Let me be clear that I am not throwing myself a pity party. That’s not what this is about. I like to hold myself accountable for my behaviour, and sometimes, I don’t like my results when I do.
I normally describe myself as carrying a fairly high level of stress. That’s not a complaint, it’s just context. Overall, I am blessed in my life. I know that. It doesn’t seem to make other things easier to deal with, but it should. It’s hard to keep the blessings in mind when other parts go to hell in a handbasket. I don’t blog about my relationship with my wife, that’s not my story alone, so not mine to share alone. Like many couples, we have our share of challenges, although ours are more bland than spicy. Regardless, I know my life is better with her in it, which is easy to remember.
Over the last two years of isolation, I’ve seen a change in myself. I am, in short, less tolerant of noise. In the past, particularly online, I would skip past it and ignore it. If people were repeatedly spewing it, I’d disengage and mute or unfriend them. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. If I don’t want the interaction in my life enough to warrant the pain, I disconnected. Pity parties by people are a frequent hard stop for me. The passive aggressive posts where someone has had a meltdown and says, “I know which ones of my friends will respond” are attempts to manipulate people, and I don’t do those games. When it comes to relationships, I don’t do games, I don’t do drama. When it happened in the past, I walked away. One long-standing relationship relatively ended when the person thought it was okay to have that kind of meltdown as a daily reaction to something small, she liked drama in her life, and the chips could lay where they fell. Not an option for me for many reasons. I’ll come back to that.
But as much of my interaction has moved online in the last two years, I found myself being increasingly sensitive to what I often felt were unfair reactions to things I said. I’d respond to something, express my view, and someone would say, “Well I think you meant THIS.”. Except I don’t usually have trouble expressing myself, or dance too far around issues. If I had meant THAT, I would have SAID that. And I found myself feeling like I had to spend more time nuancing things, over-explaining myself, preventative wording. Sometimes I was too tired to anticipate every possible reaction, my writing isn’t as robust as it was 2 years ago, ideas don’t flourish and flow to the keyboard as they once did. I have to plod through more than I used to, more method than muse.
As with most online interactions, tone is very hard to convey, and for me, perhaps doubly so. Often I write things as a way for me to work through an issue, grappling with the nuances, much as my blog does. I view it as expressing my PoV, sometimes explaining why I feel the way I do. Yet others have seen me as harsher than usual, more argumentative than usual, rankling more than usual. And mansplaining.
I confess I find that word offensive, perhaps because I have spent too much time in my life looking at legal issues and human rights, psychology and economics, politics and power. I’ll slip to the side for a minute because it is relative to my reaction and self-assessment. While it would be nice if conversations could discuss facts, argumentative structures and frameworks, ad hominem attacks are far too frequent. To me, I feel there is a hierarchy of ad hominem attacks of people…not that they are different in levels of offensiveness, they’re all wrong, but in terms of how I react to them. My reaction to certain types of attacks are harsher than others.
To me, perhaps the most offensive of all are the ones steeped in racism. Some are so offensive that we can’t even say the words, shortening them to N-word, for example. The long history of disenfranchisement is clear, the limiting of power of voice, to dismiss someone’s views because of race. Some are steeped in long bloody histories, some are more recent and subtle, but there are few things to me more unique than race. There’s nothing to do to change it, even if you were so inclined, nothing personal in the attack, but simply to say “You have no voice as an individual because you are a member of a class” is the ultimate form of intellectual disenfranchisement. To not only dismiss, but to also denigrate the ideas they have now and will ever have. Growing up, I knew some things I heard were wrong, but I didn’t always know exactly why or how. I didn’t have the background or exposure to articulate the inherent injustices in phrases aimed at Jewish people or Gypsies/Roma because they weren’t presented as racial attacks, almost backhanded compliments but still leaving me uneasy that somewhere in there was something not right. As a white man, I find it odd that this one ranks with me as the first level as I have no personal experience with it. Maybe because I see what extreme forms of it can lead to in wars or slavery or gaps in domestic justice, I don’t know.
