Thursday, January 31, 2008

Happy Things Recently

* * * *
Visiting and talking with *both* of my nieces. Although they are about 12-13 years apart in age, they are both such cute and endearing personalities. I love it when I get to see/talk to them and do little projects with them.

Accomplishing cleaning projects around the yard. (making a dent in the amount of wood to pick up)

Mint-filled Lindor truffles.

Snuggle cats.

Small but steady paid work.

A chatty letter from my sister--yea! (a real life paper letter!)

Vegetarian chili in winter--yummy and cozy

Conversation and snuggle time with M.

Taking yet more stuff to Goodwill.

New color inspirations for Spring.

Bird feeders in steady use.

Pushing myself to grow more in my endeavors--and not doing too badly at it.

Sweeping off the porch, catching up on laundry--even the small things are happy.

Noticing that I have become a better touch-typist than I thought (better than bad-hehe). Now to work on the spelling...(hah)

Suuuushiiii !!

* * * *

I wish you all happy things too. :)

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

family stress fractures

Earlier this year, we heard that this couple we know--let's call them family friends--has been having a rough spot. It's been building up the last few years, but this last year has seen some open dissent. We only got one side of the story, but we were not in a position (or lacking enough tact) to go interviewing other impacted parties to get a bigger picture. And it's not as if we haven't already observed (as it turns out) critically important aspects for years. "Oh, that explains a lot..."

M and I are both a little concerned. No, a LOT concerned. We don't want to think that their marriage wouldn't survive, but this recent upheaval is pointing out all the stress fractures in the family. Mostly that some stresses have reached a critical point so that the different sides are acting out in their individual feelings of frustration and anger. It's one of the usual sticking points--job and time and money and identity and how one or the other is being controlling or over-managing every major decision or thought. I guess one can "manage" these issues for only so long before one has to really deal with them.

It's easy for me to say this or that person is dragging their heels, resisting like hell, trying to blow or keep the lid on. Maybe you never want to think of yourself as ever getting a divorce, but there's still stuff to deal with... better to deal with it than having it blow up in your face. Defusing a b0mb is a delicate and dedicated task no doubt, no less than defusing the pressure in a marriage. *duck*!!

Mostly, though, I can see the impact on the kids. Angry, anxious, afraid. I really worry about them. This last time on the phone, it was ... interesting, the older kids were holding themselves at a distance emotionally and younger kids especially were bickering and nattering anxiously (in contrast with their usual delight when we call or visit). And certain adults didn't even come to the phone to say hi. Aaargh. The whole scrim of polite social interaction was pretty thin. It was a little disconcerting, but I was reminded again --they are ALL stressed.

So I worry about all of them. I worry about the couple.... I can see the fault lines, but even if I see some things they are doing that make it harder on their relationship, I am not in a position to tell them so. Thank goodness for counseling. Hope it's doing some good, but I'm not sure. If the kids are the canaries in a coal mine, things are still pretty tense.

So I worry about the kids too. How hard to be so young at these various ages and have the security of your parents be so uncertain. I've never seen them so... disaffected is the word that comes to mind, but how can that even make sense if they are actually so *highly* affected?

We try to be good relations in their lives. We talk and play with them, snuggle when we are there in person.... We try to be another set of adults who take a positive interest in them, who have known them since they were babies, who cheer them on. These days I see them having some disappointments with their parents that are threatening to be life-long. It pains me that I was not more sympathetic the last time the one kiddo brought it up (trying to explain it away rather than saying "that must have been very disappointing"). It was awkward... as if the one thing that may or may not have been his Dad's fault was standing in for all the other ways he's feeling let down.


I know, I know. every couple has their sticking points, their "rough patch." The kids are just so vulnerable at that age, at any age. So, I worry.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

House Meme AKA I can't resist a meme

I’m continuing the tradition and stealing this meme from various bloggers I read.

* * * *

When you walk in your front door, which room do you enter?
The living room.

Do you have a dishwasher?
That would be me. Sometimes my husband. Otherwise, no.

Is your living room carpeted or does it have hardwood floors?
Hardwood floors. Easy to sweep down.

Do you keep your kitchen knives on the counter or in a drawer?
They’re all in a drawer.

House, apartment, duplex or trailer?

How many bedrooms is it?

Gas stove or electric?

Do you have a yard?
Yes. More than we can take care of.

What size TV is in the living room?
Don't have one.

Are your plates in the same cupboard as your cups?

Is there a coffee maker sitting on your kitchen counter?

What room is your computer in?
All of them are in the office.

Are there pictures hanging in your living room?
Yes, a bunch. Seven pics of family groupings, both formal and casual. A wedding photograph. Two art prints. A pencil and ink landscape. An abstract photographic print. A relief print I made years ago. Oh, plus a small mirror and another small collage-print by an artist friend. Oh, and a landscape pastel too! I know a number of artists and have a bought good stuff over the years. That's just the living room. Oh, and a very small drawing by a semi-famous great uncle.

Are there any themes found in your home?
Cozy eclectic with touches of antique farm chic. Nature-related stuff, especially landscapes of various sorts. Excellent contemporary pottery and art. The office is done in contemporary paper-clutter.

What kind of laundry detergent do you use?
I think it's Seventh Generation or some non-scented stuff. Our washer is super efficient so we use miniscule amounts of detergent. One jug lasts us the better part of a year.

Do you use dryer sheets?
No, never.

