Bad Girl?

Based on some things a certain female relative recently said to me, it sounds like I may have inadvertently messed up again.

Remember last year when I went to see my favourite band from my youth in concert? Well, my husband and I went to see them again this year. It was a different scene this year, being in a smaller city at a smaller venue. It was an outdoor concert in a beautiful location. Last year, I nervously talked to my favourite guitarist afterward, but I didn’t get any pictures or autographs. This year I was more prepared and I brought along a CD I could ask them to sign if I had the opportunity.

As it turned out, the opportunity arose after the show. After much of the crowd had dissipated, the band members came down from the stage and mingled with the people who remained. They were very kind and friendly to everyone. I got all of them to sign my CD, and I got selfies with two of them, including my favourite guitarist. The lead singer talked to me at length about the making of one of their albums, and it was fascinating stuff. My husband took a picture of us during that conversation. The lead singer also asked me to stick around and hang out with them for a while!! And my favourite guitarist even handed me a camera and asked me to take some pictures for them, really including me in what was going on. It was amazing, and the anti-anxiety medication I’m on made it relatively easy for me to navigate the whole thing. (Although it was still overwhelming to my senses and I was exhausted for days afterward.) It was a world of difference between my experience talking to the guitarist last year, and mingling with the whole band this year.

It was an amazing experience. I have rarely in my life had such positive social experiences. I went home elated. I was literally lying in bed with a smile on my face that night.

Perhaps needless to say in this day and age, I posted a few of the pictures on Facebook.

But then my bubble was burst. A certain female relative warned me that “some people” might be judging me for those pictures, thinking I was behaving inappropriately for a married woman.

So then I was wondering if I should clarify a few points on Facebook, such as:

  1. My husband was with me the whole time.
  2. My husband encouraged me to talk to them.
  3. My husband was so delighted by the whole thing that he was taking pictures and video of me interacting with them the whole time.
  4. I was not flirting. I don’t even know how to flirt.
  5. I joke about how I had a crush on the guitarist when I was a teenager, but I’m not a teenager anymore and don’t feel that way now. I still find the guy exceptionally talented, but I’m in a different place now. I take my marriage vows very, very seriously and I am happy with my husband. I was very happy to be going home with my husband at the end of the night.
  6. On the way home, my husband was talking about what a great time he’d had, and was saying he was sad the night was over. So obviously he wasn’t feeling slighted or like I’d been inappropriate with other men.

But then I was thinking, I don’t know if anyone was actually really judging me, or if it was just the one relative. So if I started clarifying these points on Facebook, I might be making a mountain out of a molehill and embarrassing myself further. So I haven’t posted anything of the sort, but I’m embarrassed and uncomfortable now, wondering what people might be thinking, and a little annoyed that I am always somehow misunderstood.

And why is it that I can’t have one good experience in my life without some kind of negative attached to it?

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A Positive Thing for Me

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Photo by Ronn AKA “Blue” Aldaman via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I am now on the anti-anxiety medication Cipralex. It took a while to kick in but it’s now become a very positive thing for me. I’m not having any significant side effects, and my anxiety is greatly minimized. I haven’t had any more anxiety attacks, and I’m falling asleep more easily at night because my mind isn’t racing with anxious thoughts. There were times in the past when I felt absolutely tormented by worries about the future and shame over the past, and all that has been pretty much eliminated now. It’s a great relief.

I had briefly wondered if I would be able to go back into the workforce once my anxiety was lessened, but I was overlooking how many other things are standing in the way of that, such as my various health issues, sensory issues, social difficulties, and fatigue. Even just running errands for a couple of hours leaves me exhausted and sends me to bed upon my return home.

Besides, I like being at home. I really do. (I would like it even more if my husband and I had our own home rather than living in my parents’ basement, of course.) I read and write and learn Norwegian and make jewelry and take online courses and exercise and cook things from scratch. These days it’s seen as shameful for a woman to want to stay at home, like it’s anti-feminist or something, but this is how I feel. Think less of me for it if you must.

