LDS, lessons learned, love, musings

A few more thoughts on Saturday’s Warrior and sweet spirits…

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the 1989 LDS production, Saturday’s Warrior, which I inadvertently stumbled across on Wednesday afternoon. That post generated a lot of discussion, and a surprising amount of interest among the more religiously experienced of my friends. I realized that in writing that long post, there were some things that I never got around to writing about yesterday. Part of the reason I never got around to completing my thoughts is that my initial post was pretty long and I simply ran out of “gas”. Another reason is that I wasn’t quite ready to explore it twenty-four hours ago. Again, I only discovered this “masterpiece” two days ago. There’s a lot to unpack.

So, even though I have another topic on my mind, I’m going to write a little bit more about my thoughts on Saturday’s Warrior. Some people may wonder why I would devote two posts to a LDS cultural relic that doesn’t even affect me personally. Remember, I grew up Protestant, and wasn’t introduced to Mormons until I was a young adult. Watching Saturday’s Warrior as a child didn’t “scar” me. However, after posting about this on Facebook and RfM, I realize that it affected a lot of people. Some of those people are friends I’ve never met, and some of them have been “scarred” by Saturday’s Warrior. Even if it’s just because they watched it yesterday at my prompting!

The concept of the “sweet spirit”…

One idea that I was introduced to, when I first started hanging out with ex Mormons, was the idea of the “sweet spirit”. What is a sweet spirit, you ask? A sweet spirit is a euphemism for a young woman who has a “nice personality” and not much else to offer. At least on the surface, anyway. One thing I noticed about Saturday’s Warrior, and didn’t really care for, were the digs about physical appearance. I realize that this emphasis on physical attractiveness is a thing for most everybody, especially when we’re growing.

In Mormonism, physical appearance seems to be especially important, as I think it is in other strict “culty” belief systems. I’ve noticed it among the fundies, too, in spite of their insistence that they focus on a person’s “countenance”. The girls are expected to be beautiful and thin, so they can attract a mate and have the best life. But I’ve known a lot of beautiful people who haven’t had the happiest lives. Why do we focus so much on appearance and image? It’s definitely not the best indicator of who will be happy and fulfilled.

In Saturday’s Warrior, the concept of the “sweet spirit” is mentioned in the first moments of the video. As the show begins, we’re introduced to the couple, Julie and Tod, who are in the pre-mortal existence, waiting to be born and live on Earth, where they expect they will one day meet and be a couple. We are to believe that Julie and Tod were together before, and are an “eternal couple”, yet Julie is still worried that Tod won’t find her on Earth after they’re born. Or worse, he’ll find her unattractive. Here’s the dialogue that opens their connection:

Julie: “Of course I can’t blame you for being excited… all the experience a physical body will bring… new friends and… girls.” [looking worried] “Oh, you’ll probably be EXTREMELY good looking and they’ll flock around you by the dozens!”

Tod: “Oh Julie, I can hardly wait!”

Julie: “Oh, on the other hand, I’ll probably be very PLAIN!”

Tod: “It’s enough to make you want to CRY and SING and SHOUT all at once! Hey! Somebody out there! I’m COMING!”

Julie: “Ohhh!” [turns and sobs]

Tod: “Hey, what’s the matter?”

Julie: “All you can’t think about is getting down to those physical bodies!”

Tod: “Huh?”

Julie: “Oh, and GIRLS, and don’t try to hide it, Tod, you can hardly wait!”

Tod: “I can’t?”

Julie: [very upset and insecure] “Oh, so you ADMIT IT!!” [defeated] “Go on, then. Have your wild FLING on Earth! Just as long as YOU’RE happy.”

Tod: [grasping Julie’s shoulders and consoling] “Julie… how can you say such things, after all we’ve promised?”

Julie: [turning with hair flip] “What good are promises in a world where EVERYTHING will be forgotten? Even if by some miracle we DO meet? What chance is there that you could possibly recognize me?”

Tod: “Hey, how long have we known each other?”

Julie: [slightly calmer] “Forever…”

Tod: “And loved each other?”

Julie: [smiles] “Forever…”

Tod: “Do you think we’re just going to forget all of that?”

Julie: [dreamy] “Yes… [suddenly horrified] I mean NO! I mean, I don’t KNOW what I mean!”

Tod: [embracing Julie in a hug] “Julie, I LOVE you, and if I have to search the WHOLE world over, I’ll FIND you…”

Julie: [turns away, upset]

Tod: [insistently grabbing her] “And as for not recognizing each other, why, that’s like saying that the sun, and the moon, and the stars will never recognize their GLORY!” [excitedly using hand gestures] “The truth and beauty and virtue will never recognize their OWN!”

Julie: [horrified] “But what if I’m UGLY?!”

Tod: [deadpans] “Ugly?”

Julie: “I knew it! I knew it!”

Tod: [comforting] “I’m just kidding, Julie… if you were the strangest looking girl on Earth, I’d still love you.”

Julie: “Oh Tod…”

The mushy dialogue continues, with Tod reassuring Julie that her looks won’t be important to him when they finally meet. But then we’re reminded that they will forget everything that happened in the pre-existence, and, well we all know what happens when young, shallow people get together. They tend to be attracted to physical appearance. As all of this is going on, we have to suspend disbelief, as the characters talk about what it will be like to have physical bodies, when they clearly already HAVE physical bodies in the pre-mortal existence. 😉 Tod and Julie share a loving duet, and then we’re introduced to Julie’s brothers and sisters. It doesn’t take long before the concept of the “sweet spirit” comes up again.

The brothers and sisters happily talk about what it will be like when the twins, Pam and Jimmy, are born to their parents. One of the sisters proposes they all be born at once– seven up-lets! But a little brother asks, “Do you wanna kill mama in one shot?” It’s funny to realize that in 2022, there have actually been some women who have given birth to seven or eight children at one time. That was an inconceivable thought in 1989, but the miracles of modern medicine have made it possible today.

And then one of the other brothers introduces Jimmy, who does his Donny Osmond schtick. He talks about what he feared.

Jimmy: “Well naturally, I had lots of fears. But one that really had me scared is that I would have, uh, such animal magnetism, such charisma, that no one would notice my sweet spirit.”

Everyone groans, and then twin sister Pam is asked about her thoughts.

Pam: “Well, of course being a girl, my number one fear is that I would have nothing BUT a sweet spirit.”

The kids all say “no” in horrified tones.

Pam: [twirling] “But with beauty or without, as long as I can dance my way through life, that’s all that MATTERS!”

