Wounded Bird Syndrome

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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On Being Taken Care Of

I know someone who used to get really irritated when her husband took care of things for her. She was a strong, independent woman and it really bothered her when he’d step in and take charge. It was the main thing that would spark arguments between them.

I, too, am strong and independent, so I can kind of get where she was coming from. After all, one of my first full sentences was, “I can do it myself!”

But here’s the thing. (Yes, there’s always a thing.) In every long-term relationship I’ve ever had up to this point, I’ve been the one taking care of things.

I planned the trips, organized the doctors’ visits, and kept our financial house in order. I was the writer of lists, the finder of lost keys, the maker of reservations, the problem solver. I was the one to say, “Don’t forget you have that thing today.” I kept track of the birthdays. I bought the gifts. I turned off the burners on the stove. I made sure the lights stayed on.

Because of that, to others I looked like the nagging fishwife. I was the bad guy. What no one on the outside seemed to realize was that somebody had to drive this thing, or our ship of state would have foundered on the rocks.

It was exhausting. It was stressful. Unbalanced relationships always are. I felt more like a mother than a lover.

Now, for the first time in my life, I have someone who wants to take care of me. Man, this feels weird. I’m not going to lie.

In all of my 53 years, I’ve never known what that was like. Ever. I’m struggling with the notion that I deserve it. I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. But I like it. A lot.

I like that he is willing to go to doctors’ appointments with me. I like that he likes to drive, and usually knows where we’re going better than I do. He remembers to put the concert tickets in his wallet. I like that he makes plans and lists. I like that he reminds me of things as much as I remind him.

Is this what it feels like to have someone give an actual sh*t about you? Well, alrighty then. I’ll take it.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to turn into an albatross around my husband’s neck. I certainly know what that feels like, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

No. I want to do my part. I want this to be an equal partnership in the aggregate. (Realizing that on some days one of us is bound to be in better shape than the other, and that’s okay.)

But that will be a challenge for me. Because that means not doing every single solitary thing myself. It means learning to sit back sometimes and say, “Go right ahead, honey.” It means not having to worry about keeping track of everything. What a concept.

I’ve never been able to do that before. It feels like, for the first time, I have a chance to catch my breath. I think I could grow accustomed to this. I’m certainly willing to try.

I just need to learn not to feel so guilty when I’m not on point. I also need to make sure that I keep up with my end of things. I need to not lean too hard, and make sure that he will never doubt that he can rely on me, too.

Most of all, I never, ever want to take this for granted. Because, like a fragile flower, this marriage needs nurturing by me, too, in order to bloom.

nurturing

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“I Can Do It Myself!!!”

According to family lore, that was one of the first full sentences I ever uttered. That does not surprise me in the least. I’ve always been very independent.

I started working when I was 10 years old, growing house plants and selling them at the local flea market. My first major purchase was tickets to Disney World for me, my mother and my sister. At the time we could all go for a total of twenty dollars. That tells you how long ago that was.

When I got my first car (which I paid for myself), the first thing I did was learn how to change the oil, and I took pride in doing it. Nowadays I’d rather pay someone else than get all dirty and stuff, but it still makes me smile that I know how.

I also did a great deal of the remodeling of my first house. I learned how to plaster and paint and grout and construct and shingle. I attribute my confidence in these areas to my summer job with the Youth Conservation Corps.

Many people seem surprised that I bought a house on my own, but the fact is, I’m on my second one. If I had waited for some Prince Charming to come along and foot the bill, I’d have been a renter for life. What a waste of money.

I also moved all the way across the country on my own, even though I didn’t know a soul on the West Coast. I don’t think I really thought that one through. If I had, I’d probably still be in Florida. But it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, so three cheers for flying by the seat of my pants!

I’ve done a great deal of traveling on my own. It wasn’t as fun as it could have been, but it sure beat staying at home. The world is an amazing place, indeed, and those travel experiences have shaped who I am.

Doing all those things myself has made me the person that I am today, and I’m rather proud of that. But here’s the thing: The older I get, the more I want to do things with someone. I don’t want to do it myself. I want company. I want someone to share the experience with, someone to laugh with. I want someone to help me find my way if I get lost. I want feedback. I want a hand to hold.

The fact that I have that now is the best gift the universe could have ever given me. It only took me 53 years to figure that out.

stubborn-kid2

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Just the Right Amount of Strange

Have you ever met someone and clicked with them instantly because they’re the same kind of weird that you are? Isn’t it great? It’s such a relief to feel understood and accepted.

Recently someone pointed out to me that there’s really no such thing as normal. Good point. I’ve never known anyone who hasn’t felt at least a little bit “out there”.

