Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Trust Your Instincts

Yesterday on NPR I heard a story about a 22-year old blogger who asked older female bloggers to write a letter to themself in their 20's. I kind of love this idea. I could totally write a series of letters to myself. The only thing is that I don't know if I'd want myself in my 20's to read them in case it would screw up my timeline. I feel like I am on the right path in life for me, and a lot of the things I did to get here I would regard as mistakes. Somehow, my mistakes seem to get me where I needed to go. I guess I just wish those mistakes were not so damaging to my self-esteem. So my first letter to 22-year old self would go something like this:

Dear Kristina Marie,

You have post-traumatic stress disorder. The vast majority of your emotional distress can be chalked up to this disorder. If you've heard of PTSD, it was connected to Vietnam Vets. It's the same disorder, but it can be caused by domestic violence, sexual abuse and rape. Our mom's therapist is an idiot for not calling the cops on our dad, but he was right when he told you that you were being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. The abuse was never your fault. When you go numb, it's because you learned to do that as a kid to deal with the abuse. What you went through was horrific, and you are very strong for surviving it. Most people don't understand the first thing about what it's like to grow up that way. You will find people who do understand though, but it may take time. It will take time for you to find the right treatment for the PTSD and work through it, and it will get worse before it gets better. But it will get better. I promise you. There is a support group in Seattle called "Survivors of Suicide". It will save your life someday. In the meantime, if you're going to go to therapy, talk about your childhood. Talk about the abuse. It was not your fault. You do not need to feel so ashamed that you can't even talk to a therapist about it. You did not deserve to be treated that way. You didn't deserve to be raped either. Being angry about it will not make you into your dad. You are not him. It is okay to feel things. Start by acknowledging your feelings to yourself. You don't need to share them if you don't want to. Try writing about how you feel. You don't need to show anyone. It will help.

I am going to tell you something you already know, you've always known- you are a writer. You always were a writer, and you always will be a writer. You practically came out of the womb using the written word to express yourself. Instead of sleeping with a teddy bear, you slept with Dr. Seuss' ABC book, for gods sake. You know this about yourself. Other people may doubt you, but don't doubt yourself. Those people don't know you. You will find ways to be a writer on your own terms. You will find ways to be recognized as a writer without needing the approval of any professor or editor. Believe in the part of you that believes in yourself. Your biggest problem is that you get in your own way, and get all stressed out about how things will turn out. I promise you, it will all work out. You will be happy and fulfilled. You will figure out how to live life on your own terms. Life is painful, and you've had more than your fair share. There is more pain to come. But trust me, life is also amazing and magical and too good to imagine. Focus on having fun no matter what is going on. Find the beauty in everything, even the most difficult circumstances. God doesn't hate you. You'll find people who appreciate you and a life that's really yours.

Speaking of people, some advice- you don't need a boyfriend every second of your life. Spend more time with your friends. When you're ready, and you meet someone who really gets you and appreciates you and is patient enough to get to know you. Take all the time you need to let someone earn your devotion and loyalty. If it doesn't feel right, walk away. You don't owe anyone anything. Anyone who pressures you for sex is a total and complete waste of your time. Don't ever think you need to have sex with someone when you don't feel comfortable. There's nothing wrong with you if you don't have a boyfriend or don't want to have sex. It's not a permanent condition, and it doesn't mean that you're damaged from the sexual abuse or that you'll never be able to be with anyone. There is nothing wrong with you sexually. If you're with someone who's right for you and you feel comfortable, you'll be amazed at how good it will feel. It won't feel bad or wrong or dirty. You won't feel bad or wrong or dirty. There is nothing wrong with wanting someone to love you before having sex with them. You are not unlovable! There are support groups and lots of other people out there who were sexually abused. What you are experiencing is totally normal for someone who was treated the way you were. It was not your fault. Just keep telling yourself that.

On the boyfriend thing, I recommend not living with any more boyfriends until you're really sure you've found someone you can settle down with. Give it time, like 10-15 years at least. It seems like a long time, but you'll be better off. If you do move in with someone and you start feeling like something is wrong or you feel scared, just leave. You don't owe anyone, and you deserve to live in a safe place. Sleep on someone's floor if there's no other options. Your safety is worth it. Also, just make it a policy that you don't loan anyone money. It's your money. If you need to explain, tell them that you've been burned in the past. No one has any rights to your hard earned cash. If they try to guilt trip you, they are the ones in the wrong. Don't run up credit cards, especially providing things for other people. You'll thank me for this one.

