Date Tags support

My mother was a tense woman, and cleaned in what most would consider a neurotic fashion. I was little, maybe ten, and she'd ask me to clean, or vacuum. She'd inevitably grow frustrated with my attempt at cleaning, and lash out in anger, making me feel wrong for even trying. Her inability to control her frustration would end in a screaming fit, and I was her target. She'd lash out at me, and before long she would go off into tirades about how lazy I was, or how selfish I was. I would feel beaten up and overwhelmed, as if she had sawed the top of my head off and poured all the junk that was brewing inside of her into my being. At the end of days like these, I'd wind up alone in my bedroom, hiding from my mother's wrath. My brother and sister had lots of friends, so they usually escaped these explosive moments. Ruth had obviously been thinking about this for a while. It was the path out of the confusion she'd been living in for some time. I took a breath and said, You want me to tell you the future of love and marriage and sex? Is that the big, capital-F Future, like for everyone? A sip of coffee, then the final admission: I can't help you. Being compromising without compromising ourselves, without giving up the things that are most important to us. That means not shelving our needs, wants, and dreams to ease the tension created in having a conversation where compromise is the goal--that's just delaying the friction and resentment that is bound to pop its head up again at a later date. Putting our needs, wants, and dreams to one side isn't compromise unless mutuality and reciprocity are at play. The best relationships are supportive, value equity and fairness, and make space for all that's important to one another. Compromise can be reached when both parties listen and discuss within the realms of their boundaries--the limits of which we've identified and aligned--to preserve and support our whole selves. If the trade-off calls into question our integrity and self-identity, then it's conceding and not compromising. If a relationship constantly fails you, it's got boundary issues.

The best relationships are supportive, value equity and fairness, and make space for all that's important to one another. What a well-rounded discussion does is cut out the crap: the guilt-tripping, coercion, blackmail, belittling, and gaslighting; Compromise stems from a willingness to find a solution that's of mutual benefit, one that considers the health of the relationship as a sum of two individual parts coming together and navigating boundaries for the strength of the relationship. It was I who was left behind, broken, afraid to make friends, convinced deeply that who I was, was not good -- certainly not good enough. I was not only ugly, but deep within was a flaw so hideous that not even my own mother could accept me. This was the message my inner voice whispered to me often. My father would rarely respond to the negativity my mother would use to describe me. I wondered if in all those times when my mother tried to get my father to see me in a bad light, if he remembered what I told him on his knee when I was seven. I hoped he did, although a part of me was angry at the man I loved so much, because he did little to protect me from my mother's hidden rage. In my heart, although I could not express these feelings verbally then, on a silent knowing level, I felt as if my father knew that my mother had conflicting feelings for me. I felt as if my father also wanted me to pretend she didn't have these feelings, so as not to rock the boat. My father preferred I not express how I felt, and preferred instead that I swallow the feelings he thought might disrupt his household. I can't, I admitted, holding up my hands in defeat. What you're asking me, Ruth, is a really big question. I know it's a big question, she said, banging her palm on the table. We invest a great deal of ourselves into a valued relationship, and when we deliberately turn our back on it, it's often not just the person we're taking into consideration, but the cost of the relationship to us--the weight of what we've invested into it and the bits of ourselves we may have lost or will lose. Walking away sounds so easy, though it's anything but--especially when we're experiencing shame and guilt. We might have assets, sometimes dependents to consider. It's the giving up of a vision we once held for ourselves--something we wholeheartedly bought into with everything we had and everything we were--to step into the unknown. But we can reframe walking away and consider what we might be walking toward, instead.

Perhaps freedom, peace, or a future that lights us up instead of a life that tears us down. Relationships are changeable in the same way that we evolve as individuals, and sometimes we grow apart rather than together. There are times when our values and perspectives, who we are and where we see ourselves heading, become so misaligned that the relationship becomes detrimental. Some relationships are doomed from the outset, but not all toxic relationships start out that way--some morph into being unhealthy, unsupportive, and unkind. I was feeling defeated, tired of the bitterness between us. I wanted her to know how much I loved her, and that in spite of how angry I made her, and how frustrated I was with her, too, that I saw how hard she worked, how hard she tried to make my father happy, and how hard she tried to fix her brother, too. I saw how kind she could be to Aunt Jane and to my grandparents. I wanted desperately to feel some of the tenderness she bestowed on others. I wanted to feel loved by her, the way her brother did, the way my father did, and the way Aunt Jane did. I wanted to feel like she loved me the way she loved Leslie. I honestly think she was more worried about me in that moment than herself. I looked up at her face, and I got the exact same read from her expression as I was getting from her hand. It feels imbalanced, uncomfortable, and unstable, as though we're walking on eggshells with all the compromises that are involved. Some hallmarks include: a lack of trust, nonstop criticism and judgment, guilt-tripping, never-ending disagreement, withdrawal of affection, senseless jealousy, perpetual lying, gaslighting, constant belittling and name-calling, abusive behavior, the threat of violence, only conditional love that comes with caveats, a lack of balance, disrespect, constant drama, a tug-of-war for control, negativity, isolating you from friends and family, damaging your self-worth and confidence, and pretense. A toxic, unhealthy, and unkind relationship is one that stunts our personal growth, one within which it feels difficult to thrive and bloom. Quite often, it's one where someone is putting up and shutting up about big or small stuff that's compromising and oppressing their safety and self-identity--emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. When we get to a point where no amount of communicating or boundary-setting and asserting seems to address those gaping cracks, something has to change. Other people's behavior is outside our control, and it's not in our power to change other people. What is in our control are our reactions and subsequent courses of action. It's the ultimate creation of a boundary: to acknowledge that a relationship is troubled beyond repair and to construct space and distance there.

