I just saw my teenage self on Youtube!

That’s me in 1975 (on the right)

I’ve heard other people talk about stuff like this happening to them, but I never dreamed it would happen to me.   I always thought it would be the most surreal and cool experience, and last night I found out just how true that is.

As many of us are doing with so much free time, I’ve been browsing the internet a lot.   And as many other people probably do, sometimes I put names of people I know or used to know in my Google browser and see what comes up.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve Google’d this particular ex boyfriend’s name, but this time certainly was the most fruitful!   I dated this guy, let’s call him Steven, for about a year and a half from 1974 to 1976.  That’s a really long time ago, long enough that memories of that time have a grainy, shadowy, almost dreamlike quality, like an old filmreel.  We also had a pretty long relationship for people in their midteens, long enough to make some vivid memories, although we never became “serious” or talked about marriage.  After all, I was only 15 and 16 years old!

Eventually we broke up and he went off to college and we went in very different directions.   I’m not here to tell you about what became of him, but let’s just say he made better choices than I did and has become fairly well known in his field.  I regret nothing that happened to me though, even the bad things, as I was able to take away some valuable life lessons from all those experiences.  I don’t believe I would be the person I am today had my life been “easy.”

So, back on topic, last night my Google search yielded quite a catch!  Of course the usual entries for Facebook and a lot of those horrible “people search” websites came up, and a few news articles about his accomplishments over the years.  And a Youtube channel.   Now that was something new.    I clicked on the link…

…and almost passed out from shock. I WAS IN the first two videos!  OMG!

Steven went to an exclusive private high school for high achieving boys.  It was a “special” school in that it offered courses that you’d normally only find in a college curriculum, such as Sociology or Filmmaking.  Steven was in the filmmaking class and had to make his own short movies to fulfill the course requirements.  So during the 1975/76 school year, when we were in “puppy love,” he made several films starring the two of us, and I helped a lot with the stop motion and animated parts.  In fact, in one of them, I actually did all the drawings.  I remember how grueling that was, having to draw all those paper cutouts in slightly different positions to make the frames seem to run together smoothly, like a real cartoon (think South Park).

My initial emotion on watching myself (and us together!) as I was 45 years ago was simply amazed disbelief.  If something like this has ever happened to you, you will know exactly how surreal and cool it is.  It’s like watching your own memories in real time, and with more clarity than you ever had before.  You suddenly see things and details that were forgotten long ago.  Because there were no smartphones or even camcorders back in those days, Steven used a home movie camera to make his films, with that old super 8 film.   The grainy quality and little black moving squiggles that appear in old filmreels were there, giving the whole experience of watching the footage an extra air of the surreal, even a kind of eerieness, like a dream.

I sat there watching in utter disbelief, with my mouth hanging open and my eyes bugged out.  I’m sure I must have drooled on the floor a little, lol.  I think I actually screeched when I saw my own young face staring back at me from the recesses of time.  It was a good feeling though, really good.

!

I’ve often complained (sometimes on this blog) that I have very few pictures of myself as a child and teenager.  Most of them got lost or thrown out during one of my many moves.  I really have no idea what happened to them all.  There used to be so many. I used to think my parents (particularly my mother) must have thrown them away, but I’m not so sure she did.  No one seems to know where they are.   I always wished I had more old photos, not to show others, or even to reminisce, but to help me remember parts of my distant past as part of therapy.   I never imagined I’d recover not just some old photos I hadn’t seen in decades, but myself actually moving, at times even in close up!  Unfortunately, the videos have no sound, as the audio part probably wasn’t able to be uploaded to Youtube, or maybe the sound got corrupted over the years. (They originally did have audio).   But I’m not complaining.

I debated posting the videos here, but decided against it because (a) there’s too much identifying information, such as my maiden name, etc.; and (b) while fun to watch (and certainly fun to make), these films are truly cringeworthy, haha!  And the fashions!  Oh. My. God!   But I still wanted to share them in some way.  I settled on taking some screenshots.   (The fortune teller screenshot is actually a sort of gypsy costume I put together; I didn’t actually dress like that!)

