family, modern problems, politics

Nothing says “I love you” like a thirteen year old falsely attributed email forward…

I still have a bit of writer’s block today… Well, maybe I don’t have writer’s block per se. There’s a lot I could write about. I just don’t feel like getting into what’s on everyone’s minds right now. I would rather complain about something else. Today’s topic is not as much of a problem as it once was. In some ways it’s a relief. In other ways, it’s kinda sad. The title of today’s post is recycled, but the content is mostly fresh.

I grew up with a large, extended family on my dad’s side. I have three sisters, and we all have the same parents. My sisters are much older than I am, though, so in some ways, they seemed more like my aunts. My father had eight brothers and sisters, and seven of them made it to adulthood. My aunts and uncles each had either 2 or 4 children, so there are 22 grandchildren– 11 males and 11 females.

When I was growing up, I thought I had a really awesome family. And, I guess I do… except for the fact that I feel like I no longer belong. Looking back on it, though, I realize that I probably never really belonged. I used to fight with my younger cousins a lot. Now that we’re adults, I’ve found that I’m a lot more liberal than most of my family members are. I didn’t used to be this way. I used to identify as a Republican. I now realize that was because I didn’t know a thing about politics or politicians. I simply voted the way my family and a lot of my friends did. It took leaving the nest to find my own views. And it’s taken several more years for me to have the conviction and confidence to defend my opinions. Sadly, I think that’s taken a toll on some of my relationships.

At least I’m not getting so many of these anymore. Even my more enlightened family members sometimes sent these.

Today’s blog post title was originally used on a post I wrote in 2016 about certain members of my extended family mindlessly sending me falsely attributed emails that parroted their conservative views. On the original post, I wrote about how one of my favorite relatives, now sadly deceased, had sent me an email supposedly written by the late Andy Rooney. I grew up watching Mr. Rooney on 60 Minutes. He was famously cranky, curmudgeonly, and witty. Sometimes, he had controversial opinions. Still, I couldn’t believe that Andy Rooney would have written an email that espoused the racist views in the email sent to me by my relatives. I checked Snopes, and sure enough, my hunch was correct.

In my 2016 post, I wrote that I was sad for a couple of reasons that I had received that forwarded email. Rooney was a talented writer and expressed himself gracefully.  Would he have really written something along the lines of “It doesn’t take a whole village to raise a child right, but it does take a parent to stand up to the kid and smack their little ass when necessary and say ‘NO.’?” And even if Andy Rooney had written the email and did agree with its sentiments, why on earth would people in my family think I would appreciate or agree with that tripe? I figured they must not know me very well. I wrote:

I could sit here and dissect that email forward for its very hateful messages.  Instead, I’m just going to make a comment to the people who actually know me and follow this blog (or the other two).  First of all, I am not a political conservative.  I don’t agree with a lot of conservative views.  I am probably more of a centrist than anything else.  While I am generally not a fan of political correctness being forced down people’s throats and I place a high value on the freedom of expression, I also appreciate civility and empathy.  I try really hard not to be cruel to people, even when I feel angry enough to be cruel.  While I would never say that I’m a bleeding heart liberal, neither am I a crusty conservative.  And I would never align myself with the attitude presented in the email forward I received last night.

What really surprises me is that the people who forwarded that email to me are a couple of my favorite relatives.  They have always been good to me… probably even better to me than my own parents ever were.  They are genuinely kind to everyone.  I hesitate to send a negative response to them, even in a loving tone, because despite hating the constant forwarded emails, I do love them very much and don’t want to offend them, even though they’ve offended me.  I respect them as my elders and as people who helped make me who I am. 

I ended my post wondering what I should do. I didn’t want to be offensive, but that email was offensive to me. It didn’t speak to me. And while I’m sure I could have crafted a kind response to them and a request not to mindlessly forward conservative political bullshit to me, I’m not sure that would have been received in a spirit of fun or goodwill. I wrote this in my 2016 post:

Part of me thinks it’s easiest to just ignore and delete the emails.  Another part of me feels like I should say something about them.  I’m torn between not wanting to upset people and feeling like I need to call bullshit.  I wonder if it’s worth the hassle and if my saying anything would change anything.  It’s not that I don’t want to hear from my family members.  It’s just that 99.9% of the forwards, even if they aren’t hateful and racist, are just plain useless and/or stupid.

