Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Art of Mothering

Fellow blogger and kindred spirit, Claire wrote a short post today containing quotes about motherhood. I really loved the following quote, because it fits perfectly with the concept I've tried to put into words about what I feel a mother's job is:

The art of living is to function in society without doing violence to one's own needs or to the needs of others. The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children.
- Elaine Heffner


I have told DH things like this:

A mother's job is to teach her children how to be in the world. And being pertains to how they relate to other people in their interpersonal relationships, how they see and feel about themselves, and how they can achieve happiness.

I am sad for Claire who, like so many other ACoNs and children who have been abused, never knew what it was like to have a loving mother. Motherhood, by its very nature, is a powerful thing. Like many people do in positions of power, mothers can abuse the power they have been given.

I strive everyday to be the best mother I can be, and I know that my mothering skills can always improve. I want to show my children how to be in the world, I want them to live, learn, and love. I want them to know true happiness and be able to work through all the struggles that life will occasionally throw at them. I was given a great start in life because I had a wonderful mother, one who is as loving and devoted as they come. Is she perfect? No, of course not. But she is one of the few people on this earth who I know I could trust without any doubts, who I can turn to when I'm in need, who taught me that truth and sincerity are the only policies by which to live. I know depth because of what my parents showed me. They are not responsible for who I am or what becomes of me, but they were responsible for making me feel loved, nurtured, and appreciated as a little Jonsi. They did their jobs.

Now, it's my turn.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas Dear Friends and Cherished Readers!

DH and I had a spectacular Christmas this year. It was beautiful, in every way. There was no nonsense or worry. No anxiety or doubts.

Just us and our beautiful children, surrounded by those we love and who love us in return. Ours is a no-strings, everlasting, unequivocal kind of love. DH and I talked, only briefly, on the way home from my mother's house last night, about how its amazing that anyone would be willing to give up on what we have. When I opened up the conversation, I told him, "I can't believe that anyone would be willing to give this up," and I gestured to the back, where our beautiful, perfect babies were happily chirping and laughing off the last of the sugar and spirits of the day.

I know DH and I are not perfect: no where near. I know that we will make mistakes: in life, in parenting, with each other. But I also know that the love and respect we have for each other is something that few others have or will experience in their own relationships. I know that we are not willing to settle for mediocre: not in ourselves or in our relationships with others. I know that our children mean more to us than anything in the world, and that we will do everything we have to to give them the best possible chance in life.

I want for my children to be happy, as I am.

I want for my children to feel an overwhelming sense of love and understanding from their parents.

I want for my children to look back on their childhoods fondly and learn how to "be" in the world so that they are confident in their abilities and in themselves.

I want for their memories of Christmases past to be like every Christmas that I can remember from my own childhood: warm, fun, and full of the most genuine kind of love in existence.

This Christmas was a beautiful one because DH and I were happy, because it was not marred by contact from miserable people, because we got to spend it with people who love us unconditionally, no matter our faults. This Christmas was beautiful because it was not about the presents - not for the givers or the receivers, and because the most amazing gift is getting to watch my little ones enjoy the bounty of the day.

I called my mother late last night, after we had cleaned up the house from the day's festivities, and told her it was a wonderful Christmas. She said my father asked her if she got everything she wanted. When she asked him, "Well, what did I want?" my dad responded, "To see your babies." (She calls all of us - her children, and her children's children - her babies). My mother smiled and my dad finished, "Yes, you got everything you wanted."

It was a beautiful Christmas, Dear Friends and Readers. I hope yours was too, and that, even if you couldn't escape all of the drama and nonsense that this particular holiday can sometimes bring, you were able to enjoy at least a part of it. Merry Christmas!

Love,

Jonsi

A Wonderful Life

In honor of this beautiful holiday, and one of my favorite **Christmas movies:

Bread... that this house may never know hunger.
Salt... that life may always have flavor.
And wine... that joy and prosperity may reign forever.
Enter the Martini Castle!


I love this quote. If I had to pick a favorite, I'd say this is it. My mother has a tradition that she started several years ago whenever a loved one buys a new house. She enlists the aid of two others, and when they enter the new home for the first time, each person says one of the lines above, and hands the accompanying object to the new homeowners. My mother did this for one of my aunts, a very close family friend, my brother and sister-in-law, and DH and I when we bought our house at the end of 2009. I still have the sachet of salt that my mother made. It sits in my glass cabinet in the kitchen. (She replaces "Martini" with the last name of the person/couple who own the house). For that reason, I'd say it's a particularly meaningful quote for DH and I.

