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Saturday, 23 July 2016

An Even Bigger Change of Life - Time to Confess

I've been plotting and scheming lately, and it's time to fess up to what I'm doing. Partly because I'm bursting to talk about it, but also because I think it might be helpful to someone if I document this journey I've decided to undertake. I should really say that it's a journey we've decided to undertake, because it involves my boyfriend, too.

The plotting and scheming I refer to has nothing to do with writing, though I still do that of course. After all, I have a trilogy to finish. This is far more personal, however, and I'm sure many will judge me for my decision. Yet, everyone close to me has been cheering us on.

My boyfriend and I have decided to attempt to have a child - well, at least one, possibly two, depending on how things work out. Having a child at our ages (I'm 45 and he's 51) becomes complicated just by itself. On my end there's an additional hiccup. I've had my tubes tied since my early twenties. That combined with the age of my eggs makes things difficult, to say the least. There's little point in getting my tubes untied and trying to conceive by the usual means. We certainly have no problem practicing the maneuvers, but the odds of conception are practically nil. It would be a waste of time and money, most likely, and surgery is always a risk.

This leaves us with IVF, or in vitro fertilization. My eggs will need to be harvested, fertilized, and then implanted at the appropriate moment. From my understanding, this will cost us quite a few thousands of dollars. Are we still going to go through with it? Hell, yeah! For that matter, we're already spending a fair chunk of change just getting ready for it, and we haven't even had our first fertility appointment yet.

Let me explain.

The older eggs get, the less healthy they are. However, until recently doctors believed that we were stuck with the eggs we were born with, and there was nothing we could do to improve on them. Or, if we allowed our egg health to decline there wasn't anything we could do to get it back. Now it's looking like there's a lot we can do to make things better, which includes certain vitamins and nutrients, as well as switching to a fully organic diet. Our food bill skyrocketed this month, and it's probably going to cost me a couple hundred dollars a month for vitamins and such, in addition to buying a water cooler so I can drink spring water rather than tap water with all that chlorine and fluoride in it. I've cut out caffeine, alcohol, and sugar, too. Plus I'm getting out and walking a fair bit.

You're probably wondering if all these changes are making me crazy, and they're really not. I guess it's true what they say. If you want something badly enough, you'll do what you have to do to get it. I used to think of myself as a person who couldn't achieve my goals, and most of that had to do with my writing (and the fact that I'd never published a book). Now I realize I'm perfectly capable of attaining my dreams, seeing as I've got two books published and I know there are more on the way.

How does my boyfriend feel about all of this? Actually, he's even looking forward to potentially crazy mood swings when I have to start injecting myself all the damn time. I was warning him about what I'd heard of the process, and he said he couldn't wait. I thought he was being sarcastic, but apparently he was serious and couldn't wait for the whole thing to happen. Huh. Well, colour me surprised. Honestly I've never known a man who was so into the idea of having kids - with me at any rate.

So far we've gone to my family doctor, and she's referred us to her favourite fertility clinic. They called a few days ago and booked us in for the end of August. It's good timing, seeing as I only started trying to improve my egg health around the end of June, and apparently your egg cycle needs at least 90 days of healthy living, though the full egg-production cycle is 150 days, I believe. By the time we've both been tested for our potential fertility, and they can get me started on the constant injections, it should be a good 90 days of proper nutrition and supplementation.

I haven't yet started the prenatal vitamins, which they recommend as part of the preconception process now, but I'll start that later this week. I just want to keep my folic acid down a bit. They've been doing studies that indicate too much folic acid may be part of what causes autism (through Johns-Hopkins, so I trust the source, though it's not yet peer-reviewed). I'm going to take only half the prenatal vitamins they recommend, and also choose the lowest level of folic acid I can find. I'll still be supplementing with it, in order to prevent spina bifida and other issues, but I don't want to overdo it.

