Tag Archives: creativity

Supplies: Very Important People – how to identify

Euro 2008 vip entrance salzburg

– from Wikimedia commons

Very Important People talk casually about their personal branding. They don’t have personal style, they have personal brand. The pockets of said “brand” are stuffed with the names of celebrities and pseudo celebrities that VIPs have a “very important relationship” with. Because the pockets are so stuffed, this person just litters names all over any conversation with you – no matter that it usually has neither meaning nor context to you.  The Very Important Person must always exit the conversation for some business that just must take place right now. It is rare and very difficult to actually finish a conversation with this person, but s/he usually expects you to wait, patiently until s/he has finished said business. Notably this person has no concern at all that you might have other things going on. The VIP does not ask about you. S/he has absolutely no interest in your “petty little life” unless you are involved in something that might raise his/her profile.

This person also seems to have a strange definition of friendship. “Friends” are people with connections that might do something for him and they are visibly ranked by the strength of those connections rather than by any qualities of character we mere mortals may appreciate, such as kindness, loyalty, responsibility.

If you happen to have any information that might be worth sharing with the VIP, s/he gets very upset about it and even turns it into a personal attack. Anything that does not come through his vetted highways is automatically suspicious. All things outside of what he approves of is potential persecution. Under no circumstances can he acknowledge that you might be his/her equal and you may know quite well what you’re talking about.

No, you are to sit and wait quietly for the occasions that he feels like taking notice of you. If for some reason the spotlight is yours – even the conversational spotlight – s/he will do his damnedest to turn it back on him/herself even if that involves ruining a public performance or almost burning bridges.

Oh… I have someone very specific in mind for this one. Specific and delusional.

Filed under: Supplies

Supplies: Self Importance as Defense Mechanism

Nerd

– image from Wikimedia Commons. Why Nerd for Self Importance?
I know a lot of nerds and I was definitely a nerd in high school. I’ve noticed that it’s male nerds who complain the loudest about how they were bullied – but not one of these male nerds has copped to a good junk of the bullying and sexual harassing that they also engaged in in high school and continue to engage in now. Let he who is without sin cast the first dice.

Never thought of self-importance as a defense mechanism. Perhaps I’m just used to filing them wholesale under the “narcissist” category and relegating them to the part of my mind for people who are just too shitty to be a)trusted or b)viewed as fully human.

I do have to admit that there are people who are notoriously self-important that are in my life despite my best efforts. I would happily drift back to stranger status with them but I am friends with people they very much want to use in their own social status climbing efforts. This means I am often dragged in on conversation just because it seems like a good idea to work me to maintain access to the people with more power than I have. (I am mainly in those particular “power” friendships for the laughs and story swapping.)

I have seen the horrendously self-important punctured from time to time. They’re sick, or had a fight with a girlfriend, or something. In those moments, I find those people tolerable… even likable. Those moments are rare. I also think there’s a problem when I can only really like a person when s/he is at his/her lowest. Sometimes I think it’s a failure of my own character. But when I think about how those relationships have turned out over time, I recognize that this tick is a function of my character. It helps me recognize a more subtle crazymaker.

Besides, if someone has their defenses up that high, it’s just not my job to scale them. I’ll just go toward the people genuinely willing to let me in.

Filed under: Supplies

Supplies: My Achilles Heel

marshalls-two-tone-pumps

Kitten heels. I’m waiting for a high-end brand called Achilles.

  • The way Wet Blanket Matadors get at me is to accuse me of being close-minded. This way I’m open to their closing me off. I actually work hard – too hard- to keep an open mind to the ideas and perspectives of others. The determined crazymaker then accuses me of being stubborn, narrow, even bigoted. It’s working less and less; I am starting to realize that these are manipulations founded in a natural assumption that horrible people make:
  • They exploit the current human tendency towards self-loathing. What we hate in ourselves, among the creative people, is a)usually fictional and b)planted there by awful people.
  • Those who really have those bad qualities don’t even think about them. Especially once they’re past the age of about 25.

Basically, they’ve found a way to use my being a reasonable human being against me.

Filed under: Tasks

Supplies: Wet Blanket Matadors

Mushroom

a mushroom in Northeast Minneapolis. Remember, mushrooms are usually poisonous.

Wet blanket matadors are the people that will concoct any excuse at all for you to not pursue creativity.

Have I met them?

