It Might Hurt, but I Refuse to Toughen Up

It’s been more than three weeks since I’ve written anything, other than an e-mail to a friend and some private messaging on Facebook. Ever since I finished off my word count for National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo…or insanity) on November 30th, I haven’t felt the slightest urge to write a single thing. There was a writing contest I had intended to enter for The Prepper Journal, but I could not bring myself to even seriously contemplate a topic. Maybe I’ll send them something at a later date and ask if they’re interested in publishing it, but I desperately needed to take a step back from working for a little while. Luckily it coincided with the Christmas break for the show I produce, because I’ve been a completely lazy git for the last three weeks.

Not that I can blame myself for it. Most people don’t write a book in the course of less than a month, edit it in three weeks, and then write half of another book, while overlapping the editing of the first book. For two and a half months I worked every single day, usually from the time I woke up, until I finally fell asleep about twenty hours later. I’d take the odd break here and there, usually to binge-watch the X-Files with my daughter (we just finished season five and watched the movie a couple of days ago), but mostly I worked. Not that it felt like work at the time, because I was enjoying the hell out of it, but in reality I was busting my butt.

The problem didn’t really come until after my book was published and I started receiving negative reviews. The first couple were great, and I consider the majority of them to be positive. However, the negative ones were pretty bad, and in some cases downright rude or wrong. Believe me when I tell you that writers are very sensitive to criticism, though we’re told we just have to suck it up and move on. It’s not anywhere near as easy as it sounds. Even when a review is dead wrong (to the point where you believe they didn’t even read the book, or they skipped half of it), it gets in your head and plays a tune on you whenever your brain gets a little too quiet. I tend to have a lot of quiet time, so my brain poked fun at me quite a bit.

So, since the end of November I’ve been having a pity party along with my burn-out. In addition to that I’ve had to suppress my irritation with people. I mean, unless you’re stupid you don’t respond to the reviews on Amazon. It’s bad form, for one thing. For another, it’s a no-win situation. Not only is it rude to the person who left the review, but then other people start thinking you’re a jerk. For that reason I’m not going to talk about specifics even in my blog. People should be allowed to review. I do think Amazon should consider their review policy, such as disqualifying reviews from people who haven’t bought a product, or who are blatantly attacking or bullying someone, but other than that people have to be allowed to express their opinions.

I just can’t imagine expressing my opinion in such a rude fashion as some people do. Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian, and the whole mud-slinging thing is anathema to me, but there are rude Canadians, too, so I don’t think that’s entirely the issue. I think it’s simply a change in how people behave when they’re allowed to be anonymous. There’s an expression I like that applies to this.

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” ~ John Wooden

We’ve all seen what’s been happening online these days, particularly when it comes to inflammatory issues. Women are subjected to rape and death threats online, just for stating an opinion. Muslims are seeing hateful rhetoric in a constant barrage. Gun-control advocates are getting threats that they’ll be shot by ‘responsible gun owners.’ If these people were sitting face-to-face, in most cases the majority of their words would not pass their lips, and that comes from all sides of the arguments. It doesn’t matter if a person is a liberal or a conservative, a man or a woman, a Christian or a Muslim. We’re all guilty of it.

When it comes to my personal situation, I tried to make myself feel better by looking at reviews other authors had received, and it actually made me feel worse. Sure, I felt like I was in pretty good company. Well-known authors (such as Nora Roberts, Karin Slaughter, and J. K. Rowling), were subjected to major abuse in their Amazon reviews. I started seeing that the reviewers who spoke like that had some issues. Often they were extremely hateful. Teenagers were leaving nasty reviews about the Harry Potter series, and I have to wonder how they even have access to leave comments. In order to review an item you have to have made a purchase on Amazon, which means you must have a credit card of some sort. In most cases that would mean it’s the parents’ accounts, and yet the parents are okay with their kids leaving those sorts of remarks. It doesn’t bode well for the future of society.

I honestly thought I would feel better about my own bad reviews if I was in good company. I mean, hey, if it can happen to some of the best (or even most popular, whether or not you agree they’re the best), then it should be okay that it happened to me, too. Instead I feel scared by it. I’m scared of what we’re turning into when it becomes okay to belittle people online. I know that there are people that get off on hurting others. I know there are trolls and bullies. I know some people try to feel better about themselves by showing off and criticizing other people for doing something they themselves cannot do. I see it all the time on Facebook. I’m a member of some movie groups for some reason, and I see people panning movies left, right and centre, when I sit there and think, “I’d like to see you do better!” If they can’t do it themselves, then at least they can cut down someone who has already done it, in other words.

That’s the real test, though, isn’t it? A friend of mine reminded me of that saying, “Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach,” and said he didn’t think that was a fair thing to say. I agree completely. You can’t teach something if you don’t know how to do it. He said those who couldn’t would just criticise those who do, and again I agree. But I’m still very worried about society. There’s a damn good reason I don’t leave the house much. When people think it’s okay to issue threats over books or articles, there’s a serious breakdown in our humanity. People are shooting people over idiotic things. Young men think they have a right to kill a bunch of people because young girls won’t send them naked pictures of themselves. The sense of entitlement on this planet is growing all out of proportion with what we actually deserve.

Part of me is saying that I should just toughen up and get on with my life, and the other part of me is saying that’s entirely the wrong thing to do. Why should I toughen up? Why should I be any less sensitive than I am? The real question is, why should I change because of what other people are saying and doing? Yes, I will have to suffer if I don’t toughen up, but I also won’t lose the part of myself that refuses to become desensitized to aggression and violence – and that’s what it boils down to. People are being rude and angry toward other people, for no good reason. They’re taking out their own insecurities on others, and we have to stop tolerating it.

I don’t believe in all the old-school manners and etiquette, but by the same token we should treat one another with respect. Even when another person has shown they don’t really deserve it, we do not need to sink to that level. We become that other person if we do. I’ve made it a habit the last few months to simply stop arguing with people the moment they become rude. I refer to one-on-one encounters online. If a person calls me a name I tell them I’m done with the conversation for that reason, and then I actually leave the conversation. I don’t care what they say after that, because the name-calling just invalidated their argument for me. A debate is fine. Even an argument can be fine. When you step across the line to abuse, I’m done with it. And I wish more people did the same. It might teach these rude people that it’s not socially acceptable to do what they’re doing.

Of course, far too many people thrive on drama, and often cause it. It’s like those people who like to gossip. I can’t understand why they have so much of an interest in someone else and how they live their life. It makes no sense to me. And yet they sit there and talk about another human being in the worst possible way. It might sound terrible to say, but I honestly don’t have that much concern for what other people are doing, so long as they’re not hurting anyone. I’m more than happy living in my own little world, while everyone else lives in theirs. I like my solitude. The only people I make an effort with, to find out what’s going on in their lives, are the people I love. Other than that, I can’t be bothered. I’ve got too many other things in my life to do, that I find far more interesting.

Today I finally wrote an article for a friend of mine who asked me to contribute to his online magazine about a month ago. I wrote about dealing with criticism, because it was what I’ve had on my mind for some time, and his site is about happiness and mental health. I’ve worked through a lot of it, though I still get somewhat irritated when I stew about it too much. In my case I can’t resolve the criticism with a confrontation, so I have to vent in other ways – like this blog post.

I don’t want to be a whiner or a wimp, but I also don’t want to lose touch with my honest feelings. I’ve distanced myself from people in many ways, in order to prevent loss of emotion on my part. It may sound counter-intuitive, but I find too much interaction with people I don’t know can result in me shutting down my emotions just to get through it. I did it when I worked in the corporate world, and I worked too hard as a teenager to regain my emotions (after a childhood of abuse) to lose them now because of strangers.

