Advice to a Friend

How do you prove a negative?  A professor once told me that you can’t… that to engage in such a debate will make you look insane. Let me ask you another question on this fine evening … how do you prove you’re not crazy? I get it.  We’re all a little weird. It’s just a matter of how high our freak flag flies. The problem is when someone describes you in a way that you can’t effectively disprove.

Usually, the purveyor of perceived personality problems is a narcissist … we’ve all encountered them, whether a colleague, boss, family member, significant other, an ex, and in this day and age, political figures.  If you think you can beat them at their own game, you’re wrong. It’s what they do, and they are really good at it. They have perfected their art. The only way to win is to not play.

You see, the worst part is, the more you try to defend yourself, the crazier you sound.

They’ll idly complain to their friends, “I was late coming home after work and she flipped out on me, started calling me all kinds of names.”  Well, that sounds like you are certifiably nuts with an out of control temper, right?  He won’t tell the rest of the story, though: he was late every day for a week, and you found his social media open with a stream of inappropriate messages to a coworker discussing their ongoing relationship and the so-called “dates” they’d been on that week.  Yet, when you try and explain this, you sound like a stalker with jealousy issues. Turning a situation like this around on the innocent party is a manipulation tactic. It’s a power play. It’s gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a favorite ploy among narcissists to control their victims.  It’s an abusive tactic that causes self-doubt, making the victim question their own memory and even reality.  Sadly, it works all too well. The term Gaslight comes from a film of the same name where a husband gradually made his wife think she was crazy.  Among the ploys he used was to constantly tell her friends and family that she was nuts, sowing the seeds of doubt and thereby giving her nowhere to turn.  Narcissists use gaslighting effectively in relationships and are usually unable to let go after the relationship ends.

Their need to control the narrative extends to their social circle, but it’s not enough to get others to believe your crazy. The successful gaslighter will make you question your own sanity.  Nothing sounds crazier than a sane person who has been driven to think he or she is insane fighting to prove they are, in fact, sane.

There isn’t really a way to argue the point without adding to it.  No matter what you say, you will sound insane. Which is kind of the point.

“I’m not crazy.”

“I never did that, I swear.”

“That’s not what (or, how) it happened.”

“He’s the crazy one.”

“I never said that.”

“Everyone wears tinfoil on their heads when using a microwave.”

Gaslighting in a relationship is very real, and make no mistake, it is a commonly used form of emotional abuse.  If your partner is making you feel that you can’t do anything, that you can’t accomplish anything, that you have no friends, that you have to walk on egg shells to keep from being criticized, or that maybe, just maybe, you really are crazy, let me be clear – get out. It won’t get better; these people are the sick ones, not you.  If you feel like you have no confidence around your partner, that you are never right, and that nothing you say will matter anyway, something is wrong. Love should build you up, not tear you down or make you feel less than.

Get Out.  Now.  If you need help, call a hotline.  Not all abuse leaves physical bruises you can see; some leaves a lingering scar on your mind and spirit.

Maybe you are a little crazy, like putting ketchup on pancakes crazy.  Our nutty quirks keep life fun.  If you are the victim of a sanity smear campaign, though, just let it go.  The only way to win this game is to not play.  Don’t drive yourself crazy proving you aren’t.

As for the tinfoil hat and the microwave?  I may or may not believe that alien technology radiates from the microwave on the “high setting.”   The voices in my head said so, and they haven’t steered me wrong yet.

Ugly Is As Ugly Does

Don’t let that gleam in my eye fool you… this is not going to be the usual, humorous fare you’ve come to know and love here at Musings. I know that I’ve regaled you with the catchphrase “I hate people” often, and perhaps, for a while, it lost the bite it once had. However, reading the news, as it so often does, brought this feeling to the forefront with decided force.

Do you remember the final episode of Seinfeld where the gang, as so-called “innocent” bystanders, were arrested for watching as a man was robbed and abused on the street? Yeah, everyone remembers that one.

Have you ever thought of what drove that episode, though? I’ll tell you what I think. Incidents like the idiots on the subway who sat by and watched as a poor, defenseless 78-year-old woman was kicked repeatedly in the face by a psychopath!