Finally, learn to play ice hockey ASAP. It is 10 times funner to play than to watch. It may seem like hockey is this totally weird part of your life because none of your friends are into it, but someday you'll be surrounded by really cool, fun, funny, understanding, geeky smart people who love it as much as you do. Getting started with the gear is the one exception to using a credit card I'll give you. Do it. You'll be awesome.

Love, your 38-year old self

Friday, June 25, 2010

OMG!!! Keith Ballard is going to the Canucks! I am SO EXCITED!!! I <3 you Canucks! Thanks for bringing Keith back west!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Canadian money is so interesting

My new favorite blog is passive-aggressive notes. I never thought before about how totally funny people are when they are being passive-aggressive (when it's not directed at you. Or when it is and you can see the humor in it.) There is something totally fascinating to me about how these notes express the often bizarre ways people attempt to influence others to act the way they want them to, get some kind of revenge when they don't, and generally deal with conflict. I've often described Seattle as a passive-aggressive culture because there is some kind of enforced niceness going on, like, if I'm being a total asshole it's for your own good because you obviously don't know how to act like an adult in civilized society. I feel sorry for you. I really do. For instance, people honk at you if you don't drive super-slow and demonstrate a complete lack of merging awareness, because this is Washington, not California, you big city jerk. We refuse to drive like this is a city, because we are in denial about losing any aspect of our sleepy, logging town culture!

Seattle is not a very diverse place, and the most interaction I'd really had with people from the East Coast was in business school. I really noticed the cultural differences there. The dominant local culture frowned on directness, so anyone who seemed confrontational or excessively frank was ignored into submission. I think the New Yorkers had some of the worst culture shock, so it is kind of funny that my boyfriend now is from New York. Not that New Yorkers are never passive-aggressive (perhaps trending more towards aggressive than passive?), but I don't think I've ever laughed so much with a boyfriend than with him, and a big part of it is that our interactions are so funny. He is so direct, and I am so indirect. There are so many factors playing into my discomfort with directness- the Seattle culture, the similar Minnesota culture my mom is from, my association between confrontation and violence, my desire to always smooth things over to avoid said confrontation/violence, trying to protect myself by hiding what I really think, not being very in touch with my feelings, not knowing how to deal with conflict, feeling guilty if I get upset with someone I care about, my insane family, etc. (How passive-aggressive is this blog? Answer: totally.) I am so glad he is not like me. I drive myself crazy. At least when I'm with him I can laugh at myself and the lengths I go through to try to control myself and the situations I find myself in. As I learn to trust him and that his intentions are good, I'm learning to let go a little. It's a miracle. Maybe someday I won't be so stressed out.

As someone who's been on both the receiving end and the agent of passive-aggressive behavior, I can't get enough of the hilarious notes on this blog. The office ones are especially interesting since I have definitely seen some homemade signs at my work in the kitchen and the bathroom. Food-theft is a strong theme. I haven't had roommates in a while, but I can really, really relate to a lot of those notes. Roommate drama is the inspiration for my favorite note, written on Canadian $20 bill. Defacing money and the queen, Canadian passive-aggressiveness, big words- it's a gem. (P.S. Nice people are the best at being passive-aggressive. Don't forget grandma.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Straw Dogs

If you want to become whole,
first let yourself become broken.
If you want to become straight,
first let yourself become twisted.
If you want to become full,
first let yourself become empty.
If you want to become new,
first let yourself become old.

-Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu

Today was the best day of the year, the Programmers Fair. It's a work thing that happens once a year when the TV channels set up booths and give us swag (pens, bags, squishy balls) and show off their TV celebrities. I met Kevin Nealon (currently on Weeds, formerly on Saturday Night Live, where I remember him from in the 80's) and Dan "The Outlaw" Hardy, a mixed martial artist who was there for the UFC.
It was a lot of fun, and they were both very nice. It is kind of a tradition for me to get a picture of the UFC fighter and put it in my office. It started with Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" da Silva, who wrote "To Kristina, Big kisses, Wanderlei". It was priceless. So my office walls are covered with pictures of hockey players and mixed martial artists. Some people have commented that I look like I am into violent sports.

