I'm ruminating like this, and I think, "I'll let this run for a few minutes to see if I can find a solution, but if one doesn't appear relatively quickly I'll stop it, and do something more productive or enjoyable."

I have stopped being so angry and judgmental with myself over doing this, too, so that when I don't shut it down swiftly I don't feel like I've failed. Instead I recognise that I can think that way if I want to, but that it's not helpful and I can easily move on.

And usually, I do move on, and I feel easier and lighter and less desperate, and all these things are good.

In other words CBT, with a good counsellor to help you, can be bloody brilliant.

#260 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2014, 07:44 PM:

@Neutrino no. 258: Yes. I remember asking my mother for stories about my grandparents, who lived far away and all died by the time I was ten, and getting nothing. It was only my sisters who would talk to me, and none of it was good. I know that (for example) Grandma Krueger would order the kids not to eat any ice cream "for their health" and then sit her diabetic self down and devour a pint of it in front of them, but I have no idea what she liked to do in her spare time. All I knew about where I was from was depressing and horrible.

So when my children ask about their maternal grandparents, who died long ago, I tell them that their Grandma Diane loved bleeding-heart blossoms and their Grandpa Robert served in World War II. I tell them gently and unemotionally about their addictions because they are after all the best examples I have about why consuming anything physically addictive is a bad idea for our family. But I will not tell them until they are adults that the pair of them molested me and I would never have let either of them near my children for even ten minutes.

#261 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 02:01 PM:

If ever I needed evidence that my energy levels and sense of how possible things are were unrelated to outside events, I think I got it the last couple of weeks.

A couple of weeks ago I was consistently feeling blah, having trouble getting motivation to do anything, just kind of feeling like there was no point. For the past week, I've been doing pretty good, keeping on top of stuff, tried out a new recipe and so on -- and this started a couple of days before I got the note that my unemployment cheques were over. Apart from the "oh crap" reaction to getting that letter, I've been feeling fine.

So, um, brain weather? The weasels are napping? No idea. There's bread baking in the oven, there are scones and croissants in the freezer, I had no problem talking to somebody I know about a potential temporary job to keep me from being homeless until I find a job in my field...

#262 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 06:14 PM:

the invisible one #261: If ever I needed evidence that my energy levels and sense of how possible things are were unrelated to outside events, I think I got it the last couple of weeks.

Oh, yeah -- it drives me crazy that I can't count on myself having spoons at a given point in the future...

#263 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 06:49 PM:

@ Diatryma: I love the "Committee Universe" image! :D

Well. Certain circumstances have led to my brother realizing that he's basically been walling himself off from his emotions for YEARS. He's been emotionally hit pretty hard. (If he chooses to share in more detail, I'll leave that to him.)

R., if you're reading this, welcome! I hope this site helps you to sort things out in your head, the way it did for me. And the folks here are Good People. You can generally trust them with your feelings.

#264 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2014, 02:26 AM:

The_L: I have lately come to the insight that the price having a high pain tolerance* is that, by the time you notice the pain, it takes some MAJOR drugs to knock it down.

Your brother has my sympathies.

* Which, we strongly suspect, is a symptom of walling oneself off from one's emotions. ("Feelings" is not nearly as much of a metaphor as we sometimes think.)

#265 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2014, 01:56 PM:

My mother's emailed me again.

She didn't refer to my last email, in which I briefly reminded her of what actually happened when I told her I wasn't interested in that Facebook page, and has now given me a different explanation for why she was so upset with me when I last visited her:

"I feel all this started because I made one mistake. After you put up your hand without taking your eyes from the computer and said,"Not interested" when I asked you to glance out of the window at a beautiful, white dove, I suddenly felt very upset. After a while, without any of you noticing, I went upstairs and cried.

"When I came down Dad's door was open and I made the mistake of going in to see him and telling him about it. That's why he re-acted as he did. If I hadn't made that mistake, none of this would have happened."

I don't know where to start to respond to this one. Any scripts or suggestions are genuinely welcome, and will not be considered at all hlepy.

#266 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2014, 02:55 PM:

Has your relationship with your mother reached a point where calling her on her bullshit will no longer make a significant difference? Because that, right there, is Grade A USDA Choice Bullshit. A beautiful white dove, seriously? The only script springing to mind for me is along the lines of, "If you're going to blatantly make things up, Mom, I don't think it's productive to keep communicating with each other."

Unfortunately I'm not sure what to suggest if you think there's still a chance of having a useful relationship with her.

#267 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2014, 03:07 PM:

Before replying to your stated question, I have to pause for a moment to marvel at that email. It's a masterpiece of manipulative crap, so I think we need a round of horrified applause.

How you respond really depends on what you're trying to do with your relationship with your parents. Given the layers of traps, pitfalls and doom in the letter, I would be tempted to simply ignore it.

Other options (ranging from polite to nasty depending on your tastes):

Mom, I read over your most recent email with a little bit of alarm. It seems to be very much in contrast with what you said in , and so I'm worried about you. I've read so much about hidden strokes and other issues that cause these sorts of symptoms. Will you promise to talk to your physician about this the next time that you go in? It would give me peace of mind knowing that you've discussed this with someone.

Mom: Wow; your latest email seems to be a blatant attempt to manipulate me into feeling guilty. As I have said before, I am not really interested in discussing this situation until I have received an apology from Dad. I stand by that statement, and I will not send any more emails until such time as that is forthcoming.

Mom: I'm glad to hear that you feel you understand the situation. I hope you can talk to Dad and get everything straightened out. As I have said before, I am not really interested in discussing this situation until I have received an apology from Dad. I stand by that statement, and I will not send any more emails until such time as that is forthcoming.

Mom: Wow, that was a super-shitty letter that seemed designed to make me feel bad. When you want to engage on a less hurtful level, let me know.

Mom: Great to hear from you. Glad you're working things out.

#268 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2014, 04:27 PM:

Rosa Hughes @265: Reading and witnessing. Can't think of anything constructive at the moment, I'm afraid. Sympathies.

#269 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2014, 07:34 PM:

My hands and throat are sore from clapping and cheering re: cyllan's excellent suggestion.

What worked with my mother back before the earth's crust cooled (and our relationship was as toxic as the atmosphere) was to NOT RESPOND.

I let her stew. I let her seethe. I let her re-invent history to her heart's content. She was a marvel of ingenuity trying to find bait that would get a bite.

When she distilled down to "Why won't you talk to me?", I replied, "We live in such different realities that I can't figure out how."

The time I then shut up, it worked.

Repeated, repeated, repeated. She was abusive when I was a kid, nothing now will change that, full stop. My life got calmer once I stepped away from thinking I could make her acknowledge that, much less apologize (as it boiled down to me-as-victim screaming YOUR RONG YOU STINKER AND YOU STINK). I am never going to have found a pony in my Christmas stocking. What matters is a clean slate with good behavior on both sides proceeding forward.

I settled for building cordial, limited contact and was willing to take years to build it (good call). Banal topics help practice adult conversation. My mother bought into it as it was that or lose me entirely. We give each other love and support these days in our morning talks.

YMMV. I'm in your corner witnessing for you.

#270 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2014, 08:14 PM:

Rosa Hughes #265: Um, wow. Agreed with prior posters, that is Grade A poison. It's beyond even "not sharing the same reality", because it's not just blatantly manipulative, its clumsy use of symbolism in the service of falsehood is downright insulting. ("A pure white dove"? Give me an effing break!)

I'd be tempted by cyllan's "stroke" response, but it would probably trigger a response of "poor me, you need to come and take care of me full-time, why don't you love your poor disabled mother". My advice is to cut off contact.

By the way: I mentioned before that NPD¹ is essentially incurable because the patient sees no reason to change. What I didn't mention is that they often manage to manipulate the therapist into a folie a deux, for which reason many therapists won't even accept such patients.

¹ While IANAshrink, this letter gives me no reason to doubt my prior guess.

#271 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2014, 10:16 PM:

Rosa, #265: I'm with Jeanie here. There is no response you can make to something so blatantly counter-reality that won't make matters worse. Any response at all will come across as a reinforcement, and this is behavior you do not want to reinforce. Do not dignify it with a reply. If she really wants to talk to you, she'll try again once she figures out that this trick didn't work.

At some point in this process, were I in your shoes, I would be sorely tempted to reply, "I'll be happy to stop talking to you when you stop lying to me." It wouldn't do any good.

#272 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2014, 10:17 PM:

... oops. You know what I meant. :-)

#273 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2014, 11:23 PM:

Neutrino, what you say about your niece (or perhaps about her parents) reminds me of my family. I grew up with the ideas that my parents loved my father's mother and we needed to love her because family togetherness and loyalty were Very Important, and because she was intrinsically lovable. (It didn't matter if we enjoyed her company. Loving family was supposed to be about something more important.) I also grew up with the idea that my aunt's failure to visit grandma was terribly irresponsible, and my uncle's refusal to even talk to her was unconscionable.

Meanwhile, my parents were very, very, careful to make sure I was never alone in a room with that grandmother. It took me a long time to figure it out. Learning from unreliable witnesses is hard.

#274 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2014, 09:56 AM:

FWIW, I was only one of the elements in my mother's life that steered her back to something approximating [my] reality.

I'm struggling with this analogy:
It's like being in a mall food court when some idiot starts swinging a baseball bat at people (not as permanent as shooting, but capable of crippling damage). The best you can do is keep yourself clear.

The difference is that much of our society pressures us to stay in abusive relationships, possibly afraid that "if they bail on that relationship, maybe they'll bail on me". My family and several friends refused to believe when my husband of decades became abusive, despite physical evidence.

I'd have thought there was much more chance of him modifying his behavior than her.

Weird. He was loving and supportive for decades; she was physically and emotionally abusive. Other powerful factors over the years pushed us all off our tracks.

When things are bad enough to break through our denial is when we're handed the opportunity to change direction.

#275 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2014, 10:51 AM:

Jeanie @274 The difference is that much of our society pressures us to stay in abusive relationships, possibly afraid that "if they bail on that relationship, maybe they'll bail on me".
There was a discussion at Captain Awkward within the past week or so (about people whose so-called friends "don't want to take sides" and want them to make nice with an abusing ex) that suggests that some of that pressure comes from people not wanting you to force them to recognize unpleasant truths or make hard choices.

#276 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2014, 11:02 AM:

Rosa, not only do I marvel at the manipulative crap (as cyllan correctly dubbed it), I marvel at the way that your mother deftly shovels all the important blame into your father's lap. You haven't been biting at the "Rosa takes all the blame" story, so she's reframing to see if this is tastier for you.

Here's how I read it: yes, yes, your mother kicked it off by being upset over the mythical white dove, and telling your father about it, but the implication is clear that the real problem is that he then overreacted to all this, kicking off the war of completely disproportionate consequences to her initial, completely understandable error. Oh, the drama, just like World War I! (It's even sent on Remembrance Day, the end of WWI...) I can see the guilt-stricken, hand on forehead, pearl-clutching pose in my mind's eye.

This reframing is a beaut, because the appearance and the message are quite different. If you took this to your father to say how could Mother blame this on him, the words don't support your point if taken at face value. If you tried that, what would he say? Would he accept the blame? Dump it on your mother? Dump it on you? Other? Decoding this sucker takes context, advanced emotional literacy and some detachment. (As opposed to getting an icky feeling and not knowing why or what to do.)

I would think that ignoring this letter will return you to the previous situation, of "we're all angry at each other and not talking." I'm not sure how much real reason there was for that state in the first place, but it had come to be running on its own fuel anyway. It's bad, but at least you know what kind of bad it is. You could instead try a variation. Send a letter saying that everyone's upset is out of proportion with the causes for it, and since talking about it is not improving things for anyone, let's all forgive, forget, and start fresh. If they can't/won't carry that through in action (regardless of what they agree to verbally), contact stays/gets broken.

Does your mother do a lot of this manufactured drama? Does your dad back her up in it? Does he enjoy it, or does he merely put up with it? If she does this a lot, then maybe the correct boundary to draw is "when you start manufacturing drama between me and people I care about, I'm going to nip it in the bud or leave." If your father is a fellow sufferer, would there be any hope of recruiting him to the same peace treaty? That if either of you feel certain comments or actions are primarly for drama, that either the drama gets drained out of the topic RIGHT NOW or it's new topic time? And that if the drama injections are persistent across topics, that either another activity with less talking starts, or the visit is done?

#277 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2014, 12:10 PM:

Rosa: I went back thru your VAB and read the sequence about what your parents have been doing since that last visit. It was... instructive. You might want to do the same thing; watching the way the story changes every time they contact you (aka "every time the last story didn't work") shows more clearly than anything else that this is a Kobayashi Maru situation for you. No matter what you do, it will always be the wrong thing by definition, because your Assigned Role is to be The One Who Is Wrong. What's really bugging them is that you are no longer presenting yourself to be abused.

Sadly, this is generally not fixable, especially with people as old as you say your parents are. IMO, your twin goals at this point need to be (1) protecting your husband and children from them, and (2) waiting them out so that you can enjoy a normal relationship with your sister.

#278 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2014, 12:27 PM:

::shivers:: Based on the story so far, I think "let's all forgive, forget, and start fresh" would be a bad idea. It basically gives mom and dad a pass for some pretty bad behavior, and has the danger of teaching them that what they're doing is acceptible and, in fact, works.

Rosa Hughes, what do you want out of this situation?

If you want to smooth things over and just move on, Bodhisvaha's might make sense.

If you want to maintain a relationship with your parents, but condition them to treat you with respect, picking one from cyllan's menu, or Jeanie's approach, would make more sense.

If you just want to shut the situation down, an African violet might be in order.

Where you go from here depends on where you want to wind up.

#279 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2014, 01:21 PM:

OtterB, #275: The stinking pile of wordpoop that is "I'm not going to choose a side."

And IMO the most important takeaway from the post is this bit: "If your friend abuses someone, and you know it, proclaiming to the victim that you 'don't want to choose a side' IS choosing sides. You are choosing the abuser's side."

It's one thing if you are having trouble processing your own feelings about finding out that someone you know and like did something unacceptable. That's human, and understandable.

It's also human, if less understandable, for you to decide that knowing that Friend A abused Friend B is not sufficient cause for you to break contact with Friend A.

But there are certain things that you don't do, if you want to consider yourself a decent human being. And one of those things is rubbing Friend B's nose in the fact that you still want to hang out with Friend A. And if you do that, don't be surprised if Friend B decides to break contact with you.

#280 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2014, 04:41 PM:

@Rosa Hughes:

I agree with the assessment by Lee @#277. The point of this barrage (I hesitate to call it a verbal exchange or even a conversation) is to elicit a response, any response, which can be reframed by the barrage launcher as "Rosa is fulfilling her assigned role as The Wrong One."

Other types of dysfunction can be handled by reframing the conversation to avoid the trigger topics. That is, if your relative constantly freaks out about your living a lifestyle that doesn't match your preassigned life plan, and you want to keep talking with that relative, don't go into specifics about your lifestyle. But if the trigger topic is your existence--

Harking back to the DFD: The Roleplaying Game thread, the only way to escape this game is to put down your character sheet and leave the table.

I'm sorry.

#281 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2014, 05:19 PM:

I hadn't gone back through Rosa's history to make sure, but I did have a feeling that maintaining contact was not so great an option! There was a reason that I said ignoring the letter was a good default plan, and suggested a path that broke contact on reoffense... The "forgive, forget, fresh start" was just polite rhetoric to cover the real experiment, which is "I can drop this stupid fight-for-its-own-sake; can my parents do it too?" If relations deteriorate because the stupid fight rises from the grave, or it's soon replaced by a new stupid fight, a different strategy is required.

I get problem of the Assigned Role of being The One Who Is Wrong. I spent my first 20-odd years being The Wrong Child. After I moved out for good my role gradually morphed into Abnormal But No Longer Fatally Flawed Child, Formerly The Wrong Child. I am only expected to be Always Wrong when we discuss the past, and even that is gradually easing up since I learned some better tactics, partly by hanging out here. With my family, the most successful tactic is to be more confident plus pushing back firmly without being rude, in the local rules. That leaves very few opportunities for dysfunctional elders to complain or push back in return without being rude themselves. (A polite surface matters in our family.) For example, I reply to or drop topics of dissent without signalling acquiesence/agreement. Slowly, my parents, especially my mother, are starting to realize that it no longer works to push me into Always Being Wrong, even about my childhood. I avoid discussing my childhood where possible as well...

Rosa, if you want to keep contact -- which sounds like a big if -- what about listing what tactics/strategies have already been employed to break out of being The One Who Is Wrong? Is there anything new and interesting to try, or something that is too recent to be sure of the result?

If in doubt, I'd still go with "anytime I am pushed into Being Wrong, or drama between me and others is being manufactured, I make it stop." Make it stop can be switch topic, cut the call/visit short, or break contact for a period.

#282 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2014, 05:55 PM:

Bodhisvaha #281: I get problem of the Assigned Role of being The One Who Is Wrong. I spent my first 20-odd years being The Wrong Child. After I moved out for good my role gradually morphed into Abnormal But No Longer Fatally Flawed Child, Formerly The Wrong Child.

Ow, I'm going through that as the former Flaky One -- every time I plan ahead or call to make sure everyone's on the same page, Mom makes a fuss how I'm "really getting it together!" Actually, I've learned that if I don't nail things down with them, they're likely to rearrange plans without warning or notice. (I think I did cure one sister of that a year or so ago, by raising holy hell when she unilaterally cancelled my yearly gathering with my high-school friends.)

This when I've been living on my own for 25+ years. (Which is how I discovered that somehow I was a heckuvalot more functional with non-family members.) And the reasons I wasn't "tuned in" as a child had a lot to do with an undiagnosed hearing loss, and then Mom continuing to assume that I'd heard conversations from across the room, the back seat of a moving car, etc -- never mind when she and my sisters had "worked out the plan" in my absence entirely, and never bothered to tell me about it. (This without even considering the spectrum stuff, or Mom dumping anxiety on me.)

#283 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2014, 06:50 PM:

David Harmon: It sounds like being the Flaky One translates, in practical terms, to "isn't magically telepathic."

#284 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2014, 11:46 AM:

I have a friend who was in an unhappy marriage—I don't know the details, but there was some form of emotional abuse going on, mostly tied back to the fact his wishes and dreams were always the most important thing. The breaking point came when he decided once and for all that he didn't want a family, which happened to be the one thing she wanted above all else. He didn't try to hold onto her, at least, and she's now in a very happy marriage with two kids thus far—and someone who maintains a good relationship with her in spite of extreme financial stress.

I recently saw on Facebook that a friend of mine was at the ex-husband's new wedding and I very carefully did not say something, mainly because I'm pretty sure said friend does not have any idea of the fatal flaws of the prior marriage. (After all, I'm good friends with the aggrieved party and barely know anything.) But I'm wincing for the new wife, and wonder if there will be another divorce in a few years' time.

My friend had a good description that I think people here will appreciate:

"There were warning flags everywhere and he convinced me the world was red."

#285 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2014, 01:46 PM:

Thanks, all, for your advice and help. It's much appreciated, and I've had a few laughs along the way too, which is always good.

I think Lee is spot-on with his suggestion that this is a Kobayashi Maru situation. Coincidentally, just yesterday I read through the emails which I've exchanged with my parents this past year and noticed yet again their habits of changing history, assigning blame, refusing to take responsibility... it's so clear. And so destructive.

The scripts cyllan gave at #267 are excellent. I am reluctant to go for the “hidden strokes” one, though, as my mother has an interesting medical history of "heart attacks" and "strokes" which are brought on by people not giving her what she wants.

When my father's elderly sister visited from Australia a couple of years ago my mother said at the last minute—when my aunt was already flying—that she didn't want my aunt to visit. We pointed out said aunt was on her way and my mother suddenly developed a huge headache, said she couldn't use her left leg or arm. She leaned over in her chair, her voice slurred, and she insisted she'd had a stroke. She ended up in hospital for the first week of my aunt's visit where, despite several scans, no damage was found. She also has what my sister and I call her “stroke voice”, which she saves for those occasions when she's really not getting her own way. It comes and goes depending how cross she gets, and in very severe situations is accompanied by an odd, frozen facial expression where she half-closes one of her eyes and lolls to one side in her chair. Such episodes quickly pass when people stop paying attention to her, but intensify to great degree when she's argued with or—oddly—given sympathy or concern.

My father, of course, always gives her sympathy and concern while bellowing loudly at my sister and/or me for causing her such distress.

The two of them encourage and facilitate one another in every way possible. My father is not an ally here: he is a bully, and threatens violence (which he's now too feeble to carry through with, so that's something).

If I were to go for the fresh start approach suggested by Bodhisvaha in #276, my parents would behave even more badly, as Jeanie suggested they might. Even reading Bodhisvaha's suggestion gave me chills, thinking of how they'd react. They'd double up on their abusive behaviours. So no, that's not an option here.

At present I'm leaning towards a variation of this option from cyllan:

Mom: I'm glad to hear that you feel you understand the situation. I hope you can talk to Dad and get everything straightened out. As I have said before, I am not really interested in discussing this situation until I have received an apology from Dad. I stand by that statement, and I will not send any more emails until such time as that is forthcoming.

It's very brief; and it gives her the responsibility of getting my father to apologise, which is very clever. I like it.

(She has emailed me again today, demanding to know if I received her “dove” email. I'm ignoring that until I'm ready to reply, and am choosing to see humour in her impatience, considering that she took over a year to tell me what it was I'd done to offend her.)

#286 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2014, 02:07 PM:

Rosa Hughes @285, oof on the "selective strokes" your mother has. Definitely not a card you want to play, then.

The email demanding to know if you received her dove email suggests a reply of "Yes, and I thought it was very creative." But I can't imagine any way in which this response would actually be helpful.

In addition to not sending any more emails until you get an apology, do you need to worry about expectations that you will visit in person, especially with the holidays coming? If so, you might want to think about where you want to set your boundaries there, too.

#287 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2014, 03:06 PM:

I don't think they'll visit me: we live 100 miles apart, and my father is not really up to driving that distance anymore. Thank goodness.

My eldest son suggested I respond to her email with a comment of "NOT INTERESTED". I am sooooo tempted!

#288 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2014, 05:19 PM:

Rosa Hughes @285: whew! And I thought my parents were bad! They', getting tolerable? They stopped causing much *new* damage once I moved out, and lately, seem to be slowly improving. you want to officially break contact, or unofficially all-but-break contact? I think one or two shallow, short visits a year would be more than enough in those circumstances.

#289 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2014, 07:27 PM:

I can't resist a snarky suggestion of "I enjoyed your short story idea."

Your description of your mother's actions and words reminds me of a book I read long ago by Scott Peck, People of the Lie. While it's been a long time since I read it, and there were some major things in that book I took strong exception to, I think your mother fits the theme of that book: People who are so narcissistic that they can not commit to or relate to the truth are fundamentally damaging and harmful to those around them.

Peck views them as essentially evil. That is one of the points I disagree on. I can articulate my disagreement far better now: from a Buddhist standpoint, nobody is essentially evil; rather, thoughts, words, and behavior can be evil, and it's those we need to recognize wherever we see them.* You may not want to use the word evil to describe your mother in general, but I think it's quite accurate to say that intentionally lying to you to try to "mind-game" you is evil behavior, just like her faking strokes as a manipulative behavior. It's also possible to see it as quite sad and pathetic, now that she has lost her power over you.

Let the kind of relationship you want to have with her dictate the kind of response you give.

* And painstakingly root them out when we find them in ourselves.

#290 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2014, 07:23 PM:

Rosa, just when I think my jaw can't drop any farther, you relate more of your parents' behavior. I wonder if your mother realizes how dangerous it is to fake a stroke (especially over and over)? Not only are some of the treatments potentially damaging, but what happens if she has a real one?

In my own life, it looks like I may have caused a (final?) rift with the "crazy right-wing uncle" equivalent in my extended family group. He posted something attacking Obama (again) to the family listserve, and when someone pointed out that Bush had done all the same things with nary a peep from him, he dismissed that as "history," and a "knee-jerk response." In an unfortunate moment of honesty I called out his hypocrisy.

Well. I'm not allowed to do that, apparently. I got a private email from his wife, calling that "just plain mean." Himself just said "you've insulted me, so I have nothing to say to you" to the next thing where I pointed out his departure from facts. No one chimed in to support me before the list went down (probably down for the weekend or longer).

So, I'm on the outs with Uncle. This isn't the worst thing in the world. Could make Thanksgiving awkward, but at least it's not at his house this year. After the last time it WAS at his house (and he acted like the price of admission was agreeing with his out-there political opinions), I was considering not going anyway.

The trouble is, he WILL show up this year. And be his usual loudmouth self, PLUS trying to find some way of punishing me for daring to call him out.

I'm kind of out of fucks to give though. I no longer care what he thinks of me, but I don't want to have a fight at the family gathering. We'll see how it goes.

#291 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2014, 07:33 PM:

Neutrino -

This may call for H.L. Mencken's gambit.

He had postcards printed by the thousand and had them sent to anyone who wrote in frothing at the mouth about his columns. They said (IIRC):

Dear Sir or Madam:
You may be right about that.
Sincerely (& etc.)

These six words have successfully gobsmacked people like your uncle when I haven't given a fig anymore. Best when served up with a sad smile.

Then go help yourself to more TG comfort food (or beverage).

#292 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2014, 07:34 PM:

Now he's on there (I guess it came up sooner than expected) calling what I said a "personal attack." Right.

#293 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2014, 07:34 PM:

...and although I've never had the nerve, if they scream "You don't mean that" you repeat it.

#294 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2014, 07:41 PM:

Good idea, Jeanie! I like it.

I think that if he tries to talk politics with me I'll simply say "well, it's not as cold as I expected for this time of year" or WTTE.

#295 ::: Neutrino needs a name cleanup ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2014, 08:35 PM:

Arrrggh. I keep forgetting.

#296 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2014, 10:29 PM:

Neutrino, is that OK? I saw two comments that looked like they needed cleaning.

#297 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2014, 10:33 PM:

Avram, yes, and thank you.

#298 ::: LGB ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2014, 01:39 AM:

Hi, all, I haven’t posted for a long time, but I’ve been reading and witnessing and sending good thoughts where I can.

I’m still not divorced and I’m angry about it. I really thought my STB-ex and I were about to finalize an agreement and I got my hopes up, but then he sent my attorney an angry email demanding a new deal. I feel like A) I’m being gaslighted and B) I should have seen it coming. Dammit. I’ll need to go around with him again (and again, and again, and stay trapped forever, says jerkbrain).

My attorney sent K a draft of the divorce decree with a proposal that I came up with and, predictably, K refused to sign it. My attorney sent back a pretty firm email (that terrified me whe I read it, but I took some deep breaths and didn’t engage, didn’t try to smooth things over (despite the very insistent voice in my head yelling, “OMG, he’s gonna be so mad! Quick, dive in there and mediate! Put everything in nicer words—in fact, just take back all the things you asked for.”), and let the lawyer do the negotiating. K sent back another email complaining about the “unnecessarily adversarial tone” and containing what I thought was a counteroffer...because why else would a person send a new spreadsheet and write this (emphasis mine):

I just left a voice mail; happy to move the numbers around however we want here. For example, below is an even distribution along the lines of what I think were your interests in [attorney]’s proposal, without giving me a $6600 short stick. However, the problem for me with the below proposal is that then I end up holding all of the risk that [organization] won’t be able to pay us back, which is non-trivial and can be avoided by sharing those receivables evenly. Anyway, let me know what you are thinking and I am happy to work through.

The attached proposal wasn’t perfect, but I figured it was the best I was likely to get, it was better than my minimum criteria, and I want OUT of this damn marriage ASAP, so I told my attorney I’d take it. He redrafted the decree and re-sent it, and a day or two later K replied:

It appears that you are intentionally misunderstanding my previous email: I communicated clearly, which I highlighted below, that I was *not* comfortable with that proposal—as it unfairly gave me all the risk that [organization] will not be able to repay us. Rather, I was trying to understand what [LGB] wanted.

He had highlighted the part where he’d said, “...the problem for me with the below proposal...” BUT IT WAS HIS FREAKING PROPOSAL. WHY WOULD HE CREATE AND SEND IT IF IT WAS UNACCEPTABLE TO HIM???

Anyway, I was crushed and spent the day feeling stunned and sorry for myself and I guess it’s time to figure out what to do next to get UN-FREAKING-MARRIED to this guy. Right. Eye on the goal, that’s the key. It’s just infuriating, you know? I thought it was almost done, but now I have to go through at least one more cycle of offer-counteroffer and I’ll have at least one more month of attorney bills to pay (and I currently have $5 in my checking account and a credit card balance that I keep almost having money to pay off, but not quite) and I had lovely hopes of being finished with this whole crappy process before the holidays, and, and, and...

So things are discouraging at the moment. I’ll take any encouragement and kind thoughts you might have to spare, and I reallyreallyreally hope this will get wrapped up soon.

#299 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2014, 05:16 AM:

LGB, how frustrating that must be. Witnessing and sending good thoughts your way.

#300 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2014, 08:54 AM:

For LGB @ 298

I see two things (at least), both pretty much instances of attempting to gaslight you - too bad he'd put it in writing, though. Because what he says in the follow-up you report, and what you gave us as the text of the first email, don't really follow. I hope your attorney can hand the STBX's head/balls/other bits of valued anatomy to him on a plate, or at least make his own attorney wish for a different client...

Parsing the first message - the bolded bit says he's happy because it doesn't leave him short. The sting in the tail, the bit I would conclude he deliberately fudged behind the bolded bit, contradicts what he's said in the bolded passage. In other words, not even close to a clear communication of his own thought, leaving plenty of wiggle room to then use a "you" statement in an extremely abusive manner, i.e. accusing you outright reading so much to your "advantage" that he's disadvantaged.

Parsing that bit more finely:

It appears that you are intentionally misunderstanding my previous email

He'd asked for your thoughts, you gave them; he's now pitching his best fit because you've done what he'd explicitly asked. Extra poisonous is to say you've intentionally misunderstood him. This looks to me like a man more interested in scoring points on your psyche than engaging in any kind of mutually beneficial transaction.

I communicated clearly, which I highlighted below, that I was *not* comfortable with that proposal—

Actually, the part that he mentions his discomfort with the proposal is after the highlighting. Cute trick with the textual camouflage. Which, by-the-by, leads me to the question of why is he putting a proposal in an e-mail to you with which he's not comfortable as a solution? I'd say that he was wasting your time, and he should stop that. it unfairly gave me all the risk that [organization] will not be able to repay us.

Ditto the previous point about wasting your time. He needs to draft a proper proposal, including the work of parcelling out what he's claiming are the risky bits. (I'm really sorry to have to add this next bit, but... be ready for more.)

Rather, I was trying to understand what [LGB] wanted.

*peels of merry laughter* Poor petal! Instead of cementing your image as someone for whom he's bent over backwards and narrowly avoided having gotten shafted, he's revealed himself as having - at my most charitable, now - a serious problem with boundaries. He doesn't get to decide, oh sorry "understand" what it is you want: you have been telling him, and he simply can't accept what he's been hearing from you.

He should come to you with a proposal that will not waste your time. Which is, as one from even this remove such as myself can understand, is what you want. His mission, if he's got the cojones to actually accept it instead of playing word-and-mindgames with it, is to give you proposals that he will find acceptable, and that ALSO stand a snowball's chance in Hell of giving you enough to work with.

If you can, remind him that he can either talk directly to you (by improving his communications skills and reading your own words with more generosity than he's done thus far) or he can communicate exclusively with your lawyer, with as hard a surface as you and the lawyer can give that.

Of course, you mention you're coming up against a hard limit of your own financial means... *deep sigh* I'm so sorry, because now I see this as perhaps being too hlepy. I'll let it stand as a voice of general support, and protest on your behalf.

Crazy(and feeling extremely annoyed on your behalf, LGB - hang in there, and keep breathing! Get your Team You in place, if it isn't already...)Soph

PS just a fun little thing to consider, in your current troubles: "How beautiful it is to stay silent when someone expects you to be enraged." I've seen it attributed to Sufi teachings, and to Rumi in particular, but I've not been able to source the quote reliably, I'm afraid.

#301 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2014, 11:26 AM:

#298, LGB: complaining about the “unnecessarily adversarial tone”

I would say that "unnecessarily adversarial" means that you're not giving in to his every demand, so go you!

I know you said that it was in response to what your lawyer said on your behalf and not you directly, but go you for standing behind your lawyer (behind, where lawyer can protect you, but standing, because that is what you want even if it's lawyer doing the actual talking).

Have you talked to your lawyer about how K is negotiating in bad faith and wasting both your time? That will possibly change their approach to negotiation. (Though I'm not a lawyer or a negotiator, so I don't know how? And they may have already noticed, but it's good to know that for sure.)

Your situation sucks right now, and I really hope the lawyers can hit him with a stick of requirement to not waste everybody's time, so the negotiations can be finished and you can move on with your life.

#302 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2014, 04:05 PM:

LGB, my recommendation is that you stop dealing with this fellow through email.

Make him send everything through your lawyer. Since he is not going to deal honorably much less honestly with you, let the attorney take the brunt of the negotiation. That's what you're paying him to do.

I'm in your corner, breathe -- may I recommend the Julian of Norwich mantra? (All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.)

#303 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2014, 04:51 PM:

LGB @298: Not a lot to add here except my sympathies, and agreement that he's being unreasonable. Take care of yourself as much as possible. Vent here whenever you need to.

#304 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2014, 05:50 PM:

Adding to Lori Coulson's excellent suggestion: when he innevitably emails you directly ("Because reasons!") after you've told him this, reply to his email by forwarding it to your lawyer and CCing him, adding only the note, "Forwarding your message to [lawyer], per my instruction of [date]." Then listen for his circuits overheating because he's not getting the direct response from you.

Since you were on the brink of finalizing your settlement, it certainly seems like there ought to be a way to tack on a provision such that he has to pay your lawyer fees for any new rounds of negotiations he instigates.

In any event, it sounds like he's done nothing whatever to call into question your initial decision to divorce him, and much to reinforce it.

#305 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2014, 06:12 PM:

LGB, #298: It's not entirely clear to me from your description whether or not all communications are going thru your attorney. If not, I concur with the people saying they should be. Your secondary goal, after GETTING THE DAMN DIVORCE, should be "not having him think of you as the Ex-Bitch From Hell and maybe turn into a stalker". Putting your lawyer firmly in between the two of you is the best way to accomplish that, because it gives him someone else to focus his anger on.

What this sounds like to me is that he's trying to wear you down to where you stop the proceedings either from sheer exhaustion or from financial desperation. That would be in line with him not having wanted the divorce in the first place; he thinks that if he can just hold out long enough, you'll have to give in and he can have you back. Needless to say, this is not something you want to have happen, for all kinds of reasons.

#306 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2014, 07:14 PM:

LGB: Just want to add my sympathies and my counsel of patience, as one who went through a long difficult divorce (1998-2000) living on what felt like pennies for much of that time.

For all the tantrums you're seeing from the ex - and this probably won't be the last - it sounds like you're making significant progress towards your goal. Yes, this sucks, and his childish stubbornness is making it not just longer but more expensive for both of you, but eventually you will get there and you will be free again. And your life can begin anew. It will be worth it.

Given his latest mind-gaming, I'm seconding or thirding the advice to reply only via your lawyer at this particular stage, and a comment to your lawyer about negotiation in good faith sure sounds appropriate to me.

#307 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2014, 11:29 PM:

LGB @298: oh, *yuck*. What a way to end the year. I hope that it will be over soon, and that you'll get what you want out of it -- and not just the minimum. Would it help to make a mantra out of "this is why I am divorcing K, and this is why I hired a lawyer"?

I like what everyone else up to this point said, especially:
(1) direct *everything* through the lawyer
(2) talk to your lawyer about probability of bad faith/time-wasting tactics
(3) Jacque's idea of making K literally pay for causing a hassle.

In your position, I'd be asking myself, what does K want, exactly, on the surface level and the lower levels? Does he actually care about the finances, or is it an excuse to keep you on his merry-go-round? Or both? (If this were a TV drama, there might be something specific hidden in the finances that would somehow make or lose a lot of money.) Thought experiment: if everyone sat down in a room -- you, him, both lawyers -- to make and sign an offer within that day, what would happen? What if the offer got written under the same conditions and you all shook on the deal, but there was a review period, would K change his mind?

That "write and sign the deal in one day no take-backs" scenario might be a way to force K's hand.

#308 ::: LGB ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2014, 01:25 AM:

Thank you very much for the encouragement and quotes and mantras. I might have to write some of them on post-its and stick them on my monitor for a while. :)

I didn’t make it clear in my earlier comment, but I haven’t interacted directly with K since August (and it’s LOVELY!). He’s sent me emails and texts and voicemails, but I’ve only responded through my attorney. I think K is perceiving my attorney as the "unnecessarily aggressive" negotiator who keeps misunderstanding things, so I guess that’s good. It keeps him from being angry at me directly. He does keep offering to work things out directly with me to sort out the misunderstandings and then send instructions to the attorney, but A) hell, no, that’s why I hired an expert; and B) K doesn’t get to instruct my attorney. (He’s representing himself, because (according to him) most lawyers are idiots and paying them is a waste of money.)

I don’t know what to ask my attorney to do at this point. I think I’ve been pretty clear about my goals and priorities so that he can negotiate on my behalf, but I guess I need to let him know where I want to go from here.

It’s so FRUSTRATING. I don’t know why he’s dragging things on and on and on...unless it’s what Lee said, which sounds ridiculous—and terrible if it could possibly work. However, I’m not about to give up. I’m a lot more stubborn than K is; you’d think he’d have noticed after 13 years. It’s like he doesn’t even know me.

I’m going to go eat some ice cream and think about how to move forward.

#309 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2014, 02:03 AM:

LGB: Have you made clear to your attorney what value you'd put on getting an agreement concluded sooner rather than later? After all, the lawyer's getting paid for his time, so he's got no particular incentive to speed things up unless you ask him to. If you can quantify how much a speedy conclusion is worth to you, maybe your lawyer can help you craft an "exploding offer", one slightly better (for STBX) than currently on offer, but with a very strict time limit attached. I'm not much of a negotiator, I'm sure your lawyer would have a much better idea of how to do this than I do.

#310 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2014, 05:45 AM:

LGB @308: I think K is perceiving my attorney as the "unnecessarily aggressive" negotiator who keeps misunderstanding things

Which is hilarious, because the whole point of lawyers is to nail things down as unambiguously as possible. Given that it's your lawyer's job to challenge ambiguity, I think it's obvious that K isn't being clear. Whether this is because he's expressing himself badly, or because he's acting in bad faith—well, it's six and half-a-dozen from where you sit.

(He’s representing himself, because (according to him) most lawyers are idiots and paying them is a waste of money.)

Well, Sturgeon's Law applies here as everywhere. But "idiot" is a relative term. I'm willing to bet your lawyer is torn between facepalming and rubbing his knuckles over the additional income this is likely to produce. I remember talking to my realtor about people who try to "sell by owner," and how much harder that makes the transaction. I'm also reminded of my martial arts training: one much prefers to spar with the black belts. One is much less likely to wind up with accidental injuries thereby.

I don’t know what to ask my attorney to do at this point.

I'd ask him if there is any way, at this point, to force K to shit or get off the pot. Force the issue, like. If the lawyer has any experience at all, this kind of tactic has got to be pretty common.

I don’t know why he’s dragging things on and on and on...unless it’s what Lee said, which sounds ridiculous

Though not entirely out of character, from what you've described.

A quick Google how to force a divorce settlement is interesting (and fuels speculations as to his motives). If I'm reading things right, a trial and judgement may be one way out. I imagine this has $$$$ consequences, though.

#311 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2014, 11:25 AM:

@LGB: "The man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client." Also he sounds like the type of clueless STBX who simply does not understand that this is really happening, that someone he thinks of as his is in fact severing all ties and that this is irrevocable.

I nth the suggestion to let your attorney know that you want to present STBX with a deadline. Be aware, however, that when the penny finally drops he may panic and start trying to woo you again--or push your buttons, same thing.

#312 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2014, 12:24 PM:

Oh...he's stupid enough to represent himself. I know of a case where one of the parties in a divorce lost all claim to a share of the other party's 401k because one had a lawyer and the other didn't. (You see a lot of things when you work in the personnel department, as this stuff HAS to go in their file.)

I will be eternally grateful that my dissolution went well and all participants remained cordial.

#313 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2014, 02:46 PM:


Massive shoulder-neck pain in a woman who is Not Used To This Kind of Thing.

Spoonage is limited, as you can imagine. And HL-woman is *mightily* resentful of having to use her high-spoon moments for maintenance instead of enjoyments that help her actually, you know, re-spoon?

Later I wil try to write more about the dark-side of witnessing: the gas-lighters and the goal-post movers... My own dad was one such, whose talent was to maintain he was "only asking" because he "wanted to know". Fuck that, because he tried to turn a fear of flying (based on an un-treated ADHD and co-morbid depression, thank-you-very-much) into some kind of science experiment where he got to be the above-it-all guy in the white coat.

No thanks, Dad.

Crazy(and tired of pegging out on the pain scale, with only over-doses of alcohol to ward off the worst of the sharpness)Soph

PS despite the unpleasantness, I do have some forms of liquid indulgence that are actually worth praising for more than their strictly "medicinal" qualities. Bombay Sapphire, anyone?

#314 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2014, 04:49 PM:

Looking back at my View All By, I realize I haven't posted about this. I keep writing drafts and deleting them because they get bogged down in details. I'll try to keep it short.

My father-in-law is now quadriplegic. He needs to be turned every two hours, and needs assistance with all activities of daily living.

We live in the US. FIL is on Medicare. Once he was released from the hospital, Medicare covered 100 days of nursing home care. But when that benefit ran out, there was no more coverage for long-term care either from Medicare or from his secondary insurance (from MIL's job). The nursing home would have cost $5000/month, which MIL cannot afford. (Really cannot -- that's about equal to their monthly income before taxes.) So he came home. Medicare covers only the following home health care: an RN's visit once a week to check on him, and an aide's visit once a week to bathe him. We are on our own for everything else.

MIL works weekdays 1 PM - 9 or 10 PM. The first couple of hours of that time are covered by an aide that MIL pays out of pocket. The last 4-5 hours of that time are covered by either my husband or brother-in-law, after they get off work (they work usually 8-5ish, and usually work late a couple days a week). This means that 3 days a week or so, my husband doesn't get home until 10:30-11 PM. The other days, he works late and doesn't get home until 8-9 PM. (I'm the emergency backup person; if both my husband and BIL have to work late, I fill in.)