But really, who is the psychopath here? No one called 911. No one intervened. Instead of calling for help or better yet, putting down the cell phones and getting up off your asses to help this poor woman, a bunch of you continued to record the incident, some even went so far as to provide commentary. What is wrong with all of you?? How can this be okay? How can you live with yourselves after watching, while a woman feared for her life and lay there bleeding right in front of you? Didn’t any of your parents teach you better?  Your callous inaction was disgusting, and the fact that you could stand there and watch, while doing absolutely nothing, makes you disgusting.

Oh sure, you could argue that you were gathering “evidence.” Bullshit. I don’t buy it. When everyone is recording, and no one is helping (I’ll repeat an important point that was reported: not a single 911 call was made) … that right there is a sign of a bigger, much uglier, issue in our society.

What if she were your sister or your mother or your grandmother? What would you do then? Would you record someone in your family going through the same experience or would you help? I really want you to consider this, and then explain to me why there is a difference.

Is this what we’ve become as a society? An eager audience to someone else’s suffering? Or has it always been this way? I know the human race – as a general rule – is horrible but come on people! God damn it, get your shit together. We’re all in this world together and we can’t keep doing this to each other.

Get up, rise up, and speak up! Offer assistance when needed, give up your seat to stand up for others, be kind. Put down the camera and forego the viral footage in favor of nabbing the bad guy, not on tape but in real life… even if that just means calling 911. For God’s sake think of someone else sometimes, especially in pivotal moments when your action, your voice, can make a difference. Do the right fucking thing.

Okay, rant over. I need a drink.

On Respecting Our World’s Creatures

Look at that, two rants in a week.  Lucky you!

This rant comes a little late in the game, as this issue reared its ugly head earlier this summer. But I wanted to address it nonetheless. I read all about this when it first happened, and I’ve had it in the back of my mind ever since. It’s a prime example of why I hate people (as a general rule).

In Alabama (sorry to call ya’ll out, bless your hearts!), beachgoers descended on the shores and, without so much as a care in the world, not only destroyed a colony of protected birds by invading their nesting areas, they used the birds’ eggs to “decorate the beach,” ensuring their path of death and destruction was complete. Are you freakin’ kidding me?

These birds are not placed on this beach for entertainment.  They are going about their daily lives, just trying to survive, and in this case, you know, trying not to become all extinct and what-not.

Which brings me to another aspect of this rant that I want to address. I’d like to go on the record as saying that I have an amazing capacity to be outraged by any number of things at once.  Yes, I’m concerned for the African girls who need to be educated, yes, I’m also concerned for America’s vast population of homeless that include veterans who fought for this country, and yes, I am concerned about immigration reform and all the pictures I see where kids are allegedly being kept in cages.  Don’t try to tell me there are bigger problems in the world than colonies of endangered little birds; believe me, I am well-aware there are other issues. Sadly, we don’t have to pit one atrocity against another as there are more than enough to go around.

The difference is, the people who donate time, money and effort into charities that help people do not share the stigma that animal advocates do; if you defend the welfare of animals and fight for the humane treatment they deserve, you are a nut case (unless of course you’re talking about dogs and cats … then you’re right in line with other mainstream advocates).  How did we become this divided in our view of world priorities?

Why does it have to be your concerns versus my concerns?  In my mind, they are all our concerns. Not only that, we can care about more than one thing at a time.

Animals are a gift to us.  We need to take responsibility for their welfare as we are most often the cause of their demise.  In some cases, like this one, it is senseless stupidity.  In others, it is deliberate; safari hunts, eating endangered animals for the thrill of it, wiping them out so we can expand our own flawed human needs… these are ongoing issues that need to be addressed.  Sometimes, animals suffer because of our thoughtlessness and complete lack of awareness of the “bigger picture,” like the humble honey bee.

Will my own personal day-to-day world be impacted by the extinction of this tiny feathered critter?  No, not one bit.  But sadly, their world will be, and ours as whole will be.  Unlike Jurassic Park, these animals and many others like them will not be cloned back into existence. It seems a simple request:  can’t we respect all breathing beings and accept that they have a place on this planet, too?

