Releasing the past in order to find myself

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Baby Steps of Learning

I had originally intended to title this post "Will I Ever Learn?".  But, upon thinking about what I wanted to write, I realized that I had learned.  A lot.

After the incident with my Dad, I really wanted to call my mom.  I wanted to commiserate and complain and I knew that she would side with me.  Well, at least that's what I had wanted.  But then I started to play out the conversation in my head.  Would she see my side?  Yes.  Would it confirm to her that my Dad can be an ass?  Yes.  Would she be supportive and sympathetic and kind to me?  Probably not.  Probably what would happen is that she would find some way to point out that my dad never goes and visits my sister.  How my sister really gets the short end of the shift.  She'd find some way to personalize my not wanting my dad to visit, find a way to shore up her point that I never let any of the grandparents visit.  That I block them from our lives if it doesn't all go "my way".   Would she make my dad the villain?  Yes.  Would she see me as a victim?  Hell no.

So, after processing and thinking about it and setting my expectations extremely low, I called.  She spent a lot of time talking about her recent vacation.  I had asked her about it.  I had wanted to hear about the trip in general.  Instead, I got a play-by-play.  What they did each and every day.  What everyone ordered at every meal.  Literally, a moment by moment recount of every fricking little thing they did (i.e.  "Then we stopped at a shop to buy a sweater.  Then we walked down the street.  Then we grabbed a taxi.)  The excruciating details were mind numbing.  Luckily, my stepdad was within ear shot so I was spared the dramatics of the family interactions (until later when he left, but fortunately I had to get of the phone then.)  It's funny how she can't speak freely about things in front of him.  She even mentioned that having him and my sister's boyfriend on the trip made it difficult to talk.  That she was "used to" having her one-on-one time and this cramped her style.   We talked a lot about the trip.  I told her a little about the kids.  She made forlorn statements about how big they must be getting, how much they must have changed (she saw them not long ago, but you'd think it was last year).

Then, I just barged in with my dad story.  She was measured in her response.  She questioned me.  A lot.  She questioned exactly what I had told him.  How the whole thing went down.  Went over points repeatedly.    Implied that it was really too bad that I couldn't just rearrange my plans with friends (because after all, they are just my friends, not family.  And family should have priority.).  Haughtily asked "where are you going?"  when she found out we might be leaving one weekend.   Then, she gave my sister credit for the reason my dad even tried to come in the first place.  She, very likely, believes this.  But I know the fact is that he called her while we were in the middle of planning everything.  I know that he has been trying to contact her for months and she won't return his phone calls.  So, once again, my sister is the "strong, take charge" one.  She is responsible for it.  I could feel it all going down hill quickly.   I stated bluntly that I don't have to deal with him.  That I did all that I could to make this work.  That I would not be bullied and strong armed.  That I had no desire to bow down to him whenever he wanted.  I could feel the ice on the other end of the phone.  She took all that I had said personally.  Which is fine.  She probably needed to hear that too.

And then I decided to end the phone call.  Nm was getting all wound up now.  She started her desperate acts of talking none stop to keep me on the phone.  Ignoring my attempts to get off.  Knowing damn well I had to go.  She starts up new conversations.  I keep saying I've got to go.  She says "I love you!"  at the end.  I ignore it and say "bye!"

Did it sting a little?  Sure.  But I didn't feel the heart wrenching ache I usually feel.  I didn't feel the hole in my heart.  I didn't feel let down.  Because I knew what would happen.  And she played her role perfectly.  Like it was a script she was reading from.   I got my "obligatory" phone call in.  I did what I felt I needed to do and called.  And hopefully, that should by me some time.  Fill up my "phone call" quota for awhile.

I did get THREE emails this morning.  Demands for lists for an upcoming birthday.   A slew of concerns over medical concerns of a relative (it could be cancer!!  -read the dramatics here), her medical ailments.  On and on.  But I didn't feel compelled to respond.  I just ignored them.  And moved on.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Consequences of Saying No

Please see my previous post for the background to this post.

I got up the courage to tell my father that it wouldn't work for him to come the week he had chosen.   I didn't tell him in person.  I was too chicken for that.  So, I emailed.  And when I didn't get a response, I left a voice mail.  Not exactly shining bravery, but I knew if he talked to me, I'd cave.  But I was honest, and straightforward and blunt.

I waited two days for a response.  Those hours were miserable, expecting the worse and not sleeping and butterflies in my stomach.   Finally, I got a response.   And of all the things I had expected, I didn't expect this.  He just said, OK, but then he wasn't coming at all.    It didn't matter we had spent weeks trying to set up dates.  It didn't matter he had strung it out for weeks, holding things up until he could check his calendar and went out of town.  Didn't matter that he'd asked for numerous weeks and that this was the only week we couldn't have him visit.  He just refused to come if it couldn't be this week.  That was it.  He had plans in September, when I extended the offer, so that was out too.

To say I was hurt is putting it mildly.  I was hurt and angry.  I felt like it was all a lot of planning for nothing.  I wondered why the hell he didn't bother to check his schedule before we got into a weeks long email chain of planning.  My heart broke for my kids.  That their grandfather couldn't put more effort into seeing them.  That they were that low of a priority.  That it all seemed so "Last minute".  That my kids have six grandparents, and they'd be lucky to put a good one together using pieces from all six.

I heard from my stepmom the next night, which was a shock.  She said she had heard the voice mail and had gotten on my dad's computer and read the email chain (which even unde good intention, and obviously not hiding it, creeped me out that there obviously is no privacy with my father).  She said she was going to work on dad.  Going to try and figure something out.  Felt it was important to come visit.   I guess that's something for her (considering she can be horrible to me, see my Narcissitic triple crown post).  She also said she's been bugging dad for months to plan something but that he says he doesn't like to plant.  Well, if I felt any guilt at all, that erased it.  If he can't make any effort, if he expects me to rop everything for him, then so be it.  But I won't be bullied and strong armed.  And even though my heart aches for myself and my kids, it is his loss.  He is missing their babyhood, their cuteness, their fun way of talking.  If we are nothing more than last minute plans, too bad for him.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Saying No

The last three times my dad has visited have been the three of the most stressful times of my life.  My kids were born and my husband and I had just moved into our newly built (and still under construction technically) home.  It was difficult.  I was stressed.  I was functioning at less than prime, under three hours sleep most nights, without a proper "home" at one point.  But, when they wanted to come, I grinned and bared it.  I did what I needed to do.  I tolerated there little comments about how I was anxious and uptight.  Yes, I was uptight and anxious....and stressed, and tired, and overwhelmed.  But I was trying.
So, this year, dear old dad announced last minute that they wanted to come.  I thought, well, OK, but it will be on my terms.  He asked for dates.  I gave him very concrete dates to come visit.  We emailed for three weeks.  He delayed responding saying he would check his calendar and had some work out of town and would get back to me.   I replied that I would need to commit to plans we had made.  (And for the record, DH had been holding out committing.  He has sacrificed so many times to accommodate my father whom we only see once a year or so.  But he wanted to commit to these plans and I couldn't keep him waiting.)  Dad replied he'd already marked this weekend off.  We had marked off most of the weekend before due to house guests.
I got an email today that they were planning on coming from Monday through Thurday BETWEEN these weekends.  Two very busy weekends.  The only damn weekends we really had plans.   I was devastated.  I felt unheard.  I shook knowing that there would either have to be me submitting to them or to the inevitable confrontation of saying no.  But hell, the one fricking week we couldn't accommodate and they pick that week.  All the damn emails and time tables and they pick that week.  I was angry and hurt and floored and stressed.  My initial email pussyfooted the issue.  Hemmed and hawed and hinted that this would not really work.  Explained that I had committed to tons of other stuff that week.   Then I talked to DH and summoned my courage.  I saw the look on his face.  Knew that this was uncomfortable for him.  I emailed my dad again.  I told him that he needed to pick another week.  Told him that of all the weeks, this was horrible.  (And I won't even go into the fact that coming during the week sucks.  That DH can't take time off.  That squishing in between our vacation and other house guests is stressful for me and, frankly, a bit rude.)  I had offered, and offered again any other weeks.  Dad replied to my FIRST email, detailing the M-TH crap and saying they'd go along with all our prearranged plans (ha!).   I resent my second email and restated it was a bad week.
And now I sit.  Pit in my stomach.  Anxious and stressed.  Family shouldn't be like this.  I shouldn't be worried to tell someone no.  Or ask them to work around me and my family a bit.  They have little to nothing going on and should be able to make other arrangements.  They should've planned further in advance than two weeks.  They could've worked this out in less than a month.  I feel like I've been going round and round it for a month.  I'm tired.  And sad.  And pissed.  And scared.  I shouldn't be afraid of my dad.   And he's not even one of the "true narcs" in my life.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Screw You

Screw you.  Screw you for accusing me of being an uptight, no-fun, wet blanket because I wouldn't put up with your abuse.  Screw you for making me an "outsider" by singling me out when I didn't "go with" your flow.  Screw you for labeling me anything.  Screw you for not getting to know me, but deciding who you already thought I was.  Screw you for projecting your irrational fears onto me.  I was never going to steal your son away.  I had no intentions of that.  How dare you accuse me of that when you don't even know me, let alone my intentions.  Screw you for thinking I would even be that type of person.  If you knew me AT ALL, you would know that family is something I value in the highest.  That I know what it is to lose a family and be all alone.  I would never remove your son from you.  Only you can do that to yourself.  With your accusations, and projections, and fear.  With your triangulations, and manipulations, and subtle, yet hurtful, criticisms.  Screw you for thinking you could control me by tearing me down.  For trying to force me to "get in line" with your fucked up perceptions of what a family really is.  And when I didn't fall in line, acting like I was weird, or messed up, or wrong.  Fuck you for the years of pain that DH and I have gone through trying to wade through your bullshit.  And for the work we have to do now to get past it.  For teaching him that a family is forever loyal, and that there is only one way to be a family (let alone one way to be a person) and any deviation from that is a sin.  For your put downs, and teasing, and endless bullying.  For being so god damn subtle that it took me forever to convince anyone what you were doing.  For anyone to believe me.  For me to quit believing I was crazy.