Anxious

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Photo by Boris Thaser via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

I apologize for not writing for a while. I kind of feel like I’ve already told my story here. My intention in starting this blog was to make sense of my life within the context of my newfound realization that I likely have autism. I think I’ve done that now. Unless there are new developments in my life, I don’t feel like I have much to say anymore.

There has actually been a new development since I last wrote. I’m now, for the first time in my life, on anti-anxiety medication. I was taken to the hospital a few weeks ago with what turned out to be an anxiety attack. I’ve always been an anxious person but this was the first time my anxiety caused something that looked like a medical issue serious enough to be of concern to other people. (While I have always been prone to meltdowns when overwhelmed by sensory input and stress, they typically involve crying and therefore appear emotional in nature and not like I’m having a heart attack like this anxiety attack did.)

I’ve now been taking Cipralex for about three weeks. The doctor said to give it a month before deciding if I want to continue taking it. I was very wary at first, and reading online reviews scared me, as they mentioned things like “dulled emotions.” (I don’t mind a bit if my negative emotions are dulled, but I still want to feel the positive ones.) But I haven’t noticed any big differences, either good or bad, other than some headaches when I first started taking it that have since gone away, and I do seem to be sleeping a bit better. But I cried my eyes out over a video about a homeless cat who found a good home the other day, so my emotions are intact, which is good. Unfortunately though, I am still anxious when something stressful happens. I had a very, very stressful encounter with a relative last week and I was a wreck. But then, it hasn’t been a month so maybe the medication just isn’t fully kicking in yet.

In other news, I had mentioned in a previous blog post that I had started going to church again. I have since quit again. People were asking me too many personal questions and I was dreading going every week. I hate being asked personal questions because I don’t have good answers for most of them. I’m not normal, my life isn’t normal, I don’t have the kind of answers people expect, and I feel judged as a result. So I stopped going.

I am still getting together with my local friend about once every two weeks, and I enjoy visiting with her because we understand each other, but other than that I am avoiding being social at all, because it’s just not worth it.

The biggest source of stress right now is my family. Some of my relatives are judgmental and downright mean. I wish I could live somewhere else.

 

Books and Letting Go

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A very small percentage of my books, disorganized at the moment

I’ve been going through my books selecting which to keep and which to donate to charity. We don’t have the space for them all. But it’s really hard. I love each and every one of them. I have gotten better at this kind of thing though. When I was younger I wouldn’t have gotten rid of anything. Now I can do it, prioritizing saving space over keeping things, even if it hurts.

It helps that the internet is a thing now. I really started hoarding books when I was in my early twenties and lived in the middle of nowhere without a car, cable TV, or internet. I only went into town once a week and would check out several library books, but inevitably I would finish them all before I could get more and I became desperate for reading material. I read everything in the house, even my mom’s Reader’s Digest condensed books (which I thought were pretty lame) and it wasn’t enough. So I started collecting books cheaply however I could, usually at used book sales. Sometimes friends would give me books they’d bought and read and didn’t want anymore. I felt like I couldn’t have too many books. The more I had, the less likely that I would ever feel that desperation for reading material ever again. I hated that feeling.

Now with the internet, that problem is obsolete. I can find lots to read online. And I can download borrowed library e-books to my tablet whenever I want. Unlike some people, I don’t mind reading books on an e-reader or tablet. It’s preferable, in fact, because I can change the font according to my preference and I can read in bed when I can’t sleep without needing to turn on a lamp. Plus, holding an e-reader or tablet doesn’t hurt my hypermobile fingers the way holding a book sometimes does.

But still, as I do my book purge, I wonder, what if there’s an apocalypse? What if society breaks down to the point where there is no internet anymore? I will regret giving up my books. I know it sounds preposterous, but it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility. I am trying not to think like that though. If I don’t want to be crushed to death one day by a falling pile of books, I have to do this.

