Category Archives: ways to piss me off

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!

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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?

Wall of Shame

Another company we will no longer do business with: Swing A Way Can Openers. Why?

My Dad bought our first Swing A Way in the 1970s, as far as I know, it’s still working fine in the house where I grew up.

So, when DH and I got married in the 1980s, I bought one for us, the first one was in a box which disappeared in the move. I bought another, about 1985, it survived moving from  FL to New England and two households here, about 10 years or so, then it suddenly didn’t cut correctly. I kept thinking I just had to clean it, and did, and then I got tired of that, and got a new one in a fit of “self-care” about 5 years ago. Seeing a trend here?

Yep. They moved their operations to China a few years back, and the cheap cr*p can opener I bought last has just been replaced.

Note to marketers: Selling me cheap crap isn’t a sustainable business model. I remember your name and I WILL do the research to find whatever new names you adopt.

In the meantime? I will add Swing A Way’s name to the others on my “Do not buy” list.

J

So?

We sold a bunch o’ stuff and donated a bunch more. My biggest frustration is that I either 1)donated the accounting with the things we donated or 2)put it into the storage unit with the items we returned there. At any rate, it isn’t in the cars. Fortunately, I DO know exactly what I took in money-wise, as I was doing a running tally with every sold item. I had $x until just before we packed and I thought that was it, and sold another item for $5 last thing. The money checked out the way it should (start cash + sales = expected $) and I would have been very surprised if it hadn’t.

But it’s annoying in the extreme that I don’t have the actual tally. I can only recreate about 1/3 of it out of my head, what sold and for what, and I’ve done that. Hopefully the stupid piece of paper is in the storage and I’ll find it tomorrow. Otherwise I have the partial tally and I’ll have to put something like (unknown qty/items) sold for $xx.xx in my accounting, and I really don’t want to do that.

The flea market was a success, both in terms of selling things and doing a major cull o’ stuff.

receipt book

Obviously, however, I have some work to do yet on actually getting organized. Or, more accurately, getting organized for not in a store event. I will probably just go buy another receipt book as that always worked before. It isn’t records I have a problem with, it’s when they’re on odd sheets of paper. I’ll fix it.

Zero Waste?

We have always recycled. That is for nearly 40 years now. Before you get on me about recycling and its virtues: in college my husband (then roommate) and I recycled our glass bottles at our college’s glass blowing program, had the local boy scouts cued in that whenever they had a paper drive we’d contribute, etc. Later we drove to the base recycling, because it was the only one available to us, it wasn’t the town’s dump. So, okay? I believe in recycling and have always practiced it, for for 39+ years now.

So, zero waste as a concept isn’t new to me. The “movement” I see is new. I agree with it, but I think the ludicrous “posts” I see of a family of 4 having only a quart jar of waste a year to be a cheat. Why? Because if you read these blogs, etc. a lot of what you see is what you’d expect: use vinegar, home-made cleaners, permanent cleaning tools rather than paper towels, etc. But you also see things like the cheat (well, I consider it a cheat) I found which turned me off of all such blogs.

The cheat? The person bought a pair of shoes and left the shoe box with the store. That ISN’T zero waste, it’s just being nasty, giving someone else your garbage. You might just as easily take all your other waste in a plastic bag and stuff it in a municipal trash can.

recycling process

Yes, there are things you can do to lower your waste. You can deliberately find a use for something you might otherwise discard. You can buy big packages of supplies (food and otherwise) and make smaller, more convenient collections of those things yourself (preferably in something other than disposable bags). You can use rags instead of paper towels. You can not buy things with pieces which are trashed every time they’re used. You can pay attention to what you buy and what winds up in the trash. How many bags of garbage does your household generate? Can you do better? (We use 1 a week, plus recycling.)

You can also save money and avoid a huge amount of waste if you just use more of your food. Or learn how to cook, right? Prefab food generates container and packaging you don’t have if you cook yourself. Think about it: when I buy a package of ground meat at my local green market, it’s wrapped in 2 pieces of paper. [I admit, if I’d remembered, I could take a lidded, freezer-safe container with me and use that. I didn’t last time, hopefully I will next time.] Anyway, because we make our own bread, the packaging for us to get hamburgers on the table is the wrapping around the meat. Everything else comes in a big package (like a head of lettuce or bottle of catsup) and is used multiple times. Contrast that with the paper napkins, wrappers, receipt, salt, pepper, catsup packets and bag which make up a bag of 2 hamburgers from your local Mac’s. Is it cheaper? No. Is it faster? Well, my local Mac’s is 25+ minutes away, so yes it is.

