“What’s Your Problem?”

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. I’ve learned a great deal about communication from my healthy relationship with my husband. It makes me realize how messed up all my past relationships have been.

Years ago, pre-husband, when I had something that (I thought) was interesting to share, I’d say, “Hey Bob!” (Name changed because, to be honest, I really don’t care.)

He’d respond, “What’s your problem?”

That would take the wind out of my sails. Here, I wanted to tell him this cool thing I’d heard on NPR. I wanted to share a moment. A laugh. A smile. Instead of responding with enthusiasm, he’d come at me with his typical negativity.

For Bob, everything was a problem. Being alive was a problem. You’ve never met a sadder sack in your entire life. It made people uncomfortable. They wanted to avoid him. I didn’t realize how much his horrible attitude weighed me down until I got out from under it.

Who wants to be in a relationship where everything you say is interpreted as some sort of problem? I certainly didn’t. And even more insidious is the fact that clearly there was a lot under the surface that he was failing to say. He’d much rather be a martyr than assertively communicate and work out issues. No positive growth to be had there. Instead, I got the passive aggressive, “What’s your problem?”

Oh, I tried to talk to him about it on multiple occasions. He didn’t seem to think that any changes were needed, so I was left to realize that the problem was, in fact, his. I hope he hasn’t carried that on to future relationships. I would wish rather more for him than that.

But his Facebook page indicates that he’s still unhappy with life. It’s an endless litany of complaints, negativity, bitter humor, deep cynicism, and depression. Every once in a while there will be something pleasant in there, but if you count each post as positive or negative, the negative stuff outweighs those things ten to one, and half the time the positive things were posted to his page by someone else. It makes me sad just to look at it. It also makes me relieved that I’m no longer breathing that toxic air.

Now I’m married to someone who is interested in what I have to say. He also happens to have a lot of interesting things to say himself. I look forward to talking to him. It isn’t a chore for either of us. I save up stuff to tell him at that happy moment when I finally get home, and we communicate positively throughout the day. And now I realize that’s how it should be. How lucky am I?

Yes, life will throw its fair share of problems at you. There’s no denying that. But that’s not the lens through which I choose to view the world. It’s not my automatic assumption. I also happen to think that negativity is learned, and can be unlearned, but some people would rather wallow. I have no idea why. Clearly wallowing hasn’t made them happy or they wouldn’t feel the need to wallow.

I have this theory that people like this think that their attitude is something that they are helpless victims of, rather than it being a conscious choice. I would hate to feel that helpless. Yes, I struggle with depression, and there are days when I feel like crying, but for the most part, I spin my world rather than letting it spin me.

Your existence should not be a problem to overcome. There is so much to see and do and learn and be inspired by! There’s so much beauty and wonder! Life is such a gift and such an opportunity. It shouldn’t be squandered.

It’s delightful to be in a relationship that isn’t covered with a wet wool blanket of despair. My husband can put a positive spin on just about anything. If he sees dog poop in the road, he’ll say, “Thank goodness the dog wasn’t run over!”

I love that about him. So, so much. Life is good.

communication-pattern

Hey! Look what I wrote! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

This Is What I Want

My stomach is in knots from years of having the same conversation, over and over again, with pretty much every man I have ever encountered in every walk of life. (Even the good ones, of which there are many. The good ones don’t do it intentionally. But they still do it.)

The main topic may vary, but the course of the exchange is always the same. And I’m sick of it. It goes a little something like this:

“This is what I want,” I say.

“No. This way is better. Because.” He replies.

“Yeah, but that’s not what I’m looking for.”

“It really needs to be done like this,” he says, confidently.

“But I…” my voice trails off.

And he does it his way. Or forces me to do it his way. Just like we both knew he would all along. This might be related to work policies, or home decor, or how to interact with others, or future plans, or car maintenance, or when to speak up or remain silent, or relationship negotiations.

And while he confidently steamrolls over my request, I listen to the various voices in my head. “Does it really matter?” “Maybe he’s right.” “Just let him do his thing.” “There’s no point in arguing.” “If you push, you’re going to look irrational.”

I’m so tired of caving in. I’m so tired of not being heard. I can’t stand it when I’m not taken seriously. I’m fed up with being discounted.

But if I insist, I’m branded as pushy. If I shout, I’m a shrew. If I let even a tiny bit of my massive, lifelong pool of frustration leak out of my eyes, then I’m hysterical.

We women are so damned emotional. We shouldn’t worry our pretty little heads about things. Why do we insist on rocking the boat all the time?

Because, guys, many of us have spent our entire lives compromising, capitulating, submitting, retreating, giving in, backing down, conforming, acquiescing, complying, knuckling under, giving up, wimping out, surrendering, conceding, holding back, giving ground, chickening out, yielding, relenting, giving quarter, cutting slack, going along, biting our tongue, overlooking, lightening up, accepting, and cooperating.

So if a woman puts her foot down about something that seems minor to you, try to understand that that minor point is resting on top of a gigantic, steaming pile of bullshit that she’s been forced to swallow her entire life.

