Releasing the past in order to find myself

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.


Friday, August 23, 2013

For My Records Only

I'm writing this, mainly, as a record of birthday celebrations past.  I've found it is helpful to see patterns and look back at the "record" to get a full idea of what has been going on.  And as I've thought back to birthdays past, I'd forgotten a lot of what went on.  So, you are welcome to read, but know that it may be a bit....well, it may not be the best read.  Some of this is duplicate information.  And mostly, I'm writing it because I need to get it out of my head and written down. 

NM generally reserves her attention seeking to before or after the parties (she stays the weekend, so she gets in her digs during that time).  During the parties, she generally, plays the doting mother and grandmother.  She can be helpful.  But that's mainly because she knows how I like to do things.  However, she ALWAYS has to put her own stamp on the party.  Sometimes that means buying extra decorations and things.  Sometimes that means "suggesting" how to decorate...such as moving a table six inches to the left, or something else ridiculous.  She did this too at my wedding: when I asked her how my makeup was, she had to grab the brush and "adjust" my eye shadow.  I didn't need her help, but she had to look like she put on the finishing touches, make herself feel special.  She also rarely really helps at the party.  She doesn't help serve, or get more food, or clean up.  Ever.  NM also makes huge deals about the gifts she gives.  She starts asking for lists months in advance.  Then she asks for "more" ideas.  Then, she generally gets what she wants.  Then, she acts put out by the things I suggest, but begrudgingly gets them.  I get a million texts, emails, and phone calls to discuss the gifts she's getting. 

NM does, however, keep MIL in check somewhat.  MIL's usual boisterous, loud, and brash demeanor is subdued by NM.  I find this very, very interesting.  I've come to believe that MIL likes to be the alpha female in any room, and if she's not, she withdraws and becomes reserved.  She tiptoes around and hangs on the periphery. The seem to circle each other at arm's length.  And even when they do talk, it's stiff and awkward.   NM clearly likes this and makes sure to revel in her dominance.  NM, however, likes to use her interactions with MIL to hurt me.  Last year, despite MIL behaving horribly and NM saying MIL was behaving badly, NM stated "well, she's always nice to me, asking about my job and things."  NM often says she feels pity for MIL because MIL seems to suffer "from low self esteem".   And at the last party, NM forced MIL to pose for a picture in her bathing suit (something she knows is upsetting to MIL).  NM made sure to show me the picture later, in which MIL was cuddled up with my husband.  It made my stomach hurt and NM knew it.  She said she took the picture to make "MIL feel good."  Why, in the hell, would she need to make MIL feel good?  Later, when comparing notes with DH, I found out that NM had pushed MIL into the picture, insisting she get "closer" to DH.  Ick.

Also, I have a "friend" who, very recently, claimed she wished that we hung out more and so enjoyed hanging out with me.  We've been friends for 10 years (our husbands were friends first), but despite enjoying each other's company, she seems to be hard to connect with.  She seems to understand how hard my family issues are, and was one of the first people to validate me, but she always seems to disappear at these things.  She has blown off the party at the last minute for a funeral, a "business meeting" with her SIL and MIL (at a resort), and a camping trip.  Of course, these are legitimate excuses....they just seem to always happen.  For this weekend, she somehow can't make it home from a camping trip in time for the party (despite making it home for a party at her neighbors' when we were camping in the same spot).  I'm hurt that she's, again, found something else to do with her time. 

DS's birthday #1:  The stress started weeks in advance.  There was pressure on me to invite all of MIL's sisters to the party.  I refused.  I felt that if I invited one set of aunts I had to invite all of our parents' siblings.  That would be too many people.  And, I didn't want a ton of people at the party.  I wanted it small and was a party for a one year old.  Anyway, we get a call from MIL's sister, offering to "help" because she knows how "stressed out Jessie" gets at these things.  I can only assume MIL made an "excuse" for me not inviting everyone because I get too stressed out.  It was awkward to say, "um no thanks" and by the way, you're not even invited.  In discussing the party with my father, he told me I was rude for suggesting an ending time to the party.  I scheduled out three hours (during lunch) to accommodate my son's nap in the afternoon.  Apparently, it's rude to suggest a one year old can only handle a limited party.

The day of the party came and I worked hard to get everything ready in time (as well as nurse and feed my son and squeeze in a morning nap for him).  Noon, the time of the party came, and no one was there.  No one.  I watched the clock tick as NO ONE showed up.  Finally, MIL and FIL showed up around 30 minutes later.  She was a hurricane if noise and chaos when she came in.  They had FIL's mother with them (something MIL was annoyed I made them do) who needs help and so we got her settled.  MIL blows in with the food she'd made (I had allowed it to make her feel involved) crumpling up the tinfoil and tossing it in the middle of the buffet and pushing aside the food I'd carefully arranged on the table.  Then, she and FIL ask for tools, as they aren't finished putting DS's gift together.  They spend the next HOUR putting the thing together in another room from the party.  We had food to BBQ and were waiting to feed everyone....but no one was there to feed.  When she gets the gift together, she trots it out and makes a big deal about what a great gift she bought.  She doesn't mention that the idea for the gift came from me.  I don't need the credit, but I hate that she takes boasts and takes credit. 

