Releasing the past in order to find myself

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Good Tidings

I want to wish all my blogging friends a lovely holiday season.  Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it.  And here's to a wonderful New Narc-Drama Free Year!

Thank you all for your love, support, and validation.  Having this small band of misfits to help me along has really changed my life around and I can never repay you all for that.  To those of you who've become dear friends, you are cherished.  To those of you who comment, I appreciate your feedback and support.  To those of you who visit and read, I am glad you are here and want you to know you may always join the conversation.  It gives me comfort to know you are all out there.

Love Always, Jessie

Monday, December 16, 2013


Lately, things have been better.  Not that the narcs are better.  Not that they are leaving me alone.  NSIS, alone has been ramping things up lately.  Circumstances have not changed.

But I have changed.  Recently, I've felt like there has been a seismic shift.  Like that moment when Dorothy is going home after being in OZ.  And the good witch tells her she had "the power all alone."  And she suddenly realizes how easy it is.  Easy to be herself, not haunted by the wicked witch any more.  Suddenly, she's just sort of free.  The narcs have lost a lot of their ability to really, truly get to me.

That doesn't mean they haven't tried.  It doesn't mean that they haven't upset me, angered me, and annoyed me.  It doesn't mean that our relationship is going to be any better.  At least, not if you judge it by their standards.  But I just am not responding any more.  I'm not afraid anymore.  I'm not afraid to stand up for myself and speak up. 

And I feel good, calm, and happy.  A lot of the time.  And man, oh, man is it a hard feeling for me to deal with.  Here I've been working on the depression, the anxiety, the anger.  Who knew that happiness might be JUST as hard to deal with.

I'll be sitting there, feeling good, SMILING.  All of a sudden, I'll become aware of myself and I'll notice how light and easy I'm feeling.  How much I'm enjoying the moment.  How content and just plain HAPPY I am. 

And it'll freak me out.  I can feel, myself, instantly reign myself in.  I can feel myself numbing myself.  It's so crazy.  I have never noticed this reigning in before.  The pulling back from happy.  Happy feels out of control, happy feels almost dangerous sometimes.  It feels odd.  Uncomfortable, even. 

It isn't surprising to me.  Happiness was not welcome in my family growing up.  We didn't laugh a lot.  We didn't tell each other we loved each other.  In general, I tried to draw as little attention to myself as possible.  I'm sure many other ACoNs know that drill.  Don't be happy, don't be sad, don't BE anything.  And neither of my parents was particularly happy.  Ever.  And being happy generally caught negative attention.  So, I just didn't do it.

The second part to that equation is that no one was allowed to be any happier than anyone else.  So, if NM was upset, we couldn't be happy.  If dad was pissed off, which was often, none of us could be happy.  We were all required to "level" down to the person feeling the worse off.  How could you be happy, if your mom/sister/dad was not happy?  That seemed to be the message. 

And as I got older, it was clear I could never be happier than my sister.  Especially in the last few years, my NM always minimized my happiness by dragging me down to my sister's emotional level (which was never happy or "good").   I'm not quite sure how she went about it, but I always got the feeling I wasn't suppose to enjoy my wedding, my marriage, my new home, my children too much because, well, think of my poor sister.  She didn't have any of that.  It's how NM justified NSIS's shitty behavior of me and ignoring me and plain not treating me very well.  Well, Jessie, your sister just can't be there for the birth of your kids like she promised/not screw people and cause drama at your wedding/return a phone call or text or let you know she has "cancer" because her life isn't as good as yours.  She's not as fortunate as you.  She's not as lucky.  You shouldn't be so "proud" and "showy" about your "good fortune" because how will that make your sister feel?  She once got upset with me because my grandfather sent me a card for my birthday (this also happened when I got baby notices and other family communications a couple of times).  "Did he send your sister one?"  She bombarded me.  "How is that supposed to make NSIS feel?"  WTF?  Who gives a shit how that makes NSIS feel?  NSIS didn't get a card because she makes NO attempts to be there or contact family.  But NM feels NSIS is entitled to the same treatment as I am (despite the fact that I actually DO work to maintain contact with people).   I can't ever just enjoy anything because it might make NSIS feel badly (and most likely NM too). 

And so I restrained myself.  I held back.  I wouldn't let myself fully enjoy moments because I felt I didn't deserve them.  That I had somehow lucked into them.  I wouldn't let myself enjoy things because I feared them being taken away from me.  I wouldn't let myself be happy because I feared "punishment" for it.

It makes me angry now.  Angry that I wasn't in moments.  Angry that I still struggle to just be, just feel.  That even happiness can make me feel afraid. 

I suppose all I can do is keep working at it. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013


I came across this on FB.  Anyone have any thoughts on this?

“Not all toxic people are cruel and uncaring. Some of them love us dearly. Many of them have good intentions. Most are toxic to our being simply because their needs and way of existing in the world force us to compromise ourselves and our happiness. They aren’t inherently bad people, but they aren’t the right people for us. And as hard as it is, we have to let them go. Life is hard enough without being around people who bring you down, and as much as you care, you can’t destroy yourself for the sake of someone else. You have to make your wellbeing a priority. Whether that means breaking up with someone you care about, loving a family member from a distance, letting go of a friend, or removing yourself from a situation that feels painful — you have every right to leave and create a safer space for yourself.”
Daniell Koepke

Friday, November 22, 2013


So, ironically, as I penned my post yesterday, NM crafted this (the third in an installment of "love messages she's crafted in the past two weeks)  to put on her FB page: 

"A daughter is one of the most beautiful gifts this world has to give.
-- Laurel Atherton

I have been blessed with the most talented, intelligent, warm hearted,loving and beautiful daughters possible. Love my (Jessie) and (NSIS)."

So.....a couple of things about this:

First, I'm sure those of you who are not emotionally connected to my mother see this as a huge pile of bullshit.  A PUBLIC statement of her "love" and "admiration" for her daughters meant to shine a big ole spotlight on NM.  I see it too and I'm sure you are right.  Unfortunately, it's not always that easy for me to separate her bullshit from my emotions about it. 

NM uses "blessed".  She is not religious.  At all.  Blessed is the word of choice for NM lately (and it appears a ton of others) who is imitating all the conservative, right wing people she knows. 

"Most talented, intelligent, warm hearted..." BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.  This same woman told me, about five years ago, that neither my sister and I lived up to our "potential" because we weren't making a ton of money.  She's told me and NSIS we are  smart (but it's a source of bitterness to her because she thinks she's "stupid".  She resents that it is "natural" for us).  She's never said out right I'm beautiful.  I know she clearly thinks NSIS is (I think NM would BE NSIS if she could).  Warm hearted?  Isn't this the same woman who says I don't love her enough and do enough for her?

The thing is that these things would be so lovely to hear from a mother.  She's already "collected" a ton of likes for it.  And I would love it so much if she actually meant any of this.  Or if she'd actually ever said it TO MY FACE.  If she really wanted to communicate these things to me, why doesn't she just tell me.  Privately?  Or personally?  Maybe she means all the shit she says, but somehow, when it's combined with schlepping for "likes" on FB, it looses any of it's meaning.

A few weeks ago,  I sent her a gift (long story).  Instead of thanking me by calling me, or sending a text, or a private message on FB, or an email, she PUBLICALLY thanked me on my FB wall.  Clearly, it was done for show. 

These kinds of things really make me crazy.  This two faced crap.  This overtly, open declarations of love for all to see.  And the private bitching, and whining, and covert manipulation.   It fooled me for years.  I would take these "tokens" of love as genuine.  Sometimes I still feel myself wanting to buy into this bullshit.  It'd be easier.  Maybe.  Just believe like all of the other sheep that she really loves and admires her "wonderful" daughters.  But then, when she purposely sets me up to hurt me, lies to me, tries to guilt and manipulate me into doing what she wants, ignores my feelings and turns attention that should be on me (or someone else) back to herself, acts out in jealousy, calls names, bitches, whines, and spews negativity, I'd be back in the same place.  Confused, stressed, sick, and hurt.  And ANGRY. 

I should add: I have not spoken with my sister (except very heated emails a few times) in over a year.  I am not interested, at the moment, in dealing with NSIS.  I've thought about it.  I've been trying to work out how to make a relationship with her work.  But I just don't see how to do it.  Any attempts I've made to communicate with her, she's turned into an abusive (very abusive) attack on me (and my family).  I wish it wasn't so, but I am really enjoying my peace away from her.

So, to be lumped into NM's big declaration of love with NSIS, really bugs the shit out of me.  As I eluded to in my last post, NM has always lumped me and NSIS together.  We are two halves of a whole to her.  Not individual people.  Not two grown, adult women.  After all, we are in our mid-30s.

The last part of the message that, I believe almost annoyed me the most, is the "my (Jessie) and (NSIS)" part.  MY?!?  We don't belong to her.  Do other mother's talk like that?  About their grown children?  Maybe I'd be over reacting if I had a normal mother, but that MY feels like a big attempt to (probably without her even thinking about it) express her "ownership" of us.  We are "HER" kids.  We belong to her.  That simple inclusion of "MY" just signifies to me how she will always think of us as something that is a part of her, something she needs to own, something she will never see as grown up, individual, adult women. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mother's Little Helper

I have some random memories floating around lately.  And also, some relationships in my life have come into much clearer focus.  So, I have some random stories to tell.  I'm really not sure what they have to do with anything, except that I want to write them.  I've avoided discussing individuals in my life in too much detail, as some sense of wanting to respect their privacy has held me back.  But now, although I still don't want to reveal to much about any one person, I need to write these stories down.

NM always says I was a good baby and toddler.  Compliant, easy going.  Easy.  I was always "easy" she said.  NSIS was not.  NSIS was demanding and irritable.  More needy. 

And so, from the start, I became mommy's little helper.  I helped coddle NSIS.  I gave in so that NSIS wouldn't cry.  I tried not to make NSIS mad.  I worked hard to keep her happy.  I worked hard to help NM. 

NM always says that I was a pretty good child.  That is putting it mildly.  I rarely got in trouble.  I did all my chores.  I got straight As.  Always.  My teachers loved me. (I was teacher's helper too.  I didn't realize until much later that, although I liked to help, I sometimes resented being too busy "helping" to enjoy things the other kids did at school.   Like goofing off, or having more social time.)  I did lots of chores.  I was in charge every day after school  and all summer long of my sister.  I did chores and was expected to make her do her's.  HA.  NSIS would explode.  She was violent and very physically abusive.  This wasn't a "sibling" fight.  This was every few days, her attacking me, me trying to restrain her (I never wanted to hurt her).  Me living in fear of pissing her off.  But also being "in charge" of forcing this willful child to do things she didn't want to do.  And if she didn't do her chores, I got in trouble. 

I also got in trouble if I called my mom, begging for help.  She saw the bruises and bite marks and claw chunks from my arms.  She new my sister raged.  But we "both" were fighting.  So, I got in trouble for that too. 

But I continued to help.  I often felt sorry for my mom.  I wanted to help.  I always tried to smooth things over.  I always was the good girl.  The less trouble I got in, the less trauma there was around our house.  My dad was depressed and often raged and life at home was tense.  I wanted to help.  I offered to start dinners for my mom.  I never asked for help on homework.  I didn't ask to be involved in activities because I knew it would stress my mom out to get me there. 