So, instead of toughening up I’ve examined the criticisms, learned what I could from them, determined what parts might be accurate, and then tried to get a handle on why people would feel the need to behave in such a fashion. Allowing myself to understand their motivation has been a big help. Any disparaging remarks will hurt, but knowing why they were made makes them easier to deal with. And of course, just because someone has an opinion, doesn’t mean they’re right.

Powerful While Powerless, and a Refreshing Start

Let me get right down to the nitty-gritty. We finally got ourselves moved out of our old apartment. We also had some interesting times without electricity for the last 10 days we were there. It’s not the first time I’ve done without power, and I’m stubborn when it comes to paying a bill where I think I’m getting ripped off. Living in an apartment it’s very easy for people to patch into other people’s power lines. All you need is a little detector for electrical lines and a drill. For some reason, despite the fact that we weren’t using space heaters for those months, our usage was twice as high as it had been the previous year when we were using space heaters. I told the woman at the utility company this, and she simply didn’t care. Told us we had to pay well over $300 if we wanted to retain our service for the last ten days we’d be there. I told them to stuff it. Stealing utilities of any kind in this country is actually a very big offense, so you would think they’d be a little more interested, but they weren’t. Too much bother for them when they could simply demand their money from us.

We actually had the money to pay the bill. That wasn’t the point. The point was that someone was stealing from us and I wasn’t going to pay for it. Instead we bought some batteries for our LED lantern, and got a couple more LED lights. It being close to summer, we had a fair bit of daylight anyway, and at night we played board games or UNO. We had a lot of fun, and bought a bunch of ravioli to eat cold. We could have had other stuff, but we happen to like cold ravioli.

Right before our power was shut off our microwave blew, so this weekend we’re getting a new one. My daughter was cleaning it and may have sprayed the vinegar-water through the vent holes. Normally we put a cup of vinegar-water in it and turn it on to clean it, and it works miracles, but this time it started smoking and sparking and I told her to stick it in the pile going into the garbage.

We got rid of a lot of our stuff. There were various pests in that building and we had no interest in bringing any of them with us. Besides, my dresser and bed were already destroyed by water damage when the roof of the building leaked. Mildew had destroyed half my clothes in my closet, too. And this is the landlord that had the nerve to try to get $2,600 from us for damage to the floor. That didn’t work out so well for them. Thankfully they were nice enough to allow us to stay on a couple extra months when I injured my knee so badly I couldn’t get down the stairs.

As luck would have it, though, that delay from my injury was a blessing. Not that I enjoyed the pain or anything, but the delay is how we ended up finding a really great apartment. We went to look at two that day, and we figured from the address that the first one would be a dump and the second would be decent enough. It turned out that the first one was amazing. We were really surprised by it. We still went to see the other place, but I called the guy from the first place right after our second viewing and told him we wanted the place. The rent was higher, but all utilities are included and we also have central air. We no longer have to throw in a window unit. Yippee. In fact, we gave that window unit away by sticking a sign on it and putting it in the hallway of the old building. It was gone in less than 24 hours.

We’re still really thrilled with the new place. Every floor is tile. My bedroom has a ten-foot ceiling, which echoes like mad right now, but once I get a painting or two on the wall, and buy the area rug I want, it should be awesome. I’m going back to having a queen-size bed again in a couple of weeks. The room is huge, in addition to the high ceiling, so I now need furniture to fill it up. Thankfully the landlords left a wardrobe, a couple of bookshelves, a nice table and chairs, curtains on all the windows except one, and a couple of area rugs. The urgent stuff is no longer an issue.

We haven’t unpacked fully, yet, but we’ve unpacked more here than we did at the old place in nearly 3 years. Hopefully we’ll get everything done this weekend, as we’ll have been here two weeks by Sunday. We’re actually going to hire a friend of my daughter to come in and clean at least once a month. My daughter’s back at work with hours that are a crazy mix of continental days and nights, so she needs her time off to adjust between shifts, and I’m just not capable of cleaning a whole house anymore. We’ve been keeping up with the animals rather religiously, however. The ferrets are doing well with their puppy pads, and the cat was never a problem with her litter box. Apparently the people who lived here before wouldn’t change their cat’s litter, and so the landlord warned us ahead of time that we needed to keep everything really clean, especially since they’d never seen a ferret before. They haven’t had any complaints thus far, so hopefully we’re doing okay with that.

For the first time in about four years, we have a decent place to live. Actually, it’s closer to seven years. The place was clean when we moved in. It smells and feels clean, and it’s done up pretty nicely. I’ll be pleased to have people come over and visit, instead of being ashamed of it. It’s a huge change in mindset for me, and a great step toward regaining happiness in my life.

Another positive is that I finally got in to the orthopedic surgeon. He’s sending me to a group of doctors that will administer long-acting anesthetic injections, guided by ultrasound. I’ve got about four different problems with my hip joints, apparently, and so they want to deal with the pain first. Once the pain is eased, I can fix one of the problems myself – lack of exercise. It won’t matter anymore that I may be causing further damage by walking around, because it won’t hurt and they’re going to fix it at some point. My muscles have been atrophying for some time now, including the stabilizer muscles, so I’m looking forward to being able to exercise again. I miss it.

I still won’t be able to do my belly dancing until they fix the issue with my joints locking up, because my legs simply won’t do what the need to do right now, but maybe I can do a limited amount. Dancing is something I miss more than anything. I’ve been dancing in one form or another since I was a small child, and to have that taken from me is painful. I can wiggle my hips on the dance floor at a club or something, but I can’t do anything that requires real skill.

I go for the shots on July 3rd, so we’ll see how that goes. In the meantime I’m catching up on my reading and getting comfortable in our new home. We have office space now, which is awesome. I just can’t really use it yet. I need a proper desk and office chair. I bought an office chair from Staples a while back, but it doesn’t tilt back far enough so it’s uncomfortable for me. I do have a table I can use, but no chairs that will really work with it. Then I have to set up something for sound-proofing, or at least noise-reduction. I’m doing the intros for all the shows now, and I do other voiceover stuff, so I want to be able to record quality audio. I’ve done the last two in my bedroom, and the echo was pretty bad. I can get rid of some of it, but it’s better to not have it in the first place.

So I finally have peace in my life again. The stress of hearing people yelling in the hallway, swearing, coming in drunk in the middle of the night and carrying on loud conversations with other neighbours, people smoking in the hall so it surges into our apartment, and who-has-the-loudest-stereo competitions late at night – those are all things I do not need in my life. I despised living there, and the tension built up so much that I’m still letting go of it now. Situational depression, even when the situation is gone, doesn’t just magically disappear. Your behaviour becomes habitual in response, so those habits have to be broken. I cringe when I hear noises, still. Our only neighbours in the building are our landlords, and they live upstairs so we hear their dog barking and their voices when they talk loudly, so it trips the switch a little, but once I realized that was their natural speech pattern I was fine with it. I just hate people fighting. Drama is not something I seek out in life.

Now that a large number of problems have either been solved, or are about to be, I’m looking forward to seeing what I can make of my life once again. Giddyup!

Lying on My Back Isn’t as Fun as it Should Be, but I Still Feel Great!

Apparently I need to learn how to walk again. It’s become my arch-nemesis. I used to be an athlete, and I never injured myself as badly as I have just walking. A few weeks ago I slipped and did a number on my knee, but it’s not the first time I’ve caused major damage when I should be safe from myself.

