Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Book Review - DRiVE - Motivation That's Beyond Carrots & Sticks

I've never before read a book that combined corporate business management, psychology, and rhesus monkeys solving puzzles in the first chapter, but that's what Daniel Pink does in Drive.

Scientists have held the theory that there are two main drives for human behavior.  There's a primal-biological one - everybody wants/needs to eat, sleep, and mate.  (Sometimes more of one than the others.)

Technically these are not sticks, these are
whips - but they're still for beating somebody.
(Or wearing as a fashion accessory.)

The second main drive is to complete a task either to receive a reward (a carrot,) or to avoid a punishment (a stick.)

So the conundrum was, why, in experiments, absent either the primary or secondary drive, did the monkeys still choose to solve puzzles - even though they were neither being rewarded or punished with any of the above?

Why do human beings want to play World of Warcraft?  There seems to be a third drive - one of intrinsic motivation.  One where the joy and challenge of the task is its own reward, whether that's solving a puzzle, playing a video game, or climbing Mt. Everest.

If we turn something fun into a task or chore, into something we should do (something OCPD tends to do a lot, alas) we become less motivated to do it.  If we turn work into play, we become more motivated to do it - and can often recruit help.  In Tom Sawyer, remember how skillfully Tom made out whitewashing Aunt Polly's fence to be a fun privilege, so that his friend Ben and others begged for the opportunity to whitewash the fence?

Getting rewards (over and above a good salary) for something we enjoy and do well can actually sap the fun, creativity and productivity right out of it.  It sounds counterintuitive, but there are plenty of studies that bear this out.  (Not to mention seeing how well excessive cash bonuses seem to work on places like, oh, Wall Street in 2008-2009.)

We've all heard of Type A and Type B personalities - now meet Type X (for eXtrinsic rewards, which sounds like a smutty novel,) and Type I (for Intrinsic desires.)  Type X is somebody fueled by carrot-and-stick type motivation.  This can work, especially in the beginning, but it usually fades as time goes on.  Think about our New Year's gym memberships - an ugly thought, I know.

Photo by OpenFire

If we want to take off twenty pounds, we might grit our teeth and accomplish that goal, but unless we find something at the gym we truly love to do, something we consider fun...  it's amazing how many things will begin to interfere with our gym schedule.  And then those twenty pounds will return.  With their evil friends. 

Goldilocks is in the House - the key to achieving great results in a work (or any) environment is finding tasks that are not too easy, not too difficult.  Too easy and we're checking our FaceBook page 20 times a day out of boredom; too hard and we give up before we start.  When we're challenged, when we are working on a project that makes us stretch, to push ourselves beyond what we've done in the past, to master a new skill or an old one, there's such a glorious feeling of flow.

Flow is where wonderful things happen, where ideas are born, where creativity does a happy dance.  It's that exhilarating mental state where we feel in control, full of purpose, and in the zone.  Three necessary ingredients for Goldilocks tasks:  Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.

Autonomy gives people as much freedom as possible - this might be flex hours, choice of projects to work on, freedom to vary from the script and solve problems in one's own way, the right to select one's own team.  It's the opposite of being micromanaged - and it gets the best results.

Mastery is an Asymptote (gesundheit!)  Actually, an asymptote is a straight line that a curve approaches but never quite reaches. 
Image by
(Cool, huh?  I know I feel smarter already.)  This algebraic concept is why people strive to be really, really good at something - whether it's Tiger Woods playing golf or Paul Cezanne painting a picture, though they never achieve perfection.  (Hear that, OCPDrs?)  Those we think of as "masters" of a sport or an art accept that they never will become perfect, but continue to work hard to get as close as they can.  (Well, not Cezanne anymore, he's dead.)  This challenge of trying to improve your mastery of an art, sport, or job performance, is a very big part of intrinsic motivation.

Purpose is the sense of doing something significant, working towards a larger goal.  Something beyond yourself.  Purpose is why we donate more blood during natural disasters, or help our neighbors jump start their car.  We want to feel like we are making the world a better place, contributing as part of a team at a great workplace, or helping even one child.

If we have enough autonomy, mastery, and purpose, we will find joy, flow and creativity in what we do, whether that thing is a 5k race to fight breast cancer, satisfying a difficult customer on a help line, or... writing a blog.

So, what drives you?  What gives you a sense of flow and purpose and mastery?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

Friday, November 26, 2010

And the Worms Ate Into His Brain

Rockwell FreedomHave you ever had a Thanksgiving like this?  Me neither.

But for some reason, every year I get my hopes up anyway.  Do you think it would it help if everybody was passed a link to the Official Thanksgiving Rules ahead of time?  Prolly not... we all pretty much know what to do, but there's always somebody who just can't help herself.

Or himself.

Yesterday, B-F came over to my place in full Hoover mode for Thanksgiving for just the two of us.  Totally intending to behave and charm me.

Now that I know about OCPD, I can see all the landmines for him.  The things that would be no big deal for a normal person, are complete booby traps if somebody's got untreated OCPD.

He had to come to my place, and he was planning to spend the night, so he had to pack a bag.  Shower, shave, grooming - normally this is an all morning stressful activity if he doesn't also have to pack an overnight bag.  And he was bringing down a packet of instant mashed potatoes, a thingy of gravy, and a can of cranberry sauce.  We (okay, he) had to have at least three phone conferences during the week about the food he was bringing.  And he had to go outside whenever he wanted a cigarette.

Still, he did very, very well.  He brought down some movies he'd recorded for us to watch, because he doesn't like any of my movies, and we must watch movies.  Okay, fine.  He had to bitch a bit about where I hung my speakers on the wall, and where I decided to set my stereo up, because he told me where to put it and I just wouldn't listen to himI never listen to him, even though he knows all about sound systems, blah blah, woof woof. 

In OCPD-speak, of course, "listen" means obey.  I did "listen" to him, originally planned to arrange the stereo and TV according to his ideas, but then realized this wouldn't allow for my other furniture to be configured in the way I really liked for space, flow, conversation...  So, even though it meant I would be unable to blast the stereo, I decided this was okay.  If I have friends over, I don't need the sound that loud anyway, because then we can't talk, and if I need to hear loud music, I can wear headphones.  Which give me more dynamic sound anyway.

Okay, fine, his grumbling about the stereo tapered off fairly soon, probably in part thanks to the massive hot toddies he was drinking to cope with the stress, and the chills from going outside for his cigarette breaks.  (I really, really like not having cigarette smoke in the apartment, and so do my lungs, though it's not just my rule, it's an apartment rule, and my smoking neighbors have to go outside to have their butts, too.)

We watched some of the movies he brought, I worked on craft-y things, we had pleasant conversations. 
He came into the kitchen and helped finish making dinner, without trying to take over, without telling me I was doing it all wrong, though I could tell it was an effort for him.  We had a nice meal on my grandmother's china, though he felt he needed to remind me never to put it in the microwave (all the pieces have gold rims.)  Okay, fine.  He thanked me politely several times for the meal.

Afterwards, more cigarettes, and drinking, and music.  He doesn't like the way my stereo works with my iPod, and then that brought up the issues with volume limitation, again, but I was able to cue up the things he wanted to hear, at a reasonable volume, anyway.

I find it highly ironic that this is one of his favorite pieces of music.

Hey you, out there in the cold
Getting lonely, getting old
Can you feel me?
Hey you, standing in the aisles
With itchy feet and fading smiles
Can you feel me?
Hey you, dont help them to bury the light
Don't give in without a fight.

Hey you, out there on your own
Sitting naked by the phone
Would you touch me?
Hey you, with your ear against the wall
Waiting for someone to call out
Would you touch me?
Hey you, would you help me to carry the stone?
Open your heart, I'm coming home.