We've been doing this for almost four months now, and my husband and BIL are both exhausted. Both are showing signs of depression -- more irritable, withdrawn, trouble sleeping, increasing alcohol use (my husband drinks every night now, usually 3-4 drinks, because it's the only way he can calm his mind down enough to sleep). They don't feel like they can keep doing this long-term. But they also don't feel like they have any choice.

Both of them have verbalized to me that they are afraid of having to give up their independence and of having to put the rest of their lives on hold for years. I'm currently trying to get a new job, and my husband told me that he hopes I get a job far away because it would be a "get out of jail free" card -- but then he is afraid that his brother would end up having to sacrifice his life to do all the caregiving.

So far, neither of them has talked with their mom about this. I think it's a fear of seeming selfish, combined with a fear that if they don't take care of their dad, he simply won't get any care during the evenings.

MIL is very worried about money, and is already unhappy about having to pay an aide about $150-200/week now; I don't know what she would do if my husband and BIL didn't cover those 4-5 hours for free every day.

The only way to get nursing home care coverage is through Medicaid. However, the asset and income limits to qualify for Medicaid are very strict, and would be a huge financial hit for my in-laws. I did a ton of research about Medicaid, including the "spousal impoverishment" rules that could let MIL keep half of their assets and a little over half their monthly income and still let FIL qualify for Medicaid, and shared it with MIL. MIL rejected it out of hand, because she can't afford to lose half of what modest retirement savings they have and can't afford to take the loss of monthly income. I made a spreadsheet and worked out how much the Medicaid spend-down would cost them, and how that would compare to paying out-of-pocket for nursing home care. It turns out that the Medicaid spend-down is equivalent to paying for approximately two years of nursing home care.

I invited MIL to a seminar about long-term care given by a local elder-law attorney. She came to the seminar, but has no interest in actually meeting with the attorney, even though they do a free initial consultation. In the seminar, they warned that Medicaid planning can cost up to $10,000 in legal fees. That number scared her away from talking to a lawyer because she views it as just another big loss of money, just to have someone tell her she has to lose all her money to Medicaid.

So my husband feels trapped. He feels like he can't quit as a caregiver unless there's an alternate plan in place, but MIL has ruled out all alternate plans because of money.

MIL herself is visibly less stressed than when FIL was in the nursing home. She told me that caring for him is "work-work, not stress-work." This is fine, but it's "stress-work" for my husband and BIL, and they are afraid she won't understand that.

MIL is also convinced that this is a short-term situation. When FIL came home, she told my husband that FIL would just get sick again in two months and wind up back in the hospital or in hospice, so we wouldn't have to do this for long. FIL shows no signs of getting sick again; in fact, he's doing much better at home than he ever was in the hospital or nursing home. Yet he does have a lot of comorbid conditions -- he has end stage kidney failure and has been on hemodialysis for four and a half years; he has congestive heart failure; he had a stroke in January, about a month before the infection that left him quadriplegic. None of his doctors have talked with him or us about life expectancy, so we have no idea what to plan for. (FIL himself gets really angry at any implication that he's going to die soon, so I'm not sure he would take well to having that kind of conversation.)

I spent a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how I could tell MIL my husband can't keep doing this, and eventually realized that I can't speak for my husband. He needs to decide for himself what his boundaries are. I've talked with him multiple times about this, and reiterated that he is an adult with a life of his own, and that he does have a right to set boundaries. But he clearly still doesn't feel like he can, evidenced by the fact that he hasn't.

…And this got way too long, anyway. I'm sorry.

I am looking for any advice people have. Is there any more helpful, more productive way to think about this situation? Is there anything I can do to help my husband speak up to his mother about how this is affecting him? Is there anything I can do to try to convince MIL to at least talk to a lawyer to see what financial options she has?

I have already contacted my local Area Agency on Aging, and their experts confirmed that Medicaid and private pay really are the only two options for paying for long-term care. Is there any point in me going to talk to a lawyer on my own?

…I want to delete this again and just think about it on my own some more, but I won't this time. That hasn't helped much so far.

#315 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2014, 08:29 PM:

@Anon4Now: Yikes! Witnessing. I wish I had something helpful to contribute, though. :(

#316 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2014, 09:23 PM:

And this seems relevant for this thread, where some have had to reconcile their childhood imprint of a "loved parent" with the horrific things they actually did....

Obituary for Bill Cosby (No, he's not actually dead, but August J. Pollak's childhood image of him is.)

#317 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2014, 06:25 AM:

Anon4Now @314, how hard for all of you.

I think you are right that your husband has to draw his own boundaries.

Is there anyone else your MIL would listen to on the subject of "can't go on this way"? I'm thinking clergyperson. Any of the doctors? Social worker at the hospital?

Is your MIL managing all the rest of the care herself overnight and weekends? She has to be exhausted also, never conducive to clear thinking. Is there some way to make space for a respite weekend to help her get a clearer view?

Wishing you all the best.

#318 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2014, 06:56 AM:

Anon4Now @314:

I'm afraid I can't do more than witness; this is outwith my expertise and experience.

I do wonder if there are support groups for people in your and your MIL's situation. Those are people who may be able to give you practical advice, either in person or over a mailing list. Obviously, the quality of the advice may vary, but there will at least be experience informing it. Also, support, and a place to vent.

(I am not saying you're not allowed to vent and get support here! Quite the contrary! But I'm wondering if there are also communities who can give you the information you need.)

#319 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2014, 08:18 AM:

Anon4Now: That is a truly horrible situation and the only thing I can think of may or may not be useful.

Might your husband and brother be able, between them, to come up with enough money to pay the aide for more time? I doubt it would be enough to cover all the care your FIL needs, but enough that they would each at least have to do fewer shifts might be helpful. It would be a stopgap, but at least it might slow the burnout process while you look for another solution.

#320 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2014, 02:07 PM:

Anon4now -- You may want to check to see if you have a Community Resource Center near you? They may be able to put you in contact with charitable organizations who either do home care or help pay for it.

Also, you may want to check into what sort of hospice services he may qualify for -- with the list of ailments you've given us, it sounds like he could. You may need a doctor's recommendation to do this.

Having had a relative with congestive heart failure, I can tell you their condition went downhill rapidly (which, in its way, was a blessing). Given that your FIL also has ESRD, my Mom the RN says, "Six months to a year, but remember some patients are more resilient than others."

You have my sympathies and my prayers. What you're going through is one of my nightmares.

#321 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2014, 05:47 PM:

Anon4Now @314,
Oh, witnessing, wishing that my own experience of helping with severe family illness was somehow transferable to your situation. Mine isn't similar, but out there other families-of-patients' experiences are- when you find them, they'll understand and give/share what knowledge they can.

Are there respite care services? If not official ones, can you save up some time and money to get a week or two without such a pressing load?

The exhaustion made it hard to think about or imagine how to be less exhausted. Right now you're in a situation where you each hope to give each other time off, but if as a group you can get yourself all time off you can have those conversations so hard to have if even one person is exhausted.

Hospice workers or others may have ideas on who and how to talk with your FIL, or even how to talk with your MIL about the wider set of issues she might not know to ask about-- the lawyer issue and more. If she meets with others before meeting with the lawyer- hospice workers, or people who've gone through situations -- she may feel more comfortable then meeting with the lawyer, the situation won't feel quite as unbounded.

I don't think there's a "too long" for writing in DF threads, or at least that it's much longer than the natural inclination you may have had to write something shorter. There is no way to know how long it takes to write these ideas out, not when you've never done this before.

#322 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2014, 08:04 PM:

Anon4Now@314: You wrote "He needs to be turned every two hours..."

Now, this may not work for your FIL, but my mother, and then my MIL used an "alternating pressure mattress," which is a really fancy air mattress with air being constantly blown up (?) through it. No bed sores, and good sleep, despite the constant hum of the compressor.

The good ones are not cheap, but maybe you can buy one used.

#323 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2014, 08:28 PM:

Anon4Now@314: All I can add is my witnessing and concern for all of you. This kind of situation eats families alive, and the more they love each other, the more intolerable the pressures feel.

#324 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2014, 04:32 PM:

Thanks, all.

MIL is doing the rest of the caregiving. FIL has dialysis from 9 AM - 3 PM on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, so she doesn't have to take care of him during that time. As far as I know she isn't turning him overnight, which isn't ideal but so far he seems to be okay, and it means she can sleep.

She doesn't seem to be particularly stressed out by caregiving. Actually, she looks and acts much happier and less stressed now than she did when FIL was in a nursing home. I think partly it's that she's caregiving in her own home, which means she can do chores/yardwork, run quick errands, do crafts she enjoys, etc. in between checking on FIL every hour or two. Also, she's more confident doing the physical work of caregiving than dealing with paperwork, insurance companies, finances, etc. (I've offered to help with paperwork and bureaucracy. But there isn't much I can legally do on her behalf.)

I have found a couple of support groups -- one that meets in person (though it's a good 40 minutes from home), and one online. The online support group is spinal-cord-injury specific, but people still weren't able to give particularly specific advice (other than "You really do have to talk to MIL"). Most of the members seem to live in countries with more functional medical safety nets, or seem to be in situations where qualifying for Medicaid isn't so scary. The in-person group had more or less the same reaction as you guys -- they were emotionally supportive, but the situation was outside their experience. They are mostly dealing with aging parents who can still live mostly independently, and don't really know what to do about this situation. They did advise me to bring MIL and talk to a lawyer, which is how we ended up at the seminar. I still think that's the most promising avenue for finding a solution -- asking an expert.

One thing my husband and I might be able to do is offer to pay for, or help pay for, legal assistance. I think that makes the most sense right now. I'm not sure whether us paying for home care would affect their eligibility if they later did decide to apply for Medicaid. I don't think it would, but the research I've done has mainly taught me that Medicaid eligibility rules are complicated, and things can have unexpected effects.

My husband told me last night that he is up for a promising opportunity at work that would require him to go and work in another state for three months. Maybe this is what's needed as a push to revisit the situation with MIL.

He thinks she will encourage him to go for it. There is underlying dysfunctional family history at work here. FIL's father suffered a stroke that left him bed-bound when FIL was about the age my husband is now. FIL's parents expected their children to drop everything else in their lives to become full-time caregivers. FIL's siblings did drop everything else, but FIL insisted that his spouse and children were his first priority and refused to sacrifice the career that helped support them. So FIL's parents and siblings resented him and especially resented MIL. Eventually, my in-laws moved themselves and their kids to another state where they had much better career opportunities. FIL's family never forgave them for what they saw as FIL skipping out on his caregiving responsibilities. That situation, and that rift, strongly affected my husband's family in all kinds of ways. Mainly, they have all tried very, very hard to be different from FIL's parents and siblings.

Because of this history, my husband suspects that MIL will be very careful to support this career opportunity, to avoid acting like her in-laws. So it may open up a conversation. I hope, anyway.

#325 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2014, 06:00 PM:

Lori Coulson @ 320: Yes, what your mom the RN says agrees with what information I've been able to find from clinical studies. The expected lifespan for someone who started dialysis at the age he did is about 5 years, plus or minus a year or so. Since it's been 4.5 years, that suggests about six months to a year. There's also a scale that includes comorbid conditions that has been shown to predict life expectancy in hemodialysis patients fairly well -- the Charlson Comorbidity Scale -- that suggests there is about a 50% chance that he will survive another year, and about a 30% chance that he will survive another two years. On the other hand, he's been a very resilient patient in the past, so who knows. I would like to hear his nephrologist's opinion.

Hospice services: Short version is that he wouldn't qualify for hospice unless he was willing to stop dialysis, which would essentially be a choice to die very soon. Medicare won't pay for hospice care unless a doctor certifies that you are terminally ill and have less than six months to live, and once you are in hospice care, Medicare won't pay for any treatment for that terminal condition. His only certfiably terminal condition is ESRD, so if he used that to qualify for hospice coverage, Medicare would stop paying for his dialysis. Paying for dialysis out of pocket is wholly impossible (it would cost tens of thousands of dollars per month), so he could only go into hospice care if he wanted to stop dialysis. If he stopped dialysis, he would have anywhere from several days to several weeks to live. In the present situation, that's not the choice he wants to make.

#326 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2014, 07:12 PM:

For everyone here who is going to have to deal with Family Issues with their Thanksgiving dinner: may your day be as pleasant and stress-free as possible. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

#327 ::: daughter of a great romance ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2014, 07:36 PM:

I'm home with my parents for Thanksgiving weekend. The partner is at her family's house.

"I wish she wouldn't shut me out," said my mother this afternoon, referring to my partner's refusal to discuss wedding clothing options with her.

My partner has spent her entire life being pressured about clothing. My mother is a costumer who loves dressing people and wants my partner to look good at our wedding. My partner just wants to not be triggered. Of course Partner is going to shut my mother out. There is no amount of helpfulness that would actually be helpful in this situation. But my mother is upset and, I think, offended that her help is unwelcome.

Then,later: "Is she trying to get back to driving at all? It would really help her find a job," said my mother.

No, mom, this is not your business either. Do you even hear the way your "helpful suggestions" carry these enormous weights of disapproval? Do you hear how you've designed the question to frame possible answers? "No" is not an acceptable answer, and "Let's not talk about this" is not an acceptable answer, and "Yes" will be immediately followed by another "helpful suggestion" about where my partner should practice driving and why she needs to drive. And you wonder why my partner shuts you out.


#328 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2014, 02:09 AM:

When the bruises can't be seen.

A starkly vivid description of living with an emotionally-abusive spouse, complicated by religious issues. The usual trigger warnings apply, but there's useful information as well.

#329 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2014, 09:29 AM:

Wow, Lee, that's a really poignant picture.

And, once again, Scumbag Brain tries to tell me that what I went through wasn't Real Abuse because it wasn't quite that bad.

But I think the desire to control the people you love is, itself, abusive, and can warp other people’s perspectives. A couple years ago, I commented that my parents had been very controlling my whole life. My mother said, “I’m sorry if you felt like I was too controlling, but I wanted to help you make the right decisions, so you could live a happy life.” My father said, “I don’t know why you think I was controlling—you never did anything I told you to do.”

Gee, thanks a lot, Dad.

#330 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2014, 04:44 PM:

Thanksgiving: I went to the big family dinner, and things were pretty good up until dessert. Then it changed, and those ideas I'd written to Rosa Hughes about how people will get annoyed because you're not reciting their script for how you should respond to their statements: those became applicable. There was one playwright and 5 others. It took me a good 30 minutes of this conversation before I remembered that it wasn't a conversation at all, but "conversish" or "convershell" or whatever term for "not real, this is scripted, and I'm not an actor."

30 minutes is a lot shorter than similar events a few years ago, so that's improved. All but the scriptwriter (who left in a huff) were able to talk about what happened, so that was healthy. I had meta-cognition during those 30 minutes that I'd been here before, although I didn't get all the way to "remember, next time this happens, it isn't real, just stop" for 30 minutes. {I believe it was Lee who wrote about 6 increasing levels of healthier responses to an unhealthy situation- and recognition is a necessary step} It still hurts, it isn't fair, I wish things were otherwise, I'm worried about the next generation, but at least I worked with what I had rather than the "requires an alternate history" of what I don't have.

All to say I've been able to start changing my responses in a dysfunctional family situation. I know that writing here has helped, and I'm thankful for everyone here.

#331 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2014, 10:48 AM:

variations: If it's any consolation, that you're altering the script gives hope that the next generation gets to, at least, start dealing with new scripts.

#332 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2014, 01:17 PM:

variations on a lime @330: You did good! Seriously, recognising it while it's happening - even if it took 30 minutes to work it out - is great.

#333 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2014, 03:15 PM:

This is a difficult time of year for many of us here, what with difficult family gatherings, dark days, and such. I wish you all good things, good thoughts, inner grace and confidence through the difficulties. The sun always returns.

variations on a lime @330: Sounds like you did a fantastic job there. I'm impressed.

#334 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2014, 12:59 AM:

A thought occurred to me elsewhere online, when somebody mentioned "friends" saying they couldn't have been abused, because their parents didn't beat them or sexually abuse them.

It's this: "That severed finger may not be as bad as that gouged eye, but it's still a major injury."

A local twelve-year-old just killed himself, probably from being bullied. Don't tell me there's no bleeding out there.

#335 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2014, 04:29 PM:

B. Durbin @334: Agreed.

#336 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2014, 11:31 AM:

Stephen Fry is a member of a tour group, touring the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. The tour guide explains that when you die, you join all of your family, and are together with them forever in Heaven.

"But," Fry responds, "What if you've been good?"

"Please leave," says the tour guide.

#337 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2014, 09:59 AM:

I assume that joke makes sense if you know certain things about one or both of Mormonism or Stephen Fry.

I'm feeling kind of weird about what it might be saying though, especially after recently telling my parents I didn't appreciate a joke they forwarded me (and everyone in their address book, sigh) which was being negative toward those who choose "holidays" instead of "christmas". I just can't identify who it's being negative about.

#338 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2014, 10:26 AM:

the invisible one @337: To me, the joke made sense because for some people, being with your family together forever is a punishment, not a reward. (Actually, my brain automatically replaced "Stephen Fry" and "Mormon Tabernacle" with $self and $sacredplace when I read it.) I thought it was being negative toward people who assume that everyone's family is awesome.

#339 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2014, 12:13 PM:

Yes, Pendrift has the right of it. In my specific case, being stuck in with my family foreverandever would be the purest form of Hell.

#340 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2014, 09:39 PM:

Jacques @ 336: I will surely be passing that one on to my wife.

(We spent Thanksgiving weekend with her family in LA, for her mom's 99th birthday. She loves her mom, and her siblings' qualities have improved to the point that she can tolerate them for limited periods of time, but even in the absence of certain deceased relatives two days was more than plenty.)

#341 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2014, 12:22 AM:

Ok, I can see that interpretation. The last line ("please leave") still confuses me though. Without it, what you describe makes perfect sense. With it, I don't know what the joke is trying to say.

#342 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2014, 02:10 AM:

It means, "You're harshing our mellow, and I want you to stop." The guide feels that Fry's perspective is destroying the atmosphere he is trying to maintain in the tour, and wants him to take that awkward perspective away.

#343 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2014, 02:59 PM:


It's interesting that the story parses to some as a "joke." Maybe it's the syntax and the brevity that produces that effect.

#344 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2014, 03:35 PM:

Jacque @ 343: telling in present tense takes it out of the character of "a thing that happened" and into the more time-free character of jokes and fables.

#345 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2014, 04:19 PM:

Ah! Yes, that makes sense.

#346 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2014, 01:37 PM:

Well, if it wasn't intended to be a joke, that certainly explains why I couldn't figure out how to "get" the joke.

#347 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2014, 01:43 PM:

I think this belongs here, and I particularly love the last paragraph:

"Take your shiny, beautiful, ambitious star and pack it in a glittering, clear suitcase and leave this dim, dreary man for a life—a single life, a partnered life, a whatever life—surrounded by people who do not require fixing, who have vision and verve and wonderful and strange things to add to a bright, beautiful future in which you are allowed to stretch and grow and expand into a person not satisfied only to be loved by someone else, but to be a person who is loved by you, yourself."

#348 ::: Hiding for now ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2014, 09:48 AM:

(Reverting to DFD 'nym as an anti-Googling measure.)

Ah, Christmas, the season of love, selflessness, and generosity. A sibling received five boxes of chocolate for the holidays. Sibling gave three boxes to mother, and gave a box each to housekeeper and assistant. Mother is now sulking because she didn't get all five.

(OTOH, this is the same person who, several Christmases ago, tried to snaffle two hams intended for the same housekeeper and assistant, claiming "they're poor and can't appreciate that sort of thing anyway.")

#349 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2014, 10:52 AM:

Hiding for now @348, (OTOH, this is the same person who, several Christmases ago, tried to snaffle two hams intended for the same housekeeper and assistant, claiming "they're poor and can't appreciate that sort of thing anyway.")

<boggle> I don't even know what to say to that. Sympathies to you and sibling for having to deal with your mother's extraordinary selfishness.

#350 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2014, 12:22 PM:

Hiding for now @348: ::jawdrop::

One presumes that this person has never had it explained to her that even she, in all her special snowflakeness, has no right to ALL THE THINGS. "Entitlement" hardly seems to cover it.

#351 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2014, 12:38 PM:

Hiding for now @348 - that's as clear a declaration as I can ever recall seeing that "I am empty! And no amount of attention or affection or chocolate or hams will ever be enough to fill me up!"

#352 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2014, 05:26 PM:

I just recognized a pattern in my behavior that others might find useful to hear about.

Today has been a supremely unproductive day. I just feel draggy, and every time I come back to the optional or compulsory to-do list, I get this overwhelming feeling that everything on it is way too much trouble/too scary/exhausting to even think about (varying in detail depending on item).

Motivating to do ANYTHING is as hard as, on a good day, gearing myself up to do some of the things I find really hard/triggering is.

And I noticed something.

The days that are like this -- more, the days where I WAKE UP fine and energetic and then they END UP like this -- are the ones where something comes screaming in out of left field and upends my task list and energy budget.

Today, it was being suddenly told (half an hour late) that something I thought was at 1:30M was actually at 8:30AM, so hustle butt and get over here NOW.

And suddenly a decently perky morning where a lot of things were going to get done turns into (after the chirpy, adrenaline-filled Finishing Of The Thing that I was derailed for) a dragging day of grey exhaustion.

The same thing happens on the days when everything has gotten Too Late on the kid-getting-to-school tasks and suddenly I have to be dressed and ready to do the retrieve-the-car end of driving the kid to school (usually she walks with her Daddy, but walking takes ~30min, and driving takes ~8min). It knocks me on my ass and some days I'm still sitting in that parked car, trying to respoon enough to drive home, an hour or more after we drop her off at school.

So if I can avoid the emergency derails (or perhaps find a better way to deal with one after it presents?), that could have an amazing knock-on effect on my ability to be productive.

#353 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2014, 06:27 PM:

Yeah, I concur: getting my Plan* blown out of the water is seriously despooning. I'm currently in Negotiations with my optometrist, because she has a bad tendancy to yank my expectations out from under me for any given office visit, and I've had trouble communicating to her that This Is A Problem.

For me, part of the issue is that Figuring Things Out and Making Decisions requires a disproportionate amount of energy. More, even, than actually doing the task in question.

* This should not be taken to mean that I have anything like regular success following through on my plans even without outside intervention, but still.

#354 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2014, 09:13 PM:

We spent Sunday helping MIL with yard work. Which is fine and I do not have a problem with that. I have a problem with the fact that the only reason we knew she needed help with the yard work was because she complained to FIL that nobody was helping her, that BIL had come by the house for another purpose and hadn't then offered to help with yard work, and why did she have to do all of this by herself; FIL then told my husband about this, who said "OK, I'll call her and offer to help."

I understand that asking for help is hard for her. But I'm really upset that she gets angry at us for not helping when she hasn't told us what she needs help with or when.

Also, frankly, I do kind of resent that she's expecting us to give up weekend days to help her with the house and yard work on top of what she already expects with caregiving for FIL. Last week she texted everybody in a panic because the aide she usually hires in the afternoons had called in sick, and she needed one of us to fill in. I was working on an important project, but I don't have to clock in/out or answer to anyone else for my schedule; everyone else was at work and couldn't leave. My husband texted me personally (without including MIL on the text) to ask me to do it, so I dropped my project to go and fill in. I was still able to eventually get the project done, but it put me a day behind. I want to know what's going to happen when none of us can drop everything and leave work.

I also really dislike the indirect method of communication that happens with every conflict in that family. You have a problem with Person A, so you complain to Person B about it. Then Person B talks to Person A about it, and then Person A does the work of resolving the problem.

I sympathize with the desire to avoid direct conflict, and lord knows I participate in that dynamic as much as anyone else. I don't yet have the guts to start arguing with MIL directly when everyone else in the family does all kinds of indirect eggshell-walking to avoid it. She's hard to argue with because she can be very, very stubborn and have very selective hearing and selective memory -- meaning that she'll often simply refuse to accept any of what someone says -- and she can get mean when she's angry. She never has gotten mean to me; her own mother-in-law was mean to her, so she is very careful not to do the same. But the family dynamic in any kind of conflict tends to revolve around "Don't make Mom angry." Which in practice means "Do what she wants."

I am starting to get to the point where I don't particularly care if she does get mad at me. For example, when she texted everyone asking who could come and fill in, I was straightforward with her and everyone else that I really needed to get this project done, and that having to delay it was not good. In the past, I would have pretended that it was no problem at all and that what I was doing wasn't important anyway.

On the other hand, I didn't say "No, I can't do it." Mainly because I thought my husband wouldn't agree that I actually couldn't do it, and I didn't want him to think I was shirking, when he does so much more of the caregiving than I do. And I mean, technically I could do it, in the sense that the deadline wasn't actually that day and I could make up the time by working into the night, so nothing was going to be immediately ruined, I wasn't going to get fired, etc. So I didn't feel like I really had the right to say no. But I'm still not happy about being expected to suddenly drop everything for a situation where MIL really should have had a backup plan. I mean, if you just have one aide coming in, eventually that aide is going to call in sick, or need to be out of town, or have some emergency of their own, and you have to have some plan beyond "Well, surely one of the kids will be able to fill in."

#355 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2014, 09:46 PM:

Witnessing. (Yikes! I'm getting that annoying feeling of "not-as-bad-as" again. Well-wishes to Hiding For Now and Anon4Now.)

Today was my father's birthday. I didn't buy him a gift; I didn't even call. Not sure how I feel about that.

#356 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2014, 10:32 PM:

Anon4Now, #354: No useful advice to offer about the family dynamics. However, it looks as though the yardwork issue is going to be ongoing, so it might be worthwhile for you, your husband, and the rest of the family to sit down and work out an equitable schedule for people to just show up and DO the yardwork. That way it's not happening out of the blue (and always at the most inconvenient time possible!) and all of you can schedule around it. If MIL fusses about having it taken out of her hands, the pushback is, "When we leave it up to you, you don't let us know when you need help. This way it gets done without everyone having to be in a pother about it."

I do think you did the right thing in letting everyone know that you were taking the fill-in slot even though you had other things that needed to be done, because you had "enough" slack in the schedule to be able to handle it. That's a good set-up for the time when they call you and you're genuinely on a hard deadline with no slack. BTW, unless things have seriously changed, most office jobs understand "family emergency, I have to leave NOW" as long as it's not deployed too frequently.

#357 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 12:01 AM:

My subconscious has been screaming at me since I went back to work. This should have been a dream job, or at least pretty good, but the reality is that it's going septic and I have no idea how to fix it. Frankly, I don't think it's fixable by me-alone -- it would take me and coworkers and management and upper management all fixing their parts, or at least a large portion each. And on top of it having been a rough year or two already, I am the sole support for the household for at least one more semester, and job-hunting scares me to death. Day to day, it doesn't seem like there is anything that I can be this unhappy about, but I am, and when I let myself think about it, I know it has mostly gotten worse since I started, not better. Some of it is about me; some of it is larger chunks of the organization. The instances are all very small, sometimes shared. It's hard to even label them micro-aggressions. But by now it's built up such that in unattended moments I will start involuntarily, feverishly chanting under my breath things like "I want out" and "I can't do this anymore". Other times I use a task or music or food to zone out enough to get by. But when someone is mean to me and zoning out isn't working, like this afternoon, I can end up on the edge of tears for hours.

I can write a point-form novel of a post on what's wrong, and I don't have a single local friend in the industry that I can trust to talk this over with to figure out what next, largely because I have no real friends in my industry.

- I'm not wanted. I used to be wanted, but nowadays I'm given yuckier work than the other people at my level, though I'm still useful enough to continue re-hiring.
- I'm not trusted anymore though I have not erred proportionately to the loss. Nobody says anything, but there's a lot more direction/nagging now, and my ideas are not sought or listened to.
- I am bored to tears because I have been given only yucky uncreative clean-up crap work for most of a year, maybe more. It has been about a year since I got to do anything really fun or creative where my contribution was valued. Admittedly the supply of good work has been low the past year, but I am still being shafted.
- I feel like I'm falling behind technologically, and I don't like it. (My organization is 5-10 years behind the curve in many important ways.) It reduces my ability to go elsewhere.
- I am not cared for. I am not able to get a new mouse that I need to reduce/stop RSI pain. I could buy the hardware on my own dime, but then IT might not be willing to install the drivers to make critical functions available. Nobody notices if I am upset, even if I am almost breaking down. My request for time off for Christmas has been ignored. Now I'm getting hints that I shouldn't be wanting time off when they have lots of purchasing to do where either Supervisor didn't plan ahead or took access to me for granted.
- My job is supposed to be primarily creative, and I am given less and less creative work. What crumbs I still get, Supervisor now either doesn't wait for me to actually DO, or tosses mine out in favour of her own ideas. This has been going on long enough now that I barely volunteer any kind of contribution, which probably makes her feel justified in such behaviour.
- I hate being a tiny cog in an enormous machine, especially one whose operators are actively running it into the ground so that they could say it was broken anyway. (To be explained.)
- I sit next to a pair of extremely chatty mean girls, who are vapid and increasingly patronizing/nasty, but who are favoured by the powers that be. I cannot see a politic way of getting a new seat, and besides, they are loud enough to hear from everywhere in the office except the vault.
- I feel used. Like a servant or convenience or thing. Bad enough when it's Supervisor, who I officially assist. Worse when it's the chattiest mean girl who has no authority over me yet keeps trying to dump things in my lap, while getting any fun/good stuff. (It's hard to stop her on all such items, when the task falls under not being a jerk, like letting in a supplier.)
- I do not know how to fix the above, and am afraid attempting to discuss it will somehow bring justification or belittlement or abuse down on me. I cannot even tell if these warning bells are accurate, or are false positives. What is even more frightening, and seems likely, is the chance that they would pretend to listen to me, and make things even worse for having brought it into the light.

Freedom is diminishing over time, not increasing, as follows:
- The office is physically isolated and hard to get to for me. This is one of several factors making it feel like a trap. No change, but I'm running out of cope.
- Manager is moderately to very controlling about work hours, more so for the unfavoured staff, especially if they want to leave the building more than necessary. I am not favoured, and am unfavoured when convenient for them, simply because I'm not a morning person.
- Clients and upper management who should not be setting creative direction are permitted to set creative direction, or have tantrums until they are permitted.

Lack of respect is endemic on multiple levels:
- Upper management want to be Tea-Party Republicans when they grow up. They have been instituting widespread cutbacks for years, and disrupting the established (usually cheaper) way of doing things so that they can be controlling and pretend to save money while actually wasting it by sending everyone below them into tizzies. The headgames have gotten substantially worse this year with their playing now-you-see-it-now-you-don't-now-you-do with our program budget.
- This of course flows downhill. Our direct managers have for a few years now been trying to avoid leading, or even being present. Sometimes they take out their stress on the subordinates.
- I/we are being rendered helpless and ineffective. Our expertise is disregarded and upper management are piloting an alternative: hiring expensive consultants who are terrible, and then we have to fix all their idiotic mistakes, with huge waste of money.
- Even when the nastiness dial is turned down, the office politics and culture in general have gotten shallower, meaner, and more psycho. I suspect that upper management wants to cut our entire division but hasn't found a way to justify it, and is looking for one.
- There is a lack of respect to me personally, from the chatty girls, Supervisor, and Manager. I'm not included when I should be, in work matters or even purely socially. I'm left out of the office gossip loop, I'm left out of projects I should be involved in, Manager cancels or skips my one-to-one meetings, and the chatty girls are socially allergic to me. The more Supervisor works with the chatty girls, the more she ignores and mistreats me. Of course I have absolutely no control over who any of them work with, and very little control over what work I am assigned.

I *know* the answer is to leave. Simple, but not easy. I just don't know how to do it while getting something better, without burning too many bridges. But if I keep bottling it up, my inner arsonist is going to take over...

#358 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 02:55 AM:

Bricklayer, Jacque 352-353: Oh, yeah, BTDT. An unexpected disruption can completely throw me off for the rest of the day. The most likely way for me to get back on track is if I can rejoin my daily routine at a later point, and get some "familiar pattern time", but that doesn't always work -- and it isn't always available, because my routines don't cover the whole day.

#359 ::: nCnC ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 03:49 AM:

Bodhisvaha: Yikes! That actually sounds a lot like the first several years at my current job (hence the pseud, above), except for the multi-level nature of the dysfunction, and (thank Ghu) the mean girls.

Yes, it's clear that Getting Out is the correct solution. If only it required less of a psychic high-jump....

The only thing I can offer, which isn't much help, I'm afraid, is that things finally started to turn around for me when I suddenly, unexpectedly, had my internal reference available when my boss called me on the carpet for some damn thing. I was able to turn around and lay out the ways she was cultivating the problems she was complaining about.

Unfortunately, I have no pointers for how to get there.

And it sounds like your situation is rather more...premeditated than mine was.

#360 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 08:58 AM:

nCnC: I had expected some amount of "I don't wanna!"...but not getting completely whomped by it, as has happened. I just meant to do this one last contract instead of leaping into the unknown... Job searching would have been hard enough anyway, but we are also full up of other stuff. We're trying to finish a minor home improvement project so we can continue unpacking. We caught colds. I had emergency winter boot buying to do. We also need to replace our mattress pronto, as we ignored the warning signs. I really needed my Christmas vacation to handle all this, and it feels like they're going to try and stop me from having it.

#361 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 09:48 AM:

Tentatively offered-- this is something I think happens with me. I have a belief that I can feel better if and only if something in particular happens, and that adds a lot to the stress level if that something doesn't happen.

#362 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 05:13 PM:

Bodhisvaha @357: Witnessing. No helpful suggestions, I'm afraid, but sympathies.

#363 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 06:11 PM:

Bodhisvaha: Hearing and witnessing. I don't have a lot to offer.

My only suggestion for helping get through this situation is if you have any sort of spiritual practice - from your nom-de-plume here, I'm guessing but not assuming you may be a Buddhist - then I hope you can work with it, whether it's mindfulness, meditation, prayer, or what have you.

In my experience, in a bad situation, often the thoughts about the situation are the worst part of it, above and beyond the reality of the situation itself. In our normal way of thinking and experiencing, it seems to me these usually are almost inseparably entangled. Having a practice can be a way of starting to separate them and see more clearly which bits are the actual situation, and which are just our thoughts about it and don't have any intrinsic reality. (That's not a judgement about having them; it's just the nature of how we think and how thoughts are.) That can make it easier to ride out the situation.

I'm not expressing any superior standpoint here; I've had a very difficult time in some aspects of my life this year, I've badly screwed up some things that really mattered to me, I feel confused, and I'm still trying to better see what's really going on with my feelings and my actions. I'm just saying in my experience having a practice helps me get clearer about it - for me that's zazen, for you whatever your practice might be, if you have one.

I hope this suggestion isn't too intrusive.

#364 ::: dido ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 06:37 PM:

I feel like I'm losing my mind, and I just don't have anyone to check with. This is crazy, right?

1) My mother (whom I literally haven't heard from since I moved across country for work 10 months ago) texts: "Can you come home for Xmas, J. died and S. is unreliable."

J. is a family friend, who--while a drunk and probably not the best person in the world-- was a fixture in my life for over 20 years. S. is my youngest sister who has been a constant source of support (and my Mom's favorite) her whole life.

2) The next day, before I even have a chance to absorb she sends: "I'm about to shoot all the horses."

3) a. One of those horses helped raised me. b. Seriously, how fucked up is this?

4) I immediately agree to fly back (from across the US, for an entire month--which granted I get "off" because of an academic job) and I tell them when the earliest time I can fly into the MAJOR AIRPORT HUB is.

5) I will wait there for 8 hours to catch the flight to TOWN. Because TOWN is a 4 hour drive one-way.

6) Mom texts: "Have you got your tix [from Hub Airport to Home Airport} yet?"....yes... [Oh good. I was about to buy one for you.]

Please, help me ML. I am so furious and pissed off and resentful that I'm feeling like I child and I don't know why. (Besides the obvious "shoot the horses" thing. Is this really as fucked up as I think it is, or maybe am I being a bit of a baby?

#365 ::: dido ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 06:46 PM:

Oh god: I meant to add that I've been reading and following and witnessing since the very first DFD thread and I can't thank everyone enough for all the courage they've displayed and the help they've given me.

At the time, over the last few years, I thought of it in terms of you (you know, a real English plural would be useful, just saying) educating me, and I felt I understood my students and was able to be a better advocate and resource for a lot of them.

I have been here. I read every comment. I thought for a long time about a lot of them.

I think it was good for my students. I suspect it might have been even better for me.

#366 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 06:58 PM:

@dido: I was at "Well, maybe she doesn't actually have a support network at home and so she's calling her daughter" until I reached "going to shoot all the horses." If you feel as though you're going to go shooting things very soon and need somebody on site, you call somebody local. At the very least, you call MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES. Not your adult child who is far away.

OTOH, is it possible that S. is feeling deeply unbalanced and upset by this loss and is unloading on your mother, who is responding by calling you to come support her? OTOOH, is this the first time you even heard that J. died and if so why?

Re your question: No, you are not being a baby! You just got a things-are-seriously-falling-apart signal. Batten down for heavy emotional weather.

#367 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 07:24 PM:

Yes, dido, that all sounds completely fucked up. And I seriously doubt that "shoot all the horses" is ever an appropriate response to anything, including the imminent collapse of civilization.

#368 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 07:30 PM:

P.S. "Shoot all the horses" implies that she has or has access to a gun. I suspect a mental health professional would be starting to ask how many guns, where are those guns, etc. and can she be talked into handing them all over to somebody or some place for safekeeping? Because it's one thing to own guns, and a very different thing to start talking about shooting animals or people with them.

#369 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 08:11 PM:

dido, can you contact your sister?

#370 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 08:38 PM:

Holy shit, dido. You mom is in serious need of mental help. That message is every bit as fucked up as you think it is and there is nothing wrong with you.

#371 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 08:50 PM:

dido #364-365: Agreed with prior responses. I'll add that given these messages, not only should you call S. yourself, but it would not be unreasonable to call emergency services for her town and report her as "in crisis, guns involved".

#372 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 10:30 PM:

David Harmon: The problem is that with current standards of policing, that's all too likely to end up with mom shot dead before any questions are asked.

#373 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 10:40 PM:

dido, good gracious! Echoing everyone else: that's fucked up, I cannot imagine any amount of context that would make it not fucked up - admittedly, I am not a veterinary expert, but all the horses suddenly contracting a painful, incurable, and highly contagious disease all at once, which would be the only reason I could think of for shooting them all forthwith, seems really implausible - and the rest of it sounds SHADY AS FUCK. I mean, I can invent some scenarios where there's a coherent and cohesive logic driving the rest of it, but I write fiction, and if I were writing something with all those detail as prompts, in its most benign form it'd be a Carl Hiaasen pastiche, and it then quickly progresses to Stephen King, or others even less kindly.

Agreeing that you may want to Call For Backup, whether sister, authorities, or both. And stay in touch with your Team You where you currently reside - it sounds like you'll need regular contact with folks for reality/sanity checks.

If you're comfortable sharing more details, I for one feel like I could use all the backstory I can get to provide better-informed support.

Keeping my fingers crossed that the end result is All This Drama For Nothing? and not Oh Dear God How Did This Happen.

#374 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2014, 10:47 PM:

Yes, yes, get as many not-your-mom on-the-spot viewpoints on the situation as you possibly can.

A question: Has your mother previously made similar pronouncements of drastic and/or violent action? If so, when you responded, what actually happened?

#375 ::: dido ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 07:15 AM:

Oh thank you all. This makes me want to cry, but for perhaps unexpected reasons.

She can shoot all the horses if she's frustrated and overstressed because they're her property.

And yes, she does/did this all the time. She sold a pony when I was seven or eight because of an infraction of mine I don't even remember.

Honestly, at this point I'm most upset about the news of J.'s death and it being conveyed in such a way.

Fortunately, I won't have to see them for long when I go back. Nice vacation though, huh?

#376 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 07:55 AM:

Shaking loose an internal server error.

#377 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 08:28 AM:

OtterB @376, I don't think it worked; your last post (per "view all by") previous to the above was a couple of days ago....

#378 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 08:48 AM:

Dido, I can't even offer reframing or concrete advice. Everything you've said is so tangled and non sequiturish-- from her, not from you. Your reactions make sense. Her actions... I can't even figure out what she's trying to accomplish, much less what she's reacting to.

I'm sorry for your loss of J and how you found out. The first would be wrenching enough without the second.

#379 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 08:58 AM:

Dido, that is horrible! Anyone would be distraught instead of being ready to help the distraught. Maybe this is some kind of "everyone has to be as miserable as me" maneuver, on whatever level of (un)consciousness. Calling in backup is smart, of whatever kind will be maximally helpful while minimally freaking out your mother. With the latter in the context of "distraught woman with gun who is prone to impulsive actions and threats."

Meanwhile, work is getting worse, if you can believe it. Supervisor has decided to go cold-war by being nastily, icily, politely dictatorial, and deciding to handle everything in writing so that she can prove *she's* not the problem. Management is refusing to grant me both weeks of requested vacation, and saying I can only have one. They can't even bother to dress it up by saying they need me and know that I am a team player or any such garbage, even though this past week, I came to work sick *all week* to do emergency and special duties, so that they would not be left in the lurch.

I am going to ask my agency to manufacture a better offer for me as fast as possible, because very soon running around the office with a blowtorch might look like a better offer. I am also going to do something that could be horrendously stupid: tell the manager (the real one, once he's back), to reassign me to a different supervisor, NOW. I could use help dressing that up such that he might do it without punishing me.

#380 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 09:18 AM:

Cassy B @377, you're right ...

The missing post was addressed to dido. First, condolences on the loss of your long-time family friend and especially on finding out about it that way.

Second, you said in once place that you were going back for a month and in another that you didn't expect to have to see very much of them. You might want to plan ahead for any kind of moral support / Team You you might have available once you get there. Also, especially if you will be staying with your mom and sister, plan ahead for ways to take a break (old friends you need to see?) Basically, do what you can to line up your support and your respite before you need it. Sending good thoughts your direction.

#381 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 01:56 PM:

dido @364: I am so furious and pissed off and resentful that I'm feeling like I child and I don't know why. (Besides the obvious "shoot the horses" thing. Is this really as fucked up as I think it is, or maybe am I being a bit of a baby?

This is so fucked up I can't even. I speculate that the reason you feel like a baby is that your mother is pushing buttons installed from infancy with the express purpose of making you feel scared and helpless.

Were I in your place, and had the resources to do so, I would go out there, make sure the horses were safe (maybe call the local humane society and alert them to the situation*), and then get the fuck out of Dodge.

And: what everybody else said about looping in local mental health professionals, and preemptively calling Team You to action.

