Tag Archives: Personal

First Poem On Coffee House Writers

Today my poem The Death Of A Small Town Generation went live on Coffee House Writers.

It sucked to write.

The worst thing is that, as a Millennial, I know this experience is not unique. Even before COVID-19 hit, another epidemic had hit the United States.

This image is from the article linked above.

I’m going to try and instead think back to when some of the people I am thinking about were still alive. Here’s a really old picture of me – my hair is barely even dyed!

This picture was taken in 2010

Anyways.

The poem is there. I’m not going to ask for people to like it because I don’t like the topic and I don’t want others to like it.

If you want to discuss it, I encourage that. At least then it’s being talked about.

If you want to share it, please do. Then others are seeing it and that helps more people talk about a problem that is all too quiet.

Thanks.

Sketch Book Retrospective: 2003 – 2005

This post is a little different. It’s a bit personal and talks about bullying, as well as lack of family support.

I used to draw a lot more than I do now. I never took art classes and was not allowed to take them. The above was a self portrait I drew in 2003 just prior to Hurricane Isabel wiping out our town.

I’d like to think I wasn’t bad at art, but it wasn’t a talent that those around me thought was worth my time pursuing. Others felt more strongly about using my art (even if I tried to keep it private) as a means of hurting me, much like anything else they could use in that way. Sometimes I’ve wondered if things would have been different, but it’s better to not think like that.

15-17 years later I have a little perspective. As my teenage years went on, I became discouraged and stopped drawing all together. I associate creating art with people using it to hurt me. While I’ve painted on occasion since becoming an adult, I’ve found the same issues with discouragement.

The whole point of my drawings were to bring a visual from my stories to life. This meant that in high school I found myself the Editor In Chief of our literary magazine and, instead of it feeling like an honor, it felt like a bullseye had been painted on me.

At some point I stopped wanting to explain myself over and over to people cornering me and interrogating me. “Why don’t you draw real things?” “Why are your proportions all wrong?” High school was hell for me. I have nightmares worrying about how the people who treated me in such malicious ways may now be abusing their own children and spouses. If they treated classmates with such physical, psychological, emotional, and verbal abuse for the sole purpose of their own sick enjoyment, is that something they would grow out of?

In high school I stopped wanting to deal with bullies writing rude things in my sketchbooks when they were stolen and, with no one to stand up for me, I was convinced I deserved it. My family taught me that I was to “stand there and take it.” It turns out if your family doesn’t support you, you have no example to base standing up for yourself on. I grew up like that – it took me until age 29 to have any ability to stand up for myself. I still struggle with it.

Few of my pictures aren’t ruined by the markings of those that stole my sketchbooks to write their own commentary. I’ve included the non-ruined ones here.

I figured I would take pictures of these couple drawings before I throw them away as we declutter the house. At least that way I have them and don’t have to look at the horrible things others wrote to hurt me ever again.

Why I Never Expect Apologies

Standing up for yourself doesn't make you argumentative. Sharing your feelings doesn't make you oversensitive. And saying no doesn't make you uncaring or selfish. If someone won't respect your feelings, needs and boundaries, the problem isn't you; it's them.  -Lori Deschene
Picture from relrules.com

What Is An Apology?

We define “apology” as “a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure” as a paraphrase of multiple dictionaries.

I have struggled with apologies for as long as I can remember. At one point I was the person that said “I’m sorry” in response to everything. What I found out the hard way is that being trained to apologize for my existence results in others devaluing me. Through school I repeatedly was forced to apologize for my own existence to those bullying me as the only way to escape physical, psychological, and emotional harm. Later, people I called my friends, potential romantic partners, and individuals I did date took advantage of this same pattern. Here are some examples of things and people I have apologized for/to in the past:

  • I have apologized to someone that attempted to rape me and succeeded in sexually assaulting me. I apologized for “keeping calm” while I figured out how to get away from them safely because this “implied consent” and sent “mixed signals” to them despite me saying “no”, “no, stop” out loud, repeatedly.
  • I have apologized to someone that cheated on me for the entire duration of our relationship for not focusing on their feelings and the person they had cheated on me with the whole time.
  • I have apologized for having panic attacks that other people caused on purpose.
  • I have apologized for my existence in spaces where I was made to feel unwelcome.
  • I have apologized for being too sensitive when hurt by humor and for not finding bigoted jokes funny.
  • I have apologized for not being what strangers expected based on descriptions provided by others.
  • I have apologized for many things I should never have apologized for and rather were reasons the recipient of the apology should have been apologizing to me.

