Releasing the past in order to find myself

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Invisible Artist

Several weeks ago, my family and I visited my mother's home.  I know, I know.  But it was a necessary thing.  And since it'd been almost three years since I'd visited her home, I figured it would knock of some of my parental obligation.

I plan to write some posts about some of the situations that popped up while there.  I had hoped, by now, that I would no longer be writing such personal posts.  That I might have "graduated" into more scholarly and educational posts (haha, that's a joke).  But seriously, I still don't feel I have an overarching understanding of narcissism that would be necessary for me to feel legitimate in writing articles on narcissism.  So, I'm going to stick to this personal stuff.  It not only helps me, but I think seeing actual examples may help others.  And because I DO have a much better understanding of the dynamics of what is going on, that may be useful.  I do regret that I am exposing some of my mother's personal stuff, but I guess it is what it is.   I really disliked in the last post transcribing the texts, but unless you really see the wording, it's hard to describe what is going on.


One morning, my son asked me to draw him a picture of an event that we'd participated in.  He likes me to draw pictures and then he colors them and adds his own touches.  Many times, I encourage him to draw his own things, but I find it fun for us to do these little projects together too.

He was quite happy with the result and brought it to NM to show her.  She said, rather blankly,  "Huh.  I didn't know your mom could draw.  Who knew she was such an artist?"

Seems pretty harmless right?  And in NM's defense, artistic en devours were not my primary hobby growing up.  I spent a lot of time involved in theater.  I liked to act, dance, and especially sing.  I often had the leads in school musicals or solos.  I participated in academic teams.  I wrote.  A lot.  I was always writing.

Plus, my sister was the "artist" of the family.  She was the one who made the great art, drew well, and even went to art school for college.

But for NM to say she didn't know  I could draw is complete bullshit.  When she first said this, I felt a little ping.  Sort of like being flicked in the brain.  "Ping: that doesn't sound right."

It niggled at me and later, as I thought about it, I realized it was completely impossible that my mother didn't know I could draw.  I spent many, many hours in my room drawing cartoon figures which I would design outfits for.  I loved doing that.  I spent tons of time drawing other things too.  I still have many of my drawings.

And as I thought further, I remembered that I also used to win the contest to draw the artwork for the programs for all of those theater productions I was in.  Every person in the audience, as well as my mother, received copies of those programs.  So, while it's highly likely she had no clue about my drawing alone in my room (she tended to leave me be in there), I KNOW she'd had an opportunity to see those programs.

And then it dawned on me fully: my mother has a FRAMED portrait picture that I drew of my sister and I above her dresser in her bedroom.  HOW in the world could she not know I draw when she stares at a picture of my art every. single. day.

I really could care less if my mother knows I draw or not.  It's not about that.   But it just stuns me at times how little she knows about me.  How little sinks into her understanding of me.  I am nothing but a bunch of labels.  Like a magazine collage of pictures she's cut out.  She does not see me.  Like, at all.  I am allowed a certain set of descriptors, as is my sister, assigned to me by NM.  We are not allowed to share any descriptors, unless she sees fit.  And anything that doesn't  fit into her box, she doesn't see.

I spent a lot of time with NM listening to her blab on and on.  It was enough negativity and drivel (much of which she repeated seeming to hope for a different effect or response) to make me want to rip my ears out.  After the five day visit, I was recounting to DH all of the shit she had unloaded on me when I realized she'd only asked me ONE question about me.  And even that had felt obligatory and rehearsed.  I do not exist to her as a person and I often feel I am merely a place for her to talk "out loud to herself".  She then feels like she is engaging in conversation, but it is truly like she's talking to her reflection in the mirror, not me.   Even when I tried to discuss a similar situation I have with my SIL as to one she described with her stepDILs, she dismissed me, minimizing what I was saying, and clearly showed she remembered none of the history between SIL and I.  All she said is that she found my conclusions about SIL to be wrong, and that clearly our relationship issues paled compared to the stepDILs and certainly she "feels (we) could be friends if (we) worked at it."