I'm not some prim and proper bitch with a stick up my ass.  I expect respect.  I expect you to treat me like a person.  I expect you to allow me to be, if not value me as, an individual and a person.  I expect you to see that I am a person.  Not a thing, or a pet, or a 'part of you'.   I don't owe you anything.  And anything you think I did to you, you did yourself.  With your pushing and pushing.  With your desire to retain control.  You pushed me so hard, you pushed me away.   I could have loved you.  I wanted you to be my family.  I wanted to belong.  But you pushed me right out the damn door.  And that's on your head, not mine.

Screw you for constantly labeling me as some neurotic, anxiety ridden, control freak.  The only things you think I control are the things you want to control for me.  Like my thoughts, my values, my opinions, the way I do things and raise my kids.  Screw you for your snarky laughter at my "oddities".  Screw you for implying I should doubt myself.  Screw you for constantly telling me that I'd fallen short of perfection, of your expectations.  Screw you for demanding that I be something, and then punishing me for achieving it.  Screw you for hurting me, abandoning me, abusing me, and treating me like dirt.  Screw you for always finding the negative in me.  Screw you for treating me like a child, despite the fact that I am a 34 year old woman.  I am not your child.  Not your little girl.  Not your fucking "mini-me".  I am me and you know jack shit about me.

Am I sensitive?  Hell yeah.  And that's a good thing.  That sensitivity is what made me an excellent clinician.  My patients felt comfortable with me.  And safe.  And trusted me.  Because I was sensitive, and empathetic, and kind.  My bosses told me that (as well as my patients) over and over.  But you see it as a flaw.  That same sensitivity is what helps me find the perfect Christmas gift for you.  Helps me be that good listener that you always seem to crave.  You all love to talk at me.  Love for me to be your sounding board.  Well, that's because I'm sensitive.  That sensitivity is what helps me remember people's birthdays and make the lonely feel  not forgotten.  Why do I get cards and letters from relatives when you don't?  Because they feel I see them, and remember them, and appreciate them.

Am I organized?  Yup.  Am I a freak about it?  No.  One look around my house can tell you I'm not some clean freak nazi, requiring perfectly ironed sheets and no clutter.  But I like to not waste time.  I don't like to spend fun times searching for things I need.  I like that when my kids and I go to a ballgame, they always have water and snacks and sunscreen.  We enjoy our time better that way.  And you enjoy it too.  That's why you love coming to my house.  That's why everyone loves my dinner parties and football games at our house.  Because Jessie throws a mean party.  Because the sheets are always nice, and the bathroom has spare toiletries.  That's why you get so damn mad that I won't let you stay.  Everyone likes that my house feels like "home".  That you can make yourself at home.  That the fridge is always stocked with beer and the pantry with snacks. And you want to know something else?  Yeah, the "big" parties do stress me out.  I'm tired of you harassing me about that.  None of you throw birthday parties for 20-30 people that go off without a hitch, that everyone has a great time at, ALL BY YOURSELVES.  None of you help.  None of you want to do the dirty work.  You all want to get involved in the "fun" stuff that gets your credit.  But none of you want to chop the vegetables or clean the toilets.  So, yeah, parties are stressful.  It's a lot of work entertaining you all (and paying for it all).  So fuck you if you want to accuse me of being organized and anal and bossy.  Screw you for not respecting me as an adult.  Screw you for laughing at me.  Screw you for your demands.  Screw you for taking it personally when I don't do things the way you do.  Screw you for your jealousy.  Screw you for not respecting me as a parent.   Screw you for not being proud of my accomplishments.  Screw for calling me "so smart, yet so stupid" when I had age appropriate "growing" mistakes.  Smart doesn't mean "all knowing".   Screw you for forgetting that people change and grow and become different.  Screw you for always "observing" me but learning nothing.

Do you want to know who I am?  I'm not some labels that you've slapped onto me.  I am not one "thing" but, rather,  parts that make up me.  I'm generous, and thoughtful, and kind.  I'm sensitive and forward thinking.  I'm a good daughter, and mother, and wife, and sister, and granddaughter, and in-law.  I think of others before myself.  I work every day to improve myself.  I am hard on myself.  I work too hard to please others.  It is a struggle to find the balance between pleasing myself and being true to myself.  But I work on it.  I like to sing and dance and have fun and hear good music.  I like to relax.  I enjoy the little things in life.  I love art and good food and good company.  I love soil in my finger tips and the satisfaction in growing my own food... or hanging my own shelf, or just plain "doing" things for myself.   I don't take myself too seriously and actually do have a good sense of humor about things.  I like to teach and I like to learn.  I want to always be a student of life.  I want to instill this love in my kids.  I want to show them the wonders of travel, and nature, and just sitting and being OK with yourself.  I'm not fearful.  I am courageous.  I have backpacked through Europe, having no clue where I am going.  I packed up and moved far away from home, not knowing a soul.  I'm not afraid to eat alone in a restaurant.  I know how to change my own oil and am not afraid of confrontation.  I can defend myself.  I love to write and take photos and express myself, despite your best efforts to suppress that. I am strong and self reliant and empathetic.  I know what I like and rarely need someone to tell me if something looks good on me.  Because, deep down, I know myself.  Not that I don't value and appreciate advice.  Alternative opinions are important to me.  But I know myself.  And you can't tell me who the hell I am anymore.  So screw you.


Labels are a hot-button issue with ACoNs.  We have been labeled and defined externally for all of our lives. Labels have been used to control, belittle, shame, and manipulate us.  Labels that reflect more on the giver of the label than the person being labeled.  Our narcs always profess to "know" us;  to know us better than we know ourselves.  And any attempt at self-identity is seen as rebellion.  The narc laughs it off as if we are some adolescent teenager trying out a new hairdo.  But they know us better, they know what is best for us.  How could they not?  They are the one who "created" us.

Part 1
NMIL and I were discussing potty training my son.  She was busy labeling my son as developing late in this area.  She consistently commented about it, asking if he was trained yet, sighing and saying "well, boys do train later."  I reminded her that I wasn't pushing the issue.  That I didn't care what he did.  That it was his choice.  He had the tools.  I encouraged him.  But the real choice was his.  That there had been a lot of other things going on in his life, and this wasn't an issue with us.  She stated that when her boys were little she used to let them go in the yard, and with summer coming this might be a way for DS to have "fun" training and....She trailed off and I knew what she was thinking.  Oh, Jessie, would never let her son pee outside.  She's too prim and proper.
She's always labeled me as a straight laced.  She, the conservative Christian, has labeled me as uptight and strict.  She takes my balking at her boundary pushing (whether it's pushing for physical closeness, sharing of food, expectations of basic manners) as having a stick up my ass.  She has implied over and over that I am the wet blanket on her parade.  That I am the downer at the party.  She is the fun loving, easy going, light hearted person.  I am as about much fun as the flu.
Once, DH made a nice meal for his family.  His younger brother scooped up some of the fish onto his plate, took one bite and announced it was "gross".   He scooped it back up and plopped it down in the serving dish.  NMIL shouts "(SON)  don't do that!  Jessie doesn't like that!"  All eyes go to me.  I feel like a horrible person.  Never mind that I didn't say anything about his behavior.  Or that his behavior was grossly out of line.  Or that basic manners should have dictated her "lesson" to him, not making me the bad guy in the situation.  There I sat, the "manners police", red faced and embarrassed.
When I have balked at her invasion of my privacy (walking in on me, not wanting to change clothes in front of people, feeling the need to dress appropriately when I come down for breakfast) I'm seen as a prude.  Old fashioned.  Insecure about my body.
When I have expectations (age appropriate ones) for my sons at a restaurant, the whole family gets tense.  I expect that my son doesn't run around.  I've been the waitstaff concerned about tripping over a small child, spilling a hot plate of food on the kid.  It's dangerous and not appropriate.  But to the in-laws, I'm a hard ass.  I bring tons of things for my kids to do (coloring books, etc.).  The other kids bang knives and forks on the table.  I'm restrictive and confining.
NMIL and her FOO love to laugh.  Loudly.  At everything.  It's become such a joke with me as it often seems so forced and phony.  They like to laugh at people.  Always cackling at something.  When BIL and SIL got married, they decided to have a "roast" at the rehearsal dinner.  The family told wildly inappropriate stories that embarrassed and humilated BIL.  But it was all in good fun, they claimed!  When my wedding day came, DH was insistent that we not have a roast at our rehearsal.  He fought it tooth and nail.  But I know I got the blame.  I was the one who was not willing to have any fun.  I was the one who couldn't "laugh at myself".   I look back at this now and wonder what they could've possibly been thinking.  That at a moment when a couple should be lifted up, made to feel loved and supported they were torn down and embarrassed.  On purpose.  And it was all in fun.  And I'm the bad guy.

Part 2

My mom and dad used to tell me I was bossy.  They would watch me playing with the neighborhood kids and would tell me I was too bossy.   I didn't think then, nor do I think now, that I was bossy.   Somebody had to come up with something to play and I liked to come up with fun games.  I was creative and the neighborhood kids often asked me to come up with something.  They sought me out and came to my house to ask me to play.  I know that I took others into consideration.  I know that I would've been willing to do what someone else wanted to do.  But my parents, observing from inside the house, passed judgement.  Told me who I was.  Told me not how to behave but that I was this label.  My teachers at school found me to be "helpful".  They often had me tutor other kids, lead discussion groups.  To my teachers I was a "leader" but to my folks I was bossy.

