musings, psychology

Thanks (but no thanks) for the tips, and excuse me for living…

I haven’t had too much trauma being “socially isolated” over the past year and a half. I’ve come to realize that I find a lot of people really annoying. And, sad to say, a lot of people find ME annoying or in need of criticism, too, and have no compunction about telling me so. Sometimes, even when I’m being nice, someone feels the need to offer “constructive criticism” that I never asked for. It is annoying, but I try really hard not to be a bitch about it if I can help it. On the other hand, other people make me really appreciate my dogs. Dogs don’t feel the need to criticize others for being themselves.

Today, I was reading a post I wrote as a tribute to a person I used to know. She died in 2016. I remembered her to be a very lovely person who was always nice to me and super friendly. Below is my tribute to Naomi. It’s proof that I’m not a totally mean and cranky person all the time.

Remembering Naomi

A couple of nights ago, as I was sitting all alone in my house, I remembered a woman I used to work with about thirty years ago.  Her name was Naomi.  We both worked in the German (Rhinefeld) section at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.  I was in high school and she was a mother and wife.

I used to work in this building. And yes, we had the same music from 1989-92. I could probably sing it all from memory.

I didn’t work with Naomi directly.  I worked in the ice cream shop and she worked in the deli.  Naomi was what was known as a Level B supervisor.  That meant she was kind of akin to the boss of the Level A supervisors.  Level A supervisors were basically peons who had basic managerial powers over even bigger peons like me.

I was at the bottom of the barrel at Busch Gardens.  I worked there for four summers and never once got a promotion.  It was before I realized that I work best alone.  I was also very depressed and anxious at that time, and I admittedly had a horrible attitude, although I was often praised for being a hard worker and very reliable.

Despite my interpersonal demons with some other supervisor types at Busch Gardens, I always liked Naomi.  She was British, very friendly and kind, and always pleasant to be around.  I remember I’d come into the deli to drop off my purse and such.  That was where the lockers were.  There we were in our ugly fake lederhosen, looking rather ridiculous, but there to “put on a show” for paying customers.  She’d always say, “Hello, pretty lady!” in a cheerful tone of voice.  I remember she always made me smile, especially when she described the disgusting non-dairy topping we used on all of the desserts.  It was basically made of beef fat.  She described it as “dead cows” on the chocolate pudding.

Naomi was fun to work with and had a good sense of humor, yet she was quite assertive.  I remember one time, Naomi complained to Busch Gardens’ upper management about one of the bigwigs, an Italian guy named Frank who was verbally abusive.  He’d come barging into the deli and start hurling around criticisms and insults in a way that was very upsetting to the young people working there.  Naomi’s complaint got Frank sent to an anger management course.

Who knew that one day, I’d end up living in Germany for years?

I remember congratulating Naomi on her assertiveness and good leadership and she laughed and said, “They probably put him up in a luxury hotel and gave him an expense account.”  She’s probably right, but it was still pretty cool that she had the guts to complain, and Busch Gardens management actually did something.  She was a good boss, and I think, a good friend.  I even remember Naomi wrote a piece for Busch Gardens’ company newsletter.  It was about how her daughters had worked at Busch Gardens and she had decided to try it herself, to great success.

When I knew Naomi best, she was probably about the age I am right now.  That was thirty years ago, and I learned the other night that Naomi died in October 2016 at the age of 77.  She was a year younger than my mom is.  I don’t know how or why Naomi died.  I gathered from prowling around Facebook that she’d had some kind of medical crisis that was very serious, but didn’t initially trigger a death knell.  The crisis appeared to have happened over a year before she succumbed.  Whatever it was was clearly very serious.  It looked like she never recovered her health.

I quit working at Busch Gardens in 1992.  It was a good time for me to quit, because in my next job as the cook at a summer camp, I did get to be a supervisor of sorts… and I did get to make a lot of my own decisions and work independently.  I found it a less frustrating and less annoying job.  Best of all, I didn’t have to wear dirndls or fake “lederhosen” outfits of blouses with ugly suspenders sewn onto them, black tennis shoes, knee socks, or culottes that gave me constant wedgies.

