Being Mean For Honesty’s Sake

I often think about honesty, and truth, and the price of putting it out into the world. Like, I almost never speak or write what I actually think or feel. Even on here, I know it will be read, and for sure some among you will take whatever it is personally. That’s what we do; we assume everything is directed at us, whether it is, or not. I mean, the internet makes that much easier, because everything posted online has a degree of, if not anonymity, then at least distance and separation between the author/speaker and the individual reader/audience member. We can say and write whatever we want – promote our truth – and for sure someone out there will read it and think, “Fuck…is she talking about me?!” Whereas, if someone speaks to you directly, via letter, email, telephone or in person, there’s really no denying that you are the one to whom they are referring.

So I, for one, self-edit pretty much all of my actual self away. Or, not away, but hidden inside. I don’t express at least 90% of what I actually think or feel – at least. Probably more. Because it’s mean. There are compliments and such that are nice, so I try to say those, at least when they are true. Usually, though, truth and honesty is pretty mean, and it hurts people. I don’t like to hurt people, even people I don’t like, so I keep it to myself. To spare them. To spare you.

But what is that doing to me, I wonder? Keeping it all in? Surely it’s not the healthiest way to live. (And don’t call me Shirley)

I see and hear people purging what seems to be everything that comes into their heads, regardless of how it may make another person feel. Which I guess is great for them, but they’re mean. Many don’t even appear to try finding a way to express themselves without being hurtful. Either they don’t notice how their voices are being received, or they don’t care. Neither is a quality I want to nurture in myself, and I don’t even like people. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be a better version of this inherently evil species. The best version I can be. Or, you know, just better than I could be, if I cared less.

This post went so differently in my head while I was riding to work on transit this morning! It was less vague, yet more stream of consciousness-y.

I think we get ruder and meaner as we get older. Older people will say stuff to your face and not give a crap about your precious feelings. They don’t need to hide behind the interwebs. They’ve got stuff to say and not enough time in which to say it all, so they get out as much as they can, while they can. There’s definitely no time for beating around the bush, or re-phrasing, and no point in keeping it all bottled up inside. Each new day is an opportunity to speak your mind. And now, with the internet, we can be different parts of ourselves depending on our communication method of choice in any given moment. We can show one semblance of truth on Facebook, another in an email, and something quite different to those in our immediate vicinity. It would be interesting to watch the internet generation get older – see how many selves they have when all of the feel like expressing their truth all the time.

I wonder what I’ll be like as I get older? Will I still try to remain quiet, or will I just start expressing my anger and hurt and whatever else I think and feel to whoever will listen? Will I even care if anyone is listening? Maybe I’ll just talk, anyway. To animals, to the air around me. I already apologize to inanimate objects on occasion, so it’s not a far leap to raging my way loudly down the sidewalk, really.

Would I feel better, expressing all these thoughts and feelings? Would it be a relief to just get it all out? Or would I see how my words affect people and just end up wallowing in guilt and regret all the more? (Though, I’d probably get lots of space to myself on public transit if I was speaking my thoughts aloud…food for yet more thought)

It’s so easy to say, “I want you to be honest with me”. But trust me – you really don’t.  Or to say, “Tell me how you really feel.”  Yet truly, you don’t really want to know.  I am not mean or rude enough to make my thoughts and feelings known – yet – but I am absolutely mean and rude enough to have them. I watch you and hear you express yourself, and sometimes it even hurts me, but so far I’ve resisted the temptation to reciprocate or follow your example. It’s not always easy, but I’d rather that than than have to live with the consequences of the effect my words would have on you. Also, I’ve been keeping it all to myself for so long that it’s not only a habit, but I’m also not entirely sure which ones are real overall, versus which are just momentary or reactionary “real”. Which will still be true tomorrow, and which are just lashing out in hurt or anger. When I think about it, it’s difficult to tell for certain. I’m emotional, just like everyone else, but I recognize that emotions fluctuate and change and come with varying degrees of intensity. What I think or feel in a given moment may just be a knee-jerk reaction that winds up not being accurate once I’ve taken a moment to breathe through it. So the idea of doing permanent damage to a relationship, friendship, and even a stranger’s day – all to satisfy a temporary need that may or may not make me feel better – is just not something I’m willing to do yet. It thus far does not seem worth it.

