I Just Wanted To Say...

What is your problem?

Location: Georgia, United States

I am me. More than I was, less than I will be. This is difficult. Facts-female, southern, mother and grandmother. Abstract-a Christian, a loner, intelligent, somewhat arrogant, impatient with stupidity, an unusual sense of humor.


If There Were Two Worlds

I wish there were two separate worlds and we could choose the one in which we would live.

I would like for there to be a world where there was strict gun control, where businesses were closely regulated, where non-judgmental diversity was practiced, where war was never an alternative, where patriotism and faith were unheard of, where there was a complete welfare system, where the justice system tried to understand criminals instead of punishing them, where the government took over child-rearing at an early age, where children were not disciplined so that their self-esteem would not be damaged, where abortions were free for anyone who wanted one, where drugs were legal and available, where no personal life-style choice was condemned, where there was no expectation of personal responsibility.

Then I would choose to live in the other world. Because I know where the predators, parasites, busy bodies, and irresponsible twits would choose to go and I wouldn't have to put up with them.


Hold the Elevator

There are bitches and then there are bitches.

A friend of mine was telling me about a t-shirt she had. It said:
I am not a bitch.
I am The Bitch.
That's Ms. Bitch to you.
I wish I had that shirt. I would even wear it. But the truth of the matter is that a real bitch wouldn't need a shirt like that to let everyone know she was one. With a real bitch, there's something self-evident.

I personally don't have the energy or the inclination to be a full-time bitch. It takes some serious provocation to get me into bitch mode. Pretty much every woman I have ever known could be a bitch on occasion. Some less frequently than others. And of course, we all have those fluctuating hormones to deal with. But there are women who seem to make a life-style of being a bitch.

Whether it is inborn or the result of years of study and practice, these women are the epitome of bitch. Like a Pavlovian experiment, after one or two encounters with them, you become conditioned to expect it from them, to the point where if they speak politely or kindly, it is a major shock to the system and you wonder what's up with them.

For my part, I don't often let them bother me. Sometimes they are amusing, sometimes mildly annoying, sometimes disgusting, but they rarely provoke me to retaliation.

Of course, there are exceptions. One in particular comes to mind.

There is an employee elevator in the courthouse that is really a service elevator, so it is also a very slow elevator. Most employees try to be courteous and hold the door if they hear someone else coming down the hall. I am one of them.

One morning, CB(complete bitch) and I got on the elevator at the same time. The doors had begun to close when I heard someone coming quickly down the hall. I put my hand out and stopped the door. CB snarled at me, "What did you do that for? They could have waited. I'm in a hurry." The person got on, said thank you and I was spared from answering her. A few days later, CB and I were on the elevator alone again and I heard someone else coming, so I held the door. CB was thoroughly pissed off at me. " What is your problem? You know I don't like to be held up, but you just keep on doing it and I don't appreciate it." I outwardly ignored her, but I was tired of her bitch attitude.

About two weeks later, I got on the elevator and there she was. I turned around to face the door and just as it was about to close, I stuck my arm out and caused the door to open again. We waited, but there was no one coming. I turned, gave her a thin little smile and said, "Sorry, it looks like I've held you up again. Guess I must be hearing things. I hope it doesn't become a habit."

And since she was a bitch, she understood me perfectly.


Colleen and the Boyfriend

I worked for a time in the Magistrate Court Clerk's office. There was a young woman working there I will call Colleen. She was smart and friendly, in her mid-twenties and was well liked. She had a boyfriend she had been living with for a couple of years.

One morning I arrived at the office and found everyone, including the supervisor, standing around looking at Colleen. She was crying. It turned out that her boyfriend had decided to dump her and move in with another girl. He had moved out the day before while she was at work and she was devastated.

We were supposed to open the office at 8:00, it was 7:40 and no one was doing anything but standing there looking helpless.

