Beware the covert aggressive

No, I’m not talking about anyone in particular right now. When Henk and I were driving to Cape Town a week ago we got on the subject of passive aggressive people, and then he brought up covert aggressives. I asked what on earth was a covert aggressive.
Turns out it’s someone who backstabs, yes, but more to the point is a subtle manipulator. The classic example is the husband who works a lot and the wife wants him to spend more time with her and the kids, so she tries to tell him that she feels hurt and lonely, etc., and then he goes on the offensive accusing her of not valuing his career, all his hard work, and he’s the breadwinner, etc., etc., and at the end of the day she is turned into the bad guy for daring to suggest that her needs or desires be met.
I’m sure we’ve all had someone, or multiple someones, do this to us in our life. Maybe at home, maybe at work, who knows? This is the personality type where no one believes you when you say you’re being emotionally abused. It’s the covert aggressive who is all charming (or at least innocuous) in appearance but hides something dark.
Speaking of charming in appearance but hiding something dark, I was having one of those existential moments on the plane ride the other day. I’m one of those people who other people on long haul flights hate because I just sleep the entire time. Doha to New York, I went to bed over Iran, woke up over Finland. Had some water, went back to sleep, woke up over the Atlantic near Iceland. Went back to sleep, woke up over Newfoundland 2 hours from JFK as they were serving breakfast. Boom, 10+ hours of sleep or so.
When I wasn’t sleeping I was watching TV series, and one of them was a horrible pilot called Grimm (don’t ask; about the show or why I watched it all the way through to the end … I blame fatigue). Anyhow there’s this one scene where the protagonist is feeling all exposed and vulnerable standing on his spookily-lit front porch, after feeling all exposed and vulnerable from his huge, glass bedroom window. I was thinking to myself that this particular plot device would never work in South Africa. The downside of all the security is that when you’re inside the walls you actually feel quite safe.
The flip side, I suppose, is from the other side you might feel exposed. I don’t normally. Sometimes, yes. Usually more just besieged, if it’s ever a negative feeling. But the security seems more like a fact of life, like the value of the currency or the accent than as an actual response to a threat. Then again, I don’t tend to frequent the sketchy parts of town. The closest I ever came to real danger was up in the northern suburbs with my friend J after attending a braai at Jaco’s place. So you never can tell.
Speaking of J, I had the pleasure of spending some time with him again this trip. I love that he lives in Vermont because it means I am almost guaranteed to see him whenever I visit my parents. But I hate that he lives in Vermont because that means time away from my parents. Oh well, he’s one of my favourite people (yes, you are, don’t pretend you didn’t know that!!) and on this particular trip we had a redux of when we first met when, after some wine was consumed, he was on the computer booking plane tickets. This time to Denver.
We may not have solved all the world’s problems this time around but I sure as heck did enjoy catching up. I was saying that it’s ironic that although I don’t see him that often, I probably do spend more quality time with him than with some of my Cape Town-based friends just because when we are together, time is precious, and conversations are varied and stimulating. You need that in any sort of relationship or else it’s not interesting, at least not for very long. Susan, Mike, and J all in Denver all in the same weekend is possibly going to be too much excitement to handle.
So I agreed to run a half-marathon while suffering sleep deprivation, and I agreed to run a beer mile while inebriated. The moral of this story? I can be silly. Rationality doesn’t always win.
Well I’m sorry but the Vice Presidential debates would have been even more difficult to watch while sober. I’ve been living out of the U.S. for so long that I’m not as partisan as I used to be. I still have my side, of course, and so this is why I was a bit upset at the first half of the debate. Paul Ryan is a smarmy little thing but Joe Biden lost his cool more than I appreciated. Of course this was partly in response to Obama’s not showing up in the first debate. I look forward to Tuesday’s debate #2!
Anyway a great time in my first few days in the U.S. There is nothing like autumn in New England, and nothing quite like election season (although the New Hampshire Primary has got to be one of the most adrenaline-pumping scenes you could ever imagine). You know, I love Vermont. It feels so nice just to relax into the house I grew up in with my parents sleeping right next door, to have heart-to-hearts with my Mom, to drive 35 minutes and have lunch with my aunt (unfortunately a business phone call took 3x as long as I thought ….but that means the conversation went well). And the autumn leaves are stunning!! I am so glad this trip brought me back at this exact time of year.
The other thing that got me going is this concept of giving of yourself. Now you can take on a lot of responsibility whether as a manager, leader, executive, parent, coach, mentor, whatever: and you can do it for all sorts of reasons, and once you get in you may want out but duty prevails. At a certain point, you can’t tell someone they are being a martyr because if you make your bed you must lie in it.
However the question comes as to where you draw the line. I’ve recently been under-sleeping, and as a result, under-recovering and not eating properly (tired pre-frontal cortex), and it takes about 2-3x as long to recover from sleep deprivation as it does to get into that state. Doug has now fetched up with some crazy virus. I don’t know his lifestyle well enough to say but if his late night chats with me are any indication he’s also burning the candle at both ends and taking on a lot of responsibility. Emotional strain and long hours go hand in hand.
Yeah we love it but it isn’t always healthy. Same thing I suppose goes for parenting. Finding the appropriate place to draw the line between what’s best for you and what’s best for ‘the other’ be it your family, your customers, your company, whatever, can sometimes be hard. Why do I choose emailing customers over sleep? Why do I choose chatting to Doug over sleep? Are these decisions right or are they wrong?
Meh, J’s probably right and I just over-analyse. But it’s not obvious to most people, but I don’t usually over-analyse. I usually make my decision then use analysis to rationalise what I’ve already decided. Press me hard enough and I’ll tell you exactly what I think. But that’s not necessarily how it serves me to come across. Maybe I shouldn’t admit such things! Well, again, anyone who knows me knows if you ever dare to ask me a direct question I’ll give you a direct answer. Just … be careful what you ask. Ignorance is bliss.
My other semi-exciting news? Maybe just exciting to me? I recovered enough that I resumed training on Saturday. Sprinting on the road was still out but I felt ok enough to do my first workout in about three weeks which involved strict pullups from a beam in the old milk house! Well, you do what you can. I may be a bit overweight and out of shape at the moment but I’m still strong enough to do 25 strict pullups in a sub-11-minute workout. And later that day I helped Mom rebuild the stone wall. Thank you, CrossFit, for teaching me to lift with my legs and not my back, and for enabling me to pick up 100+ pound stones without trouble.
Boom. I’m back. At least I’m on my way.
  • “dont conceptually limit what u are capable of doing” – Michael
  • “My mother was crazy.” “I don’t like washing floors.” – Mom & me
  • “I mean, what else can you do, right?” – J (I was talking about my tendency to disengage if I don’t buy into the strategy)
  • “You are pretty enthusiastic.” – J
  • “Leaders run into problems to fix problems.” – Paul Ryan
  • “Well you’re a little weird so that works out.” – J
  • “I’ve become very acquainted with that industry over the years.” – J
  • “If you can’t [get through the crawl] it doesn’t matter because everything else is stupid.” – Robert
  • “This smart phone needs to be smarter. It needs not to spam me.” – Robert
  • “This one tastes a little moldy.” “It does? Well, it is mold after all.” – me & Dad
  • “wow, I love it when my brain/ networks are tested. need challenges. life boring without.” – Michael 



  1. Hahahaha… the suburbs aren't THAT sketchy Ellie!

  2. Dude, I was scared. And I don't GET scared! 😉

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