character


I once knew a woman who was an echo chamber. She echoed things she’d heard other people say and pass it off as her own wisdom. I caught her at this several times (although I never confronted her with it). She once even echoed back something I’d said to her without remembering where she’d heard it from. She was also fond of spouting platitudes (another form of echo, really), and I took to calling her Platitude Woman to my friends. But this strategy worked, for the most part. She projected an image of competence and charm, even if it was only skin deep.

There had to be something more to her, I know there was something more to her, but she was so broken, so tragic-playing-at-I’m-fine, so holding herself together with bits of wire and cellophane tape, so wanting to be thought wise and whole and strong and charming that, it seems to me, she only had these echoes to sustain her.

Surely there had to be more.

Surely there were things in that years-long blank in her memory of her childhood that she sometimes talked to me about that made the hollow sound of other people’s thoughts and words preferable to anything genuine from her own psyche. She drove me crazy so much of the time with her terrifying need to talk about I-me-mine, turning every conversation no matter how far afield back to a discussion of herself and her family and the bad old days. She steadfastly refused therapy, saying she was scared of what she might find out.

I used to think it was my duty to listen to every person who needed to talk, to use my empathy in an attempt to rescue and to heal. This woman cured me (mostly) of that. I have, at least, learned that I have limits, that at a certain point I will damage myself if I persist in my savior complex. That, really, it is an insult to the needy person to think that I know best, that I can turn things around for them.

But it’s so easy to slip back into that fantasy of being able to fix people. I regularly wound up in the glide path of needy people who engaged my empathy. I was frequently told I was such a good listener. I suffered from the delusion that I could rescue people, help fix them. But it is a delusion. You can listen, you can help, point them in the direction of people who are trained to actually help, but ultimately people have to find the will to fix themselves. It’s not weakness of character that turns needy people away from that will to change. Some, like my echoing friend, are so broken it doesn’t even seem an option to them. Especially if that brokenness happened in childhood.

The echoing woman drained me dry—physically, emotionally, spiritually. I sat next to her at work every day for years and couldn’t escape those conversations. Some days as soon as my feet hit the door she started talking until finally I’d have to say, “I really need to get some work done” and turn my back on her. But I felt her staring at my back, willing me to turn around, needing me to listen. Some days I had to get up from my desk and take long walks around the building just to keep my sanity.

Then she injured her back, had surgery, followed by heavy duty pain medicines, developed a problem, was carried along at work by those of us who cared for until she was finally urged by management to consider retirement. Her job was an important part of her ego structure and it took a great deal of increasingly strong persuasion to get her to finally agree to it. The urging became another source of her victimization: she was doing a great job, anyone could see that, and the company was picking on her. Those of us who had actually been doing her work, even those of us who did not usually come down on the side of the company vs. the employee, tried to make it as easy as we could without feeding her sense of outraged victimization. It was not easy.

She had nothing left to anchor her at that point. I think, finally, she found relief from the echo chamber of trauma in her mind and soul by numbing them instead of dealing with them. I can’t judge her for that. What I heard of the parts of her childhood and young life that she did remember was pretty bad. Her mother was schizotypal in a time when that diagnosis wasn’t common, and, like my echoing friend, never got treatment. A brother and a sister were diagnosed, years later, and a third brother was frequently homeless and living on the margins. The burden of caring for them often fell on my echoing friend’s shoulders. Her brothers, who she’d fought so hard to take care of and shepherd through a heartless system, died within twenty-four hours of each other. The sister finally reconciled with her estranged son and he took over her care. Then came the drugs, and my echoing friend let go completely. She retreated into dreams, to a place where the harsh sounds were muted, where someone else could take over the burden of being wise and held together with wire and bits of cellophane. Where she could turn her face away from the world and slowly, peacefully slip into death.

Surely, there must have been something more. I still sometimes wish I could have fixed her, though she’s been gone years now. I hope she found healing on the other side of dreams, the other side of sweet oblivion.

But I’ll never know. Or, at least, not until I slip into the other side of my dreams.

