Autistic Community, Crabs and the State of My Cardiovascular Health

A friend of mine recently posted a tongue-in-cheek list of the various stages of autistic advocacy. The penultimate stage was “I am avoiding my own community for the sake of my cardiovascular health.”

In my case, it’s funny because it’s true.

I made the decisions to step away from the autistic activist community about a year ago. In that time, I’ve gained some perspective on why I made that choice – and why the number of us avoiding our own community for health reasons keeps increasing.

crabs a year later

1. Teaching 101 classes is exhausting.

My friend’s tongue-in-cheek first stage was utter outrage at regularly recurring events – in this case, at the autistic character cast as a puppet in the stage play All in a Row. A fair number of the responses to said puppet can be summarized as “Nothing this outrageous has happened to us in the history of humanity!”

It has, of course. Dehumanizing portrayals of autistic people in media are ancient hat. They’ve been deconstructed over and over again by members of the community and by allies.

When I started writing on autism, I did so optimistically and enthusiastically. Here was a field in which so much work hadn’t been done, and I was convinced that my doing it would lend itself to genuine progress.

I overestimated how quickly change occurs. But I also overestimated the extent to which my own community would orient itself to its own body of work.

Today, there are dozens of masterposts on nearly every autism-related topic imaginable. A Google search for “autism masterpost” turns up literally dozens, on topics ranging from autistic vocabulary to ABA to how to write fictional autistic characters.

I appreciate people who donate their time and effort to compiling resources. Masterposts are a lot of work. Academic journal articles are a lot of work. In-depth discussions of any topic are work. I know, I’ve written them.

I am not a fan of repeated 101 requests from folks who clearly haven’t Googled – they just perceive me standing there and demand I answer their questions. And it happens a lot.

I have trouble faulting neurotypical people for it anymore when the autistic community has been an equal source of culprits.

2. Trauma is a reason but not an excuse.

Autistic people are, on the whole, a traumatized bunch – and for good reason. We’re born into a world that isn’t designed for our neurology (in fact, it often seems designed to exacerbate our discomfort), and we’re expected to figure out how to survive in it, often while being “treated” with methods that directly impair our survival skills.

So when we first find Autistic community, our trauma often spills over. Which makes sense! For the first time in our lives, we’re surrounded by people who get it! Who have been through similarly traumatizing experiences! Who can affirm that yes, that was traumatizing and you are not weird, bad, weak or wrong for experiencing it as traumatic!

…The problem, which not all autistic people manage to avoid, is that having that trauma affirmed can feel like sufficient reason to avoid the hard work of processing it.

The result are members of the community who do things like:

  • Demand that others mediate their trauma. Seeking help once or twice in a particularly bad situation isn’t a problem; it’s the folks who demand others pay attention to their problems multiple times a day.
  • Maintain that they’re constantly the target of persecution – a stance that gets even more damaging once the person starts accumulating flying monkeys.
  • Develop a sense of entitlement to autistic-run spaces, resources and platforms.

The longer one processes one’s own trauma, the more clearly these patterns emerge, and the easier it becomes to distinguish people who are working on their demons and people who aren’t. It’s easier to see the cost in fucks that the latter impose on the community as a whole – and to go bankrupt.

Trauma explains a lot of these approaches and attitudes. But it does not excuse them.

3. It only took a few people to ruin me for the rest of you.

There’s a version of the trauma/persecution problem that leads to a profound sense of entitlement to autistic-run spaces, resources, and platforms. The rest of the world is against “us” but these things are “us,” so why can’t I just take them? It’s for the good of the community!

I have seen this dynamic play out several times in the handful of years I’ve occupied Autistic spaces.

I’ve seen autistic students blithely poach the work of autistic scholars and pass it off as their own.

I’ve had to file C&Ds as autistic bloggers have reprinted my writing wholesale on their blogs, then dragged me for having the audacity to ask them to stop profiting off my work – or even for asking to be cited as its author.

I’ve seen autistic authors and artists leave the community entirely, pulling all their own work from publication, after being worked to the point of total disability by another autistic person who had an idea but demanded everybody else put in the effort to realize it.

I’ve been publicly dragged by an autistic activist, along with everyone else at Autonomous Press, based on mere hearsay that the activist’s work might not be automatically accepted for publication, and I’ve seen dozens of other community members take that activist’s side without even asking for clarification.

I’ve had autistic writers throw fits in my AutPress email at the news that we do not, in fact, auto-publish your work because you tell us you’re autistic.

