communicating with my dad — criticisms of others

Previouscommunicating with my dad — waiting for the phone to ring

The current low-key weirdness with my dad has got me thinking. I’d never really given his complaints about other people a great deal of thought — I find them unpleasant, so I mostly try to tune them out so they don’t affect me too much — but it’s now taken on more significance, so perhaps it would be worthwhile to explore the issue and see what I could figure out.

The complaint I interrupted on Christmas Day was about his neighbours; there’s apparently a light mounted on the outside of their house that they have aimed into one of dad’s windows. It’s a weird thing to fabricate and I think it must be true but it’s also a weird thing to do in the first place. Given the fact that this is far from my dad’s only complaint about them, I’m left wondering whether they don’t understand what the problem is with the light, or whether it’s a deliberate retaliation for something dad had done previously. Either way I suspect dad has handled it poorly, since he’s prone to biting his tongue until he explodes.

I don’t recall what prompted this particular odd diatribe, but during one of our recent calls prior to Christmas he started bitching about naming practices among Black people. The names were made up and sounded silly, he fumed. This seems like a same-sex-marriage sort of situation to me: if you don’t like it, don’t do it. Problem solved. I don’t see how the names of Black kids affect his life in any way, and the complaint strikes me as petty, not to mention racist.

He has also complained about his friends not returning his calls, though I’m sure I don’t have all the facts. Are they not returning his calls at all, or are they not returning calls as promptly as he wants? Maybe they’re legitimately busy; maybe they’re returning the calls in a reasonable time but he’s impatient. Perhaps there actually is a pattern of people not returning calls, and that raises some questions in my mind; I can see it happening with one person who may be being kind of a jerk, but if this is a trend among his friends, then it’s dad who is the common factor.

He often calls me, not to talk to me, but because he was trying to reach my mom and she wasn’t there and he wants to know if she’s around or not. She’s super busy all the time, so I’ll ask him if he left a message. But he doesn’t like to leave messages, so she probably doesn’t know that he even called. When he does leave a message, she has explained to me that she doesn’t return the call right away because she needs to be in the right mood to talk to him. I wonder if others do something similar.

He has friends who he used to stay with when he came to town, but that stopped after they had some kind of confrontation, which he complained to me about repeatedly. The way he told the story it certainly sounded like it was all their fault, but now I’m not so sure. He didn’t speak to them for months, maybe a year. And then somehow they started talking again and I’m not sure how.

By a wide margin, the number-one subject of my dad’s complaints is his wife’s son, complaints about whom I’d estimate have featured in about half of our conversations over the last 15-plus years. (The son is, I admit, very difficult — manipulative, entitled and dependent.) Complaints about her daughter are not infrequent. He complains about his wife’s anxiety and how she doesn’t like to be left at home alone so she comes with him everywhere and he never gets a break.

He scorns the uncle whose thinking is wrong despite his extensive education. He resents the aunt who is self-centred and makes every conversation about herself.

What I think these complaints reveal is that he has specific expectations of people and when they don’t meet those expectations, instead of adjusting the expectations (or discussing the issue with them calmly with a view toward mutually satisfactory problem-solving), he gets angry. But expectation causes disappointment. Or to put it another way, I think he’s making himself miserable.

My dad isn’t stupid. He’s very clever when it comes to figuring out mechanical things and building things, and at the same time he can be very sociable. I think he could figure out people if he chose to, but he seems to get more pleasure and/or satisfaction (if you can call it that) from judging them.

Next: communicating with my dad — criticisms of me

communicating with my dad — waiting for the phone to ring

Previouscommunicating with my dad — the mildest confrontation

Ordinarily my dad calls me every 3-4 weeks or so, and I think 6 weeks is about the longest he ever goes without getting in touch.

I became aware of the lapse of time after about a month and now I keep wondering when I’ll hear from him next. At this point it’s been over 7 weeks since that brief, tense conversation — this has reached the edge of our normal timing and is now steadily inching away into uncharted territory.

