12 April 2010

Learning By Degrees

Please note that this post is personal and probably TMI.
The wisest mind has something yet to learn.
So said George Santayana. And while this past week has been a week of learning, it has reinforced just how far I still have to travel.

I've learnt that I can't dissociate like I used too when emotions come calling. This is supposedly a good thing, but I prefer dissociating to panicking.

I've learnt that I find it next to impossible to relax. This past week I have been on annual leave...and I've, among other chores, cleaned the pantry, composted the vegetable garden, stacked firewood and cleaned the house. I've also attended numerous appointments...until the middle of the week when I cracked and rescheduled a number of appointments. Oh, and I've organized dental appointments for various family members (which is not a good thing as one of my New Year's resolutions for 2010 was to avoid spending my annual leave on the family, because that's all my annual leave was spent on last year - the family. And I still have to suffer through said dental appointments. I can't wait until April is over). Yes, these are all things you want to do when you're exhausted and haven't had a break since who knows when. But...I seem to have this compulsion to complete chores. If I don't, I feel guilty. Why? I'm still not quite sure. Reading is something I do to relax; I read during meals, but only because I can't fix/sort/organize something while eating, or at the end of the day when I'm in bed. But outside of those times...reading is hard.

I've learnt (again) that I'm a control freak, who likes order, rules and defined boundaries. And my current job, unlike my previous one, doesn't really have rules and defined boundaries - there is no right or wrong...every project is different. And I've realized that I'm just not built for that. At least now I know why I find my job so difficult. Not sure if that helps much though.

I've learnt that I'm petrified of being a narcissist. I know everyone has narcissistic tendencies to a greater or lesser degree..but I live in fear of becoming like certain family members.

I've also learnt that I LOATHE invasions into my privacy. With a passion! If someone invades my privacy then I am vulnerable. Not good for a control freak.

So, up until Thursday this week was...hell. And then I started reading By Degrees (JB McDonald). This was one amazing book - I laughed in places, held my breath in others. And the tenderness the characters demonstrated - it was so beautiful it hurt. (And the tension *grin*) Plus...apart from a few differences (one of which is that I'm female), one of the characters and I are very alike. Reading a book in which I can relate to a character is rare. But there I was, on the page, in black and white. And...I didn't feel...so alone....so abnormal. This character doesn't like to touch or be touched...like me; this character is a control freak...like me; this character worried they were asexual or frigid - the steps they took to try and ascertain otherwise...I took those same steps; and like me this character has anorgasmia. I wrote the author an incredibly gushy and TMI email because I wanted her to know how much this book meant to me. At the beginning of the book, I honestly thought that the author would sidestep the issues raised, as happened in a book I discussed in a previous post (Baggage). But the issues didn't vanish; there was no quick fix but slow character development and growth. And it gave me hope.

By Degrees will join a small but select list of book that have spoken to me. These include Blackmailed into Marriage (Lucy Monroe), Blue-Eyed Devil (Lisa Kleypas) and Mine to Possess (Nalini Singh). So, if it's not too personal a question, have you ever read a book that speaks to you? (And yes, I know I asked this question just over a year ago [in a post entitled Avoidance], but I'm curious if, the past year, you have made any new discoveries.)

Edited to add TMI warning.


  1. I am so glad that you read that book last week and that it was so important to you and good for you!!

    Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney, although not as personally as your example - it was the book that helped me understand that the language you speak and in which you think shapes and limits the concepts you can think about. I read it when I was in 5th or 6th grade, and that was a really powerful concept.

    I read Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach at about the same time, and it also introduced me to some powerful concepts.

    I know that there are books, read far more recently, that have been of more emotional significance, but I can't bring them to mind right now!

  2. Thank you Chris :) I haven't heard of either Babel-17 or Illusions, but they both sound like very thought provoking reads. I wonder if my library has them...

  3. Illusions is a quick read, but has a lot of great quotes in it. My copy is heavily annotated! Babel-17 is out of print as an individual title, but I do buy used copies as gifts when I find them!