There is a small but incredibly loud contingent of the Autistic community that treats the work of other autistic people as theirs for the taking. But when we’re talking about such labor-intensive tasks as writing academic articles, maintaining a blog, or starting an entire publishing company, it only takes a few of these people to burn out and destroy the very resources they’re trying to leverage.

4. Boundaries remain a problem.

Building culture is an exhilarating thing. But without boundaries, culture-building can easily suck you dry. And the same people who insist that your boundaries are hurting them will tell you your inevitable collapse was all your fault for not having boundaries in the first place.

This is the lesson on boundaries a lot of autistic people grew up hearing, especially if we were subjected to ABA or equivalent “therapy.” When you learn very early in life, upon threat of survival, that you are not allowed to have boundaries, acting as if you have none is a very difficult behavior to uproot. For many autistic people, it’s made worse by our own overweening empathy. We want to help, and we have never been taught how to do so without killing ourselves.

Unhealthy behaviors around boundaries are rife in the Autistic community. They’re difficult to uproot. They keep reasserting themselves in different forms throughout our lives without a consistent and dedicated effort to their eradication. And mental health treatment being what it is(n’t), many of us never learn effective tools to combat them.

Boundaries are a huge deal in the Autistic community precisely because we don’t have enough of them. We have a lot of people without them, a lot who drop them because “I found my people so I don’t need boundaries!”, and many who ignore them out of a desire to help, save and protect others from the same trauma they themselves suffered.

As a result, having boundaries can open one up to excoriation in Autistic spaces. I’ve been rebuked for it more than once. How dare I not drop everything and help (with a project, with trauma, with repeating for the 500th time to some parent on Facebook that vaccines do not cause autism) right now (and always, always for free)?! You’re just as bad as the neurotypicals!

There’s a reason the final stage of autistic activism is “lol puppetize me already, maybe I’ll find the energy to fight this shit with a hand up my ass.”

There are extraordinary people in the autistic community. I’ve found lifelong friends, family, colleagues and mentors here. But those relationships only grow when everyone involved in them maintains a commitment to listening, learning, growth, balance, and boundaries.

Without them, this community will continue to burn out its own members, and both its activism and its culture will suffer.

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Free to Loving Home: This Terrible Raccoon

Friends, I’m not made of stone. I know when I have reached my limits. And I have reached my limits with this raccoon:

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LOOK AT HOW RIDICULOUS THIS RACCOON IS. LOOK AT IT.

I didn’t even want this raccoon. This raccoon climbed my husband while we were splitting wood last October, and he begged me to keep it. Sure, his words said “it’s up to you” but his eyes said “please?!?!”

Anyway, this raccoon is genuinely terrible. For instance:

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“Don’t eat the plant,” I said to the raccoon.

“Eat the plant and then go to sleep,” the raccoon heard.

This raccoon’s primary skill is destroying household objects. If there were a Destroying Household Objects Olympics, this raccoon would win every gold medal. Those gold medals would be awarded before the opening ceremonies even began. “This raccoon is the only destroyer of household objects humanity will ever need,” the International Destroying Household Objects Olympic Committee would say. “Just give this raccoon all the medals so it can destroy them on the ride home.”

Which is great, because this raccoon will NEVER win an Olympic medal in napping:

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Look at this hot mess? Is this some kind of joke?

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You have to be punking me here, raccoon. Do you not even understand how to sleep?!

This raccoon’s butt is also made of velcro and sadness. For some reason, this raccoon has to stick its sad velcro butt to my side at all times:

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Which would be fine, except that, like most raccoons, it eats trash. Its consumption of trash is directly proportional to the amount and quality of raccoon food in its food bowl. Full bowl of premium raccoon food = trash hoover.

Also, it farts. And raccoon farts are the WORST.

All of which is to say that if you have a large home that needs to be totally destroyed, if you have a dog or small child that needs to be permanently traumatized, or if there just aren’t enough atomic critter farts in your life, THIS IS THE RACCOON FOR YOU.

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Next time, we are getting a cat.


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You Asked, I Answered: Questions From My Blog Search Terms

Every so often, I like to look at the search terms that bring people to this site. And sometimes, I suspect that my blog did not in fact answer the searcher’s question.

So, as a public service, here are answers to questions from the search terms real people used to find my actual blog.

questions from google

How much would a 100 year old Girl Scout handbook be worth?

In the year of our Lord 2019, there actually aren’t any Girl Scout handbooks that are exactly 100 years old. How Girls Can Help Their Country, the first-ever handbook, was published between 1913 and 1917, making it more than a century old at this point. The next one, Scouting for Girls, didn’t come out till 1920.