Also: seconding protecting others' privacy offer to hear more backstory, if it's comfortable to share.

* No clue if they could actually do anything, but maybe a visit from authorities to check on the horses' welfare would be enough to embarrass your mom into being not quite so explicitly crazy.

Which prompts the question: how does your mom react to perceived Authority?

Bodhisvaha: Oh, dear. What is your sense of their agenda? Are they trying to drive you out? Or are they just crazy cruel, and you happen to be a "safe" target?

Is Real Supervisor reasonably sane? I.e., can he be trusted to choose actions based on reasons, not just based on blood sugar levels?

#382 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 02:13 PM:

Bodisvaha @379, bleah. Here's hoping the agency can find you something better in short order.

Meanwhile, I second Clifton @363 in recommending anything you can do to disengage enough to stop things at "they are nuts" without letting it go on to "and they are driving me nuts."

#383 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 02:51 PM:

Reading and witnessing, stuck in my own version of pre-Christmas purgatory...

Bodhisvaha: Good vibes coming your way in hopes that you are able to leave this situation soonest.

What I have to offer may be more distressing, is there a possibility that she has not been taking care of the horses? If so getting them into the hands of the local equivalent of the Humane Society might be a good idea.

I am also willing to read any backstory you feel comfortable posting, and I'll light a candle for all of us when I go to church tonight. Our Lady of Lourdes is probably getting used to hearing from me this year...

#384 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 03:38 PM:

@dido: It may be profitable, or at least cause a reaction that puts a definite period to her attempts to get you in her orbit (therefore: profitable), to react as if she is speaking Stranger Needs Help and not Mom Who Installed Buttons.

If a stranger says they're going to shoot their own horses, you don't go running to them, you call the Humane Society.

If a stranger says they have been bereaved and are getting no support from family, you don't go running to them, you provide the number of a local grief counselor.

If a get the picture.

Basically the same kind of thing as requesting a welfare check on somebody who tries to get what they want by repeated threats of suicide.

But by all means get with your sister first and contact anybody else who might have seen the situation.

#385 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 04:52 PM:

Does anyone else have this brainweasel?

You have eight challenges to deal with. You get seven of them done very nicely. You're late with the eighth one.

Therefore, you're a complete and utter screwup and can't get anything right.


#386 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 05:12 PM:

Jacque @ 381: Supervisor is pregnant, which could be causing mood swings, but if so they're marvelously targeted in their type and duration. She went from treating me like a copier that needed kicking straight to happy gossiping with the chatty girls in a space of about 30 seconds and 2 desks. Manager is more sane, but not sane-sane. His overall stress levels can and do cause him to pick out people for chew toys. I am a good target for chew toy as I have the least protection or clout, but I'm useful enough that mostly he doesn't. Unless he's very frustrated or wants to demonstrate. (Not always at me.) But ultimately, he probably considers Supervisor and Chatty Girls more valuable than me.

Historically I had been attributing most of the yuck to prolonged stress rolling down from above like a mighty river. But now? After a long slow slide it has gotten much worse, and relatively fast. So I too am wondering if they are trying to drive me out. Or if a faction is. Or if they are simply being cruel and oblivious. Whatever is going on, it is manipulative abusive crap. Supervisor in particular is undoubtedly trying to hurt me, but I do not know if it is for something specific (real or not), or if I'm a threat (how?) or a pawn.

#387 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 06:18 PM:

Bodhisvaha: I'm assuming that HR would be of no help in dealing with documented verbal abuse?

if they are simply being cruel and oblivious.

Sadly, this is not unprecedented in my experience. There is definitely a segment of the population that seems to think that this is a fine form of entertainment. I remember witnessing such conduct in one of my first jobs. ::shudder::

#388 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 06:59 PM:

I'm up against some emotional stuff related to politics-- I think it might be better not to mention the particular issues, but if it's distracting to people to not know what I'm talking about, I'll be more specific in rot-13 in a reply.

There's recent political news which has absolutely delighted me. It's breaking the heart of someone I like and respect. All they've done is ask not to be expected to celebrate the news, but I'm still feeling as though it's wrong for me to be quite so happy about it.

There's major general issue where something I deeply believe and am rather concerned about is contrary to what a number of other people believe is emotionally appropriate and required for decency.

The thing is, I know that political disagreement is normal-- I'm pretty sure what's happening is I'm getting twinged on early stuff about being required to fit in emotionally with my mother.

And I'm also feeling like I'm supposed to be tough enough to not be bothered by being told I'm just plain wrong and don't care about what I'm supposed to care about.

Anyway, any advice about dealing with this sort of thing?

#389 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 06:59 PM:

Bodhisvaha @386: Having suffered under management which could best be described as "beatings will continue until morale improves*" for the 18 months prior to being made redundant, I sincerely sympathise. Good luck for getting your agency to provide an alternative situation.

*I was to blame for this treatment, apparently, with my crime being "not 100% happy and cheerful on first coming into the empty office after everyone in my immediate team had been made redundant (except for the one who gave in her notice)."

#390 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 07:35 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @388, so there's an issue where you are pleased but don't want to gloat to your friend who feels otherwise, and one where you are concerned but others disagree with your position and are happy to tell you, not that they disagree, but that you are Rong Rong Rongity Rong?

Baseline starting point: you are entitled to your opinion, and you are entitled to your feelings. They are likewise entitled to theirs. Yours and theirs don't have to match. I know you know this intellectually, but it sounds like it doesn't feel like it because your mother installed sensitivities to the tune of "I am entitled to my opinion, and you are also entitled to my opinion."

Further, you don't have to respect the content of their opinion to respect their right to have it. So, with the friend you don't want to gloat at, you disagree with her stand but respect the fact that the news is painful to her, and out of that respect you don't flaunt your enjoyment in her face. Doesn't mean you don't feel it.

With the others, one approach is "We're going to have to agree to disagree on that one," and change the subject. In the same way you respect your friend's right to hold views you disagree with, you expect people to respect yours. If they keep bringing it up, you leave the conversation. (People can, of course, hold views that are sufficiently opposed to your beliefs that you no longer want to have a relationship with them. But it didn't sound like you were talking about something at that level.)

Is this coming anywhere near what you were looking for?

#391 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 09:45 PM:

Jacque @385, oh yes, I know that brainweasel, the scratchy, bitey little bastard. He's one of my mother's pets - I can spend 14 hours a day for two weeks unpacking from an interstate move to get ready for her arrival, and all she can talk about when she gets there is the stuff I HAVEN'T managed to do yet and still need to work on. Goddamned Tapes, indeed.

I try to counter it by giving myself extravagant praise for the things I do accomplish. If the utilities stay on and the dishes don't evolve new life forms waiting for my attention, the rest is all bonus.

#392 ::: dido ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 10:11 PM:

Oh, in my incoherent ramblings I forgot the most important point: the reason I was asked to fly home for the winter break was so my parents can go on vacation. To take care of the animals.

J. usually did it-- that's the only reason I even heard he'd died.

SO: They are leaving the day I arrive and I will be gone 3 days before they get back and S. will take care of the animals for those 3 days. S. by the way has been putting up with this year round for the last 10 years or so. She's much more able and willing to call Mom on her bullshit, but still, I applaud her "unreliability" and don't blame her a goddamned bit.

Thanks all for the perspective. I think one of my main problems with all of this is that it's such a *normal* interaction (though on the extreme end) and I understand all the history and dynamics so well that I genuinely was begin to question whether I was making a (silent) fuss for nothing. Ugh.

Bodisavha @ 386 I hate those questions where you know, just *know* that the answer isn't going to be really helpful or useful in any way, but you still can't let it go.

How pregnant is the Supervisor? Will she be gone on maternity leave for any portion of the time you anticipate having to stay there? Maybe something to look forward to?

Jacque @385 Why no. I have no idea what you're talking about. (I graded two sets of exams and submitted grades in a very timely fashion and am feeling like it's actually impossible to grade the last set. Ugh.)

J. @384 I'm actually wondering if there's any news about the Morbidly Named Boy and Girl; I've been thinking about them.

#393 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 10:41 PM:

Jacque @353: part of the issue is that Figuring Things Out and Making Decisions requires a disproportionate amount of energy
Yes, this. My mother asked if I could plan to have dinner with the family - yes, reasonable, my sibling is back for their winter break and so on. Long story short, I ended up saying “Look, being asked to make an instantaneous decision about something I have just heard about two seconds ago is not something I am actually capable of doing.” So next time she asks me to make an instant decision and I freak out with a sudden burst of anxiety, I have in my pocket “I would appreciate it if you could please not ask me to do something I am cognitively incapable of.” Now that I have worked out that is the problem, anyway.

(The problem of the possibly-disordered anxiety is an entirely different matter, of course…)

Bodhisvaha @357: Witnessing D: That sounds awful.

dido @364: Oh ye gods, that is awful :( Witnessing. I am so sorry for your losses, both human and animal.

Bodhisvaha @379, hoping that one or both of those potentially situation-improving things work out

Jacque @385: my particular demon these last few months has been $applicationessay… which I finally drafted tonight, several weeks to two months after I intended to write it. Because I got my passport finally, so the last bureaucratic barrier to the application was gone. See above: re anxiety, but anyway I had just been panicking and feeling awful whenever I tried to work on it because clearly the fact that I hadn’t got it done meant I was awful and the worst and obviously wouldn’t get $scholarship anyway, so why bother applying to the school at all…

Nancy Lebovitz @388: No advice, but witnessing. And I think it is completely reasonable to be bothered by being told you don’t care about what you’re supposed to care about.

OtterB @390: "I am entitled to my opinion, and you are also entitled to my opinion.”

My work situation is not nearly as awful as Bodhisvaha’s, but…
- I get no direct feedback about the quality of my work; everything good I’ve heard about how I’m doing at the job (which I started in September) has come through HR, my coworkers, or my not-very-hands-on supervisor (the source in that case being the owner of the company).
- Sometime in the last month or two, I had a conversation with my now ex-coworker (who had started the job at the same time as me) in which he informed me of three things:
1. We are not permitted to discuss non-work topics over work g-chat (which everyone in the office had been cheerfully doing, as far as I can tell, up to that point)
2. They were going to fire him for this offense, but instead decided to give a first and final warning
3. I was doing very well at the job
So that’s some shitty mindgames, woo. Since I assume he got all three of those in the same conversation. See above re: direct feedback.
- He was fired within a week and the owner put a “friendly reminder” in the weekly meeting agenda that, obviously, all non-work activities of any kind are strictly prohibited in the office.
- We have no written policies of any kind
- When I started the job, I asked in email about the break policies and was told I could take a half-hour lunch break without clocking out. So I assumed this meant a contiguous half hour. A month or two later, the owner saw me reading on my lunch break, at my desk, and later HR came to talk to me. Evidently the actual policy is we get a half hour total of break time of any kind, including bathroom and water, throughout the day. This is legal; $state has no minimum break law for workers over the age of 18
- Even though literally all our work is done online, they prefer that we not work from home unless there is no other option. It is not clear why this is so
- A couple weeks ago, we came into work and the power was out. An email had been sent to our work emails at 8 that morning - a lot of employees come in before 8 (a subset of the company has extremely flexible hours as long as they’re in for 8 of them in a row). When HR showed up, she asked all of us to go work from home for the rest of the day. My power was also out (I live 2 miles from work) and I have no car, so it took me an hour and forty five minutes to reach somewhere I could work. Twenty minutes after I sat down, an email from HR shows up informing us that the power had come back on 20 minutes after everyone left, and our site access would be cut off 10 minutes after the time of the email to force us to return to work; if we did not return, we would be considered absent.

My coworkers seem to like me, but my father (who is about as prone to express negative opinions of people as abi in my experience) described the owner as a “micromanaging paranoid btch”. (There are other things that happened that indicate her overriding concern is employee efficiency and the spectre of time theft, tho she might not use that term.)

So I think I need a new job. Meanwhile, I’m documenting every interaction with or relevant to HR, trying to get as much in writing as possible. And also meaninglessly rebelling by using PortableApps to run KiTTY to SSH into a friend’s server to chat on IRC at work. *ahem*

#394 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 10:49 PM:

@Dido: So the threat was an attempt to get you to come look after the horses because the usual person was unavailable (i.e. dead)? ...No, you are totally not being a baby.

Here's Nonmanipulative Prettyfunctional Mom-ese for what she told you: "[Endearment you outgrew years ago, but even supremely functional moms often don't notice], I am so sorry that I didn't contact you earlier to let you know that J. is dead. I have been so upset about it that I didn't even think about who would take care of the horses over Christmas. I just assumed that S. would do it, but she can't. I have made a decent effort to find somebody else locally, but with the holiday, I got no takers. I really, really need you to come and help me out. Again, I am very, very sorry that I didn't tell you about J. I know this must be a shock."

#395 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2014, 10:57 PM:

Re Morbidly Named Boy and Girl: More details have come clear, chiefly the extent to which their grandma, my friend's MIL, is willing to redefine reality so that her home is not being turned into a hoarded-up mess full of bugs and her grandchildren did not get reported for looking like they sleep in a storm drain. Honestly, when I first heard about what had happened to her house, I thought she was dead. Nope, she's living in it, and anybody who harshes her mellow is the enemy.

The best, and probably inevitable, solution for the kids will involve being removed from the situation, which will probably cause my friend's husband's family to fly apart like a molecule dropped into acid, which will vastly increase the stress on my friend's husband and therefore on my friend...Poor everyone, basically. Even Hoarding Mom and Won't Take a Bath for Two Years Dad, who honestly don't think they are doing anything wrong.

#396 ::: Jacque flags down the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 12:09 AM:

Something very odd is going on with J.'s View By All.

#397 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 12:13 AM:

Jacque @387: I'm a contractor. I have never even met our HR person, who works in a different building across the river. And what documentation? These are professional bureaucrats. There is little to no documentation of anything clearly objectionable. Virtually everything could be benefit-of-the-doubt-ed away, should someone be inclined. Until now nothing had been blatant enough to keep secret records, and I was not expecting a cold war blast first thing Tuesday morning. Although I should check if there is an HR helpline I can call to confirm that I am as unprotected as I think.

The community for my specialty is pretty small, in this town. I am trying not to burn bridges by running around telling the truth, in case they find a way to punish me. That's why I'm scared of telling Manager that I can't work with Supervisor anymore, and need to put it in terms that invoke his self-interest or managerial equivalent.

If I can get away, and leave it alone for long enough that I could be calm about it, one day I will be able to say something like "what with the stress of the cutbacks, the group's culture went toxic, and I had to leave." And then it would be inoffensive because it would be long ago and far away and not blaming specific known people in the community, so no costly action would be required.

Dido @ 392: I attribute the question-asking to the feeling that if I could figure it out, it might help me avoid such things in the future. Supervisor will disappear when my contract runs out. Supervisor going away would only resolve, um, say, a quarter of what's wrong. All the rest would still be happening, and can't be fixed by me. Tonight my shrink told me to please get myself out of there ASAP and offered to write me a letter requiring leave for mental health reasons. I explained that I have no paid sick leave whatsoever, but such a letter would be a good trump card if work is not gracious about me leaving for a better opportunity.

#398 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 12:29 AM:

Bodhisvaha: You've mentioned an agency; I presume they can't be counted on to help, either?

Hey, if you've ever wanted to write a novel, take copious character notes...?

#399 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 12:36 AM:

@Jacque no. 396: I've noted this before. Something about a tree is all it's shown for years. I looked at it today and there's a bunch of other stuff--but nothing I actually posted on DFD threads--? (I didn't scroll all the way down.)

#400 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 12:38 AM:

Just scrolled down. Wow, that's a lot of spam alerts that weren't there before.

Anyway, to find my own stuff under this nym, I have to go to the DFD links on the latest DFD post, click each one, and use the Find function to search for the nym.

#401 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 12:51 AM:

me @396: "View All By." "View All By."

For some reason, I have intractable dyslexia with that phrase....

#402 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 12:53 AM:

J.: Do you always use the same email address when posting with that nym? If not, that might account for some of that, since that's what determines how the VAB shakes out.

#403 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 08:31 AM:

#390 ::: OtterB

Thanks. That's close, but here are some more details.

Just to simplify my life, I'm going to say that the issue is Cuba. Many people are in favor of normalizing relations, and I'm one of them. There are also people who believe that normalizing relations is giving comfort to a vile dictatorship.

The person I'm talking about is someone I like and am on good terms with on social media, but not a close friend.

The problem with my mother wasn't just about opinions, it was about emotions. I was supposed to feel what she was feeling.

The problem isn't one of gloating, the problem is that people who knew Social Media Friend is Cuban-American were trying to share the news about Cuba as though it's good news, but for that person, it's horrible news.

I just fell apart (even though I'd forgotten they were Cuban and hadn't tried to share the news) because it was so clear my strongly felt pleasure at the news would be so unwelcome.

Apparently, I go off balance just at having emotions that would be unwelcome if I mentioned them.

#404 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 09:28 AM:

Jacques, #385: Get out of my head, woman! I have that exact same Goddamn Tape all the time.

Dido and Bodhisvaha, seconding the above advice. I hope things work out for both of you.

#405 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 10:17 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @403
Apparently, I go off balance just at having emotions that would be unwelcome if I mentioned them.

Like so many things we discuss here, ISTM that recognizing the trigger is at least half the battle.

Your feelings are what they are. Your feelings by themselves do no harm whatsoever to anyone. Your actions might. But, while feelings may motivate actions, they don't compel actions.

I think most people are at least occasionally horrified by their own feelings. For me, it's feelings that are socially unacceptable and/or unethical, perhaps cruel. I deal, in one way or another - let it go, make a black-humored joke out of it, take it as a signal that I need to change a situation in some way. But it sounds like your mom tuned your "Ack! Unacceptable feeling!" meter way, way, too sensitive.

Also, Jacque @385 You have eight challenges to deal with. You get seven of them done very nicely. You're late with the eighth one. Therefore, you're a complete and utter screwup and can't get anything right.

You are only a success when you manage to capture all eight arms of the octopus inside the string bag simultaneously. And should you accomplish that, you can downgrade yourself on style points for not managing the trick as elegantly as that master octopus whisperer over there.

Yeah. Been there. Done that.

#406 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 01:37 PM:

dido @ 375: Just one point you made that I'd like to respond to:
She can shoot all the horses if she's frustrated and overstressed because they're her property.

Well, subject to animal cruelty laws and such, yes, perhaps. She probably has a legal right to do so.

That does not make it a sane or reasonable thing to ever do or to say to you.

People in general have a legal right to do all kinds of things with their property; a person could in principle take all their money out of the bank as cash, put it in their house, and then burn the whole thing down, subject to fire safety regulations. That doesn't make it sane.

Particularly since, as you explain more, this sounds like it's blatant extortion, of the form: "I feel like my usual vacation, so if you don't drop your whole life and come here to take over my life for me, I will kill the horses and it will be your fault."

Writing it out like this, it pretty much sounds like the old satirical National Lampoon ad, "If you don't buy this magazine, we'll shoot this dog."

#407 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 02:32 PM:

@Jacque: Yes, I do. I still get connected to spam instead of my actual VAB.

#408 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 04:15 PM:

Just a note: Of late I have been strangely bereft of anything I can think of as "something useful to say" -- or at least anything that hasn't already been said better by several other people -- but I am still reading, still witnessing, and still sending GoodThoughts to those in need thereof.

#409 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 07:10 PM:

Bodhisvaha @397 and earlier,
Witnessing and wincing, because I've only recently mostly escaped a dysfunctional place. It's similar in that there are a small number of companies doing what I specialize in, and they all know each other.

For me at first I was helped once I could identify their behavior as dysfunctional and stressful (the company culture itself had the same effect as bullying, even if most (but not all) individuals meant well). After a while that wasn't enough and the stress moved up again, so I gave myself more help by doing research and behaving like an anthropologist- supported by repeated readings of "The gentle art of verbal self defense." Not that I could use those techniques more than rarely, but just the act of stepping back to classify behavior gave me just enough distance to help.

Do you have ways to do small acts of slight distancing? I don't know what those could be- some type of observing & writing, or testing out a TGAoVSD Spock-mode (just to see how long the dreadful manager reacts), or things that give you some benefit from the act of taking-an-action, even if the results are tiny, and only for you.

I can reread the df comments that showed when I first knew the place was unsolvable-by-me unhealthy, and it was well over a year after that before I made my first solid break with the place. Looking back, my acts of distancing didn't reduce the stress but let me limit where the stress affected me.

#410 ::: charming.quark ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 08:23 PM:

dave harmon@282:

"never mind when she and my sisters had "worked out the plan" in my absence entirely, and never bothered to tell me about it"

ding, ding, ding! oh yes, this. and being the youngest by several years meant that whatever I thought about it was just that much less valid.

#411 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 08:36 PM:

variations on a lime #409: I'd like to pull out a classic quote from Ginger: "to physiologists, stress is what an organism does in adverse situations. Distress is what happens when a stressed organism cannot alleviate the stress."

It sounds to me like you found a way to slightly ameliorate the stress, but eventually your response was overwhelmed by the continuing "adverse situation".

#412 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 09:39 PM:

David Harmon @411,
Naming the stress reduced it. (But the initial hope that by naming it, I could somehow remove it, that hope disappeared.) The next step of naming myself as someone able to push back against the stress, that gave me just enough additional energy/room/capacity to start finding a way out.

It's hard to think of an analogy- it was like learning to shut one eye ahead of entering a dark room- it's still dark, but you've got some dark adaptation as you walk in. Or perhaps like learning to fall: you're still falling, but you can choose to put the weight on your non-dominant hand.

It sounds to me like B.'s job has moved from barely tolerable to not-tolerable, and I'm hoping they can find a way to move back into barely tolerable. Sometimes small steps can be enough for the short term. When it's major things like a job, small steps are often all we get.

#413 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2014, 09:53 PM:

Adding to me #411: Also, doing something about it is important:

15 or so years ago, I did not recognize or successfully deal with a grossly dysfunctional/abusive workplace, and they wound up completely burning me out, then firing me when I was used up. Took me years to recover from the depression (ML helped, as did eventually moving out of NYC), and... well, I used to be a computer programmer. Still pretty much blocked on that, not to mention gone all rusty.

#414 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Gardener of Threads ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2014, 10:51 AM:

J., Jacque:

I think it's the product of the dot before the @-sign in J's email address. It kind of munges the view all by generation script.

J, if you were willing to start using the same email address without the dot, I could spend the time to change your previous comments to that address so you had a working view all by address.

#415 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2014, 01:12 PM:

OoooOOOOOoooohhhh. I did not know that. Will do. Thank you.

#416 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Gardener of Threads ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2014, 05:25 PM:

OK, I think I've got them all. Took a good while -- there are screens and screens full of DF comment threads, and a search on "J" matches an awful lot of words on them. Particularly in the months of January, June and July...

#417 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2014, 06:54 PM:

Idumea Arbacoochee: Thank you! Much better. I was successfully able to go back and get the background on Children of Morbid Names—and was otherwise reminded of why I enjoy J.'s participation in these threads.

#418 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2014, 02:31 AM:

Today was busy, mostly useful/good. My dental checkup was a relaxing, spa-like experience: everyone there was polite and kind and gentle, even when lecturing me to please floss. I also got my hair cut for a mood lifter. Oh, and I went to the library! Books wonderful books!

I called HR's conflict resolution team, and to my amazement, (1) their mandate covers contractors too, and (2) both the people I talked to were really nice. Yes, the counselor was still telling me that I need to be professional and offer to talk things out with Supervisor and/or Manager, but he really listened to me explain/blub for a long time. All of us here know how people that aren't trained or experienced with dysfunction will tend to explain away abusive patterns, especially the subtle, nebulous ones, and these definitely are such. Counselor was more confident than me that something could be done to resolve things, but did not try to gaslight me or diminish or dismiss the problems. We both agreed that there were several simple, immediate things that Manager could do to take the lid off the pressure cooker, and get us all through the high-priority work that they clawed back my holiday for. That would make space for a future attempt at relationship repair, such as a mediated discussion. I was clear that I did not want to simply attempt to talk things out with Supervisor without any kind of safe witness or structure, and Counselor agreed that this requirement was reasonable and also would make things more fair and safe for Supervisor also. I think he thought I might be overdoing things a bit, but he was still respectful, and might simply have been trying to be encouraging about the odds of success. He also made sure to give me his name and phone number and tell me that he was in the office next week, so please call if I need to.

I seriously thought that I was going to get one or both of holiday voicemail greetings, or sorry we can't help you because you're a contractor. Instead we had a useful discussion where I could be honest and felt listened to and taken care of. Even when we disagreed on things it felt fairly reasonable and amicable, rather than shutting me down. What a contrast!

All of which means that now I can come up with a *much* more calm and professional-sounding spiel for Manager. Previously it would have been a cleaned-up version of "Supervisor is treating me abominably and I can't work with her anymore; reassign any work I have with her RIGHT NOW or I will have a nervous breakdown." Now it can be something more like "Supervisor and I are having serious problems working together right now because X Y Z. The situation as-is is untenable and unproductive, so I'm sure that everyone wants to resolve it constructively and fairly. I talked to Counselor in Conflict Resolution on Friday to work out some options for that, which are blah blah blah. Counselor is in the office this week if we need to consult him." I also plan to come in with an apology card and chocolate for Supervisor, as extra proof that I am a professional/a decent human being. (The apology will only be what I can be sincere about, no grovelling or taking blame that shouldn't belong to me.)

Pulling in Counselor could perhaps provide a tiny incentive to Supervisor and Manager to behave less badly. If Supervisor and Manager proceed dysfunctionally from here, they'll prove their toxicity to Conflict Resolution and potential future employers of mine. This could still end really badly, but probably not worse than *not* having pulled in Conflict Resolution would have.

I also went and had a similar talk with my temp agent, who was very supportive as well. We agreed that I cannot fix *any* of the problems on my own. Agent said bluntly that the real problem here was Supervisor's behaviour, but we both agreed that improving it is chancy. For my professional reputation's sake I will have to take a crack at it, but realistically the chance of success isn't good. Agent also understands that the only viable solution is to move on, because half to three-quarters of the unbearable problems come straight from upper management stupidity and bad behaviour. The top decision-makers seem to get their kicks by giving the organization cultural gangrene. So, even if we got everyone within our reach convinced to resolve the problems down at our level (unlikely), there would still be SO MUCH wrong.

I keep asking myself would I ever go back there after I get out. I think I know now how to decide if I do ever get such an offer. The answer would depend on what's the management direction now on the various levels, and has the culture healed enough to be the job it said it was on the tin? Because I would have loved the job it was supposed to be. Working there has high prestige in the local industry, because we handle a very specific niche of glamorous, high-profile projects as our bread and butter, and historically we hired very good people and did very good work.

All that being understood, Agent and I agreed that we should try a Plan A, Plan B thing. Plan A is for me to go in and talk to Manager as outlined earlier. If Manager and Supervisor make a real and reasonably successful effort to resolve things constructively, I do my best to stick it out until we actually *have* a better offer, but no taking another contract with them unless a miracle occurs. Plan B is the branch of the flowchart where Manager and Supervisor can't be bothered to resolve things constructively, especially if they try to strong-arm me or punish me. If that happens we yank me out as quickly as possible while salvaging as much as possible. A likely scenario for that would be a "better offer", while actually leaving for the most acceptable and available bridging income, and watching for an actual better offer.

Yes, I also intend to look for permanent jobs directly, but I finally figured out the obvious in words. I haven't been jobhunting because my emotional energy has been getting spent on coping with being abused, and there is not enough left in the energy budget to pay for the emotionally very expensive jobhunting. "Ought to" does not magically manufacture more energy to work with, especially when I am being driven into a depressed funk. I think there is also a mindset problem: the it's-not-so-bad mindset that helps a person cope with ongoing abuse precludes the mindset needed to plot the path out, and vice versa. Shifting between these mental gears is hard, because the perceptions/truths needed for each are in conflict. So, maybe if I get out of the toxic stew into something less stressful but still gainful employment, maybe then I would have the energy budget to attempt jobhunting, because I wouldn't be spending most of it on mandatory stress and cognitive dissonance. The emotional cost of a temporary moderate paycut is manageable, so long as I have an income and reasonable prospects.

Lesson: support systems for the abused are the leverage, the doorway to get out of the abusive situation. The difference in my morale tonight is huge. Not only do I have kind and understanding people listening to me and wishing me well (important and appreciated!), we have a we instead of an almost-powerless me, and that we has some actual practical steps on the docket that might not fail. And even if they do fail, the failure makes the toxic people look bad instead of me looking bad.

#419 ::: Shirashima ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2014, 03:21 AM:

So...... its been a LONG time. (As a note to abi or any other mods, not sure if this is the email I used before for this :/ )Last time I was on, I had just been left by my husband and had absolutely no clue how I was still somehow managing to live my life

Fast forward 3 years (almost)

I still have a hard time remembering that it is ok to take care of me first. I forget to eat when not prompted and am working 2 jobs to keep myself afloat after quiting the job thatmay have been a career a year into it due to a district manager who treated me not only like I was dumb, but more importantly, like I didn't know how to do my job. It finally sunk into my head that I deserve to be treated better than that because I am actually good at things. Apart from a minor freakout a few weeks ago, when I found out my exhusband's 19 year old girlfriend is pregnant, I actually haven't thought much about my ex in a year or so. I am actually a ton better without him.

I will actually finish catching up here tomorrow, because I just finished working both jobs, and I am exhausted. I just felt the need to check in and say, hi. Also, thank you so much to everyone who helped me through that first week of hellishness and insanity 3 years ago, and for the people who still witness and care for everyone on here all the time. This is one of the best communities I have found, and I am sorry I was away so long. A stolen computer and faulty wifi makes things difficult at times.

#420 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2014, 04:24 AM:

Given that the "View All By" shows only this one post, it's safe to say that it wasn't the same email. If you can manage to remember what the email was, you can send it to abi and she can probably change the email on your recent post, so as to link them together.

#421 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Gardener of Threads ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2014, 04:48 AM:

I've united the posts under the current email address. (There were three previous ones.) Shirashima, just go ahead and keep using the current email address.

#422 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2014, 06:27 AM:

Bodhisvaha @418: Oh my. That all sounds like really and for truly promising-like progress. Go, you, for tapping the available resources!

I want to pull out a couple of points:

I finally figured out the obvious in words.

It's weird how getting it to the point where you can verbalize it can make such a difference in being able to deal with it, doesn't it?

"Ought to" does not magically manufacture more energy to work with

I'm still struggling to learn this on a visceral level.

maybe if I get out of the toxic stew into something less stressful but still gainful employment, maybe then I would have the energy budget to attempt jobhunting

Also, jobhunting is less unappealing when one's immediate exemplar is less repellent...?

#423 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2014, 08:06 AM:

Bodhisvaha #418: Go you! Sounds like you're making serious progress! I will comment on one point:

A likely scenario for that would be a "better offer", while actually leaving for the most acceptable and available bridging income, and watching for an actual better offer.

An acceptable working environment is a better offer! Pay and prestige are only one side of the scales, the costs to you also count.

#424 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2014, 12:26 PM:

Thank you everybody for the cheers!

David Harmon @423: "An acceptable working environment is a better offer!"

Yes, exactly! Previously the veneer of civility/normalcy had been *just* thick enough to continue waffling over what would be better enough and keep going while being too tired to actually go hunt down better. The bad treatment meter was hovering nicely in the keep-me-dangling zone. And now they have taken a gouge to that veneer, too much to ignore what's under it. Either these people need a sharp shock, or they're not going to improve at all, or it's all up to upper management. Which is 5+ layers up on an optimistic assessment.

See, part of the problem is that I'm too loyal. My gut-level expectation is that once I commit to something, that I can't change it or leave. So it's my job to evaluate the deal before signing on, and if I don't like it after, too bad I'm locked in now. That's the shut-up-and-suffer Goddamn Tape that good sense has to shout louder than. So I badly need to experience a workplace where management actually co-operates with staff, and staff can pitch things or negotiate things and win when their proposal has merit.

Now, a better offer is anything that is not driving me crazy and pays the bills well enough to get my emotional feet back under me and actually jobhunt. (I'm well enough paid that I could handle losing up to half my pay if it was only for a few weeks, for example, or maybe a quarter or third for a few months.) Or even in two or three stages -- for example, clerk for a few weeks, then take a side-step into the next field over for a bit, or do something that enhances or teaches me a technical skill that is useful in my main field.

In May, Partner is graduating from *his* new professional qualifications, so if I can keep the finances together a little longer, I won't have to bread-win alone anymore. That's another reason I had been trying so hard to make the best of things at work. We've been doing his 3 year program with absolute minimum debt, so my bank balance is good so long as there is income, and tuition is paid off. We have a little room to be more frugal though not much. What worries me is an extended income drop, and/or having one or more high-capital items need replacing.

#425 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2014, 02:49 PM:

Bodhisvaha, #418: Yay for supportive HR people and placement agents! Suggestion: if you have time for this, keep a log of every negative interaction with Supervisor, no matter how trivial, for a full week. Having this handy to show to people who are not in the toxic environment may make it clearer just how much of your time and energy is taken up by dealing with this shit... and therefore can't be put into doing your job.

Also, it's good for your placement agency to know that this company has this kind of problem; it will help both them and any future clients they might be considering placing there to be aware of what they might be walking into.

I haven't been jobhunting because my emotional energy has been getting spent on coping with being abused, and there is not enough left in the energy budget to pay for the emotionally very expensive jobhunting.

Dingdingding! That's what I call "using up your Cope reserve". I literally didn't realize how much the Job From Hell was taking out of me until I was away from it. Looking back, I suspect I was about a month shy of a genuine, flat-out nervous breakdown. The good news is that once you are out of there, the reserves should build back up again fairly quickly.

"Ought to" does not magically manufacture more energy to work with

No, but you'd be surprised by the number of people who seem to think it does. :-(

#426 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2014, 09:01 PM:

@385: And whatever you're doing at the moment, no matter how useful, productive, interesting, or gratifying, isn't the thing you should be doing right now—which you would be doing if you weren't a lazy, irresponsible sot.

#427 ::: Shirashima ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2014, 12:04 AM:

Witnessing, and sending out all of the good thoughts and intentions for everyone at this time of year that can be awesome, and also crazy-stressful-I-want-to-hide-under-the-bed-until-its-over.
I have a problem with always thinking "but there are people who have it so much worse than I do" un til I am so out of spoons that I'm crying and unable to think.

Today was that day.

A little backstory: my mother is......less than a good person. I have managed to look past the abuses and issues instilled into my personality only because there are 2 other siblings still living with her and I need to make sure they know I am there for them. My 23 year old brother had a daughter earlier this year, and his relationship with our mother is that he says she is not his mother, and refuses to have anything to do with her. My 9month old niece has not met her grandmother.
My grandmother almost died a couple months back, and told my brother that he was expected at christmas with everyone else, including my mother. My mother doesn't really get along with anyone in the family, and firmly believes they're all secretly plotting against her.
Somehow, today, that lead to her texting me about how unfair it was that my brother's godmother (her sister) got his daughter her my first christmas stocking, and how unfair it was that her being his mother didn't seem to matter to anyone. Mind you, my mother hasn't exactly been the most supportive person to us. She will be helpful when we have no other options and have to ask for help, but she will take that favor back in blood, or hold it over your head forever to guilt you into things. I am still always weary when she is being nice to me, because I know that the other shoe will eventually drop and all hell will break loose. I know I shouldn't, but I try to make things easier with the 2 of them so my brother doesn't have to deal with my mother. That doesn't really help anything, ever.
My brother is still very childish. He is my brother, and I love him, but he doesn't ever let go of anything. He also whines when things aren't perfect. Today he told me I sucked because last year, my stockings weren't really up to par because I was flat broke and got the cheaper chocolate to save money. Situation isn't much better this year, so idk what I'm going to do for christmas gifts because he won't even tell me what he wants.
Yesterday was a friend I consider to be a brother's graduation party, and I let myself relax and drink and have a good time, and was suddenly being questioned about a situation with a friend who both is and isn't more than a friend. Its a sticky situation that we both ignore, but that this particular brother keeps wanting to poke to understand, or rather to prove that his thoughts on the situation are right.
Earlier this week, I hurt my back, to the point where I couldn't move, so I ended up going to the emergency room and getting medication for my back. Because they gave me super strong meds, and I drive for a living, I haven't been taking them. The pain on top of all the other things has made today one of those days where I want to hide under my covers and sleep until the new year.

Most of these are things I should not try doing, since I see the flawed logic in my trying to fix all the things, but because I want to fix all the things, I can't not try to make things better. I am so out of spoons right now, and ugggg.

#428 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2014, 01:22 AM:

Shirashima, #427: First, a mantra: "Just because other people have it worse doesn't mean that what I'm dealing with isn't bad, and it doesn't mean that I don't deserve better." Sometimes you just have to tell the Goddamn Tapes where to stick it.

Second, you can't fix your mother, any more than you can make an addict stop taking their drug. She has to make the decision that SHE wants to fix herself, and make it stick. The most you can offer is a palliative... to the people she's hurting. Which you seem to be doing, so there's no reason to beat yourself up for not being able to control something that's outside your power.

Third, your brother, by his behavior, has sacrificed his right to any special effort from you in the area of Christmas gifts. Get him what you can afford, or get him a gift card for something you know he likes. If he whines, tough. Why should you put yourself out for someone who's just going to tell you that you suck?*

Fourth, a friend who feeds you booze and then starts prying into something you don't want to talk about needs a talk about boundaries. Maybe this was an unusual situation, but that kind of behavior really makes me side-eye.

Fifth, can you at least take your pain meds at night before bed? Getting a pain-free night's sleep might go a long way toward getting your body to heal.

* There's an Andy Capp** cartoon that seems appropriate here. Andy's wife Flo hands him a Christmas card, saying that his present from her mother is in it. Andy opens the card and says, "Just as always -- wrong colour, wrong size."

** Andy Capp is a strip about a British lay-about. It's funny in the same kind of way that any caricature is funny -- exaggerating the negatives of the subject.

#429 ::: Shirashima ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2014, 04:27 AM:

Lee # 428
Sometimes the Goddamn Tapes refuse to stop playing because she has always known exactly where the Buttons are, considering she installed them. She made my brother and I both read A Child Called It, so we could see that clearly she wasn't a terrible mother. Every time she feels slighted, its a matter of, "well I'm his/her mother, not that that makes a difference". The past few years, being out of my mothers house, I have come to realize just how much went on that wasn't really normal, what I put up with that is insane to most people, because to me, it seems perfectly reasonable. I try to fix things because I am the oldest, and it is my job to fix things so the younger kids are safe.

Not fixing things means that someone else is going to be hurt, and I have failed as a big sister. I am smart enough that I know it isn't my job to fix things, but I still feel like I've failed if I don't. Kinda like Jaques was saying earlier about the brainweasel who tells you you suck for not finishing all 8 things.

My brother has a problem being gracious for what he is given and what he has. He always clings to what he doesn't have. I'm still hoping that he grows out of it.

We were both drunk, and it was on his mind because the other friend and he have been fighting recently, but I am close to both of them. Its just a conversation I hate having because he's partly right, and the part he's wrong about hurts because it would be better if he were right.

I can't take the pain meds until after my shift is up, and it is an on call job. Currently I've been on call 12 hours, and haven't driven any of my 10 driving hours available. I have high dose ibprofen, which helps for a while, but not quite as well.

#430 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2014, 11:11 AM:

Shirashima, that sounds like a terrible situation. It's hard to let go of protecting people, especially when you can see the harm done to them so directly. On the other hand, you are also a person you have to protect. I think that for a little while, this might be an oxygen-mask situation: you can't help others until you've gotten yourself safe.

I feel your whiny brother deserves no chocolate. I would certainly have trouble giving him anything with joy in my heart.

And A Child Called It... my family also has major baggage related to this book, but it's the other way around. On an early DFD post, I talked about my sister's adventures in reporting abuse. And for your mother? Comparing herself to the fourth-worst case of child abuse in the state of California, and the worst one where the child survived? That's like comparing herself to a hamster and reporting great success because she didn't eat you.

#431 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2014, 11:22 AM:

Diatryma: reporting great success because she didn't eat you.


#432 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2014, 04:40 AM:

Abuse in poly relationships

I'd say it's a rather good analysis of abuse in general.

#433 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2014, 08:20 AM:

Just a warm thought for all who have challenging Christmases. We're here for you....

#434 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2014, 09:24 AM:

ancy Lebovitz #432: Wow, great article. I wanted to pull out this bit:

Hey, let’s talk about how awesome questioned privilege is. Questioned privilege shines a light on the power structures in place, makes you an advocate instead of an adversary, and gives you enough awareness to listen to other’s experiences and carry awareness of those experiences into your life. Unquestioned privilege, or even worse, defensive privilege, does incredible damage to the people around you.

One of the most dangerous things about privilege in poly relationships, is our insistence that it doesn’t exist.
#435 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2014, 10:22 AM:

Link at 432:

One of the things I liked about it is the emphasis on abuse being an epistomological attack, and how debilitating such attacks are.

I believe that even physical abuse is an epistomological attack, since the attacked person is expected to pretend that the attack isn't an outrage.

One thing I was expecting to see in the article was that in poly relationships (as distinct from mono relationships but not as distinct from dysfunctional families and organizations) there's the risk of being outnumbered by one's abusers. This is barely hinted at, though.

#436 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2014, 10:33 AM:

Cassy B @433:

Just a warm thought for all who have challenging Christmases. We're here for you....

Yes to this. I hope you find some joy with people you care about, or (at the very least) get through things with as little damage as possible.

Feel free to come here and aargh and rant if you need to in the aftermath.

#437 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2014, 03:10 PM:

Nancy & David: There's another section I'd like to pull out and highlight, because it also has applicability well beyond the poly community.

In Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman explains that "neutrality" serves the interests of the perpetrator far more than the victim and is therefore not neutral. As Bancroft explains, "In reality, to remain neutral is to collude with the abusive man, whether or not that is your goal. If you are aware of chronic or severe mistreatment and do not speak out against it, your silence communicates implicitly that you see nothing unacceptable taking place. Abusers interpret silence as approval, or at least as forgiveness. To abused women, meanwhile, the silence means that no one will help…"

This is the same message as another article I linked to back in November, and it's an important one. There is no such thing as "neutrality" in the presence of abuse.

To everyone reading: May your holiday be as stress-free as possible, and may you find a safe place wherein to spend it.

#438 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2014, 07:08 PM:

432: "why I end up sobbing and apologizing over and over again at the end of every conversation where I try to stand up for myself."


Oh, boy, does that ever take me back....

#439 ::: Different nym ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2014, 06:15 AM:

So I just had that shitty family interaction that is obviously bound to happen at Christmas?