 

 

 

 

I once wrote an essay about the mysteries of character. It involved someone I knew as a child, Dr. Raymond La Scola, who plummeted in a long, hard fall, and with my difficulty in reconciling the kind man I’d known with the man he became. His fall involved some notoriety and salacious bits so I occasionally hear from people who also knew him. People do periodic searches for him—which means, I guess, that I’m not the only person who is haunted, in a way, by Dr. La Scola. If you want to read those comments, both a mixture of positive and not at all positive, they can be found here.

Another one showed up yesterday and whenever one of these pops up it has me meditating all over again about the fragile fabric of memory and the frayed fabric of human character. I’ve lived long enough to know that nothing is black and white; there are far more than 50 shades of gray; that even the darkest of souls may show brief flashes of light; that no light is ever without specks of dark. But the mechanism controlling this remains the deepest mystery.

I also know that if we look deep enough, and with enough truth, into our own hearts and souls we will see the ragged ends of our stitchery. None of us are composed of wholecloth. We are a patchwork of influences and neuroses, beliefs and prejudices, of imagination and reality. Whatever the hell reality is supposed to be. We are shells containing the many ghosts of our selves.

And some of us have very leaky shells indeed.

Which is not to say we can’t work on ourselves, reinforce the stitching where needed, put brightly colored patches on to fill the gaps. But there will always be more gaps and more frays and more need to look deep to find them and do the necessary work. That is the mission of our lives. Not everyone is willing to take up this calling, not everyone even recognizes that the work must be done. Many are content to just buffer the shell and hope it fools enough people. Mostly themselves.

And that’s all I’ve got today. Time to get back to work.

Random quote of the day:

“If you wish to know what a man is, place him in authority.”

—Yugoslavian proverb

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

I can claim no service for myself, but my dad was a Marine for 30 years. He fought through the Pacific campaign in WW II and the Inchon Basin in Korea. Tough, bloody campaigns. He was one of the kindest, most thoughtful, and gentlest men I’ve ever known. That wasn’t necessarily the case when he was on duty. That was Business, and a different thing altogether. But we rarely saw that side of him, and never directed at us, only at fools.

I remember one time when my apartment was broken into and Mom and Dad came over to wait with me until the police arrived. When the LAPD showed up, Dad (who never forgot a face of anyone he served with) said to one of the cops, “You were once one of my Marines, weren’t you?” The cop acknowledged that Tom had been his gunney sergeant many years before. Mom, who only knew gentle Tom, said, “But I bet he was much nicer than those guys usually are.” The policeman looked a little embarrassed, but then he smiled and said, “M’am, in my experience, gunneys are never nice.” My dad laughed so hard.

But it proved a point. Being a badass when it’s required to get you through a tough situation is appropriate and will help keep you and those around you alive. But it doesn’t mean you have to carry that badassery with you everywhere you go or use it as an excuse to lash out. There was still room in Tom’s soul to be kind, thoughtful, and gentle.

*
This reminds me so much of Temple Church which we visited in Cornwall. It was also built by the Templars. It’s not just the style of the church—which I understand was a pretty standard Templar construction (they built them all over), but the peaceful little green valley that it was built into. They chose their spots well.

Full URL: https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/temple/temple/index.html


Temple Church, Cornwall

I’m not a Christian, but this was a genuinely holy spot. There was peace that surpasseth all. Some churches are like that, usually in quiet, out of the way spots. Others are merely hollow shells.

*
Don’t let anybody tell you any different: trolls exist in both sexes. From a female POV it may just seem like they’re all male, and maybe the preponderance are (I have no objective evidence to prove it one way or another), but trolls definitely swing both ways.

*
I have good taste. I know because Pinterest is always telling me so.

*
It’s rare when something lives up to its hype, but in the case of Fleabag, it absolutely does. A wonderful series, completely unique.

*
This time of year I’m always so glad that I stopped following the Dodgers years ago.

*
D*mino’s: Pizza that tastes like it was made really, really fast.

*
Donald Trump apparently believes that betraying our Kurdish allies and unleashing ISIS on the Middle East again will distract people from his impeachment. His usual bait-and-switch but it may backfire on him badly. Unfortunately, it also is going to kill a lot of innocent people.