Some enterprising chap did a walkthrough of Busch Gardens. When I worked there, Ireland didn’t yet exist. Where Ireland now is, there was a medieval town called Hastings. Yeah, it’s kind of schmaltzy, but I liked working there. Makes me appreciate the real Europe more.

I never forgot Naomi, though, or many of the other people I worked with.  I did find a lot of friends at Busch Gardens, many of whom I sometimes interact with on social media.

I do have one more memory of Naomi.  This one is more recent.

About twenty years ago, I was living with my parents in Gloucester, Virginia.  I was suffering from clinical depression and getting treatment for it from a therapist and a psychiatrist.  I also took voice lessons.  I find that, for me, singing is good for relieving depression.

One day, I arrived at Eastern Virginia School for the Performing Arts (EVSPA), which is where I was taking my voice lessons.  I happened to run into Naomi there.  She was directing a group of young people.  I overheard her talking about them doing a show.  I want to say it was Godspell.

I never knew Naomi was into the theater.  I was never really into the theater myself, although I’ve been known to sing show tunes, especially when I was taking lessons at EVSPA.  I don’t know if Naomi remembered me, but I do remember saying hello to her.  She looked much the same as she had when we’d worked together, and she was just as friendly and cool.  I remember being surprised to see her, since I never knew she was an actress.  I’m sure she never knew I am a musician.

I don’t know why she popped into my head the other night, but I looked up Naomi and discovered that she’d actually done a lot of good for young people in Williamsburg, Virginia.  She started a theater group called Backstage Productions.  It was open to all comers.  I have a feeling that Naomi’s vision was tremendously important to a lot of people at a tender age, looking for something constructive they could do… a place where they’d be welcome to try something new.

I wish I’d had the chance to know Naomi beyond working with her at Busch Gardens.  I’m glad I met her, though, and that her memory touched me enough to look her up a couple of days ago.  I’m not happy she died, but at least she died having done something amazing for countless people, from the youngsters who were able to perform with Backstage Productions to all of the people who watched their performances.  And that doesn’t even take into account people like me, who were touched by having the chance to work with her while wearing hideous fake lederhosen at Busch Gardens.

On another note, it occurs to me that the last thirty years have flown by… I probably should be more productive myself.  I tried being productive on SingSnap yesterday.  I decided to do some singing rather than open a bottle of wine, which is what I was somewhat tempted to do.  I try not to drink when Bill isn’t home, and he’s been away all week.  It’s been a sober few days, which hasn’t hurt me at all.  But I do get bored and lonely… and sometimes I succumb to temptation.  Drinking helps pass the time.  But it also gives me dry skin, hangovers, upset stomach, depression and anxiety.

Last night, I didn’t succumb to the temptation to open a bottle of wine, but I was feeling a little self-conscious because I can easily hear people outside my window.  I’m sure they can hear me, too, and wonder what the hell is going on in my house.  I can pull down the Rolladen, which gives me the illusion of more privacy, but I know the sound still escapes.  

I did a few songs, including a religious one.  I’m not a very religious person myself, but I like the song “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” (even if this particular arrangement is a tad schmaltzy).  So I decided to do it last night…  Of course, someone felt the need to offer me unsolicited tips about my “bravado” (vibrato?), which I will admit, kind of annoyed me.  It’s karaoke, not American Idol.  Besides, while my efforts may not have been perfect– and they never are– they’re just fine for my purposes.  The better person in me realizes that the commenter probably meant well… and maybe thought she was being helpful.

But anyway… I dedicate this to Naomi.  I have a feeling she’d be encouraging and kind about it.  I don’t know what happens after a person dies… maybe her soul can hear these things.  At least I know my soul can still connect with hers.

END

Above, you see I linked to a “dedication” to Naomi. I sang “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.” I had forgotten that I sang that song for Naomi, so I just clicked the link to check it out. Sure enough, I got some comments from people, which I mentioned in the original post. Most were very nice. But I also got a comment from someone who complimented me, but also wanted to play “voice teacher” on a karaoke site. She said she wanted to hear “more bravado” (vibrato?). Then she instructed me to use my diaphragm more. I suppose she meant I should “support” more with my diaphragm. I have a feeling she’s not an expert.

