Friday, February 26, 2021

Review retrospective: So many concerts!

I had doubts about fitting decent coverage of the first 100 reviews into a single post anyway. I remembered it as an exciting time with some great bands, where some of the later hundreds just aren't going to measure up. 

I had forgotten how awesome it was concert-wise.

Already covered, my first band reviewed was The All-American Rejects, and there were four other bands associated with that concert. (The concert was at the end of October 2012, but I started getting reviews up in December because I was still figuring things out.) They got two posts and two weeks of songs.

I have also indicated that the band for my next concert, the Gin Blossoms, will also get their own week. 

It may be worth mentioning that in early October I wrote about seeing The Fixx at Music Millennium, and in February 2014 I was going to see Reggie and the Full Effect at Branx. There were cool, important to me things about both of those shows, and I did blog about The Fixx though I did not consider it a review.

That makes an exciting, extended concert-going period, but still does not tell you that between Rejects and Reggie, between January and December 2013, I saw twelve different shows. 

It was not technically one show a month, though it was mostly spread out. Sometimes things got a little tight.

Surprisingly, it was only seven different venues, with four at the Roseland, three at the Crystal Ballroom (so seven on Burnside), plus one each at the Rose Garden, Spirit Mountain, the Schnitz, and Wonder Ballroom, plus one at The Haunt, which was a "haunted house", but a seasonal set up one, not a real one.

It involved 28 different bands.

It involved more healing. At some point after I got to see The Presidents and the Daddies, I received new wounds. I had tickets for Keane and that was canceled when Tom needed to go to rehab, and I was at a Jimmy Eat World show with Maria and she needed to leave early because she had work the next morning and it was going late. 

I got to see them both. I knew it was exciting at the time, and I blogged about it twice (with some wrong predictions), but eight years later I had forgotten how exciting it was.

I can't even link to all of the reviews; it would be overkill. They will all be in the spreadsheet I am working on, and a link to that will go up when it is finished.

I can't do a song for each band this week; that would take a month! I am sure some will come up later. I am taking notes. 

Of course, I did songs for all of them then, and sometimes multiple songs. I didn't end up at the concerts by accident. Some of these bands meant a lot to me.

I will give a summary of the concerts.

Gin Blossom: Spirit Mountain Casino, Ambrosia opened. Went with Jeana and Angela. Encountered everyone in the band and talked to two of them.

The Killers:
The Rose Garden, M83 and Tegan and Sara opened. Went with Karen. With the openers, it was interesting to see that bands you can enjoy live can be totally not your thing recorded.

Keane: The Crystal Ballroom. Youngblood Hawke opened. Went alone. (first time, except for some Rose Festival shows)

The Gaslight Anthem: Wonder Ballroom. Matt Mays and Westchester United Football Club opened. Went alone. I had wanted to see them their previous time in town, but found out about it too late. Both opening bands were touching in different ways.

Mindless Self Indulgence: Roseland. The Red Paintings opened. Went alone. I briefly interacted with everyone in MSI Lynz and Kitty were especially wonderful -- and I met The Red Paintings singer, Trash. He explained to me why he doesn't hug people, and then he hugged me. I don't know if he decided I really needed it or that he wouldn't mind it.

Farewell My Love: The Haunt. Headliner was Snow White's Poison Bite. Also on the bill, Kissing Candace and Chomp Chomp Attack!, plus two local bands, Whispers of Wonder and We Rise the Tides. Went alone. This was my first time going to see a band because they had followed me and I was going to review them, as opposed to being previously invested.

Fall Out Boy: Roseland. New Politics opened. Went alone. Talked to David Boyd of New Politics for a bit and was really impressed with him.

Jimmy Eat World: Crystal Ballroom. X Ambassadors opened. Went alone. That guarantees not having to leave early.

Adam Ant: Roseland. Prima Donna opened. Went with Julie, Maria, and Bonnie. Talked to Kevin of Prima Donna for a bit. They were a find.

Pet Shop Boys: The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. No opening act. Went with Julie, Maria, and Tripp. That show was a trip, but this band does what they want, in their own way, and I respect that. Shockingly, it was their first time playing in Portland.

AFI: Roseland. Touché Amoré opened. Went alone. It was Halloween and everyone in Touché Amoré was dressed as a breakfast item. While I like AFI better musically, I will always have a fondness for Touché Amoré from that night.

ETA: Looking back at the pictures, only two of them were breakfast. The other three were fast food. Still delightful.

Third Eye Blind: Crystal Ballroom. TEAM* opened. Went alone, but I had interacted with some of the musicians on Twitter, and seeing the way they each got their moment felt really good. Also interesting talking to the TEAM* singer there.

Songs for this week:

“All These Things That I've Done” by The Killers -- This was a really good moment in the concert, and it's a fun song.

“The Lovers Are Losing” by Keane -- I love a lot of songs by this band, but this is the one that comes to mind now.

“Great Expectations” by The Gaslight Anthem -- They are good overall, but it is really about two songs for me, this and "59 Sound", but this one came first.

“Goodbye, Copenhagen” by New Politics -- Also a really good band, but this is one that really stuck with me and never got an official release. They are from Copenhagen so it is kind of about leaving home to pursue their careers.

“Feral Children” by Prima Donna -- I love this band and have done multiple songs by them, but I have avoided this one because it is a little too sexy. Be warned.

“Deep Slow Panic” by AFI -- Many good songs here, but this is one that was new at the time and really spoke to me.

“Come To My House” by TEAM* -- I had forgotten about this one until I started going back over old reviews. It's good to go back sometimes.

Related posts:




Thursday, February 25, 2021

One for Josh

There is another nagging thought here, though not specifically about me.

It comes from another two things that could have been separate but are tying together. I am swimming in a sea of synchronicity right now.

During "RememberSeptember, on October 11th (so really #RememberSeptemberExtendedDanceMix), I did a memorial for different people that I have lost from school days. I knew I had to do it because of other memories that had been coming up involving people who were already gone.

Joshua Westhaver was a big part of that. 

Along with those memories and talking with a friend, I was remembering Fiddler On The Roof and realized that I did not have stage fright, which was kind of interesting, and it made me think more about all of those drama and acting adjacent memories 

I remembered something I wanted to share. I thought I would go to a blog that had been set up in his memory, I did not know how to post there, and it wasn't that big a thing, so I was going to leave it alone, except for that nagging thought...

I don't remember Josh being in Fiddler

That seems weird to me. Of all of my friends who did any acting or stage management or anything, Josh was the most involved. He was in plays at Aloha, including the title role in Barnum our senior year, and he did several after graduation. He even has one film credit:

Fiddler was 5th grade, and I remember his showing surprising acting ability in 6th grade; that was the memory I wanted to share.

Actually, everything we did together was creative in some way.  

Let's go back in time.

Josh and I were at the same school but not in the same class in first grade. I think we became friends in second grade, so after I had suffered social death the year before, and before Jennie moved here in third grade. He did not get in on sleepovers, but we were all three friends, and the primary crew for Graveyard Airlines games in 4th grade. Then when Stephen moved here in fifth grade, he joined us.

My earliest memory of Josh -- and the story that I told at his memorial service -- was that the first time we really talked, we came up with superhero identities for ourselves. The next day he returned with pictures he had drawn of our costumes. 

I told that story because on the way down I was with another friend and we were reminiscing. She said how adorable it was. Well, to adults, sure, but for 2nd graders it was epic. There's a difference.

I knew he could act in 6th grade, because we did a sketch for English class together. Maybe it was about someone having a need. The way we did it, Josh was looking for a hat and he came into my combination footwear and head wear shop, It's Raining Hats and Clogs. At the time he had a Greek fisherman's cap that he wore all the time, but he took it off so he could buy it in the store.

This is why I remember his acting: I remember him coming into the "store" and looking at a shoe display and saying "I need a hat, not shoes!" Except that there was no shoe display. The only prop we had was his hat. Well, I might have made a sign, but that might have just been some drawing; I don't think we used it. However, the way his eyes went, you knew exactly where the shoe display was, and could picture it. It was clearly one of those short round ones. And the mind is definitely filling that in based on what you would normally encounter in a shoe store at that time (about 1984), but still, he was so convincing! And intense. I don't think my performance was great because I was trying not to laugh. I didn't know how deeply into the role he would get. 

That year we also worked on a short animated film for homeroom, The Garden Tragedy. It was actually my second animated film, because I had done one in 4th grade for TAG using clay. For this we used construction paper, ten years before South Park. And it wasn't just us; we worked with Karel, Lynn, and Marian, but I think we did some extra. I remember going to his house once, and I assume it was for that.

