Saturday was a very pleasant day. There were lots of puffy clouds, but the temperatures were pleasantly cool. EJ and I admired the beautiful wildflowers as we walked down the driveway to get the mail. Our neighbors all mow acres of their lawn but we keep most of our property wild. Of course, we couldn’t really mow in the forest even if we wanted to, but we don’t mow the open areas either except around the house.
EJ took photos of several of the wildflowers with his cell phone so he could identify them later. When we got back home EJ searched for the identification of the wildflowers in our book, North American Wildlife by Reader’s Digest while I searched through Wildflowers in Color by Arthur Stupka. We have owned these books for years and they have been very helpful and enjoyable. However, they cover all of North America and too often I have thought that I had identified a bird, animal, or plant only to find that it isn’t even found in our area. It’s much easier to search through books that are focused on our state. I searched on Amazon and found Wildflowers of Michigan Field Guide by Stan Tekiela. We already own a book written by the same author–Birds of Michigan. It’s a wonderful book which helps us quickly and easily identify birds…so I put Wildflowers of Michigan in my Amazon shopping cart to buy soon. I also saw Mammals of Michigan and Trees of Michigan and I put them on my very long wish list. I sometimes suspect that my Amazon wish list is longer than Santa’s gift list.
We took a stroll through our garden, which is growing very well. I have been using the fresh produce from our garden in my cooking. For example, for dinner I made Teriyaki Chicken, rice, and egg rolls. For the egg roll filling I used our garden fresh cabbage leaves and carrots (from the store–we didn’t plant carrots this year). I cut up some of our green onion, chives, garlic scapes, and lemon grass to season the egg rolls, and I used some ginger (not from our garden). It was very tasty.
While I was shopping in the garden for herbs, EJ thinned out the radishes and then he built another raised bed and replanted many of the young radish plants he had taken out. We were not sure they would grow, but they seem to be doing well.
EJ and I had planned to work on organizing the garage on Sunday. He was going to drag his lumber out (I think) and build a rack for it all, which would give us space to organize other stuff. But the day was very rainy, so we couldn’t do it. I think we might work on the garage during the days he gets off for Independence Day.
I kept coughing throughout last night so I finally grabbed my pillow and a blanket and slept on the couch so I wouldn’t wake EJ. I woke now and then just enough to be aware that it was raining, raining, raining. We’ve had scattered showers all day. I don’t mind the rain because then I don’t have to water the garden and the plants along the driveway don’t wilt. It’s been raining frequently enough that the used straw that I rake out of the coop is soggy and squishy when I walk on it.
This morning while I was filling the ducks’ pool, I heard a terrible ruckus on the chicken side of the pen. There’s often a bit of a commotion as one chicken defends its position in the pecking order or a rooster goes after a hen–but this sounded different. I listened and I could distinguish the sounds of an angry rooster and a distressed duck. I looked over the fence and saw that one of the rouen ducks had gotten into the chickens’ pen and Sassy was defending his territory. I rushed through the gate to rescue the duck but they had gone into the coop, so I ran around into the coop, but they had gone back outside. I ran back into the chicken pen and found Sassy on top of the duck in the narrow alley between the coop and garage. I shooed Sassy and picked up the duck. We didn’t raise the rouens from tiny chicks so they are usually more skittish than the pekins (white ducks). However, the duck must have realized that I was there to rescue her because she let me pick her up without fuss and she lay quietly in my arms as I carried her back into her pen. She is unharmed.
After I released the duck, I searched around the coop for the place where she had been able to get to the chicken pen. If the rouens find an opening, they like to get under the coop–I suspect to lay their eggs. I try to prevent it. I figured that the duck must have gotten under the coop near their ramp, so I inserted a small piece of fencing and some rocks to block the access point.
This weekend I had to set a boundary, which was difficult for me. Survivors of abuse often struggle to set boundaries–because either they were never allowed to develop boundaries or their boundaries were broken down by abusers. Wikipedia defines a boundary as “Guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits.”
Several months ago, I accepted a friend request from a woman. Overall she seemed friendly and warm although a couple of things she said caused a tremor or two of apprehension–but there’s always a bit of uncertainty when getting to know new people so I merely noted it and continued on. However, in mid-May I joked to her about EJ going fishing with “his imaginary FB friend.” EJ, friends, and I often joke about having imaginary friends on FB because we’ve heard people say that FB friends aren’t “real.” The internet can be unsafe because people can easily deceive others–but they can do that in person too, and we’ve met some awesome people on FB who certainly are “real” to us.
My newest FB friend got offended by my humor. I realize that people enjoy different forms of humor, and not every form appeals to every person. I, myself, enjoy puns, word plays, and laughing at the absurdities of life. EJ and JJ have the same sort of humor, but they also enjoy Monty Python, The Three Stooges, and the Farside cartoons. I dislike the first two and don’t usually understand Farside, but, oh, well, it is ok to have different tastes.
