It Never Happened – A True Story of Sibling Abuse (Part 2)

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By the time my sister was 11, my mother had built up enough guilt to satisfy the Vatican for a decade. She was determined to be a good mother but how could she when her child’s life was a daily torment? Part of her lived in constant fear that her children would be taken away again.

She came up with a brilliant plan, have another child. My mother hoped I’d be a girl so that my sister would have a playmate. It was my job from the moment I was conceived to make my sister’s life better.

However, long before I was ever thought of another problem was brewing. My sister would often come home filled with the rage, frustration and tears that bullying brings. Without any other venue to release those emotions, she would vent them on the family in the form of verbal rages. My parents began giving in to her demands as a means to try and make her happy. My father was at a loss as to how to fix the situation. A quiet man, his solutions to problems were often direct and swift. Bullying, though, is a complex problem and, at the time, was seen as unimportant.

So the situation at home was quickly becoming centred around my sister. Getting pregnant and giving birth to me specifically to make my sister’s life more pleasant just cemented the deal. My mother often joked how I never belonged to her, that my siblings took over my care. Especially my sister.

Any parent should be aware that leaving the care of an infant to your children who are just entering their teen years is a bad idea. Especially when the only peer interaction one of those children had was one of torment. Now, in the home, my sister was quickly becoming the little dictator of the family. If my sister wanted something done, she would scream until it was done. Everyone just learned to get out of her way to keep some peace in the house.

My mother saw how happy I made my sister so she turned more and more of my care over to my sister. I’m not sure when my discipline was included in that but the daughter that was quickly ruling the house with an iron fist was allowed to rule over me as well. As my sister grew into a woman with her own life, my mother’s guilt slowly eased. Even if it never went away.

I feel a need to interject something here. My mother suffered from something few of us can understand and I don’t blame her for that. However, she used that suffering as a justification for rejecting me and not bonding with me as a mother should. She further used her past and state of mind to enable and condone my sister’s abuse. She not only saw what my sister did but she encouraged it and it’s that for which I do blame her.

There is a story that my mother found outrageously funny about my early years that she would tell repeatedly. I find it alarming.

When I was a toddler, probably about 2 years old or so, I was being potty trained. Like any child, the concept was a bit beyond me still so I was still having accidents. There’s every possibility, too, that my bladder wasn’t yet ready for full potty training. However, that didn’t stop my sister who was tired of changing diapers.

One day I was playing in the living room when my sister asked if I needed to go. I said no and kept playing. It’s likely that I was engrossed in my play and simply didn’t have the attention required to know if my bladder was full or not. I was a toddler and knowing when you have to go pee is a new skill that requires some thought.

I have many memories from my early years. My first memory is waking up in my crib from a nightmare and pulling myself up by the bars, crying as I did so. I was probably a little less than a year old at the time. The potty training memory is another memory but it comes in bits and flashes. Not like the nightmare one which is fairly clear.

I chose that moment to let my bladder loose. Right in front of my sister who was already done with this whole potty training business. Convinced I had done it just to spite her, my sister picked me up and turned me over her knee. My mother wasn’t opposed to spanking and she had allowed my sister more and more freedom regarding my care. When my sister began spanking me, she did nothing to stop it.

It’s at this point my mother always began to laugh. She would tell me in mirthful tones how my sister spanked me so long and so hard she began to get frightened. Once I asked why she didn’t stop my sister. My mother merely responded by saying she didn’t see a reason to stop her. Still, the spanking went on. I don’t remember the actual spanking but I do remember my sister grabbing me.

It was my father who intervened. I don’t know where he was until then but I do know he came into the room to my screams. Apparently he ripped me away from my sister and cradled me protectively. My father rarely got angry but he did at that moment and proclaimed that no one was to ever spank me again. I still received spankings, mostly from my mother and with a wooden spoon or such, but it was always when my father was away. She knew I didn’t dare tell him of these things.

According to my mother I was magically potty trained from that moment on and I never had another accident. Even when she took me on a two hour train ride. Not one single accident. Yes, I’d learned. I learned that crossing my sister had consequences and it wasn’t my mother that would intervene.

My father rarely came between my sister and I. Although he was physically imposing, he was a gentle, quiet man. At 6’1″, he had a distinctly Clark Gable look about him with those same distinguished good looks. Even complete with the moustache which always looked handsome on him. A look few men could ever pull off. However, confrontation and violence of any kind weren’t his way. While he was prepared to fight for what he believed in and protect what he loved, he preferred a quiet solution to problems.