And then the boundaries changed, and a handful of us went to Five Oaks, while everyone else went to Mountain View. By the time we all met up again in high school, somehow our paths never crossed. I don't remember having a single class with Josh. At least one friend from junior high dated him, and I saw him in plays, in school and once after, The Comedy of Errors

I went with Jennie, so it would have been a mini-reunion. We should have tracked him down after the show. We didn't want to intrude. 

I didn't know that was the last time I'd see him alive. How could I?

But you never do know.

One of the painful twists in this story is that the friend from whom I found out that Josh was gone, Erin (who was also in that 10th grade drama class, and was so funny) is gone now too. I never saw that coming either.

I should be very clear that there was never any hint of romance between Josh and I, but he was a really good friend. That's not just because he was there when I needed someone, but also because we had such fun, with plenty of weirdness, and he could throw himself all in, to anything you needed.

This feels very much like the end of Stand By Me now. 

It's okay that we ended up walking different paths. I am more happy for what we had than upset that it didn't last, but I would have liked to have talked to him that night.

I really would have liked to see him in The True History of Coca Cola in Mexico. I did find video of The Adventures of Amyman and the Amazing Men -- I have seen him as Gilbert -- but I know there was a lot more to see, and I do feel that loss.

Our time here is precious and unpredictable. If you have something kind or loving or affirming to say, don't wait.

Related posts:

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Getting into management

Lest I give the wrong impression; my friends were not turning their backs on me. We still did some things together. In general, drama productions and the club and all of that took up a lot of time and shaped a lot of the social life.

For my sophomore year, I was not hanging out with anyone anymore. I tried a lot of different clubs. I rattled around at different service opportunities, based on what was posted at school. Most of that did not stick after I started working regularly, but that didn't happen until summer.

Obviously I was already at the point where I started using activities as my entry into socialization, but most of them didn't take enough time.

When I heard that the basketball team was looking for a manager, it seemed like an answer.

On the most basic level, for my needs, it was. It gave me something I could participate in where I had something to offer, and where there was a lot to do. It gave me something to focus on and kept my nights busy. 

With the coaches and some of the fathers, it gave me some men to look up to, though that became much more of an issue the following season. (We will get into that next week.)

There were times when it wasn't so fun, and I didn't know if I wanted to continue. Grant was a big help there. I knew I would finish the season, but was not positive that I would keep doing it. By the end of the basketball season, I offered my skills to the baseball coach. 

He didn't want me, but then the track team snapped me up, and the soccer team recruited me, and I became a three-season non-athlete.

Truly, it was tailor-made for someone who always felt there was something wrong for her, tried to make up for it by taking care of other people, and who was using organized activities and service as a means of feeling like she belonged anywhere.

It had its ups and downs. 

It definitely raised my profile around the school. Lots more people recognized me, which was initially pretty uncomfortable, but not actually bad.

Really, it was quite a ride. My junior year, the basketball team made the Final Four, and still made playoffs the year after that. The soccer team made the State Championship. Both teams had started out with a lot of the players on both the JV and Varsity teams, because there weren't enough players to fill out the roster otherwise. That changed. By my senior year, both of those teams had full rosters and there was also a full Sophomore basketball team. 

I was glad I was there for that, but they weren't my accomplishments.

(Track was different, because there is an overall team score, but from individual events. There were some good wins, and I think some champions, but it played out differently.)

It was not great for self-esteem. Yes, I was able to quickly and efficiently fold sweats and fill cups of water. I could carry things. I was great at caring about people. 

It was not the same as being able to perform a show-stopping musical number or complete a complicated math problem or win a trophy of my own. And having some self-worth shouldn't need to depend on proof that you have excelled in something competitive, but since that void was already there, being a sports manager couldn't make up for it. 

It did help me get through, which is probably the only fair expectation for a school-based activity.

Yes, parents, you really do have more influence on your children than their friends. Remember that.

Related posts:

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Drama relapse

The other nagging thought was confusion about taking drama in 10th grade as well.

I had been so thoroughly done with it. I remembered how angry I felt about it. I don't think I said angry things to anyone -- I kept it pretty internal -- but the feelings were strong. Why did I go back?

What came back was actually several memories. 

Okay, at Five Oaks I was in a group of six girls. Ericka moved after ninth grade, but everyone else was in that class that I took. 

I think I missed my friends.

I remember so many details from different sketches they did. We had one where we had to go over the same character at different life stages; I remember exactly what Karen, Nicki, and Danielle did. There was one where you had to be the multiple people in the same scene; I remember Ann's. 

There was one with different people with the same dialogue, so the difference is only the delivery, and one where you had to invoke the five senses. I remember mine and I didn't like them.

It was really pretty good stuff, and it was again possible to learn a lot, but I never quite felt right in it. I wanted romance and drama and to get some of this pain out and resolved. 

The reality is that I was much better at comedy. I understood it better and could come up with better material. But I wanted drama, and drama didn't work for me because it heightened everything that was glaring about what I believed was wrong with me.

Everyone else was doing it. Everyone in my junior high group but one, and from my grade school group a little too. Most of the new friends I made did at least one play, so I met them through old friends.

I have another memory of the class that doesn't make any sense.

We did at least two things that did not require creating original material. One was recitation from Cats, specifically "The Naming of Cats". I think I still have that mostly memorized, along with the prologue to The Canterbury Tales.

We also did some small group pieces. They were mostly dialogues but there may have been some trios. 

I did John Guare's The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year, which was pretty cool because I recognized it from some people on the speech team who had done it for a Duo Interp piece. 

The part that doesn't make sense is that I was paired with a guy. 

He may have been the only guy in the class. If there were others, there weren't many. He had fantastic hair. He was friends with at least one other girl in the class. I don't know how or why we ended up together. 

It's a romantic piece. It's also absurdist and ends with his wife killing us both with her shotgun, but nonetheless, there is attraction and connection. One transition involves a kiss, though we cut away before our lips actually met, which I think was the right decision.

Regardless, taking drama again gave me what I thought I wanted, and it was not enough. There I was, the object of affection, and it did not improve my self-esteem or make me think I was one white less repulsive.

It was lonely not having this thing to do with my friends, but this thing was no longer for me, at least not without a lot of therapy first.

What I really needed was something that fit my dysfunction and distracted me.

Well, "needed" night not be exactly the right word for that, but that's what I found and that's what I did.

Monday, February 22, 2021

No more drama!

It took me a long time to figure out why I quit drama so angrily. I knew my stated reasons, and they at least approached the real issue, but they were missing the deeper point.

I should go back to my first time on stage: Fiddler on the Roof when I was in 5th grade. I was a villager with a one-line solo on "Anatevka". I auditioned for Hodel.

Before auditions, we watched the movie in music, but it took several days. After the first day I wanted to be Tzeitel, but then after the second day I definitely wanted to be Hodel, and kind of Chava after the third day, but still mainly Hodel. The bookish aspects of Chava's personality felt familiar, but Hodel was spunkier, and she got to dance with Starsky.

I was worried about nailing her solo, but we didn't even include it in our play. I got "Villager". 

For unnamed characters, there were only three speaking parts. It probably was pretty good getting that, but I didn't really think of it at the time.

I very much wanted to be the ingenue with the love interest. I've always wanted romance. Part of the draw of acting for me was the chance to play at romance, not that school plays really play that up in the lower grades.

I have also always been drawn to entertaining other people, so when I write or do comedy or things like that, it gets there, but there was not the strong romantic association.

In junior high, before my split, I played the Three of Spades in Alice in Wonderland. It was not a great role; another case of slightly more to do than the chorus. I had been okay with that, but one day I just got fed up with it. 

That day happened somewhere not long after one afternoon of mockery and harassment that told me that I was romantically a joke and always would be. Really it was probably only 45 minutes for lunch, and a minute or so behind the school. It just felt longer.

In my head, I left drama because I was never going to get a good part, which meant a lead part, because I was not cute and I couldn't sing. 

That was not fair. I mean, I may not have been a great actress, but people got to try a lot of different things, and roles went to all kinds of people. I saw that happen. I also now see actors putting a lot of thought and nuance into small parts and it makes a difference. 

My reasons for leaving felt very diva-ish and was a little embarrassing, in retrospect.

Also, if I believed not being able to sing was a problem, starting a band where I was going to be the singer was foolish and that was my next move. (Ability to play instruments ended up being more of an issue.) Of course, lead parts in musicals were generally soprano, and I was not that, but there were things I could have done.

Later I told myself that the real issue was that drama would not have kept me busy enough, which again sounded reasonable, but was not really it.

I think I understand it now, and that is because of two nagging thoughts that I remembered for a long time before I could derive any meaning from them.