The only thing that was supposed to happen was my mother coming over from our parents' house for a few minutes so we could exchange presents. I only had a present for her as I don't have interest in having anything to do with my father and he doesn't care about me except for the part where I can do something for him, so why bother? He doesn't even know when my birthday is or what I'm currently doing.

Anyway, I fortunately looked out the window right before my mother's arrival, and … my father was with her. She didn't say a word about that on the phone and I avoid seeing him or talking to him whenever I can so what the fuck.

A lot of awkwardness happened, fortunately they left pretty quickly, but I am so mad they did that. I've made it abundantly clear that I don't like meeting him at all.

So I wanted to ask the community for reference how they would act in that situation? I know it wasn't okay and I know I would've been justified to tell him to wait outside or whatever, but I was so blindsided, I just made polite chit chat and tried to get them out as quickly as possible. What would you've done?

#440 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2014, 09:01 AM:

I would have not answered the door.

#441 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2014, 03:08 PM:

I was thinking about various options when I scrolled down to Bruce's comment. He nailed it.

Blindsided: yeah. Eating lunch outside of work when they walked by....

#442 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2014, 04:49 PM:

Different nym @439: A difficult one. I agree that Bruce's suggestion (not answering the door) might have been a good solution. But not necessarily the optimum one - that would depend on your feelings and your calculations regarding possible fallout etc.

Sympathies. Witnessing.

#443 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2014, 05:43 PM:

Different nym @439:

Honestly? My reaction would have been similar. I have trouble enforcing boundaries when I'm unprepared, and my default is always towards polite behavior.

For me personally, if I can get through a situation like that without committing myself to doing anything I really don't want to do (moneywise, timewise, emotionwise) then I consider it a job well done.

#444 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2014, 06:23 PM:

I won't claim that not answering the door is an optimal solution, even for me. I may have missed some outstanding opportunities by avoiding social interaction (see Naismith, C. "A great test is a great blessing"), but I am largely content.

#445 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2014, 06:31 PM:

Merricat @443: my default is always towards polite behavior.

Which, on balance, is not a bad thing, in my view. Perhaps not optimally functional, but until one can make a considered choice, one that may at least not make things worse.

#446 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2014, 12:18 PM:

Hello Different nym @439

I just had that shitty family interaction that is obviously bound to happen at Christmas?...

Given that you've made your position clear to both parents about how much you (don't) want to see your father, I'd have gone with the response as posted by Bruce H. at #440.

Politeness is all well and good, but people who show themselves willing to unilaterally boundary test, like showing up at the front door of your residence with the un-announced company of someone on you persona non grata list, I have found in subsequent conversations with such people that the definitions of "polite" are remarkably plastic and not generally flexible in my favor.

You don't happen to say if anyone tried to palm off onto you the script card, "But it's Christmas!!" and/or "But we're family!" but both of those would have sealed the deal for me: these are not people who are on your side.

You ask what others would have done. Honestly, my relations with my own parents are so frozen, I'd have had no difficulties at all with being as /r/u/d/e/ forthright as necessary to get my point across. (I don't shout insults because, yeah, that just seems like sinking to their level. But I do mention, in a low, business-like tone of voice, that I know the way to the police station and will not hesitate to involve them. Some people will call that rude. Stay tuned for more...)

That said, I know what being blindsided is like, and that can suck because one feels so incompetent afterwards. For days afterward, "I should have known, darn it!!" On the other hand - your mother made the decision, and not you, to bring along your father. If you can now, forgive yourself for any accusations of inadequacy you might be leveling at yourself. Self-care is most important here.

Another tactic for after such a surprise encounter is to follow-up - I have had moments (not with parents, but with others feeling free to help themselves to my energy/time/good will/reserves) where someone pulled that, and I basically said to the person who had allowed the situation, "I will not expose myself to that again. You have now joined that other in durance vile. Have a nice life." If you are feeling kind and ready to cope, you don't have to go full-on, but rather, "That was uncool, and I will look upon it just this once as a mistake. Do it again, and I will declare a period of no-contact for ___________."

That last, by the way, might be more than you asked for - forgive my impertinence, if that's the case. I'm mostly jumping at the shadow of people who employ these kinds of "plausible" excuses like "he only wanted to come with," to test boundaries, and as folks might deduce from my strategy above, I have little tolerance for that kind of thing. If someone can't be bothered to ask, or say something like "So-and-so wants to see you", they've pretty much demonstrated their lack of respect for your agency - only people who don't want to expose themselves to your "no" will do that.

Crazy(and having been obliged to put up way too much with that kind of thing in the past, so hoping this helps clarify future decisions)Soph

#447 ::: Different nym ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2014, 01:53 PM:

Thank y'all for your feedback! It has been illuminating. Also crazysoph, your elaborations were helpful.

I think I will follow up with my mother and tell her it wasn't cool and what I expect of her next time or else. My father is too narcissistic that I'd bother talking to him.

#448 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2014, 02:03 PM:

AAARGH people who are constitutionally incapable of planning anything involving transport and timeframe.

Catalog of sins, not necessarily in order:
- partner's family dithers about plans but thought they would go to OtherCity for the 28th, no set return date, transportation one way and place to stay offered.
- work ignores vacation request. By time work notices and claws back 1 week of vacation, affordable tickets to OtherCity can no longer be procured, one-way ride has evaporated for legitimate reasons, and place to stay has evaporated.
- maybe a week in advance, partner's family offers a simple Christmas day where we go to my family, see theirs Boxing day. We gratefully accept and immediately inform my family. (The usual thing is to try and make transportationless us arrange our own ride to three different households in the suburbs and adjoining rural area by begging busy people for help. Of course we gratefully accepted!)
- partner's family tries to change this Christmas Eve and we say we can't because no transport.
- most of partner's family that we actually want to see and were expecting to see Boxing Day are actually either away, leaving, or doing their own thing, so little visiting is going to occur. At least one part of this was extremely predictable because partner's sister's in-laws have booked Boxing Day for many years, but nobody ever told us this before that I recall.
- partner's family remembered to tell us that Younger Sister was leaving early, but forgot to tell us when we ought to arrive, or even verify how we were getting there, until this morning, and forgot to tell us until 1:30pm that "dinner" is actually at 2pm. We cannot get there until 3pm on the bus.
- partner's family claims to have been under the impression that we were going to show up at 9am, yet this was never arranged and they did not check in when we did not show...
- partner's family is busy and having a hard time finding someone to drop everything and come get us, in part because one of Younger Sisters we wanted to spend time with is out gallivating with her partner.
- I will yet again arrive at another important family holiday ready to rip out the throats of all the people I am supposed to be nice to.

And I don't think we've even told them yet that we cannot come to OtherCity this year between everything...

#449 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2014, 04:15 PM:

Bodhisvaha @448: ARRGGHH! on your behalf. Sympathies. Hope you manage to salvage some pleasant us-time with your partner after the fraught days.

#450 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2014, 05:14 PM:

Different nym, #439/447: That sucks giant purple rocks thru a bendy straw. You've gotten some good advice already; the only thing I want to add is that now that it's happened, you can take thought to what to do if/when something like it happens again in a different context, so as not to be blindsided a second time. IOW, don't just think about Christmas, but also about other holidays, and birthdays, and even things like running into them out and about as you do your weekly shopping.

Bodhisvaha, #448: Yeeowtch, sympathies!

In all honesty, it sounds as though you and your partner are an afterthought to your partner's family -- as if they really don't care much about whether they see you for the holidays or not. At this point I would be strongly tempted to start making my own plans without reference to them, and to say so when asked. "Sorry, we can't make it, we have other plans."

(Side note: in the "rules of dating" when I was growing up, when a boy asked you out and you genuinely couldn't go but wanted to, you said you had other plans and then told him what they were. The unadorned "I have other plans" was a brushoff and meant "don't call me again". I still use it that way, although I'm aware that probably most of the people I would say it to did not get that cultural conditioning.)

#451 ::: Different nym ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2014, 05:48 AM:

Lee at #450, funnily enough I already had precautions in place because I was blindsided by my father once before. My mother made them not work by using her visiting privileges to drag along my father (or allowing him to come, doesn't make a difference). Because if she hadn't been invited and someone would've knocked on my door, I wouldn't have openend.
But I guess I will run some scenarios through my head as I am much better at dealing with my father when I have a PLN.

The day will come when he won't give me an alternative to being massively "rude" because otherwise he'll keep trampling my boundaries.

#452 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2014, 04:37 PM:

To echo Captain Awkward: stating your boundaries is not being "rude." Knowingly crashing someone's boundaries is. Seems to me your dad's already played his card in this game.

The only cards left in the deck are (again, referencing CA): have you actually told him (and your mother) in words that he needs to stay away? As CA says, "hints don't work."

#453 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2014, 04:58 PM:

And meanwhile, I get to apply my own advice. In case anyone has ever wondered if trolls exist in meatspace, I can testity that they most certainly do.

One which emerged in the course of our whole HOA flap a couple of years ago surfaced again a couple of weeks ago, sending email about a lawsuit he'd file—and lost, twice. I made the mistake of responding flippantly, trying to politely indicate (hint) that he should leave me out of his conflicts. Took him a while, but he just sent email (predictably) accusing me of the same mental, moral, and character deficiencies suffered by everyone else who doesn't automatically agree with him.

VALIANTLY resisting the urge to argue point by point,* I responded with one line: "Sorry: let me be clear: Don't contact me again."

We'll see if that takes. If it doesn't, I'm now pondering what authorities I can invoke if he contacts me again. Beyond not just answering his emails, I mean.

* Because he's equating refusal to respond to him with refusal to engage with the HOA's problems—Heh. Yeah. No, not so much.

#454 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2014, 06:11 PM:

Jacque, #453: Some e-mail clients offer the option of a "bounce filter" -- e-mail that hits this one will be returned to sender with an attached message, which could be something to the effect of "Messages from this source are no longer being accepted."

If your e-mail doesn't have that option, then I would suggest simply adding a filter which routes anything he sends straight into the Trash folder, before you even see it. Much easier on your blood pressure!

#455 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2014, 10:03 PM:

Yeah, the email filter option is in the solution space. Unfortunately, when his tantrums aren't acknowledged to his satisfaction, this guy has a history of upping the ante until legal recourse is required. I don't think there's any legal angle he could come at me from, but he's proven, um, creative in the past. So I feel compelled to at least keep an eye on activity from his quarter.

Purely aside, of course, from my admittedly prurient interest in what he'll get himself up to next. Did I mention? His indignation was so righteous that he felt compelled to write a book about his misadventures with our HOA.

No, I'm not rushing out to buy a copy.

#456 ::: Different nym ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2014, 04:27 AM:

Jacque at #452, I did indeed not put anything of this into words up until now because I got the thorough conditioning from my parents that saying what I want doesn't help. Also the thing where I don't want to talk to him, ever, at all. It was already a great victory for me when I refused him help with something.

And even though I've been drawing stricter and stricter boundaries with my family, I'm reluctant to rock the boat because my mother has been trying to get father and me "closer together" on and off for years (despite being explicitely told to LEAVE IT and him not having any interest in me). Grandma (his mother) is also meddling.

#457 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2014, 06:49 AM:

Different nym @456: my mother has been trying to get father and me "closer together" on and off for years (despite being explicitely told to LEAVE IT

Ah! So you have used your words. And despite that, your mother chose to override your expressed wishes and push your father at you?

In other words, saying what you mean doesn't work with them—?

That...seriously sucks. And it sucks like a bilge pump that you have to waste your energy and attention compensating for their lack of a basic adult skill: respecting the expressed wishes of another adult human being.

I confess, I have fantasies of Lee being there for a visit the next time they show up uninvited. }:-)

#458 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2014, 01:43 PM:

Heh. I'd be willing to do it, but I don't know how much good it would do. One of the reasons that I've learned how to be very direct is that over the years I've had several friends who, while well-intentioned, do not pick up on subtlety at all -- they don't get non-verbal cues, and they don't pick up hints well. (And for that matter, I HATE being hinted at, and therefore don't like to do it to anyone else.) But this assumes that there is good will behind the lack of picking-up, and that once it's been made clear to them what I want, they'll respect that.

This completely breaks down with someone who does not have that underlying good will, who is deliberately not hearing what you say. In this case it would almost certainly devolve to tactical nukes -- and while I have no hesitation about applying those either, the result is rarely pleasant.

#459 ::: Different nym ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2014, 02:08 PM:

Yes, the blowing up is pretty much what I expect, at least from my father. You can talk to my mother and, well, with up to three repetitions, she will usually get it … for some time.

But my father goes petulant/full on confrontational ("CAN you not help me or do you not WANT to help me?" was his "joking" reply the last time I wanted to say no politely) at the drop of a hat. Basically every reaction he has to boundary enforcement puts me immediately on the spot to go nuke mode or lose. And that's why I don't talk to him if I can help it at all. There's no relationship I want to salvage and usually, I can avoid him completely (i.e. if my mother doesn't sabotage me).

#460 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2014, 03:42 PM:

I've been reading and witnessing, and am recognising the whole "let's ignore the boundaries" variation on parenting only too well.

An update: I replied briefly to my mother's "beautiful white dove" email, telling her that there was no dove, that as she felt responsible for causing my father to go off on one she could sort that out and get him to give me the apology I deserved; that I wasn't going to respond to any more of my parents' emails until I received the apology I've asked my father for; and I told them (again) to only contact me by email and not to phone me under any circumstances.

My mother has continued to phone me.

A while ago she phoned but didn't say anything: I hung up, dialled 1471 and heard my parents' number, and realised that the odd sounds I'd heard were theatrical sobbing.

Since then I've answered the phone to her a couple of times and, once I've been able to get a word in edgewise, have told her I've asked her not to phone, and have hung up on her. A couple of times my husband or children have answered the phone to her and when they've pointed out that she's been asked not to phone here she says, "I just need to know if you're all ok."

If she wants to know how we are she could email, which is what I've asked her to do.

She phoned our home twice on Christmas day.

We now hang up on her as soon as we hear her voice but sometimes she'll hang on the phone so that the next time we pick up the receiver she's still there.

I am on the verge of taking a restraining order out against her. Except that I know it'll do no good: it won't stop her phoning, it'll risk making her worse.

We're investigating how to block her number, but she doesn't always phone from her home phone: she's used friends' phones, so it's not a perfect solution.

She's not called us since Christmas day: I just hope she'll find a new thing to obsess about.

#461 ::: Different nym ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2014, 04:08 PM:

Rosa at #460, wow, the calling when she's been asked to use email and pretending "she was worried" (and using other people to get around the boundary) is exactly what my grandmother does. Fortunately, all our phones display the caller ID and we saved all her numbers so we see when it's her and we can actually block numbers in our router. I can confirm that it gives you tremendous piece of mind if she's physically not able to call you because you don't have to worry at every ring.

But as I said, she's still trying to sneak around that boundary in other ways, it's really tiresome. Also some of the reasons she mentions to our parents are almost as non-sensical as the dove email -.- Almost.

I hope you'll find a (technical) solution that will work.

#462 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2014, 04:21 PM:

Lee @ 450: I can't think of too many other avenues to try. I do think they care, though. They pass up many prime opportunities to exclude us and guilt us, if those were the goals. Partner's family is more functional than mine and actually like each other. But oh god they cannot plan. Given the number of last-minute changes they tend to have, it's marvellous that it works to the extent that it does.

I admit logistics for my family are simpler but they also work *much* better: my aunt lives downtown; my parents live out in the suburbs. I usually live downtown-ish, and my sister tells people where she's staying this year. If my parents are the venue, my aunt is our ride. If my aunt is the venue, my parents are the ride or we bus. Choice of day and afternoon/evening/full day block are set weeks in advance, with full respect to work hours/days, specific times are set a few days in advance, and the ride calls when leaving home. I cannot remember the last time I saw a major failure in this system.

One problem is Partner's elders' assumption that adult = car owner. Historically the parents had 2 cars, and one or more children also had a car. The new reality is that Partner's parents have one car, and there are 4 adult kids with 2-4 partners. Some of the younger generation drive, but none possess cars. At home in OtherCity they all take transit. They often take public transport to Hometown, and need car access or chauffeur service once there, because bus service inside the parental suburb is lousy. The result is that Partner's family can't slap together logistics in Hometown the way they always could before.

I have to conclude that Partner's Mom's planning skills are not up to the new reality, and that nobody else has taken charge. There's some kind of trauma history about planning family events related to another elder who's bipolar, tied up in this. But I also think it has to be partly family culture and genetics, because Partner likewise has very weak logistics skills. The other children developed some in self-defense, but they aren't running family event planning.

The rest of the family seems to have much more time and money flexibility than me and Partner. They do things like decide last-minute to come back on Tuesday instead of Sunday (which would make *my* boss unhappy, if they're our ride), or to toss their existing reservations to buy last-minute plane tickets when someone falls sick. It feels like nobody checks our plans and limitations, while the others do get consulted or are making the plans to suit themselves. When we end up saying no because of this, we get left out somewhat more. We keep getting invited, and we keep trying to tell them that they need to set up a solid plan earlier for us to participate, because my work expects quarterly vacation planning. (I think it's stupid too, but I can't change it.) And they don't make much effort to come see us when events have prevented us from coming to see them. They send an awful lot of we-don't-care signals for people who actually do seem to care.

My mother is getting sick of this, at least with respect to major holidays, and is planning to have a Talk with them about it. I actually appreciate this intention -- letting the matriarchs fight it out between themselves who gets Thanksgiving and Christmas proper is ideal -- but I want some input too. Even if Partner and I had our own car, trying to visit 2-3 different households out in the suburbs and beyond, and eat two large dinners in one day makes no sense. I'm not fussy about which family gets which day, or if they alternate or what. What I care about is simplicity: one major event/location per day, reliable and workable transport, and to know what block of time I'm booking off work sufficiently in advance to get it. If the target stopped moving, we could arrange to book cheap tickets and free lodgings for visiting OtherCity. Our goals are see family, relax, go to the Dec. 28 best party of the year, and do something fun on New Year's Eve with people we like. The rest is flexible to the degree that work/school and budget permits.

#463 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2014, 04:36 PM:

Different nym @459: "CAN you not help me or do you not WANT to help me?"

Ignore if nosey: What did you tell him?

FWIW, he has no right to demand an answer to this; if you've said no, that's the end of it. I wish I could find Miss Manner's essay about how to say no if circumstances require that you flower it up. She provides two good-sized paragraphs that are polite, cordial as all hell, courteous— and boil down to an unequivocal "no."

But I totally get the non-confrontational thing. I was out on my own for a decade or more before I could finally say "no" and make it stick. I was into my twenties before I could think it. Because if I offered any form of resistance to my parents, I caught seven kinds of hell, so they had me well-conditioned before I launched into the world. Made for a compliant, easy-to-manage child, but left me vulnerable to anyone who had a strong opinion about who/what I should be doing with myself. (Fortunately, I'm a stubborn SOB, so I had my ways. But simply being able to say no would have saved me years of dysfunctional choices....)

Note to parents: If they can't say no to you, they can't say no, and this is a dangerous state of affairs.

#464 ::: Different nym ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2014, 05:00 PM:

Jacque at #463, I went with Captain Awkward and repeated what I said before, more or less verbatim. Broken record seems to help somewhat. But his weird answers are a moving target because he's pulled other confrontational crap which I was totally not prepared for and it's hard for me to come up with answers when all I want to say is "GO THE FUCK AWAY."

Okay I'm going there, because it still makes me angry. The reason why I have the knock policy (I don't open if I don't know who's coming) is because one day, he was at my door because he had locked himself out of my parents' house. I wasn't happy but okay with giving him my key, which he then brought me back. i thought this would be it, but he asked if he could see my flat. Which no?? I told him rather directly this time that no, he could not. He proceeded to ask me, if it's possible that I don't like him (in that way, which expects you to answer "No! Not at all! What makes you think that??") I don't exactly know what I answered because I was totally flabbergasted. Anyway, that's what happens when I'm telling him no: even more boundary violation (when I talk to a person 10 times a year for 1,5 minutes and won't let him into my flat, I sure don't want to discuss with him right in front of my flat how we relate to each other!).

#465 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2014, 05:15 PM:

Rosa Hughes @460:

Would it be possible to get an answering machine of some sort (do they still exist?) and not answer any calls unless you hear the voice and know it's someone you want to talk to?

So the two branches of possibility are:

1. "Ring ring" "Hi - no one is available to answer the phone; please leave a message." "Hi Rosa, this is Person You Want To Talk To and —" "Hi Person! Sorry - didn't get to the phone on time!" etc, or

2. "Ring ring" "Hi - no one is available to answer the phone; please leave a message." "Hello, my darling daughter who never treats me as well as I deserve, let me tell you about the heavily symbolic vision I am going to pretend I had, then rub in all its shallow and easily predicted meanings..." (later: "delete message?" "yes")

Old-school call screening. If it's not hlepy.

#466 ::: Bayone ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2014, 06:31 PM:

I feel like I'm the drive-by venter on these threads, and I don't even know if this one qualifies, because this is my own individual problem rather than anything to do with my family, but I don't know where else to post it:

I've once again got a crush on somebody. I never act on these, because (a) I'm already married (and spouse still has all the mental/physical problems he had last time I posted, plus more), (b) they're generally not requited, and (c) I know from experience that they wear off after three to five years. It's (c) that's killing me -- intellectually, I can't take this feeling seriously because I know it's not permanent -- but it still hurts, and three to five years of guilty and frustrated lust, while not a lifetime, is nothing to sneeze at. I also know from experience that there's no way to make it wear off faster. And then I wonder if it's wrong that I'm intellectually-if-not-emotionally discounting any relationship that's not life-long, because lots of actual, both-parties-know-and-consent-to-them relationships probably last about that long. Even without growing up in a particularly conservative environment or reading any romance novels I seemed to have internalized that if something other than death parts you, then the whole thing was a sham. Which I suppose is why I take care of my spouse while constantly committing and berating myself for mental infidelity (both to him, and to all the guys I've previously had crushes upon.)

Also, this time out it’s an online acquaintance I’m obsessing over, so in my head the ghost of every moral-panic article I ever came across is nodding smugly and saying “See? This is what you get for talking to people on that wicked internet.” Or at least, I should have resisted the urge to talk to this person as soon as I noticed I was attracted; I don’t know if that would have successfully nipped my interest in the bud, but I could have tried. So anyway, that's my latest episode of Why Am I So &$%'d Up?"

#467 ::: Bayone ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2014, 09:20 PM:

Aaand the fact that I just hurled my glasses across the room in frustration made me realize that a lot of what I'm feeling is probably because I've been off work, and therefore not taking my citalopram, for too many days in a row.

#468 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2014, 09:39 PM:

abi, #465: Yes, old-style answering machines are still widely available -- Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy were the first 3 choices that came up on a Google search. And it's also perfectly acceptable to tell friends that "we've been getting a lot of crank calls and are going to be screening everything for a while, so please identify yourself when you hear the message and if we're home we'll pick up once we know it's not one of those".

Bayone, #466: Hearing and witnessing. Also, BTDT with the unwanted and unrequited crush that takes forever to go away, so you have my sympathies on that as well.

If you feel like addressing some of the other issues you mentioned after you're back on a more even keel, please come back and post again.

#469 ::: Bayone ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2014, 10:43 PM:

Thanks. I've been having a couple of months of Everything Going Wrong at Once, so I'm mostly just treading water at the moment.

#470 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2014, 01:19 AM:

Bayone @467: citalopram

Oh. Right. That would be why my brain feels like it's sloshing around in my skull.... (And maybe why it took three tries to get all the words in the right order in that last sentence.) Thanks for the reminder.

#471 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2014, 01:38 AM:

Rosa Hughes @460, the new landline phone I picked up last month (Panasonic KX-TGE240B) not only has a built-in answering machine, it announces the identity of the caller while the phone is ringing. I can make an informed decision about whether to answer before it even hits the fourth ring and the answering machine kicks in.

(How does it know? If the incoming number is in its phonebook, it reads the name associated with that number. If not, it goes with the Caller ID, I think. If that’s blocked, it tells me whether it's a local call or one from out of area. Most out-of-area calls seem to be scammers or junk marketers; they generally don’t even bother to leave a message.)

#472 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2014, 03:40 AM:

We live out in the sticks and our phone line is very tenuous, and prone to lightning strikes and power surges. And when we get a strike or a surge anything other than a very basic handset gets fried, so we have to replace it.

When we used to have cordless phones we got through four in a year before we gave up.

We did have an answering machine which let us screen calls, but it too got fried by the power problems we have.

We've tried caller ID but again, the handsets required for them to work are relatively expensive and their expensive electronics go the same way as the answering machines.

At the moment we're just letting all calls go through to the answering service our phone provider includes, and then we phone people back if we want to speak to them.

I'd rather just block my mother, though, as I find the tension generated by waiting to see who it was on the phone is too great.

But thank you for the suggestion, Abi: if we lived somewhere less extreme it would have worked.

#473 ::: Different nym ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2014, 06:07 AM:

Rosa at #472: I'd rather just block my mother, though, as I find the tension generated by waiting to see who it was on the phone is too great.

I totally get that. Fortunately I'm pretty sure your provider should be able to help you with that.

#474 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2014, 08:05 AM:

Rosa Hughes #472: We live out in the sticks and our phone line [...] prone to lightning strikes and power surges. [...] At the moment we're just letting all calls go through to the answering service our phone provider includes,

Usually known as "voice mail" in my parts. And yeah, that works (except for hearing messages in realtime). Personally, I switched from answering machines to voice mail because back when, I had a pet rabbit who chewed wires.

However, I will also mention that nowadays there are surge protectors with slots for phone cords! I have no idea if they'll be sufficient to your environment, but they may be worth a try.

#475 ::: Rosa Hughes ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2014, 12:10 PM:

David, we've tried those phone-surge protectors and they don't help, I'm afraid. I wish they did: we'd have saved a lot of money on new phones over the years! But thank you for the suggestion, nevertheless.

#476 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2014, 08:08 AM:

Rosa Hughes #475: I was afraid of that, too bad. Alas, protecting signal wires from lightning spikes is a Hard Problem: Not only is lightning itself a proverbial 800-pound gorilla, but it spawns Bad Chimp spikes in nearby conductors, let alone connected wires.

#477 ::: Battle Cat ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2014, 05:29 PM:

Bayone @466: would "enjoy that there's someone Out There you like" (while not actually doing anything about it) be an option for you? A variation on the good old "no harm in enjoying the view"?

Really, expecting you'll never meet anyone you also find interesting besides your spouse over an entire life is highly unrealistic (and somewhat depressing. A little crush adds spice! :)). Being faithful is about what you *do* when you do, IMO.

#478 ::: Battle Cat ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2014, 05:54 PM:

Bodhisvaha @work

if your supervisor for some reason decided she hates your guts, knowing that she doesn't need to bite you away because you'll be leaving anyway may get her to stop going out of her way to be nasty. You've actually met her, what do you say?

#479 ::: Bayone ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2014, 09:45 PM:

Battle Cat @#477

It's what I try to do, but I get angst-y from time to time, and right now I'm worrying that I initiate too many conversations with my crush and that I'm annoying him or creeping him out, but then again if I were to suddenly stop doing so he might wonder if he'd done something to offend me... Scratch the surface and I'm basically fourteen....

#480 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2014, 02:58 AM:

Bayone @479: I think if you scratch the surface of any human, they're basically fourteen (though some may hide it under a thicker surface than others).

#481 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2015, 10:22 PM:

As the new year begins, I lift a glass to absent friends (ma larkey and Codemonkey come to mind) and express my hope that things are going as well as they can.

Reading and witnessing.

#482 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2015, 12:30 AM:

New years eve, when I went to bed, I had a very hard time getting to sleep because I was thinking thoughts that got me extremely tense. This is something that happens occasionally and unpredictably. Specifically, the thoughts are running scenarios, often with visualizations of violence. It bothers me less when the scenarios involve "how would I deal with an emergency" even if they run through as things not likely to work, although they do still bother me because these thoughts are usually not appropriate to the situation and they go on much longer than they really need to, and especially because of the physical aspect. I'm not sure if I should say these are more than just visualizations or if other people have the same physical reaction when they run what-if scenarios, but I don't like it. If these visualizations and scenarios involve any kind of violence or heightened emotion, such as "what would I do if somebody attacks me" or "what would I do if somebody got severely injured near me" then my heart rate goes way up, my muscles tense; if the scenario involves any kind of violence my fists clench and I feel like I'm about to get into a fight. The only way I know how to stop it is distraction.

Anyhow, the scenario that my brain was subjecting me to on NYE was Crappy Ex showing up at my school, the same one where I saw his name in the computer system and panicked until I verified that he wasn't a student. (I mentioned this back in May) And... I'm not a violent person, but almost every single scenario that went through my head while I was trying to relax and get to sleep involved me doing violence to him, up to me kicking him with my steel toed boots, hard enough to break bone. They were very vivid. I was beyond tense and into rigid, while lying in bed trying to relax and get to sleep. After about a half hour or so of that, I went and got a book and read until I couldn't keep my eyes open, and only then could I get to sleep. Hoping they don't come back tonight, because sleeping in tomorrow is not an option. They usually don't happen two days in a row, at least.

#483 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2015, 05:05 AM:

the invisible one, #482: Sometimes when I'm in a really bad mood, I get trapped into a loop of violent imagery like that. (Mine tends to be more "having a target to take out the anger on" -- for example, I'll think about how I'd kill someone who tried to carjack me.) It's damnably uncomfortable, and not a frame of mind I really want to spend time in.

What I've found works best is to distract myself, and reading is the best way for me. There are a number of books which will grab and hold my attention, and after I've been reading for a while I won't be in that nasty headspace any longer. Games on the computer won't do it, because I can still think about the nasty stuff while I'm playing games -- but reading allows me to sink completely into an alternative world. It's worth a try to see if that works for you.

#484 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2015, 06:23 AM:

the invisible one: Huh. I wonder if my deal is a milder version of what you're dealing with: I've recently become conscious that under some very particular circumstances, I set up scenarios in my head where someone's crashing my boundaries (telling me how to do X, telling me what I'm doing is wrong, &c), and I speachify in my head how I would rebut them or tell them to FOAD. (Heh. Practicing my inner Lee? :-> )

The circumstance is usually getting dinner or washing dishes. I have no idea where this is coming from, because I generally don't have anyone getting in my face about stuff, these days, so it almost certainly has to be internally generated.

I speculate that it's a variant of a dynamic I noticed some years ago (back when I still had fantasies of being a writer): a scene from my fictional universe would stick in my head (usually some variation of hurt/succor) where my Mary Sue would be rescuing the love interest.

I finally worked out that the injured or endangered love interest was the surrogate for me, dramatizing in allegory (a la dream structure) whatever struggle I was feeling at the time, and my Mary Sue was my unconscious energies trying to save myself. (Double disassociation, wot?)

Which suggests that whatever energy is driving the criticism/rebuttle dynamic I've noticed recently is a similar allegoricalization(!?) of some energy I'm currently struggling with. That's as far as I've gotten in making sense of it, though.

#485 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2015, 09:15 AM:

#483, Lee: I wasn't in a bad mood before this started. In fact, I had been reading a good book and enjoying my hot chocolate and was heading for bed after a relaxing evening. No idea what causes it to start. Reading (more of the same good book) is exactly how I got away from it so I could sleep.

#484, Jacque: your first example, modelling responses to somebody pushing my boundaries, is something I do sometimes. Apart from beating myself up for "I should have" I don't find this too distressing, and it's usually linked to an actual event for me. Your second example doesn't really get much of a match when I compare to what I'm feeling; the mary-sue-competent hero role yes, but not the rescuee part. Not saying it definitely isn't, just that if there is a match, I don't see it at this point.

#486 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2015, 05:17 PM:

the invisible one: if there is a match, I don't see it at this point.

Well, that's data, too.

#487 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2015, 10:50 AM:

Seconding Jacque @486, here. Remember that "my hypothesis was wrong" can still be the result of a successful experiment, because it's all about learning.

#488 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2015, 12:53 PM:

invisible one @ 482, Jacque @ 484:

The common thread I see there is "brain is intellectually unoccupied, uses spare cycles for disaster response planning".

I have a *tremendously* hard time getting to sleep because of this. The most successful strategies I have are reading or listening to podcasts (the latter works well because I can turn off the lights before I get too tired to turn off the lights.)

#489 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2015, 01:38 PM:

In that instance, yes, unoccupied. I'd have to think about whether all of them involved similarly unoccupied brain time.

In some ways it felt like the anxiety thoughts I also get sometimes. Similarities: I don't have choice of subject, many repetitions spinning round and round with variations, I can't easily make it stop. Differences: anxiety thoughts tend to be "this is going to go horribly" or "this person is going to do or say horrible things"; in these I am doing something instead of having somebody do something to me.

#490 ::: Type A Toad ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2015, 02:11 PM:

invisible one @482: If I'm in an unsettled mood and unoccupied, my mind goes down a road that pretty much always ends in catastrophic thinking. Riding the bus is a common place for it to happen to me: I see a thing which triggers a thought which triggers a thought and the next thing I know I'm trying to work out what would happen to me in adopted country if my partner died right now this instant and I'm all wired and sick at heart. The emotions are real even when the scenario is not. Reading short-circuits it, but I get motion sick if I try to read while in moving. Thus, it happens on the bus a lot.

It's slowly gotten easier to tell myself that this is bad brain weather and to just stop it, damnit, go think of something else. Actually stopping it is still hard, but at least at that point that cycle is broken. Now I can look at something else out the window and try/hope not to get back into another similar cycle or get off at my stop and have to pay attention to where I'm going.

When I'm really in a bad place, it slops over into dreaming and it can get violent for me too. I wake up feeling awful: angry, and stupid, and helpless because it always happens that as mad and as mean and as violent as I get, I'm always unable to harm the object and he/she just laughs it off or doesn't notice me at all.

#491 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2015, 02:43 PM:

Type A Toad (490): Ignore if hlepy, but would audiobooks work on the bus? You could use only one headphone so you can still hear announcements etc.

#492 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2015, 05:30 PM:

One of the tricks my brain loves to play is: free floating anxiety wells up (and, as a consequence of a bout of anxiety disorder I went through some years ago, I know it's biochemical): Okay, there must be Something Wrong! ::looks for source::. And, as with anyone living in the modern age, there's never a shortage of things to fret about.

Type A Toad @490: pretty much always ends in catastrophic thinking.

The technical term I've heard for that is (unsurprisingly) "catastrophizing." Although I think that's more generally meant to refer to some people's tendancy, when planning, to always focus on the worst possible outcome. The dank sewer gasses that just seap up through the cracks from the lizard brain are a different thing, but I think the label still applies. :-)

My go-to for quieting down the brain for sleep is listening to my heartbeat. (Or my pulse, if I can't find my heartbeat.) Functionally equivalent to counting sheep, but requires less effort. (For me, anyway.)

The one concrete benefit I've notice from the few times when I've actually managed to make time to meditate is that it strengthens the "muscles" involved in directing attention. Which is useful in all sorts of contexts.

#493 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2015, 10:51 AM:

The first time I encountered the term catastrophizing was with unhelpful counsellor. Later on, the next time I encountered it, was when I discovered that anxiety was a Thing, with a Name, and there were known ways to manage it. Unhelpful counsellor had never actually said to me, hey, maybe you have anxiety and here are some coping strategies, but she used a lot of the terms I found on the anxiety website - so I can say with reasonable confidence that she thought I did have it. (And, near as I can tell, dismissed the real problems I was bringing up in my sessions because oh, she's just having another anxiety attack.) I don't recall hearing it used outside of the context of anxiety.

Most of the time when my mind is unoccupied, it sings to me. Who needs an iPod?

#494 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2015, 03:11 PM:

Most of the time when my mind is unoccupied, it sings to me. Who needs an iPod?


My internal soundtrack is currently cycling between Moody Blues (Our Children's Children's Children and Seventh Sojourn) and the theme from Game of Thrones.

From your description of your experience, it certainly sounds like it was "about" something. Though, in that back-door, round about, allegorical dream-mind kinda way.

#495 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2015, 11:28 PM:

Well there's the obvious thing that it was about, that apparently I'm still angry with Crappy Ex. I have to admit the first visualization of hurting him was kind of satisfying. On repetition it got disturbing though.

Some of the repetitions I ran and hid in the change room. That also bothered me because dammit, I don't want to let him control my life. And yet... if he showed up there, I would start thinking about leaving the school.

I don't really know how to figure out what a dream/daydream/anxiety spiral is actually about though, if it's not within a step or two of the surface. So far all I have is that he still has an influence on what I do at some level and I hate that.

I honestly have no idea what I would actually do if I saw him in person. Probably freeze once I recognized him, but what would I do after that?

#496 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2015, 01:54 AM:

the invisible one, #495: Freezing, while a normal and understandable reaction, has one major drawback: it can draw attention to you if you were in motion before. (Less applicable if you're sitting behind a desk.)

Suggestions for dealing with this situation:
1) Don't look directly at Crappy Ex. Keep him in your peripheral vision, but put your gaze somewhere else.
2) If there's an exit path near you, take it -- not hurriedly, just walk that way (or get up from your desk and walk that way) and get thru the door. Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind is what you're trying to accomplish.
3) Find other people to be near -- as protection, and as witnesses.
4) If you have a smartphone, turn on the video function and tuck it into your shirt pocket or your neckline. Leave it running until you're sure he's gone; you can always delete the file.

Yes, I'm offering you the same kinds of suggestions that I would offer someone in a war zone upon seeing an enemy soldier. Don't attract attention, get out of there, get witnesses and evidence. It doesn't matter if Crappy Ex isn't actually an enemy soldier; your hindbrain is reacting as if he were, so deal with it on those terms.

#497 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2015, 02:13 AM:

invisible one @495

I've learned helpful things from a book on meditation (called The Depression Book: or depression as an opportunity for spiritual practice - but a lot of the strategies therein are helpful for other distressing mental states as well).

One of the helpful insights I learned from it was that unpleasant memories don't keep coming back because we're bad. If you can, rest with that for a moment: no matter how detailed, violent, gory, whatever - you are not a bad person. (Personal disclosure: my emphatic statement at the end is because I was doing something very similar once... when I was twelve years old. And after that, I realized that my twelve-year-old self was being very wise, and protecting herself from A Situation.)

Those memories don't return because you're bad, and not because they want to hurt you, but because they are still in need of healing.

I didn't know what to do with that insight for a long time; perhaps I didn't need to do anything more than just recognize (accept) that my spirit was still in pain - not unlike the way a joint hurts after having been over-extended or sprained. Being as gentle as I could with myself in the aftermath works for me mentally as well as physically. Beating myself up for being unable to heal my memory was for sure not the idea.

Sometimes being kind to oneself, in the presence of a distressing memory or visualization, is not only the only thing one can do, it is actually the ideal thing. It's as if I return to the person-I-was in that moment, and say encouraging things - things that recognize the pain I was in, as if someone else were there witnessing on my behalf. (Heh, yeah, I see that I've just written a meditation on witnessing. Funny, that. I'm hoping I haven't just bored everyone with a repeat episode. *wry face*) I was amazed at one early instance, at how much relief I felt when my mind framed the words, "You're right - he was being hurtful, and you were in pain as a result of his actions. Of course you want to fight back and protect yourself." It was not only that I could finally own my pain, but that I actually had a right to it. No more "be above it all", or "stop drama-queening!" - things which, in the past, seemed only to serve to extend the time I spent struggling, thereby "confirming" that I must be a really horrible person.

Shorter version: make yourself your very first priority in these distressing moments. Either when your mind is being troubled, or you have an actual encounter with your ex in meatspace.

At this stage, for the mental encounters, it's probably the easiest to concentrate on what physical reactions your body has - which muscles have tensed up, what's happening with your breathing. That is also a form of witness of yourself for yourself, maneuvering your awareness into a position to then work on relaxing individual areas - because oxygen is our prime requirement, concentration on breathing gives a quick reward.

In time, it might be possible to consider what you might do when encountering the ex for real, and then use your mind to first calm yourself (that breathing thing, again), then draft scripts for a clear communication of "stay away from me." Some good sources have been mentioned elsewhere in this thread, I'd only want to add that adapting "scripts" or guidelines is a work of a longer period - your own good heart will let you know when you're ready to do that, when the right words almost slide into place. But continuing to concentrate on your breath and appreciating yourself for being willing to face your pain - those provide a good foundation for dealing with continuing distress.

Crazy(and hoping that all made sense - this was typed in between activities like getting breakfast and coffee)Soph

#498 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2015, 05:42 AM:

the invisible one: My hack for figuring out what dreams are about is pretty simple: I bring to mind the portion of the dream I'm curious about, and then think to myself, "Okay, what happened [yesterday] to bring this on?" Then I just relax and pay attention to the first thing that pops into my mind. (The triggering event nearly always happened in the 24 hours prior to the dream. Sometimes it's not even an event, just a thought in a train of thought that was particularly powerful for some reason.) (Also, my dreams tend to be populated by elements triggered by a lot of less powerful thoughts—set dressing-like.)

It can be tricky, because, while sometimes an obvious isomorphism between the dream and the triggering thought/event is obvious, a lot of times it's less so. At that point, I consider the feeling that was ascendent in the dream, and cast about for an event that evoked a similar feeling.

If what you describe had happened to me here's what I'd speculate:

1. The reason these feelings and images boiled up while settling down to sleep was that the business of the day was finished, and the mind was now "off leash," free to go to whatever was the most pressing concern.

2. If nothing directly concerning Crappy Ex had happened that day, then did something else happen that provoked the feeling of "OMG ambushed!"? Likely, it was something that Conscious Brain was able to handle in a technical sense, so was unworthy of recording, but Lizard Brain got woken up on a glandular level, so when Conscious Brain was relaxed, chose that time to rear up with, "Ah! Ah! Need solutions!! Ah! Ah!!"

but what would I do after that?

That might be a useful line of inquiry, in the interests of coming up with (and maybe rehearsing, to get them into muscle memory) some desired responses. Whether or not you actually ever use those responses, having them in your toolkit might at the very least serve to satisfy Lizard Brain and quiet it down.

In addition to Lee's excellent suggestions, I might also contact the local abuse hotline, and ask them for suggestions and resources. What will dictate what you want to do is what are you concerned he will do? Having that clarified will help set your direction. Also: if you ran into him, how would you want it to go? How do you want to be able to respond?

crazysoph: I'm hoping I haven't just bored everyone

For my money, your comments are never boring; rather, they are, like this one, tyically very interesting and insightful. My 2¢. :-)

#499 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2015, 12:06 AM:

Nothing directly concerning Crappy Ex happened that day (new years eve). It was a pretty boring day, in all. Worked at current very tedious and boring and predictable job, went home, had dinner, announced plans for new years day on fb in the hopes of getting some people to join me, random chitchat and reading on the internet, curled up on the couch to read a book and drink hot chocolate, fell asleep on the couch, woke up, went to bed, the thing with the unwanted violent fantasies happened, fetched book and read myself to sleep again.

