really letting things hurt

pain will leave you SOM

Yesterday, I went into the kitchen to start my breakfast, and the shut-in roommate that I never see or talk to came out of his room. He’s got a big shaggy beard, thinning pale hair, and thin, pale skin.

“Hey there!” he said.

“Hi,” I said. I was washing my dishes.

“Haven’t seen ya in a while!” he said to my back.

I can’t remember if I answered, or if i said, “Yeah.”

“So do you know if we’re getting a new roommate?”

“I…I don’t know.” I was filling up water from the faucet for my oatmeal.

He was at the table in the dining room, looking at the mail. And then he left for his driving around.

I don’t think I had spoken to him since February, when I had told him about the piece of shit roommate who harassed me and had finally left in July–the one that the shut-in had enabled.

I knew eventually, one day, our paths would cross again, and that I would be mad and hurt about the betrayal.

It wasn’t true that he hadn’t seen me in a while. It was a couple of weeks or more that he was sitting in the living room, talking loudly about the medications he was taking for some clinical trial for something.

I didn’t talk to him, but he blared through the earplugs I still had from sleeping the night before.

That loud conversation was informative–although it wasn’t the first time he had been talking loudly on the phone about his medications and illnesses. Still, I was reminded me that although I saw him as a traitor, I don’t know if it really could have been helped. I’m not sure if that’s an ableist way to look at it, though.

Yet it didn’t really help, and it really hasn’t helped, the feelings I had and still have…the feelings I would rather forget, like a bad trip I had taken, like a disgusting meal I was forced to eat.

I lived in the same house for over a year with a man who didn’t do and still doesn’t do much with keeping this house clean. It’s been up to me. It’s been up to me to make sure that this place is habitable and hospitable. And I’ve really only done it for my safety and comfort, although he gets the benefits.

The shut-in never cleans. A former roommate complained about how it seemed like he had never cleaned up after himself before. And last month, he didn’t take out the trash for whatever lazy reason he came up with. That was actually a first.

I knew I would see him again and be forced to talk to him as if everything was OK. I have never really been one for pleasantries, although I used to have a rule about acknowledging the existence of everyone, friend or foe.

After many foes and not many friends, I had to change the rules, rules that seemed to be about being the bigger and better person.

Being the bigger and better person now is about making sure that I’m OK, that I’m taken care of, that I’m safe.

So by being cold and withdrawn, I was OK with showing, albeit passively, that our warm and amiable relationship had frozen over into cold, forced cordiality.

I wasn’t really ready to face that, that I had one less ally in this place. I wasn’t really ready to also look at my relationship to this place. It’s become more and more like a prison–albeit thankfully less and less like a psych ward…


There’s been a room in my heart that I can only peek into. I open it a crack and I’m blasted with warm, moist air and the taste of my own tears. It reminds me of that test that Paul Atreides from the sci-fi novel, Dune, had to undergo with his mother and another Bene Gesserit woman.

He had to put his hand inside of a box, a box that contained pain. If he withdrew it too early, he would die. So he put his hand inside, feeling like his flesh was being burned and flayed…and then when he was allowed to remove his hand, his hand was just fine.

That room in my heart is like that box of pain, and I need to go inside. And I’m afraid that I will be burned and flayed. I’m afraid that I won’t survive it.

It’s not even going to be as dramatic as Paul and his box of pain. I know what’s in my room that I continue to avoid.

There have been some miserable failures this summer. But I decided after this sad and bizarre separation I had with someone over a week ago, that it was time to at least tend to my wounds–not just this summer’s, but as many as I can.

I needed to deal with my whole self–nurture it as it hasn’t really been nurtured by me before; nurture it as my parents should have but didn’t; nurture it as if no one else ever will; nurture it as if my life depended on it, because it does.

Part of that nurturing has been taking this 10-day course about returning to myself. And that has been restorative and healing–but not dramatically. It’s been more of the intention I’ve set: to not put so many other people’s feelings and needs before mine.

Part of that nurturing has been letting things really hurt. And it hasn’t been me sobbing on the floor. It’s literally sitting with feelings, the feelings that aren’t so clear-cut or line-bright.

Most of those feelings are grief over things that never got to be or have yet to be–the me that doesn’t live in Florida anymore; the me that got to be with that person; the me who hasn’t had to grind and scrape just to make it month-to-month; the me who actually did have supportive parents.

