condescending twatbags, mental health, music, narcissists, psychology

Say goodbye, not goodnight…

Beth Nielsen Chapman has a really moving song in her catalog called “Say Goodnight, Not Goodbye”. I happened to hear it the other day while I was listening to my “comforting” playlist on iTunes. I have a bunch of playlists I made when iTunes was more functional and I was bored and feeling compulsive. One of the lists is called “comforting”, and it’s a collection of really poignant and beautiful songs that are easy to focus on as I write. A lot of Beth Nielsen Chapman’s songs are on that list. I think she’s a wonderful songwriter. I like to listen to her songs, but I also like singing them. “Say Goodnight, Not Goodbye”, is one I would love to do someday. But I suspect that will have to wait until I get good enough at playing guitar to manage it.

I wish I’d stuck with piano lessons.

I see from the comments on this video that this song appeared on Dawson’s Creek. I remember watching the first season of that show, but I got out of the habit because it was airing at around the time I was in graduate school and I didn’t have time to watch a lot of TV. I also seem to remember that show was on the WB network, and the cable provider in Columbia, South Carolina stopped carrying the WB at some point while I was living there.

This poignant song is about loss, but ultimately, there’s a promise that the separation isn’t forever. Someday, there will be a reconciliation. Maybe after death. It’s comforting to believe that after the pain of separation, there will be a reunion of some sort, whether it’s on Earth or in Heaven or wherever else we go after our time down here is finished. I know Beth Nielsen Chapman has experienced a lot of pain and loss in her life, to include the loss of her first husband, Ernest Chapman, to cancer. She’s managed to parlay those losses into the most beautiful music. Even now, having just listened to that song, I feel a bit verklempt.

You might have noticed that I changed the order of the words to Beth Nielsen Chapman’s song as my post title today. That wasn’t an error. Sometimes, it’s really best to just walk away forever. Most people are worthy of a reunion, if both parties are willing. But some people really aren’t. And sometimes they reveal themselves in really petty ways that are laughable. You realize that someone who is well into middle age or older has, emotionally speaking, never grown up beyond the age of twelve or so.

The older I get, the more I realize that some people are just not worth the effort. And I don’t have to go away mad… but I do have to go away. It hurts a bit– kind of like getting a vaccination, which is painful and inconvenient for a short time, but spares the worse pain that could come if one contracts the actual disease. Everybody has their own ideas of what’s beyond the pale in another person’s behavior. For me, it’s when a person is blatantly disrespectful to me or flies off the handle. I’ll forgive that reaction in people I know well. I don’t forgive it nearly as easily in people I don’t know well.

A few months ago, I had a casual acquaintance on YouTube. We had an okay rapport on the surface. It was friendly and complimentary, as we’re both music buffs and have similar tastes. We even had some successful collaborations. One day, I made an offhand and somewhat off topic comment on a music video he’d posted. He took huge offense to my comment. He proceeded to tell me off in a really over-the-top, insulting, embarrassing way. Then, he said he only wanted me to comment on the music and nothing else.

It wasn’t as if I knew that he had this policy regarding comments on his videos. He hadn’t specifically told me that he’d only wanted certain types of comments, nor was there any kind of notice on his channel that he didn’t like comments that weren’t simple praise for him. I had made the comment completely innocently and was truly shocked and offended by his reaction to it, which was to lecture and shame me about the genius of Paul Simon, and then demand that I ONLY comment on the music. I think it’s lame to get mad and tell people what their reactions must be or dictate what they can or can’t say.

Basically, he was saying that he didn’t want to hear from me unless it was to tell him what a great musician he is. That told me that he wasn’t interested in being friends or getting to know me. He just wanted adoring fans to up his subscribers and hit count. I thought it was overly controlling and ridiculous, but it’s his page; so I just left him to it. And since I was also a bit stung, I deleted my comment and quit interacting with him. I don’t think he realized or cared that what he said was humiliating, or that I was actually pretty hurt. And usually, when people are hurt, they tend to slink away and lick their wounds for awhile.