Copies of How Girls Can Help Their Country typically sell for between $25 and $100. If your copy is in extremely good shape or it’s one of the unusual ones, like the 1916 fourth edition with the price list inside or the 1913 second edition of which only 500 were ever printed, you may be able to get more money for it from the right collector.

There is a version of Scouting for Girls that was adapted from How Girls Can Help Their Country. It has only 257 pages (the 1920 edition has 557) and a copyright date of 1918. The only copy currently known to exist is in the GSUSA archives, but there’s a dispute among historians right now as to whether or how many more were published. If you have one of these, it’s probably worth a fortune to the right collector.

Does anyone else not like Les Miserables?

My post on why I hate Les Miserables is the most consistently popular piece on this blog, which makes me think I should hate things more often.

To clarify: I actually enjoyed reading Les Miserables the novel by Victor Hugo very much. It’s the popular stage/screen adaptation that makes me want to throw things.

What is inappropriate for school readers?

Like pornography, we generally know it when we see it.

I, personally, want to see school readers quit normalizing the heterosexual agenda. My kids brought home one of those “Dick and Jane” books the other day, and there were Dick and Jane’s parents, a mom and a dad, just cavorting around on the page like we don’t all know about their perverted lifestyle. I mean, Baby Sally is right there. We know what you do when the kids are asleep, you sickos.

[n.b. I do not have children.]

Why do I attract narcissist friends?

I’m not a psychologist, and I’m definitely not your psychologist, person who made this Google search and somehow wound up on my blog. So take my opinion with a grain of salt, which is:

The good news is that it’s probably not because you are a narcissist. The bad news is that it probably is because you, for whatever reason, don’t communicate clear boundaries or a certain intolerance for bullshit.

Your narcissist friends use you to boost their own egos because you let them. Why you let them is something only you (maybe with the help of a trustworthy therapist) can figure out.

What does Scout value in the start of the book?

This is almost certainly an attempt to do To Kill a Mockingbird homework without actually having to read the novel, so I apologize to whichever Googler landed on my blog, wherein I do not talk about To Kill a Mockingbird even once that I know of.

The answer to your question is “not a whole lot beyond herself and her interests,” which is pretty normal for a seven year old.

What do inappropriate books?

I’m still pondering this one. What do inappropriate books, indeed?

How does Charlaine Harris write so frankly about sex when she has kids?

To offer the kind of details Charlaine Harris does about sex, you have to have had sex at least once. Having children is a really good indicator that you have had sex at least as many times as you have children (barring twins, etc).

Also, I’m presuming that Harris doesn’t let her kids read her books until her kids are able to understand that sex is an extremely common and even healthy part of adult human relationships. Kind of like how I didn’t give my oldest niece a copy of my first book until I thought she could handle the violence in it.

Do children find being inappropriate good?

Children generally do not know what constitutes being “inappropriate.” They are children.

“Inappropriate” is a cultural construct. It’s something we learn from older humans around us and internalize (or don’t) as we grow. When children are being “inappropriate,” they’re usually just doing a thing, and they don’t yet have the internal wiring both to understand that other humans are bothered by the thing and that they can and should curb their impulse to do that thing.

Kids don’t find “being inappropriate” either good or bad. They’re exploring and trying stuff. They’re hardwired to do that. It is extremely human.


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Real-Life Writer Lifestyle Blog!

I have been glamorously fighting a cold for the past week, which has involved ingesting copious quantities of glamorous chicken soup, Vernor’s and Tylenol; glamorously sleeping 15 hours a day; and glamorously sneezing into an ever-expanding pile of glamorously wadded Kleenex.

At some point during one of my virus-fueled fever dreams, my muse came unto me and told me I should start a lifestyle blog. Featuring my actual lifestyle.

I’ve already fielded a couple different questions about writer lifestyles on Quora this month, and I’m also full of cold medicine, so my response was a resounding “Yes!”

…Followed by a resounding “What’s a lifestyle blog?”

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Since Googling things and then pretending I knew that all along is completely on-brand in my particular writer lifestyle, here’s what I have learned have sagely always known about lifestyle blogging.

1. It’s basically a digital zoo exhibit.

This post at MediaKix says:

A lifestyle blog is best defined as a digital content representation of its author’s everyday life and interests. A lifestyle blogger creates content inspired and curated by their personal interests and daily activities.

I’ve been trying to write content inspired and curated by “things I find interesting about writing and creativity that other people might also find interesting about writing and creativity.” Apparently, my illness-impelled muse says this is all wrong, and I should just be badly Instagramming my food instead. (“How to Take Photos That Are Definitely Not Insta-Worthy,” coming soon to this blog!)