Some books are relatively easy to part with now. For example, the ones on personality type. I used to be very interested in that subject because I knew I was different and was trying to find an explanation for it. Now I’ve figured out why I’m different. Mystery solved. I don’t need those books anymore.

As a side note, I do still find it interesting that when it comes to Myers-Briggs typology, both I and the friend who inspired me to start this blog, who was diagnosed with autism in adulthood, are INFJ. My husband is INTJ. And all the women I’ve had serious interpersonal conflict with in my adult life, including my mother, are ESFJ. ESFJs tend to judge and disapprove of me and, even worse, try to fix me. It does not go well.

So there are definite patterns there, and recognizing them has given me some insight into my relationships. But if I ever find myself wanting to read up on all that again, there’s a lot of information online. The books can go.

I’m glad I have reached a stage of growth in my life where I can let go of things. It took a long time to get here.

Reaction Fail

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Photo by Anne Worner via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

I was in a situation two days ago where I apparently reacted wrongly to something. I didn’t even know until today when it was brought to my attention. I feel extremely stressed out now, reminded of how easy it is for me to get things wrong and not even realize it.

Two days ago, I heard a person who shall remain nameless yelling. I went to see what was wrong. It turned out she had gotten a minor physical injury. I was concerned, so I asked her if she was okay. I offered to get her some hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound and some antibiotic ointment, but she said there was no need, she already had some. I then set about working to remove the problem that had resulted in the injury. Not that it had been my fault at all, but at least I could be part of the solution. That accomplished, I went back to what I was doing. Oops.

For the last two days, the situation has been playing on my mind (not my reaction, which I didn’t even realize was a problem, but just the fact that it had happened in the first place), so I sent her an e-mail today asking if the wound was healing or if there were signs of infection, and I told her I’d been brainstorming of ways to prevent the same thing from happening again.

She replied that she was glad I’d e-mailed her, because she’s been upset at me for the last two days because I didn’t seem to care that she was injured. She said I seemed to have no reaction; I had appeared completely unconcerned and had just “walked away.” She said I should have paid more attention to her, and she’s been feeling hurt ever since.

I assured her I did care, and reminded her that when I walked away it was to try to solve the problem so it wouldn’t happen again. I only did that because I cared, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered. I also told her not to ever look at me for “reactions” because I will always get those wrong. I just don’t have that — whatever it is — in me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel anything on the inside. It’s just that something is broken between the feeling inside and the outward manifestation of it.

I don’t think she really understood what I was saying.

I’m now feeling all this shame because I got that situation wrong. And I’m feeling anxiety knowing that I might get something like that wrong again. It’s so hard to know in the moment what is required of me, and to act out the correct response. And it would be an act, because even though the feelings are there, the correct actions are apparently not natural for me like they are for other people.

I understand now that I was supposed to show warmth and compassion, but even if I had tried I’m sure I would have gotten it wrong and it would have come across as fake, which probably would have done more harm than good. Again, I did care, and I did feel compassion, but I still don’t know how I could have authentically demonstrated that.

I wish I could just stay away from people so I don’t hurt their feelings all the time, but life circumstances don’t seem to allow me to do that.

 

 

My Vivid Dreams

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Photo by Stacey Kizer via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

While I am not very imaginative in my waking hours, when I sleep I have extremely vivid dreams. Often they seem so real that I’m certain they’re really happening and then I feel relieved when I wake up from the bad ones, and disappointed when I wake up from the good ones. Some of them have very complex plots and play out like movies inside my head. Recalling them in the light of day can be very amusing.

One recent dream involved a group of people who woke up in a room together with amnesia. Not one of them could remember anything about who they were or what they were doing there. Each one of them left the room on their own and went out in search of clues to their own identity, based on the way they were dressed. For example, one man who was dressed as a fireman went to the local fire station to see if anyone there knew him and could tell him who he was. After my dream followed several members of the group and their unfortunately fruitless search for their own identity, they all came back together and it was revealed that they were all actors in a play and were wearing their costumes. The moral of the story was uttered by one of them: You cannot find your identity in external things.