I feel my second category, one of intellectual capacity tied to other disabilities, is one that I would have thought of differently 20 years ago. I would have placed it fourth. The terms spaz or retard are offensive, yet are not redacted in public discourse, they still appear in print, newspapers will print it if someone says it. More often than not, it is used as an insult to someone who has no disability, but that by extension, if you were in that category, obviously your opinion would be worthless. I didn’t have much exposure to disabilities growing up, knew very little about the challenges or levels, yet found myself back in 2005 working on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I had been educated in Gender Equity at CIDA, indoctrinated in the Rights of the Child in law school previously (although also more instinctive), and learned a lot about “No decision about us without us”, the challenges of guardianships to capacity, etc. And I threw myself into it, trying to fill gaps in my knowledge and experience, listening to those with lived experiences, seeing their rights sometimes reduced by what appeared at first to be an elegant civil framework or solution that was theoretically designed to help. Yet I can still remember hearing a joke from someone close to me about the “short bus” to school, and thinking it funny, even as late as 2006. It was darker humour, and it slipped by my filter. But then Jacob was born and has CP as well as visual issues. My wife has visual issues too, but I have never seen her in any way as disabled or even as a person with a disability. And he could qualify for that short bus, particularly if he has to use a wheelchair at some point. With that personal sensitivity, my ranking likely rose to level 2.
So what moved down in my slots? Ageism and sexism. Ageism has always bothered me, although often in forms that others don’t see. I see it often for teens. I grew up with a lot of adults around, as the youngest of six kids, with my oldest sister being married when I was four. As such, spouses and family friends were added to the mix, and we were not kept “out of sight, out of mind”. So I listened to conversations around me, and while I wasn’t ready to jump in when it was family friends, I wasn’t told not to speak when it was just family. Yet I have seen people attack kids they don’t know because they think they have a right to intervene, to tell them what to do, because of their age. I’m not talking “be careful” type stuff, I’m thinking of examples where I saw a woman in her 60s attacking two young girls on the bus because they were laughing. And not very loudly, they weren’t bothering anyone, they were actually rather reserved. But she didn’t like it, and started giving them a hard time. It bothered me so much I had to intervene. Now, I don’t know if that was ageist stuff or what, as I have another issue that affects me which is someone trying to bully someone else by being unpleasant or aggressive. Forcing them to do what they want through a willingness to be rude, for example. But I frequently see older people being unfairly rude to kids as if it is okay. And the kid often takes it. I know some people are more incensed by the disrespect they see FROM kids, I’m more incensed by the disrespect to kids, because I don’t feel they can protect themselves as well.
I confess that have never understood sexism in any form, thinking that someone’s role should be based on their sex, it simply makes no sense to me. I suspect because many of my teachers in the subjects I liked were female. They taught me math, they taught me computers, they encouraged me to write. My parents were fairly traditional in their gender roles in the house, restrictively so, and that impacted my own capacity growing up, but it never seemed “normative” to me. I didn’t see cooking and cleaning as supposed to be women’s work, I saw it more as descriptive as reflecting traditional gender roles, and the limits seemed more situational to me. I was blind to the horizontal reality, I too often saw women succeeding and likely unconsciously thought, “Well, they’re doing it, things have changed?”. Law school gave me a reality check in ways that the women I knew around me had not. I could see more of the barriers, the frameworks that reinforced both race and gender division lines. Gender Equity work at CIDA and in my other work helped me to see the struggle more clearly and like most men, I struggle at times to know what role I play in not being someone who makes something worse for someone vs. someone who makes things better. But it doesn’t anger me usually on “behalf” of women because I don’t feel I need to rescue a damsel in distress, at least not in a general sense (I might in a physical issue or for emotional support, hard to nuance that someone (male or female) in emotional distress calls to me).