One issue I currently have is the pain medication I'm on for my hips. I've cut back, partly because I had a shot of something called Visco put directly into my left hip joint. I still have to have the other hip done, but my pain has been lowered enough that I can cut back on Gabapentin and Tylenol 3s. The opiates are the worst thing, because they can kill your ovulation, so I'm down to 1.5 to 2 pills a day of those. Gabapentin is mostly an issue once you're pregnant, to the best of my knowledge, though I'm going to do more research on that. I was taking 4 Tylenol 3s a day, so I've cut it to just under a half (on average).

I've lost weight since my boyfriend and I got together, which helps with my hip pain, of course, and allows me to be even more active. Eating nothing but healthy food is helping me lose additional weight. Being overweight affects ovulation as well, and since the plan is for hyper-ovulation so they can extract a bunch of eggs at once, I really need to make sure I'm ovulating.

I'm also avoiding things called xenoestrogens. They're in damn near everything, including hand lotion, nail polish, shampoo, body wash, lipstick, etc. And the kicker is that you absorb 100% of what goes on your skin, as opposed to only about 10% of any xenoestrogens you might ingest by mouth. Your organs actually filter out 80% to 90% of what you might get orally, but they can't do anything to filter out what your skin absorbs.

What do they do that's so bad? Well, they act like estrogen, and too much estrogen makes you infertile. It can cause things like micropenis in boys - I'm assuming it's when women are exposed to it during pregnancy, since the penis is already formed when the baby comes out, but it could also impact the eggs in a way that causes it. I'm not certain of my facts there, but I'd just as soon avoid having to deal with that issue with my potential son. Then you get things like breast growth in men (who use products that have xenoestrogens in them), and lowered testosterone.

In order for women to be fertile, and for proper implantation to occur as well, it's progesterone that they need. Too much estrogen is pretty bad. I'm actually taking hormone supplements to regulate estrogen levels, and that's correcting any issues I've had with my periods, too. I never really noticed it because my periods were never that bad, but I have less cramping and other symptoms usually synonymous with PMS. Thankfully I've never been particularly moody with PMS either, though I certainly get plenty moody when some guy asks me if I'm PMS-ing just because he's done something to piss me off.

Speaking of periods, though, I've switched to organic cotton tampons, seeing as the other ones are made with cotton that's been sprayed with oodles of pesticides. It never even occurred to me before that it would be an issue, but apparently cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops, and it's not a good idea to have that stuff anywhere near your nethers. Those tissues are highly absorbent, and pesticides can also act as xenoestrogens. Yippee.

One thing I haven't done is switch my wardrobe to safe fabrics. I figure any cotton stuff I buy to wear will, or has been, washed umpteen zillion times. Nylons and polyesters aren't good in general, though, so I think I'll work on at least using natural fabrics where anything bad can be washed out. I tried hunting down the organic cotton underwear, but there was a sizing chart issue and so I had no idea what size to order. Plus my weight loss has changed my underwear size.

Thankfully I didn't have a lot of bad habits that needed to be broken. I don't smoke and I don't take illicit drugs - not even pot for pain simply because it doesn't work for me, and it apparently has an effect on fertility, particularly in women. I drank a bit of alcohol once every couple of years until pretty recently. When my boyfriend and I got together we would have a beer or two when we went out, which was pretty frequent at first, but I started to go back to my old habit of not drinking even before I started on this fertility kick.

My diet was the worst thing. Too much sugar and too many preservatives. Granted, I wasn't going for fast food at all. The worst I had there was Subway. Now everything has changed. I drink black, decaf, organic coffee. I drink lots more water, and I also drink herbal tea sweetened with organic honey (or whatever the pure, unpasteurized stuff is called). I'm rather shocked at how well I'm doing. I'm taking Maca Root capsules, which are supposed to be amazing for fertility, but I still have to add a few other supplements, like CoQ10, the aforementioned prenatal vitamins, and Royal Jelly.

I probably sound like a nut with all this, but I'm looking at very bleak odds here. I have to produce not only a high number of eggs, but ones that are as healthy as possible. I also have to make sure my uterus is healthy. Good times. Luckily I'm not the type that gets stressed out easily, because that can be a huge factor in fertility issues. My boyfriend and I have both procreated before, so if we're infertile it'll be a recent development rather than a lifelong issue, so making healthy choices could make all the difference.

