Moving Day -- PLEASE NOTE!

Hello to all who have followed Teh Portly Dyke here over the last three years.

This post is to let you know that I've moved/consolidated my two blogs -- This is the Thing and Teh Portly Dyke, into one, and will now blog exclusively in one place -- at my new space . . . .

Madwoman at Play|Teh Blog

There, you can find all the old posts from TiTT and Portly Dyke, plus all the old comments, and new stuff, too, like archives of my Madwoman At Play video shows.

If you've commented at this blog, you may have to make an initial comment at the new place that I can approve -- once I've approved your first comment, subsequent comments should go through immediately.

Comments here at Teh Portly Dyke are now closed on all posts, but all the old comments are available, and comment threads are open at Madwoman, so if you find something here you want to comment on, simply search the post title at MWaP|Teh Blog, and drop your comment there!

Come on over and join me! I've started the new blog on January 1, 2011 -- 1/1/11, baby!

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:10 PM 0 comments Links to this post  

Questing for Questions

OK -- so I've kicked off a new feature at my tri-weekly ustream show MadWoman at Play -- it's called "Ask the MadWoman", and will be featured during Sunday evening shows.

The problem is: I need people to ASK me something.

It can be anything -- anything at all -- whimsical, serious, personal, global, whatever.

If you ask it here in comments, I'll probably answer it on the show (no guarantees, just strong probability) -- if you let me know that you want your name included when I read/answer your question on MWaP, I'll include it -- otherwise, I'll keep you anonymous.

Go ahead! Ask me! Then tune in on Sunday nights at http://www.madwomanatplay.com to see if I answer!

Posted byPortlyDyke at 12:41 PM 11 comments Links to this post  

No New MWaP Today

If you've been watching my new ustream show (Madwoman at Play), and you're on one of the many email lists that gives notices about the show, you'll know I'm not broadcasting tonight -- but you can view the last show right here! Click the small play button in the control bar if you want to view on this page -- NOT the big button in the screen (which will take you to my ustream recorded video page).

Streaming live video by Ustream
If you haven't been keeping up with the show, click the big button to see archived shows on the recorded video page.

Click HERE to find out how to follow the show and get email, facebook, twitter, or myspace announcements about MWaP.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 4:00 PM 0 comments Links to this post  

Here We Go!!!!!

I used to have a hair-dresser who I would allow to do all kinds of weird-ass things with my hair.

She loved me because I wasn't averse to ridiculous experimentation, and every time she started something really wild with me (I sported a leopard-spot crew-cut before anyone even knew what to call it), she would begin by running her hands through my locks and saying: "OK! Here We GO!"

In precisely that spirit, tonight I'm kicking off my new thrice-weekly Ustream show -- called MadWoman At Play.



I have no clear idea what the result will be, but I know what my intention is:

To express myself fully in a way that moves me (and everyone who wants to come along) to the world I want to live in.

I've been talking to Melissa McEwan about this on the phone so long she probably thought I was NEVER going to do it, but -- tonight's the night.

(A note for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers -- I'm going to be getting captions up as soon as possible after the live broadcasts -- the video above is close-captioned, but Ustream hasn't mastered that yet, so captions and/or transcripts will follow the live broadcasts a few days later, when I post recorded shows on Youtube.)

If you visit the MW@P homepage, you can find links to follow the show on Ustream, Facebook, Twitter, and/or Myspace.

Hey! Come on over tonight and see me being weird-ass!

(If you can't make the live broadcast at 5 pm PDT, you'll still be able to watch the last recorded show until the next live broadcast.)

Posted byPortlyDyke at 9:00 AM 0 comments Links to this post  

Watch Your Mouth Part 3: Use Your Big-Kid Thesaurus

In the course of discoursing on the web, I've witnessed and participated in many conversations about semantics and language.

I've seen discussions about whether the word "niggardly" is racist or not, whether or not the origin of the phrase"rule of thumb" refers to domestic violence, and whether the term "lame" has entered common usage to the extent that people who have difficulty walking should just stop being offended and shut up about it, already.

Now, I know that the word "niggardly" is not etymologically derived from a racial slur, but so what? If my listener/reader doesn't know this, do I really want to derail from whatever topic it is I'm addressing by pressing that debate, just so I can sound like a Dickens character?