Unless something in the internet reading caused it. I don't know that I'll have much luck tracking that down, because I read a lot of different pages.

#500 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2015, 12:26 AM:

#497, crazysoph:

Re-reading your post after I posted my previous comment, I realized that it's a similar message to the self-compassion discussion that recently started over at Friends of Captain Awkward (which I recently started reading). I have identified self-compassion as something I think I need to learn how to do.

Lee and crazysoph and Jacque, all: for all that I seem to have a very strong fear type reaction relating to him, I'm not concerned that he will do physical violence to me. He never did. (We did martial arts together, and I was always better at it than he was. Always.)

What could he do to me? Dunno, exactly, but when we were together, I was always wrong: so, maybe I'm afraid that if he shows up he'll convince the people at the school here that I'm always wrong and anything I say about him is just me overreacting again and I'm just not good at people and then I'd be excluded and disbelieved and disliked (even though I'm not really close with any of the other students, there are still friendly interactions around class). Because, you know, that's kind of how it worked when we were together. That, plus a thing I mentioned before, that people are only pretending to like me because they're too polite to tell me to go away.

(That makes it *really* hard to get the self-compassion thing going. Because I have seen that in action, the thing with somebody not well liked but not excluded from the group, and people sighing or griping about them behind their back. So it's no step at all to believe that I am the subject of similar things. Especially in groups where anyone can join and where events are open to all in the group, which makes up the vast majority of my in-person socializing.)

#501 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2015, 08:20 AM:

invisible one @500

I have identified self-compassion as something I think I need to learn how to do.
It's a challenging road: the marketers seem bound and determined to poison the well by co-opting self-care language, and of course we're always going to hear warnings - external and internal - about how we're in danger of sliding into selfishness.

But it's worth learning, and your expression implies something very correct about compassion: it's a learnable skill. Further implying that where we find the lack, we can work to add it, and also implying that this will take time to accomplish. I salute you!

(F)or all that I seem to have a very strong fear type reaction relating to him, I'm not concerned that he will do physical violence to me.
Huh. Yeah, I had an ex-friend at a dojo; luckily he became somewhat less than reliable about attendance, and having not informed the sensei about why, he wasn't in much of a position to try and poison the sensei's opinion towards myself. All I needed to "do" was remind myself that no matter what he would say to the others, they had built up much more experience with me.

And so, no one called me on it when I made no acknowledgement of his presence (apart from the super-basic socially prescribed greeting/leave-taking handshake). That was even in spaces where this was utterly obvious, like a narrow storage area where the sensei would collect fees for the month.

I had some good back-up also in the ether - one friend was particularly generous with his psychology background, and gave me supportive advice that helped me choose my stance: total non-engagement.

That was ideal because this ex-friend's favorite tactic was the silent treatment: he'd just try to break into my space by "accidentally" having to talk to someone nearby. Another time, he spent a full minute staring at me in the same storage room, while I was gathering my stuff post-training.

Non-engagement. I just kept breathing, reminding every occurrence of "But what if he...?!" that he no longer mattered to me, so I had no reason to begin a conversation. I had a good understanding with my sensei, and apparently ex-friend's charm didn't work the way he'd hoped: his return lasted less than six weeks.

Goodness, that last little bit came out of nowhere! I hope it's helpful in some kind of tangental way to your own situation.

...but when we were together, I was always wrong: so, maybe I'm afraid that if he shows up he'll convince the people at the school here that I'm always wrong and anything I say ...
The first car of that awful train of thought - I can so empathize with all of it, you've described my own fears to a T.

Years ago, another friend pointed out in her struggles to define her personhood as separate from the entity her family seemed to see her as - she shared the "a-ha!" moment she encountered in some media work, "And, damn it, people LIKE me!!"

So, it's worth examining each of the cars in that train for material to challenge - I know for myself during a recent crisis, when someone actually did go around trash talking me, no one important to me had any time for him at all; they had far more experience with me than with him, plus also they had seen my work, and were able to observe a lot of his own, more vain-glorious behavior. It wasn't easy - there were still moments I was jumping at every little thing, but self-care - sometimes seemingly unrelated (a nice movie just because, *this* piece of clothing today, etc.) - that self-care was my foundation to remaining calm enough to not lash out and start the so-called self-fulfilling prophecy.

It also helped me to be reminded (by reading about behavior exhibited by narcissists, sociopaths, etc.) that kind of thing is a tactic, a set of behaviors employed for an intentional affect. So, it's not at all a reflection on your own character; it's an indication that such a person is trapped in one way of relating to the world. Yours is much better, compassion builds for the long-term.

(P)lus a thing I mentioned before, that people are only pretending to like me because they're too polite to tell me to go away.
My own take on this kind of thinking has evolved over the years. On the one hand, I want to be a "nice person", and on the other, I need to not give a f*ck. I think I've settled on something like being as real and as myself as I can possibly be - more or less saying to the world that it's not my responsibility how others react. If they don't like what they see, well - that's actually great, because that means they can not waste their time. Oh, oops, someone says they've gone out of their way for me, so I have to be a different person as a reward to them? That is on them, not me.

Of course there are people who won't like that. "You can't do that, you're hurting other people!" can cover a whole gamut, from a mother refusing to relinquish a treasured illusion of a "manly" son to a confirmed narcissist manipulating you for his next fix.

In the end, their feelings are their feelings, and not your own. I didn't like it when people framed that in terms of "responsibility", even though that's quite a valid way. I just always caught myself feeling like I'd failed my responsibility, then. But I found it liberating to understand that I was perfectly in my right to expect others to be responsible for their own stuff, so I no longer had to worry about their attempts to change me. I remind them that I am just fine being in charge of me, and if they can't handle that, I won't engage anymore.

...I have seen that in action, the thing with somebody not well liked but not excluded from the group, and people sighing or griping about them behind their back.
Nodding in recognition in this, too. I've had to school myself to gently walk out of those exchanges - I save out-and-out confrontations on that kind of behavior for when I have to argue with someone directly about my own experience: it's bracing for them to hear, "Yes, I've heard you talk about X that way, so I am simply assuming you do the same when I'm not around." Sure, they deny it, or even try to tell me they're hurt I'd think that, but they didn't seem to get past the first raised eye-brow. I let them know that I don't care one way or the other, because I'm concentrating on results of their behavior towards me, not who's said what.

Saving myself from having to listen to trash talking others has helped me with self-repair. Not only stock responses, like "So, how's that new film?", help assert agency, but my psyche is spared from digesting a continuous stream of toxins exemplified in the detailing of petty grievances and burdens stemming from untreated Geek Social Fallacies.

Crazy(and lucky these are all just electrons whizzing about, eh?)Soph

#502 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2015, 08:52 AM:

I don't like the dynamic of accepting someone to their face and then trashing them behind their back, but the times I have seen it and participated in it the group was required to interact with that person (same major in a small school, Christian group at same school, choir or dorm, travel class [and actually there are only two target people here but the dynamics were the same in multiple groups]) and the target person was... destructive. Like, both people were described independently as nearly destroying the group, one person said that the group tried to be understanding but ended up casting out the target as a matter of self-defense, and I was once taken aside for someone to explain the bullet I dodged by switching dorm rooms.

I do wonder what was said about me in those groups, but since the conversations were targeted-- no trashing of just anyone who was absent-- I figure I'm fine.

Which is all a longer way of saying what Crazysoph did: yes, it sucks when groups do that, and it is not always as clean-cut as my examples. But your bad ex cannot swan into your groups without context. Context matters.

#503 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2015, 09:54 AM:

Diatryma @502

ooof yes, you're right about how sometimes communication can actually be aimed at harmful people from whom everyone needs protection. You've pointed out a valuable way to perform "differential diagnosis" - what were the members of your group saying about any absent person. I forgot to mention that I'd made a similar analysis, sadly with the result of "Yeah, they'll do this to pretty much anybody who's not on their "in" group list."

That was, also, to be distinguished from the genuine support one needs to garner from "Team Me" (another tip-o-th'hat to Captain Awkward) - at least once in any manufactured crisis, someone attempts to turn up the drama by pointing and saying, "But YOU are talking about US! We demand equal time!" Which is another way of saying, "You don't deserve your boundaries." And we all know why people will try to convince you of that, eh?

Crazy(thank you for our rallying cry: CONTEXT MATTERS)Soph

#504 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2015, 11:26 AM:

crazysoph, #501: People laugh about Sally Field's burbling Oscar speech that started out, "You LIKE me! You really LIKE me!" -- but I suspect that it sprang from precisely such an "aha!" moment. The point at which it became incontrovertibly obvious that Jerkbrain was lying to her.

#505 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2015, 11:53 AM:

I was the target of a "smile to their faces, sigh at their backs" campaign as a college sophomore. I shake my head at the "What about socialization?" cry that is aimed at me as a homeschool mom because I went through 12 excruciating years of public school without learning how to people. So there I was, a sophomore, out of PTSD crisis mode for the first time I could remember, trying to be social based on stuff I had read about fictional characters who were friends. Trying to be witty, trying to be interesting and a good listener and so on. Found some nerds who I thought were like me to try it with.

None of them would come out and fucking say "Go away, you're boring/annoying" for months. The drop at the end, when they actually verbalized it in a way my spectrum-y self could not fail to infer, was sickening.

If the target isn't actively toxic in a way that requires guerrilla tactics, please, please, just say "We're not interested in that topic" or "That's annoying" right away. Please. I could handle solitude. I was used to solitude. Realizing I had actually been alone in an acid bath of contempt when I thought I'd found some friends...yeah, not so good.

Oh, look, still crying. Shit.

#506 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2015, 12:38 PM:

J @ 505: If it makes any difference, you're not boring or annoying here, and I enjoy reading your comments. And I am very sorry your friends turned out to be toxic.

#507 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2015, 03:34 PM:

J @ 505, What Ginger said. You're not boring. You're not annoying. DO NOT GO AWAY. <hugs> if welcome.

#508 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2015, 03:48 PM:

I just installed f.lux on my new computer a couple of days ago, and both nights since, I’ve gotten to sleep earlier and woken up earlier. We’ll see if I can keep it up. I’d experimented with the program a few years back, but abandoned it after not seeing any results and finding the color-shifting annoying. The newer versions’s ability to specify a personal sleep schedule is a big improvement.

I was just wondering last night if anything like it was available for Android. Thanks for recommending Twilight, shadowsong @192!

#509 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2015, 04:27 PM:

Avram @508:
Possibly in the wrong thread?

#510 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2015, 05:56 PM:

Abi @509, possibly, but scroll up to #192 and #194.

I had a vague recollection that f.lux had been discussed here recently, searched, found it here, didn’t notice that it was too long ago to be what I’d been thinking of. The mention of Twilight was the really helpful thing, since I already knew about f.lux. And I wanted to put a link, so anyone trying to find the program themselves wouldn’t have to fight an army of sparkly vampires in their search results.

#511 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2015, 06:18 PM:

Avram @510:

Oh, right. It's just that we're discussing f.lux, blue light, and all such things in right here, just now. Though I see that's comment 132 rather than 192.

#512 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2015, 07:16 PM:

Yeah, that’s gotta be the discussion that prompted me to reinstall it over the weekend. It just wasn’t the first one I hit when searching today. I guess it’s a useful program!

#513 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2015, 09:03 PM:

Avram @508: You're welcome! Sadly I still haven't come across an iOS version I can recommend to my Appleian friends, but I'm sure I'll find one eventually.

#514 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2015, 12:24 AM:

#501, crazysoph: All I needed to "do" was remind myself that no matter what he would say to the others, they had built up much more experience with me.

Sure, I've been there a few years now and people there do know me, but see previously mentioned fears of people only being polite and not actually liking me. It's not that I think they're all completely faking it when they sometimes smile and say something nice, it's more that I haven't really managed to connect those (pleasant, fun, and/or friendly) interactions to anything that'll help me feel like I belong in that space with those people as opposed to just being another student who's there because I paid so they can't get rid of me.

I had a good understanding with my sensei

By this do you mean your sensei knew (at least some of) what was going on between you and ex-friend? If so, was this something you brought up as preparation for ex-friend doing their thing?

I've had to school myself to gently walk out of those exchanges

I've been slowly trying to train myself to go find a different discussion circle when the topic turns to "those people". Unfortunately, my family does that a lot. "Those" people are never named individuals, always groups upon whom stereotypes are heaped. I also try to avoid trash talking of individuals discussions, which fortunately doesn't happen all that often in my presence.

The one I was thinking of in particular when I mentioned a group (open membership) not really liking someone and sighing about them (occasionally, not continuously, and usually only when something that person did had prompted it) has more in common with J's example than either of the other two, but it's not that either. In addition to this person appearing to not understand that their moods do not dictate the quantity and direction of conversation, it's particularly hard for me because this person says out loud stuff that I say in my head. Anxiety/invisibility/nobody likes me/bitter sorts of thoughts, which I generally keep to myself because I know how off-putting they are when you hear somebody else say them - because I see this person saying them. I just don't have the cope necessary to deal with somebody else externalizing all the same crap I'm trying to deal with myself, so I'm relieved when they can't make it to the group events.

#515 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2015, 12:32 PM:

the invisible one @514: help me feel like I belong in that space

I can count on the thumbs of both hands the number of times I've ever felt like I "really belonged" in a group.

And I still get occasional nightmares about being stuck back living with my parents—nearly forty years later. I don't know if those deep-seated, existential fears ever really go away.

Looping back to @499: announced plans for new years day on fb in the hopes of getting some people to join me

If this was my brain we were talking about, this would be enough to start the train of association about how Crappy Ex had sabotaged my participation in groups, and would be more than enough to provoke the kind of retro-rage you describe.

I'm old and tired enough now that I don't really get tied up at the glandular level anymore, but I still find myself having mental arguments with people from my past when I'm performing tasks they were assholes about Back In The Day.

YM, of course, MV.

#516 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2015, 01:00 PM:

@Cassy B. no. 507: This is a pretty good place and I have no plans to go anywhere. Thanks!

#517 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2015, 01:17 PM:

Battle Cat @478: this would be worth considering if I had another job lined up ready to go, such that it was all or mostly win. But I don't, and I can't be certain when/if I will.

Here's my thinking: Supervisor does not like to be disappointed. Do I really want to turn my being there at all into an impending disappointment? And do I really want to trade her opinion of my right to be there for only several months of the professional courtesy that she ought to be treating me with perpetually for free?

Work has calmed down and evened out again -- not gotten better, just back to declining normal instead of crisis levels. I still need to actually *talk* to Manager and/or Supervisor about this, and took some fresh notes for it. At least I'll be able to be calm and thoughtful, and doing the urgent work during this delay looks all professional? I am scared/upset that I am kinda-sorta backing out of confrontation, but also scared to go ahead with it.

#518 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2015, 11:52 PM:

#515, Jacque: If this was my brain we were talking about, this would be enough to start the train of association about how Crappy Ex had sabotaged my participation in groups, and would be more than enough to provoke the kind of retro-rage you describe.

Oh. I hadn't thought about that as a possible connection. At the time I went to bed, I had no takers on the invitation and was planning to do the thing alone.

That's a maybe. I'll need to think about it for a while.

I can count on the thumbs of both hands the number of times I've ever felt like I "really belonged" in a group.

I'm not even hoping for really-truly-belonging feelings. Seems to me there's a big gap between "paying to be there"/"open group that anyone can join" and "truly belonging" and it would be nice to move a little farther away from the "paying to be there" end. Though since from all reports I appear to be relaxed and friendly instead of awkward and standoffish, the other people there would probably be surprised to hear I don't feel like I belong.

Although I'm kind of wondering if there's a gap in my experience or even ability. There's more than a few things about which other people report an emotional connection type reaction and I just don't feel it. Art, especially. Some things that have prompted other people to use emotional reaction words and I simply don't get past "pretty!" So... maybe I'm trying to feel something that isn't likely to happen for me, and I should just accept that "relaxed and friendly" is the closest I'm likely to get to feeling like I belong somewhere.

I still go back and forth about whether I belong here at all, too. You all are very welcoming and I've never been made to feel like I don't belong here from anything anybody has said, but it seems to be a thing for me. Even after just over three years and a ton of helpful stuff.

#519 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2015, 07:43 AM:

the invisible one @518, Just to reiterate what I said to J, and I mean it sincerely for you, too....


You're not an outsider, or an imposter, or a hanger-on. Really. If we were at the same Gathering of Light, I would be happy to give you a hug if welcome.

#520 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2015, 11:48 AM:

the invisible one: What Cassy B. said. To the degre that you are able, I invite you to take your belonging here as a given.

WRT Art, the question then becomes, "Which Art?" There is art that hits me as a punch in the gut. Then there's the art that makes me wonder, "why?" This is perhaps the most quintessential example of mileage varying.

#521 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2015, 11:58 AM:

the invisible one, #518: Joining the chorus in saying that yes, you belong here, we are not just putting up with you or any shit like that.

Something in the way you have phrased things here prompts me to ask (1) is part of your definition of "belonging" the sense that people are pleased to see you when you show up? and (2) beyond that, can you define what would make you feel like you belonged somewhere? IME, teasing out the underlying assumptions behind a feeling is often useful in dealing with it.

I rarely get emotional reactions much beyond "pretty!" to visual art. Songs are what punch me in the gut.

#522 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2015, 03:54 PM:

Wait a minute. Wait just a minute.

You don't get art? I've visited your photo page yet again (to others: link is from name), and you're wrong about that. You get it. You get it big time.

And yes, you do belong here. Your sharing and insights have cemented friendship in this community.

I don't remember anyone who posts here to whom my reaction is, oh, dear, not them again. You are most emphatically at the other end of that bell curve.

#523 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2015, 04:23 PM:

I'm the mod here, and I firmly assert that the invisible one belongs here. And J, and Jeanie, and Jacque, and Lee, and Cassy B, and Bodhisvaha, and...well, I could go on and on. This community is created by the people who come here, tell their stories, listen to one another, and help one another. You belong here the way the walls belong in a house: you create here with your presence. There would be no here to belong to without you.

#524 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2015, 06:04 PM:

Lee @521: You may not have much emotional reaction to some particular domain of art -- I rarely do for contemporary abstract art despite a fair amount of relevant education, for example -- but you have an artist's eye. The amber-and-copper torc at the top right of the gallery is gorgeous. If I showed up to work in a set of that ilk, there would be compliments from the other designers.

Besides, part of the problem is that the artist and the viewer must share some common visual language and emotional vocabulary for much communication to happen...which is harder than it sounds. Often the viewer has no training in any of art composition, art history, mythology and religion, or even regular history. That limits one's ability to appreciate a lot of notable art. The corollary is that the artist has the choice to craft images that do not require graduate degrees, or indeed any education at all, only a heart to appreciate, and many of them don't.

#525 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2015, 10:38 PM:

Thanks everyone, though I'm in no danger of going anywhere. I appreciate this space very much.

#521, Lee: Something in the way you have phrased things here prompts me to ask (1) is part of your definition of "belonging" the sense that people are pleased to see you when you show up? and (2) beyond that, can you define what would make you feel like you belonged somewhere? IME, teasing out the underlying assumptions behind a feeling is often useful in dealing with it.

No, I don't think that's part of the definition. Smiles with greetings are a thing which I have experienced.

For 2, I honestly couldn't tell you. That's why I related it to the emotional connection and impact of art. It just is, there's no logic to it and (for art at least) there doesn't need to be.

And speaking of art again...

#522, Jeanie: You don't get art? I've visited your photo page yet again (to others: link is from name), and you're wrong about that. You get it. You get it big time.

That's pretty much exactly what I was talking about, in fact. I am pleased with the photos I've been taking for my daily interesting thing. I think most of them are pretty. I like playing with composition and depth of field and macro. And contrasts and juxtapositions, especially those. They're fun.

But I don't get an emotional reaction to any of them.

(The one possible exception is the one I called out here when I posted it, "you can't stop me!" but I took the picture because I reacted to the actual tree.)

#526 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2015, 05:59 AM:

abi @523 You belong here the way the walls belong in a house: you create here with your presence

May I suggest that you tuck this thought / this post away for when we next need a top-level post for this community?

#527 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2015, 09:30 AM:

The invisible one, several people have weighed in that you clearly appreciate art. I have the complementary opinion: it doesn't matter if you react 'properly' to a given stimulus, even if that stimulus is shorthand for beautiful emotional reactions and sharing universal experiences with all humanity. Doesn't matter at all. It doesn't mean that you're broken, it doesn't mean that you're inhuman, it doesn't mean anything but that a set of stimuli don't stimulate you the way we tell ourselves they're supposed to. "It's pretty," is a completely legitimate (and legitimately complete) reaction to art.

As for belonging... oh, man, feeling like you belong is hard. I am forcing myself to belong in roller derby*. I spent a few weeks going to my local yarn store's Knitter's Breakfast, figuring out what it meant, feeling a bit out of place, and eventually I became someone expected to be there, someone desired to be there, and it's basically a keystone of my social life.

On the other hand, I worked for three years as a substitute paraeducator (which means special-ed teacher's aide, basically). Thrown into the deep end, I figured out how to swim, which in this case means how to build quick and functional connections with coworkers and students. That was learned. I had a good groundwork, but it was something I figured out.

*Shortly after I started, I emailed the coordinators and asked if I was doing okay because I felt really out of place and superfluous. Their response was concern and to start work to change the way they communicate with officials and volunteers because they need more scorekeepers, trackers, and timers, and even if they didn't, they don't want to make derby a horrible place for anyone. That is not their narrative of derby. We're working on this.

And on being backbitten out of the group, I remembered the other experience I had with this: freshman year of college, a couple months in, I had glommed on to a group of girls in my dorm. It was eventually made very clear to me that they didn't want me there, and I spent much of the rest of the year feeling absolutely alone and unwanted. This built onto high school, which social groups fell apart for me the second I graduated. Both hurt like hell. I tend to class them differently, though, because one was a special everyone-is-new one-strong-leader who's-the-weird-one-in-this-group tension thing and the other was sort of like never seeing friends from book club after book club decides not to meet any more.

Anyway. Belonging. It is hard. It is understandable that you, and anyone else, would be really anxious about it. I am too sometimes. I hope things get better.

#528 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2015, 01:02 AM:

I wanted to share a recent experience. I have been reading and witnessing; please forgive me for not responding to what others have said here.

I am part of a holy listening group. Each month, two women share stories of their journeys - in faith, but also in life. After they share, we sit in silence, then each echo back in our own words one thing that we heard them say, then go around again and each say one thing that really resonated with us. It’s a powerful, moving experience.

One woman talked about being in a place in life that feels dry and barren, yet she is desperately afraid of the unknown. A vivid image came to my mind - then modified, as I realized the initial image was also me, and not entirely her.

Standing in a desert. Sand soft and yielding beneath the feet - the comfort of the known, the familiar. But when you try to walk, it gives way. It’s hard to go anywhere. It’s dry, and hot, and there’s no water.

Outside of the desert is grassland. Not pasture, not emerald green, but genuine short-grass prairie. There’s water there, to be found. There’s life, and growth, and ease of movement, and freedom.

Between her and the grassland was a cliff.

Between me and the grassland is a rocky plain. The rocks are sharp, and turn under my feet. The few plants are the resilient, spiny ones that survive by turning away all contact. The stones cut my feet and turn my ankle. It’s dry, but without the soft yielding of the sand.

I’m in a place now that I don’t want to stay in, but I’m afraid to go through that rocky plain. It feels treacherous, like it would be easy to turn my ankle on an untruth, or cut myself on a hypocrisy. I might make the wrong decision. I might believe something that is false.

But growth can only come by travelling through that place.

#529 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2015, 10:11 AM:

Chickadee @528, that's....



#530 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2015, 02:18 PM:

invisible one:
I think the Internet makes Belonging hard, because you can't always see people nodding along supportively specifically in response to you. This is also a seriously high-performing group, and I think it's easy to get caught up in feeling like one has to somehow "compete." (Personally, I stand my ground on the basis that I am American and by definition the equal of anyone, so here's where you can shove your elitism, but you know, your mileage may vary. I don't state it out loud often, because it's a little controversial in its aggressive nationalism-based rejection of externally-defined standards of worth and there are a lot of people who I genuinely respect/hold in affection who could interpret it as an attack on themselves, which is totally not the point. But it's a lovely sticky point; just enough Velcro to allow both traction and flexibility.)

The art conversation is interesting; thank you for creating the impetus for that to happen. I'm another who connects more emotionally to music than art; I love visual art and I grew up in art museums, but it's an intellectual passion that fills a niche* closer to puzzles and nonfiction. "Ooh, pretty" and "that is a really interesting/provocative effect/perspective" is exactly what makes visual art satisfying for me.

But poetry is the same way, for me. I know other people can write meaningful, fiercely emotional poetry and that... somehow... works for them. I've read it and cried over it and they really do that well. For me, if I can't get my head out of my emotions, it all turns goopily maudlin and my forms get sloppy. I still write that stuff, but I'm going to have to create a burn pile before I die, for sure.

I think it's one reason it's always been difficult for me to contemplate commercializing either my poetry or art. There's such a mythos about successful artistic endeavor coming from deep-seated passions, that it's hard for me to value the products of what I know to be a highly technical, detached approach, even if you probably couldn't tell it by reading two similar poems next to each other.

*My brain says art is housed in math. Ooookay, brain. But it's not entirely wrong. Poetry is definitely housed in math.

#531 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2015, 11:32 PM:

#527, Diatryma: several people have weighed in that you clearly appreciate art.

I never claimed I didn't appreciate art, only that I didn't get the emotional reaction I keep hearing people talk about. Sometimes I go look at the thing they're talking about and try to figure out what caused that reaction, and why this one and not that one, and I just end up confused.

I have the complementary opinion: it doesn't matter if you react 'properly' to a given stimulus, even if that stimulus is shorthand for beautiful emotional reactions and sharing universal experiences with all humanity. Doesn't matter at all. It doesn't mean that you're broken, it doesn't mean that you're inhuman, it doesn't mean anything but that a set of stimuli don't stimulate you the way we tell ourselves they're supposed to. "It's pretty," is a completely legitimate (and legitimately complete) reaction to art.

You know, I think you're the first person who's said that to me. I've heard variations on "if you don't [feel these feelings] when you see (or hear) [thing] you have no soul" many times. Eventually I learned to shrug and chalk it up to lack of empathy on the part of the person saying that, since they don't seem to realize that not everybody has the same reactions they do. (Well, sometimes. Other times I shrug and think well, guess I'm a soulless alien then.)

#530, KayTei: I think the Internet makes Belonging hard, because you can't always see people nodding along supportively specifically in response to you.

This is true. The "me too!" posts are discouraged for a reason, but there aren't many other ways to get those nods online. "Like" or "upvote" or whatever the website hosting them calls it is one way.

This is also a seriously high-performing group, and I think it's easy to get caught up in feeling like one has to somehow "compete."

Yeah, that's why my non-anon, non-DFD account here has few posts. Talking with published authors and people who can post sonnets at the drop of a hat is intimidating, don't you know.

I've been thinking more about the belonging thing the past couple of days. It's not even about not feeling welcome. So far the best description I've come up with is "outsider who is welcome to participate in our thing". I'm sure the business of feeling like an outsider is entirely within my own brain and the other people think I belong. (Not looking for further reassurance here, just trying to unpack things.) Feeling like an outsider is kind of normal for me. It no longer bothers me (much) and it doesn't stop me from going to whatever group events I want to go to. What it does stop me from doing is believing that the other people in the group might want to be actual personal friends with me, outside of the group context. So, I don't reach out to them, and I'm sure it's very easy for many of them to think that means I don't want to be friends and not reach out themselves. Occasionally some still do. I got an invitation to a board games night that surprised me, and it probably would have surprised the host if I told her I didn't realize she thought we were friends. (I'm totally happy to be friends with her. It didn't occur to me that it could be a thing.)

There's also an aspect of how I very easily feel excluded even when nobody is intending to be exclusionary—and even over tiny, silly things. Take NaNoWriMo for example. I've been writing fiction for about as long as I've been able to read, I've been doing NaNo for many years, I'm an active member of my local NaNo group. If I could feel like I belonged anywhere, you'd think it would be here. But every time NaNo (whether HQ, MLs, or regular wrimos) refer to the writing process as caffeine fuelled, or otherwise say things that have the base assumption that all writers need coffee, I feel like I'm not part of the group that they're talking to, the group they say or imply is "all writers" or "all wrimos". (I don't drink coffee; never have. I think it tastes awful.) And that's completely beside the point because they're not trying to say that if I don't drink coffee I can't possibly be a writer. That would be absurd. But I still feel a little more disconnected each time it happens. Oh, that message isn't for me. They aren't talking about me.

#532 ::: Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2015, 12:12 AM:

The Invisible One, I know what you mean - I get that feeling of not belonging a lot, here and in meatspace, and even at cons I've attended and worked for years. I'm not really sure how to change that.

#533 ::: Zelda ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2015, 04:22 AM:

The Invisible One @ 531: Talking with published authors and people who can post sonnets at the drop of a hat is intimidating, don't you know.

Totally. I feel like I need to be my best self even to read Making Light, and there are months at a time when I just don't have enough best self to go around, so I'm just not here. (And the DFD threads-- mostly I just don't have the strength. I'm sorry...) I've had reason recently to go back to some excellent discussion about art and confidence and belonging that went on in Open Thread 155, and especially Elliott's remarks at 534 and the conversation immediately following. I've also been reflecting on sociological studies I've seen mentioned here that boil down to "in any given social setting, everyone believes there is an in-group; no one believes they're part of it."

The filksinging community is another of those places where, precisely because no one is *ever* rejected, I have trouble feeling positively *accepted*, either. I've been addressing this a couple of ways. Some is just time, and accumulated interactions with other members-- including explicitly talking about my uncertainties. There was a panel on stage nerves at a recent con that ended up getting pretty personal-- my fellow filkers may not be able to name my demon, but now they know what my face looks like when it walks through the room.

Also, I've decided to just bloody well *declare* myself in-group, on the fake-it-till-you-make-it principle. I sat unacknowledged on the edges of the events for years; I will always cherish the first filker who actually treated me like a person he knew. So I'm going to do that for others-- say hello and make an effort to be actively welcoming to new people. And rather than just politely applauding everything, I'm setting out to pay some specific and concrete compliments. People whom I have encouraged become people with whom I feel like I belong.

#534 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2015, 06:15 AM:

Would it help anyone to know that I go through periods, sometimes months long, when I feel that I don't belong in these threads, or indeed on Making Light as a whole? I'm not saying this looking for any kind of reassurance or anything; just putting the information into the conversation for parallax.

#535 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2015, 10:33 AM:

I still have moments where I'm afraid to open my eyes in the morning, because I feel like the last 15 years have been a dream. I'm terrified of being back in HS with cliques that won't let me in, a body that wasn't "developed" enough yet to look attractive (at least that's how I felt about it--wouldn't mind being rail-thin again though), and parents who didn't understand that depression doesn't make sense and that they couldn't just reason me out of it.

#536 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2015, 12:19 PM:

#533, Zelda:

Oh, that singing discussion. Yeah.

My parents and sibling don't sing well at all. We did a lot of singing (very badly) when I was young because it's fun. Some of the songs I learned from my mom... well, the tune to them I learned is probably not their original tune. I am totally fine with singing badly with other people who sing badly and we all intend to sing badly and have fun doing it, and also with singing along with the radio when I'm alone.

I get very self-conscious singing when there are other people around.

Part of it is being self-conscious when doing anything to draw attention to myself because people looking at me and noticing me kind of scares me.

Part of it is Crappy Ex at first telling me I have a "good but untrained" voice, when he was still courting and trying to catch me, which shifted to flinching when I sang later. (I know that everything he said is suspect but ... it's hard to get rid of.)

Part of it is that I'm female and "all" female singers are way above my range, so I don't belong with the singing thing. Discovering that there exist alto leads was a revelation; I can almost match them. (There was a brief period where my criteria for buying new music was "female alto lead", regardless of genre.) For some reason singing along with a male singer at a higher pitch sounds better to me than singing along with a female singer at a lower pitch.

those places where, precisely because no one is *ever* rejected, I have trouble feeling positively *accepted*


Yes, that's an excellent way to describe that feeling, about the sorts of groups who accept anybody who wants to be a member.

I think it's something different again when people explicitly say I'm welcome and my brain interprets that as "welcome visitor" instead of "you are one of us". (Even if they use those words!)

There's also a good chance that I'm holding myself back from allowing myself to consider that I truly belong. It's easier to leave if I'm not emotionally connected to the group, maybe. So, when the inevitable signs of not being wanted come, it hurts less. (Only, I don't know if it actually does hurt less. And who says it's inevitable? So far groups have been mostly good, it's only been every boyfriend who has demonstrated that I can't actually trust them to tell me the truth about how much they are interested in me the person as opposed to me the girl-shaped creature about whom they have some image of how I should be. Aaannnnd, that's why I'm staying single for the foreseeable future. Bitterness and suspicion is poison.)

#537 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2015, 06:30 PM:

abi: Irony: let me show you it. :-)

That's one of the reasons I finally quit starting groups (aside from the absolute reliability with which they'd fall apart if I wasn't doing all the organizing)—even there I never really felt like I belonged.

My strategy for "fitting in" tends to be to just quietly hang around until everyone is used to me being part of the scenery, and then tentatively start participating until it seems to be accepted. As long as I don't do something offensive and get myself thrown out, I figure that's close enough for my purposes. The idea of waltzing in, standing in the doorway and announcing, "Hi! I'm here!" just seems like a recipe for disaster, which is why I never did the "first time poster" type of comment in this venue.

Being an "outsider" is such a core piece of my identity (stemming primarily from grade school, where any sense of being part of the community was yanked out repeatedly by family moves, until the root just died) that I'm not sure what it would even feel like to be part of the "in" group. In its more arrogant forms, it can even become a kind of conceit. At work, any sense of "belonging" I feel generally derives from simply having been there longer than anyone else.

Sadly, cons, which have traditionally been my meatspace resource for "fitting in" (if not "belonging"), have become problematic. It's been over a decade since I could afford to go to an out-of-state con, and MileHiCon is such a hit-or-miss experience for me that I've largely given up on it. Also, I gather that con culture has evolved somewhat in that time, and I haven't been there to evolve along with it. :-(

#538 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2015, 10:09 PM:

Abi, thank you for the calibration. I am putting that in my Useful Tools folder.

#539 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2015, 11:18 PM:

I always figure I've "made it" when I have a small number of people in a group I'm part of who seek me out and try to include me specifically in things they think might interest me, rather than me seeking them out and having to try to come up with ways to insert myself into whatever is going on.

Grant you, it is more an in-person mechanism. I'm not sure I've found a similarly useful online rule of thumb for forums such as this.

#540 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2015, 09:32 AM:

@the invisible one: I'm an alto, too. If you want to annoy people, put me in a room where Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" is playing. I'll sing the whole 2nd-alto part and drive everyone crazy. :) My mother is what I call "monotone alto"--she knows what sounds "pretty," but she can't carry a tune in a bucket. She still loves to sing, though, and this helped me to enjoy singing with people who like to sing regardless of whether they're in tune. If someone gets annoyed that you don't sound like the pretty little sopranos on the radio, that's their problem, not yours.

"Part of it is being self-conscious when doing anything to draw attention to myself because people looking at me and noticing me kind of scares me."

I definitely feel your pain there. :( Attention = pain is a tough association to break.


@Jacque: "Being an "outsider" is such a core piece of my identity (stemming primarily from grade school, where any sense of being part of the community was yanked out repeatedly by family moves, until the root just died) that I'm not sure what it would even feel like to be part of the "in" group."

My response has been (ignore if hlepy) to find the "outsiders" and connect with them. "Fitting in with the weird people" somehow doesn't break my brain, and still feels pretty good. A lot of my friends are Rennies, which are (mostly--bad apples in every bunch, after all) good and accepting folks.

And con culture hasn't changed too much in the past decade. You'll be able to fit in; just bear in mind that there will be a LOT of teens dressed as characters you've never heard of, who are gung-ho about anime you've never heard of. :P

#541 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2015, 11:43 AM:

The_L: Yeah, the "fit in with the outsiders" has been a long-standing strategy that has worked for me. (Hey, my buddy and I started the high school Star Trek club for just that reason.)

Given that I've never been much into games or anime, there are always teens dressed as characters I don't know, so that's not a change. :-)

And the biggest difficulty I've had at the last two cons I've been to was finding somebody to sit down and have a conversation with. But then again, those were both Denver cons, so it's entirely possible that it's "Denver" and not "cons" that's the issue. It's a moot point, because no out-of-state cons are in the cards for the forseeable future, anyway. :-)

#542 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 09:20 PM:

Bodhisvaha, #524: Thank you! And I do recognize that I have an eye for jewelry design; when I say "visual art", I generally mean painting and photography only.

Actually, that piece you mention is a good example of the process of rescuing a fuckup. It's a bracelet done in wire kumihimo braiding with beads, and it was one of the first pieces I made using that technique, and the method didn't actually "click" until I was about halfway thru. So I had half a bracelet that looked great and half that... didn't. I wanted to go back and redo the first half to get it right, but I knew I would never, ever be able to get all the wires back in the right spaces once I'd undone them. So instead I got that pretty copper large-hole bead, and undid the wires on the messed-up part, and strung them all thru the bead and then started over again. Inside the bead the braid pattern is a trainwreck, but nobody can see that, so I didn't care. :-)

the invisible one, #531: While I don't have exactly that reaction to the general level of discourse on ML, I do get where you're coming from. I was recently thinking that there are a lot of things which are casually considered "part of the canon" around here, some of which I share and some not, and that sometimes when the conversation gets onto one of the canon topics that I don't share*, I feel a bit lost and intimidated. But I also know that if I wait a bit, something else will come up where I can contribute meaningfully -- and maybe some of the people in the discussion that's making me feel "outside" will themselves feel lost and intimidated by the new topic. It's like the ocean -- the tide comes in, the tide goes out.

BTW, I am 100% with you about coffee. I don't care what you do to it, it still tastes like burned beans! You might consider responding to such comments with "not for me" or something similar, and see what happens. Somehow I doubt you'll be forced out of the group over not drinking coffee, and it might make the caffeine addicts a little more aware that they aren't discussing a universal.

* Some of the notable "canon" topics that I don't share: Jane Austen, the Aubrey/Maturin books, the later Heinlein works, a bunch of movies and TV series, knitting (and other needlework).

Zelda, #533: Welcome to (being more active in) the filk community! I'm still on a bit of a high from GAFilk over the weekend.

the invisible one, #536: Yo, female tenor here! Technically I can still get into the soprano line, but I've lost a lot of quality on the top third of my range and now consider myself to be mostly an alto/contralto. (The_L, I'll be standing next to you on the Hallelujah Chorus, singing the first-tenor line.)

#543 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 09:37 PM:

I am a soprano, so I get the boring part of the HC. :) But the two "complex bits"--I have no idea if there's a technical term, that's how I think of them--are always fun anyway.

#544 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 10:05 PM:

Carrie @ 543

I dunno; in a "boring bits" competition in the H. Chorus, I think the altos win. We get to sing on a monotone A a LOT. With an occasional excursion down to the exciting world of G#.

The complex bits (or, as I think of them, "Handel proving that he's Handel") are fun, though. If a bit intimidating. ("Whaddaya mean you established a pattern and then broke it in JUST THAT ONE PLACE to mess with us all??")

Shall we break into a spontaneous chorus of "All We Like Sheep"? That one's FUN!

#545 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 10:52 PM:

the invisible one @536 I'm female and "all" female singers are way above my range

A few years ago I started singing with a women's barbershop chorus. (It's the group I think of when I think of "not always feeling like I belong," which is on me and not on the group, and is another story.) Anyway - women barbershoppers LOVE women with low voices; it's always hard to find enough good basses. Just sayin'.

#546 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2015, 12:25 PM:

@Cally: Oh gods, yes. We get the boring bits of almost everything. (I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus has a halfway-interesting alto section.)

#547 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2015, 12:29 PM:

Vocal range, extension of: I used to sing along with Elvis Presley to work on the bottom of my range, Julie Andrews for upper range, and Petula Clark for the middle.

The sweet spot seems to fall in most of Karen Carpenter's material.

I'm weird...

(And then there was the time in the Disney store and got strange looks from the clerks as I sang along to "Under the Sea.")

#548 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2015, 01:10 PM:

I'm lucky in voice range - I was a second soprano/first alto (often the latter because there were so many sopranos, and they liked having someone who could easily sing harmony). That said, one of my good friends is a talented contralto who was told by an ignorant music teacher in grade school that she couldn't sing and to just mouth the words during performances. She didn't sound pretty in the treble range, true. But a music teacher who doesn't recognize low range?!?

And yes, All We Like Sheep. *g* Are goooooooooone astray...

These days, thanks to time in hospital with innumerable tubes stuck in me (including breathing and feeding), I'm not even recognizable as a former-soprano. :( That said, I've always preferred harmony, and in the choirs I've sung in, NO part is boring. (though I must say, modern music tends to be WEIRD!!!) (cf Arvo Part)

#549 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2015, 01:42 PM:

Cally @544: I admit, I may be biased by the fact that the last...30 or so? measures are all the same note in the soprano line. "Ha-leeeeeeee-luuu-yaaaaaaaaa!" all in whole notes on the same pitch. :)

I spent one year as an alto and I think that in general, they get the least interesting parts. At least the basses tend to get to sing a few different notes! Then my voice settled and I ended up first soprano. I've lost some of my top range because I don't sing regularly anymore, but back in the day I could actually sound good pretending to be Christine Daae.

#550 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2015, 01:01 PM:

iliad slighly awry: You commented quite some time ago that you'd be moving in early November, and that New Beau was incredibly supportive (yay on both counts!!!) but that you were a bit worried about where you were moving to.

How are you doing? How'd the move go? Wanted to check in, and make sure things are going okay now.

#551 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2015, 06:14 PM:

This link came up on Twitter today: The Debt. It's about grown children who have decided to break off contact with abusive parents, and how and why that can be a good idea.

It doesn't cover any ground we haven't before, here, but it's good to see this sort of thing out there in the wider world. And the comments are supportive, mostly from people who would fit right in here.