Mr. Emil Gower: I owe everything to George Bailey. Help him, dear Father.
Giuseppe Martini: Joseph, Jesus and Mary. Help my friend, Mr. Bailey.
Ma Bailey: Help my son, George, tonight.
Ernie Bishop: He never thinks about himself, God, that's why he's in trouble.
Bert: George is a good guy. Give him a break, God.
Mary: I love him, dear Lord. Watch over him tonight.
Janie Bailey: Please, God, something's the matter with Daddy.
Zuzu Bailey: Please bring Daddy back.


Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you'll ever be!

You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn't, Mr. Potter. In the whole vast configuration of things, I'd say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider!

George Bailey: Now, will you do something for me?
Zuzu Bailey: What?
George Bailey: Will you try and get some sleep?
Zuzu Bailey: I'm not sleepy. I want to look at my flower.
George Bailey: I know-I know, but you just go to sleep, and then you can dream about it, and it'll be a whole garden.
Zuzu Bailey: It will?
George Bailey: Uh-huh.

George Bailey: [the staff celebrates closing the building and loan company with only two dollars remaining, to stay in business] Get a tray for these two great big important simoleans here.
Uncle Billy: We'll save 'em for seed.
George Bailey: A toast! A toast! A toast to Mama Dollar and to Papa Dollar, and if you want to keep this old Building and Loan in business, you better have a family real quick.
Cousin Tilly: I wish they were rabbits.

Little Mary: Is this the ear you can't hear on?
[whispering in his bad ear]
Little Mary: George Bailey, I'll love you 'til the day I die.

Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.


Credit: It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

'Tis The Season

I stumbled across a new blog a couple weeks ago titled ACONography, where Claire writes about her struggles as the daughter of a narcissistic mother. In her post, "The Demons of Doubt and Disappointment" she talks about one of the many ways that narcissists attempt to circumvent an order of No Contact: They use gullible and easily-manipulated family members as pawns and aim their attacks at the most unsuspecting targets - your children. Claire has given me permission to use her post as a talking point here on my own blog, which I consider a privilege because her post was heartfelt, well-written, and extremely relevant to the goings-on in our struggles with DH's FOO.

Here is the post I referenced above, highlighting/italics for emphasis mine:

The Demons of Doubt and Disappointment
by Claire
Posted: 12/1/2011

At this point, my mother's refusal to respect my request for no contact with me, my husband, or my children is more of an irritating mosquito buzzing in my ear than the crazy-making depression sparker that it would have been before, but it still pisses me off when she crosses the boundaries I have defined. This time gifts were sneaked into my car after a visit with some other relatives. She had apparently given a bag of items to them, knowing that they would see me. They didn't tell me what they were putting in the car. I knew this might happen, but I'm disappointed that it did.

I'm disappointed that my relatives allowed themselves to be used as mules, even though I know it was probably easier for them to just take the stuff than to stand up to my mother.

I'm disappointed that the relatives probably don't think I have a good reason to have divorced myself from my parents, and probably feel sorry for those poor people, robbed of their rightful relationship with their grandchildren.

I'm disappointed that I didn't step up and say "whoa, what are you putting in my car? Nope, won't accept it." Not confronting it is probably the kindest route as far as my relatives are concerned - why make them uncomfortable? - but still, I feel like not standing up for myself is "losing" somehow.

I'm disappointed that my mother disregards my request. Not surprised, but still disappointed.

I'm disappointed that once again, I have to find a way to deal with these unwanted gifts. I'm disappointed that once again, I've been put in the position of either giving my kids gifts that I said I don't want them to receive, letting the kids be aware of the gifts but disposing of them, or preventing the kids from ever knowing that the gifts arrived.

The disappointment kicks off the demons of self-doubt. Am I being a jerk? Should I try to preserve/rebuild a relationship between my parents and my children? Is it horrible that I try not to let the kids know when cards and gifts arrive? Is it deceitful of me? Is it wrong not to give a child a gift that was sent for him? But I told the giver not to send them! I don't want to see clothing she sent on my children's bodies or in the laundry, or toys she gave them scattered across my floor!

