Gas Lighting

‘Gas Light’ Image courtesy of Vox.com

Britannica definition of Gaslighting:

An elaborate and insidious technique of deception and psychological manipulation, usually practiced by a single deceiver, or “gaslighter,” on a single victim over an extended period. Its effect is to gradually undermine the victim’s confidence in his own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from appearance, thereby rendering him pathologically dependent on the gaslighter in his thinking or feelings.

Although the term ‘Gaslighting’ is frequently used in modern parlance, it originates from a stage play named “Gas Light” produced in 1938 in the UK, followed by a British movie and then the more famous American movie in 1944, starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, pictured above.  In essence, the husband is trying to persuade his wife that she is becoming insane by a series of deceptions including deliberately dimming and brightening the gas lights.  I won’t reveal anymore of the plot but it is an excellent movie with twists and turns.

In real life, gaslighting can exist in sexual and marital relationships, working relationships and friendships.  When writing this post, I wondered if I had been gas lit by boyfriends or my husband.  There were elements of manipulation in one or two relationships but I am not sure if it was truly deceptive or intended to undermine me.  My husband certainly manipulates me to get his own way and vice versa.  Before I learned to drive, he tried to persuade me that he was an excellent driver and that I was just an anxious passenger.  I am surprised his pants didn’t burst into flames…  Occasionally, I will use a sugary sweet voice to ask for something but that is just a normal part of married life.

Truthfully, I think I was only gaslit by a colleague in a work situation.  We started to work together after I had been very successful with a grant application.  It probably grated on her that I was being praised about that accomplishment.  I had some years working in the community sector and she did not.  Over a period of six months, she criticized every element of my working pattern until I doubted my own skills.  She instinctively knew that I was vulnerable to being bullied – it was like a cat with a mouse.  Part of me realized that she was making unfair criticisms of me, especially about my writing skills!  Despite that, it wore me down and I eventually resigned.

Sometime later the gaslighter did the same to a new colleague who became unwell because of the unfair treatment.  At that stage, I was asked to help with an intervention.  I hate confrontation but I was also very angry that I was not the only victim.  At the meeting, I snapped and yelled at her which is very unlike my work persona.  She burst into tears and curiously admitted the truth about our relationship.  She was insecure and jealous of my success and that was her excuse for gas lighting me.  I felt no validation just sadness and guilt that my earlier intervention may have helped.

On reflection, I think she had left her previous employment under a cloud but I am not certain.  It would have been even worse for my mental health to confront her in a timely manner – I needed some time to decompress and evaluate what had happened.  Sometimes gaslighters get away with their behavior because it can be subtle to detect but she was asked to resign.  Later, she and her husband divorced and I wondered if she did the same to him.

One would think that I learned a lesson about believing in myself, wouldn’t you?  Sadly not.  The very next new colleague did something similar.  This was even more complex as I thought we were friends.  I perceived that her jabs and criticisms were part of a jokey friendship.  She called me her minion, even though I had been offered her job (and turned it down) and was part of the interview panel.  This time it was infinitely more subtle and I was beginning to think I had a problem communicating with my colleagues.  The reasons for the gaslighting were EXACTLY the same!  What is wrong with my self-esteem – perhaps my psychiatrist could tell you?  I was so embarrassed and confused that I blamed myself.  This time I had the perfect excuse for resigning – Teddy had been offered an overseas posting and I escaped to Egypt.

For many years I kept in touch with this colleague who had become a ‘friend’.  There was a part of me that admired and liked her despite everything.  Finally, my common sense kicked in and I ghosted her (but that’s a topic I will leave alone).  What provokes this behavior?  In my situation (but not the Gas Light movie), the gaslighter’s insecurity made them try to undermine me.  Did my seemingly confident persona get on their nerves?  I can be very tactless and laugh too much at work.  My theory doesn’t follow through as the perpetrators continued their gaslighting behavior with a variety of other people with different personalities.  Does needlessly criticizing people give them pleasure or is it a form of sadism?

Goodtherapy.org states:

One of the most common reasons people gaslight is to gain power over others. This need for domination may stem from narcissism, antisocial personality, or other issues. Like most cases of abuse, gaslighting is about control. … Over time, the abuser may convince the target that they cause the abuser’s aggression.