Finally, more of DH's family shows up (his grandparents and another BIL and SIL) but we are still waiting for DH"s "closest" brother and his wife and my niece (the only other child at the party).  We wait.  And wait.  And wait.  DH tells me his mother told him that SIL's mother had to go to the hospital.  So, a bit later, when they show up I ask if her mother is OK.  What are you talking about? she asks.  Her mom is fine.  I ask DH how he heard that....and before we are fully aware of the narcy behavior surrounding us, he offers up that he must've "misheard" his mother.  I suggest that's a hard thing to mishear.  He says "well, maybe I lied."  Um, no, DH does not lie.  Ever.  He's just not that kind of guy.  It's clear he's covering for MIL. 

Later, SIL tells me that they were late because she had been angry at MIL.  She was mad that they'd stopped by her house first and brought the grandmother when her house wasn't clean and organized.  She said she was so mad, that she had to stay away from the party.  I'm blown away.  How the hell do you avoid your nephew's party because you are mad at your in-laws.  She acts like it's no big deal. 

DS's birthday 2:  Honestly, this party was so crazy I can't even remember what happened.  We had just moved and, due to weather, had to move the party from the park to my house last minute.  It was stressful.  I know my in-laws were all late and blew in like a tornado..  I know no one offered to help me.  I know that my niece was allowed to jump around and off my furniture while my in-laws laughed and guffawed loudly.  It was chaos. 

DS's birthday 3:  SIL and BIL arrive on time, but SIL "forgot" their swimsuits.  So, SIL leaves to go get them.  When she comes back, she finds me and says "are you mad that I left?"  I'm not sure why she would think I was mad at her for forgetting something.  But as I look back, I think, what an odd thing to say.  Was she trying to piss me off? 

I also had my new infant son, which both grandmother's were demanding to take.  DH had strict orders to not allow my son to be passed around like a party favor and was keeping him close, to which NM said he was being "stubborn".  I found that both grandmother's wanted the baby to avoid helping me, look like they were helping, and using the opportunity to look like a doting grandmother.

The only other incident at this party was with some friends who became flustered when their kid threw a fit that I wouldn't allow him in the extra food packed under the table.  I had a full table of food, but this kid wanted to get into the food underneath.  His parents don't believe in saying "no" and, probably, it wasn't that big of a deal.  But I didn't understand why this kid should be allowed to take an entire new bag of chips to himself when their was perfectly good food on the table (and the exact same chips).  I felt guilty and horrible, but ignored it. 

DS's #2, First Birthday:  Again, everyone is late.  MIL calls an hour before the party to invite a very distant relative (her uncle, whom I've maybe met once) to my son's very small family party.  He wanted to stop by, she couldn't say no, and so she calls to see if he can just come to the party.  She asks DH and knows that he really can't say no.  The guys already on the way.  I'm pissed because it's difficult for her to focus on her grandson if she's trying to "catch up" with her uncle during a one hour party.  During the party, she introduces the relatives to everyone BUT ME.   I finally introduce myself.  MIL stands and discusses my home, my view, our life with this aunt and ignores the fact that I am, again, doing everything myself.  MIL keeps hinting (as I walk past doing things) about different parts of my house, like she wants me to give a tour.  Because I'm not doing anything else. 

MIL is annoyed because she had to bring FIL's mother (my insistence, partially because I like the lady, partially because it will give MIL a time frame to get her back to the nursing home and force MIL to leave).  MIL always acts put out about FIL's mother and clearly keeps her distance. 

At the end of the party, after everything is cleaned up (literally, you could look around the room and see everything was done, not to mention everyone SAW me doing it all) MIL offers to help me clean up.  I look around and say "it's all done."  She says " no, really, I'll help."  I laugh and look around again and say "it's all done."  This is a habit.  She never offers any real help, often sitting and watching me five feet away as  I do it.  She's plopped my niece down with me to eat, while I'm taking care of my two other kids and expected me to help her too.  She thinks nothing of having me do it all. 

During gift opening, I went to get my camera, leaving both sons with the gifts (I had told older son he could "help" his brother by handing him gifts so that he felt included.)  When I returned, niece and nephew are ripping into DS's gifts.  NM starts shooing them back (she can be handy at times).  I keep trying to get the kids back (as note, other children at the party are kindly sitting back).  BIL and SIL finally grab their kids back, but I get the distinct impression I'm a "hard ass".  (BIL prides himself on being "laid back". ha.)

