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Writing amid Household Problems

25 Jul

July 22:

Well… last night I read yet another rejection letter for a gothic novel that I consider my best novel so far. Guess it doesn’t matter how much I revise and edit it. Anyway, I meant to query magazines/ journals today… and discovered that my WiFi decided to say, “Fuck you! So what if you pay Comcast way too much? You don’t get to have WiFi!” Restarting my laptop… unplugging and unplugging my modem… pushing the button on top of my modem… nothing worked. The instructions on my computer screen mentioned connecting the modem and the laptop with an Ethernet cable–but I don’t have a spare.

Did I not pay my overpriced Comcast/Xfinity bill? Maybe I need to dig through snail mail and check…. And maybe I need to take a look at the surge protector somewhere under my tv cabinet.

And then there’s the bathtub full of dirty water. Well, about three inches, that is. It has something to do with my hair clogging the drain. The plunger has brought up a lot but not solved the problem. So my last shower was in the back bathroom (which requires stepping on a stool to climb in). I do pull Cousin It out of the drain from time to time, but apparently Cousin It finally succeeded in committing suicide.

I need to call a plumber… but first I’m gradually cleaning and tidying rooms that the plumber would see. That’s the living room, the hallway, and the bathroom. (I can close doors down the hallway.)

I say gradually because I’m doing this at cooler times, when I’m less likely to pour with sweat. I intend to do a bunch this evening, or basically… night.

Nice thing about all this craziness–plus my obsessive “This is what fascism looks like” news reading/watching, I’m scarcely brooding about toxic people. Barely, though it slips in from time to time.

Reading Mexican Gothic has inspired me to steep “Theater Patron” in more gothic atmosphere. It admittedly increases the word count, but it’s all for the best. Something to keep in mind in many of the Margot/Roland/Vincent stories. (“Theater Patron” is one of many, and I’ve been revising it for publication.)

July 23:

My main focus today is house cleaning (yuck) because I intend to call both the plumber and Comcast tomorrow.

The standing water has mostly drained, but there’s still some–and that’s after days, maybe a week. I’ve lost track.

The WiFi is still nonexistent—pretending as though my network doesn’t exist—it isn’t even a choice. No, I’m not trying to use a neighbor’s WiFi–I want my own back! It’s frustrating. I wanted to submit stories to magazines/journals yesterday, but I couldn’t use the internet on my laptop. The only internet is on my phone.

Brooding about certain toxic people… I think one narcissist showering me with verbal abuse, projecting, and pathetically trying to gaslight me right before Oregon began officially socially distancing… is triggering in part because of a certain narcissistic sociopath who used all the same techniques… but was far more skilled at manipulation. That’s a motivation to resume working on the novel inspired by said narcissistic sociopath. It’s better to do that earlier in the day, not in the evening. I don’t wish to go to bed in a rage.

I took a break from housecleaning. I had dinner while streaming Trevor Noah and resumed working on a fun, humorous fantasy novel—changing the novel from past tense to present tense. This has been a gradual process, of course, since it’s over 92,000 words.

I still need to take some things out to the trash and recycling and sweep the floor of the living room, hallway, and bathroom. The bathroom floor might also need some scrubbing.

It’s pathetic that all this is happening at once—the clogged bathtub drain, the shower curtain rod falling down repeatedly, the WiFi not working. Plus I still need to get on with putting up that curtain rod in the library and making library curtains and cleaning the mildew from the wall in the back apartment and painting over that with anti-mold primer…..

Meanwhile, I have memories of a narcissistic sociopath in my head, accusing me of being incapable of functioning—a variation on how my narcissist mother made me feel incompetent starting when I was four years old and helped paint the living room. The accusation of incompetence is tied in with my need for respect and acceptance.

July 24:

I’m revising an old story to submit online and have several internet folders open to magazines/literary journals. I’d like to submit more than one story today, but I’m compelled to edit/revise stories before submitting them, especially if it’s been a while since I worked on them.

I called about the WiFi, and it’s working: Comcast needed to reset the modem. How random. I called the plumbing company, and they have someone coming Monday afternoon. Such a relief to have all that taken care of—also a relief that I have two bathtubs.

Anxiety… and Funny Cats

5 Jun

I just remembered: I forgot to do laundry. I could do it now… or wait until tomorrow….

Brooding about toxic people. They’re not worth it. A pandemic and a revolution and that’s what I’m brooding about. No, that’s the other thing I’m brooding about in addition to the pandemic and revolution and white supremacy. Lots to brood and panic over.

Not sure I’ve gotten through a day this week without crying a little. The crying is when the pandemic and riots and all that are on my mind, not empathy-less assholes.

Nasal congestion, a little phlegm, and very little coughing, so I’m getting better and might be up to taking tonic again starting tomorrow. Of course, I could also be Typhoid Mary–asymptomatic with coronavirus.

