I have a follow up post in my mind which dovetails with my previous post "Don't Take it Personally", but I'll have to get back to it. In fact, I have many posts filed away in my brain, but these darn narcs won't leave me alone long enough to get one out. It's hard to keep up when I'm always fighting new battles!
NM has rallied again and brought on a whole new storm that I need to recount on this blog. You are forewarned: this one may be long and it may not have any point, aside from documentation of this incident. So, please feel free to skip it if your short on time (or interest ;)!)
So, after my father's visit in the beginning of September, I had a lovely three week "narc vacation". My in-laws were in a foreign country and NM had just been here. So, I knew I'd have some time just to myself (before the inevitable tidal wave came barreling back down). Fall is always busy and added to that my in-laws are in town every other weekend or so. But, I had three weeks of peace: I might add, not long enough.
Around mid-September NM started asking when she could come to one of DS's games. I know she was annoyed that I hadn't asked her earlier (she always feels I should do the asking). Honestly, and I shouldn't have to explain this, but I'd had tons going on. And, I didn't want her here. After her confronting me the last time she was here, I wasn't in any rush to play that again. But my son had wanted her to come. So, I came up with a date. It was the only date that would work and that he still had a game.
I was a tad bit annoyed. She hadn't bothered to ask how his games had been going up to this point. She didn't ask if he liked it, or if he'd done well. Nothing. She did manage to write some emails complaining and gossiping. And she had managed to inquire about my dad's visit (she has some weird thing about my dad and wanting to know about him.)
I gave her the date. Of course, it didn't work for her. She did have a legitimate reason to not come, but I do wonder if she could've gotten out of it if she'd really tried. She does a lot of game playing with her visits: keeping plans up in the air, never fully committing, wanting us to keep several options open for her to choose from. Well, I'd had enough of that. And, seriously, this was the ONE game that would work. She kept saying for me to let her know if another day would work. But this was the last game, that was it, and I ignored her pushing for another date. Usually, I would've felt guilty and worked around her. But I didn't. DH kept believing she would show up. She didn't.
Shortly after, I received an email from her: "Is (DH) going hunting this year?" The hairs on my arms stood up and I instantly was on alert. I knew what she was meaning: I want to come down on opening weekend of hunting season and I want to know if he'll be there. I'm using this as my "opening". It really, really ticked me off. Why can't she just be direct? Why can't she just say what she wants? I hate that she works me like this.
I knew I should've just ignored it. I knew it. I've been working at ignoring these blatant "probes" with no explanation. But I didn't ignore it. I replied back that yes, DH hoped to go but was having problems getting his hunting buddies to commit. And I left it at that.
She then replied that she "was thinking" of coming down that weekend. And wanted to know my thoughts. ha.
I told her that I'd get back to her (this weekend was still three weeks away) when DH had his mind made up. She also emailed to say that DH was welcome to come down and hunt on my family's land (and obvious ploy to get us down to her house. We would all go and she's been pushing me to go to her home-while at the same time saying we couldn't come because of a remodel. Hunting on the land is a big piece of bait she rolls out to get me to do things. It's really complicated, but all you have to understand is she dangles this HUGE carrot in front of DH, knowing that I wouldn't deny him the opportunity. And then she punishes me for accepting it.)
I ignored the hunting question and after two weeks, finally committed to the weekend she wanted. But I told her that it had to be Saturday through Monday (instead of Friday through Sunday like she usually comes). It was one of my first steps in setting a boundary. I also told her in the email that the kids and I had colds (this was related to something else, and just a piece of information I was telling her, but it comes into play later).
She said that she would take Monday off and we would "go from there" (this is a huge hint of things to come that I had missed). She also tried again to lure me to her house by saying she had asked my step dad if DH could come down and hunt (it's SD's land; I was a bit taken a back that she hadn't asked him first. It only showed me more that she was working things behind the scenes to her advantage. And there was no way I was going to inconvenience SD-he goes hunting with DH-knowing NM had talked him into it. )
Also, intermixed with these communications by email, NM was sending me texts and FB messages. It is never enough for her to keep one line of communication going. So, during this time, NM was made aware of our illness. I got a pat response of "hope you feel better" and then a HUGE email about how sick my aunt was. Also, she was sending me tons of gossipy messages.