Curtains in your home?
Nope. Except one thrown over the front door windows. It suffices.

What color is your fridge?

Is your house clean?
Har har. No. Well, some of it is.

What room is the most neglected?
I'd have to go with the entire yard! The basement runs second.

Are the dishes in your sink/dishwasher clean or dirty?
Dirty at the moment.

How long have you lived in your home?
About 8 years.

Where did you live before?
Rented in both a house and an apartment.

Do you have one of those fluffy toilet lid covers on your toilet?
Ack, no.

Do you have a scale anywhere in your house?
In the bathroom.

How many mirrors are in your house?
Six. One full-length one on the basement door (good for feng shui purposes), one on the bathroom cabinet, one kitschy one in the bedroom, and a little bitty one with a carved clay frame by a potter friend (art around a mirror). Also a hand held mirror that's double-sided in the bathroom cabinet, and a very large mirror panel in the basement from when I did self-portraits an age ago. Seven if you include the little safety mirror reflector we take backpacking in case we have to signal the rescue planes.

Look up. What do you see?
A very white ceiling. With one corner peeling from moisture.

Do you have a garage?
No, just a big ol' gravel driveway.

* * * *
That'll do for now.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Getting Back On the Bike to Do Scales

* * * *
Last weekend was the busy sort in which I had endured a lot of preparation and sweat to get myself into the proper zone, then poured ALL of myself into each event (thereby leading to grand success, but wait...), then collapsed exhausted in a pool of post-performance reflection. What a charge! I love it, but then, yes, I had to spend some time recovering... It was a little unusual to have two back-to-back. Two very different crowds. But anyway, I have been coasting the rest of the week. Sunday, I don't think I even got dressed-how sad is that? Each day I say, hmm, what do I need to prepare for tomorrow? So I've not been working ahead of schedule as I prefer. I suddenly realize that I have several projects that haven't gotten as far as I had hoped by the end of this month. Ach, darn.

I know it's a cycle. To expend so much energy for a big burst, and then crash to replenish, but I still have things to maintain on a daily basis. Yesterday I finally started picking up around the house again, cleared out the hallway and took that load of stuff over to goodwill, washed various things, cooked dinner, looked at (but didn't work on) upcoming projects, etc.

YUP, I have to get back on the bike and start pedaling, even when the rest of me is saying "huh?" Yes, "Do Your Scales And Persevere." I usually think of this as referring to creating art as an artist, but these days it's as much about keeping the ball rolling (or in the air) in the rest of my life. For god's sake, Don't Drop The Ball! :D It's very useful, this getting back on the bike to do scales. (Can I mix metaphors or what?!)

On the creative work side of things, it's useful to cultivate improv skills. Even today, I was supposed to meet someone for the first time and had received minimal info to go on. NO idea of their existing skill level or interests or goals, only age and gender. I prepared like crazy... then hours later thought (just before bed), yes, but what if they are a total beginner? ...And prepared some back-up plans for if I had to wing it. But then, I always end up winging it because you just don't know your student or your crowd until you actually meet them and work with them a little. So today was another opportunity to use some of what I had planned, but in different ways... and that's actually ideal! Adapt to the circumstance and ride with it! I get a charge out of that as well, and lots of ideas for my next plan.

Can a body and psyche adapt to adrenaline? I think so. It can be nerve-wracking in the beginning. Prepare, prepare and OMG what if I completely screw up and it all falls on the floor and urrrr--I look like an ass? And then one learns to think on ones feet: plan, adapt, change, observe, adapt... Then it becomes a dance, a work of mutual art of mutual benefit.

The first time, after the roller coaster ride is over, one is completely wired for a long time, and it fades very slowly, leaving one drained. I'm sure there are medical terms to describe how this impacts the adrenals (or in some kind of impact loop). Then as one gains experience and confidence and strategies for all those times one has to--quickly!--adapt, it becomes like riding the waves--still exhilarating, but more of a dance between yourself and the others that you are guiding and coaxing. It *is* like dancing. Somebody is nominally in charge, but ever-alert for shifts in the air, the need for micro-changes in direction and intensity, the plan held clearly but lightly... And the highs and the lows moderate just a bit.

Ah. Pause to replenish. Time to do some more scales.
* * * *

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"tiny cupcakes served continuously"

I ran across Nicole Hollander's book recently and have been having a hoot reading it. It's titled: Tales of Graceful Aging from the Planet of Denial. It's not a cartoon book, although there are a few illustrations.

It's loosely gathered into chapters named things like:

Tiny vices
Raking over the Past
The Afterlife I deserve
Disastrous Apparel Decisions
If 60 is the new 40, when will I be 30?
My Coffee is not up to my standards

...And subdivided further into little stories with titles like:

The girlfriends have an emergency meeting
Doctor, can I put this on my VISA?
The road not taken... was it a stairway to Heaven or a blind alley?
Things I will never do
Certain things, though, it's too late to do
Second thoughts
Fooling around with the French
Men who dance
My memoir, a.k.a., Everyone has one memoir in them, why not do it now?
Every memoir I've read has a section on lost loves
Medical disappointments
Think of your body as an old beloved car, perhaps a foreign car, one of those cute MGs that was always in the shop
Daily expressions of gratitude; the tomato bisque of the soul

Keehee! I love this!

