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Feeling Vulnerable

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I wonder if any of you are struggling with this. I feel so vulnerable, as though I have to keep alert at all times that no one is going to hurt me. I don't mean physically - although I suppose I would be afraid of that too depending on the situation. I mean emotionally.

Because of this I've become pretty defensive. I've always had a problem with authority. Not that I've committed criminal acts - but I just don't like other people throwing their weight around, displaying their dominance.

So of course, I'm not good with bosses, or bossy people.

This week I've had a run-in with my boss at work over my working hours. I've kept all my appointments and done all my work, but my hours have been somewhat eratic. I can't seem to keep a regular schedule. Some nights I don't sleep until four am, so it's hard to get up at six. Some days I can't stand to sit at my desk, so I go home. I have ALWAYS however, done my work. This is the kind of boss who is kind of insecure about himself - so he used language - body language and speech - to let me know just who was in charge. I was awake all that night because of this - angry and upset. Crying and wishing my husband were here to talk to.

Then last night, I'd been out for dinner with my son and had a great time. I came home and realized that our dog had somehow gotten out and had been barking in the yard while we were gone. One of the neighbors who I'd never met came to bang on our door and laid into me about my !#!¤# dog. No introductions, no "would you please make sure your dog keeps quiet" thing. Just yelling. I felt myself losing control - I'd either yell back or cry. So I slowly closed the door and locked it.

After that I spent an hour crying and having horrible thoughts that maybe he'd come to poison our dog or shoot him or something. My son just said to forget him.

Today all I can think about is moving and changing jobs. I like my job and my colleagues. We just moved to this house a month before my husband died. I'd rather not uproot everything just yet. But all this vulnerability is making me feel like I can't handle anything. I feel like a little kid.

Tomorrow it will be 14 months since I lost my husband - my best friend and partner of nearly 30 years. I've always been pretty dependent on him - despite the fact that I've worked full time and can take care of myself in most situations. He was my protector, in many ways.

How do the rest of you manage unpleasant people and deal with difficult situations alone? Especially you ladies here.


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Hi Melina. I am sorry you're having a hard time with difficult people. I can relate to your ability to handle most things, but missing your partner and protector. Buck was my sounding board and voice of reason. He never allowed people to upset him to the point of 'no return' so to speak. Things that would push my buttons just rolled off him. I do miss him so much for that. The anniversary of his death is 10/22 and it is so difficult sometimes. Thirty years is a very long time to be together, so it will be longer, I think, for you to feel whole without your husband. I know the feeling of being lost in a world that just keeps moving while you're still standing still in many ways. At the risk of offending people, I can only tell you that my faith is what sustains me....that and knowing that I don't have a choice. Buck is gone and will never return....but....I can reflect upon his kindness and sense of order and stability. I feel a sense of calm when I remember his words of comfort to me during periods of high stress. He would tell me, 'it will be all right' and 'take a deep breath, the feeling will pass'...things like that. He was right. I cannot react whenever I want to do so...I can't always say whatever I'm thinking. We have to change what we can and hope for wisdom to know the difference...then take steps toward needed changes. I hope you get through your trials successfully...I believe you will do it! You have gotten this far...and like your son said....'forget it'. Kids do have a way of putting things in perspective. You're doing just fine. Take good care!

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Dear Melina,

I have had to deal with people like that myself. When Pauline came home from the hospital, for the last time, 3 weeks to the before she passed. It was dark, and cold, and very icy. I put ice melt on the side walk so they could bring her in our apartment safely. Then on Sunday I had to was clothes. I have to go outside to get into the basement where our washer and dryer are. On Saturday, the land lord chopped all the ice off the walk, but did nothing to the cement pad at the basement door. The ice was over 3 in., thick. Well as I stepped down to the first step, I slipped, and my head hit the top of the door jam. I had a small cut. After I was done getting the wash going, I made sure Pauline was alright, the called the land lord. It took her 4 days to call back. She was so mean and nasty to me. She said well you could have put ice melt on there, I told her that is your job I pay you rent. Then she told me she was going to put a padlock on that door, and I would have to go to the laundry mat to do the clothes. I told her Pauline was on Hospice now and it did not look good. Then she told me, well I took care of my mother in-law last summer, as she was dyeing. I told her that it is not the same as your spouse, that you have been with for 33 years. Some how she did a 180 turn. Now they are so nice and offer me rides or anything I need.

Most of the time if I encounter someone who is yelling or mad at me. I just return my words in a soft and caring voice, just let the rant and rave go over my head and wish the a good day. It turns them completely around, and then they are not made anymore and we go our separate ways.

God Bless


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Hi Melina,

I do believe grieving people feel more vulnerable, sensitive, and sometimes defensive and fearful. We have been attacked by death, the death of our loved one. We have had to deal with the insensitivity or inability of some people we meet, sometimes of families and friends and society in general and we are NOT at our best. We are tired and stressed from loss and grieving. I understand being defensive when one has been attacked by loss. What I do believe is that if you moved and changed jobs, you will feel even more defensive since you would be in a totally new environment both at home and at work at a time when perhaps having the familiar around you might be easier. We take ourselves with us wherever we go. But I KNOW you well enough to know you know this to be true and are just expressing a desire to run away from all of it. I am with you on that one...far away where no one including life can hurt us again. I think you have been accosted by two insensitive people (boss and neighbor) -kicked at a time when you are already down. I think closing the door was a great move. I understand the sleeping thing...I do not sleep well. Can you change your hours so you come in later and work later? Just a thought.