Which leads me to the most complex question on this issue (for me, at least): Why am I choosing the words I'm choosing?

Am I choosing certain words and phrases because I think they will help me establish my own identity?

The choice of the handle PortlyDyke, for example, is rich with reclamation for me, but also serves as a handy auto-filter -- if people are offended or put off by my screen name at first read, I can guess that they're probably going to be offended by a lot of things I say, and if they chuckle upon reading or hearing it (which happens a lot) I figure they're probably going to appreciate my sense of humor.

Am I choosing language that helps me bridge a gap?

As a 53-year-old who interacts with online communities which are often composed of much younger people, I find that I often refrain from using idioms that "date" me. When I find myself communicating with someone who is relatively new to feminist thought, I may not use phrases that are commonly used in Feminism 301 conversations. If I'm talking to my 83-year-old mother about my spiritual views (which is rare, I grant you, but it happens from time to time), I tend to use phrases that are somewhere between her notion of the Big White Guy in the sky and my ideas about a Vast Organizing Consciousness.

Am I choosing idioms because I think they are going to "buy" me some kind of acceptance?

This is a slippery edge for me, really -- because at the same time that I'm dropping some terms that would peg me for an old fogie, I might also slip in some words and phrases so that I can sound "hep", even if I don't use these in my day-to-day speech (and see, that right there is an example of an old-fogie word -- "hep" -- which is a dead giveaway). This behavior, by the way, can go horridly, horridly wrong (like when your Dad tries to sound cool in front of your friends).

Also, in the same moment that I'm searching for words that Mom can relate to, I might be filing off the edges of my own belief system, in the hope that my world-view would be more accepted by my family. Which sucks.

Sadly, these attempts to purchase acceptance inauthentically rarely really work in the long run. An example I'd point to is Rachel Maddow. There are many things about her show that I absolutely adore -- the way she opens interviews with potentially combative people by asking them if she's gotten the fact right in her intro, the general fastidiousness of her civility toward them when debating even the most difficult issues, etc., -- but there is one thing I hate: Her continuing use of the words "lame" and "lame-itude" as an idiom for "bad". I even wrote to her about it (gently, civilly).

At first, I thought my reaction to her use of this term was "just" being offended by the ablism demonstrated (which would have been enough) -- but I realized later that another thing that grated on me was that she seemed to me to be using this able-ist term in order to sound cool. There is just something about the emphasis she uses when she says it that rings to me of the 11th-grader who's trying to get in with the popular kids. It seems out of place in the midst of her usual Rhodes-Scholar presentation, and it jars the hell out of me every single time. I want to say to her: "Rachel, you're the first out news-lesbian headlining her own show on a major network. You're cool enough already."

I think it's important for me to know why I'm speaking or writing as I am. I think it's important for me to be clear about my intention when I communicate.

For me, the only reason to post something like this to a blog is to communicate and connect with other people, with the intention of raising their consciousness (and my own, which happens both during the writing process and subsequent discussion in comments), and I don't think I'm going to be very effective at that if I am leaning on idioms that a) have underlying meaning that I don't support, b) are inserted to somehow buff up my image rather than communicate my point, or c) I already know are likely to offend people that I want to communicate and connect with.

I have found, in every single case where I have used an offensive word or phrase, or undermined my own communication by employing an idiom which was rooted in the language of oppression -- let me repeat -- I have found in every single case that there were other words available.

Other words that not only didn't alienate my intended audience, but which usually spoke my point more eloquently.

To those who would argue that maintaining this level of consciousness about language is an onerous burden laid upon them by the evils of political-correctness, I will simply say:

There are over 200,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary -- many of them languishing in the linguistic lethargy of left-behind lingo. If you really don't care who you offend, or how much you sabotage your own communication in the process of maintaining your "with it" factor, you might actually sound edgier if you use something like "That's so absolutely inverted" instead of "That's so gay" -- because never forget -- the really cool kids don't repeat the offensive slurs -- they invent them.

For those of you who find that the effort toward clear, responsible communication is a yoke which does not chafe you, remember -- there is no shame in visiting Thesaurus.com.

In other words, there are always other words.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:00 AM 4 comments Links to this post  

Watch Your Mouth - Part 2: Reappropriation and Co-option

I find idiomatic speech and shared lexicon endlessly fascinating -- never more so than when I study a sub-culture of which I am a proud member: The Gay.

