Category Archives: social custom

Amazing

Years ago when I was writing regular articles about retail stores, I would be writing about a certain kind of shop on a given road or in a certain area. I’d walk into a shop and say, “Tell me why you’re different. Tell me what’s different in your shop from the shop down the road?” And almost always, the owners or managers would tell me exactly the same thing. (To the point that I would tell them NOT to say exactly that after I’d been doing it a while.) I never knew how to clearly state why it mattered  that they distinguish themselves from other stores in the area selling similar merchandise.

Today? Today I was looking for commercial cleaning proposal templates I could print. I wanted to: 1) Perhaps generate commentary or something to talk about here. 2) See what commercial cleaners do differently than the housework books I have. 3) Try to locate the number I found once about how much more a certain commercial cleaner charged for each piece of furniture in a room,  I wanted to look at the house and see what it would cost. . . .

While researching, I found a discussion about why a business has to know why they’re different. A discussion by Simon Sinek, it’s an 18 minute video, but it starts with WHY, when most businesses talk about WHAT or HOW. Even the short version, in the write up here, makes the point. (The video is available from the link too, I can’t get the share to work here, sorry!)

I wish I’d known about Sinek before, would have saved me a lot of trying to get people to see that it didn’t matter how long they’d been there, how much merchandise they had, how diverse it was, etc. NONE of that is the real selling point, esp. if your competition says exactly the same thing!

I stopped being able to sell books easily when I lost the fire in my belly about books. I lost that because they were no longer the only place I didn’t hurt, they were pleasant diversions, but not necessary for sanity. I lost my passion, the why I loved books so much, and my ability to sell them easily, simultaneously.

In the same way, I lost my entertainment “muscle.” I used to be a superior hostess and was known for it. But I was continually on stage — felt like I was a performing seal. When I stopped being hypervigilant and immersed in the life PTSD had left me, I stopped the dog-and-pony show. Somehow I just can’t get it in my brain again that I need to be able to be entertaining: tell stories or do schtick occasionally.

There are people who put up with my low energy, non-performing self. And I’m not exhausted all the time, which is wonderful! Somehow, I just can’t summon the care to go back. I lost my WHY there too. I thought I had to be a performing seal or I had nothing to offer. Again, it was necessary for my survival.

I regret these changes every now and then, but not often. It’s weird not being able to do things you had done easily, but I just don’t have the goad, the terror shoving me over and over any more. I sure don’t regret that.


Weird blog, ‘eh? Cleaning proposals to business acumen to PTSD to what’s lost with healing. Not an arc I would have thought would work at all. I guess you, the reader, get to decide if it works or not?

j

 

Advertisements

I’m Not a Feminist; and I Am. Or. . .

I was raised by a man who grew up in the Georgian Era, the 1900-1920s. His ideas about women were to say the least a bit dated in the 1960s when I was growing up. But he also had this thing about how I could do anything I set my mind to. It was confusing, but many of the “shoulds” I got at the time were conflicting: 1950s vs 1960s sensibilities.

I like the idea of my home being an extension of my love of my spouse, our relationship, and as a way of respecting myself. It’s a notion which appeals.

That said, we started as roommates, not lovers, and neither of us is set in the men only or women only patterns which were pervasive when we were very young. I will haul and split wood. He will wash dishes and laundry. We both cook.

I am not a rabid anything. I don’t want to be male. I DO want equal pay if I’m doing the same work as a man, with equal experience. I DO want to be seen as an individual, a person, rather than as a domestic worker or sex slave.

I am content to be female. It wasn’t always so. I was really angry about the assumption that of course I would clean, cook, and caretake for any man I lived with: father, brother, lover, or spouse. I remember when a woman’s inadequacies were judged by how well she appeared in public, how clean her house was, how well she entertained, etc.

That was who women were when I was a little girl. I was dismayed there was no one to teach me. And more dismayed that my family just assumed (the two males I lived with) that somehow I’d acquire those skills and accomplishments magically about the time I physically matured, it came with using a bra I guess? Except it didn’t.