One was learning improvisation in class. I was a trucker hitting on a waitress (played by Will, so gender reversal). The teacher kept switching people in and out, so the hitting on was started before I was the trucker, but Will was turning down the come-on. I needed to move on, but I couldn't. I could not take another rejection, even though I was not supposed to be me in that moment. 

Of course it wasn't rejection that had gotten me there; it was pretended acceptance, but it messed me up, and I did not have any playfulness or ability to let go of ego, or any of the things that I needed to enjoy drama any more. 

I dropped Drama Club and joined the yearbook staff, and I dropped Drama class from my schedule and took Beginning Guitar. I couldn't accurately assess myself there either.

The way I understand it now is that losing my hopes of future romance was bad enough, but not even getting the chance to emulate it, with reminders of why I was not good enough to emulate or have it... it just hurt too much.  I had all of this undirected anger and needed a place to bury it, but drama would not work for that. I was spinning for a while.

It was not fair. Our drama teacher and director Mr. Smith was a really good teacher, and I learned a lot from him. Even if it could have been appropriate for him to diagnose my shattered self-image and fix it, I do not think it would have been possible.

That's because of the other nagging memory. That's next.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Review retrospective: The All-American Rejects, part 2

Much of my musical reawakening was related to getting on Twitter, and it just happened that The All-American Rejects -- one of my "before" bands -- dropped a new album, Kids In The Street, about a month after I had been on.

This may be why I initially attracted more Rejects fans than MCR fans, though there was overlap.

If a band never did anything but provided good music, that would be enough, but there are three things about this band that stand out as special to me, specifically related to the on-Twitter and reviving time period of my life.

1. They were my first band review: 

That it was a concert was important, but part of that is that there were four other related bands, and they were not the band that played first. 

I normally review bands for a concert in playing order, but failed attempts showed me that I could not do the other bands until I reviewed them. Then it flowed, and it was more of a gush, ultimately, but really, they needed to be first. That was how it worked, and then I could go on and do the rest of the bands, and keep going with other bands. Maybe breaking in needed love.

2. They revived concerts for me:

I had been to other concerts, even during the gap; I had already made up other missed bands The Presidents of the United States of America and the Cherry Poppin' Daddies. Those shows were both at the Crystal Ballroom, and that's where I got to see the Rejects too. It felt like a nice continuity.

There was something else though. My very first concert was Charlie Sexton at Civic Auditorium in the summer of 1986 (between 8th and 9th grade). Before the concert I had seen Charlie stepping out of a limo and going in the stage door, and then after we chatted with the tour bus driver. There was so much excitement beyond the performance.

So seeing Mike Kennerty, and talking to him briefly, and seeing Nick Wheeler walking Dexter, it felt so much like that magic was back. I have met and talked to many musicians and tour managers and stage crew now, and it doesn't get old, but the Rejects were a perfect start for what has come after.

3. They inspired a book series:

It wasn't just them, but I saw them just before Halloween in the same week that I was seeing Bad Reputation Production's play of The Lost Boys. Putting all of that together gave me the dream that became Family Blood, and then Family Ghost and Family Reunion

There are more vampires to fight (in Spruce Cove and in the Philippines and in Romania), and someday I hope to get there, but at the time I had just wrapped up one big project. It had been important to write that one, and I needed it, but it also had no commercial potential. 

Finding something else to write that I could believe had commercial potential (even if it is still unrealized) was important. If the musicians in the book became their own characters (despite starting out looking a lot like this band), that is right and proper, but it still left a deep fondness for the band. I mean, I was already pretty fond anyway.

4. They surprised me:

Yeah, I know I said three things. Sue me. Maybe the other things aren't quite as big.

It wasn't just that suddenly this band that I had liked was on tour and had new music, they also had an album I had completely missed, When the World Comes Down, from December 2008.

As badly as my world was falling down right then, I could have used it then. Finding it later is my reminder that good things can still be happening, even when you aren't aware of it.

5.  I am still learning from them:

I really thought these retrospectives would just be one week for each 100 bands, taking the top five or seven songs. It would not be fair to say every best song from the first 100 was theirs, but only one Rejects song was surely insufficient. 

Then, listening to them again, I had my favorites, but listening to the whole albums again was so good. Some Forbes writer was just saying albums are dead; dude, you are only showing your ignorance.

When I am not listening to new bands, I will usually go with play lists I have on various themes, but it is also important to listen to the bands you love every now and then. Go over the catalog and remind yourself why you love them. So good. 

I got to remember how it had seemed like there were a lot of counting songs on their debut album. Okay, they were "One More Sad Song", "Don't Leave Me", and "Happy Endings". Then there were all of the songs that worked for the 12-21-12 playlist: "It Ends Tonight", "When the World Comes Down", "The Last Song", "and when the sky is falling" on "Change Your Mind"... There are lots of smiles for all the yearning.

I must say, "Dance Inside" is a bit more sexual than I remembered.

I love these guys, but beyond that love, all of the counted points require two posts, and two weeks of songs. 

The first eight daily songs were from the first two albums, so now we wrap up with songs from the last two.

“I Wanna” -- from the surprise record, this was the one that caught my attention first. I remember walking around with this song on repeat in my head. And, it was the first song I sang for karaoke at my birthday party after that.

“Another Heart Calls” -- So yearning. It may be the track that reminds me most of their earlier work.

“Heartbeat Slowing Down”-- I generally prefer their faster songs, but this performance and Tyler's talking about it at the concert was heartbreaking, and then re-listening I notice some guitar work that is worthy of Johnny Marr. It may showcase their craft more. Technical prowess is usually not why I fall for a band, but I do still appreciate it.

“Fast & Slow” -- A very fun song. It could have done well as an official release. See, you miss things like this when you don't listen to entire albums.

“Kids In The Street” -- That year when they had a new album and I didn't know it? Among other things a childhood friend died. When this song came out four years later, in my mind it was just always about him. So even though in that dream that started the books, it was touring bass player Matt Rubano in that hospital bed, I know it was really Josh, and that dictated a lot of how things played out.

“I For You” -- A very brief acoustic song that is absolutely beautiful.

Related posts:

Thursday, February 18, 2021

If you're angry and you know it...

Humans are tricky, and we are rarely all one thing.

Without ever thinking that the people who hurt me were good people doing good things, I mostly did not let myself get angry or blame others for my hurts. I mostly accepted the pain as my due, and I mostly kept things inside.


I do remember about every six months or so having a really weepy and angry weekend. Family would be irritated because nothing out of the ordinary had happened, but the ordinary was exactly the problem. Sometimes it spilled over. 

I can also remember four times when I seemed to allow myself to get angry, back during the period when I avoided it. It may be productive to go over those now.

Two were essentially cases of self-defense. The other two were cases of making big changes for which I had very logical reasons that were probably not the whole story.

Yesterday I did a disclaimer about common names. For the self-defense stories, there is one common name and one not common one. I guess I will just call her "this jerk".

On the last day of 2nd grade, our bus driver said we could have a water gun fight on the way home. 

(There probably needs to be a post on adult conformity in upholding existing power structures, even when it goes against what their job should be.)

I didn't own a water gun. I was just going to sit it out, until Jason stationed himself in front of me and started shooting at close range. That sucked. 

I used his hair to pull his head down against the seat and held him there until we got to his stop. He got up with a red face and quickly exited the bus.

Mentally I knew it was not a nice thing to do. It probably would be something that needed repentance, because it was most likely at least a little painful and definitely embarrassing for him. I still know that now, along with understanding that him taking the cheap shot was not at all unusual for his age and maturity level.

I was still so proud of it. I loved that I did it. 

I am still not sorry.

Then, in junior high, this jerk makes a crack about my weight. I think it must have been not long after the other junior high incidents, like maybe I was just fed up by that moment that I could not and would not take at.

I looked at her and said -- very smugly, matching the contempt she had shown me --  "I wouldn't talk with that face."

I believe she wanted to kill me. I was kind of looking for a fight, and positive I could take her, but her friend pulled her away. Technically, this jerk had started it and her friend knew that.

My behavior here was more questionable. This jerk wasn't really that ugly. I mean, I didn't think she was particularly pretty, but there was nothing really glaring about her and she was quite slender, which counted most from what I could gather. I didn't think her haircut was very flattering, but it was in style. 

So, I was being dishonest to be mean, both things I considered wrong. I also was supporting patriarchy with the obligations it puts on girls and women to be aesthetically pleasing and potentially damaging the self-esteem of someone who was also an impressionable young women, even if she was kind of a mean one. 

An unarmed girl successfully defending herself against a boy with a (water) gun is arguably feminist; while insulting another girl for petty revenge clearly was not.

