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Hi readers, I’ve started writing a series of posts about caring for mental health while engaging with the rocky political situation in the US over at my Patreon site. Financial support is always appreciated (and how we get to not look at ads when we hang out here), but this particular content is free for anyone to read and share.

Posts so far in the series:

I’m still messing about a bit with Patreon rewards that can be both maximally attractive to you and sustainably delivered by me. I will be reviving the Search Terms posts and the Friday Short Answers very very soon, but for now I’m also going with: MORE CONTENT, as I realized in December when all my attempts to answer reader questions started turning into book chapters (alas, not from any of the same books) or Twitter rants that a slight separation between “the advice blog that I dearly love writing” and “ALL OF JENNIFER’S THOUGHTS, EVER” might be wise, if only to keep *myself* a little more organized.

In other news, if you missed it, a bunch of people who write advice columns talked to each other about our processes over at BuzzFeed Content notes apply for mentions of abuse, animal harm, and something called “the jizzcliner.” Next time I’d love to hear from ¡Hola Papi!, Dearly Beloved, Asking Bear, Everyone Is Gay, for starters, the advice column form is rich and varied right now.

If you’re in Chicago, Mr. Awkward is telling a story at The Stoop’s Six Year Anniversary Show on January 31  postponed until Tuesday, Feb 5, same venue, same everything, different levels of cold! (I think it’s about how his dad founded a second franchise of the family), and I’m telling a story at You’re Being Ridiculous at Steppenwolf on February 1 happening as planned, sold out as far as I know – My plan is to tell the story about the time I lived with a roommate ripped from the pages of The Gift of Fear, but I might write 6 more things between now and then, shhhhhhhh don’t tell the producers).

Here’s a song:

 

This letter came in last week, and a lovely blog reader who will now be known as “The Girl Sparky” helpfully volunteered to tackle the “sudden unemployment” part of the question. Her answer is below the letter/the fold.

Here is my (Jennifer, Captain Awkward’s) one additional suggestion to her beautiful post, dear Fed Up Fed:

Consider emailing or calling your coworkers and getting them together for a pot-luck of some kind. 

Back in 2003, when I was in the first year of my graduate program, our financial aid did not come in until Week 13 of a fifteen-week semester. I lived in the same city as the school and already had housing/friends/a romantic partner in Chicago, but a lot of the students relocated here without that and had to live for several months and undertake an expensive art form without knowing when the money would come through and without having anyone local to turn to. In addition to pulling out all the 2-for-1 Subway coupons in the Chicago Reader every week and being Sandwich Buddies between classes, another thing the group did was to gather informally at the apartment of one of us who had a big, centrally-located place (with no furniture in it)(but that’s another story)(good for dance parties!). People would bring “a food” or “a drink” with them. Cheap vodka worked well, we’d mix it with the seemingly unlimited supply of V-8 that this student could “borrow” from his Aunt’s nearby storage room and a little hot sauce (“So we don’t get scurvy!” was the joke-that-was-not-really-a-joke), the cooks among us would turn whatever random groceries were on offer into a few hot dishes – spaghetti, big pots of ramen dressed up with a little green onion, baked mac & cheese with frozen broccoli in – and we’d sit on milk crates and dance and tell stories and Not Starve for one more week.

Some of those people are lifelong friends, and some are not, but if anybody from that cohort knocked on my door right now and needed a hot meal and a couch and a shower and some V-8 (to avoid scurvy!), I would open the door, if only because of what we shared that year, because of how we got each other through it.

If what you’re feeling right now is LONELY, Fed Up Fed? Maybe your coworkers are, too, and maybe there is some warmth and light to be found in a couple of those magical cheap-ass giant pizzas from Aldi in the living room and something silly on TV and a no-obligation jar by the door where if people have a few $ they throw it in and together you take care of each other a little, and you take turns making sure the jar goes to the food pantry or to the coworker who needs a little help to get through the week.

That might not be possible or comfortable for you, so I offer it as a suggestion only, but if you’ve been demurring out of pride or worry about crossing those professional lines, I’d just say: We need each other. It’s okay to need each other.

I’ll let The Letter Writer (The Fed Up Fed) and The Girl Sparky take it from here.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I (she/her/hers) am one of the hundreds of thousands of government workers who is currently furloughed. I am very fortunate to be in a place financially where I can survive missing/late paychecks, and I am also very fortunate to know that I will be getting back pay, unlike contractors (which include all custodial and food service staff). I have a supportive partner, and several friends who are also furloughed. In many ways, I’m very well situated right now.

But, this is taking a major toll on my mental and emotional wellbeing. I do not do well with unstructured time, and my ideal level of social interaction is having people around me making some noise, and having short interactions throughout the day (ie: working in an office). I also am happiest when working on discrete, manageable tasks that build to a larger goal that has a purpose I support. The shutdown has destroyed this for me.