I walked over and put my arms around her and let her cry on my shoulder for a minute. Then I started talking to her. I told her I was proud of her for coming to work; she had friends there who cared about her. It was better than staying home feeling sorry for herself. I kept talking and she stopped crying. I told her that once she got over the shock, she'd realize she was much better of without a man who could be that callous. She said she knew that, but she was afraid if he came back, she'd let him. I told her no, that what she needed to do was go to Salvation Army or Goodwill and buy the biggest man's flannel shirt and the biggest work boots they had. She should get the boots a little muddy and dirty and sit them just inside her door. She should wrinkle the shirt up as if it had been worn and then toss it over the back of her sofa. And if he came back, she should tell him her new boyfriend, the construction worker, wouldn't like it at all if she let him move back in. She laughed. Someone else got her some water and some wet paper towels and she washed her face and pulled herself together and managed to work that day.

I remember that incident for two reasons. The first is I wonder how it was that the least sympathetic, least emotional person in the office(me) was the only person who attempted to comfort her. I don't have an answer, because the only person's motivation I know with any certainty is my own.
As to my motivation. I liked her. She was a nice young girl. She worked hard and learned fast and was pleasant and friendly without being saccharine and phony. I felt a certain level of sympathy for her because I know it is painful when someone you love walks away from you.

But in honesty, I did what I did more because no one else seemed to be doing anything constructive and I knew we couldn't stand there all day. My main goal was to get her back to as stable an emotional level as she could manage. Both for the sake of getting our jobs done and so I wouldn't have to deal with overwrought emotions. If I could have achieved the same end by writing Do Not Cry Anymore fifty times, I would have done that.

I know that societal standards would dictate that I should have done it because I "cared". Because my heart was touched by her pain. I know that I do not meet societal standards.
So where does that leave me? I like to think I can accept myself as I am. If I can, why am I taking apart my own behaviour to analyze why I did something? Why does it keep working it's way around in my head, as if my behaviour is something I need to fix? Am I unconsciously buying into the "you need to be nicer" attitude of the world in general that usually annoys me?

I think I just gave myself a headache.

(Oh, Colleen met another guy about 4 months after this happened. They married six months later and have a couple of kids.)


Opera Babes

I am listening to a CD I bought not long ago by two women who go by the name Opera Babes. The music is wonderful.
I enjoy Dvorak's New World Symphony and one of the women wrote words for a passage from it and they perform There's a Place on this CD.
The words and their voices combine to make something beautiful.

There's a place, so I've heard, not so long ago
Troubled souls, welcome there, far from all we know
There's a place, so I heard, timeless and serene
Nature roams, freely there, in the meadows green
Gentle breeze fills the air, skies of palest blue
Silently waiting there, all to comfort you
There's a place, so I heard, where the living's slow
Pain, they say, ebbs away, as the rivers flow
There's a place, so I heard, waiting there for me
Free from care, life is there for eternity
No more fear, no regret, there's no price to pay
Restless heart soon will ease when you know the way
There's a place, so I heard, shade and light are one
Wisdom will lead you there when the day is done

There are times I wish I could go to a place like this, even if only for a while. Tonight is one of those times. Sometimes I think I see too much that I would rather not see .

A friend of mine who was a prosecutor came to my office one day absolutely seething about a case she was trying. The witness's mother didn't want him to testify because she didn't want any trouble to come to her because of his testimony. My friend was ranting about how angry the mother made her. I said she wasn't really mad at the mother, but at herself. I asked her if she could reach out and turn a switch and make the mother do what she wanted, would she be angry still? Her answer was, of course, no. My friend was frustrated by her inability to control the situation.

I am not often subject to depression. When I am, it is usually for the same reason my friend was angry. Because there is a situation I see spiraling out of control and I don't feel I can do anything effective to stop it. Worse, I don't really want to get involved because of the emotional storm occuring. Yet I still feel I have to try.

Three characteristics of an INTJ show up here. I can look ahead and see the probable outcome.
I would rather avoid an emotionally draining situation. But I can't stand to see a situation go bad without trying to straighten it out.

