Friday, March 31, 2006

Friendship and Anger

Interesting comments on the last post. I'm going to pick on Devan now. Fair warning.

If you value someone's friendship, accept it. They are who they are and their rudeness has nothing to do with their feelings for you. Accepting who someone is and the structure of a particular relationship is EXACTLY what it means to be someone's friend. Just because someone's a "flake" doesn't mean they're not a "friend." And just because you're not priority number one in their lives, doesn't mean that you're not an important part of their life. It's just a matter of perspective. ~ Devan, in comments below

See, this is what I mean by being able to explain away just about any treatment. This is a bunch of rationalizing bullshit that confuses "being a friend" with "being a doormat".

Friendship is a mutual system of support, affection, interests, and respect. Keyword: MUTUAL. I think I allowed that this friend's actions have nothing to do with her feelings for me. I'm pretty sure her actions have much more to do with the value she places on her personal time and other issues stemming from shyness and self-worth considerations. I don't believe I ever mentioned anything about needing to be a number one priority with a friend. HELL, I'm not even a number one priority with my husband. (Though I think I've made it into the top three now.)

Likewise, my admission about being pissed off at her actions has no bearing on my feelings for her as a person. I love her to pieces. She was there for me in a very real way throughout my college years. When she decides that she has time for friends and friendship in her life again, I'll still be here. But for me to be okay with ME, I can't keep holding out my hand only to have it be ignored over and over.

My saying that I'm pissed off has much more to do with me getting over that voice in my head that says "you don't have the right to be angry". Because, honestly, I AM angry, and if I deny that, it's only going to destroy, little-by-little, the friendship that I do feel for her. Simmering anger turns into resentment, and nothing sours a relationship faster than bubbling pools of resentment. If I own up to my anger, I can deal with it, get over it, and move on to something more productive and interesting.

Yes, opening yourself to other people can hurt. I can only assume that's why so many people are so crippled by social interactions. ~ Devan again

What the hell kind of high horse condescending bullshit statement is this? And what does it have to do with the subject at hand? I'm not talking about being unable to "open" myself to people. (And, my, doesn't that sound pornographic?) I'm as open to people as the next person, but I have a lot of interests and a lot of ways to entertain myself, so I see no reason to tolerate disrespectful treatment from others. Just not worth my time. Doesn't make me crippled, just makes me happier and saner.

Don't make me have to smack you. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Fighting the Impulse to be "Reasonable"

So one of the reasons I love Jay, besides the fact that he is NOT a self-loathing alcoholic, is that I am able to be utterly irrational with him at times, and not really have to worry about the results of said irrationality. If you're still with me after that mess of a sentence, I'll try to make it more clear as I go here.

Growing up, I was always the reasonable one. I didn't throw fits, I ate regularly, went to school regularly, did most of my homework, checked in if I wasn't going to be home, stayed out of jail... that sort of thing. After "Kate can handle it", "We knew you wouldn't mind" was the thing I heard from family and friends most often. And, of course, I did mind, but I could make excuses for any kind of behavior.

Dad drinks too much? Well, everyone on that side of the family drinks, and Dad has a lot of stress at work/has a dying friend in the hospital/is celebrating a good football season right now. Mom eats twelve pounds of candy in one day? Well, she's stressed out about Dad's drinking/brother's arrests/taking care of everything around the house/Scouting/church stuff. Brother acting like a fool, treating me like crap, getting arrested? Well, he's not dealing well with our parents' problems/blames me for NOT rebelling/figures if people say he's trouble, he might as well BE trouble. Friends disappearing, not calling when they said they would, blah blah blah? Well, everyone is busy, somethings are more important, I'm sure there's a good reason.

I could go on, but I'll spare us both. Suffice it to say, I could explain away just about any sort of behavior.

I had plans to meet up with a friend this weekend. Made these plans at the beginning of the month. Made these plans to make up for plans that fell through in January AND February. But still, note the use of the past tense "had plans". I got an email yesterday that "gosh, my sister said she was coming with the kids the last week in March, but she goofed and meant the first weekend in April, so I have to cancel".