Since his primary mode of operation seems to be to judge and criticise others, I strongly suspect he thinks that I was judging and criticising him.

Self-image in the sense of identity is remarkably persistent and immune to logic. He must have learned to expect attacks, and so he sees them, now, everywhere. I learned not quite this lesson but something similar. Up to a point I can relate.

Perhaps patriarchy explains a bit of why it manifests differently in us. In the face of criticism, I feel fundamentally wrong, which happens to parallel patriarchy’s habit of finding a way to blame women for any given issue. Patriarchy also says men are generally right, and toxic masculinity authorises anger as the only valid emotion for men. If my dad feels fundamentally wrong, I think he externalises it and it thus manifests as easily feeling attacked. Those people are wrong, everyone is wrong! Then he gets angry.

I’ve known my dad to “punish” his friends by not phoning for months on end when he thinks they’ve wronged him. He has also complained to me repeatedly that he calls and leaves messages for people and they don’t call back, and why should he call them if they obviously don’t care to follow up? (These days I can think of at least one reason why these folks might not be motivated to call…)

Has he has decided to “punish” me by not calling? I’m trying not to get sucked into overthinking this question. Either he feels hurt or he doesn’t. Either he’s angry or he isn’t. Very little of that has anything to do with me. Either he’ll call or he won’t.

If he doesn’t call, is that actually a bad thing? I feel a sense of loss right now but it’s not about losing the relationship we have — it’s losing the dream of the relationship I wish we had.

It seems to me that not talking to him would do no more harm than talking to him would. So I’ll occasionally note that he still hasn’t called, and measure his outrage in weeks, and see how it goes. Perhaps he thinks that if he can’t complain about people, he has nothing to say. Perhaps that’s true.

Nextcommunicating with my dad — criticisms of others

communicating with my dad — the mildest confrontation

Previouscommunicating with my dad — the standard dysfunction

Although my main disappointment when it comes to talking to my dad is that he expresses little to no interest in me, I felt that was a difficult issue to address directly: I can’t make him interested. I thought I should focus on something more concrete — a specific behaviour rather than a broad attitude.

It seems that dad’s complaints are mostly a symptom of focusing on the negative and ignoring the positive, which becomes especially clear when he repeats the same complaint about the same person over 10, 15, 20 years, rather than to try to address the issue somehow or to adjust his thinking about it.

I find it very easy to be negative and critical (I wonder why) so I have to make an effort to focus on the positive, and that’s something I’ve been working on for a long time. When I hear a bunch of complaints I feel vaguely shitty. I find dad’s complaints about people especially corrosive, and they leave me tense and grumpy.

The next time we spoke was Christmas Day. Within 3½ minutes (yes, I timed it), he was complaining. I started feeling nervous and tried to work up the courage to speak up, but then he changed to an easier topic and I was able to relax a bit. However, the conversation veered again and he was soon on to a complaint about his neighbours. He was really wound up about it. Venomous. So I said what I’d been practising: “Um, I’m just going to interrupt you there. I’m not actually interested in hearing complaints about people.”

He was taken aback. “Oh, and I suppose your life is perfect?”

“Hardly,” I chuckled.

“Well, what do you want to talk about then?” he snapped.

“Oh, well, maybe we could talk about some of my stuff.” I was holding a list of topics I’d prepared for just this eventuality.

The conversation stumbled for a moment, but he quickly grabbed the reins again. We didn’t talk long; he signed off, saying that he had a bunch of other calls to return.

I felt mostly good about it: I had determined that this was a boundary for me, I asserted it, and I defended it. I felt like I’d accomplished something — in this case, a particular kind of self-care. And then I cried.

I noted that I’d touched a nerve in him, not that that was my intention, but intellectually I found this very interesting because when I follow the “family rules” this kind of thing never happens. Ordinarily, dad snapping at me would have resulted in me feeling awful and like I’d fucked up terribly. This time I was just sad — that this is how it is, how he is, how our relationship is. These days I know that it’s not my job to manage anyone’s feelings, and it’s healthy for me to speak up for what I need, but actually acting on that knowledge is still difficult. I’m hoping it gets easier with practice.