When my family exploded with the divorce and we all fell apart, NM disappeared for a few years.  Sure, she was still "there", but she was often busy.  Busy with her new boyfriend and his family.  Traveling to see them.  Enjoying her "new life".  She left me in charge of NSIS a lot more.  Whole weekends.  Over night.  With a child that snuck out and drank constantly. 

But I was still the "good girl".  I quit expressing my feeling about the divorce and how upset I was because NM said I couldn't feel that way because it was her "turn to be happy".  So, I ducked my head and shut up.  I still got on honor roll at school.   I was in school activities.  I held down a job.  I often (like most of the week) would stay at my boyfriend's parents house so I could go to work. 

I tried to be there for NM.  By now, NSIS was in full on crazy mode.  FULL on.  I felt badly again for NM.  The stress showed on her face.  I tried to help her with my sister.  I helped hold her down when she was trying to leave.  I stood by to help NM when NSIS was out of control.  I listened to her.  My first year of college, NM called me constantly with horror story updates of what my sister had been doing (really, truly, the stories were often horrific to me.  Still are.)  I wanted to be there for NM.  NM dropped NSIS off one weekend (a weekend of a friend's wedding that NM forced me to take NSIS to.  Which was just were I wanted my 17 year old, out of control sister was at a wedding of collage aged kids.)  I listened to NM.  I offered advice (that was rarely taken).  I tried to reason with NSIS.  I tried to talk to her.  I really couldn't stand her at the time. 

Slowly, NSIS evened out a little bit (although did not mellow out.  She is still is very crazy but it's not as intense.)  But I continued to be there for NM.  I listened as she complained about her new family (the family she had "dumped" me and my sister for a few years earlier.  I was reminded that I should be "over that" and have "moved on" and how long was I going to talk about the divorce for).  I listened for HOURS every week on the phone.  I drove to see her.  I visited several times a year.  She visited me.  I listened to her talk about NSIS, how hard it was.  How NSIS was still getting into serious situations.  I agonized with her.  I tried to help her with NSIS. 

I had always idolized my mother when little.  I wrote books about her and dedicated to her.  I crafted special gifts.  I saved my money to buy her presents.  I cooked and cleaned and babysat.  And this continued as I got into my late 20s.  I bought special gifts.  I tried to find ways to make her feel special.  I worked hard to develop a relationship with my step father (a man who helped my mom cheat on my father).  I tried to blend into NM's new family (like she wanted me too).  I cooked special meals, took her out to special dinners.  I celebrated her birthdays and most holidays with her.  I bought nice wine when she came.  I tried. And fucking tried. 

I continued to be NM's venting partner when she needed to unload about NSIS.  She unloaded her stress and pain and anxiety onto me.  She wouldn't let me separate from it.  She often said that she "shouldn't be the only one who has to deal with (NSIS)".  That the responsibility of it was shared.  And since my dad refused to do that with her, I became that person. 

I sent Mother's Day Cards, birthday gifts, thoughtfully bought and carefully wrapped.  I tried to find ways to listen to her advice (which I often didn't want, but felt it made her feel "included" in things.)  I continued to listen to HOURS of complaints.  HOURS of negativity.  NSIS did little of this.  NSIS often forgot NM's birthday.  Often didn't send cards (or even call).  Kept NM up stressed at night.  Called NM screaming in the middle of the night (on the phone, often drunk, often in serious trouble).  She was a difficult child.  She was a difficult teenager who was involved in almost everyone of parents' worst nightmares that I can think of.  She often didn't acknowledge or even thank my mother.  She got in trouble and didn't care (and certainly didn't feel remorse).  She caused horrific stress to my step father (and step family).  Again, put them in actual danger. 

And very recently, NM described BOTH me and my sister as ungrateful, neglectful children.  Children who certainly didn't appreciate her, didn't show her respect, didn't love her enough.  Both of us.  All that shit I did, all those years.  I didn't do it to earn her love; I did it because I DID love her.  And it didn't matter to her at all.  To her, I was the same as my selfish, crazy, mean little sister.  Ungrateful little brats, the both of us. 

Sometimes I don't know if it hurts more that she doesn't know how to love me, or that she wouldn't allow me to love her.  God knows I tried. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Defining Reality

Earlier this week was the anniversary of NM's mother's death.  A day that has been noted, extensively, for the past five years.  She posted a lovely tribute to her mother, carefully crafted from the many other "tribute" posts she's seen.  Like Dr. Frankenstein, she pulled bits and pieces from several places, including some ideas that were almost verbatim to things my aunt says (her SIL.)  It was flowery, spoke in a very important tone (you could tell she crafted the message in her head for hours before posting) and spoke of all of the loving and wonderful things grandma was.

Now, I wasn't surprised that she is saying this about her mom.  I've heard it for five years.  But in the many, many years before that NM said nothing but what a "weird" and odd woman grandma was.  How she was a horrible mother, a hermit who neglected her kids and often put her in charge.  A woman who she couldn't stand.  I remember her saying that she feared turning into her. 

But then grandma died, and like a light switch, NM suddenly missed their "chats" (or the phone calls she obligatorily made and then complained about before grandma died), or the visits (which she forced herself to do and never said more than a few hours...TOPS.  They never visited her.  Ever.  But NM recalls the "support" her mother offered her. 

Anyway, I hit the "like" button before my brain could filter it.  And then, in an instant, "unliked" it.  I don't have to like and support this drivel.  This propaganda disguised as mourning.  She can suck NS all she wants from people, but I'm not going to participate in this shit.  And I didn't.  I ignored it completely.  (I might add that for the first five years, NM is "in mourning" for her mother from early November when her mother died, to the beginning of January when her mother's birthday is.  One time she tried to guilt me into having her visit-when I LEGITMATELY had other plans- she said "you know how hard the holidays are after my mom".  You'll notice too that it suddenly became about the loss of "her mom".  Not my grandmother.  She's never been concerned with how I felt about grandma passing.  Not that I was all that torn up.  Grandma was a cold, nutty old lady.  She didn't bother me much, but I was never ever close to her.  So, it was what it was.  Anyway, NM lays it on thick every year. )  The thought crosses my mind as  I write this that NM probably expects some sort of public declaration from me for her "milestone" birthday in a few weeks.  Not going to happen.

Anyway, NM quit emailing.  I can always tell I've "displeased" her or that she's contemplating exactly how big of a shit I am by how silent the constant barrage of emails, and texts, and FB crap is.  It goes silent.  Radio silence.  There's always a message in it.  I ignored it.

Then, she posts a picture of my sons (one of the professional portraits I had taken a month ago.  I'm curious as to WHY now she would post that picture).  She, again, carefully crafts a message.  Shit about melting her heart.  And "love, love, love".  Folks, my mom is not flowery.  She is not heartfelt messages and sentimental statements.  EVER.  If she ever talked like that in real life, I'd fall over.  It, again, doesn't surprise me, as I've seen her mimic FB "social niceties" before.  Saying things like "my thoughts and prayers are with you".  She's not religious.  Calling people "sweet" before their name.  Ugh, gage me.

Anyway, this shameless pimping of my kids for her own attention pissed me off HUGE.  But what can  I do.  She took it from the photographer's public FB sight.  She (technically) didn't share MY shit.  And how can you say anything to a grandmother who is "just offering up her love" of her grandsons.  Blech. 

So, I ignored that too. 

Yesterday, after not-liking her shit, and a week of radio silence (and remember, she tries to contact me 3-4 times a day.  Never by phone.  That is some sort of boundary I managed to erect without ever having to say it.  Really, I believe that I pissed her off one time by trying to limit the amount of phone time, explaining I had very young kids, little "alone time" to talk properly, and when I did, I was often fucking TIRED.  I was just trying to cut down on the thrice weekly 1-2 hour phone marathons that she would hold me hostage on.....short of, literally, hanging up, you couldn't get NM to wrap up the conversation.  Anyway, after I said that, she quit calling.  And I, enjoying the quiet, didn't call back.  It's been over a year since we've talked on the phone-except my birthday, but that was another story.  I believe she's "punishing" me.  But, I'm enjoying the silence, so I haven't bothered to call.  I hate talking on the phone anyway.)  OK, SOOO, I get this text asking how we are.  If we are feeling better (this is her "go-to" wedge to try and get me to respond to her.  She asks how I am and than launches into herself or what she wants).  I tell her "doing good".  This gets her hair up.  She replys "good to hear.  Hey, have the boys call me sometime when you get a chance.  I would love to talk to them."

Huh.  Fuck that.  She wants to talk to THEM?   And why doesn't she just call THEM.  She claims it's because I'm "so busy" and she never knows when to call.  She actually did try to call THEM (only) a month or so ago.  It was 5 p.m.  End of nap time, beginning of rest time.  I didn't pick up.  She knows the kids schedule.  But she called then.  And now, she is putting it all on me.  "When you have time".  Note, she says nothing about talking to ME.  Not that I care, but seriously.  I'm sure she's pissed too because I was supposed to offer up a free weekend when we had one, so she could make up for that canceled trip.

But here's the thing, we haven't had a free weekend.  Not that we are "so busy" but we've had shit going on.  My husband's been gone.  It's a busy time of year.  The cancelled trip was TWO weeks ago.  But I KNOW in her head,  I just know, she's sitting there bitter, pissed off, angry that I haven't offered up a time.  She's stewing in her "mom died grief", wallowing in pictures of her grandchildren she "never sees!"  She sees them every two to three months for days at a time.  That's enough for me. I seriously can't handle more, and the stress of seeing her was killing me. 

I didn't have my kids call my mom today.  Not going to lie, I had to FIGHT the urge to do it.  I didn't want her to think badly of me.  Think I was avoiding her.  When she says jump, I literally have to tie myself down not to jump.  I know the instant I didn't respond to the text yesterday or have the kids call, she got pissed.  I can feel the "icy stare" from her almost 700 miles away. 

And here is the real kicker.  I'm not TRYING to ignore her totally.  It's not like I'm sitting on my ass purposely trying to "hold out" so that I'm not rewarding her demanding behavior (although it would be completely legitimate of me to do it).  I've been busy.  She texted me yesterday while I was a the doctor's office.  I sat for two hours there and went home to put the kids to nap.   I got them up, cooked dinner, let their dad play with them, and put them to bed.  Got up today, had hair appointments, shit to do, and really didn't have time to slam in a phone call.  I've legitimately been busy and she still manages to make me feel guilty....or at least I can see the ingrained tapes she's installed in my head.  If I was a "good" daughter, I'd make time.  I'd find a way in TWO days to make the time.  I'd prioritize her.  She just wants a little time with her grandsons.  Mean little daughter that I am I don't give her anything. 

And I have to work SO damn hard to reroute that thinking.  To not feel anxious and overwhelmed about needing to please my mom.  I can rationalize, that if our relationship wasn't so messed up, that a "normal" mom wouldn't take it SO DAMN PERSONALLY if her daughter can't get back to her immediately.   And while, obviously, there is some undercurrent to our current situation, it's because this is the way she's been my whole life.  She says jump and I'm expected to snap into place.  And if I don't, she assumes it is a personal attack on her.  It doesn't matter how legitimate my excuses are or what else I need to do, I'm expected to attend to her immediately. 