Pam turns out to be very pretty; she looks like Marie Osmond. But she winds up in a wheelchair, so there will be no dancing in her life, and having a physical disability might make her less of a “catch” to some of the shallower people in the world. She later sings a dreadful song called “Daddy’s Nose”, which shows the whole family dancing with huge, fake, beak-like noses. I read that in 2014, they changed the title to “Daddy’s Genes”. I’m not sure if that makes it better. Maybe they changed it because it’s so easy to get plastic surgery these days. Below are the lyrics:

All my friends told me take advantage of your face
Other people so endowed have really gone some place
So I dreamed of Hollywood till it occurred to me
Someone beat me to the punch named Jimmy Durante

A nose is a nose like a rose is a rose
As everybody knows
But may we propose that the rosiest nose
Is a one that plainly shows
You ain’t got a nose less it touches your toes
And it grows every time that it blows
Wouldn’t be so bad if it’d stayed with ol’ dad
But we’ve all got daddy’s nose

Riverdale as you know has had a lot of quaking
Scientific tests were made to find out why the shaking
They finally zeroed in to find the cause of all our woes
We only have an earthquake when daddy blows his nose

A nose is a nose like a rose is a rose
As everybody knows
But may we propose that the rosiest nose
Is a one that plainly shows
It a rack for your clothes a plow when it snows
Or use it for a garden hose
Wouldn’t be so bad if it’d stayed with ol’ dad
But we’ve all got daddy’s nose
Mom’s even got it
Yes we’ve all got daddy’s nose
He really blew it
Yes we’ve all got daddy’s nose

There are other parts of the show that emphasize how important looks are. For instance, the missionary, Wally Kessler, has a companion named Harold Green who is overweight. I swear, these two must have been the inspiration for Elder Price and Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon Musical. Harold isn’t even that fat. He just looks a little plainer and more slovenly next to Wally, who looks like one of the Osmond Brothers.

Toward the end of the show, Harold and Wally are teaching Tod the gospel. He’s an artist, who is always in the park drawing. Tod, then not LDS, had talked to Jimmy, drawing him as he could be, rather than as he was. Later, as Wally and Harold lament that they haven’t baptized anyone, they notice Tod drawing again. They take a chance– prompted by the spirit, no doubt– and there’s a montage showing how they converted Tod, making him a “better” version of himself by introducing him to the “one true church”. At one point, Wally shows Harold a film, which is handily broadcast on Harold’s stomach. Harold, like many good Mormons of the time, was wearing a white dress shirt, and his size makes it easy for his belly to serve as a screen. The message is, he’s too fat, and that makes him laughable, and less lovable, even though he redeems himself and Wally later.

And the character Julie is shown looking in the mirror, primping and admiring herself. She had been devastated that Wally went off on his mission, since she thinks he’s the one for her. But then she meets another guy named Peter and sends Wally a “dear John” letter. Harold, the overweight missionary companion, tells Wally that maybe it’s for the best, but Wally says, “What would you know about love or the pain I’m going through?” as Harold sheepishly moves away. “And to think I trusted her!”

Wally is distraught about losing Julie, so Elder Green gives him a pep talk, and looks like a fool in the process. He’s comic relief.

Then Tod and Julie sing about being the perfect people they were meant to be. There’s lots of mushy gushing, again focusing on the whole “prince and princess” romantic love, which as we all know, only exists in fairytales. Look at the British royal family! But it’s promoted in this show like it’s something that can happen if only you have the right religious beliefs.

As I was watching and re-watching this video, it occurred to me that while this show is kind of silly and entertaining, and it obviously takes some cues from some of the popular sitcoms of the 1980s, like Growing Pains and Family Ties, the overall impression I got is that, overall, Mormonism is kind of silly. One really has to overcome cognitive dissonance to buy into some of the concepts that are presented in this show. Now, before anyone comes at me, please understand that I know that Saturday’s Warrior isn’t all there is to Mormonism. It’s simply meant to be entertaining. But if you watch it, not having been raised with some of the concepts that are conveyed in this production, you might come away with some impressions that aren’t all that favorable.

I know, for instance, that physical attraction is very important to young people. I know that young people are especially aware of their looks, and that so-called “sweet spirits” might not have the best luck in attracting romantic partners. And, of course, in this production, the partners have to be of the opposite sex, since Mormons aren’t exactly supportive of couples who aren’t heterosexual. But we hear the girls worrying about not being pretty enough. And we see one of the guys being made into the fool because he’s fat.

Kudos to actor D.L. (David) Walker for pulling off the comic relief in his turn as Elder Green. He was a good sport. I see on IMDB that he’s had a lot of roles over the years. He might even be the best known of all of the actors on this program. I guess he did get the last laugh, after all. Not everyone can be a leading man, but plenty of people can be character actors, especially if there’s something unique or interesting about them. I get that message after looking up D.L. Walker on IMDB, but I wouldn’t get it if I just watched Saturday’s Warrior, which is a show that has been shown to so many LDS youngsters. In that show, Walker’s character is made to be the unattractive fool who “can’t know about love”, even though a thinking person would know that’s not necessarily true. In fact, while everyone else in this production seems to have pretty light resumes on IMDB, the “fat guy” with personality appears to have enjoyed a pretty good show biz career. He’s also been married three times. I guess he’s needed a couple of tries to find the woman he was destined to be with since the pre-existence.

One of my Facebook friends, who did attend the LDS church for a few years as a young woman, nicely summed things up. We were discussing the message of this movie, which she didn’t see when she was an active churchgoer. She wrote:

You have to have been indoctrinated. It’s for Mormons. Don’t have non-Mormon friends, don’t smoke cigarettes, don’t experience life; just stay in our dumb cult and make more Mormons. If you want to do anything else, you are very bad and will surely be unhappy. Being a total weirdo is fun! P.S. We’re not weird.

Yes… I think she’s absolutely right. To a lot of us who aren’t from a heavily Mormon area, this does come off as pretty weird. And, at least to me, it comes off as superficial, childish, and silly. I know, for instance, that there are millions of people in the world. Many, but not all, believe in a God of some sort. But to watch this movie, and listen to the opening dialogues, you come away with the idea that only the best people end up in Utah, where they will be raised LDS, and spend their lives searching for the perfect heterosexual, white mate, and their beliefs will be Mormon styled Christian. They are predestined to have a certain number of children, and their decisions in life will lead to exactly what the Mormon God intended them to be.

If you think about it, it’s kind of a lazy way to go through life. It’s as if there’s a blueprint for reaching the highest level of Heaven. Follow the steps toward righteousness, and someday, you’ll be in the Celestial Kingdom, which to me, seems like it would be a very boring place. After all, most everyone would be white, Mormon, and worried so very much about their looks before they get born again, and then spend their lives looking for the same people they knew in another life. I may need to stop and ponder that a bit.

If you assume that there’s a big plan, and God has made a plan for every single being on Earth, even if they aren’t members of the LDS church, it seems even more far fetched. But Mormons are often advised to “doubt their doubts” and “put any troubling thoughts on the shelf.” Hell, there’s even a brilliant song about that concept in the Book of Mormon Musical, which again, I think, took some inspiration from Saturday’s Warrior.

“Turn It Off”… like a light switch. It’s actually kind of a sad song.

Actually, when I think about all of the stories I’ve read over the years about the damage caused by “denying” thoughts and feelings, the song “Turn It Off” really seems sad to me. How many terrible marriages happened because people denied their feelings? How many people suppressed their feelings of sadness and anger, only to have it turn into catastrophic depression and anxiety years later? How many people have actually killed themselves because they couldn’t bring themselves to deal with their truths? This isn’t just a Mormon thing, though. It’s something that many people go through in life. They feel pressured to quash their thoughts and feelings and just believe, no matter how ridiculous, upsetting, or profoundly unbelievable something is. I think it wastes a lot of time and energy, and I think strict, culty belief systems, like Mormonism, make that phenomenon even worse than it has to be.