*
Crone

I thought I understood
but it was yet
another posture,
something not
comprehended
until skin ripples
on bones
and toes curl
walking the walk.

*
From “Demolition Man,” The New Yorker, Dec. 24 & 31, 2007:

*
I think everybody goes through a clueless twat phase in their life. Some of us do it in our teens and twenties, some much later in life, but in the old days, the cluelessness was viewed by a handful of people who just shook their heads in disbelief and moved on. With the advent of the internet and so many people longing to be “influencers,” that clueless is often on display for the whole world to see and has the potential of haunting you for the rest of your life.

*
I think Trump’s Syria move may be an attempt to have a safe haven in Turkey when he flees the U.S. legal system. A back-up plan to Russia.

Random quote of the day:

“The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That’s how we know we’re alive: we’re wrong.”

—Phillip Roth, American Pastoral

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“To arrive at a just estimate of a renowned man’s character one must judge it by the standards of his time, not ours.”

—Mark Twain, Personal Reflections of Joan of Arc

 character4wp

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; thus the most massive characters are seared with scars…”

—Edwin Hubbell Chapin, Discourses on the Beatitudes

 scars4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day: 

“A serpent changes his skin but not his fangs.”

—Russian saying

 serpent4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Jun 6
I do have the sweetest cat on the planet: I open her mouth, drop her thyroid pill in, and she swallows it. This morning, she even purred.

Jun 6
Anyone who tells me what I should do is probably full of horsesh*t.

Jun 8
Riding the back of a flying dragon defies the laws of physics, but it’s become an entrenched fantasy trope. And hey, dragons aren’t real, PJ. My own solution to the Dragon Problem was painfully ludicrous, and I’m the only one who thinks dragon-riding is a problem, so I should just give it up.

Jun 8
To think I once got really excited and emotionally involved by beauty pageants.

Jun 9
I suppose it could be construed as unprofessional that I am sitting at my desk popping my gum loudly.

Jun 10
I’m in the process of reinventing myself yet again, always a slow and painful process, but more so because I am so distracted. I wonder who I’ll wind up being this time?

Jun 10
Jawdropping map: The 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook. http://on.mash.to/1s4lz2O 

Jun 11
Bwoogity. I got rid of the Piers Anthony books a lifetime ago. I read them in junior high and thought something was off about them even then. Now Marion Zimmer Bradley is going into the recycling bin. I won’t inflict her on any library sale or Goodwill. Blech. http://tinyurl.com/kqhh9k5  and http://tinyurl.com/cf2uv3a 

Jun 12
A swarm of bees/wasps came in my mother’s bathroom window today. The beeman is on his way. WTF.

The bees had formed a colony in our attic. They are gone now. And we caught the wasp nest just in time. Life is exciting.

The “hilarious” part is that Mom sat there for 20 minutes wondering what that buzzing sound was. Flies, maybe. Thank God, no stings. We got lucky, considering she’s half-blind. She recognized the danger and got out of harm’s way in time.

The bees were back by evening. The bee man will be returning in the morning and my mom is sleeping on the futon.

Jun 13
The bees dealt with again this morning, vents sealed. Hopefully this will do it. I’m so stressed I’ve got hives. *rimshot* Gotta laugh. It’s a ridiculous situation. Terrifying in retrospect but we bumbled our way through.

Jun 13
Whatever you love has consequences.

Jun 14
Someone egged my car last night. The neighbor’s car next to it was untouched. Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me. It’s a late model banged up Honda Civic and the neighbor’s car is spiffy and new. Such is life.

Jun 14
Dr. John Dee has shown up as a character in so much recent spec fic that he’s practically become a new fantasy trope.

Jun 15
That was fun. I sat on a cloth garden chair and kept right on sitting until I hit the ground. Guess I shouldn’t have let it winter outside.

Jun 16
Mom fell on the way to the door to let the medical transport guy in. She said she was okay and went to dialysis but it scared the crap out of me. Dealing with all this over the phone at work while the neighbors help her is nausea-inducing.

guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt

Jun 17
I was typing in my mother’s insurance company and spell check came up with “trickster.” Which is pretty appropriate now that I think about it.