I also had had some professional portraits taken too. The photographer had posted them on FB and I let her know. She became all over-excited and told me that she had copied them off of FB to print out. I was starting to feel claustrophobic over it all. I felt like she had just "helped herself" to the pictures without even asking me if she could take them (AND they weren't mine to take off the photographer's website). I had planned on giving her a nice digital CD so she could order prints (as I always do) but she just. couldn't. fucking. wait. I was starting to feel steamrolled. She also used the pictures to slide in a sly comment implying that she never sees the boys: "(DS) has sure changed since we were up". Now, that my seem innocent, but it wasn't coming from NM. She had been up five weeks before. My son is not an infant. He hadn't changed that much. I offered up the professional link to all of the pictures (I had actually emailed about the same time she told me she had stolen the photos of FB). But by this point, she was over it. When she looked at the small selection on FB, I got FIVE separate messages about them. But when she saw the whole set, she said "oh, they look nice." Kara, my blogger friend, pointed out how hot and cold she is. She's either smothering me with communications and attention or completely ignoring me (and pouting in a corner, I assume I'm supposed to believe).
During this time (a matter of days and a million messages) she never once asked about my son's games, how we were feeling, and only a one line "how was your weekend" pathetic attempt to look interested. Many months ago, I started replying to her "how was your weekend" questions with simple, vague answers. She never noticed and just plows right ahead with her own un-ending steam of consciousness emails.
Then, I get a message to "be honest with" her if we are too sick for her to come. The whole email struck me as odd. When she hadn't cared before I had committed to the weekend, why is she asking now? My guess is that she was feeling secure so she was feeling she could be generous with her "concern" now. (And by the way, I had a LOT of help sorting this out with my blogger friend, Kara. Many of these realizations came from her and from discussions with her. So, I give her lots of credit in this.) Also, the phrase "be honest with me" struck me. Why wouldn't I be honest with her? Because she knows she's conditioned me to do what she wants, despite what is best for me.
I chose to ignore this email. She knew the children and I had been ill. She had been pushing to come and ignoring that fact until I committed. To add to that, she sent this email over a week before the weekend. How the hell am I supposed to guess what I'll feel like in 10 days? It all seemed to be drama drumming, sounding alarms for no apparent purpose except to make drama.
She sent another email stating that she hadn't heard from me, but that she didn't need to come up. She was OK with whatever I decided. She also sent about four texts asking how I "was feeling" among other things. I responded to the first one (it had nothing to do with me being sick) and ignored the rest, as I was out all afternoon and busy. NM does not recognize that I have anything else going on in my life and if I don't answer her texts immediately, she gets upset. It hadn't even been 12 hours when she emailed me to see why I hadn't responded to her earlier email and texts.
I've gotten better about being selective about which texts I respond to. I don't always feel that gut impulse to respond to every little thing she sends. But she was really starting to swarm me by this point. I mean, I was busy for an afternoon. Leave me the hell alone. I already said you could come, why bother me with asking how I'm feeling now. I was getting fed up. And I was starting to feel really, really overwhelmed. I was beginning to second guess my decision. I knew step dad and DH wouldn't be here for a buffer. I was starting to feel caged in and anxious.
I sent out an email the next day saying I had been busy all day (and told her with what). I also told her that we still weren't well. That the colds had been up and down in severity (I'm guessing we got hit with a couple of bugs and we were run down). I said it would be hard for me to guess how we would all feel in over a week. I also included some information about a relative.
She completely ignored the information about the relative. She completely ignored the other information I'd told her (it was about my son, so I thought it suspect that she didn't ask how it went. Just goes to show how little "real" interest she has in me.) She just said "thanks" and I guess I was to take that as "thanks for reinforcing that I'm coming down". It was clear her inquiries about me being sick were phony and meant as covers for her trying to pull NS. She didn't mention it again.
She did, in her response, talk about how excited SHE was to come (a full paragraph about this). Then she included some family gossip (my step siblings were having a baby). When I asked about the due date, she replied with another HUGE email detailing more gossip. And then she dropped a bomb: she was planning to stay until Tuesday....if that was alright with me.
I lost it. The walls were closing in. She had pushed and pushed and pushed and clearly had no intention of respecting any boundaries I had tried to establish. I was feeling more and more claustrophobic. But I decided to push forward: I slept on it and the next day, I told her no, that that wasn't OK with me and that it would have to be Monday morning when she left because I wanted the kids to rest before school started on Tuesday and it would be a busy week with Halloween. We love Halloween and I didn't want the kids so run down they got even sicker. I did not want her here an extra day, but somehow I knew that wouldn't fly with her. I was shaking. I was scared. But she had told me flat out to "be honest with her" and it was OK to tell her if I was too sick and all that shit.