I know a lot of people love being Mormon. Or, so they will insist if you ask them, or if they’re missionaries. But I know, having hung out on RfM for so many years, that if you don’t fit the profile in that group, it really can be hell. There’s a real emphasis on looking happy and presenting the right image. Look at the Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell case. I recently wrote a review of The Doomsday Mother, a book about that tragedy, in which a lot of people died, mainly over illusions, delusions, and image… not to mention mental illness. I also watched a Dateline episode about that case.

I couldn’t help but notice Lori Vallow Daybell’s emphasis on looks. She entered beauty pageants, for instance. One of her friends was interviewed, and I couldn’t help but notice that her friend was extremely well groomed and even looked like perhaps she’d had some plastic surgery. She definitely had coiffed hair and wore a lot of makeup. Yes, that would be expected of someone on television, but I got the sense that this was a normal thing for Lori and her friends, all of whom were very much into Mormonism. Lori has been married five times. So much for finding “the one”.

I think if I had been raised Mormon, I probably would have been considered a (not so) “sweet spirit”. I know that people have thought of me that way even outside of an image conscious organization like Mormonism. Growing up, watching my sisters, cousins, and friends date a lot, while I spent weekends alone, was hard for me. And yet, I don’t think I would have enjoyed the pressures that come from being really “pretty” and desirable to men. Years beyond adolescence, I realize that there’s a lot more to me that the exterior. Those who get to know me eventually find that out. Some people like it. Many others don’t, but the ones who like it are almost always excellent people. Also, as most people find out, I’m not actually a very “sweet” person. I can be grumpy, opinionated, and temperamental. I think I’m basically kind, deep down– but sweet, I definitely ain’t. And I am not good at faking it. Many of the people who do end up liking me have told me they like me because I’m not fake. But not everyone appreciates “au natural” me, and most people don’t take the time to consider why I am the way I am. They have enough of their own shit to figure out. 😉

Maybe it’s better that I’m not extremely well liked or admired. It takes a lot of pressure off, and I don’t have to waste my time with fake people. Because seriously… have you ever considered what a burden it is to be really physically attractive to others? You’re always attracting people who are likewise attractive, and more than a few of them turn out to be boring, entitled, and narcissistic. If you’re a nice person, you’re always turning down people who find you attractive and interesting, but perhaps you don’t have the same feelings for them. And maybe you’ll even attract sociopaths, who only look good on the surface, but deep down they’re creeps. I think of guys like Scott Peterson, who, no doubt, had plenty of women who wanted to date him. Laci Peterson may have seemed lucky when they married, but it turns out she was not lucky at all. Same goes for anyone who thought Lori Vallow Daybell was a hottie.

Anyway… I guess it’s not a bad thing that I watched Saturday’s Warrior. It did teach me some things, although maybe not what the creators had wanted to teach. I guess I’m just grateful that I’m not burdened by that kind of a belief system. I would imagine that it adds a lot of unnecessary stress and strife to life, and life is hard enough as it is. Having to worry about the exterior so much, as I follow the many rules of a very demanding religion, is not very appealing. And while the idea of a close and loving family is lovely, there is a downside to having that kind of a family. For one thing, that kind of connection makes it harder to go out and live life on one’s own terms.

I told my mother the other day that I didn’t know when, or even if, I would move back to the States. She sounded slightly sad, since she will be 84 years old this year, and she probably wonders if we’ll ever see each other again in person. But we have never had a very close relationship, and I am not close to my sisters. If I did live closer to home, I doubt we’d be any closer. And it would be easier to be caught up in conflicts and manipulations, too. I know this from personal experience. So, while I would like to be closer to family other than Bill, I also realize that not being closer is kind of a blessing in some ways. There are certainly fewer fights and petty dramas to contend with. I don’t have the time or the energy for that anymore. I’ve realized that eventually, we all mostly end up alone… or we are the ones who die first. Who wants to spend life worrying about not being a “sweet spirit”?

So I guess it’s time to end this post and get on with my Friday. I hope this post offers food for thought.

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Bill, home, lessons learned, love, marriage

He still brings me flowers… but thankfully, he doesn’t sing me love songs…

Mushy bragging post ahead. You’ve been warned.

Yesterday, someone shared the photo below in the Duggar Family News group. They posted it because Josh Duggar is now a jailbird and is allegedly living this lifestyle. But as I read the characteristics in the meme, I realized that it’s also a pretty good description of my husband, Bill, who is definitely not worthy of the nickname “Wild Bill”, even though some of his friends jokingly used to call him that when they were in high school.

Bill hasn’t been to jail… at least that I know of. But this describes him pretty well.

I had to copy and share the above photo, because I know those who know my husband would get a good laugh from it. The truth is, he’s really not the most exciting guy in the world in terms of loving the nightlife. His brain goes down with the sun, in that he really can’t function beyond 9:00pm. It’s like Cinderella at midnight. He turns into a pumpkin. BUT– he is kind, thoughtful, hardworking, decent, intelligent, and an excellent provider. I consider myself very fortunate to be his wife. And I’ll tell you something else… I don’t think I would enjoy being married to an “exciting” guy who loves the nightlife and wants to boogie. I’m very happy to be married to someone who is loyal, kind, and considerate, and loves me for just who I am.

Last night, Bill had to work late, thanks to Mr. Putin. He was also planning to telework today, although that was called off last night. On the way home, he stopped at the store to pick up some orange juice. While he was there, he noticed bouquets of roses. And although I hadn’t sent him any emails indicating depression, irritation, or anything else, he decided to pick up one of those bouquets for me, just because it was Friday night and he’d had to work late… and right now, things are kind of depressing and bleak.

When he got home, past 7:30pm, Bill found me sitting at our Eckbank Gruppe, listening to music and drinking beer. He didn’t know I was feeling a little blue as he pulled out the bouquet of roses in today’s featured photo and presented them to me with a big smile. I was pretty moved that, even after nineteen years of marriage, Bill still likes to surprise me sometimes with unexpected delights. He knows I like flowers– especially red roses, which are my birth flower. And it was such a small thing, but it put a much needed smile on my face, since I was feeling a little sad last night.

This time of year in Germany can be kind of rough, especially if you’re from the southern United States and used to sunshine. The weather usually sucks. It’s cold, dark, and often rainy, so it’s not always appealing to get out and about. When we lived near Stuttgart, it would often snow, though not as often as it did in decades past. Up here near Frankfurt, it doesn’t snow very often. When it does, we get maybe an inch or two and it quickly melts. I don’t miss the snow that would stick around for weeks, but the alternative is the soupy, sloppy mess in the backyard and gets tracked through the house. Of course, that happened in Baden-Württemberg too, as the snow melted. I remember coming in from walking the dogs inevitably always with mud all over my pants, because there was water and mud everywhere and we lived in a relatively rural area.

The pandemic makes the crappy weather worse, because we can’t really have much fun. Yes, places are open, but it’s just a real hassle to go out in public, and even going out for a change of scenery is a reminder of the plague and how transmissible it is. I have some hope that when the weather is better, I will feel somewhat less depressed. But for now, it’s especially stark and bleak. So that little bouquet of grocery store roses was a real pick-me-up. I genuinely appreciated it, and the thought that went into the gift. But one thing Bill doesn’t do is sing me love songs…

Bill doesn’t sing me love songs because he can’t… But he probably would, if he could sing in a way that wouldn’t send me running from the room.