This, of course, is the reason I haven’t been around lately. I’ve barely been on Facebook, and that only because I finally bought a new smartphone. I hate typing on the damn thing, because a touchscreen keyboard really sucks. I prefer actual keys so I know what I’m pressing. Still, it’s a temporary phone until I can afford the BlackBerry I really want. I had to cave and get a cheap Sony phone to tide me over, but at least my daughter will like it for the PlayStation aspect when I turn it over to her.

I’m finally back in a chair, instead of lying on my back for all the wrong reasons. I had to have my knee propped up, and was on crutches until a little over a week ago. Even now I’m really careful about what I do with that leg. Twisting it, or letting it go into the locked position, is something I avoid at all costs. Life doesn’t stop because you’ve got a funky pin, however, so I’ve got no choice to get moving on things.

Speaking of moving, the landlord was sympathetic enough to let us stay another month because there was no way I could move like that. Now we’re struggling to find an apartment, but a lot of that has to do with me hating that kind of thing. I have to force myself to spend just one day making all the calls I need to make. I’ve got a great list of places to call, at least. Technology is awesome. You don’t even have to go anywhere to see what a place looks like. You can weed out the ones that are completely unsuitable. Some sites have walk-through videos which are even better than pictures.

So, hopefully in less than two weeks we can get our butts into a better apartment. I don’t even want to talk about why this apartment is so terrible. It’s embarrassing. Let’s just say we’ve made friends with the mice, but there are other friendships we’re not willing to consider.

The great thing is, I’ve suddenly started feeling really good again. I had to rebook a specialist appointment because I couldn’t get down the stairs of my building, but on May 14th I finally see one of the best surgeons in Canada. I have hope in sight. My life is just over the horizon. I’ve tried to live as much as I can in my current situation, and keep my spirits up, but it’s not easy when you feel like everything wonderful has been taken from you. Now I feel like everything wonderful will be mine again, and the appreciation and anticipation are enough to get me off my butt to move my life forward again.

I haven’t been myself for a very long time. Now I’m gulping down the air and my mind is bursting with everything I’m going to do. There are things I’ve been doing already. I didn’t just lie down and die or anything. I mean, I was writing, I’ve been producing The Kovacs Perspective for more than two years now and taking it in a new direction with my partner, and I’ve been planning my future and looking forward to a time when I would be pain- and drug-free. When I say drugs, I’m talking about prescription and over-the-counter, not illicit. Not that I’m pure there, but it’s been many years since I delved into that goodie bag. A lot of people smoke pot to help with pain, but it has never helped my pain and I hated the way I felt on it so I don’t bother with it.

It’s kind of like the air is fresh, even when it’s not. I’m gulping down a mouthful of freedom I guess. I’ve been feeling trapped in my life, even knowing it was temporary. Knowing the cage door is about to open is a heady experience.

Whatever you do in life, appreciate every advantage you might have. If you can walk, be thankful for where your legs can take you. If you can hear, be thankful for the music that can fill up your life and the voices of loved ones. If you can see, relish the beauty of the world, whether it’s by reading an amazing book or watching a sunset over the water. No matter what has happened to you, what you may have lost, remember the things you still have. That’s the only thing that’s kept me going the last few years, having to wait to regain the full use of my body and mental faculties (which have been dimmed by the medication needed to handle the pain). Well, my ferrets have been a huge help, too, so I can’t forget them. They make me laugh when nothing else is funny.

One of the hardest things to deal with when encumbered by something that restricts your life, and especially something that causes chronic pain, is the emotional toll it takes. Most people suffer situational depression, and I’m no exception there. The problem is, if you tell your healthcare provider what you’re feeling the first thing they want to do is stick you on anti-depressants. I’d like to know how the hell they think that’s going to help. I mean, situational depression is not a chemical imbalance, so treating it with chemicals will do what, exactly? It’s just going to screw with your own brain chemistry and add a chemical imbalance you didn’t have before.

That was a lesson I learned when my ex started going through all that with his physical condition. It was severe, painful, caused irreversible damage to his body, and he was understandably miserable. Suddenly the doctor assumed he was going to attempt suicide, and then they took away the pain meds he needs so badly, which of course only made him more miserable. I mean, really! Talk about a stupid way to handle it. Getting rid of the pain is the only solution that works, not allowing a patient to suffer unnecessary pain.

So I never mentioned the frustration, despair, etc. I’ve got a lot of emotion locked up inside me now, waiting to be let out. I intend to use it to propel me forward. Back into the life that was delayed for so long. I’ve still got a bit of waiting to do, but I’m already cutting back on the pain killers. I can stand pain for a while, just not long-term when it starts driving me crazy, and as soon as my injuries are repaired I want to be able to get back to my life. I don’t want to have to wean myself off the drugs then, because that would only delay me further. The drugs I take affect my ability to think clearly, and to me that’s almost as intolerable as the pain. I have an affection for my strange little brain, so I’d like to get back in touch with it as soon as possible. My concentration has been shot, and there have been some projects I’ve put on the back burner because I just can’t deal with the steep learning curve right now. I’ve got new software to learn, and courses to take.

Still, I can only be grateful and appreciative that there’s an end to the misery in sight for me. There are too many people out there who know they’re stuck in their situations for the rest of their lives. They’re forced to make the best of it and fight off the inevitable depression. I think I could cope with almost anything except permanent pain, though I’ve dealt with pain most of my life so maybe I could cope with that, too. I just don’t want to have to, and it looks like I’m going to be one of the lucky ones. Plenty of reason to smile and feel good about the future opening up before me.

Stopping the Insidious Craving for Obsessive Love, Stalking and Domestic Violence

The massive popularity of 50 Shades of Grey is more than a little bit alarming. I have nothing against a little role playing, or even BDSM if that’s what you’re into in the bedroom. Two consenting adults should be allowed to do whatever they want. The problem I have is when it gets romanticized as a way of life. When a man tells a woman, “I will find you,” that’s the sign of someone who is seriously mentally disturbed. It’s not sexy – it’s very, very scary.

I come from a place of personal experience here. I’ve been raped, I’ve been stalked, and I’ve been held against my will. It was far from being a turn-on, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s called self-preservation and survival. When you’re in a seriously dangerous situation with someone who is unstable, it’s pretty damn stupid to want to jump their bones.

So why do people get off on this kind of thing? Because it’s a fantasy. Fantasy is fine, and frankly it’s a whole lot of fun. Fantasy with another person can be even more fun and sexy. What it requires, however, is a very deep level of trust. So many people are paying to read 50 Shades, and then they’re traipsing off to the theatre to see it. Far too many people are thinking it’s just opening up people’s minds to BDSM. It’s not. BDSM needs to remain in the bedroom. When one person in a relationship is being subjugated constantly and it becomes a way of life, eventually that person is going to want to do something their ‘master’ doesn’t want them to do. When that happens the reaction can be terrifying.

What we need to figure out is why this is still such a prevalent fantasy for women. If you’re one of those women, it’s extremely important. In fact, it can be life-and-death important. There are women in domestic violence situations who cannot break away because they’ve been conditioned to believe a man should have control over them. They believe that physical strength in men is to be desired, rather than mental strength. When it comes time to press charges they don’t want to, no matter how badly they may have been hurt. Men are constantly forgiven for abuses against the person they’re supposed to love and cherish above all others, society passing it off as a private issue.