I also don’t feel that I need to represent all men. I’m not an exemplar that someone can point to of anything. I’m just PolyWogg. Warts and all, as they say. One thing that I have struggled with over the years as a mental exercise is the conflict between subjective perception and objective reality. It started as a semi-thought experiment that came out of a real-life example. I was walking down the street one night, and I noticed a woman alone ahead of me, walking a bit slower than I. Now, if it was a guy, I wouldn’t have likely thought much about it. I would have just kept walking and passed by him. There could be a 1000 reasons why that might make the guy uncomfortable, but it wouldn’t register with me. As it was a woman, I crossed the road to avoid the situation. She then crossed the road ahead of me. Since I wanted the other side originally, I was a bit annoyed and amused, but crossed back, not really thinking about it, just slowing my pace to avoid her. And she crossed again. I don’t know if she was looking for something, maybe she was trying to stay in the lighted areas, I have no idea. But now I was caught in a mental quandary. I knew that I was no threat to her, but she didn’t know that, and does her perception override my “reality”? And if you move to the beat of Marshall McLuhan, is her perception ACTUAL reality? Does her perceiving me as a possible threat mean that I really am a threat? Philosophically, it rattled me. In the moment, though, I was somewhat stuck…where I was going was just up ahead, and if I crossed, I would end up crossing again almost immediately in front of her. I slowed down and waited until she passed. But if she was aware of my presence, I have no idea if she was, what did she think? Was I a jerk? Could I have been more sensitive somehow? Such a simple interaction, and while lots of people seem to have views, there is no “right” answer amongst women. They can all tell me what they think I should have done, and most of them don’t agree. Because they don’t represent their entire sex. They’re just themselves. They can share their lived experience, but that doesn’t make it universal.
I have traditionally been more comfortable around women than men. And over the years, when I was single, I frequently had numerous female friends and relatively few male friends. With the women, I was more open with my feelings, more “emotional” if you will, partly as I felt perhaps like I was in a safer space somehow. Was that sexist? Perhaps. But a legacy of that is that if someone asks me a question at work, I am frequently more willing to share my “truer” feelings with women than men. With men, I’ll talk more about “options” or “variables” at play in a situation; with women, I’m more likely to share my actual opinion. Is that sexist? I don’t know. I feel less open with men, constrained more. If it is sexist, is it towards men more than towards women? Obviously, none of that is universal. Some men, I’m quite open about opinions or feelings about something. Some women, not at all. Does that make it all contextual? Each relationship is unique. But how I interact with them changes. Yet as men “in general” (if there is such a thing), become more aware of the historical things they were blind to, seeing how to avoid conflicts in complex relationships is kind of part of the deal. Yeah, you can write off comedians who say you can’t joke about stuff. But I know better-than-average men who question some stuff that is probably fine, partly because intention matters too. And they’re talking about it, not to complain about a loss of male privilege, but because they are reflecting and talking about their behaviour, as they should.
Which I try to do every day, to be honest. Not because I’m trying to be perfect or enlightened but because I believe very strongly in personal accountability. Not as a normative state for everyone, but as a normative state for me.
So let me come all the way back to the term mansplaining. I find it incredibly sexist and demeaning. I’ve deleted friends from Facebook who thought it was a completely innocuous term. Except it is the same basis for most sexist behaviour you see. It takes the voice away from someone who said X or Y, reduces all of what they said to a class and not the individual, is a complete ad hominem attack and would be identical to dismissing a woman as hysterical. Maybe you don’t agree. But here’s the reality. I don’t give a flying fig if you agree or not. Just as the woman’s perception decides if being called hysterical is sexist in reality or not, I too get to decide if being accused of mansplaining is sexist and offensive or not.
And yet, in many ways, regardless of how offensive I find it, it doesn’t change the original perception. Both realities coexist. They dismissed it as mansplaining, I thought I was expressing my opinion as everyone else seems to do. Yet if I disagree, and explain why I feel it doesn’t apply, I can be dismissed as mansplaining. Well, I’m a man, and I’m explaining the reasons for my opinion, not sure quite how to avoid that reality.