Every time this happens, I feel like writing a letter or email message telling her to CEASE AND DESIST. I said NO and I meant NO. I feel like telling her, "anything you send will be recycled, thrown out, or donated - the children will not see them. Your money is being wasted." I suspect, though, that the gifts aren't really for the kids - the toys are poor quality, the clothing is deep-discounted, and nothing is wrapped nicely. This last bunch was put into random paper shopping bags with sharpie marker inscriptions. She doesn't want to actually give nice gifts, presented nicely, to my children. She wants to get a dig in at me. She wants to put me on the spot. I suspect that she knows that the kids don't receive the gifts - the "we love you and we miss you" notes are for me to read and the gifts are being given so that a) she has the toddler-ish pleasure of defying me and b) so that she can look like a good grandma to the rest of the world. So I don't write a message to her, because I feel like then she would be succeeding in getting me to engage with her. And the first rule of dealing with my mom is DO NOT ENGAGE. It won't change anything; it'll just give her the satisfaction of getting a rise out of me.

If she/they really loved their grandchildren, they'd respect their mother's wishes. If she actually missed them, she'd work hard to figure out what to do in order to reestablish a relationship with me, so that she can see them. She wouldn't be trying to work around me by sending token gifts.

I wondered what the wording of my no-contact email message to them was, so I searched for it in my Sent folder tonight, expecting to hate what I saw, but it was actually a great email. It was clear, it was well-thought-out, it didn't attack, it made polite requests, it showed sympathy for what they're feeling. Why do I doubt myself for preventing my kids from receiving gifts sent by people who cannot engage with me in a respectful manner consistent with how I want to be treated? It's ridiculous.

This blog post is all over the map. Ugh.

Tonight I got home with the kids, dodged a question from the eldest about what was in the bags (he rightly assumed that it was gifts), and took the stuff straight up to my bedroom. While the kids played, I took time away from them to go through the bags quickly, so that everything could be taken care of before they found it. I threw away the packaging immediately, recycled the maudlin birthday card for the youngest, and grabbed an AmVets bag for the gifts. Took it up to the attic. Done. But I'm frustrated that she continues to put me in this spot, and I'm tired of feeling like an asshole.

Bleah.


Upon reading this post, I felt a pang of sorrow and a deep sense of camaraderie with Claire: My do I know well the feelings that she has described! I, too, have felt the "loss" of not standing up for myself (or for others) in situations where I wanted to, needed to, should have. I too have questioned whether it's right to withhold cards and gifts that are sent to my children from ill-meaning and manipulative relatives. I too have made the realization (many times over!) that any relative who continues to send their strings-attached token gifts in lieu of actually doing the work required to change their behaviors and make honest amends for the wrongs they have committed is not loving, considerate, kind, or honorable. And, though I have not felt the disappointment Claire describes (since NMIL is not my mother, I haven't the history required to feel disappointed in her behaviors) I have witnessed it firsthand in my husband.

The behaviors of Claire's NM and FOO as described in her post above seem to be so typical in the world of narcissists, as is continually evidenced both in my personal life and in the snippets of lives I see here in our blogging community. But my main reason for wanting to re-post Claire's recent piece was not to discuss the similarities between her story and mine, it was so that I could attempt to tackle some of the questions DH and I have been forced to ask ourselves in recent years: 1. How do you eliminate narcissists from your life when they refuse to acknowledge your boundaries, specifically during the holiday season? 2. How do you deal with the flying monkeys who act (either knowingly or unknowingly) according to the narcissist's evil plans and 3. What do you do when they attempt to use your children as a means to attack you?

Common problem when dealing with a N: N uses unsuspecting pawns to do her dirty work for her. In Claire's case, in this particular instance, her NM had family members sneak gifts for Claire's children into her car while she wasn't looking. Heinous, I tell you Dear Reader. Heinous! First of all, I find it sickening that family members would follow-through on this so-obviously dark deed. No matter how her NM painted it, sneaking presents into Claire's car against Claire's knowledge is fucking shady and downright nefarious. The act of sneaking denotes a kind of sinister behavior, and not one that I would want to be associated with, personally.

NMIL is sneaky. EFIL and L are sneaky. Sneaky is not good. And when one has to resort to that type of behavior, it tells me that they KNOW they are up to no good. According to dictionary.com, one of the definitions of this term is a rather fitting one for how Claire's family members chose to act, "to behave in a cowardly or underhanded manner."

And then Claire brings up two really great points: "...my relatives allowed themselves to be used as mules, even though I know it was probably easier for them to just take the stuff than to stand up to my mother...the relatives probably don't think I have a good reason to have divorced myself from my parents, and probably feel sorry for those poor people, robbed of their rightful relationship with their grandchildren." Ah the juxtaposition: we have these cowardly people who act in such a way that illustrates their gutlessness and paints them as accomplices in an abuser's games, while still managing to appear human insofar as they are able to empathize. The problem? They are empathizing with the wrong fucking person! They are empathizing with the person who wishes to use their blind faith as a means to torture others. They are empathizing with the person who is asking them to continue destroying her chance (and theirs!) at having a loving, meaningful relationship with someone who genuinely wants it.