I hope that none of my readers have been victims of a gaslighter but please share your experience if you have been.  During these experiences, one friend and colleague reached out to me asking me if anyone was treating me badly.  I regret not telling her the full facts but I am not sure that I was aware of what was happening.  In other words, the gas lighters were successful.  Now that I am older, I hope that this won’t happen to me again.  On two occasions I was offered jobs by people (in Egypt and America) that I thought might be possible gas lighters or bullies, so I demurred with an excuse about my mental health.  It helps that I am now more open about my vulnerabilities and mental health disability. 

Finally, I questioned if I could have gaslit any of my employees or colleague.  My flaws are many; dogmatic, disinclined to delegate, obsessive but not a gaslighter. Clearly, I can have poor judgement in interviews, given my last experience.  The only thing I am sure of is that I didn’t act with malice in the workplace.  Be kind to your colleagues.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Do you remember when Dorothy pulled back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz, only to reveal someone pretending to be GREAT AND POWERFUL?  Later she said to him, “Oh, you are a very bad man!”  The Emerald City has revealed to be an illusion and there are many scary screaming monkeys flying around us with Camp Auschwitz t-shirts, zip ties and pipe bombs.  On a very darkly funny note, the t-shirts were sold on ETSY and are no longer available.  ETSY, really?

We have to be strong, like Dorothy and her companions.  Brave, Smart, Determined and full of Heart.  Europe and the rest of the world have been dealing with domestic terrorism for eons, so there is nothing unique about our situation.  Remember the tragic bombing at the mosque in New Zealand; the most unexpected of places?  We take stock, grieve the dead and learn a lesson.  The saddest memorial I have ever encountered is for the Oklahoma City Bombing.  I couldn’t get the image of the little chairs for the innocent children in the creche who died.

In all society there are extremists of every type – anarchists, religious zealots and Neo Nazis to name a few.  My late father-in-law will be turning in his grave after his efforts in WWII may have been in vain.  Despite spending 5 years in a POW camp in eastern Germany, he lived a long full life before dying at 93.  His heart was full of forgiveness for the people of Germany and he visited many times after the war.

My neighbors in Egypt went out of their way to protect me when the war broke out.  They wouldn’t tolerate anyone treating me with disrespect even though I drove them crazy rescuing wild animals. 

Most people are good.  Most people are good.  Most people are good.

Keep repeating that as a mantra.  The criminals will be punished and we, as a nation, are shamed.  Humility is a positive quality.  We have looked in the mirror and recoiled.

Let’s stop telling the rest of the world how to run their democracies and countries.  We can work with the UN to help stop the worst of global crimes such as ethnic cleansing.  No one political party or philosophy is entirely guilty or innocent.  Follow the Yellow Brick Road to find our decent core; we can be good but we don’t need to be great.  Now is the time to be strong and kind.  Remember that we all live in glass houses before we cast figurative stones.

A.W.O.L.

Random photo of Teddy standing dressed as Ace Halloween 2009

Another random photo of me dressed as a naughty school girl. It backfired because everyone thought I was someone’s daughter!

The strange thing about blogging is that you feel a responsibility to followers and friends.  I have been absent without leave for a few weeks and can’t help but feel guilty about it.  Like most of us, life has intervened into my usual routine and I have been a little frazzled.  Lots of new contract work has kept me busy but my mind has been blank despite all the opportunities for people watching.  I wondered if my health was deteriorating but my psychiatrist seems happy with me – I had some wonky blood results (that’s a clinical term…) which raised anxiety levels.  My cholesterol levels shot up but my inflammatory markers that indicate plaque, risk of stroke or heart attack were good.  My extended Irish family has a huge file on our family risk of heart problems in the main hospital in Dublin, so I have always been proactive about eating well and exercising.  But I can’t think of anything nicer than a baked potato smothered in butter…

Then I had a skin biopsy.  My dermatologist just went straight to the point – “I am taking a biopsy to check for basal skin cancer”.  Yes, it also appears in the Irish family – dang those genetics.  Why couldn’t they just leave me money in their will??  I didn’t truly enjoy my short vacation in San Diego which is why I haven’t blogged, although looking back there were some lovely moments including finding ancestors graves.  The news has just been so awful that I have started watching Fixer Upper instead of CNN.  We finally got around to ordering a new door after Hurricane Harvey only to have the wrong one delivered…  Teddy wondered if I made a fuss but there was no point; many of our residents have lost everything.

