Releasing the past in order to find myself

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hallmark Obligations

I know tons of other ACoNs have written about this, but I need to do my own little vent.

I hate Mother's Day.  Loathe it.  I hate standing in the aisle trying to pick out a card.  Most of them talk about a mother's unconditional love, endless support, tireless care.  NM doesn't qualify for those cards.  One year, I bought her a pretty card that said "Mother" on it.  This set of NM's radar.  I didn't really intend to be stand-offish.  I thought it was pretty and had a nice sentiment to it.  But she zeroed in on the fact that I called her "mother".  Geesh.  I have a card that I want to send her.  I bought it two years ago.  It has a mom on the cover who says something like "I don't give a shit if you like peas.  You'll eat them and you'll like them!"  On the inside it says "thanks for all the encouragement over the years."  I'm sure there would be repercussions to sending it though.  I did get out of it for awhile, sending mother's day cards from the kids.  Kind of got me out of the way.  But that grew old too.

So, I stand in the aisle, looking at the horribly overpriced cards and the overly sentimental sentiments that pertain to my mother not at all and wonder what the hell to do.  Not acknowledging her would get up her radar too much.  Besides, she thinks she was a wonderful mother.  She really does.  So, not sending one would be a huge slap in the face to her, and I really don't care enough to get into that kind of fight with her over a damn card.

I do send a nice plant.  Last year, I made a nice potted flower arrangement.  Not because I had to, but because that's what I would do if MIL and NM weren't horrible.  I had my son paint some things for them.  MIL's accidentally got claimed by her demented, elderly, on the brink of death MIL.  Of course, MIL then went to my (3 year old son) and asked him to make her another one.   My jaw dropped on that one.  That MIL couldn't just hand over the gift to the old lady blew me away.  That she then prodded my son (but really me, whom she didn't address about it) to go out and buy another project and paint another one for her pissed me off.  I would have done that for her, if she'd been gracious about it.  But the fact that she acted like a child whose toy got taken really, really annoyed me.  But not to worry, she made sure she took it back when the old woman passed away three months later.  And she made sure she told us she took it back too.

I used to try to pick out a card for MIL.  But that was an impossible feat.  What could I possibly say to the woman who guilted and obligated and controlled my husband, treated me like a second class citizen, and tried to get between me and my kids?  So, I quit doing that.  I let DH pick it out.  I always hate the cards he picks out for her.  Flowery, sentimental, with "For a wonderful mom and grandma" crap.  Blech.  But at least I don't have to do it.  Plus, she knows I don't pick it out.  She's mentioned, at least a couple of times, when she's aware one or the other of us has picked out the card.  She knows who it comes from.  And that's fine with me.

Then, I also have to pick out a card for my step-mother.  Most of those cards say something like "you've been like a mother to me."  Well, not true.  I was 17 (or so) when I met the lady the first time.  She's lived 1500 miles away and I see her once every year or so.  She married my dad when I was 22.  She is not like a mother to me and never has been.  But if I don't acknowledge her, my father gets upset.  Since her birthday is really close, I usually just send a birthday card and slap a "and Happy Mother's Day" sentiment at the end and call it a day.

What really blows me away is that sentiment is never backwards flowing.  Meaning, I never receive a card or a sentiment from them.   There isn't any, "Hey Jessie, I know you are in the midst of raising my two lovely grandkids, who are young and tireless and you're doing a great job!  So, here's to you!"  Nope, it's all about them.

Several years ago, when I was 9 months pregnant, NM suddenly needed a favor from my husband.  She wanted him to drive her up to pick up a car she'd bought near my home (and far from hers).  It would have been a minimum of 6 hours drive (but most likely more).  I would have been left alone, two weeks before my due date, with my toddler son, on the one of the few days I had to rest or get ready for the baby.  NM's sudden desire to obtain this purchase was such a coincidence, that it clearly wasn't a coincidence.  In addition, DH already had plans for one day of the weekend and he had promised to watch the baby so I could get a long needed activity done before the baby came.  It was the only thing I'd asked of him for Mother's Day, was to have this day to do this thing for myself.  So, when NM texted, saying feel free to say no if you can't, I said no.  She replied back "thanks for at least asking (DH)".

Clearly, I wasn't being thanked.  Due to the timing of my reply text, she knew I had not asked DH.  She was angry.  And that made me angry.  She didn't care, or even ask, if we had anything to do.  She had expected an immediate yes.  She didn't care that maybe I didn't want a house guest so close to my due date.  She didn't care that DH might have had some things to do.  She didn't care that this was some of the last time we were going to spend as a family of three.  She didn't care that I was 8.5 months pregnant and that chasing after another small child was physically painful for me.  And that I depended on DH's day's off for relief and a chance to rest.  All she could think about was getting her car.  She didn't try to come up with other solutions.  She complained that flying to get it would've been too expensive.  She didn't think about renting a car for the day (which still would have meant staying with me, but at least she wouldn't be taking my husband with her).  She didn't care that I'd almost died (within an hour of symptoms starting) when I'd had my first son and wouldn't have made it if I'd arrived any later.  But she would have left me, with a small child, with out a ride to the hospital under very serious concerns that I could go into labor and have the same serious issues I'd had the first time.  Nope.  She did not care.  There were so many other ways she could've solved her problem, but she expected me to put getting her (non-essential, second) car above myself, my husband, my child, my unborn child, and my well being, time, and energy.  She did end up coming through (my "poor" step-father who had been too work entangled to do it before apparantly, drove her.  They ended up staying in a hotel, but did take us to dinner.).  She simmered through the meal.  It was tense and uncomfortable (she had pulled my son's highchair right next to hers and far from me in an act of control).  I realized how she could've cared less about what was best for me at the time.   (By the way, when I had my first son, I called her to tell her the news after a very, very quick trip to the hospital and emergency C-section.  Her first reply was "Why didn't you call me?!" in an angry tone.  Not, oh my god, I'm so glad you are both OK.  I'm so happy for you.  Nope, anger because, while I was bleeding to death in a hospital bed in agonizing pain, I hadn't taken the time to inform her of  my near-fatal situation. )