DS #1 Fourth Birthday:  MIL and FIL show up (on time) with my niece and nephew in tow.  I'm surprised, because BIL and SIL aren't with them.  MIL explains they had shopping to do and would be there later but had them bring the kids.  Not a big deal, but it's awful hard for MIL and FIL to fully be grandparents to my son at his birthday if they are watching the other grandkids.  BIL and SIL finally show up (we are at a park) and seem to circle the periphery.  Neither greets me or my husband and neither greets my son.  They seem tense.  At this point, no one has bothered to feed my nephew (I guess everyone assumes someone else is doing it) and he is trying to get at food I have stashed under the table.  I'm busy trying to set up and I keep having to remove him from under the table (where I have the cake stashed too).  He's two and I'm afraid he will get into the cake and no one is helping.  I finally get a bit firm with him and he runs crying to SIL, who comforts him but doesn't correct him at all.  And no one gets him food. 

Things get more and more tense as SIL seems to stop around from her car, to my MIL to the splash pad.  I'm not sure what's going on, but me, DH, and NM all pick up on the drama.  I figure she's pissed that I told her kid to get out of the food (and maybe I'm a hard ass about this, since I've had two incidences, but seriously, shouldn't kids be expected to stay out of put away things and shouldn't their parents offer them the food-the same food- that's on the table?).  The next thing I know, she stomps up to my son, who is about 15 feet away from me and tells him "Happy Birthday. I have to take (nephew) home for a nap." and leaves, taking BIL with her.  They'd been there for maybe 45 minutes.  Maybe.  And no word to either of us.  I suspect she and her husband were fighting, but what has that got to do with us?  Suck it up for awhile.  (And for the record, she and her DH fight like this a lot and then everyone has to pay for it.)

MIL is telling everyone about how difficult FIL's mother's (yup the same one who annoys her) very recent death is.  She tells every adult at the party-within ear shot of me- the graphic details of the poor woman's death.  She talks about how she "knew my MIL" and how she stepped in and took charge. What a saint she was. It made me sick.  First off, who discusses the last days of the birthday boy's grandparent AT HIS BIRTHDAY PARTY?!  LOUDLY?!  SO EVERYONE CAN HEAR?  And her on going narrative of what a wonderful caretaker she was makes me want to vomit.  She disliked this woman (she told me so herself).  The old lady annoyed her because she repeated stories (the old lady had dementia) and it bored her.  She told me once how she avoided her whenever she could.  But suddenly, she was the saint of nursing this poor woman.  Again, MIL and FIL are in charge of my niece and so unable to fully participate with my kids (not that I mind, but if I did, it sure would piss me off how BIL and SIL monopolize the grandparents). 

OH, and shortly before the party, NSIS announces she has "cancer"...or something...or is sick.  I missed the FB post, so I'm still not sure.  Of course, this directly draws all attention back to her.  She again, misses DS's birthday (I think she's acknowledged one, and that was way after the fact).  She ALWAYS has some reason she can't focus on the kids on their birthdays. 

DS #2, Second Birthday:  Again, MIL and FIL are LATE.  They NEVER show up on time.  Again, she thunders in, loudly exclaiming how it was construction, not her, that made them late.  Sure.  She and FIL are instantly in charge of niece and nephew.  I'm not sure why.  But SIL and BIL are cuddled up away from their kids, eating.  (They have been dieting, so I'm guessing this was their "cheat" day). 
Luckily,  I have wised up by this point and pick a party venue that leaves us limited "party time" and on a schedule.  We have a small amount of time and then a kids' activity.  Of course, FIL and MIL are in charge of my niece and nephew into the pool (SIL meanders around awhile, visiting, before she gets into the pool with her kids). 
It's not a horrible party, but it's certainly not "celebratory" but the kids had fun.

So, on the eve of another, I sit here wondering what will happen.  Maybe nothing?  Doubt it.  I did pick another venue that limits narcy behavior, but we'll see.

NM already is playing the "guess when I'm going to show up game".  She used to require an hourly text when I was driving to visit her.  When I tried to push the boundary back a bit, she got annoyed.  And so now, she doesn't bother to let me know at all.  And she often shows up and peers in the windows at the back of my house.  She thinks it's funny (and if I protest, she makes fun of how "uptight" I am.  This woman who requires complete privacy for herself.).  And I can't ask her when she's coming because she uses that against me: a sign that I'm "controlling" and "overbearing".  She and step dad laugh at me.  So, I sit here, waiting for the bomb to drop. 

Wish me luck.  If you're still reading ;)

Thursday, August 22, 2013


NM is coming.  She'll be here through the weekend.  She's been "prepping" me with tons of texts and emails and annoying pressure. 

My in-laws will be here too. We are celebrating my kiddos birthday.  Well, they are celebrating.  I'm just trying to get through it. 

Every year, EVERY DAMN YEAR, it is stressful.  There is drama and narcy behavior.  Selfishness, rudeness, and lateness. 

I can't not celebrate my kid.  In fact, he is SO excited for it.  For his grandparents to come.  He looks forward to the gifts and the attention and the playmates.  Which would be sweet....if I didn't know how many strings are attached to them.  It makes my stomach hurt, as I don't really know how to untangle myself from that web.  That I don't want to deny him that (or that excitement) but I can't help but feel it will set him up for hurt.