#

A few minutes ago, I was pressing pieces of sleeves for my 1890s tea gown.

Virginia was dozing on the chair inches away from me. She didn’t react when I sprayed the bottle of spray starch. When I push the top button, it hisses a bit like a cat.

In contrast, Gabriel was sitting in the doorway and watching me the first time he heard the spray starch hiss. He jumped and ran out of the room and down the stairs.

Gabriel soon returned, and while he walked into the room, the spray starch hissed again. Gabriel jumped, turned, and ran back down the stairs.

Boundaries

14 May

I’ve been a reject and a misfit all my life and always will be, and I do have to accept that. However, I do NOT have to accept toxic people in my life. I do not have to accept them whether they’ve been in my life for a long time or come into my life in the future. They have NO right to be in my life. They have NO right to verbally abuse me. They have NO right to project their traits onto me. They have NO right to gaslight me. They have NO right to have any contact with me or to take up any of my time, attention, or energy.

Shove Off, Narcissist

4 May

Oh, look, my inbox contains an email from Mindfucking Psychopath, who still believes he’s entitled to have contact with me. Nope, still incorrect. I can see the beginning of the message in the subject line, and it looks like a pseudo-apology at best.

Actually, despite the above sardonic tone, my reaction to merely seeing that in my inbox put me in a murderous rage. No, I am not ready to read a message from that narcissist who used some of the same manipulation techniques as the narcissistic sociopath who gaslighted me for six years.

No, Fuckface is NOT entitled to project his majesty’s traits onto me. He is NOT entitled to gaslight me. His belief that those closest to him have to walk on eggshells or let him lash out at them–or walk around on eggshells AND let him shower them with verbal abuse anyway–is bogus and always has been bogus.

No, he has NO right to have ANY contact with me. His delusions of entitlement are bogus, always have been, and always will be.

While I do regret texting with that narcissist and thereby getting into a fight with the parasite, I do NOT regret blocking his majesty’s phone number and social media accounts. I do not regret going No Contact, as I did with other toxic relatives years ago.

I DO regret that it took me this long to finally stop having blind and stupid loyalty to that narcissist. It seems ridiculous that it lasted as long as it did.

Since a narcissistic sociopath gaslighted me for six years and I broke up with her in 2016 and have learned a great deal from that experience, it was inevitable that I would FINALLY stop having that blind and stupid loyalty to that self-entitled parasite. His delusions of entitlement are as bogus as those of the narcissistic sociopath.

He should be grateful that my blind and stupid loyalty lasted so long—but instead he’s outraged that it’s finally gone. He didn’t deserve that loyalty, had no gratitude for it, took it for granted, and destroyed it. It’s never returning. Good riddance.

So yeah, while I’ve certainly gone through afflictive emotions and have been depressed since he lashed out at me via texting, days before social distancing became official here…. I certainly learned from this experience. My days of letting him lure me back into a false sense of security–my days of assuming he has a right to be in my life–are permanently over.

I’m sure I’ll read and respond to Mindfucker’s email at some point, but not today. Not while I’m in a rage. I intend to meditate a lot this month and read at least one self-help book and hopefully get back to reading a Buddhist book by Sharon Salzberg. After all of the above, then I should… probably… maybe… be up to reading Mindfucker’s email. That could be a month of meditating and reading. At least.

And I need to actually do this meditating–formal sitting meditation, not just tell myself to do it. That’s not only my usual informal meditating first thing in the morning and last thing when I turn out the light at night. I used to be seriously into meditation the first few years that I got into Buddhism; it was normal for me to meditate at least an hour a day, occasionally as many as three hours. I got out of the habit when I moved many states away.

I’m creative and suck at time management, so it’s easy to procrastinate and prioritize writing and sewing over meditating. But if I’m going to read that email without going into a rage and without writing an enraged reply, I need to get back into intensive daily meditation.

This pandemic would have been stressful enough without verbal and psychological abuse. The fact that Fuckface pulled that shit right before I began social distancing means that this social distancing has not been easy for me–it has involved a great deal of rage and brooding in addition to emotional sponge general pandemic anxiety. That’s another thing he isn’t entitled to: creating so much trauma.

He has no right to have any contact with me. In fact, his majesty isn’t entitled to a reply email. I don’t owe him anything, especially not even more of my time, energy, and emotional labor.

Nightmares during a Pandemic

7 Mar

I dreamed that I lived in a large Victorian Queen Anne house in a fairly rural area. The house had a wrap-around porch and a stone foundation with a basement. Because the house was built on a slope, the basement had an exterior side door.

At some point I had a visitor who was a friend.

Toward the end of the dream, I heard people on the front porch. I was in the basement and didn’t want to talk to them. I wanted to hide. I slipped out of the basement side door without locking it and ended up… where? Under the front porch? On the porch? It seems like I ended up on the wrap-around porch, which doesn’t make sense if I was trying to avoid people whom I thought were at the front door.

