Wow. I have to get up and write this down. Not only did I have a dream that I wanted to write down, but a whole slew of ideas came running after like a freight train, and I needed to take notes so I wouldn’t forget them all. This is going to be a long post.
Let’s start with the dream.
I was at a restaurant, seated at a circular table outside. At the table with me were four people I instinctively knew were coworkers, though I recognized none of them. Almost immediately someone gets up from the table to leave; it’s Aaron Paul. As soon as he stands up people at the tables around us notice, and an extremely beautiful woman calls out, “Oh my god!”
She rushes over to the table, gushing about she’s seen his work on TV and – more importantly – he saved her mother’s life. She was in the hospital with cancer, he visited the hospital, and soon after she was cured. But she’s walking towards me as she’s saying all of this, looking at me, and talking so loud and fast I don’t get a moment to speak.
She grabs my face, kisses my cheek, and as she walks off she continues to extol his virtues. Stunned, I look at Aaron. He grins at me and waves goodbye. He was glad to escape being the celebrity target for a brief moment. He wasn’t going to stop her.
Still stunned speechless, an attractive female coworker to my right starts talking about how nice that is, and how every guy ought to be as nice. I begin to say, “But I didn’t … that wasn’t me … that was him … I didn’t get to say …” and reading her face I see her brain processing that I wasn’t the one who did those nice things. I had no idea who this woman was – until this point in my dream I didn’t even know she was sitting there – but suddenly I realize it’s someone I’ve been attracted to. I feel bad knowing that she thinks less of me now because I wasn’t the one who did those things, but also because I didn’t act fast enough to stop the lady.
Then I woke.
In my sleepy state I realized I’d had almost the exact same dream before. I wondered what it meant, and almost immediately I knew. My subconscious was afraid of what’ll happen when my girlfriend learns I’m not who she thinks I am (we’re still in the ‘honeymoon stage’).
I’ll explain these next few sentences in more detail in a moment, but let me say this to lay the groundwork: I thought, “Oh, okay. I have the tools for that,” and contentedly curled up my pillow to go back to sleep. Before drifting off again I thought, “Fear of being discovered as a fraud. I should write down the tools for that for the list of things I’d like to add to the app. Hmm. I could make a whole list of fears and write up something for each one.” Then I started thinking about what I’d write for this one.
Because of where my thought process went I already know I’m going to want to post this blog entry on www.reddit.com/r/TwoXChromosomes, so for those readers let me stop and explain what I mean by “the tools”. To make a long story short, I’ve been through a lot. I’ve been in and out of counseling, group therapy, and/or and twelve-step meetings since I was 15 years old. I’m almost 40 now, so you could say I’ve had (on and off) 25 years of experience dealing with “the tools of recovery”, though I didn’t learn to call them that until about twelve years ago.
What are “the tools”? Well, there are more tools than I can list in one blog entry, and there are multiple kinds. There are books, and websites, journaling , and peer review … therapy sessions and twelve-step meetings are tools too. But the tools I’m referring to right now are a set of ideas, simple phrases. These phrases are like bookmarks. Each phrase reminds me of a different topic learned through hours of conversation and experience.
Some are phrases I’ve heard my whole life: Take Care of Yourself. Being a Bitch or an Asshole Isn’t Always a Bad Thing. Be Gentle With Yourself. It’s None of My Business What Other People Think of Me. When One Door Closes, Another One Opens.
Some of them I only learned through recovery: Move the Doorknob to the Inside. “No” Is A Complete Sentence. Never Let Anyone “Should” on You. Emotions Don’t Require Motions. I’m Not a Human Doing; I’m a Human Being.
Now, I’m not trying to sell anything (I’ll explain that in a minute), but four years ago I wrote a book listing 80+ of the tools I’ve learned, and a brief description of each. My idea was that being given a number of the tools up front could be really helpful to anyone getting into recovery because it could bring them up to speed faster. I also designed it like a quick-reference guide, with a See Also list at the bottom of each page. These were the tools I was thinking of when I said I had the tools to deal with my girlfriend eventually coming out of the ‘Honeymoon Phase’ of our relationship.
I’m not going to give a full breakdown of what each of these mean, but as an example here’s a list of tools that apply to that fear:
Perfectionism (my desire to avoid it), I Don’t Have to Be Superman (or Superwoman), I Own My Own Actions, Emotions Don’t Require Motions, To Thine Own Self Be True, People’s Behaviors Are a Reflection of Themselves, It’s None of My Business What Other People Think of Me, Letting Go of the Outcome, Break It Into Manageable Pieces, It’s Not a Task; It’s a Process.
There’s one more tool though, and this is the one I wanted to write about. I have to find a way to re-write this succinctly because it takes up two pages in my book and has context that could be lost here if I’m not careful.
In my book there’s a section where I talk about playing certain roles (The Victim, The Abuser, The Savior aka The Knight in Shining Armor), and how an extremely sexist article in Playboy Magazine ironically helped me learn to stand up for myself better. Specifically, the article is written to men to teach them that some women (I said some, not all) do want you to chase them, take the lead, and confidently (but not predatorily) create a situation where sex is possible and enjoyable.
