Saturday, February 26, 2011

case in point

Rant ahead.  you've been warned.

See, this is exactly what I'm talking about.  I'm involved in a project right now in which I am the new person on the team.  For some silly reason, I assumed that we're all equals (we're all volunteers, no one is getting paid), so when it came time to decide what direction we're going, I stated my opinion.  I made it clear I was willing to do whatever the team decided, but I said what I thought we should do.  They decided to go with another guy's idea, which is fine.  I've been in this situation at work before, and I know from experience that I will be fine with this, and I will work just as hard for his idea as I would have for mine.

But it turns out that I managed to offend this guy, the one who's idea we're using.  I guess I didn't pussyfoot enough.  I didn't add in enough groveling qualifiers when I stated my opinion.  I thought we were adults here, I thought I could state my opinion, which was clearly labeled as my opinion, without having to add a bunch of bogus crap like "This is probably a dumb idea, but I think we should..." or "You all know way more about this than I do, but maybe we should consider..." 

That kind of stuff just doesn't occur to me.  We're having a team discussion, why can't I just say what I think?  But somehow, entirely without meaning to do it, I come across as domineering.  I really don't get this, because that is not AT ALL what my intent was.  I thought I was saying what I thought.

One of my favorite moments in all of the genre fiction I've ever read is in Mr. Impossible.  The heroine is a total brainiac, but it's Victorian England, so she has to pretend to be dumb and get her brother to present all her ideas so that people won't think she's smart.  The hero finally figures this out, and also figures out that all these years, she's had to squash herself in order to be socially acceptable.  So there's this moment where he tells her something to the effect of, "You're not too strong for me.  I'm not intimidated by you."  It completely melted me.  That's how I feel-- not that I'm such a genius (she spoke something like six languages and was a scholar in Ancient Egyptian what-have-you)(I'm proving my intelligence here by using technical terms like "what-have-you")-- but I feel like I have to sit on myself all the time just so that I can be acceptable.

Ha.  You wondered where the dilemma I've been discussing recently came from.  Actually, I was, too. :-)  I guess now we know.  There's got to be a happy medium here somewhere, but it appears that I haven't found it yet.

Friday, February 25, 2011

blog thoughts

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting regularly lately.  I think I finally figured it out tonight.  I have certain blogs of friends (many of whom I've never met) that I read regularly, and those blogs have enriched my life immeasurably.  But after I joined twitter a few months ago, I started reading the blogs of many writers and agents and editors.  They're thought-provoking, and I learned plenty.  But they are full of advice about what your blog "should" be like--have a regular posting schedule, keep your paragraphs short, etc. And they are aimed at people who are trying to market themselves and their work.

Which is not what this blog is about.  This blog is about me needing to type things out so that I can figure them out.  It's how I deal with things.  I put it out here in the hopes that someone else will want to read it (and I am eternally grateful to those of you that do), but even if no one reads it, it is still worth doing for me.  For the three of you who have been here since the start way back when, you know I've been intermittently ambivalent about having a blog from the getgo, but this most recent bout of not posting was different-- it was more about feeling anxious that my blog didn't match up to some other arbitrary set of expectations of what a blog "should" be.

So... all that to say, I think I will stop reading the blog advice blogs and go back to just doing my own thing.  Which means, for one thing, I have long paragraphs that are hard to read on a computer monitor, and for that I apologize, but it just seems to be the way things come out of my brain.  I will try to remember to break them up a little.  (This one is short, yes?)  And I am going to stop looking at the stats page, which has occasionally caused me heartburn trying to figure out what people want.  (OK, paragraph not so short anymore.)

And since I'm sitting here meandering anyway, I will tell you about Sense and Sensibility, which is the novel we just finished in my Austen seminar.  Tony Tanner, who is one of my favorite critics-- I used his stuff in my Shakespeare class last semester, too-- wrote a really terrific introduction to an earlier edition of S&S that is re-printed in the back of the current Penguin edition.  He talks about how S&S, like all Austen's novels, is about how the individual rubs up against society's expectations.  Unlike some of the more idealistic criticism written about Austen, he is a realist, or maybe it's pragmatism.  Rather than lambasting society of the time for its stifling pressures, he recognizes that functional adulthood requires being able to meet your own needs while you navigate what society expects of you.  You can't just do whatever you want to do all the time.  It would lead to anarchy, chaos.  You have to find the balance point between what you want to do and what is socially acceptable, and that is-- for Austen and maybe for all of us--what it means to grow up.  (is this sounding familiar?  I guess I've been thinking about this for several weeks without realizing it.)

