Bring your best shot, buddy!

Oh, geez. I’ve been hard at work on my memoir today, editing a scene that’s trigger-worthy. And then it happened: I got an email from Mart. I blogged about him recently if you recall: he’s Mr. Wrong from four years ago.

And I knew it was coming! I knew I hadn’t heard the last of him. I’ve just been biding my time, waiting for it, and here it is:

Meg i had a bad turn with some missed meds, alcohol and being addicted to [withheld to protect his privacy]

If you hate me or pity me that is fine

But I was a bit off. Price I pay for looking after someone with worse issues than me [He’s referring to his live-in fiancée here, I believe]

Please consider working with me a bit as it would give me something to do half the time and help us both get over bad stuff.

Sonia may have a point. [Sonya, whose name he keeps misspelling, told him I hate losing friendships.] Its up to you but do bear in mind I could blank both of you but don’t want to lose friendship.

And I have blocked lots of people on Facebook and Twitter for various reasons.. so you are not in an exclusive club

Mart

Ugh. Well, it’s a welcome distraction from that incredibly depressing scene I was editing. Out of the frying pan, into the fire?

How do I reply to this? It’s mostly sincere and not too snarky. (He can be snarkier than… okay, that comparison died. Quick, name something that’s snarky! Because he’s snarkier than that!)

Oh, geez. I don’t want to hurt him, but there’s no good course of action here.

  1. I can reply gently and explain that it’s not going to happen. He’ll engage me and keep me engaged, and there won’t be an easy way out. Sort of what happened when we spoke for the first time in years, just recently.
  2. I can ignore his message. He’ll send more messages. If I block his email, he’ll send them from another account. Ugh.
  3. I can let him back into my life. Oh, Meg, don’t even play pretend here. Not happening. 

Are there other options here? Ugh.

I’m leaning toward option #1, but I can’t see it ending well. No, Mart, no! AAUGH!! Just no!! 

It’s upsetting because his energy hurts me. The way he can’t help but insult me and ask insulting questions, his need to convince me to have casual sex with people because I deserve some action…

Okay. I’ve got this. I’ll tell him I’m not mad but that he rubs me the wrong way, and I don’t feel safe around him.

Right, Meg, that’ll go over well. 

Ugh. Okay, uh… I’m screwed. I replied thusly:

I’m not mad at you! it’s all good! But being around you causes me to feel hurt! There’s no way it can work! I’m sorry!!

And that’ll lead to a desperate response begging me to reconsider. [Eyeroll.]

*****

And three hours have passed. I needed a nap but was agitated and wakeful, so I ran some errands. Mart hasn’t written back yet, but I know he will. He’s strategizing. He’s a Scorpio. It’s what they do. They retreat and plan their next strike.

*****

It’s the very next day in this strange saga! I’ve been spending hours working on my memoir, preparing next week’s submission to Sonya’s writer’s group. I got more emails from Mart, begging me to be friends with him again. I hate to turn anyone down, but you all, this guy is trouble with a capital T. So I’ve been nicely rejecting his efforts at getting back into my life.

One email read thusly:

I made many mistakes in 2017 but that wasn’t the normal me. Why you can’t move on when kristi gave you no 2nd chance? You are talented and i could learn from you.

Martin

Hmm. When we reconnected lately and I told him how my friendship with Kristi ended (hilarious story, different blog post), he said, “Well, it sounds like it was your fault.” [Facepalm.] But he’s speaking inaccurately to say Kristi wouldn’t give me a second chance. It’s more accurate to say that we reached an impasse.

And then, it seems he’s appealing to my ego with that bit about how I’m talented. [Rolls eyes heavenward.]

My response:

I’m sorry, but I can’t. 

And then he said goodbye, and I said goodbye. I wondered what his next move would be.

We have an answer. I just now found out that he went to Sonya and rejoined her writer’s group. [Facepalm.] I immediately opened the Dropbox files and deleted all of my memoir submissions from recent weeks.

I knew he’d do this–try to find a way to drive a wedge between me and Sonya.

I don’t have it in me to ask Sonya to keep him out of the group. It would make me hypocritical. There have been people in her group who I’ve mistreated (and I feel awful about it–I’m not proud of it), and they’d have every right to ban me from the group, but being my best friend, Sonya has never banned me.

Aha! Sonya found a way that I can block him from accessing my Dropbox files. Technological genius!! Fabulous.

I’m feeling less panicked and threatened now than I was several minutes ago. I mean, if I want to publish my memoir, then I have to accept that anyone can buy it and read it. So, that would apply to Mart, too, and if he accesses the files somehow it wouldn’t be the end of the world. But I just don’t trust his motives. He’s up to no good, mark my word. I knew he’d try to find a way to go after my relationship with Sonya! Ugh. I’d worry that he could win and topple our wonderful friendship, but what’s built on firm foundation can’t be destroyed.

