On unempathetic headfighting

I have a handful of friends I very (very, very) rarely see in person. We live too far apart and our lives don’t collide on any kind of regular basis. Instead, we write (and now that corona’s struck, we have more time for more in-depth writing). Technology is a wonderful thing.

Except.

Except, regardless of all the emojis and jokes and stories of our days and silly photos of things we find share-worthy, sometimes words fail to convey the emotion behind the keyboard.

Things that sound harmless in my head occasionally snowball down my arms and through my fingers, so that by the time they reach the screenpaper several latitude lines away, they’ve built up a dangerous energy and explode through my friends’ eyes and send splitters of bad feelings into the furthest corners of their minds, pressing all the niggly buttons as they go. The buttons I would never intentionally poke. The ones my friends are aware of but still, after all this time, haven’t worked out how to disconnect. The ones that are hard-wired into the central nervous system and which set off their own trails of destruction like dominoes or the mouse-traps in comedy films, except fully lacking the humour.

The same reaction can be sparked by the lack of a response.

I know how well these automatic reactions work because I have enough buttons of my own. Buttons my friends press, as unwittingly and unwillingly as I press theirs.

Harmless isn’t always harmless. Sometimes it really hurts. Sometimes it’s the memories of past hurts that come to haunt us, sometimes, but luckily far less regularly, the hurt is new. The ‘battleground of past hurt’ is one of our most frequently but unintentionally visited places.

That we’re still friends is something of a miracle and I’m grateful for them and their patience and ability to work things out.

***

Accusations

My About Page starts with the following story:

Once upon a time, someone interrupted my rant about someone else, with the words, “you do that too!”. That stung for a while, but it’s proved helpful since then. It makes me stop and check my position before getting stressed about others.”

That accusation feels like an eternity ago. Since then, there have been (many) other stinging comments from various people, but nothing quite as soul-shakingly succinct or ‘for general-purpose use’. Things happen, people say things, we work through them and they’re over. Rinse and repeat.

Recently I received the following general-purpose slap-round-the-face-with-a-dead-fish type comment:

“… [you] like to win arguments through domination and tone, not solve anything in any factual or sincere way – it’s all unempathetic headfighting.”

BAM.

*breathes*

Ok.

I would argue (!) that I aim for factual more than dominating, but I can accept that I miss the mark (and hit the wrong tone) more often than I’d like to admit.

“Headfighting” is a word I’d never heard before it was thrown at me like a grenade, but it’s a good word, one I can live with. It fits me and the way I argue more perfectly than any other word I can currently think of. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

Of all the uncomfortable words thrown at me in one sentence, it’s the “unempathetic” that really stings.

No matter how much I tell myself it’s unlikely to be true, that I’m probably not completely unempathetic, the idea lingers that it doesn’t really matter how empathetic I am or think I am; if it’s not felt by the people I care about most, and this person I care about is obviously not feeling it or they wouldn’t have found it necessary to say such a thing, then it doesn’t count.

That’s kind of worrying.

***

Empathy

Wikipedia says: “Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Definitions of empathy encompass a broad range of emotional states.”

If anyone had asked, I would have said I often sense what people are feeling. I would have said I regularly ‘know’ what kind of mood people are in before they start talking. Once upon a time I was even proud of picking up mood changes by the punctuation people used when writing to me. I would have said I could pick up differences in the atmosphere like a people-y barometer. Sometimes I get so caught up in other people’s emotions that I lose track of my own.

Turns out that none of that’s worth very much if you lack the words or the ability to do anything with that knowledge (thinking of it as “know-ledge” when really it’s “feel-ledge” might be part of the problem…) and I lack both, to varying degrees in varying situations.

***

Emotional Vocabulary

When Kate asks me how I feel about things, I tell her what I think about them. I lack vocabulary for feelings and emotions and even when presented with a list (!) I have a hard time matching them to myself or other people. I once told her “I don’t feel.” In return, she sent me a quote that I instantly identified with:

“Others of us come equipped with a somewhat more basic emotional vocabulary that […] consists primarily of ‘good’, ‘not so good: and ‘I already told you’.

When […] asked what they are feeling, they usually say ‘Nothing’, and when they are asked how they are feeling, they usually say, ‘I don’t know.’”

– Stumbling on happiness

This is me.

This is so me, it’s weird reading it from someone else.

I might have a few more words than the person in the book, but it’s not a long list.

I’m working on it, but it’s a sloooow process.

***

Talking about feelings (and cats)

Luckily, or maybe unluckily, this lack of emotional words is only an issue when it comes to things involving people.