While I realize that the post I have copied represents only Claire's feelings and interpretations of the events that occurred, and that there are as many perspectives to the situation as there are people involved, I also firmly believe that she is right: I think that the relatives who so readily did the N's dirty work were taking the easy road, rather than the right one. I think that they probably sympathize with Claire's NM, rather than empathize with Claire. I think that they are willing to put Claire, Claire's husband, and Claire's children in the direct line of fire to save their own asses. It could very well be that I am only applying my personal experience to someone else's and that her situation is different. It could be that my perception is off, and that I don't know what I'm talking about.

But I can't help but feel that anyone who is put in these kinds of circumstances, as DH and I have been, as Claire has been, and as countless others have been, must find a way to save herself from them, lest she forever be bombarded by the narcissists and their flying monkeys. Unfortunately, the method I have found that has been most successful involves cutting ties permanently with every single person who chooses to be a pawn in the narcissist's game. Whether the pawns are dirtying their hands knowingly or unknowingly has never really mattered to me, what matters more is that as long as they continue acting in a way that is physically, mentally, or emotionally damaging to myself or my loved ones (especially after it has been brought to their attention) then I can not allow them to be a part of my life...not even a small part.

Okay, so I have already noted how dastardly it is for the pawns to be doing the N's dirty work. But doesn't that notation speak to the exact plans that the N has laid out? If we're so focused on what the flying monkeys are doing, how can we properly address what the wicked witch is actually scheming behind the scenes, right? At least that is what the narcissist is hoping for. I find myself getting so angry at these flying monkeys - and don't get me wrong, I think they deserve every last bit of that anger - but eventually that anger MUST lead back to it's main source: the narcissist.

Claire is not fooled. She says, "I'm disappointed that my mother disregards my request. Not surprised, but still disappointed." I suppose the disappointment comes from having high expectations. If you don't expect much, it's less likely you'll be disappointed. But, oh, how well I know the sentiment! My DH has expressed much the same feeling about his own NM. He has told me on so many occasions that he is "not surprised" by her behaviors, "but still disappointed" by them. And, where the disappointment stems from having hope, the lack of surprise stems from a lifetime of having his voice diminished, his needs unmet, and his relationships destroyed.

Common problem when dealing with a N: They attempt to use your children as a means to attack you. Claire writes, "I'm disappointed that once again, I have to find a way to deal with these unwanted gifts. I'm disappointed that once again, I've been put in the position of either giving my kids gifts that I said I don't want them to receive, letting the kids be aware of the gifts but disposing of them, or preventing the kids from ever knowing that the gifts arrived." Oh Claire! Again, I am reminded of NMIL and her wicked deeds: Sending flowers to our DD on her first birthday, giving meaningless gifts or none at all. Every gift had thousands of strings, every offer was an elaborate ruse to win my husband's allegiance so that she could have him back where she wanted him: under her thumb.

NMIL and EFIL & L are still up to their dirty deeds, just as Claire's NM is up to hers. And I would say that, no matter the circumstances, their pitiful attempts to use our children as pawns in their games are nothing more than obvious and pathetic failures. Claire is so right when she says, "She doesn't want to actually give nice gifts, presented nicely, to my children. She wants to get a dig in at me. She wants to put me on the spot. I suspect that she knows that the kids don't receive the gifts - the "we love you and we miss you" notes are for me to read and the gifts are being given so that a) she has the toddler-ish pleasure of defying me and b) so that she can look like a good grandma to the rest of the world." She goes on to say, "DO NOT ENGAGE!"

Claire, I too know the feeling of wanting to say, "Stop! I said no and I meant no damnit!" And I've also had the realization, like you, that the best way to say no is with your actions, rather than with your words. And not engaging is the way to go. Not engaging sends the "no" message better than any words you could ever speak, or letters and emails you could ever write. Especially because you've already said "no" with your voice, and your voice went unheard.

Narcs aren't interested in true reconciliation, nor do they truly envision having loving relationships with their grandchildren while they are busy sending out token gifts. Instead they are, as Claire so aptly pointed out, merely putting on a show for the rest of the world while simultaneously making the attempt to win back their favorite old sources of narcissistic supply. Luckily for DH and I, our children are very young and we have cut NMIL and her mindless followers out of the picture long before she had a chance to inflict any long-lasting damage. Others are not so lucky and have children who are older and much more aware than our one and two year old. I have read so many blogs in our community where ACoNs are struggling with the question, "What do you do when they attempt to use your children as a means to attack you?"