I think of this story, a story that happened a week before Mother's Day and I wonder, what kind of card do you get for a mother like that?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rolling Around In My Head

BIL's wedding had not started off well.  DH and I had tried to tell MIL and FIL that if he and his fiance were not "grown up" enough to take any responsibility for their wedding, that maybe they should be rethinking a marriage.  We pointed out that, maybe, this pattern might continue if they didn't require this couple to grow up...even a little bit.  MIL developed tears (she excused herself to the bathroom to start crying, but made sure she showed up before she'd finished) and FIL became upset, telling me that I had had help too, just as much as they were getting (which was untrue and completely missed the point, but rather, implied I was jealous), and families help out.

The wedding was over budget.  The couple was spoiled and demanded things that my in-laws couldn't afford.  Her family was useless.  My SIL was taking the opportunity to be the "helper" and the "good SIL" offering to do everything and be the matron of honor.  MIL was doing everything and paying for everything (I  believe she was sneaking money to them too) and complaining.  She was also paying for all of DH's other, grown up (and married) siblings travel and accommodations too.  She was testy, to say the least.

I tried to stay above the fray as much as possible.  I avoided the "shopping" trips and hung out with DH and did what I was required to do, but nothing much more than that.  I had said my peace, was in trouble for it, and was just trying to stay away from it all.  DH and I forked over more than our share, and way more than anyone else was paying.  But we were expected to, as we were "better off" (another untruth).  There was tension and anxiety and fights.  It sucked.

But MIL was determined to hang the family together.  She arranged a tour of the local wine valley.  Everyone was to go.  She had FIL were driving everyone else and they paid for most everyone else's wine tasting fees.  I had no say in when or where we stopped, what we saw, or what we did.  But, as it was a road trip through wine country, I could deal with that.  Whatever, I thought, they'll be wine, and I'll survive.

But, I had asked to stop at one winery owned by a good friend of my boss's.  I had had this wine many times, my boss spoke highly of him, and I wanted to see the winery for myself.  It was the only thing (DH even verifies this now) I had asked of the whole damn trip.   Also, if this had been a winery owned by someone who had ties to the in-laws we would've stopped in an instant.  They love to be on the "inside" of things and they would've felt they somehow had a connection to this person and would have loved the attention that would bring.  It's happened many times before (and is actually quite common for the people from DH's hometown.  ANY person, with ANY connection to this town is a source of HUGE pride for these people.)

Anyway, the grumblings started from the beginning.  The tasting wasn't free.  And more so, it was expensive, in their opinion.  Well, fine, everyone has their own opinion.  So, they decide to split the tastings between two people to save money.  For the record, the damn tasting cost $5 a person.  This was the 10th or so winery we had hit.  We'd all spent a lot of money travelling to the wedding in the first place.  Five bucks wasn't going to make or break anyone.  And really, then don't get the damn tasting and wait until the next winery (five minutes away).  But no.  The made sour faces at the wine.  Grumbled about.  Pouted.  Especially MIL.  This clan of usually loud and boisterous and over the top people moped until we left.

As we left, MIL sidled up to DH.  They were walking not more than 10 feet behind me, so I could hear every word.  She knew I could hear what she was "whispering".

Geez, she complained, wasn't that EXPENSIVE.  I can't believe they would charge that much.

Um, DH says.  He's kind of ignoring her.

Don't YOU think it was expensive?  Don't you think he charges too much?  Don't you think that was a waste of our time?

Now, I'm recalling this from memory, so I'm sure these aren't the exact words she spoke.  But I do remember a lot of it.  And I remember her point.  She was pissed and she wanted DH to agree with her.  She frequently uses the phrase "don't you agree..." to buffer her comments.

I remember being angry at the time.  But this memory pops up now and I'm so much more angry.  I'm speculating here, but this is my take one what the hell she was trying to do.  First, she was angry (and actually FIL was angry) at all the money they were spending.  And she felt that the money for the wine was too much.  But instead of directing her anger where it should have been, she directed it at me.  The easy target.  And she's trying to goad DH into agreeing with her.  Because she knows that if he agrees with her, that it's a mark against me (the spoiled snob....which is so fucking ironic, since I am not a snob and grew up poor).  She's trying to unload all of her bullshit onto me, the easy place to dump it.

It's clear to me that her point was to "get me" because the damn tasting was already done.  What is the point of bitching at that point?  It's clearly not to discourage us from trying the wine.  It's to make me look like the bad guy, subtly and in a round about way.  If she didn't want to pay the damn fee, take some responsibility and don't pay the fee.   Was she trying to make a point about me getting my way?  About me having some say so?  Probably.  See, DH, see what happens when Jessie has some input?  We pay, we are inconvenienced.  Don't you agree that Jessie transgressed against the family and was wrong, DH?  And by doing it in ear shot, she's really saying it to me.

