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Writer's Block: Know Thyself

What habit of your own annoys other people? Have you ever tried to change it?

A lot of my habits annoy people. Many are symptoms that I can't change, which creates irreconcilable conflicts. In the past I used to try to change them with devastating effects.

Let's see. There's not being able to remember things when people ask me to remember stuff for them. There's getting confused if I have to answer the phone for someone else. There's not being able to keep up with housework in shared living situations. There's not being able to get up and get my own food. There's not being able to keep up when walking with people, moving at only a quarter of their speed unless I'm running. There's having to stop and rest while out shopping or walking.

Then there are things that come up in various living situations that I did not want to change. I've had someone complain to me that I never apologized for what I said in arguments, that it wasn't fair that I never had to apologize for what I said and he always had to apologize for saying stupid things. I should say stupid things so that I'd have to apologize as often as he did.

I felt no desire to change my habits to adapt to that dysfunctional person's annoyance that I wasn't living in dysfunction-mode.

I've been called cold for not falling into total misery when dysfunctional housemates pulled mind games. Again, I felt no desire to go along with what they wanted and go back to a codependent mode of life. I've been called cold because I wasn't willing to nag and harass people about their habits. Why would I bother when I know that isn't going to do anything but bug them and start a fight? It's not my job to improve them.

So it's either that they want me to be something I'm not -- undisabled -- or they want me to go along with the usual crabgrass levels of codependence and addict/alcoholic behavior that are so sickeningly common in life. The older I get, the more I mind my own business and refuse to play, which will piss off someone who's living in Victim-Persecutor-Rescuer mode faster than anything else.

My daughter pointed out to me once that I don't have the elbow room in changing habits to adapt that most people do. Because everything I do is so optimized to getting around my barriers to living, it means that I can't do things like get up earlier or do things on time every day and live in synch with other people. It works best if no one else expects to live the way I do or expects me to live the way they do. Every disabled person's solutions and habits will be different and largely dictated by the real needs of being disabled.

Hang out in a blind person's apartment and move something, you will wind up ruining their day and leaving them having a hard time crossing the room. The level of organization blind people need just to function would be OCD for anyone else, but lets them relax at home and move around as if they could see. Every physical difference will wind up calling for adaptations that would be cumbersome to anyone else but make life a lot better for the person so differenced. Heck, even living with a very tall person can make things get crazy -- anyone short will not be able to reach most things on shelves.

Oh, let's not forget "You never want to go out" and "You should get out of the house more." Yeah right. I should pretend to be normal for a week and then get six months of bed rest for wasting my time eating at restaurants and going out to movies and things. Riiight.

Before I understood what was wrong I did try to change those habits repeatedly depending on relationships and housemates and it always created a disaster.
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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 15th, 2009 01:54 am (UTC)
While I can understand people wanting someone else the live the same way they do, that doesn't make it less annoying or obnoxious. Anything not of the norm (ie. whatever they create for themselves as normal, which is still usually whatever society says should be normal) is seen as an affront to their lifestyle, a knock at the post that holds their beliefs overhead. If someone can function well outside normal bounds, then what use is there for normalcy?

There's also the reasoning that if, for example, I did something and it made me happy, then it's a good thing. Good things must be shared, so other people should do this thing too. Assuming that what's good for me must by default be good for everyone.

It's kind of a screwed up reasoning, but I can sort of see where that viewpoint comes from. I try not to hold to it much myself. I'm not disabled, but I've got an issue here and there that means my life is much more comfortable doing things that are perceived as abnormal. People have tried to get me to go out more. Therapists have tried to convince me that I'd be much happier engaging in more social situations. And while they may be right that spending more time in social situations would help me get over some of my social anxiety, to me, it's just not worth it. Most of the social activities that I can think of that people in my age group participate in are things I have no interest in doing. Why should I do out to bars and subject myself to a press of drunken people and loud music that I dislike, just to get over the discomfort of being around them? I may get used to being around people, but since I wouldn't go back there anyway, why bother putting myself through that?

And to some people, that's just plain weird. They wonder how I can't feel the drive to go out and be around a bunch of strangers in a place where I'm uncomfortable. Everyone else does it, therefore so should I. Even my father tried to convince me to go to bars and parties more, drink more alcohol, maybe try marijuana, saying that I was missing out and that I'd regret it later in life if I didn't. I can't fathom that logic. I'd be wasting my time trying something I'm not interested in, when I could be spending that time doing something I enjoy more, even if whatever I do isn't the social norm.

I'm sure my behaviours annoy people. I'm sure I could even change them, if I were so inclined. There are habits of mine that even I perceive as bad and detrimental, and so I try to change those. But the ones that are in place because they make my life a little easier and don't get in anyone else's way? Why should I?
Mar. 15th, 2009 03:14 am (UTC)

The "people-pleasing" mentality is dysfunctional, it's part of the whole process of codependence.

I don't think most of the therapists begin to comprehend that it can be healthier emotionally to be choosy about what socializing you do than to just brainlessly go out among a crowd of people you don't like who are doing things that bore or annoy you. It's like they're so used to dealing with or assuming massive loneliness and need for social approval that when they run into people who prefer solitude because they enjoy it, it's incomprehensible.

Some social anxiety is perfectly rational awareness that a given social context is going to be unpleasant to unlivable. The therapist pushing people to get over the fear and force themselves to do it is just trying to get the person who doesn't fit to conform and be just like everyone else -- and like the things everyone does and have the problems everyone does because those are the ones they know answers for.