Inanimate objects, with the possible exception of glass, don’t care or talk about feelings. (The washing doesn’t care how aggressively I load it into the machine. My bike doesn’t care how I’m feeling when I cycle it. The weather doesn’t care what anyone thinks of it, it does its thing regardless of who hates it. The wardrobe doesn’t care how indecisively I get dressed. Glass, for reasons I haven’t yet discovered, does care what mood I’m in, at least enough to only cooperate when I’m being nice to it. Even then, it doesn’t talk to me, so words aren’t an issue.)

(Many) animals can sense moods and intents and act as they gauge appropriate. A cat might curl up on your lap and let you stroke it, or it might hide and avoid you, but it won’t talk about feelings, neither its own, nor yours.

People do. Especially people you know. In the best case, they care what you do and feel and they have their own doings and feelings which need considering and reacting or responding to. A while ago, when I was seething about something, but willing to admit that it wasn’t a rational something, and not wishing to explode all over the person I deemed ‘responsible’, a friend suggested I give my hurt a bubble bath. That is an idea I would never have had in a million years.

When it comes down to it, my approach to feelings (and empathy) is much more cat-like than people-like. Approach cautiously, then, if I like you, and/or I think you like/need my company, I’ll stay close and listen and maybe hug depending on the person, or if I don’t like you or I feel disliked or unappreciated or hurt or scared, I’ll distance myself (maybe after I put my hackles up, hiss, scratch or bite). I might well talk, possibly too much, but I am unlikely to talk about feelings.

***

Private thoughts and Button pressing

I love good words when they’re directed at me, but I’m more likely to return my sentiments in a hug than an equal outpouring. I don’t ‘gush’. It takes me forever to tell people I love them (if I ever do :/). I try not to get angry. I rarely cry in public. I don’t shout at people (in public or otherwise). I don’t (like) kiss(ing) in public. I don’t go in for public displays of anything. Private things are private, and even then, even in private, opening up to what’s more than just below the surface is something I don’t do easily. Stirring up what’s below that, is something I hardly do by myself…

Against that, when my buttons are pressed, and they are unfortunately quite easy to press, especially when I’m tired, and even more especially in writing, I can get hung up on something secondary, something unimportant and not at all the point of what was being said. If I feel hurt (or angry or any of the ‘not-so-good’ emotions) I have two main go-to ‘programs’ either retreat-and-sulk or claws-first, reasons-after. Reasons, especially badly explained written reasons (or any reasons at all when aimed at heart-people), aren’t particularly useful as either bridges or bandages, and sulking doesn’t solve anything. If I’m very aware of myself and my own needs, there’s a third option – to accept that I’m not able to respond to something constructively ‘right now’ and say so, but that is something I’m still working on, very very slowly. (NB: I’m open for advice on further options..)

***

Robotic self-awareness

Awareness is a hard beast to tame. Sometimes, when I try to focus on not stressing, not hurting (you or myself), not getting angry, not being unreasonable, not saying anything that could be misinterpreted, I end up sounding robotic. Getting rid of the perceived negatives sometimes seems to erase the humanity in the positives. I’m sure there’s some way of striking a happy balance, but I haven’t found it yet.

In primary school, we were read a story about someone who built a wall around their garden so they could stay safe and wouldn’t be harmed by anything. It took them quite a long time to realise that they were also keeping out the good things. I don’t remember the details, but at the end they took down the wall, and let everything in. That’s something I’m working on too.. Unfortunately, I still have overly-enthusiastic antibody-like guards to warn me that ‘bad things’ are coming and to defend me from them, and there are far more of them than celebratory-messengers to let me know about ‘good things’.

***

Dodging deep feelings

On a related note, when I’m scared by the deep deep feelings in myself, I’m liable to skirt round yours, partly because I don’t know how to help, but also partly so I don’t have to deal with my own. Sometimes I’ll actively pick out the bits I’m confident I can handle, and ignore the rest, sometimes it’s more subconscious than intentional. Sometimes I get stuck on the first bit of new information and don’t register the rest.

If you tell me Ghandi survived on a grain of rice a day and that you know that it’s possible because you’ve been close to death [by starvation], there’s a good chance I’ll focus on Ghandi and the rice. That’s something I don’t know and which causes an instant “need to know more” reaction. Death (and related suffering) is not a topic I’m good at talking about, at least not on a personal level, so I, mostly unconsciously, skip it. I’m not trying to reduce your experience, or imply that you’re not telling the truth.

