Releasing the past in order to find myself

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Rain (King)

Heard this song today.  It rang true to me somehow.

When I think of heaven 
(Deliver me in a black-winged bird) 
I think of flying down into a sea of 
pens and feathers and all other 
instruments of faith and sex and God 
in the belly of a black-winged bird 
Don't try to feed me 
I've been here before and I deserve a little more 

I belong in the service of the Queen 
I belong anywhere but in between 
She's been crying, I've been thinking 
And I am the Rain King 

I said mama, mama, mama 
Why am I so alone? 
I can't go outside 
I'm scared I might not make it home 
I'm alive, but I'm sinking in 
If there's anyone home at your place 
Why don't you invite me in? 
Don't try to bleed me 
I've been there before and I deserve a little more 

I belong in the service of the Queen 
I belong anywhere but in between 
She's been lying 
I've been sinking 
And I am the Rain King 

Hey, I only want the same as anyone 
Henderson is waiting for the sun 
Oh, it seems night endlessly begins and ends 
After all the dreaming I come home again 

When I think of heaven 
(Deliver me in a black-winged bird) 
I think of dying 
Lay me down in a field of flame and heather 
Render up my body into the burning heart of God in 
The belly of a black-winged bird 
Don't try to bleed me 
I've been here before and I deserve a little more 

I belong in the service of the Queen 
I belong anywhere but in between 
She's been dying 
I been drinking and I am the Rain King
"Rain King" as written by Adam/bryson Duritz

Friday, June 29, 2012

Monsters Under the Bed

Someone (please forgive me for not remembering who) suggested that Narcs are like monsters under the bed, laying in wait.  This image led me to a crazy train of thought.  Few people I know would describe NMIL as a monster.  Some would describe NM and NSis that way, but they are a little more "out in the open".    And my stories are not as horrible (little physical violence, no real screaming fits, little to actually be "fearful" of) and so I often wondered if I was actually just imagining my monsters.
But I think that is one of the things I've found the most confusing about all of this.  I am more certain than ever that these women in my life are narcissistic, toxic, and at minimum, difficult.  But they are not "monsters" as others would describe them.  How could I reconcile this?

I used to teach preschool.  We had a discussion about strangers with the kids.  We had them describe bad guys.  Of course they used words like "ugly" "mean" "wearing black" and other typical "bad guy" terminology.  But that was actually scary.  Because the bad guys that could harm them probably wouldn't look like the bad guy lurking in the shadows at all.  He wouldn't be some shady figure hiding in the corner.  Because, really, what kid would go near that?  And then how would he get to them?  No, bad guys are your neighbors, and friend's of your parents, your teachers, the football coach.  Bad guys have shiny trinkets to lure you.  Bad guys seem like nice guys.

And when you look at "grown up" bad guys, most of them aren't wearing horns either.  Of course, we have masked robbers and the creepy dude on the street corner.  But the real bad guys are better at hiding themselves.  They look like your friends, and neighbors, and relatives.  They are financial advisors, and friends, and coaches, and the nice guy down the street who you discover is a serial killer but you never knew because "he seemed like a nice guy.  Kept to himself.  Mowed his lawn.  Always had a treat for my dog."

Bad guys can't be bad guys by advertising it.  Lions don't sit in the open waiting for prey to walk by.  If we all saw it coming, we'd all run for the hills.  Bad guys look like good guys.

Post Note:  I've found so many words that describe narcissism sound very violent.  For example, "narcissistic rage".  Although, it's clear to me that many, many people suffered violent retribution, for me that wasn't really true.  My narcissists "rage" is very covert, sneaky, and passive aggressive.  Do any of you have examples of narcissistic rage that is really about anger but is hidden because it is not out and out violence?

Temporary Post: Need Advice from Blogger Friends

**Note, I've realized I left some names and will have to change them, so this post is being updated.  Also, I should've mentioned that this is a typical email.  I get them several times a week, and almost all emails contain something of this kind.

I am copying and pasting the email I received just minutes ago as I wrote my last post.  It will be up temporarily, as it is an exact copy and I fear that if I leave it up for too long, I will get discovered.  But I look forward to comments from my blogger friends before I take it back down.

This FB message was sent to me by NM:
(and this is it in it's entirety)


What the hell do I respond to THIS?

Epiphanies and Cowards

After a discussion today with another blogger about how a narcissist likes to display herself to the world I got to thinking about my NMIL.  I had discussed how, particularily as of late, she has been dressing way beneath her years.  Not just trying to be young.  But wearing things outfits more appropriate (if even then) for a teenager.  Exposing herself and dressing up in a way to gain attention.  Again, much like a teenager, strutting and preening to gain some desperately needed attention.  That I've seen her try on so many identities like a preschooler in the dress up clothes bin.
And as I did the dishes tonight I thought, how very, very sad for her.  How sad she is and how sad of a person she is.  And how I really ought to feel sorry for her.  But I don't.  And I've never been able to figure out why.  In describing her behavior to my mother once (yes, my own NM, oh the irony) she said "well, she really does sound like she has low self-esteem.  It's very sad."  I thought, well, yeah, it is.  But, why the hell don't I care.  I mean, I'm usually very compassionate for people like this.  I'm a champion of the down-trodden.  And I could see that so many of her behaviors stem from this sad, little place in her.  And for some reason that she is hurt.  And, in other situations, I would have compassion.  I would extend a little for someone like this, cut them some slack.  I mean, to use a completely simplistic example, when my kids are sick, they are not always pleasant to me.  They've raged and yelled and cried and become angry with me.  But I cut them some slack because they are sick.  Why couldn't I do this for MIL?  And then came the epiphany.  Because when my kids are sick, they are not 'attacking' out of a desire to hurt me.  They are like a wounded animal who swipes at you.  They aren't trying to hurt you but protect themselves.  NMIL is trying to protect herself, but she's also trying to hurt me.  The difference is that she believes that because she is hurting, so should everyone else.  I had a flashback to when NM was going through the worst of my Nsis's craziness.  I can vividly remember her crying to me "Why do I have to go through this all alone?!  It's not fair!  If I have to go through this, you and your Dad should have to too!!".  And that's the crux.  It's not bad enough that they are down in the hole.  They are bound and determined to pull you kicking and screaming into the hole too (as any good mother would).  They are going to be miserable, refuse to help themselves, and YOU are expected to keep them company.  If they feel rejected, you are going to feel it too.  If they feel slighted, they'll make you feel slighted.  An eye for an eye.  And that's what makes me so damned angry.  First and foremost, I didn't cause the harm in the first place.  I didn't have a damned thing to do with the hurt and anger and rage they are feeling.  So, for them to direct their "retaliation" back at me pisses me off.  Especially because their is nothing I can do to make that hurt better.  BECAUSE I DIDN'T CAUSE IT.  And secondly, I'm pissed off that they are such cowards that they can't direct their anger where it should be.  NM is so anger and vengeful and resentful against her parents.  She had a right to be.  But she's never said a word.  She's just gone about being the dutiful daughter.  And then playing the martyr for "all that she does" for such "horrible" people, but turns around and makes me pay for it.   I really don't know what NMIL is so pissed off about, as I actually know very little (as does husband) about what her childhood was like (weird, huh?)  Her parents seem like nice enough people, but we all know that "nice" people can be anything but.  And there is enough evidence for me to assume that something happened to turn her into this cold, childish, control freak who is hell bent on making me suffer too.
Well, fuck them.  I'm not your whipping boy anymore.  And I don't feel sorry for you because you are COWARDS.

Choosing An Identity

This topic had been on my "list of things to write about" for awhile now, but this morning I saw something on Jonsi's blog about why she choose her name and I felt compelled to do the Post now.  Thanks Jonsi for the inspiration!
Choosing my "pen name"  for this Blog was surprisingly emotional for me.  It took me days.  I struggled with the courage to even do it.  It was like the first step in this process and it scared the crap out of me.  I can remember shaking as I punched things into Google, looking for the right name.  I somehow knew that once I made that choice I would be committed.  Something in me would be reborn.  I can only imagine how many other people would find this truely ridiculous.  But for me, it was about finding my identity.