The book jacket describes the experience of reading the book as being "like Nicole's idea of heaven: tiny cupcakes served continuously." This reminds me that I have a small package of petite fours hiding in the back of the fridge since Christmas. Yum. Best eaten frequently, in small, entertaining doses.

* * *
The section on Reminicing about the good old days starts out:

Normally I detest this kind of thing.
You know another thing I hate is when women say, "But I'm the same inside." Well, too bad honey, toughen up.

This reminds me that while I am certainly aging on the outside (slowly, subtly), I have aged pretty well on the inside. I CAN'T say that I'm the same inside. Sure, there may be core characteristics, but on the whole, I've changed a lot since I was a young thing, even since college (which was what? half my life ago?). And it's only continuing. I like it. Wouldn't want to go back. And give up everything I've learned in the last 5-10-20-30-some years? Heck, no!

I'm more patient at least to the degree I recognize that I can't change another person or hurry them along. I am less tolerant when it comes to people acting badly, whether it's spouting prejudice or aspiring to superiority, especially at my expense. That quote by Eleanor Roosevelt about someone not being able to make you feel inferior without your consent? It's true.

I actually find myself *less* tolerant of what I consider idiocy. I've developed strong ideas of what is right and good. I still have the ability to see both sides of every argument, but I'm less willing to give somebody a pass for stupidity, more wiling to question. I am less likely to (attempt to) do somebody's emotional work for them (thank goodness!!).

I am more likely to try what I want and not be deterred by being less than perfect on the first try. I have come to recognize perfectionism as a barrier. I am more patient with myself when I get caught in an old pattern and can talk reasonably to myself even while I emote all over the place. I have learned to not waste too much time on other people's trying to define me on their terms. I have learned that, when necessary, I can embarrass people more than they can embarrass me.

I have learned that it doesn't matter if ones life partner is not perfect in the ways that one had hoped or imagined because they are still themselves and have a right to be themselves. Besides, they being themselves is rather endearing even if occasionally maddening. I've learned that it doesn't matter if I get my way or not, if things are not done the way I prefer them done. it doesn't matter if others are less than perfect. I am less fazed by wild energy from students--hehe. I guess I have learned to persevere, not give up too soon.

There are things about aging that I am dismayed over, but I am not willing to go through pain to do anything about them (pluck, tuck). I have learned that I am tougher than I ever suspected. I have learned that it's often better to ignore a lot of crap rather than become irritated by it. I have dignity under fire (and sometimes not).

On a number of other things, I have a ways to go. But hey, that's what the next few decades are for.

* * *

I DO reminisce about the good old days, or at least about the old days. But I have hope that I will continue to mature into somebody I am proud of. I don't aspire to be "cool," because alas I am hopelessly enthusiastic and wonder-struck about life and don't anticipate ever shedding that un-cool attitude. Too bad for me. *smirk*

I do aspire to be the vivacious older woman. Ms. Hollander is a good role model for that, although I am not as biting as she can be in real life. Me in real life, I mean. I could aspire to sharp wit and innovative coping techniques. Or her "smarts and unabashed lip" that one reviewer describes. One of my aunts is also a good role model, except for the part about being a little crazy, by which I mean delusional, but she still has her emphatic enthusiasm, and that's me all over. I have a number of role models, maybe a topic for another post. Maybe I could adopt Nicole as an aunt meanwhile. Or maybe as a fairy-godmother.

* * *

A short list of consequences of reading Nicole Hollander:

I start having visions of myself as an older woman. Whoo-hoo!
I am heartened and entertained by the many gems and turns of phrase that strike me as a polished piece of humorous truth.
I start writing/thinking like a wry, wise-cracking, elder feminist from Chicago.
My husband spontaneously uses descriptions such as "cats with special powers."

* * *
I now return you to everyday life.

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writing therapy on mortality

Well now, THAT was therapeutic! Really it was. Snark aside, it was helpful to me to write that out and see some of the patterns. Helpful for me to even read it later. Helpful of me to articulate perspective. Helpful for me to be helpful to my friend, and good luck to them, too.

One more memory rises to the surface...

* * * *
Scene One:

TW: (Morosely, sighingly) Oy! Oh, I hope *you* never have to experience this...
Me: Oh, honey. It must be so hard...

Scene Two: (a couple months later)

TW: (Morosely, sighingly) Oy! Oh, I hope *you* never have to experience this...
Me: (Again? Um, that sounds a little insincere.) Well, I'm sure I will someday. I have to realize that at some point in our lives, one of us will die and leave the other alone. It's sad, but it's inevitable. I just have to live my life the best I can until that time.
TW: ... !!! (Huh? That wasn't what I wanted to hear! What is wrong with her, dammit? I'm the one who needs sympathy!) (doubtfully) Well, just I hope you don't have to suffer like I've suffered...

Scene Three: (several months later)

TW: I hope your husband dies! I hope you suffer like I've suffered! I hope all your children die!
Me: !!! (Okay, that tears it!) (profanity censored)

* * * *

Ironic that she tried to curse me with suffering a terrible loss because I am already all too aware of that inevitability. So here I am in my life, periodically being gripped by the fear that one day one of us will leave the other in death. That inevitable loss. Not because that person cursed me long ago, but because I am all too aware of how easily and quickly our loved ones can be taken from us.

Is it worse if I lose M or he loses me first? Either way is pretty bad. Pain and suffering and sorrow all around, no doubt about it. Then I have to shake myself and remind myself to live today. Today, even the mundane day, is pretty good. Loss is inevitable. So is renewal. Every day another day to live with love and wonder. I'll take as many years, days and minutes I've got.