As I wrote in my original post, I’m sure the lady was trying to be helpful, but I must admit her comments were a bit irritating. If I had asked for advice, that would be one thing. But I hadn’t asked for any tips… and it’s just a karaoke site, anyway. She’s also making a lot of assumptions. What if I’m not someone with healthy lungs?

I’m not going to listen to the recording because, if I am honest, I don’t enjoy listening to my own stuff that much. I find myself criticizing it and wanting to redo it. But it’s entirely possible that I was emotional when I recorded that song. Or… what is more likely is that I didn’t go full out because it would have blown out the recorder. Sometimes, if I get too powerful, the sound cuts out. It’s frustrating, and after multiple redos, you just want to get on with it.

It strikes me, though, that if we were at a bar doing karaoke, I would not get a “do over”. No one would expect perfection. We would all just clap, right? But if you put up recordings on a karaoke site, you might get an unsolicited “lesson” from someone whose counsel and opinions you never sought.

So what does this have to do with today’s title? I just wanted to comment on people who are annoyed by me… and people who annoy me. I’m beginning to think that I’m just not cut out for interacting with others. Some people have the most amazing “people skills”. They are fun to be with and popular. And then there are people like me…

I was going to write a post today about an incident that occurred in the early 90s. I was in a choir and, back then, I was kind of loud and obnoxious. I wasn’t trying to annoy people, but I know I did. And some of them were not at all bashful about telling me so. I remember one guy, who had just made up a song about punching a guy for making him “feel like shit”, yelling at me because he found me “rude” and “obnoxious”. Remembering that song he made up about violence, I couldn’t help but realize it was the pot calling the kettle black.

Other times, people have criticized me for being who I am. Some have outright had the nerve to tell me to my face that I should change who I am to suit them. I remember it made me feel awful, especially since so few of those people ever took the time to get to know me. I’m actually a pretty good person most of the time.

Of course, as I’ve gotten older, I realize that I used to be more outspoken than I am now. And I am not entirely innocent, either. There have been people in my past who got on my nerves. I used to be less kind than I am now. Nowadays, I find myself not wanting to try to connect to people anymore. So many of them turn out to be disappointing… or I disappoint them in some way. I just want to be who I am. And I want to be able to sing a song on a karaoke site, dedicated to a long lost friend, without someone turning it into an unsolicited teaching moment.

The older I get, the less tolerance I have for other people’s opinions about me. I have much less patience for unsolicited advice and verbal abuse. As a matter of fact, one way to permanently get on my grudge list is through verbal abuse. I really can’t take it anymore… and so, that leads me to be kind of socially anxious. I don’t want to try to connect to people, because I feel like it will eventually lead to somewhere unpleasant for both parties.

I think age makes a lot of people set in their ways. I am no exception. I annoy people, and they annoy me… It’s a blessing that I don’t have to deal with people very much anymore. A lot of them make me sad.

I do have fond memories of Naomi, though. She was a very kind lady and, I can see, that she left quite a mark on the world. I’m sure people still miss her very much.

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book reviews, healthcare, love, marriage

Repost: Catherine Graves’ intimate memoir about losing her husband…

Here’s a reposted review from Epinions.com. It’s short, which tells me I probably wrote it for their annual “lean n’ mean” challenges. We were supposed to write reviews of less than 500 words to be entered in the monthly sweepstakes. I think I won a couple of those. Anyway, this post was written February 6, 2013 and appears here as/is.

Catherine Graves feared marital infidelity when she noticed a change in her husband, John.  The two had been running a business together.  Catherine had always been the practical one, while John was more whimsical and easygoing.  But then his behavior began to change and Catherine was sure he was cheating on her.  Then she wondered if he was dealing with a serious bout of depression.  They saw a therapist, who thought maybe John needed time in a rehab facility to find out what was wrong.  The couple went to Sierra Tuscon, an inpatient counseling center, where a staffer brought up the possibility that John Graves’ problem was neurological, rather than psychological.  When John experienced seizures and was taken to a hospital, his brain tumor was finally discovered.

The doctor who discovered the tumor told Catherine that it was cancerous and putting pressure on his brain.  She told Catherine that while John could have treatments that might extend his life, his condition was terminal.  John Graves had what is known as Glioblastoma multiforme, a nasty and thankfully rare brain tumor that kills quickly.

