Releasing the past in order to find myself

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

So, How Did it Go?

First, and foremost, I want to thank all my blogger friends for reaching out, offering support, extending comfort, and checking in.  I have no doubt that this support helped me maintain my strength and boundaries through the weekend of narcs.   I also want to apologize for the next post, as it may not be as coherent and linear as I would like.  In fact, most of my posts are a bit rambling (and I often shudder at the grammar and spelling errors I see when I reread them).  But, I like to write from the heart and not over-think them too much.  And I've committed myself to not worrying about perfection and presentation, but rather just content and honesty.  So, sorry if any of that has made my posts difficult to understand.

NSis never showed for the party.  I never believed she would.  She lives quite a distance away, has no "vacation" time, and if she doesn't work, she doesn't get payed.  So, I knew that the suggestion that NSis was coming was purely an attempt by NM to stir up drama and put focus back on my NSis.  To highlight who "really" needed the family attention at the moment.  And it was clear she felt that that person was not my young child.  Regardless, one less narc to worry about.

NM was relatively well behaved.  She didn't start out the weekend with her usual "I'll show up whenever the hell I feel like it" attitude, and actually let me know their expected arrival time.  She is ALWAYS texting me when I go to her home and demands hourly check ins so she can see where we are.  I never minded giving her a time we would arrive.  But I didn't like tracked.  But when she was coming here, she would refuse to answer my texts and wouldn't tell me at all when she was coming.  Or she would grossly over estimate, and show up three hours earlier.  Anyway, she was considerate this time.

She only brought up my sister once.  Well, OK, not only once.  She slipped in little comments here and there.   She took a video of my kids and sent it to NSis's phone.  She said I should send NSis a copy of a photo I took.  She always likes to proclaim how important my kids are to NSis.  How much NSis likes them.  Really?  Could've fooled me.  But I can see this triangulation for what it is now.  Anyway, the one time she brought up NSis and her cancer, it went like this:

NM:  I talked to your NSis today on the way down.
Me:  Oh.
NM:  She said to tell you "hi".  (Translation:  guilt, guilt, and more guilt.  See, NSis is thinking about you.  See she cares about you.  She said to say HI!  Isn't she wonderful?!)
Me:  Oh?
NM:  She really would like you to call her.  (Translation:  you are being a huge, selfish bitch by not calling.  You really need to be the "bigger person"-a NM favorite phrase.  She needs you.  You are not performing your duties)
Me:   Oh.  Well, you had told me that she didn't want to talk to family members about it and she hadn't called Dad and...
NM: (interrupting me)  Yes, but she REALLY wants you to call.  (Forget what I told you before.  She's waiting for your call.  You need to reach out to her.  You need call.  You haven't taken her bait, so I'll repeat what your obligation is to your sister.)
Me:  Well, she can always call me...
NM:  (interrupting again) Well, it's really between you two.  I don't want to be in the middle of it.

At this point, NM scampered away as I tried to continue the conversation.  She had said her piece.  She, of course, wanted to be in the middle of it.  That's why she brought it up.  She wanted to be in the middle of it, but not have me say anything.  She was all on NSis's side and blaming me as usual.  And when I tried to explain my boundaries, she ran away.  It was probably for the best.  I don't owe her an explanation for what I do.  It did make me sad, momentarily, that with my close relative's death and my son's birthday and everything else, that all she can see is what is important for NSis.  Same old, same old I guess.

NM didn't say another word about it.  She did make some sly comments about how her "anxiety" was finally wavering.  She tried to get Estepdad to agree with how "strong" she is.  She pushed and pushed the issue with him until he finally told her "I'm not playing your little games".  Yay, step dad!  I almost wonder if he hadn't felt a little encouraged himself.  He and I and DH had refused to play her games all weekend.  I didn't rise to her bait.  I didn't argue.  I didn't turn negative.  When she brought up the same old stories over and over, I listened, nodded, and changed the subject.  When she threw out that we cater to stepdad, but not her, I politely disagreed.  In a way that she couldn't argue back with.   I was so proud of my strength.  I was so proud that I didn't let her under my skin.  It actually was a relatively pleasant visit.  It gave me hope.  Not hope that she will change, or we will have a relationship.  Just hope that I can do this and she won't run my life anymore.

She did try a couple things with my son, which pissed me off.  She always brings gifts for when she arrives.   When DS asked if she had gifts for the party, she said "Nope.  You opened them.  You wanted to open them, so now your done.  That's all there is."  She sat there watching him squirm.  Watching his discomfort as he tried to figure out if she was kidding or not.  And if she had been kidding, she sure didn't let on.  She was as cold as ice.  Of course, she thinks she's funny.  I did not.  I immediately jumped in.  Assured my son that grandma had gifts for the next day.  That she shouldn't tease him like that.  Other than this incidence, she behaved herself with him.