My reasonable impulse was to be disappointed because I was really looking forward to having a conversation with another woman and to shopping, eating out, and getting away from rural Vermont for the day, but I know that she doesn't get to see her nieces all that often, and that her sister IS a big flake, so I grumbled to myself a bit and shrugged it off. BUT THEN I started to think about it. Last weekend was the last weekend in March. Um, shouldn't she have realized sometime last week that her sister wasn't coming then? I only live about an hour away... couldn't she have called me then? Couldn't we have moved our plans back a week instead? Why, had she called me, then yes, we could have.

And I realize her problems have more to do with her issues than with her feelings toward me, but I'm not going to expend more energy on a "friend" who isn't. She knows where to find me and how to contact me. I think I shall not hold my breath, however, as I just move the hell on with my life. Hmmm? So screw "reasonable". I'm just going to own up to being PISSED OFF. RAHR.

(On a completely unrelated note: Da ALi G Show... painfully funny. Emphasis on the pain. Couldn't stop laughing, but at one point, Jay had the blanket over his head so he wouldn't have to actually SEE it happening.)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Another post about alcoholics

When I was a senior in high school, I had to squeeze health class into my schedule. For most people, this meant giving up a semester elective, but I needed my art classes to stay sane, so I skipped AP European History and took a semester of anthropology opposite the semester of health. Fortunately, my friend Becca had likewise procrastinated, so I wasn't alone among the sophomores and juniors.

Now everything was easy, breezy, common sense type shite for me until we got to alcohol and drug use/abuse. I remember having to read a worksheet describing a bunch of different behaviors in regard to drinking and drugs, being required to decide which were "safe" or just "experimental" and which were signs of deeper problems or addiction. I failed on every count. I had no idea what was normal behavior and what wasn't. I wasn't used to not being able to figure out the answers in school. I remember being deeply puzzled by this failure, though I think this confusion about "normal" attitudes towards alcohol and drugs is fairly common among the children of alcoholics.

Our teacher had a recovering alcoholic come to class to talk about his experiences. Listening to him made me want to cry, so instead I squirmed through his talk, trying not to giggle. I'm a big fan of laughing as a substitute for tears, but I felt like a jerk, like he might have thought I was laughing at him. 12 years later, this still bugs me.

I think one of the smartest choices I accidentally made was to avoid contact with drinking and drugs until I did understand the difference between use and abuse. Other than an occasional glass of wine at a family dinner, I didn't touch alcohol until my sophomore year of college. Still under the legal drinking age here in the US, but not by much. Had a minor bout of overdrinking during my junior winter, but blacking out and puking in bushes got pretty old pretty fast. Was back to the mostly sober life during my last year of college.

But even then, after I had gotten my own issues under control, I still had to work out the relationship-with-alcoholics problems. Jay and I were watching Walk the Line the other night. Good movie, really enjoyed it, loved Reese Witherspoon's role. But there's a scene in the movie where Johnny Cash is all fucked up, in withdrawal, moaning about what an awful person he is. And I think this was maybe intended to evoke sympathy, but my reaction was: "Oh shut it. Yeah, you suck. I've seen this before, I know how it ends." But of course, this time, the ending was different... happy, instead of the same old thing all over again.

And the instant anger of my reaction surprised me. Watching the portrayal of a very talented individual fuck up his life with drugs and self-loathing just seemed a little too familiar. In 1996 - not coincidently just before I started smoking and drinking heavily - I met Dave. We worked together, we flirted, we hung out with some of the same people. Because of the "D" plan - the flexible "trimester" system at Dartmouth that allows for multiple terms abroad, internships, ski training, etc. we hadn't really been on campus at the same time before. When we met, I was dating someone else, and he was dating several someone elses. But something just clicked and by the end of the term, we were a couple. (I think that something was the unstoppable force called "charming alcoholic meets child-of-alcoholic with unresolved issues". Or "self-loathing male meets would-be-martyr female". Take your pick.)