Personally, I’d find it rather creepy if we were all alike. The implication would be that we had no free will or independent thought. I can think of no better definition of hell.

That’s why I’m instantly repulsed by people who tell me that the only way to get to heaven is by subscribing to a specific creed. That sure doesn’t sound like heaven to me. I don’t want to agree with everyone all the time. I don’t want to check my brains and my personality at the door. I would die of boredom. You keep your Stepford Wife Heaven to yourself. I’ll have no part of it.

I like to let my freak flag fly, and enjoy having it fly with plenty of crazy company!

crazy_people_640_35

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A New Take on the Seattle Freeze

Moving to Seattle is the best thing I’ve ever done. I love it here. I’m fairly sure I’ll never completely fit in, though. But then, I don’t suppose I did in Florida, either.

After being confused by mixed signals for a couple months, I finally learned about the Seattle Freeze. In one blog entry, before I knew what it was called, I referred to it as “nice, but not.” In another, I called it a “smiling, polite, unmovable wall of rejection.”

Basically, people are very helpful here. They’re very kind. But don’t get too close. Don’t be nosy or get personal. Nice to meet you, now go away. It’s a thing. It really is. I’ll never get used to it.

Many people theorize that it has to do with the fact that we have large Asian and Scandinavian populations here. Those are two cultural groups that tend to like to keep people at arm’s length. I can see that. Sort of. But then, I’m half Danish, and only second generation American, and I’m not like that at all. I’ve always felt that there had to be something more to it.

Recently I was discussing this with my friend Lynn over dinner. She posited a theory that makes much more sense to me. (Apologies to Lynn for not taking notes and using direct quotes. I was too focused on my Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, and wasn’t expecting a conversation of such fascinating depth. But I think I got the gist of it.)

Lynn theorizes that the Seattle Freeze has more to do with the fact that many here are descendants of pioneers. When Seattle was founded in 1851, it wasn’t easy to get here. (I should put “founded” in quotes because of course the Native Americans were already here.) It was a rough, deprived, hardscrabble existence. To come here you really had to be motivated, and to stay, especially during the Puget Sound War, you had to be determined.

So, who came here at the time? People who were unsatisfied with their lives back east. People running away from something. People wanting to start over. Independent people who were compelled to make a go of it on their own. Misfits. Adventurers. Con artists. Entrepreneurs. Criminals. Rough characters. Nuts.

And then those people met and married and passed on those qualities, whether they be genetic or behavioral, to their offspring. The birth of the Seattle Freeze. This makes perfect sense to me. I may not relate to it, but at least these people have come by this quirk honestly. That makes it much easier to not take it personally.

I’d further expand on this theory by saying that it explains why the East and West Coasts are so completely different from a cultural point of view. The further west your ancestors went in this country, the more independent and determined they must have been. If it were me, I’d have gotten about 50 yards into the dense underbrush west of the Atlantic Ocean and would have said, “Yeah. I’m good. This is where I’ll be, if you’re looking for me.” Such is my paltry level of chutzpah. I am only here now thanks to the interstate freeway system.

There’s much debate about whether the Seattle Freeze even exists. I think it’s blatantly obvious. But now at least I get it, because Lynn gave me food for thought along with that Lobster Mac n’ Cheese.

Seattle Freeze

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My Newfound Independence

Every year on this date, my thoughts naturally turn toward independence. But this year, ah, this year! I truly am feeling independent for the first time in ages.

First of all, I am a homeowner again. That means that I am no longer at the mercy of landlords. I don’t have to worry about them hiking my rent up every year.

And I don’t have to deal with arbitrary insanity. I had one landlord who insisted on inspecting the place every few months. She would waltz in wearing (I swear to God) a leather dress (in Florida!) and spiked heels, and would root around in my closets, being careful not to mess up her bleached blonde chignon in the process, and say, in a thick Russian accent, “You need to dust.”

And then there was the landlady whose son was a felon who was growing marijuana in the back yard, and who was unabashed about committing a number of fraudulent acts herself, and yet treated me like I was a criminal even as she blatantly overcharged me for utilities.

No more of that foolishness! I’m in control! I am the queen of my castle! I will never again be put in a position where I fear that I won’t be allowed to keep my own dogs. That’s a weight off my shoulders, indeed.

And another thing that has happened recently is a certain shift in attitude deep within myself. You see, this time last year, I was trying really, really hard to find a man. To complete me? I don’t know. But it seemed important at the time. It was a solid year of being overlooked, discounted, insulted, rejected, passed over, or any combination of those things, that sent me on this house hunting expedition in the first place.

