13 February 2012

In Which I Don My Crown as The Queen of Passive Aggressiveness, and Kick Someone in the But…

Everyone does it. Everyone. I do it, you do it, and we do it without thinking about it. It’s ingrained; it’s a speech reflex. It’s also wrong.
“I see your point, but…”
“I hear what you’re saying, but…”
“I know you have to do your own thing, but…”

As soon as you add the word “but” to the statement, you’ve nullified everything that came before it.

“I see your point, but…” (You’re wrong, and I am right.)

“I hear what you’re saying, but…” (You need to shut up because you’re wrong.)

“I know you have to do your own thing, but…” (Actually, you don’t. You need to do what I expected you to do.)

“You did what you needed to, but…” (You didn’t do what I wanted you to, and it annoys me.)

“You put a lot of effort into it, but…” (You fell short of the mark and you should have worked harder.)

This is grating on me because I’m getting it a lot lately. It’s irritating and it’s dismissive, and it lacks communicative ability. Most of the time it’s just something people use because they can’t think of another way to say what they think; the reality is that it’s a passive aggressive way to tell someone else that they’re wrong, or they’ve done something the person speaking doesn’t like, approve of, and wants changed.

It’s been brewing in the back of my head for a while, but the catalyst for I’ve-had-enough-dammit came in the form of email that took me to task for declining an invitation (order to appear?) to be part of a book signing on the other side of the country. Never mind that I didn’t need a reason other than I’ve never done a book signing and I don’t want to; it felt like every similarly worded criticism I’ve gotten in the last six months boiled over in that one email.

“I know you can’t hear on the phone, but I’m calling you anyway.” I don’t believe you, so I’m calling and you better pick up.

Hey, guess what? I gain nothing by telling people I have hearing difficulties, especially where the phone is concerned. Not being able to hear on the phone is nothing but a pain in the ass. If I have to take a call, I sit there struggling to understand what the person on the other end is saying. I can hear them speaking, but it’s a garbled mess and I have to strain to make sense of it. I have to guess a lot, and I’m wrong a lot. It doesn’t matter who you are; if you’re on the phone with someone and 75% of the conversation is them asking you to repeat what you just said, and they still don’t get it, you start getting irritated.

I end nearly every phone conversation with a bitch of a headache and feeling a little bit diminished, and even a little bit sad. I’m losing my hearing—not just on the phone—and I know it; I don’t need you to make me feel like crap about it.

You have my number? Text me. I can still see and read. Or email me. Message me on Facebook. But if you’re upset with me for not calling…that’s on you, not me.

“I get that you have a bad back, but you participated in those walks.” If you can do X, you can do Y, and because you chose X you obviously don’t care enough to do Y, so you suck.

“You can’t travel, but you went there.” Mostly, I don’t believe you, so show up here, or else you suck.

Yes, I did those walks. I’m not sure what you think those walks were like, though. I had a metric ton of fun on them because I was with friends, but don’t get the impression I was bouncing on soft fluffy clouds farting sunshine out my ass. Those walks took a lot out of me and took a while to recover from. But I can walk reasonable distances. And guess what? Walking is very good for your back. Training walks may be what keeps me out of a wheelchair.

You saw the pictures from the walks, you read my blogs, and apparently decided that if I could do that, then I obviously don’t have real issues. But you didn’t see me fall behind my teammates—miles behind—and you didn’t see me struggle with hills. You didn’t see me hit the proverbial wall on the first day and have to reluctantly take a sweep van. You didn’t see me trying to get into the van and failing 4 times in a row because my back hurt so much I couldn’t step up into it. You didn’t see me limping starting on mile 5 the second day, something that continued off and on until well after the walk was over. You didn’t see me on the third day, so broken that when I walked into the last pit stop one of the docs literally grabbed me by the arm and made me take a break. You didn’t see the down side. You read what I wrote, but I didn’t dump everything into the blog because people don’t want to read all that. People don’t need to be burdened with my crap.

But hey…I also didn’t say I couldn’t travel.

What I cannot do is travel alone.

Atlanta wouldn’t have happened at all if not for DKM. I can’t travel alone, especially flying. On the best of days I’m a tense flyer; the idea of hurtling through the air in a giant lipstick tube bugs the bejeezuz out of me, but to it I now have to add uneven cortisol levels. You know that feeling of fight or flight? That’s adrenaline and cortisol at work. Put me on a plane and my cortisol levels soar. My adrenaline jacks up.

That’s probably not so unusual in anyone doing something that scares them…but then you add reactive hypoglycemia to the mix, and you have plummeting blood sugar levels. Either one of those separately should be easy enough to deal with, but if you put them together it’s a recipe for some not so good things to happen.

The real problem is that when I have skyrocketing cortisol and my blood sugar is plummeting, I don’t always recognize what’s happening. I get twitchy and irritable, but I don’t necessarily realize what’s happening. By the time I might figure it out, my blood sugar could be in the toilet and my blood pressure so high that something inside is going to have to give. And by then, I’ll either be out cold or dead. I’m not too fond of either happening. The former might have strange people digging through my pockets; the latter is a bit too permanent.

The first day in Atlanta I felt wrecked. I spent the day plastered to the hotel room bed for the most part, playing with my iPad because I didn't have anything else in me. I ate breakfast because DKM got me out of the room and down to the restaurant; I ate dinner because the team got together for it. Otherwise...yeah, no mental faculties to push myself to get food on my own.

In addition to having DKM’s supervision, I also had dozens of people out there walking with me who knew I might need help. On day three when I got separated from my team and walked alone for the last half, no fewer than 5 people on every mile checked to make sure I was all right. The word was out; look for the woman with the neon pink hair and pink cammo pants. What seemed like coincidence at first became obviously organized because the questions were the same and quite pointed.

