Adventures du jour! (April 26, 2023)

Anger…What is mine?–Or who is mine?…Somebody Else’s Problem

Another long one. I feel like I should *feel like* apologizing for the length, but I don’t feel apologetic for taking up the space, not really. If you need it you need it; if you don’t you don’t, that’s all.

So last year I worked on a huge secret project, one that I’ll probably never go into detail about. It was part of a larger project to recover or even just establish an independent sense of self as I was digging around in the aftermath of leaving my ex.

Despite knowing everything I know, when I finished it and sent it off to a friend so I wouldn’t be able to talk myself into destroying it, I said, “This is great! I’m so glad I finished with this whole process of getting over trauma.”

“Finished.” It’s a tricky word, especially for people like me who are more interested in the process than necessarily the results. We don’t “finish” a tasty process.

The last few days haven’t been pleasant. I’ve been angry.—I’ll back up a little. About a week ago, I think, I was writing along happily in my big fiction project, the Work In Progress (WIP), and wrote something amazing. It amazed me, anyway! My characters, who kind of pop up like separate people sometimes, came out in spades to help me celebrate.

I’ve talked about this before; I’m just trying to get my brain up to speed. Plus I’m a fiction writer and we kind of go, “What if a reader is joining the story only just now? I better find a new way to explain the thing that I already explained.”

The part of this that’s relevant here is that one of the characters, Mr. Assassin, asked me a question, one he needs me to answer to help him get through the next part of his character arc:

What is mine?—Or who is mine?

He doesn’t want a flip answer. He’s just decided not to run away from the situation “for everyone else’s good.” He needs something he can believe in, so that he has a reason to stick around.

I can’t just think about it; I have to process it.

It’s always easier for me to come at a problem by digging around in minutiae first, then making guesses about the larger picture, then testing those guesses against more minutiae, more real-world stuff that isn’t just theory in my head or something I read in a book. On the one hand, this makes me vulnerable to all the issues related to “anecdata,” like taking the examples in front of me as being representative of the whole and extracting “truths” that only apply because of unexamined biases. On the other hand, this counters a lot of the gaslighting I’ve encountered in my life, where people go, “That’s not true!” and I can go, “Ah, yes, but in this one case it was.”

People’s knee-jerk reaction usually consists of something like, “But that’s not what happened.” Or “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.” Or “Why can’t you just get over it?” Or “You’re being oversensitive, you’re overthinking it.”

—I used to worry that I was making things up, even to myself; that I was blowing things out of proportion; that I was cruel and self-involved for not being able to “forgive” such trivial things.

What I’ve learned now (or have come to grasp consciously just now) is that if something is “required to be forgiven” yet “trivial,” it is actually very, very important.

A meaningless thing happens, yet it is for some reason vitally important that I not pay attention to it.—When I run into that now, I know something’s up.

Partly I recognize it because I spent so much time listening to assholes.

But partly I recognize it because of the people who are conscientious around me, who care about my feelings so much that they will check, and double-check, that I won’t be upset about the smallest things they do, or stop doing. It really isn’t about how much they care about me. It’s about them, about the care that they bring to the world. I am honored to receive that kind of care, even when it makes me giggle about what I didn’t notice, and they did.

Assholes don’t bring such care to the world. They are insulted by the idea that they could be asked to do so.—They already have Big Important Things they’re taking care of.

They defend, they redirect, they’re like mirrors whose big trick is the ability to use grown-up words to say “I know you are but what am I?”

Any problem you bring to these kinds of people gets reflected back on you. I say this from a place that has been down in the weeds, dealing with the minutiae of this type of person, and extrapolating some guesses from what I have observed. The larger guesses are up for debate, but I’ve been watching for a while now, and the minutiae have stacked up. So while I might not be right, I’m not wrong, either.

Care pays attention; it anticipates and worries about offending; it is essentially, necessarily trivial.

Lack of care demands attention, then punishes that attention when it leads to something unflattering; it claims to care and compassion through grandiose, self-flattering (self-aggrandizing) action; it takes offense over trivia, yet pretends trivia don’t matter.

Care has an eye for invisible things.

Digging around in the minutiae, then, to answer the question I have to answer for Mr. Assassin: What is mine? Or who is mine?

I went out for a walk last night and answered that question, although the question I wanted to answer wasn’t that at all, but about how to deal with anger better. I didn’t really experience anger for a long time, if ever, until after I split with the ex. My mom forbade anger. Sadness was also forbidden. What I felt was just me being overly dramatic; I didn’t feel those things. Me feeling sadness or anger was an untruth, as well as an insult.

And yet.

Something small—insignificant, really—had happened, and I was pissed off to the point of it burning my ass all day, and it exhausted me. I wanted to know how I could make my anger more effective, less exhausting. Some kinds of anger hold you in place, fuming but spinning your wheels; other types allow you freedom of action you didn’t know you had.

I didn’t get an answer that question; apparently I have to answer the “What is mine” question first.

I walked out to my Most Favored Tree, sat on a picnic table under his branches, and meditated for about ten minutes. Then I knew, in the way I just know things sometimes, that I needed to talk out the problem out loud, one word in front of the other, instead of trying to think conceptually and whole-ass-tically. I took out my phone and recorded a nearly hour-long video of me talking in the dark. I had a couple of very short false starts—throat clearing of the mind—but then it all started coming out.

What is mine?—Or who is mine? What does that mean?


I know the concept of “mine” isn’t about possessing things or people, because I can let them go. I’ll hold space for them, but I’ll let them go. I’ll even let them pretend that they haven’t done so, that nothing has changed, if that’s how they want to handle it.—Circumstances change. Sometimes they come back around.