That last one floats in and out, because I don’t know how to grieve something that I never had. I can only imagine how it could be, to have parents be there for me unselfishly, to not have narcissistic parents. I could base on other people’s experiences, or base on fictional portrayals. I have a feeling that may become more profound and real when I have my own family, or when my parents pass–or maybe both.

The personal losses this summer…the confusing grief has batted me around, flipped me back and forth like I was some rag doll.

How could this be? Is this really happening?

This is happening. This is really happening.

Usually with loss, I never feel so ambivalent. I am quite resolute. With cold, surgical precision, I can amputate people, places, and things from my life and never look back.

It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when I do it. It just means that I don’t attempt to reattach. I’ve only done in twice in my life.

The first was with my first love–but he dumped me. The second was a few years ago with a woman I had known since we were teenagers. We just drifted apart and I noticed she had unfriended me from Facebook. She responded that basically she was too busy but that she had thought about me often.

This time, I can finally understand why it takes people so long to get over people, at the very least. It took me years to get over how long it took me to get through college–years longer than most people wanted to know or hear about.

But I knew I deserved the time to grieve a formative time in my life, especially since the people who had wanted me to move on had never gone through what I had gone through.

I needed the time.

But that’s the thing with grief. Grief takes as long as it takes. Grief, especially when it comes to death, is an ever-morphing companion that you will never shake. Some days, it’s a whisper of a ghost. Other times, it’s a monster that will violently shake you over something you don’t even think is a big deal.

Even with this one-month odyssey that I was on…there are times that I question whether it’s really over. And then there are other times that I’m glad it’s over. And then, there are other times that I want to go back, even if there are only ashes and embers left.

It’s weird to go through things that you feel like you should have gone through half a lifetime ago. But now, having gone through these things…I feel a lot more human now. The empathy that’s grown inside of me has stretched me open. I can almost say I’m grateful for the experience, because there’s this whole other part of life that I can’t process through my brain.

I can see how irrational love and grief is now.

love is pi


Yesterday, I knew the shut-in was probably waiting to talk to me. When I left my room, his door, which is right across from mine in a tiny hallway, was cracked with a seam of light shining through–and this usually meant that he was going to leave soon.

I dreaded seeing him, but our meeting was better than I thought it would be…initially. I thought I had held up pretty well, considering.

Seeing him and talking to him reminded me of what I went through, by myself.  And I was tired of going back in the past. And his cheery little performative bullshit was an insult.

Could someone be that far removed from reality, really?

I knew that was true because of how my mom handled my father when he was mentally ill. I didn’t really get as much protection as I deserved. She was lost in her religion and her god to pay attention to how living under someone who was abusive and neglectful was doing to her and to her children.

So yeah, I’ve been here before. And I thought because it was over, I was over it all.

But then afterward, I felt like someone shoved me in this dark, small room of despair. I felt like I was physically starting to slow down. I just wanted to sleep.

I had some existential fears leap out:

Would I ever get out of this gotdamn house? Would I be stuck here forever? Do I really have people on my side? Will I ever be successful again? Am I always going to have an almost life?

I was really concerned that I was becoming depressed. I was sleeping more during the day, but it was also because I had some major insomnia (thanks, full moon). I still have a bit of a sleep deficit.

I did a lot of talking and praying with my guides and angels…

And even typing this, about guides and angels…somehow it’s a little embarrassing, like I’m one of those, one of those weirdo woo-woo women…

Then today, I was back to my normal self.

So maybe yesterday, I had a brief moment in that room of grief that I keep avoiding. It was a little scary, but I made it through.


And before this, last week I was really angry, angry that life had been so disappointing for so long. I was and am so fed up. And that anger can be a catalyst for change.

I still believe that this is my time.

What’s really interesting about all this is how these feelings of sadness and grief are on the heels of things getting better for my business now.

Shameless plug for another business – I do tarot and astrological consultations!

It’s like when you’re about to hit the finish line, after having run a long race, and you have the freedom to slow down.

I don’t have to be tough anymore. I don’t have to gut it through. I don’t have to have it all together. I don’t have to be “right.”

I can be hurt, disappointed, and angry that a fellow human being whom I live with didn’t stick up for me while I was being abused.

I can want to have someone back in my life that I’m not entirely sure is good for me.

I can mourn all the fabulous selves I didn’t get to be because I have narcissistic parents.

I can let all of it really hurt as it should, and then move on.

But it doesn’t have to be all sad.

I can choose to nurture myself instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

I can get lost in novels like I used to do when I was younger.

I can continue to explore what brings me pleasure even if I feel like that’s a short list right now.

I can check in on myself much more than I check in on others…because people will be just fine without my care.