So, I know what you all are probably thinking.  Did I let Steven him know I saw his videos?  My answer to that is, no not really, but he could probably figure out it was me if he was so inclined.  Under one of the videos, I commented, “omg.”  He can always click on my Youtube icon from there, and figure out from my videos and the rabbit hole that will lead him down who I am.  He hasn’t forgotten about me or our time together, and these videos were only posted THREE WEEKS AGO!  How weird is that?  I felt awkward identifying myself, for several reasons. First, like I already mentioned, he’s very successful financially and professionally, and I’m not so much.  I’m not comparing myself to him; I just feel like we’re in way different leagues.  Second, it would just feel awkward after that long a time.  I can’t explain why, it just is.

The internet (and Youtube) is an amazing, incredible invention.

Sorry, I couldn’t make the screenshots larger, but you can click them on and they will appear bigger in a separate window.

Unpacking Donald Trump’s Psychopathology

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Although Donald Trump does not have an official diagnosis of a personality disorder, many mental health experts believe him to have some combination of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopathy), and Paranoid Personality Disorder.  When these disorders appear together in the same person, we call it malignant narcissism.

Malignant narcissism is different from garden variety NPD in that, due to the presence of ASPD, the person very often has a blatant disregard for the law or the rights of others. There is also an element of paranoia, which lends itself to a toxic belief in conspiracy theories and a belief everyone is against them. The malignant narcissist will often seek retribution or revenge on others they believe have wronged them.   Often, they are sadistic and actually enjoy inflicting pain on others (I believe Trump is one of these).  Garden variety narcissists are toxic and usually unpleasant to be around, and they can certainly be abusive if you are unlucky enough to have to live with or be in close contact with one, but unless they are also malignant, they aren’t necessarily sadistic or likely to engage in criminal or deliberately cruel behavior.  A few might even have selective empathy, though their “empathy” could just be an act to get what they want.  A malignant narcissist has no empathy and no conscience, and they cannot change.

Donald Trump certainly appears to be a malignant narcissist, based on what he says and does.  The Dark Triad is another term for this combination of dangerous disorders.  Trump seems to have all 9 traits of NPD (per DSM IV, which I prefer to DSM V), and most or all of the traits of ASPD.  He also has some traits of PPD.   While most mental health professionals still stand by The Goldwater Rule and refuse to give Trump a formal diagnosis, some are so certain that he is a malignant narcissist that they chose to disregard this tradition due to the clear and present danger they believed Trump posed to the country and the world.  They believed it was their duty to warn others.  Their conviction resulted in a book that was published early in Trump’s presidency called “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” a compilation of essays by 27 psychologists and psychiatrists describing what makes  Trump so dangerous and which serves as a warning of the existential danger of a Trumpian future.

Due to this book, as well as a number of other well known people, books, and groups openly discussing Trump and his likely personality disorder has broadened the reach of the narcissistic abuse community and made terms such as gaslighting, NPD, narcissism, and blame shifting household words.   We are all victims of narcissistic abuse under this man.  Before Trump, the concept of narcissistic abuse wasn’t well known outside of the online narcissistic abuse community. That is no longer the case, so in a way, Trump has indirectly helped to educate the world about narcissism and the suffering and chaos it can create in relationships, families, countries, and the world.

This article I’ve linked to doesn’t describe Trump’s narcissism so much as it explains how someone like Trump could rise to power and infect an entire country with his pathology.  A Trump (or a Hitler or a Stalin or a Duterte or a Bolsonaro) cannot rise to power without the cooperation and encouragement of a sizable segment of the populace who can relate to or share Trump’s rage or even his pathology, and a political environment that is rife for someone like Trump.  The United States, a country that has rewarded narcissism and selfishness and punished empathy in recent years (a good example is Border Patrol police arresting Good Samaritans who left food and water in the desert for  migrants), was a Petri dish for someone like Trump.   He could not have risen to power forty or fifty years ago or even twenty or thirty years ago, when the idea of the greater good and the values of democracy were still the rule, not the exception, in the top tiers of of government.  Trump isn’t the cause of our downfall, but he is the glaring sympton of a desperately sick society and is certainly helping to fan the flames of destruction.  We can either address the problems that led to a demagogue like Trump, and fix the things that made us so sick, or we can ignore the warning siren and fall even deeper into the abyss of fascism.

The only issue I have with this article (and it’s a small one) is that I’m pretty sure more than 1% of the population (at least in America) suffers from NPD.  But as a society that rewards narcissistic behavior and punishes compassion, it might just seem that way, as such a society encourages even non-disordered people to emulate the traits of narcissism.