The primary model I had for being female was someone I didn’t want to be: my Abuser. She was a lousy housekeeper and a nasty person. The secondary model was her daughter, who saw me as competition. We weren’t buddies. Then there was my actual sister, who was a Martha Stewart clone. Didn’t seem to have much in common with her, either.

They sent me places, some of which tried to help: boarding schools, camps, etc. Some of them tried to inject a cleaning routine in my life. It didn’t work, because of the PTSD and panic attacks.

So here I am, decades after this started, still trying to figure out where the roles of housekeeper, spouse, woman fit?

And I still don’t know.

If wanting equal pay and recognition as a person makes me a Feminist, then I am. If wanting to learn how to caretake and nurture, to create a home makes me an Anti-Feminist, then I’m that too.

More Panic & Stories of Us

Okay. I woke again last night (this was written Wednesday), three times. This was better (?) than Monday night because I omitted the adrenaline content. I just woke up with a cramped leg, twice and a cramped arm once. If the panic attacks stay limited to the physical side waking me and I don’t wake up with the emotional backwash of panic/pain, I can usually just go back to sleep. I’m not sure what it is I do with my arm, but I keep pushing/straining with my feet. It isn’t restless foot syndrome that I know of, because it seems to only happen on the nights when the PTSD has a reason to be “active.”

I yelp every now and then and I keep waiting for the day the scream I feel inside gets out.

Poor DH!

But I suppose a few things: 1) He loves me, bless him and knows I don’t do this on purpose. 2) We’ve talked about it. and 3) It’s probably a small price to pay to finally get a clean (or cleaner anyway) house? I don’t know that one, you’d have to ask him.


I met him at a supermarket to combine errands and our other agenda. We were saying good bye in the market. I was at the end of an aisle, he was at the other end. I called, he saw/heard me and came to me. I leaned into him when he got there; he kissed the top of my head. Some woman we don’t know said, “Ahhh.” I guess she thought it was nice.

Reminded us of a few other occasions:

  • We both worked as volunteers at a public radio station. Because we worked in different parts of town, we usually met at the station if we were both volunteering the same day. DH came in and walked over to me. The fellow I was working with started to introduce us and DH leaned over and kissed me. The fellow said, “I guess you two know each other?” Um, yeah. It was cute.
  • Years later, after we’d moved north, we were in the local shopping mall, holding hands. A teenaged (or younger) male person looked at us and went, “EWwww!” I suppose that to him holding hands is the purview of people < 20? Don’t know. We were amused!

roman-kraft-266787-unsplash

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Baby It’s Cold, Culture, and Change

I first heard the idea that “Baby It’s Cold Outside” as a rape rant a while back and thought it a bit far fetched.

I listened to it again and although I could see the point, it still seemed a bit “off?”

Then I read Shatner’s comments, and something there seemed wrong, although I couldn’t articulate exactly what it was.

A short response to Shatner’s comments changed that. The comment, which I cannot find to quote, was something like, “You’ve missed the point. It’s not up to the guy.”

And the sun burst through the clouds for me.

Okay. I realized my cultural take was that rape is an act of violence. Anything up to violence wasn’t rape. But I am the same generation as Shatner, where, when I was young, women were ornaments, expected to be the “moral guardians” of their families, live for their families, and put up and shut up with whatever men wanted of their bodies. The penultimate Barbie doll outfit when it was new, when I was little, was a bridal dress.

I am a rape survivor, no matter how you parse it, I was raped. It was a violent act. I probably as a young woman put up and shut up 50 or more times with men going farther and using my body more than I wanted them to. I wasn’t discrete, careful or picky enough for a long time (rape survivor and PTSD both contributed there).

But I also described that rape, for years, to men, and even male psychologists said to me, dismissively, “Oh, you were date raped.” as if that made it less of a rape?

I was culturally programmed to “put up and shut up” because of when I was raised. All those June Cleaver, Betty Crocker and Barbie stereotypes contributed. And the sexual revolution changed a lot, but all that stuff still lurks under there, because that’s what being a woman was when I first saw myself as a girl.