NM is excited and fantasizing and making plans for the weekend.  She's texted them to me.  In a very controlled, doled-out manner.  Not one that is straight forward and honest.  But one in which she, very clearly, implies she wants to be in control.  She fantasies all these expectations of how it will be.  Creates some perfect image of the weekend.  Obviously, we won't be able to live up to her perfect little visions. 

I don't enjoy her visits.  I don't enjoy her company.  I'm sure she'll have some drama about NSis (Nsis has already hinted as such on FB).  It makes me incredibly sad.  NM's already hinted at the gossip and whispered words she wants to have about family members. 

I am tired.  I am cranky.  I am irritated that everyone else is so damned excited, and I'm upset.  I'm angry that I just want it to be over with.  That I can't celebrate my son in a peaceful, loving way.  That drama, and attention seeking, and bitterness will be involved. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Crying Wolf

It occurred to me today why I might be a bit (more) on edge.  Despite seeing disgustingly sweet updates on FB from BIL and SIL about who wonderful life is (sans kids), I remembered that it was this time last year that NSis dropped a bomb.

My relationship with NS (NSIS) has always been rocky.  As kids, she was verbally and physically assaultive.  She was turbulent and prone to tempers.  I was left in charge of her a lot and expected to make her 'mind' (do chores, behave, etc.) or I would get in trouble.  When she didn't like me telling her what to do (and to be fair, who would) she would violently attack me.  She was rarely punished enough to stop.

Alternatively, I often (well into adult hood) served as the "spare mommy".  When she needed true support, encouragement, protection, I was there.  Through the divorce, I was her rock.  She'll tell you that herself, and has told me that many times.  In years of late, she has repeatedly told me that my home feels more like "home" to her than either of my parents homes.

She has had rocky, often violent relationships all of her life.  She is intense, willful, and mean.  She can also be generous (to a fault), sensitive, and kind.  But mostly she is very, very harsh.  She has fought with most of my step siblings, other relatives, and has had some of the most tumultuous, violent love relationships I've seen.  She rarely has friends stick around. 

She has been hot and cold with me through adult hood.  When triangulation was working, NM had us split apart and believed the other to be the 'problem'.  As a teenager, she was out of control, drug addicted, and chaotic.  She put everyone through hell, and I was surprised she actually made it back around (sort of).  She stole from me, physically intimidated me, and often latched onto me desperately (NM let her come live with me....or had or come live with me....for a month.  I was 18, she was 16, and I was a month out of high school.)

When I went to college, we grew distant, but over the years we had worked our ways back to "friends".  Lately, she had been intermittently interested in me and my life.  She seemed to have her shit, somewhat, together.  She seemed interested (more than any other time) in my kids.  But she often ignored us.  She made huge dramatic scenes anytime I was getting attention (like at my wedding or when I moved into my new home.  Or when my kids were born.  Chaos always followed any milestones in my life).  But I had hope.  She seemed to recognize my mother's weird behavior.  I felt like we were allies.

Last year, at this time, my father called to tell me he'd heard that NS had cancer.  I was shocked and was sure it was a mistake.  NM had just been to visit her weeks before.  Surely, NM would've known if that was the case.  And NM would not have been able to keep that juicy little bit of information to herself.  NS is young, in reasonable health.  It didn't seem to fit.

Dad had received a call from my aunt, who had seen NS answer her cancer on facebook.   I called NM.  Yes, NS had "something like cancer".  This struck me as odd.  She said NS had just called her a few days before, that she knew about the facebook post, and had informed NS to take it off "before your dad and your sister find out that way".  Too late.  So, I had a horrible, lengthy, emotional call with my mother.  And in that phone call, I discovered that NM really had no idea what the actual diagnosis was.  Or the outcome.  Or the prognosis.  Nothing. 

I called Dad back and relayed the information.  I decided (by now, armed with narcissistic knowledge) to "lay low" and wait for NSis to call me.

NSis never called me.  I spent the next month piecing information together from my parents.  No one seemed to know what was going on.  NSis would not allow anyone to come out, despite needing some "procedure".  NM was HYSTERICAL.  It was difficult.

I called NSis once, about a month later.  The phone never went to voice message.  I told NM, who said that NSis had turned off her phone because she couldn't take all of the people trying to get a hold of her.  NSis deleted her FB.  Again, all of the people offering her support was "too much" for NSis.  Before she went off line, I messaged her hearing that she was struggling.  She responded "yes".  I told her to let me know if she needed anything.  She said "a friend".  That was it. 

Over the next few months, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and our birthdays came and went.  The drama heightened.  She tried, for awhile, to act as if nothing was going on.  I can't remember exactly how it all went down, but around Thanksgiving, she was annoyed and frustrated I hadn't called.  There were some texts exchanged.  And an email around Christmas, in which I told her that I was upset and, at one point, told her I was no longer interested in phone communication but that it needed to be by email. 

