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 →
Last Friday, I played a gig with two other DJs. I was up first, and I tried something totally new (for me): a set of music from my childhood. Pink Floyd, Cream, The Animals, Led Zeppelin, Supertramp, David Bowie, The Talking Heads… Music I remember falling asleep to as a little kid. If I’d come up with the idea a little sooner, I would have loved to add some Golden Earring and Moody Blues and ELO, but anyway, it was fun.
There was a guy (we’ll call him Stripey Shirt) who was pretty drunk and trying his luck with a lot of the women at the venue. With me, it was “Wow, you got some good dance moves. I mean, I’m from Jamaica and I know you got some good moves!” while his arm was on the back of the chair in which I was sitting. I was leaning away from his arm and planning how to extricate myself when he added “You gotta give me your number. I want to you DJ a private party I’m throwing!” I laughed at him and said “Yeah, because THAT sounds totally legit!” 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 →
This was a disturbing book. Evelyn Lau writes about her experiences living on the street after running away from home at the age of fourteen to escape her abusive, controlling parents.
Lau had always wanted to be a writer, and had already received some awards and recognition for her writing at a young age, but she was forced to leave home to escape an unendurable situation. She stayed with friends at first, given the network of friends and fellow writers she had already established, but as the pressure from police and child welfare authorities increased, her friends became unable and unwilling to shelter her. 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 →