Still not really sorry. 

If I had just told her she was a jerk, it would have been true, but it wouldn't have made her as mad. 

Could I have befriended her? Usually, the people who were mean to me were not really people I hung out with. Could I have won her over and helped her be a better person? That didn't seem like an interest of hers, but maybe. 

Still not that sorry.

Whereas being on the playground with Suzy or at the lunch table (or just outside of the school) with Jason, Matt, and Steve left me feeling worthless and were always there as bad memories, the memories of standing up for myself are good ones. Maybe I am worth something!

And, possibly if I'd had more help believing that I was worth something, I wouldn't have needed to be mean to accomplish it.

(A friend remembers me burning someone impressively after a different crack about my weight, but I don't remember it, so that one didn't shatter me, but it didn't fill me with pride either. Maybe that time was too easy.)

I don't know that the important thing about these memories is the anger. The value was treating myself like someone worth standing up for, but anger wasn't the only path to that, and anger was what made that path meaner.

Anger could also make me more unpredictable.

It is more recent that I have made a connection to what happened with Jason, Matt, and Steve to my leaving behind drama, and all of the changes that happened after that. That's more for next week.

Then we will get into my father disowning me (the first time) and those repercussions. 

I now find it interesting that I quit my job McDonald's just a month after that.

I responsibly gave two week's notice and I had logical reasons for quitting, like the schedule and being tired all of the time from closing. Shortly after that I started working at K-Mart, which closed three hours earlier so that was a big help. I had risen as far as I could at McDonald's, unless I waited a year to turn 18 and be eligible to be a manager, whereas there were so many different things you could do at K-Mart that there was a lot to learn, and so it stayed interesting for longer.

I know all of that, but looking back now, and remembering that shortly after the incident my father came through my line at McDonald's, and that a boy from school was right behind him and it was all so awkward and sick...

I am not sure my reasons for leaving were logical. 

Maybe sometimes you change things because you can't change other things that hurt too much and you can't think clearly about, because you have reasons to be angry but you can't let yourself deal with those reasons.

Related post:

Wednesday, February 17, 2021


Disclaimer: Any names I am using are real, but were also the names of multiple people. If you think it could have been you but don't remember it being you, you're probably safe.

Okay, when I was fourteen some boys teased me at lunch, and then it continued with a minor sexual assault later that day.

It's weird how angry and irritated I feel trying to write some of this. I think it's because I have written about all of these things before, and how am I not done with them yet? But maybe I am more mad that they happened at all.

In the past I had a hard time allowing myself anger. It gets a bad rap as an unproductive emotion, and not righteous and good, so it would have felt weird to indulge it. My confidence in me always being the problem exacerbated that. To admit that something was unjust and unfair to me, therefore that I did not deserve it, was a little more affirmation than I was ready for. 

If you have to go through and grieve all your unprocessed grief, maybe I also have to go back and feel all my un-felt rage. 

That doesn't sound fun at all.

I was eating lunch with friends in the Five Oaks cafeteria. Our regular group consisted of six girls and four boys, even if it wasn't always all of us at the same time. This time none of the boys were there. In retrospect I believe that mattered. 

If they had been there, they would have been expected to do something, fair or not, but their presence may have also been enough to keep anything from starting. 

I don't want to need protection. I do not want protection to come from being someone else's property or territory.

Jason asked me to go with him. By "go" I mean going steady, not going somewhere with him. Neither would have appealed to me.

It was clearly not serious, so I am not even sure that I said "no". I am also not sure that I would have felt right saying "no". I mean, I was not interested in any of the three, but there was a lot of pressure to get a boyfriend, and so refusing would not only be counterintuitive but also would seem rude. Girls are supposed to be the nice ones.

Besides, they always tell you to ignore teasing.

But I might have said "no", or maybe ignoring was enough reason for Matt to sub in and then just keep going. All the way through the lunch period and clearing our table and walking to classes, "Will you go with me? Will you go with me?"

He had stamina; I'll give him that.

Finally I turned and said "Yes!" as I entered my class, because I was afraid he was going to follow me in and that I would get in trouble. 

I think this is why I felt the need to share the math teacher story; I was so sure that adults were not trustworthy.

For the record, we did have cafeteria monitors, because I remember I time when we were laughing too loud and they came to shut that down. Apparently this didn't disturb enough people.

I know I didn't think saying "No" would work. I wish I had tried "Shut up!" or something scathing.

I remember that I was relieved when he left. Technically he won, because he did get a reaction from me, but I also remember feeling unsettled for the rest of the day, like it wasn't over.

It wasn't. 

I almost did make it. I was on my way to the bus. It was the activity bus. It left an hour or so after the end of school buses and had a route with fewer stops, but it was helpful to have the option to stay a little later, and I used it a lot.

The three of them were there, between the school exit and the bus. As I passed them Steve reached out and started opening my shirt. 

See, I think of it as ripping open, but it was snaps. It was probably the most fashionable shirt I owned at the time, though I may not have ever worn it again after that.

Years later I talked to Jason about it; he didn't remember, but he felt bad, kind of.

I have never and probably will never talk to Steve again, but I learned later that the following summer he hit on one of my friends who was also at lunch.

The very next day, though, I talked to Matt. I asked him if we were going together. He said - and he did seem to have enough decency to be ashamed, but he did not apologize -- "What do you think?"

Well, my thoughts were very complex and for a long time I couldn't face many of them openly.  

Regardless, my essential takeaways were...

  • No boy can ever love you.
  • If he acts like he does, it's a joke.
  • You are a big piece of garbage, as evidenced by the way people treat you.

This was easy to believe. I had never gotten a lot of male attention, and in first grade I lost the boy that I liked because he found out that I liked him, so that all tracked. 

It also tracked because of me always feeling like there was something wrong with me, going back to my father's constant dissatisfaction with his life, but that I had determined was because I was fat.

Therefore, the reason I was an impossible to love joke was because I was fat.

Arguments against it could be the people who liked me and enjoyed spending time with me, but again, it was not boys asking me to go steady. To be non-objectionable, I would have to take dating off the table.

Unfortunately, dating was what I wanted most of all. 

I thought I wanted it for love and to get a chance to create a happy, nice family. (Naive. I know that now.)

Subconsciously, it probably was a desire to heal the wound that came from my father's dissatisfaction, strongly reinforced by societal messages that feminine worth is tied up in her attractiveness to masculine types. 

And while I did hold on to an oft-dashed hope that someday I would be able to lose weight and that would fix everything, it felt more like what I wanted most was impossible, and would never happen.

That's why I couldn't help but implode.

Related posts:

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Unable to ask

When I was 14 everything exploded. 

Actually, I guess it was more of an implosion. It was largely internal, and even if some of the results were observable, they wouldn't have an obvious meaning to anyone else. I didn't really understand what was going on myself.

By the time I was done reacting to that, I think my identity was pretty much set. When my father disowned me a few days before my 17th birthday, it was traumatic, but it was more that it capped off everything that had already happened, rather than sending me in a new direction.

Later, a few things that happened on my mission (and one right after) reinforced what I already felt, but were also steps toward eventual understanding and healing. At that point we will start the unwinding of the tangled knot. 

A lot of the healing was very painful too. It probably will not all be treated strictly chronologically, just in case anyone is wondering.

I will treat the event that caused the implosion next, but -- like other things -- its impact was largely due to my foundation. 

A key part of that foundation was not believing that I could ask for help.

So I want to tell you about my 8th grade math teacher. 

We were never a great match. She played favorites a lot, more than most. Most teachers liked me, but she didn't. I think it was at least partially because I did not do homework, which we were not graded on or required to turn in for her class.

I was never a big fan of homework. There was usually a book I wanted to read or a show I wanted to watch, or something. I went through multiple periods of reforming and trying to emulate good study habits, and then slipping back, all the way from first grade through college.

Part of that was that most academic things came really easily to me once I learned to read. That started the new habit, but it is also how I picked up a lot of things. 

It is possible that one thing that aggravated Mrs. Darling was that I was still passing the class without doing the homework. It was only passing with a C, but you were supposed to see the value of the homework in how it prepared you for the tests, I guess. 

One test was right before Christmas break. I know because I was wearing a Santa hat, and I had one of those foil-wrapped chocolate ornaments hanging from the hat. I also had a newspaper article on my desk that I had written some notes on, because we were allowed to have some notes during a test. Yes, it would have looked better if I had found a blank piece of notebook paper and copied out what I wanted neatly, but I was probably in a hurry. It was almost Christmas vacation!

During the test, she came over and just started yelling at me. 