Those are a few examples that I will never repeat. The thing is, at the time I genuinely believed that everything I experienced was my fault. In everything that went wrong and every experience I had I always saw the common denominator as myself. I still struggle with this.

What Defines Types Of Bad Apologies?

Apologies should be done because the individual providing them feels genuine remorse. Part of this means not using apologies to manipulate those around you. There are 3 “Don’ts” of apologies (see above), I’d like to address. These include the “I’m sorry you feel that way“, the “never add an excuse“, and the “never expect an apology“.

The “I’m sorry you feel that way” is rarely used in cases of actual empathy or sympathy if the speaker is indeed the person that caused the listener to be upset. This phrasing should never be used in response to someone being genuinely hurt and attempting to discuss their feelings or thoughts on a subject. Using this phrasing belittles the individual you are speaking to and attempts to erase their experience by devaluing it while elevating the status of the “apologizer”.

On the other hand, the advice of “never add an excuse” is often over generalized and used to abuse individuals that are attempting to defend themselves. The difference is there’s never a “I’m sorry, but…” when people are attempting to defend themselves against abuse. Instead, the phrasing used will focus on the logic and/or reasoning someone used as an indication that they should perform the behavior and a recognition that this information was received incorrectly. I have unfortunately dealt with people that would suggest saying anything beyond the words “I’m sorry” including what is being apologized for counts as an excuse.

People using apologies to manipulate, belittle, and otherwise damage the individual making the apology are ubiquitous throughout society. Many people that do these behaviors do so without recognition of their actions, instead focusing on their own emotional experience. The last piece of advice plays into this.

I lived by “never expect an apology” for a long time. Instead, I was the one apologizing every time I felt like someone needed to apologize to me and I wanted an apology, but knew I would never get one. Why? Because obviously whatever happened was my fault and therefore I should be the one apologizing since it couldn’t possibly be anyone else’s fault. Here’s the thing: it’s okay to want an apology, but you need to be okay with not receiving one and knowing how to respond if that’s the case.

Nedra Glover Tawwab, Therapist’s Instagram post: “⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣ Apologies are helpful. But you can move forward without getting one.
⁣⁣ Do not let the lack of an apology determine whether you…”

Nonverbal Apologies

Remember the phrase, “actions speak louder than words?” Sometimes people don’t know how to apologize using words and instead they do so through actions. It’s important to be receptive to this alternative method of apology, especially for appropriate offenses. Apologizing through action involves recognizing an uncomfortable situation or a pattern and stopping recurrence. For minor offenses nonverbal apologies are often enough. Alternatively, nonverbal apologies combined with verbal apologies take on synergistic amplification of the perceived sincerity.

Sometimes handwritten or typed apology notes are the way to go. These provide an indication to the recipient that the cause for apology has been contemplated. It also means that the ability to view and evaluate the apologizer’s response.

Rifts In Relationships

Apologies and forgiveness are meant to repair relationships and bring the divided parties back together. If someone wrongs you, does not see it even with some assistance, and does not apologize of their own volition you need to ask yourself: should this person be in my life? Apologies require the recipient to be receptive and the apologizer to be willing. So, the answer is maybe, maybe not. The relationship should be reevaluated.

Attempting to apologize using manipulation tactics will hurt relationships and drive parties involved further apart, particularly if a wrong has occurred. It’s important to be able to recognize these manipulation tactics when they arise, such as the examples previously mentioned.

When manipulation tactics are used, and/or the individual demanding the apology is doing so as a means of manipulation, it’s time to re-evaluate the relationship entirely.

It is important to note that sometimes a person may need to ask for more information before they can understand what they did wrong and apologize. That need for more information should be taken as a tentatively positive sign. Let the rest depend on the outcome.