I’m not one of those people, and I’ve personally boycotted any celebrities I’m aware of that have engaged in that sort of behaviour (once it’s been proven, of course). I’ll never pay for a Mel Gibson movie again in my life, or a Mötley Crüe CD or song as long as Tommy Lee is involved with the project. I don’t care if they’ve gone to jail and ‘paid’ for their crimes. I don’t think the criminal justice system takes it seriously enough, and that’s especially true of celebrities with lots of money to spend on high-priced lawyers. Real men do not lay hands on women in anger. They have no need to ‘prove’ their control over another person. Any man who does this is inherently weak, and is looking for ways to compensate.

This is what needs to be stressed to both women and men in order to avoid tragedies in the future, such as domestic violence and murder. The perception that a man is strong because he is physically capable of pushing someone around, and that it makes him sexy when he shows how ‘manly’ he is, is a very big part of the problem. Truly strong people have no need to do this. If more women understood this, they would be much less impressed by physically violent men. Controlling a woman doesn’t make a man strong – having no need to control anyone is the true indicator of strength. That’s called self-esteem. It’s only the men who feel insecure that attempt to control others, in part because they have no control over themselves or their own lives. The more insecure a person is, the more of a control-freak they usually are.

When you really stop and think about that – I mean sit down and actually concentrate on it – it’s not hard to start feeling contempt toward people who behave that way, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a man or woman exhibiting the behaviour. When you truly realize that only someone who feels weak will pick on others and bully them, we start to lose respect for them. We can see that they must have serious problems of their own that are triggering the behaviour, and it’s less and less likely that we will allow them that control over us. It doesn’t apply only to domestic violence, either.

When it comes to role-playing, there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with it. As long as there’s a clear delineation between reality and fantasy. Some people enjoy subjugation, but when you take a mental trip and imagine your entire life spent in bending to the will of another, how many people truly want that as a part of their lives? What happens when you come home from a job you love, and your partner tells you that you have to quit so you can serve them? What happens when you’re not allowed to see friends and family members that you love? What happens when you start having to explain the bruises to other people? Are you going to start lying and covering up? If your response to a query is simply a smirk and a fond memory of the night before, that’s fine. If your response is along the lines of fearing what will happen if others find out, maybe you need to do some serious thinking about where you want your relationship to go, or if you want it going anywhere.

Stalkers and Obsessions in Romance and Young Adult Fiction

Recently I succumbed to the urge to read a certain popular series. Pretty much everyone on the planet will know exactly what I’m talking about when I mention the Twilight ‘saga’ from Stephanie Meyer. Not only were the four main novels in the series wildly popular, but they’ve all been made into movies as well. I also read two books complementary to the four main ones, and I have to say they really scare me.

No, I don’t mean scared in the sense of lying awake at night, afraid a vampire was going to come out of my closet. What scared me was the fact that these novels didn’t seem to get a lot of flak from parents. Sure, the storyline itself is entertaining. The problem is the fact that the two main characters have serious mental health issues.

The four main books are written in the first person, which I always find annoying anyway. I prefer third person omniscient, myself, but that’s purely an aesthetic and personal viewpoint. The perspective is that of a teenage girl who becomes completely obsessed with what looks like a teenage boy, but is in fact a man who’s closer to a hundred years old. If we saw a 100-year-old man walking down the street with a 17-year-old on his arm, in most responsible people that would bring on a large measure of disgust for the dirty old man and his perverted proclivities.

In addition to that, the male love interest leaves her because he thinks it will be safer for her not to be exposed to him and his vampire ‘family’ any longer. When this happens she basically loses her mind. She becomes nearly catatonic in her grief, and when she comes out of that she’s still living life in such a robotic fashion that she’s startled to realize she’s more like a zombie than a human being. Now that’s what we call an obsession.

Even after she realizes what she’s doing, and starts to live her life again, she starts taking risks with her life because she starts hearing his voice in her head whenever she does anything that might kill her. At first I thought maybe there was a psychic thing going on in the stories, but it turns out she was really hearing voices – well, one voice anyway – and the voice wasn’t actually there. So, now she’s obsessed and schizophrenic. She’s having auditory hallucinations brought on by adrenaline spikes.

Eventually her obsession comes back to her, and suddenly she’s alive again. However, she can’t stand to spend even an hour or two away from him without feeling like there’s a big hole in her chest where her heart used to be.

Worse than that, though, is the fact that he spends a fair bit of time stalking her before they’re even together. He went through her house, he was in her room while she was sleeping and watched her pretty much every night. He looked through her things, including her books and music. When they do finally become an official couple, he sneaks into her room to stay with her every single night. At least by then she knows about it and is actually asking him to stay with her. In fact, she’s not actually asking. It’s more like pleading.

I was teenager once myself, and I remember the volatility that comes along with that. I think we’re all a little unbalanced when it comes to first loves. I had a couple of them. My relationships when I was a teenager were monogamous ones that lasted at least a year each. The entire year I was fourteen I was with one guy and he actually asked me to marry him – he was nineteen, so looking back that seems a little off-kilter to me. I had my first major obsession when I was fifteen and sixteen. It was a tumultuous relationship with a Roman Catholic whose mother didn’t approve. I did my share of stupid things, but the heartbreak was over a couple of weeks after he dumped me. I’m not one to hang on. It probably has something to do with having a healthy (or sinful) measure of pride. There was no way I was going to prostrate myself before someone who didn’t want me.

I was also a parent to a teenager. My daughter had her own mild obsession, and eventually her feelings were no longer ‘unrequited,’ but they grew apart and it was over. Basically she had a lot of interest in what he was doing, and in his life in general, but stalking is not something that was ever in her character – even less so than it was in mine. In fact, when I was a teenager I longed desperately to fall in love, get married, and make lots of babies with a man who adored me. My daughter has little interest in that, though she does want a kid one day. She’s not a lesbian, so it isn’t about her orientation. She just doesn’t like the idea of spending that much time with another person, which the exception of her own child. Thankfully she hasn’t made me a grandmother yet, because I’m just not ready for that. I’m still vaguely within the age of being able to have kids myself, so it just seems too weird to me.

Now my daughter is almost halfway through her twenties, and completely skipped out on any mental health problems associated with teenage crushes. I’m in my early forties. The funny thing is, I personally feel the danger of books like the Twilight series. Romance novels are often the same, too. There’s still an envy there for me. At my age the statistics aren’t good when it comes to me finding anyone I can give my whole heart to. I’ve had moments where I thought I’d be able to, but the feelings weren’t reciprocated so I shut my own feelings down right away. It’s not that I don’t have them; I just don’t let my brain run off with my heart.

Still, there’s a sadness and envy invoked by obsessive love stories, even for me. I think we’re all somewhat conditioned to think of that as the only real love there is. Even when we know better logically, a part of us still wants that unquestioning devotion and adoration. Beneath the tough exterior beats the heart of a marshmallow, I guess. I know better than to ever put myself in that position with anyone, because I’ve seen where those situations usually lead. Besides, I’m not really that mentally unhealthy anyway, that I absolutely can’t live without someone. The proof is in the pudding in my case, seeing as I’ve been separated for a long time. There was an interruption of less than four months, where I was seeing someone, but it never got to the ‘I love you’ stage.

After I was done reading the Twilight books I felt sad. I didn’t want the stories to end, because a very dangerous and insidious part of myself wanted to live vicariously through an obsessive love story. As an adult woman with a better understanding of mental health, however, I can deal with those feeling in a positive manner. Teenagers, on the other hand, do not have the life experience to see the books for what they really are. They’re unrealistic, and they’re very dangerous. Showing teenagers a happy ending within such an unhealthy context can breed an unhealthy real-life situation. Even with a parent telling them that the relationship in the series is not a good one, and explaining why, no teenager is going to believe it unless they’ve already been given a very good background in what it means to be in a healthy relationship. Considering the statistics on divorce and domestic violence, however, those teachings are very limited.