Depending on your personality, that balance point can be all over the place, but it's there somewhere. So of course I've been thinking about the way this works for me, too.  I don't have a very socially acceptable personality if I just act on impulse.  In Meyers-Briggs terms, I'm an INTP, and that "T" means that I tend to act from thinking rather than from feeling.  I can be quite mean or heartless or dismissive without even realizing that I'm doing it-- I say something that makes logical sense, or is "true," and then don't understand why other people are put off by it.  So when someone tells me to just be myself, it's advice I  take with a grain of salt.  It requires "constant vigilance" on my part to not be someone who is just unlikable.  Because if I wait a minute, even just a split second, and let the first impulse pass, I can react out of compassion and kindness, rather than that hard-edged intellect.  But then sometimes I need that first impulse, because it's my snarky self, my skeptic self.  Balance.  It always seems to come back to balance.

wow, this has really been all over the place.  I wonder if it makes a lick of sense.  I think I will wait to publish it until tomorrow morning so I can read it again.  I was going to talk about my theory about why Tony Tanner has been relegated to the back of the book, but I think I will hold off on that till another time since it would be yet another entirely different direction, and we've already covered plenty of ground here.

in other news:  I'm putting the posts from Introverts Week back up-- those were some of the ones that got axed from too much time spent looking at the stats page.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I'm thinking about getting one of those timers for our modem, the kind that turn your lights off and on when you're on vacation.  Because I sit down to type a post, but then I get distracted reading e-mail, other people's blogs, checking twitter and facebook, and by the time I'm done with that a) an hour (or more) has gone by, and b) I've forgotten what I was going to say.  And it was important today, dammit.  If I could just remember what it was........  oh, well, if it was really important it will come back.  But if I had one of those timers, the internet could be turned off in the morning (when I'm home alone and can think about things) without my actually having to exert any self-control.  Then it could magically turn back on in the afternoon when MadMax gets home and desperately must play Runescape at exactly this second.

that's all.  oh, well, here is one more thing.  I think I am going to stop asking the questions at the end of the post.  I only started doing it about a month ago, because I was trying to get y'all to say something (*cough*).  But it isn't working (except for a few of you, thank you, Julie and the others). I don't know why you're such a quiet bunch, but it's OK.  I can tell by the stats page that you're out there, and I guess that's all that matters.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Opinions, Opinions

(this was written last week but I didn't publish it until today-- I am, thank God, finally over the cold that is mentioned.)

Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts. E. B. White said that, but although I couldn't find the date he said it, it must have been before 1985 when he died.  I think 25 years ago that maybe it was easier to believe that you could get the facts, that you could base your opinions on something solid, real.  That it was possible to be Right about something, and that your opponents were Wrong.  I find it a lot harder to think that way today. I don't think I have any opinions that I'm 100% sure are Correct. 

There was a great brouhaha in a certain section of the blogosphere this past week because an author--and since I'd never heard of her before this week, I'm not going to link to her blog or name her--wrote a blog post in which she objected to a negative review of her book by another blogger, a review which she (the author) had apparently requested by sending them a review copy.  It was written as a warning to other authors to be careful where you send review copies of your book, because you may not like the results.  If she had left it at that, it would have been fine-- in fact, it is undoubtedly good advice.  but she named names and went on and on until she sounded, honestly, like a whiner.  So your book gets a bad review.  Suck it up, honey.

At one point during the day I read it, which I believe was the day after she posted it, she had dozens and dozens of angry bloggers taking her to task for suggesting that they should not be able state their opinions about her book.

I didn't follow all the links, and I didn't read the original review that caused the whole thing, so I can't comment on it much.  but since I so recently posted about blogging book reviews, it has made me think quite a bit about opinions.  About how heated up we get over our own opinions and the opinions of others.  I drove by a house today with a six-foot hand-painted sign out in front that said "Impeach Obama." I knew someone who seriously considered moving to Canada when Bush Jr. was elected.  I know people who believe their children will be permanently warped if one of their teachers is gay.  I know people who think that you are frivolous and uneducated if you use plastic grocery bags.