Wherever I was, I witnessed a group of about six people slip in through the basement door I left open! They were breaking into my house.

Enraged, I went after them.

I went into the basement and grabbed a long piece of wood leaning against a wall and, yelling, “Get out of my house!” or something like that, charged at one man. A struggle ensued, with me pushing his throat and him against the wall while the others watched (or ran away?).

A male friend or acquaintance of mine came up behind me and tried to be the voice of reason, I guess. He said, “Don’t kill him! You’d end up in prison!” I just felt angrier.

 

I dreamed that my brother and I were in a car in a parking lot. We were having a conversation… and we may have been talking about the past, when we lived in Indiana.

He said something about Britney Spears. Confused, I knit my brow and said, “But… I don’t think Britney Spears was around in the 80s.”

Completely out of the blue, he yelled at me—how typical—I don’t remember what. His rage made no sense and creeped me out (what else is new?). He got out of the car.

I recovered from my shock enough—only after the asshole got out of the car—to become enraged and, giving him the finger with both hands and yelling repeatedly… well, something very vituperative that I won’t repeat hear. He ignored me

 

(Last night I was revising one of those autobiographical novels inspired by toxic people. That could well have triggered that dream, even though it was a different perpetual playground  bully. I am so sick of empathy-challenged perpetual playground bullies who harbor a bizarre delusion that they’re entitled to use me as their doormat/verbal and psychological punching bag and that it’s somehow magically my duty to be their doormat/punching bag. I was sick of them before the 1980s ended.

Cloister Monkey

6 Mar

I dreamed that I lived in a ranch house in which I had a doll collection so extensive that I had dolls in just about every room. I was showing this collection to someone female… who at some point I realized was Evil Aunt Ethel.

There was a small shelf covered with small dolls in one room, maybe a bathroom. The earlier rooms aren’t as clear in my head now.

Many of the dolls were similar to those I saw in the Cinema Manuel exhibit in the basement of the Hult Center. New-looking porcelain dolls covered several shelves (in the exhibit)—the dolls that were set up so that they could move and seemingly watch you.

Anyway, the dolls in the dream weren’t moving… but neither were they anywhere near as interesting as my real doll collection, never mind that there were more of them. (None looked antique, and there weren’t any Japanese dolls or anything Asian or foreign-looking.)

There was a dining room with a utility shelf or row of utility shelves, on which one large section was covered with a row of porcelain dolls with doll stands. The dolls were all about the same size.

On a wooden shelf, I had rows of dolls, some porcelain (including two very different black girl dolls in a row—and one was a couple inches shorter than the other, one wore red plaid—but they were both porcelain). This bookcase also had a few ceramic figurines, including at least one frog; and I pointed these out and said, “My mother made these.”

That’s when my guest turned into Evil Aunt Ethel. She said (condescending, sing-songy), “You could make ceramics like those, too.”

I felt nervous when she said that. It was like when I mentioned that I didn’t know how to upholster furniture and two aunts ganged up on me, smugly gloating because of this one thing I didn’t know how to do, and they said I could learn how. That was one of those countless occasions when aunts were eager to ignore things I’m good at and blow out of proportion something I’m not good at, trying to make me feel like shit for not being perfect or for not being their weird notion of perfect.

I think that’s when the dream ended.

 

It’s not surprising that I’d have a dream involving my aunts’ delight in this continual inclination to focus on the negative and come up with bizarre excuses to criticize me in attempts to make me feel like shit and hate myself—that was a very common experience around aunts. And it didn’t feel good.

You could say it was part of their gaslighting. Since I wasn’t an expert on every single craft and domestic skill, I was a piece of shit to ridicule. It didn’t matter that unlike them, I can write, draw, paint, sculpt, etc. But of course, nothing I was good at mattered—only what I was bad at or allegedly bad at (“You’re not as good at history as your brother”) or what I didn’t know how to do.

You can expect that sort of behavior if you associate with narcissists and narcissistic sociopaths.

 

I had another dream in which I was thinking about the above dream and described myself as a “wandering cloister monkey” or a “self-possessed cloister monkey.”

Haedrig

28 Feb

I have three very affectionate and sweet cats who are attached to me. And then there’s Haedrig, a. k. a. Asshole. Yeah, I just changed his name to Asshole.

I adopted Haedrig at a cat shelter when he was two years old—thanks to a narcissistic sociopath frenemy who picked him. Of course I couldn’t say no to a cat. If I hadn’t been under her influence, Haedrig would still be in that cat shelter, because he has a… difficult … personality. He doesn’t bond with humans. Sure, he can be cuddly, though it took him years to reach a stage of letting me pet him for more than a minute before scratching me or at least lunging at me. Occasionally he still does that.