I don’t own people; I don’t need to control them. The people who are mine, I soak them up. They put a smile on my face, flaws notwithstanding. They inspire me, they pull me out of myself. I adore them because they are not me, often not even close. (Although when they’re similar that’s magnificent, too.) I’ll sometimes get mad at one or another of them, but I’ve learned to back up and go, “Is this what I want? Do I want to change them? Make them do what I want them to do? Or do I really just want to complain for a bit, then figure out what is about me that’s so invested in being critical or so hurt here?”

Ah, I know, I already know. But sometimes I have to stomp around a bit first.

Controlling people would mean they’d surprise and delight me less. Sure, they might upset me less often. The dance might go more smoothly if one of the dancers was in charge of picking the type of dance and the music, but that’s never been interesting to me. I’d rather make it up as we go along and take the occasional elbow to the face and laugh about it together.

People who are mine put a smile on my face.—But not everyone who puts a smile on my face is mine.

Another thing I sorted out recently was that if I reach out to someone and they reach back, or vice versa, that means something. It’s not the whole picture. I’ve made plenty of friendships that didn’t last. But that’s sort of the essence of friendship: you reach out to someone; they reach back. If you both put smiles on each other’s faces, so much the better.

But friendship, however nice, doesn’t make someone mine.—This next part, I already knew.

When someone can tell me I’m wrong, I know that I trust them on a fundamental level. I might not take their advice in the way they want me to (we’re all engines of desires), but it gets tucked away somewhere inside me and bubbles up from time to time. I am not the same.

One of the things that came out of me last night while I was talking to my phone was that, left to my own devices, I settle into ruts. My world becomes smaller and smaller. I stop being myself. I lose memories. There are fewer and fewer things that feel “safe.” I become trapped inside myself.

People who can tell me I’m wrong change me, moment by moment. They may not be able to free me from my ruts, but they do not allow me to reduce myself without protest.

I love you. I’m not mad. Let’s talk about it. I value what you have to say. Take all the time you need. You are wonderful. I wish you could bee-lieve in yourself. What do you need? I wish you could see yourself the way I see you. You are amazing. You should try X, I think you’d love it. I just really like hanging out with you. You make my life better. Tell me more. I love seeing you open up.—When you don’t like yourself much, these things hurt to hear, but it’s the hurt that comes from a stretch. Some stretches are too much. But that doesn’t mean all stretches should be avoided.

The people who tried to reduce me couldn’t be told they were wrong.

We don’t have anything in common. You’re just too different. Hurry up already. You make me tired. You’re exhausting. Why are you telling me this now? Why can’t just act like a normal human being for once? I never said that. Haha, it was just a joke. Stop crying. Why should I have to say that I love you on demand? Shouldn’t you already know how I feel? How long is this going to take? Can’t we do this later? You’re oversenstive. You’re overthinking it.

Assholes reduce the time and space I’m allowed to occupy and the types of emotions that I’m allowed to have.—When I hear those kinds of words now, I grieve.

What is mine? Or who is mine?

The people who are mine put a smile on my face. They reach out to me and I reach back. And they can tell me I’m wrong. All three of these things are important.

I don’t own them or control them, and yet they are mine.

What does “mine” mean, though, in action? What does it require of me?

This is where I made a pretty big leap. I don’t know if I can trace all the steps from question to answer, but my subconscious was pretty insistent about it last night, so I’ll sit with it and let it soak in, see what comes of it.

There’s this thing that sci-fi author Douglas Adams wrote about in the Hitchhiker’s series, about an invisibility cloak that wasn’t about invisibility, but taking advantage of people’s tendencies to look away from anything that might turn out to be a pain in the ass to deal with. Adams called it the “Somebody Else’s Problem” field.

—Right? You see where this is going.

As soon as I had that thought, my stomach lurched.

The people who are mine, they are not somebody else’s problem. There are probably a hundred different ways to say that no, no, that’s not the case, you don’t just get to decide that, that’s not how it works, you’re being oversensitive, you’re overthinking it.

*Look away.*

I know I can’t fix things for them. I can’t control them, can’t make them do the smart thing. Frankly, I’m often wrong. Their problems are not for me to solve. But I don’t have to look away, either.

It feels like I’ve said this before, somehow, or like I’ve come to this knowledge before. I’m gripped by déjà vu. When I look back, I suspect I will think I have always known this, it’s just that I wouldn’t let myself know what I know.

I don’t know where all these thoughts are going. I got up this morning in a muddle of thoughts and have been typing this all out even though I went over it (at length) last night on the recording I made. I don’t know how much more clarity I have today, even after after all this effort to think it all through again.

My eyes are gummy, my lungs feel stuffed up with pollen, I slept but not well, my head hurts. And yet I feel lighter, less bound. I can see, I am allowed to see, I don’t have to narrow my focus in order to make some asshole feel unseen and therefore safe. That is not a social contract I have to sign up for. I don’t have to agree to have my vision altered and my memories erased. I don’t have to agree not to care.

Don’t people keep saying that? “When someone tells you who they are, believe them”?

I am allowed to see.

I can’t go back and teach my past self that lesson (how useful it would have been!). I don’t know what other things I need to do. I don’t know how to have a healthy sense of anger. I don’t know how not to let useless anger spin my wheels and exhaust my sense of self. But I do have this one small thing:

I can see.

A magnolia (I think). I LOVE this shot. I can hardly believe I’m the one who took it. Awesome.

This is Midjourney’s idea of a “flawed human being.” I’ll take it.

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