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Inferiority and its own kind of informed consent

April 29, 2011

This afternoon I had one of the most unproductive shopping trips ever.

Having used up the rest of the coffee this morning, I was mostly going out to get some more. While I was at it, I thought I’d pick up a few fresh veggies, having only remembered to set up a repeating veggie box order after one didn’t magically appear yesterday. (Oops!) So, I bussed it down to where we usually buy coffee, and ended up grabbing a big basket full of fresh stuff, including a couple of herb plants that looked good. There was a lot less than usual for a trip there; I kept passing by things and saying, “Nope, ordered in some of that. Nope, the milk is taken care of.” The prospect of lugging so much less home on the bus was a pleasant still-bit-of-a-surprise.

Then I got through the checkout, and my debit card didn’t go through. I am really bad at keeping track of money, between the dyscalculia and the executive function weirdness, but I thought there was at least £150 left in the joint account. (That would be because I transferred, oh, £150 to my sole account, with the most recent debit card never showing up and my not bothering to request another one, as little as I use that account. Double oops.)

So, I tried my Mastercard. Of course, it turns out that store does not accept credit cards, only debit.

At any rate, it was really embarrassing, having to try to be polite while having to abandon my load of groceries, after holding up a busy checkout line and getting glared at by harried people who had just gotten off work on a Friday. When I don’t deal well with unexpected disruptions anyway. I managed to keep my composure until I got out of the store, on the verge of a crying fit or other meltdown.

But, I had the sense to go around to a calmer spot where I could sit down, and managed to avoid the public meltdown that would have left me feeling like a total ass. Instead, I reminded myself that these things happen–to some of us more than others, to be sure, but they do happen. *wry smile* Then I sent Nigel a couple of text messages, and he looked into the problem (yep, into overdraft again!) and transferred some money over. Thank goodness for mobile devices and online banking, is all I can say.

Really not ready to face the same cashier again, and not trusting the card to work even after the transfer, I decided to head for another supermarket not too far away–and hit the ATM outside it before I even went in the store. So, naturally, when I got down there, both ATMs there were out of order.

This was already more walking than I’d planned to do, having slept on my back funny for the first time in a while, and I had the sense to say “to hell with it” and just start for home, instead of walking up stairs or a ramp to another cash machine and then back down and through the rather large st0re.

I also recognized that I was getting extra anxious and cranky because my blood sugar was starting to plummet, so stopped and got a 70p juice drink from a newsagent’s instead of trotting out the same old “when I get home…must save money…” penny wise, pound foolish mantra. (Between not having eaten enough earlier and getting upset, no wonder. Getting worked up like that always throws my blood sugar for a loop.) So, I wasn’t waiting for the bus like an angry zombie ready to collapse at the end of its journey, which has happened many times before and is never pretty!

So, it was a pretty crappy shopping trip if the goal was to get home relatively unhassled with, erm, food and coffee . The point, though, is that this was OK.

I screwed up at multiple points that affected this process, but–it’s worth repeating–these things do happen. What I didn’t do this time was start into the kind of downward spiral that makes things so much more miserable. I kept sufficient mindfulness going not to let that get started. (And for me, at least, these self-abusive perfectionistic loops pretty quickly start keeping themselves going, and spawn more. Yeah, the OCD tendencies again.)

So, I didn’t go off into a deteriorating tirade of “You incompetent nincompoop! How did you let this happen again?! You should have thought of X and Y before you even started. And how do you expect to be able to accomplish A, if you can’t even handle B and C [totally unrelated things] without royally screwing up? Huh? Blah, blah, yada, yada, more abusive shit that goes on for hours if not days.” And yes, most of those are pretty much direct quotes from various other people at various times. And I have gotten suicidal thoughts after enough of those loops before, triggered by seemingly minor incidents like today’s.

Instead, I was frustrated and embarrassed, but able to find it darkly funny not long after it happened. By now, the broken record perfectionistic scripts are even darkly funny when they start up–as they will sometimes. A bad shopping trip is hardly the end of the world, and I have plenty of food at home, including instant coffee. Even if it’s not what I had in mind, it’ll be drinkable in the morning. Seeing that unforeseen complications come up a lot, I’ve been trying to keep a decent stock of easy-to-prepare items anyway–like the GF pasta,  frozen veggies, pesto in a jar, and yummy marinated tofu bits I ended up combining tonight, not needing the added stress and standing up of cooking what I’d originally planned.*

What’s changed there? Mostly getting enough knowledge to be able to change the way I look at things.

I’ve been thinking of writing something about this anyway, but this lousy afternoon example looked like a good opportunity.

I used to feel like a huge screw-up who let the people around me down a lot, for no apparent reason. My own behavior hasn’t changed that much, other than cutting down on the neurotic responses that only made things that much worse. The perception shift there has had an awful lot to do with figuring out enough about what’s really happening–and who I really am–to develop more realistic expectations. (And, I might add, living with someone who isn’t reinforcing their own unrealistic expectations.**)

Just knowing that I’m dealing with multiple disabilities and neurological differences has made a huge difference. For a non-autistic person, my life might look like a train wreck in some ways; for someone on the autistic spectrum living in a society whose expectations are not well-suited to my reality, I’m doing pretty damned well. The same goes for the (thankfully, now receding!) chronic pain and fatigue, etc. I get by the best way I can while trying not to hurt anybody, which is the best anybody can do.

Culture, how we view human difference, and abuse also applies to how we see ourselves. If that’s as a burden, well… 😦 It doesn’t have to be that way.

It also doesn’t have to apply to things that become disabilities once intolerance enters the picture, though that description could apply just as well to variations in gender and sexuality, or about any other bit of human variation that the society in question deems important enough to treat people like crap over–and get them treating themselves that way, all too often.

