Twice Bitten, Thrice Shy

I’d say it’s natural and normal to react badly to a dog bite. Who likes being bitten by a dog? But how many people get sent into a spiral of low self-esteem and insecurity from a dog bite?

We always had pets in my houses when I was growing up. My dad had an outspoken preference for dogs, but mostly had cats. My mom has always liked to have at least one dog and one cat in the house at any given time. The main dog we had at my mom’s when I was a kid was a cute and energetic but fairly neurotic Bearded Collie named Cookie.

My dad talked a lot about how bad my mother was at training and controlling dogs. He said it was because she lacked any sort of interior authority, which dogs could sense. My dad talked a lot about how weak my mother was. I loved my mother and thought she was as strong as most people could or should be, but I still internalized the idea that “can’t control dogs” = weakness, something my father would disparage and laugh about. My dad would sometimes compare me to my mother, as well as tell me (from childhood well into adulthood) that I was passive-aggressive and manipulative, which were other ways he had of saying someone was “weak.” (My father valued directness and honesty, despite the fact that he was often neither of those things.)

Dogs are not easy pets to have. They’re generally quite clever and eager to please their owners, but they need to have clear pack hierarchy established and reinforced. What might seem to me to be a common sense way of establishing order can turn out to be the opposite of what a dog needs to keep it in line. I like dogs, but I’m generally much more comfortable with cats as pets. When Berkie adopted Dicken, she read a lot on dog behavior and training. We weren’t living together at that point, so I didn’t read up on training and looked to my companion for instruction. I’ve done my best at interacting with the little guy, but I am, admittedly, inconsistent and don’t always behave the right way with him. Add to this that he is clever and eager to please but also loves to test his boundaries and can sometimes just be a little asshole. He gets cranky with me in particular, especially when he thinks I’m encroaching on his quality time with Berkie.

Last week, I got up to let him outside early in the morning. After he came back inside, we both headed up to go back to bed. He wasn’t happy about me coming back to the bedroom and started growling and barking at me–which isn’t all that unusual, but Berkie and I just tell him to shut up and get off the bed, which is usually the end of it. This time, he bit my leg, then when I grabbed him and told him no, he bit my thumb. Neither bite was bad enough to draw blood, but they both hurt and startled me. And then yesterday, he was chewing on the fluff he’d pulled out of one of his toys, and when I started taking it away from him, he bit my other thumb, hard enough to draw blood on both sides of the digit. After both bites, I pinned him down to re-establish my dominance, but it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t really see me as an alpha.

Which shouldn’t really be that big a deal. Berkie has nicely, patiently explained to me things I was doing wrong and things I could do to rectify the situation. I’ve done my best to listen and be open to her instruction. But there’s this strong voice in my head–a voice that sounds exactly like my dad–telling me that the dog is biting me because I can’t project any kind of authority. Because I’m just too damn weak.

I’m sure anyone reading this is thinking, “Ignore those inner voices! Forget what your dad said! He was full of shit.” And he was. I know that. But these are long-established thought patterns in my head. I wish it were as easy as just ignoring them. I wish I could just say, “Fuck it! I know I’m strong!” But I look at the bandage on my thumb and I see a big, obvious sign that I’m weak. I assume everyone who sees it knows that it means I’m weak. I look at this 20-pound mutt and I feel nervous that I’ll never dominate him. And I feel stupid for letting my father knock me down from beyond the grave.

This will pass, as all things do. But today? Today, I’m feeling like a weak-willed, cowardly crybaby.


Moffat and Me

I wrote earlier this year about my problems with the last few series of Doctor Who. Charlie Jane Anders wrote a blog post on io9 that really hits the nail on the head regarding Steven Moffat’s run as executive producer of the show, and her write-up of the seventh series finale is also spot on. I had very mixed feelings about the finale. I got very choked up when Clara and the other friends of the Doctor were threatened, and the final scene with River Song got me teary-eyed, but I found myself bored and numb when it came to the villain and the threat to the Doctor.