My boyfriend is also pretty familiar with this whole thing, seeing as he was a sperm donor before his son was born. He was extremely fertile in that respect, so I've got very high hopes that this will work out. So long as there is a batch of healthy eggs (or embryos) to be used, a woman can carry a successful pregnancy well after menopause. According to my doctor at my last physical, I'm nowhere near menopause. I guess the average age in Canada is around 51 or 52, and I've shown no signs of perimenopause. Everything is as regular as can be.

You might wonder, if I wanted more children, why I had my tubes tied - and especially at such a young age (I had just turned 22). Well, there are a few reasons. First, my doctor at the time recommended it. I couldn't take the pill, and an IUD made me bleed for two and a half months. The only other options for birth control back then were extremely inconvenient for anyone in a monogamous relationship. I'd had a total of three miscarriages by then (one before my daughter was born and two after), and I didn't want to keep going through that. It turned out to have something to do with the boyfriend I had at the time, rather than my own physiology, so I wasn't happy that I'd 'sterilized' myself for no good reason. In retrospect I think the doctor was tired of seeing the plethora of young women getting knocked up so they could go on welfare or 'trap' some young man into taking care of them. I could be wrong, but it's the impression I have.

Strangely, the people I thought who would be so against us doing this, have been very supportive and encouraging. We've been told that we're exactly the kind of people who should be having children, so I feel pretty good about that. Even my adult daughter seems pretty happy and excited about it. We were out shopping one day, and she suggested we go look at baby stuff. Apparently any children my boyfriend and I have now will be spoiled rotten, because my daughter was looking at all these outfits and saying she was going to buy this, that, or the other thing for 'the kid.'

I'm no better in my level of excitement or prematurity. I've already looked at cribs and stuff. We've discussed names we like, and pretty much all the decisions parents have to make when a baby is born, like breast feeding, circumcision, religion, vaccinations, you name it. We got all the deal-breakers out of the way (or non-starters as my boyfriend calls them), seeing as there wasn't much point spending thousands of dollars to do this if we couldn't agree on some of the more important issues. We've also discussed what to do if there are congenital issues. In one way it's lucky we're going through IVF, because they can actually check if an embryo is healthy before implantation. That doesn't rule out all issues, of course, so we may be faced with tough choices later, but the fact is he's already told me he would never interfere in my right to choose. Of course, I can't imagine being with a man who would.

I did tell him any kids we have would have his last name. I have no interest in carrying on my own last name, with the exception of continuing to use it myself because it's who I am now (and my name has been changed far too many times - something I wrote about in a previous post). He thinks kids should have their father's last name, but not for the reasons you would think. He believes it engenders a deeper sense of responsibility in the father, if his children carry his last name - and some men need that reminder. He doesn't. I already know what kind of father he is, even under less than ideal circumstances, so I have no fears there. If I did I wouldn't have even considered this.

How much is this going to cost? No idea at this point. In the US an egg harvesting cycle would cost about $10,000, and I'm okay with that. Canada's a bit different, however. At least some portions of it will be covered by our healthcare, such as our initial appointment. In fact, Ontario Healthcare actually covers fertility treatments now, but there's a 3-year waiting list and we can't afford to wait that long at our age, so we'll be paying for anything that isn't generally covered by our regular insurance. As we go through all this I'll keep track of it and talk about it more when I know what's covered and what's not.

What will we do if my eggs (or his sperm) don't work out? Well, nothing. Call me selfish or picky, but the whole point to this is for us to have our own child - together. There are donor eggs and donor sperm out there, but neither of us is interested in that at this point, and I doubt we will be. There's always the possibility of adoption if this doesn't work out, but we haven't discussed that yet. I don't even know if they allow people our age to adopt.

Yes, we know how old we'll be when our child(ren) reaches adulthood. And, yes, we're both looking after our health to make sure we're alive as our kids grow. The fact is, no one knows whether or not they're going to survive to see their children grow, and we'll both be well under the average ages when men and women in Canada die. We're not dealing with alcoholism, drug addiction, or other risky behaviours that will shorten our lifespans.