It was scarier because I could not understand the source of the rage. At first I thought it was the hat and I took that off but she was still yelling. Apparently she thought the article was a form of cheating, but if cheating was only having the book or looking at someone else's paper, then whatever paper I had there shouldn't have mattered unless it was the answer key or someone else's test.

It was really scary for me, but I don't think I was the only student who was scared; I would have been freaked out about someone else being yelled at that way. 

If I recall correctly, at about the same time I realized she was complaining about the article and I showed her the note writing, she also realized that she was being scarily unprofessional, and kind of backed down. There wasn't an apology or anything, but we could finish taking the test.

It was so unprofessional. 

As sure as I am that if I had complained to my parents about people being mean to me about being fat, that I would have been encouraged to lose weight, it does seem possible now that someone would have cared about a teacher blowing her top in class. 

I am sure my school counselor at the time would only have chuckled and tried to smooth things over. School counselors were useless to harmful more often than I like to think about. 

But maybe someone would have gotten mad about that. Seeing some anger on my behalf instead of at me would have been really good. That was something I had to work out later.

Maybe someone would have wanted to do something about a boy ripping my shirt open on school property.

It's too late to find that out now.

As it was, I finished Algebra with a C, and was still not passed, and had to repeat it the next year. 

The bad part of that is that if I had finished Algebra Trig a year earlier, I could have stayed in Physics instead of dropping down to Intro to Physics, because that was the math I needed there. A few months after the drop, all of those formulas were familiar.

The good part is that if I had gone on to Geometry, Mrs. Darling taught that too. The last thing I needed was another year of her.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Clear pictures, nagging thoughts, and homework

I am going over and reviewing old posts anyway, but I am also looking up previous posts that relate to what I am covering now. 

There are a lot of related posts.

In that process, I keep being reminded of all the assignments that I gave myself. Even birthday celebrations were assignments twice. Many journal sections were based on exercises in different books that later led to blog posts.

That's not surprising because I have a strong tendency toward giving myself assignments. It has a downside, because I often turn things I enjoy into work. I can struggle with that, but I generally end up being glad about the things I have done.

It does feel a little surprising to notice the scope. It hasn't felt like that much for that long.

Knowing that at least some readers are relating is gratifying, but it also gives me a sense of responsibility. A lot of the healing was preceded by great pain, and it isn't always a great idea to do it on your own. 

It will be easy to get ideas from some posts, but I am leery of making recommendations. 

I have learned to trust my own sense for myself, and that has led me pretty well, but it is also a very personal thing. 

If you have a lot of memories blacked out, that may indicate sexual or physical trauma. It may take something like EMDR to even access the memories, which generally only happens in a professional setting, but also it is a good idea to have a professional guiding you through the memories.

Remember the woman who talked with her therapist and discovered that unmourned loss of her mother? If you are going to need to spend three days crying to get through a loss, you may not have the time for that now. She couldn't put it off because it was damaging her relationship with her daughter, but if you are functioning pretty well and this doesn't seem like the time to rock the boat, that's okay.

(And if three days of crying is what you need, and you can do it, put some thought into hydration and electrolyte replacement. It can be brutal, even if it is what you need.)

With all of those caveats, this is a thing that I think is probably safe, and can be a good starting point.

A lot of these events that I am writing about were very sharp memories. Some of them were more obviously significant, but others didn't seem too important until I would keep getting these nagging thoughts. Why did I take that class? Why do I keep remembering that moment?

If you already know you have some memories like that, it probably would not hurt to write about them. Capture the details. Sometimes I know when something happened because of where we were living or who was there.

The ideal thing used to be a loose-leaf notebook, because if you remembered something later that happened earlier, it was still easy to get things laid out in chronological order. With an open text document, computers can make it even easier.

While that can be more free-form than the expressive writing, there are similarities and in general people had very good results with that. 

Then you may start noticing connections, and you can start thinking about where to go from there. 

Related post:

Friday, February 12, 2021

Review retrospective: The All-American Rejects, Part 1

I could not limit myself to one week of songs from The All-American Rejects. Since I have enough thoughts about them two fill two distinct Friday posts, I am going to allow it.

Many years ago there was a question posted on Facebook: if you were in charge of a music festival, which five bands would you book?

This was very easy for me. In no particular order, the line-up would be Gin Blossoms, The Presidents of the United States of America, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Maroon 5, and The All-American Rejects.

This was because they were all bands I had wanted to see, and then not been able to for one reason or another. Getting to see them all would be a concert of great healing.

The first three were all bands that I had wanted to see in college, and had even played Eugene (the Daddies played there all the time). With no money, no transportation, and working a lot of nights, it just didn't seem possible. 

Between graduating college in 1996 and getting onto Twitter in 2012, most of the time current music felt like a vast wasteland. Yes, I did get into The Clash and Ramones around 2000, but that was more discovering that there was older music that I missed, not that there was still new stuff. However, at one point in wondering if there was some new stuff, I started going through my sister Maria's CD collection.

This is where I found The All-American Rejects. I loved them immediately. Then they were going to play in Salem, but I couldn't go, so there was yet another miss.

It was also during this time period (though through a different source) that I heard Songs About Jane by Maroon 5. I loved it, and I did actually have tickets to see them. I got sick, and so Maria went with a date. That was disappointing.

Between then and 2012, it just felt like Maroon 5 was getting more tool-ish, and I don't need that particular healing any more. 

Also, I have gotten to where I have wanted to see and then been able to see many more bands, including all of the other four. The Presidents and Daddies were before I started doing reviews, and it's fine. I am glad I got to see them, and it's okay.

My feelings for the other two go much deeper, and the Gin Blossoms will get their own week, but after I actually write something about the new bands that I encountered through Twitter. 

But first, two weeks on the Rejects. There is a lot to them for me, and a lot of that starts in 2012.

For now I want to say that they are my bridge band. They are tied to what I had liked before, but also tied to all the bands I found later, many of whom had been around for a while.

Perhaps that makes it make sense that they are synonymous with hope for me. 

That is probably more for their music, and for an emotional response that I had early. 

One part of reviewing lots of different bands and studying some types of music more is increased appreciation. This band is a lot more technically solid than I had originally realized.

Before that, there was hearing the lyrics and the pathos in Tyson Ritter's voice, and seeing that they would call themselves "Rejects" but still hearing hope and energy and optimism there. "Change Your Mind" is especially important to me there. 

But the songs are mostly going to go in order, and the first eight are going to be from the first two albums.

“Swing Swing” -- I heard this one before I listened to the CD. There were times when you could randomly catch a music video on television, so that was probably how.

“My Paper Heart” -- The first track on their first CD and excellent work.

“Your Star” and “Change Your Mind” -- With these two, especially the second, it feels like they are acknowledging all the hurts and doubts, and then encouraging me.

"The Last Song" -- This one stands out to me because I caught a glimpse of the video on TV, but then thought it was "Drive Away" (I guess because I saw a part with the car, but the tempos are similar) and could not find it again for a long time.

“Dance Inside” -- It's mainly because the song is beautiful, but this year the band put out an album of favorites, and this was the first track, which I found extremely validating.

"Dirty Little Secret" -- Fun song with a touching video, but for me it's really the into.

"Straitjacket Feeling" -- This may give a better sense of that "pathos" I referenced, but also, I love it.

Like I love this band.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The fat girl

This is also a frequently visited topic (the links below are only a tiny part of it), but I might be able to come up with some new things to say.

For the title, I am going for the juxtaposition with the mean girl of yesterday's post. (Not that you can't be both mean and fat.)

I like those little touches, but it is also "the" because once I started seeing myself as fat it became the only thing about me. It also felt like I was the only fat one. There were so many times where I just could not accurately judge my body size or the size of the bodies around me; that I was fat was all that mattered.

Continuing with juxtaposition, in the same way that Suzy's bullying was aided by the impression of social approval being on her side, targeting the fat as the problem was also brilliant. There were so many other factors in the world designed to show me that my body was wrong, and that was the specific way my body was wrong, and that being fat was awful and completely worthy of censure.

I believe I was still in junior high when my doctor kindly gave me a 1000 calorie per day diet to follow. That may seem like a bad idea for someone who is still growing, but my mother had the same diet and I had been looking at it and trying to follow it for at least two years at the time.

I remember specifically a Health class during the nutrition segment, so 9th grade. I was starting over again, promising myself to be good, and to avoid burning up all of my calories early, I had an apple and an orange for breakfast. Then the teacher talked about energy and how you need to start the day with grains or proteins; there was no lasting energy in fruit. Somehow I was all wrong again.

What makes it brilliant is that you can't get it right. Not only will the overwhelming majority of diets fail, but they will actually cause your body to store additional fat, making you even more out of order than you were before. 

