Random behavioral observations.

  1. This past weekend, I flew to Rochester to spend a few days with my sweetheart while he’s on the road. When I got to the airport, I went to the ticketing desk to check my suitcase, and was in line behind a couple who were chatting with the ticketing/bag check agent. The agent was lively, engaging with both of them, laughing, etc., and a small part of me was happy about that because I always enjoy interacting with people who are obviously having a good time doing their job, or at least are friendly, because it makes the whole stressful travel thing a lot easier to navigate. But when I got up to the counter, it was like his face went dead, and he could barely be bothered to speak. It was noticeable, and it was weird, and a little disappointing because my first inclination was to wonder if I’d done or said something wrong. He was decidedly NOT friendly, but still efficient and effective at his job, and I was on my way. He wound up working the ticket desk for my flight and was, again, cold and borderline snarky.

    So, a few things. One, I noticed my immediate shift to wondering if I’d done something wrong or if there were something wrong with ME, to cause this guy to go from super friendly gregarious desk agent, to stone-faced perfunctory person, in the span of 30 seconds. And THAT is something I need to work on fixing, but I guess it’s so deeply ingrained, to assume there’s something wrong with me first before looking externally… it’s going to take some time, and some intentional observation and processing.

    Two, once I got out of my brain long enough to stop assuming it was my fault, I started questioning what it might have been instead. I mean, I guess he could have known those folks he was talking to, but I don’t think so. Which lead me to wonder… in the past, especially 5-10 years ago, I’d had years of being told I was attractive and that I was INTIMIDATING to men. I guess I was told that so I’d dumb it down enough to make men feel more comfortable being around a pretty woman. Being pretty AND smart is too scary? Anyway. I got used to being treated a certain way because of my looks.

    So… was this guy being an asshole because he found me attractive and that put him on the defensive and he didn’t want to give even the slightest hint of his own feelings so he went straight into asshole mode? Or was it the opposite? Where I am no longer considered attractive, and so he decided upon first glance that I wasn’t worth him putting forth any effort in the personality department?

    Or… did it have absolutely nothing to do with me? I mean, I guess that’s always an option. 🙂

  2. What do you do when someone you are close to is in complete, utter, damaging denial? I mean the type of denial that is affecting other people who may or may not be able to discern what’s real and what’s reasonable from what’s happening as a result of this person’s determined and willful ignorance? At what point do you stop trying to shed light or change minds, and instead step back and let the havoc be wrought? At what point do you concede defeat on trying to introduce facts into an emotionally-driven situation?

    When people I care about are going through tough situations, I am immediately inspired to get invested, involved, and try to “fix” things and solve issues, because I don’t really know how to not do that. I don’t know how to sit back and observe and provide feedback without having some emotional involvement, taking it on as my responsibility as a person who cares to DO something about it. And when there is pain being caused by the problematic people/beliefs/etc., I don’t really know how to just sit still and let the experience belong to the other folks.

    But then I think back on the last “relationship” I had before meeting my husband. The person who lied, manipulated, cheated, and was (is) just overall a horrible excuse for a human being, as confirmed by some of the other women he’d damaged along the way. I had something to learn there, and I certainly learned it, but I also had to be in my own little state of denial in order to stick around long enough to get the lesson. Some of my friends determinedly stood by me, while still being honest and forthcoming about their opinions about that dude, and I am eternally grateful for that. For their honesty, because that is brave to me and shows they aren’t the types to go along to get along, and also for their willingness to stand by me and give me room to screw up. Maybe because they had the faith that I would eventually figure it out, and maybe also because his behavior wasn’t affecting them directly, I don’t know.

    Whatever the case, they were able to support me and be invested in me that way without trying to actively fix or change anything; instead, they let me be the one who did the work. As it should be. So I guess, ultimately, I need (and want) to learn how to show up, be honest, and be present, without feeling like I need to change or manage anything for other people. That’s hard. When people I love are in pain, I want to FIX it and STOP it, but unless I’m the one causing the harm, there’s nothing I can do to change it or stop it.

    And that all comes back to the way I’ve learned to sit in my own discomfort, instead of trying to wish it away or drink it away or eat it away or just ignore it or shove it down. Feelings are fleeting, and they can’t kill you, but they can sure as hell distort your perception of reality and drive you to act out in response. Learning to sit with feelings, acknowledge them, honor where they’re coming from, and then let them pass… that’s key. And it doesn’t have to just be my own struggles; I can learn to sit with the pain of others and just be present with it without trying to change it so that I’LL feel better.

 

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Brains and Behaviors

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “emotional eating” and how, for me, I think that’s an actual thing. But more than that, it’s a subconscious emotionally and chemically-driven behavior, so it’s not like in the midst of a come-apart, I go to the kitchen and start shoving food in my face. Instead, I think my brain is on autopilot where food and comfort are concerned, and I’m trying to figure out how to interrupt that when it happens – because it happens a lot, in all kinds of circumstances.

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Carrying (and unloading) the weight of disappointment.

I cried at work yesterday.

It wasn’t the first time that’s happened, and although it’s not a frequent occurrence, this time prompted me to dig into it a bit and try to figure out what it is – or what it was – that had me so pent up and emotional, that a simple question from my supervisor would elicit such a reaction. “How are you feeling about [the latest big change that was announced on Thursday]?”

Then again, maybe it wasn’t such a simple question. Certainly, the answer wasn’t a simple one.