Well first of all, if you are asking that question, then you are already on the right track in my opinion. Because if you're asking that question, it means you are already aware enough to know that ANY attempts to have contact or communication with your children (particularly if it's in direct violation of your requests, needs, or wishes) is merely an attempt to hurt you. It also means that you recognize that, when someone is being used as a pawn, then that person is seen as being disposable...and when someone is disposable, it means that they will eventually be discarded, manipulated, or destroyed. This of course signifies that not only is the narcissist seeking to destroy you and any boundaries you've managed to enforce, but she is also seeking to destroy your children in the process.

Here are some of the answers I've come up with to answer this really tough question:

1. Be honest, but age-appropriately so. What you can tell your sixteen-year-old is more than likely not appropriate to tell your three-year-old.
2. You are the parent and it is your responsibility to protect those little ones. You have the right to control the controllables, especially when it comes to keeping your babies safe from the harm that an abuser would inflict on them. Don't let your children be used as pawns.
3. Keep records! You can keep a file of any cards or letters sent to your children, and jot down notes about what crap was sent to them and the date. And then you have the option later, of sharing that information when you feel your children are old enough to comprehend the situation. That way, maybe it will feel less like you are keeping things from your children - because in that case, you would be able to present them with the facts at a later date.

We all know it's not about the stuff they send. It's about the message behind it: and once again, Claire hit the nail on the head: "She doesn't want to actually give nice gifts, presented nicely, to my children. She wants to get a dig in at me. She wants to put me on the spot." Yes, that is exactly what she is doing! That is what NMIL is doing too, and EFIL & L, and any other narcissistic parents out there. Those birthday gifts and holiday gifts they are sending are not being sent out of genuine love and kindness - they are sent to maim, to hurt, to attack. Whether poorly wrapped, or prettily packaged, whether embarrassingly cheap or over-the-top expensive, the message is still the same: I want to crush you. I want to cripple you with guilt. I want to put you in a hard spot. I want to make you look like the bad guy. I want to buy your love. I want to show the rest of the world that I am not the evil person your estrangement has painted me to be. I want to force you back on hands and knees. I want. I want. I want.

And to those messages I say what my dad says, "How does it feel to want?"

You can't stop them from wanting. But you can protect yourself and your loved ones. You have the power. You have the intelligence. You have the courage. And if you stop engaging, they'll eventually stop too. When their tactics no longer work, when their crummy gifts don't accomplish what they were sent to accomplish, those narcissists will give up. They'll move on and seek other targets.

So let them want.

A Holiday Note From Freckles

Yesterday, DH and I received a note from Freckles. Though both the envelope and letter were addressed to the both of us, Freckles was really writing directly to me. I believe it was her attempt to get me to engage and to...get this...feel badly for her husband.

The letter was short, just the front of one loose-leaf lined piece of paper. In it, Freckles wrote about what she imagines we are doing now and that she hopes we are well and happy. She also chose to share some of their recent big news, most of which I would like to keep private out of respect for Freckles. There is one part I'd like to share with you, as I found it to be of particular significance to our estrangement from them. Freckles wrote:

"Double Agent's Uncle passed away last week after a six month battle with cancer. This is DA's first experience with loss (other than losing [DH's name]). So it's been hard on him. He still hopes and waits for someday in the future when there can be reconciliation between the two of them."

I take up several issues with this:

1. We have been set up to equate the loss of DA's uncle with the loss of my husband's friendship. It seems clear to me that we're to assume that DA was close with this uncle, and that the loss he feels in losing this uncle to cancer is supposedly on par with the loss he feels in losing his friendship with DH. This equation seems far fetched to me. DH is not dead and their relationship was ended by choice, whether DA wants to see it that way or not. I think that it is insulting to lump the termination of my husband's friendship in with the ending of a loved one's life. I also think it was Freckles' attempt to get me to feel badly for her husband, because she still thinks that if I sympathize with him, then I will interfere by pushing my husband towards reconciliation with her husband.

2. "He still hopes and waits for someday in the future when there can be reconciliation between the two of them" smacks of inevitability. Freckles has made it sound as though reconciliation between her husband and mine is a matter of "when" rather than a matter of "if." She can see it that way if she wants to, but I choose not to. In particular because reconciliation doesn't just "happen." Reconciliation would require that DA's allegiance be with my husband, rather than with my husband's NM. Reconciliation would require that he learn how not to be a pompous asshole and treat everyone else like they are below him. Reconciliation would mean he would have to offer his genuine apologies to myself and my husband. Reconciliation would require many, many things, that I am pretty sure DA is not willing or capable of doing. So the fact that Freckles writes about DA's "hopes" for the inevitable reconciliation means little more to me than that she and her husband subscribe to the same patterns of belief that they did when we decided to add them to our list of No Contact. Nothing has changed and they are still just a part of my DH's toxic past.