Click this to go to spedheadchelsea.blogspot.com for a printable version of this sheet

Apologies And Boundaries

I mentioned that it’s okay to want an apology.

The way that people apologize can help you set boundaries with those around you. As an example, there have been times in my life where I was faced with the need to reevaluate friendships where manipulation tactics disguised as apologies have been used toward myself and my life partner. In these circumstances, I kept wanting an apology for the behaviors these individuals exhibited with communication as to the offenses. Only then could I be confident that these friendships were worth salvaging.

In cases where someone demonstrates their lack of respect and manipulation attempts in writing, actions or spoken phrasing, I can only control myself. I can choose not to respond and I can choose how to provide information regarding my own emotional state moving forward. By wanting an apology, but not expecting one, I have set a boundary that removes these individuals from the previous privileges of friendship until a rejoining moment, such as an apology, can occur.

This needs to be okay. If you remove someone from your life or from the privileges of friendship this needs to be respected. I’m not suggesting abandoning professionalism, the inalienable respect all humans deserve, or common decency.

Friendship Is A Privilege

Let me emphasize part of that last line: treat friendships as a privilege, not a given. By valuing other human beings and treating knowing them as a privilege, recognizing that they do for you things they would not do for others, and acknowledging their efforts to support you, you exhibit gratitude. That gratitude, while it can’t be expected, it can be wanted. Be warned, gratitude can also be used for manipulation, especially in circumstances of competition. This worsens in the event of abuse.

If someone does not show you gratitude for your efforts, what does that mean? What if they demand gratitude from you, but do not show it in return? What if they express gratitude in words, but their actions do not match up?

Dictionary.com defines privilege as “a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most.” I am a very private person. It takes a long time to get to know me and those that succeed I make every effort toward maintaining a friendship. Here’s the thing about privileges: they can be taken away.

Take a moment and think about the last time you had to break up with a friend or a friend broke up with you. Do you know why it happened? Did it happen despite apologies? Did one party refuse to offer forgiveness for the other?

Even the most socially blind among us notice when someone stops contacting us entirely when before there was constant communication and support. That said, not everyone recognizes why friendships end and after time has passed, it is within reason to reach out to attempt to reconnect with the understanding you may not receive a response. Don’t spam the person and don’t continuously reach out. Respect their boundaries.

Being your friend is a privilege, but it is also a privilege to be friends with someone else. If any friendship does not involve two individuals treating the other with mutual respect that acknowledges this, then it is unlikely to be a friendship worth keeping.

Especially if the dynamic of forcing another individual to apologize is observed.

Hurt People Hurt People

There’s this thing called the cycle of abuse. Once someone is removed from the circumstances contributing to the cycle of abuse they are experiencing, they may restart it in a different role – that of the abuser. Many individuals that use manipulation or abusive/unhealthy tactics to exploit those around them were once victims themselves and are not doing so consciously. That’s not true for everyone, but it is true in some circumstances.

This is not meant to garner undue sympathy for, or excuse these behaviors. Instead, I want to use this as a springboard for the thought, “it’s about them, not you.” You can’t control other people. You can show them compassion and understanding. You can communicate with them. You can hold boundaries with them. Hopefully they recognize this pattern and break it, but in my albeit limited to my own life’s experience, this takes attempting to explain the behavior, severing contact, and not speaking to the individual with the assumption that it may be indefinite.

I can’t expect apologies from anyone. I can’t expect people to change their behavior or recognize how what they did was wrong. I only have control over my own actions and the way I choose to interact with these behavior patterns and the individuals expressing them. I choose to understand the reasons behind the behavior, but it is not my responsibility to fix anyone.

When Do I Apologize?

I apologize only for things I know I’ve done wrong and am remorseful for. Besides this, I do apologize for my actions if the results did not match my intent. But my apologies are offered less often – not out of pride, but rather self-preservation. I have learned standards for apologies that I hold myself and others to. As a few examples of these standards:

  • I do not use apologies as manipulations and do not tolerate it in those around me.
  • I provide and accept apologies years after once time and introspection has passed. These apologies should not have justification or excuses – as time goes by all that’s left to mend is the pain. Situations and words are distorted and lost by faulty memories – all that matters is the expression.
  • I apologize in that awkward English language way as a sign of sympathy, but reserve when I do it to be driven by compassion. Accepting cultural norms in the face of contrary life experience – yay!