I actually love the above duet, which is kind of a sad song about the death of a relationship. But I’m glad I can’t relate personally to this song, because nineteen years past our wedding day, Bill still brings me flowers and presents them with a sweet smile. I was terminally dateless in my younger years. It seemed like everyone thought I was weird or even legitimately “crazy”, and many people had criticisms about me that ran the gamut from my penchant for profanity and inappropriate frankness, to the fact that I don’t have a cute figure, or a desire to be dressed up and made up all the time, to my propensity toward depression. By the time I was 27 years old, I thought I was going to be an “old maid”. That was the year Bill and I ran into each other in an “adult” chat room… where no one was really chatting about adult subjects. At least not publicly.

It was absolutely the last place I would have expected to find my spouse. At the time, I was very new to the World Wide Web. I was bored and lonely, having started grad school in a strange city. I didn’t know anyone or have any friends. One night, I decided to indulge the kinkier side of my personality and wound up in that chat room, where Bill also was… freshly separated from Ex and living alone in a state far from me. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to meet him offline, let alone marry him. I am now convinced that we must have been destined to meet, because we’re just so perfect for each other.

A couple of days ago, I was reading a thread on RfM, and a guy was lamenting about how he was finding it difficult to meet a nice woman following the death of his wife. The guy complained that most of the women he had met were “in it for the money”, but he was looking for a companion. He lives in Utah, and does not want to go back to the LDS church (for which I can’t blame him). He asked for suggestions, and many people were quick to offer them. One woman even piped up with a post about how she is also looking for companionship with a man. She invited him to look her up on a popular dating site to see if they are compatible. He shot her suggestion down, because I guess he didn’t want to go through the rigamarole of joining a dating site. I can see that view… although he might want to consider the extra challenges that face women.

Actually, when I think about how and where I found Bill, I am extremely relieved and grateful that he turned out to be so awesome. It definitely could have turned out badly for both of us. But fortunately, the stars aligned somehow… we were both honest with each other, and we just fit so well, even if I can’t really tell most people how, and specifically where, we met. That site is now defunct, anyway.

One of my friends expressed admiration for Bill’s ability to make me happy. He wrote that he “gets in trouble” almost every day. When I asked him what his wife would do if he spontaneously brought her flowers, he wrote that he would probably bring home the “wrong” ones. I couldn’t help but feel a little sad and surprised by that comment. I don’t know anything at all about my friend’s wife or their relationship, but his off the cuff quip reminded me of an old story I posted about in this blog regarding Ex. I truly hope he can’t relate to this anecdote, but I’m going to share the story, anyway.

The short version is, one day, Bill and Ex were traveling in the car– probably PCSing or something. They pulled into a gas station to get some gas, and Ex wanted a soda. So, after filling up the car, Bill went into the gas station and bought his ex wife a plastic bottle of Dr. Pepper. When he handed it to her, she immediately got very upset. Why? Because it wasn’t a fountain drink. Ex claimed that if Bill had really loved her and cared about her feelings, he would know that she prefers fountain drinks with ice in them to bottled ones. The rest of the road trip was spoiled by the heavy cloak of resentment that hung over them as they sat in the car, fuming at each other over the wrong soda.

This seemingly insignificant event in their marriage turned into a huge row, that Bill still occasionally talks about years later. It wasn’t so much about the soda, and the fact that Bill brought her a bottle instead of a fountain drink. It was about Ex’s constant need to test him, and to find ways to criticize him for anything and everything. It was her way of trying to stay in charge by turning on her rage machine and forcing Bill to be on the defensive. That kind of behavior, which she frequently indulged, was crazymaking. He never knew what would set her off.

For years, Bill excused Ex’s inconsiderate and ungrateful responses to his efforts to please her, because he wasn’t sure what would happen if they divorced. He couldn’t stand the idea of being estranged from his kids– including his ex stepson and his two daughters. They were incompatible and unhappy, and their marriage was full of these kinds of unfortunate and unpleasant interactions. She would not have been happy with a bouquet of grocery store roses. She probably would have preferred tulips or hydrangeas or something… or she would have scoffed at him for buying them in the grocery store instead of having them sent by a florist. Ex frequently used songs and children’s stories as object lessons, supposedly to inform Bill on how he should be and what would please her. But nothing he did was ever enough. She didn’t appreciate any of his efforts. In fact, she seemed to resent them.

Anyway, the rest of the story is pretty well laid out here. They did eventually split up, and things were pretty hard for awhile. But then Bill and I met, and the the rest is well documented history. After nineteen years, I do appreciate what he does for me. I can’t imagine not appreciating that he bought me a soda or a small bouquet of roses. It means he thought of me in a positive way. Why wouldn’t I be pleased?

Now, I will admit being a little less appreciative when he once brought me a bouquet of almost dead flowers that he bought at the Class VI store, especially since he could have picked a fresh bouquet from a field on the side of the road for a lot less money. Germany has fields of flowers where people can pick whatever flowers they want, and pay for on their honor at an unmanned cash box. But when I pointed that out to him, instead of getting angry that I wasn’t “grateful”, he brought me my next spontaneous bouquet from one of those fields! They were beautiful, and very patriotic looking– red, white, and blue!

But even when Bill has brought me half dead flowers, I still really appreciated the thought and care that went behind that gesture. I think small, thoughtful, and kind gestures like that one are what helps keep relationships alive. It’s a shame that sometimes those gestures go unacknowledged. Most of us are way too critical, especially of people who are closest to us. I like to think of myself as Bill’s staunchest ally. I don’t want to tear him down. And, in return, he has my back and is the one person I know I can turn to when I’m in need. It’s comforting to have that in my life, and I’m happy that I can offer that, in return, to Bill.

I’m still always so glad to see him when he comes home. I still miss him when he has to work late or go on trips for work. He’s truly my best friend. And it was so nice to be remembered last night, even after he’d worked so many hours and just wanted to come home and put on comfortable clothes and eat finger foods… I feel very fortunate we found each other, and I hope Bill does, too.

It’s nice to be remembered in such a kind way.
On another note… lately, I am really relating to this song. Leave it to James Taylor to have the best “Karen” story.

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education, lessons learned, music

Is teaching activism a “bad” thing?

Brace yourselves, y’all. I have a new topic to discuss today!

I am a proud graduate of Longwood College, now known as Longwood University. It’s a medium sized liberal arts college in the dead center of Virginia. When I was a student there, it was smaller than it is now. In fact, I know I would be shocked by the huge changes to the campus since I attended in the early 90s. Not only has the campus changed significantly, but apparently, so has the curriculum. Longwood is offering what I think are some very exciting and innovative courses.

Longwood is the kind of school where students are nurtured and encouraged to try new things by professors who really care. I graduated from Longwood in 1994, and 28 years later, there are still people there who remember me when I was a student. I also have so many real friends from my years at Longwood. It’s at Longwood that I started developing my gift for music, and was allowed– and even strongly encouraged and recruited– to study music, just because I have a knack for it. The faculty at Longwood is, by and large, first rate. And while it was not my first choice college, it turned out to be an excellent choice for me. My four years at Longwood truly changed my life for the better.