The fact is, I've been waiting my whole life to meet the man I wanted to have more children with. The one where I could imagine him being a full partner and truly sharing the whole experience, as well as the responsibilities. Now I have, and I'm not letting even a small chance of experiencing that slip from my grasp.

Friday, 15 July 2016

A Change of Life, Just Not That One

I'll admit that I had become completely cynical about my chances of finding the right person to share my life with. I was considering getting back into the dating world, but I was also planning to wait until after the third book in my trilogy was published. After all, I didn't feel like I had the time to spend on vetting all the candidates one tends to find on online dating sites. So, I hadn't bothered to create a profile anywhere.

Funnily enough it turned out that I'd already met the man of my dreams, and it was more than a year ago now. We had political interests in common, so we were both members of a certain Facebook group. We're also both actual members of the Green Party, so that was a weird kind of synchronicity, among other things. With all our commonalities, however, we were more than a little surprised to find out we not only lived in the same city, but we were only a few blocks apart. Go figure.

Just when you think life isn't going to give you the one thing you've always looked really hard for, it can suddenly seem like it's throwing you a surprise party with all the perfect gifts.

When I was awake and aware I never felt lonely, but I knew that some part of me was. I used to have these dreams where I would be held by a specific man, who made me feel truly loved. I'd wake up feeling so ridiculously content, and I would close my eyes at different points throughout the day to hold onto that feeling, picturing it in my mind. Nearly four months ago I finally discovered what that felt like in real life. All previous relationships paled in comparison, and I realized that if I'd truly know what this felt like, I would never have settled for what I had before. I would have known the real deal.

Nobody is perfect, but sometimes you find someone who is absolutely perfect for who you are. They fit with you somehow. All the things that you're insecure about, and that you've been told are fatal flaws, suddenly they're things that are cherished by another person. Don't get me wrong - we weren't all sunshine and roses about who we were, pretending to be something different. We were both almost brutally honest about ourselves. I was pretty enthusiastic about telling him I swore like a drunken sailor, cracked every joint in my body, and the only thing domestic about my habits is the fact that I'm potty-trained.

For his part, when we started private messaging, he bluntly asked me if I was single, and said he needed to know because he was certainly happy to be friends with me, but he would be sitting there wondering the whole time if I was available. It made me smile, I can tell ya. And it was a first for me. After all, we met on Facebook rather than a dating site. On a dating site you're assuming the person you're talking to is single (though there are plenty who are trolling for a side piece, too). I'd never had a guy have the courage to be so blunt about his interest in me on there. Of course, he was pretty blunt about a lot of other things, too, like wanting to talk to me, see me, kiss me, you name it. And he had the confidence and courage to follow through on it. He still does, and it's something I find endlessly fascinating and attractive about him. Especially since a lot of guys seem pretty intimidated by me.

Of course, explosive chemistry helps. I'm not giving details, but I will say that time stands still when he kisses me. There's a Zen-like calm that comes over me when we're together. I've only been truly mad at him once, and from what I can tell I was being stupid. However, all he had to do was touch me and I was lost (as was the anger, though I tried to fight that). There's a magic in it, and I've never felt it before. Any time in the past when I've been mad at a guy, they've been mad at me, too, and so the last thing they were interested in was making me feel better. Yet, my boyfriend has got to be the most selfless person I've ever known. He can (and does) feel empathy even toward a person who should be his most bitter enemy. I've seen examples of it time and time again. Honestly, we need more people like him in the world. He just truly cares about people. He talks to them on the street, homeless or otherwise, he buys strange kids a meal, he stops to help people who have been involved in car accidents, he's politically involved, and he stands up for women online when men start acting like misogynistic jerks.

He's also the best father I've ever seen. He's been involved in his child's life from the moment of birth, and even against adversity he's made sure he remained a major part of his child's life. It makes me wish I was ten years younger so I could easily have a couple of kids with him. Not that it's impossible even now, of course, but the odds are against it.

