Saturday, August 29, 2015

Harvest Time

I honestly don't know where the weeks are going.  I wanted to know, so I looked back at my photos, and this is what I found:

Then there was this:

Yes, it's harvest time.  And back-to-school time.  Next week is the first full week of classes. 

It's also the start of apple-picking season, in case you were wondering about that.

Meanwhile, I'm reading and getting back into the swing of writing--just not on the blog, unfortunately.  But I'm going to see if I can change that.  Just as soon as I finish these socks.

Because yes, it's gotten to a point where I have THREE DIFFERENT pairs of socks underway and on the needles.  This may be a sign that I have some kind of psychological sock problem.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that it is.  And yet, I don't care.

The final image of the post: some balsam plants that I grew for the first time this year.  It's an interesting plant and flower, I think.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


I can't believe that I actually let 2 whole weeks go by without blogging once, and I can't believe that next week, classes start, which means that the summer is essentially all but over.

The good news is, I've been away from the blog having fun with friends.  This involved things like going to the beach, bowling, eating multiple servings of pizza and ice cream across intervals of less than 24 hours, flying a kite, and seeing important, ground-breaking films like "Inside Out" and "Ant-Man" and "Home" and then discussing their relative merits and citing lines from the films whenever applicable.

Suffice to say, I now live for the day when I can say "Curse your tippy-toed tallness!!" and mean it.

There were some less than stellar moments, of course.  Like the 16 hours of driving it took to accomplish an 8-hour round trip.

I mean, really.  At some point, everyone else just needed to get OFF THE ROAD and let me through.  I actually shrieked this out loud somewhere around about Hour #12, but my windows were up so I don't think anyone actually heard me.

All I know is that it did nothing to help with the traffic.

We also encountered an odd personality at the beach.  There was a woman in charge of the ladies' restroom.  I'd never seen such a thing before, and I'm quite certain I've never seen this particular woman before.  I'd have remembered her.

Let's just say, I walked away wondering if her position was paid for with state funds and thinking that maybe a letter requesting that this funding be cut wouldn't be a bad idea.

Without getting too... earthy... in my descriptions, I will simply say that I went into the bathroom stall for the usual reason that people enter a bathroom stall and when I did, I decided that it was also an opportune time to get the seaweed--and, more importantly, the bugs that live on the seaweed--out of my bathing suit.

So I hung it on the hook on the door.

No sooner had I done this than a little MOP began to be shoved under the stall door, in what can only be described as a very passive aggressive gesture.

Because yes, my bathing suit was dripping.  Did I mention I was at the beach?  There's water there.  Quite a lot of it, actually.  (I suspect this is why there are drains on the bathroom floor every 2 feet or so.)

I decided to simply ignore the mop and focus on the task at hand.

As I tried to do so, however, an angry little voice said, "I don't know WHO's in there with the DRIPPING bathing suit, but these stalls are NOT for changing."

I paused and reflected on this announcement with a fair measure of bewilderment.  And then I simply said, "Okay."

Because the fact of the matter was, I was NOT changing in the bathroom stall, and when I emerged, that would become quite clear.

I do wish you could all have seen the look on the woman's face when I exited the stall.  Because yes, she had positioned herself so that she could accost me a second time about following the rules of her rest area.

As I gave her a steady gaze of self-righteous vindication, she announced: "You can't be in those stalls if your bathing suit is TOO WET.  You need to either use the shower stalls or wrap up in a towel."

I confess, I'm proud of myself.  I didn't say, "Soooo... you're saying people need to pee in the showers if their bathing suits are too wet?  How do we know what's considered 'too wet'?  What if my towel is also 'too wet'?  How can I relieve nature's call and still abide by your bathroom code of conduct?"

What I did say, however, is something I've learned to use in such situations: "I'm sorry if I've upset you."

The nice thing about this phrase is, unreasonable people will generally assume that this is an apology.  In fact, however, it's my pleasant little way of acknowledging to the universe at large that I think that maybe you're slightly insane and there's nothing I can really do about that."

(Sidebar: The down side to this is that when friends of my own say, "I'm sorry if I've upset you," I tend to read this as them telling ME they think I'M slightly insane and there's nothing they can do about that and I get rather offended.  Which may or may not ultimately reinforce their original point.)

With the Bathroom Nazi, though, the phrase had the desired effect.  She smiled and said, "It's okay--you didn't know."

At this point, I cheerfully acknowledged, "It's true, I didn't!"

