Wednesday, June 13, 2018

baby steps

I just returned from my college reunion (and visit with my sister afterward) and the entire weekend of the reunion I did not think of P.  I'm calling that pretty serious success.  I thought about/wished I was in a relationship but didn't think of P at all.

So, there you go.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Next semester

On a completely different note, next semester....last fall I taught Contemporary Ethical Problems for the first time in 20 years.  It was fine (discussed the standard topics of euthanasia, abortion, animal rights, etc) but it wasn't as good as it could have been.  So, this coming semester, my plan is to use the general broad topic of consumption as the guiding idea.  We'll talk about what we eat which will get at questions of animal rights and agricultural issues, what we wear which will get at questions of labor issues, whether consuming illegal substances can ever be moral, what sorts of ideas should we engage and are there any we should avoid, should the character/behavior of an author/actor influence whether we read/watch their work, whether being defined as a consumer is a good thing (choice!) or bad (manipulative!).  I feel pretty good about this plan but realize I need to now move from a plan to actually finding articles.  I've got the last book chosen (Consumed by Benjamin Barber) but that's it.

Anyway, there you go a non-emotional breakdown/recovery post :-)

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

some days....

...perhaps many days, I want to post her real name here.

I want everyone who thinks she's this fabulous pastor to know that she was really remarkably unkind, lacking empathy and frequently unwilling or unable to consider the feelings of anyone other than herself and, maybe, her parents.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

and progress

One of the things I get twisted up in is thinking about this relationship as having been abusive and P being a narcissist (which many folks have suggested to me).  I get twisted because she used to say these things about me (and many other folks).  And so I start convincing myself that I'm the narcissist.  Well, yesterday, very helpfully, my therapist pulled out her copy of DSM and read the characteristics of being a narcissist.  And, even I, in all my self-doubt was able to recognize that I don't meet a single one of the characteristics.  So, that was good.  And, I was able to see that much of what P did could be seen as having narcissistic tendencies — and that's with my tendency to bend over backward to see everything she does in a positive light.

All of this, and other conversation, has had the very positive effect of something 'clicking' into place and me feeling better about her being in my past than I have at any point in the last 3.5 years.

So, hopefully, I can have this blog post function less as a personal journal between me and the bots and more as a place to think through other things.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

I'm an idiot

So, last night I flipped from grieving, despair, anger (all felt at different times and sometimes simultaneously) to hope....stupid hope.  Hope that if we are meant to be together that we will be.  That she'll come to her senses and see that, in fact, we are meant to be together.

Yes, I'm an idiot.

But, I'm not crying.

Friday, May 25, 2018

anger

I asked a friend yesterday who is a survivor of sexual assault how she dealt with the fact that her assailant walks around in the world with people thinking he's a decent person.  How she deals with her anger.  She said that she still feels the anger but that she's been able to leave that person out of her life and so she rarely thinks about him or the anger.  And, she noted that I shouldn't try to get over the anger too quickly.  I've spent 3 1/2 years feeling despair and like I did something wrong (and I still do feel this much of the time) and that anger is evidence that I'm taking myself seriously.

So, that was helpful.  Getting permission to be angry when so much of our world does not allow for women to be angry.

But I still struggle with the memories, which take me by surprise, of P being particularly kind and gentle with me and it's easy for me to focus in on that instead of the hurtful treatment and comments and then I spiral to a place where I become convinced that no one will ever be kind and gentle with me.  That I will never be someone's beloved.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Depression?

For those who haven't experienced depression, trying to imagine it is, I'm guessing, difficult.   Some people describe it as a dark cloud and I've experienced that.  Times when it's felt that one is just surrounded by an endless dark fog that is impenetrable.  Impenetrable insofar as nothing can make its way in and I can't make my way out.   If you've ever been sick and felt, while sick, that you were never going to get better, this is what depression feels like.  Whatever the metaphor, it feels unending and just what life is going to be.  No amount of logic or reason can penetrate.

But what I've been feeling recently (and the meds have helped immensely) is less a shroud of gray and meaninglessness than feeling like I've been pulled under crashing waves and am just being spun around under the water, pummeled by the sand and not being able to figure out how to escape.  So, it's not merely sadness or feeling closed in and unable to get out, it feels violent, chaotic, absent of reason.  Maybe this is the feeling of depression combined with feeling continually assaulted and wronged with no way to break out of it.  But, when the meds work, what they do is calm the waters.  I'm still treading water but I can see the shore and there's some fog but not much.  But without the meds, it feels like panic is the only reasonable response.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Argh

Today as I was leaving a movie theater, I saw a couple who had been congregants in P's former church and who I knew well from work and who were among the few who knew that P & I were a couple.  When they asked how I was, I said it'd been a tough last few years and being angry I said "it's difficult when people aren't who they appear to be."  The wife of the couple, said something like "well, she just couldn't meet your needs."  I said "no, she's not who she pretended to be." "She just wasn't the right one."  Now, I get it.  They were her congregants and she presents herself as this kind, caring person.  But it kills me that they don't know that she accused me of embezzling, that she refused to let people know I existed, even the people she was spending lots of time with outside of work, that she constantly ignored me and said that I was the cause of her unhappiness and that I shouldn't want anything more from her than her coming home and sleeping next to me.  That she refused to go to couple's counseling.

These folks think she's a wonderful person because she's a pastor.  She. Refused. To. Go. To. Couples. Counseling.  She refused to tell me what was wrong except that it was me but she refused any more details except that it was me (unless it was all her and I was fabulous and she was so lucky to have me in her life and please don't ever leave her)

Goddammit.  People should know how she treated me and who she really is.

Monday, May 21, 2018

I've been doing okay.  The meds are working.  I still start to cry when people tell me that things with P were not my fault.  But I've been basically doing okay.  Until this afternoon.  For some reason, I'm going down the paths of thinking that if I'd only done x or y or z that she'd still love me.  And that I basically messed everything up and lost the best thing I ever could have had.  And now someone else has the life that I wanted.

I don't know what I could have done differently.  I just keep thinking "if she'd told me what was wrong, I would have changed" "if she'd only given me a chance" and then I think maybe she did both of these things and I just screwed everything up.

so I'm sitting here crying.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Dear Evolution

I feel like it'd be conducive to good things if, when people acted in unkind & ungenerous ways, they were to change colors.  Literally.  Like they'd have a slight bluish tinge that with each unkind & ungenerous act they became a darker blue.  Of course, if they were kind or generous (truly kind or generous not merely acting kind or generous) the bluish tinge would dissipate.

So, if evolution could get going on this, that'd be wonderful (and confirm Hume's moral theory)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Connections

I think that I may have been overly influenced by behaviorism.  An article idea that I've had for a long time has been to focus in on the question of what it means to say that students are responsible for their own learning.  As a teacher, when I think about my classes and what works and what doesn't, I almost always (I say 'almost' only to cover myself) take the position that if something doesn't go well, it's my fault.  That I should have organized things differently, responded differently, etc.  It isn't that I desire to be in control, but that I tend to see students on a behavioral model.  That their actions are responses to environmental pressures and that my task as a teacher is to arrange the environmental pressures in such a way that they respond in a way that is conducive to their learning.  So, when they don't do the reading, I blame myself.  When they don't write well, I blame myself.  When anything goes less than ideally I blame myself. 

I suppose part of this is also a belief that most people want to learn, be moral, etc.

Anyway, I realize that the attitude I have toward students is fairly similar to what's gotten me in trouble with P.  That is, I keep thinking that her behavior was entirely a response to my behavior and, thus, if I'd behaved differently, she'd have behaved differently.  And if she behaved in a way that hurt me, that it's my fault for not doing something different.

Yes, I recognize that I've created a worldview where only I have agency and no one else does.  And, no, I don't, intellectually, believe this is true.  But, it's the worldview I use to "understand" others and to always assume the best of them.  So, how do I rid myself of this view? 

Monday, May 14, 2018

FYI

Effexor + Abilify + Xanax (as needed) = no longer in pit of depression/despair.

I told my sister that before it felt like I'd been physically beaten up, punched and kicked and was in a room with books and paper flying all over the place as I tried to make sense of things by reading and organizing the things flying all over the place.  Now, I still feel pummeled, wounded, bruised, raw BUT it feels like I'm in a room where everything is organized and put in its place.

I'm remembering things said to me that were clearly unkind and hurtful.  Ways in which I was ignored and not taken seriously.  Etc.  No longer do I feel like I'm going crazy.

Friday, May 11, 2018

why do I care?

Earlier this week, I met some friends for dinner.  As two of us were waiting for the third to join us, I shared some of the stuff that I've been going through and mentioned that I'm struggling to figure out if I'm recovering from an abusive relationship.  I noted that part of my resistance in labelling myself as someone recovering from abuse is that I don't want to diminish the experience of people who had been really abused.  My friend responded by saying "it really is abuse" and I began to tear up and weep saying "really?  you think so?"  My friend said, well, yes, of course, emotional abuse can be even worse because it's not visible.  And, it became clear that what she thought I meant was that emotional abuse isn't real abuse and she was disagreeing with this.  I totally agree that emotional abuse is really abuse.  What I don't know about is whether my experience was one of emotional abuse.  Needless to say, she was not affirming that my experience was one of emotional abuse.