Sometimes it just makes me want to toss the whole thing and have no opinions at all. (which is an opinion. I know, I know.)  Maybe because I was raised to have such strong opinions about so many things, and I did.  I believed.  But by the time I was 30, I didn't.  And now that I'm nearly 50, I believe differently than I did at 30.  I understand something about the mutability of beliefs and opinions.  It's hard for me to take my opinions very seriously.

I do have them.  I've got this nasty cold, and I indulged myself by letting myself sit on the couch all afternoon and read a novel.  It was a really intriguing novel, and it was going so well, until it had a truly terrible ending.  It ruined my day.  I spent half an hour after I finished it composing a blog review in my head in which I described in detail all the reasons why it was such a terrible ending.  It was satisfying.  It felt almost like revenge, because I felt betrayed by that author.  To write a book that was so good, so emotionally true that she had me in tears at page 300, but then by page 385 to have botched it so badly that I just wanted to throw it away.  I wished I hadn't read it. 

But even as I wrote that post in my head, I knew I wouldn't publish it.  It's just my opinion.  Is it worth it?  If that author has a Google flag turned on that sends her a link when a blogger mentions her name or one of her books, do I really want her to read all the reasons I hated that ending?  Part of me thinks, Well, yeah, I kind of do.  But part of me thinks of that other poor author this week, who unwittingly stepped into a minefield.  People she'd never heard of before wrote long, scathing comments.  Her friends came to defend her.  I'm sure she was horrified.

I had something slightly similar happen to me.  I wrote a negative book review last summer in a different blog, back when I had two blogs.  I started the second blog as a lark, a place where I could anonymously write snarky reviews of books that had disappointed me.  It had never occurred to me that people would actually read it.  I seem to only have a couple dozen readers of this blog, and that one got even less traffic.  But somehow that one review, the one in which I was particularly negative, must have gotten picked up somehow by someone.  I don't know who, because no one ever commented on it.  but months after I quit posting to that blog, that one post was still getting half a dozen hits per week (sometimes more).  I finally just deleted the entire blog, because it bothered me that I didn't know what was going on. (me? control freak?  noooo.)  Maybe someone was using it as an example of how not to review a book.  Or to make someone else feel bad.  Or whatever.  I don't know because no one ever said anything to me.

I wrote this post last week, but never published it because of the complete irony of writing an opinionated post about the dangers of opinions.  But that says it right there-- you can't not have them.  Just promise not to take me too seriously.

Monday, February 14, 2011

short takes

Dh read in a magazine this week that there is a woman who has been sitting in front of the White House every day for the past thirty years to protest nuclear proliferation.  We were both stunned.  Thirty years!  She is missing her life.  Life is meant to be lived.  Is there any idea, any opinion that is worth giving that up?

Kindess, a topic that keeps cropping up on several of the blogs I follow.  It is important to be kind-- a friend of mine told me once that is the sum total of her moral code.  It's not a bad one.  I've been learning recently, though, that there is a difference between being kind and being a doormat.  Being kind is an intentional act, a decision to respond in a certain way because of who you are, or who you want to be.  Being a doormat is letting other people do what they want because it's easier than arguing.  Someone creases the fender of your car and you decide to let it go and not make them pay.  You're being a doormat if you're doing it because you just don't have the energy to argue with them.  You're being kind if you do it out of generosity, out of compassion.  What do you think?  does that make sense?  that is a relatively new thought for me, so I haven't figured it all the way out yet.

I'm getting better.  I'm still sick, but the cough is much improved, and as long as I keep taking advil, I seem to do OK.  But I'm not doing well enough to sit here for 45 minutes today, so I think that is all.

Friday, February 11, 2011

cough cough, some *cough* updates, cough, and the big reveal

Sickness reigns at our house.  Dh has had a truly nasty Cough for well over a week.  Bad enough that I've slept in the guest room several nights, which always makes me feel a bit like I'm deserting him, but one of us should be getting some sleep.  Then yesterday, I could feel it coming on, and by this afternoon, The Cough had taken up residence.  I've always been of the belief that the more you cough, the more you cough-- you irritate your throat, and it gets worse and worse.  So I try really hard not to cough.  To the point where tears are starting to stream down my cheeks.