It's so hard to break these thought patterns.  I'm going to admit, there are still moments I wonder if I'm crazy.  Am I REALLY seeing the things I think I am?  Am I being over sensitive?  Am I reacting poorly to "normal situation" of a grandmother wanting to be involved?  I feel, often, like the sane person in the funny farm (I'm beginning to believe more and more that NSIS is also bi-polar, and I've been coming to terms with some realizations I've had about how depressed and broken my dad is.  I always knew he was, but I'm really facing reality.)  And then I struggle with MIL and BIL, and I think, again, it has to be me.  I'm just nuts.  Or can, they really ALL be messed up?  (And for the record, I'm clearly not totally OK or sane.  I mean I grew up in this shit, how could I be?)

It's so hard to not think I'm a bad daughter.  To not agree with the voice in my mother's head.  To argue against my "instincts" of what I've been taught to do.  To realize that if she wants to take me not calling personally, that's not on me.  It's just so damn hard sometime. Am I making this more complicated than it needs to be?

(And as an aside, MIL has managed to sneak some crafty shit in on me this week too.  Dang, can't a girl catch a break sometime?)

Thursday, November 14, 2013


This song was written about something else entirely, but it always reminds me of my relationship with my mother.  Although some of the song doesn't fit (exactly), the majority of it expresses how I feel:

written by the members of U2

Is it getting better?
Or do you feel the same?
Will it make it easier on you now?
You got someone to blame

You say...

One love
One life
When it's one need
In the night

One love
We get to share it
Leaves you baby if you
Don't care for it

Did I disappoint you?
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without?

Well it's...

Too late
To drag the past out into the light

We're one, but we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

Have you come here for forgiveness?
Have you come to raise the dead?
Have you come here to play Jesus
To the lepers in your head?

Did I ask too much?
More than a lot
You gave me nothing
Now it's all I got

We're one
But we're not the same
Will we
Hurt each other
Then we do it again

You say
Love is a temple
Love a higher law
Love is a temple
Love the higher law

You ask me to enter
 But then you make me crawl
And I can't be holding on
To what you got
When all you got is hurt

One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should

One life
With each other

One life
But we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

One... life


Thursday, November 7, 2013


This month is "thankful" month on FB.  And so each day people (other people, I don't do this shit, although maybe I should) post what they are thankful for.  One friend said tonight, "I am thankful for my mom."

My first thought was, I'm not.  I'm not thankful for my mother.  I got a raw deal, I think before I can stop myself.  And then I felt guilty.  Stomach ache guilty.  Who isn't thankful for their mom?  Lots of people had it worse.  At least your mom tried some of the time.  Once in a while.  She didn't beat you.

I comfort myself with the thought that's a normal though when you've been hurt and torn and pushed and left by your mother to not be "thankful" for that.  But still....

Do these people. those who are thankful for their parents, know something I don't?  A way to make peace and find the good?  I know a friend who's father beat him.  Beat him so badly, I've been told, that my friend's (a teenager at the time) friends tried to beat the father up to defend him.  And this friend professed he was thankful for his father's help with plumbing issues.  And how he always was there.  Am I missing something?  Am I cold and heartless and unforgiving?

My stomach hurt.

And  then I thought of a few more thoughts.

I don't like my mom. I've actually been feeling this for quite some time now.  I find her phony, and ignorant, and small minded.  I find her jealous and childish.  I find her boring.  We have never had an conversation that I can recall that was mentally stimulating to me.  She's not dumb.  She just doesn't engage in a conversation at all.  And it's boring.  She brings nothing but phony lines, and parroted lines, repeated b.s. or gossip to a conversation.  She can not engage.  I also find her a bit mean, gossipy, and jealous.  And petty.  If she wasn't my mom, I wouldn't enjoy her company.  I wonder if my struggles with her come solely from just not liking her. 

But that's not to say I've never had a good time with my mom.  Lately, I've had actual good memories of my childhood leak in.  I've held them at bay for so long.  I felt that, if I admitted on any level, that their was good, I was admitting the bad didn't happen or wasn't bad.  It took me a long time to reconcile that admitting to a good memory of my mother didn't discount, minimize, or deny the truth of the bad.  That it didn't even out.  That the "good" account of mothering doesn't "balance" out the "bad" account.  They don't cancel each other out.  And that being said, I can remember good in my mother.

I also feel sorry for my mother.  I'm sorry for the misery she grew up in that made her the emotional cripple she is today.  I do feel for her.  I have empathy for her.  I do feel the deck was stacked against her.

She wasn't a horrible mother ALL the time.  She did some good things.  She did try.  At times.  She didn't do these things to manipulate me.  All the time.  Sometimes she really wanted to be a good mom.  And she succeeding.  Sometimes. 

But she was a shitty mom and continues to be a shitty mom a lot of the time.

Another friend, a woman exactly my age, lost her mother this week, announcing  it (briefly) on FB.  My heart ached for her.  But I couldn't think how that would feel for me.  If I lost my mom.   It didn't make me feel, even for a moment, that I should treat my mom "better".  That I somehow will "miss her when she's gone".    I'm sure I will be sad.  I'm sure it will be upsetting.  But I can't say I won't somehow feel relief.  And that's a horrible thing to think, let alone write down. 

And then I feel guilty again. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Saga of the Visit: game playing, covert b.s., and the art of saying NO

I have a follow up post in my mind which dovetails with my previous post "Don't Take it Personally", but I'll have to get back to it.  In fact, I have many posts filed away in my brain, but these darn narcs won't leave me alone long enough to get one out.  It's hard to keep up when I'm always fighting new battles!

NM has rallied again and brought on a whole new storm that I need to recount on this blog.  You are forewarned: this one may be long and it may not have any point, aside from documentation of this incident.  So, please feel free to skip it if your short on time (or interest ;)!)

So, after my father's visit in the beginning of September, I had a lovely three week "narc vacation".  My in-laws were in a foreign country and NM had just been here.  So, I knew I'd have some time just to myself (before the inevitable tidal wave came barreling back down).  Fall is always busy and added to that my in-laws are in town every other weekend or so.  But, I had three weeks of peace: I might add, not long enough.

Around mid-September NM started asking when she could come to one of DS's games.  I know she was annoyed that I hadn't asked her earlier (she always feels I should do the asking).  Honestly, and I shouldn't have to explain this, but I'd had tons going on.  And, I didn't want her here. After her confronting me the last time she was here, I wasn't in any rush to play that again.  But my son had wanted her to come.  So, I came up with a date.  It was the only date that would work and that he still had a game. 

I was a tad bit annoyed.  She hadn't bothered to ask how his games had been going up to this point.  She didn't ask if he liked it, or if he'd done well.  Nothing.  She did manage to write some emails complaining and gossiping.  And she had managed to inquire about my dad's visit (she has some weird thing about my dad and wanting to know about him.)

I gave her the date.  Of course, it didn't work for her.  She did have a legitimate reason to not come, but I do wonder if she could've gotten out of it if she'd really tried.  She does a lot of game playing with her visits: keeping plans up in the air, never fully committing, wanting us to keep several options open for her to choose from.  Well, I'd had enough of that.  And, seriously, this was the ONE game that would work.  She kept saying for me to let her know if another day would work.  But this was the last game, that was it, and I ignored her pushing for another date.  Usually, I would've felt guilty and worked around her.  But I didn't.  DH kept believing she would show up.  She didn't. 

Shortly after, I received an email from her:  "Is (DH) going hunting this year?"  The hairs on my arms stood up and I instantly was on alert.  I knew what she was meaning: I want to come down on opening weekend of hunting season and I want to know if he'll be there.  I'm using this as my "opening".   It really, really ticked me off.  Why can't she just be direct?  Why can't she just say what she wants? I hate that she works me like this.

I knew I should've just ignored it.  I knew it.  I've been working at ignoring these blatant "probes" with no explanation.  But I didn't ignore it.  I replied back that yes, DH hoped to go but was having problems getting his hunting buddies to commit.  And I left it at that.

She then replied that she "was thinking" of coming down that weekend.  And wanted to know my thoughts.  ha. 

I told her that I'd get back to her (this weekend was still three weeks away) when DH had his mind made up.  She also emailed to say that DH was welcome to come down and hunt on my family's land (and obvious ploy to get us down to her house.  We would all go and she's been pushing me to go to her home-while at the same time saying we couldn't come because of a remodel.  Hunting on the land is a big piece of bait she rolls out to get me to do things.  It's really complicated, but all you have to understand is she dangles this HUGE carrot in front of DH, knowing that I wouldn't deny him the opportunity.  And then she punishes me for accepting it.)

I ignored the hunting question and after two weeks, finally committed to the weekend she wanted.  But I told her that it had to be Saturday through Monday (instead of Friday through Sunday like she usually comes).  It was one of my first steps in setting a boundary.  I also told her in the email that the kids and I had  colds (this was related to something else, and just a piece of information I was telling her, but it comes into play later). 

She said that she would take Monday off and we would "go from there" (this is a huge hint of things to come that I had missed).  She also tried again to lure me to her house by saying she had asked my step dad if DH could come down and hunt (it's SD's land; I was a bit taken a back that she hadn't asked him first.  It only showed me more that she was working things behind the scenes to her advantage.  And there was no way I was going to inconvenience SD-he goes hunting with DH-knowing NM had talked him into it.  )

Also, intermixed with these communications by email, NM was sending me texts and FB messages.  It is never enough for her to keep one line of communication going.  So, during this time, NM was made aware of our illness.  I got a pat response of "hope you feel better" and then a HUGE email about how sick my aunt was.  Also, she was sending me tons of gossipy messages.

I also had had some professional portraits taken too.  The photographer had posted them on FB and I let her know.  She became all over-excited and told me that she had copied them off of FB to print out.  I was starting to feel claustrophobic over it all.  I felt like she had just "helped herself" to the pictures without even asking me if she could take them (AND they weren't mine to take off the photographer's website).  I had planned on giving her a nice digital CD so she could order prints (as I always do) but she just. couldn't. fucking. wait.  I was starting to feel steamrolled.  She also used the pictures to slide in a sly comment implying that she never sees the boys: "(DS) has sure changed since we were up".  Now, that my seem innocent, but it wasn't coming from NM.  She had been up five weeks before.  My son is not an infant.  He hadn't changed that much.    I offered up the professional link to all of the pictures (I had actually emailed about the same time she told me she had stolen the photos of FB).  But by this point, she was over it.  When she looked at the small selection on FB, I got FIVE separate messages about them.  But when she saw the whole set, she said "oh, they look nice."  Kara, my blogger friend, pointed out how hot and cold she is.  She's either smothering me with communications and attention or completely ignoring me (and pouting in a corner, I assume I'm supposed to believe). 

During this time (a matter of days and a million messages) she never once asked about my son's games, how we were feeling, and only a one line "how was your weekend" pathetic attempt to look interested.   Many months ago,  I started replying to her "how was your weekend" questions with simple, vague answers.  She never noticed and just plows right ahead with her own un-ending steam of consciousness emails. 