Naturally, because I am such a booster, I follow Longwood on social media. And this morning, I noticed a post about a new and exciting course that is being offered this spring. Longwood now offers a Civitae Core Curriculum, which did not exist during my college years. Back when I was a student, we called the core curriculum “general ed”. But things have clearly changed, and now freshmen can take a course called Citizen 110– Music Identity and Social Change. This class, which is taught by Honors faculty member, Dr. Kevin Schattenkirk-Harbaugh, will explore how music can inspire people to take action. It will look at artists such as Billie Holliday, George Michael, Marvin Gaye, Paul Simon, and others, to see how music motivates people to take interest and action in the world.

Now… as a music lover who took many music electives at Longwood to supplement my major in English, I know that this class would intrigue me. I haven’t taken a close look at Longwood’s Civitae Core Curriculum, but my guess is that this class is just one choice of several that students can take to fulfill their degree requirements. Based on the class description, I can state with certainty that I would have wanted to take this class myself. It sounds exciting and interesting. And based on the Facebook comments I’ve seen so far, I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who would be interested in taking this course.

Still, there’s a critic in every crowd, and this post was no exception. A woman, who apparently isn’t even a Longwood alum, wrote this:

Activism? This is what parents are paying for?

Another commenter wrote:

The history of activism inspired by music. A unique and interesting examination of how music has inspired some…

And the original commenter responded with:

I get that. But to what purpose? To incite more activism?

I couldn’t help but get the idea that the poster thinks activism is a “bad” thing. And while I usually try not to respond to people on social media, and had already passed my self-imposed one comment per day quota, I felt compelled to leave a response. This is mainly because the person’s comment irked me on many levels, but also because I know I would have LOVED a class like this in the early 1990s:

No. To teach students about how music inspires people to take action. What’s wrong with that? A lot of positive changes have come out of activism. Aside from that, not everyone who takes that course will eventually wind up taking to the streets.

Not all college students are having college paid for by their parents, either. When I went to Longwood, I knew a number of people who were older students and paying for their own education. Or they were in school on scholarship. As legal adults, Longwood students should be trusted to choose electives that interest them. If the course turns out to be inappropriate or unpopular, that will be reflected eventually.

I don’t know this poster at all, but her comment really troubles me. From the implied assumption that all students in college get their tuition paid for by their parents, to the idea that teaching adults about how music inspires action could potentially be damaging, I feel personally affronted by this person’s comment. However, I am not sorry she posted, because her comment did lead me to do some thinking and writing about something besides my current pet topics. I do enjoy reflecting on my time at Longwood, and all of the things I learned there, as well as the many good times I had when I was a student there.

When I was a Longwood student, Virginia was a more conservative state. There was a Confederate statute that stood just off campus. I remember watching many drunken fraternity brothers climbing it at night. While there were some innovative classes offered during that time period, I don’t remember ever seeing a course with such a provocative title on offer at Longwood during my era. I think this new class is a sign that my alma mater is evolving, and I think that’s a really good thing.

Longwood has a long, storied reputation as a school where great teachers are trained. It makes sense to me that new courses with exciting subject matter would be offered. My only hope is that this class allows for constructive discussion from many different perspectives. I hope and expect that the professor who teaches it will allow students to explore the topic from all angles. There will be some students in that class who are conservative, and not politically correct in their opinions. There will also be some students who will take a much more liberal view. I hope that all sides will have a voice, and it won’t be a course in which opinions are taught as fact.

BUT– after my own seven years’ experience as a university student at two different schools, I have found that course quality often has a lot to do with who is doing the teaching. Having spent four years at Longwood, I have every expectation that this class will be taught in a way that encourages reflection and broad thought. It sounds like it will be a treat to take this course. I truly wish I could take it myself, and it’s exciting to me that it’s being offered now. I wish I had a son or daughter I could have sent to Longwood. I have to be contented in seeing some of my old friends’ children deciding to attend college there.

Below is a screenshot of a description of this class:

It sounds great to me!

One of the great things about getting a liberal arts education is having the opportunity to broaden one’s perspectives. When I got to Longwood in 1990, my world view was mostly shaped by spending ten years living in a very rural part of Virginia. Although I had the benefit of living in England and the multicultural D.C. area when I was very young, when I was growing up, I was mostly surrounded by white, southern, Christian, conservative people. My upbringing really showed when I got to Longwood, and in fact, after I graduated, I still had some limited views that could have used some informing.

My mind opened up a lot when I joined the Peace Corps and went to live in Armenia for two years. I still cringe a little bit when I think about how sheltered I was when I was in my 20s, not having been exposed to that much of the world. I remember more than a couple of times when I sounded truly idiotic– perhaps even more so than I might today. 😉

Yes, people can choose to take paths that will broaden them at any stage of life, but it would have been great to have had the chance to start the process when I was in college, rather than after I graduated. College is a time for exploration and evolution in a safe place. I think these kinds of courses are crucial for young adults who are coming of age. And they also spice up the usual basic 101 courses that are typically required for freshmen students.

And– by the way– most college students are legal adults, whether or not mom and dad are paying their tuition. Legal adults should be encouraged to take charge of their education, since they will ultimately be the benefactors of it. I know that some parents who pay college tuition bills think they should have a say in what their dollars are paying for. However, I think that’s something that needs to be handled within individual families, not at the level of parents complaining about curriculum offerings. In other words, if you– mom or dad– don’t like what Junior is taking at college, take it up with Junior. Don’t try to take educational opportunities away from everybody by assuming that you, as a parent, should get a say in what courses the university offers when you’re not even a student there. Granted, this one class might not lead a student to a great job, but it might help a student become a person with a heightened awareness and broadened perspective, which could lead them to places they never dreamed of going.

So… count me among those who are cheering about this class, and others like it, that are now being offered at Longwood University. I see nothing wrong with teaching young people about activism, or how certain things– like great songs– can inspire and motivate people to take action, for better or worse. I don’t think the students who are exposed to this course are necessarily going to grab picket signs and stage protests. Some of them might do that someday, but they would probably be the types of people who would have done that, anyway. Rather, I think this class is going to make students aware that they have the power to effect change if they want to– and it doesn’t necessarily have to be for causes that are liberal, conservative, or whatever. It’s just a look at the ways music can inspire and help foster change– for better or worse. I think it sounds like it’s going to be a very stimulating and fun class, and the students are lucky there’s a professor at Longwood who had the vision to create this course. If it turns out to be a flop, that will become clear soon enough.

We shouldn’t be afraid to expose young people to new ideas or exploration of old ideas. We shouldn’t assume that they’ll go astray simply because we encourage them to reach out and learn more about things that might be controversial or against the establishment. I have great faith in the students at Longwood, and I suspect this class will be very successful. Bravo, Dr. Kevin Schattenkirk-Harbaugh! I look forward to hearing more about this course offering.

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celebrities, lessons learned, music, musings, obits, YouTube

The first day of 2022…

I hope everyone enjoyed their New Year’s Eve 2021. Bill and I had a nice evening, marred only by the news that the great Betty White passed away. A lot of people reacted to the news of Betty’s New Year’s Eve demise with great sadness. She was a remarkable woman who was blessed with so much talent, beauty, and humor. When I think of how many people were touched by her, it almost overwhelms me. This was a lady whose career spanned many decades and generations, and she did it all– singing, dancing, acting, sales pitching, and especially comedy. She was the oldest Golden Girl, and the last one to leave us.

