I’m not stupid, and neither are you.

Feeling Dismissed.

It happens to everyone, and it never feels good. I am not talking about some boot-camp setting where the drill sergeant yells that the session is over. I am not talking about being asked to leave the room during a meeting. I am not talking about being fired. Although being dismissed can mean any of those things, I am talking about when you feel like your view, your opinion, your experience or your contribution is under-valued.

I don’t have a grown-up job. I don’t have an advanced degree in anything. I have a few terms of Bible College (shocking, I know). I have an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts (with a concentration in English). I have a couple of additional years of creative writing classes and photography classes in my education list. I have over a decade of experience in Restaurant Management (with the highest scores on my exams and certifications).  I have nearly a decade of experience in Workflow Management (basically how to get stuff done with the least effort, in the least time, with the least amount of resources).  Until my recent marriage I was a single mom for nearly a decade.

I have won national awards for my writing. I have been published in some pretty snazzy anthologies. I tutored Psychology and Statistics at the college level while I took my creative writing classes.  I helped many students graduate college, even if I ended up not gaining my degree myself.

I wrote and implemented the Employee Manual and developed the training courses for the last company I worked for. It was my “unofficial” job to make sure we were in compliance with the ever-changing safety and labor laws.

I worked with the Math department at my local community college and helped streamline the way they taught Basic Statistics. Many students were failing, and they couldn’t keep tutors. The reason was, even though this was a basic class, and required for all students in any degree program, every teacher used different texts and teaching styles. There was no uniformity. As a Stats student, I was able to overcome this and achieve a better than perfect grade. I was a highly sought after tutor and well paid for my efforts.  At my suggestion, the Math department standardized the texts, the tests, the homework, and the way stats was taught. As a result, even the most math-impaired student could pass, and most did. I am especially proud of this last bit.

I could go on. But most people don’t see past the first two things. I don’t have a grown-up job, and I don’t have an advanced degree.

What that means is… I am often dismissed.

My husband does have an advanced degree.  My mom and my uncles have advanced degrees. Many of my friends have advanced degrees. For some reason, it can feel as if they think they are more right than I am in most things… by simple virtue of their education. It’s not easy being in a relationship with someone who’s always right, be it friend, family member, or spouse. Even when they say they see your point, it still often feels like it’s coming from a place with just a little higher view of the world. And that, to me, is infuriating.

Because I try very hard not to dismiss others. I know my IQ. I know the strengths of my intelligence. I know that no matter what room I walk into, I am likely the smartest person in it. That’s not arrogance, that’s fact. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t reached my “potential” (whatever that is supposed to mean). It doesn’t matter than I never finished my degree. It doesn’t matter that I have bottomed out on relationships. It doesn’t matter that my kids don’t have the world’s best mom. What it means is, I’m pretty damned smart. I have the tests to prove it.  What’s more important, to me, is that I remain curious about the world. I read a LOT. I study a LOT. I read journals, and articles, and I try to keep on top of what’s happening in the world. I read about medicine, science, psychology, farming, politics… whatever catches my interest. So I know I’m not only able to grasp the nuances of what is happening around me, I am also able to apply it in some way.

I am most endlessly fascinated by why people act the way they do.  And so I pay attention to people. If I dismissed someone’s opinion because I didn’t see the value in what they had to say, because I didn’t feel their education or experience gave them a right to their view, it would be my loss. They don’t need my approval, but I value their participation in our interaction. That’s not to say I don’t mess up. I do. I am rude, I am arrogant, I really piss people off. But I do try not to, and when I know I have behaved badly, I apologize. Unless you are one of my ex-husbands. You guys totally deserve it. But I digress.

So when I am dismissed, when my views are de-valued, I want to cry, “UNFAIR!” Because, honestly, the people who dismiss me the most are usually the people who, in spite of my sometimes feeling like they are talking out of their asses, I listen to. I try to see their views, even when I disagree. I’d MUCH rather have arguments than end conversations with dismissals. So when the tables are turned, it feels like a real attack to be dismissed.

I have found ways around this. I am obnoxious enough to push through most dismissals. I can usually “gently” maneuver the conversation back around to where the person actually, in spite of themselves, really listens to me… and shockingly enough… I am found to have a valid point after all.

But that doesn’t mean the hurt is gone. It feels like a betrayal to be dismissed, especially when it’s by someone whom you love, who loves you. I almost wrote “claims to love you”, but the fact is, most of the real damage to us is done by people who really do love us. But painful or not, betrayal or not, at the end of the day, I have to choose to accept dismissal or fight to be heard. For me, the fight is worth it.