* * * *

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Toxic Echoes

Sad and troubling story, here. Or a long and convoluted drama.

Just heard from a friend of mine we've known slightly (but for years). They wanted to talk to me about one of my former friends. Seems that they had a disturbing run-in with this person and wanted to talk about it.... I said, uh-huh? and let them know that yes, this person could act in unpredictable ways.

They then told me this story about how they had run into her the other day and how she had dumped a bunch of spurious, obsessional, dubious information on them concerning mental health drugs. Without getting into the sordid details, she is accusing certain doctors of nefarious deeds concerning said drugs. She has always been vehemently against any such drugs, even though some people close to her have been able to lead happy productive lives *only* through such drugs (or else they'd be dead or committed by now). Or as one friend likes to say, "better living through chemistry!"

This other friend of mine and their spouse have been so supportive of this woman over the years, through all sorts of trauma and trial. They are both very generous, big-hearted people. And they were a little taken aback (since they had also had family members and friends who, can we say, freaking *need* drugs to be sane), so the one friend tried to point out, very gently, this other perspective that, you know, such drugs can be literally life savers.

Well. She cut him off so fast--"don't start with me!" and left in a huff. Odd, yes? Well, not as odd as when they got home and found an email addressed to my friend's spouse but sent to my friend, accusing them of being rude and insensitive and maligning their character in the worst terms. She sent a poison letter ostensibly addressed to my friend's spouse to *them*?? Passive aggressive much?

So my friend, the big-hearted one, was understandably confused and wounded by this, wondering what they had done to receive such vitriol. And called me looking for perspective because they had heard that I and this other woman had had "a falling out" and there had been "incidences," and maybe I had a clue as to what was going on.

*pause to sigh*

What does one do with people who insist on making life toxic for themselves and others?

From my experience, I'd have to say: see it for what it is (don't sugar coat or minimize the damages) and then get far, far away.

Well, I was able to share some background of her seemingly irrational hatred of any and all mood-altering drugs, and her history of delusional and accusatory behavior.... And listened some more while my friend tried to explain what it felt like to be attacked.

Like me in my own version of this incident, they were very shaken and freaked out by this very personal attack. They felt very threatened and had a hard time sleeping, worrying what else she might throw at them. That's a scary thing to have to deal with.

I understood they were reaching out in an attempt to figure out the situation... so without getting into gossipy details, I tried to give them some perspective by sharing some of my own experiences and thoughts so they would understand that this woman's behavior was part of a pattern, no fault of theirs at all. I really hope they can shake it off. It's a freaky thing to be attacked out of the blue.

I try to avoid playing psychologist on other people because it's a little arrogant, but it has been helpful for me to come to terms with strange and toxic behavior in others. I have had a family member who had issues, and after many long years I had to learn to step out of the pattern and find new ways to be with them (or to not be with them, depending). And with this woman... well.... This has been the one person who scared me the most in my life in terms of crossing boundaries left and right, finally attacking me, and trying to manipulate me emotionally until I got so furious that I broke free of ever having to call her a friend again. It's made me very wary of having anyone try to place their own definitions of reality on me.

The closest I have ever come to defining how manipulative and infuriating she was was in the clinical definitions of a narcissistic personality. One characteristic is that as long as you could be a powerful supporter, the person butters you up, and if you ever disagree or show yourselves to be not in complete alignment with what they want from you, you are instantly a vile enemy.

So this is some back-story to clear my own head:

... When we first became "friends," she was so cute and endearing, buttering me up while also subtly putting me in the box she reserved for me, something I later realized was her way of keeping me in the categories of "inconsequential" and "inferior." She would include me in some of her gatherings with women friends, which worked well enough. She would compliment me, but only in a patronizing way such as continually telling the story of how when she first met me, she thought "what a cute little...!" as if nothing else I did was worthy of her attention. She did put the moves on a friend of mine who I was going out with in the time before I met my husband to be... (you can tell this was a number of years ago!).

Nothing in the beginning alerted me to how devious she could be. Even if one sees something that feels off, it's easy to minimize it and explain it away as no big deal. That started to change as we began spending more time together. She eventually married my friend (and I married M), and we sometimes did couple things together, but otherwise she did not socialize with her husband's crowd at all. She claimed to be overly-trustful, which I found odd considering how often she found fault with others for supposed sins of behavior against her. The friends and groups she was part of were THE best, THE most amazing and THE MOST wonderful people, and yet.... it was maybe not surprising in retrospect that any associate she held for very long eventually ran afoul of her. More on that in a minute.

We saw each other even more frequently as she and I and some other friends would get together regularly, and process some common threads in our lives, hash stuff out. It felt like we were bonding as a group. But after about a year of this, I started coming home after these lunches gnashing my teeth and complaining to M about how she was putting me down and trying to keep me in a weird place. It was so hard to define. She'd even play me off some of my other friends, ignoring or putting down anything I tried to share while fawning over other people, but if we were alone, she would cozy up to me. It sounds so petty, but it was so subtle, so consistent.