But it was only fantasy.
The wall was too high,
As you can see.
No matter how he tried,
He could not break free.
And the worms ate into his brain.

Hey you, standing in the road
always doing what you're told,
Can you help me?
Hey you, out there beyond the wall,
Breaking bottles in the hall,
Can you help me?
Hey you, don't tell me there's no hope at all
Together we stand, divided we fall.

If anyone is trapped behind a wall, it's him.  And he (mostly) doesn't see it.  I would love to stand together with him, to help him break down the OCPD wall, and fight the alcohol with which he self-medicates, but he always had a  million excuses as to why he didn't need or want help.  He's been having problems with his teeth again, was up Wednesday night with a raging toothache/infection/swollen cheek.  He applied hot compresses - and that's his plan for treatment.  Period.

This was one of my issues with him before - his Demand Resistance about seeing a dentist for the teeth that are literally falling to pieces in his mouth.  He couldn't see a dentist before, because, well, well, they can't do anything for you anyway, if you've got an infection.  So he was going to see one once the infection went away.  Then he was too busy.  Then he didn't know where to go, and didn't want to drive out to see my dentist.  (Uh, 1-800-Dentist - how many zillion times have we seen that commercial?)  Then he wanted to get insurance or a discount plan, first, so it wouldn't cost so much.  I gave him information on discount plans... four years ago.  I offered to pay.  No, no, he couldn't do that...

Now, of course, he can't see a dentist, because he Can't Afford It At All, since I moved out.  For once, this is one guilt trip I'm not taking.  He's afraid to go.  If you are afraid, if in your heart you really don't want to do something, you can come up with a hundred reasons (excuses!) why you can't.  And if somebody gives you a hundred reasons why you can, you can always find another excuse - a dozen excuses! why you can't. 

I simply said, it's too bad you feel that way, I think you should find a way to make it work, and left it at that.  Then we went to bed.

As I said, he's been pretty good - for OCPD - up to this point.  And I understand that just being in my place, with my rules, instead of an environment he can control, is in and of itself extremely difficult for him.  But then he started to torment the cat.

Now, this cat is bonded to him, and he adores her.  Worries, well, obsessively about her when I've traveled, when she would go off her food or be acting weird.  He always talks on the phone about how much he misses her, how the cat and I are his family.  Even calls me "Mom" in front of her, like she's a child or something.  (I'm rolling my eyes)

So, we're in bed and he's petting the cat, and she's happy, purring, and then he starts patting her butt.  She's never liked that, and he knows it, and he knows I know he knows it.  Ya know?  She starts making "I wish you would stop that" cat noises.  He keeps patting her butt, and she starts growling, and I am telling him, "Knock it off, she's telling you to quit it," and he's not listening to either of us.  Demand Resistance?  Taking out his stress and aggression from being relatively "good" for the day out on the two of us?  Total lack of empathy and compassion?  Deliberate cruelty?

Finally, she's in full cat hysteria.

Admittedly - this is pretty funny - when it's somebody else's cat.  When it's your own neurotic cat, and you know she's feeling confused, scared and betrayed by somebody she loves and trusts - kind of a Metaphor there.

She hisses at him, claws at him, and then retreats to the foot of the bed, by my feet.  Where he now wants to bring over his feet to poke at her some more.  Which I block.  Then he start whining about "but what if I want to make love to you," and I tell him that's not gonna happen right now.  I try to get him to settle down and watch TV, and he fiddles with the remote for a while, then tries to poke at the cat with his foot again, which makes her start growling again.  I just want to smack him with a two-by-four at this point.

So he lays his head in my lap, and I run my fingernails over his back in the way he likes, and he puts his hand on my crotch, and I move his hand, say, "Not right now, stroke my legs instead," which he does, for about two minutes, then zooms back to the crotch.

Now, there are times when I don't mind having a man's attention bypass all the rest of me and go directly to the spot marked X.  This isn't one of them.  I am the furthest thing from aroused right now.  I'm willing to be physically affectionate, and if eventually that leads to something more, okay, fine, but I'm too angry with his cruelty to the cat and too keyed up from the stresses of the day to jump right into "let's have sex!" 

I "get" that it's been a really hard, stressful day for him, too, and he wants me to "prove" to him that he's more important to me than the cat, to put her out of the room and make love, but I don't want to.

He pouts.  He rolls over.  He demands I scratch his back, which I do, then remarks that maybe he should just go home and sleep in his own bed.  I say nothing.  He lies in bed for about five more minutes, then sits up, flicks on the light and starts getting dressed.

I'm sure at this point, he wants me to say something to him, to apologize, to beg him not to go, or even just ask, "Where are you going?"  which would give him an opportunity to reel off a list of the things that have upset him.

I say nothing, and he says nothing.  Shortly, he is gone.  My only feeling is relief.

More and more lately, I've felt that it is time to simply call the relationship quits.  I know this man didn't choose to have OCPD.   I know that untreated OCPD itself is part of the problem with resistance in seeking help for anything, but I am just so weary of this battle, of the constant squabbles and nit-picking over nothing that mostly I have learned to tune out and ignore, but that sometimes get under my skin anyway.

It seemed to be unfair, breaking off with him while he was trying so hard, and too, unkind to do it right before the holidays.  He is so very alone now, so few friends, no family with whom he is close... 

What I can't sort out, is whether my hesitation is misplaced guilt, co-dependency, kindness, or some fear or need in myself I haven't acknowledged.  Why can't I just pull the trigger and be done with it?!

I do know, if he announces "This is it," and never calls me again... I will be okay, fine, with that.

Have you experienced sudden random cruelty with your untreated OCPDr?  Occasions where you knew the other shoe was gonna drop - and then it did?  And mixed with the anger and frustration is a feeling of pity, that no matter how hard they try, they can't keep up the "normal" mask?  Tell me about it in the Comments.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

That Nasty, Four Letter Word, Beginning With F

It's FEAR, of course - what were you thinking?

I've been thinking a lot about fear, lately.  I've been trying to find my way out of the fog of cloudy, distorted thinking that comes from living with someone with OCPD - and from growing up in a dysfunctional family (didn't we all?)

FOG is also used as an acronym by Dr. Susan Forward for the state of Fear, Obligation, and Guilt that confuses and blinds us in relationships.

I don't like to think about fear.  Fear is very uncomfortable, it makes my heart pound and my mouth go dry, and not in a good, OMG-I-just-saw-Johnny Depp-and-he-winked-at-me way.  Fear may be a natural, instinctive reaction that saved our lives back when we were tiny mammals being viewed as hors d'oeuvres by snakes and other hungry critters, but we don't need to be afraid of snakes any longer. 

Or spiders - I mean, seriously, why am I afraid of spiders, when I am a billion times as big as most of them, and even a bite by one of the rare poisonous ones would probably only make me sick?  Yet, let me see an itsy bitsy spider that I know is harmless in the bathroom, and I am in Freakout City.  (You'll notice, I am not posting a picture of a spider here.  Not now, not never.)

Fear, of course, comes into BIG play in relationships.  When I'm single, I fear I'll never have another relationship; when I'm in a bad relationship, I fear I'll never get to be happily single again.  When I'm in one that seems to be good, I'm afraid it's going to end, or I'm going to do something to muck it up.

Here's Sarah M, singing poignantly (as she always does) about Fear.  (If I were her, I'd be afraid when I climbed on the ladder and hit that high note, that my voice would get stuck there.)

Her lyrics indicate fear of not being about to give "enough," and losing the relationship for that very reason.  (Been there, felt that.)