I can't tell you the number of times I've stumbled on some online conversation where homophobes are moaning about how we nasty Queers have "hijacked" a perfectly nice word that used to mean "happy, merry" (happy, Mary?), and "why can't they just be called what they are -- homosexuals!".

Which is very amusing to me, because the term "homosexual" was coined in the late 1800s, and first used in an English text in 1897 -- at around the same time that queers were reclaiming the word "gay" in reference to themselves ("gay" was originally used idiomatically to indicate anything "immoral", but especially in terms of sexuality and promiscuity -- for example: a "gay house" was a brothel). Gay was used commonly within the community of self-identified homosexuals by the 1920s, and there's evidence that it was used as early as the late 1860s.

So which came first, Teh Homo or Teh Gay?

Doesn't matter, AFAIC -- what matters to me is how people being identified with a word want to be identified. Me? I prefer "queer" as a general term for the community I consider myself a part of, but I've had friends and lovers who hated this term -- they preferred "gay", or "LGBTQ" as a descriptor. My very best friend (my Beloved), doesn't like any of them, and doesn't want her sexuality labeled at all.

*Ahem* I shall henceforth trot myself back over to the focus of this post.

I think it's clear that by now, the word Gay has been reclaimed successfully by the queer community -- so much so, in fact, that it's unlikely that an author writing in English would use it without being aware that various layers of meaning might be read into it.

On the downside, it's been so successfully claimed that it can once again be used as a pejorative by virtue of being associated with queers ("That's so gay.") *sigh*

"Dyke" is another word that's been reclaimed (see Dyke, sub-category Portly), as is "queer", although the re-appropriation of these terms carries a certain level of controversy that is similar to (but, perhaps, milder than) the split in feminist communities over the word "bitch".

I know a number of lesbians who would be absolutely offended if I called them a dyke -- even in private, or in the exclusive company of other lesbians. I also know lesbians who would be offended if I referred to them as "gay women", and gay women who would be put off if I called them lesbians.

So what's a dyke to do?

Well, for one thing, comprehend and respect this fact: It is vitally important that oppressed persons retain the agency to identify themselves.

Labeling a minority, or any oppressed class, is big tool in the oppressor's tool-kit. That's why there is such a vast array of slurs applied to people who are disenfranchised based on their sex, color, race, creed, orientation, disability, national origin, etc..

When a member of a privileged class uses these terms, they are saying, in essence: "I own the culture, and I get to define you." It is an attempt to exercise power, whether conscious or unconscious.

When a member of a non-privileged class re-appropriates the term, they are saying: "No, you do not define me."

Tends to piss them off (the privileged labelers, that is).

Here's a true-story example: I was walking down the street holding hands with my girlfriend, and the guy we'd just passed said (just loud enough for us to hear): "Fucking dykes."

I turned around and said, in my cheeriest voice: "Congratulations, Sir! -- you have correctly identified the dykes -- but I will have to remove points from you for mis-identifying our current activity."

He was absolutely aghast.

I had not only refused to passively accept his right to label me pejoratively -- I had had the audacity to actually confront him for attempting to "power-over" me.

In his mind, the way this was supposed to work was that I would get scared, or drop my girlfriend's hand, or feel ashamed, or Maude knows what -- however he thought it was going to play out, clearly it did not include me engaging him directly and proudly claiming the term he sought to denigrate me with.

So, what does all this have to do with Part 1?

Let's say a person of privilege uses a term or idiom (perhaps with no intent to offend at all) and a member of the non-privileged class says that it is offensive to them, and the privileged speaker responds with something like: "That term has come into common use and isn't offensive anymore".

I believe that they are enforcing their privilege.

I believe that they are reiterating the following message (usually, completely unconsciously):

"I have the power. I own the language. Your experience does not count, and the fact that you are offended is of no consequence, because you have no power."

Which is fine, if you aspire to be a privilege-wielding butt-hole.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:37 AM 1 comments Links to this post  

Watch Your Mouth - Part 1: Explain Yourself

Part 1 of An Ongoing Series

Recently, I participated in a conversation about certain words and phrases and when they do (or whether they can) become used as common vernacular to the extent that they lose any derogatory or degrading meaning inherent in their origins.