The worst part for me was the way she tried a weird variation of mind-control. If I (or anyone else) would state their feelings about something in a way that ran counter to what she thought, she would restate the opinion in a form more acceptable to her. This *sounds* like the reflective statements that some people learn as a way of active listening, but with her, it was her insisting on a different reality and trying to get us to think according to her version. In her voice, it was You Will Change It. It felt ugly, like she was trying to impose her own version of HOW we should think, HOW we should feel, HOW we should react. I always felt--excuse me, I think I know my own feelings better than you do! Don't tell me what to think!! It was very strange to have someone trying to exert their will one me like that, but like I said, it was so subtle, it was hard to find a place to object... the best one could do is resist back.

She joined a more formal women's group I was part of for a while, and it was the same old thing. After unsuccessfully attempting to mould the group to her own vision of how we should run the group, she became very silently disapproving and angry. It was not a good fit, and you'd think she/we would have figured that out, but still she held on. Finally, she concocted a situation to manipulate the group into feeling guilty for "not respecting her emotional needs" (to whip them into shape, I think), but calmer heads in the group saw through that and didn't buy it. That was the end of that.

God, I did so much for this woman... she could be so pitiful and needy and so in need of someone dropping everything in their lives to make her feel better. I once left work in the middle of the morning (I had very understanding bosses!) after she appealed to me to come help her deal with some trauma or other. I think she was testing me (and others) to see what she could get us to do, what would work to get us to change to suit her. She would come right out and ask for "what she needed" as if holding auditions to see who would step in and make small sacrifices for her, see if they had potential to fulfill that need. If making outright demands wouldn't work, she'd start hitting in with the emotional manipulations, trying to find the spot that would get you to feel awful enough to support her. She was a master at looking just the right level of haughty disapproval to get me to wonder what I should do to please her better. It was totally sick, but subtly so. As I figured out later, other friends were even more caught than I was, wanting to live up to that image of themselves as the good friend. She could also make generous gestures, but it had self-consciously magnanimous undertones of "see what a wonderful friend I am."

I felt I wanted to stop meeting her and pull back from being friends. I couldn't figure out exactly why all these little interactions irritated me so much, but I wanted badly to get away... We still has so many friends in common, including one good friend, and her husband with whom I was still close and had many other contacts with. With that web of societal connections, it was not so easy to extricate myself once I had been drawn in.

I say "drawn in" because I believe now that she intuitively looked for people who would support her and play roles for her. The best friend. The other best friend. The most wonderful rabbi ever. The most wonderful boss. The person with whom she would do anything for as long as they were fulfilling their role. The person who would say OMG you are sooo suffering, let me drop everything to do what you need! I don't think she enjoyed these gestures, except to the extent that she felt the power of getting people to do things for her. But I am cynical now, so I could be wrong.

This way of interacting was exacerbated when she lost her husband traumatically. It was bad for everyone. There's no doubt it was bad for her. It was also bad for her husband's family (who she shut out of a lot of info) and those of us trying to deal with our own sense of loss... Her neediness kicked into high gear, and many of us rushed to her aid. I don't know how many months we were in full support mode. You don't want to know everything we did for her... Another friend in particular tried to do everything right to be supportive... Those of us who were particularly sensitive and caring were complete suckers for this. Not that she didn't deserve sympathy and support, but giving that support fed right into her worst dynamics.

*sigh* Okay. Flash forward about 9 months...

I had to be out of state for a few months dealing with my own stuff. I would hear little rumblings about her in emails (from other people) like distant thunder, but I was burned out. From a distance, I was relieved to be out of range for a while. There were only a few passive aggressive things to ignore. One mutual friend confided to me that she suspected that this woman was making new stuff up just to get attention, and I was shocked that she would say so... We never figured out if that was actually true, but it turned out to be a foretaste of things to come.

Once I came back home, I had other things to deal with.... but one morning very early, I picked up a phone call-and got an earful of obscenities. Like a good girl trained on obscene phone calls and obsessive ex-es, I promptly hung up the phone. That was the next to last straw. I had no patience for further demands, especially those involving insults, but further screaming ensued. Then there was a lot of further nastiness.

The final straw was another episode in which she showed up in my backyard at 5:30 on a Sunday morning and acted out a little drama called "I'm totally grieving under your window." I was sympathetic for about 10 seconds, until I realized that the subtitle was actually "Let me slap you for not jumping through fire to attend to my every need, you bitch."

M was mortified, and I was furious. I didn't feel bad for her because I saw, finally, clearly, that she was doing everything in her power to manipulate me, and since she had a hunch that it wasn't working any more, she would scorch the earth to do anything to hurt me. Among the more colorful moments, she cursed me, and wished that my husband and any children I had would die. (Whoo, boy. At that moment, I was so grateful that she knew nothing of our IF story.)

I ended up demanding that she leave my property and slamming the door in her face. I was especially furious that she had caused my loving, dear-heart husband to fall into the trap of wondering what we should do to make her feel better. I hated to see him being played that way. He was grasping at straws, saying maybe we should try to appease her by doing this or that for her. I was adamant that after that naked attempt at manipulation, I wasn't going to give her a damn thing. No appeasement, no negotiation. Do you negotiate with terrorists? No!

After that particular episode, I was pretty traumatized, shaky and fearful that she would come back. I had a hard time sleeping for weeks. I was jumpy around town and anywhere near her neighborhood. I cried and raged. The one thing that gave me any kind of security was vowing that if she ever came back to my house, I would call the police on her.

And other people did not understand. Because, oh, that poor woman, they would say. Yeah, that poor psychotic! Even other friends for a while would laugh and say, "oh that's so junior high!"