Unpacking Donald Trump’s Psychopathology Helps Explain the Toxic Reality Facing America 

*****

Further Reading:

Narcissistic Abuse in Trumpistan

We Need a Lot More Awareness About Narcissism and Psychopathy

Sociopaths Rule America

Trump’s Personality Disorder Brings Out the Worst in Everyone 

Hypermasculinity and Trumpism 

I love it here.

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I never get tired of the scenery here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. During lockdown, I keep myself busy with long car rides where I don’t get out of the car, and just feast my eyes on the scenery.  I took this just outside Chimney Rock, NC today. 
I have to return to work next week.  Boo.   I think it’s too early.

He was “just joking.”

It hasn’t been a year yet since I posted this article, but in light of Trump gaslighting America by saying his advice to ingest or inject cleaning chemicals into the body was “sarcasm,” I’m reposting this.

Lucky Otters Haven

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Some of Trump’s aides and enablers have been excusing Trump’s threats by insisting he was only joking.

Here’s a tweet I saw from an anonymous source:

He’s “just joking” when he says he’ll pardon aides for illegal acts, just like he kids about staying past his term

Trump himself regularly insists he was only joking when he’s called out about some of his threats to do things that are illegal, immoral, or cruel.   His flying monkeys back him up on this and then blame our side of having “Trump Derangement Syndrome” when we don’t fall for these lies.   This is gaslighting.

But Trump is a malignant narcissist, and malignant narcissists have no sense of humor.  They do not joke, and therefore Trump does not joke.   The only kind of “jokes” sociopaths and malignant narcissists understand are mocking or making fun of the  weaker and more vulnerable.   Unless you’re a fellow…

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Drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, 4/14/20

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I wanted to kill some time, and the day was too pretty to stay cooped up indoors.  So I took the car out for a spin.

I took these photos from the highest part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, in Jackson County, near Sylva.   It still looked like winter up this high (around 5500 – 6,000 ft).  Most of the trees are still bare, though a few are starting to bud.  A little higher up, and deciduous trees give way completely to Fraser firs (a type of conifer native to the Southern Appalachians that grows on the highest slopes).

The microclimate at these heights has been compared to that of states much farther north, and even southern Canada.  It never gets very hot here, even in the summer, and it gets a lot more snowfall than we do in the valleys and lower elevations.  I don’t think anyone actually lives this high up, though.

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I hate “soft” toilet paper.

Hahaha! Here’s a little something I wrote back in 2015, in those halcyon days of yore when we could still be picky about toilet paper brands.

Lucky Otters Haven

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My roommate went shopping yesterday and brought home a 12 pack of toilet paper, which was a good thing because we were just about out.

But the toilet paper will be gone in less than a week, and it’s not because either one of us have some…uh, problem. It’s because the toilet paper she bought is the soft, puffy kind where one roll lasts about one day. Maybe less, if you ate a big, rich, greasy dinner the night before or come down with some bug.

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It’s annoying to me. It’s not even worth putting the damn roll on the toilet paper holder, because it won’t last long enough to make that effort worth it, so I just set it on top, like this:

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The toilet paper companies dupe you into thinking you’re getting a bargain but you’re really getting ripped off. A four-pack of cheap one-ply lasts about 4…

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Quarantine drive.

It’s easy to get bored during quarantine.  One thing that doesn’t put myself or anyone else at risk of becoming ill, but gets me out of the house is driving.  As long as I don’t get out of the car, and make the drive the destination in itself, all is good.

Driving along I-26 eastbound into upstate South Carolina during lockdown was strange to say the least.   Neon signs overhead nagging me to “STAY HOME” and hardly any cars out on the road, in spite of the glorious spring weather.   I rolled down my windows, took a deep breath, and let the wind whip my hair around.  I turned the hard rock station all the way up, and just coasted along the highway, taking in the view.  I had to be careful not to speed, something I tend to do whenever I listen to music while I’m driving, especially when there’s practically no one else on the road.

Since the purpose of the drive was relaxation (and boredom relief),  I only took these two pictures.  I liked the juxtaposition of the nearly flat savannaesque terrain near Campobello, South Carolina looking northwest toward the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina, only about five miles away.   Things were a lot greener and hotter in South Carolina than they are up in the mountains, that’s for sure.   One hour away from my house, and it feels like summer.

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Unemployment Hell

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Two and a half weeks ago, the concept of having to apply for unemployment was the last thing on my mind.   But like most other “nonessential” businesses, the company I work for closed their doors until (or if?) this pandemic passes, and told us we could apply for  unemployment insurance.