Clearly, she meant none of it. She "suggested" we postpone the WHOLE trip (note, she didn't say "I won't come, it's a bad time for you" but instead "suggested" we postpone it, hoping I'll not bite) Then, to make sure I didn't take her up on her offer, she loaded on a HEAP of guilt. Saying she didn't realize Halloween was that week-bullshit-and on and on. Oh, and to not buy her gifts for Christmas. WTF? The message itself wasn't all that telling, but I could feel the guilt and disdain and anger pushing through the email. I can feel her undercurrents. It was clear she was pouting that she didn't get her way.
By now, I was becoming weary of all of this. I was having full blown panic attacks (something I haven't had in 7-8 years). I felt like I was standing up to an army. All of this over one damn day? And one silly trip? Was she really willing to sell out seeing her "precious" grandkids over me telling her she had to limit her time?
I tried to be strong and unemotional. I told her (and I'm paraphrasing) "OK, if that's what you want to do. We would be fine for the weekend, but it would have to be three days. But it's up to you." Lob: the ball is back in her court. I'm certainly not going to give her the satisfaction of saying I cancelled the damn trip. And let me just say, I REALLY hate game playing. I hate that I'm even forced to participate. But when you deal with narcs, you can not be straight forward and open: they use that to their advantage. Strategizing and keeping things to yourself is the only way to manage.
The next day, I got an email whining and crying that that wouldn't work for her. That it was too hard of a drive for her to come down one day and go back the next (which is not true: this was a deception she hoped I wouldn't pick up on. There was a full day between, and she had visited on this time frame many, many times before). She claimed she "am getting older" and how hard it was (oh, cry me a river). She did say though that she'd "see how the week went". And that she could always stay in a hotel on Monday and go back on Tuesday. This would defeat the whole damn point, as she would STILL be HERE all day Monday. (By the way, I did call her out on her deception. She chose to ignore that email and started a new thread.)
I'm panicking now and I'm depressed. My kid is asking my husband why I'm upset all the time. I'm wondering how I can shelter him from this crap, while at the same time allow myself to express my emotions (I can't always control when and how they come up: I'm just not that healthy yet). I'm sick to my stomach. I really just want to tell her to not come. But I know I've taken it this far, I need to stand my ground. I can't allow her to make me the "bad guy" by just cancelling when she's the one pulling all kinds of sneaky tricks. I can't allow her to bully me into getting her way or forcing me to wear the mantle of "bad kid" for not letting her come. I won't give her that satisfaction. I wasn't being a bad kid. I had told her she could come. I just had limited the time....actually, I was just forcing her to stick to the original agreement and not change unilaterally. I was holding her to her word that I was able to do what was best for me, able to "be honest" and that she wouldn't mind.
And during the whole thing, I was a little bit shell shocked. It seemed such a REALLY STUPID THING. It's one day. And I'm sure that was her thought, "it's one day", why won't she let me come? But the thing is, it's ALWAYS one extra day. Or one more text. It's a slippery slope of her pushing her way without ever being concerned about how it effects me. She ALWAYS has to create drama. She always offers up things that she has no intention of honoring. I felt like I was up against such an insurmountable thing. But it was all about something so simple. I couldn't quite put my finger on what was going on, why I was so upset THIS time. Why was I so upset over telling my mother NO?
I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I tried to remember that no was a complete sentence and I had a right to say no. But I couldn't shake what was really bothering me about it. I spent lots of time discussing it with DH and Kara (Thank God for them. They were a life line. And as a side note, I think, after this, DH finally "got it" fully. He finally got why I was taking a stand over something that seemed so little. He finally got fully on board with what I was trying to do. He could see the patterns and what was going on. He supported me fully. It was awesome and has really moved our relationship to a different place.) I finally stumbled upon it. NM (and my father) raised me to always say yes to any request from a parent. Always. To not do so was disrespectful. But more than that, for NM, to say no meant that I didn't love her. Let me back up. For NM, I've been taught to believe that if I really "loved her" I would do whatever she wanted. Always agreeing with her, putting her first, doing what she wanted meant I loved her. I "proved" my love by being compliant, always thinking about her and adoring her. So, to say no, in her warped little brain, means I don't love her. And here's the catch: I don't like to hurt people. I don't like to be disrespectful. I would never tell her directly that I don't love her. Because, partially, it's not the truth. I will always have a love for her. And she used that love, that desire to please her, to manipulate me. She had me convinced that saying no was the same as saying I didn't love her. I'm guessing this sounds confusing. And really, it is. I couldn't believe that I hadn't seen her messed up logic before. It was the only reason I could think of as to why I felt so guilty for saying no. Why I couldn't do it. Why it made me sick. It was just no. It shouldn't be so hard.