The ego of humanity is simply astounding.  We mistakenly believe that we are the ultimate culmination of evolution; realistically, you know, we’re not.  A thousand years from now humans will be only another link in the chain.  No doubt, we will do something to cause a mass extinction event to ourselves.

I want to believe that we will wake up from our selfish ways and start to care for all living creatures.  Guess what?  Respect for life, whether human or animal, starts at home.  If our offspring is raised to have so little value for life, we need to look in the mirror and place blame where it belongs.  It’s really not that big of a stretch to think that people who can destroy a colony of protected birds (or any birds) without so much as blinking an eye, in general think so little of life that destroying fellow humans will, within a few generations, become a familiar way of life.

Doom and gloom for a Friday night perhaps, but that’s just the way I see it.  Come on, people; we need to do better.  We MUST do better.

When Zoos Go Too Far

It’s been a while since I ranted. At least I think so… admittedly, my brain can be a sieve sometimes. At any rate, I guess it’s about time for another one … and on one of my favorite topics too, one with which I have a love-hate relationship.  Namely, zoos.

When do zoos go too far?  What is the magical line between research, conservation, and exploitation?

There are two types of people; those who love to go to the zoo to see animals they will never otherwise see in real life, and those who despise seeing majestic animals behind bars.  In my experience, there really is no grey in this one; you either love it or hate it.

April the giraffe became a world-wide celebrity a while back.  The world watched daily, heck several times a day, as she waited to give birth to her calf.  Make no mistake, I count myself among that number. Her due date came and went, and still we watched.  Finally, her calf, a male named Tajiri, made his adorable wobbly legged entrance into the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York, and people watched as April tirelessly cared for her newborn son.  Then, as suddenly as she broke into fame, April was largely forgotten…but not before bringing in a pretty hefty revenue stream to the for-profit theme park where she lived.

April is now pregnant again, and I am pretty sure the zoo will once again cash in on her experience.  But what of the now forgotten Tajiri?  Well, according to this, he is now one year old and he will be loaned out to other zoos for their giraffe breeding programs.

I am enraged at this entire venture.  For one thing, with all the funds April raised for the zoo, you would think she deserves an updated pen.  Instead, they took “her” money, applied it to other areas of the zoo (not necessarily habitats), and now need more money to upgrade the giraffe section.  Only once they have earned the money to do the updates for the giraffe pens, will April be reunited with her calf.  God only knows what they plan to do with her current calf when she is born.  Holy exploitation, Batman!

Most deliberate zoo breeding is strictly for money.  The surplus animals are sold to other zoos, roadside zoos (which are a whole different class from “regular zoos” and a rant best left for another time), fake safari parks, and reports have been made that some unfortunate animals are sold for “canned safari hunts.”

To me, this is all just another example of using animals without regard for them.  April’s pen is badly in need of an update, yet they bred her again?  Just like some rescue facilities that have too many dogs, cats, horses, or whatever they cater to, if a zoo cannot take care of the animals they have they should stop bringing in more animals, and for God’s sake, stop breeding them.

Admittedly, some parks and zoos do keep animals for conservation and research purposes … there are some very good to excellent facilities around the country. Others, however, keep animals in unnatural, inhumane conditions, and then are shocked when these animals are unpredictable, or worse, (*gasp!) act like animals.  It’s not rocket science, folks.  Elephants, whales, lions, heck even penguins were not made to be penned for someone’s amusement.  Personally, I think it has the potential to drive the animals insane. Regardless of your views on zoos, surely, we can all agree that when these animals are placed in zoos, they become our responsibility.

Part of that responsibility is to make sure that conditions for these animals are as good as they can possibly be, not to keep breeding more animals into a bad situation to make simply money for the organization.  It’s funny to me, the people who protest puppy mills, where dogs – both female and male – are kept in horrid conditions and continuously bred for money, are probably the first ones sipping a slushee in front of the giraffe pen at the Animal Adventure Park.

As for April’s newest pregnancy, consider this:  if we follow her latest experience, are we part of the problem?