It isn't particularly important what the exact phrase being discussed was at this point, but it is a subject I see come up frequently, especially on blogs where people are making an effort to use language responsibly, inclusively, and non-oppressively.

So, I'm going to offer up what I use as my general guideline (aka "rule of thumb" -- see more about that in part 3 of this series, arriving in a few days) when thinking about what language I will use when communicating with others, especially on the internet.

I'll start with a wee story: A number of years ago, when I was first studying Hebrew, I would occasionally send an email in Ivrit to a friend in Israel. I was learning formal Hebrew, so to him, I'm sure my emails read as if I was a real stuffed shirt (fortunately, he knows me better than that). He would tease me a bit about my proper language and was infinitely good-natured and supportive when he corrected some of my word choices to a better reflection of day-to-day speech.

One day, though, I sent him an email about Halloween, and I indicated that many children had come to my door "begging for candy". He wrote back and warned me with uncharacteristic sternness that the word I had chosen for "begging" would be offensive to many native Hebrew speakers in this context, even if I was just being hyperbolic about the Trick or Treat traditional threat/demand chant of costumed children on a pagan-esque holiday.

I asked him to explain this to me, and he said that the word would imply, in Israeli culture, a certain level of poverty and powerlessness so abject that it would not be a joking matter, especially when referring to children.

He went on to talk about the complexity of attitudes re: begging and charity in Jewish and Israeli culture, and how using such a word in this context might even subtly indict the community referred to of failing in their responsibility to care for their children.

This experience was very enlightening to me. My friend's explanation took some time -- he had to provide me with history and context in order for me to fully comprehend, as someone outside both the culture and the language, why one word next to "Beg" in my Hebrew dictionary implied wretchedness and cultural failure, and another simply meant "asking emphatically".

Since then, I've used this as a tool for determining whether a commonly-used idiom can be successfully detached from any oppressive history or present-day offensiveness.

This is how I use the tool:

(Note: In this example, I'm going to use a fairly innocuous phrase, rather than something as highly-charged as "that's so gay", or "shuck and jive" or "bitch", but this technique can be applied to pretty much any phrase that some people receive as offensive because it's racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ablist, etc., while other people argue that commonality of use has rendered inert any roots in racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ablism, etc..)

I'm going to use the phrase "Pardon My French".

Let's imagine that I am conversing with a person who is just learning English, has a fairly good word-by-word vocabulary, but who knows nothing about France except that it's a country, and nothing much about the culture of any country in which this idiom is used.

I say: "Damn this fucking pickle jar lid! -- Oh, pardon my French."

And they say, "Hmmm. Why are you wishing to send to hell the lid of a jar? And what do the French have to do with it?"

First of all, I would have to explain to this person what I mean by "damn this ___" (that what I really mean is definition 5 in the OED -- an expression of frustration).

If they ask (and why wouldn't they?) how a word whose first meaning is "be condemned by God to eternal punishment in hell" came to mean that I'm annoyed, there might be conversation about Judeo-Christian attitudes, and why some words which are considered "bad" come into use only in moments of great frustration. I might also need to relate this to any words considered to be "cussing" in the speaker's own language (which might involve the etymology of the word "cuss").

However, let's assume, for the moment, that the listener understands the concept of cursing, but is scrambling to comprehend the Gallic influence on my U.S. potty-mouth.

I would need to explain to this person a least a little bit my culture's historical attitudes and stereotypes about residents of the country of France, who are assumed to be libertine from birth, and why some members of other countries attempt to excuse their "salty" language by claiming that they are just speaking French (and then, of course, I'd have to explain why "salty" language has nothing to do with sodium chloride), and I'd probably need to put in some stuff about why some people in our culture think that using the word "damn" in any context is bad/wrong, and I'd probably touch on why they are likely to hear the word damn on broadcast television at some hours, but never the word "fuck", even though they are both "cussing". Phew!

The point is -- I consider that if I can't explain an idiom without also describing a system of bias or discrimination or oppression that gave rise to it -- the term is fundamentally discriminatory and/or oppressive.

And this is "just" Pardon my French! -- something I doubt most people think of as demonstrating bias (although I think it does) -- and the residents of France are not really all that disenfranchised as a group. Think about how the energy of oppression in these casually-expressed idioms are amplified when they involve groups and individuals who are more deeply other-ized.