If you tell me you’re so scared or worried by what someone told you that you won’t be able to sleep, and then, almost in the same breath, ask me how I prioritise what I keep in my too-small freezer, I’ll be 3 lines deep in frozen soup and fishfood before it even registers that there are deeper and more important issues at stake. By the time I’ve discovered what’s happened, we’re buried in superficialities and the potential for sharing (and possibly eradicating) the “can’t-sleep-tonight,-help-me” moment is gone. I don’t want to think about how many similar moments I’ve missed ;(

***

People pleasing

Being responsible for other peoples’ unhappiness is one of the worst things I can think of. Yeah, there’s all that stuff about everyone being responsible for their own reactions, but I think if you punch someone, or bash them with your suitcase when you rush past in a packed station, you’re responsible for the physical pain they feel, even if it wasn’t on purpose. I don’t see that it’s all that different for mental pain. If I say something that hurts someone, regardless of whether I did it on purpose or accidentally, it’s still something I did. Apart from not being a good thing to do, it hurts to see other people hurting and if I can avoid it, I will. I think this is kind of normal.

My problem, if it can be called a problem, is that I’m not really sure where ‘actively hurting’ stops and ‘not actively making them happy’ starts. I don’t think it’s my duty (or even actually possible long-term) to make people happy but I still feel bad if I do something they would like me not to do, or could do something but choose not to do it.

This makes it difficult (not impossible) to create and protect my boundaries or organise my own priorities.

It also makes it difficult to know when to object to the way things are said to me, especially if I can appreciate that the person saying them is stressed about something else. Awarding myself the same right to remain unhurt often comes second to being understanding.

Choosing to stand up for myself, at the cost of not siding with the other person, not being accepting, not being ‘nice’, is really hard, especially if that person isn’t happy as a result of it.

The ‘easy’ version of this, as something to practise on, is arguing about things of no consequence.

***

Self-criticism and slippery slopes

On top of that, I am ridiculously self-critical, to the point that if I think you’ve criticised one thing on my list of Things-I-criticise-myself-for, I will probably assume you would also agree with everything else on my list and more, and come to the conclusion that you think pretty much everything about me needs changing and that you’d be better off if I wasn’t inflicting myself on you. This is not logical or rational. I know this when I’m happy. On a not-so-good day, I can often recognise what’s happening and think my way out of it. On a bad (or very hormonal) day the slope is very slippery.

If you, for example, tell me you didn’t enjoy playing a game with me and that you would have preferred to do something else, that is entirely reasonable from your perspective because you’re letting me know something I couldn’t otherwise find out. It’s a knowledge transfer. A sensible reaction is probably to file that information and offer to play a different game next time. And yet, given the right circumstances (tired/hungry/upset/hormonal/whatever) it might well set off a chain of negative thoughts that are almost entirely unrelated to you or the exact game in question but entirely logical in my head, and before either of us know it, I’m having a pity-party that you didn’t see coming, and don’t understand when I try to spell it out, if I even try.

***

Words, in person and in writing

Words are tricky things. They evoke different feelings and meanings in different people. Nuances aren’t always minor. Explanations don’t always explain anything. What I say isn’t always what you hear (and vice versa).

In ‘real life’ face-to-face interaction it doesn’t really matter so much if we have words for things or if we don’t agree entirely on the meaning. Assuming I can remember the numbers correctly, the actual words people use make up something like 7 % of face-to-face communication, the other 93 % is all the non-verbal stuff; tone, gestures, facial expression, the way you’re breathing and standing and and and… We can wave our arms about and make faces and work out if we’re happy or sad or whatever. Happy is easy. Happy just involves existing and being interested and joining in the rejoicing. Sad (etc) is harder, but when I can’t offer words, I can offer hugs, or ice cream, or sit in the kind of silence that [I hope] isn’t oppressive. If there’s something that needs doing, I can join in with doing it.

It’s (much) harder on the phone, but I’m pretty good at hearing how people say things (I think), which makes it easier to know what they mean, and easier to change track or explain what I originally meant as soon as it’s obvious that something didn’t come across the way I intended it to. It’s instant too, like in ‘real life’, so you can work through things as soon as they happen (that’s simultaneously a potential bad thing, because you have no time to think out an answer, but on the whole still good).

