Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's Retro Flashback Time

... but not in a fun way.

If we are supposed to learn stuff from facing challenges, then I'm right on track.  Apparently what one learns from being an adult in conflict with an aging parent is that all the crap from your childhood, the issues you thought you'd so successfully left behind in the dust, were actually just waiting for an opportunity to re-assert themselves.  Dammit.

In case anyone needs a refresher: I work with my step-dad, and due to incredibly complicated and nasty business politics we are currently opposed on some major issues.  This would be bad enough if he were only my boss.  Being opposed to one's boss who is also one's dad (with whom one has had a highly emotional and unharmonious history) is a recipe for psychological disaster.

The force of my reactions caught me off my guard.  I didn't realize how deep in over my head I was until I had my first serious panic attack in two years.  By "serious" I mean that in the middle of a friend's New Year's Eve party I got overwhelmed, went cold and sweaty all over, and had to run to the bathroom to clear out my gastrointestinal tract in the most efficient way possible (i.e. from both ends at the same time).  Yay I am so fun at a party!  Small mercies: the only bathroom in a house full of people and kids was actually free when I needed it.  Also, better a panic attack than my other thought: "I've come down with the stomach flu and all 30 adults and kids here tonight will catch it from me!  I am the spreader of terrible disease! *guiltguiltguilt*".

Poor Ken, who had been enjoying himself, had to leave the party to drive me home, but he was a very good sport about it; as were my friends, who didn't hold any grudge against me for ralphing into their wastebasket.  (I did rinse it fully before I finally surrendered the bathroom to another guest who was outside, knocking to be let in.  I advised my rather shocked hostess, on my way out the door, as to what had transpired and "you might want to disinfect that".  Lo, the shame!)

I have been back to my friends' house several times since The Incident, however last night was the first official party with lots of people and even some I hadn't met before since New Year's Eve.  I was a little nervous.  But I was fine.  In fact, I had a great time.  Yay, sometimes I actually am fun at a party!  I think it helped that since that panic attack I invested some quality time into figuring out where the hell my head is at.

I find it helpful to remind myself that I am 41 years old and no longer at anyone's mercy.  Yes, my future somewhat depends on the decisions of a man who is widely agreed to be moderately loony, but ultimately I can take care of myself.

In the wee hours of this morning I woke myself up screaming from a nightmare in which I had discovered my mother's body hanging from a noose in my childhood home.  There was also a scene in which a little girl was being gripped by a parental figure by her upper arms as the parent dangled her threateningly out of a second-floor window.  (Neither of these things physically happened in my childhood.  Still, the symbolism was apt.)

So, that's how I'm doing.  Grappling with a shitty past that has been resurrected to haunt me.  I'm telling myself what I learned in New Age class: these old injuries come up in order to be healed.  I'm working on it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Money Can't Buy My Love

All my life, my mother warned me to expect anti-semitism.  I have never directly encountered any.

When I got married to a brown man, (my first husband), my family threatened that we would run up against racism.  We never did.

I have been super lucky, and feel very privileged to be living in Toronto, where the various -isms are rarer than elsewhere.  However, I have encountered a surprising amount of sexism in the past few months, and it's making me furious.

What changed in my recent past?  I took a step into the realm of Big, Bad Business, which is full of cranky, rich, older men.  These men assume that any young, appealing female is there to do their bidding without asking too many questions.  I would truly like to slap them all.

The Business Men are all lascivious to some degree.  I do not see them greeting each other European-style, with a kiss on each cheek, but that's always how they greet me.  Okay, I can live with that.  But there's one accountant, a rat who always reminds anyone listening that he owns a block of real estate in downtown Toronto, who takes it too far.  From the minute he was introduced to me, he hit on me unrelentingly, in front of my step-dad, and even in front of my husband.  I tried to be a good sport about it.  I mean, it's annoying, but whatever.  He can talk until he's blue in the face but he's not going to get anywhere with me.

I had just sat through a meeting with him, and, in an attempt to establish a friendly rapport, made some joke to him about psychopaths.  He took this opportunity to wrap both his hands around my neck and pretend to strangle me.  I was so startled by this that I didn't make much of a response.  I just kind of made a face and stepped away.  He followed me, put one hand on the back of my neck, and proceeded to stroke my hair in the creepiest way you can imagine.  Then he offered me a ride home.  Yeah, right.  That'll be the day.  I escaped a.s.a.p. and haven't seen him since.  The less I have to do with him, the better.

Then there's the lawyer who was rude to me because I didn't say "Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full sir," when he started giving orders to me as if I were his administrative assistant.  You can bet that he wouldn't have talked to a man of my age and position in the same way.  I gently hinted that it would be more appropriate for him to assign the task to his secretary, but he just got angry with me. I did what he wanted, fuming the whole time, because I didn't want to start a war with him, but I asked my step-dad to remind him that I'm not a secretary.  I only help my step-dad in that capacity on occasion because he's my dad, and because he asks me nicely.  I manage a department of 14 people; I have higher priorities than typing someone's memos and fetching tea, especially when the person who's asking doesn't say please or thank you.