Besides, I’m also aware of how I hurt and insult and upset and anger people on a daily basis without even realizing it. That sentence doesn’t make logical sense, I suppose, but there it is. I know it’s happening, I just can’t usually tell when or why. When I do realize something specific I’ve done, some line I’ve crossed, it’s too late. The damage, however unintentional, has been done. That realization alone is enough for me to carry the guilt and regret inside me for likely the rest of my life. Having that person or people telling me how I’ve made them feel, or highlighting my error in being, makes the burden 100 times heavier. Maybe it makes them feel better to point out my shame, so I let them have their moment, or moments; whatever they need. That’s the only way I feel like I can even partially make up for what I’ve done; allowing them – allowing you – to express how it’s made you feel. But I know how that makes me feel, so I won’t reciprocate.

Usually.

Truth hurts. That’s what they say. It hurts because it’s often mean. It hurts because something we are afraid is true has just been confirmed by another. While part of me wants to be honest with you, and tell you what I think and what I feel, so far, I just can’t. Because even though it’s not my intention to do so, the truth – my version of it – would hurt you. Or anger you. Or confuse you. Or any number of other adverse ways in which it would affect you. Therein lies my frustration. I want to be open and express myself, but I hold back because of how it’ll affect you. Because of how affecting you in a negative way would feel to me.

So far, it’s just not worth it.

Though, at the same time, sometimes I’m drowning in unexpressed and unvented emotions. Yet I see you appearing to have no qualms about putting your thoughts and feelings out there, regardless of how it might make me or anyone else feel. Regardless of how it makes me feel. More and more I wonder to myself – if I am showing you more regard than you are showing me, and if I am showing you more regard than I am showing myself – how can I ever hope to find any sort of balance in my own life? It’s not my job to coddle you, and yet that’s exactly what I do. All the time. Every day. By my own choice. Not because I am a nice person. Not because I wish only to spread peace and love across the land. I’m not a unicorn.

I do it because, above all else, I fear a life without you in it.

Sometimes I just wish you felt the same about me.

Know What’s Crazy? ‘Cause I Don’t…

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So, I stumbled across this list on Tumblr a couple of weeks ago, and it’s still kind of on my mind. It consists of reasons why someone would be admitted to an insane asylum – in the late 1800’s.

First, insane asylums are creepy as all heck to me. Especially old school ones, but really, no matter what name you give them, they are filled with unpredictability. And that is one thing that bothers me most. I mean, a lot of things get under my skin, but that is a huge one. I still occasionally check under my bed to ensure the psycho killer isn’t waiting for me to feel safe enough to sleep before he stabs me, or whatever. It’s the feeling that everything is fine until it isn’t – the sense that anything could happen at any time and for NO DISCERNABLE REASON. Like, the sane (or sane-ish) can’t predict what the insane will do at any given moment, because even they don’t know until they do it.

Also, asylums are scary and full of ghosts, especially after they’ve been abandonned. Not to mention all the tools. What the hell are doctors and scientists thinking sometimes?

I think part of it is also – like, I’m pretty sure even a sane person, under similar circumstances, would begin to exhibit insane-like behaviour after awhile. In many cases, even now, prison would be better. It’s called an asylum, but it’s not really to keep the sick safe from society. It’s to protect society from the sick. For so many, there’s no coming back from that. And I feel like even for the “sane-est” person alive, trying to prove you’re NOT insane would be like trying to prove you’re not drunk. Evidence can be found to prove the case against you quite easily once someone is looking for it, and from that point on, the frustration at not being able to prove your truth to the world – that you are sane and/or sober – that alone would begin to make matters much, much worse.

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Now, I of course know that things are very different now than they were in the 1800’s. We have made incredible advances in the mental health field along with everything else. Looking at this list is almost laughable, really. Like, WTF does “time of life” even mean? It’s your time to be a lunatic? Fell from horse in war is a reason for admission? What if you fell from a horse at home, and not anywhere near the war?

I’m not even going to get into the sexist, ignorant reasons, because as you can see, they make up the majority of the list. I wonder how many of these were acted upon by a person checking themselves in, versus being checked in against their will. I wonder how many were women or gay or not-white.

Novel reading?! Seriously?!