I have heard people say that when you get a forwarded email from someone, you should take it as a sign they were thinking of you.  If that’s true, how am I supposed to take it when I get an email that really doesn’t connect with my beliefs or world view at all?  And it’s not even something my relative wrote from the heart– it’s ripped off crap written by some anonymous identity thieving hack.  If I had received an original email from a family member that contained the same sentiments in the so-called Andy Rooney hack job, I probably still wouldn’t appreciate it much.  But at least I’d know the email was somewhat original and written for me.  I would at least have a sign that the family member was communicating with me personally and not just poking me with rehashed crap that has already been spread to the masses.  What the hell is the point of forwarding shit that has been forwarded ad nauseam for over a decade and identified as not being authentic?

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I’ve been trained to be “nice”. I grew up with a father who believed in “smacking my ‘little’ ass” whenever he felt it was warranted. Of course, when he did that, he was usually angry and sometimes intoxicated. So his judgment about whether or not physical discipline was required was probably a bit skewed. The end result was that when my father died in 2014, I was kind of ambivalent. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I don’t miss him very much, even though I thought I loved him when he was alive.

Yesterday, Bill and I were talking about his dad, who died last November. I never got a chance to know my father-in-law well. I saw him in person a handful of times. I always thought he was a nice man, albeit a little bit simple. I say “simple”, but that doesn’t mean I think he was “simple-minded”. He was just not one to fuss with complexities. He had a tendency to be nice to a fault, and he let people steamroll him… to include Bill’s ex wife. He didn’t know Bill that well, because he and Bill’s mom divorced when Bill was very young. Bill visited his dad, but due to the nature of visitation, it was hard for them to bond or have a relationship in which there was more than a “vacation” mindset. Then Bill’s mom moved to Arizona and later, Texas, while Bill’s dad lived in Tennessee. So that made it even harder for them to really bond.

Bill missed his father’s funeral, thanks to COVID-19. He did manage to tell him he loved him, thanks to Skype. Bill’s dad’s last words were a request for Bill to be kind to his wife, Bill’s stepmother. The one thing Bill’s dad said to me, during the few times I met him, was that Bill had exceeded his expectations. He said that he hadn’t thought Bill was tough enough to be in the Army. But Bill had proven him wrong. I think he meant it as an expression of pride, but it was actually kind of a backhanded compliment. But at least Bill’s dad wasn’t a believer in physical violence to get his point across, as my father was. I wish they had known each other better before time ran out.

Ain’t it the truth… and it sometimes takes awhile before people get the message.

Nowadays, I don’t get those forwards from my relatives. What ended up happening is that another relative went way too far. And I got really mad and cussed him out. It happened in February 2017, when Bill and I were vacationing in France. My uncle sent a pro Trump/Pence forward to me. Feeling a bit saucy, and more than a little fed up by the constant political bullshit, I sent a polite response. Seriously, it initially WAS polite. I simply wrote back that I wasn’t impressed with either Trump or Pence and thought they both needed to go. In a blog post from that time, I wrote this:

My uncle came back and accused me of being a “nut case”.  He said that in two years, I’ll be “cheering” for Trump.  He assumes I voted for Hillary Clinton.  I didn’t vote for Mrs. Clinton, but I would much prefer her to Trump.  At least she’s competent and knows enough not to act like a goddamn psychopath on Twitter. 

So anyway, being called a nutcase by my uncle pissed me the fuck right off.  So I wrote back to him and said, “No, Ed, I really will not [be cheering].  You need to stop sending me this crap.  Unless you want a verbal ass kicking, you’ll take me off your email list.” 

My sister saw what I wrote and said, “Oh no, now you’ve done it.”  I explained to her that I’m rapidly reaching a point at which I am about to disassociate with people who resort to mean spirited personal insults over politics, even if it’s a family member.  She implored me to calm down, probably realizing that since I live overseas and don’t miss anyone, it would be all too easy for me to simply drop out of the family fold altogether.