In writing, this becomes horrendously difficult. If you can’t easily express what you’re thinking and feeling in person, when you’re face-to-face, with the whole range of possibilities, you have very little chance in writing, when you’re stripped to nothing but words and a scattering of small, round, yellow faces. Small gaps or differences in understanding can turn into a huge, ravenous canyons seemingly instantaneously. Even emojis, which are supposed to help, are subject to interpretation. I spent a long time using one smily as a ‘guilty-as-charged’ stand-in, later, I was told most people use it to indicate eye-rolling. That’s quite a difference. I use the monkey covering its eyes to represent situations when I would cover my face, apparently there’s a different one for that and the monkey is for ‘see-no-evil’. I can’t even begin a similar list for words. Ice cream doesn’t travel well, and since no-one knows what you’re doing when you’re not writing, silence can be taken as avoidance or lack of interest when you’re actually desperately scrambling to choose a fraction of what you’re thinking and feeling, and arrange it into something that can be read and understood by someone who doesn’t inhabit your head. Or you’ve just been phoned. Or your battery’s just died. Or your computer/phone’s frozen and you can’t make it unfreeze.

***

After all that introspective rambling, I think this is what I’m trying to say:

When you, whoever you are, are upset about something, I would love to be well-grounded and stable enough to wait out the storm and be an island if you need shelter before heading off again. To put myself aside and make a space for you until things are better. That….is not always a realistic expectation :(.

Sometimes I’m not strong enough for both of us, sometimes I’m in the middle of my own storms. Sometimes the way you talk to me hurts and I concentrate on my pain and not on yours. Sometimes I focus on ‘facts’ and not (your) feelings. Sometimes I try to see the whole story and miss that you need me to see your story. Sometimes I miss the whole point and think we’re talking about something else.

Sometimes I don’t have the words I need, to say what you need to hear.

Sometimes I let my words get in the way.

Sometimes I put them in the way on purpose.

Sometimes I suck at being a good friend, not just at being empathetic.

I’m sorry for the times I’ve been a lousy friend. Will you help me become a better one?

On going directly to prison

A couple of days ago I came across a YouTube video of a person I’d never heard of before being arrested. The arrest had been caught on camera by spectators. So far so normal. People get arrested all the time and people have had access to video recording equipment for a long time.

A couple of links and videos later I found out that this person had been arrested, tried, found guilty and taken to prison within a matter of hours (anywhere between 1 and 6 depending on the source). That seems much less normal..

I could understand them being taken to the police station or even to some kind of detention centre until the court case…but having the trial on the same day as the arrest seems a little bit crazy.

Also, although I’d never heard of them, they appear to be a Known Person. That means there’s a lot of public interest in finding out what happened.

However.

For some reason the judge issued a total ban on mentioning anything to do with the case, effectively forbidding anyone to report on the case since anyone who does mention details of the case stands to be arrested too. That’s reporters, journalists, newspapers, TV presenters, witnesses, family/friends of the person, random people using social media, etc etc etc. Some of the original news articles have apparently been removed from the websites they were published on.

That all means there’s no official information, which leaves a lot of room for speculation.

I understand (kind of) the idea of keeping ongoing cases non-public until the jury have made their decision. I would have thought that once the sentence has been given, then the case is officially over…

Apparently not.

That also seems crazy.

As does the fact that the arrest and consequent sentence took place in England. In 2018. Last weekend.

***

Regardless of who they are and what they’ve done (or haven’t, perhaps), can someone please tell me how it’s logistically possible to go to prison on the same day as the alleged crime, the arrest and the court case? And if it is possible, why it is that some cases take such a long time to settle?

On wearing nice socks

I wear odd socks. Odd, as in not matching, rather than intrinsically odd.

Sometimes they’re brightly coloured, sometimes dark, sometimes stripy, sometimes spotty, sometimes plain, sometimes patterned, sometimes with pictures. Sometimes they’re thick, sometimes thin, sometimes long sometimes short, sometimes in-between. Sometimes they’re boring socks, sometimes they’re just socks, not in need of a description.

Sometimes someone mentions them, mostly they don’t. If they do, they mostly only notice that they don’t match.

I notice other people’s socks occasionally, mostly if they aren’t wearing shoes. Sometimes I comment on them.

“Hey! [Those are] cool socks!” Smile. End of conversation.

What I have never done, is ask if I can wear them.

No one’s ever asked if they could wear mine either. If they had, I would have thought they were very very strange.

I have to admit that I’ve also never offered..

If someone told me I have nice socks, I would say thanks and probably move on to something more exciting. If I thought they were really interested I might say something like: “Yeah, I thought they were pretty cool too, I found them in a market in….blahblahblah..”

“Those are nice socks!”
“Thanks! Want to try them on?”

is not a conversation I’ve ever thought about having. Not in a million years.

***

Yesterday, while waiting at the airport, I flicked through a magazine.

Apparently, according to the magazine, 

“Hey! You’re wearing nice socks, can I try them on?”

made it onto the list of top 3 chat up lines for the next season.

(!!!!!)

Apparently that’s a thing.