I wanted a name that describe what I was trying to accomplish.  When I came across the name Sheridan, I found that it meant "seeker".  I had been seeking the truth, seeking me, seeking a way out of this hell hole, so this seemed perfect.  (Side note, as I google it today, I find it means "life long treasure".  Hmm. Interesting).  Jesse (I changed it to the -ie) meant gift, offering to God, and one who is.  Perfect.  This blog was my prayer to God, my offering for change, and my attempt to just be.  I liked how the two names sounded together, as it implied a bit of the location that I'm in (my identity does have lots of influence from where I'm from).  I also liked that it sounded a bit like an outlaw.  Some gunslinger from the West.  I felt like an outlaw.  But one of those who steals from the rich and gives to the poor.

And just a random thought on the issue of names.  I spent a lot of time finding the perfect names for my sons.  I wanted them to have names with limitless possibilites.  It was important to me that they have names which grounded them in a sense of family, provided them a foundation (we gave them each a family members name whom we loved), but also a name that would allow them to be whomever they chose to be.  A name that sounded good on a toddler but wouldn't embarrass a grown man.  A name that could be for a lawyer or an artist.  A name unique enough to not be "one of the herd" but not so crazy that they stood out like a freak.  Of course, NM suggested variants of her name if the babies had been girls.  I thought, how weird.  I NEVER would've suggested or implied that someone name a baby after me.  Besides the obvious that I didn't like her name, nor did she deserve this honor, but that she would even have the arrogance to suggest it blew me away.  NMIL had the middle name of my first born son all picked out already.  It was a "tradition" and it never occured to her that we wouldn't use it.  I remember her telling us that she had paperwork for us to give the baby on why we gave it this "tradtional" name.  I remember being blown away that she would just make this assumption.  This story is such a hallmark of my NMIL.  Most of the time, it NEVER OCCURS to her that someone would have other ideas, thoughts, or opinions.  I think having so many sons, she just herded them around and they followed her like mindless robots.  She just the expectation that everyone will fall in line.  Maybe that's why she's not more underhanded.  She's never really had to use such tactics to keep the troops in line.  They've been so brainwashed, they do it naturally.  Until now.

Anyway, sorry for my rambling.  I tend to get off track.  But back to the thoughts on identity.  I don't remember my parents allowing me hardly any opportunity to develop one as a kid.  Maybe not that they didn't allow it, but they certainly didn't encourage it.    Like NMIL, I don't think it occurred to them to cultivate my own personal sense of identity.  I just was to be what they had been.  This was how it was, how it'd always been, and how it would always be.  Little clones producing more little clones.  It's not that they stifled my "other" interests.  They just didn't acknowledge them.  They went through the motions, but never encouraged them.  They didn't really pay any attention to them at all, beside the obligatory parental requirements.

My family did have labels for me.  I was "smart".  I was thinking the other day that this was one of the positive things I took from my childhood.  At least I knew I was smart.  I had the achievement tests to prove it.  But as I really thought about how my parents viewed my intelligence, it was never as a credit to my character.  First and foremost, my intelligence shackled me to expectations of perfection.  I was not allowed to get anything but As.  I was better than that.  I didn't matter that I really did struggle in some subjects.  I was too intelligent for that (and not that they helped me, or asked about school, or knew what in the hell I was doing beyond the end result).  I could bring home straight As forever, but man, that one B...well, that would be the end of the world.  Dad also used to say that I was book smart, but naive.  "Some of the people who are the smartest with books, are the dumbest in the real world."  While this may be true, he always used it to take me down a peg.  My mother was jealous of my intelligence.  She still is.  My intelligence was a direct insult to her.  As if I did it to her on purpose.  She liked to throw it in my face that I somehow had something she didn't and I should feel sorry for her for it.  Still to this day, she likes to "correct" me (although she's usually wrong) and when backed into a corner, she'll pull the whole "you're calling me stupid" card out. I don't remember ever being told I was pretty.  I did get compliments for my outfits (usually one that NM picked out or if my hair looked nice.  But I always got the distinct impression that I was not the pretty sister. Good behavior, good grades, basically anything beyond perfection were critized and judged.  However, when I attained these goals, they were treated as if I'd just done what any kid would be expected to do.  My opinion was rarely asked, by parents never knew what I thought, and I get the distinct impression that I annoyed them more than anything.

Today, I'm often labeled my family as controlling, anxious, oversensitive (I got this ALL the time as a kid too.  I was not allowed to be upset about anything), inflexiable, anal, a worry wort, and compulsive.  They see me as an organizational freak who must control everything and won't allow any dissension (projecting much?).  I am the "bad" family member.  They one who isn't there enough, doesn't call enough, doesn't do enough.  The laughable part is that I AM that family member.  I always call, check in, send cards, remember birthdays, acknowledge accomplishments, put thought into gifts, send thank you cards.  I get the distinct feeling that with them, I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't.  My dad likes to see my efforts at being a good hostess (providing dinner at a good time, showing were things are, providing entertainment) as controlling.  I'm anal if I announce that we should head to dinner by a particular time.  I'm anal because I planned the friggin meals (someone has to buy all the groceries for 10 people, so yeah, I had to plan it.)  Here I think I'm being thoughtful and making things easy, but no, I'm anal and a control freak.  Any advice that I won't take is because I'm a control freak.  NM's husband loves to point out that he thinks I'm a compulsively anal control freak.  If I state that my son likes something a certain way, he'll say "I wonder who he gets THAT from".

My in-laws also have labels for me.  I'm rigid, inflexible, organized (this is one they actually admire, except when it puts them at a disadvantage or makes them feel jealous), stuck-up, snobby, and just plain odd.  They have no idea who the real me is, other than what they've decided me to be.  They very rarely ask my opinion, unless they already know it will be similar to theirs.  They fully ignore any topics in which I'd have a differing thought.  In the early days, anything I brought up about myself was turned back to them.  I'd tell NMIL that I had danced as a kid.  "OH, you did.  Well (DH) won a dance contest once!"  And then on and on about the dance contest...once...that she didn't even go to.  And for the record, husband is a good dancer, but not a dance contest winner.  I used to write and was in speech, well hubby was a speaker at a state contest.  I used to think she was just trying to connect.  Now, I think she had to one-up me.  The things she does take an interest in, she covets.  I like to wrap Christmas gifts.  I like to take a glass of wine, watch a Christmas movie, and layer ribbons, wrapping, etc.  I find it relaxing (I'm fully aware most people don't).  Kind of like arts and crafts.  NMIL's packages always looked like they'd been through the garbage disposal.  But what do you know, now she spends all this time on her gifts.  They still look like they've been through the garbage disposal, but it looks like she did it on purpose.  Anything that I do well, she has to do to.  If I have a nice pair of earrings, she exclaims that she wants them too.  She's always asking where I bought stuff.  I know, imitation is the greatest form of flattery.  Except when you feel like someone's trying to steal any sense of identity away.  And if she can't compete directly, she just figures out a way to minimize what  I do.  She can't ever just thank me for the damn Christmas card.  She has to comment on how she simply just didn't have time (the woman who is retired, has no kids at home, no hobbies, didn't have time.)  My favorite was when she heard through friends that I make a good lasagna.  So, I made it for her once.  I thought I was being NICE.  Her comment: "Well, you make a good lasagna...BUT I MAKE REALLY GOOD SPAGHETTI".  WTF is that?  I'm still trying to explain to husband why this comment irritated me so bad, and continues to irritate me.  Needless to say, I haven't cooked for her since.
But I think the worse for me with the in-laws (and my family in general) that they don't know me at all.  With the in-laws I feel like a bunch of "tags" (I think Jonsi referred to it this way).  Mom of their grandkids, wife of their son.  I'm a label.  I fill the slot (not that I fill it well, and in fact, I often feel like the round peg in the square hole).  Anything that they don't like about me, they simply ignore.  I'm a 2-dimensional character that they don't give a crap to really know.  I am not appreciated, loved, or accepted for me.  My family doesn't know who the hell I am.  Again, labels, projections, images in their head, is all I am.  I can't be me, I can't share me, because they'll use it against me.  Use it to hurt me.  Use it to further their own little agendas.

So, I'm searching.  Who the fuck am I?  What is my identity?  What can I live with in myself?  It's weird to be 30-something and finally trying to decide what I am.  To quit being the labels and just be human.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


It surprises me that I can think of so few memories of my childhood (pre-divorce) with my parents.  I have a great memory.  I can recall in vivid detail some memories of my life.  I can recall with great clarity staring at the yellow school buses in the dark, mangled by rain in my vision as Mom told me my Dad was moving out.  I remember my(now) husband sitting on the steps of his house, in my rearview mirror, as I drove away when he would be moving the next day.  I can remember, vividly, my desire to be an OB.  And I remember vividly my realization that it meant I also must be a GYN (and what the hell a GYN actually did).  I remember outings and vacations, but the pop into my memory in images of the photo albums that I have.  I don't have the actual memory, just the image I've memorized from the album.  Sure looks like we had fun.