Since I've been home, she's used the "drip" form of communication, sending one or two pictures from the trip each day by email, to maintain that "contact" with me.  Despite her knowing that several larger things have gone on in my life (she knows I lost my childcare, she knows that we had a minor emergency with my son - nothing big, no worries, he's fine) she hasn't called or asked anything about them.  Not one thing, despite daily communication from her.  I'm guessing this is part "punishment" (for not answering her texts) and part her devotion to all things herself.

Feeling invisible to my mother is nothing new, and so the experiences didn't pain me nearly as much as they would have in the past.  Nothing I can do will make her take notice of me, and that's just the way it is.  But seeing it, without the pallor of all of the emotional pain, helped me to see just how clearly invisible I am to her.  It remains stunning, even without the pain.

My husband, when this song came out, said that it reminded him of how I always described my relationship with my mother and sister.  The emphasis on the wording is mine:

Invisible (U2)

It's like the room just cleared of smoke

I didn't even want the heart you broke

It's yours to keep
You just might need one

I finally found my real name
I won't be me when you see me again

No, I won't be my father's son

I'm more than you know
I'm more than you see here
More than you let me be
I'm more than you know
A body in a soul

You don't see me but you will
I am not invisible

I don't dream, not as such
I don't even think about you that much
Unless I start to think at all

All those frozen days
And your frozen ways
They melt away your face like snow

You don't see me but you will
I am not invisible

I am here

There is no them
There is no them
There's only us
There's only us
There is no them
There is no them
There's only us
There's only us
There is no them
There is no them
There's only you
And there's only me
There is no them

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Conversation with a Narcissist (or 2)

My grandmother is terminally ill.  My aunt and uncle have arranged for a family holiday at their home so we can all get together (I assume, one last time, before she passes).  My father called to invite me.  I assumed he would also invite my sister.  She generally doesn't attend family get togethers, but she always makes a big dramatic scene about how she can't afford it (probably true) and that she'd have to take unpaid leave from work (she has a job where you don't get time off with pay).  We all know she isn't going to go, but she makes a big deal about wanting to go.

I hadn't decided if I was going yet, as it is a VERY long drive and would be a VERY difficult trip for my family.  However, my father's family always got together for this holiday when I was a child, I would, like to see them, and I had a chance to say goodbye to my grandmother (although I've made peace with the fact that I probably wouldn't).  My father called me last Friday and was considerate about not pressuring me to go.  He just wanted to let me know.

Yesterday, I received a text from NM (please remember this woman has NOTHING to do with my father's family, except on FB and that this is NONE of her business).  I will paraphrase some of the dialogue for anonymity's sake, but will try to be as close as possible:

From NM: Just a quick question.  Are you going to (town) for (holiday)?

Since my visit to NM's a week or so ago, she has not let up on the texts and messages.  I've received several a day, which is annoying at a minimum.  I REALLY DISLIKE when she starts something with "just a quick question" and then gives me know background content as to why she is asking these questions.  She clearly has an agenda, but apparently thinks she doesn't owes me any explanation and that I should just offer up information.  This information is NONE of her business.  And I can easily guess her agenda: my sister.  The only way she can know about this get together from my sister.  Last summer, for another family reunion, NM had also texted to try and get me to pick up NSIS (at a larger city) and drive her and her (scuzzy) boyfriend (in my already loaded car) to the reunion and let them stay with me.  FAT fucking chance.  

I didn't need a crystal ball to predict that is exactly what she wanted this time.  

I replied: I don't know.  Why?

I immediately got a response back that said something like "NSIS is trying to figure out if she can go.  It'll cost $700 for each plane ticket (meaning boyfriend would go too) and she'd have to take unpaid time from work which would be expensive.)