I decided, basically, to hell with men. Who needs them? If they can’t see my value, they are not worth my time and energy. It was high time I started focusing on things that I can control, such as giving myself the best living situation possible. Hence the house hunt. And it is the best choice I’ve made in a long, long time, let me tell you.

And oddly enough, when I think of trying to fit a man into my life now, I feel kind of claustrophobic. I probably won’t feel this way forever, but at the moment men seem kind of icky. So there’s one less thing on the ol’ to-do list! Yay!

As I write this, I’m lying in MY bed, with MY dog, in MY house. And I can genuinely say that I have everything I need. And I’m perfectly content letting the wants take care of themselves for now. And that’s an amazingly independent feeling.

Happy 4th of July!

Independent Woman

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Hive Mind

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired. I’m tired of thinking. I’m tired of trying to figure out what’s true and what’s not. I’m tired of worrying about what I can do to help fix this increasingly broken world of ours.

But the only other option is to let others do the thinking for me. Boy, is that tempting. It would be so easy to maintain a mental radio silence and just let other people handle everything. But I’m fairly certain that that trend is what got us into this mess in the first place.

Too many people have checked out. Or they’ve taken up full time residence in Facebook, the land that facts forgot. They certainly didn’t bother to vote. What could possibly go wrong? This. That’s what.

That, my friends, is called “hive mind”. Turn yourself into a drone. Just do your little job. Maintain your routine. Don’t look at the big picture. Don’t ask questions. Trust that the honey will be there when you need it.

Once you’re attuned to it, you see hive mind everywhere. It’s in paramilitary organizations, such as the police and ICE. We, as individuals, don’t have to have a moral compass when we’re just part of the hive. I’m a law abiding citizen, but it always rattles me to talk to cops. You can look into their eyes and see that they’re in the hive. Because of that, there’s no possible way for them to relate to me as an individual. And that’s scary.

The individuals who make up ICE were told not to let people off a domestic flight until they produced identification. They each knew it was wrong. But they were doing their job. And cops? Take ‘em out of the uniform, and they wouldn’t normally rough someone up, but this is a bad guy, and it’s for the greater good, right?

Lord knows hive mind is the essence of bureaucracies. When’s the last time you got a rational response out of AT&T? Employees in those places are discouraged from going off script, even when the script makes no sense whatsoever.

I hate to say it, but it’s also seen at sporting events. We good. You bad. Me Tarzan. And then we’re shocked when violence erupts. This is why I never got into sports.

Cults, of course, have hive mind down to a science. You are stripped of your individuality, deprived of information, isolated from family, and told what to think. It must feel quite liberating at first, like slipping into a nice warm bath. And then the water gets cold.

I used to lament having been born in the 60’s. It meant I was too young to participate in all the “really good” protests. My generation got to eat the fruit of all that labor without really having to work for it. Well, be careful what you wish for. Now, in my 50’s, I get to participate in activities that make my aching body wish I were 20 again.

I have to admit, though, that it feels like we are all starting to wake up. We may not like it, but you can only hit the snooze button so many times. Maybe Trump is the rock bottom we had to hit before we could rise up again.

Even toxic clouds have silver linings, it seems.

Macro Insects Bees Swarm

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I’m Not Buying It

When I was a little girl, some well-meaning adult, who clearly didn’t know me at all, bought me a doll. I hope she didn’t spend too much money on it, because as soon as she left the house it got stuffed in the back of my closet, never to be seen again.

I didn’t play with dolls. I played with Tonka Trucks. (They went better with my overalls.) I built things with Legos. I did have a Barbie, but mostly because I liked the things that came with her—the convertible, the house. But I would tolerate no other doll in my world. I particularly hated all things that could be described as “frilly”. That word still makes me shudder to this day. No ribbons or lace for this girl!

So imagine my horror when, at the beginning of this holiday season, I started seeing the commercials for Wellie Wishers, a set of dolls put out by a company called American Girl. According to the website, these 5 dolls are “a sweet and silly group of girls who each have the same big, bright wish: to be a good friend.”

Cough.

To their credit, this is a racially diverse group of dolls. But despite that, they’re named Camille, Emerson, Willa, Kendall and Ashlyn. How much more white and middle class can you possibly get? And one of them, Willa, wears bunny ears. I swear to God.

They aren’t cheap, either. Starting at 60 bucks, this price tag is sure to give the average parent pause. But of course you’re encouraged to collect all five! And they also offer a boatload of accessories.

And here’s where it gets really scary. There’s also a line of clothing for little girls so they can dress just like their dolls. And these dresses, in my opinion, are truly, truly, TRULY horrible.

I don’t have kids. If I had a daughter, I probably would be cursed with a girly girl. Such is my karma. She’d probably want to wear a dress like the one in the picture below. (This one isn’t put out by American Girl. Theirs are even worse.) Seeing my kid wanting to be dressed up like a Christmas turkey would make me want to curl up and die on the inside.