I also was labeled as the "good kid".  Always expected to follow the rules.  Never allowed to get into trouble.  Anything less than perfection was deemed a failure of huge proportions.  Perfect was the standard not the goal.  I was "responsible".  Always the caretaker.  Always expected to help out.  I also was labeled a liar.  I wasn't a liar.  I did lie on occasion.  Always out of fear of getting in trouble.  I was so terrified of failing my parents, of making a mistake, that I would lie to cover it up.  I was also oversensitive.  I cried too easily.  I took things too personally.  When my father would "tease" me, I took it too personally.

Now, my parents label me as "anxious".  Like I'm some sort of constant worrier and bundle of nerves.  Yes, I suffer from anxiety.  Yes, I have abandonment issues.  I am, on occasion, overprotective of my kids.  I'm terrified of loosing my kids or my husband.  Of loosing the family I have wanted for so long.  But I'm not jumping at my shadow.  I'm not so overprotective that my kids don't do anything and live in a bubble.  Far from it.  They label me "anal" because I'm organized.  They label me as uptight and rigid and inflexible because I plan things (like meals and activities) when they are here.  Mostly, I'm uptight and rigid because I don't allow them to just take over and follow them around like a dog.  All of my parents and step-parents are some of the most controlling, inflexible, rigid people I know.  But they label me that way.

When I look at all of these labels, I see very few positive ones.   I'm also struck by how differently these two families label me.  Their perceptions of me seem so in opposition.  And neither seems to fit.  When I'm with my friends or with coworkers I'm rarely labeled in such negative ways.  A lot of their criticisms of me are seen as positives.  I don't feel like I have to be something I'm not.  I don't feel like I'm smothering under a blanket  of labels.  Under a coating of projected personality flaws.  I don't always feel I'm struggling to be myself.

I've been struggling with my identity for a long time now.  Trying to figure out who I am and who I need to be.  It was one of my first clues that something was really wrong: that I couldn't shake their perceptions of me, that I felt bogged down and couldn't be myself.  That I felt like a false person with family.  At first, I thought it was just that they wanted me to still be who they saw when I was a kid.  That they hadn't accepted me as an adult.  But they never knew me as a kid either.   And now, I'm struggling to feel "grown up".  I knew this girl.  She always looked so put together.  Carried a big girl purse and wore "womanly" jewelry.  Not the simple girlish look I had.  I told her I would've felt like an imposter wearing that stuff, even though I liked it, as I would feel like a little girl playing dress up in her mom's closet.  I always felt like a little girl.  Despite everything I had done and accomplished and taken on by myself.  I was a little girl.  And I want to be a grown up.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


My mother was probably the best mother she ever was when I was a really young child.  I don't remember much about those years, obviously, but I seem happy and content in photos.  I know that she read to me a lot, helping to inspire in me a love of books.  I have seen her with my son when he was really little.  And although she was doing harm to me in her attempts to snatch him away from me, she was very loving and attentive to him.  She often gets down on the floor to play with him.  She spent endless amounts of time focused on him.  It's one of the reasons he likes her so much today.  I can remember her being like this with my little sister  and I believe she must've been like this with me as a child.

As my son grows older (although he's only in preschool), I have seen the change coming.  She becomes more irritated with him.  His stories and idiosyncrasies are annoying to her at times.  Her patience is eroding.  It's clear that as his individuality and his independence have emerged, she has begun to take that personally.  As he no longer is a little doll to play with, but a person, she's struggling to maintain her level of devotion.  I suspect she was trying to transfer it to DS2, but as I've limited contact, that hasn't been much of an option.

I remember when I started to become more and more independent.  How she pulled away.  How she punished me with indifference.  How she forced control onto me whenever she could.   That "mother" that somewhere lives in my unconscious memory was fading away.  I was left with a selfish, distant, annoyed mother.  One who found the menial chores of motherhood beneath her and infringing on her life.  One that viewed me as a weight around her neck.  One that seemed very unhappy with her life most days.  One that seemed bothered by me.

As I grew older, my mother has grown worse for me.   Things growing into a fever pitch when she divorced. Me being tossed aside like an old newspaper.  Then her decision that she wanted me back into the fold.  And her desperate, abusive, angry attempts to get me back under control.  Her manipulations, her triangulation, her lies, her pushing.  DH was even more of a threat.  She attacked him, as subtely as she could but often she was outright hostile.  Her attempts to triangulate him from me by trying to align herself with me as "long suffering wives" of idiots.  Her attempts to be my friend, to buy me out, to hold out bribes to lure me back in.  These wounds go deep too.

Her behavior in recent years has wounded me the most.  I've just recently given up the idea of calling my mom for support.  I used to have some fantasy, when I'd had a bad day, that I'd call mom to talk about it.  The conversation never left me feeling better.  Often, I felt more burdened, and definitely more alone, than I had before I called.  She never helped resolve my problem, lighten my load, but instead heaped on guilt and sorrow and pity for her problems.  I began to awaken to the reality of our relationship and that reality frightened me and hurt me.  It isolated me and made me a motherless child.  Her acts of the "NM Show" during my sons' births, her lack of real regard for me during my pregnancies, her jealousy, spitefulness, anger, and expressions of betrayal have wounded me to my core.

As unfortunate as she was when I was a young girl, my recent realization that she was far, far worse to me as an adult came as a shock.  The idea that this was getting worse, and probably will continue to get worse, was frightening.  Waking up to the reality that I really had to mourn and grieve for my mother.   Mourning a woman who is not dead but feels that way.  Mourning an idea and a lifeline I thought I had.  I'm not sure if I even know how to do that.  I'm not sure how you grieve the loss of someone you still hear from all the time.  Letting go of the idea that the mother I had constructed in my head, was just that.  Something I'd constructed in my head.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


(I apologize ahead of time for any repetition that may be in the telling of this story)

NMIL has an identity problem.  I've never known her to really know who the hell she is.  She acts like she does.  She professes she does.  But, in all the years I've known her, she's only "borrowed" identity markers from others.
Much of her identity comes from her own parents.  She has adapted so many of their ways of thinking, so many of their parenting (and grandparenting) styles.  She believes as they do religiously.  She doesn't question their beliefs, just accepts that what they think is fact.   She has tried (and failed) to "recreate" the experiences her parents created.  Her parents took everyone on big family vacations, so she tried to do that. Her parents had a big, central vacation spot, so she tried to do that.  Her parents have everyone tied up in a family (side) business...well, you get the idea.  Ironically, she has nothing good to say about most of her parents "ideals".  In the little she has said about them over the years, most of it has been negative.   She often says how she did the exact opposite with "her boys" that her parents did with her.  And while I know this not to be true, I believe she feels that way.   She, at 60-some, still heeds her parents directives.   When I first met her, she lived in her parents former house (her childhood home).  She had lived there for almost 20 years, but hadn't changed a thing.  She added things, but the pictures were still on the wall.  The appliances 50 years old.  When I suggested any change, she clung to the "old" item and described how many memories she had of the thing.   We talked one time about how she would probably move into her parents' "now" home when they pass.  She said that she didn't like how her mother had it decorated and it was one of the reasons she didn't want to inherit the house.  I thought how odd that was.  If you don't like it, change it.  It's not a frickin' shrine.  And why would you live with a home that didn't represent you anyway?

She's always into some new "get rich quick" scheme.  She always has these fantastical ideas for new ways to make money.  She always has big plans.  She jumps on any new pyramid scheme that is presented to her.  She is the single most gullible person I know.   She will believe almost anyone if they sell her that it is "the best" or the "the next big thing" or that it was touted in some magazine/newspaper/tv show.   In the time I've known her, she's presented with several of these ideas.  One was so half-baked that I shuddered.  Not to mention that she wanted to start this business in my town (as opposed to hers).  I'm sure her thoughts was to get rich AND be able to have an excuse to be at our home all the time.  Win-win for her!  DH says she's always been like this.  Jumping from one idea to the next.  Never completing anything.  Always wanting to take the easy road to fame and fortune.

When I met her she dressed very conservatively.  She had the same hair style she'd had for 20 years.  When SIL and I came along, she started to experiment.  She started trying out new things.  My diluted SIL has taken her shopping on several occasions and decked her out in all the latest trends.  Big statement (but cheap) jewelry, tight, low-rise, boot-cut jeans.  Fur vests.   I don't know what SIL was thinking.  SIL doesn't have the greatest sense of style (not that I do either) but I wondered why she would dress NMIL like a 20 year old.    Add to this NMIL's own greatest hits of fashion blunders and I often cringe when she walks in.  Not in a judgemental way.  Because, hey, if someone wants to rock a style 40 years too young for them, or that tacky piece of costume jewelry, more power to them.    I could care less.   But, with her, it's just so sad.  It's just another costume she's put on trying to "fit in".  Trying to be a part of the gang.  It just feels so....forced.

And I've never known her to get an original idea.  She loves to take "classes" that teach you the easy way to do something.  You know, find your "season" and then buy all your makeup/clothes/jewelry to fit in that easy catagory.   When we were having DS#1, she talked about some class she took on how to name things.  Seriously.  How to make things sound good when you name them.  And she wanted to impart her knowledge.  I thought, "can't I just say the name outloud and see if it sounds good?".  She takes to copying or coveting ideas from anyone around her.  If her sons do something, she does something.  All her current hobbies/activities/interests come strictly from what her kids have suggested THEY like.  Her vacations are set around where we all go.  We try something, tell her our opinion, and then she does it.  I do something (new decor, TV show, activity) and the next thing I know, she is trying it too.  And again, we all get ideas from other people but she has never had one original idea that I know of.  She doesn't decide if anything is good or if she likes it on her own.  She waits to see what we all think and then parrots us.  And if, for some reason she disagrees, she either lies and says she doesn't or she covertly "sidebars" people and convinces them why the opposing-opinion is not worthwhile.