Unfortunately, most of my dreams are actually bad ones. Nightmares, in fact. I have a few recurring ones. There are a couple that I’ve just started having recently. One involves being lost in a shopping mall. There are endless corridors and passageways that lead nowhere. The mall is closing and I can’t get out. Another one involves finding myself on the wrong bus, knowing there are no more buses that day going back in the direction I came from.

Then there are a couple that I’ve been having for decades. There’s one where I’m in the passenger seat of a car going down a huge hill toward the river in my hometown. The car is picking up speed, and I turn to look at the driver, only to see that there is no driver.

Then there’s my most frequent, longest-running nightmare. In it, I’m in some kind of dangerous or scary situation (the exact circumstances vary) and I’m trying to call someone for help, usually either the police or my mother. But either the telephone doesn’t work, or I can’t make my fingers work to dial it, or I dial it and get a wrong number repeatedly. I am consumed with a feeling of horror and helplessness.

This dream bothered me so much when I was in my twenties that when I came across a TV talk show that had a dream interpreter on it and they were inviting viewers to call in, I did so. The dream interpreter told me that telephones in dreams often represent a connection to God, and she suggested that I was seeking a connection to Him but did not feel that I was finding it. I didn’t want to make her feel bad so I agreed that her interpretation made sense, but I didn’t really feel that it rang true. I do have a strong faith in God and although I sometimes doubt that He loves me as much as He loves most other people, I don’t necessarily feel disconnected from Him. In fact, I’m pretty sure that even if churches didn’t exist and no one had ever told me about God, I would still believe in Him, because I’ve always been able to feel Him. People and religion have never drawn me to Him; more often they do nothing but frustrate me and distract me from Him. It’s in my quiet, alone times that I sense Him.

These days, I am extremely skeptical about dream interpretation. I’m not really buying all that. And I certainly wouldn’t call into any TV shows, about anything! In fact, I got laughed at by certain individuals for it at the time, the insinuation being that only crazy people call in to TV talk shows. That was one of those confusing situations where I got a glimpse of how other people perceive things and I realized I’d gotten something wrong yet again. At the time it hadn’t seemed like a crazy thing to do. They were asking people who had recurring dreams to call in. Why was it weird to then do so? I didn’t get it. Maybe I do now though.

I think at the time, I was just really desperate for the dream to stop, and I thought if my conscious mind knew the meaning behind it, it would go away. But it didn’t go away. Two decades later, I am still having it. I have gone through periods of time where it was less frequent. I think I may have gone a whole year or two without having it at one point. But it is back with a vengeance.

One thing I think is funny about it is that decades ago, it was always either a landline or a payphone I was trying to use, and now it’s always a cell phone. Funny how my subconscious has kept up with the times.

New Developments

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Photo by Matthew G via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

My husband found a local job! We owe a debt of gratitude to my friend’s husband, without whom it would not have happened. There was nothing on my husband’s resume that should have made him look like a good fit for this particular job, but the employer told him, “A recommendation from [friend’s husband’s name] goes a long way!” We’ve often complained that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and that is certainly true. This time it actually worked in our favour.

The job is very different from anything my husband has done before. It’s mostly physical and involves a lot of lifting. But he likes it, and is grateful to have something to pay the bills while he figures out his next move. It’s full time, but minimum wage. That’s fine though, since living with my parents we don’t have housing costs except for contributing $100 a month for electricity and gas because apparently we use a lot. And I don’t hate living here as much as I thought I would. It’s going okay (other than some small issues, which I might write about in future posts). It makes a big difference that we can buy our own food and everything. My parents are providing a roof over our heads, but we are not completely dependent on them, which makes it more bearable.