(That all being said, I always say please and thank you to my own subordinates.  There's nothing about secretaries that should allow anyone to feel welcome to abuse them.)

I shouldn't have to deal with these losers much from now on.  I have declined to participate any further in the Big Bad Business scheme that my step-dad has been wrapped up in.  Partly it's because BBB is not my style, and partly it's because the sexism in those circles is so sickening.  I guess it's two facets of the same problem: nasty people.  I have no problem with a little innocent flirtation for fun, but when I feel like I've been time-warped onto the set of Mad Men, well, that's taking it too far.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Language is a Liquid

I believe in the idea "If you're going to do something, you may as well do it right."  A place for everything, and everything in its place.  That sort of thing.  But when it comes to language, I'm of two minds.

Mind #1 values correctness.  This is the mind I use to screen resumes when I'm hiring.  One time I hired a typist who had an error in her resume.  I thought "Anyone can make a little mistake.  It doesn't mean that she's not a good typist."  Turns out she made a LOT of little mistakes.  In the end, I had to fire her.  There could have been serious legal repercussions from some of her errors.  It was not fun.  I wished I'd never hired her in the first place.

Mind #2 says that "correct" is only as good as today's consensus.  "Shoppe" used to be an acceptable spelling; now it's "shop".  Pretty soon "night" might turn into "nite".  Pronunciations also change with time.  When I was younger, the word "shone" always rhymed with "dawn".  Now, half the time, it rhymes with "bone".  What about the word "foyer"?  Is it proper to say it like the French word of origin "fo-yay"?  Or is the American "fo-yer" correct?

I enjoy the slipperiness of language.  It tickles my funny bone when a colleague who speaks English as a third language refers to a cookie as a biscuit, pronouncing it "bisk-wit".  Mixed metaphors can be quite poetic. I recall another acquaintance, who was going through tough times, describing her life as "all jungled up".  I thought it was an apt turn of phrase.

A friend is taking her no-good, drunkard ex to court to settle a divorce case.  He claims in his paperwork not to have a drinking problem.  My friend said that her lawyer is going to ask for a hair analysis test to prove the truth.  "What if he does a Britney Spears and shaves his head?" I asked.  Triumphantly, she told me "They can take it from his pubical hair!"  That, right there, is how great words and phrases are coined.

So, other than at work, you will not find me on the side of the grammar police.  I know how to say and write things properly, but sometimes it's more fun to do it wrong.  Like I always say, I'll burn that bridge when I get to it.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

You can't step twice into the same river.

Right before Christmas, things at my job got really-really stressful.  Since I work for a business that is partially owned by my step-dad, everything from work leaks out into my family.  And because Ken has also been working in the business, it was all over the place at home too.

Certainly there are benefits to working with family, but there are also times like these when I long to have a job I can truly leave at the end of the day.

It's been awful, what with people I love fighting with each other and my step-dad putting pressure on me to do things that I don't feel right doing.  In fact, I felt so not-right even considering them that I had to confront him and refuse.  I made an appointment to meet with him on Boxing Day because he's so busy these days that that was the only way to make sure he'd actually have time to listen to me.

We sat down across a table from one another, and I spoke my mind on all the things I haven't been able to talk to him about for months.  It's not that I haven't tried.  It's just that he's been so stressed out that anytime I started to say something that he didn't want to hear he'd get angry and shut his ears off.  I can always tell from his tone of voice when there's no point in carrying on an argument.  But this time I told him I needed his attention until I was done speaking.

First of all I told him that I love him.  Then I told him a lot of things that he didn't want to hear, in the gentlest way possible, but firmly.  I told him that I couldn't do the things he wanted me to do.  He listened.  Then he gave me a ride to the subway.  We haven't spoken since then.

So, life is kind of tough right now.  Day-to-day work has been crazy.  Big-picture work is uncertain.  Family relationships are messed up.  I can't talk about a lot of it because so much of it is confidential.  My family members are upset.  It's been hard on Ken.  And some of my good friends are my colleagues, so the few who know what's up are also worried and unhappy.

On the bright side, I have my health.  And I don't say that facetiously; it's actually a freaking miracle. Two years ago, I was just getting over a full-on nervous breakdown.  Today, under significant and unrelenting stress, I am holding up not too badly.  Yes, I am feeling kind of worn out by it all, but I am still enjoying life, my friends, and all the little comforts like my cozy bed, uplifting books, and a good walk.  I get to feeling nauseous at the worst of times, but I'm keeping myself healthy and in shape.  In fact, Ken had a cold all last week and I didn't catch it.

I have faith in myself; faith in my family and friends (not necessarily in that order in all cases); faith in love winning out in the long run, and faith in God.  I know that this too shall pass.  I know that I can take care of myself.  I know that I can and will stand up for what I believe in.  I am definitely grateful for the helping chemical hand of Paxil, but I feel that  I can take personal credit for a lot of my increased resilience.  10 mg is the smallest dose on the market and it will only get you so far.  I've come the rest of the way myself.