My mother laughed about the incident for years until dementia finally claimed her memories and she no longer told the story. It is the one thing I’ve been grateful to dementia for giving me. Peace from that sickeningly gleeful way she talked of my sister’s physical violence towards me. I suppose, then, that emotional and psychological violence weren’t even worth noticing for her.

Although my sister’s physical violence was curbed, her penchant for emotional and psychological cruelty wasn’t and it was here she excelled.

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War on Poverty

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I’ve been avoiding writing this post. If you read my last post, you’ll remember how I got mansplained about my writing and poverty. The experience has left me a bit shaken and angry (still) while the person who did it still doesn’t have the balls to contact me about it (I sent him a link to my last post). However, I still have something to say and I’m not about to be silenced on the matter. So here we go.

Usually my posts on poverty involve explaining what it’s like to live here. I hope that someone will read it and will gain a bit of understanding and compassion but I realize I’m fighting the wrong battle.

Most people when they fight poverty come from a bottom up tactic. That is, they address all the issues that people living in poverty have to struggle with; homelessness, food security, health care, etc. So, they try to come up with solutions to that will fix these problems with the mistaken belief that it will cure poverty. Poverty isn’t a disease and we can’t treat it that way.

I have to admit I’ve been guilty of this as well but it’s a never-ending fight. You put out one fire only to have three more crop up in its place which requires more solutions and  fixes and more resources and more people to run them and… and… and… From this perspective, it seems hopeless.

Then someone asked me a question. “What do you do if the homeless guy is happy being homeless?” I dismissed it as being silly. After all, who wants to be homeless and fighting for survival all the time? Then I remembered, not all homelessness is the person sleeping in alleys and in doorways.

Alberta is oil country. There are a lot of people who work in rig camps and earn a very good living that way. Usually this is a switch schedule. So, someone might work three weeks up in a camp and have one week off. During that week they don’t live in the camps so they come to the city. Usually Edmonton. Financially it doesn’t make sense to rent an apartment or buy a house if you’re only going to be there for one week out of every month. So they live in hotels or couch surf. Technically they’re homeless but they’re not poor.

But going back to the question, what do you do with the person who’s content to live in the back of a camper or van? What do you say to the person who doesn’t want to be tied down to rent or utilities. They’re out there. Do you force them to live a lifestyle you don’t want just because their current way of living makes you uncomfortable?

It was this question that made me realize that I’m fighting the wrong war. As Jesus once said, “the poor you have with you always.” (Matt 26:11) but that didn’t mean that something couldn’t be done about poverty. The problem isn’t poverty. Running around putting out brush fires makes no sense especially when you’re using methods established decades or even centuries earlier.

The problem is wealth.

I’ve made this point before; Canada is a resource wealthy country. How is it that we have all these resources and still have people starving? How is it we have all this space and still have people living in squalid conditions? Conditions that we wouldn’t let a dog live in let alone a person. How is it that these resources are only making their way to Canada’s top 1% or 2%?

A study was begun in Ontario setting up some people with a basic income. In the short time it ran, it changed their lives. Then Doug Ford, who will forever be known as Captain Shortpants, pulled the rug out and stopped it. No notice and only the flimsiest of excuses. If that doesn’t disgust you then you shouldn’t be reading this blog.

I’ve heard the arguments against basic income. People will squander it, addicts will spend it all on drugs, women will get pregnant just to get more, the list goes on. What it comes down to is those in the “Have” column of life believe that those living in the “Have Not” column are too stupid and too lazy to be allowed more than the minimum needed to survive. Oh they’ve got lots of reasoning for this. I’ve heard that, too. It’s a “keep ’em hungry” mentality. The belief that a poor person will work harder to get what they need if they’re kept poor.

Let’s dump that shit for what it is.

The rate of urban development here in Edmonton is mind boggling. Yet, it’s not areas devoted to helping the poor at all. Downtown alone has seen the rise of luxury highrises at a phenomenal rate in the past few years. Couple that with the building of an arena that still leaves me with bile in my mouth and you have a serious problem.

Forget for a moment that all this development of the downtown area displaces the poor and homeless. For all their hand wringing, Don Iveson and his crew are still NIMBY people. Yes, let’s build the low-income housing. Just not where the good folk can see it or be bothered by it.