This pissed me off.  Remember folks, my sister and I have not spoken in TWO YEARS, aside from her occasional verbal assaults, abuse, and harassment that I let "this go", "get over it", or general name calling and verbal abuse that usually leaves me emotionally wrung out, anxious, and tense.  These feelings (and her horribly toxic, awful lifestyle) and a last straw were the reasons I chose to take a break from our relationship.  Despite several tense email sessions in which she basically accused me of being the source of all of the problems, we haven't really communicated.  NM has tried guilting me into "forgiveness" and even last week acts like nothing is going on between me and my sister.  The last communication I had from my sister was two weeks ago in the form of an abusive message in which she called me tons of names because of some comment on FB (which did not warrant the shaming and tongue lashing).

I REALLY can not get past my mother's delusions that I would be in any position to grant a favor to my sister and help her out.  First, NSIS is a grown ass woman who's poor career choices have caused her to be perpetually "broke" (although she always has tons of money for clothes and alcohol).  WHY in the world would I want to be in a car with this person whom I have NOT SPOKEN TO in two years?  Who would that go?  Just a hug and a cry and it's suddenly all better?  And more than that, WHY is my mother feeling she needs to arrange all of this.  She is so out of her boundaries, it's lunacy.    Not to mention, she clearly thinks I'm so stupid that I didn't see her "set up" coming.  That's just annoying.

I reply (because I am acting more "boldly".  The therapist's word.):  What does that have to do with me?

She replies: Nothing really.

I reply:  Then why did you ask me if I was going and why did you tell me about NSIS?

This halts her in her tracks and is not what she expected from me.  I don't get a response for over an hour and a half.  Then this comes in:

She replies: Just being snoopy.  And I don't know why I volunteered the information  about NSIS.  Just making conversation that in hindsight didn't need to be said.

BULLSHIT.  Notice that NM's tone switches her to her (she works in a field where you have to use politically correct terminology and be careful about how you speak.  To me, I can clearly hear her tone switch to "work NM" and switch on damage control.  She's become cold, calculated, and disconnected from me.)  Notice too that she NEVER really seems to care about me, my feelings, or what I want.  I admit, it bothers me immensely that my perspective doesn't even register in her brain.  She just plain does not care, which is hurtful (although expected.  I'm not surprised by this at all.)

Then, NSIS texts about 15 minutes later.  I'm guessing NM told her that she'd need to put on her big girl panties and make arrangements with me herself (and again, the LUNACY of these two women that this is even an option blows my mind.  I feel very pressed upon, very ignored, and very annoyed.  And very confused.  How do they compute this in their brain?  How do they make this work?  I would NEVER think of calling my sister for anything right now.  

NSIS texts: Are you going to (town) for (holiday)?  Just talked to Dad today.

WTF?  Why would she think she is in a position to ask me that information?  And what does it have to do with her?  (I know, she wants something from me, but does she not see that I see that?)  The audacity to think I would even respond to this blows my mind.  It's like nothing has happened, like they expect I'll finally just quit throwing a "hissy fit" and "move on".

I chose to ignore this text.  It is none of her damn business anyway.  Several hours later, I get this text:

From NSIS:  Jessie, this has gone on to (sic.) long.  I miss you and I am so sorry for hurting you.  I need you most right now.

Allow me to interpret this for you:  Jessie, I've grown impatient with your bullshit.  I'm stamping my foot and DEMANDING that you get over your shit.  Because I think I have to, I'll offer you a token apology, some platitude about hurting you and then I can claim I've been the "bigger person" and apologized.  And now, to my REAL point,  I need something from you, I need you to go back to being my cheerleader and support, I need you to give me what I want from you.  It's all about ME.