I am learning to ignore these "attacks". Far from mastery am I. Not having Bill to process with has made my life so much more difficult..he was such a gentle spirit. In my case it was my own family who got together in a group letter and blamed me when I shared how upset I was that 6 months after Bill died (and the first time we were all together since Bill's death) not one of them even mentioned Bill's name or asked me how I was doing. We were together 4 days helping my brother move from one monastery to another (my idea for us to help). Things have not been the same since. They just do not know what to do with me and if I do not respond as THEY wish, I am the bad guy. So I quit sharing my pain with them several months ago. I have always been the "misfit" in the family pointing out truth, identifying the elephant in the living room, so to speak. Feelings did not exist in our home as a child and I then married Mr. Feeling :) who taught me to feel as I gave him other gifts. I have attempted to deal with folks gently (a lesson I learned from Bill) though, like you, in the state I am in my gentle spirit on occasion gets contaminated by pain, fear and loss.

As cute as your son's remark is, that is easier said than done. I know you are tired of all of life hurting so much. I am also. In the case of nasty neighbors and selfish bosses, time does help because in the end their remarks do not matter. I am sorry this has happened. Wish I had money for a ticket....I would fly to Norway. :) Take care, friend. Mary

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The first thing I want to do is give you a big hug, and I wish it could be in person instead of cyber. Us women are emotional creatures and sometimes our emotions are a challenge, especially when people push our button. Honestly, I wouldn't do anything right now...right now you're in the heat of the moment, give it some time and see how it goes. Usually if someone attacks me, I like to give it a little time and space and then deal with it, it gives emotions (theirs and mine) a chance to settle before we can effectively communicate. Most places have set hours and they expect you to be there between those hours even if you do get your job done. That makes it hard when you're grieving because you don't always get a good night's sleep. I've had times where I've been snowed in and the plows hadn't come and I COULDN'T go to work until they came by, so it's important to me to have a boss that's reasonable and understanding about what I can't control. Conversely, I have done my best to always be at work on time the rest of the time, even when no one else was and even if no one was there to see. I have been fortunate that I can telecommute, would that be a possibility for your job? That way you can get the work done regardless of what hours and they don't seem to notice if you're there at your desk at 8:00 sharp. It might help to talk to your boss and point out that your work is done, the clients like you, etc. It could be he doesn't understand what it's like to not get asleep until time to get up and then go perform a good job. Usually if you present something in a way that they can see it's a benefit to THEM they are more open to it. Maybe if you told him you want to work at optimum performance so you try to get enough sleep before coming in to do the job? Let him know he can count on you and you're willing to work outside of normal work hours when they need you...usually they're more willing to give and take if it works both ways.

As for the neighbor, it helps to acknowledge someone else's concerns, listen to them...don't try to say anything other than, I'm sorry my dog disturbed you. When you've had time to get your emotions under control, see if you can brainstorm a way to appease everyone and then let the neighbor know of your plans. There's not a lot of control about a barking dog, it's not simple, usually you have to get in the dog's head to figure out what's going on with them in order to correct their behavior. Is there something different in the dog's life? Are you gone more than usual, is he getting less attention? My dog and my son's dog are not barkers, but I've had issues with chewing. I try to keep them happy by walking them on a regular basis, providing chew toys, and for my son's dog, I leave the radio on and the blinds up so they can look out the window, and I have a box of wadded up newspapers that he knows he has permission to shred (so he has a way of expressing his upset about something), no harm done, I clean it up when I get home and nothing's destroyed, it's worked for us. I had a neighbor get onto me one time about Skye howling at 7:00 am when I put him outside and went to work...it was when a neighbor's dog was in heat and they were dumb enough to let their dog run free, tormenting poor Skye. I told my neighbor if she wanted the howling to end, to talk to the neighbor that had the dog in heat and see if they could keep her in. That worked. There's almost always a reason for dog's behavior, it's just a process to find out what it is and how to handle it.

I'm sorry you were greeted with an "attack"...some people don't seem to realize they can calmly discuss things instead of reacting out of anger. There is a guy at my job that has real anger issues. He would call up and yell at us...I responded by calming telling him I would be happy to discuss it when he was calmer, and then I'd hang up. Usually he'll call back in an hour and then have a discussion. I've instructed other employees to handle it the same way, it seems to have worked. No one needs or should stick around for abuse. I won't. If they want to talk to me, I'm happy to listen, but they must first calm down. Maybe this approach would work with your neighbor? We have to also demonstrate calmness and control when requiring it from them too.

Good luck on both situations, I'm sure there's a solution outside of moving...the thing about moving is, you could get an even worse boss or neighbor, there's just no guarantees.

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