Needless to say, she loved this.  She took her little mop and went back to her little chair by the doorway confident that she had managed to educate an ignorant, drippy little beach-goer.  Her work was finished.

Or so she thought.  Because later in the day, I will confess: I took a shower in one of the stalls and, when I finished, I slipped behind her back into a bathroom stall and let my bathing suit drip and drip and DRIP.

And then I stepped over the resulting puddle and went on my merry way, enjoying these last few wonderful weeks of a summer that has gone by much too quickly.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Savoring the Summer

I can't believe how fast the summer is going or the fact that it's been almost TWO WEEKS since I last blogged!!

Meanwhile, I have company coming for a visit next week, so I need to get cracking.

So what have I been doing?  A few stints at the beach.  A whole bunch of bike rides.  Several swims.  A few nice lunches out.   I think I'm fast realizing that the summer will soon be over, and I want to make sure I spend as much time outdoors as I possibly can.

That said, I've been reading Carlos Bulosan's America is in the Heart (1943), his memoir about his experiences as a Filipino migrant worker in California and the West in the 1920's and 30's.

I also found a lot of food for thought in Robert Taibbi's essay, "The Relationship Triangle."  Taibbi bases his work on Stephen Karpman's concept of the "Drama Triangle," and the extrapolates from that premise to consider its role in adult relationships in general.

As a reforming (or recovering?) "Rescuer," I liked the fact that this essay offers a great ego-check.  Because I think that often, Rescuers do tend to delude themselves into thinking that playing the Rescuer role somehow proves that they are a "good" person.

They may very well be.  Odds are, though, that, like all of us, they're a mixed bag.  Some good motives, definitely, but some sketchy ones in there as well.  

The point is, I think Rescuing is a role that is easily entangled with a sense of one's moral values, and as a result, trying to escape from it (or simply stop playing it in general) often carries a very large sense of guilt.

Rescuers are particularly prone to succumbing to emotional sabotage in the form of claims that they are being "mean."  And while people may say, "Well, but that's just silly, you have to take care of yourself, obviously!", to a Rescuer it is in no way obvious that this is the case.

As Taibbi's essay points out, Rescuers are created in childhood, and their behavior is the result of years of a kind of conditioning that repeatedly insists that 1) their own feelings aren't really valid, and 2) that "caring" about someone means putting the other person's needs ahead of their own, even if that person's needs are unreasonable or overwhelming or downright crippling.

I like Taibbi's point about how, in a sense, rescuing enables to Rescuer to "fix his own anxiety" by focusing on someone else's problems instead of looking inward. 

Because really, for most people, looking inward really isn't always all it's cracked up to be.

One of the things I've personally found particularly helpful is, when confronted with the potential to play the Rescuer, to recontextualize the situation as if it were unfolding between myself and one of my friends who don't "require" rescuing, even when their lives are in turmoil or disarray.

Because the fact of the matter is, Rescuers don't typically rescue absolutely everybody.  They just have a particularly demanding cohort of friends or family who tap into their tendency and use it to keep the Drama Triangle up and running.  

Put simply, I think it's helpful for Rescuers to imagine the interaction unfolding as if they won't be compelled to adopt a Rescuer role: what would they say about what they want or how they feel under those circumstances?

The point being, Rescuers have to regularly remind themselves that there are contexts in which being "the strong one," the one who "fixes everything," the one who always "shoulders the burden," and behaves as if s/he is impervious and invulnerable isn't the norm and isn't what is (by default) expected of them. 

And when it isn't what is expected of them, things turn out just fine for everyone.  Funny thing, that.

In those moments, a Rescuer can begin to realize, "Well, now, wait a minute: with Person X I can say and do Y and they don't think I'm 'mean' at all.  They don't even bat an eye about it, actually.  But with Person Q, it's always about how 'mean' I am when I try to say 'no,' even though I always try to say it as kindly as I possibly can...". 

As Taibbi points out, the key to stepping out of the Drama Triangle and its dynamics is to recognize the roles that you are playing and the assumptions that you are making about what "has" to happen in your interactions with others that end up keeping you locked into it.  

One way of becoming more aware is to strategically remember the times and situations in which you play a very different role and then consider what would happen if you transposed those behaviors and exchanges onto the currently-unfolding Rescuer dilemma.

It may not cause the Drama Triangle to collapse, but it will make its trajectory and the lines of energy between all of the players much clearer.  And with that clarity will come, I think, a better sense of what works best for oneself.