I’ve scheduled activities and left the house every day. I’ve taken advantage of the many free things my city has to offer. I’ve signed up for volunteer opportunities that use the skills I use at work (still waiting to be called back about those). But I’m finding myself in tears, feeling utterly miserable, and knowing that ideal solution–going back to work–is entirely out of my hands (I don’t even have a Member of Congress to call!). I love my job, so I’m not ready to give it up yet and look for another one. But I want to stop being miserable. And people telling me how much they’d enjoy time off and a long-term vacation isn’t making it easier.

Do you have any tips for dealing with this?

Thanks,
Fed Up Fed

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If you follow my Twitter at all, you know. Y’all know.

The face I made when I read these things.

Animated gif of a girl riding an octopus and saying "nope!"

I try to keep the blog itself largely free of  electoral politics and I’ll try to keep doing that for us. But I’m not really feeling the “We can still all eat Thanksgiving together as one great country and focus on what unites us!” talk today.

I feel anger, and despair, and a profound sickness and alienation. On top of the existential dread, I have asthma and severe bronchitis so for the last two weeks I’ve also been slowly drowning inside my own body waiting for the cocktail of expensive meds to kick in, knowing that Obamacare and the ability to get insurance despite irregular income and pre-existing conditions is literally keeping me alive right now. I knew this could happen, I knew that it was never funny or a joke or a spectacle. I knew that without the Voting Rights Act in place we were possibly FUCKED, that voter suppression was working, but I was still sitting there at 2:40 in the a.m. watching the Michigan & Wisconsin vote counts come in and hoping that it would not end this way, that it wasn’t really happening. Hoping against hope that we’d made enough inroads against white supremacy and misogyny to hold the line a little longer, four more years, just four more years. Two more years, and then, through the midterms. One more day.

I’m so sorry. I wanted to say something cool and empathetic that would make people feel better in this post. I am so very spoiled by a lifetime of living in blue bubbles Chicago and Massachusetts and New York and D.C.and I have not had to really ever have the “Dear Captain Awkward, how do I get along with a bunch of people who don’t think I deserve human rights?” conversation on the deep my-livelihood-and-life-might-depend-on-getting-this-right-today-because-I-literally-can’t-get-away-from-them level that my beloved friends & activists I know have had to do before now and are psyching themselves up to do all over again. It’s clear to me that I don’t know how to talk to racist fellow white people, even though it’s our job to unfuck this for America. I don’t know how to “empathize” with people or connect with those who voted for a walking three-dimensional NOPE display of toxic masculinity and abuse and xenophobia. I don’t know how to do it and I don’t know how to teach it. If you do know and you’ve ever wanted to write a guest post, @ me.

Here’s a small, hopeful thing. Just one for today, ok? Kim Foxx won her race for State’s Attorney in Cook County, Illinois.

This is a testament to the organizing power of young people, especially young black activists in Chicago, especially young black queer women and non-binary folks. Thanks to their tireless and smart organizing work, a candidate dedicated to criminal justice reform ousted an incumbent and is going to have a platform to make some changes in this place. These activists helped a #BlackLivesMatter candidate get on the ballot, win the primary, and win her election. That’s something. No, that’s amazing. The work is still the work and the work is still here. It will be here tomorrow and the next day and our whole lives and we will do it.

If you think I can moderate comments about the election as a whole or this sad proto-LiveJournal post in particular, well, your confidence in me is very sweet. I send love and what strength I have out to you, and I’m grateful for all that you send back. Send it to each other. We’re gonna need all of it.

 

 

 

Oh captain, my captain!

I have been with my partner for 5 years and our families get on well. For the past year we have been living in his parents house, but up until about two weeks ago his parents were living abroad and we were looking after the house while trying to save money. Now we’ve found a home and are moving in very shortly.

My partner says his parents love me and for the most part they have been great to us, helping give us a head start in our adult lives.

There is however, one point where me and his mother really butt heads; she was raised in a predominantly catholic country with anti-choice laws and is anti-choice/pro-life, I am pro-choice and work for an abortion provider.

We have gotten into some hot debates about this before (all initiated by her) and I have purposely dodged the subject and not bought into it when this subject has come up. When I first started working where I work I told my partner not to tell her where I work, and was perfectly prepared to never tell her as I was worried about her reaction, somehow she figured out where I worked and hasn’t made an issue of it though(until tonight).

But just a couple of hours before writing this email we had a pretty bad one.

It started with us having a nice chat about general topics including family. She bought her pro-life views up a couple of times and I either ignored it or moved us to a slightly different subject because I could feel the topic moving in that direction and desperately didn’t want it to. At one point she said ‘we wont get into a debate again’. Guess what happened.

She accused me of having no emotion about the issue, of not having the facts, of misunderstanding the women I’m trying to help, of not providing the sort of help they really need, of buying into propaganda, of being passive aggressive, continually interrupted me, firing questions while not answering mine, raising her voice, continually said “your lot” and “you people”, insinuated that the post-partum depression my friend suffered from was due to an abortion she had 10 years earlier, telling me she’s done her research on the issue and knows what she’s talking about whereas I haven’t (ironically when I suggested asking one of our nurses a question on development on her behalf she said that they would just tell me what I wanted to hear) and basically just telling me she’s right, I’m bad at my job and don’t know what I’m talking about.