Overall, I'm saddened by the letter from Freckles, more than I am angry or annoyed. She is someone who I would have liked to have been friends with, under different circumstances. I feel that she is being genuine when she says she wishes us well and that she means no ill-will. But, as it stands, I will not engage. There is a choice to be made, and as I have done many times before, I will do again: I choose my husband.

Every time, I choose him.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Creepy

So.

NMIL recently changed her profile picture on Facebook.

It's the same picture that her daughter has on HER profile for Facebook.

And it's a picture of her daughter.

Not her daughter and her.

Just her daughter.

Now I know that some people set their profile pictures to be pictures of their children, and quite frankly, that is a practice that I find to be pretty unsettling,in general. But, specifically, right now, it's just fucking creepy. Like, sending-chills-down-my-spine-nightmarish kind of creepy.

No, I mean, really. There is something so horrifyingly disturbing about googling NMIL's name and having a picture of her daughter pop up instead. I feel like I'm in an episode of the Twilight Zone.

It's not even a candid photo of NSIL. It's one that looks like it was taken by a professional photographer, and it looks as though NSIL was, quite literally, modeling, though I don't think that she's a model by profession. If I had to guess, NSIL either took advantage of the services of some family-friend who happens to be a professional photographer, or else NMIL paid someone a butt-load of money to take pictures of her daughter for the sake of presentation and for her own narcissistic self-preservation.

I've been waiting for the right time to tell you this, Dear Reader, and now seems as good a time as any:

NMIL and SIL have the same name.

No, not similar names.

It's the same name.

Like, if NMIL's name is Christy** then NSIL's name is Kristy**. See what I mean? It's the same name. And however much NMIL claims that she wanted to name her daughter "Kristy" because she always wanted a daughter that she could call "Kris" the fact of the matter is that she gave her daughter the same damned name.

NMIL mostly goes by a nickname that is a derivative of her birth-name, but it really doesn't matter. On her checks, she goes by her first name. You can google her full name and still find her public records. I first realized she and her daughter had the same name when we received her check for our wedding and I started laughing. I said to DH, "You've got to be shitting me. She named her daughter after herself?"

Sheesh, talk about starting off life with NO chance to be a separate individual from one's mother. We don't live in a society where it's considered normal, at all, to name a daughter after her mother, so that's not what's going on here.

No, what's going on here is that we have a full-fledged narcissist who is so methodical in her manipulations and well-thought out in her long-term schemes, that she has practically ensured that this girl has no chance of escaping the severe dysfunction she was born into.

And this whole, "I'm going to use this beeeeaaaauutifulllll picture of my daughter as a representation of myself on this public profile" thing is absolutely one-hundred percent connected, no further proof necessary.

It's completely mind-boggling to me...that anyone could get away with this. That others can be so easily fooled by it.

No doubt, NMIL's "friends" who see that picture will think, "Oh, how sweet, she loves her daughter sooooooooo muuuuuccchhh that she put up that beaaauuutttiful picture of her darrrlinnnnngg daughter! Oh, she's such a good mommy. She's so proud of her daughter." And that is precisely what she's hoping people will think. In some weird way that I have trouble wrapping my mind around entirely, she is exploiting this photograph of her daughter, as she has exploited her entire existence: She is using her daughter as a completely inaccurate representation of her Self. It's as though she wants people to see HER when they look at her daughter, and vice versa.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: NSIS is NMIL. But now I'll add this: NSIS is NMIL with the power of YOUTH, which NMIL is rapidly losing her grasp on...And we all know how scary AGING is to a narcissist.

Holy hell if DH's poor sister hasn't been given the shittiest lot in life...to be unwittingly chained, since the dawning of her very existence to a monster like NMIL?

I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

**These are not NMIL and SIL's real names. I have chosen these names as a means to illustrate reality while still protecting their identities.

I'm In A Celebratory Mood

December marks several reasons for us to celebrate every year. Of course there is Christmas, my favorite holiday. And last year, about a week before Christmas, DS was born, giving me yet another reason to look forward to December every year.