She was such an adorable and hilarious pro! God bless her, wherever she is… I hope she and her beloved husband, Allen Ludden, have finally reunited.

I loved Betty White as an entertainer. I admired her a great deal. However, I don’t feel particularly sad that she died, nor do I think of it as a tragic event. I think, as living and dying go, Betty White did it in grand fashion. As far as I know, she wasn’t seriously ill when she passed. In fact, she was even featured on People magazine’s cover this week, as she planned to celebrate her 100th birthday on January 17th. She was still “with it”, and not bed bound. Yes, it would have been wonderful if she could have celebrated one last birthday, but 99 years is still a hell of a good run. What happened to her eventually happens to us all… and she had the good fortune to do it on relatively favorable terms.

I think this one was my favorite! Betty’s dusty muffins could not be matched.

So no, I’m not totally saddened by Betty White’s death. She died the same year as several of her co-stars on the Mary Tyler Moore show, as we also lost Gavin McLeod, Ed Asner, and Cloris Leachman in 2021. And all of them lived to ripe old ages, having been able to work, play, and be in the world pretty much the entire time. We should all be so lucky… and in fact, I think we’re all lucky that we were alive at the same time she was.

*Giggle* She was so funny!

MOVING ON…

A lot of people were also mentioning how much 2021 sucked. I’m sure it really did suck for a lot of folks. COVID-19 has really screwed up normal living for so many. However, one good thing I have noticed about the COVID era is that some people are reprioritizing their lives. Yesterday, I read an awesome Reddit thread called “Twas the night before my resignation”, about a guy who decided some years ago that he no longer wanted to prioritize his career over his family. He started taking off the week between Christmas and New Year’s. In 2021, as usual, he scheduled that week off.

At the end of the year, a work emergency came up. It wasn’t something that should have affected his time off, and he did what he could to warn his employers that he would be taking that week off. But, as it happens, the company dragged its feet and the emergency, quite predictably, became dire as the guy’s week off approached… For best results, you really should read it for yourself. Suffice to say, the guy pretty much told his boss to pound sand, and was richly rewarded for his moxie. And to that, I say, “Kudos, and fuck those people!” I hate it when employers treat their employees like they own them. It’s nice to see that some workers have been able to claim some control over their work environments. I hope this is a trend that lasts, so that working conditions will improve for everyone.

I know… maybe it’s too much to hope for that there will be less greed and corruption in the American workplace. But I can dream, can’t I? Hell… if I were in the USA now, maybe someone would even hire me!

Bill and I actually had a fairly good 2021, in spite of COVID’s suck factor. We finally resolved our lawsuit, and it mostly went in our favor. I know it may seem like a small thing, but holding our former landlady accountable for her egregiously illegal actions, outright lies, and the really crappy way she treated us, was very satisfying. I think we learned a lesson from it, too. Hopefully, that lesson will carry over the next time someone tries to screw with us and shame us into automatically allowing them to have their way.

In 2021, Bill finally started working with a Jungian analyst, which is something he’s been wanting to do for a long time… and something I’ve felt he’s needed to do the whole time I’ve known him. The sessions have been very healing for him, but they’ve also been immensely rewarding and interesting. I didn’t know anything about Carl G. Jung when Bill and I met, despite my background. Social workers do study psychology, but it’s not really the bulk of what we learn, since social work is not psychology, per se. It’s been fascinating to learn more about Jung, and help Bill learn more. He’s been so intrigued by the process that he even started taking classes at the Jung Institute in Zurich. So far, the classes have been online, but we did get a chance to visit Zurich for the first time last summer. If we manage to stay here awhile, he may get to do some serious work.

As for my own successes… I’ve watched my relaunched blog explode. In 2021, I had over 560 times the hits I had in 2020, which was much more successful than 2019, when I moved my blog to WordPress. It really is picking up, and that’s been exciting to see, even though it took some time.

I felt pretty much forced to relocate the blog from Blogspot, although I had kind of wanted to do it for a long time. It was difficult and a bit depressing to start over in February 2019. I had a decent following on the original blog, even though it was a bit rawer than this one is. Moving the blog meant losing followers, as well as ad revenue. It’s not that I make a lot of money at all through ads, but it was kind of a nice thing to occasionally get paid by Google.

Well… that pretty much ended with a thud when I moved the blog, and for quite some time, I felt really constrained and nervous about writing. I know some people don’t think I have any talent… and some people think writing is a waste of my time, so they think nothing about messing with what I do… and some people just plain don’t like me, and want to cause trouble for me for selfish and dishonest reasons. This blog is NOT my life, but it is something I enjoy creating, and it gives me a purpose. So it was hard for me in 2019, when I experienced the setback that caused me to have to start over.

Two years later, I think my blog is better than it ever was. And I’ve been rewarded with new followers, and yes, more ad revenue. I only monetized the blog a few months ago, but pretty soon, I’ll be eligible to be paid. And I can only expect that this blog will be more successful than the original blog was, in terms of money, and quality content. The travel blog is a bit down in views lately, but hopefully COVID-19 will eventually be tamed enough so we can travel again. And really, I mainly write this stuff for myself, anyway, so anyone who reads and enjoys it is just icing on the cake.

I also found a new person with whom I can do music collaborations. In fact, I even uploaded our latest effort this morning! Music is something I do for fun and relaxation, so this is a rewarding development, too…

He lives in the States. We’ve never met, but we have similar musical tastes.

Another great thing that happened in 2021 was that Bill and I finally got to visit Croatia, and pay another visit to Slovenia. I already knew Slovenia was beautiful, but Croatia was magical. Although we didn’t have an “action packed” vacation in the fall, it was still probably one of my favorite trips yet. Just the sheer beauty of Croatia and Slovenia, as well as the time we spent in Austria (another favorite destination) was so awesome. I guess COVID has also made me a lot more grateful for ANY travel. Thank God for vaccines, too. I will be boosted in a few days, which may cause temporary discomfort, but will likely make my chances of dying from COVID lower.

We got to see a few friends, and make a few new friends… and the old friends who are real friends are still with us. We also didn’t lose any loved ones in 2021. In fact, in 2022, Bill will presumably gain another grandchild. And… our beloved Arran and Noyzi are still alive. Noyzi has even become a real part of the family, right down to loving on me when he wants something and showing up fashionably late to dinner! So that’s a blessing.

I have high hopes for 2022… I hope you do, too. To those of you who have been part of this blog, thank you so much! I especially want to thank my friends who have been here since the beginning. You are all a big part of the success, too!

2021 didn’t suck for us… but I know some people are really struggling right now. I don’t know what words of wisdom or comfort I can share. One friend mentioned how bad 2021 was, and I mentioned that I thought 2016 was worse– at least in terms of lost legends. She responded that she’d had a rough time of it in 2021, and compared 2021 to a few other horrible years she’d experienced.

I knew she’s been having a hard time, so I acknowledged that. And then I remembered one of my worst years ever– 1998. If I’m honest, there were a few times during that year that I seriously contemplated suicide. I was dealing with moderately severe depression, and I didn’t see how I was ever going to escape the situation I was in. It was NOT a hopeless situation by any means– which I clearly proved. But at the time, it felt hopeless… and my perspective was so blurred by depression and anxiety that I couldn’t see beyond the fog of despair and despondency.