But I don't remember a lot of things with my NM.  I remember she cleaned alot.  And mowed the lawn.  And had a lot of things to get done.  I always liked it when she spent the afternoon cleaning and cooking a nice meal and offered us warm chocolate chip cookies.  It was such a treat and I remember feeling so cared for.  I remember her being brisk, and cold, and distant.  I remember her putting me in charge a lot.

I remember that she picked out my clothes a lot.  That I didn't have a lot of choice about personal style.  She decided that for me.  In fact, sis and I were often part of a coordinated set.  I don't remember her taking any real interest in me.  I don't remember her asking me how my day at school was.  I don't remember her ever taken my part with a teacher, or going to school to defend me, or even being really interested at all.  As long as I excelled, behaved well, caused no problems, it was all good.  She didn't bring me flowers to my school players.  She often expressed that it was difficult to get time off of work.  I remember one time fighting over a part in the school play with my teacher.  The teacher had been nagged by another parent to split the part-there were four performances-because she felt her daughter should've gotten the part (you know, give another kid a chance to be the lead).  I remember arguing with my teacher that this wasn't fair.  Not because it wasn't fair to yank the part from me after I'd had it for weeks, but because my mom didn't know what show she could attend and I wanted her to see me perform.  And I was 11.

I remember that mom always ticked the boxes of being a good mom (again, credit to Kara "The North Wind).  Buy nice school clothes, tick.  Enroll in dance lessons, tick.  Attend parent teacher confrences, tick.  But she never seemed interested.  I don't remember a lot of love, or affection, or consideration for me.  I wondered for a long time if this behavior from her started only as I reached adulthood.  But I can see so many mini-signs as I grew up.  We went on vacations, we rode bikes together, we went shopping (mainly I watched her shop).  But we didn't have a relationship.  We didn't have a connection, at all.  She didn't really know me then, and she sure as hell doesn't know me now.  And in fact, I don't think it would've even accord to her to think about me as an individual.  I was just a kid, what did I know.

I do remember that she favored my sister.  Always.  She let her get away with murder and she expected me to do the same.  She made me her "littler helper."  I was her assistant, and that made me feel important.  But I often felt more like a pet than a human being.  I remember her braiding my hair into tight braids because that was what was easiest for her.   I remember her picking out every outfit I had for a special occasion, with out me.  I remember always feeling that I needed to be with my family.  I always felt, even at 8,9, 10 that going out with friends, was somehow a betrayal.  I remember she never helped me with my homework or inquired about what I needed.  All so distant.

I remember one time in the summer (Sis and I spent summers pretty much locked in our house.  We weren't allowed to go outside because it scared NM who was at work.)  I babysat, cleaned, did chores, and sat around.  I had started to start suppers for her before she came home.  She would call on the phone and give me the instructions on what to do.  Brown the hamburger.  Boil noodles.  Pretty soon I became adept and could cook whole meals.  I noticed that her kitchen was a bit disorganized and disheveled.  Not horrible so.  So, I thought, in my little innocent mind, that I would clean an organize her cupboards.  I didn't rearrange things terrible.  I didn't overhaul the whole thing.  But I wiped the drawers and the cupboards.  Lined up the spices.  Put like things with like and moved a few things to where they would be easier to access.  NM flew into a rage.  Not at me directly.  She screamed at my Dad about what a horrible person I was.  How dare I arrange HER kitchen?  I had screwed up all of HER things.  Where did I get off thinking I needed to do that?  Yup, that was mom.  No good deed went unpunished.

Who's your Narc?

Blogger, Kara (of The North Wind), and I had been discussing how once we "discovered" narcissism, narcs started coming out of the woodwork.  For the newbies here, I have a NMom, NSis, NMIL, and (I believe also) a Nstep-mom (more on her soon).  I also believe that several of my husbands siblings and my dad display narcissistic traits.  And I know my grandmother was a narcissist.  I thought it was so crazy.  That I was crazy.  Seeing narcissists like monsters under my bed.
As I've recently wrote, I've been having some bad days lately, and bad days for me lead to no sleep.  So, I've been up watching TV.  Mainly sitcoms.  I've always had this soft spot for sitcoms since I was a little girl. I always had visions of being a part of the families on the shows:  The Cosby Show, Family Ties, even the frickin' Golden Girls.  I guess even as a little girl, I always knew something was missing and I wanted to be part of a more supportive, loving family.  Not that I wanted the perfect little, wrapped in a bow family that TV created, but I wanted to feel loved and supported and like I belonged like I felt those characters must have felt.
Anyway, back to my point.  I was shocked at how many Ns I suddenly found.  How many Ns were broadcast into my life and almost treated as normal.  How many Ns were just the kooky, self-absorbed friend, who everyone loved anyway.  Or the MIL, who everyone tolerated.  You know the show.  Self-absorbed, meddling MIL (everyone has one right?), Golden Child Son married to the DIL that MIL loves to hate.  Scapegoat son.  Moronic, enabling Father who hates her but tolerates her because she cooks a mean lasagna.   This show always made me laugh.  I used to point to it to husband to make points about his mom, long before I really believed I had any valid points.  But I watched it with new eyes the other day.  Why the hell did they put up with her?  Why is she in someway cast in a positive light?  Does using her in this way somehow normalize what she does.  The lady is mean if you really dissect it.  She's horrible to the SG son and the DIL.  She degrades, minimizes, and devalues them.  She makes everything about herself.  And we, as the audience, find it amusing.  Their pain is minimized and used as a punchline.  And I wondered if this  use of narcissistic in this way somehow normalizes it, minimizes it, makes it OK, because really, lots of us know people like this.  If we didn't, this show wouldn't have found an audience like it did.

So, anyway, that got me thinking.  And I googled other characters in media that are narcissists.  The obvious came up: the Godfather, Tony Soprano, the nasty boss lady that is the head of the company, the mean girl.   All the people I would've easily identified as narcissistic before I really learned what it was.  But something else kept coming up.  The "Narcissism Epidemic".  How social media is turning us all into little "narcissists" reporting on our "statuses" and counting our "friends" to see how important we are (which I find amusing because I'm very rigid about my "friends".  I actually find it better to have fewer, closer friends than to tally up near strangers and share my personal details about my life).  How certain "social media sites" are narcissistic playgrounds.  It was all very interesting.  How the rise of reality stars and 15 minutes of fame has turned a generation into fame whores who think being famous is better than being a good person.

I also came across information about how parents today have spent so much time telling their children how "special" and "unique" they are, praising their every little accomplishment has created children who are have heads the sizes of watermelons.  I know why we did it.  Society spent so much time ostrasizing and, in some cases killing off, any one who was different or "special" that we were horrified and tried to make it all OK.  So, by going in the exact opposite direction are we then creating a bunch of little narcissists who don't worry about the similarities between himself and the person next to him, and only strive to be different (read: better)?  And this line of thinking brought me back to my earlier post about my kids.  I think that was my real point with my bad day.  Where is the line between keeping your kid from making your kid feel SO important, he looses site of all those around him and giving him self confidence and a healthy identity in himself?  