Feeling better!!

I’m feeling better now. Sorry about that. I lost my energy at the clerk’s office the other day. And what I mean by that is that I became polluted by other people’s energy. It’s taken a few days to revert to “me”. But here I am! I’m back to my old self again, and will soon be back to work on my memoir. I posted my new cover art recently and then deleted the post, so I’ll put it back up here!

Screenshot (554)

Yeah, I like that. I’ve decided to submit my memoir to small-press publishers. Sonya said that if I get small-press published, it will eliminate any chance of my ever getting published by one of the four major publishing houses. (She thinks that if I write another novel in the future, the big houses would say, “Well, you were small-pressed published in the past, so we don’t want to publish your novel.”) I’m fine with that. I feel like I want to follow this path.

I got two butterfly images from Pixabay and superimposed them to get the two-pattern butterfly above. The artist is very talented. (c) Gordon Johnson

I’ve realized something else, too, from talking to my mom on the phone just now. She was worried about me and felt bad that we were stuck at the county clerk’s office so long. I need to portray her in the memoir as being a loving mommy (probably in the portion where I’m an adult and discover this, since she was abusive when I was a child). What I mean is, the point is that she’s at war with herself and couldn’t help but be abusive. She doesn’t stand by it or condone it. I need to get that in the memoir somehow in the adult section.

I finally followed my dad’s and Sonya’s advice and took a shower to cleanse my energetic field. I think that’s why I feel like myself again. Obviously, very few people understand energetic pollution, but it’s not limited to schizohprenia. For example, the concept of an energetic vampire who sucks away everyone else’s energy is commonplace and is very much akin to what I experience. It’s just that my channels are wide open to such assaults, and I grew up in such a way that I never learned to “block” them shut and keep pollution out. In other words, I’m more sensitive to it than most people.

But, anyway. I’m sort of glad that I’ve realized how I felt: that I have to wholly overcome trauma in order to deserve romantic love. I’ve been following that idea for years now but without consciously acknowledging it. Now that it’s out in the open, I can annihilate it thusly: Being 100% over trauma is impossible, so it’s coming along for the ride.

My mentor pointed out that people who are amputees don’t sit around blaming themselves for being unable to grow their arm back.

I replied that that was very helpful, and that I felt better.

He thought I was being sarcastic, but I wasn’t. (I’m always truly grateful whenever anyone takes the time to try to help me feel better. So here’s a major shout-out to everyone who commented on my last post! I appreciate you guys so freakin’ much. We must lift each other up in this crazy world.)

This belief of his that I was being sarcastic somehow incited a pillow fight. (I won by a huge margin. He didn’t see me coming with my huge pillow. Total ambush. I think I’ve left him a broken and demoralized man. And the feathers!)

Is it just me, or do pillow fights make everything better?

Get over it already!

Ugh. I’ve realized why I’m so unhappy all the time. (Well, I’m not unhappy all the time. Maybe I realized what’s got me down.) I’ve been putting this insane pressure on myself to get over the abuse I experienced as a child, like in the sense of “get over it already.” I’m more upset by my inability to get over it (as a moral failing) than I am by the actual memories of abuse. It’s upsetting. I’m too damned hard on myself. It’s not like I abused myself. (Actually I did, but that’s a whole other blog post.) [Eyeroll.] Why does the burden of dealing with things fall onto the victim? How is that fair?

Well, actually, my parents are guilt-ridden. I’d hate to have that sort of crap on my conscience. So maybe no one ever deals with it.

It’s just that I’ve got this ridiculous spiritual belief that the universe is withholding romantic love from me until I can, again, “get over it already.” As if I’m not accomplished enough, not mature enough, not wise enough to deserve love yet; and I’m probably not even close. I’m 44 years old. Come on. I deserve romantic love.

I don’t know how to over come this limiting belief, and it’s breaking my heart. Like, you have to be “perfect” in order to deserve and receive romantic love. I’m nowhere close, but neither is anyone else, so how’d my beliefs get so skewed?! I don’t know. It just breaks my heart. I want to get there, but I can’t. I’m not there. I might never be there. It wouldn’t bother me for any other reason, but I’ve never wanted anything more than I’ve wanted (and never had) romantic love. But I’m sick of being pulled around by the universe. However, the universe holds all the keys. The randomness with which we meet people must be divinely orchestrated, which means that if I don’t play the universe’s game, I won’t get what I want. I’m screwed. And heartbroken.

My sister.

So, my dad drove me to the county clerk’s office across town and then drove home. I went inside and grabbed a number from the counter. It was D05, so I crossed the room and sat across from area D.