She at one point pointed out that I was “getting nervous” because I was being faced with “the facts” I told her I don’t like confrontation and she insisted this wasn’t a confrontation. (Actually the reason I was shaking is the outside door right next to me was open and I find it noteworthy that she didn’t back off despite noticing nervousness in me).

At another point I said, somewhat lightheartedly hoping to salvage the conversation, “you said we weren’t going to have a debate” and she accused me of back pedaling because I was being faced with questions I couldn’t answer.

It ended after a particularly hot point in the argument where she refused to accept the answer I gave, she went quiet for a moment and it seemed to end so I said “can I go to bed now I have work tomorrow” and she said “there you go, passive aggressive, you lot are always so persecuted aren’t you, I wasn’t keeping you here love” and left the room.

I think in many ways my possible-future-MIL is a tremendous woman and I respect her very much. But I don’t ever want to have this sort of conversation with her again. I am fine with accepting that we will never agree on this issue, i’m not the sort of person who needs everyone to agree with me. I do not like confrontation and up to a certain point someone having a different stance on an issue is something I can deal with just fine. But tonight it felt like she hates me. Once I got upstairs I felt angry, sick and kind of like I was going to cry. It felt like sheer contempt. I have an anxiety disorder which doesn’t help the whole confrontation thing and I feel like i cant bare going downstairs tomorrow. Because I was raised to respect my elders and she’s possibly-my-future-MIL i’m sorta scared of her (p.s. this is the same woman who told me if I got pregnant with ‘her grandchild’ she would “let” me have an abortion or put it up for adoption) and don’t know how to/want to bring this issue up with her.

Do you have any scripts/survival tactics for my situation?

Thanks,
Not up for a debate

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Sam the Eagle weeping glitter tears

“I’m mostly weeping because this email forward is written in Papyrus.

Hi Captain Awkward,

I want to preface my email by saying that I really love my mom. I really do. We had a great relationship when I was growing up and we still do, for the most part. Generally she is an accepting, loving, level-headed person, albeit gullible at times.

She is a Christian and a Republican. There is nothing wrong with that. People are allowed to have their own political and religious views as they see fit, in my opinion. That’s part of being an adult. She knows I do not have the same views as her politically or religiously, though, and she claims to respect that.

However, she sends me these incredibly racist/anti-Obama/anti-Liberal/anti-Muslim/anti-poor person/anti-Mexican/anti-gay/etc. email forwards all of the time. Normally I try to ignore them because I don’t want to cause a rift in the family, but it’s gotten pretty unbearable. I have asked her several times to not send me emails of that nature and she always stops for a while, but then starts up again a few months later. For the record, she never mentions any of these emails when we talk on the phone or in person. It’s like she has a secretly hateful side or something.

If I were to advise someone else, I’d probably tell them to block emails or send a sharp reply, but I can’t seem to give myself the same advice. I only get to see my parents a few times per year (they live a few hundred miles away, but I have no car and I’m poor, so it’s hard to get down there to visit), so every bit of contact from them is like a gift to me and blocking would make me feel terrible. And like I said before, I don’t want to cause a rift in the family by starting a fight. 

But these hate-spewing emails make me sad; sad that there are such hate in the world, and sad that my own mother would spread it (and perhaps sad that my mother is not the loving angel I’ve made her out to be in my mind…). There have been several times where I’ve started an angry reply, only to stop myself and walk away.

With election season coming up, they’ve been coming again in a fairly steady flow. It’s gotten to the point where I get agitated if I see an email from my mom in my inbox. 

What would you advise I do about this? Block her email? Ignore the emails? Delete them? Refute them with facts? Remind her that she’s supposed to “love thy neighbor”? Something else?

Thanks in advance,
Beth

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Dear Captain most Awkward,

As I say in my subject line: Help! My brother is a teenage misogynist!

He’s always been really awful about treating women as people thanks to his preferred media and genres, as well as the fact that our mother and other female family friends and relatives enabled and enable him like… like the seagulls that run rampant at the beaches. I don’t just mean the little kid “Girls are icky and have cooties!” but that he was (TW for misogynistic slurs) calling me a “two cent whore” and a “fat whale” and a “bitch” by the time he was ten (to be fair, I responded similarly, but I realized pretty quickly that we had shitty role models and that Shit Like That Was Not Okay – not even a whole year later, I had my temper under way better control). He also has had a really bad temper.

It used to be that if he got bored or someone denied him something he wanted, he would hit and kick and scream, now he just sulks and has said that if he isn’t happy, he’s going to just make everyone around him miserable. Don’t even get me started on what happens if I turn off or change his music while I’m driving (I have a lot of driving anxiety, his music generally makes it worse). He’s been getting better, though, especially because his legal guardian (a family friend, it’s complicated, but both parents are definitely in the picture, despite being in other cities).

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