I don't really know where I'm going with this post.  I don't really have a point, or an opinion.  I guess I just wanted to start a dialogue.  Has narcissism become more "mainstream" and acceptable?  Is "getting yours" really where we are headed?  Is it considered OK in society to trample over others to stand out, be important, or feel valued?  Is it OK to use other people's private lives to advance your own (posting pictures of others, making fun of others, laughing at and staring at the crazy reality stars)?  I guess as I started to see narcissism everywhere, it scared the crap out of me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Horrible Days and Being a Good Parent

It has been a tough few days for me.  I am feeling so overwhelmed, anxious, lonely and sad.  I am angry and don't know how to direct my anger.  I know that my little hiatus from my in-laws and NM is shortly coming to an end.  I don't feel strong enough to deal with them.  I really just want to sleep, and stare at the sunset with a glass of wine, and hide away.
But I can't, because I'm a mom.  It's been a rough couple days with my kiddos too.  They've been sick, not slept well, and have been cranky.  My youngest is teething.  My oldest is testing all my limits at an attempt at independence.  All of these things would be difficult for the most healthy of parents.
But as an ACON, I struggle with parenting.  I struggle to find that balance.  I don't even really know what 'good parenting' looks like.  Where to draw the boundaries between myself and my kids.  I have good 'parenting strategies'.  I've read lots of books.  I've been a teacher.  But on the days that I'm just at my limit, I struggle.  I struggle with the choices I make (or don't make).  I struggle with the line between being an involved parent and protecting them too much.  I struggle with finding the time for myself and not feeling like I'm abandoning them and making it all about me.  My 3 year old is really struggling with respect.  He has been pushing every button: name calling, spitting, hitting, tantrums, defiance.  I struggle to teach him respect for me and for our home.  How do I do this without demanding it "because I'm his mom"?  Even explaining the concept of respect is hard.  I don't want him to do things because I tell him to...but sometimes (like not running in the parking lot) he does need to follow my instructions immediately.  He's really been pushing and doing things that are dangerous.  And in the moment, it's hard to not just yell "because I said so" when I'm terrified for him (or the cat, or his brother).  I want him to respect me as the parent in this home, but I don't want to crush his spirit and be some dictator.  But I do need to be in charge.  It's all just so confusing and gut wrenching and tear producing.  It's all so extremely difficult.

Email Games with NM

So, not fully on purpose, I've been really distancing myself from my NM on the phone.  Luckily, I've had a lot of "excuses" to keep me from fully sending up her radar.  But I know it's wearing thin.  I can only imagine what is going on in her little head, and I'm trying my damnedest to not think about it.  I've only really talked to her four or five times since February, which has been such a nice, centering break.  Her calls always break me down, always go on forever, are depressing, and impossible to get off of.  She always has one more thing to say.......and on and on and on.
Anyway, I've been sending token email messages to maintain my front.  Not because I'm trying to be deceptive.  Mainly because I just don't have the energy or the strength to deal with her anger.  So, I've been throwing out little lifelines in order to protect myself (and my cover).
Yesterday, I sent her an email starting with some general pleasantries, explained that me and the kids, and now husband, have had ANOTHER horrendous cold (which is true), I've been behind on the housework/chores and so between resting and taking care of everyone I've been trying to catch up on stuff.  Finished it up with a few remarks about her upcoming trip to see my sister (as she has been laying that out there.).  Short and (sort of) sweet.
Last night, I received three separate messages (full of her damned '...'s -ellipses I now know- over 75 when I quit counting).  The majority of the messages described how sick everyone she knows is.  So and so called 911, so and so called in sick, I can't walk to my car without struggling to breathe.  One tiny sentence about me and my family being sick.  Then, a lot of details about her upcoming trip.  Many of the details she's related to me several times already.  A bit about NSister being glad Estep-dad is coming.  Well, of course she is.  EStep-dad diminishes her effect.  ESD requires a hotel.  ESD can take the brunt of her crap and anger.  I bet she was glad.
Today, I got a new email telling me she had time off next week and wanted to come down to "help me out".  WTF is that?  So, the only way to read my email is that I'm helpless and pathetic and she'll come down and help poor Jessie out?  Yeah, it's been a sucky couple of months, but I'm perfectly capable of helping myself. And note, she didn't ask HOW she could help me or if I needed anything, just offered to come and RESCUE ME.  Again, with extending "niceties" to look like the good mom, the good parent, and all the while, slinging insults at me under the table.  Plus, she uses it as an opportunity to strong arm me into seeing me.  I don't want to see her right now.  I actually have plans to head in her direction later the summer (to see my grandparents mainly) but like hell I would tell her that ahead of time.  So, she thinks this'll be the perfect opportunity to see us.  Maintain her little "six week" schedule.
The nice part of emails is that I can take a moment to collect myself.  At first, when I read the email, my stomach dropped.  I felt like a trapped animal, like I always do when NMIL or NM announce they are coming.  My fight-or-flight mechanism kicks in and I'm looking for a way out.  All adrenaline and panic. The guilt ran rampant and I felt an overwhelming need to answer immediately.  Offer up a negotiation.  But I didn't.  I went back to the email later and said "sorry it won't work out.  We won't be here."  Enough said.  Phew.  I don't feel strong, or confident, or really even good about the situation.  But I don't feel like a cornered animal.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blood is Thicker Than Water- Repost

I read this on Jonsi's blog "Open your eyes and see", who reposted it from Upsi's "You don't have to dance for them" and it is too powerful not to repost.  I hope they don't mind terribly.  What wonderful insight (and brilliance in research) on Upsi's part.  I never would've thought twice about this.

I've been researching the origins of the expression "blood is thicker than water" and it turns out it means exactly the opposite of what people use it for. People use it to mean family ties are the most important, but really the saying comes from the idea of a blood covenant - "blood of the covenant is thicker than water of the womb" - in other words, the bonds we make in faith are stronger than those of family.

The bonds we forge in choice, with all our hearts and all our faith, with those we make a promise to stand by and honor, are thicker than the water we're born in - stronger than the bonds with the family we're born into. Because we choose to make those covenants. What we choose for ourselves is stronger than what is chosen for us.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

NMIL Evens Things Out

I feel like I've written more lately about my NMIL than my NM, who is actually much more forthright in her narcissism.  I guess, the reality is, that it's much easier to see it coming with NM.  She doesn't hide it all very well, and she lacks a any subtlety  in the way she goes about it.  The result is that she is a very isolated, lonely person with no friends and little family support.  She is prickly and offensive and if she doesn't have far to stray to isolate herself from everyone.  It was easy to pin her as a NM, easy to see that she contributed immensely to our problems, easier for me not to completely blame myself.  NMIL is much more crafty.  She hides behind her "Christianity" and her kindness and her generosity and her selflessness.  She is tolerated by lots of people.  Often she is more than tolerated.  Many people say they enjoy her (even if she is controlling, loud, overbearing in their words).  Her sons adore her.  I couldn't not pin myself on why I couldn't get along with her.  I thought I just had a very conflicting personality with her.  I thought I was crazy.  Regardless, finally coming to grips with the fact that she has many narcissistic traits and, in my mind, is a full-blown narcissist has freed me.  But I've processed my thoughts on her for a much shorter time as I've only recently come to my conclusions on her.

Anyway, NMIL likes to even things out.  This is a trait she gets from her parents.  She believes all of her children should be equal.  Meaning they should have the same material possessions, experiences, and opportunities regardless of what the child actually contributes.  My husband and I work hard, budget a lot, sacrifice and save, plan, and make good decisions.  For this, we are punished.  We are expected to contribute more than our share to family functions.  We are expected to give more.  We are expected to be more supportive, thoughtful, generous to our siblings as we have been "given" more.  Now, I have NO problem being generous and helping out.  However, I hate being FORCED to be generous to people who make no sacrifices, spend willynilly, save nothing, spend on new cars and expensive things (on credit) and generally do everything they can to NOT further there own position.  My husband's siblings are reckless with money, impulsive, make poor choices and NMIL expects us to help bail them out.