One of my friends housed their neighbors whose house was flooded.  The children just moved back last week and my friend was sad – what a beautiful person she is.  All of my contract work dried up immediately after the hurricane because no-one was able to or wanted to hold conferences in Houston.  One of my employees had a wee party for their staff in the garden of the office.  It was so much fun and I won the raffle for 4 tickets to Kemah which is our equivalent of Coney Island.  Well, I have no kids and don’t know anyone who has apart from my angel friend.  Apparently her neighbor was overwhelmed that a complete stranger would give them a gift.  No one could have felt happier than me, paying it forward feels good.

Two of the events that I have worked for recently have incorporated the conference contributing or volunteering to the Houston Food Bank.  Thank you!  One day when I was working at the airport, I helped a volunteer by translating for a passenger who only spoke Spanish (then three more turned up).  After that, I was still standing there when two men came up and said very loudly and incomprehensibly, “Haw Missus, how do ye get out of this airport?”  The volunteer looked perplexed.  Was it Serbo-Croat or Icelandic?  I recognized the accent from Glasgow in Scotland where I grew up.  Laughingly, I said, “Come over here boys!” Their faces lit up when they heard my (much posher, think Maggie Smith) Glasgow accent.  One of them had his arms wide open and said, “Gie us a cuddle” which I did and the other one hugged from the other side, kissing my ear.  I sent them on their way and laughed at the look of horror on the elegant volunteer’s face.  They were either oilmen or mariners who had travelled from some far flung place, Kazakhstan perhaps?  A few refreshments had been imbibed but there was nothing sexual about the cuddle.  It was one of kinship and comfort in a strange place.  Gosh, I felt homesick for the first time in years that day.  Despite all the turmoil recently, Texas mostly feels like home.

Get ready for some fun blogs and sorry for my absence.

 

The Teddies

Bye, bye, Teddies


In one of my posts about Hurricane Harvey, I mentioned my dilemma about my mum’s collection of Teddies. As a child, she and her siblings had very few toys. One year, when I was an adult, she shared that she had always wanted a Teddy of her own. Growing up poor, my presents to her were usually practical – clothing or money. I had a complicated relationship with my mum because of her strange mental illness (and mine) but I adored her. The Christmas after she told me about her Teddy longing, I bought her the largest Teddy in the box (which was very expensive) and put it in a huge box with lots of tissue paper. The look of delight on her face when she found the Teddy was priceless.

From then on, Teddy (my husband) and I would buy her Teddies at any opportunity and she loved every one of them. They were perfectly arranged on her immaculate lacy white bed every day. As she was approaching her death, she asked me not to give her Teddies away. My husband and I teased her relentlessly with various nefarious scenarios. Our favorite was that we would put them all in a little boat, set fire to them Viking style and send them off into the North Sea. She would be torn between laughter and tears. Anyway, my mum died suddenly at age 69 in 2002 and those dang Teddies have followed us to Africa and America. Our three Egyptian cats became very allergic to the heavy allergens in Houston (tree pollen, mold and other stuff) so the Teddies had to go into the attic.

After Hurricane Harvey hit us, I realized that this was the time to let the Teddies go. I sprayed them with anti-allergy formula and gently wiped them with anti-bacterial cloths. Then I lined the boxes with tissue paper and took them to the nearest evacuation center a few miles from my home. I knew that charities rarely accept soft toys because they may have bacteria on them but I ‘persuaded’ the volunteer that these were obviously never played with, many still had their tickets on them. For some reason, I felt happier that they were going to the Catholic Church. Surely they would treat them with reverence? To my surprise I was tearful as I left the Teddies – one last link to my mum. I am usually more pragmatic but this has been a very hard two weeks on me mentally.

