Breakup Comfort Reads

broken-heart
thanks, emojipedia

Obviously there’s much more Serious Business going on in the world than my romantic (mis)adventures, but a recent breakup has given me time to reflect on the things that have brought me comfort and meaning when my heart has faced tough times. I wanted to share them for others who are going through heartache, and just to have them all in one place should I need them again someday.

The first  is from one of the earliest Captain Awkward posts, “The Golden Retriever/Kwisatz Haderach of Love“. NB: I’ve never read Dune nor seen the movie, the post is worth it even without knowing the references 🙂 Among the pieces of advice to the heartbroken letter-writer is this wonderful musing on love:

It’s okay to still be in love. Love is – as this hideous wedding-cake topper excruciatingly reminds us – patient, it is kind, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. So there you are, all shaggy and embarrassing bounding toward your person wagging your tail and doing that adorable thing you do where you pretend that you’re not going to hand over the ball you’re carrying in your mouth and your person doesn’t even want your stupid ball and then the leash of reality yanks you back. That part of you is the purest and best and truest part of you, and you can’t really turn it off. It’s just going to love for a while.

I say this because it’s really fucking frustrating to try to talk yourself out of having a feeling or beat yourself up for having a feeling at the same time you’re having the feeling. So just have the feeling. Just be the Golden Retriever of Love. You’re not stupid for feeling it, you’re not a bad person, you didn’t do anything wrong. You just feel what you feel, and you’ll feel until one day you stop, and you can’t decide when that is, so don’t even try.

For me it’s one of those pieces of writing that I come back to over and over, like a worry stone. Just have the feeling. Just be the Golden Retriever of Love. It’s such a beautiful reminder to be kind to the best and most loving parts of yourself, even when they are hurting. Especially when they are hurting.

Next up is the Beyonce Freelancing Method, a delightfully raunchy reflection on the economic value of romantic attention by the Scottish writer and video game critic Cara Ellison:

This frame of mind has been percolating unconsciously for a while. It’s mainly about valuing men monetarily. I weigh up how much money I lose as a freelancer by spending time on pelvic sorcery rather than writing, and I calculate whether it is worth losing that money. […] It’s all about the pleasure return and the impact on my work. Does the sex, the hanging out, the effort to keep my attention leave me energised? Or does it make me really exhausted and sad and angry so that I can’t work? The first type is worth more monetarily. The second type is not worth it and I’ve been learning to refuse to invest in it.

Grieving and forgiveness are two things that I think about a lot in the context of breakups. A breakup leaves one grieving the end of what was, what was imagined to be but never really was, what could have been, or some combination of those. There’s plenty of pop-psych writing on grieving, but a thing I found very helpful was just understanding that the classic 5 stages “are not stops on some linear timeline[…]. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order.” Grief is often a messy thing, but I’ve found the 5 “stages” to be a helpful lens to understand my feelings.

On forgiveness, I think often of these quotations from an essay in the journal Character, which Emily Yoffe (the former Dear Prudence) excerpted in a column on choosing whether or not to forgive abusive parents:

In a 2008 essay in the journal In Character, history professor Wilfred McClay writes that as a society we have twisted the meaning of forgiveness into a therapeutic act for the victim: “[F]orgiveness is in danger of being debased into a kind of cheap grace, a waiving of standards of justice without which such transactions have no meaning.” Jean Bethke Elshtain, a professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School writes that, “There is a watered-down but widespread form of ‘forgiveness’ best tagged preemptory or exculpatory forgiveness. That is, without any indication of regret or remorse from perpetrators of even the most heinous crimes, we are enjoined by many not to harden our hearts but rather to ‘forgive.’ ”

In the documentary version of Margaret Atwood’s Massey Lecture “Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth,” she interviews Louise Arbour, former Canadian Supreme Court justice. Arbour says, on forgiveness:

Forgiveness is a link between the past and the future, it’s not the restoration of the past prior to the injury.

And it was one of those lines that jumped out at me so much that I paused the film to write it down. It’s available on Netflix in Canada or Amazon in the US, if you’re interested in watching it.

