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…

 

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.

 

it’s just a wave 🌊

kill the shark1

I’m writing as a way to avoid some other writing. But I am a week behind here, so it makes sense to write here, too.

[The quote in the image is more aspirational than anything (You’ll see. Not there yet).]

Yesterday, I seemed to have a light bulb fire on about my life purpose with spirituality. If you want to read the poorly threaded tweets, start here. It’s an essay unto itself, but not worth regurgitating here–not yet, anyway.

Also, yesterday, I did a lot of energy work. Energy work is like body work, but, um, with energy and with your spirit? Reiki is the closest mainstream manifestation of it. I also was doing a bit of Access Consciousness stuff–and that could also be its own essay, because like with everything, there’s some stuff I agree with, and some stuff where I go–yes, the pursuit of spirituality is a human endeavor and I cannot expect everyone to get it right.

And actually, my tweetstorm last night is connected to listening/watching a bunch of YouTube videos one of the co-creators of Access, and he talks a lot about changing the world. And, through his work, I’m sure he does.

Anyway, back to avoidance. Access Consciousness is energy work, too, and I’ve never paid for any of it (it can be pricey). But I kind of forgot that it was energy work. I was just listening all day and night and then today, I got a little triggered.

I was planning on writing a lot today, doing some social media content tomorrow, and then finally, finally, working on my freelancing strategy on Tuesday. I headed out on a beautiful morning to the pharmacy to pick up some meds on sale. On my way back, I am turning into my driving and I see a white tow truck parked across the street.

That was part of the trigger. The other part was that on this fine Easter morning, my apparently disreputable car lender had called and left two voicemails, after I had written them not to do so.

I had to give up my car two years ago because I was barely making any money as an adjunct English professor and a part-time technical writer. It doesn’t sting as much anymore, but it was shame I carried around for a long time. Failing at self-sufficiency post-grad school is an albatross that seems to strangle me from time to time.

Today was one of those times.

Logically, I know that I’m not as far behind as I was back in grad school. But the lender, who has class action lawsuits against it for these harassing calls–those calls plunged my planned productive day into a deep well of anxiety that I am now just climbing out.

And what bitter irony. The very thing that would help me stay on top of my bills, working, is the very thing those calls helped to derail. And the tow truck–I can rationalize that it’s not just waiting for me. I could even used it as motivation for writing.

So, I filed a complaint because I was over this. I didn’t deserve this sort of harassment. Still, I was drowning in my anxious thoughts, thoughts don’t even have words. It was just dark and gray, full of doom and fright.

I tried to climb out of this whirlpool of fear. I had the websites opened for the first article I needed to write–a 500 word piece on posture–and then I went into pulling tarot and oracle cards for the week, playing some video games, tweeting, and listening to a podcast that plunged me deeper into my emotions.

The podcast was on daughters dealing with narcissistic mothers. I never really thought of my mother as a narcissist–a term that’s been thrown around a lot. I know my father is one (I’m sure there are plenty of Leos who are narcissists)–that was always very clear.

The podcaster is a psychotherapist, so she was clinically painting a horrible picture that I suddenly recognized. The thing is, my mom is so nice to everyone. She’s very giving and kind. But the Pisces that she is, she can get up on her cross and be a martyr every once in a while. But when this woman described some of my mother’s behaviors, I was shocked. It was hard to believe that this nice person was so…selfish.

I had just been telling a friend yesterday that I didn’t think my parents should have been parents. They should have been DINKs (dual income, no kids). But I was probably conceived 40 years ago this week. Not kidding, this week. I always thought I came a little too early for my parents’ brand new marriage, being married in a new, profoundly racist country.

So after being thrown under that revelatory rogue wave, I had to stop myself from listening to more personal development podcasts. I have a lot to sit with, between the Access stuff, the other energy work, and dealing with the truth of my mother.

Whew.

As I sip my honey vanilla chamomile tea–tea that I should drink a lot more often and a lot sooner–I think about, and have been thinking about, the strain of financial pressure and the now clear purpose of this underemployment.

Besides that I’m learning some scary, fierce radical trust in the Universe, I’m starting to realize that there’s no way I could have had all these revelations if I was working a 9 to 5, busy with friends and a relationship–you know, having what I would call a healthy adult life.

My life has been stripped down to the essentials. My world is so small.

What I’m going through is a bit like surgery. The cuts need to be made to get in there and repair those tears, or to remove the malignancies. I have been focusing on the initial incisions–not working full-time–and not what’s been happening while I’ve been under. Sometimes it feels like I am only given some whiskey and a bit of leather to bite while I’m surgery.

Yet I know that I know that I know: this is necessary, no matter what type of spiritual anesthesia I’m under. The accumulation of trauma and loss is most likely not letting me actually have that healthy adult life anyway. Just the narcissistic parents alone–that’s enough for me to take a pause, examine those gangrenous wounds, get them treated and healed once for all.

I deserve the pause. I deserve the healing. I deserve to be whole.