Jun 17
Products I would like to see: InstaMan, for all your hefting and moving needs. Just add water!

Jun 19
If you describe yourself as having “clarity and courage” perhaps what you have is “smugness and self-absorption.”

Jun 20
Ironic (and unfortunate) Twitter juxtaposition. http://twitpic.com/e6kxdg 

Jun 20
On the 24 hour Dodger station Mom never knows if she’s watching a replay or a live game, and the she thinks the commercials are also games.

Jun 21
Sometimes I think white people are purposely stupid when dealing with a person with a Latin accent. A lady at the donut shop asked why the whole wheat bagel was more expensive than the others. “It’s 9 grams,” said the clerk. The lady kept repeating “9 grams?” like it wasn’t perfectly clear and making the clerk also repeat herself several times. Finally I turned to the lady and said sharply “It’s because it’s heavier!” That shut her up. I smiled at the clerk & said, “Perfectly understandable to me.” The clerk laughed, gave me my receipt and said, “Thank you for everything.”

I think people do this because it’s a power trip, an attempt to assert (pseudo) authority over someone because of language differences.

Jun 22
Here’s one of our new Patty O’ Chairs. Please note: it is not cloth. It has lovely cushions which I was too lazy to bring outside.

pic.twitter.com/H4hlA1mhkS

And here’s the new bench that goes with the chairs.

http://tinyurl.com/o39ehcr

Sturdy is GOOD. The literature said it will weather to a “nice grey.” And yes, it’s very comfortable and easy to get up from. Mom had no trouble. Nor did I. They are Strathwood Gibranta if you want to look for them elsewhere.

Jun 24
Here’s a thing I don’t get: “My team just won a big game! I’m going to go out and destroy things to celebrate!”

Jun 25
The Rasta Bus I passed three miles earlier passed me as I waited for a light on Main Street. There’s a metaphor there somewhere.

Jun 25
Life is a lot like Faery: once you enter it, you can’t go back. You must go through it.

Which is the premise of one of my novels. God and the fairies know if it will ever be written.

Jun 26
I think I’ve got outrage fatigue.

Jul 15
One of the downsides of having someone in to stay with my mom while I’m at work: snooping.

Jul 16
Min disappeared for hours and we thought she’d gotten out. I combed the neighborhood for her. Finally we heard her scratching from the underside of my mother’s giant recliner. She’d gotten trapped when Mom put the footrest down. All three of us were traumatized.

Jul 16
An epiphany this morning listening to NPR about living with teenagers: caregiving is like living with a toddler and a teenager at the same time.

Jul 17
Trust is a fragile thing, and when you have an unreliable 93-year-old narrator, it’s sometimes mighty difficult to know the truth.

Jul 23
Isn’t the idea of in home care to take the burden off rather than add more stress? Did I miss a memo? We recently received a grant from the VA allowing us 12 hours of help a week but it has problems of its own.

Things could be much, much worse. June was hellish. This month things are looking up. But there are always complications.

One of the nice/complicated things: a very nice, mature, solid replacement to a snooping, manipulative, thievish sort, but with scheduling conflicts. I’m going to ride it out and let next month take care of itself because I’m exhausted and can’t take more time off and because it’s not a perfect world.

Jul 23
Proof that there is a God: http://tinyurl.com/pp7dd9e 

Jul 25
So Mom fell in her bedroom today when she was alone. Not hurt, thank G–, but the neighbor who came over to help took the opportunity to lecture me about having someone stay with her full time. “We don’t have the money. What do you suggest we do?” “Oh, well, it looks like you’ve got a situation,” she said. Indeed, we do have a situation. Mom and I will have a talk tonight about using her medical alert button next time she falls rather than calling the neighbor. I work a half hour away so it’s difficult to get home to her in a timely fashion.

People are real free with the lecturing and advice, whether they have experience with caregiving or not.

Jul 25
I used to think I was a good judge of character but recent events have shown me that may be an illusion.