All this development does is drive up housing costs which, in turn, drives up rents. Edmonton rents are out of control as it is and there’s been absolutely no attempt to curtail them. Instead we get more urban development and luxury highrises. The thinking is that if the upper crust is happy then they’ll sprinkle their money downward and we’ll be happy that they’re pissing their blessings on us.

Enough is enough.

It is time that we demanded that our politicians start a serious redistribution of wealth in this country. Starting with basic income. We should be flooding Captain Shortpants’ phones, emails, Twitter feed and everything else with the demand that he reinstate it. We should be marching in the streets demanding basic income.

Stop putting out brush fires and start putting your resources where they’ll do the most good. Opening a food bank so the poor can eat for another week solves that problem for that week. Basic income solves a lot of problems over a long term. Canada is a disgustingly resource rich country. Far too rich for this to keep going on.

Me. Too.

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Yesterday I got mansplained.

Specifically, I had my writing mansplained.

Now regular readers will know that I have little tolerance for people’s crap and care even less for the opinions of others. There is a myth that if you’re a writer you’ll welcome any and all criticism as a chance to grow. Let me turn on the light on this one. It’s bullshit and I’ll tell you why. Not everyone’s opinion matters and few opinions will actually help you grow.

Varric in Dragon Age 2 said it best, “opinions are like testicles. You kick them hard enough, it doesn’t matter how many you’ve got.”

There are people whose opinions and criticisms I seek out but I’m very picky about it. Criticism is meant to help me see things that I may not see myself. It is meant to help me grow as a person. Therefore, I seek out those individuals I trust to give me an honest assessment even if it’s not what I want to hear. Even that’s not enough. This person has to be someone that I see lives a life that I can respect and admire. This person is going to help me determine the direction my life takes. That’s a huge responsibility and one that is going to be taken seriously.

So that’s why I generally ignore most of the criticism that comes online. Don’t get me wrong. I love to hear from people and love it most when people share their own stories but I’m not interested in hearing your opinion on me, my sex life, my fat, my writing, my whatever.

When I wrote the piece “The Housing Crisis As Seen From Below”, it was in response to my city’s desire to remove adult only housing. As someone who lives in poverty, it affects me directly and I wrote out my frustrations as I so often do. Shortly after I published it I was approached by someone who works in my city’s poverty industry (those organizations dedicated to eliminating poverty). This man is well-known and well-respected in the community. I looked forward to discussing the issues with him. I’ll call him John Doe as I don’t want to release his name.

A discussion of issues is not what I got, however. I was tempted to post the entire email wholesale and let the internet do its thing but my rational brain took over at the last minute (it never lets me have any fun) and I put a stop to that. Instead of a discussion among peers, here’s a sample of what I got;

I think you have a voice that should be heard, but here is some unsolicited advice, meant to help you not criticize you.

If you want to be an effective advocate and writer, I suggest you tone down the anger and tone down your self-effacing remarks. They do not serve you well – like it or not, people don’t want your anger, they want your ideas. And don’t downplay yourself (e.g. “yes, that makes me an asshole”). If people think you’re an asshole, let them, but don’t give them ammunition. Lots of people think I am an asshole, too outspoken, or have radical ideas yet lots of people follow my personal blog, appreciate me, are interested in what I have to say. I am good with all of it.

Your ending will turn off people who may very well be on your side — “But, fuck it. The poor only matter as a photo op.” First lots of people don’t see poor people that way, Lots. Some might but the people you want to listen to you, don’t. It’s a turn off in my mind. Just my 2 cents.

Yeah.

I’m not a person that likes confrontation. Years of abuse trained me to keep people happy at all costs. This, though, made me angry. The condescension of it made me taste bile in the back of my throat. As I read the words, “here is some unsolicited advice” I could hear some guy saying, “you know what I think…?” My answer is the same either way, I don’t give a crap what you think and your unsolicited advice is not welcome.

I won’t even go into how the whole “tone down the anger” part made me feel. Or the words “they do not serve you well” feeling like I’m a naughty school girl (no, not in a Stormy Daniels way, either). Here was a man who decided that his opinion was so goddamn important he had to shove it down my throat.

I sent a rather lengthy email back. In short it was a version of “thanks for your opinion now fuck off” but in far nicer terms. As I said, I don’t like confrontation. It makes me itch.