You may be breathing an exasperated sigh at this moment and saying to yourself: "Oh PortlyDyke, do I have to always be thinking about every single word and phrase I use?"

No. You don't have to do anything.

However, in the text-saturated environment of the blogosphere, words and phrases are often the only tools we have -- and ostensibly, we are here to use those words and phrases to communicate to, and connect with, other people.

So, if there are words and phrases that I use, but haven't actually thought about -- idioms that may be so common that I don't have a clue about their etymology, but which I find are undeniably rooted in discrimination and oppression when I use the "explain it to a non-native speaker" exercise above (such as the phrase: "I got gypped" -- a slur against Romani people that I'm often surprised people don't know about) -- if I continue to use these words and people are offended by them and I say: "Hey, it's common usage! I didn't mean it like that" . . .

Well, if I do that, I think that what I'm really saying is:

"I want to use these phrases because they are an easy short-hand for me, and/or they make me sound hep, or edgy, or current -- and I want that more than I want to effectively communicate and connect with you."

Which, when I put it like that, sounds really shitty of me.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:09 AM 1 comments Links to this post  

Cat Doings

OK, so Ms. Sovereign McHammerson is not much of a hunter (which we are happy about, as one of our household pleasures is bird-watching). Turns out being a cat so blazingly white that photographers are hard-pressed to even snap you in correct exposure is also not the greatest advantage as a predator (unless we move to Antarctica).



So, a couple of weeks ago, I'm sitting on the side porch, and see this, out by our raspberry patch:



You might not be able to tell from the photo, but Sovereign and the squirrel are like, nine inches apart. (It was hard for me to get a decent shot, because every time I came out, the squirrel would run away, but then would come right back, within inches of Sovereign, turn it's back on her, casually eat some of the sunflower seeds that had fallen from the bird-feeder, twitch its tail in her face, etc.)

This went on for a number of days. Sovereign showed interest, but no real hunting behavior -- usually she was in Kitteh Meatloaf position.

So, about the third time I see it, I decide to get the camcorder and shoot a little "Lions and Lambs Why Can't We All Just Get Along?" video, when this happened: (TW video below may increase adrenal activity in wild-life-lovers)


So, now I'm thinking that it will never be the same between them -- the squirrel has now learned that this big white fluff-ball would like to chow some sunflower-stuffed Sciurus griseus.

But no. The next day, I look out the kitchen window and see this:



Let me enhance that for you.



OK, bad photo, so I go out to get a better angle, and once again -- the squirrel runs away from me, not the cat.



I honestly believe they are just playing. Or the squirrel is messing with her mind. Or both.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:49 AM 0 comments Links to this post  

Landlord Approved

So, in mid-September, this kitty showed up in our yard.


At first, we figured someone new had moved into the neighborhood, and that she was just checking out the new neighbors, but she didn't seem to be going home.

We called the shelters, the vets, and checked all the "lost pet" ads we could find for our area. We even took out a "found pet" ad in the local newspaper, because we were just certain-sure that someone must be looking for this beautiful cat. We fed her and let her inside when she wanted to come in (she's quite the outdoorsy type, but was soon joining us on the bed every night), and we asked around to friends that we knew were looking for a new cat, because we really weren't sure we were ready for a new cat (Little passed away less than a year ago) -- plus we weren't really sure this kitty was "ours" (know what I mean?).

So, for about six weeks, we just hung around together. No one called from the shelter, or the vets, or the paper -- and we . . . . started falling in love. Because really?


How could we not? I mean -- really . . .


We stopped calling her just "White Kitty", and started calling her "Sovereign" (also "Hammy McHammerson", because she seems to vacillate between standing on her enormous gravitas and acting like a complete goofball).

We formally adopted her on Winter Solstice, and as of January 14, 2010, she is officially land-lord approved (we had a pet deposit that was quite specific about the pet it covered, but she is now formally covered by the Pet Rider in our lease).

So we are very glad to welcome Ms. Sovereign Please-Carry-Me-Around-the-House-in-A-Sling & Give-Me-A-Greenie to our briefly catless household.

I will be following up with some film of Hammy McHammerson and the Squirrel in a few days.

Kittehs!

Posted byPortlyDyke at 1:19 PM 3 comments Links to this post  

How To Accept An Apology

This is a companion piece to my infamous "How to Fuck Up" post -- because, just as surely as you will fuck up some day, it's certain that someone you know and interact with is likely to fuck up, too.