Time went on, and I quit thinking about the incident and kind of forgot about him. Then last night, I was sitting alone at my dining table, looking through some old postings. I remembered that this person had commented on a lot of them. Do you know that this guy went through and completely scrubbed every single comment? He didn’t block me, which I found interesting… but he did remove all of his comments, which seems like an awful lot of effort, especially since I didn’t even notice until months later. I was amazed… and then I was amused. Because obviously, my decision not to interact with him anymore had really upset him. Then after thinking about it for a moment, I also wasn’t surprised. I had a gut feeling that he would notice my absence and respond in such a way.

I started thinking about what this meant. I’ve spent many years of my life trying to appease people who think they have the right to say and do whatever they want, but they don’t want to grant the other person the same right. It’s happened to me over and over again. I’ve wasted a lot of time and effort on trying to smooth things over when I overstep some imaginary boundary that I never even knew existed. I now realize that people who are that high-maintenance are probably not worth the effort, even if they do play a mean guitar. Life is much too short to walk on eggshells. There are other mean guitar players out there who won’t act like that. In fact, with every passing day, I get better at playing guitar myself. Someday, I hope to get to a point at which I won’t need to collaborate with anyone, if I don’t want to.

Please note– I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have boundaries. There’s nothing wrong with being assertive and telling someone when they’ve upset you or done something offensive. That’s how people get to know each other and determine what behaviors are acceptable. I’m writing about the practice of exploding at people over innocuous things, and then resenting them when they inevitably get offended by that over-the-top reaction. This would not have happened had he simply asked me what I thought of his music rather than belligerently shaming, belittling, lecturing, and demanding a specific response or deference to him. Especially when he never granted me the same courtesy. Let’s not have a double standard; one standard will do just fine.

There were other things I had noticed when we were still on “speaking terms”. Like, he’d often offer me unsolicited advice on how to run my channel. He’d tell me that I shouldn’t post more than one video a day, assuming that my goal is to get popular (it’s not). I often post videos that I make for my blog, so they go up when I need them for a post. Sometimes, I go weeks without posting anything. Sometimes, I’ll post more than one video a day. I also post them when I’m inspired. Would I like it if a lot of people liked my videos? I guess… although I have learned that being popular isn’t always a great thing. The more popular you are, the more shit you tend to get from trolls, creeps, stalkers, and negative people. In any case, I never asked for tips on how to run my channel. I suspect his goals are different than mine are, and that should be okay.

I also noticed that I would post every one of our collaborations on my page and promote his channel, but he only posted one of our collaborations on his page and didn’t promote mine. It got a lot of positive feedback, so I’m left thinking that maybe he didn’t want to share the limelight. It was a little Ike Turner-esque. And it’s not that he didn’t like our collaborations and was being polite by praising me but not sharing them. If that were the case, why would he keep doing them with me? He’d always leave me compliments on our collaborations on my page, but then he didn’t share the collaborations on his. So now I’m thinking he’s probably insecure and a bit jealous of any attention someone else gets, no matter how small. I’m sure it’s not just me, either. He probably does it to other people, too.

I notice a number of red flags…

In any case, as I’m writing this, I’m reminded of the many videos I’ve watched by Les Carter, a therapist who specializes in dealing with narcissists. I don’t know if my former YouTube acquaintance is a narcissist because I don’t know him personally. However, I do think some of his behavior is a bit narcissistic and transactional. He wanted me to be loyal and deferential to him, but wasn’t going to reciprocate. I’ve had my fill of dealing with those types of people. It never ends well. I suppose I could try to “make up” with him by leaving praise on his videos. Maybe he would respond in kind on the few I’ve recently done. But I think it would only be a matter of time before I upset him again and the same thing will happen. I don’t have time for it, and frankly I deserve better.

Anyway, I made another video yesterday. I think it’s okay. I’ll keep working on learning how to play my guitar.

I did this in one take. I kind of wish it had taken more time.

So… I’m saying goodbye, not goodnight. May we both have better and more satisfying interactions with others. There are plenty of wonderful, mature people in the world who aren’t simply about having transactional relationships. I’m going to focus on finding and interacting with those people.

