Monday, November 9, 2015

Asshats

DH and I have been taking the kids hiking the past few weeks - there are some fantastic trails in our town and I've been itching to get out there and check them out. These trails are seriously some hidden gems that most of the townfolk don't seem to know about. We started hiking one set of trails in particular that are fast becoming a part of my top ten fave places to be. When walking them, it's kind of easy to feel like we're all lost in the wilderness, exploring the great outdoors, far away from the daily grind. And there are so many different paths to take - we've been doing this most evenings for the past two months, once the littles get out of school and we haven't hiked all the trails yet.

But, the point of this post is unfortunately not to discuss the merits of these family adventures - instead, I want to talk about an incident that occurred today just as we were finishing up our hike. I want to preface this story by first saying that what happened this evening won't deter us from hiking in the future, nor will it spoil the rest of my night. But since I'm still ruminating on it and I want to let it go and move on, I'm going to spill it here.

As we were finishing up our hike tonight, we came out from the trails by the clearing that leads back to the parking lot and we could see a huge Doberman Pinscher loping towards us. It was not leashed, and I recognized him, and his owners, from a hike we went on just a few days ago. This is the second time I saw him without a leash. For the record, I consider myself a dog person and I do like dogs. I am not, in general, afraid of them. But some dogs, especially large ones, can be very intimidating - even to adults who like dogs. This one intimidated me, and since we just had an incident with another large, unleashed dog a couple of days ago (on the same hiking trails) that involved DS, I was a little more sensitive to this than I might have been in the past. Though I was fairly certain this Doberman tonight meant us no harm and just wanted to check us out, I was very uncomfortable with the idea that he was coming closer. And he came awfully close.

And when DH and I expressed our feelings of discomfort, the couple - a man and a woman, (maybe in their sixties, though I didn't get a close look because I was too busy making sure my littles were all safe and accounted for during this exchange) immediately got defensive. The woman said, "He's okay. No, no, he's okay," when she heard DH attempting to herd the children closer to us and prevent them from bounding out into the open field until the dog was gone. (Like me, DH was thinking that the dog might chase the kids if they started running - obviously unacceptable even if the dog wasn't vicious). When I heard her say that in response to DH's concern that her dog might possibly be a safety issue for our children, I called out, "That dog needs to be on a leash." The lady repeated herself, "No! No! He's okay. It's okay, he's okay."

No. Not okay. It's not okay that this cunt's response to our concern for the safety of our children (because of HER pet) was to completely disregard it. It's not okay that she felt the leash laws in our state and our town that protect my family's right to demand that her dog be on a leash did not apply to her. It's not okay that she thinks it's acceptable to allow her very large and intimidating breed of dog to roam free where it could, however briefly, come in contact with other individuals who are not comfortable with that. It's not okay that she didn't take into consideration that some individuals are allergic to dogs and any form of contact with them could potentially be dangerous. It's not okay that, rather than invoke empathy towards myself and my children, she became almost instantly defensive, and it's not okay that she failed to ever take responsibility and acknowledge that her shitty choices effect other people. It's also not okay that she failed to accede to the many various reasons why leash laws are upheld in our state and our town - a few of which pertain to the safety and well-being of her own damn dog. It's not okay that they never once attempted to call the dog back to them or prevent him from approaching us. I said again, louder this time, "No. It's not okay. He needs to be on a leash."

All of this was being spoken loudly because DH and I were still, I don't know maybe forty feet away from the couple. The dog, at this point, was already closer to us than to his owners. After my second declaration that the dog needed to be on a leash, the man became very condescending and the woman pretty much just lost her shit. The man said something to the effect of, "As long as we have control of the dog, he doesn't have to be on a leash," to which I replied, "No, there are leash laws and all dogs in a public place need to be on a leash."

To that the woman said, "Well, I'm not leashing him." At this point, we all kind of started to converge on one another, as the couple with the dog were heading to their car, DH and the littles were passing them on their way to the field, and I was nearing our car, which was parked right next to theirs. The man said something that I couldn't hear and then followed up with this, directed at me: "Let me explain something to you, Honey," which immediately pissed me off. I replied, "Don't call me Honey" with the same kind of disgust I might have had if I'd stepped in some of his dog's poop. (DH told me afterwards that he responded to that comment, "Don't do that" and the woman's response was something like, "Oh no no, it was innocent, it was innocent" which I think was meant as a way to excuse her husband's comment towards me).

His wife didn't like my response, I guess, because after that she started dropping all kinds of F-Bombs and pretty vicious verbal attacks. She obviously wanted to get the last word in and it didn't seem to matter what I said, because she just kept at it, even though she was obviously preparing to leave. As she was walking to her car, she told me to "Shut the fuck up" and that she was "glad I wasn't her daughter." After the first, DH, sort of stunned, asked me what she had said and I told him she dropped the f-bomb on me. DH said, loudly, so the woman would hear, "Really? In front of the children? You have some nerve, lady."

When she told me she was glad I wasn't her daughter, I confirmed that the feeling was mutual. At least we had that in common. But other than our shared relief over not being biologically related to each other, I can't say we would have had much else to discuss that would have resulted in a pleasant outcome.