But, why did the fact that I thought she was saying my experience was abusive make me begin to weep? To feel relief?  Why does it matter to me that this was or was not abusive?  Is it really that I think that unless it was abusive it was my fault? That is was somehow fixable and, thus, something I let slip through my fingers?  I'm not sure what this is about but clearly there's something deep within me that thinks its important.  I will continue to puzzle on this.

Thursday, May 10, 2018



A tiny post insofar as it's just a memory that helps me.

One of the things P said to me as she wanted me to move and then in the email responses that resulted from my barrage of emails after she emailed to tell me she was dating someone 'wonderful' was that she was always angry.  Angry.  Always.  And that me out of her life would deal with this.

My fear as I've been thinking about how to make sense of the relationship is that *I* was the one who was abusive (that is, if we are going to start talking about abuse).  My response to moving out of the house and into my own was relief.  And, I recall, very vividly telling my therapist many times that living without her meant that I didn't feel constant shame.

So, she was always angry.  I was always feeling shame.  And she said that I was the source of that anger.  No wonder I feel like I'm responsible for everything.  An understandable response to hearing that someone is always angry and that I was the source would be to think that if I did the right thing then they wouldn't be angry and thus everything was my fault.

Anyway.  A memory that helps.

ETA:

As I walked to work and was trying not to think about this (repeating to myself over and over "you deserve kindness"), I recalled all the times that I knew she was angry, would ask if she was, she'd say no and then I'd need to figure out what I did wrong.  And when she was really angry, the muscle/tendon in her jaw would tighten and then I knew I'd done something wrong but couldn't figure out what.

And I realized (and I think I've noted this before) that I spent all of our relationship making sure I understand things from her perspective.  I exerted a huge amount of effort on this and was, I think, very understanding and supportive (at least in the ways that I was able to be supportive) but I don't really think she spent much time trying to understand my perspective or what I was going through.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Grading — report on a new approach

This semester I tried a new approach to grading.  The official name (or at least one of them) is 'specification grading.'  It's also very close (if not functionally equivalent) to an approach I heard someone speak about years ago.  The gist of it is (a) all assignments are pass/no pass with the criteria for a pass being really explicitly spelled out and (b) end of semester grades are determined by which assignments are passed.  Thus, students know at the beginning of the semester that if they want a C+ in the course they must pass a certain set of assignments, if they want a B+ they know what they must pass for that.

The talk that I heard years ago described this in terms of points and made the connection to video games.  The speaker explained it that the course had different "levels" like a video game and that students can try to pass a level infinite times but that the grade at the end of the semester is what level the student has made it to.  And, he gave students points for passing so it was a collection of points as opposed to mere 'passing' that was relevant.

I set my courses up with freewrites (students just need to spend 30 minutes writing after doing the reading), essays prior to class posted for everyone so they could be used as the focus for class discussion (10 of these were necessary to get an A but lower numbers of these for lower grades), then 3 different papers with each additional paper getting one to an A.  Thus, passing paper #1 gets one to a C, passing #2 to a B and #3 is necessary for an A.  There's also benefit for 'good faith attempts' on essays and 'good faith attempts' on paper #2.  For my lower level class instead of essays, they had to post questions and then also responses to class mates questions.

Anyway, I used this over J-term with success and I think it's been a success this semester but I need to define 'success.'

First, I designed it so that students are largely dragged along to try to pass the next thing since they can see that they "only" need to do x to get the next higher grade.  But, of course, many students don't do this.  So, one of the consequences of this is that some students decided early on that all they wanted/needed was a C and so they did only that work.  In terms of grading, this had been a serious win, students who have no interest in learning more just aren't submitting papers that they'd be doing just because they had to.  So, it's a success in terms of work for me, but it's possibly a lesser success if one thinks that making students go through the motions has any benefit to their learning.

The other benefit is in terms of the pass/no pass approach.  Students like it because it's really clear what they need to do and, my god, grading is so much easier.  I still comment on papers, but figuring out whether something has passed or not is so easy.

Now, the big concern is the number of students who appear to just not care about getting better grades.  So, there are the students who just flake and so nothing — I'm pretty sure they'd do nothing regardless of my system.  But then there are those who just decide to do what they need to pass the course and nothing more.  This was bothering me yesterday as I've, historically, said that students need to do *everything* in order to pass thinking that when they get into the work world, they'll have to do all of their assigned tasks they can't just pick and choose.  But, I think I figured out how to frame it for myself and the students.  Namely, this is them working on commission.  They get to choose what they receive and the effort they are willing to put in.  So, if I think of it as parallel to working on commission, that makes me feel less like this is a win simply for me and grading.

The students who are working hard are apparently enjoying it and it means that they are experiencing far more control in their lives.  If they are fairly certain that they aren't going to pass a paper, they don't need to go through the demoralizing task of confirming that they don't understand.  Or, they can be proactive and come and talk to me before hand instead of faking it (because they have to turn something in) and then responding based on feedback.

So, there you go.

Oh, on the mental health front, apparently waking up each morning wanting to die is not normal and when you tell your psychiatrist this, they add medication.  So, Abilify has been added to help get me out of this dark pit.

Monday, May 7, 2018

And now I'm just feeling overwhelming grief.  All I want to do is curl up and cry.  And I want someone who loves me to hold me while I do this and I have no one who loves me who could do this and that makes me want to weep even more.

But at least I'm not, currently, feeling despair.

Some summary and more (seriously nothing new here)

As noted in a recent post, I'm understanding that part of what causes me so much pain is that the person who supposedly knew me the best, cared about me the most, seems to have not known me at all and was unwilling to grant me the benefit of the doubt and talk through things with me.  The fact that she's walking around with these misperceptions of me in her head kills me.

Of course, that's not all of it.  There's still so much in me that thinks that if she just gave me a chance....and then there's the rage that she's replaced me and that she didn't give me a chance, that she was unwilling to understand things from my perspective.  And the disbelief (that's actually close to be exactly the right word) that she led me on for so long.  That she continued to tell me things were going to work even after we stopped living together.  And that at the same time she was telling me these things she told other people that she'd been really clear with me that things were over and that she never wanted to get back together. 

And that to this day I really have no idea why.  Despite me asking again and again to talk about things, she wouldn't.  She kept saying she just had to deal with her own stuff.   And then entirely cut me out of her life.  How does someone do that?

okay, I'll try to halt continuing down this path to note something that I'm trying now (on recommendation of a friend).  Instead of rehashing and rehashing and rehashing in the hope that at some point it'll make sense or at some point justice in the universe will materialize, trying to practice self-compassion.  Instead of repeating to myself that I'm totally to blame or that I deserve better or that she was unkind and unwilling to work with me, I'm trying to talk to myself as I would someone else.  Telling myself:

yes, it makes sense that you are hurting. For 15 years this person said she'd be there for you forever, for 17 years you did all you could think of to make her happy, and she left you without explanation and with a fair amount of unkindness, how could you not be hurt in this circumstance?  Yes, I get that you think you could have done something differently to make it all better, but, really, what could you have done? Make dinner more?  Really?  Don't you think that she'd have found something wrong with the dinner?  Even if you did do that, she'd still act as if this was what you were supposed to do and she'd still have opted to sit with D after dinner talking about church and leaving you out of the conversation.  And, she'd still have gotten angry when you left the conversation even though you knew nothing of what they were talking about and none of the people and that you kept having to ask for information instead of them offering it.  And, she'd not have joined you so that the two of you could spend time together.  She'd still not have told anyone about you and you'd still be trying to figure out what to do to help her.  You'd continue to make sure you were always available for her and always listened and tried to help.  You did all these things and they didn't make a difference.  Seriously, there's nothing more you, reasonably, could have done. 
Well, you get the picture.  This sort of self-talk helps.  Well, it helps while I'm doing it.  Much like typing (the literally act of me typing) these blogs helps.  But as soon as I stop things go back pretty quickly.  So, yeah, I'm starting to see how someone could end up talking to oneself.  Okay, gonna go take some xanax

Sunday, May 6, 2018

But, here's how I'm feeling.  Fundamentally, I feel discarded.  Discarded without explanation or without the fulfillment of a promise to work as hard as possible to make things work.

For me, part of dealing with being discarded is the deep, deep desire for P to say that she made a mistake in discarding me.  Being discarded by her has led to me feeling (being aware of feeling?) worthless and fundamentally flawed.  I felt, before being discarded, that there was possibility (for what I don't know) but now I feel broken.