2. …Except it’s supposed to teach you how to brush the cheetahs.

Meanwhile, blogger Ashley Coleman has this to say about the difference between personal blogging and lifestyle blogging:

Personal blogs will rely heavily on personal narrative, essay, opinion. Lifestyle blogs include personal elements but often give you some really tangible things to take away. How to make a great cake. How to design your workspace. Meanwhile, personal stories will either inspire you, inform you, or maybe make you laugh.

…I mean, I can definitely teach people how to emulate my glamorously snotty  writer lifestyle. In fact, here’s a free printable (I guess that’s a thing now?) for emulating my glamorous writer wardrobe!

writer dress infographic

Actionable takeaways! This lifestyle blog thing is really taking off.

3.  I’m supposed to make people jealous, I guess?

I’m a little confused on this point, because Googling “lifestyle blogging jealousy” turned up a ton of posts on how to stop being jealous of other people’s perfectly-curated lifestyle blogs and Instagram accounts, but the whole point of perfect curation seems to be to make other people jealous of your lifestyle in the first place.

So here’s my best shot at making you all jealous of me:

I write for a living, which is to say that I have no day job or side gig: Writing is what I do. I’ve been doing that for about ten years now. I live in an adorably venerable house with three adorable cats who adorably destroy things for fun, I have a husband who thinks I’m the greatest thing since sliced greatness, I have spent the last week sneezing my brain matter into handfuls of tissues, and I only sometimes wear pants.

And I can show you how to do it, too. I guess.

4. Write about everything but also only these things.

So: My muse wants me to present my life the way it is in order to engender jealousy in others, which is obviously not going to work. I mean, just check out my totally cute and enviable kitchen:

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WRITER LIFE is all about the deluxe-sized bag of corn chips, empty food containers nobody’s put in the recycling yet, and a sinkful of dishes I’m ignoring in order to write this blog post. You, too, can have this amazingly glamorous lifestyle!

What the heck is my lifestyle blog supposed to be about, then? MediaKix recommends:

Lifestyle bloggers share a broad variety of content centered around and inspired by their personal lives — most notably family, home, travel, beauty, food, recipes, fashion, makeup, design and decor.

*rubs hands together* *cracks knuckles* Okay, I got this.

Coming soon, from my totally awesome writer lifestyle blog that is totally awesome and definitely not something I got told to do by the Nyquil-addled voices in my head….

  • Family: How to Spend Quality Time With Your Manuscript Instead of These Weirdos!
  • Home: My Favorite Houses to Not Die of Consumption In
  • Travel: The Bright Thing In the Sky: What It Is and Why You Shouldn’t Stare Directly At It
  • Beauty: Hey, This Ink Smudge On My Hand Kinda Looks Like a Cat
  • Food: How to Make Coffee Part of Every Major Food Group
  • Recipes: Coffee, Coffee With Milk, Coffee With Vodka, Coffee With Milk and Vodka, Okay That’s a White Russian You Literally Just Invented a White Russian Now Stop It
  • Fashion: *points to infographic*
  • Makeup: 1.2 Ways to Make Yourself Presentable Before You Run Out for More Creamer (You NEED to Do At Least Number 0.2, Okay?)
  • Design: Creating Your Perfect Writing Space (and Then Ignoring It In Favor of Scribbling on the Toilet)
  • Decor: 50 Fun Organization Hacks to Avoid Your Looming Deadlines

…Y’all, I am so excited about this new lifestyle blog! Praise to my plague-prompted muse!

 

The Traditional Feast of St. Patrick and Cabbage: A Predictive Text History of St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, so in keeping with previous holidays, I asked Botnik‘s predictive text engine to weigh in on this history of this historic history day.

I fed the top 20 Google search results for “history of St. Patrick’s day” to Botnik, which produced the mean St. Patrick’s day history based on predictive text. It’s…enlightening.

stpatrickandcabbage

The traditional feast of saint patrick and cabbage

(a predictive text history of St. Patrick’s Day by Botnik)

Saint Patrick is said to have 20 official public houses. This story has coloured numerous Irish people ‘s idea of the saint, who lived during Lent and returned to Ireland in 2007.

St. Patrick’s tradition began when president Dwight the First identified St. Patrick to explain why Ireland began. The saint himself could not know why Ireland was affected by sectarian revelry, but for those who supposedly wielded political power, Irish culture was a significant cause for dyeing its river green.

During the fifth Irish diaspora, which includes celebrations today, people attended schools founded by government ministers. This was a yearly cause for their death. However, after Dublin and Herzegovina banned drunkenness and jerseys, cultural parades began featuring Patrick’s album.