I was nervous and shaky and uncertain of what to do. What if they called my number before my mom and sister showed up? Would I have to take a new number? Also, it seemed as if the numbers they were calling didn’t add up. The lady behind D called 98 when I was expecting her to call something like D02.

My sister arrived, crossed the area, and sat perpendicular to me on a large sofa. “Hey, what’s our number?” she asked. I showed her the ticket.

I wanted to be snarky and ask if she left our elderly mother in the car, but I managed to refrain. As it turns out, I think she was talking to our dad, who didn’t leave until they showed up, just to make sure.

So then she entered, and Ellen and I both had to flag her down. “Where’s Meg?” she asked.

Ellen pointed to me, and I waved.

“Oh, I didn’t recognize you with your new hairdo,” she said. (I chopped off all my hair and bleached it.) She gave me a compliment on it and sat next to me.

“How are you doing?” she asked. “Are you okay?”

I sighed. A woman was sitting pretty close to my mom on her other side. “I don’t like talking when people can overhear me.” For good measure, I added, “And you know that.”

“Oh, I’m a bad, bad, Mommy.” She burst into tears.

I rolled my eyes.

“Do you want to sit next to me, Mom?” Ellen asked.

“No, I just want to cry!” she wailed.

I hadn’t seen my sister in years, so I shot some furtive glances her way. She’s still overweight, more than I am, and her hair was mussy, wavy, and somewhat dirty. She was glued to her cellphone for a brief while but then she just waited patiently.

A woman who worked there started walking around where we were. “LISTEN UP, EVERYONE. IF YOU’RE HERE TO GET A LICENSE RENEWAL, PLEASE RAISE YOUR HAND.”

I shrank away from her to avoid the forcefield of her polluting energy. She arranged everyone applicable into an order and started a line for them to my right. We continued to wait. She almost forced my sister off her sofa, but Ellen pointed out that she was with us, and the lady mumbled, “Yeah, I didn’t want to move her,” while pointing to our mother, whose shirt was falling off in the front to reveal that she wasn’t wearing a bra. Please, God, don’t ever let me grow that old. (I’m 44, my mom’s 72, and Ellen’s 36.) So Ellen didn’t have to move, but someone else was forced by this domineering woman to sit next to her on the sofa. I could tell that Ellen was not amused.

Eventually, we ascertained that they were calling the next number, but not the accompanying alphabet letter. So the D part was irrelevant, and we had to watch every employee carefully to see when they’d call our number.

“Five!”

We jumped up.

There were two chairs. Ellen sat in one and immediately started explaining our needs to the employee. I pulled the other chair out and gestured for my mom to sit in it, but she was still crying crocodile tears and being uncooperative. I continued gesturing for a long time. She ignored me. So I sat in it. And then there was a huge to-do over getting her a third chair. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

Working with the employee was fine, but it scared me that she called us by our first names. Thank God I had my name legally changed to Meg back in 2008, and it’s on all my documents! Whew.

But then I was asked to sign something. The paper wound up under my nose, and Ellen handed me a pen. I couldn’t sign it. My hand wasn’t working right. I dropped the pen and realized my hands were shaking. Ellen held the paper and I forced a signature after several attempts. I guess I was in shut-down mode, like, don’t talk to me and don’t make me do anything, because I’ve checked out.

There was an issue with the car’s mileage not being known, and my sister guesstimated. (The car wasn’t in the parking lot. It was back at my mom’s condo.) I spoke up and said that I didn’t care at all what the mileage was. Ellen guessed 24,000, and the woman asked me if that sounded right. (I’d never even seen the car.) I was like, “Yes, that sound perfect.” It turns out that the mileage is about twice that, I think, but it’s all good.

Out in the parking lot, Ellen said I should sit in the back behind the driver’s side of her car, but I was such a nervous wreck that I almost got into someone else’s car. This wasn’t my fault, as I’d never seen my sister’s new car. So then we got in. Things calmed down a little as we drove to my mom’s condo, and I managed to come out of my paranoid frozen state (sometimes I need to dethaw from it); but once we reached our destination, my sister realized she didn’t have the keys to the car. Back into her car we got, and we drove to my sister’s house so she could get the keys to my new car, BlackBird.

Driving along, Ellen and I managed to actually engage in some normal sisterly conversation. Our mom was still weeping for unknown reasons. Ellen parked and went inside to get the keys. I figured out that my mom has been heartbroken since her recent breakup. I said, “Maybe you all can get back together.”

“We’ve been talking, and he says he can’t do it anymore.”

“Oh. That’s too bad.”

Ellen got back in the car and said she’d just discovered that the keys had been left at our mom’s condo. So we drove back to the condo. I didn’t mind and I was glad to be hanging out with my sister in a nice and friendly way.