Then, I get a message to "be honest with" her if we are too sick for her to come.  The whole email struck me as odd.  When she hadn't cared before I had committed to the weekend, why is she asking now?  My guess is that she was feeling secure so she was feeling she could be generous with her "concern" now.  (And by the way, I had a LOT of help sorting this out with my blogger friend, Kara.  Many of these realizations came from her and from discussions with her.  So, I give her lots of credit in this.)  Also, the phrase "be honest with me" struck me.  Why wouldn't I be honest with her?  Because she knows she's conditioned me to do what she wants, despite what is best for me.

I chose to ignore this email.  She knew the children and I had been ill.  She had been pushing to come and ignoring that fact until I committed.  To add to that, she sent this email over a week before the weekend.  How the hell am I supposed to guess what I'll feel like in 10 days?  It all seemed to be drama drumming, sounding alarms for no apparent purpose except to make drama. 

She sent another email stating that she hadn't heard from me, but that she didn't need to come up.  She was OK with whatever I decided.  She also sent about four texts asking how I "was feeling" among other things.  I responded to the first one (it had nothing to do with me being sick) and ignored the rest, as I was out all afternoon and busy.  NM does not recognize that I have anything else going on in my life and if I don't answer her texts immediately, she gets upset.  It hadn't even been 12 hours when she emailed me to see why I hadn't responded to her earlier email and texts. 

I've gotten better about being selective about which texts I respond to.  I don't always feel that gut impulse to respond to every little thing she sends.  But she was really starting to swarm me by this point.  I mean, I was busy for an afternoon.  Leave me the hell alone.  I already said you could come, why bother me with asking how I'm feeling now.  I was getting fed up.  And I was starting to feel really, really overwhelmed.  I was beginning to second guess my decision.  I knew step dad and DH wouldn't be here for a buffer.  I was starting to feel caged in and anxious. 

 I sent out an email the next day saying I had been busy all day (and told her with what).  I also told her that we still weren't well.  That the colds had been up and down in severity (I'm guessing we got hit with a couple of bugs and we were run down).  I said it would be hard for me to guess how we would all feel in over a week.  I also included some information about a relative.

She completely ignored the information about the relative.  She completely ignored the other information I'd told her (it was about my son, so I thought it suspect that she didn't ask how it went.   Just goes to show how little "real" interest she has in me.)  She just said "thanks" and I guess I was to take that as "thanks for reinforcing that I'm coming down".  It was clear her inquiries about me being sick were phony and meant as covers for her trying to pull NS.  She didn't mention it again.

She did, in her response, talk about how excited SHE was to come (a full paragraph about this).  Then she included some family gossip (my step siblings were having a baby).  When I asked about the due date, she replied with another HUGE email detailing more gossip.  And then she dropped a bomb: she was planning to stay until Tuesday....if that was alright with me.

I lost it.  The walls were closing in.  She had pushed and pushed and pushed and clearly had no intention of respecting any boundaries I had tried to establish.  I was feeling more and more claustrophobic.  But I decided to push forward:  I slept on it and the next day,  I told her no, that that wasn't OK with me and that it would have to be Monday morning when she left because I wanted the kids to rest before school started on Tuesday and it would be a busy week with Halloween.  We love Halloween and I didn't want the kids so run down they got even sicker. I did not want her here an extra day, but somehow I knew that wouldn't fly with her.   I was shaking.  I was scared.  But she had told me flat out to "be honest with her" and it was OK to tell her if I was too sick and all that shit. 

Clearly, she meant none of it.  She "suggested" we  postpone the WHOLE trip (note, she didn't say "I won't come, it's a bad time for you" but instead "suggested" we postpone it, hoping I'll not bite)  Then, to make sure I didn't take her up on her offer, she loaded on a HEAP of guilt.  Saying she didn't realize Halloween was that week-bullshit-and on and on.  Oh, and to not buy her gifts for Christmas.  WTF?  The message itself wasn't all that telling, but I could feel the guilt and disdain and anger pushing through the email.  I can feel her undercurrents.  It was clear she was pouting that she didn't get her way.

By now,  I was becoming weary of all of this.  I was having full blown panic attacks (something I haven't had in 7-8 years).  I felt like I was standing up to an army.   All of this over one damn day?  And one silly trip?  Was she really willing to sell out seeing her "precious" grandkids over me telling her she had to limit her time? 

I tried to be strong and unemotional.  I told her (and I'm paraphrasing)  "OK, if that's what you want to do.  We would be fine for the weekend, but it would have to be three days.  But it's up to you."  Lob: the ball is back in her court.  I'm certainly not going to give her the satisfaction of saying I cancelled the damn trip.  And let me just say,  I REALLY hate game playing.  I hate that I'm even forced to participate.  But when you deal with narcs, you can not be straight forward and open: they use that to their advantage.  Strategizing and keeping things to yourself is the only way to manage. 

The next day, I got an email whining and crying that that wouldn't work for her.  That it was too hard of a drive for her to come down one day and go back the next (which is not true: this was a deception she hoped I wouldn't pick up on.  There was a full day between, and she had visited on this time frame many, many times before).    She claimed she "am getting older" and how hard it was (oh, cry me a river).  She did say though that she'd "see how the week went".  And that she could always stay in a hotel on Monday and go back on Tuesday.  This would defeat the whole damn point, as she would STILL be HERE all day Monday.  (By the way,  I did call her out on her deception.  She chose to ignore that email and started a new thread.)

I'm panicking now and I'm depressed.  My kid is asking my husband why I'm upset all the time.  I'm wondering how I can shelter him from this crap, while at the same time allow myself to express my emotions (I can't always control when and how they come up: I'm just not that healthy yet).  I'm sick to my stomach.  I really just want to tell her to not come.  But I know I've taken it this far, I need to stand my ground.  I can't allow her to make me the "bad guy" by just cancelling when she's the one pulling all kinds of sneaky tricks.  I can't allow her to bully me into getting her way or forcing me to wear the mantle of "bad kid" for not letting her come.  I won't give her that satisfaction.  I wasn't being a bad kid.  I had told her she could come.  I just had limited the time....actually, I was just forcing her to stick to the original agreement and not change unilaterally.  I was holding her to her word that I was able to do what was best for me, able to "be honest" and that she wouldn't mind. 

And during the whole thing,  I was a little bit shell shocked.  It seemed such a REALLY STUPID THING.  It's one day.  And I'm sure that was her thought, "it's one day", why won't she let me come?  But the thing is, it's ALWAYS one extra day.  Or one more text.  It's a slippery slope of her pushing her way without ever being concerned about how it effects me.  She ALWAYS has to create drama.  She always offers up things that she has no intention of honoring.   I felt like I was up against such an insurmountable thing.  But it was all about something so simple.  I couldn't quite put my finger on what was going on, why I was so upset THIS time.  Why was I so upset over telling my mother NO?

I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I tried to remember that no was a complete sentence and I had a right to say no.  But I couldn't shake what was really bothering me about it.   I spent lots of time discussing it with DH and Kara (Thank God for them.  They were a life line.  And as a side note, I think, after this, DH finally "got it" fully.  He finally got why I was taking a stand over something that seemed so little.  He finally got fully on board with what I was trying to do.  He could see the patterns and what was going on.  He supported me fully.  It was awesome and has really moved our relationship to a different place.)  I finally stumbled upon it.  NM (and my father) raised me to always say yes to any request from a parent.  Always.  To not do so was disrespectful.  But more than that, for NM, to say no meant that I didn't love her.  Let me back up.  For NM, I've been taught to believe that if I really "loved her" I would do whatever she wanted.  Always agreeing with her, putting her first, doing what she wanted meant I loved her.  I "proved" my love by being compliant, always thinking about her and adoring her.  So, to say no, in her warped little brain, means I don't love her.  And here's the catch:  I don't like to hurt people.   I don't like to be disrespectful.  I would never tell her directly that I don't love her.  Because, partially, it's not the truth.  I will always have a love for her.  And she used that love, that desire to please her, to manipulate me.  She had me convinced that saying no was the same as saying I didn't love her.  I'm guessing this sounds confusing.  And really, it is.  I couldn't believe that I hadn't seen her messed up logic before.  It was the only reason I could think of as to why I felt so guilty for saying no.  Why I couldn't do it.  Why it made me sick.  It was just no.  It shouldn't be so hard.

And then my thinking went a little further.  When I said no, and told her I didn't "love her", she then would label me a bad daughter.  I've always been a bad daughter if I didn't go along with whatever she wanted me to do.  I remember when my parents divorced and I desperately tried to explain that I was depressed and upset.  She wouldn't allow it.  She said that  I couldn't be sad because divorcing my father (and marrying her affair partner) made her happy.  And it was "finally time for it to be about me.  I deserve to be happy."  And my sorrow infringed on her happiness.   So, if I wanted her to be happy, I'd suck down my emotions and let her be happy.  I look back and wonder why I had to pay the price for her happiness.  Why should couldn't see ANY kid would be unhappy in that situation.  Why she couldn't be a fucking adult and allow me my feelings, while still doing what she felt was best.  I wasn't telling her to stay with my dad, I was simply begging to express my feeling about it. 

And messages like that came over and over.  I was a bad daughter for not giving her every damn thing she wanted whenever she wanted it.  I didn't love her if I said no. 

And here's the break through: I AM NOT A FUCKING BAD DAUGHTER.  I am a good daughter.  I always have been.  Me saying no has no bearing on whether I'm a bad daughter or not.  I had to quite letting her decide what the definition of good daughter was.  I could easily list all of the wonderful things I do for her, but I know I don't need to here.  I've proven my love to her over and over and over.  And if she can't see that, that's her issue, not mine.  Being loving does not mean obedience.  I've welcomed her into my home, I've allowed her into my life, I've bought her thoughtful and sentimental gifts (that she's rejected), I've allowed her into some of the most precious times in my life and tried to include her.  I've been thoughtful and kind and considerate of her to the best I can. She is using one of the most wonderful things about me, being considerate and loving towards her, to manipulate and hurt me and control me.   Just because I won't drop everything and put her first constantly does not make me a bad daughter.  It makes me a grown up. 

It seems so simple, really.  I assume other grown ups don't think like this.  I assume that other, healthier individuals, have never had to rework this "mal-ware" installed in their brain.  It's been like I've awakened from a spell.  Like I've suddenly woken up to reality.  She doesn't have that control over me any more.   I don't have to be her puppet to prove my love for her.  I finally could breathe again. 

So, in the end, she decided to come anyway.  Shocker.  I told her that it (still) would have to be Saturday through Monday.  She said that she had already decided that (see how she maintains her delusion of control?)  She said she had a hair appointment on Tuesday he had to get back for.  It occurred to me how much she had lined out before she "checked" with me if it was OK.  She had always planned on staying until Tuesday.  She had had to arrange it ahead of time with her (controlling, she says) boss.  She completely ignored my repeated boundary of Monday and had planned on doing whatever she wanted anyway.  And she thought she'd just "slip" it in at the bottom of a long email, hoping I wouldn't notice.  She's sneaky and deceptive, and I'm sick of it. 

She tried to create more drama by demanding to know how I felt on Wednesday.  I got three emails.  I'm not sure WHY we needed to decide three days in advance.  Actually, I do know why.  She had to have control.  Stir drama.  And get me to commit so she could dance around hemming and hawing again.  I almost, almost, cancelled.  I didn't know if I could handle it.  But I didn't want her looming over my head any more bugging me to visit. 