According to Samantha and the Cabbage, Irish mythology has presented numerous parades involving bagpipes and endowed widows. These practices describe St. Patrick’s two tests in Roman Britain: observing baptisms and growing shamrocks in a large church. Many legends grew to celebrate stereotypes, which did not help to celebrate Ireland.

Boston is known for fostering novelty merchandise on St. Patrick’s day, since the city wasn’t always recognised as a place. This all changed in 2008, when Hallmark looked at Notre Dame and was credited with religious beef soup for the day.

In 1961 sanitation workers used Patrick’s downtown house to explain why Ireland began. Everything made clear, Irish families mandated Patrick himself should think of the Irish at least on March 17.

Beginning in Nairobi, the traditional feast day of St. Patrick is celebrated annually on Sunday before making democracy merchandise and cabbage initiatives. Saint Patrick himself could lead his religious procession, if he was not repealed.


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This Back Cover Copy for Wuthering Heights Is the WORST

What’s the worst back cover copy you’ve ever seen?

I nominate this description on the back of Wuthering Heights of a book that is definitely not Wuthering Heights:

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Wuthering Heights…the haunting story of Heathcliff, who came to the brooding mansion on the Yorkshire moors as an orphan – and Cathy, the daughter of the wealthy family that took him in. The gypsy waif and the bright-eyed beauty were from different worlds, yet were drawn together from the moment they met. The cruel twist of fate that parted them resulted in tragedy for two generations. But even death could not break the bond between them, for their love was stronger.

First published in 1847, Wuthering Heights is a classic of English literature, and one of the most unforgettable romances of all time.

*removes glasses*

*rubs bridge of nose*

LET’S UNPACK THIS A LITTLE, SHALL WE

Astraus Gym

1. Wuthering Heights…the haunting story of Heathcliff, who came to the brooding mansion on the Yorkshire moors as an orphan

I don’t love how this implies Heathcliff just showed up one day. He didn’t. He was picked up on the streets of Liverpool by the then-master of Wuthering Heights (whom I’ll call “Mr. Earnshaw” for clarity here), who brought him home because Mr. Earnshaw didn’t feel right about just leaving a child out on the street where clearly nobody wanted him.

Also, a point of pedantry: Wuthering Heights is not a mansion. 

I can completely understand how someone who grew up reading The Secret Garden (“that other book set on the moors”) could get confused here. Misselthwaite Manor, the setting of The Secret Garden, is a mansion; it’s said to have “over a hundred rooms,” and Mary spends at least one entire chapter doing nothing but wandering through them.

Wuthering Heights, however, is much smaller, and we know this because it’s described in painful detail. It consists of a back kitchen area with sleeping quarters for the servants and a buttery; a large “house” that includes a sitting/dining area and the main fireplace; at least one smaller room off the “house” that gets converted into a sitting room/parlor; about 3-4 bedrooms upstairs; and an unspecified but apparently vast number of staircases and landings.

It’s a large house, particularly since it was built in 1500. But it’s not a mansion. In fact, the other house in which the action of the novel takes place, Thrushcross Grange, is larger than Wuthering Heights – and this shouldn’t be that hard to miss, because it’s an actual plot point.

3. – and Cathy, the daughter of the wealthy family that took him in.

Readers are going to end up confused as heck here, because Heathcliff is literally the only person to call Catherine Earnshaw “Cathy” once she’s past the age of six. Everyone else calls her Catherine.

This Catherine has a daughter about halfway through the novel, also called Catherine, whom everybody calls “Cathy,” and who eventually marries Heathcliff’s son.

So if you ever had the weird impression Heathcliff has the hots for his daughter in law, he doesn’t.

4. The gypsy waif and the bright-eyed beauty were from different worlds,

…Were they, though?

One can certainly make the argument that one of the novel’s main themes is that outsiders are bad, because just look at what this one (Heathcliff) did to upset the tranquility of the Earnshaws and the Lintons. But.

But. Much of Heathcliff’s plotting arises from the fact that, until Mr. Earnshaw’s death, he’s treated exactly the same way that Earnshaw’s own children, Catherine and Hindley, are treated. He’s raised with them, and he’s never given to believe or understand that he’s in any way inferior to them…until Mr. Earnshaw dies and Hindley (now an adult and several years older than Catherine and Heathcliff) starts treating Heathcliff like the unpaid hired help.

It’s this treatment that makes Heathcliff swear revenge on Hindley and the Lintons, leave to seek his fortune for three years, and then return bent on the slow destruction of everyone except Catherine.