A simple example of this happened after one of my husband's brothers got married.  That evening, me, husband, NMIL, EFIL, two brothers-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt and uncle-in-law, and husbands two cousins went to have a bite and a beer.  It was late.  Husband and I were actually going alone and everyone else invited themselves along.  We were not in an area suitable for children.  So, when we walked into the establishment we were told that the two cousins, who were under age, had to leave.  Again, husband and I were already going to this place, everyone else tagged alone (it had been a LONG weekend and we needed to unwind).  There were no other places besides bars to go.  But NMIL became upset.  Aunt and Uncle were upset.  Everyone complained.  I'm not sure what we were supposed to do, but I got the feeling that we were all supposed to leave.  At the time I didn't have children, but having them now, I know that if this had been the case with me, I would've left.  I wouldn't have expected everyone else to not have a beer at 9:30 at night because of my kids.  Anyway, the kids left but not their parents.  Husband split a sandwich with SIL. He also had one beer.  I had one glass of wine out of a bottle that my other BIL drinks the rest of.  Everyone else orders food and pitchers of beer.  Then the check arrives.  NMIL instantly exclaims that the aunt and uncle should not have to pay.  They were inconvenienced and their pitcher should be bought for them.  She then orders BIL (who drank a bottle of wine and food) to put his money away because he doesn't have any. Husband and I throw down more than enough (by a lot) to cover our half a sandwich, beer, and glass of wine) and a $20 tip (we worked in the service industry and never like to screw a waitress when there is a big party).  BIL and SIL barely cover there bill, no tip.  NMIL and EF barely cover their bill and leave a meager tip.  She forks over no money for the three people she claims shouldn't have to pay.  Of course, we come up short and there is no money for a tip.  NMIL and EF start complaining that they have paid more than enough all weekend and refuse to pay more.  Well, yes, they have paid for hotel rooms, food, the wedding, and a bunch of other stuff.  But not for hubby and I.  We paid our own gas, food, hotel, and all other expenditures.  Husband's brothers have mooched food, free hotels, clothing for the wedding and wine tour fees.  The BIL who got married expected his parents to pay for everything and maintained no budget.  I see why they were annoyed (and in fact, husband and I discussed that BIL was milking money for the wedding before the wedding with his parents).  What I don't see is why that was MY problem.  I don't see why NMILs eyes are boring holes into me and husband.  I don't understand why she expected us (and to be fair, BIL and SIL) to pick up the whole tab.   And she knows BIL and SIL won't pick up more than their share.  As a disclaimer, I have no problem with the money, it had nothing to do with the money.  I have no problem picking up a tab.  I just hate being forced to.  I hate paying a penalty because NMIL feels bad that we chose a place (the only place) that was inconvenient for aunt and uncle.  I don't see why we need to cover little BIL because he "has no money".  I didn't like that EF was complaining about all the money he spent, so NMIL felt guilty and was taking it out on us.  None of this is my problem.  And this wasn't the first (or last) time this has happened.  I just was so tired of being forced to cover for people who wouldn't do the same for me.  Tired of having my hard earned (and hard saved) dollars go to cover reckless people.  Husband and I stood our ground as we'd already payed more than our fair share over the weekend.  We had payed completely for ourselves (plus a lot of extras) but were being treated like moochers.  I was so angry.  Finally, EF states that he just won't tip the waitress since she wouldn't serve the kids.  "YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!"  I wanted to scream.  So, husband and I threw down $60 more, as I won't screw the poor waitress.  In the end, we pay $100 for a glass of wine, beer, and half a sandwich.   Oh, and all NMIL's guilt and feelings of fairness.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Narcs playing Nice

I think one of the hardest things to wrap my head around was the fact that the narc is not a horrible person ALL of the time.  When I tried to play out if my Mom and MIL were narcs, it was so hard because I could recall so many of the nice things they'd done for me.  Not every interaction with them was horrible.  Not every experience was bad, and in fact, I can recall a lot of good memories.  It was just that I couldn't shake the stressful feeling, the anxiety, I had before and after every interaction with them.  I couldn't pin point the source of that feeling, because nothing that horrible had happened.

I think it's easy to say that Narcs can be generous, sweet, thoughtful people with people outside their own family.  I think it goes without saying that the golden child will be treated well.  My mom and MIL both are viewed by a lot of people as great mothers and grandmothers, sisters, wives, and daughters.   My MIL actually has a lot of friends and has been defended to me by several.  They all see the generous, fun loving, person.  Of course they do.  If she was such a horrible person, it would be quite difficult to maintain her narc supply.  Being adored and thought highly of is important in maintaining their position.  If they were mean to everyone, verbally abused everyone all the time, showed their true selves to everyone, they'd be lonely old women.  Maintaining this image to the "public" also helps them justify to themselves that it is us not them.  If everyone else thinks they are wonderful, it is easy for them to rationalize that there is no need to change or alter their behavior.  The problems lay squarely on the backs of everyone else.

But if I thought they were these malignant people I thought they were, how could I explain their nice behavior towards me.  I think first and foremost, no one is all bad.  Few people are truly  completely horrible monsters.  And of course, if they were, people would avoid them like the plague.  I think a lot of their good deeds are manipulations to  maintain that contact with both their narc supply and their outlet for their anger.  They provide just enough love, warmth, family that it keeps me bound to them.  If they lost me (or in MIL's case, my husband and kids), they would loose that narc supply. A lot of it is just a survival mechanism for them.  However,  I think sometimes my mom really does want to do nice things for me.  I think she thinks of me.  I think she cares for me.  The problem is that she cares for me because it is important to HER.  Not because she just cares for me.  She will do really nice things for me but there will be always be a catch.  She does nice things and then expects a payback.  And if there is no payback, then she can play the victim or the martyr.  She does nice things in order to hold it over my head.  I don't think she sets out thinking "If I buy Jessie this scarf, she'll have to do something nice for me."  But I do think she does things in an effort to "bank" points in her column.  It gives her a way to rationalize what a great mom she is.  It gives her a way to rationalize what a horrible person I (or whomever else) am because we never do for her what she does for us.  She does nice things for my kids and husband to score points too.  She thinks that if she does things for us/gives us stuff we will want to be around her more.  She also uses nice behavior to counter act her bad behavior.  If she's given us stuff or done stuff, she feels entitled to excuse some of her abusive behavior.

My MIL also does nice stuff for us.  She has flat out admitted (while laughing) that she gives things to my kids to bribe them into liking her and wanting to be around her.  She holds out promises of presents to maintain a closeness with her grandkids.  She uses promises of trips and money and gifts to secure her place of importance in the family.  She gifts things that will make her look good (although a lot of the time the gifts are someone else's idea, but she takes the credit for being "thoughtful" and finding the perfect gift).  She offers up family vacations in order to strong arm us into spending time with her.  She used to buy my husband season tickets to a sporting event, all in order to guarantee we would spend all games with her (I might add that she never offered to gift me the second ticked.  I always had to pay for it).  She offers up favors as a way of wiggling her way into her kids lives.  She offers to babysit every chance she gets.  She offers to show up for things even when it inconveniences her or her husband, all in an attempt to stay "connected" with her kids.  She has a horrible fear that her sons will cut her out of her life (she has told this directly too me, on several occasions) and so she does anything she can to cement her relationships, even if it means one son has to sacrifice for the other.  She will never say no in an attempt to maintain her image of perfect, sacrificing mother.  There is very little real sincerity in it, however, and it's always done for image.  And while I don't think this is a personal attack on me (or whomever), you can't help feeling less than important when people do things for you because it benefits THEM.  It just all feels so manipulative and shady.  There is always a price for what she does too, commitment to her of your time, energy, love and devotion.  Again, I believe it's about racking up points.  As if the points will even out all the lack of real thought, effort, or real connection.   She also uses these opportunities of helping to gather information, which she then spews to whomever will listen in her "I worry so much about them" tone.  I can't count how many times she has offered to help my SIL and then told me how sad SIL is that she can't do whatever it is she did for her.  Or she takes their trust in her and their confiding in her and shares it in a way with me that suggests she sees them as not measuring up.

There were many things that made me see things differently.  It was such a process.  But the best indicator was that I never felt better or happier or connected or any other emotion associated with family that you are supposed to have after having interactions with these women.  I always felt drained and suspicious and on edge; I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I could never relax and be myself.  I always felt on guard.  I never felt noticed or seen.  I was always just a blank canvas they projected on or mirror they used to see the image of what they wanted themselves to be.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hope for the Best, but Have No Expectations