But I fear
I have nothing to give
I have so much to lose
Here in this lonely place
Tangled up in our embrace
There’s nothing I’d like
Better than to fall
But I fear
I have nothing to give
I have so much to lose
I have nothing to give
We have so much to lose...

Of course, when you live with somebody with OCPD, that fear - of not having enough, giving enough, being enough - is constantly reinforced, because they are constantly telling you these things.

I've learned from those with OCPD, that they don't behave the way they do because they don't care - just the opposite.  Remember, OCPD is about catastrophic thinking - averting all the bad things that could possibly happen.  They care so much, they are so afraid of losing us, losing the relationship, that they try to control every single little thing in it.  Like if the forks are sticking up the wrong way in the dish drainer we could prick a finger and get a blood infection and die.

Is that any sillier, really, than me being terrified of an itsy bitsy spider in my bathtub? 

The problem for all of us is sorting out which fears make sense and require action, and which don't.  If I lose my credit card, I need to be concerned with and take action to prevent identity theft or fraud.  If I put junk mail addressed to "Resident" into the recycle bin without shredding it, I don't.  (For those worried about me, I'm not talking about the mail addressed to "Perfectly Awful or Resident" - if it has my name on it, I shred it!)

I need to avoid internalizing the endless fears my OCPD BoyFriend is drowning in, or accepting the fear/blame that the reason our relationship became rocky is because I mucked it up, somehow.  That's one of the biggest markers of foggy thinking - that when things got bad, it was all my fault.  Did I make mistakes?  Of course, but when somebody has a mental illness or disorder, I have to remember, I didn't Cause it, I can't Cure it, and I can't Control it.

Another problem with Fear is it lives in the shadows, where it grows bigger and scarier all the time.  I have to drag it out into the light, really look at it. 

First, I have to figure out that I am, in fact, afraid.  Once I know that, and drag Booga-Booga-the-Big-Hairy-Scary-Thing into the light, and identify what I am fearful about, next I can sort out which fears are actually mine, and which are fears I've imported like a virus, from BoyFriend or other people.  Then I can move on to deciding which fears are important, and which are "spider" fears that are just plain silly.

I need to remember the wisdom of Mercer Mayer, to face my fears, instead of running busily around trying to pretend I'm not scared, not scared at all!  Breathe with them a while, and maybe even tuck them into bed with me. 

I'm moving more out of the fog, out of frantic, mindless thinking, into mindfulness, a little more every day.  Realizing that when in a miserable relationship, the scariest monster isn't changing the status quo, it's letting things remain the same.

Guest Post - Tips for a Stress Free Thanksgiving

Borrowing from Dawne at Bashing Perfect - something she posted just in time to get me down off the ledge!

Tips for a Stress Free Thanksgiving - Thanksgiving without the Anxiety

For many people Thankgiving means family, friends, food- with a good helping of complicated relationships and emotional upheaval on the side! No one is immune from the awkward encounter, running into ex's, or buried family drama.

But why spoil a good meal, and a good time, when there are ways to take control of all inner turmoil.
For the rest of this article, and some awesome tips, follow this link.
(Would that my family drama was buried... instead it's dancing around like the zombies on Thriller.  Guess I'll just do the shoulder-roll thing, & stomp along.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Neither Michael Jackson or I Knew "Normal"

When Michael Jackson died, and one of my friends and I were discussing his sad, strange life, and whether or not he was a pedophile as well as incredibly talented, she said, "You know, it would have helped a lot if he’d acted more, well, normal."

We thought about it and laughed a little. Poor Michael had such a bizarre, abusive upbringing that he wouldn’t have recognized "Normal" if it walked up, Introduced Itself, and shook his sequined glove.  He didn't even have a passing acquaintance with "Normal."

I’ve come to realize, that I, too, have no idea what "healthy" or "normal" feels like, when it comes to a family or romantic relationship.

I believe healthy, normal relationships exist... I know,
Unicorns and Fairies
Image by
theoretically, what they look like - just like I know
what unicorns and fairies look like. ( I love those stories!)

But inside my family of origin... Please!

I grew up in American in the 60's and my father was alcoholic - well, who wasn’t, in those days? Watch any movie or TV show set in the period, and you’ll notice, the first thing most characters do upon entering any room is to fix a drink. (The second is to light a cigarette.)

Everybody back then drank a lot, everybody ate a lot, everybody smacked their kids, and often their wives, around. Yes, there was social disapproval if one went too far, but from this vantage point it’s pretty hard determining where they drew the line of "too far."

Leo Tolstoy wrote, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." In my family, the biggest elephants in the room that we learned to ignore and throw a big, flowered tablecloth over were alcoholism, my father’s narcissism, and my mother’s cancer. (Which, eventually became something we couldn’t ignore, as it killed her.)

Other families had other elephants: child sexual abuse - perhaps at home, or perhaps at church. Sometimes both. Mental illness - possibly "crazy" Aunt Sally, or Grandpa with Alzheimer’s before we knew what Alzheimer’s was. PTSD from Vietnam or Korea or even WWII - before we knew what PTSD was. Suppressed homosexuality. Prescription drug abuse. Racism. Husbands who had affairs with their secretaries and housewives who had affairs with the milkmen.

I am sure there were some "Leave It To Beaver" families out there - but they sure didn’t live on my block. (Btw, totally off-topic, but wasn’t Tony Dow who played Wally sooooo hot?  He was gorgeous as an adult, too.)

Over the years I’ve made a lot of friends, from a lot of different neighborhoods - and they almost all seem to tell very un-leave-it-to-beaverish family stories. Which means that either I am a total magnet for the f&#ked up - a distinct possibility, I admit - or that there’s a whole lot of people like me, struggling to figure out just what a healthy, nurturing love relationship looks and feels like.  It’s as if we’re trying to put together a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle when we don’t even have the picture on the box cover.  And a good third of the pieces are missing.

Shrinks say that we subconsciously pick partners much like our opposite sex parents - a good thing, if our role models were healthy. If they weren’t, the theory is that we do it because we subconsciously hope we can "fix it" this time around. Or maybe it’s that we simply recognize and feel comfortable with bad behaviors - it may not feel good, but it’s familiar. Like choosing ratty old shoes with holes in them because they feel better than brand new shoes that aren't yet broken in.

I know in my own life I’ve often chosen unhealthy partners and/or acted co-dependently in my love relationships. Sometimes the parallels between my partners and my father have been downright spooky!  (With my current b-f, I didn't pick a Narcissist Alcoholic who smokes, like dear old dad, I picked an OCPD Alcoholic who smokes.)

However, whether because of luck or because I am less pigheaded in this area, I have managed to have positive relationships with friends and co-workers. Although I’ve had toxic relationships in those areas too, for the most part my relationships with friends and compatriots are those where we praise each other’s strengths and support each other’s weaknesses - without having ulterior motives, being manipulative or co-dependent.

I’d like to think I can take the grief I’ve been working through for not having the unicorns-and-fairies idyllic childhood I "deserved," my theoretical knowledge about how healthy love relationships work, and my practical application of boundaries, inter-dependence (as opposed to co-dependence), intimacy and friendship, and integrate it all together into one healthy person, one capable of having a True Fine Love.

Lot more work to do before I get there, but I will get there.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What's That Giant Sucking Sound?

No, it's not a funny phrase in a speech by a little guy
with big ears and a squeaky voice.
Photo via Andy Kelly 

It's the sound of hoovering.... 
(as the Brits call vacuuming.  They're so funny!)

But as (Wo)Man's Best Friend knows,
hoovering can be eeeeeeeevvvvvvvvvvvviiiiillllll!

