Monday, June 26, 2006

Not Understanding Appropriate Behavior.

A friend and I were goofing around and doing outrageous joking back and forth. He was into his usual 'Us girls...'. I just figured that is part of him and didn't push him to change his behavior. We were going to have coffee and share some desert.

I have been playfully asking everyone I know to buy me a new iMac. He came back with the request to wear a dress of mine. We finally hit the impasse of him not having enough money.

Since I know he used to be into prostitution, I swung into my role playing of being sexually excited, not over him, but over technology. I scared the life out of this poor fellow. He said he didn't like it and quickly vacated my room.

I am sad. I may have blown a friendship. Once again, I realize, that the insanity I was raised with must be more over the top then I can face.

I immediately sent off an apology email. The reply is stark and clear. I'm totally out of his life. If I try and contact him in any way, he'll call the police and file a report. I get it. It turns out that some of what I thought were just playful jesting, he took as a serious attack against his catholic faith. He has committed to the gay lifestyle and feels I've attacked him. Life goes on. It is times like this I am thankful I have learned how to pray. For sure, I'll never deal with him ever again. I for sure understand he means exactly what he says. After a few tears, life will go on. Times like this I feel hopelessly insane and desolate. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. I truly hope this man finds healing. He has a hard road to walk.

I guess I still don't know how to read when people are joking and when they are not. I am sorry I hurt this person. God will handle it from here, as I've been ordered out of his life.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

When You Are "Playing Church" Christianity Doesn't Work.

After four years of trying to handle a very self-righteous person (in my own way), I left my church and religion all together. Here, I'd paid my tithes, come to all called meetings and put up with a lot of guff and I ain't getting blessed! All that stuff was done with my body, but, in my heart, I RESENTED it all! I was "playing church".

This is a theater production, staring me, with all my fellow Christians as my audience. My goal was to get acclamation: "Wow, you are sure dedicated,", "You are sure spiritual." and a general level of appreciation reserved for, oh, say Saint Paul of Tarsus! (Perhaps a pride issue?) Yes, I was for-real a Christian, but I was still deeply lost in the desert of not really trying to follow God's directions.

When your ego is under control, you can slide right around self-righteous people. They engage you in a conversation with the goal of proving that they are a better Christian, then you are. A problem person tried getting in my face and screaming at me, that I was just making excuses for something she was doing properly. I sincerely thanked her for caring so much about me. I also thanked her for the information. She literally walked away from me, and hasn't bothered me since that last conversation. I was no longer taking the bait. Who cares what someone THINKS of me. God evaluation is the one that matters.

When I finally came back to church, I did change churches, but stayed in the same denomination. My new church is full of Christians who have faced some very difficult life issues. It is not a question of "if" someone is in ICU, but "who" is in ICU. The core group of the church has leaned how to really try and live their faith. They try very hard to actually walk their talk. They refer to it as "selling out to Jesus". From that point onward, you will seriously try to obey God, even when you are alone. In other words: "Character is what you do when you don't think anyone is watching." Oh! I had to say "ouch" on that one. My private life and my public church life were universes apart. "Oooh, I say 'ouch'!"

I began to actually try and get to know this God. Oh, I knew tons of "facts", but unlike Moses, I had no clue as to His ways. I said a simple prayer that galvanized my life. "God let me learn to know you, like I would any other friend." I wasn't being disrespectful, but my private prayer life was non-existent. My 'pray with a partner' prayer life was flawless. Back to "playing church", again.

I forced myself to sit before God for an hour each day and NOT petition Him. For me to not talk for that long is truly a divinely implanted miracle. My flesh will talk, even when I know nothing about the subject.

I began to sense God was indeed a real presence. He had a 'feel', just like all our other friends have a 'feel'. They all have unique personalities. I then realized God seemed to actually 'like' me. Yes, I know the scriptures - "God so loved the world..." but I'm speaking of meeting Him in prayer, not by reading His Word.