It was obvious that she has a seriously debilitating sense of entitlement and a total disregard for at least some societal and interpersonal boundaries. The last thing I remember the man saying was that he would "leave us alone" which I took to mean he actually wanted to back off and move on, even if his condescending tone was still present. If so, his efforts failed because his disgusting wife was totally running THAT show. She F-bombed her way to the car and into the car. Even as she closed her door, leaving her husband to round up the dog, she kept running her mouth - all of it directed at me. When I commented sarcastically to her husband, who had to call his dog to the car several times, that he "really had his dog under control," the woman said, "That's because he smells some shit."

In a matter of, what, three minutes, this woman f-bombed me several times, attempted to insult me on a very personal level, and essentially called me a piece of shit - all in front of my very young children, and all because I demanded that her dog be on a leash and her husband not speak to me in a condescending manner.

So now I'll tell it like it is: The shit that dog was smelling came from it's owners, not me. Anyone who thinks that their dog has more right to roam free than I and my family have to be and feel safe from that dog in a public space, is fucked in the head. Similarly, anyone who believes that they can break the rules because they claim ignorance to any given law, or who believes that they can break a given law because they are above it and it doesn't apply to them, is fucked in the head. Furthermore, anyone who can knowingly disregard laws that have been put in place so that situations such as the one illustrated above can be prevented, and then who dare to respond to their challengers in a way that is completely disproportional and irrational to the situation, are, you guessed it: fucked. in. the. head.

It would be remiss of me to say that this woman was crazy because, in spite of her completely irrational response to my declaration that her dog needed to be leashed, I don't actually think she was. When I say, "fucked in the head" I mean it in the most sane way possible. I think this woman was entirely sane. She's just a big dick. A big dick with a big dog.

I feel bad for the dog. No one should be forced into the company of people like them.

My kids asked questions about the situation, both during and after. It was difficult to answer their questions during the nonsense going on, but DH and I tried our best. DS asked me what the "ex-bomb" was, which I explained was a very nasty word. And while the dumbasses were still getting into their car and within clear sight and hearing-range, DD asked why "those people" were "being nasty and saying bad things." I told them, making sure to project my voice, that "unfortunately, some people are just very rude and nasty."

Then, DH took the kids to the field and I flipped the bird at the assholes as they backed out of their parking space. In hindsight, I REALLY wish I had turned and smiled at them as they drove off, as I think that would have irked them more than my one-fingered-solute likely did. I'm still working on that as a viable response to general asshole-ishness from people though - because I do think it's so much more effective as a defense technique. I have observed that assholes like that hate being laughed at. They hate it when their nastiness doesn't hurt the people they're aiming it at - so what better than to laugh in their faces while they are busy trying to pawn off their misery on the rest of the world?

The end.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Nap Time

Greetings and Salutations, my beloved Blogger world!

I have a few blissfully quiet moments right now, while my babies are at school, napping, or otherwise quietly occupying themselves and I had a strong urge to write. Something. Anything. I thought maybe a blogging update was in order.

Our lives these days are contentedly hectic, as we settle into the Fall season (my favorite!) and I often find myself wishing I had just a little chunk of time somewhere in the day to write. Usually, the urge comes upon me after DH and I have gotten the kiddles all settled and in bed and I have finished up my chores (you know, the endless piles of dishes and dirty laundry that we never seem to get to the bottom of) but I'm generally too tired to do much of anything but fall into bed and maybe read a book or watch a movie on my Kindle. Last night, while watching the latest episode of Walking Dead, DH came home to find me with the Kindle laying across my chest, sprawled across the bed, sound asleep. I think he said he got home around 8:30. I'm usually that tired. And no, I didn't make it through the whole show.

I've had various school holiday parties to make treats for, and our own (new tradition!) Halloween party, as well as DD's sixth birthday party this past weekend. I also got hand-me-down clothes from a neighbor for my littles and bags of clothes for myself from a cousin, all of which had to be sorted, folded, washed, in some cases tried-on, and put away. My pile of laundry in the basement is still ridiculous. But then again, it always is. You wouldn't think tiny people could create so much extra laundry, but they do. Trust me, they do.

I've got so many things I want to write about, but again, so little time for writing these days. For now, I'll settle on jotting down a list of topics I WANT to write about, and maybe I'll try to set aside one night a week to write about them:

1. Our Fall walks, in which we jump in streams, drink tea from travel mugs, peep some leaves, and take ridiculous family pictures on our new selfie stick.
2. My dad being in the hospital, now in significantly improved condition in comparison to his condition just a few weeks ago.
3. The death of a loved one that I found out about a few weeks ago. (I started a post on this one when I found out but never had a moment to finish and publish it).
4. My thoughts on creating a new blog with a much "lighter" (in general) theme, in which I could talk about the daily goings-on of our family. I'm dying for an outlet to keep track of all the little moments of our days - things that I don't want to forget - so it would be a journal, of sorts. I did this for DH when he went on his foreign trip this past summer and I LOVED the results - I kept track of such tiny minutiae during the day for three weeks, which was tiresome but so, so awesome too. I think the kids will really appreciate it in the future.
5. I need a maid. And a personal chef. And a personal trainer. And can we throw in a butler for good measure? I'm not even sure what the point of a butler is, but it seems like one such character would complete the image. The only thing I don't need is a Nanny - if I had all these other people hanging around, I'd get to spend nearly every minute doing fantastic stuff with my littles. Ahhhh, a pipe dream.