“Meg,” she said. “I hope you understand that I don’t care whether or not you meet my daughter, but if you do want to meet her at anytime, you’re free to. I didn’t realize that my bringing her along would be a violation of your boundaries.”

I was amazed. “Wow, thanks for saying that,” I said. “I appreciate it, and I was pretty certain that the manipulation was coming from our mother yesterday.”

Mommy burst into tears. “I’m a bad, bad mommy,” she wailed. We offered token negations of this.

I filled them both in on how my mom butt-dialed me yesterday, and what I heard.

“But yeah, I understand,” Ellen continued. “I’m not going to force Li’l Sweetmeats on you.”

(Actually, she was referring to her daughter by name, and I had to explain to her that I call her Li’l Sweetmeats largely to give her anonymity online, since Li’l Sweets is a minor.)

I sensed that Ellen didn’t approve of the name “Li’l Sweetmeats,” but she was too polite to say so. I tried to refer to her as the baby or the kid instead.

Ellen showed me how to drive the car. She was very thorough. Then, our mom begged us to let her photograph us together. Ellen said she’d do it if I would. I shook my head. And damn my mother for doing that! Ellen and I were getting along and being nice and considerate to each other, and then I had to stab Ellen in the heart like that because I didn’t feel like being further manipulated by our mother. (I suspect Ellen understood. But still.)

Maintaining boundaries is really hard. I’m glad my sister understands that.

I drove the car home and quickly realized that I can’t see my blindspot to change lanes. Ugh. I’m used to driving an old car that has no side mirrors, and I think side mirrors are unsafe to rely on and that you should rely upon looking over your shoulder. Every single time. But looking over my shoulder in BlackBird, I couldn’t see outside, for some reason. I’m sure I’ll find some solution for this.

I’m kind of tired now. It’s 4:30, and I’m just braindead. I should lie down.

A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma

THERE WILL BE SPOILERS APLENTY!

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(Click the cover art to go to Amazon’s product page!)

I just finished reading A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma. What the hell did I just read? 

A Room Away From the Wolves is a rare genre known as literary YA. Very few YA authors are attempting to go all literary, it seems. Maybe they shouldn’t be attempting it. This book was a disaster. 

Coming into the home stretch with a hundred pages left to read, the book seemed great. There were all these mysterious goings-on that I couldn’t wait to have explained to me. Just one little problem: the author thinks that she gave us enough information to understand. Um… no. [Shaking my head.]

None of my questions were answered, and the number of questions was huge. Maybe thirty or forty? Nova Ren Suma left that many unanswered questions in one book. Now, there ought to be a prize for that, but it would be akin to rotten tomatoes, or something; i.e., not the prize you want to win. Like “worst movie ever”, for example. “The most unanswered questions in one book” award goes to Nova Ren Suma! The crowd goes wild. 

I took to Goodreads, but none of the other readers have a clue, either. Some are calling themselves stupid, a la, “I must not be smart enough for this book.” One reviewer got peeved by that and said, “People! Quit saying you’re not smart enough for this book. The book is that bad. It’s not you!” 

So… sigh. Along with that small flaw regarding the unanswered questions, I hated the book’s atmosphere. I can forgive a lot of plot deficits if I enjoy being inside the book. Sadly, that was not the case here. The atmosphere was gloomy, morose, dismal, and bleak. Now, someone else might feel differently, so I’d recommend maybe reading the first several chapters. If you like the atmosphere early on, you’re in luck, because it never improves. (Did that sentence make sense? It’s late at night, and I ache to reclaim the time I lost reading this book. Alas.) 

Oh, and there was no huge confrontation with the enemy at the end. Instead, the haunted house literally gave up the ghost, enabling the main character to simply walk out the front door and leave. But it turns out that the main character’s dead. When did she die? Um… how come we didn’t know she died? Is everyone dead, or just her? 

And here’s my biggest question: no, I can’t even ask it. Okay, I’ll ask. Why are the residents able to come and go from Catherine House as they please, but they’re magically not able to move out permanently? Because I’m thinking that if a haunted house lets you come and go, there’s no way it can keep pulling you back home. And yet, a few characters realized that they could escape by leaping off the roof. Drastic! Why not just walk out the front door? [Facepalm.] I mean, I’m sure there’s a simple explanation for this, like maybe the house gets mad when you don’t return home each night, but couldn’t the author have filled us in, maybe, just a little bit? No? 

It was weird, because in some weird ways, the author bent over backward to tell us obvious stuff. Like there was one part like this: “I read the note. It wasn’t signed, but I knew, deep in my heart, without having to be told, that the note had been written by Monet.” And I’m thinking, yeah, I kind of knew too, because who else would’ve written it? But at least the author is nice enough to tell us THAT. She just doesn’t tell us anything of importance! I want to swear a bloody streak right now. Darn it all! 