Last week, I was telling another friend that I was unsure if I was in a place of allowance–that this is happening whether I like or not, that I’m clearly in a season of lean, and that fighting against it is not smart–or, that I’m suffering from learned helplessness. I learned about this in college during my psychology studies.

In animal studies, which I can say in retrospect, this sounds really cruel to do–after an animal keeps getting zapped trying to reach for food or whatever else it’s trying to do, the animal stops trying. The animal study I had learned about was some rat or mouse in some water who just stopped trying to swim.

This phenomenon is a marker of clinical depression and other mental health issues. It’s like your soul becomes catatonic. What’s the point of trying, of fighting? I’ll just get zapped by Life again anyway. It can be a coping mechanism, but it’s not one anyone would want to use long-term.

Learned helplessness, ultimately, is a death sentence. Maybe literally, but definitely more figuratively. In relating to my friend, I had been scared that I wasn’t doing enough. I wasn’t sure if this had all taken its toll and I wasn’t even treading water anymore. It’d make sense if my mental health has taken a beating.

And then, serendipitously, all this work was coming to me, the work that I am currently avoiding, work that I probably won’t touch until tomorrow.

So the title of this post. One of my musical problematic faves is John Mayer. He and Norah Jones, who is not problematic, are like my version of easy listening–music my dad loved to listen to after classical music and some folk music.

I can listen to this type of coffeehouse music and not have to think. It’s well-crafted, decent, inoffensive music. It’s like drinking a bunch of Coronas while sitting on the beach. You could do it all day and it wouldn’t be a big deal, although you should probably be drinking something with a little more flavor.

Anyway, Mayer has this new song called “Emoji of a Wave.” I’ve been listening to the “Wave 2” part of this album a lot, which I don’t really do with music. It’s been soothing, inoffensive, easy.

I don’t want to feel sorry for a rich white dude, but I feel like he’s so aware to the point that he abstracts and obliterates any sort of gotdamn good sense and proper self-awareness (I’m glad he’s in therapy, though–everyone should go to therapy). And, since he’s a Libra, I think he drink his own Kool-Aid a little too much and is charmed by his own words. And, he may be trying too to hard to be earnest. He has had some cringe-worthy, almost unforgivable moments.

Oh well, back to this song. The song has the lyrics “It’s just a wave; it’s just a wave.” and it has one of the Beach Boys, Al Jardine, along with his son, Matt, singing some beautiful background vocals (Mayer had David Crosby and Graham Nash singing BGVs on his earlier album, Born and Raised). The story of how that came about is pretty cool.

So today, I wiped out on some emotional waves, some really irrational shit with the car payments. My mind knows that it’s not real, that I am safe and fine. But my mushy Cancer moon knows that it’s connected to how my childhood became more and more erratic and unstable. I survived it “just fine”–but these things have a way of catching up with you.

And, so, my emotions have called a work strike. I don’t blame them. With all that I’ve been processing lately, I deserve to take a break during this holiday. Maybe it’s OK to be kinder to myself.

I don’t think I’m recreating those unsure moments now to feel comfortable, but I am a little tired of being comfortable with the low-grade fever of anxiety that I’ve lived with for years down here, riding these undulating waves of chaos and panic. But as I keep telling myself and others–I signed up for this. This is me, following my dream of becoming a writer, almost 30 years too late, but right on time nonetheless.

It’s been fucking scary. Shit. And expensive. Capricorns don’t allow themselves to be scared, but the situations I had been since I moved down here? I didn’t think I signed up for all of that. Could that all have been a part of this healing process? Looking back, I can shake an 8-ball and read: Most Likely.

But it’s nowhere near as bad now.

I’m not as behind on my car payments as I had been in grad school. Somehow, the Universe keeps giving me just enough, even though I’d rather be Scrooge McDuck diving into a vault, filled with gold coins. I can’t wait to be utterly bored by stability.

So, I repeat to myself that it’s just a wave, it’s just a wave, and that I need to hold on until I can finally wash up on shore and take a real breath. I know I’m close.

Earlier today, I reached out for a tarot reading since I still feel like I’m not doing enough–even if Spirit almost screams at me that I am not blocked. Reaching out for help while I’m a lowkey panic is OK (I’m saying this more for my benefit and edification). And it always seems the act of reaching out is more important than the reading itself.

And even before I did that today, before I had my little internal collapse, I felt like if there was any learned helplessness, that it was starting to abate.

I do feel like this is temporary. I do feel like things will get better. I do feel like that I will have that so-called healthy, adult life.

Holding out hope like that feels a little less dangerous now. I just wish I could relax into the spiritual practice of living moment by moment, day by day, not anguishing over whether I will be able to pay my bills.

And it’s a lot to ask of a feeble human: to trust in supernatural beings to take care of earthly needs.

But it’s in those emoji wave wipeouts, the near drownings in bottomless wells of anxiety–

faith…

 

 

It’s just a wave; it’s just a wave.