(When dad complains and I feel shitty, is that a symptom of me still feeling some responsibility for his emotions? Is it me absorbing his emotions, and thus a sign of a boundary that needs strengthening? I may need to do more work on this, but even without that element, the fact is that my conversations with him — or rather, the times when I listen to him on the phone — are all duty and no fun, and I’m allowed to try to edit my life into something that’s more enjoyable.)

A family argument during the holidays is so commonplace that it’s a trope, and here I was, technically the instigator, but really just finally prioritising my own needs and protecting my wounds. I went over to mom’s later that day for supper and told her about the exchange. Her eyes lit up like I’d wrought magic. She was delighted that I’d prepared a list of topics.

Merry Christmas.

So, now what?

Nextcommunicating with my dad — waiting for the phone to ring

communicating with my dad — the standard dysfunction

In late September last year I had a phone conversation with my dad that I found especially frustrating. While he was going on at length about every bit of minutia in his life, I was having difficulty getting a word in edgewise. He’d asked me precisely two questions, and interrupted one of those answers. When he’d had enough of the conversation, he signed off, leaving me annoyed and aware that we really hadn’t connected at all. I’d just been an audience. Again.

Over the next month or so, I pondered this and compared it to previous conversations with him. In that respect, this one had been unremarkable – it’s the way things usually went with him, but I’d always shrugged and didn’t think about it until next time.

This time was different. One reason was that I’ve been surrounding myself with authors and people online who say that if there is someone in your life who does something that causes you difficulties, you’re allowed to ask them not to do that thing. This is contrary to what I’d learned growing up, but it has finally started to sink in.

As I thought about my relationship with my dad, and in particular our roughly monthly calls, I became aware that he rarely expressed any interest in me, and the usual topic of conversation was the trivia of his life (down to his heel that still aches), much of which was complaints, and commonly complaints about his wife’s adult children (who are about the same age as me). I also began to realise that I don’t especially enjoy these calls. They’re just something to endure.

It had occurred to me that maybe he couldn’t talk to his wife about these things (and especially her kids), and so maybe he didn’t have anyone else to vent to. But he’d assigned me this role without ever asking me if that was OK, and as it happens I’m not OK with it, and I don’t actually have to participate in calls that I find largely unenjoyable.

The other thing that was different this time was that I’d gone for lunch with my mom at a time when this was still on my mind. Although we don’t generally talk about anything significant (that’s a whole other issue), I raised this with her, mentioning my concern that dad had no one else to talk to.

Now, my parents split when I was a kid and it was largely very reasonable, neither of them badmouthed the other, and they still talk from time to time. But she said matter-of-factly, “Oh, he’s like that with everybody.”

Huh.

I’d resolved to confront him in some way about the issue next time we spoke but I hadn’t figured out how best to handle it and that was stressing me out, especially since I was already thoroughly stressed about preparing for my upcoming trip to Japan. I eventually gave up on saying anything about it this time; it would have to wait until I was home again. But if he wasn’t interested in hearing about me, why should I shoehorn that info into the conversation? I decided not to offer anything, and in particular not mention the Japan trip unless he expressed a minimum of interest in me by saying something like “So, anything new going on?”

The next time he called was, as luck would have it, the day before my trip, and as the conversation felt like it was winding up, he happened to ask, “Got any trips coming up?”

“Actually, yes! I’m going to Japan tomorrow!”

“Oh! Good thing I called then,” he said with a touch of acidity.

I thought, but did not say, No, it’s good that you actually asked me one question about my life.

So we chatted about that for a bit, and the conversation felt more balanced and thus better than usual, but it didn’t solve anything.

I needed to do something more.

Nextcommunicating with my dad — the mildest confrontation

I think I feel like blogging again

If there’s something that I want to understand but don’t (or at least not as fully as I want to), I keep revisiting it until I have the answer. One issue that’s like this for me is why I slowed down so much with blogging. Yes, I’ve discussed this before, but I’ve discovered some new factors, and I’m feeling optimistic.