You hear about the crazy ex. You don't hear about the crazy ex-friend. Nobody wants to think that this "poor little" woman is being an absolute shit. And then when I saw her a couple weeks later (in an official, public situation in front of other friends and associates), she was acting all buddy buddy again! I politely refused to engage or acknowledge her, and have refused to do so ever since. I still fear that someday she will show up on my doorstep and try to pull something.

I don't know what would have happened if I had caved into her demands or tried to appease her. It takes a lot of energy and fortitude to fend off an attack like that, but I believe it's more damaging to have to justify not standing up for oneself. I did feel like an asshole for a while even though I *knew* she was just mashing all buttons within reach. Now I just feel proud of myself (and relieved) that I did draw that line and put up a fight. Little ol' meek and mild-mannered me would come out fast and furious and slam that crap back into the ground. I can say that although I look like a push-over, I will defend my boundaries.
I know it wasn't a fluke because a few years later, I had an instance in which someone very insistently tried to force me to do something I felt was very wrong (Have you ever had someone try to bend you to their will? In public, yet? Not fun.), and I slapped him down so hard, everyone was a little awed. Somebody later said--why didn't somebody step in and defend her (me), and another friend grinned and commented, are you kidding? I wasn't going to get in HER way! I felt like a g-d transformer. Okay, so I am still a push-over who occasionally gets hulk-ified.

But here I have other friends who have their own little epiphanies about this woman, and I relive some of it all over again after working hard to step away from the emotional turmoil.

One good friend had a really hard time coming to terms that this woman who she *thought* was a friend was being so damaging to her and others. She finally felt forced to extricate herself also. She was another sensitive and caring soul who felt suckered. We don't talk about it much, but we comprise a mini survivors group.

One friend who lives in her neighborhood called me all concerned once and said he had run into her and she didn't seem to be doing so good and he was really worried about her... I was non-committal. Told him that for my own sanity I couldn't support her any more. Told him, yes, I could give him the name of her rabbi (but I didn't think it was going to help...).

I swear, it's like a bird dragging a fake broken wing! She sends out pity signals and anybody with a heart is moved... and eventually runs into this very weird dynamic.

And now this other friend, who has the biggest heart I know, who didn't turn their back on her on her craziness up to this point, has been slammed because why? They disagreed with an obsessive opinion/belief, and they suddenly discovered this other side of her. They were shaken, wondering WHY and WTF?! and concerned on top of all of that, realizing, OMG, she actually is delusional...

What can you do? It's beyond me. Not my job to "fix" her, even when I have some residual sorrow over her sorry state. There are trained people who devote their careers to helping people adjust their mental health. But there's a whole list of conditions that need to be in place to make that worth pursuing. For one, the patient needs to be willing. And of course, she doesn't believe in any kind of therapy or meds... I doubt that anyone can save her from herself. If I step waaay back, I do still feel pity for her, but it's likely that the most emotionally generous person is the most likely to get hurt in this situation.

And even if I had any kind of power to help her, I wouldn't go anywhere near her. Thank you, I am not that self-sacrificial. This is one instance when "toxic" really describes it.

I had hoped that she would eventually settle down and get back to some kind of stable reality, but then people will call me about her or say little oblique things such as, I ran into so-in-so... And they are furtive and unsettled... and I can tell that they have come up against her crazy, and there's nothing I can do except say sincerely, I'm so sorry, and You're not the only one... and live my life coming to terms with the experience, trying to not think of the day that, someday, I cross paths with her again.

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alas poor blog

test test
I'm trying something new for posting because the new and degenerated blogger won't let me cut and paste.  Ever.  

Oh well. To no avail. uuurrrgh. 

test test


yes! I can edit in html! I knew there was a way out.

Here's the procedure:

Write something or other in the new post window. Hit preview, then hit "edit hml" and you get a page in which you can cut and paste to your heart's content...

test test
see? :)
Whew! Here I thought I would have to write off the top of my head until blogger got its act together and fixed the safari issue. no more pain.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Number Crunching, yadda, yadda

Another round of referrals. What month is it again? Honestly, I have not been keeping track. Any and all mushy speculation and what-ifs make my brain (and heart) go numb, but numbers seem solid enough to be worth my while.   So I did take notice when another RQ survey + number crunching analysis went up. 

Our LID is March of 2007.   So looking at the chart of best-to-mid-to-worst case scenario, I can see some trends.  Absolute best case scenario? You mean the highly-unlikely one? *snort*

If 15 days of LIDs are assigned per month from here on out, that would give us Aug of 2010, which would be a wait of 41 months or 3.42 years. 

If 12 days assigned, that would give us March of 2011, which would be a wait of 48 months or an even 4 years. 

If 9 days assigned, that would give us January of 2012, which would be a wait of 59 months or 4.9 years. 

7 or 5 days? Honey, we are not even on the chart!  So worst case? Well, hell, how much aggravation do you want?  Worse case scenario is that we are charting the deep unknown.  

To those who are aggravated with RQ for one reason or another (and there certainly are a number of reasons), I ultimately say phooey!  If it were not for RQ, I would still be thinking I'd have less than a year to get ready to go to China.  Informed speculation; it's something. 

And sometimes even that is too much information. I asked M the other day if he wanted to hear about the latest numbers. "No. Not really..."   Who wants to hear bad news all the time?  It's bad enough having to keep up with our freakin' paperwork.  What's that you say? Another thou this year to keep our place in line? We do what we have to do. 