You might think he simply doesn’t trust humans. True, but guess what: I’m the one who has no reason to trust him, not the other way around. He has repeatedly proved himself untrustworthy.

On the evening of February 24, I opened the sliding door and left it open, as I headed for the laundry room (which is only accessible from the back yard). I have a cat fence in the backyard, and my indoor cat Haedrig is the only one who’s never climbed the tree in the back yard to get out of the overpriced cat fence. (Do I regret not hiring someone to custom build a huge catio instead of getting this cat fence? Absolutely!) Even with the cat fence, I don’t regularly allow Haedrig in the backyard—sometimes he gets out through the kitchen window if I leave it open because another cat is sitting on the windowsill. Until this week, I’ve figured it’s okay if Haedrig is inside the cat fence.

After I left that sliding glass door open and did my laundry chores, I didn’t see Haedrig in the backyard, not for a second. I would’ve expected to at least see him slipping under the low deck, but no. Inside, I closed the door … and forgot the possibility that Haedrig might be outdoors.

The next morning, I woke at 7 am and realized that I hadn’t seen Haedrig all night and didn’t see him now. He always spends the night at the foot of the bed. Alarm bells sounded in my head: I remembered leaving the glass door open for a few minutes. Even one minute is enough for him to sneak out, and he’s quiet and fast. I concluded that he was in the backyard, and I opened the kitchen window. I went outside… and not only didn’t see him but also had a strange sense that he wasn’t in the backyard.

I reported him missing on the HomeAgain website (he’s microchipped) and on the Nextdoor app.

The following day, I spotted Haedrig: on the front porch! Of course, when I opened the front door, he ran away. If I’m standing and holding a door open for him, he runs away, unlike any other cat I’ve ever met, and I’ve lived with cats all my life. I caught another glimpse of him, dashing under my car in the driveway. Uncomfortable with doing this, I propped the screen door open and left the front door open… for twenty minutes. I figured that if I wasn’t close to the door, he’d get indoors. But he didn’t. So I continued leaving the kitchen window open, as long as I was at home and it was daylight.

Yesterday he finally came in through the kitchen window, and I watched as he scurried away through the living room. I figured he was headed upstairs (he was) and I dashed to the kitchen, where I shut the kitchen window. When I reached the top of the stairs—and expected to see him curled on the foot of the bed or slipping under the bed—instead I saw him just past the threshold of the sewing room. We made eye contact, and he turned around and dashed for the sewing room closet… where I’d left the panel to the crawl space open so that Virginia could come in and out of the crawl space without waking me. (She’s very vocal.)

Haedrig entered the crawl space.

I used my phone flashlight to peer into the crawl space and couldn’t see him… and  remembered that somehow Virginia can access that crawl space from outdoors. I’ve told myself she has magic powers. But it turns out that the crawl space has an exit to the outdoors somewhere, and cats can use it to get in and out, and Haedrig the cat from hell figured out Virginia’s trick. This utterly infuriated me: he had actually been inside the house… and yet he managed to get back outside! This is when I renamed him Asshole.

Last night, I intended to set up cat traps with canned tuna as bait… but I figured if the kitchen window was open and the other cats got outdoors, I might catch one of them. Plus last time I used a cat trap, I caught a cute baby possum. Besides, Haedrig ate in the kitchen before running up to the crawl space, so he wasn’t as hungry as he could be. I decided to put off the traps for one night: the kitchen window remained closed all night, and I opened it and the gate to the cat fence this morning.

I was upstairs when I heard a meow. I exchanged a startled look with my cat Gabriel, who also heard it. That meow didn’t sound like anyone except… Haedrig. I’d not only closed off the closet panel leading to the crawl space, but I’d also closed the sewing room door. (Normally it’s wide open, but thanks to Haedrig, I’m keeping that door closed until I can find a door for the closet. This house is quirky.)

I pushed aside the panel to the crawl space—and sure enough, I saw Haedrig. I descended the steps and closed the kitchen window and the back gate. Back upstairs, I saw him out of the crawl space, greeting Gabriel… and he saw me and dashed back into the crawl space, further proving that Asshole is the perfect name for him.

My new strategy: keep the kitchen window closed and the crawl space panel open so that he can only enter that way. As soon as I’m between him and the crawl space panel, I put the panel back, put craft supply bins in front of it, and close the sewing room door. Also, if he’s not in the house by sunset, I’m setting those cat traps.

Why has this situation been so infuriating? Well, I’m a cat person—really, I am. As I mentioned, my other three cats are sweet and affectionate. They come back inside happily, purring at me and plopping in my lap. They don’t avoid me.