And really, since you're as likely to be on the "fuckup-ee" end of the fuck-up as you are to be on the "fuckup-er" end, it might be a good idea to get some practice accepting those apologies in the way you'd like others to accept yours. Dontcha think? Or dontcha?

I'm assuming that you've already read the other post, so you know all about what I consider a "real" apology. In this exercise, I'm going to assume that you've actually received a real apology (because if you haven't, then you haven't been really been apologized to, so there's nothing for you to accept).

(Note: This post is focused mostly on how accepting an apology bears on relationships with people and groups you actually care about having relationship with, but it may be more globally applicable -- I just haven't taken it there.)

There are two basic scenarios that I've experienced once I've received a real apology:

Scenario 1

  1. FuckUp-Er apologizes to me.
  2. I feel a rush of relaxation move through me, and usually, whatever stony guard I've built up during the fucked-up interaction seems to melt away -- usually immediately and for good.
  3. The slate feels clear and clean.
Scenario 2
  1. FuckUp-Er apologizes to me.
  2. I do not feel that rush of relaxation.
  3. In fact, sometimes, I feel even more irritated.
When Scenario #2 occurs, I find that the first thing I think is something like: "They didn't really apologize."

If I go back and check, though, and find that they did acknowledge, apologize, and amend, and I think they really did apologize -- I usually find that I have other stuff going on internally -- like
a) I don't think they are sincere, or
b) I don't trust that they are actually going to do something different in the future, or
c) I find that their apology seems not to cover the scope of what I'm pissed about

The fact is, if any of these things are true, I think the person who really has a problem here is me.

Here's why:

Let's say either a) I don't think the apology is sincere or b) I don't trust that they are actually going to do something different in the future.

Essentially, I am saying that the person is apologizing in bad faith -- and if I'm saying that, what does it say about the fact that I'm continuing to interact with that person?

I'm essentially admitting that I don't trust them -- so I think I need to dig into that and see what the source of my mistrust is.

Is there something that I've actually witnessed in this particular person's behavior (toward me or toward someone else) that makes me think that they don't mean what they say?

If I find that I believe that this individual person is unworthy of my trust, based on actually observations I've made of them -- then what the hell am I doing continuing to partner with them/work for them/read their blog/pretend that we're friends?

When I continue such interactions, knowing that I don't trust that person, I think that's my bad -- and it's likely that I'm going to feel pretty peevish about betraying myself in this way (hence, my escalating irritation).

Now, what if I examine the observations I've made of this particular person and discover that I don't think it's their individual actions that I don't trust? What if I find out that I'm defended and cautious because I've been screwed in the past by people who might be like them in some way?

Well, again, I think that's my problem.

I'm not saying that I'm "bad" for feeling cautious (for example, if I'm cautious around straight people in general). I'm not even saying that it's unwise -- Maude knows I've had my share of experiences with straight friends who make witless remarks that demonstrate their straight privilege.

I'm saying that the caution belongs to me -- it's mine.

It's quite possible that a situation could arise where a straight ally might make a gaff, then apologize quickly and quite sincerely, and my past experience could harden me to it -- but I try to be very aware when I hear my internal thought-process running along the lines of "Straight people -- you can't trust 'em!" -- because this is exactly the kind of broad-brush bias that I don't want to be painted with as a queer.

These days, if I find myself in a situation where I feel particularly surprised and shocked at the speech or action of someone I previously considered an ally, I try first to assume "friendly intent", and I'll go a long way to get to the bottom of what's going on if the other person's amenable to it, because I'm currently more interested in seeing if people will transform than deciding that they're all out to get me.

So, what happens if I actually do trust them, but c) I find that their apology seems not to cover the scope of what I'm pissed about?

If I find myself saying/writing things in the course of attempting to accept an apology like:

"Yes, you apologized, but there was this other time that you did (x/y/z) . . . ", then the truth is, I'm dealing with backlog.

Nasty, erosive, relationship-destroying backlog -- times where I didn't speak up when something bugged me, and then didn't speak up again, and again, and again -- and now there's this morass of feelings that I've got -- and yes, for sure, this one little apology for the thing we're dealing with now is not going to heal all that.

And guess what?