I then began to find a new attitude of willingness springing up inside, when it came to "obeying". Before, "don't drink (alcohol)" meant: "don't drink alcohol in front of anyone from church, but in secret, GO FOR IT!" Alcohol hadn't caused me any trouble for at least five years. Even my HMO felt I didn't have an issue around my small consumption of alcohol. But, the denomination I'm in really believes it is off-limits, like sex outside of marriage. Don't do it AT ALL. The operative instruction is NO! So, I went home and poured down the sink, $10 of some tasty liquor I loved to have in my coffee. I haven't had any alcohol since the day I made that commitment. No, angels didn't fly around me singing Praises to God. But I no longer felt like I was living a double life.

I will still go to a bar, if that is all that is open, like in some hotels. But soft drinks, water and coffee are served differently when not doctored with alcohol. If someone from church sees me, I know I'm not lying - my breath won't betray me either!

After living this undivided lifestyle for about six months, I've discovered something wonderful. All the blessings I thought I wanted are happening. I am admired, praised publicly and am popular within my church. I now am a bit nervous about all of this. My heart turns to God, to keep me from getting it mixed up on who is doing what. I am getting me more and more out of the way to let God do things through me. I can't take credit for a song I sing, a prayer I pray, or anything else I accomplish.

All these things are gifts God prepared for me to participate in before the worlds were formed. He gets the credit. Since I know I can easily return to being really prideful, I pray for help from God not to get trapped into thinking I’m so wonderful.I truly understand that my willingness to give all of my life and myself to Jesus makes it possible for God to enter so strongly into my life. I now know levels of thankfulness I didn't even know existed before. At this time in my life, I'm reaping success. It won't always be that way. Paul suffered a lot, who am I kidding to believe I won't suffer, as Jesus said we would? But learning to not live a lie, has given me the clarity of thought to trust God's ways more, and the advice of the world less. I am thankful that I'm beginning to learn how to really "do" Gods Word and not just read it.

My Low Vision: Revisiting The Pain Of Being Disabled.

I'm high up in the Berkeley Hills cat sitting a charming black, gray, brown and white 'from the pound' cat. She likes me, and is the first cat I've been around who licks me to show her affection. Think: tiny, warm and wet sandpaper strokes. There is true satisfaction in being entrusted with a beloved pet. I am amazed how badly some well-off folks get treated. If they didn't have extra money, I'd not have a job.

I get a deep satisfaction in caring for the animal, and also doing more then my job requires. These dear people are computer 'babes in the woods'. They have had a computer for three years and have never backed up their data! Since I believe paranoia is a survival skill, I've made it my business to back up their home folder. They were really surprised. How hard is it to be 'nice'?

When discussing money they added to my wage so I could buy my own food, but then went out and bought some stuff for me. I don't want to turn down a gift, but I felt I was being paid twice. The lady's facial expression totally changed and she decided to add MORE money to my wages. So, I have eight days with an older iMac, great lighting for print reading and wonderful food.

Being I am pretty good on my own Macintosh, I quickly went about making the adjustments I use for my low vision. I use the Dvorek keyboard layout. (Thank gawd, they had THAT!) But I have no reverse video, or zoom capability. No reverse video is killing my eyes. Things that are effortless and fun at home are slow, painful and difficult here. I'd completely forgotten how different computers and reading used to be. I'm not happy at the moment.

It is very tiring, mildly painful, physically uncomfortable and absolutely NO FUN! These folks have an older Mac with OS X 10.1.8. Tiny font settings, yahoo as their Internet connection and Internet Explorer 5 for their browser! I would gladly pay the $129. For the Panther update - but I know they will buy it for themselves. All of that doesn’t help me now. I am amazed I accomplished, however badly, all I've done with my low vision. But, I now remember why I am unemployable in most circumstances. It hurts and stirs up a sadness I usually don't have to deal with.

I have worked very, very hard, most of my life, attempting to prove to myself and everyone else, that I'm not REALLY disabled. I believed I could overcome it by working harder, longer and in spite of physical discomfort. It has taken God years to divorce me from an over-inflated pride. I can do a lot of things, but unless I have complete control over the computer. The gain is for-sure not worth the pain. I hated myself for years, when I finally resigned myself to being on 'the system' for the rest of my life. My psychiatrist asked an interesting question: "CyberGal, are you sure that refusing to beat your head against a brick wall, any longer isn't a sign of dealing with reality and not a personal failing?" My head knows he's correct, but my emotions still churn.