She continued to play the cancer card.  She took money from my father for bills, but then bought new curtains for her home.  When I told NM that that was shady, she explained it away saying NSis had used money from her paycheck for the rug.  Well, if she had money for a rug, than she shouldn't be taking money from her father for bills.  But that was lost on NM.  During this time too, NSis was in a serious, occasionally violent, altercation (over many weeks) with her live in boyfriend.  NM said that NSis often seemed more upset about this than about the cancer.  NSis never, in any of her communications, relayed to me she had cancer, only referred to it as a "medical condition". 

I finally told both my parents I believed NSis was stretching the truth (at a minimum).  I told them that, in council with my own doctor, that her symptoms seemed inconsistent (at best) with the cancer she suggested she had.  NSis also claimed to have been "diagnosed" months before, but didn't have immediate treatment.  She apparently had "out patient" radiation and some sort of procedure.  But it didn't add up.  

NSis claimed to be sending my children gifts and money for their education at Christmas, but it never appeared.  I heard from her in a text for my birthday, but nothing then for months.  Those months were so blissfully quiet and peaceful.    Oh, I should add that before this incident of cancer (in August) I hadn't actually spoken on the phone with my sister since June.  Not because of any issues, but just because that was how NSis normally operated.  She called me shortly after my son's birthday.  Not to wish him a happy birthday, but to complain about her boyfriend.  It was months before that that I had heard from her.

Sometimes in here, I wrote NSis an email.  I'm sorry that these events are a bit disjointed in time.  The timeline has all run together now for me.  I have the emails and communications, but not the strength to go back through them and put a time line together.  Anyway, with the help of two blogger friends, I wrote a heartfelt, caring, but very boundary drawing, email to NSis.  I was clear (but not overly detailed) that things needed to change between us, that communication would specifically and only be email, and that I needed some time to work things out after her refusal to disclose what was going on with her.  I didn't go into many specific points, stuck to the basics, and made it short.  I figured if she responded with interest, I could go into specifics later.  No sense muddying the waters.

She replied back that she appreciated my honest, but didn't know what to do with what I said.  She didn't respond directly to anything I'd said. 

I didn't hear from NSis again for awhile.  She tried to ask my opinion on a bedroom set she wanted to buy.  I declined to respond.  It pissed me off that she wanted a bedroom set, when she was bilking my father for money.  She exchanged a few texts with me ("Merry Christmas" and the like).  She sent an email about something else, something I can't remember exactly but was also so blatantly "lets pretend" that it was ludicrous.  Like, you've had your tantrum Jessie, time to get back in line. 

Somewhere in the spring, she sent out email response to my "boundaries" email.  It did not go well.  She attacked me, spoke of her anger, told me she didn't feel she wanted a "relationship with me" (oh, please, don't do me any favors).  It was hostile and cruel and about two months after my initial response.  It was also conveniently timed to visits I was having with my parents.  I refused to engage with it.  At some point, she warned me about talking about her with my parents: I wasn't allowed, or so she "asked me".  She had a good relationship building with them, she told me, and stay out of it Jessie.  What she didn't realize she was saying was "don't fuck this up Jessie.  I'm warning you.  Don't talk to them because what you could say would jeopardize my relationships with them."  But why?  Why what I had to say would that jeopardize their relationship with her? 

So, I didn't talk about her.  Really I hadn't in months anyway.  It was nice. 

I did tell her that she had refused to deal directly with anything I'd said.  I told her that I didn't find what she said to be fair.  I stood my ground. 

What followed was a serious of texts (about a month later) that ranged from down right verbally abusive to oddly loving.  She berated me for not picking up the phone.  I repeated that I would only speak in email.  It started when she texted several times in a row and I didn't respond.  She started harassing me for not responding.  I told her that I had other things in my life and that it was presumptuous to assume I could respond whenever she wanted me too.  She whipped out every narc trick in the book (verbally abusive, gas lighting, projection).  She told me she didn't like the person I was turning in to (shocking!).  And in the end, when I refused to give in, she said "I was just hoping we could catch up.  Like talk about good things." (I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist.)

A couple of months later a gift arrived for my son's birthday.  She texted NM to make sure I received it and NM, catching me off guard, relayed the information personally.  NSis also sent DH a gift for his birthday.  This girl has NEVER remembered his birthday, but this year she sent a gift.

Oh, that reminds me, one day out of the blue, before the horrible email response, I got a package of toys for my kids.  She had written individual messages to them both (they can't read) and in one she suggested she could talk to him by phone.  Yeah, right. When I suggested these gifts were less than genuine (and oddly timed) NSis blew a gasket that I would even SUGGEST she was buying me off.  This was the precipice of the argument in the first place over texts. (Again, sorry for the jostled time line.)

So, I text NSis after the birthday gifts.  Thanks.  DH thanks her too.  She sends him a long text, full of good wishes and instructions to let her know if he wants anything sent from her (much larger) city.  Um, OK.  She's never really cared about DH before.  She usually acts annoyed by him and ignores him or competes with him. 