A friend of mine from high school was published in a national, high profile magazine.  He described in the essay a lifetime of homelessness, uncertainty, parental neglect, and instability.  My heart broke for the young him.  In comparison, my childhood seemed so much less horrible.  In one line he wrote of his father that he learned to hope for the best, but have no expectations.  And I realized, in some ways,  we were like two sides of the same coin.  We both had hope of something different, or normalcy, but really had no expectations that it would happen.
My sister missed my son's first birthday.  She didn't call, she didn't text.  She sent no email, no gifts, no cards.  She didn't acknowledge it at all.  This wasn't particularly surprising.  She has "missed" most of my children's (and my) big moments.  She often expresses how busy, broke, or preoccupied she is and that she will send something soon.  I think she's only sent gifts at Christmas or for birthdays about half the time (and almost always late). It's not the gift that I'm concerned about.  If she really was broke, I'd more than understand.  But during these times that she was too distressed to buy us gifts, I've listened to endless phone calls as she shops around for some random person in her life.  She stresses and over thinks and talks endlessly (as I was forced to listen to her shop on the phone) about what she should get her boss or current boyfriend or whomever (and always expensive gifts).  All the while, telling me that she couldn't get us anything.  And when she has acknowledged me or my kids, there are another million phone calls during which she complains endlessly that she can't find us anything.  Then the gifts arrive.  Too many gifts.  And then for a month afterward she complains about how she couldn't afford the gifts in the first place.  So, whether she gets us something or not, it is a pain in the ass.
Anyway, she completely ignored this milestone. (Not to mention my husband's birthday, which she never acknowledges).  All I wish is that she would call or text or just acknowledge that it happened.  She called about five days later.  I was too exhausted and sick (literally) to deal with it.  Today, she called twice.  I figured I couldn't put it off any longer and knew it would be a loose-loose situation for me.  I was ready for an assault.  I was ready for her to rage that I didn't understand how difficult her life was and how dare I expect her to acknowledge anything when things are so bad with her.  Or, she could have taken another tactic:  say she's so sorry, almost demand my forgiveness and understanding, and again complain that life is so difficult that she couldn't think of us.
What I didn't expect was for her not to say anything.  She didn't bring it up.  She didn't apologize, talk about it, or otherwise say anything.  She talked about moving in with her boyfriend, some random manager at her boyfriend's bar, her parking spot, and a million other trivial things.  She never mentioned it at all.  There were a couple lobbed remarks about what she was going through.  I finally tried to excuse myself from the conversation.  Her response was to finally ask "Are you OK?  Is everything alright with you?"  Not that she wanted the answer.  I brushed her off.  What would be the point in actually telling her? It would make no difference and only embroil me in argument I couldn't win.
But then the conversation changed.  She brought up my parents, the divorce, how moving in with her boyfriend was bring up a bunch of abandonment issues.  How freaked out she was.  And to be honest, I feel for her.  I know, only too personally, what our childhood did to us.  I offered some advice.  I suggested she find a therapist to help her express and validate her feelings.  I told her that if this boyfriend was as important as she claimed, she owed it to him to figure out was going on.  Will it help her?  Who knows?  It's such a difficult feeling.  I feel like she's drowning in the same sea that I'm attempting to escape.  How can I not throw her a lifeline?  If only I knew she actually wanted the lifeline and wasn't going to drag me rigth back in.  I do feel for her.  But it's depressing that she doesn't see that I'm struggling in the exact same ways.  I don't have anyone to call for the moral support she is so desperate to get from me.
I thought after the conversation that I'd be more upset and sad.  I really don't feel anything.  Not in a 'I've closed myself off from that and am choosing not to feel' way.  In fact, I gave myself permission to be mad, or sad, or angry.  But I just didn't feel that way.  I thought maybe I'm just hoping for the best, but expecting nothing.  But in the end, I don't even feel I have any hope left.  Our relationship is like a person I've been giving CPR to for our entire life.  I've been doing all the work for both of us.  Breathing in and out, giving and giving, taking nothing back, and hoping desperately for life to flow.  Maybe it's time I quit the CPR.  Maybe it's time I let it go.  Maybe it's time I realize I've done everything I can and I need to just walk away and let the paramedics take over.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Update on Mother-in-Law

So, I've done a ton of research in the past two months on Narcissism.  In a prior post, I wrote about my MIL, her horrible behavior towards me and how I was confused how it could seem so narcissistic, but not be.  Well, I've changed my mind, she is a narcissist too.  All that "generosity and caring" that I thought I saw, I know attribute to her attempts to control and retain attention from her kids.  Part of me felt "how can I have all these narcissists in my life?"  That didn't seem right.  But I've now learned how I've been primed to attract them.  How once you've been "trained" by a narcissist, others can smell it on you like a blood trail to a kill.
I came across an article about the 25 character traits of a narc.  As I read, I was floored.  My MIL ticked off so many boxes.  Almost as much as my mom.  I spent days writing out examples of how she fit the criteria.  And finally, with shaky hands I presented it to my husband.  I was so anxious, and I just knew he wouldn't believe me.  He'd think I was over analyzing.  Funny thing, though, he DID believe me.  He said he saw so much of it.  And while he didn't think she is as extreme or hurtful as my mother, he did acknowledge that she has caused a lot of problems with her behavior.  I felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders.  I finally didn't feel so alone.  I felt believed.  It was a new dawn for me.

I've written a lengthy blog about my MIL, her behaviors,  and I don't want to rehash old material.  But I need to rewrite about her through my new perspective.  With my new understanding, I need to see it in writing all the ways she has manipulated and tried to control us.