I don’t claim to be an expert on chat up lines, I didn’t even know there was a list, but even assuming one exists, asking to wear someone else’s socks would never have occurred to me as a candidate, never mind one of the winners.

I have no idea how they choose what lands on it. Have they been compiled, thought up, tested? Do people write in with what worked for them?? Are there contests?

Several hours later I still can’t imagine a situation where that would be a good thing to say.

It’s entirely possible I’m missing the innuendo or a reference to something else because I miss a lot of references.

But I’m curious:

Is it me, or is the whole idea really really weird?

Do people really want to wear other people’s socks? Especially when the other person’s been wearing them..

Have I been missing out? 

On sheep dogs

Do sheep dogs care about the sheep who stay where they’re told? Do they even notice them?

***

Today my thoughts kept circling back to sheepdogs.

I don’t think I’ve spent more than a handful of hours in my whole life watching sheepdogs working, but every time I get the chance, I am impressed.

Where the sheepdog-thoughts came from I have no idea. Here they are though.

And if anyone is actually knowledgeable about sheepdogs, please share your wisdom. 🙂

***

They presumably know the sheep who step outside the flock better than the rest; certainly spend more time attending to them.
Would they prefer to run with the flock themselves? Or do they like being outside it, playing an integral part, and still not really belonging? Not getting involved, yet still being involved.

Does all that running about energise them or wear them out? When all the sheep get to where they’re going, are they proud of their results or frustrated by the knowledge that it won’t last, that the next day is sure to present many of the same situations?

Are they going through the motions, doing what’s expected of them, or do they choose what to do, enjoying themselves and relishing in the challenges, stretching themselves with more and more ways to solve the same issues.

On getting unangry

Getting angry is easy.

Getting unangry isn’t. At least, I don’t think it is. 

Yesterday was an angry day. (And I also didn’t post, so this is a catch up).

I asked three people what they do to get rid of their own anger and all three of them said they listen to loud music. One added that if it doesn’t work, they listen to more music (and/or more loudly). Additionally, one suggested screaming and one admitted to driving very fast.

I tend to want to hit things. I don’t actually hit them – I need my hands uninjured – but the wanting is still there. I also tend to cry. The sort that is uncontrolled and hot and loud and results in puffy eyes and an entire binload of used tissues.

Yesterday I went for music instead. It’s not the first time I’ve listened to music when angry, but it was probably the first time I have done so purposefully, with getting rid of my anger the only motivation.

It helped. I probably need a couple more doses 😉 but I am, a day/night and several hours of loud music later, down to a level of anger that isn’t, probably, going to involve injury to myself, anyone or anything else.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll find something creative to do with all this imbalanced energy soon.

In the meantime I will prescribe myself another dose of the Dixie Chicks’ “not ready to make nice (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IHH8bfPhusM) at full computer-speaker-volume in the workshop.

Luckily my colleague is on holiday 🙂 🙂 🙂

On red lights

There is a solitary red street light on the road next to the river through the residential area.

Does that make it a red light district?

On unequal injustices

I wrote this while on holiday in January. (I will aim to make the links work soon).

***

(Trigger Warning – contains information about sex-trafficking. May also contain too-much-information about periods…)

***

I was going to write a whinging, whining, self-pitying post about how stupid and mean and unfair and generally ‘meh’ it is, to not only be someone who inflates like a balloon* for the week preceding her period, but to do so while on holiday. Not only that, but to also start said period in an apartment where toilet paper has to be collected in a bucket instead of flushed down the loo. How gross is that? Also, it’s all very well peeing behind rocks when out discovering the island, ‘perioding’ is a different story, and the island im general isn’t particularly toilet friendly – the few-and-far-between public loos here close at about half past 6.

Yeah, then I watched a documentary about European sex-trafficking and underage prostitution and girls having to choose (at around 12 years old) between,
A) staying at home, where ‘home’ means in a hovel** with an outside loo or no loos at all, probably no electricity or running water, and a high chance of unemployed, abusive, alcoholic parents, with no real perspective of improvement or a decent education or a job of their own in the future
or,
B) going out into the ‘big wide world’, where ‘big wide world’ means leaving everything you know, trusting a stranger, or a cousin, (or sometimes, in the most harrowing cases, a former close friend who’s come back to fetch you), to bring you across the border to freedom, with the promise of a good job or an education thrown in, but actually turns out to be having your trust broken, having your passport taken from you at the border and being made to ‘work’ in a bordell in the backstreets of an unnamed European town (or directly on the streets) where you are likely to be drugged up and forced to do unthinkable things with uncountable, mostly rich, men who have too much at stake to report the underage, underfed, underslept ‘staff’ in their bordell of choice. One of the bordells they’d just arrested in the documentary, looks, at least from the outside, like a typical house in an upper class housing estate. Inside, behind closed doors (and closed windows), lived a group of ’24-hour prostitutes’. 24-hour-prostitutes have to be available all day every day. No respite. Instead of informing the police, the ‘clients’ complained to the bordell, the same way they would complain about a hire car: ‘this one doesn’t meet the requirements’.
This upper class housing estate is less than 20km from where I live. It unfortunately isn’t the only one of it’s kind in the world.