Funny how priorities change. Back then they seem to have been obsessed with masturbation, the expression of any emotion (grief is on there), and anything possibly related to a fever and/or the imagination.

To my eyes, all of those reasons seem insane in and of themselves.

Possibly because I would have been locked up for several of them, myself.

Sometimes I actually have to wonder how far we’ve really come. Attitudes and stigma surrounding mental health are still – I mean, I feel like they’ve been getting a bit better in recent years, but I almost feel like it’s going too far in the other direction. We’ve gone from having no real understanding of most mental health issues and not really talking about it in any kind of meaningful discourse, to still having no real understanding, yet talking about it all the time. Just on the surface, though. Everyone jumps on the #BellLetsTalk bandwagon one day a year, which is great, but it doesn’t seem like very many people actually talk. We’re all very good at nodding in sympathy and telling people to just talk about whattever’s bothering them, that we’re here to listen.

I just don’t think many of us know how to really talk about it. Because none of us really understand any of it.

On a logic level, we can grasp that being sad and being depressed are not the same thing. But sometimes it looks the same. And sometimes it looks completely different. Sometimes it doesn’t look a thing like what we think depression should look like, and so we might not even notice.

Even when it’s happening to you.

That sense of not being able to understand your own self, of not knowing why you do some of the things you do – it can feel very disconnecting. And so we bury it, because we don’t want anyone else to see us becoming more disconnected and risk having them think we’re a freak.

Or insane.

Because once someone has that thought about you, it’s very difficult – if not impossible – to get them to see you any other way.

We all want to be normal, yet unique and special. And the definition of normal has never been anything but a slippery slope. Whoever invented the concept of normal should be put in an asylum, were they still alive, because that concept is completely crazy. We want to stand out as individuals, but for good things. Inspiring or heroic things. Not for telling squirrels to be careful when they cross the street when you’re on your way to work in the morning.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

So as much as we all want to talk about our thoughts and feelings, and let our freak flags fly, we’re also terrified that it’ll reveal too much, and that there will be no coming back from that. Once we are too real, and too exposed, we’re doomed. It feels like it could actually drive people further away, especially since we have no idea why we think and feel some of the things we think and feel. We can’t explain it because we don’t understand it ourselves.  Human beings have a need to dissect and understand everything – we’ve been testing theories and hypotheses since we crawled out of the primordial ooze.  But I think mental health is perhaps the one true bane of our existence, because it’s not something that can be quantified or studied with any degree of accuracy.  It not only changes from person to person, but also within the same person, from moment to moment and day to day.  It’s unpredictable, and that’s what makes it scary.

Like, maybe we have a great life – not just appear to have – actually have everything that should make us happy. A spouse, children, pets, job satisfaction, comfortable salary, a boatload of friends, an in-home theatre, a cottage in Greece, sunshine, rainbows and a unicorn. From the outside, we have everything. From our own perspective, we want for nothing. Yet for no discernable reason, we feel unhappy. How can one who has so much to make them feel complete still have a sense of disconnect and actually suffer from depression? How do you fight something when you have no idea what it is, why it is, or what might actually help make it go away? How do you live with it? And how on earth would you ever, ever tell anyone about it? What would they think? How would they react? Is it worth the risk of potentially making it even more difficult to get through the day, if the conversation goes south?

Often times, no, it is not.

And so we remain silent, for better or for worse, and wait for the next storm to pass.

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More Than Routine

I suppose I’ve always been a creature of habit; of routine.  Like many – maybe even most – I have specific things I do when I get up in the morning, and before I go to bed at night.  I travel the same route to and from work most of the time, and usually go for the same spots on the subway and streetcar.  I  have a favourite area to sit in the movie theatre.  I even buy pretty much the same things at the grocery store.

Many of those routines and rituals are born of convenience and logic.  They are things I need to get done before I leave for work, or it’s the quickest way from Point A to Point B.  Things I do every day because they need to be done, and usually on a schedule that is also the same each day.

I’d be super easy to stalk, really.  I rarely deviate except out of necessity.

But there are so many more things I do that most people don’t know about, and that I barely catch myself doing, in part because they are habit and in part because they make no sense.