I know this moment isn't a really big deal.  But it's little moments like this that weigh on me.  They roll around in my head and have been coming back to me in waves.  I was annoyed and pissed at the time, but I'm really angry now as I can see this bullshit for what it really was.  The sly bullshit manipulations.  The attempts to paint me as an asshole.  The attempts to "convince" DH and keep him in the fold.  The pressure for him to agree with her.  And really, why can't we have different opinions?  Huh?  Why can't she be OK with DH feeling differently about it?  It pisses me off that she dumped her anger about spending money onto me.  That with all the damn money DH and I were spending (they also stiffed us on a bill for food later in the weekend; she forced DH and I pony up for other people's tab.  It was classic.) that we somehow were causing her problems.  That instead of yelling at the assholes who actually were gobbling up her money or putting her foot down or discussing FIL's anger at spending all the money with HIM, she took the opportunity to shit on me.  (She also held me accountable for ordering too much chicken.  The lady who can't listen to me ordered FULL chickens, instead of the pieces of chicken she had told me they were.  She also told BIL to order them, but then didn't trust him to do it, so she ordered it herself.  When she showed up, she had 60 roasted chickens instead of chicken pieces.  Guess who's fault that was?  Yup, me, because I gave her advice.)

I did manage to turn around and say something.  I'm not sure what that something was, but it stopped the conversation.  And I know it was nothing that I really wanted to say.  I wish, so badly,  I could go back and tell her all the things I wanted to tell her.  Hey, MIL, I'm sorry these 15 minutes about me inconvenienced you so damn bad.  I'm sorry that you refused to take responsibility and not open your wallet.  It sucks that your kids sponge off of you and you had to pay their fee, but that sure isn't my responsibility.  No one forced you to stop here, no one forced you to drink, and no one forced you to pay.  You did that all of your own accord and you had every opportunity to stop.  DH is allowed to feel however he wants to about it, and he did this for me.  Because it was important to me.  So quit making him feel badly for "indulging" his wife one damn thing in the midst of this huge circus you call family.

But I didn't say that.  And I can't go back.  And I can't stop these memories from coming and wishing I'd done them differently.  And I can't stop recalling all of the little ways she has manipulated and conned me and my husband for the last 15 years.   And it pisses me off that she still gets away with it.  That she can do these crazy little things and no one has ever called her on it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Status Update

So, here is a very abbreviated version of what has been going on with the narcs.  I provide this update, so that it'll be easier to write out my next couple of posts.

In-laws = BIL and SIL have been a bit MIA.  They have been circling me wide at almost every event (which has been rare) that we've seen them out.  To my advantage, they've pissed off a few mutual friends, so we've been around them less.  We did see them lately, when SIL stood to he side, waiting for me to approach her to tell her how good she looks (with her skinny new ass and her big new boobs).  BIL skirted around me, but did manage to put DH on the hook (in order to relieve his own embarrassment at he situaion) by asking him what he thought of his wife's "fake" boobs.  Nice, really, nice.

The parents-in-law are coming for the weekend.  The whole weekend.  MIL invited herself (and then booked a hotel room, as no one offered up their house) and announced the whole weekend as a celebration for FIL.  We were initially invited to dinner.  Then, hints came in suggesting other activities.  It irritates me to no end that MIL makes these proclamations and then "suggests" we entertain and give up our weekend for them.  No thoughts or consideration to anyone else's plans.  And she is so damn good at covertly hinting at things to DH that he feels obligated to spend time with them.  It's a hard line, because I really have seen very little of them lately and DH wants to see his father, but on the other hand, I feel like then I'm encouraging MIL's bad behavior.  I'm anxious.  Very anxious.  But I'm remembering to breathe and that helps.  I've got lines prepared and some strategies at the ready.  Cross your fingers for me.

NM has been quiet.  She has not called me in almost a year.  I didn't ask her too.  I did tell her that conversations on the phone, for extended periods were hard due to always having children underfoot.  She must have taken that as a hint and stepped off.  I'm sure I'll pay for it come accounting day.  But for right now, it works for me.  She texts and emails a lot (every couple of days) and when it doesn't cost me too much, I reply.  If she baits or goads or hints, I just don't respond.  It has been working well.  But I'm suspicious.  Very suspicious.  She did pull a very mild stunt, to get at DH, but it was so small I ignored it.  Luckily, NM doesn't scare me.

I flew my family and I down to see my father a bit back.  It was a last minute deal, which luckily minimized the regret I first felt.  I had just gotten away from a visit from NM, and then had to deal with my father.  I stressed endlessly.  I do have a post in mind to detail some of the tactics I used to get through it all, but I'll save that for later.  For right now, I'll say the visit actually went very well.  I felt good leaving the visit (there were even other family visits mentioned, which I'll talk about below).  Step mother and I actually had a really good visit.  She was well-behaved and even offered me some moral support about my sister.  I've down graded her from narc to just an extremely overbearing, controlling, somewhat black and white, very opinionated, and a bit self-righteous person.  But she has a heart.  I saw it.  It's in there.  My father, is also a control freak, angry, self centered person who can be very irritable, but he is not a narcissist either.  And the visit really did go well ;).  Dad behaved himself really well and even managed a lot of self regulation.  He was kind and good to my children.  I actually got to see grandparents who are not trying to just get supply in return from the grand kids.  The distinction is subtle, but it's there.  There was an ease to it that I never feel with NM or NMIL.  I always have to have my ear to the ground with them.  There may be a post in this too; the differences in grand parenting.  But I felt good leaving the visit.  I held my ground, I was grown up, I didn't slip (too much) into feeling like a bullied child.  We had fun, the kids had fun, I survived airport security and two flights with two toddlers!