But this one is well beyond that-- it doesn't even begin to be controllable.  The only thing that helps is continuous sucking on a cough drop.  I've been through more than a dozen of them since it started this afternoon.  I went to Target after dinner and bought four different kinds so I can do my own personal test.  If there's a clear winner, I'll let you know. Also stocked up on NyQuil.  The only good thing about being sick is you get to take NyQuil, which makes you sleep like the dead.  That's my plan as soon as I'm done typing here:  take a NyQuil and go to bed. 

But the good news:  no headache since Whinesday.  Yay!  So no more whining in this post.

School update:
I'm still reading Ulysses.  I got behind on the chapter summaries (I'm up to chapter 11 now, but I think the last chapter summary I posted was 4), and it feels a little overwhelming to catch up.  But it continues to be interesting, in a maddeningly difficult, brilliant, occasionally mind-blowing kind of way.  I'm meeting with my professor next week and will perhaps have more to say after that.

The Jane Austen class is better than expected.  I really didn't want to take it, because I adore Jane Austen, and if there's anything that will turn you off of a favorite author, it's reading everything she's written right in a row and studying it intensely. But so far, it has been surprisingly interesting.  I'm not surprised at all that I love her work, but because the professor, who has a somewhat dry delivery, shall we say, has come up with some really interesting perspectives.  Plus, there are only four of us in the class, and now that we're three weeks in and relaxing a little, the discussions are quite good.

Feminist Theory is also interesting.  I'm trying not to post about it continually, because if you were reading along last year, you know I'm completely capable of that.  Dead horse doesn't even begin to cover it.  But there are some interesting things to say, and at least one blog post is half written.  Maybe next week.

You know how neurotic I am about privacy.  But it's getting better.  I'm on Twitter with my real name, because I figure what the heck, everyone else is.  And it has been fine, which has loosened me up a little.  I've even been a little embarrassed recently to post comments on blogs where I'm logged into my gmail account, because it shows up as Aunt BeaN, and out of context, that looks beyond odd.  So I figured out tonight how to change it so even when I'm logged in to my gmail account, it shows up with my name.  I've been using it on non-blogger blogs for awhile now, so I think you all know this, but for those of you who don't know, it's Barb.  So if you see BarbN as a commenter on your blog, it's just me, finally figuring out how to change my username. :-)

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


I'm whining today.  If you're not in the mood, you're excused, because Lord knows I don't like to listen to people whine.

My head.  My damn head.  Maybe I should just stop right there and click publish. 

I am so damn tired of the unending headache.  I was doing pretty well last fall-- only two or three headaches a month until mid-December.  But ever since, I've pretty much had a headache.  at first, I was treating them as migraines and taking the migraine meds.  And that works. But when it gets to be three weeks in a row with a daily headache, and then three or four days of feeling good, and then another three weeks.... well, first of all, it sucks.  But secondly, I run out of drugs, and Maxalt is dang expensive.  My insurance will cover 12 a month with a manageable co-pay, but after that, they're about $30 each. 

I only take half of a percocet (2.5 mg) with the maxalt, so my supply of 30 which I got last November is still OK.  but that's another problem.  I do worry, you know.  About taking percocet.  On the positive side, it makes the Maxalt work faster and better, and I've been taking it long enough that there are practically no side effects-- about half an hour after I take it, I start feeling warm and fuzzy inside and think, Oh! the percocet's kicking in.  But it doesn't make me sleepy or affect my judgment or make it so I can't drive.

but you know, it's an addictive drug.  The state where I live is 3rd in the nation for prescription drug abuse, so the pharmacists are suspicious.  and they should be.  It's a huge problem around here.  And the poor physicians who have to deal with it-- as one told me, a big part of the legitimate good they can do in the world is pain relief.  But they can also be sitting ducks for unscrupulous people who put on a good act and then go sell it for $5 or $10 a pill at a bar somewhere. 

When I talk to a doctor and tell them what I take, they practically laugh at me.  2.5 mg per headache (I rarely take more because too much makes me nauseated) is such small change compared to what people with true chronic pain take that it is amusing to them.  but on the other hand, it is an addictive drug.  When I'm feeling good, I have no desire to take it.  It never crosses my mind.  So I think I'm OK.  But when it's been two weeks in a row of daily migraines, it's a little scary.  Do I just want the drugs?  Am I making up the headaches so I can get the warm fuzzy? 