I've been doing the EMDR therapy (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, a treatment for dealing with traumatic and unresolved memories from PTSD) for six weeks now. It is kind of hard to describe the affect it is having on me. I have a big, black mass of feelings and experiences that I had to push down into the depths of my subconscious in order to survive. It is hard and sharp and immobile. My regular therapy is sometimes like taking a hammer to the mass and chipping away at it. The EMDR is something that is getting into the middle of it, and suddenly what was solid and hard is moving around in there, like particles have been activated and they are bouncing around, knocking into each other. Processing. It feels like processing.

The most tangible example of this is my dreams. Before I started with my current therapist, when I had dreams I could remember they were usually frustration dreams, where someone was doing something to me or threatening me in some way and I would get really angry but not be able to do anything. All this frustration and anger and fear would well up in me, but I was blocked from expressing these feelings or responding to them. I would feel all this pressure in my head and the rest of my body, and I'd want to scream or cry or punch a wall, but would not be able to move. I would be bursting at the seams with everything I was holding in.

Then last fall I started to have the "traumatic remembering" dreams, where I would wake up in the middle of the night completely terrified, and feeling small. Not just feeling small- I felt like a little kid. I was re-experiencing the fear I lived with as a child when I went to bed. I would be paralyzed by fear, and totally convinced that my dad was in my living room, waiting for me. My conscious mind would tell myself, over and over, that I was in my apartment, not the house I grew up in, and that if I just got up and walked into the living room I would see where I was and realize my dad wasn't there, and the spell would be broken. But it never worked. The fear was too powerful, and my body controlled the paralyzing, not my consciousness. That was why I started sleeping with stuffed animals, so at least I could comfort myself in some way while I was still in bed.

Now I'm having quest dreams. In these dreams I'm searching for answers about myself and my family, trying to make sense of things. In the most significant one that I remember, it started with a scene like from a movie. The Hobgoblin was drilling through walls and floors with one of his super-scientific inventions (symbolism: there was no where to hide from this bad guy, no where to go to be safe) and then Batman showed up. (I know, wrong series. It was a dream, you know?) Batman and the Hobgoblin start fighting in a bank, and innocent bystanders are trying to flee unsuccessfully (symbolism: my mom and my dad, who appeared to me so emotionally inaccessible that it was like they were wearing masks, are fighting and hurting my brother and I in the process even though we are innocent of any wrongdoing, and both appear to be the bad guy even though one is supposed to be the good guy/girl). Then I was with my friends, describing the "movie" I had just seen (symbolism: I escaped the violence physically, but I am still affected by it and need to talk about it.) Then I am walking around an area with vendors, and one of these vendors is selling swatches of cloth to sew together to make a scarf. The vendor hands me a piece of cloth and says, "I made this for you." I look at it, and it has a picture of my brother on it (symbolism: I am trying to piece my life together into something that can keep me warm and protect me from the outside world, and express who I am in a way that is beautiful and that I am proud of because it comes from me, although other people are helping me with this process.) I take the swatch, and then step into the scene in the picture and meet my brother. In talking to him, I realize that my mom is missing. I go looking for her, and while looking for clues about her disappearance come to realize that she was deeply mentally ill while I was growing up and unable to parent me, and that she has left me and will never come back (symbolism: my mom was physically present but not emotionally present, and I was emotionally abandoned by her as a child and I will never find emotional support from her, but I can find the answers within myself.)

My dreams are not just reflections of what did happen, but what is happening in my subconscious. They are gifts from a forgotten place.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Guys, I wanna be Xtina

Today I want to talk about Xtina, she's my idol, well except the greatest guy in the world. JW!

Pithy sentiments from my boyfriend, although Xtina Aguilera is not my idol. Maybe she's my alter ego or something. We just finished watching the Stanley Cup Final. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Philadelphia Flyers in 6 games. I had a hard time picking a team to root for since I have issues with both teams, but, as it has been during the whole playoffs, as soon as I decided to go for a team (the Flyers today) they got beat. I picked the Flyers finally because the Chicago press put Chris Pronger in a dress. Course, I don't like Pronger at all, but hey, when are we going to get to the point where we don't compare men to women as an insult? F-u Chicago Tribune.

