The other side?

Since I wrote and published Half-Assed, a mild case of concern has set in. Was I fair? Did I see it from the other side? What have I missed? One known cognitive bias is that we tend to rate experiences not on their overall happiness, but on their peak intensities (good or bad) and on how they end. And that relationship surely had a painful and unpleasant end, which certainly has colored my view of all of it.[1]

Another aspect of my thinking is from watching the video at the Representation Project, about judging men and their maleness. Men are supposed to be the fixers in the relationship, and they are supposed to do a good job of it. When one fails to do so, whether through sloppiness or lack of knowledge, we are (meaning I am) quick to judge.

What if he opened up the electric plug, and understood generally how it worked, but couldn’t quickly come up with a way to shorten the wires and strip the plastic coating? He could have asked — I would have had a suggestion — but men aren’t supposed to ask. There are numerous “How to Repair It” books around the house, all of which I purchased.

What if his access to the resources was reduced, not really knowing the books were there, since those were mine and not his. Unable to ask, because guys don’t ask. Not conscientious enough to really care about doing it right. “I put it back together, and it works, even though it is ugly and doesn’t look right. Good enough. And I don’t really like this vacuum anyhow, partially because I didn’t pick it out and partially because I just don’t like vacuuming (who does?), so maybe we should get a new one.”

I have an advantage of sorts in that I’m a female. I’m not supposed to know how to fix things. I know I can generally learn from a set of instructions, and so I provided myself with sets of instructions. I’m conscientious, which you might call anal-retentive if you are mad at me. If I am going to do a job, and I can do it right, I get stubborn and I will do it right. I’m experienced. I’ve been living alone and I’ve owned a house for over a decade. If something breaks, I’m the first line of defense for fixing it. I might not have started out as confident or competent, but it grows.

And as for the rest, it is one thing to have an attitude or opinion of really valuing communication in a relationship, but it is another thing to know how to do it. How would you learn when your parents never do such a thing? When your previous girlfriend made it impossible to do such a thing? How would you know how to deal with someone who tells you up-front what she needs and wants? Would that be a good thing or a threat? Maybe someone more confident would have been able to make more of it. But maybe this just wasn’t him. Not even when I was the one who was putting forth the effort and trying.

It’s that thing about responsibility. You can’t ever really give someone responsibility. The other person has to take it. You can give all you want, but if the other person doesn’t take, it doesn’t matter.

“What else could I have done,” is the question I am always asking myself. I don’t have an answer, and I don’t think I ever will. A relationship, a good relationship, requires two capable, responsible, willing, and invested partners. I am not sure I had that. I am pretty sure of my own investment, even though there were times I had a hard time holding it together. I know what I was willing to do. The one thing I saw clearly at the end was that if it was going to get better, he had to make the move, to make the commitment toward that happening. It wasn’t there. I think it had been missing in all the earlier conversations we’d had. Maybe it wasn’t neglect. Maybe it wasn’t not caring. Maybe it was just not knowing how or not being confident enough to try.

But once again, here we are. There it is. It is my job to make peace with this. I hope that I am; I hope you can see I am trying; one slow step at a time.

1. For more information on this, I read Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow. For a discussion on experienced vs. remembered well-being see page 4 of this NYTimes article for a discussion on duration-neglect and the peak-end rule.

Picking Green Beans

Green beans

Green beans

Picking Green Beans.
Wow, a lot! From this plot I threw together back in August.
In Texas there are two growing seasons,
Spring and Fall, with everything dying off in the heat of summer.
It is trite but true that hope plants a garden.
Hope looks to some reward in the future,
some uncertainty and tries anyhow.

Recent years have been a long, hot, dry summer,
and parts of my heart and hope feel withered, barren and dead.
Pain and despair are familiar companions.
Do I cling to them, keeping them near, fearing to be alone?
Or is everything that has happened happenstance?
Probably a mixture of both; we work to make our own fate,
but fortune intervenes, sometimes for us, sometimes against.
And there are long runs of good luck and bad luck.

May the good luck not go to your head,
not make you think that you are the deserving, the special,
the one who cared the most and worked the hardest.
For surely you did care much and work hard,
but fortune helps.
Those who didn’t succeed may have cared just as much or more,
tried just as hard or more, only to see their hopes crumble.
If you succeed, nurture compassion.

May the bad luck not go to your heart,
not throw you into despair or the feeling of worthlessness.
Take stock, by all means, of how you got here.
But do not blame yourself for mistakes,
not even if they are truly yours. Accept.
Forgive. Correct. And keep going.
Try to find the strength to hope for a change in fortune.
Bad luck must eventually turn, right?
If only you can stay in the game. But sometimes it doesn’t
turn fast enough, and we have to accept the aftermath.