Volunteering has allowed me to feel less impotent. I held the hand of a colleague who had lost everything and told him I would pray to Saint Jude. Heavens knows that we will need some prayer, magic and good will to get through the next few weeks. Please let our country stop thinking of how much this will cost and just do it. I studied economics at college and realized long ago that we could function perfectly well without money, stocks or shares. The Netherlands had a crazy period when the country was very rich when Tulips became of a form of currency. Yes, really!! If we chose to, we could share our wealth more fairly. Tears welled up when I saw a man on CNN give up the last generator that he was ready to buy to the lady behind him who needed it for her father on oxygen. I hope that the modern miracle of weather forecasting and social media allows for many lives to be saved during Hurricane Irma and then Jose. The 1900 Hurricane that hit Galveston killed more than 8,000 people. Be safe and kind. I light a virtual candle for us all.🕯️


I am plagued with migraines just now so please forgive me for not responding quickly to comments and follows.

Hope

A little boy repairing the damaged headstones Picture courtesy of the Atlantic Press

A little boy repairing the damaged headstones
Picture courtesy of the Atlantic Press

Two news stories made me have hope for my country.  The image above is of a little boy cleaning a Jewish headstone at the cemetery in Missouri.  Many of the headstones had been desecrated in a hate crime.  A Muslim activist group has raised over $100,000 dollars to repair the damage.  One Jewish lady interviewed on CNN intimated that the various bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers were damaging to the Jewish communities psyche.  Who is doing it?  I am pretty certain that white supremacists are at fault and hoping that the Muslim community is blamed.

This sacrilege got front page news, as it should but just a week ago, the town mosque in Victoria, Texas burned to the ground.  At this stage they don’t know if it was arson or an electrical fire.  The Rabbi handed over the keys of the synagogue to his friend, the Imam, so that the worshippers would have somewhere to pray.  Other Christian churches followed with similar offers.  A crowd-funding effort has raised over $850,000 to rebuild the mosque.

Victoria, TX Mosque Picture courtesy of ABC 13 news

Victoria, TX Mosque
Picture courtesy of ABC 13 news

All of our hearts should be singing at these kind acts following at least one hate crime.  The world looks at us tentatively with current political tensions very high.  Are we Russia’s friend or not?  I hope we treat them with the same suspicion that we have always done, along with any other state that wages war or terrorism on innocent people.  It feels as though people who have been bigoted and racist in private are emboldened to come out from their filthy shadows.

I was the victim of a white on white hateful moment this past Sunday.  I was sitting at the traffic lights waiting for them to turn.  A truck screamed past me on the left turnaround lane and the passenger was shouting filthy cuss words at me whilst giving me the finger.  Initially, I had no idea why until Teddy explained that he had been in the inside right lane wanting to cross over but I was a couple of feet away from the car in front.   Why didn’t he beep or flash and I could have moved up?  He looked just like you would imagine, white skinhead with tattoos – just as well he didn’t know I tick the Hispanic box, eh?

As I was walking today, I tried to assess my reaction to this.  Firstly, I was shocked because I have never been the recipient of such undeserved rage in the place I live. Then I was angry – really angry.  I started to imagine what I would have liked to have done.  If we had been in a carpark, I would have gone straight up to him and told him how disgusting his behavior was.  If he attempted to hit me, I would have kicked him in the testicles to down him and then would have beaten his face until it was bloody.  I am just an ordinary person who has self-defense skills and I have had to defend myself with violence on a couple of occasions.  Mostly, I just dream about Barbie dolls or Syrian limo drivers.

This is what happens when you live in a hateful society.  Be kind to your friends and neighbors, give a stranger a smile.

 

 

 

Random moments of happiness

mountain-laurel

Mountain Laurel

I am struggling to write and read just now. Many apologies to all my wonderful followers and those I follow for being absent. I have talked about my chronic anxiety and depression many times so no need for any further explanation. Between sad bouts, I experience moments of great happiness, for which I am thankful or life would not be worth living. These are some of my recent moments.

Mountain Laurel

Close up of mountain laurel blossom

Close up of mountain laurel blossom

My lovely neighbor with green fingers gifted me this tree a couple of years ago because it wouldn’t thrive in her garden. I was very anxious because my fingers are not green (blackish) and then this year we had flood, excessive heat and finally a terrible cold snap. Some of my tropical plants died but the lovely Laurel has new growth and exquisite lavender flowers. They have an intense fragrance which my neighbor could smell as she approached my house. I now just buy plants and ask my gardener to place them in the right spot – it is working, so far…

The Dead Grasshopper

dead-grasshopper
This poor little green person probably did not survive the hard frost and fell out of our house planks. He was perfectly preserved and so green. Normally these noisy critters frighten me because of how they jump but I do like their songs. It was fun to really examine his little body and hold it. There truly is beauty in death. After I took his photograph, I left it on the rock. When I went outside later, some lucky bird had eaten a freeze dried snack. I wonder if she thought, “they are usually juicier than that?”