I can continue on the journey of not letting my circumstances define me.

I can also be thankful for what I have.


My ungratefulness is what prevents me from opening the door to my grief.

Somehow, embracing amor fati has felt like a death.

How can I be grateful for all of this, every last thing?

By being grateful, I feel like I have to give up my fight for justice for myself, for making things right. It’s like letting everyone off the hook–even myself.

But to really be grateful, I really do have to reckon with my losses, all of them. Yet I’m not sure what that looks like practically, besides being more intentional about caring for myself.

How can gratitude and the comfort of justice intersect? Or will they always run parallel?

I know that to live the full, joyous life that I want–beyond what circumstances come my way–I have to accept this invitation to gratitude.

I feel impermeable to this kind of all-encompassing gratitude. All I want to do is to have yet another internal temper tantrum. I don’t feel holy or wise enough to do this. I feel petty, bitter, and small.

But that’s at least a place to start–with some honesty about where I am and where I want to be.

When I took a little vacation from my normal life by meeting new people who didn’t know me or my life story, including the one that I can’t easily forget, it was great to be seen for who I was, outside of all I had been through. So I can live that life where I’m not all the things I didn’t get to be, but all the things I already am and will be.

So this isn’t some fantasy. This can be my new reality.

I just have to stop acting like some indestructible robot and let it hurt so I can feel better. Let myself be confused so I can find better answers. Let myself really rage with anger so I can find the peace and calm within.

Let myself be so I can emerge into a more authentic self.

I can’t really solve the puzzle of being grateful for all the bad things I’ve gone through just this summer: of being called racial slurs in my own home, of having a terrible landlady, of not being able to move yet, of losing a biz opportunity because of things outside of my control, of getting so close to finding my person and seeing that chance being thrown into an abyss…

I’m just too human and short-sighted to see the good in any of this right now.

It’s so tough to override my humanness right now. When things are bad, we focus on them so we can fix them. But when we can’t fix them, we suffer. If we decide not to focus on them, then it seems like we’re abdicating our duties of being good people.

And I’ve said all this before. But the struggle remains to create meaning and good from seemingly meaningless, terrible things.

All I can do right now is to be at least grateful for the good, in a way that isn’t performative or hollow. Maybe that can create space for the impossible–being grateful for all of it.

At least I can say that I am grateful that I am still here, that I have survived the unbearable, the unfair, the bizarre, the disgusting, the absurd. And that as long as I’m still breathing, the life that I want and deserve is still within reach.

ETA: this song has been haunting me.

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This Is My Time

miracles SOM

This morning, the thought came to me: this is my time. I’ve waited long enough to live the life that I want.

I’m fed up.

The last straw was extending grace and compassion to the racist, actively psychotic, and downright selfish and cruel tenant that rents a room next to mine. His current and perpetual sins are that he probably has attracted rats to this house (he’s nicer to the stray cat that he leaves food out for) and continuously smokes in his room.

I had hoped when he had a psychotic break in January and cursed me out that he would voluntarily hospitalize him–but, he didn’t. In fact, he became much worse afterward, mainly with the smoking.

And I’m really mad at the owners of this home. They keep giving themselves slack for being non-confrontational about their own home.

“I’m learning as a I go,” I heard in April.

“This is uncharted territory,” I heard last week.

I have been complaining about this guy since last fall.

So when do you actually learn how to manage a property and the people living there? They bought this place in October 2015.

Thankfully, after much shaming and cajoling on my part, the owners have terminated the lease of the human ashtray. He will be leaving by the end of the month.

I’m fed up because my act of kindness was weaponized as cruelty and neglect towards me. I really thought I had found the middle.

What I found was that I was kind of trapped in a circle of betrayal.

Well, wake-up call received.

And the call said: indiscriminate grace can actually make things worse for everyone.

Be brave, be wise.

Let people learn the lessons they need to learn on their own.

Sometimes, suffering can’t be avoided.

But this propensity started long ago, probably as soon as my brother was born. I’ve often stepped aside for others to be first, while I tended to others and neglected myself.

My brother has developmental delays. And I, being the gifted and older child, was relied upon to be OK. I didn’t need to be as fussed over or given as much attention. I had an oddly autonomous yet very restricted life.

My parents didn’t even do that great with my brother, but since he was seen as the problem, he automatically got more of the attention.

This happens often.

I’m glad that my brother is the way he is–even with his emotional challenges now, he has a very pure, loving heart. Yet my parents really didn’t protect or guide him as much as they could because they are narcissists. It’s heartbreaking, because you can see how their selfishness affected him, decades later.