I thought I'd get out of her coming when on Friday a family emergency came up and she had to drive a long way (remember, she's old and too "old" to drive to far in back to back days).  She was still drama-mongering, saying she wouldn't decide until Friday night or Saturday morning if she was coming.   I reminded her that our first snow storm of the year was going to hit (remember she's always worried about "the roads" and uses that to pin down several "options" for herself).  She said on Friday, at 10 p.m. that she was still coming.  Awesome. 

The next morning, around 7:30, the texts started coming in.  The kids were sleeping in and so was I.  Then the phone call came.  I finally looked at her texts.  I had a rare twist of luck and she had decided not to come after all due to the impending storm.  Hallelujah, it was a miracle!

 I wish I could say that stopped the texts.  It didn't.  I got a ton more over the weekend.  How sad she was.  How bummed she was. I had a momentary lapse of guilt.  That somehow, I should've let her come.  But then,  she sent me a "selfie" she took of herself.  The woman is 60, but she's laying in the leaves (after she saw a bunch of fall photos I had taken), pursing her lips, and taking selfies (I don't even like that word, let alone the posing and arrogance that seem to go along with them.)  The guilt dissipated and all  I could breathe was a sigh of relief.

I know she'll start in again soon.  She's already asking me to let her know if I have a free weekend coming up.  I'm ignoring it for now.  I need a break.  Time to regroup.  It's been a long couple of weeks and a huge amount of growth. 

(And to be fair, I'm still feeling shaky and not always as strong as I want to be in this.  But I hope this is a huge positive step.)  Thanks for reading all, if you are still with me. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Don't Take it Personally

I really, really hated when people used to say that to me.  Don't take it personally.  As if that would fix it all.  Your friend screws with you and hurts your feelings?  Don't take it personally.  People call you names?  Don't take it personally.  Your MIL treats you like shit and pushes boundaries?  Don't take it personally, she's like that with everyone.

Don't take it Personally never made me feel better.  It never took away the pain or the hurt.  Of course I was personal.  These people (NM, NSIS, MIL or others) were always hurting ME on purpose.  I could clearly see that these people were making a conscious choice to be an asshole to me.  Sure, they might be assholes to other people too, but not to everyone.  They were making a choice, fully aware (most of the time) of the hurt they would cause, and they did it anyway.  To me.

When you grow up with an NM (or a NSIS or whatever), it often is personal.  They aren't lashing out in general.  Taking out their anger on any suspecting soul that came their way.  They were choosing, often carefully, to vent their anger and rage and sadness, on to me.  I mean, that's the very definition of a scape goat.  And to the scape goat, it is very personal. 

So, I never understood how someone could just dismiss something someone did to them because it wasn't personal.  That they were OK with saying that and moving on.  I almost felt, in fact I often did feel, that the person telling me to "not take it personally" was somehow shifting the blame to ME.  That I was somehow responsible for feeling hurt because I was too sensitive (or whatever).  That it was my fault. 

And so there I was, hurt already.  Feeling pretty shitty.  And then, to add insult to injury, it was being suggested (in my mind) that I was over reacting.  That I was being too sensitive.  That I was letting someone's shitty behavior get to me.

It took me a LONG time to rework my brain around this phrase.  And maybe it does for every ACoN.  Because these things seem so personal.  And they are.

But what I finally figured out was that when I was taking it personally, what I really was believing was that I deserved this shitty behavior.  That I drew the conclusion that I had somehow done something to warrant such horrible behavior.  I believed that they treated me badly because I was an unworthy human being.  Or more precisely, that I was an unworthy human being and that led to me being treated badly.  And in many situations, this is accurate logic.  If you get punched in the face, you generally, did something to warrant it.  If you grow up with a normal mother, and she punishes you, you generally did something to deserve being punished.

What I had to rework in my brain was that my NM's behavior was not precipitated by me being a shitty little kid.  That it really wasn't about ME at all.  That I could've been the best, most amazing, wonderful kid in the world (and actually, I think I often was) and she still would treat me badly.  Because she's a narc. And that's what narcs do.  They find the nearest and closest person that will accept their shitty behavior and dole it out on them.  It wasn't personal, because it wasn't my fault.  I did nothing wrong.  And it was NM's feelings about herself that made her treat me that way.  Or it is my BIL's crappy self-esteem that makes him ignore me and take advantage of me and not care for me.  It's not because I'm unlovable and not a worthy person to be friends with.  When my NSIS rages and vents onto me, it's not because I'm a horrible sister who hasn't held up my share of the relationship.  With these people, these narcs, there is NOTHING I can do to make them treat me better.

And that's where the real lesson comes in.  Because "not taking it personally" doesn't mean "continue taking it because they don't mean it against you, they are just assholes".    It means, wake up, realize how toxic they are and that you can not have a healthy relationship with them.  That their personal issues are their issues to resolve, and until they do, they are not safe to be around.  That I need to quite bending over backwards to try and get these schmucks to like me. Because it isn't about me and they wouldn't like me even if they really tried  to.   That their nasty behavior does not determine my own self worth (or deem me unworthy of love).  That I get to determine my worthiness of love.  And if they aren't treating me with the kindness and respect I deserve that it's not because I'm not worthy of it.

Don't take it personally has helped me to see past my emotions of being hurt so that I can see the truth of the interaction.  That they are hurting me because they like to hurt people.  And I'm the only one that can stop that. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Growing Up (and out of Enmeshment)

My mother has always been taller than me.  By more than just a few inches.  She's also much bigger than me.  Not heavy, or overweight.  She's just big boned.  And I'm petite and lanky. 

So, it's been easy to always feel like adult and child.  Like she's the adult and I'm the child.  I've long struggled to feel grown up around her.

I remember before I really learned about narcissism, I never felt grown up.  I'm sure I've written about it before on here.  And I'm not talking about not feeling my age.  I had never felt grown up and autonomous.  I'd never felt like an individual person.  I felt silly putting on jewelry and dressing in more womanly clothes.   I always felt like other women around me had themselves much more put together than me. 

Slowly, as I learned about narcissism, my feelings of feeling like a child started to dissipate.  It was one of the first things I tried to do in order to change things around.  I started to feel more in control.  I tried to quiet the feelings of anxiety I felt whenever I didn't do what NM wanted.  I tried to remember that I was in charge of my life.  I tried to be content with making my own decisions and not worrying about what NM would think about it.  Or her reaction.  Or her retribution.  Because, really, she couldn't actually DO anything to me.  She's not like that.  The worse she does is guilt, and shame, and pout.  And I can ignore that.

But recent dealing with my mother have reminded me that becoming "un-enmeshed" is a lot harder than it looks.  Especially when the other person refuses, REFUSES, to acknowledge that you are a separate person. 

I had some family photos taken and I told NM that the photographer had put a few up, but that I would get more later.  I always give her a copy of all the professional photos I get taken and allow her to print from those.  But, apparently, she didn't want to wait for that this time.  She didn't ask if she could print any, didn't ask how to even get prints, but just copied them straight of FB to print.  And although it may seem like a silly thing, I felt violated.  Like she hadn't any respect for me as a grown ass woman of my own.  That those were MY photos that I had paid for, and although I was more than willing to share, she shouldn't just TAKE them.  That we are not this blob where everything belongs to everyone. 

She's always been like this.  I've never had privacy.  She's never respected my rights to keep some things to myself.  She's insisted, demanded, details on anything and everything she feels like.  Recently, my father came to visit and she's (slyly, in her mind) asked several times how the trip went.  I've refused to tell her because she's just trying to be snoopy.  She's not interested in how the visit went for ME, but is interested in my father (and his wife) and if my kids love him more than her.  And crap like that.

When she's in my home, she doesn't respect my privacy.  She feels free to wonder back to my bedroom, to come in when it's I'm trying to get away for a second.  She doesn't allow that my husband and I, as adults, may need some privacy to discuss things that are none of her business.  She'll but into conversations from another room "WHAT?!  What's going on?"  "Nothing" is not a good enough answer for her.  I've seen her linger in a room to listen to my husband on phone conversations.  They aren't private conversations, per se, but they have nothing to do with her and she's being rude, in my opinion. 

When she visits, I'm under constant surveillance.  If I leave the room, she wants to know where I'm going.  And why.  And when I'll be back.  She requires constant companionship when she visits.  If my husband spends time in the evening away from her and my step dad (as they sit and watch TV and search their phones.  It's not like they are offering conversation) she insists on knowing where he went.  On why he isn't spending time with them.  She doesn't take walks, or read a book, or offer to entertain herself in ANY way.  Even simple things like "I'm going to get the mail" are met with annoyingly shrill "THE MAIL?!?  Why would you need to get the mail NOW!"  Because I fucking want to, that's why.  And really, because the she is smothering me and suffocating me and I need some fucking air.  And she knows that's the REAL reason.  That's why she asks.  But I can't say that. 

She snoops through all of my FB stuff.  I can't comment on anyone else's things, or she'll know.  She stalks me in that respect.  Which, I really wouldn't care, but then she feels she has the right to ASK me about things she's learned by snooping.  It doesn't occur to her that if I don't offer information,  I don't want to discuss it with you.  After I posted a recent album of photos, she looked through it, at least, eight times.  Like in a row.  It just sort of creeps me out.  Like she's sucking some sort of weird supply by just looking at the photos.  It's obsessive, really. 

She snoops through my stuff.  My husband is sure she snoops through our mail and banking info and other things.  I've never caught her but I know it is a personal concern of her's that other people are snooping.  I always thought that meant that she'd respect OTHER people's privacy.  I'm sure it's just projection on her part: she snoops, so she believes everyone else does too. 

She used to snoop through my son's closet when he was born.  I'm sure she was checking to see if I was using the clothes she bought for him (she used to buy really "cutsy" outfits for him that were impractical for a newborn.  We argued often about it because I felt she was wasting her money.  She felt she was "being nice" and that I should be grateful.)

And when she's here, she sort of takes over as parent.  Like she's part of the "parenting team".  And I'm not talking about correcting the kids here or there, or keeping an eye out on them.  She wants to take over.  Once, when we went shopping I was trying to load up the stroller.  When I turned to get something else, she grabbed the stroller and took off.  She was bound and determined that SHE was going to be the one to push my kid.  As I called for her to come back, so I could finish up packing, she just kept going, faster and faster, ignoring me.  I finally yelled.  She came back, begrudgingly, and never apologized for leaving me behind (I mean the damn car doors weren't even shut before she barreled off).   She mimics me (literally) as  I say things to my kids.  For example: "It's time to come up for dinner, boys."  And before my kids even have a chance to respond, she starts in "Come on.  Come on.  It's time for dinner.  Let's go.  Hurry up."  It drives my older son nuts.  So much so, that he's told her that she doesn't need to "tell me things when my mom is here."  It happens constantly.  It's like having a parrot.  I feel like it not only undermines me, but gives the message that she thinks I'm not handling it right.  I don't need her "help".  She seems to think I do.  She parrots everything I say, steps in in front of my husband, and tries to take over.  It is so frustrating. 

She feels like (and tells me) that she knows me better than anyone.  She assumes she knows how I feel, knows what I will do, knows what I want.  She doesn't allow, at all, that she might not know the every crevice of my mind.  She does things, assuming she knows how I will do them.  In fact, she PRIDES herself on being able to know how I want things done.  The thing is, I often don't want things done like she does them.  And even if I do, a little respect, taking a backseat once in a while, communicating a desire to want to know how I like something, would go far with me.  But she can't give that to me.