I am an emotional coward. It pains me to admit it, because I am rarely a coward about anything. But it takes everything I have inside to deal with uncomfortable emotional situations. When I try to figure out why, I put up walls against myself. The only reason that comes to mind is that the pain it causes me isn't superficial, but runs deep. I feel too much and when I feel too much, I don't think very well. And thinking well is how I keep my life in general under control. Too much feeling, not enough control. It took a long time to take control of my life and I hate to relinquish it. I really need to work on this.



In January, I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test,(http://www.personalitypathways.com/type_inventory.html) . I tested as an INTJ. A short time later, I took the Keirsey Temperment Sorter( http://keirsey.com/ ) and again tested as an INTJ. When I read the description of the personality type, it seemed that someone had been watching me and simply wrote down my behaviours and put a label on them. It was quite a revelation to me to discover that I was the way I was for a reason. Even more of a revelation that there were others like me. I joined an open-list for INTJ's in February and it has meant a great deal to me to finally find people with whom I could be myself.
They are an extremely diverse group. Male and female, different nationalities, different religions or no religion at all, different ages, different careers, different points of view. But with similar personalities and ways of looking at things and a respect for and enjoyment of discussion and rational thought.
Learning what an INTJ is and how an INTJ functions has caused me to reassess my life. I can see now, at least in part, that some of the difficulties of my early life were the result of the fact that I am part of a group that makes up a very small percentage of the population with a very different personality that the world in general doesn't seem to be able to understand.
I intend to break down the four parts and see what kind of effect, good and bad, each part had on my life at different age levels. It is not possible to go back and do it over again. What I am hoping for is a better understanding of my life now and how my past is still affecting it.


Heading for the Red Line

I have what I call my Idiot Tolerance Meter. It calibrates out to zero in the mornings and hopefully by the end of the day it is still acceptably low. I begin work at 8:00am. It is now 9:30am. The meter has begun to rise. Two attorneys have already jumped on me about situations over which I had no control and they have not been happy because I wasn't able to solve their problems. Although I was able to maintain reasonable composure with both, professional courtesy is beginning to wear thin. It does not bode well for the next person who comes in here with an attitude.

"Sometimes the only way to win is not to play the game."
There is a specific type of person I want to write about. There may already be a specific name for this person, but I'm not aware of it. I just call them the vipers and I cannot help but believe that everyone has had an encounter with one of them, sometimes as early as childhood.

Adults think this child is wonderful. So polite and charming. But there is another side that adults don't get to see. Mean, petty, spiteful, cruel. And if you try to tell an adult, they get onto you for being so mean to a sweet child. They never believe the truth about the viper. If you seek personal revenge after being provoked, you get into major trouble. There is no way to win.

My daughters had encounters with teenage vipers both at church and school. They were taught to be straight-forward, so they weren't prepared to deal with them. The viper accuses you of unkindness by twisting something you really may have said, but they have the ability to distort what you said to make it sound horrible. And the more you defend yourself, the worse the situation gets. I had to explain to them the concept of "Sometimes the only way to win is not to play the game." If a viper sets you up, you just don't respond, no matter what. That is what they want more than anything; because once you do, you just look worse and worse and they look better and better. It's hard to let a slander go, but it's the only way to beat them.

Adult vipers are even worse. They have had years to perfect their skills. I was witness to an incident just recently. There was a viper in a group. He thought very well of himself and made some sweeping statements and grand pronouncements that most of the group seemed suitably immpressed with. One person asked the viper a very simple question, based on a statement the viper had made. It had the potential to be embarrassing for the viper, so he refused to answer the question because of the questioner's "inappropriate attitude". There was nothing wrong with the question or the questioner's attitude, but the viper managed to get out of answering the question and place the blame on the questioner. The questioner became angry and ended up garnering sympathy for the viper and a reprimand for himself. Another person called the viper on an inaccuracy in one of his statements and the viper got out of responding by telling the second person he needed to learn to be more respectful to his elders and superiors. (Their age difference was less than seven years). But once again, the viper got the sympathy and the other person was made to look small and petty.
I despise them, completely and whole-heartedly. I would not accuse vipers of being sociopaths, but they do exhibit a number of the anti-social qualities of sociopaths:
I recognize at least ten of the characteristics in the adult viper mentioned above.
In a conversation with one of the two who had the encounter with the viper, I told him the same thing I told my daughters-
Sometimes the only way to win is not to play the game!