So many, so often that I have a hard time remembering them all. They blur together after awhile. Sometimes the specifics will come to me. Sometimes they won’t.

The matadors I have met – that selected me for their bull – tend to follow the same trends:

1. Insist something will fail and therefore we should not even try and see if it works.

2. Stepping on toes: attempting to claim a problem we know is coming is something I can’t handle, even though it’s my job to handle it. / Also comes in the form of “well, people will get their feelings hurt.” The situations that this is brought up in is not one where those involved have reason to take much personally at all. The majority won’t.

Favorite versions of this from my past:

  • “You’re too young for that.” – childhood
  • “Well, you’re only a freshman/sophomore…” [always used by the same girl. Apparently I was not to participate in student life until she was graduated and couldn’t see it, or something. My disgust with her still runs deep.]

3. “Aren’t you afraid?”

4. People that want to convince me that I will induce the Apocalypse if I write about the things I write about. They really want to convince me that I don’t know what I’m talking about, or at the very least I should defer to their knowledge and eventually defer my entire personality to their will.

Almost every crazymaker/negative relationship I have ever had has this element to it.

5. People that decide – and announce – my reasons for doing or saying x, without ever actually speaking to me and determining that what they are saying are in fact my reasons for speaking and acting. i.e. speaking for me when I haven’t asked to be represented.

*someone in religious leadership did this once. It forever invalidated her as my priestess; a core skill of priesthood is listening and setting aside assumptions.

*my mother was very fond of filling in why I did things without asking me at all. It all came through her very narrow minded filter; because she did things for the worst possible reasons I had to be doing what I did for the most self-serving of reasons. Except nothing I did had anything to do at all with her worldview. I live on Earth. I don’t know where the fuck she lives.

Example: My dating a black guy (once, for about six months) was a “political act” because I was “pro black power.” This, along with my “preference” for black men was something she reported to everyone in my extended family who would listen. That was, apparently, everyone.

Actually, I dated him because he made me laugh and he had fantastic muscles. There was nothing more to it than that.

The next guy that made me laugh and had a nice butt was white. I can’t legitimately say I’m not racist – there’s bound to be something I’m assuming that I shouldn’t be – but at least I’m past the point where I animalize an entire group of humans. All this taught me that it’s not just my mother. Everyone on her side of the family is just horrible.

General rule: don’t tell other people how I expect to be treated without asking me first. You probably have no idea, or you ignore a lot of evidence and actual spoken words to the contrary.

6. Tell me my sane and human behavior is inappropriate.

I had a boss, on her last day as my boss, call me in her office to tell me that I needed to make sure I kept my feelings to myself more. This happened after a coworker forgot a rather massive job that was due in 48 hours; typically it was a 3 week job. The coworker had known for roughly 14 days. I expressed my frustration in a meeting.

The next boss took me aside and complained that she couldn’t always get a read on how I felt about things.

I am not one of those people that uses my every emotion as an excuse to demand everyone shove their emotions aside to make room for mine. I’d been pushed pretty far – that first boss’s stab was deliberate, vindictive and untrue. She had essentially been demoted for having a nervous breakdown in the middle of a staff meeting. Even though I knew that (I was there) crazypants still did some damage.

The things I’ve listed are what logic, inquiry and active listening are for. People with good intentions – that just don’t want you to mix sodium with something that will make it explode – use those basic skills of asking why, referring to facts and actually finding the facts.  The people that try to shut me down are actually telling me that I might change something, or to their minds worse – succeed. I’m learning to watch for Wet Blanket matadors charging at me. If they are trying to stab me and knock me down, I’m onto something.

And I know to lose their numbers.

Filed under: Supplies

Supplies: Status Symbols: May be triggering for addictions

graduation_photo

This picture is one hell of an illusion – it is literally all the artifacts of who everyone else wanted me to be. Let’s start with how much I loathed that letter jacket, followed by my complete non-enjoyment of playing clarinet. But the clarinet was the only thing that brought me in proximity of supportive adults so I put up with it.

I grew up very aware of all status symbols. I also grew up consciously resisting them. In a school covered in brand names as a means of communicating social order, I did weird things like cutting the logos off my Keds and hating Porsche owners solely for the environmental damage they perpetuated.

When I see someone upholding their status symbol it’s obvious to me that that’s what they’re doing. It usually makes me dislike that person.