She is no boundaries.  None.  She does not know how to let her sons be grown adults.  She rushes in at the slightest invitation into her children's lives.  She listens as her son complains about my SIL.  She knows all about their marriage.  She sees nothing wrong with him confiding in her over my SIL.  In fact, she has expressed that confiding in her makes her sons "good sons" in her eyes.  She does not view us as individuals, but parts of a conglomerate of people.  One blob with ten heads.  She expects us all to do things the way they've always done things.  There is this unwritten set of ways-of-being in the world, that we are all supposed to be.  We are supposed to share the same opinions of things.  We are all supposed to have the same interests.   Everything is communal.  Nothing is separate and individual.  What one has, belongs to everyone.  Sounds like one big, close family, but in fact the "family" swallows everyone whole.  No one is allowed to have a relationship that is seperate.  She must be aware of, and in the middle of all relationships.  She does not encourage the brothers to spend time with each other with out her.  In fact, although she likes her "alone" time with everyone, she always manages to show up when we are doing something with a sibling.  Or, when she's been excluded, she pouts and says hurtful things (One night, when my BIL and SIL stayed up late at a hotel we all were at, drinking without her, she snapped "sounds like you guys were swingers!"  WTF?  What a crazy, sick, weird thing to say.  But it was clear she felt left out.)  She can not allow anyone time without her.  Once, when she was supposed to be showering, and my son was going for a walk with his grandpa, she threw on clothes and ran out to join them.  She eavesdrops, she gossips, she shares EXTREMELY private information about others (like in which manner my sister-in-laws pubic hair was shaved during childbirth....just ew).  I can not tell her anything, and in fact hubby and I've taken to keeping things from her because she shares information with others to get attention for herself.  To make her seem like the close, connected mother, or just to make herself look better.  She will physically put herself between me and someone I'm talking to to invade a conversation.  She butts into conversations that she is not a part of.   She feels it is her job to portion out food to the grandkids.  If she feels one needs more of something, she'll remove it from another child's plate.  Regardless, if the kid even asked for it.  And she never asks.  She calls in "sharing" but I think it is taking when you grab from someone without asking.  She does weird things to feel connected, like using my son's napkin to wipe her own greasy fingers, even though there were plenty of other napkins.  There is not a plate on the table that she doesn't feel the need to sample.  It kills her if you do not offer her a bite of something and she stares or hints until you give her some of whatever you have.  She walks in on people when they should expect privacy.  She has no problem walking around in her underwear and encourages other family members to do this to.  She even bought me a little nighty to wear at her house, because I always wore sweats when I got up in the morning (she thought I slept like this, but I feel you should cover up somewhat.)
She turns everything back to herself.  Most compliments are framed in away to refer to herself or her family. When I first met her she would turn every topic back.  "OH, you are a dancer?  Well, (hubby) won a dance contest once."  ONCE.  And then I had to hear about the one time he danced over and over.  I've heard every family story repeatedly.  And despite 15 years with hubby, she still tells me stories about her family like I'm an outsider. She knows little about me, and in fact rarely asks.  She often forgets my step parents names.  She knows nothing about what I did in highschool or as a child.  She spent little time getting to know me at all and in fact, seemed to go about discriminating me into her world.  It never even occurred to her that I would do things differently, or view things differently.  I almost felt like I was expected to morph into a clone of what she defined her family as.  I was never given any respect for my individuality and personal preferences.  She pushed me to be like her, create a family like her, be Christian like her.  She rammed religion down my throat.  I do not like organized religion.  I didn't want to be pushed to be a part of her church things.  But she guilted and pushed...even pushing for my baptism.  I went along with it all, trying so hard to fit in and belong to a family again.  She had the assumption that her family would all do things just like she had, and why would they ever do things differently?
As my relationship with my husband evolved, she became very jealous of me and competitive.  She works to take me down a peg.  "Oh, well you make good lasagna.  But I make good spaghetti."  "Oh, well, I would do Christmas cards like you, but I just don't have time."  She can't just say, thanks for the card.  She takes everything I do as an indictment on her behavior.  She always feels she needs to justify herself, in relation to what I am.  If some one tells me I do something well, she either tries to do it too, or finds a way to minimize it.  She has humiliated me in public over my small chest (which I am fine with, but I don't like being made fun of in public).  She has made negative comments about my newborn son, saying he had an "unfortunate nose" and "his mom's broad forehead".  Then she says "none of MY boys have that nose".   How she can insult her tiny grandbaby was beyond me.  She makes big deals about telling me when my husband has told her something before me.  "Well, I knew all about that.  He told ME everything.  I knew what he was doing for you."  It always seemed so weird to me that she felt the need to compete to be more important.  She covets what I have and do.  She is always copying what I do, from clothes, to jewelry, to my interests.  If husband and I do something or get something, she has to get the same for herself.
She has this impression that she has a "perfect" family.  She is obsessed with the latest "best" thing in life.  She will do anything or like anything, if ANYONE says it is the best.  She has little personal identity and is always taking on the "mask" of whatever she thinks people will like the most at the time.  She also likes to project onto her kids what they should like.  She doesn't ask anyone what they think, but tells them.  "OH, you'll LOVE this blah, blah, blah."  She labels her family and assigns roles.  She micromanages and controls everything.  She has an insatiable need to be needed and be important to "her boys".  She acts like her sons are perfect and defends them against anything.  They are always right and everyone else is wrong.  She has assigned scapegoat status to the one son who had the misfortune of some learning disabilities and other social disorders.  They family has made a habit of holding him up as a sort of shield, or sacrifice, as if to say "see, he's weird.  We're not weird.  If it weren't for him, we'd be perfect."  They've held this child as the dumping ground for all the blame for any perceived criticisms of the family.  She can't take any critisism, about herself or her perfect sons, so this family member is the distraction.
Not only does she not take critisism, and in fact, becomes angry and arguementative but she really doesn't consider any one's opinion at all.  She makes the assumption that her family all has the same opinion and when she is confronted with my difference of opinion, she again gets huffy.  She treats my knowledge in my chosen profession as ridiculous...until she wanted me to 'fix' scapegoat son.  The only opinions she takes is if she feels it would lead her to having the 'best' of something.  And these opinions are only from random strangers.  She has the most shallow of relationships with most people I know.  She is phony, loud, and boisterous.  She will laugh the loudest at a joke, even though she rarely understands what the joke is.  She uses laughter to deflect from her nasty comments to and about people.  She always has to appear to be in on something.  She does not get social clues and often laughs at inappropriate things (like when  I told her I rushed my son to the E.R.).  The family's behavior in public leaves something to be desired (loud, rowdy, scene causing in restaurants) but she acts as if they are entitled to behave that way.  But with other's she will be very critical.
She does not know how to create a real relationship and often forces the issue.  She wanted she and I to be best friends and do everything together, but took no time to actually create a relationship.  She talks at me and my sons.  "Grammy thinks your...GRAMMY thinks"  "I bet you think, Jessie...."  "Jessie, you should do this as a profession...I think you'd do well".  She never asks how we feel, or think, or if we like things.  It's her projection onto us.  She can not read the social cues of my kids and often pushes them when they are feeling shy or upset.  She once mistook my son's crying as "happy noises".  Not sure how she did that.   Maybe it was just deflection from the guilt she felt for not noticing.  She uses my kids to suck emotional and physical attention.  She is always kissing, hugging, and holding them, even when they do not want this attention.  She exclaims how kids are good for cuddling with.  She gets her narc supply from cuddling all over them, and it's so one sided.  I don't know how to explain how I know this, but you can almost see it.  My older son rarely can remember her name, despite seeing her often and knowing all of his other grandparents' names, and I know it's because she doesn't forge any relationship with him.  She shows no interest in him as a person, but what he can provide for her.  She once pushed him into taking a picture because she wanted to show it off to her friends.  Not because she wanted a reminder of her precious grandson.  So she could show off.  She doesn't really play with him (more hovers over him), and when she does she's showing my son HOW to play, not playing with him.  She talks about him as if he isn't there (and he knows this and it makes him uncomfortable.)  She always is "measuring" up the grandkids to see who is doing what, and if my son isn't at the stage she thinks he should be she gets weirdly quiet about it.
Her relationship with my husband has always been weird (on her end).  She used to make him the golden child.  He was a star athlete, and I always felt she sucked up more than her fair share of attention for his accomplishments (although I couldn't put my finger on this at the time.)  She didn't see it as his success, but the families success.  She used to use him to get his brothers to do what she wanted.  She would tell him to tell the brothers things, so she would be distanced from it and remove herself from the 'blame' should any arise.  She would put him in charge of decisions that he shouldn't have and then when resentment and anger arose, she'd point it at hubby.  "Well, HE picked the restaurant."  He just thought he was being a good son.  He didn't see the position she was manipulating him into.  She wanted this super close relationship with him.  She invited herself on our vacations, included herself in things she shouldn't have, and took over activities that we used to do as a couple.  She just couldn't understand why we WOULDN'T want family involved in these things.  She often treated him as a co-parent.  When we started to separate, she started to get desperate.  She started pushing us to get married (in December, like she did, despite my extreme dislike of the idea).  She pushed relentlessly for grandkids, and felt she should dictate who had kids first.  She started to become 'helpless' in situations.  She need my husband to help her with things that were completely in her ability.  She was retired, has tons of time, and is supposedly very intelligent, but she needed husband to rescue her and help her.  She would bait him with insane comments to get his attention.  She seemed so childish and immature.  And when she isn't acting like a baby, she (and FIL) feel the need to treat us like children, unable to make our own decisions.  In fact, all of my BILs are still very child-like and depend on the in-laws to approve and help with all their decisions.  They do not act like adults.  And I've always felt like, in MILs eye, the perfect model is:  she is the center hub of a wheel, and we are all spokes off of her.  She turns us all and we orbit around her.  She connects everyone to everyone else.  I used to use this model even before I knew what narcissism is, and now, it only confirms what I think I already knew.
Sorry this is so long, but I had to get it off my chest.  Thanks to anyone who has made it to the end of my rant!

Oh, and one other small thing.  She is the worst gift giver.  My gifts are always a rote gift (she picks one thing out and gives me the same thing every year, just a different version.  Like cookbooks, or christmas ornaments).  One year she gave me a wine glass (one of two) that she got at a wine tasting (so it was cheap and inexpensive) from a winery she "knew" I liked.  I didn't like the winery.  She told me she thought I would like the winery, and somehow got the two confused in her head.  I've also received mouthwash, a toothbrush, and a crow bar.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Unanswered Prayers

So, I've been praying a lot for God to guide me and give me strength.  He has answered me in so many ways.  Provided opportunities that have moved my healing along.  Provided insights that have made me more whole again.  But last night, he provided a crazy situation for me.

I have avoided leaving my children with my mother and MIL.  In fact, I haven't really had a babysitter period because I have not known how to rationalize this to the "grandmothers" and have hid behind my breastfeeding as an excuse.  But yesterday, my favorite band announced a concert and it is not something I can not go to.

First and foremost, my husband needs me.  We desperately need some time to just be the two of us.  This band is very important to us (as crazy as that sounds) and we need this time to just be us again.  Everything else we've had has been corrupted by our families and we need this time.  Not to mention, that in five years, I have not taken ONE day off from being a mom.  Not one.  I really think, no, I know, that my kids and I deserve to have a time where we are without each other to regroup.  My kids need some time away from me.  They need to know, that just because I'm not there, they will  be alright.

And in fact, I have left my oldest son.  He has been going to school two mornings a week for a year now.  Sad that I feel safe leaving my son with near strangers but the thought of leaving him with my MIL and Mom sends my anxiety racing.  And if I could somehow figure to NOT use the "moms" I would (I know this will be a suggestion, but I feel somehow, I will need to find a way to allow my kids alone time with their grandmothers).  I plan on finding a more consistent babysitter in my town.  But sometimes, it will require a grandmother.

Here's the reality,  I generally think my kids would be OK with the grandmas.  Ok, one grandma makes me extremely nervous.  She will, most likely, never be allowed to drive my small children, spend a lot of time with my small children, or watch them outside of my home (which is baby proofed, and should provide some cushion.)  She is a space cadet.  She would "tick off the boxes" (to use a good phrase from blogger, Kara) of childcare.  They wouldn't starve.  Eventually,  they will make it to sleep.  I think they will be OK.   But they will be overtired.  She will miss all emotional cues.  She will not be sympathetic when they are sad.  She will try to fix it or distract it and move on.  She will miss the small signs of my shy, independent boy.  She will  not know how to provide and emotional stability.  The other grandma will subtly undermine by sweet boy.  Not often, not intentionally, but she will somehow shame him in a sick game that suggests the shame she feels.  She probably will be short with him.  He will annoy her.