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Abstinence: The Absence of Good and Common Sense (and the presence of fear)

Just say no to drugs. (Nancy Reagan in the 1980’s; Trump, present day) This will stop any and all deaths or suffering from drugs, if people just… didn’t do them. I mean, if people didn’t do them, there wouldn’t be a market for them, so all the criminals would stop being bad people, too, right? Don’t take any prescriptions, whether they’re legitimate or not. Don’t drink any kind of alcohol, even though it’s legal, because it will lead to other bad things (like SEX). Don’t even think about smoking weed, even if you’re hoping to use it for chronic (heh) pain management. It’s just SO SIMPLE.

Also, no sex until after you’re married. (Abstinence-only education, 1981; Trump, present day) This will stop any and all unplanned pregnancies, the spread of STD’s, provocative/slutty behavior, rape, and any other bad thing that comes from having sex for any reason other than procreation. Who cares if you marry someone with whom you’re totally incompatible? AT LEAST YOU WAITED UNTIL YOU WERE LEGALLY BOUND TO THEM TO FIND OUT, amirite? Read More »

Problematic Sample Sizes.

As I’m reading Ijeoma Oluo’s fantastic new book, “So you want to talk about race,” one of the many, MANY thought-provoking points she made had to do with how we are all the sum of our lived experiences, which means we view life through our own life lens, so to speak. And because we’ve lived those experiences, then we know without a doubt they’re valid. Right?

But when someone is different than us – whether by way of race, gender identity, class, etc. – then chances are, the life experiences they’ve amassed are different as a result. As one of a million examples: a middle-class white woman is going to have a very different lived experience than a middle-class black woman in America; the white woman will never know what it’s like to be judged by/for the color of her skin, to miss out on jobs because of the sound of her name, to receive substandard health care or education, to be denied opportunity or to be assumed less-than or viewed as dangerous or whatever other harmful stereotypes exist.

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Attitude of platitude(s).

Last week, I caught myself asking the question, “How do you know when what you’re pursuing in life is the ‘right thing’ for you?” Like, when you decide you want something in life, whether it’s a new career, or a relationship, or you want some other significant shift in your existence to happen… because people will tell you that to get what you want in life, you have to work HARD for it. But then, you shouldn’t have to work TOO hard or else you’re forcing it and really it should probably just fall in your lap or come easy to you, right? And if you force it TOO much, then it’s probably not the right thing, and you may even be going against the universe’s plan (or G*d’s plan) for your life, which means it’s all going to turn out poorly anyway. Unless you just trust in the plan – even if you don’t know what it is – and know that it’ll all turn out THE WAY IT’S MEANT TO. *barf*Read More »

You can change your mind at any time.

One of the things that blows me away on the regular is when I let myself focus on the fact that people have actually chosen to believe the harmful, ugly, factually incorrect, or just plain crummy things they believe.

I mean… think about it. Everything you believe – especially the stuff that is more of an opinion than a fact – is something you have CHOSEN to believe. Right? Obviously, if you’re raised a certain way, surrounded by a certain belief system or whatever, then you didn’t choose to believe it growing up; it just… was. But at some point in adult life, I have to wonder if it occurs to people that what they’ve been taught – what they believe – is actually a crock of damaging shit. Read More »

Sing this corrosion.

I’ve been thinking a lot about when, how, and why things fail. It sounds a little grim, but it also feels really practical. If you want to know how or why things work, then it stands to reason you might want/need to know why that thing might break down or fail, too. Right? I mean, you may not always understand or get to know the why, or want to accept the why or how… especially if the failing impacts you directly in some way. And REALLY especially if you would have to admit that you (or someone you love and admire) contributed to the failing.

Seeing your part in things is hard when it’s a painful loss. Looking for someone or something else to blame seems like a better, easier path to follow, until maybe somewhere down the road you realize you’re a common denominator, or you are (or that person you’ve been idolizing is), in fact, fallible and complicit.

The falling apart of a thing – whether it’s a physical thing like a bridge, or a relationship, or an idea, or a state of being like sobriety – generally begins well before it actually happens. A slow erosion… a disintegration… a chipping away in the background.Read More »

Looking back and up. (Part 2)

“What are you willing to give up to get what you (say you) want?”

Some months ago, I saw a post that said something to this effect. I’m pretty sure it was my wonderful therapist who posted it, which damn well figures. She’s great at asking the tough questions, even unintentionally, even when they’re not directed at me, even if they don’t seem so tough at the outset.

This one planted a seed. I woke up this morning, the first day of a new year, first day of a new week, first day of the rest of my life, contemplating just what it is I (say I) want in life, and then what it is I currently say, think, do, or what it is I’m holding on to, that’s standing in the way of me getting it. Easy enough, right?Read More »

Looking back and up. (Part 1)

“I’m great and I’m terrible and I’m great and I’m terrible.” – Fiona Apple

I’d originally started this post with the first lines of A Tale of Two Cities (it was the best of times, the worst of times, etc.) as an attempt at a deep, meaningful review of 2017 coupled with an equally deep, meaningful look at the year ahead. I mean… yeah. Last year was full of wonderful things and also full of really damn awful things. But so was the year before that, and the year before that, and just about every year and every day that has ever been. Just because I didn’t personally experience great things or terrible things doesn’t mean they didn’t happen somewhere to someone at some point, right? Read More »