Hoovering the floor, as needed, can be an excellent thing.  Being hoovered - having the disordered person in your life pour on the charm, the apologies, the sudden flash of insight, the promise of working on himself - can feel wonderful.  The relief, the oddly weird sense of connection (after perhaps days, weeks, even years of feeling like you're with a hostile stranger,) the hope.

At last, he gets it!  At last, he understands why things have gone so badly between us.  Maybe I don't have to leave (or stay away.)  Maybe I don't have to pour sand on the last little ember still burning in my heart for this man after all.

Maybe we can get back together.... and it will be different this time.

Hoovering generally happens when you Have Had It.  When there has been a huge, blow-out fight, or you have left, or thrown him out.  Perhaps you're standing in the hallway, bags packed.  And he's not necessarily insincere - he may honestly intend to fulfill all his promises.

But it is really, really difficult to break a pattern of behavior - whether it is of being abusive, or perfectionistic, or of being a co-dependent, caregiver type.  Even of eating too much chocolate (which pattern of mine I am not going to change right now, so there!)  The longer a pattern has gone on, the longer the changed behavior needs to go on, to really make sure it is  truly "sticking."

But if there is some progress made, some apparent meeting of the minds... shouldn't you encourage that?  He says he's changed, you want him to have changed, there are some signs he's made an effort...  That's the slippery slope - and that's why, for some people, hoovering is not a one time event, but something that happens over and over again.

Everybody's "buttons" are different, but your partner knows 'em all, and will not hesitate to push every single one of them like a five year old in an elevator.  And if you've succumbed to hoovering in the past - he's going to do it again.

Some of my buttons:

Pity/Caregiving - so I get "I'm not feeling real well right now, having those chest pains again.  If something happens to me, I want you to know that I always loved you."  and "I'm so lonely without you.  You were my only family, now I don't have anyone."
Flattery - "You're so beautiful."  "You make me feel so good."
Nostalgia - "We had such a good time at such-and-such place."  "Do you remember when we did this and such?"
Sex & Romance - this is why many sites advise going No Contact.  You can't be hoovered by make-up sex if you're not having any.
And, of course, hints of insight: "I don't blame you for leaving.  I was really horrible to you, and I am so very sorry."  "You're right that I need to X,Y, Z"  (no actual signs of him making it happen, though!)

When I write it all down, it all sounds so schmaltzy and ridiculous.  So why, when I hear it, does my heart melt like soft butter on toast?

Wow, thinking of toast helps.  While "Remember the Alamo!" might be big in Texas, for us OCPD Significant Others, it's more like, "Remember the Toaster!!"  (in memory of the Toaster Plug Wars.)

So, while the sucking sound in my life gets louder and louder, I'm bolstering my resolve with these hoovering Do's and Don'ts from Out of the Fog.

What NOT to do:
  • Don't change any of your boundaries or allow them to be broken during a hoover.
  • Don't relax or give up on any consequences of previous poor decisions for the abuser.
  • Don't stop any healthy activities or relationships you may be engaged in elsewhere.
  • Don't assume the hoover will last forever.
  • Don't use a hoover to bargain for a better life. You are setting up the abuser to break a promise and setting yourself up for a disappointment.
What TO do:
  • Remember that mood swings are a normal part of a number of personality disorders and that what goes up must come down.
  • Accept that highs and lows are a part of a everyone's emotional life and that, for a personality-disordered person, those may be more intense and lead swings in behavior.
  • Maintain all your healthy lifestyle habits and relationships with others.
  • Take the long-term view. Wait a year.
  • Get yourself off the roller coaster. Position yourself so that your safety and happiness isn't dependent on a personality-disordered person's mood.
Okay, I'm feeling more back to myself again.  But I plan to keep Remembering the Toaster.

For more good advice on hoovering, read these great articles on Out of the Fog and Abuse Sanctuary and Baggage Reclaim.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Another Cup of Guilt, Dear?

Got a call from my sis last night, and after we discussed various other things, she inquired if I'd noticed or done anything with the button for her gas tank.

Backstory:  A few weeks ago, while visiting her, I borrowed her ancient, but well-kept car to meet another friend for lunch.  Had to adjust the seat and the mirrors, as my sis is much shorter than I am, and I did not bother trying to adjust them back, as anything I could have done would have been just a guess.

She'd warned me about various "things" going on with the car, like the heater/defroster "moaning," a turn signal that had to be manually turned off, and I noticed myself that the odometer was a bit iffy as it hit the 175k mark.  Which I mentioned, when I handed back the car keys.

On the way back to her house, I stopped and filled the tank - because that's what you do.  I remember seeing an indicator on the dash that the tank was on the driver's side, I remember looking around to find the button to pop open the little door, finding in on the left side of the floor near a similar button for the trunk, I remember pressing it, I remember filling the tank (with premium, per the recommendation on the label inside the flap, egads!)  but I don't remember that button being wobbly or loose.  And I definitely don't remember it coming off.  I racked my brain, while we were on the phone, to think if I could remember anything loose or rolling around on the car floor, anything that I might have kicked out of the car when I returned & parked in her garage.... Nada.

So, why am I consumed with guilt?  Well, guilt combined with the tiniest dash of fear/anxiety that even though my sister did not sound the least bit angry or accusatory, that she might not believe me.  She was a bit annoyed, because now she has to open the tank from the trunk until she can get the button replaced, and that's rather inconvenient, but I truly did not "get" any vibe that she thought I was lying to cover my sorry ass.

Logically, I know I have nothing to feel guilty for.  Logically, and in my heart, I also know that my sister trusts me and believes me.  She knows if our conversation had sparked a memory, I would have said, "Oh yeah, dummy me, I forgot, it came off and I put it in the glove compartment," or where-ever, not fibbed about it.

But logic has nothing to do with this ugly feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I'm trying to just be with it, to breathe, and to examine why this feeling of guilt is there in the first place.  Do I have fleas again - is it a case of me borrowing an OCPD sense of personal responsibility for keeping the earth revolving around the sun and every possible disaster, large or small, averted?  Perhaps.

Am I trying to avoid some other ugly issue in my life, so that obsessing over this feeling saves me from dealing with something more important?  I don't think so... I'm doing a lot of emotional homework right now, though it's not like that job will ever be fully over.

Maybe it's the money.  Things are more than a little tight for me right now, and part of me feels that I should have offered to pay for having the button replaced, or at least to split the bill, since it may have been something I did that caused the button to come loose.  Maybe I twisted or pulled on it before I pushed it.  I truly can't remember now.

It would be challenging for me to pay - and my sister did not ask or even hint at such a thing.  Still.  We were always raised that if you borrowed something, you returned it in as good or better condition than when you borrowed it.  That's why I filled the tank.  I would have taken the car to be washed, as well, but did not spot a car wash, and felt that it might be overstepping, as some people are very particular about how their cars are washed.

The more I think about it, the more I think that's why I feel guilty.  I should have offered that, last night, and I didn't.

Identifying the emotion, thinking about it, writing it all out, I already feel better - without chocolate, without washing the guilt away with a stiff drink.  Though the guilt is still there, if much shrunken.  I'm going to send my sister an e-mail offering to pay for or split the bill with her on having the button replaced.  If she takes me up on it, I will find the money somewhere, and if she turns me down, I will at least have made the offer.

Wow, see that guilt floating away like a soap bubble?  <Pop!>

I'm glad I'm doing it, but geez, this 'getting in touch with one's feelings' stuff is hard work!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Shame, Guilt, & Pantyhose

A woman I worked with shared a funny story about herself and another co-worker. She was an immigrant from Romania and while she was very fluent, she still had some problems with the English language. So she’d occasionally ask for help with nuances.