Not so Haedrig. I’ve taken care of him since 2015, no thanks from him. He’s a bit like that narcissistic sociopath who chose him: an arrogant, self-entitled, and remarkably ungrateful mooch. At least he has the excuse of not being human, but still. If he’s going to eat cat food in this house, he’d better stay in this house and not avoid me, the person who feeds him and takes him to the vet. Respect and acceptance are needs, not luxuries, and this asshole deprives me of both, just like… a narcissist or a narcissistic sociopath. I finally have no toxic people in my life. It’s not the sort of behavior I’ve ever previously experienced with a cat.

After adopting him and discovering that he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about me, I still felt it was my responsibility to give him a home… and yet sometimes, such as today, I wish I hadn’t adopted him in the first place. If it weren’t for that narcissistic sociopath, I would have allowed a shelter cat to choose me.

The Nerve of me, interacting on social media like anyone else

14 Nov

It’s National Novel Writing Month, and tonight I reached the month’s official word count goal of 50,000 words. I posted not only to my Twitter account and my Facebook account the fact that I’d reached 50,450 words, but because I’d seen other people do it, I posted it to the NaNoWriMo Facebook group page.

This is what I posted:

“I just reached 50,450 words!

So… tomorrow I’m definitely going to wash the dishes and clean the living room. But I’m aiming for 90,000 words by the end of the month, since that’s standard novel length.”

That’s all I wrote. Nothing more. So what happens? A perpetual playground bully (PPB) commented: “50,000 is standard novel word count.”

I stared at that comment and was utterly flabbergasted. I had simply stated a fact, and here was a bully—like so many before—contracting my statement. I didn’t even post an opinion or a question about word count. So I went to the Writer’s Digest website and found an excellent article (I’ve read it before) by Chuck Sambuchino about standard word count, and I copied and pasted the url as a comment under my post.

Word Count for Novels and Children’s Books: The Definitive Post

Then I replied to the PPB: “That’s only the bare minimum.”

The PPB bizarrely acused me of saying that 90,000 is the minimum, even though that obviously was not what I wrote, as anyone could easily see by looking at my post. She added, “and that’s not true.”

I replied, “No, I didn’t write that it’s the minimum. I wrote that 90,000 is standard word count, which IS true.” Then I blocked the parasite… and started considering dropping out of the group, as I’ve done with quite a number of Facebook groups where I encountered drama thanks to PPBs.

Here are three things that push my buttons… and they also happen to be narcissist/sociopath red flags:

  1. Contradicting me—in particular, contradicting me when I state a fact, not even an opinion.
  2. False accusations.
  3. Attempts to gaslight me.
  4. Lies.

This perpetual playground bully whipped all these out in just a couple of comments! I include “attempts to gaslight me” is because this PPB accused me of claiming that 90,000 is the minimum, despite the obvious fact that I clearly stated that it is the standard. Her accusing me of that is a false accusation, a lie, AND an attempt to gaslight me, all rolled into one.

Yeah, I’m going to name a narcissist or sociopath Kerri in one of my stories, for certain. Coming to think of it, I could probably access a list of every bully I’ve blocked on Nazibook… that’s like a ready-made list of names for villains. If you’re a bully and you know I’m a writer, you’ve automatically given me permission to base a character on you.

The nerve of me, interacting on social media just the way other people interact on social media without being under attack. Am I shivering from cold, or am I shivering from shock? Hmmm. You’d think that a fact about word count would be one thing I can post on social media without being under attack, but… nope. There is absolutely nothing I can post on social media without being under attack from someone who has a shortage of empathy and should go back to the playground.

Why I’m no Longer Identifying as Buddhist

24 Aug

One day last week, I noticed that Edith, an organizer for my Buddhist book discussion group, had left a message on my phone. Since this was shortly after our monthly meeting was canceled, I figured she wanted to talk about what date we’d meet up instead.

When I called, Edith explained why she had to cancel with the last minute: a sickly dog. After we discussed this, she said, “I was calling you because of this thing you wrote on the website.” I was in front of my computer, so I turned it on while she spoke. She was referring to the Buddhist book discussion’s page on Meetup.com. “You wrote, ‘Sociopaths and narcissists are excrement.’ That’s unBuddhist.”

I froze and knit my brow. “What?”

“It’s on the website for the Buddhist group. I think it might be scaring people away from the group. It’s very unBuddhist.”

I had no idea what she was talking about. She made it sound like I’d randomly vented on the group’s page. It admittedly sounded like something I would have written, but in a journal entry, not on a website for a Buddhist book discussion group. My computer is slow, but I managed to visit the website. She kept talking.

An idea occurred to me. “Are you talking about my Meetup profile?” This wasn’t specific to the Buddhist book group; I’m in numerous groups on Meetup.

“I don’t know, it’s something you wrote online. It’s very unBuddhist. Something about narcissists and sociopaths being excrement. Gavin didn’t think I should call you. He said that if you felt like saying that, then it’s fine.”