It really is sad to me.  How someone can be in their 60s and have absolutely no idea of who the hell they are.  That they can not go shopping, or order off a menu, or enjoy a vacation without knowing that someone else likes it too.  To require such validation, ALL OF THE TIME.  It must be exhausting.


My brain seems to have checked out lately.  I really don't know what the problem is.  Maybe I'm too focused on all this stuff.  Maybe I've just given myself a little vacation.  I'm usually so on top of things.  But I just can't seem to get my shit together lately.  I forgot to pay a bill.  When packing up my son for an outing with his dad, I forgot half the stuff I had laid out.  I've been forgetting the kids sunhats or shoes or water on trips.  I let the cat out the other day and forgot if I let him back in.  I spent a half hour searching for him outside, only to find him blinking sleepily at the top of the stairs in the house.  
Today was a wreck of a day.  A hale storm destroyed all my flowers.  The cat ate my son's favorite stuffed animal (which is really weird for the cat).  I was up all night, helping my little one relearn how to sleep.  My oldest was up at the crack of dawn.  I bought eggs at the store and left them for two days in the back of my VERY hot car.  The garbage sack ripped open on the way to the dumpster.  I forgot to repack the "emergency" potty for my son.  We used an empty water bottle.
I just seem to be checked out of my own head.  Or maybe too much in my own head.  I feel so differently, yet have been so bogged down in the past.
Posted on FB that I was having "one of those days".  NM called within the hour.  Funny, she hasn't called to check on me, or frankly, called at all for months.  But she called today.  Like flies to shit.

Monday, July 16, 2012

All Quiet on the Narc Front

It has been too quiet lately.  I haven't had much peace in the last year, year and a half, and, lately,  it has been too quiet.  I wonder if some angel has looked down on me.  Blessed me with some respite, just when I needed it most.  I also wonder if the other shoe is about to drop.  I suppose that is a conditioned "flaw" of the ACoN. Always on the ready.  Always looking for the monsters in the shadows.  Always prepared, alert.  For you never know when, if, or how the attack will happen.
NMIL is pretty predictable.   So, she is relatively easy to deal with in that way.  She is not able to be sneaky.  Oh, yes, she is manipulative and passive aggressive...but able to do the sneak attack?  Not usually.  I had reached my limit lately with her.  Usually, DH and I have the long winter months of January through March to regroup, to take a break.  We had no such break this year.  The in-laws had been in town every other week or so.  And even though we didn't see them every time, it was always looming.  Always over our head that they would call at any minute to "drop by" or "had something for the kids".  They always have some bargaining tool, some bribe.  But it's been quiet.  They've been away for over a month.
NM is a much trickier adversary.  She loves the sneak attack.  She hits you out of nowhere when you aren't looking.  We will be having a normal, easy going conversation and suddenly she's laying down what horrible, selfish, self-absorbed people "her kids" are.  She doesn't refer to me directly, just her kids.  Which is much worse in my opinion.    Not even "man" enough to call me out to my face, she has to act as if she's talking about someone not in the room.
Regardless, it's been quiet.  Unintentionally, I've been able to keep our contact mainly to email and texts.  To my advantage, whenever I had gotten on the phone with her my kids would wail and whine and complain until I got off.  It got convenient to say that I just couldn't talk.  So, we've been limited to emails.  And it has been so nice.  I've had the ability to react how, and in the time frame, that I've chosen.  I've been able to think before I respond.
I called yesterday.  About a half hour before my kids get up from nap.  NM texted right when I wake my kids up.  She knows my schedule with the kids as well as I do.  She texted that she was sorry she missed my call and to call if the kids weren't up yet.  She knows they were.  She emailed later to again say she was sorry.  And repeat a story about a family member's health issues.  But that was it.
It's just so quiet.  Almost too quiet.

*Post Note:  OK, so in between writing this post, I have been catching up with old posts of Upsi's. Almost the first one I pulled up after this post had the line "all quiet on the narc front". So, dear Upsi, I hope I have not poached this line from you. I believe I may have and I hope you do not mind me using it.


I've tried to tell my story to friends on many occasions.  I've tried to explain to others the effects NMIL and NM have had on me through the years.  When people question why I don't leave my kids with the grandparents more, or imply how wonderful it has that I have "such a loving family", to the one's who matter to me, I've tried to explain that it isn't all it looks like.

And the phrase I've gotten more than anything is: "You just need to learn to accept them for who they are."  Get over it.  Let it go.  Accept it and move on.  You can't change them.  And on and on.  Learn to accept them for who they are.

I've always hated that phrase.  It always implied fault on my part.  It always made me feel shameful and blamed.  It made me feel I had a character flaw, a negativity.  I always hated how dismissive it was and overly simplistic.  Like if I just got over myself, then it would all be OK.   And maybe for some people, this is the key.  That they do need to learn to let some things go.  But I have found "accepting" narcissists for who they are only made things worse, allowed them to get at my vulnerabilities.

I believe it made things worse because I didn't understand what "accepting" someone for who they are really meant.  Yes, I did need to accept (and grieve for) people as they are.  I needed to understand that it was not my job to change them.  It is not my responsibility to lift them up to a higher level of living.  It is not my job to determine their reality and hold their hand through creating a relationship with me.  I needed to accept that if they are going to be assholes, that is their choice not mine.

What I DON"T have to accept is their behavior towards me.  They may be assholes, but they are going to do it long distance (to paraphrase a TV doctor).   I can't change them, but I can change how I react and respond to their behavior.  I do not have to accept their abuse.  I do not have to tolerate boundary violations.  I have the right to protect myself, be myself, and stand up for myself.  I have the right to determine where my boundaries are and the consequences of violating them.  I can not change the narcs but I can change the choices I make in response to their behavior.  I don't have to "get over it" and "let it go" when someone repeatedly runs me over, refuses to acknowledge they ran me over, and then puts the car in reverse to back over me again.  I have the right to move out of their path.

And accepting them (and their choices) does not mean that I like them, like what they do, or condone their behavior in any way.  It does not mean I respect them, only their right to choose to be who they want to be.    And if that is a jerk, I respect myself enough to get out of their way.  I have to accept my limitations in the lives of others.  And while I hope that I may influence them, that something I say may be considered by them in their behavior towards me in the future, I can not change them.

So, I'm going to try to stand tall in my conviction that accepting someone does not mean putting up with all their crap.  That I don't have to feel guilty or badly if I choose to remove myself from situations that are toxic and abusive.  That the next time someone tells me that I need to accept someone, I will feel confident in telling them I have accepted them.  And that's why I have the distant, self-protecting, relationship I have with them.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Eleven for Vicarious

So, my dear friend Jonsi has challenged me to The Eleven Questions.  Here below, are my answers to the questions she posed.  Now, I have to change the rules a bit.  I think I will pose eleven questions at the bottom, but I don't think I will tag anyone, as most of the bloggers I know have already been tagged.  However, I open the invitation to anyone who reads this to either post answers in the comments section or on their own blogs (Either my questions, or Jonsi's, or both!)

The rules of this game are as follows:

1. Do not talk about Fight Club
2. You must post the rules
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post
4. Create 11 new questions to ask the people you've tagged
5. Tag 11 people with a link to your post
6. Do not change the rules [wink]