I mention forgiveness specifically because there’s often a rush to try to make nice with an ex, to preserve social bonds and mutual friendships, and that to me often feels like a jump to the “exculpatory forgiveness” Elhstain describes. A friend pointed out to me a few years back that often the reasons one might choose to break up are the same reasons one may not want to be friends. And that’s ok. The rush to be friends is often about one person’s absolution, particularly when it’s the dumper asking it of the dumpee. It’s such a frequent theme in r/relationships posts and Captain Awkward columns that it feels cliché to even mention, but you’re under no obligation to stay in touch or stay friends, and it’s often healthier not to.

It’s not a read either, but this clip of Oprah and Maya Angelou talking about Angelou’s exhortation to believe someone when they show you who they really are, the first time is worth a watch. Or several 🙂

On the longer side, there are a couple of books I come back to over and over as I process relationship stuff. I’ve read a lot of terrible garbage self-help books over the past few years, but these stand out as being works which have helped me grow and change as a person.

A couple of books which talk about attachment styles have been very helpful: Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help YouFind – and Keep – Love by Levine and Heller, and Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Canadian family therapist Sue Johnson, who is it turns out a different person from Canadian sex educator Sue Johanson whose Sunday Night Sex Show educated an entire generation of Canadian radio listeners. I digress. Both of those books are relevant to people of all genders, and manage to avoid the pitfalls of heterocentricity that many relationship books fall into. Emily Nagoski’s Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life has helped me unpack the inner mechanics of my desires. It is primarily directed at cisgendered women (and their partners), but it also has a great primer on attachment theory as it pertains to sexuality that is broadly applicable.

Three books have helped me through times I’ve been uncertain/ambivalent about relationships I’ve been in: Lundy Bancroft and JAC Patrissi’s Should I Stay or Should I Go?, and Mira Kirshenbaum’s Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay, and her embarrassingly named Is He Mr Right. That last one helped Valerie and me develop this really cool spreadsheet for thinking about relationship preferences. In Mr. Right Kirshenbaum defines her “essential five elements of chemistry” as “ease & closeness, respect, safety, affection & passion, fun”, which I think is super helpful to read about just on their own – here’s a summary. Of the three books, Should I Stay and Mr. Right are aimed at women who date men. Too Good to Leave is less gender-specific (though still fairly heterocentric) and is in a neat Dr. House style “differential diagnosis” format I found very useful.

On the more seriously dysfunctional end of the spectrum, Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men is essential reading and has been instrumental in my avoiding getting involved with abusive people in recent years. Despite the title, it’s worth a read regardless of your gender as the patterns of abusive mindsets are super helpful for people of all genders to understand.

And finally, when your heart is sad, you can always summon a calming manatee.

Looking back on 2016

For the past couple of years, I’ve done Jen Dziura’s “Design Your $next_year” workbook towards the end of the year. It’s been a very helpful exercise. It’s definitely worth the couple of bucks.
One of the things it includes is making a list of the things you accomplished in the year you’re closing out; I did so in the workbook in my terrible handwriting, with items ending up in the margins and upside down as I tried to fit them all in. Which feels pretty good, I must say. This year I decided to also type it up and post it for posterity.

It’s a bit of a brain dump, and incomplete by necessity — this year included a fair bit of working towards goals that will not be public for a while, but also supporting people through crises that are not mine to disclose. The latter friend-crises came in the form of mental health stuff, intimate partner violence (which this book is an utterly essential read for friends who are trying to help), workplace harassment, and mass-scale online harassment.

That said, here’s the stuff I can talk about:

  • Throughout the year stuff:
    • Taught at least 5 Ally Skills workshops — at Slack, during (but not at) Defcon, and elsewhere, and finally attended a Train-The-Trainers for it so I could learn from how others teach it
    • Mentored a bunch of folks including some interns, yay!
    • Gained just over 2,000 Twitter followers. Thank you all for listening to me babble ❤
    • Did a bunch of skiing and coached friends
    • Helped hire a bunch of folks at Slack
    • Generally helped things not be on fire at Slack
    • Wrote some PHP for the first time in a decade
    • Wrote some very funny tweets on @SlackHQ but you’ll never know which ones were me!!!
    • Started lifting weights in earnest again. I learned a lot from Julian’s guide and Stumptuous. My biceps are AMAZING 💪