And then maybe follow through on what she’s asked for, just so, for once, rather than adding to that pile. You don’t have to like it. Lord knows we never have.

Welcome to our world.

Women in Nepal.

Like this blog? Then you’ll love this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Another Design Flaw

Three years ago, I wrote about an annoying design flaw in the human body—that inability to scratch a frustratingly large portion of one’s own back. Recently, a friend (Hi, Mor!) pointed out yet another. Why don’t we have ear lids?

I’d certainly love to have a pair. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to employ them when you’re trying to take a nap and your next door neighbor cranks up his lawnmower? They would sure have come in handy the many times people have attempted to force their religious beliefs on me. I’d probably have much better hearing if I had ear lids when I attended the rock concerts of my youth.

There are many things in life I’d really rather not hear.

  • Anti-vaxxers trying to explain why they want to ignore every scientific inquiry to the contrary and put the rest of our lives at risk so that they can bask in their own selfish ignorance.

  • People saying cruel things to their children that I know will stick with them for the rest of their lives.

  • People crying out for help when I know I am completely incapable of doing anything for them.

  • Politicians attempting to justify their evil actions.

  • Details about Season 8 of Game of Thrones when I haven’t had a chance to see it yet.

  • Used car salesmen, and anyone else trying to hoodwink me out of my money.

  • Chinese robocalls.

  • Excuses. Lies. Hate speech.

  • Anything coming out of Trump’s greedy, corrupt pie hole, especially if it’s wall-related.

The funny thing is, nature is perfectly capable of creating ear lids. Most creatures have eye lids to protect their eyes. Heck, cats even have double ones. Marine mammals often have the ability to close off their nostrils. We are able to close our mouths when necessary, although many of us, including me, don’t do this nearly as often as we should. The ability to shut orifices is not a new concept. So why is there no means to protect our ear drums and our sanity?

La la la! I can’t hear you!

Perhaps this is nature’s way of telling us that we already spend too much time not listening to one another. Even so, I’d give just about anything to be able to have peace and quiet whenever I want it. I’m telling you, people, it’s time for an upgrade.

tenor

Like this quirky little blog? Then You’ll love my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Listening to the Yes

It’s so easy to take shortcuts in life. Frozen vegetables. Fast food. The elevator instead of the stairs. The less than optimal and yet oh-so-convenient partner.

While these things may save time and effort, in the long run, or in the grander scheme of things, they aren’t the best choices. My inner voice tries to tell me this all the time. I’ve just gotten too used to ignoring that voice over the years. But it’s still there.

I know that when my husband and I prepare a delicious meal from scratch, with a variety of fresh vegetables, I can hear my inner voice saying, “Yes!” When I exert myself to the point that I know I’ll sleep well that night, it says, “Yes, yes! Oh, yes!” When I stand up for myself and don’t accept rude treatment, “YES!!!!”

I need to get back into the habit of listening to the yes. Even better, I need to do things in anticipation thereof. I need to encourage the yes. Live the yes. Be the yes I want to see in the world.

Why is that so hard sometimes?

Yes

Say yes to my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Are You Sure?

From a recent conversation:

Me: “I need someone from maintenance to come out and remove some car parts from the middle of my drawbridge, as they are backing up traffic.”

“Um… That drawbridge is no longer in our system.”

“Er, yes it is. I think you’re thinking of the Montlake Bridge.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m a City of Seattle Employee.”

“But do we maintain that bridge?”

“Yes we do. Yes, you do. I’m standing on it right now. I’ve worked here for 3 ½ years.”

“Was a tow truck called?”

“I have no idea. The cars in question are long gone. They just left parts behind.”

“Yeah, but was a tow truck called?”

“Not by me!!!! Please, are you sending someone out to remove the bumpers? I have traffic backed up for miles.”

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Welcome to my pet peeve. Not being taken seriously drives me absolutely insane. Why would I lie? I mean, honestly, just get the damned bumpers off the road, already!

My whole life, this has been a problem. As the youngest in the family, I was not taken seriously at home. Even though I graduated at the top of my class, I was quiet and shy and not in with the in crowd, so I wasn’t taken seriously at school. As a female in a male dominated workplace, to this day I am not taken seriously at work. Now that I’m fat and old, I’m generally not even seen when in public. I’m completely invisible. It’s maddening.

The reason that I try so hard not to be dismissive of people, the reason I’m extra polite to cashiers and wait staff and the elderly, is that I know what it’s like to be discounted. It’s an awful feeling. And it’s completely unnecessary.

Common courtesy and mutual respect ought to be everyone’s default position. Listening to people and trying to understand what they’re saying is a necessary survival skill, so it shouldn’t be so hard to come by. As the planet becomes increasingly crowded, we need to behave all the more decently, or life will get pretty unbearable up in here, people.

bizarro-rude-08-18-08wb

Like this blog? Then you’ll LOVE this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Hunting for Unicorns

I have always wanted a man who would actually listen to me when I talked. One who treated me with respect. Someone I could be proud of, due to his integrity, decency, honesty, kindness, and intelligence. A mentally healthy, confident, age appropriate, dog loving, nonsmoking, liberal guy. (Bonus points for being child-free and taller than me.)