  • ROMANIAN: What’s the difference between "embarrassed" and "ashamed?"
  • Co-WORKER: "Ashamed" is you’ve done something bad. You’ve lied, you’ve cheated, you’ve stolen...
  • ROMANIAN: Okay, I understand that.
  • Co-WORKER: "Embarrassed" is you discover you’ve been walking around the office for the last two hours with your dress tucked into the back of your pantyhose.
Okay, so we’ve all been there (the embarrassed part,) although for a man, the equivalent would probably be walking around the office for the last two hours with one’s fly undone. (If he had a problem with his pantyhose, we’re talking about a whole bunch of other issues.)

While embarrassment may not feel very good, shame feels worse. Embarrassment is about something that makes you look foolish or unprepared or thoughtless for a few moments, but built into embarrassment is the self-forgiving concept, "This kind of thing happens to everybody." Maybe your face gets hot or red, but usually you can laugh off whatever has embarrassed you. If it happens around friends or co-workers, they may laugh at you, but will also reassure you that it’s not that big a deal.

We’ve also all been ashamed, or felt shame; that hot flush of almost-pain radiating down our entire bodies. We may have said something unkind about or to a friend, we may have had a credit card declined while shopping, we may have discovered we’ve gained too much weight to zip up our favorite jeans. Shame is deeper than embarrassment, more about "I am bad/different/inadequate."

I used to think shame was a good thing, but this lady has made me think differently.

Shame is something I’ve often felt about myself. About things I could fix - like busting out of my jeans - or things I couldn’t fix, like being tall, or nearsighted, or having a mother with breast cancer, or a boyfriend with OCPD. I’ve been learning about boundaries, and to distance myself from importing shame about other people and their behaviors or illnesses. (Yes, dumb as it sounds, I felt terrible shame as a teenager for having a mom who died of breast cancer. It made me feel different, weird, and I hated the pity or curiosity of people who found out.) I’m learning now, that even if I am related or chose to be with a person who Has Issues, and there are ugly scenes in public or with friends, that I don’t have to feel personally ashamed. I’ve got enough baggage of my own, I don’t need to carry that of everyone I know and love.

Now I’m pondering Dr. Brown’s idea that there’s a difference between guilt - which we should feel, if we do something bad, and shame, which is "I am a bad person." Guilt is Jiminy Cricket chirping at you - you did something wrong, now go make amends.  Shame creates a fear that if we let anybody see the real us, that we would not be deemed worthy of love, friendship or respect.

The irony is that madly scurrying around trying to preserve a perfect facade (can’t let anybody see I’m weak or imperfect, or they won’t like me) leads to social disconnection. I know when I meet "perfect" people, I never like them very much. I feel resentful and envious and am certain they are phony and hiding something. I like people much better when I see them goof at something and take it in stride.

So, the connection between acknowledging when we feel shame or embarrassment (instead of trying to bury or hide the feeling,) living and breathing with it, and sorting it into its proper place makes sense. To try to find peace with being vulnerable and imperfect, because that is part of what makes us human.

And I might as well try for that, since I will always be the sort of person who walks around with her head in a book and her skirt stuffed into her pantyhose.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Julie Andrews Had It Right

So, we all can sing along to the annoying song.  To many of us, it sounds trite, saccharine-sweet, and a bit oversimplistic in the idea that thinking of whiskers on kittens and warm apple strudel can make everything in life better.

Then again, warm apple strudel...

No, food is not the answer.  (Or at least, not the only answer.)  But the concept of thinking of, and connecting with our favorite things, does have merit.

When we've been disconnected with our own souls, after a crazy relationship or a horrible job experience or terrible trauma, how do we rebuild those bridges, and rediscover the inner person we used to be?  Of course whatever we've gone through has changed us forever, but we are more than victims, more than survivors.

Our True Selves are a mix of the current person who's emotionally bruised and shell-shocked, the person we used to be, and of the dreams for our future we perhaps assumed were dead, but were only deeply asleep.  We can be whole, thriving, integrated and vital human beings once again.  And if we never were before, we can still become those people.

"My Favorite Things" suggests reaffirming a physical, sensual, tactile connection with things we once loved.  Haven't we spent enough time thinking and re-thinking and re-enacting every painful moment in our heads?  Playing the "what-if" game in which we invariably judge that we could have/should have done something different?  We can spend the rest of our lives churning things over in our heads, and still not figure it all out.

Maybe we need to spend some time watching kittens or puppies play, or to cuddle them and let their whiskers and rough tongues brush against our cheek.  To catch our breaths in wonder as we watch geese fly in a moonlit sky, or to enjoy the suspense of guessing what might be in a "brown paper package tied up with string."

I know for those who've been involved with OCPD, lists may seem dangerous.  But just for the fun of it,  see if you can list at least five things for each of the five senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell) that make you feel happy, contented, and connected to the world in a good way.

There might be crossover sensations - that warm apple strudel wafts the enticing odor of apples, cinnamon, pastry into the room; the heat of it in your mouth is a touch sensation, and the delicious taste on your tongue yet another.  Or an expert massage, which combines the sensuality of being touched, of tension leaving tight muscles, with relaxing background music, and the spicy or soothing scent of the massage oil.

And then there's the things you like to do.  Do you like to curl up in a warm blanket in a window nook on a stormy afternoon, watching the rain and sipping tea?  Sit at your computer and design iPhone applications into the wee hours?  Lace up your running shoes and go for a brisk jog on frosty mornings?  Prop your feet on the coffee table, and sing along to The Sound of Music for the umpteenth time, with a box of Kleenex by your side?

No matter how poor or sick or hurt you are, you can still smell the roses - or jasmine, if you prefer.  (If your smeller's broken, you can still enjoy the sight of them.) Or check out a book from the library.  You don't need money to have a good time, though spending money on a fun activity has its place, too.

You can't cram everything you like to do into one day, one month, or even a year.  But what you can do, mindfully, is do at least one thing every day, that you have chosen to do, for yourself, that you enjoy.  Something that is just for you.  Friends and family are all very well in their place, but this is about your journey back to yourself.

Ideally, choose something that connects you with the physical: something you listen to, look at, inhale, feel, taste.  One of your favorite things.  (Just beware of that apple strudel, it can be addictive!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Here's an OCPDr You Know and Love

So, I admit it - I've been jealous.

I've been reading other blogs, and they have pictures.  They have video.  They have cute little tie-ins to this-and-that.  Me, I got nothin' - because OCPD, on its own, isn't particularly photogenic.  Often those with OCPD even hide out, put on a "street angel," "house devil" persona, and friends and family are shocked, shocked!  when the dirty details surface. 

Still, I wanted a spokesmodel.

And then, there she was.  That voice.  That amazing fashion sense.  Those unforgettable lips.

Most people think Mrs. P-head, above is a joke, a caricature.  Too extreme.  That real people aren't like this.

Oh, but they are.

If you've ever driven with an OCPDr at shotgun, you'll never forget the experience.  Only when our peops are in the car, we never get a break where their lips fall off.  (Unfortunately.)