  4. Oh, lots of books do... I can't think of any off the top of my head.

    After I finished grad school, there was a long period of time where I simply could not relax. I'd sit down to read and five minutes be up again doing something. But I've finally gotten out of that rut, thank heavens. Maybe you will too. :)

  5. Chris - thank you :) I love quotes.

    heidenkind - thank you. You don't know how relieved I am to hear that. Because relaxing is so important! I've been not relaxing for, well, decades, but...I'm going to try :)

  6. I love books that make me think outside of the box, especially those that make me wonder about the shades of gray in life and what I would do in those kinds of circumstances. I can't recall any that I've particularly discovered in the past year off the top of my head at the moment, but there are a couple of J D Robb's that fit the bill such as Salvation In Death.

  7. I'm so glad that you've found a book that speaks to you so strongly!

    One of the books that really spoke to me was Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower. It's about a young woman's search for deeper meaning amid dystopian chaos. AWESOME book. I thought about it for days after reading it. I re-read it last year, and it really held up after more than 15 years.

    I grew up with someone in my life who was narcissistic, and I have to say that just the fact that you are self-aware, question yourself, and are able to step outside of your own drama and look at your actions tells me you're not. ((big hugs))

  8. I can safely say that you will never become a narcissist, pet. Also, you are far harder on yourself than your friends are, you know that, right? We don't see you the way you see you, and we just want you to be happy. You'll get there eventually, and we'll be thrilled for you when you do. :)

  9. ...especially those that make me wonder about the shades of gray in life...

    (((Kris))) I love those books too. Life isn't black or white, it's varying shades of grey...and witnessing the contrasts in those shades - amazing. I remember Salvation In Death. Nothing was what I thought it was.

    Renee - thank you :) I haven't read the Parable of the Sower..another book to check for on my library's catalogue. And thank you :) I know it seems like a silly thing to worry about but... And sometimes I do feel like I drown in the drama...although maybe that's the anxiety :) *hugs*

    (((Meredith))) Thank you! I'm trying to get there; I'm planning on getting there. I just wish that whoever had designed the walk had left me a map *grin*

  10. orannia, this read like my last few weeks. It's amazing how I almost don't want to take any days off work... it's spent on doing stuff for others. You end up going back to work more tired than if you had just gone in. Family, while some can be supportive and loving, seems to be more of an emotional and mental drain. I find myself, more often than not, not wanting to see or speak to anyone with the same last name o_o... And then you're trying to work on your own stuff, with no time or energy (sigh). Good luck to both of us :) I would LOVE to relax, unfortunately, I can't. I don't even try anymore.

    Anywho, Cry No More by Linda Howard is my #1.

  11. (((Mariana))) I'm sorry your last few weeks have been messy beyond belief. Family can be...family can be hell. And I so understand not wanting to take time off because you know you'll go back to work exhausted. I hide that I'm on leave from the family...how sad is that? We'll get there one day.

    And I adore Cry No More. It's the most amzing book. I feel a re-read coming on.

  12. Another brave and thoughtful post from you, orannia. I echo what everyone else said above me to empathize and commiserate with you.

    I'm so happy that By Degrees resonated so personally and deeply with you. I think that's one of the most rewarding parts about reading fiction. And the other extreme,... when we learn something about ourselves or others that we never knew before.

    As you already know, Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas is still the one book that has spoken to me the most. The passages in that book in which Haven was with her therapist were quite literally like therapy for me. I didn't even know there was a clinical name for the kind of person my father was (is... but thankfully not a part of my life anymore) before I read that book. I haven't made any new discoveries per se, but I have noticed a trend in the type of heroines that I'm most drawn to-- Mercy Thompson (by Patricia Briggs), Lily Bard (by Charlaine Harris), Eve Dallas (by J.D. Robb).

    On a much lighter level, the young adult novel Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles spoke to my teen self from yesteryear. Well... technically my college late teen, early 20s self... because it reminded me so much of all that dramatic star crossed lovers kind of stuff I went through when my husband and I started dating.

    I also have to reiterate Meredith's sentiment in that you do not have a narcissistic personality disorder nor will you become one. I think the damage done to us as victims of such people is too sharp and permanent that we could ever cast aside our ever present hurt to be like that to our loved ones. Does that make sense?

    Hang in there, my friend! :)

  13. (((Christine))) Thank you! And yes, that does make sense :) I have Perfect Chemistry on my TBR list and am looking forward to reading it even more now. I too loved Blue-Eyed Devil. Having a book resonate with you is...amazing :)