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Saturday, March 26, 2016


I keep the Serenity Prayer on my office bulletin board.  It keeps me from strangling certain people and helps me stay centered (or advises me to get centered).  It reminds me wisdom is a goal, not something I've already achieved.

I was walking on a beach by the ocean once and suddenly everything made sense in a whole new way.  I was overwhelmed by the understanding and by the beauty around me.  Even the squawking of seagulls seemed to affirm my new truth.  The receding tide pulled the old reality away.  I was totally in awe and full of joy in that moment.

Having had that experience once, I wanted it again.  I tried to make more epiphanies happen, but epiphanies are unhelpful that way.  You've just got to make your new reality solid by working through all the pieces of your life that need remodeled -- which can be quite a drag to tell the truth, but the end result is a better life than the old one.

Last week I talked about narcissism.  I've continued to think about it, and kismet intervened by a friend's facebook post about gaslighting.  I know the word because my house was repeatedly broken into and things taken or moved, but nothing so serious to be anything other than crazy making.  I changed locks repeatedly and filed police reports but it was a long time before it stopped.

The article about gaslighting talked about (guess what?) narcissism.  Ahhh... the universe is telling me something.  I spent days reading things online, and then switched to youtube.  There's more narcissists than I imagined, and I'm realizing I've had a LOT of them in my life.  I started my research with one person in mind, then two, several, and OMG him too?  Epiphany!  Actually, it was a series of epiphanies without the benefit of ocean and seagulls.

I recommend you look things up online too, but I don't want to make this post a narcissistic tutorial when there's so much better info already online.  I put some key points about them below.  Where I'm going with this is "wisdom".  Gaining more information leads me to see certain people in a new light, most especially myself because I am still living in response to others' behaviors.  New knowledge is giving me a new way to look at things that I couldn't see before because I didn't know what questions to ask.

Studying narcissism makes me look at the Serenity Prayer again.  "Accept things I cannot change." Narcissists won't change.  The professional advice is don't try and run like hell.  "Courage to change the things I can" -- which is my own point of view and with whom I choose to have in my life.  "Wisdom to know the difference."

I don't want to sound ungrateful for guidance and kismet, but next time I get an epiphany, I want seagulls and ocean, or maybe a forest.  It would be nice to have an empathetic someone with me too.

Don't care about your feelings.  Really.  They act interested to manipulate your feelings more effectively.  They use your words to twist your reality and to make you question yourself.  They cripple you in every way to make themselves feel more powerful.  They won't change and won't get help.  Any sign of change is manipulation.

Dealing with Narcissists...
Flee.  You don't have to be nice to them, you can even be rude, because they don't have regular feelings.  This doesn't hurt them because they honestly don't care about you.  If you can't leave because it's your boss or someone like that, make it all about them.  "I need a day off so I can work more effectively for you."  (Something I actually said to my last boss.)  End the conversation quickly to limit abuse.

Group Dynamics
Narcissists will manipulate others into criticizing and ostracizing you, even if the others aren't narcissists.  The things narcissists do seem unbelievable to others outside the group, so you won't be believed when you talk about it.  It's best to have no contact with the narcissist and also the rings of people involved in the abuse.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Dragon 2

I got a beau into a creek once.  He stood ankle-deep in the water with a charmingly miserable expression before I relented and let him put his shoes back on to walk on the path.  Maybe we were both at our most elemental in that moment?  We both wanted to please the other.  I wanted him to enjoy the beauty of a waterfall accessible only by sloshing downstream.  He went along, but after 20 years in the Army he'd had enough of wet feet.  He'd rather get a pedicure and foot rub.

We are alike in doing things we may not enjoy for the benefit of someone else's pleasure or needs.  I'm thinking about this a lot after reading The Drama of the Gifted Child.  I'm not really recommending the book, but I learned some things.

Dragon wall pocket
Maybe all parents are narcissists, some more than others.  Parents teach their children values of "good" and "bad" based on the parents' needs.  Some parents teach their kids not to cry through neglect.  Some carry children obsessively.  Either way, the need of the parent is more important than the child's.  The infant becomes good at recognizing what the parent wants and adapts.

Whoever the child might've been is lost because satisfying the parents' needs is more important than what the child wants.  As kids get older, layers of beliefs and values are plastered all over them, especially the message to please their parents.

Who or what would I have been if I'd been raised by someone else somewhere else?  It's an unanswerable question, but I've been wondering about it a lot.  Maybe I'm more me than other kids could be because I spent so much time alone running loose in the woods?

There were times when I looked at my parents and thought "You people are crazy!" and consciously chose to continue thinking whatever I believed in the first place.  I'm sure there were many more times that I absorbed what they wanted me to absorb.  Childhood is a long time ago though, and how do I know what was the original me and I'm thinking and living because of them?

Dragon by G. T. Vaughn
Somewhere I read that we spend our adult years trying to get back to our original selves, who we were before the world made us into something else.  I think of my beau's wet feet and see that both of us wanting to please the other so much is a sign that we both put others' needs ahead of our own.  That's sweet and nice in a way, and totally wrong in another.

I laid awake in bed this week thinking about what other people want from me and trying to figure out how to get it all done.  I know they don't waste much time thinking about me.  I want to find a better balance.  What do I really want, not what I'm "supposed to" want?

I intend to achieve maximum happiness in this life.  It seems that knowing what makes us happy is the ultimate key to the mysteries of ourselves.

Illustration Friday didn't give a word this week, so more dragons.  I seem to own a number of them.  The clay dragon at the top is something I made from river clay.

Friday, March 11, 2016


I have a temper.  Most people don't see it because I try to keep it very firmly under control.  Most of the time.  Of the people who have seen my temper, most become more careful about waking that dragon.  Some find it entertaining to find out just what it will take to bring it out again.  I think they play with fire.