And this narcissism really affected me.

A lot of this is cultural, as the eldest daughter of Ghanaian parents. I didn’t even know that being the third parent or second wife was really a cultural expectation. And why would I? I was born and raised in America, not in Ghana.

As a kid and teen, I really didn’t get to fully be…a kid, myself. There were a lot of opportunities that were either delayed or denied, and there were no good reasons for it.

I’m still trying to deal with those delays and denials now, over two decades later. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about them here, but the six that come to mind are:

  1. Starting piano lessons. I asked for four years, starting at age 8.
  2. Taking a trip to New Orleans with the French Club at school.
  3. Taking a trip to Paris with the French Club.
  4. Ending piano lessons after 4 years because my father thought I wasn’t serious enough (I had just one my first paying competition the day he axed my lessons).
  5. Not going to a slumber party where all my friends from church were. I don’t think I’ve actually been to a slumber party.
  6. Taking a missions trip with my youth group, right before our beloved youth pastor was going to leave for another church (my mom decided to go to Ghana for the first time, and it was assumed I’d stay home and be the lady of the house (which I really didn’t need to do).

I hate how whiny this sounds–and whether you think this sounds whiny, I don’t care about that much at all.

It’s more that even though I know why most of this happened–narcissistic parents, a father falling further into the depths of untreated bipolar disorder, and unspoken cultural expectations–it’s really hard to let this and other things go.

It wasn’t that my parents couldn’t afford any of this stuff. My dad was an ER doctor. It’s just that they simply withheld these things, things that would have enriched my life.

And this is all relative, too, because you could be reading this and not have had access to these opportunities like it I did. I definitely don’t want this to sound like poor little upper-middle-class girl. It’s what the denials and delays represented.

I’ve already told my parents multiple times how I felt about their parenting job. Of course, they weren’t thrilled to hear my side of things. They were defensive. I’m alive, educated, had a roof over my head, clothes on my back–mission accomplished! They only could see that they didn’t give me as much attention as they gave to my brother.

I told my mom recently that she didn’t really give much attention to my emotional life as a kid and she really was taken aback by that.  She did not agree at all.

But I don’t really have anything to prove to them any longer. My truth is my truth. Whether they agree with it or not doesn’t matter to me anymore.

So, I’m not bitter. Anymore. Hours of therapy and prayer…and just, time…have done the work.

I’m just sad.

I was a really good kid. I never really got into trouble, did well in school. But you couldn’t tell the way my parents treated me. Hypercritical, withdrawing, yet relying on me to hear about their lives while never asking about mine.

Whether I was good or bad really was about whether I inconvenienced my family or not. I got no praise for the good, and got a lot of attention for the bad. I’m lucky that I wasn’t so desperate for attention, that I just started getting into trouble to get attention. I never wanted them to just interact with me because something was wrong.

Although they gave me many gifts, such as my intelligence and musical acumen, their obsession with blind obedience didn’t really help me to be an independent person. I had to learn independence in a piecemeal way–and it’s something I’m still learning, especially when it comes to what I can change and cannot change in my life.

All these events created grooves into my life, grooves where I actually kept putting other people first, like with this terrible creep tenant.

And it really pisses me off. I know this stuff, but it’s so hard to get out of the groove of self-abandonment.

These imprints are working on me on so many levels. There’s a pallor of grief that’s hard to wipe away. And the grief is over who I could have been if my parents hadn’t been so caught up in their own lives. I had to climb over extra obstacles to get to some semblance of sanity.

And then, as I tried to escape them, I dragged all this extra weight into college–which I had to wait an extra year for because my father was even more mentally ill–which broke me while I was struggling to pay for college.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression a couple of months after I had turned 21. all those delays and denials finally caught up to me.

Then waiting for 3 years to go back to college after I couldn’t pay. A miracle of debt forgiveness got me back in and I graduated at 26.

Then, my life continued to center around the church. I was putting up with shitty, probably racist friends in the name of community and Christ.

Little did I know that Jesus didn’t need me to do that kind of martyrdom work.

You know, maybe the greater good includes me, too?

There’s been a lot that’s been out of my control and I’ve just had to roll with it, and learning how to be flexible and accommodating is a gift–I’m grateful that it’s a part of my resilience arsenal.

But then there’s the time when you’re growing older and there are a lot more things under your control, where you’re not at the mercy of circumstance, where you don’t have to be reactive–but proactive.