Tl;dr it’s a lot more complicated than this “Uptown Girl” take would have you believe.

5. yet were drawn together from the moment they met.

Sure, except that the night Mr. Earnshaw brings Heathcliff home:

Hindley and Cathy contented themselves with looking and listening till peace was restored: then, both began searching their father’s pockets for the presents he had promised them.  The former was a boy of fourteen, but when he drew out what had been a fiddle, crushed to morsels in the great-coat, he blubbered aloud; and Cathy, when she learned the master had lost her whip in attending on the stranger, showed her humour by grinning and spitting at the stupid little thing; earning for her pains a sound blow from her father, to teach her cleaner manners.  They entirely refused to have it in bed with them, or even in their room; and I had no more sense, so I put it on the landing of the stairs, hoping it might be gone on the morrow.  By chance, or else attracted by hearing his voice, it crept to Mr. Earnshaw’s door, and there he found it on quitting his chamber.  Inquiries were made as to how it got there; I was obliged to confess, and in recompense for my cowardice and inhumanity was sent out of the house.

This was Heathcliff’s first introduction to the family.

It takes “a few days” for Heathcliff and Catherine to strike up a friendship; for “the moment they met,” at least, Catherine refuses to be in the same room with him.

6. The cruel twist of fate that parted them resulted in tragedy for two generations.

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There are multiple candidates for “the cruel twist of fate that parted them.” Let’s examine them one by one, shall we? [SPOILERS]

  • Heathcliff leaves. Somewhere around the age of 15, Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights without so much as a goodbye. He’s gone for three years, and we’re left to assume that whatever he did during that time, it made him pretty rich, because he comes back with enough cash to fund Hindley’s gambling habit against a mortgage on all of Hindley’s property.
  • Catherine marries Edgar Linton. Which she undertakes to do in the three years Heathcliff is gone. You know, Heathcliff, the guy who never said where he was going or how long he’d be away. Edgar is, by the way, literally the only marriageable man Catherine knows once Heathcliff leaves.
  • Edgar Linton banishes Heathcliff from his house. Not surprisingly, Catherine is pretty thrilled when Heathcliff returns, and she wants him to visit her at Thrushcross Grange all the time. While there, however, Heathcliff repeatedly threatens to kill Edgar, mocks Edgar to Catherine’s face, and elopes with Edgar’s sister Isabella in order to get his hands on Edgar’s money. It’s “a cruel twist of fate” indeed when Edgar grows a spine and decides, hey, I’d rather not have this guy in my house.
  • Catherine dies. Catherine dies in childbirth around 1790 or 1791. It’s a pretty normal thing to die of in 1790 or 1791. And to make it even more normal, Catherine dies in childbirth after a long illness, which is caused by her locking herself in her room and refusing to eat for a week, while also leaving the window open in January, because it’s so meeeean that Edgar won’t let Heathcliff abuse him in Edgar’s own house.

Catherine’s argument is literally “if you really loved me, you’d let my bff threaten to kill you and also elope with your sister to steal your fortune.”

7. But even death could not break the bond between them, for their love was stronger.

Huge if true. But…is it true?

The idea that Heathcliff and Catherine end up together after death is one of the least developed concepts in the entire novel, and it represents perhaps the one major weakness in Emily Bronte’s storytelling.

Throughout the story, it’s hinted that Catherine and Heathcliff are two souls in one body, and that upon death they’ll be reunited not only into one couple, but into a single soul. But the only indication that this actually happens is a vignette in the last few pages of the book:

I was going to the Grange one evening—a dark evening, threatening thunder—and, just at the turn of the Heights, I encountered a little boy with a sheep and two lambs before him; he was crying terribly; and I supposed the lambs were skittish, and would not be guided.

‘What is the matter, my little man?’ I asked.

‘There’s Heathcliff and a woman yonder, under t’ nab,’ he blubbered, ‘un’ I darnut pass ’em.’

I saw nothing; but neither the sheep nor he would go on so I bid him take the road lower down.  He probably raised the phantoms from thinking, as he traversed the moors alone, on the nonsense he had heard his parents and companions repeat.

When asked whether actual ghosts inhabit the neighborhood, however, Nelly (the narrator of this story) says:

‘No, Mr. Lockwood,’ said Nelly, shaking her head.  ‘I believe the dead are at peace: but it is not right to speak of them with levity.’

The novel ends with this meditation at Heathcliff’s and Catherine’s graves:

I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.