Happy Birthday to Me

A recipe today. A salad that is healthy. Kind of. For the most part.
Fresh spinach. Grape or cherry tomatoes. Bacon. Salt to taste.
I planted spinach last fall, in containers on the deck. I had six containers, but the squirrels dug up three. Still, the three remaining containers did very well. I have treated myself a few times already with this salad, and since it's my birthday, I am going to have it tonight.

Serves 1.
Cook 2 slices of bacon till crisp. Drain on paper towels, reserving the grease.
Wash the spinach(about 1 1/2 to 2 cups) and dry. I don't even cut it up if the leaves are small.
Wash the tomatoes. I use 10 to 15 for an individual salad.
Toss the spinach and tomatoes together.
Re-heat the bacon grease until very hot. Almost to the smoke point. Pour the grease quickly over the spinach and tomatoes. I never use all of it. Only a tablespoon or so. It should wilt the spinach slightly. Crumble up the bacon and scatter on the salad. Taste it before salting. It may not need it. Eat immediately.

I'm sure most people would look at the bacon and immediately shun this salad. But the spinach has only 13 calories and no fat; also a large amount of vitamin B(folate) and vitamin C. The tomatoes have Vitamin A and C and are rich in lycopene which is an antioxidant. They also have a low gylcemic index and are low calorie. Depending on the bacon, the calories aren't all that high. And it is so good.

About squirrels. We have a number of bird feeders in the yard that attract a variety of birds. They also attract squirrels. My mother has a running battle going with them and she rarely wins. She has greased poles with vasoline, she has added cayenne pepper to the seed mix, she has tried to hang feeders from limbs that she thinks the squirrels can't reach. We have purchased "squirrel-proof feeders". She has purchased the sticky traps that are used to catch rats. She sees them on the feeders and runs out the doors screaming, "You git from here!" They run far enough away to feel safe and wait for her to go back in the house. But she has finally gotten her revenge.

I was home for lunch and was checking something on the computer when suddenly there was country music blaring. It was only on for a few seconds, then silence. I thought it was coming from the computer. I found nothing. After about 5 minutes, it happened again, for a few quick seconds and I was trying to figure out what was going on, when I looked out the window. There was a paper plate loaded with sunflower seeds and my mother's radio sitting right next to it. I got up and went over to her kitchen, where I found her laughing hysterically. She had plugged her radio into a surge protector and run the cord into the house. She turned the power off and waited. Two squirrels approached the plate and while they were sitting eating the seeds, she turned the surge protector on. The squirrels did a vertical leap and headed for the oak tree in the backyard. My mother said they were knocking each other out of the way as they ran and both leapt at the tree and fell off, before scrambling back up it.

The squirrels came back, of course. But my mother had a marvelous time that afternoon, trying to scare them into heart attacks. So while the squirrels are still winning, she now feels like she has at least gotten some of her own back again.


You're Not Helping

I remember reading an article in the newspaper about ten years ago about a charitable mission in the metro Atlanta area that was closing down. It was begun by Catholic sisters and provided food, blankets, clothing and other services to the homeless. The paper was all aghast that this wonderful charity would no longer be available and asked why they were closing. The answer was telling. One of the sisters told the paper, "We have been operating this mission for seven years, and in all that time, we have not changed one life."

I understood. The word "enabler" is a familiar one to me. The word enable means "to provide with the means or opportunity." The sisters came to understand that they were just enabling. They were providing the drug addicts, the alcoholics, the mentally ill who make the streets their home with the means to continue living a destructive lifestyle. They were not helping.