Speaking of offensive, the main reason I couldn't root for the Blackhawks is their embarrassing logo. Come on. That, and the fact that they eliminated my beloved Canucks in the second round two years in a row. However, my friend Carrie loves the Blackhawks because she lived in Chicago, and I her. And the Flyers are owed by Comcast. (Boo.) And stupid Pronger. I have West Coast bias too. But the Flyers have orange socks and Arron Asham. They also have better playoff beards. Patrick Kane looks like a trailer park reject, and as a small town girl, that scares me. But then there's Adam Burish, one of my favorite agitators. It was impossible to decide. Now it's over.

Work has been very stressful because I'm experiencing that whole, I want to be a nice, supportive boss but right now I have to be a hard-ass. Or at least more of a hard-ass than I want to be. I just figure everyone should act mature and trustworthy and straightforward, but of course that is not always the case. I can't really get into a lot of details about it because this is a public blog. Right now I am just feeling really upset because I feel like my niceness has been taken advantage of. So now I'm like, FINE, you want a micromanaging bitch, you GOT IT. I worked in public accounting. I've had my ass micromanaged all over this fine country. I had a senior who made me drive him around Wichita, KS while he read the Wall Street Journal and complained that I didn't drive up to the door of the hotel to pick him up. I did an inventory count in freezers full of seafood for a company that was later featured on Dirty Jobs. I've had managers call me at 2 am to rant about my workpapers. I've gotten 50 review notes, cleared them all in 3 hours, and then got 50 more from the same manager, some asking me why the hell I made changes that she asked for in the first 50. I've been threatened by CFO's, VPs of Finance, and Audit Partners. I've been asked to give status updates every hour. I've had to account for every minute of my work day. I've worked past midnight, gone back to the hotel, and got up at 6 am to do it again. I've had my own co-workers turn on me in meetings with the client. I've been called arrogant and had someone mock the way I walk. Actually, more than one person. Speaking of which, I've waited tables, and few jobs include the kind of verbal abuse you experience as a waitress. So yeah, I know a little about difficult work conditions and if anyone thinks I'm being too tough with them now or in the near future they don't even know.

I'm having a hard time imagining myself as a demanding boss, but I am a perfectionist. I try not to take it out on other people, or even myself, but sometimes you do need to have expectation for people. Especially people who work for you. The last thing I want to be is a pushover. So no more nice. At work, anyway.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

My Life in Pictures

Hi there from the drive home from Phoenix! This weekend I played in a hockey tournament. It was way fun, except that I drank 3 purple hooters, 2 shots of tequila, and 3 margaritas Saturday night at a cowboy bar with my team and I was veeeery sick the next morning. I still played that day though, thanks to Gatorade and Goo. I was all looking forward to writing a whole big blog about it, but tonight was game 3 of the Stanley Cup final and I have the SEC and Financial Reporting Conference tomorrow.

Let me tell you, as an accounting geek I am so, so excited. I was literally jumping up and down earlier. The Chairman of FASB (the Financial Accounting Standards Board), the Chief Accountant from the SEC (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission), board members from PCAOB (The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board) and IASB (the International Accounting Standards Board) and a bunch of other muckity-mucks from the accounting world will be there. Nine hours of accounting, financial reporting, and regulation, with continental breakfast, coffee breaks, luncheon (not lunch, luncheon), and a reception- what could be more fun?!?! Don't answer that. It's good for CPE (continuing professional education, for my CPA license) credits, and I, for one (maybe literally) will LOVE IT. So I do need to get to bed. Here are some pictures since I don't have time to write more.

Oh yeah, I love playing tournaments. It was a blast! My first tournament since I tore my MCL.

I officially have a sudoku addiction. I have to do a puzzle every night to relax. More evidence of my numbers geekdom.

Flowers from my boyfriend. Aren't they lovely? I haven't written that much about him because I didn't want to jinx it, but our 6 month anniversary is this Monday, and he is so supportive and wonderful. He is making it a lot easier to deal with EMDR and therapy and everything else I'm trying to process right now. He's also funny and interesting and smart, and a total hockey geek. He came to the tournament and took the pictures of our games, and took care of me when I was so sick and didn't even mind. He is truly a nice guy and I love him for it.

Even more romantic, he got me sports bras to replace the ones that irritated my skin during the tournament. How sweet is that?!?! They are cool colors too, and one looks like a soccer ball. Love it!

Okay, I'm off to bed. Hopefully I'll be able to write more later, about hockey and dreams and EMDR.