1. How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?
This is a tough one for me.  I mean if I didn't know how old I was, I don't know if it would really matter.  I wouldn't want to be too old.  I would value the wisdom and insight ( I hope) I had gained.  But I like to get out and do things.  Like to be really active.  Like to be able to connect to nature in ways that if I was too elderly and infirm I might not be able too.  I also wouldn't want to be too young either.  Being young can have a lot of heartache attached, as you are often to naive to understand the scope of things.   But, truely, it would depend on the day.  Some days, I think how lovely it would be to just be my 13 month old's age.  To have everything be new.  To have so much potential and destiny ahead of you.  To be in awe at damn near everything, and to be delighted by damn near everything.  And to be forced to take naps ;).  
2. You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire.  They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend.  The criticism is distasteful and unjustified.  What do you do?
Well, I would have to defend her.  I wouldn't even approach it from the point of "she's my friend" because that doesn't matter.  The point is they shouldn't criticize in such a manner.  They are allowed their opinion, but a character assassination is less about the person they are talking about, and more about the people doing the talking.  And if I respect and admire these people, I would assume they would need to respect my opinions in return.  
3. Is is possible to know the truth without challenging it first?
I think very young children know the truth.  They are born with the truth.  Life corrupts and errodes the truth from us and we must spend the rest of our life searching for it.  And that only by challenging ideas do we find the truth.  Because that is the real test: real truth stands up to challenge.
4. Who do you most admire?
This another hard one for me.  I had to really think hard to think of someone I admire, and I was really coming up short.  I thought, "Geez, Jessie, what does that say about you that you admire no one?"  But I think what it came down to is that admire anyone, completely, is a bit simplistic for me.  Few people are admirable in their entirety.  Not that they are bad people, but by sheer virtue of being human, I'm sure they have traits they could work on.  With that said, I find lots of people to have lots of admirable characteristics.  So, here are things I admire in a person: honesty, integrity, desire to learn, desire to be of service, desire to not remain stagnant.  I admire generosity for the sake of wanting to do for another, without expecting anything in return.  I admire people who are so comfortable with themselves that they make you feel comfortable with yourself too.  I admire people who can appreciate the simplistic, small wonders in life but search for the greater all-encompassing wonders of life.  I appreciate people who can enjoy life and laugh in a genuine way, not in a way that is at the expense of others.  I admire people who are always looking for a way to live life better.
5. If you just won a million dollars, what is one thing you would buy with that money?
I would pay off our mortgage to relieve DH of some of the stress of his job.  I'd also take my family on a vacation, far, far away.
6. For the impending zombie apocalypse, what will be your weapon of choice and why?
Well, I'd like to be all highbrow and say "knowledge".  Because really, you've got to be wily to out survive the zombies.  Other than that, maybe a bazooka?  Something I can fire long range, and take out a lot of them at once?
7.  What is your favorite book?
"Gone with the Wind".  Scarlett is a tough little bitch, but she was the first female character I came across in a novel whom I felt wasn't getting walked all over and playing to stereotype.  I was 16 at the time I first read the book.  I loved how spunky and defiant she was.  I loved how she refused to give up.  I loved how she always picked herself up by the bootstraps, as well as many around her, and continued to move on.  I loved that she was flawed but strong.  That she continued to learn and change.  Plus, I also love history and loved a story set in a historical context.  But books are sacred to me, and I could list a ton that have significance to me.
8. How do you think of yourself - Hero, or villain?
 Neither.  I think being either is to deny apart of yourself.  That the struggle between the two is what makes us human.  I mean, if you are always the villian, are you not always taking, plotting, and stealing from others?  The hero is always self sacrificing for everyone else and never receiving.  I don't think you can live in either of these extremes.
9. Who do you sometimes compare yourself to?
Everyone.  Not in a measuring up kind of way.  But as I'm coming out of the FOG, I've really had to define some new "road markers" for life.  What I always believed has been shattered and I'm looking to see how much I've been conditioned to, and how much is really me.  But, in the end, my goal is to compare myself to no one.  To live in my own authenticity.  To not compare (which is to see who is lesser or more, in my view) as it somehow suggests judgement.  To live to my own goals, ideals, and truths.  
10. What are three moral rules you will never break?
1).  Do no intentional harm to others (really, do no harm, but all of us screw up on occasion unintentionally).  This includes treating others with integrity and respect.  Even the people I don't like.  I mean, not respecting them as people, but respecting their basic rights as human beings.  Because I will not lower myself to their standards.
2)  Be honest.  Try to live in an authentic way and be honest as much as you can.  This does not mean I have to tell everyone, everything all the time (which is what I've been led to believe is honesty).  But to always interact in a way that is not deceitful with others.  That I do not behave in covert ways to manipulate others.
3)  Live with integrity.  To try and live a life which I can look back on and say, I did the best I could.  I tried to do right by those around me.  I didn't step on, use, or manipulate anyone for my own petty interests.  That I tried to live life by improving on things around me, instead of taking away from things.   To continue on and reaffirm this everyday, even if I may fail or make mistakes on occasion.

11. If you could go back in time and tell a younger version of yourself one thing, what would you tell?
To think for yourself.  Always question.  Never follow blindly.  Believe in yourself and your gut.  Stick up for yourself.

1.  What have you done lately that you are proud of?
2.  What is one of your greatest pleasures in life?
3.  What is a small thing that someone did for you that changed your life?
4.  If you knew you would succeed, what would you want to do?
5.  What is your favorite holiday?
6.  Which trait do you wish you had for yourself?
7.  Which trait do of yours do wish other people had more of?
8.  What is your favorite part of nature?
9.  What do you hope others see in you, or hope others would describe you as?
10.  Who is your favorite (or are you most intrigued/interested by) character in literature/TV/Movies?
11.  What is a hobby or activity you'd like to try in the future that would be new to you?  

Why I am not going No Contact

First, and foremost, I feel No Contact is not only a valid and understandable choice, but one that many ACoNs are forced into.  It's not something they would've chosen.  It's not what they would've wanted for their life.  I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would willing choose to not have a family.  I believe everyone has to do what they feel is best for them and they have the right to.

With that said, I also don't feel No Contact is off the table.  With much of my own family, I have limited contact as it is, so it is not really an issue.  With NSis, she calls rarely, visits even less rarely and I can control how and when I see her and for what amount of time.  NM is a different story, but I have been slowly putting up the boundaries.

And I think that is the crux.  I have been working my way toward this point of healing for a long time in my life.  Going on for over a decade.  For many of those years, I couldn't figure out what was wrong.  I couldn't understand why all my efforts changed nothing.  Why, no matter what I did, it often got worse instead of better.  I tried the "change yourself, find what you need to be responsible for" approach in the relationship.  I worked on healing myself, finding myself, growing myself.  I let things go, I stood up for my rights.  Nothing changed.  And the horrible, anxiety-laden, pit in my stomach feeling never went away.  And I knew that something, whatever it was, was very, very wrong.  I searched for answers in many places.  I tried to explain things in many ways.  But it never got better.

I feel that all of this work was important for me to be able to accept (and be able to do something about) the answer when I did find it.  I am not a religious person but I am very spiritual.  And I believe we are led to things, guided, if you will.  We are moving of our own free choice, but hints and help is hidden along the way for us to find.  And when I was ready, I stumbled across "Narcissism".  It is ironic really, considering my education and career choice, that I hadn't found it before.  That I didn't know anything about it.  But then, with one random click (in relation to it being removed from the DSM-IV) out of curiosity, I found what I'd been looking for.  And I was ready.  Ready to do something about it.  Ready to use the information I had to change myself, my life.

But that was only a few months ago.  So, my journey into learning about narcissism and learning to cope with it is new.  I've spent many of these last few weeks hunkered down, preparing myself, healing myself, grieving.  I am preparing to use what I have learned.  But, the truth is, I have not set down appropriate boundaries with my family or in-laws in the past.  I have reacted to them with private anger, instead of calmly standing up for myself.  I do not feel that I have done everything I can to establish the type of relationship that I will feel comfortable in.  So, as of now, I need to invest in that.  I need to know that I tried.  That I provided opportunities for the narcs in my life to be respectful.  If they can do that, than we will maintain a relationship.  If they can not, then the relationship will be altered to protect my and my family, whether that be low contact or no contact.  In the end, to feel good about the choices I've made, I need to be responsible for being clear and definite about what I expect and offer them the chance to adapt.

And regardless, I believe in letting it go, in grieving the loss of the family I had hoped for (not in some superficial, "they are not the family of my ideal" way, but just a family who is supportive and loving, warts and all).  While my NM may still hurt me, I'm learning to let her go.  To remove myself from her web of control and live my own life.  To make decisions on what is best for me, not what she wants me to do.  Maybe I'm being naive.  Maybe it won't work.  Maybe she will still tear me down.  But I have to see all the outcomes.

And with the in-laws, no contact is not an option.  DH has agreed to setting boundaries.  We have agreed that their will be consequences to controlling or abusive behavior.  We are determined to make our family a priority.  We are determined to make things different for our kids.  But he is not willing (nor have I asked) to separate from his family.  And in reality, there is a huge part of his extended family that are important to him.  His family means a lot to him and I would not expect him to throw all of them away due to his NM.   If we can figure out how to structure a relationship with her, and ignore attacks she send through her peons, I think we can do this.  We are going to have to try.  Because, at this point, that is the only option.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I've been feeling so overwhelmed lately.  As liberating as this all is, as freeing as it is to think I'm changing, moving past it, finally healing, it is also overwhelming to deal with the grief, the sadness, the realization that we really are alone.  Things will not get better.  DH and I are not ever going to have that family support we so desperately hoped for.  It is overwhelming to think of all the work ahead.  To realize how many of our friendships took advantage of our preconditioned natures.

DH and I have come so far.  We have grown closer in the past few months than we ever have.  He is willing and eager to listen and hear me.  While he may not always agree, he considers and validates me.  But it is such a long road I see stretched out.  Such a long road of recovery, redefining life, setting out on our own.

And in the midst of all this, life goes on.  Laundry piles up as I write posts.  My kids entertain themselves more than I'd like them to as I try to sort through this all.  The house is a wreck.  I am trying to let go of my perfectionism, but some days, I want to drag everything out on the lawn, burn it all, pack up me and my family and start over.  Live more simply.  We finally have the "home" I've longed for and worked for and needed, but sometimes the weight of it is too much.  DH hates his job and I know he shoulders more than his share of the burdens of that, protecting me from the stress he is feeling.  Knowing that, at the moment, I just can't carry anymore.  But I hurt for him, and feel for him, and worry for him.

I walked through Target today, tears playing in my eyes.  Stupid tears as I looked at clothes and diapers and just felt so adrift.  Felt so lonely.  Wished so desperately that we had ANY family that could surround us without expecting something in return, or using our rough patch to make themselves feel better, or gossip about us behind our back.  That we could trust and lean on someone.  To know that the friends I see dropping by the wayside, who would never even think about asking how WE are doing, aren't all we had hoped they would be.  Trying to be strong, carry my kids, find the way to soldier on, heal on the run, as I grieve, and feel loss, and feel lonely, and feel tired.