I feel stupid for having had hope.  Particularly during those two years after I moved out when she was texting me every night wishing me sweet dreams and telling me that we were going to beat the odds and get back together.  My feeling of stupidity is largely due to other folks saying that of course things were over when I moved out.  And one person who was talking to her during these two years and later told me that she wasn't telling them the same thing she was telling me.

I feel stupid (and stupid doesn't quite capture it — maybe more idiotic, delusional?) for continuing to believe that we could have been a spectacular couple if we'd just gone to couple's counseling and if she'd just given me a chance to be heard and to hear her.

I feel so wronged because so not heard.  It frustrates me to no end that she believes certain things about me that I think are false.  Maybe part of what's going on for me is the hurt of being in a relationship that to me was the one thing I was committed to beyond anything else.  Something I thought was for life.  And realizing that I was never really seen.  I was never really known and that the person I was with didn't want to see me and was satisfied with her story about me instead of who I really am.

I'm pretty sure I didn't do the same to her.  Probably the worst way I didn't see her was in me making excuses for her anger and working to hard to always understand the source of her anger as being the Church, the people she worked with, our other housemate, her family.

Clearly, I continue to struggle with this because I continue to write about it.  But writing about it helps me because it prevents me from spinning and spinning in my head.  Writing and the xanax (though I've needed less xanax in the last couple days).

And by 'spinning' I mean I follow thoughts to the next junction and then the next and they all seem to lead to the conclusion that I did something(s) wrong and if I'd just done those things right (which I totally could have done but didn't) then she'd still love me.  And, honestly, this is where I am right now when I'm not actively typing here.  In 90 minutes I can take another xanax and I'm holding on to that.

A Conclusion (or just more thoughts)

Given the emphasis on the abuser being void of empathy, delighting in causing pain for a case to be psychological or emotional abuse I'm concluding that what I experienced was not psychological or emotional abuse.  BUT, I'm also think that this definition is really problematic insofar as it seems to depends on knowing the mind of another person.  I suppose in this way it's similar to the term 'terrorism' insofar as the term includes a reference to the intention of the perpetrators.  Nonetheless, people can say that they were terrorized without reference to the intention of what caused the terror. 

With the question of me moving to heal from this relationship, it feels like me accepting that what happened in this relationship was (a) not my fault and (b) not something I could have fixed depends on me blaming P for what happened.  And, well, as I write this I realize that I can hold her responsible even if I don't know her mind and don't diagnose her as having a clinical personality disorder.  I can say that she treated me in ways that I didn't deserve and ways that I wouldn't have treated another, particularly if I was told how it made the other feel.

I do think that there are aspects of the relationship that were if not abusive, harmful, devaluing and minimizing to me.  And I'm comfortable saying the P is more self-involved than most people and, in fact, less empathetic that many people — though this is tough for me to conclude because she always said that she was very empathetic and I think I experienced moments of her feeling this.  And, when I look at the defining characteristics of narcissism, I can, with honesty, say that P has elements of narcissism.

I'm still fairly unwilling to say that I was in an abusive relationship, that seems an overstatement and potentially to be downplaying the experience of others.  I'm getting close to being able to believe that I was treated in ways I didn't deserve and that I deserved better.  Really believing it.  Parts of me believe this at particular times.  The task is getting to the point where I believe this with my whole being.  And, I don't really know how to get to that place.  Hopefully time.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Idealize, Devalue, Discard

I'm continue to read and think about abusive relationships.  I've not made much progress in my thinking about my resistance to identifying this as an abusive relationship (though I think that a large part is my strong resistance, independent of any cognitive dissonance issues, to alleging that parts of my life are really bad when I'm profoundly aware of how lucky I am....I think there are clear cases of abusive relationships and would never want to 'co-opt' or appropriate that unjustifiably).

Anyway, one of the patterns identified in the books that I'm reading is that of "idealize, devalue, discard" with the stages being pretty self-explanatory.  The idea is that the beginning of the relationship is filled with claims of being the best person ever, the only one who has ever understood me, my soul mate, etc.  I remember when P wanted to move in together I was resistant and wanted to wait until we'd had our first crisis or first fight to see how we weathered it.  She thought I was being ridiculous.  But as I look back, I think I was correct on this.  We didn't have our first crisis or fight.  In fact, we rarely fought or even disagreed.  She spent much of our early time together talking about how perfect we were and that all others would look to us as the model of what relationships should be.  I was not as convinced of this but she had seen so many couples in her job that I was inclined to agree.  And, really, she, inexplicably, thought that I was the best thing in the world and, well, that a seductive place to be so I believed her.

The next step, as I think back, really began early on when we moved in together and the criticisms began.   At least this is my memory.  It's not like there was a switch that was flipped and she no longer claimed we were perfect and I was her soul mate but there were more criticisms.  I wrote (and sort of continue to write) this off as just a consequence of us living together.  So, I struggle to say that this is evidence of fitting into the pattern viewed as abusive.  I do know that I began to feel more and more like there were right and wrong things I could do and that I needed to be more attentive to how I behaved and that she thought I should be changing.  It was during this time (after probably our first year) that she started saying that I was immature and irresponsible.  I honestly don't know how to assess these claims.  As noted in earlier posts, the challenge is that she did (does?) know me better than anyone else and my inclination is to take people's assessments of me seriously even if (or especially if) the assessment is critical.  However, later in our relationship she started to say that I wanted her to not succeed, or that her happiness was not important to me.  And that was certainly never true (I was the one filling out application forms for jobs that she was interested in but didn't have the time to fill out) and I was constantly trying to come up with activities that she'd enjoy but she was too tired or too busy.There was nothing I could do to change her mind.  And she'd say over and over that I was unwilling to change at all to meet her needs and be supportive.  Though I could never get a good understanding of what I could have done to have been more supportive seeing as it felt like I was doing just about everything she asked of me (minus the cooking dinner part).

Then the end of the pattern is discard and, as described in the book, the discarding is particularly brutal and demoralizing.  I'm intrigued by the use of the word 'discard' because that is how I have described, from the very beginning, how I've felt.  The word that I've used to describe myself in light of what happened has been "disposable" — that I've felt like a used kleenex just tossed away.  Is this a normal feeling?  Or at least possibly a feeling not necessarily indicative of abuse?

One of the aspects of this that really rings true for me is the idealization phase and the holding out of this (with brief moments of experiencing it) as something if I did the right things we could return to.  Others have said to me that their experience with P was that when she turns her attention on you, you really do feel like the most important person in the world.  But, that she is very able to withdraw that attention.  Much (all?) of my support network is baffled by the extent to which I hold onto this view of P being wonderful.  Me continuing to say, even after I've listed all the ways in which I felt dismissed, how she has the potential to be so staggeringly fabulous if she could just let herself be that person.  And I always thought that if I could help her to do this by making her life easier in any way I could, given the obvious limitations, that I would once again get to experience this wonderful person who made a very big deal of adoring me.  Well, that clearly didn't work out.

All this is to say that there is a way to 'read' the history of our relationship as fitting this pattern.  But, mightn't any relationship?  That there's an idealization 'falling in love' stage, a 'reality' stage where the participants realize that the idealization isn't accurate and then a stage where one person withdraws?

So, all I can say is that I can see how someone could say that my relationship fits this pattern but I'm not convinced that fitting this pattern is evidence of abuse.  But, regardless of the label, this has helped me to at least to see a pattern and to see that even if, on a continuum, what I experienced doesn't cross a particular line, that there are other folks who have experienced things similar to me and that they've survived and even flourished.

ETA:  One thing that really concerns me about all of this thinking is that it feels like P could (and has) made the exact same assessments of me.  And since I believe her assessments of me are unwarranted and shouldn't be believed, how can I believe that my assessments are warranted?

Friday, May 4, 2018

Pits


I told my therapist the earlier this week that I felt like I was falling down a bottomless pit of darkness.  And I told her yesterday that now I feel improved insofar as I feel just like I'm at the bottom at the pit — so I'm not falling anymore and it's not bottomless.

I realized last night that, in fact, what it's felt like is that I was pushed into the bottomless pit and was falling.  And that I was pushed by the person I trusted most in the world.  And I think that much of my struggle has been to figure out if it was really that I tripped, that she didn't mean to push me, or that I deserved to be pushed.

This metaphor is the best I've happened upon to explain what things felt like starting 3 years ago and that I zip back to sometimes.

But now I feel like I've made it to the bottom of the pit and people are telling me there's a ladder out of the pit and are willing to help me find it.  I don't, in my heart of hearts, believe that I'll ever be out of the pit but I trust the folks who are telling me this and I hope they are correct. 