My working harder, longer and in pain is an example of NOT working smart. Working smart is my computer at home. Reverse video takes the eyestrain pain away. Keyboard under monitor enables me to sit up straight, while at the computer, which takes the neck and back pain away. Finally, being able to control fonts and font sizes turns very slow 'guess what it is' reading into the joy of gliding over text I am sure I am reading correctly. This older computer has the nice moveable flat screen, and if it didn't have that, I wouldn't be using it much at all. Now, I retell the story of a lens for every occasion.

I have bi-focal glasses for improved general clarity and an 8x bubble magnifier, for quick reading of mail, or other larger then normal things. All my regular ‘glasses’ have a short focal length of 1/4 Inch or less. I have my 'at home' 12x reading glasses, that enable me to read 99% of printed material. For travel and the tech magazines, which insist on printing examples in light, skinny, tiny fonts, I have 15x glasses that were rigged up for me with a jeweler's loop mounted (backwards) in a frame. Then we have the most difficult lens system I've ever encountered, the telescopic monocular.

This device does two very different things. With no reading 'cap' attached, it works just like a regular binocular. Since it has one tube and not two, it is called a monocular. Range in distance is about 3x - 4x. This two to three inch tube is indeed mounted in a pair of glasses, which are very heavy and uncomfortable to wear. They are truly a contraption, but with them I can read about 1 and 1 half inches away from the material. I do this with the 'reading cap', a 2x - 8x lens which fits over the end of the monocular, turning it from a weak telescope, to a medium microscope. Distance is everything, when to lean over a fixed keyboard, to read the monitor, causes one to push keys with their breasts! I brought down a database because of this very problem, at San Francisco State University. Needless to say, that database was not accessible to me any more!

These lenses can magnify from 8x - 40x. They require weeks to adjust to. I have to cover them with electrical tape to block out stray light. I still get headaches when I use them. They are my lenses of last resort.

I now can deal with the very real grief work of putting up with years of unnecessary pain in the name of trying to do the impossible. I could weep at my self-hatred and unabashed arrogance, which drove me for all those years. Forty-five, was the age at which I surrendered to being unemployable. Oh, sure, I have little part-time jobs, but I have never been able to make enough money to really support myself since Windows replaced DOS. I feel and accept sadness over that entire struggle.

Without God, His goodness and the knowledge that He can arrange anything, I'd drift into bitterness. I refuse to go there. To me, there is nothing quite as ugly as a bitter blind person. With better visual aids, I'm manning a website, running this blog, working with Real Basic and doing Bible research. As I see my continued 'growing up' I do still hope to leave Social Security for a real, self-supporting job, but my hope is tempered with the reality that 75% of blind folks have Bachelor's degrees, or Masters AND 75% of us are under employed enough to require Social Security.

My energy in leaving me. I'm hunched over a keyboard reading the bottom line on a slanted monitor, writing this blog. I realize, if I had a lot of my early years of pain to do over again, I wouldn't. That makes me really sad, as I did force myself to read many fine print books, attempt engineering, calculus, psychology and even looked into attending a seminary.

But, now that I don't have to prove the impossible, I can honestly admit, that after this eight days of fooling around with real print, and a computer that is not accessible to me, I will be less ready to buy a print book, or deal with any computer, but my own.

I have to admit to a small hope, of being able to work at my church's PC. After these eight days - six of which have passed. I thank God; I had the sense not to try it. I would hate to sob in front of my Pastor. Sometimes, there is sadness. I know joy will come in the morning. I know my friends love me and understand me, probably better then I understand myself. I know God loves me and is not mad at me for expressing some pain. I know someone out there needs to see this aspect of recovery. Maybe you have a different challenge. Low hearing, a paraplegic, or a quadriplegic. There is a place to tell this part of the truth also. I look at it like this. Once I can admit my sadness, I can pray to God to help me find a new perspective and to learn and grow from the sadness.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Continuing Recovery: Apologizing, And The Fear Of Setting Limits.

In my last post I came down hard on dishonest sales practices. I offended the individual I was discussing. This person wrote a nearly unreadable comment for this blog and a longer email to me personally. My first reaction was gut-wrenching fear.

Fear began to corrode into the insane compulsion to 'people please'. I had caused this person pain. They made sure I knew how I'd hurt them, in word and action. The small child almost bought some of their product. I didn't intend to hurt anyone. Thankfully, I had the sense to flee to God in pray, and not to the internet to BUY.