I wouldn’t want my child’s biggest goals to be being silly and a good friend. I’d want her to value her own intelligence and leadership qualities and independence. I’d want her to take pride in her own agency, and not be taught to put everyone else first. (And by the way, why is it not important to teach boys to be good friends? Hmmm?)

One of the current American Girl commercials assures us that any girl who has one of these dolls as “her new best friend” will “learn friendship and kindness and confidence, too,” as well as “how to be an American girl.” It does not say how these inanimate objects will achieve this goal, though. I guess to find that out you have to watch their “all-new animated series!” Or maybe instructions come with the Giggles & Grins Play Set. But that, of course, costs extra.

It makes me kind of queasy to think that people are out there spending 60 bucks to reinforce this appalling stereotype. What will it truly wind up costing them? Heaven help us as a society.

girly

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Loving My Thankless Job

A friend of mine recently pointed out that I have a thankless job. As a bridgetender, I’m always shocked to discover the vast number of people who don’t even know I exist. People tend to assume that all drawbridges are automated. They don’t realize how lucky they are that most aren’t. People can easily die on drawbridges. We’re talking about millions of pounds of steel and concrete in motion. You really want someone there who can think independently; someone who actually cares about your safety.

But oddly enough, I’ve never really thought my job was thankless. Actually, thanks has never been something I’ve even considered one way or another. Granted, it’s a rare boater who thanks me for opening the bridge for them. Pedestrians and commuters certainly don’t thank me for slowing them down. In fact, I’ve had things thrown at me more than once.

There was one vessel captain in Florida who would give us gift certificates to Red Lobster every Christmas. That made me feel good, but I looked at it as a delightful surprise. It is nice to be appreciated, but for me it’s not a requirement.

When I think of what I need for job satisfaction, thanks doesn’t enter into it for me. I’m sure the criteria is different for everyone, but for me to be satisfied with my job, the thing I need more than anything else is to be left alone to work within clearly defined parameters. I do not thrive on drama. I don’t go in for office politics. I prefer to work independently. Of course, adequate compensation and benefits are quite nice as well. If I were only able to flourish in a career that gave me frequent opportunities for positive feedback, I wouldn’t have lasted for two days as a bridgetender.

I think one of the best pieces of advice I could give to someone who is making job satisfaction a priority is to find out what you need to feel content in the workplace, and then seek out a career field that will provide those things to you. There’s no right or wrong answer. Only you can answer that question for yourself.

What would make you happy? Being a caregiver? Producing things with your hands? Being creative? Once you know what rocks your world, you’ll know what to do. Ignore what your inner voice is urging you toward at your emotional peril.

the wedding photographer
Some of us actually LIKE working in the shadows.

Child-Free and No Regrets

I was talking to a 30 year old woman who does not want to have kids, and she was venting about the societal pressures that are placed upon her. Boy, could I relate. She said she got very sick of hearing… and we said it simultaneously… “You’ll change your mind.”

Now that I’m 50, people have finally stopped saying that to me. Obviously, definitively, I can be trusted to know my own mind, and if I haven’t changed it by now, the world can simply resign itself to the fact that I never will. Whew! That’s a load off my shoulders. I can’t tell you how annoying it has been to have to go through life defending my decision.

The thing I could never understand, and still don’t, is why it was so bloody important to people that I join the procreation club. It was as if their personal experience was somehow lessened if I didn’t jump on the bandwagon with them. Why is my lifestyle anyone’s business but my own?

Even more annoying is the general concept that if I don’t want children there must be something wrong with me; something that I need to get over or be cured of. People treat the lack of desire for rug rats as if it is some form of brain damage.

And the more extreme critics like to say that child-free people are selfish. I actually think it’s more selfish to bring a child into the world when you have no desire or ability or preparation to be a parent. If you are going to be abusive, or foist the care of your child off on the state, or are simply indifferent to the process to the point that it will negatively impact the child, then that’s what’s truly selfish. And it’s not as if there aren’t plenty of people on the planet to maintain an adequate gene pool. If anything, one more human is the last thing this earth needs. The diaper waste alone is unbelievable.

I’m sure this will shock people, but here I am at age 50, looking back at my child-free life, and I can say without hesitation that I have no regrets. I’m glad I made the choices I made. I’m quite content with the fact that I never changed my mind. So next time you talk to an independent woman (or man, for that matter) who expresses this desire, maybe rather than try and talk her out of it, you might want to consider what a pompous ass you will sound like if you do.

[Image Credit: thesocietypages.org]
[Image Credit: thesocietypages.org]