This isn’t a bludgeon to beat men with Mr. Shatner, it’s a major cultural shift. I saw the song for years as a seduction song, not rape. And, although there’s no violence in it, I can understand now why someone could see it as rape, because the male character is ignoring what the female says, and that’s not acceptable any more.

sheet music

For years, I thought I’d processed the rape, I could talk about it right? Then about 20 years afterwards, I heard a show on NPR about date rape and this teen-aged guy said something like, “You can’t pay attention to what they say! They think they can’t act like they want it, because they wouldn’t be the right kind of girl if they did. So you can’t listen to them.”

I told DH about this later. When I relayed the comment by the kid, I started crying and cried for days. (Hit a chord, ya ‘think?)

And yet, despite all that, my first reaction was still if there was no violence, there was no rape in “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

I’m culturally programmed; we all are. But the programming has changed.

Hallelujah — It’s about time!

 

I Have Heard

that people are having problems getting off of antidepressants. Well, yes, I wonder what they expected?

The notion that “I’m sick, my brain chemistry is wrong,” is okay. But just fiddling with your chemistry and doing nothing to change your circumstances otherwise means that the drugs are what’s changing your life and that’s it. So, at the very least I’d expect people to have emotional withdrawal problems from the drugs.

Why did we stop asking people to learn how to cope? Yes, they may be sick or have issues, I’m not disputing that. But since when does that mean that you don’t give Stephen Hawking a wheelchair? Teach him how to talk into his mic? Come on people! Everyone has issues of some sort to cope with — everyone. Having issues doesn’t give you a pass for the rest of your life.

Somehow we got the idea that “better living through chemistry” meant that those pills were all you needed.

NOT!

I get that everyone isn’t a fighter, although it’s hard for me since I am one, to understand. But I get it. That doesn’t give you a pass as far as I’m concerned either.

Why? Because there are so many other people in the world. They outnumber us, by a huge margin. Absolutely, irrevocably, overwhelm us. It’s their world  and THAT is the piece you can’t run away from. To be successful, you have to live in their world.

I wrote this some time ago. I’m pretty sure I haven’t published it here, yet. I wrote it originally in response to an article at The Atlantic, but I was too wimpy to submit it. (Yes, I’m a wimp too. Not proud of it, but I admit it.)


I grew up in the 60s and 70s. Kids supposedly weren’t mentally ill then. We were expected to cope. No trigger warnings, no antidepressants (or not many), no safety net. A lot of therapy was Rogerian mirroring. Being told, “Well, I understand that you’re not that happy.” when I’d spent an hour crying about something wasn’t helpful. I needed something I could do, I needed coping strategies and eventually, I found them on my own.

It seems to me we’ve gone too far the other way perhaps? Maybe we’ve coddled the now-diagnosed a bit too much? What happened to being expected to cope? Don’t tell me it’s too hard. Who guaranteed anyone an easy life and when?

The United States holds approximately 318 million people, about 61 million have been diagnosed with some form of mental illness. The world is full of people who either haven’t been diagnosed or aren’t mentally ill. Diagnosis isn’t an excuse to give up and say “I’m wounded. I can’t help it!” It is a challenge to be met and overcome as much as possible.

Coping doesn’t mean you don’t hurt or don’t have problems. It means you realize there’s only one of you and several million other people in the country and you have to live in their world, just because they overwhelmingly outnumber you.

I expect to be called all sorts of nasty things because of this, and I expect to be told several times, “You don’t understand!” Except, I do. I’m not a doctor or a clinician. I’m someone who has lived through this. I’ve got PTSD, have since I was 3. The first time I was called crazy was in 3rd grade. I’m also a traumatic brain injury and rape survivor. I tried to kill myself twice before I was 20. My PTSD was diagnosed at 45. I’m 60 now — I’m still mentally ill. I always will be.

Below are my coping strategies. Hopefully, they’ll help someone else as they’ve helped me.

Herding Continents

Getting your ducks in a row, enabling the growth/change, herding cats. My visualization of this is walking in fog and pushing it with my hands in front of me.

Many times, the actual first step in almost anything is research and/or analysis, the background work which makes the goal possible, right?