So then I think, maybe I should just tough it out.   Which is where I am right now.  Four days out of the last five, I've had a bad headache.  Migraine? just a headache?  probably just a bad headache, because I haven't thrown up.  One day I took the drugs and they did their usual magic, but the other days, I've just chomped down advil and tylenol and magnesium and lived with it.  Usually by late afternoon it starts backing off. 

(My three guy readers should tune out now).  I'm pretty sure it will get better when I get done with you-know-what.  Last year I had two cycles (Feb and Oct), and so far none this year.  I think I'm getting close.  And when I've gone long enough without a cycle, I start to feel great.  But it sure isn't happening right now.  Right now I just want to slam my head against a brick wall because I think it would feel better than this.  Maybe I should take the drugs.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

disappearing act

(The third of three posts devoted to Introverts' Week, always a fan favorite)

I've noticed for the past couple of months that I always have my jaw clenched tightly.  I catch myself doing it, and "make myself relax" (which seems like a bit of an oxymoron-- forced relaxation), but ten minutes later I'll find I'm doing it again.  Now that I've been working on this for awhile, I'm realizing that it's not just my jaw.  It's my neck and shoulders, maybe even my entire upper body.  I seem to always be tense.

What am I so tense about?  I was thinking about that this morning while I was stretching out, trying to just let go of all my tension, and see what was causing it.  what's underneath all that?  Some of it seems to be generalized control-freak middle-aged woman, trying to force life to be what I want it to be instead of what I've got.  But another, perhaps bigger part of it, is a deep-seated fear that if I let go, I'll disappear.  I'll fade out of view, and no one will even notice that I'm gone.  It's mostly irrational, because if I disappeared, there are quite a few people who would notice, and at least a few of them would genuinely miss me-- dh and my kids, at least; my sisters, a number of my friends. 

It goes back to a real cause, though.  I was a quiet kid, and I lived in a high-stress household-- one narcissistic parent and one codependent parent.  Neither one of them had the time or energy to distinguish between their three kids.  We were just "the girls," and since I didn't have much personality (or at least not much of the kind that gets you noticed), I tended to just fade into the background.  It was so much easier for everybody if I did, and since I'm pretty introverted by nature and I spent a lot of time reading anyway, it worked pretty well.

I say all that, by the way, as statement of how it was, but without much heat or rancor, which makes me very happy.  Ten or fifteen years ago, if I made those statements, they would have been accompanied by a great deal of angst and outrage that my parents treated me so badly.  but at this late date, it just is what it is.  I lived through it.  I certainly know many, many people who had worse childhoods than I did.  My parents aren't bad people.  I love my mom very much, and my dad and I have made a truce so that we can appreciate each other (although it works best from a distance).  And time has passed.  It was all so long ago, and my mom has been there for me time and time again as an adult, no matter what her limitations were when we were young.

So I don't mean that to sound like a big pity party.  It's just something I find I need to deal with, even at this late date.  My mom wanted three polished little socialites who would help her maintain her standing in the slippery social minefield of the small town where we lived, but instead she got an athlete (my older sister), a nerdy geek who was more interested in science fiction than clothes (me), and a friendly extrovert who could care less about social standing (my younger sister).  My dad can't see anything beyond the end of his nose, so he never noticed us, period, as individuals--unless we made him look good, or unless he was blistering us with his icy wrath (intentional mixed metaphor there).  It's no wonder this is a problem for me. 

and it still happens.  People forget about me fairly often.  Sometimes I like it.  In fact, a lot of the time I like it.  I'm not good at complicated social interactions, and keeping my life simple and narrowed down to a a few friends and loved ones suits me just fine.  But it rankles sometimes, and sometimes it's painful.  I sat next to a woman at a baby shower for two hours one time and thought that we connected pretty well, but when I ran into her at the athletic club a few days later, she didn't remember me.  I sat across the table from a woman at a small dinner party one New Year's Eve (there were six of us all together), and ran into her two weeks later and she didn't remember me at all.  We sat across from each other for three hours.

Of course, things like that aren't just about me.  I know more about those women now, and neither of them is particularly observant of the people around her, or particularly interested in friendships that don't further her social goals.  So I don't consider either of them to be a loss.  but still it is a strange thing how often I disappear even in situations where I'm trying to engage. 

so what would happen if I just let go?  If I just assumed that I matter, without having to worry about it?  I'm working on finding that out.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

just shy of tomorrow

Years ago I read an article about shyness.  This seems to be my theme for this week.  Oh, the excitement-- it's Introverts' Week at AB3!  In which we will all sit around, read our books, and have nothing to say!