The next email I got (which I may post tomorrow if I’m still angry) read like an essay being corrected. Instead of responding in his own space, he took over the email I sent and wrote his responses in red around my words. Seriously. WTF? The part that really enraged me was his comparison of being bullied at school for being a geek to my revelation of being abused by my family for much of my life. While I do fight against bullying, they’re not close to the same. You can leave your school. I had no options and while I finally did leave my family, it’s a decision that will have impact for the rest of my life. Come see me at Christmas and then let’s compare your elementary school bullying to my family abuse.

My next response was short and sweet. A very nice version of leave me alone.

I am actually way too enraged to answer this right now. That you don’t see the problem is the problem. I need to calm down before I give any further response. Have a nice day.

But he didn’t. His emails continued despite my repeated attempts to ask him to leave me alone so I could calm down and think about the situation. Dammit, I was going to take his criticism whether I wanted to or not. He even went so far as to leave his cell phone number in case I wanted to “chat on the phone” (because that’s a good idea).

It didn’t stop. He fished out a four year old post I wrote on poverty and said he wanted to repost it on his blog. I gave him permission but no indication I wanted to talk. There were more emails. I finally had enough.

One of my heroes is Kirk Acevedo. So it’s no surprise when I feel I’ve been backed into a corner I come out fighting like a dragon. It’s a #kidviciousarmy thing. I sent an email back lashing out like I rarely do. That’s when John Doe got angry in return.

Here is a man with power and influence who wouldn’t leave me alone and now he’s angry with me. Can anyone see how this will end up? I had a full blown panic attack and at 9:30pm I called the cell phone number he left. Only to have him shut me down and refuse to talk.

Finally I talked to a dear friend who listened and let me vent. This is a woman I admire. Whose opinions matter to me. She reminded me that it was my writing, my story, my words. Not his and not to let him take that from me no matter who he is.

So I won’t tone down the anger. I won’t stop tilting at windmills. I won’t stop. This is my story. These are my words.

ME. TOO.

Evolution

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2016 has been a horrific year. Between mass murders, deaths, racial tensions and Donald Trump; I keep hoping the gods will jump out and say, “just kidding!!” However, that will never happen. No powerful being is going to pull us out of this one no matter how many prayers you throw at the dead and dying. It’s up to us to change the direction of our destiny.

We have an opportunity here to do something amazing. To be more than we are and we can do it one person at a time but it won’t be easy. Evolving is painful and difficult but if humanity is to survive, we have to do it. Each person can have a hand in it and know they helped humanity to move forward. To evolve.

First I ask you to set aside your religious beliefs for a moment. I’m not saying give them up but, rather, just put them in a box to the side for a bit. Be human before you put on the mantle of your Christianity or Judaism or Islam or Buddhism or Wicca or whatever. Put all that to the side and just be human without the help of gods or written words or holy men. Just, for a second, be human in all its frailties and foibles. Be human in all its glory and wonder. Just be human.

Second, put aside your things. Oh, I know, they’re important things. Houses and cars and clothes and boats and bikes and… things. Just put them aside for a moment. They’ll still be there when you return. I promise. Just put them on the shelf for a second so you can remember your humanity without the burden of things.

Third, the next time you come across a living creature, take a look at it. It might be a person, it might be a butterfly or a dog or a monkey. Just look at them without the tint of religion or the white noise of things. See them. Know that they are struggling to live just like you. Understand that they have as much right to be on this earth as you.

Now look at the world around you. See it for the first time without the noise of society and religion and things. Understand that you’re an intricate part of that whole. That your place in that whole matters. It matters without the religion and the words and the things and society. You matter. You’re important.

The last part that I ask you to do is the hardest. Take up your religion and your things. Now see them as you have the rest of the world. Some will hold up to your scrutiny and some won’t. You have to decide what to do with them.

One thing I will tell you is that once you see the things and the religions without the white noise of what “should” be, they will start to look very different than you once assumed them to be. It’s not that they’re unimportant or wrong but that they may not have the shape and size they once had in your life and that’s ok. It’s when this happens that the truly important things can enter your life. Things like a love of life, an acceptance of that which is different from yourself, respect and love for yourself and others. True love and respect, not the mouthings we voice daily.

I challenge everyone to try this. 2016 should teach us something important; that we matter, that we are part of a whole. Unless man evolves beyond his infantile ways and temper tantrums, we will not survive.