For the record, this "this is enough" shit really, really, really annoys me.  Like she has any right to tell me what I need to do (and seriously, this is the most emotionally unstable person I know.  That she thinks she has some sort of moral authority to determine when I should be "done" feeling the way I do irritates me.)  After two years, a simple "I'm sorry I hurt you" is supposed to cover it?  And really, this isn't about hurting me.  I'm not holding onto some grudge (which is NM's and NSIS's projection because that's what THEY do.)  I've moved away from a destructive, toxic relationship when I finally couldn't take it any more (that last straw, DID hurt me.  But, it was preceded by so much other shit and surrounded by so much other shit that it just enlightened me to the whole of the craziness).

And mostly in that text I hear: me, me, me, me, me.  I need something from you, I have unmet needs from you, I have something I want from you.  And the thing is, she ALWAYS wants something from me.  This whole business of "I need you most right now." is such a ploy.  She ALWAYS has a reason she needs me, some chaos, some drama, some bullshit.  And notice, she doesn't actually say WHY.   If it's that big of a deal, why hasn't anyone told me?  They can solicit rides but not tell me about life changing events.  (and if it really is that life changing and they actually DIDN'T tell me, well, doesn't that speak volumes?)  And do I really care?  No.  I no longer want to play nursemaid to my sister who refuses to actually DO something about things.  And just curious if it enters her brain at all that I could use some support, a sisterly talk, someone to lean on.  NOPE.  I'm expected to not have any needs.

I am choosing to ignore this for now.  I talked it out with DH, as I would really like to reply to her somehow (but seriously, am I supposed to do this in a text?  What kind of response was she really expecting.  "Um, OK.  I'm all good now.  What can I do for you NSIS?")  The things I'd like to say are:

This is about much more than me holding a grudge.
I haven't seen any reason to believe our relationship going forward will be any different than what it was in the past and that is unacceptable to me.
There is little room in any of these conversations for my needs, my feelings, and my concerns.  And if no one else will take that into consideration, than I'll have to do that for myself.
I have needed time to sort through this and it will not be resolved in the next three weeks (by the time she needs the ride).

Beyond that, I would love to say how asinine it is to think that this all could just go away with a simple "I'm sorry."  Their level of delusion and crazy is actually quite startling to me.  I don't see how they see this going other than reconstructing reality and deciding to just play pretend and travel back in time.

Unfortunately, I can not think of any email (no matter how carefully worded) would yield any positive results.  Almost any email I send will be reacted to defensively and I will be attacked for it (the last attempt I tried ended exactly in this way).  I have seen NO evidence that anything has changed with her and I can not reasonably believe the outcome will be any different from the last time.  This is still a woman (child) that believes it is perfectly appropriate to reduce me to emotional putty, slay be with verbal shrapnel, and then go back to normal like nothing happened and ask me for a favor.  I can't see sending an email as any more than an opprotunity for her to gain ammunition and attack me in return (I feel her anger at me is boiling just below the surface.  She can pull out her "vulnerability" and plead to my conscious and my concern for her.....this used to be much more effective with me, as I always had such compassion for her that I'd do anything to help her.   But I know that Jekyll/Hyde mask is just below the surface.  And despite her wanting to "let it all go" I know her anger and resentment is tucked away for the right time to unleash it.

Any thoughts, friends?  Any advice on how to handle this?  I'm guessing it's far from over and that ignoring her will only infuriate her more.  But I just don't see what response would actually yield something positive for me?  Why anger the beast?

Any and all thoughts are welcome.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


So, it's been radio silence (sort of) since MIL called with her "apology".  DH told her at the time that he would call her back after he'd had some time to think.  In the interim, we took a trip to NM's house (long story, which I will tell later) and were gone for most of the time since that phone call (in addition to having Halloween and then having other commitments when we got back.)  MIL was aware that we had left town.

Before the "apology", and after MIL stomped her feet because we hadn't arranged our schedule to accommodate her, she had FIL call and leave a message that he hoped, since they'd missed us, they could see us the next time they were in town (during the Fall, they come into our town about every two weeks, if not every weekend).  But this was pre-apology, so I didn't know if the "request" was still valid.