If the goal is a PhD in psychology say, this could be research and deciding what type of psych. you think you’d want to do? Where are the best schools for that? Which schools can you afford? Are you eligible for scholarships? How much is it likely to cost to live in that area? How long will it take? Is the notion realistic, based on your personality, finances, skills and circumstances?

Next Step

The very next piece required to go in the general direction you want to go. Because I tended to beat myself up if I hadn’t achieved X goal nearly instantaneously, I’d dump negativity on myself, which usually just caused me to come to a screeching halt.

Next Step is my counter for that. My visualization of this is to look at my feet, then the direction I want to go and sidle one small step in that general direction. If you do this often enough, they add up! [Many people call this “baby steps” a term I loathe. It diminishes how hard it is, the cumulative effect of the steps (which can be huge) and insults my adulthood.]

To continue the example above, this could be applying to the school of your choice. Talking to the psych. department chair or sending a note, or . . ?

Achievements, Not Goals

Again, because I tend to beat myself up if I don’t do things nearly instantaneously, I had to find a way to celebrate my progress without just beating myself up because I still had not finished something.

Think about when you first started contemplating this goal, when you Herded Continents, if you did that. Then list the Next Steps you’ve taken. Give yourself a pat on the back for every step you’ve taken. You’ve done x and y and z. Again, to use the example above:

  1. Figured out you want to go into Psychology
  2. Researched different types of psychology and decided clinical research sounded the most interesting.
  3. Also researched schools and prominent people in the field. Am especially drawn to the work of Dr. X, teaching at University UX.
  4. Sent Dr. X a note asking about the program at University UX
  5. Received an answer which . . .
  6. Applied to University UX. [Or, decided that maybe clinical research isn’t for me and did more thinking and digging to find something that might be a better fit .]

What the outside world sees, as “concrete” steps are 4 and 6. But to get there took 4 other steps.

If you only judge what you’ve done by what others can see, you’re shorting yourself! Background work is often more extensive than the actual finished piece. If you think about a movie, you can easily see this is true. Behind the 3-4 hours on the screen are the weeks of work.

A movie may only have 10 characters, the actors. But there are all those people listed in the credits and frequently more that aren’t. Not to mention the years of learning and work everyone had to do to be able to do the work. If you only talk about the 3-4 hours you see, the finished product, you ignore much of the actual work.

Life is like this too. Herding Continents is frequently all the background work which others rarely see, Next Steps are often the more visible. Both count. That is what Achievements, Not Goals is about. Give yourself credit for everything you’ve done. This has a secondary benefit. If you have a tendency to berate yourself because you haven’t gotten to the end — yet — this is a celebration of what has been done, rather than only looking at what hasn’t.

Reframing is what I do when my approach doesn’t seem to work. When I was a girl and just starting to use make up, someone in one of my classes said, “She looks like a little girl playing with her mother’s makeup!” which was true. I hadn’t had make up to play with because I was raised by my Dad. I practiced a lot and got better. but I was still insecure about it because I’d never been taught what was right or wrong — or why.

My Reframing the issue was this: I was a theater makeup major for two years in college. This removed the insecurity. I made sure I got the training I felt I lacked. Reframing, coming at the problem another way, (taking workshops and majoring in the field for a while) eliminated the problem — my insecurity.

SF Tweak: The short science fiction I grew up reading was mostly written to John W. Campbell’s general pattern: hero has a problem, tries to fix it, that doesn’t work, tries again. That doesn’t work either. Depending on the author and/or the length of the piece the third try might work or only appear to, but if there was a fourth try, it almost always did.

Seems like an odd model for fixing problems, doesn’t it? But what I learned from this was that answers are not always obvious, if the first solution doesn’t work, modify it slightly farther away from the piece that didn’t work — and try again.

Turn it Around/Counter: When I have a persistent problem, that is I’m getting in my own way a lot, I find a way to turn it around or counter what I can’t change. Sounds wonderful and easy, right? Not!

At 19, I decided I had to do something different or I’d likely end up institutionalized for much of the rest of my life. I couldn’t fight the pain everyone expected me to just let go. I couldn’t let it go, and it never went away. So what to do? I decided that the Counter to the pain was joy (its opposite) and I would celebrate that and nurture it. (See Nurture Joy below.)