In her 2011 book, Checking Out: An In-Depth Book At Losing Your Mind, Catherine Graves explains what it was like to suddenly lose her beloved husband to a personality altering sickness and death.  Then, once John died, Catherine began to lose her mind with depression.  The aftermath of brain cancer nearly destroyed the author, her children, and John’s children.   

My thoughts

I was alerted to Checking Out when I read an online review of it on CNN last year.  It took awhile to get around to reading it, and once I did get to it, reading the book didn’t take much time.  It’s a short memoir, but packed with raw emotion and eloquence.  Graves includes touching revelations from her children, Alex and Caroline, products of another relationship who thought of John Graves as their dad and were devastated to lose him. 

As poignant as I think Checking Out is, I thought it was a bit short and could have used more substance.  The paperback version is priced at $16.95 and $9.99 on Kindle, which is pretty steep for a book that only takes a few hours to read.  On the other hand, this book is a beautifully written tribute from a woman who obviously loved her husband and whose tragic loss almost destroyed her.  Her recovery is triumphant and I was particularly moved by the thoughtful passages her children contributed.        

Checking Out will move many readers as it did me.  I certainly recommend it to those who can bear to read about such a depressing subject as losing one’s beloved spouse.  While I wish this book had been a little more substantive, I admit that it’s beautifully written.  I think it rates five stars and a box of tissues.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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memories

Safewords…

It’s Friday, and I’m in the mood to overshare again. Well… maybe not overshare so much as remind everyone that we all have value and purpose, and sometimes you never realize what your true value is. You just never know all of whom you’ll touch in this life. And this particular anecdote is big on touching… kind of like this famous song by Divinyls.

Truth be told, I was never a fan of this song, but it fits with today’s lurid topic…

Picture it. It’s August 1999. I have just arrived at graduate school in Columbia, South Carolina. I don’t own a computer. Within weeks of my arrival on campus, it becomes very clear that I need a computer. I go to the computer lab in the library (I think) and order one from Gateway… or was it a Gateway computer from Amazon? Honestly, I don’t remember anything other than the fact that it was an Intel Celeron that came with a printer and cost $999, which was a fortune to me at the time. It definitely was a Gateway computer. Gateway was big at the time.

I was 27 years old and had zero sex life whatsoever. My computer arrived. I unpacked it and set it up. Before you know it, I’m online. I live alone in my apartment and don’t have to worry about anyone looking over my shoulder. Remember… no sex life, and I was bored, lonely, and overwhelmed by the prospect of three long years studying for degrees I hoped would lead to a career more interesting than waiting tables. And I was nearing my sexual peak. Or, so the experts tell us I should have been. It wasn’t long before I started to explore some of the more chocolate areas of the Internet.

I’m not really ashamed about this now, especially considering where my explorations ultimately led me. At the time, it was kind of embarrassing and exciting all at once, especially when I realized I could connect with other people. I have alway loved reading, researching, and exploring subjects that fascinate me. In 1999, I was a little obsessed with sex– and I don’t mean plain old vanilla sex, either.

It was during this time when I stumbled across a Web site run by a guy named Tammad Rimilia. Tammad dubbed himself the “Gentleman Barbarian” and he was an expert in IT (information technology, that is). He was also a BDSM enthusiast.

Tammad made his Web site on Excite.com (an early popular search engine) and it included a number of essays, articles, and stories about BDSM. I also remember that he’d put in a link that read, “If you’re under 18, please go somewhere more exciting.” You clicked the link, and it would take you to the Excite landing page. Yes… a little corny, but kind of cute, too. He also had a little recording of his welcome, so a person could hear his voice.

As a young woman, I had done some reading about the subject and had read a lot of Nancy Friday’s books. I remember very clearly buying My Secret Garden at Waldenbooks and being terribly embarrassed about it, even though that book is about as old as I am and is very tame by today’s standards. The Internet was something different, though. For the first time ever, I had a whole world of information at my fingertips. Pretty soon, I was knee deep in new terminology about BDSM, learning terms like “Domme”, “Dom”, “sub”, “switch”, “safe, sane, and consensual”, and “safewords”.

