Category Archives: frustration

So not self-helpful…

I think I may have PTSD when it comes to self-help books, books on migraines, or generally any written device intended to explain to me how to make my current state in life better.

I have been trying to unwrap why I loathe self-help lately and I have hit upon a theory. It’s a relatively new theory so bear with me but here we go.

Ours is a society of the quick fix. If we have a cold and can’t sleep we take NyQuil. If we have a cold and need to go to work we take DayQuil. What we don’t do is rest long enough for our bodies to battle the cold on their own.

Due to our quick fix mentality we have a tendency to offer solutions to the people in our lives who express problems. We rarely actually commiserate. It’s not because we don’t feel sympathy or even empathy for them, but our language of caring has morphed over time from listening and empathizing to offering solutions.

As a migraine sufferer I have had a lot of experience on the receiving end of solutions. It doesn’t bother me from friends or family but it’s the complete strangers that make me crazy. Usually when I meet someone and they find out I have migraines I get asked my entire medical history by someone without a medical degree because their fourth cousin once removed has migraines and maybe they can mention something my nationally recognized neurologist hasn’t thought of yet. It is exhausting and not a way I want to spend one of the rare times I actually leave my house to go out into the world.

I think this is why I hate self-help mechanisms. Rather than listening to each other, talking about our feelings, and creating deep, strong bonds of friendship we are offering other people’s takes on our interpretations of someone else’s problem.

Meet someone at a party going through a divorce? Offer them this book. Got a brother with MS? Here’s a book on how one person worked through their experience with it. Children being… children? Here’s a book on how to parent in a way the person who wrote the book likes most.

Now I am not saying seeking self-help is a bad thing. Personally, if you want to read books on parenting, relationships, investing, whatever medical diseases you may have, and that helps you handle life, go for it with my blessing! There is nothing wrong in my mind about seeking out information.

What upsets me is offering these unsolicited solutions to others in lieu of care.

I get it, caring is hard. It’s time consuming, it takes real listening and empathizing to truly succeed at it and none of us have the time or the energy.

Is that last part true though? Would we find consoling someone less tiring if we did it more often? Could it be we are out of practice and therefore it seems more tiring and time consuming then it truly is?

Here’s my truth: My best memories are from times when I opened up my mind and heart and joined someone in their hardships. Really joined them. Crawled down into the hole they were stuck in and sat with them for a while. I have been blessed enough to build truly amazing relationships with people because I was simply sitting with them and listening when they were having a hard day.

Sometimes the way to be the most helpful is to offer no help whatsoever.

For my convenience.

I am going to air a grievance here.  I usually try to stay away from bitching about technology use but repeated events over the last few years have planted within me a desire to vent.

So here goes:

1.  I own a cellphone for my convenience, not yours.  If I do not answer it when you call the first time, I will likely not answer it when you call immediately back.  If you call back a third time in quick succession you, or someone I love, had better be on fire, dying, or in jail.  If not, when at any point in my life did I give you the impression that I am at your beck and call?

2.  I post on Facebook, Twitter, and my blog for my enjoyment/release/etc.  If you don’t like what you read, stop following me.  I have not taken a gun to your head and forced you to follow my feed.  Don’t send me sarcastic trolling messages bitching about how frequently I post, what I post about, etc.  Just block my shit if you don’t want to read it.  I am not tailoring my feed for your taste.

3.  Sometimes it takes me a few days to get back to you when you email, text, or call me.  If you are a true friend, this fact will make you happy. It means I am out in the world enjoying my life and not sitting at home by my computer and phone desperately wishing someone would call, text, or email me.  Be happy for me.

There. I’m done.

Govern(mental) shutdown.

I have been avoiding the news lately.  My own life has enough pain and suffering in it that I am afraid coming across any additional madness will shock me into a  vegetative state and I will spend my life in a mental ward. (Sometimes this concept has a certain appeal.)

So I didn’t pay much attention to the shutdown.

I heard it in the hallways, from my parents, skimmed quickly past comments on FB and Twitter.  Then today, I came face to face with it.  It turns out, in a technological age, a person can only avoid the world so long as they are able or willing to stay away from a computer.

I teach environmental law.  Today I went to the EPA to get some snapshots for my slides for class.  I use the Environmental Compliance History Online system, or the ECHO system, to monitor compliance with Clean Water permits.  I wanted to walk my students through a practical analysis of a real world permit using the system they would use in the real world.

This is what I got:

Yes, the government is unable to update it’s compliance information due to the shutdown.  Even worse, I am unable to search past compliance information due to the shutdown.

Then I got an email from opposing counsel in a lawsuit telling me that the Department of Justice is closed and they have to seek a stay in my case.

Mindboggling.  The Department of Justice is closed.  All because a small percentage of the population is unwilling to compromise on health care.

Oh I know, I know.  I am sure you have a million reasons to toss out as to why a measure that passed by popular vote is actually really unpopular with the majority of the populace, but you see, I don’t believe you.  Maybe it’s the education in the legal process, maybe it’s simple math.

All I know is a guy I work against all the time, who has two little kids, is the sole breadwinner for his family and who tries every day to make the world a little better is at home wondering when or if he will get his next paycheck.

A rare and endangered snail is languishing in exactly the kind of bureaucratic B.S. Congress wrote the Endangered Species Act to avoid.

And now I have to pay attention to the news.