In the meantime, my husband is planning to enroll in an online course (from a reputable university, of course) that will fill in one of his skill gaps. Often employers looking for someone with his particular background also want this one particular skill that he doesn’t have, so he is going to rectify that. With his current job being so physical, he misses the intellectual stimulation of his former work and will be happy to have that with this course in his evenings and days off. I think the course lasts about nine months. So maybe next year he can get his career back on track again. Paying for this course would not be possible if we weren’t living with my parents (it’s going to stretch us financially as it is) so we are definitely staying put for a while.

I stopped going to those awful employment workshops. I had to go to the doctor for a routine appointment and he took my blood pressure while I was there, and it was scarily high, despite the fact that I’ve never had high blood pressure before. Since I was so stressed out when I was at those workshops I did not think continuing to go was in my best interests. I e-mailed my counselor and told her, “For personal/health reasons I need to cancel all my upcoming appointments and workshops.”

I’m supposed to go back to the doctor to get my blood pressure checked again but I’ve been putting it off. I want a chance to try to bring it back down naturally. With moving and all the related upheaval and stress in my life, I was not being as diligent about my healthy eating and exercise habits. I am now back on the wagon, so to speak. I hope it will make a difference.

We have started attending the church I used to go to in this town when I was single. I stopped going there about fifteen years ago after a major humiliation and was determined to never set foot in the building again. Once I realized circumstances were bringing me back to this town, I became certain that God wanted me to go back there and face it. My first Sunday back, it just so happened that two of my closest friends were also attending. One of them still lives here and attends with her husband, but the church has three services and things worked out so that we happened to attend the same one that Sunday. The other friend no longer lives here, but had made the trip to visit her family with her boyfriend that weekend, so she and her boyfriend were there too, along with other members of her family, who, back in the day, were almost like a second family to me for a while. We all sat in the same section. I had been nervous about my first time back, but it turned out that I was almost literally surrounded by people I felt safe with. I was emotionally moved to tears when I realized it.

My husband and I have continued to go, and it’s been good. The church is like a completely different place. The whole atmosphere is completely different, in a good way. The people who were instrumental in my past humiliation are no longer there. In fact, there are very few familiar faces. I encountered one woman I used to know and she didn’t remember me at all. “I have a memory like a sieve,” she said, when I was trying to explain who I was and how we knew each other. I am not offended by that. I am relieved. If people don’t remember me, they won’t be thinking bad things about me based on things that happened in the past.

I don’t intend to get heavily involved there. The last thing I’m looking for is a bunch of activities to get involved with and events to attend. Sunday is enough for me. And if I’m not heavily involved, I won’t be getting overwhelmed, and if I’m not getting overwhelmed, I hopefully won’t make a lot of social mistakes that will lead to people hating me like I did before. I didn’t know my limits then, but I certainly do now.

 

One of My Little Quirks: Bathroom Revulsion

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Photo by Kris Krüg via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

This post’s topic is a rather disgusting one. Sorry. If I’m documenting the difficulties that affect my life, I have to include this.

Yesterday I was at the employment centre for an all-day resume writing workshop. During the lunch break I had to pee so I went to use the centre’s only public washroom. The toilet had urine sprayed all over the seat.

So I didn’t go. I held it all day. And even though I never did sit on the dirty toilet, just having seen it and been near it made me feel contaminated for the rest of the day. It’s a wonder I didn’t vomit. If it had been excrement, I would have vomited for sure. I wouldn’t have vomited into the toilet, either, because I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to get close enough to it to do so. I am guilty of having clogged up bathroom sinks for this reason. I am not proud of that.

I loathe having to use public washrooms so much that if I can get away with it, I try to avoid being away from home all day. It makes my skin crawl, having to use a toilet that countless other people have sat on. And when it comes to bodily waste, I would rather hold it for hours, to the point of extreme discomfort, than use a bathroom that does not meet my cleanliness standards. It’s not even simply a preference. It’s that I can’t do it. I can’t make myself do it. I am so thoroughly disgusted and repulsed that it just can’t happen.