#552 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2015, 07:40 PM:

abi, #551: I want to pull out this bit from that article:
In his New York Times essay, Richard Friedman acknowledges that some parent-child relationships are so toxic that they must be severed. But he adds, "Of course, relationships are rarely all good or bad; even the most abusive parents can sometimes be loving, which is why severing a bond should be a tough, and rare decision." But substitute "husband" for "parents," and surely Friedman would not advise a woman in such a relationship to carry on because her battering spouse had a few redeeming qualities.

This is a recurring issue, both for people with abusive parents and for those who try to advise them. For some reason, parents are given slack far over and above that which would be provided to anyone else who exhibited the same kind of behavior.

But this also suggests at least one possible pushback -- asking the person who's haranguing you about maintaining contact with an abusive parent whether they would say the same thing if you told them it was your spouse doing these things to you. If they say yes, then there is nothing more to be said; that person is so disconnected from reality as to be useless. If they say no, then you can ask the next question -- why not? What makes it so different when a parent behaves in ways that they obviously recognize as unhealthy when discussing someone else? Why are you required to subject yourself to this from a parent but not from a spouse, or a boss? Make them acknowledge their own unexpressed assumptions.

#553 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2015, 08:51 AM:

Yeah, the whole "because faaaaamily" thing is a weirdly superstitious bias. Maybe not surprising, in that it's rooted in biology in a way that other relationships are not. But it's just one more case where our hindbrain maybe has more say in our values than is really advisable.

#554 ::: one in a billion ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2015, 09:38 AM:

(I never know which email address I used. I'm gonna write this one down though.)

So I am running repeatedly against the wall of "Not being able to say no" to people because I haven't been able to stand up to my parent yet. It very much feels like that is the original issue.

Do you have any advice on building the understanding that you're allowed to say no to people?

#555 ::: Oh, Kay.... ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2015, 01:23 PM:

Lee @ 552

I think that people incorrectly personalize the decision to cut off one's family. They know that they have made mistakes, as parents and relatives, and they know how hard they tried to do the right thing.

If it becomes "easy" for children to walk away, they see themselves at risk, even if the two situations are nowhere near comparable, but especially where they are. The aunt I cut out of my life for abuse is the strongest proponent I have ever met of "blood thicker than water."

#556 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2015, 03:24 PM:

Oh, Kay, #555: I see two different phenomena going on in your statement. First, there are the people who legitimately don't understand the difference between normal family friction (aka "making mistakes") and a toxic family situation. They will say helpy things like, "They're the only parents you have" and "You'll be sorry after they die if you don't reconcile with them" because they literally have no fucking idea what they're talking about. And, with rare exceptions, you can't get them to understand; this is so alien to their experience of family that they just can't wrap their brains around it.

Then there are people like your aunt, who know damn good and well that if they don't lock their family members into that trap, they will be left alone, and with good reason. This is the largest problem with the Inherited Obligation family model (sidebar about halfway down the page) -- that it gives abusers a free ride.

Both of these groups will invoke the "blood is thicker than water" trope, but they do it for different reasons.

#557 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2015, 03:43 PM:

one in a billion @554:

With regard to the email address: I've now synched your comment history with the address you used in this comment. Keep using it and everything will tie together just fine!

With regard to saying no, and indeed, with many of these things, there's a lot of value to be had in rehearsal. I tell myself stories, in the shower and before falling asleep, about handling this sort of difficult thing. I know people who swear by talking to the mirror.

You can also start small - say no when the other person doesn't have a lot hanging on the request. "Can you get me this?" "No, sorry, I have to keep working on my project." Build up gradually, maybe. You'll be surprised how many people will go "Oh, OK" and go on with their lives.

Another way to get an understanding of your value might be to ask more things of other people, even trivial things. That might show you that you do occupy your own space in the community.

#558 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2015, 05:19 PM:

@Lee no. 556: I think your first example is the reverse of the "I never knew my house was full of BEES" phenomenon (credit to Captain Awkward). I've seen it in action here and elsewhere: people who grew up in circumstances that horrify people from outside the family system, but they have no idea that they were abused until they casually say something to somebody who responds with the Bug Eyes of WTF.

Speaking of. Dammit. I thought I was done with tripping over nasty old crap, but I discovered that a child of mine has the same dental issue I do. This issue increases wear on teeth and makes flossing difficult, leading to potential tooth loss later in life. At her age, it's tightening the belt on groceries for a while to pay for a one-time non-surgical treatment that will fix it forever, amen. At mine, it's tens of thousands of dollars to fix and general anesthesia is required.

The childhood procedure, which I just now found out about, has been available for longer than I have been alive. My surviving parent could have taken me in to have it done. She had the money. Solid government job, benefits, everything.

All she had to do was stop buying whiskey, wine, and cigarettes for a few months. Oh, and remember to take me in for an exam in the first damn place.

#559 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2015, 12:17 AM:

On vocal ranges and fitting in: I have been a cuckoo* for so long that I'm not sure I'd know what I'd do if I suddenly got into the "in" group. Right now that's manifesting as my first-grader wanting to have classmates over, and I'm willing, and I have no idea how to get this arranged because there seems to be a bunch of moms whose kids have been friends forever and just drop over at each other's houses to hang out. I mean, I've given contact information and not received any in return, and it doesn't seem as though it's a manifestation of dislike. Just some essential component missing.

I am also an alto, and can counterfeit a tenor when needed. I'm also tall and strong and a bunch of other things that convinced me to not pursue theater as a career (I'd need more ambition to overcome those disadvantages.) Again, out of the regular group. BUT I wasn't told I was an alto until my senior year of high school, so I have an interesting approach to range. The high end doesn't sound so good these days through lack of practice.

I did figure out my major mistake in friends, though. I get very lonely sometimes—I haven't had people over to my house in months. And then I went over all the friends I have who are geographically closest and realized that they're all a bunch of introverts! I'm not mistaken in having them as friends, but it makes it very hard for this extrovert to have gatherings because of it...

*Like being a girl counselor at a Boy Scout camp. When I go outside, I don't think small.

#560 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2015, 01:49 AM:

@B. Durbin no. 559: The answer to "What's missing?" may, unfortunately, be "Facebook." I Had Words with the leader of a kids' group one of my children belonged to for a while when she just assumed that I would give my personal information to Facebook and log on daily in order to receive updates for this one group.

#561 ::: one in a billion ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2015, 08:13 AM:

abi @557

Thanks on both accounts :) I'm going to try these strategies!

#562 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2015, 11:08 AM:

@B. Durbin no. 559: (Ignore if hlepy. This is some of the things that I did when my child wanted to do more with classmates.)

J's probably right that "Facebook" or other online schedule coordination may be key. My child is in fourth grade, and we have a number of kids that do the housing-exchange thing. For the most part, we manage this via phone calls and G+ posts. Try seeing if your child's school has a Facebook page and then do selective following based on that. If you make a point of at least occasionally posting with a "So-and-so's Parent" attached to your name, it will connect your name with your kid, and make other parents more aware of you.

If you can swing volunteering once or twice during a class party or something, do that. (I realize this isn't possible for some folks.) During that time, get your child to point out the classmates she wants to have over, and get the classmate to buy in. If you're lucky, then classmate's parent will be present and you can interface with them directly. Have specific dates/times worked out ahead of time if you can because it makes it into a firm commitment that you can at least quasi count on.

This will work sometimes, but not all the time. Some parents are terrible at this. Some don't have meshing schedules. Some are already over-committed with their own circles and will only have a little time. (I fall into the later category. It's not that I wouldn't love to have So-and-so over at some point, but there are only so many weekends in a school year.)

Good luck!

#563 ::: Oh, Kay... ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2015, 02:28 PM:

Lee @556

Yes, I thought about expanding on that point, but it was getting murkier, not better, for reasons I don't entirely understand.

#564 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 02:18 AM:

one in a billion @554,
These may have been mentioned in an earlier thread, but I've found both of these to be helpful in my learning to say yes and no.

1. The whole asker vs guesser conversation: not just this article, but followup posts at lifehacker and elsewhere. Whichever your parent is (or presents as), it's useful to know there's a whole set of people where whatever habits you've learned from parent just aren't applicable. Useful because it gave me something to be mindful about when a person reminded me of my dysfarent, and because it was comforting to know that this didn't just come from dealing with parent.

2. The book "The Book of No." I found it useful because it gives specific ways to say no, and gives you help at analyzing the subtexts and subtleties of the person asking, for multiple types of people (friend, coworker, family).

For me, the acts of studying and practicing "no" and seeking to classify people as asker/giver will often (not always, yet) remind me that these options exist at the moment of request. I'm fighting guilt with guilt, in a good way. I feel like it'd be rude to say "no" in general, but then if the person is an Asker then it'd be rude to say "no" if I didn't mean it. That moment of thinking that I have to choose which guilt to feel can (again, not always) keep my mind so occupied I don't get around to feeling the guilt.

3. Plus The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense, also not just for the tools, but as practice. If a statement reminds me of GAoVSD, then that nudges me towards analyzing: "oh, look, an if-then statement with at least one unproven assumption. No wonder I don't like that sentence. Let me try a Spock response." And in analyzing my emotional reaction, I give less energy to the emotions.

#565 ::: LGB ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 02:45 AM:

I have good news! My divorce is Really and Truly Final!!!

Last week my attorney sent me copies of the signed paperwork--stamped RECEIVED by the court-- and now I'm entirely unmarried to my jerk of an ex.

Less fantastic news is the agreement I had to make in order to convince him to sign. He’s keeping all the assets and most of the debt, but I agreed to pay a portion of our collective debt in order to make his numbers seem even. I say his numbers and seem even, because I'm pretty sure (and have documentation to support) that he was using numbers that don't correspond to our Earth math...but in the end I decided it was worth paying some money in exchange for being free of him and the interminable, unproductive arguing.

However! Once I pay that debt (which I intend to do as close to immediately as I can manage), I will be debt-free for the first time in my adult life. I'm particularly pleased about this because it's something my ex never managed to do in the last decade and a half, despite his great expertise in all things financial (just ask him). And of course I haven’t taken any graduate courses in finance and "just don't understand these things." That was always the excuse for why we couldn't do anything fun, too: once the debt was all cleared, then we'd be able to, you know, enjoy life. Well, I've been on my own for a year and a half, I’m enjoying my life very much indeed, and very shortly I won't owe any money to anyone. I'm proud of myself for that.

I have my own last name back too, which is also very satisfying.

Thank you all for the support and encouragement you’ve given me as I figured out how to get here. It has helped a LOT.

Ooh! I’m going to call the therapist I was seeing to let her know how much better things are going!

#566 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 04:29 AM:

variations on a lime @564: dysfarent


LGB @565: Oh, I say! That is good news! It's unfortunate that you're saddled with any debt, but I totally get the "small price to pay" reasoning. And you seem, well, motivated to dispense with it quickly.

one in a billion @554: On the topic of No: I could probably write a long dissertation on the subject. I'll try not to. I came up from being flatly incapable of saying no (to the dangerous extent that I let a skeevy guy give me a ride home in high school because, "what was I gonna do? Say no?" I was floored when I read that in my journal of the time, some years later.)

For me, what has driven my evolution has been boyfriends.

There was the one that decided not to continue going out with me, because he felt we weren't a good fit, and told me so. Rather than the traditional, you know, "I think I be busy all next weeeeek" passive-aggressive trick. This was the only break-up I've experienced that didn't hurt at all.

There was the one (or two) that couldn't be bothered to inform me that we'd broken up; In one case I only doped this out when he failed to show up for an important chosen-family function. ("Oh, I thought you knew.") When I chewed him out for it, he told me he'd handled it that way because he "didn't want to hurt" me. Congratulations: FAIL.

Then there was the one that just casually assumed the answer would always be "yes," and that any expression of "no" in any form meant that I "had fallen out of love with" him. (The presuppositions, we shall ignore them for now. See also: can you say, "emotional blackmail?") This, as a consequence, short-circuited any enthusiasm on my part. That's the one where I worked out, "If you're not allowed to say no, yes is meaningless."

And then there was the one who couldn't say no, and had to maneuver his girlfriends into making decisions for him.

But, really, that first one was the most dramatic demonstration of the power of saying no in a difinitive way. It wasn't until I'd had considerable basis for comparison that I fully appreciated what he'd done.

I still blow it. The trap I tend to fall into is to say yes when I want to want to do something—which, when examined for logic, clearly means that I don't want to do it. (Now that I think about it, it's often that I want to say yes to the person, but no to the event.*)

I've gotten better at that one, but it's a pit I still have to watch out for. It's a pit, because my response to a decision is frequently mixed: I want to do it for these reasons, but I don't want to do it for those. Or: I want to do it, but in a different way. Or: I want to do part of it, but not other parts. Or, or, or.... Unpacking that can take time and awareness, which is often not available in the moment. It's as important to be able to say, "Let me think about it and get back to you," as it is to be able to say "no."

Doesn't help at all that "no" is a nuanced thing, ranging from "No, and never darken my door again," to "I'd love to, but I just don't have the time/energy/spoons/money."

So to answer your original question: Do you have any advice on building the understanding that you're allowed to say no to people? For me, it's less a matter of understanding that I'm "allowed to," than it has been a growing visceral consciousness of the consequences of not doing so. If that makes any sense.

* It's driven by the fear that if I say no to [this thing], they'll decide [I don't love them/they don't love me] and will go away. Huh. That's a new insight.

#567 ::: one in a billion ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 04:52 AM:

variations on a lime @564 and Jacque @566

Thanks for your insights, too!

I think I have a better picture now of the question I'm asking: How do you say no to people who do not want to be told no? Because that's the thing with my parent.

I'm not that bad at saying no to a wide range of people, but I stumble when thinking about this parent because I'm always three steps ahead in the imagined conversation, thinking about how they are going to react to the no and how I might come up against that – because it's really hard to predict what kind of asshattery they'll pull this time. It may be a case for the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense, not sure. It may also be a case for Captain Awkward: Just repeat yourself over and over again.

But the difficult point is that feeling of "I cannot say no to this person" because that's what it has been like for two decades. It's not true anymore, but it is a very persistent feeling.

#568 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 05:23 AM:

one in a billion @567:

Is the problem saying no, or what happens after you do so?

One thing that many people here bring up is the idea of imposing consequences on your family for not accepting your assertion of boundaries. Little John actually left the parental house and drove a long way home back in Christmas of 2013. Several people have talked about putting the phone down on parents when they cross the line, and putting them into a time-out for repeated offenses.

Building yourself up to not only say no, but impose consequences on them ignoring your no, is a different thing than just choking the syllable out. And it sounds like that might be what you really need to aim for.

I'm not saying this to make the mountain higher; I'm saying it because having a complete plan is more likely to make you feel confident enough to take the first step.

So. Assume you say "no" in an audible and unignorable way, what are you afraid will happen next? Can the community here help you to plan for those circumstances?

Also, virutal hugs. This is tough territory.

#569 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 05:25 AM:

Also, LGB @565:

YAY! I am SO HAPPY to hear this. You've been so brave and so strong through the process. I really admire that.

#570 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 09:54 AM:

LGB @565: CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! I'm so glad for you! And as Jacque said, you seem rather motivated to get rid of the portion of the debt you were saddled with. :P

Hurray for freedom!

#571 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 10:18 AM:

LGB @565: Congratulations! {serves mead and chocolate} Would it be in bad taste to have a divorce party? Or maybe you could disguise it as a mostly-out-of-debt party?

#572 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 10:37 AM:

Congratulations, LGB!

#573 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 11:34 AM:

LGB @565, great news.

#574 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 12:10 PM:

LGB, #565: YAY!!! I was just thinking about you the other day, wondering how your divorce process was going.

Re the slightly-disadvantageous deal you had to make in order to get him to sign, that reminds me of a line from The Wicked Guardian by Elsie Lee: "It's the last he'll get, and not enough to be worth fighting over."

This is one of the reasons I hang out here. Watching people escape dysfunctional and/or abusive traps is a genuine source of joy for me.

one in a billion, #567: This may also be the time for the Miss Manners approach: "I'm sorry, but that's simply impossible" -- in a bright, cheery tone of voice, as if you're agreeing to do them a favor. Repeat as necessary, or fall back on the parental "Because I said so, that's why."

Bodhisvaha, #571: Divorce parties are totally a thing. I think it would be pretty cool to have a Frozen-themed cake with "Let It Go!" written on it.

#575 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 01:30 PM:

Awesome news, LGB! You're finally out of a bad marriage!

#576 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 04:25 PM:

Congratulations, LGB! I am very pleased for you.

#577 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 10:55 PM:

Congratulations, LGB! That piece of paper is so freeing. It is done, it is over; you can do what *you* want to do now. And yeah, sometimes it's more important to be done than to be fair. That's what I ended up with too.

#566, Jacque: Now that I think about it, it's often that I want to say yes to the person, but no to the event.

I hadn't thought of it in those terms before. That could explain a few things.

In some situations, I have no problem at all saying no. Usually the sort that seem like low-stakes questions, such as "would you like something to drink?" Even there, very often, my no is ignored. (I learned through a synthesis of various sources that stuff like drink offers and not taking no is a combination of 1: a host/ess feeling like they're Doin It Rong if their guests don't have a drink in their hand and that if this happens I should just ask for a glass of water then not drink it if I don't want to, and 2: a type of politeness wherein offers must be declined twice before they can be accepted because WTF let's just teach everybody that pushing will reliably turn a no into a yes I can't even and that custom needs to die.)

In other situations, even if I desperately don't want to do the thing, I find myself reluctantly agreeing and the other person not seeming to notice my reluctance. People inviting themselves into my house falls into this category. (Fortunately this doesn't happen often. It may happen more often if I get more friends, because inviting people over is apparently a thing that friends do.)

#578 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 11:18 PM:

abi @568: wow, you remembered my experience from last year! I'm surprised but happy that it's remained in anyone's mind.

Mind you, I want to offer the supporting details: I was only able to walk out on a bad situation because by then I'd had YEARS of this kind of discussion, here and elsewhere. I had timidly talked about my problems and heard many different people say, "No, that really does suck and you're not just making things up." And someone else here offered the idea of reacting to family members' hostility by turning around and walking out on it. That idea was freeing to me. Thank you, whoever shared that part of your experience.

I haven't been saying much (mostly for good reasons: I'm busy and overworked/underslept and starting to have a social life), but I still check the DFD threads every day to find out how everyone is doing and what's on your minds. I'll always be here and I always am interested in seeing what you all have to say.

#579 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2015, 12:38 AM:

Speaking of walking out of bad situations, yesterday (Sunday) I walked out of my parents' house when the conversation became intolerable. (first time I've ever done this) This would not have occurred to me without reading these threads, and it saved a 5-7 minute conversation from becoming a full visit.

Still took me several hours to recover. Mom, I swear, is a spoonivore. (anyone know the latin-ish for spoons? ;) But I got out, and didn't care that it would be rude.

Thank you to the community here, and to the people who've talked specifically about walking out when necessary.

#580 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2015, 12:48 AM:

Chickadee, it appears to be "cochlear".

#581 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2015, 01:56 AM:

Chickadee, #579: Good for you!

Be aware that the next time you see her, she's likely to want to make it All About How Rude You Were Last Time. The first time she starts, say very firmly, "This topic is not open for discussion. Everything that needed to be said was said last time." When (and I guarantee it will be "when", not "if") she doesn't drop it... walk out again. She does not get to turn the entire visit into criticism of how you acted on the last visit. Repeat as necessary until it finally dawns on her that she's not going to win because you're not allowing her to grind you down any more.

Re spoon-draining -- remember the well. You only have so much Cope at a time, and when she gets on one of those tears, she vastly increases the rate at which she siphons it off, and it does take time to recover. Take care of yourself.

#582 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2015, 02:52 AM:

Really happy to hear that, LGB! It sounds like you're really succeeding at setting and enforcing your own priorities and boundaries!

#583 ::: variations on a lime ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2015, 03:32 AM:

That's wonderful to read- heartening and hope-making!

(Hearing here about the journey from "is this strange or just me?" to "wow, done!" is so helpful, as a reminder that all the small movements we make day-by-day eventually get us to new places)

#584 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2015, 07:28 AM:

Congratulations LGB!, it's a big step!

Also various condolences and congratulations to prior posters, as I haven't been following well here the last few days.

#585 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2015, 11:51 AM:

me@566: it's often that I want to say yes to the person, but no to the event.

::facepalm:: Absolutely classic example: starting today, I'm cutting heavy carbs out of my diet for a while. I get back from the grocery store last night, eat the last of my ice cream, preparatory to having my decks clear and setting up today's meals.

9:18pm, the phone rings; it's my upstairs neighbor: "Hi, I just wanted to know if I could come down and knock on your door and give you some of the desserts I just finished making?"

GAAAAAHHHHH! As it happens, the pies in question (with the exception of the cherry) aren't all that appealing to me, and I wasn't actually tempted at all from a gastronomical standpoint. But the offer was so wonderfully sweet and kind that it just killed me that I needed to say no.


The Universe, it has an evil sense of humor.

Chickadee @579: spoonivore

*snerk!* I think we could very reasonably start our own little dictionary, here in this community. :-) :-)

But I got out, and didn't care that it would be rude.

I dispute that it's rude. If I say, "What you are doing is hurting me, and if you keep doing it, I'm going to have to leave," they are the one's making the decision to trample on your stated boundaries and causing you pain. That's rude. Following up on your warning is, IMnsHO, not.

Lee @581: Repeat as necessary

This is also one of the more effective forms of operant conditioning available, when dealing with dysfunctional people.

#586 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2015, 01:05 PM:

Leaving worked stunningly well on my mother.

I've had to do it many times.

It gets easier, and the episodes have spaced out.

One thing: if you're going for your coat, don't let them sweet talk you with promises to change the subject/be good. Just leave. Otherwise the rest of your visit will be spent with them creeping up, trying to find the edges of your boundaries.

If you can manage, "don't go away mad". Give them a sad smile and say, "I've got to go now." Consider it an enormous triumph if you can clip the initial "Sorry". Say it, or don't say it, but LEAVE.

#587 ::: one in a billion ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2015, 01:12 PM:

abi @568


Assume you say "no" in an audible and unignorable way, what are you afraid will happen next?

I guess my problem is mainly that thinking about saying no to my parent is like trying to push two magnets of the same polarity together – it's so unfathomable, my mind refuses to even think about an answer.

Judging by the evidence, I probably need to rehearse a lot of possible conversations in my head until disagreeing becomes second nature.

#588 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2015, 01:50 PM:

re: saying no to a parent

It helped me to roleplay it with a friend.

That can be fun - have them ham it up and be horrible and/or saccharinly "nice", or both sequentially or alternately.

Actually use a coat and go out a door (any door). It helps.

You'll have the fun you had playing it overlaying the trauma of the real thing. It makes the departing smile come easier.

#589 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2015, 10:37 AM:

My Ex, from a family of guessers, also had trouble leaving difficult situations due to feeling "it was rude". One example: we were shopping for her new car, and I had asked her ahead of time to promise that we would leave the dealer if we didn't like the offer, and she had agreed we would. However, when we had finished looking at a car, and were sitting with the salesman, it became clear that they were attempting a high-pressure sales tactic, and I had to persuade her to leave, despite her promise. What we ended up doing, and this is the point of my anecdote, was simply "stepping outside for a moment", followed by "just sitting in the car" while I went back inside to tell them we were leaving (unnecessary from my POV, but completely necessary from hers). After I informed the salesman, and was cursed at by his manager, we left for a different dealer.

The process of leaving when your boundaries have been broached is, as pointed out above, often difficult. If you break it down into more palatable steps, such as "stepping outside", then you can sometimes convince yourself that you're not being rude. Once you get started in the physical process, it gets easier to take the next step. Practicing this by role-playing also helps.

LGB: Congratulations! Freedom! I did much the same when I bought my Ex off my mortgage; peace of mind is what you're aimed at, and that's what you got.

Chickadee: Go you! "Consuming spoons" in Latin is (according to Google Translate) "cochlearia et consumpsit". I leave it to the more proficient Latinators to correct it, as my Latin is more than 30 years out of use.

#590 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2015, 11:08 AM:

Ooh: cochlearia consummaretur

#591 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2015, 11:35 AM:

Awesome. *g*

I keep thinking of anything cochlear as being either to do with the inner ear or to do with shells. Now I think I'll dive down an etymology rabbit hole... ;)

#592 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2015, 01:34 PM:

Chickadee @591: Report back if you find anything interesting. As near as I can tell, Cochlea is Greek/Latin for "snail" (and the inner ear is snail-shaped, hence the association), while Cochleari is Latin for "spoon". I'd be interested if you can find a connection between them.

#593 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2015, 02:05 PM:

Buddha Buck @ 592, one is tempted to start assuming that spoons were once made out of snail-shells... but that's pure folk etymology...

#594 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2015, 02:14 PM:

I find three words for spoon in my go-to English-Latin source: coclear, is, a spoon; rudicula, ae, a wooden spoon, and trua, ae, a stirring-spoon.

Given that the original anecdote was for tea- and tablespoons in a cafe, let's go for coclear, which makes an eater of spoons a cocleavore.

#595 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2015, 03:21 PM:

coclear is spoon? That would explain its French word 'cuiller', pronounced 'kü-ee-air'.

#596 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2015, 03:42 PM:

neologizing: I haz a giggle. :-)

#597 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2015, 08:27 PM:

Just in case anyone here has not realized it, Google Translate for English → Latin really really sucks.

#599 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2015, 09:22 PM:

Jacque, #598: There are some good points in that article, but also (bluntly) a strong whiff of straight white male privilege. In particular, I wonder whether those conversations with employers that he recounts would have gone off so swimmingly for a woman. And there was certainly no hint of awareness that some Forbidden Conversations carry very strong social or physical risks.

#600 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2015, 01:33 AM:

Lee: SWM privilege or not, I found it to be a very interesting and compelling angle on the issues I was discussing in my @566.

#601 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2015, 07:45 AM:

Lee @599, Jacque @598, that is an interesting article. There are two comments at the article, both thoughtful, one of which makes the point that Lee just makes. Defying social expectations is one thing, but angering someone you can't escape is another.

I think the point that everyone involved would be better off if we had some of these awkward conversations is valid, and I'm amused by the analogy that if the readers of the book about you would be shouting "Just talk to them!" then you should have the conversation. But it's not true that all of those conversations should be held. As Lee pointed out, it's not true if the conversation puts you at risk. I also think it's possible to be a jerk about this kind of thing, which I'm having trouble articulating more clearly than that.

#602 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2015, 02:28 PM:

OtterB, #651: That's because I wrote it. :-) I couldn't see leaving something like that to be passed around without some acknowledgement of that particular issue. And the advice is good, just not as universally so as he seems to think.

#603 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2015, 02:40 PM:

Lee @602 I wondered if you were that commenter. It sounded like you. :-)

#604 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2015, 03:28 PM:

First off, congratulations, LGB! That's a huge thing to be done with. And paying some money is a decent trade for getting that corner of your life back.

Next, I heard a speaker the other day who had a great method for (non-dysfunctional) confrontations, even if it did come with a silly motivational speaker acronym attached. "Clear the AIRR." Agree, Impact, Respect, Request.

For example: "1. We love how well you get along with our kids. Aren't they awesome? 2. However, when they're over at your house, their schedules get out of whack and it's hard to get them back where they need to be. 3. I find your relationship with them to be very important, and you are a big help to look after them. 4. Would it be possible to work a little more closely to our schedule? It really helps keep the kids on an even keel."

I'm wondering how well that would apply to the mildly dysfunctional relationships involved. (Obviously, there comes a point in which it is better to walk away.) The point of the first and third steps is to do the psychological trick of getting the other person in the mode of saying "yes." Hmm. thoughts?

#605 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2015, 12:06 AM:

OtterB @601: if the readers of the book about you would be shouting "Just talk to them!" then you should have the conversation. But it's not true that all of those conversations should be held.

I think the "Just talk to them!" principle is a remarkably good metric, even covering Lee's point. For example, I don't think anybody in the audience of Sleeping with the Enemy is going to be shouting that at Julia Roberts's character. I think even the original article's author will agree that that's a clear-cut case of, "Bees! Run!"

B. Durbin: It also has the non-trivial advantage of getting you to frame your requests in the positive, instead of (using their example) "Stop messing up their schedules!" You're asking for what you want, instead of complaining about what you don't want, which is nearly always more effective, especially when there's another person involved in the transaction.

#606 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2015, 02:23 AM:

OtterB, #602: And to give credit where it's due, the author responded acknowledging that point.

#607 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2015, 07:43 AM:

In re: Forbidden Conversations, I find that "Just talk to them" is a good solution in non-abusive situations. My personal metric is: Is it the topic that's making you uncomfortable discussing this, or the person? If the former, say it as politely as you can manage and get it over with. It might not be so bad.

If the latter, don't punish yourself. Bad gut feelings about another individual are generally there for a damn good reason.


On an unrelated note, I commented on a blog about parenting practices that I don't really think I love my father. It sounds cruel (especially to those with functional families or to the Family Über Alles types), but loving my dad was also tearing me apart inside, which just wasn't good for me.

#608 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2015, 01:55 PM:

The_L @607: That's so very, very hard. But while you want to love him (which says good things about you), he's done everything in his power to destroy, warp, damage and poison that love. It's okay to recognize that it's gone. It's also okay for this to hurt - or not. To just be a huge relief that you don't have this obligation any more.

Hugs, if welcome.

#609 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2015, 02:30 PM:

This is one of those "forbidden conversations" one doesn't want to steer towards, except from a well-armored bunker, with lots of back-up. Jeez.

#610 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2015, 02:57 PM:

The_L @607 about your father, witnessing.

Re "forbidden conversations," I think The_L's distinction of whether you're avoiding the person or the topic makes sense.

I said earlier @602 that I thought it was possible to be a jerk about this but couldn't articulate it more. I've realized that it's jerk behavior to insist on having one of these conversations when the other person has set it as a boundary. What I was getting was a whiff of a conversation that goes "I don't want to discuss this with you." "No, I insist you talk about it! We'll both feel better! I know what you want better than you do!" Which, to be fair, was not explicitly in the original.

#611 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2015, 04:03 PM:

What I'm finding fascinating is that there are so many dimensions to the issue of "forbidden questions" that simply hadn't occurred to me.

#612 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2015, 05:16 PM:

The_L, #607: Yes. It's impossible and unrealistic to apply the standards of healthy relationships to dysfunctional and/or abusive ones! And because of that, a lot of advice that's wise and useful when you're talking about a healthy relationship becomes both foolish and toxic in reference to an unhealthy one. This is something a lot of people don't grasp. Hell, it's something I have occasionally forgotten; the tendency to assume that everyone else is like you is a human universal.

Re your father, I hear and understand that. In the wake of my mother's death, when I was trying to deal with my father directly for the first time in a decade or more (we had both tended to use her as a buffer), I went back to the family therapist we had briefly seen when I was in my early 20s. (I chose her specifically because she had already seen the family dynamics in action, so I wouldn't have to waste time explaining that.) And she did help me for a while, but I had to stop going when she kept insisting that my (extremely reluctant) willingness to maintain contact with him and do the things that had to be done meant that "I really did love him". NO. Duty is not the same thing as love; if there had been anyone else to step up, I'd have walked away then and there, but there wasn't. And I kept telling her that no, I didn't love him, and she kept not hearing me, and at that point I knew there was no more good to be had from seeing her.

Jacque, #609: Holy crap. Talk about being caught in a trap! That poor woman -- I hope she figures out a way to handle this that doesn't just involve pretending to forget what she's learned. Also, James Marsters' excellent admonition that "if a man is mean to other people, sooner or later he'll be mean to YOU" would seem to apply here.

OtterB, #610: Agreed. And notice that when the other person is trying to cross your boundaries to have one of those conversations, the phrase "in denial" is very likely to be deployed -- which is a Big Red Warning Flag that someone does not genuinely mean you well.

Hmmm, clarification. While it is possible for someone to be in denial about a problem, it is not possible to accuse them of it, for the simple reason that this puts them in a no-win situation. It's the relationship equivalent of the Oliver Stone Defense*; once you've been accused of being "in denial", any counter-evidence you present is simply assumed to be further proof of the accusation. So while this is a concept you can think of about someone, it is totally useless to say to them, and doing so is IMO evidence of bad faith.

* Which is to say, the argument that the complete lack of any evidence in favor of a claimed conspiracy is merely proof, PROOF I tell you, of how powerful and wide-ranging said conspiracy must be.

#613 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2015, 05:24 PM:

Lee @612: While it is possible for someone to be in denial about a problem, it is not possible to accuse them of it

I'd use a different word in there; far too many of us have had it amply demonstrated that, while generally not helpful or useful, it certainly is "possible."

#614 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2015, 08:32 PM:

"This is something a lot of people don't grasp. Hell, it's something I have occasionally forgotten; the tendency to assume that everyone else is like you is a human universal."

I have that issue myself WRT most people not being the vindictive, easily-disappointed type. I still have to constantly remind myself that disappointing others is NOT a death sentence; it's an unavoidable part of life.

#615 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2015, 09:11 PM:

Jacque, #613: Good point. There was an unexpressed assumption in my statement; I should have said that it's not possible to do so in good faith. I did say that more explicitly later on, but didn't link the two statements as well as I should have.

#616 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2015, 10:37 AM:

This group helped me before. And here I am again, in almost the same place, with almost the same problems. Someone on the "underground railroad" said to me once, that it takes seven times for a runaway to make it. I never counted how many times I've tried to break away.
I'm in the same city where I was years before, returned for what I thought was essential and crucial procedures that weren't covered by my plan in the US, and I thought there was a degree of repaired/patched overness in the parental units. Apparently not so much.

Now some of this crowd knows my story, but the short version is that I've lived with a whole slew of gaslighting and important things to me going missing soon after I'd disclosed or betrayed myself by showing the powers that be that they were important to me: journals, dolls, clothing, kitchen materials, artwork, photographs, and just before I managed to break away years ago with the help of several folks, my hard drive, and my wristwatch, and other things that I might have needed to escape with.
This return trip has been mostly uneventful, but in the last week or so things have been happening to remind me that nope, I am not going to be able to say that things are different in terms of the denial, the abuse and the abuse potential. A pair of walking shoes went missing when I stayed at the parents' house. Symbolic, no? Not to be able to walk away because I had no shoes. I had to use this pair of plastic shoes that weren't really meant to walk distances in. And just how is it that my external hard drive, that I'd been so careful as to carry around with me at nearly all times, has gone missing? The only folks with access to the place where I'd hidden it among a whole mess of things?

What makes me angry is the thought that I'd trusted them, yet again.
They've threatened me with saying they are going to cut me off, and that the ticket I booked in advance before I arrived here is no longer valid. I'm not sure what to do yet.

The person who booked my ticket works for the close friend of parental units, so it's not farfetched that they would try to have that booking cancelled.

They might just be trying to psyche me out though, and I am thoroughly creeped out, angry and sad and in disbelief that my electronic journal is gone. It lived in that hard drive and now that is gone!

#617 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2015, 12:01 AM:

Oh no, ma larkey. I'm glad to hear from you, and I hope the medical issues are being dealt with. But I remember your posts from before, and I hope you are able to break away again when your health permits. And your hard drive... ugh.

Witnessing hard.

#618 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2015, 12:05 AM:

ma larkey, so sorry to hear that the hoped for patches didn't hold.

#619 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2015, 09:09 AM:

Witnessing, ma larkey. Best of luck to you.

#620 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2015, 09:26 AM:

In a much more minor category of familial stress, I have to ask the crowd: is it me? Am I over-bothered by this thing?

The Thing:
Yesterday, my parent came over briefly. In the course of the visit, we discussed an item that I am handling for them, and my parent said, "Well, I have the paperwork in the car." To which I said, "That's fine, but please don't give me paper. What you need to do is [blah] and that will make all of this easier." As parent was leaving, they said, "Oh, and I put that paperwork on your counter."

I'm pissed. The explanation given, when I said "But I asked you not to give it to me, why are you doing so?" was "Well, I'd just have to take it home." And while I can usually suss out some sort of underlying cause for parent's actions, the only one I'm getting from this is "What you want is utterly unimportant to me." I'm also taking bets that [blah] totally fails to happen, and if something goes wrong with the paperwork, I will be blamed because "Well, but I gave it to you!" Anyone have any other, more charitable reading of this interaction?

#621 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2015, 09:41 AM:

cyllan @620 more charitable reading

Possibilities I can think of:

Parent is not clear how to [blah] but reluctant to say so

"but I've always done these things with paper and they don't seem like they're really done unless they're done with paper"

"I think you're going to end up needing the paperwork so I'll leave it here just in case."

If you want to see my husband shudder, ask him about his mom and the copier when he was helping with her finances but she was still involved. She made copies of everything, and then copies of the copies, and filed them each in two or three different places because she was so worried that something important would turn up missing.

#622 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2015, 11:13 AM:

cyllan, #620: I get less "what you want is unimportant" and more "I'm dumping ALL the responsibility for this thing on you, even though it's my thing". Possibly with a side of what OtterB said as well.

IMO the important thing here is not to allow [blah] to slip thru the cracks. Wait a suitable interval and then remind them about it -- include full instructions on how to do [blah] and a deadline by which it needs to be done. Then if they don't get back to you about it, continue to follow up, making it clear that it is THEIR responsibility to do [blah].

If at any point you get a response to the effect of, "But I gave you all the paperwork!"... mail it back to them. Certified. With a note saying, "Now you have what you need in order to do [blah]."

#623 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2015, 11:13 AM:

copies of the copies

::stares at the ceiling and whistles off-key::

I'm not quite that bad. :-)

I have a similar issue with a neighbor. She's asked for help with her computer. I've asked for version numbers and given her instructions on how to get them. She got back to me with one of the numbers. ::sigh::

#624 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2015, 11:17 AM:

ma larkey #616: Oh no. You need to get out of there.

#625 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2015, 11:39 AM:

ma larkey @616, strong sympathies. Witnessing.

Can you manage cloud storage in future? Google docs is free. (Ignore if hlepy.)

#626 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2015, 10:11 PM:

If you want to see my husband shudder, ask him about his mom and the copier when he was helping with her finances but she was still involved. She made copies of everything, and then copies of the copies, and filed them each in two or three different places because she was so worried that something important would turn up missing.

Multiple backups in separate locations? Sounds like she was following the standard advice regarding important data (possibly with an overly broad definition of 'important').

#627 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2015, 10:19 PM:

That "Forbidden Conversations" thing: no.

He is utterly, absolutely wrong - not because it never is a good thing, but because he's trying to tell you that it always is a good thing.

The potential friendship I lost last year was in part due to having tried to have one of those Forbidden Conversations. While it had seemed like it went OK at the time, and I had assumed everything really was OK, in reality the other person perceived it as creepy and upsetting; the result was that that conversation was casting doubt for months afterwards on my motives for everything I might say or do, until finally things blew up. (I'm grossly oversimplifying here, and this is only part of the story, but I think this is accurate enough.)

Is it possible to have a conversation about topics you thought were off limits? Of course. Is it a good idea? Often, sure. Always, no. Rules like that are a horrible substitute for using good judgement and sensitivity.

#628 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2015, 11:04 PM:

Chris @626 Multiple backups in separate locations? Sounds like she was following the standard advice regarding important data

Overly broad definition of important, yes. Also overly narrow definition of separate locations - multiple file folders in the same cabinet.

#629 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2015, 01:20 AM:

cyllan @620: Mail it back to them with a note saying, "I think you forgot these at my place. I would hate for you to need them and realize you've lost them!"

(Or, you know, do something more useful and less snarky, but daydream about having done this.)

#630 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2015, 05:45 AM:

Thanks for the listening. I checked the booking and it is still sound according to the customer rep. So it was just maybe another gaslighting thing, or psych out thing.
Still no sign of the hard drive. I feel as if I've been through a house fire, that contained so many things that were important to me. But what burned up, really, is the notion that certain folks would respect my privacy and property. This morning I got called "ingrate" when I refused to tell genetic donor the name and particulars of the friend I was meeting today. I simply said, I met them through this *event in my life* and you don't know them and will probably never meet them so it won't be meaningful for me to go into detail, unless you want to Google them? even so, not everyone I meet is google-able." Cheeky, yes, but necessary.
At this late stage of life I was told: "we are concerned that you are meeting people we do not know or trust." the old myth *Hello there, dangerous world, no one is safe out there but us unless we vet them first!*

#631 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2015, 01:29 PM:

"we are concerned that you are meeting people we do not know or trust."

My immediate reaction is that I wouldn't want to have the vetting process in the hands of people who have already proven themselves to be untrustworthy...

#632 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2015, 01:36 PM:

The photocopying thing? I've run into that.

There were three timekeepers in our region (I was one) and when one of them retired I took over handling her employees. My guess is that she may have had one or more TIAs...because the quality of data management dropped rapidly.

So I'm trying to correct the mistakes in her work (she had what I call lazy timekeeper syndrome) and I get to go through five copypaper boxes of timesheets. I try sorting through the boxes only to find it's timesheets from the same five pay periods in that particular year, copied over and over ad infinitum...fifty reams worth.

I never did find the original documents that I needed to be certain the records were correct. I did check with every employee, and used their data to reconcile what little I had. But I sweated bullets each year when HQ decided what areas of our region would be part of an internal audit.

I was so glad when I was able to shred that year's documents, and never have to worry about that again.

#633 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2015, 05:21 PM:

I ran into a case of gross functionality yesterday I thought this community might enjoy.

I was visiting with my upstairs neighbor P yesterday. I went into his bathroom to get a kleenex, and noticed (again) the lovely styling. Came back out, saying, "You know, it's an amazing thing to visit a space where people actually do the housecleaning thing." Unlike, you know, me.

P said, "Well, that's mostly I (his wife). Well, I do my part. I did a bunch over the holidays."

"Yeah, you mentioned, because I was coming home from visiting relatives."

"Yeah," He grinned. "I didn't want to give her any reason to think she might be better off somewhere else."

See, now that's the kind of reasoning I like to see. He values his partner enough (And knows it. Consciously.) to invest actual effort in making her life more pleasant.

That's how you treat people you care about.

#634 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 06:55 PM:


I cancelled going to my parents' place for supper because the prospect of it had sent me into a serious depressive episode. Mom causes me harm without realizing it or intending to, and I need to protect myself.

After a couple of exchanges with escalating guilt-mongering and emotional manipulation on her part, I sent back a note about how I love her and value our relationship [I don't like or respect her, but I do love her] and I just don't have the emotional energy right now to spend time with her. I didn't hear from her for two days, and figured that was the end of things.

I just got another missive. Haven't read the whole thing, but the Gmail preview is "I'm sorry I can't be the perfect Mom you want me to be." *gag* *gag* Over the top, anyone?