I think it’s possible to argue the question “So do Catherine and Heathcliff end up together after death?” in a number of ways. The fact that Lockwood (the narrator above) is such a deeply unreliable narrator, who has come to the entire tale of Wuthering Heights through hearsay from another deeply unreliable narrator, makes it possible to interpret this ending either as indicating the dead are in fact at peace, or that the dead are in fact not – and the text supports either argument.

But the fact that this is such a deeply complex argument, central to the entire story, makes me sideeye this back cover copy realllllly hard.

8. First published in 1847, Wuthering Heights is a classic of English literature, and one of the most unforgettable romances of all time.

…I’ll give you everything except that last clause.

It is unforgettable. I’ve read it multiple times in my life, and each time, I find something that makes me go “holy shit, this book is way worse than I thought!” I love it for that reason.

I cannot, however, classify it as a romance – not even a Gothic one. Heathcliff and Catherine’s story is one of obsession, intense shortsightedness (on Catherine’s part) and monomaniacal revenge (on Heathcliff’s). Heathcliff returns to Wuthering Heights bent on the sole purpose of destroying the Earnshaws and the Lintons – one can infer that he thinks he’ll get Catherine back by doing this, but Heathcliff never indicates that’s actually his intent.

The only romance in this book appears in the final chapter, and we only see it after Heathcliff is dead. That’s 400 pages to get us one single scene that might be classified as a love story.

This back cover copy reads like someone slept through most of a terrible movie version of Wuthering Heights, then tossed something together on a deadline. I’ve read student essays that evinced a better understanding of this book, yet still demonstrated the student hadn’t read it.

Therefore, I give this back cover copy the ignominious honor of being the worst back cover copy I have ever read. Ever. I award it no points, and may it be buried at a crossroads without ceremony.

Work Addiction is a Thing and It F***ing Sucks

Within the last month, I’ve told-all about my struggle with work addiction on Quora not once, but twice. Each time, I had no intention of spilling quite that hard, but I did.

It’s worth talking about.

reat one today!

Despite its etymological relationship to “alcoholic,” the word “workaholic” has almost pride-inducing connotations. An absurdly large number of us are proud to be workaholics. We put it on our resumes. We encourage it in our children. We cite it as the source of our success.

And we absolutely do not see the connection between this behavior and the mass burnout of an entire working generation.

This is why, when talking about my own struggles with overwork, I generally prefer the term “work addiction” to “workaholism.” I don’t want anyone thinking that my lifelong battle is in any way commendable or worth emulating.

Because it’s nearly killed me. Twice.

Workaholism: It’s Not a Party

The first time was in my late 20s, when I was trying to hold down a grueling law firm job with absolutely zero support in any area of my life. Less than zero support: the two people who were nominally “on my side” were incredibly high-maintenance emotional relationships. When the bottom finally did fall out of my life, their only concern was that I might no longer be there for them.

I did three separate stays in the hospital in 2009, ranging from three to seven days apiece.

I quit the law firm job, but I did not quit working. Oh no. I started freelancing.

Freelancing: The Work Addict’s Meth

The big problem with freelancing is that the ability to work anywhere at anytime quickly turns into the obsession that one should be working everywhere all the time. It sounds like paradise for the work-addicted, but it’s incredibly dangerous.

And being able to work everywhere all the time was, somehow…still not enough.

I went to graduate school. I took a teaching assistantship in addition to being a full-time grad student. I started a winterguard program at a school that was an hour’s drive from my house. I joined a fledgling small press.

At age 33, I was in the hospital again.

“How would you describe your problem?” the doctors asked me.

“My problem is that I have four jobs and I need to only have three jobs,” I said.

…The look the doctors gave one another was my first inkling that maybe, just maybe, I had a problem.

WTF Happened?

Billions of people work every day, but not everyone develops an addiction.

There aren’t good worldwide numbers for work addiction, but it appears to range near 10 percent of the working population in most Western nations. One study from Spain found that about 12 percent of the population met the criteria for work addiction. About half of USians consider themselves “workaholics.”

Not all “workaholics” are necessarily work-addicted. Dr. Mark Griffiths has argued that a behavior shouldn’t be characterized as an addiction until it meets six specific criteria:

  • salience (it’s the most important thing in your life),
  • mood modification (it produces a “buzz,” “high” or allays negative feelings like anxiety),
  • tolerance (you need to do more and more of the thing to get the same mood-modifying effects),
  • withdrawal (not doing the thing produces severe negative symptoms),
  • conflict (doing the thing causes problems with personal relationships, gets in the way of other beneficial life activities, or causes intrapersonal concerns)
  • relapse (left to your own devices, there’s a substantial chance you will do the thing again).

I’ve been 6 for 6 basically since I started middle school.