I breathe a certain way if I feel there are germs in the vicinity, because inside I feel like it helps keep me from getting sick.  It doesn’t but I feel like it does.  I say certain things to the animals before I leave the apartment, because I feel like it will keep them safe.  Maybe they also have a better understanding of what’s happening because they hear the same words at certain times, but while that’s a best case scenario, I mostly do it because I feel it’s like a protection spell to last until my return.  It’s not, but I feel like it is.  I try to make sure my right hand is the last one to touch them before we part, instead of my left.  I like things to be in odd numbers instead of even, from the time my clock displays when I turn off a light, to the number of seconds I count in my head when rinsing with mouthwash, to the number of treats I give Brody after a walk.

All of these things are so small, they are barely noticeable even to me.  They are not quite superstition, but their power exists in my inability to shake the certainty that something terrible will happen if I don’t do them.  And what’s worse is that the terrible thing will actually be all my fault.

On a logic level, I know that’s ludicrous.  But the feeling is so powerful that I’d honestly rather be safe than sorry.  I’d rather leave a bit late while I wait for the minute display on the clock to be an odd number than return home to find my apartment burned to the ground.  Logically I know that the odd-numbered minute does nothing to prevent or cause such a thing, but inside me, there is actual panic freezing me in place.  And while the physical manifestation of these little habits has changed over the years, the certainty that I would be to blame if something terrible happened if I didn’t do them has, I think, always been there.

Does that kind of pressure – having to remember to do all of these things in order to prevent something much worse from happening – cause much of my anxiety?  Or is it the anxiety of knowing so much of what happens in life is out of my control the reason that I started trying to invent small ways of retaining some sense of control?

Chicken or egg?  Either way, they are for certain related to one another.

For the most part, I see no reason to be concerned.  These little habits don’t hurt anyone, and so far they at least haven’t taken over my life to the point of being frozen inside of my own mind, and only able to move about the world in tiny increments.  I still live a pretty normal life from the outside. The panic has not yet crippled me.  There’s always the chance that it will, but I think – if it does – it’ll be a slow build and I will be able to see it coming.

Of course, whether or not I actually do anything to rein it back in is a different matter.

I remember as little kids, my brother and I would always get a hamburger happy meal when we went to McDonald’s.  It was a treat to go there, because there wasn’t one closer than a half hour’s drive away.  One time, our babysitters took us to what was then a new-ish drive-thru option, and we ordered hamburgers while they ordered cheeseburgers.  Naturally, the order got messed up but no one noticed until we’d pulled away.  We only got cheeseburgers.

With mild trepidation, my brother and I took a bite of the hamburger with cheese, then immediately realized the genius of having cheese included on a burger.  After that, we always ordered cheeseburgers.  Those kinds of habits are different, of course.  We just didn’t know yet how much we loved cheese.  Nothing bad was going to happen if I didn’t eat my regular hamburger, other than perhaps not loving what I ended up eating instead.  But it feels much the same inside.  There’s the same kind of uncertainty, but added to it is, like, actual fear.

Incidentally, remember how awesome happy meal toys used to be?  I’d totally go for much of that stuff even now!  They should offer retro/classic happy meals for adults, with toys from Tron and The Black Hole and the like.  I’d be all over that.  I remember getting a plastic “watch” that had a secret compartment where the watch face was. Of course, it wasn’t that secret because it was freaking huge, but still cool.  Made me feel like a spy, or something.

I took a course in, like, first or second year university- I can’t even remember what it was now – and the prof taught us the various stages of conflict that each of us must go through in order to grow as a person.  The first one happens before you are born – Trust vs Mistrust.  You have to feel safe enough to enter the world in a healthy and confident way, apparently. Something occurred to me that day, which has stayed with me and been reflected upon several times since.

On an emotional level, it’s entirely possible that I’m still inside the womb.

Edited to add:  It was9:13am when I pushed the “Publish” button on this post, but it switched to 9:14am as it was posting.  I’m going to try to be okay with that, because hitting the button was the only part within my control.

 

Lacking Confidence

I hate looking for a job.

I don’t think I used to dislike it this much, but I guess a lot has changed over the years.  I’ve changed.  Once full of cautious confidence and an abundance of dreams and goals to aspire to, I was able to find not only a decent work-life balance, but also felt a sense of pride in my work, even though I was performing pretty simple tasks.  I did them well, and I was pleased with my abilities and how I felt about myself each day. I felt competent, no matter what I was doing.  And I felt like I earned every step of forward progress I made, no matter how small.