Furthermore, because of the crazy expectations/gender roles in society, the article advises that yes, some women will then “blame” you for creating the situation in order to preserve their social purity (and their ego), and asks, “Is your ego so fragile that you can’t be a man and let her blame you for it?” Put another way, it could’ve said, “Are you not strong enough to let yourself be labeled an asshole?” I know many women will be furious about that, but bear with me.
Because of the things I’ve learned in my journey through recovery I was able to see a glint of value there, but it needed to be polished. I’d been learning to Take Care of Myself and that It’s None of My Business What Other People Think of Me, and this article made an interesting point about what had been a fragile ego. Is my ego so weak that I can’t let someone call me an asshole?
I know now that I am strong enough to let others talk trash about me – and that includes when I’m taking care of myself – and I can do that without taking advantage of others. Even more to the point: sometimes I may be labeled weak for not taking advantage of others. That article helped me understand my ego is strong enough to handle that too, and I’m glad because it’s important to be able to stand up and say, “I don’t care what you think” when I’m doing what I feel is right. It’s ironic to have that article to thank, but sometimes wisdom comes from taking something people look at every day and tweaking it just a bit.
This is the point where I thought of posting to www.reddit.com/r/TwoXChromosomes. I thought of how that tool has wisdom, if you can see past a source that would otherwise enrage you. I thought of two threads I read the other day (wolf whistle and train conversation) where women were so annoyed with being the subject of attention that even polite discussions are suspected of being guilty until proven innocent. I wondered how many women could probably find some peace using “the tools”.
I thought, “When Jehovah’s Witnesses come knocking on my door looking for a soul to save I’m annoyed, but I don’t blame them. There are some people out there who want to be saved, and they know that. Of course, if Jehovah’s Witnesses came knocking on my door ten times a day I’d be annoyed too.” And then I thought of the flame war that statement would provoke.
I think the topic would turn to, “If not for the patriarchal society we wouldn’t have to deal with this” but I’m not so sure of that. I was a bartender at a lesbian nightclub for three years while I was in college and formed some very close, and great friendships with people in the LBGT community. I’ve also been friends with a few social workers, and heard plenty of horror stories. Honestly, I don’t think a matriarchal society would be healthier just by sheer virtue of being matriarchal.
That’s because the tools of recovery are lessons we don’t always learn in the families we grow up in. Not all women possess the emotional intelligence considered ‘feminine’; some men do. Not all men are abusive; some women are. Although most people (of either gender) learn their dysfunction from being abused themselves, some people find their dysfunction on their own (and some even enjoy their dysfunction). As such, I don’t believe wiping out abuse is something that can ever be done. The best we can do is learn the tools, use them to make our world better, and share them with others.
This is where I started thinking I definitely ought to write this all down and post it. Spark some discussion, maybe help a few people learn a few things. It’s also where I knew I’d have to address the potential of Reddit disliking this out of suspicion I might be trying to make money off it by selling books.
First let me tell you as soon as I started writing the book I decided it should be non-profit so I could give back to the recovery community that I learned all this stuff from. Second, I want to be up front that in the book’s introduction I mention starting as 50% non-profit (I’d give 50% of the profit to recovery groups), eventually raising that to 100%. Third, let me say that over the last 4 years I’ve spent almost $3,000 of my own money giving away books. I should’ve written the book to say 100% non-profit because I don’t think I’ll be turning a profit any time soon, if ever. And fourth, just to allay any fears you may have left, I have one last thing I can offer (and this part really makes me happy).
As I lay in bed thinking about all this stuff it occurred to me that I’ve not yet donated any copies to my local women’s shelter. Here’s what I’m thinking: I’ll donate 5 copies out of my own pocket. I make $1 off each ebook sale, and $4 off each paperback. If you want to purchase copies of the book, for each $10 profit made in the month of June I’ll donate an additional copy to our local women’s shelter. If you want to pick up a copy it’s available at every retailer you can think of. Links to Amazon, Lulu, and Smashwords can be found here.
Well, that’s it. If you managed to read this whole thing, congratulations. Honestly, I don’t do anything in the way of promoting this book so I’ll be shocked if anyone even reads this … but hopefully someday it’ll be useful to someone.
Oh, and PS – if you’re wondering about the app I mentioned above … in the back of the book is a very generic ‘troubleshooting guide’ to help people who need quick help with a specific topic. I’d like to create an app with a more detailed list of situations and which tools can be used for them. It’s a work in progress. Right now I’m still writing down situations, and when I get a good number of them I’ll start putting together the documents.
Signing off …
EDIT 07/11/2014: I wrote to the admins of TwoXChromosomes about whether I could post this in their forum, they declined. I chose to move forward with my donation either way, which I did this week. If you’re in the Pinellas County/Saint Petersburg/Clearwater area of Florida, please consider donating to Simply Hope Transitional Housing Halfway House.