Releasing the past in order to find myself

Monday, October 28, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Don't Take it Personally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 14, 2013

Growing Up (and out of Enmeshment)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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