And to stretch this metaphor, I need to give up the hope that she's still there at the edge of the pit because I keep thinking, at least part of me, that she'll be there to help me out.  And I think that the recent setback has been due to me realizing (or starting to realize) that she doesn't give a shit that I've been falling nor is she ever going to be there for me.  And, possibly, she never was.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Thoughts on abuse

Some of my friends have had no problem saying that I was in an abusive relationship for 17 years.  Others are more circumspect on using the word 'abuse' or 'abusive.'  I have been reticent to say that it was an abusive relationship and am unsure about why it matters how I label the relationship.  Nonetheless, I have recently gotten some books about how to recover from an abusive relationship in the hopes that, maybe, there will be some wisdom in there.  Just beginning two of these has helped me to think through some stuff.  Though of course no conclusions have been reached.

The one book that I'm reading is insistent that abusers know what they are doing and do it intentionally (this book is specifically about psychological abuse).  The author is also insistent that psychological abusers have psychological personality disorders (are narcissists, sociopaths or psychopaths).  Some of what is described in the book is stuff that I experienced or, rather, think I experienced.  Part of the problem I deal with is I was routinely told, in the relationship, that I was misremembering things and that things I have no recollection of happening, actually happened.  Now, if I really was misremembering or forgetting things, that's my bad.  But, if I wasn't, this was 'gaslighting' — a way of making some doubt their own memories.

See?  Here's part of the problem.  I have become convinced that my memory isn't all that good.  And this has come almost entirely from P.  But, seeing as I spent a great deal of time with her and not nearly as much with anyone else, if anyone was going to notice, it's her.  Is my memory not very good or is this evidence of me being treated badly?  And if my memory actually is better than P thought, does that mean that P meant to mess with me or that she had a poor memory?

Sorry, I'm getting distracted.  So many thoughts.

Back to this book.  I really resist the claim that P either acted intentionally to harm me or that she has a personality disorder at the level of this author claims.  BUT, at the same time, if I could be convinced of this, it'd make my life easier.  Because if I could be convinced of this then I'd be able to stop blaming myself.  If I was shut out of her life, ignored, put, at best, 4th priority in her life, implicitly disavowed in most of her life, blamed for much of her unhappiness, because of something I couldn't have done anything about, I'd feel much better about things.  Among other things, I'd feel not only less at blame but I'd be able to let go of this lingering possibility of "only if....".  But, I have such a difficult time really believing this.

BUT, at the same time, I realize that much of what she did to me, I really can't imagine doing to someone else.  I wouldn't ever say, in response to someone voicing a desire to spend some time with me and that that they felt very low on their list of priorities, "but I always come home to you" and think that this is the end of the conversation and that any expectation of more than that was unreasonable.  I would want to let others know about our life together and even if I felt that I had to keep our relationship hidden, I'd at minimum bemoan this and work to find ways to make it possible to be unhidden.  I wouldn't act as if it was totally unreasonable to want others to know about our relationship.  So, the fact that she did this to me.  What does that mean?  Does it mean she didn't realize this was causing me pain?  Or that she didn't care?

I also happened upon an article online that said that if one feels abused then one was.  That it's entirely in the eye of the beholder.  I have serious problems with this.  Mostly because P said that I was abusive (though never, to my recollection, said what I did that was abusive — beyond telling her to lower her voice sometimes when we were in a place where I feared others could hear her saying things that were confidential or when I was in a quieter mood than she).  I'm really most resistant to the idea that I was abusive.  I did all that I could to respond to the things she didn't like about me (though I'll admit that I wasn't good at (a) housecleaning or (b) remembering to give her the monthly check for the house "we" owned (it was in her name and she kept the house when we split with nothing given to me)....though with regard to (a) when we moved in with the 3rd person we ended up living with, I did a fair share of the cleaning so even on this front I tried to respond and be better and I did much of the lawncare that she criticized me of before).  ANYWAY, the point here is that I don't think that merely thinking one was abused is sufficient to say that one was abused insofar as I don't believe I abused her even though she, apparently, thinks I did.  I do think that the Church abused her.

The most convincing thing I heard that I was not abusive was told to me not by my therapist (who was out of town but I was in crisis) but by the person who was our couples counselor for the few times we went.  She noted that the fact that P was still wanting to spend time with me after I moved out (for two years) and was constantly texting me sweet little thoughts every day was evidence that P didn't really believe I abusive insofar as people who really believe they were being abused do not want to spend time with their abuser.  Also, this counselor saw us together (granted only 4 times and one of those was focused on whether P should take the job she was offered) and said there was nothing she saw that suggested I was abusive and in fact that I was far from abusive.


This leads to another kink in all of this.  Because our relationship was so hidden, very few saw much of what it was.  So, how to know?  My therapist is someone who I'd been seeing off and on for nearly all of the time we were together so she says she is a reliable record insofar as I reported things and I'm not one who tends to misrepresent things in radical ways.

See?  Lots of thoughts.  And now this is really just a journal of me trying to make sense of my thoughts and how to move forward.  And given that my penchant for reasoning things through and needing things to make sense is getting in the way of things, well, here we are with me writing all this out.

I'll read more and share more.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

more personal stuff that I just need to get out and for some reason this feels better than just saving it in a word document

 Still not doing well.  But let me assure you, should anyone be reading this, that while I definitely want to die at this moment.  I am not going to kill myself.  I have too many people in my life who I know care deeply about me to do that to them.  I also don't want P to get a moment to present herself as a fabulous person and I'm virtually certain that's exactly what she'd do.  And, my dogs.  I wouldn't want my dogs to feel abandoned.

And, really, again, I'm just getting things out

I keep thinking about the fact that she's now in a relationship with T.  T was (and may still be) in charge of youth activities at P's former church.  I had desperately wanted to be part of P's life at church.  She would complain about what things were like at church and I would always ask how I could help.  Of course, I couldn't because, though at that time the denomination was fine with her being out, she was not interested in coming out.  I wanted to help with youth programming, I wanted to help with vacation bible school.  And, of course, I wanted to be doing things with her outside of her work.

I didn't get to do any of that.  I was told that clearly she loved me because I was the one she came home to and that my desire to be involved in other parts of her life were just instances of me being unreasonable and abusive.  Of course, T got to do all of these things along with other folks in P's circle of friends in the congregation.  And for a very long time no one in the congregation knew anything about me.   As I noted before it was only when I said that I felt not the the 'other woman' but the other woman, like 3 times removed, that she finally told T about me.

And three time removed is (a) she refused to be out in public with me except in extraordinarily rare occasions and I always had to disappear if she saw someone she knew; (b) she would spend more time both at home and even going on vacations (summer 'workshops' in Colorado/Chicago, etc) with our roommate (the roommate would pay for it which is why I was never along — I was never invited) and then (c) with T and all the other people at the church she was spending time with.

As I type all this out, I can see that I was not treated well.  But I slip so easily from seeing this to (and I'm moved now to the worthless feeling) feeling like this was somehow my fault.  That there were things I should have done that would have made things better.  That if I could have just found that 'thing', she'd have been willing to at least talk about things with me to see if we could work things out.  That if I'd just somehow been better.

Many people have told me that this was an emotional abusive relationship (or if not abusive, I was definitely treated horribly — I'm not sure what's gained or lost by using the particular label of 'abusive') (a few people have told me it was not and that there was enough blame on both sides — though, honestly, aside from a few things that I did early in the relationship I honestly don't know what I did wrong) and sometimes I'm willing to believe this.  But it seems like such a cop out.  Like I'm unwilling to accept responsibility for something that I could have done something about.

Part of the problem, of course, is that because our relationship took place almost entirely behind closed doors no one really knows what happened.  Some people saw glimpses.  But how can I trust my own assessments when her's are apparently so different?

then again, she continued to say, even after I moved out, how wonderful I was, how she'd be lucky to spend the rest of her life with me, that I made her happier than she could imagine, etc.

I don't think it's that I want to die.  I just want to be numb.  I want the feeling of being disposable to go away.

And I want her to be miserable and at some point in her life realize what she missed out on by treating me the way she did.  Oh, and I'd be delighted if her true colors were to be shown and follow her for the rest of her life (maybe at some point, I won't wish this as it really is a fairly unkind wish.  But right now, this is where I am).

PS.  The people who happened upon Xanax are a godsend

ETA: it has been pointed out to me that I'm not 100% certain that T is the same T I'm assuming.  It is a fairly uncommon name and, really, I'd be willing to bet loads of $$ it's the same person.  But, it might not be.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

way more personal than usual (does heartbreak ever end)

Five years ago, my partner (we'll call her P) of 15 years essentially kicked me out.  She'd been miserable for years in her job (a pastor in a denomination that would not let her be out - until the rules changed a couple years before she kicked me out).  I'd helped her (by literally filling out the application) to get a job at a church in different denomination where she'd be able to be out.  We'd spent the 15 years of our relationship unable to be out.  If we were ever in a grocery store together, I'd have to peel off so that no one would see us together.  If someone rang the doorbell, I had to hide in case it was one of her congregants. The last 6 or so years of our time together we moved into with a third person thinking this would look less 'suspicious'....it just meant that she spent more time with this third person instead of me to be 'polite.'  This third person started going to my P's church but I was not allowed to go there.  Or rather I was allowed to go but P would not acknowledge me as someone she knew let alone someone she was partner's with.   All of her misery was always framed as the product of the church and her stresses at work.  And that she needed to work on herself.  I was, I always told, the one thing in her life that was wonderful and gave her peace.