And I've recently discovered how much like a child it makes me feel.  That it's hard to feel "grown up" when someone is constantly pushing your "autonomy" boundary.  When someone treats you like a child.  When someone feels that nothing you are belongs to you.  That your kids, your home, your life is all up for grabs.  That she is entitled to it all, without any respect due to me. That she can speak for me, make plans for me, and take from me without asking.    Enmeshment makes me feel helpless and smothered.  I feel claustrophobic and suffocated. 

I'm trying to figure out how to enact these last boundaries.  I've pushed her back in a lot of ways.  She doesn't go willingly.  In fact, she pouts and wallows in it.  But generally she does it away from where I can see it.  I've gotten a lot better at ignoring her blatant attempts to guilt and manipulate me.   But I don't know how to fully un-do the enmeshment.  I'm not sure exactly how I can fully be myself while she's trying to smother me and cover over me. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I hate going to the mailbox anymore.  The last two days there have been packages and it makes my heart skip a beat.

Yesterday, it was nothing.  My father had told me that my sister had been talking about my son's birthday and was sending him a gift (whether she'd bought it already was not clear).  I've had her do this before, say she's sending something that doesn't show up.  I'm sure, in this case, that she said this to look good to my father.  And that she had NO intention of sending anything.  But still, my heart leaps to see the key for the "package drawer" at my mail box. 

It was from NM.  She had sent a (belated) anniversary card.  I was actually surprised that she hadn't sent a card.  She usually does with some cash.  And she sends cards to my kids for damn near everything else.  I had imagined that this was some sort of retribution for our latest dust up: no anniversary card for the ungrateful daughter.  Yet, she did send it.  I am sure it being late was not a coincidence though.

Then she sent a small package with miscellaneous photos.  Many years ago, she gave me the family photos for "safe keeping".  I'm thinking she just wanted them out of her house.  But kind of in a baby-out-with-the bath water, I think in her hurry to get rid of photos of my father, she pushed out all of the baby photos of me and my sister.  I always wondered why she wouldn't want photos of me and my sister as kids anymore.  We were only in our 20s at the time.  And this is a woman who values photos.

Anyway,  this box contained a mishmash of random photos.  Some of me and my husband when we first were dating.  Some of me as a kid (where had these been?  Why did she still have these? Why weren't they with the family photos?).  Some of my great grandmother whom I really didn't know.  Some old letters from my great grandmother to my mother (really inconsequential letters).  A lot of photos of me I'd never seen before.  Some of me, my mother, and my father at my graduation.  They had divorced by then and were very much not getting along.  I wondered why she would have those. 

She said she had been cleaning things out and wanted to send me them (I know this to be true.  She is cleaning things out.)  I wonder why she wouldn't want ANY of them any more though.  She told me to throw out what I didn't want.  So, is she just making me make the decision to trash family mementos?  She sent a few photos of my sister (and just my sister).  I'm wondering if she sent photos of me (and just me) to my sister (oh, in the letter,  she said she sent half to my sister.) I'm wondering why she's suddenly cleaning out things from 20 years ago. 

At first, I looked at had a moment of "I'm wrong.  Look at that happy little girl.  Look at her smile.  Look at her posing for pictures with her mom."  There were pictures of me and my sister on a trip my mom arranged as a "girls' trip" when we were in our 20s.  NSIS and I look close.  We kind of were close.   At that moment, to deal with NM, we had clung desperately to each other on those trips.  But I also remember sobbing hysterically (as did NSIS) on those trips.  I remember anger and fighting and vowing to NEVER, EVER go anywhere alone with them again.  It's odd to me that photos can so mask what really was going on.  How easy it is to look at photos and argue that things were better than we remember them being.  Snapshots of happiness is all they were.  Or snapshots of feigned happiness. 

When I finished looking at them I felt sad.  I felt so sad for the little girl in the photos.  Who didn't know any better.  Who thought she was loved and cared for and had a great family.  Who loved her family SO much that she hardly took the time to make her own friends or have her own interests.  Who always wanted to be with her family and desperately feared (even as a child) loosing them. 

I looked prettier in the photos than I remember being.  Than I feel now.  I looked very much in love with my husband.  I remember the beginning of our relationship, as we broke away from our FOOs being hard.  Very hard at times.  But we looked in love.  Still are.  I don't remember much else about the photos.  I don't remember the moments or occasions.  I do remember that life that revolved around those photos.  And that those pictures do not capture THAT at all.  I do see the pained, forced expressions as I hit my teenage years.  I look sad.  And hopeless.  But smiling.  The childhood of an ACoN.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


The phone rang tonight in the middle of preparing dinner.  Things are busy, the kids re underfoot and I'm working to get dinner done.  My father and his wife come for a visit tomorrow, so I'm thinking about the million things I need to still get done.  It's clearly the dinner "hour".  Anyone who knows me would know this particular time of night is really busy for me.

When it rang, I expect my dad.  He was canceling, I thought.  He has just returned from moving his mother out of the home she's lived in (and he grew up in) for about 60 years.  It must've been hard.  He seemed...rather...OK with it all.  I found that odd.  I suspected him.

Or my mother.  She's been writing me all weekend how "upsetting" my grandmother - her ex-MIL, who doesn't particularly like her and she's had no contact with in 20 years - moving was for her.  I'm sure that was it.

I didn't expect NSIS.  (For those who are interested, see my recent post "Crying Wolf" for a history).  My stomach dropped instantly.  I can't say I was totally surprised.  She called (and emailed) shortly before my last visit with him to warn me to "no talk about" her with him.  To not ruin their now-blooming, "new" relationship.  OK.  Sure. 

She sent a package full of gifts for my younger son, and we exchanged a few texts.  We haven't talked since (and not on the phone for over a year).  She completely ignored my older son's very recent birthday.  I had half expected that she would call me after my confrontation with my mother.

So, she's calling for one of a few reasons:

1)  To chew me out for "hurting" my mother or whatever she decides to label me telling my mom, honestly and calmly, how I feel.  She's often called to take my mother's side against me.  Or, NM spilled something and she's calling to confront me on that.

2) Or, she's calling to damage control.  To make sure I don't spill secrets to my dad.  To make sure I don't fuck things up for her.

3)  To tell me, I'm a rotten human being.

4)  To cry and whine about the relationship we used to have

5)  To act normal, in an attempt to pretend everything's OK (still, right before my father's visit, so obviously this has an ulterior motive). 

I'm upset and anxious.  I was already anxious about dad arriving.  Things went well last time, but you never know.  Things have been not good.  And he is a little high strung.  He can get tense- and make everyone around him tense- in quick order.

I'm angry she called tonight.  I'm angry she didn't leave a message.  I mean, the fact that she didn't say what in the hell she was calling about is SO passive-aggressive.  We haven't talked in a year, but you DON'T LEAVE A MESSAGE AS TO WHAT THE HELL YOU WANT. 

In any event, she's fucking with me.  The timing is too coincidental.  Right after (days after) ignoring my son on his birthday.  She's not been told she can't send him anything.  Not that I wanted her to.  But it clearly speaks to her motives.  And the DAY before my father is to come.  She was just complaining on FB (to a very random person, who happens to be a mutual friend) about my dad not coming to see her and being wishy washy about making plans.  NM got angry with me for my father not visiting my sister enough.  I'm not sure how I have any control over that (or really should care, it's not my place). 

DH sort of laughed it off.  I'm sure it's ridiculous to him.  I'm guessing he doesn't really know what to say.  But he didn't seem to get how painful this really is for me.  How I HATE that I'm agonizing, again, over them...and she's the one I'm basically "NC" with.  How does that work?

She knows she is supposed to email me.  I've told her I'm uninterested in phone calls at this point.  She has CLEARLY ignored this several times now.  I can't ignore that.

I'm just twisted.  Sorry this is so disjointed and random.  I'm just so twisted.  It was the last thing I wanted to deal with tonight.  Fuck her. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Won't Back Down

So, I survived the party weekend.  I'll try to keep this brief, but you know me.  A bit too wordy. 

When NM and Step father (SF, from now on) arrived, it was as uncomfortable as usual.  Several years ago, when I would travel the six hours to NM's home, she would DEMAND hourly texts as to where we were.  It use to annoy me to no end, so I started stretching them out more and more.  I felt a text saying when I was leaving and when we were close was sufficient.  NM didn't and it pissed her off.  So, she started refusing to text me at all.  It became a game of "surprise" hoping to catch me off guard. Several times she even showed up and went to the BACK of my home to look in the windows.

So, now, we play the game of "when is NM going to show up".  I don't bother to ask because that feeds her NS.  And she works it to her advantage and sets me up for more communication. 

They arrived in late afternoon and, as usually, it's stiff and strange.  We never really have the big family reception, everyone hugging and excited to see each other.  Years ago, I would be tense and uptight.  Now, she is sullen and moody.  They are both quiet and often seem pissy. 

I was in the middle of cooking when they walked in, so I couldn't give my full attention to NM and apologized and said I'd be with her in a minute.  She said fine, but continued to pile things on the counter I was cooking on and trying to pull attention from me (I really couldn't stop what I was doing).  And then, the moment I stopped and gave her my attention, she took off for the kids.  She would wander back in on occasion and tell me something but then the minute I would start saying something, she would walk off.  At one point, she was talking about her purse and struggling to find something in it.  I had recently gotten a new bag and was showing it to her, saying how convenient it was because it had lots of organizing compartments and I could keep the kids stuff separate from mine and how excited I was.  But as I looked up, I realized she was looking at her phone.  I stopped talking MID SENTENCE.  And guess what?  She didn't even notice.  She showed me the picture on her phone and then walked off. 

The evening didn't get much better.  I really do like to cook and entertain (but have been burnt out lately since most people I've had in my social circle take it for granted and don't reciprocate at all).  But tonight, I had cooked homemade pasta sauce.  I cooked down tomatoes and carrots and zucchini from my garden, simmering it all day.  I gathered fresh vegetables from the garden and made an amazing salad.  I made a special, separate sauce for my SF because of a dietary constraint.  I worked all day and it was amazing.  Not that you would've known it from NM and SF's reaction.  Not a thank you.  Not a "this is nice".  Not a "this is good".  Nothing.  Not that I expected much.  And I really didn't care.  But it just goes to show how little they notice that I do for them. 

NM, of course, talks a lot about herself.  She (AGAIN) brings out her newest business venture (selling stuff at home parties crap).  She's been trying to "sell" me (using me as a guinea pig) for awhile now.  I just nod and say 'um hm".  She likes to be an expert.  She likes to give lessons.  I just ignore it. 

She spends a lot of time with the kids, so I'm left alone a lot to cook (and clean up.  She does offer to help, but it's clear she doesn't really want to.  And she's a pain, demanding "help" while she cleans, so it's easier if I just do it.)  I always wonder what it must be like to have a mother who cooks for her kids or helps (my NM never did my laundry when I came home from college and rarely made "home cooked meals" to comfort her wayward college kid, like I heard other mothers did.)