And I wrestle with it all.  Am I being a hypocrite for allowing women who have treated me so poorly access to my kids alone?  Will they damage my boys in the same way they've damaged me?  Or will an hour here, an hour there, teach them that some people are just ridiculous and that their parents unconditional love will carry through.  I can't bubble wrap them from every nasty person.  But what effect does a nasty (if not overtly, but subtly abusive) person do to them?  I don't believe my narcissistic grandmother changed me...but she really had limited access to me.  No contact is not an option.  Chaining my kids to me is not an option.  I need a release.  I need some time away.  But my guilt at not being there for my boys eats at me.  I trust them to deal with occasional disappointment, I think some less than positive feelings for them gives them character and resilience.  But where is the line?  Do these women deserve this?  It is eating me alive.

And as I wrote this, my mother called and left a voice mail.  She had heard about the concert (how in the world she found out this obscure piece of information, when she is SOOO busy at work, unnerves me) and called all hyped up...giddy even.  "I'm calling to see if you need a babysitter for XYZ.  I heard about it and wanted to see if you need a babysitter!!!!" .  What an innocent call from anyone else.  But all I can think is ick.  She is so giddy that she knows this is an opportunity that she has an advantage over me.  The news isn't five hours old and she's on the phone pushing.  Will my kids be all right for the hour and a half she has them?  (And the real sticking point is that she is putting them to bed.)  Probably so.  But what if?  Am I neurotic?  Am I hypocritical?  Does admitting your folks are so horrible, and not doing everything to protect MY family from them, make me horrible?

Saturday, June 9, 2012


I've been dinking around on the computer for the last hour or so, trying to finalize Father's Day cards.  I clicked over to Facebook to see check in.  I see that NSis has written a lovely message to my NMom.  A little background is in order.  NSis rarely uses facebook unless it's for "publicity".  Meaning, she likes to use it to get attention, start drama, or otherwise stir up controversy.   She claims that her boyfriend and her like to make fun of FB and see it as somewhat beneath them.   In the past six months, I have left post after post on her wall.  I've written her messages.  I receive no reply.  I understand I haven't been as available by phone to her.  I have two small children.  When I am not tending to them (which is almost always), it is nap time.  Nap time is spent either catching up on 1000 chores or taking a few precious moments to myself.  She works most evenings and weekends.  She has hardly called me in the past few months.  Before that, the phone calls were usually of the hysterical, 3 a.m. rants about her boyfriend/drama/the end of the world variety.  So, the best way for me to communicate is electronically.  She rarely sends my kids birthday or Christmas gifts, and if she does, they are usually late (although she always buys boyfriend/random friend/asshole boss a gift).  I don't need gifts for my kids.  I just would like some acknowledgement.
So, anyway, she missed my son's (and my husbands, but that always happens) birthday.  No call.  No card.  No nothing for this monumental first birthday in my son's life.  Nothing.  She calls four days later.  I am very sick and I know what she will say.  I'm a bad Aunt!  I am moving/had so much going on/so busy/don't know what to get so I couldn't acknowledge his birthday!  Blah, blah, blah.  Same old crap.  I didn't pick up.  Not to be vindictive.  Not to be mean.  Just because I was tired and emotional exhausted and the last thing I wanted to do was make her feel good about being a selfish ass.
So, onto the message.  My sister, who never uses FB, post to my mom:  "Thanks for the conversation to today.  It meant so much to me.  I miss you."  Huh.  I can't help feeling that this is a message to me.  That this is a sucker punch F-you.   Maybe I'm just paranoid.  Maybe I read into things too much.  But I can't shake the feeling that this is as much for me as it is for my mom.  A way to say that I haven't been there.  A way to say that I'm neglecting her.  A way to say that my mom and her have such a close connection.  Which is bullshit by the way.  They are the classic co-dependent pair.  They have a love/hate relationship.  They romanticize how wonderful the other is when they are apart and then fight like pitbulls the moment they are together (which I have to...use to have to...hear all about.)  I can't shake that this is to tell me I am a piece of shit.  All because I didn't make her feel better for ignoring my son.  She could've text my mom this message.  She does all the time.  She will talk to her tomorrow.  They talk non-stop.  This post was meant for me.  Crazy bitch.

Friday, June 8, 2012

More Crazy Making and other acts of bullsh*t

I remembered a few more examples of craziness that I had to share.

When I was pregnant with my first son, we didn't find out the sex of the baby until he was born.  This drove my family crazy.  They harassed me endlessly about finding out.  Despite this, my mother "knew" the baby would be a girl.  She actually went so far as to say she had a dream that it would be a girl with dark curly hair and blue eyes (I'll give you one guess as to who else has these particular features).  She crowed about how she just knew, she could tell.  She sent me texts from my uncle who also "knew" it was a girl (and he was never wrong).    After the baby was born, we were in the hospital when mom announces "isn't it funny that I KNEW it would be a BOY!"  This is one of the first times I can recall really thinking she was loosing her mind.  What?!?  "Um, no mom, you repeatedly told me that it would be a girl."  No, she argued.  She had always said boy.  She had bought all that blue stuff (what stuff?!?).  When I flat called her out and told her she was full of it, she said "Well, maybe I said girl.  But that's because I was trying to throw you off.  I was joking with you.  I knew it was a boy."  She said this over and over and over on different occasions.  I finally just took to ignoring it.  I had no clue as to what else to do.

My mother likes to act very superior.  She comes off as very snooty and stuck up.  And the bad part is, she thinks this is a good thing.  She thinks she looks good.  And most of the stuff isn't even true.   She watches a lot of TV shows.  She will text me during them, asking my thoughts, or just telling me hers (despite the fact that I don't watch the stupid shows).  She goes on and on about them.  One time, I asked her if she had seen a particular show.  Her response, was a snotty,  "I don't watch a lot of TV."  She went on to explain how she just doesn't have time, that by the time she gets home from her looonnng drive (a drive that she chose when she married my stepdad, but somehow feels we should feel sorry for her for.), cooks dinner (she often tells me how she only has yogurt for dinner), it's time for bed.  I wonder if she thinks I'm that stupid that I don't have recall of other things she tells me.  I marvel that she manages to try to look superior, get in a dig about how sad her life is, and make herself look like a martyr, all in one comment.

My mother has taken to telling outright lies about me to my sister.  Although, I'm sure she's always told lies about me, maybe these are just ones that I've actually caught her in.  She is afraid of my cat, well all cats.  I know she thinks that me getting a cat was a direct a front to her.  Regardless, when my second son was to be born, she planned on spending the week with me to help me (her idea, I didn't ask).  She has spent many nights at my home in the past with the cat.  There are lots of dramatics and lots of self-pity (which is a whole other story) on her part, but it has never stopped her from staying.  My sister called to tell me that mom was very upset.  Mom had told her that when the baby came she would have to stay in a hotel because we wouldn't keep the cat locked up.  That it was going to cost her astronomical amounts of money.  Poor her.  So many lies.  She had no intention of staying in a hotel. In fact, I had just talked about her staying the day before.   She made out like she was a victim, offering her services to help us, and that she had to suffer for it because we were so horrible.  We have always put up the cat when she's here.  We do let the poor thing out to use the litter box and eat.  We also let him out a bit more when my first son was born so that the cat wouldn't totally freak out with all the changes AND being locked in a room.  But we try to be as sensitive to her as possible, despite the fact that we are exhausted, that it adds to our stress, that we had a new baby and had a lot of other things to worry about besides her and the cat.

My sister and her boyfriend having been getting more serious and mom wanted them to see a therapist, as they have some conflicts.  So, mom decided to tell sister that hubby and I had seen a therapist.  "They had lots of problems when they were first married and saw a marriage counselor."  Now, if I had needed to go to a therapist I surely would have.  I think therapy is important.  But the fact is, this is a BOLD FACED LIE.  She managed to make hubby's and my marriage look shaky AND used us to try and strong arm my sister into doing what she wanted.  My husband asked if I was going to confront her on it.  I told him it wouldn't matter.  She'd have some excuse.  She'd say that it was just to help out my sister.  She'd say my sister misunderstood.  Blah, blah, blah.  What would be the point?  Going round and round on something that would never come to a conclusion.  I had tried it all before and she always had some bullsh*t story.