During the visit, I had a visit with my uncle and his wife.  It was wonderful and I felt like I belonged.  Like a little peace was place back in my heart.  This didn't last long.  We had all talked about a family reunion.  I offered to start an email chain to talk about it.  This didn't sit well with family members who felt a reunion had already been planned...yet they hadn't TOLD anyone about it.  Long story short, one extended family member, whom I've only met once, ripped me a new one for being ungrateful and in the wrong, although she never mentioned me.  Several relatives called me or my dad to discuss how horribly this family member had spoken.  But no one said anything.  No one.  The just let it die.  And so, I guess some reunion is planned, but no one will talk about it and lots of family members were given no voice in it.  One of my aunts kind of talked out of both sides of her mouth, and as the get together is at her house (and her DIL is the one that got on me)I don't think I'll go.  The damn thing was going to be complicated to attend as it was, and then when it all fell apart, I just gave up.

This reunion was the second time NSIS turned up the heat on me.  She sent me a quick line suggesting that this other woman was a peach.  I replied, "yes, she is."

My sister and I haven't spoken on the phone since 2 days after my younger son's first birthday.  At that time, she called, complained for over an hour about her boyfriend (and her subsequent fears of commitment due to our horrid childhood), and never ONCE mentioned my son, his birthday, or anything else that might be going on in my life.  I let it go, as I usually do, because I was actually surprised that she was exploring how her past was effecting her future.

Several months later, I heard (as readers may recall) from an extended family member that my sister (very young sister) had cancer.  Lots of drama ensued.  I fielded lots of calls from hysterical NM and my upset father.  NSis had announced, late at night, that she had cancer and then quickly took it down.  She did not call me or my father and had not mentioned it once to NM, who had visited just weeks earlier.  There was a lot of confusion.  I refused to call my sister, as I felt that she needed to call me.  I wasn't trying to be a brat.  I wanted to respect her privacy, allow her the time to reach out to me, or just plain give her breathing room (which I surmised is what I would have done with any other grown up who had chosen not to call me.)  I waited for awhile and sent to separate communications telling her I was available if she needed me.  I didn't push or pry.  She replied back vaguely.  I knew that she expected me to hunt her down, pry things out of her, and let her play the victim.  Still to this day, I have no idea if she even had cancer.  But let me say, the circumstances around the event are sketchy at best (I have not spoken to either of my parents about this since November, as I wanted to quit having them be the middle man.  To my knowledge, neither of them really knows the truth either, although they both tried to help and both offered to visit.  She declined all offers of help except money.).  At the same time, NSis was going through significant problems with her boyfriend (violent issues) that were resulting in her possibly being evicted.   From what I saw, these issues with NSis's boyfriend seemed to be at the fore front of NSis's priorities.

Around late fall, NM called me, again hysterical, claiming Nsis was having surgery.  While NSis did appear to have some sort of medical procedure, the procedure NM called me about was not it.  NSis, in the midst of this NSis called me (While ignoring NM's calls.  My parents had become increasingly frustrated that NSis often was difficult to get a hold of, wouldn't return phone calls, and was clear with information.  She had also called my father several times in a screaming, hysterical fit of anger.  One time, out of concern for her safety, he had called the cops.  Oh, and also during this time my grandmother had a heart attack.  NSis was in such a rage at one point that she didn't even hear my father tell her this, but continued to scream like a banshee at him for all the wrong he'd done.  Then, NSis tried to play the "good girl" game and "reach out" to my grandmother.  She also had texted me at this time -in the middle of the night, the same night my father had told her the information - that grandmother had gone to the hospital.  Of course, I already knew this information and it annoyed me that she would text it to me, especially at 3 a.m.).  When NSis called, I was actually attempting to call my husband.  I accidentally picked up her line and immediately hung up.  When she called again and again, I was trying to call husband at the same time, and I believe I hung up on her twice again.  I was frantic to speak to DH first and calm myself down before I talked to her (she induces HUGE anxiety in me.  She is mean and volatile and screams at me.)  I finally answered, and what do you know, she laid into me.  Raged against me for not being there, ignoring her, blah, blah, blah.  I'll admit, she got to me.  I tried to rationalize.  I told her, calmly, that I would not allow her to verbally abuse me like she had my father. This ENRAGED her to a point, that I couldn't deal with it.  I told her to fuck off and hung up. (She later claimed I told her to fuck off and die.  Funny how narcs can add or delete words to amp things up.)

She continued to try to reach me.  I informed her that I would be contacting her through email only.  I told her that I would email her when I could to explain my feelings.  She harassed me with texts all through Thanksgiving.  Telling me she missed her sister.  Blah, blah.  Give the kids a hug for me.  Blah, blah.

I did send her an email.  A thoughtful, calm email in which I stated some basic things that had led to me moving away from her (I avoided details, as I felt that it would just bog us down in that, which wasn't the point.  It was the patterns of her behavior which I needed to address).   She replied that she was stunned.  She laid into me with blame, shame, and anger.  Told me how horrible I was for not supporting her medical bullshit.  How dare I criticize her, she wanted to know, when she was struggling so hard.  She told me that she would get back to me more when she could wrap her head around the craziness that I had emailed her.  (For what it's worth, I had two fellow bloggers read and edit this email and help me create it in a way that was as calm, collected, and adult as I could.  I tried very hard to eliminate any accusations and just clearly establish boundaries.)

For months, my sister chose to not follow up with her thoughts she had promised.  She sent a quick reply text to one I sent for her birthday.  There may have been a quick text at Christmas.  I don't remember now.