I've posted often on how easy it is to start social groups on a real interest if you're willing to put in the time and effort to make the group happen -- specifically what it takes is deciding to create it, putting up some flyers in local public places and being there with refreshments on the day of the first meeting. That's how fan clubs got organized every time I was in on the ground floor. Or new SCA groups in areas that didn't have them, or anything else.

The therapists are right that life's better with a support system, with more people than just the ones in your immediate household to interact with. What they aren't getting is that online it's much easier to sort out the people whose company you enjoy from the ones that will grate on you and bore you to tears. Offline groups can grow out of that -- there's a thriving Nanowrimo group locally that's met in a local coffeehouse for years and years.

A local Wrimo guy organized it because he wanted one, found a place to hold it, got it together, and stays connected by email to every Lawrence wrimo in order to keep it going.

It's one thing to mention a good thing once and see if anyone's into it. I am practically evangelizing for oil pastels now and it's a good medium for people who wish they could draw, don't know how and don't believe they're entitled to learn because they got shut down about it and told they had no talent. Or decided for themselves that they had no talent on the basis that their early tries looked like a beginner did them and they didn't want to get treated the way the teachers treated the ones who put themselves forward about it -- that happens indirectly even more often than directly.

But most of the time I just ask if they're interested in art at all or it's prompted by their saying they wish they could but have no talent, at which point I go on my soapbox explaining that no, it's not easy and it doesn't even come easy to the prodigies, it's more that they enjoyed it enough to get to the point it looked good early on.

Anyone who says "Yeah, but I don't have time and I'd rather be listening to music, etc." I drop it with them and don't keep pushing it. There is a difference between an invitation and a control trip, maybe it comes at the point of taking No for an answer rather than never bringing it up.

That and it drove me buggy the number of people who thought it would solve every physical problem I have if I took long walks and exercised.
Mar. 15th, 2009 03:28 am (UTC)
people who wish they could draw, don't know how and don't believe they're entitled to learn because they got shut down about it and told they had no talent.

Ugh, that wakes up a painful memory for me. I remember when I was into max sculpting, having a good time with it, and made myself a pretty decent-looking turtle out of some green wax, which I then painted to add detail to the shell. I showed it to my father and told him that I was considering selling it at the art auction my local anime club was hosting. His words were, "And will the rest of the retards like it?"

I don't recall doing much more with wax after he said that. Didn't seem like there was much point anymore. Really ought to get back into it, though, since it was a lot of fun to do.

I've seen a lot more local art groups advertising meetings lately, and I've been tempted to check a few of them out. I'm no great artist by any stretch of the imagination (though looking at your tutorials really has me itching to try out some stuff with coloured pencils), but that's the sort of group I could stand being around, tolerate and enjoy the company of. Not bars and clubs and all that popular crap that doesn't interest me in the slightest.

I'd like to have a few finished pieces (or at least something I can say I'm properly working on) before I give those groups a try, though. I imagine they have enough trouble with people who fancy themselves artists but who don't actually do anything to make good on the claim, and I don't want to be one of them. :p

[Edited to fix typo]

Edited at 2009-03-15 03:29 am (UTC)
Mar. 15th, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
It's a favorite rant of mine. I got shut down that way about my writing, the thing that I wanted to do for my whole life, the thing that was my reason to go on breathing when life was unendurable. I got labeled as a prodigy and encouraged, which I shamelessly took advantage of because art class was the only time I could get A's for just relaxing and doing whatever I felt like.

It was the only breath of freedom in a life so draconian Kafka could've written about it. At the same time as I did though, I saw how others were treated when to me some of them drew better than I did. Occasionally I ran into art teachers who wanted me to draw Like A Child and do sloppy shit in bright primary colors deliberately badly, when like most real children who get into drawing I was fascinated with detail and realism.

Your wax turtle sounds pretty cool. Your father on the other hand sounds like the kind of jerk that creeps me out. That's one of those sickening moments like remembering my parents discussing "send all the Negroes back to Africa" seriously around the dinner table and agreeing it was best for all concerned.

You should get back into it. Reclaim it. He was dead wrong, he labeled himself accurately as ignorant and acted like a second grade bully. Probably jealous you made something good with a recognizable subject.

I bought some soap for soap carving but haven't done it yet, still want to sometime. That and finally use the Sculpey that I bought to make some toys for my grandkids.

Local art groups can rock. They're a lot of fun. You wouldn't be the only beginner to show up at one either, usually there's a lot of beginners at the start and then continuously as membership grows, new beginners come along. Art can be incredibly social and is a lot more fun than clubs and bars. Especially bars where you can't have a decent conversation because either the music's so loud or the whole place is totally focused on their solitary drinks.

I think any group worth its salt would respect someone for showing up with supplies in hand saying "I want to learn." Date what you do -- it helps a lot to recognize how much you've improved. I learned that from Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

If you date everything and don't throw away the ones that didn't turn out, in only a very short time you start looking back and going "Whoa, I really improved a lot!" It helps to keep the totally sucky worst first things for that so that when you're getting good you don't get all bent out of shape by something minor like my not getting the likeness on the first oil pastels portrait of Ai.

It was a nice painting of a pretty woman. I just made her look Greek or South American instead of Thai, because I got her proportions and face shape off. Still without the photo, a lot of people liked it as just that, a painting of a pretty woman.

It also does help to draw the same thing more than once. I get better at it every single time I do that. Most recently that was four tries at painting a portrait in oil pastels -- something I've never done but am enjoying a lot!

It's complete balderdash. You are a great artist. Every artist began as someone who didn't know how yet, and "beginner" isn't anything to be ashamed about. From what you're saying the turtle came out well anyway and you're not even a raw beginner.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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