I was too flustered to reply, “And he’s correct.”

I visited my Meetup profile…and discovered that it indeed had two sentences, not just one. I introduced myself as a writer, mostly of fiction…and I grimaced as I read the next sentence: “Misogynists, narcissists, and sociopaths are excrement.”

While Edith continued talking down to me, the origin of this hit me. I said, “I see it. I have no memory of writing that, but obviously I wrote it right after breaking up with the frenemy. That was three years ago. I probably wrote it at two in the morning.” I pushed the “Edit” button, while I imagined sitting in front of my computer in a dark room and trying to decide how to revise my profile once I was no longer under the influence of a narcissistic sociopath.

“Well, you’ve changed since then. Narcissists and sociopaths deserve compassion.”

My shoulders tensed even more. I held my breath, while I deleted the sentence. I really didn’t want to hear about her creepy obsession. Edith was still talking at me.

As soon as she paused, I said, “Well, I deleted it. I’m sure I wrote it right after the breakup, and probably in the middle of the night. I haven’t looked at my profile in all that time. If I’d seen it, I would’ve deleted it sooner. Obviously, I wrote it because Meetup is how I met frenemies in Portland. I wrote it to scare off potential frenemies.”

I always need time to process, but my tense shoulders and short breaths told me: This feels like Evil Aunt Ethel gaslighting and victim-blaming me. Edith’s behavior was nothing compared to that of my aunt, but a stern and judgmental female in her seventies talking down to me was similar enough.

Edith didn’t express any compassion to me, no, “I understand. Of course you wrote it right after that break-up. It was a traumatic friendship.” No, she said nothing like that. She knew about my toxic relatives and about my worst ex-frenemy, because these topics were relevant to books we discussed. Buddhist books tend to be about emotions.

Edith repeated something she’d said at least a couple times previously, during our book discussions, and it made me uncomfortable every time. “Sociopaths and narcissists deserve compassion. For that matter, now that studies are suggesting that the brains of pedophiles are wired to be sexually attracted to children, we need to have compassion for them, too.”

I knit my brow and didn’t know what to say. I absolutely loathe confrontation and arguments; if I expressed disagreement, she’d accuse me of being “very unBuddhist.” My heart was racing. Edith continued talking along this vane, and I couldn’t think of anything agreeable to say. Wishing to hang up the phone, I recalled her saying basically the same thing at our last meeting. I tried to remember if she’d said this at previous meetings.

I’ve always prioritized feminism over Buddhism, as I should. I should have taken it as a sign that I can be myself around feminists and generally can’t be myself around Buddhists.

I was almost done reading Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates for my feminist book discussion group—my favorite book discussion group. I was so looking forward to discussing it with the regular group of feminists over dinner the following day. The book was full of statistics and personal experiences that included sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape, incidents that happened not only to women but also to girls of all ages, even as young as four. I wasn’t in the mood to fucking listen to someone claiming we should have compassion for pedophiles.

Edith said more about pedophiles, including Epstein. I said, “I suppose… it’s possible that some pedophiles… can refrain from acting on their…inclinations.”

She said, “Well, I guess, but only if they have very strong will-power to go against their sex drive.”

I’m incapable of being convinced that it’s okay for pedophiles to go around raping children—which Edith seemed to imply. I was utterly speechless. I don’t remember saying anything in response. We hung up shortly afterward.

An hour later, I recalled a frenemy who’d given off bad vibes as she kept repeating, “I love my father,” after all the times she’d complained about her father because he was a pedophile and raped her and all her sisters and one of her nieces. When, shaking, I said, “You’re creeping me out,” she gave off even worse vibes and yelled at me, accusing me of being sociopathic and seeing people in black and white…just because I think pedophiles are creepy. Afterwards, I quietly distanced myself from her.

#

I remember in my thirties I was so enthusiastic about Buddhism and kept telling myself, like a “good Buddhist,” that there’s no such thing as evil people. Meanwhile, I was in Kansas, surrounded by unbelievably patriarchal and misogynistic people and constantly in contact with toxic relatives, including an aunt who was regularly breaking into my house, talking down to me, insulting me, slandering me, and gaslighting me. It wasn’t until I moved to Portland that I figured out that she was a narcissistic sociopath and that my mother was a narcissist.

Now I believe in evil people, especially after a “friend” gaslighted me for years while I bent over backwards for her. I believe sociopaths and pedophiles are evil. I’ve heard that brain scans have proved that sociopath brains are different than non-sociopath brains, but just because their brains are wired to be evil doesn’t make them not evil. And I don’t care if believing this makes me “unBuddhist.”

I used to take forever to break up with pschic vampires. No more. I remember how relieved I felt when I knew it was over between me and the frenemy. Organized religion, narcissists, and sociopaths are skilled at manipulation, shaming, and guilting people who are much nicer than pedophiles.