Personally, I thought MIL should let DH have the time and space he needed.   But as the time grew closer for their weekend in town, I could almost feel her energy looming over me and around me.  Like, somewhere in the ether, I could feel her anxiety pushing on us to "deal" with the issue and "get back to normal".

I didn't buy the apology from the beginning.  I'm guessing she called, saying she's been a "bad MIL" and has "done some thinking" as mere platitudes and "tokens" to manipulate DH.  I believe she expected DH to say "oh, no, mom!  You're a great MIL.  We've just been busy."  And then, in her fantasy, I imagine she expected DH to apologize to HER for not making time for her and then making up for it all by spending all kinds of time with her....I mean, one of her statements was "I want to spend more time with you."  THIS is her goal, not working on the relationship, or thinking about what she needs to do better.

I also suspect this has something to do with SIL1 and BIL1, whom they usually spend the whole weekend with, babysitting their kids and staying at their house.  I'm not sure what is going on, but I'm getting odd feelings from that direction.  SIL pulled her FB account almost immediately after posting some new photos of her and her kids (on a trip without BIL).  This is not like her and seemed strange (note:  MIL also said to DH "I'm tired of saying things to people and having them take offense to them."  She had indicated to DH that she feels she has "offended" me many times too.  I'm guessing she's less interested in SAYING less offensive things, just that WE take less offense.  Anyway, I'm wondering if she's said something and ticked off SIL1. I also know that my other SIL(2) and BIL(2) are having marital problems -they've hinted on FB, but I'm not sure what is going on there either.  SIL(2) chewed me out at my son's birthday because I let DH communicate invitations through his brother and I don't tell her.  We are not close, do not communicate at all, and this seems silly to me.  If BIL(2) can't tell her what plans he makes with his family, that is HIS problem, in my opinion.  I'm hypothesizing that she, like me and SIL, is getting annoyed that the FOO always comes first and that we are left out of giving opinions or making plans.)

Anyway, I'm guessing that MIL sees much more potential in sucking NS from me and my family at the moment, as the well is going dry over at SIL1's house.  It annoys me to NO end that she just "switches" like this.  I've seen her do it over and over: she and her "best friend" sister get into conflict? She just ignores that sister and starts hanging out with the other one.  She requires a "primary" relationship (NS source) and can cast aside the one for another like an old sandwich that no longer feeds her needs.  (Two side notes: she never goes and sucks NS from DH's two younger brothers.  While we have to see her every month - if not more- she NEVER goes to visit SIL2 and BIL2.  Their home is only another two hours from ours.  She only sucks NS from the youngest BIL, when she can go to the restaurant he manages and get waited on and tons of attention.   The second note:  BIL1 -the one MIL usually sucks from - has been calling DH a ton to do things.   DH has noted this as odd; BIL has been too "busy" with other friends for the most part in the past year or so to do anything with us.  He never calls to set up time and relied on us to set up any time together -and he'd often blow us off.  I think DH hopes that BIL is wising up.  I've tried to gently point out that this is BIL's pattern: he makes new friends, spends all of his time with them and then gets bored - sound familiar?-  We are his "if I have nothing better to do" choice.  He cycles back anytime these fleeting friendships wither away.  I hope, desperately, that DH can see that.)

So, back to my point.  All of this stuff is floating around in the air.  The air feels thick, even to DH, with foreshadowing.  Like a storm is brewing....or something.  But, we don't actually KNOW anything that is going on, so it's a bit unnerving.

On the Friday before they were to come into town, MIL called DH's phone.  She didn't leave a message and only called once, but I had been expecting it.  She wanted to visit the next day, clearly.  It annoyed me to no end that she wasn't allowing DH to work through things and giving him some space.  But, because of FIL's earlier message, I'm guessing she felt we had some obligation to meet up.  I know DH feels guilty that he hasn't called her back, but I don't think he needs to work on HER timetable.  And seriously, we have been gone for six days of the 11 days between when she called to apologize and when "time was up" to get back with the program.  And that's the key, I think she is just hoping to go back to "business as usual".  She's thinking, "I apologized and now it's over and now you need to do what I want and spend untold amounts of time together."

