My Mom Bought a Dog. It was weird.

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Just as I was starting my Junior year of college, my mom bought a puppy. I remember seeing it for the time when I visited over Christmas break. It was strange to me because my youngest brother had just moved out of the house. At first, I couldn’t understand why she got the dog. There were no more children begging for pets. It was just her and my stepdad.

Several times over the course of the next few days, she used this exact phrase, “this is my dog.”

I realized at that moment that my judgment about pets being for children was driven from countless televisions shows, and movies where kids pleaded for pets, and parents had to be overcome. This wasn’t the case with my mom.

She grew up on a farm and all her life she had pets. It was only for a very brief time in my early childhood that we didn’t have pets. The whole time as a kid, I thought we had pets because we just kept asking, but it was only seeing this new puppy that I realized we had pets because she loved them.

From that day forward, any catching up with my mom that took place always included a conversation about her dog. It was the first thing I understood about my mom that had nothing to do with her being a mom. She was an animal lover, always had been, and I was in my twenties when I finally realized it.

Dating: people are too polite, and it ruins everything.

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It’s the trend of every breakup I’ve had for the last 10 years. Some version of “it’s not you; it’s me,” or “sometimes it just doesn’t workout.” These classic and cliché breakup lines are intended to be polite, to preserve the fragile emotional state of the person being rejected, but there is a problem rooted in them. They don’t provide real feedback. The person who is rejected doesn’t learn anything to help in the next relationship. In pursuit of being polite, they choose not to be helpful.

It makes to want to shake them and yell, “I’m in my thirties. I can handle the truth. I need it, because whatever I’m doing wrong, I’ve been doing wrong for a very long time, and no one will tell me what it is.”

But I don’t. Instead, I start making a data tracking sheet. What I did and how they reacted. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I could finally learn what I was doing wrong all these years. It yielded some interesting points, but when I implemented the changes, I kept getting the same results. The girls kept dumping me. I realized my problem was that whatever wasn’t working didn’t make it on the data sheet. Once again, I found myself in need of genuine feedback, and no one would offer it.

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I suppose my question is: why did this culture develop? Why is it so important to keep secret your real reasons for ending a relationship?

So, let’s talk about feedback.

Several years ago, I started shopping around my first manuscript and got an endless stream of rejection letters. No explanation, just “no” or most of the time nothing. (They let you know up front if you don’t hear back, it’s a ‘no.’)

I joined a writing group, and they destroyed my work. From structure, to paragraph, to sentence the just tore it apart. It was devastating. I left the first meeting in tears, but I learned for the first time why my writing wasn’t working. I suddenly knew why all those agents rejected my manuscript, and I could finally start fixing it.

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Skip forward a year, and this time when I sent out my manuscript instead of rejection, I started getting requests for more. (usually, you on submit the first 50 pages.) Now they all wanted to the whole book. What changed? I got genuine feedback, and with it, I could make changes that worked.

Doesn’t that mean that I think I or anyone having a similar problem should fundamentally change their personality? No. I didn’t fundamentally change my story either. Same characters. Same plot. Told differently.

It’s about the presentation. Just after high school, a guy joined my group of friends who liked to tell everyone he loved them all the time. It was weird for me. It was weird for everyone in the group, the guys and the girls. I could see it on their faces. And I spent a lot of time thinking about it. The problem wasn’t how he felt, it was his presentation. I imagine that he felt the same way as when any other member of the group would say “you guys are awesome,” or “cool” or any other common term among friends. All he needed was a little genuine feedback, and he wouldn’t weird people out.

But once again I find myself at the impenetrable enigma of politeness. I’m getting dumped. There is no protecting my feelings. I’m going to get hurt. It’s the nature of ending a relationship. At least be honest, and maybe I can learn something in the feedback.

If Your Kids are Sick, WE WON’T WATCH THEM

To really understand how I feel about this you need to know that my mom grew up on a farm, and her experience with being sick was, “if you're healthy enough to work, you work.” This was a very common perspective among farmers since they worked with animals or plants.

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Later in life, I remember driving past a daycare once with a large sign that read, “if your kids are sick, please keep them home. We will not watch them.” It struck me at first, but after a moment of reflection, it made perfect sense. One sick kid at daycare means sixty sick kids next week, and a lot of exhausted parents.

It was only in college that I had a professor explain this to me, well to my class at the expense of a student she was told to go home. He came in sick and was sniffling throughout the entire lecture. About halfway through the teacher stopped and gave a brief history of being sick in public. She explained that antibiotic and symptom reducing medications changed the way society viewed disease. Before their introduction, if you lived on a farm and were you sick, you still had to help out on the farm, but if you lived in the city and got sick, they quarantined you.

After the Second World War, there was a huge influx of people leaving farms and moving to cities, and they brought with them the culture of working while they were sick. With new medicine, disease was no longer feared like it once was, so legal quarantines no longer existed. If people came to work sick, they just go other people sick, and more people had to buy medicine, but it wasn’t a big public health issue.

This lecture changed my life. It changed how I thought about being sick. It wasn’t about how sick I felt. It was about infecting other people and recognizing that people have different immune systems and a mild cold for me might put someone else in the hospital.

So, I found myself at the viewing of a movie in a park, and a few rows behind me I heard someone sniffling. In my mind, I ranted about the importance of self-quarantine for the sake of others. I never planned to deliver this rant but ruminated on it in my head. After another sniffle, I turned to see who the offender was and… it was a good friend of mine. Immediately my rage of this issue changed into, “I hope they feel better.”


I survived Sleep

Years ago, I started taking sleeping pills to help me sleep at night. They have been a Godsend. I have struggled my entire life to sleep at night. I can be exhausted, but the moment I lay down, I’m wide awake. I tried all the non-chemicals methods. I read, and I would doze off, but then I would wake up 15min later, and once again, I would be wide awake. It was the same with every other method I tried, but the pills have been miracles workers.

I gave one to a friend once. (They are not prescription, just over the counter.) I told to just take half and see what happened. She called late Saturday afternoon to inform me she just slept for sixteen hours straight, because of that pill. She would never take them again. She didn’t feel refreshed, she felt like she survived. As the conversation went on, she revealed that she usually only slept 5 hours a night, so it was possible she was very sleep deprived.

This past Saturday is what happened to me. I was exhausted all week, and it felt like no matter how much I slept, I couldn’t get over it. So, Friday night I took a full dose (I usually only do a half) and slept for 12 hours. When I woke, I felt like I survived.