I don’t like to be angry.

I don’t like to be angry.

I don’t do great with sadness, joy or excitement, either… but for some reason most of my “big” emotions end up turning into anger. Most of my little stresses and resentments also turn into anger… and of course, my anger turns into bigger anger.

I know I have anger issues. I have been to anger management, twice. I actually passed it the second time around… so I know the drill. I know how to breathe. I know how to count. I know how to be aware of my body and how I am feeling in the moment. I know that it is ok to be angry. I know that being angry doesn’t make me a bad person. I also know that just because I am angry, I don’t have to be mean. I don’t even have to act on my anger. Sometimes it is ok to just let it be. But that doesn’t mean I like anger when it comes, or that I feel confident dealing with it. I am sometimes afraid that I will snap, when anger comes quickly or unexpectedly. Sometimes I do snap, and I don’t like the consequences.

The worst part of being angry is, when I am no longer angry, I can clearly see where I mis-stepped, where I misunderstood, where I mis-spoke. But when I am angry, I often blunder.  When I get angry, I choke. I can’t communicate effectively. What I say comes out in ways I don’t intend. I am not often deliberately mean, but I can be hurtful. I work very hard to communicate, and even more so when I know I am impaired by anger. The result is often tears.

Because I so despise being angry, I often try to funnel it off into action or other emotions, to defuse it. That rarely works long-term, but it can work for a little while. What often happens, though, is that the anger rebounds later, and if I am not prepared for it, it can overwhelm me. So I do try to deal with anger as it occurs, for everyone’s sake.

Lately, though, a lot of what life has thrown at me makes me angry. At the same time, I feel like I am often ule to deal with it as it comes. The situations are such that I need to be cool, I need to be rational. As if my anger is such a small thing in the face of the circumstances. That it is, momentarily at least, inconsequential.

Henning is very sick and has gotten little support from his medical team. I have often felt that the “system” here would be happiest if he were to simply die and relieve them of the burden. That makes me very angry.

I am very angry with Danish Immigration. They do their best to discourage and dismay foreigners as a matter of course, and I am in the midst of an appeal process regarding my application for temporary residency that is maddening. Literally. That makes me very angry.

I am angry with my daughter’s guardian. My daughter’s guardian is treating her terribly, and has ganged up with her dad to make the poor girl’s life a misery. This guardian is also refusing to talk to me, even though we used to be friends (why she is the guardian in the first place). There is nothing I can do, because, read above, I am in a legal battle that requires my presence here. And I can’t bring my daughter here to me, because my own status is in question. That makes me very angry.

I am angry with Henning. I am angry that he didn’t listen to me about the Immigration issue that has led directly to our application being rejected. I am angry that he listened to bad advice on our situation, and I am angry that he still places that advice over my own assertions, despite a track record of (so far) my “rightness” far outweighing his other advisor. I am angry that he blames some of his symptoms on not being fit enough, and I am angry that he is not taking those symptoms seriously enough. I am angry that no matter how angry I get, I can’t just blow up at him, because I feel like, at the end of the day, he has more of a right to be angry than me, and even THAT makes me angry.

I read something today in The Sun that really resonated with me. A woman writes about her relationship with her husband as they both deal with a recent cancer surgery. She said they had good days, but they also had frazzled days when they feel lost and alone, and resentful. “On such days I can’t talk to him, can’t make him understand what I mean. I say one thing, he hears something else, and instead of solace or understanding, there’s resentment and anger between us.”

It is a wonderful essay, and it reminded me that everyone gets angry. We all are lost and alone in this world, and the best we can do is reach out in the midst of our anger and hope for some branch of understanding to be within reach.

For me, sometimes I can grasp it. Others, it is just out of reach.

Weekly “Pick on Denmark” Post

Today is Friday, and I have decided every Friday is “Pick on Denmark Day”. I might change the name, but yeah. I need a venue for bitching and this is it.

What happened this week? Well… I will go back to last Saturday. I met a lovely woman who, like me, is an American ex-pat trying to stay in Denmark. She has a job, she is married, she has an education, she speaks Danish… in other words, she meets all of the qualifications. And yet, she has NOT been granted a green card, and in fact, she was recently imprisoned for staying here illegally. Of course she is not here illegally… it is just a ruse to scare her so she leaves. Denmark has no choice but to grant her the green card as she meets their own standards… but she is black. So… we’ll see how it shakes out.