I’m not under the thumb of my parents anymore.

And I can tell you, as I’ve probably said before here, that there have been a lot of repetitive events and lessons–especially in this house, mainly passivity and enabling bad behavior.

So I’m 40 now. When is all of this going to be over, then?

I’m pretty sure I’ve learned the lessons I need to learn here in Florida, right?

Can I declare that today, I will no longer put up with people’s selfishness and stick up for myself the way I’ve stuck up for other people?

I can and I will.

There’s so much of my life where I have been trying to catch up to where I should have been years ago. And if there are any little burps of anger from the past that come up, it’s around how my youth wasted on people I don’t even give a fuck about anymore and probably never gave a fuck about me.

So much wasted time and energy–and in the name of what?

There are all these Christian and spiritual platitudes about being selfless and putting others first, and, I don’t care if this sounds haughty–I was going to do that anyway.

I didn’t need some higher power telling me to be kind to others. I see the importance of kindness and selflessness.

But that innate propensity has been exploited for years and years, and I’m super big mad about it.

Also, I’m really hurt at these good intentions here in this house have backfired and made my life worse. I put someone utterly vile and contemptuous, just because he is mentally ill, first.

That was really fucking stupid.

And I didn’t do that to be a martyr or to become a saint or to get any praise or even to feel good about myself.

I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do.

But the right thing to do from now on is to be a lot choosier about who I put first–which, for now, will be me.

It’s been too long. So much waiting for my life to begin, to catch my breath, to create life, to expand outside of these four smoke-filled walls.

Maybe circumstantially, I still have to ride these waves that I can’t control.

But spiritually and energetically, today I can bring the pendulum of love in my life back to center.

I can draw a line with indelible marker and say here, look, take notice, remember, beware: I’m not putting up with shitty people or the cruel mistreatment of others any longer. They can find their own redemption on their own journeys–without me.

My journey is to be extra kind and gracious to myself–just like how I’ve been to others and have barely received it in return.

My journey is to make it up to that younger woman, who was full of promise and wonder and fire and warmth, to get back into music again, to go to Paris, to go to New Orleans again, to find friends that aren’t fickle or fairweather.

To not be someone’s extra parent or spouse. To really be my own person.

My journey is to be even more zealous with the healing of my past.

It pains me to keep bringing up old shit. I don’t want to be defined as the girl who was deprived and neglected.

I want to be the woman who was able to overcome all those things and really live, really love–even if she was barely taught how. And that is miraculous. I want to revel and dance in the glory of that bright and shining miracle…of me.

The time of enduring and waiting and overlooking and second-guessing and hoping and merely holding on is coming to a quick close.

Even if I have to will it to end, it will end.

This is my time. This is my time to embrace how whole I’ve been this whole time. And no one is going to get in the way of my joy and fulfillment ever again.

This is my time.

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. 

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coda

let go with love SOM

I have tweeted about my relationship with my mother before. I believed I deleted another thread from Easter when I realized that she was a narcissistic mother, but I did blog about it.

Maybe it’s through American pop culture, but I really wanted my mother to fight for me, for us–more than she has.

Our “ending” has been a little anti-climatic. I didn’t cry when I spoke to her this past week. I felt so in control, like a doctor giving a grave diagnosis and giving options to her patient.

As I summarized nearly 40 years of wanting and waiting, I had compassion for myself as I didn’t hear the responses I wanted: remorse; contrition; sadness.

I’m still wrestling with this a little bit, because this–waiting for her to show up emotionally–is at the heart of what has gone down between us for decades. What’s worse than hatred is apathy.

I can’t make her care about me in the way that I need. Her obstinacy to walking to the middle where reconciliation and restoration reside and flourish.

She only sees this as a right or wrong issue. The way she sees it is that she is emotionally available and she’s unwilling to change her behavior. It takes two, she said. Apparently, I’m still not doing enough. Enough of what? I don’t know.

You know that Rumi quote about meeting in that field beyond right and wrong? That’s where I am, but she decided not to meet me there.

My conversation with her last Thursday was really a coda to a swan song that started before I was born, where I was the scapegoat for the loss of her nursing career. By the way–if your mother or father blames you for ruining their lives, that’s a classic narcissist move.

What’s weird for me is how not-sad I feel. I feel whole and complete. I’m relieved. I don’t have to keep trying, like Capricorns are wont to do. We won’t give up until…is there an until, actually? Do we ever give up? That’s one of the dark sides of being stubborn sea goats. We need the discernment to know when to keep going and when to find a new path.

