“What has two thumbs and hates Todd Packer?”

human

Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change. – Stephen Hawking

I’m surprised by the helpfulness of couples therapy with M and our new therapist. I’m delighted the therapist sees us both as human and doesn’t automatically disbelieve everything I say because I have a black vagina. She hasn’t shamed me for talking about my abuse. She informed me it’s far more common than I ever imagined, and my experience isn’t unusual by any stretch.

It allowed me to recall the fact that during one of my hospitalizations at the VA, there was another woman whose spouse was torturing her. We also both resided in the same town with a population of around 10k. I hate knowing that torturing people is a common practice in American households. At the same time, I’m glad my experience isn’t unique. (It feels too heavy to carry alone.)

I did also note that while we had the same catalyst in crisis, skin color had a tremendous effect on our treatment at the Sioux Falls VA. The doctors and other staff believed her automatically. They could empathize with someone who looked like them. I was silenced, shamed, and told I was no longer welcome at the facility. Later, they backpedaled through snail mail, labeling it confidential, and assuring me I was (now?) allowed at the VA hospital for mental health care. (I didn’t fall for it again. I’m still black. Duh.)

people

If rape and torture is part of your story, too, please know you’re not alone. There are therapists out there who recognize this is a serious problem and want to help us while we heal. No human deserves physical or psychological torture. It’s horrific behavior perpetrated by predators. Predators choose to act out their rage on the living by harming them, dehumanizing them, gaslighting them, and robbing them of free will.

For a long time, I fantasized about revenge scenarios against all rapists and torturers. I wanted them all to cease existing immediately. I still do. I just don’t waste time imagining how I can help hurry up the inevitable. Every single one of them is going to dieโ€”fucking yay. I don’t have to give a shit when or how. I see them as unevolved failures. They can’t even coexist within their species without deliberately harming others.

I’ve heard people say things like, hurt people hurt people, often accompanied by performative empathy. ๐Ÿคฎ Hurt people include every person on the planet. However, every single person on this planet does not commit rape and torture. We don’t all go around treating people like they don’t matter and only exist to satisfy our basest urges. Most of us are decent. Attaching the hurt one has suffered to their potential to harm others is basic shaming.

person

It’s telling abuse survivors, you’re less capable of healing, less likely to remain a decent person, and more likely to become a predator now than before you were hurt. It’s claiming predatory behavior is contagious. It’s not critical thinking; it’s an alarming lack of empathy. Words mean things. I don’t have control over what predators do to me. I have total control over how I treat people. My suffering did not diminish my humanity.

I don’t care about some people on this planet. I also know my feelings don’t give me the right to hurt others. I know rape and torture are horrible crimes, and nothing that ever happened to me entices me to take it up as a hobby. I will fight to protect myself and others from being harmed. I won’t create victims because I’m angry. I won’t punish those who are weaker than me because I don’t get my way.

I evolved beyond the emotional capacity of a toddler. I understand I’m not the center of the universe. I recognize my actions can hurt others, and police them accordingly. I possess the ability to apologize when I step on someone because I understand they have feelings. I honor free will in others. I’m not trying to force the world to change to suit me. I’m trying to adapt to the world as is, and simultaneously find purpose, joy, laughter, etc.

person

Beating someone up doesn’t make you tough; it exposes your weakness. Weak people harm others habitually and think it makes them dominant. In reality, it makes them pathetic. People who survive the violent tantrums perpetrated by emotional toddlers get to choose who they’ll become in the aftermath. Nobody else does. ๐Ÿ’œโœŒ๐Ÿฝ

“Weird. I didnโ€™t get both of your messages.”

teenage engineering pocket operator

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your story. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better. – Bird by Bird, Anne Lamotte

Edit: (May 9, 2020) I recently learned some helpful information while listening to Unlocking Us podcast with Brenรฉ Brown. The latest two episodes included a discussion with Harriet Lerner, titled, How To Apologize & Why it Matters (part 1 and 2.) It made the person understandable to me. I had no idea about the correlation between arrogance and low self-esteem.ย 

Even though I’m speculating, I no longer feel confused. I now see it from a new perspective and am so grateful. I don’t feel hurt by it anymore. Instead, I feel concerned for the person who misbehaved. I hope they choose to focus on healing. It takes time and effort, but it’s a lot like grabbing hold of a life preserver before drowning.

It’s not easy to hang on to the preserver while climbing out of peril, but it feels so much better than drowning. The only thing I can do is pray for them and hope they summon the courage. ๐Ÿคž๐Ÿฝ

I debated about sharing this and decided to go ahead. (There’s plenty of evidence to back up what I’m about to share, but I’m withholding the name by choice.) I recently emailed a podcaster who expressed interest in being a rapper or music producer of some sort. I thought perhaps some audio equipment might be helpful in learning and asked if they were interested. (I’m a hobbyist level music producer who is presently obsessed with synthesizers, drums, bass, and guitar.)

