A couple of weeks ago, I was driving along with all my windows open and the Fluffy Dog in the back of the car, when an impatient driver raced up behind me. I had seen her coming in my rearview. You know the kind: weaving in and out of traffic, trying to get the advantage of one more carlength. I needed to be in the next lane anyway, so I signaled and and pulled into the gap to my left to let her race by, at which point there was a blaring horn and I realised that the same impatient driver had simultaneously pulled to the left at high acceleration to get around me. She screeched back into the right lane and pulled up beside me at the next light, lowered her window, and began to scream and swear at me. (The Fluffy Dog raised his head at the commotion but didn’t bestir himself to look at all threatening or even concerned, the big old dope.) Continue reading →
Content warning for discussion of flashbacks, child abuse, domestic abuse, and trauma.
Workplace cubicles don’t allow for privacy.
On the small floor where I work, a small second floor perched like a hat on a larger building, the windowed offices ring a large area which has been packed with cubicles. At one end of this rectangle is the access stairwell. At the very far end from that stairwell is my workspace. The cubicles end, and my desk and filing cabinets are in the stub of space just past the fire exit stairwell.
It’s an old building. The heating and cooling are iffy, approximate, and likely controlled by someone in a different time zone. As a result, people tend keep their office doors open to improve air circulation.
This means everyone hears everything. We all know about each other’s kidney stones, grandchildren, car troubles, and how well we all slept last night.
One thing about growing up with secrecy, silence, and paranoia in an authoritarian family is that it gets really hard to untangle the effects of emotional abuse from one’s actual personality.
Until recently, for example, I rarely asked questions. Part of that is because because so many of my childhood and adolescent questions were answered with :
contempt: “You stupid kid”
ridicule: “I can’t believe you don’t know that”
silent treatment: absolute silence as if I had not spoken
dismissal: “You don’t need to know that”
anger: “Don’t ask things like that!”
annoyance “Don’t bother me with that”
mockery: “Why do you care about that?”
impatience: “I don’t have time for this.”
I learned that questions are irritating, intrusive, inappropriate, and unwelcome. I learned that I would be mocked, ridiculed, and subject to anger or silent treatments if I asked questions or showed curiosity. Continue reading →
Every year, I dread February. But March usually brings some relief. Even though it’s still winter, the days are obviously getting longer, and spring is coming. March is a often sunny month here in Winnipeg, and most years, I start planning my garden, spending a bit more time outside, and generally perking up after the February slump.
This year, though, I just kept sliding downward despite the longer days, the mild weather, and the promise of spring. Continue reading →
Every year, February hits me like a tonne of bricks. I don’t know why February is so hard. Part of it, I’m sure, is that the winter has gone on so long by now, and the end is not quite in sight yet. But on the other hand, the days are visibly longer, and this is usually a sunny month (goes with the cold, dammit).
Part of it is maybe that the pattern of difficult Februarys means that I start dreading it in advance, before anything bad even happens. As soon as I stop stressing about Christmas, I start dreading February. Maybe there’s no way I approach February with an open heart anymore. Continue reading →
Someone at work died last night of a heart attack. I barely knew him, even though I’ve worked here for a decade and he’s been here longer (it’s a large institution). But the whole place is walking around in shock. People are talking about him, about his death, and about their past interactions with him.
But I can’t be the listener. I just can’t. I know I have trouble understanding and dealing with attachment. I know I have bad reactions to loss. I know that I have spent so much of my life both ruthlessly suppressing my feelings while simultaneously trying to learn how to understand and express them. All of this is part of it. Also, I’ve been carefully and cruelly trained to always make other people’s feelings more important than my own, as well as to meet other people’s needs at the expense of my own, and I have worked so very hard to try to unlearn this. So to suddenly find myself in the middle of this sea of shock and grief, with people wanting to talk, or even when they don’t, when every instance of eye contact is accompanied by sad faces and head tilts and resigned shrugs and meaningful sighs… I just can’t. Continue reading →
People at work keep stopping by my desk to harass me about Christmas. Well, to be fair, they are stopping by everyone’s desk, and they probably think of it as “small talk” rather than “harassment.”
But honestly I am getting so sick of deflecting the casual questions. Are you ready for Christmas? Got your tree up? Have you done all your Christmas shopping? What are you doing for Christmas? Got a big Christmas planned? Spending time with your family for Christmas this year?
I used to just go along with it and shove down all my holiday stress to not make the conversation awkward. But now, I think screw that, why should I be uncomfortable because you are asking some personal questions loaded with cultural assumptions and obliviousness? Continue reading →