Anywho, naptime is nearly over and I'm sure the littles will be popping their heads into the room any time now to ask about lunch or some other important thing.

Hopefully I can carve some time out in my schedule to get back to blogging again soon. I miss writing and I miss my blogging friends. I hope you guys are as fulfilled in your lives as I feel in mine and are enjoying the change of seasons.

Hugs,

Jonsi

Saturday, June 27, 2015

It's Been A Really Long Time

As I mentioned in my last post, DH received unwanted contact from a member of his NFOO during his recent three-week business trip. It came in the form of a voice mail message on his work phone from his Naunt on the date of his thirtieth birthday. I wrote about the last time she attempted to contact him in this post from October 2012 entitled Barrage of Bullshit. And if you'll allow me to do the math for you, that means the last time this shriveled up piece of festering dog snot tried to communicate with DH was 2 years, 9 months ago. This piece of communication also marks the first direct communication from DH's entire FOO since his NSIS's phony attempt at suicide in November 2012, EFIL and L's creepy Christmas cards (sent as an obvious "fuck-you" response to our own letter of NC to them just a few weeks prior) to our children in December of 2012, and the security breach both DH and I experienced on our blogs that same month. If you haven't been following my blog from the beginning, all the links I just provided give a pretty solid case history for our decision to go completely NC from every single member of DH's FOO (and all even remotely connected parties) that year. So the following transcribed message comes from Naunt 2 years, 9 months after her last personal attempted contact and 2 years, 7 months after attempted contact from any Narc or Flying Monkey. I feel the need to point out the length of time between attempts at direct contact from the Dark Side because such measurements of time illustrate well the idea that NC means something very different to both parties: the narcissistic abusers and the victims. In this case, the nearly three years between attempted contact has not changed DH's NFOO in even the slightest capacity, while DH on the other hand, has experienced lots of personal and emotional growth that is helping to further strengthen his desire to remain NC.

On June XX, 2015 at 5:35 PM, Naunt left the following message on DH's work voicemail:

[DH's childhood nickname]? It's your Auntie [Naunt]. I wanted to wish you a happy birthday. Me and [Naunt's daughter] are here, we were just thinking about you...Um...I hope you are doing well...you and your family. And, we miss you. You can call us back at any time, at this number that we just called you from. This is [Naunt's daughter's] cell phone...um...cause actually she wanted to call you and she was...nervous. So, I hope you're doing well [DH's childhood nickname]. It's been a really long time. Happy Birthday. Happy thirtieth birthday. Bye.

My thoughts on this bullshit-that-smells-identical-to-the-last-bullshit-birthday-correspondence from Naunt:

- Both DH and I agree that the likely motivation for Naunt calling from his cousin's cell phone was due to the fact that DH wouldn't recognize the number and therefore be more likely to pick it up, rather than because Naunt's daughter "wanted to make the call but was too nervous to do so," as Naunt stated. The logic in such a claim doesn't add up, and it's kind of funny that Naunt imagines either DH or myself stupid enough to overlook it. If you look at the message, she actually devotes about half of it to over-explaining why she called from her daughter's cell phone, as though such a detail would matter in a genuine happy-birthday message. In reality, it is irrelevant whether or not Naunt's daughter was "too nervous to call DH" and a grown-ass woman calling from her teenaged daughter's cell phone looks more like the act of a sneaky, creepy-ass stalker than a loving "Auntie."

- It is impossible to tell if there is a kernel of truth behind the claim that DH's cousin (who I believe is about sixteen now) was "thinking about DH" or "missing him." There may very well be some truth to that, although DH suggested that he had a hard time imagining that his young cousin (who was ten or so the last time we saw her and whom he had limited interaction with over the course of her life because of their more than fifteen-year age difference) spends a whole lot of time with such endeavors. Who knows if she was even aware that it was actually his birthday (let alone that it was his thirtieth birthday) without her NM pointing out such a fact, in order to orchestrate the "missing" she required from her daughter to partially legitimize the claim that DH is being "missed." What seems obvious to me though, is that Naunt is hiding her true motives for this attempt at contact behind either a partially legitimate or else completely illegitimate "desire" of her own child - an act that shamelessly manipulates and exploits that child while simultaneously sets up DH, once again, too look like the selfish, unfeeling asshole who can't be bothered to communicate with his "nervous" little cousin who "misses him" so much. And really, what person, being aware of these dynamics, would choose to accept these very limited and shitty options?

- I love that she points out how it's "been a really long time," as though we might not have noticed. And again, the notion of time so obviously means something different to her than it means to us. DH and I have spent the last nearly three years growing - in so many different ways. We both have grown emotionally and spiritually, both together and separately. We have evolved. Our family has grown and continues to grow. And the longer DH remains willingly NC, the longer it seems he wants to remain so and the more realizations he makes about where he came from and where he wants to go. Naunt, on the other hand, is still spouting the same bullshit that she spouted three years ago - the tune hasn't changed at all. Instead, I imagine that the idea of it "being a really long time" to her is indicative of perhaps the guilt she thinks he should be feeling over not being in contact with her or the rest of his FOO. I celebrate the two years and fucking nine months silence from this bitch. I imagine that, while she would have him believe she's fucking emotionally devastated without him in her life, she likely only devotes time to thinking about him and the "long time" that he's been out-of-contact with her, when verbally pointing out such a thing warrants some emotional reward on her account. The "it's been a really long time" line from her is really nothing more than a not-so-subtle attempt to pluck DH's guilt-strings, which is particularly funny at this point because that "really long time" of which Naunt refers has actually made those guilt-strings two years and nine months more difficult to pluck.