How do you feel? Are you drinking? Have you had electrolytes? When was the last time you ate? What did you eat? Have you had any sugar? Any salt? Are you sure you’re all right, because I can get you a sweep van.

One stubborn walker wouldn’t go ahead of me until I’d slugged back enough of the sports drink in my bottle to be deemed sufficient. He was probably right, too, because I started feeling a little spunkier after that, for a while anyway.

Atlanta was possible because DKM chaperoned me, and all along the route people had my back. If I didn’t have a teammate walking with me, I was surrounded by people who were aware that I might need help at some point. I was also surrounded by people who might not have been aware of that, but were ready to spring to help anyone who looked like they needed someone.

If DKM hadn’t been going to Atlanta for the walk, I wouldn’t have gone. If I hadn’t known I would have help along way if needed, I wouldn’t have gone.

So yes, I can travel, as long as I have someone with me—someone who knows what to do if I get into trouble. Someone who can recognize it, because chances are I won’t realize anything with me is off until I’m past the point of being able to do anything about it.

I don’t travel alone. Period.

I’m especially not traveling for a book signing that would require the Spouse Thingy to burn off vacation days and for me to spend several hundred dollars for books I would then have to spend a hundred or so to ship, then spend a few hundred on a hotel room, then a rental car, and food, and incidentals…all with the very high risk that I wouldn’t sell even half the books, and would probably sit at a table for hours on end alone, worrying about what the hell I’d do if my meds wore off.

“I totally understand that you don’t want to do public speaking or book signings, but this one is different.” You’re a writer, you should be good with words, and I promised my friend who owns the bookstore that you’d do it.

No, this isn’t different. And being a writer does not equal being a public speaker. I stumble over words when I’m speaking; I get to go back and edit them when I’m writing.

I appreciate you asking, but…


G.G. Mueller said...

Did I ever tell you you're my hero? Cuz you are. You have a strength that I admire sooooo much.
Non carburundum bastardes! (I think that is how you spell it....) They aren't worth your time or your worry.
But I love your words!!!!

Angel and Kirby said...

I use to tell my Granddaughter that it was her but that got her in trouble. Her stepfather(read jerk, A- hole, pervert, prisoner) would ask her a question. Did you do this. she would answer, yes, but. He would go livid and I am sure when me or her Mom were not around,violent!

But and OK and you know are all pet peeves. I had a girl in Scouts that her homework for English was to count the number of times those were said in her conversations that evening. She had plenty of subjects to use with 10 teenage girls at a meeting! It was a fun experiment!

As to you and a book signing and flying, that is your choice, You know your limits and (but) we still love you!

Lita said...

What about in creative writing? "We really needed to get into the castle but how were we going to get past the guard on the door?" "He really needed those files but where had they been hidden?" It works, differently, yes? And, how about using "and" instead of but? Or is that just too "New Age"? Interesting...I get your anger though. People don't respect boundaries if it doesn't suit them.

Thumper said...

Lita, descriptive writing and verbal intent are different things. The second half of those sentences don't negate the first half. They can certainly be rewritten for the sake of clarity, or to remove the interrogative aspect, but they don't share the same nullifying aspects as the verbal "I'll say this, BUT I really mean that."

Cheysuli and gemini said...

Have you ever read the forums on a website called But You Don't Look (no spaces). If it doesn't come up--google it. Next time you're feeling frustrated because someone "buted" your illness (ie minimized) then go read there. You'll probably find some spunky comebacks (some of which might even be tactful enough to use).

Anonymous said...

Gah. People sux. Oh and I'll happily schlep your bum all over the US in exchange for tormenting you while on the trip ;)

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Christie Critters said...

I do not fly. At least without heavy medication. The silent tears during preflight and the flight itself are not handled well by the passengers around me or the inflight staff. Therefore I do not fly alone. stick to your guns. The only person to whom it matters a whit is the person who made a promise in your name without your permission.

caircair said...

You hit the nail on the head with the "But" explanation. I've never forgotten the teacher who told us to avoid that word, since it stood for "Behold Underlying Truth".

Sleepypete said...

I remember really feeling for you when I was reading the post about the San Francisco walk. Even the best preparation (or the worst in my case!) can go awry on the day ...

Definitely know what you mean with the pain we fight through and the struggles we get in our way. With me it's usually from breaking something. I'll then con everyone that I'm fine :

So my teammates don't worry
So the opposition don't take advantage ...

I think the people asking you to travel to book signings need to ask : "Would I travel to where the author lives ?" :-)

Also - right with you on phone stuff. I hate answer phones. They're imprecise and oneshot, you never get a good message recorded. Text or email is far superior.

PS DKM sound like awesome people :-)

Shaggy, Scooby and Scout said...

Thumper I love it when you lay it all on the table. You rock! You really do! --SS&S's mom Lynne

Mila said...

*hugs* As my grandmother would say, "You got down to brass tacks." And you did so beautifully. Some people tend to think they know so much that the can tell everyone else what they can or should do. It's nice to see someone with your directness tell them what is what.

Oblivious Beast said...

With all sincerity, I'd like to thank you very much for this post.

I have some hormonal issues that not everyone in my daily life understand. It gets tiring to have to explain myself sometimes. I know some people aren't getting it by the looks on their faces. It's like they think I'm trying to be "different" or "special". Hell, no. I'm just trying to stay alive for a little bit longer on this planet.

Stick with your guns, girl. Not everyone can or even tries to understand all the issues that come up with health problems. It's your skin your living in, so you do what you have to do to take care of yourself.

Lita and the boys in Melbourne said...

Oh. Ok, I get what you're saying now.