      Seriously, biceps
    • Made some good progress towards getting some gut health stuff that’s been annoying for a long time figured out (if you have IBS and haven’t heard of SIBO, there’s a bunch of new and interesting research!)
    • Generally ate super healthily and cooked lots of things (especially pork chops and also poached eggs) with my Nomiku (and finally got to meet Lisa, the founder! who just got funded on Shark Tank holy crap!!)
    • Volunteered for the Hillary campaign both on the infosec side and the more general GOTV side
    • Donated a few thousand dollars to causes I support like the ACLU and Callisto
    • Maxed out my 401k
    • Took good care of my brain by going to therapy regularly and (with medical supervision) tapered off one of the brain meds I had been taking
    • Rediscovered my childhood love of Star Wars and watched the entire Clone Wars and Rebels series and read several of the New Canon novels
    • Started painting
  • One-off stuff, in rough chronological order

I learned a few things in 2016 as well — I need to work on saying no to things a bit more, as I’ve been very overcommitted and definitely dropped a few balls last year. I’m going to travel less and do less speaking this year, particularly for the first half.

I’m still working on the “plan your 2017” part of Jen’s workbook. I started it before the election and then put it aside for a couple of months. And then the election happened. I’m still figuring out how to re-prioritize how I spend my energy now that “fighting fascism” is a higher priority than “getting an MBA.” I’ll write more about that soon.

Happy New Year, and for all the good that I was fortunate enough to got done in it, good riddance to 2016.

Turkey Soup

Lots of folks will be roasting turkeys tomorrow, and while there are a zillion recipes out there for turkey soup, this is the one I grew up with. My mum always said that it was better than the turkey itself, and while I’m a big fan of her perfectly brined birds, this soup really is sublime.

IMG_0664

Instructions:

Save the bones if you’ve eaten the drumsticks etc. Once the pandemonium of the main meal is over, take all the leftover meat off the carcass and put it to one side – you’ll use some of it later.

Cover the carcass in water in a big pot. Add:

  • a couple of onions, peeled and cut in quarters
  • some celery (mainly the leaves for the stock-making process, you’ll use the stems later)
  • salt, pepper
  • a couple of tablespoons of thyme

Simmer for 2-3 hours. While it’s simmering, cook up about 3 cups of rice (more or less depending on how big a bird you’re working with). Mum uses plain white rice but last year I used 2 cups of basmati and one cup of wild rice and it was delicious, so be adventurous! Put the rice aside for later.

Once the stock has simmered adequately, strain it – carefully! Toss the bones and other solid parts.

There are two ways to de-fat your stock: chill the strained stock and skim the fat off the top of the gelled stock, or use a fat separator (I love my OXO Good Grips 4-Cup Fat Separator, which looks like a weirdly shaped measuring cup). You can skip this step but the soup will be a little greasier. It will still be delicious, don’t worry.

If you did the chilling step, bring soup back to boil. Either way, add:

  • the cooked rice
  • chopped celery
  • chopped turkey
  • salt and pepper to taste

Simmer for about another half an hour, then enjoy with rustic crackers, French bread, or other delicious carbs. A bit of Tabasco goes nicely too.

The soup freezes really well, so don’t be afraid to make lots!

If you enjoyed this recipe, you may also enjoy my mother’s English Bread Sauce recipe, which I posted a few years back.

Happy holidays!

Travel tricks

I have a couple not terribly secret secrets to awesome travel deals.

Drumroll…

Ok, there are only really two:

ITA Software’s “Matrix” flight booking system, and Hotwire combined with betterbidding.com. Here’s how I use them.

Enter the Matrix

ITA Software, a recent Google acquisition, has the most amazing website for pricing out flights.  You can’t buy them on there, but you can spec out a fare and then re-create it on the airline site or your preferred multi-airline aggregator (Kayak, Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia, etc.).

They have two versions of their site: the original and Matrix 2.  I had been using the original site up til now – for simple fare constructions, it’s quick.  I was looking for flights with a somewhat complex set of requirements this evening and had another look at the Matrix2 site and it’s improved a lot since I last tried it.  Any day after next Wednesday, 3 or 4 nights stay, one city to any of 3 different cities?  No problem.  I’m blown away.  And that’s not even looking at open jaw or multi-hop flights.