-This phone call came as no surprise to either one of us. Prior to DH's business trip, we discussed the possibility that he might get some form of contact from some member of his FOO because this birthday was particularly significant. Or at least, socially significant in a way that DH's FOO might decide to pay attention to it because ignoring DH's thirtieth birthday might reflect badly on them (and that's all they really care about anyway.) When DH called me from his office to tell me about the message, I laughed about it. I continually find it funny (in a pathetic sort of way) that such little effort has ever been made towards my husband from his FOO. Like the best they could do was have the piddly "Auntie" call him up to wish him a happy thirtieth birthday, as though she's even kind of significant enough to elicit a strong enough emotional response from DH to warrant breaking a nearly fucking three year NC streak.

- Keeping that last point in mind, I find it intriguing that they use certain "significant" events as a way to occasionally attempt to pull DH back into the fold, but not others. THIS particular birthday of DH's was a potential means of manipulation for Naunt (and whichever other narcissists knew about it or were made aware of it) not because of the significance it holds for DH, but because of the significance it holds for them. Many events have passed in the last (almost) three years that they knew to be particularly significant to DH (his wife's birthday, our wedding anniversary - the most recent of which was our fifth, his children's birthdays) that would only have been on their radar if they thought any of said events could have been used to manipulate him. But they've already tried using his children's birthdays to draw him back in. Those attempts failed. They have already either ignored my birthday to show how little I mean to them in spite of how much I mean to DH, or else sent me nasty messages to illustrate how much they despise me. Those attempts failed. And they have never, even once, acknowledged our wedding anniversary, as I think even NMIL would have a hard time faking happiness over THAT. But DH's thirtieth birthday was apparently uncharted territory. So, Naunt gave it a go.

- A genuine birthday message requires no call back from the recipient. The notion that DH "could" [read: should] call his Aunt back is an emotional demand that doesn't sit well in the context of what is being presented as a "simple" birthday greeting.

- Any correspondence to DH at work has always been and continues to be really super inappropriate, especially now, given the length of time he's been NC and the context of the situation we are in. Do these fuck-tards learn nothing? [Rhetorical question]. Note to all narcs: Sending him a fucking birthday card to his house, where his wife will probably get to it first, is a better tactic, you losers. And if you can't figure out why, than you are either stupider, or lazier than I had previously imagined.

- It is an absolute guarantee that Naunt knows she is part of DH's declaration of NC, as evidenced by her observation in a voice mail message (among other things) to DH in 2012 that she was "aware DH wanted nothing to do with [her or the rest of DH's FOO]." It is interesting that said observation has since been ignored time and time again, whenever it served her purposes (or NMIL's) to do so. I find it creepy that all of the events of the last five years can so easily be swept under the rug for the members of DH's FOO, enough so that even the most explicit evidence of DH's boundaries can be violated by them time and time again. Like, what about the fact that his sister's (however phony) attempted suicide wasn't enough to make him come back into the fold makes any of them think that an insincere piddly little birthday message from someone with less emotional power over him would make him come back into the fold? I don't get it. The only motivation I can see in this for Naunt is that she was somehow hoping she'd get some pat-on-the-back from NMIL if she managed to get some sort of response from DH out of her weak attempt at manipulating him as she would have been able to do in days of old.

So, for the next time that some narcissistic asshole cunt abuser from DH's past rolls around to check up on my blog, I'll say this: Yeah, it has been a long time. And we've been celebrating it. Every single second.

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

DH recently went on a three-week business trip, from which he returned home a few days ago. Prior to the trip, I wanted to write about it here but opted not to because it wasn't information I wanted to make my occasional narc-readers aware of. My original motivation for wanting to talk about the trip was that I thought it would be a great way to illustrate the ways in which healthy, loving families behave during emotionally stressful times. But, since a member of DH's NFOO attempted to contact him during his absence, I now have other motivating factors for writing about this recent trip as well. [I have decided to write about it in two separate posts: With this first concerning the sometimes surprisingly positive effects the trip had on DH and our FOC, and a second post to address the unwanted contact DH received from a member of his NFOO].

This was not a trip that DH volunteered for, and in fact, he attempted to have the travel directive waived until a time that might be more convenient for our family. But when it became obvious that he was fighting a losing battle and that he likely would end up being sent on a trip in the near future that would be even more inconvenient for our family, we both decided he should bite the bullet and just get the trip over with.  During his absence, he missed both DD's and DS's last days of school, our niece's birthday, father's day, and his own birthday. But, as I had wanted to point out when I originally thought about writing this post, I did my best to let him know that we were still thinking about him everyday here at home, that his physical absence was not evidence of an emotional one, and that we could still celebrate those special occasions with him even though he wasn't actually present for them.