He responded and once again called me crazy.  He also said “GET OVER IT!”  Just like that.

I wonder, does he really expect me to just “get over it”?  He knows where I come from.  I have a lot of the same qualities he has.  In fact, being outspoken is what makes me a family member of his. 

Anyway… I wrote back and said, “Ed, I’m warning you.  Leave me alone.  Stop sending me political bullshit.”

He may write back today, after he’s had a few belts.  If he does, I will probably shred him.

As I recall, Ed did send me a few more political emails, but there were fewer of them. And now I don’t get so many anymore, partly because some of the worst offenders are now dead. And partly because I finally got angry and told the still living ones to knock it off. But now I don’t really hear much from them anymore…

Yesterday, I told Bill that I still love my family, but I don’t feel like I can go home again. I don’t think I want to spend a holiday with them like I used to, when I was younger and more pliant. The political forwards weren’t always bad, though. Sometimes, they inspired me to be creative. My uncle sent me the below forwarded poem back in January 2018. Try not to gag (even though of COURSE I honor our vets– I am married to one).

Re: Fwd: Fw: A TERRIFIC POEM /Our Vets.

I’m honored to have the opportunity to pass this well-written poem along.

He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
Telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.

And ‘tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew where of he spoke.

But we’ll hear his tales no longer,
For ol’ Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer
For a Veteran died today.

He won’t be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing,
‘Tho a Veteran died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?

The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Veteran,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.

It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever-waffling stand?

Or would you want a Veteran
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Veteran,
Who would fight until the end.

He was just a common Veteran,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.

For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Veteran’s part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor
While he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage
At the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:
“OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,
A VETERAN DIED TODAY.”

PLEASE,
If you are proud of our Vets, then pass this on.

I was so tired of my uncle’s conservative political forwards that I decided to rewrite this “well-written” poem… I don’t remember if I sent it to him. I probably didn’t, since I was trained to be “nice”.

He was getting old and senile
And his mind was failing fast,
Uncle Ed sat by his computer,
Sending emails from the past.
 
Of politicians he agreed with
And decisions they had made,
Of their exploits within Washington;
Slashing Social Security and Medicaid.
 
And ‘tho to some of his relatives
Ed’s emails were mostly bunk,
They resolved to just ignore them
Cuz’ they figured he was drunk.
 
Sometimes the emails are racist
and often they offend,
And my mood’s a little poorer
when Uncle Ed hits “send”.

He’s worked and raised a family,
And managed his travails;
Yet on the day he passes,
I’ll only recall his emails.
 
Although I’ve always loved him,
his children, and his wife.
I tire of his political bullshit;
which often causes strife.

For many politicians are selfish,
And people think they’re fake,
Others forecast their passing,
And the policies they’ll make.
 
The media tells how their choices
Badly affect the old and the young,
And the way they screw the veterans
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.
 
Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
An uncle who sends political emails
And disturbs his fellow man?
 
Or the ordinary housewife
Whose nerves are worn and frayed,
Fighting hard to still the impulse
that make her words cut like blades?
 
The hapless housewife’s stipend
And the style in which she lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the lack of a shit she gives.
 
About her uncle’s politics,
Republican and all,
His insights regarding morality,
And how America will fall.
 
It is not the lowly relative
With patience, grace, and poise,
Who wins respect and gratitude
When her drunken uncle annoys.
 
Should she find herself angry,
The latest missive on her screen,
Wouldn’t she like to respond,
To his ever-venting spleen?
 
Or would she just sit quietly
Again holding her piece,
As her dad, Ed’s big brother Bill,
Taught Ed’s very clever niece.
 
She’s just a common cousin,
Daughter, sister, niece, and female,
But her life is worth just enough–
To receive masses of forwarded email.
 
For when old men are online,
In the darkest hours of the night,
One never knows what bullshit
They’ll send via kilobyte.

She cannot block his postings
And he will not volunteer,
To stop forwarding ridiculous emails,
That won’t inspire cheer…

Perhaps in a simple reprimand
her response will someday be:
“I’M TIRED OF YOUR FORWARDS.
STOP SENDING THAT CRAP TO ME.”