I offered to send some Pocket Operators (handheld synthesizers) and books, and they accepted and asked me to email them at another address. (I feel foolish for not recognizing the red flag in the alternate email address. If it registered, I would have realized I was being fucked with and ceased contact.) And then the shenanigans continued. My silly ass emailed the dismissive address, all excited, and in response, I received a physical address to send the equipment.

I only had a medium prepaid USPS box which I filled with six Pocket Operators, already in cases, extra batteries, a small mixer, and cables. I included a printed out page with a photo and a link to this blog. I sent it out Priority USPS (with tracking.) I got a text alerting me it was delivered, and followed up by checking the tracking online. Yep, delivered.

analog setup

I waited a week, expecting it might take a bit before they could let me know it arrived safely. After that, I emailed again, inquiring as to whether it was received. I had another package ready to go with more equipment and some books but wanted to be sure the first one made it before sending it. I never heard from them again. It’s been several weeks.

I thought I was making a connection with a fellow music lover who was just starting to create. I went in with expectations of a friendly acquaintanceship and ended up hurt, confused, and ghosted. I don’t care about the loss of the items, as giving them to this person was my intention. What bothers me is how I feel about it. I feel foolish like I failed at a coolness test or something.

M said this person gaslighted me. If I failed the test, why did they resume contact at the other address and accept the equipment? It feels like it’s their way of telling me I’m a piece of shit who deserves to be mistreated and ignored. It feels like they rejected me as a fellow human, and went out of their way to hurt me. I have no idea what I did wrong, which is likely why I allowed this person’s misbehavior to upset me.

It took me a bit to forgive them, which alarmed me. I felt like a dork who gave away my name, address, and blog URL* to an ungracious stranger. Nevertheless, I managed. I don’t listen to the podcast anymore. While parenting myself through this unfortunate situation, I learned a bit about performative behavior versus sincerity. It can be pretty subtle, but in this case, I believe it’s too much benefit, not enough doubt. I had to adjust my bullshit detector.

person

I talked to my (new) therapist, M, and a few friends while processing. I’m grateful for this lesson and information about behavior. Hopefully, the next time I encounter someone whose imaginary self-image trumps decency, I’ll walk run away unscathed.ย  โœŒ๐Ÿฝ๐Ÿ’œ

*When I realized I gave my blog URL to someone I no longer want to connect with, I unpublished most of it. I forgive, but I also take notes and measures to protect myself from hurtful people.

“We heard about the punch.”

gloved hands and mask
“Two by two, hands of blue.” – Firefly

I’ve lost my ability to speak again, but I can still sing. Weird, right? Whatever, embracing it. My band leader yelled (jokingly) at me to practice a duet on Skype, and it triggered my inner soldier who hears a firm order and obeys it without question, (then immediately questions thinks about it.) ๐Ÿคญ I suppose I can’t whine about being easily programmable after volunteering for the military. (I’ll take Things You Don’t Consider Before Joining, for $1000, Alex. ๐Ÿ’œ)

I’ve been creating music ever since. I made a song, but it’s incomplete. It’s a sandwich with nothing in the middle because it’s not my song. I just heard the bread and created it because I’m a hopeful romantic. Sigh. I think it’s Karen Kilgariff’s song. I don’t know her personally, but I adore her. I’ve been listening to her comedy albums on repeat just to keep from having the panic attack that keeps promising to be a doozy. ๐Ÿ™„

I’m a little floored by how well it works. Usually, when I find a comedy show I immediately love, I savor it and only rewatch or listen when I’m stapled to the floor by the Depression Monster. However, both Live at the Bootleg, andย  I Don’t Care, I Like It (with Drennon Davis) are hilarious over and over again. Bonus. I decided to make a video for the empty sandwich because it felt a bit more complete (and I have mild OCD muted by Prozac.) ๐Ÿ™ƒ

(Below is just the audio in Creative Commons so other artists can play with it.) ๐Ÿ’œ

The Irish singers are loops with which I’m in love. ๐Ÿฅฐ I don’t have words beyond Nah. Also, Guitar Hero said, “It doesn’t suck.” (Compliment in Babyboomerbonics ((say it three times fast.))) ๐Ÿ˜† Okay, I have to get back to pseudo-socializing (going to try the Zoom with M) because we all know I can’t slack off, or I’ll get too weird at the speed of light. ๐Ÿ’œโœŒ๐Ÿฝ

“The rules of Shotgun are very simple and very clear.”