We've both had our share of bad luck and bad choices when it came to past relationships, so you would think we'd be a lot more leery of moving forward with things, but we were pretty much living together within a week or two of starting to date. People thought we didn't know each other, even though we did. In truth I've never known anyone so well in my life. My own experiences kept my eyes open, and not just for suspicious behaviour, but also for the evidence that backed up everything I was being told. Fate stepped in, over and over, to show me that he was everything he said he was. My one instance of anger with him was all the more stupid because I've been given constant proof of his character. Yeah, I felt like an idiot...and well I should.

Have we talked about taking things to the next level? Well, in an oblique sort of way. Neither of us are against the idea of getting married. I just have one caveat there. It's gotta be a 'hell, yeah' kind of thing on his part. I mean, it would definitely be a 'hell, yeah' for me, but I won't do it if he doesn't feel like that, too. After all, I was told in a previous relationship that I'd dragged the guy into it (despite him being the one to propose). It was a month after the wedding, and that was the end of our marriage in that very moment. For me, anyway. I never felt the same way after that, even though I tried to keep going. My heart just wasn't in it anymore. I couldn't even bring myself to care enough to fight with him after that. I became rigidly logical and cold-hearted whenever he tried to fight with me. It was painful enough for me then, but if I had to go through that with my current guy I don't know if I'd survive that kind of heartbreak. He isn't the kind of guy who would say something like that, but without the 'hell, yeah' part of the deal, he might as well be feeling it.

Still, he feels more like a husband to me than any man from my past, with or without the marriage certificate. When I talk about him, or even think about him, I have to actively stop myself from calling him that. I'd have to say it's because we work so well together in everything we do. You know those things you try to do with someone that usually lead to fighting? Like hanging wallpaper, fixing things, etc. Well, we can do those things and just be happy to be together. We have fun with it, because we always have fun together, and we genuinely like each other. We enjoy talking about pretty much anything - though he's admittedly a bit attention-deficit, so I find myself repeating things, but then I have to ask people to do the same with my hearing being so crappy.

Probably the funniest part of all of this is how we started out being so logical about love. We both agreed that it took about two years to really get to know someone, and until then you couldn't truly say you loved them. Then I told him on our first date that he was going to fall madly in love with me. Go figure. Of course, my barometer for knowing if I love someone is a pretty morbid one. I try to imagine how I would feel if they died, and whether or not it would devastate me. Within the week I told him he'd smashed my barometer. I couldn't imagine my life without him.

So, you see, there's a reason I've gotten so far behind on blog posts and other writing projects. I don't blame him, of course. He's perfectly willing to give me the space I need to get my writing done. I just haven't been able to tear myself away from him. A first for me. I've always managed to work and do what was necessary before. Thankfully I'd already published book two of my trilogy when we started getting all crazy in love. I had a bit of breathing space. Or should I be calling it 'breathless' space, because that's how he leaves me.

It took me until I was 44 years old to find the man that was right for me. I've made a lot of mistakes in the past, and not just with my choices. I've also made mistakes with my behaviour within those choices. I know very well that I had my share of the blame to shoulder, and I needed to learn from all that in order to be where I am right now. It's tempting to wish we could have met ten or twenty years ago, where we could have saved ourselves the heartache we've both been through, but that might have been a disaster for us. We needed to be who we are right now, in order for things to work as well as they do. I needed a certain maturation. Our experiences form us, and there's no regretting those experiences when they brought us to this point. We each have offspring we might never have had, and we would never have wanted to miss out on them.

I guess the point is this. No matter how crappy things can seem, they can change in a heartbeat. I learned that lesson a long time ago, and it's something I keep trying to share with people who are going through hard times. I almost gave up on finding someone I could be happy with. I'd thought about dating, but I had no faith I'd find anyone who would put up with my foibles, much less someone I was willing to tolerate. And I certainly held no hope I'd find the exact person who was everything I ever needed and wanted. He feels the same. I can only hope he keeps feeling that way, and hope is no longer in short supply for me. Of course, it helped that my ferrets were all over him like he was wearing a meat suit, and he likes doing dishes.