PLEASE…
If you are sick of mindless email forwards full of conservative politics, then pass this on.

Maybe it’s kind of mean to be rewriting this classic piece of poetry that so touched my uncle’s heart.  However, I think I’ve historically generally been pretty patient with him. At the time I posted this, I asked him to stop sending me this shit a year prior, and yet he persisted.  I might as well have a little fun with it.  After all, a gift for words is something passed down from his side of the family. It’s like being related to a bunch of southern styled Archie Bunkers.

Ah well… We’ll see if and when I ever go home again. Maybe I’m better off over here with Bill. Maybe it’s a lucky thing that I see things more clearly now than I used to, even if my eyes get more myopic and astigmatic by the day. It’s probably true that you can never really go home again. And sometimes, even your relatives don’t really know you.

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Ex, mental health, narcissists

This sentiment really resonates with me right now…

Last night, an online friend and I were chatting on Facebook instant messenger. We had started conversing on my Facebook page, offering our thoughts about the new abortion law in Texas. I had mentioned that I hate Donald Trump for his part in this… and for many other reasons. And yes, I know Trump didn’t act alone. He had a lot of help from Mitch McConnell and other MAGA asshats who just want to keep people trapped in poverty as they hypocritically lecture them about morals. But basically, Trump is the face of a lot of really horrible people who only care about themselves and everybody else can just go to Hell. That is basically the very essence of narcissism.

Yep… that’s about right. People with money will always be able to get abortions if they want or need them.

My friend had basically said that she doesn’t care about Trump enough to hate him. She sees him like she’d see a scorpion. It’s his nature to be cruel. He can’t help himself. So she doesn’t expend the energy to hate him. I, on the other hand, am not like that by nature. People irk me and I react to them more than I should. And before I knew it, our conversation had segued from Trump to Ex. I wrote:

I understand that mindset [of not caring enough about Trump to hate him]. I just can’t help myself. But there are people I dislike as much or more than Trump, like the Ex. Every time I try to feel compassion for her, remembering that she’s mentally ill, I am reminded that she stole from her own children, sexually abused my husband, and turns people close to her into her slaves. I just really hate narcissists.

I explained that I believe my husband’s ex wife is a narcissist. But I also think she is mentally ill. I’m not the only one. She has been diagnosed by professionals. But she’s also just a very manipulative, selfish, shitty person who has done real harm to others. Unfortunately, some good people are still struck in her sphere. There’s not much we can do for them until they help themselves. It’s an awful feeling to watch good people who are trapped, and haven’t figured out that they need to help themselves… or even that there are people who would gladly help them to help themselves. But, as they say, it is what it is.

My friend was skeptical that Ex is mentally ill. She asked me some questions about Ex, and why I believe that besides being a shitty person, she’s also got legitimate issues with mental illness. Some of it may be organic. Some may have been brought on by abuse and trauma. Some may be because she’s just a nasty person. I explained that I believe a person can be mentally ill, and they can also simply be mean. The two conditions are not mutually exclusive.

Then I PM’d my friend with some sensitive information that clarified things a bit. I didn’t go into specifics of what happened, because the specifics don’t matter. What mattered was that a few years ago, I might have simply excused Ex for being “sick” with mental illness. I can’t excuse her anymore, though, because she has done some things that are just beyond the pale and, I know they aren’t due to mental illness. In fact, she often uses mental illness as a crutch, excusing herself for being a shitty person. I didn’t find out about the personal stuff until a few years ago. When I did find out about what happened, I was absolutely livid. It forever changed my opinion about Ex– not that it was ever very high– and made me conclude that she’s plainly damaged beyond repair.

More wisdom.

The conversation with my friend continued, and she eventually took my word that Ex is probably both mentally ill, and a terrible person. But she’s not as bad as she could have been. Believe me, I have realized that she could have done more to make our lives hell. She’s no longer a threat to me personally, but she’s still a threat to Bill’s daughters and the family members who aren’t clued in to what kind of a person she is.

