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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religion

Is a hot dog a sandwich?

This morning, I ran across an interesting post on the Duggar Family News page. A woman wrote this:

Hmmm..

She got a lot of responses to her query. One person wrote that by simply not believing in evolution, the poster was not a believer in science. Another wrote that science isn’t like a buffet. You can’t just pick and choose what you believe in and what you don’t. But the response that actually got me to thinking was this one:

Wow… how profound.

Is bread really essential to a sandwich? And does the presence of bread with a filling automatically make something a sandwich? As Bill and I ate delicious grits from South Carolina, we discussed this conundrum. The above posters got some interesting responses to her comment, too.

So… according to the original poster, without bread, you don’t have a sandwich. But a hot dog, which is a sausage between a bun, which can be separated, is NOT a sandwich…

I decided to see what the experts had to say about this. I found that Merriam-Webster does, in fact, consider a hot dog a sandwich. Merriam-Webster defines a sandwich thusly:

1) two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between 
2) one slice of bread covered with food

So, according to a major dictionary, a hot dog, which is a type of sausage surrounded by a roll, is a sandwich. Makes sense to me. But then I went looking on the Internet and found that this topic is surprisingly controversial. Many people seem to think that a hot dog isn’t a sandwich because, despite its meeting the definition of a sandwich, it just isn’t. I found an article about this very topic which claims that out of 34 actors, writers, athletes, journalists, radio personalities, and musicians don’t think the hot dog qualifies as a sandwich. Only nine people surveyed answered that hot dogs definitely are sandwiches.

So why isn’t a hot dog a sandwich? Some people say that in order to be a sandwich, the bread has to be open on all sides. And because most hot dogs are served encased in a roll, it doesn’t qualify as a sandwich because on one side, there is a closed seam. However, I have eaten hot dogs in which the bun is pulled apart. Does that mean that since the seam was breached, my hot dog has become a sandwich? What about a burger? Is a burger a sandwich since the sides of the bread are open?

Other people said it wasn’t a sandwich because it’s not called a sandwich on a menu. Actually, this thought was pretty interesting to me, since in the course of researching this topic, I learned that hot dogs have quite an intriguing history and, in fact, were originally called sandwiches. However, according to the article I linked, written by Kathryn Paravano,

“In 1971, the state of New York passed a law which imposed a state and city sales tax to restaurant bills that totaled more than a dime and less than a dollar. The price range earned the tax moniker “hot dog tax” because it boosted the tax on lunches, namely the most popular lunch item — the hot dog.”

So calling a hot dog a sandwich would have made it more economical. In the same article, Paravano points out that states purposely refused to define hot dogs as sandwiches because hot dogs were a moneymaker for the government in the form of higher taxes. Some people who protested the so-called “hot dog tax” rightly stated that the tax unfairly targeted the poor, who were more likely to eat hot dogs for lunch instead of something more high brow.

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council states that hot dogs are NOT sandwiches. And this is their inane reasoning why:

“Our verdict is…a hot dog is an exclamation of joy, a food, a verb describing one ‘showing off’ and even an emoji. It is truly a category unto its own.”

Well… I think that’s overstating things a bit. Clearly, they say it’s not a sandwich because of money. Personally, I rarely eat hot dogs anymore. They bring back a lot of bad childhood memories. Aside from that, they’re kind of gross, even if they do taste good. But anyway, as far as this topic goes, I agree with Merriam-Webster. I think a hot dog IS a sandwich. It literally qualifies as a sandwich. As for whether or not you can make a sandwich without bread… well, I don’t know. You can make sandwich cookies, right? And ice cream sandwiches… and sandwich crackers. Technically, those items are cousins of bread. What makes bread bread, anyway? And can a person be “sandwiched” between two other people? I may have to think about this topic some more.

As for the post that prompted today’s topic, I think that fundie Christians who only believe in some aspects of proven scientific theories because of their beliefs in God aren’t particularly scientific. I think that Christians can be science believers… I guess, anyway. It probably depends on the church. I grew up mainstream Presbyterian and mainstream Presbyterians are big believers in education. But, as we all know, not all Christians are created equally. Plenty of Christians aren’t members of churches that are big on schooling. They only believe in God.

I think the woman who posted in the Duggar group is probably regretting her decision now. I need to find another rabbit hole to fall down.

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psychology

The wrong idea…

I saw the above photo this morning and decided I had to add it to my personal collection. There’s so much truth in it, especially for me. My whole life, I’ve been called “weird”, even by supposed loved ones. I suspect I have this problem because I have an outspoken personality and a rather well-developed vocabulary… (in English, anyway). Many people tend to chafe at anyone who doesn’t go along with the crowd. I don’t like hanging out in groups, nor do I enjoy having queen bee types trying to tell me what to do. I like having good friends, but I prefer to see them one on one or in small groups. I also have a very unique laugh that annoys some people. I can’t help it. It’s the laugh God gave me. It’s loud and distinctive and I’ve caught shit my whole life for it. Other people find it “infectious”. I like ribald, inappropriate humor. Bring on the fart jokes and oversharing. I’m all over it.