Which is a little weird since these days I own a lot of status symbols. I have a SmartPhone, usually a newer generation. I have an Ipad. Because of my body size I can’t really wear couture. For the time being we even still have a plugin car. But most of these things aren’t about telling strangers with symbols who I am with my stuff – they’re just about making my life easier. Sometimes I even hide status symbols from friends because I know owning them will create a bump in our friendship and I’d rather have the friend than the toy.

I’m the person who can’t remember the make and model of a car worth a damn. My car recognition is so poor that I have routinely sat down in strangers’ cars, having them confused them with the car a friend was driving. So far the strangers have been quite gracious. I am also actively put off by “retro technology” because it’s also clearly done for the sake of status – i.e. “branding.” The minute I see a guy whip out a stylus and a Palm Pilot, I know he’s got compensation issues – and if I give him any inch of rope at all, he’s going to lasso me into his crap.

My weird inverse relationship with status symbols has carried on into adulthood. I think anything that screams the brand of my clothing, purse or shoes is still just gauche. I have a knock-off Chanel that has the C’s stitched on – but off center, the only clue it’s NOT a Chanel. I loved the purse enough to ignore the logo. When I go out, I often set the purse facing inward so no one can see it.  I only name the brands of my clothing in pictures for Fat Chic or when another woman asks for the designer so she can get something like it herself.  I own only a few bottles of designer perfume – and if the knock off is satisfying enough, I just get that instead. I’m  bewildered by the high end cosmetic brands. I read all the labels and there is absolutely no difference between that stuff and what you can get in a drugstore.

So when someone approaches me with an attempt to interest me in his/her status symbols, I immediately smell the inauthentic. Nothing reads more false than “look what I have.” My friends with real wealth are indistinguishable from the ones who struggle.  We just use what’s organic to ourselves and express gratitude for the good things we have.

Mini example:

A lot of people at a bar I frequent use their drinks of choice as a way of positioning their social status. But me? I have no signature drink. I have no loyalties. I do, however, have a lot of allergies.

One summer night when I was working very hard on re-establishing basic social skills eroded after my father died, I grabbed a glass of Chardonnay and wandered out onto the patio. I sat down with a group of girls and we were talking politely enough when one girl burst out, “What the hell are you drinking???”

“Chardonnay.”

“But this is a BAR. I have whiskey. You don’t get wine at a bar.”

I shrugged. “I wanted something light and I like the wine list here.”

“But it’s a bar -”

I set my glass down. “Are you seriously making a thing out of what I drink?”

She turned bright red. “But it’s a bar…”

“That also serves wine. And this wine happens to be quite good.”

“I know nothing about wine,” the woman who was the head of the pecking order said. From the look on her face she was ashamed of it.

Great. Since I refused to take bottom place in the pecking order they were not creating a class divide for me, just because I am genuinely tough I have no need to look tough. “You drink what tastes good to you, that’s the secret.”

The conversation moved on. I’ve barely spoken to those women since.

Filed under: Tasks

Supplies: Status Symbols I’d Never be Caught Dead With

Look what showed up in our living room! #doctorwho

I would probably put the kabosh on a full size wooden TARDIS model. Because I would not want to share.

There is only one status symbol I would absolutely NEVER be caught dead with: any non-electric sports car, ever, that is not a DeLorean. That’s the only “absolute never.” I’ve been an environmentalist when I as 16; I lived in a town where kids my age had sports cars. The kids that had them – a certain R. Whittaker in particular – were just horrible, horrible human  beings. I now permanently associate sports cars with horrible people too selfish to leave any piece of the earth unpoisoned.

I’m also not fond of ostentatious displays of perfume. I have one designer perfume I wear – Chanel Coco Mademoiselle. It’s hidden at the back of my dresser. In the perfume collection I display, the unknown brands I get at Arabic grocery stores sit up front. The name brand stuff sits in the back.

If I can help it, I do not wear brand logos on anything. If I have to I will rip it, paint over it, or even turn a shirt inside out just to avoid displaying a damned logo. If I’m going to advertise for a brand they damn well better pay me for the privilege. Exceptions for university logos – those I’m fine with.  Showing off brands is just distasteful to me. If you’re showing a brand you’re not showing you – it’s a failure of personal artistry.