True life experiences:
  • An OCPDr wil not trust the GPS, may be convinced it does not work correctly and gives the wrong directions. Only HE knows the best route to get anywhere. If it says go right he goes left just to get the upper hand over the GPS lady and hear her say "RE-Calculating".
  • She said I was going to hit the bollard in the middle of the road and then after I completely missed it (which is what I have managed to do for the last 20 years) she gave me another verbal scolding.
  • Or how about this one:  on the freeway if someone comes up behind him faster than he thinks is appropriate he slows down (he'll show them!)
  • Criticizes nonstop, especially on familiar roads.  Why?  Why?
  • Either excessive, blow-by-blow directions you don't need on familiar roads, and no hints whatsoever until too late to get over or make the turn in unfamiliar areas.
  • Ever been stopped by the cops for going too slow?  Yep, happens to those with OCPD, and on a not-infrequent basis.  If we listened to their constant screaming about how we're going too fast, we'd get stopped, too.
 He's nodding off in the seat beside me. Wearing a big hat, so it's a distraction in the corner of my eye, and we've got a long way yet to drive.
  • Me: Honey, why don't you incline the seat back, so you can doze and not get a crick in your neck?  (And not be obstructing my vision, you dolt!  I only thought it, didn't say it.)
  • Him: But I have to make sure I wake up every little while to keep you from killing us.  (This might be funny if it were a joke - but he's not joking.)
  • Me: No, you don't.
  • Him: Yes I do.
  • Me: I know that you think that way, but no, you really don't.
Later, I'm first in line at the signal, waiting for the light. Light changes, I've got a green arrow.  I don't immediately speed through, because I know this intersection.
  • Him: Go, go go! It's not going to get any greener. (sarcastic)
  • Me: I always wait... <Car screeches through the intersection, proving my point> for a three-count in this area, so all the idiots running the red light will have cleared the intersection before I drive into it.  
  • Him (semi-apologetic): Okay, thank-you-for-not-killing-us.
 This is the sometimes funny, but mostly sad and tragic thing about OCPD.  Those with it, who are untreated, truly believe that it is only by their hyper-vigilance and constant monitoring of "scary" situations, is horrible disaster averted.

The reality is, when somebody is verbally riding you like the Pony Express, you're much more likely to have an accident than avoid one.  But there's no convincing them of that.

Why don't we simply turn the wheel over to them?  Sometimes, we do, but generally, they drive remarkably worse than they think we do.  They get lost, they panic over missed turns, they freak out and do have accidents.  Their one saving grace is they usually realize this, on some level, and don't want to drive.

Driving with normal people, or by myself, I have such a sense of peace now.  Gratitude.  There's a sense of blessed quiet, like when a car alarm has been going off in the neighborhood for twenty minutes, and they finally shut it off .  Even if I'm blasting Led Zeppelin or Black-Eyed Peas for my own listening pleasure, it's sooo much calmer in the car!.

Sure, I could still get hit by some idiot - but at least I won't be getting hit because I'm distracted by another idiot.  Oooh, for detachable lips!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Did Jesus know about OCPD?

I woke up this a.m. ruminating over OCPD hints in the Bible.  (Yes, I'd rather have been dreaming about something sexier, too.)  But it seems people have been consumed with anxiety and controlling behaviors to cope with their anxieties, long before Papa Freud and others started talking about anal-retentive personalities.

Of course, patriarchal and slave-owning cultures are the ultimate in tension-filled, Power Over social dynamics, but even within those, there was apparently some recognition that this attitude could be taken too far.

from Proverbs:
"Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad."  (Proverbs 12:25 - NKJV)  I think they got the first part right, but for somebody with OCPD, it takes major drugs, and/or major therapy, to move them from anxiety to gladness.

Attributed to Jesus of Nazareth:
"Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."   (Matthew 6:34 - ASV.  Other versions use "do not worry" rather than "do not be anxious," and "trouble" rather than "evil.")  My paraphrase on this is "Stop churning and worrying about tomorrow - those problems will get here soon enough.  Dude.  Just chill out and deal with today."  Or, "There's no point in borrowing trouble."

"And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  (Matthew 7:3 - NKJV.  Other versions use "mote" rather than "speck," and "beam" rather than "plank.")  For those of us who have dealt with OCPD, we are very familiar with being berated for specks and motes, while the beams and planks of our partner go totally unrecognized and unaddressed by them.  Apparently first century peops had problems with the distorted perception of those with OCPD, too.

Perhaps that was the real story of why Jesus scolded Martha for trying to control her sister Mary and make her come help with the household work.  I'd always thought that sounded rather unfair - why should Mary get to sit at Jesus' feet and listen to his teaching, while Martha did all the heavy lifting?  (I also thought it was extremely unfair that all the men got to wander around from town to town, yapping & stuffing their faces and apparently not helping to do anything, but that's another argument.) 

Maybe Martha was OCPD and had been riding Mary all day long, and playing the poor, put-upon martyr, until Jesus told her to knock it off.  (Luke 10:38-42.)

I don't want to turn this into the Bible study site, or to debate the historical accuracy of said Biblical docs - just want to point out that all those centuries ago, some version of OCPD was probably going on.

I wonder what the equivalent of leaving the toaster plugged in was.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Movie Review - The Social Network

First off , this post is not going to be about whether or not communicating via FaceBook is the best thing since sliced bread, or the worst bane to modern society since, well, sliced bread.  I don't give a Tweet whether or not the movie "got it right" about The Real FaceBook Story or the main characters and how they behaved in real life.

Let's assume, for the purposes of this discussion, that the movie is 100% fiction.   As I refer to the characters, below, they are as characters, and are not assumed to be real people, okay?

Okay.  Is it worth the watching?  Yes.  I'll want to see it again, and I'm not a big "movie" person.

The script was written by the brilliant Aaron Sorkin, directed by the equally brilliant David Fincher, and acted impressively by Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, and Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin (the money, the business plan, and the one character you really like) though Justin Timberlake is great as the dissipated (and broke) boy shark behind Napster, who smells money in the water and finds a way to swim into the action. 

If you appreciate tall, blonde, handsome, well-muscled men, you'll enjoy Armie Hammer, who plays identical twin athletes with the help of make-up, outstanding computer editing, a stand-in, and major Skills in the acting department.  Seeing two slightly different versions of this man in one shot is truly no hardship.

The movie starts off with Zuckerberg getting dumped by his girlfriend.  Why? Because being a genius on paper does not always translate to "plays well with others."  Smart, attractive, confident women don't generally put up with being ignored, condescended to, and treated like garbage (at least at the front end of a dating relationship.)  They tend to call a guy an asshole, and move on.

The dumping led to a nasty blog about now ex-girlfriend, which led to a misogynistic if brilliant web program (based on an algorithm by Saverin) to rate the attractiveness of as many Harvard female students as possible, which led, eventually, to FaceBook.  Not without apparently stealing the ideas of Cute Twins & Partner along the way, using and discarding people without any apparent qualms, and facing two lawsuits.  The depositions in defense of said lawsuits form the device through which the story is told.

There was some controversy about the portrayal of most women in the movie as groupie-types.  Didn't affect how I saw the movie.  The story is told through the eyes of men who are, themselves, social misfits, who demonstrate in the first scene they may be computer programming gods, but they don't have the social brains or acumen to handle smart, attractive, confident women.  They tend to go for the kind of woman who will set one's bed on fire, which is realistic to those characters.

I've also read reviews in the general public arena which describe Zuckerberg as narcissistic, borderline sociopath, neurotic and an anti-hero (besides being an asshole) but only one which picked up on what I did.  His behavior, facial expressions (or lack thereof), his total disregard and non-connection with the feelings, emotions and even physical misery of those around him screamed AUTISM to me, loud and clear.  At the very least, Asperger's Syndrome (a high-functioning form of autism.)

Narcissist - sorry, not enough charm to qualify (though Justin T as Sean Parker certainly oozes it.)  Narcissists flatter and use what they've observed of the desires and weaknesses of those around them to reel 'em in.  Sociopaths (think Ted Bundy & other serial killers) destroy people deliberately, for the pleasure in seeing them go smash.  You got little sense of glee out of Zuckerberg, except when he'd cracked some tough coding problem.