I wanted that love that I knew she had inside of her to scoop me up, and clothe me like a warm blanket. I needed to believe I was good, good enough for my mother's love. It took even more courage to leave it on her pillow where I knew she'd find it. I waited for her to mention the poem to me, but she never did. I stayed home all day, hoping she'd open up to me and invite me into her emotionally, but that never happened. Eventually, I mustered up the courage to ask her if she'd read the poem I left for her. I remember how fast my heart was beating when I asked. I can walk you through the process, but as with any kind of futurecasting, I won't have the answers. If life feels rambunctious, fast and furious, then we can look to the technology at our fingertips for answers to the increasing pace of our days and ways. Specifically, our smartphones and any device that allows us to access information and to communicate digitally. In fact, in an age when texting seems preferable to talking, it's fair to say that a mobile telephone isn't used as initially designed anymore. Long gone are the days we'd hold on until 6:00 pm, when the cheaper rates kicked in on our landlines, and spend the following hours chatting frenetically to the people we'd spent all day with at school. Plans would be set in stone as there was no way to contact someone if they weren't at home or near a pay phone. We'd have to either memorize our friends' telephone numbers (which might have been as short as seven digits if they lived in the same town) or look for their telephone number in the phone article--as long as they weren't unlisted. Dial-up internet dialed up the phone bills and came with a particular static and interference sound that we early MSN adopters will remember with fondness, recalling all too well how we'd sit with our fingers crossed that a connection would indeed be made. Download speeds were at a snail's pace compared to today's standards, but the excitement was unrivaled that we could download anything at all. It felt as if wild horses were running through my chest. I felt short-circuited, as if the wires in my brain fizzled out. I stood there frozen on the staircase for a while, unsure of what move to make next. Yes, I read your poem, Lisa, she said, as I wondered why she needed to play these cruel mental and emotional games with me.

That's good, I think, I said, taking another sip of my now lukewarm coffee and wondering what exactly I had gotten myself into. I went back up to my room and quickly emailed my go-to social scientist, Dr Genevieve Bell. She's a social anthropologist, technologist, futurist, VP, and all-round intellectual badass. We literally worked side by side at the Intel Corporation (the cubes were small), finding ways to make computers more human, emotional, and meaningful. Bell is still a senior fellow and VP at Intel, as well as a professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, where she grew up. As her bio article at the College of Engineering and Computer Science says, she's busy exploring how to bring together data science, design thinking and ethnography to drive new approaches in engineering and exploring the questions of what it means to be human in a data-driven economy and world. I fired off a message: Quick question: what's the future of love, marriage, relationships, and sex? In both Indonesia and southern Europe, cave paintings have been discovered that have been dated to be around forty thousand years old. These paintings are thought to illustrate some of the oldest types of written communication, in symbols and pictographs. From pictographs to carvings on rock or bone, marking rock faces by whatever means--including scratching, carving, chiseling, drilling, and engraving--dates back to approximately twelve thousand years ago, or even earlier. These petroglyphs seem to communicate territories, depict terrain, and have a spiritual or religious significance. When it comes to the oldest of old-school ways of communicating long distance, we can look to smoke signals. These signals were used to broadcast information to other people, and the number of puffs of smoke meant different things. Eventually a system was devised that represented the alphabet. It wasn't just used by the Native Americans or the soldiers positioned at the Great Wall of China, either. I just wanted to make sure you got the poem I wrote you, I said, as I awkwardly turned and walked back to my room. Mom used to say, Lisa and I have a personality conflict. I never quite understood what that meant, but I assumed it was her way of justifying the lack of a bond of any sort between us. It was that I felt wrong for needing or wanting my mother to love me in a way that I could feel like who I was mattered. From the outside, our family looked perfect, and I had been labeled as far too imperfect to mention my secret feelings to anyone.