We wrote each other lengthy daily emails, chronicling the details of our days: On my end, I jotted down notes during the day about interesting things that had happened, funny or thoughtful things that the kids had said or done, and various thoughts I'd had about any of the many and varied things I tend to think about on a daily basis. I took pictures of things that I wouldn't normally take pictures of - my (second batch!) of failed cucumber plants, our toothbrushes "hugging it out" in their jar by the sink, drawings that the kids had made during the day. I also took lots and lots of pictures of the kids (and some of me) and included those as well. I titled my daily emails, "Daddy Journal Day X" and introduced each email with a variation of the same line, "Greetings and Salutations from this, [our shared whatever], on this [Nth] day of June in the year 2015 on the [Nth] day of your extended absence." DH titled his daily emails "Travel Diary Day X" and he too included pictures and interesting notes of all the things he had seen and done on that given day. The best part about these emails was that they were spontaneous and neither of us had known that the other planned to do it. I actually hadn't thought up the idea to do a daily diary of sorts (though I had known we were mostly going to be in contact via email) until the first day of his absence. The time difference was such that we were on nearly-exact opposite schedules, which made talking on the phone very difficult (and damn near impossible during the first week, when he didn't have access to WIFI in the hotel and the apps we had purchased for our phones that relied on WIFI were useless).

DH sent his emails to me, my Mom, my Aunt, and my oldest brother (whom DH calls "Best Friend [Oldest Brother]") and we all responded to him. My oldest brother shared his fishing exploits with DH, my aunt shared news of her daily activities and Major League Baseball happenings, and my mother kept him up-to-date on the goings-on of the rest of the family. It was fun to wake up to an email from DH and a pleasant way to end my day by uploading the day's photos and share my stories and thoughts with DH.

Prior to DH leaving, my mother had suggested that we make some videos of DH for the kids, where he could talk to them, leave them messages, or read them stories. We loved the idea and it proved to be very valuable when it turned out that talking to them on the phone during his absence was next to impossible. We made the videos a few days before he left and I planned out which ones I would play on what days. In them, he talked about how many days were left until he could come home (to help the kids visualize this, we talk about time in terms of "how many sleeps" until an event arrives), he sang songs to them, he read them stories, or he talked about what the kids were going to be doing that day (one day, it was going to their cousin's birthday party; another day was talking about what kind of donuts they were going to eat for our weekly 'donut day.') Even though DH has been back for several days now, one of the kids still asks to watch these videos everyday.

I also arranged for their to be small "prizes" for a few of the days that DH would be gone - these were small gestures but meant to be thoughtful ways to show the kids that Daddy was thinking about them. One day, Daddy left them bouncy balls that light up when you hit them. One day, they got a bucket of sidewalk chalk. Other days, they got a package of Mentos candies to share, purple nail-polish (because purple is Daddy's favorite color), a new book (Harold and the Purple Crayon) to read along with Daddy in that day's video, and purple tic-tacs. All of these prizes were small but, I think, meaningful to the kids. It was a way to keep Daddy present in their lives, even though he couldn't actually be here with us. I also made each of them a calendar, with the days of his trip blocked in purple colored pencil, on which they could put a sticker each day so that they visualize how long he would be gone for and how many days (or "sleeps") were left until he would be home.

Unbeknownst to DH, I also created a package of "Open When" gifts and envelopes for him to open during his trip. I spent a lot of nights prior to his trip working on this, including games for him to play, pictures of us, funny jokes and anecdotes, and things to do if he got bored. I'm currently still toying with the idea of doing a post (maybe with pictures) of some of the envelopes and their contents. I definitely plan on making a scrapbook or a smashbook of DH's trip, containing entries pertaining to both DH's side of the journey, as well as mine and the kids. The trip, which was initially something I was completely dreading (and honestly, it was very challenging at times for what are probably very obvious reasons) ended up being something that, oddly and perhaps stereotypically - you know, all that "absence makes the heart grow fonder" crap - brought us closer together. I remember, sometime during the middle of his trip, pointing out to DH how much I appreciated his efforts to write me a daily email because I thought they were really an exercise (for him) in seeing the world in a way that he doesn't normally see it: He had to really open his eyes to the world around him and notice details that he normally would overlook, in order to offer me something from his end that would keep us emotionally connected and show me that he was capable of putting forth an attention to detail that would satisfy my needs even while we couldn't be together. I was impressed with his efforts and I told him so.

I mentioned before that DH "missed" both Father's Day and his own birthday during this recent trip, but I made it a personal goal of mine to let him know he was being celebrated and appreciated, even in his absence. Included in his "Open When" packages were envelopes specific to these two occasions - in his "Open When it's Father's Day" envelope, I included two cards (mostly because one was funny and one was serious and I couldn't pick just one). And in his four "Open When it's your birthday" envelopes, I included two cards - one each from me and from the kids - a "birthday boy" pin (because HaHaHa), scratch-and-sniff stickers that smell like birthday cake, and, my personal favorite - "portable hugs" from each of the kids. [Note: A portable hug is traced cut-outs of a person's hands attached together by a length of string]. For DH's part, he took a picture with all of his birthday goodies on, including his hugs, and sent it to me in that day's daily Travel Journal. And at home, as surprises for when he returned, my mom came over to watch the kids so I could clean out the inside of DH's (disturbingly filthy, hadn't-been-cleaned-since-it-was-MY-car) car, and the kids and I could wash and decorate the outside of it. The kids had a blast helping wash the car and decorating the windows with purple window paint, and it took us nearly half a Saturday to accomplish the project. They were, true to form, genuinely excited to help.