My mother was an enabler. She enabled my father to drink by protecting him from the consequences. She covered for him with his work, she took care of the bruises and cuts he inflicted on himself when he fell or staggered into something. If he lost his job, she made sure the bills were paid, no matter how hard she had to work. She excused his behaviour to family and friends. And his drinking problem was never to be discussed, as if by not acknowledging that there was a problem, the problem didn't exist. She wasn't helping.

State Court handles misdemeanor charges. One of the most common is Driving Under the Influence. Mandatory treatment is almost always a part of the sentence. It has been my experience that family members have a harder time dealing with the treatment than the offender. A man called my office and was complaining about how hard a time his wife was having in treatment. He made excuse after excuse for her. It was too hard, they were unkind, they actually expected her to comply with treatment, no one understood how hard this was on her. I finally broke in and said, "Sir, you're not helping her." He stopped talking and I could tell I had shocked him. I told him about my experiences with alcoholics and I talked to him about the difference between helping and enabling. When I finished, he said, "I really do love her. I just wanted to protect her." I said, "Yes sir, I understand. Now decide if you want to help her."

I never heard from him again. But his wife must have completed her treatment and probation successfully, because she was never brought back in front of the Judge for any violations of the terms of her sentence. I want to believe she was able to do it because he was helping her.

I don't often step over the line from professional to personal when dealing with the public. It can be risky. But this time, I think it was the right decision.

This time, I think I helped.


Weird Things Happen Because of My Hair

I was born with dark brown hair. A deep, dark warm brown, only a few shades away from black. When I was twenty, I began to see white hairs at the crown of my head. I used dye for about six months and decided the mess and aggravation wasn't for me. So the white in my hair increased. But it grew in streaks and against the darkness of my hair, it looked pretty stunning.
By the time I was thirty-five, my hair was almost completely white. Or better to say, an unusual shade of silver/platinum. When I stand in the sun, it shimmers. In flourescent lighting, the light runs along the strands almost prismatically, reflecting little bits of color. The strands are fine and delicate, but it's thick and soft and straight, curving under slightly at the ends. I wear it simply, a little longer than chin length.

I am a private person. I mind my own business and expect others to mind theirs. But at least a couple of times a week, people make comments about my hair. Usually very polite, kind comments about how they think my hair is pretty or how much they admire it. That's okay. But sometimes my hair causes weird things to happen.

I work at a courthouse, and people are always coming and going. I was walking down a hallway and a older man who had been sitting outside one of the offices rose and stopped me.
"What color is your hair?"
"Excuse me, sir?"
"Your hair, what color is it?"
I was a little stunned, but I said, "Gray... white, I guess. "
No, no, I mean what color do you buy? I've never seen a prettier color and I want my wife to use it on her hair. "
At that point, I looked over and saw his wife, sitting on the bench he had been sitting on. I saw his point. The pale, yellowish blond color she had on her hair really clashed with those angry red slashes along her cheekbones and the deep purple tint of her puffed up face. I couldn't tell much about her eyes though; she had them narrowed almost closed as she glared at him. I politely informed him that it was my natural color and I didn't use anything on it and excused myself and rather quickly walked away. I glanced back and saw him still looking down the hall at me. And I saw his wife stand up. The wisdom of the ages came to me at that moment and it said, "Just walk away".
I did, but I've often wondered what happened to him. Twit.

Before the new courthouse was built, I could walk from work to the finance office, pick up our office paychecks, walk to my bank on the corner, deposit my check and be back at work in thirty minutes. I was standing in line at the bank. There were a couple of people in front of me and I was watching the time when I felt something ruffle through my hair in the back. My first thought was that it was a child being held by their parent. Children like playing with my hair. I turned around to smile. No child, but an adult. A middle-aged female adult. The smile faded and I raised my eyebrows and looked at her. She giggled and said, "I just couldn't resist seeing what it felt like. It's so pretty and shiny. And so soft. " By now, the other people in line were looking, too. I don't like drawing attention and I was beginning to feel uncomfortable. She reached up again and ruffled the front and sighed. "I wish I could take your hair home." Everyone laughed and suddenly I did, too. But I still felt weird.