Meg, calm yourself. Such harsh language. Try to keep a civil tongue. 

AAUGH!! What a dreadful book. I swear, I’ve never felt this much hostility toward an author. (Okay, yes, I have. It often happens every time I try to read a book.) It’s as if Nova Ren Suma thinks she told us enough, or… no,I know what it is. She thinks that being literary and not letting us in on what anything meant is trendy and cool. [Facepalm.] Oh, geez. What the freakin’ heck did I just read?!

Why? Why? Why? [Rolling my eyes at myself.]

For the reader who enjoys perpetual ambiguity, I highly recommend this book. Trust me, you’ll never piece anything together. It’s not possible. It’s like working a jigsaw puzzle that’s a collection of pieces from different puzzles. It’s not going to end well. 

Maybe Bina’s stepsisters killed her. And was she secretly a werewolf? And how’d the opal ring get unburied from deep beneath the pavement? How can anyone jump off a five-story building and only suffer a broken leg, or less? Why did the ghost of Catherine lose interest in her haunting ground at Catherine House and abandon the portrait? Why were the residents upset by this instead of realizing they’d been handed their freedom? And what was behind the painted door? Was it a portal to Bina’s death scene? Hmm. 

Well, I read the book. I didn’t DNF it. No, I read it. I have regrets. But hey, I read it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been butt-dialed!

We made plans tomorrow to meet at the county clerk’s office: me, my sister, and my parents, to transfer the title of my sister’s car to me. Then my dad would drive home, and I’d go with the others to my mom’s condo, where my sister would show me how to drive the car. (I’ve only really driven my 1995 Saturn and my dad’s car, which is ancient. Apparently, I need to learn about these newfangled key fobs that make the car honk when it’s locked.)

So like I said, we made the plans earlier today to meet tomorrow, and a few hours after we made the plans, I had a total stress-related panicky meltdown. I thought I was fine, but while walking with my dad and LuLu the pup, I started ranting about how evil Ellen is, and how much I hate her.

The only bright spot was that her kid wouldn’t be there. I can’t let myself open my heart to her kid because then I might care so much that I’d want to kidnap the kid once Ellen becomes an abusive parent. (It’s only a matter time.) It’s not something I can remotely cope with, nor do I expect myself to. Keeping a distance and never meeting the kid is in everyone’s best interest.

I was talking to Sonya about it, and she said I needed to confirm that the kid wouldn’t be there. I called my mom, and… holy shit, Li’l Sweetmeats, my niece, was going to be coming along. Because she’s not in daycare, and blah-blah-blah.

“Mother, I don’t mean to sound accusatory, but did you buy me a $17,000 car in order to orchestrate a reunion with me and Ellen, and a meeting of me and her daughter, Li’l Sweets?”

“No! Of course not! How could you think so? I’m not that diabolical,” she wailed.

“Of course, Mother. If you say so, I believe you.” Not. (For any of you who think my mom was being honest, just keep reading.)

I cancelled tomorrow’s plans and promised to find a way that we can orchestrate all this. We ended our call. I feel immense relief right now, but I’m super-tense. I’ve never willfully hurt a kid, but if I were to encounter Li’l Sweets, I’m sorry, but she would be dead to me. I’d shun her. That’s the best-case scenario, since I can’t let myself love her. It would hurt too much, watching her grow up with an abusive parent, and I flat-out can’t put myself through that level of pain. In fact, I’m terrified right now just picturing it. Oh, God, Li’l Sweetmeats was almost shoved in my face by two master manipulators, and I barely escaped.

Breathe! Breathe!

I’m still in a state of panic. It’s terrifying, because once I accidentally meet the kid, it’ll be game over for me. I’ll love her, and then I’ll want to protect her, and then I’ll wind up in federal prison. (If you all are wondering why I don’t just report my sister once she becomes abusive, she works as a social worker, and she’s gotten really good at saying, “Oh, Meg’s just my paranoid schizophrenic sister. Don’t listen to her.”) (Also, I don’t want to even witness or know about that first act of abuse, which is one act of abuse too many.)

My sister has similar personality issues as my mother; and my sister’s husband, Mr. Perfect, is relaxed and laid-back like our dad. Li’l Sweetmeats is their first kid. She’s close to two years old, and my sister’s pregnant with another child as well.

To give some family history here, I was never abused (that I know of) until I was seven years old. My childhood was idyllic, as is Li’l Sweets’. It just didn’t stay idyllic, and neither will hers. My mom reached a point where her personality issues took front and center, and her children were terrorized. My sister’s following in the same path, and as you all probably know, she’s assaulted me six or seven times as adults. Although she seems like a great mom to Li’l Sweets, so too was my mom when I was two years old. It won’t last. 