***

The worst part of it, really, is that I can’t do anything about it.
I am a glassblower, not a social worker, not a politician, not a judge.
I can’t make laws, and I can’t even vote for them if someone else makes them (unless they’re made in England) because I’m English living in Germany.
I speak English and German (with a tiny bit of French and Spanish for good measure), not Romanian or any of the other East European languages most of the girls speak. Even if we shared a common language, I have no idea what I could say that would help, I don’t have any experience of living in hovels or bordells or any of the other things they’ve been subjected to in their short lives.
I can’t help them escape, can’t offer them an alternative, can’t brighten their futures.
I can’t even pay someone else to help them because I’m close to broke – I will have to talk to the bank when I get home as my account seems to have a leak, or more likely, a holiday-sized hole, in it. And then I need new glasses. And to eat. And to pay the electricity bill. And the water bill. And the phone bill. And all manner of things which I pretty much take for granted as necessary for life, but which are probably unimaginable to a Romanian 12 year old…

***

If anyone has clever, or workable, ideas or suggestions for things I could actually do (apart from pray, wish and hope) please let me know.

***

In the meantime, faced with all this information, which to misquote Stefan in this article about ‘reading rape’, “I don’t even want to have in my head”, I think I’ll stick with my holiday in an apartment with the strange loo-roll laws. Maybe I’ll still complain about them, but quietly, and in the knowledge that it could be so unbelievably much worse. And I’ll enjoy the rest.
* I have friends who were less round at 7 or 8 months pregnant..

** a real hovel, not a wantable hovel like Kate lived in.

On 1337 likes and 13-to-30 request

screenshot_2016-08-25-20-30-27-1.png

I’m not sure why 1337 is considered a cool number, but WordPress has just congratulated me, so I’m guessing it must be.

I am a bit of a lot bewildered that so many of you luffly people read what I write, and a lot of a lot more amazed that you like it enough to say so (with all your comments as well as “like-stars”).

Thank you.

***

If I ever finish this stupid essay (and corresponding presentation) I will post something post-y to celebrate you all, in the meantime, it’s almost 13 weeks til my birthday. Approximately 20 weeks ago, I realised it was 30+ weeks to go, but I wanted to wait until it was exactly 30-weeks-to-go, and missed it, and now I’ve pretty much missed 13-weeks-to-go, but that’s probably the way I roll bestest and I suppose I’d miss me if I was less like me…My excuse is that I’m still reeling from the realisation that I really and truely turn 30 this year.

Considering it doesn’t really feel that long ago that I went to an older friend’s 16th birthday party and thought 16 was Very Old, I don’t know how that happened.

Anyway.

I turn 30 this year.

 

So. I’m looking for 13 (smallish) things to do which will push my boundaries and help me make the most of the last few weeks of being 29 and/or make me a better adult when I get to 30 (since I still don’t feel like one).

Send your ideas this way (baring in mind I work full time and go to school 5 or 6 times a fortnight)

I will consider all suggestions, but I most definitely reserve every right to veto your ideas 🙂

On musical confusion

Dear musicians, band managers and English-lyric writers,

Please (PLEASE) help me.
I have colleagues who listen to the radio. Even though there are several German bands, most of the music on the radio is currently sung in English. As the only “native-English-speaker” in the place, it’s my job to tell them what’s being sung.
I wouldn’t mind, really, if they accepted what I said, and went on with their work. Instead I find myself involved with in depth analysis and advanced linguistics.
Yesterday, for example, I was asked to explain and or translate half a dozen songs (including ‘I am the walrus’, ‘stay with me in the yellow’, and the band name ‘down2five’)
I could provide neither satisfying translations nor explanations. I don’t have a clue what the walrus is about, I don’t know how (or why) one stays in the yellow (or even what it is or what happens when one does), and I don’t know whether they used to maybe be 6 or if its actually supposed to be 25.

In future, it would be good if you could stick to band names, song titles and lyrics which make immediate sense, especially to non native English speakers. It would also be good if you only sang real words (God forbid the producers ever decide to recite The Jaberwocky.)