The trick to this is to find either something which stops the issue (like my Reframing example above) or if you can’t, find its positive flip side.

Nurture Joy At 19 I was hospitalized. And, when I faced that I was likely looking at years of being institutionalized if I didn’t learn better coping skills, this was one of the first techniques I developed. My problem was swamping pain which never changed. It seemed to be the pain from losing my mother at 3. Since I couldn’t apparently fix the problem, what could I do instead? The opposite of pain is joy. I decided I had to nurture my joy. I was stuck with a three year-old’s pain. I’d nurture the three year-old’s joy as well.

I had to find things which made me happy or happier anyway to balance or help manage that pain. I looked at it long and hard. I couldn’t rely on anyone else to do or say exactly the right thing all the time, so that was the first rule:

1. I had to do whatever it is by myself.

I had known alcoholics and addicts and it seemed to me the problem was that at some point, inevitably, you’re sober. Again, I wanted something which seemed like it would work all the time, or nearly so. Second rule:

2. No drugs or alcohol.

If I wanted to avoid being institutionalized, then I couldn’t do self-harm, harm others or creatures, or destroy property. Third rule:

3. No harm to anyone or anything.

For me, what fit the rules were certain places, books, music, and crafts.

When I was in college, I worked with a group of people, many of whom didn’t like me much (it was mutual). The job involved being there early in the morning. I discovered a certain route to work over a hill with grass, but no houses. There were birds and trees, other animals, still.. The days I used that route, it was easier to deal with the snarky comments at work. So I Nurtured My Joy I started leaving earlier so I could always travel that way, coming & going. It didn’t alter my difficult work situation, but it made it easier to deal with.

In the years since, I’ve discovered certain books, short stories, other locations which have this effect. I make sure I notice when I find them, so I can use them again and again. Also, because it’s a three year-old’s joy, I’ve been known to play jacks, color and do hopscotch and I won’t apologize for it or be embarrassed. I’m stuck with the three year-old, I damned well will take BOTH sides of her, not just the pain!

Life List is a technique I was given by a friend after I got out of that hospital at 19. I had believed that everyone knew better than I who/what I was. (This is a problem I’m told that many abused people have.) I distrusted my self-perception. My friend suggested that I make a list of things that were just mine, not from anyone else. At first this was just taste: side seam pockets, long skirts, and so on. But after a while I started finding that place inside me that hadn’t been touched by the abuse or by the years of accepting others’ opinions as truth.

Rage Engine: One thing about myself which always terrified me was the rage. I had a great vast pool of it. I knew I had homicidal rage, but I didn’t have any way to deal with it. I couldn’t really come up with its opposite and my other techniques didn’t work. I discovered that when I was being hurt and the rage came up that what I could do was use it as a goad to get myself to work towards health. There were many hours of “They’ll be sorry!” (The rage is a small child’s too.) But it worked. I’m not enraged at my family any more or even my abuser. I understand we’re all victims, but in different ways.

No Shoulds. This is consciously looking to see if the imposed standard is a goal or a requirement or mandate.

It’s easy to beat yourself up because you can’t do everything for everyone, or at least it’s easy for me. I fall into this over and over, if I’m not careful.

Give yourself a break and pay attention to whether it’s a goal someone has given you or a requirement! Requirements tend to be more concrete, like “100 pages covering the life and times of Jesse James, written for high schoolers.” Goals are usually more nebulous: “Write me something stupendous about Jesse James!” Well, yes, you can bust your ass and write the best piece you ever have, for the wrong audience. If you don’t know who the audience is, right? Learn to see the difference between a vague direction and the more concrete requirement. If you need more exacting information, ask for it.

As a technical writer, I wrote a piece for a client I worked on for months. I was proud of it. A technical person and I worked on it. We got down on paper and in one place the details of a lab which had never been documented before, except a little here and there. I was later told that the person paying for it didn’t want that documented, but another aspect of the lab. It would have been nice to be told before I delivered the finished product (and it had been accepted) that what I’d written wasn’t what he wanted! (He saw various pieces midstream and could have seen all of it at any time.)