The fear is real.

My mom just called back. They found a babysitter for tomorrow! Great!

“Are you okay with being in the car with your sister?” she asked.

“I have no choice,” I conceded. “She has to show me how to drive her fancy car.”

“Very good. Goodbye, darling.”

“Bye.”

And then, after I hung up, she called back again. “Hello?” I said.

No answer. Instead, I heard my mom talking to my sister in the background. (My mom was babysitting, and my sister had gotten home from work.) Holy goodness. Had I been butt-dialed? My jaw dropped.

“It’s just so hurtful,” my mom wept. “It’s just so hurtful.”

“It’s her life, Mom,” my sister said. (At least, I think that’s what she said.)

“Yeah, but Li’l Sweetmeats would be so good for her. I just know it. And Meg would be so good for Li’l Sweets. This adorable child deserves to have another auntie.”

In the background, Li’l Sweets cooed and gibbered. I listened for a while longer, but I couldn’t make out much, and then I hung up on my mother’s dialing behind.

She’s such a victim. I’ve done nothing but assert my important (read: really important) boundaries, and she’s playing the victim over it. It’s so absurd. I think it’s perfectly fine for some family members to not have relationships. But my mom’s eager to be the victim wherever she can be.

I just can’t believe I was butt-dialed! Oh my goodness. I have lived.

An advice smorgasbord!

Dear Amy: My teenage daughter had one of her longtime friends over.

My 19-year-old son walked into the kitchen to microwave his coffee, and even though he was mere feet away from my daughter’s friend, he did not say hello to her.

I think this is very rude.

I didn’t think I raised my children this way. My other two children who are more outgoing always make it a point to greet people.

He says it is not necessary and that when he goes to his friends’ houses those families do not say hello to him, either.

I believe you should always greet people when they enter your home.

Are simple manners a thing of the past?

– Rude?

Dear Rude: I don’t believe that simple manners have totally gone by the wayside but because well-mannered people seem to be rarer these days, those who are polite really stand out!

You provide a bit of a clue to your son’s behavior when you describe your other children as “more outgoing.”

If your son is an introvert, or simply more reserved or shy, something as simple as a “hi” greeting in the kitchen might be a big lift for him. All the same, he should recognize that this is a worthy goal — and work on it.

I coached a shy young family member to use a “silent hello.”

When words fail, eye contact and a smile can go a very long way. (c) Ask Amy

No. I disagree. This isn’t a matter of being introverted or shy or socially anxious or awkward. This is self-absorption and a lack of social empathy.

When I was in the youth group as a teenager, there were a few signs I didn’t catch at the time that they didn’t like me. But one sign I always caught was avoided eye contact, which makes me think of this letter writer’s son’s behavior, too, with the no hellos. It’s rude. It says, “You aren’t here to me. I’m pretending you’re not in my kitchen.” Ugh.

Yes, a smile or a wave would suffice, but I think Ask Amy’s off the mark here with her analysis. If I were the mom, I’d have a talk with her son.

Let’s see what Miss Manners is up to today! Mischief, I’m sure.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I ordered a seafood salad, and the shrimp arrived with the tails on. What is the correct way to eat such shrimp: with your fingers, or by cutting off the tail?

GENTLE READER: How about cutting off the restaurant?

Diving into your salad with your fingers is a bad, not to say messy, idea. So leaving the tail shells on makes it impossible for you to eat your entire costly shrimp. Miss Manners has never understood why restaurants have taken up this affectation. (c) MISS MANNERS

Whoa. Okay. You’re not supposed to eat the shrimp tails? Oops. I just ate shrimp tails last night. (I sometimes treat myself to coconut shrimp for dinner.) I’m concerned now (yet laughing), so I’m going to google it.

Whew! Okay, good. They’re edible but not meant to be eaten. I can live with that.

Let’s check in with Dear Abby!

DEAR ABBY: After my divorce 15 years ago, I moved 800 miles away to be near my only family — my older sister — at her request. We are close and talk on the phone every day, but do nothing together because she’s always busy and active with her partner of 50 years and their circle of friends.

I have made few friends (just a couple from work and neighborhood acquaintances), nor have I found a romantic connection despite trying online dating, self-help books and volunteering. I even tried going on vacation alone a few years ago, which was misery. I’ve been through counseling three times. All three professionals have concluded that this is simply my life.