I posted a lot in 2015, my first year. I had a lot to say, and while I was suffering with undiagnosed depression, the fact that I wasn’t able to work much ended up giving me more time to write, and fortunately I had enough brainpower for it. Wolf came back that summer and in the fall I started teaching dance more than I had been. In 2016 I posted somewhat less.

I think the original causes for the slowdown were depression (starting in the fall of 2016) and the fact that my sex life was cooling off so I had less to write about. No doubt the depression affected my sex life, but it was also cooling off for its own reasons, not yet fully understood (this is something I’m working on now). Then I went on antidepressants, which basically doused what embers of libido that remained. I strongly suspect that the antidepressants also muted my creativity, so even if I had something to say, it was hard to give enough of a shit about saying it to actually write and publish. My many, many unpublished drafts speak to that issue. In 2017 I had half as many posts as 2016.

I was feeling better by December 2017 (yay, depression essentially gone!) but stayed on the antidepressants until spring on doctor’s orders. I felt my cognition rekindle; it took 3-4 weeks but when the change came it was pretty sudden (yay, I can think!). And that was over six months ago, so where has the blogging been? In 2018, I had half as many posts as 2017.

The way I had originally defined the scope of the blog has become limiting to me. I think this is key, and it’s taken me a few months to really absorb it. I kept having ideas of things to say but I felt like I wasn’t allowed to say them here. Weird, since this is my blog to say what I want, but it’s taken me a while to give myself permission to talk about other things beyond the original scope of the project. I’ve felt limited by the name of the blog (which I chose four years ago when things were different), but I don’t have a better name yet, so fuck it. For now, it stays. I intend to revise my About page to reflect the new scope, in bits, as the mood strikes. If I tell myself it all has to be done in one go, it becomes overwhelming and doesn’t get done at all.

I’ve just become aware of a few other factors – less significant, but they go some way to filling in the remaining gaps. I might have mentioned before that I have a new(ish) laptop and I’ve found it difficult to adjust to. The keyboard is different and I get typos more often than before. So that’s annoying. Also, the screen is smaller than I’m used to so editing photos is less fun and more hassle. I have a nice big monitor for my work computer, which spoils me for the small one.

In addition to this, I have few reasons to turn on the laptop, and it being off is a barrier somehow. I don’t really know why, but it’s definitely a thing. I’m much more likely to putter on the blog, and especially reply to comments and comment on other people’s writing, when the laptop is already on.

Wolf has been gone for a week now and I’m rediscovering the routine I had while he was away doing his doctorate. During the day I like it quiet. No music. No talk radio. No TV or Netflix or YouTube. Just silence, other than the sound of a bit of traffic outside and sometimes the wind. (Actually, a lot of wind lately.)

OK, this isn’t really any different from when Wolf is here. But in the evening, it changes. I now have to do the cooking and dishes, and I want music on while I work around the house. When I want music, I go on Soundcloud, which I do from my laptop because of technical reasons. And lo, now my laptop is on every day, and I can just decide to write a little something or do other blog maintenance and it feels so much easier.

Brains are weird.

at the turning of the year

looking back

I launched this blog at Christmastime 2014, so this isn’t just the turning of the year, it’s also my fourth blogging anniversary!

In January, Wolf successfully defended his doctoral thesis and shall henceforth be known as Dr. Wolf. It represented the end of a long slog, and while his getting accepted into the university in the first place was a very big deal, we had no idea how emotionally difficult it would be on both of us. We are each other’s primary support systems and without that support, we both ended up in depression (though that wasn’t the sole reason for either of us). Completion for him was thus bittersweet as it had come at a much higher cost than expected and it left him wondering whether it would ever feel like it had been worth it.

March saw me take two very different trips back to back without stopping off at home on the way, which made packing a challenge! I was at a business meeting on a Thursday morning, in a succession of airports and airplanes from afternoon to night (my sleep time completely disappearing while I was in the air), arrived at Heathrow on Friday morning, then put in an appearance at the Eroticon 2018 Friday Night Meet and Greet that evening. I was, of course, exhausted.