We both loved to read, to go to movies, to travel - especially to travel... we always had things to talk about. But more and more often I was finding him at parties drunk off his ass, either groping some other chick or else quietly crying in the corner about how he should just walk off naked into the wilderness and let himself die. (Yeah, so maybe he read too much Literature.) And usually I would gather him up, escort him back to his place or mine, and take care of his sorry ass. We would break up, get back together, break up again. We decided to see other people. I didn't understand that meant "see other people naked", though I caught on pretty quickly. This led up to the Infamous Sugar Packet Conversation one night in West Lebanon, NH. Good god, I wish I could go back in time and smack myself. Hard. Repeatedly.

And it just gets worse. One night I had gone to a party at one of the frats to meet up with him - because he asked me to - and he showed up with SkankyHo (I can't remember her real name). He was drunk off his ass. As was she. Probably a bit high as well. He stopped to give me a kiss, almost knocked me over he was so out of it. Told me that he really wanted to stop seeing SkankyHo, but he couldn't do that to her tonight because it was her birthday, so he'd probably have to fuck her, too.

Oh yeah. I couldn't make this shite up.

God, I'm still pissed off about that. And why? Not because of what he did, but because I still talked to him after that. And because I still did more than just talk to him after that.

We went on to torment each other for another four years, off and on, but distance helped keep the idiocy to a minimum. He moved to Italy for a while, I visited briefly. He was in Massachusetts while I was finishing at Dartmouth. There was talk of engagement. I said no. He moved to Oregon. I visited on a road trip. I TA'd in Lyon. We met up in Paris for a week. I dated a few other people; he fucked a lot of other people. I moved to Arizona. He visited me at the Grand Canyon. Then nothing. I moved to Salt Lake and he vanished. I needed a friend to talk to, and he never returned my calls or my emails. I threw away the stuff he left behind. When he did get in touch, I told him I had thrown away his stuff. Never heard from him again. Hallelujah, praise god.

I still sometimes wonder what happened to him. But somewhere down the line, I realized that it doesn't matter. I'm pretty sure he's still alive. I think he's back on the east coast. Maybe he's gotten over the self-loathing routine. Maybe not. The important thing is that I've gotten over the self-loathing thing.

I look back on that relationship now and just shake my head. Because like that long ago health class worksheet, it was another classic example of my not understanding the differences between "normal" and abusive behavior. I wonder if alcoholics have any understanding of the far-reaching effects their drinking has on their children. I wonder if most children of alcoholics do. Somehow I doubt it.

Friday, March 24, 2006

bleh bleh bleh

Yeah, I know, I never update anymore. Thing is, I've been making an effort to spend less time in the cement box that is my office, and more time writing, reading, knitting, editing, critting, and all that. And we still haven't caved to the outrageous price demands of the local Internet providers. So the only time I'm on here is when I'm at work. (No, I'm not paid by the hour, so I'm only wasting my free time.)

I swear that I have brilliant ideas for blog entries at night, at home, as I'm trying ever unsuccessfully to fall asleep... but I wake up in the morning, putz around for an hour or so, come to work, and the mediocrity that pervades this place just sucks away my will to write. Well, that and reading two dozen freshman English papers... Good God.

This week I've been trying to be a bit more conscientious about lesson plans and whatnot - my semester observation and evaluation is this afternoon. About 45 minutes from now, actually. Yippee. Thank god my second class has their library tour and introduction after that. I don't think I could deal with them (troublemakers, every last one) after the icky adrenaline rush of being watched wears off. Bleh.

Perhaps a last run through my notes would be wise...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Nouvelles Hyper Bonnes!

Fred is coming to visit! Yay!

Fred is my French younger brother - I lived with his family in Blois in the Spring of 1996, and I've been back to visit 4 or 5 times since, though not since 2002. He's way too smart for his own good, and last time I visited, he was off being brilliant in Chile or something like that. But since then, he's graduated from the Ecole Polytechnique (aka: X, aka: place for super smart people who end up running the world) and is off working in London. And he'll be in New York during my spring break vacation! Yay!