Jul 27
Thunder, lightning, and downpour. What are these things?

Rain pouring down, all the windows wide open, and fans going at full blast. We are not use to humidity. It sucks.

Poor Minnie is hiding under the bed. Every thunder strike is followed by sirens. We Californians really don’t know how to drive in the rain.

Turns out the sirens were due to a lightning blast a couple of miles away at Venice Pier. One killed, several injured. In fact, today 9 people were struck by lightning on Venice Beach CA, and a man and a girl hit by a plane forced to land on Venice Beach FL.

Jul 28
I suppose it’s too late to cry, “Foul!” on spoilers for The Big Lebowski, a movie I’ve always meant to see.

Jul 28
Discuss: “All depression has its roots in self-pity, and all self-pity is rooted in people taking themselves too seriously.” ― Tom Robbins

“All” is a bit broad. Some depression has roots in brain chemical imbalances and that cannot be said to be a character flaw. There’s a constellation of causes for depression. Self-pity and taking oneself too seriously may be two.

Perhaps Mr. Robbins is a dick.

Jul 30
My latest Etsy obsession: http://tinyurl.com/n3d9l5w 

Jul 31
The whole “Unfriend a Man” thing? http://tinyurl.com/jvos6l9  I can’t think of anything more boring than being surrounded only by women. Besides, when has reverse bigotry ever solved anything? When has blaming an entire half of the species because of the actions of a few led to anything other than Elliot Rodger? If you want to live in an estrogen-only environment, more power to you. As for me, I prefer a more varied hormonal environment, with give and take and the possibility of dialogue. Keeps life interesting.

Aug 2
Mom’s confusion tonight is too vast for 140 characters but too exhausting for anything larger.

All the perky caregiver advice experts make my ass burn.

Aug 4
A lifetime ago I read Malamud’s “The Magic Barrel” and adored it. Gave me the warm fuzzies. I read it yesterday for the first time since. I barely remembered it and when I was done I thought, “Why did this loom so large in my young imagination?” I mean, I liked the story, but it wasn’t the epic turning point it had been back then. And I remembered it as much more romantic, less downbeat. Could it be that I myself was more romantic and less downbeat? One must draw the conclusion that it is possibly so. Maybe the reason it loomed so large was because for the first time I saw one could be a fabulist and still considered literary, an important distinction for me back then.

Aug 4
I just learned that my cousin, the one who was going to stay with Mom while I had surgery, passed away in her sleep last night. Shock and sorrow.

She was diabetic and had COPD, and about five or so years ago, successfully fought off breast cancer. But when she realized her health had deteriorated to the point where she’d have to go to an assisted living situation, she decided she wouldn’t take her meds anymore. Her independence was everything to her. She wanted that last bit of control, I guess.

She wanted peace. She was done. She wanted to go be with her husband, the love of her life, who passed when he was only 35. She didn’t have an easy life. I hope she found that peace she was after.

Aug 5

To make the week even more perfect I am currently sitting in the jury room at the L.A. Metropolitan Courthouse.

Aug 5
I’ve gotten to the age where when I think back to how long it’s been since I did X activity the answer is often a bit frightening.

I’m also so old I have no shame. I am wearing my steampunk bifocals (reading glasses over my distance glasses) in the jury room. I’d take a pic but, alas, no pictures allowed in the jury room.

However, in a couple of weeks I will have grown up glasses at last and my army of reading glasses will go into the recycler.

Aug 7
Much easier feeling compassion for someone’s life once they’re dead, much harder when confronted with the irritations of day to day living. I guess we always assume they’ll always be around to irritate us, no matter what our head tells us about the impermanence of life.

Aug 8
I am not a responsible adult. Whoever put me in charge of this household made a HUGE mistake.

Aug 8
A death in the family, jury duty, and two days of stomach virus. I am D-O-N-E with this week.

Random quote of the day: 

“Good sense and good nature suggest civility in general, but in good breeding there are a thousand little delicacies which are established only by custom.”

—Lord Chesterfield, quoted in Our Deportment by John H. Young

 breeding4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

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