The Tulle Filled Nest

Romantic front door

Romantic front door

This is a photograph of my front door decorated for Valentine’s Day. My Mountain Laurel neighbor loves to decorate her presents with ribbons and tulle – almost too nice to open. I keep them to use myself and had created a bow with pink and white tulle sitting atop the beads. We had a windy day and suddenly the bow was gone. A squirrel or bird probably has a pink tulle lined crib and I just smile at the thought. Maybe they also had the freeze dried snack…

The Syrian limo driver

During my recent contract work, I was paired with a Syrian-American limo driver. He was courteous, respectful, articulate and charming. You probably expect me to say something about executive orders and how nice Middle Eastern people are but the truth is he was Cougar Eye Candy. I am purring softly as I write this. He was tall, slim and handsome with dark hair, white skin and the most exquisite grey/green/blue eyes with long black eyelashes. I flirted outrageously in Arabic and English, wondering what I would have done with him were I 30 years younger…

The Spanish Translation

In a previous post, I talked about the coffee barista from Jerusalem who is Muslim. He works at my local Argentinean/Venezuelan Café. Those two sentences somehow encapsulate the interesting diversity of Houston. This week I went in for my usual cappuccino and he was serving on his own. The lady in front of me could only speak Spanish and although coffee guy looks Hispanic, he can’t speak it. I offered to translate and I think I got three beef empanadas correct. The lady looked Latino/Indio and was utterly confused by the blonde Texan lady translating to the ‘Spanish’ guy. It’s a wonderful world.

More happy moments to come…

Bah humbug

Krampus, courtesy of AV Club

Krampus, courtesy of AV Club

Nothing I do can get me in a festive mood – I am so grumpy that it is funny.  Every year I love decorating my 7 foot tall, expensive, fake tree decorated with ornaments from our childhood and from all over the world (but not this year).  I create a snow village under the tree that occasionally a cat has peed on or wrecked.  One year our little Egyptian terrorists (cats) raided Bethlehem and the nativity scene.  I used to say that I was spiritual or an atheist depending on my snarky mood but now I know I am a lapsed Catholic doomed to spend eternity in Purgatory or worse…

Most years I host a Christmas party in the house but this year Teddy said ‘No’!  He was quite right – that would have tipped me over the edge.  While he was in Scotland on business, I decorated ‘somewhat’ with my best ornaments hanging from our chandeliers.  I even painted our outside furniture and adorned the porch with some discreet fairy lights and decorations.

As most of you know, I volunteer at an airport which is a hub for Latin America, in particular.  I love it or I wouldn’t still be doing it after 8 years.  I wore my regulation Santa hat (apparently my reindeer antlers don’t cut it??) and my red and black banded tights, with my non regulation miniskirt…  The first person that irked me was another staff member – I was racing across the terminal to help someone and I said, “Ho ho ho!” to him.  He responded, “Or something” with no smile, looking at me as though I was a ‘Ho.  WTF!  This was balanced by another staff member who stopped me on my return to ask me if the elves were still on strike – the kids loved that.

I often work in the international terminal when the Central American flights come in.  This week it was something special, with Abuela’s (Grandma’s) in full traditional clothing coming in from Guatemala and El Salvador.  Many families had traveled with their whole family from other states just to meet their precious relatives who they may not have seen for many years.   Children from this region look entirely Maya and one little poppet who looked adorable in a little white furry jacket.  She looked like a little Maya angel tree-topper.  After three hours, I wondered if the Maya gods would reward me for sacrificing one of their precious children…who were now screaming and kicking my door (I am jesting, of course).  To my credit I kept smiling and reassuring everyone in bad Spanish that their relatives would be out soon – (hopefully not from holding cells).