Then one day, out of the blue, as far as I was concerned, she said that she wasn't sure she wanted to be in a relationship with me.  Made it clear that she wanted me to move out.  I tried to get her to go to couples counseling but she was uninterested.....went a few times but that was it.  All the while she was friends with folks at her church, friends I couldn't meet and friends who didn't know I existed.   There was one woman we'll call her (T) who she spent loads of time with and after much argument, while I couldn't be introduced to her, T was told of my existence.

It was again made clear that I needed to move out as in "when are you moving out" but at the same time was told that when I moved out the plan was for her to join me after she got things together.  She did come and spend time with me when I moved — usually an hour on the back porch drinking wine or inside a cup of coffee.  But never in public and still no one knew of my existence.  Her response, when we were together, was that even thought she spent time with other people none of whom knew about me, she always came home to sleep with me.  After I moved, she visited, told me how much she loved spending time with me, that if she were to date it would be me, that I made her happy, etc.  She'd made innuendoed laden comments about staying at my house and not in my guest room.  I asked what was going on with us and could we talk about it and she always refused.  She asked me out for what she called a date around Valentine's day and it was a good time.  This was two years into me living alone and her coming by once a week.  We had this very nice date, then I didn't hear from her for two weeks.  I finally said that I couldn't do this thing where she kept holding out this future of us getting back together and being out and her ignoring me.  I said I deserved more than to be hidden.  I said I couldn't deal with this and so couldn't see her.

In that last conversation with me, she said that she hoped I'd still be available when she was ready to be in a relationship.  Yes, the stringing along continued.

Skip forward 3 months and I got an email from her telling me she was dating a 'wonderful' woman and that she valued our time together but I'm her past.   To say that I was devastated was an understatement.  For 17 years she had said that I was the best thing in her life, that if she were to be with anyone it would be me and that she just needed to get her life together but that we would end up together.  She said that she hoped I'd still be available once she dealt with her stuff.  Aside from a flurry of emails filled with rage on my part and her being confident that she'd been nothing except exemplary, we've not communicated.  I've reached out.  She's either said she's not ready or ignored me.

To say that I had a breakdown would be an understatement.  I fully oppose the existence of guns in houses because if there had been a gun in my house I would have used it on myself.  Between a relationship in which I was not allowed to be out, was hidden and largely unable to admit to being  in a relationship, was constantly denied as even existing (making me way more pissed at Peter than Judas), being told that I was doing most everything wrong, accused of trying to steal from her, trying to prevent her from having friends, being chastised when I told someone that I was in a relationship, basically having my life revolve around here while she told me that my success was due largely to her, etc.  My self-esteem/worth was at rock bottom

When we were together, she made me promised time after time that we would never break up and that even if she wanted to that I should not let her, that I was the best thing in her life and that she knew this. That she believed commitment was forever and that we were meant to be together.  And she's a fucking pastor!

So, it's been three years and she's entirely cut me out of her life.  I've tried reaching out but she's made it clear that she's happier pretending I don't exist.

And, now, I've found out that she in a relationship with T.  T who was a congregant.  T who was married with kids.  T who she wouldn't introduce me to and who when I said I'd love to be included in her activities with T and others, I was accused of forbidding her from having friends.  T who, even when P  & I were together P spent more time text her than talking with me and would get irate when I noted this was rude.

I was just beginning to feel like life without P was possible.  My desire for reconciliation was slowly dissipating.  Then I found out about T.    My level of rage is significant.  and at the same time I can't help trying to figure out, again, why I was good enough.  Why she wasn't willing to even try to work things out with me.  Why she rejected couple's counseling and just said she needed to take care of herself and, every once in a while, that I had to change (without explanation of what that means). (I've found out that she's told others that we did do couple's counseling which is a flat out lie.  We had 4 sessions one of which involved her talking about whether she should take the job that I'd applied to for her and she got and would allow her to be out).  (after she took the job she made clear that the fact that she could be out didn't mean that she was inclined to be out).

So, here I am again, unable to stop crying.  feeling worthless.  Hoping that at someone point people get what they deserve for treating people badly.

I know no one read these posts so I feel find publishing this.  I just needed to get this out.

Why do I continue to mourn this relationship?  To despair her not following through on all the things she said?  that she's ended up being so not the person I think she's capable of being.  Part of it is that people in the community who just see her performance think she's a good person and are completely unaware of, at minimum, all the lies she's told them for 20 years.  For 15 years she was in a relationship with me and never admitted it.  Hid me.  Denied my existence.  Made me hide when people came to the door.     I continue to think that she could be better.  That together we could be awesome.  If she'd just let herself be the person she could be.  But why wasn't I good enough?  What should I have done differently?  How could she go from loving me to just not loving me? Why was she entirely opposed to couples' counseling (clearly she had already decided she was done even though in those 3 sessions we did have she said she was committed to at least seeing if it could work)

Oh, and I did find out, after things ended and I was mid breakdown that she had been dating someone else when we first got together.  Someone else whose heart she broke.  I'm virtually confident that if I'd known about this, I'd not have pursued things.

I'm very clearly happier now that I was when I was in it.  Why do I continue to think that she could be this fabulous person who with me could be part of a fabulous couple?  Why do I just feel like I want to die at this point.

Thank goodness of my sister, my therapist and my very good friends, psychiatric meds and the fact that I don't have a gun in the house.

Monday, April 16, 2018

A list


I wrote this May 5th but changed the 'posting' date so it wasn't top of my posts so that the random person who happens upon this blog (which I'm pretty sure is most of my just barely existent traffic) wouldn't see this.

I'm writing this list out for myself to remind me of the reality of living with P.  I have a tendency to remember the moments when she doted on me and made me feel like the center of her world.  These were, really, not very frequent moments but they are the moments I tend to focus on.

One realization I've had from listing these things out (and these are just the things I'm remembering right now) is that for all of our relationship I never, really, pushed back on the way I was treated.  She always was talking about how unhappy she was with work or, if not unhappy, exhausted from work, and I was always assuming that any treatment of me that was less than what I wanted was a consequence of her general state of mind regarding work.  I assumed that when she got angry with me it was because I was the only person she could safely get angry at because she knew I would still love her.  There were many reasons for her to be angry at the Church, her individual work places, etc.  I excused, happily, her treatment of me because I believed I was the vent that she needed as the only person in the world who would never leave her and I loved her.  This was part of my job as her partner.  This was why I was so surprised at the moment when she said she needed me out of her life to be happy (and then she talked about how miserable she was the year after I moved out and I really thought she'd see that this was because I was no longer in her life)