Speaking from a bizarre personal perspective, I was lucky in one way. I had a terrible childhood, being raised by terrible grandparents, yet it was my physically abusive grandmother who gave me my foothold on reality and feminism. She wore the pants in that house, and she’s the one who told me (the first time she saw me reading a romance), that reality was not anything like its portrayal in romance novels. For many years, historical romances were my very favourite books. Eventually, after years of personal experience that was contrary to the happy endings I was reading about, I realized she was right about that one thing. It was also because of her that I never felt I was anything less worthy than any man, because I was raised in a home where a woman was deferred to in all things.

Teenagers, especially those who come from broken homes, are looking desperately for role models for every aspect of their lives. If their parents don’t have a successful relationship, they look for people who do – even if they happen to be fictional, dangerous, and unrealistic. With few real human relationships to look up to, they look to movies, books, music, and any other form of entertainment. The Twilight series gives them characters with a happy ending, but if either of those people were living in the real world (vampire lore aside), the ending would probably be very different. Obsession is not love. Obsession often becomes possession. Even within the books, right from the beginning they claim ownership of one another, and grant ownership to each other.

The very real need some people have to ‘belong’ to someone else stems from emptiness within. There is a hole inside them, desperately wanting to be filled – just like the movie Jerry Maguire, with the whole, “You complete me,” thing. Nobody completes anyone else. We’re all individual human beings. My former mother-in-law used to tell me that if I’d wanted to accomplish my own things in life, I probably shouldn’t have gotten married. Um, what? I wasn’t allowed aspirations and goals because I was married??? Her son was allowed those dreams, though. Right. That makes total sense. Never mind the fact that I was the breadwinner in the family at the time, and he was disabled. Reaching for goals was my way of looking to be a better provider, but that wasn’t allowed because I was supposed to be nothing but a wife. Of course, this advice was coming from a divorced woman who had been nothing but a wife to her husband, yet he left her anyway. I always felt like saying, “So how did that work out for you?”

My view on the subject, and something that came up during a discussing about one of the guests we had on the show recently, is that people shouldn’t even get into a relationship until the hole inside them is filled and they’re a whole person. Until then you don’t know who you are or what will be best for you. You’re still striving and your core personality is still forming. The guest on the show was saying all women want men to take charge, which is completely overstating what women want. I’m certainly not one of those women who want a man taking charge. If there’s a decisions to be made that will affect me, then I want to be a part of making the decision. I don’t want anyone arbitrarily making choices for me.

Thankfully that notion brings to heel any thought of having a man swoop in and rescue me from my own life, which is what a lot of romance novels are about. The man comes along and everything that was wrong in a woman’s life is miraculously fixed by him. It doesn’t work that way, especially if you’re a woman who’s the least bit independent. Men seem to feel as if they have to fix everything, even when a woman has a problem and she wants to vent about it. Men will try to tell her how to fix it, rather than just listening and letting her vent.

Often the ‘fixing’ comes in the form of advice, but sometimes it involves actually doing what the woman should be capable of doing herself. Some women do like that, but there’s a trade-off that I would personally never be willing to make. When you allow someone to ‘fix’ your life, you’re also allowing them to take over decision-making, which renders a woman useless and redundant to her own life. Suddenly the man is taking charge of her, rather than simply her problems – and mostly because there’s now the unspoken agreement between them that she can’t handle the herculean chore of running her own life without his help.

Not being able to run your own life, and having someone do it for you, puts you in the category of being a child. It’s not just women who are placed there, but on average it’s almost always the female in a relationship. There are women to this day who work, but allow their husbands to interfere with problems they face in the workplace. Husbands who feel their wives aren’t treated well, or properly (as in sexual harassment cases), will come charging in to confront the supposedly guilty party. Now consider how this woman will be treated in the workplace from now on. Sure, maybe the original problem never rears its head again, but then she’ll never be respected again either. She will be known as someone who can’t handle real responsibility. If she wasn’t in a position of authority, she will never be promoted to one. If she was already in a position of authority, her authority will not be respected and she will not gain additional authority.

This is also the danger in reporting sexual harassment if it’s done in a place that doesn’t really respect legislation. Suddenly she’s a woman who ‘can’t handle a joke’ or simply can’t enforce her own authority. Speaking personally on that, I’ve always just given as good as I’ve gotten when the harassment was directed toward me. No man ever dared to step over the line with me either, but then I have the sort of personality that makes it very clear I would never tolerate it. People just know that I have indelible lines that can’t be crossed. On the other hand, when I saw other women being harassed I did report it, in writing, so that there was no way the company could get away with not doing something about it. Reporting someone else being harassed doesn’t have the same connotation of being a whiner who can’t handle things. I was also in a position of authority within the company, and it was my duty to do something about it.

The tiny part of me that would want a man to swoop in and be my dream-come-true/knight-in-shining-armour, is the part of me that’s tired, I think. I’ve spent my life fighting to keep my head above water, against some rather interesting odds. I’ve had many challenges, and I think it might be nice to one day not have to be the one who does all the struggling, so therein lies the answer to my wishful thinking. The few times I think like that, I remind myself of the price to be paid for wallowing in that fantasy. I’ve made the mistake of going there on occasion in my romantic history, and after a few decades of being slapped for it I’m now fully conscious of that price. I always have much less of a fight to keep my head above water when I count only on myself to keep me afloat.

What I really need, if I ever have another serious relationship, is someone who is capable of running their own life, and someone who has my back that I can fully trust to be there for me emotionally, but not someone who tries to take over the running of my life. Decisions can be made mutually, compromises are perfectly fine, and acceptance of who I really am is mandatory. That last thing is so vital, though, and very few people are actually capable of acceptance when it comes to their life partner. Especially when their life partner has some unusual quirks.

Speaking from personal experience, there are very few people in the world who accept the fact that I sleep during the day, and that has always been my natural pattern. Never mind the fact that I crack every joint in my body, and swear like the proverbial sailor. I can be harsh, too. I’m not unforgiving, but there are people I’ve removed from my life because I also don’t forget. My mother and step-father are good examples. I may have forgiven the fact that my mother left me when I was four years old, and knowingly left me in the care of monsters – her parents. I could never forget it, though. I could never forget the fact that she suspected my grandfather of molesting me, and still left me there. Two deep betrayals that made it impossible for me to ever trust her, or allow myself to love her. The childish yearnings for motherly love disappeared within me forever. I do not want any kind of mother in my life. My step-father turned out to be a faithless jerk who fooled around on my mother, and that shows me a character flaw so important to me that I could never trust him either.

So, I can forgive, but when a person shows their colours you can’t simply forget about them. You have to factor those flaws into the big picture. In some cases a person’s flaws make them more human and lovable. There’s a quote from the movie Hellboy that says, “You like someone for their qualities, but you love them for their flaws,” and I think that’s very true. Perfect people aren’t even very likeable, never mind lovable. There is too much envy involved when another person is ‘perfect,’ along with self-consciousness because we know we aren’t perfect. Of course, no one is actually perfect, but sometimes a person views another unrealistically as being being perfect.