My own situation is a bit more precarious than my new friend’s. I do NOT have a Master’s degree, and I am still in the very early stages of learning the language. To make matters worse, they ALSO said I was here illegally. According to our legal advisor, I am definitely here legally… and they are willing to back us all the way to court, if necessary… but yeah. It sucks. We got a letter the other day that says they will try to make a determination regarding my legal status in the next 5-6 weeks. At that point, if they determine that I was legal when we submitted the application, it will take 3-7 months for them to process the application.

Denmark is quickly climbing the list of countries least friendly to foreigners. It is not just Immigration, which is horrendous all by itself. Just read a few columns in Copenhagen Post and you will get an idea of the strain put on foreigners just to stay here. Not to live here permanently, not to become part of society… just to go to school, or work, or whatever. Even businessmen have had to miss parts of conferences just to meet the odd and ever-changing immigration rules of when you can enter and how long you can stay. It is maddening.  But it not JUST Immigration.

Asking if someone speaks English is often followed by an “Of course.” No smile. Of course… the English that is spoken is likely barely comprehensible. No matter. I have friends from all parts of the globe and manage to understand most of what is said to me. But the demeanor instantly changes from merely cold and indifferent (the standard of customer service here, as far as I can tell) to outright rude.  Other times, however, the answer is “No!”, and I have been refused service.

The other day, I wanted to cash a money order my father had sent me for Christmas. It was drawn on Danske Bank, and in my name. My husband went with me. Since he is a Danske Bank account holder, we figured it would be no problem.

First, we waited in line. THAT is also standard. It is not unusual to have to take a number (everywhere, take a number), and then wait in line at least 10-20 minutes, for anything. Post a letter, buy a loaf of break, talk to a city worker… take a number, and wait.

I have to interrupt myself here. The reason we waited until now, nearly a month past Christmas, is because the line was too long other times we went by. People were lined up out of the branch into the hallway. So this time… waiting 15 numbers was NOT too long. So, yeah. Efficiency at work.   When our number was called, the cashier spoke to us only in Danish. When I asked her to speak English, she just looked at me. Whatever, Henning was there. She first said the check was not valid. It didn’t look the way she expected it to. She went back, showed it to her manager, and they photocopied it, and then the cashier made a phone call. The manager went to the back offices and conferred with at least two other people.

The cashier came back to us after quite a long time, and said it was missing numbers. I explained it was a money order, so it was not a standard check. She went back to her manager, they made another phone call, and again went to the back offices. She came back and asked if I had a CPR number. Of course I don’t. I am officially still a tourist here.

I signed it over to Henning, so he could just deposit in into his account. After all, once a check or money order is signed, it belongs to the bearer, no questions asked. Right? Wrong. Again she conferred with the manager, and the boys in the back, and again the check, along with the photocopy and a growing pile of notes accompanied them.  When she came back, she said I needed to have a CPR number to do any business there.

And that was it. After standing in line for nearly 20 minutes, and then waiting at least 20-30 more while they all went back and forth, we left with just the check, which was now signed and, to me, pretty vulnerable.

I called my embassy in Copenhagen, and they suggested I contact the bank’s main branch (where the check was issued). It was after 4:00pm, so I had to wait until the next day.

I did call Danske Bank’s main branch the next day, and spoke with a lovely man who insisted Henning’s branch should have cashed the check. He said his bank (the one in Copenhagen) deals with Americans all the time, and if I so desired, I could come right there and have it deposited. He offered to come take care of it personally if the cashier had any questions.

We did go to Copenhagen that afternoon, and aside from the parking, the cobblestones and the fact that the main branch of Danske Bank has STAIRS and NO ELEVATOR (in other words, is NOT accessible at all) had no issues getting my Christmas gift deposited to my husband’s account. It took about three minutes. Well… three minutes after taking a number and waiting in the foyer at the bottom of the stairs for 20 minutes… but… whatever.

What if I had not been so close to Copenhagen? What if I had relied on the misinformation given to me by Danske Bank employees who said I was unable to effect any transactions? I wonder what other foreigners do, in this situation? I am blessed to have friends here who I’m sure would have been able to help. I am blessed to have had to contact the embassy for a few other matters, so that anxiety of dealing with them has lessened.  I am even more blessed to have such a confident and encouraging husband (although, to be fair, if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be here… so there is that).

Why does Denmark hate us so much? Why is it so hard for the country, as a whole, to embrace the idea that we truly are a global community? I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t really care why. I just know that to me, it seems like each and every time I step out of the sanctuary of our little apartment, I must have my guard up, my thick skin in place, and be prepared for any array of insult, misinformation and discrimintation that will be the norm as I go through my day.