Don’t get me wrong, I can come across as arrogant in interactions, in person or even more so online. Not intentionally, but because I expect people to converse about ideas, not personalities. So, much of my interactions online are about me explaining things. It is also an area that I regularly get positive feedback on, my ability to explain why I think x or y is true, how HR works, how to prepare for competitions, different ways to do things in WordPress, or perhaps a new approach to learning astronomy or explaining which telescope to choose. As an analytical introvert, I deal in facts and frameworks and ideas, not tone.
I usually try to soften my views online when I type…I can easily get too far into my head and forget there’s a person with their own issues on the other end. “That’s interesting…it doesn’t resonate with me that way, perhaps because I feel this or that is important”. There have been many times where I write something and when I’m done, I just delete it. I just can’t soften it enough without it seeming way too argumentative. Or just way too long.
One of my favourite lines of all time online is the simple YMMV. Your mileage may vary. Because I am not omnipotent. I have areas of expertise, and lesser areas of knowledge, and sometimes both of those lead to strong opinions in certain areas. Let me give one such area before I talk about the self-assessment.
For kids like Jacob who have congenital cataracts, the generally-accepted protocol is two-fold:
- If the light is being blocked partially, but enough light is getting through to let them learn to see, then delay surgery until they are strong enough for the surgery;
- If the light is being blocked totally, they are not learning to see, do the surgery as soon as is feasible.
I say that based on not only our own experiences dealing with the pediatric ophthalmologists (PO) and our optometrist, and discussing it with friends who are optometrists, and learning directly from Andrea’s own experiences, I also binge-read several scientific studies at the time of the decision. Subsequently, I’ve participated in an online forum of parents of Aphakic children since Jacob was born, i.e. the last 12 years, and they regularly share journal articles, other resources, etc., and all of them predict the same outcome — you need at least some light or long-term vision outcomes are reduced. If the cataract totally occludes the eye, surgery is recommended **if possible**.
There are lots of reasons why that might not be possible. They could be in the NICU with LOTS of other issues going on that make them weak. They could have compromised immune systems, ongoing respiratory problems, or simply live in countries where PO options are not available (frequently seen in adoptees who weren’t treated early in life). That’s relatively settled science but it doesn’t mean there is only one decision. Lots of variables intervene.
The second point of discussion though is whether or not people use contact lenses or glasses and whether they do daily insertion and removal or long-term insertion and removal (week, month, etc.). I have read TONS of stuff on this that came through the group, plus my own research, plus asked the PO and optometrist every time. I’m a squirrel, I wanted to understand even AFTER we had made our decision. Is there something NEW in the science? Has clinical evidence changed the recommendation? And the answer is generally geographic and personal. The science itself is relatively clear — daily insertion and removal is generally the best outcome for infections, optical health, etc., but that is only if **all other variables are equal**. They almost never are. If you’re a single mother of 4 children, and you’re struggling to just look after them, adding daily insertion is likely to be a terrible option for you. If the steepness of the cornea isn’t within set parameters, then the lens is likely to fall out if a soft lens. Harder lenses are less permeable, but if they can fit them better or stay in better, maybe longer-term insertion is the way to go. There are WAY more variables.
Yet in the groups, these issues — early surgery, daily insertion — are also likely to start rumbles. Not because we disagree on the science, but often because people will say “Do this” as if it is the only way, and someone else is like, “Hey, wait a minute”. When someone new joins the groups, the first post is almost always the same — “Here’s what’s happening, help me understand it.” They’re looking for a simple, plain language view that doesn’t tell them to do X or Y, but just helps them understand it. I know, because I was there. I’m always looking for the gateway framework from which all other learning will flow more easily.
On a frequent basis, whether it be in a CP group or the Aphakic group, I’ve responded to someone’s first post and said, “Welcome to the group, breathe, etc.” and then laid out a simple framework that I’m always clear “works for me” and that their mileage may vary. So much so that I frequently get people from the groups sending me separate messages telling me that in 10y of dealing with the issues, they’ve never seen it explained so well; other times, admins have asked if they can pin it to the featured areas as a reminder for a while or turn it into a FAQ.