But then, I have hated going to the bathroom my whole life, even in clean bathrooms. My mom says one of my very first words was “stinky” when she was potty training me. A couple years later, I started holding in my excrement for days at a time so I wouldn’t have to see/smell/feel it. My mom started to worry and in desperation told me if I didn’t go, it would come out my mouth. That was the most horrific thing I could possibly imagine and got me willingly going to the bathroom again.

I am pretty much horrified by bodily functions in general. My own, other people’s, even my cat’s. I love my cat more than words can say, and yet I wouldn’t even be able to have her if my husband hadn’t agreed from day one to be the one who cleans the litter box. When I have tried cleaning litter boxes in the past, as soon as I start to bend down toward it, I vomit.

I know this is weird. Expelling bodily waste is a normal, daily part of life. But it is horrific for me. And it’s a horrific thing that I have to experience every single day. There’s no getting away from it. All I can do is try to do it in a way and in a place that is as acceptable and comfortable for me as possible. And that employment centre bathroom did not qualify.

The Move

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Photo by Steve McCullough (stevemccullough.ca) via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

My husband and I arrived at my parents’ house a few days ago. It was a rough few days leading up to it, with trying to get everything packed and into the moving trailer, trying to get the apartment clean enough to have any hope of getting our deposit back, and then the long road trip to get here. My parents actually came out there to pick us up and bring us back here, for which I am very grateful.

I ended up hurting my back, which made things more difficult, and my husband had a massive, frightening panic attack in the middle of the night before we left. He was shaking and almost hyperventilating. He ended up running outside into the night air outside our city apartment building to try to calm down. At first I went with him, even though I was scared to go out in the middle of the night, but then after we came back in and I had gotten back into bed he ran out again alone. That was scary for me. I was worried something would happen to him out there alone so late.

Two of the hardest things about the move for me were not having a lot of my stuff accessible to me while it was packed (and some of it has still not been located and unpacked since we’ve arrived for various reasons and I am agitated by that), and having my eating disrupted. I usually drink a very low-carb green smoothie for breakfast, because I’m prone to hypoglycemia and I find if I eat carbs in the morning my blood sugar drops later in the day, but if I don’t eat carbs at all until dinner time my blood sugar remains stable. I realize this is not the common advice given to hypoglycemics, but it’s something I’ve discovered about my own body and I find that this works for me. I also find that if I don’t eat carbs early in the day, I don’t even feel hungry for most of the day and end up eating less food overall, which is a plus in our current situation, not knowing where our next source of income is coming from.

My breakfast smoothie usually consists of:

  • 3 cups baby kale
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil or grape seed oil
  • 1 tsp flax meal
  • 1 squirt of Mio (or similar brand) water flavouring
  • 3/4 of a scoop of vanilla whey protein powder
  • water

I used to add some fruit until I realized the full extent of what the morning carb consumption was doing to me and realized I felt better if I didn’t include it.

Unfortunately, as we were preparing for our move, I ran out of kale and protein powder, and I wanted to eat up what we had on hand and not buy anything new because that would mean more to either move or throw out. So this meant for a few days before the move, the two days of the road trip to get here, and the first two mornings here until we went into town to buy groceries, I was not able to have my smoothie. I ended up eating more carbs than I’m used to, and it made the road trip in particular hard because every few hours I felt nauseated and irritable from the hypoglycemia and I had to pester my dad to stop somewhere. He is not a big fan of stopping on road trips. It’s amazing we (me, my husband, and my mom) were ever allowed to pee.

As for my parents’ house, in a lot of ways it’s better than I thought it would be. (They only moved here a couple years ago and I had never even visited before this.) I’m actually quite pleased with the basement suite. We have more space here than we did in our apartment. It does need work to make it look nice but that is part of the deal; we will help with the renos. My husband has been painting for the last two days and it’s already making a big difference.