  • Said that she took a job which she later hated knowing that she would hate it and took it just for me.  My recollection is that she hated the job she had been in at the time and was really excited about the new job because it was promised that she'd be on the ground floor of a wellness and spirituality program and that she'd be able to run a campus coffee shop
  • said, consistently, that the fact that she returned to me every night should be sufficient for me in terms of any dissatisfaction I had with the relationship and the way I was locked out of most of it
  • used the fact that the neighbor (who spent his time drinking on the front porch) said that I didn't seem to help much in the yard as evidence that I was a bad partner.  Oh, and the fact that I didn't help in the yard when I had noted that I didn't like the fact that I was being watched by the neighbor on the porch and that she was fearful that any of her congregants would find out that she and I were living together
  • if anyone knocked on the door, I not only couldn't answer it but had to go hide in case the person at the door was someone from her congregation.  My recollection is that she never voiced regret about this.  
  • we had to have separate phone lines (back when landlines were a thing) in case someone from her congregation called and when someone did, I had to be silent so that no one knew I lived there.  To my recollection she never really voiced regret over this either.
  • later said that she spent all her time cooking roasts for me early in our relationship when I have zero recollection of this.   She used this as evidence that I just don't remember things that I need to.  And she wasn't sure if this was better or worse in terms of me being a bad partner.
  • said that she'd warned me of the bad feeling she had about moving in with D (person we moved in with) and I have zero recollection of this warning
  • When I later noted that a side effect of one of the psychiatric medicines I took was memory loss she said this made her feel better about all the things that I denied happening.  I have no idea, if I have memory loss or if she is misremembering or if there is some other more sinister explanation.
  • frequently, early in our relationship, said that I loved the dogs more than I loved her not sure what I did that led to this conclusion
  • said, many, many years later, that she would go to parking lots and just cry about our relationship and my unwillingness to do anything but never told me that this was happening when it happened.
  • when we moved in with D, we had to wait for D to have dinner (though we'd agreed upon moving in that we'd have dinner with D once a week)
  • after dinner she'd always sit and talk with D and very rarely spend time with me and would chastise me for not staying and talking more with D
  • And the weird thing about this is that when we were alone she'd talk about how much she didn't like D and how stifling she found D's presence.  In the end, she chose to remain living with D instead of me
  • The topic of conversation with D was always church.  D was going to P's church and I was not allowed to.  Or rather I could go but P would not acknowledge me which would have made it too painful to do.  So I left conversations because they were constantly talking about people I did not know.
  • Said that I thought she was not intelligent and there was nothing I could do or say that would convince her that I didn't believe this (I didn't and I don't).  I always thought this was a vestige of her family and relationship to her brother.
  • wasn't allowed, really to be in public with her.  If we ever were in public and bumped into someone she knew I had to peel off and disappear
  • she constantly told me that I wasn't supportive enough and to this day I don't know how I could have been more supportive given that I was not able to be known at her work.  I did listen to her pleas that I do more around the house and so did much of the cleaning.  Though perhaps not enough.  I didn't cook much because she said that she liked to cook and she was frequently on food regimens that I did not feel comfortable cooking.  That is, she wouldn't eat the food that I was most able to cook.  I took on lawn mowing and weeding.
  • routinely told me I was too immature and irresponsible to have children.  
  • She would "surprise" me by painting rooms, redoing my office, etc, saying it was a gift to me. and then say I was ungrateful when I was less than enthusiastic about the results (since they were colors, changes I would not have chosen)
  • Every couple of years or so she'd imply that I was embezzling money from what was supposed to be our joint account (I wasn't) and I could only assuage her by giving her all of my banking records. 
  • she rarely asked how I was doing (I realize that the times I'd test her by seeing how long it took were probably wrong)
  • one time when I was suggesting we go camping, I used, playfully, the term "convince me" trying to be cute and coy — this became a case that she pointed to again and again that I was abusive.  She said that my insistence that she convince me to do something that she wanted was abusive.  And she refused to consider that I had meant it playfully (even if I'd not executed it well)
  • refused to go to couples counseling beyond 4 times (with one being devoted to her talking about whether she should take a job that'd been offered to her).  Found out that she's told others we "did" couples counseling.  Said she had to 'work on herself first' and then could do couples counseling
  • Also pointed to as evidence that I was as bad partner was one time, early in our relationship, when I didn't wash the dishes when she was in the hospital.  I had gone from taking care of the dogs and doing work stuff, got up early in the morning to be with her (I later found out that D had spent the night there and this was before we had moved in with D).  When she came home and discovered the dishes, she insisted on washing them instead of going to bed to recover from surgery and letting me wash them.  This case came up for easily 10 years or more as evidence of something horrible about me
  • Whenever I wanted to go on vacation, just the two of us, she'd always say we needed to visit family instead because of the importance of family and small amount of time she had off of work.  She'd always take time off when her parents came to visit (which is fine) but never for me.
  • When I was looking for houses initially, she said that the plan was that I'd move and then in a year or so, she'd figure out how to extricate herself from D and then she'd move in with me
  • Also, said that she'd come over every morning so we could continue to have coffee every morning.  Never happened.
  • She said that I'd get to spend time with our dog K when I moved out.  I saw him, perhaps, twice after I moved out.  Even when she was out of town, D took care of K and I wasn't asked
  • Since I was the one who took care of the dogs I assumed that I'd take K when I moved out.  She said that she was keeping him.  end of discussion.
  • She and D would go places together (out of state workshops, etc having to do with things they were both vaguely interested in)  (because D would pay for it) and I was never included.  
  • Denies telling me to move out when I vividly remember her saying something along the lines of "aren't you going to move out because if you don't, I am" (we were in the basemenet) — this was when I'd stopped looking for a house because she'd gotten a new job where she could be out and thought that with this new job we'd be looking for a house together.
  • Kept telling me that she would  want to date only me if she were to date anyone
  • Even when I said I couldn't see her any more because the ups and downs were too much, she said that she hoped I'd still be available when she wanted to date again.  Three months later I got an email saying she was dating a 'wonderful' woman whom she'd known for 2 years (at least) and whom I'd never heard of.
  • She said I was unwilling to let her have friends despite the fact that she seemed, to me, to spend a good deal of time with people I didn't know and who were her friends.
  • Seemed unwilling to see my side of things when her parents would come and stay for 10 days and I would get irritable.  Said that I was being petulant and unwelcoming
  • Never told me she was deeply unhappy with our relationship until she was talking about how miserable she was and that she had no idea what her future had in store and I said that well, at least she knew that I'd be there.  She said, no, she didn't know that.  This was the first I heard that she was unhappy and thinking of ending the relationship
  • spend lots and lots of time with new found friends who were congregants and couldn't understand why I was hurt that (a) she'd spend time with them but not me; (b) that they didn't know that I existed and (c) that I never was invited to join them.  In fact said that my being hurt was evidence of me not wanting the best for her
  • Said that our staying together was dependent on her determining whether the problem was something core to my personality or something that I could and would change.  I still have no idea what this core allegedly was except that I was a horrible partner
  • found out, after our relationship was over, that she'd been dating someone when we first started dating.  They'd been dating seriously enough that the person was devastated and, apparently, loathed me from afar.










Sunday, November 20, 2016

Why yes, it has been years

But there's been an election and with that panic attacks and general terror.

So, how to move forward.  First, I need to work to listen and pay attention to the people who understand how things really work.

Presidents don't have all the much power.  Advisors to presidents don't have that much power.  Rhetoric is just that, rhetoric, and while someone can be a despicable person it doesn't mean much of anything regarding what they'll do in office.  Someone with no experience may, in fact, see some opportunities to do things that haven't been taken advantage of because of an unwillingness to burn bridges.  And, despite lacking experience, his party wants his time in office to be a time of success and flourishing because they want to continue to be able to have their agenda be at the forefront.  And since he's a loose cannon (or at least presented himself that way), who knows what sort of negotiating power that gives him.

Nazis aren't going to take over even if the President is listening to them because Congress, Supreme Court, the 95%+ of the population who oppose that sort of behavior.

But, the fact of the matter is that I can't really control him (my efforts at mind control on people closer to me have been unsuccessful so I doubt more effort is going to work with him).  So, I have been emailing and calling my representatives.  I'm doubtful that this will have much impact beyond adding to the number of people calling and emailing (and I think quantity probably does have an impact).  And, when my representatives are in town I will show up and ask them questions face to face.

More pressingly is what I'm going to do day to day.  I really do believe that what has happened is a consequence of decades of not listening to people and instead everyone being confident in the truth of their own beliefs.  This isn't to say that those beliefs are mistaken but that if all we do is focus on how correct we are we may miss some important things about other people's experiences.

I think that many people are dissatisfied with their lives.  And that being dissatisfied they want, at minimum, for their dissatisfaction to be acknowledged and for it to be acknowledged that their lives being the way they are, economically, socially, probably isn't their fault.  We've  I'd done a horrible job of listening to this.

Given the dissatisfaction and then adding to this feeling ignored or, even worse, passed over because of a focus on issues of racism, gay rights, trans rights, etc (all of which are important and ought to be addressed) people are going to, understandably I think, be resentful of those who have gotten the attention and those who have been doing the ignoring.

I've long said that I think that everyone wants, fundamentally, to be heard, understood and cared about based on who they really are.  I don't think I've done a good job at playing my part in this.

It seems like everyone has been so intent on proving that they are right that we've stopped even listening to what other folks are saying assuming that we already know what they are doing to say.

so, what am I going to do to make things better?  I need to rethink my courses, a constant, so that they are doing what I want them to be doing.  Of course this means I need to get clear on what I want them to be doing.  I also need to be really intentional about what I'm communicating to others in terms of my willingness to listen to all.  And, of course, I need to not just say that I want to listen to all, I need to reach out and really ask and listen.

I recently purchased a Black Lives Matter sweatshirt because I do believe that Black Lives Matter.  But, I also believe that gay lives matter, trans lives matter, poor lives matter, conservative lives matter, brown lives matter, red lives matter, etc.  I don't like "All Lives Matter" because that seem antagonistic to Black Lives Matter.  But, that aside, now I worry about wearing the sweatshirt.  I know that it will mean that I'm viewed as an ally to many (and I am their ally) but it will also be interpreted by many as meaning that I don't want to listen to them, that their story doesn't matter to me and that I think Black lives mean more than their lives.  Now, of course, in a nice intellectual conversation I could note that this isn't what it means, but how can I get to that conversation if someone sees the sweatshirt and draws all sorts of conclusions?  Why aren't I wearing a sweatshirt that says "Poor Lives Matter"?  or one of the other variations?  So, I'm probably not going to wear the sweatshirt, or if I do, it'll be because I take it somewhere to have a list of x lives matter put on the back of it.  I suppose one take away here is that sweatshirts may be poor conversation starters but they certainly communicate ideologies even if what is communicated isn't what is intended.