In the classic show and in the first few series of the new show, the Doctor was a brilliant time traveler who would show up, unknown by the people around him, and use his brilliance and charisma to ingratiate himself into the situation and save the day. But that’s changed. Now the Doctor is a lonely god, crucial to the existence of the universe, known far and wide, with secret conspiracies working against him throughout time and space. Just announcing his name can send enemies running. And as much as I love epic stories, I find the godlike nature of the Doctor’s character…boring. It’s upped the stakes of the show to the point where the smaller, quieter stories seem subsumed by the overarching epic plot. I’ve loved Moffat’s past stories like “The Empty Child” and “Silence in the Library” (as far as I’m concerned, “The Girl in the Fireplace” is the quintessential Doctor Who story), but I’ve gotten incredibly disenchanted with his vision of the show as its executive producer and head writer.

When my mother asked me on Facebook about it, I said this:

“Moffat wants to swim around in the mythology of the Doctor, look at him as this epic demigod who is the Most Important Person in the Universe, look at his dark secrets and hidden pain. And I don’t care about any of that. I just want the Doctor to be a brilliant, eccentric time traveler who stumbles around the universe, fighting monsters. I don’t want him to be perfect, I want him to be unsure and afraid at times, but I don’t care about him as this mythic entity who is a legend to everyone in the universe, this tragic figure who hides epic levels of pain behind a facade of eccentric charm. Looking at this episode, ahead to the 50th anniversary special, and back at the past few seasons, and…I just don’t care about the overarching story Moffat wants to tell. Which, I suppose, is my problem, not Moffat’s.”

Maybe I’ll never get the show that I want, the show where an eccentric but relatively unknown time traveler and his ordinary but courageous companions show up somewhere, fight a great evil, then leave to go off to their next adventure, with no monumentally epic metaplot intruding on every story. Maybe stories like “The Impossible Planet,” “The Unquiet Dead,” “Kinda,” and “Pyramids of Mars” are a thing of the past. I’ll probably keep watching the show, because even at its worst, it’s still better than almost anything to me. And I’ll always have the 30 years worth of past episodes to watch. One way or another, the show I adore will go on, timeless and eternal.

Graturday 7

I skipped doing a Graturday post last week–I was not having the best week ever. I’m a day late with this one, but…better late than never again, right? Right!

1. I’m grateful for my friends and family who are always quick to lend me their support when I need it, even when the reasons for needing it are poorly articulated. I posted online last week about feeling horribly low, and although I didn’t really articulate what was the matter or just how low I was (for the record: extremely), I got more good wishes and emotional support than I expected. And it helped. More…well, more than I can really articulate.

2. I’m grateful for my parents and the way they raised me. Specifically, they brought me up to be friendly and gracious. I think I was that way by nature, but they definitely nurtured it and taught me good manners. Which is a big reason why, I think, I get so much support from people when I’m low.

3. I’m grateful for my brother and sister-in-law and their two kids. My nephew, August, had a birthday today, and my niece, Hazel, had one a couple of weeks ago. Both kids are delightful and very dear to me, as are their parents. Love you, Neffs!

Broken and Loving It

A few years ago, a psychologist suggested I’ve been dealing with generalized anxiety and depression throughout my life. A year ago, a therapist suggested I have ADHD. Both of these diagnoses explained a lot of what I’ve dealt with in my life. A lot of the time, I feel like this: poohs heffalump halloween movie 9 - piglet is scared

Other times, I feel more like this:tigger-bouncing-pic

Both have been strong forces in my life.

I’ve had a pretty rough few weeks, and for much of the time, I’ve felt small, scared, and insecure about my ability to cope as an adult. My demons have been screaming in my head, repeating things I’ve been told all my life. “You’re immature and irresponsible!” “You spend too much time daydreaming!” “You’re unrealistic!” For a long time now I’ve felt broken, doing what I can to take myself apart and glue myself back together, new and improved. I’ve been trying to learn new habits, chastising myself when it seems like I’m not learning them fast enough, not getting better fast enough.

And then I thought about my recent post on refusing to apologize for some aspects of my personality. I thought about the self-help books I’ve been reading, the medication I take, the therapy I’m in. And I decided I AM NOT BROKEN AND THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME. I mean, I know I’m not perfect, I know I have my faults, I make mistakes, I fuck things up. But not any more than anyone else I know. And yes, there are changes I want to make so that my life is easier for me. But I’m not on a timetable. There’s no rushing deadline of “I have to be relaxed and focused by such-and-such date OR ELSE!” There’s no end goal of “I’ve finally achieved mental stability and life focus. I’M DONE!” And I don’t have any responsibility to anyone else to get “better,” to be “unbroken.”