It can’t be all that hard, when you next write a song or name a band, you just need to think like a German. If you eradicate the need for the following questions you’re on the right track: What’s it about? What does it mean? What else could it mean? (Try using words which don’t rely on the context (words should only have one meaning each)) Why did they write such ridiculous songs? How does that work? Couldn’t they have said XYZ instead? How do you pronounce that? Why bother singing if no one can hear the words? (sing clearly, dammit!)…..

Thank you!

Jesska

On working with men (and trying to understand them)

I need some help with a problem that’s going round and round in my head. I’d be grateful for insights….

***

Over the last few days I spent several hours working with a retired electrician who’s a friend of DB’s. We planned, installed and wired up the new lighting in DB’s aquarium. We went shopping for the parts we needed and talked about ‘Gott und die Welt’. A few things went wrong, lots of things went right, and although we’re pretty much finished, and could probably leave it as it is, we still have a little bit more to do, because it will make it that much better. He’s coming round tomorrow to put the finishing touches to it.

The electrician is a great guy. I like him, and working with him is fun. As we were working, he said we work well as a team.

***

Before Christmas, I spent a couple of days working with DB. We planned, installed and replumbed the replacement kitchen counters and old sink. We went shopping for the things we needed and talked about ‘Gott und die Welt’. A few things went wrong, lots of things went right, and although we’re pretty much finished, and could probably leave it as it is, we still have a little bit more to do, because it will make it that much better. (There are also plenty of other projects waiting for us in the kitchen, and the rest of the house, just waiting for us to make time to get round to them).

DB is a great guy. I like him*, and working with him is fun**. As we were working, he said we work well as a team.

***

Today, DB and I went to help the electrician move a heavy wooden workbench. Naja, I’m not that strong, so reality, DB went to help and I went along for the ride.

Whatever.

When we got there, his son had already helped him.

***

“Your woman’s been bullying me!”

Instead of moving the bench, they both complained to each other about how awful it is to work with me, how I am nit-picky and awkward and stubborn and slave-driver-ish, not to mention my perfectionism. How I bully them and boss them about. They compaired how much greyer they’d become and how much they’ve aged since knowing me/working with me. They agreed that it’s a pain in the wotsit to listen to me explain anything and that it’s easier to ignore me and say ‘yes dear’ when I finally shut up than to try and follow what I’m saying. They swapped examples of things I did or said while working on the respective projects which they found superfluous and/or annoying. They laughed companionably.

As they laughed louder, I got quieter.

***

This evening, as I wondered out loud whether it would be better if I kept out of the electrician’s way tomorrow, so as not to cause him any more grief, DB didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.

Obviously I should carry on and finish the job with him. Why on earth not??

When I told him I didn’t feel particularly wanted on voyage, being as how they both find me a nightmare to work with, he said that was ridiculous; they both love working with me. The electrician wouldn’t agree to come back to finish off if he didn’t want to work with me.

I said it didn’t sound like that earlier…

Apparently, according to DB, it’s my own fault if I apply their words to myself/my behaviour (= take it personally) and think they’re getting at me. Especially since they/we live in Berlin.

***

Can somebody please explain male logic for me, because I don’t get it.

***

*’God and the world’
** and live with him 🙂
*** (most of the time)

On plans, mice and men

On Plans (especially the best-laid ones):

I was up really early today. I guess it ‘helped’ that I hadn’t slept so well, and that I’d got a text in the middle of the night so my phone flashed all night (which it also does just before the alarm rings). I got up, dressed, had breakfast…and had 15 minutes left…. So I got back into bed 🙂 Hey! What else is an option when you’re tired, it’s cold and you have 15 minutes to kill?! Naja, I got back out, put my coat on, put my shoes on (and laced them up 😉 go me!) packed my lunch, turned all the lights off, figured I needed a hair tie, turned them back on, fetched one, turned them off again. Pure and simple faffing about.

I got to work 5 minutes late.

How stupid is that??!

Anyway. I’m alone in the workshop til Monday so it didn’t really matter and I stayed on after so I’m all caught up 🙂

Of Mice:

Uh, nothing specific.. Just thinking of J.Steinbeck

Of Men*:

Why do they have to go about telling me how to live??? I’m sure they mean well… (I hope, otherwise it’s more stupid than I thought) but WHY must they assume I have no ability to think by myself? If the answer to my problem really was the one staring-you-in-the-face idea, is it not vaguely possible that I might have thought of it too? Just quickly, in passing..??

Argh.