I can't take credit for the idea to decorate DH's car, (the initial idea was my mom's - inspiration struck when she found a pair of purple fuzzy dice, which she said she "saw immediately and knew exactly what to do with") but I can take credit for expanding on it (cleaning the inside of the car and including baskets inside, one containing useful items - all of them purple - he might want or need; and the other containing activities or objects specifically for the kids). But the whole endeavor was definitely a joint effort, with my mom spending more than half a day at my house to help me with the kids while I meticulously (probably obsessively) cleaned the car's interior, both of my parents picking up various purple items to "decorate" the newly-cleaned vehicle, and the kids pitching in to do their part in "making Daddy's car so beautiful" as a fun surprise when he got home.

I think DH also genuinely appreciated the "Welcome Home" sign that the kids and I colored for the front door, as well as the many purple balloons we blew up and "decorated" the house with to celebrate his long-awaited homecoming a few days ago. I will say that, though I sometimes felt like I was just barely maintaining my sanity while DH was gone, this was the first time I have felt so emotionally connected to him during an extended absence in the six years that we have been together. I see our personal connection to each other strengthening daily, as a direct result of the hard work he has been putting into his own journey of self-discovery and due to the difficult situations that we have chosen to face, fight, and deal with together. And, as a final note, there is something to be said for the fact that DH's personal achievements and emotional-growth directly correlates to the amount of time he has chosen to genuinely disconnect from his toxic FOO. Keep that last thought in mind as you read my next post about DH's recent contact from the Dark Side.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Magnetic To The Corruptible

"All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible."

-Frank Herbert, Dune

This. This is exactly right.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Emotional Sensitivity

One of the unfortunate aspects of having married an ACoN is the lost/glossed-over/distorted personal history he comes with. By little to no fault of his own, DH has a shaky and often unreliable (where it even exists) memory of his childhood and adolescent years. He doesn't have any accurate or verifiable accounts of information to draw from and it is obvious that, even if we had some semblance of relationship with his NFOO, any information we might have received would likely have been either intentionally or unintentionally erroneous anyway. We have no reasonable source anywhere within DH's FOO to direct our questions pertaining to DH's health or medical records, or the health or medical histories of his closest genetic relatives; our view of DH as a baby or toddler is nearly non-existent because DH's memories don't reach that far back; and our understanding of his life as a young boy are limited to DH's spotty memories of himself at that time. Again, even if we had a relationship with NMIL or EFIL, we could not rely on whatever limited information they might have shared with us because their versions of the truth would have been manipulated to the point of absurdity. There is no one to tell us what DH was like as a little boy - what his preferences were, what activities he enjoyed, how long before he slept through the night, what foods he liked to eat, how he handled various social circumstances. So many of those details are lost forever.

There is one sort of miraculous exception to the situation; one way that we can observe with our own eyes what DH might have been like as a little boy, and in some cases, what he would probably have become if he'd grown up in a healthier environment: and that is our first-born son. DS is so like DH in both appearance and personality that it's almost as though we cloned DH's genes and processed them into a younger version of himself. I try not to verbally share these comparisons with DS too often because I don't want the fact that he looks (and often unwittingly acts) like his father to unfairly shape who he becomes or make him feel as though he has little choice in the formation of his identity, though I have admittedly not been one hundred percent successful in this regard. It dawned on me about two years ago (DS is nearly four and a half now) that even though I meant well whenever I made comparisons between he and his Daddy, such ideologies might not be healthy for his developing self. I realized that, while I meant to point out the positive aspects of his features or personality that reminded me of DH, he might also internalize the comparisons on another level and and assume that he also shared DH's flaws. I also worried that making such constant comparisons between DS and DH might undermine our other children's relationships with their daddy (For example, they might think, "If DS is just like Daddy, but I'm not, then what's special about me?) When I occasionally share with DS that some aspect of his character is "like Daddy's," I try to be very specific, use only very positive examples, and to share them in a subtle way.

But the genetic similarities are many, regardless of whether I point them out to DS, and they do give DH and myself a fantastic view of what DH's childhood could have looked like without the harsh and negative impact of abusive parents. In order to see the similarities inherent in their personalities, I have to push aside DH's unhealthy (learned) behaviors and thought-processes and take a deep look at the structure of DH's personality: that part of his identity that couldn't be taken away from him, no matter what his parents did to him. If I could pinpoint the general overarching theme that is apparent in both my husband and our DS, it would be their emotional sensitivity. And sensitivity, in it's natural state, is a wonderful trait to have. People who are emotionally sensitive are, by my estimation, the definition of "sweet." They are in-tune to the emotions of others and it's almost as though they are hard-wired to have empathy. They are pretty much the opposite of narcissists. I have all sorts of theories about how and why narcissists are attracted to emotionally sensitive people, and how and why emotionally sensitive people (if not given the right tools and defense mechanisms) are often attracted to narcissists. DH's sensitivity was used against him in more ways than one: he was trained, by a skilled sociopath (his NM) to be a people-pleaser - to always put the emotional and physical needs of others ahead of his own, often at the expense of himself. And the development of his self-esteem was not only ignored in some cases, but I'd be willing to bet it was strongly discouraged at all times.