I think the biggest impediment to healing is the belief that you’re horribly fucked up and broken, when what you should be doing is accepting yourself for who you are and loving yourself for it. Today, I’m loving myself for who I am and not stressing about all the “horribly broken things” in my head that “need to be fixed.”

Good Neighbors

I have car insurance through State Farm. Since my car accident, they’ve been fantastic. The two main reps I’ve worked with–one regarding the accident, one in charge of assessing my totaled car and taking care of getting me the money for the car–have been friendly, comforting, funny, and extremely helpful.

Yesterday morning, I got a call from someone with Toyota Financial Services. “We heard you were in a car accident. We’re really sorry. But your car payment is late, and if we don’t receive a payment by tomorrow, it could be turned over to collections.” I explained that State Farm paid off the rest of my lien and I’d signed paperwork the day before turning ownership of the wrecked car over to State Farm. “Well, I see that State Farm called us, but we don’t have any paperwork and haven’t received any money.” I told him that was all very strange, since State Farm had called about the lien on Tuesday and, like I said before, the paperwork had been signed on Wednesday. I was really in no mood to deal with this kind of runaround, so when he again threatened that I could be turned over to collections if I didn’t make a payment by the end of the week, I said, “Whatever,” and hung up.

A bit worried, I called Christy, the State Farm rep in charge of assessing my totaled car, and told her about the Toyota Financial call. She assured me that she had sent a check to them on Tuesday and they should be getting the paperwork ASAP. “I’m not going to tell you not to make a payment,” she said, “But…” I said I wouldn’t stress out about it and just trust that it would all come together. “OK,” she said, “I’ll talk to you later.” After we hung up, I thought, I really hope I don’t talk to you later, because I really don’t want to have another totaled car assessed any time soon.

About half an hour later, Christy called back to tell me that she had called Toyota Financial to straighten everything out. They had the check from State Farm, they had the paperwork, the car was officially not mine, and I didn’t have to worry about making a payment.

“You rock!” I said.

She laughed and said, “OK, well, take care. I’ll talk to you later.” There was a brief pause. “I don’t know why I keep saying that. I really hope I don’t have to talk to you later.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” I told her. “You’re just being nice.”

“I’m just a polite person,” she said. “But you’re had a decision reached on this, so…I’m breaking up with you now.”

I started cracking up and came close to telling her, “I love you!” Instead, I just thanked her and told her to have a great day.

I’m so happy I’m with State Farm.


Graturday 6

I had a bad day yesterday, starting with a stomachache that woke me up in the middle of the night and ending with a migraine later in the day. I avoided being online as much as possible, so I’m late with this week’s post of gratitude. But here goes…

1. I’m grateful to have a physician who listens to me, is patient (ha!) with me, is stern with me when I need it, and is willing to look at all kinds of solutions to my health issues.

2. I’m grateful that my migraines, as bad as they are, aren’t as bad as they could be. I have friends who experience migraines much worse than mine, so even though it’s difficult to be thankful when it feels like there’s an ice pick going through my eye to my brain, in the end, I’m relieved.

3. I’m grateful for Google Maps. It was raining the other day when I got off work, and I really didn’t want to drive on K-10 in the rain again (especially after sundown), so I went on Google Maps and found an alternate, non-highway route. It took longer to get home, but it was a nicer drive overall. I can remember the days before online maps, but it’s hard to imagine going back to that now.

If You’re Ever in San Francisco…

I just got an email from the nice folks at Caffe Capriccio, a coffee shop in the North Beach neighborhood in San Francisco that Berkie and I hung out at on our trip to the Bay Area a few years ago. I liked Caffe Capriccio a lot, and they have a new website (nicely designed!) where you can order food online, which is very cool. If you’re ever in North Beach, I highly recommend the coffee shop. (And if you need a place to stay, the San Remo Hotel is glorious.)

And now I find myself missing San Francisco terribly, wishing I could drop everything and head back west. *sigh*