Anger isn't a socially acceptable emotion, but it's a real emotion with a lot of power.  I vented to a friend after a contentious board meeting about children's education.  Her mother-in-law said "Oh, don't get worked up about it.  You can't change anything."  I lost it and loudly told the very nice old lady "Yes, we can change things!  The reason things don't change is because people like you won't do anything about it!"

I continued to serve on the board, doing my best to educate the educators about the value of arts inclusion.  My anger fueled my fight for the kids who were getting ripped off in their educations.  We have decades of data that clearly demonstrates that the arts improve children's performance in academics, yet the arts were erased from the curriculum.

Another woman told me we shouldn't provide free lunches to poor kids.  She put her kids in religious school, and other people could do the same.  If parents don't work hard enough, too bad if their children starved.  I exploded.  How callous can a person be to let children starve?!!  It's not their fault if their parents are poor, but they'll pay the price in their mental and physical health for the rest of their lives if they grow up malnourished.  That selfish woman will have to support those kids in their adult years too.  (I'm pretty sure I shouted something about Jesus not approving her sanctimonious attitude too.)

I suppose the core of my anger isn't always sublime.  I've been hungry.  I've been angry about being hungry too.  My anger is personal, but I can spread it out to encompass other hungry people.  I've been victimized by selfish people, therefore selfishness opens a wound in me that never heals.

I don't want to be angry, that's why I try to keep my anger under control.  I'll admit that sometimes I can be afraid of my own anger because once it's loose I'm not sure what's going to happen.

At my first job out of college I was called in front of a large panel of execs who told me to quit drawing black athletes.  "We're a white area.  Our readers won't relate to all these black people."  I remember my first sentence. "There are a lot of black people in Painesville and Euclid."  I have a dim out-of-body memory of saying a whole lot more, but I have no clue what.  All I know is that the owner of the newspaper told my boss that I was never to be fired and that he personally wanted to be informed if I quit.  (I guess I screwed up my chance at permanent employment by quitting not long after that.)

Anger is motivating.  When things are bad enough, getting angry is the way towards change.  In our personal lives, or changing the world, sometimes there's a reason to wake the dragon.

"Usually when people are sad, they don't do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change." ~ Malcolm X

"It is wise to direct your anger towards problems — not people; to focus your energies on answers — not excuses." ~ William Arthur Ward

"Anger is just anger. It isn't good. It isn't bad. It just is. What you do with it is what matters. It's like anything else. You can use it to build or to destroy. You just have to make the choice." ~ Jim Butcher, White Night

Saturday, March 5, 2016


My friend and I were somewhere in the flatlands of farm country when I told her childhood is the word for the week.  "You've written often enough about childhood; you can write anything you want!"  Which seems like great advice since that's what I wanted to hear.  Be forewarned, this is a photo heavy post.

We stopped in Mount Gilead, Ohio and ate in a Masonic Temple.  I gotta say, the creme brulee French toast was awesome and Korki loved her breakfast scramble.  The diner was filled with locals and I watched as a waitress helped an elderly woman with a bunged up shoulder out of her coat and settled her comfortably in her seat.  Korki and I agreed "You don't see that very often anymore" as we smiled at the vintage manners and decor.

Korki demonstrating good natured tolerance
while getting sleeted upon
Korki was humoring me by accompanying me on my visit to the dead ancestors.  My facebook cousin Michael Miller posted pics of our ancestors' graves in Morrow County, and I thought it would be a great day trip.  Let me be start by being fair and saying Michael gave me clear enough instructions.  It's not his fault Korki and I drove a couple miles one way, then several miles another, to backtrack and reattempt the first failed direction before going back to the last correct thing we'd done with Michael's instructions where we immediately found Rt. 156 next to the river just like he'd said we would.

Barn we saw when we were on the wrong road
It was a sludgy day with a flat, gray #5 sky.  The entrance to the graveyard is a long, narrow drive of mud and brambles.  We parked the car because we worried about getting stuck and slogged our way through the muck while getting gently sleeted on.  Then the hill of stones appeared in the woods.  Duntadaduuuuh!

I'm pretty sure I'm related to just about everyone on that hill in one way or another.  A lot of the stones are down or broken, but my direct ancestors' stones were up and waiting for me.  Someone put stars and flags on the vets' graves which pleased me.  Some of you know I'm a life-long pacifist who really wants wars to stop -- and yet I can't help but be pleased that my ancestors repeatedly fought for freedom.  From the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War, my people were willing to bleed for the country's right to exist.

Korki is a very good sport and let me tromp around taking pictures and reading illegible stones despite the inclement weather.  She was an extra really good sport when I was unsuccessfully rocking my car in the mud.  She got out and gave a push and we managed to get out of the muck.

Christenia's stone is broken.  It should match Jacob's.
We stopped at Grandpa'sCheese Barn on the way back home.  I was the one who wanted to go there, but oh my was it busy!  Between cheese, trail bologna, lime pickles, chocolate turtles, and fudge, well, I'm poorer than when we went into the place and that doesn't even give me credit for all the stuff I decided not to buy.

It was a good day despite the muck and weather.  The best part of it for me was getting time to just yackety yack in the car.  Some of that actually included discussing the ancestors, and maybe here's where I'll tie this all in with "childhood".  Korki pointed out that I may be interested in genealogy because I spent a lot of time on Grandma's porch while she talked about the people long gone.  I sat on her lap while she rocked, and I loved listening to the cadence of her voice as she talked about the people who made me.  It's a gift of childhood that I hope many people give to the children in their lives.

No idea if this is a good idea or not, but I like limes and I like pickles?
For those of you who might be interested in how the graves are in my family tree...