Wounded Bird Syndrome

False weakness is deplorable.

I once knew a woman who refused to learn to drive. And this was not a town where public transportation was abundant. Uber didn’t exist yet, and taxis were few and far between. But even if they had been available, she wouldn’t have taken advantage of that service. No. She wanted her adult children to chauffeur her everywhere she went. And they did.

It would be one thing if she were physically or mentally incapable of driving. But she was fine. Just fine. She had what I began to call Wounded Bird Syndrome. See? I have a broken wing. You must do all the flying for me.

Her passive aggressive manipulations were honed to a sharp point. Her kids were at her beck and call. They never said, “Mom, we’ll take you to the grocery store once a week, at this time.” No. If she had a hankering for cupcakes, she’d expect them to drop everything.

She reminded me of a client that I had when I did Food Stamp eligibility in Florida. She was diabetic. But she couldn’t stand to give herself insulin shots. So her husband couldn’t hold down a job, because he had to stay by her side to give her the shots.

I mean, come on, now. I’m sure that being a diabetic is a misery, but woman up and learn how to give yourself insulin so your loved ones can function.

Yes, in both these scenarios the people in question were enabled to a shocking degree. But charity begins at home. Solve your own problems.

Yes, it often sucks, being a grown up. But you have to learn how to do your own heavy lifting. It’s okay to ask for help sometimes. It’s definitely okay to ask for help when you are genuinely physically or mentally in need of it. But when your dependence is self-imposed, and it encroaches on the lives of others to the point of being debilitating, what you are doing is cruel.

I admire people who value their own agency. I appreciate those who are capable and independent, and those who do the best they can with the cards they are dealt. False weakness is deplorable.

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No, not the city in Alaska. The word. A place to drop anchor. Most people long for this. Now that I’m a homeowner again, I kind of feel like I’ve finally found such a place. It’s wonderful. It’s a huge relief. As a matter of fact, for the first time in my life, I look forward to coming home, I feel safe here, and I am a part of a community. I’ve had maybe one or two of those things before, but never all three simultaneously. I’m 52, and this is a first. And I like it. A lot.

But anchorage is one of those amazing words that brings up conflicting emotions in me, depending upon the context. I hate to see people who are trapped in their lives. There’s nothing worse than doing a job that you hate because you feel as though you have no choice. It’s awful to stay in a relationship simply because you’re afraid to be alone. (Been there. Done that.) It’s heartbreaking to see someone stay someplace simply because it’s all he or she has ever known.

I know several people who have limited themselves in one way or another, and it makes me very sad. To me it looks like wasted potential. I want the most for the people I love. My expectations for them are high. It makes me crazy when I know people are capable of more than they are allowing themselves to achieve. I want everyone to go to college and travel and take risks. But a lot of people don’t do these things. Their fears hang on their necks like… anchors.

And now’s when I have to remind myself that everyone is allowed to live their own life. If you are content living in the place where you were born, and never expanding your horizons or learning anything new or being exposed to other cultures, then it’s really none of my business. You can and will make your own choices, including making no choices at all.

Is your anchor a connection or a hindrance? I’ll let you determine your own anchorage, as you have every right to do. Meanwhile, I’ll try to scream into my pillow as quietly as I possibly can.


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God, I love National Public Radio. I was listening to a guy get interviewed on the way to work this morning. He was talking about a book he had written about understanding the monetary system. I wish I had gotten his name or his book’s name, but I was driving. Anyway, he was saying that many people are intimidated by the whole system, including banking and investments, and that he wasn’t because he had relatives in banking, so he had the courage to learn about it.

And then it happened. He coined a term that I think ought to become a thing. If it doesn’t become a thing, I will lose utter faith in humanity. You have been warned.

The term was “pre-baffled”. He said a lot of people are sort of pre-baffled by the monetary system. They think they’ll never be able to understand it, so they don’t even try.


The reason it strikes such a chord with me is that I see this phenomenon all the time, and I can’t relate to it at all. The one thing, probably the only thing I’m 100% confident about is my intelligence. I have absolutely no doubt that I’m capable of learning anything at all if I’m willing to put the time and effort into it. Granted, I really don’t feel like investing years of my life delving into brain surgery or rocket science, but if the spirit moved me, I have no doubt I could do it. Apparently I suffer from an utter lack of pre-bafflement.

Unfortunately I see friends and loved ones psyching themselves out all the time. “I hate math. I’m not going to do well in this class.” “Well, I hate math, too, and it doesn’t come as easily to me as writing my blog does, but that only means I have to try that much harder. You are an intelligent person. You can do it.”

Update: A friend of mine tracked down the source of this new term! It was an interview with John Lanchester about his book How to Speak Money. Check out the interview here.


Poor Beaker is the poster child for bafflement, both pre and post.