The Narcissistic Triple Crown

As we left the movie theater, I stated that I had really liked the movie.  "You couldn't have liked that movie.  It was very depressing.  It didn't have a positive message."  Well, I explained,  I didn't need a "positive message" to enjoy a movie.  Sometimes, seeing the underside of life brought interesting thoughts for me to ponder.  I enjoyed thinking of things from all angles, I stated.  And besides, the movie (a later Oscar winner), was well written, beautifully filmed, and entertaining.  And so it went, as I tried to explain why I had a right to like the movie, as she argued that I couldn't have liked the movie.  Because she hadn't liked the movie, it simply was a fact that it was a movie unworthy of liking.  Finally, she took the stance that, when I was her age (60), I would see the error of my ways and not like trivial things like this movie and choose to only have positive influences in my life.  I questioned my Dad.  Did he like the movie (as he was also close to 60)?  Well, yes he did.  It changed her mind not at all.  I simply was wrong for disagreeing with her opinion.

This would become a defining theme in my adult relationship with my stepmother (SM).  Her way was the "right way", the only way, and any differentiation of that was wrong.  She had met my Dad when I was in my last year of high school.  I had met her when I was 18.  They lived two states away, and so I saw her, on average, once a year.  She really knew nothing of me, but she knew what was best for me.  My sister got the worst of it, as she lived with them for quite awhile.  It was a chaotic, stressful time for them all.  And instead of helping my dad and sister get along, she inserted herself, tried to control it all, and generally drove them apart.  She refused to allow them a relationship that didn't involve her, and it ultimately separated them as my sister felt betrayed that dad didn't defend her more.

SM has three boys of her own.  She was a single mom for most of her life after an abusive relationship.  She is extremely enmeshed with them, even as they are married.  They call her constantly, seek her advice on everything, and she doesn't allow them to make decisions without her input.  She would budget her grown, married son's money every month;  going through their bills, determining how much they could spend.  She "requested" that everyone spend all holidays together.  All her kids and all their in-laws.  It never went well (as you can imagine.)  She disliked DIL's mother (another overly enmeshed mother) and they fought over turf.  She rarely has a nice thing to say about people and she is very black and white in her judgements.  She also has pushed for everyone to stay around her city.

Regardless, I rarely had too many problems with her.  She would offer her advice when we visited.  Offer up her opinion, but I could easily ignore her, as we saw her so rarely.  She would come to my home and make efforts to "teach" me how to be a grown up (despite me already being one, and functioning just fine the other 51 weeks of the year.)  One Christmas, she bugged me to help.  I finally asked her to complete the gravy, so I could finish up all the other last minute prep.  She proceeding to demand my attention as she "taught" me how to make gravy, as I ran around the kitchen trying to do everything else.  Dad asked me if I had known how to make gravy.  I explained I did.  He said nothing more about it.  She announced that she was going to "make herself at home".  Well, I like people to be comfortable in my home.  But what she meant was, she was going to treat my home as if it really was her home.  Helping herself to anything she wanted, commandeering the washing machine, going into any cupboard she felt necessary, taking apart old family albums to "make copies at home", and ripping apart my carefully organized scrap book of recipes to copy them onto my fancy, expensive stationary (if she'd just asked, I have a ton of normal notebooks to use.)

When I had my son, all hell broke loose.  They arrived a week and a half after my c-section to "help".  But she meant "to teach you how to be a mom".  She preached, she pushed, she scolded.  She and my father argued that because she had raised 3 sons, that I needed her advice.  They didn't ask what I knew, they didn't care if my opinion was different.  Any attempt to do what I thought was best was met with anger at my being stubborn and not doing what was best for the baby.   She insisted that I use a pacifier.  She snapped that the baby was nursing too much, using me as comfort.  I argued that he was a week and a half old,  we were attempting to get off to a good start, it gave me a chance to sit down, I didn't mind nursing, and that really, every two and a half hours was not that much.  I finally hid the pacifiers from her as she kept stuffing them down his throat.  When I came home from a half hour errand run, I found her rummaging through my bedroom looking for the pacifiers.  He was "about" to cry, she wanted to soothe him.   She knew best, after all.

She wanted to do the cooking, again "to teach me".  But I have been cooking since I was 13.  And although I would've loved someone to cook, I was tired of the huge messes she made and left after her cooking sessions.  So, I had food prepared ahead of time and frozen.  I had it all done.  She insisted she could help.  So, one day, I asked for help.  I said we needed to pull the carrots up from the garden, clean them, and chop the vegetables.  Well, she needed to have her iced tea first.  She sat on her ass as I, fresh incision in my abdomen, bent over the garden, pulled up the vegetables, washed them off with a hose, cleaned them further inside and finally chopped them all up.  Only as I finished up, did she also finish her tea and come inside.  God forbid she had to do things my way on my terms.

She left my house complaining to everyone who would listen how much of a spoiled brat I was.  I wouldn't listen to reason.  How I was harming my kid.  How I didn't respect that he wasn't "my baby" but the "family's baby".  She didn't care that I had gotten different advice from my pediatrician.  She didn't care that my mom and MIL had different advice.  I was the bitch for not listening to her (and her decades old advice.)

Things continued to get worse.  She declared herself a cutesy grandmother name that I hated.  She had asked me about it and I had told her that we were calling all the grandmother's the same thing (to avoid jealousy and such).  She didn't care.  Her DIL had picked this name and she expected me to use this childish name that I hate.  She nitpicks.  She finds fault.  She helps herself to my home in ways that push boundaries. When they visited two days after we moved into a new home, despite seeing the unpacked boxes in my garage, she constantly commented on the things I needed to provide a better guest experience.  All of the things I had but were unpacked.  I felt she was lucky to have a bed.  She always has critical judgments, always has a damn opinion.  ON EVERYTHING.  From what we serve, to what I eat (she claims I'm unhealthy, despite my weight being normal and hers being very much overweight), to how meals are prepared, to how we raise my son, the sleep he gets, the way I do laundry.  Everything is up for discussion, and my refusal to follow her opinions is MY personal flaw.  She has convinced my dad, somehow, that my kids are not as developed as her grandkids and he eats up her advice like it's law (which totally confuses me since he's not that type of person to just go with one person's thoughts).   She's slow and lumbering and makes people wait on her.  She can never be ready on time.  She requires 500 trips to the store to get things when she's here.  She and Dad call me anal and over organized.  They resent that I ask them to accommodate my kids.   Two of the last three times they've come here, they've arrived at 11:00 at night, despite the fact that I had a VERY newborn baby and was very short on sleep (and my husband had to work the next day).  And it's because they decide to go out to breakfast with relatives, or couldn't leave before 1 pm.  They have had little consideration or empathy for the fact that the last three visits have been at the three of the most stressful, difficult times for my family.  They make assumptions and judgments based on what they see during those visits, never taking into consideration that those were atypical times in our life, and often, things are different when you have house guests.  I always feel like I'm under inspection.

So, Dad called the other night and announced they wanted to visit...soon.  They couldn't arrange things before now, and want to come at one of the busiest times in our summer.  I would love for just Dad to come, as he actually, is pretty easy going, but that won't happen.  And he doesn't realize how stressed she makes me.  I really want the boys to see the grandfather.  And if it doesn't happen now, it won't happen for another year.  I would like to see my Dad.  I actually enjoy him.  I just wish he'd leave her behind.

Friday, July 6, 2012

NM's Reward for her Long Suffering

Reading through the blogs, so many repressed memories have come back, slamming me in the face.  So many things that I've just set aside and moved past.  Buried way back inside my head and heart.  But a few days ago, I read lifesizevision's post about discovering his mother's affair, and so many things came back to me.

I really hadn't thought about my mother's affair in a long time.  It had been so totally eclipsed by so many other hurts, abuses, and layers of pain, that it had faded into the background.  In reading lifesizevision's post I  was reminded about how much it had hurt me at the time.  How betrayed I felt.  And I struggled with why I had dismissed this offense and now, hardly even thought about it.

Mom and I had gone to pick up my little sister from a school function.  It was dark, the rain poured down, and my sister was expected at any minute.  And mom dropped the bomb shell.  The next day, my dad would be looking for an apartment.  He'd be moving out.  They were divorcing.  She didn't even have the decency to tell me this face to face, in a place I could process it.  She ambushed me, knowing NSis would be arriving shortly.  Knowing that I'd never let on, as I wouldn't want to upset her.  She offered no explanation, no excuses, no reasons.  Offered me no comfort.

I remember being devasted and scared and confused.  I sat in my room for a long time, probably a month.  I took my Dad's old T.V. from his room.  I came out of my room only to shower and eat dinner.  I remember my Dad checking on me once.  I remember, that for the most part, they left me alone.  No one came for me. I remember Dad falling apart.  My stoic, unemotional, detached dad came apart at the seams.  This terrified me.  But where was my mother?  Absent, gone....

I don't remember how I found out about the affair.  I have some vague recollection that it was my father who told me.  It's shocking to me how much I've blocked out.  Like some war veteran who only has flashbacks.   He was a man my mother worked with.  It had been going on a long time.  There were lots of secrets.  My mother wouldn't answer any questions about what had happened.  We were "children" and didn't need to know what went on, too young to be exposed to that.  Ha.  The irony must have been lost on her that we "children" had already been exposed to it and that she had expected us to grow up and deal with it like adults as we took care of ourselves because she was out cavorting around.

My sister read my dad's journal at some point and told me much later that mom had gone back and forth between this new man and my dad.  Played them against each other.  I always wondered what she had told the new man (now EStep-father, ESF).  I believe she lied and told him it was all over.  When his own daughter had an affair, and married the "new man", ESF disliked this new man greatly.  I wondered how he reconciled that with his own behavior, or how much mom had lied to him to convince him he wasn't that man.