If I decided I deserved more, I went out and got it.  I had no problem chasing the next job opportunity.

Then I went after something completely different, and made more money than I ever had up to that point.

And sucked at it.

To this day, I’m still not entirely sure what went wrong, really.  I thought at the time that I didn’t get the support I needed to succeed, but at the same time, if I’d really had the required skills, I’d have been able to work with more autonomy and forged my own success.  Instead, I was constantly questioning what to do, and would end up doing it wrong, anyway.  Or not quickly enough, or well enough, or whatever.  I still don’t really know, and therein lies the real problem.

For the first time, I was doing something I wasn’t suited to, and it was a disaster.  I couldn’t make it work.  And it wasn’t rocket surgery.  At all.  But I don’t have the right…mindset.  Or attitude.  From the outside, it all looks very simple.  When it’s done well, it seems effortless.  But the people who are good at administrative tasks and assisting executive types don’t generally get the kind of respect their abilities deserve.  And for people who are NOT skilled in those areas, it’s even worse.

It looks from the outside like the person doing the assisting is less specialized.  Less skilled.  But I think that people are just adept at different things.  Maybe the excutive needs an assistant because he CAN’T do the things his assistant can do.  Maybe he’s totally disorganized and can’t remember when he has appointments or craft intelligent and well-worded emails.  Maybe he doesn’t know how to create a spreadsheet or a strong PowerPoint presentation.  Everything can be taught and learned, but it can’t always be learned to do well.  Like doctors and nurses.  Many think nurses are nurses because they CAN’T be doctors, when in reality, doctors could not perform their duties nearly as well (or often at all), without the support of nurses and the rest of their medical team.  Everyone has a part to play in the team’s success, and when one can’t play their part well, the whole team struggles.

I was let go at the end of my probabtion period, because it wasn’t working out.  Not for them, and not for me.  I’d never tried so hard to do something but still failed so miserably at it.  It was frustrating because it had seemed so easy before I actually tried it.  It was pretty humiliating.  And it was scary, because suddenly I wondered what else I couldn’t do well.  What other simple tasks were beyond my comprehension and/or skill set?

I was unemployed for a month and a half, relying on friends and family to feed me and help pay rent.  Then I finally got a job with my current employer – and while the woman who hired me was concerned that I was over-qualified, I was relieved to have a job I could hopefully do – and there I remain, for better or for worse.

I did attempt to enter the teaching profession for the better part of a decade, but had zero success in that area.  And I think a large part of my problem now is fear.  Fear and uncertainty.  I don’t have the same confidence in my abilities as I used to.  And I am terrified of losing or leaving one job and being unemployed three months later if I fail again.

I think that’s why I hate looking for a job more now.  I have four little lives – in addition to my own – counting on me to keep us fed and a roof over our heads.  My mind and body don’t work the same as they used to, and I have an even lesser sense of what needs to be done.  I’m not in the same position I was when I was younger.  I don’t feel like I have the luxury of failing.

And that’s crippling to me.

If I don’t try, I won’t fail.  So now when I look at job openings, I imagine what the daily life of each would look like, and apply if I think I might have a shot at succeeding, or more often if I think I’ll have no shot at even landing an interview.  I feel like applying alone is still accomplishing something, even if it’s just a feeling inside.

But the truth is I really have no idea what I am capable of outside of my current workplace, and I only have a limited knowledge of what I am not capable of, because it’s been over a decade since I ventured to try something different.  Pretty much everything I know about myself an an employee is based on this one employer.  It’s a bubble I’ve existed in almost exclusively for over 15 years.  Largely because I am afraid of what will happen if I fail anywhere else.  Yet now I am failing inside my bubble, too, and I have no idea what to do about it.

It appears I’ve put myself into a trap of my own making.  It’s scary and disheartening and yet still kind of exciting, in a way.  Because if I actually control the trap, maybe there’s a chance I can dig myself out of it.  For now, I’m still just window shopping, because I’m far too afraid to make a move.  But the time is fast approaching where I will have no choice but to make some kind of change, be it a new apartment or a new job.

And I love my apartment.

I can’t wait to see what I end up doing.