On one level, that is a humble brag. On another, it is simply part of my zeitgeist as a person. My mind often creates frameworks for understanding things that other people don’t see the same way. When I share it, if I have time and energy, I try to stick in all the caveats about “my opinion”, what resonates with me, YMMV, etc. Because it is a framework that works for me.
Yet sometimes I don’t do that. I forget to add in all the niceties. I type quickly, I say my piece, and I move on. If I’m posting it, and my avatar isn’t god, I feel like it’s my opinion and that should be clear enough.
Earlier this week, I did so on a FB post that Andrea shared regarding ADHD. It was a series of memes that a woman posted about what ADHD looks like for her based on her experience and that it looks different from men’s ADHD. Andrea shared it with the line that “as I know some of you have been recently diagnosed with ADHD, sharing for interest”.
Now for way too much context. ADHD came up as a possible explanation for the way my brain works back in high school, and at university, and because I’m a resident squirrel aka analytical introvert who lives in my head who has spent a LOT of time self-analysing myself, I’ve also read a fair amount on ADHD over the years. Which means when she posted, I immediately clicked to go through it. Some of the high-end scientific and psychological stuff eludes me, too technical in CBT at times for my tastes, but I feel I have an above-average awareness of the issue, including some recent articles about differences between men and women for ADHD to see if part of the reason why I seem ADHD-like is because I’m a secondary “green”, more in tune with emotions and they’re equating socio/psycho/emotional side vs. more Type As.
I liked the post, even thought about sharing it, but as is so often the case, my liking it gets bogged down in details. I like the thrust, but don’t like part 2; or I feel part 3 is misleading. I didn’t share any of those comments, not something I would normally engage on. As is common with me, There were a few nuances in it that I disagree with, niggly stuff in the way it was presented, but it seemed bang on for explaining to those WITH ADHD how it frequently presents. Several of Andrea’s friends commented positively on it, seemed like a good post. As I said, I would have considered sharing it myself, except for the niggly details and one larger nuance that I felt was a bit too leading. And then one of our common friends basically said, “Oh, I’ve experienced that, I wonder …”. The person in question regularly does this, she jumps to a simple explanation for stuff, and it is the exact thing that bothered me about the memes. As a description of what someone experiences with ADHD, for what my opinion is worth, it is one of the better examples I’ve seen over the last 10 years. But the details that bothered me was that “simple” diagnosis is frequently one of the biggest challenges in ADHD over the last 30 years. And seeing a friend fall into that trap bothered me. I dashed off a quick response to her to say, “No, wait a minute, it’s good for explaining / describing” but gave some of the problems with using it as a diagnostic tool. I didn’t nuance everything perfectly, I didn’t try to. This person doesn’t understand nuance well, and softening it would mean she would miss my point entirely.
So I gave her the quick version of my framework from the last 30 years of reading about it, and particularly what it looks like in adults. For me, it comes down to three elements of diagnosis — symptoms, prevalence and impairment, and coping mechanisms. Am I an expert? From from it. But I am a bit better informed than the average bear, and her usage of it was WAY less than that of an average bear. For context, I’ll explain why I bothered to respond to her. It was NOT a quick reaction, it was based on something substantive.