If we look at bullying as a form of social control, then targeting body size is very effective. Attempting to reduce saps energy from the targets, making them more pliable, and the constant failure will be demoralizing. Best of all, being set in opposition to your body motivates you to stop listening to it (important information comes from there), so it dulls your instincts and diminishes your sense of self.

I could have been worse off. Accepting social rejection probably preserved a lot of my individuality. It was still a struggle to accurately know myself, or what I needed, and especially what I was worth. 

If it hadn't been Suzy, I would have gotten the message that I was fat somewhere else, multiple times. Maybe that's why now my focus is more on the ways that the whole thing was kind of impressive, and less on what it did to me. But again, this is old territory.

There is still new ground to be covered. I have been reading a lot on that, and I am sure I will get back to it. I will go off on many things and I will be angry.

For now, I have mostly accepted myself as I am, and I think I have finished grieving the past loss of my connection with my body. It would have been nice to appreciate what I had then, but getting there now is still pretty cool.

However, I also have to know that I am not completely free. Clothing choices are still limited. I may be judged in job interviews. In fact, lots of people may judge me for my size. I want to not care, but you know those stories about how obese people are in more danger from the virus? It turns out a lot of that is medical bias against obese patients, affecting diagnosis and medication dosage. Once you correct for that, the morbidity factors are about the same.

I get it. Back in the day, everything wrong with me I blamed on that. Dry scalp? It's because I'm fat. 

There is a limit to how much I am allowed to not worry about it.

But I can say that the amount of not caring that I have been able to achieve feels fantastic.

Related posts:

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The mean girl

I've been having a hard time getting to this one -- the formative event that happened when I was 6 -- because it feels so mundane now. I know it happened, I have processed it and most of all I have already written about it.

Well, I went back and checked. I did write a little bit in October, for one new realization, but that one insight where things really became a lot clearer? I wrote about that in 2014.

That might be old enough to be new again.

So let's go back and take another look.

The vivid flash of memory is about being cornered on the playground in first grade. I was sitting by myself on a rock, and Suzy and a pack of girls stood in a group in front of me, facing me, and she started talking about how fat I was.

For a child who had always felt there was something wrong with her, this clicked: it's because I'm fat! All of it!

There will be more on that tomorrow.

The most recent insight (the October 2020 one) was that although it felt like it was every girl in the first grade, it really wasn't more than five or six girls total. The effectiveness of bullying is often more in what it represents than what it is.

The other insight, from December 2014, was that it fit in with two other events. I had started the year playing mostly with boys, acting out Star Wars and Buck Rogers. There was one girl, Laura, that wore modified Leia braids. She got some attention, but she wasn't as interested in reenacting science fiction movies, so that was my spot.

Then Shawna told Casey that I liked him. Suddenly I didn't have my boy friends any more. That is why I was alone that day, and vulnerable. Then I started to bond with another girl, Keena, but she moved. 

It took a while to recover from that socially. An argument could be made that I never did; I have some really good friendships, but I am not great at small talk or picking up on social cues. This is why I sometimes wonder if I am completely neurotypical, but it could be a lack of socialization. 

This may be why it was important to write about abandonment first. If I have abandonment issues, they are not only my father's fault. Also, this may have meant that the boundary change that sent me to a different junior high than all but about four other students hit me harder, as well as some other things that happened with friends and mission companions. Hold that thought for a few posts.

This is actually a fairly new realization, but I think I started using activities as a buffer for socializing. In later grades there were three guys that I played basketball with at recess and sat with in math. That is not an insignificant amount of time together, but I didn't consider them friends; that would have felt really presumptuous. There were just things that we did together. 

I had some really good friends, but in the absence of that kind of trust, I needed to be relevant in some way to feel like I had permission to be in that space.

Realizing that there were so  many things that I missed makes me wonder what else was there.

Is it possible that there was some jealousy that I was friends with boys? Was that a motivator for Shawna and Suzy?

Was the break with Casey really irreparable? I took rejections to heart pretty immediately and permanently, but could we have been friends again if I had tried? That could have been healing.

Mainly what impresses me now (in a horrifying kind of way) is how adept Suzy was at bullying. I mean, talking about me in front of me instead of to me was so much more effective and dehumanizing. If she'd actually spoken to me, I might have found my spine. I have always thought of this being when I was 6 years old, because it was first grade, but we had probably already turned 7 by now, really. Still, so advanced!

I should be shocked at the meanness at so young an age, but I have seen a little girl going on 3 cut another little girl out with just a turn of her shoulder, and she was really pleased with herself about it. I thought it was shocking, but clearly there are things I just don't get, and I don't even know how you get them. 

I cannot stress enough how much I did not like Suzy even before that day. She clearly had some leadership qualities in her own way, and I know at least one boy who thought she was cute, but I disagreed. (It was Adam though; he wasn't very discriminating, at least not then.) I had a childish certainty that she would not be nice to animals, which says a lot about how I evaluated other people.

I mention that not merely to go off on Suzy (though I can't help wondering if she had other victims, and how many, so if this comforts anyone out there, okay) but because it goes with another realization - already written about a long time ago - where I have been bothered by how much I did not like or admire or enjoy the people who had so much influence on my life. 

It makes sense that my family was a big influence, but one bratty girl at school and three random guys in the cafeteria shouldn't have had such a hold. 

It didn't make any sense to listen to her, except that I had always known something was wrong with me, and that felt more clear than ever after losing my recess friends. 

I saw a tweet the other day:

"If you wouldn't go to them and ask for their advice, then their criticism should never matter."

I think he's on to something.

Related posts:

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Wild abandon

This is actually the post that I thought I was going to do Thursday, but it feels like that's not quite the right order.

To begin with, I am going to tell you about something that didn't happen, but was only imagined.

What did really happen was that my father took me to the dentist, and to Tryon Creek after. Our family dentist was on Terwilliger at the time, and we had family history related to Tryon Creek, so that made sense.

It is a little more surprising that it was my father taking me instead of my mother. I think I was around four, and my younger sisters were born a month after I turned five, so it could have had something to do with her pregnancy.

Anyway, he had brought a pack of Hostess cupcakes. I got some on my face and he took out a kerchief. 

Recognizing the object and its traditional use, I said that if he needed to sneeze, he could use that. 

He responded, "Or if there was a girl with a dirty face."

I suddenly had the wildest vision of him coming across another, cuter little girl, and going away with her.

He didn't do anything wrong in this moment, but I had so little confidence in him already.

My father would never have left a child alone in a wooded area. He did end up abandoning all of us eventually, with some betrayals only a few years off. I didn't exactly know, but even then I sensed it.

Now I want to talk about some potentially related things.

I cry at movies. Way too easily. Sometimes at trailers. Sometimes remembering a movie a week later. 

It seems to be worse if it is related to parental or pet issues, when relationships are disrupted or affection is not reciprocated. Specific films that have gotten me very badly are Coco, Babe, Up, Lilo & Stitch, Bolt -- which I haven't even seen, just a video from it -- and not a movie, but the Jellaby series has a missing father anyway, and then there's a monster that bonds with a human, gets abandoned, and turns evil, and I just dissolve.

I realize a lot of people have cried at those movies, but for me it feels like it is all out of proportion, like I am broken inside and in those moments I have lost the ability to do damage control.

In one of the books I have read recently, a therapist had a client who had severe fear issues that were damaging her relationship with her daughter. They worked it back to the client's mother having a breakdown when the client was a child, so she was sent to her grandmother, and there were never real explanations for all of the separations. Ultimately, she'd had deep losses that she had never been able to grieve.

Well, the grief hit, and then she just spent hours crying. I had thought that maybe you could know that you had missed grief and acknowledge that without having to actually go back and shed all the tears that you hadn't shed then, but maybe not.

The other thing I read in the past year was some belief - though not consensus - that all addiction is rooted in fear of abandonment.

It doesn't seem right to call any of my compulsive behavior addiction, because they are all for pretty tame things. In fact, I haven't played a single game of Spider Solitaire or Minesweeper this year, and I am not in withdrawal, though sometimes, when restless and not sure what to do, I think about it. 

I am also drinking more pop, and that may not be unrelated.

(I am very grateful that my religious upbringing has kept me away from the usual addictive substances, because I clearly never needed that.)

I nonetheless may have some fear of abandonment. 

It is also possible that I have unprocessed grief. The early indoctrination that no one wanted to hear me cry makes that more likely than not.

I think I have gotten better at recognizing my emotions as valid, and letting myself feel things. I probably do still keep myself too busy. Habits matter, no matter how intellectual you get.

The way I conduct relationships may also be influenced by abandonment issues, because the inability to rely on people staying was reinforced in other ways. Some of my adaptations may be insufficient.