The party was a whole other story.  I had been so busy preparing for the narc attack from the front, I was not prepared for the narc attack from the rear.  BIL and SIL are selfish people.  Spoiled brats who always run on their own schedule and own time.  They use my in-laws as their personal nanny.  They require constant help with their children and act very put out when they are totally responsible.  They are entitled and childish.  So, when my in-laws should up with the kids, instead of BIL and SIL, I wasn't surprised.  It upset me that my son's aunt and uncle blew off the party, but I wasn't surprised.   NMIL bounced up with the kids, saying that BSIL (for short) had shopping to do for a big vacation they are taking without their kids.  She said they'd show up later.  So, as everyone sat around watching me set up the party, the littlest kid started getting into things he shouldn't.  I removed him, twice.  I sat down to feed my kids.  The other parents and my in-laws dropped off two more kids with me to eat.  So, here I am, hosting a party and feeding four toddlers.    Awesome.  No one could get the littlest to eat and the all assumed someone else was doing it (BSIL), so he kept getting into food I'd stashed under the table.  I removed him, again.   SIL jumps up to the littlest kid and says "oh!  it's OK, it's OK".  You'd thought I beat the kid instead of kindly removing him from the stash of goodies.  This was my first inkling that something was wrong with her.  While she's never the most pleasant person, she's usually friendly enough.   Neither she nor BIL acknowledged me at all.  The whole party.  They never said hello or anything else for that matter.  Their kids kept disappearing.  I didn't feel it was my responsibility to look all over for the park for them, so I just going with my schedule (I wanted the three remaining kids to be able to go and play, so I was trying to get the food/cake/presents done).   SIL kept reappearing and disappearing.  You could see her coming, causing a HUGE dramatic scene without saying a word (it really was impressive to watch how much attention she could command just by stomping around...that is, if it wasn't at my kids party.)  BIL disappeared before the cake and never showed back up. And this guy's usually Mr. Life-of-the-Party.  It was all so strange.  Finally, SIL stomps up to my son as they are playing, and coldly says Happy Birthday, thanks for the invite, and that she's leaving.  Neither one of them said a damn word of good-bye to me or DH (this is DH's brother-his "closest" brother).

The whole thing infuriated me.  I was appalled at their childishness.  I was irate that they would distract so much from their nephew's party.  I was appalled that they couldn't put aside whatever the hell was up their asses, in order to celebrate DS.  I was confused.  Had I done something?  Was SIL mad that I had disciplined her kid?  I didn't feel I'd done anything wrong.  Someone had to do it.  I was kind to the child.  I have a right to ask him to not get into my things.  Was SIL mad at DH?  She was very rude when DH said hello.  She has some issue with him but will not talk about it with him.  Sometimes she's nice to him, sometimes she's hostile.  You never know what you're going to get.  DH has confronted her before.  She always claims to not know what he is talking about.  How convenient.  Why had BIL been such an ass?

We continued on with the party.  Towards the end, I started cleaning up.  I cleaned up the ENTIRE party by myself.  Three adults sat around and watched as I packed up, made a million trips to the car packed a block away, and loaded it all myself.  The literally sat on their asses and watched.  Only my step father helped me carry the heaviest stuff (DH was with my kids).   I was annoyed, but NMIL pushed me into pissed off.  She had sat watching me.  When there was one small box left, she came up and offered to help.  I look around at the empty grass.  I told her that I'd finished.  She said "But Oh!  I'd like to help!  What can I do?!"  WTF lady?  Are you blind?  You sat two feet from me.  Watched me haul it all out.  And THEN offer to help.  And I guess you could chalk it up to be inattentive (I don't, but I guess you could).  Or her being exhausted by the relatives illness and death.  But here's the thing:  she did the exact same thing to me at my other child's party three months ago.  She sat around and watched me set it all up.  She watched me clean it all up.  She then asked to help.  And when I told her it was done (look around lady, do you see any food?  or tables? or garbage?  What the hell do you want to help with?)  she kept insisting she wanted to help.  She must think I'm a fool.  Well, someone's a fool, and it sure the hell isn't me.