 

 

But, I Hope …

I saw this article today. It made me sad in so many ways … I could fill my blog for years discussing this topic. The writer, a special-ed teacher, explained, in no uncertain terms, that should there be a shooter at her school, she would not die for the children in her class as she did not want to die herself. She wants to go home to her own kids. She wants to be there for her family, her parents, her siblings. She wants to live. I mean, really, who doesn’t? She discussed at length how much she puts herself out for the kids in her care, how she worries over them, guides them, helps them … basically everything any good teacher does, that, to her, seems award worthy (okay, she didn’t say that, it was just my take on her tone).

However, when it comes down to it – when called upon to protect her charges, she would be hiding in the supply closet (her class’ go-to place in an active shooter event). Oh, not to keep the children who were lucky enough to make it in there with her safe, but to keep herself safe. She ended the article with a curt “I won’t save your child.” I have no doubt whatsoever that she means it.

I’m not a teacher. I don’t have to participate in active shooter drills or instruct a room full of kids on what to do in a life-threatening emergency. Ex-husbands and creepers aside, I’ve never experienced anything more threatening than a crowd-filled fight and being trapped in the perimeter … squashed in like cattle – no guns involved.

But.

I hope … I would sincerely hope … that if I were thrown into a sadly-not-so-unthinkable scenario, that I would do what I could to protect the children around me. Yes, I want to come home to my kids and my family … hell, I just want to come home to my dog. I have people who love me and count on me and I think, need me. Not counting those in my familial circle who would like to see me stick around, in a purely selfish sense, I do not want to die.

But.

I hope my ever-present compassion would come to the fore. I can’t imagine being in a situation where children are at risk of dying and not helping in any way that I could. I’m only human. Maybe if the time came, I would choke. I don’t know. I’ve never been called upon to do anything at all of greatness.

But.

I hope I could make a difference in this world. In my heart of hearts, I have faith that I would rise to the occasion and save a child whose life hasn’t even yet begun, whether they are mine or not, whether I know them or not.

Personally, the idea of slamming a door shut in the face of a child to save myself, not to mention a child that I see every freakin’ day … a child that I taught to read, a child whose shoes I tied, a child whose future I helped mold, is abhorrent to me. Oh, I can’t say as I completely blame this teacher for her way of thinking (I mean, I do, but still …). After all, she is living with the very real prospect of death every day, given our current climate of school shootings. So, it’s easy for me to say what I would and wouldn’t do as I go back and forth to my relatively safe job.

But.

I hope I would do the right thing. My intentions are there. Of course, we all know what road the best of intentions pave. It’s easy to say that I would jump out in front of a bus – or a bullet – to save anyone, let alone a child. However, when it came right down to it … would I make that leap? It goes without saying that if it were MY kids, that leap of faith would be as natural as breathing.

But.

I hope that when faced with an impossible decision in a horrific situation where kids were in danger, that I would make my own children proud … that I could face my death – or life – with the knowledge that I not just aspired to greatness, but truly achieved some small semblance of it through the life of a child.

I just know that when push came to shove, if I were the one coming out the other side … at the cost of a young life I, myself, could have saved and deliberately chose not to … well, I’m not sure there would ever be light or joy in my own life again. It’s certainly not a life I would want to live.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

As Instagram has evolved from a place to post adorable kitten pictures to a place to proudly display stupid decisions, incidents like this are becoming so common place that even the most avid Instagram followers yawn and keep scrolling.  Well in advance of shark week, a beautiful Instagram model decided to swim with nurse sharks for an impromptu photo-op, and was – surprise, surprise! – summarily bitten and dragged under the water. Apparently, she saw a school (herd?) of sharks milling about and thought, “this is the perfect opportunity for an action shot.”  Now so much is wrong here, from her “Everybody else is doing it” attitude that led her to her predicament to the article’s emphasis that she is due to start nursing school and had been raised around the water.  The former is, as my mother always taught me, no reason to do anything while the latter is completely inconsequential; intelligence is completely useless if it is ignored.  Besides, after being attacked by a nurse shark, maybe she needs to rethink her future choices.