Any fires of sadness, grief, and anger were snuffed out by depriving it of the oxygen of my desire. Yet, I’m still sitting here, looking at the smoke rise to the heavens as she’s already left our campfire site.

So, that’s it.

One thing I’ve realized when relationships end, or at least drastically change course, is that I grieve the ending before it actually comes. So that conversation I had with my mother–she didn’t hear anything new except that I was done trying to make this work. We had been here before, many times.

I still love and care about her, as I told her twice on the phone.

I never heard those words back.

Right now, I feel unburdened. Clear. Clean. A gaping wound has finally sealed and healed. So, I’m grateful, because those kind of wounds tend to define a person until they are healed. Mother wounds may be some of the most stubborn to heal until you start to identify with you you are now.

When you learn how to be on your own side and be a good mother to yourself, the pain lessens and subsides. When you learn not to identify with the societal expectations of nuclear families and see yourself as someone who shouldn’t be ashamed but instead proud of having survived a loveless relationship, that’s the growth. That’s the “win” of being an adult child of a narcissistic parent.

Sadly, because we were never emotionally close, I don’t miss that much. I miss would might have been, what should have been.

That’s the only that may break me–knowing what I deserved vs. what I actually received. But what’s important is that I did deserve and will always deserve a mother who is openly proud of me, openly loves and supports me, is openly affectionate with me. I don’t have to beg for it. I don’t even need to ask for it.

Every child deserves to have parents who truly care about them without having to debase themselves to receive love. That is the tacit agreement parents and children make when children are brought into the world. Some of us are lucky to have that agreement to remain intact, while others of us have to recover from these agreements breaking.

And you can recover. Recovery–a new path to wholeness–is yours and waiting for you.

Now I can move on. I know the toxicity of this relationship has touched every relationship I have been in. Now I look forward to creating healthier relationships with people that are built on trust, reciprocity, respect, a genuine liking of each other, and, most of all, real love.

If you have a narcissistic parent, check out narcissisticmother.com. Also, this podcast from Terri Cole is what started me on this last leg of my healing journey regarding my mother.

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. 

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal.

Thanks for your support! 💘

How am I different?

it's never too late SOM

It shouldn’t have had to be this much work just to be normal.  It shouldn’t have been so hard to be noticed or loved in a positive way.

–Michelle Piper

And yet, it was, and is.

When I read that in an email from Michelle Piper about narcissistic mothers a couple of weeks ago, it just hit me in the chest. And as tears start to form in my eyes, I know why I haven’t wanted to blog for so long. It’s hard to face the chasm that had been formed between me and the people I love for so long, and how much I bridged that gap.

But it’s tiring.

But that quote just summed up everything. It’s been so much work. It’s been so hard.

The email talked about how children of narcissistic mothers can look at how easily people can bring love into their lives, and how we have to work to just get to normal.

So an exercise that Piper offers is to think about what would have life been like if I had had the healthy parenting and mentoring that I needed. I’ll share that with you.

Right now, I could say that I wouldn’t have to end friendships and relationships because of me trying so hard. Every once in a while, I will find myself in some relational contortion that doesn’t look like relating. It looks like pain. And then, I have to just let go, in order to stay sane.

So instead of having to bend myself into someone that I’m not, I could have had healthier relationships throughout my life and avoided unhealthy ones altogether.

And that’s honestly the biggest thing–avoiding pitfalls. Maybe by having less unhealthy relationships, I could have had healthier ones, longer lasting ones.

Most likely, I’d already have my own family since so much of my 20s and 30s has been a very long healing journey that I’m probably at the end of (finally). The prime of my life has been spent healing old wounds. A lot of wisdom comes from those wounds, but it seems like such a waste of my time and my youth.

By having a healthier sense of self, maybe my career trajectory with writing would have been more forthright. My parents knew I wrote and spoke with passion, but they never cared to nurture that within me. I had to go back and do that myself.

Maybe I’d be a much better, more successful writer by now. Maybe I wouldn’t be financially struggling as much as I have been. Maybe I’d be a richer person–not in money, but in depth and experience. Maybe I wouldn’t be as afraid and as tired as I am now.

I am 39, almost 40, and I feel like right now, I’m just starting to get this whole life thing–and I don’t mean that in a mid-life crisis way. Just in a life really doesn’t have to be this hard. Love and hope and peace and security are all out there for me, and are also within.