That will come up in other posts, but I think it is similar to when I was trying to learn to trust. It's not that you can trust everyone, or know for sure whom you can trust, but you can learn that you can survive someone letting you down. 

This feels a lot less confident than some of the other things I have written recently, but they are also newer concepts for me. I haven't had as much time to internalize them, or test them.

I don't know the next time I will sit in a darkened theater, or the next time I will do on a date, and there are questions.

But I am better about myself.

Related posts:

Monday, February 08, 2021

Failure to communicate

Years ago I started to see three primary events that had influenced my life: one incident of playground bullying in first grade (that we will get into tomorrow), one prolonged incident of junior high harassment, and the first time my father disowned me.

Later, I started to notice other clusters. For example, that playground bullying went along with two other things, making its own triad. It is not a hard and fast rule, but some traumas are worse because of the reinforcement.

Without saying that all three of today's incidents count as trauma, they did still reinforce each other into one clear message.

The first happened when I was about 3. We were heading into K-mart and I was crying. I do not know why I was crying. Frankly, 3-year olds can go off kind of easily, but it was probably something that happened in the car. My father spanked me right as we were going into the doorway.

This is actually pretty unique in that I know why he spanked me. We didn't get spanked a lot, but the common denominator is that while I rarely remember the offense, I consistently remember feeling that I was not understood. My perspective now is that my reasons wouldn't have helped, at older ages when I tried explaining myself more, it was always useless, and just used against me.

(As a side note, I think those little talks about "Do you know what you did wrong? could have really helped me.)

One spanking offense I do remember was a snow day when I was about 7 or 9. My younger sisters and I were playing in the front yard and I was supposed to watch them, but I started talking to the neighbor kid. I think I was still in the driveway, not far but not watching attentively. I got smacked in the behind with a metal clipboard for that.

That was not one of my three "Don't cry!" incidents, but it does go along with my belief that if your child would be too young to babysit the neighbor's kids, that child is too young to watch younger siblings, which leads to the next story.

The common thread in all of these is that I was crying, and I don't remember why I started, but I remember why I stopped.

In this case I was about 4, and Mom needed to do something for just a few minutes, so my older sister who would have been about 9 was watching me. 

While I don't remember why I was crying, I do remember why it was a problem: we were supposed to go to Wildlife Safari that weekend. She was afraid that if Mom came home and found a crying child, the trip would be off. 

She took a knife and threatened to stab me. It worked.

I do not believe now that she would have really stabbed me. I did believe it then. 

One of the other scary moments of my child was a different  time when she was watching me. Our younger sisters were getting into everything, so they were probably 2, and we would have been 7 and 12. Because of the younger ones, we had put a chain on our bedroom door to keep them from coming in and wrecking stuff. For reasons I do not remember, the chain went up while I was in the room.

Well, I was going to outsmart her. I went out the window. Unfortunately, on my way out I accidentally kicked one of her ceramic horses (I think the Clydesdale), and one of the legs broke. That gets horses killed, and I was sure I was going to die. I was out of the room - and house - but I also was barefoot and had nowhere to go.

I think the resolution was that a parent came home, and I just casually strolled in and it was never spoken of again, but still, having your older kids watch your younger kids is not automatically okay.

Here is your third and least interesting of the relevant three stories: when I was about 6 my brother gave me a candy bar to get me to stop crying.

I don't have any other anecdotes about that. If food sometimes became a source of comfort, that goes more into the next two posts.

I only mention it because as part of that theme, the overall message was that no one wants to hear about your problems. The bribery is nicer than the threats or the hitting, but for that child who always felt like I was not understood, and who often could have used an explanation of what was going on with other people, it added up to no one wanting to take the time. 

It is perhaps not surprising that somewhere in this time period I literally went through an anal-retentive phase. I am told that castor oil was involved; I only remember being taken on long walks and maybe one enema. 

I don't think it had anything to do with physical pleasure, Dr. Freud, man whose theories seem weird because you based them on deciding that the social cost of believing women was too high, but did it seem easier to keep gross things inside rather than dealing with them? Perhaps. 

Mainly, it became very hard for me to ask for help.

This is another point of sibling discussion: things that it did not seem worthwhile to ask adults about. We have concluded that in many cases our parents would not have known what to do or would not have wanted to be bothered, depending. I can see where it would help to feel like you could ask for help on difficult things, or at least reassurance.

Sadly, when I did give in and ask an adult for help, it tended to be disappointing. I eventually figured out how multiplying fractions made sense on my own; I never got any helpful tips on upper arm strength so I could successfully do the flexed arm hang or climb the rope.

That was really just reinforcement, because that was asking teachers in grade school, and it had already hammered home that if I came with problems, I was just a nuisance.

The best thing about me may be that I never decided that other people merited the same treatment. I became the helpful child that would assist with homework or if you needed a lunch ticket and was always very responsible about cleaning up work areas and getting group projects completed in a quality fashion.

But when there were times when I really could have used some help, asking never seemed like an option. This may be why sometimes in distress I literally lose the ability to speak.

It affected some things.

Friday, February 05, 2021

Review retrospective - Women Rock

After I finally finished going through all of the comments on Stereogum's list of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitar Songs (say that ten times fast!), I wrote nine posts about it. Actually, there were nine that used that heading, but "What about Bowie" was a direct outgrowth of that project, even though I was very clear at the time that I considered it to be separate.

I am going to list all of those posts at the end, but I am not going to re-examine all of them now. 

I do want to get back to the one about women rocking, though, because women who play guitar wonderfully were so consistently overlooked, by both Rolling Stone magazine and by Stereogum commenters. 

I dove in to women in rock. There were some I knew already, and I found some new ones. Also, because it was guitar, there were some that didn't seem to fit. Some of the tracks that really rocked, I thought did so more on the basis of the percussion, and that's a different thing. 

One thing that was important to me was a growing realization that it is really easy to discount women and automatically defer to men, and I don't want to be a part of that.

The other thing, and maybe the various blog posts are the greatest testament to that, is that this was my first big music project completed, and it was an accomplishment. I learned things. I started hearing things differently, and making connections more quickly. 

I can better recommend bands that you might like now. I like that.

The "Women Rock" playlist is not necessarily the best introduction to women playing guitar, but some of that was shifting goals. Reviewing things now, I can see that I probably need to do a few additional playlists, just for my benefit.

The next week of songs does pull from that, but it also pulls from things that came up later, including this article from last year that I really enjoyed:

That gives us the first song, "Highly Strung". It feels like a nice transition, because I did have a vague sense that there should have been more Steve Vai the first time around, and Orianthi definitely rocks. 

That could be reason enough to include it, but what I really love is its playfulness. Something I really liked about the Dragonforce video last week was the humor in the middle. 

"I'm just going to drink this while you shred. Oh, it's my turn to shred? That works too."

This is part of what makes it awesome when best friends form bands. (I know some great bands hate each other, and that's a shame. Especially when they're brothers.)

Here are the daily songs for the week:

“Highly Strung” by Orianthi, featuring Steve Vai

“Crazy On You” by Heart -- A classic, known before and appreciated last time around.

“One Shot of Poison” by Lita Ford -- Last time I knew Lita Ford but not this song. I was glad to find it.

“Divine Hammer” by The Breeders -- I finally got around to listening to The Breeders. It seemed important.

“Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill -- One of my discoveries from last time. It did make the playlist.

“Demolition Boys” by Girlschool -- I found this the last time around, and then kind of forgot about it. My bad.

“I Love Rock N Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts -- I knew this song and artist before, but I can still appreciate. It's a good way to end, because I agree with the song's premise. 

I love rock and roll.

Other "Greatest Guitar Songs" posts:

The trouble with internet comments:

What were they thinking?: 

You get a gold star!:

Mission Creep: 

Women rock:

History lesson:   

Bridges and Riffs:

Excuse me, you left out my favorites: 

The Sampler: 

What about Bowie?:

Thursday, February 04, 2021

More on Complex PTSD

Based on comments, these recent posts are really resonating, and there is a lot of trauma out there. It seems valuable then to go into my process of self-assessment, and also some resources.

I learned that Complex PTSD existed because of Kai Cole opening up about her divorce from Joss Whedon, followed by Brandon Flowers of The Killers discussing his wife's struggle with it. 

While these articles are from 2017, I don't think I encountered them until 2019. I know I used "Rut" for the song of the day in September 2019, and it felt familiar. 

I am pretty sure I read Kai Cole's letter first, where the trauma was in an intimate adult relationship that created a lot of self-doubt. Well, maybe the doubt instilled in her entire world and sense of reality was worse than the self-doubt, but it all relates.