Anyway.  The article.  It was about shyness in children, and it pointed out that there are two different kinds of shy kids.  One is quiet and enjoys spending time alone, but is also peaceful and calm, and will look you in the eye when she talks to you.  The other is anxious, nervous, and afraid.  She may duck her head in embarrassment if you try to talk to her, or stare fixedly at the ground.

There's no question in my mind that I'm honestly an introvert.  I took one of those Meyers-Briggs tests in my twenties, and I was over the 90th percentile for introversion.  I took another one about a month ago, and was in the upper 80th percentile.  But I'm afraid I have more in common with that second shy kid than with the first.  I forgot about that article for years, but since I started working on this "erasing myself" thing, it has come to mind.  A few years ago, I had this vision of myself, with my secret blog (because literally only about two people knew about the first blog) and my fear that I would get hurt if I revealed myself to anyone-- I was like a little mole, scurrying around in the background, occasionally coming above ground but mostly staying underground, trying so hard not to be noticed. 

But you know, that's more than a little unfair:  doing my level best to make it hard to know me, and then expecting people to push through that to find me.  Bad strategy.  So I've been working on changing the way I handle myself.  Yes, I'm shy and I'm introverted, and I thrive on lots of time by myself, and I'd rather communicate with you through e-mail than in person.  But too much alone time and I start to go flat, like a balloon losing its helium.  I'm letting go of fear (or trying to), and pushing myself to connect more often with people I care about.

One of the changes I made was telling people about this blog. It used to make me so nervous, but finally last year I started just mentioning it casually now and then, and you know what?  Nobody cares.  Or, rather, almost nobody cares.  For some reason I thought if I told people about it, they would rush right home, pull it up on the screen, and read every post forever after.  But in all the times that I've mentioned it to someone, only one or two people have actually followed up and read it.  The big scary one was telling my family about it, but that turned out to be a non-issue.  One of my sisters checked it a few times, but other than that, I don't think they really care.  Which is such a huge relief for me-- now they know about it, I'm not keeping it a secret, but none of them ever reads it, so I don't have to worry about it.  Cool.  My philosophy now is that the people who might be interested will find it without me worrying about it.

I think there was a point to this but I can't remember what it was.  Introverts week may have one more post tomorrow.

P.S.  (added the next day)  It occurs to me that I may be giving the wrong impression for those who don't know me irl. I am shy and somewhat reserved, but I have friends, I go out and do things, I'm fairly active in our community and volunteer many places-- or at least, I did before I went back to school and ran out of time. My son has his friends over and I joke with them. I have a group of four or five women I meet with regularly for coffee. But at the same time, all the stuff in the last few posts is true. They're both sides of me.  Just didn't want you to think that I sit at home in a closet being weirdly withdrawn.

Friday, February 04, 2011

coping strategies

I saw a therapist for a couple of years not long after we moved here-- so probably 14 or 15 years ago or so-- who thought so differently than me that she was highly effective.  One of the best things I learned from her was the idea of coping strategies.  We talked about the ways I had learned to handle the difficulties of growing up in my childhood home (which was not horrible, just garden variety stuff), and how those skills, those coping strategies, could be used to my benefit now.

For example.  I am not a big fan of confrontation.  I have a hard time thinking quickly in an emotionally intense situation, so I become tongue-tied.  Plus, as I've said before, I'm pretty hyper-sensitive, and the heightened emotions around confrontations were scary to me as a child (and sometimes still are).  So I learned the skill of avoidance.  If dad was mad, avoid him.  If mom disapproved of something I was doing, avoid her and do it anyway, although never to the point where I would then have to have a confrontation about it.

Before this therapist--we'll call her June--I thought of that as a bad thing.  Common wisdom says that you should always meet your challenges head on, right?  But June said, you're good at avoidance.  It's worked for you in the past.  Play to your strengths.  How can we make it into a conscious strategy, something that works for you instead of against you?  Rather than seeing it as a bad thing, see it as one of several tools that you have to handle a confrontation.