Shortly after NM visited in February, I received the email she'd promised.  This email was coincidentally timed after my mother's visit, when I am certain that NM relayed the news that my family would be visiting my father.  This email too was wretched, really.  Again full of gas lighting, crazy making, shaming, projections.  She played the victim and the martyr too.  If I wasn't worried about being found out, I'd publish her emails in entirety  as they are such text book examples of narcissistic communication.  Alas, you'll just have to take my word for it (there are a few other of my blogger friends who have also weighed in on these emails and have come to the same conclusions as me about them.)  At the bottom of the message, NSis got to her real point.  She ordered me to at least "respect" her enough to not discuss our issues with mom and dad and make them go betweens.  This part is so laughable but so clearly outlines her fucked up thinking.  I had not discussed NSis with my parents since November and I had, in fact, clearly told my parents that I would no longer be discussing NSis or accepting any information about her.  If NSis wanted to reach me, she could.  NSis's accusations that I had been discussing her behind her back was pure projection and an attempt to control triangulation for her own uses.

I replied that I would be responding to this email, but later.  She replied, "thanks. I appreciate that." or something similar.  Two minutes later, she sent another email asking if I liked a piece of furniture she wanted to buy.  WTF?  Last I'd heard, she was broke.  And beyond that, how the hell did we get back to playing pretend and offering up sisterly advice on furniture?  I supposed that since she had gotten all of her feelings out and raged against me, she felt better and it was over for her.  She got "back" at me for not supporting her and then moved on.

The trip with Dad went well, as described above, and we actually never mentioned NSis. I did talk to step mom one night, not really discussing NSis, but telling step mom how hard it's really been for me and that I hoped my father could understand that I am trying to protect myself (he has always stated I owe NSis nothing and am not responsible for her.)  Step mother was kind and supportive.  During this trip, the family reunion came up.

First, NSis sent the "peachy" remark.  Then, NM stepped in as a flying monkey, describing how sad NSis was that she couldn't go to the reunion, as she didn't have a ride.  The stench of obligation was all over the email.  I could guess what she was hinting at.  I ignored this email.  NSis brought up on the family email chain that she didn't have a ride either.  I ignored this too.

Last week, NSis sent me a text saying she'd sent my kids a package and to let her know when it gets there.  Strange....(not really).  She hasn't sent (or even acknowledged) my kids on their last two birthdays for one and one birthday for the other or on Christmas.  One Christmas she told me that she was too broke for gifts for the kids, but then spent hours on the phone agonizing over what to buy her boyfriend.  And it's not about the gifts, but the total lack of thought for them.  So, the "gifts" arrive.  This reeks of lame attempts to get me back into the fold.  And I'm angry that she thinks sending a package will somehow make me forget that she's treated me like dirt, very recently.   I text her back saying we received it, the kids enjoyed it, and thank you.

Two days later (the email was sent in the middle of the night, I suspect she'd been drinking), I received an email demanding all of the family photos be sent to her.  That I was keeping her "childhood" from her.  That I had no right to keep them and that NM had given them to me expecting me to "do right" by them.  Um, OK. NM did give me the family photos, as she was sick of storing reminders of her ex-husband and I am the responsible one.  NSis has destroyed or lost many family memories before this.  And besides, I had never suggested that I wouldn't give her her share.  Again, this was a clear manipulation tactic.  And I bit.  I'd been trying to figure out a way to communicate to her a response to her email, and this was a clear opportunity.

I wrote back an email, clearly stating my boundaries again.  I pointed out her manipulations and gas lighting and stated I wouldn't be falling for her accusations and guilt trips.  I explained that, despite her insistence that I was being sneaky and "hiding" from her and being passive, that I was merely taking my time to sort through things.  And that this time had allowed me to see that, no, things still haven't changed.

NSis wrote back a scathing email, degrading me and verbally abusing me.  She told me what a piece of shit I was and how disappointed she was with me due to what I've "become".  I didn't get this email until a lengthy texting chain which started with her calling me a "nasty bitch".  I was able to ignore the first few texts and phone calls.  Then she told me I was ridiculous and demanded I call her that day.  I took this as an opportunity to tell her that I actually do have other things going on in my life (I actually was really busy, but that shouldn't matter) and I don't need to drop everything in order to allow her time to scream at me and call me names.  She told me that she wouldn't call me names.  Um, you just texted me that I'm a nasty bitch. Between the email and the texts, she called me abusive, told me I was scum for reducing her beautiful gestures of amends to fake crap, told me I'd turned into a horrible person, accused me of triangulation (I told her I'd give the pictures back to my mother.  I mean, it's a HUGE box full of photo albums.  I'm not really going to send that shit), told me I was horrible for ranking her "out" of the family and pushing her out of the family.  Somewhere in there, she accused ME of withholding the children she never makes an effort to communicate with.  She told me I've turned into a horrible person and she's disappointed and saddened by it.  My friend Kara summed it up by saying she threw every narc trick at me but the kitchen sink.  As Jonsi said, it was "textbook" narc.    NSis finished up with a text saying that her only intent was to have a friendly call and "catch up" about "good and positive" things.  Was she deluded?  SHE started the communication chain by accusing me, basically, of stealing the family photos out from under her.  She called me nasty names, verbally abused me, harassed me, refused to stop when I told her I was done, and blamed it all on me and my defective personality.  What amazed me was her ability to shift tactics with in minutes.  It was like talking to Sybil.  One minute she was kind and nice and wanting to make amends, the next she's raging at me and telling me I'm worthless (she even threatened during one early email to not have a relationship with me.)I do wonder if there are other factors (bipolar or borderline) that play into her behavior, but regardless, she is dangerous to me.