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Winter Sun

I have never noticed that the winter light makes me depressed before, but this year, it's been more obvious. A gray day even with a good mood to start, and I feel quiet and glum.  Sunlight lifts the spirits amazingly so.   

This really hit home today today.  I was sitting in the living room and enjoying my morning, but subdued. The sun suddenly came out and started gleaming in from the porch, and my heart lifted almost immediately.  Wow. That quick, huh?  It seems that more (sun) light translates into more energy and happiness for me. 

Some days I just tear right along, feeling good and energetic and productive, or at least at peace.  Other days I just feel low, glum, lackluster, discouraged and/or unmotivated.  I'm not always sure what dictates this from day to day. Amount of things on my to-do list? The level of perceived barrier between me and my goals? Lack of green vegetables? Lack of enough sunlight? Strange dreams?  Hmmm. Could be. 

Up to now, my only reliable way to positively  affect my mood has been to listen to music.  Either something calm or laid back when I am stressed, or something more energetic when I need extra motivation to get moving.  I often play a feel-good CD when I am starting to wash dishes or any house cleaning. The lift from the music helps get me over the hump of starting the chore, whatever it is.  Sometimes I can use music when I work on other projects if it is not too loud or too lively.  Interesting that it seems to help me (settle down/pep up) and focus at those times.   I might be able to work the sunlight angle too. 

Things that help me settle/focus/gain energy:

Music (ahhh)

Clear spaces (must declutter more!)

Quiet space (such as early morning or late night)

Having a clear idea of what I want to do and the steps I can take to get there (that always helps!)

Spending time away from the internet (doh!)

Meditation and yoga (time to reflect and refocus)

Walking or hiking

Green peas, also, a handful of walnuts or a bit of brown rice (Don't laugh. These really help me settle.  Good quality food improves everything.) 

Completing some routine task (like sweeping the floor, washing a set of dishes, putting away clean dishes or laundry) that allows me to feel I have accomplished something and ready for the next thing 
Sometimes this is "clearing out the mental cobwebs," and sometimes it is "priming the pump."

Sunlight?  Must investigate the possibilities! Fortunately, I live in a house with many windows and in a climate with many sunny days.  Ironic that I can't tolerate much direct sun at all, but yet I need it.

Then, things that bring me down:

Too much time on the internet (it can be fun, but draining)

Too much chocolate or caffeine  (induces mood swings; the highs and lows are both bad, bad, bad)

Too much sugar (sugar or aspartame headaches are the worst!) 

Ignoring the thing I need to do (it only gets worse)

Being reminded of toxic people/situations I have known 

Mood diary?  Food diary?  More time in real life?  I am thinking so.  
More sun, when I can get it.  

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New Years Themes So Far

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Interesting start to the new year.  Refreshing connections, new projects, clearing away old stuff... I have given up on resolutions, but I like to audition new habits.  Maybe this year I will try writing more, eating less, more focused photography projects, fewer days sunk into the internet. 

After the holidays, it's like a fresh start. As much as I enjoy all the trappings of the winter holidays, I confess relief when it is time to taking it down, sweeping it aside to take on the new year.  I had my tree ornaments down in record time. 

Some recent endeavors:

Reworking the organization of certain kitchen cabinets.  
I don't take down the whole kitchen apart at once--no, no, no.  I do the FlyLady thing and focus on one shelf at a time.  But I "boogied" my spice shelf!  ("Boogied" is FlyLady talk for rapidly sorting and dumping that which is unused, old, ratty, unwanted or just neglected to the point of uselessness--get it out! pass it on!)   
I already have my spices split into sweet and savory piles, i.e. for baking versus cooking. Now I'm trying a new variation on that organizational strategy, using one of those rotating units I picked up a a thrift store a while back so I can see and reach everything more easily.  I cleaned the thing, emptied the shelf, and decided which spices and herbs were good enough to go back. Some jars I have had since I was in college--ugh!  I also repackaged a few things, such as my bay leaves in a small glass jar.   I sometimes get herbs in small plastic bags, but I can't stand having a pile of teeny plastic bags everywhere!  I am gradually moving to small, refillable containers.  Well, it's a start.   The sweet stuff went on the rotating thingie. The savory had two tiers--a tall back and an alphabetized front row of my most commonly used herbs.   

It felt very good to ditch some of the old stuff I don't use any more. Clear it out!

I'm also purging a lot of old glass jars, keeping only ones of a certain size for food storage to simplify things.  I might be able to pass on some of the larger ones to my sister.   Another shelf in another cabinet is getting a makeover too. One shelf for drinking glasses only, one for nothing by glass jars and containers.  It sounds so mundane, I know, but it really helps me to have things simplified and organized.  Not five eight different versions of things I don't use, but the top three I find most useful.  Plus the visual clarity of having it categorized so neatly is relaxing, helps me keep the ol' brain focused. 

I am rearranging a few larger items in the kitchen as well. Like a little mini table that I usually keep for the water filter (drinking water) needs to go in a different nook and not taking up space in the conveniently inconvenient location.  Of course, everything I move gets wiped down and boogied/decluttered. 

And speaking of decluttering, I am working on getting junk off the kitchen floor. There are a few corners in which the random piece collects like driftwood.  I am sick of it!  My goal is to find a home for all of the useful stuff and junk the rest.  Gradually, gradually, I am streamlining my appliances and random kitchen stuff, keeping only that which we use and enjoy. 