During the COVID quarantine, I actually felt normal for the first time in 15 years because everyone else was spending all their time at home alone, too. While I’m relieved and thankful for the vaccines for bringing us closer to an end to the pandemic, I’m also depressed. I am dreading a return to “normal” because people will resume living and I will sit here and watch. How do I accept that this is how my life will be? — SIDELINED IN SOUTH CAROLINA

DEAR SIDELINED: My late mother once told me that people can be as happy as they choose to be. You appear to be someone who has too much time on her hands. You are not a deprived urchin with her nose pressed against a bakery window. You are a capable adult who, now that so many people have been vaccinated, can get out of your dwelling and involve yourself in activities that interest you.

The time you’re wasting “watching” others live their lives is time you could be spending getting out into the community and perhaps volunteering again, taking a class or searching for a part-time job. If you do, you may meet others with similar interests and — while you may or may not find the romance you crave — you could possibly make some new friends. (c) DEAR ABBY

Is she depressed? There’s something about feeling trapped on the sidelines that seems like depression. Like, I’m not good enough to participate. I’m forever on the outside looking in. I don’t deserve more. Hmm. I can sort of relate. I was never brave enough to join groups in school or college. I felt like they were for everyone else, but not for me.

There’s a Tarot card that represents this. I think it’s the Five of Pentacles. Yeah, that’s the card.

In this time of need, the Five of Pentacles indicates that you feel isolated and alone. Just like the two people in the card, you feel as if you have been left in the cold. You may wonder, “Why is no one coming to help me!?” It may appear as if no one cares anymore. However, since the windows in the church are lit up, help is nearby; but you are too focused on your problems to notice. You may be waiting for someone to come and help you when really, you need to be proactive and ask for help. You need to swallow your pride or let go of your fear of rejection and reach out. People are here to support you. Find them and let them know you need them.

(c) Brigit Esselmont at her website, biddytarot.com

Yeah. The letter writer needs to push through it and insert herself into others’ lives, and the sooner the better. Nothing’s sadder than thinking you don’t belong and don’t deserve to be included. Maybe she needs a mantra like… hmm… I belong here. I’d also urge her to make friends online as well.

All three professionals have concluded that this is simply my life.

My intuition’s telling me that the three therapists were overwhelmed with her self-criticizing energy and weren’t up to the task of helping her overcome it. Hmm. She might want to keep reading the self-help books, too. At this point, nothing could hurt.

There were no jacks at the fair, but…

Oh my goodness.

Four years ago, I was involved with someone named Mart. I knew him online, and he’s the person who introduced me to Sonya, my best friend. My relationship with him was disastrous. We were like fire and gasoline.

I wanted him desperately, but he wasn’t interested. He played head games with me, anyway. (I was knee-deep in my phase where I wanted any man to love me, so I threw myself at all of them.) I don’t really blame him in retrospect. He has severe bipolar disorder, and I also suspect he was emotionally neglected. His errors in perception (of which there are many) seem reminiscent of having been raised by parents who weren’t paying him any attention. His problems are severe.

When I knew him, he went off his bipolar meds and was overtaken by delusions of grandeur, and not in a good way. I was always worried about him (and for good reason), and he was always playing games where he’d pretend to be missing, and I’d have to call the police in Great Britain, his country. That sort of thing. He’s diabolical. But again, I don’t blame him. (But he’s turned me off of male Scorpios for life. My apologies to any male Scorpios who are reading this.)

So he messaged me several hours ago, and we were talking for the first time in four years. I felt good about it at first, because I’ve always felt bad that we ended things on such rotten terms. Heartbreak, anger, confusion, all that. But as the conversation progressed, I noticed that he was making me feel insecure again. And I rarely feel that insecure lately. A dim corner of my mind told me, Meg, he’s hurting you on some level. Whether or not he means to, this conversation has to end. 

Another inner voice chimed in. Don’t end it without making it permanent. Take the time to do it right. 

Mart asked why I’m single, why my dad thinks it’s okay to be a lawyer, if I ever get off with sex toys since I’m incapable of having casual sex (my response was, “No comment,”), why Sonya’s such a horrible person (um, she isn’t), and why I never talk much about my mom–what am I hiding there?

Head in Hands

He made me feel insecure times a million. And my day was strange before this, since my dad and I went to the fair, and I was prior dealing with a billing situation. I’m awash in surreality right now. I’ve lost myself. I know this is temporary, but holy freakalutin’ goodness.

He kept talking about how people are against him. I honed in on this and pointed out that there’s an error in his perception that’s occurring in all situations, and I urged him to get to the heart of it. He then accosted me for how I walk past people on the sidewalk without saying hi to them, because I’m paranoid, and all that.

“Yes,” I told him. “Look at us. We’re a bad match.”