My time at Eroticon (my second) was excellent, as expected. Although I’m now aware of one sex blogger and one romance/erotica writer who reside in my neck of the woods, it’s such a treat to just be in a room with more sex writers than you can shake a stick (or cane, or flogger) at. And everyone I’ve met has been my kind of people – intelligent, sexy and kind. Just wonderful. But it’s still a big trip for me. Would I have gone just for Eroticon? It’s hard to say, but I didn’t have to make that decision because Jaime and I had planned to meet up there and then travel together for a few weeks.

I made arrangements with the same photographer as in 2017 to do another shoot while I was in London. I must admit, both the shoot and follow-up were a bit disappointing, and I’ve spent the subsequent months forgetting it rather than remembering it.

Just before I returned home in April, I did my first shoot with Molly, which was also my first outdoor shoot. At about 10°, it was chilly to be naked outside, though better than I’d expected – and vastly better than it would have been if I’d been doing the same project at home! (Molly has given me some edited photos but I haven’t posted any yet; I’m experiencing some kind of block that is making it difficult, for reasons I don’t understand. With any luck, I’ll publish them soon.)

Just before I returned home from Europe, I finished weaning myself off of the anti-depressant I’d been on. By early May, my brain suddenly began functioning better; my cognition, focus and motivation improved substantially, which was such a relief! Since then, I’ve been working harder at the day job than I have in a couple of years, leaving me brain-tired and eye-strained at the end of the workday.

In November, I had a solo adventure in Japan; once upon a time I taught English there fairly briefly and went back this year for a visit. It was fun and stressful and tiring and delightful. I had a strong sense of filling my eyes with wonderful things, which I need to remember so I make a point of doing more of that. I’ve already posted a couple of photos (just before my flight out, and just after I arrived on the other side) and you’ll be seeing more from that trip in future.

On Christmas Day I set a boundary with my dad, which provoked a bit of a confrontation, so that was fun. But it means that I’m prioritising my needs over his wants, and that’s good for me. Five bucks says the next time we talk, he’ll pretend it never happened.

Top 100 Sex Bloggers 2018

I’m delighted that Molly (and Michael) included me in her list of the Top 100 Sex Blogs of 2018, which was announced in early December. I’ve fallen in the ranking since last year, which comes as no surprise since blogging regularly continues to be difficult for me, but I’m very pleased to have made the list at all. (Trying to remind myself that it’s OK if I’m less productive, and that I don’t have to blog if I’m not enjoying it.) Warm congratulations to this year’s winner, Rebel’s Notes!

I did find inspiration now and then through the year and there are some posts that I’m proud of, such as:

I’m also very happy to be included in Exposing 40’s round up of 40 [sex bloggers] over 40.

After my first adventure with Jaime in November 2015, I developed irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which may have been caused by the gastrointestinal issues I had while travelling in a country where you need to be careful about drinking the water. In three years, following basic IBS guidelines has failed to control it and the constant bloating – as well as the resultant dip in body image, slight weight gain, and poorly fitting clothes – have really been getting on my tits, so this month I’ve started on a program to test whether certain categories of fermentable carbohydrates (collectively, FODMAPs) might be to blame, and if so, which one(s).

After the elimination phase, my bloating mostly went away. Around the same time, I was suddenly sleeping less and feeling more alert after struggling with fatigue for a number of years. The increase in energy hasn’t been consistent but this unexpected result provides a new lead for an issue where I’d mostly given up hope of finding a specific cause. There are five categories of FODMAPs and I’m currently challenging the third, so I’m about halfway done this process and I think I’ve identified two triggers. I’ll complete this project sometime in January and then follow up with my doctor.