Maybe my imperfections will be lovable to someone some day. I hope so. For the most part I’m content with my life, and I could probably be content to be alone for the remainder of it. It’s not really what I want if I’m being honest with myself. If I wanted to be alone, I wouldn’t feel sad after reading books like Twilight. I wouldn’t have registered with an online dating site a year ago – a profile that I deleted when I started dating someone exclusively. I haven’t done a new profile yet because I’m just not ready to start up with a stranger again, and it takes a long time to really get to know someone enough to love them – either on the basis of friendship, or on romantic love. Attraction comes instantly, as does infatuation, but the kind of love where you would notice someone was missing from your life if they weren’t there…that takes time. Starting a brand new relationship with a stranger is not something I’ve got the time or energy for right now.

I was talking to a friend about how holding hands with someone can feel weird, and he said that if I was madly in love with them then I would probably want to. He’s right. I would. I would feel the need for physical closeness. I’m actually very affectionate that way when I love someone, or even when I’m in a romantic relationship where I really like them. It’s the only kind of relationship where I can be really touchy-feely. I can hug my daughter, but neither of us likes hugging very much so it only happens on occasions like birthdays, or when there’s a death of one of our pets. When I lost Stimpy (my first ferret), I think my daughter was afraid to hug me, because I was already falling to pieces. Getting comfort when you’re like that can sometimes be just enough to break you. The stiff upper lip starts to quiver, and then you’re a blubbering mess.

Back to the topic at hand, however. Obsessive love and stalking are so prevalent in all forms of media that it has become absorbed almost to our cores. I think almost everyone I know has that little piece inside them that wishes they could have that. I’m sure I’m not alone there, or how would the writers of romantic fiction ever make any money? Rom-coms wouldn’t make a penny at the box office, either. Men are told to be persistent, despite the fact that it’s actually harassment to keep going after a woman who says no. It’s part of the rape culture. Men are rewarded for persistence by eventually getting their rocks off, even if it’s not consensual – often because the woman gets tired of being harassed and gives in to what she starts thinking is inevitable.

Romance novels used to be called ‘bodice rippers’ for a good reason. Almost every book involved rape in some form or another – usually a man was ‘pushed beyond reason’ into ‘giving her what she really wants.’ Apparently forcing a woman into sex solved all relationship problems – yes, that was sarcasm. This was only twenty years ago, and despite the fact that publishers are telling would-be authors that they don’t want that kind of book, they’re still publishing books about very unhealthy relationships. I actually wrote a historical romance many years ago. It sits (completed) in a box somewhere. It will never be published under my own name, because I will never allow myself to be pigeon-holed as a romance writer. Once that happens you’re rarely seen as any other kind of writer.

A good example is Nora Roberts. Under her own name she writes romances. Under the pseudonym of J. D. Robb she writes what’s called the ‘in death’ series. All but one title uses the words ‘in death,’ such as, “Naked in Death” and “Glory in Death.” The books’ main character is a female kick-ass cop in the future. For a long time, because it was known to be a pseudonym of Nora Roberts, those books were always put in the romance section of every book store I went into. There are romantic relationships within the series, but the books are mainly about the main character being a homicide cop. They’re murder-mysteries, and yet they were labeled as romance. Now when I go in the book store, though, they’re finally filed under the main fiction section. I haven’t seen them in the romance section for quite a while, but it still took a long time for the series to be recognized for what it really was.

Another reason I don’t think I’ll submit my romance novel for publication is that I’m rather ashamed of it. I’m just as guilty of writing anti-feminist crap as any other romance writer. I would have to cut and slash the novel to ribbons in order to fix the problem. I don’t want to be another Stephanie Meyer, creating mentally ill characters for people (particularly teenagers) to emulate. I would prefer to be responsible with my writing and portray women as something other than helpless victims to their own ineptitude. So, despite my (not-so-secret-now) wishing that I might have that sort of unhealthy connection with a man, I know better than to fall for it. I can only hope that most teenagers will outgrow their interest in the series.

Maybe there’s an antidote. Maybe one day I’ll write about the kind of relationship that’s real and healthy. Two people dedicated and devoted to one another, without having to give up who they are. People who don’t orient themselves to their partners to the exclusion of all else in their lives. Now that would be a relationship worth emulating. They say, “Write what you know,” though, and I have no personal experience from which to draw.

Ignorance is Only Bliss to the Ignorant

“Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.” Thomas Gray, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College

This phrase is constantly misinterpreted by the masses. In fact, until I researched it I didn’t realize there was any more to it than the commonly uttered, “Ignorance is bliss.” Once you see it in context, however, it’s readily apparent that Thomas Gray was in no way promoting ignorance. He was, in fact, being nostalgic about his youth.

Ignorance has never been blissful to anyone other than those who are ignorant, and even then the ignorant suffer for their lack of knowledge and understanding in life. Far too many people choose to be uninformed about far too many things, and generally we are punished for it whether we know it or not. When we aren’t the ones punished, it’s always some other creature or person who is.

Animal rights is one good example of ignorance working against everyone and everything. As much as I hate the thought of animals being abused in general, I’m not going to look at this from the perspective of their suffering this time. From a completely unemotional and selfish human standpoint, let’s examine why animal abuse is bad. We’ll take bees as the first example. Not too many people spend much time thinking about them, other than perhaps beekeepers and those in the agricultural and environmental fields. The funny thing is, bees are one of the most vital components in the mechanism that keeps people alive on this planet. I won’t post the quote attributed to Einstein about bees, because research has determined that Einstein probably never said it. Einstein wasn’t a botanist, entomologist or biologist of any kind, so talking about bees wasn’t exactly his schtick. However, the message within the quote remains somewhat valid. Without bees to pollinate, we would lose a very large portion of our food supply. Not all of it, but a huge amount. That’s the direct impact. The indirect impact is that many of the things pollinated by bees are what support animal life in the wild. This affects anyone who might hunt for food.

I’ll give a second example of how animal cruelty impacts humans, and then we’ll move on to something else, but it’s important for people to make connections like this. A second example is necessary to demonstrate a completely different sequence of events that many do not consider. How about we go with any sort of breeding facility for meat products. Pigs, cows, chickens and their ilk, are most often raised in sub-standard conditions. I’m not saying illegal, either. I just mean animals that are penned in tight quarters, given growth hormones and antibiotics that are unnatural to their systems, and that are often treated very badly. There are plenty of videos out there showing the beatings and abuse inflicted on farm animals, so if you’re interested by all means Google it, but I won’t include them here because I can’t stand to watch them.

My point is this: These animals are not healthy. They’re not allowed exercise because the meat becomes tougher. They confine them to keep them tender for our chewing pleasure. How healthy are the humans you know that don’t get any exercise at all? The ones who stay firmly planted on the sofa, and often don’t even get up to go to bed because they sleep on the couch – those are the ones I’m talking about. Chefs talk about the ‘marbling’ in the meat that makes it so juicy – well, that’s nothing but a fat, out-of-shape animal. Now start adding those unnecessary antibiotics or growth hormones.

The other issue regarding close confinement is the fact that it spreads disease very rapidly, and quite often that meat finds its way into our grocery stores and onto our tables long before they discover anything is wrong with it. Generally people have to die before anyone notices that “X” farm’s beef is not quite the safest thing around. If you confine large numbers of people in buildings, disease spreads just as quickly. Think of everything from the common cold to swine flu. Well, the same thing happens with animals who are closely quartered.

Going beyond animal treatment and things that actually impact each of us directly when we’re ignorant of the facts, I want to talk about the more altruistic concerns where ignorance is harmful to others rather than ourselves. In these situations, selfish people simply aren’t going to care, but I believe most people do actually care about their fellow humans. I think they often choose to shield themselves from inconvenient facts, though, so they don’t have to feel guilty for pretty much everything they do in their daily routine.