But with guidance and support, I believe that emotionally sensitive children can keep that wonderful sensitivity and still have healthy relationships; and that they can develop healthy self-esteem and learn coping mechanisms to deal with the emotional discomfort they naturally feel when the people around them are experiencing emotional upset. They don't have to be doormats. They don't have to feel "less than" or like their feelings and needs don't matter. They don't have to be bullied and pushed around. As we watch DS grow up, we are seeing exactly why it was so easy for NMIL to do what she did to DH, why it was so easy for her to mold him into a narcissist's wet dream. Like DH, DS doesn't seem to have started life with very much in the way of self-esteem and I have observed him (literally) laying down in the face of bullies.  Without instruction from me, I think that he would be lost in how to deal with bullies and/or strong personality types. A few weeks ago, while playing at the playground, two boys were being generally aggressive towards my children and at one point, would not let them pass to use the slide. Sometimes, when incidents like this happen, I initially step back (as long as no one is being hurt) to observe how my kids are going to handle the situation. And when they require help or guidance, I step in as needed. I watched DS lay down at the kids' feet and hide his face in his hands. It was obvious that the other boys were acting rudely and aggressively, which was completely uncalled for, and it was painfully obvious that DS didn't have the skills necessary to deal effectively with the kids' rude behavior. When the boys wouldn't budge, DS eventually got up and walked back down the playground structure. I went to him and told him that any time there were children who were being rude or who wouldn't let him do something on the playground, he could firmly say, "Excuse me. I'd like to use the [playground equipment] please." or "Excuse me, it's my turn." When the boys approached DS again (while I was still speaking with him) and began their antics towards him again, I firmly told them, "That's enough. You'll need to find something else to do." I'm hoping that between my direct communication with DS when situations like this arise and through my own example, DS will be able to work through his own discomfort when dealing with aggressors, in such a way that doesn't compromise his health, well-being, and happiness.

Because of his nature, DS is sometimes overlooked by others. On Halloween a few years ago, I noticed that DS was being unintentionally ignored by homeowners while we were trick-or-treating. He was the kid who got stuck behind the door, where they couldn't see him. Or he'd get to the door last and they'd already started passing out candy and didn't notice that he'd lagged behind. Or he'd be in the middle of the crowd and they just didn't realize that they'd missed his pumpkin basket. After this happened once or twice, I started telling DS that he needed to speak up when he didn't get his candy; that he could say, "Excuse me, may I have a candy too please? I didn't get one." It was as though DS was invisible and didn't know how to make himself be seen, or wasn't comfortable in a role where he'd have to force people to pay attention to him. It made me sad for him, and once I thought about it, sad for DH, who not only didn't have someone there for him as a child to give him the words to use, or to help him get his candy when he couldn't find his voice, but who actively worked at destroying the possibility of him finding that voice on his own. I don't believe in speaking for children, I believe in giving them the tools to find their own voices - but sometimes we have to step in, and I did, when DS couldn't work up the courage to say, "Hey, what about me?" But it was an eye-opening experience for me, and for DH too, who got to see so clearly how he was NOT treated as a little boy when he struggled (and still struggles) with the same issues.

It is a personal goal of mine to help DS (and DH!) find his backbone. The incident that sparked my need to write this post happened a couple of days ago, when I was in a particularly bad mood one morning and I was again struck by the uncanny similarity between my son and my husband. DS has recently been somewhat randomly telling me that I am "pretty" or that he thinks such-and-such part of me is pretty. I came downstairs one day wearing a tiny bit of mascara and he gazed at me wonderingly and asked why my eyes were "just so beautiful" and what I had done to make them "so pretty." I don't often wear makeup of any kind, so it was unusual for him to see me that way, I'm sure - but he was also the only one to have noticed or mentioned it and it was a very sweet thing for him to say. He kept mentioning my beautiful eyes through out the day. We were getting in the car one day and he said as he hopped in, "Mom, you're pretty. I like telling you that you're pretty." I always say thank you and tell him that it's a very sweet thing for him to say. So the other morning, I woke up in a bad mood and I was struggling with keeping that attitude to myself. This is not a new struggle for me and I often, admittedly, fail. I tend to take out my anger, sadness, and frustrations on those around me - including, I'm sad to report, my children. But on this particular morning, I was making a conscious effort not to do that. After getting frustrated with DD for her lack of focus during her morning chores (it took at least five reminders for her to get dressed before I finally, not so patiently or gently, told her to "Get dressed NOW!") I went into DS's room to check on his morning progress. He was making his bed when I walked in and I told him he was doing a good job. He said [red flag number one], "Mama, please don't be mad at me."