I couldn’t help but think of the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Based on my own experience, I would turn that into “without your informed consent”. If you have learned no other way of describing and just thinking about  the way things are going for you, it can be hard to reject the only sensible-sounding explanation. If you don’t know that things like disability or cultural differences between you and the observer are influencing their perceptions, you may well accept their judgment that you are inferior, just out of not knowing any better. But once you do have enough information to develop other decent working hypotheses as to what’s going on, that becomes a very different story.

Harking back to , I have to throw in probably the best concise attempt at talking around the concept of duyukta that I’ve ever run across, from Living Stories of the Cherokee, collected and edited by Barbara R. Duncan (bolding added):

The Cherokee attribute their survival as a people, a unique culture, to their closeness to the land and their adherence to Duyukta. Duyukta is a moral code that might be roughly translated as “the right way,” “the right path,” or “the path of being in balance.” [If you could call the Tao a “moral code”, I guess you could refer to duyukta as one… — U.]

One of the medicine people told me: “What does being in balance mean? It is the traditional Cherokee way of living: placing importance on the good of the whole more than the individual; having freedom but taking responsibility for yourself; staying close to the earth and all our relations. And how does one do this? By taking time to dream; by understanding our nature and our needs and taking care of them; by doing ceremonies that keep us in balance like going to water and using the sweat lodge; by listening and praying; by recognizing our dark and light sides; by having the support of family, extended family, clan, and tribe. The medicine people say it requires understanding ourselves and our place in the world around us.”

So, you’re not going to find a lot of balance and peace within yourself if you don’t understand your unique place in the world, and your own unique needs as a human being. You also aren’t going to be in a very good state of mind–or proper relation to the rest of the world–if you try to ignore various parts of yourself and your needs. Ignore, suppress, and/or neglect these things, and the darker sides of traits are liable to try hard to get your attention–and you’ll probably enjoy that far less than if you’d paid attention to the things you tried to ignore in the first place. (Yes, I speak from experience here.)

Yes, it’s hard to avoid these philosophical turns sometimes. 🙂

ETA: I didn’t think to say explicitly, since it’s so strongly implied, but maybe I should anyway: within this kind of approach to the world, there is no room for inherent inferiority or superiority as a human being. (Or anything else, for that matter.) People just are; it’s what they do with that–and how they treat others around them–which matters. And yes, it can be very liberating, figuring out that the whole question of inferiority is BS to begin with. /ETA

I’m also reminded of a video I really enjoyed a couple of days ago, which I’m putting into a separate post, since I made my first stab at a transcript.


* With any luck, these kinds of little changes for easier spoon management will help me manage to stay vegetarian/wild pescetarian this time, instead of having to grab the easiest high-energy gluten-free option at some point. (Especially since I tend to forget to eat until I’m ravenous and my blood sugar is low.) Which has tended to involve pieces of meat; needs must, sometimes, no matter the ethical objections. 😦

** I used to worry to a ridiculous extent about Letting Nigel Down and his thinking poorly of me–assuming there were all kinds of unspoken expectations there, because IME there always were. The first year or so we lived together, I just about drove myself crazy with that, never feeling like I could relax; in fact, I’m pretty sure that contributed to a serious “don’t leave the house because it’s too overwhelming” depressive episode my first winter here. Which didn’t make him suddenly decide I was a worthless person, either. 😉 Over the intervening six years, I’ve calmed down a lot about that, because he really is that laid back about a lot of stuff. And doesn’t think I’m stupid or incompetent, even when I text him with “Halp! The joint account broke!” like today.

Hell, the first full day I was here visiting in person, I got lost three times between here in the inner burbs and meeting up with him and some other people in Central London–and was two hours late and had spent at least one of that crying when I did find the place. A few days later, I had a credit card problem that really wasn’t my doing–it got flagged and suspended due to sudden overseas activity, which took several calls to straighten out–and he had to feed me for a week. Then, when it came time for me to go home, I managed to (a) leave here late, and (b) get lost on the way back to Heathrow. So, I ended up staying another two weeks before the return ticket could get straightened out (with transfers to my credit card, etc.)*** Had I been Nigel, I’d have run like hell after any of these incidents, not asked the person to marry me! But, as I have needed to remind myself more than once, he had a pretty good idea what he was getting into from the very beginning. 🙂

*** My mother attributed this to my not-so-deeply-hidden wish to stay. Actually, by that point, I was more than ready to go home where I didn’t feel like I needed to try so hard to make a good impression; feeling like you need to be on all the time gets really freaking exhausting really quickly. In truth, sometimes I’m just a dope, no subconscious self-sabotage required. And I have no sense of direction and very little sense of time, no stories required to pretty that up. A phone with PDA and GPS functions is a lot more useful than ‘splaining and trying to make reality more in line with someone else’s expectations. (And now, I’m impressed in retrospect at how much harder I was trying to appear “normal” because it was expected at home…)

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 5, 2011 1:37 pm

    Wow, I really needed to read this today.

    I’m one year free of a violent and abusive marriage, during which the mistakes I make because of my impairments were constantly made a big deal of. I was told I was either mismanaging things or else I couldn’t be trusted – and must not trust myself – at all. Thus making a mistake with a shopping list seemed monumental. Since I left I have been learning that these things just happen – that I might make more mistakes than most, but most of my mistakes are not all that spectacular.

    Everyone slips up, and most people manage to forgive themselves. Most people forgive one another. It seems ironic that when other people might see you and I as having an “excuse”, that we should be so hard on ourselves.

    Thank you very much for this post.

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