But some very good things also happened that year. Yes, I was working in a restaurant job where I was abused daily, and I lived with my parents, who were kind of hostile and disappointed in me. I was young and basically healthy, but felt unattractive and unsuccessful. That year, I backed into some lady’s car in our driveway, because I was so upset… and that accident led me to finally seeing a therapist. Dr. Coe helped me so much, and I was eventually put on antidepressants that changed my life. To this day, I no longer feel as horrible as I did for most of my young life.

I eventually got pretty good at the restaurant job, and was able to make enough money to pay for the therapy and save up for an apartment. I bought a car. I had a terrible setback in November 1998– in fact, that was probably one of the worst months of my life. And yet, two months later, the medication was finally correct, and I started getting my shit together… and by November 1999, I was in a dual degree master’s program, proving to myself that I wasn’t as stupid or worthless as I had felt a year prior. That was also the month I “met” Bill online. By November 2002, we were married! And now, 19 years later, here we are… In 2022, I’ll presumably turn 50, and we will celebrate 20 years married.

So it’s good that I didn’t give in to my urges to off myself back in 1998. That would have meant missing out on some really wonderful things. That “abusive” job also led to meeting some truly great friends and learning valuable life and survival skills. In the long run, that turned out to be a good thing, too, despite the suffering that happened when I was still in that situation.

My point is, sometimes what seems like the shittiest times can lead to some pretty wonderful recoveries. So if you are struggling right now, I urge you to hang on as best you can. It can, and probably will, get better. But I also know that those words ring hollow when a person is really suffering. So just know, there are people who really do care, and have been through it, too… You’re probably more like them than you know… unless, of course, you’re Josh Duggar or Ghislaine Maxwell. Those two probably won’t be enjoying life for awhile.

And, with that bit of “wisdom”, I’m signing off for today… Got a few chores to take care of, and then it’s time to watch movies and concerts.

Happy New Year, everybody!

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lessons learned, musings, narcissists

“Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth…”

Special thanks to singer-songwriter Facebooker extraordinaire, Janis Ian, who posted today’s featured photo on her Facebook page a day ago. I follow Janis Ian, but I’m not one to watch her obsessively. I think she’s often funny and thoughtful, but sometimes she’s a little too “woke” for my tastes. I know that comment might annoy some people. I know some people really think it’s cool to be super “woke”. I’m not there yet. I will probably never be there. I am definitely more left leaning than I once was, but I’m never going to be one of those people who is trying to be an “example” to others. Hell, I have enough trouble simply accepting myself as I am.

I do, however, see a lot of wisdom in Janis Ian’s recent “quote of the day” from an unknown source. There have been many times in my life when I’ve been left feeling terrible because of a regrettable exchange with someone. There have been times when I’ve said or done something that has upset or offended someone and have felt terrible about it forever. When that happens, I will self-flagellate, feeling like total shit, and withdraw from others. I think some people get the mistaken impression that I’m being a snob or that I feel like I’m “above” them in some way. That’s really not true at all. I just don’t like to feel like I annoy people. I feel like it’s better to stay home. This COVID-19 lifestyle, in some ways, is a good thing for me. I have a good excuse not to mingle.

From the time when I was a small child, I’ve gotten the message from important people that I wasn’t acceptable or “good”. Now… it IS true that some people love me for exactly who I am. Bill is one of those people. He doesn’t find me annoying at all. He never criticizes my laugh. He doesn’t tell me to lose weight or put on makeup. He doesn’t grouse about the fine layer of dust on the furniture or the fact that I can’t be arsed to get out of my nightgown if I’m not leaving the house. Instead, he’s kind and loving, and he never makes me feel like I’m worthless.

But even though my husband loves me for who I am and that makes me feel good, sometimes I do have trouble with my self-worth. I’ll give you a ridiculous “for instance”. Those of you who have been following me for awhile may know that Bill and I had some real trouble with a previous landlady. This lady seemed to have a real problem with me. She clearly didn’t like me, and seemed to judge me negatively for my lifestyle.

At first, her criticisms were couched in pleasantries and niceties. But, as time went on, she became more hostile and negative. I started to feel badly about myself. I remember feeling anxious, living in her house, as she would come over and I would watch her face as she took in the “appearance” of our house. It’s true, I am not an obsessive housekeeper, but I’m certainly not a filthy person. I don’t spend all of my free time polishing glassware, wiping down baseboards, or using a microfiber dust rag to clean the dust between the pipes on the towel warmer or heaters. I just can’t be bothered to be that detailed. It’s not worth my time. But I do empty the garbage, wipe down the counters, clean the toilets and shower, wash dishes, and do laundry. And I do vacuum, clean up the dog shit, and do other chores as needed.

However, she’s the type of person who would do those extremely anal retentive cleaning chores on a regular basis. I would see her expression darken when she noticed a pile of leaves that was left unswept. One time, I watched her aggressively shovel snow off the driveway. I had made a walkway for the postman, which was what was required, but since I wasn’t going anywhere and was feeling sick, I put off shoveling the whole thing. She came over, unannounced as usual, and got visibly pissed that I hadn’t done the whole driveway. I could feel her radiating disapproval. Naturally, that made me feel bad, because I don’t like to disappoint people. I resolved to make sure the driveway was perfectly shoveled after other snowstorms, even if I was sick.

Another time, she read me the “riot act” when she saw a “dust bunny” consisting of Arran’s hair that was caught in the doorway. She yelled at me that the hair was “encrusted”. Of course it wasn’t, and it took maybe two seconds to wipe it up. I hadn’t noticed it because it really was insignificant, but she saw it and freaked out. Then she screamed at me about it, and even mentioned it in an email to Bill. She asked him at one time if we’d like her to find us a housekeeper, nastily adding “Don’t you want to live in a clean house?”

Wow… I’ll tell you what. The very LAST thing I would want is to hire a housekeeper that she found for us. Especially since it later became very clear that she wasn’t respecting our privacy. Aside from that, she wasn’t living in the house, so I didn’t feel that I needed to keep the house cleaned to her standards. Especially since we were paying her too much for the “privilege” to live there. And also, the house wasn’t that clean when we moved in, but then she and former tenant were “buddies”. I guess she got a pass.

Now, a lot of people might tell me that I should just ignore those comments, but I genuinely felt bad when she’d send Bill emails about my deficiencies as a housekeeper. I felt terrible and, at first, very ashamed, when she would yell at me for things that she felt weren’t “up to snuff”. I didn’t know what her standards were when we moved in. If I had known, we certainly would not have taken that house.

But, at least at first, I really tried to do things more to her standards. I dutifully cleaned the white plastic panels on the new doors she’d had installed. They were exposed to the elements and doomed to become discolored at some point, but I knew she wanted them to look nice, even if no one would care about that but her. She asked me more than once to clean them off regularly, so I did. I would attempt to clean the windows in the living room, so she wouldn’t freak out about the nose prints left by our dogs. I would try to be presentable, at least when I knew she was coming. And I tried to be cordial. For a long time, I was as pleasant as I could be, even when she inconvenienced me by showing up randomly or was intrusive.

One day, she reached the end of my patience by screaming at me in the living room about an awning that had collapsed on my watch. It was seventeen years old. I had pointed it out to her that the thing was leaning. She had her husband “fix” it. It appeared to be repaired, so I used it a few times after he did the work. On one very hot day, a gust of wind blew, and the awning collapsed.