The next morning it's a bit strained and uneasy.  Nothing really has happened, but it's like there is some undercurrent in the air.  She had wanted to go somewhere, DO something, in the morning.  But trying to get the kids up, dressed, fed, and gather all of the party stuff left me feeling there was little time to do anything else.  I can tell she's annoyed, but busies herself playing with the kids.  I would imagine that this should be good enough.  And by early afternoon, we are off to the party.

The party: Either I'm wising up and have better planning or they've all become easier to deal with.  I'm guessing it's the former.  Most of the party went off without a hitch.  We had an hour of structured "kid activity" time, which left little room for socializing among the adults.  I was a bit frustrated as one of my friends, Toby, just sat back and expected us to help his kid, despite being told that he needed to participate with him. 

MIL arrived on time.  But, as usual, with her, she has a million things to dole out (including some VERY ripe fruit swarming with fruit flies.  I swear she just gathers shit to bring to us-often old and regifted.)  And as usual, despite us trying to get the party going, she expects us to help her "off load" her stuff so she can calm down.  Until then, she is a bit manic and antsy.   I avoided her for most of the party.  She did offer to help, but I didn't need her help and said so.  She asked my son about activities that he clearly doesn't do (I'm not sure where the hell she heard that) but ignored it.

SIL was actually very helpful.  I'm not dumb enough to buy that she did it to really help me.  She can be, and has been in the past, very helpful.  She's very skillful at knowing what needs to be done and doing it, without taking over.  I did appreciate it and intend to tell her so.  At one time, I liked being around her (mostly) although we weren't that close.  But she's sneaky and untrustworthy and I know better than to get too close to her.  But, I did appreciate it her helping me with the kids. 

NM forced me to drive with her to the venue.  DH took the kids to get the balloons and I went early to set up.  NM has some weird resistance to me driving and NEVER lets me.  This time I tried to bring my own car, but she backed her's in front of mine saying she wanted to have her own car.  So, I was forced to drive with her.  She drove HALF of the speed limit the whole way there.  Despite me, repeatedly, telling her to speed up, she just meanders.  I'm not sure why the hell she does this.  She says she gets anxious in a different town (more reason to have me drive.  I'm not a horribly driver) but I know she drives just fine (and often fast), so I'm not sure what the deal is.

 On the ride there, we sat in silence.  I had nothing to say to her.  I've realized that I really don't enjoy spending time with my mother.  She is often pompous and needing to be the "wise" mother who is handing out advice.  I don't need her advice.  I can no longer share my thoughts or feelings with her.  She doesn't ask about my life or hobbies and when I try to share them with her, she zones out, talks over me, or walks off.  Or she makes fun of me (when I tried to show her my sewing projects, she said "WELL, quite the little Suzy Home maker, aren't we?").  I can't ask her about people in her life, because she dislikes them all.  I can't ask her about what is going on in her life, because there is nothing.  She has no hobbies, no interests (maybe one), and is involved in nothing.  I refuse to ask her about most people we know because she gossips or tells me negative things.  It was a long fucking ride. 

When we got there, she acted huffy because she decided to load two huge armfuls of stuff up and acted put out (I told her I was coming back for the stuff.)  We got up to the room and she instantly just starts grabbing stuff and putting it where she wants to (not where I want it to go).  I don't want to control it all, but she doesn't even know what I have.  She doesn't ask how she can help, but just does what she likes.  When I try to stop her, she acts offended.  She thinks, as the mom, she just KNOWS how I like things.

The worst part was during the cake.  I tried to set my son down next to it and asked the other kids crowding between him and the cake to move to the other side of it.  I'm trying to get pictures, worried that my cupcake tower (which is wobbling) will crash and trying to move two very stubborn preschoolers around.  I ask them to move (loudly) three times and then finally do it myself.  I'm not sure where the hell the parents are.  I've discovered that when I get upset or frustrated in these situations, I just put my head down and avoid eye contact.  I don't know why I do this, and it bugs the hell out of me.  Any thoughts?  Anyway, I'm taking pictures of my kid with his cupcake, while two VERY angry and glaring children stare at me.  I get the singing done and I suddenly have kids grabbing for things and demanding me to get them juice.  I figure that my only job is my two kids and (LOUDLY) tell Toby that his kid needs something (thanks for that suggestion TW).  Toby says "what does he need?"  I say "I don't know, ask him."

Then, during presents, I have to ask my niece and nephew repeatedly to move back.  I know they are excited and just want to be involved, but they are so close that I can't get pictures of my kid.  They also keep grabbing at his presents trying to open them.  My niece is almost 5, and considering I was a preschool teacher, I think that, although this might be normal behavior, it is behavior that needs to be corrected.  It's rude and pushy to try and open another kid's gifts.  I ask her to move back.  I move her back.  I ask her to move back.  I, again, move her back.  I'm feeling claustrophobic.  Then, MIL hands my younger son a gift for him so that "he won't feel left out."  I don't want my younger son to open a gift while my older son is opening his gifts.  He's old enough to be able to focus on someone else for 10 minutes and (as the youngest child) is handling it all just fine.  I put the gift aside, and I'm sure I look like a mean old shrew to her.

By this point, I'm flustered.  I feel overwhelmed with the kids.  I'm not understanding why the other parents aren't helping.  Toby has a habit of letting me take over with his kid.  He sits back and lets me feed him, get him stuff, and clean up after him.  I'm getting sick of it.  My SIL and BIL don't really believe in "rules" and like letting their children be, "free"?  I'm thinking, I'm too strict, I look like a harpy, I don't like having to correct other people's children, but I don't want my kid to have to share his presents or not get a chance to be in the spotlight with his cake.  I'm wondering how I'm coming off to the other people.  Do I look like a hard ass?  This isn't the first time I've had to be the person in charge of the kids.  And I don't like it.  Am I wrong?  Am I over reacting.  I know I was frustrated and had less patience with the kids than I should've.  But I felt under the pressure and like all eyes are staring on me.

So, I finish up the gifts and start packing up (we only had a half hour).  I start packing up the food and my FIL complains.  He is a grazer.  He LOVES buffet food and will linger forever (he's also cheap, and will fill up on it and avoid a meal later).  I tell him to load up another plate and then I'm packing it up.  He's joking, and mostly nice about it, but I'm not in the mood. 

I hustle everyone out the door, pack the kids up and alert MIL that we are leaving.  She says goodbye to the boys in the car (as usual, she focuses mainly on my older son...that's another post thought). 

NM is behind us with the gifts and decides to make a stop.  She is gone for about an hour, but texts us to let us know where she is: buying a gun.  Seriously.  She has some paranoia that the world is changing and she fills unsafe driving by herself.  So, she is getting a gun.  OK.  When we don't respond, she calls my husband who kind of laughs her "checking in" off.  She later asks why he was so grumpy. 

My son is waiting and waiting for his gifts.  She has them all in the trunk of her car.  But we wait.  I'm getting frustrated, but he's handling it well, so I am doing OK. 

She gets here and we get out the gifts and she doles out her million more presents to my kids.  They are playing happily and it's well after dinner time, so I get up to start dinner.  She had offered to take us out, but says nothing.  When I go to start dinner, she says "Oh, is this what we are doing for dinner?"  I say, well, it's about our only choice right now, as the kids need to eat.  She appears annoyed that I mead the decision without talking to her. 

I can feel her circling.  She's been quiet and odd the whole time.  DH heads outside with SF to do something and the kids follow them out.  It's just her and I in the kitchen.

The first thing she asks is if my father is coming to visit.  I haven't told her he is coming in two weeks.  She is nosy and it's none of her business.  And there she will have an attitude about it (although I never quite know why).  Plus, whenever I've told her in the past that he is coming, she gets all offended and complains that he needs to go visit my sister too.  (And as background, he does visit her, but not as often.  They have a difficult relationship, and he doesn't particularly like going to visit her.  He did offer to visit her during her "cancer" but she refused...she refused everyone.  She also rarely visits my parents.  She has visited my mom once in seven years.  She has visited my father once in seven years; once she flew into his town but visited her abusive ex-boyfriend instead.  She has come to my home, but often at NM's expense.  NM always feels NSIS is getting the short end of the stick and is constantly taking up for her and demanding "equal" treatment.  She also expects all of us (including extended family) to coddle her, as NM does, make excuses for her lack of reciprocation, make excuses for her period, and bend to NSis, despite NSis being in her 30s). 

So, NM asks if my father is visiting (they have been divorced for 20 years).  I say "yes".  And she responds with "He really needs to go visit your sister!" in an exasperated tone.  And there it is.  I knew it was coming.  NM had been hinting around NSis.  Nsis, herself, had been hinting on FB (she rarely posts on FB) about visiting and my father's lack of visits (she said this to an odd, distant relative.  NSis had been posting odd posts, period, which I imagine where meant as some sort of "message")  NM had been detailing her recent visit to NSIS.  I had nodded and um-hmm-ed but didn't say much . I said "that's good." when NM told me NSIS had had a "checkup" for her condition and it all looked good.   I bet it did.  I sidestepped NM telling me how my NSIS makes the dish I was, at that moment preparing, but telling NM how I liked to do it.  NM changed the subject by cutting me off and saying "we all like to do it differently."  Um, OK.  So, NSIS's making of this dish is a story, but me telling you is boring you?

And when all that didn't work, she traps me by asking about my father's visit.  I tell her that that is none of my business.  That I don't know what his plans are.  That he has offered to visit her in the past and she refused.  I say it calmly and matter-of-factly.  I tell her that it's between NSIS and my father, as they are both adults and that it doesn't have to do with how often he visits me.  She is flustered and walks away and drops it.

She circles back.  She loops in my grandmother (my father's mother) and I tell her that my grandmother is moving.  She is surprised.  She usually hits up my paternal cousin for information (she works with him) but hadn't gotten this information.  I tell her that my father and I were discussing the move and how most of her belongings will be given away and if I wanted anything.  I tell her that a sentimental piece of my grandmother's cookery was given to me.  She gets sputter-y.  "WHAT ABOUT NSIS?  IS SOMEONE MAKING SURE SHE GETS SOMETHING?"  I say, I don't know.  That it's not between me.  Again, I stay calm and collected.  It's not my job to make sure NSIS gets anything.  NSIS has rarely made any effort to keep in contact with my grandmother.  She's, twice, had very upsetting confrontations with my grandmother.  Even when grandma had a heart attack, NM was sputtering that my grandmother needed to call NSIS about NSIS's medical condition.  It's always about NSIS. 

I repeat to NM that it's not place.  That I'm sure grandma has things for her, but I don't know and I haven't gotten involved. 

NM is worked up now.  (And the rest of this conversation gets fuzzy for me.  I was too busy avoiding the pit falls to remember it all verbatim.  I'll hit on the "highlights" with my thoughts in italics. And did I mention, I'm trying to cook dinner during this?)

NM is defending NSIS.  She is making points about how NSIS is forgotten and "better" be remembered.  I say that it's not my place.  I tell her that my father and NSIS are adults and will need to work it out for themselves.  NM says "well, I don't get in the middle either, but..." I cut her off.  I am not getting in the middle of it, I repeat.  Her relationship with my dad is not mine and doesn't effect mine.