The best part? I feel more free with him than I ever felt when I was single.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

It Might Hurt, but I Refuse to Toughen Up

It's been more than three weeks since I've written anything, other than an e-mail to a friend and some private messaging on Facebook. Ever since I finished off my word count for National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo...or insanity) on November 30th, I haven't felt the slightest urge to write a single thing. There was a writing contest I had intended to enter for The Prepper Journal, but I could not bring myself to even seriously contemplate a topic. Maybe I'll send them something at a later date and ask if they're interested in publishing it, but I desperately needed to take a step back from working for a little while. Luckily it coincided with the Christmas break for the show I produce, because I've been a completely lazy git for the last three weeks.

Not that I can blame myself for it. Most people don't write a book in the course of less than a month, edit it in three weeks, and then write half of another book, while overlapping the editing of the first book. For two and a half months I worked every single day, usually from the time I woke up, until I finally fell asleep about twenty hours later. I'd take the odd break here and there, usually to binge-watch the X-Files with my daughter (we just finished season five and watched the movie a couple of days ago), but mostly I worked. Not that it felt like work at the time, because I was enjoying the hell out of it, but in reality I was busting my butt.

The problem didn't really come until after my book was published and I started receiving negative reviews. The first couple were great, and I consider the majority of them to be positive. However, the negative ones were pretty bad, and in some cases downright rude or wrong. Believe me when I tell you that writers are very sensitive to criticism, though we're told we just have to suck it up and move on. It's not anywhere near as easy as it sounds. Even when a review is dead wrong (to the point where you believe they didn't even read the book, or they skipped half of it), it gets in your head and plays a tune on you whenever your brain gets a little too quiet. I tend to have a lot of quiet time, so my brain poked fun at me quite a bit.

So, since the end of November I've been having a pity party along with my burn-out. In addition to that I've had to suppress my irritation with people. I mean, unless you're stupid you don't respond to the reviews on Amazon. It's bad form, for one thing. For another, it's a no-win situation. Not only is it rude to the person who left the review, but then other people start thinking you're a jerk. For that reason I'm not going to talk about specifics even in my blog. People should be allowed to review. I do think Amazon should consider their review policy, such as disqualifying reviews from people who haven't bought a product, or who are blatantly attacking or bullying someone, but other than that people have to be allowed to express their opinions.

I just can't imagine expressing my opinion in such a rude fashion as some people do. Maybe it's because I'm Canadian, and the whole mud-slinging thing is anathema to me, but there are rude Canadians, too, so I don't think that's entirely the issue. I think it's simply a change in how people behave when they're allowed to be anonymous. There's an expression I like that applies to this.
"The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching." ~ John Wooden
We've all seen what's been happening online these days, particularly when it comes to inflammatory issues. Women are subjected to rape and death threats online, just for stating an opinion. Muslims are seeing hateful rhetoric in a constant barrage. Gun-control advocates are getting threats that they'll be shot by 'responsible gun owners.' If these people were sitting face-to-face, in most cases the majority of their words would not pass their lips, and that comes from all sides of the arguments. It doesn't matter if a person is a liberal or a conservative, a man or a woman, a Christian or a Muslim. We're all guilty of it.

When it comes to my personal situation, I tried to make myself feel better by looking at reviews other authors had received, and it actually made me feel worse. Sure, I felt like I was in pretty good company. Well-known authors (such as Nora Roberts, Karin Slaughter, and J. K. Rowling), were subjected to major abuse in their Amazon reviews. I started seeing that the reviewers who spoke like that had some issues. Often they were extremely hateful. Teenagers were leaving nasty reviews about the Harry Potter series, and I have to wonder how they even have access to leave comments. In order to review an item you have to have made a purchase on Amazon, which means you must have a credit card of some sort. In most cases that would mean it's the parents' accounts, and yet the parents are okay with their kids leaving those sorts of remarks. It doesn't bode well for the future of society.