It was another surprise attack when mom introduced us to her new man.  She often left us on the weekends to go be with him and his family.  She never took us along, because it was too early.  So she left us, two broken, damaged teenagers to our own devices for the whole weekend.  She never thought about how much this would hurt us.  How abandoned we felt.  How it was clear she was choosing this "new family" over her own.  She was having a grand old time while we drowned in the mess she left.  I played mom to my little sister.  I fed her, watched her, got her out of trouble.  And my sister was a trainwreck at 14.  Drinking, sneaking out of the house, sleeping with boys, throwing parties at my house.  Problems that would be difficult for an adult to deal with.  But they were my problems now.

So, one day mom pranced into the TV room with new man and new man's kids.  They'd had a delightful weekend.  She gave us no warning.  We were laying around when they walked in.  I remember feeling embarrassed that she had introduced us while we were just relaxing.  She acted like a teenage girl with a crush.  All giddy and smiley and happy.  And she expected us to be too.

We had many arguments about new man.  She argued that I was a selfish, horrible brat.  That I had no right to be angry with him or not like him.  That I OWED HER to be nice to him, accept him as my family, be respectful.  I was not allowed to be angry, or hurt, or upset.  I wan't allowed to have any feelings about the situation that weren't positive.  She reasoned that she had put up with years of abuse from my father and that it was her turn to be happy now.  She had found her "soul mate".  She was finally happy and putting herself first.  And how dare I suggest that she didn't deserve this.  How dare I try to deny her this happiness.  She railed against me for my betrayal of her by not being happy about it.  I see the absurdity now.  She had destroyed my family, betrayed me, my father, and my sister, forced a new man into my life, and I was expected to be HAPPY ABOUT THE WHOLE FUCKING THING.  She never once admitted any wrong doing.  She never once apologized.  What did she have to be sorry about, she reasoned?  She'd done nothing wrong except finally put herself first.  She couldn't even separate out that while her commitment to my father and her betrayal of that was enough, that she had also made a commitment to us, as her kids.  That by abandoning us when we needed her most, selling us out for her new found happiness, abandoning all of her responsibilities as a mother was even more of a betrayal.

When she married the new man, we also were expected to smile, be happy, not rain on her parade.  How dare we have any negative emotions.  This is what made her happy.  She even bullied us into singing her and new husband's wedding song.  It made my stomach hurt.  Torture.  Abuse.  Horrific memories.  She and new hubby had a secret number that they used to use to sign all of their cards.  Some secret code number.  I know, even though she refused to tell me what it signified, that this was the hotel number of the room they would meet up in.  For years, they signed all of their cards with that number.  For years, she would get us rooms at this hotel when we stayed in town.  And I remember vividly how prominently it was displayed on her wedding cake.  I remember thinking at the time how stupid she must've thought me to be.  I remember thinking what a HUGE SLAP IN THE FACE it was.  How I choked on that damn cake.  How I wish now that she had choked on that damn cake.   What a horrible wretch of a person.  Who does that to her kids?  Who betrays them and then demands that they be happy about it?  Accuses them of disloyalty and feigns hurt if the kids dare to have some negative emotions about it?  Who places the blame on her kids for not doing everything they can to make her new marriage and family work out?  Who denies their kids any right to their feelings or reactions?  My fucked up mother, that's who.

Years later, as we continued to fight about it all, she would claim she did it all for me.  She would through it in my face that I was just angry about the divorce if I even disagreed with her.  Like it was some flaw on my part.  And yes, I was angry about it all still.  I'd never been allowed to process any of it.  Never been to therapy (mom would never have taken ME to therapy, what was there to need therapy about, this was a GOOD thing).  The fallout from this one event still rained down around me.  I was being forced to go back to the "way things were", not that they were that way to begin with.  She had no idea how badly she had betrayed my trust, destroyed any notions of what I thought our relationship was, destroyed our relationship period.  She just expected me to move on and get on with things.  And so, if I dared get angry with her, I could have no valid reason, other than the divorce, which I actually had no valid reason to be angry about either.  And then, in one fight, she blamed it on me.  My dad was a horrible man, she claimed.  Angry, no job at the time (he'd been laid off and was going back to college, and was working).  She wanted a "better" life for me and my sister.  New hubby would offer security (monetary).  I was in shock to think that she thought she could just trade out one man for a new man as my father like it was a new pair of shoes.  That she thought I could just disconnect and except the substitute and move on.  That, when backed into a corner, she'd somehow placed all the blame on me.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Relationship with NMIL

I am going to apologize for the ramblings I'm about to do.  I have so many thoughts swirling in my head, and I'm guessing it will all come out sort of jumbled.  So, hang on and bear with me.

As DH and I have embarked upon this narcissistic journey, it's been a rough road.  And although he can see my points about NM and conceeds that I have validity in what I saw about NMIL, he still can't see the big picture.  He's still missing the larger ramifications, effects, legacies.  He can't see the forest for the trees.  All he can see is the trees, lined up individually.  And when he sees the trees, he can't understand why I feel lost so deeply in her forest.  He can't see how all those trees have stacked upon each other to form one black wall.  Some of the trees seem so far in the past to him, he can't see why they still bother me, or I'm even still thinking about them.  But for me those trees are all linked together.  That farthest back tree is the foundation, the start of the forest, the moment I entered the deep woods.  And he has asked me, several times, in a very sad way if I hate her.  I don't hate her.  I've tried to explain that I hate the way she treats me.  I hate the way I've never stood up for myself.  I hate that he always has dismissed her, excused her, trivialized what I have said.

I can remember vividly staring at my reflection as I closed my car door.  I was about to meet DH's parents for the first time and I was shaking.  I wanted so badly for them to like me.  I wanted so badly to fit in.  I loved him dearly already, and I wanted him to be proud of me.  I was young, naive, and had no real identity in myself.  I was locked in a horrible time with my mother and felt very alone and outcast.  I had few girlfriends because I rarely trusted them.  And the ones I did, I always wound up hurt.  Not surprisingly, I was often the third wheel in a trio of friends (hello, NM and NSIS all over!) and I always felt hurt as i was locked on the outside.  But I wanted to impress.  I wanted to be liked.  I was young.

NMIL was a church going-type lady.  She sang in the choir, was involved in all kinds of groups.  She was a no nonsense lady who was raising four boys.  She was a bit tom boyish.  She hadn't changed her hair style since the late 80s (this was in the late 90s)  She was little, but round.  She had a big laugh and ruled her kids with a tight rein.  Her home was rowdy and boisterous and chaotic.  But it was decorated in dainty florals and old victorian furniture.  I learned later that the home had been her mother's.  She clearly hadn't changed a thing in the 20 years she lived there...literally.   For many, many years, not a picture changed on the wall, furniture never was rearranged, and even knickknacks that had been there for decades sat in the same spots in the bathroom.

And I wanted to fit in.  So, I kept my mouth shut and went with the flow.  I ignored how the family all lacked boundaries about walking around in their underwear, assuming it was "family of boy thing".  I went to sporting events and family picnics.  I met extended relatives and watched my mouth.  I talked little about myself, but just tried to assimilate.  I got the feeling, early on that that was expected of me.  To assimilate.  I smiled through gritted teeth as I was continually embarrassed by the family's loud, obnoxious behavior at restaurants (oh, this is just how we are!).  I ignored the teasing, and the name calling and the meanness, as I again took it for "a family of boys".  Boys will be boys.

I tolerated being made fun of and picked on for my small breasts (according to NMIL) in a very public way, on several occasions.  And I was aware this was a family joke that ran behind my back.  In fact, I became uncomfortable aware that ALL of me had been discussed by family members while not in my presence.  I sucked it up when my boundaries were violated and things were asked of me that I really couldn't afford to give.  I remember once an aunt telling her daughter to ask me for my hair barrettes that the daughter wanted. Because I should've just handed them over.  It didn't matter that I was poor, or loved the barettes, or couldn't afford to replace them.  I was just expected to give them because her daughter wanted them.

I tried to fit in.  I became a "Christian" because I knew it was very important to NMIL.  I even got baptized at, insistence, I'll call it.  I took her along to wedding planning events and stood dutifully as she plopped a tacky, large wedding crown on my petite head.  I politely declined it, despite her insistance and offer to pay for it.  I explained it wasn't my style.  I argued as politely as I could that it just didn't go with my style.  I tried to not take it personally when she mocked and commented negatively about what  I had chose.  I listened to all the family war stories over and over and laughed at the jokes.  I took a very, long road trip with her to see DH and tried not to notice her almost bitter attitude as she dropped me off at his home and left for her hotel.  I pretended that DH and I maintained all sorts of Christian pureness.  I went along with lies when she bought (now SIL and BIL) and DH and I a hotel room on a family vacation and stated we had to sleep girls with girls and boys with boys.  Absurd, weird, and gross now that I think about it.  And I went on family vacations and went along with everything and tried to fit in.

The first red flags came when I dared to disagree with some of her Christian ideology.  She had a very strict, literal view of things and it hadn't occurred to any of her sons to dispute her.  They took her word for it that that was how things were.  When I started to dissent, and offer up altneratives, I was ridiculed and put down.  I remember feeling very badly.  Not that she argued against me.  She had BIL #2, who was to be the minister do that.  She just told me that God had told her messages to give me.  I found this odd.