Conan and Tupac

I know. I’m anxious, too. I’m pretty sure we all hate this particular feeling. It gets in the way and steals our focus, but it also keeps us alive, so there’s that. Adapting to the ever-changing world is a common stressor for everything alive. Yet, as a species, we’re reluctant to change. Kicking and screaming is an apt description of how we collectively adapt to sudden change. ๐Ÿคญ

I don’t know why, but I figure there’s a reason related to our survival. Since we’re in the midst of a lifestyle change during the Covid-19 pandemic, I think many people are low-level freaking out because this is a new experience, and they don’t know what to do to get relief. (It’s such an awful feeling I want to gather you each in a just-right-tight hug, just for having to feel it.) ๐Ÿค—

The Good Place Funko Pops

Here are some tips on how to cope during these uncertain times. (Source: The Savvy Psychologist podcast, episode 286.)

Do not dwell.

Limit time spent consuming news and information about the pandemic. Only use a few trusted sources. (CDC, your local health official website.) Constant data seeking can (and probably will) increase your anxiety. Ghost alarmist sources.

Maintain (or create) healthy activities. M.E.D.S. (Sorry.) ๐Ÿ™ƒ

Maintain your circadian rhythm. Spend as much time in daylight as possible, even if just facing a window. Practice going to sleep and rising at roughly the same time each day.

Exercise. If you don’t have equipment in your home, here are some ideas: Walk around your home while listening to music, a podcast, or audio book. Plan a route and remove obstacles where necessary. Continue as appropriate for your fitness level, with a goal of 30 minutes per day minimum. Use online fitness classes and guides for strength training. Scrub your tub, etc.

(The audio helps distract your thoughts from looping around anxious topics. The repetitive motion is self-soothing.)

Develop a handwashing plan and stick with it forever. Each time I do this, I do my handwashing routine immediately after. If I’m at home, this is what I do. If I’m away from home, this is what I do. This is how I roll from now on. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ

Stay socially active. (There’s no need to isolate while you distance.) Finally, someone is telling you to spend time in your group chats. ๐Ÿคญ Think of creative ways to stay connected with your friends and loved ones. Throw a Netflix Party. Use one of the gazillion apps that allow you to hang out with your tribe using tech instead of in person. (We’ve already been practicing for this lifestyle adaption for years, don’t you know.) ๐Ÿคซ

People with OCD and other mental health challenges might be having a rough time. Online support groups and remote therapy with services like Talkspace and Betterhelp are options. Sleep disturbances are also common during times of increased anxiety. I find listening to binaural beats to aid in sleep surprisingly helpful. Most music streaming services have them. (Here’s some on Spotify.)

Stephen King, Jim Henson, Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, Daria

I’ve been using binaural beats for years. Every other night, I listen to one created to encourage the habit of daily exercise. I originally purchased it at eBay on a CD, and have since uploaded it to the cloud for nightly streaming; it’s so effective. (Willpower for $9.99? Done.) It sounds like the sea to me. On other nights, I switch it up with versions for increased focus and theta waves. I play them on low volume while falling asleep.

Mister Rogers, Ava Duverney

As a damn near-agoraphobic who used to live under a rock, I’d like to share some of my favorite things to do to ward off cabin fever, (alone or with others.)

  • Assemble a jigsaw puzzle while listening to a podcast or audiobook. (+10 mental engagement)
  • Build a miniature city using Amazon boxes. (+10 creativity)
  • Watch or record your kid, (self, partner, pet) stomping on Mini Cardboard City like Godzilla or something before recycling. (+10 social engagement)
  • Color while listening to a podcast or audiobook. (+10 creativity +10 mental engagement)
  • Learn a new skill with YouTube videos. (+10 mental engagement)
  • Make music with whatever you have available. (+10 creativity)
  • Start a parody journal documenting each day as if you’re writing to future aliens. (+10 creativity +10 mental engagement)
  • Use your phone to make a mockumentary based on the journal. (ditto)
  • Share your funny creations with your tribe and encourage them to do the same. (+10 creativity +10 social engagement)
  • Imagine a product you wish existed, and create the commercial pretending to advertise it. Share it, encourage it. (ditto)
  • Design and build a Rube Goldberg machine using stuff from around your home. Share it, encourage it. (ditto)
  • Interview your pet and answer all the questions for them in a silly voice. (ditto)
  • Practice your acceptance speech for whatever award you desire in front of a mirror. (Imagine all the people you want to be there, especially that asshat from Junior High who used to taunt you on the daily and go for it.) (+10 self-esteem)
  • Compose letters to people who have touched your life in profound ways. Take your time and use a thesaurus. (+10 mental engagement)

It’s just as important to keep your mind active. Now you know some things you can do instead of stressing and obsessing. Anxiety is uncomfortable, but we can flourish despite it. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling out of sorts. We’re all experiencing this together, and we’ll get through it together, even while practicing distance. ๐Ÿ’œโœŒ๐Ÿฝ