But I have also found another reason to celebrate this particular month, and that is due to the fact that December marks our one-year anniversary of being NMIL-free. Even though we didn't officially go NC until April of 2011, the last time we physically saw her was in December of 2010, the day after DS was born. It's true that there was some very superficial and limited contact with NMIL in the few months following that day, before we officially went NC, but I still feel triumphant about the fact that she has been physically gone from our lives for almost one year. And, there is definitely a sense of pride knowing that the physical distance we've maintained has been our personal choice, held fast by a steadfast resolve on our parts to keep our healthy boundaries in place. DH and I CHOSE this route, to be NMIL-free, and there is a sense of peace in the decisions we have made to lead us here.

In about a week, it will be official: One year NMIL-free.

I wanted to take some time in this post to reflect on that last meeting with NMIL, because it was markedly different from the one we had with her when DD was born, and even though I consider it a success in terms of maintaining our boundaries, I am happy to say that we won't have to repeat it as our family continues to grow.

Prior to DS's birth, DH and I decided that we would not inform any of DH's FOO when I went into labor, when we were on our way to the hospital, or when I gave birth. I knew that I would only be comfortable telling his parents that DS was born when I was in my hospital room, showered, and prepared for them to visit. It had to be that way because of how they behaved for the birth of DD one year before. These same rules did not apply to my FOO because they would have been unnecessary and unwarranted.

It's called Cause and Effect, the definition of which is, "Noting a relationship between actions or events such that one or more are the result of the other or others," according to Dictionary dot com. In other words, our rules (or boundaries, or limits, call them what you will) were a necessary reaction to the actions and events that had taken place previously. What's more, this whole "cause and effect" notion can be seen in a larger context, when you look at how our estrangement from DH's entire FOO has panned out. But on the lesser scale, the boundaries we put in place for the birth of our DS last December had to be invoked for the sake of our own emotional and physical well-being.

I think it is terribly unfortunate that DH does not have parents we could safely share that information with. Just moments after DS was born, I was on the phone with my own mother, telling her that "We have a new baby boy!" She already knew I was in labor and had been put in charge of DD for the duration of our hospital stay, so it came as no surprise to her that DS was born. She relayed the information to the important people and everyone made plans to come and visit us.

I can not say that NMIL wasn't surprised about the birth of DS, nor would I say that there isn't some satisfaction in the idea that we took her off-guard. Once I was out of the delivery room, had taken a shower, and the first round of visitors came, DH asked me if it would be alright if he called his parents. He asked me because he was protecting my rights and my privacy, something he knew his parents would not do if given the opportunity. By the time we got to our room, which was several hours after DS was born, it was very late and I did not want to see his family, or deal with their antics. I told DH that I was okay with him calling to let them know that DS had been born, but I wouldn't be comfortable with them visiting until the next day. There was a part of DH that wanted to call his parents sooner, that desperately wanted them to be involved in the birth of our new baby, even in some small way...but by December of last year, that part of him was shrinking and making room for reality: Whatever hopes he had for a relationship with his parents were much less important than creating a safe place for his new, growing family.

First, DH called his EF, who (true to form) did not pick up his phone and did not respond until the following day.

Then he called NMIL. Although the news that we'd had DS could not have been all-together shocking since she did know our due-date, I have always imagined that it was still a surprise for her to hear the news without having had even the slightest hint or pretense. People like NMIL always think that they are going to be kept in the loop because they believe that their targets are too stupid and too easily manipulated to act any differently. Narcissists assume that they will be included, invited, accepted; that their abuses will be tolerated. NMIL probably thought that we wouldn't dare keep her so far on the outside that she wouldn't even know I was in labor, especially given how DH had informed her the year before for the birth of DD.

But last year was different, and she had no idea that I was in labor. Again, I feel a sense of satisfaction just knowing that DH was strong enough to fight against his NM's intense training in order to protect me and his little ones when we needed him the most. Had he been weaker, he might have caved and called his mother against my desire that she not be informed. But he found in him an inner strength and resolve that he probably never knew existed and was able to fulfill the emotional and physical needs of his wife, daughter, and newborn son.

It was beautiful.

So DH called NMIL and told her we'd had DS. She asked to come and visit and DH told her that we would call her the next day when she'd be allowed to come and see him. She didn't ask questions and didn't press for more, as she had when DD was born, and I attribute some of her lack of aggression to the fact that she was taken off-guard. It is not often when you get to surprise a narcissist, but when it happens the results can be very powerful. If I had to guess, I'd say she'd gotten the wind taken out of her sails just because of how we chose to handle telling her the news, and she didn't quite know what to do.