From the scientific literature, the diagnosis of symptoms is REALLY hard. Almost everything that occurs in ADHD also occurs in people who are just dealing with life. Distraction, inability to focus, obsession, hyperfocus, etc. None of them are unique to ADHD. It’s one of the fundamental problems of the 1980s for diagnosis in kids and the prescription of Ritalin, it was often mis-used that if a kid experienced those symptoms, they must have had ADHD. In the 1990s and into the 2000s, that focus shifted from simpler “symptoms” to issues of prevalence and impairment. One area that I find fascinating myself is that the symptoms also figure heavily for analytical introverts, i.e. me. It’s why I’ve spent so much time reading about it over the years, wondering if maybe that is part of my psyche (it’s not). Equally fascinating is that those under stress and anxiety or grief can demonstrate the exact same issues. Others have shared that fascination, it’s not unique to me, but it has suggested to some that it is primarily an input processing issue more so than an analytical issue, i.e., when stressed or anxious or grief-stricken, input processing is frequently affected with similar outcomes. Not 1:1, according to most researchers, but fascinating nonetheless. It is the issue that bothers me the most about the memes — it suggested that although it appears this way, experiencing these things does not mean you have ADHD. It’s symptomatic of something, but lots of things would give the same symptoms. It’s why I didn’t share it. I can see myself easily in every one of the memes, for instance. It seems like a fantastic description IF YOU HAVE A DIAGNOSIS. But my friend was using it to MAKE a self-diagnosis.
Yet the same research seems to show that the symptoms are generally the same in women and men, as is the likely prevalence. The meme suggested the symptoms are different, which I found a bit niggly. This is incredibly true for physical things like heart attacks and strokes, and it is a popular and highly useful / revealing bit of wisdom to share that can save lives. But in psych research, it doesn’t seem to hold that the symptoms are different but rather that the interpretation of the symptoms are often highly sexist. As noted in the memes, woman patients have historically been dismissed as simply being ditsy, i.e. it isn’t just they are unable to focus, or can’t figure something out, it’s diagnosed that they’re just women, and women shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about complex things. One of the active challenges in the literature is getting the symptoms identified properly as being the same. Once done, most research seems to estimate that prevalence may be the same between the two binary sexes. It’s still open to debate in the literature, as most things like this are, but it made me reluctant to share, and I didn’t feel I should be trying to edit someone else’s work, it was really good description, just not diagnostic enough. I wanted more context.
However, another challenge raised in the psych research is that women frequently DON’T report because although the symptom is the same, their own gender role, societal interpretation of the gender role, and their own self-beliefs result in different levels of impairment and coping mechanisms. The memes described it as the symptoms, which seems inaccurate to my understanding of the research. A misclassification, if you will, in a larger framework. The danger is that an example of a woman feeling overwhelmed at home and wanting homelife to be perfect is not exactly a sign of ADHD, at least not according to the experts. That only reinforces traditional misdiagnoses…if she is a mother, or has an imbalance in gender roles or self-beliefs about the household and families, it MAY manifest there as something like a Tiger mom. Not because she IS a Tiger mom per se, but because her ADHD is manifesting itself in that area of her life — her impairment level and resulting coping mechanism, maybe even over-compensation, could produce Tiger mom-like behaviour. Not every woman with ADHD and kids will produce a Tiger mom response; not everyone who is a Tiger mom is because of ADHD. And coping mechanisms for men and women are VERY different because they often cope/compensate in different areas of their life, but that seems to be more based on their actual work/life roles, if I’m reading the research right. Women who are very work-oriented often have very similar coping mechanisms to men who are very work-focused, for example.
So, in response to the friend, I was fairly blunt. No, symptoms are not different, it is more about coping mechanisms than symptoms, and experiencing this alone doesn’t mean you have ADHD, it is experiencing this on a sustained basis with impairment while having no other obvious cause (like anxiety or grief).
For that, one of Andrea’s friends pointedly used sarcasm to tell me my mansplaining ADHD was lovely.