I also am aware that abuse victims get “triggered” by different things, and it’s impossible to be aware of everything that can be a trigger–a song, a smell, a phrase that is harmless to one person can trigger another if it brings up memories of their abuse. All we can really do is be sensitive to that person’s trigger and apologize if we accidentally trip over it. I repeatedly tried to explain my humor to this friend; she still didn’t get it. I repeatedly apologized to her and told her that now that I know that this upset her, I will be careful in the future. The FB friend kept telling me that she wasn’t upset, wasn’t offended, and yet–after days of silence–she was still asking me why I said what I did more than a month later. I had done everything I could to resolve the matter, I could do nor more, and I finally insisted that I would discuss it no more because we needed to move past it. It’s one thing to address a problem but another to never let it go–and even yesterday morning she was analyzing the psychological reasons of why people joke on her FB page. I’m thinking, for goodness’ sakes, a humorless person becomes a joy sucker. A person who can never laugh won’t survive the difficulties of life. And if you don’t “get” another person’s humor, oh well, consider it “not your type” and let it go.
Many of this FB friend’s actions were very similar to the manipulative abuse tactics I’ve experienced. (I’m struggling to write about manipulative tactics which make victims struggle without giving a detailed account of the conflict with the FB friend.) I’ve observed/experienced that toxic people often accuse their victims of “not trusting” when the victims are cautious about trusting someone who they feel is unsafe. I’m not sure why people think it’s healthy to blindly trust everyone. I wouldn’t trust a random stranger with my life savings, and I particularly wouldn’t trust someone with my life savings who I had reason to believe was dishonest. So why would I not be careful who I trusted with my own self, or my family, who are more precious than money?
This FB friend described her actions as “caring” and “seeking to understand” but there is a difference between being treated as a beloved friend and being treated like a damaged project to be fixed. It’s sort of the difference between being there for a friend who is hurting and Job’s “miserable comforters” who had all sorts of theological theories about the causes of his suffering. Bene Brown describes the difference between sympathy and empathy in her short video called “Empathy.” The video is similar to what I am trying to describe, although I didn’t feel the FB friend was even offering just sympathy. I felt more as if she was a therapist making clinical observations about a patient–only I hadn’t given my permission for her to evaluate me. I felt analyzed, judged, labeled–caught in a sort of purgatory in which my joke was endlessly discussed, analyzed, and never resolved. There was no deeper meaning or attack hidden in my joke; it was just me laughing at life. I wondered: If I make a mistake in the future would I have to again endure this purgatory of endless analyzing and questioning? I felt I couldn’t be myself with this friend, but I had to be constantly vigilant to make sure I didn’t accidentally offend her.
All the abuse experts say set boundaries and “trust your gut.” If a relationship makes you feel uncomfortable, anxious, afraid, depressed then it’s toxic and you need to end it. That’s a vital but difficult skill for victims to develop. I felt as alarmed as my little duck did when attacked by Sassy the rooster. The FB friend made me feel inadequate, uncertain, anxious, stressed, unsafe. I dreaded any interaction with her, and didn’t want to share any part of my life with her.
Yet, the old guilt surfaced–the guilt that I didn’t want to be unkind or hurt anyone, I wondered if I was over-reacting, I excused her because maybe she had not meant it, I agonized “What if she is really a nice person and I’m wrong?” But I have always regretted continuing in a relationship/friendship when my “gut” warned me against it. EJ and I joked about it being like in the movies in which people are stranded in a scary old house. One by one someone in their group disappears and is found cruelly murdered, yet the remaining people still go down the dark creepy hallway or rickety basement stairs to investigate the odd noise. We want to shout, “Don’t be stupid! Run!” but, of course, they never listen. How silly it would be if when we finally see the monster standing over the body with a bloody knife in his hand, we say, “Well, maybe he just found the knife. Maybe he didn’t really mean to kill her, maybe he’s just misunderstood…” The moral of the story is that if your gut says this is not a good situation, get out of there.
I described wanting to end this FB friendship but feeling guilty about it with EJ, who said, “You could always just not interact with this friend and let the relationship fade away.” But I felt unsafe with the person on my FB page, and it made me feel powerless and helpless to passively allow her to stay. So I took action.
I didn’t want to just disappear–if she is a decent person I felt she deserved more than that. So I wrote a short message to her to tell her that I was going to unfriend her–and why. I sent it, and then I unfriended and blocked her. Discussing it wouldn’t change my mind and I didn’t want to get entangled in more endless explanations and debate.
Setting this boundary is another huge step of recovery because rather than be helpless to escape, I am deliberately choosing to walk away. I feel that even if this person is actually very nice, caring, and understanding, she isn’t a person who makes me feel valued, accepted, or safe. She makes me feel less not more, analyzed not understood, damaged not precious. My family moved to Northern Michigan to fashion the life that we want, and part of that is deliberately choosing the people we want in our lives. I want people who are kind, empathetic, who know how to laugh, and who build me up rather than tear me down. I already have good, loving people like that in my life, and they are more precious to me than I can describe. They make me feel what I imagine my duck must have felt as she rested quietly and trustingly in my arms when I rescued her from Sassy.