It’s not that I dislike luxuries. High thread count sheets? Ralph Lauren anything? Silk? I’m all over it. I just don’t need the whole world to know I like them.

Filed under: Tasks

Supplies: the Status Symbol I would love to have

072510 092  - Bakken Garden and Museum

This is a shot I captured in a museum devoted to electricity. Glass windows are very ostentatious to me… but I’d totally install them in all of my house if I could.

For anyone that knows about my baking, this is no surprise:

a Kitchen Aid Mixer.

But I’d settle for a Viking.

I would also totally love it if I owned a condo in Hawaii. Mike and I were sorely tempted when we were in Kauai. The whole vacation rental/insurance thing makes that problematic, though.

Filed under: Tasks

Supplies: Letter to my Distorting Mirror

Diana in car, with that hat
Dear DM:

There really was a difference between us. It wasn’t that I was loved more by our parents. Quite the opposite; if you had payed the least bit of attention you would have seen it as plainly as everyone else in the community did. It wasn’t that I had any natural advantage. All advantages were distributed according to perception. No matter how valiant my actions or how exemplary my schoolwork, I was perceived as fat, dumb, lazy, lesser. You were perceived as pretty, smart, a blooming starlet. Remember when that school teacher asked you if you planned to be a writer and then turned to me and told me I could be your editor? As a professional writer now the layers of irony to this are delicious. After all, one of the reasons you have avoided using your own considerable talent is because you might be subject to … editing. You might have someone tell you that your work – and because of your personality disorders, by extension you – are imperfect. It’s unlikely you could get even a short story printed; even true constructive criticism is an affront to you because the only criticism you know how to give is of the mean-spirited variety.

I could be fair…but since you’ve never been fair to me, my unfairness is exactly as fair as you deserve.

One of your favorite tantrum topics was your absurd claim that you “never had the same opportunities that I did.” When viewed from a perspective of historical fact, this is absolute raging horse shit. Not only did you have the physical advantage – being thin and normal, thus making your admission into any social group based wholly on your behavior without the handicap of looks – you often found favor with the more popular teachers. I did not. I had to work against the perception of those, like Janet Szot, who considered me slow and stupid based on my appearance, even in the face of excellent work and a track record of decent grades.

But there’s no denying I’ve done better than you. I had far, far fewer opportunities than you did – and most were not presented to me for my refusal or adoption as they were to you. I had to go out and get those opportunities. I failed a lot in high school and I have failed a lot as an adult. But I’ve made more progress than you, also, despite only rare occassions of opportunity actually bothering to stop at my door at all.

It’s very simple: when I found an opportunity, I took it.

When I had a bad experience, I looked for a different opportunity.

I never demanded that an opportunity fit my imagining.

If the opportunity I wanted didn’t exist, I went out and made it.

We both had the advantage of being well spoken white girls. You had the advantage of being perceived as from a good family. Thanks to you, I had the additional handicap of being perceived as coming from a bad family.

So while you shriek about how cold and selfish I am, at how I’ve exploited you or some other flat out falsehood, I can say quite levelly:

Fuck you. We both deserve what we got.

Diana

Filed under: Struggles

Supplies: Distortion Patterns

Those of us with creative demons do get a lot of patterned relationships. My most common distorter? The wannabe authority figure. Someone, male or female, wants to convince me that they know so much better than I, that there judgment is so much more solid. They do their damnedest to make me doubt myself, to convince me I’m a really terrible person with nothing but nefarioius plots in all my relationships, that I’m the most harmful creature ever to unleash my words on the planet.

The reality is, of course, very much the opposite, unless you’re one of those so-called authorities that wind up undermined when I bring people out of their emotional states back to grounding logic.

The Doughboy stands out as the icon of these so-called authority bastards. After an abusive boyfriend pulled a lot of crap that got me vilified by both my family and a good chunk of my college campus, Doughboy took me aside and “gently” (using Mental Patient Voice) explained how my boyfriend’s behavior was “all my fault” and how “everyone on campus” thought I was a “total bitch.”

The reality is that almost no one on campus knew much about me because my boyfriend, in true abusive form, found a way to isolate me from everyone for extended periods of time. Whenever people got to know me, they found me intense but likable, unless they identified me as competition.

I was actually the quintessential nice girl. Which meant I was set up to make look bad in the quintessential way. (Edgmont High, a Canadian teen show, shows how this happens in its pilot episode.)