(Our first lesson is that Brandon Flowers is a better husband than Joss Whedon.)

Because my relationship with my mother was so significant, and because caring for her was the majority of my existence then, and because so many times she was accusing me of lying when I was telling her the truth, that is why I worried that Complex PTSD could be a possible result for me.

No one was trying to gaslight anyone else. When she didn't believe me, I was telling her the truth. When she was telling me how horrible I was, she was just trying to get home. It felt horrible, and like no amount of time could ever take away that hurt, so I wondered. 

With Tana's story - which is really a more classic case of Complex PTSD - I started to doubt whether that was applicable. I was an adult, so not still forming my personality and patterns. My mother's disconnect from reality was painful, but it was also comprehensible. I might frequently have doubts about whether I was doing the right thing, or doing it well enough, or things like that, but things she said could never make me doubt that I was her daughter, and trying to do right by her, or who was alive or dead or grown or missing.

In retrospect, my recovery period tracks more with recovery from depression and anxiety; pretty straightforward and logical.

If I have any Complex PTSD going on, it is from earlier.

I have read a book on it: Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker, published in 2013.

Honestly, I didn't think it was great. Though he is a therapist, the book is based more on his personal experience. It is not overly technical. If you are wondering if you have Complex PTSD, it might help you figure that out. 

In looking things up for this post, I discovered another book from 1998, and I do intend to read that. I am also still waiting for another key trauma book from the library. Will they arrive before I have finished this blogging section? Will they provide more answers? I'm not sure. It's not that hard to get me to read something.

However, there is a level at which I am not too worried, because I am not sure how much the distinctions matter. For one thing, it is not impossible to have both regular and Complex PTSD. Fortunately, a lot of the same treatments are helpful for both.

I'm not denying that it is helpful to have an idea of what to call your conditions, and to understand their origins. I am a big fan of that. I am saying that you don't need to understand it to seek help; diagnosis is often included in process.

If there are things that you do where it doesn't seem like you are in control and you don't know why, that may be a sign of trauma. If you recognize a harmful pattern on your own and try and correct it but keep failing, it may have deeper roots. 

Those can be reasons to look for a counselor, or to read a book, or to talk to a friend. We start where we are, but we don't have to stay there.

One of the most wonderful things about this is seeing how many different things there are that can help, where it feels like there must be something for everyone, if you can just find the right one for you.

It is harder if you don't feel you deserve to get better, or that it is not possible to get better. 

My biggest message is to have hope.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Childhood's end

I'm skipping around with the order a bit. Yesterday's post focused on my father, and I feel like for balance this is a good time to write about my mother. This will be mainly about something that happened when I was nine, and then next week I will get to some things that happened between ages 3 and 6.

That was a totally different relationship. We had a lot of fun with Mom, and appreciated that she liked our music and our friends and was interested in the things we had to say.

That doesn't mean it was conflict free. Her parenting style focused on the things that needed correction. With my insecurities, I often felt like the only things she cared about were my weight and the messiness of my room. 

I don't know if her being different would have been enough to help me get over that sense of wrongness or not. I do know that my father had a strong influence on all of us about apologizing or acknowledging mistakes, and that limited our ability to get past things sometimes.

Regardless, we mostly got along and enjoyed each others' company, and I was fiercely protective of her.

Does that sound backwards?

In the part about my conception yesterday, I almost didn't add the threat about my father looking elsewhere if my mother did not get pregnant. I mean, there are plenty of things that make him sound like a jerk already; why pile on?

He did end up going elsewhere later, and this became another key point in my development.

It happened when I was nine, More details came later, but my first memory of it was one night when Mom was on the couch crying. I think my younger sisters were in bed, and my older siblings were doing other things, and I can guess where my father was. I only remember the two of us, and being so devastated to see her so sad. I tried crooning a song to her to comfort her, but it was not effective.

Sometimes people talk about the moment their childhood ended. I generally think it is a bad sign if you know exactly.

Maybe if it happens when you are a teenager, like someone looks at you funny for trick-or-treating, and you think "I guess I'm not a kid anymore", that could be a little sad, but still okay. (And teenagers are welcome to trick-or-treat at my house, no judgment.)

Nine was too young.

I know that there are things that Mom didn't handle well about it, but I have a lot of sympathy for that. 

My parents married really young. She was 17 and he was 20, and if it wasn't that unusual back then, by now science has told us that neither of their brains were fully developed. 

Also, being Italian, she came from a different culture, and was far away from her family as this happened.

For the most part, I think she did the best that she could, both in terms of how she tried to handle her relationship with him and in how she tried to raise us.

She did not say anything that night, but certain kinds of pain make me mute too. I don't know what she could have said that would have helped. She eventually did tell us that Dad was having an affair, and that I did not know what that meant, and she did not elaborate. He was spending time with someone else, and it was a hurtful thing. 

Should she have kept it from us? There was so much tension during it, and then there were big changes after it that we couldn't ignore, like him stopping going to church and her getting a night job so she would be less dependent on him, I guess. He gave her all of these reasons that he had strayed, like her cleaning too much and not being creative in her cooking, and maybe concerns about money was a part of that, where her bringing in money was one of the rules so he could love her again.

(Look, if you are confused about why the cheater was the one who got to set the conditions, remember this was forty years ago, that he could never admit he was wrong, and that patriarchy sucks.)

Yes, loving our mother would have been a good thing to do for his children. It just went along with a lot of other stuff.

All of this did two things for me. 

One is that my over-functioning, care-giving personality starts here. The seeds were probably already there, and the lack of value for myself that made it so dangerous was definitely already there, but I consider this the beginning of my chronic need to fix everything and make everyone happy. It has evolved and changed over time, but that wrote the script for a lot of my life.

This is also when I became fiercely protective of my mother, and that also affected many life choices. 

It involved some pain when dementia was something that I could not fix or fight off.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Always somehow wrong

In my church we like to quote that the greatest thing a father can do for his children is love their mother. 

Usually when people take exception to it, it's because they know of a man who had children with a woman who was very hard to love. I know people who have had that problem myself.

I get caught up more on whether the man loves his children, Or himself.

We also say that you can't truly love others unless you love yourself. That isn't quite accurate either, though there are elements of truth to it. It certainly affects how well you love.

My father was never satisfied with any of us. I don't think he was satisfied with himself either, which is its own tragedy, but it was combined with a refusal to ever admit being wrong. This eliminated apologizing and change.

He definitely could have been worse, and I think he has hurt himself more than anyone else. Nonetheless, there was this vague sense going back further than I could ever remember that there was something wrong with me. I was not good enough, and I did not understand why, which made it worse.

So much of who I am comes from that.

This has affected his relationships with all of his children. Reminiscing with my sisters usually ends in "He is such a dick!"

It might have been worse for me, because I was kind of born to fill a gap, and it didn't work.

Not every child in our family was planned, but I was very deliberate. My father told my mother "You WILL get pregnant!" (or he would go elsewhere) and she did. 

That happened a few weeks after both of my father's parents died in a small plane crash. 

In fact, every aunt and uncle who was in a relationship at that time has a child my age. Most of them have names with our grandparents' names in them somewhere, though I don't. On a smaller scale, it was like the baby boom after the war.

That was major trauma for all of them, but it may have been worse for my father because he'd had a fight with them not that long before and was not speaking to them. Well, the fight was more with his father (and his father had indeed been rude). I know his mother was upset about it.

My father did not learn from this. About two years later when one brother died, a dispute about property led to him cutting off ties with his two other brothers. He said that they were the ones who were not speaking to him, which is probably fair; for years they were not in touch with any of their sisters either. However, my father also ended up disowning every child he had over time, and multiple times if they apologized and resumed relations.

The first time he cut me off was pretty big trauma at the time, and I recognized that. Well, probably not right away at least. I mean, there was a level at which I knew it was hard, but there was also some denial where I told myself that this was easier than dealing with him, which also had some truth to it.

It took me a lot longer to figure out that at my base there was this problem where I was always feeling inferior, and somehow wrong.

Not that I would admit to being wrong easily; I did pick that up from him. It seemed like it was the most dangerous thing to do, like that's when other people move in for the kill. The penalties were so high for being wrong, that you could never admit it.

Then, over time you see that it is really obnoxious. Refusing to admit when you are wrong annoys the people who know anyway, pokes at the insecurity of others who may not be sure, and keeps you from learning and growing. Also, not admitting it does not change that you are in fact wrong. I did eventually figure that out.

Over time there were all of these things peeled back -- assumptions about what I was like and how the world worked -- and despite other factors they were largely rooted in my belief in my deficit, but I couldn't identify that until I had been through everything else. 

Getting here was good, but it was not easy.