There were pre-trial conferences going on and a female attorney was in the office talking with me while waiting for the opposing counsel to arrive. She was wearing a beautiful dark blue velvet jacket embossed with multi-colored flowers. I admired it and she talked about it being her favorite jacket. The door opened and a cadaver walked in. Moderate height, but rail thin. Dark, slick-backed hair with a widow's peak. An oversized head with dark, deep-set eyes, prominent cheekbones and sunken cheeks and the whitest skin I have ever seen on a human being. He introduced himself and his voice fit the rest of him. Slow, deep and whispery. It was the attorney we had been waiting for. He sat down next to the female attorney and we were all silent. He slowly reached over and placed his bony, white hand with it's bloodless nails on the sleeve of her pretty jacket and said, "I really like this jacket." He stroked it a few times, never taking his eyes off it. He moved his hand, then leaned over and took some of my hair between his fingers and said, "And I like your hair." Both the female attorney and I sat frozen.
And all I could think of was "Silence of the Lambs."
Just then, the judge came out of his office and invited them back for their conference. The female attorney jumped up and hurried into the judge's office. Mr. Cadaver let my hair slide out of his fingers and followed her. I sat there, with goose-bumps on my arms and feeling the chills run up my spine. It took a few minutes before I felt like I could even move. About 15 minutes later, the door to the Judge's office opened and both attorneys and the judge stepped out. The female attorney quickly asked to use my phone and the cadaver stood for a moment and then said good-bye and left the office. Of course, she really hadn't wanted to use the phone, she just didn't want to walk out with him.
The office was quiet for a minute, then the judge looked over at me and asked,
"Did he seem a little odd to you?"

Oh yeah.


A Failure of Logic

I am the child of an alcoholic.

That isn't the way it is supposed to be. I am 51 years old and my father died last year. In some vague way, I thought when my father died, that particular part of my life would be over and I could put it completely to rest.
A failure of logic on my part. When my emotions are strongly involved, my reasoning ability suffers.

I don't remember a time when he didn't drink. I remember the smell. I remember, even as a small child, learning to gauge which way he would weave as he was walking to avoid having him trip over me. I knew how to be quiet and unobtrusive so as not to draw his attention. I didn't want his attention. But I spent 30 years of my life trying, unsuccessfully, to win his approval. Because I believed that if I were prettier, smarter, better somehow, he would be happier and wouldn't need to drink so much.

A failure of logic on my part.

When you are never able to please someone, eventually you stop trying, no matter how much it would mean to be able to do it. I remember the exact moment it happened. I even told him that I felt I had wasted my life trying to please him, but that I would never try again. It felt good. I felt good. My focus changed. I began to look at myself differently, and without the filter of my need for his approval, I was able to see myself and my abilities more clearly and I was pleased. I believed that I had freed myself from the hold my childhood and the unhappiness that was so much a part of it had on me. I couldn't change the past, but I had dealt with it and overcome it. For twenty years, I believed.

Another failure of logic.

When he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, it didn't surprise me. He had begun smoking at 14 and smoked heavily his entire life. I didn't cry when he was diagnosed. I didn't cry for the month and two days he was at home under hospice care. I didn't cry when my mother came and told me she thought he was dead. I didn't cry when I checked his pulse and didn't feel one. I didn't cry while making his funeral arrangements. I didn't cry at his funeral. I did not cry at all. Not once.

Now, six months after his death, I find myself thinking about my father. I think about what he wasn't able to give me for thirty years. I think about what I wasn't able to give him for twenty years. When I do, I cry for both our failures.

And because I will always be the child of an alcoholic.