What to do? I changed my mind about letting the garbled comment, complete with the individual's identity stand. Another unwanted comment, had accidentally been approved - which was more smarmy adver-speak from someone else. I deleted both comments. I then sent a personal email to the afflicted individual. I have been advised: "Never apologize. Its a sign of weakness." I don't believe that for a second.

Since I slammed a person publicly, who may not have intended to offend me, I felt and still feel that my apology was in order. If I read this person wrong, perhaps they should move on from me to someone else who isn't as dense. It has been my experience, that when someone accuses me of something and they are totally wrong, it really doesn't stir up much reaction.

You say I'm a prostitute. I know I haven't had sex of any kind for the last eight years. I would question you, as to what caused you to think that way towards me and learn from your answer.

On the other hand, if what you accuse me of is actually true, but I don't want to admit to the behavior, or I refuse to be responsible for the behavior, I'm going to get very, very upset inside (if not publicly). Usually, what you bring up about me, I have already spotted and tagged (in my mind) about YOU. Now, before I learned the folly of pointing one finger out at you, with three pointing back at me, I would use all my intellectual ability to dissect and dice your character, until you would leave me alone. Anybody recognize the manipulative tactic of trying to cause shame?(This is an excellent way to drive healthy people out of your life).

I still am nervous about having hurt someone, but refuse to do any more about it. If I am contacted by the offended party, I will speak to them, but I refuse to be manipulated into buying anything. What I have done is been willing to DO SOMETHING EVEN IF IT IS WRONG.

For years, I was paralyzed into total inactivity, unless I was sure that I'd come out 'right'. So, I basically ran my life via apathy, people-pleasing and guilt-tripping people. These strategies failed me miserably and kept me trapped in feeling like a huge victim.

I now have enough confidence in myself to allow for making mistakes. I have made the astounding discovery, that a real apology builds character and can open up opportunities for growth unimaginable to my less healthy self. I rejoice I'm willing to act at all. My old self would have bought products I didn't want and listened to hours of whining speeches I didn't care to hear, in the name of 'friendship'. Trapping not only myself, but the other individual in our mutual pools of misery.

I also have decided to take a page from my church's behavior. There are certain standards they require and will enforce. It is not acceptable to swear like a sailor, in church, or when speaking to Pastor privately. Potty mouth has always been a life-style for me. I used to think it made me look grown-up, confident and strong.

No, it shows that I'm into intellectual laziness. It takes very little effort to parrot a slang expression. It takes real mental energy to figure out what you truly are trying to communicate about a situation. My pastor is very gentle, but insistent with me, on language use. Because I trust him, I don't fear being honest in his presence. Because he is kind and gentle about his rebuke, I'm willing to really make an effort to change my behavior. I pray about this issue daily, as it is a habit I've cultivated for decades.

A friend came to my home and we were chatting over coffee. He likes to be outrageous by insisting that he likes to wear women's clothing, loves other men and in general acts like an overt gay male. Frankly, I don't like it and got tired of hearing about pink TuTu's, his sex fantasies and infatuations. He wanted to tell me about the funny ad for the upcoming Gay Freedom Day Parade in San Francisco.

That event turns my stomach. I did something I've never done before. Its my house, I don't want to talk about gay sex any more. Let's talk about something else. I waited for my friend to rage at me, guilt-trip me, or begin to turn against me. Just as I do with my friends and their limits, he stopped that line of conversation, with no further incident. Amazing.

I didn't loose a friend, and I feel physically better, not having to think of the drek of The Gay Freedom Day Parade (of ludeness). I would be just as disgusted if it were a bunch of heterosexuals being lude in public. I don't like seeing private acts done in front of me, on a public sidewalk, while I'm trying to get to the Opera House in San Francisco.

I remember the first time I ran into a limit with another friend. He doesn't like anything of a smutty nature - even the mild stuff. Thankfully, I asked him if he wanted to hear my favorite dirty joke. He politely said 'no'. I am astounded that other people act with me, as I acted with my friend. Much as I think the joke is funny, I haven't shared it because I've been asked not to. How refreshing that I don't have to lose friends over my new-found desire to set some limits in my own house.