It was perhaps all the Christmas social events leading up to now that provoked this Krampus spirit within me.  I am feeling very sensitive and every thoughtless comment bothers me.  You will love this one, “I preferred it when you were the happy, smiling Kerry”.  Really, really??  Guess what, me too!! “Your hair is getting a bit long”.  Are you my stylist?  Poor Teddy said, “You have spilled something on the floor”.  Biting sarcasm ensued regarding my qualities as a serf to his Highness.

Driving is always bad here but right now there are demons at the wheel.  Why don’t you all go through the red light – it’s only there for decoration?  What terrible gift are you going to buy that’s worth racing for – just use Amazon like a normal person.  They employ demons to drive their trucks…  Now the weather Gods have turned on us.  It has gone from freezing to about 80 degrees – everyone is sneezing, wearing fleeces with sandals.  Today, I tried to turn the tide.  I went to my favorite coffee shop to speak Arabic to my Palestinian friend.  I can tell he is missing Jerusalem – it’s colder there.  Then I went to the Salvation Army kettle and chatted to the old man about the stupid weather.  I asked him if he needed a cold drink because it was so damned hot!  I passed by the pet store and bought Toffee a knitted toucan filled with catnip.  Katniss got a knitted dog because I thought she would love to savage one…

On a more serious note, I am deeply saddened that road rage or any bad mood could make someone fire a gun and kill a child.  Even worse, kill innocent shoppers at a Christmas market or attack fleeing evacuees in a war zone.  It is within all of us to find our inner angel and love our fellow man.  Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Super Solstice to all!

 

 

 

A precious moment

istanbul abu dhabi 259

I was going to complete my week’s blogging with some more flower photographs but I had a precious moment today that I thought I would share with you. Those of you who regularly follow my blog know that I have been unwell of late and seem to be having a protracted recovery. This week I have turned a corner and regularly walk to the local cafe for a delicious cappuccino. It was previously a bakery and the owners retired. We were all excited that a new Argentinean bakery and coffee shop was opening.

It has been an instant success both with regular gringos and many different Latino people who live here. We have a local wealthy population of Latinos who have immigrated from countries that are unstable, such as Venezuela, and also from Mexico. I really enjoy hearing all the dialects chatting about how delicious the pastries are. They have a funny chalkboard outside that implores us to eat pastries because skinny people are easier to kidnap. The nice young man, who I assumed was Latino, asked me if I would like a pastry. I said, “I would but I am not going to…” The man next to me said, “Didn’t you see the sign outside saying skinny people are easier to kidnap?” We all laughed and I told them that I lived too close to the cafe to regularly eat pastries.

The young man asked me where I was from (Scottish accent) and I, in turn, asked him. To my surprise he said Jerusalem. “Arabie or Hebrew?”, I asked. His face lit up with delight when he realized I spoke a little Arabic. I wished him a good afternoon in Arabic and he beamed. Eventually (good coffee is slow) my coffee was ready and I thanked him in Arabic. He said, “It is so lovely to speak Arabic!” We forget that immigrants can feel lonely in their new country and, let’s face it, Arabic speakers are not particularly popular right now. I was always very grateful to Egyptian taxi drivers speaking a little English to match my little Arabic. Pay it forward, folks and have a good weekend!

The interview

k interview suit

This was the best I could do with a hastily taken photograph that wasn’t sharp but I hope you get the picture. I have not been blogging much recently and the reason why was I submitted my resume to an events company and they asked me to interview. My dear friend had just gifted me a gorgeous Michael Kors dress that fitted beautifully. It had a high neck and long sleeves – perfect for an interview but I had no jacket. I decided to go to my favorite thrift store and found a jacket that was brand new, with the tickets on, ($200) for $10 – what a find! The company offered me the job (which may vary) on the spot but mostly I will be meeting VIPs at the airport and making sure they get safely to their destination.

My first weekend was chaotic – two major events were in town, flights were delayed by weather and the road conditions were terrible. I discovered that night driving with a new lens is difficult. I can see much better but there are flashing halos everywhere. To my utter surprise I like my new job and hope they like me. In the midst of all this my husband launched our new website on Friday and we have our first customer! I will focus on that in the next post but once again thank you to two friends, one who recommended me for the job and the other for the gorgeous dress. Not only that, they were supportive and loving in the midst of my angst.