Pfft. What are the odds of that? I mean, come on. Just the “listening” part excludes most of the world’s population. And finding someone who met all those criteria and then, on top of that, was also attracted to me — inherently flawed, overweight me… I may as well be wishing for a unicorn.

So, my whole life I set the bar lower. And sure enough, I always wound up with less than what I wanted or needed. Funny how that works.

But the older and lonelier I got, the more I started to think, what the hell, I may as well hold out for the unicorn. And if the unicorn never materializes, well, then, I’ll just do me. (I strongly suspected I’d be doing me for the rest of my life.)

But let’s just say, for a moment, that unicorns really do exist. Yes, they’d be rare. But what if they’re really out there? How would you find one?

Well, first of all, you have to be able to describe what one looks like, to you, at least. Done. See above.

Next, you have to feel that you’re deserving of a unicorn’s company. No self-respecting unicorn is going to hook up with just anyone. You have to be special. It took me a long time (I’m talking decades), to feel that I was unicorn-worthy.

Once you’ve achieved that level of self-respect, you need to start spending time in places where unicorns might hang out. Surround yourself with good, decent, loving people. Do not waste your time with fools. Don’t hang out in bars or places where you aren’t forming strong, long-lasting bonds.

And it’s important to be ever-vigilant. That unicorn might be right in front of you, and you just haven’t noticed. (Hard to believe, I know, but be open to the possibility.)

Once you’ve spotted a unicorn, it’s important to be patient. These things can’t be forced or rushed. They’re too important. Calmly state your intentions, and then, if the unicorn wants to come to you, he will. If he doesn’t, the horn is probably fake, anyway.

So did I find my unicorn? I believe I finally have. And may I never forget how magical it is to be by his side.

unicorn

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Try Listening

I know a guy who talks so much that people actually scatter when they see him coming. He’s a nice guy. He means well. But he can suck, literally, hours out of your life as he holds forth on whatever he has chosen to blather on about on that particular day. And you’re expected to just stand there and say, “Uh huh.”

I doubt, even after all this time, that he knows much of anything about me. I can’t get a word in edgewise. And he doesn’t seem the least bit curious about anyone else. He never asks questions.

I think this is really sad. I personally would be bored silly if the only topic I was willing to discuss was me, me, me. I know me. I’ve done me. I’d much prefer to learn something new, or experience a unique perspective. This guy isn’t capable of that. His life seems very limited.

He also seems rather short-sighted. He doesn’t seem to notice people running away from him. I’ve seen people who have had to get rather rude to shut him up. One guy started his leaf blower right in the middle of a story. Mr. Talky-Pants didn’t even seem surprised or insulted. I bet things like that happen to him a lot. You’d think that someone who is that inwardly focused would be more aware of insults, but he lacks that quality.

When you are talking to someone, try listening as well. Every once in a while, check in with yourself and say, “Am I learning anything new?” If not, ask something. Show some interest in those around you. Keep doing that until it comes naturally to you. People will most likely be charmed by your sincere curiosity, even if it does take practice.

That, and knowledge is power.

A big rule of thumb is that if people are running from you, you are either too big of a proponent of open carry, or you most likely aren’t a pleasure to be around.

'Listen^_The_enemy_may_be_talking._Don't_talk^_The_enemy_may_be_listening.'_-_NARA_-_514901

Claim your copy of A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude today and you’ll be supporting StoryCorps too! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Why can’t People be Saved?

Okay, before you get all worked up, let me start by saying I’m not talking about religion here. I’m not touching that third rail. At least not in this particular blog entry.

I’m referring to the fact that the older you get, the more often you can see some people’s lives as slow motion train wrecks. You stand there at the platform watching that train go past, wanting to get it to stop, knowing in the very marrow of your bones that it’s about the jump the tracks, and there’s not a thing you can do about it. It’s a horrible feeling.

You feel it when a young girl marries the guy who has “only” hit her a couple of times. You feel it when someone thinks they can handle heroin, or when they take unnecessary risks with their safety or their money. You hear the chug chug chug of the train at family get togethers when Cousin Bobby has had a little too much to drink and is clearly about to tell Aunt Georgina some home truths that he’s been saving up for her for decades. You whisper, “Don’t do it…” but he does.

It’s a natural instinct to want to save people whom you care about. But it’s also a natural instinct for people to want to live their own lives, and unfortunately that includes making their own mistakes. People are not pawns on your own personal chess board. You have to let them make their own moves, no matter how hard it is to watch.

If someone asks for your advice, feel free to give it. If someone wants you to listen, listen. If someone asks you for help, by all means provide it if you can and if you think it will make a difference. By all means assist in the clean up after the fact. But don’t spend too much time on that platform, bearing witness, or someday you might get hit by the debris.

train