So if workaholism is “doing a lot of work,” work addiction is “I can’t not do the work.”

One of the things that landed me in the hospital the second time, in fact, was that I couldn’t decide which of the four jobs I should quit. It wasn’t just that they all had pros and cons; it was that even thinking about thinking about which to quit caused me so much angst that I simply shut down.

“I should think about quitting one of these jobs,” I’d say to myself.

*BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH*, my brain would reply.

Work addiction occurs when work-centric behavior becomes compulsive. Work begins to feel necessary for survival. Not in the “I need money to eat” way, but in the “if I’m not focused on this project then the tigers will eat me and I will cease to exist forever” way.

Often, work addiction is driven by an underlying issue (or several) that work becomes a means to avoid. It’s more common, for example, in people who are carrying unresolved trauma, either from a single source (like a car accident) or a series of accumulated sources (childhood abuse or bullying, relationship abuse). Work addiction can be the manifestation of a condition like obsessive-compulsive disorder or mania as well.

In my case, work is a way to avoid dealing with a lifetime of abuse, with chronic pain, and with several other things I just plain don’t want to look at. If given the chance, I will literally work myself to death rather than face those demons.

I tried. Twice. Before age 33.

Good Job Not Dying?

Lol, thanks.

Work addiction differs from certain other types of addictions, like alcohol or gambling, because we typically need to work in order to survive. Humans can thrive without ever taking a sip of booze or placing a bet, but we don’t do as well without working. Work is a common, typical, necessary and even healthy human behavior…usually.

So the challenge for me wasn’t to go “cold turkey” from work. It was to figure out how to contextualize work in a way that would also allow me to survive.

For me, that looked like:

Setting boundaries around work time.

“Work time” is now 8 am to 12 am, four days a week. (The 8-12 am slot on Wednesdays is housecleaning time.) I get 16 hours a week to get all my paying work done. That’s it.

As a freelancer, this was an option for me, but it also required me to radically rethink the types of projects and clients I accepted. With only 16 hours a week to do the work and a minimum gross income requirement around $40,000 per year, I can’t take things that pay a penny or two per word. I have to aim higher; I have to brand myself better.

Having to limit my work time forced me to reconceptualize my work content, which in turn changed my approach to work. It’s now a puzzle I only get to solve at certain times of the week. It’s recharged the joy I once found in working and sharply reduced the tolerance load.

Therapy and self-awareness.

I had started therapy about two years before the second hospitalization in 2015. During and after that hospital stay, however, I renewed my commitment to working on the terror of not-working and the reasons behind it.

My reasons are complex and long-lasting. They were baked in during my formative years, so I don’t have a “before” to serve as a benchmark. But digging through them has made work and not-work easier, and it’s helped reduce my risk of relapse over time.

I do lapse. I haven’t wound up all the way back in the work addiction hole, but I do catch myself perseverating over tasks from time to time. While my recent KonMari adventure has been enormously productive both for the organization of my household and for my psyche, there were phases that started to feel very much like my work addiction had. It’s the reason I’ve had to finish the process over time (and why the final blog post in the series has yet to be written).

Doing nothing.

During the second hospitalization, much of my work with my psychologist centered around “doing nothing.” We talked about the life-threatening terror that phrase struck in me. We talked about my absolute aversion to the concept and my intense self-loathing at imagining myself doing nothing.

And then I got ordered to do it.

I made a list of activities that, in my mind, constituted the dreaded “doing nothing.” They were amazingly innocuous.

Reading novels. Taking a walk for the sake of walking (not to run an errand). Playing video games. Scrolling through Facebook. Watching Netflix.

They were, in essence, the kind of things that other people look at and say, “If that’s your definition of doing nothing, then I’m the laziest slug on the planet!”

You’re not, of course; it’s that my sense of what counted as “things I have a right to be doing and still be breathing air and eating food” is pretty damn inside-out.

I was required to schedule two hours a day to “do nothing.” Those two hours had to be at a time I’d normally be awake, and they had to be spent doing something on my list of activities that constituted “doing nothing.”

…At first, I fudged this more than a little. I spent that time reading manuscripts (hey, it’s fiction, right?) or told myself that going for a walk would also count as my exercise time, so it was therefore “productive.” But as a rule, I did a pretty good job of avoiding paid work during this daily two-hour time slot.

Doing nothing has gotten easier since I started. It’s still not easy; it probably never will be. But I appreciate it more now that I see the profound effect it’s had on the quality of my work at other times of the day.

Tl;dr Work addiction is a thing. It sucks. It requires some long-term management and confrontation of some pretty terrible demons. But that effort is surprisingly non-fatal.