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psychology

Putting on the brakes: not getting on the bus to Abilene…

A couple of nights ago, Bill had a Skype session with his daughter. She told him that not long ago, she got a phone call from her mother, beseeching her to jump in her car and drive to a hospital a few hours from where she lives. Evidently, younger daughter’s cousin had been in a car accident and Ex felt that someone from the family should go to her. Younger daughter, in her infinite wisdom, declined to drive to the hospital. She’s pregnant, and has a toddler aged son. The hospital was a few hours away from where she lives, and she’s not particularly close to her cousin. She also had no idea what condition her cousin was in. She could have loaded up her toddler in the car, driven several hours, wasted precious gas and spent money she didn’t have, only to find that her cousin had only gotten bumps and bruises and was released. She had the courage to say no, but was apparently feeling a little guilty about it.

I listened to Bill explain to his daughter that sometimes her mother gets these ideas that something has to be done no matter what. She doesn’t stop and think about logistics, costs, or practicality. She just jumps in the car and goes… or she manipulates someone else to go in her stead. She reacts, rather than thoughtfully responds. I’m sure these kinds of reactions make her feel better in the short term, even if they turn out to be disastrous decisions. She feels like she has to do something. If she can’t do it, she’ll get someone else to do it, and that will make her feel better about herself. She’ll even take all the credit, even if she’s not the one who actually did anything.

I was instantly reminded of a similar situation I experienced back in 2010. Bill and I were living in Georgia. My dad was still alive, and was being hospitalized in North Carolina, near where my eldest sister lives. I got an email from another sister who lives in the Midwest. This sister was feeling guilty that our oldest sister was exclusively taking care of our parents. She felt like I should be doing more, so she took it upon herself to try to convince me to drive to North Carolina to visit our dad.

I remember the conversation started in an underhanded, manipulative way. She asked me how long it takes to drive from Georgia to North Carolina. I responded that it would take a few hours. Then she delivered the pitch. She wanted me to drive to North Carolina, split a hotel room with another sister who lives in Virginia, and visit our dad. She said she couldn’t do it herself because plane tickets were too expensive and she had work. She assumed that I could go in her stead and “help out”, even though the people directly involved hadn’t asked me for my help and were fully capable of asking. They are also not the type of people who wouldn’t ask for help if it was necessary. My mom is direct to a fault. She doesn’t keep quiet to spare other people’s feelings. It’s one of her best, and worst, qualities.

It so happened that I had just talked to our mother, and she had expressly told me she didn’t want me to visit. I hadn’t wanted to visit, nor had I suggested it, but she said things were hectic enough as it was. So, since I had just talked to our mom and she’d asked me not to add to the stress of the situation by visiting, I told my sister out in the Midwest, who was probably feeling guilty and helpless, that Mom had asked me not to go up there. Moreover, even though I don’t work outside of the home, I had other responsibilities. For one thing, I had dogs to take care of. I couldn’t just hop in the car and go, just because she suggested it. I would have to do something with them, since Bill works long hours and they aren’t used to being alone.

It takes discipline to do this, but in the long run, it will spare you a lot of grief.

I sent a calm response to my sister, indicating that our mom had specifically asked me not to visit and that I had other things going on. My sister proceeded to send me a pissy email full of guilt trips, which, of course, really annoyed me. Still, I managed to stay calm in my next response. I explained that I wasn’t going to just jump in the car and go up there on her say so, but I would call Mom and ask her if there was anything I could do for her. My sister seemed alright with that. She responded with a gushing, appreciative email, and added that I should email her to let her know how our parents were doing. I never did do that, and she never said anything about it. So much for her concern. Really, though, she was just feeling helpless and wanted to feel helpful. She figured she could bully me in to acting, which would make her feel better about herself, even if it was disrespectful toward me.

I called my mom, and she clarified that she wouldn’t be upset if I visited our dad, but that he was being transferred back to Virginia, so we might as well see him there. Then, she said she would like me to go to our house in Gloucester, which at that time she was trying to sell, and pick up the piano. I inherited my mom’s piano. It’s currently sitting in storage in Texas. It’s extremely heavy, and she needed it out of the house.