Anti-hero, certainly, neurotic - you didn't see any neuroses.  You don't see Zuckerberg agonizing over any decisions or doubt, though the implication is made that by perhaps stealing their idea and leading them on, he's getting back at the Winklevoss twins for being everything he's not - tall, handsome, wealthy, popular, and in an elite "final club."  (Yeah, I never heard of a final club, either, and now that I understand what they are - still not impressed.)  Mostly though, you got the sense that people were like Kleenex to him - he blew his nose and moved on, never giving the discarded Kleenex a second thought.

I thought, briefly, that Zuckerberg might be OCPD, because some of the traits of autism and OCPD are very similar.  All consuming absorption in a project, black-or-white thinking, assumptions that others think they way he thinks, co-opting other people's ideas as his own, not liking to be hugged... 

But the obliviousness is a dead giveaway.  In the scene where Saverin has arrived in California, where Zuckerberg was supposed to pick him up at the airport, but forgot/overslept, and Saverin arrives at the door, dripping wet, exhausted and more than a bit peeved, Zuckerberg doesn't fuss at him for dripping water on the floor.  He doesn't conjure up excuses why it was actually Saverin's fault for not being at the airport at a more convenient time.  He doesn't snatch Saverin's briefcase and scold him for not keeping it dry. 

Instead, ignoring what any reasonable person would realize was exhaustion and major discomfort, he grabs Saverin's sleeve to tug him towards a nearby monitor, "You've got to see what we've been working on!"

See if you agree with me that Zuckerberg (in the movie, not necessarily the real person!!) exhibited many signs of Asperger's Syndrome.

Impaired Social Skills
Adults with AS have impaired social skills, according to the Adult Asperger's Association. They can have a hard time making friends and interacting with people in social settings. Adults with Asperger's syndrome may appear awkward, quirky and out of place at social gatherings. They may engage in lengthy conversations unaware that the person to whom they are speaking is trying to change the subject or exit the conversation. These individuals tend to talk at people instead of talking to people. Many times adults with Asperger's syndrome will make inappropriate comments because they are unable to understand voice tone, facial expressions and body gestures. Adults with AS often have a hard time "reading" people and understanding humor. They may not know the right thing to say or the correct way to behave, and may unintentionally upset the people around them.   <section shortened>

Intense Specialized Interests

According to the Better Health Channel, adults with Asperger's syndrome tend to have very intense time-consuming specialized interests. These individuals usually become experts in one or two areas and excel in their chosen careers because they choose jobs that best fit their interests. They are often referred to as eccentric, which sometimes causes social isolation. An example of an intense specialized interest would be someone who spends long amounts of time studying science and statistics, but has little interest in anything else.  (Read more:

I hadn't heard anything in interviews with Fincher or Sorkin about them deliberately making Zuckerberg autistic, but apparently the The Autism News agrees with me, too.

I guess the reason this hit me so hard is the similarities between OCPD and autism behaviors are becoming increasingly clearer to many:

It's not the same disorder; while some symptoms are identical, others are very, very different.  Both disorders are very, very difficult to deal with if you are the girlfriend, business partner, or, heaven help you, the spouse of an Aspie or OCPDr.

It not a case of "being an asshole," or "trying to be an asshole."  It's about being born with something missing (or damaged), about having to try really, really hard to behave in socially appropriate ways, while not really understanding them on more than a surface level.

And no matter how many billions of dollars you make, no matter how many people use your product, you can't buy a sense of empathy, or of connection with other people.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The John-and-Sarah Coming-to-America Story

So, one of the things I’ve been doing in my spare time, one of the things I always wanted to do but found it hard to work on because OCPD b-f was always jealous of time spent on not-him, was research my family history. I have a bunch of very old, cool, pictures, some ancient obituary notices, and I got inspired by that show "Who Do You Think You Are" and decided to go for it.

I’ve done the research in bits and pieces, sometimes putting in hours at a time, sometimes not touching it for weeks. But I’ve found out some fascinating things. Finding out about one’s ancestors and family - what you know about the choices they made, what you don’t know about the choices they made, helps you figure out who you are.  (Which is one of the things I urgently need to do, as part of my psychological homework and all that.)

At least, that’s the way it’s working so far for me.

So I have these relatives, John-and-Sarah - my maternal great-grandfather’s parents. Just finding her name was significant. Now I know why my great-grandfather named his eldest child Sarah Ann. After his mother, who died before he became an adult. As did his son, my great-grandfather, who passed away when my grandmother was nine. As did my mother, who passed away when I was ten. Was there also a legacy of mourning the missing parent, so very deeply?

It’s eerie, these echoes through the generations.

Last night, tunneling through time till midnight, I found the record of John-and-Sarah coming to America in 1854, from Ireland. Today, I found that tracing them back further might be beyond difficult, to impossible, as there were major fires that accidentally destroyed most Irish census records from the early 1800's to 1861. (And after that, they were deliberately destroyed, until 1901.) Kind of sad, in a way, and kind of cool, in a way, because if I can’t get the verified information, I’ll get to fill in the blanks from my own imagination.

Still, there were things I found out. Like that they were already married when they came to America. Since their first (recorded) son was born two years later, and children followed at close and regular intervals, I had to wonder - did Sarah perhaps miscarry or lose a baby, on that hard passage to America? Or in Ireland, before they left? Their first American son was not named for his father, though the second was - why? Was the first named for John-or-Sarah’s father, or grandfather? Or their third son, my grandfather - that name seemed to come out of nowhere. Or, did it?

I found some history on the ship, the bark, aka barque ( a barque is a type of ship), Creole out of Londonderry. I found she made about 40 TransAtlantic voyages, between the time she was commissioned around 1850 and the time she was decommissioned in 1862.(Decomissioned means dismantled for scrap, though if her owners had been OCPD hoarders, she'd still be in a backyard somewhere with a tarp thrown over her, along with another 40 ships of the line.  "She could come in very useful someday," they'd say, "you never know when there'll be another great migration to or from America in sailing ships.") 

I found that on at least one occasion, she was in a bad storm, struck by lightning just off the Irish coast, losing the mainmast and barely limping back into the closest port. I wonder about the weather John-and-Sarah endured, on that trip that brought them to America in fall 1854 with 200-odd other passengers and crew. Fair? Stormy? Whatever the weather, once you were on the ship, there was no turning back. I noticed, on some of the logs for these ships, the double-asterisks that denoted a passenger had not survived the journey.

I also noted, on the log I found noting their entrance to America, that unlike some of the other travelers, John-and-Sarah had no baggage. I fantasize about the idea, of just going somewhere, carrying only what you have in your pockets, and perhaps a small bag, not noted in the log, and it’s strangely appealing. I think of all the material possessions I have, and how I wonder sometimes if they belong to me, or if I belong to them? I think of my OCPD b-f , how he is so terribly burdened with so much psychological baggage, weighted down with all the things he thinks he Must Do or Can’t Do. (Not to mention, all the physical possessions he hoards so fiercely.  He would have the Creole in his backyard - just in case) How strangely liberating it must be, to just leave the place you’ve lived your entire life, and just go, with your hopes and dreams and whatever you can fit in your pockets and perhaps a small knapsack.

John-and-Sarah arrived in one state, quickly emigrated to another, where most of their children were born, then moved back to the first, where they apparently bought a farm, and where Sarah, and later, John died. Their third son, my great-grandfather, returned to the county/state of his birth and married my Danish great-grandmother, where they had six (recorded) children, including my grandmother, and owned a horse farm, according to family legend. My g-grandpa’s siblings apparently remained where their parents farmed and a few of them owned farms of their own, in the coming years.