Tammad Rimilia came across as a very friendly guy who would never hurt anyone. He wrote professional grade articles about the BDSM lifestyle, as well as goofy short stories about bondage that were more silly than scary. He explained his name Tammad was of Nordic origin and that he was seeking someone to share his interests with him, although it was plain to see that he and I could never be a match. For one thing, he was significantly older than I am and lived in a different part of the country. For another thing, he was a neat freak. I got the sense that it would be like a cat person trying to be with a dog person.

I probably read Tammad’s goofy stories more than his articles about Japanese rope bondage. I was more interested in escaping the rigors of school than learning how to safely and properly bind someone in an intricate rope harness. Actually, that kind of thing isn’t interesting to me, anyway– maybe if I were skinny and more of a submissive type. Still, he put kind of a friendly, harmless face on what was always a taboo subject for me. He made it seem less sinful and dirty, and more about fun. In a strange way, he vastly improved my sex life without ever having known me personally. He also helped give me the courage to share my own writing online. After all, if I could read and enjoy his cornball stories about BDSM (and they really were cringeworthy in an entertaining way), I could certainly write stuff that people might like.

Tammad was an anonymous guy who had once shared a picture of himself from the early 80s in a barbarian costume. I “met” Bill a few weeks after I discovered Tammad Rimilia. It turned out we were compatible, in all of the ways it matters. Besides being super easy to talk to and very attractive to me, he also liked my fiction. Although we instantly had chemistry, we were meeting through the computer and not in the vanilla areas of the Internet. It took awhile before I felt comfortable enough to meet Bill offline. But you can see where it led me twenty years later… I could thank a lot of anonymous people for helping me get together with Bill, but I would probably start with Tammad Rimilia. His was probably the first presence I encountered from the “less vanilla” part of the Internet.

I wish I could thank Tammad now for putting a friendly face on that world… which I’ve kind of left since those days. Unfortunately, Tammad died in a car accident on November 20, 2000. I remember the day I got the news. I was in my second year of grad school, studying first year social work; the year previous, I had done public health. The semester was about to end and we were preparing for exams. It was also my niece’s 8th birthday. Someone had posted on Tammad’s site that he had passed away at just 42 years of age. I was shocked and, to be honest, kind of sad. I’d never even met the guy, yet his life made a difference to me. He was so young to die and, I know, maybe people had been touched by him the way I had. It was even stranger to think I’d never met this guy or even interacted with him, yet here I was sad about his death… Here I was even knowing about his death. The Internet has, in some ways, made the world a little smaller.

Last night, Tammad’s memory popped into my head. I hadn’t thought about him in ages. I went looking to see if he still had a presence online, even though he’s been dead for going on 19 years. His site has been taken down, although I know some of his friends maintained it for awhile. Someone else has preserved some of his writings. I found myself reading, of all things, his article about how to insert a butt plug. I have never used one myself– my exploration of BDSM is really just that, and purely academic. However, I would imagine that if one were interested in learning how to properly use such a device, Tammad’s article would really be handy. I would much rather read clear, concise instructions written by a safe, sane, slightly goofy guy like Tammad, than have some crazy, sex-obsessed jackass shove one into me and tell me to shut up before he gives me something to cry about.

Anyway… it occurred to me that whenever you put something out there for public consumption, you never know how it will come across. I have heard from some people who don’t like what I have to say… but I’ve also heard from many more people who love my blogs. Whenever I think about how I fell into this Overeducated Housewife lifestyle instead of a career, and lament that I won’t be passing on any genes when I die, I remember that some people might remember me by these random posts. Maybe even nineteen years after I’m dead, someone will remember something I wrote or recorded. Who knows?

In the early days of the Internet, people used to refer to offline as “real life”. I don’t really hear it described like that anymore. Online is becoming “real life”, as real as anything offline, anyway. I met my husband online at a time when such a meeting was still considered weird and “novel”. Had it not been for the World Wide Web, I might be a profoundly bitter spinster living in the Deep South. I’m still kind of bitter and perhaps somewhat unfulfilled, but at least I’m not living alone, watching Divinyls on VH1, and reading smut to make the time pass. Thanks to Tammad for that.

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