Once again, I think that's really my problem. I didn't speak up. I let things slide. The other person has absolutely no control over what I choose to do, so how in the world can they be responsible for my pent-up, stewing, brewing anger?

Yes -- "anger" (maybe even rage) -- not "mad". I think "mad" is a real emotion that happens in the moment, and that "anger" is the result of suppressing mad.

Mad is in the present. Mad is: "You're whistling, and it's bugging me."

Anger is: "You whistled yesterday, and the day before that, and NOW YOU'RE WHISTLING AGAIN!!!!!"

Anger is in the past.

Don't get me wrong -- I have no problem with feeling "mad", or even being "angry" -- I've just found it incredibly helpful to know what I'm actually feeling mad or being angry about.

See, the problem with anger backlog is that, once you have it, you're not really mad "at" that person anymore -- you're mad "at" yourself -- for not speaking up, for not putting a stop to it -- so it will not matter how many times they apologize to you, or in what manner -- because they're not who you're mad "at"/angry "with".

Here, Let Us Pause for A Brief Explanatory Break:

The scare-quotes around "at" (above) exist because I actually think it's sloppy emotional communication to say I'm mad "at" someone.

My emotion is entirely internal -- yes, it might have been stimulated by something someone else did, but the feeling still belongs to me.

If I direct my mad "at" someone -- try to use that energy to make them "wrong" and "bad" -- rather than directing toward action to rectify the speech, action, or event that's stimulating this essential response in me, my experience is usually that the "mad" just builds up, turns to anger, and toxifies me.

I believe that the purpose of "mad" is to motivate us to align things that are out of alignment in ourselves, our relationships, and the world. When mad is used correctly, it fuels change.

Mad can actually feel good, sometimes. It's a highly energetic emotion -- your blood gets pumping, your get off your ass and start talking, or writing, or taking action, or yelling -- think about the sensation of "Righteous Wrath" (which is probably actually "anger" anyway -- but I won't go off on that right now. I mean, I could -- but I won't).

My experience of "Righteous Wrath" is that it nearly always arises when I've been holding back/not speaking up/biting my tongue. I wait until the person does the thing that I've been mad about just one more time, in a way that I can absolutely, positively point to (usually with a trembling, pontifical index finger) and say "There! You see? You did it!" (And inside, a nasty little voice says: "Ah-ha! I've got them now!!!!!", and I ride, ride, ride the energy of my Righteous Wrath.)

That can be addictive, that energy -- the Red Bull of the emotional realm -- but let's be honest about how nutritious a steady diet of it is going to be for any relationship you actually want to keep.

/As-It-Turns-Out Not-So-Brief Explanatory Break

So, when you are presented with an apology that you think is genuine -- which includes the four As -- here's what to do:

If you feel that Scenario #1 rush of relaxation, rejoice in that fact that something in the world has gone awry and been brought back to balance. Tell the person who apologized that you accept their apology, and that you're ready to go forward with them to a new moment.

If, instead, you find that you experience symptoms of Scenario #2:
  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Tell the person that you really would like to accept their apology, but that something doesn't feel quite right to you. If you need it, ask them for a little time to discover what's going on for you.
  3. Examine whether you trust this person or not, based on your experience of them. Perhaps more importantly -- ask yourself if you want to trust them.
  4. If you don't trust them, stop having these interactions. You don't trust them. If you keep relating to them, I see (with my prodigious psychic powers) . . . . a train-wreck in your future.
  5. If you do trust the individual, but still feel unsettled, ask yourself whether this person belongs to a class of people that you generically mistrust, and think about whether/how that generic mistrust may be affecting you and your relationship with this individual.
  6. If trusting their sincerity and good will about future action is not the issue, but you find that you have backlog with them, accept their apology for this occurrence graciously, and then -- clean your shit up! if you want to have a relationship with them. Do this separately from the apology acceptance. Start with something like this: "When we were talking about what happened, I really felt and accepted your apology for what you did, but I noticed I had some lingering feelings. I realized that I haven't been honest with you -- I've been holding some shit back about things that have happened in the past. I'm sincerely sorry about that. I want to clear them up now."
Unless I ascend in the next five minutes, it's pretty likely I may make another mistake in this lifetime, or interact with someone who will make a mistake in this lifetime.

I like knowing how we might find our way back to grace.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 9:07 PM 3 comments Links to this post