I would have preferred to go in person and sit down with someone who would file my application for me, or at least walk me through things.  But they closed their doors to the public too, so I had no choice but to either call and apply over the phone, or apply online.   I don’t feel comfortable doing stuff like this online, so my first instinct was to call.  I tried to get through to the Customer Service number I was given, but I kept being kicked off after I selected “Ask a question about your claim” (the closest option to waht I was trying to do).  I wasn’t even being put in a queue, just rudely being kicked off and told to “call back later.”  I tried several more times and the same thing kept happening.  Have you ever been so frustrated you felt like crying?  Well, that was me at that moment.

Muttering a string of four letter words, I opened my laptop and went to the unemployment site.   I had to attempt to set up my account four times before it “took.”  Because of the incredibly high volume of applicants, I kept getting error messages or even being kicked off the site before I could even select a password.

The online form was dreadfully confusing, hard to navigate, and badly designed.   When I finally finished filling out everything (or what I thought was everything), and hit “submit,” I wasn’t even taken to a reassuring “Thank you for your application” or “You’re done!” page.  It just took me back to the questionnaire homepage again, as if I’d never filled out anything.  Was I in the system or not?  Did it go through or not?  Did I miss something? I decided to check my email and see if any sort of confirmation was sent.   Nothing.   I tried to call the number again, hoping to get a live person who could confirm whether or not my form went through.   But I was just booted off again, after hearing the “high call volume, call back later” message.  Why wasn’t I even being given the option to hold for a customer service agent?

Aggravated, I kept checking my email.  I logged back on the site, and kept getting error messages (I found out later this was due to the site crashing due to being overwhelmed by applicants).  Finally I got back in, and saw nothing on my homepage indicating whether I’d applied or not.   I decided to call it a day:  maybe I’d have better luck the next day. I needed a drink.

The next morning, there was an email waiting for me.   It said that in order to receive benefits, I would need to fill out a job search form.   I knew for a fact that layoffs due to Covid 19 were exempt from this rule.  I know for a fact I selected the correct reason for unemployment (layoff due to lack of work: Coronavirus).  So why was I being asked to provide this information?   Besides, who would be hiring?  And this was a temporary layoff, not permanent.     Maybe my form got changed somehow?  Also, how could I tell if my form even went through?  I needed help.  I felt like I was banging my head against a concrete wall.

I dialed the customer service number, and even though it was early in the morning,  I still got kicked out without even being given the option to hold.   I went to Google to search for any other possible numbers.  The first one was just the same number I’d been using.  Then there was was a fax number.   The third one was no longer in service.   I tried the fourth number, which was not for claimants, but for employers.   I decided to call it anyway.  Maybe I’d at least get a human who could put me in the queue or transfer me to someone who could help me.   Overriding their system somehow seemed like my only option.

After punching in a series of numbers in their menu, I finally was put on hold and told to wait for an agent.   After about fifteen minutes, someone picked up.  I told him the problem I was having getting any help from a person, and he was able to put me in the queue for claimant customer service.  That felt like a minor victory.

I knew it would be a long time before anyone picked up.  I had heard about how many people weren’t able to get through, or having to wait in excess of an hour or two to speak to someone.   So I grabbed a book to read as I waited.     Now, I have a smartphone and not a house phone, and because I live in a valley, sometimes the reception here is so bad I only get one bar or less.  Calls sometimes get dropped.  Even when I don’t get disconnected, at least half the time, the other party’s voice breaks up and fades in and out, so I have to keep asking them to repeat themselves.  Being a person who has never had a great fondness for speaking on the phone, it’s infuriating to me when that happens.

After the guy put me in the call queue, I was met with dead silence.   Did the call get dropped or not?  I would have welcomed some bad music right then just to reassure me my call was still in the system.  My phone was showing I was still connected, but was I really?   Finally, after five or ten long minutes, a recorded voice came on saying the call volume was very high and suggested I call back later.   Hell no, I wasn’t going through that again.  But at least this time, I wasn’t being disconnected after the “call back later” message.   So I waited. The message came back on again.  It repeated itself every five minutes or so.  I read my book.  I put it on speaker and went to grab something to drink. I read some more.  I logged into my application to see if anything had changed. My application was showing up, and I was still being asked to provide proof I was looking for a job.