Good Radio I have used this technique for years, but didn’t have a name for it. I stole the name and example from a friend. (Thanks Linda!) My friend was in college and living in a suite. Most of the women would wake up in the morning grumbling about coffee, classes, the day’s work, etc. One woman day after day greeted the others (including Linda) with “Good morning!” and Linda noticed her day was better after that.

I have done this for years, but not with words: I smile. When I am feeling really down, unless I’m crying, I make myself smile in passing at other people. Frequently, they smile back. It’s a technique with a payback. Their smiles make me feel better. There are potential problems with this, yes. I’ve had men think I was trying to pick them up. The most notable example was a guy in a car

I was on the way to the airport to pick up my husband. I’d been having a crappy day and I looked over and smiled at the car next to me. BIG mistake. He and I were going roughly the same direction. He pulled up next to me, did a BIG round wave and grin! I sort of faintly waved back. He reared his head back like an enraged Italianate opera singer and floored it out of the intersection. I’m more careful about where I smile these days!

The Thing About Stigma

I need to say this, but it really should be obvious?

I do not look down on myself because I have PTSD or security issues or sometimes react inappropriately — right? I do NOT have the stigma.

You do.

The stigma doesn’t come from me. I know why I’m here (now). I know why I react the way I do (mostly). I have spent a large part of my life learning wtf was wrong with me???

And the answer to that question? It’s simple: It’s nothing. There’s nothing wrong with me. I reacted in a normal way to an abnormal or substandard set of circumstances. All of the people with PTSD aren’t “sick,” we’re different, yes, but NOT sick.

PTSD IS NORMAL — in certain circumstances. Mental health issues ARE normal, in certain circumstances. Get over your superiority people! The only reason you aren’t where I and others are is that you haven’t been tested this much, yet.

How well do you think you would you do???

 

 

Years Ago & Far Away

I fell in love with a movie which seemed to me to be about the archetypical man and woman. It was visually interesting, but it was a western, and worse, a “spaghetti western.” I also fell in love with the score.

For a long, long time, I apologized when I told people my favorite movie was “Once Upon a Time in the West.” I apologized because I was raised in a household of “intellectuals” almost all of whom, along with my friends didn’t “get” what I saw in the movie.

Then one day about 15 years ago or so, the DVD was for sale at a video store and of course, I had to buy it. The extras were all these other, famous, well-known directors talking about how brilliant “Once Upon a Time in the West” was. And I decided that I didn’t need to apologize any more! My view of the movie was shared by all these people, and it ends up that Sergio Leone  had deliberately used bits from other classic westerns, to make it as much an archetypical western as possible.

OUATITW opening

Why am I telling this story? Because of “The Greatest Showman.” Okay, yes, there are places it falls apart — yes there are plot holes. It is visually stunning, the acting is good, the costumes, sets, etc. are splendid and the music is superb.

So Barnum exploited people? Yes, he did. So did the people who built the railroads, started the automotive industries, the steel industries, etc. We almost all live on land which was stolen from Indians. Going to pack up and move your family back to wherever?

Our values have changed, a great deal. Judging anyone from the past by your current values could be problematic.

Isn’t it also true that all of us at one point couldn’t eat with a fork, use a bathroom or talk? Why should anyone expect us to only take them as they are right now, but judge a movie or other artform both within its historical context AND by current standards?

If you only want to judge something out context, would you allow yourself to be judged the same way? Before you were literate? Still needed diapers, etc.?

Demeaning the movie because Barnum exploited rather than celebrated the people he hired is silly. I’m not saying Barnum was right. I’m not saying he was moral. I’m simply saying he was a person within his culture, like you and me.

I don’t expect to be able to judge his reality from my perspective and find him laudable. He may have elevated the oddities by happenstance, but he did. He gave them jobs, and a family of sorts.

jackman still

And I won’t apologize for liking “The Greatest Showman.” I don’t know that I care if it’s “great art” or not. Like “Once Upon a Time in the West,” I find it interesting to watch, visually stunning in places, and I love the music.

Why apologize?