Our gift is compassion, and our challenge is to apply it to ourselves.

This green day, this blue sky, the sun warm on my shoulders,
and a breeze caresses my skin. Green beans for dinner soon,
because hope planted a garden and won this time.
Breathe in this temperate moment.
Try to bring it to the hot to the cold
to the hurting place inside.

Turbulent Days and Gratitude Exercises

Trying to keep a positive attitude under stress is definitely not very easy.

I’m trying to think of something wise to say, and mostly I just want to complain and stress. Neither of which is going to do me or anyone else any good.


One thing that sometimes helps is a gratitude exercise. Which is, to simply list some good things in your life that you are grateful for. I don’t really think this is going to calm me down or make me feel better, but it won’t make me feel worse. And it helps reinforce the brain pattern of focussing on the positive.

  1. I am grateful for a social ride tonight, overcast and cooler weather (but still plenty hot), and making it okay on my commuter bike.
  2. I am grateful that my classes are going well, and that I am providing an appropriate level of challenge for my honors students.
  3. I am grateful that my paper is fixable, even if I am stuck right now on what to do with it. I will try again tomorrow. It will be published.
  4. I am grateful that I sometimes take interesting pictures.
  5. I am grateful that I get to take so many pictures. Grateful for digital cameras and “what the heck” and somewhere to post them.
  6. I am grateful for books. Sometimes when everything else feels bad, I can lose myself in a good one. Most recently deeply enjoyed book was Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue, a follow up to Graceling. I am looking forward to reading her middle book, Fire, when the library gets it for me.
  7. I am grateful that I have good people around me who will help me get my issue resolved, even if I don’t completely trust the higher-ups involved.
  8. And I am grateful that I can set a limit and stick to it. I can walk out if there isn’t a better option.
  9. I am grateful for good friends and good food.
  10. I am grateful that the six-legged creatures have remained outside today.
  11. I am grateful for anxiety medication, and refills of such. It was a 3 dose day today (4th coming before bed.)
  12. I am grateful to make a blog post.

That’s enough for today.

Cleaning up messes

The refrigerator gave up the ghost on Sunday. Today it is finally emptied out, although the mess is not completely gone. A few things in a cooler. Should I toss, or are they still cold enough today? Things on the countertops. Should be emptied and tossed. I won’t have a new fridge until the middle of next week. One step at a time. I can get through this.

Projects were originally due today for my class. I gave everyone an extension to Saturday at midnight, since I know I won’t look at them before then. Even with weekly due dates for progress on the projects, some students are far behind. This frustrates me a lot. They will be miserable trying to get finished up. Some ask, “can you look things over tomorrow?” Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t have a lot of time tomorrow. I will try to look quickly for you if I have time, but that is all I can do.

I’ll be glad when this is all over. Days like today I wonder why I do projects, especially a long project. It would be easier not to, but the learning experience of doing is profound. And there you have it.

Good things today:

  • Lunch with my Goldwater Scholar and a friend of his who I taught a few semesters ago.
  • A visit from a friend who was in my building.
  • The Honor Council Banquet and heading out there with two colleagues.
  • Being able to give a positive report on a student who had many troubles last semester.
  • Some students doing some real thinking and interesting work on projects.
  • I looked awesome and professional in my Hepburn pants, wrinkle free shirt, and jacket today.
  • The ballot on instructional titles passed the tenure track faculty. I could be an instructional assistant professor next semester.

Rats, foiled again!

Last spring break we wanted to go to the Texas Geocaching Challenge. The weather turned cold and rainy, and we bailed. This spring break the weather is again predicting cold and rainy, and we are bailing out on a trip to Tyler State Park. We might go later in the week when the weather clears up. And stay in a motel where we won’t care if it is rainy and cold. Pfui.

Maybe it is for the best. Last night we both started thinking about our work and our taxes. When the hell am I going to find time to file my taxes? Tomorrow when the weather is bad, that’s when.

Today I ran across this article: The Professor, the Bikini Model and the Suitcase Full of Trouble. It made me laugh because I’ve run across this ego-bound behavior before, as, I think, do all single women in their 30s. The pass from the 60-something (and frequently married) man, often successful in his career, who thinks that you are going to just fall all over yourself for his attention. To whom I want to comment, “a 30 year age gap is a big gap, guys.” Let’s not even get into the married-to-someone-else issue. The men just don’t understand this; they are aghast to hear no for an answer.

Relationships with a big age difference can work, I’m a fair amount older than my partner. (But not 30 years older!) It’s the arrogance here that chafes/amuses me. At least the guy in the NY Times story was divorced already.