Fortunately, I was not sitting under the awning when it collapsed, although ex landlady claimed that the fact that I wasn’t sitting under it was a sign of my “gross negligence”. She immediately blamed me, and yelled at me in my own home, not just for the awning that she failed to have properly repaired, but also for the fact that one of the electric rolladens was not properly installed and would not go down. She claimed it wasn’t working properly because I didn’t use it often enough, even though a repairman later said it wasn’t installed correctly. She had no thought at all for the fact that I could have been seriously injured or perhaps even killed if that seventeen year old awning that she hadn’t fixed properly had fallen on my head. Instead, I was the one who was “negligent” for using a supposedly “fixed” awning on a hot day and not being able to predict the wind.

It may be hard to believe, but I did feel bad that the awning fell on my watch. I knew money was an object for the landlords. I was sensitive to their not wanting to spend money. I didn’t object when she had her husband fix it instead of a real repairman. But I was not willing to accept the claim of negligence when I used something that was part of the house on a hot day, as she and her husband had actually said was appropriate use. All I did was unroll it. I wasn’t hanging on it or playing on it or anything like that. And sorry, I can’t predict the wind. I don’t think I’m “negligent” for not being under the awning when it suddenly fell. I think I am damned LUCKY. So is she.

After that exchange, Bill asked her not to speak to me about her concerns. That seemed to piss her off even more, since apparently I made for a convenient scapegoat for her frustrations. But she did leave me alone, for the most part, probably because she could tell I was frighteningly close to losing my shit the last time she yelled at me. I think she could also tell that I could easily match her in intensity and nastiness, if I was really pushed to go there.

It may seem hard to believe, but I genuinely felt terrible when things went wrong. By the time I left that house, I really felt pretty awful. She had done a good job making me feel “guilty” about how “terrible” I am. Even though I was LIVID by the way she treated Bill and me– especially me— the truth is, her comments made me feel bad about myself. I wondered if she was right that I’m a shitty housekeeper and a lazy, worthless person. She didn’t actually say those words to me, and yet that was the message I got– repeatedly.

It took weeks in our current home before I finally felt comfortable. I was anxious for so long, expecting her to come over and complain about some aspect of my housekeeping that displeased her. I knew that she was not our landlady anymore, but yet I expected our new landlord to be like her. I dreaded talking to him because of her. She did real psychological damage to both of us. She falsely accused us of theft and trashing her house, and when Bill asked for a fair accounting of why she was keeping most of our security deposit, she became hostile, nasty, and really laid on the shame and guilt in an attempt to get him to back off. It was absolutely infuriating, especially since Bill is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and is generous, respectful, and fair to a fault!

I think of so many people whose homes I’ve been in that were genuinely dirty and cluttered far worse than mine ever was. I think of all of the people I know who would have blown up with profanities at ex landlady the first time she yelled at them. I think of the people who would think nothing of paying rent late, or not at all. And then I think to myself… “I’m the worst tenant she’s ever had? Really? She’s been lucky.” Karma will fix that.

What she was doing was egregious bullshit… and I can’t help but wonder if we’d been less “nice” and “kind” about her blatantly disrespectful behavior, maybe she might not have so blatantly tried to take advantage of Bill’s good nature. Like, maybe if I’d given into the instinct to yell back at her, she might have not been so totally horrible to us, and we might not have had to sue her. Even after a settlement was reached, it still took months and a nastygram from our lawyer before she finally gave us our money.

But we were both trained to accept abuse. I have a much lower threshold than Bill does, but I still have the capacity to overlook bad behavior in the interest of keeping the peace. Maybe that’s not a good policy. I have already told Bill that I don’t ever intend to tolerate that kind of living situation again, but the truth is, sometimes you kind of have to… a lot depends on money, doesn’t it?

Now I am mostly recovered from that experience, aside from some residual anger. There are scars, of course, and I think it’s a pretty fair bet that I won’t be forgetting her. But I realize now that her apparently very negative opinions of me don’t necessarily reflect reality, nor do they apply to how others see me. No matter what, I have basic worth, just as everyone does. Even the worst people in the world usually have at least one person in their lives who love them on some level. And that is as true for me as it is for most people.

There have been other instances in my life where I have left a situation feeling awful about myself. I recently wrote about ghosts of traumatic Christmases past. One of the reasons I swore them off is because so many of them left me feeling horrible. I had to detox from the toxicity for days or weeks, ruminating about the dramas that would erupt among so-called loved ones. All I ever wanted was to live in peace, on my own terms, and as my authentic self. If other people can’t stand me, so be it. But so many people want to change their friends and loved ones, not recognizing their worth and uniqueness. If one has a conscience or any sense of shame, this can be devastating to one’s self-esteem and self-image.

I think this is a skill that is essential for living, learning to accept oneself for being a unique person and having basic worth. But, as we’ve seen, especially since the pandemic started, people are really BIG on judging and shaming others. Judging and shaming people, lecturing them, and not trying to empathize with them is a great way to alienate them and cause them to be even more entrenched in their beliefs. A lot of the judging behavior comes from frustration, of course. In terms of the pandemic, we’re all tired of hearing about sickness and death, being subjected to restrictions, rules, and talk of overwhelmed healthcare facilities. Many people are truly frightened, especially those who have lost loved ones and friends to the sickness.

I’ve read so many comments from people who say that they have no more empathy. They have no more patience. And when someone dies of COVID, especially if they were unvaccinated, some of them even LAUGH about it. I guess I can understand why people feel like that and act that way, but I don’t think that attitude does anything to change behavior or inspire cooperation. People tend to focus more on their egos and injured pride than the frustration and despair that drives some of the more judgmental behaviors. I’m as guilty of that as a lot of people are, although I try not to be that way. I just don’t think it helps. We’re all human, though…

I’m even sure that, on some level, our former landlady believed the lies she told herself. Or maybe, from her perspective, we really are filthy, dishonest, thieving, unhygienic people who don’t respect other people’s property. But no one else has ever said that about us. And our current landlord has cheerfully told us we’re welcome to stay as long as we want. That’s a nice vote of confidence.

I felt good yesterday when I fixed the faucet in the downstairs bathroom all by myself. It was easy to do. But as I was doing the work– descaling the tap with white vinegar and removing the calcium buildup that had blocked the spigot– I couldn’t help but think of the way the landlady made comments that were intended to make me feel small, negligent, and incompetent. I know that they weren’t a reflection of reality. It was gaslighting, intended to make me more inclined to accept her abuse and her assessment of me and my “shortcomings”.

Fortunately, I’ve already been through therapy. 😉 It’s hard to believe we paid over $2000 a month for that treatment from the former landlady. We should have “fired” her after the first year. Life is short. Lesson learned.

Quote Investigator says that Twitter user debihope apparently constructed this popular quote, which has been falsely attributed to Sigmund Freud and William Gibson, among others.

So… if you take anything valuable from today’s post, I hope it includes the idea that other people’s apparent negative views of you might not be rooted in reality. In fact, they may be their attempts to train you to accept their abuse. Take their comments and opinions for what they’re worth… definitely with a grain of salt. Do what you can to protect yourself, and protect your sense of self-worth. After all, as Janis Ian shares in an unattributed quote, “Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth…” Wise words indeed. Don’t forget them.

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