I was offended, I confess but not as personally as you might think. The reaction is not atypical for her towards any man and one of the reasons I unfriended her long ago was because of her frequent offensive generalizations about men as jokes. I do however object more to the term mansplaining now that I have a 12-year-old son. Normally I would let it go completely, more wondering why I haven’t completely blocked her instead of just unfriending her, but I chose not to ignore it this time. As I said, I’m less tolerant of noise these days and partly as I wasn’t even responding to her, I was responding to a very specific person’s belief that if she had experienced those, she might have ADHD, i.e., using it as a diagnostic tool. If she didn’t like what I wrote, I felt it was none of her fucking business, to be honest. So jumping in with her regular sexist comments about men pissed me off, and so I asked if I should respond equally to suggest she was being hysterical. Was it offensive? Yep. Was it meant to be? Absolutely. I’m tired of her shitting on people without challenge from anyone. In my defence, I am not the only person who feels her behaviour is caustic at best, and others have blocked her accordingly, which she likes to wear as a badge of honour that “she speaks her mind”, regardless of how offensive she actually behaves towards people. My wife loves her, sure and that earned her friend a certain amount of deference over the years, but I would never let her friend talk that way to my son.
Now, does all of the above — my actually having some better-than-average insights into the literature about adult diagnosis of ADHD and some of the factors that limit attention related to male and female “symptoms” vs. “reactions”, or that I was responding to someone bluntly who doesn’t get nuance — factor into her response? Not really.
If she felt I was mansplaining something, she’s entitled to that opinion, and even if I don’t feel like that was what I was doing, it doesn’t make her wrong. Nor do I expect the benefit of the doubt from her. Her perception, her reality. Just as my perception of how offensive she was is also my reality. Two realities coexisting.
What I didn’t expect was my wife to agree with her, and to even go further and call me a troll.
When she told me so, I confess I was shocked. She wouldn’t listen to why I was offended and dismissed me completely, no benefit of the doubt at all that I might have reasons for my reaction, didn’t seem to care at all.
I normally am able to hold myself in check when I’m pissed, but with the impact of the last two years, the increase in emotion since she started chemo treatments, some health issues going on for me, I’m not at the same level of resilience. Maybe if I was, I would have nuanced things for our mutual friend a bit more, or I might have dismissed it entirely. Or I might not have reacted to the offensive friend at all. However, things affect me more than they normally do, and since I’m spending more time online, some of that reaction is based on online stuff. Yet Andrea’s reaction was more immediate. Not online, nowhere to hide, nowhere to retreat, we were in the car driving her to do errands.
That isn’t meant to excuse anything, it’s just part of my harsh self-assessment of the situation. If I want to control my behaviour, I have to know how I got to a situation I didn’t see coming. I lost my temper and said something even more offensive to her, and in front of Jacob.
I work really hard NOT to ever lose my temper. Because when I do, I don’t care what I say, I am in “hurt” mode and I will lash out verbally with whatever I think will offend the fastest. While I occasionally get irritated and things will burst out, I do not lose my temper. I will always walk away long before then. But I know some of my triggers. I anticipate them. I plan for them. When I was younger, feeling “trapped” would increase the risk of losing control of my mouth. Feeling bullied increases it. Feeling disrespected can be a trigger if done aggressively. Feeling trapped and bullied and disrespected are not a good recipe. So I have coping mechanisms. Walking away if things get heated are obvious. Making sure if I go somewhere, I always have an exit option for driving or whatever. I do not let myself feel trapped anywhere, unable to get away. If people are into drama, they are not part of my life. Two family members are at the top of that list, as is an ex-girlfriend. If people are relatively doing manipulative stuff, they’re not part of my life. If they come at me with malice, they’re gone from my life in an instant. No regret, no reprieve.
That isn’t about being kind or not tolerating abuse, or any of the popular reasons people often use. It’s simply that giving into those feelings is not who I want to be, regardless of anything I want to tell myself was provocation. Even if someone was attacking my family, and I jumped in to protect them, even if it seemed justified to stand up for them with some sort of verbal attack back, that doesn’t mean I would like my behaviour afterwards. Even for good reasons, I don’t want to behave like that, ever. Sure, dismissing my views because I’m male, accusing me of being a troll, with no benefit of the doubt for who I am and what I believe, or any semblance that I’m her husband and deserve a bit more respect than that? Yeah, that pushed me past the point of control. Which pisses me off ever more — not at her, I never care about other’s behaviour towards me, they have their own shit to do deal with and for her, it likely seemed less aggressive and more deserved. I am pissed at myself that I didn’t see my reaction coming and lost my temper, and did so not only to her, but also in front of Jacob.