These stories, these traces of family history make me ponder any number of things, but mainly that life is risky business. That sometimes taking chances fails miserably, and sometimes it pays off - perhaps in the short term, perhaps in the long term. Despite the uncertainly, despite whatever sacrifices they had to make, life in American was obviously more appealing to John-and-Sarah than staying where they were. I know that even with the best, most complete planning, still so many things must have come up they never expected.

In order to survive as an emigrant, you had to be super-flexible. If you weren’t flexible, if you couldn’t adapt, if you couldn’t find a way to scratch out a living despite the reality that America’s streets were not paved in gold... you died. (I can't imagine a lot of people with OCPD as successful emigrants.  They'd be telling the captain he was not sailing the ship the in the right way, and would be exhibiting Demand Resistance when  the immigration officials asked to see their papers...) 

You had to have incredible courage, and strength - and luck, too, to come to America, and raise a family here.

I think of John-and-Sarah, and I want them to be proud of me, to look at me adapting and surviving, and beyond that, thriving.  I want them to think I’m brave, that I don’t run whimpering at the first setback. I want them to be proud of me.  To imagine, if we ever met, that they’d look at me and say, there’s our girl!

What do you know of your family history, that inspires (or scares) you?
Tell me about it, below.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Being Positive About the Negative

So, since I love to give advice, I was giving somebody advice about gratitude today, and I started thinking about things to be grateful for.  And I do have countless things I am truly blessed to have in my life.

However, I'm in something of a quirky mood, today and feel like being positive about the negative.  So here goes:
  • I'm grateful that I had only enough cash at the g. store tonight to buy the milk and fish I came in for, and not enough to splurge on a bag of leftover Halloween candy.
  • I'm grateful that it's been a fairly long time since the cat puked on the rug.
  • I'm grateful that I remembered I could cook my yellow rice in the microwave tonight instead of burning it on the stove like I usually do.
  • I'm grateful that the guy in the black Prius loudly blasting his nasally wailing middle-Eastern music at the stopsign tonight is not my next-door neighbor.
  • I'm grateful I had enough tequila left for two margaritas with my dinner.
  • I'm grateful that the itsy-bitsy spider in the bathroom who interrupted my bath last night appeared tuned in to the psychic message I was sending him, "Begone, begone, and I will not have to squish you like a, well, bug."
  • Likewise the itsier bitsier spider that was scrambling all over my computer monitor last night.
  • I'm grateful I'm dealing with spiders, even though they creep me out, and not cockroaches.
  • I'm grateful I took a closer look at my mail and did not shred my jury summons as the junk mail solicitation it appeared at first.
  • I'm grateful that not all candidates for Congress in this election cycle are dumber'n a bag of hair.
  • I'm grateful that the weather is going to be warm enough all week that I will not have to wear pantyhose.
  • I'm grateful that they have not yet put standing saddle "seats" in commercial airplanes.
  • I'm grateful that not all of my neighbors stomp up the steps like they are carrying pianos on their backs.
  • I'm sorry I don't live closer to certain members of my family - and very grateful I don't live closer to others.
  • I'm grateful I have more books than I can possibly read in the next year already loaded on my Kindle.
I'm grateful for scented candles and FaceBook and warm fuzzy blankets.  I'm grateful I found out about OCPD before I totally went insane (well, at least crazier than I already was.)  I'm grateful for vibrators and women's right to vote and the fact that in a few hours the din of political ads will be over (at least for a few more months.)  I'm grateful for my dim understanding of the Goddess and the infectious way babies giggle and for buses that don't belch black smoke into the air anymore.  I'm grateful for limits on my credit cards that prevent me from being 8 billion dollars in debt.

I'm grateful to be alive, to be employed, to be loved by so many wonderful family members and friends and a very neurotic cat.

How about you?  What are you grateful for?

Pajama Time

Saturday, for the first time in years, I kicked around the place in my pj’s. And I wasn’t even sick. And it felt SO good.

I used to take a pajama day, now and then, back in the day, when I didn’t have offspring to care for, and later, even when I did, if he happened to be at the ex’s for the weekend. (And if I happened to be between boyfriends.  If I wasn’t, spending the weekend in bed took on a whole different meaning, he-he-he!)

But though sex is usually fun, and family and friend relationships are very important, and there are always Things That Must Be Done, recharging one’s batteries is important too. Sometimes it’s good just to turn it all off - the phone, the To-Do list, even the computer (I confess, I did play on the computer, some. Still, I avoided all the things I "should" do, like checking my e-mail, updating my FaceBook status, writing my blog...)

I fed the cat right on time, of course (she’d have meowed me into madness if I hadn’t.) Read a little. Napped a little. Made myself a big yummy brunch, with a mimosa. Did some premature munching of Halloween candy (so, report me, I didn’t end up getting any trick-or-treaters anyway!)

I realized I’ve been starved for pajama time for years now. From the time I started seeing my OCPD b-f, seven and a half years ago, I spent every weekend with him. During almost six years living together, I think we spent two mornings lingering in bed till noon. The rest - we had to get up, there were Things To Do.

Often I got out of bed long before him, so I could do yoga and other exercises before he woke up, since I always got many negative comments about me doing them. (Though when I slacked off, I also got many negative comments about the weight I put on.)

Occasionally we went and did something fun, like a hike in the mountains - but it was all OCPD-style. Discussed to death during the week that led to the weekend, the park or path pre-selected, a plan laid out - and of course, the weather had to cooperate fully, or all was ruined. One could not hike if the weather was too hot or too cold.

The weather. Ugh! The last few years, maintaining a constant temperature in the house became another obsession. It "should" always be 70 degrees F - no warmer, no cooler. Since the house didn’t have central heating or air, and since he relied on an outdoor thermometer perched high on an indoor shelf (yes, I tried to get him to use something more accurate, but what did I know?) this required constant adjustment of doors, windows, fans, turning on the window AC units or wall heater - and him generally scolding me.

All variances in temperature were my fault. Some really were - f’instance, sometimes I turned the wall heater setting up to 7, because it was a chilly January morning, I had to take a shower and didn’t care to catch pneumonia. This meant that - briefly - the thermometer might indicate it was 75 degrees. Even 78, the horror! He sternly forbade me to turn the setting up beyond "6," then later, he revised that to "no higher than "5."

Sometimes I didn’t open the correct door to carry out the litterbox scoopings, which meant I let out too much heat (or cool.) Or I wanted to scramble eggs on a July morning, after 7:30 a.m., when I should know that anything to be made on the stove must be cooked before 7 am. There were toaster issues, of course, too: the amount of heat the toaster put into the house, the national security crisis if the toaster was left plugged in afterwards, rather than being unplugged, held upside down over the sink and all crumbs shaken out; repeat with toaster right side up and crumb tray removed.  (I’m not sure whether someone can be officially diagnosed with OCPD unless s/he has some sort of toaster obsession.)

But sometimes the temperature in the house simply varied because it does. SoCal can offer some wild rides - this morning it was 52 degrees when I left for work, today at noon it was in the 90's. This mattered naught to b-f - the variance was always, somehow, my fault

Anyway, back to boring, lazy me in my pj’s.  Doing absolutely nothing fruitful, worrying about nothing, controlling nothing. I did run the heater (I’d just had the pilot light lit the night before) with fans running and windows open, so as to burn off the accumulated dust in the unit. When it stopped being stinky, I think I turned it off. Or maybe I closed the windows.

It doesn’t really matter. I just know I felt warm, and comfy, and unstressed.  I never once checked to see what the temperature was according to the thermostat. Nobody was telling me what I should be doing, when I should be doing it, or to rag on me about anything. Me not trying to control anything, even the temperature inside my ‘partment.

And it felt so good.