This, Mom, is why after one failed attempt I have not tried to discuss any of the things you do that hurt me, because you take it as a personal attack and launch back the most hurtful thing you can think of. In this case, it elicits a response along the lines of "and f*** you too. I am so DONE with this shit."

#635 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 08:59 PM:

Chickadee, #634: Gah, indeed. My reflex response to that shit is, "I don't want you to be *perfect*, I just want you to be *polite*. Why is that too much to ask?"

Note the 2 verbal-judo tactics in there: (1) the use of "just", in a "can't you do just this one thing for me?" kind of way; and (2) the phrasing of the "why" question. If she tries to respond in any way starting with "because", she's accepted your (implied) premise that this is indeed too much to ask.

I point these things out because they are common verbal-abuse techniques, which we learn in many cases from having them used on us. I still believe there's a place for them in the toolbox, but just as a gentleman never offends anyone unintentionally, I think it's important to be aware of using these tricks and not to do so without due deliberation.

#636 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 09:01 PM:

Internal Server Error. *kick*

#637 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 09:11 PM:

I've decided to not reply.

Part of the rest is "I love you the way you are."

Really? Because I thought you loved the daughter-shaped object you see, not *me*.

So much WTF in four sentences.

#638 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 05:32 AM:

Chickadee @634 and 637 *Gah* indeed.

I'm sorry I can't be the perfect mom...
Because, of course, it's all about her.

Nonresponse sounds like a reasonable option to me. Sympathies.

#639 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 11:50 AM:

OtterB @648: It really is all about her. Always has been, always will be.

Lee @635: Excellent suggestion, except part of the reason communication with her is impossible is that she's got a series of codes (which rotate randomly, so you can't even learn the code to talk to her) to re-interpret whatever you say to something only she knows. I don't know what she'd make of the verbal judo, but I'm quite sure on her it wouldn't work. :(

She's making herself out to be the Martyred Mother. I'm the Ungrateful Daughter who's cruel to her for no good reason. Really, if she thought this would add to the guilt, it backfired. I feel better about reducing contact with her than I have in months. And I've already spent a couple of years grieving the loss of the mother and relationship I *thought* I had.

#640 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 12:03 PM:

Lee @635: Maybe I'm being dense (wouldn't be the first time today), but I'm having trouble seeing how you comment relates to Chickadee's @634?

#641 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 12:07 PM:

me: re Lee @635: Oh, so you're making a suggestion, yes? ::woggle:: I initially parsed it as commenting on something Chickadee had already said. Ah. That makes more sense.

(This seems to be one of those days when I shouldn't be out without adult supervision....)

#642 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 12:19 PM:

Chickadee, #637: Ah yes, the parent who insists on having a relationship with Fantasy Daughter instead of the real-life daughter in front of them. That was my father, and one of the reasons that no matter what I did it was the wrong thing was that it wasn't what Fantasy Daughter would have done.

and @639: So, you have to deal with Assigned Roles as well. Yeah, that sounds like a recipe for "the only way to win is not to play".

Jacque, #640: It went like this: I typed what my likely response to an e-mail such as Chickadee had gotten would have been. Then I looked at it, noticed that I was using some verbal-judo tricks, and went on to include an analysis thereof. Part of my reasoning was that the more times people see analyses of this stuff as it occurs in the wild, the more likely they are to recognize it when it's being deployed against them.

Also, a personal note -- I strongly advise you not to attempt to read Tanya Huff's "Enchantment Emporium" series. There are several people in it who remind me very strongly of the way you've described your mother, and I suspect you'd find it extremely triggering.

#643 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 12:55 PM:

Lee @642: re: assigned roles: I'm usually The Star! - she's awesome and brilliant and talented and aren't I a great parent for having raised such an amazing daughter? (though that last isn't conscious, as far as I can tell). I'm also quite explicitly her clone, and she's tried to live vicariously through me in a number of situations (course choices at university, for example).

My refusal to be her clone has caused much friction, from puberty onward, and my current setting boundaries has (temporarily, I hope) shifted my assigned role to Rebellious, Ungrateful Daughter. I don't even know what to hope for, but I'm working on living my life as *myself* not someone's idea of what I should be.

#644 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 12:57 PM:

regarding triggering books: I'll keep that in mind.

I've ended up not reading several recommended books because they set of major triggers - sometimes from people who know me and didn't expect *that* to set me off. Yada Yada Prayer Club, for example. I've been the kid in the hospital bed with family doing things to/for/about me that I didn't consent to, and with absolutely no power to affect what they did. About as much fun as it sounds. And it was one minor scene, but it set me off but good. :(

#645 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 03:36 PM:

File under mysteries of the human heart-mind. My mother is changing. I had been trying hard, the past year or two, to stop caring what my parents want from/for and think of me. It seemed like the best available way to disengage with minimum damage. I don't know if it's a reaction or a coincidence, but my parents have been changing, especially recently: they're starting to act like real family instead of genetic donors. It feels very, very strange.

Just the other day at my birthday dinner, my mother was apologizing for how we didn't travel when I was young. She's known for many years that this is a long-term disappointment. But now, she is apologizing, extensively, pretty gracefully (especially for her), and *sincerely.* No weaselling -- she was saying it was because of her "lack of gumption". (She has plenty, but most of it has always been applied to keeping herself and others in line, so there's not much left for rebelling against convention with.) It's like watching a mountain decide it has been in the wrong place all these years, and begin moving towards Mohammed.

I'm taking a little time to let it sink in before I respond, because I want to say thank you as sincerely and gracefully as I can, to encourage this trend. It *is* a trend. My mother didn't used to do apologies, in any functional sense. Either they didn't exist, or they grovelled, or they were really attacks in disguise. But a few years ago she started making sincere but very bad or awkward apologies for various stupid little long-past things, and I tried to accept them graciously and kindly, because a real apology of any quality was rare. ...I think she noticed, because this apology is for something BIG. For an entire behaviour trend that she used to feel was completely justified and would have fiercely resisted changing, back in the day.

If she keeps going this direction, before she dies I may end up hearing sincere apologies for...oh, I don't know, her being a terrible mother, or compenents thereof? The kind of apologies I had not dreamed of asking for, because the person she was, most of my life, would never have given them, and probably would have savaged me for asking.

Even this much is a fragment of a miracle. If I keep holding my hands out to catch them, maybe an entire miracle will accumulate.

#646 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 03:44 PM:

This makes me so happy for you and your family.

This has been happening with my mother. Part of it is she's seeing how lonely and frightened those around her have ended up after a lifetime of abusing those they could. Some died, others were driven away and not replaced.

Part of it has been my refusing to accept nastiness from her, and working for areas where we could be nice to each other: at first, superficially, then when that got safe, cautiously going deeper. It's been a mutual re-conditioning, hard as that is to admit.

It's unbelievably magical. I am so glad to witness this for you!

#647 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 11:08 AM:

Today is my mother's birthday. She's a bit of an enabler, but not a deliberate abusive-type like my dad. I think I'm going to call her.

#648 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 11:29 AM:

Bodhisvaha, #645: If you've been changing the parameters of the relationship, your mother may have had time and space to think about some of these things, and also may not feel as locked-in to the previous patterns as the two of you used to be. But in any event, I agree with you that this is a pattern-shift which should be encouraged as much as possible!

The_L, #647: Interesting how getting away makes it easier to think clearly about this stuff, isn't it? I hope your call goes well.

#649 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 03:51 PM:

Me too. She acts borderline NPD in some ways, but not enough for it to make sense as an actual diagnosis (also, IANA psychiatrist). Dad, OTOH, has the exact same mindset I've seen described here as abusive over and over.

Lately, I've found that I miss my mom. Dad, not so much.

#650 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 09:08 AM:

So, that guy I mentioned a couple of months ago? He seems to have accepted my "no" and hasn't mentioned it since, and we're getting to be friends. Also, my "this person is paying attention to me! must date him!" reaction has mostly died down. So far so good. He seems to be a great person, and I like talking to him and he and his sister are excellent hiking buddies.

What I'm realizing now is that I don't really know how to deal with friends who interact with each other a lot.

We chat regularly online—as much as I have with previous boyfriends, but never with friends. I generally only talk to my friends if something specific is happening. I don't know if he chats with his other friends this much or if it's unusual for him too.

He invited me over for dinner.

The mutual friend whose house we met at has mentioned inviting friends over for dinner, but this isn't a thing that I've done much at all. In his circles, I guess it is a thing you do with friends, not reserved for that special relationship like it has been in my life. So I'm kind of confused, and hoping he isn't thinking of anything other than being friends.

And telling him all this is just way too personal for me to consider.

I don't even know what I'm asking here. I don't even know if this is an appropriate place for it.

#651 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 01:58 PM:

the invisible one @650, sounds like a good friendship in development to me.

Re inviting friends over for dinner, I think it's an individual-differences thing as well as a social-circles thing. It's a way some people like to get together with friends. At the purely-friendship level, it's likely to include several friends over at once, but doesn't have to.

#652 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 03:07 PM:

Vertigo at apogee, or the sensation of watching a shoe start to fall and never hearing it hit ...

My dad came over on very short notice just now, and we passed quite a pleasant 45min of conversation on a variety of topics, none of which involved:

* His faith (which I do not share)
* My gender-identity choices (with which he does not agree)
* Any kind of disapproval of my life or choices on his part

I felt almost dizzy, locking the door behind him as he left, from the effort of holding myself braced and armored against an assault of casual rudeness and dismissal that did not materialize.

I think I'm going to go lie down.

#653 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 04:17 PM:

the invisible one #650: There are rarified social strata where parties are Serious Business, and invitations and attendences bear weighty social consequences. As far as I can tell, you're not living in that world.

Among more ordinary folks, some people host parties, some don't. Most obviously, the folks hosting parties are the ones who can for practical reasons (available space, money, time, relevant skills, sufficient spoons), and who more-or-less enjoy doing so. They also tend to be people who are fairly busy -- parties let them make contact with a whole bunch of friends (and allow the friends to make contact with each other) all at once, when individual meetings would get crazy-hectic.

#654 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 07:46 PM:

Bricklayer @652, well, that's a more positive reason than most for feeling disoriented. Good.

#655 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 10:28 PM:

I suspect it's mostly a case of this is how he typically interacts with friends, but because it's so different from how I typically do, and for me this amount of interaction is only used with guys I'm dating, I don't know how to ask "is this normal for you?" without revealing more about myself than I'm comfortable doing at this time.

I've heard of this thing of inviting friends over for dinner, but I've never really been part of a social circle that did that.

#656 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 10:59 PM:

"Even this much is a fragment of a miracle. If I keep holding my hands out to catch them, maybe an entire miracle will accumulate."

I just love this phrasing, had to repost.

#657 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2015, 05:09 PM:

Advice needed. Background first:

More than half my lifetime ago, I went to a university four time zones away from home. I had no idea how sick I actually was. Untreated PTSD piled on top of existing and also untreated PTSD, depression, social anxiety, and the endless rawness of living on the spectrum with no coping tools at all had combined to turn me into a simmering mess.

I went 10 days before classes began and flew even further, to meet my half-brother for the first time. I hadn't even known he existed until shortly before I left, although everyone else did. One of our family dysfunctions was that nobody considered that I might want to know the family's past. He looked nauseatingly like our mutual parent, my sadistic and sexually abusive father. I had to force myself to get into the car with him.

He and his wife took me in, put up with my weirdness, even invited me to Thanksgiving dinner. But I spent most of both visits to him in a dissociative fog. It didn't help that he and his wife are both shrinks. He asked me questions so creepy and intrusive that I instantly blanked them out. I don't know whether he was really being a creeper or whether I just did not have the spoons to deal. I don't know whether my alarms all went off whenever he was around because he really looked horrifyingly like our shared parent, even being the same age he was when he died, or whether he was genuinely dangerous. Anyway, I noped on out of his life as soon as I could.

But one of my ongoing attempts to act human in the following decades was to put him on my Christmas card list. It was partly family politics, I guess, so that I could tell my closer relatives that I was "keeping in touch" with a signature on a card. And that is all of the contact we have had.

So he sent me a belated Christmas letter this year. He really liked the card I sent him--our budget is tight, so I send people cards with local art or photography on them in lieu of gifts. He sent me a piece of local art from his hometown and an article from one of his local magazines that is tangentially about our town. And a wish for us to keep in closer touch, because he feels that "a link" was established all those years ago.

I don't--I--my perimeter alarm is going off again. My first impulse is to be honest about how, even after doing the hard work of therapy, I only associate him with a bad time in my life, and while I'm grateful for his kindness, I still get the creeps when I think about his face and his attempts to get me to talk about personal things on four days' acquaintance. But I know that there is a whole layer of social grease that I simply don't have.

What do I even say to this man?

#658 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2015, 08:56 PM:

J: My first thought is to establish as well as you can whether the creep vibe is coming from him, or from your history. (I know the "looks too much like abusive parent" thing; images of QEII give me chills.)

Do you have a trusted counselor? Can you run this by him/her? See what their take is? Ideally, it'd be nice to have someone who doesn't live in your brain vet this guy; maybe (modulo logistics) coffee with him and a friend whose judgement you trust?

#659 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2015, 12:04 AM:

@Jacque no. 658: He lives more than a thousand miles away.

On one hand, I have been sad for many, many years that I passed up multiple chances for possibly-non-screwed-up relationships with now-deceased family members because I was in maximum flinch mode at the time, dealing with Goddamn Flashbacks every time a fricking washing machine shut (abuser's den of fun was in the basement where the washer and dryer were). On the other hand, dude started asking me about my--damn it, I wish I hadn't dissociated it away--something really personal a few days after we first met.

I think I told him our mutual parent was abusive. I went off to college four months after everything tore loose in my memory, so I was blinking in and out a lot.

#660 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2015, 02:38 AM:

J: The core question is: what do you want? There are likely to be multiple items on the list. Some of them will likely be mutually exclusive. E.g., "I want to get to know him," vs "I want to be safe." Which may or may not be in conflict, but which certainly warrant more information.

Innumerating those (and ranking them for importance and urgency) might offer some guidance as to what to do next.

#661 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2015, 02:54 AM:

J @ 659

I don't know your half-brother, but if he is a therapist and you were in a less-functional mental-emotional space, might he have been concerned and wanting to help and trying to figure out enough to try to help support you effectively?

I like the idea of asking a trusted therapist help you figure out a path forward that is best for you.

Invisible one @ 655
I'm one of those people David Harmon mentioned who never has enough time to spend with everyone I care about, so I throw parties to compensate. But I also have friends in various stages of reclusiveness, who I invite for tea or dinner or anything, no seriously what do I have to do to see them in person ever again. Right? Because for whatever reason, parties aren't their thing. So it can be innocent and other people's mileage will also vary as to personal style.

I mean, if you're worried about missed signals, you could always just say how much you value him and will enjoy spending time as friends, but you would feel terrible if you accidentally led him on. If he's really your friend and nor just playing a long seduction game he should appreciate that caring and if not... well, you know what kind of person he is and can make an informed choice.

#662 ::: one in a billion ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2015, 11:59 AM:

J @ #657 It depends. If you actually want to get to know him better, sure, talk with a therapist or a friend about the next steps.

But to me it sounded more like you were quite content with the state of things before he addressed you like this and, as much as you want to have functional relationships with the remaining family members, you are quite weary of him. – And that you wouldn't have considered getting to know him better, if he wouldn't have adressed you like that.

If it's the latter, I want to say that it's perfectly fine to find a polite way of saying "I am content with the way things are, until next Christmas".

I am saying this because I think it's really tricky territory when you believe you "should" feel differently. You don't feel comfortable around him, be it objectively justified (he's dangerous/boundary crossing) or not. As long as you didn't intend to get to know him better anyway, I see no reason to put yourself through the stress of talking more to him.

#663 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2015, 12:43 PM:

one in a billion @662: it's really tricky territory when you believe you "should" feel differently.


Distinguishing "should want" from "want" can be a real challenge. Especially if you have any tendency to dissociation. I'm getting better at it, but this is still something I struggle with.

#664 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2015, 01:51 PM:

#661, KayTei: Already had a version of that talk with him: we met at a mutual friend's party and he asked me out shortly after that one meeting. I told him friends only. He hasn't mentioned it since and is doing friend things, in a way that isn't causing me to think he's angling for more. It's possible that I'm wrong, but I'm not seeing anything.

My issue is with me. Not knowing how to do some types of friend things like having dinner together. Not knowing the difference between "this person is paying attention to me" and "I am attracted to this person" (previously discussed). I'm not entirely sure whether the reaction to him initially asking me out months ago is still hanging on or if I'm actually getting attracted to him as I get to know him better. (Or both.) But even if I am attracted, I know that I have a really hard time having an opinion when other people are around, so dating anybody would be a really bad idea right now. I notice in hindsight that my preferences (and to an extent, my personality) tend to evaporate when I'm dating. Also I don't really know how to flirt, so I hope I'm not doing that while the back of my mind is trying to process whether or not I'm attracted to him... even though I don't want to think about that because I can't date anybody right now anyway. And because I don't know how to flirt, I'm not sure if he is and I'm just not seeing it. Or maybe the thing with me not knowing how to do friend things and flirt is a remnant of Crappy Ex telling me for years that I'm bad at people, and I'm actually doing fine I only think I'm Doin It Rong. So, there is much confusion inside my head.

#665 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2015, 02:51 PM:

J—I would say that being honest, in that his very existence is triggery, is a good place to start. I second the concept of running things by a therapist, but for a start, just writing and saying that the reason you haven't developed a closer relationship is his close resemblance to a strongly negative figure in your life should be enough. You can even append a sort-of apology, in that you know it might turn out to be a good relationship in time, but that you don't have the energy to work towards that right now.

#666 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2015, 12:03 PM:

Bodhisvaha @645: that’s amazing. And beautiful imagery :)

the invisible one @650: that sounds confusing for you, but also like hopefully a Good Thing

Bricklayer @652: *applauds*

J @659, seconding B Durbin @665

Is it possible to report individuals to OSHA as mental health hazards? Because that is what I would like to do with the owner of my company…

I walked out of work yesterday "sick" because I was fantasizing about walking into the boss’s office, declaring "this is a performance art piece entitled Workers Have Feelings Too," and dragging a sharp knife down my arm. I also stayed home today, because I was sobbing my eyes out at 9 pm last night. I don’t know what to do; I feel trapped in a job where the fact that my boss doesn’t respect, trust, or value me or any of my other coworkers means that I get to choose between grinding tedium and overwork with nothing to break it up, and being fired with only one warning for "visiting websites unrelated to work, chatting on topics unrelated to work tasks, and use of smartphones for personal reasons."

Additionally we are expected to do everything quickly and about 99% correctly. The amount of detail we have to put into our work is not something I am necessarily capable of keeping up constantly while also working quickly, and it's gotten to the point where a teammate asking me to fix a small error (without telling me which part was wrong!) sent me into a frustrated, angry crying jag at my desk on Friday.

I have sent in a couple of applications for jobs at my father's company, including one that's basically my job but with a different topic, which I sent in yesterday, and I had previously spoken with the person who makes hiring decisions for that position and he seemed to like me, and my dad went and told him that i had sent in an application after i went and cried on my dad's shoulder yesterday… but right now I feel trapped in this toxic shithole of a work environment and I don't know how much longer I can deal with it.

#667 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2015, 01:02 PM:

Hope @ 666

There are two things going on here. One is your boss - that is an HR issue and I would encourage you to speak to them.

The other is your reaction to your boss, which concerns me for your safety. In a similar situation, I was prescribed antidepressants until I could get out - I know several others with similar experiences. Sometimes a little extra help is appropriate.

I'm glad you're looking for another job! I think that is a very healthy choice.

#668 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2015, 01:15 PM:

KayTei @667: The problem is that the boss in question is also the owner of the company, and I do not think HR can actually stand up to them, nor will they change the entire company culture of "more faster always" for one person speaking up. If we could speak collectively it would be another matter.

As long as I can walk out, I'm not concerned for my own safety. This is because even when I am using pain to cope, I don't break skin or shed blood - that kind of pain doesn't help.

#669 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2015, 12:36 AM:

Hope @ 668

Ye cats and dogs. Reasons I don't like working for small businesses.

I'm glad you're taking care of yourself. You are the best judge of you.

#670 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2015, 03:44 PM:

It's hard to allow myself to do fun things that cost money (even if it's only a little bit of money) because necessities cost money and are not optional and I currently have insufficient and unreliable income. (Temp work is better than no work at all, but.) This includes sanity-supporting optional stuff like my gym membership, which expired today. I can still run, running is free, and the running does more for me than the gym, but I'm sad that I can't afford my memberships.

At the same time I know that I have to do some fun things. Denying myself all pleasures because I can't afford most of them is no way to live. But.

(Not looking for solutions, just feeling down about this, brought on by yet another annual membership that I can't afford to renew.)

#671 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2015, 03:57 PM:

the invisible one @670:

Witnessing, and hoping for better times very soon indeed.

#672 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2015, 05:48 PM:

Just beginning to catch up here, a month after starting my new job.
The invisible one @ 670: sympathies. Glad you still have the running, at least.

#673 ::: Jeanie ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2015, 07:21 PM:

invisible one:

An advantage to non-gym running is that you take your camera, tune in to beauty, and pass it on.

#674 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2015, 09:44 PM:

I just read some science coolness. :) I'm grateful to Scalzi for highlighting this Nature news feature - meant I saw it, and read it, and will be incorporating it into my lectures. (perfect timing, too - *just* finished the unit on sex linkage of genes, sex determination systems, etc.)

Apparently science is far ahead of society in recognizing that human biological sex is not as simple and binary as we'd thought. I'd known about other organisms (though not that maintenance of sex-specific traits in mice is a lifelong process - not determined before birth and set for life). But I hadn't realized just how much variation there is in a single human.

Enough babbling. *g* Basically, it's very common to have cells that are a genetic mosaic, including XX/X0 or XY/X0 cells, and mothers and babies share cells. These aren't degraded immediately like we'd thought; they're often kept around until adulthood, or through the mother's life.

Oh, and XX and XY cells behave differently, even not counting SRY (sex-determination gene on the Y chromosome).

The article also deals with intersex children, and the implications of these discoveries for how they're treated. And people whose gender identities don't match the bodies they're in. And so on.

I love the closing line: "In other words, if you want to know whether someone is male or female, it may be best just to ask."

#675 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 01:55 AM:

Chickadee: XX/X0 or XY/X0

"0," Gracie?

#676 ::: Inquisitive Raven ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 02:32 AM:

I think the "o" signifies a missing chromosome. I'm not aware of this happening with autosomes, but it's a known phenomenon with sex chromosomes.

#677 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 07:24 AM:

Jacque #675, Inquisitive Raven #676: a missing chromosome. I'm not aware of this happening with autosomes

The question isn't "does it happen?", but "of likely is the embryo/fetus to survive if that happens?" Even trisomies¹ are rough on development, and monosomies seem to be worse: WP lists Turner syndrome, which is the result of X0... and then a couple of autosomal partial deletions. Which pretty much implies that a full autosomal monosomy cannot survive development.

It does makes sense that X0 would be more survivable, given the odd behavior of multiple X chromosomes -- it seems that all but one X per cell normally gets packed and stored as an inactive "Barr body". ("X chromosome inactivation")

¹ Wikipedia says half-a-dozen different autosomal trisomies (out of 23 options) are sometimes survivable, which is twice as many as I'd known about. The most common and familiar is Trisomy-21, producing Down's Syndrome.

#678 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 07:26 AM:

Ohnosecond: "of how likely..."

#679 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 08:13 AM:

I was reading about another book in which books are magic, and it made me wonder about whether there are any stories in which electronic media are magic.

#680 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 08:15 AM:

Sorry, wrong thread.

#681 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 09:51 AM:

My apologies, yes, 0 means missing chromosome.

Excellent resource: Genetics Home Reference run by the fine [government] folks who run PubMed (the major search engine for scientific papers on all things remotely medically related). GHR is aimed at the educated general public, so with links to explanations of what an autosome is, for example, but detailed enough information to satisfy a second year genetics student. :)

The only viable trisomies I'm aware of are 13, 18 and 21, with 13 and 18 being *really* severe and 21 being Down syndrome. Cri-du-chat syndrome is another developmental disability resulting from the *tip* of one chromosome (5) being missing. And yeah, autosomal monosomies (missing one copy) die at the embryonic stage - before the mother's aware of the pregnancy.

Dosage compensation is a really cool thing. :) Mammals use the X-inactivation (hence calico cats - only one X chromosome active in a given cell, so only one pigment gene can be expressed), but other organisms use the other two options; fruit flies double the expression from one X (and their sex is not determined by the Y chromosome, despite their having one - it's X chromosome to autosome [non-sex chromosome] ratio), and nematodes halve the expression from both X chromosomes in the XX individual. /science teacher mode *g*

#682 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 09:54 AM:

Back again in teacher mode:

Turner syndrome is evidence that the inactivation of the second X isn't complete; if it was, there would be no symptoms. But girls with Turner syndrome are really short and don't go through puberty without hormone therapy, so clearly the inactivated X has *some* residual function.

Genetics is fascinating. *g*

#683 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 10:02 AM:

only one X chromosome active in a given cell, so only one pigment gene can be expressed

Also, why the vast majority of calico cats are female, and the few males are nearly invariably infertile; the males are trisomats, XXY.

#684 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 10:30 AM:

Carrie S. (683): I thought male calico cats were chimeras. Is this not true, or only sometimes true? Or did I misunderstand something?

#685 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 01:42 PM:

"My son got a tattoo, and it has destroyed our relationship."

No, Mummy, your reaction to your son's tattoo has destroyed your relationship. TW for serious delusions of ownership -- but also a good example of the child not backing down to a parent's bullying. Notice how he is being much more adult about the situation than she is.

#686 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 01:47 PM:

Mary Aileen: It could be that I'm the one who's misinformed; I see no reason why chimericism couldn't produce a male calico.

#687 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 01:57 PM:

#685: More than a touch of narcissism, too; the only thing that matters is how it makes her feel. I wonder if she realizes how she's demonstrating to him that he shouldn't tell her about things he knows she won't like. Assuming she actually had told him about her ridiculous prejudice, though I'd think an opinion that strong would be aired frequently.

#688 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 02:22 PM:

Chickadee @674: Joan Roughgarden's Evolution's Rainbow is a wonderfully readable brick of nonfiction on this subject if you're interested. It's about nonbinary-ness in gender and sexuality. Section 1 covers the non-primate animal kingdom, Section 2 is about human embryonic development, and Section 3 is about adult humans.

#689 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 03:41 PM:

Bricklayer @688: Excellent. Thank you! I have it on hold now. :)

#690 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 04:03 PM:

Lee @685:

"I will never look at you in the same way again." Good Lord.

It is a (probably unconscious) exposition of how overcontrolling narcisissm feels from the inside. But...just...good Lord.

I suspect a thing. I suspect that though she doesn't get it consciously, she is correctly reading unconsciously that he got a tattoo precisely because it was the one thing that she couldn't stand. If it had been dyeing his hair, he'd have come home with blue locks; if it had been a motorbike he'd have roared home on a Harley.

Whether the tattoo was the only thing she ever wanted him not to do, or whether it was the keystone in an entire arch of controlling behaviors, it was clearly the best way to send a signal that he's not her little boy any more. Despite her gushing inroductory paragraph, the family is not together again. It's her house, not his. Message received.

What makes me think it was the keystone in an arch of controlling behaviors is the incredible quantity of Sturm und Drang she produces about it. Including a long, self-indulgent mess of an article in a major newspaper, albeit pseudonymously.

Poor guy. But it sounds like he's got a good head on his shoulders.

#691 ::: Inquisitive Raven ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 04:34 PM:

Carrie S, and Mary Aileen: I looked into the genetics of male calicos/torties once and found out that both cases happen, but chimerae apparently outnumber XXY males. There's some discussion here, but we seem to be wandering somewhat far afield from dysfunctional families.

#692 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 05:05 PM:

Inquisitive Raven (691): Yes, and I apologize for continuing the derail. Thank you for the link.

Lee (685): That is indeed a stunning article. I'll bet that the writer has no idea how she comes across.

#693 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 06:16 PM:

Lee @685: My favorite line is this one: "'It's not as if I came home and said I'd got someone pregnant.' It seems to me, unhinged by shock, that this might have been the better option."

Left me gawping like a fish....

...and also supports abi's theory: if it had been a prospective grandchild, well! Just a new serf for her fiefdom. Nevermind the implications for the other parties in the transaction.

#694 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 06:45 PM:

Carrie, #687: In the article, she says that it's been "a running joke" for years and that she had told him over and over again not to do it. So, yeah.

abi, #690: I suspect that though she doesn't get it consciously, she is correctly reading unconsciously that he got a tattoo precisely because it was the one thing that she couldn't stand.

Oh, I have little doubt about that. It's much the same way that I chose sex as the arena of my adolescent rebellion*; I knew very well that having sex and enjoying it was the absolutely WORST thing I could do to my parents. Doing drugs would have been paltry by comparison.

And I think she was very wise to have written this piece of tat pseudonymously. (Or the editor was wise to do it for her.) No matter how appalling her behavior, NOBODY deserves what would have happened to her if that had gone out under her real, traceable, doxxable name.

* Which was somewhat delayed, as it didn't really take hold until my senior year in college. Which, not so coincidentally, was the year I finally got to live on campus.

#695 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 08:46 PM:

the invisible one @670: witnessing.

Lee @685: wow. I do not even parse her feelings. How does she even...?

Carrie S. @687, she says it's the one thing she'd always begged him never to do, so presumably he wa s aware of the prejudice beforehand.

#696 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2015, 10:29 PM:

Before you start dismissing her as narcissistic and controlling, please consider that the woman is in fact fairly self-aware about the ethical situation:

For a start, I know I'm being completely unreasonable. This level of grief is absurd. He's not dying, he hasn't killed anyone, he hasn't volunteered to fight on behalf of a military dictatorship. But I feel as though a knife is twisting in my guts.

Despite the headline (and remember that article writers usually don't get to write their own headlines), this article is not about "oh look how my horrible son set out to break my heart on purpose". It's about a parent who's been confronted with their kid's independence, and it was rougher than they expected. Someone who thought they were "all ready" for parenting an adult, only to be sandbagged by their own emotional reaction, when the abstract became real. That's not narcissism -- in fact the article's presence and tone is the opposite of narcissism, as she recognizes her son's independence even through her own pain.

That "running joke" bit is simple denial. The kid was telling her up front he wanted and planned to get a tattoo, and she was simply unable to accept that: "You're joking" here means "He has to be joking, because I can't deal with it if he isn't". But he wasn't ... and now she's trying to process it by writing a newspaper article about it.

Notice also -- though she brings up "but we're supporting you as well, I think" in the article, she doesn't throw that at him. And she's very clear that the bottom line is that it is his choice.

#697 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2015, 01:18 AM:

David H.,#696: I understand your argument. But against that, I'd like to ask this: what kind of parent reacts to their child making a harmless decision that they don't like by refusing to speak to them for 3 days? Or by thinking (even if they only say it in a newspaper article that said child is very likely to see), "I'll never see you the same way again", or by comparing a tattoo to amputation, only WORSE?

And now that I've consciously realized that her son is very likely to see that article and recognize his mother and himself even with the pseudonym -- that sequence of events isn't one that happens in every family! -- the whole thing starts to look like one huge passive-aggressive attack. The message is, "See how reasonable I'm being? Even though you've torn my heart into tiny shreds and I'll never recover, I'm not nagging you about it." No, you're just telling the WHOLE GODDAMN WORLD about it.

If this was meant as some kind of cautionary tale or example piece for other parents... the author failed miserably of her intent. And you can see other parents saying just that, down in the comments. The overall tone is, "dude, CHILL, it's not the end of the world."

#698 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2015, 07:49 AM:

Lee #697: I'd like to ask this: what kind of parent reacts to their child making a harmless decision that they don't like by refusing to speak to them for 3 days?

One who's not so thoroughly enlightened as you, of course. One who has her own family and personal history, and has a few idiocyncratic prejudices that don't necessarily make sense to other people. Someone who, despite being basically an intellectual type, can still be unexpectedly overwhelmed by their emotions, and can take multiple days to sort out a major shock.

In short, not a generic "kind of parent", but a particular human, and not so different from many of us.

Bluntly: You've decided that by your standards, the kid's tattoo is "a harmless decision", and therefore the mother is Not Allowed To Get Upset Over It. Even though she openly admits her reaction is absurd, mocks herself for it, and discusses the context of her emotions, that gets her no slack by you, because apparently she's not allowed to even write publically about her own emotions.

A lot of us have gotten the other end of that routine, I'm not letting it pass unchallenged from "our side".

Also, has it occurred to you that some folks have religious restrictions against tattoos? One of my grandfathers (who'd immigrated as a child himself) had previously broken with his own family over not keeping Kosher¹. My own family had assimilated even further... and so it wasn't until adulthood that I learned the Mosaic laws also forbid Jews to get tattoos. When I was growing up, I'd just absorbed the idea that "people like us don't do that". After all, none of my older relatives had tattoos, and indeed few adults I knew personally. Even after the observances, habits remain... and while I wouldn't hassle someone else over their tattoos, there's still something there that I "just don't get", because it wasn't part of my own upbringing.

¹ Grandpa in turn raised holy hell when one of his daughters took up with a non-Jew... but he did throw in the towel once they'd actually gotten married. Note that my Uncle Hiro was a dark-skinned Indian immigrant², but what mattered was, he wasn't Jewish.

² "Was"... Not only is he now an American citizen, he even managed to "turn white". (Vitiligo, in his late 50s and early 60s.) He did not, however, convert to Judaism. (IIRC, he still doesn't eat beef.) But Hiro was fully supportive when one of his daughters came out as a lesbian. She eventually married a woman with a "chai" tattoo, which led to someone telling me about that Mosaic law against tattoos.

#699 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2015, 08:52 AM:

David Harmon: If there were any indication whatsoever that she had a religious objection, I'd personally cut her more slack. There isn't. Her reason boils down to "But it looks so low-class," as far as I can tell.

Nor is there any indication that she cares what he thinks--though you're right, it's clearly intended as a piece about her feelings, which is valid. Still, when you say that traumatic amputation would be preferable to your child getting a tattoo, I kind of fail to care how much you mock yourself for it. That's a pretty extreme reaction, and at the very least it's not healthy for her to be freaking out this much.

#700 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2015, 09:40 AM:

Carrie S. #699: For starters, I didn't say any such thing. The article-writer did. But that wasn't some reasoned conclusion that she was presenting as policy. She was recounting the wild thoughts going through her mind as she tried to process an unexpected shock. Unexpected by her, as there's usually some upset at this point. But for whatever reason, this one hit her particularly hard. My guess is that she'll recover within about six months to a year, after which they'll have a reasonable adult relationship.

#701 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2015, 10:07 AM:

I don't believe I said you did, David; that was a generic "you", not a specific one. I'm sorry I didn't make that clearer.

#702 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2015, 10:54 AM:

Re unexpected tattoo: I too got a lot of the "why am I *this* freaked out" vibe that others are talking about. Hopefully she wrote this while the horror was fresh. The more important question is, say in a year or less, is it accepted as noncontroversial fact. For example, her asking to see the artwork if not the skin, and complimenting its artistic merit and/or personal meaning.

The scientific side of me says they should test out the source of the distress by having him get a piercing for comparison. If it's damage to his body causing it, that should do it.

Jacque @693: I figure that the "better an accidental pregnancy" reaction is because she knows on some level that she would have coped better with that shock. It still would have been outside the pale of her definition of acceptable, but at least it would have been nearer by than the tattoo.

#703 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2015, 11:04 AM:

David @698:

I was perhaps over-judgmental, except for one thing: she wrote an article about it in a major national newspaper. Her son gets to read all of these private thoughts. She didn't keep them to herself and work them out.

Do I have ambivalent moments, irrational jarring, and plain old bad reactions to things my kids do and say? Yep. But I don't detail them where my kids will ever see them. Because they're my problem, and letting my kids see them is making them their problem. Which they are not.

#704 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2015, 11:37 AM:

abi #703: Her son gets to read all of these private thoughts.

And the mother obviously has to know this, and presumably expects that the article is not going to itself be a relationship-killer. For myself, I'd be impressed and proud if my own mother could come up with a piece so self-aware and insightful.

"Writing about family" is something that's been successfully negotiated by many writers. Partly because of the anonymity, we don't know what arrangements the writer has with her son there, and I think it uncharitable to assume the worst.

#705 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2015, 12:21 PM:

We may have to agree to disagree.

That narrative really got under my skin, possibly because of a number of parallel instances in my own life which I will not detail. (They're private conflicts, and though this is a relatively private space, I'm commenting propria persona, so it's not private enough.) I didn't find it self-aware, and I didn't see publishing it as an appropriate move. Obviously, it was her choice to do so, and she may have cleared it with her son (though I would have appreciated her stating so in the article.)

But my reaction was not a good one, and it's not getting better. If that's a failure of charity, then that's what it is.

#706 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2015, 12:30 PM:

If she truly meant it as a "Wow, parents have strong feelings about stuff, how can we work through them without denying them?" piece I think she would have written some bits differently, or added language after the emotionally-wrought bits to tie it together and lead readers to that conclusion.

As writ, it clearly thinks we are meant to sympathize with her, and to view her strong posessiveness of her child's skin as appropriate.

As with any text, we can find useful things in it the author did not intend, of course! But I think her intentions are clear. And problematic.

#707 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2015, 01:22 PM:

My reaction is that she's wrong wrong wrong wrongity wrong and she ought to be more ashamed of it than she obviously is. She clearly thinks of her adult son as some kind of attachment of herself. What really bugged me was when she was thinking what else she could have bought with the money the tattoo cost. His *money* apparently belongs to her too. He must be desperate to have something of his own. My kids had more of their own at the age of eight!

#708 ::: surfaces sometimes ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2015, 05:03 PM:

delurking to say: that article amused me a little, because what it reminded me of was the reaction a former colleague got from her teenage son when *she* (aged early forties) got a tattoo. Except that he shared his horror and revulsion, not with the readers of a national paper, but with his friends, and they laughed him out of it in very short order. (A couple of them even offered to swap mothers with him.)

But yes, my impression is that the grown-up in that relationship is not the parent. My own family is no stranger to this phenomenon.

More generally: I don't tend to delurk on these threads, as I don't think what I have to contribute would be helpful to anyone (myself included) right now. But I am reading, and witnessing, and learning. And I am in awe of what you have all built/grown here.

#709 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2015, 05:19 AM:

The woman in that article actually reminds me overwhelmingly of a woman I worked with briefly. Needless to say, our working relationship was...difficult. But what I found particularly striking is that her son had felt compelled to move to freakin' New Zealand, as soon as he finished school.

#710 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2015, 11:49 AM:

Well, I finally lost my temper with MIL this morning.

(Background: FIL is paralyzed from the waist down and partially paralyzed in his right arm and hand. He is bedbound at home. MIL, my husband, and BIL take turns caring for him.)

Here is the text conversation:

MIL: I had a very heated conversation with your father this morning. Two days ago I noticed he cannot fully open his right hand. He has stopped working his hand so his fingers are locking up.

MIL: When I was trying to dress him he couldn't help because he right hand has regressed.

MIL: I figured between me and you boys we spend at least 70 hours taking care of him.

MIL: I told him we were not going to waste our time on him if he wasn't going to work at getting well. Maybe it's time to call Hospice...... That was the shot between the eyes.

I responded with the following:

Me: Jesus Christ, [MIL]. Threatening to let him die was not justified even if you are frustrated. Choose to take care of him or not but you can't make it contingent on "good behavior." Also, speak for yourself and don't drag me and [husband] into this by saying "we." I'll talk to you later once I've calmed down; I'm too angry to talk much more right now.

I tried to calm down for a couple of hours. Then she texted me again asking whether I knew the full range of hospice services, trying to claim that she'd meant that she just wanted counseling for him if he was too depressed to keep working at physical therapy. I told her that I knew full well, but I also knew that was not what she meant when she made hospice a shot between the eyes.

The text conversation has spiraled from there with both of us snapping at each other. It now appears that the real issue, as I suspected, is that she is burned out on taking care of him. I told her that yes, husband and I had never believed it was sustainable to take care of him ourselves, but that she had said no to everything we suggested.

She then replied that she wasn't going to live in a box at the end of her life because Medicaid took all her money. We have gone round and round and round this road about a million times. I told her I had tried to suggest consulting a lawyer to see if there were options that did not involve losing so much of her assets but that she had rejected the idea because of the cost (which is absolutely true).

Eventually I just told her that if the real issue was that she was burned out on caring for him, then she needed to find solutions to that problem and not make it about whether he was working hard enough to take care of himself.

I am so furious I am shaking. I am desperately trying to think of what I can actually do to make this better. Should husband and I arrange to send FIL to a nursing home for the week? Can we even do that? Can we call a counselor to come to their house?

I texted FIL to tell him that MIL cannot send him to hospice if he doesn't want to go and he doesn't need to be afraid of that. (He replied "lol is she ranting already?")

Help, please. Advice.

#711 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2015, 12:03 PM:

(The original text conversation that I posted was a group text with me, MIL, husband, BIL, and SIL. The rest of the text argument was just between me and MIL, not part of the group text. Just for clarity.)

#712 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2015, 01:58 PM:

Anon4Now: Ah ghods spare me from folk like your MIL, who know little to nothing about Medicaid. You have my sympathies and support for the slog still before you.

One, Medicaid will not take the house or the funds necessary to keep a roof over HER head, even if FIL must go to hospice or another facility. The last thing the State wants is to have to put her in an assisted care facility -- it's much less expensive to help her stay in the family home.

Now -- once MIL and FIL have BOTH shuffled off this mortal coil the State may claim a portion of the estate if the deceased are deemed to owe some reimbursement to Medicaid, i.e. they had assets in excess of the allowed amounts.

There are resources available to help caregivers, your local Agency on Aging might be the first place to contact. Refresh my memory, does FIL have a long term care policy or does his insurance cover some in-home care?

So sorry you're going through this, and that some parties are not behaving well.

#713 ::: Laurel ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2015, 02:28 PM:

Anon4Now, that does sound very frustrating. I think people often overestimate how much care they are able to personally provide and don't realize how draining, difficult, and life-consuming caretaking will be. Your MIL shouldn't have said that about hospice, and she should have been following some of your good advice, but it may be easier at this point for you to just drop what she should have done in the past, and only address what to do now.