Personally, I am at a point at which I don’t really care much about Ex. I might feel about her the way my friend feels about Donald Trump. I might see her as a reptile who just hurts people because it’s in her nature to do that. But then Bill talks to his daughter, who isn’t quite ready to go no contact. If she goes no contact, there’s a good chance she will pay a dear price. She may lose contact with other family members, for instance. So Ex remains a topic of conversation, even though personally, I could probably move on from caring or talking about her at all.

And then, I noticed something posted by another friend. I don’t know this friend as well… but what I do know is that she’s been going through something with a narcissist. She’s been posting nothing but quotes about narcissism lately. I mostly don’t notice her posts, because I’m not big on posting quotes and memes without explaining the context. But every once in awhile, she posts a gem. Last night, she posted the below image.

This sentiment really resonates with me right now.

For most of my life, I have been trained to tolerate dysfunction. I’ve been conditioned to ignore bad behavior and be “nice” at all costs, so as not to upset the apple cart. I’m not as good at ignoring bad behavior as some people are. I do have a bit of a temper, and I will lose it when people go too far. Sometimes, when I feel like I can’t be assertive, I’ll be passive aggressive, which isn’t a good solution. But, for the most part, I do try to avoid conflict, and sometimes I give people too much power. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and will sometimes excuse them when they shouldn’t be excused. Or, I simply put up with bad stuff from people when I should let it, and them, go.

We’re living in some incredible times. The past five years have been awesomely hard for many people. Bill and I have been mostly fortunate, mostly because we haven’t been living in the United States. But we have been watching the turmoil from afar, and that has been very stressful and worrisome. I’ve found that living in Germany has given me some empathy for people who have come to America from countries where there’s a lot of strife. Bill and I are not in Germany illegally, but it’s still not our home. We love living over here, and we’re not in a hurry to leave. But we still have friends and family who are dealing with the strife as we look on from abroad.

Living in another country has its challenges, although things are pretty good for us. I’m not stupid enough to compare the United States with Afghanistan or El Salvador or Syria or Honduras… or any other place where things are just horrifying. Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision is plenty horrifying, though… and it takes energy to process it and what it might mean for the future. Why should I let some low level idiot who is up to no good upset me? Especially when there really are much bigger fish to fry? They don’t care about me. Why should I care about them?

I don’t have the energy or stamina to put up with people who deliberately cause chaos, especially if I don’t have an investment in them, and especially when the chaos is over something really petty or insignificant. At this point in my life, I don’t have a lot invested in most other people. It’s probably because I do live in another country. I haven’t seen most of my family since 2014. I haven’t seen friends in that long, either. The ones I’ve made in Germany, by and large, aren’t real friends. They are friendly for a short amount of time, then disappear. So why should I tolerate any disrespect from them? Why should I let them upset me?

Of course, it’s probably in my nature to get upset. Just like I can’t see Donald Trump as a mere scorpion, I can’t help but be irritated by people who go out of their way to be manipulative, disrespectful, or just plain mean. I react more than I should, but lately, I’ve been trying to learn to let things go. I’ve been making a concerted effort not to get into it with people… especially people I don’t know. People who don’t care at all about me aren’t worth the tears. Peace is important, and I am as entitled to it as anyone is. So, instead of addressing stuff that I know will turn into something dramatic, I just quietly take out the trash.

As I was telling my friend last night, there are some people in the world that want to deny you your vote. Yes, some people literally want to deny you your vote in political matters, but I’m also talking about your vote in interpersonal situations. Like, for instance, when Ex unilaterally decided to have Christmas at my in-laws’ house, and demanded that I show up there for two days of hell during the biggest holiday of the year. She never asked me what I thought of the plan. I was simply expected to show up and shut up, forfeiting my right to enjoy Christmas.

Well… I realized then that I had a vote. I had a right to vote “no” to her Christmas plan, and stay home. Yes, there was a price to be paid for voting that way. She decided to punish everybody else for my choice. On the other hand, those people– most of whom were adults– almost chose to accept her “punishment” and disrespect. What they really should have done was tell her to fuck off and kick her out of their lives. It’s hard to do that when kids are involved… I know that. But, even in that situation, there were choices that could have been made. Bill had the right to take the Ex to court, for instance. Or, the in-laws could have told her and #3 to get a hotel room. Or they could have refused to host her little drama altogether. In some way, they could have REFUSED to tolerate her bullshit and just plain not shown up or stuck around for it.