I honestly thought I would feel better about my own bad reviews if I was in good company. I mean, hey, if it can happen to some of the best (or even most popular, whether or not you agree they're the best), then it should be okay that it happened to me, too. Instead I feel scared by it. I'm scared of what we're turning into when it becomes okay to belittle people online. I know that there are people that get off on hurting others. I know there are trolls and bullies. I know some people try to feel better about themselves by showing off and criticizing other people for doing something they themselves cannot do. I see it all the time on Facebook. I'm a member of some movie groups for some reason, and I see people panning movies left, right and centre, when I sit there and think, "I'd like to see you do better!" If they can't do it themselves, then at least they can cut down someone who has already done it, in other words.

That's the real test, though, isn't it? A friend of mine reminded me of that saying, "Those who can, do, and those who can't, teach," and said he didn't think that was a fair thing to say. I agree completely. You can't teach something if you don't know how to do it. He said those who couldn't would just criticise those who do, and again I agree. But I'm still very worried about society. There's a damn good reason I don't leave the house much. When people think it's okay to issue threats over books or articles, there's a serious breakdown in our humanity. People are shooting people over idiotic things. Young men think they have a right to kill a bunch of people because young girls won't send them naked pictures of themselves. The sense of entitlement on this planet is growing all out of proportion with what we actually deserve.

Part of me is saying that I should just toughen up and get on with my life, and the other part of me is saying that's entirely the wrong thing to do. Why should I toughen up? Why should I be any less sensitive than I am? The real question is, why should I change because of what other people are saying and doing? Yes, I will have to suffer if I don't toughen up, but I also won't lose the part of myself that refuses to become desensitized to aggression and violence - and that's what it boils down to. People are being rude and angry toward other people, for no good reason. They're taking out their own insecurities on others, and we have to stop tolerating it.

I don't believe in all the old-school manners and etiquette, but by the same token we should treat one another with respect. Even when another person has shown they don't really deserve it, we do not need to sink to that level. We become that other person if we do. I've made it a habit the last few months to simply stop arguing with people the moment they become rude. I refer to one-on-one encounters online. If a person calls me a name I tell them I'm done with the conversation for that reason, and then I actually leave the conversation. I don't care what they say after that, because the name-calling just invalidated their argument for me. A debate is fine. Even an argument can be fine. When you step across the line to abuse, I'm done with it. And I wish more people did the same. It might teach these rude people that it's not socially acceptable to do what they're doing.

Of course, far too many people thrive on drama, and often cause it. It's like those people who like to gossip. I can't understand why they have so much of an interest in someone else and how they live their life. It makes no sense to me. And yet they sit there and talk about another human being in the worst possible way. It might sound terrible to say, but I honestly don't have that much concern for what other people are doing, so long as they're not hurting anyone. I'm more than happy living in my own little world, while everyone else lives in theirs. I like my solitude. The only people I make an effort with, to find out what's going on in their lives, are the people I love. Other than that, I can't be bothered. I've got too many other things in my life to do, that I find far more interesting.

Today I finally wrote an article for a friend of mine who asked me to contribute to his online magazine about a month ago. I wrote about dealing with criticism, because it was what I've had on my mind for some time, and his site is about happiness and mental health. I've worked through a lot of it, though I still get somewhat irritated when I stew about it too much. In my case I can't resolve the criticism with a confrontation, so I have to vent in other ways - like this blog post.

I don't want to be a whiner or a wimp, but I also don't want to lose touch with my honest feelings. I've distanced myself from people in many ways, in order to prevent loss of emotion on my part. It may sound counter-intuitive, but I find too much interaction with people I don't know can result in me shutting down my emotions just to get through it. I did it when I worked in the corporate world, and I worked too hard as a teenager to regain my emotions (after a childhood of abuse) to lose them now because of strangers.

So, instead of toughening up I've examined the criticisms, learned what I could from them, determined what parts might be accurate, and then tried to get a handle on why people would feel the need to behave in such a fashion. Allowing myself to understand their motivation has been a big help. Any disparaging remarks will hurt, but knowing why they were made makes them easier to deal with. And of course, just because someone has an opinion, doesn't mean they're right.