On a non-kitchen note, I am wanting to write more and keep a better focus on my various projects both work and personal.  Some of that is helped by decluttering enough to have space to work. Some of it is getting rid of that stuff which is not working for me any more, such as paraphernalia from two careers back!  I have a hard time simply junking some things, have to find them a home and all that.  Other times, it's very freeing to give it to Goodwill or another thrift store and let them sort it out. 

I'm trying to build regular routines so I don't get so lost in distractions. For instance, I need to note my food intake better (M is doing some of the same, so we help each other), need to get more movement into the day to up my fitness, need to write more... need to get off the internet more! Haha, yes, the impossible task! But I think it's possible. 

Must keep up with friends more, meditate more, clear the small room so we can do yoga together, keep decluttering the house and basement, reading more, tackle all work projects with glee and vigor. Doesn't that phrase alone exude glee and vigor? haha 

Looking at my list, I realize that so far, my New Years has two themes: Focus! and Clear it out!

It's all good. It feels good. I'm riding that can-do energy as long as it'll take me.  Now I've got to go finish raking leaves...  Go outside and enjoy the air. I'm giving you permission if you need it. :)

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Happy New Year, and 2008 rushes onward with barely a howdee-do to the ghost of Christmas leftovers. 

We had a mahhhvelous Christmas together, relaxed and cozy, and then we spent the 26th doing the family thing over my parents house.  That was a hoot as well--especially seeing my littlest niece getting into the swing of things.  Then a couple of dancing and singing events, and suddenly it was New Years.  I have to say that the best gift was being with M with so much free time.  Usually, he or us both get a little frazzled with obligations, so to have time to sit around and talk or read or cook or shop together was so fun.   I actually resisted turning on my computer the entire day of Christmas, and it was amazingly refreshing, leaving space for all sorts of other things.  It brings to mind what a friend once said about her computer: It's a phenomenal time-waster.   I resolved last week to find more days that are non-internet days. 

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Anyhoo, it was a lovely time. We also went to the Sunday nativity play service at my church, although we ran so darn late.  M  is even worse than I am for running things down to the wire, so I was steaming in the car on the way over, just furious.  I hate being late. But then I decided that I wasn't going to give him further grief about that.  Just let it go.  And what do you know. It worked... I can't change him, but somehow a generosity worked its way in there, and I felt more at peace with it, and it seemed to give him a more generous space too.  Very cool. More about that later if I can figure out how to write it. 

We really enjoyed the musical nativity play. The music was something else, joyful and moving. I found it unexpectedly hard, though, when they started singing a number called "would you like to hold the baby?"  I felt like I was strangling on grief or something.  I couldn't hold back tears, but I was not at liberty to just start gasping and sobbing and carrying on!  Then I was really glad that we had come in so late and were sitting just inside the door in back, out of sight of most people.  I didn't have to worry so much about the unappetizing look of my snotty face.  M looked at me in concern, but I just shook my head... It did cross my mind to wonder if I should leave, but what would be the ultimate effect of that? Would I actually feel better by leaving? Nah... I wanted to be there.  I needed to be there.  Not my fault that it brought all kinds of raw emotions to the surface.  I was just glad that I could be there without being stared at.  It's so awkward to display emotion in public.  People are so concerned and yet one doesn't really want to explain or... 

After the service, I ran into someone who I used to sing with who had just moved back to town. She said she had had a hard time keeping her composure singing in the last half after she saw me tearing up.  Oh, was that you singing up front? lol  Me without my glasses did not even recognize her way up there!  I just thought it was lovely how I wasn't the only one feeling overly-moved. haha  I told her -- You know me; I come to church to cry!  

Then I ran into one of our ministers later.  She asked me meaningfully but discretely if we had heard any news (meaning our adoption proceedings, since she had written one of our reference letters for us way back when).  I gently broke it to her that the only news was that the wait would take years.  She said... well, even if I am not in town, please email or call me when something happens!   She's about to be gone for a long while, so it was sweet to hear that.   I confided that the nativity service had been hard on me. She looked at me searchingly and asked how I was doing with that, and did I feel okay about it.  I couldn't come up with anything to say...  After all, what *I* feel about it is irrelevant to the reality of the situation!   After I said something of that, she mused that perhaps this was good preparation for becoming a parent, how some things are jut out of our control.  Yeah, I guess so. I am sure learning stuff about forbearance! 

And then we went to the Christmas Eve service and that was even more lovely. I can barely sing Silent Night at the end--it always chokes me up.  Then I realized that rather than try to choke out the tune, I could just smile and drink in the scene: candle light and a church full of fellowship and music.  It was really beautiful.   And then I found could sing the last two lines. Damn. Making me tear up again just writing about it.  There lies the sacred, the ineffable joy and sorrow all mixed together. Ah, life.  

And then bringing in the new year surrounded by friends and music...  You know, 2007 was actually a pretty good year for us.  I can remember last January and projects I did back then...major happenings in Feb and March...  it doesn't seem that long ago at all... I look back in astonishment.  So much cool stuff in the last year.  If I could have another year like last year, it wouldn't be bad. 

So now, taking down the lights and decorations in a rush of activity, putting new projects and phases into action, I feel optimistic.  It's a new year, and onward!  

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