#

I imagined arriving at Gavin’s house for the next discussion…and Edith would yet again smugly announce, “We should have compassion for narcissists, sociopaths, and pedophiles.” I imagined replying, “I showered narcissists and sociopaths with compassion for years and years, and in exchange, they showered me with verbal and psychological abuse. I’m done with them. And you know what, I’m done with condescending and holier-than-thou Buddhists, so I no longer identify as Buddhist. And I’m dropping out of this group.”

A few hours after talking on the phone with Edith, I felt indignant and disgusted. It sank in that she had called me in order to bully me into changing my Meetup profile—something that was none of her damn business. I realize she’s twenty-two years older than me, but what the fuck. That doesn’t give her the right to bully me, to tell me what I can or can’t put on my Meetup profile.

And what makes her think she’s entitled to bully me? I’m an empathic INFJ who’s female, and I think that’s why people harbor a bizarre delusion that they’re entitled to bully me. This has been happening since my early childhood. This is why I live with cats, not humans.

Since Edith thinks she’s entitled to bully me, maybe she thinks pedophiles are more deserving of compassion than I am. Everyone should read Laura Bates’s book Everyday Sexism, which started as a website, the Everyday Sexism Project (which is still active). Though I’ve been acutely aware of misogyny since the age of four, every page inspired me with rage, and my coping mechanism was writing in the book—many methods of maiming and murdering misogynists. How unBuddhist.

I’d decided I should put the book down for at least one full day, and when I closed the book and set it down, I felt an ache in my heart and realized that underneath all that fury was depression. This brought dread: I’d been depressed almost nonstop throughout my childhood and adolescence, and I’d been depressed through much of my adulthood and had seemed to escape it as soon as I broke up with the frenemy. Bullies are depressing.

Since that breakup, most of my depression has been bereavement over the disturbing state of this country; we have a sexual predator white supremacist narcissistic sociopath would-be dictator in the White House, and he’s emboldened so many bigots across the nation to come out of the shadows like cockcroaches. I knew the country was overtly misogynistic and overtly racist…and yet I hadn’t known the extent until the 2016 presidential election. Bereavement doesn’t feel the same as the I-hate-myself major depression I’ve had since age five.

My heart hasn’t been in Buddhism since the 2016 election. My heart has been thoroughly immersed in feminism, not Buddhism. I’ve met feminist Buddhists, and I’ve read books by feminist Buddhists. Most of the feminist Buddhists I know haven’t given me condescending and sanctimonious lectures. However, they’re outnumbered by Buddhists like Edith, the ones who talk down to me if I lift my sore feet from the eggshells.

#

2007 was the first year that a smug and self-righteous Buddhist gave me a condescending and holier-than-thou lecture. Since then, I’ve repeatedly noticed myself feeling very comfortable and welcome with groups of feminists… and anxious with groups of Buddhists. Generally, since 2007, I’ve sensed that I can’t be myself around Buddhists.

2007 was also the same year that I dropped out of a Buddhist sangha that had no moderator. It was in Kansas, after I’d returned from a Buddhist pilgrimage in India and Nepal, where I enjoyed traveling with fellow Buddhists. In the Kansas sangha, I felt socially awkward but wanted to fit in… until they proved themselves to be smug and self-righteous anti-vegetarians.

That was the first of two such sanghas.

After both traumatic experiences with anti-vegetarian “Buddhists,” I felt intense dread and aversion at the prospect of returning and facing them. With the second sangha, in Portland, I did return. When it was my turn to share, I gave my speech about how last time I was there, I felt extremely unwelcome as a vegetarian, and that many great people are vegetarians, etc. However, I sobbed throughout my speech, and I rushed out of the room while all those “compassionate Buddhists” sat silently, with not a kind word for me.

That dread that I felt at the prospect of returning to either of those sanghas: that’s how I feel about returning to this book group. I know Gavin isn’t to blame and didn’t approve of Edith calling to bully me. But she would still be there, and that’s enough. I have no intention of returning. Edith wrapped a bunch of deal breakers into a tortilla and made a deal breaker burrito. Also, based on countless other relationships, her bullying would only escalate, even though she claims to be an empath. Maybe I expect all empaths to be like empathic INFJs and she has an extremely different personality type—who knows.

#

I know compassion isn’t like pie; it doesn’t have a limit. However, there’s an international epidemic of rape and violence against women and girls, and misogyny is the norm in this society. Sexual predators are rewarded, while survivors are victim-blamed. But Edith is obsessed with having compassion for sociopaths and pedophiles. Abusers.

Buddhists like Edith don’t like it when I say what I think, when I make sardonic jokes that they take seriously, or when I express my disgust and anger. They’ll chastise me for using labels, for having anger…even though my anger against patriarchy and misogyny and the people complicit in both is righteous indignation and is so much more important than pussy-footing around Buddhists.