“Um, I told you I have a girlfriend,” he said. “I’m not interested in…”

“That’s not what I meant! I mean, as friends, you and I just hurt each other all the time instead of lifting each other up! I’m sorry, but we can’t keep doing this. It’s not your fault, and it’s not mine, but we’re a bad match!”

He didn’t take it well. (Did anyone think he would? Show of hands, please.)

And then he kept attacking me and taking shots at me. “But Sonya said you hate to lose a friend,” he said.

“Yes, this is true,” I admitted. And at that point I was convinced that he was being manipulative. I’ve also got my eyes wide open that he’s going to try to separate me from Sonya. He won’t get far, but he can try.

I finally said goodbye for reallish and then blocked him.

I didn’t want to block him. I didn’t want to hurt him. But I don’t trust him not to try to get back in touch with me. So, that’s why I did it.

It was weird. I just feel flummoxed. I’m just like, what the hell just happened here?

You could say I have better boundaries than I did four years ago, but I don’t think that’s it. I have better people in my life now! I have people who treat me kindly and who care about me; people who, if they have mental problems (as I do) want to be lifted up and helped rather than given free rein to be manipulative and scheming.

I know I did the right thing, but it might take me a while to regain my equilibrium. I might have to sleep it off. Yeah.

And we couldn’t find the jacks at the fair. It’s a bit of an inside joke between me and my dad. The fair’s website lists which days the jacks are there with the other barnyard animals, but my dad and I know they’re called the jacks because “jackasses” is a dirty word. Huh. Wait. Maybe I saw a jack today after all. [Shaking my head at myself.]

For seriousness?

Oh, geez. Well, my intuition has been keen lately. Not that that seems like a good thing now.

I came upstairs today after eating breakfast and walking the dog, afraid to check my email. I often feel this way at the start of the day, but today it was more pronounced, bad enough to make me wonder what on earth I was afraid of–that someone would’ve sent me an angry email overnight, most likely unprovoked?

I shouldn’t have opened my inbox.

The hospital where I was treated for my kidney stone has billed me just over $8,000. Don’t panic, Meg, don’t panic. And I stared at the bill thinking, what about that letter I got a week after I was in the hospital? The one that said, we know you’re broke, so your $6,000 bill has been forgiven?

Huh. The numbers don’t equate, for one thing. But I trust my reading comprehension. I know I read that letter right. Did I save the letter? No. That would be asking too much of my intelligence. But I swear, it said something to the effect of this:

As per your recent hospital stay of June 20th, we realize that you can’t afford to pay, so we’ve elected to cover your entire bill. You won’t receive a bill from the hospital. 

Now, I could sit here and think, how stupid was I to actually believe that, but the letter was so convincing that I did, in fact, believe it.

Since that time, I’ve been bled dry by paying the supplemental bills to the doctor, for the radiology (X-ray, or something?), and so forth. One bill was $900, which has left my savings account totally empty. I was trying to do the right thing by paying those bills, even though I currently have NO MONEY for my upcoming trip to Prague. I’m not freaked over that in and of itself, but if the hospital thinks I can cough up $8,000, then they’ve got another thing coming. At this point, I’m putting my foot down. Whatever the consequences are, I’ll take them, because I don’t have nor even approve of paying $8,000. I will however offer to pay them $20 monthly until the end of time. They can take that or leave it. (The online pay-over-time form says you have to pay at least $450. Half of my monthly income? Not happenin’)

I told them on the phone about that letter, and they sounded mystified and somewhat suspicious. “So, you didn’t apply for financial assistance? Is that what you’re telling me?”

“That’s correct. I didn’t feel the need to upon receiving that letter.”

“But the letter doesn’t exist! There are no circumstances under which we would’ve sent it. We hadn’t even calculated your bill yet–we just did that!”

[Facepalm.]

(This is my life: getting into existential discussions with debtors.)

So who would’ve sent that letter? It was on official paper and everything. I recall thinking it was odd, since I hadn’t applied for financial assistance yet, but there it was, a piece of great news.

My dad’s home and wants to go to the state fair. I almost don’t want to drop this bombshell on him.

Ugh. The woman just called back and managed to lower my bill to a whopping $1,715.81. I can’t argue with that. I offered to make payments monthly. Now I’ve got to go tell my innocent dad that he’ll be getting less repayment from me each month. Ugh. But we’re going to the fair! Gonna see the jacks!

Check it out!!

Hey, everyone, my BFF Sonya interviewed me for her blog! Check it out!! What a thrill to be featured!! Sonya’s the friend I’m going to visit in a few months in Prague! As you can see, she’s very whimsical and playful!

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I have different eyeglasses now and a different hairstyle! (I can’t share photos because the lighting is wrong in my room with my webcam.) Sonya’s still as beautiful as ever! (This was from two years ago.)

I hope everyone’s having a great day!

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