I'm so psyched. Either he'll figure out how to get up here, or I'll go down there (though I hate NYC) and I'm so excited to see him again.


(And now I feel the need to get my ass in gear, dust off the French, and write the Cognys a long overdue letter.)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Signs accepted, signs ignored

I've been trying to make a hat from a skein of Manos Del Uruguay color: bramble. I say "trying" because I've now knitted it up three different ways (and frogged it back three different times). Only explanation I can figure: this yarn does not want to be a hat.

So while I figure out what exactly it does want to be, I'm knitting up a nice, cabled hat in my still currently favorite yarn: Malabrigo in a leftover skein of burgundy.

But while I'm willing to accept the occasional message from the universe regarding knitting projects, there are others I steadfastly ignore.

For example, I might believe that the fact that only one of my readers acknowledged my birthday last week means that I am unloved. Instead, I choose to believe that people are either sick or busy or otherwise away from their computers, and therefore, from this blog.

I might believe that the reason my former college roommate hasn't followed through on any of our plans for monthly visits since November is because I am way low on her list of priorities. Instead, I choose to believe that she is mired in her martyrdom and requires extra harassment from me to remember that life isn't all about what she can do for everyone else. Why do so many people have trouble taking care of themselves? Holy Jebus.

I might believe that this atrocious weather is merely a result of the coming spring, warming temperatures, gentle rains, melting snow. Instead, I choose to believe that it's a personal insult from the weather gods, who my husband clearly needs to worship with more intensity so that we get some crisp, clear days and another few weeks of xcountry skiing. (I miss the intermountain west. sigh.)

As a final thought... Mud season: cruel joke, or necessary evil?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Finally uploaded pictures to the Flickr account - should have more transferred there soon. Click on the "badge" at the left to see some of my recent knitting projects.

Monday, March 06, 2006


I am on a massive high today. Not sure why, but I'm happy to ride it out. I've been slack about updating, but you are required to forgive me because today is my birthday. Three Zero. And I have to say I am really looking forward to my thirties, because my twenties were an improvement over my teens, and things are still looking up.

Things that I am looking forward to in the coming decade? Little Jay-Kate Hybrids, publication, a return to peak fitness levels, more creative endeavors, books to be discovered, yarn to be knit up, people to meet, places to go...

This past week, as I mentioned, we got over to Newcomb, NY to hang out with Fred and Morrie (Fred's fiance). Skied the 9 hole golf course the first afternoon - lots of fluffy powder and some fun hills. Next day did a ten mile (16 km) ski up an old road... in 8 degree Fahrenheit (-13 C) weather. Fun, but crazy cold. Day after that, Morrie and I hung out at the cabin and sent the boys out to play. Chatted, knitted, cooked up a big ol' turkey dinner. Good times.

Spent a few days in town after that, catching up on grading and work stuff (though I mostly just surfed the web while Jay was all responsible - slacker is spelled K-A-T-E). Skied about 15 K (didn't have the GPS, so just an estimated distance) at Burke xcountry Saturday afternoon. Great snow. About time.

For Saturday night, we got a fabulous invitation to a colleague's house for dinner and sauna-ing. Great food - every summer the dad and 13 yr old daughter go hunting/fishing in Alaska (where they lived for 5 years), so the salmon was amazing. Jay had fun playing with the younger daughter, who has Down's Syndrome, and he might have gotten her just a bit riled up. Then we got to experience the sauna that they built this past year on their property. Amazing. I miss the dry heat of the desert climes, and this was just wonderful. And funny - naked men going out to rub snow on themselves is inherently funny somehow. And I'm glad to hear via Jay that they enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed them.

Sunday we drove over into New Hampshire to see friends who recently left Salt Lake to return to the Wrong Side of the Mississippi. Skied another 15 K on crappy snow at one of the resorts, but had a great time with the friends. I confess that I was pretty destroyed by two 15K skis in 2 days. Feel great today though. Except for the bright blue bruises around my left knee from when I fell testing out my skate skiing skills (which are decent, but still very beginner-esque).

And now back to grading... Ugh.