Crashspace

Leigh’s lazy way to get awesome hotel rooms without guessing much or waiting:  it’s pretty simple.  Shop on hotwire.com (link uses the betterbidding affiliate code), and use the hotel lists on betterbidding.com to check which hotel you’re getting into.  I prefer Hotwire to Priceline because it’s quicker (even if they don’t have William Shatner as a spokesperson!).  And it reminds me of dodgy ancient filesharing networks.  But anyway… One trick I saw on one of the forums: vary whether you add kids or not to the booking and you’ll get a different selection of hotels.

One more thing…

Airline miles and loyalty programs can be pretty awesome.  Air Canada currently has the lowest Star Alliance Gold redemption level in the Star Alliance system at 35,000 miles.  This gets you lounge access for a whole year.  Sweet, but also potentially money- and hassle-saving as there is free food 🙂

I haven’t really optimized my dealings with non-Star Alliance airlines yet, but the other two main airline networks are Skyteam (Delta, Alaskan, KLM…) and Oneworld (American, British, Quantas…)

Good resources on these topics are flyertalk and for the Canucks, canflyer and Red Flag Deals.

Recipe from my Mum

My Mum is English by ancestry, and has for a number of years been making one of her family’s traditional recipes to go with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. I think it’s really yummy, so I asked her if I could share it.  Here it is, mostly verbatim – I just separated out a list of ingredients for easier shopping.

English Bread Sauce

Ingredients

  • 10-15 cloves
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 cups bread crumbs (the ones you can get pre-made at the grocery store work, but bakery ones are better 🙂 )
  • butter

A pot on a stove containing milk and a onion with cloves stuck in the onion
Simmering the milk and cloves
 

Directions

  • Stick the cloves in the onion.
  • Add onion to milk in a saucepan.
  • Simmer for about one hour on low heat, so that milk is infused with the onion-clove flavour. Do not boil.
  • Remove onion and discard.
  • Add salt and about 1 cup bread crumbs, and simmer over low heat.  Again, do not  boil.
  • The crumbs will swell up, and the sauce should have a thick consistency. If it is too runny after simmering for a few minutes, add some more bread crumbs.

Serve with turkey, ideally with more bread crumbs, these ones fried in butter.  About a half cup should be enough – use whatever you have left.

Owen broke the internets

I had the following exchange a bit ago on twitter:

barsoomcore: Dear iPhone: stop autocorrecting “hawt” into “hast”. Who the hell says “hast” anymore?
hypatiadotca: @barsoomcore only when discussing Rammstein!
barsoomcore: @hypatiadotca Of course I NEVER discuss Rammstein!

Upon my relating this to my friend Owen, he pointed me at the following, and forever spoiled me on funny things on the internet.  I don’t think there will ever be anything to top the following two videos:

and the reverse:

The line-dancing totally makes the second one.

And now back to your irregularly scheduled program which will not contain random videos too often, I promise. These were just too awesome not to share 🙂

-Leigh

Asking Daily – happy little negotiation moments

Two of the most important books I’ve read in my entire life are Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever’s “Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation – and Positive Strategies for Change” and the follow-up “Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want“.

They’ve inspired me to make significant changes in my life – negotiating the salary for my first “real job”, challenging contracts and business practices that I didn’t think were fair, and generally making my life way more awesome by asking for – and nearly always getting – what I want.

Yesterday, for example, I sent a note about the MOO cards I ordered to their support desk asking for a replacement set of cards because they had misprinted mine.  It was a small issue, and they offered me a half-off coupon, but I insisted that they send me a whole deck – and guess what, they did.  Kudos to them for solving the issue, and to me for asking, and then asking again.

I’ve created a Twitter account called @askdaily, inspired by these books and this particular incident, to share this kind of “happy negotiation moments” – mine was little, but I’d love to retweet people’s (particularly womens’) successes with job negotiations and promitions, contracts, car repairs, sales negotiations, housework splitting, whatever the happy moments that people get from asking for what they want out of life.

-Leigh