I’m sorry if this post doesn’t make sense. It makes sense to me. As I have said before, I think the universe often gives us multiple chances to learn valuable lessons. This is one of those times. I got a lesson last week, as a matter of fact.

Last week, I got involved in some petty dramas that upset me quite a bit more than they should have. I was upset and frustrated, when I should have been enjoying the Black Forest, which was genuinely beautiful. The people who were causing the strife weren’t people I’m close to or care about. I was simply indulging them and giving them a lot more air time than they deserved. I’ve done that for too many people… Ex included. The vast majority of people are simply not worth the consideration.

I don’t like blocking, unfriending, or even unfollowing people… and I mostly don’t like it when people do that to me (although there are times when it was actually a mutual decision… they just acted first). But– I realize we all have our limits, and X amount of energy. The older you get, the more you realize that time and energy are precious. So it makes sense to spend those valuable commodities on people and issues that truly deserve them.

People like “Dick”, the wine group saboteur, Ex, Trump, and any number of other people with whom I can’t reasonably collaborate or cooperate, simply aren’t worth my time, energy, or attention. They don’t appreciate the sacrifice. And so, today I’m going to try to make a concentrated effort to kick those people out of my life as much as possible. I already feel a lot better having dumped a few of those folks… kind of like I did this morning, purging yesterday’s shit from my system.

And now… Noyzi and Arran are telling me it’s time for a walk. So I’m off to blow off some steam. Hope you have a good Friday… and as my friend Wilbur sings, “Don’t let life chew the sweet out of you.”

“Itty bitty problems” aren’t worth the stress. This song is non-sensical, but it makes me laugh.

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family, psychology

…Put up, show up, shut up…

Some people think I’m not a very “nice” person, mainly because I often speak my mind and don’t roll over to their demands. I think it’s better to be kind or good, rather than “nice”. There is a difference. A “nice” person is pleasant to be around and doesn’t make waves. They usually have self-serving reasons for being “nice”, which range from simply wanting to be liked by others, to actively wanting to take advantage of other people.

A good person with kind intentions might make waves for the good of all, even if it causes temporary strife. A good person does things that might not be popular with the crowd, but are ultimately in everyone’s best interests. A good person has mercy and compassion and thinks of the big picture, even if it means temporarily pissing off other people.

Nice people often end up screwing over the unaware, even if the screwing doesn’t cause any pain at first. Superficial charm can be a valuable weapon against the weak. Someone who is pleasant at first can easily end up turning into a nightmare, leaving others bewildered, shocked, and reeling from the surprise pain they cause. But good people are sometimes abrasive for the right reasons. What they say and do might hurt at first, but they take those actions because they want to minimize pain in the long run.

Sometimes I feel badly about being less likable than I could be. But then I realize that Bill loves this about me, because I encourage him to be assertive and stick up for himself and others. Also, since I don’t need to be liked as much, I often have a broader perspective than he does about some things. He rules more with his heart and emotions than I do, and that sometimes leads him down the roads to Hell. However, with me around to be firm and offer another perspective, he’s often more able to make decisions that hurt fewer people. Sometimes those decisions are unpopular and make people angry, but in the grand scheme of things, they turn out for the better.

Yesterday turned out to be kind of a yucky day for Bill. He had a very busy and frustrating day at work. Then he came home and found out that his dad is very sick and in the hospital. How did he find out? Through that ever popular medium, Facebook… and it was a family friend’s post that alerted him that something was wrong, not his sister or stepmother.

I think he was hurt that his family didn’t tell him before the news wound up on Facebook, although he wasn’t surprised. This is not the first time he’s been left out of the loop, although in fairness to the family, we are pretty far away and he is a product of his father’s first marriage. My husband’s stepmother doesn’t like Bill’s mom and was jealous of Bill when he was a boy, taking his father’s attention from her. She also doesn’t like me, because I don’t let her push me around and she doesn’t think I’m “nice”. Still, Bill has always loved his dad and has done his best to be a good son. So he was saddened that no one bothered to let him know about his dad’s situation.