So, that in a nut shell has been my life since Christmas.  I'm exhausted.  And tired.  And the thing is, I'm disheartened to know that it is never going to stop.  Even if I go NC with NSis, she will never let me go.  She'll always be there, waiting, to jump on any opportunity to get me.  I hate that, even with NC, ACoNs are left looking over their shoulder, waiting for the boogie man to jump out of the shadows.  That, even with boundaries, we jump at a phone ringing or get sinking feelings (instead of happy ones) when an unexpected package shows up.  I'm tired of the fact that every damn birthday or holiday or anything wonderful has to be mired with drama and crap.  Even if I've stayed out of the fray or walled me and my FOC off, they are still there, on the other side of the fence, waiting to engulf us at all times.  I'm tired of mending fences and using my sheer will to hold them up, only to have MIL barge through them again.  Any crack in the wall, is an invitation to engulf us again.  I'm pissed off that I've had to make decisions about my future based on what I can deal with from these people.   Or that we've had to bow out of things we loved, because the narcs took over.  This shit SUCKS.

I will say, on a positive note, that even as tired as a I am, I'm stronger.  And better.  They may be wearing me out, but I'm holding my own.  I'm not in a ball on the floor in tears.  I'm not wandering around like a zombie, unable to participate in life.  I'm not beating myself up at every opportunity.  I'm not perfect, I still have a lot to learn and do, but it's getting better.

Monday, April 15, 2013


When I was little, family was the most important thing to me.  I was aware of my feelings in a way I doubt other kids think about their family.  I remember always wanting to be with my family.  I passed up on social events to stay home and hang out with my family.  I am allergic to animals, so I actually couldn't go to other people's houses as much, which just compounded the problem.  But I didn't mind.  I LOVED spending time with my family.  I loved my mother.  I idolized her.  I have a book I wrote about her, in which I embellished a small act on her part into her "saving my life" (I remember that's how she had conveyed the seriousness of the event at the time).  I wrote poems about her, poems about my family, homework assignments spotlighted my family.

I loved family get-togethers.  We frequently got together with my father's family and I loved it.  The cousins, my grandma, the aunts and uncles.  I loved being around different people.  We rarely got together with my mother's family, at least not all together.  But we saw them.  My parents had a couple of friends we saw.  I loved that too.

My little sister was my constant companion.  She went every where with me (except the times she went with her friends).  I watched her on every holiday and summer break.  We were in the same classes (mom putting me in the younger age group, so we would be together.  Always even.  Also, it helped NM not have to run around to double the activities).  My sister always expected to share my friends (and later boyfriends).  We were close.  She was violent.  I was afraid of her and her temper.  But we were "close".

But none of us was really close.  Not really.  I can look back and see how we all kind of just floated together.  Like boats, tethered together on the sea.  Bouncing into each other and near each other, but not really connecting.  We did lots of things together.  But I don't remember a lot of glowing memories.  I don't remember feeling that was of love.  NM and NSis were close, completely enmeshed.  And on occasion, they would let me hang out too.  Lots of times I was relegated to dad.  Working in the garage.  I spent a lot of time alone.  I read books, I played in my room.   I remember pulling together for my sister's homework as a team, but I don't remember anyone really being excited by anything I did.  I was just there, a constant.  I remember being asked a lot to accommodate my sister so she didn't tantrum.  She got her way a lot.  NM recently told me that sister had told her she was a big softie with us.  NM loved that she was referred to this way.  She liked being the nice parent (she used my dad as an enforcer).  NM was a softie, with my sister (and for what it's worth, the soft treatment wasn't preferential and most likely fucked my sister up completely.).  I was NM's assistant, her helper, her little me.

But I felt almost a desperate desire to be around them.  When the divorce hit, I was stunned.  I was 14 (ish, I really struggle to remember the exact order of things and dates.  It's all a blur).  I remember feeling like my family had exploded.  Like it had died.  We all seemed to be blown in different directions.

I was devastated.  I struggled so much with the complete dissolution of my family.  Everyone (except me) went crazy for a time; some longer than others.  I tried so desperately to hang onto the pieces.  To hold it together.  I remember feeling very alone.  Forgotten, abandoned.

Through my twenties, I did everything I could to improve the relationships with my family that were so rapidly deteriorating.  Every interaction with my sister and mother ended badly.  Fights, arguments  lots of tears.  I racked my brain about how to fix it.  My dad has always been distant, and continued to be (My father, not a narcissist, but a very self-centered person, recently asked me why I wasn't eating the eggs he'd made for breakfast.  I informed him, as I have on every visit in the last few years - around 5- that I have hated eggs since I was 2.  I've never eaten eggs.  Anyone close to me knows this.  He doesn't know it.)

I hosted my family.  I bought thoughtful gifts.  I supported my sister through every drunk, tearful, 3 a.m. phone call, and the various sob fests in between.  I watched her repeatedly create such horrific havoc in her own life - and consequently that of her "family."  Then, she would demand support, endless hours to vent or unleash, long tirades about how unfair it all was.  But no change, no attempts to grow up and make things better.

I had glimmers things would get better.  Moments that I thought things were getting better.  Break throughs.  And falls back wards.  Lots and lots of slips backwards.

I find it ironic.  Ironic that it is me that they accuse of not being there for my "family".  Of not living up to my obligation.  It's ironic that they accuse me of being "cold", and "calloused", and completely uninterested in family.

It's the same way with my in-laws now.  When I started out with them, I wanted so much to fit in.  To be a part of a big, "loving", family.  But twists and turns, and I've somehow come to be the enemy to them now too.  I'm the one out to destroy the family.  I'm the one on the outside.