Also my dear colleague apparently moaned/stressed/unloaded his issues-about-having-to-work-with-me to another guy from work about me while I was away before Christmas. And ‘the other guy’ agrees with him (and spent nearly an hour telling me why and what I should do about it and ugh – see above).

Is this new? No. Was it kind? I doubt it. It doesn’t feel kind anyway. Did it help (anyone)? Probably not. Did it change anything? Only that I will have to be more careful about what I say to ‘the other guy’ if they’re gunna talk about me. Do I care? Yes. It would seem so. Is that logical? No.

More Argh.

On the plus side, getting mad made me get creative. I have a plan. Not a plan of revenge or anything mean -I don’t do that- it’s a plan to save my sanity. Or what little’s left of it. I will hopefully put it into practise on Monday. Until then I will carry on scheming and cackling.

Lesson to learn from today? Assuming that conversations are like busses, I really need to learn when to tell people to get off.

Anyway. Flying.

I haven’t checked what I supposed to have done today… *checks*

“Today you are doing what we have already done:

  • Getting up and dressing to lace-up shoes
  • Keeping your sink shining

Now is the time to start exploring the Flylady BigTent Group. Be sure to read the “News” section. This is where you will find the Daily Flight Plan, the essays, and the testimonials.”

Well that was tough… Like I said, I even put my lace-up shoes on to go to work with 😛

I stopped writing just now to see if there was anything worth reading in the BigTent news thing.. I found this (dated today):

“Don’t allow anyone to steal your peace:
We often find that the ones we are closest to are the ones that will say things to us that are not meant to hurt (or sometimes they are) but yet you feel the hurt. There are several ways to not allow yourself to get caught in that downward spiral of hurting.

Remember that you are Special!! No matter what anyone says to you or how they say it, you are a very special person because you are YOU! You are a smart, capable, loving individual that is FLYing!

Remember that you can’t change how people behave — you can only change your reaction to their behavior. This means if your cousin Millie always looks down her nose at you and has a tendency to treat you poorly — feel pity for her because most likely she is a very insecure person that can only feel good about herself when she is hurting others to make herself feel good. People like this do not know what it is like to FLY!

Remember that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” (Eleanor Roosevelt) This means that you need to keep things in perspective and not give permission to yourself to get caught up in feeling inferior to anyone!!! Do not give anyone the power to hurt you, keep the power of FLYing around you as a shield and wear it proudly.

Keep in mind an old saying “those who anger you conquer you”. This means that if you give someone the power to hurt you or make you angry than they have won. They have managed to beat you up without straining themselves because you gave them the ability to do so!

Keep in mind that unhappy people have a need to ridicule or talk behind your back and yet some “helpful” family member will want to make sure you know about it, sometimes to protect you and sometimes to be the gossiping middleman. I have experienced this in many ways and I promise you that truly the best way to handle this is with grace and dignity. Do not respond to mean and unhappy people. It is not worth getting dragged into a family nightmare. The unhappy ones always have a way of twisting things so that they will always be someone else’s fault. Do not bother getting down in the gutter of misery with these kinds of people. Remind yourself that you are FLYing and that loving yourself is far more important than what unhappy and miserable people think or say about you. YOU know you are worthy and deserving of love not hurt.

When you feel that you can no longer let things slide or roll off your back, it is perfectly acceptable to say in a low quiet voice “I am sure that you did not intentionally mean to hurt my feelings, but you have. Excuse me I see someone I need to speak with” and WALK AWAY! See, you did not cause a scene or publicly embarrass the sad person that was trying to get your goat, you were polite, firm and left them alone without them getting the last word. Leave them with the words that you spoke not tears or anger. You are FLYing, this means taking care of you!! Finally Loving YOURSELF!!!!

You are entitled to a fun, loving, joyful, and peaceful new year. Do not let anyone take that away from you! FLY through the New Year!!! Do this for YOU!”

Ho-hum. Why do all the ‘mean and unhappy people’ have to work with me??? And what a bummer I work in a room with an opaque door. I tend not to randomly ‘see people I need to speak to’… Maybe I should try saying it anyway. Perhaps they’ll think madness is catching.

Normal task:
“Today you are to sweep your front porch area around your front door. Shake out your welcome mats and wipe down your front door. This makes a huge difference in how your home looks. We have a tendency to neglect this area and yet it is the first thing that people see when they come to your home.”

Hmm.. Okaaaay… Best jump to it then..

The focus was ‘Errands’. I suppose shopping is an errand.

 

*[edit] Okay. Not all men. Just the specific men who feel it necessary to instruct me on living MY life instead of living their own. Sorry for offending all the ones who don’t.