I used to like Edith. I used to think she was nice and fun…. before I noticed that she’s stern, smug, and holier-than-thou. One time, I ran into her at a supermarket, and while we conversed, she brought up Donald Dump, and I started to joke about how he was born a year after Hitler died, and maybe after forty-nine days in the bardo, Hitler was reincarnated as a tape worm before he became Donald Dump. Before I got that far, Edith sternly announced that animals are different from humans, because animals don’t have any malice. I agree with that, but I was joking. I felt ashamed and shocked and remembered: Oh, yeah, I’m supposed to be careful what I say around Buddhists.

#

When I first joined the Buddhist book discussion group, where I met Edith, we had numerous regular attendees; it was a good mix. We discussed one or two chapters a month, and I liked the book True Refuge by Tara Brach. But the next book was about death, and several people chose not to attend these discussions because they thought it would be depressing, which surprised me, since this was a Buddhist group. When we finished that book, two people (a couple) announced that they needed to devote their time to other things and had to drop out. Another member had missed discussions because he went to Mexico. Besides the two organizers, Edith and Gavin, I had the best attendance.

Edith and Gavin were concerned about getting more active members…so they deleted the original Meetup.com group and created a new one, inviting previous active members and changing the group’s name and description (adding something about only joining if you’re sure you’ll attend some discussions). Meanwhile, the group was on hiatus for a couple months. Since I was such an active member, they made me an assistant organizer.

For the revamped book group, we agreed to start with the novel Buddha by Deepak Chopra and discuss that during only one meeting. Then we’d return to the usual format, a few chapters of a nonfiction Buddhist book each month, and the book we agreed on was Real Love by Sharon Salzberg (my favorite meditation teacher). We were trying to lure more active members into the group with a bestselling novel and a book that has the word “love” in the title. Gavin chuckled over this, after we scared people off with a book about death.

I had no idea that I’d hate the novel Buddha. Deepak Chopra shows little understanding of Buddhism—it sounded more like Shaivite Hinduism (he’s an Indian, presumably brought up Hindu). It was also consistently obvious (to me) throughout the book that Deepak Chopra doesn’t consider women fully human (like…basically every Republican, white supremacist, and online troll), and it’s therefore exactly the kind of novel that I absolutely want to AVOID.

At the first meeting, several new people arrived. None of them read Buddha first. Only Edith, Gavin, and I read the book under discussion. One guy brought a stack of books about the Buddha, and I did the same, setting my stack down on the coffee table and mentioning that each of them, even the graphic novel, are far better than Deepak Chopra’s book. I chuckled nervously.

It mostly seemed like a good discussion, although when I mentioned something I disliked about the novel, Edith snapped at me. I was flustered and shocked and didn’t complain. I was also shocked that she seemed to like that book. Good thing I was too shy to mention that it’s misogynistic, although I hinted at it, saying I disliked things that Chopra made up that aren’t in the Pali Cannon.

I was hopeful that the new people would become regulars. Today, it occurred to me that although Edith accused my Meetup profile of scaring people away from the group (um, it was meant to scare away misogynists, sociopaths, and narcissists…), I wonder if the new members were scared off when they witnessed her snapping at me merely for saying something with which she disagreed. Perhaps I looked bad for not calling her out (because being a people-pleaser when you’re an empathic INFJ who grew up with a narcissist mother is hard-wired and I always need time to process).

Since we started discussing Real Love by Sharon Saltzberg, Edith, Gavin, and I have attended each meeting, and the member who’d been in Mexico has attended at least once. Maybe if several people witnessed Edith’s defense of sociopaths and pedophiles, they’d disagree with her aloud.

And now that I’ve had over a week to process, I’m entirely on my own side.

A Bad Taste in my Mouth

29 Apr

Oh, yeah, that’s the taste of psychic toxicity.

I have a podcast app called Castbox. It sent me a notification about a TED talk that Hannah Gatsby gave, so I clicked on it, opening the app.

The first thing I noticed was a couple of long-winded comments, and I skimmed through them… to discover that I can’t even use a podcast app without encountering trolls. I didn’t even know that Castbox had a comments section, let alone trolls.

This troll was accusing Hannah Gatsby of not being funny (even though I found her funny when it’s her intention to be funny), of just whining about her experience of abuse and trauma, and of being full of herself. In other words, this troll projected their own arrogance onto her and generally flaunted their narcissism in public.

The intention of trolls, of course, is to silence women. Misogynists have silenced–and attempted to silence–women for centuries. Time’s up. You can’t silence Hannah Gatsby, and you can’t silence me.

Joke’s on you, troll. Some of us have gone for decades being gaslighted and put down by misogynistic narcissists and narcissistic sociopaths. We’ve learned to see the signs for what they are.