NMIL raised her boys with the objective of getting it done.  In fact, that is how she always did everything.  It didn't matter how it got done, just that it was done.  She asked me once to help BIL4 with homework, a paper.  Having a teacher's soul, I sat down and began helping him.  Asking him questions, helping him form sentences.  But I would never have written it for him.  I had to many ethics to do that.  I knew that this kid's freshman teacher would never believe that he had written what I, a college educated and pretty literate person, would have written.  I thought he needed to do it himself.  I clearly remember her snatching the paper from me and complaining that she'd just "help" him herself.  I apparently was taking too long.   She never seemed to be interested in teaching her kids.  She just corrected after the fact.  And if she could find someone else to do part of it for her, she would.  She often commented how DH's coach in school had given him discipline.  She used teasing and yelling and name calling to keep her kids in line.  She herded them like cattle towards the finish line.  DH explained that she had it rough with four boys.  It was hard to control them.  She just was doing her best.  Maybe she was.  But she also seemed to have the philosophy of just throwing whatever at them and seeing what stuck.  It was chaotic and pieced together and frantic.  She never seemed to actually be in control despite always demanding to be in control.  And she hardly ever let them do things  for themselves.  She explained this under the guise that she was helping them, but in reality I think she just wanted to take the easy way out.  Just get it done as fast as possible.  Not actually teach her kids to fish, but just throw fish at them and pat herself on the back for being a good provider.  She picked paths for her kids and shoved them down them.  She picked all three of DH's brothers' career paths (only one stuck, and that one is in jeopardy at the moment.  I remember her hiring a resume writer for DH when he graduated college.  She claimed this lady was the best, but that was her typical m.o.  It didn't matter if the credentials were valid, as long as the person told her they were.   So, she made some lady to type up a basic resume.  She bought him some suits and some work clothes.  She dressed him up and pushed him out, expecting the world.  In image, her kids always looked the part of prepared grownups.  Unfortunately, she never gave them the actually skills to be grown ups.  And then she criticized them for their short comings and failings.  (And luckily, DH didn't need her help, succeeded on his own, and didn't take her hand holding.)  Again, she always wanted the result with out any work.

BIL3 has mental problems (learning and behavioral).  He was the whipping boy and family joke.  He took the brunt of the teasing and family stories about BIL3 were a favorite past time.  They still are.  And what I took for family reminising at the time has really started to bother me as of late.  He was held up as the "different one".  The reason the family was seen as crazy in the eyes of their town.  He was the shield they all hid behind, allowed themselves to feel "normal" behind.  I remember once suggesting that all of the family (except EFIL) had this particular disorder they liked to label BIL3 with.  You'd thought I'd accused them all of murder.  I assumed they all knew.  They were shocked that anyone would suggest they were like him.

After DH and I got married, NMIL ratched up the push for grandkids.  She bugged me all of the time.  She had begun to push her way into my and DH's life by buying us season tickets to a sporting event...with them. So, we saw them all the time.  It used to be one of our favorite things to do as a couple, but it got taken over.  Ironically, DH got his season ticket bought for him for his birthday.  I had to pay for mine myself.  DH always explained it was just that his parents spent less on me for my birthday.  I offered it to be my birthday and Christmas present.  NMIL always refused.  I don't think this was a coincidence or oversite.  Regardless, she used these games to start pushing me.  She hounded me for a grandkid (apparantly her son had no say, and it was all up to me, as she never bugged him.)  She whined that all her friends had grandkids.  She refused to here me as I said that we weren't ready (we were working through a lot at the time, including starting our careers and starting to come to terms with his family).  She stated that BIL and SIL weren't ready for kids when I suggested she bug them, as they'd been married just as long as we had.  I was irritated she believed she knew who was ready and who wasn't.   She evesdropped and butted into conversations I had with friends at the tailgate parties before hand.  She pushed me to "snuggle" under her blanket with her.  She pushed and pushed.  She expected to get my extra tickets if I didn't go to the game to give to her family or friends, but she never offered to pay me back for it.  I was  feeling more and more smothered and overwhelmed.  She pushed for this relationship with me.  Wanted us to be friends.  But she never wanted to do the work, never wanted to get to know me.  Always wanted to rush to the end where we were this super close daughter and mother-in-law.  Just get it done. 

Her grip of control started to tighten.  As DH and I grew up and away from her into independence, she seemed to ramp up.  She continued to plan big family vacations and functions and expected us to act as one unit, with her at the helm.  I attributed it at the time to the other brothers still being young.  She was still in that "mother of kids" mode.  I figured she'd grow and adapt to the way things were.  But she didn't.  She continued to cling to the idea of how things used to be.  And I believe she began to see me as a threat.  She began to see me as a threat to her idea.  She began relegating me to a "secondary" position in the family.  She determined a hierarchy.  It had always been there, but she began to make it much more clear.  Showing clear favoritism towards her kids when giving gifts.  Treating me as just another thing to get done when Christmas rolled around.  She made ornaments with all of our names on them.  "First Tier" family got big ornaments towards the top of the tree.  SIL, me, the dog, and the bird got small ornaments at the bottom of the tree.  And it could be argued that she ran out of big ornaments when she got to us.  But even then, you can see how her thinking went.  She seemed to treat me well, but it was clear to me that there was no thought, no desire to actually make me feel included or thought of.  Just to give the image of the doting MIL. But behind the scenes, she started to amp things up.  Snarky comments here and there.  Little criticisms.  Always taking someone else's side in a story.  Telling cautionary tales about her SIL who disowned the family and what a horrible, wretch of a woman she was.  I heard that story a lot.  But I got the custom pleasantries, but no depth.  No true intimacy.  No real work.  And it was my fault, cold, frigid, stuck-up person that I was, that the relationship didn't work.

When this didn't get her the results she wanted, she changed tactics.  Instead of treating me "just like everyone else", she started treating me better (or so she thought).  It was a full on assault to win my trust.  She started stalking me whenever we were together.  I couldn't take a step or change seats in a room without her following me.  She told SIL to quit spending time as a group, as I acted differently when SIL was around (which to me, was much more comfortable because I had a buffer).  She began staring at me like I was up on stage for viewing taking everything in.  Nothing missed her eye.  And she "complimented" me on everything.  Everything was just wonderful.  Everything I did was the best.  She took my side against DH if I expressed an disagreement.  She always took my side.  Always told me how smart I was.  It was all so phony.  I didn't believe any of it.  She changed her hair.  Started changing her home.  Dressing in a more..."youthful" way.

It was around this time she started her "coveting phase".  I've always noticed that she had no real identity of her own.  She always seemed to be a preschooler playing dress up.  Taking out an identity, trying it on, growing bored and trying on something else.  Her home and clothes and activities expressed nothing of who she was.  Even the church activities were passed down to her.  All relics of her parents that she just took on like a turtle's shell.  Then, for whatever reason, she began to adopt the identity of DH and me.  We went to Europe, she went to Europe.  We got into wine, she got into wine (although we were "alcoholics" and "wine snobs" at first.)  Anything we did, she did too.  We got a new house, she remodeled her kitchen.  It all felt very icky.  I had nothing, owned nothing that she didn't covet.  And the jealousy came out too.  If I cooked something well, she cooked something better.  When I got compliments for nicely wrapped gifts, she started wrapping gifts better (or at least my gifts, which bothers me even more.  Like I would be impressed by that.  I don't wrap gifts nicely to impress people, I do it because I want to show them I think they are important, worthy of something beautiful and my time.  So much of what she does seems to be to try to impress me.)   She has always been into what was "the best".  She'd believe anyone if they told her it was the best, a good deal, or worthy.  She must be a salesperson's dream.  She doesn't ever discern anything for herself, but takes everyone's word about things.  And so to compete, she started telling us about this "best wine" that she "knew you would like!!!" or some fabulous winery or movie or restaurant that she knew we would like, even if she couldn't actually take credit for the recommendation.  It was all about appearing that she was in the know.  Always laughing the loudest at the jokes.  Always being in the middle of every activity.  She couldn't be left out of anything.  She was getting on my last nerve.  I no longer trusted her or her intentions in the least bit.  I didn't believe anything she said was authentic.  Everything seemed to be for effect.  Not only with me, but everyone.  She offered to do everything, for everyone, all the time.  Even if she didn't want to.  Even if she was going to complain about that person to anyone who would listen.  She didn't want to look like the bad person.  But there was always the sideways comment.  The little underbelly, passive-aggressive dig.  They snarky looks.  The temper if you called her on anything.  When overt control had no longer work, she went underground.  She started suggesting things, expressing the utmost concern to one brother about another.  Planting seeds.  The phoniness, the disingenuous nature of it all, it all being so much more work than it should've been, always feeling on guard.

And so it pretty much stands today.  Me, walls up, on guard, distanced.  Her always looking for a way to plow through my walls.  Always feeling stalked, and cornered, and bullied.  Lots of false talk and phoniness and shallow relationships.  Lots of attempts at manipulation, offering "trips", "gifts", talking about how they are setting us up financially.

DH and I have come a long way since the beginning.  He hardly ever took my side in the beginning.  If I couldn't get along with his family, then I shouldn't let the door hit me on the way out.  I wondered, briefly, why I put up with it then.  But I know that it's because that's how life had always been.  Get alone, sacrifice, sit down and shut up, or get the hell out.  But he slowly started to listen.  He started to actually believe me.  He put down a lot of his excuses.  He still uses "that's just the way she is.  She won't change.  She doesn't think of it that way.  I'm sure she didn't mean it.  We always tease in our family.  She doesn't think before she acts.  You read too much into her.  You are too sensitive.  You always look for things that aren't there.  She doesn't do that on purpose.  She's just excited/hyper/unorganized."  but I get these excuses far less.  He still jumps to defensiveness, but I can at least rationalize with him once the initial moment has passed.  He is willing to listen to me.   When I presented him with the 25 characteristics of narcissists with detailed notes about how NMIL fit them, he spent over an hour reading them all.  And he believed me.  And said I had some valid points.  It's a long way from the beginning.  But  a long way from where I want to be.  But I'm determined.  I want him to see so he can lay down some of the legacy she's given him.  So he will let go of some of the toxic ways she taught him to be a parent (and for the record, he is an amazing father, but struggles with some of the narcissistic traits and toxic parenting models we all do).  To put down some of his defensiveness.