Offering help

Pam was here this morning and she wanted to be helpful. She’s a kind soul and she likes being helpful. We ran into a problem I have in a lot of settings. I don’t know if this will turn into a real post or just some blathering.

The older I get the more I feel… not tenuous about my connection to language but I recognize my failures more immediately and they feel bigger than they used to feel. If I start a sentence and realize mid-way that it won’t be effective then I start feeling paranoia, anxiety, distress and my ability to talk in a coherent way rapidly plummets.

Pam asked me, “But don’t you like telling people how to do things?” I do! I love love love having my bossy pants on. But I like having my bossy pants on when I have had time to sit and think and prepare and get my ducks in a row before the person-who-needs-bossing is present.

I feel my failures to communicate well a lot more than I used to. I feel ashamed of myself and stupid and like a failure. I used to think that other people were stupid and they just couldn’t understand. Now I think that I have failed to communicate because I am too stupid. Then I get really mad. Then my tone of voice goes to shit.

It doesn’t work the same way with kids and I’m trying to figure out why. I suspect that part of it is–I don’t bother trying to “save face” with kids. If I can’t do something they won’t get mad at me–they can’t do it either. If I can’t find the right words to explain something they aren’t going to get mad, they don’t know the words either.

I love children more with every year that goes by.

So today I was trying to make a gluten free, dairy free apple pie. To the best of my knowledge I have only made one or two pies before and I don’t make crust. I buy crust. Today I had to make crust. And I can’t use canned fillings right now so I had to do the whole fucker from scratch.

I am not good at cooking. It takes a disproportionately high percentage of my brain to do it right and that causes me distress. It means I have to turn off many tracks I’m normally running. It makes me feel trapped and stupid and like I can’t do fucking anything right. Objectively I mostly understand that it is false–I make good things at least sometimes and passable stuff most of the time. But this is the crazy-thinking I’m talking about.

Cooking is hard for me for no reason I can really pin down. Yeah I grew up in poverty not seeing cooking, but a lot of things are in that camp and I don’t scream at people who talk to me while I do those other things.

Cooking takes so much thinking for me. I read and reread the recipe many dozens of times and I still do something wrong, basically every time. I’m a lazy bastard and I skim most things and it gets me through life. Cooking proves that my reading skills aren’t what I think they are. That hurts.

Luckily Noah is willing to do most of the cooking.

With kids I say, “I can guide your hand through the process I’m using but I can’t explain it. You have to feel it.” With adults I don’t want to fucking touch them and I can’t find the words and I feel so upset with myself.

Also: it is weird to me when and where and why I accept touch from people. There are people I grow to feel close to and I generally like hugging them. The people who really prove they love me are people who walk up to me and ask for a hug. That’s a big fucking deal. YAY FOR LETTING ME HAVE PERMISSION TO DECIDE WHO TOUCHES ME!!!!!

But I get into a lot of situations where people think it is totally kosher to just start touching me. Most of the time this happens with women of color. I think I have more hostility with white women and they notice and don’t lean in without solicitation. But I’m touched just about every week by a woman of color. Often they hug me, without asking. I freeze, try to consciously insure that I don’t hurt them, and try to breathe deeply. It is a shock every time even though it happens all the god damn time. It is rarely men but it does happen once in a while.

Usually this happens after a conversation that causes the person to feel emotionally close to me. They want to touch me to cement that bond. I feel like they don’t fucking know me at all and why in the fuck are you touching me? Very rarely do I respond with hostility any more. Sometimes I pull back, but I try to do it without comment. Strained smile sort of thing. More often I make the conscious decision to give them a hug because clearly they need one even though I don’t want to be hugged.

I’m not a martyr. But I do think that most people in the world have a touch deficit they don’t know what to do with. I also feel like I am very blessed to get a surfeit of touch in my life from people who love me more than life itself so I can pass some along. I needed hugs badly in my childhood and I didn’t get them. I understand why people would interpret my verbal sharing as a sign of bonding. I understand why people want to hug when they feel bonding.

But man this shit is complicated.

I feel like having people show up and “want to help” is sort of similar to how I treat the touching. People want to help because they want to feel helpful and they usually need a lot of direction and assistance and basically the make the work harder.

I would like to take this moment to stop and say that there are big exceptions to this problem. And when I run into genuinely competent people I tend to want to fall at their feet and worship them. When I remodeled my garage I had help from such friends. It was one of the most wonderful projects I’ve ever done. At the time I cried and angsted and fussed like I do. In retrospect what I remember is that a whole bunch of people showed up and said, “Tell me where you want me” and with the barest guidance they produced results that were often better than what I could have described. Friends with many years experience doing exactly that type of work showed up. It was like having a bunch of mentors show up at my house to guide me through the process. That feels like magic. Usually this isn’t how it works.

I don’t think that most of my friends are incompetent. I feel like most of my friends are smart enough to notice that I am picky as fuck and I have a habit of flying off the handle when people do things in a way that doesn’t follow my weird, hard to explain preferences.

Jesus fuck, why do you people spend time with me?

A few blessed times in my life friends with expert knowledge have told me, “You have ____ problem and it falls into my area. I’ll be at your house on Saturday to fix it because it is bugging me.” Err, that’s why I clean my friends houses. Exactly why. Because it bugs me. Well, sorta. It bugs me to sit in a mess and not do anything. I have horrible anxiety if I sit idle in a messy room. There is clearly work to be done. Get off your ass. (To balance the equation–I almost never dust and a lot of my house gets dirty and I don’t care that much. Good thing Noah notices filth! I notice clutter.)