I’m a little disappointed that the suite’s kitchen can’t be used yet. It’s all a bit of a bait-and-switch, where I was told, “You will have your own kitchen,” and then I get here and find that it’s not even really a kitchen; it’s just a space where the kitchen will be, and my husband will have to help my dad put it in. (I do realize I was not lied to; I will have my own kitchen, just not immediately.) Just to be clear, they are not doing this solely for us. They had planned to do this anyway to increase the value of the house, they’re just moving up the time frame for our sake. My parents estimate it will be done by Christmas. Right now all there is is a small, bar-sized fridge, a disgusting, unusable sink, and a counter piled with my parents’ junk. But the rest of the suite is usable, thank goodness. The bathroom is nice and the shower has great water pressure. That’s a big plus.

I truly am grateful for the place to live, but to be honest I hate sharing my mom’s kitchen with her. She doesn’t tend to follow food safety rules and we bicker about it. I seem unreasonable and neurotic to her, but I am only like this because I get sick so easily and when I get sick it hits me ridiculously hard. I am only trying to take care of myself and prevent that. If others were as prone to such awful physical maladies as I am they would be more cautious about such things too. That is only logical.

Another problem is the smell. As I wrote in my post on my other blog, my parents’ houses have always had a very distinct odor. They have always blamed it on various things but the smell follows them wherever they go so I think it’s just them. You’d think I’d get used to it, especially having grown up with them, but I never have, and it’s especially bad when I come back after being away for a long time like this. I was finding it really hard to bear at first. But then I found my stash of plug-in air fresheners and plugged them in, and I discovered that one of my Bath and Body Works shower gels had leaked out into the bag it was in, which at first I was upset about, but then I realized that hanging the bag up in the bedroom made the wonderful scent fill the room. I feel so much more comfortable now that I can smell my favourite scents here. It’s ridiculous how unpleasant and distracting the odor of my parents’ house was for me before that.

Generally speaking, in spite of certain negatives, I think I can actually be fairly content here, especially once the kitchen is in.

The main problem right now, of course, is the lack of income. My husband and I both have appointments with a local employment counselor tomorrow and I really hope my husband can find something. I am willing to work too, but to be perfectly honest I am hoping I won’t have to, because of how sick and stressed and prone to embarrassing and debilitating meltdowns I get when I’m working. I would be so much happier at home. But I realize I’m not in a situation where I can choose how I want to live. I just have to do what needs to be done and I hope I can handle it and stick it out as long as possible.

Oh, I almost forgot: One really great thing about this move is that I don’t have asthma here. I am completely inhaler- and wheeze-free all of a sudden. The same thing happened in 2006 when I moved back to my home province from elsewhere. I’m certain I am allergic to something that doesn’t exist here. My asthma was pretty scary sometimes, and inhalers are expensive, so it’s a huge relief to be free of all that!

 

 

They’ll All be Looking at Me

mannequin
Photo from Flickr.

I’m finding myself worrying about my appearance as I prepare to move back to the small town where my parents live. In my adult life, I have never had my appearance criticized so much as I did when I lived there. In fact, the only other source of criticism in that regard has been from my mother-in-law. She says I wear black too much. I did tend to wear black a lot in the past for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s slimming. Secondly, it’s a classic colour that was easy to resort to when I was less savvy about putting together outfits. Thirdly, I am clumsy and tend to spill things on myself, and stains don’t show up as well on black as they do on other colours. Fourthly, I just think black looks good on me.

I never wore black in a “goth” kind of way, although it seems like people make that mental association when they think of someone who wears black a lot. And my mother-in-law seems to think black is only for funerals. Even my husband, when he sees someone wearing all black, sometimes jokes, “Are they going to a funeral or something?” I think maybe, with my husband and his mom being from England, this could be a cultural difference. I don’t think wearing black is viewed quite as harshly here in Canada. After all, there’s a reason it’s said that something is “the new black.” It’s because black is a classic, flattering colour that’s always in fashion.