Mood music for this post. I was introduced to the magic of Lyle Lovett by a Mormon couple I knew when I was serving in the Peace Corps. I consider it a gift they gave me far more valuable than the Book of Mormon.

I am familiar with this kind of pain myself. Last year, my favorite uncle passed away suddenly, having suffered a stroke. I found out about the stroke, not from a family member, but from a friend of the family… someone I don’t know personally. She’d posted her best wishes to my cousins. When I later asked my cousin why I had to find out about her dad on Facebook, she claimed she’d asked my sister to tell me. That made me sad, since I’m not that close to my sister. In fact, before this happened, I would have thought I was closer to my cousin than my sister. But I guess she didn’t have the same regard for me that I did for her.

About a week or two later, when my uncle died, I did hear about it from a relative. This time, it was another cousin who told me… one of the few who talks to me anymore. I remember when my dad died, I didn’t hear too much from most of my family then, either. I’m beginning to feel a bit divorced from them. I guess I can’t blame them too much. It’s been awhile since we last saw each other, and my outspokenness about politics has turned off a lot of them.

I still couldn’t help but remember back in 2017, when a very old and dear friend of mine took the time to send me a private message on Facebook to tell me that her dad died. She said he’d always liked me and she didn’t want me to read about his death in the paper. It meant a lot to me that she’d had the regard for me and the consideration to tell me about that, rather than letting me read about it on a public social media posting. It was more consideration that I’ve gotten from my own family when relatives have gotten sick or died.

This morning, Bill was getting updated on his father’s condition. He’d had to ask his sister about it after seeing the status update from the friend of the family, indicating that something was wrong. She has kindly been explaining the situation. It turns out Bill’s dad may have been exposed to COVID-19, so he’s currently in isolation. He’s got some underlying chronic health issues that could make him less likely to recover from this illness, especially if he’s had the virus. They are testing him now to determine if he has. At this point, he’s still lucid and seems to be feeling better. But he’s in the hospital and is showing some signs that he might have been infected with COVID-19 and possibly gotten over it while, unbeknownst to him, sustaining lung damage.

Naturally, that led to us thinking about what we should do if he doesn’t get well. This would be difficult problem, even if there wasn’t a global pandemic going on. We live in Germany, and our families are in the United States. Going home means being on a plane for hours. Going home during the pandemic means being on a plane for hours, masked and exposed to strangers, and dealing with whatever COVID-19 policies are in effect in the United States. Then, once it’s time to go back to Germany, quarantining… but only after being exposed to people who lived with a man who may have had COVID-19. That means Bill might be be exposing people who are also in transit, then coming home to our neighborhood, which has many elderly people in it. I have asthma, although I don’t take medication for it. I’m also pushing 50 and overweight. It wouldn’t be good if I got the virus.

We are so lucky to live in Germany, which so far has not had the horrifically high number of COVID-19 cases the United States has had. But living in Germany comes with a cost when it comes to seeing family, especially in times of crisis. I suspect that if the worst happens, there could be quite a shitstorm. I advised Bill to think long and hard about whether or not he should risk possibly going home at this time, given how many people could be affected.

Bill’s stepmother is a difficult person. She has a tendency to think mostly of herself. She’s quick to take offense without looking at the big picture. I’ve written about this situation a few times over the years, but for the sake of clarity, I’ll write about it again.

In 2004, my husband’s ex wife decided to try to force us all to spend Christmas together at Bill’s dad’s house. She claimed she wanted the children (from three different fathers) to feel like we were all one big happy family. I thought it was a terrible idea, but no one consulted me about it. I was simply informed of the idea and expected to put up, show up, and shut up.

I was newly married to Bill at the time, and Ex probably figured that she could try to pressure me into being “nice”. But I knew that if I went to that gathering, it would be a shitstorm of epic proportions. I have experienced many epic holiday shitstorms with my family of origin. In fact, I had experienced one the year prior. And in 2004, by golly, I wanted to have a relaxed Christmas with no fighting. Moreover, we were broke back then and couldn’t really afford the trip. I figured no one in that group needed to see me, especially the kids, who typically don’t care about their stepmothers so much. Given the difficulty of the situation, I opted to stay home. Bill went to see his kids– for the last time, it turned out. Since then, he’s only seen his younger daughter in the flesh once– and that was in March of this year.