My issue with this statement/thought-process is two-fold. First, it is a pattern of my behavior that the kids have taken obvious note of, that I DO get angry with them when I have no right to and that is MY fault. And two, in this case I wasn't angry with him but still needed him to understand that anger is an acceptable feeling, it just depends on how we handle it. I took a deep breath and collected my thoughts. I told him that I was not angry with him, that I was mostly frustrated with DD because I'd had to tell her so many times to do something and that my upset didn't have anything to do with him in the moment. I also told him I would try my very hardest not to be angry with him just because I was in a bad mood or frustrated about something else. He nodded and said, "Okay" but then continued, [red flag number two] "Mama, if I tell you that you're pretty, will that make you happy?" And I think my heart broke a little bit - in large part because I knew that I had, thus far, failed at my self-designated task of keeping my children from feeling responsible for my emotional well-being or from being afraid that my negative emotions would be directed at them. But my heart broke for another reason, and that was because I recognized that soul who had taken it upon himself to make his Mama feel better - Isn't that just DH in a nutshell - and isn't that exactly what I don't want for my own children? I think that DS's personality lends itself to this type of situation - he is so in-tune to the emotions of others (particularly his parents at this point) and does not [yet] have the healthy coping mechanisms he needs to deal with the discomfort he experiences when he picks up on negative energy around him that he immediately subconsciously thinks, "What can I do to stop Mom from feeling bad?" - as though it's his responsibility; as though he has any control over the unpleasant emotions of others in order to dispel the negativity from coming in his direction. I suppose the one good thing that can be said here, a main difference between someone like NMIL and myself, is that I don't need, require, or look for such attention from my children. I easily recognized that this thought pattern was not a healthy one for DS to have.

So I took another deep breath and collected my thoughts again. I sat down next to DS on the bed and said, "DS, it is always a very sweet and thoughtful thing to tell me that I am pretty. But it's important that you know that you are not responsible for how I feel. It's okay for people to be angry. And the only person who should make me feel better is me, not you or anyone else. It's my responsibility to make me stop being angry." And again, I reassured him that I was not angry with him.

We got on with our day and eventually I called my mom to tell her what had happened. I asked her if I had handled it the right way and if I said the right things. I asked her what else I could have said or should say in the future and shared with her my concerns that merely saying these things wasn't going to change the fact that somewhere inside of him, DS might still feel that responsibility. My mom told me that I had said the right things and that when the issue inevitably came up again (or in the appropriate moments where I could talk to him about it in the future) I could delve deeper into it by telling him that, though sometimes I do get angry when he behaves a certain way, mostly my anger has nothing to do with him. My mother reminded me that I still needed to work on not directing anger or frustration at the kids, particularly when they were undeserving of it (which is most of the time, though not all the time, since there are definitely times when it is warranted). She also made the same observation I had about DS sharing this particular trait with DH and told me that by saying the things I was saying to him, eventually those words would become a part of his inner dialog - So, when he starts to feel like he needs to do something to stop someone else from feeling something unpleasant (so that he can, in turn, avoid feeling unpleasant too), he'll also be able to say logically, "It's okay that so-and-so feels the way she feels, it's not my responsibility to change it." Ideally, that's what I want for him.

When I shared the story with DH, we talked at length about how important it is for us to give DS a strong set of tools to draw on to deal with this difficult aspect of his sensitivity; what I need to do to stop directing my negativity at the kids; and how, if handled differently, DS could wind up being attracted to people like NMIL. It was DH who realized that, at the hands of a narcissistic parent, emotionally sensitive children often end up becoming people-pleasers, lacking in self-esteem or a strong sense of self. And neither of us wants this for our children.

All this being said, it might seem like I have nothing positive to say about sensitive people or about the similarities between my husband and our son. But the reality is that I believe sensitivity is a trait that should be nurtured, and that DH and DS have it (and other wonderful qualities) in abundance. And I can talk at length about the wonderful similarities between these two wonderful people: Like how they both bounce when they fall; and how they can't seem to walk through a room without somehow kicking their feet in such a way that they make violent connection with objects that seem impossibly far out of the reach of their limbs. They both make the same goofy faces that never fail to make me laugh, and they have an inherent silliness about them that make people smile. They both say and do thoughtful things and notice small details that others might overlook. It's particularly special to me that DS looks so much like DH because I feel like I get to see what little boy DH looked like at different ages and stages without needing the pictures for evidence. They both have naturally muscular bodies, and it really is quite adorable to see a pint-sized (relatively-speaking) version of my husband - I mean, my brothers would probably kill for legs that muscular. They are both gentle and I imagine it would be impossible that they could ever even contemplate bullying someone. DS doesn't have an aggressive bone in his body. I'm hoping we'll be able to locate and strengthen the assertive ones though. Ditto for DH. And both DH and DS are very intelligent - though DH still lacks the esteem to fully recognize it. Everyday I see evidence that DH's genes were particularly dominant when it came to making this wonderfully silly, sweet, intelligent little boy. I have genuine hope that we can give him the skills necessary to have healthy relationships in his life and still feel comfortable being who he was meant to be.

And I will say, while it sucks that we don't have an accurate portrait of DH's personal history - that we have few pictures or videos of his childhood and virtually no personable connection to his past in any way, I think it must suck more for the people who don't get to be a part of DH's personal present or future - a present and future which include the amazing little people we have brought into the world. DH's FOO made their choices and it is they, rather than the Jonsies, who are missing something, every moment of every day. [I salute them with my metaphorical middle finger, as per usual: Sucks to suck, fuckers.]