I wonder if the shark posted the pics to his own Instagram account.  “I was so thrilled to meet her, but when I tried to shake her hand, she freaked out.”

Katarina is proof that all the beauty in the world can’t protect you from regrettable decisions.  Or nurse sharks.

From liars to cheaters and all manner of stupidity in between, Instagram takes all that is dumb in the world and displays it for everyone.  Why do people continue to do these things?

I will agree, it never crossed my mind to tell my own daughter not to swim with sharks.  I also never told her she shouldn’t run in front of a speeding train or drive with a blindfold on.  I think there comes a point when some things are as obvious as the sun in the sky on a bright summer day.  There are already incredibly stupid warning signs everywhere, indicating that people have actually done the things listed.

My personal favorite is the one on roller coasters cautioning people not to stand up on the ride.  Is this a common problem in amusement parks?  I saw a fan belt for a car with the cautionary warning to make sure the car isn’t running when the belt is being installed.  I mean, seriously? “No diving,” urges a sign at a two foot deep inflatable kiddie pool.  Have we become so absent-minded that we need to be told to turn off the electricity in the house before installing a light socket? If we’re not there yet, we’re certainly on our way.

Here is a story – with video – of a family who got out of their cars at a Safari park.  Now this went down in several layers of stupidity.  First, the husband opens his car door to get a picture of the cheetahs.  The wife decides this is a great time to put something in the trunk of the car.  A little farther down, they decided that some resting cheetahs would be an amazing photo-op (they’re not wrong, but still …), so they all get out of the car for a family romp amongst the wild cats.  The cheetahs were not amused, frankly, and start to charge the family.  I think the thing that gets me more than anything else is that the article states that the woman “Shooed” the cheetahs while walking back to the car.  Recap:  Your family is being chased by cheetahs.  You scoop up your younger child and casually stroll back to the car.  You wave the cheetahs away with your hand, scolding them with “shoo!”  Heck, “shoo” doesn’t work on the feline demons we invite into our homes to live, why on earth would it work for cheetahs?  Did she think they would stop, reconsider their actions, admit they acted hastily, and offer the family tea and a biscuit?

Now, I’ve been told that walking slowly and not running was the exact right way to deal with that situation as it makes you seem less like “prey.” The only thing she did wrong was turn her back on them … or so say the zoological experts in my circle. I’m not going to say they’re wrong, but I will interject that, in my opinion, had the cheetahs not been so utterly shocked and taken aback at the audacity of this family, the cats might’ve recovered a bit more quickly and the situation would’ve ended differently.

Personally, I don’t think I could forgive the men in my life if they simply took off like bats out of hell and left me to fend with the cheetahs while holding my (and one of theirs?) offspring. But that’s a topic for another day.

For whatever reasons dangerous selfies and stupid photo ops have gained popularity, people need to stop and think before they act.  My friend went on a beautiful road trip along Skyline Drive in the West Virginia mountains, and saw many bears walking along the side of the road or perched along the stone walls lining the drive.  The one encounter that stuck with her was the car full of people in front of her who rolled their windows down about three feet from an admittedly surprised black bear and her two cubs.  The people then half-stood out of their car windows, phones in hand, to get a selfie with the mama bear.  The bear was, my friend believes, too shocked by their stupidity to do anything at all for the entire five minutes they “posed” with her.  My friend isn’t a rocket scientist, but even she knows you don’t mess with mama bear and her cubs.  She had her own phone in hand to video the mauling she fully expected, and maybe to consider calling 911 as Darwinism played itself out in front of her. Sadly though, as has happened too often in the past, it would have been the bears who paid the ultimate price had they reacted to the idiotic tourists, like, you know, bears.

Evolution works to thin out the numbers.  Instagram is just there to record it when it happens.

I sincerely wish Katarina a speedy recovery, but dear Katarina:  We all hope that if you are ever offered a sight-seeing trip in Africa that you politely decline.  Lions don’t like cameras. And they might not be as forgiving as the nurse sharks you encountered.

Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You

Psychologists tell us that we have three identities: Who we think we are, who we really are, and who we are as other people see us. Sometimes we like the three “Whos,” and sometimes we don’t.  Trying to get to the bottom of these differences in personae has made psychiatrists rich for years. Having three distinct personal realities becomes even more complicated when we realize that everyone else is in the same boat. There’s a big difference between knowing about a person and really knowing that person. Our friends, partners, lovers, colleagues, and families may know that we love clog dancing, breakfast scrapple, the subtle comedy stylings of Andrew Dice Clay, and mud wrestling, but they only know these things because of who we are when we are with them. When you are by yourself, you may be an entirely different person.

Subconsciously, we all turn into someone else to adapt to the needs and demands of others in all of our associations.  In the case of a toxic relationship this becomes even more apparent as we do anything it takes to save the relationship or, in some extreme cases, survive.  We lose all three of our identities; we lose ourselves completely because, simply put, it is easier to be someone else.  When you finally leave the relationship, you can begin to regain your identity, your purpose, and your sense of self.  The partner in this toxic relationship will no longer recognize you, associating the person you became to exist peacefully with him or her as the person you really are, if that makes sense.  Basically, he or she never knew the real you. Oh, they probably did at first, at the beginning of the relationship … before you were forced to morph into an overly accommodating persona simply to retain your sanity. Affronted at your newfound “change” once you’re on your own, this person will in turn pass a false perception of you on to others, making it seem as if who you really are NOW is the fake face while who you WERE in the relationship is the truth.

This can be hurtful – or at the least, annoying – to the one who is now accused of being fake when he or she is simply returning to a sense of normalcy. Normalcy being the key word. The vengeful ex will ridicule your attempts to improve yourself as putting on some sort of show, never realizing that you gave up all of the hobbies and activities that you enjoyed pre-relationship simply to appease him or her.  The only reality about you that they know is the one they have built up in their heads; they don’t know the real you … the happy you.  They see you living your life and tell people, “That’s not at all like her.  Who is she trying to fool?”

With possibly some exceptions, the results of this aggravating situation carry over into any friends that you met while in the toxic relationship.  They have only met the personality that you had morphed into to keep the relationship steady and peaceful.  In turn, you begin to have a bit of shame and self-recrimination as you recall all of the things you did to keep up the false façade.  “What the hell was I thinking?  I hate watching Monday Night Football while doing Jagermeister shots!”  Well, the football part, anyway.

You would think that being with your family would be a release from the expectations of having to morph into someone else, but that’s not true, either, is it?  Although your family thinks they know you better than anyone else, they also have a biased perception, for better or worse.  Think of how often you have to bite your tongue and alter your behavior and views to keep peace during holiday dinners and family get-togethers.

The 21st century has added yet another dynamic in the search for true identities:  Social Media.  If you think you can be yourself online, think again.  How many times have you stopped yourself from posting a status because you are afraid of people’s perception of you changing?  The only opinion your cyber friends can make about you is based on your words as they appear on Facebook or messages through email or text.  Even posting videos, FaceTiming or Skype will not allow you to present the real you; would you appear in a video wearing your favorite flannel pajamas, hair uncombed, or for women, with no make-up on? This gets even more complicated with the advent of online dating.  You are both on your best behavior and acting or reacting in a way you think the other person would appreciate.  For women, especially single moms, you feel as if you are interviewing for the coveted position of “Girlfriend” in a large company.  The other person has created an image of you based not just on the information you present to them, but also their imagination and desires.  No matter how honest or upfront you try to be, eventually some aspect of your personality emerges that doesn’t fit in with the “you” they have imagined.  They feel hurt and betrayed, and rather than accept you at face value, they allow the relationship to end and continue forward in search of the next candidate.  While this happens to women all the time, I’m sure men can relate as well.

I know this has been a long and rambling post, and I hope that I’ve made a little bit of sense. There’s one truth to all of this and that is this: There is only one person qualified to say they know who you really are, and that is YOU. Don’t let someone else make judgments and certainly don’t critique yourself based on someone else’s opinion of you … because they don’t know the whole story of you.  Half the time, if I ask myself who I really am, I have no clue how to answer.  But that’s my right, and no one else’s.