One daily routine that’s almost universal, is getting dressed after we wake up and changing into pyjamas when we go to bed. The question becomes, where are you buying your clothes? Following that line of thought, where are the stores you shop in getting the clothes, and/or materials the clothing is made from? Are your clothes free-trade and cruelty-free? If you’re buying from Walmart, and a wide variety of other retailers, there’s a good chance your clothes were made by people who are working in unsafe conditions and aren’t even being paid enough to eat anything more than a bowl of rice per day.

Maybe you saw something about this in the news in April of 2013 when 1,129 workers were killed because a factory collapsed on them. Originally the death toll was 1,127, but two more people died within a month. A number of companies selling the clothing that was made there signed an agreement to improve conditions. Walmart did not. Another seven people died in October 2013 from a fire in a fabric mill in Bangladesh. Lack of transparency from many retailers makes it difficult to find clothing you don’t have to feel guilty about, but if you’re interested you can get some information here on where to find it. That link also provides information on the companies not doing so well, and in some cases provides a link where you can express your concern or take action in some way. Sadly you’re likely to find some of your favourite brands and companies on that list, including Disney.

There is another sense in which ignorance is really not bliss, and that has to do with how it affects the people around you just in general conversation. You get this a lot with people who like to spout off with statements like, “Political correctness has gone too far.” Says who? Says the person who isn’t being hurt or oppressed in any fashion, (or in some cases they are and don’t know it because it’s so culturally ingrained). This happens with any kind of struggle for equality, be it feminism, marriage equality, racism, etc. Most statements from people who shrug off political correctness are coming from white, heterosexual, non-disabled males who are part of some sort of organized religion. You can get mad at me if you want to, and state that I’m making generalizations, but I was actually pretty specific there. Take a close look at the rhetoric being spewed by many so-called God-fearing Christians in the bible belt. Actually, a close look is completely unnecessary and might actually become a forest for the trees scenario. That kind of attitude is best seen from a distance for a wide variety of reasons.

White people do not generally experience racism. It can, and does, happen in a small number of cases in areas comprised predominately of people of non-Caucasian descent. White people almost never experience racial oppression. When I talk about oppression, I mean the action or force that causes real harm, not someone simply making a snide remark. I’m white, and have never been oppressed for the colour of my skin. Hence, I will never understand what that is like, other than by comparing it to the fact that I’m female and have experienced unequal treatment based on my gender. However, even within the feminist movement there is a great deal of non-inclusiveness when it comes to people of colour.

Men, at this point in history, do not experience gender oppression. There are some cases where they are discriminated against, such as in the case of custody and support hearings, or when they are assumed to be the abuser in a domestic violence situation. My point is that they aren’t told they have less value than a woman because they’re male. There were times in history, and in various cultures, where men were the underdogs. They aren’t now. In a case by case comparison, it is women who are overwhelmingly treated as the less important of the male and female genders. There are people who have it a lot worse than women, however. I refer to those who are transgender, or intersex (someone who is born with both sexes – what most people refer to as hermaphrodites, although that is not a scientifically correct term). Imagine living your life as neither of the accepted genders. There are countries in which you can be legally defined as a gender other than male or female, but in the western world those people are completely discounted by the ignorant among us.

Overweight people are treated like human waste and fat-shaming is standard behaviour. Naturally low-weight people are accused of being anorexic. For some reason our size becomes the definition of who we are, and where we are situated on the social ladder. Admittedly, quite often a person’s size can be attributed to certain psychological factors. Overweight people are often overweight because of psychological issues that compel them to overeat. A number of extremely skinny people are underweight in an unhealthy way, and also for psychological reasons. The problem is, there is no way of knowing which cases is which merely by looking at them. Never mind the fact that if you really stop to consider the reasoning behind either extreme that is the result of unhealthy thought processes, you realize that there is every reason to provide understanding rather than judgment. There is the pain that brought on the issue to begin with, and now there is the pain that results from their issue being so blatant and open to criticism.

Going beyond insulting and hurting people with our ignorance, there’s the simple annoyance factor. Ignorant people are very annoying to people who actually take the time to learn about things. I mean, let’s face it. There really is no excuse for not learning about a topic before waxing enthusiastic on it. You want to talk about how great the bible is? Fine, but maybe you should actually read it first. Don’t leave out all the parts that contradict you. If you want to talk about marijuana legalization, and tell everyone why you think it’s a terrible idea, it’s best if you understand a little something about it. Don’t be like Nancy Grace who mouths off about deaths that never happened, and violence that didn’t occur, not bothering to back up your words with any appropriate sources. Maybe you want to talk about gun control, but if don’t know anything about the current legislation, or the legislation being proposed, your arguments won’t be very effective. You’ll just sound like an ignoramus extremist of some sort, no matter what side you’re arguing on. If you happen to find yourself in a conversation with someone who has some knowledge, you’ll notice that you’re not very well liked or respected after that.

Ignorance is lack of knowledge. When I was growing up people also liked to call someone ignorant if they were rude, though it’s an inappropriate use of  the word – in other words they were ignorant of the definition and meaning of ignorance. However, ignorance often results in rudeness when an ignorant person is shown to be wrong. People tend to get defensive under those circumstances, and will exhibit angry behaviour. There again ignorance becomes an issue to surrounding people. If people don’t like being shown to be wrong about something, then people certainly don’t like it when someone attacks them verbally or physically out of frustration and hurt pride.

Much of the anger we see in political and social issues today is based on ignorance. Quite often willful ignorance, too. They simply refuse to listen to other possibilities or compromises. They don’t want to know why the people on the other side of the argument think they’re right. They don’t want to open up to the possibility that there might be a kernel of sense in a differing opinion. Most often they simply talk over what they don’t want to hear.

“We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.” Zeno of Citium

The quote from Zeno can also be applied to our eyes. We use our eyes to read and learn. If we applies twice as much time to learning and listening, as we do to speaking, our whole civilization would improve instantly. Beliefs do not have to be static. Beliefs should always be fluid and open to new information. If reality contradicts our beliefs, we are left floundering in a state of cognitive dissonance. We can’t honestly reconcile the two things, and that friction can become quite psychologically painful. Conversely, refusal to believe in a thing does not mean is ceases to exist.

It’s impossible to argue with someone who refuses to listen to a counter-argument. It’s called the invincible ignorance fallacy, and is a circular argument in which no evidence put forward is acknowledged. You’re talking to someone who simply denies any validity of the information that has been presented, and it’s something you see a lot in debates between scientists and creationists. Creationists deny any and all evidence put before them regarding evolution, or that contradicts their belief that the world is only 6,000 years old. There’s actually a video you can watch with Richard Dawkins (a very well-respected scientist in case you haven’t heard of him), where he is put through this, and the look on his face is priceless. He simply can’t get over the woman’s refusal to even acknowledge the evidence he verbally demonstrates. The full video is almost an hour long, but there are highlights you can watch where you see the complete blankness on this woman’s face as she repeats over and over that there’s no evidence. That’s one of the best examples of the invincible ignorance fallacy I’ve seen to date. In one sense it makes me laugh, but in another sense I want to hang my head and cry.

I can only hope that people start consciously choosing to open their minds, learn and grow. It isn’t as easy as it sounds, either. We’re all guilty of closing our minds in certain ways. We’re all guilty of jumping to conclusions at one time or another. It is impossible to be the perfect thinker. We work with what knowledge we have obtained, and what abilities we currently have to improve ourselves. Then again, we also have choices. No one can force us to think a certain way. We may be conditioned to do so, and many live in societies where it is forbidden to speak certain things aloud, but every person on the planet has the option of free thought.

Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness, Just Less Misery

Until my daughter found a job again, we were living very close to the edge. Thankfully neither of us has any bad habits that take up what little money we were bringing in. We don’t smoke, drink, or do any illicit drugs. However, not having money meant we couldn’t do anything beyond pay bills and buy food. We were okay, but it’s not the best existence in the world. The thing is, if you’re lucky you can shut off all impulses to spend, and in my case anyway, I became even more introverted than usual.

It wasn’t until we started having  decent money coming into the household again, that I slowly broke out of that shell I was in. It’s funny, but the smallest things can make such a huge impact in a person’s life. In my case, it was when we went out and spent money on stuff for organizing the bathroom. We had nowhere to store anything except a small medicine chest, and that bathroom is very tiny. So we bought an overjohn (one of those cabinets that go over your toilet, hence the word ‘john’ being included), a toilet paper holder, a proper garbage can with a pedal-operated lid, hooks for the door, a shower organizer, and a new shower head. It turns out that it was money very well spent, because it was inspiring to me.

You see, suddenly one room in our house was no longer hopeless. It felt nice to go in there and see those things. Everything we bought had a nice bronze finish, which really spruces things up, and now we had places to actually store the things we needed to have in the bathroom. Well, wouldn’t you know it, I just had to keep going on other things. Like magic, poof, I reorganized my bedroom so that I was finally able to get some writing done again. Now I’m starting to take on other areas of the apartment. My daughter already has her own bedroom set up properly, so that’s another room that isn’t a disaster area.

Admittedly, my lack of domestic inclinations has a great deal to do with the fact that the rest of the apartment looks like a bomb went off. We do not do any living in our living room, so it’s become something of a dump site for everything we don’t put into our bedrooms. I’m at the point, however, where having a couple of rooms looking nice has been pushing me to get everything else looking that much better. No room in my home will ever be perfect, simply because I just don’t care about perfection. I want to live in my home, not photograph it for the cover of a magazine.

Still, I actually went to the extreme step of washing some dishes this evening. My daughter is at work, and when she comes home and notices what I’ve done, I’ll have to be ready to perform CPR. Too bad I don’t have a defibrillator, because the shock will be great, and there’s a very real risk of heart attack. I abhor doing dishes as a rule. Sticking my hands in dirty dishwater actually makes me want to gag. The idea of soggy bits of food floating around and touching me is almost more than I can bear. I think the issue stems from my stint as a dishwasher in a restaurant, back in the day when people could smoke in them. Just imagine the nasty mess in the bus-pans. Unfinished drinks with their ice cubes floating around, mixing with ashes and cigarette butts, pieces of steak, particles of eggs and pancakes. Quite literally a miasma of gross. I was sixteen years old then, and it probably scarred me for life. Mama’s don’t let your babies grow up to be dishwashers!

I’m very content being in my bedroom these days. I no longer look around with the faint urge to clean where I end up saying, “F*ck it,” because it’s just too much bloody work, and then going back to whatever game I was playing. I look around with a sense of satisfaction and comfort. My ferret still digs in his food dish and spills it on the floor, so I’m bound to have a mess of some sort, but that’s how it is with any kind of pet. Thankfully he doesn’t shed a lot of fur. He has his newspapers to make his other messes, and that makes them a cinch to clean up.

It blows my mind what effect a little bit of money can have on a person’s life. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Just enough to get a ball rolling. Inertia takes care of the rest. Curiously, I’m still in the midst of doing even more dishes. I should really get back to those, and then start tracking down that defibrillator. eBay probably has some for sale.

The Love Stops Here…No Here! Now Where the Hell am I?

When we talk about love in a new relationship we often use the term ‘falling in love’ and it’s a bit of a misnomer. Falling implies a drastic ending to the process, possibly resulting in a gruesome death or grotesque injury. To be fair that’s occasionally true, but we’ll try not to dwell on that.

As I was out walking today, grinning like an idiot because my head is kind of in the clouds these days, it occurred to me that the implication of falling in love is that (somewhere along the line) we know exactly when it becomes love, and that it doesn’t go past that line. Is there a switch? What’s the defining moment where you say, “Eureka – I’ve found it,” and happily begin plotting a nefarious future with your partner in crime?

The reality of love is more that you continue falling for a really long time. I’d have to say that the day you stop falling into love is the day you start falling out of it. The longer we go on with a partner, the more we learn about them. We’re not always going to like everything we learn, and it would be beyond tedious if we did, but we can only hope that the things we learn keep turning us on, rather than off.

The one recognizable point might be when we realize we can’t imagine a life without the other person in it. We can feel this way about friends, too, but certain differences are obvious…like sex. Still, that point of true friendship is a bit of a key, I think. I’ve had relationships where I wasn’t friends with the person I was in love with, though, and that’s probably the reason the relationship didn’t work. To be honest, I’m not sure I ever had a partner where they were my best friend at the time the relationship was going on – there was too much competition and combativeness, with a power struggle thrown in to really make things entertaining. I’ve had friends turn into lovers where the friendship disappeared, and I’ve had lovers turn into friends when the romance disappeared.

Well, I want the whole package now. I might actually get it, too, considering the whole ‘head in the clouds’ thing, but that’s neither here nor there when it comes to this post. We’re not really talking specifically about my love life, but rather an idea and understanding about the true nature of loving someone. A question has arisen in my mind, and as always it must be explored and answered. I’m kind of like a terrier that way – I just can’t leave things alone once I sink my teeth into them. Throw in the corpses of relationships-past and we’re stuck with a pretty gross image, but I still want my answers.

I’d say we don’t really fall in love, but maybe drift into it and sometimes through it. The further we go toward the middle, the denser it gets, but if we’re just passing through a portion of it we never really get the whole effect. It would be nice if we could always travel the longest distance through it, because it would be enough to keep a relationship going for a lifetime. Then there are the relationships that aren’t on a linear projection at all, and veer sharply in one direction or another – like when a person cheats on a partner. They might have been swimming along nicely when suddenly one of them needs an ego boost that collides with a pretty, flirtatious face, or a handsomely formed bicep.

Let’s go back to the part with the infatuation stuff. When we’re young, and sometimes we never rid ourselves of this behaviour, we often cherish our rose-coloured glasses to the point of idiocy. The person you’re mad about slammed their car into another one because the other driver ticked them off? Hey, no problem! They were just having an off day. Your crush is someone you met at the bar and they’re considered a regular there? Oh, that’s okay. Once they settle down all that will change. [Please note that I am holding up a very large sarcasm sign with flashing neon and a strobe light.] Apparently we all look pretty through pink lenses.

Often that infatuation stage is what we call ‘falling in love’ and it does imply that we haven’t reach the love part yet. How true that is! You don’t actually know the other person beyond your own perception of them. You haven’t been slapped out of your delusions yet. It’s very easy to pretend everything is perfect, because that’s how we really want it to be. On the other hand some of us prefer a cold shower of reality as soon as humanly possible. It’s a lot less painful in the end. We don’t necessarily decide to end a relationship because of the reality, but at least we know what we’re getting into.

Maybe you’re wondering why this is important to me, which is a fair question. It’s not simply that I’m facing these things at the moment, but also that I’d really like to make sure I don’t screw things up in the future. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and certainly have no trouble owning up to that, but if I don’t look for my own answers as to why that happened…well…like history I am doomed to repeat it.