food waste

But don’t tell me you’re zero waste and go to a store, buy a pair of shoes and leave the packaging. Get your shoes repaired rather than buying a new pair. Buy a used pair? Donate TWO pairs to a charity when you buy that new pair? Try making it a policy to have minimal shoes. For me that’s 5 pairs: daily shoes, snow boots, fancy shoes, sandals, house shoes. My fancy shoes, if I have them, (I don’t at the moment.) are usually either solid white or black. My daily shoes are shoes I wear when I’m going out, they tend to be walking shoes. The house shoes are slippers or slip ons I use in the house, sometimes I use socks. Honestly? If I wasn’t in a snowy climate, I could manage without the boots and could use the sandals as house shoes and for the fancy shoes too, I have previously. That would leave me with daily shoes and sandals.

For restaurant take out, you can do what a friend of mine has done for decades: put a picnic basket in your car with real plates, cloth napkins, food containers, etc. in it and ask the restaurant to package your food that way. Some fast foods may not be able to cope with that, but some can. Pay attention, do what you can, and keep looking for new ways to lower your impact on the world.

I’m not zero waste, but I admit what I do and don’t foist my garbage off on others as if that somehow makes it “vanish.” It doesn’t. The idea that the things we discard don’t count or will vanish is a lot of the reason we got where we are. So, don’t tell me you’re zero waste and foist your garbage off on someone else. If it comes with the goods you buy, it’s yours. Deal (and be honest).

I Assume This Counts!

I had 89,000 unread emails acc. to my phone.  My phone wouldn’t pick up new mail. So I started deleting the unread emails/spam and getting myself off email lists.

I’m down to just over 86,000 32,000 this morning, I think.

Tonight I removed emails and my subscription from 3 more mailing lists. Should be several hundred less unread emails, if not another thousand now.

spam folder

This is just crazy! I don’t have time to read them, but the way my email account handles it, all these emails are put into either an in box called “promotions” or “social.” I almost never look at either category. Maybe I look 1 day out of 100 — which is how I got into this mess to begin with.

Be mindful when/where you subscribe. It can create a completely different type of clutter!

J

 

 

 

What To Do?

I got the runners I’d intended to use for the stairs, yesterday. The pieces visible thru the clear plastic they were shipped in didn’t resemble what I thought I’d ordered. Looked like stripes instead of checks. I opened one.

The jute in at least one place was dark and unattractive, but the piece was sound, and striped. DH and I talked about it. It was cheap. What to do? We decided to return it. If the image had resembled what’s here, I never would have ordered it. I cannot imagine using striped anything on a staircase, good way to set yourself up to fall. I do NOT want an optical illusion on my staircase or anything which might confuse us about where the edges are.

During the talk with their customer service person I said it wasn’t defective, it isn’t, it’s whole and sound. Looks like hell, but it’s sound. They wanted $33+ (on a $60 order) to return the 3 pieces. I arranged, finally, to pay to ship the things back to them, without them charging me 1/2 of the cost in a shipping charge. (Shipping had been free.)

So, after all of this, I am feeling rather like I’ve just been ripped off. The image, although it’s the right colors and materials and says it’s the right line, only vaguely looks like what arrived. Because of the conversation about the  insane shipping return fee, I went looking for reviews.

What has happened to me has happened to others. Apparently, they are a thinly veiled bait & switch company. They buy up goods from other companies, sell the best stuff, and the worst they don’t change the image, and make it difficult/impossible to return.

When I got up this  morning, I had all but resolved not to return the stuff, as I can probably get about 1/3- 1/2 of my $ back selling them thru the booth. But I have since decided against that too. Even if they charge me for the package I opened with the dark jute (arrived that way, as I said, I had the package open < 1 hour before I asked for a return authorization), it’s $20. If they try to charge me for the 2 packages I never opened? The easy answer for that is to take pictures, lots of pictures, before I ship the return, today.

Is it worth it? At this point, the way I feel is that either:1) they’re a legit company and they’ll do it right or 2)they’re creeps and even if I only get $20 back, I do, and it will cost them more to process it and deal with me and 3)Whether I get all my $ back or none of it, I will tell my friends, however it works out. I know how retail and mail order work and are supposed to work. I ran a mail order business for 10 years. I will make noise, a lot of it, file a complaint with the BBB, etc.

They sent me a customer service survey right after I talked to whoever to get the authorization. I won’t fill it out until I find out what they’re going to do.

First time I’ve really regretted closing my FB account. Having 500 “friends” online to post about this might just have guaranteed my getting all the $ back.

We’ll see. Continue reading