And a little more about NMIL's behavior at the party. She never offered to help me set up either.  Instead, as I'm laying out food, she makes a huge deal about some dog poop and needing to pick it up.  Asking me for a napkin and then grabbing at my things.   She made a big deal about not being able to find the garbage (it was two feet away).  She made it sound like she was inconvienced by the lack of garbage.  She covered for SIL and BIL, making excuses (I call it lying) for them.  She went around the party and explained in detail the last moments of the close relatives death.  How hard it was.  The medicine the used.  The pain this person was in.  How she hoped the mortician could do something with the corpse.  I was disgusted.  Not only was it completely inappropriate to be sharing this information with  people, she was doing it at a child's birthday party.  It was clearly her chance to bask in the glory.  She can't make conversation about anything pleasant, she she trots out the garbage.  And makes herself look like the kind martyr to boot.  Ick, ick, ick.

You'd think this would be the end of it.  Ship everyone home and continue on.  But we had the funeral with BIL and SIL.  And you know what?  SIL was as sweet as punch.  Acted like nothing had ever happened.  I would've called her ass out but refused to disrespect the close relative.  This was not the time or place.  I just ignored SIL, stayed as far from her as I could and remained distanced.  BIL never said a word to me.  Didn't say hello, goodbye, or anything.  Avoided me completely.  That's his M.O.  Just ignore everybody and everything until he thinks it's blown over.  DH had gone over the night before and said they'd been the same with him.  His conclusion, and I think it's right, was that SIL and BIL were fighting.  This infuriated me more.  That they couldn't put aside some marital squabble to focus on their nephew.  That they had to attract all the attention to themselves and make a scene.  That they couldn't suck it up for two hours.  I was livid then and I'm livid now.  And this isn't the first time they've done this.  At DS's 1st birthday, they showed up two hours late because they were mad at my in-laws.  SIL showed up last year, but then had to leave because she'd forgotten something.  They are always late to almost everything we do together (we don't do much together anymore as a result).  BIL blows us off if he finds something better to do.  He is enmeshed with his family and tries to dictate how DH and I run our home (who's invited over, when, how we interact with other relatives).  He's a gossip and been called out on it, but refused to see his blame in it.  The only good point, if you can call it that, is that DH really got to see him for what he is this weekend.  And as a side note:  When I rushed into the church (I drove with my kids by myself) a bit flushed, and was standing with the family preparing to enter for the service, NMIL leaned over and whispered a joke about how someone was teasing someone else about facial hair.  I was stunned.  And saddened.  How freaking inappropriate!  This was the only thing she said to me.

So, there you have it.  That's my weekend.  Sorry for the long, probably over-detailed, post.  I was exhausted at the end.  Completely depleted.  But I feel better today.  I feel "wholer".  I feel more confident and strong than I have in a long time.  I'm starting to feel grown up.  Baby steps, but still steps.


  1. Overly-detailed? My dear Jessie, no such thing!

    I'll start here: "She always likes to proclaim how important my kids are to NSis. How much NSis likes them. Really? Could've fooled me."

    Yep. NMIL did that with DH all the time. It was always, "Oh, NSIL is getting SO EXCITED about the baby! She just can't wait to be an auntie!" Or whatever. And the truth was that the girl didn't give two shits about our babies...any of them, or our wedding, or our parties, or anything.

    It's all a bunch of bullshit.

    And the whole offering to help thing? I call that a "show." That's all it is. There is a difference between a real offer to help and a "show" of help and that's all your NM was doing.

    1. Yeah, NMIL is great at the show! Always so she can say she "offered" to help. Probably tells everyone that her DIL just always refuses help. She also offers her help to DH only. Never to me, directly. DH doesn't throw the parties, I do.
      She's always doing things like this to me. She also comes up with phony conversations starters. This time she exclaimed over and over about how wonderful the color of my toenail polish was. It was teal. You'd have thought I'd invented a new color, though, the way she was carrying on. Nobody loves toenail polish that much.

    2. Jessie, don't you love the way instead of helping, or talking about the pink elephant in the room, NM will go on and on gushing, enthusing, about some minor dumb thing--your toenail polish! My NM did this over a DVD gift set I gave her in 2010, to distract me from the fact that she stole my ideas without crediting me in her 'self-help' book. Gush, enthuse, gush. You'd think I'd given her the Hope Diamond. The phony conversation pieces are so genuinely weird it's hard to know what's happening with them. But they are always a shell game of some kind. Btw, CONGRATS on surviving the weekend with boundaries intact (and the funeral service, I'm sorry).

    3. Thanks CS! I feel so much lighter. Like I've accomplished something. There's a long way to go, but I'm on the right road.
      I read your post about the DVD set. Sounded oh, so familiar to me. A big game of pretend and change the subject, deny, gush, gush, phony bullshit. By NMIL always does this to me. DH was always telling me that she really liked me and was complimenting me. But it is always SO phony and fake and over the top. It irritated me more than anything, that she thought I was that shallow (naive? stupid? moronic?) that I'd fall for that. "Oh, you're right! That compliment totally erases you treating me like shit all the time!! You must be a phenomenal person because you complimented my toenail polish!!"