But aside from my mother-in-law, in my adulthood it’s always been in this one place where my appearance and wardrobe have been criticized by people. My aunt, in particular, always has something to say about whatever I’m wearing. She’s very much into this whole school of thought where your complexion and hair colour determine what “season” you are, and you should only wear colours that correspond with your season. She believes in it like a religion. So if she sees me wearing a white sweater, for example, she’ll say, “You shouldn’t be wearing that. Only winters can wear white.” Or she’ll say, “I can tell you like the colour blue. But you don’t look good in blue. You only think you look good in blue.” It’s not just the seasons thing though. She also says things to me like, “You shouldn’t be wearing that dress. It looks like a nightgown. Yuck!”

She also criticizes my weight. (I have been diagnosed with PCOS and hypothyroidism, both of which make weight a constant struggle.) Once when I was still single I had the opportunity to participate in a fashion show. She was in the audience and she sought me out afterwards and told me, “It was good to see a heavier girl up there on the runway. When you finally find a man, you should just tell him it’s like he’s getting two girls for the price of one!” That’s her idea of a compliment and is actually the most positive thing she’s ever said to me. She tells me about diets I should be going on, usually completely jackassed, unhealthy, not-medically-sound eating plans that I know better than to try. She can be very insistent about such things. She was on my case about one of these the last time I saw her in 2011. As she was telling me about it, I lost control of my mouth and blurted out, “That is absolute bullshit.” She was unfazed. “No it isn’t! No it isn’t!” she insisted.

It’s not just my aunt, either. It’s friends of my mom, too. From them it’s comments like, “You should be wearing a slip under that skirt. When the light is behind you I can see the outline of your legs.” First of all, does anyone under the age of 60 still wear slips? And secondly… Oh no! The outline of my legs?! All the men in town will obviously be consumed by an uncontrollable, fiery lust if they see that! Pfffft. Give me a break.

Then there were also teenagers at church who, assuming I was their peer when I was actually in my late twenties, were giving me fashion tips so I could look more trendy, despite the fact that I was extremely poor at the time and could not afford brand new clothes. And telling me I would look better if I parted my hair in the middle. Hair parted in the middle looks great on some people, but I think it looks horrid on me and I don’t care if it’s in fashion at any given time or not.

In the bigger cities I’ve lived in, I’ve felt so free to just be myself. I don’t feel like my appearance is under constant scrutiny. Even when I was more socially active than I currently am, and even when I was heavily involved in church, rarely, if ever, has anyone given me a hard time about the way I look in these bigger places. As I’m preparing to go back to that small town, I’m starting to worry again. What will they be thinking when they see me? And because I’ll be living with my parents, I can’t hide. I will be like a sitting duck for all the people they’re involved with.

I’m fairly satisfied with my wardrobe at the moment, but I would like to go to the salon before I leave the city. Unfortunately, I don’t feel I should be wasting our precious resources on something frivolous when I don’t know when or from where our next source of income is coming. I really want a new pair of glasses too, as my trendier black-framed pair is showing signs of wear in their finish and the metal bits on the nose have turned green. I would at the very least like to get them professionally cleaned. But again, I shouldn’t be spending money on things like that right now. I’m going back to a place where apparently appearance matters (whether it’s because of the social atmosphere of the place itself or because of the people I’m related to there — not just my aunt, but I think the people who are friends with my mom feel they have some kind of authority over me by extension), but I can’t be spending money on my appearance at the moment.

You know what one of my biggest fears is? When I was young, I used to be very passive and I accepted everything everyone said to me without protest or defense, but I’m not like that anymore. And I’m afraid that one day I’m going to lose it and say something extremely rude to anyone who criticizes me or offers me unsolicited advice, kind of like what I said to my aunt five years ago only worse. And I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I did that. That’s not the person I want to be.