Limits are difficult for abuse survivors. Our personal body, mind and spirit were grossly invaded when we were children and therefore the concept of 'no', can be very difficult to learn in issues of our personal space. Here's the great news. Setting limits frees you from unnecessary pain. Not having to resist the temptation to be angry at someone for doing something you don't like, frees up your energy for more positive things. You will discover the fantastic notion of respecting yourself. You aren't letting people walk all over you any longer!

Any new behavior always feels insane, at first. I can only continue to document my ongoing recovery. I'm actually honoring commitments to myself these days. I feel stronger and more alive then ever before. I now exercise most days for an hour by walking. My health is improving.

I'm realizing I have a right to organize my life. I have a right to terminate bad things, encourage more of something good and I have the responsibility to face up to criticism, when I'm wrong. These are the traits of a maturing adult. If I learn to take criticism without tears, or other manipulative tactics, people will be more able to incorporate me into their projects. I become more employable, in the personality department. Most important, I can accept respect from others, because I am now doing things I respect within myself. I again reproduce a wonderful poem by an unknown author:

A Biography In Five Chapters, author unknown

Chapter 1.

I walk down the street and fall in a hole, I didn't see.

It is deep and dark.

It takes me a long time to get out of it, but I do get out of it, finally.

I continue down the street.

Chapter 2.

I walk down the street, see the hole, but fall into it anyway.

This time, however, I get out much faster.

I continue down the street.

Chapter 3.

I walk down the street, see the hole, fall in and get out really quick!

Its a habit.

I continue to walk down the street.

Chapter 4.

I walk down the street, see the hole and walk around it.

I continue to walk down the street.

Chapter 5.

I walk down a different street.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

"You Can Make 300,000 Dollars A Month Selling (Fill In the Blank) At Home!" THAT IS A LIE!

I loathe dishonest, under-handed, smarmy sales. Its always been around and shows no sign of disappearing any time soon. I have been desperate enough to attempt to get rich via "contests" through the old snail mail. Someone got some money from me, but I remained poor(er) and got cheap plastic 'gem stones' for my effort.

A true friend of mine, in a series he taught did an interesting experiment with his audience:

Presenter: "How would you like to make 120 dollars an hour?" The murmur from the audience was immediate and very audible.

Presenter: "How would you like to start out at 6 dollars an hour and work your way up to 120 dollars an hour over a period of twenty years?" The muted audience response said volumes about how we all want something for nothing.

I received an email from my 'only-if-you-buy-friend' which appeared to give me an introduction to her life and interests. She presented her business with a link. That is open, fair and honest. She then presented a link of biographical information. Oh yeah, there was a cursory biography. Her sex, some 'interests' and several other business-related links. But the actual goal of the site was to suck me into Gawd-knows-what, with the promise of untold riches. I began to realize, I've been had, again.

Oh, in AA, church and any gathering of more then three people. The pseudo-human sales people prey. Usually, the initial 'hook' is the offer of 'interest' or 'friendship'. These folks can spot their victims in very short order. Once their target believes they've really made a friend, the sales person gently introduces them to their product or service. If the contact balks, they make two to three other attempts and then drop the contact. There is no time for anything but making sales, mining prospects and spirituality is lost in a frenzy of greed.

This sales person, had a tactic I'd never encountered before. She presents herself as 'pathetic, old, disabled and discouraged'. The garnish of properly placed tears and illusions to suicide thrown in, for drama. I went for it. I've been there and foolishly believed this person was attempting to better their life. They are - by having me buy their stuff and then rope others into buying my stuff. Every sale I make is money in the bank for the higher level representative, thus the name Pyramid Scheme.

What really enraged me, however, was when I went to investigate the business, only to find, that the reviews are just more trick, smoke and mirrors ads for other Multi Level Marketing businesses!

If you have to hit up your friends to make 'sales' I say you are going to cease being my 'friend' very fast. When I say "NO", I mean it, and will make it stick, even if I have to block you on an IM client, or pursue legal action. I will take official legal action, when necessary because the line between selling and stalking can blur, as desperate people sink ever deeper into a culture of hype and greed. Hype which causes them to continue to get ripped-off, for the promised pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

I am glad there is a hell, because these outfits that prey on the old, ill, disabled and desperate should definitely be relegated to "the smoking section".