    4. I thoroughly agree with Jonsi about her points on what narcs say is all for show, they never have any actions to back up their words.
      Your comment about your MIL going on about your nail colour is very interesting, I had a friend who used to do that, make a big fuss of something I was wearing, it always made me feel uncomfortable I suppose because deep down it felt a bit phony. I think it was flattery with intent to manipulation. Maybe they have found it works with other people and they think it would work with us too, what they don't realise is that we're not buying it at all. Now if someone flatters me I "red flag" them.

    5. Kara, NMIL's phoniness isn't even very deep down. You can see her searching around or scoping me out, looking for something to compliment. And then the compliment is always so out of proportion with the thing she is complimenting that it reeks of phoniness. It always makes me feel uncomfortable too. And it is flattery with intent to manipulate. To get us to think they are a nice person. To take down our guard. To counter balance their little jabs.

    6. "To take down our guard. To counter balance their little jabs." wow, that's such a fitting description, it is exactly what this friend used to do to me. I could never get over the "jabs" because it didn't make sense that a "friend" would hurt you in that way.

  2. "Probably tells everyone that her DIL just always refuses help." I think that's a guarantee.

    She's making you look like the bad guy. "Oh, I offered, but she didn't want my help!"

    NMIL did the same thing to us many times - the only times she ever offered were few and far between, always only to DH but never directly to me, and if we said yes, she paraded around her "help" to everyone who would listen; if we said "no thank you" then we were the jerks who said no to her (shitty) offers.

    1. This is one of the things that is infuriating to me about narcs. The lose/lose situation they set you up for. Because their is not a damn thing I can do. I can set up boundaries, I can maintain distance, I can live without them running my life. But I can't convince those other people that she's full of shit. All of it is done behind my back. There is no way to defend myself. The continual miss-characterizations and slander sucks. I'm sure she's even convinced herself that she's helpful and I'm just the big mean DIL.

  3. Jessie, you did great! It was good to have the detail it helps us to see how narcs operate, because it's quite hard to see it is only in the detail that it becomes evident what they're up to. Your NMIL is truly an operations master, she's doing that whole "can I help you?" thing when there's no more work to do so she can get the glory without actually having to do any of the work.

    " It did make me sad, momentarily, that with my close relative's death and my son's birthday and everything else, that all she can see is what is important for NSis." I picked up on something while I was reading your conversation with your mother, I don't think that "all she can see is what is important for Nsis",( I might be wrong, you know your mother better but see what you think of this theory) I think this was more about your mother doing a "peacemaker/mediator" attempt so she can feel good about herself because she gets on with both of you while you're not on great terms with each other. I was thinking also that it's a veiled attempt to control you: she tells you to call your sister and if you do it, she goes away feeling she still has the power to influence your actions.(I'm not sure if I am explaining this very well, it kind of reminded me of Anton Ego's attitude). It's funny how they all come up with the "you have to be the bigger person" rubbish. How come we always have to be "the bigger person" and our sisters never have to? It does get a bit old in the end.

    1. Thanks Kara! I have appreciated all your support in this.
      I believe you are spot on with your analysis of my mother. And I hadn't really thought of it that way. When you say it's about her attempt to control, I totally get what you are saying. And it's true. If I'd done what she asked, then she not only would feel like the powerful mother who is still in charge, but also like the peace-maker. This whole situation has reeked of triangulation (a favorite game of hers).
      And I realized something else. When you noted about my comment "that all she can see is what is important for NSis". I don't think this is true either, upon retrospect. I think she knows damn well what is important to me. She just doesn't believe it is AS important as NSis. She's making it very clear where I sit in the hierarchy of the family. And I'm expected to put that aside for NSis. It is, most certainly, rubbish.

    2. " I think she knows damn well what is important to me. She just doesn't believe it is AS important as NSis. She's making it very clear where I sit in the hierarchy of the family. And I'm expected to put that aside for NSis."
      I hadn't thought of that and I've just realised I'm in exactly the same position as you in my FOO; man, there's so much to learn from this post!

  4. Well done Jessie. It sounds as you are really finding your way through all the murk! I am still at the point of coming to terms with my mother not being the person I have grown up thinking she was and that I have laid the blame for my parents divorce at the wrong door for many years.

    1. Well, it's definitely a process with lots of ebb and flow. Some days are better than others.
      I wish you the best in your continued process and glad to know you are reading along with me.