Not all the time, mind you, and I certainly can act pretty stupid myself, but I can be decidedly unforgiving when it comes to others’ repeated acts of utter stupidity.
Being surrounded by lots of other stupid people, I wonder, who am I supposed to model a better life after? That’s why I think it’s important for me to go through this ACCESS-VR program and let them help me get a new job or go back to school (or both). I need a lot less stupid in my life.
I’m coming up on five successful months clean in the AA program for my addiction issues, but I’m finding ongoing frustration with the program. One reason I still don’t have a sponsor is I have yet to find anyone in the program that I can really trust with my ‘big’ secrets. The sponsor should be a trusted advisor, but what if I don’t trust them? I have decided that when it’s time to do that fourth step — taking personal inventory — I’ll confess to a priest instead of one of them. The people are knowledgeable and admirable in their efforts, but I have a tough time finding any one of them I could trust not to be stupid around me. They have their way and I have mine. Rather like functioning on different frequencies.
But some in the program have begun pushing me to attend more meetings and get more involved. They don’t know my situation, but they’re very insistent. Sorry, but that’s just where I’m at with it. I frustrate easily, and if I’m pushed too hard by one of these folks, I’ll bolt from the program and never look back. That would be bad. So instead, I just laugh it off, let it go, and wait.
I also get frustrated at the thrift store where I work when customers act stupid. For instance, people who drop things off the rack and just leave them on the floor. Or exit the changing rooms leaving a cartful of clothes crumpled on the floor. Or pee in the toilet and don’t flush. Or poop, clog the commode, and tell no one until the next guy floods the bathroom as the backed-up toilet overflows.
Or when I’m walking down the main aisle with a rack of clothes to be distributed on the floor, I politely say “excuse me” to each customer who’s blocking the aisle so they might move their cart over and allow me to pass. Most people smile, shift their carts happily and let me pass. Others just stare at me — or worse yet, glare at me — as if I’d just asked them to give me money. Still others refuse to move at all and glower at me when I accidentally bang their cart with the unwieldy rack.
Another crazy-making thing that happens at the thrift stores is when customers drop off donations. They walk in and drop their bags directly in front of the door, blocking the entry. Who does this? When did this become okay? Or people who ‘shop’ from the donation piles left outside (also called stealing). Or customers who want tax receipts for their stuff and lie about what they have in the boxes (or try to claim $1000 for a 30-year old console TV). Customers like that are frustratingly stupid. That’s not even to mention the bosses and management types who commit gross acts of stupid every day. That list goes on and on.
At my other job with Mrs H, my main frustration is in getting her to write things down. Granted, for a lady in her early 80’s, she’s extremely sharp. But time takes it’s toll; her memory is slipping (so is mine, as a matter of fact). I have a huge three ring binder of notes that I keep with detailed instructions on various parts of my job so that, if I forget how to do something (her procedure for ordering supplies, for instance), I can just turn to that tab in the binder and go. I take copious notes because I don’t want to screw things up and look like an idiot. Mrs H, on the other hand, has no such qualms. She’ll ask me, for instance, how to add an attachment to an email — for the four-billionth time — and I’ll tell her to write it down, but she doesn’t. So every time I go to work there, the majority of my time is spent instructing her on how to do everything from the simple to the complex instead of doing the tasks I’m assigned. All because stubborn Mrs H won’t write anything down. For someone so smart, that’s pretty damn stupid.
At all of this, my eyes roll. It’s become a impulse — it happens without my control. One of these days, I’m going to get caught by a customer, or worse, my boss and written up over it. I can’t help it. The reaction to massive displays of stupidity is too strong.
At Aunt and Uncle Crazypants’ house, there’s an endless stream of chronic, bleeding stupid. I like to think that my time spent with them is teaching me massive amounts of patience, but there are days when it’s an exercise in utter futility. These two are the very definitions of codependency and passive-aggressive behavior. Way-super-stupid antics. All the time.
Auntie has been very ill for several years. A lifetime smoker, Auntie was diagnosed with COPD about a decade ago. She also has spots on her lungs, most likely from emphysema. She refused any medication for it. She takes pride in not taking any medication at all. Over the years, her physical condition has deteriorated to a truly pathetic state. She needs medication desperately. She’s barely able to walk or move without gasping for air like a fish.
Physically, Auntie is in very bad shape. In addition to gasping for air like a fish out of water, she can barely walk, she’s dizzy, her memory is shot, she’s thin as a rail, she can’t eat, she’s in pain most of the time, and she falls — often. Now, any reasonable person would go to the doctor, but Auntie is not reasonable. She wouldn’t get as much attention if she were well, so she refuses all offers to get help. I’ve told her that at the very least, she should consent to an oxygen tank — much of her problems are related to her breathing — but she refuses. “I don’t want to bother anyone. I’m just an inconvenience,” she’ll cry, “just toss me out with the trash! I’m no good for nothin’ anymore!”