That was a few months back.  She did ask my advice (openly and publicly on FB) about something I hobby in.  NM "liked" it.  She also complimented me, through one of NM's FB photos, about my home and my children.  NM "liked" that.  She emailed a one-line snarky comment after a distant cousin attacked me openly in front of several extended family members in a group message on FB.  I responded with a one-liner, yep, she is.   NM has brought her up several times (once mentioning I help NSis get to and put Nsis up at a family reunion) and once to mention how WONDERFUL NSis and her abusive boyfriend (whom she recently told me she hated) are doing after a month in therapy.  He's not allowed in her building, but I'm sure they are doing WELL.  Oh, and NM told this DH.  Not me.  She did it at a moment, knowing I'd walk in and "catch" her update on NSis.

So, that's been it.  Some gifts and a lot of heated (and recorded for posterity) exchanges.  And that started one year ago.  It's sad.  It someway, I always felt she was a bit like my own kid.  It was hard to let go.  Really hard.  I felt like I was abandoning her.  I felt like I left her behind.  But I had to.  She was a sinking ship, taking me down with her.  And she's not my fucking kid.  I have two of my own that I need to take care of.  The whole thing is still looming over me.  It has me remembering the grieving I've had to do for our relationship in the past year.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Angry Again

I'm angry again.  I am so damn sick and tired of cycling back to being pissed off. 

I'm not angry at them.  I'm not angry at NM or MIL or my idiotic SIL. 

I'm angry at the situation.  I'm angry that I have to deal with this.  I'm just a teeny bit angry at God that I played the family lotto twice, and came up empty handed.

I'm angry that my kids don't have a single, damn, truly connected person in their family.  That those who actually seem to give a shit (by showing up and being "involved" and acknowledging big days) are actually after the kids for what they can get from them (unconditional love-one way love, a "title" of "Grammy" to brag to their friends, another human being to suck attention off of, another human being to tell them how wonderful they fucking are.)  The other ones barely even make an effort.  And this has gone on long before I started my little narcissism study.  Before I even knew what the hell was going on.  These family members that preach (yes, literally) about family, and being together, who take lovely photos of themselves and plaster it on FB, who appear to all others to be one big, happy family, can hardly remember (if they even do) to acknowledge their nephews' birthdays, or anything else going on in their lives.  They often choose football games instead of visiting.  They choose shopping for new luggage over attending a celebration of someone's day.  They NEVER acknowledge their brother's (DH) birthday (they do mine, but I think that's mainly because it's easy to remember, linked to a holiday).  They don't invite us to their homes, or act concerned that we can't visit.  They rarely seem to think about us at all.  They surely don't seem to miss us when we're gone.  They rarely even bother to invite us along.

I'm angry that I can't let it go.  I'm angry that I have two amazing, healthy, spirited boys and I can't completely be there for them.  I'm angry that this narc-crap laces itself in my marriage.  I'm angry that the family I dreamed about as I kid, not only doesn't exist, but probably will never exist.  No big holiday dinners, or all cheering on my kid at a game.  No family support when DH and I are hitting a rough patch in life (as jobs and kids and life sometimes throw you curve balls).  I've got a beautiful home, a pretty good marriage, money and time to think about other things besides money and time.  But I can't shake this anger and depression that sinks over me from time to time. 

I'm so damn tired of it all.  So damn tired.  And so, so sad.  I know I don't have it as bad as others. I know it could be worse.  I know I have a lot to be thankful for.  I know that I'm blessed in many, many ways.  So why can't I let go of the anger at God that he didn't give me a mom, or a sister, or a family who loved me?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Annoyed, or is it something more?

I just read that SIL and BIL left for their eight day vacation to go to the wedding of a close friend.  They left the kids at my in-laws house.  I knew this was happening, but reading her snippy post on FB about leaving left the same sort of sucker punched feeling in my gut as it did when I heard this trip it a few weeks ago.  And I can't really get to the core of what bothers me. 

Partially, it annoys me that this girl, who never posts anything (including about her kids), always posts when she is leaving town alone. 

They have left the kids a lot before.  They get away on little weekends and a week in a tropical location.  Their kids are very young, just like mine. 

This girl had her mother or my MIL live with her for most of the three years she had a newborn or was pregnant and had a newborn again.  Her mom cooked, cleaned, babysat, and provided full time care for her kids.  My MIL lived with them for a month and then stays with them most of the time they are in town (which is fine, I don't want them here).  She complained a lot about how much work being a "working mom" was and chastised my husband for not understanding how hard life is for her. 