Riding the Black Horse

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This is the first time in years that I’ve used my writing to work out what’s going on in my life. Right now I’m so overwhelmed that I feel I have no choice.

See, that’s the biggest problem right now. I’m helpless. I’m poor and that doesn’t give me a lot of options and I have a whole list of disabilities that limits me as well. I have this fantasy about living a life where I’m allowed to make choices that benefit me instead of being forced into situations that benefit some faceless government.

I just got a notice today that my rent is going up $265 in two days. Yes, you got that right. Two whole days to come up with $265. Looks like groceries are optional now. See, I live in a low-income building and let me give you a few facts.

  1. There is no definition as to who can live in a low-income building. There’s no regulations stating that you have to make under a certain amount to live here. I could be a millionaire and still rent here.
  2. There’s no regulations stating what they can or can’t charge for their apartments. Legally, they could raise my rent to $1000/month if they wanted to and still call themselves “low-income.”
  3. There’s no regulation stating how they determine my rent. A common practice in low-income buildings is to have tenants hand in their tax assessment and base rents on that. However, that’s not the law. It’s just common practice.
  4. They’re under no legal obligation to give me any notice in rent increases. Yes, folks, you read that right. Two days is completely legal.
  5. I can be kicked out at any time if I can’t pay that rent.

Yes, that’s the life I live as a tenant of a low-income building. Sometimes low-income buildings will evict tenants they don’t like on very spurious reasons. When you’re poor, you learn to live with this reality. You are always one step away from being homeless and everyone knows it.

That’s not all I’m dealing with this week, though. I’m finding out things about myself that leave me feeling at odds with myself.

Back in 2011, I had an assessment done. At that time I was given the diagnosis of Non-Verbal Learning disorder. I did my research (for which I’d like to thank both the Edmonton Public Library and the University of Alberta library) and felt more in control knowing more about what it was. Once put on the Asperger’s spectrum, it’s been given its own diagnosis. However, it exhibits a lot like Asperger’s.

I also deal with anxiety. Nothing new to anyone who’s been reading this for any time. I talk about that black horse a lot. What is new is something I failed to read in the assessment; I have ADHD. It’s at this point my brain stops and I have no words.

Coming to grips with the reality of the link between NLD and Asperger’s is enough of a blow. Realizing I have ADHD on top of it…. how do you add that information into your life? Yes, it’s a diagnosis and shouldn’t mean much but those four letters stun me. I’ve always known my brain works more like a blender on high than the functioning computer it is but that didn’t bother me. I worked with it. But ADHD? How do you add those letters into your life?

So I’m particularly vulnerable right now and want to feel like I have some control. The truth is that when you’re poor and disabled, control is taken away from you. The Powers That Be believe that, somehow, you’re unable to handle control so you’re treated like a child. I don’t know where anyone got that idea but I’d really like them to get it out of their heads.

Right now I’m scared because something new has come down the pipe and this infantalization of me as one of Alberta’s poor and mentally ill has left me with few tools to deal with it. So, in a desperate attempt to gain some control, I grasp at the only thing that has ever made me feel powerful; my words. Right now, they’re all I have.

 

Employment and the Mentally Ill

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Back in the summer of 2011, I worked as a writer for Alberta Education. It was such an absolute nightmare for me that had I not had the good fortune to be fired, I would have found myself in the psych ward in the hospital within a week. I wish I could say that is an exaggeration but it isn’t. As a result of this nightmare, two things happened; I began to have panic attacks. These attacks were triggered when I tried to write or when I was working in a job and had to talk to the boss. Just thinking about it is enough to quicken my breathing and make a panic attack seem imminent.

Yes, I tried to work but the anxiety got the better of me and I simply couldn’t anymore. The idea, just the simple thought, of talking to a boss still makes me want to shut down. However, I’m not one to give up without a fight so, recently, I thought perhaps I could work part-time somewhere. A couple of days a week shouldn’t overwhelm me and would give me time to recuperate for the next shift.

See, aside from the anxiety, I’m actually a great worker. In an office I’m versatile and creative. Show me what you need done and I’ll get it done. In retail, I’m actually very patient with the customers and like to help. I understand what it’s like trying to find something and needing some help. So, with that in mind, I applied to some local businesses. Like Walmart.