She got a little pep back by the next day, and called DH in the morning before he called her: a pathetic and obvious attempt to gain back some of the power she probably felt she'd lost the night before. Why is the fact that she called DH significant? Because a mother who truly respected her son and daughter-in-law and saw them as being deserving of rights and consideration would have waited for them to call her. She would have respected their time, their needs, and their clearly-stated boundaries ("Mom, I'll call you tomorrow and let you know when you can come and visit) without question. DH did not catch all of this and I did not point it out to him at the time. Quite frankly, NMIL and her power-plays were just not important enough for that. DH told his NM that he would call her back when we were ready for her to visit and followed-through.

I have mentioned before that when NMIL and NSIL came to the hospital, they only stayed for a short-length of time. She stayed long enough to make an underhanded comment to DH about his weight, give us some thought-less gifts, and take a bunch of pictures of DS (all of which I'm sure she showed off to her hundreds of "friends" in her ongoing attempt to appear the doting grandma...we know how that goes). NMIL became obviously uncomfortable when my aunt arrived fifteen minutes into her visit and therefore didn't stay much longer after that. In terms of meetings with narcissists, it probably couldn't have gone much better than that.

And then, we never saw her again.

And we have no plans to because we know she'll be the same NMIL fifty years from now that she was the entire time we knew her. DH can hold out hope that she'll change some day. I'm lucky in that she isn't my mother, so I don't have to. The most important thing to me is that DH and I protect ourselves and our babies from her and others like her. I fully respect DH's right to feel some hope in his heart that his NM and EF will change someday, and DH fully respects my right to feel that those people do not have a place in our lives because of the reality of how they have behaved. I do not believe that it is altogether impossible for those people to change...I simply think it is unlikely.

So DH and I have found another reason to celebrate this December: We're bringing out the old and ringing in the new. We're celebrating the acceptance of reality and the blissful feeling of peace. We're rejoicing in our right to maintain boundaries and our strength to do so. We are sending up cheers to freedom and new life. December holds promise and love for us, and we'll carry that into each and every new year.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Where Am I?

I apologize for the lack of posts this past week, Dear Readers. Although I have gone longer stretches without posting, this is the first time I've really felt anxious about not writing. Maybe it's because of the rapidly approaching Christmas holiday and New Years that I feel a particular urgency to write and I feel a little like I'm letting my readers down by not doing so.

Never fear! I have a few posts up my sleeve and am just waiting for some longer stretches of time to create them. DH and I are re-doing our upstairs bathroom - the whole shebang! My husband gutted it last week and it looked like the inside of an old cabin. It was also completely unusable, which is not fun, but we're lucky enough to have another full bath downstairs that we can use for the time-being. Anyway, by the time we're done, it will have been a two week process and the whole thing is exhausting, even though I haven't done any of the work myself. (Consider me the director in this particular project).

It's been tough not having the use of our main bathroom and I've had to spend a lot of time at my parent's house - which isn't a bad thing, it's just tiring lugging our babies back and forth by myself all day and never really catching a break. (DH has been working long days and well into the night to get this project done, so he's been here but can't afford the time to help out with the babes - all totally understandable...and fine with me since I'm getting a brand-new bathroom out of the deal!)

Anyway, I'm going to try and churn out a couple posts in the next couple days, as I'm itching to write and share my thoughts with you.

Thoughtfully yours,

Jonsi

Friday, December 2, 2011

Enough About Me, Why Don't You Talk About Me?

I just stumbled upon a fantastic blog, where author Merrill Markoe has several ongoing discussions about narcissism.

She writes, "What is a narcissist? Any time you find yourself living inside that classic New Yorker cartoon in which two people are dining together and one says to the other, ‘Well, enough about me. Let’s hear what you have to say about me, your narcissism alert bells should be ringing. A friend of mine explained the credo of the narcissist as follows: I’m the piece of shit the world revolves around.’" I think she sums up Narcissism quite nicely in this descriptive article, the entirety of which can be found here.

I haven't read any of her books, but after reading articles from her blog, I find her writing to be humorous, truthful, and intriguing and I am considering taking a gander at her books. If I do check them out, I'll be sure to report back to you on my findings. In the blog post I linked to above, Merrill talks about dealing with her NM during Christmas every year. Her illustration of the Narc's patterns of gift-giving is right on the money and I think it's worth a read.

She also wrote a post asking her readers to submit examples of "great memorable quotes" by the narcissists in their lives. (And by "great memorable" she means "the quote that makes your head spin and your mouth hang open with its egomaniacal cluelessness.") She posted the piece in late 2009, but the commentary is very recent and she seems to reply to anyone who posts an example. That one post of hers generated over four hundred comments and there are plenty of good examples in there of "great & memorable" narcissistic quotes.