She is lazy and, from what I hear, does little of the child care-taking (including meals, and such), has seemed emotionally distant and harsh with her kids when I'm around (ironically she and BIL have implied I'm "too hard" or "too strict" on my kids.  In fact, the in-laws all appear to feel that I'm a bit too hard.  But to keep this in perspective, one stories I've heard from one of my FIL's friend's wives was that he once took a friend to MILs house as a form of birth control.  I've heard TONS of stories (many of which the in-laws tell themselves) of kids jumping off furniture, around the guests, home littered with toys, kids shooting cops with beebee guns and knocking the neighbor lady off her bike.  Which MIL suggest neighbor lady deserved because she was mean to her kids.  I personally witnessed my two younger BILs growing up, and believe me, "discipline" of any kind was in short supply.  Usually, MIL called in DH to deal with them.)  Anyway, back to SIL.  She is always into some new project or venture ("climbing the corporate lady", throwing a million baby showers, training for a triathlon-she hadn't been running or swimming up to this point) and had to have the extra help.  Two months after her first kid, she was throwing the company wide holiday party, while on maternity leave, not because it was her job, but because she VOLUNTEERED, and had her MIL and mom come to help the kids.

MIL describes her as lazy and that her son is the poor pitiful husband who does ALL of the work.  She has described their parenting as poor.  She has said they are scattered (ironic, huh?).  But she drops everything to care for the kids.  In fact, almost demands it.

It bothers me they seem to have this parasitic relationship, each stroking each others back.  But I wonder if it is good for the kids. 

It bothers me that she is scattered and I've personally witnessed the kids be less than taken care of in her care (and of course, we all have moments, kids get hurt, but she seems to have more than her fair share and much of what I've seen could've been prevented.)  She's scattered and unfocused.  SIL even says so. 

It bothers me that, probably, these kids get MORE emotional care with MIL than with SIL.  So, in some way, they are benefitting. 

It bothers me that, somewhere there is the implication, that my kids should be staying with her too.  SIL seems to imply it (or somehow seems to invalidate her "understanding" of my feelings about MIL, when she is constantly leaving her kids with her.  For the record, I've learned to not share my feelings with either of them anymore.)  MIL often brings the topic up, when I'm not around, to DH.  She only mentioned babysitting to me once, long before I was pregnant.  I know that she feels she can work leverage on DH if I'm not around.  She has never once asked me, but certainly seems to know how I feel about her babysitting my kids.  I have this fear, that as my kids get bigger, the pressure will continue.

It bothers me that SIL seems so "happy" (her word on FB) to ditch her kids.  She told me last year that it was the best thing for her.  She "gets away" every month or so.  She hires babysitters in between.  She has her mom or MIL come down once a month or so (and when MIL comes down, we have to see her too.) 

It bothers me they all act like one, big happy freaking family.  And that the more I stand up, the more I can see them polarizing away from me.  If I thought I was the scape goat and the black sheep before, I clearly feel that way now.  I'm labeled with MIL's SIL's name, a woman MIL has LONG discussed with me.  MIL tells the story about how this woman, married to her husband's brother, wouldn't allow the brother's mother to see the kids.  How she pushed this MIL( DH"s grandmother) out of family functions, never went to visit, never included the grandmother.  MIL flat told me, early in my relationship with DH, that her biggest fear was having a DIL take her sons away.  Seriously.  And she now always says "I don't want to be that MIL" as she passive-aggressively manipulates people into doing her dirty work for her.  She swears she was going to all she could to make sure her DILs liked her, but I see that as meaning she would control all she could so her DILs didn't fuck with her and her sons.   All her sons know the story and would tell me about it.  The horrid aunt.  The wrecker of the family.  The distant aunt who took the brother away.  I KNOW I am that aunt.  And as I stand up more and more I see that they have done all the can to cast me in that role.  And not handing my kids over just plays into their script: the poor, neglected grandmother.

It bothers me that I am somehow seen as the bad person because I DON'T just hand over my kids.  That I'm the bitch or the weird DIL.  I know it shouldn't bother me, but it does.

It just bothers me.  But despite all the things I've mentioned, I can't help but feeling there is more.  Why does it bother me so damn much?  What does it matter to me if they do that?  It really has little to do with me, yet it somehow makes my gut hurt.  WTF?

Friday, August 2, 2013


Gladys, at the blog Postcards from Purgatory, recently wrote a post about labels (You Don't Have to Wear that Shirt).  And a recent conversation with my friend, Kara, sparked some memories of the labels my mother has always applied to me:  anxious, over-sensitive, high strung, over-complicated, semi-neurotic, jumpy. 

I've long felt conflicted when my mother would come to visit.  Long before information on NPD floated to me (really by chance, and I thank God for that every day), I always felt like I had to become a different person when my mother was around.  I can remember telling my husband that I felt like I was reduced back to a child.  But not just a child, the child she had decided I was.  She had refused to see the changes in me.  She had refused to see I'd become different and that I wasn't who she thought I was.  I always felt such a huge sigh of relief when she left, as I felt I could shrug off the "costume" she would force me to wear.