This situation happened to be going on over Memorial Day weekend, so Bill went to UHaul, got a tow bar put on our SUV, and we made the arrangements to board our dogs and go to Virginia to get the instrument. We drove up to Gloucester, got a UHaul, and picked up the piano. Then, we visited my Dad, who was in a physical rehab hospital.

My dad was not in his right mind. He called me by my sister’s name and complained that I’d gained weight (my sister has dark hair and is a size two, and I’m a blonde and… not a size two), then he completely ignored me and talked to Bill, who was just great with him. In my dad’s mind, he was still an officer in the Air Force. My dad was talking as if he was in a briefing. Bill caught on quickly and started speaking to my dad as if he was a general. Dad responded in the most uncanny way. He calmed down. Afterwards, Bill and I took my mom out for a drink. Just as we were about to get in the car to take Mom home, a nurse called and asked her to come back and sit with Dad, because he was agitated. Mom bitched out the nurse, which made me feel a little sorry for Dad’s caregivers. I remember her telling them that she didn’t have the stamina to sit with him all the time and it was their job to deal with him. I guess they were able to, since we left and Mom got to rest.

What would have happened if I had just done what my sister had demanded? I think it would have turned into a wild goose chase. If I had gone up to North Carolina, I probably would have missed seeing my dad. I would have wasted gas, and there’s no way I would have been able to do what my mom ultimately needed done, getting that heavy piano out of the house. I needed Bill to help with that. Maybe my sister would have been temporarily happy that I’d done as she demanded, but in the long run, doing her bidding wouldn’t have been very useful. She thought she knew better, though, and incorrectly assumed she could still order me around. News flash… I’m not eight years old anymore.

My sister wanted to do something, but wasn’t able to do it herself. She was feeling guilty and helpless. She figured I wasn’t busy, and decided to use manipulative tactics to try to spur me into action. When I demurred, she laid the guilt on even thicker and heavier. The end result is that she really pissed me off. I lost some respect for her when she resorted, yet again, to manipulation instead of making a respectful request of me. But then, this is something my sister has always done. Somehow, despite being raised by very direct and forthright parents, two of my sisters have learned that in order to get their way, they have to be manipulative. It’s a very common strategy. I no longer have much patience or tolerance for it. When people use fear, obligation, and guilt to try to get me to do something, I usually resist.

I think sometimes people who have grown up in abusive situations, or are surrounded by people who are manipulative and prone to employing guilt trips, are conditioned to do the bidding of others without ever questioning it. My husband calls this “getting on the bus to Abilene”, although I’m not sure he quite gets the euphemism right. Getting on the bus to Abilene suggests group think– people giving into a bad idea because they don’t want to be the person who resists, even though secretly, everyone is against the idea. The trip to Abilene is pointless and uncomfortable, but everyone goes along to get along and everyone suffers for it. And then it turns out no one wanted to go in the first place.

Maybe this anecdote isn’t helpful for everyone, but it’s helpful for me. There’s no reason why I can’t rely on my own good sense to make my own decisions. I don’t have to respond to people who use guilt tactics and manipulation to get me to do their bidding. In fact, it’s in my best interest to teach them NOT to approach me that way.

You’re not a marionette. You can dance to your own tune.

I did end up helping our mom, but I did it in a way that was doable for me and ultimately more helpful for her. I’m glad to hear that Bill’s daughter has similarly learned to say “no” to her mom when she pulls this kind of manipulative shit. If you’re an adult, and you’re functional, you don’t have to take manipulation from other people. Manipulation is, at its core, a kind of bullying. It’s unfair and disrespectful. It may seem easier to give in to manipulation, but in the long run, it only encourages more of the same behavior. Set boundaries and enforce them. If someone proposes a bad idea, you don’t have to go along with it. Do what works for you.

Back in 2010, I wrote about this incident as it was happening. I was unusually calm about it. I would have thought there would have been more ranting and swearing, but in 2010, I was more circumspect than I am now.

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