Doughboy would often try to order me to do things – like hand over gambling winnings, once (we were not in a relationship) and he often tried to pick fights with me in situations where I had been silent. The creepiest was when his grandfather died – a man I never met and with whom I had zero relationship – and he asked me for ideas for the eulogy. When I suggested he look through fond memories of his grandfather, he managed to twist into me saying something insulting about him and his grandfather. There was no logical reason for such a twist and I had made absolutely no such comment. I had never met his family, had absolutely no history and no feelings whatsoever about his family. But he was determined to distort what I said and his girlfriend, in the car with his, went along with him, turning my saying nothing into a personal attack on a man I never knew.

This was typical behavior in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Over the years, the Doughboy authority figure has followed me. It crops up in strange places. Doughboy, in his other forms, has gotten more subtle and been more adept at seducing me into the twisted logic necessary for me to blame myself for his madness.

Sooner or later, I always break out of it. It’s like I’ve been leveling up through a psychologically complex video game. I think the game ended two years ago – when I could not be manipulated into agreeing to the madness, I was made out to be the madwoman.

This time, the community rolled their eyes and quietly accepted me into our folds. We all saw what happened. But we just don’t talk about it.

So now Doughboy has shrunken to a blog troll. I have gotten more training in spotting Doughboys. I am working on the best way to lure these characters into a metaphorical oven where they will be baked quiet.

 

Filed under: Supplies

Supplies: the School of Distortion

Car Wash Window

photo I snapped in a car wash

Almost all the teachers at CPHS at some point uttered the words “You need to have a fallback if you’re in the arts.” Sometimes this speech was addressed to me. Sometimes to others. I strongly suspect that it was part of the curriculum.

For fans of Veronica Mars, you’ll get this: the demographics of the school fell along very similar lines to those depicted on Neptune High. It fell to the teachers to condition those of us from the “poor” families to expect a job as a janitor (pays better than most realize) and maybe some spit as a Christmas tip. They were programming us to either live in service to the wealthy families, or for the prettier girls to aim to marry into them if they could – or marry early and get started on that whole life as a servant in a country that doesn’t call it that situation.

I kept my mouth shut. It was tacitly expected that I would become a teacher because that’s what my family did. While a few idealists asked me for my own ambitions I was, for the most part, very close-mouthed about what I wanted. All I wanted, from beginning to end, was to write. I noticed that any sign of success in my preferred area got more music classes and obligations dumped on me. My family pushed hard for me to be a music teacher.

I’d rather kill myself. It has nothing to do with hating music or music teachers. It would be as bad as if I were gay and expected to live my life straight. I am not trying to co-opt it, but from what I’ve seen described from gay people that have had to, that’s a close comparison.

This was who they wanted me to be. They also wanted me to go to school where I was always in reach, live with them until marriage and wait on them hand and foot, marry someone I was tacitly set up with (I have a good idea who, based on compliments from my sisters’ friends that my mother reported back to me… and seemed to approve of. Ick. SO inappropriate, compounded by the pure, offensive squick of the interchangeable woman fantasy.) It was a lot like a micro version of Hunger Games society that was mapped out for me: my poverty of spirit and resource would be what made all their lives richer, all while pretending I didn’t exist after they had done with exploiting me.

While most of this is only conscious in retrospect, I did have a strong sense of self that manifested in helpful ways, even if I didn’t fully understand them. I loved romantic comedies but was always sorely disappointed when the heroine married the guy at the end, as though that were her only best possible resolution. My parents would tell me things about myself or make guesses as to what my motivations were – I just walked around with the belief that they were both hopelessly out of touch and not worth discussing anything of real meaning. To me they became arbitrary authorities, people to wait out until I could escape that particular iron curtain. I did not feel loved or guided by them because I wasn’t. My belief that they were hopelessly out of touch with reality, especially as it pertained to me, became my saving grace.

I moved on to college where there were other institutions of distortion awaiting me – but in college, I also found my guiding lights. Pete was the most surprising of them; he was always much more important to me than I was to him, but it wasn’t one of my giving and him just taking. He had some of his own distortion to deal with, albeit much more positive than mine. But he was what got me started rethinking all my assumptions.

He probably wouldn’t be happy with how I’ve turned out. He really wanted me to have kids, too.

But he did a good thing, even if he doesn’t see it that way.

Filed under: Supplies