What works about avoidance?  For one thing, if you let something go for a few hours or days without confrontation, it often clears up with the passage of time anyway.  For another, if I avoid confrontation right in the thick of my emotions, I have time to think about what I want to say so I don't become tongue-tied.  The bad part about avoidance?  if you carry it too far, it gets out of hand.  If you avoid too long, people don't realize you're upset or mad about something when you are.  There is a point where it becomes lying by omission.

Another example.  Over the past couple of years, I've become aware of how the habit of effacing myself -- which I mentioned on Wednesday-- has become self-destructive.  For a long time, it didn't seem that way to me.  I'm pretty introverted anyway, and it just makes life flow along so much more easily when you try not to bother people.  But there comes a point where no one knows who you are because you've so thoroughly erased yourself.  I think I had reached that point a few years ago.  I've been working on it.

Today I've been trying to re-cast it as June would have.  In my childhood home and with my personality, erasing myself, disappearing, was an excellent coping strategy.  There was a lot of very complex emotional stuff floating around in our house.  With my hyper-sensitivity and also being pretty dang bad at handling complex interactions with other people, disappearing worked really well.  Being able to fly under the radar, to ghost myself and disappear, made all the crap a lot easier to handle.

So what still works about disappearing?  it gives me a break, for one thing.  All those exhausting complicated social interactions overwhelm me sometimes, and the ability to disappear--for a few minutes or a few days-- gives me a chance to revive, refresh.  But other than that, I think it mostly works against me now.  It's not honest.  And it's lonely.  Recognizing that I'm an introvert is one thing, but shutting myself off is another.  Ha-- that's another post that's floating around in my head, so maybe I'll stop there and finish this up next week.  Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

January reading report: just one book, and endings

The only book I'm reporting on that I read in January is The Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer.  (Not because it's the only one I read, but because I haven't finished any of the other ones yet.)  Georgette Heyer is the grande-dame of romantic fiction.  Her books were published in the 40s and 50s, and I've heard about her for years, but I'd never read one.  She's old school-- no explicit sex here.  But she has a reputation for writing funny dialogue and engaging characters.

So I picked this one up somewhere, and loved it.  Slight qualification:  I ended up loving it.  About halfway through, I was ready to throw it out the window, because the heroine grated on me.  There is a type of heroine who is utterly determined to do what she wants no matter what impact it has one anyone around her.  "Headstrong," they used to call it.  Opinionated, bossy, self-confident, even narcissistic at times.  But also interesting, intelligent, and large-hearted.  I thought it was a recent development, because there are a number of examples from books that have been published in the last five years, and I chalked it up to all those young women who were raised in the 70s and 80s in the height of the second wave of feminism and who are now adults.  But Sophy is exactly that kind of heroine, and this novel was published in 1950.  So I was wrong.  But it just seems so silly to me, and selfish, to think that you should be able to do whatever you want without considering the people around you.

Granted, I was raised the other way, by a sweet mom who was well coached in the art of effacing herself and who was only too happy to pass her knowledge on to me.  It's something I'm working on, and I'm getting pretty damn good at figuring out what I want to do and making sure my needs get met.  But it's silly and selfish to think that has no impact on the people around me.  It's a balancing act-- my needs and my loved ones' needs, and sometimes it's difficult to figure out.  And sometimes it's easy.

Am I rambling? So.  When Sophy insists on her right to do whatever the heck she wants to do regardless of the effect on the people around her, it just seems immature and pig-headed to me.  Not to mention historically inaccurate, because at that time (I have no idea what the actual time period of the novel is, but it seems to be a Regency romance, so let's say early nineteenth century) some of the things that Sophy does would have had profound social repercussions for herself and her family.  She was really irritating that way.  But there are two things that redeem The Grand Sophy:  one is that Sophy is often right, and the one time that she is egregiously not right, she does apologize.  And two: this book has a nearly perfect ending.  And that is so rare. For that alone I would give it both thumbs and all my fingers and toes way up.  I can't tell you how many books I've read that fascinated me, only to be spoiled by a rotten ending.  (Smilla's Sense of Snow, anyone?)  It must be enormously difficult to write a really satisfying ending.

but this one has it.  Sophy sets up the most ridiculous and meddlesome of all her schemes (fittingly enough, since it's the climax), and Charles, the hero, completely gets it.  He understands exactly what she's doing and why.  The way it's set up is pretty subtle, but enormously satisfying.  Highly recommended.