That’s Uncle’s cue to reassure her that she’s not useless and that he’s happy to help her. But, don’t think he’s a saint. When Auntie screws up his dinner order, he screams at her. Not compassionate at all, though he loves her very much, his reaction to the threat that Auntie is truly sick and refusing treatment is to get angry, scream, and insult.
Auntie no longer smokes, but not willingly. Uncle discovered information a couple of years ago about second-hand smoking and became convinced that Auntie’s smoking was causing him to feel short of breath. Long story short, he cut her off from her cigarette supply, and since she’s in such a weakened state, she was unable to walk anywhere on her own to buy her much-loved cigarettes. Then Auntie started sneaking money out of Uncle’s super-secret money stash and would give it a neighbor to buy her packs of smokes. Uncle, of course, found out, screamed, and hid the money from Auntie and cut her off from any further spending money. She is now a ex-smoker by force, and is totally dependent on Uncle for everything — much like an infant. And that’s how he treats her.
Auntie often refuses to eat her dinner (though she always has room for candy), which prompts Uncle to scream at her to eat more, then she slams her fork into the plate with a huff and a pout, then Uncle negotiates with her to eat “just two more bites of meat” before she’s rewarded with a piece of chocolate for dessert.
All her life, Auntie has been deeply insecure about herself. Somehow, she never developed a proper sense of self, so whenever possible, she’s relied on manipulation and passive-aggressive techniques to get by. She needs a man in her life to make her ‘whole’ — without one, she feels worthless. She met and married Uncle around 1970 and they’ve been together ever since. Much of the manipulation she pulls now is an extension of what she’s done all her life. There are times — I swear to God — I can’t tell if she’s faking or attention-seeking. For instance, this year, she’s taken to moaning and talking to herself. “Oh Dear, oh dear, oh dear!” she’ll mutter in succession, hoping Uncle will turn to her and ask what’s wrong. If he ignores her, she says it louder. Auntie often makes a show of grunting when she stands and walks — but only when someone’s listening — and this makes me absolutely nuts. She wants you to prove you love her by pitying her and saying something comforting. Which begs the question, is she faking, or is it real, or is it both? Some days it’s hard to tell, but I think it’s both.
Like I said, I’m mean.
Still, Auntie refuses all treatment. Death wish? It’s a helluva way to go , and why suffer so much if you don’t have to? Because she doesn’t want to be a ‘burden’? One of these days, she’ll fall again and break a hip — then the suffering will really begin. It breaks my heart. I think that, as a true codependent, what she really wants is for Uncle to go all caveman on her and force her to go to the doctor. That will prove that he loves her — at least in her twisted logic. Until the next crisis when it all starts all over again.
Uncle makes me crazy too though. He’s an incredibly hard headed and stubborn person who will, also, do nothing to help himself. When he was younger, he was an automobile repairman and contractor — very good at what he did — and holds several patents for his inventions. But these days, his comprehension is terrible, and his business sense, which was never good in the first place, is disastrous. Uncle’s current patents have virtually bankrupted them both because he no longer has a modicum of marketing savvy to sell them.
Uncle has a temper problem. Always has, but when he was younger, he used to be able to keep it in check. Now? Not so much. Not only does he scream at Auntie when she forgets things, but his frustration with the process of selling his patents causes him to scream at his investors and sale prospects, sending most of them running for the hills. Not good for business, especially when you’re broke. Uncle won’t accept help nor advice from anyone including me, though he asks often. He just won’t listen to anyone, insisting he knows best. He doesn’t understand the ins and outs of modern marketing techniques (such as the necessity of websites). So all the advice falls on deaf ears.
Speaking of which, Uncle also can’t hear — deaf as a doorknob — but he won’t get a hearing aid because he insists that he can’t be helped by them. That’s based on the fact that he tried one of those over-the-counter sound magnifiers and hated it. He’s never worn a real hearing aid. So he can’t hear his investors on the phone, misunderstands what they say, and starts yelling again.
Uncle has Parkinson’s disease, but he doesn’t seem to understand what it is. So when he feels weak, or his hand starts to shake, or he can’t remember anything — he doesn’t see it as a symptom, just ‘getting old’ — and won’t seek medical help for it.
And that’s when he’s not telling me about his poop. I never want to talk to an old person about poop ever again.
Much of Aunt and Uncle Crazypants’ level of stupid has to do with age. They’re both 87. But the basis for all of it lies in their youth. Auntie has had a lifetime of pretending to be helpless, and Uncle has had a lifetime of getting his way. Now that they’re old, it’s just gotten that much worse.
Committing my own acts of stupid — not getting another job, not finding someone other than Mrs H to work for, getting my own car, and not spending so much time with Aunt and Uncle Crazypants — I have no real room to talk here. My problems don’t have an answer just a phone click away though. That’s my excuse.
And that must be why I’m so mean.
“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” — Kurt Vonnegut