Conclusions

I still apologize to people more frequently than I should, despite efforts to practice otherwise. I still struggle with deciding when enough is enough in unhealthy friendships. I still struggle to stand up for myself after years of training that tells me anything I say counts as an excuse, therefore invalidating the apology that I never should have said anyway.

I never expect an apology, but I don’t suggest the absence of one be “water under the bridge”. It’s important to surround yourself with individuals that remind you what healthy relationships look like – mistakes, apologies, forgiveness, absence of manipulation, absence of physical/sexual/psychological abuse, and mutual respect.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post. Without you these words fail to complete the reception portion of communication and instead hang out idly on servers somewhere. If you found that this content resonated with you, please like, comment, and/or share with someone else you think will appreciate it.

Life Updates and Homesickness In A Time Of Coronavirus

Life

In my personal life, I’m trying to focus on sanity and reframing my life in light of new information. I’m not ready to disclose this because the world circumstances caused a lot of things to take a nosedive into the land of waiting in uncertainty and self examination. For those within the #WritingCommunity that know more, I appreciate the privacy and support you have provided. I’m sure I will open up in time once more things come to light.

What stage of Social Isolation Insanity are you at?

Image

In response to this picture a couple people asked if I’m okay. I promise this is me having a great time while alone and is a preview to an upcoming shenanigan.

This other picture, however, is talking about something else. I recently started feeling homesick for where I grew up. I replay the echoes of seagulls laughing off the Chesapeake Bay as skates taste my feet with confusion as they glide along the sandbars while I rake clams. As the warm waters returned with the shift in the gulf stream, so did the early morning rituals of waterman life. Standing on the back of an aluminum boat, bracing myself against the wake, I dropped crab pots off the side, each one tied to their own neon float with our family name and number marked. As we returned to the creek, the sulfur smell of estuaries warms the chest and the sea spray settles in to the early stages of sunburn this time of year. Oh, there’s that sticky, nasty, painful emotion again. I think I’ve felt it since 2011 when I moved away from the area permanently. Since then, I beat it down until I couldn’t hear that inner voice anymore and thanks to isolation it’s bubbling up. I kept following “opportunity”. Then I got married. For some reason, up until now, I always thought I’d go home.

Now, I live in Missoula, Montana in the middle of a global pandemic. Living in the middle of nowhere is a blessing. It means that besides working from home and isolating, our family spends a lot of time on our property or out and about. Montana never closed the hiking trails or parks and the campgrounds have reopened in most places. Heck, We tried to go camping this past weekend and Chief Looking Glass campground was packed!

There weren’t any camping spots available since spacing is different.

Montana is requiring a 2 week quarantine for everyone entering the state, plus we’ve been social distancing since before it was “cool”. We are one of the few states that seems to be holding things together pretty well. We have 21 active cases in the whole state and we have expanded testing. That 1 new case is in Jefferson County.

I definitely grabbed this from Reddit – read the full discussion here: https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/gg5moi/coronavirus_case_rates_by_us_stateterritory_582020/

So what happens next? Well, hopefully I’m going to post fun content that will make people smile and laugh. Maybe I’ll post something that will upset someone and that will either make me care or it won’t. We’ll see. I’m a little weird when it comes to detecting the emotions of others – sometimes they confuse me more than anything else and I need help. With that in mind, consider explaining to me what you find upsetting before jumping down my throat. I may be completely oblivious. I’m not saying you have to do this – it’s a suggestion because I promise I don’t intentionally go out of my way to upset anyone. Be gentle with each other in a time of social isolation – we’re not getting a lot of practice interacting when we live alone or live with a limited set of people.

And with that, I’m going to wrap this personal update. Thank you for reading. Without you this would be text sent into the void of space. If you haven’t heard it today: you are loved. You are a human of value and you deserve to be here. You have something to contribute no matter what that mean voice in the back of your head says and I hope you share it with me someday.