I think lots of folks deserve allies.  When I think of the values of the US that I think are important it isn't merely individual rights and freedom, equally important to me is hospitality — welcoming the stranger and doing our best to make them feel at home.  I need to work on being more hospitable to people who might assume that I am not interested in their lives being good lives.  Yes, I'm rambling, but since no one is going to read this, I'm not terribly concerned.

I am going to return here regularly to work out my thoughts about what I need to be doing and what I'm going to do in terms of my everyday behavior and my courses.






Saturday, June 22, 2013

White & Class privilege

I saw this video a week or so ago and it's really stuck with me.

In the intervening weeks, the house remodeling happening in my house has hit full throttle (which means moving from agonizing over decisions to actual people coming in and doing things like altering plumbing, installing wiring, sheet-rocking, white walling, etc.) and I've gotten back to walking my dog.  One of the things that I like about myself is that I'm friendly.  And one of the things I like about where I live is that this friendliness isn't viewed suspiciously.  I make it a point to chat a bit with the plumber, the painters, etc.  I enjoy saying good morning to people on daily walks with the dog, stopping to chat with people along our 2.5 mile route.  I enjoy not being in a hurry and having the time to stop and connect with people.

I should note that I do all of this while wearing shorts that are not in anyway stylish and t-shirts.  Not 'women's t-shirts' but regular old t-shirt t-shirts with crew necks.

So, back to the video.  I've been very aware in the last week or so that the reception I expect from people (and the reception I usually get) is that people will be friendly back, they'll welcome the connection and respond by chatting with me.  I began wondering how would these exact overtures be taken (how would I expect them to be taken) if were not white & middle-aged?

I suspect that if I had a heavy accent and/or dark skin and/or some sort of overt religious garb (excepting, possibly, a nun) that I'd be treated really differently (suspicion, most likely or with perfunctory politeness).  Or, at the very least, I'd expect to be treated differently.

Yes, I am very slow.  But, in my defense, this is all stuff that I've known intellectually.  If someone were to have pointed all this out, I'd have agreed and though it obvious.  But, in this last week, I've felt it.  I've realized that these everyday interactions (which I really enjoy) go smoothly and in a way that I find enjoyable largely because I am white (I imagine that a person of color would have an easier time if they were of a certain economic/social class than if they weren't, but I'm pretty sure that I'm always going to have the clearest path of social ease — so clear and so omnipresent in my life that I never notice it.  This is not something I'd fully appreciated before.or, rather, that I'd fully felt before.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Liberal Arts & Jobs

Higher education as it currently exists is a strange beast.

Students come to us wanting jobs (a completely reasonable desire).  They think that the best way to get jobs is to be trained for a particular job (a reasonable, though I'd argue, false belief).  Those of us in the humanities argue that our classes are 'practical' because they teach students the very skills that employers want (and citizens, future parents, etc. need) — how to ask questions, how to think critically, how to listen to others well, etc.  But, students, shockingly, aren't convinced.

So, here's my plan: Provide for students a serious, rigorous liberal arts education — with equal emphasis on all aspects of liberal arts: science, social sciences, humanities & arts.  I am absolutely unapologetic about that.  BUT, add to this, from the moment the students step onto campus serious, on-going conversations about how careers, what there is, how to get them, how to succeed.

I'd say everyone should in addition to the rigorous liberal arts education students should get the equivalent of a minor in a professional degree (business, journalism, etc.).  I'd also say that the emphasis on majors should be vastly downgraded.  If there are majors, there should be limit on the number of credit hours that can be required in a major.  And, students can only major in one field.

This way students get the rich intellectual foundation that they need but also get a skills based 'package' to leave with.  Supplement this with constant conversations and support for getting jobs (including but not limited to internships).

There we go.

Next problem?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I ♥ Daniel Kahneman

I'm reading Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow and wishing I could just memorize everything that's in it.  It's so good and has the potential to really change how I do many things (particularly, obviously, teaching).

I don't have the time to read and reread it nor do I have a good excuse to teach it.  How am I going to remember all the things in it that I need to be remembering?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

On-line Class

Well, I'm moving into the last week of my 6 week on-line class and since I have absolutely nothing besides face-to-face classes to compare it to, I think it's not gone horribly.

It's ended up being a writing intensive class (students have at least one assignment a day) and I've structured it using an idea that a good friend had (& is going to write about) — using Bloom's taxonomy.  The early writing assignments were for the students to summarize the conclusions of the texts (I gave them excerpts that had conclusions fairly easily identifiable) and provide textual evidence to support their summaries.

After they did this for each of the texts we're covering, we moved in the next week to actually apply the conclusions to specific cases.  And, now this last week, they've spent time identifying and summarizing in their own words the arguments in support of the conclusions they identified earlier.

Now, I think that what I've developed is a good learning experience if the students are diligent (I have a few who are and the work they are doing suggests that they are learning) but I think that a major downfall of this course is that it's only 6 weeks.  This is a huge amount to do in only 6 weeks.  The students who are doing well are, by their reports, dedicating at least 3 hours a day to the class.  This makes sense.  I usually teach this class as a 15 week class meeting 3 times a week.  If we use the 3 hours outside of class for every hour in class, that's 175 hours spent on the class (45 hours in class and then 135 hours outside).  In a 6 week class there's only 42 days to work with.  That means over 4 hours a day would have to be spent on the class.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A life devoid of creativity & emotions?

This just makes me sad.  Well, I suppose since the person writing it says she'd make the same choices all over again this is something she's okay with, but I can't imagine that this is something I'd be willing to do.

Nor can I imagine encouraging anyone to pursue a life like this.  In fact, I think if success in a field depends on living a life like this, someone needs to stir up that field a bit.


Once again, I feel incredibly lucky to have the job I do.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Future of Higher Education

My tendency when trying to solve a problem is to find a similar problem elsewhere that has already been solved or to find a situation where someone has managed to avoid the problem and figure out how it's been managed.  Efficiency or laziness?  Honestly, it's laziness.  Why not just learn from what's already happened instead of doing all that exhausting heavy lifting myself?

I've been reading a good deal about education and am participating in a summer project focused on thinking about the future of higher education.  I have many times related education to both the ministry and health professions and I think that, again, looking to these areas we can learn a good deal.

In particular, I think higher education and organized religion share a good deal.  We both believe that what we are providing is self-evidently good for the people who we serve.  At the same time, we've never really had to 'sell' ourselves.  Participation in religious institutions is something people were simply raised to do and so did.  Aspirations to go to college to become educated and think about big ideas is something we, in higher education, count on continuing.  But, our assumption that people would always want what we are providing means we have never really made the case for what we are doing.

And, now people are choosing to go to churches where they get what they want (big churches, few responsibilities, spending time with the people they want to spend time with, entertainment and little challenge to already existing beliefs) and my pastor friends bemoan this.  Likewise as people begin to choose the college education they want, they are probably not going to choose what we think they need and what I really do think is, ultimately good for everyone.

I'd say that journalism is undergoing the same sorts of problems.  Democracy depends upon a thriving journalistic community and a population that is engaged with this community.  But, now people read only what they want to read and are able to fairly easily ignore what they want to ignore.  We spend more time confirming what we already believe to be true and less time becoming aware that things aren't what we thought they were.

Journalism, religion and education are also in the same situation insofar as much of what we have provided in the past is available for free (well, it isn't what we really have been providing but it's what people have thought we've been providing) and so now we are increasingly unable to fund our own versions of what it is we do (since there is less of a market for it).

One thing churches did do, lo many years ago, was make a distinction between monks and priests.  Having these be two different jobs has always made sense to me.  It's the monks who were the scholars and the priests who communicated the relevant learning to the laypeople.  It's long been a mystery to me why, in the academy, we expect faculty to be monks and priests.

Now, turning to religion (or journalism) doesn't actually provide solutions, but it does make clear that what's happening in higher education isn't unique to higher education.  We are at the mercy of the same forces that other important institutions are.  Which means we need to be looking at the conversations in these fields to see what we can come up with together as a strategy for where to move and how to best retain our core values without shrinking into the vanishing point.

Faculty Salaries

I'm reading this article "Visioning 2035: The Future of the Higher Education Sector in the UK" and it just occurred to me why faculty don't get paid more.

The work that faculty say would justify us getting paid more money (that which takes most of our time — teaching) is not the same work that drives hiring.  In general, teaching is important but I doubt that a great teacher with no publications would ever be hired given a market where there are so many unemployed PhDs available to drive salaries down.

If we really hired people based on their proficiency for teaching, I suspect this would radically alter what university campuses looked like (and it'd eliminate or at least change the concept of tenure) and that'd be the only way to really get to higher salaries.

And, to be clear, I'm not complaining about my salary.  Yes, I'd love more money (would anyone not?) but I get paid well to do something I love in a way that I generally love.  There are people who have way less satisfying jobs who get paid less than I do and they should be the ones who get paid more.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Transforming Spaces

I would love to have a very cool (as in 'hip') house.  The problem is that I am not terribly good at seeing what a space can be.  All I see is what's already there.  Seriously, I can barely imagine different furniture. And, yet, I would love to get a space and then make it my own (which, obviously, would be very cool).