Bill’s stepmother was very angry that I didn’t show up. She thought I was snubbing the family. She took my absence as a dig– and was probably spurred on to think that by Ex, whose plans to humiliate me were dashed when I didn’t show up and no one told her I wasn’t coming. Meanwhile, I was thinking that what I did may not have been “nice”, but it was ultimately the kindest solution, since I knew that if I had to spend days watching my husband’s toxic ex wife in action, I’d probably want to kill her with my bare hands. I doubt it would have been a civilized scene. I figured Bill’s dad and stepmother just wanted to see the kids and Bill. Ex had made it clear that no one liked or cared about me, anyway. So I stayed home, saved the money on airfare and dog boarding, and drank lots of wine. Later, I was blamed for how shitty the gathering was, even though I wasn’t there and it wasn’t my idea to plan it.

Several years later, I did explain to Bill’s dad and stepmother my line of reasoning. They seemed to accept it, once they heard me tell them what my reasons were for not attending. While I was thinking of my own mental and physical health, as well as our precarious finances at the time, when I opted out of that gathering, I was also thinking of them and the kids. The kids were especially innocent in that situation. It was Christmas, and I thought they should enjoy it without seeing their mother and stepmother seething at each other. Moreover– I didn’t plan that gathering. I wasn’t asked how I felt about it. I was simply expected to put up, show up, and shut up, as usual. I might as well have been a cardboard cutout of a woman with no thoughts or feelings and no right to an opinion.

Unfortunately, even though we explained why I did what I did, other situations have since come up in which Bill has been yelled at by his stepmother for not showing enough deference or regard for his father. She also does this to Bill’s younger daughter. Stepmom is very good at shaming and blaming other people when things aren’t to her liking. And this situation with Bill’s dad, especially if it ends up having the worst outcome, will surely invite drama. Bill will be expected to make a trip to the States if the worst happens. But I have already told him that I think he should consider what going there would mean for other people, to include some who just happen to live in our neighborhood.

Bill thanked me for offering that perspective to him. He said he needed to hear it. I’m sure I will be blamed for it if he chooses not to go, but that’s okay. Lots of people think I’m a bitch. As Ex once famously said, I can’t help how other people feel. Moreover, if stepmother does crawl up Bill’s ass for not showing proper respect by jumping on a plane to see his father, he can tell her that she never even bothered to tell him he was sick in the first place. Respect is a two way street. And while going to comfort her would probably be the “nice” thing to do, it would not be the good or kind thing to do for the vulnerable people who live and work with Bill every day. Even if he did go, she probably wouldn’t appreciate it anyway.

In any case, we don’t yet know if Bill’s dad has been exposed to COVID-19. He might not have been… although being in a hospital during a pandemic isn’t really being in a safe zone, either. And he might very well recover, which would be the outcome we’re all hoping for.

For some reason, I’ve found myself in the crosshairs of a lot of manipulative people– women, in particular– who try to pressure me into being “nice”. But, as I said before– it’s better to be good and kind, rather than nice. And being good and kind doesn’t always feel “nice” to others, even if it is the best thing in the long run. I have resolved not to “put up, shut up, and show up” anymore in order to avoid other people’s wrath. I have my own wrath, and my own right to make choices that work best for me and others around me. If other people choose to be loyal to themselves, why shouldn’t I? Why shouldn’t anyone? Especially a man as lovely as Bill is.

ETA: COVID-19 test was negative.

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And just an addendum…

I saw this video today and it resonated. I’ve been subscribed to JP’s channel ever since I saw his video about veganism. I think he makes much sense regarding “political correctness”… too many of us are stuck in it and not seeing it for what it really is.

There’s a difference between being “nice” and being “kind”. Political correctness is often more “nice” than “kind”.

Wow… he gets it. He really does. It takes courage to speak out loud, to be bold, and to be kind.

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