I didn’t see any triggers in the equation. I was “trapped” in the car, so couldn’t walk away, but I was the one pushing the conversation, not her. I was the one venting about her friend. I didn’t feel I was out of control, or even near it. And she wasn’t bullying me, or coming at me with malice. Yeah I felt disrespected, but that isn’t a new experience in my life, and not normally something that would put me over the top. It stings more coming from her, but that shouldn’t have put me over the edge.
And going back, the trigger that started things off was an interaction on Facebook. But no, I don’t mean FB is the culprit. I mean that I didn’t see an interaction on social media leading to my lapse in judgement. And it doesn’t matter if I agree with the assessment. The self-reflection, the harshness turned on myself, is that perception is reality. If I am doing something so egregious that my wife thinks I’m actually being a troll, well, that battle is long since lost. My judgement is way off, and I can’t afford that risk when my resilience is so far down.
Which means Facebook and social media is neither a safe space for me, nor apparently for them with me in it. I have withdrawn. It pains me to do so, as it has been my primary source of social interaction at the moment, but I will not be the person who makes things worse for others. If I can’t rely on my judgement, if I can’t navigate complex relationships in a way that doesn’t harm, then I cannot be part of them. It isn’t a childish “taking my ball and going home”, it’s closer to an alcoholic deciding they cannot drink again. Because it isn’t the first drink they want, it’s the first ten. I can’t simply pause and all will be well.
I disconnected my FB account from Andrea’s and even unfriended her. If my online actions hurt her, they’re not worth it to me. I also basically went through and disconnected almost all friends and family that are likely to connect both of us together, and closed my involvement in a reading challenge group I was running. That one is less about her and more about the fact that I’m the only guy in a group of 32 women, which is definitely not a place for expressing my views about things, if my judgement is so distorted.
I’ve deleted almost everyone from my FB account, leaving primarily people I am friends with at work and some long-time friends that I knew before Andrea, plus my family. I dropped from about 130+ to 25. And I’m really only keeping the account active so that it is easy to message me directly, if some of them choose to do so at some point and to maintain my linked to the PolyWogg.ca FB page. It shares my blog posts, and some people follow only through that page. I’ll still follow other people’s news on FB in that smaller grouping and some of my pop culture feeds but I won’t be expressing much.
Which leaves me finding ways to compensate for the lack of FB. I’ll need to find ways to boost interactions, albeit with new people I imagine. I have a fairly high degree of interaction on Reddit related to my HR guide, and on CloudyNights related to astronomy, plus some work on 3D printers which I might put on hold. I was reading a post earlier today about, well, basically how to make more friends as an adult if you don’t drink i.e., somewhere other than a bar, and the suggestions were:
- Get a dog;
- Take classes;
- Meet people at the gym/yoga/fitness class/rock climbing place;
- Make friends on the slowly app (like penpals);
- Find an activity/hobby partner;
- Never eat lunch alone;
- Dungeons and dragons;
- Join a sports league;
- Get a motorcycle;
- Get a new hobby;
As I said at the top, this isn’t a pity party. Honestly? I’m one of the most self-reliant people I know in terms of interactions with others. I can go a pretty long time with little to no interaction, I just know that it’s not that healthy. And I still live in a house with two other people, so it’s not zero, plus I still have my existing connections. I suspect I’ll pass on the dog, and I’m limited in what I can do outside the house because of the high-risk nature of our household profile. Lunches don’t seem likely. Me thinks I’m likely to focus on the classes albeit virtual (to keep my mind active), maybe try the penpal app, definitely expand options for potential online gaming, and consider some new hobbies. I don’t need to add any of that though to my list of projects, most of them were already in my todo list, I just need to prioritize some of them.
And when I want to express myself about something, I have this blog.