The good thing is–there’s still time for me to have everything I’ve mentioned. I’m not dead yet. I’m not a lost cause. But I can mourn the woman I should have been or could have been. I’m grateful that I am here, right now–even if it’s brimming with disappointment. The disappointment will fade. The wounds are better understood now, so they can heal.

I don’t believe in the idea that as souls we choose the family we are born into. It sounds like fancy spiritualized victim blaming. Would billions of people choose poverty? Slavery? Abuse? Look, I’m a Capricorn. I love life challenges, but I’m not a masochist. This lack of parental love, affection, and guidance is not (primarily) about my soul’s growth–it’s about the lack of soul growth in my parents. It’s infuriating and saddening–there’s nothing really noble about it. That’s a spiritual bypass from the truth.

The truth is, you play the hand you’re dealt. If you’re dealt a great hand, I hope you play it well. If you have a shitty hand, I hope you play it well, too. I’m fortunate to have been born in this time, with all these psychological and spiritual tools which are available to me, with the mind and will that I have, so I can play my own shitty hand.

It could have been worse, but it could have been so much better…

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how to be your own mother

be on your own side1

I have been avoiding writing this for weeks. But maybe now, that’s because I didn’t have the end of the story.

I had a draft ready about self-parenting, and how important it is after having the latest phone call with my mom. I called to ask for money–this was back in March. She didn’t have any. I called also to check in, since she really hadn’t been checking to see how I was doing. After all, I’ve been in a financial bind for a few months.

I had come to accept that part, sort of–the parentification. Maybe not all the way, yet. But I’m approaching 40 and there isn’t much room for pitching a fit about how un-maternal my mother is.

Or so I thought.

The reason I was going to blog was about a bout of shame I had from my mom asking me about some creditor calling her house. I just told her to ignore it. She kept insisting. She asked if I had given her information to them–they had called her home phone and cell phone. I was so annoyed. Why would I do that? Why would you think I’d do that? And then I basically spat out, like I was shaking off a viper into the fire: hey, if you want them to stop calling, pray I get a better job. And then I hung up.

Self-Parenting: Being On Your Own Side

It took me a bit to recover from the accusation, or really–how she thought I couldn’t be trusted. In that moment, it felt like a deep betrayal. She couldn’t think that this awful car loan folks, so awful that the Better Business Bureau hasn’t given them the thumbs up, would be the enemy. No, I was. The truth of what she implied really gutted me, unexpectedly. It felt like everything was in stark relief.

My mother is not on my side.

Self-parenting is something I’ve had to do for a while, although maybe not as effectively as I want. I talked about parentification in the previous post, and that’s essentially when you parent your parents as a child. But self-parenting, being the parent that you needed and deserved but didn’t get, for whatever reason: alcoholism, mental illness, death–it’s kind of a burden, but who else is going to do it?

After that phone call, I realized that I really needed to effectively self-parent. I had also listened to a personal development podcast or two that had touched on this topic somewhat–parenting styles, attachment styles, being the dad who can cheer you on, stuff like that.

I looked up this blog post from Huffington Post on self-parenting and I wrote down these ten steps:

No, I will not…

Automatically take the other person’s side.
Assume the worst about me.
Hold myself as responsible and to blame for the way I feel and whatever has gone wrong.
Discredit my own feelings.
Talk to myself as if I do not matter.
Shame myself for what I am feeling.
Reject or ignore myself when I am upset.
Put myself last.
Terrorize myself with potential disasters.
Be mean to or bully myself.

And finally: No, I will not accept being treated this way — by me.

My mom had committed the first and second no-no’s. She automatically took the side of my creditors and she assumed the worst about me. She didn’t ask me what was going on, or if I was in trouble. She asked if I had given them her information. I don’t know why I was so surprised. Maybe my journey in reluctant self-employment has caused me to go soft. I’ve known this woman for almost 40 years, but that night, I really saw her. So I decided that no, I will not accept being treated this way, by me or anyone else.

The Great Awakening

On Easter Sunday, I was listening to yet another personal development podcast. When I listen to these podcasts, usually it’s like poco a poco, bit by bit, little nuggets and nibbles for the long journey head. Maybe it’s like grabbing a water while running a marathon–refreshing, keeps you going, but it’s just water. This podcast was about narcissistic mothers.

I was thinking, well, this isn’t going to be about my mother. I’m actually in the shower, washing my hair listening to this, and then there’s something about how narcissistic mothers will blame you for how their lives turned out. “I gave up my career for you…”

My mother had told me something like this years ago, and then when I called her out on it, she said she didn’t remember saying it. I had never been able to put a label towards my mother’s coldness towards me.