I just don't get it.   Can't people realize that if I hadn't been about to kill myself, I would never have had to step away from my "family"?  That someone like me, who idolizes and worships her family, would never run for the hills screaming, if it hadn't gone very, very wrong?  That I'm not interested in being right, or having my way, or controlling the family.  That it isn't about some petty disagreement.  That this is about someone finally having to step away from family before it killed me or sucked me down with it into crazy town.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Changing Winds

I've had a shit day.  NSis started gearing up for me a few weeks ago and exploded on me today in  mix of crazy-making, intimidation, abuse, and anger.  Full on narc rage.  But that is a post for another day, as I need to let it go for a bit before I write about it.

I found this article today.  Here is the link.  Below I've included a link to an the article I first found, and one woman's take on this.

However, I stumbled upon this article.  I really don't need to explain my feelings on this woman.  I'm sure you can imagine and have a similar feeling.  Partially, I'm glad she is saying what she is saying.  Maybe this "truths" we hold about mothers will finally start to clear up in society.  I'm sad for her kids.   She says several times that she is "certain" her kids "felt loved."  But you don't know?  Didn't you ask them?  You ticked the boxes, lady.  You did what you felt obligated to do.  Your kids ran to there father for love and support.  You didn't love them, you did what you thought you should (um, good for you?).  Anyway, her dribble is so typical of narc mommies (and I'm not saying she is a narc mommy, but I imagine many of them feel the way she does) that I wanted to share it with others.   It paints a very, vivid picture of what we are dealing with.

My "favorite" line she wrote was "I missed the dog before it even occurred to me that I'd left Stuart outside the shop."  Awesome lady.  Just awesome.

I might add, I just remembered something I read on a blog once (I believe as a comment, if anyone knows remembers who to attribute it to, I'd appreciate it).  This person said something to the effect of "orphanages feed, clothe, and "care" for the needs of kids too.  But an orphanage is no more a parent than these people are."

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Elephant in the Room

Easter provided me with lots of opportunities to practice my new narc management skills.  I hope to write some posts on how I've been able to manage my NSis and NM better.  But for now, NMIL is stuck in my craw.  So, again this post will be about her.

I've known for awhile that she will be coming around soon.  I've actually had a nice, long break from all of them.  I ran into BIL and SIL at an event for the kids.  As usually, they were distant and spoke little (if at that I think of it, they really didn't speak to me at all).  But it was manageable   I had been quite nervous, but I made it through.

Before dinner, my husband took my son to visit a friend.  I had asked him to be home by 4 p.m to help me.  When he wasn't home at that time, I was annoyed.  But I used it at as a moment to practice some restraint and approach things from a place of expressing my feelings rather than unleashing my anger.  As I waited the half hour for him to come home, I practiced and practiced  how I could approach him in a less aggressive way.  When he came in, I simple said "Hi, glad you are home.  I had expected you home at 4."  He then explained that he had run into the wife of the friend, just as he was leaving and had felt it rude to just take off.  OK.  I was glad I didn't jump on him the minute he walked in the door.  I told him that I had been disappointed he hadn't been home on time (and even if he hadn't run into this woman, he still would've been late.)  I told him that I had found it frustrating and that I expected he would come home when we had agreed upon, especially when he knew I really needed his help.  He agreed.

It was wonderful.  I felt accomplished.  I felt like we had communicated and I had been able to get my point across and that it hadn't destroyed the whole tempo of the evening.  So, we continued to talk and he remembered that he hadn't called his parents back.  He said "Oh, MIL is coming down in a few weeks for FIL's birthday.  They will be staying the weekend and want to take us all (meaning us and BIL and SIL and their family) out to dinner."  So, this sent little twinges of annoyance through me, but I had expected it.  MIL uses FIL's birthday every year, either to invite herself down her or to push us to invite them.  No one else in the family has a "big family celebration" but she knows that we will all do it for FIL.  Sounds nice, but in the end I know that MIL does this only because it meets her needs.  There is an agenda to it:  she gets to get the family together, but she can do it under the guise of FIL.  It also annoys me that she just makes plans and then expects us to fall in line.  She doesn't stay with us, but rather with BIL, so itt's actually a bit sticky.  Because really, they have every right to make plans together and it's not at my house so I don't really have a say.  But it just seems like this happens all the time.  MIL and BIL arrange something and THEN call us to inform us of the plans.  No one checks with me and DH to see what is going on with us.  Sure, we can refuse to go.  We can say we have other plans.  But we know there is an implied demand that we comply.  It annoys me that, over and over, we are informed of plans after the fact.  We are never consulted.  And if it didn't work out for us, they wouldn't adjust the plans to include us in the "family" get together.

But, I had expected this birthday bullshit from MIL, so I was better able to handle it.  But then DH, more talking out loud than to me said "They are actually coming Tuesday too.  They wanted us to meet up at the farm tour.  I told (MIL) that we couldn't."  So, here we were.  Another surprise visit.  A visit that it appeared BIL had been made privy too before us, as they had already made plans to go to the farm tour.  BIL does talk to MIL almost every day, so it didn't surprise me -and as described above - they make plans and then tack us on all the time.  But this time I was pissed and angry and frustrated.  My stomach started hurting.  I tensed up.  I started shaking and getting antsy.  What in the hell was going on?  My physical reaction seemed so much more extreme than the situation called for, especially since we hadn't been expected to go.  This is why MIL is tricky for me, she triggers this feeling all the time and I can't pin point where it comes from.