And then I come across this.  Many houses I've looked at are much nicer than what these folks started with and I dismiss them.  I've got to figure out a way to cultivate this sort of vision because what these folks did with this space is, objectively, awesome.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Assigning the listening/viewing of on-line lectures

I'm teaching an on-line course this summer.  I volunteered to do it with the idea that this will get me thinking about teaching in a way that I haven't.  I figure, also, that if I can figure out how to teach well on-line, then this ought to make me a better teacher in a face-to-face setting.

And, in fact, it is making me think more about my teaching.  I'm really having to focus in on what I want to accomplish in the course and how I'm going to do it.  Hopefully, much of what I end up doing for this on-line course will be useable for my traditional face-to-face course.

At this very moment I'm wondering about the wisdom of pointing students to on-line lectures on the theorists will be discussing.  I've also thought about doing this for classes that aren't on-line.

How is this different (is this different) from assigning reading?  I mean, obviously, it's different but is it different bad or different potentially helpful?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

In the minds of students

Last night I had dinner with two graduating majors and learned a good deal about what students apparently think about me.  I have no reason to think they were lying and they did go out of their way to say that they don't think these things, but that students who don't know me as well do.

I'll jump to the end: students are way more suspicious than I thought.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Well, damn, it's been a really long time since I've written anything here.  Not for lack of things to say.  But, more, a lack of, well, writing anything here in a long time.

Instead of trying to catch up, I'll just start with where I am and, if anything relevant happened in the last 5 months, it'll come up and I'll catch up.

On the teaching front, I've agreed to teach an on-line class this summer.  My thinking is that on-line teaching is here to stay but that it's unlikely to be here in this form (I'm thinking of the first cell (that is, 'mobile') phones that were super clunky but have transformed to what we now have) and I'm interested in possibly being ahead of the curve here.  Also, I think this is probably a pretty good way to get myself thinking about teaching — since I won't be able to fall back on habits, having not cultivated any in this area yet.  And, lastly, if I'm going to move into teaching & learning stuff, I probably should be able to help folks with teaching in all its incarnations.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teaching struggles

Well, we're now at the end of a semester and, as usual, I feel like I've done a less that great job in all of my classes.  I wonder if I'm in the minority by spending the last 3 weeks or so of classes berating myself for all the things I didn't do, should have done or did poorly.

In an attempt to not merely berate myself, I am also trying to figure out ways to improve things.  And I think I have a moderately good handle, at least, on what the problems are.  Yes, it's taken me this long to become just moderately comfortable with having identified the problems that have to be solved.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Philosopher? What's that?

Since I ought to be commenting on papers and journals, now is the obvious time to write something for this blog.

I've been fairly busy of late (with "of late" being the last 6 months to year).  I've been fortunate enough to be viewed as having something worth saying (or being good at saying stuff) and so have been a speaker at a steady stream of conferences.  I thought I'd posted about this before, but as I look through my posts, I seem to have not.

Oh, what's the 'this' I thought I'd posted about but didn't?

Well, let me share.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Detoxing

I wish I could say it's an experiment but it's more of a survival tactic.  I'm going cold turkey from Facebook.

Every night as I get ready to go to sleep, I reflect upon the day and how much time I've wasted on FB and resolve to stay off of FB the next day, delete games that suck time, lock myself out.  And then each morning, I'm back online wasting hours of my day.  So, last night, when I made my nightly resolution that would not be followed through the next morning, I retrieved my computer, went in and changed my FB password to something too long and complex to remember (I used ISBN numbers of one of the books laying around — I don't remember which), used a random word generator to toss in two word and then randomly chose a word out of a book.  Too late I realized that I could have used a password generator that comes up with basically impossible to remember passwords.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fun times

I realized, as I was closing in on the last day of discussing Gorgias in my Ethics class, that students were not quite as excited about this text as I am.  Okay, that's an understatement.  I suspected that they were lost and dazed and realized that this is not an ideal spot for students to be.

So, I decided to go with the following in class.  I told them that some students leave this text with one overarching question <dramatic pause> "Who cares?" or, put in slightly more sophisticated form, "Why should I care about Gorgias?"  I then appointed one person to count the number of people in the class who were in this position while I stepped out of the room.  In my first class only 5 people admitted to being in this position while in my 2nd class 21 people admitted to it.  The first class was, as far as I'm concerned, lying.  But the 2nd class, 21?  Sheesh.

Anyway, I then asked them to come with all the reasons someone might give for believing that they should not care about this text.  After they did this (and I put all the reasons on the board), I asked them to now advocate on behalf of Socrates/Plato and respond to these reasons.  I told them that some of the reasons while factually correct might not be good reasons for not caring and that others if they were factually correct probably would be good reasons and so the task with these was to figure out if the claims were factually correct.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

So, so close and yet.....

Well, I'm sending off an article today that I started about two years ago (in the intervening time other articles have been revised and resubmitted, presentations have been given, classes have been taught, so it isn't only that I'm a slacker).

Turns out that I may have missed being cutting edge by just a few moments. In the last 2 years there have been just shy of 4500 publications on this topic whereas prior to that, well, I was pretty much up to speed in the area.

Instead of reading this additional stack of 4500 I'm going to send it off, hope that the core of my argument warrants an R&R and then I'll read whatever reviewers might be inclined to suggest I read.

If only I'd gotten it out two years ago. if only.

I'll bet there's something to learn here. But, I'm not entirely certain what it is.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A good book (movie coming soon)

I just finished reading We Need to Talk about Kevin and I gotta say it's a really interesting read. Not a 'feel good' book by any means but a thought provoking book. Apparently it's been turned into a movie that's gotten good reviews from the Cannes Film Festival. I say read it before it comes out.

It's about woman's reflections on herself and her relationships with her family after her son has killed members of his high school. I like it because it authentically captures the ambiguity of life and the lack of clear answers without just leaving the reader with a nihilistic conclusion.

It's biology's fault

So, in an effort (a clearly failing effort) to actually get some work done, I've made use of a program that prevents me from getting onto facebook. Now, I've used programs like this in the past that give one the ability to lock oneself out of facebook, but they've had the fatal flaw of making it possible, with just a few clicks, to easily gain access again. Clearly the people who find those programs helpful either have vastly more will-power than I do or they are just not all that bright.

Anyway, this new program is such that once you've set the timer (which unfortunately maxes out at 24 hours) you can't access the pages you've 'blacklisted' and you get do anything (aside from get onto a new computer) that will give you access. You can delete the program from your computer and you'll still be locked out. I suppose if I knew more about computer code I could undo it, but here's where my general laziness kicks in and my willpower is subsumed by my unwillingness to exert the effort. Yes, any success I've had is due to a strange and lucky confluence of my flaws.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Risk vs. Regret Aversion

As I'm working on revising an article, I'm referencing risk aversion which, because one needs to cite every claim one ever makes regardless of how self-evident one thinks the claim is, led me to look for articles and I came across an interesting distinction (and how I love a good distinction!). The suggestion made was that while some people are risk averse others are regret averse and that the latter can appear to be the former.

I'm fascinated by this because, well, here's my Rawlsian decision making method: given a particular decision one is struggling with, assume that no matter what decision you make it's going to not turn out well, which decision would you rather make in the event that it won't turn out well?

I've always thought this was a test regarding risk and one that works for me because I'm risk averse. But, now I'm wondering if this is about regret — which outcome would you prefer even if it turns out badly? Even as I type this, though, I don't think that the test, itself, differentiates. I think that depending on the reasons one gives this could be a test of risk or regret.

And this gets me to the next thought which is whether there really is a distinction or is it just that 'regret aversion' is more accurate than 'risk aversion.' That is, do people really avoid risk qua risk?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Well, here it is more than midway through June. Summer is flying by.

I have many thoughts about many things (surprised?) but will limit myself to just one (possibly more will sneak their way in).

I watched the Tonys last week and I'm reading Tina Fey's Bossypants and decided that I want to be friends with Neil Patrick Harris and Tina Fey (and Gwyneth Paltrow, Jane Lynch and, I'm sure, many more). I've also returned from a conference where I met some interesting people and I continue to want to be friends with Parker Palmer & Diana Chapman Walsh (and Sharon Daloz-Parks, Arthur Chickering, and bunch of folks I can't think of).

Reasonably, you may be wondering why I share this information. Because as I was cataloging the list of people I want to be friends with I realized that (a) most people I meet also want to be friends with these folks and (b) these folks probably aren't all that different from other people except that they are well-known. This led me to: conservatively, I'd guess that 25% of the people I meet are, probably, fairly fabulous people (more generously, 75%) but that I don't get to know them the way that fame and books let me believe I get to know these other folks.

I'm thinking there's probably a conclusion to reach from this.