There is a new trend in corporations to use psych tests as a means to thin out the resumes they get. The belief being that they can get the type of person they want without all the hassle of actually talking to people. It’s cookie cutter thinking and it’s dangerous.

Anyone who’s been trained as a psychologist or psychiatrist will tell you that without the proper training and proper testing methods, these tests are, at best, useless. A true psych test such as the MMPI has very specific questions that answer questions that the psychologist or psychiatrist may face. However, these tests are meant to be a tool, not a means to weed people out.

Think of it this way; a hammer is a tool that can help a person with the right experience and training to build a house. However, that hammer cannot build the house by itself. These big corporations are relying on these mini psych tests to do their job for them. A job they were never designed to do.

Further, these tests are not full psych tests. There is a great deal missing from them. A true psychological test done by a trained professional has multiple questions dealing with the same or a similar issue. This is done not only to determine who’s trying to fake something but is also a means to gauge how deep an issue may go. These mini tests don’t have the follow up questions. Therefore, the corporation is only getting a very skewed picture of the person.

There is a very real human rights danger here, though. Those tests can reveal any mental health issues such as, in my case, anxiety. Suddenly the person with a mental illness finds themselves and their illness exposed to strangers without their knowledge or consent. I find that frightening. It goes deeper, though. Once exposed, the corporation will red flag that person so that any subsequent resumes they send in are automatically rejected without even being glanced at.

What does that mean? That means that those with mental health issues are being denied jobs based on their disability. Yet, most of the time they don’t even know this is going on. That the human resources department has red flagged them because their mental illness showed up on a test they neither have the training nor experience to administer.

I find all of that terribly, terribly frightening. Don’t you?

Black Poinsettia

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Now that Halloween is done, I’d like to talk about Christmas.

Okay, please turn off the screams and stop throwing stuff. This is not what you think it is.

Every year from about November to the end of January, I get inundated with Christmas. Before Christmas it’s “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” or an inquiry as to my moral status to see if I’m getting goods from a mystery man known as Santa. After Christmas, everyone and their pet iguana wants to know what I got or if I stuffed myself at Christmas. Or, conversely, I get a rundown of their new shiny bling and a menu review.

Please, take this next statement to heart.

Stuff it all up your ass.

There are those of us who don’t celebrate Christmas. I’m not talking about celebrating alternatives which, as a Wiccan, I celebrate Yule (December 21st). I’m talking about those of us who don’t really care about the day at all. I’m talking about those people who don’t have a special feast or Christmas trees or turkey and stuffing. Yes, I make Christmas presents for my friends but that is not because of Christmas. It’s because I recognize that they celebrate the day and it’s special to them. Me? I would love to hide from November 1st to January 31st. Never to endure a Christmas carol or smarmy holiday greeting.

Why?

Once upon a time I would wake up early on Christmas morning and tear into my loot. I used to dream of Santa and try to be real good. I even ate my peas. I would eat turkey and stuffing and looked forward to the pies my mother made every year. Then something would happen every Christmas. Something would happen to make my sister upset and she’d start yelling. Then my brother (the one with schizophrenia) would start bullying my other brother and an argument or sometimes a fist fight would break out. The turkey would start to taste like ash in my mouth as the screaming and violence escalated. To this day I’m not a fan pumpkin pie. I cry every time I eat it.

By the time I was 6 I was informed, about a week before Christmas, there was no Santa and that I wouldn’t be getting Santa gifts anymore. My sister was tired of my parents showering the extra money and attention on me (she was 12 years older than me) and insisted it had to stop. I was confused. Had I been so bad that Santa didn’t love me anymore? Was Santa dead? I cry even now at the memory of it.

Now my Christmas day consists of eating homemade pizza (my pizza is the absolute best) and watching horror flicks on Netflix. I text my friends to let them know I love them and then I go off the grid. I crochet and try to get ready for New Year’s (which I’m invariably alone). I try to make my day as relaxing as possible so

So I want you to understand, dear reader, that there are people like myself out there for whom Christmas is a torture and it’s an endurance test to get through it. This year I will make a pin for myself of a black poinsettia. When you see it, please be so kind as to keep your well wishes to yourself. I have no wish to interfere with your celebrations. I recognize that, to you, Christmas is a celebration of life and hope and love. Please understand, though, that my associations with Christmas are very black. Enjoy your holidays and let me quietly spend mine.

I suggest that those who wish to opt out of Christmas wear a black poinsettia as a means of letting others know.

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