The "me" around NM and the "me" around my friends was so different.  I really struggled with why that was.  It caused me a lot of inner conflict as I struggled to define who I really was in my early 20s.  It made not sense to me that she defined me in ways that many of my friends and my DH didn't.  This to me was a huge red-flag.  (And on a coordinating note, I recently pointed out to DH that the person he suggests I am when I have conflict with his mother - bitter, judgmental, angry, looking for a fight, suspicious, waivering in personal integrity- is the OPPOSITE of how he generally describes me.  That I can't really be this completely different person with her that I am in ALL other areas of my life.  He often describes me as caring, and thoughtful, and kind, and full of integrity and moral strength.  So, if he maybe gets a different picture of me around his mother...well, maybe those "labels" aren't coming from me.)

It's so easy to believe those labels when they come from your mother.  Of course, she is supposed to know you better than anyone.  She has known you since before birth, knows the core of you, and is supposed to understand you in the special way a mother knows her child.  Believing that your mother is purposefully and willfully labeling you with negative labels is disheartening, to say the least.  It was so easy to live up to those labels.  To become anxious and agitated and stressed in her presence. 

For what it's worth, I am a bit of an anxious person.  During my teen years, I lived in a battle field  filled with suicide and a sister hell bent on destroying herself and an absent mother.  NM used to use my anxiety and anger against me at these moments.  She told me it was WRONG for me to feel that way.  I've only come to realize lately, that those were normal reactions for me to feel at the time.  And now, when she's around, I do think I become anxious and stressed.  Not because I'm an anxious person, but because she STRESSES ME THE FUCK OUT.  She is difficult and neurotic and stressful.  Duh.  No wonder I feel those things around her. 

I did struggle with clinical anxiety for awhile in my late 20s.  I couldn't go a moment without stressing that my DH was going to die (get hit by a car, get an illness, or some other calamity).  I stressed about death all day, every day.  I had panic attacks.  But I did get better and I changed.  But NM continued to label me, continued to view me through her lens of who I was.

I was thinking back to me as a child.  I don't think I would describe myself as anxious.  Sure, my family life was volatile and unsettled.  I didn't always feel relaxed.  But I don't think I was a fearful, nervous child.  I participated in school plays and choir concerts.  I often had solos or the leads.  I never felt particularly nervous or anxious being on stage.  I didn't have a lot of phobias as a child.  I was a bit cautious and not a risk taker (but NM was really controlling and didn't let us out of our bubble a lot).  I remember being confident enough in myself and my abilities to disagree with adults when I felt wronged.  I wasn't afraid to speak up if need be. 

As an adult, I don't think a lot of people would describe me as overly anxious.  MIL does.  But she uses it to "explain away" why I am not close to her or why I don't do things she wants (like when I didn't invite all 30 of her relatives to my baby's first birthday, I heard from an aunt that MIL said that it was because I "get too stressed out and can't handle it").  It's, most likely, also the reason she gives people as to why I don't let her babysit.  Fine by me, if it keeps her away from my kids. 

I'm organized and efficient.  I wrote out directions for my mother to the hospital when I was about to give birth.  She laughed at me, as did my step dad, telling me I was being over-complicated and controlling and.. on and on.  It was because I was a nervous nelly.  The real reason I wrote out those directions was so she wouldn't be harassing my husband during my labor (when he should've been paying attention to me) by acting helpless and needing directions to the hospital.  It hurt at the time that my step father and mother would make fun of me like that.  But, lo and behold, NM "lost" the directions and kept me on the phone for half an hour while she "struggled" to find the damn hospital.  Shocking. 

NM and step dad like to laugh at me as I get ready for birthday parties, telling me how anxious I am.  As I run around trying to do all the work myself and knowing that it will be nothing but drama from all of the "adults" involved.  The label me as neurotic.  If I refuse to allow the narcs to babysit or am unwilling to leave my kids for long periods of time, I'm overprotective and anxious.  If I get upset because the offer up a special activity for my kids (before talking to me) in order to manipulate me into driving for hours to visit her, I'm controlling.  When this happened, they laughed at the fact that they knew I'd be uncomfortable with their "offer".  They teased me and chuckled at how upset I was going to be (like two little conspiring twits).  They set me up to either react and be called controlling or not react and capitulate to their passive-aggressive bribes and manipulations of my kids.  (And as a side note, NM expected us to visit, but told us we couldn't visit until work was completed on her house.  She kept bugging me to come, while also saying the work wasn't yet done.  She blames me for not coming, but she won't let me come.  I wonder how in the hell she rationalizes that in her head.)

I'm learning to cast off these labels.  To define myself by who I see myself being (and how the majority of others see me) instead of wearing the personality she wants me to have.  I've come to conclude that these labels she gives me are tools she uses to hide her own bad behavior behind.  She uses them to make herself feel better.  She projects all of her anxiety and neurosis on me so she doesn't have to look at herself.  She describes me as neurotic to explain why all our interactions go to shit (or are distant, as they are now).  It gives her an excuse, an "out". 

I don't think she (or my stepdad) will ever allow me to be someone other than what they label me, but I've decided I don't really give a shit.  I could be Mother Theresa and they'd never see me differently.  So, why bother anymore.  I am what I am, and they can take it or leave it.