A little background to the farm tours.  The farm is down the street from my house.  I discovered this farm tour several years back and began inviting BIL/SIL and their kids to it (along with a mutual family friend).  SIl had overheard me talking to another friend on Saturday about the farm tours (they wouldn't have known otherwise).  I believe they went with us once.  But as is typical with BIL and SIL, they soon quite going with us and started going, either by themselves or with other family members/friends.  Of course, they have the right to go whenever they want to.  But this isn't the first time this has happened.  It isn't the first time they've taken ideas from me and then went with someone else.  It isn't the first time they have not invited us to do things with the kids together.  In fact, a latest bone of contention is that they NEVER invite us to get together so our kids  (cousins of close age) can play.  DH has let go of making plans to try and get the kids together and has been surprised to see that they never call us.  Ever.  After years of making a big deal about "family" and "close cousins" (by BIL and MIL, both), DH can see that, if we don't do the planning, the kids don't get together.  So, it sticks in my craw a little that they then choose to do the things, things we've invited them to, with other people.  And that's what happened here.  BIL decided to have a "family activity" and didn't include us again. It's BIL and SIL and MIL and FIL.  We are not family apparently   And this has happened over and over and over (in fact, several times the whole family has gotten together- three of the brothers, their wives, and my parents-in-law - without us.  MIL even went on and on one night about how my chef BIL was cooking a big meal for them all.   They've somehow decided it's OK to exclude us.  Whether it's because they believe I wouldn't go because of all the dogs...a legitimate concern for me, but still my decision to make...or because SIL refuses to invite me to her home unless it's perfect and she can maintain her image of perfect wife and mother.   She likes to blame me for being "judgmental" about her home but it's really her insecurities, not me being a bitch.  Consequently, I haven't been to her home, five minutes away, in three years.)

I was stressed when DH told me this, trying to get a big Easter feast on the table.  But hearing about the farm just shut me down.  I had to tell him.  I had to tell him my feelings.  I needed to get it out and I needed his support.  But I knew better.  I knew he wouldn't understand.  I tried to explain how I felt they were somehow taking something over, how it felt wrong somehow, how something was just nagging me.  But it sounded stupid.  Why couldn't they go to the tour?  They HAD invited us after all (well, MIL had invited us technically.  Another habit she has.  She invites us to do things that I have a feeling BIL or SIL didn't want us invited to, or they would have invited us themselves.)  DH looked at me, kind of rolled his eyes, and said "OK" like I was a crazy lunatic.  And that's what I'm sure I sounded like.  This was EXACTLY why she gets to me in the first place.   She creates these weird, naggy, anxiety-ridden feelings in me and I look like a lunatic when I try to explain why.

I thought and thought about it.  I consumed a glass of wine.  And then it occurred to me what was going on and I tried to explain it again to DH:

MIL is like an elephant.  A huge, cartoonish elephant that is running at me full force.  You know the kind, like from old Disney cartoons or Looney Tune cartoons.  The round elephant with the wild eyes running on two legs with a HUGE grin on her face.  And she's running at me with a flag in her hand.  Constantly.  This woman, sees something that I am doing or have or have created and she is so damned excited about it that she is rushing at me to plant her flag right on top of mine.  She just barrels right over the top of me.  It's like I'm this little mouse, who has created this beautiful sand castle.  She sees it from far off and LOVES it so much that she has to claim it for herself.  So, she rushes in, sand flying everywhere, pushing me aside to plant her flag right over the top of mine.  She cares not that she is pushing me out of the way.  She cares not that she has destroyed what I have created.  For her, what belongs to one family member belongs to the others.  AND WHY WOULD YOU NOT WANT TO SHARE WITH FAMILY!! the elephant shouts at me.  (MIL has actually made a point of claiming, by passive-aggressively "correcting" my son, that family should share.  That family does share.  There are no boundaries).  She doesn't approach me and speak to me about my sand castle and ask if she can play too.  She doesn't even fucking acknowledge I'm there.  She is a huge, elephant, a wildly excited elephant or just demolishes anything I try to create and takes it for herself.  She horns in and pushes and plops down right in the middle of everything.  It's clear to me that she hasn't thought about any body else except herself.  How she can look like a good grandmother, how she can "create" a family memory (or stamp her name over a family memory that I've created).  She'll take credit, she'll brag to her friends about doing it with the kids, she'll speak about this event in the future as when SHE took all of the kids to the farm.  It'll be an annual "family thing".  And she does this to me over and over and over and over.

But here is the hard part.  Others only see a very, happy (if not somewhat comical) elephant.  They say "but she can't help she is an elephant!"  "She's just excited" they'll exclaim.  They won't understand why I'm being so "stingy" with this tour.  Why I am being selfish and claiming it as "my own".  They won't see how MIL has taken something that I used to invite everyone to, and they declined and now made it something that SHE invites everyone too and we are expected to go.  They'll say, why do you need credit?  But the thing is, I don't need the credit.  But, it's clear to me, that SHE NEEDS THE CREDIT.  She has to be in charge and directing it all.  No one else sees a brute that is so concerned about her own excitement that she tramples on everyone around her.  Or that, even is she notices that she has trampled on my sand castle, it's a small sacrifice so that she can have what she wants.  No one sees that she has buried me in the ground.  They just see a loving, excited grandma.  I see an elephant who is going to beat me down again.

A big, giant, wild-eyed, pay to attention elephant with a flag to plant.  That is what she is to me.  Recognizing this has helped.  I actually was able to communicate this to DH.  He actually understood what I was saying and agreed that she is like that.

But what do I do now?  How do I stop a charging elephant?  How do I deal with these feelings that are pretty legit actually when you look at the "threat" baring down on me?