The podcast went on to say that narcissists may seem great to everyone else. They overcompensate. Finally, someone was able to explain, ever so deftly, how my mom was so well liked and loved by everyone else, but how when it came to me and my brother, we were burdens.

I remember one time calling her out on how unenthusiastic she would answer the phone when I called vs. when she answered the phone for anyone else. It was always like, “Oh, it’s just you.” How does a child, young or old, not internalize that?

Oh. It’s just you.

By the time the podcast was over, I was crying and raining on the inside, hailstorms of truth was ricocheting off the tin roof of my heart. I can’t remember if I actually cried. I felt relieved, but I also knew that I was entering a new stage of grief.

I had to grieve the life I could have had if my mom wasn’t narcissistic. All the healthy relationships I missed. All the jobs I could have gone for if I believed in myself more–if she believed in me more. And it’s funny–I knew my dad was one a long time ago. Somehow it’s so much more easier to forgive, or at least accept. But if your mother can’t look out for you, who can?

So last week was one of the toughest I have ever had. I’m sure I was depressed–although it’d be hard to tell on the outside, except that I had to push my work and deadlines as much as I could, to have space for the grief. A few days after I listened to that podcast tweeted more of my thoughts here.

Like I said two posts ago, I have had to put a pause on all of my relationships. I feel hyperaware of how I act and react. Am I trying too hard? Am I trying to make up for the middle ground of the other side, too?

I think what hurts worst right now is knowing that I will never know how much damage this relationship did to my future–especially with having a family of my own. I feel like I’ve been spared, and that I spared any kids I would have had. To have a family be the collateral damage of my own family of origin drama–the Universe knows that I want to minimize that as much as possible. So maybe, I’ll accept being…unseen…for now.

Knowing that I have to be my own mother, be the nurturing, compassionate woman who will never leave my side, who will always believe the best about me…it’s so much better going into any relationship now knowing how I’m emotionally gimpy, and how, albeit painful and heartbreaking, I can finally start to heal from all of this properly.

Sunday morning in the shower, I wasn’t really bargaining for a full-on awakening. All roads lead back to this initial wound, from my mother who didn’t even want to remember when I was born–even if it was because it was a scary birth. There was no, “Even though the childbirth was scary, you are my favorite and most precious Christmas gift.”

Even though she has never said that to me, and never while, even writing that, and reading that–that does something to me. It touches me. Like it makes me feel a little more human, a little more connected to others. Oh, it would have been nice to have a sentimental, caring, compassionate mom, not a narcissist who sucked the life and love out of me on demand. But having me be my own mom is definitely the next best thing.

By Friday, the pain–it was actually physical pain. I know what heartbreak feels like now–was gone. I’m not sure if I was spiritual about it. I hope I was. I hope the angels and archangels were close by.

Tonight, I sit in deep gratitude. Do you know what it’s like to have the biggest life question rattling around inside of you, guiding you into the most desolate and desperate places, making you do the most foolish and unseemly things? And then, all at once, on a sleepy Sunday morning, someone strings all the right words together, words you’ve heard before, but just not in that order…

Question answered. I’m not crazy. I’m not unlovable. I just had the bad luck of having two narcissists as my parents.

Even though I had been in therapy for most of my adulthood, my therapists and I were just walking around these caverns of loss, never really arriving anywhere–or so it seems. Maybe it was just the scavenger hunt to the real bounty that I found almost two week ago now.

Right now, though, it’s been hard to think that I’m not permanently damaged, that I won’t find the love that I really want and need in my life. Having a mom-sized hole in your heart is not easily filled. It feels abysmal, like a black hole sucking the life out of everything and everyone. But starting with self-parenting is at least a cement mixer of love that’s on the way.

And even though I may not need to, I’d like to say I’m sorry to everyone I’ve hurt while I was whirling around this gaping hole of sorrow that I couldn’t heal just yet. I was blind in pain, so blind that I’m not even sure how many people I’ve hurt, annoyed, pushed away, sucked dry…I’m just sorry.

And like I said before, I don’t know if I would have had the time to get this message if life hadn’t knocked me on my ass again with underemployment. This gift of freedom, of true self-love and self-acceptance…it’s really invaluable to me now. I feel like I have the key that can unlock all the doors to what I want.

All of this is still unraveling, and I want to keep myself safe, keep my feelings, dreams, and desires, all safe, all with me, like they matter. Like I matter. Whatever happens now, I know that I am on my own side, that I can be my own mother, and that is far better than how I was living before.

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