NM starts in on how NSIS "misses me".  I say nothing.  She makes some remarks about how we can work it out.  I tell NM that I'm not discussing NSIS with her.  That NSIS, herself, asked me not to discuss her with our mother.  I say that I will not discuss it with her.  She keeps trying different angles.  She tells me that she "knows everything that has happened between you two."  "No.  You don't."  She takes on a superior tone, a smug tone, yes I do.  I say, "no.  you don't."  I'll admit, she almost had me for a minute.  I HATE when she tells me she knows me better than myself and that she knows everything that goes on.   I tell her that, as she has never bothered to ask me about my feelings, has never heard my side of the story, has never bothered to listen when I have told her my side of the story, she CLEARLY, does not know "all of it". 

Again, NM circles to another angle.  "Well, I just hope the two of you can work it out someday.  I just hope you can get back together.  I know how it is..." and then relates the experience to her and my aunt, who have had periodic estrangements.  I say "NSIS is not (aunt).  Aunt is weird and difficult, but she is NO NSIS."  NM smiles as if she's won a point, "I know how it is because of (aunt).  But I am not perfect either."  Her implication is that I'm not perfect either.  That it's a mutual between me and NSIS, this estrangement.  Ha.

"NSIS is not my aunt.  NSIS is abusive and cruel and mean.  NSIS lies and manipulates.  NSIS takes money from my father and then uses it for alternative purposes.  NSIS is not someone I want to be around anymore.  And besides, NSIS knows perfectly well how to "resolve" this rift between us.  I've told her, flatly, in an email how to do that."  I still am cool, calm, and collected.  I probably didn't need to say all I did about NSIS, but I really don't care.  It's the truth, I wasn't slandering her, and I was speaking calmly.  I repeat "NSIS had it all laid out for her in an email.  I'm sure she's read the email to you, since you know everything" I say to NM.  NM, generally surprised, says "what email?"  I say "what email?  Well, I guess you don't know everything then.  Regardless, she knows what I need to move on in this relationship and she's chosen not to do it.  She's chosen to try and buy me off with paltry peace offerings instead of making any real change.  And I won't move forward without that."

NM's stumped for a moment.  She then asks about the money from my father.  I say yes, he gives her money (not really the best thing to say, but not something I think my father would care for her to know).  The wheels are turning in NM's head.  She tries offering excuses up for NSIS.  I say, "Listen.  It's none of my business.  But the thing is, NSIS lies and is deceptive.  I know this because the stories I hear from you and the stories I hear from dad, don't correlate at all.  You both express COMPLETELY different accounts of things.  Somebody isn't telling the truth.  I believe NSIS lies to you and to dad, so you can not know the "whole truth".  I'm will not be a part of that anymore.  And I will not tolerate her abusive nature towards me, her manipulations, or her making me a part of deception."

NM again tries a new angle "Your father shouldn't discuss that with you." (HAHAHA.  Did she really just accuse me of gossiping behind someone's back?)  "You need to be careful.  He brings you up to NSIS and then says that NSIS needs to discuss things with you."  Well, that's just so convoluted I don't even know what to do with it.  She's accusing my dad, who's as straight forward as they get, of gossiping.  And frankly, aside from some basic "fact finding" we rarely discuss my sister, so I know he doesn't discuss me.  And clearly, he tells NSIS to deal with me herself, so how is he gossiping again?  All b.s.

Then NM tries to take my side when I repeat that, as NSIS is now, she is not healthy for me or my kids to be around .  She feigns sympathy.  Says that she always knew if she had to choose between her kids and her family, she'd choose her kids.  Gee, thanks.  But she has NEVER been in a situation like this.  She agrees as  I state that I do not want to expose my kids to NSIS's attention sucking behaviors that are often not child appropriate.  That NSIS's scuz ball of a boyfriend is not welcome around my kids.  I offer up a few examples of their inappropriate behavior around my kids.  NM seems disturbed.  When I make a few more statements, NM screws up her face, puffs out her cheeks, and closes one eye.  She looks like a cartoon character as she makes her exaggerated facial expressions.  She seems disturbed by what I'm saying, but I'm not sure why.  I don't really care.

And then NM goes pathetic.  She starts crying.  She states NSIS is toxic and hard to be around.  She says, dramatically, and with a pause, "That's why I ended up in the E.R. last fall."  Oh, fuck me.  I had forgotten that she told me about this before, and so I'm stunned for a minute.  But I quickly regroup.  Notice, she doesn't say WHAT the fuck she was in the E.R. for.  This is clearly for dramatic purposes.  "Why are you brining this up now, NM?  Why not then?"  Well, NM realizes she's getting beat.  She drops that line (it's pathetic anyway.  I remembered afterward she was in the hospital for a panic attack and got prescribed tranquilizers.  Good for her.  I suggested at the time she get some fucking therapy.  I would do the same now, but she knew this new tactic wasn't working.)

SO, then she tries "I just want to go back to the way our relationship was."  Sobs.  Ick.  And really, what fucking relationship?  The one where I had anxiety and panic attacks (oh, yeah, NM, I've had those too!  And a gun to my head!  So, guess what, we all have our mental health issues at time.  Get some help, I have.)  The relationship in which you dominated and controlled it all, demanding endless amounts of NS that was never enough?  Where you devalued and degraded me and accepted nothing I did as good enough?  Where I tried to be the perfect daughter and you shit on all attempts, and instead focused all your attention on NSIS?  Where you forced me to hand hold you and parent NSIS and made me fucking ill?  Yeah, let's go back to that.  "NM.  I call and text and email as much as I can.  Contact is hard on the phone with the kids, but I am in contact with you several times a week."  "I know." she sobs "things change.  I know it's hard.  I've been there and been busy...and someday you'll be where I am."  Where is that, NM?  Alone and desperate?  No, I won't.  Because I won't demand that my kids be my whole fucking life.  I won't be such an asshole that they won't want to be around me.  And if I am, than I'm sure I'll figure something to do with myself instead of whining and crying that no one loves me.  I despise that she threatens me like that: beware, someday, being a bitch to your mom will leave you alone too!

Then, NM ask for a hug.  I fucking recoil.  NO.  FUCKING. WAY.  I don't want a fucking hug.  And what fucking good would that do anyway.  She's on top of me, telling me how proud she fucking is of me and how much she loves me.  Frankly, I don't give a shit how proud she is of me.  It means NOTHING to me.  I walk away, and DH walks in.  Thank god.

He's in and out, but I tell him to come back I need his help.  He says he'll be right back in (he can tell something's up).  She tries a bit more shit (there is more to this confrontation, but I can't remember it all).  I tell her I'm done talking about it.  I walk away, again, from another hug.  I tell her again that NSIS is abusive and name calling.  She says "don't let her do that to you."  I say, "I don't.  That's why we are in the situation we are in."  Game.  Set.  Match.  I win. 

DH walks in and NM makes a big show about how he's "the best son-in-law".  Ick.  "I'm not just saying this, Jessie!"  OK. 

We get through dinner and she acts like nothing happened.  And then has the balls to ask me if I'm having another kids...because SHE wants me to.

Sigh.  She's never going to change. 

But I have.  I felt fucking awesome.  She NEVER rattled me.  She NEVER baited me or got me to respond.  I remained in control and strong.  It bothered me.  It made me sad.  It certainly pissed me off, but she didn't draw me into a drama match.  And I finished fucking dinner.  And it was good.

Afterwards, I was processing it.  I realized she never once seemed concerned about how it was effecting me.  She didn't even ask for my feelings.  She was only concerned about her and NSIS.  What they needed, who was screwing them, how life sucks for them.  Well, too damn bad.  I'm done with that shit.  It was amazing how clearly she fell into the narc patterns.  How easy it was to see them coming.  How little they stung.  Do I just not care anymore?  I'm sure there will be some backlash to this.  I'm sure that she will come at me again.  But I'm not fucking afraid of her anymore.

A couple of other things, mainly just to vent.  This woman has serious boundary issues.  DH was on the phone.  Instead of excusing herself, she just listened in.  I tried to get her to leave but she just "hung around" and, clearly, listened.  When a neighbor came to the door, she had to come around and peer over DH's shoulder.  She invited my son to climb into bed with her in the morning.  This bugged me and he was instructed to not do it again. 

She relishes the role of "older and wiser" with the kids.  She forces "teaching" moments on them, most of the time, not even knowing what she was doing.  She kept forcing DS to listen as she "instructed" the appropriate way to line up bowling pins.  He couldn't have cared less and told her, repeatedly, that he just wanted to play.  I told her that she was sucking all of the fun out of it.  She didn't care and just kept going on.  He finally walked away.  This annoys the hell out of me, as I feel she is taking advantage of a "captive" audience to appear as the great teacher.  Which she's not.  She also sets DS up, by purposely buying toys for my other son of DS's interests.  And when he suggested a way they could play together with it, she jumped on the chance to chastise him.  I nipped that shit in the bud immediately. 

She used several opportunities to put me down to DH, by acting like she "sympathized" with him in my treatment of him.  I was teasing him because he called something a funny combination name that was a completely different word, but similar sounding.  DH does not have an insecurity about his intellect, so me correcting him and teasing him doesn't bother him.  NM does have an insecurity about being "dumb" and it does bother  NM if I correct her (although she often ASKS me to correct her and I'm always kind.  Damn double bind.).  So, she says "don't worry, DH.  She does that to me too."  Yeah, well, fuck off. 

NM feels that everything that goes on should be run by her, and if she doesn't understand she expects an explanation.  But she doesn't ask for one, she states something in a weird way, like I'm some sort of freak for what I just said.  It's hard to explain.  But here's an example.  One evening, I needed a break, so I said I was going to get the mail.  I really don't need to tell her where I'm going anyway, but she watches me (and accounts for me) like a hawk.  I snuck off to email Kara during the ordeal and was only gone five minutes before I hear NM shrieking my name.  Geez.  Anyway, I say I'm going to get the mail.  "THE MAIL?!?"  NM says, screwing up her face and raising her voice at the end.  Another time, DH reminded me to bring ketchup.  She says, in the same raised voice and odd questioning way "KETCHUP?!?"  I say, yay, ketchup.  She repeats "KETCHUP?!?"  I say, yay, for the party.  Two can play this fucking game.  If you can't just say "what do you need ketchup for?"  then I can't answer you.  Finally, DH breaks in and tells her, but I figure if she's going to demand answers for questions she hasn't asked, she can kiss my ass.

So, there you are folks.  The last morning was tense.  NM did make some comments about coming again soon to watch DS play sports.  I let it go.  Step father gave me an extra long hug and was more than kind to me when leaving.  I felt it was sincere but I wondered why.  He and I have always been at a distance...until I started standing up for myself.   He seems to like me more now.  NM hugged me lamely goodbye.  Nothing was resolved and I don't expect it to be.  This is how it has always been and how it always will be.

I do worry about my son.  He loves her and ask for her a lot.  She is fun for him.  She can be silly and goofy and plays a lot with him.  She gives him a lot of attention.  But she's fucking dangerous.  I know, NC would be best.  But it's just not possible right now.  So, I hope I can help him navigate her and teach him how to deal with her.  I've already started.  And we work on it.  And he already notices a lot (which I capitalize on when I can).  I guess we'll just take one step at a time.  And if it gets worse, I know where the exit sign is. 

Thanks for reading, folks.  And thanks for all of the support.  Sneaking in and finding emails and loving concern sustained me through the weekend.  It all meant more to me than you'll know.  Thanks, Jessie.