For many years, I tried to be more like the way other people said I should be. I can remember agonizing in grade school and high school, trying not to say or do such “weird”, offbeat things and trying to tone down my raucous laugh. Nothing worked, and I became really depressed because I didn’t think I’d ever find a tribe who accepted me for who I am. I also figured I’d wind up an old maid, since I didn’t have a lot of dates. But stifling my true self led to self-loathing and destructive habits. After years of trying to fit my square self into a round hole, I decided I needed to simply be the most authentic version of who I am.

The lovely thing about getting older is realizing that you’re never going to please everyone. Someone will always find something to dislike about you. Fortunately, in most cases, just as many people will find something to love. I have a number of wonderful friends, and even a few family members, who think I’m just great. My husband, who is himself one of those people who works hard at being liked, has told me more than once that he admires my ability to express myself. I have helped teach him that being “liked” isn’t always the best thing, especially when it causes you to compromise your own values. It’s still hard for him to stand up for himself, but he’s now better able to do it than he used to be. He’s told me that it’s partly because he sees that not being liked isn’t the end of the world, because in most cases, for every one person who dislikes you, there’s another who will get everything you are and love you for it.

I have a friend who is struggling with some life choices right now. She’s around my age and has decided to go back to school for a master’s degree. She’s been in other master’s programs and has never been able to finish, mainly due to the programs not being a good fit for her. Still, she has the drive to keep trying and one day succeed. Recently, she announced her decision to get a master’s degree in social work. I piped up to tell her that I have a MSW myself. I don’t use it, or either of my other two degrees, in a professional manner. However, I can’t say that I regret any of the degrees I’ve earned, especially now that they’re paid for. Each educational experience was worthwhile and each one left me with new skills and knowledge. I do use the skills and knowledge, just not in the manner in which I expected.

I told my friend that she’ll find that the emphasis in social work is encouraging clients toward achieving self-determination and adapting situations to work for specific clients. I encouraged her to look at herself as her very first client. The first step is to ignore the naysayers and do what works best for her situation. Social work is going to require a lot of hands on work, paper writing, group work, and hours. My program, had I not done a dual degree with public health, was 60 hours. With the public health degree, it was 81 hours. I actually completed 90 hours– 84 for the graduate degrees and two undergrad prerequisite classes. I took an extra graduate class because I was interested in the topic and thought it would be useful. It might have been, if my life had gone the way I planned it once I determined that I was an old maid. But then, it turned out I wasn’t an old maid, and I got swept into the globetrotting Army wife lifestyle. So now, here I sit, writing these sage words for those who care to read them.

There is more than one way to get through life. What works for one person doesn’t always work for the next. Each person is cut out for different things. You can’t control what people will say or think about you, so it does no good to worry too much about it. People have their own reasons for thinking and feeling the way they do, and you’ll never fully be able to know or understand the vast majority of those reasons. I’m sure that my personality triggers people positively and negatively, because I’m not particularly laid back and I tend to say exactly what I think. If I don’t say it verbally, it usually comes out on my face. I have very expressive eyes and facial expressions that often do my talking for me. That’s why I tend to be verbally direct. The eyes don’t lie.

If I don’t say something out loud, I’ll often write it. People read what I write and some people connect to it. Other people get angry or offended and try to silence me. I’ve gotten plenty of negative feedback on posts I write on my blogs. It always surprises me how upset people can get when another person dares to express themselves, even on something like a blog post. It’s like they can’t fathom how or why someone might want to write something down. They can’t seem to understand why I would write something so upsetting to them, seeming to forget that I don’t even know the vast majority of the people who read my words, and they don’t know me. I have no idea what most people’s personal situations are, or what will trigger them. Most of what I write isn’t for other people anyway. It’s for me. Moreover, while this is mostly a public blog, it’s still my space. Anyone who reads this has come into my space, the same way they might visit another person’s home. Everyone is free to leave my home anytime they want to.

I can be funny and entertaining for some people, yet others have told me I rub them the wrong way. I find that it’s usually “leaders” and controlling types who don’t like me, because I’m not much of a follower. I don’t take orders well, particularly if I sense that the person doing the ordering is not worthy of being followed. I do best when I work independently and am allowed to be creative.

I haven’t seen my friend in person in many years. We knew each other in high school and are now connected only on Facebook. She’s always struck me as smart, talented, caring and kind. While there’s a pragmatic side of me that would worry about trying so many different academic programs, there’s another side that thinks about how short life is… and how there are only so many opportunities to try new things. People are going to say whatever. They’re going to think what they’re going to think. It’s her life… and this is my life. When it comes down to it, deep down, most people know what’s in their hearts and what they can do.

There’s so much truth in this. The older I get, the more I realize that other people’s opinions, especially about me and what I do, are none of my business… because they are mostly formed by things that have nothing at all to do with me.

While I wish I were still as young, healthy, and pretty as I used to be– even though my love life is much better in my 40s– I would not want to relive any part of my life. Wisdom is a good thing. So is the ability to tell other people to fuck off without fearing repercussions. In my case, telling people to fuck off happens verbally or non-verbally. I can’t help it. But I really am a nice person deep down… I have a big heart and a great capacity for compassion. If people want to think I’m more of a bird flipping lion, that’s on them. Sometimes being thought of in that way is also advantageous.

Those are my deep thoughts for today. Now it’s time to watch Bill brew his latest homebrew.

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