And then my thinking went a little further. When I said no, and told her I didn't "love her", she then would label me a bad daughter. I've always been a bad daughter if I didn't go along with whatever she wanted me to do. I remember when my parents divorced and I desperately tried to explain that I was depressed and upset. She wouldn't allow it. She said that I couldn't be sad because divorcing my father (and marrying her affair partner) made her happy. And it was "finally time for it to be about me. I deserve to be happy." And my sorrow infringed on her happiness. So, if I wanted her to be happy, I'd suck down my emotions and let her be happy. I look back and wonder why I had to pay the price for her happiness. Why should couldn't see ANY kid would be unhappy in that situation. Why she couldn't be a fucking adult and allow me my feelings, while still doing what she felt was best. I wasn't telling her to stay with my dad, I was simply begging to express my feeling about it.
And messages like that came over and over. I was a bad daughter for not giving her every damn thing she wanted whenever she wanted it. I didn't love her if I said no.
And here's the break through: I AM NOT A FUCKING BAD DAUGHTER. I am a good daughter. I always have been. Me saying no has no bearing on whether I'm a bad daughter or not. I had to quite letting her decide what the definition of good daughter was. I could easily list all of the wonderful things I do for her, but I know I don't need to here. I've proven my love to her over and over and over. And if she can't see that, that's her issue, not mine. Being loving does not mean obedience. I've welcomed her into my home, I've allowed her into my life, I've bought her thoughtful and sentimental gifts (that she's rejected), I've allowed her into some of the most precious times in my life and tried to include her. I've been thoughtful and kind and considerate of her to the best I can. She is using one of the most wonderful things about me, being considerate and loving towards her, to manipulate and hurt me and control me. Just because I won't drop everything and put her first constantly does not make me a bad daughter. It makes me a grown up.
It seems so simple, really. I assume other grown ups don't think like this. I assume that other, healthier individuals, have never had to rework this "mal-ware" installed in their brain. It's been like I've awakened from a spell. Like I've suddenly woken up to reality. She doesn't have that control over me any more. I don't have to be her puppet to prove my love for her. I finally could breathe again.
So, in the end, she decided to come anyway. Shocker. I told her that it (still) would have to be Saturday through Monday. She said that she had already decided that (see how she maintains her delusion of control?) She said she had a hair appointment on Tuesday he had to get back for. It occurred to me how much she had lined out before she "checked" with me if it was OK. She had always planned on staying until Tuesday. She had had to arrange it ahead of time with her (controlling, she says) boss. She completely ignored my repeated boundary of Monday and had planned on doing whatever she wanted anyway. And she thought she'd just "slip" it in at the bottom of a long email, hoping I wouldn't notice. She's sneaky and deceptive, and I'm sick of it.
She tried to create more drama by demanding to know how I felt on Wednesday. I got three emails. I'm not sure WHY we needed to decide three days in advance. Actually, I do know why. She had to have control. Stir drama. And get me to commit so she could dance around hemming and hawing again. I almost, almost, cancelled. I didn't know if I could handle it. But I didn't want her looming over my head any more bugging me to visit.
I thought I'd get out of her coming when on Friday a family emergency came up and she had to drive a long way (remember, she's old and too "old" to drive to far in back to back days). She was still drama-mongering, saying she wouldn't decide until Friday night or Saturday morning if she was coming. I reminded her that our first snow storm of the year was going to hit (remember she's always worried about "the roads" and uses that to pin down several "options" for herself). She said on Friday, at 10 p.m. that she was still coming. Awesome.
The next morning, around 7:30, the texts started coming in. The kids were sleeping in and so was I. Then the phone call came. I finally looked at her texts. I had a rare twist of luck and she had decided not to come after all due to the impending storm. Hallelujah, it was a miracle!
I wish I could say that stopped the texts. It didn't. I got a ton more over the weekend. How sad she was. How bummed she was. I had a momentary lapse of guilt. That somehow, I should've let her come. But then, she sent me a "selfie" she took of herself. The woman is 60, but she's laying in the leaves (after she saw a bunch of fall photos I had taken), pursing her lips, and taking selfies (I don't even like that word, let alone the posing and arrogance that seem to go along with them.) The guilt dissipated and all I could breathe was a sigh of relief.
I know she'll start in again soon. She's already asking me to let her know if I have a free weekend coming up. I'm ignoring it for now. I need a break. Time to regroup. It's been a long couple of weeks and a huge amount of growth.
(And to be fair, I'm still feeling shaky and not always as strong as I want to be in this. But I hope this is a huge positive step.) Thanks for reading all, if you are still with me.