On the following Monday, DH got a call from his brother (BIL2) with questions (related to DH's work).  FIL happened to be with BIL and BIL handed off the phone to him, despite neither DH nor FIL asking to talk to the other (this doesn't surprise me, as BIL2 tends to always pass the phone around).  FIL acted like nothing  is going on.  He asked DH about our trip (of course, like the good little boy he is, BIL1 - the one who used to be NS and has been calling us - had called his mommy and reported exactly what we had been up to.  It annoys me SO much that news travels so fast in this family.  No one is allowed to tell their own stories, as the gossips tend to run with information).   I'm guessing that my FIL, who is quite spoiled and likes life to be "easy", is just trying to ignore it all (that's been his m.o. in the FOO.  Just keep his head down, ignore any drama or chaos, and then move on like nothing is going on.)  In a way, I'm sort of glad that FIL is staying out of it and not "taking sides".  But, I pointed out to DH, it bothers me that, considering FIL and DH think they are so "close", that they are completely ignoring the elephant in the room.  That FIL, having to assume that things might be difficult for DH right now, hasn't bothered to call, check in, or check on DH to see if he's OK.

Last night, I switched my profile picture on FB.  MIL has been on restricted access on my FB for over a month now, since she poached my son's picture off my page and used it to write her own post (directed AT my son.  How the hell is my six year old son going to see something on HER page?  Clearly, he is not, and it was all so she could look like a good grandmother to her friends.)  This new profile photo has been the only photo she's been allowed access to.  And of course, she "liked" it immediately.  Granted, it's a beautiful landscape photo, but it felt more like a "HEY!! YOU CAN'T IGNORE ME.  I'M STILL HERE AND NOT GOING AWAY!!!!" reminder from her. And I can't help but think she jumped on a chance (seeing as it's been her only one) to send a subtle message that she won't allow me any space either.  She's like a mosquito who's annoying buzzing is always reminding me she's there, even if I can't see her.  I can swat her away for a moment, but she always comes back, threatening to suck my life blood from me.

And not even to mention, DH had also told her, specifically, to quit offering phony flattery to me.  To stop with all of the "I like your toenail polish" b.s.  (To which, she refused because "sometimes I DO like her stuff and I'm going to tell her.  Way to miss the point, MIL!)  To me, this is just one more form of her lame flattery and attempts to manipulate my view point of her.  "Hey!  maybe if I like her photo, she'll think I'm a good MIL and like me too!!!!!"  Or maybe she's just clueless and impulsive and can't control herself.  Either way, I wish she'd stay the hell out of my space.

Oh, did I mention that, in all of this time, MIL has made no attempt to reach out to ME and apologize?  Nope.  Just phony "likes" on FB.

Too bad they don't make "MIL spray" the same way they make mosquito spray.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Empathy versus Sympathy

So, I have lots to post about, but am just sorting through it before I write it down. 

Until then, a few notes:

Therapy has been helping (shocker!).  I am making some progress.

She uses a lot of Brene Brown's therapeutic models and I've been reading more and more of her work.  I find it to be very interesting. 

One of the things I came across is this cartoon model of "empathy versus sympathy" and I thought some of you might find it interesting and I wanted to share:

Clearly, my NM and MIL lack empathy.  But this really put it into perspective about what they don't get.  They live in so much shame, that they couldn't even imagine putting themselves into my shoes and trying to understand.  (not that that excuses them).  NM tends to use pity rather than even sympathy.  The pity than gives her the opportunity to feel like she's empathizing, while maintaining her superiority ("oh, that sucks.  I feel SO bad for you." while she thinks "that would never happen to me, as I'm too smart/attractive/rich/whatever for that.)