My libido, which was variable at best and was convincingly sent packing by the anti-depressants in early 2017, is still AWOL. I originally started this blog as a place to record my new sexy adventures, but… I’m not having any. Forgive me Daddy, for I have failed to sin: it’s been almost 9 months since my last partnered sex. I don’t see that changing any time soon. And after giving me 4 orgasms on Christmas morning, my beloved We-Vibe Touch has died *cries*

looking forward

After over a year of looking for work, Dr. Wolf has been hired (last minute) for a lecturer position that starts right away. The catch is that it’s in another city – not too far from here but far enough to be inconvenient, especially given the lack of public transit and the fact that we only have the one car. We drive there tomorrow, I’ll get him settled and stay the night, and then I go back to an empty house. It’s a term position running until the end of June so he’ll be there and I’ll be here for the duration, except for the odd time when he can escape. He’ll be staying in a spartan place so it’s not especially practical for me to go visit him there. After that, we have to wait and see.

I have business trips in January and March, and the latter one (as well as the work to be done before and after) makes it ridiculously impractical for me to go to Eroticon 2019, alas. So my plan is to be dutiful, and then fuck off to Jaime’s house for a couple of weeks in April.

That’s my year in a nutshell. I hope you’re having/have had a great New Year’s Eve, whatever that looks like for you, and best wishes for 2019!

I’m still alive

Is something wrong? she said
Of course there is
You’re still alive, she said
Oh, do I deserve to be?
Is that the question?
[“Alive”, Pearl Jam]

Oh dear, it’s hard to get back in the groove after so long away. I’ve had a busy couple of months, but it’s been so long that nothing seems significant enough to talk about. I have lots of ideas of things to write about – or at least I thought I did, until confronted with a blank page. It feels like when you run into someone you haven’t seen for years and yet somehow you’re able to catch up in about 10 minutes. I must be forgetting something…

So, what have I been up to? Well, I went to Eroticon, and it was my second time attending. I’m definitely glad I went and I hope to attend next year too. Although this last year has been very quiet on the blog, it was good to hear interesting talks, visit with people I’ve met before (friends? is that the word?), and just be in a room with a bunch of people who are weird like me.

When I arrived at Heathrow on the Friday morning, Jaime was there to pick me up and escort me back to our room. We spent the next three weeks travelling together, mostly in southern England but we also spent the better part of a week in a Paris AirBnB. By the end of my trip, I was starting to get homesick and tired of the pace. I am, in many ways, a delicate flower.

Being away from Wolf is always strange, since we always spend so much time together. Well, we’re both introverts, so this often amounts to him at his desk and me at mine, but we’re doing our solo stuff together, if you see what I mean. I had good wifi connectivity throughout the trip so staying in touch wasn’t too hard, but this whole me having adventures while he’s at home thing is new so we don’t have a long-distance routine worked out as such.

While I was on this trip, I was tapering off my anti-depressant medication – citalopram, which is an SSRI. I had a bit of a bumpy ride but there were too many variables to know whether that was due to the meds or all of the other novelty that was going on around me. Prior to going off the meds, I had been feeling consistently good and the side effects were starting to bother me, so I think the timing was right. An issue that’s been plaguing me is the not really caring about doing things, or finishing things I start. This was a symptom of the depression but in a slightly different version it became, I think, one of the side effects.

I’ve had a series of mild but still significant health complaints in addition to the mental health stuff. The most recent in the litany is arthritis in my neck, the treatment for which has caused low-grade tension and chronic pain from the shoulders up, plus mild nausea. Add this to the irritable bowel syndrome, whose primary symptom for me is wicked bloating, and my ongoing hypoglycemia, and my stomach is very confused and unhappy.

My libido is still very low and the above seems to have killed it again. I have given Tabitha Rayne‘s #30DayOrgasmFun project a go, but my disinterest, it is high, and persisting would defeat the purpose of having fun with it. So.

Even though I haven’t been posting photos, I seem to have established a habit of taking mile-high selfies (and the occasional comparable ground-level ones) whenever the opportunity arises. It has arisen rather a lot in the last while, and I expect it to do so a couple more times before midsummer.

So that’s my life in a nutshell.