I don’t know how to explain quickly, when I feel anxious, “It is nice of you to offer help but explaining how to help would take me approximately 2.5 times as much work as doing it myself so just go away.”

Part of it should probably include, “I am reading the directions and following them. I am at step #. If you can just keep going from there on the directions you can help. If you need help or instruction then no.”

I don’t know how to talk to people very well. I am such an asshole.

I take comfort when Pam tells me she comes over here because people are way more nice than at her house. It makes me feel like I might be over-stating how bad I am. She says that even though she is my screaming-at-person-of-the-month. God I’m sorry.

One of the moms in the home schooling group is super woo woo and she drove to my house yesterday with woo medicine for me. Because she was really worried about me at the park. The only “permission” she really asked for was my address and to know when I might be home so she could hug me at the same time.

I like that and I don’t. It is very hard for me to let people love me or help me. I want to be so mean. I want to drive them away before I get attached and they leave anyway. At the same time, I am not doing well health wise. It was really kind of her. She believes  in her woo and she wants to share it with me. It won’t hurt me.

I’m taking the pills and smelling the oils and all the shit. I should go outside and do the moxa acupuncture thing too. All the woo!

But you know what? Despite my mouth still hurting I feel a bit better today. I actually suspect the Pedialyte is partially to credit with me feeling better. I feel noticeably better after each liter I drink. I feel like a wilted plant that gets water. I go from feeling weak and nearly unable to stand to feeling like I could do something–nothing ambitious like exercise, but something.

And I had diarrhea long enough to give a great stool sample to Kaiser and my bowels have mostly resettled. The chick I saw on Tuesday was really adamant that I have to keep dairy and wheat out of my diet for three months. I am mostly willing to follow this. I am adding raw milk to my tea because the other faux milks taste gross in the tea (I’ve tried) and the whole tea-drinking-ritual is a big part of my self-care. No, herbal tea doesn’t cut it. I drink decaf Earl Grey and that’s that. (Ok, I like peppermint too. But it’s not a great breakfast tea.) But I feel like if I’m drinking 2ish ounces of raw milk every few days that is as down-to-little/nothing as I can live with for many months. I think I can settle into gluten and dairy free if eggs and corn are reintroduced. They have been. No diarrhea so I’m going to take eggs off the no list. I’ve started eating them again with a vengeance (I missed eggs.)

You know…. I introduced a much broader diet that is still tightly controlled for metrics like organic/pasture raised/raw and I feel a lot better than I did when we were eating out more and I was eating lots of dairy and wheat. But I still don’t know for sure if either of them are causing the problems because clearly I can have at least some of both and poop because it has been happening.

Stress is pretty clearly the biggest problem.

That is part of why I’m saying “I’m keeping black tea with raw milk” because I really do that as self care. I think about Jenny and Sarah and Laura and Denise and Mo and Lisa and Julie and Julia and Marisa and Angela and Paula and Erin and and and and…. Drinking tea is when I stop and do my emotional check in with women I love. Who I think about rotates through an enormous list. I could not begin to name them all here. I am very blessed to have lots of women in my life who deserve a lot of love. And I’ve tried it with milk substitutes and I spend the whole time I’m drinking thinking poisonous thoughts about how gross the shit in my mouth is. It is not self care.

I’m ok with giving up cutting, promiscuity, drugs, alcohol, and junk food. I want to keep my fucking tea with milk. God fucking damnit to hell. I want to sit and think about the women I love. It is better than meditating.

But back to help. I am not good at accepting help. I want help. I need help. But I suck at accepting it. I’m not nice. I’m not a good person to help. It probably seems like a waste of time because I’m not very grateful. My experience is that the most needful people are the least grateful. They fucking hate you for helping them. It is like you insulted them. People who don’t NEED the help can be very grateful. Life kind of sucks.

I am going to interview some babysitters tomorrow. Oh man. I’m nervous. I’m not very good at this sort of thing. Being upper middle class (you know… having employees…) is a whole skill set I didn’t grow up with.

I don’t know how to be the person I’m growing up to be. I’m not gracious. I want to say motherfucker in almost every sentence but I’m trying hard to cuss less because Shanna lecturing me is getting really fucking annoying. I have not been willing to care about anyone else’s feelings on this matter. Shanna is a god damn master manipulator. “Mom! I’m going to get in trouble if I say that and if you keep SAYING IT then I THINK ABOUT IT and I’m going to SAY IT. STOP.”

That kid.

See why I can’t give up the tea right now? There are limits. I’m not even supposed to cuss as I walk around my house any more.

There are huge down sides to having children who think they are allowed to be as bossy as an adult. And yet her harping on me is going to be good for me in the long run. It was a real problem that I couldn’t control my swearing when I was teaching. I swore a lot. Eventually I was going to get in trouble. I played R rated music in class about incestuous rape and murder. (It was a unit on tragedy. One kid said that there were no modern tragedies–that the genre was older. Another kid came in after school and played me this song and said “Hey Archer–give it a serious listen. Don’t get distracted by the swearing. Tragedy isn’t dead.” So I played it for the rest of my students as a modern example of the genre and assigned them all writing assignments about the feelings they had after hearing that song. It was *intense*. One mom called in to ask what in the hell I was doing and I explained in detail. She sounded… shocked… but totally went with it when I was done tying it in to Oedipus Rex and Shakespeare and Freud and… I can argue well sometimes.)

I should stop typing and go serve pie. Gluten and dairy free pie. Mmmmm. (I have to say: Noah did great with a gluten and dairy free meal. And now we have enough leftovers for a week. And I can eat all of it.)