It seems to me that a social worker would answer all of your questions. Pretty much the description of their job is to help you through "what kind of care, how to access, and how to pay." I know nothing about how this works in other states or countries, but in Florida, all that I had to do to get a social worker was tell the primary care doctor for my relative that I needed a referral. The social worker was paid through Medicare and charged us nothing. They might make you go through a home health care agency, which will involve some paperwork and nurse visits as you sign up, but you generally don't have to use any of their therapists and nurses if you're just wanting the social worker (and again, the home health care agency charged us nothing, even though my relative has no insurance but Medicare.) Social workers are trained to meet families that are at the end of their rope, tired, frustrated, broke, and mad at each other, and at least give them plenty of information about where to find help, if not a workable plan for the future. Just don't let your MIL schedule the social worker to come when no one else is around - she sounds like the type to start insisting that she had everything covered and needed no help as soon as a stranger was around. You're absolutely right that a lawyer needs to be involved, but if she's being so resistant, maybe hearing it from someone else would help?

Hope this wasn't too hlepy, feel free to ignore any of it, and I hope things get better for your family soon.

#714 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2015, 03:46 PM:

Laurel, that's a great suggestion. Thank you. FIL does have a home nursing service (a nurse comes to check on him once a week); I bet if we or MIL called them, they would be willing to send a social worker. And yes, MIL would definitely refuse to admit to a stranger that she didn't have the situation completely under control; I'd like for the rest of us to be there for the conversation.

Lori -- Oh, I know. It is frustrating. Both my husband and I have had repeated conversations with MIL explaining exactly what assets are and are not subject to the Medicaid spend down, particularly the fact that the state cannot take the house as long as MIL is still living in it. I spent hours and days researching this stuff.

However, the first conversation MIL ever had about Medicaid was with someone at FIL's former nursing home, who left her with the impression that Medicaid will take all of her money and assets, and that is the only thing that has stuck. She got it in her head that Medicaid = her losing everything, and no amount of discussion will get it out of her head.

I even took her to a workshop given by a local elder-care attorney, which discussed many aspects of Medicaid planning, with the hopes that it would demonstrate that there are options, but none of it stuck. She literally left the workshop after it was over and said to me in the parking lot "I just don't want to lose all my money to Medicaid."

When I am not in the heat of losing my temper, I understand that she is scared of being plunged into poverty -- and I understand that it is hard to listen to and absorb discussion about convoluted Medicaid rules when you're scared. And yet. She is clearly burned out on caregiving. She has to try to look at some other option than doing it herself.

I was terrified when FIL came home from the nursing home that something like this would happen -- that MIL would get angry at him for something, and she would refuse to take care of him or threaten him with refusing to take care of him. When he was in the nursing home, she blew up over a minor argument with him and refused to visit him or even speak to him on the phone for two weeks. The real issue was that she was exhausted and needed a break from visiting him for hours every day, but she couldn't admit that and had to justify it to herself that way. That's what's happening here, too.

I contacted the local Area Agency on Aging a while back, and they told me that Medicaid is the only option for long-term care assistance for FIL.

I spent hours and days searching for caregiver support groups. Unfortunately, the few local ones I found all meet on weekday evenings; MIL works second shift, so weekday evenings are impossible for her. I went to a couple of meetings myself, and brought my husband to one; they suggested contacting an elder care attorney. That was when I found the workshop and brought MIL to it. I offered to go with her to consult the attorney (who offered a free initial consultation), and found a second attorney who also offers free initial consultations. But by that time she had heard that lawyers could charge $10,000 for Medicaid planning, and therefore refused to even try consulting a lawyer. Her position was that they were just going to charge her $10,000 to tell her she had to lose all her money to Medicaid.

FIL does not have a long-term care policy, nor does his insurance cover in-home care. He is on Medicare; they pay for a one-hour nurse's visit once a week to check on him, and that is all.

It is true that the Medicaid spend-down would be sizeable. I don't take it lightly. I spent a day putting together a detailed spreadsheet with what I knew or could estimate about their financial situation, and using the details of Medicaid rules that I researched, and estimated that the cost of the Medicaid spend-down (under spousal impoverishment rules, where MIL gets to keep half of their assets, all personal possessions, the house, and one car) would be equivalent to paying privately for two years of nursing home care. It is a scary amount, and it is completely unfair that MIL should have to give up half of what modest retirement savings she has. And yet. Something has to be done.

MIL is just completely resistant to any solution that involves her spending money, because she fears poverty so much. I don't know how to talk to her about it anymore, because every solution and suggestion I've offered has been rejected out of hand because it costs money. She insists we can do it all ourselves and save the money -- and then a blowup like this happens. She has to make it about FIL being lazy and not taking care of himself and not doing the work to get better, because she can't admit that she can't actually keep doing this. Even if he spent 8 hours a day doing physical therapy -- which would be amazing, considering that he doesn't have a physical therapist at all because Medicare won't pay for one -- he would still be paralyzed and would still need 24/7 care. And he doesn't have to earn the right to have his basic needs cared for by "doing the work to get better."

…And I'm getting myself worked up again. I'll stop.

#715 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2015, 03:54 PM:

See if there is a "respite care" group in your area. They come in for a few hours to give the primary caretakers a break. Maybe the situation can be de-escalated if your MiL can have another caretaker involved that she doesn't feel obligated to by family ties.

#716 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2015, 05:38 PM:

Unfortunately, there is no respite care without paying regular home caregiving rates, not at the level of caregiving that FIL requires (i.e., the ability and willingness to turn him, a 200-pound man, in bed, change his diaper if needed, and clean him up and change his clothes and bed linens if a diaper blows out, which happens somewhat frequently).

I also looked into adult group day care. Again, because of the level of care that he requires, it is not an option for less-expensive respite care.

SIL called MIL today and suggested hiring someone to help. MIL said "Do you have a thousand dollars a month to pay for someone to help?" (knowing that SIL does not).

Frankly, at this point I am ready to pay for a nursing home. We could do it if we didn't put any money towards our own savings; I recently got a job that would make that possible. It would not be financially very smart for us but if MIL absolutely refuses to face the fact that someone needs to pay for caregiving help in some way, then we will have to do something.

#717 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2015, 01:50 PM:

Anon4Now -- good, you at least know what the financial options ARE, even if MIL isn't listening at the moment. Now comes the hard advice.

You're going to have to let her hit bottom and actually come to the realization that she can't continue to do this. Only when her own well-being finally hits the wall of "I can't do this anymore" will she be willing to consider spending money.

This sucks, and believe me, I understand. I'm facing the possibility of putting an elderly relative in assisted care, one who will not want to go there.

#718 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2015, 04:24 PM:

Anon4Now, I don't have any kind of useful suggestions for the direct issue, but I do have one observation.

You're dealing with a lot of emotional heavy weather, and it's taking a toll on you. That toll takes up spoons you don't have for other matters. (You're not the only one in this situation, of course, but you're the only one you can control.)

What are you doing to deal with these emotions? Is this your only outlet? (Not that that's a problem! But it may not be adequate for your needs.) Can you talk to someone, not about what your MIL is doing/needs/whatever, but about where you and your husband are emotionally? I know it won't solve the big problem, but it might give you (and him) a better toolset for doing so.

In any case, I'm witnessing, you know? And thinking good thoughts. I wish there were more I could do to help.

#719 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2015, 06:54 PM:

Internal Server Error.

#720 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2015, 06:55 PM:

And that didn't shake it loose, so re-posting.

Anon4Now: You are getting better advice from others than I would be able to offer. All I can say is that I too am hearing and witnessing.

#721 ::: Laurel ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2015, 08:11 PM:

Anon4Now, you sound incredibly well-informed and well-equipped for looking for options for your FIL. It's tragic that your MIL isn't taking full advantage of what you've found out already. There are families and elders out there who would do anything to come up with a younger family member with the time, patience and ability to research these things. Until she realizes that she's going to have to spend money on this, or until her other caregivers realize it for her, take care of yourself and your husband.

#722 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2015, 08:36 PM:

Anon4Now #716, Lori Coulson #717: The problem with Lori's idea of "letting her hit bottom", is twofold: First, she's got a hostage. Second, she's not in great shape herself. Both of these are ways that lack of universal health care kills people.

One of my own grandmothers did a labor-intensive version of home dialysis on my grandfather for his last few years. He was twice her size, partly because she was a very small woman, and the work involved turning him over and applying strong pressure at various places... he damn near took her with him, from sheer exhaustion!

#723 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2015, 11:24 PM:

David -- I didn't say it was an ideal solution, and it is fraught with the possibility that the mother-in-law will do harm to the father-in-law, with or without intent.

But the law (and the insurance/Medicare) pretty much ties the hands of the other family members. Unless FIL gives medical power of attorney to someone other than MIL, then MIL is the one who is going to call the shots -- and despite the assets at her command, fear has already turned her into a miser (if she didn't have those inclinations before this crisis).

There is NO good answer, there is only assessing the possible actions and dealing with the fallout.

#724 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2015, 11:54 PM:

...although the power of attorney question is a card that FIL could play, should he be so inclined, and his response to Anon4Now's report @710 suggests he's clueful enough, should the need arise.

#725 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2015, 11:54 PM:

Error du la Server *whack*

#726 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2015, 02:36 PM:

Anon4Now: Sympathies. I have nothing to add to the discussion, except an affirmation that you're doing awesome things for your in-laws.

Unrelated, I'm reading this book in a French language conversation group. (relevance to this thread: I grew up fully bilingual, but quit speaking French as a teenager, and am now discovering this is one of the few things from my childhood I *really* want to keep. :)

So, this book. Mãn by Kim Thúy. Absolutely beautiful prose - so poetic! - and the physical book is a work of art, too. :) I had to share this quote:

"C'est la derniere fois que Maman a vu son père; sous les durians, que les Vietnamiens appellent sâu riêng. Jusqu'à ce jour, elle n'avait jamais pensé au nom formé par ces deux mots, qui signifie littéralement "tristesses personnelles." On l'oublie peut-être parce que ces tristesses, comme leur chair, sont scellées dans les compartiment hermétiques, sous une carapasse hérissé d'épines."

My (rough) translation:

It was the last time Mom saw her father; under the durians, which the Vietnamese call sâu riêng. Until this day, she had never thought about the name formed by these two words, which means literally "personal sadness" [my bad translation here - we came up with a much better one in the group]. Perhaps we forget because these hurts, like the flesh of the durian, are tightly sealed [hermetically, literal] into compartments, beneath a tough, spined shell.

#727 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 12:34 AM:

Prompted by Nimoy's passing, I've been rewatching some old Star Trek episodes and, despite visitations by the Suck Fairy, I occassionally catch things that I missed when I was younger. My Mary Sue always makes an appearance whenever I watch "Journey to Babel," mostly to kick Sarek in the shins (diplomatically, of course) for being such a dick to his son.

At one point during the reception scene, McCoy asks Amanda if Spock would ever "run and play, like the human children?" She casts Spock a sly look and says, "Well, he did have a ... sort of a fat 'teddy bear' ... that he was very fond of." Which, of course, just delights McCoy. This scene always caused me to fume, because it has the form of the classic mother move to infantalize and embarrass her kid.

This time around, though, I noticed for the first time that when she glances at Spock before she answers, he gives her the very slightest nod. This time, it reads like she's actually checking with him if it's okay to share, and he assents. This makes them co-conspirators, sharing a joke. And further, she's setting up his "six inch fangs" punchline for when McCoy (innevitably) shares this new intelligence with Kirk, who's amusement then seems much gentler in tone.

Put a completely different spin on the whole exchange for me.

#728 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 12:59 AM:

Could I get a reality check please? This is about Crappy Ex so it's not time-sensitive, but it is a thing I've been thinking about recently. I want to get a sense of how likely this is deliberate and abusive vs. accident. (He claimed accident.)

Also it's about some sexual TMI and I'm going to put it behind ROT13 largely for my own comfort level. (I'm not great at talking about sexual details and I'm still dithering about hitting post even with it obfuscated. I didn't even manage to write it until I'd decided I could post it with obfuscation. Sorry for making you take the extra step.)

Fb, gur bayl obhaqnel V rire znantrq gb ubyq ntnvafg Penccl Rk jnf "ab nany", ohg V unq gb pbafgnagyl qrsraq vg. Gur erdhrfgf gurzfryirf riraghnyyl tbg unys fuhg qbja; ur jrag sebz nfxvat sbe be gnyxvat nobhg vg gb "gung guvat V'z abg fhccbfrq gb gnyx nobhg" juvpu jnf fgvyy gnyxvat nobhg vg ohg hfvat bgure jbeqf.

Sbe pbagrkg, guvf jnf zl svefg eryngvbafuvc jvgu frkhny gbhpuvat orlbaq oernfgf naq ohggbpxf. Ur fnvq ur unqa'g unq frk orsber ohg V qvqa'g xabj gb nfx vs ur zrnag vagrepbhefr be nyy sbezf vapyhqvat gubfr vaibyivat svatref.

Bgure pbagrkg vf gung V unir na nirefvba gb univat zl nahf gbhpurq. Abg fher jura be ubj guvf qrirybcrq, ohg V unq gb rkcyvpvgyl grnpu zlfrys naq sbepr zlfrys gb jnfu ng yrnfg hc gb gur rqtrf, fb vg'f cerggl fgebat. Gur nirefvba jnf nyernql va cynpr orsber guvf eryngvbafuvc fgnegrq.

Fb nalubj, uvf svatref xrcg jnaqrevat vagb ertvbaf gung znqr zr erpbvy ivbyragyl ab znggre ubj tbbq V jnf srryvat hc gb gung cbvag, naq ur fnvq vg jnf orpnhfr vg jnf uneq gb anivtngr naq fyvccrel naq ur pbhyqa'g uryc vg naq vg jnf na nppvqrag.

V arire unq nal gebhoyr nibvqvat gung nern, ohg gura V unq gur vafgnag frafbel srrqonpx bs jung jnf gur evtug cynpr naq jung jnfa'g, jurer ur qvqa'g. Fb V oryvrirq uvz; nsgre nyy, vg uhegf zber jura fbzrobql ryfr oehfurf lbhe unve orpnhfr gurl qba'g srry gur ght bs gubfr guerr-unve zvpeb-xabgf ba gur oehfu ng nyy, juvyr oehfuvat lbhe unve lbhefrys, lbh srry gur ght ba lbhe fpnyc naq rnfr hc ba gur oehfu orsber lbh lnax gur guerr unvef evtug bhg. Vg znqr frafr gb zr, naq V npprcgrq gur "nppvqrag" rkcynangvba, naq vg xrcg unccravat.

Fvapr ur yrsg, V unir unq gjb eryngvbafuvcf jvgu ng yrnfg gung yriry bs frkhny gbhpuvat, naq va obgu gur thlf qvqa'g unir nal ceboyrz xrrcvat gurve svatref jurer gurl orybatrq. Gurer jrer ab vafgnaprf bs ersyrkvir erpbvy va rvgure.

The reality check I'm looking for, then, is: is it really so hard to navigate even with a few years experience and the two more recent guys were notably well-coordinated, or was this likely to be purely deliberate boundary-pushing? With the verbal boundary pushing I would say there was definitely some of the latter option, but I have no idea how much of it could have been due to the former.

#729 ::: indivisible hamadryad ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 02:51 AM:

(Not my usual nym here. I've checked with abi that this is OK.)

the invisible one:

Zl cnegare vf ernyyl, ernyyl abg vagb ohggf be guvatf gung pbzr bhg bs gurz. (Funerq puvyq-ernevat: V xabj guvf sbe nofbyhgr pregnva.) Naq ab nzbhag bs fyvccrevarff be rkpvgrzrag unf rire pnhfrq uvf svatref gb trg naljurer arne zl nahf.

Shegurezber, jura V sbhaq bhg gung ur jnf gvpxyvfu, V fgbccrq qbvat nalguvat gung zvtug gvpxyr uvz. Rira bgurejvfr vaabphbhf pnerffrf qba'g tb naljurer arne evof be srrg. Orpnhfr univat zl cnegare whzc sbhe vapurf va gur nve naq grafr hc qbrf abg znxr zr srry ng nyy rebgvp. Vg xvaqn oernxf gur zbbq.

In other words, totally boundary-pushing. A partner who doesn't respect your hard lines is being a self-centered asshole. (Even if this were not the case, a partner who doesn't respect your hard lines is not the partner for you!)

#730 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 03:53 AM:

the invisible one: seconding. Totally boundary-pushing. He did that accidentally on purpose.

#731 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 05:09 AM:

the invisible one @728: when somebody else brushes your hair because they don't feel the tug of those three-hair micro-knots on the brush

Yeah, well, when I brush someone else's hair, I feel very carefully for any catch at all, and if I detect it, I stop and pick the knot apart with my fingers before going on with the brush.

One guy I was involved with couldn't be bothered to trim his nails; couldn't understand why I was nervous to his touch. And instead of, you know, spending a few minutes with an emery board, he'd just get really nervous when it came time for sex. This was the same guy who often wouldn't notice that I'd stopped kissing him for a couple of seconds, resulting in him standing there with his eyes closed and his mouth puckering rhythmically like a fish. I always wondered: where the hell did he go when we kissed?

I don't know that insensitivity is necessarily about boundaries qua boundaries (though in your case, I strongly suspect it does). But "sensitivity" takes attention and effort. If someone can't be bothered, it's a flag that your well-being isn't a priority to them. And also maybe that you're not quite real to them.

#732 ::: one in a billion ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 05:10 AM:

@the invisible one: Thirding. A caring partner who would look out for you, would rather avoid any "dangerous" activities than accidentally doing it repeatedly. That's what you do if you care: "Oh, I don't seem to be able to do this right, better not do it at all."

#733 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 07:13 AM:

@the invisible one: Hell right it was pushing, and trying to overbear your defenses.

Jacque #731: Somehow¹, I never learned how to file my nails properly -- they always seem to have sharp edges. This is not helped by the filing being quite unpleasant for me (see also: haircuts), especially when I'm also trying to handle the dexterity side of it.

Prompted by your note, it's finally occurred to me to google the question, while I was at the keyboard. The first site I found suggests I've been doing it more-or-less upside down for 40 years: it shows the person filing the underside of their nails, instead of from "outside" my fingertips. But

¹ See prior entries re: hearing loss, spectrum, family dynamics.

#734 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 07:16 AM:

Retrieving my fallen but from last note: :-) It may also be relevant that I normally clip my nails short enough that I don't think much about their underside.

#735 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 11:51 AM:

Totally boundary-pushing. If his aim is that bad, he'd have been sticking his tongue in your nose all the time.

#736 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 12:00 PM:

#729, indivisible hamadryad: Thanks for the note. So the odds of it being even partly due to clumsiness are almost nonexistent.

I wonder how much else of the things he put me through was equally calculated and how much was because he didn't know any other way to be. His mother was an expert martyr, and his parents taught him that if he procrastinated long enough somebody else would do it for him, so I'm sure some of it was down to their lessons (and his uncritical acceptance that his behaviour was reasonable). Never attribute to malice, etc.; but some of the patterns (like this one) seem to only make sense when they are deliberate, now that I have a bit more experience and realize that isn't how everybody does things.

I eventually gave in on pretty much every other boundary, so I guess he figured I'd eventually give in on that one too, if he just kept pushing it.

#731, Jacque: I guess I've been surrounded by insensitive people my whole life, then. Mom always wondered (even aloud, a couple of times) when I was a kid, how I could brush my own hair vigorously without it hurting while I said ouch constantly when she brushed my hair.

#737 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 12:24 PM:

the invisible one #736: There's also the agency factor itself -- when you're doing something to yourself, you can do things like bracing yourself for a rough bit. But not getting that difference... a thought, did your Mom have short hair herself? (Or, perhaps, no one else who ever brushed her hair?)

#738 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 12:51 PM:

the invisible one, #728: My unvarnished response, before reading any of the others: accident, my fat pink ass. That was absolutely boundary-pushing, and the only reason he was able to get away with it was that you were too inexperienced to know how implausible his excuse was.

Also, HOLY SHIT that's creepy. Guys who push sexual boundaries have a very high potential for turning into rapists, if they aren't already.

David H., #733: I can't use emery boards -- they squick me out, in a tactile way akin to the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard. I have to have the kind of nail file that's metal with crosshatched lines scored into it. (Metal files with diamond dust are fungible with emery boards.) I've known people who had exactly the opposite reaction. Perhaps if you've always used one type, you could look for the other and see if that makes a difference?

#739 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 01:00 PM:

#737, David Harmon: When I was a kid she had long hair. BUT - her hair is straight and mine is curly. So it could also be that our experiences were different.

#738, Lee: I also didn't know at the time that pressuring somebody until they say yes was bad behaviour. He played a long game. He was "patient" and "would wait for me" - but in the end, I agreed because I couldn't think of any more reasons not to. Other than "not comfortable with it", which wasn't allowed as a reason, because of course I was nervous about my first time, that was normal and not a reason to say no. Of course. (sigh)

#740 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 01:15 PM:

This seems like a good place to drop in the best response to a common type of sexual blackmail -- the one that goes "If you really loved me, you'd do [thing you don't want to do]".

Response: "If YOU really loved ME, you wouldn't keep pushing me like this."

Likely possible reaction: strawman arguments about parents forcing kids to take their medicine or something similar.

Response to this: "Apples and oranges. My sexual preferences and comfort level have nothing to do with being sick. I'm the only one who gets to make decisions about what *I* do sexually."

#741 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 01:21 PM:

Or, "this isn't a parent-child relationship". And a sexual relationship shouldn't be...

#742 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 03:20 PM:

Invisible one, this is a tangent, but may relate to the problem.

Dollars to donuts you got that trigger from your mother's potty-training efforts. And if she's the type to be unpleasant over the painful hair brushing, I don't want to think about how far she may have taken the "you must be clean" business.

As for the Crappy-Ex, pure domination wasn't an "accident" by any stretch of the imagination, including his. If he wanted that so bad, you should have told him to find a professional and pay for it.

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

#742, Lori Coulson: possible, though that's far beyond the limits of my memory so I couldn't say for sure.

It's not that she was deliberately unpleasant about the hair brushing/pulling thing, she just didn't seem able to understand that she was hitting microknots and those *hurt*, and so she minimized my complaints with comments about how brushing hair didn't hurt. Does straight hair get microknots often? I've seen her not able to understand experiences different from her own in other contexts too, which is why I don't think it was deliberate, just clueless.

#744 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 05:12 PM:

Lori, #742: I doubt that suggesting going to a professional would have had any effect, because this wasn't about a sexual desire -- it was about a domination desire. Being able to pay for the act, or even the act itself, wasn't what he wanted. What he wanted was the thrill of having enough control over someone else to break them into doing it when they didn't want to.

#745 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 05:41 PM:

Understood, invisible one, and my apologies for the back-seat psychologizing.

Lee -- very true, but I can't help but wonder how he would have reacted had she said that. Esprit d'escalier, I know.

Considering was a hard-case Crappy-ex seems to be, I doubt it would have had the effect I'd have been hoping for!

#746 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 05:51 PM:

Lee @744: But wouldn't it be satisfying to tell him so to his face? (though I do recognize that it takes both the self-confidence to say so and the knowledge that it's perfectly acceptable to tell someone to *ahem* F*** off.) (both of which were in desperately short supply at that time in the invisible one's life)

And adding my voice to the chorus: he was being a grade A, pushy, power-tripping bastard. There was absolutely nothing accidental about his actions.

#747 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 08:54 PM:

the invisible one @728: I think most of that was accidentally-on-purpose boundary pushing. You weren't completely ignorant teens fooling around in the dark, right? It sounds like he knew the lay of the land. If this was as bad as it sounds like it was, he deserved to be dumped.

A *small* number of those "accidents" may actually have been accidental, I will grant. Slips do happen even with kind and experienced partners, usually followed by sincere apologies, and a long gap before the next screwup.

#748 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 08:57 PM:

Lee #738: Hmm, that's a thought. Emery boards would be the "other sort" for me to try -- I normally use the file attached to my nail clipper.

#749 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 08:57 PM:

Internal server error. Here's the comment I was trying to post.

the invisible one @728: I think most of that was accidentally-on-purpose boundary pushing. You weren't completely ignorant teens fooling around in the dark, right? It sounds like he knew the lay of the land, and deserved to be dumped.

A *small* number of those "accidents" may actually have been accidental, I will grant. Slips do happen even with kind and experienced partners, usually followed by sincere apologies, and a long gap before the next screwup.

#750 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 09:28 PM:

#744, Lee: It may have been both. He mentioned that when he did it to himself he enjoyed it and wanted me to do the same to him, which I also refused.

#745, Lori Coulson: If it's offered in the spirit of "does this sound familiar?" then it's fine by me. I thought of another thing this afternoon, in that I also gained a disinclination to jaywalk that is still in place (although thankfully it no longer applies to quiet residential streets) because when I was a toddler I was frightened by my parents yelling at me—once—because they were frightened when I ran into the street. Once. (I don't remember this, but it's what they told me.) Everybody at university thought I was strange for not crossing any road on campus any time without looking for cars, and going to the marked crosswalks instead. So it's entirely possible that my parents didn't do anything out of line but I still ended up with that block. So yeah. I do know about the "highly sensitive person" thing, and when I think of it I have to fight the weasel that says "well aren't you just a special snowflake, you're just overreacting, as usual."

#747, Bodhisvaha: I wasn't a teen anymore, but I was pretty damn ignorant. Apart from the one supremely uncomfortable sex ed class in school, I had almost nothing. It wasn't talked about in my family at all, and I didn't have any friends close enough to swap myths and stories with and at least muddle my way to some kind of (mis)understanding of the subject, I had one boyfriend briefly in grade 12 who also did some boundary pushing of his own... I didn't even like romance stories, and the obligatory romantic subplot that was in the books I read were not exactly the healthiest relationships. I don't know how much he knew. He certainly knew what he liked more than I knew what I liked.

#751 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 11:01 PM:

the invisible one, #750: He mentioned that when he did it to himself he enjoyed it and wanted me to do the same to him, which I also refused.

*snicker* Now I have an irresistible mental image of you (had you known about such things) coming home one night with a strap-on. "Okay, baby, let's do it!"

I have had lovers who enjoyed anal stimulation. None of them ever pressured me either to do it to them after I'd said I didn't want to, or to let them do it to me. NONE.

#752 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2015, 11:26 PM:

That's one of the things I was refusing >.<

#753 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2015, 12:53 AM:

the invisible one @750 and 752: Oh. Oh... The details of the last few comments have bumped Crappy Ex squarely into "quite experienced indeed." So even if you hadn't said a word to slow him down, he couldn't have possibly missed the great flashing signs saying that he was going too hard and too fast. It was his job to take care of you and instead he ran roughshod over you. At the very very best, he was inconsiderate and much more experienced and a complete dolt. At worst he was using you because semi-rape was his idea of fun.

A good partner will make you feel respected and cherished, tempted and intrigued. You should always feel safe in their hands, regardless of position, props, or roleplay. That goes multiple for any acts you are dubious about. There does need to be room for asking each other to try something new, but normally it's done in bite-sized steps, with respect for consent and previous experience/hangups or lack thereof. The weirder the new thing, the more time and gentleness and expectation of being told "hell no not ever" is required.

#754 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2015, 01:24 AM:

David Harmon @733: Let me ask you this: if you had a lover that you cared about, and this was an issue to her comfort, and she asked to to file your nails so you wouldn't hurt her, what would you do?

But: I totally get your issue: I was into my 20s before I could cut my toenails without wanting to puke.

the invisible one @736: Mom always wondered (even aloud, a couple of times) when I was a kid, how I could brush my own hair vigorously without it hurting while I said ouch constantly when she brushed my hair.

Dear Mom: See "tactile sensory feedback." A common pattern (especially among insensitive people, double-especially for narcissists) is that, if they don't feel it, there's nothing there to feel. Therefore, if they don't feel the pain you experience, you must be "imagining it."

& @739: When I was a kid she had long hair. BUT - her hair is straight and mine is curly. So it could also be that our experiences were different.

—!? Um, yeah. Brushing curly hair of any length takes extra attention and care. I can do it, and do it completely comfortably for the brush-ee, but it takes three times as long, and twice as much attention. If you're (a) insensitive, and have only had the experience of (b) brushing your own, straight hair— ::scowl::

not a reason to say no. Of course.


& @743: Does straight hair get microknots often?

Well, not often but I generally have to work out four or five after a shower. But they're not nearly as intransigent as curly-hair knots, and, on my own hair, not actually painful when I hit them. (It also makes a difference what kind of brush one's using.) I mostly only take time to work them out because they're offensive, more than anything else.

I don't think it was deliberate, just clueless.

Well, and narcissistic.

David Harmon @748: I normally use the file attached to my nail clipper.

GAHHHH. ::shudder:: No wonder you have issues. Those things are nasty. I will only use them in extremis, and then only very carefully. A patch of mortar between a couple of nearby bricks, or a corner of the concrete sidewalk, is preferable. ::cringe:: yeeEEeee.

#755 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2015, 01:36 AM:

#753, Bodhisvaha: I guess porn and solo explorations would count as experience learning what's out there and what is interesting to him, which I didn't have either. He said he hadn't had sex before. (I hope that was true...)

Yeah, for real. I had no idea what I liked. In many ways, I still don't. For a while I wondered if I was borderline asexual because I just didn't have much interest. Often felt nice when it got started, but no drive to seek it out.

#754, Jacque: I've read enough about narcissistic parents here and elsewhere that I think I can say with reasonable confidence that she's clueless and insensitive.

#756 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2015, 02:01 AM:

the invisible one, #752: Ouch. Sorry -- I hope that didn't trigger you, because I wouldn't have said it if I'd known.

#757 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2015, 08:48 AM:

David Harmon @733: Let me ask you this: if you had a lover that you cared about, and this was an issue to her comfort, and she asked to to file your nails so you wouldn't hurt her, what would you do?

Ooh, way to escalate. :-~ This actually was an issue when I lost my virginity, where I was very much fumbling and having issues responding to her in real-time. (This was long before I'd heard of the autistic spectrum, but autistic issues were why that relationship did not go anywhere helpful, despite the best efforts of a woman who really did deserve better).

While it wasn't one of the biggest issues there, this put my inability to file my nails properly¹ into the stack of many reasons I wound up giving up on having sexual relationships. The bigger issue from that encounter was the bit about not being able to respond to prompts in realtime, due to (as I figured out much later) sensory/novelty overload. Even at 22, I was able to recognize that as a problem, and when it happened again in a later encounter with someone else, it got promoted from "problem" to "intractable problem, probably ethical constraint". (No disaster thankfully, but my partner was not satisfied).

[nail clipper files] GAHHHH. ::shudder:: No wonder you have issues. Those things are nasty. I will only use them in extremis, and then only very carefully. A patch of mortar between a couple of nearby bricks, or a corner of the concrete sidewalk, is preferable. ::cringe:: yeeEEeee.

Um. OK, new equipment is needed.

¹ functional definition for "properly".

#758 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2015, 12:50 PM:

the invisible one @755: I can say with reasonable confidence that she's clueless and insensitive.

Ah, okay. (I think we can safely say that I have, um, issues, around this kind of stuff. I'll try not to get them all over you. :-> )

David Harmon @757: " :-~ "

Translate, please? I can't immediately parse this emoticon.

I'm sorry, I did not intend to escalate. And I'm sorry that issue was problematic.

Yeah, starting out—like that's not problematic enough, without neural and mechanical issues piled on top.

The spectrum thing...huh. I wonder....

I was involved with this guy back in the mid-'80s, before I'd ever even heard the word "autism".... That would make some things make more sense....

#759 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2015, 03:05 PM:

Jacque #758: Translate, please? I can't immediately parse this emoticon.

Hmm, my first reaction was "well, it's that face, where you squinch your mouth like the tilde". Realizing this is not helpful, I went looking for example definitions, only to not find it anywhere! I did however, figure out the word I was groping for, which is "bemusement". I know I've seen it used by other people (ranging back to USENET days), but this may be in that fuzzy space of non-canonical emoticons...

#761 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2015, 05:08 PM:

Jacque #760: No, that's pursed lips, and too symmetrical. What I do (and was representing) is more "quirking" the mouth... <consults mirror> well, it feels like a tilde, apparently it looks like compressed lips with a upturn at the far right.

#762 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2015, 05:49 PM:

David Harmon @761, I think the emoticon you're looking for may be :-/

#763 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2015, 06:35 PM:

David H., re nail files: I'm not fond of the ones that come on the nail clippers either. Yes, technically they're the type I prefer -- but they're just not very good. Comparing them to my full-size nail file, the cross-hatching is noticeably shallower (hence less effective), and they're too short to get a proper filing stroke with. I can use one in a pinch to smooth out a minor snag, but even in my purse I carry a regular nail file along with the clippers.

(Side note: I refer to the clippers-and-file combination as "the poor man's multi-tool". The clippers can double as scissors for things like trimming a loose thread or starting a rip in a stubborn snack-bag, and they can cut a zip-tie if there's enough slack for them to get purchase; the nail file is also useful as a letter-opener or screwdriver, and is sharp enough to pierce packing tape and sturdy enough to saw thru it once pierced.)

#764 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2015, 06:36 PM:

Chiming in with what everyone else said. That accident excuse is only plausible the first time or two. After that he should know his way around.

#765 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2015, 06:59 PM:

the invisible one, back at #739: I couldn't think of any more reasons not to. Other than "not comfortable with it", which wasn't allowed as a reason, because of course I was nervous about my first time, that was normal and not a reason to say no.

Failed to respond to this before. First off, "not comfortable with it" is absolutely a reason to say no -- one of the best reasons, in fact. Sex is supposed to be fun for both (or all) participants, and if you're being pressured to do something that you're uncomfortable about doing, you're not going to have fun no matter how much fun HE has.

Secondly... it sounds stupidly cliched to say that "when you're ready to try it, you'll know" -- but IME that really is the way it works. There is an unmistakable difference between "not wanting to do X" and "wanting to do X, but being nervous about not having done it before". It's hard to describe in words to someone who hasn't encountered it, but it's there. I wish you'd had someone to tell you that the reluctance you were feeling sprang not from nervousness, but from lack of trust in the other person to do right by you. But of course, that very inexperience was what made you an attractive target for him.

Incidentally, this can go the other way as well. During the interval between finding out that my now-ex was having an affair and actually getting the divorce, I came very close to having sex with a guy at a con, feeling that "if he can do it, I can do it". But as we were getting to the point of clothing coming off, it suddenly morphed into, "I can't do this, it doesn't feel right." I half expected some pushback about "leading him on" -- but my erstwhile partner, being a gentleman, took this with good grace; I had mentioned my circumstances to him earlier in the evening, and I think he figured out what had gone wrong. Which is how it's supposed to work, when one party is getting the collywobbles!

#766 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2015, 04:55 AM:

#765, Lee: Yeah, I know that now... at the time there was a lot of other stuff going on that resulted in me doubting my own perceptions and opinions, including not knowing the difference between "not wanting to do X" and "wanting but nervous for the first time doing X" and the difference between "having a sense of humour" and "going along with things other people want to do even when I don't enjoy the thing". I'd also convinced myself that I loved him and that I wanted to eventually. If I were capable of listening to my emotions I might have realized this wasn't the case. (Still learning how to do that.)

#767 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2015, 05:51 AM:

the invisible one @766:

I'm so glad you're out of that relationship. It sounds like it was all manner of terrible.

#768 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2015, 08:18 AM:

Cassy B. #762: I guess so.

#769 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2015, 08:29 AM:

David Harmon @768, for what it's worth, :-/ is the emoticon I use for <wry> or <rueful> or <bemused>. (I tend to prefer pointybrackets, however, because they're less likely to be misinterpreted. I'm old-school. Or just old.)

#770 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2015, 12:04 PM:

#767, abi: And worse, at the time, those people who said anything at all commented on how we were so perfect for each other. If anybody thought otherwise, I don't remember them saying anything in my hearing.

It took me months to even begin to realize that I was better off out of that relationship.

#771 ::: Quixotic James ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2015, 12:21 PM:

the invisible one @ #770, In my experience, no one *ever* says "this relationship is terrible, you need to be out of it right now" unless there is clear evidence of physical abuse, or the person telling you is *very* close. Sometimes, not even then.

Nobody wants to be "that guy" who complained about a new relationship.

People will still make their opinions known, they'll just do it by *absence* - i.e. invitations to hang out will dry up because nobody like the new partner, or people are engaging in mutual compliments, and new partner never gets mentioned.

#772 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2015, 01:25 PM:

For what it's worth, I came moderately close to telling someone to get out of a relationship.

I'd seen their self-confidence evaporate to the point where they'd excuse themself every time they made a definite statement, and I pointed this out.

Not that it helped-- the relationship didn't end until Partner with Issues kicked my friend out for not seeking employment.

#773 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2015, 01:57 PM:

#771, Quixotic James: I understand that. Even something as small as indicating in some way that I was right when I was and he contradicted me. Silence is interpreted to mean they agreed with him and I was wrong. People disagree all the time, why can I not remember anybody disagreeing with him? Or even engaging with my opinion as if it were valid or at least worthy of discussion, once he had contradicted me? These things don't require saying the relationship or the person sucks.

Of course when events proved me right, I "always had to be right" which also kept me from arguing with him when I knew I was right because nobody likes a know-it-all. So I was in the wrong even when I wasn't.

It could also be that I was in a place where I couldn't see people disagreeing with him because they were too subtle about it, or, as in the thread opener discussion and the comment that a person may see disapproval directed at somebody else and interpret it as directed at them, I may have seen disagreement and thought they disagreed with *me*.

Really, I was in a bad place and had no outside reality check to provide perspective. Unhelpful Counsellor was there at the end, but... was telling me that I am overly emotional and I should initiate sex because men get emotional intimacy through physical intimacy while women get to physical intimacy through emotional intimacy, and since I wanted an emotional connection I should first provide him with the physical even though I wasn't enthusiastic about it. (Now: WTF? Then: I took the expert at her word due to lack of experience.)

And invitations drying up... Most of my social interaction (still) comes from group events where individuals can choose to come and nobody is specifically invited. Think, or university events when I was still a student. Specific individual invitations for me were not really a thing.

#774 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2015, 05:11 PM:

the invisible one @766: If I were capable of listening to my emotions I might have realized this wasn't the case. (Still learning how to do that.)

That's a toughy, especially if you were systematically trained as a child to ignore them. I'm about as hard-headed and stubborn as they come, and it wasn't until I was thirty that I had my first big breakthrough, accessing my own internal information.

& @773: Well, I, for one, am glad for you that you're now shut of him. It's a shame, though, that you can't somehow extract recompense for the clean-up you're having to do. ;-)

#775 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2015, 08:52 PM:

the invisible one #773: People disagree all the time, why can I not remember anybody disagreeing with him?

Quite possibly they had learned that any disagreement would set him off to mess with them. And yeah that counselor was WTF all right.

#776 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2015, 01:09 AM:

Witnessing, invisible one.

I had comments about the rot-13ed behavior, but others have already made most of them. It definitely indicates to me that he was either profoundly clueless about boundaries or profoundly disrespectful of you as a person, and likely both.

It sounds to me like you are perhaps, in some sense, grieving the lack of a relationship that would have been worth grieving for.

#777 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2015, 01:18 AM:

Lee @ 765:
"It's a lady's prerogative to change her mind."

I had long assumed that saying to be a kind of jab at women's supposed indecisiveness. It wasn't until I was well into my 40s that I abruptly realized it was nothing of the kind.

It's a perfectly plain statement of the primacy of consent: a man must always feel obligated to respect a woman's decision in the moment. It's a pity it's not taught directly to more young men just like that.

#778 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2015, 01:34 AM:

Clifton, #777: It goes the other way as well, though that happens more rarely. Some 30-odd years ago I had been out with a young man and we came back to my place with the intent of him spending the night. (He was a college student, living in the dorm, so my place was the logical choice.) And as things were starting to get serious, he had a change of heart. I don't recall exactly why, and it's not important; I said "Okay" and drove him back to the campus, and that was that. Disappointed? Yes, but I had zero interest in trying to pressure a reluctant partner into doing something that made him uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, society does a lot of that pressuring on men long before any woman would ever have the opportunity.

#779 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2015, 09:56 PM:

"For a while I wondered if I was borderline asexual because I just didn't have much interest. Often felt nice when it got started, but no drive to seek it out."

I came across a term I hadn't heard before: "demisexual." I gather it basically means that sexual urges tend to follow emotional connection rather than being present whether or not there is an emotional connection (as in attraction to famous people.)

As a side note, I don't get why people accept the concept of hypersexualized people without accepting the reverse. If there's a sliding scale of sexual desire, it makes sense to me that there are folk on the low end of that scale. Maybe it's just our culture, which is obsessed with sex to a degree I think is unhealthy.

#780 ::: LGB ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2015, 12:52 AM:

the invisible one @770 and Quixotic James @771,

After I left my now-ex-husband, all kinds of people responded to hearing about it by saying, "Sure, that makes sense," "Hooray! Congratulations!" and "Well, yeah." Before I left, nobody said a thing (except for one dear friend who very gently pointed out things that raised red flags for her. She didn't tell me to leave; she'd just say, "That seems problematic" and let me follow up or not. It helped me ENORMOUSLY).

While I was with my ex, I lost contact with a number of people and some of them have now told me that it was because they didn't like spending time with him. I didn't know; at the time I assumed it was me.

People try to be polite, I think, and they don't want to insult somebody's romantic partner. My parents have told me that they tried their best to get along with my ex for my sake, because I had married him, so they wanted to respect my choice and not try to cause problems between us. That's good, but it left me wondering why, if everyone had noticed the problems in my relationship, nobody had told me?!

In any case, the invisible one, I'm very glad you're out of that relationship. I agree with everyone else about his scary boundary pushing and I'm sorry you had to deal with that.

#781 ::: LGB ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2015, 01:02 AM:

Jacque @754

A common pattern (especially among insensitive people, double-especially for narcissists) is that, if they don't feel it, there's nothing there to feel. Therefore, if they don't feel the pain you experience, you must be "imagining it."

Lightbulb!! Suddenly, much about my ex's reactions becomes clear. Key phrase: "No reasonable person would think/feel/conclude x!"

abi, would it be ok to change the name I use here to reflect my new-and-improved initials? (Yes, I am unoriginal in my 'nym selection.)

#782 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2015, 01:26 AM:

Another reason why people won't tell you when they see Giant Red Flags going on in your relationship: until you're ready to hear it, there's a good chance that your reaction will be to get angry with them and defend your partner. And there's no way to know whether you're ready to hear it unless/until you actually say something.

Many of us have been on the "don't want to hear it" end of that equation about something -- not always a relationship, but some kind of decision or action that somebody tried to warn us about and we didn't want to hear them. Remembering that after the fact is both embarrassing and cautionary. It makes people more hesitant to be the initiator of that kind of conversation.