I waited THREE AND A HALF HOURS before an agent finally took my call, but I would have waited all night if I had to.    My agent couldn’t help me unless I gave her my username and password, because without that, she could not see my application.  After she logged in, she told me that I had filled out everything correctly, and the “job search” message just meant I still had to submit a confirmation that I was available for work every week, but did not have to actually list potential employers.  There had been absolutely no instruction on how to do this nor was this requirement made clear.  So the agent walked me through this step, which turned out to be easy, but there was no way I could have known I had to do this, or how to do it.  She did say that my employer hadn’t submitted my “separation information” yet, but when I called my employer, I was told it had been submitted and that I should just wait.

I was certain this was going to be another problem, but yesterday morning, I checked my bank and a direct deposit had been made.  However, the amount I got was miniscule, less than half of my normal salary. Closer to a third.  It’s not nearly enough to live on, but at least that particular hurdle has finally been overcome and I can worry about other things, like how I’m going to pay my bills or if me or anyone I love is going to get sick with this thing.

A great nation we no longer are, if we ever were. We’ve now surpassed China and the virus’s spread shows no sign of slowing down or flattening out in this country. In the meantime, we get to see all our institutions collapse. It’s surreal.
I can’t believe we’ve come to this point, but here we are.

There’s not a lot we can do, except take care of ourselves the best we can, pray, and be there for one another. Try to stay well, and heed the words of Samuel Jackson: “Wash your hands, stop touching your face, and stay the fuck at home.”

The Great Toilet Paper Famine of 2020

Even the worst things in life have a humorous side, and the Covid-19 pandemic is no exception.   The Great Toilet Paper Famine of 2020 is probably the most obvious.  What is it with humans, at least American humans, and toilet paper anyway?

Enjoy this collection of memes.

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Statewide Stay at Home Order and Cheap Gas.

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Like many other states, my home state (North Carolina) just ordered a statewide Stay at Home mandate until April 29th.    I got temporarily laid off due to the coronavirus (I do not have it) more than a week ago, for two weeks.  Obviously now that’s extended.  I’m glad to be getting the stimulus check (though it should be for more and it should be recurrent, like Canada is doing) and I also applied for unemployment, but I’m having problems with their website and also don’t understand why they’re still requiring proof that I’m looking for work.  That’s just stupid under these circumstances, for obvious reasons.  My boss thinks so too, but she thinks they just haven’t updated their site, which could be the case.   I tried to call but it’s not possible to get a real live person to help you.  I almost pulled all my hair out yesterday in frustration.

I didn’t realize how much I appreciated my job until now.  Not only because of the income, which I need (unemployment pays HALF of what I earned and it’s not nearly enough), but also because I’m getting stir crazy laying around the house.   When I’m not busy, my brain starts turning on itself and I start ruminating and worrying about things I have no control over.   I start imagining all sorts of crazy things.  I’d like to spring clean the house, top to bottom, but even though I have the time, I’m simply not motivated, not yet anyway.   Maybe soon I will be.   The stink in the fridge is starting to get to me, so I’ll probably start with that (and get it out of the way first, since cleaning refrigerators is the grossest household task I can think of).

It was very warm today (actually hot) so I went out for a drive and just looked at the spring flowers and blooming trees.   But as of Monday, it will essentially be against the law to be out for any reason other than buying necessities.  But I’ll go nuts if I can’t take the car and just drive, at least.  How is driving around spreading a virus?    It’s not as if gas is expensive either.  It’s the cheapest I’ve seen it since 2003.  Just for fun, here’s a list of gas prices from 1978 to 2017.

Speaking of low gas prices, I took these photos this morning.

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The silence, lack of traffic, and lack of necessary provisions (like toilet paper and pet food) in the stores is very surreal and creepy.  I feel like this is what it must have been like to live in the Soviet Union.   It’s hard to get used to this new lifestyle, especially after Monday when staying at home becomes the law in my state (we already are on curfew).

It’s too easy (especially under this current administration) to weave conspiracy theories about the “real” reason all these lockdowns and mandatory quarantines are happening, but the fact is, we haven’t done enough.   Trump may want everyone to “go back to work,” but these restrictive measures are necessary to stop or slow down the spread of this dangerous disease.

Look at the bright side.  Has there ever been any other time when you can sleep late every day and sit around the house doing absolutely nothing and know that you’re helping to save lives?  You can enjoy being lazy without the guilt!  And if you’re an introvert to whom social distancing comes naturally, can you recall any other time when wanting to be alone was not only socially acceptable, but your civic duty?